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by Brice Ezell

14 May 2015

Photo: Swans performing at CBGB on 22 April 1983, by
Catherine Ceresole

The Swans you see in the photo above, the Swans that rose to prominence in New York City’s famed “no wave” scene in the early ‘80s, are not the same Swans that have been rising to popularity over the past five years with megalithic double LPs in tow. Although the plodding rhythms and earth-rumbling heaviness that Swans have recently perfected on LPs like The Seer and To Be Kind can be heard in the band’s early music, the Swans of the ‘80s are an entity unto themselves. Gira wasn’t being glib when he called Swans’ 2010 return a “reconstitution”, not a “reunion”. A lot has changed since the no wave days.

One foundational early work of Swans’ is Filth, their 1983 debut. The band recently announced a reissue of the record, both in deluxe 3CD and vinyl treatments, both remastered by Doug Henderson, who mastered The Seer and To Be Kind). This reissue will mark the album’s first vinyl pressing in 24 years.

by Brice Ezell

13 May 2015

If the antagonists in Grease were punks instead of hair-slicked greasers, Vicky and the Vengents’ “You Used to Be My Baby” would be their heartsong. The band, who describe their sound as “maltshop punk”, pays homage to doo-wop and classic girl groups from the ‘50s, all the while adding in a healthy dose of power chords to enliven the aesthetic.

by Brice Ezell

12 May 2015

Back in March, PopMatters premiered the tune “Small Fires”, taken from the Providence, Rhode Island instrumental outfit A Troop of Echoes’ new album, The Longest Year on Record. Well, the time has come for the full album to be released to the world, and as such, PopMatters is proud to present it in full streaming form.

Best classified as omnivorous instrumental music, The Longest Year on Record finds A Troop of Echoes carving their own impressions into distinct sonic niches. “Manifest and Legion” employs a guitar tone that is reminiscent of Mogwai at their moody best. Tunes like “Small Fires” and “Arecibo” represent unique spins on ‘90s indie rock. Gorgeous, soundtrack-like pieces such as “Kerosene” and “Pure Alexia (Is It Silent In This Room)” provide respite from the at times knotty instrumentation. Of the many unitive threads that runs throughout The Longest Year on Record, saxophone undoubtedly is the most distinctive. Even those not keen on jazz will find something to like in this band’s sharp use of the woodwind instrument.

by Brice Ezell

12 May 2015

Photo: Dee Dee Morris

Although Compostela, the latest outing by indie folk singer/songwriter Jenn Grant, is coming out in the United States next week, it’s already garnered her significant—and deserved—attention in her native Canada. The record led to Grant receiving two Juno Award nominations: Adult Alternative Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. (As the Toronto Star boldly put it, “If you can resist this, you are made of stone.”) In addition to further refining her songwriting, Grant also used Compostela to work with a range of musical figures, whose collaborations add even more dimension to what is an emotively complex recording. Among many others, artists such as Ron Sexmith, Buck 65, Don Kerr, Sarah Harmer, Rose Cousins, and Jonathan Goldsmith all join in Grant’s musical world.

The title Compostela, meaning “field of stars” or “star field”, is an allusion to the legend related to Spain’s Camino de Santiago, which holds that the dust of pilgrims who walk that trail formed the Milky Way. For Grant, this has a strong personal resonance, as the name Compostela came about through some of her mother’s last words: “I will meet you in Spain.”

by Brice Ezell

12 May 2015

For those disillusioned by the glossy, overproduced sheen that’s lacquered on so many mainstream country records, Christian Lopez Band’s Onward will be a much-needed respite from the pop-country deluge. While Lopez and his band do write crisply produced tunes full of great hooks, there’s never the sense that he’s glossing anything over, but rather refining what are some supremely catchy tunes. Lopez’ craft in this respect is all the more remarkable given his young age; as his artist bio cheekily puts it, he “is a 19-year-old with the soul of a 65-year-old Appalachian mountain bluegrass musician hidden away inside.” Onward makes it apparent that he not only knows but has respect for his aesthetic predecessors, particularly folks like George Strait, whose style can be heard echoed in tunes like “Morning Rise” and “Oh Those Tombs”. There are also hints of newer styles laced throughout; tunes like opener “Take You Away” would fit cozily on the shelf next to the most recent Lone Bellow record. All in all, Christian Lopez Band and Onward both put to bed any notion that country music is “dying”; based on this record, it’s still got a great deal of life in it.

Onward was produced by Dave Cobb, who has worked with country and Americana luminaries like Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton.

//Mixed media

Cage the Elephant Ignite Central Park with Kickoff for Summerstage Season

// Notes from the Road

"Cage the Elephant rocked two sold-out nights at Summerstage and return to NYC for a free show May 29th. Info on that and a preview of the full Summerstage schedule is here.

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