Ooops I totally forgot to mention that we were back rehearsing again and looking to line up some shows this fall. Surprise! So we are playing this Saturday at Out Of The Blue Too Gallery & More in Cambridge MA.
This will be our second time at OOTB and we're excited because we had such a great experience playing there last summer. Other fun statistics include: this show is our first since October 2016 and our 10th show overall.
Aside from the occasional cover song or demo recording, we haven't been all that active this year, for personal reasons that involved a divorce.
But why dwell on that shit, right? Because it certainly hasn't stopped the first half of 2017 from bringing a lot of exciting new music to enjoy! Here are my favorites so far-
Japandroids / Near to the Wild Heart of Life
Canadian rock duo Japandroids decided to kick January right in the nuts by putting out a new batch of epic arena rock songs. Some fans might have been put off by the direction this album takes and the additional elements they added to their sonic palate. But I'm perfectly fine with all that, because as much as I adore Celebration Rock, I don't necessarily want to listen to it all the time. Sometimes I want to hear this instead:
Los Campesinos! / Sick Scenes
January's glorious nut punch was followed quickly in February by a sublime bitch slap from the Welsh indie rock powerhouse Los Campesinos!, and I gotta say this is hands down my favorite album right now. Listening to some these songs makes my heart want to explode. As much as I tend to prefer duos and trios and simple musical arrangements lately, these guys brought it hard for this record, getting enough musical mileage out of their seven piece situation to carry them back & fourth across the Atlantic several times. From the tight AF rhythm section to the next-level vocal harmonies, everything recorded here is top notch. And as always for a LC! record, it's lyrically a cut above most everything else I hear going on out there.
Ok instead of going on and on and on gushing over Sick Scenes, let me just wrap up and say I think it's pretty much a perfect record.
TW Walsh / Terrible Freedom
I stumbled across ex-Pedro the Lion player T. William Walsh a few years back when his 2011 record Songs of Pain and Leisure was included in a digital bundle Jilian happened to download. Anyway, I liked it a lot. (And fun fact: he actually mastered our first two EPs.)
He broke new sonic ground last year with his somewhat experimental (and downright excellent) Fruitless Research, and I really wasn't sure if he could follow up so soon with anything nearly as good. Oh me of little faith, because Terrible Freedom delivers, and probably even surpasses everything else he's done to date. A high fidelity record awash with synthesizers and an 80's vibe, I heard someone describe it "like a funky Neil Young," and I can't disagree.
David Bazan / Care
Ex-Pedro the Lion frontman David Bazan (seeing a pattern here yet?) was not resting on his laurels either, following up last year's Blanco, released in May, with his new album Care this year in March. His stuff always takes me more time to process, but it's always rewarding. He knows how to write a song that cuts right into the human condition and, at least for me, often exposes a sadness that I was maybe trying not to acknowledge. The song "Make Music" is a wonderful, albeit heartbreaking, example of this for me right now.
The Prids / Do I Look Like I'm in Love?
I wasn't sure if I'd ever hear anything from Portland dark-pop quartet The Prids again, after their brilliant 2010 release Chronosynclastic, and some extremely trying times in the years that followed. So I was excited to learn about and support the crowdfunding campaign last year to release a new record, and when Do I Look Like I'm in Love? arrived this year, it did not disappoint. I can try to describe it more, or you can just do yourself a favor and listen for yourself.
(As a side note, theoretical astrophysicist and science blogger Ethan Siegel has some interesting analysis on the concept of parallel universes from a more mathematical/cosmological perspective- if you're interested then check out his Starts with a Bang! podcast, episode 14.)
So I just realized that for me now, it is this first demo recording of a new song (regardless of whether it should be heard by other humans or not) that represents the point where the arrangement comes together and it transforms from a sketch/concept into an actual thing, a song. For instance, when I started recording I wasn't sure exactly what to do at the end, but it just didn't sound right ending just ending with the chorus, so I tried reprising the intro with a new vocal hook, and it just made sense (both sonically and thematically) to repeat that part a bunch and fade it out. The lead guitar part that I really like at the middle & end was cooked up about 30 seconds before I hit the record button for that track. And what I thought were the lyrics going in got a heavy dose of editing as the Monday evening grew late and the bottle of wine emptied. So all this is pretty typical when I try to record a first demo of something, but it was just particularly fun for this song because it all happened over the course of a single evening instead of across several weekends.
The recording was about as straightforward as it gets, with the acoustic guitar and vocals both being recorded in one or two takes each in Audacity using my basic Proslogan DM-1208 mic. However, for the end of the song I switched it up and used my my new crystallized Anthenite microphone, and if you listen closely you can hear copies of me in right as they split off into the branching multi-verse. I hope those guys are having fun out there!
Our September was pretty busy, but not with band stuff. We didn't play any shows and I didn't even get a chance to blog about other people's music. So we're pretty excited about our next show this Thursday (Oct 20) at Penuche's in Manchester. Jil even made this flier to celebrate the event:
As you can see, it will be totally tits-out and we'll be playing with our friends Slow Coyote and Breakfast Lunch & Dinner. You can hear their stuff here:
You can check out the event on facebook and put down for the record your interest or intention to go, and even invite others. That would be totally swell. See you Thursday.
Tomorrow night (Friday July 29) we're making our Boston/Cambridge debut at Out of the Blue Too and playing with a couple other awesome bands. We will probably step onto the stage around 9:30 or 10pm.
This show is the last thing we have currently planned on our shows calendar, and due to a super busy (non-band) schedule for the month of August, this may be our last show of the summer.
So don't miss this chance to see us- next time might be a while.
TOGETHER ON TWO / DEAD TOSA / THE BUGGIES doors at 8pm / music at 9
Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery & More
541 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
All ages. Cover fee is $10 at the door.
We'll have our CDs at the show which we'll be giving away, so this is also a great chance to get yourself a free copy.
Brooklyn ambient/electronic/noise project Dead Tosa is one of the groups that will be joining us for this show, and I'm really excited to see their set. You can check out of the stuff they have posted on bandcamp.
"It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it." -Eugene V. Debs
I'm going to briefly take a detour away from music, and hopefully this won't be a regular thing, because that would be boring and awful. This was from something I shared on facebook a couple weeks ago - I think it was right after Bernie Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton. And I find it bears repeating here now.
If there is one thing I can find to be passionate about in this election cycle, it is reminding people they do not have to support either of the two pathetic choices offered by the default parties. So if you are one of the millions that feel disenfranchised by this election, then please try overcome the tribal instincts to faithfully align with Team Red or Team Blue, and make your vote actually count by asserting your independence.
For your consideration- Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson.
You probably already knew all this, so I apologize for acting like this is some kind of news. But if anything, it's a reminder to myself- that if we are unhappy with the current system, it makes no sense to continue to enable and legitimize it. I say let's try something different this year, or we can only expect more of the same, or worse.
Ok, now back to the rock now please. -curtis
Our latest recording is up - "New wave milo", which is a new faster take on an old favorite (of mine anyway) "Meet my cat." Here, have have a listen-
After talking with my knowledgeable friend Jay and reading some blog stuff about simple microphone setups for drums, I wanted to try something different. First, I wanted to see if I could get good sound using just 1 microphone. But after trying a couple of different things I decided that wasn't going to happen, at least not with the mics I have, so I went with a 2 mic setup-
Audacity has been my primary software for recording and mixing because it is free and pretty easy to pick up and use. But, along with everything else, Jay convinced me to try out Reaper and showed me a few things in the tool. I found its real-time effect processing to be really useful, particularly since I feel rather limited by Audacity in that area.
Anyway, I'm pretty happy with how the drums ended up sounding on "New Wave Milo." I won't blame you if you can't hear the difference from the other songs, but hopefully at least Jay can. And in the spirit of the rawness of the song, I decided to mic the guitar and bass amps instead running the direct line out like I usually do. Recording all that ended up being really straightforward. I ended up doing 2 vocals takes, and I liked the second one best, but (at least in my headphones) also liked the sound of them layered together, even though it worked against the live/no-frills vibe I was aiming for with the song. So choosing between the 2 versions was difficult, and I ended up just posting the other one online anyway. Because why the fuck not?
In addition to this new song, I've been stealthily going back and tweaking the other 'Humble tracks' to round out their sound. That old willful refusal of mine to include bass to most of the mixes was an attempt to remain authentic to our origins as a duo. And maybe it was something different to do, but it just didn't sound that great either. Since we're a 3-piece now anyway, it became more clear that what was good for the live performance is better for the recordings as well. And now that I'm finally starting to figure out how to get the sounds I want, the temptation is definitely there to keep adding more new basement recordings and to keep tweaking the old ones. But I decided somewhere along the way that, at least for "Humble tracks", 10 songs was a good round number to leave it at, and I'm going to stick with that. And I think I'm all done tweaking and fucking around with them- this has been a good warm up, but I believe we are ready to move on and make a real record now, and that we need to at least try doing it with some real studio gear and adult supervision.
So consider yourself un/lucky to even have the opportunity to hear these, since everything so far probably should have never seen the light of day. Yet my heart and soul is in there, so I can't help wanting to share this stuff since it captures something I truly like, and it gives me goals to make all this feel worth doing.
Anyway, I'm proud of our rough basement recordings, the way I'd be proud of a crooked piece of furniture that I built from scratch- the way any amateur is proud of their amateur work. The way a child is proud of their finger painting.
I know it hasn't been easy to listen to, but thank you for listening anyway. Although we're still babies at this band thing, I see us closing out one chapter here and beginning another. And as excited as I am about 'New wave milo' and all the our other humble tracks, I'm even more excited for what's to come.
Here's a confession- music discovery hasn't been much of a priority of mine recently. It seems a bit of a shame given that it is easier than ever to discover and hear new stuff. Then on the other hand it seems somehow I manage to find enough new things to listen to without really trying. And I wanted to sit and think about what those different music exposure vectors actually were.
One thing I should mention is an issue I have of not being able to let go of older music to make room for the new. For instance, I have an "smart" playlist on my itunes that automatically adds anything that hasn't been played in over 1 year. Currently that playlist is 3693 songs, 10.1 days long. And as dumb as it sounds, for some reason it bothers the hell out of me that the number is this large, so I actively try to play music from this list to check its growth.
From itunes I can tell you that I haven't listened to Black Flag's Damaged since February 2013, or Siamese Dream since January of that same year. Of course I could fix that right now for these two example, but not the thousands of other albums collecting digital dust. And undoubtedly having all these statistics and information at a glance is a big driver in this mild obsession of mine, a constant reminder of all my favorite music that I've neglected and for exactly how long. And then there's that subset of my music collection that I'm trying to appreciate and digest, but haven't given the necessary attention. Like how I'm still figuring out my feelings about Tom Waits, but I haven't listened to Rain Dogs since August of 2012. So listening to my own offline collection already feels like drinking from a firehose, and as a result I don't feel a whole lot of motivation to tap into the ocean of streaming music online.
I have to admit that I'm a bit jaded when it comes to new music, which I guess is a pretty normal part of getting older- and my initial skepticism is a high hurdle to overcome for anything that comes along. And I'm less inclined than ever to like something just because a friend listens to it. I'm just a bit hesitant to let new music in, since I know that once the songs are imported, that bond basically lasts forever for me. I may come to neglect those tracks with all the others, but I won't be able to kick them off the island later.
So curated playlists, which I guess are the main vehicle of music discovery on any streaming app, aren't really my thing- I tend to regard them with the same distrust as modern radio. Maybe I'll come around at some point, but for now I prefer more autonomy in my listening.
Despite all this, new artists somehow continue to find their way into my collection over the years. About 10 years ago I started using last.fm, and I think it was the first time I saw algorithm-based playlist recommendations anywhere. Here I discovered pretty much all the post-rock acts that became mainstays in my collection- Explosions in the Sky, Caspian, This Will Destroy You. These days, although I still scrobble my plays in the background (did I mention my fetish for collecting useless statistics?), I rarely visit the last.fm site anymore since its corporate buyout and subsequent functional downgrade during the unnecessary UI overhaul. But I'll always have last.fm to thank for giving me some of my first grown up music.
And then later I found a lot of other cool music on blip.fm, which was a fun site- kind of like Twitter for streaming music. I liked the guerrila-radio broadcast aspect of the site, but without a lot of followers, and a waning thirst for new music, I eventually lost interest.
Next it was those (now apparently defunct) Sound Supply bundles (like 10 digital albums for $10 or something) that Jil was in the habit of buying a few years ago. There always seemed to be 1 or 2 gems in each bundle that changed my world, like TW Walsh's "Songs of pain and leisure". Other supply drop discoveries included Right Away Great Captain (solo side project from Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra) and Young Statues (solid American-indie act that kind of starts to fill the void that Voxtrot left when they broke up).
My most recent source of new music online has been SoundCloud, which I like since it brings the new music directly from the artist. Here I was introduced to some of my new favorites like The New Division, Joanna Gruesome, and composer Keith Kenniff (the force behind Helios and Mint Julep).
But I think the majority of killer discoveries lately have been openers at live shows. This is probably where I'm most open to making that connection with a new artist because my inherent skepticism is pushed to the background and the act onstage has my full attention by default. I guess a solid live set just seems much more impressive to me than a solid recording. So it has been more often than not that Jil and I leave a live show with a CD from one of the openers. We see a lot of shows, so the list could go on and on, but a few notable examples include The Bots when they opened up for Death From Above 1979, Rozwell Kid opening for Get Up Kids, and Big Thief who opened for Nada Surf. Most recently it was the amazing Casket Girls who played right after TW Walsh on the Graveface Roadshow in Boston last month.
So on one hand, all of this seems plenty- enough music falls in my lap that seeking out more just feels unnecessary. On the other hand, a big part of me wants to take a more active role in this discovery, and to find and support more hard working independent artists and labels that are worthy of attention, praise, and money (and those coveted spots in my overstuffed digital music collection). So I think I'm going to do that, starting by taking a closer look across the rosters of the labels that host some of my favorite bands, and write about what I find. And Graveface Records actually made it really easy for me to get started on that, but more on that in a later post.
The next DIY music video we were planning to do was for the song Cactus, but then yesterday we were doing some yard work and Jil saw this caterpillar thing getting its shit wrecked by a bunch of ants and we decided to film that nonsense and obviously make it into a video for the song Brandi's Baby.
And the lyrics (Kimmy Schmit version) are there so you can even sing along. Please enjoy.
This and our other 'Humble tracks' are available for streaming the free download on bandcamp.