TVD UK

UK Artist of the Week: Alburn

PETER LARSSON FOR TVD | Scottish alt-rockers Alburn have started to make a name for themselves on the bustling Scottish music scene with some fine live performances and impressive support slots. Songs such as the title track from their sophomore EP, “Mouthful Of Glass” really showcase an abrasive, in your face sound and endearing rawness reminiscent of the US underground of the late ’90s early noughties.

Their EP, “Mouthful Of Glass” is out now via Spilt Lies Records and the band has been compared to the likes of Texas Is The Reason and The Appleseed Cast which, in our book, is no bad thing!

Alburn exhibit an ability to write technically impressive songs but with the added bonus of addictive hooks and memorable choruses which mark the band out as ones to watch in the future. We will certainly be looking forward to a full length offering from them in the not to distant future.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Premiere:
Harris Hawk,
“Make the Fonz Bleed”

“I was in the 4th grade. I lived in Littleton, CO. I worshipped Janet, Whitney, and Mariah. They were the very beginning of my musical awareness and I have great respect for their talents. That was the summer my aunt came to town.”

“She lived in LA, but hailed originally from Seattle like the rest of my mom’s family. She saw Nirvana play in small clubs. She gave me the album that served as the catalyst that brought me into the world where the music was raw, emotional, and tough. Where the guitars expressed as much as the vocals. Where there was no discernable pretense, nothing was polished. I was the weird kid and I had found my home.

It was 1993. I listened to Nevermind countless times on my little bedside table alarm clock/tape deck. It would be almost a decade before I seriously started exploring my own musical voice. When Kurt Cobain died, my aunt wouldn’t leave the house. My grandparents laid flowers on his driveway. And my young self struggled to make the connection between the artist I admired and the person in enough pain to kill himself. I still do. And, every once in a while, I stop to think about how deeply rooted my musical expression is in my own pain. And then I stop and go about my day.”
Anne Warnock, vocals, guitar

“I remember finding my dad’s old records in middle school and being blown away by the sound compared to my CDs.”

“I remember Dark Side of the Moon being a completely new album and scaring the shit out of me. Records made it fun to shop for music as well. Finding Petitioning the Empty Sky and blasting that is another wonderful memory. Nothing beats the warmth you hear on vinyl. How’s that?”
Mike Sullivan, bass

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Eric Clapton,
No Reason to Cry

Over the course of my writing “career,” I’ve practically made a cottage industry of disparaging Eric Clapton. I’ve called his supergroup Cream overrated, eviscerated him for making inexcusably racist remarks in the mid-seventies, and let it be known that I’m revolted by just about every song he’s written in the past several decades, especially those twin pillars of pure treacle, “Tears in Heaven” and “My Father’s Eyes.” I’ve condemned him for turning his own best song, “Layla,” into a sluggish travesty, and called him chinless, feckless, gormless, a tool, one of the most overrated guitarists in rock history, and the owner of a voice less suited for rock’n’roll than for working behind the customer service desk at your local IKEA. Oh, and let’s not forget Slowbland.

So why write a review of a guy I have virtually zero respect for, aside from his brilliant work with Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos, and a small handful of great songs scattered across approximately 150 LPs? Because I actually enjoy 1976’s No Reason to Cry, that’s why. Or at least I used to, when I was a mere sprite, and I’m curious to discover why. It’s hardly one of Clapton’s more beloved albums, and while you can actually find human beings who think highly of 1974’s 461 Ocean Boulevard, which included that pair of embarrassments “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Willie and the Hand Jive,” I’ve never run into a single sentient being with ears that worked who had so much as a single good thing to say about No Reason to Cry.

Like its 1975 predecessor, There’s One in Every Crowd, No Reason to Cry contains no reggae-lite hits or beloved cult favorites, and as far as most people are concerned is simply another one of the many LPs that marked Clapton’s largely lost decade, the seventies, which saw him beat heroin addiction by becoming a hardcore drunk, and was marked by constant geographical cures to Miami, Jamaica, and finally (in the case of No Reason to Cry), Shangri-la, The Band’s former bordello turned recording studio in depraved Los Angeles, home of the evil Eagles.

During the 1970s plastic and cocaine-infested LA was where bands came to lose the thread; small wonder that David Bowie, who recorded the brilliant Station to Station there but in the process lost his shit thanks to a diet of peppers and milk (seriously) supplemented by limo-length lines of high-grade cocaine, later remarked, “The fucking place should be wiped off the face of the earth.” It was also the place where Robbie Robertson, who was also doing a fair amount of blow at the time, received a rude wake-up call in the form of a morning walk along the beach during which he encountered a fully dressed and unconscious Keith Moon, being tossed to and fro by the surf.

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TVD New Orleans

Mad Decent Block Party celebrates seventh birthday at Mardi Gras World, 8/29

Back in 2008, it happened on a whim. It was just a block party. The guys at Mad Decent wanted to do something for the kids in Philadelphia who were hanging out in the East Coast heat all summer long. So they got a permit from the city and put some speakers and caution tape in front of “The Mausoleum,” as the then-headquarters of the label was called (the building had actually been a manufacturing site for mausoleums in some bygone, pre- Diplo era). No more than 1,000 people showed up throughout the whole day.

Seven years later, that block party has grown significantly. Now a one-day festival, these ragers welcome thousands of fans in twenty-three individual cities. The lineups have expanded from the Mad Decent roster to include larger national acts and you definitely can’t just show up anymore.

Due to the increased popularity, the organization has made it a ticketed event, instead of the free, first come-first-served party it had been for the five first years. Regarding the change, label manager Jasper Goggins said, “It’s not like the goal is to make money off of this thing; the reason it had to go to a ticketed system this year is because we couldn’t accommodate all the people who wanted to come.”

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The TVD Storefront

Needle Drop: Phox,
“Slow Motion”

Wisconsin 6-piece Phox dropped their debut album this past June. A stunning collection of artsy, alternative folk that sits as well on adult contemporary stations as it does on hipster blogs. Despite the AAA flair to their often jazz infused material, the band comes through with some surprisingly fresh and daring material for their first LP.

The gem of the debut is the deservingly singled out “Slow Motion” which showcases the husky vocal gymnastics of lead singer Monica Martin. The beautiful singing and songwriting which inhabits the song remains undeterred by the strange structure and rhythmic changes that seem to shape shift with every chord change. And is that a clarinet in there? It certainly is. Possibly the one move that shifted the song away from total mainstream appeal, but a delish musical moment none the less.

The band released their EP “Confetti” in early 2013 and after a Daytrotter session, positive press, a spot at SXSW and a national tour opening for Blitzen Trapper, began to garner some serious attention. The band played Lollapalooza as a last-minute addition in August 2013, drawing a large crowd despite their midday spot. A show people referred to as one of the best sets of the festival.

Phox is touring the UK, France and Germany until late 2014.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Il Sogno del Marinaio,
Canto Secondo

The second full-length by Il Sogno del Marinaio, an international entity comprising two Italians and an American, features a fresh yet familiar aural breeze combining progressive rock’s instrumental adeptness and expansionist possibilities with a lean punk-derived lack of malarkey. That the Yank is Mike Watt demands note, but it’s far from the only reason to investigate Canto Secondo, which is freshly available on CD/vinyl/digital via the Clenchedwrench label.

It’s important to respect this trio’s choice of handle, for it’s just one more example in the enduring tradition of naming that underscores the struggle for creative equality inherent to Rock’s communicative structure (furthermore, the Italian moniker translates into English as The Sailor’s Dream). But as stated in the paragraph above, a third of this unit does consist of the great bassist Mike Watt.

Another point in the triangle is guitarist Stefano Pilia, an Italian acquaintance of Watt who had the fortitude to ask a man significantly his senior and of considerable reputation to form a band with his drumming countryman Andrea Belfi. This they did in 2009, commencing a short tour almost directly afterward and recording that first LP between the shows.

La Busta Gialla didn’t come out until January of ’13, and it wasn’t really hard to understand why. While not aptly described as Experimental, a key component in its prog-influenced sensibility is indeed experimentation, as was the on-the-fly looseness that can only be transcended by the confluence of heavyweight talents.

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The TVD Storefront

We’re seeking interns for a record semester.

They come, they go—every 6 months or so it seems, leaving an indelible mark at TVD and on their own careers. Some depart to labels. Some are drafted by PR firms. Hell, some even stay on as TVD editors from their own home city—they’re just that good.

Fall 2014 looms and we still have a handful of internship openings for Autumn and even into Spring 2015. We’re seeking bright, self motivated, articulate future music industry professionals to join our team on the content side and the marketing and social media outreach that informs the day to day at TVD. Also, candidates need not be in Washington, DC where we’re based to be considered—just be awake when we are.

Interested? Drop Jon and Olivia an email introducing yourself.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Muddy Waters,
The Best of Muddy Waters

Where to start with the music of that sly titan of 20th century music Muddy Waters? Some will advise an inquisitive newbie to invest in an exhaustive multi-disc box set that retails in the neighborhood of a Franklin, while a closet Johnny Winter-aficionado might recommend one of his late-‘70s LPs for the Blue Sky label (and that’s definitely not the place to begin.) However, the most sensible way to commence a journey into the everlasting goodness of McKinley Morganfield is to simply follow the path many thousands have already made, and it leads directly to the doorstep of 1958’s extraordinarily enlightening The Best of Muddy Waters.

While a certifiable embarrassment of great LPs have been made since the format was first introduced in 1948, they don’t all command the same level of historical respect, even from individuals that happen to hold a deep relationship to the sounds those less revered records contain. For instance, after giving the realms of heavy-duty music connoisseurship a good inspection, there is no doubt that the Best of/Greatest Hits LP continues to shoulder something of a bad reputation, with its appeal often denigrated as being directed mostly to dabblers.

These records, awarded to artists who had managed to secure a handful of creative and/or commercial highpoints either in one fast spurt or in some period of sustained longevity, are reliably frowned upon by more intense listeners as essentially being easy primers designed by cash hungry record labels with the intention of giving more casual ears a quick fix and some level of conversance (a sort of career Cliff Notes, if you will) to discographies of considerable distinction.

That’s not necessarily an incorrect assessment. But there are other elements in the scenario, as anyone who ever got turned on to Donovan through their parent’s well-worn copy of his wildly popular Greatest Hits LP can surely understand. And when handed down by older siblings as they slouched off to spend four years in a cramped college dorm, the Best of/Greatest Hits album has surely functioned as a gateway into substantial musical discoveries of all types.

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TVD New Orleans

TVD Recommends:
The Songs of Townes Van Zandt at Chickie Wah Wah, 8/28

The musical poet laureate of Texas has never had a huge profile except among the musical cognoscenti, but since his death, his acclaim has only grown and is reaching a new generation of musicians who weren’t even born during his heyday. Thursday night at Chickie Wah Wah a gaggle of them are coming together to play the songs of Van Zandt.

The Kid Carsons are, pardon the pun, the newest kids on the block in New Orleans. Fronted by a brother and sister team, the band puts the country into country rock with fabulous original songs. I also heard them do a set of songs from the Byrds’ Sweethearts of the Rodeo album, which featured country rock avatar Gram Parsons, and was impressed by their musicality and attention to historic detail.

Alexis Marceaux has grown in stature far beyond her television claim to fame as a contestant on The Voice. Along with multi-instrumentalist Sam Craft, she fronts Alexis and the Samurai. But that band may eventually be eclipsed by their francophone big band project, Sweet Crude.

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TVD San Francisco

Tesla’s Frank Hannon,
The TVD Interview

Over 14 million records sold and one hell of a live show have made Tesla one of the longest running and most successful bands from an era when bands were known more for their hair than their music.

The blue-collar Sacramento rockers have just released a new record entitled Simplicity and they are currently in the midst of a tour across the country. Founding member Frank Hannon called me before a sold out show in Columbus, Ohio to talk about the past, present, and future of the band.

Do you have a favorite touring moment past or present.

It’s been 30 years with a lot of highlights that included both extreme highs and extreme lows. Back in the day when we were first starting out opening for David Lee Roth was a great thing. I remember we were playing in Buffalo, NY and every day he would go out and jog no matter what. This particular day there was a blizzard and I remember him walking in completely covered in snow. Then at the end of the tour, he invited us up to his hotel room and he had a different kind of snow.

I read somewhere that when you were a kid you broke your leg one summer and that’s how you really got serious about the guitar…

When I was a kid I had a little dirt bike, actually it was too big for me since I was only eleven. I actually started listening to music before that and started playing the guitar when I was ten. 1976 was a great year for music, Frampton Comes Alive, Aerosmith was big, and I loved the Rolling Stones, but when I broke my leg on that dirt bike, I was laid up for the whole summer with nothing to do except really practice my guitar. When I got out of my cast I was a lot better.

What was the first record you owned?

In 1976 on my tenth birthday I got a little turntable. My mom knew I loved the Peter Frampton record so she got me that, but I was also introduced to Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry then as well.

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