Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Needle Drop: Milo Greene, “Lie To Me”

Milo Greene’s forthcoming album Control promises to be a distinct tonal shift from the more folk-pop oriented sound of the their first album, to a more upbeat ’80s electro pop vibe.

The band’s music has always been rooted in a sort of wistful nostalgia with a bit of longing and melancholy stirred in. The only thing that has really changed is the time period the sound evokes.

It takes quite a bit of courage for any band, especially a somewhat newer band, to make such a change, but it is refreshing to see a willingness to follow their instincts and move into new exciting directions. If the latest single “Lie To Me” is any indication, fans have a lot to look forward to.

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Graded on a Curve:
Montrose, Montrose

Nowadays the band Montrose is chiefly remembered as the rock boarding school one Sammy (“I can’t drive 55/With my thumbs stuck in my eyes”) Hagar attended before graduating to a disappointing, if not semi-disastrous, tenure as front man of the post-David Lee Roth Van Halen. How unfair. At their best, namely on their debut 1973 self-titled debut, Montrose rocked balls, kicked ass and took names, and established themselves as perhaps America’s best response to Led Zeppelin. As for Montrose itself, some consider it America’s first true heavy metal LP. Me, I’d go with Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but that’s beside the point.

Montrose came out of California, where guitarist Ronnie Montrose—who played sessions for Van Morrison (amongst others) and did a stint in The Edgar Winter Group—decided to put his own band together. The finished product included Sammy Hagar on vocals, Bill Church on bass, and Denny Carmassi on drums. Ted Templeman, who played an instrumental role in getting the band signed to Warner Brothers, produced the LP. Unfortunately this turned out to be a mixed blessing as Warners, which made it a practice to push only one LP from each genre at a time, already had the Doobie Brothers (!!!) in the rock slot and Deep Purple in the hard rock slot. Without publicity push from Warners, Montrose got left out in the cold, and only managed to reach the 133 spot on the U.S. Billboard charts.

But you can’t keep a good album down, not forever anyway, and the Montrose LP has received increasing attention over the following years, thanks to its strong songwriting, Montrose’s great guitar work, and Hagar’s hard-hitting vocals. I’ve always found it exceptionally easy to poke fun at Hagar, but on Montrose he proves the joke is on me, by doing things with his vocal chords that are illegal in Mormon Utah. (No, I have no idea what that means either.) In any event, Montrose has received its just desserts, which is more than you can say about Warners’ beloved Doobie Brothers, who deserve to be tied to a large stone and dropped into some deep and very black water.

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Needle Drop: Twist, “Slums And Seaports”

Ever wonder what a collaboration between Nancy Sinatra and Ty Segall might sound like?

Twist is the musical partnership between singer Laura Hermiston and producer Brian Borcherdt (best known as a member of the Canadian electronic band Holy Fuck). The band has slowly been releasing music throughout 2013, culminating in the single “Slums And Seaports” which plays like a minted garage nugget—raved up ’60s pop rock and injected with a hardy dose of shoegaze.

The interplanetary Western vibes of the single lock in well with the latent distorted rhythm track, making for a blistering, psychedelic second half. The tension builds to an almost excruciating climax while Hermiston’s vocals remain as tranquil as a summer stroll. A strange sonic dichotomy that the song’s title seems to hint at.

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Graded on a Curve: Rhyton, Kykeon

Rhyton specialize in blending the sonic traditions and instrumentation of Greece and the Middle East with rock trio firepower of an oft improvisational nature. That might read as a recipe for self-indulgence, but the results, while certainly psychedelic in effect, also wield the discipline of top-notch jazzmen. Kykeon, their third LP and second for the Thrill Jockey label, continues their explorations to great reward; it’s a record that plays as strong as its cover is beautiful.

Rhyton consists of Dave Shuford, aka the leader of D. Charles Speer & the Helix and a former participant in the activities of the No-Neck Blues Band, Rob Smith of the Bronx band Pigeons, and Jimy SeiTang, a gentleman also associated with the No Neck scene but primarily known for the outfit Psychic Ills and his electronic solo project Stygian Stride.

The New York City-based No-Neck Blues Band, or NNCK for short, was part of a thriving underground of outsider rock business that came to a head in the midst of last decade. Some of the contributors to this scenario were able to engage, if not the mainstream, then at least larger audiences via Freak Folk and the New Weird, but the deep-psych/improv-rock/free folk of NNCK proved resistant (though not really by intention) to crossing over.

Of course, this isn’t a tidy assumption, since Wolf Eyes managed two discs of noise brutality on Sub Pop during the same era, but it does feel largely accurate. And so it’s doubly interesting how Rhyton’s latest is so downright easy on the ears. It does bear mentioning however that Shuford’s not exactly a novice to rock gestures of possibly wide(r) appeal.

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TVD Kickstarts: A Girl
I Know, The Lost Tapes

If you’re to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page you’re reading at present, to the left you’ll note an homage to two people who inspired TVD. You’ll recognize too then why Carolina Hoyos’ Kickstarter campaign struck a chord with us here at the HQ. The upside? There’s still time to extend the good karma to this warm, talented performer. As she told us via email this week:

“Right before I took 2 years off to care for my Father through his cancer treatment, I quietly (unofficially) released an EP and named it “A-Siders,” because it’s the first side of my intended full length release on vinyl, called The Lost Tapes.

The Lost Tapes as a collection has always felt like we’d discovered old, abandoned tapes and then added a modern sound to them. Now that my Dad is healthy and I’ve found my way back to releasing this record, I named my Kickstarter campaign “My Lost Tapes” because when you care for someone with cancer, you can get real lost with the process of your own life, trying to save someone else’s.”

The unreleased B side feels like a relaxing sunny Sunday afternoon of dreamy listening, while the more rocking A side is your Friday night out partying. The “A-Siders” is available right here.

The Kickstarter campaign for “The Lost Tapes” extends until Saturday, December 6, 2014, and there’s some nifty incentives for those of you interested in the vinyl aspect of this project. Probably because you’re reading this now.

A Girl I Know Kickstarter | Facebook | Twitter

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Graded on a Curve:
Ohio Players, “Funky Worm” b/w “Paint Me”

Occasionally you run across a song so unutterably strange you’re left speechless. Such is the case with the 1973 single “Funky Worm” by the great Ohio Players, who bequeathed us such fabulously funky tunes as “Love Rollercoaster” (“Say what?”) and “Fire.” “Funky Worm” inexplicably rose to No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts, despite it’s, er, rather odd vocals and subject matter. But if I’m surprised it was a big hit I have no doubt it’s a fantastic song, infused with high humor and featuring several high-pitched Moog synthesizer solos that have been sampled, at last count by one source, by some 183 artists including Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and N.W.A.

The Ohio Players were formed way back in 1959 as the Ohio Untouchables, but broke up and reformed several times. But talk about your perseverance; they were still together (having changed their name to Ohio Players) in 1973, when the band finally scored a hit with “Funky Worm” off their Pleasure LP. The song was written by the band’s then keyboardist Walter “Junie” Morrison, who split in 1974 and went on to record several solo albums before joining Parliament-Funkadelic.

“Funky Worm” is odd for the simple reason that it’s basically a conversation between a member of the band and “Granny,” who I suspect is another member of the band, although I’ve had zero luck in finding out who delivered her lines. Granny is introduced to a Mr. Johnson by his secretary while a funky groove plays in the background, and she delivers her introductory lines (“Me and the Ohio Players gonna tell you about a worm/He’s the funkiest worm in the world/Okay, sing it, fellas”), at which point the guys in the band sing about the worm, who lives six feet down and “who only comes around/When he wants to get down.”

Those six feet are odd, being grave-deep and all, but I don’t think the song has anything whatsoever to do with death, although the following tune, “Our Live Has Died” reprises the “six feet down” trope in a more meaningful setting. Nor is the worm a metaphor for a cock. No, it’s a worm she’s talking about, who “when he comes out of his hole sounds something like this,” at which point Morrison plays a freaky solo.

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TVD Video Premiere: The Tulips, “Scorpio Moon”

Fueled by esoteric imagery and fog machine mystery, The Tulips video for “Scorpio Moon” provides a blanket of seedy, late night charm for the LA band’s astrological ghost ballad.

LA’s MacArthur Park area has recently seen an artistic re-awakening for psych bands, with the Tulips leading the charge. The core of the band (Dana Rogge and Jared Robert Petrich) initially started out as a folk duo, until they acquired a mysterious ghost organ, discovered Lou Reed, and started smoking copious amounts of California grass.

The music video’s stark imagery pays homage to the surrounding nocturnal culture—a Lynchian examination of hotel soirées and back alley clubs, supplemented by a few gratuitous cigarette drags and an awesome diamond encrusted leather jacket. The overall mood of the video is an excellent match to the song’s tranquilized vibe, something the band has cultivated on their forthcoming album and second full length release, Echo Blue.

The Tulips Official | Facebook | Twitter

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Graded on a Curve:
Ttotals, Let Everything Come Through

The Nashville-based “outer-blues” duo Ttotals has been active for a couple years now. After a handful of multi-format releases they’ve recently unveiled their first full-length Let Everything Come Through on the small but impressive Connecticut-based label Twin Lakes Records. Psych-tinged and heavy but with a focus on songwriting and fronted by a throat that’s not afraid to emote, Ttotals’ sound derives from familiar sources as it stands apart from the contemporary crowd.

It can seem as though Ttotals, an act composed of the guitar and vocals of Brian Miles and the drums, drones and keyboards of Marty Linville, aren’t in any particular hurry to get heard, but upon consideration that’s not really accurate, for their discography so far includes a compilation track, a 4-song EP on 12-inch vinyl/3-inch CDR, a 10-inch, a live cassette and a 45, all limited editions. It’s just that up to now the twosome has managed to avoid intruding into the current spotlight too deeply.

Let Everything Come Through is set to put the kibosh on that circumstance, the LP likely to raise their visibility while possibly endearing them to a variety of rock fans. Miles and Linville have coined Ttotals’ sound as “outer-blues,” a unique catch-phrase nicely addressing the late-‘60s psychedelic aspects of the music (the outer) as it underlines a relationship to the non-purist proclivities of the same era (the blues).

With this said, Ttotals don’t really register as all that ‘60s-derived a proposition. The ten cuts here reinforce what their “Spectrums of Light” 7-inch of 2013 (also pressed up by Twin Lakes) hinted at; specifically, they’re not striving for a sound that existed betwixt the Summer of Love and the Nightmare of Altamont. Rather, they’re in the ballpark of those ’80 u-ground/post-punk outfits undeniably impacted by the ‘60s and flaunting the influence in discernible fashion, going deeper than San Fran or Los Angeles into, for one example, the roster of the Texas label International Artists.

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TVD Video Premiere: Robert Francis, “Baby Was The Devil”

“This is what happens when some of your closest friends steal your identity and become you after taking loads of mushrooms.”
Robert Francis

Robert Francis finds out his “His Baby Was The Devil” on cathartic new album Heaven, released last June.

We have the pleasure of premiering the brand new homespun video for “Baby Was The Devil” which depicts an all-girl group appropriating the romance-gone-wrong song in between puffs of “devil dandruff.” The video intentionally dates itself pre-YouTube with the girls rehearsing to a deadpan rendition of the original via their Sony camcorder—a clever way of visualizing the lyrics which seem to lament Robert’s old flame.

After an acute nervous breakdown following an extensive tour in 2012, Francis immersed himself in drugs and alcohol, shaved his head, and moved to Michigan with a girl he’d met on the road. It wasn’t until a series of songs kept showing up in his dreams that he began to toy with music again. Reinvigorated and with a fresh outlook, the elusive bard began laying down his dreamy musical ideas, eventually finishing up his most realized album to date.

Robert Francis’ fourth full-length release, Heaven is in store now via Aeronaut Records.

Robert Francis Official | Facebook | Twitter

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Graded on a Curve: The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records, Volume 2

Arriving this week through the combined good graces of Third Man and Revenant is the second and final installment in The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records. Comprised of six LPs, a hardcover book, an illustrated Field Guide of artist bios, and a sculpted metal USB drive holding 800 songs and over 90 original ads all housed in a polished aluminum streamlined case modeled on a portable phonograph, it completes a thrillingly exhaustive annotation of arguably the most important record label of the 20th century. The music provides enough insight, mystery, and pure enjoyment to last a lifetime.

By its very nature, The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records Volume 2 is resistant to efficient, decisive conclusions. Loaded with close to 40 hours of audio, it is a history lesson in a suitcase, and when matched with its predecessor from 2013 they offer a vast library of captured sound. Bluntly, the impact of the totality is still being felt nearly 100 years after, so plumbing the fathoms of its essence doesn’t exactly result in a tidy scenario.

The story is long familiar. Started as a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Chair Company and killed by the harsh reality of the Great Depression, Paramount may or may not be the 1900s supreme label (and the competition is slim, mainly Chess, Sun, and Stax), but indisputable is the venture’s role in shaping pop, rock, the crossroads of folk, Old-Time and Americana, and most importantly the blues.

Paramount gnawed termitically into the music of its era (poetically ironic for the entrepreneurial side-effort of a furniture business), famously revealing for future generations the undiluted sound of the Mississippi Delta. And by now most of Paramount’s discoveries in this regional subgenre have been recurrently documented elsewhere, notably by Revenant’s Grammy-winning box set Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton.

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