Last Nights Presents: March 1st + 2nd "Images Residency" w/ Psychic Ills, Sore Eros, Hume, Street Gnar, Alan Watts + DJ's Andreas Knutsen & Elliptic
Buy Possessed By Paul James - Live At Antones HERE
Here's a taste:
Sore Eros Sickies: Volume One is available now digitally from the band & on cassette via Night-People. The group are also playing in Brooklyn this Thursday March 1st at the Last Nights Presents: 2 night Images residency at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge as part of the first night with Street Gnar & Hume. For more information check out the Facebook Event Page or our upcoming show schedule.
Athlete are one of those bands that, whilst successful, have not managed to scale the higher strata of music business status despite notable awards and plaudits. Indeed, although there musical output is relatively compact, it is definitely a matter of quality rather than quantity. There anthemic approach to songwriting, recording and their live performances have inspired both loyal fans and appreciative listeners. Their strength relies on producing songs that have intelligent, yet charming, lyrics and memorable melodies that readily induce the Old Grey Whistle effect.
This latest release is a snapshot of the last night of their 2011 'Stripped Down' tour, a subset of the full setlist, but all the songs have that sense of familiarity from airplay and the TV broadcasts of their festival sets. Last night I settled down, donned my headphones on and treated myself to an uninterrupted listen. Unlike many first CD auditions I found myself happily riveted, encapsulated by the mood of the event and, as each song ended, smiling broadly in appreciation.
With a consummate line-up that knows these songs every which way, it is a delight to hear the re-inventions played with such ease and feel. And there is plenty of imaginative re-invention, with drummer Stephen Roberts combining percussion with beat boxes as well as kit. The balance and sound is approached differently, too, yet nothing is out of place or overpowering. Bassman Carey Willetts has a couple of starring parts along with a little out of tune passage, which, of course, makes it all totally authentic!
Singer Joel Potts makes a point of complementing keyboard player Tim Wanstall for his contribution, rightly so, as his playing throughout is sublime (even though there's what sounds like one little fluffette just before Joel's introduction!). The vocals are excellent throughout, too, although I suspect there has been some minor tweaking as I am sure I can hear some harmonies sung by Joel ;-) Mr Potts has one of those singer's voices, very distinct, easily identifiable and the way he phrases the lyrics is special.
The CD album captures those live gig moments, introductions and banter have been left in without detracting from the overall production, the atmosphere builds as they launch into 'Flying Over Bus Stops' gently, then building with a Jónsi-esque 'Grow Til Tall' climax. This is then followed by the closing track, 'that' song, 'Wires'. As per when I enjoyed their set at the Greenbelt Festival in 2009, the song is reprised after the tumultuous applause, culminating in just the 'congregation' singing with gusto and conviction, wonderful!
ATHLETE - LIVE AT UNION CHAPEL will be released on 27th Feb 2012 - purchase direct (as I did!) from Athlete HQ here.
Joel closes his anecdotal sleevenotes with this:
It's pretty nerve wracking playing in such a setting. I mean, everyone sitting in the pews and God is somewhere at the back.And God saw that it was good... very good...
Mixing a familiar parable with a narrative style lyric sung from the Father's perspective in the 1st person, an inspiring piece from Dustin Kensrue, lead singer of Thrice...
But I know what you're thinking
That you've troubled me enough
Nothing could ever separate you from my love
I still stand here waiting
With my eyes fixed on the road
And I fight back tears and I wonder
If you're ever coming home.
Don't you know, son, that I love you
And I don't care where you've been
So please come home...
Over the past several years, bedroom-pop auteurs churning out hiss-y, homespun indie rock have been dime a dozen to say the least. It seems as if in this generation, one wakes up every morning to find their computer screen alit with another “of-the-moment” 18-25 year old kid with a sardonic attitude and a batch of tunes straight out of his momma's basement. Now, that is certainly a generalization; this I know. I know I am actively taking part in the Pitchfork-patented hyper-categorization and homogenization of modern music as we know it, pigeonholing artists into such small niches from which they can never escape.
This is not my intention with Street Gnar; the nom de plume of Case Mahan, a Brooklyn-via-Lexington, KY tunesmith whose newest collection, Study Wall, both conforms to and rejects many of the tent-poles which made many of his lo-fi pop cohorts successful in the first place. While many of his peers often value style over substance, Study Wall has killer slacker-pop tunes to back up his skater/stoner image.
The album begins with “Twenty-Two, Twenty-Two,” perhaps the album's finest song, and a perfect starting point for our discussion of the aesthetics of this release. Coming straight out of the gate with chiming guitars that wouldn't sound out of place on a Fifth Dimension-era Byrds tune (or one of R.E.M.'s charming, early recordings) and drums that sound like they were tracked in a tin can, we know we're in for an enjoyable ride that wont' rock the boat too much.
And rock it he doesn't: the following ten tracks are thoroughly enjoyable guitar pop tunes that are informed by the genre's multi-generational history. Pulling from the fertile musical soil of the past five decades, Mahan's studied approached to songwriting is perhaps his biggest asset. It's as if, holed away in his Kentucky basement, Mahan dutifully absorbed his parents' record collection while firmly keeping a finger on the pulse of the blogosphere, showing a particular affinity for the lo-fi guitar pop stylings of groups like Woods and The Fresh and Only's. Using the prerequisite pop auteur arsenal of guitars, bass, drum machines and synthesizers, Street Gnar has managed to craft an album that sounds decidedly of-the-moment while retaining essential elements of pop/rock classicism.
The production values are, predictably with this sort of release, where Study Wall ultimately falls short of greatness. The electronic drums throughout, especially on otherwise catchy as hell track “It Came In,” never quite mesh with the early GBV grit present in Mahan's songs, and simply come off as obligatory. Instead of using some of his recording limitations to his advantage, they ultimately reek of being just that, limitations. Generally, Mahan is at his best when the electronic textures are at their sparsest, such as on the aforementioned “Twenty Two, Twenty Two,” and the psych-rock rave-up “Let It Grow,” which sounds like King Tuff fronting the 13th Floor Elevators. The more textural side of Street Gnar is not always for naught though, as displayed on the lovely little ditty “Would You,” where Mahan makes use of a melodic synth flourish that truly makes the song. Well, that and the ripping guitar solo at the end.
Ultimately, Study Wall is an extremely enjoyable collection of pop tunes that just don't feel finished. The artificial elements present in the recordings never quite gel enough with the album's 60's/90's rock vibe, leaving the end product sounding more like a collection of demos than anything. Had Mahan taken a bit more time to hone the arrangements and put together a proper band, Study Wall could have had “classic” written all over it. Instead, the album feels like an underdeveloped first taste from an artist who will almost certainly grow into his own. I would keep an eye of this fella, y'all. Something tells me this won't be the last we hear of Street Gnar.
Study Wall was self-released by Mahan through Bandcamp on Feb. 1st. Check out the album player above to stream it in its entirety. You can catch Street Gnar live next Thursday, March 1st, at The Big Snow Buffalo Lodge in Bushwick, as part of Last Night's Two Night Images Residency. Other groups on the bill include Sore Eros & Hume. For more information check out the Facebook Event Page. Come on down, y'all.
From Bruce's new album 'Wrecking Ball', another anthem demonstrating his lyrical ability to provoke a challenge in a statement...
Read more from The Telegraph: Bruce Springsteen: I enjoy artists who take on the world
It has come to pass as a particular sort of historical irony - both poignant and peculiar - that one of the last great southern bluesmen died on the same day that Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf States. R.L. Burnside passed away at the age of 78 in a Memphis hospitable bed, just one of many chapters that came to a close on the morning of September 1st.
More so than even the geographic relevance, blues music was born of the same dire circumstances that had been broadcast 24/7 amidst Katrina's aftermath: poverty, despair, displacement, and of course - racism. It is curiously symbolic then, that R.L. died just as the blues would wash over the Deep South.
For anyone who knew his albums or had seen him play, R.L. Burnside was the real deal. This has been said before, often and in many ways, but I don't see any other angle around it: a root definition for a roots bluesman.
Burnside got us back to the source. His hard-driving Northern Mississippi sound steered us clear of the Planet Hollywood-style "Blues Houses", and put us back onto muddy roads leading to sweaty southern jukejoints where the only thing that's polished is the chrome on the bartender's .44. His music was gritty, stark, and savagely soulful; a stirring resonance from the nerve center of a deep-seated American music tradition.
Today, when this blend of gut-wrenching soul-soothing blues is the most needed, we lost one of the last men qualified to deliver it. Indeed, Burnside's death not only signifies the closing to the 11th hour revival of the Mississippi Hill Country bluesmen, but in many ways to the Golden Age of blues music itself. Say what you like about which 20th century masters are still among us, R.L. was the last of the roots to remain relevant.
Over the course of his career Burnside not only shared a stage with the legendary Lightin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker, but also with the Beastie Boys and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. His catalogue ranges from a sensational session of solo acoustic blues recorded in his living room circa '68, to the beat-heavy remix "Shuck Dub" which had scored the uneasy ending to an episode of the Sopranos three decades later.
Burnside then, was the view from the crossroads; blues music's past and path ahead, as well as the payoff from its dirty midnight dealings with the devil.
* * * *
I first got to see R.L. perform live at the Blues and Roots Festival in Byron Bay, Australia, just as he was reaching the height of his newly found popularity. Although he was over 70 at the time, Burnside was quick in proving that he was not some relic propped up on stage to represent a musical heyday gone by.
Sharing a bill with an impressive list of blues offspring and interpreters, including Ramblin' Jack Elliot, David Lindley, Ben Harper, and the John Spencer Blues Explosion, R.L. and company took to the stage like they were out for blood. Hearing them tear through "Shake 'Em on Down", it was clear that Burnside was coming at us straight from the source.
Backed by the hard-hitting drumming of his grandson Cedric and the searing slide guitar of his "adopted son" Kenny Brown, the trio lay into the Northern Missississippi blend: a repetitive and hypnotic sound that subtly deviates into chaotic flourishes and beat-you-back guitar solos. On top of it all was R.L.'s dynamic voice; so fluid on those earlier recordings and now just wholly fierce in his later years.
Complementing the sound was Burnside's unique stage presence, derived from decades of performing and employed as the jab in the 1-2 of his live show. Sitting in a flannel shirt, overalls, and truckers hat, R.L. sipped on a "Bloody Motherfucker" (tomato juice and whiskey) while tossing old grandad humor at the audience between each song ("For now on I ain't drinking unless I'm alone"…long hit of his drink…"or with somebody"). After a few more swigs, R.L. set in on the ferocious riff of "Goin' Down South."
Oddly enough, Burnside's spectacular set was followed by the weak link in the event's lineup, a trumped-up bar band playing formulaic Rock-Me-Baby-Rock-Me ponytail blues. The crowd now seemed perplexed, and rightfully so - Kenny G had just taken the stage after John Coltrane.
* * * *
Burnside came of age as a guitarist in the 1940's playing drunken weekend house parties until the early morning hours with his much-accomplished neighbor - the famous 'Mississippi' Fred McDowell.
While in his 20's, R.L. was one of many Mississippi natives that migrated north in hopes of economic opportunity in Chicago, where at the same time blues music was making the transition from an acoustic country sound to the rollin' and tumblin' electric stomp of the city streets. There, Burnside frequented local blues joints where he had a front row seat to watch his cousin-in-law Muddy Waters put his mark on the future of American music.
And yet as the blues was evolving and legends were being made, Chicago dealt Burnside a heavy dose of death as his father and two brothers were murdered within the short period of only 8 months (two uncles met a similar fate shortly thereafter).
Returning back to his home state of Mississippi, Burnside encountered more killing, though this time on the other end of the gun. R.L. was convicted of murder after shooting a man dead during a gambling dispute, and subsequently spent 6 months in Parchman Prison. Listening to the inflection of R.L.'s voice as he sings the lyrics "If it weren't for bad luck/I'd have no luck at all," you get the sense that he means it as more than just a catchy phrase.
Burnside's you-can't-make-this-kind-of-shit-up biography came to be part of his appeal when his sound finally caught on beyond the Mississippi State lines about ten years back. This was not just for the novelty factor but for its refreshing realism in an industry were musicians show off their multi-million dollar homes on television and then return to the studio to sing about angst and adversity.
In contrast, Burnside lived in a ramshackle house that was swarming with grandkids and beset by old cars and farm equipment rusting on the front lawn, all the while boasting a relentless sense of humor.
In commenting on the circumstances of his murder charge for the documentary You See Me Laughin', Burnside reflected on the matter with the timing and delivery of a stand-up comic: "When the judge asked me, 'R.L., did you shoot him in self-defense?' I said 'No sir, I shot him in the leg as he jumped da fence.'"
* * * *
Burnside's story of reaching a younger audience in the mid-90's hinges on the precarious saga of the Fat Possum record label; a fleabitten mongrel of an underdog tale that ultimately reads as an exquisite comedy of errors.
Enamored by the energy and authenticity of the local bluesmen whom he watched perform at Junior Kimbrough's juke joint in Holly Springs, Mississippi, 21 year-old Matthew Johnson took his life to the pawn shop in a haphazard attempt at making a business of getting the likes of Burnside, Kimbrough, T-Model Ford, and Paul 'Wine' Jones down on tape.
Unsurprisingly, the matchup of a hapless white hustler in his early 20's trying to manage a bunch of stubborn black tractor drivers crashing headlong into their twilight years was about as smooth as cheap whiskey on an empty stomach. High on Johnson's list of hurdles was the unusual dilemma of effectively recording the talent before old age got the best of them.
Burnside proved to be the label's most successful artist, particularly after Fat Possum lured the attention of a younger audience in 1996 with the release of A Ass Pocket Full of Whiskey, which had paired R.L. with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in a single raucous 5-hour session.
Critics and blues purists alike were quick to denounce the album, charging Spencer and Johnson of not only "corrupting" Burnside, but the blues itself. Thankfully, the raw appeal of the music outlasted the criticism and R.L gained considerable recognition on a series of worthwhile follow-ups, such as the stripped down electric voodoo of Mr. Wizard and the experimental (and equally controversial) collection of remixes - Come on In.
As Fat Possum continued to scrap its way to a well-deserved notoriety, R.L. received a Grammy nomination for his stunning live album Burnside on Burnside. Although it was a long overdue acknowledgement for an accomplished musician that didn't gain recognition until the last decade of his life, Burnside reportedly responded to the accolade by inquiring, "How much do they pay?"
* * * *
The last time I saw R.L. perform was at the sold-out Great American Music Hall in San Francisco for one of the two shows that would end up comprising Burnside on Burnside. Playing to an eclectic crowd that ran the gamut from young hipsters to aging blues fanatics, R.L. built the performance up to a fever pitch, turning out potent versions of his standards and ending with the rowdy stomp of Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy."
Leaving the theater I felt as if I had just caught last call on the 20th century blues tradtion. A few months earlier I had watched in disappointment as a feeble John Lee Hooker struggled through the shortest of sets; clear evidence that the glory days of his music were now to be had solely through his recordings. Conversely, Burnside's enthralling performance in that packed theater in San Francisco was an increasingly rare glimpse into the very nerve center of the blues tradition.
Looking ahead, the debate over the quality and legitimacy of the current manifestations of the blues in the 21st century is likely to remain as sticky as the Delta air in mid-July. If one thing can be agreed upon, it is that the old guard - these "real deal" musicians who contributed first-hand to the formation of the blues genre - are all but gone; legends for us to relate to subsequent generations.
Still, there appears to be the possibility of a music renaissance emerging from the destruction of the Gulf States. While many of the factors that had formed the blues - sharecropping, the Great Migration, Jim Crow - were unique historical circumstances that are not going to recreate themselves, there are startling modern similarities lingering amidst the ruins of New Orleans and the neighboring regions; areas that have been known to sprout enduring music customs from the dense muck of American social reality.
As Mark Twain had said, "History does not repeat itself - at best it sometimes rhymes." We can only hope so.
Royal Baths are Brooklyn via San Francisco retro rockers, mining their sound from a mix of early seventies blues-rock and present day garage tunes, who've just had a new album released by Kanine. It's called Better Luck Next Life, and it rips. Focusing on the dingier, dirtier side of the group's boozy rock sound, the video for first single “Faster, Harder” acts as a grainy, 16mm come on from singer Jeremy Cox. “I love my damaged girl, we share a wicked world,” Cox croons of he and his lover, whose “shared perversions” are seen throughout the six-minute clip. Get yo' hands dirty folks.
Better Luck Next Life is out now via Kanine Records. You can catch the Baths live at 107 Suffolk St. in Manhattan on February 26th.
(Thx tons to Amanda Broadway for the tip!)
Scott H Biram
Jesse Mae Hemphill
Left Lane Cruiser
Black Diamond Heavies and/or James Leg
Mix & Dorp
Old Gray Mule
Mississippi Gabe Carter
Jimmy Duck Holmes
Boo Boo Davis
Jim Jones Revue
Hound Dog Taylor
Mark Porkchop Holder
Paul Wine Jones
Bobby Blue Bland
The Black Keys
The Ten Foot Pole Cats
Two Night Images Residency at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge March 1st & 2nd w/ Psychic Ills, Sore Eros, Hume, Street Gnar, & Alan Watts + DJ's
A view from across the not-so-wide pond from authoress Diana Butler Bass. A conclusion could be that the word 'Religion' has a less virtuous interpretation over there? However, the narrative (~3.17) about the priest in the Chicago area going outside the church to offer the Ash Wednesday marking with a cross is surely truly sacred? Perhaps this is a compelling illustration of the important distinction between the yearning for religious practices rather than seeking sacred moments...
The principle is to total up an amount equivalent to the value of every drink drunk regardless of whether you paid for them or had them bought for you. So rather than cutting out those (vital!) morning caffeine oral injections and risking the potential of a skullcrushing headache this little spreadsheet sums up all your drinking at home and/or out and about during Lent. The final sum can then be given to a suitable good cause, my preferences are Microfinance sites such as Kiva or, my personal preference, UK based Deki. The template for this year (2012) is available to download here which even allows those with a Catholic disposition the option to leave out Sundays ;-)
An interesting side effect of this process is that this does enable some self discipline both in moderating drinking habits and reducing mean-spirited attitudes!
Meanwhile for another approach during Lent check out Tearfund's Carbon Fast:
Last Nights Presents: Magik Markers // Key of Shame // Colour Bük // Michael R. Bernstein THIS SATURDAY
Dustin Wong, ex-guitarist of beloved noise-pop spazzers Ponytail, has been goin' it alone for some time now. After leaving behind his old band, another successful project (Ecstatic Sunshine,) and his native Baltimore, MD; Wong made the decision to take the reins and do things on his own terms and, all things considered, things seem to be panning out pretty nicely. Quickly embraced by the scene in his adopted home of Brooklyn, frequently featuring on choice bills throughout the borough's DIY circuit, Wong's latest material brims with the inevitable confidence brought upon by an ever-growing audience.
On his second effort for Thrill Jockey, the beautifully titled Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads, Wong's signature brand of dizzying technicolor guitar pop truly shines and sounds like a man at the peak of his creativity. Deciding to stray from the long form, meditative compositions found on 2010's Infinite Love, Wong instead focuses on consolidating ideas into concise, 3-5 minute psychedelic bursts. That's not to say the tracks feel entirely separate, in fact each fades into the next so seamlessly you might easily miss where one track ends and another begins, retaining a laconic fluidity without ever becoming too boring or repetitive.
Opening cut “Ice Sheets on Feet Prints” sets the tone of the record beautifully; A kraut-ish guitar figure thuds away, quickly making room for a barrage of shimmering, layered guitar textures, until the whole thing bursts wide open with a pulsating drum track and Wong's now-infamous foot-on-the-monitor guitar heroics.
If by now you haven't noticed, the guitar takes center stage on this record; particularly Wong's explorations in texture and color through use of his extensive collection of effects. The above photo is strikingly evocative of Wong's guitar stylings; swirling beams of color coming at you from all angles. At the heart of Wong's technique lies the loop station. Each track is delicately constructed from a series of intricately layered guitar figures being pumped through various pedals, resulting in highly rhythmic hypnotic jams. The later album track “Pencil Drove Hill Moon” displays Wong's mastery of the loop station as he impressively harmonizes and manipulates single note patterns into a mosaic of ambient guitar grooves. Wong's effect wizardry is certainly not limited to his beloved loop station, however. Take “On/In the Way,” a short cut that has Dustin pulling out all the stops, using spring reverb and slap-back delay to create a percussive, West African styled lead and a bouncy mimicked bass line that you can't help but bop along to.
Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads is ultimately a rather enjoyable record; just one that goes on for a bit too long. Had Wong made the decision to snip a few tracks here and there and tighten things up a bit, he would have been making a wise choice. That's not to say the album drags, because it doesn't. The sequencing is one of the album's strong points. I just feel Wong's tunes are best enjoyed in slightly smaller doses. That being said, this new record is sure to please fans of Dustin's previous work and lovers of experimental guitar pop music; and it's a damn fine record. Just one that could've used a trim here or there.
Dustin Wong's Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads drops this upcoming Tuesday, Feb. 21, via Thrill Jockey Records. Above is the appropriately neon hued video for album cut “Pink Diamond.” Also, if you happen to be in the New York area, Dustin's having a record release party on the 24th of Feb. at La Sala in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Should be a rad one, kids.