Indian Oven Cooks Up Full-Length Album Full of Surprises

Tenderness album coverIndian Oven
Tenderness
(Self-release/ DIY)
Release date: 8/12/16

In a 2013 interview, the members of the Western Massachusetts indie rock band Indian Oven – Sam Carpenter (vocals, guitar, bass) and Griffin Bazzeghin (drums, percussion, harmonica, backup vocals) – mentioned exciting plans of starting work on a full-length album. Now, three years later, the duo has emerged with the finished product.

With a name like Tenderness, listeners might expect the record to be chock full of sappy love songs or gut-wrenching odes to past relationships. However, it doesn’t take long to observe that Indian Oven may have had a secondary definition of tenderness in mind when it came time to title the album – sensitivity to pain.

Opening track “Oh, His Body” cuts right to the point. Over some tuba (courtesy of Pioneer Valley musician J Witbeck) and melancholy strings (from cellist Eric Remschneider of Siamese Dream fame), a tale is told of a thin, lonely man who amidst flashes of lightning and a wounded heart is pursued by a persistent memory. It’s an intriguing character study built off images to ruminate over, and the mood is accented by churning, dirge-like music that marches almost grudgingly forward.

It gets even better on perhaps Tenderness’ best song, “Mystery Novel.” Featuring banjo and a wordless intro filled with “oohs,” the track unfolds around a repeating guitar riff in almost short story fashion. Characters include the reader of the aforementioned novel, a lost father and a mystery woman who’s “nowhere to be found.” Plus, it’s catchy to boot.

Fittingly, a host of characters contributed to the recording of Tenderness itself. Though Indian Oven’s membership consists of just Carpenter and Bazzeghin, Valley residents like Witbeck, Jamie Kent (group vocals), Alex Drenga (banjo) and Emma Cohen (vocals) amongst others, also crop up on the record.

The addition of so many players to the group’s sound lends a wider scope to the proceedings. While many songs focus on intimate subjects, the songwriting structures used consistently ebb and flow. Rhythms shift from number to number, and different musical styles meet, mutate and merge into new creations. For examples, look to the burbling country rock of “Mama Don’t Buy Me Marbles,” as well as the indie rock sing-along “Harder.”

But in the end, everything boils down to the melodies. As far as Indian Oven stretches stylistically, the band still shows a knack for hanging its songs on a particular melody or hook. To wit, one of the group’s most hummable tunes “Warm Gin” even gets a reprise as a stripped down and unlisted bonus track.

Starting today digital downloads of Tenderness are available to purchase online via iTunes and CD Baby, and physical copies of the release can be found at Turn It Up! in Northampton.

For more information on Indian Oven please visit www.facebook.com/IndianOvenMusic.

Read more by Michael Cimaomo at www.valleyadvocate.com/category/blogs/northeast-underground/

Dinosaur Jr. Roars Again on New Album “Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not”

JAG285Dinosaur Jr.
Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not
(Jagjaguwar)
Release date: 8/5/16

Break out the ear plugs. Western Massachusetts’ own alt-rock power trio, Dinosaur Jr., is back.

New album Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not marks the fourth release by the band since the acclaimed 2005 reunion of the group’s original line-up – J Mascis (guitar, vocals), Lou Barlow (bass, vocals) and Murph (drums). In fact, this current incarnation of Dinosaur has now actually lasted longer and produced more records than it did in the ‘80s, when Mascis and company turned out such ear-crushing gems as You’re Living All Over Me and Bug. And while the new album bears less resemblance to those early classics than it does to the band’s more recent reunion work, that fact only aids the assertion that the group’s second life is no fluke, it’s a full-on resurgence.

Opening with the one-two punch of singles “Goin Down” and “Tiny,” Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not hits the ground running.

“Are you with me?” Mascis sings on the album opener. “I got more to say.”

Though not normally cited for his loquaciousness, the guitarist lets his axe speak for him with catchy riffing and skittery solos filling up both tracks’ running times. It’s alternative rock with a pop sheen for the ‘90s nostalgia age, and the Murph and Barlow rhythm section keep up a relentless chug.

“Be A Part” slows the tempo with a repeated guitar figure ringing out between lines focusing on being “broken hearted.” But it’s the Barlow penned cut “Love Is…” that marks the first deviation from the band’s trademark crunch. Over acoustic guitar and some lurking fuzz, the Sebadoh founder feels right at home on a song that wears its ‘60s influence on its sleeve. It almost even sounds like another band is playing complete with Mascis’ ragged Neil Young-like solo conjuring a classic rock vibe.

The album’s second half features a return to a heavier sound. “I Walk For Miles” feels like a slow trudge with a bludgeoning grunge riff that stomps along as Mascis’ reach for a higher register accents the weary atmosphere of the track. At nearly six minutes in length, the number also pairs with the five-plus minute “Lost All Day” to hammer out an air of wistfulness that sees lyric subject matter looking backwards at past relationships and the things that went wrong.

“Knocked Around” follows suit. “I miss you all the time and I’m lonely,” Mascis laments on the first half of the number, sounding plaintive and wrung out. Then, strength gathered, the band soars into overdrive for the rest of the track with the furious strumming barely keeping up with the relentless drumming.

Finally, it’s left to Barlow to close out the album with his second contribution. “Left/ Right” again sounds like a song that could come from another band, only this time that band is Barlow’s other group Sebadoh. More acoustic instrumentation rears its head, but where “Love Is…” showed off a wily Mascis guitar solo, here his playing feels restrained, almost terse. There are still textures aplenty, but the idiosyncrasy of the moment leaves question marks on an otherwise strong track.

Overall, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not sees Dinosaur Jr. making subtle tweaks to a tried and true formula. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But the clock is ticking on referring to this phase of the band’s career as post-reunion. When you’ve already outlasted the era of your earliest rumblings and eclipsed a spell spent under a major label banner, those events soon start looking like bumps in the road of a significant career that just needed some time to grow into its current arc.

Read more by Michael Cimaomo at www.valleyadvocate.com/category/blogs/northeast-underground/

Sara Watkins “Young In All The Wrong Ways” album review

Sara Watkins “Young In All The Wrong Ways” album review

Elmore Magazine - Sara Watkins

And The Kids near indie rock graduation on new album “Friends Share Lovers”

coverAnd The Kids
Friends Share Lovers
(Signature Sounds)
Release date: 6/3/16

In the midst of graduation season in Western Mass, it’s easy to forget that graduation itself is about more than caps and gowns. Students, who four years ago were mere freshmen in high school or college, are now readying for their respective commencement days, which will launch them into the next stages of their lives.

Many are a bundle of nerves. Others are impatient. And still more are focused, confident and prepared to meet whatever challenges come next, with a zeal and aplomb that could only be the product of minds hungry to make their own dreams come true.

Similar descriptions could be used to discuss the members of the Pioneer Valley band And The Kids. Like the students mentioned above, And The Kids’ Hannah Mohan, Rebecca Lasaponaro, Megan Miller and Taliana Katz, started out four years ago with big dreams and ambitions. Now, with the release of the group’s second full-length album Friends Share Lovers on Northampton’s own Signature Sounds label, And The Kids is a band ready to graduate as well, into a world of indie rock stardom.

Recent years have seen the group buzzed about by more than Advocate writers and local music scenesters. Publications like the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal and Pitchfork.com, have all weighed in favorably on the band’s mature mix of indie pop and alternative rock, and that hype is justified on Friends Share Lovers’ opening track.

Beginning with a rapid-fire drum roll and vocals from Lasaponaro, “Kick Rocks” sees Mohan’s own voice emerge and blend with her drummer’s to create an enchanting harmony. The pair sing about moving on, and whether they mean from a relationship or a physical location, the message is delivered with unbridled energy. It’s a headlong introductory rush, and only the first stop on a tour of sounds to come.

The record’s second track, “I Dropped Out,” slows the pace. While its lyrics veer from slogans like “love is concentration” to more observational fare like “bodies walking over bodies that are sleeping,” the song hinges on Mohan’s wordless “ohs” and “ahs.” A slinky guitar solo even apes a similar melody with ear-catching results. And Mohan finally finishes the song by repeating the phrase “I went to graduation” over and over.

It’s important to note that many of the tracks on Friends Share Lovers were originally written by Mohan and Lasaponaro as a duo due to visa problems that are currently keeping Miller in Canada. But to show solidarity with their bandmate, the pair trekked north to record the album as a complete group resulting in a fully-realized product that expands on the core compositions exponentially.

For example, the record’s title cut is aided by a litany of studio effects that project the individual member’s talents into a sonic array that could not be duplicated without everyone’s input. Despite lines that seem to allude to the messy gray area where relationships and friendships start to overlap, the song possesses a sunny bounce that plays off the stacked electronic sounds and layered vocals.

Continuing the student/ school analogy from earlier, album finale “Pennies, Rice” could read as a fitting final exam or thesis project. The song employs a variety of percussion and rising sounds that melt into a cohesive whole. After an extended intro, an underlying melody takes shape as Mohan sings about her ability to “do what I want.”

Like many anxious graduates, the feeling behind Mohan’s words is palpable. Graduation does lead to a lot more freedom after all, but it also carries with it some weighty responsibilities.

“This track is about having all the freedom in the world,” Mohan has said. “But the only thing holding you back is your indecisiveness.”

Fortunately, as “Pennies, Rice” builds to its conclusion, a fitting metaphor is gleaned from the lyrics. Just a single word, “avalanche,” is sung over and over near the song’s end, and appropriately so. Like an avalanche, And The Kids is already rolling. Having built momentum over four years, and taken what it can from the area that spawned it, the band is moving on to bigger and better things. Call Friends Share Lovers a diploma to signify all that progress. The group has earned every word.

And The Kids album release show with special guest Carinae, June 4, 8 p.m., $12-15, The Shea Theater, 71 Avenue A, Turner Falls, (413) 863-2281, www.sheatheater.org. For more information please visit www.andthekids.com.   

Read more by Michael Cimaomo at www.michaelcimaomo.wordpress.com.

Whitney “Light Upon the Lake” album review

Whitney “Light Upon the Lake” album review

Elmore Magazine - Whitney

 

My Porch or Yours? Montague Music Festival Marks Second Year

Festival 2015 - Susan Conger and Marco Packard

Susan Conger and Marco Packard perform at Montague Music Festival 2015 (Photo credit: Nicole Nemec)

House shows have always been an important part of the DIY music scene.

Whether it’s some garage rockers providing the soundtrack to a backyard party, a punk rock band playing a concert in a basement or even some indie folk musicians holding court in a living room, the result is the same – people getting the opportunity to listen to live music in an alternative, sometimes more comfortable setting, rather than in a bar or club.

Last year, music fans in Montague played audience to a collection of house shows held as part of the “Good Music Makes Good Neighbors” Montague Music Festival. Organized by Nicole Nemec and Matthew Duncan, the event aimed, the pair said, “to create the kind of community that we say we want to live in – the kind of community where we’re not only sitting inside watching a screen or listening to commercially-streamed music, but where there exists a non-commercial alternative.”

Now the event is back for a second year. 12 acts will set up shop in four homes around Montague Center on May 14, and those interested in checking out the fun can walk, bike or drive, between locations to see live music up close and personal.

Since it consists of multiple concerts, some indoor and some outdoor, held at multiple houses spread throughout a neighborhood, “Good Music Makes Good Neighbors” is similar in its execution to events called porchfests, which are held throughout the country each year.

The original porchfest, which gathered local musicians to perform on neighborhood porches to share their talents with the community, is believed to have been held in Ithaca, N.Y. in 2007, and according to one of that event’s co-organizers, Andy Adelewitz, the mission of such events boils down to one goal.

Festival 2015 - Michael Nix reading piece on Barton's Cove (flipped)

Michael Nix at Montague Music Festival 2015 (Photo credit: Nicole Nemec)

“Celebrate our musical neighbors,” he says. “Whether it’s professional bands who play the biggest clubs in town and tour around the country, or the father-daughter folk duo who won’t play another gig all year.”

Nemec and Duncan agree. By sharing some of the music the pair discovered in their own community, they now hope to shine as an example of how other neighborhoods can act as well.

Duncan says, “I’m quite encouraged by the trends toward more local musical interaction. It is a part of our cultural heritage that has suffered in the era of earbuds. I’m passionate about the music for its own sake, but in addition music really does bring people together in ways that wouldn’t happen otherwise. It connects people across class and social divides. It’s not that people have stopped playing. In fact, some of our participants perform regionally and nationally, but their neighbors might not know it. We’d like to be a part of the remedy.”

Jamaica Plain Porchfest organizer Mindy Fried is also a big supporter of bringing people together across race, culture and class divides through the power of the arts.

She says, “We believe that porchfests give people from all cultural and economic backgrounds – within a community – an opportunity to experience a sense of connectedness. For the artists, they can express themselves through their art, and for some, they choose to voice their perspectives on critical social issues through music.”

“There is talent in unlikely places,” she adds. “Through organizing Jamaica Plain Porchfest, we have discovered talented musicians and other artists are everywhere, but there are not enough opportunities to perform. Porchfest gives artists an exciting opportunity to share their talent to a welcoming audience.”

According to some performers, who played at last year’s “Good Music Makes Good Neighbors” event, audiences in Montague were very welcoming indeed.

Daniel Hales, and the frost heaves (Photo credit: Carol Lollis)

Daniel Hales, and the frost heaves (Photo credit: Carol Lollis)

Greenfield singer/ songwriter Daniel Hales, who is scheduled to perform in Montague this year with his band Daniel Hales, and the frost heaves, says “It’s a great concept, stripped of the pretensions that often mess up the vibe at ‘official’ venues. We actually made more money from donations and sold more merch [last year] than we often do at club shows.”

“The Montague Music Festival is a real manifestation of what it means to foster community,” notes Leo Hwang, who performs again at this year’s event as part of the instrumental jazz, funk, and psychedelic rock group Vimana. “It is a way to build connections between neighbors, and then share that connection with others who visit Montague.”

For now, Nemec and Duncan are content to keep “Good Music Makes Good Neighbors” a small, neighborhood event, though they have received significant interest from folks interested in hosting bands and artists in years to come. Nemec also notes that plans are in the works to one day feature some non-musical acts too, such as local Morris dancers. There has even been some talk of including an open stage where attendees can pick up instruments and play if the mood strikes them at the event. Last year’s festival achieved an estimated attendance of 75 people, and many are expected to return this year, including some fans driving all the way from Connecticut.

Duncan says, “We’d like to make sure that we have a good sized audience before expanding too much. We are trying to grow in a way that is neither too fast nor too slow. If we had 10 houses, 30 bands and a very sparse attendance, that would be demoralizing. If we had three houses, nine bands and big crowds, it would feel claustrophobic. The balance is critical.”

Pairing the dream of a festive afternoon out in Western Massachusetts, where music is heard drifting from house to house as you walk or bike through the beauty of nature, with the more active notion of building a sense of community in a neighborhood of artists and musicians sounds like a challenging juggling act for even the hardiest of DIY-enthusiasts. But the success of even small events like “Good Music Makes Good Neighbors” can often be worth all the hard work and toil.

“A community economy is made up of the personal exchanges, the sharing or gifting of music, the opening of living rooms and barns, and a chance to enjoy a diversity of artistic expression,” Hwang says. “The Montague Music Festival fosters the kind of world we would like to live in.”

The 2nd Annual “Good Music Makes Good Neighbors” Montague Music Festival featuring Daniel hales, and the frost heaves., Vimana, Stephen Katz and more, May 14, 12 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., $10-15 donation requested, Montague Center, www.montaguemusic.org and www.facebook.com/MontagueMusicFest/.

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Tindersticks “The Waiting Room” album review

Tindersticks “The Waiting Room” album review

Elmore Magazine - Tindersticks

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