It's been over four years since New York and New Jersey collective Like Herding Cats put out proper studio recordings of new material. With the release of their much anticipated “Curious Faces” EP on July 13th, the band comes through with five creatively stimulating and impeccably recorded tracks.
Working this new material into their live shows over the last few years has offered a level of familiar recognition as well as a glimpse into what these already well-written songs could become in a careful studio environment. That promise has now come to fruition with the capable assistance of mixer/producer (and long time associate) Mod Alien (guitarist/keyboardist for Elefant and Radio 4) with mastering by Alan Douches (Mastodon, Grizzly Bear, Kurt Vile) of West West Side Music.
In addition to the new record, the band has released a music video for their single "Affliction." Employing his own Carousel Media House video production company, frontman Dom P produced and directed this visually striking artistic accompaniment.
Filmed in a historic Catskills home, the imagery depicts a stylish but internally troubled woman in precise quick cuts and focused details. Much like Amy Adams in her current HBO drama “Sharp Objects,” attractively styled close ups and bucolic scenery share space with an uneasy tension.
The song itself is a brilliant update on the very best elements of mid-80's-to-early-90's alternative pop. From the opening three snare-drum shots, warm keyboard pads, quick pulsing bass guitar and distinctive repeated sonic hook (echoed by overlaying guitar licks) every note has it's place and purpose. Additional 80's-style pop techniques emerge like electronic percussive “hand claps” that signal changing moments within the structure. Lyrically the tale has the singer questioning someone (a woman we soon find out) about their “troubled life,” asking “what's in your head?” It all leads to a gorgeous chorus where the voice is now the woman in question's point-of-view, who pleads “I don’t want to be the one they talked about in the night she cries and says Mercy, upon my soul!” It's a fantastic track overall with Dom's passionate vocals carrying the distinct and indelible melody.
Playing a celebratory show one day in advance of it's release on Thursday, July 12th, the band played a lengthy set of older tracks mixed in with everything from this new EP.
Sticking with that prime mid-80's-era feel, “Sacred Hearts” point to sonic aspects of The Cure, Echo + The Bunnymen and The Smiths as reference points. That extends into the lyrical delivery and vocal cadence, which dips into the McCulloch/Morrissey phrasing style. With drums thundering down on the deeper register toms, a powerful bassline and melody-driven guitar lines once again exemplifies the spacial quality of these recordings. It all rises to a big, glorious chorus that states “no I can’t be of any help to you when you’re silent and playing dead - No I can’t be of any help to you, when you’re pushing me away.” Those catchy mid-tempo hooks continue, while a curious and potentially macabre conclusion is revealed after the repeated lyric “In the night..Standing there silently looking over me” – “With a knife… in your hands.. Contemplating life.”
Midpoint track “To See The Morning Sun” opens with a curiously cerebral fifteen seconds of swirling atmospherics before the drums kick in. That textural combination continues as clean guitar lines and slithering bass work their way into the mix. A snare drum roll ushers in the main melody line that captures the bright and bouncy spirit of The Cure's happier songs. While an inquisitive lyrical story of a “house on fire” may also reference the aforementioned band, the goal here is to “escape” and “see the sun.” That snare roll/full band build-up returns, signaling the melody hook with a chorus that goes “It’s like a kiss underwater, a kiss underwater like the one you give.”
A brief, syncopated intro sets up the central progression for ambling, easy groove track “Easter Song.” Melodies come churned out by quick strummed chords and distinct single note guitar lines. Cybernetic imagery (“plug your screen into my spine” and “your wires in my head”) come paired with religious metaphor (“hammer nails into my cross when the leaves turn green”). High falsetto vocals on the outro are the product of bandmembers only (no guest female vocalist necessary).
EP closing track “It Falls Apart” showcases the finest elements of fully mature, arena-level alternative rock techniques employed by big bands like The Cure. There's the gentle, digital delay opening guitar notes, butterfly-ripple high-hat flutters against beefy snare shots and fluid low-register bass guitar pattern. Fully syncopated motion is established by the rising guitar counter-melody, completing this emotionally seductive progression. The story told establishes a melancholy state where one half of a relationship is looking to move on. In fact, they are “begging” the other not to talk as “there’s nothing left for us to say.” A brilliant rumbling tom tom and synth pad section brings to mind the dynamics of classic early MTV heyday 80's songs like “I Melt With You” by Modern English and “Whisper To A Scream” by Icicle Works. This emotionally wrought vocal performance is only matched by the brilliant song design, sound quality and convincingly passionate playing by each member of the band.
In addition to the new EP material, the band filled out their live show playing many of the much beloved songs from their debut record.
Once again Dom and the the boys played an inspired version of Echo And The Bunneymen's "Bring On The Dancing Horses."
Along with a similarly reverential rendition of "Years Gone" (dedicated to those souls who have recently left us here in the mortal world).
Good time meet ups and the social media afterglow continue to cement lasting bonds between friends and colleagues.
Pick up "Curious Faces" here.
Like Herding Cats play next on August 9th at Coney Island Baby in NYC, and you can find out all the details on that show right here.
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Check out the previous DaveCromwellWrites feature on Like Herding Cats here.
- - - - -The band played a seamless 10 song set comprised of the four singles and one EP released over the last two years.
Just prior to the LHC performance, this year's bright new discovery The Cold Seas played a full set of their own impressive material.
Having covered the most recent single and video for their breakthrough track "Retrograde" here on This Site and The Deli Mag, catching one of their live shows was only a matter of time - and that time had arrived.
Highlights included 2017 single “Oblivion,” which combines a big time modern pop feel with lyrics of heartbreak and loss. Stating that “dissecting memories, is all that's left for me,” the mood is direct and personal. “Show me oblivion. Take what you want and then – pretend you're there for me – constant and endlessly.” The chorus bursts like a huge emotional hook, with “all this wasted in my heart,” and “you're the poison in my blood.” While poetic subject matter mines the depths of anguish, the songs over-sized chorus is tailor-made for a first-love romantic film or MTV reality show.
Another 2017 single “Where Is My Head” is a minimalist electronic-synth psychological breakdown, where obsession with another (“I know I shouldn't crave you”) disregards the obvious damages (“you kill like a cancer, but it doesn't phase me – I'll still take my chances”).
While early 2017 single “Catacombs” starts out as a voice and guitar only intro (“secrets out – through the doors of an empty house you live no doubt”), it soon morphs into a deep synth-bass and trip-hop percussive groove. “I failed to be – all the things I said I would be. In a cold sweat dream, in the warmth of this – faded fast as I reminisce, how it came to this” provides stream-of-conscious storytelling paired to that lock-down rhythm. The beat momentarily drops out, allowing for an introspective, dream-like sequence that serves as a necessary bridge to yet-another large, hooky chorus. “I'm always alone – like bodies in the catacombs” delivers the requisite punchline song title reveal. Catchy melodies are delivered through alternating rising and descending flute-like synth textures.
Much of the set also included the four songs off of their "Bad Dreams" EP, with "Half Awake," "Lucid," "Feed Your Heart" and the title track. They closed out the show with their current single "Retrograde."
Keep up on the latest from The Cold Seas on their Official Site, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
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The very next night had the Crom-mobile heading a half-a-mile south to storied NYC rock venue The Mercury Lounge for a long-awaited live show appearance by two highly regarded bands.
Returning from a far too lengthy hiatus, New York's noisy surf-rockers The Vandelles recently released their first single “Techromancer” which will be included on the peculiarly titled forthcoming album "Hate Will Bring Us Together."
Working on other projects during the break did nothing to temper the bands penchant for twangy guitars and California beach vibrations. The rhythm section comes on even harder this time around with a circular throbbing bass line and aggressive thrashing percussion.
Creating a new word for the songs title by combining modern video gameplay (Technomancer) with the groundbreaking sci-fi cyberpunk classic Neuromancer is intriguing on a number of levels. “I'd rather be dead than you, I'd rather be black and blue, I'll greet the darkness when it comes” sets the initial lyrical tone.
Those quieter moments serve to set up an explosive chorus that goes “so come and get it, come and get it from me – I 'm always ready,” accompanied by slashing power chords over pounding drums and bass.
In addition to a few other new songs (some having been played live at least once, others brand new) the band dipped deep into their catalog playing classic cuts from debut album Del Black Aloha.
Outstanding tracks from that album like "Get Down," "Fever Of The Beat" and "Die For It Cowboy" went down with expected enthusiasm from die-hard and new fan alike.
Other new, previously showcased (but yet to be officially released) tracks like "Beat You Up" has evolved into the type of powerhouse track that deserves inclusion on the bands next longplayer. It's heavy driving groove takes full advantage of power trio bravado, with low rumble fuzz bass and guitars locked in unison over tom-tom laden jungle drums. A momentary drop out of the rhythm section allows for the primary guitar riff to play through, before full forceful momentum is restored. “Beat, beat, beat, beat beat you up” is the pummeling outro that that suggest two possible meanings - the actual ass-shaking, head-bobbing “beat” of the song – with the more literal physical interpretation.
Rhythm section rumble n' ruckus
Singing telepathically, direct from the cerebral cortex.
Fun with The Vandelles post show
Additional new live material can be found here
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During that time off core members Lauren Langer Larson and her husband Eric Larson had a child together, which served as a catalyst for much of this albums new material.
Playing a 13 song set, 8 of the album's 10 tracks were mixed in among the bands classic live material. Opening with long-time favorite “Conductor,” the band hit the ground running with both Eric and Lauren doing their power-bass and guitar-pummeling/whirling dervish moves respectively.
The first of the brand new material played was initial album preview track “Two Years Sleep.” With it's repeated refrain “waking up after two years sleep,” a personal touch is conferred on what feels like being held in a lengthy state of inertia. That sentiment is taken a step further with the hooky drop “I I I I cannot watch you sleep – nothing is forever” over slightly off-kilter guitar tones and synthy sonic washes. All of that is juxtaposed against a chunky, mid-tempo rock rhythm on the verses containing a touch of mystery. A gentle plateau of open note guitar figures and rat-a-tat military-style snare drum rolling leads to one more penultimate moment.
That was followed by another track from the new record, the popular-style vowels removed “BDY DBL.” Digging deeper now into more complex and angular riffs, the track springs from a 6-note guitar figure, completing the cycle on the 7th. With verse lyrics and vocals syncing up to that 6-note melody, Lauren's delivery is soft and sultry. A less-fragmented bass pattern emerges underneath Lauren's open note chord structures and soft coo vocals stating “you are the girl I want to know, I want tooooooooo.” That already rewarding slow buildup leads to full band momentum, with atmospheric washes under tandem voice and guitar melody lines.
Continuing with the new material roll-out, “The Center” builds off a driving bass pattern and hyperactive drumming. Lauren's structured guitar lines ride over top, creating both melody and counterpoint to the rhythm underneath. A breathless story unfolds like a dream, where one is “chased to the center” before declaring “I feel you – don't go digging down – as I crash – finding my way out.” The sensation given is similar to a “chase” movie, where one is running fast through the jungle, searching for something -but – what? “Take me in your madness - transfer all your sadness – take me out of my mind,” provide lyrical context that offer potential clues. “Gonna sit this one out,” becomes a repeated mantra over a descending note progression, replaced by “No more weakness” on the dynamic outro.
With a recent full video release for next song “Crushed,” feature treatment was given here at the midpoint of the set. The songs opening lyrical incantation “Do – Not – Grow – Up” appears to exhibit a plea to freeze in time that special bond between parent and child. The full band build-up of throbbing bass and echo'd toms comes to an abrupt halt for an intimate moment. “Accepting catastrophe – everything you made me I am crushed” gives meaning to the single word title. With an intense-yet-gentle strumming on guitar, the hope for a brighter future is declared, stating “I dream that you might see – all those heights I could never reach.” While the poetic turn “If there's just one chance to speed through the shadows – the moment I met you my love turned to sunlight” fully underscores this newfound purpose.
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A delicate guitar and voice intro gives deeper album track “Stop Resisting” an early, soothing lullaby quality. With the softly sung line “you wait for me – to stop resisting – stop resisting” floating momentarily, a quick tempo change doubles the cadence and engages the rest of the band more fully. Straddling the line between intimate reading and power ballad, “I could never be enough” is tossed out like a lament to the universe. “I just want to feel it, I don't want to stop it” becomes the most forceful and passionate sentiment delivered just before the songs conclusion.
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Dissonant guitar lines over quieter strummed guitar chords introduces mid-point album track “After The Show.” Held towards the end of the set, sweet siren vocals proclaim “tonight I heard you sing, all of those things, that sound like the one I mean - just for me.” With the echo of those final words floating off into the mist, a series of ornate guitar figures are laid out with soulful purpose. Those hypnotic-vocals-to-extended-guitar forays cycle through two more times before a brief calm sends the band off on a hard charge. A final minute of dying-embers extended guitar tones and quiet feedback signal in post-revelry contemplation.
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Find out how to acquire Ume's brand new album and more here at their Official Site
Catching up with Lauren post-show
The band's own NYC Selfie
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Like Herding Cats wrote:
Love this in-depth, beautifully written DaveCromwellWrites feature on our new EP and live show! Very cool to make the front page along side our pals, The Cold Seas. Thank you Dave!
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LHC bassist Tim Jansen shared:
Dave Cromwell wrote a very nice review of the new Like Herding Cats EP. Give it a read and then pop on over to Spotify to give the record a listen!
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LHC guitarist Seb wrote:
Thanks Dave, I love it! So detailed and nuanced — thanks for appreciating our music.
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LHC grand master Dom wrote:
I feel like I can breathe again after reading this man.
thank you isn't enough but I am gracious.
nothing will top this amazing review brother.
its eloquent and so descriptive. Thank you for doing this justice and shining light on all of our hard work. Thank you for you incredible hard work and passion over the years.
I'm happy to read this. I labor dark obscurity when I am doing these things, so I really appreciate positive feedback when it comes. You made an excellent record there Like Herding Cats. Hopefully my descriptions will inspire the curious to seek our your music. 🎶
Love everything you did on that record Tim! Simon Gallup reborn!
"In depth" is my middle name. (Actually, it's Patrick, but I'm in the process of changing it to "in depth") 😁
The Cold Seas wrote:
Dave Cromwell breaks down our latest show at Bowery Electric for the Like Herding Cats EP release show. Check it out! — at The Bowery Electric.
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The Cold Seas linked on their Instagram:
@thecoldseas - 1,454 followers
Asbury Park, NJ
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Chad Sabo wrote:
Thanks so much, Dave! Great seeing you too!
The joy is in the "breakdown" The Cold Seas! 😎 You guys make excellent music.
Was happy to finally catch you guys live! 🎸🥁🎹
Honey Valentine wrote:
Tired of cat posts? Here’s one about bands (except I guess for the herding cat thing)!
We wrote a song and then Dave Cromwell wrote about the song. READ!
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Rolando Alvarado wrote:
Thank you, Dave
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Jasno Swarez wrote:
I loved reading this gorgeous review about my band!
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Julian Woolsey wrote:
This “Techromancer” song by The Vandelles is badass!
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Jenna Emens-Escalera wrote:
I love this tune “Techromancer” by The Vandelles, and the mix is sweet. We can hear Jasno Swarez! 🎧 rockin' tune my friends. Cheers!
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Chris Mills wrote:
I like the second shot of Dave with The Vandelles especially ... "Hey, I'm havin' a good time ... so sue me, ya shmuck!"
Not that I'm stereotyping anyone for being a New Yorker ... just that all the films I've seen means that ALL New Yorkers are from a Woody Allen sketch! 😁❤️
Oh, Honey! No one is ever tired of cat posts! But - yeah - this bands one is pretty cool. Especially those The Vandelles "cats" 😸 A writers gotta write - and a drummer's gotta thrash!
You got it Rolando! Love the way you play.
Thanks for the Share, Jasno! Much of The Vandelles goodness there! 🎶
If *anything* was made for Perfect Prescription, Julian - its THIS track! 😁
I agree that the mix, levels and clearness of voice are all there on that track #JENZO 🤘
I actually "art directed" that photo, Chris. I said let's make a "surprised" or "television presenter" face! 😁 Clearly only Honey and I played along. 😸
UME Posted on Twitter:
New #davecromwellwrites #review feature focusing on @likeherdincats @Thecoldseas @umemusic @modernoutsider @Wstwstsidemusic @thevandelles @jasnoswarez new #record #releases + recent #liveshow here https://tinyurl.com/ybtpqyad #Writer #writerslife #electronic #rock 🤟#bestnewmusic.
Replying to @DaveCromwell
Thanks for kind words and getting deep into the songs!
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@TheBigSleepNYC posted on Twitter:
Like Herding Cats Retweeted Dave Cromwell
Another rad review about our new EP by @DaveCromwell 💥💀💥🙏⚡️ thanks Dave.Like Herding Cats added,
New #davecromwellwrites #review feature focusing on @likeherdincats @Thecoldseas @umemusic @modernoutsider @Wstwstsidemusic @thevandelles @jasnoswarez new #record #releases + recent
A couple of hotshots and some pretty guitars
Joined September 2010
"Digging deep" into songs is the only way you can truly appreciate them. An analytical listen reveals all of the creative elements and precise detail that the artist has put in to their work.
Social Media acknowledgments and shares always appreciated.
Denise Santé Sruoginis wrote:
I caught Like Herding Cats and The Cold Seas. But you guys were both mesmerizing as usual!
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Tara Adams wrote:
Nice! Very fun read! Well done.
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Scott Orr wrote:
I thought it was less than half a mile from Bowery Electric to Mercury Lounge, but as usual you are correct.
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April Orr wrote:
Now I am really, really Looking forward to seeing Like Herding Cats... Dang, Crom, you get around.
Everything sounded perfect Denise + Dom ! 👌
Google maps my friend. The stats don't lie Scott 📝
You are gonna love their sound April! And you won't have to travel very far to hear them! 😊
excellent analysis of each band and their songs. I too am impressed at the attention to detail on so many of the recorded tracks. having taken some time to listen to each song reviewed, confirms to me how insightful each of these thoughtful descriptions are. well done with this!
First and foremost - the artists make the music. They write the songs and record them to the best of their ability with the resources available to them at that given moment. As a writer, reporter and chronicler of events myself, I only hope my observations and attention to these creations are recognized for the focused analysis they are.
Sebouh Gemdjian wrote:
Thanks so much for covering the show, Dave! Always awesome to see you!
I was reading this, so beautiful man. I love the comparison of the style of the video to the themes in Sharp Objects on HBO, such a cool connection to the zeitgeist. Thanks again!
Hey Sebouh - thanks for picking up on that. I was hoping somebody else reading was a viewer and could see the point I was making. There really is a "zeitgeist" element in reviewing and comparisons that pop into my head, so I appreciate when someone else can see it. I'm always concerned no one else will know what the hell I'm talking about 😝
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