Friday, March 26, 2010

Boston: This is Your Weekend + Ticket Giveaway

It's weekends like the one that were about to embark on, that makes you sit up and give thanks for living in or near a major city like Boston. To be fair we are benefiting from some post SXSW tours, the return of one of Boston's favorite acts, and just sheer dumb luck.

This weekend you will have several choices from to which to plunk down your hard earned cash, so choose wisely.

Allston's synth poppers Freezepop get things kicked off with a 4PM on Saturday with a performance at Cafe 939. It's a fairly small room so grab tickets in advance here plus the PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) is in town this weekend so you can check that out before or after the show.

Later in the evening Spoon will take over The House of Blues for a sold out show with Deerhunter and The Strange Boys. Spoon are currently touring in support of their new offering Written in Reverse while any local appearance from Bradford Cox & co. is worth our collective attention and Austin's The Strange Boys have just issued an impressive debut album, Be Brave on Rough Trade, so get there early for this impressive triple bill.

This weekend also marks the return of former Beulah front man Miles Kurosky to the Boston area when Miles and his touring band play Great Scott in Allston on Saturday with San Francisco's Pancho-San. Kurosky is on tour for the first time since he disbanded Beualah and is supporting his superb solo debut, The Dessert of Shallow Effects issued earlier this month on Majordomo/Shout!.

Buy tickets

Sunday Iceland's Seabear hit TT The Bears to deliver their unique brand of orchestra pop. The band are in the U.S. supporting thier excellent 2nd LP, We Build A Fire released this month by Morr Music. As a last minute surprise I've been given a pair of tickets to giveaway. To enter to win just shoot us an e-mail with Seabear in the subject line to I will announce the winner tomorrow at 5PM, good luck. Fellow Icelanders and label mates Soley will support. I can't think of a better way to wind down your Sunday.

Buy tickets

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Futureheads Return With The Chaos

Sunderland, Englands' The Futureheads will release their fifth album, The Chaos on April 27th via the bands own Nul Records in the UK and June 1st via their U.S. label Dovecoat. We are particularly stoked about this news, The Futureheads have been a favorite of ours at the AGP since we first caught wind of the lads on their 2004 self titled debut. The new album was recorded with Youth and David Brewis in the bands home studio and The Chaos takes aim at corrupt politicians and greedy bankers. The perfect fodder for album # 4 from The Futureheads.

Check out two tracks/one video from the forthcoming album, The Chaos below.

[MP3/Stream] The Futureheads - Struck Dumb

The Futureheads Official

The Futureheads Myspace

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ash Gray Proclamation Presents:
An Interview with Howard W. Hamilton of Red Pens

I remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard some of my favorite albums. For example, I was going through new releases at my college radio station when I first heard GBV's Bee Thousand, I remember walking into Stinkweeds in Tempe, AZ when I was treated to Bedhead's parting shot, Transaction de Novo, and more recently last fall I recall updating our concert listings while listening to some just received digital albums from various sources when I happily stumbled onto Reasons, the smashing debut album from Red Pens.

Reasons is a captivating record of noisy and fractured pop delivered by the Minneapolis duo of Howard W. Hamilton III and Laura F. Bennett. With comparisons to Yo La Tengo, Guided By Voices, Sonic Youth, and My Bloody Valentine it's safe to say Red Pens are in my wheel house. However it was the strength of the songs and the execution of those influences that keep things exciting and had me reaching for this record all winter.

So, when I was given the opportunity to interview Howard W. Hamilton III via email I was thrilled to do it. As per the norm, I sent over the questions and Howard fired them back to me. Thanks to Lea Miller at The Muse Box for setting this up and to Howard and Laura from Red Pens for entertaining our questions and constant begging for Red Pens show in Boston sometime soon.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can you tell us how the collaboration between the two of you came about and how Red Pens were born?

Howard W. Hamilton III:An old friend of mine was looking at the abstract bird houses I was making at the time and asked me "have you ever seen Laura Bennett paintings"? I went home and got right on it online and I could see these similarities right away. I contacted her and told her how much I loved her art and asked her if we could collaborate and she said yes. We started getting together and trying to make art and our mediums weren't working well together her paint was resisting my backgrounds. We talked about music a ton and she went on and on about how she just wanted to be in a cool velvet underground-ish two piece. We started just hanging out and working on our separate art but at the same time. One day it wasn't working for either one of us so we went into my tiny studio and jammed, me on an electric sitar, and her on an electronic hand drum pad device and it just clicked, we dragged her drums over to my house and Red Pens were born.

The AGP:What was the recording process for Reasons?

: I had a sound I wanted in my head and I knew I was going to lose the apartment I lived in and we practiced in so a few days after I knew I was moving in a few months we decided to record the songs in this tiny room the band formed in. It was like we recorded live almost like a glorified rehearsal tape, but with better mics and pre-amps. I got great drum tracks and a nice guitar foundation which I added tons of guitar tracks to and then over the next couple days just did vocals until it all ended up sounding exactly like I envisioned it.

The AGP:I noticed that you have some home town shows coming up, are there any plans for a full fledged tour in support of Reasons?

Howard:We are for sure planning to tour our brains out as soon as we can get our hands on a better vehicle for the road. We did do a string of out of town dates recently and played in NYC and a bunch of other places in mid February.

The AGP: Was it a conscience decision to move away from the music you recorded as Busy Signals to the bombastic guitar pop of Red Pens?

Howard: I was pretty much done making music until Laura came along, I never thought I could get back into it the way I have. I had been making music with loops and programmed drums and after getting that feeling of playing with a drummer who I was truly in sync with I was so inspired that things just started to flow out of me.

The AGP: How did you the signing to Grain Belt Records come about?

Howard: Mike (Boeser) came to one of our better shows and was blown away. He approached us and said all the right things and gave off an instantly trustworthy vibe so we jumped at the chance to be the first band on his new label.

The AGP: A belated congratulations on winning the Pick to Click award in the Minneapolis' City Pages last year, how has that helped the two of you?

: It has made a few more show offers come about and people take us a little more seriously I guess. I was worried that it would be a fake instant response where all of the sudden our shows would be packed and then it would fall off a cliff a few months later but thankfully that didn't happen. We have earned our local fans one or two at a time from show to show, we play really often and a few new faces pop up each time its been nice.

The AGP: I hear you've been playing some new material at some recent shows, have any of those been recorded for your next album?

: We are still working the bugs out of the new songs and nothing serious has been recorded yet. I think we are going to do an ep this summer and get used to a new way of working half in a studio and half at home. Instead of all home recording we are going to do basics at a studio and then do vocals and overdubs at home but we want to try some studio situations out before we take the leap towards the next LP.

The AGP: How do you feel with comparisons to such indie rock giants, Guided By Voices, Yo La Tengo, and Sonic Youth?

Howard: Well we are heavily influenced by all of those bands and we are definitely flattered. Laura and I are huge fans of all of those bands especially guided by voices the stuff is ingrained into us and we take a little from each influence but make sure we never come across as a "sound-a-like" or rip off band. It's like without those bands and others like My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain we might not exist or sound anything like we do, we love and worship all of it.

The AGP: What's happening in the Minneapolis scene? Are there any upcoming acts that you would recommend?

Howard: We are in love with a couple of mpls bands for sure this band Gospel Gossip is amazing with so much raw intense new energy and this other band of teenagers, Total Babe who will end up doing big things. We like this band Teenage Strangler a bunch too and another one is Zoo Animal who are just totally ready to become a national act at any moment. The scene is pretty crazy with piles of new bands and a million older bands that keep on trucking, there are a few clubs that have local music/bands for free most nights of the week(Hexagon Bar, 331 and 501 clubs) which is pretty intense. I think we are influencing a bunch of duo's to start up here.

The AGP:How was your relationship influenced your music?

Howard: We are trying to make a living off of artwork and music so being in a relationship makes us obviously really stick together and work as a team more than your average band. All of the songs on "reasons" are about us and things that happened to us. For the first year of the band we weren't a couple yet so after we got together things got a little easier to deal with less picking up and dropping off and way deeper all around. We really feed off of each other musically especially live I feel like we are connected in so many ways and it makes for an insane feeling that I have never experienced in the zillion bands and musical projects I have tried to be in.

Red Pens/Myspace

Buy the album at Grain Belt Records

Friday, March 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Ready Their Debut

Brattleboro, VT's Happy Birthday will release their self titled Sub-Pop debut this Tuesday. The band consists of Kyle Thomas(King Tuff), Chris Weisman, and Ruth Garbus. Kyle put the band together in 2008 for an outlet to perform some freshly penned pop songs for a one off show at the now defunct Tinderbox in Brattleboro. The performance went so well the the trio decided to keep doing it. I'm a sucker for skewed pop songs and Happy Birthday specialize in fuzzy power-pop of the timeless variety. Kyle Thomas and Ruth Grabus play in Feathers and Kyle is also in Witch with J. Mascis.

Happy Birthday head to Austin, TX next week for 8 shows in 5 days at SXSW, before heading back east at the end of the month.

In advance of the release on March 16th Sub-Pop has offered up the track Girls FM for free download.

[MP3/Stream] Happy Birthday - Girls FM

Happy Birthday - Cracked (Live Video)

Update: you can hear the full album before tomorrows official release courtesy of sub-pop over at their Soundcloud page.Once you've been sufficiently hooked, be sure to purchase this fine recording.

Preview the album here

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Release Day Review:
Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks

Over the past couple of weeks I've taken full advantage of the album stream of The Winter of Mixed Drinks,, the forthcoming album from Frightened Rabbit. The album was made available as a free stream in it's entirety over at the bands myspace page and at NPR until the album's release on march 9th, that's today folks.

I can't say enough good things about this record. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, after all this is the same band that knocked me on my ass with their sophomore album The Midnight Organ Fight. So I guess I should have seen this coming.

The Winter of Mixed Drinks consists of 11 stadium sized anthems and inevitably the band will be compared to the likes of Snow Patrol and Coldplay in the mainstream press. That's unfair, both because Frightened Rabbit our twice if not three times the band than either of those other bands and for the fact that the band have been quietly making their brand of majestic emotion Scottish rock over their three albums with little fanfare. They remain true to the formula, but somehow The Winter of Mixed Drinks sounds bigger than both of their early albums, like it's destined for the wide open spaces of arenas.

Scott Hutchinson has penned some of his most fully realized and accomplished songs for his bands new album and the solidified line up strengthens Hutchinson compositions with an effective and varied blend of instrumentation throughout. The songs themselves are powerful and impassioned. Take the albums centerpiece Not Miserable with it's church organ and building guitars, while Hutchinson declares "I am free from disease"or the goose bump inducing Swim Until You Can't See Land. These tracks only hint at the strength and beauty of this record. Admittedly it's a bit of grower at least compared to The Midnight Organ Fight, but after a few listens your endless fawning over these Scott's is imminent. Frightened Rabbit have released the first great record of 2010.

Buy The Winter Of Mixed Drinks from Fat Cat Records

Sunday, March 7, 2010

R.I.P. Mark Linkous

I am truly sorry to half to write this piece. Mark Linkous and the fragile and beautiful music he recorded and subsequently released under the Sparklehorse moniker impacted, affected, and inspired us here at The Ash Gray Proclamation. So here we are again just 3 short months after losing Vic Chesnutt,we again must deal with the suicide of one of music's most inspiring and important musicians.

Marl Linkous took his own life yesterday afternoon by a self inflicted gunshot wound.

I remember the first time I heard Sparklehorse, I had just started working at WFNX here in Boston and I was in the middle of one of my first air shifts and along comes Someday I Will Treat You Good at 3 AM and I was hooked. This horrible news comes just days after the announcement that his collaboration with Danger Mouse, A Dark Night of Soul will finally be released and the next Sparklehorse album was nearing completion.

May the peace that escaped him in life, embrace him in death.

From the Linkous Family: "It is with great sadness that we share the news that our dear friend and family member, Mark Linkous, took his own life today. We are thankful for his time with us and will hold him forever in our hearts. May his journey be peaceful, happy and free. There’s a heaven and there’s a star for you." - March 6, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Robert Pollard's Ever Increasing Release Calendar

With the release of We All Got Out Of The Army last week, Robert Pollard's kicked off what can only be described as another uber-prolific year. Releases a plenty continue On March 23rd when Jackpot Records releases Camera Found A Ray Gun, an EP from Pollard's Boston Spaceships. The EP consists of four tracks and will be available both on 7" vinyl(limited to 500 copies) and as a CD EP.

Camera Found A Ray Gun track listing:
1) The Way Out
2) Rival GT
3) Pluto Is Polluted
4) Aquarian Hovercraft

Pre-order the Camera Found Ray Gun EP here

Next up is Mother Skinny, the eighth record from Pollard's Circus Devils. For the uninitiated Circus Devils are a mean prog rock and freak pop outfit. Accompanied by brothers Tim and Todd Tobias (GBV/Clouds Forming Crowns) Robert Pollard has been recording and releasing Circus Devils albums since 2001. With Mother Skinny Circus Devils have recorded an album that is described as the polar opposite to last years largely acoustic Gringo. So I'll expect to have my face melted.

Circus Devils have just posted three songs from the forthcoming Mother Skinny. All three are big slabs of sinister prog- pop.

[MP3/Stream] Circus Devils - Sub Rat

[MP3/Stream] Circus Devils - Hard Art

[MP3/Stream] Circus Devils - Bam Bam Bam

Mother Skinny
track listing:
1 SUB RAT 1:45
2 LURKING 1:23
5 GET ON IT 1:57
8 BAM BAM BAM 2:02
10 8 LEGS TO LOVE YOU 1:48
11 17 DAYS ON THE POLE 2:04
19 PLEDGE 2:52
20 SHUT UP 1:08

Mother Skinny will be released on March 30th via Guided By Voices, Inc. and can be pre-ordered here

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ticket Giveaway: The Hush Now CD Release Show

The Hush Now will celebrate the release of their excellent new album Constellations at Great Scott this Saturday night with help from Arletta and Dear Leader. Thanks to the good kids at The Muse Box I have a pair of tickets to giveaway to one of our lucky readers. Just send an e-mail to with The Hush Now in the subject line. The winner will be notified on Friday.

Don't feel like waiting til Friday? Assure that you will be at Great Scott for this memorable night of Boston rock by purchasing tickets for the show at TicketWeb.

Update: Congratulations to Greg from South Boston on being randomly selected as the winner of The Hush Now's CD Release show.