Keep on Moving: July Brings the Heat

You might be feeling the post-fourth hangover and dealing with the oppressive humidity. But take comfort that there’s lots of music coming this month that will keep your pounding head from thinking of the weather.

Ry Smith — Days of Iron


Ry Smith is a visual artist and a one-man band wizard who conceives fascinating music in his Newport home. His latest full length, Days of Iron, is chock full of catchy keyboard-driven songs with pop melodies and dense layers of harmonies. The bouncy feel brings to mind an indie version of Harry Nilsson with some Belle and Sebastian thrown in. On this release, Smith tackles keyboards, banjo, ukulele and percussion, among other instruments.

Earlier in the decade, Smith fronted a band called Eastern Phoebes that relocated to Rhode Island from Long Island. In the tradition of greats like Prince or Paul McCartney, Smith’s impressive DIY ethic was born of a desire for both convenience and control. “In most aspects life, I’m not really controlling in any way,” said Smith. “With music, it’s something I have to do myself; I can succeed or fail on my own terms.”

Days of Iron features a combination of upbeat melodies juxtaposed against lyrics about love lost and fractured connections. “I’m normally a bit more upbeat, but this one is a pretty heavy and honest breakup record,” said Smith. The songs deal with themes like the awkwardness of courtship (“Weird Right Now”) or a relationship run out of steam (“Out of Time“). These songs are so addictive and well written, it’s easy to forgive the canned drum sounds.

Days of Iron has a refreshing, off-the-cuff feel to it. For recording, Smith uses an outdated version of Pro Tools, a few condensers and a MacBook Pro from 2007 that has since died. “I prefer to hit record and  start working out a song, then quickly revise it as I go along. Sometimes I can have a song done in a few hours.”

Boors — Decade of Pain

Decade of Pain is the auspicious debut from Providence quartet Boors. The album presents an effective mix of bleak-sounding Joy-Division post-punk and the jangle of Johnny Marr’s guitar. The vocals have that kind of pained-yet-bored quality those goth guys had down so well in the ’80s. For this kind of sound, there’s no other way to do it.

Frontman Jon Scott and guitarist Tony Tibbets do a good job creating interlocking leads, and bassist Frank Gilleese and drummer Zachary Ellsworth round out a solid rhythm section. “Heartbeat Slow” is dark yet danceable, and the album’s upbeat closer, “Closing In,” is another highlight with some beautifully bleak imagery (“I feel it all closing in/here on the floor your love’s the same/and then it starts all over again/unending violence, passion and shame”).

Sweet Babylon — New Beginnings

New Beginnings is the latest from Fall River-based Sweet Babylon. SB is a ska-punk band in the tradition of Reel Big Fish with some Blink-182 skate punk influence. This album doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but is the kind of thing you might like when you’re chillin’ at the beach.

I was happy to hear the Southcoast of Mass, my ancestral home, repped in “The 508.” My favorite of the bunch is “MILF,” a tune with a killer horn line that spins a yarn about a young man who begins an ill-advised affair with a hot mom, and [Spoiler Alert!] ends up murdered by her husband Fred. Maybe songs like “Live it Up” and “Tool” are a little on the nose, but how serious do you want your ska?

Joe Jackson  

Not the recently departed Jackson Family dictator, but a British rock legend. You may remember “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” from his New Wave Years, or “Steppin’ Out” when Jackson stepped into more high-brow jazz pop.

Joe Jackson rocks The Strand on July 9.

Narrows Block-a-Palooza  

It’s a big, free block party in downtown Fall River. This year features soul singer Kat Wright and Quinn Sullivan, a rising star blues guitarist from New Bedford.

Block-a-Palooza takes over downtown Fall River on July 12.

Jonathan Scales 

You may think there’s not much room for innovation in the steel drum space, but Jonathan Scales is one of the premier steel pannists (that’s what they call it in the biz). His new album, PILLAR, features banjo pioneer Béla Fleck bass legend Victor Wooten.

Jonathan Scales grooves The Parlour on July 15.

The Autumn Defense 

The AD is a dual-fronted band led by Wilco’s bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone. Since the late ’90s, they’ve built a brand of quality middle-of-the-road rock, kind of like a rootsy Beatles. I’d guess most of their followers are rabid Wilco fans, but they are a solid band in their own right.

The Autumn Defense Hit POP Emporium on July 20.

Scurvy Dog 

If Mark Zuckerburg’s omnipotent wonderware is to be believed, The Scurvy Dog is having another one of their always-fun Parking Lot Mega Shows on July 29. Bands include Round Eye (from Shanghai, China), Beta Motel, the Prostitutes (PA), M.O.T.O., Black Helicopter, Baylies Band, and Jets Can’t Land.

And be sure to check out the Burnside Summer Music Series Thursday Nights at Burnside Park featuring The Huntress & Holder of Hands, Nova One featuring Roz Raskin, and Death Vessel.

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