Friday, September 30, 2011

New Sounds Now :: The Blue Dress - Deth Ray [Rough Mix]

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Brewster's rising psych pop strummers, The Blue Dress, who we first wrote about back in July, are hard at work readying the tracks that will be featured on an upcoming cassette release to be issued on Chicago's Already Dead Tapes at the end of October. Not to worry, you won't have to recover your old boombox from the attic, unless you want to, in which case have at it. Where was I? Oh yes, the cassette will also come with a download code. This morning, drummer Tim Sylvia sent over a re-recorded demo of Deth Ray or what he's dubbing a rough mix. The song originally appeared on the bands Demo EP as My Deth Ray which you can grab at The Blue Dress Bandcamp page. This new re-recorded version of Deth Ray stopped us dead in our tracks. Strings and horns have been added to the track but the band manages to retain the austere charm of the original.

The Blue Dress will play Gay Gardens in Allston on Sunday (10/2) with Dark Rodeo,Molasses, The Inframen, and Empty Phrases.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reviewed :: Wilco - The Whole Love

With the addition of another writer to the pages of The Ash Gray Proclamation I hope to up our flow of content, however this also means I now must share the writing duties, even if that means reviews of a long time favorite like Wilco. All and all I welcome the assistance especially when it comes from the hands from one of my venerable cohorts. This time around, our new guy, Los Gamester takes a look at the recently released eighth long player from Wilco and the first to be released from the bands Dbpm Records. In the words of our beloved Silkworm, Treat The New Guy Right. Op-ed.

Thank goodness for NPR Music's streaming of The Whole Love I was able to review the new album prior to this weeks release date.Reviewing other people's creative efforts sure is hard. After reading Bryan's interview with Noel Kelly from The Hush Now who am I to say, you know what Noel, thanks for working all day and using all of your free time to make great music.

Music is art, and artists push boundaries. Its uncomfortable at times as fan but a listener, you either leap with them or you don't. Radiohead has always made me leap, R.E.M. not after Document, and GBV,well let's hope GBV never make a leap.

Wilco's apparent holy grail is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, an album I only listened to in earnest this year and its very good. But if they never evolved from their roots drenched debut, A.M., you would never have heard the likes of Via Chicago, Hate it Here, Theologians or any of the tracks found on Wilco's new offering. The Whole Love is a great combination of distortion, lead guitars, bells, a theremin, interesting back up vocals (especially as songs end) and dreamy, minimalist songs that they do so well. It starts with the opening track, the trippy Art of Almost witch to my ears evokes The Verve with its flourishes of electronics and use of strings. I'm not sure I'm in love with the album version, but if you listen to the Wilco concert (also up on NPR) its fantastic.

Black Moon sounds like the song they should have overlaid in the movie No Country For Old Men, when Josh Brolin made the fateful trip back to the desert. It takes a solid band to have you latch on to its darkest track on the album as your first listen favorites. As one of my favorite book and one of the best movie adaptations ever, its pretty lofty company. Born Alone continues Wilco's string of great sounding songs that are crushingly sad. What's interesting about the album is that after the first two songs, you think its going to be really loud, but its the quiet, introspective songs that really shine and the contrast to the loud stuff is especially delicious.

To finish on a lighter note, when I listen to Capital City I swear it was written for The Simpsons Can you hear it with a montage of Phil Hartman characters walking through Springfield and Capital City?

Wilco - I Might by dBpm Records

Monday, September 26, 2011

West Of The Fields :: R.E.M. 1980 - 2011

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Upon getting the news of the R.E.M. break up we decided we needed to do something to pay tribute to the band that had such a profound impact on us and give thanks for over 3 decades of music. I reached out to my fellow writers as well as some of our friends and bands we admire for some assistance. Below is what they have been gracious enough to share with us on the passing of one of America's greatest bands.

Like many of you, R.E.M.'s decision to pack up their tents and call it a day caught me by complete surprise. I selfishly assumed that the band would continue on recording albums and mounting the occasional tour for years to come. The bands last LP, Collapse Into Now, reignited my passion for the band and reminded me of what drew me to them in the first place.

There's few records that have had the profound impact on me that R.E.M.'s 1983 debut, Murmur did. My older brother brought that LP into our childhood home and changed everything for me. The album is choc full jangly guitars, infectious melodies, and smart song writing, and in my estimation defined not just "college rock" but what we know now as American indie. With Radio Free Europe making the jump from college radio to WBCN and WFNX playlists here in Boston around 84', thanks to a couple wise local program directors Murmur got some well deserved attention. I'd be hard pressed to name my favorite track from that LP, because it changes with each listen. Last week I was reliving my love for Moral Kiosk, but today I am all about Talk About The Passion. Murmur is a flawless debut and an album that continues to shine even after 28 years.

It would be a full 5 years until I managed to catch the band Live, it was 1988 and Green had just been released. The band would play the then Providence Civic Center that spring and my expectations were high especially after the bands album a year pace between Murmur and Green, not to mention the quality of those 5 records, I'm not sure anyone has been able to compete with that extremely fertile time for the band. I remember being completely awestruck with the bands performance, in particular Micheal Stipe's stage presence and Peter Buck's playing, he seemed to be having the time of his life while slashing out chords on his Rickenbacker 360. Walking out of the venue that evening I can remember being overwhelmed with the feeling that I had witness something truly special. I've seen the band sporadically over the intervening years and they always gave passionate performances, but that night in Providence has stuck with me through the years.

Thank you to Micheal Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills , and Bill Berry for the 31 uncompromising years and 15 albums. Apologies for checking out on you between 01-04, that was shitty. You will be missed, we'll always have Providence.
-Bryan Hamill

R.E.M. are one of the (admittedly few) bands you can site in an argument with someone who says they "they just don't make make classic bands/music anymore". You know, those people that say that there hasn't been a classic new band since the hotel-wrecking halcyon days.

Few would argue that R.E.M. were better than the most notorious TV smashers, (The Who, The Stones, Led Zeppelin) but they're better than Cheap Trick and Heart. More importantly, REM's discography contains all the requisite touchstones of a classic band, early critically acclaimed records with a spattering of early hits for fringe fans (Radio Free Europe, Fall on Me), bona-fide pop hits (It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), Losing My Religion, Everybody Hurts, Man on the Moon, etc), record label moves, personnel changes and at least two come back records.

While this writer prefers Country Feedback to Shiny Happy People, these songs, both coming fairly mid-career from a band who at that point was a known commodity to the indie-kids and pop radio/MTV world, further endeared the band to those separate and discerning fan tiers. Not an easy thing to do, and a problem that all bands would love to have.

Do not underestimate their success. While you include me in that group of fans that can't find a bad song on the first 4 records, and have thoroughly enjoyed their recent deluxe re-issues; Murmur, Reckoning, Fables Of The Reconstruction, and Life's Rich Pageant only achieved RIAA Gold certification. Not until the band's more polarizing mid-career did the band start selling millions of records. Out of Time, Automatic for the People, and Monster all went at least 4X Platinum in US, Canada, and several other European countries, giving weight to my argument of their classic rock status.

I will now spend the next couple of day's working through the band's catalog on Spotify. While I will undoubtedly play more tracks from the band's earlier albums, there was always a track or two on all of their albums, including last year's near return-to-glory Collapse Into Now that are worth a spin. Here's a quick list of favorite track from all of their albums of note.

Murmur- Shaking Through
Reckoning- Harbor Coat
Fables of the Reconstruction- Green Grow the Rushes
Life's Rich Pageant- Swan Swan H
Document- King of Birds
Green- Turn you inside out
Out of Time- Country Feedback
Automatic for the People - Drive
Monster- Star 69
New Adventures in High FI- Ebow the Letter
Collapse into Now- It Happened Today
-Echoes Myron

My thoughts on R.E.M. are best summed up by my conversation with our intrepid
executive editor- the IRS days were pure gold, Green was good, all after was
OK. My favorite all time R.E.M. song is Voice of Harold from Dead Letter Office which is a cover of 7 Chinese Brothers. The liner notes are classic (paraphrased from memory); recorded while drunk, on one take and it was brilliant. R.E.M. was on such a different plane for me that even its drunken, forgotten B-sides could be turned into something important and meaningful.
-Los Gamester

Even if you were a kid who preferred The Replacements and Husker Du to anything on the radio in the mid-80s, Radio Free Europe was the kind of song you couldn't/wouldn't, dismiss. In fact, the more you heard it, the more it drew you in to all that intriguing, swirling, jangling, mumbling! Peter Buck's appearance in I Will Dare pretty much cemented their cred for young, loud and snotty punk me.

Our High School music high priests/cognoscenti having duly given their stamp of approval to Chronic Town and then Murmur, and Reckoning, those discs became a big part of our soundtrack in those 80's years. And listening together with Evan at a party, or in someone's bedroom twiddling along a bit on guitar, perhaps, or simply whacking on any convenient percussive surface. I can't deny that those records were a part of the multifarious musical weather system that fed directly into the early Lemonheads.

And next, The One I Love kinda lost me, Stand brought me back, Losing My Religion (for better or worse) cemented my lack of interest for the next score of years, but at least I'm told that there's amazing stuff aplenty in the later catalog for me to discover.Thanks, guys. Sorry we lost touch.
-Ben Deily: Varsity Drag/The Lemonheads

R.E.M. were the relatable Gods. We had a crush on them the first time we heard them in 7th grade and quickly fell in love. Smart, daring, mysteriously arty. All across everywhere we unwittingly joined a club and nodded appreciatively to one another while tapes were traded and t-shirts were worn. They were ours. Metal was for the olds, pop was for the princesses, rap was for the jocks and these guys were ours. We knew every lyric and learned every chord and traveled from NY to Athens in 10th grade in a Malibu with friends to see what made their hometown so magical. We stole bricks from the dilapidated steeple on Oconee St. as keepsakes and loitered outside Wuxtry Records in desperate hopes that we'd get some insight into what made them different, or they'd show up to where we were by chance, see some potential and adopt us. What they liked we liked and what they said we said. And that went on for a really long time. Until, everyone else found out how good they were. At first we were surprised, then felt entitled to their legacy and protective, and finally resentful that we had to share them. An iconoclast is only as good as the quarry he chooses to target, so we turned our backs. And they found new people to love them and we found new people to love and everything was amicable. Now that they are gone we feel like dickholes. Because we realize that they were more than the gateway drug we played them off as to impress hip girls at art swaps. Our relationship meant something to us. They never walked away from us, we left them. We acted like we didn't need them anymore, but we did, to comfort us and make us smile. They continued to work while we got jaded and dismissive. Why? Because they were giants, not bad, just big and we were trying to knock them down. In fact, there was one time, only a handful of years ago, after one of our Athens' shows when we saw Michael Stipe walking down the street in front of the club and we almost convinced our manager to don the gorilla suit that we kept in the back of the tour van and chase him down the street. We had no plan should he catch up to him. We assumed he'd grunt and get all gorilla-y around him, I guess. But after all this time apart, we still secretly adored them and wanted their attention. It's creepy. They were the best and we can't help but feel that over the last few years we let them down by taking them for granted. They were the first and we should have been better to them. We should feel disgusted by the way we treated them after how good they were to us.But... that's all in the past now, it's over and they seem pretty cool with the whole thing. So, I don't know, if they're cool with it, we're cool with it. You never get over your first love, I guess.
- Cameron Keiber : Eldridge Rodriguez/The Beatings
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I had my first beer in the parking lot of an R.E.M. concert. Obtained Murmur at a high school CD swap and found it very mysterious and appealing. I was worried by the mossy bridge on the back cover. I didn't understand all the hatred towards Monster. That's some great songwriting. Stipe once introduced Losing My Religion as their cover of an old folk song. Great lie. Stipe said that if the album Up "fell from the sky from a band no one had ever heard they'd be fawning over it." I think he was correct and that's a fun thing to say. Automatic For The People is the great diplomat of modern music.
-Ryan Walsh: Hallelujah The Hills

When I started playing in bands in junior high R.E.M. was one of the bands we covered. Don't Go Back To Rockville was one of my favorites to play. For me they always felt relevant and in tune with the times. They were one of those bands that had a very strong connection with each other and there was a very pure attitude. There are so many bands that over think things and a very formulaic and they never struck me as one of those bands. One neat memory I have personally was when I was working at a music pavilion in VA in the mid 90's I spotted Michael Stipe on the lawn hours before the show. My brother and I went to talk to him and he was very generous. We chatted for a bit and at the end we asked for a picture and he said how about I take a picture of you guys and put it in my scrap book? We said uh...ok. So he took our disposable camera and snapped a picture and kept the camera. That was a pretty cool experience for me in high school.

Some songs that I love: Half A World Away, So. Central Rain, Try Not To Breath, Me In Honey, Hope, Fall On Me, Belong, and many more.
-Paul Sentz, Slowdim

This is terrible news for many reasons. Most of these reasons are completely selfish, and involve the fact that we will never get a chance to see, meet, nor play with one of our all time favorite bands. I have to admit that I have been a lazy fan lately,not exactly following their every move. Still, the recent work that I've heard holds up sturdy as all get out. This is pretty depressing news indeed. It was a bummer when stick man Bill Berry left in the late '90s, but at least they were going to soldier on. I had hopes that Bill would get tired of planting corn, and want to rejoin the band because farming seems a little duller than sound check.

My favorite R.E.M. song shifts almost daily. Lately, as a band, we've been enjoying the finer points of Monster while on the road. It feels like I'm back in 8th grade every time I hear that record. Matty even bought a Rickenbacker guitar recently, and you can probably guess why. What the fuck, Peter Buck? Quite often, we talk about covers, but can never narrow it down because there are too many great songs. I'm a drummer, so I play guitar the way a drummer does: pretty piss-poor. Even so, I managed to figure out Driver 8, or something close enough. Fall On Me? Are you serious, guys? That song is gorgeous. This break-up feels like the sky just fell on me a little bit, and it hurts real, real bad.

After 31 years as a band, I guess we should all be thankful that they gave us that much music. As a side note, Michael Stipe has blazed a trail for all of us shy, balding, queer guys out there. I guess we should just say Thank you to all of them. I just wish that U2 had thrown in the towel first; God, how I wish that!
Brian Hill, The Soft Pack

In 1989 I went to eight concerts, 3 of which were R.E.M. Two were in April (Worcester of April 9th, then The Boston Garden on the 16th) the third as at Great Woods/Tweeter/Comcast on September 16th. The support (in reverse order now) was Throwing Muses, Drivin and Cryin' and the Indigo Girls.

The shows were great, and the set lists at the time I'd love to bottle up and listen to all the time. Of the run of shows the biggest memory of all came from the April 9th show, and it wasn't even during R.E.M.s set. The Indigo Girls were on the large stage, Emily on one side, Amy on the other. Just two women and their acoustic guitars. I had no idea who they were at the time, and this was before Closer to Fine took off. As their set continued they began the song Kid Fears. Now, I worked at a local record store at the time and I knew that Stipe sang backing vocals on the track. Sure enough as the song gets to towards the end a small figure arrives on stage, but way over to the side, hardly coming off the steps leading to the stage. Then it hits, the few thousand that were in their seats immediately heard the vocals and knew it was Stipe. He never waved, never acknowledged the audience, nothing. He just sang his part and left, allowing the Indigo Girls their moment on stage.

As time went on the band saw a lineup change for the first time every with Bill Berry leaving and the band worked to find themselves once more. The last two records seemed like a good return to form and I wished they'd have toured for Collapse Into Now, but alas they did not.

I have been a member of the R.E.M. fan club for many years and I look at the limited vinyl records that would come near the holiday and always think every band I love should do this. Sadly, few do.

Easily a top 10 band of all time for me, a top 10 male vocalist, a favorite bass player of mine too. The band may have hit some bumps but always stayed true to their craft and even in disbanding did so with little doubt and lots of class. They will be missed.
-Todd Harrington, Forgotten Disc Friday/ March To The Sea

I was a teenager in the early nineties so R.E.M.'s cool, college rock phase was before my time. But before Nirvana blew up and changed everything completely REM were important to me as one of the only bands on mainstream radio that seemed to have an indie sensibility and some credibility. They made it seem possible to dream big for people writing arty pop songs with things like violin and harpsichord, bands that didn't sound like Aerosmith or U2. They were the original anthemic indie rock band, where now there are bucket loads of indie bands who can aim for stadium fame. They don't really get their due for breaking through and expanding possibilities like that.

If I'm honest with myself, and despite my simultaneous Cure obsession, I imitated Michael Stipe's vocal style shamelessly at a certain point like a lot of other 16 year olds. May those demo tapes remain forgotten in my parents attic for years to come!

I lost interest in the band through adulthood until more recently. Through their 80s catalogue, which I really dig, you can appreciate them as an important link in an American folk rock tradition that began with bands like Love and The Byrds, which they gave a fresh punk spirit and energy. Peter Buck made guitars sound exciting again without running through a Marshall cranked to 11. That guitar sound is a big part of The High Dials, even if it's an indirect influence. Good luck to them, guess we'll never get to open for them in a stadium now!
Trevor Anderson, The High Dials

Superchunk's Jon Wurster on R.E.M.'s Final Bow at Spin.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Soccer Mom Record Release Show Tonight @ TT The Bears Place

The Hush Now, live at Mad Oak Studios, Allston, Mass.
Tonight Soccer Mom will celebrate the release of their superb, You Are Not Going To Heaven EP. The formidable bill also includes the live return of Emergency Music. Be There.

You can grab tickets here or at TT's tonight, doors are at 9:00

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Guided By Voices Record Two New Albums

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This has been one weird day. On the same day that R.E.M. announced they were packing it in after 31 years, Guided By Voices provided some solace and frankly sheer excitement with the announcement via MOJO Music that they have recorded not one, but two new albums to be released in 2012. After hearing rumors of these recording over the summer we tried to forget we heard what we heard and hoped like hell that things would come to fruition. Well, after today's announcement we're thrilled to be able to post all the information we have on the first recordings from GBV's classic line up since 1996 brilliant, Under The Bushes Under The Stars.

On January 1st Guided By Voices will issue Lets Go Eat The Factory to mail order/internet order fans. On October 31st Rockathon/The Factory of Raw Essentials will begin taking pre-orders for the LP, that's also Bob Pollard's 54th birthday. The album will arrive in brick and mortar record shops on January 24th.

The album consists of 21 tracks recorded by the band at Tobin Sprout's home studio as well as in the homes of Mitch Mitchell and Greg Demos. The shortest track is :34 and the longest is 4:10 with writing credits going to Bob, Toby, Greg, Mitch, and Jim Pollard and Sprout takes on lead vocal duties on 6 of the albums tracks.

If that wasn't enough for us to break our collective pants it has also been reported that Guided By Voices will release a second album of new material next year titled Class Clown Spots A UFO on May 22nd, not to mention a Pollard solo LP Mouseman Cloud on March 20th.

Lets Go Eat The Factory track listing:
Laundry And Lasers
The Head
Doughnut For A Snowman
Hang Mr. Kite
God Loves Us
The Unsinkable Fats Domino
Who Invented The Sun
The Big Hat And Toy Show
Imperial Racehorsing
How I Met My Mother
My Europa
Chocolate Boy
The Things That Never Need
Either Nelson
Cyclone Utilities (Remember Your Birthday)
Old Bones
Go Rolling Home
The Room Taking Shape
We Won't Apologize For The Human Race

Photo Credit: Final GBV Show, Hopscotch Music Festival, Raleigh NC 9/9/11, Daniel Coston

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Forthcoming :: Age Rings - Black Honey

age rings promo
Last spring Boston's indie pop outfit, Age Rings self-released their expansive sophomore LP, Black Honey. It's an ambitious move for a young band to release a sprawling conceptual album into a world of fickle blog hype (guilty), free MP3's, and our ever shortening attention spans. Over the past few months we've become well acquainted with Black Honey and it's intellectual and charming pop songs, so it was a pleasure to hear that the album will be released by Midriff Records on November 5th. Black Honey's original 22 tracks have been paired down to 14 for the release. The new concise version of the album will offer an easier to digest listen, while maintaining the records stark themes and cohesive structure. Not to mention a leaner and meaner Age Rings.

Age Rings will celebrate the re-release of Black Honey when they play The Brighton Music Hall with Mean Creak, You Can Be A Wesley, and Young Adults at Brighton Music Hall on October 21st.

Rock and Roll Is Dead by Age Rings

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Death of Double Dagger

Double Dagger Live Photo
Earlier this week Baltimore's art punk hero's, Double Dagger announced that they would be calling it a day with a final string of shows, culminating in final hometown gig on October 21st at Ottobar. That show will arrive nine years and two months from the date of the bands first performance. You may recall we wrote about the band back in 2009 here and more recently here . Double Dagger drew us in with their minimalist approach of drums, vocals, and bass played through four amps, not to mention the awesome racket they made. However overtime and subsequent releases the band revealed a dynamic balanced by visceral noise, clarity and even a bit of humor. Not to mention their staggering live shows. We're sad to see them go. The band will not play Boston, in this final go round, however we're not averse to a road trip to catch Double Dagger's epic conclusion.

In a statement posted on the bands website Double Dagger gives this explanation for the break up, "Like any relationship's end, it's complex, but for us it mostly comes down to time. As the band got older and grew and changed, the people in it did too, and our individual lives are pulling us towards other pursuits. With this in mind, we decided to focus on playing a few final shows in some of our favorite cities, and go out on a high note instead of slowing fading away. We still like the music, the shows, and each other, and we think it's best to bring things to a close while we can still devote our full energy to this music". You can read the entire statement here.

The trio of Denny Bowen, Nolan Strals, and Bruce Willen have been busy recording tracks for a posthumous release and planning Double Daggers' final shows, which are listed below.

Live Dates:

Oct 12 Baltimore, MD Charm City Art Space
Oct 13 Detroit, MI The Berkley Front
Oct 14 Chicago, IL Ultra Lounge w/ Call Me Lightning
Oct 15 Chicago, IL TBA
Oct 16 Cleveland, OH Now That's Class w/ Megachurch, Clan of the Cave Bear
Oct 19 Washington, DC Black Cat w/ Imperial China
Oct 20 Brooklyn, NY Death By Audio w/ AIDS Wolf, Zomes
Oct 21 Baltimore, MD - Ottobar w/ Awesome Special Guests!

Double Dagger Live at Death By Audio in Brooklyn 5/2/2010

Double Dagger - "Sleeping with the TV On" from Sean Ruch on Vimeo.

Photo Courtesy of Frank Hamilton

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Forthcoming :: The Bats - Free All The Monsters

On October 25th New Zealand's Kiwi Pop luminaries, The Bats will return with their 8th full length, Free All The Monsters on the seminal Flying Nun Records. The new set comes on the heels of Robert Scott's impressive 2010 solo offering Ends Run Together. The new LP was tracked at a former asylum just outside Dunedin with Dale Cotton (The Clean) and consists of 12 new compositions, which stay mostly true to their signature melancholic jangle and swirling guitar play.

In a recent press release for Free All The Monsters Flying Nuns label head Roger Shepherd talks about The Bats return to Flying Nun “It’s great to be working with The Bats again. The relationship goes right back to the early 1980s and the band are very much a key strand in the labels development and history. With the band in such great form it feels very much like having an important limb successfully sewn back on.”

As if that wasn't enough, Flying Nun will also be reissuing The Bats 1987 debut, Daddy's Highway on vinyl on October 25th as well.

The band have issued the album title track via Bandcamp and we've posted it for your convenience below. We can't hear this one enough, it's delicate and sophisticated gem.

Free All The Monsters
1. Long Halls
2. Simpletons
3. Free All The Monsters
4. See Right Through Me
5. It's Not The Same
6. In The Subway
7. Fingers of Dawn
8. Spacejunk
9. On The Bank
10. Canopy
11. When The Day Comes
12. Getting Over You

Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview + Album Giveaway :: Noel Kelly of The Hush Now

The Hush Now, live at Mad Oak Studios, Allston, Mass.
Since the release of their self titled debut in 2009, Boston's Dream Pop outfit The Hush Now have had us hooked on their marriage of intelligent lyricism, hazy melodies and classic pop hooks. With each release, starting with the a fore mentioned debut (or the drum album as we often refer to it), to Constellations (2.0) ,to Shiver Me Starships EP, and on the soon to be released Memos (out 9/27), the band has managed do something most bands can only shoot for, push forward, perfect their craft, and simply get better. Over the past few weeks I've had the pleasure of conducting an interview with THN fronter Noel Kelly. In this candid exchange, he shares quite a bit, including details on the recording of his bands new album, the national tour they will embark on, and the evolution of The Hush Now.

I'd like to thank Noel for taking the time to answer our questions and for putting up with our late night emails.

Bryan Hamill: Can you tell us what led to the decision to remix/re-release Constellation 2.0?

Noel Kelly: Recording 2.0 got off to a slow start. Dave Newton of The Mighty Lemon Drops flew out to Boston from LA. On the first day of recording in Charlestown, there was a deluge of rain and the studio was flooded just as we hit record for the first take. We spent the rest of the afternoon rescuing gear from the rising water. It was a true crisis management moment. We retired to a pub and finished the evening there. The next day, the waters were gone. We got about 3 hours in and then there was a power blackout that hit all of Charlestown. Needless to say, recording was far behind schedule. We got most of it done, but had to finish up recording without Dave in the following months when time, studio and funds were available. Because the recording took so long, we ran into a conflict with Dave’s schedule. Needing to press, I took a stab at mixing the record with Kurt Schneider. Kurt did his best, but I should not have been in there mixing. So, when additional drama occurred when mixing our next effort, the Shiver Me Starships EP (including another flood and deleted vocal tracks), Jeff Lipton recommended Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios to resurrect the sessions. And he did, that kid is a magician. Fast forward to the Memos writing sessions this past winter when I thought, it would be nice to really hear what the songs on Constellations could have sounded like in the right hands. So, I asked Benny to remix the album. No changes were made to the recordings with the exception that we added The Atheist, which made the cutting room floor the first time around to the track list and removed Carousel. The idea was to prep for the new release of Memos, keep the name of the band out there, and finally get to hear the tunes as they were meant to be heard.

Bryan: What can you tell us about your forthcoming 3rd full length, Memos?

Noel: I think Memos is were you truly see The Hush Now becoming a band. This time, Benny Grotto was at the dials from the start and he killed it. I couldn't’t be happier with the production, performances and sincerity of this record. I’m proud of the guys in this band. Its been a really long couple of years for most of us including a lot of personal trials for each individually and collectively. But everyone really focused and rose to the occasion. We started with about 20 songs that we narrowed down to 12. 10 tunes on the new LP, a Halloween song and a New Years Eve song that we plan to release on those holidays. There’s another dance remix as well. Also, on this album you see the band start to evolve and grow into its own. Barry takes lead vocals on a song as does Adam. It brings yet another dimension to what where doing. Everybody in the band is a songwriter in their own right, so material is never an issue. It’s just finding enough time between working day jobs and the logistical challenges of keeping a band moving forward that prevents us from doing even more.

Bryan: I recently read that you recorded 13 tracks in just eight days, can you give us some insight to that fruitful recording session ?

Noel: We rehearsed as much as possible going into the sessions. We like to be prepared. Studio time can be expensive, so we like to make the most of our time there. There’s a point where you can only go so fast, but we like to push to that point as much as possible. Plus, we’re in a great space at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, that's comfortable and working with a producer who’s work ethic is second to none. It was fun,I always enjoy recording and watching a project come together.

Bryan: You will self release Memos on September 27th, is that a model that works for the band over signing with a local or independent label?

Noel: Well, self-released is the only option we have to be honest. If there are labels out there that are interested, they’re not letting us know about it. At the end of the day, we want to keep making music. If that means we have to do it ourselves for the meantime, such is life. We’re here, we’re putting out records, they know where to find us, hopefully.

Bryan: Can you to tell us how The Hush Now has evolved since the 2008 formation, 3 LP's and countless live performances?

Noel: We've definitely grown as a band. To be perfectly honest, I've become a bit better. I didn't start singing until I was 34-35 and the first album was my first real try. I knew there’d be some wood-shedding required. I still have work to do, but I’m getting there, and playing with great musicians like Barry, Adam and Pat inspires me to keep working. With Shiver Me Starships and Memos you’re starting to see a band more than a project. A true collaboration. Which is a good thing. I love the early stuff, but there’s something about working material as a group and having everybody involved playing their own parts. Also, The Hush Now has gone through quite a few line-up changes. But, the band itself has taken on a life of it’s own which stems from the individual members taking personal ownership in its success. It’s a lot of work and not for everybody, understandably so. A lot of thankless hours to be frank. My father was a musician and I used to gig with him when I was growing up. Other kids would be going off to camp or something, I’d be lugging equipment in NYC at 3:30 in the morning and watching my father get shafted when it came to pay at the end of the night. Not much has changed. I guess I've been watching the trials and reality of what it means to be a musician for a while and it can seem at times not worth the time and energy. But, when you get five musicians with a common vision working together really beautiful things can happen. And that’s well worth the effort.

Bryan: What can you tell us about your touring plans to support Memos?

Noel: We have 17 dates in 17 days planned that take us through the Midwest and south before heading back to NYC for CMJ 2011. We also have a homecoming show set up for October 22nd. It really should be a great opportunity for the band to get its stage feet back. We haven’t toured since last fall.There’s nothing like playing live day after day to hone a bands sound and vibe. You always come back a lot stronger than you left. So the Boston show should be pretty epic.

Bryan: Are there any plans to release the tracks that didn't make it on to the new album?

Noel: There were 2 songs that were never planned for the album. The Legend of Dudley Town is a new Halloween song that we’ll release in late October. There is also going to be a video contest we plan to launch soon for that song. We did a video contest in the past and the response was terrific. So we’re going to try that again. Then there’s a new holiday tune, actually, a New Year’s tune that we’ll be rolling out around Thanksgiving that we’re really excited about. There was one song that didn't make the cut (just didn't come together) and may be tried again for a future album, but we’ll see.

Bryan: What's the secret to working your respective day jobs, managing personal lives, and still finding the time to pool your collective energies into the The Hush Now?

Noel: Well, I can’t speak for the other guys, but honestly, the secret for me is, I don’t have a personal life. Work and the band, that’s it for me. It's a pretty ascetic existence to be honest. I save my vacation so I can go on tour or record an album. I’ll work 10 hour days and then put in 3-5 hours a night on the band. It’s a pretty one dimensional existence. I imagine this is the reality for many musicians who are passionate about their work. Maybe I’ll regret it some day, but I don’t really have a choice to be honest. It’s what’s important to me right now. I think my family and friends understand, if they don’t, we’ll discuss it in the afterlife, I guess.

The Hush Now will be heading out of town next month to play an impressive 17 shows in 17 days, but before they go they will be playing an album release show at Foundry 24 on September 23rd as part of Ryan's Smashing Life 5th Anniversary. In addition, upon their return The Ash Gray Proclamation in conjunction with our pals at Clicky Clicky Music Blog will present The Hush Now Homecoming show at Precinct on October 22nd. Speaking of Clicky Clicky, be sure check out their review of Memos here.

[Giveaway] We have two autographed copies of Memos for a couple of our readers. To be entered to win one, just send us an electronic message with THN in the subject line to ashgrayproclamation at yahoo [dot] com.

Band photo credit: Jay Breitling

Friday, September 9, 2011

This Weeks Short Bursts :: Circus Devils, Twerps, + Hallelujah The Hills

Just when we've finally got our heads wrapped around Let It Beard, the sprawling opus from Boston Spaceships, released last month and reviewed by us here. Robert Pollard is ready to let another batch of songs loose. On October 25th Pollard returns with his creep pop trio, Circus Devils and the 19 track Capsized! Once again the album was recorded with brothers Tim (music) and Todd Tobias (instrumentation, noises, and production) somewhere between Dayton and Waterloo Sound in Kent, OH.

From the Capsized! press release:
Circus Devils hits the high seas with CAPSIZED! (The exclamation point is part of the title). Once again the Ohio trio featuring Robert Pollard defies and transcends musical genres with a strangely coherent blend of soft rock, aggressive stompers, creepy soundscapes and a radio-friendly pop single (Cyclopean Runways). CAPSIZED! Is cinema for the ears, taking the listener on a dark adventure with strange cargo, sirens, shipboard ghosts and bad soup.

Capsized! will be issued by Happy Jack Rock Records on October 25th, but there doesn't seem to be any pre-order info available at the usual Pollard web haunts. We assume that pre-orders will be up shortly at The Factory of Raw Essentials, in the meantime you can order the album from Insound and Midheaven. But until then you can bask in the direct pop glory of Cyclopean Runways from Capsized!

Circus Devils - Cyclopean Runways by ashgrayproclamation

Melbourne's rising jangle pop phenoms Twerps will issue their self titled debut long player on October 18th via NJ's Underwater Peoples and Australia's Chapter Music. For the uninitiated, Twerps specialize in warm, infectious pop songs, crystalline guitar lines, with intelligent lyrics. The band brings to be mind Galaxie 500, The Feelies as well New Zealand's 80's Flying Nun roster but manages to bring new life and something completely unique to those influences. Over the course of a couple 7" and a limited run cassette release Twerps have committed their charming songs to hissy 4-track tape, but the new album finds the band cleaning up their sound a bit and recording in a professional studio with engineer Jack Farley (Beaches). Check out Dreamin from their soon to be released debut. In addition, all of the bands previous releases can be heard and streamed at their Bandcamp page, so dig in.

Twerps: "Dreamin"

We finally have some news to report on the Kickstarter funded third release from Hallelujah The Hills. In a post that recently appeared on the bands official web home HTH fronter, Ryan Walsh gives what we would call a status update on the album. The songs have been recorded, the artwork has been created, the title has been bestowed, and now it's time to get the tracks mixed. Understandably this information doesn't offer a lot in the way of new material, however Hallelujah The Hills recently recorded a session for locals Sleepover Shows where they offered stripped down version of two new tracks, Hungry Ghost Extraordinaire and Call Off Your Horses. If after hearing those you need more, we recommend that head over to the Hallelujah The Hills and The Stairs Bandcamp Pages and grab the digital reissues of The Stairs catalog, Wash's bedroom pop project, The Motel Candlewasters, and lets not forget last springs outing of the HTH track Every Number Has A Potency. Those should hold us over until we get our mits on album #3.

[Video] Hungry Ghost Extraordinaire
[Video] Call Of Your Horses

Hallelujah The Hills play Great Scott on Wednesday September 28th with Earthquake Party! and The Fagettes

Hallelujah The Hills Bandcamp|The Stairs Bandcamp| HTH Official

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Sounds Now :: Los Campesinos! - By Your Hand

Our daily ritual of starting our work day with checking e-mails, social media sites, and copious amounts of coffee has just paid off. Just a few minutes ago Los Campesinos! posted a free download and video for By Your Hand, the lead track from Hello Sadness, the forthcoming and overall fourth LP from Cardiff's indie pop stalwarts. The septet have also announced a handful of U.S. dates, none of which will bring them to the Boston area. However there schedule could accommodate some additional dates, so we'll remain hopeful until we hear something to the contrary.

You can grab By Your Hand for free over at the LC! web home, while you're there you should also check out the pre-order bundles for Hello Sadness, which will be released by Wichita Recordings in the U.K. and Arts & Crafts in the U.S. and Canada on November 13th and 14th respectively.

November Live Dates:
07 London, Kings College
08 Brighton, The Haunt
09 Cardiff, The Globe
10 Glasgow, Oran Mor
11 Leeds, The Cockpit
16 New York, Bowery Ballroom
17 Brooklyn, Music Hall of Williamsburg
18 Philadelphia, Union Transfer
19 Washington DC, The Black Cat
24 Tokyo, Unit Daikanyama

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reviewed :: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Mirror Traffic

[It's with great pleasure that we welcome our new contributor Los Gamester to our digital home. After discussing his involvement for what feels like a few years, we finally found a good excuse to get him going and thought we would exploit his love for all things Malkmus with this review. Thanks for joining us LG --Ed.]

Greetings,I’m Los Gamester . Unlike your dedicated scribe Bryan Hamill who’s capacity to listen to new music continues to amaze me, I tend to pick favorites and stay with them forever. I’m still trying to find the value in that Fine Young Cannibals CD I bought in 1988 (my worst album pick EVER). I’m a Pavement fan. There is no band I've seen more frequently. I once went to see them open for Radiohead just to see Malkmus and the lads. My wireless network is called Unseen Power (look it up, kids) and all of my computers have Pavement related names. It wasn't always that way, the lyrics were cryptic, the sloppiness was, well, sloppy and there was the whole Bob thing. Fellow Ash Gray Proclamation contributor, Echos Myron worked on me by repeatedly playing Wowee Zowee until one day I turned and said “play that song", Fight This Generation again. Pavement however, is never coming back. Sure, they were O.K. at Agganis Arena last year but they were horrible at Matador 21. However that weekend I was given my first and long overdue taste of the GBV live experience and they were outstanding, but I digress. It was clearly a victory lap for the quintet from Stockton and beer made it better, but the sun has long since set on Pavement.

As for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks' releases. I have it all and its good, but as the albums have come out I find I purchase them longer and longer after the release dates and none has made heavy rotation. I’m not sure I could name a song from Pig Lib despite knowing all the tunes. So on to Mirror Traffic, fire up Stick Figures in Love, I've listened to it 10 times so far and the hook is totally stuck in my head. The song fades out to its signature riff leaving you wanting for more,I dare you not to replay it. I haven’t been this excited about a Malkmus album in a long time and I must say it feels great. The tracks are a journey through genres, each one more interesting than the next. Spazz and Tune Grief, are quick jaunts with distorted lyrics that will make Pavement fans happy. Tigers and Senator will make Jicks fans happy with angular guitar lines and strong pop hooks. Tracks like No one is (As I are be) are up in the air, not sure I like Malkmus' vocal on this one, but the music is so Sunday morning with cup of coffee I’m thinking this one is going to get better with age. Mirror Traffic is by far the tightest Jicks album yet. The things that made Pavement great (interesting lyrics, hooky changes in tempo, some whimsy and Malkmus’ voice) are all still there. Add to that a formidable band as strong as their lead singer and great production (thanks to Beck) and the album moves to must have status. As a final seal of approval, when I asked Mrs. Los Gamester what she thought of Stick Figures in Love she loved the music but couldn't hear the lyrics and understand the words, some good things never change.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

This Weeks Short Bursts :: United Fruit, Fear Of Men, & Squarehead

Glasgow's menacing noise quartet United Fruit, released their full length debut Faultlines last spring, so shame on us for taking so long to write about these Scots. United Fruit posses the ferocity of early...Trail of Dead as well as Allston's Young Adults with the melodic charms of British Sea Power. Let's face it, the record industry is a bit of a f#%king mess these days, save for a few exceptions. Which forces young talented bands like United Fruit to eschew the label route out of necessity and turn to sites like Bandcamp to get their product out and available to it's fans. Not only does United Fruit deserve your attention, they're the rare kind of band that can make you want to dust off your old guitar, plug in your pedals, and make a racket . Now if we could only get them to change their name.

We were given our proper introduction to England's rising fuzz poppers , Fear Of Men last winter through their Hanna Schygulla Demos release. The band currently splits their time between Brighton and London and consist of two men and two women, no ABBA comparisons please. Based on the bands previous releases it's safe to assume they have an impressive collection of C86 cassettes in their flats. Comparisons aside, Fear Of Men create moody landscapes utilizing touchstones of lo-fi and shoegaze with impressive pop hooks. Last month we saw a flurry of activity from FOM (as they'll now be known) with the release of the bands echo drenched cover of The Chills classic Pink Frost as well as the band debut single wich was released this week by Italian Beach Babes Records, Ritual Confession b/w Spirit House. All of their releases are available at their Bandcamp page.

Order the Ritual Confession 7" via Italian Beach Babes Records/Big Cartel, then watch the video here.

Lastly we feel the overwhelming need to tell all about the cracking debut full length from Dublin, Ireland's garage pop phenoms, Squarehead. Yeah Nothing finds the Irish trio delivering a set of taut and jagged guitar anthems with a generous helping of pop hooks . The album was recorded in their hometown at K9 Studios with Shane Cullen and digitally released on August 15th. The LP will get the physical release treatment on CD and 12" Vinyl as well as bundled packages on September 15th on The Richter Collective.

Squarehead - Yeah Nothing [RIC027] by Richter Collective