“It’s being beat down. The challenges in our society…coming back and finding the strength to fight again but without becoming a monster in order to survive in a world full of monsters.” That’s how Jimmy Gnecco describes his latest creation.
In 2013 a successful Pledge Music campaign resulted in the album Ballet The Boxer, 1 (One of 2013′s 5 Albums You May Have Missed). As album titles go,…
As published on HIGH VOLTAGE MAGAZINE:
Oh 2013, where have you gone? But gone she almost is so here I sit thinking about all the musical goodness that has passed us by.
Let’s be honest: the last thing that anyone needs is yet ANOTHER fucking Best Of/Most Awesome Albums of 2013 list. I’m not into it. But what I am into is doing due diligence in pointing out what may have been overlooked amongst all the fawning over Yeezus. So here are five releases of particular note for particular reasons and I hope you’ll dig into them.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- Specter At The Feast
Released: March 19, 2013
The multiple personality of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s 6th release is exactly that: a release. Fitful, healing, aggressive, literate, complex, sonically graphic, as dark as it is light and together Peter Hayes, Robert L Been and Leah Shapiro stave off what could have been a full-fledged danse macabre by simply baring their rock and roll teeth (goddamn “Rival”) and sinking them in…hopefully not into one another because that would be weird. Specter… (Hayes and Been’s second album with Shapiro wo/manning drums) is the mark of a band realized; the band they need to be because this time around she fully imprints herself and her sound, which does nothing but complement her partners in rebellion (and a band is only as good as its drummer). It’s like nature at work, everyone plays their part. I’ll break it down for you. Specter… is a three-way of the elements: Hayes acts as Fire (he’s downright sexually menacing in the chaos of “Sell It”), Been counteracts as Water (peaceable and coolly pacifying) while Shapiro is all Earth and the strong foundation that supports them. It’s kinda beautiful, man.
Brendan James- Simplify
Released: August 6, 2013
In the vein of the singer/songwriter, Brendan James possesses the immense gift of being able to paint a lyrical picture and tell a story so vivid you can almost taste it. He’s a New Hampshire native and his fourth album, Simplify, is ripe with what he specializes in: emotionally connected and connective piano driven moments of song that reflect his personal convictions. Whether he’s singing about gun violence or divorce or conscious living, Brendan does it with elegant honesty and care. While the album is frontloaded and the pace tapers according to subject matter, according to Brendan, this album represents him “finding a clarity” he’d been searching for for years and I’m right there with him. Listen to “Hilary” (and yes, Brendan, one day that girl is going to figure out that this song is about her) and I dare you to try and NOT practically ‘see’ every word he says.
Javier Dunn- Trails
Released: June 25, 2013
For the past 10 years or so Javier Dunn has been the right hand guitar-man of singer-songtress Sara Bareilles but now he’s making music under his own steam and it sounds like that shyly confident romantic storyteller with a Taylor guitar on open mic night getting his synth-washed sexy back and phone numbers on cocktail napkins. Trails is all about the love journey and its potential, if not inevitable highs and pitfalls with an overlay of R&B groove and pop sense electronically tweaked- gently. With a few previously recorded songs re-imagined like “By The Sea” and “If You Go” (where homie Sara Bareilles adds sweet co-vocals making it a duet), put this album on and don’t be surprised if you get lucky. Way, way luckier than Daft Punk.
Ours- Ballet The Boxer I
Released: June 11, 2013
It’s been five years since the last outing from this ridiculously underrated and under-known band: Ballet the Boxer I (which hopefully means that a sequel is enroute) from Ours takes a slight left turn from the preceding Mercy: Dancing For The Death Of An Imaginary Friend. A touch more refined but no less consuming with its grandiosity and full blooded and orchestrated rock. The band is tight (main man, Static, on guitar where he should be) and fronted by the glorious and iconic octaves of Jimmy Gnecco (whose lack of mainstream exposure is also criminal), this album is 10 tracks of Gnecco opening emotional veins and battling beautiful demons with his trademark vocal prowess. There’s fragility and strength, from the title track to the heady and sensual stomp of “Pretty Pain” to the defiant, not taking any more shit “Stand.” But what seals the deal is the intensely powerful and redemptive closer “Fall Into My Hands” and you’ll totally want to. Fall into his hands, that is.
The Veils- Time Stays, We Go
Released: April 16, 2013
This album came out in April and by my third listen through, I knew it would be a year-end favorite. It’s just that good. Working under the assumption that when Finn Andrews and his band entered the studio they did so with the expectation of making the best record of their career, Time Stays, We Go may be the Veils most satisfying output yet (or at least on par with Sun Gangs) and, with their fantastic and dramatic history, that’s saying a lot: it’s a beauty. Conveyance of delicacy and hope without diluting their typical visceral piss and dark fire is a tricky walk. One step too far left and we’re in emo territory; to the right and it’s annoying, angry angst where we have to start questioning penis sizes. By the end of the album’s 40 minutes you feel as if you’ve trekked through some sort of beautiful wilderness as wide territory has been covered from ethereally romantic “Sign of Your Love” to the 50s retro and sexually anguished “Candy Apple Red”.
Mona- Torches & Pitchforks
Papa – Tender Madness
The Art of Rock: The Moth & the Flame (Diary of a Concert Whore)
“When we first moved here I was really in love with the donut shops that are on every corner. I…
Unlocking The Truth…Straight Outta Brooklyn
“Rock and roll is- and should be- a kid’s place.” ~ Ben Folds
I dare you to define this…these…
Here we are nearing 2013’s end and isn’t this the by-the-book time of the year for year end lists and stuff? Best ofs, worst ofs, highlights, lowlights and trends that- for better or worse- defined this annual cycle. Get ready for the inevitable onslaught of references to blurred twerking and if that’s what you’re looking forward to, then you’d best look elsewhere. No really, fuck that noise, it’s a waste of time and space.
It’s been a full year of a rock solid collaboration between High Voltage and WGBU-FM’s radio show Dirty Glitter hosted by the fantasatical Brody Ramone. What began as an experimental hook-up every Thursday night (8pm PST/11pm EST) turned out to be a brilliant match because our goals just happened to be in perfect alignment: helping listeners find their new favorite band or artist. We’re all about new music discovery that’s worth getting excited about as opposed to pushing/promoting artists who are already established and on the map. Seriously, I love Queens of the Stone Age and Soundgarden as much as the next person, but they don’t need a damned thing from me as far as coverage when Rolling Stone and NME are underfoot. It’s the creative and diverse sonance being made underneath what is on the Top 40/Billboard charts, mostly by bands/artists who are still busting their asses at club shows, still hustling for your *Like* on Facebook, slinging their own merch and deserve to be heard. So we try and get you to hear them.
So here’s the first in a series of recaps of the songs and artists that I personally selected for our High Voltage segments on Dirty Glitter w/ Brody Ramone this year.
Dirty Glitter: November 21, 2013
The Record Company- “Baby I’m Broken”
We’re paying a return visit to the Los Angeles blues/rock revivalists that High Voltage loves called the Record Company because Tuesday (Nov. 19th) brought a new EP from the trio called Feels So Good. By nature of the seasoned musicians that they are, Chris Vos, Marc Cazorla and Alex Stiff do fantastic work in honoring the old school but are finely adept at freshening it up and serving it new with hearty rock and soul. As is tradition with the blues, love is hard work so here’s Chris wailing on his harmonica and guitar while Marc on drums and Alex on bass are the rhythm of trying to do right with “Baby I’m Broken.”
Louis London- “We’re Not Alone”
From Sydney, Australia we have the 5-piece pop/rock outfit, Louis London. Relatively young in band-years, Ed Saloman, Nick Ingall, Karl Fernandes, Jack O’ Donnell and Jack Kiddell conceived Louis London in 2010. In 2012 their debut EP, On Your Lips We Roared, did just that with tracks like “Hardly Hear You” putting the band on the music radar in Australia with great song structures and Saloman’s soaring and flexible vocal style. Their second EP called The Big Deep came out Nov. 11th and from that EP, here’s “We’re Not Alone.”
Ceasefire- “Wake Up”
From Orange County, CA we have Ray Alexander (vocals), Kamren Alexander (guitar), Tristan Montgomery (bass) and Anthony Hainsworth (drums) of Ceasefire who are all about reaching and anthemic songs that move the head and the heart. They formed in 2011 and their music channels and even pays homage to 80s new wave, 90s arena rock and their wide stretch of influences that range from Joy Division to Oasis, Morrissey to Pink Floyd and the Cure to ELO. These guys are ambitious down to who they work with and earlier this year Ceasefire went into the studio to record their In The Dead of the Night EP with serious music muscle: Josh Mosser (Eminem, Imagine Dragons, Christina Aguilera) and Mark Needham (The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees, Pink). Here’s a track from the EP: “Wake Up.”
Dirty Glitter October 31, 2013
MONA- “Cross The Line”
Mona aren’t new; they’ve been around since 2007 but we don’t feel like enough ears are aware of their goodness. A little 50’s retro swagger, cigarettes, guitars blazing and some blue collar Mid-Western and gritty Southern attitude and charm, Nick Brown, Vince Gard, Zach Lindsey and Jordan Young sound like that band your mother warned you about but only because she knows how good bad boys can be: musically and otherwise. Now based in Nashville, the foursome throw down scorching and rugged rockers of honesty, then can flip to something gospel-touched or ballad pretty all carried by Nick’s soaring vocals: The guy can sing. In July came their sophomore album, Torches & Pitchforks, which speaks of the tug between good and evil and is a worthy addition to your 2013 record collection.
James Bay- “When We Were On Fire”
Most 22 year-olds don’t have anywhere near the vocal command and presence as James Bay does but we’re not complaining; he’s from the UK and a singer-songwriter who creates a certain magic between him and his guitar. In the vein of a John Mayer or a Ray Lamontagne, the earthiness and expressiveness of James’ voice along with his lyrics convey a sensual warmth. This track, “When We Were On Fire” is from his Dark of the Night EP which is a very stripped showcase of this young man’s talent of which there is plenty of. He’s toured with ZZ Ward, Beth Orton and even opened for the Rolling Stones. Keep an eye on this one.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next Dirty Glitter recap!
Taken from the album SPECTER AT THE FEAST. Out Now on Vagrant Records.
(as published on HIGH VOLTAGE MAGAZINE)
It’s no secret that my head and heart are both card-carrying members of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club…in spirit, which is truly all that matters. It’s a club that asks precious little of its members, gives no directives, charges no dues, does not participate in hazing and whose motto is, effectively, “Come As You Are” and I have. Bless their hearts, they’ve been quite gracious and welcoming and accepting.
BRMC’s music and I go back a ways. I don’t claim to have discovered them on some dark and stormy night after randomly popping into the revered Los Angeles venue and launch pad known as the Silverlake Lounge and I cannot give you an approximate date when I officially became acquainted with the Robert L. Been, Peter Hayes and Nick Jago version of BRMC (we’ve since welcomed Leah Sharpiro to the fold) or what song served as the introduction. But the detail, itself, is a minor plot point within the bigger picture because, at this point, it just feels like they’ve always been there.No matter how darkly lit the room, it’s been all of the subsequent moments, the lyrics, the guitar chaos, the ridiculously athletic bass lines that followed that have solidified them, made them musically and in some ways, emotionally necessary and, oddly, a point of light. So much so that Ive found myself going the extra mile to see them, hear them, experience them.
“I fell in love with a sweet sensation, I gave my heart to a simple chord…”
In 2007 I found it necessary to see BRMC (opening for Kings of Leon at the time) at the Greek Theatre, in Los Angeles, Radio City Music Hall in NYC and the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia. Oddly one of the most vivid memories of that Tower show: when doors opened and we entered the venue, the floors were nastily sticky. As in “Did no one mop up after last night?”-sticky.
In 2008 it was necessary to see BRMC in June in at the Ink ‘n Iron Festival in Long Beach, CA (that show where Robert did that thing with rail) and on tour with Stone Temple Pilots in July at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA and in August at Jones Beach, NY.
That same August it became necessary to rearrange certain flight plans because BRMC decided to add a headlining show at Irving Plaza in Manhattan a few days prior to the Jones Beach gig. Arriving at JFK airport that evening, my luggage and I hauled ass to the venue in order to make the show. Mission accomplished. My luggage enjoyed the show as much as I did.
In October of 2010 I had the strangest urge to ditch work and fly to Atlanta for BRMC at the Masquerade, so I did. After the show near the back bar I heard someone call my name. Having no idea who the hell in Atlanta would know me, I turned around to find Julian Dorio of the Athens, GA band the Whigs, staring at me. Our conversation went exactly like this:
Fuck. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
So technically I have gone a few thousand extra miles, but I well know that I’m not alone. This disturbing pattern has repeated itself and as prophet of truth iAN Ottaway has keenly divined, this is a thing, a condition that may require treatment. Meetings. A withdrawal program, even. Or not as I honestly believe that we are all safe within this particular realm of dependence.
Earlier this year I reviewed Specter At The Feast and called the song "Sometimes The Light" a pause in the album’s aggression to "genuflect, soul search and spirit-chase." It’s a beautiful and typically atypical moment of grace from the band that feels like a hymnal on the ears and a warm balm to the soul. Yesterday iAN decided to gift us with visual accompaniment to the song; something iridescent and reflective, cherry blossomed and almost too pristine to bear. So when you watch this video (when, not if) should you feel something akin to your heart squeezing itself a little too tight within the confines of its containment or a certain shaft of pure clarity, almost absolute in its ability to make you believe in the God that you swear doesn’t exist, feel that. Pause and feel yourself as Hayes’ voice, part beacon, spins gossamer threads of web to keep you safe. Now revel in it for just a moment.
Felt good, didn’t it? Of course it did and that feeling, my friend, is also a gift. Because, whether or not you knew it or perhaps you just needed a reminder, sometimes the light turns out to shine with everyone. In everyone…including you.