Keep on Movin’ is a good message during this trying time, and unfortunately it may have to be heeded for a long time. As I write this intro, the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals have just been officially cancelled; I guess that one seemed inevitable, but I’m really hoping that our local venues will be able to operate in some way. A summer without live music? Lame. It would be a hit to our enjoyment, but way more importantly, a huge blow for the musicians and venue owners that make this their living.
If you’re spending your days trying not to snack uncontrollably in between binging the news like I am, we’ve got some new music to help you pass the time, and hopefully not let the madness overtake you.
Lazertüth — Leon
New Bedford prog rockers Lazertüth have a new record, Leon, that delves into sci-fi themes on a bed of synth-driven hard rock. With album-long songs, complex time signatures and tales of the fantastical, the genre is totally indulgent by nature, but with a great capacity for storytelling and possibilities for musical innovation.
Inside the prog pantheon, Lazertüth’s subject matter sticks to hard-edged interplanetary battles rather than woodland folklore. The 11-plus minute first track, “White Hot Chariot,” takes elements of Rush and Yes, and tells us: “The end is near/battlefields of red/countless heads will roll.” How’s that for an opener? Just when you think you’ve found your bearings, one movement bleeds into another, which can be dizzying.
The production and the performances have the juice for an epic soundscape, but it’s hard to feel the full concept with Leon. “Of The Same Design Part I” begins with a slogging groove and that classic prog mellotron sound, and features lines like “Saw the Sun split in half/ in a dreamscape for two.” But what follows is a bunch of random clanging noises followed by some decadent synth noodling, both of which total four and a half minutes.
Maybe it’s a lack of imagination or my internet-era short attention span, but I’m not sure it moves the story forward. It’s times like these when I think, “Where am I? Get me back to three-and-a-half minute singles!”
“Of The Same Design Part II” gets things started with a hardcare shuffle with some cool drumming and epic electro-arpeggios, then sprawls into a lot more jamming over repetitive riffs.
Everything they are going for coalesces in “The Rider,” the pick of the litter. To me, it’s the kind of prog you want: the whimsy of Jethro Tull mixed with the crunchy riffs of The Sword. The song begins with a chimey, 12-string classical guitar intro and builds into a pleasantly irregular rocker.
And then, the second it ends, it’s all a complete blur — what did I just listen to again?
Leon is set to release on America’s birthday, July 4.
Sprues and Runners — Trips to the Caribbean
Sprues and Runners is a Providence-based emo band that just put out Trips to the Caribbean — a very well-rounded effort that shows a lot of maturity. When I think of emo, it’s usually some sort of build-up with noisy guitar, and the vocals eventually exploding into a full-throated confession. Trips Doesn’t completely shirk genre conventions — it will give you the yelling — but they manage to blaze their own trail through the constraints.
Having grown up a prententious twit during emo’s peak, I always dismissed it as a lot of boo-hooing, but I can now appreciate the great songwriting behind that boo-hooing. S&R has the kind of craftsmanship that brought so many people into the fold back then.
Trips to the Caribbean boasts catchy arrangement build-ups throughout. The album’s opener, “Glitch,” fits these great, jagged guitar riffs together à la Built to Spill. “The Opening” is a good example of the jangly but acerbic guitar sound throughout the record and it has super-powerful guitar harmonies at the bridge.
“Red Teeth” has a loose jammy feel, eventually revealing a charged-up punk outro and some powerful imagery about something sneaking up on you: “I didn’t see the red until it was halfway up my teeth.”
In general, Sprues and Runners have a real way with lyrics, like conveying the feeling of general restlessness with your place in the world in Trips. “A hive that’s grown tired of its own honey/A buzz, a constant drone/the incessant taste of money.” The song has the best moment of the album, a huge refrain that really connects: “I’m looking for a place to rest my head/I’m looking for a place to start again.” And the metaphor in “Cactus” about “harvesting root rot” is downright literary.
Trips to the Caribbean is a high-reaching record that is definitely worth a listen.
The album can be purchased at: https://spruesandrunners.bandcamp.com/album/trips-to-the-carribean
Hidden Place: Songs Inspired by the Paintings of Maggie Siegel
Unfortunately, COVID-19 hasn’t meant a stop to the hard times that many were already going through. Maggie Siegel is a local painter who was diagnosed with brain cancer last year. Local musicians recently interpreted her paintings through song, and the proceeds from the release are going toward her medical bills. This very cool project includes Dan Blakeslee, John Faraone, Anthony Savino, Courtney Swain and Dylan Harley.
And from the Depths of Bandcamp:
Modern Solutions is a page that features a bunch of old school audio from what I would guess are local TV news and local access intro and credits music, describing itself as “an ode to morning television, the sounds of meaningless information and the mundane moments of childhood.” Thank you to whoever you are; there’s something about the warble of a worn-out VHS tape that brings me back to simpler times.
And finally this month, I thought it would be good to share some ways to support our local artists and venues. Pre-buying the beers you will inevitably buy when this is all over is a good way to lend a hand.
- The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) Artist Relief Fund
- Newport Festivals Musician Relief Fund
Support Local Venues:
And Bandcamp will once again be waiving their fees to support artists on June 5 and July 3.