Archive for September, 2020


Shamir’s Other Side…

Hearing an artist’s new output with expectations of a particular sound isn’t fair. Don’t assume that artist is in the same state as their previous record. Things change, we evolve, our interests don’t remain stagnant. Shamir, chameleon-like quirky rocker outta Philly, came on the scene as a brave and queer pop artist, one confidently creating an energetic and exuberant sound. His record Ratchet was hard to not smile at, shake and let loose to. His fourth single from his forthcoming Shamir LP, out on 10/2, bends any thoughts you had about another chaotic dance-pop Ratchet.

This time his horse’s saddle is packed: full of steel guitar and banjo to create the country-centric “Other Side”. A perfect companion piece for Quentin Tarantino’s next spaghetti-western where our hero kicks in the saloon’s batwing doors and absolutely unloads on any and all betrayers of the law.

Shamir writes “Other Side” from the perspective of a Vietnam War widow, a spouse who never was reunited with her lost husband and his fateful outcome. Like any great country piece, it’s a narrative. Our writer on where he found inspiration:

I watched an episode of Unsolved Mysteries about a woman whose husband was lost during the Vietnam War and how she never gave up trying to get answers about what happened to him. I wrote this song from her perspective. They’re both now deceased, so the song is also about how (I hope) they’ve reunited in the afterlife, or more accurately, the “Other Side.”


Sault’s Little Boy…

End an album on a high, banging note, or bring your collection of songs to a gentle close with a moving and beautiful piece of poetry. Sault, the mysterious act with an undefinable sound due to their dizzying array of virtuosic-like genre-hopping, has chosen the latter on their brilliant Untitled (Rise) record.

A closing track, like a conclusion in a life-altering piece of writing, is meant to leave you contemplating the album’s motivations. This record wants to force you into introspection; expects you to check your privilege and become uncomfortable with its black centric message, and simultaneously force the hard-hitting rhythms and arrangements to make it impossible to sit still.

Variety speaks of “Little Boy”, track 15 of 15 on this timely and formidable release, as channeling Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” thematically and aurally. The similarities abound: pushing through adversity and developing grit to be stronger next time life kick’s your ass. Sault speaks of our current period where people that look like them are being innocently killed by supposed good guys.

Young children look up to police. They’re heroes who help. Sault has endured the challenges and has an opposing viewpoint: not all police equally protect all people.

We try to do right by our children. Lead by example, enlighten them how to act and then react in certain situations and protect them from evil. This songstress strives to protect her black son’s innocence as she movingly sings, “When you get older, you can ask me all the questions, and I will tell you the truth about the boys in blue.” For now, take this piano-driven soulful piece and be grateful for today.


Heart Bones’s Little Dancer (Draft Resurrection)

A resurrected draft a month before the pandemic hit. Little did I know how a careless, maybe guilty synth-pop duo would be during this period.

Being serious is for losers. Smile at silly shit, embrace the moments that cause embarrassment. The more random hilarity, the better. Blow a trumpet in their face randomness. Not all our listening habits need to involve deep, complex themes and layered instrumentation. Less can be more. Heart Bones share this philosophy.

A duo comprised of Har Mar Superstar, a crooning soulful sex magnet of sorts, full of repeatable offenses like “Prisoner” and “Lady, You Shot Me”, amongst other greatness; with co-conspirator Sabrina Ellis, the Austinite party starter of chaotic fun Sweet Spirit and formerly of A Giant Dog. The combination is lighthearted, something to lose yourself in.

On their Junior Boys-esque “Little Dancer”, there is no false pretense here, the objective is obvious: let’s smash. A back and forth sales pitch between Har Mar and Sabrina where the desired outcome is lust. The negotiation techniques are drenched in pulsing beats, a chugging bass line, and head nodding alchemy. Their technique is masterful, I need to bite these moves to make moves.

That’s what we all need right now: an excuse to be silly, not think about the present, and experience an alternate reality through head nodding, smile inducing music.


Local H Visits Psychedelic Magazine…

You got a brand new, potentially strongest record of your career. You can’t nationally tour to get the word out. But that won’t deter you from moving forward and continuing to do what you do best: “bashing the shit out of your instrument and screaming your head off”, shares Scott Lucas of Chicago’s Local H as he fields insightful questions from Psychedelic Magazine.

From Led Zepplin’s continued impact on their sound, that smart and deliberate tracklisting, Scott the regurgitator, and H’s purpose for insanely cathartic dynamics. A concise back and forth that further corroborates why this duo is going stronger than ever three decades later.


Sault’s Untitled (Rise)

If I write a hypnotic, know it’s damn good record that is meant to bring change, I want credit. If the grooves, funk, and rhythms are hip shaking and cause a ruckus upon your dance floor, you’ll know I created it. If it makes ripples initially, then brings seismic waves throughout the music world, I’m owning it. Sault, a mysterious U.K. trio – perhaps quartet? – is on endless repeat. They lack much of an online presence, there aren’t many taking credit for this rapturous modern day classic output. (Rumored Chicago’s Kid Sister plays a role)

Like their previous three records, their latest album Untitled (Rise) appeared unannounced; no trailer-like singles, social media posts whetting our appetite; simply a new record added to their discography. And holy shit, Untitled (Rise) absolutely bangs. The rhythms, the meteoric messages, the funk, disco-tinged protest music is unstoppable.

On opener “Strong’, you’re taken on a brief warm-up lap full of dreamy waves as a Chic-like shimmer tunnels its way into your system; the song transforms halfway through into a drum circle grabbing hold of your feet as the funk is unleashed. Six brimming minutes full of Sault’s musical showcase for your body and mind.

“I Just Want to Dance” begins as a floor filler narrated by a soulstress losing herself in the beat and attempting to escape reality as she earnestly sings, “I get kinda mad….we lost another life”. She proclaims to us, “You wont’ see me cry” as the song erupts with a scorching drum circle that carries you away from all the darkness and makes it impossible to sit still.

Take Khruangbin’s laid-back soundscapes, inject Fela Kuti’s tribal ass shaking concoctions, sprinkle in spoken Tamika D. Mallory’s empowering messages, with LCD Soundsystem’s infatuation for the dirty disco of yesteryear, for without a doubt the most infectious album this year. And with its empowering black-centric theme, perhaps the most vital.


Future Islands’ Moonlight

Future Islands, the Baltimore quartet armed with synths, post-punk bass lines, and one hell of a soulful crooner in Sam Herring, is on the verge of releasing As Long As You Are on 10/9. Their 6th record of heart, atmospherics, and moving pieces of art. Their latest “Moonlight” tenderly stirs up emotional visions of the potential vulnerabilities love presents.

Herring is subdued here, over a throbbing, yet somber bass line as the light synths complement the groove; it creates a feeling of yearning for your partner. He pleads simply, “Here’s my heart, don’t break it/It’s all that I ask, nothing more”. To love is to take risk. Future Islands created a companion piece to your relationship, one that can spark deep reflection of your relationship’s trajectory; or inspirational white noise when lying next to your better half and reminiscing on the beauty you two have created and the greatness that lies ahead.

Herring on this release:

“‘Moonlight’ is a song about love in a depressive state. It’s about recognizing the holes in ourselves and recognizing the circular whole of others. ‘Moonlight’ is about acceptance because that’s what love allows us all.”


Avalanches’ Music Makes Me High

Releasing a single or two in advance of a record is the equivalent of a movie trailer. It’s whetting our appetite for what’s to come; it lets us begin to see what the potential theme or sound of an album might be. A strategic release makes us excited for the release of the record.

Melbourne’s The Avalanches are serious crate diggers. Excavating archaeologists of the finest degree. Their ability to find the obscure is uncanny, their ability to miraculously piece sounds together to form new songs is unworldly. The sample-heavy masterpiece Since I Left You from 2000 is living proof of their abilities. A record rumored to have up to 3,500 song fragments and sounds pulled from a dizzying array of genre resources to form a seamless body moving mix from front to back.

The production duo-extraordinaires are releasing We Will Always Love You on 12/11, the follow-up to 2016’s Wildflower. Their previous output leaned heavily on guest collaborators and original production. We Will Always Love You is founded on cosmic love and inspired by Carl Sagan’s Voyager Golden Record Project. On “Music Makes Me High”, the disco- house dial has been cranked, the fragments of others’s art are pieced together to make you bounce, perhaps grace a floor and become funkdafied.

NME’s wide-ranging interview with Robbie and Tony of The Avalanches where they speak of their found inspiration. It only takes one sample to spark new art:

Robbie: “It was almost like a throwback to the music we grew up and were listening to before we made ‘Since I Left You’ – that classic house feel of the Crydamoure label and the first Basement Jaxx album [‘Remedy’, 1999]. When we found the Salty Miller sample, ‘Music Makes Me High’, it reminded me of ‘Red Alert’ by Basement Jaxx and ‘The music keeps on playing on and on’. We thought, ‘Can we turn into that kind of thing?’ It took a while actually, but then we found the Devoted Soul sample and it just started to click. We’ve got better at making sample-based music. We would have tried to make this song way back when and it probably wouldn’t have banged as hard.

Tony: “We don’t want to be too retro. It’s a nice little throwback to that era.”

Three records from The Avalanches in 20 years is respectable given the time frame between their debut and Wildflower. Thanks to high art, 2020 won’t go down in vain.


Spoon’s Big Beat…

With so many industries on the precipice of failure, the least we listeners can do is support active fundraisers and voice our opinions to those in power. Bandcamp is taking the lead by waiving their revenue on Fridays and giving back to artists.

Strong songs needn’t multi-layers of instrumentation, nor any special studio wizardy. A memorable song can be stripped of most and still radiate out of your speakers. Spoon has a knack for consistency and only showcasing worthwhile material on their records.

During lockdown, Spoon’s frontman Britt Daniel and keyboard master Alex Fischel took “Rainy Taxi”, off their rich and ear grabbing LP They Want My Soul and ran it through a grinder of sorts; what emerged out the other side is a jumping rendition care of a percussive beat, Britt’s acoustic, and Alex on the upright. Give me a whole album of this formula, Spoon. Hot damn.

Check the virtual recording.


Hawksley’s Dwindling Beauty of 2020…

2020 might be shit but musical artists of mine are giving me hope. Through new records, captivating virtual gigs, and excavated treasure from the vault, this year is not a wash. There’s been great art and forward thinking practices we would not have imagined seven months ago.

Multi-instrumentalist, full-time virtuoso of theatrics Hawksley Workman has unveiled “Dwindling Beauty (Let’s Fake Our Deaths Together)” off his forthcoming Less Rage More Tears record out 10/23. A dark single, full of meditative contemplations on what-ifs during these times: “I don’t feel anything but fear; I think the universe is trying to tell me nothing/like it’s run out of good things to say”. His emotional vocal energy is fully intact as his sonic signature evokes calming lows and raging highs on this five minute wild ride.

On his Bandcamp, Isadora Records has released three independent albums never commercially available; My Toothless Beauties, Puppy (a boy’s truly rough), Before We Were Security Guards.

On Friday, September 25 at 8PM EST Hawksley will showcase Round IV of his LIVE musical showcase: Hawksley Night in Canada. September’s performance will unveil a new stage. He’s left his father-in-law Don’s basement. Workman’s virtual show has become a staple for my wife and I. It’s been the best purchase under $15 during this pandemic. For $12 Canadian, my wife and I can place an event on our calendar. That action is priceless enough, add Hawksley’s special renditions, ferocious energy and unique arrangements for an absolute steal.


Daytrotter Sessions

The amount of time we have all lost to mindless Internet browsing is incalculable. Some sessions came away with nothing gained. Others, monumental happy accidents. Defunct bands are born again.

Daytrotter Studios was located in Rock Island, IL, about three hours west of Chicago. A multi-faceted venue: recording studio, live music venue, and a resting spot for musicians passing through the Quad Cities. Come in, stay awhile, in exchange, cut a few songs in our studio. We’ll share them via our website for all to enjoy.

This is a re-discovery. I was privy to this resource in its inception but ceased visiting and forgot about it. Sadly, and today I understand why this became the model, I lost touch with this collection when it became subscription-based. Thankfully an intentional search of an artist recently lead me astray; I plowed headfirst down a rabbit hole and Daytrotter reared it’s beautiful head and sucked me right back in. Hot damn, an almost overwhelming amount of material exists on Daytrotter’s free site, now hosted via Paste’s page.

The collection, which stems from 2006 until present day, hosts 1,000s of acts. From small, I have no idea who the hell you are artists, to favorites of mine, and names your Mom might even know. Many pages have downloadable links to the artist’s in-studio performance, the completist in you may appreciate this.

A few sessions from artists I can’t get enough of:

Bishop Allen 6/2007

Office 11/2007

Rogue Wave 1/2008

Nick Waterhouse 3/2012

John Fullbright 8/2012

sElf 3/2015

Local H 2/2020

Upcoming Shows:


September 2020