Wednesday, January 29, 2020

ERA is One To Watch (Toronto)

THE MAILBAG - Everyone has a chance to shine. A couple of times a month, I spin fate's wheel and listen to unsolicited music from the inbox. 

This week I found "The Edge" a hot new single from mysterious Toronto/Tel Aviv artist ERA. A beautiful human being, Eden, aka Era is on all of the artist's collateral on Facebook and Instagram running counter to her low-range vocals. The results are quite beautiful, especially on repeat. Those deep tones and the song's subject matter create passive tension for listeners.  

"ERA is a multimedia artist with a background in fine arts. During her studies at Bezalel Academy of Arts, she has begun to use music in her performance and video art pieces. "The Edge" is her first independent release, and it features a strong reflective hook, inviting listeners to look within and ask deep, compelling questions."

Our Take: "The Edge" is a melancholy Valentine along the lines of a sado-masochistic ballad (ala Morrissey) where one end of the spectrum is an atmospheric love affair and at the other is utter despair fueled by emotional starvation and loss. So in other words, this is an pretty smashing entry and completely relatable material these days.  (Any song that throws in a Gregorian Chant sample you know is a winner in my book.) 

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Saturday, January 04, 2020

My Albums of The Year: 2019

Music as you know is both a flourish and an escape. And it's with that I begin today with the revelation I wasn't going to produce a Best Of List this year. I simply did not have the time.. and then something deep inside of me kicked in and the passion for this exercise re-ignited. 

Music happened. We lead crazy lives. You probably don't have time to read this or listen either. But you are. For some odd reason we soldier on despite the madness in our lives and the darkness outside beyond the street light. I suggest that reason might be that Music is Life.

2019 offered evidence, once again, that creativity and inspiration in music abounds even while "the industry of music" continues to sputter and swirl; struggling in it's own way. The construct of old is largely only tangentially involved in the global creative process going on, facilitated by technology which both unites and somehow still excludes. Still, more audiences are finding their art and more artists are finding one another. And in this way 2019 could be the most successful year for music ever. And now we begin. I stopped numbering after 11. (From there on in it was truly exhaustive and I kept second-guessing myself.) Artist names are the official links. If you prefer Spotify, access the artists through the playlist. Have a blast..

My Top Albums of 2019

#1 Paul Cauthen - Room 41
#2 Brittany Howard - Jaime
#3 Hallelujah The Hills - I'm You
#4 Big Thief - Two Hands
#5 Matt Sucich - Thousand Dollar Dinners
#6 Fort Frances - The Front Page of the Modern Age
#7 Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow
#8 Jesse Malin - Sunset Kids
#9 Pip Blom - Boat
#10 (tie) Nate Leavitt & The Elevation - I Miss Me Too
#10 (tie) Kate Teague - Kate Teague
#11 (tie) Illiterate Light - Illiterate Light
#11 (tie) The National - I Am Easy To Find
Wanderwild - Sleep Tight, Socialite
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Fishing for Fishies
Calexico and Iron & Wine - Years To Burn
Brad Byrd - Phases
Gruff Rhys - Pang!
Moonlight Parade - Caught In A Wave
 Dry Cleaning - Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks
Wilco - Ode to Joy
Lizzo - Cuz I Love You
Orville Peck - Pony
Slow Pulp - Big Day
Hollis Brown - Ozone Park
Thyla - What's On Your Mind
The Claypool Lennon Delirium - South of Reality
King Pine - None Use Swear Words
Broken Social Scene - Let's Try The After
Pottery - No. 1
Lucy Daucus - 2019
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
STL GLD - The New Normal
Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell!
 Manhunter movie soundtrack (full tracklist available for the first time ever, vinyl only)

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Running Hot With Fate

Today sees the release of a new video from Hallelujah the Hills. Running With Fate. The music video from Tyler Hollis Derryberry (more on him below) opens up a visual page for the band's latest musical chapter. I'm You - the new record is less than a month in the books and it's already one of my favorite records of 2019. The band continues to ping pong from stage rock, theater and cerebral merry-making. The new video featured two dozen Boston musicians, artists and personalities - shedding them in a unique light! Spend a little time with the lads today...

FROM THE DIRECTOR: "After hearing an advance copy of Hallelujah The Hills’ new album (I played theremin on two tracks), I offered to collaborate with the band to make a video. I wanted this video to be a Hallelujah The Hills production," writes Tyler Hollis Derryberry. "They've made a lot of videos over the years and I wanted to create something that would be distinct but still fit into the Hallelujah The Hills video ouvre.."

 Much like the song, the video for “Running Hot With Fate” is a collection of miniature short stories about a group of people. But whereas these stories were conveyed in the recording by way of the lyrics, here in the video, volumes are telegraphed via peoples’ stares, subtle expressions, and the contours of their faces. 27 Boston musicians were cast in ‘Fate’ from a pool of artists whose careers collectively cover six decades of music. Some of the people in this video played at The Rat quite a bit; some of the other people in this video weren’t even born when the famously scuzzy club closed. There’s everyone from a performer who stood on stage the first night the Boston Tea Party opened in 1967, to young musicians just getting their start. In fact, the young boy who appears at the beginning of the video doesn’t have a band yet, but has plans to start one called Mollusk, or maybe Kursed. All participants were filmed in total silence for three minutes; they were asked to interact with the camera with their eyes, to have a conversation without words. Then, a portion of their clip where they seemed to be revealing something, or particularly intense, honest, or funny was chosen for the final video sequence. Just as the narrator of the song reaches a surprising conclusion in the bridge, the video features a similar visual reveal, the meaning of which is elevated by the rest of the lyrics and themes explored on the I’m You album.

Hallelujah the Hills are Ryan Walsh (vocals and guitar), Brian Rutledge (trumpet and syth), David Michael Curry (viola), Joe Marrett (bass), Nick Ward (baritone guitar and piano), and Ryan Connelly (drums.) I'm You was recorded at Machines with Magnets, Pawtucket RI and was produced by Seth Manchester and Hallelujah The Hills. 

I'm You was mastered by Greg Calbi of Sterling Sound. This album, which I highly recommend, is available on all digital platforms, including: Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon. CDs, I am told, are available via Bandcamp - those links can be found or accessed below.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

"Today is Today" by King Pine

Listen to this soft, beautiful song opener. Excited to share the first song from King Pine. It's the lead single "Today is The Day," from Hudson Valley songwriter James Hearne who has quickly become one of my favorite east coast singers. 

Today is Today is a Bon Iver-like exit from reality. Transported and lifted away as on a cloud, I'm a child looking out the window of a moving car, my eyes squint as the sun bathes my face in warm light. The guitar work here is exquisite, the song tight and fast. This is a fleeting moment on a glorious day and the start of something pretty wonderful.

World Premiere:

A journeyman of the Philadelphia music scene (he jokingly refers to it as "a bare-knuckle indie rock scene") Hearne has made his way up and down the Atlantic,into upstate NY and through New England for shows over the last year. The results for audiences and his songwriting have been pretty inspired.

Raise the sails batten down the hatch
Set the table kill the fatted calf
Sweep the galleys swab the floors
Sing the songs from some forgotten war
Prepare ye the way
Today is today
Coming home to stay
Trim the trees deck the halls
Fill the holes we put into the walls
Turn down the lights turn down the bed
Make believe we didn't say the things we said
Prepare ye the way
Today is today
Coming home to stay
Everything is change
You're in and out of range
Prepare ye the way
Today is today
Coming home to stay

“None Use Swear Words” is performed entirely by Hearne and co-producer Dave Drago (Sean Barna, Tallahassee) at Drago’s 1809 Studios in Macedon, NY. It was tracked in just under twelve hours, Hearne handling all the guitars and most of the vocals and keys, Drago playing all the rest, a rapid-fire barrage of idea and execution that Hearne calls “the most gratifying studio experience I can recall.”

photo by James Orr

Hearne is a serious songwriter but he's possesses a comedian's mind, underscored by the functional (if not funny) album title, "None Use Swear Words." The functional name reflects the lack of curses used, sure, but it's also a simple way to relay the survival mode struggle creators operate in. Attention of one's audience is a desperate struggle with all that inputs and noises in this fast-paced world. The EP title effortless lends itself to copious listens from music festival producers, radio station programmers and prudish soccer Moms alike. 

None Use Swear Words (Nov 1)

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Short story is this is an excellent artist debut on an album with soaring singles and a funny little name. An A debut and we're certainly hoping for more of the same really soon. (Prebuy the digital-only album for just four bucks.)

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Ghosts We Can Always See

I started this music blog thirteen years ago this fall and have had to provide mea culpas for disappearing acts only a few times during that span. Today's post is a hybrid of one. I've been away dealing with professional responsibilities and caring for my dying mother - who I was largely estranged with prior to all this.

Seeing a vital person fall apart medically and psychologically has been one of the most emotionally draining things I've ever had to go through. Having it being an awakening of our difficult relationship has been another eye-opener.. Life is not easy. But light can be found anywhere. Life prevails.

For the last six weeks I've gotten into the habit of seating myself in front of my desktop with a cup of coffee (if only for 30 minutes) to see if I could write. My mind is often racing too fast to compose. Or, often, I'm just too tired to find the words. 

Today I write and hope I've turned a creative stone that reflects my own well-being. I still have a lot to say. And at least for now, I'm back. 

Mom's story 
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Ryan's Smashing Life Facebook
Outlaw Roadshow Facebook

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Spotlight on Beth Bombara

It's hard for me to imagine a musician on the road with a bigger heart than Beth Bombara and that shines through in her live performance. In the last few short years Bombara's dreams of reaching audiences around the country have come true. 

And with each journey, experience and show Beth becomes better-armed with life material for new songs. Her quietly amazing self-titled debut was the launching point for me. Bombara deftly followed it with a stellar collection of songs called Map & No Direction in 2017. Today, she's still touring like her music heroes before her and making new traditions to follow.

July 31- Ripon WI, The Heist
Aug 1-3-Appleton WI, Mile of Music
Aug 6- Columbia MO, The Blue Note 
w/Old 97's
Aug 8- Nashville TN, City Winery 
w/Erica Blinn
Aug 9- St. Louis MO, Old Rock House 
w/Lilly Hiatt
Aug 11- Madison WI, The Winnebago 
w/Sway Wild
Aug 13- Minneapolis, 7th Street Entry 
w/Sway Wild
Aug 15- Chicago IL, Hey Nonny
Aug 16- Holland MI, Park Theatre
Aug 17- Muskegon MI, Unruly Brewing
Aug 29- Kansas City MO, Knuckleheads 
w/Kevin Galloway

IN HER OWN WORDS - With a folksinger’s head and a rocker's heart, Beth Bombara has built her career on an evolving sound that blurs the lines between genres. To those who make their living onstage, she's a musician's musician — a road warrior who writes her own exemplary material, plays multiple instruments, and fronts her own band, often a duo with her husband - guitarist and producer Kit Hamon.

Beth Bombara
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