Happy Holidays Everyone!
I want to start this post by saying that this has been probably the most successful year in my writing career yet and I extremely grateful to all of you who support me and have followed my career thus far. This year I really dived into music journalism in all its facets, so I was at shows pretty constantly. (I know, tough life, right?) I saw so many incredible shows and artists, but I couldn’t write about all of them, so I thought I’d give em’ a nod on here on my website in the good ol’ New Years list format. If you get a chance to see any of these artists, GO, GO, GO! Maybe next year I’ll get the chance to write longer features on them (fingers crossed).
Now go stuff your face with pie and yell-talk with your deaf grandmother!
I have to start here because have you seen one of their shows? These gals bring it from the second they’re on stage, and in leather short-shorts to boot. Singer Molly Sides is Janice Joplin with better pitch and physical agility, while guitarist Whitney Petty gets that low-end growl that burns right in the gut. Plus, they reclaim the hyper-sexualization of women by just downright owning their scantily-clad bodies, their sexy background dancers, and sultry lyrics delivered in a way that’s got the whole audience quivering…if you know what I mean! I mean they’re called Thunderpussy for god sakes. Their bass drum says Pussy on it. It just doesn’t get any more badass than that. http://www.thunderpussyusa.com/
This band gave a little master class at Cornish a few weeks back, and openly claimed the music from 90s K-Mart commercials as a major influence. I feel like that sums this group up pretty well–Luke Bergman, Aaron Otheim, and Evan Woodle are incredibly deep musicians, but they don’t take themselves or the music too seriously. Luke’s songwriting is tongue-and-cheek and pays homage to schmaltz, while also showing his astonishing understanding of music. Heatwarmer blows my face off every time I see them (and that’s a good thing). https://heatwarmer.bandcamp.com/
3) Gifted Gab
Her new track “Lady of Leisure” will not get out of my head. “These bitches runnin’ round tryin to be renegades…Bitch, I run the town.” Gifted Gab might as well run this town. I mean, I’d vote her in as mayor. My favorite thing about watching her perform is that she knows how to take up space, how to own the stage. It’s just her, her mic, and her DJ, but her big personality and bring everyone in and her political, conscious rhymes rile them up. https://1giftofgab.bandcamp.com/
4) Gregg Belisle-Chi
This guy is an amazing talent. His solo guitar playing is Bill Frisell but less spacious and more, as the jazzers would say, “out.” Gregg is not afraid of dissonance or tension, and will often reside there for much longer than the listener expects, making the resolution all the more satisfying. He also has some of the best technique on the guitar I have ever seen. He can achieve the most outlandish and difficult chord-melody ideas and make it look effortless. My jaw was on the ground the entire time I watched him play solo for his Tenebrae CD Release. http://greggbelislechi.com/
Psych-surf-shoegaze-gypsy-instrumental-spaghetti-western-reverby-music. I try not to define these guys by genre because they are so multi-faceted, and my mind gets tired of searching for adjectives, and my finger gets weary of typing dashes. Corespondents music is steeped in the spontaneous and the weird. It’s just downright sublime. I am especially drawn to the way they morph that gnarly surf sound, and how it can be inverted, transposed and stretched. Sometimes they make me want to dance and then sometimes I fall into a trance, watching all those nimble fingers create something truly original. Also, their new album is called “lolcats.” I’ll just let you take in that awesomeness. https://corespondents.bandcamp.com/
6) Insistent Caterpillars
Being a self-diagnosed jazz nut, this group really cracks that nut open. Cameron Sharif is an surprising, uncanny improviser, then add in Carmen Rothwell who walks bass like a motherf**ker, and the thoughtful stylings of drummer Evan Woodle and gee kids, you got a trio. Like Heatwarmer (you might notice Woodle is in both groups), they are playful, weird, and just a little off but balancing that with staggering musicianship. Original compositions, based heavily around improvisation and interaction between friends. It’s a blast to hear and watch.
7) Dean Johnson and Lowman Palace
Ah, Dean Johnson. A kind and talented guy that more people need to know about…pronto. Admittedly, I didn’t know his music until just a short time ago, but I’m enamored with his earnest songwriting, and his warm, unaffected voice. His music’s like a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream. A warm down coat. An extra-soft pillow. A springtime day lying in the grass. OK, but anyway, he performs often with his band Lowman Palace, which is always quality, and when he recently sang harmony with Mindie Lind at The Sunset, it was one of the best things I’ve ever heard. Anyway you slice it, you’ll be enchanted. https://www.facebook.com/Lowman-Palace-285419208322139/
One of my favorites:
I love love this band’s inclusion of middle eastern musical influences like call and response, fluid and highly-ornamented vocals, overlapping rhythms, and that eerie Phrygian sound. The band comes by these influences naturally, having been founded by guitarist and singer David Rapaport (A.K.A. STITCX) who is originally from Tel Aviv, Israel. Add in lead singer Katie Blackstock and Joseph Braley and you’ve got quite the captivating group. https://maszer.bandcamp.com/music
9) Jamie Maschler
I have a secret desire to play the accordion and a not-so-secret desire to go to Rio so seeing Jamie Maschler, an amazing, virtuosic accordionist who plays mostly Brazilian dance music, was pretty much heaven for me. Maschler focuses primarily on a kind of accordion-dominant Forró dance music that is fast, pulsating and so exciting to listen to! This Brazilian classical music flows in movements (A, B, C sections), and the lead instrument, in this case the accordion, hardly has a moment to rest. The result is this incredible energy always pushing forward, with a strong, steady ostinato underneath. Maschler is an agile player and makes it look easy! http://www.encantobrazil.com/
I had the pleasure of seeing this hypnotic percussion duo in an intimate living room, sitting about two feet from them. As Andrew Angell bowed the slats of the marimba and David Solomon played beautiful four-mallet vibraphone, I sat there absolutely transfixed. The pieces they compose are meditative, calming and gorgeous, and I really appreciate the sort of skill and concentration it takes to create such a subtle mood. I know, many of us seek out live performances that will rile us up and make us want to dance, but I wish we paid more attention to this sort of music–the kind that can center us and quiet a busy mind. http://www.repercussionduo.com/