Instrumental-based music is a fascinating case study that really exposes the true nuts and bolts of a song and how it functions from a dictionary A-to-Z.. And that all gets started with the group’s players. Because for every high-power vocalist and scene-chewing frontman holding down the spotlight, there’s guys (and girls) playing pivotal roles like drummer, bassist and guitar player out there excavating their own bits of melodic truth.
While Robert Plant will always be Robert Plant, it certainly didn’t hurt to have Jimmy Page and the rest of Zeppelin around making sure the whole rocking production didn’t go sliding off one big crashing, musical cliff.
By letting the instruments handle the “singing”, I feel as though that grants a greater window into the true artistry gifted musicians present in their work. It’s a lot of time, attention, detail and PRACTICE to be good at the sound that you play and aspire to put out into the world. Then, once that happens, its the job of fans like myself to witness as much of it as possible and rave about it in writeups like this. As any good diehard does of course.
Luckily I have that privilege once again with the group I present you now: Dog Drive Mantis with the music video for their new single “Volta”, premiering right here on OTBEOTB.
While I must admit at initial introduction the band’s rather heavy-metal-sounding (and awesome) name and song title had me thinking of a slightly different sound, what I discovered left me impressed.
“Volta” begins as a dreamy, humming psychedelic lullaby as the band starts to settle into their groove. The track then proceeds to dip into moody, rising rock, Dave Clark 5 jazz-isms aided by some stellar saxophone lines, and a dipping, darting pace that keeps the track’s ultimate vision fun and excitingly upbeat. The boys in DDM seem to have a tight, well-honed chemistry together as well as they handle all the song’s rhythmic twists and turns with ease and spread a wealth of influences out on the table while doing it.
And when it comes to the video, while there’s still something to be said in art for productions in music, sometimes the best thing is simply being able to witness the live performance, unadorned. Getting to see those slivers of a show’s intimacy and/or bravado as though you’re right there in the room with that vibe. It’s also a sign that the talent you’re hearing isn’t staged or endlessly studio enhanced to sell a digital single. It’s a real, spiritual thing wrought from hard work and the love to create art.
So if you haven’t already, check out the electricity of Dog Drive Mantis and how it sparkles here. You won’t regret watching them go to work.
Once again, I am beyond excited to exclusively present another guest post for the band Silver Relics as they documented some of their experiences on a recent international tour. I have to give a big thanks to both Alex Sepassi and Justin Alvis as well as their crew for wanting to help create this, would love to do plenty more of this in the future!
Day 4: Night and Day Cafe : Manchester, United Kingdom : 6.30.19
Justin caught an early flight ahead of Howie, Brandt and myself into Manchester. We headed straight to our hotel to try and get some rest before our first ever UK performance. It was only about a 5 minute walk to the venue so we had plenty of time to explore the Night and Day Cafe located in the center of the city. This venue is spectacular. The type of place that makes you want to take photos.
Soundcheck was relaxed which gave us plenty of time to get to know a great group of guys and a fantastic band, Electric Cheese. The overall feeling I had from this place was that everything has to be earned. It’s not a very forgiving city until you’ve gained the respect of the locals. I don’t need to get into how many brilliant artists originated from Manchester. It’s understood. And if you aren’t aware of that then you sure as shit will once you walk by any venue. This city is home to many of my biggest influences, so to be a part of it, even for a day is amazing.
Shortly after soundcheck, in walks Mark Burgess and friends. Mark’s an extraordinary artist, writer and the frontman of The Chameleons, a legendary band with roots firmly planted in this city. It was a privilege to perform on this stage. Afterwards we received this review from Mark that we’ll forever appreciate:
Manchester Night & Day cafe
“On the recommendation of a friend I caught Silver Relics performing a set at Manchester’s Legendary Night and Day Cafe. Playing a debut show in the centre of Manchester is never easy at the best of times and Sunday nights are the not the best of times, but Silver Relics from New York definitely lit a flame under those present. I was pleasantly surprised and deeply impressed by this duo, comprised of real drums, and talented drums at that, a rock and roll guitar worthy of the name and some soulful vocals, what’s more there were a few seriously impressed Mancunians around me that shared that view. Some great, vibrant original songs augmented by a really fun cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Never Let Me Down ensured that everyone ended the night in good spirits and with huge grins on their faces.
Well played Silver Relics.”
Day 4: Success.
Day 5: Green Door Store : Brighton, United Kingdom : 7.1.19
We’re starting to get our asses kicked at this point. Not a lot of sleep and we’re about to do our 5th show in 5 days. Here we are on our way from Manchester to Brighton:
Everybody loves Brighton. We arrived when it was 75 and sunny. We linked up with our brilliant photographer, Kevin McGann, who happens to be one of our favorite people, so we already knew it was going to be another good night.
Green Door Store is below the train station in an old refurbished stable-turned-venue. The sound in this place was spectacular. Our label mates, Autorotation, put on an amazing performance to start off the night. They’re moody, sophisticated and inviting. We loved everything about this night, especially when we met with Chemlab frontman Jared Hendrickson. This man is amazing. He embodies everything I respect in a musician with the same type of confidence found in Mark Burgess. Here’s what he had to say about the evening:
“I just saw the Silver Relics, a band from New York, play their first show at the Green Door Store in Brighton, about an hour south of London. They’ve been playing dates around the UK and dropped into Brighton just before heading up to play the Old Smoke. I knew their songs from listening to their Generic album, but I really didn’t know what to expect from them live. Having performed in bands for years myself, a good live show is important to me.
Being able to perform with intensity and brio no matter the attendance is crucial too, and Brighton brought the challenge because the audience, though very enthusiastic, was small. Lame bands underperform when in-front of a small audience, but the Relics displayed utter professionalism by stepping up to the mic and ripping the lid off the Green Door. From their opening number, Fame, to their raucous closer, Cardiac, they roared through their tight set as if they were playing to an audience of a thousand.
The lights hazed and the colours boosted and the audience was hooked, cheering and whooping up a storm. Justin pounded his kit with a combination of precision and abandon that was a delirious pleasure to watch. Drummers aren’t always worth watching, but this guy was a show all on his own, ranging from delicate, intimate moments to all-out Grohlian bludgeon. Alex Sepassi is the perfect front man, simultaneously inviting and yet wrapped up in the world of his songs, his voice just the right mix of sandpaper and silk as he sashayed and swayed around the stage like the missing link between Keith Richards and the unbeatable Wilko Johnson.
With a sound that sets the pop perfection of The Kinks and The Beatles on a hard collision course with the dark dreams of “Pornography”-era Cure, the gorgeous sonic wall of bands like My Bloody Valentine and a lick of The Verve before they went right up their own asses, Silver Relics are perfectly poised to take the UK by storm.
Bring them back soon. I can guarantee the room will be packed after that show!”
Day 6: The Islington : London, United Kingdom : 7.2.19
1 a.m. train to London with Brandt and Howie. Justin’s staying the night in Brighton , which was a smart move by the way. London was the perfect place for our final show on this run. The Islington is a gem. We showed up to deliver the best of what we had. This performance was a challenge since we knew this one was going to be the last one until our next trip over. Justin and I love everything about the stage, so you can imagine how happy we were after 6 shows in 6 days. We were joined by our friends, Autorotation and Cyberwaste. It sounded and felt fantastic and we couldn’t have asked for a better spot to perform.
We learned so much on this trip. Performing “Generic.” in front of the people and the places that have influenced me since the beginning was so important to me. Important for us. Something happens when we strip away everything and we’re left with ourselves, our instruments and the people in front of us. We walked away knowing that this record and these songs are something we absolutely need to keep sharing with all of you.
Thank you to every one for your support and to those responsible for getting us here.
Apologies for the recent absence, but I’m making up for the gap with something fun! Recently one of the groups I’ve previously reviewed Silver Relics did an international tour, and they wanted to document their journey and some of their experiences. So I was more than happy to play host to it! Enjoy part one of this two-part installment, featuring the duo’s jaunt around Ireland.
Day 1: Drop Dead Twice : Dublin, Ireland : 6.27.19
Today Justin and I are running around city centre looking for a voltage adapter after we absolutely fried the shite out of our rack late last night. Complete with smoke and sparks by the way. 7 shops later, we’re back on track. Also, something we noticed was how helpful every single shop owner/worker was to us. If they didn’t have it then they pointed us to a place they thought might. So we were a little thrown off by that level of kindness. Not exactly something New Yorkers are used to but we but love everything about the welcoming aspects of Dublin. We arrived for our first show at Drop Dead Twice. Here are a couple of shots of Justin and me at the venue:
We sat around with our new friends from the Dublin quartet Magazines before we went on. These guys have an amazing sound and we can’t wait to see what happens next for them. Overall, the night was fantastic and I really don’t think we could have had a better experience for our first show.
Our dear friends Dermot Lambert and Craig Kingma at Garageland Ireland set us up at all three venues in Ireland. They’re amazing guys and we can’t thank them enough. Here’s a quote about the show from Derm:
“It can be quite difficult for an artist to win over a new audience, especially in a faraway land which they’ve never been to before, but the room came alive when Silver Relics took the stage in Dublin on that beautiful June evening. Heralded only by some specialised radio play from their tracks Time Bomb (T2), and Generic, the band found themselves in the company of a room full of instant fans, as the smokers came in from the beer garden and the private party-goers came down from the upstairs club to see who was driving the bass and killing the tunes. Justin swaggers and Alex swoons as the whole room became transfixed, hypnotised by proceedings. A set list of 7 songs disappeared all too fast in a haze of blistering anthems and killer hooks, delivered by actual real life rock stars. On this occasion I am happy to report ‘I was there’. ”
Day 2: The Sound House : Dublin, Ireland : 6.28.19
Today we’re over at the Garageland RTE2XM station for a live broadcast with Dermot, Craig and our producer, Howie Beno. We talked a lot about a little of everything. How the record was made, how we got to where we are and where we want to go. Always a pleasure to sit around with these guys. Here’s a shot of Justin and me in our new Garageland tees.
We got to the venue for soundcheck and right away we knew it was gonna be a good night. The venue overlooks the river and the space itself is gorgeous.
But this wasn’t an easy show. We were the first to go on and there weren’t a lot of people there when we started our set. These things happen from time to time but it never changes how we actually play. So we gave it everything like always and we started to see more and more people pile in by the time we were close to finishing out the set. The other bands were fantastic just like the night before at Drop Dead Twice. There’s an incredible amount of talent in Dublin. Every single group/artist has something to offer. They play together and you can feel how important it is for all of them to be up there.
Day 2: success.
Day 3: Pharmacia : Limerick, Ireland : 6.29.19
On the road to Limerick with Derm, Howie and Brandt. Before we even got to the venue we stopped off at Cashel somewhere between Dublin and Limerick. This was an experience along the way that made us realize exactly where we were. This is the type of place that makes you shut the fuck up and appreciate what’s right in front of you. The castle and the landscapes are incredible. We walked away grateful knowing that we had this to remember.
We didn’t get to see as much of Limerick aside from the ride through the city and the spots surrounding the venue. First thing’s first, Pharmacia is a great spot. It’s quirky and tasteful. The lineup was fantastic thanks to Garageland. The Revolators, In The Black and Norma Manly have amazing energy. They’re bold and it’s evident they felt right at home, which made the night a lot of fun. This was a great show that was worth the midnight journey back to Dublin without an ounce of sleep before we jumped on a flight to Manchester.
Singer-songwriter Stephen Babcock makes a fresh return with new music in just a little less than two weeks on June 28th in the form of upcoming single “Fight I Need”. The one-off is the followup to Babcock’s exceptional 2018 EP “Fiction”, and represents yet another linear step ahead in the development of the musician’s sound.
Material like “Fiction” and Babcock’s prior 2016 LP “Said & Done” largely felt most at home in a stripped down, coffeehouse format allowing the upfront intimacy of the moments to flow cleanly off the acoustic guitar strings. “Fight I Need” doesn’t exactly lose that well-shined sensibility for the landscape. Rather, it just surrounds it with an added edge of slinky organ work, trailing harmonies, and the bright punch of electric guitar fills racing right out of the melodic gateway.
That auditory kiss with a fist makes for a fitting companion to the track’s lyrical energy, which takes the notion of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” and riffs on it as a way to describe a desire for a relationship’s emotional toil. And indeed, either experience feels akin to 10 rounds in the boxing ring, with equal amounts of stamina needed just to outlast the conflict.
You can see Stephen live just after “Fight I Need” comes out at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2 for a release show June 29th at 9pm!
I love being able to delve into a lot of different tones and types of music on this blog. As my tastes advance, branch out and find new avenues in the cracks of this genre highway, it continues to be refreshing to be able to share what moves me and fascinates my ear. And it’s time to do that once again, this time in the form of a New York City-based alternative-rock band and their new record “Generic.”
Silver Relics begin their journey on this newly-released LP with the computery, electrified “Fame”, a song ruminating on the topic in a musical descent reminiscent of Bob Mould’s “Workbook” mixed into his later album “Modulate”. With drummer Justin Alvis providing Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight” thunder downs from behind the kit, lead vocalist and songwriter Alex Sepassi brings an almost industrial-sounding Gothic, Smashing Pumpkins-processed gloom within his Billy Corgan-splashed vocals on this track.
“Generic” meanwhile has a more Depeche Mode, stadium rock 80’s ambition that soars with a psychedelic expanse, while “End of Zero” is an acoustic-shaded dance beat of a song. “Time Bomb” wades into cutting guitar lines reminiscent of Sonic Youth, and “Wanderlust” abruptly turns from that musical thought into something resembling Duran Duran.
Silver Relics certainly comes as catchy as some of my prior references advertise, with track after track hitting ear-worms and hooks with a regularity requiring repeat listens just to break down the layers.
“Generic.” is an LP that doesn’t hesitate to move and get loose around the space it creates for itself and its melodic character, while still staying a bit more dark and digital with its soundscapes. The record title may imply something common or easily passable, but Silver Relics has done anything but that here in this expanse.
Check out the album below, as well as a few tour dates when Silver Relics may be in your neck of the woods!
‘Record Release Listening Party’ at The Scratcher, NYC – May 28
There’s a very strong early rabbit theme to Owen-Glass’ new LP The Rope & The Rabbit. There’s the title of course, but the initial track is called “Rabbit Hole” as well, and it feels very much like the dreamlike fall of Alice at the start of a pre-Wonderland excursion into this album. The pastoral folk strummer of a track begins small and grows into a varied, undulating thing. Like the rise and fall of sleeping breath into rigorous LSD fever-dreams.
How fitting then to be followed by “Here It Comes”, a Beatles Sgt. Pepper-vibing psych-rocker that makes the creatures of this “Wonderland” shuffle-dance together to a wave of Cole Humphrey’s George Harrison guitar lines and Anthony Earl’s hauntingly satisfying sax. This is all while Kelly Wayne Conley’s hushed vocals raggedly dart in and out of the arrangements, equally as capable shining on the gently-traced Springsteen meanderings of “Devil Don’t Mind” as the rugged groove of “Saint”.
Owen-Glass doesn’t hesitate to flex its strong cast of collaborators on The Rope & The Rabbit, or its desire to experiment out into different melodically-inclined avenues. It seems like a fitting decision given how many of these tracks lyrically deal with the vast complexity that is human conflict and emotion. An evocative musical backing just makes connecting to each song’s inner workings that much easier.
“General Butler” has a wry, Afro-Caribbean sway that brings to mind alt-pop outfit Jukebox the Ghost, while “Leave It Alone” is a full-on, moody burner. Meanwhile, “Paper Chains” feels like a jammier b-side off the Dave Matthews Band’s 90’s smash “Under The Table & Dreaming”.
To latch on to the word “jammier” for a moment, I applaud the group for putting out a song like “Paper Chains”. It’s a track almost 6 minutes in length that lets the musicians stretch their chops out a bit and not simply wrap up a theme in three minutes or less. In a world so dominated by digital singles and putting out work a piece at a time, to see those kind of album-focused moves (on multiple songs here) is a refreshing nod to how viable a good LP still is (and will always be).
Closing track “The Rope” returns to the humbly simple beginnings of the record as it mixes together dusty folk-rock with hints of something almost… chamber pop Parisian. The Rope & The Rabbit is content to keep the listener from just that, being content. Getting comfortable with good music and getting too boringly acclimated with what you’re hearing are two different things, and the latter usually lie forgotten after a time. Not so with Owen-Glass or this album, which offers the kind of intriguing variation to keep me going back to the start of “Rabbit Hole” to begin the journey again.
Check out more on the group and order the album on owen-glass.com!
Today it’s my pleasure to release the premiere of “So American”, a brand new music video from the band Owen-Glass. This is a cover the group did of a song originally written and performed by Portugal. The Man off their 2011 album In The Mountain In The Cloud.
Portugal’s version is a bouncy, psychedelic joy-rave somewhere between The Flaming Lips “Do You Realize?” and The Kinks. But while Owen-Glass’ take may enter the starting gate acoustically similar to the original, it proceeds to lean away from building up and chooses instead to embrace a more bare-boned folk edge.
The video takes hold of a similar strategy as there are a few mixing visuals of the band, but nothing that takes away from the mood and strength of the performance. The upfront intimacy of the moment feels very much like an installment of NPR’s “Tiny Desk” series, which further lays vulnerable “So American” and its lyrical critiques of hypocrisy and dysfunction in these United States.
For a song that debuted in 2011, those themes almost feel more relevant from where we sit today in 2019. But without any further insight from me here’s the video from “So American”, as well as a quote from Owen-Glass singer-songwriter Kelly Wayne Conley on why they chose to cover the track.
“We wanted to sort of pay tribute to some of the songwriters and bands that had a major impact on us, and John Gourley was an obvious standout. Portugal. The Man’s story is really special to us, because we followed them from the very beginning and now, after more than a decade of grinding on the road, promoting real, soulful art, those guys have finally gotten their due.
It’s a testament to the demand that still exists for real music, y’know. Like, these are artists in a universal sense, practicing their craft—using real instruments and building out cohesive projects that have a clear, artistic message by and for the common man.”We chose ‘So American’ because it really fits with who we are as a band, and we feel like it translates well in our sort of folky Americana style…
The message in ‘So American’ cuts right to the core of the culture we grew up in—seeing everything—politics, religion, whatever—through this American lens, and all of John’s songs pushed us to view the world differently and find a new level of empathy and even affected our spiritual awareness in those formative adolescent years. That’s not something you get from just any song by just any band. It’s really a special thing. I guess, in a way, our performing this song is our way of saying thank you to John, Zach and the rest of the guys for enriching our lives with their art.”-Kelly Wayne Conley
British Columbia singer-songwriter Kuri recently released a video for his single “Human Nature”, a cut from an EP with the same title. Before I break down the visuals a little bit, this is my first exposure to Kuri’s work and plenty needs to be said for this song as well.
“Human Nature” is a gorgeously delicate, intricately woven patchwork quilt of airy folk that begins in a rustling whisper of leafy harmonies and culminates in sunshine-washed waves of strings and percussion. My first thoughts immediately fly to Damien Rice’s 2014, often-cinematic My Favourite Faded Fantasy for the song having that same pastoral ambition (as well as a knack for words of gut-dropping melancholy slipped within the breaths of the melody).
That lyrical introspection is given life in vivid illustration via the video for “Human Nature”, which captures the thin-railed frailty the title hints toward. We seem to be witness to an almost typical whirlwind of a romance in this story, but not is all as the perfectly arranged scene seems. A tender embrace includes a lost, rigid look into the distance. Moments of connection are sought with a passion, but fall apart like dreams become smoke become the unrelenting reality of one person who just can’t let release the unattainable.
But, as Kuri’s words fall out so appropriately, “it’s human nature to need some impeccable force”. Sometimes we’re that Jim Carrey character from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind simply refusing to forget a mountainous presence no matter how much we try to erase it. Or how it might lead to our own self-destruction. And much like the film, the visual’s end remains open… uncertain.. flawed…. yet still willing to fight even if only to end in doom.
Swedish singer-songwriter JANOS recently released a new single entitled “Zero” that grooved its way into my ears this week. Much like this month’s forthcoming shift into May, the summer-teasing, synth-drenched anthem of the track is an appropriately upbeat, well-timed recipe to kick off the occasion. Especially as we begin to shift from the gloomy days of dull grey to the radiant rays of a new time of the season.
The lyrical mood of “Zero” reflects that same shiny, glass half full look as it tackles the negativity of people and how to not let them bring you down in pursuing your passion. And indeed it quickly becomes difficult to remain in a subdued state of mind as the song exudes a buoyant, Rachel Platten pump-your-fist mood that perceives how to rise above instead of getting dragged below. “Zero” has an infectious dance hall sheen reminiscent of Terence Trent D’Arby while still maintaining an organic heart and meaning beneath the layers that’s akin to a musician like Joseph Arthur.
It’s that fusion of funky yet defiantly honest that sets JANOS apart here. What really struck me is that while he does lean more heavily electronic on the track, there are still winding guitar lines and the gentle keen of violin keeping the orchestration from flying too heavily into the 1’s and 0’s.
So go get in your car on a beautiful sunny day, pull onto a highway or long country road, and throw this on with the windows fully rolled down and the miles streaming out behind your wheels. “Zero” deserves to be in a playlist with some horsepower.
Anderson .Paak has been feelin’ it lately with an ever-versatile, high-stepping vengeance.
In case you’ve been stuck under some rocks, the Malibu singer/songwriter/rapper/drummer/producer helped end 2018 on a strong note with his Dr Dre-collaborated, rap rave-up Oxnard. The record drew mixed reviews soon after release, though I suspect that was due to it being an album that required time and repeated listens to level up.
It would also have flowed much better without the skits that don’t age well after a lot of repeats. But I digress.
That’s why, as someone who’s written about music the last several years, I often hesitate to talk about new work the day it releases or soon after. There’s certainly a high associated with those initial listening experiences, but taking the time to study the puzzle pieces has a way of expanding the angles of creativity being brushed into this mix of many melodies.
So when the announcement for Ventura inevitably came along… that mental battle began. Especially with how quickly I’ve enjoyed the record since it dropped earlier this month.
“Come Home” is a retrograde-groove, come to attention album-starter that almost smells like an old LP sleeve and benefits from .Paak’s time-and-again sense of flow (not to mention slapping drumwork). The whiplash of a blistering second half verse from Outkast’s Andre 3000 certainly adds to its case, helping to put this one straight into the “Winner’s Circle” (Ventura song title joke, it happened, let’s move on).
“Come Home” brilliantly melds the warm R&B vibe that was promised in early Ventura teasers with the story Oxnard began late last year, and the theme threads throughout the album. Because in many ways the pair are a double album to each other, just speaking separate sides of the same coin. One that ran hard to chest bump and bass thump, and another… that just had to talk about love a little bit.
Speaking of love, tracks like “Make it Better” just make me smile. A slow-swaying ode to lost affection featuring a crooning .Paak backed by the velvet voice of Smokey Robinson, the singer who helped make the torch song croon what it is today? That’s a kind of magic you can’t deny, especially when you’re encircled by that chorus. I get the same vibe from .Paak’s back and forth with the vocals of the departed Nate Dogg on “What Can We Do?” Try not to belt along when you know musical church is in session.
“Reachin’ 2 Much” feels like a drum and horn-floated, tempo-chopped cruise down the coast of Miami Vice with a touch of .Paak’s own tune “Lite Weight” scattered in for tempo-switching flavor. While “Winner’s Circle” samples the classic “A Bronx Tale” before proceeding into a Thundercat-assisted slapping punch of rhythm that slips with satisfaction into “Good Heels”.
While I would say .Paak’s far from alone in creating these genre fusions, his songs always speak in their own voices. Some in certain seasons, others with connection to particular moments. And while I won’t go making the exhausted “is Ventura better than Malibu?” comparison, it is a VERY fine addition to the .Paak library.
And something tells me he’s still just getting started.