It’s funny how things come together sometimes in life. When I started this blog I didn’t know what would happen. In my wildest dreams a couple of people would read it and I’d give myself something to do. It’s become much more than that, with bands from Boston and San Francisco submitting their music to me because they think somehow a review by this site will at least give them something to put in their EPK. Surprisingly, a lot of them have been quite good. A handful have been terrible, but that’s to be expected. The biggest shock for me has been the sense of community I have felt from musicians around the country.
Much of that is due to one man, Oliver Ignatius. I wrote an article shortly after I started the site on his old band The Hysterics. I’d been a fan, but when I searched online I couldn’t find any info about what they were up to. I didn’t write a ton about them, but it got some decent traffic, and to my surprise we got a comment from Oliver to clear up some of the missing pieces for us. After that I emailed him about doing an interview for the site, and from then on we’ve been sending eachother music-related items. He started his own recording studio in Brooklyn called Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen, and last week he released a batch of stuff recorded there by various artists.
Since this is a collection, it’s hard to really review it as a whole, kind of like reviewing a soundtrack for a movie. In the context of the film it may work to have “Tricky” by Run DM-C followed by Dire Straits “Romeo and Juliet,” but on an album it doesn’t hold up. So I’ll go through track by track on this one. I do feel like all of these songs fit together, the production work ties them all together so that they each have a familiar sound at the base. It doesn’t feel like your just listening to a random playlist on your iPod, there are some common themes.
The first track is “Retribution,” the first song Oliver sent my by his own band Ghost Pal. He’s got a very distinct voice, and I was very happy to hear it again on some new material. The song kicks off with a bit of a Chicago piano intro, but quickly turns into a funky porchstomper. The track shows off his vocal range as well as some trippy effects. It’s a good song and a great intro to the rest of the music, as it takes little pieces from a bunch of different genres.
Next up is the song “Solution: Burn It!” by one of my favorite new bands, Sons Of An Illustrious Father. This song isn’t on the EP that I reviewed last month, so I assume it’s off their upcoming full-length. If this song and “Glass Nor Stone” are any indication, it should be a amazing record. They remind me a bit of Wilco on A Ghost Is Born with the way they use quiet spaces in their work to create a tension that builds and builds. The way they craft a tune is brilliant, and I really hope things take off for them. The guitar work on “Solution” is some of the finest in this collection. Toward the end the band uses some great backing vocals to create more of a gospel feel while the rest of the music spirals into a bit of post-punk bliss.
Oh! My Blackbird deliver the third song, “True Story.” At first I didn’t like it, but once the harmonies kick in after about thirty seconds, the song just turns into pure 60’s bubblegum pop. A couple of the bands I’ve been heavily listening to lately play a similar kind of music, and this just adds another band to the mix of groups who can still pull off simple, fun jams about teenage puppy love. They even bring in some strings to add more depth. Some people will find the female vocalist’s voice grating, but I don’t. Decide for yourself.
“Agony Steeds” by Anna Bradley follows, and it’s something like Joy Division and 90’s grunge mixed together. This song comes from their EP Your Seamless Sons. I’m a bit mixed on this one. I like it, but I don’t really love it. The music is good, it just doesn’t grab me the way the previous songs do. The band creates a gloomy atmosphere, which I like, but it just doesn’t have that indescribable factor that sticks in your head.
That problem doesn’t fall on the next song, “Take Me, I’m Yours” by The Great American Novel. I actually have the record that this song is on, but I haven’t had time to review it yet. I dig the sound that Layne Montgomery creates, and he seems to be having a lot of fun, even when he’s singing about heartbreak. This song includes the lines “I’ll beilieve anything you say to me, even if it’s a lie. So look me in the eyes when you say goodbye.” It’s full of great lines, and it’s one of my favorites on this compilation.
“Superman” by Mystic Princess reminds me a bit of The Velvet Underground. The lead singer has that low, whiskey and cigarettes voice that people love so much. My favorite delivery of a line comes on this song when he sings “I’m fast as a speeding bullet…let me kill you.” There’s gunshots in the background, and it comes together perfectly weird and great. A band to look out for in the future for sure.
Peoples is the solo project of Burke Williiams, and his track “Shelter Me” features Oliver Ignatius on vocals. It’s a soft, laid-back track that’s great to listen to with your head tilted back and your eyes closed. Succint guitar solo, maraccas, and beautiful bells. What more can you ask for?
“No Future” by can’t see Shapes might be my favorite tune in this set. Fanelli, lead singer of the band Shapes, comes the closest I’ve ever heard anyone get to the pure vitriol of Johnny Rotten. His voice reminds me of Conor Oberst’s, but his delivery is harder and more direct. The third verse is fantastically dark and offered up perfectly: “I’m a fake, I’m a fraud, a phony, a fuck. I’m a waste of your time, and the worst of your luck. This river of hatred flows through my soul; there’s a venom inside; this beast has control. Murder your parents, and murder your friends. Be vicious, and vile, and fight to the end. Don’t trust the boys, and don’t trust the girls: your lover’s a liar, and so is the world. Death is for certain, but glory’s a lie. Don’t trust your teachers, for all teachers lie; prophets will profit off fears, and lies. So fuck it, let’s burn, we’re all going to die! ”
Goodman’s “Figure It Out” makes me think that this is what Modest Mouse would sound like if they just played straight up pop music. It has that California sunniness that puts a smile on your face, and the guitar has a surf rock feel to it. By no means is this an amazing song, but it’s a good one. It’s short, under three minutes, but that’s not always a bad thing. I’d like to hear Goodman take on some darker material, because I would find that fascinating.
“You Can Only Get So High” by Kandel is a bit reggae, and it is my least favorite of all the songs here. It isn’t terrible, and far more listenable that anything you’ll hear on the radio, but it’s not my cup of tea. There are some pretty harmonies, and the sax work is nice. The second half of the song takes a dynamic turn into the weird before returning to the elated limbo jam that kicked it off.
In an effort to get us to turn off our minds and float downstream, Ignatius leaves us with a solo song called “Fine Touch.” It kicks off with some gentle guitar riffing before turning on the fog machine and setting off a gaggle of vocal overdubs. Honestly he kind of sounds like Elliot Smith covering The Beatles Rubber Soul album. It’s sweet and gentle and leaves the listener feeling calm and relaxed as the album comes to a close. So Oliver delivers a great intro and a equally appropriate ending to this collection of songs.
Overall I’ve been impressed with the work Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen has put out. It’s no wonder all these great musicians want to work with Mr. Ignatius, as he has proven to be as strong a producer as he is a musician. I look forward to hearing more from this studio in the future, and I hope you all get a chance to hear this collection and pick up some music you would not have heard otherwise.