Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Whatever you feel like playing: 50FOOTWAVE and Bath White

A few weeks ago, Kristin Hersh's 50FOOTWAVE put out a new EP, Bath White.

To throw in a few "I" statements for just a moment -- I've coincidentally spent those last few weeks cuddling up to Hersh's memoir Rat Girl. Admittedly, it had spent more than five years sitting on a shelf; I'd bought it at a reading in 2011 and gotten it signed by Hersh, who made a point of talking to and hugging every single fan in line at Stories in Los Angeles. I'd complimented all the strange songs she'd written and she politely countered the compliment by letting me know that all those strange songs had resulted from playing when she didn't know how to properly play. Then she gave me a hug.

For those who haven't read it, Rat Girl is actually quite a fantastic story that grows more and more personal as it goes on, and is based on an eventful year of journal entries in which Hersh recalls her friendship with actress Betty Hutton, moving from Providence to Boston, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, getting pregnant, and getting Throwing Muses signed with 4AD. She had a rather incredible 1986.

When Hersh writes about her musical process, or the experience of playing with Throwing Muses, she downplays nearly everything about her talent and her work. She calls the teenage version of herself a reluctant performer, comments on the way she stares into the crowd, her inability to sing prettily. Says that Throwing Muses sounds "sorta painful and a little out of control," and "too up our own asses to be marketed nationally." But all of this is what Throwing Muses is and was at their best -- guitars and bass winding around each other, time signature changes, the bizarre dichotomy between Hersh's confrontational voice and Tanya Donelly's sweet coo. The stare, that lack of control, the unwillingness to become marketable.

One of the things that's always set Hersh's songwriting apart is her unconventional melodies. In Rat Girl, she blames this on the double concussion she'd sustained as a teenager, which caused her to hear music that she couldn't get rid of until it was down on paper and had become a song, given life. Some of the snaking guitar and antagonistic drumming patterns that Throwing Muses offered can be heard on 50FOOTWAVE's Bath White, particularly on "St. Christopher" and "Sun Salute," which remind somewhat of Muses songs like "Garoux des Larmes" or "Mercury." 

But 50FOOTWAVE is and has been a more muscular, much tougher project than Hersh's work with Throwing Muses, and the potential downside to this is perhaps that it's easier for the band's work to hit a point at which it sounds dated, as some of Hersh's material from the last decade fits somewhere between early '90s alt-rock and late '90s hard rock. This is true of some of their earlier work, as well as songs like Bath White's title track, and it's hard to say whether it will hold up the way some of Throwing Muses' work did, particularly since we're still in a bit of a '90s revival and anything is possible at present [The EP's producer previously worked with bands like Godsmack and Powerman 5000, who I don't believe are part of this revival.] Maybe the ballsiness stems from 50FOOTWAVE being an L.A. band rather than a Providence- or Boston-based group. We're ballsy here, maybe. 

But it's fantastic to see a Kristin Hersh who has grown into an older version of her younger self, rather than an entirely new musician over the span of thirty years. That she hasn't molded her throaty voice, tamed the music in her head or forced the music to rebel against it, is a relief to those of us who keep hoping for reasons to retain our loyalty.

Purchase the Bath White EP here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Outta Providence: Far Corners EP

Here's a bitty something led by Justin Hubbard of the former Turpentine Brothers, a trio from the last decade called Far Corners, once based in New Mexico and now settled in Rhode Island. This EP by Far Corners is everything one should want in a band when what you want is to be excited and pushed to stand up (not for a cause, just, you know, to literally stand up). It wouldn't be surprising to find that Hubbard found his prime somewhere around ten to twelve years ago; these songs have a foundation in earlier punk, sure, but in a more modern context, they could've been peppier recordings by the A Frames (with whom Far Corners have shared the stage), and they've got some of the speed and all of the energy that the Beautiful New Born Children once had. 

Previous releases by the Far Corners are all along the same lines -- as with many bands like this, the ones that create the fastest, the zippiest, the wackiest stuff, there's little variation. But why fix what isn't broken? This has guts and swagger, and it's nearly perfect. One of the most energizing listens of the year, to date.

Purchase the Far Corners EP here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A summery round-up from around the world.

The Whistling Possum are a jangly guitar pop group out of Jakarta, Indonesia! Will appeal to fans of Orange Juice and are extremely twee. They only have one song out but their members are in other acts like AGGI and Sharesprings. Tiok of the Whistling Possum says they are "trying to bring out the 80s indie Scottish sound but fail to manage it" and "somehow you only get the music with some pretentious asshole lyrics." That'll be Whistling Possum, then.

Next up is a fellow born in Johannesburg, based in London, who makes and remixes this nice little blend of psych/surf rock and trip hop, and has a guitar tone similar to that of Fat White Family's Saul Adamczewski.

Toronto-based Weaves make quirky pop that might appeal to fans of Fell Runner and Juno, and they've got an album out June 17.

Monday, June 6, 2016

It's me, Warik!

There's this young fellow named Malik Lemon who makes music under the moniker Warik, and one can't help but be reminded of the Mario/Wario relationship as he positions himself in the following way:

Warik is Malik Lemon
Malik Lemon is Warik.
Where does one end? and the other begin?

Warik is a Chicago native but his work would fit perfectly into Los Angeles' lo-fi scene, with elements of surf rock, dissonance, and early Ariel Pink-style warping; his voice very nearly resembles that of Polvo's Ash Bowie, sans lisp. He's barely out of his teens, and his lyrics are about subjects like being young and getting dismissed by girls, stories perfectly of their time in the context of his life. On the whole, he's succeeded in making a fabulously fluffy summer album that could only work in the current decade.

Visit his Bandcamp page and purchase Warik's Tape.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

American "Discovers" the Southeast Again

What a lovely thing to receive over the long weekend; here lies a mixtape just under a half-hour in length, ranging from soothing to swinging, all of its tracks being Southeast Asian finds brought back to the U.S. by Denver resident Jordan Lempe, whose musical alter ego is Blisss. He's also half of the band Sunboy, but that's neither here nor there. Says Lempe:

Transversing across Southeast Asia lately, collecting rare morsels of sonic bliss, I've compiled a mixtape of some of the tastiest psychedelic jams from Siam (Thailand), Cambodia, and Vietnam dated 1969-1973. This music was the voice of the yearning and dying spirit of Southeast Asia during WWII, a voice that never reached mainstream media and was drown[ed] out by massive music entities such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc. These are songs of love, and what war does to love. 

Curated by BLISSS, an artist, producer, collector, generally good fellow. 

Includes artists like The Petch Phin Thong Band, Ros Serey Sothea, and Ream Daranoi. Look to England's Soundway Records for similar compilations.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Another little round-up.

Enormous Swedish act Goat has got a new release coming out this week! 2014's Commune was brilliant -- a psychedelic party that sounded like past and future all at once and appealed, somehow, to cravings for music farther southeast than Sweden. They've got a toned down single out on Sub Pop this Friday.

Trudy and the Romance come out of Liverpool, and they've got a debut seven-inch being released next month. They describe themselves as mutant '50s pop, but they also resemble [what] cocaine jitters [probably feel like]. More here.

Savak are a supergroup made up of members of bands like The Cops, Holy Fuck, and the Make-Up (James Canty, swoon). Album Best of Luck in Future Endeavors is out this Friday, and it's, you know, straight-ahead, unpretentious rock that sounds, you know, a little sleepier than all of its members' previous bands.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kaspar Hauser, alive and well

One of the biggest challenges of getting into current music -- and it's been said many times -- is the pure abundance of it. You've got to sift through the stuff you don't like to find the few things you do, and it's not always the cream that rises and makes itself easy to find, but often the most palatable stuff, the stuff that the majority finds generally pleasant and is willing to listen to, because why not? and little more.

It's refreshing, then, to happen upon a debut like that by Glasgow's Kaspar Hauser, a trio who would perhaps please fans of Wax Idols, or The Downs, whence guitarist Josh Longton and bassist Anne Kastner once came, and who will no doubt be invited to visit Los Angeles for an evening with Part Time Punks as soon as they come into view. They are not easy to digest -- there is nothing agreeable, palatable about glaring guitar or the surprise jolt that happens in putting on a band that mistakenly labels itself dream pop. This has been done, sure, but they fill a void that was left with the demise of Seattle's A-Frames -- sharp, angular post-punk that hits hard, feels heavy and leaves you anxious. 

Their debut EP is available on cassette at Bandcamp.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An interview! With Tim Carr.

Last month, I had the opportunity to interview Greg Uhlmann, guitarist of Los Angeles band Fell Runner; this month, I have the privilege of sharing an interview with his bandmate, drummer Tim Carr. As may have been mentioned elsewhere on this site, I ran across Tim's music during a solo set of his in February 2015, when he opened for composer Jherek Bischoff in Los Angeles. He played a gorgeous vintage Harmony Patrician archtop guitar, sang sweetly and softly [not surprised to see that he feels Colin Blunstone has rubbed off on him -- see below]. And moreover, he not only played a fantastic set but then went on to back Brother, Sister and then join them to back Jherek Bischoff -- indeed, playing three sets in a row. As a drummer, he's the crucial piece that makes a good band even better, really puts in his work to act as the spine of the band. He's an extraordinary musician with multiple talents, and it's a joy to be able to have reached him.

Choir Croak Out Them Goodies: You've played drums for bands like Brother, Sister, Fell Runner, and the Americans all within the last year -- how did you get started with each respective project, and how do you divide your time among your solo work and the bands in which you take part? 

Tim Carr: All of the bands you mentioned I met or formed while I was going to CalArts. I’ve known the members of Brother, Sister for a while but have only played one show with them so far. I have been playing with Fell Runner for a few years and The Americans for almost six. Finding time for my solo work has always been one of the most challenging things. I think setting blocks of time in advance that I know I can commit to is a good start.

CCOTG: The bands you've been a part of are so completely different from one another, which perhaps speaks to your range of influences and your ability to adapt as a musician. You've spoken of your influences in terms of genre, but are there any artists who have really stuck with you over the years, the ones who've made you say "I hope to sound like ___ or be as good as ___?" And since you seemed to evolve into a singer-songwriter, did anyone in particular shape your solo sound? 

TC: I don’t think there was any one particular artist that made me decide to start writing and singing songs. Ever since I could play piano and guitar, I loved to just spend hours improvising, discovering things which eventually led to making up melodies. Then I started singing these melodies, leading me to become a “singer-songwriter.” My singing voice in the beginning kind of had an English accent, maybe it still does (…?), which was probably due to the amount of Beatles and Zombies my parents played when I was growing up.

CCOTG: As a jazz drummer, do you have any favorites or standout influences?

TC: Art Blakey, Greg Saunier, Ari Hoenig and Dave King have all had an impact on the way I play drums, both creatively and physically. Art Blakey has an authority and seriousness in his playing that I highly admire, and for the others there’s a dance-like way in which they move while they hit the drums that really moved me into what they were playing.

CCOTG: You strike me as a reader -- are there any books, poems, or songs, for that matter, that have most shaped your lyrics, your mindset, your outlook?

TC: Actually, I didn’t read very much when I was younger. I think there was some point in high school where my English teacher said your writing style is poetic. It was probably because I didn’t read the books, so my essays tended to be extremely fragmented with colorful imagery. But from then on poetry became an interest to me and I began to experiment with writing lyrics. I would just read everything at random to understand and identify voices in writing. I’m always trying to catch up on the classics. Lately I’m drawn to text that may seem mundane or conversational but has a lurking, dream-like quality. I’m also very interested in and seem to connect most to existential stories, philosophies or poems. Kierkegaard is who I’m currently reading.

CCOTG: You recently played in Taiwan, but it wasn’t your first time there. What are your ties there, if any, and since we're talking about your international presence, how did you come to release your debut with Moorworks in Japan prior to releasing it here, and will its song selection evolve before you put it out in the U.S.?

TC: Yes, I’ve been going to Taiwan almost every year since I was 19. It’s kind of my alternate life. My best friend from high school, who’s Taiwanese, moved back to Taiwan after we graduated to pursue a career as a C-pop star and became quite successful. While I’m over there I usually help write and produce his songs, in addition to playing his concerts. One year, I planned to go to Japan from Taiwan just to visit. I ended up doing a major outreach before and that’s when I got in touch with the label Moorworks. They set up a release for my songs and booked a small tour, which ended up being a wonderful solo adventure. I think I will release a similar collection of songs in the U.S. but hopefully followed shortly after by a new album, which I’m working on right now.

CCOTG: Your touring schedule is incredible. What are some of the most interesting things you've learned about the country, and the world, from traveling? 

TC: Performing while traveling, I feel, is the best way to experience a new place. I find that it’s easier to connect and understand the culture of a place when you’re there to entertain the locals as well as the tourists. I’ve been fortunate to have met and joined The Americans because they tour across the country as much as possible, performing everywhere from rural country bars to theaters in more populated cities. One thing that I think is worth mentioning about touring is that it can be very grueling, at least at the level I have been doing it. At times it feels like it’s not worth the physical and mental exhaustion, but then one experience or show will shift that feeling and those waves happen. I’ve toured a bit outside of the country in Taiwan, Japan, France and Germany. In these countries, the cultures can seem impenetrable and are much more challenging to understand because of the language barriers, especially in Asia. But there’s a mysteriousness there that I find very appealing and addicting.

CCOTG: Tell me everything you can recall about the experience of playing on Letterman with the Americans

TC: Every minute of it was surreal. I don’t think it was something I actually believed was happening until we were in front of the camera. I loved performing in that type of setting because you know you have the attention of potentially millions of people. It’s just such a rare spotlight (well, it was in my case), and being in that spotlight for the song’s length was the ultimate thrill. I have a strong desire to do it again.

CCOTG: What accomplishment are you most proud of, musical or otherwise? 

TC: One specific performance that comes to mind is my graduation recital at California Institute of the Arts. It was the first time I ever performed my own songs, singing and playing guitar. That was a big door to open because there was an identity I had that was hidden, and that concert was the unveiling. From then on I was able to grow and follow that goal, which I’m proud of, considering how daunting it was to me at the time. The songs I’ve written and recorded for my first full album (which was released in Japan and is going to be released in the U.S.) are something I spent a lot of time on, and I feel good that they are out there as a collection. And of course, being a part of The Americans and Fell Runner, there have been many triumphs and a lot progress over the years. I’ve grown and accomplished so much as a musician and collaborator playing with them.

CCOTG: You come from a musical family -- do you have any relatives that we should know about? 

TC: Both my parents and brother all play multiple instruments and sing. My brother Jason, who lives in San Francisco, is a freelance multi-instrumentalist and music teacher. I’m actually hoping to tour with him in the fall this year. My uncle, PJ, also is an incredible singer and guitarist who plays in a Beach Boys tribute band.


Tim Carr's next solo show will be a free show at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn on May 21. He will also be playing drums with Fell Runner at the Hi Hat in Highland Park (Los Angeles) on June 30.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tasteful rock round-up

If Ought had existed in 1976, they'd be on everyone's top ten list by now. Like Television fronted by Mark E. Smith, yadda yadda yadda.

Canadian shoegaze band who remind of Isn't Anything-era My Bloody Valentine. "Get There" is the bonus track off last year's Leaper, which includes a song called "1992." This is rather telling.

Leapling have got a full-length record coming out on Exploding in Sound on June 10, and are essentially what Death Cab for Cutie would've been if they'd had guts 'n balls.

You know what else Exploding in Sound is releasing in June? A cassette-only release by Jackal Onasis, not to be confused with the Rhode Island-based, similarly named Jackal Onassis.