One thing I love about DIY music is that it comes at you from every direction at any time. You always have to be looking, or you’ll miss 99% of it. The bands don’t have to adhere to a release schedule, so they just drop a single or album whenever they want. That’s what happened this week, as Oliver Ignatius let loose another collection of bands that have been recording at his studio-Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen. This one is a 23-track behemoth with a lot of familiar bands. Since I’ve talked extensively here about some of them, I’ll just focus on some new ones.
The first track is a new single from The Great American Novel that coincided with this release. It’s great, but I’m on record as a fan of Layne Montgomery’s punk/pop style. The Dough Rollers provide the second track, “Always.” It’s a blues/soul number that doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard out of MCFK before. If you’re old enough to remember Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise, that’s the kind of thing it reminds me of (or, for younger listeners maybe if Antony Hegarty fronted a blues band). A quick search tells me that these guys are a lot younger than they sound, which doesn’t surprise me at all.
I never did get around to reviewing The Jean Jackets latest release Jean Jacques. Consider that my bad, because the song they have here is fantastic. It has a bit of a Ben Folds vibe. I love the line “You’d think that I’d get sick of being nickeled and dimed, but I’m not happy until I’m penniless.” The breakdown that starts around the minute forty-five mark is awesome, going back and forth over “The Myth Of Sisyphus.”
Singer/songwriter David Pollack threw me off a bit. Maybe it’s just me, but this song “What Do I Do?” sounds a little like a Bon Jovi song in parts. It’s probably just his voice, because once the band really kicks in it doesn’t sound anything like BJ. I really like the guitar line that starts after the chorus the first time through.
I actually had the opportunity to see Swaii Boys when I went to NYC the weekend after Thanksgiving (along with Ghost Pal, The Great American Novel, and Dr. Skinnybones). I didn’t like them at first, but they grew on me more and more with every song. They have a nice 60′s pop kinda thing going on-a lot of Graceland-era Paul Simon as well. I haven’t heard a proper release by them yet, but “Watumbatu” is a good start.
Really fun to hear Layne Montgomery’s dad Todd Montgomery breaking out a little punkabilly on “Rocket To Memphis.” This is actually one of my favorites on the compilation, which just goes to show that dads can rock just like the kids. There’s some blistering guitar on this one. My only complaint is that I wish it were longer.
Damfino deliver a dynamic tune that’s part Donovan, part NOFX. It’s actually a little on the sad side, with lyrics like “When you danced and sang to me, it really broke my heart, because I have to confront that I’m falling in love.” The fast pace undercuts the emotion a bit, but it still packs a punch.
As usual with these collections, there are just too many good songs to mention them all here. I left out tunes by Anna Bradley, No Shoes, Injun Magic, and many more. The whole thing is capped by a wild jam party featuring the Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen All-Stars called “The Opera House.” If the compilation is supposed to act as a kind of commercial for the studio, then this track is definitely perfect for making people want to come in and hear more. Honestly I would probably pay money to rent out the studio and then say, “Why don’t you guys just jam for a while until I think of something.”
As always, this is a free download. Can’t beat the price, and I guarantee there’s something on here that you’ll like-probably a few things. If you haven’t already, now is the time to take the plunge. Life is too short to deny yourself amazing music!
Over the past year or so there have been rumblings from the east coast about an album set to change the world. The release date was tentative, and changed more times than I can remember, but it always remained at the forefront of any discussion about the crew at Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen. We were given snippets via teaser videos. An EP was released featuring songs recorded for the album but ultimately not fitting with the rest. In between these bursts Oliver Ignatius continued to produce other artists, putting out a killer’s row of records in the first half of 2012 and continuing at a staggering rate. How he found time to write and record his own masterpiece is baffling.
It should come as no surprise that despite how good the albums Ignatius has produced are, he was saving the best for his own project. We’ve become used to his pastiche of Beatles and Beach Boys-referencing harmonies and technical wizardry, but never have we heard him go this big. On Nathan Jones Is Dead, Ignatius breaks free from the shackles of Wilson and Lennon and shows us the musician he really is. Free from the constraints, I believe he is capable of almost anything.
The album starts off with a little of what I feared most-a heavy reliance on those artists I mentioned before. The songs sound good, but they fit too snugly inside the wheelhouse of previous Ghost Pal songs. It isn’t until the fourth track, “Too Much pt. 2″ that I really felt like I was hearing a great leap forward. The album follows a narrative story, so the songs being built around that probably made it difficult to change it up too much until the story goes in a different gear.
By the time we reach that fourth track, we’ve been introduced to our protagonist and he’s told us that he’s had his vote and chosen to die. Over the course of three songs we get to know him a little bit and understand his life. This isn’t a choice made by flipping a coin, it’s been thought over. Everything comes to a head halfway through the song I think propels Nathan Jones Is Dead into orbit.
It starts off slow, but builds into one of the rocknrolliest songs of the year. The shift, coming from a single note being repeatedly banged out on the piano, shatters everything that has come before. This breaking point marks a difference in the record-there’s more passion, more anger. Ignatius’ vocals go from soft and indifferent to a scream in the blink of an eye. After the chorus we’re treated to a funky breakdown filled with the monster bass of Josh Barocas, the gallop of Carson Moody’s drums, and of course the horn work of Heny Kandel.
From the beginning of this song through the end, Nathan Jones Is Dead does everything right. It’s darkly funny when it needs to be, but also sad and heartbreaking. The song “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” is probably the saddest of the songs, written from the perspective of Nathan Jones’ father. The lead is sung by Barocas, and he reminds me a lot of Rick Danko’s singing on “Long Black Veil.” The material is given more of an upbeat dynamic here, with a lot of textures. The strings, lingering in the background, really add a dimension that you hardly notice on the first listen but becomes more apparent with each subsequent spin.
I’ve discovered something new with each listen so far (I got it yesterday and have listened to it about a dozen times). One of Ghost Pal’s greatest assets is that they believe there can always be more. Keeping with the collaborative spirit of Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen, I feel like if someone showed up one day and said “I can play xylophone,” Oliver would have found a use for them. After years of avoiding the “too many chefs in the kitchen” problem, I would think it could do nothing but hinder a project. Ignatius and the rest of Ghost Pal seem to think the opposite, and on Nathan Jones Is Dead they seem to have proved me wrong.
You can download the album on Bandcamp here for $3. You can also check out some of Ghost Pal’s other material, including their Extended Family EP, which features a bit of a preview to Nathan Jones on the final track. And for a sampling of the production work coming out of Mama Coco’s, check out the samplers containing some of the best songs recorded over the last two years.
Last October Oliver Ignatius released Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen-Section 1. Not so much a greatest hits compilation as a sampler of the artists that had been recording in his studio. Just nine months later we’ve received Section 2-a selection of 12 songs that represent the past year in Mama Coco’s history. A few of these bands have been featured here before, so I’ll get those out of the way first.
It’s been a pretty great year so far for Ignatius and company. Of the releases through today, four of them have tracks on my top 25 songs of the year so far. Also, albums by Oh! My Blackbird and The All-About find themselves on my top 25 albums. Not too shabby. The songs on this new compilation that also show up on my songs list are The Great American Novel’s “Layne Montgomery Is No Good At Girls” and “The Stick Song” by Oh! My Blackbird. Both fantastic songs and great albums. Check them out!
The lead track for Section 2 is “Sadie Hawkins,” the new single from The All-About. It seems like a continuation from their album Winterpop, with a bit more influence from The Killers. All the tunes by Zac Coe have an upbeat surface that’s constantly battling the darkness trying to bubble over. He has a great summery atmosphere around his music that makes his songs the most accessible to mainstream audiences (for better or worse).
One of my favorites of the bands I was not familiar with going in is Dr Skinnybones. Their song “Bad Education” is lyrically clever and musically compelling. Dynamics change from surf pop and punk to soul and country while Jake Williams sings about acceptance in American society. The lines “As we walk the streets I always knew, I will sing the songs that I usually do. Darlin don’t you ever think that I’m too dumb for you? I’m not good for you,” are delivered with equal parts anger and humility. That makes this one go from a merely well put together song to a great one. Read more…
It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was sitting here watching as Don Draper reclined in his chair to The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and now I’m listening to Ghost Pal cover that song as the lead track of their new EP. Is Revolver the most culturally relevant album of all-time? I can’t say for sure, but it is my favorite Beatles album-and that makes it pretty great.
What I like about the Ghost Pal version is that they capture the sound of the song without copying it. The fact that’s the Beatles created This song in the late 60′s is astounding. I’m not a record producer, but I have to think that even making some of that stuff happen in 2012 isn’t easy. This version gets a lot of help from a strong sax by Henry Kandel and embellished organ laying a foundation for Oliver Ignatius to build around. Ignatius has always had a Lennon-ish voice, but he doesn’t play it up too much here. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is a song that is very easy to mess up. Ghost Pal gets it right. Read more…
Ghost Pal will soon be releasing their EP, Nathan Jones Is Dead, and it’s time to drop a single so folks get an idea where it might take them. Lead singer/producer/mastermind Oliver Ignatius sent me an unfinished mix of the song to check out, and I have to say I dig it.
The song is the first that the group have done built on a track of the band live, which gives it a sense of urgency. “Get Thee Gone” is a rocker for sure, but Ignatius’ pop sensibilities shine through. For a rock song it is super catchy; one of those songs you can just listen to over and over and not tire of it. This is being released now, but is not going to appear on the EP, so if this is any indication, that collection should be amazing.
The single drops tomorrow, and I’ll put up a link here so everyone can check it out. I think you’re gonna like it.
Also, when you listen, let me know if you hear a little Bad Company at the beginning. Maybe I’m the only one who hears it.
UPDATE: Here it is folks. In all it’s finished glory.