Daytrotter is one of my go-to sites for discovering new music. New and established artists stop by the Daytrotter studios to record live sets of new, existing and previously unrecorded songs. It’s free to stream and as Daytrotter says, “just $4 damned bucks a month” for a membership, which enables you to download high quality MP3s.
A wide range of genres caught my ears this month: Roots/Blues, Singer/Songwriter, Country, neo-R&B/Soul, Rock and Punk. Here’s my favorite sessions of May 2013:
Dirty Fences: Dirty Fences is a fun alternative/punk band. This is the first time I’ve heard them and I will be looking up more from them.
English Teeth (featuring Wayne Kramer): Some kick-ass rock featuring Wayne Kramer of MC5 fame.
Hannah Fair: Singer / Songwriter Hannah Fair put out an eleven (yes, 11) song set at Daytrotter. I’d never heard of Hannah before, but this top-notch set made me a fan.
Har Mar Superstar: Har Mar Superstar put out a solid, neo-R&B/Soul influenced set. I’ll definitely check out more from this band.
Josh Farrow: Great roots / blues influenced set from this band. Killer vocals, tight band and cool riffs. Who could ask for more?
Justin Jones: New-to-me, singer / songwriter Justin Jones, put out a solid set of acoustic and heartfelt songs.
Nikki Lane: This is the second Daytrotter from Nikki Lane and this old-school, country session by Nikki solidifies my need to check out more of her discography.
Rachel Brooke: Rachel Brooke was introduced to me by some of my music-blogging ‘buddies’ in the past year. Rachel falls into the country-influenced, singer/songwriter genre. Rachel put out an absolutely stellar six-song set when she visited the Daytrotter studios.
Ramsay Midwood: A top-notch, laid-back, alt-country set from Texas-based artist Ramsay Midwood.
The Skins: A rockin’ set of luscious, retro-70’s goodness with a female vocalist. Could they have pegged my rock sweet spot any better? I think not.
Young Things: A pretty damn good alternative band from NYC. Music sounds modern and the vocals/melodies are from the late 60s (is that Beatles I hear?).
The 4onthefloor: One of my favorite alt-Country/Americana bands goes acoustic with some solid tunes.They have a new album out and I didn’t know about it. How’d I miss that?
Feel Bad For You, June 2013 is live. We had a theme this month: Songs that exemplify the phrase “feel bad for you”. We got quite a range of songs from singer/songwriter to rock. The common theme appears to be that we just don’t give a damn how you feel ;)
My song choice is from a 2011 GaragePunk Hideout compilation entitled “I Don’t Give A Shit”, by The Apes Party. Why? Well… I’ve always considered the phrase “Feel Bad For You”, in the context of our monthly mixtape, to be sarcastic. So there!
Song list and comments by submitters can be found HERE and you can stream online below:
I wish I could remember how I came across Gerald Collier, currently living in Portland, OR, so I could relate the story here and/or thank the person that first brought him to my attention. In any case, I became a fan, buying all his solo albums. Surprisingly, I didn’t realize until recently that he was a founding member of Best Kissers In The World, an alternative band from the 90s. Like many before them, the band ended and he struck out on a solo career as a singer/songwriter.
Gerald put out some of my favorite singer/songwriter albums from the mid-90s to about 2007, plumbing the depths of sorrow, addictions, abuse and relationships… and then nothing. I’d check online from time-to-time hoping I’d see a new release or word about him.
Finally, in April, I was happy to find Gerald’s new album listed as a current top ten favorite of DJ Don Slack, of KEXP. I did some quick searches and found Gerald’s digital single on Bandcamp, which I quickly purchased. It included three songs, two originals and a cover tune. A bit more on this single later. I was pleased to hear the songwriter I grew to admire over the years, but it was just a taste.Gerald’s first full length album in some time released about a week ago and it has been in very heavy ‘rotation’ on my players.
With my first few listens of Help Is On The Way, I heard the songwriter I admire so much. On the other hand, did this album also seem a bit brighter, from a musical standpoint? I always enjoyed Gerald’s use of nylon string guitar, since I felt it added to the emotional tone of his songs. But now I hear a steel string guitar in some of the mixes, which adds a brightness to some of the songs. That said, it’s a disorienting feeling to hear the brightness of the song, expecting some happiness or answers, but hear Gerald exploring themes of relationships, chasing fame, loss and addictions.
My first few listens of Help Is On The Way made me think this was an album of soured relationships, people growing apart and poor decisions. Gerald seems to be exploring themes of distance, losing oneself and loss of relationships in “Goodbye Cruel World”, “When I Think About You I Want To Kick Myself”, “I Don’t Believe I’ll Make It Home For The Summer” and “#305”.
Upon subsequent listens, I had the feeling that Gerald was exploring loss through death. “Please Don’t Leave Me” and “Sanctuary” seem to make references to death, with “Sanctuary” having overtly religious themes via use of the phrases the ‘shaky hand of god’ and ‘bring in the sheaves’. There is also the song “It’s Been Hell Since You’ve Been in Heaven”, from the digital single, which overtly references death.
And even further listens made me feel there were themes of drug addiction. “Help is On The Way”, which is wildly reminiscent of John Lennon, doesn’t seem to offer help, but indicates the use of ‘pills won’t soften the blow’. “Nothing Lasts For Ever” seems to reference fame and loss of it through drug addiction. “Sing Me, Sing Me Back Home” makes the most overt reference to addictions with the phrase, “should my pink turn blue” which is a direct reference to Hüsker Dü’s song “Pink Turns to Blue”, a song about drug addiction.
Gerald typically has at least one cover on each album and he’s done it again. “What To Do” (A Stones cover), surprisingly felt out of place at first, but upon repeated plays and his refactoring of lyrics caused this song to fit the theme of loss and not having specific answers.
I want to add the the digital single contains “Help Is On The Way” (also on the album), “It’s Been Hell Since You’ve Been in Heaven”, which has some very direct references to loss and heaven and is again tying in the theme of loss, through death.
Finally, there is a meditative, spare, cover version of The Beatles’ song “Across The Universe”, which is mostly just Gerald and ukulele.
I generally don’t over-analyze albums but I feel I’ve done that a bit with Help Is On The Way. Really, what I’m trying to say is the messages, topics and themes seem to emerge and morph with repeated listening. As ‘morose’ as the themes appear to be, I hear something different with each listen and my interpretations have changed over time. I can’t say I hear any answers in the songs, but maybe that isn’t the point. Maybe the point is to take the journey with Gerald while he explores his feelings on these topics and then… find your own way.
My two cents: Essential Listening
Listen here (or on Bandcamp):
Daytrotter is one of my go-to sites for discovering new music. New and established artists stop by the Daytrotter studios to record live sets of new, existing and previously unrecorded songs. It’s free to stream and a paltry $2/month for a membership, which enables you to download high quality MP3s.
Female vocalists took the spotlight this month, including two that struck a chord with my love of R&B/Soul. Here’s my favorite sessions of April 2013:
Chastity Brown: Chastity Brown has a great R&B / Soul voice. Some of the music borders on folk, some on old-style R&B. Definitely worth your while. This is the first I’ve heard of Chastity Brown, but I’ll be looking for more from her.
Country Mice: Some really fine, mostly noisy/scratchy, tube-sounding guitar coming from this Alternative band. Great stuff.
The Delta Saints: Some great, laid-back blues coming from these guys. Slide guitar. Harmonica. What more could you ask for?
Eilen Jewell: Eilen’s been one of my favorite Country/Americana/Singer-Songwriters for a while. A great little session you shouldn’t pass up.
Jetta: Another R&B / Soul artist that I am becoming acquainted with. Jetta is more rocking than Chastity Brown, which suits Jetta’s voice. I need to find more music by Jetta.
SHEL: Four sisters making some great folks/old-timey sounds with some wonderful harmonies. To my mind, their music and vocals work best with minimal instrumentation. This session includes a great cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Everymore”. At times the vocals remind me of Ann Wilson of Heart.
Feel Bad For You, May 2013 is live. No theme for my group of ne’er-do-well blogger and music pundit cronies. I suggested we use the any song, any genre, any year ‘theme’. Surprisingly, we got quite a few songs from 2013 releases, as well as songs from other ‘eras’. Quite a nice mix of genres too.
My song choice if from the 80s. Scott Miller, of Game Theory and Loud Family, died on April 15. That kind of bummed me out because we are about the same age and I enjoyed his music. In 1987 I was several years out of college and immersed in the alternative music scene of the San Francisco Bay Area. I first remember hearing Game Theory’s song, “The Real Sheila”, on the San Jose, CA college station KSJS. Lolita Nation was an album of 27 tracks that demanded you listen from start to finish. It still does. In my mind, Lolita Nation is their finest album. Though “The Real Sheila” was probably better known from that album, I selected “The Waist and The Knees”. If you are interested, you can download all the (out of print) Game Theory albums here: http://www.loudfamily.com/index.html
Song list and comments by submitters can be found HERE and you can stream online below:
Uncle Leon and the Alibis, another band to which I was introduced at Couch by Couchwest, come to us from New York City. The band captured the hearts and minds of the CXCW attendees with their sing-along “Beer Train”, performed on a New York subway train.
Uncle Leon and the Alibis’ feet seem to be firmly rooted in the country and rock of yesteryear. Throughout most of the album, I hear influences of the country bands and artists of the 60s and 70s that used to sing out from the radio of my dad’s truck and from the TV, via Hee Haw. Unfortunately, I was too cool to really pay much attention to these bands. I heard them and (surreptitiously) liked them, but couldn’t share that with my friends. As I’ve grown older and (shudder) matured, I find myself (re)discovering those bands along with new bands like Uncle Leon and the Alibis. I suspect these bands and artists were similarly raised on country music, while various types of rock were getting our immediate attention. Though I’ve never met Leon or the band, I have to think that we share similar upbringing.
Wild Ways is my first exposure to Uncle Leon and the Alibis, though this is not their first album. Overall, I view the album as a narrative of life, people’s decisions, their frustrations, regret or lack of regret and lamentations. In general, the characters in each song have few, if any, regrets about living life the way they chose to live it or the choices they’ve made.
Songs encompass the frustrations of family and looking back (“Hold On”) and memories of lost love (“Cold Dark Night”). The amusing rants of friends growing up, or is it the narrator who hasn’t grown up, in the Bill Haley influenced rockabilly of “All My Crazy Friends Got Old and Lame”. There is lamenting of decisions and lost dreams (“Loving a Cowboy”), love lost (“The Cheating’ Kind”) and life decisions and lack of regret in “Don’t Blame This Guitar”. “It Ain’t That Easy” feels like the mirror of “Don’t Blame This Guitar”, but told from the point of view of a woman who’s made her decisions.
A couple of songs, on first listen, seemed to be lighthearted or amusing, but upon subsequent listens I feel they are along the lines of dark humor, with real messages. There is the life of a cantankerous, formerly productive member of society now living on the streets (“Fuck the World”) and the lack of regret of the things a man’s done that have made him who he in “Whiskey and Weed and Big-Titted Women”
The song “Wild Ways” is about poor decisions of a hard life. Musically it is direct throwback to the Rolling Stones, even mimicking the general structure and tone of “Honky Tonk Woman”.
I liked this album quite a bit upon first listen. That said, I like this album more with each listen. It’s a “grower”. Each time I listen to the album, I hear new messages and subtle humor in the lyrics. Musically, it takes me back to my childhood and teen years of hearing country music of the 60s/70s, in addition to the influences of the rock of that time.
My two cents: Highly Recommended.