It’s a matter of fact that nostalgia is having a huge moment right now. For most, it’s seen through a bubblegum pop lense. However for The OSYX, it’s time to bring the post-punk movement back with a modern twist. 

    The OSYX self-titled debut album essentially slaps you across the face and says “we’re here, deal with it” and all of a sudden, paints your nails black, adds some safety pins in your t-shirt and covers your hair in gel. In other words, this album will make you feel like a badass. 

    The stand out track, in my opinion, would have to be “Dog Fight”. Through the gripping hard rock electric guitars, the track is almost infused with the vibe of the 60’s through dulcimer like sounds. It’s something incredibly unique, like the movie Across the Universe used Sex Pistol’s songs instead of The Beatles. It works, trust me. 

    The entire body of work tells a story that reflects on today’s societal issues in that The OSYX knows that something needs to be done, and they need you to know as well. The young alpha-female band had a large amount of potential and we’re eager to see what’s next. 

    read here

  • With Their New Album and Record Label, The OSYX is "Destroying the Patriarchy"

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    In between sips of Pabst Blue Ribbon and bites of Comet Ping Pong pizza, Kailasa Aqeel and Maya Renfro dance. Aqeel, of the Maryland-based band Black Folks Don’t Swim?, is about to perform, and she's rolling her shoulders to take the edge off backstage. Renfro, of the all-female local supergroup The OSYX, joins her.

    It’s a big night for The OSYX—it’s the band’s record release party. The official release of their debut album is Friday, Oct. 11, a week from this Friday night. But as acts throughout the night suggest, it’s not just about the band. It’s about the cause: “destroying the patriarchy,” per the tagline of the band’s record label. (The band recently started a record label under its nonprofit, This Could Go Boom!, to promote women, transgender, and non-binary musicians.) 

    To destroy the patriarchy, The OSYX strives to create a supportive community for nontraditional artists. That night, this required dancing and goofing around offstage. Black Folks Don’t Swim? opened and likely went over time, as they performed several songs during the encore. But they were encouraged by The OSYX, whose members were too busy jamming out with the audience to mind. The crowd lost it when The OSYX finally went on, around midnight. By the end of the 45-minute set, lead vocalist Erin Frisby was belting “Bad Omen” while standing on top of an amplifier. 

    “This is the first release of This Could Go Boom! It’s not a band, a record label—it’s a community and everyone here is a part of it. Thank you,” guitarist and backing vocalist Ara Casey said to concertgoers. 

    A diverse group of people gathered at Comet Ping Pong, from a mother with a compact camera to a 20-something with a septum piercing. The section of the local restaurant designated for ping pong turns into a music venue that can fit about 100 people. It looked to be at capacity.


    It took two years for The OSYX to release its self-titled debut album. Esteemed producer Sylvia Massy heard the record and the band received word on Friday that she loved it.

    “We started writing two years ago today,” Casey told City Paper before the show. 

    Casey and Frisby first conceived of a band with no cis men during J20 weekend, when Frisby held her own anti-inauguration music festival. “It wasn’t as complex as saying we didn’t want to play with guys as much as we wanted to create music with musicians with whom we shared a common perspective,” says Casey. 

    Then they recruited Selena Benally, because two singer-songwriters that play guitar wasn’t enough; they needed a third. The OSYX was a band of three guitarists until drummer Robzie Trulove and bassist Renfro joined the group. Cellist Hannah Sternberg sometimes plays with the band and is featured on the track “Scavengers.”  

    “I had never felt good about improvising because I always felt that I had to prove that I was competent,” says Frisby of her experience writing songs with men in other bands. “Freedom to explore and fail and get back up again in creative music making is vital. We wanted to create a nonhierarchical inspiring space to work on music with other women and it came together very naturally from our very first jam session.” 

    The OSYX understood early on that upending the music industry wouldn't happen by merely existing as an all-female band, so this year, the group launched This Could Go Boom! To jumpstart TCGB, a nonprofit, The OSYX raised nearly $13,500 during an Indiegogo campaign. TCGB strives to uplift women and trans artists in various ways, including through monthly showcases at the Dew Drop Inn. The D.C. community is getting to know TCGB; the Washington Mystics even reached out for recommendations on national anthem singers. 

    The music industry, like most spaces, is dominated by cis men. Of the 600 most popular songs between 2012 and 2017, 22.4 percent of all performers were female, according to a recent University of Southern California study. The study also says 12.3 percent of songwriters and 2 percent of producers across 300 popular songs were female. The study did not mention trans or non-binary artists. 

    The OSYX’s debut album will be TCGB’s first record. “We are learning how to do this as we go,” says Benally. "We decided to experiment on ourselves before offering services to anyone else,” Frisby adds. 

    TCGB is more than a record label. The group will help nontraditional artists put albums together, and continue to offer workshops and community-outreach programming. For example, TCGB worked with War on Women’s Shawna Potter to develop a “Safer Scenes” workshop, which helps music and art scenes develop policies that are sensitive to people who have experienced gender-based violence. And starting Dec. 1, TCGB is hosting monthly jam sessions in collaboration with 7DrumCity. Additionally, TCGB is trying to buoy technical artists, like sound engineers.

    “We also wanted to put together a directory of some kind in the event that someone wants to find a female who does these other things,” says Trulove. “It’s hard to find each other.” The audio technician for Friday night’s show was a woman named Mel.

    The support The OSYX has received thus far is plentiful. And it comes from all over. Renfro cited the band’s supportive relationship with Dischord Records, an independent record label for punk music, as one example. “The people who began the D.C. punk scene are extremely happy to support us and happy to support young, non-binary gender queer bands because gender is over and also that is what punk is now,” says Renfro.


    Collaborative culture across music scenes made D.C. the perfect hub to start this journey. The bands that opened Friday were a heavy rock band, The Meer, and a funky jazz band, Black Folks Don’t Swim? The OSYX would describe their own sound as classic, influenced by Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac. What unites the bands is a proud sense of DIY.

    “We all do 10,000 other things,” says Benally. “We’ve been doing a solid job of catching each other when we are too tired to stand up anymore,” adds Trulove. 

    Right before the show, band members were printing merchandise shirts. Everyone in the band has day jobs or other side hustles, which makes finishing band tasks challenging. But it also proves useful. Benally is also a graphic designer, so she used the skills she learned from her day job to create The OSYX’s album art and website. 

    “The community has come together so much that we have a wealth of ideas and implementing them is hard because...even though we are all volunteer-run now, the ultimate goal is to be able to compensate people for their time,” says Casey. 

    The OSYX has a lot of ambition and thus a lot of goals to meet but they stay grounded. 

    “In some ways when you are underrepresented, just showing up and telling your story and being who you are and doing the art you want to make is in itself an act of rebellion,” Frisby says. 

    The OSYX will hold an acoustic performance and album listening party at 7DC Live Tuesday, Oct. 8.


  • Aaron Semer is ready for new release Cape Disappointment Nov 15th

    Aaron Semer is ready for new release Cape Disappointment Nov 15th

    If you’ve been jonesing for a wickedly poetic, topically charged, deeply felt, and dynamically played singer-songwriter album, Seattle’s own talented and troubled troubadour Aaron Semer is releasing Cape Disappointment, and it will massage your neck, curl your toes, and enrich your life. This is a Rock album, even with its fervent acoustic heart. Combining the rustic lyricism of Neil Young’s Harvest with the grace and grit of Terry Allen; the folk-punk of the saltiest Warren Zevon anthem with the haunted historicity of a Randy Newman, or the weathered wisdom of Lucinda Williams. Semer’s second full-length is a sweet, strummed cure to our National Anhedonia, with plenty of taste and bite. 


  • welcome PAMPA to xo family!

    LOCATION: Seattle, WA

    GENRE: Latino Neo Psych Indie Rock

    INFLUENCES: Phil Spector, Yo Lo Tengo

    Seattle and partly by way of Buenos Aires-based band PAMPA has been described by revered music writer Jonathan Zwickel as “timeless, lo-fo, downtempo guitar pop that is equal pats Phil Spector-ish Wall of Sound and limber Yo La Tango-is jangle … with “magnetic melancholy of a particular Northwest bent.” 

    Originally PAMPA was to be called Mannahatta for “land of many hills,” lead singer-songwriter-guitarist Moon Ballie explains. “Lenni Lenape used that word to describe Manhattan before the European invasion. Though Baillie lived for two years in New York City and felt a connection with the city, he felt it inauthentic to draw on his time there for the name. He had also considered ‘Sigue la Sombra de mi Bebe,’ a reference to a song by Charly Garcia, but this felt like it might be a bit too challenging out of the gate for the English speakers he hoped would lend their ears.

    Baillie was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In his path he writes stories. These stories are the fabric of his culture, and PAMPA is a journey that describes his modern American experience. Baillie started PAMPA in 2013, after spending three months back in Argentina, which he had been away from since 1996. “Pampa” is also a native Quechua word describing the wilderness, and he realized that the mysterious wildness of that description fits what confronted him at the time, such as “where to fit in this Northwestern society?" So Baillie did what he does: write his stories in songs about life in order to find where that place would be. “These songs document times,” he says. “I mean, they have structures, formulas, esoteric reasonings, but they capture a mood in its inception.”

    Baillie is joined in PAMPA by Steve Lykken on drums; John Carlson on bass; Kerrick Olson on rhythm guitar and vocals, and Nate Rogers on keyboards and vocals, all adding some flavor with other ingredients where some extra spice is needed. 

    As multi-layered and intricately thoughtful as PAMPA’s output is, the deeply familiar heart and earnestness of their music is being warmly understood by local music fans seeing them live or hearing it played on KEXP. Their new eight song release La Contumacia is an elegant yet ecstatic mixture of poetic bilingual stream of consciousness, swirled with delectable organ and various ethereal, interplaying elements, augmented by crying lead guitar and dashes of horns, with the feeling swing of golden era Freak Pop filtered through a staggering jaunt through Buenos Aires unlike anything you’ve heard since the 70s became the 90s. 

    The album's title translates to "the contumacy," meaning "a stubborn refusal to obey or comply with authority," especially in regard to compliance with bureaucratic orders. Which, given Baillie's status as an immigrant (albeit a naturalized citizen) and his bandmates' shared feelings regarding things happening in this place and time, is a clear message from the entire band.

    La Contumacia is PAMPA’s second full-length and it feels like a true progression from the bands first album, In The Flatlands. Specifically as they left us on the B side with hints of more grandiose composition and experimentation. Here we find them expanding in this direction with instrumentation and moving parts well beyond what we hear on their debut while still remaining anchored in the intimacy and intensity of Moon's voice and lyrics. The band clearly has a number more years under their belts; melding into an ever moving and developing united entity with the ability to express the music in swelling arrangements far beyond anything on the first release.

    Baillie first heard the phrase La Contumacia in a record by the Uruguayan composer Eduardo Mateo. “During the South American Summer of 2018 I spent one month in Uruguay,” Bailie explains, “and became obsessed with Mateo’s record Mateo Solo Bien se Lame. Truly a gem of Rioplatense folk. Some of the audio takes were left in, and at one point his mic starts feeding back. His reasoning was, ‘ah, la contumacia.’” Baillie and his comrades investigated the arcane meaning of Mateo’s usage, and it became an inspiration to their new album. 

    Three of the key tracks from La Contumacia are the lilting and funky “Una de Cal y Una de Arena,” the sweetly timeless and haunting album opener “When the Dawn is Gone,” and the torch, shimmering, almost hymnal dream-pop “So Far.” A video for “When The Dawn is Gone” is being prepared and will be out before mid-summer. 

    Baillie functions as the songwriter with the band as whole creating the arrangements you hear. The sophomore release, like the debut, was produced by Johnny Goss (La Luz, Shana Cleveland, Lonesome Shack) at Dandelion Gold in Seattle with the band playing together live to capture the basic tracks. Overdubs also included a little performance help from their friends for the first time, such as Ben Thomas, Annie Ford, Jonah Byrne, Ben Lewis, Mikey Gervais, and Eva Walker.

    La Contumacia is meant as a document of our times, as well as the evolution of the band creating it, a Polaroid of this moment in the experience of their lives. Because things are happening so quickly now they already have more than half of their third album written.

    Live contemporaries PAMPA could be considered with would be Kurt Vile, Tame Impala, The Moondoggies, Low Hums, Dean Johnson, The Cave Singers, Blitzen Trapper, and Dungen. The band would like Neil Young to know that if he slotted them in as an opener, they would not turn him down.

    The tour for the album starts in mid-September, and will include cities such as Spokane, Missoula, Idaho, Portland, and Tacoma

  • Pluralone: Io Sono Quel Che Sono b/w Menina Mulher Da Pele Preta

    Pluralone – Io Sono Quel Che Sono b/w Menina Mulher Da Pele Preta


    We’re thrilled to announce the newest release from Josh Klinghoffer (Dot Hacker), and the inception of his new project, Pluralone. The upcoming release features two covers, one in Italian and one in Portuguese. “Io Sono Quel Che Sono” was originally popularized by Italian singer Mina. “Menina Mulher Da Pele Preta” was written and performed by Brazilian popular musician Jorge Ben. Klinghoffer performs all instruments and vocals on both tracks. The collage artwork was created by Dot Hacker drummer Eric Gardner. The audio was mastered for vinyl by Dave Gardner at Infrasonic Mastering.

    Beginning August 16th, the songs will be available at all digital music outlets. The black vinyl seven inch will be widely available in stores beginning August 30th.

    A limited edition red color vinyl pressing is exclusively available from our online store, while supplies last. Orders will ship to arrive around August 16th. 

    You can pre-order the release in all formats here. All vinyl orders from our online store will receive the digital tracks via e-mail at the time of release.

    Keep your eyes peeled for future releases from Pluralone!

  • JILLIAN RAE ready to share "I Can't Be The One You Want Me To Be"

    JILLIAN RAE ready to share "I Can't Be The One You Want Me To Be"

    Minneapolis Artist Jillian Rae "I Can't Be The One You Want Me To Be" 

    CD Release Party, Friday, May 31st

    The release show is SET for my (long time in the works) new album "I can't be the one you want me to be" at the Cedar Cultural Center, one of my favorite places to play anywhere, ever. EEEEEKS!  The show is listed as a standing show, but there will be limited seating as well.  Make your plans!  Get your tickets! It's been a long time comin', now it's time to celebrate! It's an all ages show, so you can even bring the kids. Or if you're a kid, it's an all ages show, so you can even bring the parents. 
    I'll be joined by badass opening guests HUMBIRD and GRAVEYARD CLUB
    photo + artwork: Michael Brewer Carina


    Coming Out in Weird Ways: Sotto Voce's New Album is a Beautifully Twisted Pop Gem

    Photo: Blake Brown / XO Publicity

    One of the odder descriptions assigned to the music of Sotto Voce, a.k.a. singer-songwriter Ryan Gabos, is "bedroom pop". It's not to say that Gabos dreams up seductive slow jams designed for a night of romance; rather, the execution of the 13 songs on his latest release, Safety, sound like they were recorded in a small Brooklyn apartment with an arsenal of lo-fi instruments and some basic home recording equipment. Safety has that kind of intimate, DIY aesthetic.

    That could very well be the case here. The Pittsburgh-born-and-raised Gabos – who does, in fact, call Brooklyn his home – writes, sings, and performs everything you hear on Safety. And while the music has a rough-hewn, home demo quality to it, the songs have a timeless power pop, post-punk feel that seem to draw from multiple influences. The opening track "(Let's Not Tempt The) Supervolcano" recalls the twitchy anxiety and relentless guitar riffing of early XTC. The song's title even evokes the same kind of paranoia, warning against the instability of today's world awakening impending natural disasters.

    But as with the best songwriters, Gabos can slide into a variety of musical styles with relative ease. "Utah's Dime" has a laid-back, almost soulful feel, with chunky, jazzy guitars creating a perfect summer single. This is almost in direct contrast to the typically oddball, almost stream-of-consciousness lyrics: "You took one look at my Otter Box and said / 'I've just the thing' / Now I'm the proud owner of a seafoam green phone case / Your university's per diem took the hit." Befitting the kitchen-sink style ethos at work, an engaging keyboard solo is thrown in for good measure. "It's coming out in weird ways," the dreamy, falsetto-laden chorus goes. Yeah, no kidding.

    Considering it's all the work of one person, Safety is surprisingly ambitious, and Gabos' musical chops seem to fly in the face of what sounds like the lack of a proper recording studio. He uses this strange dichotomy to his advantage, though: there's something refreshingly startling about hearing knotty guitar work and gently sighing vocal melodies combine with a somewhat claustrophobic lo-fi atmosphere, as on songs like "Judy Greer". "I can never say just what I'm trying to say," Gabos sings, "Your face, your eyes make be so / Carry all my problems from my apartment to the J / And listen to sad songs as I go." Gabos brings equal weight to problems both global (natural disasters) and personal (relationships).

    "For a third of life / Our eyes are closed / But you can't see what you're sleeping away," Gabos sings on the ambitious "Samadhi Ecstasy". Among the dense guitar work of that song, there's a sense of humanity that make it - and the rest of Safety - a deeply relatable and instantly lovable album. Depending on where Ryan Gabos takes Sotto Voce, part of me hopes that he doesn't stumble across a proper recording studio. The intimacy of these songs seems inextricably linked to home recording. That's one of the many things that make the album such a beautiful, irresistible piece of work.


  • Unknown Instructors' "Unwilling To Explain"

    Wow. Has it really been a decade since the last Unknown Instructors release? Tempus fugit. But the punk-rock poetry supergroup is back with a new waxing for ORG Music, a label of approximately the same vintage who mainly trade in rock and jazz reishes (including a series from the Euro Black Lion catalog, about which more later).

    On Unwilling To Explain, Ohio poet Dan McGuire is reunited with the former Minutemen/fIREHOSE engine room of George Hurley and Mike Watt, plus a new Instructor: Dinosaur Jr. guitarist J. Mascis (filling the slot formerly occupied by Saccharine Trust/Universal Congress Of man Joe Baiza, who contributes some vocal assistance here). At every turn, Hurley and Watt play together like two cats who grew up in each other's back pockets, who can explore and extemporize together because they know each other's time so well. The interplay between the three instrumentalists is so solidly in sync that it's hard to believe they recorded their parts in different locations, on different days.

    When I reviewed the Instructors' second disc back in 2007, McGuire told me his intent was to hear his idea of the best rhythm section in the world, with a guitarist going berserk over the top. Mascis is definitely the axe-slinger for that job. One need only listen to the version of "Maggot Brain" on Watt's 1995 solo debut Ball-Hog Or Tugboat? to appreciate the unbridled intensity of J.'s attack. Of his generation of indie rockers, he's definitely the most tapped into the blues vein that connects Eddie Hazel, Sonny Sharrock, Pete Cosey, and Ron Asheton (to whom J. generously ceded half of his set to play Stooge songs during SXSW 2000). Throughout Unwilling To Explain, he employs a thick, fuzzy tone reminiscent of '60s psychsters like the Electric Prunes, Fever Tree, and Spirit to cogently point-to-point rides that never lack for melodic imagination.

    Listening to McGuire's pugnacious poetics on "Election Day in Satchidananda," I was reminded that I watch too much political news. (The other night, I took my wife to a show in Dallas where the woman fronting the opening band reminded me of Tulsi Gabbard, while the gent seated next to me was a ringer for Jeremy Corbyn, to the point where I had to restrain myself from leaning over and asking him, "So -- second referendum or no?") Over a Coltrane waltz, replete with Stephan Haluska's tinkling harp (conjuring the spirit of Alice in the same way as the song's title), McGuire worries the line, "Somebody's going to have to stand up, somebody's going to have to bear witness" like a blues lick, or good sex, before dissolving into echolalic delirium.

    On "Hand In Hand," McGuire spits workingman's blues ("Every goddamn day I take another pill...pay another bill...try and get my fill...take another spill") over a James Brown groove, while Mascis spins sinuous lines over the top. "Out in the Cold" uses obsessive repetition to create a mood of jumpy paranoia, while "How It's Done" features a cameo by Joe Baiza as Captain Beefheart, intoning lines from Lou Reed's "Waves of Fear" over Hurley's tribal thump, punctuating McGuire's images of carnage that are both horrific and no worse than what we read in the news every day. "Initiation" starts out with a description of a high school hazing before moving on to a different teenage rite of passage (recalling "Those Were the Days" from the last Instructors outing, 2009's Funland): "In a clandestine cornfield / Live and learn's what you told me / Dime bag's what we do / Trying to get through / Bet you wouldn't believe if I told you / I can read your mind."

    Unlike the Instructors' previous work, the songs on Unwilling To Explain were all written beforehand (by Watt) rather than improvised in the studio. Even with that degree of intentionality, and the circumstances of its creation, the music retains its freshness and immediacy, from the opening notes of the self-referential "Ballad of the Unknown Instructors" (as astute an observation of night life as 2005 debut The Way Things Work's "Lost and Found") to the leisurely waltz that closes the chilling "The Patriot" ("If you don't do the math / And if you really don't look into terrorism / You should be able to sleep at night"). All in the service of McGuire's unnerving thoughts for unnerving times.
    -Ken Shimamoto



    Searching For Home: Author Brian Smith Tells the Stories of Those Who Have Lost Families, Livelihoods, and More


    Author Brian Smith writes about the kind of folks most people tend to ignore.

    Addicts and former addicts, the homeless, the downtrodden, and those who struggle with depression and mental illness.

    Smith, a former editor for the Metro Times, has released a new book, called Tucson Salvage, chronicling the lives of residents in his hometown of Tucson, Arizona. 

    He’ll be reading at the Book Beat in Oak Park this Saturday and at the Lo-Fi Bar in Ann Arbor on Sunday.

    CultureShift’s Amanda LeClaire spoke with him about his new book and what it means to find home.


  • SleeperSound: in medias res

    SleeperSound’s lush yet disconcerting soundscape was forged by Dave D’Antonio, a Milwaukee-by-way-of-Chicago vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist, “to invoke the desire to awaken ourselves gradually and ajar from existential slumbers that make us aloof to each other and our world.” That’s according to press materials for in medias res, the new six-song album that follows the 2016 Milwaukee-based quartet’s Pilots | Passengers | Portals EP. Listening to this 32-minute excursion into the deeper reaches of dreamy post-rock and experimental prog, you might be tempted to draw comparisons to Television and Mission of Burma, but SleeperSound scores on its own merits. From the muted-pop of opener “Give to Time” to “Gravity Well” (a sweet-sounding plea for immortality punctuated by simple guitars and an Italian couplet) to the death-is-inevitable haunting finale “Error Tape,” in medias resmaintains a melancholic steadfastness that will leave attentive listeners transfixed — and slightly scarred.

    via Michaeo Popke


  • REVIEWS!!!!!

    Graded on a Curve: 
    Les Paul and His Trio, After You’ve Gone, Dave Brubeck, Time In, Hank Jones, Arigato, Shirley Horn, Softly

    If you’re in the market for jazz reissues on wax, ORG Music is a consistent resource, and the pickings are especially ripe right now, as they have a stylistically varied batch of material fresh out spanning the 1940s to the ’80s, specifically After You’ve Gone from Les Paul and His Trio, Time In from Dave Brubeck, Arigato from Hank Jones, and Softly from Shirley Horn. Listeners wanting to stretch out beyond the canonical rudiments will find much to love here, for the sounds are more than satisfactory, but novice ears shouldn’t feel intimidated, as the contents are highly approachable all around. The Jones is available now, the Brubeck is out November 2, and the Paul and Horn arrive the following Friday.

    It’s nice that the folks at ORG are fortifying the jazz racks with material beyond the must-haves from the Blue Note, Prestige, Impulse, and Atlantic labels, although a glance at the noteworthy artists included in the roundup could lead to the conclusion that they aren’t digging all that deep. Take Les Paul, for instance; a read of the guy’s biography shapes him up as a recording industry giant, with a dominant early ’50s pop chart run in tandem with his wife, the vocalist Mary Ford, and an enduring rep as a guitar builder, studio innovator and a technical master on his instrument.

    He’s also known for diversity of genre. Amongst his early credits, he backed blues singer Georgie White, recorded C&W as Rhubarb Red, and dished out Hawaiian songs, so his aptitude for jazz, while no secret, often doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves. To an extent this scenario is similar to that of Nat King Cole, whose stature as a pop singer continues to overshadow his killer ’40s piano trio; underlining this comparison is Paul’s early career highlight subbing for Oscar Moore with Cole and others as part of the inaugural Jazz at the Philharmonic concert.

    That show went down on July 2, 1944 in Los Angeles, and the sessions for After You’ve Gone were made for the World Broadcasting Company across September, October, and December of the same year and into January and February of ’45. Like Cole’s group, Paul’s eschewed a drummer, instead featuring Clinton Nordquist on bass, Cal Goodin on rhythm guitar, and either Milt Raskin or Buddy Cole on piano; unlike Cole’s group, Paul’s was a trio plus one.

    Right from the outset on his original composition “Feed Back,” the guitarist isn’t a bit shy over flaunting his skills, though as the 2LP unwinds it’s not like he throws nuance out the window. A couple more songs by Paul are included, but the vast majority are pop and jazz repertoire, from “I Ain’t Got Nobody” to “Blues Skies” to “Stompin’ at the Savoy” to “Honeysuckle Rose” to “Sleepy Time Gal,” and while the band gets their jazzy licks in (everybody’s sharp), they consistently stay focused on the tunes.

    Although there’s an occasional string quaver hinting at Paul’s Hawaiian proclivities, overall, they stick to the jazz course, with the influence of Django Reinhardt tangible but far from overwhelming. It’s true that these recordings weren’t intended to be listened to in a 28-track lump (of course, the beauty of the wax is that they can be taken a side at a time), but they manage to keep repetitiveness largely at bay, with the whole going down as easy on the fifth spin as it does on the first. Bottom line is that it’s doubtful another Paul comp if this vintage, breadth, and stylistic cohesion will appear on vinyl any time soon.

    Dave Brubeck is easily as well-known as Paul, and likely more so; indeed, there was a period when the pianist was one of the three or four most recognized names in jazz (after Louis Armstrong, he was the second jazzman to make the cover of Time). That kind of popularity could breed resentment, but it’s all a long time ago now. Time In, released in 1966 as the last entry in the Brubeck Quartet’s “Time” series, is maybe the least high-profile of the bunch (the first, Time Out from ’59, set things in motion with a smash). Out of print on vinyl for roughly a half-century, Time In is more than worthy of reissue.

    One of sweetest curveballs in Brubeck’s career is his duet with bassist Charles Mingus in Basil Dearden’s 1962 film All Night Long, a seemingly odd pairing that turns out to be superb. Since soaking it up I’ve entertained the notion that Brubeck would’ve fit into Mingus’ band quite effectively. As good as Horace Parlan or Jaki Byard? Of course not, though please listen to his playing on the title-track to this LP before dismissing my theory as claptrap or heresy.

    I guess my speculation is in part due to Brubeck’s distinctive block chord approach, which was sometimes derided as lacking the lightness, fleetness, and general finesse found in the work of many of his contemporaries. But particularly in rapport with the sturdiness of his longtime bassist Eugene Wright, Brubeck was consistently tied to jazz’s rudiments; check out Time In’s “Travellin’ Blues,” the Wright showcase “Rude Old Man,” and the sweetly bluesy “Who Said That?” for evidence.

    Unusual meters and classical touches (e.g. Time In’s opener “Lost Waltz”) aside, Brubeck was often lumped into the West Coast Cool school. The sound of altoist Paul Desmond was a big part of why. Drummer Joe Morello, always on time but expressive, completes one of jazz’s most famous groups, and he gets a spotlight of his own with the splendid finale “Watusi Drums.” But perhaps the most remarking thing about Time In lies how everyone connects as completely engaged.

    To riff a little on Mingus’ thoughts on Brubeck, the man’s music swings (and endures beyond what some will consider an antiquated term) because he sincerely loved what he was doing. There’s an abundance of that feeling on Time In, with the same joie de vivre suffused in the grooves of fellow pianist Hank Jones’ Arigato, originally issued in ’76 by the Progressive label.

    Again, Jones is far from an underheard figure; indeed, anybody who knows Cannonball Adderley’s ’58 masterpiece Something Else has soaked up his considerable talents, though that LP’s stature shouldn’t overshadow a major batch of additional sideman dates (with such names as Lester Young, Donald Byrd, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, Curtis Fuller, Paul Chambers, Art Farmer and more) from the same era or his run of leadership sessions for Savoy (which includes the excellent The Trio with bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Kenny “Klook” Clarke, plus the rewarding solo date Have You Met Hank Jones).

    Jones kinda dropped out of the main thrust of jazz happenings in the 1960s, which isn’t the same as not working; to the contrary, he was the house pianist for CBS studios. And he did record a fair amount, though as a leader the results were largely at cross purposes (Broadway musical interpretations, ragtime played on a cheap kitschy piano and electric harpsichord) to what makes his music so special.

    A return to the jazz thick of things came in the mid-’70s via the Great Jazz Trio (the early version completed with drummer Tony Williams and bassist Ron Carter, though Buster Williams was the bassist on the group’s first recording), and it can seem at a casual glance like a comeback, but nah. Instead, it was just a case of Jones simply doing what he’d always done best, and Arigato, featuring drummer Ronnie Bedford and bass titan Richard Davis, is an often-terrific extension of Jones’ reemergence.

    The CD reissue added extra tracks with Jay Leonhart subbing for Davis, plus a second cut with Ray Rivera on guitar; the LP’s “Majorca” offers him in rhythm support, a sound easily subsumed into the whole, which to my ears is for the best, as sustained trio goodness is what Arigato is really all about. Jones wasn’t an edgy pianist, but neither was he someone you’d ever accuse of cocktail party hackery (at least I hope not), with the title track (and sole Jones original) reinforcing his aptitude for fast tempos while avoiding the underwhelming aspects of “flying-fingers”-style piano.

    Arigato’s song selections and the overall delivery also underscore Jones’ allegiance to swing-to-bop classicism; there’s even a medley of movie themes and standards. However, choosing Davis and giving him ample room to work out also makes clear this was no premediated exercise in conservatism; the pianist sounds fine, even during that medley, and especially so during “Majorca,” the sweet hat tip to Duke “What Am I Here For?” and a nifty closing take of Milt Jackson’s “Gerry’s Blues.”

    To further emphasize Jones’ mainstream bona fides, he was proficient at accompanying singers. In my case, this isn’t high in what I value in his work, as to be blunt, part of my initial attraction to jazz was its substantial and varied avoidance of vocals. I don’t think Jones ever backed Shirley Horn, not out of any lack of compatibility, but rather because she was a pianist herself, and a very good one at that.

    I’m not totally averse to jazz singing, but for me, Horn’s abilities at the keyboard really give her work some extra kick. Spurred in part through the advocacy of Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, she debuted on in 1960 with Embers and Ashes, but in a manner similar to Hank Jones’ ’60s work, her initial subsequent efforts didn’t foreground what makes her artistry so special, and by the second half of the decade she’d dropped out of the scene to raise a family.

    A string of cool ’80s LPs for Steeplechase put her back on the map, but most know her through a string of all-star-studded releases made in the late ’80s and forward for Verve, who had a knack for doing right by jazz vocalists (see Betty Carter). Initially released on CD in ’88 by the Audiophile label, Softly falls between these career developments, and in part through the circumstances of its creation, is a total knockout.

    Intimate is a descriptor that often accompanies recordings of jazz singers, but many of these examples are derived from nightclubs, which amongst other things are predominantly places of business. Softly was cut late at night at Mapleshade Studio, the rural Maryland home recording facility of Peirre Sprey, and in tandem with familiar associates Charles Ables on electric bass and Steve Williams on drums (who’d replaced Billy Hart in the midst of her Steeplechase run), Horn is in magnificent form as she never falters at doing two difficult things at once, her singing and playing sublime throughout.

    Even without the background info, the late-night aura is thick and sweet, and unlike a significant percentage of late-period jazz vocal recordings which offer exercises in “holding court,” as it were, Softly is instead Horn and associates diving deep into the chosen material and magnifying the essence; overall, it’s not an LP of highlights but an immersive experience, and a unique one in how it sidesteps cliché and deeply explores melancholy without ever succumbing to the maudlin.

    Never before on vinyl, Softly’s early-’50s Blue Note retro-esque cover might give the impression of a throwback, but it’s nothing of the sort. In elevating the norms of her chosen style, it’s a beautiful rarity, and it’s the best of this strong bunch.

    Les Paul and His Trio, After You’ve Gone

    Dave Brubeck, Time In

    Hank Jones, Arigato

    Shirley Horn, Softly


  • BEST NEW REISSUE : Haruomi Hosono via PITCHFORK

    Though his international esteem is virtually nonexistent, this Japanese polymath pioneered a musical ethic of open borders and freewheeling hybridity, epitomized by five new reissues.

    In the early 1980s, the Japanese singer, bassist, and producer Haruomi Hosono created an idea he called “sightseeing music.” It is a mode of making and listening that asks both creators and consumers to think of themselves as musical tourists, soaking up the sights and sounds of foreign cultures with an open mind and documenting them through personal translations. This peripatetic strategy ignored walls between genres and operated with an ethos of open borders and freewheeling hybridity. This concept powered a catalog of near-encyclopedic breadth. New Orleans funk, Okinawan folk, big-band swing, Bollywood bop, jazz fusion, acid-house chaos: A true musical polymath, Hosono has explored it all.

    Hosono, now in his 70s, remains a titan in his country’s musical history, but he does not strike such a towering figure abroad. Still, the impact of his vision has rippled across vast musical distances, making him perhaps the only artist whose sphere of tangible influence includes Derrick MayAfrika BambaataaDuran DuranKaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and Mac DeMarco. With his techno-pop group Yellow Magic Orchestra, Hosono helped pioneer sounds that shaped modern techno, hip-hop, and synth-pop. While Yellow Magic’s influence is unimpeachable (if underrated), Hosono’s role before and after the band’s pioneering run lingers in the margins. That’s partially because the bulk of his solo work has never been available in the United States, so his brilliance felt like a secret for record collectors and YouTube spelunkers. But a series of long-awaited reissues from Light in the Attic documents a five-album stretch from 1973 to 1989 that offers a revelatory glimpse at a mere sliver of his dizzying discography. At last, Hosono can step toward deserved international attention.

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hosono helped foster a local folk music scene in Tokyo’s Shibuya coffee shops. One of his bands at the time, Happy End, became the first Japanese rock group to singexclusively in the native tongue, teasing out how to bend the idiosyncrasies of the language around Western rhythms. This alone is a career-defining achievement, but Hosono was rapaciously creative. After the band broke up in 1973, he and a group of musicians called Tin Pan Alley (a kind of Japanese answer to Phil Spector’s “Wrecking Crew” of ace session players) rented a pad an hour from Tokyo.

  • Garage rockers The Ar-Kaics stream new single 'She's Obsessed With Herself'

    This Virginia band know their 60s records - their first single is a bit 13th Floor Elevators flavoured.

    This is the real deal. Wayne Gordon, engineer whiz behind Black Lips and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, The Ar-Kaics. The title of their new single is immediately intriguing, it’s called ‘She’s Obsessed With Herself’. See what you think - it's streaming below.

    The American state of Virginia might make you think of the Dave Matthews Band, but turns out they have some great garage bands too, it seems. This sun-bleached American psych tune is just the first from their second album In This Time, due 23 November on Wick Records.

    What’s going on with this home made album cover? I have so many questions about that Jacobean ruff. This Richmond, VA band clearly know what they like, and it’s got to be 60s big beat and The Stooges without a doubt.

    ‘She’s Obsessed With Herself’ harks back to a time when American indie bands were going through all the old British Invasion albums for inspiration, and looks like The Ar-Kaics are up to the same thing.

    You know John Peel would have been a fan of The Ar-Kaic’s home-grown sound - I mean, they’ve managed to resurrect the insult  “square”.

    Gordon might have been working away behind the scenes for Daptone (a big funk and soul label in New York) in the past, but sounds like he’s making a record to fry your mind with this new band.

    Discover more about The Ar-Kaics


  • The Westerlies and Theo Bleckmann, In a New Collaboration, Reflect on 'Another Holiday'



    “Another Holiday” is a song of complex shading, in both musical and emotional terms. There are lyrical details that feel well attuned to the atmosphere of a holiday weekend like this one. “Another holiday / It’s barbecue and pie,” Bleckmann sings. “The kids will run around / And I’ll sit on the side.” But the mournful cast of the melody, and the haunted care in the vocal delivery, hint at deeper, darker considerations.

    Bleckmann wrote “Another Holiday” in June of 2016, shortly after the devastating mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. In a press statement, he put the song in context:

    Unlike my often long and intensely critical editing processes when writing music, “Another Holiday” seemed to appear almost fully formed. This is a not a protest song but a song about being without refuge, of being isolated from your family because of whom you love.

    He sings the song in a deliberative cadence, as in the treatment of a Protestant hymn. Behind him, and all around him, The Westerlies create a sonic canvas at once beautifully consonant and tinged with melancholy unrest. For the first couple of minutes, the ensemble — Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensley on trumpets, Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombones — plays a slow toll of arpeggios, like church bells.

    After the two-minute mark, they introduce a new wrinkle, phrasing their long tones in a way that suggests studio backmasking, like what George Martin famously did on portions of The Beatles’ Revolver. By three minutes in, the arrangement has taken on a double-time feeling; by four, it has moved on to a quality of swarming agitation, with the players employing slurs, double buzzes and other so-called extended brass techniques. (Some of those same strategies are a factor in the group’s Tiny Desk Concert, from 2016.)

    There has been a personnel change in The Westerlies since the video above was shot. Hensler has taken a hiatus to focus on producing; his replacement, who joined the group just in time for the summer residency, is Chloe Rowlands. Among other things, she has led the orchestral brass section for Loft Opera, and plays in the indie band Cape Francis. Like every other member of The Westerlies, she originally hails from Seattle.

    The public premiere of Songs of Refuge and Resistance will be on Sept. 22 in Seattle, at the first annual Westerlies Fest. According to Clausen, the ensemble plans to record the project early next year, and bring it on a concert tour in the 2019/2020 season.

    Elsewhere in the suite, political resistance is brought more to the foreground. A piece called “Thoughts and Prayers” was created for this project by the experimental composer Phil Kline, who incorporated a speech given by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivor and activist Emma Gonzalez early this year.

    As for the undertow of elegy in “Another Holiday,” it feels all the more appropriate in a political season rife with talk of family separations and rampant civic disunity. Toward the end of the song, Bleckmann presents a heartbreaking permutation of the opening verse:

    Another holiday

    It’s barbecue and pie

    How could it be the same

    Without you by my side?

    Then he voices the central wish in the song, which turns out to be articulated by its title. “I want just one holiday,” he sings, moving into his falsetto register. “Just one,” he repeats. “Just one.”


    A substantial portion of my musical education occurred in my early 20’s. Luckily for me, the early 2000’s was a heady and electric time for all manner of underground rock music. While radio rock was still controlled by a very odd blend of nu metal growling and post-grunge groaning, I fell in love with every possible stripe of emo and punk. Sure, the music was still powered by plenty of guitars, but I really connected with the emotional energy more than anything else.

    MANIAC - Dead Dance Club

    So, when Dead Dance Club by MANIAC hit my ears, I was instantly transported back to the front seat of my 1997 Toyota Corolla.

    As I drove all over the greater Houston area listening to acts like Fifteen, MxPx, The Hives, The Strokes, and The Vines. Released in June 2018 on Dirt Cult / Hovercraft Records, this delectable record combined the buzzy sheen of ‘00s revivalist garage rock with the glammy goodness of ‘80s goth-pop. It veritably burst with the swagger second-wave punk rock, and to its credit, it never tried to be anything more than that.

    Over the 28 minutes, the band delivered 12 songs that bristled with punchy hooks, straightforward arrangements, and no-frills guitar rock. I was also impressed with the quartet’s crisp musicianship, in that for all the punk energy on display, you can tell that these gentlemen were locked in tight when laying the tunes to tape in the studio.

    I’m all for bands having fun during the recording process in hopes of capturing the passion of a live show, but I also appreciate that MANIAC opted to be professionals so that people like me could truly appreciate the stellar background harmony vocals, subtle lead lines, and superb drum fills.

    A strong middle third does the heavy lifting for the entire project. “Calamine,” “Modern Love,” “Children of the Dirt,” and “Living in Stereo” showcase the hard work these four guys put into creating guitar-bass-and-drums rock music that struck me as familiar in the best possible way.

    By aiming for classic instead of revivalist, MANIAC swerved wide of sounding reductive or retread.

    MANIAC Band

    Photo by Zach McCaffrey.

    So, yeah, I’ve heard the sounds presented on Dead Dance Club many times before, and I’ll return to them many times in the future. But what matters is that I will always vouch for a band that intentionally crafts a worthwhile update on a nostalgic sound without attempting to be sonic revolutionaries. Sometimes, you just want to listen to the comfortable sounds of good rock music without being pandered to or feeling forced to fend off soppy sentimentality. And MANIAC has delivered exactly that – and I couldn’t be happier.

    Adam P. Newton

    Despite all of the cliches you might have heard about the place, Adam P. Newton actually enjoys living in Texas – most of the time. He currently creates and curates content for a marketing agency, and in his limited free time, he writes a memoir about his journey through music called “Explaining Grownup Music to Kids.”

  • Move Over, Big Star—Here’s Zuider Zee

    Light in the Attic’s Collection of Unreleased Tracks Gives the Memphis Band Its Due

    There are plenty of good reasons why the Memphis-based rock band Zuider Zee never hit it big. Take their name, for example, which came from a Dutch bay that was dammed and turned into dry land, as mentioned in the children’s book Hans Brinker. (Not that the group’s earlier monikers—Thomas Edisun’s Electric Light Bulb Band; Black Brown Orange and Gray; Fair Murphy Wormwood—were any better.)

    There’s also the affinity that Zuider Zee’s singer, guitarist, and chief songwriter Richard Orange had for the British music of his era. Orange was enamored by Beatles-style songcraft as well as the sultry-sweet androgynous sounds of T. Rex and other glam rock bands burning up the English charts in the early ’70s. This put Zuider Zee distinctly out of step with their peers, the blues-rock and boogie bands that were gigging around the American South at the time.

    Perhaps most significantly, the band simply suffered from poor timing. After years of paying their dues—constantly playing live and sneaking into studios during off-hours—Zuider Zee were finally signed to Columbia Records at the exact moment drummer Gary Simon Bertrand quit the band. One self-titled album, ornamented with busy production, came out in 1975 and disappeared without a trace. (Its power-pop ingenuity did earn a fervent fan in Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen.)


    But no one can say that Zuider Zee didn’t break through because their songs weren’t good enough. Zeenith, a new collection of unreleased recordings the group made from 1972 to 1974, has just been released by Seattle label Light in the Attic, and it reveals Zuider Zee to be the equals of the similarly overlooked Memphis band Big Star. These are glorious, chewy, tingling bits of power-pop—superior to the recordings the band officially released on Columbia, and some of the best American pop-rock craftsmanship of the era. While the group ostensibly recorded these songs as demos with no express purpose of releasing them, they’re fully fleshed-out, ingenious bits of record making, with inventive arrangements and the terrific, full-bodied studio sound of recordings made in Memphis and Nashville in the early ’70s.

    Part of Zuider Zee’s allure is Orange’s uncanny vocal resemblance to Paul McCartney. If you throw on Zeenith without telling your friends what’s playing, one of ’em’s bound to comment, “Wait, which Wings album is this?” And it’s no Red Rose Speedway or Speed of Sound, either—Zeenith is more like Band on the Run, with mini-epics like the gloriously riffy “Haunter of the Darkness” and the lovely, acoustic-based “Ackbar Didedar.”

    Offsetting the sweeter edges of Orange’s songwriting is an appealing nastiness, too—the feral quality of a young rock ’n’ roll band paying its dues comes through on the heavier tracks, reminding you this was a band that shared a single crummy house and skipped meals in favor of guitar strings. Fortune was never on Zuider Zee’s side, but hearing an amazing track like “After the Shine’s Gone” 45 years after it was put to tape suggests that maybe some is on ours.



    1984 has already been quite a year. The Donald, now a father for the third time, has finally seen Trump Tower up, running and open for business, and he’s in the middle of rebuilding the skating rink in Central Park. The Soviet army is on alert after President Reagan joked that we’re gonna begin bombing them in five minutes. 46-year-old Jack Nicholson won his second Oscar, for Terms Of Endearment. Apple dramatically introduced the Macintosh computer to the world with an Orwellian commercial directed by Ridley Scott, hot off his success with Blade Runner. And British new-wave outfit A Flock Of Seagulls released The Story Of A Young Heart, which—following 22-year-old guitarist Paul Reynolds leaving the group after it hit record stores—has turned out to be the last LP by the band’s original lineup.

    That is, until now. (OK, we’re back in 2018, McFly.)

    With Ascension (out June 29), Reynolds, Score brothers Mike (vocals, keyboards) and Ali (drums) and bassist Frank Maudsley have gotten the original band back together—with a little help from the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The 12-track LP features A Flock Of Seagulls symphonically redoing all the hits—”I Ran (So Far Away),” “Space Age Love Song,” “Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You),” “Telecommunication,” “Nightmares,” “Transfer Affection”—plus other fan faves, primarily from 1982’s self-titled debut and the following year’s Listen.

    Given that A Flock Of Seagulls had two members who were hairdressers with a taste for the theatrical (and, kids, this is the early ’80s we’re talking about), videos played a big part of the band’s success in the U.S. thanks to frequent airplay on MTV. So it’s not surprising that the quartet already has a new clip from the new album, for the new “Space Age Love Song,” a 1982 top-30 smash in the U.S. that’s still essential ear candy from the greed-is-good decade. And if you don’t believe us, just ask Mike Score: “I knew when I wrote ‘Space Age Love Song,’ it was perfect,” he says. “And it was far beyond what any other new-wave band could do.”

    Unlike during the new-wave era, however, these days band members don’t have to all be in the same studio to make a record. Or, even, the same country. So shooting the video for “Space Age Love Song” also marked the true reunion for the foursome. “We made the record in separate studios around the world,” says Score. “So when we made the video, it was actually the first time we had been all together since 2004. It was a good feeling. That Seagull magic is still there.”

    What isn’t still there, though, is that patented A Flock Of Seagulls hair—hair so groundbreaking and unforgettable that it’s been referenced by name in films like Pulp Fiction and The Wedding Singer. These days, instead of that physics-defying waterfall that resided on top of Score’s head, he’s now rockin’ the cue-ball look. But like they say: Hair today, gone tomorrow.

    We’re proud to premiere the video for “Space Age Love Song” on magnetmagazine.com. Although it took a while, it will make you smile.