Sunday, September 5, 2010

Motivational Tapestry Wove by a Psychedelic Spider

I first heard of Doomstar! last autumn through The Sleeping Sea--the first band I wrote up here. Somehow we got in touch and eventually they sent me a CD. It came on a rather shitty day, or at least that was when I checked my mail. It was my first, and only, post sent in for this site and it was decorated at that! (I want to take a little detour and say, thank you, it was greatly appreciated.) Doomstar! is a 3-piece out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, consisting of Spenser Gralla (guitar and vocals), Noah Bond (drums), and Jeffrey Johnson (bass and "yelps and noises"). They met while attending at Umass, Amherst, but didn't start playing together until September 2007 when they all lived in Boston.

What I got was Doomstars!'s debut album Colors, self released 6 March 2010. The album was co-produced by Justin Pizzoferrato--sound engineer for such notables as Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.--and recorded at Bank Row Studios in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The album is described by the band as Doomstar!-year-one but also includes some improve tracks. It plays much more like an EP, and I mean that in a good way considering the short attention span of today. They tell me that lyrically the album is based on abstract feelings of introspection, loss and celestial wonder, but for me, as a whole, it is nothing short of hope. The vocals are so drowned out they could often say anything, and the music is so lush and energetic, the words tend to become whatever I want them to be.

Introduction is exactly that, a slow ease into what's to come. Simple guitar, sparse drums, and bass holding the whole together. Blues and Other Dark Colors seems to be the remedy to such a mood. The guitar is friendly, the drums uplifting, and the vocals soft, like a shrink telling you everything is going to be okay, with a bass-line at your back gently nudging you over the toughest of hurdles. Night feels like an outtro to the mess you've just got through. And In the End…There Will Be Color feels like an intro to Helicopter Pilot. It's these transitions that give Colors the feel of an EP, the easy-listening that our short attention spans desire. Helicopter Pilot brings back the uplifting feeling that we find in Blues… It's undeniable line, Where you gonna run to?, reminds us of the facing we all must do and the chants urge us to go for it. It reminds me of tracks by Broken Social Scene. Light is like an intermission. It's simplicity and divergence from from psychedelia into folk respectfully caters to the everyday-listener. The Conversation acts as an intro to Mountain Siege, brining back the broken delivery we encountered earlier. Mountain Siege is an attack on the psyche if not our very morals. It's aggressive guitar and drums are a battle cry, while the bass is the hand on our backs with vocals like some righteous drive. This is the first time I sense the influence of The Walkmen--the only influence the band sited for the album. Attack plays as a segue into The Easy Way, yet still, it seems a fadeout. The Easy Way brings us down from the battle. It's drums still aggressive somehow bring you a calm. When you think it's all over you have to face the need to carry on. It's like nothing ends but only brings you something new. It's end is so reminiscent of something that's come before. As for me, I'd rather not figure it out.

My Favorite Track

Blues and Other Dark Colors

Most Accessible Track

Helicopter Pilot

Since last year Doomstar! has released another EP and are now on tour. Check out their Bandcamp page for purchases and their MySpace for show dates.

photo credit: © Jhnystvns

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My First Hiatus

I've been doing a different kind of writing two weeks & to help w/ that I've was being very picky w/ what I listened to, read, & even watched.
Push 2 Stops is not over by any means; I have some stuff that I'm eager to share.
My creative writing project is nearing it's end, I think, I wont bore you w/ the details.
I expect to have a new review up next week w/ hopes of it being up this weekend.
Push 2 Stops still accepting submissions: Push2Stops[at]gmail[dot]com
I'm sorry I've taken so long to mention the delay, but I didn't expect this burst of creativity to be so big or last so long.

Monday, October 5, 2009

If the 90s Must Come Back, Let it be The Last Relapse

Here's a little Props Post about a band out of Alpharetta, Georgia. The Last Relapse is working on there first LP but sent me their demo. It reminds me of the 90s, but in a good way. The band consists of David Holding (guitar, vocals), Justin Canada (drums, vocals), Ben Barlament (guitar, vocals), & Michael Buckner (bass).
Sleep is an atmospheric track that rocks you to sleep into some kind of extraordinary dream, like inter-demential or space travel. It ends w/ these sort of Deerhunter like vocals & lets you down easy. Speak Before You Think picks you back up w/ a much more pop feel w/ a Bright Eyes-like vocal pattern. Simple drums & guitars are held together w/ friendly bass, encouraging a sing a long. It's probably my least favorite track, but I imagine it's positive message will be well received. Machine is dramatic & self loathing, & this is where The Last Relapse really shines for me. It makes me want to write about how much I hate myself, yell about everything wrong w/ the world, & pound the floor--it's so full of 90s angst. I don't, the world's not so bad, & the floor has always been there for me, but it gets you, it pulls you in, it's quite enjoyable. The bridge is especially nice & well crafted.
The quality of the recordings is low, but a well produced LP is something I look forward too. Their next show is 21 October @ Caledonia Lounge in Athens, Georgia. Check out their MySpace page for shows & music.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I've been Indoctrinated

Just last month I was told about a band called Religious Girls from the East Bay in California. I checked out their MySpace page & thought they were pretty good, forgot about them for one reason or another but later learned they would be playing a dirt cheap show here in the city. I had to check it out.

After one show I had to check out another. They are like Noise done right or like Animal Collective on Peyote & PCP. I went to the first show last Thursday; it was hosted by The Tower 102.5 FM an up & coming college radio station here in SF--who did a great job by the way--@ Sub-Mission. The second was Friday--yes, the very next night--@ El Rincon.

They start off sound checking just like any other band--w/ the addition of one member providing grease paint to the others--& slowly it starts to come together. Even after seeing these guys two nights in a row I'm still unsure how much is actually sound check versus a planned transition from chaos to harmony to harmonious chaos. Soon enough the legion of floor toms sets off the inductees in convulsive dance & as quickly as it starts it stops, & so to do the fans. Religious Girls control the crowd like a skilled puppeteer. It's clear many of the inductees are only paying attention to massive noise of so much percussion & chants, oblivious to the the well weaved textures & atmosphere this band creates. It's easy to get lost in so much adrenaline; it's easy to lose your sight & speak in tongues. But for me seeing a band live is so much about getting a better understanding of the nuances of their music & never has any band made me enjoy the turning of knobs & the pushing of buttons like this; never have two players of the same simple arpeggiation back & forth put me in such a frenzy; never has affected voices surprised me so & made me think "that sound isn't a sample, but that guy right there." The followers are so devoted they seem to become part of the show, from the knocking over instruments to catching them before they hit the ground, to make-shift mic-stands, to the visuals of crowd surfing--which I generally find more annoying than entertaining--to the lifting of Dylan into the crowd as he plays his who-knows-what. It could be argued that these fans are part of Religious Girls. The shows are indoctrination & baptism comes by paint. During the end of the second to the last song Nick passes out paint and dishes a fair amount on to his drum set. By this time Guy has already moved into the audience & Dylan has come back to solid ground. As paint is laid down on a floor tom in the middle of the audience, a small young lady--maybe even a 16 year old w/ a fake--says, you might wanna move or you'll ruin your suit. I position her in front of me which seems well received. Band members take paint from their instruments & smudge the faces of the crowd. The girl in front of me reaches in herself, turns to me & marks my left cheek. I remember falling in love w/ Ester on a train, two marks on her cheek, looking like a pale stick indian. (I'll do something for the first one to call that reference, I'm not sure what, but something.) She turns back around just before high-hats quite everyone down. Drums come in & the room is rocking again waiting for what's to come. The music breaks & the band howls a chant to the heavens, the roof disappears & it's not long before everyone is involved in this call & response between floor toms & chanting. Nick has also moved into the crowed favoring an arched back posture as he holds his mic to the followers. Howling, slamming, paint splattering, we are taken to another plain, a new kind of high, this sort of peace from momentum; we are all Religious Girls.

When it's over you are happy, you are connected to everyone & everything, faith in humanity is restored, & you can't help but smile @ everyone you see & they can't help but smile back because you know something that they know & you both know that not everyone knows what you now share.

After both shows I made contact w/ members--both very nice--& hopefully I will be doing a proper review of their EP in the near future. Religious Girls' next show is on the 26th of September @ The Plea for Peace Center in Stockton, California.

Photo Credit: © Collin Sensesenbaugh

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Get Played on "On the Spot with Ashley"

What a crazy last couple weeks--totally a good thing. For those of you who are not following me on Twitter I've recently meet a DJ from Cal State Fullerton's radio station. She is starting a show called On the Spot with Ashley. The premise of the show is to promote under the radar bands. So I thought it'd be a good idea to help those interested in getting air play on a college radio show. Send her an email & get some air play mcgeeashc [at] msn [dot] com

Listen to On the Spot with Ashley this Thurday @ 8 P.M. Check comments for updates or visit for more info.

Photo Credit: © TonyTh3B3at Photography

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Don't Call them Foolish, They Know the Ghosts in this Town.

A few weeks ago I got my hands on a copy of Eep!, the latest EP by Los Angeles two-piece Lazy Loons. Lazy Loons is made up of Phil Freedman & Dane Rivera, both sing, play guitar, autoharp & drums. Phil also plays bass & banjo on Eep! while Dane plays thumb piano & handled producing & mixing. The EP was recorded in Dane's home in "a suburb outside LA proper." When asked about the concepts behind Eep! Lazy Loons replied, "Spooky. A little bit scary, maybe. Haunted. Like an old house kinda thing."

Simply put, Eep! is music made by kids who love music--from Sinatra to Talking Heads, from Tom Waits to Grizzly Bear. It's schizophrenic, it's eerie, & it likes to taunt you. Eep! is a low-fi collection littered w/ voices, sighs, stereo-pans & other nuances. The songs are strong, well written, & have a lot of replay value, w/ undertones of distrust, depression, disappointment & the inevitable. As well as the above mentioned Lazy Loons sites inspiration from The Beatles, Sly & the Family Stone, & Édith Piaf for this EP.

It opens w/ Aligator Waltz (yes, 1 L) a two part song that sounds like a hazy dream hosted by a drunk Frank Sinatra only to wake up in a gondola on the Missisipi piloted by an adolescent Tom Waits. (I seem to like music that makes me feel like I'm on water these days.) Dane uses two distinctly different voices here, while Phil changes from lone member of an angelic choir--harp & all--to a ghost trying to remember a tune stuck in his head. It's all weaved together w/ layers of thumb piano & guitars.

When you reach shore you find Alice; a song which I have decided is the wooing of a poltergeist. Phil & Dane share vocals w/ friend Richard Najar of Richard and His Boyishly Handsome Band. It's mixed in a way that transitions between the three vocalists w/ Phil in stereo, Richard in the right, and Dane in the left--sometimes finishing each other's sentences, other times others becoming a chorus. Throughout the song is a childish giggling--which verges on the sound of crying @ times--and Grizzly Bear-like harmonies.

On Jay Em Berry they are joined by Victor, another friend who may or may not have a last name, on accordion. Where Alice plays w/ voices that move left & right Jay Em Berry has vocals which seem to come forward and move back. I imagine a cold & sad Hook in his captain's quarters rocking in a stationary chair while mumbling out this song. It's guitar has a jewelry box sound about it, while the accordion is sparse & dreary. My favorite part is a toss up between the the loud exhale in the beginning, the panning snare drum in the middle, & the strange bass-like guitar @ the end.

Foolish Boa blows me away--catchy whinny lyrics & acoustic guitar over beautiful autoharp, harmonies, & panning tambourine versus screeching guitar that verges on nails on a chalkboard. It's like a battle between chaos & harmony or the two making love, I'm not sure.

Pastel may be the quintessential song of Eep! It's haunted sound taunts you, it's changes tease you, & it's beat makes you sway. It builds a tension in you and tells you it will melt it all away, but it never does. It's good but makes you feel as if you missed something so you want to listen again. It's mood could be described as the disappointment of content.

A.M. Ghosts is a three part song that goes from meshing perfectly w/in the EP to a becoming almost too rhythmic for it, to what I can only assume is where they are going next. It starts off w/ what sounds like some sort of alien bird call; then comes in these hopeless vocals accompanied by distant harmonies & upfront guitar--the essential sound of Eep! The final strum leads to a more rhythmic groove. Dane's vocal delivery is reminiscent of Pastel & two tracks of overlaying self backed vocals--each have there own speaker & play like call & response. The rhythm guitar is like string piece from something by Curtis Mayfield. When the drumming stops & the beat boxing comes in we're not in that old haunted house anymore. Phil takes over vocals & that crazy Foolish Boa guitar is back w/ a more bubbly shape. Soon backing vocals & guitar fight for attention while Phil testifies that he deserves to be heard. A final guitar flourish then it's just the beat boxing & Dane comes back in w/ vocals similar to the beginning of the song: I never feel quite alright, perfectly summing up the mood of the EP.

My Favorite Track
A.M. Ghosts

Most accessible Track
Foolish Boa

You can listen to more Lazy Loons (or more smoothly) on their or MySpace pages. Lazy Loons is working on new material & reworking old material.

P.S. I just got permission to provide download for this EP. Download Eep!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Clips 'n' Cues

A band out of San Diego has recently come to my attention, more specifically a music video they produced. I'd like to start off mentioning some things I hate in music videos--random clips of the band playing, shots that specifically relate to the lyrics, & footage shot from car windows. I know that's like half of the music videos out there, right?? Well, that might be part of why I don't like it, but whatever the case, for every rule--self-imposed or otherwise--there is a way to break it.

Recordable Colors (alternate link) does just that w/ their video for I've Made Skin Crawl. When asked about the video Recordable Colors had this to say, "The I've Made Skin Crawl video is a collaboration produced by each of us. As much as the music is. We all focused (well some of us), filmed and edited it. Dorian Tucker [guitars & vocals] did most of the editing and we really have to thank for it." I really feel they have put together a vignette of their lives. I feel like the viewer gets a flash of every aspect of the bands life, places they go, interests, pets, family, friends & lovers. How personal the footage truly is is irrelevant as it's put together in a way that feels natural, like when one catches a sent they've not in ages & memories flood into your mind. It too, @ a little, reminds me of The Wonder Years opening credits, it's that pleasant.

On to the Terrible 3. There is about 5 seconds of what looks like the band playing in the first minute of the video. It's quick & split into 3 shots & all happens in about 5 seconds. It doesn't feel like the usual enter-live-footage-here clip that we are so used to seeing; one almost wonders, was that them or just another slice of life? The more I watch the video the more I see lyrics matching footage, but in no way do I feel like I am watching a narrative or random snippets shot for particular lyrics. Sometimes they aren't obvious visual representations of the lyrics, they are sly & unobtrusive. For example the line I've been looked at in good favor, but I've made skin crawl is accompanied by a shot of a mannequin slowly spinning in a store window followed by a sped up dog being walked. Mannequins are idealized & this is a rather showy display as it's spinning, that's easy. But the dog--this took me a while to catch. The dog makes me think of a caterpillar--always has--w/ it's many feet & long body. Is this intentional or am I reading into it?? Other times the lyrics come in before or after the image as if to allow the left brain to catch up to the right, or vice versa. One of many times this happens but possibly the only time both happens--still following??--is during the line When you were a child and tried it all, paired with images of parasailing followed by a beach scene w/ many children. This could be a coincidence or even a mistake--it's backwards, they messed up, right?? I don't think so; I think it's all intentional & very tactful. We don't need to be hit over the head w/ things to get them & it's more enjoyable this way. In a sense, I feel my writing about it is taking away from the video, so I'll move on. The images from a moving vehicle are peppered in just as tactfully, as if leaving them out would be excluding a large part of life--those who have lived in Southern California know how much being in a car is a part of life. In fact, when asked about inspiration, part of Recordable Colors' reply was, "…driving to work when you don't don't want to, driving to work when you do want to and everything in between." My favorite segment is one which the images cue the music rather than lyrics. It is right after I've made skin crawl, I've seen it all, right before the song picks up; there is something really beautiful happening during the stoplight & the out of focus underexposed girl. It's soft & tender, & feels very intimate--& just as quickly as you have been lulled the drums kick & everything is moving again. Other faves are The LOL-girl, The Heart Screen, & The Backwards Plane. What the hell am I talking about?? See for yourself:

Recordable Colors plans to release an LP by the end of this year. The band consists of Abe Deleon [percussion/vocals],Dorian Tucker [guitar/vocals], & Erica Putis [bass/vocals]. Side projects include but are not limited too:
Dorian Tucker - Jezebel