Author Archives: Mike Olinger

TVD Premiere: Little Person, “I’m Happy to
Be With You”

Mellow NYC-based quartet Little Person specialize in a whimsical blend of sedated indie rock that falls somewhere between Courtney Barnett and The Shins.

Today, we have the pleasure of premiering the twin brother fronted band’s newest single “I’m Happy to Be With You.” It’s a deceptively simple number that is brimming with melodic sophistication and evocative imagery. “We dance through the living room,” sings Nicky Weinbach while brother Max joins in harmony, “Dreaming like stars who have conquered the moon.” Before long the simple arrangement has been caked in tape echo and wind sound effects, demanding a second listen to fully absorb the loveliness that proceeds the decay.

Both Weinbach brothers started their careers in musical theater, still putting on a throwback-style variety show from time to time, but it was their mutual love of classic 1960s pop records that led them down their current path. “I’m Happy to Be With You” is the follow-up single to their acclaimed EP “I Feel Fine.”

The band’s Nicky Weinbach details, “At the time of the song’s inception, Max had left to teach English in Paris for a year while I stayed at home in Los Angeles, having forfeited the opportunity to attend acting school, also in Paris, due to financial constraints. When I dropped Max off at the airport and said goodbye for the year, the idea for ‘I’m Happy to Be With You’ was born. It’s perfect for the pre-Thanksgiving season and might speak especially to those who are away from their families for the holidays.”

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TVD Premiere: Les Gruff and the Billy Goat, “Two Steppin”

Rural punks Les Gruff and the Billy Goat give the barn-burning shuffle a modern facelift with the tongue-in-cheek narrative “Two Steppin.”

This might have not been the exact intention of this Mississippi river band, but their no-fuss approach, steeped in blues and bluegrass, is filtered through the lens of band spearhead Billy Croghan who can’t seem to help imbuing the well-worn formula with his rustic charm. It’s not just the hilariously unhinged narrative that brings the track up-to-date, but the way the band’s groove feels completely off-the-cuff and more importantly, off the rails at times.

David Roach (bass guitar), Sean Kamery (fiddle), Nigel Solomon (electric guitar), and Ed Daugs (drums) all respectively hold down the steam train of a track while Croghan not only trades wily solos with lead guitar counterpart, Tony Compton, but also swaps corner of the mouth banter that feels anything but premeditated. Their authentic brand of chemistry has made them one of the most compelling original live bands to catch in St. Louis and the band has quickly cultivated a dedicated following, spreading the twangy gospel of good times through heavy and constant tours across the South and Midwest.

Les Gruff and the Billy Goat are gearing up to release their official self-titled album, due in stores December 8th.

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TVD NSFW Video Premiere: Smoota, “Ballbuster”

“This song is emblematic of one of the cores of my philosophy: we should celebrate all kinds of loving relationships, no matter how outside of the mainstream.”Smoota

According to the encyclopedia Encyclopedia Britannica, a ballbuster is: 1. a woman who is rough on a man and, 2. something that causes ejaculation. Blue-eyed soul man Smoota checks off both categories in his newest NSFW video.

The steamy visuals marry the 1960s New Wave European films from France, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia with the 1960s and ’70s American sexploitation movement. Like these films, “Ballbuster” feels tender and intimate, composed of Smoota and his pregnant dominatrix engaging in some sweet and often questionable bedroom endeavors to the tune of his ultra-smooth brand of R&B.

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TVD Premiere: Scarves, Dinner Dates for the End of Days

Math rock emo punks Scarves deliver Dinner Dates for the End of Days.

With their twangy riffs and kinetic songwriting, Seattle-based Scarves are primed to take the mantle of off-kilter indie darling. Their raw, authentic, and quirky rock evokes Modest Mouse, Yo La Tengo, and The Pixies, while painting a distinct seaport picture, unique to them.

The album was recorded downright punkishly with no click and mostly single takes. It’s a testament to the tightness of the band that the finished product sounds so lush and full of character. Frontwoman Niko Stathakopoulos owns these tracks with her singular sing-talk delivery, pinning esoteric and apocalyptic diatribes over the wily instrumentals. Her vocals are clearly a force of nature that resist any unnecessary embellishment, besides a honeyed children’s choir on standout muscle ballad “No Names.”

The excellent new LP, Dinner Dates for the End of Days arrives in stores via Good Eye Records September 28th—releasing digitally and on vinyl—including a limited “Green/Blue” Smoke color run. Let it be the last album you listen to before we all slip off into oblivion.

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Needle Drop:
Roan Yellowthorn,

Roan Yellowthorn release thoughtful, dream pop LP Indigo.

Roan Yellowthorn is the moniker of Jackie McLean, daughter of iconic folk and rock & roll artist Don McLean, whose deft melodic sensibilities were not lost on his indie darling offspring.

Mining a deep ’90s vein of gorgeous Lilith Fair acoustic pop, Roan Yellowthorn’s Indigo LP manages to be both charmingly retro and confessional. Hooks abound throughout the record, but McLean really breaks out on “Mark My Words” with a devilishly distorted jazz vocal that is as raw and truthful as anything her father ever sung.

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Needle Drop:
Katie Barbato,
“The Art of Falling”

The title track to Katie Barbato’s forthcoming EP is a warm and wistful ballad, sown in the highly melodic folk style of The Beatles.

The peace-loving Philly native has an innate knack for soaring major/ minor key transitions, imbued with timely, sweet-spot lyrics and supported with rich, cinematic accompaniment. Comparisons to Neko Case and Gillian Welch are perhaps a little too obvious here, as Katie seems to carve out her own niche as a folk rock formalist who creates from a deep well of experience.

Barbato explains, “To me, ‘The Art of Falling’ concept came from the desire to go through difficult times with grace and stamina. It is not about coming out on the other side the same as you were. After a fall, you are somewhere distantly familiar but full of possibility. Let the grief and sadness move through you, honor it, and stand up tall.”

The track is accompanied by a set of rustic visuals from director Dan Collins which extrapolate upon the passage of time, catching key moments from all four seasons. It’s a perfect bucolic match to Katie’s homespun Woodstock vibe, which we could all use a little more of in our lives.

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Needle Drop: Ghost X Gardens, “Concealed Little Weapon”

NY-based art rocker Adam Rushfield, aka Ghost X Gardens, brings a whole new meaning to the word alternative. This idiosyncratic artist has his fingers in several disparate genres, often pulling from prominent East Coast rock artists of the past five decades. One can easily draw a direct line from the freewheeling influence of Lou Reed to the searing riffs of Smashing Pumpkins, and further towards the modern neo-psychedelia of Grizzly Bear.

What makes his album even more eccentric is its contextual emphasis on the legendary Chelsea Hotel, which was Rushfield’s permanent residence for a year, at which time the strange guests and goings-on seeped into his recordings. He even weaved in fascinating, gin-soaked chats with the cross-dressing matriarch of the Hotel, Storme’ DeLarverie, a famed performer and MC at the Apollo, who is credited with throwing the first punch of the 1969 Stonewall Riots.

All the late-night recordings and bizarre lyrical fixation on the hotel might not connect with all music lovers, but certainly provides a charming and totally original view into one of New York’s most fabled institutions and a wildly experimental musical journey to boot. “Concealed Little Weapon” might be the most traditional song on the album, but works as an excellent entry point into the strange and macabre world of Ghost X Gardens.

Grab a free download of the song from the Soundcloud stream above.

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TVD Premiere: Russian Baths, “Penance” EP

Ambient, ethereal noise pop quartet Russian Baths release “Penance” EP.

Incorporating dissonant guitar fuzz and heavenly vocals into traditional song structures, Brooklyn’s Russian Baths paint in wildly original strokes, finding beauty in towering, looming, incendiary noise-rock. The scope of their sound is marked by a decidedly unique approach, the stripped-down infrastructure oscillating between Jack and Jill vocals, unhinged feedback, and heady lyrics which conjure the Pixies. The subject matter is dark and brooding, laced with metaphors and bubbling with weirdness in all the right places.

“Penance” was recorded at Time Castle studio in Brooklyn where the band honed their signature sound with the help of a few haunted nooks and crannies. According to guitarist Luke Koz, “There is a concrete, quasi-utility closet at Time Castle that is a magical place to put an amp.”

Russian Baths’ “Penance” EP arrives in stores tomorrow, February 23, 2018.

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TVD Premiere:
The Minnesota Child,
“Fireflies” EP

Oakland, California-based indie folk troubadour Ethan Buckner creates the kind of lush sonic tapestries we have come to associate with Sam Beam, Justin Vernon, and Glen Hansard. Like those artists, Buckner has chosen to record under an elusive moniker, The Minnesota Child—a name that will surely serve the mystery and scope inherent in his lonesome whimsy.

The Minnesota Child’s first full-band EP, “Fireflies” is an exquisite debut. Produced by Jeff Saltzman (The Killers, Blondie) and Ethan’s brother Matt Buckner, the music is adorned with tasteful harmonies and rustic rhythms, while never taking its attention away from Buckner’s wispy vocals. The record is admittedly a bit frontloaded with the strongest material (songs that reflect the expansive nature of the Midwest) but it makes up for it in the intimate Simon & Garfunkel-esque closer “Love is Everything” which brings the singer-songwriter’s strengths back to the forefront in the form of a sumptuous, cosmic love ballad.

Of the subject matter, Ethan explains, “It’s been a beautiful process these past few years working with my brother Matt, who co-produced the record, to take the intimate, vulnerable, raw songs and infuse them with a full range of sound and color. Everyone who worked on this album poured so much soul and care into giving each song life and character. My hope is for folks to listen when they need to find some hope in these tumultuous times, to find light in whatever darkness they might be facing.”

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Needle Drop: Common Jack, “Restless”

PHOTO: NICOLE MANGO | Brooklyn-based folk rocker Common Jack is a straight shooter, and like his name indicates, a man of the people. But when you dig deeper into his music, it becomes apparent that he is using everyday language to reach a deeper meaning, endowing his music with the unique ability to paint personal stories with broad strokes.

The songwriter, who played a primary role in the Broadway show Once, worked directly with Glen Hansard and the rest of the Oscar, Grammy, and Tony winning creative team behind the motion picture before setting off on his solo career. His streamlined approach to his solo work reflects this schooling, blending rough-hewed folk with unabashedly utilitarian acoustic pop.

His newest single, “Restless,” makes no excuses for its anthemic take on Americana, already drawing comparisons to the Lumineers, Neil Young, and The Avett Brothers. It’s a joyous romp that lets its tight dynamics loose in all the right places.

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TVD Premiere: Hodera, First Things First

New Jersey quartet Hodera have honed their heartland chops over the course of two full length releases, striking a balance between vibrant indie-rock with rough-hewn Americana. It’s a delicate dance of influences that comes across as both confessional and universal.

First Things First could certainly be construed as a meditation on love, but quickly evolves into a dissertation on the growing pains of maturity, offering up lonesome musings that rise with the buoyancy of a late-night bar hop and settle as mercilessly as an early morning hangover. Lyrics often cascade over the nuanced fingerpicking with little regard for meter or structure, which often adds to their raw poignancy, resounding with an off the cuff, extempore thud to the heart.

Contrary to the seemingly unrehearsed impression one gets from the recordings, band spearhead Matthew Smith shares, “We’ve been working on this record for over 2 years now. Parts of it have been re-recorded like 3 times. This album is all about the angst and pain of growing up and becoming an adult; heart break, depression, addiction and the search for purpose and direction.”

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Needle Drop: Evening Darling, “Another Long Drive”

Alt-folk quartet Evening Darling crank out the kind of tunes that force you out on the highway.

The NYC-based bands newest single, “Another Long Drive” finds lead singer Erica Lane sparring with singer/guitarist Nick Lerangis over a perfected blend of top down, Tom Petty-ish Americana. Evening Darling has played up and down the Eastern seaboard and their music is seasoned with the kind of heartland rock vibes that area made famous in decade’s past.

There is a mutual longing in both Lane and Lerangis’ approach to their respective versus that is accentuated when they combine their yearning in a sensual harmony. The desperate search to find stability somewhere outside themselves is hard to shake and it’s even harder to decipher if they are addressing each other, a former lover, or the open road itself.

Evening Darling’s self-titled album is in stores on April 14.

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TVD Album Premiere: Almanac Mountain, Cryptoseismology

PHOTO: CHRIS COTE | Almanac Mountain explores universal minutia on new Cryptoseismology LP.

Fans of experimental bedroom pop will find plenty to love in Chris Cote’s new album and intellectuals who label themselves “secular humanists” will revel in his cryptic studies of the natural world.

Everything seems to take on a double meaning in the songs of Almanac Mountain. “Contingency Procedures” seems to be about the 2003 Shuttle Columbia disaster but Cote explains that a surface evaluation of his material will only cut skin deep and that the song is “really about the death of the hopes and ambitions of the 1980s.”

Luckily the heady nature of his music is tempered by an almost saccharine sense of pop which he uses to great effect on such stunning tracks as “Harborside,” a noirish flavored ballad with a string arrangement that appears to be plucked straight out of an old Hollywood movie and stretched onto an indie rock canvas.

It’s no surprise Cryptoseismology was tracked over the most brutal winter in recent New England history as its warm tones and otherworldly digressions feel like some kind of creative escapism. Lucky for us, the mind of Chris Cote is a strange and wonderful thing to behold.

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TVD Premiere: Panic in Eden, “Out For Blood”

Panic in Eden mine a sweet-spot, vintage rock vein on “Out For Blood.”

The LA-based quintet’s newest single throws down the gauntlet for other vintage rock revivalists, traversing the trail macheted by Band of Skulls and The Dead Weather. This is dangerous territory where the line between Zeppelinesque authenticity and The Darkness-like parody is very thin, but Panic in Eden prevail with their righteous indignation for the man and mind-boggling riffs which are distinctly their own.

“Out For Blood” is the first single from their forthcoming album, In The Company of Vultures, and the predatory species they reference is a direct dig on the establishment. The ten songs which comprise the LP take aim at the band’s collective disillusionment with the current state of the world and fire a blistering warning shot which essentially says “We have some serious rock ‘n’ roll here and we know how to use it.”

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Needle Drop: The Tigerlilies, “Bowie”

The Tigerlilies honor the master with a love nugget to David Bowie.

Cincinnati’s sole practitioners of post power punk, The Tigerlilies have pulled off quite a feat with their newest offering “Bowie” which manages to not only pay tribute to the departed genius but channel his punchy, understated pop leanings. There is plenty to love about this garage rock nugget, starting with the lyrics which rattle off a series of intelligent observations about the artist’s enigmatic life.

The unassuming lead vocal ends up sounding more like Bowie’s contemporary Marc Bolan which only adds an extra layer of nostalgic glam vibrations to the already glistening track. But besides the spot on performance, jangly melodies, and killer guitar solo drenched in tape echo, is the band’s ultimate ability to communicate their passion for songwriting, rock star persona, and rock ‘n’ roll in general through very raw and primitive means—no inflated production or fussy overdubs.

The band’s new EP “123456” is available now.

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