Madeline Darby is one of the few, the proud, the super cool repeat offenders on the Times Boredom top 10 club, having been on our list back in 2020 for her terrific album ‘innovation’ (if you recall, there was something going on that year that caused us to have to rank bands by recordings alone given the difficulties there were with live performances…). And just as in 2020, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Ms. Darby’s incredibly pertinent contributions to the scene, both as a member of the Superdark Collective, Thinner Friends, and plenty of other collaborations with fellow local artists such as the recent single Sacred Gates with Jennifer Maher Coleman of Haley Moley, Architrave and the Honey DJ Collective (which you can listen to and download at https://madelinedarby.bandcamp.com/track/sacred-gates).
In addition to all of these awesome things, Madeline Darby released a full album in 2022 that was an ENORMOUS critical success. Our friend and sometimes writer/editor for Times Boredom W.A. Wright wrote an aptly glowing review of the record (read it here: https://nippertown.com/2022/05/28/album-review-not-this-universe-the-origins-of-madeline-darby/), and if W.A. Wright says it’s good, well then we get off our couch and run out to buy it! Ok that’s not true, we don’t get off the couch but reading a review like that gets us straight to the bandcamp page where we made a purchase immediately. Isn’t technology wonderful? I mean time was you could go to a local record store and aks if they had local records on commission or something, and chances were you’d find one of your friends or a potential new friend doing the same thing. Then you could hang out with your friends at the record store, just chat and waste time on the weekend, and start coming to a consensus about how terrific not only the local music scene is right now but Madeline Darby specifically, how she’s exceeding our expectations and creating unpredictable ‘innovations’ in music and sound.
(Forgive me for going off on a tangent about the ‘old days’, but it’s related in an obtuse way. Sort of. Keep reading, I’ll put it all together somehow!)
A lot of what we love and appreciate about Madeline Darby is her indefatigably (5$ word!) positive sense of community. What we and we think a lot of other people love about her is her support for everything that’s great about music and noise in the Capital District. And also as a ‘private citizen’ she’s always attending shows, being supportive, and always having plenty of positive things to say about our burgeoning little scene (especially in Troy), which is, as she put it, “HOT HOT HOT”! And not only is she doing short collaborations with other local artists but the album credits themself read like a top 50 list of all the great artists in the Capital REgion; Aunt Lonely, Goldeedust, NXNES, Zero Lee, 100 Psychic Dreams & Triya Love. And of course the Ballston Spa G.O.A.T. is here mixing and mastering like he does on SO many great local albums (in addition to his own) that you wonder when he has time to sleep… And not only does she list her collaborators and the indefatigable (careful now, not really using that word correctly and that’s gonna cost you in the final concluding paragraph) Paul Coleman but she even mentions and gives thanks to all the local places and even publications including ours truly little blog cottage operation!
Trust us, the love is mutual.
Unfortunately, we’ve heard that Madeline Darby is going on hiatus for awhile. In the meantime, a mysterious new stranger to the local music scene calling herself ‘Jane Woodshed’ has appeared and, if you (like us) just can’t wait for your next Madeline Darby fix, Jane Woodshed has many similarities and will most likely kick a ton of ass as well. Looking forward to hearing all of the many the new ‘innovations’ that Sarah Darby brings to the local music scene. Innovative, supportive, and HOT HOT HOT!
One of the more anticipated groups to emerge from the Capital Region in some time, Bruiser and Bicycle’s brand of folk-weirdness will subtly slip into your mental landscape. While initially uninvited, you will begin to fall in love with their unpredictable and exciting songwriting that is layered with colorful instrumentation and arrangement.
The core duo, Bruiser and Bicycle. Which one’s which? We’ll never tell!
While their last release arrived in 2019, they play out fairly often; the editor of Times Boredom wrote me: “I went to see them last night and those bastards played ON TIME! I know, I couldn’t believe it either, but the show started at 8 (which in my long punk rock experience means bands don’t play until 10 at the earliest) and they started at 8:15 and were done at 8:45.” Their live shows are as equally enigmatic as their recordings, and allegedly, according to our fearless leader, they are so good-looking, everyone wants to f*ck them, but not after getting mind-f*cked by their delicate, yet sophisticated music.
Cover of Bruiser and Bicycle’s latest release, ‘Woods Come Find Me’
Stay tuned for the rest of the top 10 of 2022, to be published over the course of the next few weeks one at a time! Is your band one of top 10? Nah, you suck. Don’t take it personally, my band is way worse.
And we all know it’s out there just waiting to be found and distributed more widely.
Here’s a great example: Haunted Cat made an entire half hour Christmas special a couple years ago; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYBvbfPwztE (they also made a Halloween special, but it is Christmas and all depending on when you read this — that’s another thing. We all know that people visit Nippertown on a daily basis but Times Boredom’s only visited when a) your band or someone you know is mentioned b) when you find out about it which is typically not the same day so 5f) there’s a .00001% chance anyone will read this on Christmas). The production values may not be as flawless as the Sirsy video, and there may not be any ‘sexy dames’ baby singing ‘Santa Baby’, but come on. This thing is hilarious. There’s genuine humor here, and not just the kind you can milk by mocking an old style mr. rogers type christmas special. And in addition to the funny corny holiday cheer, there’s a number of terrific rock performances by… well I’m not going to ruin it for you because I really think you should watch it yourself (that’s kind of the point here). But there’s no link to this special, on Nippertown, Keep Albany Boring, Times Union, or any other local music and arts sites.
It probably sounds like I’m singling out Nippertown, however, I really appreciate Nippertown and think it’s the best site there is for local Capital District music and arts news, promotions, and just information in general. And in terms of music, they do coverage of all kinds of local music including underground stuff that other local publications in other cities would stay away from in order to get more sponsors or advertisers etc., to make more money. But Nippertown really is more concerned about helping people to enjoy the arts scene around town. So in addition to the Sirsy video they posted today they posted one by Warden and Co. and one by Taini Asili and the Messiahs. Nippertown is great; but because they are what they are they want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Unfortunately that often means groups like Sirsy, Super 400 and the Figgs that have been around for 30 years and have real PR machines get way more coverage than a group that’s just starting out like say, the Sugar Hold. The Sugar Hold is making enormous waves in the underground community, but in terms of local music time they’ve only been around an instant and as such they’re still building not only their fanbase, but their relationships with local media, their productions, multi-media presentations, etc.
So what’s the real problem? I suppose this is as close to an ‘editorial’ as we come here at Times Boredom (perhaps I should add that as a category/tag since my lazy ass has written 2 or 3 of these now) so I just want to say that there’s so much great underground music right now in the Capital District I feel like we could really be a mecca for a strong ‘alternative’ (term used correctly even if doesn’t apply musically) collective of recordings, performances, and overall knowledge by a large audience in the area that would really appreciate the music but just doesn’t know about it.
I mean if you were new to town and came from a larger city, and you looked for local music and saw Sirsy, you’d be like ‘I guess punk rock really IS dead, especially in this jerkwater burg. I’m just gonna listen to my old Minor Threat record again. There’s plenty of classics to keep me happy enough’. And you’d ignore every aspect of the local scene because you’d figure there really wasn’t anything of substance to see.
Another unchangeable issue is that as much great music as there is around (and there pretty much ALWAYS is, even in cities as small as ours in the US), it’s all about giving it a platform, getting groups together, dissemination and distribution. In short, a ‘scene’ needs to be created. And of course the ‘scene’ brings to mind all the stupid terrible things it entails like small town big egos, in groups and out groups, enmity amongst microniches, etc etc. (if you’ve ever been in one you know exactly what I mean). But what’s much worse is not having a scene at all. You’ve got a thousand people in their basements and apartments writing and recording music, playing in small groups with just their close personal friends, house shows where the band outnumbers the audience and the cops get called after a couple songs. Self indulgence, legends in their own minds, the complete lack of appreciation that makes would be greats quit before they get started, isolation and atomism and lack of competition. All of which are overcome by a scene that certainly does bring out bad aspects, but also often brings out the best of the music. Interrelationships, genre crossovers, the competition that makes everyone better (my favorite example is the Minutemen being inspired to write and record Double Nickels on the Dime in response to Husker Du’s double album Zen Arcade. Would either of these have happened without a national ‘scene’ based around SST, a network of punk rock clubs and people, and the PR and promotions that occurred — what little there were — were SO important that today someone like me (and hopefully you) know what they are and can appreciate them).
And we have the building blocks for a great scene that could even potentially breakout and have people saying ‘there are fantastic things going on right now in underground rock and punk in Troy and the surrounding areas’. And you know me, I believe the Superdark Collective is responsible for a great deal if not most of this network, collaboration, word of mouth, etc. And now growing on the success of much of what the Superdark Collective generated we have No Fun, a great club in Troy that plays host to so much of the terrific underground music we have around town. It gives the loners in their basements (not making fun; I AM one) something to strive for. A reason to record and distribute. A reason to ask their friends who plays bass guitar and if anyone knows a drummer. These are the organizing factors that create little revolutions, that make music scenes like Seattle, Mineapolis, and Chapel Hill break out so that maybe mainstream listeners don’t know, but folks that are into underground music have their lives vastly improved. Seriously.
If you read this you’ll probably think it’s a useless rambling editorial that won’t solve anything. And you’re right. Because like you I work a full time job and don’t have the time to edit this, make sure it makes sense, or strengthen the points I really want to make about how this publication, Times Boredom, really needs to step up and cover the specific musical niches that are burgeoning around here — the noise scene, the electronic scene, post hardcore, punk, and metal. I’m not criticizing wide reaching sites like Nippertown because I think they’re doing anything wrong, but because I think they’re doing what’s right for them and not just covering what’s already thriving and has its own means of DIY promotion and distribution but EVERYTHING/as much as they can. The reason I began (and talked WAY too much about) with Sirsy is that often means that whatever’s canned and has worked its mainstream appeal factors out, the heavily processed pre-mixed defrosted previously fully cooked spam that doesn’t need the coverage or promotion and is just overpeddling a mediocre product at best is what gets the attention and dissemination it doesn’t need or deserve. We need to fight against the Sirsy’s of the rock world and for the underground punk Haunted Cats, Sugar Holds, Superdark Collectives, 100 Psychic Dreams, No Fun, Architraves and dblgoers and so many more I couldn’t name them all — one person couldn’t even know them all!
So in a way this is a plea; join me in my quest to make the Capital District underground music scene as big and great as it can be. Especially now when we have so many of the building blocks in place. If you want to volunteer to write for Times Boredom, be it an opinion piece about the local band you love, a review of a great local album you just heard, or a sarcastic article making fun of you own band send us an e-mail today, we’re not picky! And as silly as we are and sometimes unintentionally/INTENTIONALLY mean, if we hurt anyone’s feelings we take it down. We just want to have fun and bring all the amateurs together to create something much better than it otherwise would be, so you don’t need any special training or experience to be one of us. Just a desire to join with us to promote and let everyone know about all the great music that’s going on out there.
Because otherwise it’s just me. And I’m already way too old for this shit, and only gettin fatter and lazier.
It is hard to write a genuine modern political song that isn’t misunderstood or written off as juvenile.
There are specific styles of music whose history is fundamentally tied to pure political expression (punk and folk) – hearing anything that isn’t political in those genres runs the same risk of being misunderstood or not taken seriously. I think this is a reason why the Ramones were so important (getting way off-track).
There is something very honest about Old Town Crier’s latest release (July 1), You, and the way he approaches the political subject matter of his lyrics. He reminds us that to be political is to be human and vice versa.
There’s an interesting juxtaposition between the music and the lyrics that not only creates an unexpected message but an accessible one.
The opening title track, ‘You’, takes us down a nostalgic route through the annals of British music as influenced by American 60’s Motown music. The connotation of this style harkens back to days of lazy, rainy Sunday afternoons, writing love letters and daydreaming, listening to the Turtles or The Kinks, all the while feeling like the future is wide open.
Editors note: The cover of the latest album that for some reason is in the style of an old school British punk band, perhaps to fool the non-believers
But the lyrics don’t speak of those idyllic landscapes of post-war Britain, where the dream of America remains untarnished. Quite the opposite is true. By listening to the album “You,” we are dealt with a conflicting message of warm emotion vs. cold politics, progressivism vs. musical modernism – optimism vs. pessimism.
The dream of America is very much tarnished. Lough’s tone of voice is not angry, condescending or paranoid, however, it is compassionate. This compassion is felt in the music, which is what makes his political stance more “accessible.”
Old Town Crier is also about taking direct political action: all proceeds of the album ($2,700) went to three Progressives who ran in the US midterm elections – Christine Olivo (FL-26), Angelica Duenas (CA-29), and Derek Marshall (CA-23).
Editor’s 2nd note: believe it or not this is not actually a picture of the band Old Town Crier. It’s what comes up when you google “Old Town Crier You Massachusetts”. Goddamn but people were miserable before the invention of colored photographs. Anyway as editor I’m not allowed/supposed to put in any of my own content, and if Scott finds out he will definitely fire me, but I’ve gotta entertain myself somehow right? Editing is not the most fun work you can do without getting paid for it. Take this Scott!
The second track, “Thin Blue Line,” with all of its new-wave synth flare of Springsteen-meets-Costello is bold in its imagery, but Lough doesn’t seek to insult the listener’s intelligence by casting blame on one side or another.
Instead, he paints a very realistic picture that the “thin blue line” separates us from one another, causing more fear through division. “There’s a thin blue line, between hate and fear/the thin blue line’s never been so clear.”
Track three, “Coal River Mountain,” takes us back to Old Town Crier’s first release, with their origins of bluegrass coming back but to a backdrop of their vintage dirty guitar-blues rock outfit.
Editor’s last note since I’m definitely getting fired after this: I’m pretty sure this is a picture of the Old Town Crier band but it’s not official or anything so don’t quote me.
“Radio On” is the weakest song on the album, but probably still contains enough anthemic energy to at least get the crowd to sway back and forth a few times.
In my review of Old Town Crier’s first release, I’m Longing for you Honey in Middleboro, Mass, I had speculated that Old Town Crier was merely a “side project” for singer-songwriter Jim Lough. With his latest release, Lough’s songwriting has evolved and has revealed that he is a musician with a vision.
The grandiose (and somewhat tacky) album title, “Madman in the Rain,” has created a mild but persistent saccharine taste in my mouth.
It is a kind of middle-of-the-road sensation that cannot move past its own identity crisis – because the music on said album lacks any conviction and does not take risks.
Released on the Canadian indie label, The Beautiful Music, Madman in the Rain is Dot Dash’s seventh album. The band are based in Washington D.C, and the members are Terry Banks on vocals and guitar, Hunter Bennett on bass and Danny Ingram on drums.
The album was recorded at New York City’s Renegade Studios and produced by Grammy-winning Geoff Sanoff.
The musicianship is impressive and the band is extremely tight, but the songs are an underwhelming pastiche of various bands that have come before and who have done it better.
According to a Washington Post review, Dot Dash are a “…a retro cocktail that recalls the yearning indie-pop of Sarah Records; the ’80s neo-Byrds jangle of R.E.M., Orange Juice and other seminal college radio artists, and tight, throbbing basslines and slashing guitars that evoke the Jam and the Clash…”
I would be hard-pressed to compare this album to anything that the Clash or The Jam have ever done. There are some 60s jangly guitars, appropriately equipped with the wistful and aloof attitude of Zombies-psychedelia, while dressed to the nines in British-rainy-nostalgia.
But the Clash and The Jam? These are different animals altogether. Nowhere on Madman in the Rain do I hear the furtive anger of the Jam or the cryptic-Marxist wordplay of Joe Strummer.
You’ve got the mind of a criminal
And the conscience of a saint
You know I can’t predict the weather
But I think it looks like rain – Animal Stone
While I think a minimalist approach can work with lyrics – sometimes beautifully – this stanza lacks a depth/layer that doesn’t exactly unfold and tell us more. What image is this supposed to paint? On the surface, yeah, it sounds poetic, but it is also disjointed in its abrupt turn halfway through.
The title track does well to slightly antagonize the sleepy songwriting sensibilities locked away behind heavy walls of British history – a style (perfected by The Kinks) was quaint in ways but usually heavy juxtaposed by social and political conscious writing; bands who sprung out of the deep shadow of Enoch Powell and Margaret Thatcher’s unapologetic and racist economics.
“Madman in the Rain” as a song title does paint a curious picture of the underdog or the victim of an increasingly unforgiving hyper-active capitalist society, where all emotion has been eradicated, and the creative thinker is left wondering (in the rain) what the hell happened to their purpose.
I’m not going to assume I know what they intended with this and with their other songs, but it would have been striking to see more connections drawn between this character and his/her/their outside world and to the other tracks on the album.
Instead, we get an emphatic indifference that can only be matched by the mundane landscape rock n’ roll listeners are trying to escape in the first place. “The weather’s getting wild/the streets are a mess/the light’s gone out of the sky/storm’s coming, I guess.”
I suppose what I’m saying is, as a fan of great songwriting, I want specifics in writing – I want the writer to convince the listener that only they can say what they are saying.
“Airwaves” has got a great Peter Hook-style bassline towards the end; “Saints/Pharaohs” sounds too much like The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,”; “Dead Gone” has got an early-2000’s indie vibe thing, showcasing Dot Dash’s ability to arrange a well-crafted song, but the chorus didn’t take me to its potential peak.
Favorite song for me is “Wokeupdreaming” hands-down. The lyrics sound more personal, more original and written with more honesty.
I’m not afraid of dying,
But I’m afraid of being dead
I throw the curtains back in the morning
And at night I stay in bed.
Their style of lyric writing worked really well this particular track, which called for this exact kind of slight nursery-rhyme simplicity.
I would be curious to know how much control their indie label has on the band, if any, and if the band are attempting to write for a very specific audience. Unfortunately, they have failed to convince me that this was an album they wanted to make.
As soon as opening track ‘Billy Morris’ takes off you know exactly what you’re in for; quirky indie pop that makes you nostalgic for those late 90s/early 2000s obscure power pop and lo-fi label albums you were obsessed with but no one else seemed to be… And as expectedly unexpected in the lo-fi pop genre, Sing More Songs About Failed Utopias goes on a non-linear journey from that k records naive international pop sound straight through to the more recent experimental college pop like Alex G. Brilliant yet entirely unassuming lo-fi pop gems sparkle so brightly you almost cry when the harmonies are off key or there’s so many over the top saccharine sweet instruments added you know this will never be on the radio or most likely, anywhere other than a sad sad site like Times Boredom.
The ‘House of Tomorrow’ band is made up of some of the usual suspects of local musicians and scenesters; Kim Tateo (from Machine Revival), Brady Potts, Connor Amrbruster (an accomplished up and coming solo performer in their own right), Dan Prockup, and our good Superdark buddy (and good sport) Christopher Brown. It’s not clear who plays what, but knowing something about these kids most of them are pretty good at just about anything they pick up. And if there’s something else familiar about these kids that you just can’t put your finger on, you may have seen them (esp lead Nathan Meltz) in previous groups ‘The Machine that Wouldn’t Die’ and ‘Machine Revival’, or other similarly named quirky pop projects that have been playing around the Capital District for a number of years now.
The House of Tomorrow (in clever playing card form)
But let’s get less clever and do a more descriptive dive into the weeds if we must… must we? We must
Track 2 ‘Zion’ is to put it bluntly a brilliantly crafted pop gem. Like better than Sufjan Stevens. We hope it’s been submitted to college radio stations (if not take note here guys; this could be bigger than Alex G. Seriously). Though also to be blunt members of the Church of Latter Day Saints may very well not appreciate its rather flippantly wry portrayal of its… free loving founder….
And the standout track by far is #3, Themyscira. That off kilter (possibly off key; I can’t tell because I don’t have perfect pitch but I do have perfect OCD for an unbearably catchy hook) harmony on ‘reTURN to us’ could quite literally make Mr. Meltz a number one artist based on that note alone. And it stays with you after the album is over, and it will make you want to listen to the whole ep again. And then it will haunt you until you listen to it so much that you don’t know why it calls you in the middle of the night but you MUST listen to that cute little line about how Diana should ‘reTURN to us and leave the world of dicks behind’… you get the point. It’s fuckin catchy.
And if that weren’t enough, there’s the the surprise ‘Planet of the Apes-Man’ where I hope (I hope I hope) they’re exhibiting the influence of listening to way too much of the lates sixties/early seventies Kinks concept albums… it really does have that (forgive me if I’m repeating myself) naive underground pop music base that comes from groups like the Kinks that completely moved on from what made them famous yet delighted a loyal and changing fan base, in a way that I’d really like to think of Nathan Meltz and um, House of.. hm sounds like either they are a cult like the Polyphonic Spree or they’re making fun of a cult group like them — again let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s mockery. But all in good fun!
But… it’s not all clever indie transcendence… Not all of the melodies are as fantastically catchy as Themyscira. And perhaps it should be pointed out that if you like your lo-fi indie a little more punky or hard edged this isn’t a record for you, the only edges are the interesting twists taken with pop hooks and ‘fa fa fa fa’s’. But it’s definitely worth a listen, and it portends potentially great things in the future provided mssrs Meltz and co. keep it up and fight the good indie pop fight… we’re certainly looking forward to hearing more and love what has developed from the early days of the Machine that Wouldn’t Die to this terrific new incarnation of Nathan Meltz and the House of Tomorrow!
Somewhere in the oughts indie rock/pop lost its way. It became a shadow of whatever was on the radio in terms of production, and more and more like 70s soft rock in overall sound and mood.
The tragedy is not only the early but the late 90s offered so many avenues indie could have taken. Lo-fi to slowcore, math rock to the quirky off kilter rhythms and melodies introduced by the likes of Rob Crowe in San Diego. And we’re just talking about the softer end of rock and the more melodic edges of pop here.
But the publications of the day heralded the coming of the old age. The new Eagles and folky singer songwriters… the shit.
Fortunately for those of us that follow underground music, there’s plenty of great stuff that went the other way, the good way. At their core that’s exactly what Milwaukee’s Brief Candles (https://briefcandlesus.bandcamp.com/) represents. Lo-fi aesthetics, jarring rhythms, catchy crooning and just the right amount of guitar effects. Somewhere between groups like Verses and Heavy Vegetable that we all kinda forgot about; and of course the influence of that never gets tired of recycling shoegaze from Manchester.
There’s some Brooklyn hipster sounds in there, but out of a genuine love for the music that Brooklyn seems to be getting so wrong these days. It’s all grounded in more of a we love guitar music and everywhere it can go; whether it’s simply a really high strung bass line that makes an entire song or Television like interplay of guitars. And, of course, if they’re named after the Zombies song I think they are, they’ve definitely got their references in order.
See Brief Candles tonight at No Fun with Brooklyn’s (yech! jk — or are we?!) Dead Leaf Echo, and Brent Gorton’s Better Pills (https://betterpills.bandcamp.com/album/blood-chant) — if you don’t know who Brent Gorton is, get your ass down to No Fun and find out because he’s a brilliant indie pop legend here in the Capital District and arguably THE best songwriter.
At the top of the bandcamp page for Karen & Peter’s ‘Aggro Dolce’ album is a video. It’s a 32 second clip of the 5th track ‘Weekend in the Berkshires.’ And it’s a perfectly apt sample of the entire record. If you like it, you’re gonna love the album. If it doesn’t do it for you, none of the songs, the sounds, or the spoken word poetry vocalist Karen Schoemer is famous for are going to reach you.
The clip is so bleak and creepy, so seemingly random and filled with mundane stream of thought observations… a series of random fuzzy high art images flash slowly, almost painfully, and then a face appears within the haze. It’s Karen Schoemer, New York punk poetess of the 21st century, monotonally berating you in a calm and measured but almost unbearably intense, direct manner. She’s staring right at you. Speaking right to you. Seeing right through you.
If you’ve heard any of Schoemer’s other projects (our local favorites Sky Furrows perhaps or her collaborations with Watt, Wreckless Eric, Amy Rigby, etc.), you’re going to recognize her inimitable vocal stylings and post-beat post-punk poetry. If not, the calm and placid monotonal stream of consciousness utterings covering over an ocean of endtime anxiety that run throughout the entire course are evocative of other NYC punk princess poetesses’ we’ve compared her to before like Patti Smith and Kim Gordon.
But this album is very different from everything else I’ve heard Schoemer involved in because of the post-rock, classical music/sound collages under the vocals. The free synths and white noise so perfectly encase and are used as a vehicle for her idiosyncratic vocals, both of which complement each other to such a great degree that they enhance one another in a way hereto unheard of. Which, if you’re used to Schoemer’s other projects, is a shock to the system. Even she admittedly states she’s in unusualy territory here, as on ‘En Hiver “it’s unnerving. The way these songs change. No rhythm tracks in the snow. No marks. No measures. The hillside strangely empty of drums and guitars.”
And yet the minimalist ambience created by Peter (Taylor)’s anxious, existentialist soundscapes speaks of a spirit so kindred to Karen’s vocals that’s even further increased by seeing his artworks juxtaposed with her written poetry in the liner notes (who knew that recorders in this century were still using every piece of the artwork and space available to them to express themselves?). And yet, according to the liner notes, they’ve never met! Peter is living in a region of England scarred by coal mining and asbestos contamination. Karen, as far as we know, is in the gigantic brownfield that is the American post-corporate Capitalist scape (“woods without squirrels or insects”) of the ‘Empire State’. In which case it makes a great deal of sense that 2 artists that have never actually met are completely ‘in tune’ with each other, like the ‘special relationship’ between the trappings of the old Empire and the New, which is now also slowly but surely crumbling and decaying. Perhaps if they were to meet it might actually spoil the bond that clearly exists between them on the record — in any case here’s hoping they continue to collaborate from their eerily similar home spaces (anyone that’s worked from home with colleagues knows what I mean and the shared feelings you experience regardless of distance, time, or space), joined by the toxic leavings of the hands of unimaginably powerful, irresponsible men that have destroyed our worlds.
In case I haven’t made this clear, this is NOT happy or light music in any way. It is DARK and it is HEAVY. And it is repetitive and pointless and anxious yet calming and 20 months pregnant with the suspense of 7 civil wars that could start at any moment, ‘just a shot away’. That’s the mood it paints, and that’s the mood just about everyone’s in right now whether they admit it or not. The radio plays ‘pop tones’ while a hellish backlash Presidency that nearly reignited the same stupid Civil War we’ve been passively aggressively fighting for over 150 years was interrupted by a global pandemic thrown into the powder keg that locked us in our miserable homes where we hate and plot against our neighbors because THAT’S WHAT STRONG PEOPLE DO in America according to the television shows we binge watched while at all costs we told ourselves REMAIN CALM REMAIN CALM REMAIN CALM.
It sounds calm; this is what calm sounds like. Peter Taylor’s synths, found sounds, and the very occasional/rare crack or pop that heralds some kind of a beat — it’s a circle of hell. It sounds like a slow boil off the entire surface of the ocean while Karen whispers in our ear calmly, “100 men flayed raw…” and then something about the Velvet Underground(?). “This road wasn’t here. This valley wasn’t here. The stream became a reservoir. The flood came down the hill past the Catholic Church. This was a stream. It shouldn’t be a lake!”
I completely understand it and yet I don’t. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. I know we have to stay calm and tend to our mundane little lives in the midst of indefatigable and unstoppable global change and misery.
This is not only the soundtrack of our lives but inside our MINDS right now. Somewhere between a late Scott Walker track and an ambient Eno airport scene about to break into a Wolf Eyes nightmare at any minute. And Karen keeps whispering in our ear… over our “Weekend in the Berkshires”; “don’t drink the water… species crash disturbs the unintended garden… no sense of space under there… just cement, on dirt, the weather warm and strange. Sweating no longer cools the body — are you coming over after band practice? Are you ignoring my texts?
God, it’s only Tuesday.”
This is a perfect descriptive piece of art, the ‘soundtrack of our minds’ for anyone in the old Empire living through 2022. Our stupid lives, childhood traumas, pointless adult lusts pulsing through the bleak soundscape of the hypnotising hellish (or calming, entertaining bread and circuses depending on how you look at it) soundscape that keeps us stable and sane enough to say ‘everything is alright… enough’. But it sure as hell is not. And this photorealistic capture of this moment in time of the collective unconscious is what art SHOULD BE.
Damn those blatantly superficial radio songs that are clearly designed to put us in a buying mood and out of our existential, nihilistic anxiety about the present and fuck me do I NOT want to even THINK about the future. That’s what the people are listening to because that’s what’s being aggressivley marketed to them without mercy. But Aggro Dolce by Karen and Peter is what’s really going on… in our world, in our minds, defining new sounds and a new form of music for the post-post modern age. It’s found sound collage and ancient beatnik poetry and sadcore that’s accepting of and refuses to be terrified by the current age but accepts it as it is. It’s as bleak and hopeless as it gets.
And it’s the most transcendent piece of art I’ve heard in decades, pointing THE WAY FORWARD for genuinely artistic, expressionistic music in the new century and beyond
Super fun surf indie rock band The Sugar Hold (was forced to) made a deal with the Troy Chamber of Commerce following last night’s unbelievably exciting and entertaining (without so much as a hint of irony) set at Brown’s Brewing Company for the Bacchanalia fest.
“Basically we were told that we were making the, um, surrounding not quite as fun and less hardy partying local Troy arts, music and entertainment scene a bit um, paler by comparison?” explained lead singer/guitar player Mikey Baish. “We certainly didn’t start with the intention of being the most fun, entertaining, unstoppable good time had by everyone at all of our shows but we sort of can’t help it… we just make fun music that we love, we love what we’re doing and everyone can tell and they in turn love it so much they have such a good time and… it’s not our fault. We’d try to tone it down but honeslty, who would want to have LESS of a super rockin time?”
“We just can’t help it that we’re having so much damned fun up there these days unlike other groups and scenes from the past that we don’t really fit in with anymore.” chimes in drummer with variable yet always entertaining head and facial hair shining local personality John Olander (srsly dooders in like 20 bands, has 12 jobs and can be found anywhere a party with music is going on yet is ALWAYS partying and smiling). “I mean I used to play in a band called Che Guevara T-Shirt that, let’s face it, was just plain wrist-slitting metal. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it or any of the other groups around that still do that kind of stuff, but we are kind of heralding in a new era with groups like the Hold on Honeys, and earlier but still partying Haley Moley, Architrave, Haunted Cat — just too many to name (shouts Olander as he shoves a grinder into his mouth no doubt the first chance he’s had to eat in days) that are just plain unironically entertaining and joyous!”
“It kind of started when Haley Moley, Architrave and other bands led and or inspired by Paul and Jen Coleman’s indomitably positive, optimistic spirits changed the game by instead of making the kind of depressingly heavy industrial music of say Che Guevara T-Shirt or k. Sonin that made people leave, they played fun danceable but still in depth underground pop music that inspired all of us to stop being so ‘cool’ and pretending we were having such a crummy time and admit that we were having lots of fun and wanted the audience to have lots of fun too!”
“I think we just started experimenting with the idea that local independent music can just be a really great time” says bass player Matt Malone who was also in superdepressing suicide inspiring group Che Guevara T-Shirt at one point; “and then I guess we went too far. Because there are so many so much great but dark in depth groups that are around, the Troy Business Council has informed us there have been several formal complaints about how hard it is to get crowds in now that people can, instead, go to see the Sugar Hold and others that shimmer and shine and are unashamedly loved to party and have a good time! We didn’t realize it was such a novel concept, but it turns out that since the late seventies groups that earnestly and unashamedly have a great time haven’t really been featured in local scenes. And of course back in the early 90s with the advent of grunge it was literally made illegal to rock and party as hard and have as much of a good time as we’re doing now.”
Lead guitarist Dan Clark unfortunately did not comment because I’ve never met him IRL and I wouldn’t even deign to do any kind of impression whatsoever, however, everytime I’ve seen him play he does look like he’s having a great time and rocking out just like the rest of the band.
There’s still great fear however that even moving the Sugar Hold over exclusively to the party zone won’t stop what they’ve started. It turns out the germ of the idea that making great fun music with a bunch of your friends to entertain your other friends has taken deep roots in Troy and beyond.
The Sugar Hold was just one of the thousands of groups of terrific local musicians that played this weekend’s Troy Bacchanalia and changed the face and expectations of what an upstate end of summer festival could really do to reinvigorate, enliven, and even reinvent the core of what an upstate city is all about and the great things that come out of it!
This will be part 1 in our 67 part series on the Bacchanalia fest in Troy the Year of Our Lord 2022 and its lasting effects on the ecology, wildlife, and business climate of the city that Uncle Sam built dancing on his two left feet and the Capital District beyond…