Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The AGP"s Top Album's of 2013 - The Late Bastards Edition

Excuse our tardiness to the party! We turned in one of these year end list in nearly every year of our existence, so we felt propelled to give it a go with our list of our favorite sounds of 2013. To be honest this list has been intact since early January, but after a certain editor fractured his elbow it was temporarily shelved, but all wounds heel and far be it for us to miss an opportunity to share our opinions on the years finest releases. Below you will find the 10 releases  (in no particular order)that spent considerable time on our turntables, in our cars, and blowing our office speakers. It can not be understated the year in music belonged to the State Of Massachusetts, from North Hampton to Jamaica Plain and that is well represented below. We'll return shortly when we can all type with two hands, oh the luxury!

Guillermo Sexo - Dark Spring [Midriff Records]

Krill - Lucky Leaves [Deep Thoughts]

Speedy Ortiz - Major Arcana[Carpark Records]

Slowdim - Slowdim [Self Released]

Connections - Body Language [Self Released]

Bent Shapes - Feels Weird [Father Daughter Records]

Robert Pollard - Honey Locust Honkey Tonk [Rockathon|The Factory Of Raw Essentials]

Worms - Worms [Last Watt Records]

Los Campesinos! - No Blues [Wichita|Turnstile]

Ovlov - am [Exploding In Sound Records]

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Echo Out My Call: A Conversation With Guillermo Sexo's Reuben Bettsak

In advance of Saturday's Ash Gray Proclamation Presented For All Good Kids,  Toys For Tots Benefit show we recently had the chance to sit down for chat with Reuben Bettsak of Boston's psych pop titans, Guillermo Sexo. We discussed the recording of his bands excellent fifth LP Dark Spring, which we reviewed here, the evolution of Guillermo Sexo, and he even shared an off the cuff list of some his favorite recorded moments of 2013.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: How has the band evolved from the early material on Oh Wow and Magic Lanterns through Secret Wild and the new LP, Dark Spring?

Reuben Bettsak: There has been a few line-up changes in our history and that certainly contributes to our evolution.

Our first full length, Oh Wow, feels like it was a different band in a lot of ways. Obviously we had another female vocalist at the time, but there was also more emphasis on the bass/drum rhythms. This had a lot to do with Nick Gaynier's (Appomattox) drumming. Noell Dorsey has been in the band since our second album, Magic Lanterns. Working with Noell all these years has been such a great experience. I feel like I've been able to branch out as a songwriter. She comes from an experimental background, and combined with my love for strong catchy melodies, it creates fascinating results. We keep coming up with music that's interesting to me. I think Magic Lanterns is a bit of a mess. Some great songs on it, and so many ideas. Some worked and some didn't, but It was definitely the album that started a lot of the Guillermo Sexo guitar layering that's become a big part of our sound.

I won't go through every album, but when we recorded the first half of Vivid Nights we didn't have a Bass player. That's why that album has so many short poppy power songs. I really like that album. Jamie joined the band and added rad bass lines, but that album was written differently. Mark was the drummer at the time (drummer of Fat History Month) gave me a lot of confidence by taking time to listen to 30 demo songs I had compiled. He picked his favorites, and those are most of the songs on Vivid Nights. Even though I've always been the principle songwriter, Magic Lantern came forth mainly through jamming rather than demos. Vivid Night pushed me to bring some fully fleshed out songs to the table. So, ultimately those early albums really paved the way for the Guillermo Sexo of today. Secret Wild and Dark Spring are both albums that have songs created either through jams, or fully fleshed demos that I brought in. They both include collaborations between Noell and I, and they both have the layering, experimenting, etc. I do think that we keep growing as a band, and as songwriters.

Dark Spring also features what I think is the best line-up we've ever had with Elliott Anderson on Bass, Ryan Connelly on drums. Elliott and Ryan just bring in so much goodness to the bands sound. All these years have taught us how to better make albums, and we took more time with Dark Spring and it's my favorite Guillermo record so far. We just added a guitar player to the band. His name is Richard, and he's allowing us to play the songs closer to what they sound like on the album.

The AGP: How did the pairing with Boston/NYC based indie, Midriff Records come about?

Reuben: I've kept up with Midriff over the years. I've always dug and respected the label because they have rowdy noisy records by some outstanding band/songwriters. Records by Eldridge Rodriguez, The Beatings, Age Rings, ZL to name a few. Anyways, when we recorded the Bring Down Your Arms EP, I gave copy of the songs to Cameron Keiber at a show, I think it took him a couple months to actually listen to it, but he sent me a message saying he and Clayton (Keiber) listened to it on the way to NYC, and that they were really into it.The rest is history, it's been great working with them.

The AGP: We were immediately drawn to the rich and varied textures that run throughout Dark Spring, was that something the band was aiming for while writing and recording the album?

Reuben: Dark Spring was such a fun record to write. Ryan joined the band like 2 years ago and we immediately started working or writing the songs for this album. The way this lineup works together really enables us to try so many things. It's a good combo of songs like Bring Down Your Arms and Echo Out My Call that are ultra catchy and songs like Meow Metal, Coyote, and Dark Spring that are expansive and come through jamming. A lot of the textures come from guitar or keyboard layers. I just love building layers and creating happy accidents. My overdubs are never planned, always improvised. I do think we've embraced repetition more, and that makes the nuances of the layers more effective in a lot of ways. I'm a sucker for bands like Spiritualized, My Bloody Valentine, and Mercury Rev who really build powerful symphonic vibes via layering.

The AGP: With other projects which include Future Carnivores and Emerald Comets how do you decide what material get slated for Guillermo Sexo or is that predetermined early in the process?

Reuben: I write a lot of songs. Mr. Robert Pollard's approach suits me just fine. What I mean is that I just write without thinking where the song will end up. The reason I'm going to put solo stuff out under Emerald Comets is that there are lots of songs that never make their way to Guillermo Sexo or just don't work. The first Emerald Comets EP is all finished up, I'm going to release it early next year. Future Carnivores is a total different beast, Bo Barringer and I rarely bring any songs or ideas in advance. It's always an organic on the fly process, for example, I might record a beat on the drum machine, then he will add a bass line, then I'll add guitar and so on. Then he does the vocals, Noell will add stuff and Pepe will add live drums here and there. That's the way the first two albums were done. We are starting to do a bit more of jamming nowadays as a band.

The AGP: Can you tell me a little bit about the recorded process for Dark Spring that you once again embarked on with Justin Pizzoferrato (Dinosaur Jr./Speedy Ortiz)?

Reuben: I love working with Justin, we've worked with him for so many years, but it doesn't get stale. Instead it just gets better. He gets so many rad sounds, and understands what I'm trying to achieve. I literally let him mix the stuff without looking over his shoulder, and it's like he's read my mind. Maybe a few tweaks here and there, but at this point it's like he's a band member. I'm really proud of what we achieved with Dark Spring sonically, and I think Justin deserves a lot of credit cause he rules. Also, I constantly barrage Justin by sending him demos. It works out because he suggested we record Balboa after I sent him an early demo I did.

The AGP: What do you have planned for the new year with Guillermo Sexo as well as your other projects?

Reuben: Guillermo Sexo will continue to play shows to support Dark Spring next year. We are also planning a spring tour. I want to do a couple more videos for the record as well. We are starting to write new material which is exciting. Future carnivores will play shows and continue plugging away at album #3, and an EP from Emerald Comets,I'm planning more recording for Emerald
Comets material as well.

The AGP: We are thrilled to have Guillermo Sexo playing our Toys For Tots Benefit,For All Good Kids on Saturday. For those who have yet to see the band Live or at lease in recent months, what can they expect on Saturday night in Plymouth?

Reuben: We are very excited! It's a good cause and we love Krill, Hallelujah The Hills , and The Hush Now, so it's going to rule. We are playing a brand new song called Long Lines at the show. First time playing a brand new song live since releasing Dark Spring.

The AGP: I understand you have a healthy appetite for new music, what are some of your recorded musical highlights of 2013?

Reuben: I do like to keep up with new music, Some of my favorite albums of 2013 are the new albums by:

My Bloody Valentine
Thee Oh Sees
Black Hearted Brother
Girls Names
Parquet Courts
No Joy
Jacco Gardner
Primal Scream
Youth Lagoon
Fuck Buttons
Kurt Vile

Add New Highway Hymnal, Ghost Box Orchestra, Fat Creeps, Speedy Ortiz, Young Adults, and Krill. I could keep going with all the great music coming out of this area right now. I can also say Dark Spring and Future Carnivores' Come Inside are two favorites of the year for me.

Guillermo Sexo joins Hallelujah The Hills, Krill, and Noel Kelly of The Hush Now this Saturday in Historic Plymouth for For All Good Kids, A Toys For Tots Benefit. Full event details here. The toys are for the kids, the rock is for you.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

New Music Hour on 95.9 FM WATD vol.1

Last Friday, The Ash Gray Proclamation and 95.9 FM WATD joined forces for the debut of the New Music Hour that will be airing during The Alternative with Chris Atwood, on the last Friday of every month. I brought in some new tracks that have been dominating my listening as of late, which included amoung other things, an unearthed track from Hallelujah The Hills that as far as I can tell, few had heard until now as well as new tracks from Calories and Joanna Gruesome. The playlist is below with the linkage.. We chatted a bit about the impending Ash Gray Proclamation Presented: For All Good Kids, Toys For Tots Benefit show which will take place next Saturday Dec 7th at The New World Tavern in Plymouth.

Krill - Theme From Krill from Lucky Leaves
Streaming and available for purchase at the Krill Bandcamp site.

Black Hearted Brother - This Is How It Feels from Stars Are Our Home
Available at Slumberland Records.

28 Degrees Taurus - From Part To Part
Available as a free download via Bandcamp.

Guillermo Sexo - Carried A Golden Heart from Dark Spring
Streaming at Bandcamp and available for purchase over at Midriff Records.

Beach Fossils - Careless from Clash The Truth
Stream at Soundcloud and order the LP at Captured Tracks.

The Hush Now - Rooftops from Memos
Available as a free download at The Hush Now's Bandcamp page.

Calories - Mausoleum from then newly released III
Avaiable as a pay what you want offer at the Calories Bandcamp page.

Slowdim - Take Your Only Heart That Is Soley Free (Demo)
Available for free at Soundcloud .

Joanna Gruesome - Tugboat (Galaxie 500 cover) from the Sugarcrush single.
Available at Slumberland Records.

Hallelujah The Hills - Highschoolvania (Unreleased)
Visit HTH's Bandcamp page for streaming and purchases.

In the event that you missed this weeks debut broadcast you can stream it via CPS Productions.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Sounds Now: Calories Unveil New LP, III

Last week we were pleasantly surprised to find Birmingham, England's noise pop titans, Calories issuing their appropriately titled third full length, III. The new set seemingly pick up where 2010's superb Basic Nature left us with ragged fuzz covered pop that exhibits Calories strength for discharging catchy as hell melodies, submerged under mountains of feedback. The nine track III, which contains among other things, the ten plus minute closer Tropics, which we currently can't get enough of,  is currently available as a pay what you want deal over at Calories Bandcamp. Enjoy the full album stream below, then make the financial commitment to the album that is sure to screw up our impending 2013 year end list.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

This Weeks Short Bursts : Sex Tide, Connections, + Mincer Ray

In this weeks short bursts we're obliged to direct you to The Birthpace of Aviation as well as to The Grey City for three outfits who share an appreciation of earnest lo-fi pop and arresting guitar fuzz anthems. From the basements and garages of Columbus and Berlin to your ears.

With the release of Flash Fuck, rising Columbus, OH's skuzz pop outfit, Sex Tide have delivered a exemplary EP of jarring garage rock in the vein of fellow Ohioan's, Times New Viking and the sorely missed, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments. Sex Tide is comprised of standing drummer and vocalist, Aurelie Celine along with dual guitarists Chad Bad and Chris Corbin, On Flash Fuck the trio runs through 7 sludge filled art damaged garage pop in 20 minutes and not a second is wasted, in fact it's due to that brevity that has us reaching for this EP over and over. Recorded on quarter inch analog tape which gives these song considerable density and perfectly capture Sex Tides' voluminous cacophony. Volume required.

Back in June we were compelled to tell you about the Columbus, OH supergroup Connections in our debut Currently Obsessed segment. The band that features members of both 84 Nash and Times New Viking have just released their second full lenth and third overall realease of the year Body Langauage and the new set finds the quintet picking up where they left us on both the Tough City EP and their charging debut LP, Private Airplane by sharpening their focus to their artful distillation of 90's lo-fi in conjunction with intelligent songwriting, buzzing guitars and gigantic pop hooks. Connections recorded Body Lanuguage at a brisk pace and according to a recent Facebook post, the band have no plans of slowing their pace as they will be headed back into the studio shortly to churn out another healthy collection of power chord pop anthems. Check Body Language's Summer Creeps for the catchiest damn thing we've heard this year.

Last spring, Berlin based Mincer Ray issued A Magnates Reach, a sturdy and engaging collection of skewed indie pop. The trio features three distinctive songwriters, two American's and a Brazillian, all of whom contribute to the varied texture of the EP. Initially we had our doubts,was Mincer Ray another GBV retread or Tobin Sprout tribute band? We're happy to report all our suspicions were unfounded. Yes, there's an obvious Guided By Voices influence at work here, but Mincer Ray exhibits quite a bit of precision as well as unique song craft which enables the trio to distribute five diverse and exuberant songs, that will make you wish A Magnates Reach was about five tracks longer.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Benefit Rock:: Clicky Clicky Music Blog Presents A Benefit For Community Servings

On Sunday our pals over at Clicky Clicky Music Blog Present A Benefit for Community Servings at T.T. The Bears Place. Jay Breitling and Co. have assembled a gargantuan line-up for a great cause that features our cities finest purveyors of noise drenched post punk and intelligent noise pop. The evening will feature performances from scuzz poppers earthquake party!, the discordant guitar cacophony of Soccer Mom, and the dream pop of The Hush Now who are set to return with a recently recorded new LP. Also in tow is none other than K. Heasley of indie stalwarts, Lilys  and DJ sets by Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz.

The show will raise money for Community Servings, is a not-for-profit food and nutrition program providing services throughout Massachusetts to individuals and families living with critical and chronic illnesses. We give our clients, their dependent families, and caregivers appealing, nutritious meals, and send the message to those in greatest need that someone cares. Our goals are to help our clients maintain their health and dignity and preserve the integrity of their families through free, culturally appropriate, home-delivered meals, nutrition education, and other community programs.

This is a unique opportunity to see tremendous night of music while lending a hand to those less fortunate in our area. So gather your rock music loving friends, a few dollars for entry and support this worthwhile event. 

For more information check the FB event page and grab advance tickets for the Clicky Clicky event here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

This Weeks Shorts Bursts: Mogwai, Merge Records at 25, & LVL UP

Glasgow's post rock stalwarts, Mogwai have announced the follow up to 2011's hyperbole inducing, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. On January 21st Mogwai will issue Rave Tapes via Sub-Pop. The band recorded the new set with Delgados' drummer, Paul Savage who also assisted in the recording of the bands landmark Young Team LP. Mogwai has offered up the advance track, Remurdered which finds them delving a little deeper into the electronics they utilized on "Hardcore", on the synth infused instrumental track.

North Carolina's esteemed Merge Records kicked off their 25th anniversary celebration today with the issuing of Superchunk's cover of Misfits'Children In Heat which you can stream below. In addition, the label is currently taking pre-order for Or Thousands of Prizes, a subscription based box set that will be released throughout 2014 and consist of 12 7 inches that will be mostly split releases and includes contributions from The Mountain Goats, Mikal Cronin, Destroyer, and of course the aforementioned Superchunk. These singles are exclusive to the box set and not available separately or in stores, proceeds from of Or Thousands of Prizes will go to Oxfam America. You can pre-order this unique release at the Merge Store now.

Splitting time between Spook Houses, LVL UP and running the Double Double Whammy imprint, Dave Benton and his co conspirators have been delivering a steady flow of impressive scuzz pop releases and the new LVL UP release is no exception, a split release with label mates, Porches. LVL UP's contribution, Across The Sea starts with gently strummed acoustics and Benton's affecting and warbling vocal delivery before giving way to a blast of Pinketonesque guitar fuzz with titanic hooks. Currently, LVL UP have hooked up with Boston's post hardcore dynamos, Pile for several shows in the Southeast.