Wading through the constant barrage of entertainment options (and information in general) can be a daunting task. The choices made are driven by everything you know up to this point, along with where you'd like to direct your experiences going forward. Included along with the impressive new music reviewed here in this month of April are references to “pop culture” influences that have also captured the imagination. Three separate recorded works receive this sites distinguished individual track analysis alongside noteworthy (and insightful) divertissement.
Finding their way into the DaveCromwellWrites universe is the Burbank, California music label Big Stir Records. Fielding contact messages from multiple social media directions (IM's, emails), recognition of their worthy output was a near immediate experience. Based out on the West Coast USA, the label features artists from all over the US, UK, Sweden and Germany.
Initial motivation comes by way of label runners own band The Armoires and their full-length album (18 tracks!), which was initially delivered in a series of mysterious single releases culminating in the collection aptly titled “Incognito.”
Leading off this fully pulled together collection is a cover of John Cale's 1973 album title track “Paris 1919.” Where Cale's original relies heavily on orchestral instrumentation (string quartet, French horns) along with his customary piano chords, the Armoires quicken the pace and lean on guitars, drums and a more driving violin for a punchier sound. Additionally, Cale's densely layered lyrics are now delivered via the bands signature dual harmonies of lead vocalists Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome. That tandem vocal quality is instantly appealing, providing a unique thread throughout all of the tracks.
A quick-strum acoustic guitar in three-quarter “waltz time” kicks off follow-up cut “(Just Can't See) The Attraction.” With Rex out front on the opening lyrics, Christina harmonies fall in quickly on this quirky tale of “he and she” relationship. That strong violin helps drive things along once again, provided here and throughout the album by Christina's daughter Larysa (decidedly more “country” than “classical.”) “It's a recipe for disaster, but that recipe tasted too sweet” is how the lyrical hook goes, underscoring an overall theme of an unlikely pairings ultimate success.
The humorous and biting commentary on present-day social media issues is duly noted on the proggy “I Say We Take Off And Nuke The Site From Orbit.” Ticking off the now often repeated acts of “unsubscribe, un-trend, unlike, un-care,” evolves into “anti social media – anti social structure – I need to tag and tag again.” Eventually posing the ultimate question - “if I go viral, do I win?” As the track progresses, swirling vocal layers create the sensation of “lifting off” from the planet, while clever use of the lyrics “listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise” (the opening lines from Fleetwood Mac's “The Chain”) are dropped in for good measure.
Additional covers of note include the 1970 hit am radio single “Yellow River” by British band Christie. Moving a decade ahead, the Armoires do an interesting take on 80's “new wave” progressive pop hit “Senses Working Overtime” by English rock band XTC. On that particular update, the band replace Andy Partridge's initial acoustic guitar with Christina's piano, as well as fleshing out the originals reedy solo vocal via signature dual harmonies. This being one of those universally popular “number count” songs, Partridge credits the 1964Manfred Mann hit song “5-4-3-2-1” as inspiration.
Another stand-out track (that comes with an official video release) is the song “Great Distances.” Built around Christina's piano chords, thundering tom-tom percussion, dual layer acoustic and chiming Rickenbacker guitars, a tale comparing physical travel with life's internal journey unfolds. The lyrics are sharp and witty, with a memorable line “we didn't wrap our heads around the truth because heads don't bend like that.” Instrumental passages are further enhanced by Larysa's emotive violin and a driving bass guitar that create counter-melodies of their own. The limiting of people's mobility over the last year makes lines like “we could have traveled great distances together – if we had only known” even more poignant. Repeated phrase “but you were beautiful then, and you'll be beautiful now” is ultimately inverted to “and you were beautiful now and you'll be beautiful then” for the songs final sentiment.
Certain things can tickle the mind, fascinating on both a humorous and investigative level. Having an interest in history, legendary lore and pop culture films (along with having to endure an advanced math class or two over the last few years) made discovery of the “juicedratic equation” appealing on a number of levels. For those as of yet uninformed, the reason Starburst candy's are so juicy is due to a secret equation that is kept inside a safe, inside a vault, inside a volcano.
Why are there three nested containers for the juicedratic equation? One must look at the previously established quadratic equation: “a” times “x” squared plus “b” times “x” plus “c” is equal to zero. Three terms. And “a” cannot be zero. You end up getting a parabola if you graph a quadratic equation. In Physics, we see a parabola in the path that a projectile takes (one launched, thrown, or fired, but not self-propelled), assuming no friction loss. (Think: Angry Birds without the boosters.) Another example is Einstein’s famous equation of “E” equal to “mc” squared, just with terms moved around. The quadratic equation can be useful, and not just a frustrating equation to be solved in an Algebra class.
We know why the juicedratic equation can never be proven. It’s locked inside a safe, inside a vault, inside a volcano. And who is going to the volcano to retrieve it? First, which volcano? Who has enough free time to check all the volcanoes out, and what of those under the sea?
When viewing the clip below, one can relate to the sense of satisfaction the worker (on break here – but you can tell he's a hard worker) has with his stated recognition of both wonder and relief: “Ahh – juicedratics.” OF COURSE!
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Reading the promotional material for a band calling themselves The Forty Nineteens and their album “New Roaring Twenties” peaked a level of curiosity that continued incrementally, wading through it all. Having worked in law firms for many years, the revelation that two criminal defense attorneys front the band created additional motivation to check them out. Forming the band while working in the San Diego courts, they landed on a name that is something said by every judge in every courtroom in the state of California. That term is "Forty Nineteen," and a 4019 credit is time off the sentence of a detainee who behaves in jail.
That clever notation aside, what does their music sound like? It's definitely rock music, but we all know there are many sub-genre's of that illustrious hybrid sound (the 1950's collision of Country with Rhythm and Blues). Opening cut “It's For Fun (That's All We're Living For)” taps into that favorite bar band feel, sounding like Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes (or even Springsteen) in their early club playing days. Follow-up cut “Tell Me” takes the “I Want Candy” drum beat and turns it on it's head. The chorus is catchy and there's even some cool slide guitar enhancements in-between repeated vocal hooks.
“Late Night Radio” has a chugging downward chord progression similar to the 1967 hit “Bend Me Shape Me.” However coincidentally (or perhaps not so) this recording features contributions from The Standells legendary guitarist Tony Valentino, who's own mid-60's hit “Dirty Water” is as popular in some circles today as it was back then.
“We're Going To Las Vegas” successfully blends the spirit of Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley is a good time just over two minute rocker. “Go Little GTO” doubles down on the above while shaving six seconds off the previous tracks total time. “Time Marches On” serves up a stomping rhythm under a tale about growing older through the prism of “old friends.” “You've Got Stardust Eyes” packs a number of rhythmic hooks and changes (including it's catchy chorus) within a tidy two and three quarter minutes.
Somewhat surprisingly, the tracks actually get stronger as the album progresses. “I'm Always Questioning Days” embraces a Tom Petty energy, with insightful lyrics about how misleading so much of this life is. “Some have the answers, or so they say – but they don't give all the secrets away. They don't tell me – what I need to know.” For sure “they” don't. We have to do the hard work and figure it out for ourselves. The following cut “It's The Worst Thing I Could Do” is a hard charging rocker that showcases the best of slashing power chords, tambourine rattle, harmonious vocal interplay and good-timey piano.
Final track “We Can't Change” makes quality use of the tremolo guitar effect on this chugging mid-tempo rocker. “I don't want it, you don't want it, we don't want it” becomes the primary sing-along vocal refrain.
It's rare that too much time passes before another Shoredive Records release turns up in a DaveCromwellWrites review. This time a Russian collective calling themselves Secrets Of The Third Planet (which we all know from Jimi Hendrix's “Third Stone From The Sun” - is Earth) has recently reissued a 10th Anniversary Edition of their EP “Lost In Reverie.” Originally recorded and released in 2011, the new-to-this-writer tracks encompass that timeless sound of all the great “gazey” bands.
This now makes the second Shoredive Records reissue of Russian gaze covered here, with the wonderful COSme getting detailed feature writing a year ago, and ultimately included in the annual Best Of collection. This particular group (who also refer to themselves via the abbreviation “S3P”) started out as a solo project of Eugene Frankevich, eventually evolving into the fuller band represented here.
The near seven minute opening cut “Still” emerges out of singular droning hum before cymbal-and-snare-shot heavy percussion, steady bass and a driving guitar line set the proper melody in motion. The combined guitar and bass emphasize each of the progressions chords, quickly establishing a classic dreampop romanticism. As rising guitar layers are added, sensations of what The Cure at their dreamiest has done comes to mind. The track plateau's a minute and a half in, where all drops out, leaving a singular keyboard pad. Arpeggiated electronic keyboards then begin, pushing the composition into a motorik direction, while additional keyboard and guitar melody lines provide slower moving counterpoint. Layers continue to build as drums let loose in a jammy-in-the-studio way, while gazey guitar rhythms push to the fore, creating an ambient swirl of pure blissed-out cacophony.
Follow-up track Дыши (and it IS fun to cut and paste these mysterious, unreadable titles) combines angels-on-clouds ambience, ticking high-hat percussion and the first vocal performance from Eugene. While the voices serve only as another “instrument” (unable to decipher what is actually being said), lovely dreamlike passages exemplify the universally timeless appeal of dreamgaze music. Third cut Диафильм(Feat.WEO) introduces a female component with vocals and lyrics by Daria X. With it's introductory thumping heartbeat percussion and single-note ambient wash, Daria's vocal achievement commences with ardent motivation. More traditional pop-rock figures are put forward, giving the song an appealing balance between haze and harmony. Emphasis is firmly placed on the mysterious (to this listener) vocals, however the passion conveyed transcends any language barrier. Explosive moments of full-sonic-field fireworks are pitched against quieter moments, culminating in a gazey liftoff to the heavens.
Drone, buzz and distant angelic voices are joined by more motorik percussion on fourth track “Tonight.” Pulsing keyboards create counter-melodies to Eugene's static, chanted and heavily echoed vocals, giving the song a Jesus and Mary Chain “Barbed Wire Kisses” feel. “Autumn Song” leans on bass guitar for rhythmic structure, allowing keyboards to delineate melodies that morph between major and minor key. Peter Hook era New Order would approve. Final cut “E-A(Lost in reverie) Feat.WEO,” brings back vocalist/lyricist Daria X to add her magic to this EP title track. With the two vocalist delivering their parts separately, flutey keyboard lines juxtapose against shimmering guitars.
Check out this wonderful EP here:
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Returning to the axis where music, pop culture and inventive creativity converge, one of the flat-out best shows going today – The Boys – has given us all an anthem for the ages. Of course I'm referring to the gorgeous (and current crush) Erin Moriarty in her role as super hero “Starlight”. Watch and listen below as her incredible musical tribute to a fallen comrade tugs at ALL of our heart-strings. Because – “No – YOU guys are the real heroes!”
Dave Cromwell has been writing about music since the dawn of the internet age. In addition to the steady flow of features here on this site, he has been a regular contributor to The Deli Magazine (both Print and Web) since 2010. With numerous Print Issue cover features and weekly contributions on the Deli website, scores of artists have received the Cromwell point of view. Along with ongoing contributions to this site and The Deli Magazine, Dave has written for Dingus, My Social List, The Waster and Soma website magazines.