Posts Tagged ‘California’

Lead-singer, songwriter, and rhythm guitarist Logan Hammon (age 17, pink hair — now eggshell blue) felt that her band wasn’t giving her enough freedom to write her own songs. She took lead-guitarist Jackson Felton (now age 15) and started a new project out of their garage. The duo, what was to become Small Crush, started making music inspired from Hammon’s voice memos (shared over group text) and titled from a self-professed “inability to crush on someone for a long time, so lots of little crushes.” Not long after the band’s genesis, Hammon and Felton recruited bassist Hank Herbert (aged 17) and drummer Will Scherer (aged 16) from a nearby high school and started playing house shows, coffee shops, and restaurants. The group is multitalented, often switching instruments at practice, and the effect of Hammon virtuosic lyrical introversion over playful riffs evokes Frankie Cosmos and Waxahatchee. The music seems to be derived from many small crushes, evoking a sincere and intense conviction too often lost in adulthood.

Planning around after school jobs and football practice, the band rehearse at Hammon’s house in San Leandro. They pulled up sipping cans of yerba mate with skateboards and a giant teddy bear in the the back of Herbert’s CRV.

An unlikely cohesion of seemingly different high school “types,” it became quickly evident that their connection extended beyond the stage. They proceeded to sing along to blaring 80’s synth-pop in the car (when they said it was their favourite music, I wasn’t sure they were kidding) and naturally-athletic Herbert was carrying 15-year-old Felton on his shoulders, The band concluded our phone interview by playing a completely ad-libbed song.

Released October 23rd, 2020

 

Agitated is more than pleased to announce the long over-due return to wax (and CD) by Carlton Melton, the new album from San Franciscan / Northern Californian space-trippers is here, and its ready to tune you out and turn you on.

Nestled deep in the forests of Mendocino County in Northern California, huddled under the protective shade of towering redwoods and within earshot of frothy waves crashing against the Pacific coastline, squats a geodesic dome that has served as crucible for the experimental genius of Carlton Melton. Nature and Man operate under different logics. But here, Carlton Melton wholly entrusts this idyllic environment with the task of inspiring and guiding their musical improvisations.

The Dome has been the ideal setting to facilitate their creativity. Without forcing a specific dynamic or theme, the band inhabits its womb-like confines to improvise, explore, dream. Their music draws on psychedelia, stoner metal, krautrock, and ambient atmospherics to convey, above all else, a mood.

A prickly guitar melody will float lazily, a wall of dissonant feedback will resolve into a hypnotic drone, or a colossal riff will exhume the soul of Jimi Hendrix. One hears Hawkwind or Spacemen 3 jamming with Pink Floyd at Pompeii.

Indeed, Carlton Melton have one foot in the ancient world and one tentacle in deep space. They are both the pack of proto-humans drumming with femurs in Kubrick’s 2001 and the film’s inscrutable monolith hinting at the universe’s mysteries. The “Stoned Ape” theory holds that early hominids ingested psychedelic mushrooms that provided an evolutionary boost to their brains, helping them blossom into Homo Sapiens. Imagine such cavemen trippin’ balls, their nightmarish visions sending them into feverish bouts of rage and then gentle moments of introspection. They very well could have heard the music of Carlton Melton rattling inside their skulls, first driving our ancestors mad then upward into a higher realm.

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Andy Duvall (drums, guitar), Clint Golden (bass), and Rich Millman (guitar, synths) have yet to play Pompeii, but they have already wowed crowds at European festivals such as the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, Roadburn, and Desertfest Antwerp. Live, they are jaw-dropping. On record, mind-altering.

In fact, with each album, Carlton Melton adds a subtle new element, synapses firing new neural connections. In 2020, they release new full-length “Where This Leads”, marking ten years of the band’s working relationship with their UK label Agitated Records and five years of recording with Phil Manley in his El Studio in San Francisco. With “Where This Leads”, the band rewires the listener’s mind. “Smoke Drip Revisited” is a ticklish acid flashback, “Porch Dreams” a dabbling in country psych, and “Closer” a driving, freak-out of guitar heroics.

One senses that the group is conveying a message that cannot be expressed verbally but only suggested through synth sighs, walloping rhythms, and soaring solos.

Releases October 30, 2020

Dre Babinski is happy to be taking photos at the Edendale Branch Library. She’s not a stranger to the Echo Park spot; it’s near her home and a prime people-watching location. But she’s also happy that the location isn’t definitively Angeleno. We’re not shooting with the LA skyline in the background or at Urban Lights or one of the many other spots that place images firmly in a time and space. “I think of Steady Holiday as bigger than just a Los Angeles project,” she says, owning her ambition.

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This isn’t the logical conclusion of years slaving away as an unappreciated songwriter. Babinski spent years not as a bandleader, but as a side-player in bands like Hunter Hunted, Dusty Rhodes & the River Band, and Miracle Days. Often projects would require her to play violin, the instrument she trained on in her school years, but Steady Holiday is a result of her picking up a guitar and writing on an instrument she was less experienced with, resulting in material that merges calm indie pop with gentle psychedelic intonations. Her songs sound like transmissions from an old soul, toeing the line between antique and contemporary.

“One of the things I’m trying to let go of as an artist is the ideas that prowess is important,” she says. “It is to a certain degree. I want to be able to play my songs. Beyond that, creation is so much more important than technicality or cleverness or all the heady, educational things that really haunt me.”

Babinski offered up her debut as Steady Holiday in June, being invited by Paul Tollett to play Coachella this year before the album had even dropped. And though she’s still very much supporting Under the Influence, including an upcoming tour opening for Islands and a local LA headline date at the Bootleg Theater on November 15th, she’s also looking forward to what’s next, ready to test the limits of where her creative endeavors can take her.

Steady Holiday is Dre Babinski and a large dog

After swapping hemispheres, Australian outfit Death Bells have found a new home in Los Angeles, emerging with a new album of fervent guitar-driven rock, stripped of gloom and punching through with a new sense of positivity. “New Signs of Life”, their debut for Dais Records, finds Death Bells using a DIY pedigree to plunder the conventions of “rock music” with a saxophone along for the mission. Rather than leaping genres or formats, New Signs of Life is refined and nuanced—a methodology built on process, craft, and perspective.

Following their 2017 debut, Standing at the Edge of the World, and follow-up single “Echoes,” Death Bells left their hometown of Sydney for the United States. Energized by impulse, extensive touring and exploration led to the formation of an ambitious six-piece band that eventually coalesced as a collaboration between founding members Will Canning and Remy Veselis. With Canning and Veselis becoming the engine, Death Bells began to employ several underground mainstay musicians to complete their live presentation, including Cortland Gibson (Dock Hellis), Colin Knight (Object of Affection), and on occasion Brian Vega (Fearing).

Revitalized and centered, Death Bells released the single “Around the Bend” in 2019, before workshopping material that would eventually comprise their second full-length effort. As much as Standing at the Edge of the World was an energized disclosure informed by fresh naiveté, New Signs of Life harnesses those initial sparks, cloaking the threads of Death Bells with authority, allowing each of the nine tracks which embody New Signs of Life to become lush streamlined vehicles.

The eponymous lead single is a grandiose statement, influenced by the theme song of HBO’s classic television program Six Feet Under. The lyrics are a shopping list of personal neuroses charged with wry optimism, dressed with jagged guitars, brass, and percussion providing a deliberate pace for Death Bell’s new chapter. As method gives way to melody, New Signs of Life exudes an urgent hope laced with drive and verve.

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The first track for New Signs of Life, “Heavenly Bodies,” signals Death Bells’ point-blank delivery of a laconic truth: “We all vanish, anyway.” Sombre and cool, it eases into hushed staccato hypnosis while still finding the tenets of guitar-driven rock. ”A Different Kind of Happy” and “Alison” push the edge of convention, speaking to the power of love in a world gone mad. A nod to their homeland and new city’s surf heritage, “Shot Down (Falling)” pivots playful to a sun-soaked beach strum, layered with shimmer before the horizon fades. As a new statement of purpose, New Signs of Life subverts the band’s moniker, offering breath during suffocation; optimism in chaos with sound over sinking.

released September 25th, 2020

Over the last several months, Jilian Medford’s Ian Sweet project has released a couple new songs. The first, back in May, was “Sword”, which was then followed in August by “Dumb Driver”.” The latter accompanied news that Ian Sweet had signed to Polyvinyl, and presumably a full-length project would be on the horizon sooner than later. While today might not bring clarity about a new Ian Sweet album, it does bring us a new Ian Sweet song called “Power”. It’s her second single release for Polyvinyl. In August Polyvinyl announced her signing and she shared her first single for the label.  

‘Power’ is a manifestation of strength,” Medford said in a statement. “Something I was looking up and looking towards. I wrote this song to try to get closer to trusting the magnitude of myself as a solitary being.” Musically, “Power” is gentler than its title might suggest, with Medford singing over hazy acoustic verses. But for each chorus, a wave of distortion rises up beneath her — making its finale hit all the harder. Medford released her sophomore LP, “Crush Crusher”, in 2018. She is at work on her third LP.

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Released October 6th, 2020

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There are five members in the pan-Californian band Spice who’ve contributions lay equally on the surface of their debut album’s crackling, rocky complexion. Formed in 2018 and based across California, each members’ roots are in the North Bay of San Francisco. Spice’s sound pulls from the sense of melody and drive inherent to Bay Area pedigree, peppered with modernity and awash with an anthemic haze. The hook is in the connection as much as melody, with each song building its inner narrative and exploration of affliction. At its epicenter of those fault line is most notably that of vocalist, Ceremony frontman Ross Farrar. Following Farrar’s career throughout his shape-shifting hardcore-punk band as well as projects like his shoegazing offshoot the Down House, he’s never shied away from applying varying degrees of pressure onto sound, and on “Spice”, we experience this in one of its most focused instances of aggression to date.

Alongside Spice bandmates in fellow Ceremony drummer Jake Casarotti, bassist Cody Sullivan (No Sir, Sabertooth Zombie), guitarist Ian Simpson (Creative Adult,) and violinist Victoria Skudlarek, the collective’s “deliberate isolation of pain” through fascias of hardcore and indie rock channel themselves through in non-stop urgency that makes for one of the year’s most rewardingly thrill rides in anxiety-riddled head charges and whirring melodies. The listen is pop-induced, billowing in the air, and heavy like a pile of bricks at once, and when all of these elements atomize onto one slab, we hear how pain even in isolated form comes in many forms.

The audacity for Spice to entitle a song called “I Don’t Wanna Die In New York City” and to have it bark back through the dark city mania of an early Walkmen track is a sticking point that echoes throughout the rest of the listen. It’s been almost two decades since the Aughts’ NYC underground sculpted a movement in rockism, after all. That’s enough passage to warrant revisioning metropolitan nightmares through a modern lens with windows dirtied and pushed out here on tracks like “BLACK CAR” and the “The Building Was Gone”.

With “First Feeling” and “All My Best Shit”, Spice punctuate post-hardcore and brainy pop-punk with tightly-wound exclamations and sharp brevity. There’s a separation from where they stand against sinking into familiarity, however, thanks to the searing heat radiating from Victoria Skudlarek’s violin strings, sparking instantaneously as they careen through the former. On “Murder”, she helps orchestrate a dark secret life lived, and on “Reward Trip” she guides an electric third rail down a lost highway. Later on “26 Days”, she and her Spice ‘mates stretch light with a towering wait.

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Honed over late nights at Panda Studios in Fremont, California with producer Sam Pura (Basement, The Story So Far, Self Defense Family), Spice spent hours tweaking it until it became a little world formed by what they refer to as “the power of groupthink.” Sprinkled with field recordings—audio snapshots from the member’s every-day-lives—the record offers an intimate twist that builds on its theme of a single thread that connects everything with continuity, making it a single organism with as many depths as questions.

The totality of Spice in its 30-minute listen, with its non-stop concentrate of pain succeeds as a group exercise in attempting to control that which consumes us. That it also happens to be knockout debut from a band whose makeup continues to reinvent themselves by leaving no corner of underground rock uncovered as a conduit to carry this out only helps it go down easier. The record diverts from a singular mood, tempo, or delivery, instead focusing on orchestrating emotional drain as single impulses—fast, slow, driving, simple, and layered—that coalesce in their machinations. At its core, Spice’s Self-Titled album is wired together by brawny and brittle guitars, lock-groove rhythms, and vocals announce each moment and mood.

Released July 17th, 2020

Blue Hearts

Aggressive, loud and unrelenting – Bob Mould takes aim at the malaise of 2020 in the way only he can, showing the many Husker Du and Sugar aping bands just how it’s done.

Through some of the most direct, confrontational lyrics of his four-decade career, Mould makes his POV clear: “I never thought I’d see this bullshit again / To come of age in the ’80s was bad enough / We were marginalized and demonized / I watched a lot of my generation die / Welcome back to American crisis.”

Why “welcome back”? Because Mould experienced deja vu writing Blue Hearts in the fall of 2019. “Where it started to go in my head is back to a spot that I’ve been in before,” he says. “And that was the fall of 1983.” “where it started to go in my head is back to a spot that i’ve been in before,” he says. “and that was the fall of 1983.” back then, Mould was a self-described “22-year-old closeted gay man” touring with the legendary Hüsker Dü and seeing an epidemic consume his community. leaders, including the one in the white house, were content to let aids kill a generation. it’s been a long time since a power pop album has felt this present and pertinent, and who else but mould could bring that sound back to the forefront? “this is the catchiest batch of protest songs I’ve ever written in one sitting,” he says.

In the winter of 2019, Bob Mould bucked the era’s despair with his most melodic, upbeat album in ages, “Sunshine Rock”.

Cut to spring of 2020, and he has this to say: “We’re really in deep shit now.”

That sentiment informs the new full-length album, Blue Hearts (Merge Records, September 25th), the raging-but-catchy yin to Sunshine Rock’s yang.

To be sure, we were in some shit back in 2018, when Mould recorded Sunshine Rock with longtime colleagues Jon Wurster (drums), Jason Narducy (bass), and Beau Sorenson (engineer). Back then, he had a song called “American Crisis” that didn’t fit the album.

“That song is the seed for what we’re talking about now,” Mould says from his home in San Francisco during the COVID-19 lockdown. “At the time, it just seemed too heavy. Today it seems fucking quaint.”

“American Crisis” is the third song in a walloping first half of an album that spits plainspoken fire at the people who fomented this crisis. “This is the catchiest batch of protest songs I’ve ever written in one sitting,” he says.

Through some of the most direct, confrontational lyrics of his four-decade career, Mould makes his POV clear: “I never thought I’d see this bullshit again / To come of age in the ’80s was bad enough / We were marginalized and demonized / I watched a lot of my generation die / Welcome back to American crisis.”

“We have a charismatic, telegenic, say-anything leader being propped up by evangelicals,” he says. “These fuckers tried to kill me once. They didn’t do it. They scared me. I didn’t do enough. Guess what? I’m back, and we’re back here again. And I’m not going to sit quietly this time and worry about alienating anyone.”

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Recorded at the famed Electrical Audio in Chicago with Sorenson engineering and Mould producing, Blue Hearts nods to Mould’s past while remaining firmly planted in the issues of the day. Acoustic opener “Heart on My Sleeve” catalogues the ravages of climate change. “Next Generation” worries for who comes next. “American Crisis” references “Evangelical ISIS” and features this dagger of a line: “Pro-life, pro-life until you make it in someone else’s wife.”

“There are songs that have no room,” Mould says, laughing. “The other songs, there’s room. There is room for imagination on the second half of the record.”

That’s where the songs turn personal in a different way. Tracks like “When You Left,” “Siberian Butterfly,” and “Everyth!ng to You” are grounded in personal relationships. “Racing to the End” captures the economic disparity of Mould’s neighborhood, and “Leather Dreams”… well, maybe Jon Wurster put it best.

“Jon turns to Jason and asks, ‘Is this the dirtiest song you’ve ever played on?’” Mould recalls with a chuckle. “I clearly did not put the edit tool to that one. Those are all pretty true bits. What kind of person could possibly have a life like that?” He laughs again. “Says the author.”

“Leather Dreams,” “Password to My Soul,” and “The Ocean” were composed during a writing binge before a January 2020 Solo Electric tour, when Mould stayed up for three straight days. “Songs just kept coming out,” he says. “‘Leather Dreams’ and ‘The Ocean’ both appeared within hours. I barely remember writing them.”

That feels right for an explosive, hook-laden album like Blue Hearts. Only there’s nothing forgettable about it.

All songs written by Bob Mould

Bob Mould: Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion
Jason Narducy: Bass, Backing Vocals
Jon Wurster: Drums, Percussion

Prague TV Orchestra: Strings on “American Crisis”

Released September 25th, 2020

Produced by Bob Mould
Engineered by Beau Sorenson

Julian Shah-Tayler a.k.a. ‘The Singularity’ presents ‘Devil Knows’, his new swagger-filled single with the A-single featuring the original version, the B-side involves three notable members of alternative rock royalty – David J, MGT (Mark Gemini Thwaite) and drummer Marc Slutsky.

Aptly named ‘Devil Knows Ruby Rock Version’ due to the fact that all three of these collaborators were involved in Peter Murphy’s extensive international Bauhaus Ruby celebration tour. Bassist David J needs no introduction, having founded Love and Rockets and Bauhaus. Mark Gemini Thwaite is best known for his prolific work and touring history with the likes of Tricky, The Mission UK, Peter Murphy, Ashton Nyte and The Wonder Stuff.

This new track follows hot on the trail of his single ‘Evolution’, which also involves contributions by MGT and Gene Micofsky (and the b-side remix by Mark Gemini Thwaite himself)

“This song is about losing people. The devil is always present when we lose the connection with people. The death of Love, a break in the heart. Communication breakdown. But we try and try,” explains Julian Shah-Tayler.

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Hailing from Leeds, England and now LA-based, singer, writer and producer Julian Shah-Tayler makes electro rock new wave ‘intellipop’ for the 30th century. He is currently working with the legendary Robert Margouleff (Stevie Wonder, Devo) on his next album, releasing a few tasters along the way.

Having spent much time as a touring musician, Julian has experienced the pain of meeting and “breaking up with” people every night.

After completing his degree at York University, Julian moved to London as a singer-songwriter with classical training on piano and self taught on guitar. After several abortive record deals with music industry legend Alan McGee, he joined the hip electro clash outfit Whitey as co-writer/ guitarist, recording many of those songs in his nascent home studio.

After parting ways with his bandmates, Julian moved to L.A. to launch his own project The Singularity. There, he has had considerable success with TV and film licenses, known for his work on ‘Plush’, ‘Riot on Redchurch Street’ and Disney’s ‘Maleficent’. He won a Golden Trailer award, along with Daisy O’Dell, for his work with Lana Del Ray on the trailer for the latter film.

In addition to scoring music with O’Dell for the two-time Emmy winning ‘Actors on Actors’ TV show, his music has been performed for Robert De Niro, Bill Clinton and Martin Scorsese via the Unite for Humanity charity at the Oscars.

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Julian also recorded a unreleased album with Joaquin Phoenix and Antony Langdon (Spacehog), as well as directing Island Def Jam artist Kerli 4 for songs he co-wrote with Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama, Shakespear’s Sister). His remix of Nico’s ‘These Days’ with Daisy O’Dell was featured as KCRW’s “one to watch”. He also cofounded the ‘Art Angeles’ charity, teaching underprivileged kids music in Watts.

When he is not writing and recording original material or producing other arists, Julian Shah-Tayler is selling out venues with his David Bowie tribute band ‘The Band That Fell To Earth’, his Depeche Mode tribute band ‘Strangelove’ and moonlighting as singer-keyboardist in The Cure tribute band ‘The Cured’

‘Devil Knows’ is now available released August 21st, 2020

Jenny Owen Youngs grew up in the forests of northern New Jersey and now lives in Los Angeles, where she spends much of her time writing with and for other artists, making podcasts, and working on her next record. Her songs have appeared in Bojack Horseman, Weeds, Suburgatory, Switched at Birth, and elsewhere. If you need her, she’s probably in Skyrim right now.

Okay so I recorded a cover of “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry because it’s one of my very favourite modern love songs, and it has been making me feel feelings for the full duration of its decade upon this earth.

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It was my great pleasure to record this (remotely, in quarantine, via Zoom hangs and shared Pro Tools sessions) with John Mark Nelson, who produced and mixed the song with great instincts and great sensitivity. Mastered by the wonderful Jett Galindo at The Bakery.Canada’s sweetheart Devan Power designed the artwork, and incorporated a photograph made by America’s sweetheart, Tucker Leary.

Marilyn Manson returns with his eleventh studio album We Are Chaos via Loma Vista Recordings. Co-produced by Manson and Grammy Award winner Shooter Jennings [Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker], the ten-track opus was written, recorded, and finished before the global pandemic.

Manson’s painting, Infinite Darkness, which can be seen on the album cover, was specifically created to accompany the music. His fine art paintings continue to be shown all over the world, including gallery and museum exhibitions from Miami to Vienna to Moscow.

Manson says of the album, “When I listen to We Are Chaos now, it seems like just yesterday or as if the world repeated itself, as it always does, making the title track and the stories seem as if we wrote them today. This was recorded to its completion without anyone hearing it until it was finished. There is most definitely a side A and side B in the traditional sense. But just like an LP, it is a flat circle and it’s up to the listener to put the last piece of the puzzle into the picture of songs.

“This concept album is the mirror Shooter and I built for the listener – it’s the one we won’t stare into. There are so many rooms, closets, safes and drawers. But in the soul or your museum of memories, the worst are always the mirrors. Shards and slivers of ghosts haunted my hands when I wrote most of these lyrics.

“Making this record, I had to think to myself: ‘Tame your crazy, stitch your suit. And try to pretend that you are not an animal’ but I knew that mankind is the worst of them all. Making mercy is like making murder. Tears are the human body’s largest export.”

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Releases September 11th, 2020