Tag Archives: Indie

Album Review: Jonathan Richman – Ishkode! Ishkode!

Jonathan RichmanI recall the very day when I was first introduced to Jonathan Richman.

Sometimes I wish I could say it was because I came across a Modern Lovers album at a young age, but the truth is, I learned of him in the mid-90s thanks to Repo Man on VHS.  As many of you know, there was a Modern Lovers song on the soundtrack and I fell in love with it instantly.

That was a long time ago and I have never stopped being a fan.  So I am sure you can imagine how stoked I am to have been given the opportunity to review Richman’s latest release titled Ishkode! Ishkode!.

I have to admit though, I have been sitting on this review for a few weeks now as I wanted to make sure I said the right words as this artist is so important to me.

So here I am pondering and making a big deal about an album by a guy who has inspired me to be myself.  After listening to this album probably for the 100th time, I felt today was the day to share.

Ishkode! Ishkode! dropped last month on Cleveland’s very own Blue Arrow Records.  This is Richman’s first release in over six years and was well worth the wait.  Assisting Richman on this release was Tommy Larkins, Lisa Marie, Kelly Brown, and a handful of other friends.

Starting off the album was “Woah! How Different We All Are!”, a more underground, beatnik sounding track that had Richman and crew taking a darker approach.  Not goofy by any means but certainly something Warhol would have been a fan of.

“Ishkode! Ishkode!” carried the style Richman has presented over and over I have grown to appreciate.  I loved when Richman, once warmed up, just went on a mini tangent with some amped up guitar playing.

I heard “Wait! Wait!” last year when Richman dropped a pair of 45s via Blue Arrow Records.  This track is so fun it is ridiculous.  I hate to repeat myself, so go check out what I said about it previously.  I also talk about “O’Sun!” too.

“‘a Nnammurata Mia” which translates to My Beloved, was easily my favorite track off the entire album.  I felt like I was on vacation listening to it as Richman swooned me away in Italian and English.  Seriously though, Richman displayed himself to me in a new level on this song while blending the two languages so perfectly.  It was beautiful.

The love fueled “Let Me Do This Right!” should be the soundtrack for all mantra.  Even though it was the quickest song on the album, it was gentle, repetitious, and honest.

“Outside Oduffy’s” just had me smirking the entire time the song played.  This was a comical track that just had me visualizing Richman talking to a girl outside of a pub, falling head over heels in 10 minutes.  This was Richman storytelling at it’s finest.  Having the ladies sing along made it that much better.

“Longtemps” returned back to that vacation feeling I had earlier with the versatile Richman showing his true talent in a different tongue – French to be exact.  Originally written by Charles Trenet in 1955, Richman covered it quite well.

Closing the album was “Mother I Give You My Soul Call”, a chant written by Paramahansa Yogananda.  It is beyond why Richman chose this song to cover, but it was absolutely captivating to listen to.  The sitar playing over the low toned instrument that escapes me at this time (please feel free to help me out here) was calm and relaxing to listen to while Richman recited the chant.  This was an incredibly unique listen.

For anyone who is a fan of Richman, listening to this album was an experience of its own.  At first, I could not place my finger on some of the tracks and felt Richman was just doing something different because he can, but as I listened more and more, it made sense to me.  This album was Richman continuing his legacy as a musician and merely enhanced his talents.  It’s a fantastic release.

Head over to Blue Arrow Records to order a copy of Richman’s new album.  If you are lucky enough to live in Cleveland, just take some time and visit their brick and mortar store.  You will not be disappointed.  I always enjoy my visits there and you can just pick up a copy of the LP yourself.

Album Review: Seafair – The Querencia

SeafairCleveland’s Seafair is about to turn some heads this year.

I know I have talked about a lot of Cleveland acts on my site, but this is the first time I have spoken on a band that is this incredibly multi-genred.

Seafair has been doing their thing since 2012 and is comprised of six amazing musicians whose roots  dip into an impressive and diverse dynamic of musical styles including everything from classical to punk rock.  The Querencia is the band’s debut release and is dropping next month.

Lead vocalist Chayla Hope has a voice that demands to be heard by anyone willing to open their ears.  Its deeper, powerful style is more Juliana Hatfield over Adele/Lorde (from what I have heard via mainstream radio, honestly I can’t stand either of those two).  Seriously, it is a bit fierce and a whole ton of passionate.

SeafairSide note: Having been good pals with Seafair’s drummer Ryan Kelly for at least 10 years now, there was no way I was not going to talk about this new band.  On another side note, I used to work with Andrea Bleding Elson’s husband at an EB Games back in the day.  Small world…

A classical intro to the album set me back for a moment as I became enthralled in the peaceful composure that morphed into “Vultures”.  I am not going to lie, I was not terribly impressed with this track and although Chayla Hope had a forceful and beautiful singing voice, the track itself did nothing for me.

“DIM”, however, was the complete opposite.  I adored this track on so many levels.  From the string playing to the infectious drumming of Sir Kelly, everything about this track was likable.  Perhaps it was the Björk-like melodies and singing towards the end that grasped me.  I almost hate myself for admitting I did not like the prior track, but then again, I am one one of millions of opinions out there.  This track though was a solid jam and everyone needs to check it out.

“Inferno” followed with a bellowing Hope singing her heart out.  This was one of the tracks I could image sounds so much better live on a hot summer night.

Hearing the “The Score” was like hearing an orchestrated indie rock track like none other.  This song built up so nicely and once the guitar playing picked up at the peak of the track, I was quietly rocking out here to it.  It was like one of those songs that is a story that builds with excitement.  My only quarrel with this track, is I wish the story lasted a little longer.

I am fairly certain “Ohio” was written about me and my return back to my favorite state in the world.  I am also positive that is not the case at all, but I’m ok with thinking that.  Honestly, this track about love growing distant was amazing to listen to.  I loved the breakdown at the end that changed things up.  This was one of the best tracks on the album in my opinion.

“Discovery” was another fantastic track.  I am sure this may be misconstrued in a sense, but this track was like listening to Foxy Shazam with a female singer.  Hope’s range on this track was just all over the place and perfect throughout.  I also got a kick out of the back up vocals that interjected throughout.  The more and more I listened to it, the more I loved it.

Quick props need to be given to the Ween-like guitar solo in “Not A Cure”.  The track overall was intense to listen to and it just erupted at the end.

Seafair to me is festival music, you know, the kind is best heard live during warm summer nights.  I know they were trying to play Bonnaroo but sadly did not win a voting competition.  That’s the voters loss, I think this band would kill it at the ‘Roo.  Regardless, they will play shows and they will turn heads.  I know it.

The Querencia is a beautifully put together album that is not over produced and spans over so many genres that I feel it will be difficult for anyone to not enjoy some part of it.  The album really grasps your attention throughout and treats it to a fine listen.

I was not expecting Seafair to sound the way they did, and that’s ok.  Surprises in music are one of my favorite things in life and I really hope others experience that feeling too.

7-Inch Reviews: Jonathan Richman – “O Sun” & “Keith”

Sometimes a review is tough to start.  I find myself sitting here trying to think of how I am going to select the right words to create an introduction to the musician or band that I would like to share with the world.

I find this blog entry particularly a little more difficult to start out with not only because I am a huge fan of the musician of the EPs I am about to talk about, but I am equally a huge fan of the label that has put them out.

Blue Arrow Records is not only a brick and mortar staple in Cleveland thanks to their amazing selection of vinyl, music memorabilia, and other vintage goodies, but they are now a record label.

Makes complete sense to me.

I have been a fan of Blue Arrow since they first set up shop in 2009 and think the world of owners Pete and Debbie.  Not only do they run one of my favorite stores in my neck of the woods, but they are also quality humans.  I am lucky to know them and was floored when they told me they were going to start their own record label and first on the roster was none other than Jonathan Richman.

Jonathan Richman

I adore all things Richman.  Chances are if you are reading this, you might too.  If you do not, I highly encourage you to check out anything Modern Lovers or just jump into Richman’s solo material.  His style is unforgettable and almost always is in the most upbeat approach.  Richman always has seemed to put me in a good mood.

This month, Blue Arrow Records is releasing two 7-inch singles by Jonathan Richman including four songs: “O Sun”, Wait Wait”, “Keith” and “They Showed Me the Door to Bohemia”.  These are the first releases by Richman in five years.

I need to pause for a second and let you all know that I have been holding off on reviewing these 7-inches until I could literally just down and spin them endlessly next to me.  With luck on my side this past Friday, I was able to set up a listening station of sorts by my desktop with the full intention of listening to these releases and reviewing them.

Moving along…

The 7-inches are both beautifully pressed with “Keith”/”They Showed me the Road to Bohemia” in white (33rpm) and “O Sun”/”Wait Wait” in turquoise with light hints of red (45rpm).

“Keith” paid tribute to the one and only Keith Richards.  I loved the line Richman said regarding Keith’s style was “not exactly the blues cause it’s sorta European too.”  “The Showed me the Road to Bohemia” was a spoken word jam by Richman that was relaxed yet joyless.  Richmond can’t always be a ray of sunshine folks.  He is human after all.

“O Sun” carried a more vintage beachfront island sound that I really was not expecting but completely loved.  It was nothing too technical and quite repetitive, but mysterious like something you would hear in an old school James Bond movie soundtrack.  “Wait Wait” really reminded me of the young Richman post-Modern Lovers I had adored for so many years.  Plenty of clapping and good times were thrown in this jam with thanks to Juanramon Jimenez, a poet who Richman claimed “helped me express a feeling.”

I know I tend to tell everyone what I like and honestly, that is the whole premise of this little blog I have been holding onto for a while. If  can find just one person out there who has not heard of Richman yet and they turn into a fan, then my job is done.  I do this because I want to and there is no other reason.

Both 7-inches only have me excited even more for the full length that Blue Arrow Records aims to release this fall.  Until then, you can stop in the shop and pick up both copies or click on the album covers below to place your order today at Blue Arrow Records ($10 each + shipping):

O Sun 7-Inch Single  Keith 7-Inch Single


I find my posting of this appropriate with the statement that Pete released about Blue Arrow Records and their involvement with Record Store Day.  If you have not read it yet, please do.  It is a highly well-written discussion about his somber decision to not partake in perhaps the most popular retail event for independently owned record stores.

My thoughts about RSD are not as strong as they once were and I blame the greedy (the labels and the flippers).  Where I love to see people standing in line to buy limited pressed releases, I feel it has gone too far and has turned into just another way for big business to make their money as well as shady flippers who throw them up on eBay and make a killing (sometimes even before RSD).

There are too many releases to even count this year and honestly, there were only maybe two that I might have raised an eyebrow about.  What I am trying to get at was that I wasn’t excited about this year’s RSD offerings.  Hopefully not everyone agrees with me and still will be lining up at their favorite local shop next week.

There may not be new pressings coming out that I give a crap about, but there are stores like Blue Arrow Records with tons of old and previously loved releases that I will happily flip through with hopes of finding a gem.

Don’t dismiss RSD.  Remember it is about records, not just the new re-re-re-repressings on an 138 gram glitter-gold pressing with hologram download cards.  Go out and support your local record store and find something that you can call your own.

Album Review: Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield – Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith

ES_Cover_loWhat can be said about Elliott Smith that most people have not said already?  You either loved him or did not care for him.

Smith left his legacy suddenly years back in the worst way possible and his music has remained for the world to sulk upon when in need.

In 2003, Smith ended his life after suffering from depression for years.  I have no words for his choice on how he bowed out to the world nor will I even go into detail.

The 90s punk me was introduced to Smith’s self-titled album by some of my indie-loving friends years before “Needle In The Hay” was heard in The Royal Tenenbaums.  I’ll be honest and tell you that I never appreciated him until after his passing.  I remember liking what I heard, but apparently was too much in love with the SoCal punk scene.

The twenty-something-year-old-me back then was not impacted as much as present day me would have been.  I hate to admit it, but at the time I was not deprived of Smith’s talent when I learned of his passing.  Twelve years later, I have a different way of looking at his loss.

Next week, Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers and Kent, Ohio’s sweetheart Jessica Lea Mayfield will be dropping Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith, a covers album full of, you guessed it, Elliott Smith songs.

The album, dropping on Ramseur Records, is not a reinvention of Smith’s work, but more of an appreciation for someone they both were fans of.

Produced by Avett and recorded over the last three years at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC as well as at Avett’s and Mayfield’s homes, the album features renditions of twelve Elliott Smith songs.

It was almost haunting to hear Mayfield start out “Between The Bars”.  This version sent chills throughout my body.  I loved how Avett joined Mayfield but did not dominate the song.

I really enjoyed the piano playing that built up throughout “Baby Britain” and feel Avett nailed it when trying to recreate.  It started off slower with acoustic playing but soon jumped into a more upbeat cover.  It kills me thaSeth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smitht this was a more popular song of Smith’s and was all about his addiction, but it really is a great song.  (Side note:  I enjoyed this cover way more than Bayside’s 2008 version)

“Ballad Of Big Nothing” was just as depressing as the original on Smith’s Either/Or.  Not that i was expecting anything different, but the impact that Mayfield’s voice with Avett provided a different dismal angle.

I would have loved to have heard Avett take lead on their version of “Roman Candle”.  The distorted guitars were awesome but I really wanted to hear a more close to the original version of the signing to this amazing track.  I was rather underwhelmed on this.

The original version of “Memory Lane” always reminded me of something the Beatles might have done.  Hearing Avett slow it down a bit with a stings section made me think of the Beatles even more.  This was a great version of the original.

The collaboration of Avett and Mayfield only made sense seeing how they have been pals for years now.   For them to cover Elliott Smith songs was nothing next to brilliant.  The best part is how they chose what material to cover and how they each took turns taking the lead.  They reached all over Smith’s catalog including some hits and more obscure tracks.

This is the part where I encourage those who never cared for Smith to take a listen and hear his brilliance in a different dynamic.  Love him or hate him, Smith was an incredible songwriter.  This covers album proved that so well.

The album drops on March 17th and you can preorder it now by heading over to The Avett Brothers merch site.

If you’re lucky, you can even catch them live throughout March:
March
10   McGlohon Theatre, Charlotte, NC
11   The Birchmere, Alexandria, VA
12   Town Hall Theatre, New York, NY
14   Keswick Theatre, Glenside, PA (Philadelphia)
17   James K. Polk Theatre/TPAC, Nashville, TN
18   Southern Theatre, Columbus, OH
20   Athenaeum Theatre, Chicago, IL
22   Fitzgerald Theatre, St. Paul, MN
24   Boulder Theatre, Boulder, CO
26   Neptune Theatre, Seattle, WA
27   Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR
29   Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA
31   Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

Side note:  This powerful scene with Richie in The Royal Tenenbaums is beyond horrifying even more so when you think about what happened just a couple years later…  I am glad Avett and Mayfield did not cover this track.

Album Review: Big Dick – Disappointment

Big Dick - DisappointmentIndie-punk duo Big Dick have returned with an all new album titled Disappointment.

This is a follow up to the band’s impressive 2013 self-titled debut and once again has been released through Dirt Cult Records.

Before you question the band’s name and its meaning, just note it was taken from a NoMeansNo song title.  Don’t dig in too deep you pervs.  Who am I kidding?  If you ever heard the original song, your questions might be validated instantly.

Anyways…

Cultivating their own sound with just drums, bass, and dueling vocals, Big Dick really reaches back to 90s alternative rock styles while keeping a DIY punk and even garage rock edge.  The result is melodic yet heavy at times making for a truly killer listen.

“Let Down” was a catchy self-esteem downer of a track fueled throughout with a heavy distorted bass.  This opening track was a subtile reminder to me how much I enjoy this band as well as one of my favorite cuts on this release.

“Last Days” straight up ruled with the dual harmonies and just addicting bass riffs.  It’s hard to believe that there are only two dudes in this band when you hear songs like this.  This was another favored track over the rest.

“Up A Step” took  more pop-punk noise route that was totally ok with this listener.  At times, the vocals just seemed off but not enough to ruin the track.

“Out On A Limb” was a tad more technical with intricate bass lines.  The dual vocals and singing on “Crawl” was worth of an immediate second listen.  I dug this track a ton.

Tracks like “Marnier”, “Good Hunting”, and “Another Minute” really showed the band has matured and mastered their own sound.  From the lyrics to the insane drum and bass playing, I could not help but just get sucked into what I was listening to.  Then came “Young Love”, a more experimental track of sorts that clearly could have been a Ween b-side.

“Bad Dream” was one of my favorite tracks on the album.  I loved the different genres I could hear in this track, especially the grungy garage rock.  The slight harmonies in the background and the throat-clearing screams made it that much better.

Disappointment is anything but that.  Fans of Japandroids, Two Gallants, and even Death From Above 1979 are going to eat this up.