February 10th, 2008 – 8 pm. Boulder Coffee Co. Rochester, NY
Sam Buck Rosen/Baby Shivers Boutique
So it’s cold out. Really cold. So cold that you can see your breath twenty minutes after your car has been on and warmed up. But you still aren’t warm. Oh, and you have two papers to write, and they’re due on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. A real banal one is in the mix at least, and that’s for sure – one that you certainly don’t want to even think about. Maybe it’s a business paper, maybe not. But you’ve found yourself at a coffee shop that sells sandwiches and beer. These two items happen to be your favorite things. For some reason, too, you can’t stop thinking about Valentine’s Day 2006.
Oh wait, it’s because you’re seeing Sam Buck Rosen tonight at said coffee shop, and he happened to play your apartment on said Valentine’s Day. This is most likely the dialogue you carry on with yourself if you’re me, waiting to see Sam Rosen for a second time.
But first, your friend’s band Baby Shivers Boutique plays. And you’ve seen them before, but it’s never been this good. Their songs are filled with the same seemingly cute, quirky innocence, but they’ve changed. The songs are now more about being a real human. The songs speak of their relationship, or lack-thereof, to God. Maybe even of feeling like shit and equating it to be helpless and poor, or even of re-evaluating the middle class. But for some reason the bleakness of it all can be overlooked by the most wonderful melodies, and it makes you feel okay about all the injustice in the world and how f*cked up society may be.
Well, they finish, and there’s some time before Sam and co. are ready to play. You can’t help but think that the poor girl playing bass is cold as hell because she’s got a huge slit in her jeans and her sweater is way too high on her stomach. But when they go on, it’s what you knew you were waiting for – you’ve been satisfied greatly. It’s pop music, sort of, but it’s more complex than that. The guitar opens up all over the place while the bass supplements the most solid and tight drumming. Sam’s vocals are eccentric and want to pull you from your seat; they’re demanding but polite. It’s a combination of things that sound right together. It’s reminiscent of the past but so modern. Sam plays his set, and gets to the end, but it doesn’t feel like the end yet. So someone tells him to play a last song. He abides and it’s Mexico. It sounds like Sam Cooke has been conjured to play a last sad soul song to finish off the night and it’s the perfect touch.
After hanging out for a bit you find out that Sam lives amongst some pretty righteous songwriters in Brooklyn. And it’s not Williamsburg, thank God. But if you hung out with the Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend, you’d be inspired to write some pretty damn catchy songs too, wouldn’t you? And that’s what Sam did, and this is the same point when you realize you’ve skipped out on two or so hours of work you should have been doing to finish your quarter cause you’re on trimesters; but oh, wasn’t it the best two or so hours “wasted” ever?
- Travis Johansen
Scales of Motion
The Conservatory, Oklahoma City, OK
Friday, 8th of February, 2008
- From left to right, guitarist Kevin Skillern, drummer Craig Maricle and bassist/lead vocalist Chris Skillern make up the Tulsa-based indie-rock band Scales of Motion.
- Chris Skillern in motion.
- The Skillern brothers.
- Chris Skillern busts out what we’re going to call “keys” (honestly, we have no idea what that is).
Guitars, Amps, Passport: Two Point Zero Booking Makes International Touring Easier
By Megan Morgan
A vast ocean splits Steffen Kelle’s company down the middle, but he doesn’t let it get in the way. Kelle runs Two Point Zero, a booking agency that sends European bands to America and brings American bands to Europe.
Kelle formed Two Point Zero only four months ago in October of 2007. When on tour with his Germany-based band Pull a Star Trip and Boston, Mass., rock band Beautiful Lies, he got the idea for the agency.
“I booked parts of the tour for Pull a Star Trip and Beautiful Lies in August 2007,” Kelle said. “We became great friends while we were on tour, and I figured, why not give other bands from Europe and the U.S. the chance to explore each other’s continents with guitars ready to rock?”
Kelle, an adamant supporter of independent music, wants to give lesser-known bands the opportunity to branch out across the globe.
“We’re trying to bring the U.S. and Europe closer together,” he said. “These chances are mostly only given to big shots in the business. We think that the small and independent bands that don’t even have to have label support are the ones worth supporting… for instance, have them perform in countries where they normally wouldn’t have access to.”
Zach McLean, guitarist/vocalist for Boston-based Beautiful Lies, owes his band’s upcoming eight-country tour to Kelle.
“We’re going to Europe for eighteen shows, because Steffen worked his butt off,” McLean said. “It is definitely beneficial.”
Keeping track of cross-continental contacts may sound like an obstacle, but Kelle and his business partner Till Tillmann do most of the booking work online, through emails and “myspacing.” Kelle said that the web keeps his company afloat, and the name of his company reflects this.
“The name comes from Web 2.0,” Kelle said. “It has helped and helps make everything that we’ve achieved possible.”
Running a cross-continental booking agency isn’t the only thing Kelle has accomplished; Kelle is also a touring musician and is currently enrolled in school. So how does he possibly have time for all this?
“I cloned myself about a year ago,” Kelle joked. “No seriously, booking is my current girlfriend. We spend a lot of time together. Sometimes she can be a bitch, but most of the time we’re having a blast.”
But if anyone can do it, Kelle can; he has quite the qualifications. After getting his Bachelor of Arts in Popular Music and Media at the University of Paderborn, he is now currently enrolled in Germany’s only Pop Academy, where music specialists are trained.
So although Europe may seem like a world away, the talented, passionate and qualified guys up at Two Point Zero Booking are striving to close this physical gap and make independent music more global.
- Megan Morgan
Speaker Speaker – We Won’t March EP
Burning Building Recordings
An extremely entertaining and well-crafted pop-punk EP.
Speaker Speaker is a pop-punk band out of Seattle, Washington. They have a style somewhere between LA’s Weezer and The Knockdown (Oneonta, New York). Their songs have very catchy instrumental openers that will leave you pressing play over and over again. The work of Colin McBride on lead/rhythm guitar is especially infectious – his leads will play in your head all day long.
So many pop-punk bands that play the club circuits tend to have an uncontrolled rhythm section that usually destroys the musical quality of the sound the band was originally going for. Not only does drummer Jason Samford keep a controlled rhythm, but the beats he produces for Speaker Speaker are very catchy. They will leave you tapping your toes and bobbing your head until your neck hurts. The quick fingers of Danny Oleson on bass guitar drive very steady with the drums. The combination of the two produces a solid rhythm section.
This past April, the band decided after much success from their first EP Again & Again & Again, to put together a new EP entitled We Won’t March.
The first track has the same name as the EP and is nothing short of a 1990s pop-punk masterpiece. The guitar leads off with a catchy melody and builds from there into a strong, yet pleasing lead vocal performance. From start to finish the band is tight with every beat and note.
“Loveland, Colorado” is also well written and well performed. The basslines are particularly impressive with their speed and accuracy, and the group vocals melded well together. “Call it Off” is one of two live tracks on this EP. Despite the fact that it’s live the only part of the sound that suffers in recording quality is the vocals. This, however, is expected on a live recording. The guitar and drums connect throughout the middle of this track to carry the song. It’s a head bobber of a song… dare I say it…. maybe even a mosh-worthy song.
Finally, coming in at the fifth and final slot of the We Won’t March EP is a cover of the Jawbreaker (Baltimore, Maryland) song “Do You Still Hate Me?”. This is a fine track, and it makes Speaker Speaker’s EP an all-around success in pop-punk enjoyment.
The first three tracks alone are reason enough to want a copy of this EP. Out of 5 stars this CD gets a 4.5 from me. Let’s hope for a full album from these guys in the near future.
-Stephen C. O’Riley
- Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
Holy smokes, I love this album. It did take me some time and many listens to form that opinion, though. I am a huge fan of Arcade Fire’s first album Funeral, so at first, the dark, brooding quality of their 2007 release freaked me out. I was especially worried, during the first initial listens, when the organ-heavy track “Intervention” came on. I wondered what had happened to my Arcade Fire, whom I was so attached to in Funeral’s much lighter tracks, which could almost be called “fun” in comparison to Neon Bible. But I didn’t give up on this album, thankfully. I listened to it over and over again, and then, finally, I think I “got it.” I realized how beautifully it is produced, and how extremely ambitious it is with its spiritual themes. Now “Intervention” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. “Keep the Car Running” and “No Cars Go” are also standout tracks to me, because both have intense, concentrated energy and very full sound. Whereas I consider Funeral more of a group album, Neon Bible is a personal one. I’m pretty obsessed with Arcade Fire, and can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.
- Paul McCartney, Memory Almost Full
While knowing full well that this is not McCartney’s best, I can’t help but be biased towards a former Beatle. I’ve got a soft spot for pop, and an even softer spot for the Beatles. Plus, have you heard the opener “Dance Tonight”? Sure, it is very simplistic, but it’s also wonderfully catchy, and always makes me smile. Memory Almost Full is nostalgic to the extreme, and the lyrics might be borderline cheesy in places, but Paul clearly hasn’t lost his melodic touch.
- the Educated Guess, Beautiful Strangers
This independent release from Missouri-based group the Educated Guess is quite astonishing in its completeness and production. This piano-driven, 60s influenced rock album gets better with multiple listens, and I always hear something new each time. Beautiful Strangers was released as a double-album with the gospel-tinted EP Daunted Soul, and both are highly recommended.
4. The Polyphonic Spree, The Fragile Army
To me, there’s nothing like a band with a full sound, and with twenty-plus members, The Polyphonic Spree can achieve this pretty easily. I think The Fragile Army is this group’s most sophisticated release yet. It is unreservedly enthusiastic and massive-feeling, which I appreciate.
- Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
The infamously minimalistic Spoon spices things up on this album. There are still some very bare tracks, especially “The Ghost of You Lingers,” but I love the songs that include brass instruments, like “The Underdog.” Spoon sounds effortlessly cool, as usual.
- Among Wolves, Among Wolves
This self-titled release manages to fit into the alt-country genre, while also sounding experimental, creating a very original sound. It’s inventive and accessible at the same time.
- Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
I have good memories of listening to this one with my roommate last year in our dorm room. We frequently played this album when friends came over, and it somehow always satisfied everyone’s music tastes.
- Streetlight Manifesto, Somewhere in the Between
I have loved Streetlight Manifesto for years, so I was naturally excited when Somewhere in the Between was finally released. I realize that punk-ska may not be for everyone but I appreciate this album’s intricate guitar and brass riffs that require much technical skill. This album never loses momentum and shows the band’s maturity.
- Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare
Who doesn’t love these young British boys? With this sophomore effort, the Arctic Monkeys prove that Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not wasn’t just a fluke.
- Marc with a C, Normal Bias
This independent release epitomizes do-it-yourself pop. Normal Bias is frequently funny, often very personal, and always enjoyable.
My Top 10 Reviewed Albums:
- Nate Williams
1. Band Marino – The Sea & The Beast – An achingly addicting combination of indie-pop and folk, The Sea & The Beast is pure fun. This band has a truly unique sound that will make folk-haters and folk-lovers alike stomp their feet and sing along. I’ve listened to it endlessly.
2. Scott & Aimee – Sitting In A Tree – Playing a unique blend of SoCal punk, reggae, metal and pop, Scott & Aimee serve up mounds of sarcasm and dark humor, as well as tenderness and passion with Sitting In A Tree. It has to be heard to be believed. This one sees regular play in my car stereo.
3. The Vision of a Dying World – And The Grammar Lamb – Possibly one of the most bizarre and yet lovable bands I’ve ever heard, The Vision of a Dying World pulled off some amazing folk-rock with the second of their albums that I reviewed.
4. Joshua Marcus – Make/Believe– Unfortunately brief, this CD displays some fantastic songwriting from Marcus. It made the list almost solely due to the song “Coal or Smoke,” which I think is one of the most finely written folk songs to come along in a long time.
5. Botox Party – Bring In The Suck EP – “Near Perfect Punk” was the headline given for the review of this EP in our first print edition and it’s true. The punk band Botox Party not only kicks ass musically but has some great, poignant lyrics. The song “Elitist Social Class” stands out as a protest of punks against elitist punks.
6. The New Atlantic – The Streets, The Sounds and The Love – Mellow indie-rock at some of its finest, The New Atlantic sets itself up to explode on the mainstream in the near future with this release. Seriously, keep an eye out. You’ll probably be seeing them all over the place soon.
7. Guff – Symphony of Voices – Guff’s balls-to-the-wall style exudes from this album. One can’t help but feel the need to bang his/her head and sing/shout the lyrics. This is pure rockin’ fun, plain and simple.
8. The Horrifics – Now Fear This – Hardcore punk with a nerdy twist. How can you go wrong? The album shows off not only that The Horrifics are an awesome punk band, but that they have a great sense of humor with lyrics that are quite atypical of your normal hardcore punk band (with subject matter including Godzilla, aliens and Uzumaki.)
9. Dawn Of The Dude – International Time Travel With Magical Babes – This is the way pop-punk should be: fun and original. These guys know that they’re a pop band. In fact, they lovingly acknowledge it by letting influences from ‘50s, ‘80s and ‘90s pop seep in throughout the album.
10. The Measure [SA”> – Historical Fiction – Some great songwriting made this folk punk band this year. The dynamic between singers/guitarists Lauren Measure and Mike Regrets goes a long way to set this band apart from the crowd. If you can, find the song “It’s Me or The Marlboro Man,” cause it’s absolutely awesome.
Not Walking Dollar Signs
The Ghost of Monkshood develops a following by sticking to its ideals
By Marilyse Diaz
In a world where the blogosphere is whipped into a frenzy over a new band every week and bands are plucked out of their hometowns for multi-record deals after few or absolutely zero local shows, it’s refreshing to see a band that’s doing music the old fashioned way: creating a fan base by playing relentlessly. Norman-based Ghost of Monkshood strives to inspire that fearless creative community.
“It’s important to share ideas and stay in touch with the community,” said Chase Spivey, founding member and guitarist for the Monkshood. Spivey told a story about a certain local band which latched on to the Monkshood as they got more and more popular, then moved on from the Monkshood quickly when they scored a record deal.
“They were businessmen,” Spivey said. “It really wasn’t about the music, just making money.”
Chris McDaniel, bassist for the Monkshood, echoed the frustration with the current state of music.
“A lot of bands will do anything for an opening spot,” said Chris McDaniel, of the Monkshood.
That’s not to say that Spivey and McDaniel don’t believe in being aggressive in support of their own music. Much to the contrary, they believe that the right type of aggressiveness, even the right type of ego, is necessary for all bands to succeed.
“You’ve got to stay unique, stay passionate,” said McDaniel.
“You have to believe in [your music] for people to take it seriously,” said Spivey.
The band does believe in its music, and as a result doesn’t pander to anyone. Instead of pandering to people to find fans, The Ghost of Monkshood finds a way to relate to people through their music. Their unique passion for their music, as well as their genuine love for their fans are both major factors in attracting people to get involved and help create a music scene that is excited about the music.
The Ghost of Monkshood brings their values into how they reach and interact with their audience, something many bands rarely consider. Sure, if people think a band is entertaining they will go to see them again but the Monkshood understands that keeping things fresh is important.
“We like playing house parties and [giving] them something new,” said McDaniel. Spivey was even more succinct.
“I don’t like to repeat myself,” said Spivey.
They certainly don’t have any trouble keeping it fresh. Like Oklahoma’s weather, one can never know what to expect from these musicians at any given time. The band has had training in 10-15 different instruments – who knows what kinds of sounds they are capable of? In addition to vast technical prowess, Monkshood has a unique approach when it comes to instruments.
“Everything we see can be an instrument,” said Spivey.
So what does this hardworking, passionate band with tons of musical ability that connects with its fans sound like?
In true form, Spivey related it back to the fans. Spivey suggested that when thinking of the Monkshood’s psychedelic, experimental pop sound one should think of it as “shower music.”
“You’re just you, no ego. [Your] real self,” Spivey said. “I don’t believe in genres.”
The things that make the Monkshood admirable as musicians are their ideals and how they truly have mutual respect for their fans. They are humble people with abstract ideas; those characteristics alone are hardly found in artists today.
The Monkshood’s next album is coming out soon, but it won’t be for sale. No, instead of paying these musicians for all their hard work and creativity the Monkshood is simply giving the album away for free.
“[We] just want to get it out there,” said Spivey. They haven’t decided on a name yet, but are releasing their album on the band’s website ghostofmonkshood.net
The members of Ghost of Monkshood are real artists, not wolves in sheep’s clothing. They have defined themselves as a band that sees their fans as people and not walking dollar signs. They give to the community through their dedication to their art and the community gives back through its loyal support. Not many bands have that kind of following, and few can hope to attain it. It all begins and ends with the fans for Spivey:
“We’re trying to inspire people,” he said.
Pomegranates- Two Eyes EP
Spunky indie artists make eclectic and whimsical dreams come true: bliss!
Listening to “The Children’s Progress” off Pomegranates’ Two Eyes EP reminded me of a recent finding from NASA. Scientists saw a sight never before seen but magnificent in its uniqueness: a black hole randomly shot a jet stream into the center of a neighboring galaxy. Though this event may not affect us Earth dwellers, it will have consequences for thousands of years in that far-off galaxy. Even being able to witness it is an extraordinary experience. Pomegranates’ sound is very similar to this otherworldly occurrence: in a genre where many indie artists can be overlooked, Pomegranates are making their music truly eye catching and ear popping.
I say eye-popping because without ever seeing them I can already imagine the jet streams they must shoot into the atmosphere when they perform. Especially in “Osidius the Emphatic” I see the soulful claps and stomps, as well as the bells going off not only on stage but in one’s head: “Holy shit! Is this an orchestra from space or am I dreaming?!”
One could even relate the Pomegranates’ style to the astounding and avant garde films from Michel Gondry. Gondry missed out when creating the soundtrack to his 2006 offering The Science of Sleep, because Pomegranates’ music would have fit perfectly. The music is lively, jumpy, dream-like and otherworldly, just like Sleep.
This five song EP exudes many colorful emotions and yet keeps direction in a way many indie artists fail to. Where thousands of indie rockers try to be different only a handful can actually do it; only a few can truly make Earthlings dream of stars and jet streams. Pomegranates is one of those bands.
“Why do I look at the sky?” is screamed colorfully in “Osidius the Emphatic”; refer to Pomegranates’ Two Eyes EP for further illuminations!
Richard Gagnier – Misfit King
Hilarious, bitter alternative comedy delivered with perfect precision.
Richard Gagnier is an independent comedian who is seriously angry. He is sour and harsh, which is of course hilarious, and covers topics such as fast food service and incompetent, unintelligent coworkers.
Gagnier started performing in 1998 in Western New York. The first track of Misfit King was part of a comic show called “Alternative Underground” at the Downstairs Cabaret Theater in Rochester, New York, and the second was recorded in a coffeehouse. Next up for this stand-up comedian is a booking in Toronto.
Gagnier’s style is very edgy and quite unlike a lot of comedy out there today. The “alternative” label describes his style pretty well, because he is very unique in his delivery and in the subjects he jokes about, but it does not give him all of the credit he deserves. His performance on Misfit King is not only “alternative,” but also dark, precise, and uncompromising. Richard Gagnier performs his jokes with perfect accuracy, never once hesitating, stumbling, or apologizing. This adds to the humor of it because it is clear that Gagnier knows exactly what he is saying, and says it with no remorse, faultlessly.
Vocal timbre is another important aspect of just what makes Richard Gagnier so appealing. His low, sarcastic, fuming voice delivers jokes that match the actual sound of his voice, which works very well. Gagnier could be the very definition of “deadpan.” He never utters a chuckle, and continues throughout Misfit King to perform with straight-faced exactness.
The work of Richard Gagnier is recommended for anyone who is tired of mainstream comedy, and who is looking for something different (Misfit King is on sale now at Amazon.com, so it’s easy for anyone to get a hold of). Misfit King is definitely not for the faint of heart, but why should dark comedy appeal to those kind of people anyway?
Ride Your Bike – Bad News from the Bar
Deep Elm Records
This genre-spanning indie-pop based band is a must for those who love both stories and music.
Ride Your Bike, an indie-pop band out of Fort Collins, Colorado, hit a homer on its first try with its debut album Bad News from the Bar. The sound this band produces is fresh and invigorating. It is inspiring to those who wish to find new mediums to tell tales, as it pushes music in a new direction from the traditional indie-pop bands of recent years.
Ride Your Bike has been unfairly compared to other “indie bands” such as Say Anything and Dashboard Confessional. This band transcends dried-up attempts by the music world to make a deep and cynical statement about the state of existence. Ride Your Bike takes a page from the folk artists of old and uses its music to tell a story. Doing this easily pushes this band far above the rut other artists seem to fall in; trying to do too much with too little.
This album tells a story through music: two people (Elliot and Lillian) go through life experiences, overcoming pain and abuse to discover that love is the most important thing in this life. Each song tells another piece of the story with immense detail. At certain points during the album (i.e. “Dug in Deep,” “We All have Our Own Shoes”), the two characters stand out, singing together. The male and female vocal parts bring imagery to the soundscape of the story. In “Dug In Deep,” lead vocalist Mike Gretches plays the role of narrator while the two characters of the story seem to sing with each other during several spots in the song. With the lyrics being a great musical and literary achievement, Ride Your Bike did not forget about the musicianship of the music; each piece is a masterpiece. The vocals, both the lead of Mike Gretches and the backing vocals of the supporting cast, are quite broad in range and sound. With sweet group vocals and the harmonies that make indie-pop so familiar, Ride Your Bike beautifully accomplishes a lush spectrum of voices.
The instrumentals are just as vast in sound as the vocals. Each instrument from the acoustic guitar to the strings of the keyboard complements each other exceptionally well. Throughout the album there are hints of influences from popular bands of the past. The vocals of Gretches often resemble Paul Simon, while the usage of strings, horns, and stops give homage to the works of the Beatles (i.e. ”Knack For Faith,” “And Just Like That”). The practices of past bands combined with the unique new aged, indie characteristic of midi (i.e. claps and bells), is a sound that has never been heard in music on this level.
Ride Your Bike created a literary and musical masterpiece with Bad News from the Bar. This album is a must for all of those who enjoy a good tale, catchy choruses or just a great listening experience. This album, with its broad genres, is a unique and enjoyable experience. There is not one fan of any genre who would not appreciate this album in some way.
Stephen C. O’Riley