Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Paisley Fields -- Dixie Queen

Here's a roundabout story about some simply awesome music.

On Saturday, I went to Karen and the Sorrows' Queer Country Monthly. It was the kind of show that saves your life. While the Paisley Fields were not present at the show, I stumbled upon them after some inspired Internet surfing. (Hello, Homoground podcast.)

The Paisley Fields have a fascinating background. Like many folk singers in Brooklyn, Jessica Kimple is a classically trained opera vocalist. James Wilson, an award-winning songwriter, adds to the low-end of the vocal range and contributes carefully considered piano melodies. (As weird as this sounds, I hate pianos. Wilson's ability to wield his tastefully earns him many points in my book.) Wilson also spent an extensive amount of time in Japan studying Japanese music.

While the Paisley Fields have a traditional American sound, these songwriters bring a worldliness to our traditions. 

"Dixie Queen" is an irresistable piano punked-out romp telling a familiar story of a woman fallen on hard times. "Windows Fogged U" establishes The Paisley Fields' place on Homoground's radar. "Animal" and "Where Do I Start" are more contemplative pieces. 

Really, all I have to say is: when's the album coming out?

The Paisley Fields -- Official, Facebook

Monday, February 25, 2013

Common Shiner -- Before They Sold Out Part 2

Before They Sold Out may sound like wishful thinking for an indie pop band from Chicago. But with fun.'s ascendancy, it seems like power pop has earned itself a revival.

And Common Shiner, with time, just may earn itself a place in fun.'s echelon. As I've stated elsewhere on the blog, pop music has its time and place, and I'm happy to share it with you when deserved.

Before They Sold Out is very much a debut album, but I see a lot of potential in it. The thing about this style of music is, the lyrics have to be tight. Otherwise, the songs just fade into supermarket music. The album starts off strong with "Sharks!", mostly for its imaginative use of the metaphor. The next several songs are a little tedious until we get to "Oh, The Optimist," a sleeper earworm. The thing's been stuck in my head for the last three days, even though I hadn't listened to the album for many days. "Social Mediasochist" also reaches Gaslight Anthem-levels of intensity and lyrical coherence.

Sometimes, Common Shiner is a little too clever for its own good (i.e., "The Cup Runneth Sober") Others, they reach but don't quite find the moment they're looking for. But this album is a good start, and I look forward to watching these gents improve their craft. I hope they get to the point where they can, indeed, sell out.

Common Shiner -- Bandcamp, Facebook, Free EP on Noisetrade

Friday, February 22, 2013

The End Men -- Play With Your Toys

Here's a koan for you: what is the sound a hungry ghost makes when possessing a garage blues duo?

That ghost sounds a lot like The End Men. There's nothing zen about this Brooklyn-based duo.

And unlike most Brooklyn-based duos, The End Men make me proud that Brooklyn is a borough of New York City.

The words "howling fury" come to mind. Liva Ranalli is a whirling dervish at the kit, competing with Matthew Hendershot's guttural growl and aggressive guitar hooks. The Black Keys and the White Stripes wish they could be this cool. Highlights include the hook-laden "The Ballad of Billy Polk" and the mournful album closer, "Stack Chips." Though at times veering into the psychedelic, the End Men are channeling the ghosts of the Delta past. If you're looking for something edgy, look no further. The End Men have the medicine you need.

The End Men -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, Spotify

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Todd May - Rickenbacker Girls

I saw Todd last Thursday down at Webster Hall. He followed a true turd of a band. A bunch of guys who were impressed with themselves for playing extended guitar solos, convinced they had invented '70s southern rock.

I've been wondering to myself, "Why did I hate them, but like this guy?" After all, if that other band was so derivative, there isn't exactly anything revolutionary about a guy with a guitar.

But here's the difference: Todd May meant every fucking word he sang.

A longtime friend of Micah and Shane from Two Cow Garage, Todd May plays a similar style of roots-oriented rock, though he takes a much softer approach. As it turns out, he originally wrote "Alphabet City," though Two Cow Garage recorded the song first.

It's an interesting study in interpretation: Two Cow's manic chord progressions bring out the song's themes of excess and debauchery. But May's recording, which takes a much more country-ish approach, tells the story of a young hayseed turned off by New York City's (or, at least, NYU's) freewheeling style.

But that's not to compare May to other artists. The guy stands on his own. I'm sorry it's taken me this long to find him.

Josephine Calling
Build a Better Rocket
Alphabet City

Todd May -- Peloton Records, Amazon

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Creak Covers Just About Everybody

The best part of Fridays is when your lunchbreak kinda just turns into an extended break that lasts, oh, I dunno...the whole day.

The Creak gave you something to fill your time with. They posted a bunch of cover videos this past weekend, and it behooves you to enjoy them.

You can view more videos from The Creak here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

IndieGoGo Alert: Kent Goolsby

Hi, folks. As you may have noticed, I neglected to post an update yesterday. It's because I didn't have anything to write about. I like to keep a queue five or six names deep of artists I'm excited to share with you. Fact is, I just haven't been able to fill that queue up these past few weeks. In fact, I wasn't planning on posting anything this week.

Fortunately, Kent Goolsby dropped me a line. You may know the name from A&T favorite The Only Sons, which disbanded shortly after the release of their second album.

But Kent's got himself a new band (The Folks) and they're ready to make you an album.

And Joey Kneiser of Glossary will produce.

Sounds like a sound investment to me.

You can also listen to two of Joey's new songs on the book of Face.

And here's Kent's official site.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Quiet American - Wild Bill Jones

Wild Bill Jones is an ambitious project by an ambitious duo.

Fortunately for us, The Quiet American pull it off. A concept album centered on the traditional folk song, Wild Bill Jones explores the characters' backstories, just as it wends its way through the back channels of Americana music.

The Quiet American is a husband-and-wife duo. Aaron Keim is no stranger to folk music, having served time with the Boulder Acoustic Society, a beloved Colorado-based roots band. His wife, Nicole, is lending her immense talents to his in their new project. 

This is an album that needs to be played all the way through; while each song is lovely, its impact is really dependent on the songs surrounding it. Wild Bill Jones is not meant for the iPod age. But it is meant for your ears and your home.

The Quiet American -- Official, Facebook, CDBaby

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fort Shame - Double Wide

Ah, the '90s. That exciting moment where grunge became mainstream and the next trend was any record exec's guess. Genres were smashed together like the Rock Giants in The Hobbit, and, like, the movie, the only real goal was to keep it radio-friendly. (Unlike The Hobbit, many of those experiments ended up being unique and enjoyable.) Angular, repetitive guitar hooks, driving basslines, ennui.

You flannel-clad bastards had no idea how good you had it.

Fortunately, there are some brave souls out there who won't let the music die. I submit, for the approval of the Midnight Society, Fort Shame.

But the band's heavy '90s sound should come as no surprise: leaders Sue Harshe and Todd May are veterans of the underground post-punk and alt-country scene. Their experience comes to fruition here on Double Wide.

As you can surmise, it's not the most upbeat album you'll listen to this year. Tales of love, loss, and alienation are undergirded by jangly rock guitars, Jamey Ball's muscular bass lines, and George Hondroulis's powerful drums. Harshe's growling and May's plaintive voice are a winning combination.

This is powerful stuff. I'm excited for you to get your hands on it.

One For the Ages
Gay Boys in Berlin
Like That Richard Manuel Song

Fort Shame -- Official, Facebook, Buy Double Wide, Peloton Records


Monday, February 4, 2013

Where The Ladies At?

Once again, he inestimable Von of Americana Rock Mix and I seem to be on the same wavelength. Two weeks ago, Von posted a show focusing on female artists. He wrote, "We just don't receive enough submissions from female artists that are unique in the genre..." And even then, some of the female artists featured on the podcast are part of a male-female duo.

But why aren't there more female artists in the genre?

Recently, I made a mix CD for one of my seventh graders. I noticed she enjoyed bands like Evanescence and Paramore -- both bands featuring a damsel-in-distress. (I will go on record, however, for saying that I really enjoy what I've heard of Paramore so far.)

I wanted to make her a CD of bands that A) were less glossy and B) featured women who actually have something to say. I'm proud to say that she is now a huge fan of Two Cow Garage, the Indigo Girls, Sonia Tetlow, and, most importantly, Sleater-Kinney.

But I was very disappointed that I had so few options to pull from. Who are the big female names in our corner of the scene? Lydia Loveless, Lizzie Huffman, Rachel Brooke...all very talented women in their own right, but they're not edgy like, say, Two Cow Garage. Fort Shame, whom I'll be reviewing up next and who was featured on this week's Americana Rock Mix, is about as alt-country as I've heard.

I wondered if there was a reason that so few women in the genre have veered into the more rock-heavy side of alt-country. Are women not allowed to express the same kinds of emotions? Let's break down the subject matter of Micah Schnabel's ouvre:

1. Frustration with the music biz
2. Breakups
3. Blue-collar rage
4. The importance of music

It's not like women don't write songs about these -- just pick up a Brandi Carlile or Kathleen Edwards album. They cover all four subjects. But most of the time, female vocalists lament their plight. They're submissive, rather than really fucking pissed about it.

And while riot grrl has picked up the slack (and where have you gone?), it shouldn't corner the market on female rage. Why can't there be a little twang thrown in as well?

While alt-country undoubtedly has its origins in Midwestern and Southern punks with an appreciation for their dads' music, that doesn't mean it has to be a boys'-only club. The appeal of the genre (to me) is its insistence on individualism and integrity in spite of life's curveballs. And that is in no way a uniquely male experience.

So what do you guys, gals, and folks in between think?