Misster Dylan – DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE
Just in time for perhaps the darkest time in recent memory, Misster Dylan, moniker of local songwriter Dylan Harley, is out with his debut record DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE. DSOTF is a sonically diverse, thematically ambitious record that wades straight into muck that seemingly no one can avoid these days.
Harley boldly mixes together everything from rap to folk and focuses on demons both inner and outer. “Mac Milliner’s Ball” has a kind of swaggering ragtime with great horn arrangements by John Birt, and “Tragick Magick” deals with addiction via a minor-key macabre reggae groove.
“The general theme of the record came about organically,” said Harley. “The songs were written separately over the last three years, but I realized that these songs have a unifying force in that they’re all about fear, and especially my personal fears.”
My favorite track, “The Gom Jabbar,” combines the funereal doom metal of Sleep and a shuffling, Stevie Wonder-like drum groove with some spooky, demonic Halloween screams. This dark-but-funky tune deals with the release of death by way of a Dune reference.
“It refers to an ultimatum the hero is given when being tested by the high priestess to see if he’s a human. They give him the choice of putting his hand into a box with the most immense pain imaginable, or getting pricked by the poisonous Gom Jabbar needle,” said Harley. “The point being that an animal will gnaw their own arm off to escape, even if it means dying. I wanted something that would take the listener out of the day-to-day and frame it in a more universal way.”
If that all wasn’t enough, he forays into rap in “Invasive Species,” spitting rhymes about the toxicity of his own white privilege: “No need to ask, I just help myself/beneath the leaves of my family’s tree of inherited wealth.” The song, which even contains the obligatory *inhales weed* noises, ends with a fiery verse from local rapper Slitty Wrists that flatly rejects the entire premise of injustice and racism.
“I didn’t want the song to be entirely a white dude gloating about how good he’s got it, especially while appropriating the genre,” said Harley. “I connected with Slitty through Jessee Tree after I heard him on Jesse’s record, and knew immediately that he would be great to rap the ‘kill shot’ verse,” said Harley.
The song is one of two notable collaborations, the other being “Shai-Hulud” (a second Dune reference), which prominently features the djembe of local percussionist Sidy Maiga. Harley, who recorded much of the album and plays virtually every instrument on it, doesn’t shy away from collaboration.
“I’m so inspired by so many artists and musicians in this city, so I figured why not see if there are people who can help elevate it?” he said. “It helps make things way less precious and more communal. At the end of the day it’s about trying to achieve some kind of resonance, and I think that’s much easier to do when there’s other people involved.”
Harley noted that there are at least two other collaborations that didn’t make the record, but which he hopes to release in the future.
“Killing the Planet” is about every single move you make puting us closer to the undoing of the Earth, and the album ends aptly with the experimental folk balled “Let’s Try Not To Fuck Up Our Kids (TNTFUOK?)”: “A rock ‘n’ roll dose of Red, White, and Blue that’s been tellin’ us all what to think, feel, and do.”
Preorder DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE before its October 31 release at missterdylan.bandcamp.com/album/dark-side-of-the-force.
Minky Starshine – Gold Plated
Rob Anastasi’s Minky Starshine has been cranking out reliable power pop since the mid-2000s, and the recent Gold Plated is the first in a planned trio of releases coming in the next few months. The slick production, creamy guitars and horns make listening to this like being ensconced in velvet.
The standout “Wrong and Right” has a fun, bouncy glam rock feel and killer fuzzed-out guitar leads. “Somebody’s Heart,” is kind of a strong but starry eyed rock ballad that reminds me of Badfinger. Along the same lines, the sappy heartache of “Radio Holster,” with its ’80s sax solo, falls a bit flatter.
Frankly, what originally attracted me to the release was seeing the cover of “1000 Umbrellas” by XTC, one of my favorite cult rock bands. Anastasi really nails the string section, shelling out the dough for a mini orchestra, and the reverb and ethereal backing vocals give this impressive take a more melancholy effect.
Gold Plated is definitely worth a spin in your rotation, so stay tuned for the others.
Song Birds is a new group out of Providence with two turbulent EPs released in quick succession that direct the collective anger of the current day into some unhinged garage rock. Their sound is akin to being ensconced in a psychedelic fireball, like they’re in a loose jam session rather than a studio.
“Fever Dream” is a catchy mid-tempo song about being unable to connect with somebody, and “Swallow Glass” is pure punk rock. The highlight, “Time Pulls the Trigger,” is a big, brash southern rock funeral dirge for this dumpster fire of a year, with a total barnburner of a guitar solo.
The second EP, The World’s Gone to F@#king Hell, sounds even more cathartic and low-fi. I enjoyed the indulgent noise of “Space Camp” and the maniacal jamming on “Cashmere.”
TwentyTwenty and The World’s Gone to F@#king Hell are available at the Song Birds Bandcamp page: songbirdspvd.bandcamp.com