Month: April 2013

New Music: Manzanita Falls – Crabgrass

Manzanita Falls

Manzanita Falls perform. (Photo – Danille Earl)

After spending a long weekend up north on Lake Winnipesaukee I find my mood as reflective as the water, and Manzanita Falls provide a great soundtrack for this state. Hailing from the Bay Area they play a relaxed brand of Indie Folk that is very reminiscent of The National. You can purchase their debut album, Vinyl Ghost, via their Bandcamp page, and catch them live on their current West Coast Tour.

Recommended If You Like: The National, Son Volt, Indie Folk

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Junk Culture: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Junk Culture

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD), the 80’s forgotten child.

By: Brad Lewis on April 24, 2013

Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark’s big hits are probably more cure than blessing at this point. Granted the royalties and residual interest off of “If You Leave” is arguably the only reason why OMD still exists in any form 30 years on. Yet, in spite of constant rotation on those all 80’s weekend marathons every third radio station seems to have, OMD remains marginalized within MTV era one-hit wonder ghetto. It is understandable on one level, 80’s pop was notoriously singles based. Not a lot of undiscovered genius in that dog pile. But then again it is not like Kajagoogoo was making records as strong as Junk Culture.

This, their fifth album, is a minor departure from their previous sound. Earlier albums focused more on experimentation over pop. Hardly a bad thing, Architecture & Morality in particular has a stunning mix of electro-minimalism and subtle pop hooks. However it was a sound that would have left the band in cult purgatory. Ironically that would probably afford the band a more dedicated fan base, everyone loves a good cult mystery, but no one is putting OMD in the corner.

Junk Culture opens up their sound by adding depth and texture. The cold sparse electro is augmented by more organic instrumentation to create a lush dense sound. It’s not so much the sound is changed, everything that worked about the sound is still in place, Junk Culture simply opens it up. Opening track, and single, “Tesla Girls” is the illustration of OMD’s artistic growth. The song, and album, begins with metronomic synth and bass tones that would not be out of place on their other albums. But then about forty seconds in the new OMD explodes through the song. As the beat drops into the background piano lines create a more sustained melody. The affect is akin to Dorothy opening the door to Technicolor Oz as the claustrophobia of the insistent beat blossoms into a heavily layered wall of sound.

The adjustment worked as Junk Culture ended up producing three minor hits (“Tesla Girls”, “Locomotion”, and “Talking Loud and Clear”). It took a couple more years, and John Hughes pimping “If You Leave” in Pretty In Pink, for OMD for fully break through, but it’s Junk Culture that makes them worthy of rediscovery.

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Recommended Album: Marijuana Deathsquads – Crazy Master

Marijuana Deathsquads

Marijuana Deathsquads are totally gnarly.

Marijuana Deathsquads take noise rock to a dark psychedelic place while crafting a hint of pop-underneath the madness. Based out of Minneapolis, Crazy Master is the only LP from this three-piece collaborative and is released via the Totally Gross National Product record label. It’s four long-form tracks that’ll take you on a deep journey with stops, starts, and all sorts of surprises. Not for the feint of heart.

Recommended If You Like: Black Moth Super Rainbow, Battles, Fuck Buttons

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Jumping the Shark: Has Record Store Day Turned Into Hipster Black Friday?

Waiting In Line.

There’s something un-holy about waiting in line for records…

I love music, disproportionately so, and as part of my passion I blog, podcast, make music, go to shows,  buy merch, and collect vinyl. My Netflix queue is exclusively music documentaries while my iTunes library has its metadata organized with the anal retentiveness of a rock and roll librarian. I catalog each new record I buy onto Discogs and purchase records from independent labels and distributors on a near daily basis. In short, I’m a hopeless music freak.

Has Record Store Day Jumped the Shark?

Has Record Store Day Jumped the Shark?

You’d think I’d be in Record Store Day’s wheelhouse, and admittedly I was for awhile. Over the years I’d wake up early and stand in lines of various sizes hoping to snag “exclusive” collectables. I didn’t go this year because I already spent all of my money for the week on…well, records. Virtually every day is “Records Store Day” for me, and sure there were still parts of me that wanted to go, but the whole experience has slowly turned sour for me.

The Music Industry has been very good at learning how to exploit its consumers. Be it from cheaply produced live albums in the 70’s or “Greatest Hits” records with one or two “new” tracks in the 90’s – and unfortunately, I think something with great intention, Record Store Day, is being gentrified. I’m all for Record Stores getting added attention, as they’re integral to the culture of music, but RSD now reeks with all the things I dislike in consumerism, it’s become Black Friday for Hipsters.

Record Store Day

Record Store Day

Record Store Day is a cash and grab event. There’s no real community where people actually talk and learn about music, it’s more or less a bunch of seagulls fighting over an abandoned bag of chips on the beach. I’m sure I sound like an alcoholic talking about St. Patty’s Day, but it sure does seem like a lot of tourists are “digging” on Record Store Day.

Jack White Blunderbuss

Blunderbuss was a limited pressing of only 40,000 records.

The record releases are becoming more gimmicky and reek of the old tricks already used in the 70’s and 90’s. Think about it,  Jack White’s Blunderbuss sold 33,000 copies in 2012, making it the highest selling vinyl of the year. He’s the most popular act that sells vinyl, and he only sold 33,000 copies. So when you’re being sold “limited” pressing of 1,000 or even 3,000 records how limited are they really?

Again, I love the idea of Record Store Day, and think these independently owned hubs are so very important for so many reasons, I just think they deserve the same amount of love for the other 364 days.

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Episode 54 – The Bums Lost

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Epsisode 54 - The Bums Lost

Epsisode 54 – The Bums Lost (Painting – Z. Trainor)*

Abide. The Big Lebowski is my favorite movie, and in honor of this Episode #54 is dedicated to Walter, Donny, and The Dude. There’s a lot of lessens that can be gleamed from The Big Lebowski – so take ‘er easy, pour yourself a Caucasian, and abide.

Links, Man:

*Special thanks to Zac Trainor for the killer painting above, check out his site for other great artwork for purchase.

1. The Bums Lost Intro
2. The Sons of the Pioneers – Tumbling Weeds (1946)
3. Bob Dylan – The Man In Me (New Morning – 1970)
3. Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles (Clear Spot – 1972)
4. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Requiem Mass in D Minor (1791)
5. Gipsy Kings – Hotel California [Spanish Mix] (2000)
6. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Born on the Bayou (Bayou Country – 1969)
7. Log Jammin’
8. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Lookin’ out My Back Door (Cosmo’s Factory – 1970)
9. Santana – Oye Como Va (Abraxas – 1970)
10. Henry Mancini – Lujon (Mr. Lucky Goes Latin – 1961)
11. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – Just Dropped In [To See What Condition My Condition Is In] (1968)
12. I Hate The Fuckin’ Eagles
13. Nina Simone – I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good
14. Donny’s Eulogy
15. Townes Van Zandt – Dead Flowers (Roadsongs – 1993)
16. Eat The Bar

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Recommended Album: Speedy Ortiz – Sports EP

Speedy Ortiz

Speedy Ortiz will make your dentist happy (also your ears).

Hailing from Northhampton, MA  Speedy Ortiz play a 90’s brand of Indie Rock that’s hard & soft in approach. The vocal work of Sadie Dupuis is in the forefront of the mix, and rightfully so, as her sugary voice has just a hint of cavity lurking in the background, which allows the swirling music behind her to weave within this dichotomy. The dual guitar work is also is a star of the record, with Dupuis and Matt Robidoux feeding off each other in syncopated and often frenzied ways.

You can purchase the Sports EP via their Bandcamp page for $10, but hurry, it’s in a limited run of 500 pressings. If you’re in Upstate NY tonight Speedy Ortiz play The Stood at Suny Purchase as part of a Northeast/Midwest Tour.

Recommended If You Like: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, The Breeders, 90’s Indie

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Play What You Can – Review of FOR BOSTON: A Benefit for the Victims of the Boston Marathon

Earthquake Party (.GIF - D.Hixon)

Earthquake Party rip through an electric set.  (.GIF – D.Hixon)

Multiple Boston Bands
T.T. the Bear’s Place, Central Square, 04/16/13

UPDATE: $7,740 was raised last night for MGH!

Boston was weird yesterday, is weird today, and will likely stay that way for some time. Bostonians had to wake up and go to work yesterday knowing that less than 24 hours prior two bombs changed how we celebrate our city. Words like amputation, shrapnel, kettle, and pellets became an unfortunate part of our vocabulary. Coming home from work I entered South Station with National Guardsmen at the Subway entrance and police at the turnstiles. The sound of helicopters overhead was constant, and on the ride home during rush hour no one said a word. As eerie as a ride as I’ll ever have. The mood is heavy, and emotion high.

Even now as I write this a co-worker’s late because her commuter train is being evacuated and searched. My city, friends, co-workers, and fellow citizens are still dealing with the ripple affects of the unspeakable – but last night the Boston Music Community banded together in an effort to raise funds for Victims from Marathon Monday’s gruesome attack, and to help each other forget about the weird, for a few hours at least.

FOR BOSTON: Lineup

FOR BOSTON: Lineup

Word of the Event at T.T. the Bears began spreading quickly on Twitter and Facebook around 3:30pm, and by the time I showed up the club was jammed. Michael Marotta & Richard Bouchard did a phenomenal job in organizing the event in such a short amount of time, and from the staff, the crowd, and the bands – everyone banded together as one. The price of admission was to pay what you could afford, with 100% of the door being donated to MGH on behalf of the Boston music scene. On top of this there were multiple raffles being held, with 31 prizes in total up for grabs (an incredible number for only having a few hours to gather them). 957 total raffles were sold and all tips given to the bartenders are also being passed along to MGH, with both totaling more than $2,300.00, and this isn’t even counting the door and all the merch proceeds from the bands that were also being donated. Again, just an incredible overall effort.

While cruel, unthinkable, and senseless acts like what happened on Patriots Day are likely to forever play out – the heart, kindness, and selflessness of the majority of people who breathe continually restores my faith in good, and last night was step one for a lot around town to move on, but not forget.

I’d like to give special attention to both Endation and Earthquake Party. Both bands played with the fervor of a Tasmanian Devil last night, and had me truly losing myself for the first time since 2:50pm on Monday. Endation felt like a Nirvana two-piece that played Fugazi standards. Matt Graber’s drumming was incredibly creative while Anthony Conley’s abandon on stage added a perfect mix of chaos to the succinct back-beat behind him. Meanwhile, Earthquake party played like the lovechild of The Ramones and Yo La Tengo – ripping through their set with barely enough time to take a breath between songs. I’ve written about them before, and truly believe they’re one of the best things happening in the Boston Music scene today. Just a great band.

Things are still weird outside. My commute this morning was a little more normal. There were still cops, guards, and helicopters, but the people on the train seemed a little less dazed and a little more there. There’s still so much we don’t know about Monday, but on Tuesday night I didn’t have to watch replays of those goddamn explosions, I didn’t have to listen to talking heads circle around things they’re not sure of, I got to escape the way I’ve done my whole life – through music.

My deepest thanks to the organizers, the staff, the bands, and the everyone there last night. You all helped me deal with the weird while helping those more affected. Simply put, Boston made me proud last night.

Endation (.GIF - D.Hixon)

Endation left nothing on stage – an excellent performance. (.GIF – D.Hixon)

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4:09:44 – How Hope Got Sucker-Punched

Boston Marathon

The moment the Boston Marathon and Patriots Day forever changed. (ABC Screenshot)

My Wife and I yesterday on Marathon Monday.

My Wife and I yesterday on Marathon Monday. (Photo – D. Espindola)

Marathon Monday is my favorite day to be a Bostonian. Each year a core group of friends and I meet to have a too early drink and to celebrate our Opening Day. After enduring a long Boston winter Patriots Day gives the hope that only spring can provide, there’s an electricity in the air that is heavy with anticipation. After our drink we meander across the street into Fenway Park and marvel at our emerald jewel that’s dormant no more. The baseball season still has the fresh cut grass smell, and the hope of October glory isn’t an impossibility, but a tangible dream. After the game concludes, hopefully with a Red Sox win, 35,000 fans dissolve into the throngs of runners, supporters, and City dwellers as the magic of Patriots Day truly kicks off.

Strangers urging strangers to accomplish their dreams.

Strangers urging strangers to accomplish their dreams.

People all along the Marathon route are grilling, cheering on strangers, helping at water stations, partying with friends, and mingling amongst each other with smiles in full bloom. The true beauty of the day is encapsulated in these moments, strangers pulling for strangers, urging them to complete their own tangible dream, as they revel in the chimera that only Marathon Monday can create.

Yesterday at 4:09:44 hope took a sucker punch from a gutless and faceless enemy. The timing and placement of the bombs were targeted at everyday people – and honestly, I don’t think it’s all truly settled for me, I’m not even angry yet. My Wife and I decided to walk home after the game, cutting down Landsdowne, past Comm. Ave, and over the Mass Ave. Bridge. We got a sandwich at Flour and as we walked out ambulances were racing by – living in Central Square we weren’t too phased until we got home and turned the TV on. That’s when the texts, calls, Facebook messages, and tweets started pouring in. That’s when we started calling and texting friends to make sure they didn’t lose a leg or worse. That’s when my eyes welled up. That’s when hope fell to the ground.

Boston will recover, Patriots Day will go on, and hope will get back on its feet. But Boston won’t forget. Hope got sucker punched back in 1770 at the Boston Massacre and we reacted by overthrowing a King. I’m not urging violence of any kind here, just Justice. My favorite day will never be the same again, and neither will the lives of those poor Families. I choose to celebrate Boston today and to hold onto hope. There’s no song that better fits the mood and heart of Boston and Massachusetts than the Modern Lovers “Roadrunner” – and I’ll be blasting this in defiance the whole day, for Marathon Monday is my favorite day to be a Bostonian.

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