New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Irresistibly Catchy, Edgy Oldschool Funk and Dance Sounds From The Gold Souls

The Gold Souls‘ new album Downtown Sound – streaming at youtube – is a party in a box. What’s coolest about it is that it’s not just a good, psychedelically-tinged funk record. It’s got lyrical bite, the musicianship is sharp and purposeful and the songs can be hilarious.

The group hit the ground running with the opening number, ’94 Chevy, about the band’s sturdy vintage tour van getting pulled over by the po-po. “Heading down south where I can be free,” frontwoman Juniper Waller snipes as guitarist Darius Upshaw and keyboardist Alex Severson punch in hard over Billy D. Thompson’s drums and Avery Jeffry’s strutting bass.

Jeffry snaps a little harder in the second track, Strongman, Waller bringing a sarcastic hip-hop edge:

If you chase what you want with greed
The thing you want is the thing you need

At this point in the record, the party is really cooking. There’s wah-wah on the keys as well as the guitar and the rhythm section has more of a swing than most of the retro funk bands out there. The organ swells, Upshaw spirals around tantalizingly and a few of the tracks have horns.

As far as the rest of the party goes, Got It, the next song, has more of a rolling oldschool disco groove. The band slow down and get sunnier for Heart Curves, a knowingly playful look at gender stereotypes, with a tasty ska-flavored sax solo. Then they pick up the pace with Streetcall Recall, a venomously funny dis at losers who harass women on the street.

The band hit the disco floor again for PTO, a bright, lyrically detailed number that brings to mind Lake Street Dive. The Coffee Song is the most psychedelic number here, with Upshaw’s most haphazardly entertaining guitar work. The coffeeshop scene midway through is priceless.

The album’s title track, a Bill Withers-style blues, is a snide spot-on look at the destructive effects of gentrification on cities and scenes. The group close the record with a towering gospel-tinged ballad, Tears in My Eyes. If you’ve followed this page for any time this year, you know how slow 2021 has been for new albums by independent bands, but this is one of the best of the bunch.

Singer June Bisantz Resurrects an Unlikely Holiday Rarity

In 1961, cult heroine June Christy – who was Lynchian decades before the term existed -put out a holiday-themed album of songs by assembly-line songsmiths Connie Pearce and Arnold Miller. In an unusual stroke of serendipity, another singer named June has resurrected this unusual concept album, 7 Shades of Snow, streaming at Bandcamp.

Brightly lit by trumpeter Brandon Lee and saxophonist Marc Pfaneuf, the opening number, The Merriest is bright, brassy and ambitiously syncopated. June Bisantz‘s alto voice is a tad lower than Christy’s, and in general, she swings a whole lot harder.

Ring a Merry Bell seems like a tailor-made Christy vehicle: there’s a dark undercurrent, and that resonates here in the steady, muted guitar of James Chirillo and Mike Eckroth’s piano, rising briefly with bandleader John Burr’s woody bass solo. Likewise, with wistful harmonies from flute and muted trumpet wafting above Bisantz’s unselfconscious resignation, the album’s title track fits that esthetic.

How’s this for a holiday theme: Hang Them on the Tree! But this isn’t a 1961 indictment of, say, Chairman Mao, or KKK lynching posses. Instead, it’s a tightly strolling number pushed along by drummer Alvester Garnett, the horns punching in and out.

Sorry to See You Go is not a lost-love lament but a farewell to Christmas (something an awful lot of people can relate to!) – it’s more than a little Broadway, and not the strongest track here. The album closes with Winter’s Got Spring up Its Sleeve. Again, the trumpet/flute textures nail the subdued mood. Notwithstanding its origins sixty years ago, it’s a guardedly hopeful, apt way to close a record released at this grimly pivotal moment in world history.