Friday, August 31, 2012

FREE MUSIC: The Blind Owl Band -- Rabble Rousing

 Ready, set, go. It's time to put on those dancing shoes.

Though, to be honest, it seems like you'd be better off running barefoot through the grass while you're listening to The Blind Owl Band's Rabble Rousing.

Either way, it's hard to resist the urge to move your body about joyfully as you indulge in this upstate New York quartet's newgrass (I qualify it because of the electric bass.) David Horton's eclectic blog featured the band recently, and I felt like I just had to tell you, Dear Reader, about them.

Supremely competent musicians, the Blind Owl Band clearly know where they're coming from and know where they're headed. I am already awaiting their sophomore effort.  

Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rosary Beard -- Halfmoon Fever

Perfection is listening to Rosary Beard's Halfmoon Fever while reading about the history of colonial New York before dropping off to sleep, knowing it's the last night I'll be able to stay up past midnight with a clear conscience until June. (Only one of those things is dorky.) That's right -- this entry marks a shift in how I will select music for this blog: not only will it appear on here if it makes me sit up straight and pay attention, it'll be on here because I had to stop my furious lesson planning and listen to it. If my update schedule becomes less stable from hereon out, it's because I prioritize my kids' education more than promoting your music. Sorry, artists. It's nothing personal.

Either way, this Saratoga, New York duo would have made it here.

Rosary Beard at the Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn. Photo: Justin Mugits

There's a reason I chose Halfmoon Fever as the soundtrack for my scintillating late-night read. For one thing, Henry Hudson's boat was called de Halve Maen (Half Moon) doncha know. Secondly, the acoustic guitar duets call the Hudson Valley to mind. Consciously or not, Rosary Beard have sonically captured my childhood memories of my grandparents' house -- the golden late summer afternoons, clouds scudding across the moon on a December night, the gentle dips of the Catskills. 

Normally I dislike modern instrumental music since it tends to be more focused on a masturbatory display of technical skill than a sense of musicality. Rosary Beard's compositions, by contrast, are short, restrained, and melodic. These songs have elements of familiar roots and folk music that will catch the ear, then flutter away to extended explorations of the theme, always to return to the initial, comfortable, hook. The two guitars are in dialogue, and their conversations are worth paying attention to.

I know I've said this before, but if I had any skill at creating music, this is the music I'd write. That may sound narcissistic, but hear me out: if music is a form of self-expression, and we use self-expression to connect to others, then it makes sense that the music that effects me the most matches the music I create for myself in my head. And that's why it's going on The Basics list -- because it made me care about instrumental music, and because it reflects what's going on in my head.

I strongly encourage you to buy a physical copy of this album. The jacket design is stunning and I'm fairly certain that the song titles are meant to form a poem, an effect that is best appreciated when looking at the jacket.

Rosary Beard -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Shams Band -- Cold City

You are not going to find an album that is more fun than The Shams Band's Cold City.

The Chicago-based band's third album flits between traditional country, alt-rock, and pop. The one consistent element in these songs are the riptide-strong melodies and lighthearted sensibilities that permeate even sob story songs like "Cold City" and "I'm Not Sorry."

To me, Cold City has a '90s-rock sensibility, and if you've read this blog for any amount of time, you should know by now that I eat that kind of thing up. Maybe it's nostalgia for my childhood, maybe I'm just sick of bands that are overburdened with post-9/11 irony and nihilism (because God knows I've got too much of that myself.) Either way, The Shams Band deserves to be listed with The Basics, just for consciously striving to break free of the mold.

The Shams Band are charging, like, actual money for their album but it is worth the investment. They're definitely starting with a solid musical foundation. I'm looking forward to see how they'll grow in the future.

The Shams Band -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Friday, August 24, 2012

Some Dark Holler -- Hollow Chest

Some Dark Holler first grabbed my attention when I saw their video on Couch by Couchwest. If you watch it, you'll be able to see why.

Hollow Chest is the band's first full-length album, and it is certainly a harbinger of great things to come. Some Dark Holler's stories of shattered souls and redemption are enough to give us all pause as we go about the course of our busy day. The album shows an extensive emotional range, and the band hits upon each note perfectly. The songs are as restrained as they are powerful, and the catchy melodies will ensure that each song is seared into your memory.

If you're someone who's kind of iffy about folk music and stumbled on this blog for some reason, I'd point you to this album. I am willing to stake my reputation on this sentence: every note on here is perfect. And if you still decide you don't like roots music after this, then you must not like music.

Some Dark Holler --Official, Facebook, Buy Hollow Chest (For a paltry $5!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cobalt and the Hired Guns -- Everybody Wins

Let's start this one out with any preamble: if you are going to buy an album off of Bandcamp, let it be this one.

Cobalt and the Hired Guns' Americana-tinged pop punk is a joy to listen to. The debut track, "Like You Like Me Like Me" embodies the band's ethos: energetic without being aggressive, funny without being silly. Guitarist Tom Fort dedicate the song -- a ballad of mixed signals -- to "every girl he had ever met between the ages of ten and twenty." My friends and I felt that awkward romance does not, in fact, die when you hit your twenties.

The trio have been friends since childhood and it shows in their music. You can tell they've been dreaming of becoming rock stars together forever. There is a confidence in Cobalt's music that can only come from knowing exactly what you want. Given the dire times we're living in these days, it's refreshing to find a band that brings a sense of fun and joy to their music while still having something to say. I'm looking forward to their continued success.

Cobalt and the Hired Guns -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jon Watts -- Clothe Yourself in Righteousness

I'm not trying to convert you.

But I think listening to Jon Watts' Quaker hip-hop will convince you that there's some kind of Spirit out there.

Generally, I don't find religious music all that interesting, although I did write about one Christian band here way back when.

However, Watts' work is so utterly imbued with conviction and honesty -- he is literally baring his soul -- that it's hard not to sit up straight and listen. If you are someone who is constantly in search of music that will give you goosebumps, Jon Watts should be your next stop.

Clothe Yourself in Righteousness is Watts' latest project, developed in conjunction with seminary student Maggie Harrison. Their thesis is that literally stripping oneself will allow for a more spiritual experience. I think -- I haven't read the pamphlet yet. But whether you're into nudity or not, it provides some thought-provoking material about how we can all be better people.

I chose Clothe Yourself in Righteousness for the blog because the acoustic instrumentation on the album is more in line with what you'd generally find here. However, I also recommend poking through his back catalog. Songs like "I'm Sorry Brian" make Micah Schnabel's self-flagellation seem like trite emo.

Jon Watts -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hellbound Glory -- Old Highs and New Lows

I've had my ear out for Hellbound Glory ever since Von posted their stuff on Americana Rock Mix. These guys play with wonderful expertise and competence, but that's not what grabbed me.

You see, there are few things you need in life: love, happiness, and -- when you have neither -- a damn good bar band. Hellbound Glory should be at the top of your go-to list in those situations. Their energy and lyrical wit bring to mind a pre-Turbo Ocho Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers: fun-loving, humorous, but with a dark edge.

 Old Highs and New Lows will not leave you guessing as to the thematic nature of this album. At this point in my life, I'm not especially inclined to listen to songs and songs and songs about OD'ing on Oxycotin (not really a drug of choice in NYC, truth be told) but if that's where you're at, well, this is one hell of an album for you. As I said, there's a time and a place for bar bands, and I don't think you'll find too many who can suit your needs better than Hellbound Glory. I'm looking forward to seeing them here in New York sometime in the near future.

Hellbound Glory -- Official, Facebook, Spotify

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Furious Frank

It's almost as if someone in Furious Frank saw this blog's description -- as a repository for anything with guitars -- and said, "OK. We can do that."

 "Eclectic" is really the operative word here. The band ricochets between folk and gypsy stomp faster than a drum fill. But they bring the same madcap, off-kilter energy throughout the work such that even if you don't love every song (like me) you can't help but tap your foot or (like me) dance in your seat.

Furious Frank is bringing some truly original music to the table -- a fresh concoction that is, frankly, rare even in this little rockacountrybluesipunkaChristmaKwanzaaKah music community of ours. But they're much more than a novelty act -- there's a sense of purpose here that will only become more refined with time and experience. So if you are in need of a little polka-influenced whimsy, hit the ol' play button below and hit up the ol' CDBaby link below that.

Furious Frank -- Official, Facebook, CDBaby

Monday, August 13, 2012

Good Friend -- Good Friend EP

Here is a review of a three-song EP. But since Good Friend seems to have all but vanished off the face of the Internet, I'm assuming they won't mind if it's a short one.

In one sentence: this is worth the three pounds (what is that? Five dollars?)

The band had described itself as "lion-hearted" punk, and that's the kind of music we're looking for on Adobe and Teardrops. My personal favorite is "Dance On, Graves." As far as I'm concerned, it should be the anthem for self-reinvention.

Wherever these guys are now, I hope they're in good places. Stream the album, buy it. Maybe they'll magically re-coalesce and make a few more songs? Because that'd be pretty awesome.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Damn Choir -- You're My Secret Called Fire

Today's my birthday. I got up at 10:30, made an epic omelet, and then watched Mobile Suit Gundam 00. This is a NO REGRETS lifestyle, you guys.

I am also on a kick of husky-voiced men with acoustic guitars. And if you're not, it's about time you were.

Apparently, my grown-up camera is not too impressive either.

Chicago-based The Damn Choir hits all the right notes. At first glance, they might sound like just another group of people trying to cash in on the faux Southern gothic thing. But seeing them live -- an experience that cannot be captured in this photo, alas -- showed me that these folks can put their money where their mouth is.

Gordon Robertson's weather-beaten vocals blend with Katy Myers' sweeping cello to make brutally honest, plaintive music without the melodrama. Ryan Farnham's vicious drums and Brandon Stein's pitch-perfect bass round out the now-quartet. They clearly live in their music. I found that far from affectation, Robertson's biblical lyrics bring to mind the plaintive, sweeping mythology of Bill Mallonee and his former band, The Vigilantes of Love (a band that has not received attention here, but it seems like it's about time they did.)* However, The Damn Choir has a bitter edge that Mallonee's Calvinist despair does not.

The Damn Choir -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

* Scroll down to Audible Sigh and Slow Dark Train for a good intro.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sad and French -- Bloody Faces

I hit the jackpot with opening bands this month, it seems. I saw Jose (presumably the sad half of Sad and French) open for Micah Schnabel a month ago. They then opened for Two Cow Garage this past weekend.

I had just broken up with my girlfriend when Micah's show came around. I didn't know anything about any of the other opening bands, but I figured nothing could suit my mood better than watching a bunch of sad punk boys play barre chords on acoustic guitars and cry about their breakups. By myself. Because I'm a masochist.

I was practically catatonic during that first set, but the songs lent words to my feelings -- the perfect blend of sorrow, self-pity, remorse, and anger. "Cheers to You" was my favorite song from the live set and continues to be my favorite on the EP.

I promise I'll take a more grown-up camera to my next concert.

Sad and French is best consumed during or immediately after a breakup, I think. Seeing them perform exactly one month later, with the spring returned to my step, I was less able to "feel" the music than I had before. However, that didn't make the band's performance less electrifying. At separate points in the set, each person who I brought with me to the show turned to me, eyes alight in the way that they tend to do when you're listening to powerful music, and said "Wait - what's this band's name?"

So light your eyes on up. I've embedded the most recent EP here, but there's more on the website. If they're available for download then I'm not smart enough to find the link. But in theory it's free music, so have at it.

Sad and French -- Official, Facebook

Monday, August 6, 2012

FREE MUSIC: Uncle Leon and the Alibis

Recently a friend of mine and I debated the value of opening bands. As he put it, openers are there because they either haven't gotten famous yet, or they're not famous for a very, very good reason. The way I see it, I paid X dollars for live music, and I'm going to get my money's worth. Besides, when they're in the latter category you discover great new music.

Uncle Leon and the Alibis opened for Two Cow Garage on Saturday. They made the many lackluster opening sets I've sat through completely worth it. The raucous, opening chords scorched Union Hall's walls. In the finest of cowpunk tradition, Uncle Leon's blazing rockabilly is rivaled only by the clever lyrics.

If you weren't there to see them tear the place down, you can download a demo of four live tracks that captures the band's energy. Alas, the crowd-pleaser "Whiskey, Weed, and Big-Tittied Women" is not available for download. Here's hoping it's on their upcoming album.

Cousin Dan
All My Friends Got Old and Lame

Uncle Leon and the Alibis -- Official, Facebook