By Brendan Ross
July 20, 2015
You know how sometimes you go see a show with a specific set of songs in mind that you really really want to hear live? You know when you go to that show and none of the songs you “really really want to hear live” get played? You know when that couldn’t possibly matter less and it still ends up being one of the best shows you’ve ever seen?
Hey guys. This was that show.
By John Lane
Kyle Field, a.k.a. Little Wings, is an enigmatic, charismatic cat, and a little difficult to pin down in a world that demands we identify, tag, and shelve everything and every individual who comes down the pike. Since 2000, Field has released 11 albums marked with near-baritone, ropey vocals, lo-fi acoustic guitars, and sometimes makeshift percussion. His songs have been one continuous quasi-folky, poetic thread. He’s a modern-day Walt Whitman with less self-consciousness.
By Tyler Hodg
Seattle has been home to a number of incredible bands—Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Band of Horses, to name a few—and one up-and-coming group plans to prove they are worthy of being added to that list. With their latest EP Own Your Ocean, Direct Divide showcases their unique style of music through five songs of unapologetic symphonic-rock. While the EP isn’t absolutely perfect, it’s an ideal indication of what is to come from the clearly focused band.
The Dustbowl Revival is the kind of band that isn’t easily classified. Are they bluegrass? Are they a brass band that uses mandolins? Are they a cabaret act? Whatever they are, it is easily brilliant.
If you didn’t know who the Continental Drifters were, and happened upon Drifted: In The Beginning & Beyond, you might be struck by the indelible, vivid lyrics of their songs, or perhaps the band’s excellent playing. Maybe their fine harmonies might get you. Or it could be the various singers in the band, each with their own honed, matchless style. Perhaps you would be drawn to the hooky Americana or the eclectic, delightful cover songs on disc two of this collection.
Tell me who’s got a conscience that’s more pure / A servant of God or a girl they call a whore?
—Institute, “Christian Right”
If you didn’t know they were from Austin, Texas, you might assume that Institute was from the UK. On Catharsis, they’ve got a laconic, sardonic edge that sometimes comes across like the post-punk of bands like Joy Division or Magazine, but at other times recalls The Minutemen. Regardless, don’t let Moses Brown’s disaffected, distorted vocals fool you into thinking these are dumb punks. Unlike a lot of other bands that trudge through the same fertile ground, Institute are sharp, smart, and firmly committed to not only their sound but their specific aesthetic.
After his confessional, revelatory Southeastern from 2013, it would be forgivable for Jason Isbell to coast. Southeastern was huge: deeply personal, immediate, and gripping, not to mention successful. Isbell won Album of the Year, Song of the Year (for “Cover Me Up”), and Artist of the Year at the Americana awards. With his incredible new album, Something More Than Free, it’s clear Isbell isn’t going to take it easy.
One of the genius things about New Orleans’ Galactic is their use of wildly diverse vocalists on their albums and tours. Each singer brings their own flavor, but no matter who is singing, the sound of the finely tuned Galactic machine is unmistakable. Their newest, Into The Deep, eschews their previous concept album themes (2007’s urban From The Corner To The Block, 2010’s bonanza of incredible NOLA artists Ya-Ka-May, and 2012’s Mardi Gras-themed Carnivale Electricos) and embraces a number of disparate singers, but never loses sight (or sound) that it is a Galactic album. And it is ripping.
“Right On” featuring Ms. Charm Taylor (of the Honorable South, and currently making soulful, expansive music on her own) should be the song of the summer. Electrifying and thrilling, it is giddy hook-laden funk, with a bassline first laid down by Ben Ellman’s sax, then echoed by Robert Mercurio’s bass. Ms. Taylor’s vocals are the perfect blend of soul and sass, and when she sings, “Why you still waitin’ there?” (and not on the dancefloor) one must pause to ask, well, why ARE you still waitin’ there? There’s dancing to do. It’s sophisticated and complex, but it also speaks to that special part of the brain that makes one dance, and Stanton Moore’s kinetic drumming propels the track at a breakneck pace. The bridge, where Moore gets a moment to let fly and then the horns burst in, never fails to give me goosebumps. EVERY TIME.
There is no finer drummer than Stanton Moore. His live wire, second-line inspired, polyrhythmic drumming on “Higher And Higher” is miraculous, and paired with JJ Grey’s (JJ Grey and Mofro) evangelizing smoke and whiskey voice, creates a blistering track on which Jeff Raines turns in a particularly fevered guitar solo.
Last year, the delightful Maggie Koerner toured with Galactic and she shows up again on Into The Deep. Her smoky vocals on “Dolla Diva” color the hook and David Shaw (of the Revivalists) supplies a wonderfully desperate, boozy lead. Gritty lyrics, Mercurio’s bubbling bass, and Ellman’s ear-wormy sax all combine to make a track that begs for much relistening. It’s richly layered, and must be heard on headphones to appreciate its complexity.
The legendary Mavis Staples brings enormous warmth to “Does It Really Make A Difference,” the closest thing to an old-school soul song on Into The Deep. It’s a very “live” feeling track, buoyed by Rich Vogel’s excellent organ playing and some first-class trumpet in the fadeout from Ellman.
“Chicken In The Corn,” sung by Jamaica’s Brushy One String, is exciting, spare, and hallucinatory. Ryan Montbleau’s vocals on the loose-limbed “Domino” are a revelation, soulful and remarkably clear. Raines’s guitar work is all earworm, all the time. The title track, featuring Macy Gray, sets up an easy groove and lets it breathe. Gray’s vocals are raw silk.
The musicians in Galactic are wondrously talented, and their instrumentals bear this out. On the sinuous “Long Live The Borgne,” Stanton Moore lays down an ultra-funky beat, that is joined by Rich Vogel’s mad scientist keyboard and Jeff Raines’s nimble guitar. The propulsive opener, “Sugar Doosie,” explodes in horns and marvelous funk. “Buck 77” feels like all kinds of things; it’s a little sinister and a bit edgy, but maybe it’s the song as an organism. Mercurio’s bass is like a heartbeat, driving the song, and Ellman’s horns swoon like a breath. The comedown track (Galactic excels at having a last track on the album that eases the soul, one that is soothing and chill) “Today’s Blues” is an extravaganza for Vogel’s exceptional keyboard work and Ellman’s clarion trumpet.
Into The Deep is Galactic doing what they do best: being Galactic. They bring the funk, the technical skills, and the soul. They showcase vocalists. They make compulsively listenable, utterly engaging music. Is there a better day than a day when a new Galactic album drops? I didn’t think so.
Into The Deep was released by Provogue Records on July 17.
July 17 /// The Pemberton Music Festival /// Pemberton, Canada
July 18 /// Sioux Falls Jazz Fest /// Sioux Falls, SD
July 24 /// Fuji Rock Festival /// Niigata, Japan
August 9 /// Summer Meltdown Festival /// Darrington, WA
August 12 /// Brooklyn Bowl /// Brooklyn, NY
August 13 /// Brooklyn Bowl /// Brooklyn, NY
August 14 /// Brooklyn Bowl /// Brooklyn, NY
August 15 /// Brooklyn Bowl /// Brooklyn, NY
August 16 /// Ridgefield Playhouse /// Ridgefield, CT
August 18 /// The Chicken Box /// Nantucket, MA
August 19 /// The Chicken Box /// Nantucket, MA
August 20 /// Infinity Hall Hartford /// Hartford, CT
September 5 /// North Coast Music Festival /// Chicago, IL
September 11 /// Lockn’ Music Festival /// Arrington, VA
September 19 /// Red Rocks Amphitheatre /// Morrison, CO
September 20 /// Belly Up Aspen /// Aspen, CO
October 2 /// Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival /// Live Oak, FL
October 3 /// Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival /// Live Oak, FL
January 6 /// Jam Cruise 14 /// Miami, FL
By Pierce Finch-Coursey
July 10, 2015
Black Lips performed two nights in a row at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern. After seeing both sets, I can easily come to the conclusion that Black Lips is by far one of the best live acts I have ever seen. With a career spanning more than 15 years and seven albums under their belts, it seems like these guys aren’t going to be hanging up their guitars anytime soon.
By Tyler Hodg
From July 6 through 11 this year, Kitchener, Ontario was transformed into one of the hottest spots of this summer. Why, you ask? It’s because the annual Big Music Fest was held at McLennan Park once again, bringing some of the biggest rock acts in the world—including Jane’s Addiction and Soundgarden—to the city.