The UMBRELLAS – ” Maritime ” EP

Posted: December 3, 2021 in MUSIC

The Umbrellas “Maritime E.P.” is a pop-tastic 4-song album, driven along with drum machine, synths, and influences from 80s and 90s formative jangle. Pleasant vocal harmonies overlay chiming guitars and bouncing basslines. Songs written in living rooms, observant of the ever-changing moods of the city and of the heart. The Umbrellas are a 4-piece jangle-pop group who made their debut into the San Francisco diy pop scene in 2019 with their self-recorded and released tape, the “Maritime E.P.”, now available as a 7″ by Syncro System Records.

“Maritime” e.p. is more than a hopeful delusion, it’s a hopeful reality. Even in times where we feel like we might be drowning, we can stay kind to ourselves and learn to cope or maybe just dance and dress like someone from a Belle and Sebastion album cover. The whole album is my favourite song.”

The Umbrellas are:

Morgan S. – Vocals/Guitar
Keith F. – Vocals/Acoustic Guitar
Nick O. – Bass
Matt F. – Vocals/Guitar

All songs by The Umbrellas

Released August 1st, 2020

VACANT GARDENS – ” Three Herons “

Posted: December 3, 2021 in MUSIC
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Vacant Gardens is Glenn Donaldson and Jem Fanvu transmogrifying Flying Saucer Attack waves of distortion and angelic vocal into magic. Also reminding a little of Sandy Denny’s Fairport if the band was Bardo Pond. Glenn Donaldson multi instrumentalist from (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums, Reds, Pinks and Purples) and Jem Fanvu (Tune-Yards, Cavity Fang) have released under the banner of Vacant Gardens. Built on a cresting wave of static and gauzy fuzz, the song plunges Fanvu’s vocals in a soft-pink fog of sound that wafts in through ever opening. Shorebirds is a gorgeous, effusive song hovering on the edges of sleep and dream. The pair paint touches of Pale Saints and Curve alongside the usual shoegaze sightings of Slowdive. They embrace the lostness of sound, letting themselves slowly slide into dust…”  

Vinyl originally released on Tall Texan records, UK Label Tough Love Records are currently working on a reissue of both of their albums for 2022

I got turned on to Vacant Gardens following the thread of what Glenn Donaldson makes.

Released February 15th, 2021

DUMMY – ” Mandatory Enjoyment “

Posted: December 2, 2021 in MUSIC
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Dummy refuses to slow down. After releasing two cassette EP’s in 2020 (on Popwig and Born Yesterday respectively), Dummy’s debut full-length album arrives via Chicago’s Trouble in Mind Records. Employing pummelling guitars and celestial ambience within the same breath, the band folds a myriad of reference points into their drone-pop style. Influence from ’60s melodicism and ’90s UK noise pop can be found woven in with inspiration from spiritual jazz, Japanese new age, and Italian minimalism. Dummy dodges the brooding, dark, dramatic tropes of contemporary “artistic” music often found in punk, experimental, and electronic, instead insisting on joyous and euphoric sonic palettes. They refuse to be artistically stagnant, continuously shifting their approach to writing across 12 tracks.

Shaped by performances around Los Angeles in 2019, songs like Daffodils and Fissured Ceramics feature relentless driving energy and ample psychedelic noise. Elsewhere, Dummy counterbalances the aggression with meditative synthscapes focused on sound design and studio experimentation, like on the motorik “X-Static Blanket”. Finally, centrepiece “H.V.A.C”. and the album’s final track, “Atonal Poem“, seek to synthesize these two poles, offering multi-part journeys through uncharted sonic territory. In contrast to blissed-out instrumentation,

Dummy’s sardonic lyricism examines “the burden of modern life, consumerism, environmental collapse, alienation, and other anxieties born out of living in this absurd moment in history”. Interior design, marine pollution, the psychology of commercial architecture, and nuclear testing are all featured subjects.

Dummy’s restless creativity keeps them moving ever-forward, continuously challenging themselves and pushing their sound into exciting and exhilarating places.

Recommended if you like: Silver Apples, Laraaji, Velvet Underground, Stereolab, Cluster, Antena, My Bloody Valentine, Haruomi Hosono, Carl Sagan, Yo La Tengo, Finis Africae, Midori Takada.

Oakland band Rays return to the fray with their second album, “You Can Get There From Here”, their first release since their eponymous Trouble In Mind debut in 2016.
Rays formed in the fertile crescent of the California Bay Area, a hotbed of musical growth in the past decade, and Rays’ members pull not only from that recent miasma but also from a wealth of Bay Area musical history. You Can Get There From Here represents a turning point for the band, angling their scrappy, post-punk fury into a more refined & melodic pop sensibility, drawing inspiration from UK DIY pop & punk like Dolly Mixture, Cleaners From Venus, Television Personalities & more.
Straight from the gate, songs like “Fallen Stars” and “The Garden” temper their sonic crunch ever so slightly, relying more on the harmonic wallop of a solid hook than the sheer volume of guitars & cymbal crashes. This is urgent, chiming guitar pop of the highest order that clangs with a sonorous melancholy & a ramshackle grace. Rays can still lay it down with the rest of ’em; tunes like “Subway” and “Work of Art” shuffle & stumble forward, skirting chaos in a flurry of strums, recalling recent antipodean pop groups like UV Race, Dick Diver or The Shifters who cull inspiration from idiosyncratic UK greats like Mark E. Smith or Robyn Hitchcock.

With “You Can Get There From Here”, Rays add their voice to the chorus. The new album finds the core group of Stanley Martinez, Eva Hannan, Troy Hewitt & Alexa Pantalone augmented by new member & keyboardist Britta Leijonflycht, whose synth flourishes add melodic embellishments, sonic heft or psychedelic swirl where needed. 

Originally Released November 9th, 2018

The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick hail from Philadelphia, so I guess it’s surprising that their name is a reference to our beautiful game. Talking of beautiful, their LP ‘Ways Of Hearing’ is just that. Sweeping songs with cinematic scope and mournful melodies making fabulous use of guitars, pianos, strings, drums and two vocalists. Indie rock with post rock sensibilities.

They boast six members (sometimes seven, if you believe their Facebook page), decorated with strings, keys, guitars, and drums. Dual vocalists weave enchanting lines over a lush landscape of sound that feels like a score of a movie. For a band of such large size it’s not a surprise they know how to fill space, but most impressive is they also know when to leave the space empty.

The debut release from Philadelphia’s The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. 10 songs that make use of every instrument in their repertoire- strings, keys, drums, guitars, and bells. Dual vocals pepper throughout, playing off each other and weaving through the music to create a beautiful tapestry.

Released October 30th, 2020

alyssa resh played drums & bells & keyboard.
ana hughes perez played violin.
becky hanno played keyboard & sang.
ben curttright played guitar & sang.
michael foster played bass.
sean matthew kelley played guitar.

mark watter recorded this album at headroom in philadelphia, pennsylvania. joe reinhart mixed this album. 

cobalt chapel interview main

Cobalt Chapel were formed in late 2014, by London based vocalist and actress Cecilia Fage (Matt Berry and The Maypoles) and Sheffield based musician Jarrod Gosling (I Monster and Regal Worm). Following the recording of their debut album captivating and atmospheric, conjured up from vintage organs and effects, vintage drums and drum machines, fused together with Cecilia’s distinctive English lead and layered vocals. The album explores imagined scenarios, finding inspiration in folklore, 1960’s and 70’s science fiction and horror (‘Black Eyes’ tells the story from the point of view of a ‘Stepford wife’ in the original film) as well as personal experience. As they continued recording, they found a way to bring in other genres such as choral music that you can hear in their version of English composer John Tavener’s The Lamb, and the collaboration with actor Paul Putner, who wrote the lyrics to Horratia, the story of an ageing horror B-movie actress. Cobalt Chapel began as an idea from Jarrod Gosling when he was on his daily run around the Damflask reservoir in Sheffield.

He wanted to create a new, eerie psychedelic project, with sounds and effects generated solely from organs and drums, with no guitars or synthesizers – a departure from his other groups I Monster and Regal Worm. He wanted to work with a female, folk-led vocalist and when he saw Cecilia Fage live thought she would make the perfect psychedelic companion. Cecilia had been working on Matt Berry’s albums, and others, over a number of years – singing, arranging choral vocals and playing woodwind. She had a sense of creative urgency due to the approaching arrival of her twins; it felt like the perfect moment to work on a new project. Their first chat turned into a long conversation about their shared interests – musical influences from Jarrod’s obsessive love of progressive rock, to Cecilia’s taste in English folk – converging somewhere between Egg and Fotheringay. A mutual love of dark, surreal TV and film from the 20th century, folk tales, sci-fi, and strange phenomena which informs the eerie, haunting feel to their music.

CINDY – ” 1:2 “

Posted: December 2, 2021 in MUSIC
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The release of Cindy’s third record “1:2″, recorded during lockdown in their hometown of San Francisco, and finds itself born amidst one of those creatively fertile moments the Bay Area seems to conjure every few cycles. SF is full of great music right now – “1:2″ might be its greatest record to emerge from this current milieu of artists.

“Lost Dog was the first Cindy song I wrote after the pandemic shutdown. Suddenly everything felt very still and quiet. Maybe because of that stillness, this song came out of memory — of a place and a person and a time pretty long gone. When I brought it to the rest of Cindy, it came together suddenly as though it was already there. Maybe something of that comes through.”

The third and final single to be taken from Cindy’s new album ahead of its release in October is out now. Karina Gill from the band offered some words about the meaning behind “Party Store”

“Party Store is about repetition — generation to generation and within a life. It’s also about the almost altar-like character of some corner store counters: the kid photos and signed dollar bills and lucky charms and out-dated notices and ancient advertisements and winning tickets. Around here, I call corner stores corner stores, but that sounded like a terrible name for a song. I’m from the East Coast where we called corner stores “bodegas”, which is also a terrible name for a song. So we went with the Midwestern American version, “party store”, and figured we could get away with it as Aaron is from Indiana.”

The album is available on DL, CD & a few different versions on vinyl LP – a hand numbered Dinked version on yellow vinyl which includes a bonus 7″ with two exclusive songs alongside a six postcard set, a rain grey vinyl press with a signed print from Record Store, and a standard blue pressing.

Cindy is a band built around the singing and guitar playing of Karina Gill. She became a musician only recently, having sat on the sidelines while ex-partners and friends made their stabs at it. Gill describes a chance encounter with an abandoned Squire Strat left in the basement by a previous tenant, “mummified in electrical tape with the remnants of a burrito on the head stock”, that led her to begin carefully strumming her way through simple chords and making her own songs.

Cindy’s third LP is the quietly devastating “1:2.” Jesse Jackson on bass, Simon Phillips on drums and Aaron Diko on keyboards weave the perfectly thin web behind Gill’s slow Velvety strums and murmured melodies. The rhythm section brings the crude flow, while the keys add subtle and surreal counterpoint to the withering world Gill depicts in her lyrics. “Songs tie together seemingly disparate things by the logic of mood,” Gill tries to explain. This isn’t dream-pop sunshine bliss; half-closed black drapes hang on the window where the narrator stares into the middle distance. “Sometimes you say you’re feeling small/You plan all day for your own funeral”, she intones in “Party Store”. Gill has a way of halting her phrasing that makes it feel like her thoughts are gently tumbling into the abyss. It’s this unsettling quality mixed with the hazy atmosphere that makes Cindy’s new LP 100% addicting and the perfect antidote to comfort listening.

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'You Might Be Happy Someday' by The Reds, Pinks and Purples

Glen Donaldson who’s been in a few of notable groups like Art Museums and Skygreen Leopards now uses The Reds, Pinks and Purples to gift us with his pop magic. “You Might Be Happy” has a sadness permeating from it, but it’s not a downer. It’s more of a nostalgic feeling that it gives off. I’ve seen a lot of Sarah records comparisons which isn’t far off. It’s post-post Sarah too, inheriting from the likes of Trembling Blue Stars and running with it.

You Might Be Happy Someday · The Reds, Pinks and Purples · Glenn Donaldson released on Tough Love Records Released on: 2020-10-02

AIMEE MANN – ” Suicide Is Murder “

Posted: December 2, 2021 in MUSIC
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Four-and-a-half years since Aimee Mann released her ninth studio album “Mental Illness” (2017), the acclaimed singer-songwriter has revealed initial details about its highly anticipated successor. Due in stores November 5th via her SuperEgo Records imprint, Mann’s tenth studio LP “Queens Of The Summer Hotel” was inspired by her recent compositions crafted for the stage adaptation of Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen’s 1993 memoir that examines her psychiatric hospitalization in the late 1960s.

“I honestly felt almost possessed when I was writing this record as I’ve never written so fast and intensely,” Mann explains in an official statement. “I found the material very interesting and obviously really personal. I had specific ideas about what I thought the character’s backstory could be and incorporated a lot of shared experiences to flesh out specific characters discussed in the memoir.”

The 15-track “Queens Of The Summer Hotel” is preceded by the poignant, piano-driven and strings-laden lead single “Suicide Is Murder” and its sobering accompanying video starring James Urbaniak.

“I started to write this song because I’ve known people who committed suicide and friends who’ve had loved ones die from suicide,” Mann reflects. “I think the phrase ‘suicide is murder’ took on a meaning for me as it’s the worst thing to have to deal with in the aftermath. It’s just terrible. Because every person who knows the person who committed suicide will blame themselves in some way for not noticing or stepping in or doing something. They’ll till the end of their days, say, ‘was there something I could have done?’”

Taken from “Queens of the Summer Hotel“, out November 5th, 2021.

ALANIS MORISSETTE – ” Jagged “

Posted: December 2, 2021 in MUSIC
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There’s a moment in the riveting documentary “Jagged” where Lisa Worden, the one-time program director of influential Los Angeles radio station KROQ, describes the first time she heard Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know,” the “You’re So Vain” of the ’90s. Station employees tended to listen to music at top volume, she said, and the song was playing at the excited urging of Guy Oseary, who had just signed Morissette to Madonna’s label, Maverick Records.

Jagged” then cuts to the song’s music video featuring a long-haired, moody Morissette in a desert locale and then looking like a whirling dervish as she fronts a band—and allows the music to simmer and build up through the explosive first chorus. Any plot advancement or commentary pauses; instead, Morissette’s music grabs the spotlight and commands our attention.

It’s a rather excellent and true-to-life replication of how stunning it felt to hear “You Oughta Know” booming out of speakers back in 1995, and a welcome reminder of Morissette’s revelatory presence. “Jagged“, the second film released from the Music Box documentary series Bill Simmons is producing for HBO, does an admirable job capturing the musician’s rise to fame. Using archival concert and news footage, as well as vintage and new interviews, the film focuses on the creation and subsequent success of the multi-multi-multi-platinum 1995 debut album, “Jagged Little Pill“. The documentary ends up both a delightful ’90s time capsule and a sharp analysis of the social and cultural forces that shaped Morissette’s career—for better and worse.

HBO’s “Jagged”, continues the Music Box series, taking viewers to 1995, when a 21-year-old Alanis Morissette burst onto the music scene with the first single off her ground-breaking album, “Jagged Little Pill.” With a rawness and emotional honesty that resonated with millions, and despite a commercial landscape that preferred its rock stars to be male, she took radio and MTV by storm and the album went on to sell 33 million copies.

Like many documentaries, “Jagged” adds positive supporting interviews from music industry executives, journalists, and collaborators; these include her “Jagged Little Pill” producer/co-writer Glen Ballard, Dogma director Kevin Smith and Garbage’s Shirley Manson. Ballard and Manson are especially insightful, with the former describing Morissette’s mindset after moving to Los Angeles in the early ’90s, her career as a teen pop idol in Canada over thanks to being dropped by her record label: “She was looking for someone to be an artist with.”

Smartly, director Alison Klayman amplifies this artistry by foregrounding Morissette’s voice and music. She incorporates plenty of inspiring footage filmed on the “Jagged Little Pill” tour that shows off the singer’s mesmerizing, cathartic stage charisma. Morissette herself also sits for frank and perceptive interviews about her life, music, and creative process. “His big question was, ‘Who are you? What do you want to write about?’ What’s going on for you?’” Morissette said of Ballard as they started working together. “And what a lovely prompt. Nobody’s asked me that—ever.” This nurturing creative environment led to Jagged Little Pill, a record that captured the complicated experience of being a strong young woman coming into her own: finding pockets of joy, mirth and ecstasy while processing trauma, recovering from negative relationships and pushing back against oppressive, male-driven systems.

The idea of power—who possesses it, who wields it responsibly, who abuses it—is one of Jagged’s compelling (if sobering) themes. Early on, it focuses on Morissette’s pre-Jagged Little Pill life in Canada, including a stint on the cult Nickelodeon TV show You Can’t Do That On Television and her career as an ’80s teen pop phenom. Like many child stars, she dealt with adults acting inappropriately—she recalls being hit on starting at around age 15 and developed an eating disorder after having her weight scrutinized. The matter-of-fact way Morissette describes being deprived of food is horrifying; at one point, she recalls sneak-eating cheese slices on a video shoot and being chided the next morning for the supposed indiscretion.

Much later, “Jagged” addresses the debauched and piggish road behaviour of her Jagged Little Pill-era touring band, which included future Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins and current Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney. While the musicians were protective of Alanis, they didn’t necessarily always extend the same respect to her fans. In modern interviews, the two men confessed that the band had a dedicated room in venues for women who had backstage passes doled out by a guitar tech. “The hypocrisy of what her music and message was—and here you have us, like, scoundrels trying to get laid,” Chaney said. Morissette was unsurprisingly not happy when she found out about their callous shenanigans.

“It did feel disrespectful to me,” Morisette says. “Some of the behaviour just didn’t match my mission or my value system at all. But I’d only grown up around men. So I just thought, ‘Okay, well, are you going to replace them with five other men that are going to do the exact same thing—and it won’t sound as great?’”

If anything, these enraging moments amplify why her music was so important—not just to the world at large, but also for her own comfort and solace. In “Jagged”, Morissette says as much: “The point in my writing these songs—I was not writing to punish I was writing to express and get it out of my body, because I didn’t want to get sick.” What follows soon after is a section once again referencing her teenage popstar days: Morissette broadly discusses having what she later came to understand was nonconsensual sexual encounters—and says nobody listened to her when she tried to tell them what happened. “Women don’t wait,” she says, addressing people who question why women don’t report sexual assaults right away. “Culture doesn’t listen.” It’s both heart breaking and infuriating that what she describes is so familiar.

Jagged cuts deep when unpacking the hypocrisy and obstacles Morissette faced while making her voice heard. Her honest song writing and unfettered stage presence inspired legions of young women—yet “Jagged Little Pill” was initially dismissed by labels for being “too in-your-face, too emotional.” Radio stations still wouldn’t play two songs in a row by female artists, and men dominated the journalistic writing around Morissette’s music and persona.

To underline this point, “Jagged specifically highlights press quotes from the time that emphasize Morissette’s so-called anger, hold her pop music background against her, or insinuate that Glen Ballard was the real song writing star. “It’s still an instinct to diminish any woman who isn’t willing to participate in the little box that’s been carved out for her in society,” Shirley Manson so succinctly puts it in the film.

As Jagged premiered at TIFF, Morissette distanced herself from the documentary, releasing a statement via her management saying the film “includes implications and facts that are simply not true” and noting, “While there is beauty and some elements of accuracy in this/my story to be sure—I ultimately won’t be supporting someone else’s reductive take on a story much too nuanced for them to ever grasp or tell.” It remains unclear what details are incorrect, leaving plenty of question marks as to what happened after filming wrapped.

Jagged” does make it crystal clear that Morissette’s narrative is far more complex than many gave it credit for at the time. More important, the film argues successfully that she’s one of the most important songwriters of the last few decades, in no small part because she remains committed to cultivating her craft.

In fact, “Jagged” ends with Morissette performing a wisdom-packed new song, “Ablaze,” that’s directed toward her children. “Jagged Little Pill” cemented Morissette’s stardom, but she’s never forgotten that staying true to her inner self and vision remains her best creative compass. “There were a lot of women at that time,” Manson says about the ’90s, and name-checks Fiona Apple, Missy Elliott, and Courtney Love. “There were so many of us. But Alanis proved to the world—and the music business—that we were viable.”