Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

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It’s probably too late now to assign a Song of the Summer 2019, but “Bummer” makes for the perfect anthem to a long-anticipated crack-up in the waning days of August. Weezer-y guitars quickly make way for a desperate, shouted chorus, screeching guitars, and a breakdown I have literally considered writing home about if my parents had any idea what in Henry Rollins’ name slam dancing is.

“Bummer” by Save Face from the Save Face / Graduating Life Split, available 12th September.

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Long Beard (aka Leslie Bear) is releasing a new album, “Means to Me”, on September 13th via Double Double Whammy. Previously she shared its first single, “Sweetheart,” Now she has shared the album’s title track, “Means to Me.” 

Means to Me is Bear’s second Long Beard album, the follow-up to 2015’s Sleepwalker. The album was co-produced with Japanese Breakfast collaborator Craig Hendrix.

Throughout the record, Leslie explores what constitutes a home—how it extends beyond the physicality of a roof over your head to the comfort of another person. A sense of self, stability or security.

The last four years between records mark a particularly significant and transitional time for Bear. A career move led her back to her hometown in New Jersey long after her friends and peers moved away, resulting in feelings of stasis and nostalgia that shape the album. Reflections on the past are evident in tracks like album single “Sweetheart”, in which Bear considers a past love, where they are now, and her life in relation to theirs.

Bear’s second album shows a growth and maturation in sound from her debut. Co-produced with Craig Hendrix (Japanese Breakfast), the record occupies a dreamlike space that weaves between shoegaze-tinged guitars and upbeat, jangly pop. While still loyal to Leslie’s signature ethereal, melodic guitars and haunting whispered vocal delivery, the fully realized arrangements demonstrate a stunning clarity throughout the album.

The perfect amalgamation between Bear’s ambient-textured loops met with the pristine production and pop stylings of Hendrix’s playing can be heard in album standout “Snow Globe.” The combined reversal effects, seamless transitions, and heartbeat percussion are the language of Means To Me.

What Bear has created with Means To Me is not only a mirror for herself, but also a means for the listener to reflect on what home means to them. Whether Bear has defined a home for herself is left to wonder, as she leaves us with these final lines before the album crescendos into an explosive distorted instrumental and slowly fades: “driving down through our state lines while you dream, I’m thinking of a name to go by.”

Geographer (Photo by Brittany O'Brien)

The music of Mike Deni — aka Geographer has always been more about emotional terrain than places on a map, but on his new EP “New Jersey,” the two are intertwined.

The new seven-song collection, Geographer’s fourth EP to go along with three full-lengths, is the first music Deni has released since relocating to Los Angeles, but it is not a West Coast album. Far from it. “New Jersey” is a meticulously layered and redolently orchestrated paean to the home state he left 12 years ago. In a way, it’s his origin story and as immersions in the past go, it’s quite possibly the least mawkish exercise in nostalgia ever.

Deni founded Geographer in 2007 in San Francisco, where he moved after the unexpected and tragic deaths of his sister, and then his father. The EP, written in a six-month span in 2018 during a bout of wanderlust, finds him opening the baggage he left in the Garden State. Old dreams, old disappointments, old crushes: All become iridescent anthems backed by Geographer’s characteristic blend of electronic and analog instrumentation.

“Summer of My Discontentment” imagines a brooding youngster, the ache unaffected by time. On “Hideout (Sparrow),” Deni shows he is a wordsmith as well as master arranger: “Listen to the ocean / tell you why it’s there / Turn it into words that / maybe can make them care.” And the closer is perhaps the songwriter’s version of “You Can’t Go Home Again” — a 3 1/2-minute blast of synth and falsetto that reaches M83 heights before receding into a bouquet of strings.

“New Jersey” is out on Friday.

Bruce Springsteen - July 25, 1992

Performing with his new band in front of eager hometown fans, Springsteen goes the extra mile in this spirited set showcasing songs from Human Touch and Lucky Town along with a few special treats. New Jersey 1992 delivers 13 songs from the two albums, from “Living Proof” and “Souls Of The Departed” to “Real Man” and “All Or Nothin’ At All.” It also features the tour’s only performance of the gospel gem “Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do)” showcasing the background singers, plus a unique solo-to-band arrangement of “Open All Night” that hilariously updates the turnpike tale.

The 11-night stand at the Meadowlands Arena to kick off the 1992 U.S. tour was a bold statement of intent. It’s surely intentional that it was one show more than the famed ten-show run at the same venue in 1984, the difference being that this time Bruce was coming home with new friends, not familiar ones. Touring for the first time without the E Street Band and playing in front of what are arguably his most diehard fans is a daunting proposition. But with opening night jitters out of the way, the second show on July 25th, 1992 offers a hungry, highly entertaining performance that plays to the new lineup’s gospel-meets-roots-rock strengths.

Right from the top, Bruce is wholly committed and in stellar voice, his rich timbre leading the strong show-opening trio of “Better Days,” “Local Hero” (complete with local landmark namechecks to show his Garden State cred remained intact), and “Lucky Town.”

Bruce’s new musical collaborators “wouldn’t have looked out of place on stage with [Bob] Dylan circa 1978-81,” and that particular Dylan-era frame of reference applies to the music, too, as the approach to both new and old material was to make it more soulful while still rock ’n’ roll. The playing of the core band (Shane Fontayne on guitar, Tommy Sims on bass, and Zack Alford on drums) with a full European tour already under their belts is punchy and tight, while the background singers add gospel gravitas to the proceedings–an appealing combination.

Even on familiar material, these off-E Street versions don’t sound quite as “different” 27 years on, in a good way. The opening set features a first-rate “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” an eloquent reading of “The River” with a long, heart-heavy harmonica outro, and an inspired tour debut for “Open All Night.”

Aimed squarely at this turnpike audience, “Open All Night” starts solo and builds to full band in a manner that may suggest what the unreleased “Electric Nebraska”version sounded like ten years prior. Better still, in the middle of the song, Bruce tells an updated version of the yarn he spun on the Born in the U.S.A. tour, noting the closure of his beloved Howard Johnson’s and a reunion with the waitress at Bob’s Big Boy who reminds him her restaurant is still “open all night.” Good fun.

The first set wraps with four key tracks from the new albums, wrapped around a deeply personal “My Hometown,” introduced with an earnest story about parenting and dedicated from one relatively new dad to all the “moms and pops.” A dynamic performance of “Living Proof” again shows the song to be Bruce’s most powerful from the era. “Leap of Faith” is endearing and infectious thanks in large part to the singers, while the Sam and Dave-style vocal duet with Bobby King on “Man’s Job” raises it from catchy ditty to heartfelt homage. A feature-length “Roll of the Dice” wraps a spirited and undeniably entertaining first act.

After the break, the rarely performed “All or Nothin’ at All” proves a fine set opener and gets the energy of the show right back on track. It’s the one song from Human Touch that sounds like it could be a Born in the U.S.A. outtake, a spiritual cousin to the likes of “I’m Goin’ Down.” The crowd enjoys it too, singing along in full voice when tasked to do so. Having been played in concert fewer than a dozen times, its inclusion here is a welcome opportunity for fresh appreciation.

What follows is another rarity and one of the highlights of the tour, “Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do),” inexplicably performed only this night (and at a private tour warm-up in June, suggesting it may have been considered for a regular feature in the set at that point). The gospel tune has been covered by everyone from Wilson Pickett to Creedence Clearwater Revival, but Springsteen’s version casts him as a humorous preacher questioning the commitment of men in relationships, while King, Carolyn Dennis, Angel Rogers and the rest of the background vocalists sing like they’re wearing choir robes. The result is amusing, cleverly arranged, and another lost gem rediscovered by the download series.

On the whole, the 7/25/92 performance has aged well, but there are a couple of exceptions. “Real Man” is another rarity, performed on 7/25 for the very last time in concert. Bruce himself admits, “This next song I almost threw off the album because I thought it was too corny, but what can say? It’s how I feel.” Corny we accept, especially from a man in love. More difficult to ignore is the synthesizer that could not sound more dated, though in the end, “Real Man” is interesting if only for the sheer novelty factor of it in the overall canon.

Three recent classics return us to regularly scheduled programming: a spot-on “Cover Me” with fine fretwork from Fontayne, and two Patti Scialfa features, “Brilliant Disguise” and “Tougher Than the Rest,” the latter derailed slightly by those pesky period synths, though Bruce sings all three superbly.

The show’s denouement comes with the pairing of “Souls of the Departed” into “Born in the U.S.A.” “Souls” begins in desert darkness, with news reports of bombs over Baghdad riding desolate guitar strains a la U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky.” It is a sharp-edged, commanding performance that moves through flourishes of “The Star-Spangled Banner” a la Hendrix into “Born in the U.S.A.” to slam home the point Bruce made so clearly on last month’s release: “War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

The show wraps with a run of crowd pleasers–”Light of Day,” “Glory Days,” “Working on the Highway,” “Bobby Jean,” “Hungry Heart”–and the tour’s gorgeous, stripped-down “Thunder Road,” before “Born to Run” and Bruce’s best-ever coda,“My Beautiful Reward,” send us out on a high, hopeful note.

Because of the new band, 1992-93 always carries an asterisk in Bruce’s live history, like a strike-shortened baseball season. But as was the case in the major leagues, they still played the games and the games still counted, especially to Springsteen himself. One can feel his commitment in this performance, joyfully trying to win over the Jersey crowd and largely succeeding.

Words by Erik Flanagan.

There is a warm haziness in the musical landscape of the song. Melchor’s vocals wax emotion while the backing vocals punctuate and echo the sweet sentiments. Though the time difference from the East Coast to the West Coast coast may seem like a mere three hours, many of us know just how much of a difference those few hours can make. We’ll be looking to hear more from this precocious new artist!.

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“I Don’t Wanna See You Cryin’ Anymore” is a simple folk sound with a brilliantly played acoustic guitar lines that pulls from elements of jazz, blues, and folk music. The slow picking, sets a perfect tone for Adam Melchor’s gorgeous voice to float on top.  In reality the song is an apology type song. Adam is singing to a close friend that he has let down, and he is owning up to the mess that he had made with this beautiful song. He comes across as being a caring and genuine person through the emotional and heartfelt delivery of the vocals. The acoustic nature of the song gives more room for the lyrics to really be heard and digested, and hopefully that means Adam Melchor’s apology has been accepted. Adam Melchor is a singer-songwriter from New Jersey who is currently based in Los Angeles, CA. “I Don’t Wanna See You Cryin’ Anymore” is the closing song on his 2019 EP titled “Plan on You.” 

I Don’t Wanna See You Crying’ Anymore – Adam Melchor

Given the winter the East Coast has just survived, it’s appropriate to emerge from the bleakness with a record that eases out of its own icy shell. ManDancing’s “Everyone Else” emerged in winter 2016, prior to political shifts at home and abroad, but carries no less weight than it did when quietly released online. In fact, this record from five New Jersey residents seems more potent than ever with its 2018 reissue. It’s at once intimate and ferocious, a windswept combination of hushed pronouncements and gasped confessions.

On their upcoming EP Hands On 3, ManDancing’s emotional compass magnetizes to vocalist and rhythm guitarist Stephen G Kelly, whose voice wavers between confidence and catharsis. The spectral nature of his delivery is a genre in itself. It waxes elegiac on the alt-country sway as percussion spikes and splinters behind it, before breaking free into a desperate wail. It’s this upward curve that carries the arrangements forward, a force that could explode any moment into something unpredictable, warped, yet altogether fitting of such visceral songwriting.

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Above all, ManDancing promises a narrative that finds its characters trying to define their own independence. Is it more isolating than liberating? Amidst the haze of young adulthood, the beer cans, and the skipped house shows, ManDancing navigates what it’s like to feel positively undone and unlimited at the same time. It’s hard and it’s an impossible thing, but it’s always part of growing older.

Hands On 3 is out July 13th via Take This To Heart 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.

Forth Wanderers

Pen pals are going out of fashion. In the age of social media, WhatsApp and the like, the thought of crafting a long thoughtful message – one that only your closest confidant will read – sounds archaic, really. But not for Forth Wanderers. The making of the New Jersey band’s second album, their first on cult indie label Sub Pop Records, was crafted via meticulous communications between lead singer Ava Trilling and guitarist Ben Guterl – who actually lived in the same zip code at the time. The pair would send melodies and lyrics back and forth, each adding their piece before the song was in decent-enough shape to demo with the rest of the band. Sure, they probably used the internet, but the result is like listening to the secret correspondence between close friends.

This formula is repeated again and again, but never gets boring. In fact, these might be some of the most well-crafted rock songs you’ll hear all year long.

Forth Wanderers (Release Date: April 27, 2018

When you’ve got riffs like these and a voice like hers, you’re pretty much golden. The riffs in question are the spindly, expansive, geometrically unusual building blocks of Forth Wanderers’ sound, arching guitar architecture that turns the band’s big Sub Pop spotlight moment into a monument. The voice belongs to Ava Trilling, who applies her deadpan soprano to lyrics like, “He says he likes my taste/ But I bite his tongue, you know, just in case.” Consider them Built To Spill built for 2018 indie rock, trading awestruck twee visions for frank ruminations on the politics of collegiate social life.

Forth Wanderers employ a tin-can-telephone style of composition which they use even when living in the same area code. Since first collaborating in 2013 as Montclair, New Jersey high schoolers, guitarist and songwriter Ben Guterl and vocalist Ava Trilling have passed songs back and forth like pen pals. Guterl will devise an instrumental skeleton before sending it to vocalist Ava Trilling who pens the lyrics based off the melody. The duo then gather alongside guitarist Duke Greene, bassist Noah Schifrin, and drummer Zach Lorelli to expand upon the demo. It’s a patient and practiced writing system that has carried the quintet through two EPs (2013’s Mahogany and 2016’s Slop) and one LP (2014’s Tough Love). Forth Wanderers, the group’s sophomore record and Sub Pop Records debut, is the group’s most comprehensive and assured statement yet.

Now living in Ohio and New York respectively, Guterl and Trilling have evolved their separate but collaborative writing process. “The only way I can really write is by myself in my room with a notebook, listening to the song over and over again,” Trilling says. “I’ve never sat down to write a story, I write the song as it unfolds.” Since her lyrics are often embedded with intimate truths from her life, the private writing experience often leads to intense self-reflection.

On Forth Wanderers these introspections include meditations on relationships, discovery, and finding oneself adrift. Despite the inherent heaviness of those themes, Forth Wanderers feels joyous, a rock record bursting with heart. Take “Not for Me,” a romping track about “the ambivalence of love.” Trilling’s confession of “I can’t feel the earth beneath my feet/Flowers bloom but not for me” resists feeling like a dreary, pitying complaint; instead, as her bandmates bolster her melancholy with interlocking harmonic intricacies, she soars with self-actualization. Opener “Nevermine,” is a surge of confidence inspired by an ex-lover who is still captivated by her image. “I don’t think I know who you are anymore/And I think I knew who I was before,” she jabs with relish. On “Ages Ago” Trilling paints the image of a constantly-shifting enigmatic lover. “I wasn’t sure who they were, they changed constantly (hence the metaphor describing the “grey coat” and cutting their hair just to “stay afloat”),” she says. “I wasn’t going to wait any longer to find out.”

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Recorded over five days by friend and audio engineer Cameron Konner at his Philadelphia home studio, Forth Wanderers amplifies the heartfelt sentiments of their earlier works into massive anthems. Guterl and Greene’s guitars have never sounded sharper, Schifrin and Lorelli’s terse rhythm section is restless, and Trilling sounds more self-assured than ever. These are exuberant, profound songs driven by tightly bound melodies and a loving attention to detail.

Released April 27th, 2018

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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.