Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts’

The eighth album from Marissa Nadler, “For My Crimes”, is the sound of turmoil giving way to truth. The songs stare down the dark realization that love may not be enough to keep two people together through distance and differing needs. By asking these difficult questions about her relationships, Nadler has found a stronger sense of self and a sharper voice as both a songwriter and a vocalist, culminating in her most evocative entry in an already impressive discography. The album is set for release on September 28th, via Bella Union and Sacred Bones.

Following the release of 2016’s acclaimed Strangers, Nadler’s relationships were put to the test as she left the Boston area on tour. She wrote throughout 2017 about this tension, and ended up with three times as many songs as she needed. But after reviewing the demos with her co-producers Justin Raisen and Lawrence Rothman, Nadler wrote a flurry of tight but no less intense new songs in the week before arriving at Rothman’s Laurel Canyon studio, House of Lux, in early January. She considered it a challenge to herself, applying new strategies and structures to the craft of “slow music” she’s honed over the last 15 years. From that group of songs came nearly all of the singles on For My Crimes, some of the most indelible of Nadler’s career.

The opening title track is classic Nadler: a sweeping, vaguely Southern drama of voices, strings, and acoustic guitar, that walks the fine line between character song and personal indictment by metaphor. “For My Crimes” spawned out of a songwriting exercise in which Nadler wrote from the perspective of someone on death row, but the song casts a dark shadow over an album that turns marital conflict into inner reflection. Helping Nadler dig down into the song’s remorseful soul is her old friend Angel Olsen, who serves as a distraught echo from beyond in the chorus.

“Blue Vapor” has an intoxicating raw energy luring you in, somewhere between Springsteen and a grunge band playing MTV Unplugged back in the day. It feels at once tight and improvisational, balancing on little more than Nadler’s steady strumming and vulnerable harmonies with Kristin Kontrol (of Dum Dum Girls), until the heavy, purposeful style of Hole drummer Patty Schemel conjures chaos in the second half. This slow burn feeling is all too appropriate for a song centered around repeating patterns and creeping numbness in a relationship. “Blue Vapor” names that strange ambivalence and turns it into a chant that hangs in the air long after the song ends.

Dreaminess and eeriness have often been two sides of the same coin in Marissa Nadler songs. Where “For My Crimes” and “Blue Vapor” come from her dark side, the album has plenty of moments that twinkle in their sadness and sentimentality. “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” is one of those highly specific songs you’ll get if you’ve ever lost a favorite band to your own broken heart. It sways perfectly in its bittersweetness, like a slow dance you never want to end. After the strings swell and the bass pedals kick in, Nadler coos, “Cause I remember/The songs you sang/To me when it was you/I was falling for.”

Later, closing track “Said Goodbye To That Car” turns a final odometer reading into a rhythm for a catchy, wistful hook: “1-1-9-6-5-7, and the engine blew/“1-1-9-6-5-7, and I thought of you,” Nadler lulls, harmonizing with herself. It’s an ingenious way to capture the end of an era in one small moment, and she moves as delicately as you would handling an old photo with her sweet oohs.

Bolstering the intimacy of these songs is the strong feminine energy that defined their recording. Between Rothman’s fluidity with both gender and genre (as heard on his 2017 album The Book of Law), and Raisen’s track record of successful collaborations with strong women (Olsen, Kim Gordon, Charli XCX), Nadler felt empowered to explore without judgement in the studio. With the exception of a single saxophonist, every player on the album is a woman of notable pedigree and distinct style, many of whom have played with Nadler over the years. In addition to the cameos by Angel Olsen and Kristin Kontrol, Sharon Van Etten sings backup on “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” and “Lover Release Me.” Mary Lattimore joins on harp for “Are You Really Gonna Move to the South,” while the great experimental multi-instrumentalist Janel Leppin plays strings throughout the record.

These women and others helped make For My Crimes as dynamic as it is intimate, but Nadler’s mesmerizing voice stripped of nearly all reverb  is what sits at the center of these songs. You can hear the emotional range of her performances more than ever before, from the spectral harmonizing of “Are You Really Gonna Move To The South” to the cheeky boredom of “All Out Of Catastrophes,” two other highlights. As a singer, she has never sounded more confident than she does here.

Adding to the album’s deeply personal feeling is its abstracted artwork, featuring Nadler’s original oil paintings. Though Nadler is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and a semi-retired art teacher (she has one student left a 95-year-old named Doris), For My Crimes marks the first album cover bearing one of her paintings. She also channeled the album’s themes into paintings corresponding to specific tracks, which will be included as prints in the limited edition version of For My Crimes (and in some cases, for sale as originals on Nadler’s website).

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releases September 28th, 2018
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For fans of Big Thief, Mitski and Sharon Van Etten. Squirrel Flower is the alias 21-year-old Ella Williams adopted for herself when writing and performing songs as a child. Since those early days her movement through music has progressed at a staggering pace and now a reissue of her second EP Contact Sports, available on vinyl for the first time. Contact Sports is a perfectly formed collection of songs about relationships; intimacy, dependency, betrayal and place set to the unique backdrop of the American Midwest. The first three songs represent the push and pull of love and intimacy while the last three are more meditative, more place-based. From the fulsome guitar and visceral, cathartic breakdowns of lead single Conditions to the carefully layered beauty of Hands Melt, this varied collection frequently impresses with its maturity and craftsmanship. Lyrically too, tracks like the fuzzy, dimly-lit euphoria of Daylight Savings are spellbinding in their turn of phrase as Williams sings “I know we’ve gained an hour, but I feel like we’ve lost two”.

What were you doing when you were nine? Ella Williams, aka Squirrel Flower, was touring with the Boston Children’s Chorus singing to the likes of Barack Obama and The King Of Jordan. By fourteen she was taking songwriting seriously, and now aged twenty-one looks set to take world by storm, with the upcoming re-release of her superb second EP, Contact Sports.

This week ahead of the July re-issue, Ella has shared the video from one of the record’s stand-out moments, Conditions. The video, filmed in her college’s athletic centre, ties into the EP’s central idea, that as with sports, in this case basketball, relationships can feel like, “a dangerous game, a competition.”Musically, there’s a stunning maturity to both Ella’s vocal and her songwriting, the intense guitar lines, and nuanced vocal flourishes create an intensity that contrasts the slow-moving percussion. As the song reaches its emotive conclusion, Ella’s vocal repeats the line, “don’t you dare say that you do not know me”, before becoming lost in a barrage of reverberating guitar lines. It’s a stunning piece of songwriting, if you haven’t already explored the music of Squirrel Flower, this is the perfect time to discover your new favourite songwriter.

Contact Sports is re-issued July 20th. Click HERE for more information on Squirrel Flower.

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I’m not saying that these songs will be on the list for song of the year, but they are on my personal rotation from time to time, the idea of my blog is to give you some of my favorite artists making new music right now. Give them a chance, give them a listen go see them live.

This track is legitimately on my 2018 song of the year list. It will probably still be there in December. It’s a harmonic, moving song with powerful lyrics. This is what music should be, in my opinion. I can’t wait to hear these guys live some day.

Darlingside (Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner, and David Senft) are a Massachusetts-based ensemble whose sound is an eclectic blend of 60s folk, clever wry wit, classical arrangements, soaring harmonies, and a modern indie-rock sensibility. The four vocalists and multi-instrumentalists construct every piece collaboratively, pooling ideas so that each song bears the imprint of four different writing voices. Playful vocal permutations swing from four-part unison to CSNY-inspired group harmonies, underpinned by rich, carefully crafted soundscapes. The final product threads the collective memory of the four songwriters, nodding to the music of their parents’ generation while establishing a sound that is all their own.

The band released their second studio album, Birds Say,2015.

Band Members
Auyon Mukharji, David Senft, Harris Paseltiner, Don Mitchell

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Surfer Rosa is one of those perfect debut albums, that lets you know what you’re in for right out of the gate. The blueprint for the album, and for so much of the guitar-based music that followed over the next decade or so, is set within the first minute of the lead track, “Bone Machine.” David Lovering’s spare yet ferocious drums, the sound of them so vast that you wonder if he’s actually playing an oil rig. Kim Deal’s muscular, melodic bassline, underpinning but never overstepping. Joey Santiago drawing blood out of a few crystal-sharp notes of guitar. Black Francis (aka Frank Black) yelping for sixteen bars of agitated verse over a relative lull of music before Santiago yanks the song back into a chorus of blistered lips and “uh-oh!”—the first instance of the loud/soft motif that the band further refine and recalibrate through another dozen frenetic and thrilling songs, most of which combust around the two-minute mark.

The Pixies made Surfer Rosa not long after their formation in Boston, Massachusetts, and just a few weeks after the release of their debut mini album, Come On Pilgrim. Both releases were themselves culled from a March ’87 demo, The Purple Tape, which included embryonic versions of several Surfer Rosa songs: “Break My Body,” “I’m Amazed” and the album’s most straightforwardly hardcore moment, “Broken Face.” At the urging of their British label, 4AD Records, Surfer Rosa saw the Pixies replace Purple Tape producer Gary Smith with a relatively unknown recording engineer, Steve Albini, who was best known at the time for his work with his own band, Big Black. After a get-to-know-you dinner at Lovering’s place, the band and Albini set to work on the record at the newly opened Q Division Studios in Somerville, a few miles north of Boston, which had ironically been recommended to them by the ousted Smith.

Famously opposed to both the title “producer” and the concept of receiving royalties on albums he worked on, Albini was paid a flat fee of $1,500 for his ten days of work on the album, out of a total recording budget of $10,000. He would be similarly forthright in his critiques of the band’s performances, alternately hailing them as “genius” or dismissing them entirely.

In press interviews at the time, the band would characterize Albini as a “brainiac” who loved lo-fi and instruction manuals but had little enthusiasm for “anything human-sounding”—the result of which meant that those ten days of recording were spent honing guitar and drum sounds, with vocal parts left until the very last evening. Special effects were eschewed in favor of an abrasive, unadorned—and soon to be much copied style that found its perfect foil in the Pixies’ deceptively delicate (and often delicately played) songs. Even overdubbing was generally avoided. “He hates overdubs,” Deal had told Melody Maker.

Though the two would later on form a deep friendship (as evidenced by their joint panel at this year’s SXSW festival), Deal was somewhat dismissive of Albini’s methodology in subsequent interviews. But Albini always had a fan in Black Francis. “I like him because he likes loud,” he exclaimed in the same interview. “All the needles were on red. He totally overloaded the tape.”

Assistant engineer John Lupner, meanwhile, was struck by the lengths Albini went to authentically capture the particular sound of Q Division Studios. Not everything was quite so meticulously planned, however. According to John Murphy—Deal’s husband at the time—the abrupt end to “Where Is My Mind?” came about by accident, as a result of the tape running out while the band was playing. “The tape started to go click click click,” he told Frank and Ganz, “and they went, ‘Well, we got most of it.

If there’s an overarching theme to Surfer Rosa, it’s a Lynchian scratching away at the underbelly of modern life to reveal tales of voyeurism, incest, and other deviant behavior. Francis put these preoccupations—that include a rather ahead-of-its-time portrayal, in “Bone Machine,” of a pedophile priest (or “preachy-preach” in Pixies vernacular)—down to his “real hardcore Pentecostal” upbringing. It’s not all about molestation, though. Two songs (“Broken Body” and “Tony’s Theme”) reference superheroes, while several others draw on a six-month period Francis spent as an exchange student in Puerto Rico the inspiration for both the Spanglish lyrics in “Vamos” and “Where Is My Mind?” with its dreamy evocation of snorkeling “in the Car-ibb-e-an.”

Though vocals were left until the final day of recording, they were by no means an afterthought. Indeed, the interplay between the band’s two vocalists, Francis and Deal, would become another Pixies trademark. In keeping with his vérité style, Albini abandoned studio trickery in favor of natural acoustics. Deal’s two most memorable vocal performances—her lead on the bouncing, pop-toned single, “Gigantic” and the oo-oohs that run throughout “Where Is My Mind?”—were recorded in the bathroom, its natural echo proving preferable, as far as Albini was concerned, to any available studio effect. The latter song’s false start jarring and seemingly throwaway on first listen is instructive as to the attention to detail from both band and engineer. Deal’s first ooh, which precedes Francis’s curt instruction to “Stop,” has a sharp rawness to it. When her voice returns in the song proper, it’s engulfed in an underwater haze much more befitting the lyrical reverie.

There are further spoken interjections elsewhere: some within the songs, such as the aforementioned opening to “Bone Machine” and Deal’s similar announcement that “Tony’s Theme” is about “a superhero named Tony,” and some in between. “I’m Amazed” begins with Deal mid-sentence, gossiping about a teacher who’s “into field-hockey players.” “Oh My Golly!” ends with Francis yelling “You fuckin’ die!” at her. He goes on to clarify that he’d done so in jest, in response to her warning that no one mess with her equipment.

Surfer Rosa was released in March 1988 in the UK and remained available only as an import in the United States until late summer, when 4AD signed a North American distribution deal with Rough Trade. Initial U.S. pressings paired the album with Come On Pilgrim. The two works were then reissued separately in 1992, after Elektra Records took on the 4AD catalogue.

Having received largely positive press notices, Surfer Rosa sold solidly in the interim, if unspectacularly—perhaps in part because, like so many landmark albums, it found itself a little far ahead of the curve. Winning the hearts and minds of college radio and Melody Maker (which named the album the best of 1988) would not yet yield widespread success. The album did not go gold in the U.S. until 2005, by which time the Pixies had disbanded, lain dormant for a decade, and then reunited for the first of several deservedly lucrative world tours.

By then, of course, Surfer Rosa had been well and truly canonized as one of the most influential albums of its time, with Nirvana and myriad others taking the Rosa model and running with it, many of them queuing up both to sing its praises and to summon Steve Albini to work his magic to record his own band’s album In Utero . Kurt Cobain listed it as his second favorite album of all time (after Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power)

Among the earliest advocates for the band, meanwhile, was one of rock’s greatest statesmen, David Bowie, who would later lament, “I thought it was a hell of a shame that America didn’t recognize its own with the Pixies.” His 2002 album Heathen includes a well-judged cover of Rosa’s “Cactus,” a short and sweet ballad about a prisoner so desperate for something—anything from his wife that he ends up begging her to smear her dress with blood and “send it to meeee.”

Another important step in the album’s elevation came a few years earlier, with David Fincher’s clever use of “Where Is My Mind?” in a pivotal scene toward the end of Fight Club. Since then, that song in particular has become so inescapable that you’ll even hear gentle piano renditions in HBO prestige dramas. Surfer Rosa regularly appears on all-time “best-of” lists online and in print.

Pixies
  • Black Francis – vocals, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar
  • Kim Deal – bass, backing vocals, vocals on “Gigantic” (credited as Mrs. John Murphy)
  • Joey Santiago – lead guitar
  • David Lovering – drums

The spontaneous regeneration of The Prefab Messiahs continues to be one of the best left field surprises of the past few years. For those in need of a history lesson, the group started their life back in the early 1980’s as a band of young, scrappy, left field, DIY, post-punk, garage-psych-pop provocateurs, and a part of the Wormtown (Worcester, MA) underground scene. It was there they spent time kicking around with private press legend Bobb Trimble, playing local gigs warming up for bands like Mission of Burma, and recording a ton of spiky, retro-delic rockers.

For those keeping score at home, only a few tracks of the band’s output managed to sneak out during their brief lifespan. Most of the stuff they recorded was eventually collected and finally released on their most excellent anthology, Devolver, which was released on Burger Records a few years back.

Flash forward to 2018 – Psychsploitation… Today! is the group’s first full-length album since returning from their Reagan-era status and is the follow up to 2015’s excellent maxi-EP, Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive. Using the psychedelic sounds of the mid-to-late 60’s as their modus operandi, the Prefabs have put together a solid set of day-glo tunes with their latest long player.

Even though their sound most definitely hearkens back to that golden age of jangly Rickenbackers and Beatle boots, the group is not content to simply be a revival act regurgitating the sounds of yesteryear. There’s a punk energy and urgency to these proceedings.  Take for example the “The Man Who Killed Reality,” which if you squint your third eye just enough, you might think belongs on some alternate universes’ Yellow Submarine soundtrack. Despite the band’s best efforts to turn on, tune in, and drop out in “Having A Rave Up,” or jam on monster hooks in the appropriately titled “Monster Riff,” the darkness of our modern times just seems to keep creeping up on them; whether it’s a “Warm Sinking Feeling,” the universal concerns of getting older on “Gellow Mold,” or the apocalyptic album closer “Last Day On Earth.”

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Perhaps it’s in troubled times like these we need bands like The Prefab Messiahs most. It almost goes without saying that it’s great to have them back.

The Boston-based band Fiddlehead have one release to their name so far — 2014’s Out Of The Bloom EP — but next month they’ll put out their debut album, Springtime And Blind, via Run For Cover Records. “Lay Low” is the first single from that album, and it’s a fiery burst of rage and confusion about growing older. The album was written as a way for frontman Patrick Flynn to process the death of his father, and “Lay Low” looks at how sometimes the immensity and brevity of life can often feel like the same thing, and how that’s absolutely overwhelming. “Watch your friends go, see your hair grow/ Black to grey in a day and see yourself old,” Flynn screams. “It’s too much for me/ I gotta lay low.” The rest of the band pummels away at breakneck speed and never lets up.

The accompanying video for the track intercuts performance footage with stop-motion animation that plays out some fleeting childhood memories, with step-stools and towering parental figures and grainy video footage designed to make you feel small. The band’s guitarist Alex Henery also directed the video, and he had this to say about it:

When you think back to your childhood you can often feel overwhelmed by memories, overwhelmed by the amount of time that has passed and how you and those around you have changed. I wanted the video to be reflection of that chaos. Using stop motion seemed to be the best medium to show the rapid pace of life. I really wanted the video to be a mixed media piece and I was heavily influenced by the Alien Workshop skate videos, Memory screen in particular. I drove to middle of nowhere in western Massachusetts to buy the handmade doll house and then spent hours with the rest of the band painstakingly moving the figures to capture the frames. I knew it was going to take a lot of time to get all the animations but definitely feel like it was worth it seeing the final video.

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Darlingside - Old Friend

Darlingside is a Massachusetts-based ensemble gearing up to release their sophomore album Extralife on February 23rd. In this group, there is no lead singer, but a complete blending of all four voices, sharing lyrics that were written as a “group stream of consciousness.” We can feel the collective heart of the group in this song as they reflect on the past, all while so gracefully moving forward.

Hey, just wanted to let y’all know that spook the herd has released some newish recordings that will end up being our last. even though these were recorded way back in 2015 and we haven’t really been a band for quite some time, figured it was best to just get these out there than let them sit forever. moving forward Abe Kimball is working on a solo album that is awesome and almost done. plus, Theo Hartlett, Morgan Luzzi, and i are working on a new project that we are going to record real soon. anyway, hopefully you enjoy these new/not that new songs

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released December 16th, 2017

abe kimball – vocals, guitar solo (2), percussion
jesse weiss – drums, guitar, bass, percussion

There’s an unofficial debate between Pile fans about whether they’re better as a live band or a record band. The Boston rock act excel at each, hence why the question is fun to ponder, but A Hairshirt of Purpose felt like an unexpected response to that question. Instead of leaning into the misaligned duelling guitar riffs and inimitable drums of the band’s past catalog, Pile tried their hand at segue songs and lush viola parts, giving the album a sense of cohesion that doesn’t try to mimic their live ricocheting. It’s an intense, emotion-spanning listen of a record, all carried by frontman Rick Maguire’s cryptic lyrics that, once again, teeter near the edge of insanity — which means outbursts of mania, like those on “Fingers” and “Hairshirt”, come with an even bigger payoff.

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Pile is a rock band, but it plays its songs even the most beautiful, heartbreaking ones as if they were horror films, packed with jump-scares and cliffhangers. Songs swell, building to all-consuming washes, or running right up to the edge of a cliff to dangle there precariously. That type of uneasy adventurousness has always been part of Pile’s makeup, but A Hairshirt Of Purpose streamlines it, offering the most nuanced record of the band’s career while still working in moments of explosive, fiery rage. Tracks like “Fingers” or “Rope’s Length” may be built on simple chord progressions, but they’re manipulated in ways that feel excitingly alien, subverting post-hardcore’s standard loud-to-quiet tonal shifts. Hairshirt is both lovely and ugly, even when—especially when—it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

“Texas” by Pile from the “A Hairshirt of Purpose” LP, out now on Exploding in Sound. Directed by Adric Giles.

Pile is still killing it with songs that can be both blisteringly intense and beautifully melodic. The lyrics continue to confound and amaze me. There’s something I can’t quite place about this album that keeps me coming back to it. It took several listens to the album to make me see past the obvious beauty of ‘Leaning on a Wheel’ and ‘Rope’s Length’, but consider me engrossed.