Review | Psychic Dog @ The Middle East Downstairs

Psychic Dog at the Middle East Downstairs
photo: Matt LeBel

Saturday night was a veritable explosion of local bands at the Middle East Downstairs for the big Robby Roadsteamer comeback show, and I’m going to tell you about one of them. Psychic Dog is a Boston rock and roll machine that is powered by beer and beards. It’s a 3-piece, made up of guys who know what they’re doing, being veterans of other bands in the area (contains half of the dearly departed Hookerclops and one ex-OTPer). I appreciate that this band does not waste the talents of any of its members – while the songs mostly issue from the mouth of Dug McCormack (guitars), the other two gentlemen get their shot at singing too, and it so happens that another of my favorites of theirs right now is one that Kevin Kupillas (drums) sings, “60 Days.” That’s right, they gave their drummer a microphone! Bassist and no-longer-secret weapon Jared Dew also gets to sing songs, which I enjoy a great deal too.

I am having a tough time not drawing parallels all the time with Hookerclops, because I was literally married to that band being as my husband was in it, so I’m just going to drop all pretense and talk about Psychic Dog in the context of Hookerclops. When a band forks into 2 new bands, you really get an idea of what each party brought to the table. One thing you can really tell Dug is into is closing with a long song that devolves into a cacophony of sound, where he gets to give his pedals a workout. Hookerclops had such a song; Psychic Dog does too, and in both cases its job is to close out the set. Another thing I noticed is that as usual, Dug was – almost! – the only person the whole evening to remember the names of, and thank, all the other bands playing. One other person in another band matched that level of commitment and even that much is unusual. So support someone who supports their scene, and go see a show! That won’t be hard because they play pretty much constantly.

If you want to get an idea for yourself before going out to see them, check out their debut album, Big and Lonely, which is only a couple months old, so really it’s an adorable infant of a record. Hold it in your arms yourself here.

2014 | Kyle’s Record Recommends Day 1

It’s the end of the year and it’s time to wrap up everything we loved, and this year I’d like to make this a buyers recommendation for records this year. At this point in my life, these are all records I think you should drop $20 on and spin the vinyl like there is no tomorrow.

I didn’t think it was proper to put these in any type of order although most people who I discuss music with will probably know what my number one is. Without further ado, here are my recommendations for records to buy that released in 2014.

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Cory Branan – The No Hit Wonder

Cory Branan’s “No Hit Wonder” might be my favorite song of 2014, and with that, this record is one of my favorites of the year. Blending country, punk, rockabilly and rock & roll Branan nails it all on this record, combining fine musicianship and songwriting on an album that should absolutely be in your collection.

Buy No-Hit Wonder

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Blake Mills – Heigh Ho

At first this record was too much experimentation, but as I got deeper and deeper with it, I found amazing pieces, and the sum of all of its parts is a record that shows Blake Mills gets to do whatever the hell he wants, and always pulls off something amazing. He’s an amazing artist, and if you don’t already know him, you better start now.

Buy Heigh Ho

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Chromeo – White Women

I’d love to make a bold claim here, Chromeo’s Old 45’s is the best pop song of 2014. Of course that’s my opinion, but regardless, their album White Women is full of gems. Tracks like Come Alive, Sexy Socialite, Old 45’s & Frequent Flyer, this record is stacked from top to bottom. If you have a pulse, you’ll enjoy at least something on this record. I’d hazard a guess you’ll enjoy all of it.

Buy White Women

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PHOX – Self Titled

PHOX’s self-titled debut was one of those records that really grows on you. The Wisconsin based sextet filled our ears with lush sounds that are hypnotic, and entrancing, yet minimal and quiet. The album grew on me even more so when I picked it up on vinyl, it was one of those you just keep flipping and never move on to something else. You’ll find little sonic nooks each time that you didn’t know were there.

Buy Phox

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Luke Winslow-King – Everlasting Arms

Winslow-King’s delta blues steeped record Everlasting Arms is one of my favorites of the year for his ability to bring pre-war period jazz and blues into our modern world. His voice and songwriting are top-notch, there’s some barn burners on this record like “Swing that Thing,” to “Traveling Myself” the bouncy “Levee Man,” and the charming “Everlasting Arms,” Winslow-King puts a great touch to each of his songs.

Buy Everlasting Arms

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Jonah Tolchin – Clover Lane

Tolchin’s Clover Lane is a remarkable Americana effort, and most definitely worthy of a vinyl purchase. It spans from casual front-porch blues tunes, “Hey Baby Blues,” to the bedroom confessional “Diamond Mind, and into the barn stomper “Mockingbird.” Please do get this record into your ears, it’s one true special record and deserves every bit of praise it gets.

Buy Clover Lane

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Ages and Ages – Divisionary

When sung at a show, Divisionary’s title track makes a statement, when sung with a choir it’s really jumps out. It’s that song you’ll be singing until the day ends, and possibly the one you are waking up singing to. Divisionary is chock full of some of the best pop tunes you are going to hear anywhere. What you have is a triumphant effort of music where each song is memorable, and within an instant you’ll be singing along with one of the best all-around records of the year.

Buy Divisionary

Swing back in tomorrow and I’ll have the second portion of my list.

2014 | Ryan’s Top Albums of the Year

Well folks it’s that time of year again whether you like it or not. Some people dread the annual top lists of things but I really dig ‘em. Mostly because it provides a chance to be introduced to something you may have missed that year, or be reminded that you should have listened to everyone saying how awesome that album is and how you need to hear it. There was so much great music in 2014 and it made it very hard to keep to my list of ten best albums for the year, but I persevered and sorted out my favorites.

In this day and age of Spotifys and Pandoras it can be hard to focus on the entirety of a full-length album, but I promise that when you stop for a moment and listen to a musician’s work from start to finish you will more than likely be pleasantly surprised. I have listened to these 10 albums listed below from front to back (and back again) many times. They may be in order for the sake of the almighty list…but I love them all equally. I do hope you enjoy.

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10. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

This is what true country music sounds like. The Kentucky born singer-songwriter’s star was ablaze this year, hitting all the late night talk shows and performing for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. Give this album to a friend and they will know how much you love them.

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9. We Were Promised Jetpacks – Unravelling

Unravelling is intense and raw and will leave you in a glass case of emotion. The Scottish band’s third album is a slow-burner and you won’t notice that the songs have you trapped until it’s too late, and you’ll be fine with that.

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8. BLXPLTN- Black Cop Down

No other album in 2014 captures the year more perfectly than BLXPLTN’s debut, Black Cop Down. The Austin, TX trio shine a screamingly bright, electro-punk light on the social injustice happening all around us. Their music is a true reminder why the punk-rock genre exists. Put this on loud …rage…rock…repeat!

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7. Shakey Graves – And the War Came

Well…Alejandro Rose-Garcia is a man on a mission. That mission is to make sure the world knows about his alter-ego Shakey Graves. With the release of And the War Came, and a non-stop tour schedule, everyone is catching on.

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6. Greyhounds- Accumulator

You need a soulful and funky kick in the pants? If the answer is yes (and why wouldn’t it be) then the Greyhounds, Austin’s purveyors of soul-funk pants kicking, have just what you need. The Texas duo create music that makes New Englanders feel like they are from the South.

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5. PHOX  – PHOX

The six members of  Wisconsin’s PHOX all grew up together and were friends long before being in a band crossed their minds. You know how you talk about forming a band with your friends? They actually did it, and their fantastic debut album has taken them from show openers to headliners in less than a year.

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4. Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time

The South Carolina husband and wife duo are the hardest working band on the road, and Michael and Cary Ann’s sophomore album is a reflection of that hard work. Both joyful and mournful, Swimmin’ Time takes you to dark places but makes sure you are comforted along the way.

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3. Nikki Lane- All or Nothin’

Outlaw-country rebel Nikki Lane joined forces with Dan Auerbach to help create her sophomore album, which was released in May, and the partnership paid off big time. All or Nothin’ is what Bonnie and Clyde would have listened to while speeding away from the scene of the crime.

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2. Royal Blood – Royal Blood

Listen to that sound! That kick your teeth in and turn you upside-down sound is created by just two people! The UK duo have just been hailed as Dave Grohl’s favorite new band and they are hitting the road together next year. That’s how good these guys are people. Their debut album rules.

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1. Jack White – Lazzaretto

I simply can’t stop listening to this album. Jack White is rock n’ roll.

Video | The Daley Grimes – Santa’s Secret

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Christmas is coming. For some people, that’s a more fraught, and perhaps literal, statement than for others. Boston’s acoustic comedy duo, The Daley Grimes, want you to know that if Santa gives you the “no” feeling, you’re not alone.

If you want to talk about it in a safe space, or just watch them sing more songs, bring your Christmas packages* to the Davis Square Theatre, tomorrow night (Dec. 12th) – they’ll be playing, along with friends OTP and Answerman. I hope I see you there… and I hope I don’t see Santa there.

*Yup. I made that joke.

Video | My Drunken Haze – Carol Wait

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Happy Monday! Did you go to a weird party this weekend? And if not, why not? Either way, I bet it wasn’t half as weird as the party in this video. All the way from Greece, My Drunken Haze gives us “Carol Wait,” off their self-titled debut album.

It’s sunny 60s garage pop that is totally belied by the dim and ominous atmosphere in the video. Handclaps and lyrics about drowning and hell – what is not to love here? Also, I think they have a time machine and hired 90s Liv Tyler to star in this video. That was probably a smart move since present-day Liv Tyler’s rates are probably out of the realm of possibility for a new band. Anyway, 90s Liv Tyler goes to this weird party, takes a pill, and things get kind of bizarre. How bizarre? First of all, now you REALLY need to watch the video so you can get “How Bizarre” out of your head – you’re welcome for that – and second of all, let’s just say there’s a PG-13 version of the bear scene from The Shining. See? I told you your party didn’t stack up against this one.

Buy My Drunken Haze on Inner Ear Records

New Music | Bat Manors – Cabin 4

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The members of Provo, Utah’s Bat Manors are readying their debut album, Literally Weird, which will be released January 27th via Bleed101 Music. The band was formed by singer-songwriter/guitarist Adam Klopp (who also founded the now defunct band Timber!) and the current line-up includes Mike Dixon (guitar/steel), Katrina Ricks (vocals/percussion), Jacob Hall (percussion), Landon Young (bass/clarinet), Bret Meisenbach (drums), and Kyle Hooper (keys).

Together the members of the group create beautiful layers of sound and harmonies gorgeous enough to both break your heart and lovingly put it back together. The newly released single from the forthcoming album is titled “Cabin 4,” and it is really quite stunning. The track explores spirituality and the idea of higher powers that may exist but always seem just slightly out of reach. This is a theme that runs throughout the album and I am really looking forward to hearing more music from this talented band.

New Music | Fly Golden Eagle – You Look Good To Me

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Fly Golden Eagle’s Quartz is a record you’ll want to hand down to your children, and you’ll just have to hope on hope that it doesn’t ruin their lives by making them the coolest little mother fuckers on the block. I mean, seriously, this record could derail the plans you have for their college careers. And yet, it would be cruel to keep them in the dark, wouldn’t it? Get your priorities straight, man. The futures of your hypothetical children depend on it.

Quartz is a sexual assault from the 1970s, & you’re not going escape the encounter with less than a pearl necklace. And you might end up sojourning to Tibet afterwards. It’s a leather jacket for your brain. And it’s a record that you need to listen to very, very loudly.

In case you haven’t gathered, this is my favorite record of 2014.

The full version of Quartz is 26 tracks strong, & lines up with Alejandro Jodorowski’s weird-ass 1973 film The Holy Mountain, a la Dark Side/Wizard of Oz. (The Hole Mountain was produced by the Beatles’ second manager, Allen Klein, & funded by George & John.) It was mostly recorded in the art deco remains of the Trinity College library in Tehuacana, TX, which was abandoned in the 1940s. And it sounds like all of that. Which is to say Sly Stone & Sgt. Pepper strapped together with a bolt-on supercharger, filtered through the frank urban decay of the Motor City, & assembled with a precision that rarely manifests outside of Nashville, TN. Fuzzed out bass guitar, plate reverb, horns, swirling organs, machine gun drums, psychedelic harmonies, gospel choir guitars… & then there’s Ben, who is half lovesick school boy, half prophet descending from the mountain. Half palpitating labido, half ruminating philosopher. It’s all art. Very art. And good art, at that. Art with heart, & art that grooves.

Strap in. You’ll like it.

Get Quartz Bijou on vinyl here. Get the full Quartz here.

New Music | DCDR – Cut My Teeth

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Boston’s grunge punks DCDR have just put a new album out (you might know them better under their previous name, Dead Cats Dead Rats, as whom they won a couple Boston Music Awards), which you may have missed while filling your face with turkey. This is understandable – eating your weight in stuffing is a totally reasonable Thanksgiving goal – but now Thanksgiving is over and it’s time to get back to business. The album is called Raw – that’s a risk, isn’t it, to name an album after an adjective that can be applied to it? Because there’s always the chance that it won’t live up to that name. But they’ve been hard at work making sure that it does. For proof: this song, “Cut My Teeth,” which ought to get your day off to a raucous start. And to get back to turkey for a second, if you do feel like you ate “too much” of it (as if that’s a thing), pogoing around your room to this song would be great exercise.

So there. Good morning, punk rock in your face. That’s how you ought to start the day, and for my money, that’s what you should do the rest of the day, too. You can accomplish that by getting yourself a copy of Raw and letting its 7 songs crash around your cranium all day long. And if you want to argue that it’s basically noon, bear in mind that I can’t hear you because I’m busy listening to this.

One thing, though. You know when you’re listening to something on Soundcloud, the page title is always “‘Name of Song’ in ‘Name of album or account or whatever'”? Well, when one of the song titles  on the album is “Big Trouble,” and you see “Big Trouble in…” and that’s not followed immediately by “Little China,” people get upset. Their next album had better have a song about the Pork Chop Express to make it up to us all.

Buy Raw

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New Music | Nikki Lane & JD McPherson Band – How Insensitive

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Oklahoma’s JD McPherson is readying the release of his sophomore album, Let The Good Times Roll, out February 10th on Rounder Records, and has just announced his US tour dates for February and March. To celebrate what will surely be a great start to the new year JD and his band performed a beautiful version of “How Insensitive” on the newest episode of “Time Well Spent With People Worth Knowing.” Featuring the incomparable vocals of Nashville musician Nikki Lane, the timeless jazz standard reaches new levels of heartbreak.

We are huge fans of JD McPherson and Nikki Lane so you can bet that we were super excited to be able to share this live recording with you all. Speaking of live, take a look at the the tour dates listed below and be sure to make it to the show when JD and his band hit your town. For us Bostonians we get to see them at the great Cambridge venue The Sinclair on March 4th. Be there!

Read On »

New Music | Andrew Combs – Foolin’

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A new tune just hit us from our pal Andrew Combs, off his upcoming new record, All These Dreams, and we fell pretty hard for it pretty damn quickly. “Foolin’,” is a social commentary on the state of people’s online lives, how we’ve come to project something very different from who we are. What you get is this killer, Orbison-like tune that shimmers, a country-tinged song with a modern setpiece. Pals Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum Jr. from Steelism lend a hand as the band on “Foolin’,” and the rest of the Combs’ upcoming record, which drops March 3rd.