Archive for January, 2014

OUCH!

Posted: January 30, 2014 in New Indie Music

Deathly the Dog

Spider Bites CD-Single

Self-Released

Review by Kent Manthie

Deathly the Dog – This is your life! – A relatively new, up & coming band, out of Tennessee; Johnson City, TN, to be exact, DTD are a duo that shows an influence of old school hardcore as well as some anti-commercial indie rock from the 90s, i.e. Superchunk, Therapy and early Replacements (think – Sorry Ma…, Stink and at the very least Hootenanny.

At this moment in time the band gets by just fine as a duo – Samuel Bowman: vocals and guitar and his bro (?) Silas Bowman on drums. This new EP, Horsefly, will be officially released February 1, but right now, for those who want a little taste, a preview, there is, available on Bandcamp, a CD Single, for the song “Spider Bites” with the so-called “b-side” being “Bones”, both of which are fabulous tunes. The first cut, “Spider Bites” has this old school, hardcore edge to it, while “Bones” reminds me a little of the bounciness and energy of Superchunk.

But it just so happens that if you check out You Tube, you can get a preview of all 4 of the upcoming tracks from Horsefly. Songs such as “Gasmask”, a kind of post-punk/post-hardcore “bull in a china shop” kind of controlled, premeditated reckless chaos. “Gasmask”’s two-minute run-through is a joyride through punk-town, complete with blistering guitar and sneering vocals; it almost sounds as if he’s singing with a pronounced cockney accent. I like it, I like it! I also got a chance to see a video on You Tube of Deathly the Dog playing “Sinister Friend” live at a club called The Next Door. But on this live video, there’s a third “dog” in the band, like a hired-gun-bass player. I don’t think these live videos are on the new EP, but still, they provide a little more insight into DTD. Another live video I got a chance to see (also from The Next Door) was a tune called “Eat the Feed”. So, as far as previews of new material, we’ve got “Gasmask” thanks to You Tube and the 2 songs on the “Spider Bites” single – “Spider Bites” and “Bones”, which have a more refined sound, since they were done in a studio, but the only real difference is that it’s louder and clearer – the energy and raw power are still present. So, I’m only missing one song from the upcoming, Feb. 1 release.

But I’m glad I got the “Spider Bites” single – that tune really brings hardcore back to the fore, especially with the Keith Morris-style singing. “Bones” is a nihilistic rocker that pulls no punches but actually reminds me more of Superchunk and the bouncy energy they epitomized. Great stuff it is – and none of their music can even closely be thought of as “emo” (a term that I hate, especially since it’s been bandied about too much by lazy writers who like to use easy labels to pin on bands who can’t really be put in boxes). And their definitely not the awful “pop-punk” bands that are more “emo” than punk, that’s for sure.

Well, go to Bandcamp now and get yourself a copy of the “Spider Bites” single. It’ll hold you over until – well, hell, the 1st is only 2 days away, so you don’t have that long to wait. Hope you enjoy it like I did. –KM.Horsefly CD cover

Keep Fighting That War!

Posted: January 29, 2014 in New Indie Music

The Rise and Fall of Shaun

Fighting a Battle When You’ve Already Lost the War EP

Self-Released, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

At the age of 14, Shaun Tutt picked up the guitar and got started on a musical journey that has, so far, lasted a lifetime. In the years since he got into the music scene, he’s wandered in and out of myriad genres, styles and structures. For the rest of his adolescence into his mid-20s, Tutt put a lot of heart and soul into mastering his instrument and sharpening his skills as a songwriter.

By 2011 Shaun started writing his own songs, emulating some of his heroes and influences, such as John Martyn, Neil Young, Frank Turner, The Admiral, To Kill a King and others. Now he has an extensive catalog of songs of his own -some 40 songs that he’s either written by himself or that he co-wrote with friend and lyricist, Jim Radford, who is in the band These Curious Thoughts.

Now that this EP is out and free to the public – just visit Bandcamp to get your copy, Shaun is busy working on collating some of his many songs and recording some for a full-length debut album.

I was lucky enough to get an email from Shaun that had a link to the download of Fighting a Battle… which is a four-song EP; it’s mellow, acoustic in nature, with the vocals mixed in to not be overtaken by the music – in other words, his voice carries, neither drowning out the music nor being drowned out by it. Opening is the title track, which is an introspective ditty about taking on one’s personal demons even when one knows they can’t be completely licked, but instead of giving up you keep on trying, pulling your head above the cesspool you might drown in if you don’t keep kicking and aiming toward a way out. The second tune, “A Mixture of the Two” is a bit more upbeat. It’s a sort of attempt at telling it like it is and hoping that the one to whom you’re speaking understands what you’re trying to say, such as “We’re alive tonight/and that’s all that matters now”, as if right here, right now is what matters, getting through this thing before us and when this is done, we’ll tackle the next thing they throw at us in its turn. After that, it goes into “So Let Her In”-still staying in the acoustic realm, with a bit of a backbeat, putting a little energy into it. I can’t pretend to know exactly what the song is saying, but, if I have to try and put a spin on it, I’d say it’s about giving this girl a second chance, perhaps(?), letting her back in to your life. So she isn’t perfect and may have done some bad stuff, screwed you over, lied to you, but, what the hell, as much as you may want to throw her out and be done with it all, you, deep down, still have feelings for her and they keep tugging at you, prodding you to let her back in – back in to your house, your life, your mind – but, hey, she’s lied to you, did you wrong, whatever, so there’s a trust issue there – how in the world can you just let it go and forgive – you’ll never forget; once someone loses your trust, it’s usually impossible to ever get it completely back again. Sure, you may cut her a little slack and try again, but you know that from now on you’ll always be watching your back, watching her back, always keeping one eye open and, while hoping for the best: that things will indeed get back to the way they were, you have to be cynically realistic in these situations. Now, I know I may be over doing it. Who knows if I’m even close to the mark or not. But that is a common thread in relationships such as I just described. The last tune on here, “The Solemn Optimism of a Graveyard” seems the darkest of the four, but not that dark. Taking the title for starters, one gets the idea that the meaning could be an ironic one or it could be talking about the kind of optimism one could relate to a graveyard in that there’s no way any of us are going to not end up in the graveyard, that’s just a fact of life, but if one can live with oneself and come to have as few regrets as possible, although that’s a hard goal to reach, well, even the act of trying to go down that road can give a person a type of optimism.

Whatever the true nature of the meanings, I like the fact that they are a little vague and not so typical faux-teen angst anthems or syrupy love fluff, etc. It’s music to make you think and it’s up to you to interpret the meanings – not unlike with certain abstract paintings you might chance upon at a modern art museum, for instance.

Shaun Tutt has a clear, distinct voice; a clear, concise blissfully pleasant sound that really shines.

I’m just glad that we connected and I was able to shine a light on yet another DIY-independent band that definitely deserves to have some publicity. Let’s hope that he and his mates do a good amount of touring around, playing clubs and such, so as to garner the best publicity you can get: word-of-mouth. A friend telling you that he or she just heard or saw this band play at X club the other night and they were awesome and, hey, you really ought to check out their new album goes a lot further than all the advertising money can buy. Advertising is just a way to trick people into buying things and, whether what’s being advertised is good or bad, the fact that you’re exposed to ads but at the same time aren’t hearing your friends or even a writer at the local independent weekly paper raving about this or that band, will not get your attention. So – my advice to you is to go to Bandcamp and download Fighting a Battle When You’ve Lost the War and, after listening to it (and hopefully, liking it), tell a couple friends about it, or better yet, play the album for them so they can hear it. That way, the chain can continue – those people will then tell someone else about it, then other people might pick up the vibe and so on. Keep an eye out for The Rise and Fall of Shaun to show up in your area for a gig. Then, bring a bunch of friends with you. -KM.Shaun Tutt pic

Joan of Arc Video(!)

Posted: January 22, 2014 in Forecast: Fascist Future!

This is a video for the song “Tell-Tale Penis” which is on the 2008 CD, Boo! Human. – If you’re a hardcore cinephile, you will recognize that this video is JOA’s take on one of the best movies of the 1960s – if not of all time:  Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967  Weekend.  In the film, a young couple is driving across France to get to a relative and score money from the estate, or basically, that’s the idea.  But along the way, they have many surreal encounters – plus, along the way, you see car crash after car crash and multiple car pile-ups with dead and/or dying, bleeding bodies, mutilated, bashed, etc.  So, the man (it’s Tim, I think, playing the part in the video) who you see lighting up a cigarette w/a match over and over again, in a loop, who has blood, or what is supposed to be blood, all over his face and the girl who, similarly, has blood dripping all over her face, represent the young couple from the movie.  Anyway, here it is for you to enjoy:

love,

Kent

here is a video of Joan of Arc playing “Shown and Told” live.  It is priceless.  Very well done.

I just couldn’t pass it up.

-KM

Tim Kinsella

Tim Kinsella Sings the Songs of Marvin Tate by LeRoy Bach Featuring Angel Olsen

Joyful Noise Records

Review by Kent Manthie

Marvin Tate. What can I say about this guy? A lot, as it turns out. For one thing, he has a somewhat childlike aura about him – and I mean that in the most complimentary of ways- that helps keep the sharks at bay.  It isn’t surprising then, that he does enjoy being around kids, taking in their as-yet-unsullied innocence, the pure spirit about them that can’t help but be sincere, something he absorbs into his persona and, like a muse, they provide treasure troves of idioms, phrases – pure poetics.  Marvin Tate doesn’t put flashing, neon lights around his genius; he has a way of being subtle, sometimes hiding behind his youthful vigor, which helps masks a benign madness necessary to the best of poets; also, by doing things this way he doesn’t sink into a depressing self-loathing, so common from eclectic genius poets and writers past:  such lost souls such as Emily Dickinson, Hart Crane, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, who, although is hated or at least was abhorred by many contemporaries for caving into the crushing, maniacal political pressure that he was not alone in enduring, but unfortunately, having nearly lost his mind during this senseless time of witches and goblins who were hunted down with hardcore tenacity by you-know-who in the 50s or the wonderful, influential poetry of Wallace Stevens, who never experienced that surreal literary world completely divorced from his day job as an insurance salesman.  His company of young ones helps enable him to see the world through innocent eyes and even the funny sort of spontaneous emission of words and thoughts that kids are wont to come out with make for a great inspiration and it keeps him steady, always in rare form, an eternal blaze of creativity that doesn’t fizzle out, partly due to the nonjudgmentality and unconditional love his friends, both young and old, have for him.

That’s only part of the story, though. Tate has an innate sense of the poetic and seems to be raised on symbols, metaphors and eternal optimism.  A lot of his poetry is an abstract expressionism at times; others seem to be layered with undiscovered meaning and hidden hitherto interpreted but, for the most part, they’re not.  Those that do involve symbols or the use of metaphor are not hard to “get to”.  Tate’s poems are not devoid of meter or form, they have a soft-spoken cadence, an understated rhythm to them, except when they don’t – at times a poem can unleash something bottled up, a certain emotion that finds its catharsis through this expression.  But for the most part I enjoy reading them aloud, or in the case of this CD, listening to them as they are put into a musical shape.  A lot of the work has an extralucidity that, when you read, takes you into a cloud-like para-dormir state.

The Site of Big Shoulders or www.sobs.org contains poem after poem by Tate. There are some quite humorous and well-written works on this site.

He’s also got his own Facebook page on which you can “friend” him and get to know him; one of the benefits of Facebook – the equality of users:  there’s no “VIP” room that “celeb-hipsters” can hide in and be with their own kind.  The social milieu of FB allows interaction between some of the most interesting people and now and then you can find yourself involved in a seemingly endless thread of conversation that goes on and on, with myriad “friends” all chiming in on the subject at hand.

As to the album under review, Tim Kinsella Sings the Songs of Marvin Tate by Leroy Bach Featuring Angel Olsen, it’s actually the third in a series of albums on which Tate collaborated with LeRoy Bach, former Wilco member. The way the collaboration worked was that Tate provided the words and the melodies, while Bach wrote the music and produced. The first two albums were just collaborations between Tate and Bach, but in the midst of this project, Bach saw the immense possibilities inherent in the uniquely rich material; it had room for many possibilities and interpretations and somehow Bach came up with the idea of recruiting another Chicago-based legend (Tate’s a Chicagoan), Tim Kinsella, the front-man of Joan of Arc, its forerunner, Cap’n Jazz, “side projects” Owls, Friend/Enemy, Make Believe, etc. So Tim came on board for this third and final album in the trilogy as a sort of interpreter of the words in the form of singer. He acted, in a sense, as a “narrator”, one who could bring the words to life. Another singer that was recruited for Tim Kinsella Sings… was Angel Olsen (courtesy of Jagjaguwar Records). Angel was taken with the project right away, so the trio were off and running, recording over a series of afternoons, using Bach’s home studio in Humboldt Park to put in the instrumentation and David Vandervelde helped too, with mixing and mastering duties.

Anyone familiar with Tate’s poetry would recognize all the somewhat disjointed, complex sets of words; disjointed, maybe, but not in disarray. LeRoy Bach, whose musical arrangements were just right for Tim’s great range of vocalization – the quiet, meditation, the plaintive wails, the helpless screams, all delivered in a perfect sense of sympathy and the kind of agony you can almost feel.

Another vocalist who showed up was the solo performer Angel Olsen, who complements Tim’s lead vocal with her light, breathy voice. In some tunes, she serves as a foil to Tim’s tantrums, in others, the two are equals, singing in harmony, wonderfully, surprisingly beautiful lyrics that juxtapose the deep, dark chasms of depravity, violence and the banality of evil.

My favorite track here definitely has to be “Idolize”. It’s only 1:38. but I love it’s brutal honesty and forthrightness, not to mention the fact that it’s very catchy and Tim is the perfect one to sing it. The lyrics are of a person who, despite a lack of reciprocation or almost noticeabiTim Kinsella and Marvin Tate CDlity, is enamored with one who is guilty of all kinds of personal grievances that, nonetheless, don’t push the singer – or lyric writer – away. “Devonte’s In a Coma” is a poignant song. Upbeat, with that back and forth between the two singers – Kinsella and Olsen – it, merrily, tells the tale of a brutal attack on a child who ends up in a coma. They go on to sing about press conferences by the mayor and police, in vain, canvassing the neighborhood where this happened, only to find that no one wants to be a “snitch”. A very arresting song. “The Baseball Player’s Wife” is also an interesting work – a tale of the trophy-wife of some rich, vacuous, ballplayer who wants nothing, it seems, more than to look good on the outside. Then there’s “This Time (Not the Next Time)”, a non-Tennessee-country song, in which the protagonist is listing what he will do for the object of his love – but almost as an ultimatum – (“This Time/Not the next time/But this time”) or when he sings “This time, there’ll be no more me-me-me/This time/Not the next time/But this time”. The same country-ish vibe comes through in the next song “100 Kinds of Crazy”, the “country” vein in these tunes, more of a Midwest bluesy-country hybrid, that one can pin on Bach and his band Wilco, who are known for that genre. Then there’s “Snowglobes”, a reference to Tate’s obsessive hobby of making those little rounded glass figurines that are filled with liquid inside as well as a white, powdery, waterproof substance which, when shaken up, gives the look of snow falling on whatever miniature stage Tate has made.

A really beautiful song on the album is “Sidetracked in Miami”. It’s Angel Olsen’s moment to shine. She sings the song solo, sings it in an atmospheric dreamy voice that is stunning. Her voice has a beautiful charm that one can’t help but stop and listen to. It evokes images of a velvety night club, where the mood is subdued, the patrons are quiet or talking quietly amongst themselves and this heavenly song wafts over them.

The album closes with, first, a 32-second, instrumental, almost funereal “God Ain’t Ready For You” and then, the closer, “Never Finished Counting”.

When it’s over, you’re almost left in a daze, trying to recount just what it was you experienced just then. Of course, what that does is prod you into listening to it again (and again, and again), until you can feel the darkness underneath the juxtaposed light. Tim Kinsella Sings the songs of Marvin Tate… is a real departure for Tim Kinsella and that is precisely what he tries to do when doing a non-Joan of Arc project. His reasoning, of course, which is perfectly sensible, is, why bother making an album under a different name if you’re only going to do another Joan of Arc album? Of course, that’s not to say he’s failed in the past, because albums like 10 Songs by Friend/Enemy, Owls and Of Course by Make Believe, for example, have their own qualities and catchiness to them that can take you away from the, sometimes, wildly experimental, but always satisfying work of a Joan of Arc CD. Whichever Tim Kinsella band/project you enjoy best, …The Songs of Marvin Tate… will put his oeuvre in a whole new light and you’ll appreciate, say, the first Owls album in 13 years, Owls II, which will be out in March, that much more.

But the real star of this (as well as the other two albums which were just Tate and Bach) is Marvin Tate, who gets to have some of his poetry set to music. It’s a fine job of melding the two together. Tate is a genius of poetry and, well, whether he’s “unsung” because he likes it that way or for whatever reason, Tim Kinsella Sings the Songs of Marvin Tate by LeRoy Bach Featuring Angel Olsen is a showcase that can, one hopes, bring Tate’s beautiful words to more people. I would never be one to tell him or anyone to try and get “corporate support” because that always ruins the spontaneous madness and the honest innocence that radiates from his words. He isn’t hiding out or perched on a mountaintop. One can easily find him via Facebook. If you do connect with Tate, ask him about his snowglobes; I, for one, would love to get one for myself! -KM.

Entering Somnabulistic City

Posted: January 16, 2014 in New Indie Music

Katya Sanna

La Via Delle Stelle

Self-Released

Review by Kent Manthie

When listening to the latest CD by Italian singer/songwriter Katya Sanna, I was totally unsure of what to expect. After the album started, though, I found myself presently entranced, like falling, falling, falling, carefree, down a dark, black hole someplace that, somehow, kept the effects of entropy and inertia out of the equation.

This is a beautiful experimental, stream-of-consciousness foray into the deepest recesses of the unconscious – a dimension of dreams; images of astral projection and an incredibly unique musical poetry. There are actual words sung – in Italian – in places, as well as a lot of interesting swooning and experimental crooning that, along with the ethereal synthesizers and other electronica that backs it up.

La Via Delle Stelle is truly an independent masterpiece; something that I would never expect to find at some crass music department at a big box store – of course not – those places sell nothing but top 40 garbage. If your area has any good independent record stores in it, chances are, you might be able to find it there, but as it is, for right now, anyway, the best way to come across Katya’s beautiful work is to go to her website: http://www.katyasanna.it

If you’d like a description of Sanna’s delectable sound, think of the dreamy, late-night operatics of Julee Cruise combined with the meditative chanting of Enya, with a little Vangelis mixed in. This CD is the perfect album to play when you’re going to bed for the night; the perfect lullaby that will have you in another world before you fall into a full sleep.

I can’t name a variety of tracks that stand out, since they’re all so seamless and as an album, La Via Delle Stelle is one of those rare delights to which you must listen all in one sitting. It’s hypnotic, breathtaking, lighter than air and unbelievably beautiful.

One other place to check out her music is her Bandcamp page – http://www.katyasanna.bandcamp.com/album/la-via-delle-stelle – through there, one can access Sanna’s current and past music – as free downloads! This one is only the latest in a string of inventive albums she’s put out in the last 5 years or so. All quite creative and with her Katya’s own imaginative stamp on them. Enjoy! -KM.Katya Sanna

Cate LeBon

Mug Museum

Self-Released

Review by Kent Manthie

This, the third release by Welsh neo-folike Cate LeBon, Mug Museum, is an ethereal album of folk-pop cuts. Some have likened LeBon to the late German chanteuse, Nico, made famous by her appearance on the debut Velvet Underground album, The Velvet Underground and Nico. After that appearance, Nico appeared with a few interesting solo LPs, including Chelsea Girls. Unfortunately, Nico died young in a bicycle accident.

I can see a slight resemblance here to Nico, except for the fact that Cate’s singing is a little less flat and her beautiful Welsh accent comes through in her lovely singing voice, though I do see where the comparisons can fit – not so much a similarity in sound, but a kindred spirit in both singers’ aims.

I’ve also seen a couple comparisons to the Velvet Underground, more than likely due to the latter’s early association with Nico. Believe me, though, the VU comparisons are more about the structure of the songs, like the repetitive Rickenbacker-sounding guitar strumming, the slow, but steady shoegazing meditations.

Songs such as “No God”, “I Think I Knew” show an intelligent musical tendency to captivate in a different way than has been done in a while. One can definitely see the novelty in this, at least in America. Cate seems to have been absorbing some of the more imaginative greatness from what used to be arty soundtracks to downtown parties and introspective small gatherings in an urban apartment somewhere with the lights turned down and candles lit; here I’m thinking of “Wild”, a very groovy, yet slowed down hypnogogia. The next tune, “Sisters” picks things up a little, with a quaint electric piano, that whistles and hums, evoking a smile. The keyboard and the rhythm guitar go so well together. We could be inside the old cult-film, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls here. Not only is Nico or VU represented here, but I felt a little Strawberry Alarm Clock-ed too. “Cuckoo Through The Walls”, however, does have a flavor reminiscent of post-John Cale Velvet Underground, e.g., The Velvet Underground (the one with the John Cale-sung “The Gift” and the 17+ minute “Sister Ray”.

But besides the aforementioned 1965-era Rickenbacker sound and the Fender/Rhodes keyboards, what I like about Mug Museum so much is Cate LeBon’s heavenly voice and when all is said & done, I don’t think all these comparisons to Nico, et al are all that warranted; I think Cate stands up on her own quite well. Sure, she may be influenced by the underground New York-London sounds of the mid-late 1960s, but she has absorbed those into an original style that’s strictly hers and she deserves to be taken on her own terms, not as a “New Nico” or whatever. There’s no rockin’, jeering, rough stuff on here, it’s all very earthy, soft and relaxing, with an honesty that is touching. In a word, Mug Museum is “beautiful” (not necessarily stoned). It’s heavenly pop aura will ensnare you with its infectious beauty, the kind you just cannot refrain from looking at again and again or in the case of Mug Museum, listen to again and again. -KM.Cate-Le-Bon-Mug-Museum