Video | Hot Chip – Need You Now

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London’s purveyors of perpetual dance beats and electro-soul since 2000 are back with their sixth studio album, Why Make Sense?, out May 19th via Domino Records. The video for the second single, “Need You Now,” is a looping time hop of mystery and heartbreak set to a pulsing house-rhythm and a sorrowfully-spiraling chorus, provided by a sampled vocal from 80’s R&B group Sinnamon, eternally calling out “I Need You Now!”

Hot Chip prove time and time again that neither the bleakest of settings, nor the saddest of souls, can suppress the overwhelming urge we have to bounce around a room to a funky groove.

Get your dance on live and in person when Hot Chip take to the road in May (tour info). They’ll be at House of Blues Boston Thursday, June 4th so get yourselves physically ready!

Pre-order Why Make Sense? 

New Music | Barna Howard – Indiana Rose

Barna Howard

Through semblances of Townes Van Zandt, Barna Howard seems to be finding himself embedded into a time and place that isn’t 2015 and frankly I’m enjoying it a ton. His small-town folk sensibility seems to be a creative driving force behind his upcoming record, Quite a Feelin’. On new track “Indiana Rose,” Howard laments a love-lost and regret, it’s this sense of reflection and the imagery he uses within his writing that makes this song familiar even as it is brand new. Howard seems to have captured something with this one, that instantly creates a sense of nostalgia, and pure honesty that easily resonates with me.

Look for more from Howard as we lead up to his upcoming record, May 18th.

Review | Polaris – Live at Lincoln Hall

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From my informal surveying of people I know talking about it on social media, Record Store Day is a divisive issue. It’s either the best day of the year, or a day designed to separate hipsters from their money, or a depressing day where you get rewarded for your dedication with disappointment. This may help! For those of you who get super amped about Record Store Day, this is a double album that was released that day! For those of you who think it’s all a marketing ploy, this particular album wasn’t a RSD exclusive. And for those of you who are bummed out because some blowhole bought up all the brand new Polaris albums at all the stores you visited (which was the case for literally every person I know, in every city), well, this is a brand new Polaris album!

Now, granted, it isn’t that same Polaris album. They released two albums on Record Store Day, and guess what, you can buy BOTH of them now on their website. I’ll wait.

Ok, are you back? Great. So, this album is a live album from a show they did last year in Chicago. Which, come to think of it, is another way this album may improve your life: what if you didn’t go to that show? What if you didn’t go to any shows? Now it’s like you did!

It’s a double album, because you get your money’s worth at a Polaris show, evidently. And yes, they play the hits. It’s awesome to hear the crowd recognize the first couple notes of “Hey Sandy” – we’ve all been to shows and we know this happens, but there’s something fantastic about hearing it happen when you aren’t even there, and feeling that same excitement build in you just as if you were. And, of course, because it’s a live show, things happen, and sometimes a band has to stop and restart the song and the crowd goes even wilder when they start it the second time.

Wait. Do I need to back up? Is some explanation needed? Are there people reading who are too young, or too Canadian, or too un-awesome to know what I’m talking about already? Ok, Polaris was the house band of The Adventures of Pete & Pete, a tv show that aired on Nickelodeon from 1993-1996. Why don’t more shows have a house band? So anyway, everyone loved the show and all its original music, and Polaris putting out records and playing shows is making a lot of people in their 30s and maybe 40s very happy.

Onwards! (Please read that in an Artie, The Strongest Man in the World voice.)

Like I mentioned, they played “the hits,” songs everyone will recognize from the show, like “Summerbaby” and “Hey Sandy” and “Waiting for October.” They also brought out some Polaris deep cuts – shout out to The Nuclears for reminding us about “She Is Staggering” the other weekend; that’s the second track off the album! They also played a couple of new songs, including opening with “Baby Tae Kwon Do” off the Great Big Happy Green Moon Face cassingle that this show’s tour was supporting.

But frontman Mark Mulcahy started out in another band, Miracle Legion, and he played a handful of Miracle Legion songs, so if you’re listening to the record and don’t recognize something, that’s probably why. Those songs tended to be quieter, although you can tell his style and signature in everything he is involved with.

So far, though, I’ve only talked about songs that you can hear on an album of some kind. That’s well and good, but the purpose of going to a show – and by extension listening to a live album – is in the way it enhances the experience of sitting at home and listening. I am talking about banter, people. Banter and covers and audience interaction. The record does not disappoint! Probably the best is when they cover “Man on the Moon” and then segue right into an audience quiz: Pete & Pete was famous for having tons of musicians guest-star, and Michael Stipe was one of these, as Captain Scrummy. So, audience quiz: what was Captain Scrummy’s famous line? Highlight below for answer:

“You look like a bona-fide Sludgesicle man!”

And what else would make a Pete & Pete fan’s day at this show? Well, of course, if Danny Tamberelli – Little Pete himself – came out onstage and sang with Polaris for a song. What could be more pipe?

Well, if you are already a fan, you’ve probably ordered your copy (if you haven’t, you can here), and if you’re not, you probably thought this post was way too long. Either way, though, you should probably go home tonight and watch all the episodes of Pete & Pete you can get your hands on.

In conclusion, I will leave you with the immortal words of Artie, The Strongest Man in the World: “Begone, pulpy, before I fold you into some kind of brochure!”

Review | Marian Hill at The Middle East

Marian Hill

A few months ago, I was cleaning my apartment while an internet radio station was on in the background. One song came on that made me stop what I was doing and pay attention to what I was hearing. This song had soulful yet wispy vocals laced by deep synth beats that were refreshing and addicting. It was by a band called Marian Hill; I was instantly hooked.

Fast forward to this past Saturday at the Middle East Upstairs. Marian Hill, the duo comprised of Samantha (voice) and Jeremy (beats) were accompanied by Steve to help them out with both sax and bass. The three of them hopped on stage, and I knew that this sold out show I was about to experience would be magical.

Samantha’s voice was mesmerizing. Jeremy mixed every beat live in front of us. Steve seamlessly swapped between sax and bass. They were on point with every beat throughout the night. Being restricted to only mixed sounds, Samantha’s voice, and deep bass/sax actually helps them define their unique sound, which I could only sum up as “deep boogie sounds.” At one point, they spun out a cover of Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” that was so their own that I could audibly hear people around me exclaim when they realized that it was a cover of something they actually knew.

A few times during the show, Samantha would step back and let Jeremy and Steve freestyle. The crowd loved it (we were all dancing from beginning to end). It was exciting watching them watch each other to keep in sync with the other’s tune. You could see in each of their faces how enthusiastic they were about their music and how flat out excited they were that their first show in Boston had sold out to such a supportive crowd.

One of the things I appreciated most about the show was Jeremy’s live mixing. He was cranking out some seriously impressive beats all night, and on top of that, he was playing back, looping, and mixing Samantha’s voice onto each track with precision that astounded me. At shows of similar music styles, I’m used to seeing bands show up with keyboards preloaded with each of their track’s instrumentals and not doing much of that work live. Marian Hill has officially raised my expectations in that department for any future show I go to. And just as I had expected, seeing them live was a totally magical experience.

New Music | Vomitface – Never Make It

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Partly it amuses me to write about a really gentle, sweet band in one post and Vomitface the next. Partly this is really just good and I’d write about it anyway.

“Never Make It” is the first single from Vomitface’s upcoming EP, Another Bad Year, which comes out May 12th. It’s sludgey, it’s noisy, it’s got all the distortion you’ve ever dreamed of, but guess what? The chorus is going to get stuck in your head like a champ. You might not be dancing to it, but you’ll be humming it as you walk home in the rain today.

And maybe you can read this as a counterpoint to hopeful songs that are in the gutter but looking at the stars. “Never Make It” isn’t even looking down into the gutter, it’s wallowing in it. Vomitface is taking that voice that says “You can’t” and reveling in it, refusing to “suck it up and smile and fake it.” That’s a tack you can take, too – you don’t have to dig your way out. What if you just keep digging?

Vomitface website / Facebook / Twitter

Video | The Speedbumps – Done Treading Water

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Are you having a tough day? Muffin. To buck yourself up, consider bears. I’ll explain: even your best day would be a super terrible and boring day for a bear, so a bear having a bad day outweighs your bad day by a million. The Speedbumps’ video for “Done Treading Water” will prove that for you. See? Your day wasn’t so bad.

The song’s gentle, folky sound belies the subject matter; sometimes everything is really the worst and you just have to get through it. It’s soothing to have pretty little tinkling keys while you reflect upon all the bad things that have ever happened in your life. It’s reassuring to have plunky guitars while you wonder if you’re going to sink or swim. Ultimately, it’s a hopeful song, but one that doesn’t leave out the minor chords, which is right, just, and true. My heart isn’t as black and cold as I may act like it is, but I’m still not on board for happy-flappy sunshine kumbaya nonsense, because that isn’t what the world is like. The Speedbumps clearly recognize that and know how to talk about hope without acting like everything is definitely going to be ok.

Maybe it’s because they’re from Ohio. That is some Rust Belt realness. But it is softened with their indie-folk touch (they have “a passion for hollow-bodied instruments,” a phrase which I find utterly charming), so you don’t just get beaten endlessly about the head with grim reality. After all, isn’t life enough of a string of miserable events already?

The Speedbumps website / Facebook / Twitter

The Wooden Sky – Saturday Night

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The Wooden Sky will release their highly anticipated fourth album Lets Be Ready, June 16 via Nevado Music. The record marks a few changes for the band, being the first album without founder Andrew Wyatt. The video leans on footage from the bands years of touring, but it’s a driving, soaring piece of rock & roll that finds it’s way deep into your ears.

Photos | Matt Pond PA + Young Buffalo + Long Time @ The Sinclair

Matt Pond PA at The Sinclair
Photos by Boston Concert Photography

This past Tuesday night at The Sinclair, fans of Matt Pond PA were given a chance to revel in an album that left a mark on them a decade ago. Kicking off a tour commemorating the 10th (holy crap) anniversary of Several Arrows Later, Pond and bandmates played the much beloved album in it’s entirety. While the set was light on banter, it was heavy on pleasing the folks who trekked out on that rainy night to reacquaint themselves with the songs that, judging by their reaction, mean a whole lot to them.

Pond is also on the verge of releasing a brand new album for fans to fall for. Look for The State of Gold June 30th on Doghouse records.

Joining Pond on the entire tour are Mississippi-based hair-swinging rockers Young Buffalo who are touring behind their third studio album entitled House which just dropped last month.

Opening the show were local newcomers Long Time who certainly played with the most edge of the three bands that evening. With that dynamic performance, I’d venture to say they grabbed a few new fans who were originally attracted to the indie rawness of Pond’s earlier work.

Check the photos below and get out and see all these bands for yourself. I still haven’t figured out how to get photos to play music…

Review | Upset – ’76

Upset

Upset pretty much lays it out for you in the first song off their new EP, ’76. People like to throw around the term “pop-punk” about them, but “Glass Ceiling” has a really apt line to answer that with: “I know we’re not what you bargained for / but I don’t think that I could care.” I’m not sure whether that’s what they were referencing by that line, but it holds true: when you think of pop-punk, you probably think of a bunch of unfortunate dude-bands that sounded like they reeked of Axe Body Spray. I was worried when I saw those descriptions! True story, I once saw “HEY SUP BLINK-182 FANS” spraypainted on a rock in the woods. Those are not days I’m trying to go back to. But you don’t have to worry. Upset is pop-punk in a very literal sense: they are the melding of pop and punk in a perfect, delicate balance – harmonies and pogo-worthy guitars, lyrics that are by turns rebellious and wistful, a supersweet middle finger.

You can get a sense of what is on the four women of Upset’s minds right now on the very first listen. There are the twinned songs “Home” and “Away” with their longing for the “familiar streets and dirty snow” of a hometown but riding the bucking bronco of rootlessness just the same; there’s “The Return,” about going back to your parents’ house with your dirty laundry in a garbage bag, there is what I’m pretty sure is a Lizzie McGuire reference in “Wonder”… this is about being a newly-minted adult, having just struck it out on your own, and all that comes with that. If ever there is fertile ground for pop-punk, I guess that’s it.

As such, it’s not really an album about love songs – more about friendship (and lost-friendship) songs – but “Pastey” contains what would be my new pickup line of the century if I weren’t an old married lady: “I wanna trespass on your property.” Yes please.

Listening to ’76, I immediately announced “they sound cute!” – not meaning anything with regard to their actual looks, but just their attitude and energy and how hanging out with them would be superfun. I want to ride bikes with them and drink milkshakes and stay up all night. Do you? Well, you can hang out with the album, anyway – you can order ’76 here.

Video | The Gotobeds – New York’s Alright

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Remember in the 90s when televisions started offering “picture-in-picture” and everyone thought it was basically the coolest thing ever even though it’s a really awkward way to watch tv? Pittsburgh’s Gotobeds remember. Their video for “New York’s Alright” makes a much better use of that feature.

Their brand of fun, raucous indie-punk is perfectly suited to either shotgunning beers at Niagara Falls or watching a cat flip out over a laser beam – both of which they kindly provide in the video. Also, there’s a rainbow guitar strap involved that looks just like a pair of suspenders my dad used to have.

Now, this video came out a year ago. So why am I talking about it now? First of all, mind your own business. But second, two developments have recently occurred with The Gotobeds that are worth mentioning. They just got signed to Sub Pop – cue Maude Lebowski: “and proud we are of all of them” – and they’re heading out on tour starting today, and coming to the Cantab on Sunday, April 12th. And, listen, I know with the playoffs starting it’s tough to cheer for anyone from Pittsburgh, but try, ok?

The Gotobeds Bandcamp / Facebook / Twitter