Tuesday, March 31, 2015

VIDEO: James Burrows -- Disco

James Burrows' new album is excellent -- the kind of raw, blunt edge I like my music to be. Unfortunately, the album was supposed to come out some time ago and I haven't heard much from him since. But you can listen to the first two singles on James' website, and hopefully you'll get to hear the rest of it soon. In the meantime, I'll save my words for when it does come out. In the meantime, enjoy "Disco."

James Burrows -- Official, Facebook

Monday, March 30, 2015

FREE MUSIC: Dan Destiny -- "Never Be Alone"

I'm excited to premier Dan Destiny's new single, "Never Be Alone!" Dan's forlorn baritone reminds me of another country-influenced favorite, Whitney Lockert. Like Lockert, Dan's loneliness comes with a healthy dose of wry detachment and humor.

You can download the song for free from Soundcloud and the join me in anxiously awaiting the release of the full album.

Dan Destiny -- Facebook, Bandcamp, Soundcloud

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jarflower -- McQueen

Don't you miss the '90s? It felt like a quiet time, to be sure, but as one new book points out, the '90s were actually pretty fucked up. But I wasn't aware of that at the time, and neither were the members of Jarflower. Louis Menand at The New Yorkerargues that there was no catchy new mode of music or art or fashion to be forever and fondly associated with the times" but I don't think that's true at all. Jarflower's jangly rock and lonesome songs call to mind an updated Gin Blossoms. Does the world need that? I dunno. But I do. And you probably do as well.

Jarflower -- Official, Facebook

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Micah Schnabel -- Not the Boy You Used to Know

It goes without saying that Micah Schnabel's Not the Boy You Used to Know is one of the finest collections of songs you'll hear this year. One third of Two Cow Garage, Micah can do no wrong in my book. The EP represents all of Micah's strengths: a pull-no-punches approach to songwriting that is as clever as it is brutally honest. Unlike Death of the Self-Preservation Society, which was more politically-oriented, all of these songs are autobiographical (or at least seem that way) to some extent.

Musically, Micah ventures away from the tight punk of his work with Two Cow Garage and the familiar folk pop of his previous work. "More Drugs" and "Bang! Bang! Bang!" are great rock songs in their own right, but there's something that feels more experimental about their structure that my ears still need to get used to. Meanwhile, the title track features some of the richest instrumentation Micah's arranged to date.

Two Cow Garage -- and, by extension, Micah -- has always been about grappling with growing -- up, older, more mature. These growing pains are well-documented, but never in a self-serving way. In a refreshing change from a society that has been focused on data optimization like never before, Micah pulls back the curtain and shows us how messy the process of getting older -- and wiser -- actually is. Not the Boy You Used to Know focuses on youth at its tail end -- things you probably should have done but didn't. And that's okay, because the experiences you did have make you who you are. Relax and let it happen...after you buy this EP.

Lastly, Two Cow Garage just got all of their gear stolen in St. Louis (again.) You can chip in here.

Micah Schnabel -- Bandcamp

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Humming House -- Revelries

According to Nashville (what? You don't watch it religiously?), East Nashville is where all the hipsters hang out. Since the show's about mainstream country stars in their 40s and wannabe mainstream country stars in their 20s, it's often said with a sneer. But then you have bands like Humming House exploding out of their, and it's easy to remember why mainstream country sucks.

That's not to say there aren't some "indie" folk staples that, at this point, feel a little cliche -- the gang vocals, that high-and-lonesome chord progression and militaristic drumming popularized by "Some Nights" (sorry -- not a music scholar.) What Humming House brings to the table instead is its unbridled joyous approach to the music. Humming House's heavy influence by Celtic music brings to mind Carbon Leaf, especially in their more poetic turns like "Hitch Hike."

Humming House is pretty much rocking everyone's world in the alt-country sphere. They clearly have the versatility and technical expertise to become great. I'd like to see a little more lyrical depth before I put this on my "best of" list. That being said, Revelries is a great ride.

Humming House -- Official, Facebook, iTunes, Amazon

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

VIDEO: Jackie Venson -- See What You Want

I gushed over Jackie Venson's chops a couple of months ago. Turns out she makes some great music videos, too! Check it out below!

Jackie Venson -- Official, Facebook, Soundcloud, Purchase from CDBaby, iTunes

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hero Jr. -- Mixed Race Indiana Marriage

First of all I'd like to extend a huge thanks to those of you who came out (see what I did there?) to the Queer Country Monthly show this past Saturday. We raised a little over $500 for FIERCE! Congrats -- we got them half an intern!

If Karen and the Sorrows is a little too mellow for you, here's a sharp change of pace. I still get Hero Jr.'s "Anne Boleyn" stuck in my head, and I reviewed that album two years ago. Two years on, the band still has its caustic edge and spontaneous energy. The songs on Mixed Race were written in less than a week and recorded in less than a day. Although some of the songs could have used a little more time to cook, the album itself is a wild ride.

Mixed Race is a little less funky and a little more cock-rocky than the band's previous release. And while for some people, that could be a turn-off, if you stick around you'll be treating yourself to some really fine rock'n'roll. The album captures the electricity of live music that often eludes even the best artists.

If the album catches your fancy and if you live in the Milwaukee area, you can get blown away by Hero Jr. in person with another Adobe & Teardrops favorite, the Delta Routine, at the Yield Bar. You can get the info here.

Hero Jr. -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Breton Sound -- "Illuminate"

I finally got to see the Breton Sound perform when I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I can now confirm that they're the real deal -- their concerts are just as fun as their albums. Speaking of which, they're getting ready to release a new one. Check out the new single, pay what you want to download it, and get excited for Don't Be Afraid of Rock & Roll, which will be out on May 19th.

The Breton Sound -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

If you love musicians from New Orleans, then you'll love the Proud compilation, which is like 70% New Orleans and New Orleans-related musicians! And if you're in New York, you can meet the other 30% of the artists tomorrow! Adobe and Teardrops and Karen and the Sorrows are co-hosting this month's Queer Country Monthly in Brooklyn! The proceeds will go to FIERCE, a youth empowerment organization for LGBTQ young people. Donations of $10 or above will get you a download card for the Proud compilation album, so snap that shit up! If you can't make it to the concert, buy the album before May 1st!

Where: Branded Saloon (603 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY)
When: Saturday, 3/21 at 8 PM
Who: Me, Small Talk, The Paisley Fields, Karen and the Sorrows
How Much: $5 though no one is turned away for lack of funds. $10+ gets you a download card!
Why: Because you're cool and super sexy

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Gregory McKillop -- Little Demon on the Back Seat

Gregory McKillop's Little Demon on the Back Seat sparked a heated (and maybe self-important?) conversation over on NineBullets about identity, art, and our "scene."

So this entry is a bit more about the context of this album rather than the music itself.

This is a queer album, no question about it (in my mind, anyway). While liner notes can be boring and self-involved, Gregory's are an important and engaging road map for this little opus. In it, he addresses the importance of expressing the various aspects of his identities and politics in art. "This Is What Self Defense Looks Like" is the most overt of these songs, but its brutality brings home a lot of the fear and anguish that many of us LGBT folk experience whenever we walk alone at night:

Another man makes a plan:
to go and kill a faggot and
he breaks my arm and breaks my nose,
and makes me bleed with all his bros.

And they will stop after awhile,
and I will run and hide and cry
inside a church where hopefully
no one bothers me.

This is what self defense looks like. 

It's a dark fantasy, but it's one that I know runs through my head fairly often.

It's really Important (with a capital "I") for these themes to be discussed -- particularly in the folk punk scene where -- let's face it -- most of the musicians and fans are cis (i.e., not trans) white men. I have to admit that I always feel a little out of place at concerts surrounded by lots of people who just don't look like me, or give me a surprised (but, I stress, not hostile!) glance if I happen to have a lady on my arm. At the end of the day, this is why queer bars exist, so I don't have to feel like a fish out of water just to get a drink with a human who I'm into.

A lot of the songs that get me ready to seize the day, that inspired me to start this blog to begin with, that make me Feel the Things, are about the disappointments of a rural, blue collar life. I grew up with Central Park as my playground. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was my playground. College was never a question for me, the fact that people who lived only two miles away from me had trouble keeping their fridge full was incomprehensible to me. My life is the complete opposite of guys like Micah Schnabel and John Moreland. But there's something about the defiance and isolation in their songs that resonates with me, maybe because that feeling of self-righteous loneliness matches my own experience as a (depressed) marginalized person -- but one who has been marginalized for different reasons.

So I'm gonna slap this rainbow sticker on this album with pride and certainty. This is an album like any of the other albums posted here: it's about not letting the world make you feel like shit. It just happens to come from a different angle than usual. Or, as Greg writes:

And perhaps if you are a person who is looking for such a map,
to get out of the maze of your own head,
our minds might not be shaped the same,
but maybe a picture of mine
might give you a few ideas
of how to get

If you want to open your mind and experience more great music by awesome queer folk artists, join me and Karen and the Sorrows at Branded Saloon in Brooklyn this Friday! The proceeds will go to FIERCE, a youth empowerment organization for LGBTQ young people. Donations of $10 or above will get you a download card for the Proud compilation album, so snap that shit up! If you can't make it to the concert, buy the album before May 1st!

Where: Branded Saloon (603 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY)
When: Saturday, 3/21 at 8 PM
Who: Me, Small Talk, The Paisley Fields, Karen and the Sorrows
How Much: $5 though no one is turned away for lack of funds. $10+ gets you a download card!
Why: Because you're cool and super sexy

You can RSVP here.

Also, Greg's on tour with Joan Smith! Go and adore them if you can make it!

Gregory McKillop -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Joan Smith -- And Yet, So What

Howdy! Guess what? You're reading part 2 of a mini-series on incredible LGBTQ-identified folk artists. I was introduced to Joan by Greg McKillop, who you'll hear more about tomorrow.

But for now I want to talk about Joan. All I can say is: damn. Smith's impassioned vocals and cutting lyrics make singing with just you and a guitar seem like the most courageous thing anyone could possibly do.

If that's not enough of a review for you, Smith clearly draws from the punk and DIY thing, but it's her melancholy that lands the album squarely in folk. You can pay what you want for the digital version, but the physical CD comes in a cool cloth pouch so...it's worth the chunk of change.

If you're into some more queer [as] folk, definitely join me on Saturday for the March Queer Country Music show! I'm co-hosting it with Karen and the Sorrows. The proceeds will go to FIERCE, a youth empowerment organization for LGBTQ young people. Donations of $10 or above will get you a download card for the Proud compilation album, so snap that shit up! If you can't make it to the concert, buy the album before May 1st!

Where: Branded Saloon (603 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY)
When: Saturday, 3/21 at 8 PM
Who: Me, Small Talk, The Paisley Fields, Karen and the Sorrows
How Much: $5 though no one is turned away for lack of funds. $10+ gets you a download card!
Why: Because you're cool and super sexy

And here's more info about Joan Smith:

Facebook, Bandcamp

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Small Talk -- SMALL TALK

In the three-and-then-some years I've been writing Adobe & Teardrops, I've become a bit of a scene kid. Not necessarily in the alt-country scene in Brooklyn (it's thriving, as I'm sure you can guess), but in the queer alt-country scene in Brooklyn. It doesn't really take much to become that kid. All you have to do is go to a couple of Karen and the Sorrows' Queer Country Monthly parties.

Unfortunately the parties haven't been monthly recently, but they're a blast when they do come around. December's party was a bit of a religious experience. Small Talk was one of the other bands who played that night, and their on-stage presence was magical.

The band's pay-what-you-want (and you want to pay a lot) EP is all-too-short. But if you can't tell from the seamless four-part harmonies, this is a tight-knit band and they have a ridiculous amount of chemistry. The four songs on Small Talk or funny, poignant, political (and who can object to that?) but, most of all, beautiful.

Though the EP is short, you can hear them play for a good deal longer this Friday at Branded Saloon, where Karen and I are teaming up to host this month's Queer Country Monthly! The proceeds will go to FIERCE, a youth empowerment organization for LGBTQ young people. Donations of $10 or above will get you a download card for the Proud compilation album, so snap that shit up! If you can't make it to the concert, buy the album before May 1st!

Where: Branded Saloon (603 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY)
When: Saturday, 3/21 at 8 PM
Who: Me, Small Talk, The Paisley Fields, Karen and the Sorrows
How Much: $5 though no one is turned away for lack of funds. $10+ gets you a download card!
Why: Because you're cool and super sexy


Small Talk -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, March 16, 2015

Anthony Presti -- Clarity in Hindsight

Anthony Presti's music is a lot...gentler...than what I usually write up. I dunno, sometimes you need to switch things up. Presti's second album shows a lot of creative energy and a wide range of influences, from folk to reggae to jam band rock. All of these songs are skillfully executed but the lack of focus means that some of these songs will be "misses," but most of them are "hits." Since this is a country and folk blog, those are the songs my ears fell most favorably on.

"Time Will Tell" is a beautiful duet about the beginnings of a beautiful friendship. Similarly, "Let's Dance, France" and "Florence" have been occupying my dreams (literally) for the past few days. Presti is at his best when he's most low-key. These songs are intimate and familiar without seeming cliched. Presti guides us just to the left of the typical singer-songwriter and brings us to his unique voice. He's never flashy; it's just what he does. The unexpected lyrical turns and musical choices are so subtle that if you blink, you might miss it on the first time around. But it's clear that with time and focus, Presti will continue to improve upon his already outstanding craft.

Anthony Presti -- Official, Facebook, Spotify, CDBaby, Amazon, iTunes

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hank Woji -- The Working Life AND Queer Country Monthly!

Hey, you.

You look pretty cute. You also look like you'd have fun at a country concert. Also you want to donate money to an LGBT youth organization. And you're in New York City?

Looks like I'll be seeing you next Saturday with Karen and the Sorrows.

RSVP here!

And if you can't make it, you could totes buy the compilation CD here. Get it before May 1st!

Also, here's some more great music.

Hank Woji impressed last year with Holy Ghost Town. I still get "Terlingua Blues" stuck in my head, which is no small feat considering how many songs pass through my ears. At first, though, I found myself not totally loving The Working Life. This album is very much a political album. Almost each song on here is a fairly blunt tool, championing the cause of -- well, not simply the working man, but the working union member. As a proud union member, I certainly identified with a lot of the songs, but I like my politics swathed in righteous fury. Woji's music is much more laid back. Here's the first verse from "Come Join a Union!"

We’re your sons and your daughters, your moms and your dads
We’re your aunts and your uncles, all the best friends you’ve had
We’re your brothers and sisters, we’re folks just like you
We’re all union workers, and proud to be too!

We’re teaching your children, we’re the cops on the beat
We pick up your garbage, from Main to Wall Street
We’re the EMS workers, and the firefighters too
We’re all union workers, and we’re working for you

So come join a union, we’ll lend you a hand
Speak truth to power, across this great land
Cause the bosses won’t listen, till we organize
With a hand on the plow and our eyes on the prize

Sure, the writing is simple. But once I really dove into the lyrics, I realized it's extremely fucking hard to pull this kind of thing off. Woji makes his point plainly, clearly, and all with a real rhyme scheme and meter. And this song is really long.

It wasn't until I had my own union back me up recently that I truly came to appreciate The Working Life as an album. I don't know what that says for someone who is not in a union. (Hey, you may be cute and into queer country but nobody's perfect.) But for me, the songs I appreciate the most were the slice-of-life songs like "Chasing My Headlights Again." I'm not a touring musician, but that's the one that struck a chord with me. Funny how that works.

Hank Woji -- Official, Facebook, Spotify, CDBaby, My Texas Music  

Carolinabound -- Smoking Gun

Carolinabound first caught my ear by sharing a distinct similarity to one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Bill Mallonee. Maybe it's his lonesome voice, or the cutting, spiritual lyrics. But it's mostly his absolute confidence in what he's saying: Carolinabound has something to say, and he wants you to know it.

The songs are, at first glance, meditative Americana music. But don't let these songs fade to background noise -- otherwise they'll sneak up and gutpunch you. "Chaos," for example, seems like a country-influenced ballad of nostalgic times past, until

There is blood on the hands of the people of this land
There are killers in the schoolhouse
There are sinners in the church house
And when all else fails
We'll sail into the blue
Father forgive us, for we know not what we do


Carolinabound -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

VIDEO: As Tall As Trees -- The River

I always appreciate a great cartoon. Musicians seem to be turning to animated shorts more and more for their videos, which I for one support. Not all music videos are made equal -- just because it's nice to look at it doesn't mean it's so fun to listen to, and vice-versa. As Tall As Trees' new video is mini-epic that deserves a spot in your day. It's visually stunning and emotionally charged -- not bad for your lunch break, I'm sure.

As Tall As Trees -- Official, Facebook, iTunes

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Porter -- This Red Mountain

Today, my students broke my heart. Not only did they accuse me of looking like a tourist, but they asked me who Paul McCartney was. And Ella Fitzgerald. Of the three, I'm not sure which cuts the most.

Anyway. It's been a roller coaster watching Porter's music change over the course of this blog's short life. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the man himself. First, he made some powerful music with his then-partner in Some Dark Holler. Then, when that broke up, he recorded one of the most depressing albums I've had the pleasure to review on here with The Pollies, recorded at a time when all parties involved were going through it.

So Porter packed his bags, left Alabama, and wound up in Austin. He recorded this.

Porter was pulled to Austin by his new lady friend and BAMF-in-her-own-right Bonnie Whitmore. Whitmore participates in the album, as do a number of other musicians who have become integral to Porter's new life in the lone star state. It's easy to hear the devotion that goes into this album from all the hands on deck.

There are a lot of sad songs on This Red Mountain, but mostly they're about overcoming those hurdles. They're about redemption and starting to feel maybe a little bit better. True,t most of the songs featured on this blog have that element to it. But Porter's music is able to touch me in ways that few artists can. If the Porter and the Pollies EP punched me in the gut, This Red Mountain was the hand to help me back up.

Porter -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

Monday, March 9, 2015

American Aquarium -- Wolves

Like many people, American Aquarium entered my radar with Burn. Flicker. Die. I recently had a loss in my family, and that's the album that got me through it. Not because it's sad, but because it's about rejecting where you've come from to forge your own path. (Yeah, that kind of family member.)

Wolves, on the other hand, is less about angry defiance and more about taking stock: of the past, the future, of big decisions, of aging. (As much as I adore "Losing Side of 25," though, it's a little alarming to think I've already peaked.)

Though the themes are the same, the band is branching out musically. The band is a lot looser this time, with an extended almost jazz-like intro to the first track, "Family Problems." For many reasons, including lead singer and writer BJ Barham's commitment to staying clean, the album is a much more sober affair. Perhaps this is a return to form for the band; I don't know, since I'm not familiar with their older music. I do know that the new stuff is excellent. The band played through most of Wolves when I saw them at the Mercury Lounge about a month ago. As my date pointed out, "Wow. These lyrics just cut you."

If this is a boat you haven't boarded -- for whatever reason -- Wolves is just as good a place as any to start your love affair with American Aquarium. Wolves is far and away one of the best albums (and I do mean album as a unit) you'll hear this year.

American Aquarium -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

Friday, March 6, 2015

Andy and the Pandy's -- It Only Gets Darker

Did you need to listen to some emotionally frustrated, introspective, twangy punk?

That's why you're here.

That's why this blog is here. So you can find out about bands like Andy and the Pandy's.

Andy and the Pandy's get down to business right away with their opening track, "Die Alone," declaring

I was waiting for you on the edge of night
As I left another state behind
The wind was howling down the empty road
But I don't want to go through this world alone
I just don't want to go through this world alone 

Country songs deal with depression with resignation. Punk deals with it through anger. Andy and the Pandy's waffle between the two, which is just how I like my music. The album does indeed get darker -- we go from fast-paced songs about living fast and wondering what's next to the elegantly introspective "Fate."

Although Andy gets close, these songs never wallow in self-pity. That can make it a difficult album to listen to at times, but maybe that's because it's too close to the emotions we try to avoid. There aren't too many moments of triumph on here, but there's a whole lot of defiance. Sometimes that's more important.

Andy and the Pandys -- Facebook, name your price at Bandcamp

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Honey and the 45s -- MAD

If the sassy blues riff and catchy harmonies on "MAD" don't pull you in to Honey and the 45s' new EP, nothing will.

The band effortlessly glides between jazz, soul, rock, and blues. This is easily the most fun album I've had the pleasure of reviewing for some time. The goal of the game is to get you off your tucchus -- you might not find much insight into the meaning of life here, but that's fine. There's lots of songs about dancing and the things that tend to follow dancing. Each song is executed with panache and swagger -- these guys are good, they know it, but they're not cocky. If I lived in Chicago I'd make it to their next concert ASAP. But since I don't, I guess I'll be rockin' in my room by myself. Or with a dance partner.

Honey and the 45s -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

VIDEO: Faith Evans Ruch -- "Rock Me Slow"

It's my pleasure to premier Faith Evans Ruch's new music video, "Rock Me Slow."

Her latest album, After it's Said and Done was one of my favorite albums of 2014. Her new music video evokes the same brooding loneliness -- and sense of awe at her raw power -- as the album does.

Faith Evans Ruch -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Nick Shaheen -- Sauvignon

Behold the singer-songwriter: an individual and their guitar, maybe with a backing band. What makes one stand out from the pack?

In Nick Shaheen's case, it's his subtle subversion of all the genre's standbys: sweet love songs, the road song, the songs about self-pity, the occasional murder ballad. There's a reason these types of songs endure, but sometimes they're boring. Give this album careful attention, and Shaheen will make sure you never get bored.

It's not just that Shaheen plays a mean guitar, or that his lyrics are exceptionally sharp, or that his pop-punk delivery suits itself well to folk music. Taken altogether, he's a triple threat. While each song is beautiful in its own right, I'd like to draw attention to "Flashbulbs," an unusual twist on the murder ballad with an unusual backstory. In the song, the narrator recalls being framed for the murder of his lover while chopping vegetables in the kitchen. We learn that the killer used his kitchen knife. The song takes us through the trial and the aftermath, when his name is cleared -- the ambivalent triumph of being declared innocent while you've lost your love in a horrific way.

Shaheen writes he was inspired to write the song when he found himself in the midst of a vivid, violent fantasy while preparing dinner. Shaheen wrote the song to exorcise that particular demon, making the triumph at the end of the song very real.

All of this is to say that these are inventive -- but subtle -- songs from a vivid imagination. It's definitely worth your time.

Nick Shaheen -- Official, Facebook, Purchase, stream on Soundcloud

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ben Hope and the Uptown Outfit -- Ragged and Rowdy

Harlem might be an unlikely places for country music but Ben Hope embraces the incongruity with his Uptown Outfit. Hope is renowned for playing crooners like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Buddy Holly on Broadway. Hope is now turning his attention to the bar stage and brings his theatricality to his music. Whether it's the dirt-kickin' party song "Harlem Rag" or the sorrowful "Lonely A Fool," Hope's acting skills invite you to feel these songs and take them on as a part of your own story.

Hope's got a keen ear for turns of phrases and storytelling. For an alt-country blog, I generally don't cover country. But Hope's wit and honesty pushed this album to the top of my queue. His time playing the greats of country music clearly was not wasted -- Hope is fresh and authentic, and given time someone else will be up on stage playing a younger version of him.

Ben Hope -- Official, Facebook, Stream on Country Weekly