ONLY NOISE: Hear to Listen

The other night I found myself hovering over a smorgasbord of tiny sandwiches. I did not expect the SONOS store on Greene Street to offer such treats, and as a result of my plummeting blood sugar levels, I swallowed as many as possible in quick succession, like Scooby-Doo’s gluttonous pal Shaggy. Fortunately, I was able to scarf down the teetering structures of fig, bacon, and biscuit before the panelists took their seats. I would have felt ok munching in front of the rakish Mick Rock and easygoing, eternally Midwestern Mark Mothersbaugh, but Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves looked far too elegant to drop a deviled egg in front of.

Rock, Mothersbaugh, and Graves were joined by Mötley Crüe co-founder Nikki Sixx and music journalist Rob Sheffield atop a makeshift stage on Monday night. The goal of the evening was as simple as its title, Song Stories. Each panelist selected one David Bowie song (a less simple task), and discussed its significance within their life. Sheffield, who won the evening’s charm award, spoke of the old days, when reporters would attend a Bowie concert and dispatch the set list from the venue’s phone booth. He admitted to hiding under his grandmother’s bed the first time he heard “Space Oddity,” for he was frightened by its planet-hopping protagonist. But it was “Young Americans” that branded Sheffield’s heart as his favorite Bowie song. And so, the next words out of Sheffield’s mouth were, “Alexa: Play “Young Americans,” by David Bowie.” “Playing “Young Americans,” by David Bowie,” she replied robotically (she is after all, a robot.)

So goes the evening’s format: Panelist announces favorite Bowie cut, extrapolates on its importance to them personally, and orders Alexa to cough up the selected track. This final transition is cold and clunky, but to be expected. At times I felt like the only person in the world who doesn’t desire the latest gadgets, and after a long Thanksgiving weekend in an Alexa-toting household, I can now firmly state that I think they make home life worse. But that is another article.

Song Stories’ use of Alexa was mildly surprising, and what happened after the song began should not have surprised me at all. But alas, it did. The crowd was respectfully silent during each speaker’s monologue – chuckling when prompted, and clapping when necessary. And yet when the songs filled the room, the chirp of chitchat flared to a clamor, and Bowie’s music was reduced to that plight of parties and shopping malls: background music.

You might ask me what the hell I expected, to which I might grumble, “Touché.” Or, if I was feeling up for a conversation, I might say that given Song Stories’ sincere mission, I expected an entire room of people to listen to listen to “Modern Love” in phone-free silence, maybe even with our eyes closed. This, of course, is a lofty vision for any era, especially one in which multitasking is not a talent, but a necessity. So when the gabbing began, I too began gabbing.

But it never felt quite right. My organs were squirming, and I think that my 12-year-old self – the one who used to make friends hush up and parents rewind tapes when her favorite part of a song played unacknowledged – was trying to bust out and hush up the audience. I am glad she did not, as I later learned that Suzi Ronson, Mick’s widow, was in the front row, and boy would that have been embarrassing. But I am also glad I tamed my inner hall monitor, because the Songs Stories crowd simply didn’t deserve to be chastised. Few do. In truth, there was nothing problematic about the evening, save for a self-serving Mick Rock and misquoting Mark Mothersbaugh (it’s “I’m an alligator,” not “crocodile,” Mark!). The sole problem was my own; the desire to mend my recent detachment from music was being projected on an evening of pure fun, with free wine and sandwiches to boot.

It seems funny that I can even write “My recent detachment from music.” While knocking back my first glass of red on Monday, I was fresh off an eight hour day of music; “Listening” to scraps of songs, and whole ones when I had the chance, rifling through the opinions of other writers, hunting out discrepancies between fact and copy, and shaping my own opinions – or perhaps, judgments – far too quickly. It is a job I love, make no mistake, but I like to remain conscious of how it shapes my behavior, particularly as a listener. My biggest fear is that while I begin to hear more, I listen less… a sort-of “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” conundrum, you might say. I believe that on the night of Song Stories, I noticed for the first time that my children are running around barefoot.

Exhibit a) The stack of records sitting on top of my vinyl collection. I bought these albums on November 19th, the Sunday after my 28th birthday party, as a present to myself. The Bill Evans Trio LP is the only one of four or five albums I have taken out of the bag since then. The black disc is still on my turntable, which suggests that I have not played a record on it (a favorite pastime) in three weeks. If you asked me the title, or even the artists’ names of the remaining records I purchased that day, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. They are still in their shiny blue shopping bag, waiting to be played.

Exhibit b) The look on my face when you ask me, “What have you been listening to lately?” I don’t know that I could conjure a name. I have been listening to so many things in rapid turnover, not one rises to the top. I need to work on that.

I also need to work on listening in general. Perhaps that’s my early New Year’s resolution: To make space and time to listen. Not on the phone. Not while cooking. Not while working. But face up, back flat on the bed; in total darkness and with no expectations.

On Basilica SoundScape & Authenticity

Julia Holter Basilica

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Gamelan Dharma Swara
Gamelan Dharma Swara, photo by Lindsey Rhoades

Touted as a cure to “festival fatigue,” this past weekend marked Basilica SoundScape’s third year in Hudson, NY, two hours north of the city. Nestled in that bucolic landscape hulks a cavernous 19th century foundry revamped and rechristened by Hole’s Melissa Auf der Mar and her partner, filmmaker Tony Stone, as an arts collective. With Brandon Stosuy (of Pitchfork fame) and Leg Up! Management’s Brian De Ran organizing a line-up of experimental music’s best and brightest, the shindig also boasts artisanal foods, art installations, and an avant-garde craft fair.

In many, many ways, it is the quintessential “anti-festival” – the only act I remember seeing on actual festival bills this summer was Deafheaven, who played Saturday night. It’s so different, in fact, that you begin to wonder why or how its organizers would even mention “festival” in the same breath as “SoundScape” except as a framing device for people who wouldn’t care in the first place and certainly wouldn’t be attending – those people that like festivals even, who plan to meet up with their crop-topped and cut-offed friends by carrying around some ten-foot, vaguely humorous sign or balloon animal all weekend, those people that don’t get festival fatigue because they live for any opportunity whatsoever to drop molly in a field with a hundred thousand rave-orbing Skrillex devotees. With capital-F Festivals popping up in or around nearly every major American city, this is no longer a market cornered by Coachella and Bonnaroo, but they all have the same vague feel – wide open grounds, multiple stages that make it impossible to see every act, overpriced tickets and overpriced concessions, ‘roid-raging security, and mostly unimaginative line-ups. The thing is, tons of people still go to these events as if it’s the only way to see live music. These people need no “anti-festival.” So who, then, is something like Basilica SoundScape really for?

Unlike most mid-sized towns with relatively small music scenes, New York City’s “scene” is pretty diffused due to its sheer size. But there is a specific intersection of journalists, musicians, labels, managers, PR teams, and their social circles who form the sometimes insular “insider” bulk; this is the subset of people Basilica was curated by and for, and they headed up to Hudson in droves. Though supposedly SoundScape attracts locals, most of the faces in the crowd were familiar to anyone tangentially related to the industry. Much the way SXSW can feel like a vacation for music-industry folks and culture critics (even though we’re all still “working”), SoundScape felt like a bizarro (though admittedly awesome) tailor-made alternate universe for an incredibly niche crowd. While that’s not exactly a bad thing – most of us do what we do because we are actually passionate about bands like Swans – there was a different kind of fatigue to the whole thing, even if it wasn’t “festival fatigue” so to speak.

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Julia Holter Basilica
Julia Holter, photo by Lindsey Rhoades

That being said, Friday’s performances were breathtaking. The most appropriately-named band on the roster, Endless Boogie, stretched their searing psych jams to their limits. Julia Holter’s performance was a personal highlight, her hands deftly springing over her keyboard, her vocals emotive and grandiose enough to fill the entire space but remaining somehow intimate. With a more sparse set-up than some of her typical full-band performances, it was a treat to see her play solo. Following her performance, Gamelan Dharma Swara filled the floor of Basilica Hudson, observers posting up all around the ensemble of twenty or so seated behind traditional Balinese percussion instruments. Xylophone-esque, the bars are tamped by hand after striking with mallets, their ornate golden forms producing tones just as gilded, the whole sound a complete wonder. That segued into the transformative drone of electronic wunderkind Tim Hecker, whose complex compositions act on the senses in peculiar ways. His low-end is amped to earth-shattering proportions, so as to produce a very physical sensation in the throat and chest (and even skull) while washes of shimmering melody play just beneath. It’s the best kind of thing to zone out to. Taken together, this onslaught of transcendent performances was worth the trip alone. Afterward, Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry performed his inventive Music For Heart and Breath compositions, all of which are timed to the players’ own breath or heartbeats via stethoscope – a novel idea, although in such a cacophonous space full of distractions it unfortunately fell flat.

So, imagine now the type of person who would soak that all up while sneering at the idea of Outkast-and-Jack-White-headlined, corporate-sponsored Festivals – the music writers, the experimental composers, the record store clerks, the somewhat elistist Brooklynites who’d never be caught dead at Governor’s Ball (unless they were covering it for some internet publication or other). That’s who was there, and that’s who a thing like SoundScape is meant to impress. And yet, there wasn’t any real air of snobbery, because snobbery hinges on looking down at someone, and at Basilica, we’re all in the same discerningly curated boat, our sails full of our own good taste. And that is fine and good, and unsurprising, but let’s not pretend that SoundScape is solving any of festival culture’s actual problems, or even acting as a model for anything other than a DIY-ish version of something more similar to All Tomorrow’s Parties.

Really, one of the more innovative aspects of Basilica programming were the Saturday evening readings by Mish Way (of White Lung), Los Angeles poet Mira Gonzalez, and Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves. It’s an interesting concept to bring spoken word pieces into a lineup that features post-hardcore acts like Swans and Deafheaven, and the fact that all three readers were women felt progressive and uplifting. Graves’ piece was published in full on The Talkhouse and dealt with gendered double standards and examined authenticity through anecdotes about Andrew W.K. and the media’s treatment of Lana del Rey. It’s a bit of an odd comparison in some ways, Andrew W.K.’s “persona” having been invented prior to the popularity of the longform thinkpieces del Rey’s been such inspiration for, but at its heart was the very real feeling that female celebrities face far more scrutiny (and for that matter, scrutiny of a different breed) than men in entertainment ever do. Graves used Andrew W.K. as a talking point because she’d recently met him and familiarized herself with his backstory, but I couldn’t help but wish she’d left del Rey out of it and chosen instead to share her own struggle to be taken seriously or seen as authentic. Pop music is a whole other monster – something she touched on in her essay only briefly – because it reaches such a wide audience and by its very nature demands its performers have some sort of gag or gimmick, and that does manifest itself differently for women in pop than it does for men in pop. At Basilica SoundScape though, the kind of authenticity folks seemed most concerned with was proving their own, their presence at such a groundbreaking, culture-altering event the best sort of cache.

So Basilica SoundScape is absolutely worth attending if you truly appreciate a well-curated lineup in which the details and intersections behind every act are carefully thought out by its organizers. For those types of show-goers, SoundScape will likely continue to be that breath of fresh Autumn air as long as the gorgeous venue that hosts it stands. While it may alienate the mainstream festival attendees of today, hopefully SoundScape will act as a beacon that proves there’s always a different way – particularly for those that put big-box events together. If SoundScape can build on this year’s successes and continue the trend of innovation next year, even the Lollapalooza lovers are bound to notice.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LOUD & TASTELESS: Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves

 Every Thursday, AF profiles a style icon from the music world. This week, check out Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves, whose inimitable punk rock-chic has us all ready to get pixie cuts of our very own and stock up on vintage Jackie O dresses.

Meredith-of-Perfect-Pussy

Syracuse front-woman Meredith Graves is small yet loud, cute but brash, and may or may not, have a Perfect Pussy.  Then again, who does?  The 26-year old punk vocalist maintains an appearance that is far sweeter than the sound of her voice (and the things that pop up when you google “Perfect Pussy” sans safe-search).  Graves has the blithe smile of a screen actress and jet-black pixie crop that makes her look like she wakes up in a lily pad dewdrop every morning more so than sing in a hardcore band.  I love a girl who can yell her lungs out while looking like Twiggy’s evil twin in a red A-line mini dress.  Hell, she even sports ruffles sometimes.  Check out how to get Graves’ look here!

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YEAR END LIST: AF’s Guide to Riot Grrrl’s Influence in 2013

Body/Head at St. Vitus

It is a goddamn golden age for girl-fronted punk.  It’s not that there haven’t been important works by women in the ensuing years, but 2013 saw a Riot Grrrl Renaissance unlike anything since its early ’90s inception.  Back then, Kathleen Hanna had to make safe spaces at Bikini Kill shows for female attendees by calling out aggressive dudes.  The ladies at the forefront of the movement had to blacklist the mainstream media that painted them alternately as fashion plates, dykes, or whores (sometimes all three, and always with negative connotations; it shouldn’t be implied that to be any of these things is bad or wrong in the first place).  By all accounts, they “couldn’t play” anyway, so the medium and its messages were barely worth discussing as anything more than a passing trend.  Meanwhile, riot grrrls preached their radical politics one Xerox at a time.

If the wisdom of these women seemed to skip the generation that adored Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” without criticism, it has finally come full circle in a way that feels vital and urgent now.  Not only are we as a culture stepping up to finally examine sexism and exploitation and appropriation within the industry, there are more acts than ever completely unafraid to do their own thing – be it overtly political (see: Priests) or revolutionary in its emotional candidness (looking at you, Waxahatchee).  Maybe it has to do with direct influences of stalwart ensembles like Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile, and maybe it’s a thing that’s happened gradually as those first voices carved out room for other female performers (for instance, in establishing Rock Camps for young female musicians throughout the country, a project that initially came about through discussions and direct action in riot grrrl communities).  There’s no way to make an inclusive list of all the phenomenal bands (punk or otherwise) now blazing their own trails through their various scenes but taking a tally of at least a few of these acts felt like a necessity for me as someone whose entire life was informed by music like this, and girls like them.  And because fifteen years after I discovered it for myself, 2013 feels like one giant, celebratory dance party/victory lap.

CARRYING THE TORCH

If 2013 is the year female-fronted punk broke, it has to be said that not all 90’s era veterans burned out or faded politely away.  In fact, two of the grunge scene’s most influential women put out intensely personal releases this year.

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Kathleen Hanna Kim Gordon
Hanna and Gordon in 1994’s “Bull in the Heather” video

Body/Head, Kim Gordon’s noise project with Bill Nace, created a moving exploration of feminine and masculine tropes in the form of a noise record.  I wouldn’t want to reduce Coming Apart to a document of her split from long-time partner Thurston Moore, but the whole thing feels every bit as raw and awkward as a life change that catastrophic must have been.  It’s Gordon’s most powerful, wild moments in Sonic Youth distilled down and then blown up.  Her vocals can sound desperate and strained at times, but this is ironically the most forceful aspect of the recordings – the anger and the vulnerability existing together in all its anti-harmony.

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Body/Head at St. Vitus
Kim Gordon and Bill Nace perform as Body/Head in June at St. Vitus

Likewise, Hanna’s record is not a chronicle of her late-stage Lyme Disease, the chronic illness that forced her to quit touring with socially-conscious electro outfit Le Tigre (for that, check out Sini Anderson’s brilliant Hanna doc The Punk Singer) but a testament to the triumph that creating it had over her sickness.  Reviving her moniker from ’97’s bedroom-recording project Julie Ruin by adding a “The” to the front and four incredible musicians and co-conspirators at her back, the band released Run Fast in September.  It manages to meld every one of Hanna’s prior sonic sensibilities, burnishing the the dance-punk of Feminist Sweepstakes with the sass and cacophony of The Singles and adopting the confessional tone of that first solo record.

This is riot grrrl all grown up; though neither project should necessarily bear that particular label, it feels like a continuation of the story that in turn validates its importance.  And the influence of Gordon and Hanna and others of their ilk can certainly be heard in a whole host of bands with break-out records that landed this year.  Again, it’s not that anyone in these bands are running around calling themselves riot grrrls, just that they’d be right at home on a playlist with bands who did (and bands of that era, from Red Aunts to Discount to that dog., that demanded my affection as equally).

NEXT WAVE

Katie and Allison Crutchfield have been making music since they were teenagers, most notably in P.S. Elliot before splitting up to pursue creative projects as separate entities.  Katie released American Weekend in 2012 and Cerulean Salt in March, Allison released a self-titled record with her band Swearin’ last year and followed it up with Surfing Strange a few months ago.  The girls are mirror twins, meaning they’re identical but that their features are reversed in some instances, and that’s a good approximation of how their musical projects merge and divide.  Cerulean Salt is stripped down sonically and hyper-focused on thematic subject matter, dealing directly with her family history and its personal stories.  Swearin’ takes a music-making approach more classic to pop punk, its subject matter just as earnest but with a broader focus.  The two have reunited for one-off projects (like an incredible cover of Grimes’ Oblivion for Rookie Mag) and live together in Philly with their boyfriends (both of whom play in Swearin’).  In interviews and in their song lyrics they espouse feminist ideas unabashedly and have talked openly about finding inspiration in the riot grrrl movement.

Speaking of Alison’s boyfriend, Kyle Gilbride produced girl-punk supergroup Upset’s debut album, She’s Gone, out this year on Don Giovanni.  Uniting Vivian Girls contemporaries Ali Koehler and Jenn Prince with Patty Schemel of Hole, She’s Gone is a quirky collection of catchy, rapid-fire jams that at first listen might come off as slightly superficial.  But at the crux of the record is the idea of examining female experience, in particular the formative teenage years, in which break-ups and female rivalry loom large.  Taking what might be written off as juvenile and giving it its due importance in song is what makes the album both accessible and relevant.  If it seems precocious to compare one’s dreams to a dinosaur, at least it validates them by re-calibrating the scale.

Don Giovanni put out another astounding release in The Worriers’ Cruel Optimist.  Fronted by Lauren Denitzio of Measure, the project seeks to combine her interests in literature, art, and queer activism in a way her past musical projects have not.  Over hooky guitars and crashing drums, Denitzio talks about privilege in feminism and the need to re-evaluate personal politics with growing older on “Never Were”, references Jeanette Winterson as a way to talk about androgyny and gender identity on “Passion”, and ruminates on the toll that conservative politics took on a personal relationship in “Killjoy”.  The album closes with “Why We Try”, a triumphant reminder of the reasons these discussions still need to happen in music and elsewhere.  “If we expect something better / things won’t just move forward / Remember why we try“.

In talking about New Brunswick’s esteemed DIY circuit, we’d be remiss to not include Marissa Paternoster, active for several years now in the punk scene there, releasing work under solo moniker Noun as well as with her band Screaming Females.  It’s the latter’s most recent release, Chalk Tape, that sees the band going in some very interesting melodic directions with their particularly searing brand of guitar rock, recording most of the songs without revisions based around concepts scrawled on a chalkboard.  Paternoster’s commanding vocals, gliding easily between out-and-out aggressive and tender, looped sophistication, paired with her exceptional guitar work, make Chalk Tape a tour de force.  Here’s hoping a few misguided Miley fans accidentally stumbled on the wrong “Wrecking Ball”.

Nestled in another well-respected DIY scene, Northampton-based Speedy Ortiz represent a collective of 90’s-era rock enthusiasts with a poet at the helm.  Sadie Dupuis feels more comfortable behind a guitar than on open-mike night, but the lyrics she penned for Major Arcana and delivers with brass are practically worthy of a Pulitzer.  Razor sharp wit, slyly self-deprecating quips, and vitriol marked by vulnerability characterize the general tone of the record, its particular lyrical references so nuanced and clever it begs about a million listens.

Potty Mouth sprang out of the same scene when Ally Einbinder, frustrated with the difficulties of booking shows and playing in bands with men who rarely asked her input when it came to songwriting, decided to form and all-female punk band.  Einbinder and her cohorts are frequent participants in Ladyfest, which has sought to showcase feminist artists across different mediums for thirteen years running.  Bursting with energy and attitude, Potty Mouth’s debut Hell Bent calls bullshit on punk scene bravado, questions obsessive tendencies, encourages punk girls in small towns “it-gets-better” style, and delivers acute, sharp-tongued kiss-offs to any doubters.

Though the pun alludes to classically trained harpist and witchy-voiced weird-folk patron saint Joanna Newsom, Alanna McArdle and her compatriots in Joanna Gruesome stray pretty far from that reference point.  Instead, the UK band cherry-picks from shoegaze, twee, and thunderous punk with Adderal-fueled ferocity.  McArdle is a study in contradictions, one moment singing in a sweet-voiced whisper and the next shouting psychotically, often about crushing skulls or some other, equally violent way of expressing her twisted affections. The group met in anger management, and every second on Weird Sister sees them working out some deeply seated issues, the end result proving what a gift anger can be.

NEXT YEAR

This particular calendar year, it seems, is only the beginning.  With a record crate’s worth of amazing releases from 2013, there’s a bevvy of bands with bandcamp profiles, demos, EPs, cassettes and singles that hold a lot of promise for future releases.  Across the board, when asked how their bands formed or when they started playing, the response is “I wanted to do it so I got a guitar and I just started playing.”  The DIY ethos and “fuck it” attitude are what make these projects so vital and exciting.

Priests

The DC group are explosive live, in particular thanks to Katie Greer’s spastic growl and Daniele Withonel’s revelatory drumming.  The band’s been known to spout off about anti-consumerism between songs, out of breath from the high-energy set, but there’s plenty of radical content in their self-released tapes, too.  Those searching for manifestos need look no further than “USA (Incantations)”, a spoken-word bruiser that skewers the non-inclusive founding of America and ends with “this country was not made for you and it was built on lies and murder”; it kind of makes me want to vote for Priests for president.  Elsewhere on Tape 2, Withonel steps from behind her drum kit to flip the script on the male gaze, with perfect Kathleen Hanna pitch. Whether they’re singing about Lana del Ray or Lillian Hellman, these self-described Marxists provide an electrifying listen.

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Perfect Pussy

Perfect Pussy plays notoriously brief shows – if you blink during their set, you’ll miss ’em – but all have played the Syracuse scene for years now.  The quartet got a lot of attention this over I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling, a four song EP with walls of guitar fuzz and synths and some forceful vocals from Meredith Graves buried low in the mix.  Trained in opera but trying out punk, she’s said that because she’s insecure about her singing they’ll likely stay that way when the band records a full length.  But it’s not because she’s trying to hide her words – you can read them by clicking through each song on Perfect Pussy’s bandcamp.  They are well worth extracting from the sludge, coming across like a Jenny Holzer send-up of rape culture, mixed in with some personal meditations on growing past a female betrayal and catharsis through relationships thrown in for good measure.
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Palehound

Ellen Kempner writes off-kilter lyrics that perfectly distill the wonder and worry that comes with being a teenager, but with a wise, almost nostalgic tone that does not belie the fact that she is, actually, a freshman in college, living these experiences for the first time.  Her musician father taught her how to play guitar, and in high school she was in a band called Cheerleader before releasing some solo recordings that morphed into Palehound.  Their excellent Bent Nail EP came together this year, featuring the quintessential “Pet Carrot”, which seesaws from sing-songy folk to scuzzy 90’s grunge more reminiscent of Liz Phair than of Lorde.
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Cayetana

The Philly trio are a perfect picture of female solidarity, repping other girl bands from Philly in interviews and inking their bodies with matching arrow tattoos, as well as getting involved with Philly’s Ladyfest.  They sing about friendships and loss and the city around them with a raspy roar, holding back just enough on their three-song demo to hint at the spaces they’ll grow into.
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All Dogs

Coming out of Columbus, Ohio’s great lo-fi scene (which bands like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit helped build, and contemporaries Sex Tide and Connections will only continue), All Dogs take that same energy and clean up the grime just a bit to let Maryn Bartley’s hopelessly catchy vocal melodies shine.  There’s a youthful exuberance and earnestness that propels the material on their split cassette with Slouch and their self-titled 7″ released on Salinas Records.  The Crutchfield sisters have been big early supporters; Katie booked them as openers on an upcoming Waxahatchee tour after saying they “made her cry”.
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Tweens

About an hour south in Cincinatti, Bridget Battle takes an endearing 60’s girl group intonation and spits it snottily into a microphone while her bandmates in TWEENS play messy, immediate punk rock.  Their CMJ performances earned them rave reviews and helped them release a bit of the energy they’d pent up during the recording of their first full-length in DUMBO, set to see release sometime this spring.  Until then, they’ll be touring with fellow Ohioans the Deal sisters for The Breeders’ extended reunion shows.
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Heavy Bangs

“I don’t care what you think as long as I can’t hear it / I’ll be a fly some other place.  / I don’t care what you do / As long as you stay away from me / I can’t stand the way you do the things you do.”  So begins “All the Girls” from Heavy Bangs’ bandcamp demos.  It’s a departure from the quirky indie pop Cynthia Schemmer played as guitarist for Radiator Hospital, but it takes cues from the same attention to clever melody.  The best indication of what might come from her solo project are the artful and contemplative postcards she posts to her tumblr (http://cynthiaschemmer.tumblr.com/) before sending them to to friends, apologetically explaining why Philly drew her back after time in New York, or recounting conversations she had with a therapist over the loss of illusions.  Like the two tracks she’s shared, these can feel sad but are intently self-aware, the attention to detail speaking volumes between the lines.
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Are those alive in a golden age ever able to really realize it?  Or can it only be understood by looking back?  With the passage of time we grow older and wiser and we’re better able to put things into context, but there are some moments that are simply meant to be lived.  If you’re not screaming at the top of your lungs to these records or dancing in the front row at one of these shows, you’re doing it wrong.

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