From The Inbox (08/19/19) // A. Billi Free – “Flourish”

inbox

FROM THE INBOX:

In theme and style, A. Billi Free effortlessly slides between the present and the future and between earth and space on her debut album I Luma dropping August 12th on Tokyo Dawn Records. Meaning “in front” in the Samoan language, I Luma centers A. Billi Free’s sincere musings on discovery and adventure in her universe over soulful, uplifting, dance-ready jams.

I Luma is backed by an electronic/pop/alternative R&B sensibility entirely composed and produced by Chicago production duo and Tokyo Dawn artists, Tensei. Interstellar jazz multi-instrumentalist Angel Bat Dawid on clarinet sets the tone for this enchanted musical journey on the track “Flourish”.

Recorded in New Mexico, Illinois, and Massachusetts, the resulting magic outweighs the challenges of this type of creation as the album’s sonics are strong and richly layered, providing a solid foundation for A. Billi Free’s smooth tone and earnest message to transmit through the cosmos. Rooted in an eclectic blend of hip hop, soul and electronica, she has spent the last decade in the deserts of southern New Mexico and west Texas fusing elements of both the city and the border into her sound.

Video by Scott Iulianelli, Analog Prints.

A. Billi Free is exactly the kind of surprises I like getting in my email. Her new record is absolutely fantastic. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s just a great mix of pop, hip-hop, R&B, and soul.

A. Billi Free
Tokyo Dawn Records

From The Inbox (08/12/19) // J.R. – “PAL”

inbox

FROM THE INBOX:

This song was inspired by the feeling of youth and naive invincibility.
The emotions experienced when you are young and feeling misunderstood.
Stagnant and searching for a reason to keep feeling like the past wont catch up to you.

“PAL” is a rollercoaster of thoughts, trying to make sense of multiple personalities and your own insanity. This song always brings me back to multiple places and experiences throughout my youth/young adulthood. Falling in and out of love. The transition of realizing my parents are flawed people just like you. Driving down a beautiful tree-lined road with my friends, looking for something fun to do and searching for a way to sustain that feeling of invincibility.

Dan Edmonds produced “PAL” at Fort Rose Studio in Hamilton.

Ross Miller (The Dirty Nil) really helped produce and shape the song with me in a way that captures the essence of it to a perfect T – just an added bonus of having grown up together and experiencing the same time-killing nights out. With Jason Bhattacharya on the kit, we all had so much fun adding something special to each session that made our hearts flutter.

Hope you enjoy listening to “PAL” as much as I did making it!

J.R.
~ Julianna Riolino ~

I absolutely love this kind of stuff. I guess you could call this indie rock with a slight folk influence? Either way, it’s 100% my jam. This is the second single J.R. has released this year. The previous single, “BE MY MAN” fucking goes. Make sure to check that one out too. I’m really looking forward hearing more. Hopefully these two singles mean an EP or full length is coming soon. A real press person would probably look into that.

J.R.

Feature Name Change.

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I’m changing the “Song Of The Week” feature into “From The Inbox.” This is being done for a few reasons. But, it’s mostly because calling a feature “song of the week” only makes sense when you update it once a week. Also, most of what gets posted is stuff I get in my email.

There will probably be a few things getting posted that aren’t from the inbox, but ehhh. The format is simple. Media, one sheet blurb, and then a dumb note from me. Yep.

All five of you, please make note.

Song Of The Week (07/26/19) // Lilith – “Vacation”

Lilith – “Vacation”

Usually I post these with some press blurb from an email or something. I was not sent any press release for this particular one. Safer Off is a record I’ve been looking forward to, and I just really like this band. I’ll always love some good pop rock.

Lilith
Disposable America
Take This To Heart Records

REVIEW: Strangers – “Good Enough”

sgeEP

I (relatively) recently was talking about Long Knives. When discussing them, I mentioned how much I liked Kris Moya’s songwriting. As luck would have it, I have more of their music to talk about. I should have talked about this back in May, but I’m the worst reviewer. Anyway. Strangers is Moya’s solo project. Being responsible for all the instruments and vocals, save for some of the backing vocals, Good Enough is a record that speaks directly to their influences. I feel like that is both appealing and intimidating for any musician. Your project will sink or swim based on your vision and voice. The proverbial buck stops with you. Luckily, this record swims.

One of my favorite things about this record is that it taps into a different part of the greater punk genre than Long Knives does. That band was firmly on the emo side of the fence, this project is definitely more on the indie rock side of things. Good Enough would sound right at home on a label like Salinas or Don Giovanni. This is the kind of music that will always appeal to me. To be honest, if you like that kind of stuff, I don’t know how you couldn’t find something to like on this record. You want a hooky pop influenced song? “Strangers” and “30 Day Free Trial” are there for you. An energetic, uptempo jam? “Like Fun Gay, Not Angry Gay” has got you covered. Shit, “If The Apocalypse Comes, Beep Me” closes the record in a way that does both.

My favorite kind of song is an undercover sad one. I think Good Enough is a record that speaks to that. Even an upbeat sounding song can have a bit of bummer introspection. “Like Fun Gay, Not Angry Gay” speaks to that. It’s got a triumphant sound to it, but lyrics like “When my body no longer feels unworthy of taking up space // When my brain is no longer filled with shame” speak to the struggle that has being overcome. See also: “If I’m busy then that’s why I’m still around // I keep myself busy, but it brings me down // I’m out of control when I’m alone” in the record closer. To me, that’s that kind of thing that makes the record worth listening to. Anyone can make an indie punk song. Actually using the genre to say something is when songs become great.

Strangers is a project that just appeals to me in almost every way. By any metric I have available, I would say this record has been super slept on. I hate RIYL statements, but this record would certainly appeal to fans of stuff like All Dogs or Swearin’. Ok?

Strangers
Bandcamp/Buy It

Song Of The Week (7/1/19) // Black Adidas – “Be Cool”

Black Adidas – “Be Cool”

I have to be honest, I’ve been sitting on this song since fucking January. I am incredibly bad at running a music website. It was “officially” released a week and a half ago, so maybe I’m not the worst. Anyway.

Be Cool” is the new song from Black Adidas. The song feels like a fitting sequel to “Old Fashioned Rock N Roll” from last year’s self titled LP. Both revel in paying respect to the genre. But, if “Old Fashioned Rock N Roll” was a tribute to sound, “Be Cool” is a mission statement. It’s a song about going to a show, seeing a band, and just fucking going off. It’s a song about not worrying about anything, and just enjoying music you love. Sometimes that’s really what you need.

I don’t like doing RIYL type things, but there is a definite Social Distortion vibe running through this track. It’s got a classic punk sound, a great chant along chorus, and a killer synth line. I don’t know what else you could want.

Also, hell, let’s promo here. Black Adidas is running a sale on their Bandcamp this week (I actually have no idea for how long). Use the code “merica” for 30% their shit. Am I a shill if I do it for free?

Edit: Sale is done.

Black Adidas
Bandcamp

REVIEW: Sin Bad / Bad Wig – “Sin Bad Wig” Split

I have a bias. I want to say it right off the top. I grew up near Chicago, and I’ve been a Cubs fan for a long time. As such, it’s in my nature to talk shit on Milwaukee. It can’t be helped. But, hey, we’re not talking baseball. We’re talking music. To that point, this split record is fucking great. Sin Bad and Bad Wigs are both phenomenal bands who know how to write the hell out of a song. The split is a four and four gimmick, and it’s a great example on how goddamn hooky punk rock can be.

Sin Bad have the first half. Four songs in about 11 minutes. They definitely fall more towards the poppy side of the punk rock genre. Maybe Swearin’ by way of Dirt Bike Annie? I don’t know. Either way, the dual vocals of Audrey Pennings and Ben Woyak don’t mess around. The first inclination would be to call this pop punk, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. Is it poppy? Absolutely. Is it punk? Yep. But I don’t think this band is too concerned about playing within that genre’s yard. Power pop, garage, it’s all here.

Bad Wig play have the second half. Their sound is much more rooted in garage rock. While these songs have a bit more grit to them, they sound positively shiny compared to the band’s 2015 EP (contrast this version of “Machinehead” to the one on there). The instrumentation is fantastic. Ryan McCrary’s guitar fucking kills. Their songs have a kind of retro sound. This band kind of made me think of the Gaza Strippers for whatever reason. I mean, I don’t know. There is a good helping of 90s garage punk in these songs is what I’m saying, I guess.

All in all, this is a great record. If one band does’t click with you, the other probably will. Both are great examples of what they do. Also, totally unrelated to sound, but I’ll always fuck with a record that can also be an answer on Jeopardy.

Sin Bad
Bad Wig
Kitschy Spirit Records
Bandcamp / Buy It

Song Of The Week (03/29/19)

Lou’ana – “Eye To Eye”

From the inbox:

Having carved a place for herself within Auckland’s vibrant music community over the past 6 years as a proud, second generation Samoan New Zealander, Lou’ana’s voice carries the stature of an old soul; a cosmic cocktail of sweet and soulful, with an added gritty, blues edge that references the golden age of Etta James, Emmylou Harris to the rawness of Stevie Nicks and Amy Winehouse. Her heart and soul translates through sound, in that unexplainable alchemy that happens when music meets word.

Lou’ana has performed all around New Zealand as part of the inimitable funk troup Hipstamatics, playing a multitude of festivals across the country including some of their favourite haunts such as Hipstamatics’ “birth place”, Grand Central in Ponsonby. The spell-binding artist also performs as part of Two Many Chiefs, and has supported a number of New Zealand jazz acts including Andrew Faleatua at Samoana Jazz Festival and the 2015 Pacific Music Awards, as well as providing live vocals for kiwi electronic outfit Sola Rosa.

Lou’ana kicks off 2019 with multiple New Zealand tour dates, and headlines the Waiheke Jazz Festival through April 19-22.

I’m primarily a blog that covers punk and punk related stuff. I occasionally like to use these “song of the week” posts to cover stuff I like that doesn’t really fit in that space. This is 100% one of those times. This Lou’ana song is just great.

Not sure how an old punk from Illinois ended up on a New Zealand press list, but here we are.

Lou’ana

REVIEW: Long Knives – “The Subject”

It’s been a almost four years since Long Knives released their excellent debut EP, This Is Your Life. It showcased a promising band, and was one of my favorite records of 2015. It’s been a long wait to get a full length, but it finally happened. Long Knives initially stood out to me because they sounded different. A lot of the emo bands at the time kind of felt like Kinsella retreads. Long Knives didn’t. Not to me anyway. And now, years later, a lot has changed. The “emo revival” hype has long since tapered off. It’s now kind of do or die when it comes to the genre. Either you go for it, break up, or changed sounds to better ride the wave of gets the most hype. I’m glad to say that Long Knives falls in the first category.

The Subject is a record that really shows Kris Moya’s growth as a songwriter. They are able to tackle complex matters in way that, while emotionally heavy, is also engaging and inviting. Personal songwriting is always difficult to judge because, I mean, there is no benchmark to measure against. You are listening to someone express their experience. These songs. while speaking to an entirely different experience than I have, still resonate. It ultimately comes down to feeling. Kris Moya, via the band’s Bandcamp page, addressed the records as such:

“The whole process of writing and recording Long Knives’ first full length ‘The Subject’ took about 4 years to finish. It was a lot of work. It emotionally and mentally drained me. There were times I wanted to scratch the whole thing because I wasn’t happy with it, but I’m really glad I stuck it out because we are proud of the songs. During the writing process, I made myself vulnerable because I wanted to raise awareness about mental illness, gender dysphoria, homophobia, white privilege, abuse, and consent. I know that these things can be triggering to others and it certainly is for me as well, but I want my voice to be heard so thank you to those that actually listen to this album. It truly means a lot.”

To the musical end, The Subject Is certainly still inline with bands like The Anniversary or The Get Up Kids. Especially with keyboard. That is a bit reductive though, I suppose. Songs like “Normal” and “Golden Lady” definitely skew toward that kind of hook heavy pop stuff. On the other end, “Temporary” is crunchy as fuck. “Home” and “Anticipate” are on the more ballad-y side of things. There is a lot to offer, and this band absolutely nails it.

Long Knives
Bandcamp/Buy It

REVIEW: Overo – “Cold Concrete​ / ​Shattered”

overo

Overo is a band that I was stoked about the minute I heard they existed. The band is made up of Lindsay and Mercy from Football, etc., Brendan from Perfect Future, and John from Rose Ette. I’m not going to bore you with a lot of introduction and bullshit. Suffice to say, that is a goddamn line up.

The release here is a two song demo/single. The two songs featured are solid post-hardcore, but they also embraces the emo and punk connections. Both have a strong quiet/loud dynamic, but in notably different ways. “Cold Concrete” nails that dynamic with the vocals. “Shattered” with the music. Lindsay Minton and Brendan Stephens have very different vocal styles, but they work really well together. “Cold Concrete” has the former’s singing delivery going head on into the latter’s more yelling/screaming delivery. “Shattered” features more vocal interplay, with both singing at the same time.

I really enjoy how the song play with the post-hardcore style in different ways. “Cold Concrete” has a punk aggression to it. It’s a short song that drives to it’s conclusion. There isn’t a lot of posturing, but there are great riffs. “Shattered” is more jagged and angular. It starts with a minute of delicate guitar work before it crescendos into a mathy kind of jam. The guitar lead is fantastic and the shift at the midway point is a thing of beauty.

The long and short of this is simple. You’ve got a band with a killer lineup making two of the strongest genre songs I’ve heard in a minute. If there was a release more in my wheelhouse, I sure haven’t found it yet. Here’s hoping we get more stuff from this band.

Overo
Bandcamp / Buy It