CromsWords

.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Raveonettes – 2016 Atomized – Full Track By Track “Anti Album” Review

Over the past twelve months The Raveonettes have released one song per month as part of a uniquely conceptualized “anti-album” campaign. Choosing to do something different from the traditional album and EP format, the band instead released their "Rave-Sound-of-the-Month" on the last Friday of each. With the final track released, the entire collection comes together under the album title “2016 Atomized.” A digital download version is scheduled for release on February 17, with CD coming on April 21 and vinyl on April 22, Record Store Day. All of the above can be pre-ordered via the band’s ongoing Pledge Music Campaign. As is tradition here at DaveCromwellWrites, a detailed and (hopefully) unique perspective on each individual song follows below.


The “anti-album” opens with one its briefest tracks, the two and a half minute “This World Is Empty.” Relying on a spacious keyboard sound and retro drum machine pattern, the mood immediately hearkens back to the early 80’s sound when bands like LA’s Berlin rules MTV. If the title lyric and short melody re-appropriation echoes The Supremes 1966 hit “My World Is Empty Without You,” the focus quickly shifts in new directions. “Tonight, tonight, tonight you’re gonna see me cry” is sung over subtle added depth of keyboards and sonic waves. The central question is asked “why do you love somebody else?” as the keyboard pads drop out leaving a stark backdrop of only percussive clacks and bass note pulses. Subsequent passes through the melody add more perfectly recreated 80’s percussion, synth pads and bass. The final minute features a bright, icy keyboard melody coda completing this homage to the original decade of synth pop.




 An expansive dreamlike quality emerges through distant shifting sonic washes behind crackling noises on “Run Mascara Run,” evoking the motion of old film reels. The hint of melody is perceptible through muffled voices until an abrupt drop with two quick pulses signal they lyrical refrain. “Blood runs like you makeup – in this slow motion dream. Your blue jeans are torn – and there’s blood on the leaves. Seen you in my dreams – of love and falling bombs. Young roses lie dead – when the napalm smell is gone.”

In interviews, Wagner indicates the inspiration for this imagery was partly inspired by a trip to the Bronx in New York with his long-time producer and mentor Richard Gottehrer, which also included Dion DiMucci of Dion And The Belmonts fame. While Dion’s stories that day of “gang life, girl crushes and Doo Wop” may have sparked additional inspiration, to be fair those have been recurring themes in Raveonettes songs since the very beginning. The rhythm, cadence and overall feel has that 60’s stroll vibe that the aforementioned Mr. Gottehrer first evoked on Blondie’s debut album and the track “In The Flesh”



Returning like a sorely missed old friend, a classic Sune twang guitar melody emerges with deep tones and deliberate pacing. It could easily serve as the backing track to a David Lynch film scene of a small dancing dwarf in front of a red velvet curtain.

What follows is a whispered spoken word section that Wagner explains signifies a scream of conscious nod to his hip hop influences. The songs final minute returns to its initial vocal stylings with the lyrics “The palm trees burning down, and your kisses are wild. You smile at orange skies, and I wake up on the west side.” It’s curious that the memory “of a beautiful day walking through The Bronx with Dion and Richard Gottehrer” would result in such violent imagery. Knowing that Mr. Wagner is an avid researcher reader coupled with his fascination for California and Hawaii draws a line to the Pearl Harbor attacks of 1941, and the subsequent invention and use of Napalm in 1942. That the story gets flipped in his dream where the women went off to war and the men stayed home to grieve is one more imaginative twist to the Raveonettes world.



A half minute instrumental intro initially appears rooted in that classic Raveonettes guitar sound of reverberated open string notes with upward pitch bend twang endings on third track “Excuses.” Ticking high-hat and solid snare shot percussion provide the beat through a swirl of mysterious radio voices and rising swells. All that drops out with the first wave of lyrics (accompanied only by buzzy keyboard chords) that state: “Now I know I don’t like this girl – but girl still comes around. And my mama tells me to grow up – she don’t like her around.” Stepping immediately to a slower vocal cadence, the story continues to unfold with lines: “I leave tonight to change my life – I leave you satisfied. Cause you were never one to keep – besides I’d rather die.”

Tempo shifts once again to a shuffling hip hop rhythm with matched lyrical delivery “to be seen with – you a-gain-ain, it’s a dead-end, now its weekend” before breaking for a brief funky guitar instrumental interlude. “Time to let loose, wanna get bruised, fuck your excuse, hit me with nukes” over again to the funky guitar break that mirrors the clean sound prevalent on mid-70’s disco tracks like Van McCoy’s “The Hustle.”  It all dramatically drops out to beatless atmospherics, until the initial rhythm returns. That beat doesn’t last long as it goes ambient once again as lyrics arrive in stream-of-conscious statements. “Girl’s a fuck-up and she’s hard to get. Girl shuffles down the street. Girl’s so lazy makes me upset. Fuck please let me forget. Never one to simply throw things out there unattended, also included are slowly building swirls of altered choir voices, radio drop snippets and other assorted otherworldly textures rising through the mix. Returning to earlier introduced slower vocal cadence lyrics followed once again by the “street hustle” rhythm, the funky drummer anchors an outro that weaves irregular sonic enhancements on hazy edges.




Kicking off with a brightly toned energetic guitar melody over early-era digital percussion, fourth track “Junko Ozawa” is boldly declared as being “dedicated to the great, genius game music composer” the cut is titled after. In 1983, this innovative woman graduated from a noted Japanese music university and joined the big game company "NAMCO Ltd" (BANDAI group's company). Also referred to as "Zun-chan" and "Zunko" which were nick names given to her by friends, she emerged over the years to become one of the most prolific Japanese game sound designers and composers. Particularly noteworthy are soundtracks to Namco arcade games like “The Tower Of Druaga” and “Rolling Thunder.” That later game is noted for its ridiculously hard difficulty, where the final level is one of the hardest in video game history. She later adapted her sound for 8-bit consoles like the Nintendo NES and Sega Genesis. It appears she eventually retired from the game music industry in 2008.



As for the song here, vocals processed and compressed proclaim “so I know – that you’ve been cheating with my fri-end. Prepare do die – prepare for war” as the initial guitar hook returns with dramatic force. “I can tell” Sune continues, “the oceans in your eyes are re-ed. I’m all fired up, to end this now,” with that magic hook leading in to a big chorus. “And by the time you got to hurt me – the night was clearly over – the friends I lost were never meant to be. I don’t know why I never saw it – it must be cause I trust you – I guess I must have loved you way too much.” Punctuating all of that are classic spiraling upward buzzing and static battering tones that echo video game passages and level changes.

That quirky-perky melody line continues as the glue holding everything together as new lyrics unfold. “Here I go. I try to make sense of this evil. Damned for sure – How do I go on??? Sune has been quoted as saying how he “wanted to keep all the instrumentation in the 8-12 bit range, only using low bit synths and sounds.” While there are no surprises there, his statement that “even the guitars have been re-sampled and played on a synth” was unexpected as the sound is so rich. Ultimately the Huge chorus cycles through multiple times, each with changing emphasis and textures underneath. Nearly overlooked in all of this video game music tribute is a lyrical song about betrayal and lost love.



Fifth track “Scout” bursts out instantly as if in the middle of a trance dance-floor drop. Lyrics begin quickly, stating: “Go on now scout and break with your man – please understand that you’re in command” with a busy bass guitar line riding freely over a mechanical sampled drum pattern. “Do it for me and do it for yourself come on” punctuated by a brief melodic guitar riff interlude. “Are you for real or are you a dream – scout is it you in this magazine – looking so mean in faded jeans – I’m ready to die.” The tempo and mood suddenly changes with previous backing track instruments dropping out (becoming something of a repeating occurrence throughout all of this “anti-album”) as Sune sings against stark electric piano notes and synth pads. “I wake up in my car – I parked it not too far – from where I passed out – it’s fucked and now I’m crying – wish I never met you while buying – shoes that I threw out – reminded me of you scout – wanna take this memory – and strangle it to death – it’s a mess I guess – can’t stress enough that I want you.”

That slightly-funky, touch-of-jazzy, bass and percussion groove returns adding a swing style vibe to the proceedings. The first three opening vocal lines are repeated for emphasis as subtle instrumental changes emerge underneath. That serves to set up the songs dominant hook and emotional center, which of course is the “I wake up in my car” segment. Another emotional plea emerges with the lyrics: “scout when you have the time – to hear what I just said – I’m not some card you decline – I just can’t be misread – I always wanted you – just didn’t know it (last line repeated for emphasis). The final minute and a half outro emphasizes the swinging bass and percussive groove against dramatic ambient textures.



There are a few points to consider simply from analyzing the lyrics to this song. Sune meets (and apparently dates) models who do those sexy/mean-looking jeans ads in magazines while buying fancy shoes. Something goes wrong with the relationship and he can actually throw out a great pair of shoes because they simply remind him of her. Although he wants to “strangle to death” this memory of her – he still wants her to this very day. He always wanted her – he, well – “just didn’t know it.” Why is he sleeping in his car (after passing out – somewhere – not too far – from the car)? Sure, it’s “just a song.” It’s art – poetic. But, there is definitely a true story embedded in there as well.



It’s not until sixth track “Won’t You Leave Me Alone” that a straight ahead rocker emerges in what could be deemed that original Raveonettes sound. Which of course initially captured their fans attention with a hybrid of Eddie Cochran 50’s speed-swagger and Beach Boys through The Jesus and Mary Chain filter. The lyrics express an exact opposite feeling to previous track “Scout,” as they go: “Don’t sink your teeth in me. Try to understand where I’m at. I’m not the one you need. Forget about it we don’t match. Listen to me when I tell you,” seamlessly transitioning into the chorus. Which goes: “Forget it won’t you leave me alone” repeated four times. However those four lines are far from stagnant as the signature Wagner guitar mirrors that vocal melody in an equal blend.

Verse two clarifies things further with lyrics: “Why don’t you understand. I don’t wanna get with you. You never had a chance. You know even my mom disapproves. So listen to me when I tell you” (and big chuckle for throwing “mom’s disapproval” in there as proof this relationship will never go anywhere). The instantly hooky chorus returns and with it what sounds like Sharin Foo adding backing shadow vocals.  Those contributions have always been her most memorable musical aspect in The Raveonettes sound, and certainly good to hear. There’s also a distinct real-live-drums sound to the percussion which further underscores the rock n’ roll feel. A cool instrumental break follows with chunky guitar chords paired against a sustained guitar line. All leading to a real snare drum build-up and tom-tom rolls, ushering in an exploding Mary-Chain-style guitar buzz bomb-burst. The entire verse and chorus cycle repeats one more time completing the hard charging thrills.



A basic demo drum machine pattern kicks off “Where Are You Wild Horses,” as easy breezy western plains guitars establish the appropriate mood. “Don’t cry just let me go – I’m not the one you need” Wagner sings, initially appearing thematically similar to “Won't You Leave Me Alone.” “Don’t let me drag you down – I’ll always remember you,” he continues. The bridge section that goes “Make me understand – why you won’t set me free” is sung in rising tones, leading to the big chorus.

“Where are you wild horses tonight” could be interpreted two separate ways. One way might be an extension of the Rolling Stones song “Wild Horses,” which “couldn’t drag me away.” Indicating a wish for that kind of devotion to stay, that just isn’t there. Or perhaps the questions begs “where are the wild horses” TO “drag away” this difficult situation.

 As the story evolves with the lines “how can you love – when I’m not worth loving. How can you give – when nothing ever gets back to you.” It becomes clearer that this is a different, more self-effacing breakup.

 The horses metaphor gets a double work over with repeated lines “where are you horses tonight?” and “I look out, I look out I see nothing.” The lush soundscape fills with cavernous swells as vibrant acoustic guitar picks and strums the chord structure. The final chorus adds extended pitch-bended guitar notes completing the western motif dreamscape.




No build up necessary for “A Good Fight” as it bursts right out of the box with music and vocals from the very first second. “Brought you over to that special place where everybody hunts alone,” Wagner sings against jungle tom-tom drums and quick-strummed Bo Diddley guitar. I took you driving up that dreaded coast to raise your heartbeat on my own. “Cause tonight” as the beat and twang morphs in a hyper-drive Peter Gunn detective groove “I miss – a good fight.” With that last word floating away in echo, the tempo instantly slows down its pace and coasts along via slow-groove ride cymbal, snare drum and toms against melancholy piano notes. “It’s bliss” is the only sentiment expressed during this half minute instrumental interlude.

“Remember when we used to go on trips, so you could go off on your own” ushers back that initial opening pace. The story takes a turn towards kink with the lines “remember when I used to tie you up and you’d be crying oh please don’t!”

The follow two sections repeat as before, with the slower ambient section now adding lush backing strings to the mix. A dark and intriguing bridge is introduced, creating a level of tension often found in film music.

One more round of hyper-tom throttle drives the lyrics: “the other day I read that everybody goes to hell to have a blast. Oh I’ve been wicked I’ve hurt somebody close to me, how can I feel relaxed?” With that the final majestic slow section emerges adding layers of icy wind keyboard strings.



The drum track on “This Is Where It Ends" sounds like it was initially played on the traditional acoustic instrument, but then sampled and reassembled into a tight precision loop. Vocals emerge after a few seconds, with lyrics “all these dreams I take from you now’ are sung in a deliberate and choppy cadence. “Don’t you think that I’ll ever forget,” continues the voices, which sound like Sune and Sharin singing together in high-pitched harmony. The lines “this is where it ends we know this” adds a buzzing synthesizer to the mix, with “the little time we had means everything” concluding that passage.

A significant change occurs with the lyrics “restless again did I ever change, made me feel sad, made me feel strange” as the percussion drops out leaving only a wash of sound punctuated by pitch-shifting pulse. “Supported by friends, but that wasn’t it” is the follow-up line one is left to ponder as Wagner drops in a signature guitar sound interlude. That unmistakable Sharin and Sune vocal tandem delivers the next segment with lines “Thoughts – like these – don’t go away – by themselves.” “Maybe – one day” (stepping up an octave) “I can live – with myself.” Another beautiful musical interlude follows that blends the traditional Raveonettes sound with a dreamy carnival atmosphere. Bold use of piercing synth tones and syncopated drumming provides more delightful unexpected moments.

One more percussive drop out sees the focus momentarily shift to a descending bass-synth figure. “When - you – came – home – on – that – ni-ight” brings back the halted between each word, deliberate vocal style. “Did – you – dare - to look – into the mirror” altering the vocal cadence even further – “and what did you see?” “Did we both lose all in the end” is delivered in a high pitched register accompanied only by simple piano notes. “Feels like it now, that is for sure – maybe we’ll come – around again – I’m sure” ends what is one of the most unpredictable songs in this collection. It seems that Sune has had his fair share of shattered relationships in his lifetime. Maybe as many as Taylor Swift!



Ah yes – Sune’s love of Hawaii and Hawaiian music is fully on display with the tenth track “Choke On Love.” The south sea island groove bounces along with pounding-on-coconuts percussion and a bright single note guitar melody. Lyrics come with vintage cheeseboard keyboards stating (in stop/start rhythm)“it looks like a dead give-away – but I will never compromise. I’m only here to see it through – and this is not my time I tell you.”

Instrumental interludes follow and much of it wouldn’t be out of place at a Copa Cabana conga line. Vocals return with the lines “they always try to make me sleep – they think they got me on a leash. Fuck all their insecurities – someone like me just can’t get beat down – beat down.”

By now the conga line has moved out of the reception hall and is snaking around the building outside. However, true to form on pretty much every track in this collection, a surprising change occurs. The conga-nuts are put down in favor of gently reverberated guitar and swirling ambience. The lyrics “as I walk on the black grass I see – deadbeats like you on CCTV’s.” An inspired, speedy guitar solo breaks out and runs roughshod over the proceedings before circling back to the conga line.



Rising up from the abyss in super slow motion, come reverent cathedral textures that fully envelope the listener on eleventh track “Fast Food.” Muffled drumming begins to thump along, as if stifled by an unseen sheet of ice in-between. Distant dreamy vocals commence with the lines “it’s almost midnight, time to close my eyes, but – I – see – you - I’m – so – con – fused. I thought we moved on, deadly as A-bombs – run for my life (noteworthy here that the percussion suddenly drops out for those four words), fuck these break lights. Out under night skies, the smell of pesticide – are you close by (with tandem ghosting vocals), fire up search lights. Maybe I’ll see you, maybe I’ll touch you, cause I want you – yummy like fast food. It’s almost midnight, sleep with be denied – lust she comes now, time to fade out” caps the lyrical hypnagogia state between sleep and wakefulness. What follows is what has always made Raveonettes songs the absolute best. A deep guitar tone plunges down under the swirling waves of sound, cutting through with an emotional commitment and intensity that comes from the soul. It’s big, bold and majestic – and everything you’ve ever loved about The Raveonettes music.



An over twelve minute instrumental-only epic titled “PENDEJO” (which is Spanish slang word for a stupid, dumbass) serves as the final track of this collection. Opening with the kind of cinematic string section you would hear at the start of a movie, things soon morph over a straight-forward chunk-along beat and western film saga whistling wind tones. That percussion track is particularly intriguing as it features additional overdubbed clacks and snare shots with emphatic reverberated effects. A little over two minutes in and the signature Wagner guitar suddenly appears adding a deep twang to the proceedings. At four and a half minutes, the first seismic shift occurs with rising static and deep toms signaling the change. Deep pulse thumping (and little else) inhabit the next 20 seconds or so until madcap guitar textures fill the sonic spectrum, soon joined by single pitch bended guitar notes. A tension begins to build as basic clack percussion resumes and dueling layers of guitar pluck out both melody and buzzing background dissonance. Coming to an abrupt halt one more time, a speedier drums and guitar progression commences against the sound of voices broadcasting through megaphones. The seven minute mark sees that segment concluded, followed by a lengthy singular modulating tone. What sounds like the plucking of harp strings commences the next segment which also includes additional megaphone voice overlay. A slapping snare shot beat marks out time as gentle plucked strings and complimentary keyboard notes float above. One more change occurs around 9:45 when it all returns to the theme initially established at the tracks beginning. This time Wagner adds additional higher register guitar lines on the outro of a surreal and gorgeous composition.



This final video makes clever use of an image of Jack Kerouac in a football uniform taken when he played for Columbia University in the 1940’s. Mr. Wagner has made no secret of his admiration for Kerouac and his writing since The Raveonettes inception. He has a tattoo of Kerouac’s image on his inside forearm. An inspirational writer to myself as well (particularly influential in earlier days) the entire beat generation owes a debt of gratitude to Jack’s literary vision.  While he may have been "pendejo" at times during his gone-too-soon life, the works he left behind are anything but.



The Raveonettes are hosting a special intimate pre-launch party at The Music Box in San Diego on January 21, 2017 where they will perform the album in it's entirety.  All info regarding that can be found here.

* * * * *

For further album reviews and live show recaps of The Raveonettes, see here:










* * * * *

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Best Of 2016: Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Like Herding Cats, St. Marilyn, Blank Spaces, Janet Devlin

As 2016 comes to a close the prevailing sentiment among some insist this year has been something of a downer. Although true we have lost more than a few iconic musicians since January, there has also been much to be thankful for. For instance if you can be counted among the currently healthy, relatively productive individuals still pursuing what is personally meaningful, that alone is reason for hope. Being able to cover your daily life expenses in a free society should never be taken for granted either. With that glorious freedom, opportunities to select the entertainment option of your choice becomes paramount. Presented here are live shows and recorded music that shine focus on The Best of 2016.


Friday, November 18 saw the arrival of kaleidoscopic jam band The Chris Robinson Brotherhood to The Space At Westbury on Long Island.


Since opening in September 2013, this venue has presented a steady diet of less-trendy more established classic artist to a suburban NYC community that continually supports it.


There’s an industrial elegance to this building, dating back to 1927 when it opened as the Westbury Movie Theatre. After falling on hard times the landmark theater was shuttered for more than 10 years. It was purchased in 2004 and underwent a $10 Million renovation including the restored ticket window from the original theater, eight custom-made chandeliers hanging from the original ceiling, and an illuminated five columns of old brick, bookended with velvet curtains on each wall giving the room a combined modern feel with historical character.


The first thing you notice about the CRB is how casual and laid back they are. As each member quietly ambles out onto the stage and picks up or sits behind their respective instruments, Chris leans in to the mic and looking out into the packed audience says “nice to see everybody.”


As the band prepares to open their show a ceramic owl can be seen perched atop bass player Jeff Hill’s amp, with a “crown” of 4 burning incense sticks. Throughout the first set they would burn completely down, only to be replaced at the start of the second set.


Kicking things off with "Leave My Guitar Alone", from their 2016 release “Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel," drummer Tony Leone lays out an easygoing alternating bass drum and double stick flam-tap beat while Chris chugs a classic rock and roll groove on his guitar. Soon the first of many unexpected high pitched moog synth tones emerge from Adam McDougall’s cosmic keyboards.


After Chris sings through a litany of things you might be able to get away with as far as he’s concerned, the title comes in clearer focus with the resolving line “Do What You Want To But Leave My Guitar Alone.”


Robinson had written this song nearly 15 years ago, but it wasn’t until this current group of improvisational collaborators did it come to life on the latest record and played live nearly every show.


Although he’s dialed down the dominant frontman personna from his more youthfully exuberant Black Crowes days (opting to blend in as a relaxed band leader) the unmistakable voice and vocal cadence of Chris Robinson is instantly recognizable to anyone who’s been a fan from the beginning.


When the lyrical refrain “I'm here to give you baby anything,” with the wry twist “besides that guitar only has 5 strings,” lead guitarist Neal Casal rips off short burst of brilliantly fluid licks that would be the first of many extended solos throughout the two set, over two and a half hour show.


Woven seamlessly within the set were a selection of hand picked covers (two each from the Black Crowes catalog as well as Robinson’s New Earth Mud period) like the soulful rendition of Jackie Moore’s “Precious, Precious.” While the dynamic vocal performance is clearly the songs centerpiece, lengthy instrumental tradeoffs between guitarist Casal and keyboardist McDougall (especially on his Hohner Clavinet D6 here) are the moments instrumental jam band enthusiasts crave.





After playing an 8 song set lasting an hour and a quarter, Chris announced they'd be taking a break and be back in a little while.  So, with time to stretch one's legs, it was down to the lobby to take a bathroom break, mingle with fellow CRB fans and check out the available merchandise designs.


There's an obvious continuation on the psychedelic imagery created by The Greatful Dead and the culture that surrounds it. Having become friends with both Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, Chris Robinson’s natural transformation over time has him now sharing in the spirit and vibe (and at times the actual sound) of that acid Americana movement.


With their forty-five minute break completed, the band came back on to do another eight song, hour plus set .

Playing their most identifiable song "Rosalee" (from debut album Big Moon Ritual, and which they would reprise briefly at the sets end), the refreshed audience were ready for yet another musical journey.
--

The second set progressed with a similar blending of songs from their entire catalog like "New Cannonball Rag" (from their very recently released EP "If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now" - who's title is taken from a line in prior albums centerpiece track "Narcissus Soaking Wet") and "Wheel Don't Roll" (from their second record "The Magic Door")


Neal’s exquisite slide guitar work triggered memories of attending numerous Allman Brothers Band “Peakin At The Beacon” shows, carrying on the spirit of Duane, Dicky and ultimately Derek


A key moment of the night was the gloriously extended jam cover of Bob Dylan's classic "It's All Over Now Baby Blue"




Once again the improvisational soloing of Casal and McDougall delivered on the promise of jammy instrumental bliss.


In addition to traditional piano and organ textures, McDougall's unusual (by jam band standards) synth tones implied jazzier elements, bringing to mind Joe Zawinul's work in the legendary fusion ensemble Weather Report.

--

Instrumental brilliance aside, essential background vocals from the other band members (especially Neal) add rich emphasis to Chris’s distinct vocals.


The set fully peaks on the eighth and final song (before encore) with "Narcissus Soaking Wet" from their latest full-length.  Marking the first co-write between Robinson and keyboardist Adam MacDougall, the lyrics touch on trappings of egotism and false idolatry.  Midway through it's eight and a half minute length, Chris plays a sweet harmonica solo and then again two minutes later.


While Neal’s echo-heavy soloing there comes off sounding downright Pink Floydian.


The encore closed out the night with an inspired cover of New Riders Of The Purple Sage's "Last Lonely Eagle"



Check out all the upcoming CRB tour dates and anything else you need to know about the band here.

* * * * *

A few days earlier another significant live show event took place at popular Lower Eastside NYC venue The Mercury Lounge.


Darkwave/Gothic rockers Like Herding Cats brought their unique blend of crisp, structured pop on stage, providing the necessary environment for their impressive instrumental expansion.

--
--


Having previously attended LHC shows during CMJ and Northside Fests (which were both quite good) the high quality sound and lighting of The Mercury Lounge stage seemed their best fit yet.

---

Blending in songs from their debut EP ("Touch" "Rich Girls") with newer one's from the forthcoming follow-up ("Easter Song" "Falls Apart" "Morning Sun" "Affliction") a number of high points were reached during the performance.

---

Frontman Dom P commanded the stage as he smoothly transitioned between guitar and keyboards, enhancing his nuanced vocal delivery.


Along with his impressive bass guitar work (which frequently mirrored the tonal quality of The Cure's Simon Gallup) Tim Jansen also played a bass synth at one point, giving the proceedings a heavy buzz electronic feel. 
---

Quietly making his presence felt, lead guitarist Sebastian Briglia provided each song with layers of textures and fluid riffs.  Creating a noticeable expansion on the initial EP recordings, and eager anticipation for the recordings soon to come.

--

Drummer Kevin McAdams (whose finely honed skills come by way of time spent with seminal indie rock band Elefant) kept everything anchored while still adding colorful flourishes of his own.


The Set List

-  -  -


Previous DaveCromwellWrites Features on Like Herding Cats can be found here:

- - -
- - -

* * *

Opening the evenings performances was a relatively new band that just recently began appearing on this sites radar.


Brooklyn-based recording artists Saint Marilyn brought their own version of modernized 80's retro synth pop into the live environment.


Vocalist/synth-stabber Che Houston (who also has a background in drums and percussion) and synth tech-head/vocalist (and live bassist) Kevin Marksson are the creative duo behind this project.


Adding a live drummer to sync with Kevin's funky-pocket bass lines created an uptempo dancy groove under Che's appealing vocal delivery.


The set included tracks from their 2015 EP Shoshone as well as more recent material from their anticipated full-length album to be released in 2017.

--

Though Che is the primary vocalist, there is a playful aspect of back and forth foreground/background interplay with Kevin.

--

The highlight of the set was their showstopping latest single "Frustrate Me" which appeals on a number of levels.  In addition to their official video of the song (just recently released) there is a wonderful 360 degree view live-in-the-studio version.  Not only does it capture the essence of the band and song, but it really is a lot of fun to move around the studio at will.

Check it out:




---
Lively post-performance chatter.

Find out much and more about Saint Marilyn through these links:

Facebook

Instagrm

Twitter


* * * * *

Closing out this night was a band also new to the DCW universe, proving once again the seemingly infinite opportunities for musical discovery.



BL_NK SP_C_S (that's Blank Spaces, who besides the obvious literal application, perhaps drop the vowels for easier internet searches on their name) are a structured power trio fronted by UK expat now living in New York songwriter/guitarist Daniel Gallagher.


With the rhythm section comprising of Warren Stubbs on drums and Ray Milo on bass, the tightly coiled unit played through a set of occasionally poppy, frequently oblique songs.


While more than a few moments conjured up the New York City early 80's street vibe of prime era Talking Heads, another band from across the ocean seemed even closer in spirit.


Although vocal cadence were similar in style, Gallagher's precise arpeggiated chords were superior to anything David Byrne played.  



Instead measuring closer to the combined output that Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp delivered on early 80's King Crimson albums like "Discipline"


Their latest release "Note To Self" being a prime example of this.



Other styles were touched on as well, with a more traditional bluesy jam happening in one song.


Follow the continued progression of BL_NK SP_C_S here

* * * * *


While it might seems unusual to open a Christmas record with a sadly introspective original composition, that is exactly what the innovative and talented Irish singer Janet Devlin has done with her recently released “Little Lights” EP.



Perhaps the records title implying a less overt side to the holidays (as opposed to big, blazing grandiose lights) might serve as an early clue to what’s inside. However in the tradition of George Winston’s gentle piano driven holiday season music, opening track “Wake Up It’s Christmas” becomes a tender pep-talk to those without (or recently separated) from a special someone on that day.



Already well-known for reinterpreting a wide range of covers from across the decades, Ms. Devlin takes on the biggest UK Christmas hit of all time in Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody.” However the songs original effusive party atmosphere is replaced with a starkly intimate approach that renders the track almost unrecognizable from the original. One of the most compelling aspects of Janet’s vocals is her uniquely expressive phrasing and pronunciation of certain words. It’s addictively charming to hear “stocking,” “wall,” “ball” and “everybody” stretched out with seemingly extra vowels. Or how her voice rises in pitch in the middle of the word “Merry” (before “Christmas”), displaying both craft and emotion in one single intuitive moment. In addition to adding her trademark ukulele on subsequent verses, inspired use of a double string quartet arrangement on the center bridge, reshapes that passage in the sonic footprint of The Beatles' “Eleanor Rigby.”



Another heart-tugging original is the beautifully written “Merry Christmas Mum and Dad.” As the melody is introduced on electric piano, tinkling bell notes follow like falling snow. Its central theme pivots on the initial wonder parents provide their children at Christmastime, and the innocence of not knowing who to thank for it all. Now grown up, the author understands how they were given “all you had – even when the times were tough,” and how “we always had more than enough.” A gorgeous sentiment sung with that inimitable Devlin phrasing (the word “deserve” being particularly delightful) that serves as the sincerest “thank you.” There’s even another “Eleanor Rigby-like” moment with the quickened pace string accompaniment behind the second “I don’t forget to say thank you” bridge. Celestial bells return for a tender open space expression of gratitude.

-  -  -

How does one go about reinterpreting the single most covered Christmas song of all time? While Bing Crosby may have ushered Irving Berlin’s composition into the world on Christmas Day in 1941, “White Christmas" has since been recorded more than 500 times in several different languages. Undaunted by this challenge, Janet applies her own unique phrasing to words most everyone have known for years against a backdrop of piano and syrupy strings. Clocking in at just over two and a half minutes, it is the shortest track on the EP. However, it doesn’t lack for special moments like when her voice rises in pitch on the word “Christmas,” or simply how she says the word “all” like no other before her.



Things take a turn into a more upbeat realm with the quicker paced “Something Beginning With Christmas.” Accompanied by her trademark ukulele sound, a brisk one-two-three 6/8 (or is that 9/8) “sea shanty” time signature paces this joyful little ditty. And much like those historical shanties, it’s a densely worded little affair that even includes the spelling out of the word C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. As if right on cue, a chorus of salty sailors (or reveling tavern patrons) enter the fray singing backup on “the holidays are coming, can you feel them coming?” section. Yes, this one will go down well on boat or in a bar.
-  -  -

The final track “Christmas Kiss” (which was a digital only release previously) builds from a near acapella opening minute (complete with “Oh, oh, oh” vocal hook) that reads like a letter to Santa. An amusing reference to not needing “a brand new Ferrari” softens the polite request that “a Christmas kiss would be nice.” It all picks up quickly as accordions and handclap percussion enter the mix, creating the aura of a joyous Irish folk song. A worthy collection of tracks that is perfect for this time of year.



Janet Devlin’s ‘Little Lights’ is a perfect stocking stuffer and has something special for everyone on your list this Holiday Season. The EP is available for digital purchase on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Bandcamp. The EP is available for streaming on Spotify. It is also available for physical purchase at music retailers nationwide. ‘Little Lights,’ as well as ‘December Daze,’ is available in the OK!Good Records Shop. Exclusive merchandise is available through Pledge Music.


* * * * *