To understand what the new Nines festival is all about, just look at the two Boston bands it chose to place on the bill: Air Traffic Controller and Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys.
Sickert's army plays a roiling brand of music that pulls in a cabaret mood and cinematic scope, all of it coated with a sinister tinge. Air Traffic Controller deploys carefully crafted pop anchored by an earthy earnestness. And while quite different these two bands are on top of their games, touring the country, winning awards and ready to take the next career step.
The entire roster of performers at the Nines reads like a top shelf of independent-minded bands cutting across alt-pop, post-rock, hip-hop, and R&B.
The festival features Explosions in the Sky, Dr. Dog, Delta Spirit, Shuggie Otis, Matt Pond, Walk Off the Earth, Kid Koala, and K Flay plus Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys and Air Traffic Controller. A comedy tent will feature six comics chosen by the Comedy Studio's Rick Jenkins. And there are several visual and performance artists presenting their work at the Nines. All of the participants (and ticket info) can be found on the Nines website.
"The Nines has a three-pronged attack that's like our shows. We are an amalgam of music, theater and the best circus you've ever seen," says Edrie, the accordion-wielding member of the Army of Broken Toys.
She and Sickert spoke by phone from the Toys' design lab and noted that they were also drawn to the festival's eclectic programming.
"When we put together our shows we don't like to have bands that necessarily always play together," Edrie says. "We like introducing our people to other crowds and getting other crowds to see what we do."
As for playing outside and during the day rather than in one of the clubs, art centers or
mansions that more routinely house a show by this troupe, Sickert says the Nines will be business as usual_ which means expect the unusual.
"The Toys always play over the top anyway," he says. "It's always a question of how much can we jam into 45 minutes."
In addition to performing with his band, Walter Sickert will also have some of his artwork, including this piece, on display at the Nines
Air Traffic Controller successfully made the leap from clubs to the festival stage last year when it performed at the Life is good festival in Canton.
ATC's Dave Munro recalls not being sure how to read the crowd back then and simply hitting up the field of onlookers with the band's most upbeat and catchiest songs.
The Nines, by design, will be looking for Air Traffic Controller to be as adventurous as it wants, and Munro says he finds the lineup pretty inspiring.
"I would've gone to this festival myself if we weren't playing," he says.
Since releasing the album "Nordo" last year, Air Traffic Controller has seen its profile steadily rise. Most recently, the song "You Know Me" won an Independent Music Award for best indie/alt-rock song and the band won the Artist on the Verge award at the New Music Seminar held in New York City in June.
And even though Munro has started songs for a new album, he is focusing ATC on building the fan base via concert work, including festival shows and a fall tour of Europe.
"There is a time to write and a time to tour," he says. "This is a time for us to be out there playing."
And the festival experience is also becoming a good time for laughs. The Comedy Studio's Jenkins says that comedy has become such a successful component at music-centric events South by Southwest, Bumbershoot, and Bonnaroo, that he had no doubts about bringing the type of show he helms at the Harvard Square comedy club out to the Nines. But notes this will nonetheless be a bit of an experiment for him and the performers.
"The club seats 75. We'll be going out on a bigger stage and performing to a lot more people," he says. Jenkins is bringing along Erin Judge, Ken Reid, Jenny Zigrino, Joe List, Bethany Van Delft, and Mehran Khaghani. This diverse cast will be divvied into two trios, each performing two sets.
Like the Boston Calling festival staged this spring and the aforementioned Life is good fest, the Nines is scheduling performances to avoid overlaps among the music stages, meaning there's no feeling like you're missing one thing while enjoying another.
"There should be even more festivals that include Boston bands," Sickert says. "There's so much talent in the city, and a lot of underutilized talent."
The gates to the Nines open at 11 a.m. on Aug. 10, with the action taking place at Willard Field in Devens.
Revocation has long been a gem in the heavy-metal underground, first cathcing on in its Boston hometown then drawing a national following; it was no accident that Relapse Records picked up the band once Revocation found its sound with the independently produced "Empire of the Obscene" the group's first full-length recorded by guys who had started working together eight years earlier in an entirely different metal vein and under a different name.
Revocation's new self-titled album_ its fourth full-length_ is due out Tuesday, Aug. 6, and is another purposeful step toward greater acclaim and distinct character. As for the acclaim part, there is no messing with Revocation's sound, driven in large part by Dave Davidson's fierce guitar work that runs from elegant to lacerating. And for character building, "Revocation" shows the band stitching together elements of thrash, tech, and death for a sound not beholden to any one sub-genre of metal nor forced into trying to embrace every sub-genre of metal.
The songs never get too proggy (none of the 10 songs hits the six-minute mark), though each track flaunts blistering guitar work, maybe tucked into a bridge ("Arch Fiend") or tacked onto as an extended outro ("The Gift You Gave"), but there nonetheless.
The band also sounds like it is having a raging good time, taking down religious hypocrites with "Scattering the Flock," lambasting the 1% with "Entombed by Wealth," and letting loose a blast of enviro-metal with "Fracked."
Don't worry, Revocation isn't on a soap box. There are plenty of plain ol' weirdo songs too such as the maniacally paced "The Hive" and alien ode "The Visitation" (and there's a nice flash of humor when a banjo riff pops up for a few seconds in the battle cry "Invidious").
Revocation will play Saturday at the Palladium and release its new album Tuesday
Founding drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne is a relentless engine of double-time beats, but skilled at shaking up the rhythms through different transitions within and between songs. Second guitarist Dan Gargiulo, who came on board in 2010, adds sonic depth to the record, a role he developed through the band's live work. The new album is the first for bassist Brett Bamberger, who provides a subtle link between the guitarists and drummer.
"Revocation" arrives just as the band takes part in the Summer Slaughter tour headlined by Dillinger Escape Plan. That package arrives at the Palladium in Worcester on Saturday.
Here are a few tracks to get you pumped up for the show and the album's drop
Just a reminder that Boston-bred Kingsley Flood is the first act on the main stage Friday at the Newport Folk Festival. The band will be on at 2:30 p.m., preceding Old Crow Medicine Show, Feist, and J.D. McPherson at Fort Adams State Park (and this is the only day of the fest with tix still available).
Kingsley Flood will be recording a session for Paste magazine while at Newport. The band's busy summer then wends up to Lowell where Kingsley Food opens for Josh Ritter on Aug. 17 at Boarding House Park.
Above is the very un-summery video that Kingsley Flood made for "Sigh A While," which made its debut on the NPR music site. Good stuff all around for these guys and gal.
A haircut and a presidential debate had a lot to do with Fixed Bayonets' arrival on the Boston music scene last year.
It all began when Mike O'Brien went for a trim and Matt Charette was the barber. At the time, O'Brien was winding down his tenure as the guitarist in Murder Mile, and Charette was wrapping up his work with the Scrapes.
"We talked about music and getting together to write some music," O'Brien recalls, mentioning that he and Charette hadn't played together in the past, but just knew each other in passing.
The two veterans of the local punk and hard-core circuit reached out to other musicians and the band formed with Glen Cancelleire on bass, Max Toste on drums, Isaac Sussman on keys, and Zach Uncles on pedal steel guitar joining O'Brien and Charette.
As the instrumentation itself suggests, the band was looking beyond the compact dynamics of punk rock. But the songs this group is making still use the raw and blunt language of punk rock, and the band sounds more passionate than pretty on the first batch of tunes it recorded.
"We want to connect honestly with people," O'Brien says. "I feel bad for kids today who listen to all that auto-tuned music."
Naming the new band was at first proving a problem.
"All of the names we thought of were taken when we checked them out," O'Brien says.
Then during one of the debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama during last year's presidential campaign, inspiration struck O'Brien when the two candidates began sparring over defense spending.
"Obama had that line about there being a lot less bayonets today, and I immediately texted the guys. Bayonets was taken as a band name, but we searched around and found 'Fixed Bayonets,' a 1950s movie with James Dean," O'Brien explains (it was actually Dean's first film appearance) .
The songs that Fixed Bayonets recorded thus far show the band tapping soul and country influences for a concoction it is calling pub rock 'n' roll. Sussman's keyboard and organ work is prominent in the mix, giving Fixed Bayonets a distinct, rich sound,
"For Mom" is a blanket apology to all mothers, while "21 Guns" is a rebellious, rollicking anthem, and "Beginning of the End" is full of misfit ache. The songs are fleshed out and demand some listening attention, not just some mosh action.
"I think this is just a natural progression for me and Matt having come up through punk rock and wanting to keep some of that in the music," O'Brien says. "By accident, we can play our instruments a little better now,"
Fixed Bayonets is playing best it can on Friday, July 26, at Church, 69 Kilmarnock St., Boston. The show begins at 8 p.m. and features Goddamn Draculas, Never Got Caught, Cradle to the Grave, and Dumptruck.
Chucklehead isn't calling its first shows in 16 years a band reunion, but instead a funk family reunion. That's because everyone who played in Boston's wild funk-meets-hip-hop troupe during its original run from 1988 to 1997 will be on board for the Chucklehead shows happening Friday at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet and Saturday at the Middle East in Cambridge.
The reunion concerts will feature Eben "Eb-Tide" Levy on guitar, Brian Gottesman on vocals and keys, Meyer Statham on vocals and trombone, Erik "Erock" Attkinsson on drums, Huck Bennett on vocals and baritone sax and percussion, Mick Demopolous and Dave Rengel on bass, John "Scooter" Schachter on vocals and trumpet, Lenny E Len the Pirate King on tenor sax, and Robert "Biscuits" Nahf III on alto sax.
For some of these musicians it will be the first time sharing the stage, and the reunion is pulling in players who have since scattered from Boston to New Mexico, Georgia, California, New Jersey, and Maine.
But regardless of which lineup of the band a member belonged to or where he comes from now, there is an overriding Chucklehead ideal to abide by.
"I think it's why we have such a loyal following. We were playing funk and hip-hop live, and we were doing it while grunge was ruling the scene," says Levy when he and Gottesman were reached by phone while heading back from a rehearsal over the weekend. "People were shocked to see kids rapping and playing live drums. This was all before the Roots and bands like that caught on."
Chucklehead was known for its showmanship as well as for its musicality. The band stole a page from P-Funk and wore outlandish costumes on stage, creating a look that matched its irreverence.
"We were either 15 years too early or 15 years too late," Levy says.
In its time, Chucklehead released three albums and developed a reputation for its live shows that attracted followers from a then-fledgling jam-band scene. Chucklehead's creative style and obvious playing chops earned it a spot opening for Phish on New Year's Eve in 1990 at Boston's World Trade Center.
"We were playing long-form songs and our own brand of freak-out music," Levy says (and a lot of it can be heard on archived soundboard tapes).
Another memorable moment from Chucklehead's heyday occurred when a cease and desist letter arrived from Pillsbury demanding the band stop making T shirts with the Doughboy posed in a manner that Gottesman says the baked-goods company found objectionable.
"We did a gig with KRS-One at Brown (University) and the next night he was on the 'Arsenio Hall Show' and all of his dancers were wearing the shirts of the Doughboy grabbing his business," Gottesman recalls, noting that it didn't take long for an angry letter to arrive from the Doughboy's handlers.
Gottesman also reports a smooth transition back into the Chucklehead catalog.
"When it comes to the rhythms, we've picked up right where we left off," he says.
And even though a lot of the music was made in the moment, Gottesman says those archived concert recordings have come in handy for checking out various arrangements any one song underwent.
Levy calls this weekend's shows an "experiment," one that may pave the way for continued Chucklehead music.
"What would our older selves be doing in this idiom, writing new songs and re-interpreting the older ones?" he asks. "It's an excellent way to have a midlife crisis."
The "crisis" begins at 8 p.m. Friday, July 26, at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet, and resumes at 8 p.m. Saturday the 27th at the Middle East downstairs in Cambridge.
Here are a couple of reminders of Chucklehead's Boston Music Award-winning sound:
The last time that guitarist Peter Malick played in the Boston area, the Brookline native was at the original House of Blues in Harvard Square introducing a bright, young, and then-unknown talent by the name of Norah Jones to his audience.
Malick, who for several years has lived in Southern California, is hoping to bring his old hometown crowd ahead of the curve once again as he presents Courtney Jones (no relation to Norah) and Spencer Livingston in concerts Sunday at the Wonder Bar in Allston and Monday at Club Passim in Cambridge. Malick and drummer Butch Norton plus bassist Jon Ossman are also part of the package tour traveling around New England and New York this month.
Jones and Livingston just released albums on the Luxury Wafers record label that Malick started with his wife, Landry. The music-minded couple launched the label after Peter's last recording studio was taken by eminent domain to make way for a new school in Los Angeles. Malick and his wife first started recording and videoing musicians who they enjoyed, using their home studio and posting the performances on a blog, which evolved into the Luxury Wafers record label.
"I like writing songs, playing guitar, and producing records, so this has been an education," says Malick, who got his start in the late 1960s playing guitar in a band with Willie Alexander. "It's been grateful, the response this has been getting."
Malick was a teen when he started playing a revived "Bosstown sound" brand of rock, then gravitated toward the blues. He became a member of John Lee Hooker's East Coast band and played guitar in the original James Montgomery Band when it signed to Capricorn Records. Fast forward to the '90s, and Malick was leading his own band and doing production work. In 2000, Malick moved to New York City and met Norah Jones, whom joined his group and appears on the album "New York City."
The reputation Malick earned for ushering Jones along attracted singer Courtney Jones to him.
C. Jones says that she and Malick wrote a song every day in preparing her album "All the Things That Fall."
"I took a collection of songs that made sense as a gut feeling," Jones says of piecing together her new album.
She credits Malick for shaking up the piano-driven sound of the debut record she put out two years ago, resulting in an album that builds on that base with a fuller sonic spectrum.
"Peter would play chord on guitar or a loop on the computer that I'd like, and I'd say, 'Wait!' and start working off of that. It was like you see on the detective shows when someone is cracking a safe and turning the dial until they hear a click," she says.
"All the Things That Fall" is an assured set of songs that offers up crisp observations with a smooth delivery. Songs span the allegorical "Cathedral" to the wry "Afterthought."
"I'm not heavy-handed. That's not my personality," she says. "If you want to listen to this album in the background, you can, and it will sound good. But if you want to dig deeper, there are layers to uncover."
Saying that her music has sometimes been called too pop for a songwriter's project and too songwriter-y for a pop project, Jones is a perfect candidate for Luxury Wafers' independent spirit.
Jones' record came out on July 16, the same day Luxury Wafers released Spencer Livingston's "Grow," which is heavier on the twang and roots rock by comparison. The label also recently put out Malick and drummer Butch Norton's experimental instrumental album "Duets From the Spin Dry Cycle."
Jones, Livingston and Malick had a few joint songwriting sessions to suss out their compatibility as tour mates. Happy with the results, the Luxury Wafers road show will be at the Wonder Bar, 186 Harvard Ave., Allston on Sunday, July 21. Music starts around 8 p.m. Then the Luxury Wafers crew crosses the river for a show at 8 p.m. Monday the 22nd at Club Passim, 47 Palmer St., Cambridge.
"We're breaking the old model," says Malick. "There are more opportunities, though less money. That separates out the people who got into it to balance a spreadsheet."
To beat, or not to beat.
A horn, a horn. My kingdom for a horn.
OK, I'll stop, and assure you that the Shakespearean Jazz Show will have a far more sophisticated twist than the above when it merges traditional New Orleans jazz and various Shakespearean passages during performances July 18 and 19 at the Paramount Center in Boston.
The Shakespearean Jazz Show is a tale of two cities (OK, now I'll stop). First there is New Orleans, where the show's main creator Alex Ates was born and raised. Before he became a student at Emerson College, Ates learned a few things back home while acting in a Shakespeare company and absorbing the jazz created in his hometown's French Quarter.
"There was a frustration with the Shakespeare I was performing not being relevant to a contemporary audience," Ates recalls. "Then I'd go to the French Quarter, and the musicians were working in a tradition, pretty much playing the exact same songs each time they performed, but it was always energetic and exciting and connecting with people. How do you get that kind of excitement with Shakespeare's texts?"
It was a question Ates carried with him into his junior year of college when he was on the board of Emerson's Shakespeare company and under a bit of pressure to come up with a performance idea.
A case of homesickness probably never paid off so well for a student.
"I just decided to put Shakespeare's text with the New Orleans jazz," he says.
What he found is that the music lets the words simply fly. He also found that Shakespeare's lyrical writing fit into a musical model quite nicely, so there was no real tweaking of the sonnet verses and dramatic lines used in the performance.
The theater-arts major enlisted musical collaborator Patrick Greeley to compose music. The performance ensemble grew to include musicians, dancers, actors, and puppeteers. Ates and Greeley reached across town to Berklee College of Music to fill out the ranks of the so-called Nine Worthies (a name taken from "Love's Labour's Lost").
As the project has grown and solidified, Ates says he could not be more pleased with the integration of the jazz musicians and theatrical team.
"I think we're redefining each discipline by using the other," he says of the music and theater collaboration that isn't really traditional musical theater.
The Shakespearean Jazz Show made its debut in the basement of an Emerson dorm in Dec. 2011. And since then, made its way to bigger stages in Boston and into a Shakespeare festival in New Orleans.
The Shakespearean Jazz Show is back home for shows at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the Paramount, 559 Washington St., Boston. You can order tickets from the the Shakespearean Jazz Show's web site.
And like jazz itself, the Shakespearean Jazz Show is never the same twice.
"Our attitude is that anything is fair game," Ates says. "A huge component of jazz is improvisation, and we've adopted that philosophy. We can tinker because we trust each other."
To that end, you'll see every member of the ensemble_ the musicians, the dancers, the actors, the tech crew_ on stage all the time for every performance.
While Ates graduated in May, much of the 15-person ensemble is still in Boston and attending school, so the future for Shakespearean Jazz Show is still tied to a schedule of studies, finals, and the like.
But what Ates does know is that Shakespeare can be sprung from the academic trappings the student-turned-producer first found the Bard.
"In New Orleans, the music on the street is being made for the people," he says. "In theater, 'populist' is a negative for some reason. But in this case, it makes the text engaging."
Dead Boots is, from left, Ben Tileston, Tony Perry, Adrian Perry, and Lou Jannetty. The band's new album is out July 16.
The Beatles didn't start with "Sgt. Pepper's;" the band got there over time with each previous album leading up to the masterpiece.
It's a point that Adrian Perry makes in a conversation about his band Dead Boots and its new album "Verónica." Perry wasn't trying to put his band on par with the Beatles, but instead explaining how bands mature and evolve, creating new sounds without forsaking old ones.
And that's pretty much what is happening on "Verónica." Before this album, Dead Boots made three full-lengths under the name TAB the Band, which came together in 2006. In the beginning, the Boston-by-way-of-Duxbury band consisted of brothers Adrian and Tony Perry on bass and guitar, respectively, and Ben Tileston on drums. With each project, the group moved a bit further from the crunchy blues rock of its earliest work, absorbing more power-pop influences you can trace back to Cheap Trick and the Kinks, as well as a bit of garage-rock tumble and glam-rock swagger.
"Verónica" also fully incorporates rhythm guitar player Lou Jannetty into the band, so in many ways it just seemed time to shake off the "Tony-Adrian-Ben" monicker and recast the group as Dead Boots.
Dead Boots releases "Verónica" on July 16 via iTunes and pretty much anywhere else albums can be downloaded. The band begins a tour to promote the new record on Saturday, July 13, at the Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Rachel Taylor, the Rationales, Blackboard Nails, and Midnight Spin are also on the bill. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the $10 admission includes a download code for "Verónica."
As is usually noted in any coverage of the Perry brothers, it is now time to mention that their dad is Joe Perry of Aerosmith. And to the brothers' credit, they have been very good about not riding his coattails or fleeing from his shadow.
Tony says Joe will pop in and listen to new tracks out of genuine interest, but doesn't meddle.
"I think he's just more interested in seeing what his kids are doing. He does help more in teaching us about all the background stuff that goes on in the music business, but I wouldn't call him a stage mom," Tony says.
And in Papa Joe's eyes, the kids must be alright. "Verónica" is a smart and infectious record that comes out on the frenetic blast of "On the Rocks" and "Saturdays." Those and a handful of other uptempo rockers match smooth pop passages with rougher, punkier points of contrast.
Around mid-point on the 13-track set, Dead Boots offers up "I Believe in Love," and the songs following that take on a broader sweep and in some cases a darker tone. The progression is subtle, setting up the melancholy ballad "Love Without a Fall" and artful finale "Bullfighter" (a song Adrian calls the moral center of the album).
"We started out playing for fun, and it was simple blues rock," Adrian says. "This record retains some of that, but now we can pull off more serious and more sophisticated stuff . We just couldn't have written 'Bullfighter' on our first record."
And by "serious" and "sophisticated" Adrian means clever and textured; there's nothing on "Verónica" you'd call forced or stuffy. Tony handles a lot of the studio production, combining vintage gear_ which he claims forces you to play a certain way_ with modern technology to cook up a sound that is contemporary but also aware of its roots.
Check out the current single "Saturdays" to hear what I mean:
Dave Alpert may have stripped down his sound on the 6-song "My World" E.P., but there's nothing really "light" about the project.
Credit Alpert's blunt honesty_ whether telling you how he feels or describing a scene_ for giving "My World" its heft.
The title track opens the record on a prickly note as Alpert catalogs a fistful of stereotypes in a manner that shows how easily "my world" can become isolated from the real world.
Alpert doesn't brood long, though, shifting gears into the fun mandolin-and-banjo spiced "Postwoman." Move over Lovey Rita, Alpert has found a new public servant to desire.
"Shuffles the Clown" is the record's other character piece, and in this one Alpert tells the tale of a bullied kid who grows up to become the guy who makes other people laugh, wrapping it all in a bittersweet tone.
Alpert takes on a more personal tone with "That's Why I've Got to Leave," "A Long Long Way," and "Find My Way Back To You." In each case you can hear how Alpert subtly shades his work. "That's Why I've Got to Leave" has the saddest resolve, while "Find My Way Back to You" leaks optimism despite similarly dire romantic straits.
Alpert's earnest tone is burnished by an all-star cast of players that includes Sean Staples on mandolin, Steve Mayone on guitar, James Rohr on keys, Eric Royer on banjo, Dan Kellar on violin, Lou Ulrich on bass, both Chris Anzalone and Andy Plaisted on drums, and Kay McKinstry on back-up vocals.
Alpert and his live band (bassist Chuck Vath, guitarist Mike Castellana, drummer Anzalone, and mandolinist Staples) celebrate the release of "My World" with a show Thursday, July 11, at Atwood's Tavern, 877 Cambridge St., Cambridge. The music gets going around 10 p.m. and The Wild Sea is also on the bill. The $5 admission includes a download code for "My World." If you can't hit the show, you can check out the record on Alpert's Bandcamp site.
Here's "That's Why I've Got to Leave"
"Goodbye Juliet" isn't just the first of four singles that This Blue Heaven is releasing over the next couple of months; it is the first piece in a puzzle the indie-pop band devised in the three years since releasing "Spinning and Shining."
And after speaking with keyboard player Aaron Rosenthal and singer/lyricist MacKenzie Outlund, this puzzle is even bigger than we first imagined.
"Goodbye Juliet," available starting July 9 via This Blue Heaven's Bandcamp page, is the first of four tunes comprising an E.P. whose full title is " still the tulips wave goodbye Juliet into the hurricane." And in total there will be four E.P.s, each with four songs, each song title fitting together into a cohesive line, each line a piece of a short narrative once all assembled.
"It has been fun for me, shameless word-nerd that I am, to play with the lyrics and song titles in ways that relate and bind the songs together," Outlund says via email.
The 16-song cycle relays the tale of a journey, but Outlund says that the particulars worked themselves out in the creative process rather than arriving as a fleshed-out idea.
"The most crucial thing doesn't seem to be writing lyrics or music first, but finding a way to connect with that mysterious creative source, which I think of as 'the blue,'" she says, noting how on "Goodbye Juliet" she matched poetic lyrics that originally came to her while walking across the Mass Ave. bridge with a chorus and melody line cooked up by guitarist Stu Dietz.
The completed puzzle will also contain more than lyrical links, as musical motifs spill from one song to the next.
The new song is also This Blue Heaven's overt pivot from upbeat indie pop to epic pop, where songs have a darker tone and there's a bit more complexity in the delivery.
Underscoring that point, This Blue Heaven brought in the Borromeo String Quartet, an ensemble-in-residence at the New England Conservatory, to play on the four-song suite "Goodbye Juliet" is part of. "On "Goodbye Juliet," you hear the quartet's work subtly woven into the fabric of the song, lifting Outlund's vocals as the song soars toward a finale.
Borromeo Quartet's viola player Mai Motobuchi and Rosenthal are married, and this is the first time the two have recorded together.
"They are like family. It was so difficult to get them on this record because they are so busy, but it was like a dream come true," says Rosenthal, who is a composer by training and finally brought that experience into his rock work. "They were such a good fit because the quartet is always exploring and trying new creative outlets."
Borromeo Quartet's presence also helped This Blue Heaven shift away from the "toe-tapping" earlier songs.
"We created an identity that we're not leaving behind, but evolving from," he says. "We kept a lot of the style and added to it. It's all still pretty melodic, and you can tap your toe to most of it."
This Blue Heaven celebrates the release of "Goodbye Juliet" Saturday, July 13, at Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave., Allston. The Motion Sick (which includes This Blue Heaven drummer Travis Richter) is reuniting that night for its first show in three years. Parks, Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, and Wash Pool are also playing (basically bands the Motion Sick seeded with members).
This may be the first time I've seen such a thought-out concept released in such small bits. But the cinematic sweep of "Goodbye Juliet" is certainly an intriguing start to the process.
"In this day and age, nobody is buying records," Rosenthal says. "With this puzzle idea, I hope people can appreciate one piece at a time."
Now in its fourth year at O'Brien's at 3 Harvard Ave. in Allston, Awesome Day is happening Saturday, July 6, its first summer-time running after three spring jaunts.
Why the move?
"That was the first open date when I called the club to book it in February," explains Jesse Sherman. It's a matter-of-fact explanation that echoes the simple design at the heart of Awesome Day; really, could there be a simpler name for an 11-band show that includes food with the price of admission?
Sherman was working at O'Brien's at the time his band Tired Old Bones knew it would need to take a break after the birth of singer and keyboard player Bridget Nault's first child. In planning for one big show with all of the bands Tired Old Bones wanted to play with, Sherman decided that it was insane not to utilize O'Brien's patio and grill that were typically idle.
"The original grill was a 55-gallon drum cut in half with a fire-escape grate on it. Now there's a real grill and some chairs out there," says Sherman, who now works at Great Scott in addition to playing drums in Tired Old Bones and bass in Never Got Caught.
And thus a tradition was born, one that Sherman tends to as an organizer, promoter, meat buyer, and chef.
And in keeping with the tradition, Awesome Day presents all styles of music. Jim Healey of Black Thai will open Awesome Day at 4 p.m. with his solo material. Then following with a succession of 30-minute sets are Lunglust, Spectre Hawk, No Fun, Tired Old Bones, Eldridge Rodriguez, Z*L, Hey Zeus (whose Ken Cmar makes a grilled meat loaf that has become part of the Awesome Day legend), Goddamn Draculas, Cult 45, and the Humanoids. Approximate set times are online here.
Tired Old Bones, which didn't play the fest last year, is not only back in the lineup but also touting the vinyl pressing of its "Which Way is Home?/ Throw Stones" single
Releasing the single was not so awesome at times. First the band scotched the original recordings it made of the songs. Once satisfied with the quaking, vintage rock tone ultimately crafted for the tunes, Tired Old Bones sent the tracks out for pressing.
"The first test pressing we got back wasn't our band. The second one was done at the wrong speed," Sherman says. "It was a comedy of errors. A symphony of errors."
That behind Tired Old Bones, the band is mapping out a full-length release and working at guitarist Glenn Smith's studio.
The deal with Awesome Day is that ten bucks gets you the tunes and whatever is available on the grill (Sherman says he even stocks a few veggie burgers).
Awesome Day sparked a trend, as Boston Bloghead organized an Aug. 4 Punk 'N' Roll BBQ at O'Brien's. And hey look, Tired Old Bones is on that bill too, maybe becoming Boston's first BBQ go-to rock band.
Sadie Dupuis sings sweetly on the new Speedy Ortiz album, "Major Arcana," her gentle, calm tone belying the tumult in her poetic lyrics and serving as a contrast to the band's serrated music.
Based in Northampton, Speedy Ortiz makes a brand of artful noise pop that caught on around Boston and sparked a single and EP last year. The 10-song "Major Arcana" lets the band roam even more, accentuating a lighter touch on "No Below" and full-blown chaos on "MKVI."
Typically, though, the songs are not just one thing. Instead, Speedy Ortiz_ rounded out by guitarist Matt Robidoux, bassist Darl Fern, and drummer Mike Falcone_ favors dynamic shifts and turns over smooth, straight-ahead deliveries. On "Tiger Tank," for instance, the music comes crashing in before receding into a hypnotic riff that slowly turns maniacal _appropriate accompaniment to Dupuis' dark lines ("I don't care if they take my legs; I've limped before, I can limp again").
"Cash Cab" is a hectic and knotty; "Plough" is slender and wobbly.
But all these different textures still rely on a decent devotion to squalling guitar rock of the sort Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, and Helium deployed in previous waves of indie rock. The burly and banged-up tone suits Dupuis' lyrics, which, while never direct narrative, are vivid and haunting.
It may take a few listens to catch all of the details she weaves into a song, but Dupuis does manage at least one neon line that you immediately notice in a song and becomes its hook. Maybe it's the deadpan delivery of "I've still got plasma coming through" or the steely "You picked a virgin over me," something will inevitably present itself as bait to go deeper into the intrigue Speedy Ortiz crafts across "Major Arcana."
The record is out July 9 on Carpark Records, and Speedy Ortiz is playing a release show Saturday, July 6, at Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Allston. The show is at 9 p.m. and also features Grass is Green, and the Vegans.
Here a couple of tracks off of "Major Arcana":
Hey, new music from the Pixies arrived today, the latest in a wave of news that began when bassist Kim Deal announced this month that she was leaving the band. You hear Deal on the funky new one, "Bagboy." Check it out:
Ramming Speed has been grinding it out_ literally_ since 2007, packaging together lacerating drum beats and vocals with flashy guitar parts into compact punk-sized songs. Heavyweight metal label Prosthetic Records caught on to the Boston quintet, and this week released "Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die," the band's second full-length.
Though unorthodox, Ramming Speed sounds nothing but confident on "Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die," offering up a relentless assault through 13 tracks covered in about 35 minutes.
The album's title track gets things going and serves as a pretty good harbinger of things to come. A brooding guitar intro quickly snaps into a maniacal gallop atop which singer Peter Gallagher howls and rasps. It's best not to focus too intently on what Gallagher is saying at the expense of missing everything else going on around him; let it suffice to catch a phrase here, a word there while marveling at the knotted vocal melody.
You could actually say the same for any one component of "Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die" as the record presents best as a whole. The overall tone_ from the aggressiveness of each track down to the song titles ("Anticipating Failure," "Anthems of Despair," "Cretins and Cowards")_ is not open to interpretation; welcome to mean, brutal, and ugly.
But Ramming Speed does build nuance into the record. Guitarists Kallen Bliss and Blake Chuffskin generate a blizzard of thrash riffs and wiry solos. Because the songs thrive on chaos, it's typical to hear a mournful solo lapse into a spastic one, as happens for a nice contrast on "Minister of Truth." You even get a bit of acoustic guitar on "Hollow Giants," but it's more spooky and rickety than pretty.
The band's wrecking ball ferocity is strongest on "Grinding Dissent," easily the feel-doomed hit of the summer so far. Check it out, followed by the likewise grim "Dead Flags":
Just some stuff to get off my chest before heading out to see Come at the Sinclair:
- If you're not checking out Come tonight, consider going to Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave., Allston, where Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons, Tallahassee, and Coyote Kolb are playing a fund-raiser for David Lamb of Brown Bird. Lamb was recently diagnosed with leukemia, and shows such as the one happening tonight are popping up to help the musician cover the costs of his treatment. Show time is 9 p.m.
- The first time I met Parlour Bells' front man Glenn di Benedetto he was wearing a disheveled tux and make-up. Claims he was making a music video. Uh-huh. We'll see if that's true with the promised premier of Parlour Bells' cinematic take on "Bachelor Hours" from its album "Thank God for the Night." The video debut happens Friday, June 28, during the Pill dance party at Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Allston. Word on the Interwebs is that the video will screen sometime between 11 p.m. midnight.
- Our pals at Vanyaland have a good story on TT the Bear's' decision to scotch tomorrow's sold-out show with Cold Cave because of controversial opener Boyd Rice. To paraphrase Jake Blues, I hate California Nazis. Check out Vanyaland's story here http://www.vanyaland.com/
TT the Bear's subsequently issued this statement on Facebook:
I helped pull this show together after TT’s cancelled Friday night’s Cold Cave/Boyd Rice show. I’ve seen a lot of support for the decision to cancel, but I’ve certainly also seen a lot of complaints and outrage. That is understandable, people who were excited to see Cold Cave are disappointed and upset. Without going into every boring detail, I will say this: TT’s has been owned for 40 years by a woman, and most of the bar staff are women. Even if that wasn’t the case, for me personally, after doing a bit of research, Boyd Rice isn’t the type of person I want to see performing on that stage. Cold Cave was given the opportunity to play without him, but refused.
I’ve seen more than a few people crying censorship or blathering about freedom of speech. I certainly believe that anyone is free to say whatever they’d like, but freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence. No one is guaranteed a stage and a microphone; no venue is required by the First Amendment to open their doors to any performer for any reason, that’s not how it works. As for the comments that he’s a provocative artist who is provoking a reaction by saying shocking things - yes, he is, and the response he provoked is a cancelled show. Boyd Rice is free to perform at any venue that will have him.
So instead of Cold Cave/Boyd Rice, TT the Bear’s will be hosting a hastily thrown together bill featuring The Luxury, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, and Cult 45. The cover will be pay what you can, with all proceeds benefitting Rosie’s Place, a sanctuary for poor and homeless women. I’ll sleep fine at night knowing that I can look my female friends and coworkers in the eye.
Even eternal punk rockers the Ramones evolved (a little) across their recorded output, a point Lenny Lashley makes when talking about his new album "Illuminator."
On "Illuminator," Lashley covers more ground than he did when singing and playing guitar in Boston's slash-and-burn punk troupe Darkbuster. The new album, out this week via Pirates Press Records and Panic State Records, is a mix of punched-up rockers, contemplative ballads, and wistful memories.
"It's natural to progress as a musician," Lashley says. "Before, I never a wrote a song that was longer than two minutes and thirty seconds. Now I'm letting the songs breathe and go longer."
"Illuminator" follows a three-song 7-inch that introduced Lenny Lashley's Gang of One. The project was intended to be a singer-songwriter vehicle, but then the music simply grew as Lashley's gang did. Pete Steinkopf of the Bouncing Souls produced the 7-inch and the LP, and played guitar and keys on both. Bouncing Souls bassist Bryan Keinlen and Mighty Mighty Bosstones drummer Joe Sirois also played on the three-song and full-length, with "Illuminator" also drawing additional firepower, such as Bouncing Souls drummer Michael McDermott.
"At first I was doing a record with just me on guitar. Then me being the guy I am started adding here and there," Lashley says.
The whole journey to "Illuminator" has taken more than two years, but it does sound like Lashley has arrived to a point as a writer where he doesn't need to fall back on the raw energy and pranks of Darkbuster.
In turning inward, Lashley delivers songs that touch on a range of subjects spanning youthful hooliganism to the afterlife. "Kingston Rocker" starts the record, springing from Lashley's South Shore hometown (with wry references to the Clash's days in Kingston, Jamaica) and reflects on the singer's own fall and rise. In "White Man," Lashley, who suffered a breakdown while on tour in Europe in 2008, weaves a tale of collapse infused with punk-rock iconography. It's all sharp interplay between the personal and the bigger punk universe.
The origins of "Illuminator" can be heard in "Happily," an acoustic song with a country lope that details a broke down relationship. "U.S. Mail" is the other relationship song, this one a full-blown rocker and a bit more hopeful.
"Illuminator's" acoustic underpinnings also come through on "Anti-Christmas," a dour holiday tale Lashley has performed during a Mighty Mighty Bosstones Hometown Throwdown and says was meant to be in the vein of the Kinks' "Father Christmas."
"It's a sad song, and I know some people don't want to hear sad songs, but not everything is always happy," Lashley says.
"Heaven's Gate" is a stark ballad about, well, the meaning of life.
"I played around with that one arrangement wise, but it's something everybody can relate to, that fear of what happens when you're dead. I know it goes through my head," Lashley says.
Lashley wrote the the freewheeling "Hooligans" in the studio, which is something he has never done before. He had the lyrics about growing up a punk rocker in Boston mapped out, but cooked up the music during discussions with McDermott.
And even though he says the tongue-in-cheek humor of Darkbuster is what he used to trade in, you can't help but appreciate it popping up for a minute on the closing track "Re-Covering."
Lashley is assembling a band for a CD-release show slated for July 12 at the Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, with the Have Nots, the Scrapes, and Mung.
And then it's off to Europe with the Street Dogs, as Lashley recently signed on to play guitar with those fellow Boston-bred punks. When the Street Dogs return, Lashley will look for more opportunities to play Gang of One shows, which he's done on punk bills and at roots-rock shows.
"I'll take it wherever they want to hear it," he says.
Here's a sample of "Illuminator," which is up on iTunes or can be ordered through Pirates Press at http://www.piratespressrecords.com/
Experimentation and pop music are hardly the peanut butter and jelly of music. When the tuneful turn curious, sometimes you get the Beatles' "Revolver" (and the crowd goes crazy), sometimes you get the Monkees' "Head" (the crowd thinks band has gone crazy).
The Wandas "New Interface (A Design with Friends for the Future)," which comes out Tuesday, June 25, and is streaming here now, is experimentation done right, as the band's more artistic forays add depth and intrigue to the sound without sacrificing the band's core of solid song craft.
"Some of these songs were played for the first time as a band while we were working in the studio. I think the results are pretty cool and a little more arty," says singer, guitarist, and keyboard player Keith McEachern. And when the follow-up, "Well, how do you not get too arty in the process?" comes up, McEachern replies, "Our roots are in regular rock."
"Regular," though, sounds too tepid; even the Wandas' previous self-titled album that came out two years ago was notable for the freewheeling spirit of the songs. The Wandas all along have created interesting bridges, linking roots music to anthem rock to chamber pop, and so on.
The biggest shift from "Wandas" to "New Interface" is probably the band's willingness to leave more to the listener's imagination. The dreamscape element is strongest on the album's opening and closing numbers, "New Interface" and "My Mourning," respectively. The journey between those two points is likewise full of interesting contours.
"Killer Heart" and "Good Feeling," for instance, conjure Crazy Horse, for completely different and not-so-obvious reasons. The band's generally chill mood turns explosive_ but only for a moment_ with the eruptions of a guitar solo on "Mad Man." One of the first pieces of music the band put out from the project was "Hood River Blues," an effervescent instrumental. Check out the tunes for yourself now (though don't stop reading):
McEachern, guitarist Brent Battey, and bassist Ross Lucivero hopped onto a conference call to discuss the making and release of "New Interface" as well as the band's show Thursday at TT the Bear's.
It was last year after a three-month tour (one of many over the last couple of years) that McEachern and Battey started writing a few tunes, eying the release of a four-song EP.
But more ideas than expected started to surface, and the band ran with it. Instead of thinking about the finished product and planning out each song's sound and arrangement_ which is what the Wandas did for the self-titled album_ the band took its time and tinkered, letting producer Joel Ford help guide the process.
"The last record was done in six days because of all the pre-production we did. This time, we took the opportunity to work on the songs right in the studio. It was very liberating," McEachern says.
Without necessarily following a hard-and-fast plan, "New Interface" ended up with nice flourishes, such as Lucivero's bass work on "Davy Jones' Locher."
"I knew I wanted a bass solo in the song, but just told Ross, 'Do what you do,' rather than writing it out" Battey says.
The Wandas said a lot of ideas just fly around while the whole band is traveling together; a poem may turn into lyrics, or the sights they see may inspire a tune, as was the case with the Hood River in Oregon. And while the herding of those ideas sounds like it was pretty chaotic, the finished product does have a sleek design. That short acoustic number "Velvet Dream," for instance, is the record's de facto "end of side 1."
The Wandas also beefed up their live shows with impressionistic videos played during the band's performance.
"We just started putting videos behind us as we played, and then added lights and a smoke machine," Battey says. "It really worked."
The sound is also fuller as William Bierce moved from drummer to additional guitarist, making room for drummer Greg Settino to join the band.
The Wandas will have this full-on show June 27 at TT the Bear's, 10 Brookline St., Cambridge. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and Slowdim and Boom Said Thunder are also playing.
The allure of visuals has also prompted the Wandas to release two music videos thus far, one for "Mad Man" and one for "Davy Jones' Locher." Take a look:
I think we're seeing a trend here. Let's hope the Wandas keep 'em coming.
The Wandas new album will be available at https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/the-wandas/id125445016.
And to the band's doings are online at www.thewandas.com.
Listening to ii nub's "Gradients" feels like eavesdropping on someone else's dream. The music is both easy to grasp and richly layered with subtle use of guitar and drum loops, field recordings, synths, and electronic beats.
"We try to make music that transports you, that lets your imagination take you where it wants to," says Sean Carroll.
Carroll and Luis Fraire formed ii nub (that's pronounced "eye" "eye" nub, rhymes with rub) about three years ago when their other band, Pandas, went on hiatus.
The duo took a monthly gig at a music club in Worcester, which prompted Carroll and Fraire to start crafting new material.
"We just started playing with ideas," Carroll says. "If we found a guitar loop or a synth line that we liked, we'd keep it and build on that."
Carroll and Fraire also kept the visual element that was part of the Pandas' shows in their work as ii nub.
When ii nub performs Sunday at Lily Pad in Cambridge, impressionist videos created for the 15 tracks on "Gradients" will be on display as Carroll tends to his baritone guitar and its effects and Fraire controls the keys and triggers the loops and samples.
"Being an instrumental band with a cinematic feel, we just thought it was important to have the videos be part of the live show," Fraire says.
The CD "Gradients" likewise links visuals to sound, as the cover features 15 snapshots that correspond to each track, though whatever meaning ii nub attaches to each pairing is more cryptic than literal.
The album has three distinct sections, each one tied up by a composition titled "Knots." Each of the "Knots" is identical in length and bears the same melody, though each is presented with different instrumentation or sonic timbre. Carroll says he got the triptych idea from Andy Warhol portraits.
"I saw three identical pictures of Mao Tse-Tung, though each was done with a different color," Carroll says.
Even though the music has an ethereal quality to it, the mood and structure are held together by design. Fraire and Carroll will play "Gradients" in its entirety, careful to include all of its layers, even when a songs pull together 20 or 30 individual tracks.
"We're presenting it as a whole original composition," Fraire says, adding that with ii nub he and Carroll have found a way to bridge the experimental with the accessible. "We keep it not too demanding. It's a pleasant listening experience and certainly a little more focused than things we've done before."
ii nub is performing at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at Lily Pad, 1353 Cambridge St., Cambridge. The show begins at 7 p.m. Here is a recently completed video for the "Gradients" song "Wrong #"
The Boston metal trio Scourge jumps in the blender on its new 8-song album, "Clarity." And while the band uses prog, thrash, and death-metal influences across the album, it also manages to stay relentlessly grim, so there's never a feeling that Scourge is bouncing around or unfocused.
Of course there may be times you wished you could escape the dark clouds that immediately gather on the instrumental opener "Moment of Impending Doom" and set the album's mood.
Guitarist Jeremy Pastrick and bassist Jon Huntley inevitably push songs into dark, downward spirals. Their shared vocals are raw and brutal throughout, recounting all manner of misery and torment.
There's more than one way to get to hell on "Clarity." "I Will Burn" shifts between quicker blasts of thrash and lumbering doses of doom. The towering riffs that launch "To the Gallows" use power metal to provide dynamic contrast for the dirge-summoning vocals.
Pastrick takes his flashiest solo on "Awakened Through Death," but for the most part works in lockstep groove with Huntley and drummer Nate MacMillen. MacMillen's rapid-fire delivery adds an element of chaos to the proceedings.
The 7-1/2-minute "Crowned' is the album's centerpiece, bringing the ache and pain of "Clarity" to full boil. But rather than dwell, the band follows "Crowned" with the hardcore-influenced number "Without Mercy."
Despite the diversity at play here, Scourge knew what it is was doing in naming this collection of songs "Clarity" as a big picture emerges from the maelstrom.
Scourge is playing a CD-release show Thursday, June 20, at TT the Bear's, 10 Brookline St., Cambridge. Tester, Forevers' Fallen Grace, and Seren are also on the bill. Show time is 8:30 p.m.
Here's "I Will Burn" from "Clarity"
The musicians in Full Tang know their way around a world beat. They all played in the Fela Kuti-inspired Superpowers band, and two are active in the Debo Band, whose music is grounded in Ethiopian pop.
But unlike the 11-member sprawls of the Superpowers and Debo Band, Full Tang is a four-piece, and as such is a bit more nimble and able to make dynamic pivots the larger bands would have more difficulty pulling of.
"We can do things that get a little more noisy, like 'Pre/Post,'" says Full Tang guitarist Ryan Dugre, referring to the lead-off track on the band's debut CD "Intangible."
Dugre and his band mates_ Adam Clark, Danilo Henriquez, and Eric Lane_ released "Intangible" late last year but didn't have an opportunity to push the record like they wanted to, and if any record deserves a second look, "Intangible" is it.
The music moves from the aforementioned rockier terrain of "Pre/Post" into the psychedelic swirl of "Purple Sky." An icy touch of prog shapes "Baktun 13"; there is a jazzy approach to a cover of "Sleep Walk" ; and the band's reggae influence blossoms fullest on Ansell Collins' "Nuclear Weapon."
Clark doubles on bass and percussion, Lane on keys and sax, and Henriquez on drums ad trumpet, so there is a lot of seat changing during a show to capture the tones and textures of the recorded material, Dugre says.
And you'll get a chance to see that for yourself on Thursday, June 20, when Full Tang returns to the the Middle East in Cambridge. People's Champs, Brother Sam Slideshow, and Ultratumba are also playing. The music starts at 8:30 p.m., and the Middle East is at 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge.
Full Tang took shape after Superpowers dissolved in 2010. Dugre says the quartet delved more deeply into contemporary Zimbabwean music_ learning the guitar-picking style that emulates the traditional thumb piano, for instance_ and layered on other rock influences from outside the Afro-pop world.
"I guess it's hard to say what it is exactly, which hasn't helped," Dugre says. "But as a listener, you'll be hearing a lot of different styles brought together."
The band members honed their sound while living together in Roxbury, and three still do, while Dugre recently moved to New York City. While Henriquez and Clark_ Full Tang's main songwriters_ still play in Debo Band, Dugre says Full Tang has been able to keep working on new songs and may start a new round of recordings in August.
People's Champs is also an offshoot from the Superpowers, though its new single "Humanity" underscores the new outfit's soul influences. And Brother Sam Slideshow is a more pop-oriented duo.
Dugre says Full Tang likes mixing up its shows, as happy to play with garage rock and lo-fi acts as with other Afro-pop bands.
"We enjoy all kinds of music," he says.
And you can't help but notice that listening to "Intangible."
Here are a couple of tracks from the album:
The solitary songwriter is no myth based on the life of Brian Wilson. Pull back the curtain on some of the great indie pop coming out of Boston, and there stands the writer, often the one constant in a revolving cast of musicians bringing the songs to life on records and at shows.
Musician and journalist Jonathan Donaldson is luring some of his fellow pop-smiths out of the woodshed for a unique gathering Friday, June 14, at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge. Corin Ashley, Scott Janovitz, Emeen Zarookian, and Brian E. King will join Donaldson for three "rounds" of song swapping.
In the first round, the players will perform their songs on piano and acoustic guitar, with each artist taking a turn and maybe the others jumping in with a little accompaniment. Round two will feature duo performances, and for the finale, the five writers will be a band, playing their original songs and covers.
"It's great to hear any ideas," Janovitz says of working with this ad hoc group, which wasn't about to wing the "band" portion of the show and has had a rehearsal to better learn the collective repertoire. "I may hear a melody line or an arrangement idea, and that's really helpful."
And while the writers themselves act as sounding boards for each other, the audience should be able to get a sense of the diversity beneath Boston's broad indie-pop umbrella.
Janovitz's last album with the Russians, "Crashing the Party," had a strain of glam detachment in it. Donaldson's new work with the Nimbleines is pop with a psychedelic gleam. Zarookian's recent outings with Spirit Kid boast a crisp, cool sophistication. Ashley's recently released "New Lion Terraces" was partially recorded at Abbey Road studios in London and includes the single "Badfinger Bridge," which says a little about the direction the former Pills leader was heading in with this project. With the band Parks, King, formerly of Oranjuly, is working on a full-length album, and the first couple of songs released boast a big, open sound.
The influences coursing through the combined efforts of these writers are not surprising: the Beatles, Kinks, Big Star, Beach Boys, Posies, and so forth. But this is a crew smart about advancing the pop, not wading in it.
"There was a point where some in the pop scene were slavishly trying to recreate pop moments of the past," Janovitz says. "I think with this group, you're seeing people trying to do something new."
Zarookian is among those in this writers group working on a new album, so this song-swap will be a bit of a workshop for him. Like Janovitz, he looks forward to seeing what is to be gained by working with people who are not totally familiar with his work nor typical collaborators.
"In this situation, there can't be egos," Zarookian says. "Sometimes I have trouble teaching other people the parts to my songs. But in a situation like this do I worry about the intricacies of the original recording, or let someone bring their own thing to it? I think sometimes you can come up with something new and like it."
Zarookian's love of pop is longstanding; he cites Oldies 103 as the favorite radio station of his youth.
"I loved '50's rock and doo wop," he says. "Then in middle school, I discovered the Beatles, and since then just followed a natural progression through the '60s, '70s, '80s, and 90's. I do like everything. I'll listen to metal and electronic music and find value in it."
Watching these artists break down their songs and recast them in fresh settings may provide some insight into how songwriters spin ideas and influences into tunes that seem to easily sweep us up (which is what at the very least you can count on hearing).
The music on Friday begins at 9 p.m. and the Lizard Lounge is at 1667 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Here's a little compilation of the participating artists' work:
Mass, from left, Joey "Vee" Vadala, Michael Palumbo, Louis St. August, and Gene D'Itria. The band is playing a benefit for Boston Marathon bombing victims on Sunday.
Please, it's no longer referred to as "hair metal."
"Melodic rock," is now the preferred term, says Louis St. August, singer for the band Mass.
No matter what we call it, what we're talking about is that sound born in the 1980s, when rock grew slick and showy. Bands were getting power ballads on the radio and playing screaming guitar solos in concert. MTV helped stoke the visual flash that was once the domain of a few bands, such as Kiss.
The Boston band Mass was in the thick of it, releasing "New Birth" on RCA Records in 1985 and landing a hit with "Do You Love Me." In 1988, Mass released "Voices in the Night," an album produced by Stryper's Michael Sweet that earned the band a Boston Music Award nomination for best metal album.
It was nothing but a good time; what could go wrong?
"Grunge killed melodic rock," St. August says. "It wiped out everything in America."
But not in Europe and Japan, where Mass kept its record deals and audiences and was able to ride out the storm before interest back home rekindled, restoring careers for the likes of Cinderella and L.A, Guns.
"Things really picked up four or five years ago after Rocklahoma started. When that festival was drawing 50,000 people a day, promoters realized there is an audience for this music," St. August says, referring to the Oklahoma music fest that started in 2007 and featured Poison, Ratt, and Twisted Sister as headliners.
Mass will be playing similar festivals in Colorado and Nebraska in October, as well as supporting L.A. Guns at a show in September (the band's schedule is online at www.massrocks.com).
"People were missing this music," he says. And without tweaking what it has been doing all along_ two ballads per album; a couple of mid-tempo songs, a couple of "pedal to the metal" guitar blowouts_ Mass is readying its seventh album for release next year.
"We all come from individual places in terms of what we like. We all grew up liking different kinds of music," St. August says of working with guitarist Gene D'Irtia, bassist Michael Palumbo, and drummer Joey "Vee" Vadala. "We're not heavy metal and we're not light metal either. Some of the metal today just sounds like screaming. Our era focuses on melody and lyrics."
Mass is headlining a benefit for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing on Sunday, June 9, at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston The show begins at 2 p.m. and in addition to Mass features the ChickZ, Amanda McCarthy, Linda Veins, Aaron Norcross Jr. and the Old Dogs, Dookie Houser, the Joe Hart Band, GrandEvolution, Elizabeth Mitchell, and other guests. Tickets are $15 with proceeds going to America's Fund, a charity that supports members of the armed services and established a special fund for victims of the bombing.
Here's a Mass flashback to when MTV used to play music videos:
Closed Casket's new CD "Hell at Capacity" is, as you can imagine, grim; I mean, we just used the words "closed casket" and "hell" in the same sentence.
What isn't so predictable from appearances is the particular blend of influences in this Boston band's work. Everything from old-school thrash, to glorious power metal, to scabby black metal, to sludgy doom, to even a little punk rock bubbles up as the disc's 15 tracks move along.
Closed Casket has a CD-release show Friday, June 7, at the Midway Cafe, 3496 Washington St., Jamaica Plain. The show starts at 8 p.m. and also features Soul Remnants, Dark Was the Night, and Mortuorium.
The album's lead-off track "Pentacle Pentagram" appropriates a prog-rock intro before lurching into the song's aggressive drive. "The Challenge" follows, compressing the dynamics into a tight knot of music. The title track gallops along with riffs and rhythms that Judas Priest fans will dig, but delivers them a little quicker than the old guard typically does, and atop all that, singer Chico barks along to a choppy melody line learned at the Slayer Academy. And from there, "Ride With Us" swerves into a doom-tinged landscape.
Closed Casket started in 2004, and bassist Alx explains that each lineup change seemed to bring a new menu of influences. Drummer Sam Casket and guitarist Dan Pardi go back to the band's earliest "horror metal" days. Alx, who joined in 2008 and is also a member of Barren Oak, says he brought black metal and death metal influences to the group, and the addition of guitarist Dan McGrath amped-up the band's modern power-metal sound
Sam Casket says the band scrapped a CD it was working on once Alx and McGrath joined and started from scratch on "Hell at Capacity" to best capture what he describes as a "unique style of metal."
While the band offers up a good deal of sonic diversity, thematically the record has a distinct comfort zone, which isn't really all that comfortable. Songs trade in demonic tales and general societal decay.
After its show Friday, Closed Casket has an October date in Salem (go figure) and is trying to set up and East Coast tour.
Here's a little sample from "Hell at Capacity":
"Come Inside," the second album from Future Carnivores, is full of deception. Those breezy, easy melodies make the music at first feel gauzy and light. But the songs ultimately throb with dark undertones. "The Drugs She Fed You Last Night," for instance, blurs the normal and the debauched. Likewise, the title track is at once inviting and then bitten by angst.
The idea of things not being what they at first seem takes root in the very sound of the music. Clever arrangements layer on the work of two percussionists, busy bass lines, atmospheric keys, and textured guitar parts without making any of the songs feel cluttered.
Singers Bo Barringer and Noell Dorsey intertwine their elongated phrasings into a stylistic thread that runs through the album. Around them, the music moves and shifts like a movie camera swinging from one abstract scene to the next. Sometimes the focus is tight, as in "Grey House," where small details reflect larger problems. Other songs take a wide-angle approach, such as "Twice," which rushes headlong through a mistake-riddled romance.
The album bridges the icy detachment of electronic music with the lushness of chamber pop without lingering in either camp. Instead, the band builds a nice little world of its own design.
Future Carnivores celebrate the release of "Come Inside" with a show Thursday, June 6, at TT the Bear's, 10 Brookline St., Cambridge. Soft Pyramids, Velah, and Milling Gowns are also playing, with the show starting at 8 p.m.
The Ducky Boys are back, broken-hearted but hardly broken. "Dead End Streets," out June 4, opens with three straight shots of bitterness best captured in the line "There's nothing about you I like," all seemingly spurred by love gone horribly wrong.
Of the great street-punk bands that blossomed in Boston in the mid '90s, the Ducky Boys always seemed the ones most willing to make it personal, and that trend carries into its sixth full-length album, and third overall release since regrouping in 2011 after a second hiatus. And like its predecessors, "Dead End Streets" has plenty of fight (and humor) in the mix as well.
The band still embraces punk brevity, knocking out 15 songs in 34 minutes, but the Ducky Boys don't limit their sonic palette. The band is as apt to strum a song on acoustic guitar as it is ready to bash one out fully amped. A slinky organ underscores the blues tone of "The Time We're Given," and that pleasant reggae lilt in "The Advantage" adds an ironic twist to singer/songwriter/bassist Mark Lind's declaration that we're all dancing to that same old boring song.
Lind's confessional-pop leanings shape much of the sound on "Dead End Streets," though guitarist Doug Sullivan offers a fair amount of brash contrast with the tightly coiled and aggressive "Kick" and "The Gravest Generation" (even Sullivan's more contemplative offerings "Disappear" and "The Time We're Given" have a combative edge). Drummer Jason Messina and guitarist Rich Crimlisk complete the lineup.
The title track treads carefully, as in the Ducky universe, music is usually a cure-all, but here Lind opens up about the feelings of futility that a musician_ or any artists, really_ can feel when wondering who really cares. But you have to think the funk doesn't linger, as "Live Forever" and the album closer "'Til the Wheels Fall Off" are wholehearted celebrations of punk and DIY art.
Lind does such a good job capturing a moment in song you wonder how he gets tempted by the easy line on a couple of occasions: the ol' "But for the grace of God" bit in "Up Down and Wrong" and "We're all just human beings" from " 'Til the Wheels Fall Off" are uncharacteristically heavy-handed moments. But consider those minor blemishes in an otherwise sharply crafted package of songs that captures a spirit responsible for first sweeping these guys into music when they were teenagers without forcing them to sound like a bunch of 17-year-olds as they keep making music.
The Ducky Boys are playing Sunday, June 9, at the Middle East downstairs, 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Swingin' Utters, Goddamn Gallows, and the Welch Boys are also on the bill. Doors for this 18+ show open at 7:30 p.m.