Posts Tagged ‘Don Giovanni Records’

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Listening to Mal Blum’s music, you might grow a bit jealous of the people who get to actually hang with the singer/songwriter in real life. Thanks to their wry one-liners and their ability to create joyful sounds out of relentless self-scrutiny, it’s easy to picture Blum sliding up to brunch or a beach day dispensing a fluid mix of slightly weird yet perceptive jokes and deep insights about the endless struggle to understand oneself and others. These registers—humor and world-weary musing—converge on Blum’s latest record Pity Boy, bringing levity to songs about mental health, the limited resources we have to care for one another, and the grace to be found in taking responsibility for hurting others. Even when Blum’s themes shade darker, the music allows slants of brightness to permeate the gloom and offers frequent opportunities to jump up, dance around, and forget whatever problem might have initially inspired a song.

Opening track “Things Still Left to Say” summarizes what distinguishes Blum’s music from others working at the nexus of punk, pop, and confessional songwriting: specifically, Blum’s ability to diffuse difficult thoughts with humor (“Should I explain myself? / I’d rather read the dictionary!”) and their fascination with the metaphysical gap between one’s presence among others and one’s internal experience of that togetherness. “Do you miss me when I’m not around?” Blum sings, “Because you don’t see me when I’m here”.

In their refrains, Blum’s songs often rely on repetition but not in a way that grows annoying or rote. Rather, the strategy lets Blum turn a thought over and over, drawing different meanings out of it. The refrain on “Things Still Left to Say” goes, “I’ve got things still left to say / I’ve got phrases, I’ve got phrases”—and the contrast between the colloquial construction “I’ve got” and the pretentious word “phrases” strikes a somewhat hilarious, self-deprecating tone. Through this choice, the refrain both mocks the self-indulgent impulse to express oneself and insists on its importance. Blum never specifies what “things” they have to say, but that evasion is exactly the point. Sometimes we feel moved to speak but don’t quite know what to say.

Pity Boy is the first album that Blum recorded with their longtime touring band, The Blums, which includes Audrey Zee Whitesides on guitar, Barrett Lindgren on bass, and Ricardo Lagomasino on drums. The Blums contributed substantially to the arrangements here and created teflon-tight musical structures to shape Blum’s occasionally wordy writing. On “Things Still Left to Say,” for example, Lagomasino and Lindgren create a foot-stomping backbeat while Whitesides sprays arcing guitar riffs like rainbow confetti all over the melody. The song feels engineered to inspire head-bobbing; it’s almost impossible to take the ride without moving some part of your body along.

Pity Boy’s other tracks cleave into two fairly distinct sonic categories: cathartic pop-punk bliss and downtempo DIY acoustics. “Odds,” “I Don’t Want To” and “Gotta Go” exemplify the former through fast tempos, peppy power chords, and Blum’s slightly attitudinal delivery, recalling the adolescent paradox of raising a middle finger to the world while secretly stewing in insecurity. These songs hit a sweet spot between Green Day’s guilty-pleasure ear candy and the introspective, political observations made by Blum’s punk-leaning labelmates at Don Giovanni Records.

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On its face, “I Don’t Want To” appears to be an anti-adulting anthem: a declaration of resistance to the tasks we must do to keep our lives on track under capitalism even if, like Blum, we don’t want to. Closer inspection reveals a confrontation with a friend who’s leveled up in the game of life, engaging in bourgeois activities (“You do yoga / And you don’t feel complicated about it”) and hitting their financial marks (“Pay your bills on time / Not month-to-month like some other guys”) with aggravating precision. As elsewhere, Blum deploys the musical syntax of fuck-you punk to sublimate their self doubt, as lines like this creep in: “I’ll never be like that / I can’t tell you why.” If you feel like blasting the song while doing something other than opening your mail, then Blum is giving you permission to go for it.

The second category of songs harkens back to Blum’s earlier, quieter compositions, turning down the feedback and softening the rhythm section to showcase poetic observations. “Splinter,” “Black Coffee” and “Salt Flats” all deserve a close listen, but “See Me” stands out among this group. “I don’t belong, though it helps to play along,” Blum sings, capturing a feeling that resonates between two valences of experience: the common suspicion of not fitting in and Blum’s own identity as a non-binary transgender individual in a cis-normative society. Blum may well have written the song before the Trump administration launched its assault on the civil rights of transgender people, but in its current context, Blum’s repeated plea of “Why can’t you see me when I’m right here?” insists on visibility not just in an interpersonal sense, but also at a crucial juncture in American political life. On album closer “Maybe I’ll Wait,” Blum acknowledges how their self-protective tendencies—whether stemming from brain chemistry or being hurt by others—sometimes lead to letting people down. “I’ve been trying to be better / Since I’ve known what better was,” Blum admits. Pity Boy offers both the comfort and joy of spending 38 minutes in Blum’s forthright yet mercifully light-hearted presence as they navigate how to speak politically in 2019 and try to be a better friend.

releases July 12th, 2019

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Bad Moves

Long live power-pop! I can’t get enough of that spry, shreddy sound, and Washington D.C.’s Bad Moves put their own superb punk spin on it. Their debut LP, Tell No One, is heaps of fun, even as these four friends sing about the mundanity of young adulthood, failed relationships and the long arm of childhood. But these part-time punks make it all sound like a hoopla as opposed to a drag, churning out the cathartic, jubilant kind of rock ‘n’ roll that never goes out of style

Last fall, DC punks Bad Moves released their debut LP Tell No One on Don Giovanni Records, and they’ve now made a video for its song “Wishing.” The video was made by co-lead-singer David Combs (also of Spoonboy, The Max Levine Ensemble, and SOMNIA), who tells us:

The song “Wishing” is about the expectations that adults project onto children, and the music video is made up of some old footage I took a few years ago of my then 2 year old housemate dressed as the Grim Reaper. She’s 5 now and when I asked her if I could use the footage, she said “yeah, I don’t need it anymore.”

David’s description should give you a good idea of what to expect from this hazy video, which pairs well with the song, which is one of the calmer songs on the album.

From the Bad Moves tape on Don Giovanni Records.

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After three years on the road, the New York singer Mal Blum returns with a refreshing directness, a hungry turtle and “Things Still Left To Say.” In their first new song since the 2015 album You Look a Lot Like Me, Blum confronts an estranged relationship where so much has been left unresolved. Though hard, Blum stresses the importance of being truthful, especially while “we’re all still here.”

The upbeat, punk-pop power chords and infectious lyrics are accompanied appropriately by a karaoke-style video. Along with the neon pink and blue text stretching across the screen with every line, a montage of clips shows people dancing and singing into the camera to “Things Still Left To Say.” In the background, Blum is laid out in a plant-filled living room, feeding lettuce to a turtle. Vibrant and liberating in all it’s awkward glory, what shines through is Blum’s signature, self-effacing honesty.

“‘Things Still Left To Say’ is a song about the desire and persistence to be heard,” Blum tells us in an email. “About times when we swallow or deflect vulnerable aspects of ourselves because we feel that there is no space for them. This song is about navigating that distance, the specific flavor of isolation (so awkward that it’s almost comical) that occurs when you feel unknown in front of those who think that they know you the best.”

Blum repeats a kind of mantra in the chorus, “There are thing still left to say / I’ve got phrases / I’ve got phrases.” It’s a reminder to keep those words close, just in case you get a chance to set them free.

“Things Still Left To Say”is out now on Don Giovanni Records, and Blum will be back on tour with Lucy Dacus and Fenne Lily in March.

I am so happy to (finally) announce that my new album, “The Big Freeze” is out on March 29th! You can hear the first single “Living Room NY” . Laura Stevenson’s music has always dealt in crushing existential dread, be it self-deprecation or heartache. This is an artist who once opened a 2015 song called “Jellyfish” with “I’m fucking hideous and spiteful / When I’m left to my devices.” Even the press release for her new album opens with: “If gravity is strong enough, at the end of time our universe will collapse, pulling all of existence back down to infinitesimal size, like before the Big Bang. But if expansion outpaces gravity, eventually the universe will be cold and empty – all light, heat, and connection will be gone.” That phenomenon of a too cold, uninhabitable universe is called The Big Freeze, which is also the title of Stevenson’s upcoming fifth LP that’s out 29 March.

The New York songwriter is back with her fifth album, ‘The Big Freeze,’ out 29th March.

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Sad Bad is the second full-length by Izzy True. It’s a record about death and getting dumped at the end of the world. The songs were mostly written in Chicago in an apartment on the 11th floor of a tall building that would eventually turn out to have bedbugs and to which Izzy True can no longer return because it is no longer rented by people they love. That music was then carried back to upstate New York where it was subjected to TOTAL INSTRUMENTATION courtesy of the True’s dear friends and collaborators, Angela Devivo and Kyra Skye. The is available now digitally and also as a pack of stickers (designed by True) with a complimentary download code. Bless this mess.

Isabel Reidy began her career in The Realbads, a folk noise punk band with her brother Silas Reidy on guitar, percussionist Chris Polis, and bassist Mike Amadeo. Their full­ length album Here Comes The Realbads was released on Sweet Baby God Records in 2014. On her recent solo project, Izzy True, Reidy pursues a wistful and empowering punch of melodic pop rock.

The humor and charm of Izzy True is reflected in the animated music video for “Swole,” the debut track from her new EP, Troll. “Swole,” short for “swollen,” is gym slang for someone who has developed a larger physique from weightlifting. Reidy deadpans about her workout routine, getting huge, and how it gets her dates.

Reidy has also illustrated and published numerous comics, including “Powder Shiver”, which was released at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, and on “Swole”, she accompanies her inventive songwriting with animations of eccentric characters: a crocodile in gym shorts, a jubilant man lifting weights and a bizarre creature making a protein shake.

Riedy elaborates on the process of combing songwriting with illustrating:

“It all kind of feeds into itself. I write songs about my characters and I also sometimes try to write music that sounds how my images look. The music, the dudes, they all exist in the same universe, it’s just different ways of seeing that place. As for the content­­ Those are just some of my guys, new and old, and they are working out. I’ve been trying to work out, so that’s why they’re doing it. I want them to be strong. It would be cool to be strong”.

Troll is on Don Giovanni Records.

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Over the span of their first five albums, the Roadside Graves were quintessential, New Jersey roots-rock storytellers, with songs full of empathetic third-person narratives. On their fifth album, and first for the esteemed Don Giovanni label, they are ready to tell their own. At its best, Acne/Ears unassumingly places itself within reach of New Jersey’s A-list of confessional indie rockers.

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It’s as unflattering as you’d expect from a song called “Acne/Ears”, two facial features that seem to exist for the sole purpose of causing adolescent embarrassment. “Some boys are filled with piss and vinegar/ Some boys are filled with just pus and blood,” John Gleason sings, recalling the days when his breakouts were so profuse, he didn’t even bother going to school. It’s similar to Strand of Oaks’ breakthrough single “Goshen ’97”, in which a sullen teen finds relief by singing terribly in the mirror even when he could hardly bear to look at himself.

John Gleason’s creaking vocals about a lonesome kid holed up in his bedroom. There is a larger scope here, as if that kid finds a suburbia full of other holed-up kids, but it’s when they get together, when they are just “boys in basements making noise” that the song erupts into rollicking, full-band joy. We see much of the louder joy and frustration of this record rise out of solitary quiet. On string-laden “Endangered”, Gleason calls for help because he’s in danger “just like the fish in the sea.” On Acne/Ears, trouble isn’t really a change in the program but more like the same come down. Sometimes, on the heartbreaking loss of “The Whole Night”, it’s too much to bear. Other times, on “Gospel Radio” for instance, it’s the music that makes it all bearable, that can turn pain and closed bedroom doors into wide open spaces of sound, into release. Like the suburbs these songs sound born from, Acne/Ears sprawls outward, in a few small moments almost too far, but in the end the record keeps its shape while offering surprising turns throughout. For Roadside Graves, it’s not about escaping the pain, it’s about making something bigger than it.

SadBad was written in Chicago then carried back to upstate NY where it was subjected to TOTAL INSTRUMENTATION courtesy of Angela Devivo and Kyra Skye. SadBad was then further illuminated via guests Sheer Mag’s Kyle Seely & multi-instrumentalist Curt Oren.

SadBad! Finally someone has created a word to describe how so many of us are feeling on a day to day basis. Sometimes a bit sad, sometimes a bit bad, sometimes a combination of the two. Izzy True named their sophomore album SadBad, a record that takes the sound of their debut and expands into new territory. Due out on August 3rd via Don Giovanni Records, the album takes True’s earnest lyricism and adds some twang, confessional sparseness, bursts of jazzy jubilance, and emotional beauty that’s both optimistic and heartbreaking. Themed with death, break-ups, and the end of the world, you might not believe there’s much optimism to be found, but True works hard to find that comfort in the darkness. There’s a lot of moods and dynamic songwriting throughout SadBad, a terrific growth of all that was already great about Izzy True’s music.

The first single and title track, “SadBad” captures an Americana spirit to True’s usual heartbreaking pop. It’s a passionate and soulful track, built on a slow and dusty progression that just rolled in with the breeze. True’s voice is soft but powerful, quietly proclaiming “you can’t stay” before the repetition of  “it’s the wrong time”. The song’s guitar twin melodies intertwine with a jangle and harmonic warmth, the perfect compliment to the relaxed rhythm and True’s gorgeous Angel Olsen reminiscent voice. Joined together by Angela DevivoKyra Skye with guest appearances from Sheer Mag’s Kyle Seely and Curt Oren, Izzy True and company have made a record that only gets better with every listen.

Releases August 8th, 2018

Alice Bag’s Blueprint album is a lesson in archetypes. In the 1970s, the Chicana L.A. punk pioneer of The Bags proclaimed herself a “Violence Girl”: a woman who, like certain chrome alloys, becomes only more unbreakable when tempered with fire. On Blueprint, Bag paints complex portraits of nameless (brown by default) individuals with characteristic pith and violence-girl riffs. On “Invisible,” a man who drinks too much holds himself together for his daughter and craves invisibility, a state many immigrants inhabit to survive, only to remain invisible to the American public eye. On “The Sparkling Path,” Bag alludes to escape by suicide, urging a message of survival beyond the kind of Maslow-diagnosed magical thinking for the oppressed who seek fulfillment beyond a lack of food, water and, most pressing of all, shelter. And on “77,” she enlists the help of Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill) and Alison Wolfe (Bratmobile) to inhabit the working women of 9 to 5 and tie up their male boss.

In other songs, Bag is herself again, defending her blue hair against chismosas on “Se Cree Joven” or delivering the starkest gut punch against self-loathing in “Etched Deep”: “All that rubbing at the pages / Won’t make them white,” she says to us and to our history. There’s no performative Twitter-shock at the plight of brown people on this album. There’s only the solemn self-vindication of a woman too long kept in the dark by ostensibly radical punk. “White justice,” after all, “just isn’t just.” 

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Righteous, angry, punky, inspiring songs that evidence both vitality and deep wisdom & experience. Protest music in the best possible sense.

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Formed in New Brunswick, NJ in 2005, Screaming Females are Marissa Paternoster (guitar, vox), Mike Abbate (bass), and Jarrett Dougherty (drums). Over six albums and more than a decade of music making, the band has remained deeply individual and steadfastly DIY. They have also grown into one of the most dynamic and devastating touring bands going today.

Marissa Paternoster’s voice is the relentless force and central instrument that drives Screaming Females’ All At Once. Her howling vibrato doesn’t necessarily outshine the fired-up shredding or evocative lyricism. Rather, it makes those elements feel that much grander. The expression “I’ll make you sorry” never sounded as sly and, frankly, believable as it does coming out of Paternoster’s mouth. A sense of restless intensity translates stylistically, too. All At Once is a feverish rock n’ roll album, pieced together with power-pop grooves, punk progressions, indie-rock melodies, and even a hint of ska. But as ever, Paternoster is the star. When she sings, “The sun destroys me,” on “Agnes Martin,” it doesn’t sound hyperbolic; it sounds as if she’s on the verge of melting.

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Out February 23rd, All At Once, is the trio’s most expansive and imaginative work to date — a double LP that swings between surreal miniatures and and solo-heavy sprawl. Concision takes a backseat to experimentation, with arrangements meant to evoke the energy and spontaneity of their live shows. It’s music built across a timeline that’s longer than our internet-enhanced moment typically tolerates and a testament to the band’s dedication and perseverance.

Ex-Vöid’s “Boyfriend” is a fun punk song about a bad relationship

Ex-Vöid is the new band from Alanna McArdle and Owen Williams, former members of the now defunct pop-punk group Joanna Gruesome. Like their former band, McArdle and Williams have continued to mix sugary sweet harmonies with furious blasts of noise in their new project. Joanna Gruesome were a band who always seemed destined to burn bright and burn fast. Their take on, “hyper-aggressive” pop music, resulted in two brilliant, and very short, albums and then singer Alanna McArdle parted company with the band, the band carried on, perhaps still are carrying on, yet it never quite felt the same. The partnership at the core of the band’s success was between Alanna and Owen Williams, and after, allegedly, “a chance meeting at a contemporary dance class”, the two began discussing working together again. The result is Ex-Vöid, and their debut three-track single , check out lead track, Boyfriend.

Musically, there seems to be both continuity and progression from the Joanna Gruesome sound. The short sharp bursts of brutality remain, although they’re now accompanied by a more distinctly poppy sound than ever before, with nods to the likes of Veronica Falls or The Spook School, although the cited influences are, “Black Sabbath’s “Into The Void”,  D.C.-area hardcore legends “VOID,” and Raincoats number “The Void”.” As playful, noisy, hook-laden and exciting as ever, Ex-Vöid are a welcome return for this perfect coming together of musical minds.

A three-track single, Boyfriend is out now via Don Giovanni Records