Monthly Archives: July 2016

SWANS – The Glowing Man

Album: The Glowing Man

Artist: Swans

Label: Young God

Release Date: June 17, 2016

www.younggodrecords.com

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The Upshot: Two-disc culmination of the direction the band has taken since its reactivation seven years ago, stripping Michael Gira’s lyric themes to the core amid colossal walls of sound.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

If you’re gonna announce that your latest album is the last by this particular iteration of your band, you better have something special on your hands. Fortunately, Michael Gira does with The Glowing Man, the fourteenth album by his band Swans and, as advertised, the final project by this version. (The intention is to have a rotating cast of players after this.) The culmination of the direction the band has taken since its reactivation seven years ago, The Glowing Man brings it all home.

The first two songs on disk one serve as opposite sides of the same coin – “Cloud of Forgetting” and “Cloud of Unknowing” push the band even further into the realms of the orchestral, as the pounding percussion, jagged guitars and Gira’s raw baritone combine into a wall of sound that’s damn near symphonic. The arrangements ebb and flow from colossal to calm without ever descending into chaos, while Gira’s lyrics strip down to almost primal wails of menace and need, accented for how they fit into the music rather than clarity of meaning. “The World Looks Red/The World Looks Back” on disk one and “Frankie M” and the title track on disk two follow suit, building and building until the tower threatens to topple, which it never does. Moving from foreboding simmer to Krautrocking burn, “The Glowing Man” rolls, roils and roars for nearly a half hour without losing focus.

The other tracks soften the blow, but not by much. “People Like Us” sounds like an intro to one of the long tracks, its five-and-a-half minutes building tension but offering no release. Introduced by deliberate acoustic strums and favoring Middle Eastern tonalities, “When Will I Return?” – guest-sung by Jennifer Gira – comes across as downright pretty in parts, if still obsessive and disturbed. “Finally, Peace” takes the album out with a head-nodding groove, close harmonies from both Giras and the mantra “Your glorious mind” (or is it “the glory is mine?”), leaving intensity behind for the kind of cool down one needs after a hard workout.

Consolidation more than innovation, The Glowing Man still presents the current incarnation of Swans in its best light, as if this is the record the band has been working toward these past seven years. If this is the way this Swans goes out, they do it with heads held high.

DOWNLOAD: “The Glowing Man,” “Finally, Peace,” “When Will I Return?”

 

THE PINX – Freedom

Album: Freedom

Artist: Pinx

Label: self-released

Release Date: March 25, 2016

www.thepinx.bandcamp.com

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The Upshot: Car grease, ditch weed, and ‘70s-styled Southern rock out the wazoo.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

You can practically smell the car grease and ditch weed by the time you get through the first song off The Pinx’s latest full length, Freedom.

Sounding a lot like the first Black Crowes record, another Atlanta-based band that seemed more content putting on the bell bottoms and jamming’ on ‘70s Southern Rock than jumping onto the latest music trend, The Pinx play solid, at times gritty, rock that tips its ironic cowboy hats to bands like CCR and War, with a little Faces added in for good measure.

While the band is mainly focused on testing the limits of their Marshall stacks, they slow down the tempo a couple of times (“Blue Dream” and “I Got the Cure”) showing a range many rock bands tend to forget about. There are a few redundant songs on the record, but taken as a whole, the weak ones are easily overshadowed by a driving rocker like “Other Side.”

Titling your record Freedom is one thing, but adding the American flag-wrapped muscle car on the cover appears like the band may be showing their cards a little and hinting that this “Aw, hell,” good ole boys façade may be just an act. But screw it, put on or not, they’ve got an album worth of great songs to back it up.

DOWNLOAD: “Blue Dream,” “Other Side” and “Ballad of the Bands”

 

CHRIS STORROW – The Ocean’s Door

Album: The Ocean’s Door

Artist: Chris Storrow

Label: self-released

Release Date: February 05, 2016

www.chrisstorrow.com

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The Upshot: Canadian poster indulges his love of the Sixties to great effect.

BY TIM HINELY

Pop oriented Canadian who was unknown in this household …until now (he used to be in a band called Bossanova…never heard of them but sounds like I need to check ‘em out).  The guy, who apparently moved from Vancouver to Montreal in the middle of recording got some help in both playing and recording from Kurt Dahle (New Pornographers) and some othe luminaries from the Great White North helped out including Evan Cranley (Stars) and Patrick Watson (Besnard Lakes) and other folks from The Dears, The Stills and Young Galaxy.

Apparently Storrow wanted to make a smooth ‘60s pop record and that he did. This is terrific. I initially wanted to call him a “poor man’s Scott Walker” and don’t think I’d be too far off the mark on that one but man, the majesty of some of these songs is glorious. First cut “A True Christian” unfolds slowly into a smooth pop tune while “Raised the Bar” has these blaring horns all over it. He/they just go completely over the top in wall of soundness on the amazing “Oh, Daphne Dear” and “The Safest Bet” is nearly as good. This isn’t twee though (not that I would mind if it was) as there still the guitar/bass/drums holding down the fort (especially the solid drums which Dahle plays on about half of the tracks). Seriously, if ‘60s influenced pop is your bag (Burt Bacharach, Glenn Campbell, etc.) then do not, I repeat do not miss this one.

DOWNLOAD:  “Raised the Bar,” “Oh, Daphne Dear,” “The Safest Bet”

 

 

 

WINFIELD PARKER – Mr. Clean: Winfield Parker at Ru-Jac

Album: Mr. Clean: Winfield Parker at Ru-Jac

Artist: Winfield Parker

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: March 25, 2016

www.omnivorerecordings.com

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Winfield Parker

The Upshot: Jazz/soul man Winfield Parker from the ‘60s and ‘70s hits the sweet spot with a welcome anthology.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

In the mid-60s, singer/saxophonist Winfield Parker recorded a clutch of singles for Rufus Mitchell’s Ru-Jac, one of the first African American-owned record labels in the South. Parker would go on to score his biggest success in the 70s, but his Ru-Jac sides remained special to him and Mitchell, with the latter asking Parker to preserve them as his dying wish. Thus, when Omnivore acquired the Ru-Jac archives, it was only natural that those singles be rescued from obscurity via this collection.

As befitting the times in which they were recorded, Parker’s songs – a mix of his own tunes and those from the growing stable of Ru-Jac writers – hit a sweet spot not often practiced anymore. Somewhere between the reserved soul of Sam Cooke and the fire-and-brimstone of Otis Redding, Parker’s work burns equally bright on peppy dance tunes (“She’s So Pretty,” “Rockin’ in the Barnyard”) and devotional ballads (“My Love For You,” “What Do You Say?”). He’s probably at his best on the numbers that fall somewhere in between – “I Love You Just the Same,” “Go Away Playgirl” and the title track are sterling examples of the type of R&B Leon Bridges is trying to revive. Aficionados of sixties soul should seek Mr. Clean out immediately, but even casual fans of old-fashioned R&B will find much on this record to love.

DOWNLOAD: “Go Away Playgirl,” “Mr. Clean,” “What Do You Say?”

Tedeschi Trucks Band + Los Lobos + NMAS 7/22/16, Cary NC

Dates: July 22, 2016

Location: Koka Booth Amphitheater, Cary NC

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The Upshot: On a balmy Tarheel night at the Koka Booth Amphitheater, the jamming was profound and the wheels were definitely soulful.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY TODD GUNSHER

On July 22nd the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s “Wheels of Soul” tour rolled into a packed Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, NC. For the second summer in a row, the band has hit the road with friends; this year they brought along Los Lobos and North Mississippi Allstars. All three bands do their own thing and have their own history, but musically they are all very much on the same page. As Derek Trucks recently told No Depression, “We put bands together that we would pay to go see, people that we’re fans of musically and personally. Los Lobos and North Mississippi Allstars are old friends and people that we love what they do, so it’s a great combination.”

Some may go away from a show like this wishing their favorite band played a little longer, but this tour, even more than last year, is about the collaboration between the different bands; those moments that, as a fan, you have to be there for. North Mississippi Allstars got things started with a 40-minute set that midway through featured an appearance from the TTB vocalists, Alecia Chakour, Mark Rivers, and Mike Mattison. Their brand of down home blues got the night off to a great start.

Next up was Los Lobos, who, for unexplained reasons, was missing Cesar Rosas. But the rest of the boys played on and continued the collaborations by inviting Luther Dickinson on stage for “Georgia Slop”, Susan Tedeschi for “What’s Going On”, and closed out their set with Derek Trucks and the TTB horns adding to a raucous take on “Mas y Mas”.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band then took the stage, and by halfway through their 90-minute set, the sit-ins started. First came Luther to join them on the George Harrison classic, “Isn’t It A Pity”. He stayed on stage for the blues of “Get Out My Life Woman”, sung by Mattison.  Chakour then joined Mike and Susan up front to sing George Jones’ “Color of the Blues”. Next up was David Hidalgo and Steve Berlin from Los Lobos to jam on “Keep On Growin” and “The Sky Is Crying,” with Susan taking her turn to throw down a mean guitar solo.

The TTB finished the night with Luther and Berlin joining in on Ray Charles’ “Let’s Go Get Stoned.”  The tour still has a couple weeks left, but given the full night of musical camaraderie the Tedeschi Trucks Band has taken on the road the last two summers, here’s hoping they’ll continue the tradition in 2017.

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PYLON – Pylon Live

Album: Pylon Live

Artist: Pylon

Label: Chunklet Industries

Release Date: July 25, 2016

Everything is cool: The Athens post-punk icons get a welcome reappraisal via a remarkably vital-sounding archival release on Chunklet Industries.

BY FRED MILLS

The year 1983 was nearing its close, and Athens-based post-punk-slash-art-rock-slash-new-wave outfit Pylon was no longer, leaving behind a relatively pretty corpse: two LPs, a handful of singles, tours with the likes of U2, Gang of Four, and fellow Athenites the B-52s, and a whole lotta love from a devoted fanbase. Me, I’d witnessed ‘em in the fall of 1980, at a tiny bar/restaurant in Carrboro, North Carolina (near Chapel Hill), called The Station; as was the custom of the times, I pogo’d my tail off, but there was also no small amount of genuflection before the stage. This was not a so-called flavor of the month, despite the fact that the tiny Georgia college town that had birthed Pylon was already on the path to becoming one of those “scenes” rock fans talk about in triumphant tones.

The musicians’ abrupt announcement that they were splitting had caught the rock community off-guard. Serious rock fans know a serious rock band when they see one, and this was a group that had always oozed purpose; what possible rationale could they have for breaking up? It certainly wasn’t because the four members had grown sick of one another. As I myself adored Pylon, I realized I had been lucky to have glimpsed its greatness back in the day. And I’ve always wondered what the folks who attended the group’s final show that year, December 1 at Athens’ Mad Hatter venue, thought as well. They probably realized they were also lucky, but let’s face it, these types of notions rarely occur in the moment, usually only in retrospect, and typically when the artist in question did in fact go on to become the proverbial legend/icon/influence.

However, speaking to the band’s vocalist Vanessa Briscoe-Hay years later, for a 2007 Harp magazine profile of the band, I got the sense that the bandmembers themselves, though proud of having broken out of the regional scene—touring up the East Coast to NYC and such influential venues as Philly’s Hot Club, NYC’s Hurrah, Hoboken’s Maxwell’s, and Boston’s The Underground— and notching kudos worldwide for their music, weren’t quite sold on the whole “legendariness” of their musical journey. Their original aim in forming, in fact, was, according to Vanessa, “to go up to New York, play once, get written up in the New York Rocker, then come back and break up!”

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Meanwhile, Pylon fans were caught off-guard a second time when, a few months ago, it was announced that an archival album documenting that ’83 Athens gig, Pylon Live, was en route. It’s a chance for both the fans and the surviving members of the band—Hay, bassist Michael Lachowski, drummer Curtis Crowe—to dip back, if only for an hour or so, and get a delicious whiff of how the band originally walked and squawked.

Fairly crackling with electricity and oozing with a propulsive charisma, Pylon, on Pylon Live, doesn’t sound like a group saying goodbye. It’s easy enough to single out fan favorites like “Crazy,” as edgypunchysexycool as ever (and reaffirming R.E.M.’s decision to make it a staple of their setlist at one point). Or “Beep,” which is all militaristic thump ‘n’ sway, Hay doing arpeggio’d vocal acrobatics while the other three turn “angular” into an action verb. The dissonant, whooping “M Train” finds the Lachowski-Crowe rhythm section sonically creating a new language for future generations of musos to study and decipher. And of course “Cool,” which by ’83 had attained true anthem status, a kinetic, fist-pumping call to arms.

Unexpected delights abound too. There’s the instant seduction of concert opener “Working Is No Problem,” twinned with a sinewy “Driving School,” both serving as an announcement that Pylon was not going out on a calculated note purely for the sake of being crowd-pleasing. “K” is a showcase for Bewley, demonstrating what an innovative guitarist he was, with slurs, slides and glissandos that are nigh-on hypnotic. There’s even a fake Italian movie theme called, smartly enough, “Italian Movie Theme,” which will have you pondering everything you thought you knew about, ahem, Italian movie themes. And post-punk was never quite so subversive as when they do the classic “Batman” theme; the core riff and melody are front and center, but (spoiler alert) Pylon subsequently takes the tune way beyond those limited parameters. This was not a timid band.

The album additionally showcases some qualities of the band that may get overlooked at this remove, at least by younger fans who never saw the group perform. I’ve already suggested that Bewley was a monster on guitar; in his own way, he was as agile and innovative as U2’s The Edge, using tonalities and textures to surf over and around the rhythm section and really help sculpt the sound. Likewise, that Lachowski-Crowe team could unleash huge squalls of rhythmic waves capable of flattening listeners against the back walls of the club. And Hay, with her patented barks, snarls, and growls, would turn downright feral as if daring her bandmates to match her stomp for stomp. The Pylon setlist is just as cinematic, full of dramatic tension building, spikey with explosive dynamics; this is a group that could fill every corner, nook, and cranny of a venue in surround-sound fashion, and not in a random sense, either, as the four players were fully in control, purposeful and direct when necessary, subtle and nuanced at other points.

That’s Pylon for you, folks; long may they chomp.

Consumer Note: The double LP Pylon Live comes with a digital download and is pressed on black vinyl, limited edition clear wax or super-duper limited magenta. There’s also a companion 45, likewise of a tinted hue and limited format, for “Gravity” b/w “Weather.” Chunklet majordomo Henry Owings has clearly made this a labor of love, not only with his layout and packaging (Owings is the visual brain behind numerous archival projects of late, including the recent Betty Davis album on Light In the Attic), but also in his overseeing the audio transfer of the concert’s tapes; considering those tapes’ age, the album sounds remarkably fresh.

DOWNLOAD: “Gravity,” “Cool,” “Driving School”

THE BRAINIAC 5 – Exploding Universe

Album: Exploding Universe

Artist: Brainiac 5

Label: Reckless

Release Date: April 01, 2016

www.brainiac5.co.uk / www.reckless.com

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The Upshot: A curious amalgam of psych and Jimmy Buffet, with some reggae sprinkled on top for good measure.

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Charles Taylor, raconteur, music impresario and Reckless Records head honcho along with his band The Brainiac 5 have released a new album for aural consumption. (Some of you may not know that the Reckless label, an outgrowth of the Chicago record store, was where all the early Bevis Frond records as well as Black Sun Ensemble records were released for the U.S. market.) On Exploding Universe The Brainiac 5 chose a less psychedelic approach than on past outings. Opening cut “Haphazard!” is a slightly ramshackle mix of brass, call and response vocals and a killer guitar solo that sets the loose tone for the rest of the record.

Most of the music contained on this album opts for a curious amalgam of psych and Jimmy Buffet, with some reggae sprinkled on top for good measure. Don’t let that put you off, because there’s plenty on offer here once you get over it not being a straight ahead psychedelic record. Lead single “You’re Body’s Alright” is the perfect convergence of all these disparate influences. The spoken vocals have a Stranglers’ “Something Better Change” vibe about them. The music here conjures the feeling of downing a couple cans of Tecate at a backyard barbeque. The boozy, relaxed nature of the record would probably translate well to an outdoor concert setting, where people can get up and groove along with its rather chilled out vibe. You get a sense across these 10 tracks that the band is letting down what hair they have left and enjoying themselves. “Beauty of It All” is the lone track that sets aside the brass infused vibe for a more-straight ahead plaintive number. This is a tad jarring in the context of the record, but as odd man out it’s also the most endearing song on the album and shows a viable alternative for the band if they choose to pursue such a direction in the future.

DOWNLOAD: “Haphazard!” “Beauty of It All” “I’m the Glue” “You’re Body’s Alright”

 

 

SPAIN – Carolina

Album: Carolina

Artist: Spain

Label: Diamond Soul

Release Date: July 08, 2016

www.spaintheband.com

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The Upshot: A gorgeous record, enticing and attractive, giving you its heart to hold and trusting you to treasure the experience.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

By the very nature of its style, Spain has hid its light under a bushel. As one of the original wave of artists in the so-called “slo-core” mini-movement, the L.A. combo prefers subtlety to flash, quiet substance to loud style. While Carolina, the band’s sixth album, is hardly the Big Rock Move fellow travelers like Low eventually proffered, it is possibly the most straightforward and accessible LP of bandleader Josh Haden’s career.

Drawing inspiration from country music in much the same way his jazz-composing father Charlie did, Haden uses Americana storytelling as a jumping-off point for emotional journeys. In part he accomplishes this by stripping down the music’s feel even further than on previous Spain records. Not in instrumentation, mind you – indeed, the lap steel, banjo and violin that fill out the sound make Carolina the lushest Spain LP yet. Tempos are up, too – nothing’s at Motörhead level, but you could take these tunes on a spin ‘round the dancefloor. What Haden lets fall away is the detached atmosphere that marked previous Spain albums – he lets nothing get in the way of the emotional punch packed by “The Depression,” “Starry Night” and “In My Hour.” The exact circumstances of first-person narratives like “Tennessee,” “Station 2” and “The Battle of Saratoga” is less important than the hearts beating beneath their surfaces, while the form the music takes means less than the manner in which it leads you to its destination.

All of which is to say that Carolina is a gorgeous record, enticing and attractive, giving you its heart to hold and trusting you to treasure the experience.

DOWNLOAD: “Tennessee,” “In My Hour,” “Station 2”

 

DJUSTIN – Tryst

Album: Tryst

Artist: Djustin

Label: Labrador

Release Date: May 13, 2016

www.labrador.se

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The Upshot: No filler, just pulsing, sensual synth pop.

BY TIM HINELY

It’s funny, every time that I reviews one of Johan Angergard’s bands I always say something to the effect of “How does this guy find time to sleep with all of his musical projects plus running the Labrador Records label?!” Then he goes and starts yet another band.  This time with Rose Suau. If you don’t know Rose she is an American (Michigan…Johan is from Sweden) and was in a terrific indie pop band with her husband Mario called Shoestrings. They released a few singles, some, compilation tracks and an excellent album (Wishing on Planes, released on the Le Grand Magistery label in the late 90’s). The two began corresponding to each other in the 90’s, loving each other’s bands and found some similarities: born in the same year, same star sign, both middle children, etc.. When Angergard wrote this particular batch of songs he had Rose in mind for vocals, wrote to her and voila! Djustin was born!

The music sounds similar to Club 8, one of Angergard’s other bands, and though Tryst is only five songs, there is no filler on here. The songs average about three minutes each and the record is filled with pulsing, sensual synth pop. Both the title track and “Stars” are classics and would be playing in clubs the world over (thus making these two wealthy) if this was a just place. “Concrete’ stomps a bit more, is a little darker, moodier while “Stars (follow me)” ends it all on a mysterious, alluring note. You’re left wondering where the time went until you press play again. I hope that these five songs are only the beginning.

DOWNLOAD: “Tryst,” “Stars,” “Concrete”

Rooney 7/13/16, Denver

Dates: July 13, 2016

Location: Lost LakeL Lounge

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The Upshot: at the Lost Lake Lounge last week, Robert Schwartzman & Co. proved that the pop savant frontman’s not just another pretty L.A. face.

BY TIM HINELY

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart of Los Angeles pop combo Rooney. Oh sure, the leader , Robert Schwartzman, is from a Hollywood family and the band gets way too many Weezer comparisons, but I like this band way more than River Cuomo’s band.  Schwartzman’s songwriting obviously owes a serious debt to Brian Wilson, but that’s ok  as he knows how to write a solid pop song. The guy’s got talent, he’s not just another pretty L.A. face. .

They rarely make it to this part of the country very often, it had been five years so the packed house at the small Lost Lake was hungry for this band to deliver.

In the crowd were definitely many young females who might not ever show up at this dive bar on Colfax if it wasn’t for the fact that cool guy Schwartzman was on stage. Touring for their new lp, Washed Away, the band came out a a 5-piece with Schwartzman leading the way along with a bassist, drummer (a real young looking drummer, I might add…is this kid even out of high school?) , female keyboardists who added backing vocals and a guitarist who had a fabulous mustache. They kicked into “All the Beautiful People” from said new lp and also from that record proceeded to play hooky cuts like “My Heart Beats 4 U,” “Why,” “Do You Have to Go?” and the title track. It’s not their best album, but a strong record for sure.

From their previous album 2011’s Eureka, they played “I Can’t Get Enough” and “Stars and Stripes” but from that album they didn’t play my favorite cut, “Holdin’ On.” (bummer!). They ended the set after about an hour and fifteen minutes but played no encore, instead choosing to mingle with the crowd, which seemed to end the night just perfectly.