So I know we said we’d review all submissions, and we do mean it, and we don’t mean to be mean…
But Jeff Brisbin’s Blame it on Love is decidedly NOT our cup of tea. It is well produced (in our opinion over produced), fairly well written pop music for adult contemporary listeners. And so the advertisements on Brisbin’s website say ‘corporate’, ‘private events’, ‘weddings’, etc. None of our writers are into any of those things.
While we can certainly appreciate all the time and effort that went into this record, we just can’t enjoy cliched, commercially produced pop music. While there are tracks we liked more than others, like the minor key/relatively somber New Year’s Day or ‘For a Song’ (because of the excellent slide guitar work), most of the songs are just cliched soft Boomer love songs or folksy/blues rock that honestly is just boring to our ears. We Blame it on Love. We just love different things Jeff! Different, things…
Nothing inherently wrong with any of it, it’s just… too inoffensive to entertain us. All the songwriting, themes, and notes hit remind us of 70s and 80s soft rock that bugs you in restaurants when you’re trying to eat and, like chat pleasantly with your in-laws.
Recommended for people that like James Taylor, Tracy Chapman, Bruce Hornsby. That ain’t any of us.
Always happy to hear original music from the Capital District though. Thanks for your submission Jeff Brisbin and good luck to you!
I have this ongoing argument with a lot of my friends. Indie rockers, prog nerds, hipsters, contrarians, noise music enthusiasts… for some reason they don’t appreciate current hardcore punk. Sure, the early stuff like Black Flag and Minor Threat was groundbreaking and great they say, but now it’s just people doing the same thing over and over. As if there’s some kind of ‘progression’ in music that’s gonna bring it all to perfection some day. As if they wouldn’t flip their shit for a local band that sounds exactly like Can, or a shitty touring band just because it has some wanker thief of singer songwriter folk cliches like Will Oldham or Bill Callahan.
I get so angry at their hypocrisy and ignorance the only thing that calms me down is blasting music like the 7 inch I just got from Male Patterns loud as my stereo goes for days. Because regardless of whether my friends appreciate it, shit like this to me is some of the most truly honest and authentic music you’ll ever hear, local or otherwise.
That being said, much as I love local hardcore punk, I’m in no sense as versed in it as I should be. I can’t tell you which micro-genre Male Patterns may or may not belong to, whether they’re post crust, pre-grind, powerviolence, etc. I don’t know the difference between a break beat and a whatever else the terminology may be, and don’t give a shit (though as an unpaid but self styled critic perhaps I should).
The most obvious influence a poser like myself immediately hears is early eighties Black Flag (Damaged/Everything Went Black/My War period). Both the sludgey off the cuff riffs of Mike Moak and the angry, raspy vocals of Brendan Halayko unmistakeably invoke that classic period of American hardcore. It’s also clear that Male Patterns has taken cues from dozens (if not hundreds) of local hardcore punk bands both old and new like Police Line and Devoid of Faith. And of course there’s at least some influence from After the Fall, the renowned decades strong local band that guitarist Mike Moak is the frontman, vocalist and guitarist for. There are deep histories mixed in here that whole books could be written about but never will because just a few notes of this split ep convey all the beauty and brutality of an ever evolving yet always true to its roots hardcore punk aesthetic and immediacy.
The first track on side B of this 7 inch (or the first track in general for those of you on bandcamp) is proof positive of what I’m talking about. “Handcuffed to the grid and I’m about to crack, Our lives are micro chipped and there’s no going back… AUTOMATIC!” The world is fucked and so are we. There’s no way out all, you can do is scream into the void. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.
All tracks share a common aesthetic (a common theme with punk bands — songs sound the same and fuck you if you don’t like em); full on starts segueing into rhythmic build ups and take downs, chugging riffs and shouted single word or phrase choruses.
Vocalist Brendan Halayko (who I recognize from his days back with local punk legends the Neutron Rats that we were too drunk to remember seeing) has an idiosyncratic, full throated raspy half shout that conveys grit, anger, and despair in full measure. Regardless of whether or not he sets out to sound original or idiosyncratic, his voice has a rugged angry survivor quality that I haven’t heard the likes of anywhere else (but is clearly influenced by hardcore legends like Henry Rollins).
Self Abuse is lyrically quite similar to a Keith Morris Black Flag song. Straightforward, hopeless, depressing, and kranky as the sky is big.
Fear Mongering is a screed against anyone and everyone that makes life into one paranoid fantasy about terrorism. Fact is danger is everywhere, terrorism’s just one more guise; “A thousand ways to the grave/we’ve evolved so quickly/but are so easily afraid”. It’s all too easy to play on people’s fears to get them to stay inside, live like mice and just consume. But if you fall prey to that, it’s like you’re already dead. Instead, Male Patterns tells us to “Live your life!”
When’s all said and done, to me the greatest thing about the kind of classic, ceaseless hardcore music that’s been going on since the late 70s is its self aware disposability and lack of (endless fight against) pretention. The ultimate nihilistic denial of any sort of progression in a musical form that stays true to its roots instead of trying to have individualized gimmicks that shows how special the group you’re listening to is, the ceaseless recycling and repetition that says ‘this is our music and we’re playing it cause we love it. We don’t want your money or your fame, we just want to express ourselves the same way our heroes have for years for ourselves and our friends who all feel similarly.’
And Male Patterns is yet another in this hardcore grind of American punk bands; they stand out from their peers in a way I really appreciate in their complete lack of trying to be ‘he-man’ music or show off how tough they are (a characteristic of more adolescent and foolish ambitious young punk bands), and what each of their individual talents brings to the band as veterans of dozens of other great punk rock groups that wanted nothing more than to write and play great music, and stop as soon as it stops feeling right and starts feeling like work. And in all likelihood, when this inevitably happens to yet another great punk band and sadly we have no more Male Pattern music to review, we’ll probably hear about Brendan, Mike, KC, and Dan’s new bands. And the vicious cycle continues. You either get it and you love it or you don’t and you never will.
As the mail room attendant here at Times Boredom HQ I get an unusual behind the scenes peek of our operations. Still I was dumbfounded when last monday Scott Koenig, our editor in chief, pulled me aside and said “Gram old boy old pal, you seem to be caught up on your sorting for the day. Maybe you could help me out by doing one of these reviews I’ve got pilling up!”
Not to be one to miss a golden opportunity I started eyeing the folder labeled “Maggot Brain” as I’ve been excited to hear their new stuff. “Not so fast there Grammy boy” Scott knowingly interjected, “I have an album that’s perfect for you, I’ve got to see if your reviews are worth even committing to print before you waste time trying to review a great local metal band.” He handed me a folder labeled “Asa Morris” and I thought to myself, who the hell is that? Hopefully he riffs hard.
Here I am on the following Wednesday figuring that I should probably get this over with before the holiday. Opening the folder up I’m greeted by a fresh pressed CD-R with Loud & Sad scribbled on it in sharpie, an oddly formatted packet of lyrics, and a note from Scott telling me to check my email for the photos and cursing me out for not changing the toner in the color copier again. I pop the cd into my vintage Aiwa XR-X7 CX-LX7U.
The album starts off with an instrumental track named ‘Theme for a British Television Series’ which is a pretty apt name as it starts with a riff reminiscent of something Nick Drake would have come up with (if he hadn’t taken that forever nap after feasting on his happy pills). It drips of the same sort of melancholy but is simpler and as it repeats a full band arrangement joins in for a short jaunt before the track ends at about 41 seconds fading out one note for about 60 more seconds — at least I think. I don’t know for sure as I skipped to the next track.
While the next track, ‘Away We Go’, started playing I opened up my email and poured myself a pint of Rebel Yell bourbon. The tune can only really be described as lo-fi pop. I’m almost glad the lyrics were included in the folder as the vocals were buried in the busy and noisy mix. I say almost because the last thing this world needs right now is another song about driving across the country for a girl.
As the next track starts the cover image finishes loading (on my 56 kb/s internet connection). I think it’s a purple cat. It might not be a cat but it looks more like a cat with every sip of bourbon. Unlike the track I very much like cats. The track reminds me of my recurring nightmares of being forced to listen to shitty rock tunes on the school bus early in the morning. With its creepy toy piano/ palm muted guitar chord progression, the track repeats until a false climax around the one minute mark where Asa kicks on a distortion pedal and strums the same power chord 69 times (hehehe) before the piano loop begins again and the guitar goes back to being annoying. The whole thing loops around again this time with some extra strumming when the power chord gets loud again and the song ends with the chord progression with the distortion pedal left on.
The next track is another hissy instrumental with a name I like, Paper Bag on Fire, which makes me think that the paper bag is filled with what this album is made out of. At this point as I’m pouring another pint of critic juice the photo of Asa pops up right underneath my mouse cursor and it looks like there is a little hand on his nipple. I included a photo of the photo, look at it, it’s so funny.
Finally we have come to the end of the album, and to its title track ‘Loud & Sad’. I actually kinda like this song though it may be the booze talking or maybe i’m just used to hearing songs mixed like this or even quite possibly it’s the lyrics that make me think he didn’t get the girl after all. Who doesn’t like seeing the hero fall on his face? Either way Asa, whoever the fuck you are, if you do ever read this if you got the girl it’s not because of this record. It’s despite it ,and that’s real love. If you didn’t it would give you a chance to make a better album for the right woman. One with maybe a clearer mix that even the shittiest of speakers can reproduce clearly and less of that one pitch shifting delay used all over that makes this album sound like 2013 all over again. Remember next time you can’t polish a turd, it’s too soft, you have to shellac it. To most of the others who will read this it may sound a bit harsh but at least this chap has put out an album, his fourth this year. You most likely haven’t and that makes you a bigger turn than what you could fit in the bag.
On their latest album Illumine, Maggot Brain has delivered their long awaited follow up to their phenomenal full length debut Stop and Breathe. This album clearly sees the band moving away from pure sludge metal and post-hardcore, experimenting with the stoner of Sleep, the prog of Isis, and the great early work of popular sludge band (now who knows what to call em) Mastodon. However, all the old fervor and brutality of their former albums and singles are still heavy in the mix. Maggot Brain is clearly growing and developing, experimenting with the dozens of metal genres that have evolved over its fifty year history (even NWOBHM believe it or not).
One thing that hasn’t changed is the uncompromising vocals, especially of lead singer Mike Hait. Despite the increased use of melody, riffs, effects, and lulling passages from the rest of the band, all vocals from all contributing members are still painfully screamed without mercy, vanity, or anything approaching the more commercial side of sludge and stoner metal you might hear on the radio. This may be after all what sets Maggot Brain completely apart from their peers, the unyielding in your face post-hardcore throat straining vocals that remind one of Steve Von Till of Neurosis, but only when he fuckin screams. Also it probably should be mentioned these guys are clearly influenced by forty years of local hardcore and metal scenes, spanning hundreds of bands that most of us have never heard of (though we’d be happy to trade 7 inches of the ones we have). And as usual, the beautifully sorrowful doom/noise passages that show how little they care for ‘staying in their lanes’ and differentiate them from so many other metal bands that refuse to grow or change.
This album was clearly layered by the band, moving from relatively laid back (though portentous of doom of course) to full driving madness and back again several times through the course of the record. As soon as you’re lifted up and driven on, they unexpectedly bring you back down to the ‘pit of despair’ in split seconds. And then back up just as quickly.
The record begins with a harsh though low noisey passage (somewhat similar to their previous album which began with a short buddhist throat chant), which segues into a wailing stoner riff with a beautiful echo delay that keeps the noise in the mix. Death metal/metalcore vocals, bass and drums join the mix for what’s clearly a far more laid back song then Maggot Brain’s produced before. Spiraling is a triumph of noise and stoner metal that could be a radio hit if not for all its spikey edges. It ends with a sludgey, almost grunge riff.
Sharp Teeth builds the momentum with drummer Jared Krak double kicking, Sean Fortune’s grinding bass lines and Ryan Slowey’s palm muted riffs; the typical fare I’ve come to expect from Maggot Brain. It builds to a galloping wail, all the while post-hardcore/grind vocals from both lead and backing vocals of Hait, Slowey and Fortune. Then ends on a doom note, shouting vocals fading out into noise. Lyrics are brutally unsentimental and, like much death metal, make frequent reference to body parts and the scar tissue that forms over emotional suffering.
As the Crow flies is straight sludge/post-grind at full driving clicks. Aptly so given the lyrical content references the envisioned Christian resurrection, rejecting any notions of heavenly fare offered, instead riding into the sun “to burn in the flames forever”. Halfway through the song slows to the progressive sludge and nihilistic sound of turn of the century Neurosis.
The Beast again gallops. The lyrics are the stereotypically ominous, almost prophesizing. Recognizable as being influenced by Neurosis, but also possibly Black Flag (Neurosis began after all as a fairly straight hardcore band). By now the tone and speeds of the record are clear. If you love it by now, you’re gonna love the rest. If you don’t, well fuck you then.
Illumine is the track that stands out on the record. Seguing noise/doom passages reminiscent of Isis lead up to proggy metal style jamming. The vocals join, way low in the mix. Lyrics are impenetrable and clearly very personal. This is clear doom to show the band’s not finished experimenting with any genre they like.
By Paradise Hill, the influence of both Neurosis and early Mastodon comes barreling in, rushing without mercy nor sentimentality. This song is almost catchy in its soaring chord progression, preceded and ante by the driving sludge Maggot Brain’s known for.
And then another left turn into The Sea which is practically Slayer/NWOBHM style hyper blues/metal, followed by those soaring noise metal passages I personally love.
The album ends with Eidolon, the track where Isis’ influence is most clearly heard. The whole song is like an ode to that sickly sweet prog/doom, battered of course by the vicious vocals.
Overall, this record is certainly not as stark or immediately ear catching as their 2012 effort. It’s a record that grows on you and digs its bloody claws into your mind slowly, churning with the ages of a thousand thousand metal and hardcore bands that add their influences into the mix. Maggot Brain is clearly transitioning and experimenting. I can’t wait to hear where they go next.
The strongest influence I heard when I first listened to Lone Phone Booth was an unmistakable similarity to the vocals of Chan Marshall/Cat Power. However, since Grace Annunziato (the mastermind/main songwriter behind Lone Phone Booth) is at least 20 years younger than I am, it’s difficult to determine a concrete set of influences given my own time limited knowledge base. Even if the influences I hear and am familiar with are present, it’s possible that these have come to Annunziato removed through other, newer artists.
In any case the beautifully sorrow and highly expressive vocals are at least Marshallesque, though they also at times sound Van Ettenesque (Sharon), Timonate (Mary, of Helium fame), or Jane O’Neilly (TJO from so many great bands… I’ll stop now). Especially since the music, while poetically sorrowful and at times as hopeless as Cat Power, herald a wide range of influences and personal innovations. Especially on tracks like 222; a hi-fi version of a beautiful yet endlessly unhappy version of an early lo-fi Cat Power track yet replete with strings and all kinds of warm sounds from signature found sounds (which are almost always present on all the songs on the album) and noise collages.
Another influence I hear loud and distorted (which to be fair I hear everywhere in good independent rock like music that may well have come from their influence on grunge, Radiohead, and every other good thing that’s come out since them) is Sonic Youth. This record is rife with intentional delays, missteps, and a wall of noise at least made partially by naturally distorted guitars. But also, a striving for good yet unusual pop vocal and guitar line melodies to accompany the less traditional, more experimental (and thus to me at least far more interesting) music. A Month in Autumn, for example, could be a lost track from Sister. It even has a noise buildup and breakdown at the end. But I also hear echos of of Sonic Youth acolytes such as Polvo and Blonde Redhead. And who knows what the kids are actually listening to these days that sounds like the shit I know? Yeah, I’m old. So old I should stop rambling metastically about influences which I’m most likely getting all wrong already, right?…
Yeah. So, not only is Lone Phone Booth impressive for a local group, but as I already knew from their debut album ‘Music For the Faint of Heart’, has the potential to be a national (albeit underground as all good music is in this century) phenomenon in the independent rock community. But this usually requires ceaseless touring, label support, and an enormous word of mouth, or better yet word of mass media like Pitchfork or Stereogum. For now Lone Phone Booth only has word of mouth. But the words are getting louder and more encouraging with every new piece of music released. Music for the Faint of Heart was one hell of a debut album, but alot of that greatness was in the potential that was clearly available to this undeniably talented and unique singer songwriter. RE/SOUND has completely, magnificently delivered on that potential promise.
Whereas the previous record relied on fairly typical ambient sounds like low pitched conversations for background noise and muttered singing that reminded me (probably not many others by this point given how OLD all my references are) of the second Velvet Underground record (valuing ambience above all else), this record uses far more unusual noises for its found sounds. And also like the self-titled ‘Velvet Underground’ RE/SOUND is full of wonderfully catchy and pretty pop melodies. The use of ambient sounds not usually found in typical music is on full display on “Greyhound”, made up in large part by old touch tone and early modem sounds. But, of course, these noises are blended in with synths and processed to give them a background fuzz that blends them seamlessly into the song in a way that probably makes every other songwriter ask themself; why don’t we do that?!
In terms of pop melodies, every other track that doesn’t include experimental noise passages or starts and stops delivers not only catchy tunes but well played guitar lines, such as Dimmer and Creation Myth. Iridescent similarly has beautifully worked out melodies alongside found sounds like clinking silverware(?) which reminds me of the tender sullenness of a Tara Jane O’Neill song. A mesmerizing passageway into a sombre picture of an everyday humdrum living space where “each floor board creaks and snores”. And when you try to influence or change things, big or small, “some plants die, and some plants grow. how much of it can u control?” Not a lot. But the way Grace describes it is highly controlled, and conveys exactly the message the lyrics paint with the unusual but highly skilled guitar playing and drop outs for unusual sound collages.
There are also a couple of unexpected tracks that border on circus music, and when listening to the lyrics you see how well it fits. For example, Creation Myth (ostensibly based on a bizzarre Larry Bird obsessed Svalina poem) asks;
“when you sink to the bottom of the stew, who are you? reality can be a downer too, one strange view.”
The even more evil carnival feel of the depressingly (ironically) peppy Hot Wax begins with a lyric that reminds me of the Bedhead song ‘Unfinished’, both of which start with dipping your fingers in hot wax. But it ends with the devastating realization that; “Even when you dissolve, you still have to work your job” — a cryptic statement like that somehow makes perfect sense, in this silly unplanned circus of a protestant work ethic society of ours where your life is defined by whether you work or not and the only thing you have to do to ostensibly prove your worth is going in to work every day. And Annunziato’s wise enough to know “there will be pain, it will go away…”, like it’s all just some stupid joke that still unreasonably guides our silly, pointless little lives and deaths.
Overall, this second (we think; if not, tell us where we can get the others!!!) record delivers on the promise of “Music for the Fain of Heart” to fulfillment and then some. Lone Phone Booth and its ‘lead visionary’ (we’re not actually sure how many of the instruments are played by Annunziato given the litany of at least a dozen other people that are ‘featured’) have here clearly taken their songs to the next level. Proving to be adept at both ambient noise, aptly scored backgrounds played by ‘classical’ instruments, AND innovative sounds from everyday objects that seamlessly careen into a sleepy, pensive, and sombre in the best way record.
Per our understanding, Annunziato and the other members of Lone Phone Booth recently attended the College of St Rose (which has a surprisingly excellent musical program and studio). It’s unclear if they will remain here in the Capital District or move on to greener or more urban pastures in the near and/or far future. Wherever they venture, we’ll certainly be following them. Though we hope upon hope that they’ll stay in the area and perform live for a long time to come. It adds so much beautiful noise that we here at Times Boredom and in the Capital District independent DIY scene can NEVER get enough of. Thanks so much for sharing your voice and your vision with us. It hasn’t and won’t go unnoticed, and we’ll sing its praises to anyone willing to listen.
Do yourself a favor and give Lone Phone Booth’s new record a listen here, or on Spotify or other streaming services. We do however, highly recommend the Bandcamp link, where if you make a purchase all proceeds go to the presciently relevant and vitally important GWORLS rent and gender affirming surgery fund, which provides badly needed help and community services for transgender black people.
Let me start out by saying this is a record made by a band of scene veterans, that only old dogs like myself will truly appreciate and gush over but certainly can be appreciated by anyone that has a deep and abiding love for anti-corporate rock music.
Do you remember when J. Mascis would drive east from Amherst and put together a band with the cream of the capital district crop to back him up; Jason Martin, Troy Pohl, Suzanne Thorpe, Al Kash? Times Boredom remembers.
With Sky Furrows, famous journalist, music critic (intimidating to be criticizing a critic!), poet and performer (collaborating with superstars like Mike Watt, Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby) Karen Schoemer has done something similar in Saratoga. At first glance you could say she hired a pre-grouped band of performers based on their all being associated with Burnt Hills, but each of them has an independent voice and has worked on multiple projects throughout the years both during and prior to their involvement with seminal regional superstar collective (that dozens have played for or in one time or another) Burnt Hills. And with this group of talented noise scenesters that includes introverted solo recorders Parashi and Rambutan, members of Century Plants, etc. (the list goes on much longer but stops around there on the press release) unlike J., Sky Furrows has made something lasting, significant, and, if you don’t mind an old dog howling along… fantastic!
Unlike your and my new and old bands, none of the members of Sky Furrows are trying to be the new or the next anything. They’ve been there. They haven’t tried to merge sludge with level plane style screamo to be on Pitchfork’s list of the ’10 greatest new sludgo bands’. They’re a band playing music they love, have always loved, and will always love. Hipsters and societal trends in contemporary music be damned. The sound is clearly retro and eclectic, but the music is true to its independent, outsider cultural force that independent rock and punk decidedly was. And obviously in their case still is; this band is for those of us that comb through old independent record stores shelves and old label catalogues, still seeking that additional great one neither we nor any of our friends have somehow ever heard all these years that are say, the missing link between post-punk and lo-fi… Sky Furrows’ sound is both tied to a very particular point in time yet timeless. It runs the gamut from proto-punk straight through to post noise rock without any skips, jumps, or irregularities that wake you from this timeless indie-rock (what the term meant in the early 90s, not the aughts or later) classic.
And when you hear them you can tell right away they’re all well versed and rehearsed. Their influences voluminous. The experience contained within their roster intimidating. 30 or 40 years of experience from Brooklyn to Saratoga, from SST to SYR, from Mike Watts to Burnt Hills (or their similar comparative collective Sunburned Hand of the Man from the Massachusetts side)…
The music, when taken altogether on the surface oddly enough reminds me most of mid to late 90s Sonic Youth. Hardiman’s solid, interesting bass lines often decorated by easy slides up and down, in and out. Locked in by Donnelly’s skillfull busy drumming and seamless fills of tried and true indie rock rhythms (with plenty of jazz references intentionally willfully or not, often using a brush kit). Guitar chords, lines, rhythms and strum work from the outstanding undeniably well versed Mike Griffin. As for the vocals, I’m immediately reminded of the typical speak singing of famous poets ‘rapping’ over punk rock and no wave in the late seventies and eighties east village. And then, of course, the famous women that took it to the next level, specifically Patti Smith and Kim Gordon (although Lydia Lunch definitely deserves a place in there Karen just doesn’t evoke that kind of raw unsophisticated rage). Just like these NYC poetess legends, Schoemer exhibits both confidence and vulnerability, the knowledge that what she’s writing is important and at times even brilliant… But she always has enough humility to consistently break 4th walls whenever she finds herself getting too serious (a line she’s better at staying below than some of the decidedly pretentious rants Smith and Gordon have gotten into over the years — the trappings of too much fame and worship).
The band’s sound must be described as minimalist. A standard drum kit, bass lines that run the gamut from seventies punk to distorted 90s angst, and a mostly clean indie rock guitar laying down the rhythm and melodies beneath the poet frontwoman that sings neither verse or chorus, but speaks her lines in an unpretentious amelodic relatively unemotional though sometimes too quickly (trying to say scores of lines per song) sings peak. Yeah, it can get pretty beatpoet/beatnik (or hippie if you’re unfamiliar with the nice way to say it). But not in an annoying way, not to me. More like a measured, knowledgeable way that makes use of volumes of precedent, takes the good aspects and foregoes the shit everyone knows and makes fun of. Mostly. Other people will probably view the entire soundscape as pretentious east village shit. No one can help that. If you don’t like what they like, you sure as shit ain’t gonna like Sky Furrows (and I’m guessing they really don’t care. This is a mature group of people that knows exactly what they’re doing and who they appeal to).
While influences like Sonic Youth and the Minutemen are easy to hear and point out, the roots go so deep that some of what I hear is the similarity of lesser known but also great 80s and 90s indie bands like Seam and Pell Mell. And I’m sure every critic could find a dozen other bands they like that are either obvious influences when you think about it or buried deep within the beautiful mosaic..
The obvious standout track is the first one, and one those of us that have been watching them for awhile now are already familiar with, Alyosha. I’ve read through the lyrics many times now and am still trying to figure out whether the reference is to the famous Alyosha (Karamazov) or not. It seems to be about woman. A number of different women, each of who has their own stream of random thoughts which are all kind of tied together by the fact that being women influences how they think, how they may be excluded in music scenes, etc. No idea what it has to do with Alyosha.
The second track Ensenada is almost like a cover/renewal/sequel to the 3rd track on the first Stooges record ‘We will Fall’ (how’s that for a deep cut?). A rolling baseline rapped over by both a sing song vocalist, constantly changing drum/tom lines and fills and heavily effected guitar. I can practically hear the ‘ho gee ranjha’ or whatever the fuck the Ashetons are saying in the background. The only issue I have with this track (and the album in general) is its placement; I understand that they’re trying to let you know they’re an experimental band that jams and has far out guitar effects and experimental noises (sounds like a mix of reverb pedals, a glass slide, strumming and picking the strings right above the neck or below the bridge) sooner rather than later, but a track this long and low that just hangs for a long time shouldn’t be at this spot in the record… maybe at the end like Sister Ray so you can groove out or shut it off if you don’t feel like listening to all the wanking…
36 ways of looking at a memory has a sound so familiar and yet so hard to place; because it’s that song your band played 20 years ago that never quite came together because you knew it was so great it deserved more than your band could do for it; well Sky Furrows did it and finished it beautifully. There’s no chorus (like the other songs, not even a repeated phrase, just anti-commercial stream of conscious banter), and it’s made unnecessary by the recurring bridge full of affected guitars. Not to mention the guitar chords that define the verse and most of the track that are so despairing and angsty yet enduring you can’t help but picture yourself on a downtown stoop smoking a joint with your friends complaining about highways and trains and crummy diners trying to remember a bunch of references at once struggling against the short term memory affects of the weed…. well that’s how it affects me anyway. And the regional references to the Taconic, Kew Gardens, and Prospect Park only serve to make me think the song could very well be my own thoughts some night…
The Mind Runs a Race and Falls down is pure low key late Sonic Youth (in the beginning I hear Thurston’s ghostly voice about to say ‘these are the words but not the truth’…) / To me it’s about a complicated relationship that’s both great and entirely frustrating — great as long as you’re not asked to define it, but as always Karen feels she has to; “We’re not exactly lovers and not exactly sister and brother”.
By Foreign Cities the band’s in comfortable and by now familiar territory. Like the last few songs have been gaining momentum and this one revved it way up with immediacy and much stronger velvet underground tones, then went straight into triple overtime (which is the best and most unexpected part of any game) … this was the great song everyone would demand an early eighties borderline no wave band of regulars at cbgb’s play whenever they took the stage. A neurotic New York rant about someone longing to travel but getting caught up in a swarm of planning with old maps from a shit low wage jobs and ideas about old hollywood starlets and where did we begin (somewhere in a sontag novel that unconsciously segued into a Saul Bellow passage, a Suzanne Vega rant, something an angry twenty something keeps yelling drunkenly on the street)? ‘I wasn’t fired! I quit!’ Truly a lost classic that no one knew was out there. A perfect energetic closer that leaves you cheering for an encore.
Apology by way of footnotes; this review wasn’t written by a professional writer but rather a real fan. One that’s very grateful that the music they love and have always loved is still being made and innovated upon and somehow, despite all the difficulty involved and research they otherwise would have had to have done to have found this fantastic record in a dusty old record store about to be shutdown, it somehow fell in my lap. This one’s a keeper for sure.
So we’ve been chatting with Lucas Garrett back and forth on Facebook and we can say, without qualification, he’s a real cool guy. Mostly because not only did he reach out to us here at Times Boredom, but he did so to tell us how much he enjoys our shitty little anti-commercial blog. And furthermore, he likes it so much he wanted to be featured in an article!
To be clear, ANYONE that thinks our diamond in the shit publication is good or funny or even ironically enjoyable is fucking cool in our book. Someone that wants to be featured, well that’s just smart (but risky) marketing, given how much fame and fortune it unfailingly grants bands we write articles soon thereafter (even if we do sometimes cross the line and make too much fun of them). Problem on our end is, lazy stoners that we are, we never came up with an idea for an article; it might have helped to have seen Mr. Garrett and/or his band live, but you know, the pandemic’s kinda put a dampener on that. And everything else about live music.
Anyway, this cooler than fucking cool guy says ‘I forgive you lazy dickheads for not making a mockumentary style article that you just ripped off from hardtimes.net and changed the names to to sound like it’s about me, but seriously, can you at least just review my upcoming ep?’
Which makes him a cool, really brave musician; if you’re unfamiliar with our reviews, we put a HUGE FUCKING WARNING on our submission page. We are brutally honest. And often times this can be inappropriate, as we’re very hung up on the type, style, and commercial considerations of a group or artist. Perhaps even more so than whether they make good music or not. So, say, if someone makes excellent Elton John influenced music, we’re gonna hate it and not pull any punches. Not because we have anything musically or even personally against Elton John, but his songs are bitter to our ears, and then they make themselves comfortable and stick around anyway especially when you don’t want them to. Not to mention the non-diy non-independent nature of his commercial music, which to our stable of far leftist ‘tankies’ is offensive before we even hear a note. And we’re not fair or even-handed enough to leave our prejudices against certain artists and styles at the door when reviewing newer stuff, instead writing as though the influenced artist is somehow themselves guilty of the sins of their influencers…
Point is we’re dickheads. And when it comes to reviews, we play dirty and sometimes even nasty. And our pal Lucas, (I know we haven’t known you for that long, but before you read this review you’d say we’re pals, right buddy?), well aware of our shitty, unnecessarily mean reputation, asks us to review his pop/rock ep that, if his old stuff is any indication, is gonna lean on some commercial indie pop rock (let’s assume none of it’s corporate for the sake of our enjoyment) for at least a significant portion thereof (also knowing full well that we worship only unlistenable noise and brutal funeral doom). On the other hand as we’ve heard and see with the cover artwork, his work may becounterbalanced by a healthy dose of cow punk, maybe some Minutemen style post-hardcore funk punk? Still, we’re afraid we’re gonna say something mean (given our style of radical truth telling) and then we won’t be buddies no more. But we did promise we’d review anything we got. Even if it does hurt our friends’ feelings and our chance of being buddies in the future. So, here we go, and god help us all…
(Please keep in mind that the above pre-ramble is meant to not only cover our asses in the likely event someone gets rightfully pissed and throws the grenade back at us, but also to stop any of our ‘fairweather fans’ out there just looking for a short, cute, funny article to continue reading this one. Are you still reading? Ok. You’ve been adequately warned and then some.)
We usually start our mean reviews by at least noting that the artist and their crew are talented individuals. And in the case of Lucas Garrett (who does the lions’ share of leading on lead vocals and guitar, synths, MIDI programming, etc), bass player Kevin Kossach, and Emmet Rozelle on drums, there’s no doubt whatsoever that this is the case (past bands that backed up Mr. Garrett are a veritable who’s who of talented up and coming Glens Falls musicians). And though much of the percussive and bass work is entirely excellent (as can be heard when either or both are briefly highlighted at times over other instruments as all too short instrumental interludes give way back to melody or during one of many percussive fills that don’t miss a beat) the talent here is clearly meant and does a near perfect job of highlighting the songwriting and performing talents of Lucas Garrett. To make a long review short(er), the band’s tight as a drum. So in sync and overtly professional we wonder why all of these talented musicians (including Garrett himself of course) aren’t making mad bank doing studio work for labels with lots of money (hopefully they are when they’re not doing this). But here, they’re doing an excellent enough job to make you almost forget (unlike most of the other more amateur records we review) that you’re listening to an unsigned non major label release that’s clean cut in all the right places.
In addition to the sound being nothing short of disturbingly professional and unobtrusive, the overall effect is almost entirely unique. You can perhaps guess at influences here and there, but they’re almost impossible to pinpoint. No one’s trying to sound like this band or show off how well they know the depth of some obscure Beach Boys record, but rather, the effortlesness comes straight from what sounds like a long course of study and craft honing over the course of entire careers. So I’m not going to go into the influences or what they’re trying to sound like because, honestly, I don’t hear anyone else’s voice on this record. Other than perhaps a broadly generic though interesting sort of laid back roots rock with just the right amount of funk and latin rhythms to let you know they’re taking all influences equally to make the sound precisely what they want it to be.
By far the most unique part of the Lucas Garrett experience is his vocal stylings. And just like other great songwriters whose unique voices have been relentlessly criticized but appreciated by real fans (Dylan, Will Oldham, Neil Young, etc), Garrett’s is a style that’s entirely idiosyncratic and fits within the unique and original melange of sound. Just like say (and no I’m not heralding influences here I explained that earlier) Leon Redbone or Leo Kottke, the music, the instrumentals, and the songs are inseparable from the interesting and entirely unique vocals of the songwriter. Garrett sings in a clipped, meanderingly tranquil baritone that never reaches far beyond a short range or ‘reaches’ in any way, for high notes, melody, or any other unnecessary accoutrement that will take away from the highly individual style and nothing more, nothing less than exactly what the songs require. It comes off as entirely unpretentious, comfortingly familiar, and yet completely unaffected or gimmicky. It’s breathtakingly honest yet repressed in a way that’s at times calming and at times heartbreaking, like someone trapped by trying to focus on the positive and not get emotional when everything around them may be hurtful, enraging, or just plain losing its shit. Track one proclaims: “The wires are humming/My mind is burning/The world is burning/What the hell can we do?”.
Unlike the familiar, ecclectically professional and straightforward music, the lyrics for the songs are rather opaque and quixotic. I gotta admit I’ve looked over them many a time while listening to the ep, and I can’t say for certain I’ve figured out what any of the songs are meant to say or convey, whether they’re about a person, contain a narrative, etc. But much like, say, early R.E.M. (not citing influences just comparing to other great works!), the mysterious and subjective nature of the nearly impenetrable lyrical meaning leaves the listener completely in control of how they wish to interpret the songs and make them their own.
The mysterious complexity of this record can be contrasted with the lack of experimententation with song structures, instrumentation, and song lengths. Each intricate piece of each fully formed track sounds like something you’ve heard before, sometimes in a good way but too often defined entirely by droll wit. It’s as though what’s so great about this record is what it’s hiding, but in many respects it’s hiding it too well. The songs are at times even too academic. Studied and well thought out is good, but when it’s accompanied by what sounds like a fear to explore outside of structured modalities and expected changes in tempo, chord sequences, and fretwork, it often comes together as too safe. We’d like it very much if Lucas Garrett took his songs further, as he does infrequently and never for very long when it appears the band is almost jamming, the bass lines holding a steady but creeping change, the percussion going just a little wild… but always, unfortunately, staying within well defined parameters.
This ep, like most of Lucas Garrett’s work that came before it, is enjoyable and even at times remarkable primarily in two respects; first and most obviously, in the breadth and scope of its own self-awareness. Garrett and the players are obviously well studied, well rehearsed, and very experienced in both their craft, their approaches, and the lines that always seem to converge on a central, comforting and familiar theme of rhythmic independent pop/rock. Second, the uniqueness of the vocals and the ‘roads not taken’ in the songwriting bear witness to an unmistakeable atmosphere of repression. Like a latter day Karen Carpenter, the very self-assured and solid songs, songwriting, and never too far boundaries to which they’re pushed thinly veil an underlying sense that, even though he’s trying to convey (to us? to himself? to the world at large? someone he’s trying to impress?) a sense of remorseless dignity and a professional ability to handle EVERYTHING, it’s clear that there are stronger emotional and musical elements that are hiding underneath.
And this second great strength and intrigue is also what can be so heart breaking about Garrett’s work in general. It’s as though he’s so professional and concerned with writing a perfect yet interesting pop song according to a constrictive (yet entirely useful — great careers in music have been made on much less with much less ability) set of assumptions and givens, that he doesn’t realize that the castle’s made of sand. The songs and the instruments could be much more free. As they are, they’re charmingly well written, catchy, and somewhat unique… but as they could be, as evidenced by the periods on the ep at which the songs begin to lose their bearings, but then are just as quickly brought back into the fold of a fairly straight line with well worn yet enjoyable conventions, could be as expansive as Lucas Garrett would let himself be.
Overall, a really good ep in a series/career of good to quite impressively good songs, recordings, and performances. But much like so much contemporary music that gets stuck in a certain way of being to set itself into an enjoyable or marketable niche, if it were to drop some of the rocks, it could be great.
Ok so I guess the only mystery bigger than why a band from Texas would relentlessly pursue a more pop-oriented less experimental shoegaze in 2020 is why the fuck would a shoegaze band from Texas send their demo to an online publication that’s more than 50 feet underground in upstate New York?!
Theory #1; they think that ‘New York’ is ‘NEW YORK!’ i.e. Manhattan/Brooklyn. It’s not. We know nothing about the shoegaze scene in Manhattan or Green Point or wherever it’s centered in the City other than a Place to Bury Strangers had an interesting take on it around 10 years ago (which more importantly was good news because when we reviewed albums for another publication 10 years ago we got a free copy of a pink vinyl by the previous band some of their members were in called Skywave that made me $25 at my local record store).
Theory #2; they’re getting ‘New York’ confused with international American Heime Ville/Hollywood and think I can get someone’s ‘attention’ for them. In which case, you get points for trying since my Uncle was in a band with Harvey Weinstein, however, I highly doubt anyone wants to be ‘discovered’ by him or anyone like him right now if ever again. Also, if this is true (which I’m sure it’s not I’m just trying to be slightly offensively funny), bad EEP! Assuming that semites ‘know people’ in the show business is sort of anti-semitic. Shame on you.
Seriously though the serious mystery here; why would a self labelled shoegaze band from El Paso Texas be sending their demo out for review in 2020? I could understand if shoegaze was one of their influences (since recycling it does seem to be proving to be a shortcut to hipsterdom far longer than any other early nineties genre including any of the many that the (now) super beyond superhip Melvins invented) or if they were taking shoegaze to the next, or at least a new, level. Perhaps recycling some of the proto-shoegazers like Spacemen 3, Loop, or Jesus and Mary Chain to create a new interesting really genre bending electronic noise/noisecore/noise rock element which actually would explain why they sent it here too — we actually do get press releases from Whores. ever since we wrote a fake local music news story involving them so perhaps if you google some weird combination of ‘underground noise rock review blog’ Times Boredom comes up.
I guess the point is that I feel like I can write a bunch of bullshit to try to either make you laugh or roll your eyes because honestly there’s nothing worth writing about this band. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with them. Their songs would be pretty decent throwaway tracks on, say, Souvlaki or Glider. But they are just purely recycling every shoegaze trope, and worse yet they’re doing it in a disturbingly clean and almost anti-experimental way. There are no really strange production techniques, surprising druggy interludes that either disturb or pull you in or spit you back out, or long indeterminably noise passages… Their bandcamp name isn’t EEP.bandcamp.com, it’s ‘eepshoegaze.bandcamp.com’. And as much as their short description advertises their ‘eclectic’ shoegaze, the only real diversity of influences here is that they range from Ride to Chapterhouse. Unlike most groups that take Jesus and Mary Chain or MBV/Kevin Shields as a starting point and experiment from there, EEP seems to start from there, remove as much of the innovation and bizarre aspects that make it most interesting, summarize and homogenize the genre split it into easily digestable 4 minute chunks and, well, even then make pretty boring stuff.
Of course I could have been much nicer about this all and started from the assuming point that the group makes the music they do because they simply have a deep love and endless respect for the shoegaze genre and don’t think anything should be done to change that perfect sound regardless of what critics or fans think… but then I’d still have to ask why they didn’t just start a cover band or make their music, put it up on bandcamp like everyone else and NOT take the pretentious step of thinking their band is so good or interesting that they’d carpet bomb online review sites so much so that they’d hit a tiny bomb shelter in upstate New York.
If you want our advice (and we recognize that no one does nor should as really deep underground critics obviously can’t do to say the least), we suggest you branch out quite a bit… maybe become the actually eclectic shoegaze band you say you are. Or better yet take an aspect of shoegaze that really defined and was great about the genre, like the electronics and production experimentation or signal to noise ratio and how long you can hold it before it becomes anti-commercial… etc.
This record took us entirely out of our safe and hate zones, for which we are exceedingly greatful.
We don’t know glitch hop or lo fi beats idm electronic subgenres et al, so unfortunately we’re not really educated enough to adequately and accurately rate and put this record in any context whatsoever that we’d be satisfied with.
However, what we do know is what we hear, we like. We respect. We are intrigued by.
(above; an uninformative picture of the artist that raises as many questions that you know no answers will be given to as the befuddling nature of the music itself)
Apostrophe Beats is the brain child of omnipresent Albany scenester Dan Paoletti. A mover and a shaker behind countless shows, projects, and collaborations, Dan’s a guy you probably know if you’re involved and you’re cool. We don’t.
(That was a joke but also completely true.)
The album in question contains 21 tracks that typically run for around 2 and a half minutes, but there are plenty of sub minute and one nearly 5 minute tracks just to keep you on your toes. It’s like it’s a feeling. Not a song, not separate tracks; an entire lasting mood. Ostensibly about life for Mr. Paoletti in Upstate New York, we can certainly relate here. There’s something about everything here that includes everything you might think of; from Lark Street where if you close your eyes you can almost pretend you’re in the East Village, to North Troy where danger lurks around but when you’re there on a sunny day, you’re a bit high, it feels like an experience you just really want to have somehow. Well, those and to the sprawling suburbs of Levittown like communities that may be conservative, gun loving, pickup truck driving classic rock enthusiasts — they’re kind of unrepresented on this trek of Upstate New York. How unfortunate.
The genre is unknown to us but we did a bit of research. For starters, we think the idea of dance music that you can’t dance to is fucking brilliant. And the constant tempo switches, the confusing slurry vocals that sometimes figure in, and the chill out organs and horn parts (?) that constantly pop in and out make you feel like you’re on even more drugs than the instrumentals do to start with. There’s no guidemap here, no straight raving, no glow sticks, no 4/4 or headbanging. Just pure experimental electronic music like nothing we’ve heard.
Some somewhat similar stuff I’ve familiar with includes ambient house, trip hop (more Tricky than Portishead), and early 90s hip hop like Tribe Called Quest and De la Soul might figure in to the paradigm within which we hear this. But we don’t get the theory from any reference points of the paradigm. We are without an oar here to paddle through the overall melange of sounds that comes out. Some influences definitely show up. You can feel the 90s hip hop, some slow jams, some ‘chill out’ music for lack of a better term (and that is a terrible term). But the sounds, the format, are all unexpected and feel almost unmoored.
In contrast to true ‘chill-out’ records we’ve played like say the good Orb stuff (yes there was good Orb stuff), when we hear pretty much any of the tracks on Upstate Daydream we feel both mellow and on top of a mountain of repressed anxiety. And this feels like an adequate reference point, given the spiked conversations on some of the tracks like ‘The Pomegranate (Breather)’ that are characterized by droll english accents. But the feeling isn’t one of intentional enjoyment or calmness. There’s always that feeling in the background that we’ve smoked too much pot or done too many other drugs that we don’t know the names of. We’re good for now, but…
And that’s just one of the brilliant parts of this album that set it apart from anything else we’ve heard. It sets such an uncompromising, unusual mood that once you’re in you can’t get out of until you stop listening (and even sometime after that). It also feels like a solo project that was born of collaboration and ideas from just about everywhere; the list of personnel in the liner notes is a road map to dozens of other musicians and groups from the area. The only one we recognize is the brilliantly talented yet woefully underknown Grace Annunziato (who often makes music under the alias of Lone Phone Booth), another project we’ve enjoyed so much we wrote about unsolicited recently
Incredibly original, entirely discordant and wonderfully experimental, Upstate Daydream defies expectations you didn’t even know you had and puts you in a mood you’ve never been in but know all too well. Somehow. There may be mountains of music like this somewhere out there for all we know, millions of dj’s at home spinning similar lo-fi beats interspersed with an enormous variety of always unexpected electronic instruments and samples, but we’ve certainly never heard anything like it (ok we should probably stop repeating ourselves now.. now… repeating. ourselves. NOW!). At one point you’re relaxing and sinking into the easy chair, suddenly you find you’ve gone too far and you’re underwater and not breathing so well, then just as suddenly you’re looking at the defribillators that just brought you screaming back to life and reality. But it’s ok, you’re still pretty doped up from the trauma and the morhpine. And so you start sinking again…
We’ve never heard anything quite like this (I thought you were gonna stop repeating that!!! STOP IT!!!). But we imagine and hope very much that we will again. There is an intriguing, in depth, entirely original and unexpected underground in the Capital District, and this is definitely a part of it. We can’t wait to see where it goes next.