Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bradley Palermo -- Deep Valley Blues

Bradley Palermo moved to California but, at least judging by his songs, he's not having a great time. Fortunately, we get to benefit. Palermo contacted me a few months ago with his first single, "Deep Valley Blues," and I chose to wait a little bit for him to record a few more songs so I could tell you how awesome they are. Palermo's been recording about one per month, so if you like what you hear keep paying attention.

Palermo's got a gift for fluid songwriting, which is what drew me to him in the first place:

say that you don't mind
when they look down their nose at us
cause they all live and die
laugh and cry
just like the rest of us
but these people never smile
the way they did back home
but those days have come and gone
my youth is gone and I have grown to have these
deep valley blues
it's going to take me too much time to make my way back home to you
and you know it ain't the distance honey it's the altitude
i got them deep valley blues 

Palermo's knack for blues and country with a snarl put him right at home in the alt-country world. Definitely check out The rest of his stuff once you've had a load of "Deep Valley Blues."

Bradley Palermo -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Music Roundup!

Rust Dust is a one-man folk mystery. His twangy blues guitars give his songs a veneer of vintage with some modern mystery. If you're in New York, you can catch him at the Jalopy this Friday at 9 PM at the Jalopy in Red Hook. (Note that the song drops a few F-bombs for those listening at work.)

Micah P. Hinson sets aside his punk background and delivers a buttery, forlorn ditty with "Lover's Lane." Tom Speight's dream "River" is an excellent summer song. Chris Capaldi's "Lightning" is charged with a mournful pedal steel that clinches the song. Hailing from Arizona, Josh Bierman's "Everyday" has a hard-hitting beat that drives this acoustic rocker. Whetherman brings some Southern swing and British folk to his cautionary "This Land." "Palms" by Decoration Day is somewhat unorthodox, but the gorgeous vocals caught my ear. Sally Crosby's sunny "Numb" captures depression perfectly...for better or worse. TATRAN is a departure from the usual here, but their innovative approach in using every day songs to create glitchy instrumentals and free-form jazz is too neat to not spread the word. Lastly, Paul Sweeney, who was featured on last week's playlist, closes out with "The Journey," another instrumental with beautifully lyrical guitar work.  

The songs on Spotify were submitted via SubmitHub. If you like this playlist, I can make one just for you! Contribute to my Patreon today!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Round Eye -- Monstervision

Round Eye has been cooking up Monstervision for quite some time, though perhaps the election of Donald Trump gives the album's off-kilter alternative universe a more unnerving basis in reality. Intercut with monologues from the fictional Monstervision's host (and real former Daily Show correspondent) Joe Bob Briggs, Monstervision is a pulsating ride through Round Eye's darkened vision of American culture and the world at large. Briggs' mild-mannered, off-color, down-home humor juxtaposes the disarming American ego with Round Eye's furious id. Combining punk beats and wailing saxophone solos, Round Eye gives the impression of a ska band going through an inspired but bad acid trip.

The band's "Billy," a timely commentary on police brutality, savagely critiques macho American culture:

Billy, Billy started thinkin’
Something fundamentally had gone wrong.
Billy Billy started pumpin’
pallid muscles in the arm of the law.
Billy was a cop, Billy was a cop, Billy was a cop, Billy was a cop...
Billy, Billy, Billy, Billy
Billy was the answer
Billy was the answer!
G.I. Joe, an American hero, Billy!
Billy: Billy was a cop. Freedom is a cop.

It's worth noting that the band is based in Shanghai, and while the critiques against the Chinese and North Korean regimes are muted, they do get a dig into Xi Jinping in "Pink House," though the vitriol is of course reserved for Trump himself:

T R U S T in the government
My government, it’s about time
They calm their political agendas
And try mine. My place
My party my race and my stock
Are the things that really make this land great, oh yeah! 

Much like the campy horror movies the original Monstervision TV show played, the album is full of incomprehensible goofiness, earnest commentary, and a strange intensity that twists a pit in your summit. But at the end of the day, it's all fun and games.

For now.

Round Eye -- Official, Bandcamp

Friday, June 23, 2017

Scott Hrabko -- Summer

Scott Hrabko, the Rabbits, and his excellent husky have returned with Summer. Hrabko's got a penchant for mixing old-time-sounding music with 21st century sensibilities. Part of this is fate, I think -- Hrabko's voice is that silky baritone that's as comfortable with lounge music as it is country swing and rockabilly crooners. I think that's my favorite secret of Hrabko's music -- on the surface, it seems wholesome but is in fact something your kids should be a little older to listen to.

Take, for example, "The Ogre's Waltz," a truly epic reel of double entendre and bluntly blue language:

Oh, the skids were greased for my disgrace
The day that I was born
The doctor said, "This one goes out to
The fury of all women scorned."
From the single girls of Dublin
To the whores of Tripoli
They all take off running
Soon as they recognize me

I was haunted and horny in Borneo, baby
In the heat and humility
I'll sing no more of Singapore
Till I'm safely out to sea
Hated in Haiti by Lord and by Lady
An attempt was made on my soul
These two voodoo dolls led me down a long hall
Since then I've been digging this hole

I'm the ogre at the orgy
The fly in the anointment
The madman's spiel
The lowlight reel
To your deepest disappointment
And it's many a wretch like me
Down on my knees

Clearly, Hrabko's got an acidic sense of humor, but it's also his inventiveness for incongruous imagery that brings drive to music that's otherwise quite relaxed. "Vertigo Girls" is easily one of my favorite opening verses out there:

There's a blonde on the tracks
With no strings attached
She's free to get up and leave
There hasn't been a train
Pass through this way
Since 19 - something - and 3

In short, Hrabko's a craftsman and a songwriter's songwriter. Summer is a damn fine album and was well worth the two-year wait.

Scott Hrabko -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, CDBaby, iTunes

Bern Kelly -- Lost Films

Bern Kelly's got an inviting voice that will draw your ear in. You'll wonder where you heard it before -- it's got a sweet quality to it, but there's a rasp that tells of long nights and tales to go with them. Lost Films certainly has some punchy stuff, that's not quite the point. Kelly has used Lost Films to showcase his top picks from ten years' worth of songwriting. It shows. The songs ramble through various micro-ecosystems of Americana, and their well-worn feel will again make you wonder if you've heard them somewhere before. But it's Kelly's painterly approach that will make Lost Films stand out.

 A native of Pennsylvania coal country, Kelly's songs are populated with characters whose luck has run out. Songs like "Cash In the Basement" blow the roof off the house while venting rage at the day-to-day routine of working life. "Julie" is a power-pop extravaganza of heartbreak remiscent of the Lemonheads or Gin Blossoms. But it's "Madeline Street," a 7-minute meditation on long-lost love and the ravages of time that stand out -- it's both Kelly's and my favorite of the album. Kelly and his band of Nashville session stalwarts truly stretch out here -- toeing the line between cosmic country and what your grandparents are used to hearing. It's easy to hear Kelly finding even surer footing as he matures as a songwriter.

And for my money, Kelly reminds me of Brian Fallon.

Bern Kelly -- Official, Facebook, Spotify

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Amythyst Kiah and Her Chest of Glass -- Amythyst Kiah and Her Chest of Glass

It's not every day that an artist will make you stop in your tracks and fell their music in your gut. Amythyst Kiah is going to be that person for you today. On her recent EP, Kiah brings together her band to showcase her blues and soul chops. Kiah's voice alone is enough to make a room stand stock skill but the Chest of Glass will set it on fire with their tight grooves. The band turns older songs, like Vera Hall's "Another Man Done Gone" (a personal favorite of mine) into the anguished, not-so-suppressed expressions of sexual fire that modern-day purists can render as hokey or vehicles for self-congratulatory guitar solos.

Kiah's original songs are defiant statements that deserve to be canonized in their own right. "Hangover Blues" is a raucous celebration of last night's debauchery. "Myth" is a raw performance that should cement Kiah's place on anyone's list of best vocalists. "Wildebeest" is a foot stomper with an irresistible groove. If you ever get a chance to see Kiah (hopefully she'll come back up to Queer Country Quarterly soon!) you should cancel all of your plans to do it. She's a voice to listen to and an artist to watch.

Amythyst Kiah -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Music Roundup!

Due to various technical snafus, I've got a couple of songs as separate SoundCloud files. Nevertheless - enjoy!

Lak Path has a powerful voice and isn't scared to use it. "Afraid" is a bracing jazz pop piece that could easily fall into R&B. The rolling drums give the song a silky quality.

Berlin-based Babyalligator combines an ethereal detachment with roots in electronic music and a strong folk melody to create the dreamy "False Starts."

Light the Air's "Gold Rush" mixes approachable melodies with intricate, literate lyrics that make for an arresting song.

Native's "Ocean" is a beautiful meditation on the nature of opportunity. Thomas LaVine embellishes his happiness with delicate guitars and unearthly harmonies in "Happy."In "Not Enough to Go Around," The Brothers Strong deliver a Dead-esque finger-picking porch stomper. Germany's Broken Radio proves that an old-fashioned, brooding Gothic-country song knows no borders. Architect the Destroyer delivers "Cherry Wine," which delivers a strong flavor of folk with an intriguing pop punk bouquet -- perfect for summer evenings. As a former educator, I can't help but love the band name Victims of the New Math. The cheekiness extends to their lyrics in "You Can Be My Brian Wilson." Hannah & Maggie are one of the best (queer) folk duos out there, so it's only fitting I give them a nod right before NYC Pride. (They split their time between Northampton and Brooklyn. Natch.) You'll hear more about them when their album is out in a few weeks, but for now check out "When You Get There," which I highly recommend you avoid at work as there are a swears. Michael Gaither has a quirky sense of humor, and that's in full force on "Somewhere I Went Right." You'll hear more about his inventive Hey Karma in the coming weeks.