Friday, October 31, 2008

Guitar players, punks and shoegazers

Lots and lots of reviews up today, starting with a live show review of the Imaginational Anthem crew, which is up today at Popmatters.

George Stavis + Cian Nugent + Ben Reynolds
9 October 2008: Montague Bookmill — Montague, MA

by Jennifer Kelly

Acoustic guitar blues has had a bit of a revival lately, in large part due to the Imaginational Anthem series, now three albums along. The series, which was launched in 2005 by Tompkins Square Records, takes as its starting point the Takoma-style finger-picking of John Fahey and his early 1960s contemporaries, seeking out the original artists in this genre, as well as younger players who are influenced by them.

Tonight’s performance showcases three artists from the most recent Imaginational Anthem 3 CD. The two younger artists—Cian Nugent and Ben Reynolds—have made the trip from the United Kingdom. Nugent is Irish and Reynolds, though English, is now living in Glasgow. Banjoist George Stavis, the old timer on the bill, comes from the neighborhood, apparently, somewhere in Western Massachusetts, though with his best known album, Labyrinths, released by Vanguard in 1969, he has traveled temporally further than anyone.


Here's Cian playing "When the Snow Melts and Floats Downstream"

Also an album review at Dusted, covering the pop/punk/new wave band from Boston known as Pretty & Nice.

Pretty & Nice
Get Young
(Hardly Art)

A volatile mix of muscle and flirt, Pretty & Nice careens from one measure to the next, from straight-up, jagged punk riffs to swoony falsetto croons. On this, their second full-length, the band has slimmed down from a foursome to a trio, shedding whatever bottom their sound got from bassist Andy Contoise. “Piranha,” the opening track, is all trebly mayhem, with founders Jeremy Mendocino and Holden Lewis splintering post-punk guitar into shards, and spinning harpsichord keyboards into chaos. Drummer Bobby Landry holds the cut down, barely, alternating between hard-on-the-fours pounding and more delicate, syncopated commentary.


"Tora, Tora, Tora"

and a quicky review of a new EP by LA's Monsters Are Waiting, a shoegaze-y pop band in the vein of Asobi Seksu...I asked for the record because it was on Kanine, which is the label that first put out Grizzly Bear.

Monsters Are Waiting
Ones and Zeroes
US release date: 14 October 2008
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Sweet dreams are made of this

A little girl whispers in your ear and the universe explodes. That’s the subtext of about a million pop songs, maybe the very foundation of pop itself. Monsters Are Waiting, the LA-based band formed around singer Annalee Fery and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Clark, turns this concept into all-enveloping sound. Fery’s voice is delicate and childlike, full of blurry crescendos and naked sincerity, punctured with little catches of breath. She sounds like she’s murmuring right into you ear, but you can’t catch the words. That’s because the musical drama of distorted guitars, thudding bass and drums and cloudily reverbed keyboards swirls all around her, picking her tunes up and tossing them on waves of sound. This EP, following a self-titled EP and the full-length Fascination, makes its sunny case succinctly, in half an hour and just six songs, but there’s not a laggard in the bunch.

Favorites? Zoom in on the spiraling title track, its drums dry and tense but slathered over with extravagant textures of guitar and electric guitar. Fery stays cool, right in the center, cooing out dreamy layers of self-harmonized pop that will remind you a little bit of Juliana Hatfield, a little more of the Cocteau Twins. (There’s an oscillating guitar effect right at the end that’s straight off of Wings’ “Band on the Run”, but we’ll let that go as coincidence.) Later, Monsters Are Waiting tips the hat to the drone-pop atmospherics of the Stone Roses, with a moody, cool-toned cover of “I Wanna Be Adored”. These are tunes that you don’t so much listen to as dive right into, enveloped by a sound that is as warm and welcoming and fizzy with surf bubbles as a tropical ocean. You’ll float just fine on Ones and Zeroes, without a care in the world.

Here's a video of the Stone Roses Cover

And the title track, "Ones and Zeros"

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