“When I was growing up in the Fink household, once the sun began to set, it was time to party. The conversation and laughter (and beer) would begin to flow freely as my mother prepared elaborate home cooked southern meals.”
“We would gravitate and orbit her like the sun, my father and sisters and I. So naturally, the kitchen was where we kept the record player and hifi. The backdrop to these nightly parties was always music. Loud music. Bluegrass, old country, rock and roll. The later it got, the louder it got, as records were passed from hand to hand. These records—studied, revered, and sometimes even hated—were the soundtrack to my childhood.
I’m not sure that anyone has had that experience with my records, but it is important to me to make sure they are released on vinyl just in case. Because there are some things that an MP3 can never be, and one of those is family.”
Olivia Henry’s seductive neo jazz is exactly the kind of blue-eyed-soul needed to get the soirée started. Sounding like a cross between Sara Bareilles and Erykah Badu, Olivia scats and powders her songs with colorful vocals and kittenish lyrics while her A-List band fills in the groove with Dap-Kings-esque excellence.
Henry dishes out her new single, “Forbidden” like a songbird plucked from the Jazz Age—primed for the sexually liberated millennium. It is a fascinating play on a retro aesthetic that reaches back, past the reformatted sounds of Lana Del Ray and Amy Winehouse, grabbing rich musical threads from the roaring twenties. The track itself, recorded in pristine high definition, filters the past through electric rock distortion and hard-hitting hip hop drums. It is an intoxicating brew that lends the flirtatious lyrics a more modern backdrop.
“Forbidden” is off Olivia’s debut, “Sessions” which was recorded with renowned British producer Chris Hughes. With Olivia providing the raw material in the form of smart, well-crafted songs, Hughes milks Henry’s classically trained voice into a stunning 4 song EP awash with sexy and nostalgic R&B—with just the right amount of edge to translate into the language of mainstream pop.
“Music was my first true friend and my longest running.”
“I was always a little kid who felt different and had a lot of trouble getting along at school. Maybe first grade I found my friend in a stack of wooden fruit crates that held a collection of what looked like a whole library of little golden books showing their worn spines to curious eyes. I pulled them out one at a time and looked at how they were made. Some opened and even had pages, just like the little books I knew. Some had bizarre images, some were just pictures of people.
The black disc was obvious, I’d seen them in old Betty Boop cartoons. I put one on I was sure was a kids record. The band had bright-colored coats, there were flowers all over the cover. It was Sgt. Pepper. I found all the power buttons and put the needle on the album. It sounded like madness. There was screaming, words that confused me and weird different things coming from each side of the headphones.
It scared me but I had questions. I wanted to know how things work and had a history of taking things apart and this music thing was no different. I tried to imagine how they made these sounds, what instruments could possibly sound like this. I kept pulling records and trying to figure out what made the music tick. I’d do this anytime I thought I could get away with it.
Eventually I grew older and I would share what I found on these records with my parents, as if they had never heard their own records before. I felt like this music belonged to me. I didn’t hear it at school and I didn’t hear it on the radio. I’d go to thrift stores and record shops and buy things if I recognized a label or band member’s name, or if it had a cool cover and go home and discover something new all over again. Tapes were not cool at school anymore. I needed a CD player to avoid peer ridicule, but at least there were a lot of cool re-releases I could find easier now.
Gareth Dickson treads a similar sedative sound as acoustic wunderkind Nick Drake; deep and dreamy vocals paired against dissident finger picked melodies in strange tunings. Dickson achieves this otherworldly sound with a quiet confidence that possibly stems from touring the world with such luminaries as Vashti Bunyan, Devendra Banhart, Coco Rosie, David Byrne, and The Incredible String Band.
Progressive without coming off as pretentious, Gareth’s new single “Jonah” wanders through several odd tempos into a deep sea of heavenly ambience. His vocal and guitar work are executed with a perfected weirdness that is both hypnotic and familiar. When the final strums of the song echo into the ethers, an intimate crowd is heard clapping in the studio—a reminder that “Jonah” is from Dickson’s new live album entitled Invisible String.
Invisible String is the follow up to 2012’s Quite A Way Away which found some substantial success within niche, experimental circles. The new live set was recorded in Istanbul, Caen, and Reims during the 2012/13 tour for Quite A Way Away and is imbued with the romantic and haunting nature of traversing the old world with new eyes.
Our full review of Invisible String is here.
Gareth Dickson Official | Facebook
PHOTO: CELINE BROOKS
My favorite story about Angel, Washington, DC’s glammed-out, all-white spandex retort to Kiss, which seemed poised for superstardom in the mid-seventies (giant billboards on the Sunset Strip, selection by the readers of Circus magazine as the Best New Group of 1976, and tours of the great American arena circuit with the likes of Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, Journey, and Rush) is pure Spinal Tap.
The band, with some major financial backing from Casablanca Records mogul Neil Bogart, had developed one of the most elaborate stage shows in rock, a fantasia of smoke, magic, and mirrors that led one wag to suggest that the band might be better off staying home and sending its props on the road. One gimmick involved the band appearing magically on stage one by one in puffs of smoke, to be introduced by the face on the giant Angel logo—which none other than Ian MacKaye pointed out to me is ambigrammatic, meaning it reads the same when turned upside down as when viewed normally—that served as the band’s backdrop.
One night, as Punky Meadows, Angel’s guitarist and the most androgynous pretty boy in a band full of androgynous pretty boys, told me: “Of course, all we were doing was coming up through trapdoors from beneath the stage. Well, one night, the big talking head introduces [drummer] Mickie Jones, and Mickie isn’t there. We’re looking at each like, ‘Where the fuck’s Mickie?’ Turns out his trapdoor got stuck. And all those stoned kids in the audience are going [Meadows sucks on an imaginary joint], ‘That’s really weird, man…'”
Greetings from Laurel Canyon!
Out with the old in with the new! After all, we’re moving into fall 2014 and hey, what do record company suits say every year…the kids are “back to school!”
To be honest, I can’t tell anymore how many of us rock fans are still in school. We hope more than a few.
No matter who’s playing the kid, the fall season still holds the tradition for album releases from “indie rock” heavyweights. Interpol, Aphex, DFA, Casablancas, and O. This week is the time for the colleges to rock.
PHOTOS: AMANDA DEERING | Experiencing Washed Out in the flesh is like tripping on some really, really fucking stellar stuff. Like drifting out into an alter-world of pretty colors and sparkly things and deliciousness. Or what we’d imagine that to be like, of course.
When Ernest Greene released his first recordings as Washed Out in 2009, he had by that time been involved in numerous music projects. But as Washed Out, he became famous for his obscure style of ambient pop, a new wave in shoe gaze marked by retro-inspired synths, airy beats and lush, reverberating vocals. Five years and a large following of Portlandia fans later, the band’s music is just as luscious and dreamy as ever, but much brighter in tone than before. And this Monday, it cast its magic spell on Dallas, at a nearly sold out show at the city’s historic Granada Theater.
Well, the cloud of herbal fumes gathering above Granada’s colorful crowd could have been a factor, but Washed Out’s performance that night was no doubt dope as hell.
Playing before a decently, ahem, “spirited” crowd, Greene et al led the audience to even higher heights with a hypnotic, ethereal performance. Opening with “It Feels Alright,” the intro track on the band’s 2013 daydream-like album, Paracosm, the group progressed through a set of songs spanning their entire discography. The set list included fan favorites “Amor Fati,” “All I Know,” and of course, “Feel it All Around,” the cult chillwave prototype also typically known as “the Portlandia song.”
Wild Leaves is composed of five Midwest transplants now living in Brooklyn. Though they have found their home along the Atlantic, their trademark flowering harmonies and jangling electric guitars have drawn comparisons to the Pacific sounds of The Byrds and CSNY.
The band’s second single, “Black River” shines with unadulterated earthy vibes and road tested rhythms. Filled with mystic imagery and Western landscapes, the song capitalizes on the journeyman quality of the band who have been on a perpetual tour since the release of 2013’s “Wind and Rain” EP. “Black River” is an excellent entry point into the band’s slow-building catalog of nostalgic Psych Folk. A perky fire side song that is performed with aching tenderness by lead singer Adam Lytle.
Wild Leaves newest EP, “Hello Sunlight” finds the quintet in confident space—beckoning the ears of young Folk Rock revivalists to share in their kindred melodies. The EP will be available on the first of October and can be pre-ordered via Bandcamp.
Wild Leaves release show for “Hello Sunlight” is October 1 at Mercury Lounge with Zachary Cale and The Lawsuits. Tickets are available here.
Wild Leaves Official | Facebook | Twitter
Trying to put a neat label on what genre the Legendary Shack Shakers play is akin to trying to put a sweater on an octopus.
You could start with rockabilly, but that doesn’t nearly cover it all. You could mash it all up and say: hillbillygypsyswampcarneysoutherntwangabilly. Yeah, that’s a good start. Monday, September 15th at the Black Cat in DC, the pandelerium that is the Shack Shakers returns, and it’s up to the audience to determine whether you’ve just been saved or dragged straight to hell.
If you ask anyone who knows about the Shack Shakers, you will most certainly hear about their absolutely untamed live shows. When asked about their unbridled energy, frontman J.D. Wilkes has laid it out pretty clear. “We try to tap into basic primal instincts. Rock ‘n’ roll is a cathartic release. Anything that doesn’t realize that bestial nature isn’t rock ‘n’ roll.”
Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra has called Wilkes “…the last great rock and roll frontman.” The band has received accolades from luminaries such as Robert Plant, Hank Williams III, and Stephen King.