Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sallie Does New England

Wed. 11-5-13, Columbus Theatre, Providence, RI. Doors @ 7p. $12
Thurs. 11-6-13, Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA. Doors @ 8. $12-14
Fri. 11-7-13, Calvin Theatre. With Mavis Staples. Northampton, MA. Doors @ 7. $25-45
She comes like a high-flying bolt of sexual rock energy. Situated in Portland, OR, Sallie Ford and her Sound Outside hit the road for their acclaimed second album, Untamed Beast, which is a mish-mash of rock, sex, and mashed potatoes. 26-year old Asheville, NC native Ms. Ford touched base with us via email to converse with us about Savador Dali, Billie Holiday, and Britney Spears.
(L to R: Ford Tennis (29), Jeffrey Munder (25), Sallie Ford, Tyler Tornfelt (25). Photo © Liz Devine)

Ravings: What bands do you feel inform your songs? I take it some of those classic power female singers (like Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, and Aretha Franklin)?
Sallie Ford: All sorts of bands inform my songs I suppose. On the first record, I loved jazz and blues. I listened to Billie Holiday, Cat Power, Regina Spektor and Etta James. Now I like some modern singers like PJ Harvey, Joan Jett and Blondie.

RM: Anything outside of music that informs your sound? Maybe a bit of Georgia O'Keefe, guessing from the cow skull on your cover?
SF: I watch a lot of film and television. I probably subconsciously get informed by the TV show Girls and I love me some Woody Allen films.
My fave artists are Egon Schiele, Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo.
I don't read as much as I should, but I love everything by Kurt Vonnegut and Haruki Murakami.

RM: What one work do you admire endlessly? And what do you learn form it?
SF: The first time I heard the record Alice by Tom Waits I felt like it was made for me. He is just so weird and proud of it and his stories are so fantastical!

RM: There's a pretty distinctive change between this new album (Untamed Beast) and Dirty Radio. I think it's that Dirty Radio feels a bit older, a bit more like Rock and Roll, and Untamed Beast has more of a modern-sounding rock feel. What do you think it is?
SF: I think it was the sound of us growing up and becoming better musicians. I think it's a fuller sound and the genre is different, but genres have never been important to me. I plan to genre hop and bend and not let that hold me back. I hope to always keep a "rock n roll" sound, 'cause to me that's an energy level and not a specific sound.

RM: I also feel that Untamed Beast is a lot more overtly sexual. What do you think caused this dramatic shift to adding lyrics about... well... "Do Me Right," let's say?
SF: Well, on Dirty Radio, I also wrote about sex, lie "Against the Law" and even "Poison Milk." It was my idea from the beginning to write about things I like and relate with. Sex is especially fun to write about.

RM: Speaking of "Do Me Right," about those first lyrics: have you ever done the Mashed Potato?
SF: Haha, I may have done the Mashed Potato, but I can't think of what it actuall looks like. I have done a lot of swing dancing.

RM: This will likely come out of left field, but how do you draw the line between your sense of high energy and high sexuality on Untamed Beast, and that of, let's say, Miley Cyrus. I know, not a great question, and to be quite honest, I don't really know much about kid Cyrus other than she's kinda off her lid. Basically Cyrus, or Britney Spears, or other young female acts charged that way - what sets you apart?
SF: I think a lot of those pop stars have more of an "image" of sexuality than I would ever want. They are more image-driven in general.
I write music that is the voice of a modern gal. Untamed Beast was the voice of my peers and I. All of the lyrics came from a very real and honest place. One of my favorite parts of music is writing. I would never want someone else to write music for me or tell me what my image was. I like to write music that's honest and real.
I prefer Beyonce over Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus. Beyonce is proud of her sexuality, but sings a lot about being a powerful woman. I have also heard that she is her own manager and I think you can really tell by the videos she puts out that she runs the show.

RM: What kinds of games do you and the SOS play on the road? Or are you all just on your cells all the time (boring)!
SF: The boys like to play video games on their computers and I like to watch TV shows (like Seinfeld) on my computer. We have played poker together before and we drink lots of beer together.

RM: And lastly, your Public Relations guy told me your shows are intense and energetic. I caught you once at the Newport Folk Festival... but the power was out. So, on a scale of Flaming Lips (10) to Local Band's Second Show (1), where does the SOS fall? 70s Parliament Funkadelic (11)? Old Guns 'N Roses (7 with a felony assault)?
SF: Haha, I'd say we are anywhere from a 7-9 and 10 if we get real drunk. It all depends on the crowd for me. If there's a crazy crowd, I'm willing to get crazy, too.

RM: Okay, really lastly: any covers you enjoy doing for shows?
SF: We do "Whole Wide World" by Wreckless Eric and "Heart of Glass" by Blondie.

Check Sallie out on Soundcloud.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Body Parts Breath Fire on Debut

Body Parts - Fire Dream
Father/Daughter Records
-out today
3.5 / 5

Every now and then, we get completely sucked into a good dance/pop album. Fire Dream holds that kind of promise as an 80s inspired, uptempo pop album infused with catchy hooks, great choruses, and a pounding dance beat. We like it. Does it blast us out of our seat? Not quite; but the Los Angeles duo's debut does impress us with their singable songs, sexy synth, and darned groovy vocals. Fire Dream is the kind of fun you want to have when you go to the beach: no bugs or kids, cool drinks, all sun and rhythm and waves. In other words, the album is fun, enjoyable and really quite good.

One of the singles, "Be a God," is a hyper-dance beat-breaking contraption that serves only groove and send grooves. It's a great take on passionate love, it works, and it works quite well. The vocals are impeccable and infectious, and it's one of a few dance beasts on the album. Our next selection is the ballad "People"; with a simple and great guitar + bass hook, this track is more contemplative, a darker take on love falling apart. It states right away, "Maybe it's hopeless," a foil to the worshipful kind of love on "Be a God," and we love how dynamic Ryder Bach's and Alina Cutrono's songs are. The remainder of the album is strong, even though those are the two clear standouts, and in third place comes the screamin' dance beat on "Wash Over Me." Just blastin'.

If you like 80s interpretation on your modern pop, we strongly suggest picking up Body Parts. Unlike picking up actual body parts, you'll find this fun, creative, and a pure rush. Unless you're still coming off hard from your Dexter fix, in which case we still suggest you try this album out; recommended.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Not Enough Sugar in Diane Coffee Debut

Diane Coffee - My Friend Fish
Western Vinyl
- out Oct. 29
2.5 / 5

We love "Tale of a Dead Dog." It's absolutely gorgeous: with angelic vocals sings former Disney voice actor Shaun Fleming over melodic acoustic guitars. It's a truly precious song. But now-Foxygen-drummer Fleming has a whole album to fill out, and our verdict on it is less than glowing. It's not poorly executed, or dull in the writing; rather, it is simply unengaging. We have yet to find another song of the ten that gets us thinking ("Tale"), or dancing ("WWWoman"), or whatever one should be doing when you put on a song in this debut solo effort. Perhaps it was a bit early to change careers.

There are those who feel adding hot sauce makes everything better. To transplant the thought into musical terms, it's as if adding a low-fi feel to everything makes it better. We disagree on both counts, but Mr. Fleming, on the other hand, appears to be in accord with this ("Eat Your Love (with Sriracha)"). Example: "That Stupid Girl Who Runs a Lot" is so heavy on the faded vocals, that it annoys us. Example two: "All the Young Girls" also flattens the vocals, and when we hear things like that, it makes us wonder what the artist is trying to cover up. Not a whole lot here, but then again, we do feel these songs just don't come alive. They could be layered a bit more, denser. Or maybe the performances could pop a bit more. Or even the songwriting could jump out of the typical verse-chorus-verse mode. Whatever he can do, Fleming needs to kickstart to these songs and make them linger, make his listeners enjoy and unfold the songs. Give it a musical heart! As they are, the songs work, but not hard enough for our tastes.

There may be something to Diane Coffee in the near future. We're not certain; we can't predict that. But we do know "Tale of a Dead Dog" is where Fleming should be striving, and the rest of the album doesn't live up to that. Take a pass.

Listen to "Tale" right here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Electricity Indeed on Chilton Bootleg

Alex Chilton - Electricity by Candelight
Bar None Records
-out now
4 / 5

It's a cold February night in NYC. Across from you is a legendary Memphis musician, reformed drug addict, and born-again folk singer. The lights go out - there is no electricity - and now it's you and him, back and forth, the both of you trying to discover "that perfect folk song" to round out the night. This is not perfect, this is not mastered beautifully, and it's not always the easiest to listen to. The audience and various noises overtake Chilton much of the time. What this is is one of those rare intimate moments caught on tape with Big Star's former frontman playing off the audience, taking requests, just generally enjoying himself. It is for fans of Chilton and Big Star, and here we suspect they will drown themselves in nostalgia.

By the time drummer Richard Dworkin comes in, Chilton's already onto Bossa Nova with "The Girl from Ipanema." It is safe to say there is a variety of songs here: from Beach Boys to Johnny Cash. And the performances aren't perfect, by any measure; see "Case of You," during which Chilton forgets the song and moves on. The songs are bare and beautiful ("Motel Blues"), fun ("Wouldn't it be Nice"), and special, though mostly to Big Star fans. The whole set is a gem in that sense, and while those who've never heard of Big Star (and we were one of those unfortunates, once) might simply pass this by with no further thought, do consider this release after you pick up their brilliant first album. And about his search for a perfect folk song, "If I Had a Hammer" is as perfect a way to end the night. We think you'll enjoy the improv on the lyrics in that one.

Recommended for Big Star fans. We suspect the rest of the world won't quite fall into this release, but as we do enjoy their albums, and therefore must MUST recommend it.

A four-song sampler on Soundcloud for you!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

World's End Press Not Quite Cataclysmic

World's End Press - Self-Titled
-out now
3 / 5

The Melbourne, Australian dance/pop quartet may funkify their beats on their full-length debut, but we are very picky with our funk bass. The chaps go all out, with a setlist a little over an hour, and while some of the tracks here are good, we don't find them especially brilliant. And when it comes to dance, it needs to be brilliant. The baker's dozen of tracks does show some life, and they groove right, but we don't find them to have quite enough energy or strong enough writing to truly captivate us.

Of the tracks we recommend, check out their single "Reformation Age." It has such a cool chorus that we don't mind it's not the danciest-beateriffic track on the disc. And on this disc, you will often find funkadilly-o bass ("Salvation," "Drag Me Home"), though certainly not up to the standards of Victor Wooten. Still, there are some enjoyable moments on here, some passable moments; and overall, we've found that in two weeks of listening, World's End Press does really leave much of an impression on us. It's not bad, but simply not worth the time or money, considering Franz Ferdinand's Tonight is only a couple clicks away.

So we're suggesting you pass on this debut. It's got some good things going for it, but ultimately it's not all that spectacular.

Check out the Australians on Soundcloud.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Silver Bell Rings a Different Kind of Tune

Patty Griffin - Silver Bell
A&M Records
-out now
4 / 5

Our first listen to the much-delayed Silver Bell was one of relative disappointment. Compared to American Kid, the Maine-born folk singer's latest release seemed less immediate, less pleasurable than the absolutely fantastic Kid. (Which we reviewed here.) Initially, we were thinking there was a reason it took thirteen years to get this album out there (you know, a negative reason), but again, that was our first listen. The reality of it is this: it's different. Instead of going country on Kid, Griffin splays a laid-back, down-tempo rock groove throughout. And the fact of the matter is this: it's good. It's a grower, but it's good.

Our favorite track, by and far, is "Sooner or Later;" a crooning, simple track that's just so groovy, it just blasts us away. Simplicity is beauty. And songs like "One More Girl" are deceptive: they're bare, they're dark and smoky, they're smooth like a good whiskey. These songs are direct, they're confident in their rocking, and for a third album, it's surprisingly mature. We still like American Kid and it's folksy country-ness a bit more, but Silver Bell is still quite good, just a different kind of horse.

It's got a different feel to it, but we're giving it our thumbs up. Recommended.

Listen to "Truth #2."

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Static Jacks' "In Blue" Lacks Even That Color

Static Jacks - In Blue
Fearless Records
-out now
2 / 5

This just in: the sophomore LP from Westfield, NJ rock quintet Static Jacks is more entertaining on their album cover than in their actual album. Why must we be so cruel? Let's face it: you're money is worth time, and when you spend forty minutes and fifteen bucks on a bland album like In Blue, now you know you've gotten hit twice. It's not awful and the end of the world, it's just the kind of album that leaves no impression upon us. It is not blue, or red, or even green; it is simply monochromatic, it is either playing or it's not, and there's not much difference either way.

"Horror Story," the opener, comes in and leaves like a ghost. And we don't believe in ghosts. By the time we get to "Katie Said" for the third time, it's clear that the Jacks' repertoire includes a handful of power chords, lyrics that might as well be toneless humming, and turning the amp up to eight - certainly not eleven. As badly as the band wants to be "it" (and they try all the tricks in the book), we've got to point out that the bands that stick rewrite the book. Sure, they've got "I'll Come Back," but as their strongest song, we can't find anything special about it. It sounds nice... move on. The rest of the album goes below par - not in the golf sense - especially in terms of songwriting. Like we said: we listened to this one a few times, and after each listen, there was never any reason to go back. Back to Typhoon instead!

A disappointing album, like that child who you knew was never going to be anything special and - lo and behold - turned out that way. Maybe there was a chance somewhere along the way... oh well. Send this one to the unemployment line and find a better way to spend your time.
(Gosh, we're cruel aren't we?) Take a pass.

Check out "I'll Come Back" on Soundcloud.