Music Review

Vinyl of the Week: Syd Arthur - On An On (Harvest)

Syd Arthur - On an On (Harvest)

If one makes the pronouncement that their band "hails from Canterbury, England," one might assume that progressive rock might ensue. And while their Wikipedia page lists them as a "psychedelic jazz band, formed in Canterbury in 2003 by brothers frontman Liam and bassist Joel Magill, drummer Fred Rother and violinist Raven Bush," they sound more like a prog-pop band to my ears, albeit one of the best I've heard in ages. I happened to finally catch them in concert last week opening for the most-excellent UK-based singer-songwriter Jake Bugg at Terminal 5 in NYC. Strange pairing, but having missed them last year at the Mercury Lounge, I simply had to go. I admit that their name alone -- Syd Arthur, named after The Madcap Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett and Love leader Arthur Lee, who may or may not be construed as a prog rocker -- was intruiging enough for me to spend some time with their music. There is no doubt that they drink from the same fresh waters of their homeland, from the fertile springs that nourished early prog pioneers Caravan and Gente Giant with a touch of the "jazz" textures of Hatfield & The North and National Health.

ANNIVERSARIES: Dmitri Shostakovich Born 110 Years Ago

shostakovichMany consider Dmitri Shostakovich the greatest composer of the 20th century. Born September 25, 1906, he might not have lived past his teens if he hadn't been talented. During the famines of the Revolutionary period in Russia, Alexander Glazunov, director of the Petrograd (later Leningrad) Conservatory, arranged for the poor and malnourished Shostakovich's food ration to be increased. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1, his graduation exercise for Maximilian Steinberg's composition course at the Conservatory, was completed in 1925 at age 19 and was an immediate success worldwide. He was The Party's poster boy; his Second and Third Symphonies unabashedly subtitled, respectively, "To October" (celebrating the Revolution) and "The First of May" (International Workers' Day).

Song of the Week: Don DiLego - "Don't Bury Me Alive"

Sometimes you gotta wait for it. Sometimes it's not all that immediate. And sometimes you just luck into it and your pretty darn happy you did. So it was with the new album Magnificent Ram A (Velvet Elk/One Little Indian Records) by singer-songwriter Don DiLego. Now I've come to find out that he's right here in my own backyard in NYC and I'm not sure why this is the first time I'm hearing about him, but I'm mightly glad I finally did. There's an urban angst in the Americana fabric of these tunes and certainly the simple lyrics and stripped down accompanyment means nothing, if you don't have the chops to fill those spaces with the right colors and textures. Mr. D has a real knack for it, too. Waiting on the vinyl for my full review, but in the interim please purchase said song here: http://tinyurl.com/hat8trr

Marillion: F.E.A.R. (Fuck Everyone And Run)

[Warning! Although all reviews contain information that the listener will not know until they hear the album, this review (which is actual a preview, since the album will not have been released at the time of posting) is highly detailed. If you are a Marillion fan who would prefer not to be "influenced" specifically in any way prior to your first listen, suffice to say that I am giving the album 4.5 out of 5 stars.]

Video of the Week: Beach Slang - "Atom Bomb"

Hugely addictive power pop-punk rock from Philly trio Beach Slang. Hell, even the video is an homage to the original DIY aesthetic of early punk rock. The above-video "Atom Bomb" has a real '70s style and vibe thanks to director Jason Lester's 8mm cinematic flair. Beach Slang’s new album A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings will be released on September 23rd on Polyvinyl Records. They’re also on the road the rest of this year. If you're a fan of The Replacements, The Clash, Rancid, Green Day, this is well worth the effort. And please check out this stunning ballad -- "Too Late To Die Young" -- from their 2015 debut full-length, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.

Song of the Week: San Saba County - "Pretty Sure"

So I got an email early last week asking me to preview a new album. Nothing new as I get hundreds of requests daily from PR flacks asking for the same thing. However, this was a heartfelt message from the lead singer John Saba, Jr. of the Austin-based quartet San Saba County. He wrote that "Pretty Sure" was "one of [his] personal favorites from the album" 5th. Damn, he was right on target. This is one catchy tune, like Green Day filtered through a roots-rock prism. Smart lyrics, chugging rhythm, tight playing; a winner through and through. Looking forward to spending more time with the album. I'm pretty sure it'll be worth the effort.

Ten Miles Wide - "Fuck That Shit, I Was Right!"

'...Johndus's response to being told that Masturbational is spelt with an O."

It seems so often these days that all I want to do is burn things to the ground... This is not the confession of a pyromaniac but rather the resignation of a former believer who is convinced that, in so many aspects of life, it'd better if we just started over. However, occasionally something will come along that breathes life into my ever-dwindling hope. Bernie certainly did that for me in the realm of politics, Banksy has long since revitalized my belief in the possibilities of the visual arts, and, in the world of rock, I recently discovered a local secret here in Seattle which, if there's anything right with the music scene, won't remain a secret for much longer. 

In a time where rock seems to be sliding on to the popularity back-burner I am happy to report that the scene remains alive and well in Seattle, and at the core of this local rock scene resides the super group Ten Miles Wide. Ten Miles Wide has inspired me. After suffering through eight musically, bleak years of hipster drudge in NYC rock venues where true talent so often takes a back seat to hype, it’s refreshing to hear sincere, non-ironic music played for audiences who are there to listen rather than be seen.

Ten Miles Wide seems like a natural progression of the Grunge movement, as if it had continued to grow and change over the last two decades, morphing into a new sound rooted in familiar soil. Raw and sincere but also accessible, their most recent album, The Gross (released July 16th to packed house of over five hundred eager fans), is catchy without being guilty of pandering. While possessing the power of a primal rage it is also clean and composed. To quote a lyric from Woodhead, my favorite local band back in NYC, "You don’t know the difference between a symphony or a song"… Ten Miles Wide does, crafting compositions with multiple moving parts and engaging time signature changes that challenge the ear, avoiding the redundancy that so frequently plagues our pop stations.

Vinyl of the Week: Les McCann & Eddie Harris - Swiss Movement

Les McCann & Eddie Harris - Swiss Movement (Atlantic, 1969)

I don't profess to have the deepest critical knowledge of jazz, especially with managing editor Steve Holtje being our resident expert, but I definitely have a deep appreciation. Regardless, Swiss Movement by Les McCann and Eddie Harris remains of one of my favorite live jazz albums. I just picked up a super-clean used copy of it at one of my favorite vinyl shops in Akron, Ohio.

Song of the Week: The Cactus Blossoms - "Stoplight Kisses"

Sure, Minneapolis-based brothers Jack Torrey and Page Bunkum's vocals and Americana roots-rock tunes remind one of The Everly Brothers and/or Louvin Brothers, but their band The Cactus Blossoms still swings with a timeless vibe and carries that retro torch forward in a very convincing manner. Moreover, they opened for country legend Dwight Yoakam on Sunday night for Lincoln Center's Out of Doors Americanafest Weekend and the crowd was blown away. This infectious single -- "Stoplight Kisses" -- is from their excellent new album, You’re Dreaming, and was produced by the equally beguiling roots-rocker J.D. McPherson. Buy it on vinyl; support the arts, people.

Vinyl of the Week: Summer Albums, Part 2

My summer has been filled with deep loss. My younger brother David succumbed to major injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on June 1st. Along with the comfort and love from my family and friends, music was a necessary daily elixir. Many nights I would listen to vinyl in my mother's home, albums I'd left there years ago, or a handful of new/used pieces I picked up at one of my favorite Akron, OH vinyl shops.The ritual of cleaning each piece, placing it on the turntable, dropping the needle, studying the album art, reading the liner notes... it was a much-needed distraction. Here are three new pieces that have aided me in my latest life's journey.