August 20, 2009

Run Dan Run
27 Coming St.

Charleston, SC
Mixed and mastered by Ash Hopkins

Sometimes there is music where it is just necessary to sit back, sigh and relax to the songs in the stereo. Right from the beginning track of Run Dan Run’s latest release, it’s evident this album isn’t meant for those looking to pump their fists in the air and headbang along. The opening track, “Wasted Love,” is an ambient affair of soft guitars with mesmerizing drums and a wailing violin-piano combination that inhabits the back of the mind and makes its way through until you can’t help but bob your head along to the soft croons.

Although each and every track seems to follow the same formula of soft instrumentation with melancholy lyrics, on 27 Coming St. it makes for a cohesive effort that blends together and focuses fully on the power of the lyrics (“Happiness To Be”).

Near the end of the closing track, “Points Of Departure,” Run Dan Run is able to pick up the speed a little bit and wail their way through, leaving the listener with a questionable impression of what they just heard. This ending is probably the most appropriate in order to sum up what 27 Coming St. is – an album that may feel like the same thing over and over, but is something more beautiful and unexpected after further listening, making it more enjoyable then what might have been preconceived. (self-released)
-Max Specht
Reed KD
In Case the Comet Comes

Santa Cruz, CA
Recorded, produced and mixed by Reed
Dahlmeier in various closets, garages,
bedrooms and living rooms of friends and family

If toe tapping and knee slapping back-porch music is your bag, then you’ll love Reed KD’s sophomore album In Case the Comet Comes. Reed and his band The Armchair Aviators deliver a fun-loving, pop-infused bluegrass sound that is bound to put him on the radar.

In Case the Comet Comes is a solid album, featuring Reed’s playful acoustic guitar accentuated by a palatable mix of mandolin, banjo, microrgan, bass trombone, fabulous fiddling and even water glasses, which make it a delectable bit of ear candy from start to finish.

“If the Tide Swings” has relatable lyrics and just enough twang to stay true to the folk roots that drive the record. Like this one, each track is masterfully punctuated by Reed’s fresh vocals and innovative instrumentation.

Reed KD lets listeners in on his life experiences in “Winding Roads,” as he dropped everything to live out of a VW Vanagon to pursue a music career full time. “Hippie Chicks” boldly dabbles with an electronic underscore set to simplistic lyrics. It is experimental in all the right ways and pays homage to the simple things. Reed KD quickly returns to his signature bluegrassy pop with “Cactus Garden,” a boisterous tune with plenty of banjo and frisky fiddle.

“Space Vacuums” starts off with prominent and low acoustic guitar, which elegantly gives way to eerie steel guitar over classic bass lines – all three punctuating the uncertainty of “space” and the uncertainty of life. The instrumentation and lyrics compliment each other flawlessly, making for a classic, unforgettable waltz.

Reed KD has outdone himself with In Case the Comet Comes. “Sleepless Nights In Bed” and “Splinters in the Evening” finish off the record with the same visionary composition that underlines the entire album. (self-released)
-Tara Lacey

August 19, 2009

Freddy Lap$: Pushing Intelligent Ignorance

Words by Amanda Macchia; Photo by John Doc

We’ve all heard the expression that rappers are a dime a dozen. When you’ve immersed yourself into an artist’s career, the competition becomes that much more obvious. If you open your eyes wide enough, talent is everywhere. Popular culture is a constantly evolving, breathing and reacting life form, and it takes an active mind to have the capacity to grow with it. Not only do you have to breath and react in sync, but you also have to feel the pulsing rhythms and reflect them in a direction that promotes success. But this is often mistaken for conformity. The talented dime in that dozen is the artist that uses careful observation and the history of their craft in order to create new rhythms, and to expand on these long-trekked paths that form the spider web that is pop culture.

Boston’s Freddy Lap$ found his way to hip-hop coolly and innocently, by way of his cousin’s CD collections. By age 13, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots and Big L records had rocked the young rapper into a world of beats and rhyming. “It’s time to get serious about this rapping thing,” he said, and that is exactly what Lap$ did. That moment was like introducing a new species of birds to an ecosystem. Slowly, the new birds make the environment theirs, and after about 10 years you can’t go outside without hearing their distinct call. At 26, with over a decade of chirping, Lap$ is starting to cement his mark in hip-hop.

Today, he has developed into one of New England’s most incredible lyricists. His smooth, yet raw voice has an indelible way of weaving witty remarks together and painting fantastic, funny and serious images for your ears to catch and your mouth to repeat. This visual, diverse form of hip-hop is what Freddy Lap$ calls “intelligence mixed with raw realness” or “intelligent ignorance.” Lap$ continually projects an air of authority, while remaining relatable to his audience. “I’m one of the nicest rappers out,” he says with confidence. After all, you can’t be in this business if you don’t appreciate and love what you’ve got. So far, Freddy Lap$ has put out three projects, a self-titled EP, his crew The FaQulty’s The Higher Learning mixtape and his most recent record, The Starting Lap. These albums speak for themselves in that they emanate a flexible, real sound that can be played in clubs, cars and headphones.

For the past 13 years, the young MC has developed a sound that is an infallible representation of the eclectic and experimental artistry of today’s popular culture. “I studied my books and used my life for real as subject matter,” Lap$ says, commenting on The Starting Lap. “So the combination came out a classic.” He’s got a point, because it’s one of those records that gets stuck in your head after one or two listens.

Freddy Lap$ is always performing and collaborating with Boston’s finest up-and-coming talent, and has opened up for bigger artists like GZA, Canibus, Akrobatik and KrumbSnatcha. In addition to being a regular guest freestyling and rhyming live on WUML’s 91.5 FM, his song “5 Minutes” was featured on JAM’N 94.5 FM’s Launch Pad nine weeks in a row. Hip-hop and poetry are his life, and Lap$ never stops thinking, acting and reacting in dedication to his music. Already working on a fourth project titled The Co-Lap$, he is ready to show the world what he is all about. Follow him to see if he can become a genuine part of what he likes to call “the re-birth of the Golden Era of Hip-Hop.”

Brooklyn, NY
Recorded and mixed by Jeremy Scott at
the Civil Defense in Brooklyn, NY |
Mastered by Paul Gold at Salt Mastering

On Easter Sunday in a motel room in rural Pennsylvania, Pterodactyl found the inspiration for its sophomore LP, Worldwild. Like most children conceived during drunken nights in backwoods motels, Worldwild’s origins are shrouded in haze. The band won’t say exactly what transpired on that fateful night, building a mystery that manifests in the album’s muddy guitar layers and unintelligible vocals.

Befitting its conception on Easter,
Worldwild is regarded not just as a birth, but a rebirth for the Brooklyn-based band. The album’s more sophisticated theme and structure mark the band’s coming of age under the tutelage of Jagjaguwar/Brah labelmates, Oneida.

Driven by drumming, much of
Worldwild feels like riding backseat in a runaway truck through a bumpy cornfield, the driver collapsed over the wheel with all his weight on the gas pedal. There are a few moments of quiet reflection – as in “Easy Pieces“ and “Alex,” when a shamisen-sounding guitar and hypnotic vocals conjure images of a tranquil koi pond, or on the musical palate cleanser “Ghost Facts” – but the overall tone is raw, unbridled noise rock.

The album’s highlight, “December,” makes the band’s much-resented comparisons to early Modest Mouse all too apparent. The clear, spirited lines set the scene of driving on an open road (our driver has momentarily come to his senses), much like
The Moon and Antarctica’s“Gravity Rides Everything.” However, it’s only a brief glimmer, as the song ends too quickly, leaving the listener wanting more – as all good pop songs should.

For the final act, “One With Everyone,” Pterodactyl returns to muddied guitars, drugged-up Matthew Wilder vocals and shot-from-a-cannon drumming. Whatever ails our driver has returned, leaving him out cold, foaming at the mouth, while we hold on for dear life. (Jagjaguwar/Brah)
-Amanda Nyren
Pictures of Then
And The Wicked Sea

Minneapolis, MN
Recorded at Shangri La in Lexington, KY
Produced, engineered and mixed by Duane Lundy

Pictures of Then will take you right back through your own pictures of when. And the Wicked Sea will have listeners setting sail with these up-and-comers in no time flat as they take listeners on a reflective journey through true-to-life and simple lyrics pieced together with unpredictable but excellently crafted tunes. The album title is fitting, as it takes musical twists and turns reminiscent of the ever changing sea.

“The Big Sell” is a fun neo-punk rock ditty sprinkled with electronic sounds over playful guitars. This song could single-handedly sell the album, but Pictures of Then has so much more packed into their sophomore release. As “The Big Sell” ends, the album transitions into a sweet and thoughtful ballad, “Nowhere is Somewhere,” which starts off with soft and nostalgic piano and picks up with beautiful vocal harmonies and wistful synth, before steadily evolving into a winsome ode to going “nowhere” with someone special. It’s a sweet song that isn’t overtly sappy. Another breakout song with similarly catchy hooks is “Questions Anyone.”

Pictures of Then
takes another unexpected, but smooth turn flirting with electronica on “One Day.” With carefully executed choral-like vocal harmonies and wicked guitar effects, this song is a fantastic rock hymnal. The band then takes yet another turn, proving that they are well adept at composing music that speaks to a diverse crowd with the folk-inspired “Stuck” and the following track, “Ahead.”

“7th Street” is the song that puts the wicked in And the Wicked Sea with its mean hooks and entertaining splices of sound effects over steady guitars and piano. Pictures of Then’s masterful mash-up of folk and rock will no doubt have listeners on board for a voyage. (self-released)
-Tara Lacey

August 18, 2009

Philadelphia Slick

Philadelphia, PA
Produced by E. Garland and Noesis |
Mixed by B. Polinsky | Mastered by Rick
Frederich for Pork Fried Productions

While ?uestlove and The Roots mope around the set at the painful-to-watch Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Philadelphia Slick keep the live hip-hop game afloat in the Mid-Atlantic.

Like state-sponsored hand-me-downs from their older Philly siblings, the instruments are given life from under the holy banners of James Brown funk and Curtis Mayfield soul. Lead MC, Noesis, flows with dedicated respect to the backing music, comprised of warm keys, smooth bass lines and a vibrant horn section. Female vocals lend their soulful tenderness to the punchy snares of drummer El Smooth’s steady boom-bap, especially on “Can’t You Hear” and “The Opera.”

Instead of digging deep in the crates for recycled breakbeats, Phil Slick crafted
Oil with an emphasis on reinterpreting the old for a more live performance-friendly sound. On “Gonna Get Over,” Noesis complains about “getting called for sampling something not even on the track,” which gives an idea of how familiar their beats sound to a trained ear. At the same time, though, they sound totally unique. “Poets Write Killers” is like a RZA track performed with a full band: short horn loops mixed over vocal snippets and a strong, but subtle, percussive backdrop. Noesis rhymes about his city like a man talks about his troubled brother – warm, fretful love. From P-Funk to The Roots to Philadelphia Slick, the jazz and funk-driven big rhythm, crowded stage aesthetic has always had its place in the hearts of head-bobbers and body-movers. With Oil, Phil Slick continues this tradition. (self-released)
-Jake Schnaidt
Pattern is Movement
All Together

Philadelphia, PA
Self-recorded in Philadelphia | Produced, engineered and mixed by Scott Solter

Far too often, classically trained musicians tend to forget that music doesn’t have to be advanced in order to be enjoyable and often, advancement can hamper a work rather than promote it. Luckily, Andrew Thiboldeaux and Chris Ward, the duo known as Pattern is Movement, have managed to find a happy medium on their latest, All Together.

The prevailing sensation of the record is one of adventurous curiosity, structures varying wildly from minute to minute on each track, the only constant being Thiboldeaux’s whimsical vocal turns. The music is dizzyingly complex if you stop to think about it for a moment, but like peers The Fiery Furnaces, the band’s adherence to pop hooks and dreamy strings and pianos keeps everything interesting rather than the boring self-serving experiment it could be. On “Jenny Ono,” the duo set bombastic, fractured percussion up against lush strings, recalling the more frenzied moments of Scott Walker. The effect creates one of the more ethereal pop songs in recent memory: strangely warm and embracing, but sacrificing none of the band’s avant tendencies.

The best moments of the album stick to a similar formula and allow Scott Solter’s production to act as an instrument of its own. Solter deserves praise for crafting a production style that is rich in texture and unobtrusive. Much of All Together manages to sound beautifully decayed as though it were sampled – the drums compressed enough to crunch but not pushed to the point of thinness, the strings sounding positively unworldly. The one-two punch of “Peach Trees” and “Trolley Friend” stand out as the highlight of the album. The clanking pianos of “Peach Trees” give the song an almost psychotic beauty to match the vaguely Oedipal lyrics, with its narrator’s desire to “kill your father.” By contrast, “Trolley Friend” is a blazing venture
through a world split equally between gamelan-like percussive work and the ebb and flow of Renaissance ballrooms, as though Dan Deacon had sat in on the session.

Although All Together occasionally wanders into overly somber, melancholic territory – as on the fitfully depressed “Sea Captain” – the work as a whole is gorgeous and insightful, exciting in the risks it takes and joyously comforting in the moments that feel instantly familiar. Pattern is Movement have proven themselves to be onto something new, but more importantly they’ve also shown that not all things advanced have to be confusing and boring. (Hometapes)
-Morgan Davis

August 17, 2009

Religious Girls: Reaching the Ethereal Through Tribe

Words by Chris Damien; Photos by Berta Daniels

In the lifespan of any band there is a point when decisions need to be made that dictate how seriously it is going to be taken by its members. Religious Girls made this decision upon forming. Believing that the music they wanted to make would be so central to their lives, they worked to reorganize their lives according to it, in a very extreme way. They found a cheap place in East Oakland, where the landlord is cool as long as he gets rent and isn’t hassled by the city, and turned it into headquarters.

Deep Space Nine is the house of Religious Girls, the epicenter of all their creative efforts from when they rise until they stagger to bed. They’ve held numerous shows here and have sound-proofed their garage to act as a practice and recording space. It’s here where they hand-screened all their merchandise and burned all their CDs for their current national tour.

I first saw Religious Girls play at Bottom of the Hill and was immediately intrigued by how they began to set up for their set on the floor, instead of the stage. When I got closer to investigate, I found that it was simply because they couldn’t fit all their gear on the stage. Four guys, three with drums, and each with their own table of live electronics, keyboards, samplers and tons of pedals. The next 30 minutes was a non-stop barrage of intense percussion, screamed tribal chants, paint splatters – just another show for Religious Girls. Main drummer Nick Cowman had an opportunity to speak with me over the phone recently about the group’s promising future.

Cowman explained that the decision to commit himself to living at Deep Space Nine was part of joining Religious Girls, and told of the interesting circumstances leading up to it. Dylan Resnick and Chris Danko originally started the band in 2005 as a two-piece under the name Destroy Tokyo, while attending high school together in Pleasanton, Calif. Playing dueling keyboards, in a sort of Blood Brothers-like cacophony, they slowly drifted toward adding dynamics to their sound and entertained the idea of adding friend Guy Culver, whom they had known in the Bay Area through his artist collective, Pretty Blue Presents. Culver, in turn, had known Cowman through Pretty Blue’s involvement in Sacramento, where he had been playing with his group Brother. Culver joined the group and suggested Cowman be asked to play drums.

Deep Space Nine was now complete and Religious Girls began laboriously developing their material and paint-splatter neon-geometrical-figure aesthetic. Through forcing themselves to be around each other all the time, everyone was held accountable to work as hard as they could to benefit the collective. Despite occasional tension, Religious Girls have found the capacity to unite under a common purpose of creation.

The band has quickly moved beyond house shows and late night recording sessions to impressively self-manufacture their first release,
Open Your Heart to Fantasy, to sell on their self-booked national tour currently in progress. Cowman and Danko booked a large majority of the dates along with help from tourmates, Our Brother the Native. “It takes a lot of time and effort, but if you can do this, you should because it’s all the more rewarding in the end,” says Cowman. “People have offered to help book or represent us, but we have always just tried it on our own because it cuts expenses and is a great opportunity to learn about more aspects of the music industry.”

Religious Girls, however, are more than just work ethic. Cowman says the band is “progressive,” in every sense: sound, methods and lifestyle.
Open Your Heart to Fantasy, which can be heard on their MySpace or purchased at their live shows, is a promising release that will interest anyone who likes experimental pop with a lot of noise influence and heavy percussion. Comprised of five songs totaling about 30 minutes, the album has a very liquid flow, ranging from hypnotizing chants and raucous percussion to fleeting, chaotic, digital glitches. And finally, the listener is delivered from riotous samples to a beautifully atmospheric, ethereal fuzz. The heartbeat of this album is strong, while its momentum lulls with its noisy serenity. The listener can’t help but heed the advice of the title and open their mind to something fantastical, whatever that may be.

One of the most interesting aspects of Religious Girls’ music is that it’s completely without lyrics. Questioning the very role of vocals in music, they prefer to collectively chant. The intention is to allow complete interpretive freedom for the listener, communicating not linguistically, but animalistically.

Cowman says this practice is a pun on the band’s name. “As far as beliefs, we are all very different,” he says. “None of us can agree on anything except the idea that music is the best form for worship.”

Listen to Religious Girls
Nerd Parade
The Span of a Life

Atlanta, GA
Produced, recorded and mixed by Nerd Parade | Engineered by R. Garcia and
John Jacobus at NerdCave in Atlanta | Mastered by Jeremy Dickens at
Offnominal Audio in Nashville

Nerd Parade’s most recent album, The Span of a Life is a fair representation of the band’s talent. If there is any band that can defy genre, it’s them. They’ve managed to combine elements from all over the musical map to create a sound they can call their own.

This alternative indie pop-rock band is on a journey to bring rock’n’roll back. While definitions themselves can seem constraining, so can an overhaul of style.

It can become overwhelming when there is too much going on in a song and it can work against the band, shining the light away from the album’s most reputable tracks. The third song on the album, “Yay, Yeah, Uh-huh!” is a perfect example. While it has parts and pieces that are soulful, it mostly finds itself sounding contrived.

On the contrary, the two opening tracks of the album “Sixty-Eight Reasons” and “The Span of a Life” are spectacular.

They combine the bands strongest suits: dual vocal harmonies, a sweet mixture of acoustic and heavy electric guitars and epic theatrics.

In its entirety, the album begins strong, finds itself again in the middle and ends beautifully. It’s a striking record, with an inclusion of elements that is smart, sweet and playful. The simpler parts outshine the rest, making The Span of a Life incredibly interesting. Technically simple, the music has an element for everyone. It is an album to be listened to start-to-finish and not any other way (Pulse Recordings).
-Amanda Macchia
Mississippi Man
The Snake Oil Salesman

Los Angeles, CA
Produced by Mississippi Man | Engineered and recorded by Raymond
Richards at Red Rockets Glare Studios in Rancho Park, CA | Mastered by Dan Long

First, listening to Mississippi Man’s debut EP, The Snake Oil Salesman, will clear up any doubts of how five West Coast kids from L.A. came to be called Mississippi Man. The album is infused with the feel of old time Southern blues, both in melody and tone, as the band reaches deep into the storied South to pull inspiration.

The album starts with a ghostly carnival melody above the atmospheric hiss of an old record. The nostalgia quickly ends as the band enters and the ghostly melody transforms into a quick toe-tapping swing, accented by the shrill but melodic voice that drips into the music with grace.

“Bonjour Le Monde,” the second track, is reminiscent of bands like the Cold War Kids, whereas “The Jester” sounds like a lost Beatles track. Yet, despite the familiarity, Mississippi Man creates a unique and enjoyable sound that carries through the entire EP. The strongest track on the album, “Ricochet,” plays like The Band’s “Long Black Veil.” It is a slow story-driven song that could easily cause spontaneous barroom singalongs.

The last track on the EP is a wonderfully executed and beautifully written heartfelt song about war called “The Fight.” It’s a simple song that showcases all of the band's talents. The music is sparse at first, but slowly all of the elements are added. The unique voice for this song restrains itself to be a quiet storyteller, then the simple but steady percussion, piano and bass all disappear as the band uses broken glass, clapping, and their voices to transition. After the song ups the tempo, a graceful and quotable solo brings the album to an end.

The Snake Oil Salesman may relish in stories from the past, but there is nothing stale about the album. Here, Mississippi Man deliver a fresh and original album that deserves multiple listens. (self-released)
-Dan Evon