Anti-Folk, Concert Review, Indie Pop

Review: Regina Spektor @ Smith College, 11/14/17

By Janis Pham & Jess Slattery

On Tuesday, November 14th, Regina Spektor held a special solo performance at Smith College in Northampton. The concert was delayed for half an hour due to technical difficulties, but standing outside of the venue did not deter the droves of fans from showing up to see her perform. Before Regina even took the stage, her fans were shouting their admiration out from the crowd. Sitting down at the piano, Regina opened with “Folding Chair”, inviting the audience to enjoy the show with her with the first line, “Come and open your folding chair next to me.” After every round of applause, she’d modestly whisper into the microphone a small thank you, and would receive joyful laughter from the audience in response.

The John M. Greene Concert Hall was sold out for her performance, but she navigated transitions between songs with such intimacy that it felt as if she were speaking directly to each audience member. Although it was a one woman show, Regina filled the stage with her presence that ranged from mild to booming, accentuating the emotional currents that run throughout her music. She has the uncanny ability to move between pop, folk, opera and musical theater without batting an eyelash. Yet, nothing about it felt abrupt or misplaced. She moved from the song “Pound of Flesh”, a frantic and haunting piece as dramatic as the title suggests, to the tender ballad “Obsolete” without hesitation.

Regina’s small talk and banter were some of the highlights of the show. Between her songs, she often made comments about her day and her appearance, especially when it came to her shoes. She remarked about how tight her shoes were, but joked that the show would go on despite the “suffering she endured for art”. The spiel went on for a few songs, but she eventually paused between songs to retie her shoes.

She is sassier live than she is in most of her studio recordings. What is surprising, never having seen Regina perform live, is how similar her voice is to her recorded versions. It is clear that she relies more heavily on her talent than on electronic voice modification. The only time her voice faltered was during her performance of “My Man”, when she progressively became more flat throughout the song. Despite this, she never faltered and continued on with a gracious “thank you,” in response to the applause.  

Many of her songs have social commentary, whether that be through their lyrics or through the structure of the song itself. “Ballad of a Politician” speaks to the theatrics of men in suits making deals in isolated rooms. She has several light-hearted tunes that play with the structure of most generic pop songs. “Reginassauras” cutely plays on words. “Music Box” allows her to whimsically play with sound effects and noises that almost make the listeners forget about the dark and chilling subject matter that is laced throughout the song, explaining her desire to escape life’s routine by taking a “big gulp” of dish soap.

One of my personal favorite songs that Regina performed was “Poor Little Rich Boy“, a scathing criticism of the superficial masks we put up to give the appearance of perfect lives and hide our self-doubts. With her right hand, she played the keyboard and with her left, she hit a drumstick against a chair with such aggression that I was, at times, surprised she didn’t fall off her bench. All in all, it was an enjoyable experience. 10/9, would recommend!

Image via Rolling Stone. 

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Interview, Power Pop, Rock

Vundabar Interview – Boston Calling 2017

WMUA’s DJ Toasty Z caught up with Vundabar for a goofy ass interview after their set at Boston Calling this past summer. We’re finally releasing it from the vault– they talk making Eric Andre laugh, hard-boiled eggs, the craziest thing they’ve ever done at a show, and much more!

Filmed by: Sam Colby
Assisted by: Kim Smith

If you enjoy the interview, make sure to check out Toasty’s channel www.youtube.com/hiphopmademedoit for exclusive interviews with local and underground hip-hop artists, freestyles, music vlogs, and other exclusive content.

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Blues, Review, Rock

Album Review: Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song

Dan Auerbach is a busy man. Aside from his successful rock project The Black Keys, Auerbach created The Arcs, an impressive side project that took off during his hiatus from the Keys. His latest music project is simply himself: Dan Auerbach. Auerbach’s second album, Waiting on a Song, comes 9 years after his debut album Keep it Hid. Waiting on a Song is unique in its sound. Black Keys were bluesy, The Arcs were modern but still bluesy, and even Auerbach’s own Keep it Hid disappeared into the abyss of his other work. Waiting on a Song portrays a side unseen in Auerbach’s work before. While the majority of Auerbach’s work undertakes a dark guitar centric sound, Waiting on a Song has a southern upbeat tone with undertones of soul and funk, using violin, trumpet, acoustic guitar, clap styled percussion and other unlikely Auerbach-esque instruments.

Auerbach has been in Nashville since 2010, and it shows in his music. The album has southern rock hints comparable to that of Steely Dan, or CCR. In fact, many of the songs on the album parallel some of the greats. Auerbach mimics the likes of Al Green or Neil Young throughout the album.  In “Shine on Me” hints of John Lennon can be heard. On a similar note, Show Me” could be some variation of a George Harrison song. Originality in music is not as relevant these days, which makes the lack of it here alright; that’s not the issue with the album. The main problem with Auerbach’s album is the missing change in rhythm or pace.

“Waiting on a Song” starts off the album. A catchy and simple track about looking for that song to write, Auerbach explains the patience and process of writing music: “Songs don’t grow on trees/ You gotta pick ’em out the breeze…And pray one comes along,” stating that sometimes, and arbitrarily, the song will appear.  Creating a song is not an effortless process, so it is interesting to hear Auerbach’s unconventional perspective.

“Never in my Wildest Dreams” is the most sensitive track in the album. A soft love song about an unattainable love, Auerbach sings “I know where my purpose is/ It ain’t on some pilgrimage/ It’s wherever my baby is/ My love supreme.” The sadness in the lyrics can be heard in the slow tone mainly backed up by an acoustic guitar.

One of the lighter tracks is “Stand by My Girl”, a comical song about staying with a girl out of fear. Auerbach sings, “I’m gonna stand by my girl,/ because she’ll kill me if I don’t.” Banjo plucking in the background and tambourine shaking, the old Auerbach cannot be traced in this track.

Waiting on a Song is an album full of mostly empty lyrics. The overall simplicity of the lyrics is unfortunate and can get lost with the vague pop rock from the 70’s. Not every good artist needs to make meaningful music all the time, but it would have been nice to have seen some in this album. Regardless, the album gives off retro vibes that will provide comfort for soft rock fans. As for old fans of Auerbach or the Keys, the album is not of their regular blues sound and the new direction might be unsettling for some, but at the same time, Waiting on a Song has the potential to attract an entirely new fan base.  

Best Track: “Never in My Wildest Dreams”

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Concert Review, Rock

A Night At The Bowery: An Intimate Evening With Turnover

Preface

Nov. 16, 2017 was a date I had marked on the calendar since a hazy summer morning in early July. I found myself on a screened in porch of a female’s house I slept in the night before. Toking a joint, I was hoping to chase away the pounding in my skull so I could make a dash to the streets. That’s when I heard the scratching of a needle on vinyl from the room beside me.

“Adolescent dreams turn to adult screams, paranoid that I won’t have all the things they say I need,”  were the first lyrics I caught by Austin Getz, the lead 

turnover1singer of the band Turnover, off their latest record at the time Peripheral Vision. It spoke to me in a way that brought me back to my youth, days where I grew my hair long below my shoulders, dying it black, and adding a blonde streak to my bangs. Nostalgia. Early 2000’s pop punk lyrics, similar to bands like Taking Back Sunday, The Used, and Mayday Parade. Basically any band I had used to make my AIM bio. The thing I liked about Turnover was how they used emo lyrics, but with a new wave sound. A indie-rock, dream-pop tone, with a melodiousness to make you want to drive through the night in the rain. I was hooked.

By August of 2017, Turnover released their third studio album Good Nature, again growing into their sound. This album swayed more into a dream-pop-california-smokeadoobie-surf some gnar-melt my ears-awesomeness-vibe. Yes, this album was different than their last two, but it was different in the way you’d hope a band you like evolves and changes. Good Nature is the kind of album I’d tell my friends to listen to cover to cover- it brings you up, and on a sunny day walking to class, it’s unmatched.

The Venue

After months of anticipation the day was finally here; I arrived in Manhattan’s Lower East Side around 6:30pm and found my way to the Bowery Ballroom, doors opened at 7pm. I was met by two bouncers at the door and shockingly enough, no line. Turnover sold out both of its NYC shows, so I found it strange I could get in so quickly.  I walked down a dark staircase into a dimly lit bar with a collection of concert goers, ages ranging from early 20’s to mid 30’s. I grabbed a drink and sat next to a couple who I asked if they were here to see Turnover; of course they said “yes” and we made conversation for a bit.Turnover2 The Ballroom where the show was to be performed wasn’t visible to me yet, as we’d have to exit through another door when the first bands came on at 8pm. I approached the bar for another drink when, walking right in front of me, stood Austin Getz, lead singer/guitar of Turnover, followed by his drummer Casey Getz and bassist Danny Dempsey. There were a mere 30 people in the bar, and there was the band: just hanging out.  At that point I knew I was in for a different concert experience.

I made my way into the concert hall at right at 8pm for the first act Gliterer (which I’ve looked up since and it seems like they literally picked him up off the streets of New York because he can’t be found in a Google search). The Ballroom is Rock N’ Roll heaven, selling out the venue with a max capacity of 575 people it was the perfect amount of filth and intimacy you’d expect from a Lower East Side establishment. Before any bands even touched the stage, the smell of cigarettes and weed engulfed the air. There were no security guards putting out the lighters and the smoke, it was NYC, it was Rock N’ Roll, and it was time for the music.

The Show

Gilterer took the stage at 8pm, which was strange at first because he was alone with no instruments, so I figured he was just one of the stage hands setting up for the first band to take front and center. Then he approached the microphone, saying “Thank you all for coming to the show early, I’m Gliterer. I just want to thank Turnover and Elvis Depressedly for having me out tonight.” Hitting play on his Macbook, the sound of synthy-dream-state beats escaped through the speakers, followed by some pretty painful lyrics relating to ghosts of girlfriend’s past. I respected the act, it takes balls to take the stage alone, especially with no instruments, but I’d tell Gliterer not to quit his day job. After about five songs Gliterer exited the stage saying his thank you’s and was met with a pretty warm applause for the act.

Elvis Depressedly, a lo-fi indie-rock band from North Carolina took the stage. Lead singer Matt Cothran entered the stage wearing black spandex pants accompanied by white Daisy Duke short-shorts and a pink glittery sport coat, echoing the style of punk rock royalty like the New York Dolls, who played this stage decades before.  The band’s music was met with open arms and singing voices. The crowd had a psychedelic feel and turnover 4there weren’t many eyelids held above half mast, “Have you ever had a serious anxiety attack when you’re on the stage in front of hundreds of people?” Cothran said to the fans, he was met with crowd laughter, though it didn’t seem like he was joking. He stared outwards from the stage with a blank face, eyes buzzing around his glasses’ frames like they wanted to jump out.  It was all part of the act: the sound of soft guitars were met with loud cheers when Depressedly began playing their popular song “Angel Come Clean”, Cothran singing “I’ve been taking Xanax, listening to Morphine”, a song that talks about taking anxiety drugs while listening to bands named after drugs, which I think is comical. Overall, Elvis Depressedly had a great stage presence and sounded the same as you hear them on the album, they made for a fun show and the crowd was engaged throughout, it even lead me to buying their vinyl post show.

Turnover entered the stage moments after Elvis Depressedly had walked off, stage lights at full blast. The band began tuning their own guitars while a generic indie playlist played in the background. Fans screamed the names of members of the band while they worked on their instruments. Then, without even a drop of the lights, the cool sounds of surf- indie-rock began pouring out of the amplifiers. They opened with the song “Super Natural”, which was poetic to the way I felt.  Austin’s voice, alongside a smooth guitar riff and relaxing bass tones, sounded like driving down the coastline of California with theturnover 5 person you’ve always dreamt of. I don’t think the audience missed a single lyric in the hour and a half Turnover was on stage. They followed up with “Nightlight Girl” another classic off of their newest album. From beginning to end the band stayed true to who they are, mixing and matching songs from their last two albums. With songs from Peripheral Vision brought mosh circles and stage dives from Turnover faithfuls living in their emo/post-hardcore past. The band even mixed in one of their singles “Humble Pleasures” from a 2 track vinyl released in 2016.

“Its intimidating to play the city, because its so unique, and so cool, and so busy all the time,” Said Getz to the crowd of 575 faithfuls.

“We’ve been a band that’s played in the New York area for a really long time, and it’s still nerve-wracking. I can’t say thank you enough, whether we know you or not, thank you so much for being here. It means a lot. THIS IS THE BIGGEST SHOW WE’VE EVER HEADLINED IN NYC.

Post Show Interview

After the show I sat down with Bassist Danny Dempsey, a New York native, to ask him some questions about the show and the band.

Q: So what was it like playing in front of a sold out crowd here in NYC?

A: Well we’ve played in front of sold out crowds here before, this is the biggest we’ve had in NYC. So it’s a pretty cool feeling. I’m originally from long Island so I’ve been playing around here my whole life.

Q: Your sound has clearly changed over the years from Magnolia to Peripheral Vision and now with Good Nature. What can you attribute that to?

A: Well you know it all comes with growing up. Our sound changes as we change, we were 17-18 when we made our first album.

Q: Do you all contribute in the song writing?

A: The songs usually start with Austin.

Q: Austin said this is the first time you’ve played the new album in America, where have you played it?

A: We just got back from being on tour in Europe, so yeah, it was heard all over Europe. But its great to have played it in NYC first.

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Hip Hop, Jazz, Review, RPM

Album Review: King Krule – The Ooz

Archy Marshall is royalty, but you might not know it if you haven’t heard his music. The 23 year old London based singer, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire is back with The Ooz, his second full length album under the moniker King Krule. He gets his performing name from a Donkey Kong character, but more than that it’s a great descriptor of his music. Marshall’s harsh, gritty vocals create an interesting juxtaposition with the smoother beats that accompany most tracks on the album. The record fuses elements of punk, jazz, indie, and hip-hop to create an end product that sounds like a mellowed out version of John Zorn’s Naked City.

Musically, the album is extremely consistent. Most tracks feature very tight, suppressed drums, reminiscent of J Dilla or Young Marble Giants. Marshall uses catchy guitar riffs, such as those on “The Ooz” and “Slush Puppy” in unison with spacey and subdued keyboard synths (present on most every track), building tension to create beautiful, sprawling harmonies.  The last, most important ingredient to every track is his vocals, where he ranges from soft and somber to loud and aggressive depending on the lyrical content of the song.

“The Locomotive” is an introspective slow burner where Marshall describes himself waiting at a train station, plagued by his own thoughts. On “Logos” he describes a lost relationship with a woman: “We were soup together, but now it’s cold / We were glue together, but it weren’t to hold”. On these tracks, Marshall sounds more like an orator or a poet than a singer. He deals with themes of depression and isolation in a way that’s brutally honest. The accompanying instrumentals are slower and more toned down to put more of an emphasis on his vocals.

Some of the more fast paced songs include “Dum Surfer” and “Half Man Half Shark”. Marshall’s use of native jargon and his thick, clumsy accent create a clear vision of life as a punk in London. In “Dum Surfer“, he finds himself disoriented and intoxicated in a club where he scams a “dumb surfer” out of some cash. He pukes on the pavement and takes a cab home with a girl from the club, paranoid the whole trip home that the gods are out to punish him for his misdeeds. These songs feature somewhat cynical, more snarky lyrics as opposed to the introspective lyrics of most other tracks. Contrasting the more somber tone of most others on the album, these tracks serve as great changes of pace to keep the listener on their toes.

Archy Marshall presents an album that should leave any fan of alternative music excited for the future of the genre. The project marks a maturity and precision in his lyrics and showcases deep, catchy and well produced music. True as his name suggests, Archy is the new King of jazz-rap-punk fusion, if there even was one before.  

SCORE: Ooz/10

BEST TRACKS: The Locomotive, Slush Puppy, Czech One, The Ooz, Lonely Blue

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Concert Review, Local Music

Review: Humble Digs & Sunshine Bros. Inc. @ Iron Horse Music Hall, 10/14/17

The Sunshine Bros. Inc. and the Humble Digs, both local musical groups, played a fantastic and lively show Saturday night at the Iron Horse in Northampton. Although a late show, beginning at 10 pm, it drew a crowd large enough to fill the floor. Unfortunately for Iron Horse regulars, the balcony area was closed. Starting off, the Sunshine Bros. Inc. came out strong with many originals and a couple of cover songs, namely a surprise version of Let’s Dance by the legendary, late David Bowie. UMass Amherst rapper NliteN took the stage alongside the Sunshine Bros Inc. for a track, which was well rehearsed and hyped the crowd.

The Humble Digs took the stage around 11 pm and began playing a very avant-garde Ode To Viceroy by Mac DeMarco, which melded into tracks off of their most recent album “&,” and never before heard tracks from an album in progress, “Portrait of Grace.” The Humble Digs bring a lot of energy within every song; needless to say the crowd was rocking out, carried by soothing, walking bass lines, trills and licks from both guitarists and killer beats from the drummer. They were melting face, so to speak. During the middle of the set, the Humble Digs brought out a fan favorite: Fearless, by Pink Floyd; one of the best covers of all time, by a local artist. The Digs use slide guitar to create an eerie and intriguing version of a rock classic.

Things to look out for in the future: the Sunshine Bros Inc. just released their debut EP “The Sunshine Tape” mid-September, and can be found on Bandcamp, and Facebook. The Bros. will be playing shows in the Valley for the foreseeable future. Be sure to check out their Facebook page for more information.

The Humble Digs are going on hiatus! Unfortunately for those looking to see the Digs again in concert, you will have to wait a couple of months. They are going undercover to work on their new album, “Portrait of Grace,” which will be released in the next year. To find your Humble Digs fix for the moment, search them on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify and Facebook.

NliteN can be found on Soundcloud, Spotify and Facebook. He has released a couple of new music videos, accessible on Youtube.

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Review, RPM

Track Review: Porches Share New Song, Music Video: “Country”

Aaron Maine’s first offering since 2016 finds Porches relying on a fresh, glowing road map.

Manhattanite Aaron Maine, known professionally as Porches, has returned with new music following 2016’s Pool, an album of moody funk and washy club-rock; both danceable and wistful. Set to be on Porches’ upcoming album, Country is accompanied by a brief, stark video shot in upstate New York, far from the crooner’s noisy digs. The song itself is a beautiful reflection of the concept, populated by plucky, synthetic strings with quick decay. Maine’s trembling words are dry and without resonance, encircled by waves of sticky organ surging peacefully beneath the spaciousness of the song. The new track also features background vocals from Devonte Hynes (Blood Orange), a frequent collaborator and Domino label-mate. This sound seemingly marks a departure from the sanitized and spooky electronics Pool- instead, Country serves as a tender, blissed-out reintroduction to the quiet insistence and sensual metaphor of Porches. Maine is no stranger to changing up his style, though- Country is just another stepping stone across a river of genres that have spanned his seven-year career, beginning at dusty, gruff, and bombastic indie-cana and ending at whatever mysterious album Maine has in store for us.  

Porches gave a performance at last year’s WMUA Spring Concert and Pool was included in WMUA’s best records of 2016.

Listen/watch the video for Country below:

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