Album Art

One of the major upsides to working at a concert venue is getting turned on to an array of artists that, for some reason, managed to fly under my radar.  Such was my experience with Angel Olsen who piqued my interest after I found myself really digging the artwork on her tour posters. 

When I was finally able to sit down and check out her music, I was blown away by the sheer beauty of many of her songs.  The tune above, “White Fire,” comes from Olsen’s recently released second album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, and was the first song of hers I checked out.  Immediately I became enveloped with the dark, shadowy, moodiness the tune was throwing off.  The whole song sounds so fragile, like it could come apart at any moment, yet it hangs together firmly, and with gorgeous texture, like wisps of smoke drifting through the air.  This is the type of thing you listen to on a dark night and lose yourself to deep thoughts while staring unblinkingly into a flickering candle flame or a roaring campfire.

In addition to these moody, solo numbers, Olsen delivers some gritty rockers, backed by a full band, on the record too.  In fact, in addition to the overall impressiveness of her songwriting, I found myself equally interested by just how stylistically diverse her record is.  Though I only started listening to her a month or so ago, Angel Olsen is rapidly becoming someone I can’t wait to hear more out of.

More information on Angel Olsen can be found at her Facebook and official site.  Copies of Burn Your Fire For No Witness can be picked up via Jagjaguar.

ArtistAngel Olsen
TitleWhite Fire
AlbumBurn Your Fire For No Witness
Album Art

As others around me clamored and grabbed at more mainstream titles on Saturday during the now Walmart Black Friday-esque frenzy that has become the Record Store Day experience, I calmly made my way to the back of my local independent vinyl retailer and found myself a copy of the above release, a repress of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott's highly sought after Vanguard Records album.

The recordings come from the mid-’60s and capture some of the strongest studio performances of Jack’s career.  The above tune, “Roving Gambler,” leads off the record and immediately one finds themselves entranced with the delicate, rhythmic qualities of Jack’s masterful flat picking guitar style and nasally, yet full and powerful singing which helped establish him as one of the best folk music performers to ever live.  The character of Jack’s voice along with his brilliant sense of timing make it easy to lose oneself in the stories that he tells in these old folk ballads and make visualizing the scenes and scenarios from these songs no trouble at all. 

Most of all, these recordings show what incredible amounts of energy and spirit Jack was able to imbue the songs that he chose to play.  Jack found the light in some of these old, sometimes long forgotten tunes, and his talents for bringing them back to life stands out on this record a great deal.

More information on Ramblin’ Jack Elliott can be found at his official site.  Copies of the Vanguard Records’ Record Store Day release, Jack Elliott, can be found at several online retailers including Permanent Records, get it while you can.

ArtistRamblin' Jack Elliott
TitleRoving Gambler
AlbumJack Elliott
Album Art

I’ve always been apprehensive about picking up bootlegs.  I’ve snagged some in the past and have generally been burned by recording quality so bad that it makes the contents of the record nearly unlistenable.  However, when I stumbled across this B 13 Records, apparently a Russian label (?) that seems to only put out high quality boots from a variety of acts, of a Tom Waits show from Chicago in 1976, I figured I had to take a chance on it, especially since it’s limited to only 500 copies.  To my great delight, the sound quality on this one is really good, possibly even one made directly from the soundboard at the venue, and, given the recording’s age, it’s awesome that it’s survived this intact.

The above cut of “Small Change,” is probably my favorite on the record and shows just how much prowess in the live setting Waits had, especially with such a killer band backing him.  These recordings come from a date at the Ivanhoe Theater on November 21st, 1976, at a time when Waits was out promoting his fourth record, also titled Small Change.  What these recordings especially seem to give a window to, is the change in sound and style that Waits was in the midst of.  He’s still playing jazzy, bluesy arrangements, but the beat influenced lyrical delivery that would become a staple of Waits’ later career is out there strong and sharp.  It’s interesting to hear how Waits straddles these two worlds so beautifully and thankfully, we have this awesome bootleg which captured it in all of it’s glory.

If you happen to see this one floating around at your local record store or online, it’s a little pricey, but well worth the money.  It’s definitely a major gem for any Tom Waits fans out there.

More information on Tom Waits can be found at his official website and Facebook.  Copies of Live At The Ivanhoe Theater, Chicago, IL - November 21st, 1976 can be picked up via several online retailers including Forced Exposure.  Get it while you can!

ArtistTom Waits
TitleSmall Change
AlbumLive At The Ivanhoe Theater, Chicago, IL - November 21st, 1976
Album Art

I posted this song a while back, but I recently came across it again and it reminded of how much I wish I saw more material from this band. 

I don’t know a ton about New York City’s Wet Witch, but their fiery blend of hardcore punk, with just a hint of industrial is something I dug into really fast when I snagged a copy of their debut E.P. on Burn Books.  As one can hear from the above cut, “New Ways,” the band’s sound is dark, ferocious, and explosive.  The hard charging rhythms and annihilating guitar are absolutely crushing on this one, and the band’s attack is unrelenting.  Additionally, the record comes with some of the more genuinely scary artwork on it’s cover of anything I own which only adds to the disk’s shadowy qualities.  These dudes, haven’t updated their site since December of last year, I hope that just means that they’ve been recording more stuff to release and melt my face off with.

More information on West Witch can be found at their Facebook and official site.  Copies of their self-titled EP are all sold out on Burn Books but it looks like a couple of copies are up for grabs on Discogs, they only pressed 500 so get’em while you can.

ArtistWet Witch
TitleNew Ways
AlbumWet Witch
Album Art

I can’t tell you specifically what urged me to pick up a copy of the recent Slumberland Records reissue of Tony Molina's 2013 debut album, Dissed And Dismissed.  It might have been the rad cover story and interview that I read in Razorcake, maybe it was the praise I heard from friends of his performances at The Echo and Origami Vinyl, or perhaps it was the warning “please note that this album runs just under 12 minutes, just so you know,” that appeared on the order page of Slumberland’s website.  Whatever the reasons, I’m glad that I did snag it, because Dissed And Dismissed has rapidly become one of my favorite things to listen to this year.

Mixing the pop sensibility of ’90s alternative rock, perhaps some Weezer Blue Album and Pinkerton influence, with the brevity of hardcore punk, and some of the technical guitar work of metal, check out that Thin Lizzy inspired guitar solo on the above tune, “Don’t Come Back,” Dissed And Dismissed is one of the most unique gems of underground music I’ve come across in a long time.  The songs all run around a minute in length, some a bit shorter, some a bit longer, yet every one of them delivers a thorough, concise, musical statement.  The ideas are stripped down to their most fundamental components, and yet, the tunes are some of the fullest, lush pieces of sonic righteousness I’ve heard in a while.  In addition to Molina’s talents as a song writer, the band that’s playing behind him is tight and the perfection with which they execute every song only adds to the beauty that is showcased on Dissed And Dismissed.

With such an array of genre cross pollination displayed on this record, there’s literally a little something for everyone here.  Though it comes in under 12 minutes, Dissed And Dismissed has a lot feel good about, and at the moment, I can’t help but be in love with it and play it for anybody who’ll listen.

More information on Tony Molina can be found at his Facebook.  Copies of Dissed & Dismissed can be picked up via the fine folks at Slumberland Records.

ArtistTony Molina
TitleDon't Come Back
AlbumDissed And Dismissed
Album Art

"Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright" has long been a favorite Bob Dylan song of mine.  I remember the first time I heard it in my late teens having just gotten out of a bad relationship, it was one of the few songs that felt like it spoke directly to the situation I’d found myself in.  I related to it so much in fact, that I can still remember pulling my car over to cry my eyes out while listening to it all those years ago, as Bob’s lyrics connected with me in a way that few songs had at that point in my life.  As Dylan did with many subjects he chose to write about, he summed up my, and probably many others’ feelings about a rocky relationship, laid them out eloquently for me to see, and gave me a certain closure from the circumstances, that I would have never gotten from the young lady who’d just burned me.  The song was not just about how bad the other person was, as many break up tunes are, it was, more or less, about moving on from it as well; something I needed to hear at the time.

Since then, I’ve always enjoyed hearing new versions of the song, as I like to hear the spin others give it.  Interestingly enough, one of the most uniquely different takes I’ve heard of this tune, comes from Dylan himself, performing with The Band, on the Before The Flood double live album.  Those familiar with the original version will notice that the intricate, soft finger picking has been replaced by the frenetic, fast strumming of whole chords and that Bob’s soft, understanding voice in the original recording is replaced by one that’s commanding and bold.  Dylan’s attack on this one and the power with which he belts out his own lyrics gives the song an even heavier feel, as if the break up he originally wrote the tune about was pretty bad, but that the girl he singing it about this time was even worse.  It’s the type of interpretation of this song I’d expect to hear from a punk rocker or something, not from Dylan himself and that’s what makes it all the more stunning for me.

Dylan was all about taking chances and reinventing himself, for better or for worse, through out his career.  This is particular piece is an awesome example of how well he could re-imagine some of his own material in the midst of his changing styles.

More information on Bob Dylan can be found at his official site.

ArtistBob Dylan & The Band
TitleDon't Think Twice, It's All Right
AlbumBefore The Flood
Album Art

For those of you out there seeking some punishingly brutal music to destroy everything in your path to, may I direct you to my buddy Michael Torres and his associates’ band, Nomads

Hailing straight from central Los Angeles, Nomads lay down some of the most furious, kick your teeth in, hardcore in this part of the state.  The band recently released their debut 7”, a self titled disc, which captures the LA five piece in all of their glorious ferocity and intensity.  The tunes are stripped, raw, and come at you with speed and power of sub machine gun bullets, hell bent on annihilating everything in front of your speakers.  Through it all the band members stay on top of their speed, never sounding out of control, and hang on together for their own white knuckle ride as a tight unit, delivering Mike Tyson hay makers of songs that’ll drop you to your knees.  In addition, the record features an outstanding appearance by Transplants/Death March singer, "Skinhead" Rob Aston, on their cover of Driller Killer's “From Out Of Nowhere” that's especially rad.

It’s nice to see good, old fashioned, no bells and whistles hardcore making a return to Los Angeles, and Nomads are certainly a stand out of the burgeoning scene.  I just can’t wait to catch these guys live soon and see what kind of mayhem they release in the flesh.  If you’re looking for something abrasive enough to take the finish off of your counter tops, you need not look any further.

More information on Nomads can be found at their Facebook.  Copies of their 7” can be picked up directly from the band via their online merch store.

ArtistNomads
TitleHolocaust Wall
AlbumNomads 7"
Album Art

Two Thursdays ago, after missing them the last few times they came through town, I finally got the opportunity to see Shannon and the Clams perform live for my first time.  Their set was so good, so powerful, and so electrifying that even now, a little over a week later, I’m still thinking about it.

It’s a rare occasion that you get to witness a band completely connect with their audience.  An event where the air is so thick with energy coming off both the band and the crowd, as they get down with one another, that you can almost see it hanging like a fog in the room.  Such was the case with Shannon and Co.’s set at the Echoplex.  The band blasted through tune after tune, and with every song, the audience danced harder and harder and responded with more and more excitement and enthusiasm.  By the time The Clams reached the above song, “You Will Always Bring Me Flowers,” the room was so electrified and the performance was so intense, I was moved to tears; it was cathartic. 

I’ve been to nearly a thousand or so shows in my life, however, I’ve maybe only seen a dozen or so on the level of what Shannon and the Clams delivered a couple Thursdays ago in the Echoplex.  The event gave me a whole new respect for the band and their music, and really showed off what a power house of a band Shannon and the Clams are.  It was a real privilege to be in the venue that night, and I, for one, will be talking about it for a long time to come.

More information on Shannon and the Clams can be found at their Facebook.  Copies of Sleep Talk, the record the above tune comes from, and many of their other releases can be picked up via 1-2-3-4 GO! Records.  Copies of their most recent release, Dreams In The Rat House, can be picked up via Hardly Art.

ArtistShannon and the Clams
TitleYou Will Always Bring Me Flowers
AlbumSleep Talk
Album Art

The other day I got word that New Jersey’s Night Birds, will be making their triumphant return to the West Coast in May and, as you might have guessed, I am STOKED for it.  I’ve been a huge fan of the band since randomly catching them play down in San Pedro two years ago with Toys That Kill and have been avidly following them and picking up copies of everything they’ve released since.

For those unfamiliar, Night Birds play a style of punk rock rooted in a distinct blend of early, Southern California hardcore, with hints of early surf rock and roll, think The Adolescents if Dick Dale had been invited to play lead guitar.  Though their sound can trace much of it’s influence from the past, Night Birds bring these vintage styles into the present with splashes of modern pop punk influence and the explosiveness of the hardcore from their East Coast home.  What arises from these blends of style is one of the most powerful bands in the current punk rock scene, able to deliver some of the most fiery, charged tunes around, both in the studio, and outside of it.  In addition to their hard charging sounds, the band also mixes in some of the wittiest, cynical, radical lyrics into their songs that cover everything from global warming to, as the above song exemplifies, professional wrestling.

In the punk rock world, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than Night Birds and folks on the Pacific Coast should not miss this opportunity to catch them in all of their glory.  If you live in LA, I’ll see you at East 7th St. in May, it’s gonna be a riot.

More information on Night Birds can be found at their Facebook.  Copies of many of their releases are available at Grave Mistake Records.  Anybody out on the West Coast that wants to catch them when they come through in May, their dates and event info can be found here.

ArtistNight Birds
TitleMaimed for the Masses
AlbumMaimed for the Masses
Album Art

It was with great sadness that I woke up this morning and read that Dave Brokie aka Oderus Urungus had passed away in Virginia.  He and his band Gwar have been longtime favorites of mine, and my memories of them and their music are some of the strongest I have of any artists.

I got introduced to Gwar, probably the same way most people my age in the ’90s got introduced to Gwar; through Beavis And Butthead.  Gwar was one of the bands that the pair of animated morons worshiped, and, if you ever played the Sega Genesis or SNES Beavis And Butthead games, then you know that the whole purpose of the games was to get to see Gwar.

Around 1998, I picked up my first Gwar CD, their seminal, Scumdogs Of The Universe, and was entranced by their crude, tasteless humor, and crushing, brutal riffs and tunes.  However, it wasn’t until 2001 or 2002 that I actually got to see the band live, and that’s where my mind truly got blown.

I’d heard all of the stories about the band’s live sets and all of the mayhem and fake blood that came with them. Still, nothing could’ve prepared me for my first Gwar show.  The concert was at The Phoenix Theatre in Petaluma, CA and the first thing I noticed upon walking into the venue was that anything that could soak up liquid was covered in black plastic tarps.  The Phoenix’s giant curtains were covered all the way up to the rafters, and both the monitor board and front of house had little enclosures set up over them as well.  There was also a lot of gear on stage, but it was obscured by draping so as to keep everything about Gwar’s set a secret until they went on.

As the night rolled on, my friends and I watched two gnarly metal bands open up the show, one of them being Dying Fetus who were amazing.  Then, it was time for Gwar.  The draping was pulled off of all of the gear, and finally, the true extent of Gwar’s set up was revealed.  The stage looked like a wasteland of human remains, guitar amplifiers, and drums.  and when the band finally came out, it was everything I could have hoped it would be and more.  They raged through a set of ferocious, riff based metal with hints of punk rock mixed in, all the while decapitating various pop culture figures like Mike Tyson, Paris Hilton, then President George W. Bush, and Osama Bin Laden.  Their costuming, to this day, is something I’ve been in awe of and how they managed to play so hard while covered in so much stuff boggles my mind.  The finale of their performance was the entire band doing battle with a giant (10 or 12 feet tall) Tyrannosaurus Rex named Gor-Gor.  I left the show caked head to toe in fake blood with a huge smile on face; I was elated.

From that point on, I would sing the praises of Gwar and tell folks that they were easily, the best $20 concert you could ever attend in your life.  I got to see them twice and consider it to be two of the best investments of my money I’ve made.

The above tune “Happy Death-Day” comes from the band’s 2001 release, Violence Has Arrived, and seems somehow appropriate.  Dave built his career on reveling in dark humor, so why not send him out with this one that’s about as dark and ridiculous as it gets.

Rest easy Dave, and thank you so much for all of the good music, art, and memories.

ArtistGwar
TitleHappy Death-Day
AlbumViolence Has Arrived