It’s a new year, so what should we take a look at as far as new music? Sometimes in Grapevine we’ll take a look at music that falls in to a relatively specific style. Not that long ago ‘styles’ of music were relatively basic – music was lumped in to a few large categories: ‘rock’, ‘country’, ‘jazz’, ‘classical’ etc. As ‘underground’ music became more visible, especially with the onset of the internet, labeling music went in the opposite direction. Now you can probably find fifty different variations of thrash metal.
When you try to market your music, knowing where to group it can help reach your target audience. But it’s not that simple. Ten people can listen to the same song and categorize it ten different ways. So, what to do? With ERP we’ve been expanding (and will continue to expand) the instruments we use and the styles we incorporate. With the ‘Messin’ With The Music’ series so far we’ve been adding instrumentation that is probably most associated with Americana or Bluegrass. Except a lot of the songs we cover fall under different styles of ‘rock’. So we decided (definitely tongue in cheek) to try to come up with a music category and fit in to that. Soooo…… how about ‘Dark Americana Shoegaze’? I think we’ll work ERP style towards that. Absolutely serious, uh-huh.
So for January how about we look at some different shades of ‘shoegaze’? And yes, everyone can debate whether these songs actually fall in to shoegaze. Having a dialogue is the fun part.
First Up: DIIV – ‘Taker’
This song is from their newest album ‘Deceiver’. It has a lot of what you might consider basic shoegaze elements. Trippy, heavily effected guitars. Heavily reverbed vocals mixed in more as an instrument than in front of or on top of the music. I really like the guitar sound. Especially as they sometimes pull it back to somewhat clean and then double down with a second even more distorted guitar. Drums are also fairly deep in the mix in parts of the song and more upfront in other parts. They keep the tempo at a nice ‘sludge’ pace, so you can sit back and let the sound wash over you. I recommend listening to the entire album as they do touch on a bunch of styles throughout.
Next Up: Angel Olsen – ‘New Love Cassette’
Most people would probably not consider this shoegaze. The song is built on electronic keyboard and samplers, but adds strings to the mix. The drums sound electronic, although I believe it was recorded with a live drummer. Vocals and drums are relatively upfront in the mix. I added it for a couple of reasons. It keeps the spacey, slow burn, drone sonics. The vocals are heavy with reverb and effects, yet still sound crisp in the mix. And I just like the feel. I read a review that described this song as a tune from a David Lynch movie. I think that’s a pretty good description.
Finally: Bedroom Eyes – ‘Wire’
We’ll conclude with the song ‘Wire’ from Boston band Bedroom Eyes. It’s on their 2019 album ‘Nerves’. I wanted to add this to have a more uptempo version of the shoegaze aesthetic. I think this song falls more classically in to the genre. Ringing and effect heavy guitars. Drum track more in the background. Vocals embedded deep in the mix. Vocally it’s more about voice as an instrument. You’d probably have to look up most of the lyrics to know what they are. But the feel and impact of the song shines through the haze.
Retro: My Bloody Valentine – ‘Only Shallow’
If we’re discussing shoegaze, it would be hard not to include My Bloody Valentine, especially the album Loveless. This band and album are a huge touchstone if you’re discussing shoegaze. Loveless came out in 1991. Honestly, the first time I heard it I was blown away. The sound is almost something you feel more than hear. The emotional tone is amazing. You know I love melancholia, and this song is dripping with it. The guitar sounds created using volume sustain, effects and a whammy bar (in a technique labeled ‘glide guitar’) were pretty revolutionary at the time. The whammy makes the guitar fluctuate sounding in tune and somewhat out of tune. Very tight drum sound for live drums. I’ve also read that it was recorded mostly in mono to make sure the guitars were upfront and smacked you right in the face. So strap on some headphones, light some candles and sit back and enjoy.
December in the Northeast. Daily weather report: cloudy with a chance of more cloudy ending in rain.
So we need new music to listen to. Again, in another interesting coincidence I came across a style of music I hadn’t really listened to before in two different magazines (one was not even a music magazine). It’s often known as ‘desert blues’ and is associated with the Tuareg people of northern Africa. Think of combining blues music with African drumming and time signatures. I’ve included a couple of examples. And of course we also have……..other stuff.
First Up: Tinariwan – ‘Kel Tinawen’
This song is from their recent album ‘Amajdar’. A lot to love here. First, the majority of this album was recorded live. In the middle of the desert. Using a mobile studio in a camper van. The video has some great clips from the recording. The rhythm underpinning of the song is absolutely hypnotic. All the instruments flow through the song – almost like listening to a waterfall. The first song I listened to put me in a trance and I ended up spending the night on my tablet listening to song after song. You can feel the blues in the song’s vocals. It’s so strong language doesn’t matter.
Next: Mdou Moctor – ‘Tarhatazed’
Mdou Moctor has a bit more familiar blues sound. The band’s instrumental makeup is kit drums, guitars and bass. Again, what sets it apart for me is the rhythm. A lot of 4/4 blues is stomp (and I do love a good headbanger). This just flows. I wanted to show a live video for this band. The lead guitar by Moctar is amazing. On top of the hypnotic flow is absolute shredding. I’d rather hand play guitar than use a pick, so watching him hand blaze through notes was cool. Supersonic index finger. And since it’s live performance, no overdubs or punch-ins, just nailing it. Watch the whole video. About half way through they push up the tempo and really roll. So delighted.
Finally: Bodega – ‘Truth’
What’s a good ‘chaser’ for hypnotic trance? Sharp, angular new wave. This takes me back to the early days of ‘punk’ or ‘new wave’ (or whatever you wish to call it). Bands like Television, Wire, Talking Heads. An insistent, rolling drum line. Crispy guitar lines that cut though the mix. Listen to the lyrics – the joyful snap of a great sarcastic observation. Sing along with middle finger held high. A lot of people found the great part of ‘punk’ – the primal scream of singing along to bands like The Clash. Guess what – it’s still out there if you want to find it. Pull up the lyrics to ‘Truth’ and shout along.
Retro: Sly And The Family Stone – ‘Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)’
This song (and band) pulled me body and soul in to the joy of funk along with performers like James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, The Meters and Prince. It also made me pick up bass guitar. Spent hours trying to get the feel of players like Larry Graham, James Jamerson, Bootsy Collins and Victor Wooten. Playing bass let my turn off my brain and listen to my body. Sit back and enjoy the slap and pop on this song.
Finally. Thursday night at the Sellersville Theater I got to see Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. We’ve done several posts on them, first back around 2010 when ‘The Wages’ album came out. It’s been a long wait for a live show that I could get to. Summation of the show: great music, great performance, non-stop energy, absolutely worth the wait and I’d go see them again if they were back tomorrow. Crazy full live sound for a band with only one melodic instrument. This is the type of music I’ve really fallen in love with. Rev Peyton’s set up is simple – a guitar goes to an amp. No pedals, or extra electronics added. He plays mostly vintage guitars. Then you add Breezy Peyton on the washboard and Max Senteney on a small drum kit and make an amazingly full sound. They added a little more at the end of the show by having opening act J.D. Wilkes join them on butt kicking harmonica.
And they’re the kind of act you have to see live, especially at a more intimate venue. Loads of fun and personality. Audience participation requested and required. Non stop energy throughout the show. A good time is had by all. Stripping away instrumentation and effects makes it feel raw. It’s the total opposite of computer perfect songs and for me that makes the music feel alive. Blues you can head bang to. The Rev goes though multiple guitars from vintage resonators to three string cigar box, often switching guitars during songs.
I don’t really do phone videos when I’m at shows. I’m adding a couple of live videos that have much better quality than I would get. They’re two songs I really like, ‘Clap Your Hands’ and ‘Front Porch Trained’.
If you ever have the opportunity to see Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band live, grab a ticket when you can. You won’t be disappointed. I’d also say if you find a band you love, support them. Go to the shows, buy some CDs and merch (the Rev has some cool T-shirts). This band plays about 250 shows a year without a big label record contract. And puts out total energy each show. This is the kind of band that deserves support.
I’m finding that sometimes the monthly grapevine songs fall in to a similar theme or style. I don’t know if it’s due to the mood I’m in, the weather, or just sheer luck. That seems to have happened this month. Or it could be my imagination………..or the voices……….ummmmmmm…… sorry got off track there (feel free to comment on similarities you see). Anyway, off we go…
Saron Van Etten – ‘Memorial Day’
Nothing cheers me up more on a cold, rainy day than a good drone. Yes, I’m serious. I like the simple drums. The drone buzz here is carried by the fuzzed out bass. The keyboards have their own repeating rifts with a nice piece of droning noise in the background. The vocals play off of this, floating on top. And you get to see how it’s generated live. Always cool to visually see how parts go together. Putting all the relatively simple pieces together in their own little orbits makes the sound mesmerizing.
The Willows – ‘False Light’
I liked the mix of sounds on this one. It’s built on a ‘folk’ feel. But it has the electric guitar layering in the background with a lot of sustain and reverb as well as a more standard drum kit. Although not truly a ‘live’ video, you do get shots of matched performance footage so you can see what/how people are playing. I like the banjo player playing it more like a guitar with a regular guitar pick style. Banjo is often thought of only in terms of bluegrass and it’s interesting seeing it put to different use.
Baskery – ‘Wanna Tattoo’
So we have another video of what I call ‘matched performance’ playing along to the recorded song. I really liked the song when I first heard it. I’ve been in to good ol’ swampy blues music from Creedence Clearwater Revival, though The Gun Club and The Immortal Lee County Killers. So this simple, buzzy thump caught my ear. Then I saw this video. Now it’s even more fun. Fuzz on the double bass! Floor pedaled kick and snare! A six string banjo with distortion and slide (while playing the foot drums)! Recording wise, just enough reverb on the vocals and all the instruments are crystal clear. Now that’s a party.
Adding some retro:
Echo And The Bunnymen – ‘All That Jazz’
Sometimes I’m listening to an album I’ve heard a million times before and I have that little flashback of why I loved it in the first place and why it still sounds great. This song is from Echo And The Bunnymen’s first album ‘Crocodiles’. Starting with simple riffed bass and drums with vocals, it explodes in to heavily trebled guitar, drops back down and starts all over again. The vocals match the intensity of the parts being played. I did a lot of recording where I was working for that whip crack snare sound. Even the bass has a good amount of attack on it. All the components have their own clear space in the mix. This album will never grow old for me.
I stumbled across this music late one night while on YouTube. I really like the energy of their performance and of course, the way they are having so much fun. Thought this was a great mash-up.
Grapevine will be a new feature we’re going to try to do on a monthly basis. It will contain info about things we come across and would like to share with our readers. Most times, it will feature bands or songs that make an impression on us. Some will be new, some may be old but we’ve just found them. We don’t do reviews. These are songs (or some other media) that we like and why we like them. It may be the recording, the song style or feel, the instrumentation, arrangement or the attitude. We may also look at videos, photos or whatever excites us at the time. Who knows how it will evolve?
Spielbergs – ‘Five On It’
Great recording, sounds kind of lo-fi style, but with all the instruments a clear part of the mix. Vocals are mixed in low enough that they have an instrumental feel, another instrument in the mix. The kind of songs I listen to cruising around backroads with the windows open singing along. Love the guitar crunch. This song is from the album ‘This Is The End’ and hearing the whole album straight through is a great listen. Some songs add a little shoegaze feedback guitar to the mix.
Strand of Oaks – ‘Weird Ways’
The songs starts with vocal and just some background guitar. Really makes you listen to the lyrics. Excellent clear vocal sound. When the band kicks in the song goes up a notch without losing the vocals. Really like the clean drum sound. The song structure works with the interlude in the middle and the kick back in to the song. Super headphone music.
I’m adding a second song from the same album ‘Eraserland’. If for no other reason – the sonics of the slide guitar. Why do I so love melancholy?
The Devil Makes Three – ‘Chains Are Broken’
My reason for this song is pretty obvious. Live. In. The. Studio. Acoustic. Does it get any better than that? So simple, so beautiful. If you can pull someone in using that format, you got it going. This version sounds a bit darker (and I do love darker) than the album version that has drums and more production. Second guitar part bites a little better on the studio version. Pretty cool that it kicks in both versions.
Hey, if you like this too, let us know.
With a new year unfolding I thought it would be a good time to present some more bands that released albums in 2018 that I enjoyed and got the gears in my brain turning.
First, Parquet Courts ‘Wide Awake’. The song reminds me of much of the ‘post-punk’ funk I enjoyed from the 1980’s, like Talking Heads first forays in to that style.
I’d recommend getting the full Wide Awake CD. They play a variety of styles on the album, all of them really well done. Also really enjoyed the song ‘Total Football’. I still buy full CD albums. First, I like hearing the songs in wav format as compared to MP3s. Second, support the bands you like.
Another great album from last year was Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs ‘Clippety Clop’. An album of stripped down covers and traditionals many of them with that old time ‘Southern Gothic’ feel. Like hand pluckin’ an acoustic guitar sittin’ on a tombstone in a cemetery at twilight (and yes, I already know I’m a bit odd). First song is ‘Horses In The Mines’.
They also do a cover of the traditional ‘Two White Horses’. You can find an early version of the song by The Two Poor Boys on YouTube. Here’s the Brokeoffs version:
As I listened to it, it seemed familiar from somewhere else. Beck did a wonderfully spooky rewrite version of it on his Guero album. He kept the basic tag line of the song and wrote his own chords and verses to come up with ‘Farewell Ride’. For years musicians have worked from old traditional songs. Wonderfully done shivers.
‘Till we meet again.
Discovered these gals in one of my magazines I subscribe to. This Aussie trio is up and coming and all of their songs are great… the song featured here is one that really spoke to me.
Just wanted to throw out a few thoughts on some items I think deserve some ink. The kind of wonderful distractions from the ‘real world’ that keep me going.
Always a great pleasure to drop in a new track from The Record Company. For your listening pleasure, ‘Life to Fix’:
An introduction to some of the invaluable staff at ChurchHouse Productions. I’d like you to meet our ‘in-house’ Public Relations staff:
She’s been a wonderful greeter and is a 24/7 studio pup. Bonnie loves to spend time in the mixing room.
And never hesitates to let me know what she thinks of a mix.
I believe the feedback was “I’m outta here…”
Besides being the owner of the famous ‘hound howl’ she’s a fanatical lover of David Lynch movies.
Although the aftermath of her watching a movie puts her in a bit of a ‘Lynchian’ mood (“this bed belongs to me now”).
Love them both and ChurchHouse wouldn’t be the same without them.
Shout out to a wonderful, old fashioned record store in Jim Thorpe, Pa, Soundcheck Records. The kind of place I grew up with and sadly are hard to find in today’s world. Let’s cross our fingers that vinyl and stores like this make a big comeback. If you’re up in Jim Thorpe it’s a must to check out.
We’ll be rolling out another song at the end of September. We’ll keep the title a surprise until then but as with the last song, we sort of broke it down and did some rebuild. Gotta have some fun.
Time has a way of passing us all by. Blink and another year passes. Close your eyes and who knows when you’ll wake up…… I felt that I was in the creative equivalent of neutral for a few years. Lots of ideas, not a lot of execution. So at the end of 2017 we decided to try something new for both the writing and recording process. Americana, bluegrass and ‘old time’ country have added a lot to our listening lists for a while now, so the idea of using more acoustic instruments made sense.
The voicing of the variety of acoustic instruments makes all of them very audible in a song mix. Two acoustic guitars might step on each other, but add mandolin or banjo and they stand out. Hand percussion. Twelve string guitar. Fretless bass. Whatever’s laying around. Oh, we’re not abandoning loud, reverby feedback guitars. Just stirring it all in. You might associate the acoustic instruments with bluegrass music but we’re not looking to work in that style. Or maybe yes. Anything’s possible.
So to learn how the instruments sound together, how to arrange the songs, how to do mic placement, what pre-amps to use, what effects, etc, etc, we decided to re-imagine some cover songs we like. Some of the songs will be quickly recorded, some will have more production. We’ll also be starting to work more with video, both ‘live’ and produced. In the mean time we’re writing and recording new original material. Stick around, it should be interesting.
First song up: ‘It’s Gonna Be A Long Night’ by Ween. Did you ever know one of those “I can drink anyone under the table” types. Ween evidently did. Times 100.
We encourage you to listen to the original versions of the songs we cover. Always good to check songs out, especially if you’ve never heard it before. Hope you enjoy it. Back at you soon.