July 17, 2009

Local show Boston Emissions carries on despite BCN's demise

Anngelle Wood

WBCN, a longtime leader in rock ‘n' roll music on the Boston airwaves, will sadly be no more come Aug. 13. This iconic rock station, which has been broadcasting for 42 years, has unfortunately fallen victim to CBS’ plan of changing the station to “The Sports Hub."

The good news is that Boston Emissions, the popular local music program, will live on as it moves to WZLX on Sundays, from 10 p.m. to midnight, starting in August. Boston Emissions has been serving the area for decades. Anngelle Wood will continue as host and plans to do podcasts via www.bostonbandcrush.com, but until then the show is on a short break.

CBS, the owner of WBCN, has decided to move Mix 98.5 to 104.1, with the sports station taking over 98.5. WBCN will live-on as a Web and HD-radio station. WBCN earned its fame starting in the 1960s, as it became the center of progressive rock. Over the years, the station has become known for its variety of on-air programs ranging from coverage of Patriot games to the likes of Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony. Rumor has it that BCN’s morning team of Toucher and Rich are scheduled to do The Sports Hub morning show once the changes take place in mid-August.

For more info about Boston Emissions, visit: www.bostonemissions.com or www.facebook.com/bostonemissions.

Blitzen Trapper, Loch Lomond | The Velvet Jones | Santa Barbara, CA | July 11, 2009

Blitzen Trapper

Loch Lomond opened with an earnest but sometimes shaky performance, switching between mid-tempo, vocal harmony-driven numbers like “Blue Lead Fences” and pastoral diversions like “Field Report” from 2007’s Paper the Walls. Singer Ritchie Young’s flamboyant stage presence and raw alto (which borrows heavily from Sufjan Stevens) were acquired tastes. His face sold the anguish of his lyrics, which was all the more uncomfortable given his emaciated torso. Wielding violins, violas, clarinets and other instruments, Loch Lomond resembled a group of band geeks and miscellaneous misfits and runaways. Their sound, however, was surprisingly rich. At one point, the band stopped and restarted the song when they realized half-way through that someone was playing in the wrong key, but they were mostly enjoyable.

Comparatively, sextet Blitzen Trapper was a model of maturity and professionalism, despite how the term lo-fi obstinately attaches itself to the band in the press. The ensemble had already played two Santa Barbara shows in the last six months – once as an opener for Fleet Foxes. And as headliners, Blitzen Trapper did not disappoint. The acoustic tunes, with their tight vocal harmonies, had a Buffalo Springfield-like sound, while their heavier rockers, like “Big Black Bird,” had the crunch of 1970s bar rock. Guitarists Erik Menteer and Eric Earley (who also contributes lead vocals) displayed their solid, classic rock-based lead styles. You could almost smell the pine from the lumber yard. Hearing this band brought back the urge to hike the Pacific Coast Trail to the north, and perhaps stop by one of those famed breweries on the way to their Portland home.
-Words and photo by Ryan Faughnder

No Dollar $hoes | Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar | Carolina Beach, NC | June 28, 2009

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, No Dollar $hoes played a high-energy, down-home country and bluegrass-filled set with one of the best backdrops a band could have next to a stadium filled to capacity. At the end of the pier at the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar, the four band members looked as if they just walked off the beach and decided to play a tempered set of original tunes and covers thick in acoustic guitar, violin and strong harmonies. The vocalization that came from the band’s young singers sounded more like men well beyond their years.

Under a bright blue Carolina sky dotted with seagulls, the band – twin Wilmington natives Carson and Jesse Jewell on guitars and vocals, Benjamin Smith on upright bass and Ryan Eversole on violin – stood on the bare end of the pier wearing only bathing suit board shorts and drinking Modelo beers with a dozen surfers in the Atlantic Ocean behind them as they played.

They performed for an hour and half straight before taking a break, tearing through originals like “Put Another Log on the Fire” and “Let a Good Woman Go,” and covers ranging from Mudcrutch’s “Shady Grove” to an up-tempo version of “Delia’s Gone,” made well-known by Johnny Cash. Their choice of covers were low key selections that fit the band’s playing style, yet the band still turned them around musically. The result was that the cover songs sounded as if they had originated with the band even as they slowed down “Shady Grove” and sped up “Delia’s Gone.”

Looking like a young Bruce Campbell, Benjamin pawed and strummed at his upright bass and sang heartily with the Jewell brothers, switching back and forth. All afternoon long he had a smile on his face, occasionally speaking between songs to announce that, “Jesse wrote that one.”

Next to the vocals, Eversole’s fiddle playing seemed to stand out the most, its haunting tone and underlying mood keeping the crowd in check in the midst of drinks and good weather. In all, the band performed a tight set, sounding like old timers or well-oiled players on a back porch in the Piedmont. No Dollar $hoes, as a compliment, sounded pristinely old, never once coming off as a group of guys working to ape music from long ago.
-Words by Brian Tucker; photo by Duke Hagestrom

July 16, 2009

Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, Weird Owl | The Hemlock Tavern | San Francisco, CA | July 9, 2009

The doors of perception opened Thursday night and wouldn’t you know, the inside was just a musty watering hole for nostalgic Earth mothers and midweek scenesters. One would think that a band with a name like Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound might command more grandiose environs or, alternately, shun these dives and go 180 degrees in the other, hippier direction, only playing free concerts to homeless people in The Haight. The Hemlock Tavern isn't fit for psychedelia. This place is a cave.

On the other hand, guitars possess transformative qualities, as do soft light and Hot Rocks – when “Play With Fire” drifted from the soundboard, lots of sly head bobbing suggested that at least one amongst us was internally debating whether Jagger is the coolest dude to ever live. So Weird Owl had this vibe working in their favor, though it became evident several pulsating waves into howling drone opener “Do What Th’Owl Wilt” that none of the peripherals ever mattered in the first place. The pack of curious West Coast onlookers moved toward stage during the charged Crazy Horse stomp of “Skeletelepathic,” finding with delight that Brooklyn, too, has its fair share of sun-baked beatniks, five of whom stood directly in front of them conjuring, through rock, swirling visions of Joshua trees, Native American shamans and coyotes on acid. If the universal consciousness is in fact made of dual-guitared walls of fuzz and not some Shirley MacLaine space bullshit, then believe me, Weird Owl not only tapped into the universal consciousness, they up and hijacked the whole damn thing. Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Trevor Tyrrell mentioned that he’d seen a “Sasquatch on the side of the street in Washington state” while on tour with Assemble Head. It’s a claim he got away with – during the sixth minute of the desert-scorched stoner trip “13 Arrows 13 Stars,” none present was in the right mind to separate what’s real from what isn’t.

Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound

Moving on to another mythical creature, Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound comes on like the updated yin to the Great-California-Bands-of-Days-Past’s collective yang. Like The Byrds plugged into the jacked-up amps of Blue Cheer, the San Francisco quartet (power trio format + utility girl Camilla Saufley who pulls organ, flute and bass duties) ripped into a full-throttled, twin-guitar rave up right off the bat, at once distinguishing their live show from the measured epics pacing 2009’s When Sweet Sleep Returned.

These hippies have muscle: loud, heavily distorted muscle in the form of Charlie Saufley’s piercing, six-string workouts and a galvanizing rhythm section. With “The Slumbering Ones,” a haunting mood jam that borrows the arpeggiated ghost-plucking of R.E.M.’s “Drive,” the band proved, too, that they also have an uncanny talent for endowing woo-ooh harmonies with a sort of otherworldly authority. “Clive and The Lyre” swung the pendulum back to slash 'n' burn garage rock, but on set closer “Two Birds,” Assemble Head reveled in the satisfaction of finding one’s true calling. Here, at last, was the go-big-or-go-home psych colossus that this band was created to play – all swirling dissonance, searing guitar freakouts and electrified organ egged on by some supernatural calling. From the song’s jarring wordless chorus sprang sonic messengers with hopeful dispatch: lost and jaded flower children unite. We have found your new leader.
-Words and photo by Robbie Hilson


Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Club d’Elf | The Lizard Lounge | Cambridge, MA | July 10, 2009

The Lizard Lounge is a small, cramped venue with what never seems like enough seating. The stage is the center focus point of the tiny basement club, with all seats and people revolving around it. Yet, the venue makes up for its lack of size in the quality of its performers, the intimacy of the setting, and the widely unique selection of beers they have on tap.

July 10 was the first of a two-night bill in which Club d’Elf and JFJO would alternate as headlining acts. The atmosphere was incredibly laid back, and everyone was friendly, smiling and contemplative.

Tonight, Jacob Fred’s set had a different lineup than usual. With Brian Haas on the keys and Josh Raymer on the drums, joining them was Matt Hayes on the double bass, and Chris Combs on lap steel. JFJO is always surprising and tonight they played their set as an acoustic jazz quartet, omitting the gadgets and electronics that oftentimes accompany them.

“It’s good to be in Boston, with Boston, as a part of Boston tonight,” Haas said before he introduced the band and started up on a song titled “Drethoven,” a celebration of their two favorite composers, Beethoven and Dr. Dre.

If you can imagine a mad scientist of a man with square-toed boots, prayer beads and a suit jacket with jeans, conjuring up potions with his eyes closed and his head lolling back, you’ve got Haas playing the piano. He orchestrates the unison of his band with a flick of his wrist or a quick nod that only they can comprehend.

Always in check with Haas, Raymer held it fast and tight on the drums. He was strong and edgy, and truly embodied the term “backbone,” never missing a step or dropping in to the tune too late.

When Club d’Elf started to play, the entire venue hushed. The band has the tendency to be a bit more electronically oriented, spaced out, weird and ambient. Tonight they felt less stripped down. They were sexy and more groove-oriented, with a gist of cinematic scare and fresh love built right in.

At first people listened, sitting and standing motionless, but as the band played and became jammier the audience began to move. Club d’Elf is the kind of band that is best heard in a place where there is the kind of floor room and space adequate for bigger, dancing crowds.

The DJ was an integral part of their lineup, and the electric guitar player was literally having at it onstage. He provided the funky orientation in the rock sensations that pulsed in synchronicity with their electronics.

You don’t always need to see these guys to fully comprehend their music. In fact, closing your eyes and bobbing your head allows the music to penetrate more deeply and more intimately. Dancing or not, in this way you don’t miss a beat.
-Words and photos by Amanda Macchia

Jake Allen, Annaliese, Joel Eckel | Lestat’s West | San Diego, CA | July 3, 2009

The usual Fourth of July weekend fanfare requires a celebration filled with booze, fireworks, parades, barbeques and a fun day at the beach, but on Friday night the crowd at Lestat’s West was there for some great music to cool them off from the blustering hot weekend ahead.

The crowd was small but intimate. It was be a clear breather from the circus that would ensue in days ahead.

Without much of a prelude, guitar man Joel Eckels took front-and-center stage in place of Kori Withers who was supposed to perform that night. Due to an unprecedented cold, Withers had to leave the spotlight to her guitarist, also frontman for L.A.-based Papersun. Eckels’ bluesy, addictive, jazzy tunes were no disappointment at all.

Donning a fedora hat, gray T-shirt and jeans, his casual attire spelled chillax. And the crowd proceeded to do so, nodding and bobbing their heads to the rhythm wafting through the room like a cool, summer breeze. Eckels’ two-faced voice, at once soft and rough, surged through the atmospheric terrain inhabited by audience members. Listeners grooved, swaying and nodding in place, noting the pain evident in every song that detailed the songwriter’s experiences.

The masterful storytelling that night didn’t stop with the end to each song. In between songs and tuning his guitar, Eckel spoke to the rapt crowd below. For example, we learned his guitar, a 1957 Harmony, wasn’t supposed to be a good guitar when they first made it. Now the price he has to pay for it is tuning it up every time he plays. Before another of his songs, he explains that the “ex” is actually his wife.

One of the closers to the one man act,“45,” was a sexy, groovy force that cleared away all inhibitions between performer and audience member. The crowd was definitely in-sync with what Eckel was talking about that night. “Let’s get pop back to the people / you’re the groove I’m the needle / Wanna play you like a 45 record /why don’t cha get up.”


Following Joel Eckel’s impenetrable performance was Annaliese on guitar, backed up by pianist Danny Mitchell, who also accompanied her with vocals. In between sips of coffee from next door, Annalise proved to be a worthy act to follow. Her soothing voice quieted the room, and the crowd took in the comfort of her beautiful singing, much like inhaling the voluminous cool air you could only find in front of an ocean. She started off with her dreamy track “Too Hard,” and the Sarah McLachlan influences in her songwriting and voice were immediate. As she softly cooed through the mic, “Only to get her through the night,” one could definitely envision her on stage with the Lilith Fair ensemble of yesteryears.

“The Water’s Not Too Deep,” another beautiful track Annaliese performed that night, gives a deep insight into a way out when holding on gets too painful. Although the storytellers that evening were clearly downers, you could not deny the relentless beauty in their music and lyrics. Annalise closed with “Beautiful Lie,” another track audience members would be slow in forgetting.

Jake Allen, the headliner of the event, surprised audience members with his scrawny appearance and booming voice. He opened up with the first track his latest CD (it was the CD launch party), a rollicking ensemble that requires Allen to use both hands on the fret board following a cool twist where he slaps and knocks on his guitar.

Next, Jake Allen performed “Healing Opus,” a track off his last album, which is deathly dark. It brings up emotionally breaking the other person in the relationship and losing ones self in the process. On that cheery note, he moved to the piano. A tribute to the late Michael Jackson ensued, where flute and loud drumming on the guitar made up for what lacked in vocals. “Slapping Thang,” using the infamous technique he showed off in his opener, was the highlight of the performance.

-Words by My Nguyen; photos by Betty Trinh

July 15, 2009

Olivia Mancini & The Housemates

This Kind of Life
Produced and mixed by Randy Scope
Engineered at Cue Studios with additional engineering by Randy Scope
Mastered by Paul Hammond and Paul Sinclair in
Falls Church, VA and Silver Spring, MD

Olivia Mancini and her relentless gang of bandsters, the Housemates, created anincredibly uplifting record that one can’t help dance and sing to. This Kind of Life is filled with cheerful, amiable, upbeat pop tunes, complete with strong stories, great vocals, amazing background harmonies, horn sections and bits and pieces of acapella.

The record hits its stride full force, with the opening track, “I Wouldn’t Worry,” showing the band’s great sense of charm and creativity. Olivia sings with a beautiful, sultry, sonorous tone,delivering her message with great amiability. The jangly guitars and horns return for “Crime Don’t Pay.” “Jealous Type,” a stirring highlight of the record, is a gem to behold. You’ll find a pinch of frightening and haunting qualities in the bridge.

Solid harmony vocals from the Housemates truly support Olivia’s presence. Each song is packed with punch, spunk and pure mayhem. It’s always a positive vibe, great for a dance club – and a sound perfect for a bar of 20- and 30-somethings.

Olivia Mancini succeeds in being “the life of the party,” with strong lyrics, passion and highly creative compositions.

-Shawn M. Haney



Destination Tokyo
  Tokyo, Japan 
  Mastered and mixed by Souichiro Nakamura                            
  Recorded at Peace Music

The second U.S. release from the instrumental Japanese noise punk trio of Nisennenmondai, whose name means “Year 2000 Problem,’’ could be considered an art formunto itself. The all-female threesome of Yuri Zaikawa (bass), Sayaka Himeno (drums) and Masako Takada (guitar) deliver one hell of a tripped-out, mad-cap, fever-ish joyride with their latest creation, Destination Tokyo.

The pummeling sounds exploding from the speakers are as divergent as they are cohesive. The all-encompassing instrumentation features horns, synths, keys, guitars, drums, strings and a whole array of percussive noises. What unfolds from this latest release sounds like the frenetic merging of The Sound of Animals Fighting and Panda Bear going through a krautrock time warp. The most accessible song on Destination Tokyo would have to be its titular track; a long, simmering and somewhat poppy anthem that floats along spacey atmospherics for nearly 10 minutes. The album does, however, give way to more up-tempo, foot stomping tunes such as “Disco,” and “Mirrorball,” a song whose quick rhythms and staccattoed synths are more reminiscent of the dance punk of bands like The Bravery and She Wants Revenge. 

Though this latest endeavor is actually a record comprised of their first European EPs “Neji” and “Tori,” Destination Tokyo will be a breath of fresh air for those unfamiliar with the band’s prior efforts. The only lamentable aspect of this CD is its relatively small track listing, though half of the songs do clock in over nine minutes. 

With all of its psychedelic art-rock influences, Destination Tokyo remains one seriously interesting album and is most definitely one trip worth taking. (Bijin Records)

-Charley Lee                                                                                           www.myspace.com/nisennenmondai

New Roman Times

On The Sleeve

Engineered and mixed by Jason Buntz at The Bubble in Austin 
Produced by New Roman Times and Jason Buntz 
Mastered by Ed Brooks at RFI Mastering

The sophomore release from Austin’s indie rock quartet, New Roman Times, is a compelling hook-laden gem full of aural glee. Not to say that this latest endeavor will recall lollipops and rainbows, but this well-constructed release will certainly make your ears grateful. 

On the Sleeve may come from a more mature and edgier place than the band’s previous release, International Affairs, but the band’s love affair with early 1990s indie rock is unmistakable. From the opening chords and dulcet boy/girl harmonies, to the thunderous, yet sparse, final closer, On the Sleeve is definitely baring its soul. 

The record is the resulting amalgamation of moody, but subtle 1980s synth pop, and throbbing, yet stylish, indie rock. The songs are well-constructed, the arrangements are lush, the percussion is crisp and catchy, and the vocals drone in earnest. Immediately, the band brings to mind the familiar sounds of stellastarr*, My Bloody Valentine and New Order, combining distorted guitar melodies with pulsating drum and bass rhythms. The slow-building charger, “West End World,” is probably one of the best songs on the entire album, and certainly one of the most danceable. “VCR” is another great song; a drony, post-punk experiment that only gets louder and more entrancing as it goes on. 

On the Sleeve is a perfectly crafted album, full of hooks that will keep your head swaying and lyrics that’ll woo your significant other. New Roman Times may be wearing their hearts on their sleeves, but that’s what makes it so easy to love this album. (New Granada Records)            

 -Charley Lee                                                                                            www.myspace.com/newromantimes                                                                                                                                     

Scroll Searchin-Isolation leads to Innovation: AmDex

Words by Ingrid Sibley
Photos by Chris Davis

There’s a classic Bible saying that goes, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, understood as a child, thought as a child, but when I became a ma n, I put away childish things.” Quoting the holy book would be an awkward introduction for many hip-hop heads, but not for AmDex, one-half of Atlanta ’s Clan Destined. AmDex actually likes it even more old school than the New Testament line. As an Israelite, he’s firm in his beliefs – a “Torah-observing brother”– but his music fails to alienate the layman.

Subtlety, cleverness and unspoken critique areembedded in AmDex’s work. His recent 7 Scrolls, which is structured off the holy number “seven,”flaunts seven skills of musicianship that distinguish him from the average MC: DJing, lyricism, vocals, production, mixing, mastering and performing. 

AmDex’s beliefs in no way make him a mini-Matisyahu. Instead, he is rooted in hip-hop culture and humorous to boot –down to the 40 bottle of Olde English 800 that goes unopened as his living room table’s centerpiece. 

As Clan Destined, AmDex and DT surpass mere rhyming and distinguish themselves by infusing DJing and improvisational production into live shows. This package reflects their larger consortium, the Vinyl Junkies Crew, which has nationwide components that can move the crowd as MCs, DJs or producers. If prerequisites for Wu-Tang members include passion for kung fu and overambitious salivary glands, the Vinyl Junkies Crew has true b-boy status and humorous, virtuosic vision as their commandments. 

Clan Destined released ABBRACADAMN!!! in 2007, were picked up by Rawkus and released the And For Our Next Trick… EP later that year, but March 1999 marked AmDex’s professional hip-hop genesis. Branching out from his foundation as a drummer, he borrowed a stack of records from fellow Vinyl Junkie X-Ro and began spinning around town. Though his skills granted access to venues most high schoolers could only hope to enter with their fake licenses, AmDex’s crew soon foraged off into the unknown. Instead of lamenting placement at the precipice of his own wilderness, however, he used the newfound solitude to attain musical maturity. He recalls,“not getting assistance from a lot of people really helped me create something that’s a little different from alot of people around me.”

Without elders nearby, he elicited the knowledge of masters like Pete Rock and Prince Paul, as well as that of the emerging masters of his generation. AmDex reached far and wide to find musical mentorship from hip-hop heavyweights like Battlecat (California), Organized Noize (Georgia) and J Dilla (Michigan). Later, he ventured into the world of jazz standards and stocked his library with CTI records and Munich’s ECM label, home to legends like Chick Corea and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. 

As AmDex improved his cutting and scratching as a DJ, it laid a foundation for dissecting samples as a producer. “I just like to make my drum chops sound as real as possible,” he says. “I try to think like a drummer when making beats. When I’m programming, I don’t really use the quantize feature that much. I turn the metronome off. Even if I loop something up off a record, I still chop it up into a lot of pieces. Chop‘em on the downbeat as opposed to choppin’ ‘em straight ahead. That way you have a lot of freedom to really make something over, make something new. That’s where the evolution comes, when I start changing time up, chord progressions, and having beats that have movements to ‘em.”

But after toiling over a beat, he may still end up pitching it if unsatisfied. AmDex – who’s production revolves mostly around a PC, sampler, and his beloved MPC 2000 XL – doesn’t sacrifice quality for copiousness. Critiquing those searching for a quick fix, he blasts “MCs still begging for their 40 acres and a mule,” as well as novices making albums in two days. 

“I remember being an underdog,” he says. “Now people look at me around town as being sort of like, a forerunner.” 

Though AmDex has become indispensable to the Atlanta hip-hop scene, he refuses to regale on a pewter platter flanked by foie gras. This former underdog continues to learn new tricks and encourages others to follow his lead by stepping away from the “formula” to “install some mystery and shit.” 

“Find it, like I found it,” he challenges. “I’m not trying to ever put out no AmDex, best of samples collection.”

Nevertheless, AmDex is not all “hard-truth, tough-love type of MC.”

Graciously, he laced his record with musical interludes to be seized and enhanced, skillfully links fans to the cream of the underground through mastering acclaimed artists like Mr. Lif or being remixed by producer Illastrate, and includes visual introductions to iconic Atlantans in the video for “Change Your Style.” AmDex sees the Atlanta scene as newly unifying, and the clip illustrates the mutual respect in the city and its overall uniqueness, 

Despite these gestures, he admits some of his messages may be a hard pill to swallow. On “Roma,” he analogizes ending an unhealthy relationship with reframing his terms with America: “Still got the whole hood behind her/for years even through the tears I stood beside her/In a yoke, livin’ just over broke/expecting me to defend her in the beef she provokes/Oh Roma, Roma could you be mine/American dreamin’ of you all the time/But now I’m awake and my enemy’s known/The covenant is my prenup written in stone/I’m going home.” Self-conviction and musical structure bisect these messages, however, and make them easily ingestible. The percussiveness of AmDex’s line delivery accenting his classically constructed beats softens jagged statements. He muses, “it ain’t like everything I say is grim. I still put a smile on my face. I still have great days. I still enjoy the weather. I still like to look at women. I’m a dude. I’m a man. I don’t ever be too deep in the struggle that I fall in love with it either.” 

AmDex’s balance of levity and rootedness allows him to be forward-looking after a decade in the game. On the album’s oldest piece, “Older and Wiser,” he philosophizes, “The future’s brighter, it even illuminates days behind us …If I’m a rhyme, I’m a be the kind to keep your eyes up higher/If you’re searchin’ for the messiah, he might be right beside ya, but I wouldn’t be surprised if ya found him right inside ya.” It’s this quest that maps AmDex’s journey. He wants to not only deliver high quality music, but to raise the bar for himself and others. “I don’t wanna just make music,” he declares. “I wanna change the heart of people, when you got they heart you got em. You can change a group of people’s lifestyle, mainly my own people, then I think everything else will fall into place.”

Listen to AmDex: www.myspace.com/amdex

July 13, 2009

CD's Received Today

Here's what we got in the office today:

The National Rifle – Man Full of Trouble
Michael Styler – Seven Falls
Dada Veda – Love is the Best
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
Polite Sleeper – Lake Effect
Pierce Edens & the dirty work
Adam Marsland – go west
The Dutchess &The Duke – Sunset/Sunrise
P.J. Pacifico – Always and Everywhere
Danny Ross – One Way