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Good Morning Midnight-Basket Of Flowers

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It’s strange how well Good Morning Midnight‘s new album flows. The songs themselves are quite different, ranging from somber folk to indie-pop to raucous 70’s style AM radio tunes. The influence of bands like Wilco and songwriters like Elliot Smith are heard pretty easily throughout, and GMM’s Charlie Cacciatore captures their spirit with ease.

Produced and engineered by friend of the site Dana Telsrow and Luke Tweedy at Flat Black Studios in Iowa City, Basket Of Flowers is a polished, easy listen that lets the work speak for itself. No need for bells and whistles when you have quality songwriting and musical ability.

The first song I heard from the album was “Permanently Red,” a wordy tune with a lot going on sonically on which you can chew. It’s available over on GMM’s bandcamp page as the lead single off Basket Of Flowers, but don’t think for one second that you’re going to get 11 more songs just like it. I’m particularly enthralled with the closing track, “UNIVERSE or Donald J. Trump Vs. The Winchester Boys Choir.” It’s a ten minute epic, not unlike “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves” on the Bright Eyes album Lifted. Even without the Trump stuff, this is a really great song.

“Loneliness knows no limits at all. Expands like the universe. Demands like a black hole.” There’s a bizarre simplicity to this, but the way it’s sung makes it feel like a new idea I’m hearing for the first time. And that’s true of much of Basket Of Flowers. There’s a lot of sounds that I’ve heard before, but never like this. Delivered in a fusion of Radiohead and Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s really a great listen.

The album isn’t officially out until July 21st, but if you catch Good Morning Midnight at a show, you can get a physical copy. He’ll be in Chicago this Saturday, June 3rd, at Roach Manor (Western and 19th).

Kiefer Sutherland at Thalia Hall 5/21/2017

It’s easy to write off Kiefer Sutherland’s music career as a vanity project, but after seeing him live I can assure you it is not. I actually figured that out when I saw that his debut album was produced by Jude Cole, a singer/songwriter who’s been making music for over 30 years. Together they turned Sutherland’s collection of songs he’s been writing for as long as he’s been acting into a record that shows us a different side of the man most know as tough guy Jack Bauer.

As a fan of his film and tv work since I was a kid watching Stand By Me, I would’ve paid to see the show even if I thought it was going to be bad. But I had a good feeling after hearing Down In A Hole a couple of times. Even though he’s been branded as a country singer (by the media and probably in his own words) there’s a lot more going on than some tear-in-my-beer campfire ballads. In the song “Going Home” you get influences that span from classic rock to Motown. If you heard it without knowing the band, you’d never guess it was a “country” thing.

The live show was a lot of fun. Like most smart musicians, Sutherland understands that if you want your music to sound good, you need to surround yourself with talented musicians. His guitarists, Michael Gurley and Austin Vallejo, are both fantastic. They can play everything from the sickest blues riffs to a quiet lullaby and make it look easy. The backline of Jess Calcaterra on drums and Joseph DeLeo on bass kept things moving on beat for the full 80 minutes they were on stage.

Kiefer gave the audience some insight into his personal life, telling stories from his childhood as well as his more recent life situation. My favorite was about living with his father for a few months after his parents split up when he and his sister were four years old. His dad, Donald, after appearing in Kelly’s Heroes, had a red 1956 Ferrari two-seater in which he drove them to nursery school. Kiefer said that even as a four year old even he knew that it was a “fucking cool” car.

He also talked about hanging out with Merle Haggard, losing the love of his life, and an early heartbreak that led to the first song he ever wrote.

Down In A Hole is only 11 songs long, so to fill up the show they played some interesting covers. The first was Haggard’s “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down,” which is very much a country song. Then they shifted gears quite a bit. Introducing another cover Kiefer said that Tom Petty’s “never written a bad lyric.” That could be debated, but the version of “Honeybee” that they played was a lot of fun.

Talking about growing up in Toronto, Sutherland mentioned two things you HAD to listen to or you weren’t cool. One was Rush, which drew some applause, but he demured. “If I tried to hit one of those notes I’d be dead here on the floor,” he said. The other was Gordon Lightfoot. So they covered “Sundown” from the 1974 album of the same name. And the last cover of the encore was “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan.

Going in I thought it would be pretty good, but walking out I was really impressed by how much of himself Sutherland has put into his new endeavor. I expected it to be a little more laid back and passive, but it was a pretty exciting show. I would recommend to anyone who was thinking about it but not quite sure, or really anyone who likes having a good time and listening to good music.

The current leg of the tour is winding down in a couple days, but I’m sure they’ll be back on the road again soon. Check out his website for more info.

 

Molehill at SubT 5/2/2017

Tonight I went to see my friends in Molehill play an opening set at Subterranean. Mona was the headliner, but I got out of there early so I could grab dinner and be home in time to watch the end of the Celtics/Wizards game (and after that fourth quarter by Isaiah Thomas I think I made the right call).

Molehill were their usual awesome selves, playing some new songs from their singles/EP collection that’s in the process of being released. Rather than lug around a bulky DSLR like I usually do, I just brought a point and shoot camera with a wi-fi card. I edited all these photos on my phone. I also shot this video, which came out pretty good and really highlights the energy they bring even if it’s an opening slot.



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K Flay-Every Where Is Some Where

April 10, 2017 Leave a comment

The first time I heard “Blood In The Cut” was at a festival last summer. K Flay ended her set with a brand new song-a bold move for any live show. It was completely different than anything else she played that day, leaning much more toward the rock end of the spectrum, but somehow it fit.

Ever since hearing that song I’ve been waiting on the edge of my seat for this new album to show up. It was preceded by another single, “Black Wave,” which only raised the level of excitement in my mind. Every Where Is Some Where feels like the music finally catching up to what she’s been trying to do since she was mixing it up on her own when I saw her open for Passion Pit in 2010.

It’s interesting to hear trap beats mix with driving guitars, synths and drums that would feel perfectly at home on a Nine Inch Nails record. The sound brings an added level of depth to the desperation that permeates the album. Much of it is spent searching for something to fill the void of a lost love.

On “Champagne” she sings “I feel it, I want it, I need it, I love it, I’m looking for something to make me feel nothing.” Sometimes numb is all you can feel because it’s better than dealing with the hurt and anger inside-it’s not healthy, but we all do it. The fast-paced delivery of the lyrics on this track are a manic expression of all those feelings trapped in our heads.

The album gets more upbeat in short intervals, with songs like “The President Has A Sex Tape” (timely) and the ode to familial love “Mean It.” These little bursts of distraction from the demons in your head are what propel you toward recovery. In this context, they move the album from being a little too one-note. 

Every Where Is Some Where is easily one of the best things I’ve heard this year. You can listen to it on Spotify or Apple Music, but you’re best bet is to just buy it here.

Categories: Music Review Tags: , , , , ,

Chris Milam-Kids These Days

March 21, 2017 1 comment

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The story that precedes Chris Milam’s new record, Kids These Days, is a sad one. It’s also a classic tale of someone who loses everything and then has to start over again, figuring out who they want to be from the bottom up. These 12 songs are a fresh start and a declaration of who Chris wanted to be from that day forward. It’s a musical journey that takes you through all kinds of emotions.

We start with a trilogy of songs dealing with the broken engagement that started Chris down this road. The opening trickle of guitar sounds like a nod to “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna-Fall” before Milam’s smooth vocals come into the listener’s ear. Before long, there’s a full on band and string section filling up the space as the simmering rage boils to the surface. He sings “There’s a picture on your phone, of me at ten years old, and I don’t know where that kid has gone. Every day, every mile, every casual smile, every story retold, every joke getting old. While you won’t talk around it, I’m screaming it out babe, I’m dying.” The emotions finally come to a head and the band carries the load for a moment while Chris catches his breath. It ends on a whisper before the gospel-tinged “Half Life” picks up.

That song plays it pretty simple and straightforward, laying out the engagement itself and how quickly it turned around. “Autumn” is probably the most fully-realized song on the record emotionally. I recommend listening with headphones, because there is a lot of string work you might miss without them. There’s a moment a little more than halfway through the song where the cello melts into a guitar solo that is really quite extraordinary. He lets the instruments do a lot of the heavy lifting, and it works to his advantage as the arrangement is done well and really tugs at the heartstrings.

Once that section of the record is over, Chris frees himself up to try all kinds of stuff. He unleashes some big, fuzzy guitar work on the album’s lead single “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” and gets to show off some of that Memphis blues that’s swimming around in his veins.

He plays it smart and doesn’t let any of the songs overstay their welcome. And the style changes enough that you won’t lose interest with too many ballads in a row or too much guitar (is that a thing? too much guitar?). There’s a lot going on throughout most of the tunes, so a dedicated listener will be rewarded.

Standout’s for me are: “All Of Our Ghosts” for the string work, “New Drug” for rock and roll, and “Coldweather Girls” for storytelling. You’ll want to listen to everything, of course, and you can on April 7th when Kids These Days is released on Namesake Records.You can pre-order it now on iTunes and get the title track right away.

If you’re in Memphis you will have the chance to see Chris play around the record release date (March 26 at Ghost River Brewing and April 6 at Loflin Yard). If not, you’ll have to wait until later this spring/summer. For full details on touring and more music, check out his website.

Slothrust At Schuba’s Tavern 3/10/2017

March 11, 2017 Leave a comment

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It’s been a lot of fun watching Slothrust’s rise over the past couple of years. I’ll never forget being bored at work one day when someone from Ba Da Bing sent me the single “Crockpot” and I immediately took to it. The next day I got them to send me an advance of the record Of Course You Do and they’ve been a part of my life ever since.

Last year I saw them play with Highly Suspect at Bottom Lounge, and I was so happy to hear people singing along with songs I wasn’t sure anyone else knew. And then last night they played to a sold out crowd at Schuba’s in their own headlining slot. They treated their fans to all the “hits” and gave a preview of a couple new songs, one called “Peach” and another whose name I forgot already. They also played their cover of the Britney Spears pop classic “…Baby One More Time” to the delight of all.

Glad I got there early, as fans were already bellying up to the stage thirty minutes before the opening act started. I went off to the side where I knew Leah would be set up so I could catch her shredding some guitar solos. The lighting was a little weird so I didn’t get many shots of her wailing. I was able to catch some random moments of stillness, so I’ll count that as a win. If you want to see some footage from the show, you can check out this short clip.

The director of Slothrust’s latest video, for “Sleep Eater,” was right next to me most of the night, though I didn’t say hello. Here’s his work:

Slothrust continues west on this tour. They’ll be joined by Sons Of An Illustrious Father (who are playing in Chicago TONIGHT at Tonic Room at 9pm!) starting March 15th in Denver. Hit the band’s website for full tour info.

Sound & Shape-Peasants

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

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It’s been 3 years since Sound & Shape’s last release, Bad Actors. The Nashvillians return with Peasants on March 24th. The 5-song EP is another step up for the rock band who have been working their way toward mainstream popularity for almost a decade. Peasants is easily their most accessible work, with passages reminiscent of everything from Queens Of The Stone Age to Steely Dan.

The anthemic opener “Dandelion” sets the stage for a sadly-too-quick jaunt showcase of the band’s talents. Lead singer Ryan Caudle has a smoothness to his voice that betrays the amplitude to which they rock. Oftentimes there is a sweet melody that doesn’t seem to fit with some of the other music around it, but like Caudle’s vocals, they work in the context of the song.

“Patchwork Heroes” has a lot of the same vibe you find in some of Foo Fighters more popular work, so I guess that’s the band I would most compare them to, except you haven’t seen them everywhere commenting on every topic that happens anywhere in music, so you might find their faces a little less punchable. The drumming, by Grant Bramlett, throughout the record really does remind me of Taylor Hawkins, so I think that is a fair comparison.

The production quality on Peasants is a step up from Bad Actors, which adds to the radio-ready sound. The guitar runs that fill some of the quiet spaces are noticeable but don’t dominate the other instruments, which I appreciate. But when it’s time for the lead guitar to really step forward and become the focal point, they give it all the attention it needs to shine bright.

If you haven’t heard Sound & Shape at all, this is going to be a great spot to start. It’s always fun to hear a band’s best work and then go back and see how they got there. You can pre-order Peasants here.

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