Monthly Archives: July 2017

L.A. TAKEDOWN — II

Album: II

Artist: L.A. Takedown

Label: Ribbon Music

Release Date: May 12, 2017

http://ribbonmusic.com/

The Upshot: Igniting firestorms of 1970s-worth ax-ery against sleek cinematic surfaces, with every note spotlessly clean and clear.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Don’t tell Aaron Olson that guitar solos are dead. His second album in front of L.A. Takedown, a seven-person band based out of Los Angeles, ignites big firestorms of 1970s-worth ax-ery against sleek cinematic surfaces, every note spotlessly clean and clear. The screaming solo that arcs through “Blue Skies (On Mars)” is one for the lighters, both grand and grandiose, beautiful and a little embarrassing in its excess. If you ever harbored an affection for, say, Satriani’s “Surfing with the Alien” or on the higher end, John McLaughlin, this will hit that sweet spot, and let’s face it, guitar hero albums are not exactly thick on the ground lately.

Olson does some work in film, and perhaps that’s why the album feels like a soundtrack to a big summer blockbuster. Driving rhythms imply extravagantly violent car chases (“Bad Night at Black’s Beach”), and downtempo smolders that might accompany the sex sequences (“L.A. Blue”). Big blasts of synthesizer punctuate machine-drilled drum cadences to build up tension. And the sheer polished beauty of many of these tracks evokes the manicured vistas of popular film – California beaches at magic hour.

“Night Skiing” is the best track on II, but just by a nose. Its expansive krautrock-ish groove has a little more friction to it than you’ll find in the other tracks, a tiny bit less of the idealized gloss. Here, too, the guitar solo winds and howls and bays, a trapped animal rearing up against gleaming walls of synth. L.A. Takedown often errs on the side of too much perfection, but here, a little messed up, it soars.

DOWNLOAD: “Night Skiing”

LOUIS HAYES – Serenade For Horace

Album: Serenade For Horace

Artist: Louis Hayes

Label: Blue Note

Release Date: May 26, 2017

http://bluenote.com

The Upshot: One-time drummer for Horace Silver pays tribute to the relationship five decades later with a collection of Silver covers and reverent originals.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

When he was only nineteen years old, drummer Louis Hayes moved to New York City and joined a band led by Horace Silver, staying with the celebrated pianist and composer for four years, five albums and future standards like “Silver’s Serenade,” “Sister Sadie” and “Señor Blues.” Five decades later, on the eve of his own 80th birthday, Hayes gives thanks to the man who gave him his start in the jazz universe with Serenade For Horace. Leading an ensemble consisting of both respected veterans like vibist Steve Nelson and up-and-comers like bassist/co-producer Dezron Douglas, Hayes highlights the music of his former employer with taste, empathy and, most importantly, love.

Silver’s swinging post bop is some of the most accessible of its era, highlighting melodies and riffs without losing the improvisational fire. Tunes like “Silver’s Serenade” and “Song For My Father” catch the ears of even the jazz-uninitiated, while their finger popping rhythms move the hips as well as the head. Hayes and his musicians stick to those values, playing the songs as he played them originally. Despite impressive playing, “Silver’s Serenade” and “Señor Blues” remain engaging outside of music nerd circles – Abraham Burton’s sax solo on the former burns while still being open and friendly. “Strollin’” and “Summer in Central Park” swing in that relaxed manner that so common in the fifties and so rare today, with a supper club ambience that’s more than just nostalgia. “Song For My Father,” perhaps Silver’s most famous composition, makes it even easier via vocals from singer Gregory Porter, whose golden pipes wrap around the occasionally mawkish lyrics like a blanket on a shivering dog. Though important to the music’s narrative due to the original composer’s instrument, pianist David Bryant doesn’t dominate the arrangements, mainly providing support. But his solos on “St. Vitus Dance,” “Juicy Luicy” and the ballad “Lonely Woman” balance impressive technique with a highly lyrical touch, traits he shares with the composer.

While the program is made up of Silver’s most famous works, one of the best tracks comes not from his pen, but from bandleader Hayes’. Derivative in the best way, “Hastings Street” perfectly emulates Silver’s swinging accessibility without sounding like nostalgia – it continues a tradition instead of bowing down to it. It’s that touch that makes Serenade For Horace into a true tribute album, and not just a set of covers.

DOWNLOAD: “Juicy Lucy,” “Hastings Street,” “Silver’s Serenade”

 

GUN CLUB – In My Room LP

Album: In My Room LP

Artist: Gun Club

Label: Bang!

Release Date: May 12, 2017

www.bangrecords.com

The Upshot: Final recordings from the legendary band, and a fitting tribute – complete with a number of sonic surprises – to their late frontman, Jeffrey Lee Pierce.

BY FRED MILLS

Quite a few of us out here in the Amerindie wilderness go way back with the Gun Club; me, I was a record store employee drafted by Slash/Ruby Records to be a Slash street-teamer (long before the term “street team” had been coined around the time of the release of the first Gun Club and Blasters LPs, and as a result I was not only in on the Jeffrey Lee Pierce story nearly from the get-go, on the Gun Club’s first U.S. tour I was able to hang out with Pierce and his bandmates for two memorable evenings in North Carolina. (Ask me about the time he “bought” drinks from everyone in the bar the band was playing but managed to skip out on the tab while still getting paid for the gig.) Years later, when The Fire Of Love saw expanded/remastered reissue in late 2004, I was privileged to do interviews with original drummer Terry Graham and the late Pierce’s sister Jacqui, both of whom pulled the veil of history back for me just a bit, allowing me some fresh insights into the man and his muse.

In My Room, then, closes the Gun Club book, representing as it does the group’s final recordings, originally cut in ’91 and ’93 in Netherlands studios, featuring the Pierce/Romi Mori/Kid Congo/Nick Sanderson lineup doing a selection of Pierce originals and covers. The latter contain their fair share of raised-eyebrows moments, because while oldie “Land of 1000 Dances” has always been part of the garage-rock and new wave vernacular, it’s safe to say that “I Can’t Explain” doesn’t come immediately to mind when one thinks of the Gun Club (it’s still a pretty satisfying-in-a-thuggish-way version), and neither Willie Nelson’s “Not Supposed to Be That Way” (here, a straight country-folk take featuring dobro and lap steel) nor Kenny Rogers & the First Edition’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (ditto) are likely to be considered classic renditions. That said, as they are part of a session that also included a redone, countryish version of GC gem “Mother Earth,” they do make psychic and sonic sense if you’ve followed Pierce and his rambling muse over the years. (There’s also a quasi-cover: “Shame and Pain” nicks part of the melody and vocal chorus from the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City.” It’s a jarring effect.)

The full-on electric material is the main reason to grab this vinyl album (which, we should note, comes smartly packaged in a gatefold sleeve that features lyrics plus a positively haunting portrait of a dark-eyed Pierce beside Mori). The lengthy “Sorrow Knows” has an almost Velvets-meets-The-Clean vibe, with Pierce and Powers serving up oppositional guitar textures amid a droning, psychedelic ambiance. And speaking of unexpected vibrations, “L.A. Is Always Real” lays bare an additional Pierce influence: Television, with elegantly twisted leads and crystalline pop melodies spooling forth. There’s even a kind of dissonant blues, “City in Pain,” indicative of another one of Pierce’s obsessions that certainly surfaced with regularity in the Gun Club, but here posits the band as one of the most unlikely blues mixtape mavens ever.

Posthumous compilations are always a tricky proposition, but in this instance, considering the songs’ proximate provenance, In My Room, for the most part, holds its own, and no long-time Gun Club devotee will be disappointed.

DOWNLOAD: “Sorrow Knows,” “City In Pain,” “Mother Earth”

CLARENCE BUCARO – Tableau

Album: Tableau

Artist: Clarence Bucaro

Label: Twenty Twenty

Release Date: June 23, 2017

www.clarencebucaro.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Clarence Bucaro has built a more than impressive career around an ability to craft superb songs that sound like standards even on first hearing. Having plied his craft over the course of several albums and a number of years, he clearly deserves far more recognition than he’s been accorded up until now. All of his albums are made to impress, given an ability to pen songs that boast hooks aplenty and the kind of keen melodies that never fail to leave an emphatic impressions. Back in the day when radio played songs based on melody and mastery alone, Bucaro’s music would be all over the airwaves.

Sadly, that’s not the case anymore, but the fact remains that Bucaro is nothing less than a songwriter’s songwriter, an artist with the ability and confidence to gain entry to the very top of the charts. His latest effort, Tableau, continues in that tradition, boasting songs of undeniable beauty, creativity and craft. This time around Bucaro strips down his sound, relying mostly on an acoustic set-up that brings out his intents with articulate arrangements and undiminished intent. That’s proven yet again with songs such as “Your Love’s Not Close Enough,” “Lord, Light Me a Candle” and “These Years,” all of them offerings that rank among Bucaro’s best efforts yet. In that regard, Tableau paints a clear picture of an artist that possesses both talent and tenacity.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Your Love’s Not Close Enough,” “Lord, Light Me a Candle,” “These Years”

House and Land + Footings 7/20/17, Peterborough NH

Dates: July 20, 2017

Location: Bass Hall, Peterborough NH

Bass Hall turns into a Baptist church with the North Carolina duo, for one memorable evening in New Hampshire.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JENNIFER KELLY

If you’re considering how to spend your evening, unaccompanied vocal music from the North Carolina Baptist tradition probably doesn’t sound like much fun. But for the North Carolina duo of House and Land, that raw, forthright tradition inspires an eerily evocative acoustic music where spine-chilling vocal descants collide with mysterious psychotropic drones. I went to Baptist Sunday school for years, and I never heard anything like this.

The show opens with a local trio known as Footings, that’s Thing in the Spring organizer Eric Gagne on electric guitar and vocals, violinist Elisabeth Fuschia and singer Candace Clement in the middle, singing harmonies. Unfortunately, the sound is a little off, with the electric guitar turned up high enough to drown out violins and both singers, which somewhat obscures the prettiness of songs like “Pajo” with its plucked and swooning throbs of strings, its tight dizzying harmonies and its gathering strength in chorus of “Keep breathing.”  (You wonder if it’s about the Pajo from Slint.)  On the BandCamp, Footings ventures further into 1990s indie rock blare, a la Superchunk and Sebadoh, and with the violin boosted high enough to register, and that would work too, but in the live show, the guitar blots out the details and even the songs themselves.

Bass Hall is a small room with extremely high ceilings, and hot enough tonight to make tuning a constant battle. The two bands solve the acoustic problem differently, Footings with the instruments plugged directly into amplification, House and Land with a complex network of microphones picking up sound from the variety of instruments they play. (It looks like they’re playing from inside an erector set.)  These instruments are diverse and interesting, a couple of guitars, a fiddle, a banjo, a mandolin, a recorder (“here’s something you don’t know about recorders – they’re awesome” says Sarah Louise) and a shruti box.

Still, for the first song of the set, “Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah,” from House and Land’s self-titled debut (out since last month on Thrill Jockey), it’s all about the voices – Sarah Louise with her piercing, otherworldly clarity, Sally Ann Morgan with a more blues-inflected, gutsy style. They find their notes effortlessly, without a reference point, in this warm July evening, tracing out main melodic lines and elaborate counterpoints in a song that sounds like the most ancient hymn, but also like an incantation.

Sarah Louise, in a dress made for church and a thick black braid tossed over her shoulder, takes the vocal lead in “Home Over Yonder,” with Sallie Anne Morgan accompanying on a fiddle that cavorts and frolics and drones, layering the hum of eternity under transitory pleasures. Morgan switches to banjo for “Wandering Boy,” and joins in tight, slightly dissonant harmonies with Sarah Louise, in a song that is, like a Shaker box, so primitively simple that it seems modern. The two of them are in what seem like telepathic sync, executing intricate fills and interplays without even looking at one another.

Morgan also sings on “False True Lover,” another traditional song she says she learned from a Shirley Collins recording. When she gets to the U.K., later this year, she says she’d like to meet Collins, and you can imagine they’d have lots to talk about.

Both Morgan and Louise take a turn playing the sruti box, a miniature harmonium played either on the lap with one’s hands (Morgan) or on the floor with a pedal while also playing a recorder (Louise). At one point, the box topples over and Louise has her hands full, so she gestures wildly to the first row, a member of which gets up and hastily props the instrument up.

The two women of House and Land differentiate the music they reference from shape note singing, which, they explain, is full of harmonies, whereas these songs rely on counterpoint and ornamentation. Still, whether secular or religious, the songs have a haunting aura of unornamented beauty and untamed longing. Even in a close room where the fans don’t work very well and the night-time temperature hovers in the 80s, these songs will put a chill down your back, so lovely and so wild.

Lucy Dacus 7/18/17, Denver

Dates: July 18, 2017

Location: Lost Lake Lounge, Denver CO

Live at the Lost Lake Lounge, Lucy charmed a Denver crowd and then some.

BY TIM HINELY

She walked by us an my pal swore it was her. “That was Lucy.” I looked at him and asked, “Are you sure?” “Umm…pretty sure.” She was a little incognito in the pair of horn-rimmed glasses and  t-shirt that said in big block letter “Fuck Fear.” Sure enough when she took the stage a little while later that was indeed her. Dacus (pronounced Day-cus) stated that her friend had made the shirt and it was the first time she’d worn it. She mentioned that she was in the Sprouts market (across the street from the Lost Lake) and got some thumbs up from folks approving of her t-shirt and other who gave her a very disapproving look. Dacus then stated that “Believe it or not I’ve learned a lot about people from wearing this shirt.”

The Richmond, VA native seems to have come out of nowhere, releasing her debut No Burden, last year on Matador Records, to critical acclaim.  She’s real young, early twenties, and seems to have plenty of confidence and has this dreamy voice that stands out above the pack. She also writes excellent, intimate songs and on this night the tunes were fleshed out with a full band who were all terrific players, guitarist Jacob Blizard, bassist Robbie King and drummer Ricardo Lagomasino (Ricardo was especialy talented).  On the more rockin’ numbers the band really came alive and they all seemed really in-sync.

Dacus opened the set with an acoustic song that she said she wrote when she was in 11th grade (or maybe she said it was when she was 11…. the friend who was there when she wrote it was in the crowd which is why she played it) and then the band came out and they proceeded to played everything off of her debut and a new one or two. In between songs Dacus joked with the crowd  about taking a sip from her water bottle and spilling it down the front of her and also about the last time she played Denver, in 2016 at the Lost Lake, and how there was hardly anyone there.

A few of the highlights were cuts from No Burden like “I Don’t Wanna be Funny Anymore, “ Strange Torpedo” and “Dream State,…..”

Dacus definitely has youth on her side, and with this much talent and the strength of the Matador label behind her who knows where this career in music might take her. Wherever that may be, I plan on following her on her musical journey.

Eric Bachmann 7/14/17, Denver

Dates: July 14, 2017

Location: Living Room Show, Denver, CO

Essentially a Living Room Show held in an equally intimate venue—here, an art space—that found the Archers of Loaf/Crooked Fingers mainman perusing his back catalog for more than 90 minutes.

TEXT BY TIM HINELY / PHOTOS BY JEFFREY WEBB DAVIS

Through the Undertow Music Collective there are certain artists who specialize in traveling around he country and performing intimate “living room shows.” Some of these bookings are in the actual living rooms or basements of residential houses; while some, like the Denver Eric Bachmann show, take place in a more formal setting such as an art space (or, in some cases, even a furniture shop) that might even have a corner set aside for a small stage. Each venue typically might host 30-50 people depending on its layout.

The shows have become increasingly popular and have evolved from what was once an ad hoc, kind of down-low social phenomenon (zoning issues being what they are), to what’s now considered by many musicians to be a solid, revenue-generating addition to their touring itineraries that are openly advertised. The discretion factor can remain in play to a degree; for Undertow’s presentations, fans who buy tickets only know ahead of time the city and zip code of the venue, with the full address not provided until the purchase is completed. My cohort for this evening, photographer, Jeffrey Webb Davis, has attended several to date, including Centro-matic’s Will Johnson and emotional folkster Rocky Votolato.

Former Archers of Loaf/Crooked Fingers guy Eric Bachmann, now performing solo, ambled out at 8PM with an acoustic guitar and banjo. He was certainly friendly and amiable, telling the crowd about becoming a new dad and how he was recently playing with Neko Case but had to leave that gig due to the fatherhood.

In his 90-minute set Bachmann played a healthy mix from his catalog (both solo and with bands). and was taking requests from the crowd all night. He dug into old gems like “Web in Front” (from the Archers of Loag debut Icky Mettle) as well as “Revenge” from The  Greatest of All Time EP. From 2006’s To The Races he played “Man O War,” “Genie Genie” and “Little Bird” as well as playing “Mercy” from his S/T record that was released last year on the Merge label.

As for Crooked Fingers tunes, he played “Devils Train” and “The Rotting Strip” among others. He ended the set with “White Trash Heroes” from the Archers ’98 album of the same name and came back for an encore (he wasn’t off stage too long) and played “Crowned in Chrome” and that was it. Bachmann thanked the crowd , walked over to his merch table  and began shaking hands and selling merch.

I hadn’t seen Bachmann perform in quite a few years but glad I went. I like the more intimate venues and you almost can’t get more intimate than this. The living room show idea is a great one: no sleazy club managers or assholes in the crowd (and I’m sure if there were they’d be removed and given their money back). I’ll bet the artists enjoy it too. I’m gonna check the schedule for more of these but in the meantime, if Eric Bachmann comes to your town try and carve out some time to see him. He’ll make it worth your while.

He is Legend 7/14/17, Atlanta

Dates: July 14, 2017

Location: Masquerade, Atlanta GA

Live onstage at the Masquerade, along with opening acts To Speak of Wolves and Islander.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY TIFFINI TAYLOR

A hot summer night and I was in Hell!

I went to Hell to see He is Legend—well, technically, the Hell stage at the iconic Masquerade venue in Atlanta. Anyone who has a taste for hardcore metal knows He is Legend and, if they don’t, they are missing out. The North Carolina band is touring and bringing their music to the masses. I admit it, I like hardcore metal and to see good bands playing it live is truly a delight. They say music brings people together and I am a believer. Opening acts Speak of Wolves and Islander, along with the headliner, rocked the city.

To Speak of Wolves (above) is a band I had not really noticed before. I had always heard of the name but never really gave it a good listen. You know how you hear a song and then the DJ says the name of the band but it doesn’t click in your brain? Well, I now know who this band is and I am happy about it. A hardcore band out of North Carolina, To Speak of Wolves is a band you should check out. A great start to a great night of metal.

I saw a terrific band back in 2015 at Rock on the Range, and that band was Islander. They blew me away then and they blew me away again. Islander (above) knows how to do hardcore and they hail from South Carolina. These southern guys know how to rock. This show also showed a different side to hardcore that not many get to see. During the set, there was a touching tribute to Adrenaline Mob, who had recently been involved in a horrible accident. Islander took a moment and changed the room in this one moment. Have you ever been to a show that was so hardcore but then in one moment of it all there was a couple of minutes that showed heart? A moment like this is something to remember. Their music is hardcore but the band has heart.
***

He is Legend took to the stage with a loud roar from the crowd. Hardcore at its finest. The Tar Heel state has always had some great bands come out of there state, and He is Legend is one of the best. Not only that, vocalist Schuylar Croom has great dance moves—and the entire band is filled with talented musicians who complement each other well. Guitars, drums, and bass filled the room with gyrating sound that shook the walls.  A great time was had by the crowd, there was even slam dancing, the old-style way and it was great. I did not participate in it, I’ve reached an age where my body does not bounce back easily, lol. Few is the name of recently released album from He is Legend. It is wonderful with the soulful voice of Schuylar Croom.

A great time was had by all this night. Looking for a night out with hardcore? Check out this tour—dates can be found HERE— because you will not be disappointed.

PETER PERRETT – How the West Was Won

Album: How the West Was Won

Artist: Peter Perrett

Label: Domino

Release Date: July 07, 2017

http://www.dominorecordco.us

The Upshot: Erstwhile Only Ones mainman’s career has had plenty of ups AND downs, but his brand of doomed romanticism and lyrical wit both still run deep.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

A mere twenty-one years following his previous musical venture, 1996’s Woke Up Sticky, former Only Ones/The One leader Peter Perrett finally releases his second album. Longtime fans hoping for a return to the anthemic rock & roll of his Only Ones days may be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean How the West Was Won doesn’t have its strengths.

The 65-year-old’s songwriting seems to be at full power, his distinctive combo of doomed romanticism and lyrical wit as deep as ever. Backed by atmospheric folk rock from a band anchored by his guitarist son Jaime and bassist son Peter, Jr., the elder Perrett waxes and wanes about America (the title track), threesomes (“Troika”), addiction (“Hard to Say No,” “Something in My Brain”) and, most prominently, the ups and downs of love (“C Voyeuger,” “An Epic Story”). Despite being a well-known sufferer of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he sounds strong, his uniquely reedy vocals as comfortable with the balladry of “Ce Voyeuger” as with the loud rock of “Sweet Endeavour.”

The album ends with “Take Me Home,” a bittersweet invocation that’s as open-ended as it is elegiac. That pretty much describes Perrett’s checkered but often brilliant career, which makes it the perfect note to end this historically underrated musician’s latest renaissance.

DOWNLOAD: “Sweet Endeavour,” “Take Me Home,” “How the West Was Won”

 

RAT FANCY – Suck A Lemon LP

Album: Suck A Lemon

Artist: Rat Fancy

Label: Happy Happy Birthday To Me

Release Date: May 26, 2017

www.hhbtm.com

The Upshot: Indie trio with immense potential charms even the most curmudgeonly sort with a blend of C86 jangle, lo-fi, and shoegaze.

BY FRED MILLS

L.A.-based dream/twee-pop trio Rat Fancy has been stealthily slipping music into the indie ether all year via a trifecta of digital singles (among them, a delightful cover of Strawberry Switchblade’s “Since Yesterday”). Those are still available at the band’s Bandcamp page, but the big news is the new 12” mini-album Suck A Lemon. Featuring frontwoman/guitarist (and ex-Sweater Girl) Diana Barraza, plus Gregory Johnson (guitar / keyboard) and Gavin Glidewell (drums), the serves up fanciful (sorry) blend of C86 jangle, Velvets-y echoes ‘n’ drones, Flying Nun lo-fi quirkiness, and rollicking shoegaze.

That the gang has an abiding love for Brit-pop comes through loud and clear on the first track’s actual title: “I Can’t Dance to the Smiths Anymore” details, against the aforementioned jangles and no shortage of shambling, the gradual onset of disillusionment in the aftermath of heartbreak, and with Barraza’s wistful, yearning vox clearly stating her case, it’s hard not to feel like you, the listener, wouldn’t want to chance a dance in the future, either. The title tune, “Suck A Lemon,” is another high water moment for the band, the slightly phased drums, buzzing guitars, and keyboard squonks giving the proceedings an off-kilter feel; and there’s a second version of the song present too, this one a slowed-down, stripped-down version that omits the drums from the arrangement. And “Beyond Belief” goes for a Phil Spector-meets-Lou Reed girl-group vibe that’s simply magnificent—if performed live, it could be the kind of concert-stopping moment that leaves attendees present in varying stages of catching their breath and wiping the corners of their eyes.

Together only a year, Rat Fancy has the kind of potential we out here in indiedom live to root for, to cheer the band on as it grows and develops. Why not join the choir early on?

Consumer Note: Grab the vinyl of course. And some lucky fans may find it possible to even sleep with the band—as the photo above illustrates, Rat Fancy created pink promotional pillowcases with the logo and graphics in purple. Now that’s fancy!

DOWNLOAD: “Beyond Belief,” “Suck A Lemon (I)”