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UNDER COVER: The Railers – “Motown Philly”

The Railers don’t do anything to this classic Boys II Men track that pushes it into The Gourds’ “Gin and Juice” territory, but they’re still clearly having a lot of fun. Check out the cover below, but then give their original “Good Luck Comin’” in a fantastic live version from Indianapolis’ Rathskeller. They’re a country rock band worthy of a second listen. They’ll be hitting a venue near you over the next month, so give them a shot. Headphones are great, but the live sound’s always preferable.

3.06 The New Vintage Louisville, KY
3.07 Six Strings Bloomington, IL
3.08 Rathskeller Indianapolis, IN
3.14 El Dorado Municipal Auditorium El Dorado, AR
3.15 Revolution Music Hall Little Rock, AR
3.16 Knucklehead’s Kansas City, MO
3.26 TinAngel Philadelphia, PA
3.27 Hill Country DC Washington, DC
3.28 Hill Country Brooklyn Brooklyn, NY
3.29 Hill Country New York, NY
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NEW MUSIC MONDAY: Schizophrenic melodies, synths unite adventurous singles from Ninetails, Arum Rae and Sleep Thieves

Ninetails – “An Aria”
Album: Quiet Confidence
Release Date: March 10, 2014

A trippy exercise in merging a dense yet adventurously free-wheeling arrangement, this second single from Ninetails’ upcoming album Quiet Confidence showcases a band with music perfect for close headphone listening. The vocals hide hauntingly out of reach, as the ears focus on the ornately schizophrenic melody, with bells and horns competing amid a constantly shifting aural backdrop. Definitely music worth savoring.

Arum Rae – “2001”
Album: Warranted Queen EP
Release Date: April 22, 2014

The backdrop of this endlessly addictive single which Spin dubbed “Auto-Tuned soul” is awash in synths and electronic dub elements, but Arum Rae’s distinct vocals delve into 808s and Heartbreak-esque territory while making subtle shifts which belie her advanced study of jazz vocals at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. What sets the song apart is that constant shifting between the worlds of hip-hop, pop and electronic, with a minimal use of instruments allowing Arum Rae’s voice to really twist and turn. There are moments where her voice, heard through this chaotic prism, takes on a vaguely middle-eastern touch, as though blending human voice and synth strings.

Sleep Thieves – “City Of Hearts”
Album: You Want The Night
Release Date: Spring 2014

The intro at first sounds like come of Enya’s more twisted synth tracks, but once the drums kick in this single quickly falls into a groove more akin to the sound of the Knife, as filtered through the more poppy nature of early Tegan and Sara. It’s a sound both modern and retro, which is sure to give Sleep Thieves plenty of potential appeal. Their debut You Want The Night, which as a full-length follows their successful 2012 EP Islands, is due out this spring and should quickly assert the Dublin band’s global status among synth-pop taste-makers. It doesn’t hurt that the song is instantly ear-catching and repeatable, which makes you want to blast it from your speakers to anyone who will listen.

 

 

 

FEATURED SONG: Nikki Lerner – “Plea”

Nikki Lerner’s entire album Longings is well worth your listen, but if you’ve only got time for one song, try the subtle building “Plea,” which showcases her pop-meets-jazz leanings in full-on glory. This is an example of a song taking its time to earn a listener’s respect, building layer upon layer of melody as Lerner’s vocals swim among the notes, elevating them from mere pop to something significantly more. This is mournful blues, soaring pop and multi-textured jazz all rolled into one five minute track, something you have to hear again and again to fully absorb. From the pizzicato strings at the first chorus, which immediately make the hairs on the neck stand alert, to the background vocals which add depth and clarity to the melody, this is a song built upon attention to detail. Every detail brings you back. By the time the song builds to its apex — “Please forgive me!” lingering in the air over thundering toms and an epic string instrumental provided by jazz violinist Zach Brock, there’s no going back.

You can buy the album via her Bandcamp page.

FEATURED SONG: Terese Taylor’s “Briefcase” a scathing indictment of love gone awry

I’ve got to say, I like the sound Terese Taylor brings to the table, a biting combination of anti-Lilith nineties post-grunge that references PJ Harvey and Liz Phair, with just as much appreciation for bands like Veruca Salt sneaking out through the lines. “If I ever wanted to be true I’m sure it wouldn’t be to you,” she all but snarls on the chorus of “Briefcase,” emphasizing an inherent distaste for truth-telling in a situation where both sides are hiding plenty in the shadows. This isn’t the easy pop breeze look at love on the rocks, where a well-placed apology will fix everything. This is more akin to the blind leading the blind. “I’m lying to myself and everybody else,” she sings, and the strident guitars and fuzzed-out bass are unobtrusive enough to let Taylor’s understated vocals take the lead. This is a keeper — At Your Mercy Circuit, out in April, has officially jumped onto my “must hear” list.

Kat Dahlia’s “Crazy” proves it: She is THE best thing in pop music.

Is it crazy that it only took one listen to this song and I fell in love?
Is it crazy that I know all the words and I can’t help but sing along?
Fuck no it’s not crazy ….

One listen and you’ll understand. Kat Dahlia is for real, and she’s coming to take control of your earphones.

08 – Interview: Ward Hayden (Girls Guns and Glory)


This week on the “Hear! Hear!” and Now Podcast, I got the opportunity to sit and chat with Ward Hayden, lead singer for Boston’s Girls Guns and Glory. The band has spent the better part of the last decade building a name as one of America’s best undiscovered alternative country bands. For their fifth studio album, aptly titled Good Luck, the band chose to focus on promoting their more rock-oriented elements, including rockabilly and some dare I say Springsteenian touches on the album’s centerpiece, “Centralia.”

Veteran producer Eric Ambel, who produced Steve Earle and the Bottle Rockets in the past, took the helm on this release. He brings his deft touch to the rockier elements, making this the strongest Girls Guns and Glory effort yet. If you haven’t bought it yet, why not now? Ward’s interview touches on the finer details of the album, including stories behind songs like “Centralia” and “Rockin’ Chair Money” which give you a deeper look at the band’s sound and goals. You’ll also hear his favorite tracks off the album.

Enjoy, and remember to learn more about the band by visiting www.girlsgunsandglory.com.

Wax Fang’s The Astronaut or: “For Those About To Show Albums Aren’t A Lost Art, We Salute You!”

Scott Carney and Jacob Heustis of Wax Fang have spent the last decade proving to be the perfect comparison to the region’s weather patterns — if you don’t like one album, or it fails to resonate with you instantly, you’re almost certain to like something about what comes next. Each album they’ve released has taken a different twist on the most progressive elements of psychedelic experimental rock, proving you can craft songs of impressive scope and infinite replayability. They’ve proved repeatedly that the current “single first” mentality need not apply to every band or artist — that, Bob Lefsetz’s constant diatribes nonwithstanding, album rock is not dead. The album is not an art-form to be relegated to discussions of Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Yes, or any of their ilk.

Wax Fang’s latest album, The Astronaut, is a revelation, a five-song suite which does as much to tell a story through its inventive instrumental arrangement just as much as it does through Carney’s vocals. The main character becomes untethered from his ship, careens through a black hole and is transformed into a God, all-knowing and far from human. Imagine Gravity and 2001 filtered through the musical mind of the man who brought us that positively delicious animated rendition of “The Majestic” on American Dad and you’ve got at least a taste of how great this album is.

This isn’t an album which requires multiple listens to enjoy. It requires multiple listens merely because it’s so immediately enjoyable. The key, however, is to listen to the suite uninterrupted. The tone shifts relentlessly throughout, as the story is told through every bit of instrumentation. Carney’s voice is in top form as well, but blasting this album through a good pair of headphones is its own reward — you’ll feel the story being told as though the experience were your own. And unlike albums like Thick As A Brick, which occasionally drowned in their own artistic pretensions, Carney’s vision is allowed to fully develop through this forty-minute arrangement. To hear this chopped into easy-to-swallow “singles” would be a disservice to what is the band’s artistic masterpiece.

More important, the same aural themes continue to crop up throughout the album, twisted and electrified by the same outside forces which are transforming the titular astronaut from man to super-being. The album rewards patience and continued listening by focusing our attention on subtle shifts in mood. So while the album’s quality is evident even on first listen, it becomes better and better the more you experience the telling.

You can hear the first fifteen-minute segment of The Astronaut via NPR’s “All Songs Considered” blog, but be assured you’ll be wanting this album in full the moment you can get your hands on it on January 28th. And while there are pleasures in playing the album in high-quality digital format, this is one of those albums for which the vinyl treatment proves just as tantalizing. I’ve listened to the album on repeat while walking through snowy small-town Hoosier landscapes. But I’m just as excited to sit down in a dark room and let the record spin.

That’s why albums aren’t dead.

That’s why Wax Fang is the best band you’re not listening to.

The Astronaut will change that.

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