merchandise

Merchandise Ride the Newest of Waves on “Children of Desire”

Tampa, Florida’s Merchandise don’t reinvent the wheel on this year’s Children of Desire. The wheel they’ve got is damn fine, though. Combining the synthetic beats of New Wave and krautrock with soaring guitars and vocals, they create something that feels both modern and familiar. Their songs make you feel nostalgic for memories you’ve never had. All this from a group of hardcore kids in the sunshine state.

The record opens with the brief “Thin Air”, a synth-filled ballad which creeps along, fading into the upbeat, song of the year-worthy “Time” (which you can listen to below). The lyrics cover classic themes of loneliness and getting older. “Time, you’ve bested me again/I keep trying but I can’t win/Tell me father where you’ve been/I’m alone but used to it,” vocalist Carson Cox croons over an infectious drum machine beat, while a mountaintop guitar riff swoops around the beat (in this metaphor, the guitar riff is a bird). Despite its repetitive structure, the song never wears out its welcome. In fact, its all-too-brief five minutes leaves you wanting more, and that more is brought by the following 11-minute opus “Become What You Are”. The first half of the song chugs along in a similar manner to “Time” – all big guitars and sparkling synths – but cuts out halfway through into a solitary guitar riff, which is followed by a fast-paced jam, complete with whooping synth noises and some big Kraftwerk vibes. It seems at this point, much like Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock before them, Merchandise can’t slow down, ramping up the speed yet again on the fourth track, aptly-titled “In Nightmare Room”. The melodies are darker and the beat more industrial, oozing reverb and skittering hi-hat. This frantic moment comes to a sudden close with the following track, a piano ballad titled, “Satellite”. Cox plays a sparse set of chords, joined slowly by (most likely synthetic) strings and horns, as well as echoing backing vocals. The record culminates in the eleven-minute slow jam “Roser Park”. A midtempo journey through mind of a man wearing a technicolor windbreaker, it sounds a bit like a Prince record slowed to a third of the speed and recorded underwater. It closes off the record in fitting fashion, a triumphant excursion into the 1980s of the future. It’s an incredible record from a band that keeps getting better.

You can get the album from Katorga Works (They have it up as a FREE DOWNLOAD, so no excuses) and you can listen to standout track “Time” below:

north pacific string band

Local Santa Cruz band North Pacific String Band releases debut album “Steak & Eggs”!

photo by Blake Goodmacher; featured image by Yasamine June

“Sure, sure…fersherrsure,” the boys of North Pacific String Band mumbled enthusiastically when asked to play some more tunes on my show, Pickin on the Porch with Auntie Em, a few weeks back.

The five-piece string band consists of Steven Stubblefield on mandolin and vocals, Jeff Wilson on banjo, Alex Bice on upright bass and vocals, Evan Penza on guitar and vocals, and Jan Purat on fiddle and vocals. All these boys live locally within Santa Cruz County and have played many houseshows, on-campus shows at the UC, and gigs at local music venues. This summer, they packed up and headed out to tour throughout Northern California and Oregon. When they came back to release their debut album “Steak & Eggs” on August 22, I asked them to come hang out on KZSC’s own bluegrass show.

In the times between being gratefully serenaded by the band in the studio, I asked a few questions about the recording & production process and the tour.

All thirteen original tracks were recorded live with two microphones in the Corralitos Grange Hall. This specific place was acceptable to bassist Alex after clapping his hands a bit and recognizing its “sweet wood tones.” And the central coast of California in general provides as North Pacific’s key source of inspiration–what they like to call “central coast ramblin'” with all its trees and ocean and big blue skies.

When I asked about their favorite show played while on tour, I remembered that the best gigs aren’t always planned. They all agreed on a scenic overlook at a truck stop near Manzanita, Oregon. The crowd’s energy was on cue; everyone was feeling NPSB’s impromptu busking. After seeing these boys play more than a few times, I can attest that a spontaneous, outdoor setting that revolves around nature’s beauty is precisely where they flourish most.

Of course, North Pacific String Band did not forget to mention the lasting relationships made and incredible musicianship witnessed at the Northwest String Summit festival put on by Yonder Mountain String Band in Oregon. One can only imagine the plethora of amazing stringy sounds heard that weekend in August. And get this–NPSB played music on top of the Further tour bus. Cool?! I’d say these boys have their priorities set straight.

Back in the air-room at KZSC, North Pacific played a few songs they worked on while on the road called “Goin’ to the West” and “Big South Skies.” Then they got down to their song “Murphy” (track 2 on “Steak & Eggs”) with more elongated notes and gritty, bluesy chops. They slowed it down to the point where it sounded like their instruments were talking to each other (which I’ve noticed these boys do a lot–they work together beautifully). They built up the tension little by little then picked it up again with some groovin’ guitar slaps, sweet harmonic fiddle/banjo duo, delicate mando chopping, and finished it off with Alex’s heavy bass punctuation.

Stevee, Jeff, Alex, Jan, and Evan have been playing together for a while, have had time to experience lasting memories, and are individually pretty damn funny characters themselves. North Pacific String Band incorporates a “prograssive” sound to their bluegrass–and sometimes jazzy–roots, making sure to give each member solo time to shine, while keeping a youthful humor that the audience utilizes in its own stomp and clap. Their sound is coherent, tight, and undeniably heartfelt; you can really hear the feeling in the melodies and accompanying harmonies.

Check out North Pacific String Band for more information, merch, and show dates at northpacificcompany.org!

aesop-rock-skelethon

Aesop Rock’s New One

Any Aesop Rock fans will be happy to hear that he has recently dropped a new album, Skelethon. This is the San Francisco-based rapper and producer’s sixth studio album and first self-produced project. Skelethon contains a multitude of playful and dark horror film-like beats that are accompanied by classic Aesop lyrics. Although the entire album is fantastic, there are a few dope tracks that stand out from the rest: Zero Dark Thirty, Tetra, Racing Stripes and don’t forget ZZZ Top. Random Fun Fact: Aesop Rock is also really into his cats. Grrrreat!

jovanotti

Jovanotti’s “Italia 1988-2012″: A 24-Year Retrospective

Through ATO Records, Italian singer-songwriter and rapper Lorenzo Cherubini, better known as Jovanotti, has finally issued his first U.S. release after over two decades of being in the business. This compilation album that includes the greatest hits of his career so far, aptly titled “Italia 1988-2012″. Initial tracks like “Con La Luce Negli Occhi” and “Sulla Frontiera” are very energetic and contribute to the album’s generally light-hearted feel. Meanwhile, other tracks like “Mi Fido Di Te” and “La Porta É Aperta” take it down a notch and show Jovanotti’s softer side, complete with acoustic guitars and even some backing vocals. With Jovanotti’s own nonchalant and distinct style of rapping in just about every track, this quasi-greatest-hits-collection is not to be missed.

Vacationer1

A “Vacationer” Vacation In < 3 Minutes…

I’m making my way via automobile up to Oregon for a mini-vacation. Nothing too lavish—I’ll be gone less than a week and still be in a separate hemisphere than the Bahamas. But it’s just enough time to get away from that plague of the everyday here in Surf City, where others come to get away. If you haven’t had time to squeeze in any summer merriment yet this season, I have good news.   Vacationer, a Philadelphia-based dream pop band just dropped their new music video. The goods in question? A catchy little ditty called “Trip” is the bands first single. Vacationer partnered with self-proclaimed international community  Lomography, passionately dedicated to antique photography. The video was shot on Lomokino 35mm film. All you Instagrammers out there take heed: this gritty and fun (and grainy, saturated and gorgeous) old-school video makes you want to lay out in the sunshine with a retro bathing suit.