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FLORIAN WEBER – Lucent Waters

Album: Lucent Waves

Artist: FLORIAN WEBER

Label: ECM

Release Date: November 02, 2018

www.ecmrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

When we last heard from German pianist Florian Weber, he had issued a lovely record called Alba as a duo with Karlheinz Stockhausen’s trumpeter son Markus. For Lucent Waters, his ECM debut as a bandleader, Weber connects with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Linda May Han Oh (both of whom he worked with in saxophonist/mentor Lee Konitz’s band) and drumming titan Nasheet Waits.

Weber is not a flamboyant player, preferring to meditatively explore his melodies, and he encourages his sidefolks to do the same. “Schimmelreiter” and “Melody of a Waterfall” shimmer under the glow of Alessi’s insistent lines and golden tones, supported by the leader’s sonorous chord work and the rhythmeers’ drifting foundation. Weber does take advantage of the presence of an engine room, however, letting Waits and Oh put a little fire into his step. The rhythm section pushes hard on “Fragile Cocoon” and “Time Horizon,” and though Weber is no McCoy Tyner, he does allow himself to wander more aggressively across the 88s in response. He’s at his best, though, on “Honestlee,” paying tribute to his, Oh and Alessi’s old boss with gorgeous melodics and a rhythmic kick that makes the track swirl.

Beautifully crafted and expertly performed, Lucent Waters perfectly displays Weber’s virtues as player, writer and leader.

DOWNLOAD: “Fragile Cocoon,” “Honestlee,” “Time Horizon”

 

SPAIN – Mandala Brush

Album: Mandela Brush

Artist: SPAIN

Label: Dangerbird

Release Date: September 28, 2018

http://dangerbirdrecords.com/

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Of all the bands to appear the so-called slowcore movement, Spain is now one of the longest-lasting. No surprise, really, as Josh Haden has evolved into a forward-thinking bandleader with a vision that encompasses both the sanctity of songcraft and the openness of improvisation. Mandala Brush, the group’s seventh studio album, bears both of these ideas out.

Song-oriented tracks “Sugarkane” and “You Bring Me Up” continue his trend of adding a rootsy vibe to the band’s languid folk rock, but then genially disrupts the flow with a muscular guitar solo on the former and a gospel coda on the latter. “Holly” sounds like an ancient folk song pulled from the ether. But “Maya in the Summer” and “Tangerine” take a less structured tack, stretching comfortably out, letting the instrumentalists jam and having Haden float over the top with lyrics he might well have made up as he went along. By the end of the record, the appropriately titled “Amorphous” and the epic “God is Love” revel in improvisation and risk, becoming tone poems more than songs. “Folkstone, Kent,” meanwhile, splits the difference, putting jazzy trumpet and a psychedelic atmosphere in the middle of lovelorn lyrics that could have been found on a century-old manuscript.

Haden is, of course, the son of famed jazz bassist Charlie Haden, which has been a notable part of his biography since the band’s inception. But Mandala Brush is the first album on which he really brings his dad’s legacy to bear, and does it without losing the essence of songcraft that’s always made Spain stand out.

DOWNLOAD: “Folkstone, Kent,” “You Bring Me Up,” “Maya in the Summer”

 

RISE AGAINST – Career (Vinyl Box Set)

Album: Career

Artist: Rise Against

Label: Interscope/Ume

Release Date: November 20, 2018

www.interscope.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

There aren’t a ton of punk rock bands outside of the greats from the late- ‘70s through early ‘80s, who are strong enough to justify a career-spanning vinyl box set. Chicago’s Rise Against though clearly have earned that distinction.

 

Raised in the indie punk scene – the band’s first two albums were released on the Fat Mike-helmed, Fat Wreck Chords – the band came about their experience the tried and true punk rock way: touring the country is a crappy van and sleeping on the floors of fans after shows. So, their jump to Geffen Records for their third effort, though it brought about some predictably, if relatively muted taunts of “Sell Out!” seemed like a natural fit for an impressive band looking for a bigger soap box to stand on.

 

Geffen, alongside UMe has collected the band’s first eight records (everything but 2018’s The Ghost Note Symphonies, Vol. 1) into one massive archival set. Each record is pressed on 180-gram vinyl and comes with a hard cover book of Rise Against’ s oral history and a slew of rare band photos. The set includes The Unraveling, Revolutions Per Minute, Siren Song Of The Counter Culture, The Sufferer & The Witness, Appeal To Reason, Endgame, The Black Market and Wolves.

 

Of all the albums in the collection, their 2001 debut, The Unraveling, is fittingly enough their most uneven. There’s a powerful rawness to the songs, but singer Tim McIlrath was still finding his voice (figuratively and literally) and relied more on screams rather than the measured vocals he would perfect on later albums. The guitars, as well, slathered in distortion, don’t leave much space for any other instrument to be heard. But the band quickly learned from those mistakes in time for 2003’s Revolutions Per Minute and it’s follow-up the next year, Siren Song Of The Counter Culture. The latter houses the song “Swing Away Life” which remains their most recognizable song and one of the best slow-tempo punk anthems of the 2000s. Both records are among the band’s best efforts with a more cohesive sound and powerful political lyrics that are clear enough to be heard this time around.

 

The Sufferer & The Witness, released in 2006 continued the streak of great, political punk rock, but they slipped slightly on the mediocre follow up, 2008’s Appeal To Reason. The last three entries in this collection, however – Endgame, The Black Market and last year’s Wolves – found the band back to in top form. Over the course of nearly two decades, Rise Against has slowly and methodically carved out a niche for writing savvy political anthems that move easily from modern punk folk to distorted rock, all while ignoring current music fads in favor of a formula that have managed to perfect. This gorgeous box set is the perfect acknowledgement of that dedication.

DOWNLOAD: Plenty to choose from….

BAD MOJOS – I Hope You OD

Album: I Hope You OD

Artist: Bad Mojos

Label: Bad Voodoo Rhythm Records

Release Date: December 21, 2018

 

https://voodoorhythm.bandcamp.com/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Sounding like it was recorded at the bottom of the ocean, this 10-track, 20 minute-or-so collection of could be basement/pub anthems from Swiss punks Bad Mojo has all the feel of a late ‘70s, UK street punk album. Unfortunately, the vocals are so buried underneath layers of distortion and an incessant buzzing that seems wildly unnecessary in an age when even a bedroom recording can come across as clean as anything recorded in a studio circa 1970, that any attempt to make sense of what is being sung is just wasted time.

Musically, once you strip away the constant, buzz there seems to be a fun adherence here to classic punk rock, nods to everyone from Cock Sparrer to GG Allin, a favorite among the band. With the average song clocking in around a minute and a half, there is a real sense of smash and grab, get in and get out immediacy to each track.

There are hints of a solid punk rock album here. Unfortunately, the recording quality is so weak, we never really know for sure.

DOWNLOAD: Your guess is as good as mine.

 

JOHN WESLEY COLEMAN III – Cuckoo Bird Sings A Song

Album: Cuckoo Bird Sings A Song

Artist: John Wesley Coleman lll

Label: Goliad Media Records

Release Date: October 26, 2018

BY BARRY ST. VITUS

I suspect that even the most musically exposed fan or writer would slam into a hard adobe wall trying to come up with a clear description of Coleman’s musical style. It’s a rather frustrating and challenging thing to nail down.  His PRa gives a good shot at what it’s not…”John Wesley Coleman is not an outlaw, not Americana, barely a punker and not a garage rocker.” Suggesting then …”baroque power pop basement fringe.” Works for me. If that elicits a ‘meh’ from you, then know this, this latest drop is one of several he’s done since stepping away from 15 years with Austin’s notorious Golden Boys and doing shows with such notables as Roky Erickson, the Oblivians, L7, No Bunny, the Spider Bags and Ty Segal. That helps triangulate a bit on his own personal style and music, to some degree.

What truly makes Cuckoo Bird stand out, though, is who backed up this effort and produced it, Milwaukee’s own, JAILL, led by Vinnie Kircher, also the producer. This amounts to taking your rough diamond to the best gem cutter in the area to have it cut and polished. They totally get what he’s doing and give it wings to soar high.

The mood of the album leans a tad towards melancholy and wistfulness, but is far from being a downer. The flat-out creativeness of the band color the songs enough to distract from out-and- out sadness and lift the melodies. His voice leans towards lonely, country music singer territory, but has a warming, comforting feeling, that is emotionally embracing.

The album kicks off with “Kick It Again” a catchy little ditty that, like many of the numbers, sticks in your head.  There’s simple electric piano and guitar that brings to mind a No Bunny, ‘50’s rock ‘n’ roll –flavored tune. “Weird Old World” effectively uses synthesizer and weird effects that make for an unusual sound. There’s a ”Dear Prudence” kind of thing going on in “We Speak In Charades,” starting right with the keyboards. It’s the first of quite a few songs that uses repetitive lyrics to good effect.

They get sort of an oddball thing going on mixing up a background of chimes, synth and bongos on “Another Face In the Crowd,” that meanders along, eccentrically.  “Heaven” picks up the pace with its Farfisa organ and synth leading the way and is very typical of what Wes’s songs have generally sounded like in the past. It’s a contender for Best song in the collection.

His “All Over Now’ has a sultry mood to it as it glides along with a gooey Wurlitzer organ carrying it along, and his vocals going a bit Arthur Godfrey, if you get that reference. It’s rather nostalgic and one of the more interesting tunes here, again, thanks to the creative magic of JAILL. “Feel That Way” picks things up again and goes with the repetitive lyrics thing again, but pulls you right in, as it goes a little Samba by the end.

An interesting arrangement really adds props to “Baby I like Your Style,” which are pretty much all there is to the lyrics in this one. His thing with repetitive lyrics really build up a momentum on “Without Warning” and gets it rolling, making it another of the catchiest songs. “Beam With Us,” with its piano and subtle bongos rolls out like a ballad, which uses his voice to great effect. Finally, “Out The Window” really has the baroque thing happening with its strings underneath smoothing the way. This one really is wrapped in melancholy and gloom, accented with the cello behind it, while still remaining rather lovely.

I can hardly imagine anyone not liking this album, unless they are metal-heads or only into thrash, as Wes’s originality is a strong selling point, for one thing, and the impressive playing by the band really make it compelling listening. My only bone to pick might be that I would’ve enjoyed a couple more upbeat numbers in the mix to lift it out of it’s moodiness, but, all-in-all, this Cuckoo Bird sings some pretty good songs, feathering its nest with excellent playing and production.

DOWNLOAD: “Without Warning,“ “We Speak In Charades,” “Out The Window,” “Heaven

Smokescreens 8/30/18, Denver

Dates: August 30, 2018

Location: Hi Dive, Denver CO

Live at the Hi Dive, the band served up no jive!

BY TIM HINELY

I first got turned on to this LA band when someone told me to check out the fabulous tune “I Can’t Wait” on their Bandcamp page. I did and I’m glad I did. Totally great, clattering pop tune like an updated version of recent (current?) New Zealand band Surf City who are basically doing an updated version of The Clean. In other words, listen now!

Their debut full-length Used to Yesterday (Slumberland Records) has spent a lot of time in my cd player these past few months so had to jump at the chance to catch them in a live setting.

Got there and found out that they were playing second which was a-ok for my tired bones (caught a few songs by the headliner American Culture and wasn’t feelin’ it).

 

Guitarist/vocalist Corey Cunningham used to be in another Slumberland band Terry Malts (well worth checking out if you haven’t done so) while other guitarist Chris Rosi spent time in a band called Plateaus. Along with drummer Brice Bradley and a fill-in bassist (regular bassist Jenny Moffett could not make the tour) these four put on a fabulous show for the small-ish crowd that made it out to see them.

They opened with three songs off of their limited edition 12” that was released on Spain’s Meritorio Records including “Painted Mirror,” “Working” and the totally great (previously mentioned) “I Can’t Wait.” From there they played several tunes off of their Slumberland full-lenght including the righteous title track “The Lost Song,” “Falling Down” and the the song of the summer  “Waiting for Summer” (oh and “Jolly Jane” too). They ended the set with the great “Eneies” and called it a night. Again, if the Flying Nun Records scene of the 80’s was your bag then you’ll love Smokescreens.

Cunningham and Rosi are on to something here, the way their guitars tangle and then richochet off of each other, it’s like these two were meant to play together. On drums Bradley kept a steady beat and the bassist brought some cool energy to the band (and even sang lead on one tune) but it’s a shame so few people saw it. With songs this good, however, the people will come, it’ll just take some touring.

 

K. Michelle Dubois / Tigers and Monkeys: 12/8/18, Atlanta

Dates: December 8, 2018

Location: Star Bar, Atlanta GA

Live at the Star Bar, Atlanta, Ga, December 8th, 2018

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

K. Michelle Dubois is an Atlanta singer-songwriter rocker and the first thing you should do, after reading the rest of this is check out her newest video for the song “Reckless Needs” (featuring Chris Lopez) here:

Rock fans of any certain age will dig the song and the clip, and hopefully become new Dubois fans.  Her show at Atlanta’s Star Community Bar was a powerhouse show rock with equal parts indie rock muscle and pop finesse,  with major support from openers Tigers and Monkeys, an indie NYC band led by former Atlanta by way of Nashville power rocker Shonali Bhowmik.  (KMD and Bhowmik were among the brains and beauty behind Ultrababyfat,  the center of Atlanta’s power pop universe in the mid-to-late 90’s, but that’s not important now. It probably is important but I’m just the photographer, so footnote it.)

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Tigers & Monkeys are touring behind their 3rd LP release “Saturday Destroyer.”   Check all their stuff at http://tigersandmonkeys.com/

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K. Michelle Dubois delivered an equally compelling and at times blistering set of new and older songs.  A crack band behind her, including guitarist D Dixon, who is  as good as it gets, maybe better.  The band is planning another show next spring to support the upcoming LP “Harness” which you can check out in streaming form here:  https://www.kmichelledubois.com/home
Follow John on Instagram @johnboydstonphoto

JD McPhearson / Eddie Angel’s Guitar Party: 12/9/18, Atlanta

Dates: December 9, 2018

Location: Terminal West, Atlanta GA

Live at Terminal West, Atlanta, Ga, December 9th, 2018

 

Text & Photos by John Boydston

 

JD McPhearson has been touring behind his new LP of all-holiday songs.  All-holiday record?  That’s a good idea?  Yes, if you are JD McPhearson and his crack band of Wrecking Crew A-list players.  So the songs are great, and the record an instant classic.  It’s called “Socks” and its out now on New West Records.   Rolling Stone says he’s blown up the concept of Christmas records  by doing “no jingle bells, no cover songs, and no schmaltz.”   Check out one of the new retro tunes here:

It was JD’s 2nd show in Atlanta in a year, both at the great Terminal West.  And the place was packed despite it being a cold, dreary, rainy, December Sunday night.   McPhearson is popular in these parts and his fans don’t just like him, they love him.   JD sings and plays guitar, his band is Raynier Jacob Jacildo, Jimmy Sutton, Jason Smay, and Doug Corcoran.
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Opening for JD was his Nashville buddy Eddie Angel’s Guitar Party.  You know Eddie as the one of the guitar slingers behind the masks with Los Straitjackets.  He did some of that band’s well-branded Christmas instrumental surf rock renditions of holiday classics, and LS standards like “Pacifica” and “Close to Champaign.”   He stepped up to sing even.  And yes, he can play the guitar like wringing a chicken’s neck.  #chickenpickin.   They were down a player who got stuck in a North Carolina snowstorm, so the 2nd Guitar Party guitarist – who graduates from high school this year – took over bass-playing duties and did a great job.   (Eddie must be trying to skew down the average age of the band, but good is good.)

 

Follow John on Instagram @johnboydstonphoto

 

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2018

Dates: October 11-14, 2018

Location: Zilker Park, Austin TX

This year’s event was at Zilker Park, as usual, over the course of two weekends. Our ace photog was on hand October 11-14.

PHOTOS BY SAIDE CLAIRE

Thursday, Oct. 11 – BMI’s Howdy Texas / Wrangler at Yeti Day Party

Mt. Joy

Nicole Atkins

 

Friday, October 12

Bishop Briggs

Ravyn Lenae

Reignwolf

David Byrne

Lily Allen

Father John Misty

Paul McCartney

Saturday, October 13

Charley Crockett

Wallows

Ikebe Shakedown

Curtis Harding

Brandi Carlile

Disturbed

Lil Wayne

Metallica

Sunday October 14

Thunderpussy

Ghost of Paul Revere

Bahamas

Janelle Monae

St. Vincent

 

 

 

KALAMASHOEGAZER FESTIVAL 11/10/18, Kalamazoo, MI

The eclectic, eccentric multi-band event was held, appropriately enough, at Bell’s Eccentric Café. Pictured above: Springhouse.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY TIM HINELY

I had never been to Kalamazoo before. Heck, I had never been to Michigan before but a one-day music festival with 8 bands seemed as good as any to make the flight and visit the Wolverine State (or whatever the heck it is). April and her small group of dedicated music fans (April Zimont is/was in the fab band Glowfriends and now the same folks have a new band called Tambourina which played on this very night) have been putting the festival on since 2006 and do a damn good job of running it. It ran like clockwork and everyone had a good time (no frowns) and at tix at $15 it was a steal (they could/should have charged twice that much).

My old friends Tears Run Rings were on the bill, as was Jack Rabid’s NYC band Springhouse (you know Jack from his long-running, legendary mag The Big Takeover) so yeah, I pretty much had to go.

The weather was cold and snowy, but Bell’s Eccentric Café was warm, cozy and inviting and seemed a popular place for both locals and folks like me coming in to see the festival. The bands played in a nice sized room that has touring bands as well (Anna Burch was playing the next night). There was also a bar in the back, food service (tasty grub!) and they even had a small balcony upstairs (where I caught part of the show from).

Up first was Milwaukee’s Brief Candles (above) who I’d heard some tunes before but not a lot and they were perfect openers, getting the crowd lubed up.  They’ve been around for a looong time and have a classic shoegaze sound (big hooks). Check out their Bandcamp page sometime.

Seashine took the stage next and they were a quartet from St. Louis (Demi, Paul, Seth and Kate) with a real positively dreamy sound that was real easy to like. I’m gonna look for some of their stuff (only some tunes on Soundcloud from what I’ve seen).

Kalamazoo’s own Tambourina was up next and kicked the tempo up a bit while vocalist April bounced all over the stage (not sure where she gets her energy from). I really enjoyed their soaring set that really had the crowd bouncing.

Though I’ve been a fan of Tears Run Rings for ages I had never seen them play live and they did not disappoint. Playing a few cuts off their new EP (Somewhere) as well as a healthy dose of tunes from their entire catalog. They really had the crowd swaying and hypnotized.

Sacramento’s Soft Science (Test Pattern Records) had a few equipment problems but once those got sorted out (Katie’s vocals were hard to hear at the beginning) that didn’t stop them from putting on a terrific set, mostly of cuts off their righteous, recently-released LP,  Maps. Well worth your time.

Chicago’s Airiel, a trio with a handful of records out on Shelflife (and a bevy of fx pedals) brought in a bit of a heavier sound and had the crowd eating out of their hand.

Springhouse came armed with some merch and a seriously good set. Now a quartet with the addition of Dave Burokas on 2nd guitar (Dave was the editor of old killer NJ zine Sporadic Droolings….fun fact: he gave DAGGER my first ever review!). We heard “Eskimo,” “Land Falls” and plenty more old faves and drummer  Jack Rabid has not lost a step on his drum kit).

Texas trio Ringo Deathstarr showed up a little later but the packed house were ready and they did not disappoint either.  I don’t believe they’ve released a record since 2015’s Pure Mood, but they dug deep into their grab bag of songs and killed it. Adding some fun and humor whilst chatting with the crowd and totally delivering until the wee hours.

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It all ended about 1:00 AM and I had an early flight so I had to say a few quick goodbyes and cut out but it was well worth it. Great bands, nice people, a well run mini-festival all around…not much more you could ask for, really.  I will be back one day. …thank you Kalamashoegazer, you know how to put on a festival!