Tuesday, October 21, 2008

JOTTO EP: "Good Friend Electric"

If there were one word to describe Jotto's musical process I believe the apt word would be "departure." There seems to be a refusal on that band's part to fit in or make it easy on themselves. "Good Friend Electric" portrays a band in motion. Their initial untitled release (2007) displayed a band that seemed to be seeking itself, while their latest release gives a band that found itself, and now seeks to lose itself.

This is moody music. It denies the previous notions of a pop-constructions. The vocal rhythms and intonations are a sign of evolution of a type that is not bound solely by the band's own progress and comfort with their sound, but a sign of a farther-reaching musical evolution that includes the music scene at large. For those who know and have known Jotto, "Good Friend Electric" is both familiar and refreshing. Guitarist Dan Soloway's style is unmistakable. It's difficult to come up with just that right adjective to describe it because it's some combination of cleanliness and sloppiness; a certain cultivated looseness, perhaps.

The vocals on the first two tracks of the six-song EP are something new, something choral and gregorian. Yet, Jotto doesn't deny what makes them distinct: that is, Kristian Almgren's tight but not stiff, pulsing drum beats and Matt Tarosky's melody-carrying synthesizer lines. Lyrically, the album, most notably in the third track entitled "Glad We Weren't There," are subtly angst-ridden. It's a revolution of subtlety, in fact. Something about the lyrics (written by Aaron Fisher-Cohen) that is reminiscent of a polished combination of Allen Ginsberg's content and Robert Frost's ease of practice. The combination is beautiful because Ginsberg was often long-winded, exaggerated and over-the-top, while Frost was always concise and boiled-down. The significance of Aaron's lyrics lie more in the mood and tone than in the subject matter, which can often times be very difficult to exact.

All-in-all "Good Friend Electric" can be defined quite simply: it's really cool. Oh, and you can only download it - so that makes it even cooler. Did I mention it's free? Mother Hubbard's Cupboard recommends, and recommends highly, Jotto's "Good Friend Electric."

-Hank C. Kupsic

Friday, October 17, 2008

King Hamelin review

King Hamelin: this is an odd duck. There's definitely something really cool about this band. but; there's also something really lame about this band as well. I spent the 15 minutes-or-so listening to this band's myspace trying to figure out whether I hated it or loved it. In the end, I think it was a little of both, though I have to admit, there's nothing I hated. There was nothing dreadful about it, just, how should I put this....incomplete. It's a two-piece, so that's to be expected. The lyrics didn't strike me as all that intriguing, pretty typical stuff about not wanting to hurt the one for whom one cares.

Nevertheless, there were some extremely interesting elements to this music. Particular the instrumentation. The dude plays bass and flute, that automatically makes him courageous and cool - and automatically makes him an Ian Anderson fan (I, too, am an Ian Anderson fan). The song that struck me the most on the myspace was the last one, entitled "Bell." The lead-singer, Hamelin, has a good voice for your average person, but as a front man there was something lacking. "Bell" is him and his flute and it is BEAUTIFUL. I wish it didn't cut off like it does at the end, because a piano gets introduced and it sounds like it's going from good to better.

If I were speaking with Hamelin directly, I'd suggest that he find a guitarist who he can co-write with. I think there are some strong ideas, they just need to be fleshed out. If I were talking to someone considering listening to this band I'd say, "yes, go listen to them." But I'm not sure if I'm ready to give them an outstanding recommendation...yet.

-Hank C. Kupsic

Bodyface review

So, I put up a craigslist ad announcing the launch of this blog. The first band to respond to the ad was called "Bodyface." Right off the bat I was put off. From the image of the band to the first few notes. It's not the look or sound that I really jive to. But, I figured these guys are clearly on their game and know that if they want their music to get "out" they need to reach out to whatever media outlets they can, and, so, I did the nice and responsible thing and listened to the three songs on their myspace attentively.

And I'm glad I did.

This band may not be my cup of tea, but they are very, very good. "Water" got me thinking of Nirvana, which is borderline sacrilege, because, well, it's Nirvana. But, nonetheless that's what popped into my head. "MRI" reminded me a bit of later Pearl Jam, so, now having put them in the company of some bonified rock gods it was time to listen to the last song with ears attuned to something that six minutes prior they were not attuned to. "Despair" is a beautiful ballad with just the right mixture of anger and sentiment. Very neatly arranged and, in terms of creating a somber but not gushy aesthetic, the song achieves so excellently.

They're playing at the Annex on 10/29 and I might just have to go to the show.

-Hank C. Kupsic

Late of the Pier

I've been following this band from England called Late of the Pier for several months. If you mixed The Faint with David Bowie and Davy Crocket (you know, the model image of a frontiersman) you'd get something like what LotP produces.

This band is so fucking cool, and they are, or at least look, young as hell. Of course, being hip and young they can't use their real names, so, with stage names like Samuel Dust, Francis Dance, Red Dog Consuela (which I think might actually be his given name) and Jack Paradise, you can be sure that you're dealing with creative, and most likely, pretty weird dudes. But that's usually what makes a band cool. And these guys are nothing in they're not cool.

Lyrically, they are extremely intriguing. While one may be inclined to find them dark, I don't find that to be the case at all. They're certainly skeptical and a bit cynical, which often lends itself to being introspective and intelligent - and that's just how they come off. The instrumentation fits the lyrical content very neatly. This is the more Faint-like of their elements. In fact, the guitar tone at the end of "Space and the Woods" is directly off a Danse Macabre track. No matter, this band is supremely original. Their songs move and ebb and flow and screw with the typical construction of a pop song, which I personally love. I'm sick on the standard, as I think a lot of people are. So, if you're like me, and are indeed sick of standard, easily-reproducible rubbish, as the the Brits would say, tap into Late of the Pier.

They'll be at Irving Plaza here in NYC on 10/24. I've got my tickets, I suggest you get yours.

-Hank C. Kupsic

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Madrid EP Review

I've been following this new band, New Madrid, for a couple months now. I first heard of them when a friend of mine happened to catch them at Fat Baby over the summer and she said, "Hank, you've never head music like this before." So, I took her advice and checked out their myspace. There wasn't much content and the recordings were low-fi, but I saw they were playing a show at Pianos a couple weeks following, so I marked it on my calendar.

Great decision.

It was a pretty slow, warm Sunday night in July. The show was free. There were a couple other bands on the bill who were set to play after New Madrid, but I had work early the next day so I wasn't planning on sticking around for them (though I got sucked in and ended up staying, but that's for another blog). At about 9.30 the place started to fill up. Apparently I wasn't the only one who had heard that this band is a must-see/must-hear. A little after 10 New Madrid stepped on stage. At the middle mic was a guy who looked in his early-mid 20's with a charming little Latin accent. The bass player was a big dude with big dreads and a small t-shirt (sounds about right), the lead guitarist looked a little older, maybe late-2o's, with a fedora and a tie, and the drummer wore a smile on his face from set-up to tear-down. The first song, "Soberano," which became the first song on their recently-released EP, which I will get to shortly, began with a booming, almost tribal drum beat on the big toms. The lead singer, Axel (yes, that's his given name), got the crowd clapping - he hardly had to ask. Then his voice came in...

I'll be honest, the rest of the set became a blur. I was hooked. Sucked in. Tractor beam victim #1,598. This band was awesome. It was spicy but not over-the-top Latin - it was Rock but not too hard - it was fusion but not too obvious. It was new but not scary.

So, of course, I bought the EP which came out this past September, and, of course, went to the EP release party. The party was at Pianos, too, with the same band as the first show. As though the four members hadn't poured their hearts and souls out on stage the first, they FUCKING KILLED IT. The energy and the passion were engulfing, mystifying almost. The band was incredible. The EP is great. There are four songs: "Soberano," "Vesicant," "Pure" (my personal favorite), and "I'll Find My Way." They go together very nicely and it's a great way to kill about 20 minutes of your day. It cost me 4 bucks and I sent it to all my friends, and now they're all NM fans like me.

I highly recommend getting your hands on the New Madrid EP, but! I recommend seeing this band live even more. They are spectacular.

-Hank C. Kupsic