Monday, April 28, 2014

LINDSAY DRAGAN - Be Good To Yourself

Funny story.  The first blog post for "Music and Philosophy" was meant to be for Hot Corners by Lindsay Dragan.  I started writing it, and I just couldn't seem to find my voice as a writer back then.  What I wrote was boring.  I could not let Lindsay's wonderful music be described with such uninspiring words.  Actually, I just pulled up the unfinished file and found one part that wasn't so bad:

"Looking To Fall" opens up with some grungy power chords that lay the ground for some nasty vocals (in a good way).  They sound like Courtney Love, but with a personality that does not make people run in terror.  
Be Good To Yourself

That was the best I could muster.  Now, Dragan is releasing Be Good To Yourself - a full length album!!  "I says:  Hey Lindsay, let me write some letters for you.  I can do hundreds."  She was impressed.  I received an advanced listen based on this skill.  

One of my favorite experiences as a music-listener is hearing how an individual has progressed over the years.  My first LD experience was when I saw the Meridians perform in Pittsburgh a few times circa 2008.  Lindsay was on lead vocals and guitar.  I remember being mesmerized at how cool she was on stage.  She had a god-like presence as a true-born rocker.  I had closed-minded music taste at the time, so I was indifferent towards their songs, but I became a Lindsay fan for life.  She startled me during some Korg Electribe knob-tweaking in the University of Pittsburgh’s Music Building  one day, and we stayed in touch.  I followed her solo Hot Corners release and was anxious to see how her sound would develop. 

Be Good To Yourself is a testament to the timelessness of artistic influence.  Dragan, like me, is primarily derived from pre-contemporal (not a word) musicians.  I hear the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s in her music, but with a modern human intellect arbitrating the interactions of sound.  This is not your brother’s scene kid.  This is a real musician.  I believe that authenticity cannot be faked in a vocal recording.  The details of Dragan’s voice tell the honest story of her life.  Listen closely.  

Los Angeles is one of the grooviest tracks on the record.  It has an undeniably cool and catchy melody that sounds like a synthesizer, but also could be an extra crazy guitar effect (sounds a bit like some of the synth-guitar pedals available).  The world may never know.  At any rate, there are definitely some synthesizers on this album, such as in Distance and the Rain - a heavily emotional piece.  My favorite song has to be Leave A Way Out.  The guitar work is phenomenal.  This song tastes like whiskey, particularly when pronounced by Andy Samberg.    

Also, I love how additional listens can completely change how you experience music.  Upon my first listen of BGTY, I was like "hmmm not sure what to make of this."  I was immersed in feelings of love on my second listen.  I have always noticed that the second listen of a musical work tends to be the best.  The 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. tend to be really good and then it will start to taper off.  Although, sometimes a random listen hits you hard.  The Things You Said by Depeche mode can still give me amazing chills on random listens when I have already heard it over 100 times.  I will leave with these parting words:  Listen to New Music!  If you do not enjoy it, listen again!  If you hate it, listen 20 times!!!  You just may find that it is the best album ever made alike to the infamous story of Matt Groening and Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica.  Music is good.  Really good.  Thank you, Lindsay.


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Monday, April 21, 2014

SHOW ME ON THE DOLL - The New Frontier and the Wagon Wheel

Show Me On The Doll?  What does that mean?  You'll be all like "whooooaa" when it clicks.  Anyway, I decided to reach out to the community and offer my pen for anyone that responded.  The first message that I received was from an engaging band known  as Show Me On The Doll.  I had to travel out to Smyrna, Delaware to see them, so I grabbed my cowboy hat and shoved myself in the Oliver Queen (yes, this is the name of my car if you haven't picked up on that from previous articles).  

I rolled up around a quarter after 9, because that's how I roll... in the up position.  The venue was a hot little place called the Wagon Wheel.  I sensed good energy outside and even better when I entered.  Everyone sort of stared me up, and several attendees complemented my particular look.  I suppose I often forget that I have greatly evolved from my unfashionable teenage days.  The SMOTD guys were chilling in a corner booth and motioned me over.  A few minutes later we all stepped outside and began to talk the talk (the one with the words).  

Introducing The Band:
Fatz Hawkins-Bitch - Keyboards, Drums, Vocals 
Jabo 4D - Lead Vocals, Bass
Urge - Guitar, Keys, Vocals
J.P. ("sneaks into the band sometimes") - Primarily on Drums

"New Frontier Type Noise" was the label they preferred as a self-descriptor.  What's the saying?  "If it's good enough for DC, it's good enough for me."  I asked them what their goals were with composition and/or live performance.  They said they wanted to open the minds of their audience, and they also said something or other about creating "New Life" (Depeche Mode anyone?).  The last critical point of this conversation was when Urge asked me why I wanted to write about them.  I said "Because I love local music."  They all kind of looked at me like an alien for a second.  Usually, bands react very positively to this statement.  Later, I noticed (on the F Book) that they had t-shirts made that say "FUCK LOCAL MUSIC."  I found this to be quite hilarious.  I think the point was, not enough bands venture into new soundscapes.  This is what SMOTD was interested in.  In a sense -  "fuck normal bands."  I like to support all musicians, but part of me... totally fucking agrees!  

Divider - at some point Urge and I started talking about comics, and he teased me a bit for Jim Lee being my favorite artist.  

When the music began, I was a little surprised at how talented these guys were.  Jabo 4D was an amazing bass player and a smooth vocalist.  Urge had some rockin' ass guitar licks (but no ass lickin' involved).  Fatz gave the music a hell of a lot of personality on his varying methods of keyboard playing.  J.P. provided a strong backbone to the New Frontier sound that we were all experiencing.  This was good.  This was really good.  Better than damn fine cherry pie.  Their music was hip hop, but it was rock and roll and funk and more than that.  It was new, fresh, and hoTT with capital T appearing twice.  SMOTD received the official Orenda stamp of approval.  Good job!

They were nearly finished with their album, Coffee Cup, at this time, and they sent it to me shortly afterwards.  It was a fantastic listen in the fact that every song sounded like it's own person.  It wasn't like some boring rock band where every song has the exact same format/formula.  As I opened each sound file, I felt like I was opening a gift-wrapped present that could have anything inside.  Above all else, I give SMOTD major points for being a band with character.    

At the end of the night, Urge introduced me to Jessica Furman, the manager of the Wagon Wheel.  She told me her sentimental story about doing her best to promote her family's venue to keep it alive.  Most astonishingly, one of her marketing points was to emphasize ORIGINAL music at her establishment.  This was the best thing I've ever heard (aside from the exchange in the film Clerks that ends with the line: "In a row"?).  Jessica, I commend you.   She greatly encouraged me to return during the week for open mic night.  I was like - "I live all the way in Newark" but she said she also lived nearby in Bear, Delaware.  Urge chimed in - "Yeah man, your argument is shit, because she travels down from an animal"!  We all finished the night with some laughs, and Urge walked away.  I turned around and said "Wait!  Jim Lee is DOPE!" and went out the door.  


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