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Tag: janglerock

Jessie Kilguss Brings Her Purist Tunesmithing and Subtle Lyrical Power to the Rockwood

Jessie Kilguss wrote Great White Shark in prison. We don’t know if the multi-instrumentalist lit-rock songwriter violated any of ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s insane 2020 antisocial distancing regulations, but she wasn’t in the slammer because of that. She actually walked out of jail that day. Full disclosure: she came up with the song while leading a songwriting class for prisoners.

It’s the first single on her new album What Do Whales Dream About at Night?, which is due to hit her Bandcamp page this weekend. It’s got stately, bittersweet ELO major/minor changes, Naren Rauch’s layers of jangly guitars mingling with Kilguss’ harmonium and soaring, subtly mapled vocals.

The rest of the record reflects Kilguss’ stature as one of the great tunesmiths to emerge from this city in the past decade. It’s her deepest dive into lush chamber pop, and her most lyrically opaque release to date: her narratives really draw you in. She paints a guardedly hopeful if surreal picture in the first track, House of Rain and Leaves over a distantly bucolic guitar backdrop: “The rules don’t apply to you, at least not mine,” she relates

Rauch teams with bassist Whynot Jansveld and drummer Brian Griffin for a Some Girls-era Stonesy drive in the second track, Outside, Kilguss channeling righteous anger as she reaches for the rafters. The Attacca Quartet‘s Nathan Schram is a one-man string section over increasingly brooding layers of jangle and clang in The Tiger’s Wife, a metaphorically-loaded tale.

Coyote Street is the big anthemic hit here, a vivid LA tableau which could be the Church at their late 80s peak with a woman out front. Kilguss took the inspiration for the elegantly orchestrated, swaying title track from Serhiy Zhadan’s poem Headphones, a reflection on psychologically escaping an earlier Ukrainian conflict. Kilguss finally drops her signature allusiveness for a witheringly direct look at how violence percolates downward.

The album’s longest, most lushly symphonic track is Sleepwalking Heart, a slow, Lou Reed-tinged existential view of the psychology of denial. She picks up the pace with the similarly Velvetsy Roman Candles and closes the record with You Were Never Really Here, a delicate, painterly detailed portrait of a doomed relationship, spiced with wistful glockenspiel. Listeners who’ve been entranced by Kilguss’ earlier and often more overtly dark work are going to love this. It’s one of the best albums of 2022.

Kilguss is playing the album release show with a string section at the downstairs room at the Rockwood on Sept 23 at 8:30 PM for $10. Onstage, she can be outrageously funny: check out her deliciously snarky dismissal of Ted-talk pretense.

Funny Memes, Big News and Some Good Singles For Sunday

Today’s singles page has about a half hour worth of good tunes and a couple of good visual jokes, but also a blockbuster video from one of the heroes of the freedom movement…and a stunning admission of guilt for crimes against humanity by a government insider. Click on artist or author names for their webpages, click on titles for audio, video, or just a good laugh.

As Etana Hecht reports, “Dr. Grace Lee is a Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, with a specialty in infectious diseases. She also currently serves as the chair of the US Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices, otherwise known as ACIP. ACIP is the only outside organization that the CDC consults with when recommending a vaccine. As such, she’s the perfect person to bring vaccine-related information to. When Yaffa Shir-Raz broke the story that the Israeli Ministry of Health covered up the true rate of vaccine side effects, Steve Kirsch thought it was critical that Dr. Lee be aware of the definitive data that came from that report. As it’s not information the CDC is acknowledging or publicizing, Mr. Kirsch assumed there’s a good chance that Dr. Lee had not yet come across that data. He proceeded to email her and call her at work to inform her of this critical information, yet all attempts at contact failed. He then attempted to deliver the news to her in person, as a process server would. On a visit to her door yesterday, Mr. Kirsch wrote a note asking Dr. Lee if she’d like to see the Israeli data, with a reminder that lives are at stake.”

Then Lee called the cops. Tension ensued – and Kirsch got it all on video. “Somebody is on the wrong side of history and it isn’t me.”

In 2 minutes 12 seconds, Dr. Paul Alexander reveals how the CDC’s Robert Redfield told him that the six-foot rule was completely made up and had no basis in science – via Celia Farber. “People died because of that six foot rule.”

Here’s 57 seconds of Holocaust survivor Vera Sharav on the psychology of compliance: pretty much all you need to know.

In a minute 20 seconds, the spiritual face of the Canadian freedom movement, Pastor Artur Pawlowski explains why “the fence belongs to the devil,” and you can’t sit on it. Either you’re on the side of the angels…or the other side.

Texas Lindsay compares lethal injection uptake and deaths by income to a familiar Pink Floyd soundtrack.

Chirpy singer Andrea Lynn’s band Iceblynk has a new single, Tragic, a skittishly catchy take on swirly/jangly early 90s Lush dreampop.

Julia Kugel of the Coathangers has a solo project she calls Julia, Julia. Her latest hazy, sad janglerock single, Do It Or Don’t, makes a good segue – with some gruesome imagery in the video!

Continuing with the dreampop, Emeryld’s Bombs Away is a louder, punchier take on it, as Garbage might have done it in the mid-90s. Speaking of creepy – check out the Jean-Paul Sartre visual reference in the first 20 seconds!

A.A. Williams‘ seven-minute art-rock trip-hop epic The Echo comes across as a less angst-fueled, self-absorbed Amanda Palmer, maybe

In addition to publishing one of the most intelligent, thoughtful daily news feeds out there, Joss Wynne Evans is also a connoisseur of poetry and a great reader. In about a minute and a half, he reads Nick Snowden Willey’s poem A Deep Perplexity That Has No Name. “Out on the moors last night I found the bones of memory…”

The Babylon Bee did a pretty hilarious skit about a Cali couple adjusting to a new life in the (mostly) free state of Texas, via Mark Crispin Miller‘s must-read Substack.

Another front-line freedom fighter, Brooklyn’s Brucha Weisberger gives us a newly creepy way to think of kids and smoking.

In addition to being one of the great prose stylists on the web, Amy Sukwan is the queen of memes. How do we solve global warming? Hint: the same way we got rid of Covid (not).

Let’s close this out with a harrowing look at the possible future and then a heartwarming alternate view. Want to know why the World Economic Forum is pushing so hard to keep muzzles on toddlers? Conditioning. This two-minute video of Chinese babies being groomed to submit to the New Abnormal will break your heart, via the 2nd Smartest Guy in the World Substack.

But there’s hope! Scroll to the very bottom for Tessa Lena’s look at cross-species compassion. The buffalos and the birds are showing us the way!

Greta Keating Brings Her Catchy, Eclectic Tunesmithing to the Lower East Side

Although there’s a long history of family legacies in folk music around the world, and plenty of cross-generational jazz pollination, rock tends to die with the first generation. The good rock legacies are a very short list: the Dylans (Bob and Jakob), the Rigbys (Amy and Hazel), the Lennons (John and Sean), with the Allisons (Mose and Amy) at the top of the list if you count brilliance that transcends jazz and Americana.

Add the Keatings to that list. Greta Keating is the daughter of Matt Keating – whose prolific and darkly lyrical songwriting career spans janglerock and soul, and goes back to the 90s – and his wife Emily Spray, a somewhat less prolific songwriter but an equally breathtaking singer. In this case, the apple didn’t fall far. Greta Keating has a soaring voice, writes catchy, anthemic songs, has a flair for the mot juste and like her dad plays a number of instruments. She’s bringing those songs to the small room at the Rockwood on Sept 23 at 7 PM.

Also like her dad, she writes a lot of songs. Her Soundcloud page has a bunch, some which could fall into the bedroom-pop category, others which are more fleshed out with acoustic and electric guitars, judicious piano, organ and occasional synthesized strings.

Keating has a thing for starry, drifting Julee Cruise-like tableaux, and there are a bunch here, including It’s a Drug, Ain’t It Strange and Hungry Dog. My Perfect Man is torchier, in waltz time, as is The Cold Makes Me Think, a hazy, spacious piano ballad that brings to mind A. A. Williams.

Keating goes into opaque trip-hop in Betwixt and Between, then reaches for quietly venomous, cynical Lynchian pop vibe with 15-Year-Old Boy. Too Late to Lay could be an early Everything But the Girl song with more delicate vocals, while Head Down to My Toes is a determined adventure into big assertive anthemic stadium rock.

How Could You Be But You Were is a bittersweet, swing-tinged stroll. The best song on the page is Small As I Felt, where she raises the angst to redline over Orbisonian crescendos: it screams out for sweeping orchestral strings and a kettledrum.

A Girl With Cheeks Damp is another stunner, a brooding plunge into jazzy 70s soul. The funniest tune on the page is Adderall Song: crystal meth makes people do the craziest things, huh?

The rest of the many songs in this long playlist range from soul (Hard to Please), to driving, sarcastic rock (My Body Is Allergic); dreamy Stereolab sonics (Out of Nowhere) and fingersnapping Peggy Lee jazz (Shadow Shadow).

There’s even more on Keating’s youtube channel, including a Telecaster-driven powerpop shout-out to girl-bonding empowerment. If the future of New York rock tunesmithing is your thing, Keating’s songs will resonate with you.

A Gorgeous New Album and a Williamsburg Gig by Purist Tunesmith Alice Cohen

Alice Cohen plays purist, often gorgeously melodic, artsy rock anthems and sings with an unpretentious delivery that’s sometimes cheery and sometimes borders on conspiratorial. On her new album Moonrising – streaming at Bandcamp – she plays most of the instruments herself, building a lush bed of acoustic and electric guitars and vintage synths over an unobtrusive drum-machine beat. Multi-reedman David Lackner and multi-percussionist Adrian Knight flesh out Cohen’s elegant arrangements. She’s playing Union Pool on August 24 at 9 PM. Since the venue has fallen under the spell of surveillance-state digital ticketing, the cover charge there lately has been measured in dollars and cents. It stands to reason that the door girl will round it up to sixteen bucks for those of us who are ahead of the curve and have gone to #cashalways.

Cohen opens the record with Wild Wolf, a swaying, twangy, Lynchian trip-hop ballad: this “eight-track Cadillac cruising through the milky way” seems to be on its way back from the Black Lodge. Then she looks back to the bittersweet starriness of 80s janglerock in Bodies in Motion. It could be a track from the Church’s Seance album, with a woman out front.

Cohen picks up the pace with Life in a Bag, an insistent, 90s-flavored downstroke anthem spiced with neoromantic piano flourishes. After the starry keyboard instrumental Inner Galaxies, she goes back to a pensive, richly textured sway with Under Chandeliers, her watery guitars and glimmering keys mingling with Knight’s vibraphone and Lackner’s echoing, spiraling soprano sax.

Baby’s Fine is a surreal mashup of early 80s new wave pop with hip-hop lyrics: it’s hard to figure out where the sax stops and what could be an old Juno synth kicks in. Vanilla Tea is a glistening backbeat stadium rock nocturne without the bombast – an oxymoron, sure, but just try to imagine.

The driftiest, most opaque song on the album is Telepathic Postcards. Cohen follows that with Queen Anne’s Lace, a breezy, jazz-inflected ballad in a Stylistics vein that she takes ten years forward in time – or forty years forward, depending on how neo-retro it seems to you. She closes the record with Fragile Flowers, following a serpentine series of chord changes with Lackner’s sax floating above. It’s been a slow year for rock records, at least compared to what we were used to before March of 2020, but this is one of the best of 2022 so far.

Northern Noir Band the Sadies Leave Us With What Could Be The Best Album of 2022

Guitarist Dallas Good said that his band the Sadies‘ new album Colder Streams was the best record they’d ever made. They began recording it in 2019. Good and his bandmates had to sneak across provincial borders during the tyrannical Canadian lockdown to finally finish it in the summer of 2021. Too bad he didn’t live to see it. The lethal Covid injection killed him at 49 this past February.

The Sadies put out a ton of good albums, both under their own name as well as backing Neko Case. They started out in Americana, somewhere between Nashville gothic and punkgrass and by the time they wrapped up this one – streaming at Bandcamp – they’d gone in a more electric, psychedelic direction. Dallas Good was right: this is the Sadies best record. More than that, it’s a potent, metaphorically chilling historical document and arguably the best rock album of 2022.

The opening track, Stop and Start perfectly capsulizes the band’s sound in their final days: dense, reverb-drenched layers of jangle, clang, swirl and occasional scream from the Good brothers’ guitars over the precise, swinging groove of bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky. It may or may not be a lockdown parable – either way, it offers guarded hope for a new future:

The sickness comes like a rising sun
Now your war is done, what have you become?
Are you too far down to stop right now?
You can start right now
Stop and start right now

Is it a surprise that the next track – released as a single this past winter – would be titled Message to Belial? “The dark of all ages has come,” the band harmonize somberly over a spiky thicket of reverb guitar.in this parable of a less than sympathetic devil.

Dallas Good’s lingering, twangy lines resonate over his brother Travis’ layers of distantly Beatlesque acoustic rhythm in More Alone, an increasingly angst-fueled elegy for both people and places gone forever:

In this day and age
Rage has become all the rage
We choose to behave
Like wolves left to starve in a cage
We keep going in circles around around
Spinning faster and faster and faster
Go round in the end and then start back down again
Looking forward to another disaster

So Far For So Few is a bouncy mashup of bluegrass and Flamin’ Groovies janglerock, growing more psychedelic and enveloping on the wings of Dallas’ soaring lead lines.

Fueled by stark banjo and some intricate guitar flatpicking, All the Good – with the brothers’ mom and dad Margaret and Bruce Good on harmony vocals and autoharp, respectively – is a throwback to the band’s more acoustic late 90s sound.

Jon Spencer guests on fuzz guitar on No One’s Listening, a scorching update on ominous 60s Laurel Canyon psych-folk: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you anymore,” is the crushingly ironic key to the song. You Should Be Worried, a gorgeously resonant open-tuned front-porch folk tune, has even darker foreshadowing: “I’m not worried about you, you should be worried about me,” the band harmonize.

They go back to scampering reverb-plated garage-psych rock in Better Yet, with a tantalizingly blistering acoustic/electric guitar duel. Then they turbocharge the Nashville gothic with silvery sheets of reverb guitar in Cut Up High and Dry before taking a brief, surreal detour into dub.

They keep the scampering drive going through Ginger Moon, with what’s arguably Dallas’ most savage solo here. In an eerie stroke of fate, the final cut is titled End Credits, an intricately layered, Morricone-esque southwestern gothic instrumental. How tragic to see such a great band go out at the top of their game.

Faithless Town Play One of the Year’s Best Pro-Freedom Events in Nashville on the 16th

Atlanta band Faithless Town went viral with the scorching freedom rally footage in the video for their latest protest song, Live Free, a catchy, swaying mashup of Americana and Oasis. But they’ve been making good albums for a decade. Frontman Gene Owens got his start in the early teens playing Americana rock with a strong populist streak and honed his sharpshooter lyrical focus in the years that followed. They’re playing in the middle of an inspiring multi-band bill on July 16 at the Cobra, 2511 Gallatin Ave. in Nashville with the best of this era’s protest songwriters, Five Times August and folkgrass/redneck rock guitarslinger Campbell Harrison. Freedom fighter and journalist Ryan Cristian from the Last American Vagabond is also on the bill; cover is $15.

Faithless Town’s latest album Into the Light is a work in two parts: the first volume, streaming at Bandcamp, is a mix of four-on-the-floor anthems, folk noir and defiant singalongs for the noncompliant. But their previous album, Empires – streaming at Spotify – is just as good, and prophetic in places, especially considering that the band released it just weeks before the global totalitarian takeover in 2020. It’s as persistently uneasy, and immersed in regret and angst, as it is catchy. In Owens’ world, empires are as elusive as they are oppressive.

They open with the title track, a blistering two-guitar anthem that speaks truth to oligarch power with echoes of dark 60s Laurel Canyon psychedelia. “I spent my whole life sitting at a crossroads,” Owens confides restlessly in the anomie anthem Shot in the Dark, a harder-rocking shot at what Tom Petty was doing in the late 80s.

California Come Home is a gorgeously chiming, bittersweet reminiscence that wouldn’t be out of place in the Matt Keating catalog. “You’re wasting your time,” Owens soberly warns his wage-slave friend in Waste Away, icy spacerock ambience rising and receding behind him..

The existential angst reaches fever pitch in God’s Love as the band shift from stadium stomp to lavish ELO sweep. Then they nick the verse of a famous grunge tune until straightening out in the next song, The Return.

They slow down for the swaying, enveloping 6/8 ballad Out West: “All the things you want are still out of reach,” Owens cautions a nameless fortune-seeker. Likewise, the layers of guitar echo and resonate through Four Walls, a chronicle of what could be a marriage disintegrated beyond repair.

O Brother, a slowly building chronicle of betrayal, is a blend of Americana and late Beatles. The band return to amped-up Petty territory to close the record with 30 Years.

Melissa Gordon Brings Her Catchy Purist Retro Rock Tunesmithing Back to a Familiar Haunt

Back in 2017, this blog picked Melissa & the Mannequins as the best new rock band in New York. With frontwoman Melissa Gordon’s calm, uncluttered vocals and purist retro 80s janglerock tunesmithing, the future looked bright. Since then, the Mannequins seem to have left the store window, but Gordon has soldiered on as a solo performer and bandleader. If catchy tunesmithing and big redemptive choruses are your thing, Gordon’s songs will hit the spot. She’s returning to a familiar haunt, the small room at the Rockwood on April 6 at 8 PM. It’s a pass-the-bucket situation.

From the low-key, plainspoken acoustic sketches on her Soundcloud page, it’s clear she hasn’t been idle since the arts in this city were put on ice by the 2020 totalitarian takeover. But her magnum opus so far is the 2017 Mannequins album Mtns​/​Plane​/​Sky, which is still up at Bandcamp.

Beyond her songwriting, Gordon’s biggest drawing card is her nimble guitar work, flinging one catchy riff or flurry of chordlets into the mix. The album opens with Can’t Let Go, a gorgeous intertwine of chiming guitar textures over a low-key backbeat from drummer Oskar Hagghdal, Gordon and guitarist Steve Flakus hit a wry twin-lead break that they send wafting off in a a flangey fog. Then they take a turn into slinky, retro soul-infused funk with All the Time, eventually rising to a cheery, punchy peak over a sleek organ backdrop.

Bliss is a crunchy powerpop tune with all kinds of clever touches, from bittersweet ELO keys to big Bowie-esque flares.. The band shift from funky verse to shiny, swooshy chorus and back in the the next number, Breathe, then tale a memorably moody detour into Lynchian soul balladry with Intruder

Listen, a brisk, gorgeously angst-fueled 6/8 soul tune bristling with layers and layers of guitar, is the genuine classic here, and a high point of the band’s live show. Slip Away is another real gem, with the album’s catchiest chorus: the recorded version reveals the song’s soul roots. The last track is Night in the Park, the synthiest, new wavey-est tune here.

One beef about this album: Gordon is a fine singer, and the places where her vocals were autotuned instantly date this music to a time when the entertainment-industrial complex was trying to wean people off human artistry and replace it with computers. Historians looking back at the early 21st century will shudder at how successful that meme turned out to be.

A Feast of Jangle and Clang From David Koral

Psychedelic lead guitarists are not usually associated with lyricism, but David Koral is the rare guy who is. He has an impressively eclectic history playing in various New York rock scenes and is also a first-class songwriter with a strong lit-rock streak. He’s got a couple of singles up at Bandcamp that you should hear.

The latest one, Morning Gathers In comes at you in waves, a rainy-day janglefest like peak-era mid-80s REM without the mumblemouth. This one’s an imagistically loaded cross-Manhattan stroll:

Dark in a flash
In your eyes
Was a taste
For a night to behold
A flight to unfold

There’s also an older song, Handful of Mist. which makes a good segue. It’s a little more upbeat: you can hear influences as diverse as the Rain Parade, the Church and Jefferson Airplane. Now if he would only break out that long-rumored cover of Billy Idol’s Flesh For Fantasy…

Singles for the (Almost) Ides of March

This blog predicted that 2022 would be way better than 2021. The global totalitarians’ ongoing death throes have been ugly – Justin Trudeau building a shitlist and seizing citizens’ bank accounts for wrongthink seems to be a prototype. But the blowback has been fierce, and reason for real optimism. No wonder the narrative has suddenly been shifted from hygiene theatre to the latest circus of two corrupt-AF ex-Soviet kleptocrats duking it out, with no thought to the colossal toll on their respective nations’ populations.

Another reason for optimism is that more and more musicians are stepping back into the ring. Today we celebrate that with a short, roughly twenty-five minute self-guided playlist. Click on artist names for their webpages, click on song titles for audio.

Americana songwriter Kaitlin ButtsBlood comes across as a very subtle protest song disguised as a fierce kiss-off ballad, set to a simmering oldschool country backdrop with some tasty resonator guitar. “My name dragged through the mud, and godawful things swept under the rug.” Relatable, huh?

Dr. Jordan Peterson may be known as one of the most insightful researchers and analysts in the reality space, but as it turns out he’s also a songwriter! His latest anthem, Wake Up is an aptly creepy, Floydian art-rock tune with a shifting cast of vocalists.

Lowly Weep, by UK songstress Darkher, is a heavier art-rock take on the mystical gothic sound that New York’s own Kristin Hoffmann was exploring back in the late zeros and teens. Don’t let the awkward title put you off.

Here’s Good Before, by another moody songwriter, Maria BC, rainy-day jangle-and-clang spacerock. All is not so safe in her hotel womb.

Let’s wind up the playlist on a positive note. Rapper Bryson Gray‘s No Mask No Vax – featuring his bud Forgiato Blow – is a singalong Pitbull-style banger. Gray is a man of many lyrical styles and as rugged as individualists get, as he makes clear in Controlled, a hilarious, golden age-style dis at everyone who hates on him. “Big Pharma must be lobbying rappers.” Thanks to fearless investigative journalist and incorrigible listmaker Sharyl Attkisson for the tipoff.

Today’s last song is an oldie, from 2016. How did Debris, by Neia Jane, pop up on the radar here earlier this week? It was on autoplay after a completely unrelated Soundcloud clip. Imagine Guided by Voices at their majestic, multitracked peak, but with a woman out front

Tasha Delivers Catchy, Low-Key, Evocative Jangle and Clang

Tasha sings in a calm, breathy, sometimes airy voice and writes catchy janglerock songs. She likes open tunings and doesn’t waste notes. Her album Tell Me What You Miss the Most is streaming at Bandcamp.

She bookends the album with two versions of Bed Song. It’s an original, not the Amanda Palmer classic. The first is more spare and acoustic; the second take of this verdant open-tuned tune, akin to pastoral, mostly-acoustic 70s Pink Floyd, is more enveloping and psychedelic.

The full band join her on the album’s second song, History, an electric tune with spare lead guitar and a slow country-flavored sway. She picks up the pace with Perfect Wife, its rainy-day jazz chords and lo-fi synth flutes. Then she mashes up those two styles in Sorry’s Not Enough.

An echoey, evocative seaside tableau, Love Interlude introduces Dream Still, a return to swaying, optimistic after-the-rain jangle. Then Tasha picks up her acoustic for the steadily fingerpicked, warmly hypnotic sunset theme Burton Island

As befits a vast body of water, Lake Superior is the most orchestrated, expansive track here. Tasha follows that with the enticingly enigmatic Year From Now. If you’re looking for a thoughtful way to start a weekend morning, this is a good stepping-off point. Even better, it’s available on cassette!