New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: indie rock

The Sound of the Fab Four Inspires Andrew Collberg’s New Album

Swedish-born, New Zealand-raised and now based in Tucson, Andrew Collberg is a connoisseur of many retro rock styles. He has a background in southwestern gothic, and a couple of years ago put out a killer single, Dirty Wind b/w Back on the Shore, a rich evocation of classic paisley underground rock in the same vein as True West or the Dream Syndicate. These days he’s mining sounds that evoke ELO and the Beatles, adding layers of the blippy faux-vintage keyboard textures that are all the rage in the Bushwick indie scene on his latest album, Minds Hits. The whole thing is streaming at Spotify.

The opening track, Rich, is totally ELO, a soul-tinged update on the sound Jeff Lynne achieved with Evil Woman, then morphing into something of a glamrock song with a fuzztone guitar solo before coming back to the wickedly catchy, funk-tinged verse. From there Collberg segues into Hole and its Penny Lane bounce, followed by Take a Look Around, a retro 60s soul tune with Abbey Road touches: la-la-la backing vocals, elegant broken-chord guitar lines, organ and a terse faux electric harpsichord solo. After that, the long, hypnotically vamping Pepper Peter keeps the Abbey Road vibe going, this time on the Lennon side of the street.

Tear has Collberg playing precise soul chords that rise to a swaying, ba-BUMP late-Beatles groove that grows more majestic as he adds layers of guitars and keys. Stars takes the sound about a dozen years forward into ornately catchy Jeff Lynne space-pop territory, while Snide Creepy Soul takes an insistent, similarly hooky ELO-style pop tune thirty more years into the future with a mix of vintage and fake-vintage keyboard voicings.

Easy Lazy Dome speeds up a Hey Jude ambience doublespeed and then takes a turn into unexpectedly ominous psychedelia, fueled by shivery lead guitar. Cantaloupe looks back to Sergeant Pepper, complete with tumbling Ringo-esque drums. The album winds up with Hit the Gas, which sets a classic Lennon-style tune over boomy lo-fi drums before it picks up with increasingly ornate layers of guitar/keyboard orchestration. Isn’t it amazing that fifty years after the Beatles first hit, artists and audiences alike continue to be obsessed with them? Fans of Elliott Smith, Abby Travis, and of course ELO and the Fab Four will have a good time with this.

The Baseball Project’s 3rd Album: As Much Fun As an Unassisted Triple Play

The Baseball Project‘s new album, simply titled 3rd, sends you straight to Retrosheet. Baseball may not be the national pastime anymore, but this album is as deep and rich as the lore and the lure of the game. For fans, it’s pretty close to heaven – and for those who aren’t, it won’t alienate anybody because the tunes are so memorable and the playing is so flat-out excellent. What began as a one-off Steve Wynn side project has grown from a well-conceived novelty into a perennial World Series contender. The band is Hall of Fame caliber: Wynn (the Stan Musial of rock) on guitars and most of the lead vocals along with REM’s Peter Buck and Mike Mills plus the Minus Five’s Scott McCaughey and Linda Pitmon, who reasserts herself as the best and most consistently interesting rock drummer out there. The album isn’t up at Spotify yet, but the band’s first two are, so keep an eye out for it.

What makes the Baseball Project ultimately so much fun is that their songs celebrate the weird, the obscure and the tragic rather than the obvious. So many songs about baseball are cheesy and don’t really have a lot to do with the game, but the Baseball Project plunge into the history and the personalities involved, as well as what it’s like to be a diehard fan (and these guys really, really are). Although Wynn, the bandleader, has adopted the Yankees as his team, he’s written insightfully and poignantly about the Boston Red Sox, among other teams, on past albums. This time out, players from the Evil Empire are represented by four songs, while the Atlanta Braves – Mills’ and Buck’s team – also get plenty of props.

The first track is Stats, a pseudo-Ventures spacerock stomp with a seemingly random litany of numbers recited by Pitmon: random, that is, until you realize that’s Nolan Ryan’s season-record 383 strikeouts, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak…and then the guessing gets really good. For those who don’t know, stats are crack for baseball fans and so is this song.

Two of the best songs here, neither of which namecheck the player involved, are the most depressing. From Nails to Thumbtacks traces the career arc of one of the early steroid casualties, Lenny Dykstra, who went from spare outfielder with the Mets to sudden and prodigiously beefed-up stardom with the Phillies, only to wind up behind bars after a long, long downward spiral. “You gotta be high to fall this far,”McCaughey intones over a backdrop that’s part Ramones, part new wave. And 13, arguably the best song on the album, looks at the A-Roid scandal with even more of a caustic eye than Wynn cast on Roger Clemens in the gorgeous Twilight of My Career, from the band’s first album Frozen Ropes & Dying Quails. Over a corrosively sarcastic spaghetti western tune, Wynn explains how Alex Rodriguez took #13 as his Yankees uniform number since Babe Ruth wore #3, but ultimately it was hubris rather than bad luck that scuttled the third baseman’s assault on Henry Aaron’s home run record.

Wynn evokes his classic 2001 riff-rocker Strange New World in Hola America, the brooding account of Cuban defector Orlando Hernandez, whose World Series stardom with the Yankees obscures the alienation he must have felt while estranged from his family in a new culture. McCaughey celebrates Dock Ellis, not for the Pirates pitcher’s acid-fueled no-hitter, but for his abbreviated start on May 1, 1974 when he decided to hit every batter in the Cincinnati Reds lineup as payback for what he perceived as hotdogging – and also to energize his lacklustre team, a ploy that actually worked! Mystified manager Danny Murtaugh pulled Ellis five batters into the first inning, but the hurler’s message had been heard loud and clear.

The mid-90s REM-style powerpop hit To the Veterans Committee makes a soaringly persuasive case for enshrining longtime Braves centerfielder Dale Murphy in the Hall of Fame. Not only was Murphy one of his era’s top power hitters, he made the tricky transition from catcher to centerfield – where he won more than one Gold Glove – and he also was (and maybe still is) a competent piano player!

Box Scores celebrates a great tradition that someday may only be accessible on your phone, but as Buck reminds, “Every summer, every day, the box scores keep me sane.” The only really obvious track here, The Babe, sends a shout-out to the Sultan of Swat over a regal Hey Jude pulse lowlit by some deliciously watery vintage chorus-box guitar. Another tribute to a home run king, They Don’t Know Henry makes haunting 60s style garage-psych rock out a tip of the cap to Henry Aaron.

McCaughey cynically ponders what makes the low-budget Oakland A’s so good – and connects the dots between Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter and the recently retired, mostly mediocre Dallas Braden – over a slinky Stones/T-Rex groove. Mills and Pitmon share vocals on Pascual on the Perimeter, memorializing the afternoon when the Braves’ eccentric righthander ostensibly got lost on the way to the ballpark – and wouldn’t you know it, Phil Niekro started in his place. Part Dream Syndicate, part True West and maybe part Yo La Tengo, it’s got some of the best snarling, burning guitar of any of the tracks here.

Larry Yount, a pensive folk-rock number by Wynn, recalls the older brother of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, whose single big league appearance ended before he’d thrown a pitch. He hurt himself while warming up after coming in from the Astros bullpen late in 1971 and never again appeared in a game.

The material gets funnier as the album goes along. The Baseball Card Song is a country patter tune rippling along with Buck’s banjo and a rapidfire rap by Wynn…see, he’d held onto the collection he’d amassed as a kid until this big Wall Street guy offered him some stock in a startup in exchange, and then the fun really starts. Another patter song riffs on both Johnny Cash’s Boy Named Sue and Heart’s Barracuda, a sideways look at a fireballing Red Sox righty who never won a single Cy Young Award despite his 511 career victories. Instead of the usual tired round-the-bases metaphors, the wry faux 70s boudoir soul number Extra Inning of Love looks at another kind of game you play at night from the perspective of a pitcher rather than a batter. And the album ends with Take Me Out to the Ballgame done Ramones style.

There’s also the They Played Baseball, a folk-rock rogues’ gallery of sorts: “Durocher had his lip, and Bob Welch his great big wine, Piniella had his temper, Mendoza had his line and it’s a fine line,” McCaughey grins. Which perfectly sums up this album, and this band: if you know who those guys are, this is for you. Now let’s get Steve Wynn to throw out the first pitch at a Mets home game sometime this year!

Alternately Catchy and Noisy Sounds from Brooklyn Art-Rock Trio Goddess

Goddess may not be the optimum choice of band name if branding is the issue. But this particular Brooklyn Goddess – a trio with single-string fiddle, dulcimer, Casio and calm, unselfconsciously warm, folk-tinged, two-woman harmonies – has an intriguing name-your-price ep titled Mind Control up at Bandcamp. If the artsiest side of art-rock is your thing, you’ll love this stuff. This group likes circular melodies and vamping out on them, which they do best on the opening number, Confinement. Their songs are all about contrasts and juxtapositions, calm versus agitation, smoothness versus abrasiveness: in this case, it’s stark overtones from the fiddle against an attractively stately piano melody that runs over and over. The lyrics are enigmatic: is it “All I could find,” or “I’ll occupy?” Maybe it’s both.

The second track, Candle Magick, paints a picture of an animated black magic ritual against a gentle lullaby melody with faux mellotron and Rhodes electric piano settings, and a flute that adds an off-center edge midway through: it’s so pretty that it might well be sarcastic. The title track sets the hint of a tune emerging from the dulcimer over an increasingly abrasive string drone. Once again, the lyrics are on the opaque side: “Catch some rays, free your mind…special rates, free your mind.” It gets more ominous as it goes along.

Darkly Intense Instrumentals from Lou Reed’s Last Great Lead Guitarist

Aram Bajakian was the last great lead guitarist in Lou Reed’s band. Since then, he’s shifted gears and gone on to play with Diana Krall. He’s also as strong and eclectic a composer as his background would suggest: a couple of years ago, he put out a fascinating trio album with with violinist Tom Swafford and bassist Shanir Blumenkranz that reimagined a series of old Armenian folk tunes. Bajakian’s new one, There Were Flowers Also in Hell (a William Carlos Williams quote), goes in a considerably different direction. It’s a feral, deliciously abrasive instrumental rock album, more informed by the blues than it is actually bluesy (although Bajakian is a strong and thoughtful blues player). This one again finds Bajakian leading a power trio, with Shahzad Ismaily on bass and Jerome Jennings on drums. It’s streaming at Bajakian’s Bandcamp page.

Bajakian nimbly weaves his way through many, many styles; he tends to work a concise, direct dirty/clean dichotomy. Ismaily is one of those rare players who listens in 360 degrees and improves everything he touches. As he does in Marc Ribot’s band, he excels at the dark, gritty stuff. Likewise, Jennings is an omnipresent, brooding. ready-to-pounce force at the low end. Much as everybody, especially the bandleader, can get completely unhinged, nobody wastes notes: for such a noisy record, it’s surprisingly focused.

The opening track is Texas Cannonball, which begins as lickety-split cowpunk and then gets all sludged out. One of Bajakian’s signature traits is that he can get just as wild and dirty (the crazed volleys of tremolopicking about two minutes in are only a hint as to how ferocious this album is going to get) as he can be expressive and lyrical. LouTone builds a clenched-teeth, apprehensively buzzing theme driven by Jennings’ leapfrogging, tumbling syncopation. Requiem for 5 Points, a somberly elegaic, minimalist piece, sets Bajakian’s lingering washes of sound over Ismaily’s stately, brooding, spacious lines.

Orbisonian, ablaze with a thicket of multitracked guitars, sounds like Big Lazy covering the Dead Kennedys, a contrast with the tender oldschool soul ballad, Sweet Blue Eyes, that follows it. Rent Party kicks off with a bouncy funk riff into a minor-key tune that’s part newschool Romany rock, surf music and Otis Rush blues – then they hit a long, surreal, muddy interlude reminiscent of 80s noiserock legends Live Skull as the bass growls to the surface. Bajakian then brings it down again with Medicaid Lullaby, a long, hypnotic tone poem that slowly develops a moody Middle Eastern-tinged theme.

Labor on 57th alternates between a hammering, anthemic, Darcy James Argue-like riff and noir surf. Japanese Love Ballad is a ghostly, spiky solo piece in the Asian scale that sounds like Bajakian is playing a resonator guitar with the strings muted. He picks things up again with the sardonic The Kids Don’t Want to Sleep, its growly, slowly simmering nocturnal groove bedeviled by flitting noise: all this pestering is driving dad nuts! The album winds up with For Julia, a spaciously pensive solo guitar sketch. Bajakian has made a lot of great music in recent years but this is some of his most interesting and adrenalizing – it’s one of the best instrumental rock records of recent years, hands down.

Chris Hickey Survives the 80s to Reissue Two Lost Gems

The 80s got a bad rap. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had a lot to do with that. So did the entertainment-industrial complex. That was the John Hughes decade. It was also the decade where the big record labels, who then dominated all but the most obscure niche markets, began targeting their marketing to very specific age and gender groups. In this rigidly stratified world, that meant teenybopper pop, new wave and hair metal for the girls and 70s elevator pop for women past college age; metal for the younger guys, 70s dinosaur rock for the older ones. But the reality is that there was a vast amount of great music from that decade that never made it past college radio, if it even got that far. That’s where Chris Hickey would have been found, if anywhere, on the pre-internet airwaves back in 1985 when he released his cassette-only debut Frames of Mind, Boundaries of Time. He followed up that dark folk album with the similar Looking for Anything two years later. Happily, both are now available digitally for the first time ever.

It’s impossible to hear Matt Keating and not think of Hickey – and vice versa. Both are nonchalantly strong singers, have a flair for a biting turn of phrase and a catchy melodic hook – and an unease that doesn‘t lift. Where Keating got his start in punk rock, Hickey came from the folk side, but with a grimly lyrical edge that in its own quiet way was just as punk. Right from the first track on the first album, June Fifth, Hickey’s vocals are low, seething, wound tight as a drum. Just voice, a couple of guitars, a string of nonchalantly doomed images, and “A ring of the phone to tell you that you were wrong…”

Sometimes Hickey lets the images paint a picture; more often than not he hits the point of the songs square on the head, with a direct, plainspoken quality akin to Jonathan Richman but with balls. Hickey also has a strong political sensibility and a snarling distrust of authority. The best song on the collection is Another War, a soaring, Byrdsy twelve-string janglerock anthem. And it’s not just a litany of pain and grotesquerie, although there’s a lot of that:

The soldier plays a bamboo flute
The song he used to sing at home
For a a fifteen-year-old prostitute
He teaches her to sing along
The song sounds like a lullaby
She sings the words of quiet love
They could sing that song all night
But a knock on the door says time is up

This is where Hickey is strongest: the song may be going on thirty years old, but it’s as relevant now as it was then. It could have been inspired by Reagan’s misadventures in Costa Rica, or Lebanon, or Grenada, but this war could be anywhere.

The tunes have held up well, too. The earlier material, understandably, has more of a a lo-fi feel, sometimes just a couple of guitar tracks and voice, sometimes with bass and simple drums. The somewhat more elaborately produced tracks have more of a distinctive 80s feel – it’s that watery chorus-box guitar! The characteristically pensive Faraway has gently fingerpicked acoustic, woozy synth and a faux cello patch; the two-chord vamp in Carol echoes the Police’s King of Pain. I Can’t Wait to See You  is half the Police, half swaying acoustic 80s rock.

Start Over Again looks back to early acoustic Dylan, a word of caution for a would-be sellout: “Your words are thin and your heart isn’t in, so why don’t you start over again?” Not You works similar lyrical territory, with just snarling electric guitar and vocals: “I know who’s telling me the truth and it’s not you.” The caustic minor-key folk-rock tune Man of Principle foreshadows Roger Waters’ The Bravery of Being Out of Range. Freedom explores existential boundaries over a bed of tasty multilayered acoustic guitars:

An attempt is not an escape
An escape assumes a frame
A frame is a boundary that exists in the mind
The mind is one of many
Many agree to a frame… 

This Is My Land makes succinct fun of people who won’t let anyone near their stuff, metaphorically speaking. Not My Place reminds of 60s Dylan, but with good vocals, a plainspoken message to a boss type to kiss off. The unspoken punchline of the mutedly pulsing, allusive courtroom scenario Five Words might be “I sentence you to death.” And Dark Cold Day assesses a gloomy Reagan-era milieu  over biting, minor-key janglerock:

Follow poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night
With your unconcerning voice
Still persuade us to rejoice
With the forming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress 

The rest of the tracks broodingly contemplate interpersonal relations, and for one reason or another this is where the Matt Keating comparison holds most true. There Was a Time, with its simple, elegant broken chords and catchy, anthemic chorus; the grimly waltzing Not Our Son and the gorgeously jangly, uncharacteristically sunny Save My Life are three prime examples. The collection ends with a droll, roughhewn spoken word piece. Hickey remains active in music, with lots more intriguing stuff up at his Bandcamp page.

A Long Overdue Look at Liv Mueller’s Haunting Solo Album

Over a year ago, Milwaukee songstress Liv Mueller sent her album Liv Sings – Love Songs for the Forlorn and Misguided over the transom here. It was a sensible thing for her to do, considering how well-suited to this blog her music is. She’s an individualistic songwriter with a thing for haunting, minimalist guitar, which she multitracks with the reverb turned all the way up, building a creepy, majestic backdrop for her slowly unwinding anthems and a waltz or two. She’s also an individualistic and tremendously good singer, with just as much power at the low end of her range as at the top. The songs on the album bring to mind Shannon Wright or Randi Russo taking a stab at Americana – admittedly, that might be a stretch, considering that neither of those artists is remotely country, but just imagine if you can. Mueller made a name for herself in that style of music in the midwest fronting the Lovelies and then the Dark Horse Project, so it’s no surprise that she’s equally at home with both vintage C&W and country blues-tinged material.

So why did such an excellent album sit around for so long here, unheard and forgotten? Umm…..dumbass blog owner (guess who) mistook it for somebody else’s jazz record, so it ended up hidden away on the server until a year-end cleanup sparked a listen to the first song. And this is one of those albums where the first song makes you want to hear what’s next, and so on until about an hour later, you’ve heard the whole thing and want to hear what else she’s got out there (good news – in the time that’s passed since she sent this one in, she’s been working on a new one). The noir torch song One More Time, which opens the album, is addictive, Mueller’s ghostly, mysterious a-cappella first verse rising to grand guignol orchestral heights on the wings of the string synth. Long Gone is the first of the many dark guitar-driven numbers: it’s got to be the only song that references both Edgar Allan Poe and the O.J. Simpson trial.

Mueller sings over a hypnotic, allusive country-blues vamp on This Kind of Love, her angst-ridden vocals matching the looming intensity of the music. Father Angel moves further toward indie rock, with creepy gothic lyrics and surreal backward-masked guitar. Salvation is a broodingly elegaic waltz – Mueller might be singing to a ghost here. And on the sardonic, embittered Let It Roll, is she singing “hell, hell, hell” as a mantra as the song opens – or is that just vocalese? Either would work, especially as Mueller adds a scorching, dreampop-tinged lead guitar line as the chorus kicks in.

She reinvents the country classic Crazy Arms, the only cover here, as Nashville gothic, and follows that with Haunted Face, a regret-laden neo-Velvets tune that wouldn’t be out of place in the Vera Beren catalog. An echoey noir bongo pulse pushes the Siouxsie-esque Beneath My Wings along, Mueller belting hard over the terse orchestration. Wish You May sets judiciously ringing tremolo guitar over a burning, distorted drone and another sardonic lyric; Mueller ends the album with a grimly amusing departure into Weimar-style cabaret. What’s coolest about this album is how she pulls together elements from styles that seem completely at odds with each other and makes everything work seamlessly along with her almost-lurid, unselfconsciously magnetic vocals.

Haunting, Atmospheric, Blues-Infused Intensity from the Bright Smoke

The Bright Smoke is the more-or-less solo project from Mia Wilson, whose raw, wounded wail and menacing minor-key songwriting made her previous band the French Exit one of New York’s most riveting live acts for a couple of years in the late zeros. Her songwriting on the Bright Smoke’s new album Virginia Et. Al. is more blues-infused, in the same vein as a young PJ Harvey but more atmospheric. Likewise, her vocals here are more low-key and world-weary but no less haunted and intense. The recording quality is lush yet direct: organic instrumentation, darkly enveloping sonics. Along with Wilson’s guitars and vocals, producer Q. Ledbetter adds guitar and bass tracks over lo-fi percussion samples and loops.

Wilson’s stark blues lines resonate with a rustic, haunting quality on the opening track, God Willing. “God willing the creek don’t rise,” becomes a mantra. “My hands are shaking,” Wilson intones as simple, biting guitar layers linger in the background like a coiled snake that’s about to strike.

Sea Level is the rare song that’s Joy Division-influenced without being slavishily imitative. With its ba-BUMP beat and catchy, mournfully bluesy melody, it also brings to mind the Stooges classic I Need Somebody. “Do you know what it’s like to wake up after trying not to wake up again?” Wilson asks. Slow Burn is slightly more upbeat, like the Banana Album-era Velvets taking a stab at a classic country song. The ache in Wilson’s voice is visceral as she waves someone away for good.

Pure Light is the longest, most hypnotic track here, the low resonance of Wilson’s voice contrasting with the guitars’ overtones, gentle but uneasy slides and creepily tinkling piano overhead. “Can you feel the wind come to make you wild again?” Wilson asks on the next track – but the answer isn’t clear, and it’s as if the wind she’s talking about could freeze everything over, again with a minor-key, minimalist Joy Division intensity. The last track, Free, is ostensibly a demo, but Wilson obviously knew she had a gem when she recorded it. It’s a dirge, just simple guitar, vocals and a piano drenched in natural reverb and enough out of tune that it maxes out the horror factor: “What a beautiful means to an otherwise painful end,” Wilson muses, a vivid elegy for someone who chose to kill himself or herself by drowning. You want intense? The Bright Smoke’s next gig is at Lit on Second Ave. at 8 PM on Jan 18.

Butchers Blind Revisits Edgy, Vintage Alt-Country

You watch your friends either sell out or get pulled under by the demands of the dayjob, or the marriage and the kids, and then you don’t see them anymore. Maybe that happens to you. Do you blame them – or yourself? Do you feel bad for them – or yourself – and wish that all of you could get your old lives back, fighting the system, going out and raising hell? Butchers Blind frontman Pete Mancini contemplates those questions on his band’s debut album Destination Blues, streaming all the way through at their Bandcamp page.  He sets his plainspoken, politically aware lyrics to a guitar-driven backdrop that evokes the early 90s alt-country of bands like Wilco, part classic country, part amorphous indie rock. That Mancini would have such a spot-on political edge comes as no surprise considering that he played lead guitar on Matthew Grimm‘s latest brilliant album. A Grimm bandmate, bassist Mick Hargreaves, co-produced (with Billl Herman).

The bitter country waltz Nobody Hears What I Say Anymore sets the stage for what’s to come, and it’s not optimistic: aging ex-punk rocker watches his marriage fall apart and his thirty years of steady employment go adrift as the self-medication gets the better of him. Tear It Down addresses the same kind of doomed anomie with a more aggressive, middle-period REM-ish vibe. The wryly titled OPP is not the Naughty By Nature hit but an original that sarcastically examines other peoples’ problems (rather than pussy) with a strong nod to Wilco. By contrast, the title cut, one of the album’s musically strongest, follows a janglier, more optimistic tangent that reminds of the early days of Australian rockers the Church.

Honestly goes back to the blend of country lead guitar lines over uneasy indie changes, with a venomously sarcastic lyric:

Always have to scream to make a sound
I hear the things you say whan I’m not around
Took your left and drew blood with your right
I was counting cards in the dark,  taking my time

College Town keeps the cynicism at redline, a knowing look at how wide-eyed idealism goes to hell as graduation and then the inevitable dayjob loom on the horizon. Drowned, with its rustic Appalachian bite, is even angrier, a dis at a guy who’s sold out and thinks that makes him better than his friends from his younger, wilder days. Young Again is a lot gentler, with jangly Velvet Underground echoes.

Mancini brings the edge back again with the slow, intense 6/8 ballad  Selfish Silent Films:

Your future heaven
Is giving you hell
A repeat performance
Scripts you can’t sell

Then the band picks it up again with Enough Already Anyway, a sideways salute to a nameless rocker who was obviously an influence although they never got to meet. The album winds up with its most stereotypically indie track, Burn Up Bright (Lower East Side), told from the deliriously exhausted point of view of someone who wishes his nights out in Manhattan didn’t end so soon, waiting for the last Long Island Railroad train out of Penn Station. Butchers Blind’s next show is at the Parkside next January 9.

Gringo Star – Cringely Name, Great Psychedelic Band

Gringo Star put reverb on everything. Other than good tunesmithing, they do just about everything with reverb that you could possibly imagine. It’s about the only effect they use, and they use it well. The psychedelic rockers are at the Cameo Gallery on Nov 15 at around 10 PM; cover is $12. Their latest album Floating Out to See is pretty much what you would expect from them, a lo-fi, imaginative reworking of old 60s tropes and catchy tunes that blends elements of a whole bunch of rock styles from that decade. When the vocals aren’t half-buried in the mix, their sense of humor floats to the surface. While what they do isn’t really music to sing along to (although you can definitely hum along to it), it’s something to go see and get lost in.

The songs on the album are as good as they are echoey, which is a lot. 100 Miles, like a handful of tracks here, abruptly drops down to just the drums, dub style. Find a Love grafts a warped microtonal guitar menace to downstroke Libertines/Supergrass Brit-garage. Going Way Out is a lo-fi, noirish take on Phil Spector, a dreamy backbeat number with a wry Dell Shannon reference. In the Heat works swoopy slide guitar incisions into a slow sunbaked desert rock vamp. In the Sun is similar and a little faster, picking up with a deliciously anthemic, distantly Beatlesque vibe.

Looking for More draws heavily on Arthur Lee: lush Forever Changes on the verse, riff-rocking Da Capo on the chorus. Lovesick makes noir out of doo-wop pop with keening funeral organ. Peephole, a droll ripoff of the Lemon Pipers’ Green Tambourine, is for stoners who get paranoid when they hit the bathroom: it’s the funniest track here. Satisfy My Mind makes garage rock out of 60s noir Orbison, while Taller sounds like the 13th Floor Elevators covering the earlyYardbirds

The most modern track here is The Start, with its anthemic Jesus & Mary Chain/Brian Jonestown Massacre pulse. And an unexpected baritone guitar solo adds a touch of menace to the bouncy, blippy, Jacco Gardner-ish Want Some Fun. Considering how many iconic bands these guys reference without completely aping them, theyr’e connoisseurs of psychedelia. There literally isn’t a bad track on this album.

Sunshine Brings Their Souful, Bluesy Fun to Muchmore’s

Brooklyn band Sunshine‘s new album Down & Up Blues is a playfully shambling, imaginative, lo-fi blend of electric and acoustic blues, oldschool soul and indie rock. It’s oldtimey and at the same time it’s completely in the here and now. The whole thing is streaming at their Bandcamp page. They’re playing the album release show on Nov 2 at 9 PM at Muchmore’s (the old Black Betty space) at the corner of Metropolitan and Havemeyer in Williamsburg, and they sound like they’re a lot of fun live.

The core of the band is excellent, eclectic guitarist Steven Ferrara – who also plays lapsteel, banjo, keys, harmonica, mandolin and sax – and Amy Santos, who plays bass and takes over lead vocals on several tracks. Katie Fuller and Joe McLean contribute drums, with Crawford Forbes on trumpet and Mike Lambert adding slide guitar and piano. The opening track, Long Sweet Helen works a mid-60s Chicago organ lounge groove, Ferrara’s biting guitar lead reminding of Buddy Guy back in the Buddy Guy/Junior Wells days Santos sings the nonchalantly soulful A Thousand Love Songs, followed by a watery acoustic Kottke/John Fahey-style Ferrara pastorale.

The excellent lo-fi fok-rock Dry Eyed Tampa wouldn’t be out of place on a late 90s album by Low. The Things That Harm Me coalesces into a brisk, Stonesy pulse, if not as tight as the Glimmer Twins. Santos sings the catchy, bouncy oldtimey swing tune Finger String; after that, Rise Above sounds like an early Led Zep demo. Santos gives the self-explanatory Everybody’s Crazy About the Doggone Blues But I’m Happy a resolute, nonchalant feel; the album winds up with the lingering, apprehensive, slowly slinky Until We Both Close Down and then a brief sketch of a song.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 132 other followers