Music

Shady Ave.: Common Sound

With a punk rock attitude and gutsy melodies, Shady Ave. offer one of the best albums you've probably never heard.


Shady Ave.

Common Sound

Label: Self-Released
US Release Date: 2010-11-02
UK Release Date: Import
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Cautiously exuberant. It’s a phrase that bleeds youth, optimism and excitement, all the while suggesting that whomever it describes is probably looking down at his or her own shoes while physically, emotionally, verbally, or musically displaying such a combination of words. The adolescence is there. The naiveté is there. The blessed ignorance is there. And the confidence is there. It describes something or someone in a light that is adored and often admired. It’s a hard thing to pull off successfully. And it’s certainly something that takes time to develop.

It’s also a phrase that perfectly describes punk rockers Shady Ave.’s latest effort, Common Sound. From the crunchy guitars, to the gutter-filled voice of lead singer Joel Masters, to the angry, yet sometimes optimistic stories, to the fast-paced tempos, to the youthful, anti-everything tone that clearly flows throughout the entire album, there is only one real way to describe this release. And what is that? You guessed it: cautiously exuberant.

With no song clocking in at a second over three-and-a-half minutes, and only one breaking the three-minute barrier, Common Sound is a fun-filled ride that provides all the youthful angst that any former/current/wannabe punk rocker could ask for. Its in-your-face tenor combines with a pop sensibility to make one of the best -- and truest -- punk rock albums you’ve probably never heard. Led by Masters’s scowl that just has to be the love child of Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba and Chuck Ragan’s best Hot Water Music days, each track is a whirlwind of emotion and aggression, two things that have always gone hand in hand in the best punk rock releases.

The fun begins with “Standards”, a minute-and-a-half opening track that provides a perfect window into what appears to be coming around the bend on Common Sound. Masters’s scruffy voice pounces on top of an effects-laden guitar for the first 20 seconds before the rest of the band joins the party and provides a hard-sounding minute’s worth of defiant, rowdy rock that eventually climaxes with a sing-along proclaiming “What you believe / Don’t mean shit to me” before coming to an end.

“Bother You”, “Clean Slate”, and the album-ending “Rumblestrips” all keep the spirits high and cadence fast with their common ambition to prove a point and prove it quick. While the last is probably the most bouncy Shady Ave. gets, it still grips tightly the youthfully aggressive attitude that shines so well throughout the entire effort, as guitarist Ryan Williamson sings a song dripping with self doubt and revelatory thoughts. And both “Clean Slate” and “Bother You” hit you so violently hard over the head with their attack-laden tempos that you can practically feel the sweat form on your forehead as you long deeply for a mosh pit to fall into.

The only real time Common Sound suffers is when the boys decide to sway away from that very notion of hard, fast, dirty and fun, and lean more toward the serious aspects of life. “Kernel”, the album’s fifth track, begins promisingly, but ultimately falls victim to lackluster verses filled with a story that is seemingly about loss. Sure, the vibe doesn’t falter, but the sentiment behind such an attempt only serves as a failed counterbalance to the better, more bubbly tracks that can be found on other spots of the record. “Protest Song” is another minor misstep, as the band takes time to reflect on just how much their voices don’t matter. Though the intent is admirable -- and the results even a bit witty, for that matter -- the song comes across as a series of whiny complaints that don’t quite fit into what the album wants to be more than anything else: A nice, simple punk rock record.

Besides, what truly makes Common Sound a solid release is its sheer desire to try and eliminate all pretense around making music in the first place. It’s quick. It’s in your face. It’s mindless. It’s mindful. It’s about friends. It’s about good times. And most importantly, it’s about having fun while not giving a damn about anything else in the world except having fun.

“We’re not breaking new ground… It’s all been done and better”, Masters proclaims on the album’s title track. He might be right. But even he has to know that sometimes, being the best doesn’t really matter all that much. Because -- as Shady Ave. proves with this particular release -- there’s something to be said for a band who knows how to have a good time, too.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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