The pandemic era nightmare has had a few upsides, including a flurry of activity from those who make music at home. With his basement recording project, Pavid Vermin, Glenn Robinson makes homegrown punk rock for the masses. The fast-paced, three-chord tunes max out around two minutes and have a hard-edged yet throwback feel — think Descendents mixed with the Misfits.
Robinson doesn’t seek to stray too far from punk rock’s well-worn grooves, but he does find ways to put his own spin on things. September saw the release of Total Bummer, a split release with Phenotypes which featured the song “Rocky Point.” An ode to the carnival rides of yesteryear? No, but much better.
It’s a song Robinson had in his back pocket since 2006 about an experience he had while working as a production assistant on The Education of Charlie Banks, the directorial debut of Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst. “One day I was driving Fred around in a minivan right by Rocky Point,” he said. “He was wearing a wig and preparing for a confrontation scene, and sort of pushing his arms out wildly, and saying like “get some,” to himself. “It took everything I had not to burst out laughing, and I wished there was someone there with me to witness this surreal moment.”
On each release, Robinson does all the recording and plays every instrument, making him the Prince of three chord punk. And sure, the arrangements are simple, but Robinson has an ear for the small stuff — a nice ascending bassline or some deftly-placed backing vocals can make all the difference.
He recently unlocked his vault to unveil a collection of odds and ends called Dumpster Diving. “Where Has Your Head Gone” is my pick of the litter, which features a doo-woop Ramones feel, and appears to be about how the Beach Boys made it work among all the dysfunction (”Mike Love was a total douche, and Brian Wilson was insane”).
After releasing two albums under his name in the mid-2010s, Robinson started Pavid Vermin as a way to strip things down and have more fun. “I found that it would be way too difficult to go back to the studio and do it the ‘right way,’” he said. “I went back to my natural state of going into the basement and not thinking too much, saying ‘let’s just write a tune, take it from point A to point B, and let the song be the song.”
Robinson has been making music since the late 90’s under different names, in groups like Unibrows, The Prozacs, and The Paranoids, mostly as a drummer — though ironically all the drums on the Pavid Vermin are programmed.
A graphic designer by day, he also handles all of his album art, and has an Instagram account of fake vintage album cover parodies called Obscurest Vinyl.
The pandemic seemed like the perfect time to realize an idea he’d had for a while: a collection of Lookout! Records artist cover songs. The album featured songs from Green Day, Operation Ivy, and Pansy Division, and proceeds went to The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project and the FANG Community Bail Fund. What’s even cooler, he got Chris Appelgren, former Lookout! president and graphic artist to draw the cover.
If all that’s not enough, Robinson released two albums in February in 2020. One, Cutting Corners, featured all originals with familiar titles like “Come Together,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “Oh! Darling.” He uses these titles as a canvas and reinterprets classics like “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” (“she left her keys at home, and she’s really got to go”) and “Mean Mr. Mustard (“we all know how he is”).
Crushing Metal: Burr Buzzes Alongside Don’t Grow Old
Nefarious Industries serves up a new pairing with Burr and Don’t Grow Old
Long used for pulverizing minerals, the burr mill transformed food production by improving the consistency of ground grains, corn, and coffee. At Bolt Coffee’s Providence flagship (61 Washington St.), barista Casey Belisle, assistant roaster Mike Dantowitz, and coffee director Justin Enis wield a Mythos grinder manufactured by Nuova Simonelli for espresso and an EK43 from Mahlkonig for filtered coffee. The motorized models replicate the mechanics of a handheld salt or pepper mill, crushing beans into the grinds that — with the ratio of water, its temperature, and brew time — define the flavor profile of a cup of coffee. Too fine of a grind increases the likelihood of a sludgier or bitter taste, whereas too coarse of a grind can contribute to a weak or watery brew. On the sound system at Bolt’s roastery (96 Calverey St.), Belisle, Dantowitz, and Enis share an appreciation for heavier, slower grinds, like the sounds of Electric Wizard, Thou, and Yob. With a nod to their trade, they apply a similar precision to metal with their band, Burr.
Founded in 2017, Burr, the band, started out as an afterwork jam session at Belisle’s studio space in Central Falls.
“We got the name Burr by trying to find a coffee term that sounded like a doom name,” said Enis. “We love our burr grinders and their ability to create a more narrow ‘particle distribution’ allowing the brewer to achieve a higher extraction with more sweetness when dialed in.”
Dantowitz played guitar in Tape Eater and other New Bedford punk and hardcore bands, Belisle set the drumbeat for the quirky mathrock of 14foot1 and lighter projects like Roz and the Rice Cakes, and Enis entered the University of Rhode Island as a jazz bass major and went on to make up half of the duo SONGS. After two years playing together as Burr, on the eve of Thanksgiving in 2019, they released their debut, Radial Alignment, on Bandcamp. With tracks like “Touch of Cream” and “Spent Grounds” teasing their careers in coffee, the band’s heaving instrumentals conjured raw notes of Pelican and Russian Circles. The Covid-19 landscape introduced a more serious edge to their songwriting. Six months into the throes of the pandemic, Burr returned to Big Nice Studio (25 Carrington St., Lincoln) where audio engineer Bradford Krieger refined a punishing single. Their latest release, a six-minute dirge on a split 7” with Don’t Grow Old, is now available from Philadelphia-based label, Nefarious Industries.
“We all were feeling tired, angry, anxious, frustrated, scared—” said Enis. “We hope that listeners can feel the trough of the pandemic and social issues in ‘Particle Distribution.’”
While Burr whirs through a penetrating doom, New Bedford’s Don’t Grow Old sound like they grew up on the blistering constraint of Botch and Jane Doe-era Converge. The idea for the joint project emerged after the bands shared a bill in New Bedford. A follow-up date at AS220 (115 Empire St., Providence) with Losst and Cyttorak fell victim to Covid-19 cancellations, but on October 16th the bands reunited for their record release party at the Paradise McFee Gallery (104 William St, New Bedford). The following Monday morning, the members of Burr were back to the grind at Bolt.
Okee dokee folks…Last week I was fortunate to attend the 2021 edition of Farm Aid. For those of you who don’t know about Farm Aid it’s a fundraising and awareness raising concert/organization dedicated to helping family farmers and promoting good food.
Farm Aid was started by Willie Nelson in 1985 and was inspired by an off the cuff remark made by Bob Dylan at Live Aid that maybe some of the money raised could be used to help family farmers. Nelson inducted the help of Neil Young and John “Cougar” Mellencamp and they presented the first Farm Aid concert in September of 1985. That massive, all star line-up included Alabama, The Beach Boys, Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, John Denver, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Foreigner, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Sammy Hagar, Daryl Hall, Don Henley, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Rickie Lee Jones, B.B. King, Carole King,Kris Kristofferson, Lorreta Lynn, John Mellencamp, Joni Mitchell, Willie Nelson and Family, Randy Newman, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Bonnie Raitt,Lou Reed, Kenny Rogers, Brian Setzer, Eddie VanHalen, Neil Young with The International Harvesters and still many more. I watched the entire thing live on MTV back when they still actually featured music.
Since its inception Farm Aid has raised many, many millions of dollars to help farmers and has presented 35 annual live festivals. Last year’s event was virtual due to the pandemic. The show at Xfintity Center was back to a live, in person event. The concert sold out in just days. Unfortunately soon after, Neil Young bowed out of the concert over Covid concerns. Still the main board members/performers: Nelson, Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and newest member, Margo Price remained part of the show as were a host of other performers-Tyler Childers, Nataniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Bettye LaVette, Jamey Johnson, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Allison Russell, Particle Kid, Ian Mellencamp, and the Wisdom Indian Dancers. Sturgill Simpson canceled a few days before the event due to laryngitis.
The show kicked off with a performance and blessing from the Native American group, Wisdom Indian Dancers. Organizer offspring performances by Ian Mellencamp and Particle Kid (Micah Nelson) followed. Nelson gave a nod to the absent Neil Young with a raw rendition of “After The Gold Rush”. Johnson, Lukas Nelson w/POTR, Russell, LaVette, and Childers followed. Ratecliff’s set included a rendition of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” that had Lukas Nelson joining in.
Between sets videos from farmers played to alert the audience to the plight of their way of life. There was an emphasis on Black, female, and Native American farmers as well as nutritional and sustainable ways of growing. A Native American, woman farmer in one video commented, “It doesn’t matter who’s to blame, it matters who’s going to show up and fix it!”
The set of the day belonged to new Farm Aid board member, Margo Price. Price and her band, which includes her husband Jeremy Ivey, performed a very satisfying set which included another nod to Neil when she played “Homegrown” with a little help from Micah and Lukas Nelson. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds strummed and picked through energetic, acoustic renditions of Matthews music. “Today we will raise a little money and a little awareness for the people who grow our good food” exclaimed Matthews when he addressed the audience. John Mellencamp, puffing on a cigarette, took the stage next with a very stripped down band of accordion, guitar, and backing vocals. He spoke of how in 1985 he received a cold call from Nelson asking him to join in on the Farm Aid cause. While playing his signature, “Jack & Diane” he razzed the crowd for messing up the song despite having “40 years to learn it”. Mellencamp’s set included the poignant song “Rain on the Scarecrow” which was surely part of the reason he aligned himself with Farm Aid. Willie Nelson closed out the night with his family band that included his two sons, Micah and Lukas.
Farm Aid is about more than just the music. The music and performers attract the attention but there is so much more to a Farm Aid concert. There is the Homegrown Village. Here there are countless informational booths where you can learn about farms, farming techniques, food, alternative approaches to food production, and just about anything about food and farming you could imagine. You can talk one on one with local experts in the field. In addition there were panel discussions on many farming related issues. These discussions included performers Ratecliff, Price and Russell. Many of the food concessions were stocked from local and organic sources. The issues of Farm Aid and what they do does not just happen one day a year in September, it is a year round cause. The festival is just the tip of the iceberg; it just emphasizes the cause.
Unfortunately the most outspoken person at a Farm Aid concert, Neil Young, was not present. Young tends to drive the point home during the pre-show press conference and at many points during his set, sometimes to overkill. Unfortunately there was not a pre-show press conference this year. During the 2018 edition he constantly instructed the audience to shop at farmer’s markets by calling out to the crowd, “What are you going to do when you pass a farmer’s market?”. “Stop in” is the response he looked for over and over.
As much as the between set videos were informative I wonder how much attention was paid to them? Were they mainly for the internet viewers or the in-person attendees? I did catch a lot of info from the video segments but I feel that more talk about the cause by performers on the big stage would have gotten the message across better and reminded folks what the event is really for.
Ever since the very first Farm Aid in ’85 I have been interested in the cause. Attending the concert made me feel like a small a part of the solution. I can relay the points of the Farm Aid cause here and hopefully turn others onto the message and the music as well. Even small things like purchasing a t-shirt helps out. This can still be done online. Though the $45 price tag for a shirt may seem hefty it is helping out the cause financially and with the message. Every little bit does help.
Album of the Week: Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
Philadelphia indie rock act Hop Along has creative versatility beyond their contemporaries. The band amplifies the singer-songwriter aesthetic with powerful sounds glistening with genuineness. It’s a mix of folk, ‘90s alternative, punk and power-pop that soothes the senses. Their fourth album Bark Your Head Off, Dog came out on Apr 6 via Saddle Creek Records and is a testament to their musical evolution. There’s a certain fearlessness in each song.
What makes this album different from Hop Along’s previous releases is the involvement of string instruments. The violin throughout the album is a fantastic addition. Frances Quinlan’s vocals combine with guest backing vocalist Chrissy Tashjian (from fellow Philly act Thin Lips) for amazing harmonies. Frances’ brother Mark is the anchor on drums while Joe Reinhart provides perfect chords on lead guitar. Bass guitarist Tyler Long keeps it all together with solid bass lines backing everything up.
Usually when a band shifts towards acoustic instruments, a drop-off in emphasis is expected. Hop Along maintains their trademark intensity in their new album, proof of how talented they are. There’s also a fine balance between the electric guitar riffing and the stripped-down tones. The variety of volumes makes for a captivating listening experience. For further examination, give a gander to my top tracks off of the Album of the Week:
“Prior Things” is a gem that’s also a prime example of the string instruments’ resonance; the violin gives a dose of artistic beauty while Quinlan’s lyrical melodies are stunning. Starting off with a somber vibe, “Not Abel” progresses into a forceful jam due to the chorus emloying those harmonies mentioned earlier. Reinhart’s techniques in “How Simple” are impeccable: he rips a solo halfway through that’s a wonderful addition.
Album of the Week: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – Dirt
Very few bands these days have a way of taking the senses to another world. Both visually and musically, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan from Toronto have the ability to do that while becoming one of the most inventive acts of the decade. They refer to their style as “Noh Wave,” which is a pun on Japanese Noh theatre and New York City’s No Wave scene of the early ‘80s. Their third studio album, Dirt, came out on Mar 23 via the Canadian indie label Paper Bag Records, and it consistently brings out thunderous riffs and beats. It also marks a transition for the band in terms of membership as well.
In June 2015, founding member and lead vocalist Ruby Kato Attwood left along with guitarist John Ancheta. With their departure, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan brought into the fold vocalist Joanna Delos Reyes and guitarist Hiroki Tanaka. The change made them into a dynamic entity of aural excellence. Reyes’ voice is magnificently powerful while Tanaka, bass guitarist Brandon Lim, drummer Alaska B, backing singer Ange Loft and keyboardist Brendan Swanson come together to form a battalion of sound. Their complex rhythms and structures make the new album into a gem that excites and energizes.
To say Yamantaka // Sonic Titan is unique is a vast understatement. They all wear facepaint and, along with being a touring rock band, are also a theatre group that specializes in performance art. It’s an amazing amount of artistic versatility that’s absolutely impressive. This band is doing things that no one else is conceiving and the originality is refreshing. For an in-depth look, check out my top tracks off of the Album of the Week:
An excellent representation of the complex rhythms and structures is “Beast” – Tanaka’s guitar techniques dominate and the electricity is contagious. Alaska B’s machine gun drumming is evident while listening to “Yandere,” a fast-paced introduction into a forceful jam that’ll invade the eardrums. “Hungry Ghost” will put you in a trance with the harmonies from Reyes and Loft.
This incredible act will be performing a sold-out hometown show at The Garrison in Toronto on Mar 29, but their only New England appearance on this tour was a few days ago at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA, on Mar 25, so you missed it if you weren’t there. Let’s hope they roll through the region soon because, with their visuals and sounds, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan must be incredible live. Until then, grab a copy of Dirt. It’s not your typical kind of rock music, but that’s what makes it so great.
To say that 2017 was a wild year for music is a vast understatement. As a reaction to the current administration in the White House, various musicians took a political stance to oppose the views of a president with questionable values. Ranging from singer-songwriters like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy to major bands like the Foo Fighters, there were numerous acts that wrote songs about the current political and social landscape.
The music world was also shaken by the passing of legends Tom Petty, The Tragically Hip’s Gordon Downie, Chris Cornell, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Gregg Allman. This year has shown that music can still be a reflection of the times, despite how scary these times may be.
In Providence, the local music scene has seen people from various ethnic backgrounds and different orientations starting bands. Whether it’s hip-hop, punk, metal, folk or anything in between, it’s adding a glorious dose of diversity to a community that prides itself on being so. The music scene has also been resilient despite the closing of a few venues: RIP Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, Aurora and Firehouse 13. There are a lot of questions being asked about the sustainability of the city’s music, art and culture, and we’re still waiting on the answers. With all of this being said, here are my Top 20 Albums of 2017 (Because 10 Wasn’t Enough).
20. SydeSho – SydeSho the Maestro (self-released)
Providence native Oliver Arias, also known as SydeSho, is a blast from the past in terms of hip-hop. He can breakdance like a maniac and he can spit rhymes with the best of them. His debut album SydeSho the Maestro that came out in March had him teaming up with producers Cognate and F.L.E.E. the Maestro. It’s a stellar album that celebrates hip-hop’s roots with a respectably modern spin. Tracks like “Get Up” with vocalist Becky Bass, “Excuse Me” and “Better Than Yourz” featuring fellow emcee Big Scythe prove that mumble rap is whack and the real style is coming back.
19. Weaves – Wide Open (Kanine/Buzz/Memphis Industries)
There’s something awesome about rhythmically tight and quirky alternative rock. It possesses an honesty that other genres can’t hold a candle to. Weaves from Toronto hit this on the head with their sophomore album Wide Open released in October. Jasmyn Burke has a uniquely soulful voice that has stunning range: “#53,” “Walkaway” and “Law and Panda” are prime songs off this record that are abundant with melody and energy.
18. Pile – A Hairshirt of Purpose (Exploding In Sound)
Indie rock act Pile has such a distinct take on music that it’s hard to pin them down to classification. They can sound like a post-punk act at one point, then they’ll go full-on noise, and finish a track off by venturing towards math rock. Their versatility is what makes this act from Boston so great and their sixth album A Hairshirt of Purpose that hit record store shelves in March could be their most brilliant release yet. It’s unapologetically intense while providing an electrifyingly awesome listening experience. Turn it up loud and listen to songs like “Hissing for Peace,” “Texas” and “Leaning on a Wheel” to get amped.
17. Ron Gallo – Heavy Meta (New West/American Diamond)
Moving to a new city can change an artist. They’ll adapt to new kinds of music and then they’ll put their own spin on it. Philadelphia native Ron Gallo went through that transition after the Americana band he was in, Toy Soldiers, broke up and he moved to Nashville. He got into the garage rock scene there and released a badass debut album with Heavy Meta in February. Wakefield, RI, native Dylan Sevey plays drums in his band. “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me,” “Kill the Medicine Man” and “Please Yourself” are definitive scorchers.
16. Alexandra Savior – Belladonna of Sadness (Columbia)
A breath of fresh air came from Portland, OR, artist Alexandra Savior when she put out her debut album, Belladonna of Sadness, in April. Subtle jazz elegance adorns the album from start to finish while walking the line between dream pop and psychedelic. She’s only 22 and the future looks very bright for her if she keeps it up. Coolness flows from each song on the record and the senses will be hooked. Try out “Mirage,” “Shades” and “Frankie” and you won’t be able to stop listening.
15. Ho99o9 – United States of Horror (999 Deathkult)
Usually a fusion of hip-hop and punk can be quite lame, but in 2017 anything was possible and the Los Angeles-via-Newark, NJ, duo of TheOGM and Eaddy proved that. Ho99o9 (pronounced as “horror”) released one of the most important albums of the year with United States of Horror in May. The album confronts oppression, police brutality and racism head-on. It’s a powerful record that musically hits like a stack of dynamite blasting through a brick wall. “Street Power,” “Sub-Zero” and the title track are incredible.
14. Toad and the Stooligans – Very Handsome (self-released)
The year 2017 saw Providence hip-hop band Toad and the Stooligans become one of the top up-and-coming acts in the local music scene with the release of their debut album Very Handsome in September. It blends syncopated harmonies and jazzy rhythms while riding a groove that takes over the senses. You can either rock your body to it or relax while taking it all in. Tracks like “All Things Considered,” “Part Time Lovers” with Bianca Sings and “Statements” really shine.
13. Land of Talk – Life After Youth (Saddle Creek)
Toronto musician Elizabeth Powell went through a reinvigoration before she released Land of Talk’s third album Life After Youth in May. She went on a hiatus that lasted four years and then she came back to put out a wonderful record. There was no rust and Powell’s songwriting is pristine. This album will put you under a spell. “Yes You Were,” “This Time” and “Inner Lover” are jaw-dropping songs that each has its own special quality.
12. And So I Watch You from Afar – The Endless Shimmering (Sargent House)
When an act returns to their roots, it can be a beautiful thing. And So I Watch You from Afar went back to what made them fantastic in the first place when they unveiled their fifth album, The Endless Shimmering, in October. The experimental instrument prog rock act from Belfast, UK, got rid of the chanting that was present in their two previous albums and they stuck to unbridled shredding. The production of the record is excellent as well. “Mulally,” “Three Triangles” and “Dying Giants” melt brains and rev things up.
11. At the Drive-In – At the Drive-In – in-ter a-li-a (Rise)
After 17 years since a band’s previous release, there’s a hard choice what the comeback can be: It can be disaster or it can hark back to the band’s glory days. The latter happened when post-hardcore legends At the Drive-In soothed the masses with their fourth album, in-ter a-li-a, back in May. Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s voice still has impeccable range and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez consistently proves why he’s one of the best guitarists alive. Plug in to “No Wolf Like the Present,” “Governed by Contagions” and “Holtzclaw,” and prepare to unleash some rage.
With all of the social and political turmoil that went on in 2017, it’s only fitting that Providence punks Downtown Boys put out their biggest release yet with Cost of Living in August. The band’s third album has a Clash-like essence that screams for revolution. It also musically punches bigotry, racism and ignorance in the face until all the teeth are on the ground. Victoria Ruiz is a fearless frontwoman and Joey La Neve DeFrancesco shreds on guitar. “A Wall,” “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)” and “It Can’t Wait” will energize you while also making you think about society as a whole.
9. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder (Arts & Crafts)
Kevin Drew and his wide ranging collective known as Broken Social Scene put out their best album in years back in July. Hug of Thunder is a stunning album with so many gems that it should be re-formed as a crown. There’s a distinct amount of force that’s bound to capture your attention – and, if that doesn’t do it, then the orchestral songwriting should do the trick. Tracks “Halfway Home,” “Vanity Pail Kids” and “Gonna Get Better” are too amazing to be ignored.
8. Dutch Uncles – Big Balloon (Memphis Industries)
Dutch Uncles are a very cool alt-pop act from a small town in England called Marple, and not a lot of folks know about them in the United States. It’s puzzling because their fifth album, Big Balloon, that came out in February is so brilliant that they should have a bigger fan base. Their sound is ideal for anyone who digs new wave, post-punk and math rock. These cats have prog tendencies as well. Listen to “Combo Box,” “Oh Yeah” and “Hiccup” and you’ll know what I mean.
Indie pop act Roz and the Rice Cakes put out the best album to come out of Providence this year. The trio of Roz Raskin, Casey Belisle and Justin Foster has grown so much musically and their versatility knows no bounds. Their third album, Devotion, was released in October to feverish anticipation. It lives up to the hype through sheer originality and artistic progression. “Revolving,” “Open Eyes” and “Do You” are rhythmic jams that latch on to the ears.
6. Wu-Tang Clan – The Saga Continues (Entertainment One)
One of the best hip-hop acts – ever – returned to form this year. The Wu-Tang Clan put out their seventh album, The Saga Continues, in October and it’s astounding. Mathematics and RZA co-produced the record while the crew of Method Man, GZA, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa and Cappadonna put down some of their best rhymes in years. There’s also an assortment of special guests including Redman, Sean Price and Killah Priest among others. “Lesson Learn’d,” “If Time Is Money” and “Pearl Harbor” are fine examples of fantastic hip-hop.
If 2017 put any band through the ringer, it had to be Death from Above from Toronto. Sebastian Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler got rid of the “1979” part of the band’s name and they also got grouped in with the alt-right against their will because Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes is a fan, and Keeler ended up making a public apology for him. They also put out their third album titled Outrage! Is Now in September, and it’s the tightest album of the year. Each song is compact, fast and intense. Dive into “Freeze Me,” “Never Swim Alone” and “NVR 4EVR” and get your mind blown.
After eight albums, Los Angeles garage rock phenom Ty Segall finally put out his ninth under his own name in January, with Steve Albini producing. Segall goes back to the T. Rex-esque brand of rock ‘n’ roll for which that he’s loved. He also doesn’t let up when it comes to the volume, either. If you ever find yourself in need of a musical weapon to combat a neighbor’s bad taste in music, this album is it. Songs like “Break a Guitar,” “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)” and “Thank You Mr. K” are highly recommended to be listened to as loud as possible.
3. Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Anti-/Arts & Crafts)
Japandroids have to be one of the hardest working bands today. Guitarist and vocalist Brian King and drummer David Prowse tour relentlessly, and their Vancouver-bred rock sound is so damn good. They released their third album, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, in January, and it shows maturity and growth in their music. Like their other albums, there’s a hard-hitting, honest aesthetic that’s unrivaled. “North East South West” is an ode to their continual touring, “Arc of Bar” is a rejoicing jam and “In a Body Like a Grave” is a triumphant anthem.
Technically, this can be considered to be a local release due to Ted Leo’s residence in South County, Rhode Island, but, regardless, his first solo album that came out in September is magnificent. There are classic pop leanings that compliment his class mod punk style. It seems as if Leo is trying to embrace the aging singer-songwriter role while also maintaining his punk roots. The artistic conflict breeds genuinely poignant music that has Leo pouring his heart out. “You’re Like Me,” “Can’t Go Back” and “Lonsdale Avenue” will excite the nerves for different reasons.
Annie Clark has become a symbol for individualism through art, and her fifth album, Masseduction, that hit the charts in October is the pinnacle of it. Her project explores various dimensions to achieve a sound of its own. There are groovy electronic beats, sick guitar riffs and intelligent lyrics that make this latest addition to St. Vincent’s catalog her best yet. The album also examines our society’s obsession with sex, drugs and power, and how it affects humanity. Get down with “Pills,” “Fear the Future” and “Savior,” and realize that this is the best album that came out in 2017.
Calgary post-punks Preoccupations have come a long way since changing their name from the controversial “Viet Cong” in 2015. Their 2016 album under their current name garnered a ton of positivity from critics and fans, and, in turn, brought them to the forefront of today’s post-punk and new wave scene. On Mar 23, they’ll be releasing their third album, titled New Material, via the indie label Jagjaguwar. The band shows artistic expansion in their new album while staying true to their distinct style. There’s a fine balance of synth and bass guitar providing the structure for a hypnotic sound.
There’s a pulse throughout the entirety of New Material that runs like an engine in a hot rod. Matt Flegel’s vocals walk the fine line between low and high pitches, almost as if the qualities of both Ian Curtis and Morrissey’s singing were combined into one. The synth presence is more accentuated versus the band’s previous album due to Scott Munro’s techniques. Mike Wallace’s drumming is the spark that sets everything off. Munro and Daniel Christiansen unleash their guitars in stellar ways to complete the sonic arsenal.
It’s always a breath of fresh air when you can notice a band’s influences through their music but the band isn’t a complete rip-off. Originality is just as important as embracing the past. Preoccupations pull that off by having an approach that harks back to the golden age of post-punk, and, at the same time, keeping things fresh. It’s a brilliant take on tones and rhythms that flows blissfully to the ears. Dive deeper and read up on my top tracks off of the Album of the Week:
An excellent representation of the balance between the synth and bass guitar is “Solace,” where Flegel’s bass guitar has a deep resonance that melds nicely with Munro’s electronic sheen. “Espionage” has Wallace serving as the musical firestarter on drums; there’s a forceful intensity that’s apparent from beginning to end. Aural supremacy is epitomized in “Antidote” with all of the band’s elements coming into play to seamlessly create a fantastic song.
Album of the Week: Carissa Johnson and the Cure-Alls – Talk Talk Talk
Carissa Johnson is a musician who has been injecting rock music with a refreshing dose of originality for the past few years. Her blend of ‘70s punk, power-pop and melodic modern flair has put her at the forefront of Boston’s legendary music scene. She also hits the road with her backing band known as the Cure-Alls often, and they’ve gained loyal followings throughout the United States. Johnson and her band, featuring drummer Nick Hall and guitarist Steph Curran, recently self-released their third LP, Talk Talk Talk, on Mar 10. It’s an album that’s a hard-hitting display of lyrical honesty and musical amplification.
For a mostly DIY record, Talk Talk Talk has a very professional sound quality. That’s due to the production skills of Doug Batchelder and Benny Grotto along with Jay Frigoletto taking on the mastering duties. Every track on the album is rhythmically tight while being not too long and not too short. It’s music that’s ideal for the rock enthusiast who can’t stand it when a song is longer than four minutes. There are plenty of memorable riffs, courtesy of Curran and Johnson’s bass guitar lines that meld perfectly with Hall’s beats.
Johnson, Curran and Hall’s artistic ascendancy goes to show how good the local music of New England has been recently. Talented acts from all genres, and some that fuse a few together, have been popping up on a monthly basis. It varies from established vets starting new bands to kids in their late teens graduating high school and wanting to take on their city’s scene. The high concentration of bands and musicians in such a small region of the country is astounding. To see how this trio takes their rightful place in this burgeoning community, let’s dabble with my top tracks off of the Album of the Week:
Curran’s riffs are best exhibited in “After All” – they capture a pristine tone that’s magnificently electrifying while not being overly distorted. “Home” is fast-paced and fun with a hybrid of harmony and vigor; what makes the track even more enjoyable is a cat’s meow finishing it off. Starting off acoustically into an emotional spark plug is the best way to describe the gem that’s “Two Weeks.”
Johnson and the Cure-Alls’ next show is with Los Angeles electro-psych rock duo War Twins and fellow Bostonians The Stampede at the Thunder Road Music Club and Rock ‘n’ Roll Bistro in Somerville, MA, on Mar 26. They’ve played Providence a few times, so be on the lookout for when they’ll be coming back. Before you see them live, make sure to grab a copy of Talk Talk Talk and turn it up: It’s a bold take on rock that definitely shreds.
Correction: The contributions of Benny Grotto and Jay Frigoletto in production were incorrectly omitted in a prior version of this article. We regret the error.
Album of the Week: Superorganism
An incredibly good debut album has a power that can’t be overstated: It can make a band’s career and shift the music landscape. The first self-titled release from indie pop act Superorganism has what it takes with funky beats, interesting samples and catchy harmonies. Their album came out Mar 2 via the Domino Recording Company and is already building a buzz. Each year has at least one act coming out of nowhere to leave their mark, and it looks like 2018 could be the year this band achieves that.
The act started with a chance meeting between lead vocalist Orono Naguchi and New Zealand guitar rock act The Eversons at a show in Japan in 2015. From there, Naguchi started collaborating with the New Zealanders and it evolved into a new project. Add backing vocalists Ruby, B and Soul and this amazingly talented octet was born. There’s nothing boring about the album and it’s an infectious, original sound.
Lately there has been a trend of music creeping into the pop realm that utilizes samples, and most music has bits and pieces from other recorded songs. Superorganism is doing a similar thing, but what makes their samples different is that they come from recorded messages and ringtones. Experimentation is abundant within the album but the accessibility of it never strays away. For a deeper look, let’s examine my top tracks off of the Album of the Week:
“Something for your M.I.N.D.” has a psychedelic sliding guitar and an infectiously melodic chorus. A great example of funky beats is “The Prawn Song” with a mellow vibe throughout the track that’ll make the mind unwind. The ringtone samples mentioned earlier are in “Night Time,” and, at first listen, the ears might get confused and hear a phone ringing.
Live music fiends can check out Superorganism live at Brighton Music Hall on Apr 1 and act like a “fool.” One can only imagine how incredible it’ll be to catch an act like this in person. While you’re at the show, grab a copy of the debut album. It’ll leave a lasting impression that you’ll want to go back to on a regular basis.
Album of the Week: Screaming Females – All at Once
If you ask a band or a musician about the hardest things that come with their craft, often they’ll mention trying to capture their live essence in a studio album. It can be difficult to appreciate the spontaneous energy that comes with playing live in a room with only a limited amount of time to get it right. New Brunswick, NJ, punk trio Screaming Females made an effort to achieve that with their seventh album All at Once released Feb 23 via Don Giovanni Records. It has the most songs on an album of theirs ever (with 15) and it’s intense and melodic. The band finds a perfect balance between the noisy and harmonious sides of punk.
Marissa Paternoster maintains her status as one of the best guitarists on the planet, with shredding that send chills down the spine. Her voice is still magnificent, able to yell to the high heavens while also able to be low key and melancholy. Each song is backed by the rock-solid foundation of King Mike on bass guitar and Jarrett Dougherty on drums: with each album Screaming Females put out, the both of them syncopate tighter and tighter. There’s a majestic essence when Paternoster, Mike and Dougherty plug in and play, and it only takes a few seconds of listening until the ears feel it.
The best punk stories these days come from bands who progressed from rocking basements in their hometown to playing venues and festivals all over the globe. It’s even better when the band still has complete control over how they present themselves and how they’re managed. Screaming Females are living proof, and they still embrace the DIY work ethic that brought them to where they are today. There’s something refreshing about a band that does what they want and call their own shots. Another thing that’s refreshing are my top tracks off of the Album of the Week:
Mike and Dougherty’s rhythmic brilliance is best exemplified in “Soft Domination” where the combo of seismic drumming and thudding bass accents Paternoster’s sheer power, making the track one to play on repeat. “I’ll Make You Sorry” harnesses the band’s live energy mentioned earlier. It also is a fantastic case of the trio’s ability to bring the noise along with resonating melody. With driving riffs, “Fantasy Lens” is in your face and unapologetic.
Screaming Females will be making their presence felt at AS220 on Apr 8 with Baton Rouge, LA, sludge masters Thou, Philly punks Hirs and Providence’s emphatic Assembly of Light Choir. This has what it takes to be one of the best shows to happen in Providence this year, so make sure to attend. While you’re there, peruse the merch table and grab a copy of All at Once. The electrifying barrage makes the album live up to its title.