Category Archives: Album

Now That Everything’s Been Said

She felt the earth move under her feet, she wanted you to love her tomorrow – you know her as your mama’s Carole King. But before she sat barefoot on the cover of Tapestry, she was part of a very brief rock and roll moment with a band called The City.

Rewind several years before  familiar hits like “You’ve Got a Friend” and you’ll find a hard-working resident in the great hit-making compound known as New York’s Brill Building. Here, Carole plunged into the world of music, writing for quick cash and getting noticed by acts like The Monkees, The Shirelles and even The Beatles. Carole King describes the atmosphere at the “Brill Building” publishing houses of the period:

Every day we squeezed into our respective cubby holes with just enough room for a piano, a bench, and maybe a chair for the lyricist if you were lucky. You’d sit there and write and you could hear someone in the next cubby hole composing a song exactly like yours. The pressure in the Brill Building was really terrific—because Donny (Kirshner) would play one songwriter against another. He’d say: “We need a new smash hit”—and we’d all go back and write a song and the next day we’d each audition for Bobby Vee’s producer.*

in 1967, after paying her dues in the city, King ditched the grind and left for sunny California. She set up in Laurel Canyon, which would become home to the California country sound, molded by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Mamas & Papas. She began collaborating with garage musicians Danny Kortchmar (of The Fugs) and Charles Larkey (of The Myddle Class). With Jim Gordon on drums, this group became The City. Heavily influenced by her peers in Laurel Canyon  they created the one-off album, 
Now That Everything’s Been Said, which serves as a beautiful experiment into the mellow, psych-influenced canyon rock of the day.



On Now That Everything’s Been Said, we find King holding the microphone, singing her own songs for the very first time. And yet, she isn’t timidly emerging or finding her voice. She approaches the microphone with the comfort and ease of a veteran because, by this time, she’s already been all over the radio. Her voice emerges warm and confident and is backed by an ensemble who knows how to support it, letting her shine while lending their own creative direction.

While the album itself is seen as a “missing link” of sorts – an overlooked and forgotten blip on the radar of King’s monstrous career – it produced two notable covers. Blood, Sweat and Tears had great success covering The City’s “Hi-Di-Ho” and The Byrds recorded “Wasn’t Born to Follow” which was featured in the film Easy Rider.

This album was produced by Monterey Pop Festival coordinator Lou Adler, who also produced The Mamas and Papas, Sam Cooke and every Mary Clayton album. Adler released Now That Everything’s Been Said on his label, Ode, the same label which put out the Brothers And Sisters’ Dylan’s Gospel release. At the time, King was not ready to be a live performer and she turned down the opportunity to tour the album – a hesitation she quickly outgrew once she saw disappointing album sales. After Now That Everything’s Been Said, The City faded into history for decades. But now, with its re-release on Light in the Attic, we can revisit The City and this forgotten but special moment in the life of an extraordinarily talented songwriter, before she became our mama’s Carole King. 

 

*Quoted in The Sociology of Rock by Simon Frith[4]

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Wand Announces New Album, 1000 Days

Wand has announced a new album entitled 1000 Days, set to drop September 25th. This will be the band’s third studio release in just over a years time. Prolific, hard working and ahead of the curve, the boys recorded 1000 Days even before Golem saw the light of day and will be releasing it right in the middle of a daunting world tour. Drag City is putting this one out so don’t expect to see it on any streaming services.

Check out their slightly subdued synth-heavy single below.

Tour dates:
07/17 – Los Angeles, CA @ MOCA
07/29 – San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall
07/31 – Happy Valley, OR @ Pickathon
08/14 – Saint Malo, FR @ Route du Rock Festival
08/18 – Haarlem, NL @ Pastronaat Café
08/19 – Luxembourg, LU @ Exit 07
08/20 – Brussels, BE @ Homeplugged (house show)
08/21 – Charleville-Meziere, FR @ Cabaret Vert festival
08/22 – Trondheim, NO @ P Stereo Festival
08/23 – Biddinghuizen, NL @ Lowlands Festival
08/27 – Dublin, IE @ Whelan’s
08/28 – Paris, FR @ Rock En Sein Festival
08/29 – Geneva, CH @ L’Usine
09/01 – Zurich, CH @ Kinski Club
09/03 – Lisbon, PT @ Lux Fragil
09/04 – Vlieland, NL @ Into The Great Wide Open Festival
09/05 – Maastricht, NL @ Bruis Festival
09/06 – Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset, UK @ End of the Road Festival 
09/07 – Bristol, UK @ The Exchange
09/08 – Brighton, UK @ Green Door Store
09/09 – London, UK @ Electrowerks Upstairs
09/10 – Manchester, UK @ Soup Kitchen
09/11 – Glasgow, UK @ Broadcast
09/12 – Birmingham, UK @ Rainbow House
09/13 – Le Havre, FR @ Le Tetris
09/14 – Tilburg, NL @ Incubate Festival
09/15 – Copenhagen, DK @ Loppen
09/16 – Helsinki, FI @ Kuudes Linja
09/17 – Antwerp, BE @ Trix club show
09/18 – Angers, FR @ Levitation Festival
09/19 – Leffinge, BE @ Leffingeleuren Festival
09/21 – Barcelona, ES @ BAM Festival
10/31 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom w/ Mac DeMarco
11/01 – Seattle, WA @ Narwhal
11/03 – Missoula, MT @ The Real Lounge
11/05 – Minneapolis, MN @ The Entry
11/06 – Iowa City, IA @ Witching Hour Festival
11/07 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
11/10 – Toronto, ON @ Adelaide Hall
11/11 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz
11/12 – Cambridge, MA @ Middle East (upstairs)
11/13 – New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
11/14 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade NYC
11/15 – Washington, DC @ DC9
11/16 – Asheville, NC @ Tiger Mountain
11/18 – Atlanta, GA @ 529
11/19 – Memphis, TN @ Hi Tone
11/20 – New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
11/21 – Austin, TX @ Red 7 (inside)
11/22 – El Paso, TX @ Lowbrow Palace
11/24 – Tucson, AZ @ Solar Culture
11/25 – San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar

More on Wand

Courtney Barnett: Sitting & Thinking With Plenty To Say

The title of Courtney Barnett’s first full length album, Sometimes I Sit and Think & Sometimes I Just Sit, is a bit deceiving. After several listens, I’m just not buying that this girl’s mind is as idle as it is active. These songs come from a place of careful observation and constant internal dialogue. Barnett has so much to say, even the album title is a mouthful. As she sits, thinks, and then writes songs to work out whatever is on her mind, she comfortably takes the long way, filling every song with so many words that it takes several listens to unpack them all. And yet, here’s the beauty of it – her lyrics never feel verbose.

Barnett serves up the kind of narratives typically found in country songs from 20+ years ago with her own guitar driven pop flavor and rock and roll influence stretching from garage to grunge. Her previous EPs only flirted with the kind of power and aggression she tapped into on Sometimes I Sit.., particularly on tracks like “Pedestrian at Best”, “Small Poppies”and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party”, showing a generous stride in musical confidence in a matter of a quick couple years.

There’s a balance between Barnett’s intense stream of conscious and her deadpan, almost bratty-voiced delivery which keeps the whole ramble in perfect balance. In fact, calling her style “rambling” does Barnett a bit of a disservice, because you have to be a damn good lyricist to get all those words into a song and still come across so naturally. Without her unique and often lighthearted speak/singing style, these songs could feel overwhelmingly intense. In the same way, her delivery style never feels passionless because of its content and the strength of the music behind it. And in towing that line between refreshingly simple and cleverly complex, her massive talent shines.

Each track is an honest story of personal yet relatable circumstances, communicated with a sunny kind of open-heartedness.  Sweeping past perfect springtime driving jams, the melancholy masterpiece of “Depreston”, the heavy and haunting “Kim’s Caravan” and landing on the wide open heartbreaker “Boxing Day Blues” – this album is a breath of fresh air start to finish. And if it’s true that Courtney Barnett has been doing her share of sitting and thinking (or not thinking) I’m so thankful that she decided to stand up and walk to the mic.

Kali Uchis: Por Vida

“There are two types of performers: artists and entertainers.”
20 year old Kali Uchis is on the radio, diplomatically deflecting an onslaught of comparisons to her female contemporaries. Her second mixtape, Por Vida, was released yesterday and now her commitment to stay honest and humble is more important than ever. It’s paying off, too. While her interviewer would gladly talk about everyone else on the radio, Kali controls the conversation and brings it back to Por Vida.

Her brand new collection of songs is glossy and just a little gritty, sweet and just a little sad. It’s a personal work of heavy investment which accurately reflects its young and confident creator.

With this follow up to 2012’s Drunken Babble, she still has yet to release a proper LP, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from soaking up the bright throwback sound or hyping her rising star. Por Vida is pop music, influenced heavily by the vocal layerings and romantic content of another generation. Reaching as far back as the 60’s, to the sound of girl groups (and her personal hero, Mary Wells) and catching a bit of influence from every decade since, Kali has created a soulful, sparkling contemporary work. But those sparkles reflect the light of doo wop, reggae, hip hop, R&B and even a taste of her native Columbia.

With heavy support and 2 production credits from Tyler the Creator, Kali has a lot of people paying attention to Por Vida. But while the support from Tyler (and word that she’s already worked with Snoop Dogg) is on every interviewer’s lips, Kali’s work is rightfully celebrated for its own sake. The high profile support came second – after she had already written, recorded and produced her own material.

I’ve read and listened to a fair amount of interviews with Kali over the last few weeks and am constantly impressed with her maturity, humility and ability to speak with authority about her art. From Columbia to Virginia to Los Angeles, music has been her stability and her songs are extremely personal.

This ability to articulate herself, to present her music as hers and as current, while still so gracefully paying tribute to the artists who shaped her, goes beyond her music. Kali keeps her hand on the pulse of her generation by creating a well rounded visual component for her art. She preaches the importance of self-loyalty and to following your heart any any decision related to creativity. We can see the results in her art booklets, her videos and even her bold personal look.

The video for “Know What I Want” is a perfect example of Kali’s carefully curated style – from the pastel color palette, dripping with pinks and blues, to her fashion aesthetic, which is equal parts vintage 60’s, Latina street glamour, youthful Tumblr girl and flawless west coast flavor. 

Por Vida is available for limited time free download (including art) here, or you can listen via Soundcloud below.

Essential tracks: “Lottery” and “Loner”

Art by Daniel Zender

Degreaser : Rougher Squalor

For those slimy, grimy garage rock playlists caked with years worth of indiscernible goop, I offer a solution: Degreaser. This Brooklyn-based trio is fronted by Tim Evans, whose other band CoConuts first appeared on my radar in 2012. I instantly fell in love with the song “Silver Lights” from the Hotline Miami soundtrack. Lumbering fuzzed-out bass and grinding effects-laden guitar pair perfectly with the game’s pixelated dream-sequences of floating animal masks in which the track appears.

WGcocnuts
For a soundtrack otherwise dominated by synth wave and electro, the game relied heavily on this gut-wrenching track to set the mood for a vague backdrop of violent crime and schizophrenic identity crises.

But Degreaser is rowdy and unpolished in comparison to the refrained, crushing, abysmal darkness of CoConuts. Their album Rougher Squalor came out in June of 2014 on NYC’s independent label, Ever/Never Records. It kicks off with “Words In Your Mouth,” a lonely hand-picked blues guitar rhythm that sweeps into Evans’ signature creepy, obscured vocal aesthetic. Just when you think it’s safe, it explodes into a 70s LSD party, with swirling screaming guitar leads transforming the song into out-of-body experience.

Strong melodic appeal permeates the vocals throughout the record, despite coarse production and lyrics that are barely discernible above the din. The drumming is intense without being overbearing, sauntering back and forth between mid-tempo shuffles and frantic fills that echo traces of The Human Instinct and J.D. Blackfoot from across space-time. They fearlessly break into dischord on the second track, “Hole In My Head,” which balances itself out with a healthy share of memorable, riff-entranced pelvic thrusts into the stratosphere.

Rougher Squalor is an aptly-titled album, smoldering with an authenticity reminiscent of The Stooges’ Raw Power. The rhythm section is an unstoppable train, with Evans’ strung-out, wild-man guitar riffs clinging on for dear life. His chaotic and noisy wah-pedal-abusing temper tantrums give a nod to J Mascis, while offering a visceral, uncomfortable level of honesty. The crudeness of production borders on the inaccessible; the grinding guitar tone packs a knockout punch which drag unsuspecting listeners back to Degreaser’s dimly lit sonic sex-dungeon. But this death trip is tempered by far more profound introspective moments, such as on “Hold Out Your Hand,” which burns with an urgency of determination in the tempo, without singeing the somber mood.

By the eighth track, “Got No Need,” this album will have listeners rambling down a dark path of foreboding and despair and loving it. If the deafening riffs and tasteful rhythms weren’t convincing enough, there’s plenty of blistering punk ferocity waiting to bludgeon fans into submission on tracks like “You Said,” “Do Me In” and “Doorway.” Overall, this is an entrancing, gothed-out psych rock album, soaked through a sheet of murderous and noisy lo-fi goodness. It will instantly repel most older relatives, and looks right at home between your copies of In the Court of the Crimson King and Melted.

Essential tracks: “Words In Your Mouth” and “Hold Out Your Hand”

Listen to more Degreaser here.

A guest submission by Kalim Choudhury

Ty Segall : Mr. Face

It’s another exciting day as music reviewers everywhere continue to scratch their heads at just how on earth Ty Segall cranks out so much music, how on earth it’s so damn good and how it is they they are once again writing about the magic kid. “Didn’t we just do this?”

Mr. Face is a deep breath after the thrashing we were given in Manipulator. The monster sound is dialed down (just a little) giving way to let those throwback influences shine a little brighter. The title track starts down an acoustic, Dead influenced avenue before the fuzz is dialed up for “Circles” (rock flute!) and “Drug Mugger” – landing us at the sweet and dreamy wave of “The Picture”. It’s a groovy and airy little EP which slightly favors the Tim Presley over one shoulder, as opposed to the John Dwyer over the other, and it’s done in a quick 13 minutes.

This EP, released as 2 singles on red and blue translucent vinyl, also happens to be functional as a pair of 3D glasses. For a good and goofy lookin’ time, put ’em on your face and see the album art in all its trippy dimensions – an endearing gimmick for vinyl nerds everywhere.

If this is your thing, you’re going to have to wait until the middle of next month to give it a try, seeing as the first pressing has already sold out by day 1. But good news in the meantime: since Famous Class put this one out (instead of Drag City), you can stream on Spotify to your heart’s content.

Steve Gunn : Way Out Weather

2014 was a great year for the album. Now, maybe there’s something to be said for the standard formula (2 power singles + 2 slow jams + 6 bops = 10 tracks.) but if you like to surf a single vibe for the duration of an entire album, 2014 was your year. Bands from Natural Child, The Growlers and Sturgil Simpson to Mac Demarco and FKA Twigs all turned out solid work, variations on a theme more or less, which had us in a consistent zone from A side to B side.

For the first half of the year, my friends and I had been partying and driving around to these strong album releases. And then, when the leaves fell, we got one more gem and it was an important one.

In October, Steve Gunn (former Kurt Vile backer turned prolific guitar slinger in his own right) released Way Out Weather. This 8 track wonder is an album of acoustic exploration, drawing from the blues, raga and americana roots which fuel Gunn’s inspiration. It’s a road album, soothing and rhythmic, crafted with undeniable talent.

Suspended in the atmosphere of Way Out Weather is a floating web of music, spun by Gunn’s melodic guitars both vast and intricately detailed. This is Gunn’s power source. His mind blowing gift for technique shines through, even when understated.

As each song fills with various instruments and multiple guitars, tension builds and the web is stretched wide. He then leans into to the flexible force of this space he has created with smooth, patient vocals. Layering melodies with ease, Gunn’s phrases are supported in this web without struggle.

This is not to imply that Way Out Weather is too dreamy or too weightless for any friction or conviction. The energy throughout the album builds and wanes beautifully. But after countless plays, the effortlessness in these tracks is still striking. It’s so easy to get lost in thought, lost in the craft, that by the time “Tommy’s Congo” rolls around you may very well be ready to play it all again and keep driving.

Wand : Ganglion Reef

When all the dust settles and I finally give up on these “best of” lists, this is probably going to be my album of the year. Wand’s Ganglion Reef is a fun, aggressive fantasy world, dripping with reverb and I can’t get enough of it. These Los Angeles boys draw comparisons from their peers in space-glam-monster-fuzz, like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees. And while lead singer/ guitarist/keyboardist Cory Thomas Hanson has played with his share of California buzz boys including Mikal Cronin and Together Pangea, he’s found his own spastic groove in Wand. This batch of tunes is heavy, driving, and busy, with the most beautiful counterbalance to all the whirring chaos in Hanson’s soothing voice. His airy tone and dreamy melodies brighten the murkier corners of Ganglion Reef beautifully, but between phrases the guitars swell and rage. Start to finish, this album is a well-paced, extremely satisfying serving of rock and roll. I’m still working on that list, though. Standout Tracks: “Fire on the Mountain” (THAT BREAKDOWN!) And the slow burner, “Growing Up Boys” Check out the video for the single “Flying Golem”:

From Tutti Frutti, to his own Short Stories : Andy Ferro

For most of us, there was an incredibly important moment in our lives where music collided with us and opened up a world to get lost in for years to come. This blog is interested in the stories behind those moments. They’re a beautiful reminder of the emotions, the magic, and the mysterious something calling to us from our speakers.
Here’s one such story.
WGelvis

Andy Ferro’s lead guitar puts the beach vibe in Nashville’s gypsy psych band, Ranch Ghost. This year he released his own set of songs, a beautiful stripped down collection titled Short Stories. Here he shares a memory from 17 years ago, when he first heard Elvis Presley’s version of Tutti Frutti.

Where were you when you had this experience?
In the living room of the flat where I was born. There was a green corduroy chair and a bay window with a view down to the garden.Do you remember how you were feeling generally beforehand?
I don’t remember how I was feeling, but I must have been ok because I was trying to do the splits.Did you make this discovery yourself?
My dad put the record on.

Did your interaction with him change as a result of this moment?
We’ve always connected over music. I don’t know that this particular moment changed anything for us, but it was certainly important.

Can you recall any particular smells?
I can’t remember. I think I remember it being kind of dusty in there though.

What colors or textures does this memory recall?
Wood floors, beige paisley, cream colored walls with white trim. A hi-fi with little shiny stickers of airplanes on it. I think my sister stuck them there. They’re still on there.

Describe your emotional state during this moment.
I don’t think I had learned how to worry about anything yet.

Describe any physical reactions you had to what you were hearing.
I had the urge to do the splits. I thought I was pulling it off, but I think it was more of corkscrew flop thing to the ground.

How did you feel when the moment had passed?
I have no recollection of subsequent events. I probably pretended to be a lion for a while.

Did this experience make you feel more or less satisfied with your life?
That was probably the most satisfied I’ll ever feel. I was 5, didn’t know how to worry, and could do the splits. What more could I have asked for?

Are there any events, decisions or actions which shaped your life as a result of this specific experience?
I’m driving to California to play music right now. I think moments like that probably scooted me in this direction.

How do you feel about the song now?
I love it more now than ever.

As you moved forward pursuing musical experiences, did you compare them to this moment?
I’ll know I’ve made it when someone’s listening and busts out the splits.

WGferro

Listen to Short Stories HERE.

Willie Dunn: I Pity the Country

Light in the Attic (LITA) is a record label out of Seattle, which specializes in small batch re-releases of rare records. With an intentionally curated catalog and beautiful accompanying artwork, Light in the Attic’s taste level sets itself on another echelon.

It was through LITA that I was introduced to Willie Dunn. This fall they released Native North America Vol 1, a compilation of lost folk, rock and country songs from the aboriginal community of North America (1961-1985). And, like all of their releases, it is an absolute gift.

Beautifully written and performed with heart, these songs reflect the sounds of the times. In true folk fashion, they are sung with poignant lyrics, unique to their storytellers, performed to solidify the identity of their native culture. But, what was scarcely on the radar of popular music in its time has, decades later, become virtually invisible. Thanks to LITA’s magnificent unearthing of these rare tunes, we have access to this piece of North American history.

The 34 tracks found here span a range of styles and voices, with some beautiful moments sprinkled throughout. But it’s the opening track, Willie Dunn’s “I Pity the Country” which stands out above the rest. In his voice is the pain of oppression, as his lyrics resonate with disheartened frustration:
I pity the country
I pity the state
And the mind of the man
That thrives on hate

It’s a timeless (and timely) message for those who would reflect on it.

For a preview of Light in the Attic’s release, see the video below.