LuxDeluxe Delivers with New Album “Let’s Do Lunch”

LuxDeluxe
Let’s Do Lunch
(Spirithouse)
Release date: 5/5/17

The latest release from these Northampton rockers is a pretty straightforward affair. In fact, the album’s opening track, “Intro,” even welcomes listeners and lists each band member’s name in succession.

Ned King, Jacob Rosazza, Gabriel Bernini, Caleb Rosazza and Jake Edwards, have seen their collective profile rise over the past few years playing sold out shows, earning the song of the year (“So Far Away”) title on WRSI, and opening for none other than Bernie Sanders at a rally held at the Mullins Center in Amherst. But it’s the group’s continued refinement of a classic sound that still garners the most notice.

That sound, once described by former Advocate writer James Heflin as, “solidly delivered, exuberant pop music that draws from the sounds of several decades ago,” is on fine display throughout “Let’s Do Lunch.” Album single “Keep Your Distance” rides some bubbling bass over its sub-two minute run time, while “I’m Goin’ Fishin’” features a tasty, extended guitar solo. “Baby Whatcha Feelin’” conjures the same vibe John Fogerty and company once dredged up from the bayou, and “Hey Girl” resembles a take on some lo-fi indie rock with just vocals and a couple of guitars making up the mix.

The mere existence of such a variety of tunes on one record is a testament to LuxDeluxe’s craftsmanship, especially given that the tracks were recorded live by the band on a Tascam Portastudio four track cassette recorder, which was set up in the group’s rehearsal space. Outtakes from the recording sessions are even included on “Let’s Do Lunch” via “Interludes,” a song-length medley of music snippets, studio chatter and unfinished ideas, some of which beg to be expanded upon. But if all this creativity and experimentation doesn’t sound the least bit straightforward, hear me out.

The members of LuxDeluxe know exactly what they’re doing. By marching from start to finish to a steady, rhythmic lockstep groove “Let’s Do Lunch” is a complete album experience. The record begins with “Intro,” and ends with “Goodnight” – a clear beginning and a logical end. In between are songs that push and pull at different emotions without overshadowing one another or feeling out of place. There’s time for nods to classic sounds. There’s time to expand, fly free, and try new tricks. There’s even a section (“Interludes”) acting as an outlet for this overflow of ideas. But the proceedings work best as a cohesive whole.

In a recent interview, Bernini said, “We wanted the record to represent our influences and the music that we’re most comfortable with. It’s definitely a return to form for us. It’s the music we grew up on and still listen to and it’s what we do best as a band.”

Enjoy the ride. Just don’t forget to start at the top.

LuxDeluxe album release show with co-headliner Madaila, April 8, 9 p.m., $10-13, Pearl Street Nightclub, 10 Pearl Street, Northampton, (413) 584-7771, http://www.iheg.com/pearl_street_main.asp

For more information on LuxDeluxe please visit https://www.luxdeluxemusic.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/luxdeluxemusic.

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

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/

Blue Jean Committee Sails Again with Catalina Breeze

BlueJeanCommittee_CatalinaBreeze_CoverBlue Jean Committee

Catalina Breeze

(Drag City)

Release date: 11/20/15

In November of 2011, the national entertainment spotlight turned its eyes towards Northampton, Mass. The reason for the attention was a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Featuring actor Jason Segel and then cast member Fred Armisen, the bit was a send-up of a “local” band called the Blue Jean Committee. All long hair and denim attire, the group got some laughs in the Western Mass press at the time, but few could imagine what would come next.

Just last year, the Blue Jean Committee was resurrected by Armisen, along with their “hit” song “Massachusetts Afternoon,” which the actor showcased as the first in his series of “Hometown Heroes” single releases for Drag City Records. Then in September, Armisen brought the band to life again (trading Segel for fellow-SNL album Bill Hader), reinventing its origin story (no more Northampton reference, the boys are Chicagoans through and through) and telling the tale behind its meteoric rise and fall on his IFC show Documentary Now!.

A focal point of that story is the fictional group’s breakthrough 1974 album Catalina Breeze. Described by writer Chuck Klosterman on Documentary Now! with the words, “Every song was a single, and every single was great,” fans can now experience every hit with Drag City Records official release of the soft rock classic.

Opening with the appropriately laid back title track, it doesn’t take long to notice that Armisen has done his homework. While the Portlandia star’s music doc history of the Blue Jean Committee was done for comedy, part of the fun was reveling in all the details that Documentary Now! used to portray the band. Subtle nods to Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, episodes of Behind the Music and director Alison Ellwood’s 2013 film History of the Eagles Part One, were all incorporated, and “Catalina Breeze” is the product of another mixed bag.

Armisen talk-sings about being “a barstool intellectual with a master’s degree in small talk” and “going to the movies,” but the music is all California sunshine with cooing background vocals and strategically placed percussion. “Catalina” is also the album’s longest song with a running time of a mere two minutes and 15 seconds.

Yes, sadly, even for a joke record Catalina Breeze is brutally short. Seven songs go by in just over 10 minutes. But that’s still enough time for era-specific gems like “Gentle and Soft,” which pairs shared vocals with bat-shit lines about Captain Tom pointing “his compass towards the sun,” and “Mama You’re a Dancer,” which merges a disco beat to a stirring guitar lead with catchy results.

In fact, even the other songs on the record that more closely resemble half-finished ideas or aborted attempts at complete tracks are just as likely to end up as your next ear worm. “Freeway Song” just features the lyrics “freeway riding along” repeated ad nauseum for 53 seconds, but coupled with a driving beat and some propulsive bass runs the song might still tempt you to push the pedal down and sing along. “Mr. Fix-It” begs the question of what if Armisen had actually finished writing the number. It’s a promising story-song that builds nicely, but missing a complementary chorus (or any chorus actually) it simply fades out without reaching its full potential.

In a nutshell, that’s the story of the Blue Jean Committee as a whole. Documentary Now! showed the ups and the downs, but the music speaks for itself. Local boys done good? One time kings of the soft rock revolution? Or funny men making fun music? The answer might be all three. Catch the wind and sail along.

For more information on The Blue Jean Committee please visit http://www.dragcity.com/artists/the-blue-jean-committee

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Game for a Throne: Northampton’s Jesse French Dreams Big as King of Nowhere

King of Nowhere 3 (Photo credit Georgia Teensma)

Jesse French aka King of Nowhere (Photo credit: Georgia Teensma)

Jesse French is not your average gardener. Though by day, the Hampshire College graduate works for the Trustees of Reservations in Holyoke, Mass. doing landscaping and maintenance, by night the musician inside French comes out to play.

From jobs doing live sound at local clubs to his membership in Pioneer Valley bands like Young Tricksters, Ex Temper and The Hampshire College Grateful Dead Historical Society, French has found no shortage of outlets for his budding musical talent. But recently, the Northampton resident decided to add another project to his already crowded schedule.

Under the name King of Nowhere, French has launched his artistic canoe into fresh and more personal waters. He’s already recorded an album, Becoming, under the new moniker and hopes to push the boundaries of rock and folk music with a still evolving style.

“[Becoming] really marks the beginning of King of Nowhere as the identity for my artistic output,” French says. “It feels good to move forward with a name that can encompass the contributions of others and feels less centered around me.”

While Becoming does feature contributions from other musicians like Becca Malin (vocals), Aaron Noble (drums), Lucy Hollier (viola) and Abigail Hobart (violin), the end result still resembles a glimpse into the private thoughts of French, who plays guitar, bass and sings throughout. Songs like “Beverly Hospital” and “Domestic Policy” seem to illustrate the struggles of knowing how to love or be worthy of affection. And “Meltdown” employs quiet and loud passages to paint a picture of an individual dealing with undisclosed personal problems.

King of Nowhere 2 (Photo credit: Georgia Teensma)

(Photo credit: Georgia Teensma)

French says, “The most challenging thing for me was putting out these songs that feel very naked and revealing. The most personal songs in the batch of this time period didn’t make the album, but there are still plenty of things dealt with in these songs that I would find difficult to talk about. Fortunately, no one ever seems to understand the lyrics.”

Listeners will get a good chance to catch every one of French’s words as he plays upcoming King of Nowhere shows solo, using looping technology to recreate the sounds and textures of Becoming.

“If people spend time with these songs, I think a lot of parts of me come through quite strongly,” French notes. “I’ve explored experiences and characteristics of myself, but this work is also a lens through which to view the things going on around us. Finding bands when I was younger that had a particular message and view of the world was hugely important in my development into the person that I am, and I hope that people can share a little bit of the way I see things through these songs.”

For more information on King of Nowhere and to listen to “Becoming” please visit http://kingofnowhere.bandcamp.com/releases.

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Three for Crowds: Trio of Music Festivals Bringing Family Atmosphere to Western Mass

Green River Festival crowd (Photo credit: Jake Jacobson)The music festival, once a haven for the young, rebellious and sometimes nude, has become a family affair.

Forget Coachella, forget Bonnaroo, and forget Lollapalooza. This summer Western Massachusetts plays host to three different music festivals, all billed as prime destinations for the traveling music fan, and all organized to be as family friendly as possible.

Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival sets up shop at Mass MoCA in North Adams June 26-28. Also that weekend, roots rocker and Northampton native Stephen Kellogg brings his Fifth Annual Family Barbecue to his former hometown. And finally, July 10-12, the Green River Festival returns to the grounds of Greenfield Community College.

“I think there wasn’t any other option,” said Wilco bassist and multi-instrumentalist John Stirratt, when asked during a recent interview about the importance of the Solid Sound Festival being family friendly. “Lots of our fans have kids.”

Though held roughly every other year since its debut in 2010, the Solid Sound Festival is notable for more than just its accommodating attitude towards children. Being staged in and around the walls of a world-class contemporary art museum certainly helps the festival’s profile. And of course, there’s the fact that Solid Sound was founded and continues to be organized by a band instead of an organization or group of promoters.

“The idea of the festival dates back to 2008 when Wilco performed at Tanglewood, and the region was so welcoming,” says Deb Bernardini, who works as part of Wilco’s press team.

Since Tanglewood had such a packed schedule at the time, Jeff Tweedy and company were forced to look elsewhere for a venue to suit their future plan of finding a place where Wilco and its side-projects could perform over the course of a weekend. After settling on Mass MoCA as a location, the group has seen a consistent rise in attendance with each additional running of Solid Sound, including over eight thousand tickets sold for the event in 2013. But that success hasn’t stopped the band from experimenting with what activities to offer festival goers.

For example, in addition to music, Solid Sound also showcases a comedy stage, which in past years has featured appearances by Kristen Schaal,Hannibal Burress, Wyatt Cenac and many more. Comic and author John Hodgman, who appeared at the 2011 Solid Sound Festival, acts as host for the comedy stage and has even joined the staff, acting as an on-going collaborator.

Circus SmirkusPerhaps in a nod to the festival’s already “carnival-like” vibe, the Vermont-based Circus Smirkus has been added to the Solid Sound lineup for 2015. And, as always, a collection of special attractions will be featured alongside Mass MoCA’s own unique exhibits, giving attendees a look inside Wilco’s history and career.

Says Bernardini, “There are exhibits created by and pertaining to Wilco that can only be seen at Solid Sound including an interactive, fan-sourced Wilco timeline featuring ephemera, photos and recollections, as well as an opportunity for fans to stand on a recreated Wilco stage, complete with Wilco instruments, gear and stage backdrop.”

If that’s not enough reason to make the trip to northwestern Mass., there’s always the beauty of the area itself to appreciate and explore.

“With Wilco, we’ve been to a lot of festivals, big and small, and Solid Sound is sort of set apart by the fact that it’s in a really industrial immediate setting, nestled in the lush Berkshires,” concluded Stirratt. “You’re surrounded by brick and steel, but the green hills are right up against you. There really isn’t anywhere quite like North Adams.”

Conversely, according to former Paradise City resident Stephen Kellogg, there’s also no place quite like home. Though 2015 marks the first year Kellogg is bringing his Family Barbecue to Northampton, the delay has done little to diminish the love he has for the area that helped launch his career.

During a phone interview in May, Kellogg said, “When I think about my adventure, my arc through music, it all comes from Western Mass and Northampton.”

Stephen Kellogg (Photo courtesy of IHEG)

Stephen Kellogg (Photo courtesy of IHEG)

Whether logging time as an employee with the Iron Horse Music Group or meeting his fellow Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers’ band mates during his time at UMass Amherst, the facts seem to back up Kellogg’s claim. It just took a few years for the musician to work out the logistics of bringing his own brand of music festival back home.

Conceived of as an answer to the question, “What would I want to do with my favorite bands?” The inaugural SK Family Barbecue was held in 2011 in Connecticut. Featuring performances by Kellogg and the Sixers, the aforementioned barbecue, as well as a variety of field games like the three-legged race, a water balloon toss, the egg on the spoon and more, the basic elements of the festival appeared to be in place. However, subsequent editions of the gathering have undergone a continual evolution.

“Well, the thing is I’m not an event planner. I’m a musician,” laughed Kellogg. “We’ve made mistakes over the years, and probably one of the things that my friend who runs a really successful festival over in the U.K. said is, ‘The most important thing Stephen, is to keep the same location and to keep the same weekend every year.’ Well, we’ve done it five years and we’ve been in three locations, and we have almost never fallen on the same weekend. So, I get an F there for following the road map for how to have a successful festival.”

“But,” he added. “That’s always the biggest challenge because you pick a weekend, you pick a location…and I wanted to do it in Northampton this year because I thought this is where I got my start. If I was going to see one of my favorite artists, I think it would be interesting to go back to see where they began their career and kind of get to scope that out.”

To that end, not content to just play music and grab some burgers with his fans, Kellogg has also incorporated a trivia game show into the list of barbecue activities, so attendees can learn more about him and his music. Additionally, for the first time this year, he’ll be offering a guided walking tour of Northampton, so festival goers can check out some of his old local haunts.

Kellogg said, “I think people will enjoy it, not just because it’s me, but because it’s a chance to see the town and it’s such an amazing town.”

Another local connection Kellogg is mining for his barbecue this year is musical talent. In addition to playing solo during a pair of scheduled concerts over the weekend, Kellogg will perform alongside Chris Culos of the band O.A.R., as well as Pioneer Valley musician Dennis Crommett, who Kellogg describes as playing, “in like 20 bands there in town.”

Appropriately enough, one of Crommett’s bands Spanish For Hitchhiking released its latest album, Night Alerts, in April, which included a song called “Make It Count.”

Featuring lyrics like, “It takes time / to grow this from a seed,” the number brings to mind a ready-made analogy for the SK Family Barbecue. It may have taken five years for Kellogg to bring such an event to his hometown, but the experience – kids, families, music, and all – seems to be right where he wants it to be.

“We could grow it into more, but it would become something else. It would be a different thing,” Kellogg said. “The goal is to keep it intentionally intimate because I want the people that want to be part of this sort of intimate experience to be there. I’d rather give 225 people a weekend they’ll never forget, than 500 or 600 people just a cool summer concert.”

Lucius performs at the Green River Festival 2014 at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield MA.

Lucius performs at the Green River Festival 2014 at Greenfield Community College (Photo credit: Doug Mason)

Speaking of cool summer concerts, the Green River Festival is no longer one of the best kept secrets in Western Mass. Named one of 2015’s 50 Must-See Music Festivals by Rolling Stone, Green River has achieved national acclaim. However, to hear Jim Olsen, head of Signature Sounds Recordings which took over management of Green River in 2014 tell it, the event still possesses a unique local charm that can hook newcomers and delight festival veterans alike.

During an interview in May he said, “The Green River Festival feels like a music festival merged with a really great neighborhood block party. People tend to come in groups with the kids – 10 and under get in free – friends and family. You bump into your co-workers, friends you haven’t seen in a while and you meet new friends. I even know several couples who met at the festival. Everyone is there for a good time. When you add three stages of world class music and the best local food, beer, crafts and great kids’ activities, it just gets better.”

While bigger and better might be Green River’s calling cards at present, its humble beginnings tell a story of slow progression and hard-earned success.

“The festival was started 29 years ago when two separate events were held on consecutive weekends at Greenfield Community College,” recalled Olsen. “The first was a fifth birthday concert for local radio station WRSI featuring NRBQ and 10,000 Maniacs. The following weekend was the first Up Country Hot Air Balloon Fair presented by the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. Over the next few years the balloon festival started presenting music artists as well. It took many years for the festival to grow into the large event it has become.”

Hot air balloons are still a big attraction at the Green River Festival, and the sight of dozens of the crafts soaring through the sky around Greenfield and beyond on a warm summer day is often a highlight of the season. But festival attendees don’t have to look far for other activities to draw their interest.

This year’s Green River Festival will also feature circus performers, Frisbee trick dogs and a three-hole Frisbee golf course, a swimming area, a musical instrument petting zoo, a Mardi Gras style parade through the festival grounds, and more. Those wishing to check out The Maker’s Market can get their fill of local crafts, but tying everything together is the opportunity to hear a variety of great music.

TuneYards_2 (Credit Holly Andres)

Tune-Yards (Photo credit: Holly Andres)

Over 40 bands are scheduled to play over the course of the weekend. Acts like Tune-Yards will bring a more experimental sound, while others like Antibalas and Red Baraat will showcase different styles of world music. Of course, since Rolling Stone cited Green River’s   “relaxed, guitar-centric vibe where you’ll more likely spot a fiddle than a turntable,” the spotlight is still on roots-based acts like Steve Earle and The Dukes as well as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which should have no problem entertaining the five to six thousand people expected to pass through the festival gates daily.

Olsen said, “I think the way Green River Festival is different is that it has a really special kind of energy. I think it’s due to the fact that it doesn’t have a giant audience or huge, crowded campgrounds and the hassle factor of so many of the big festivals. Everyone is there for the day only and are there to enjoy themselves. It’s just such a great atmosphere.”

Indeed, atmosphere is a word used often to describe, not just music festivals, but also any location or gathering that elicits observable feelings and emotions. Details can be forgotten, and events can lose their vibrancy to time and distance. But the memories that stick are the products of atmosphere. Fill up a dozen scrapbooks or download a thousand images, yet you’ll probably still always be chasing the vibe of a sunny summer afternoon, when the wind turned just right and music played from a stage hit you like a wave, cresting over your shoulders before receding from the present and into the past.

“As we become a more wired, less connected society, these kinds of events are more important than ever,” Olsen mused. “A festival is place to go to connect with your people, sharing something you love in real time.”

Solid Sound Festival featuring Wilco, John Hodgman, NRBQ and more, June 26-28, $50-149, Mass MoCA, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, (413) 664-4481, www.solidsoundfestival.com.

Stephen Kellogg’s Fifth Annual Family Barbecue featuring field games, trivia game show, children’s concert, and two nights of music with performances by Stephen Kellogg, Chris Culos (O.A.R.), Dennis Crommett (Spanish For Hitchhiking) and more, June 26-28, $125, Iron Horse Music Hall, 20 Center St., Northampton, (413) 586-8686, www.iheg.com/iron_horse, as well as other various locations in and around Northampton, www.stephenkellogg.com.

Green River Festival featuring Steve Earle, Tune-Yards, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and more, July 10: gates open at 5 p.m.; July 11: gates open at 12 p.m. and balloons launch at 6 p.m.; July 12: balloons launch at 6 a.m. and gates open at 12 p.m.., free/ kids, $20-100/ general, Greenfield Community College, One College Dr., Greenfield, (413) 341-3317, www.greenriverfestival.com.

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Lady Lamb’s “After” Has Cinematic Roots

Lady Lamb (Photo credit Shervin Lainez)

Lady Lamb (Photo credit Shervin Lainez)

Lady Lamb

After

(Mom + Pop)

Release date: 3/3/15

It’s part of pop culture lore that Quentin Tarantino got his start working in a video store. Turns out, that watching innumerable films and critiquing customer choices was all the training he needed to become a famous director. You can see the results in his movies too. Each finished product is a cinematic vista with scope, detail, and enough humor to sometimes distract from all the turbulent goings-on. The same characteristics can be attributed to indie musician Lady Lamb as well.

Formerly known as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Maine native Aly Spaltro, also got her start working in a video store. However, instead of turning her focus to film, Spaltro used her night shift time at the shop to write and record music. Her initial output, a collection of lo-fi recordings and demos, shows the unmistakable stamp of this time period.

Early tracks like “Bird Balloons” and “Crane Your Neck,” each eventually re-recorded for Spaltro’s 2013 full-length debut Ripley Pine, are howling confessionals that unfold like short films. The mood of each song changes nearly as often as the chords wrung from the guitar they’re played upon, telling unique stories that are filled with the kind of observations made by someone who once spent long hours surrounded by aisle after aisle of Hollywood fare and indie flicks.

Now, much like Tarantino with his latest works “Django Unchained” and “Inglourious Basterds,” Spaltro strives to create her own epic on her new album After.

Opening number “Vena Cava” gives a taste of this new ambition. Beginning sparsely with only Spaltro’s voice and guitar heard for nearly a minute, the tune suddenly explodes to life with drums and distortion. Though titled after a vein responsible for transporting blood to the heart, the song appears to express an inner turmoil that is more than skin deep.

“I know already how much TV will fail to comfort me in your absence,” the lyrics go. “It’s as though the nothing never was / As everything will do just what it does.”

Is Spaltro speaking to a lover she knows will leave her? How appropriate that the vena cava is connected to the heart. Matters felt this deeply never fail to evoke emotions in one of our most important organs.

After such a hard-hitting introduction, the rest of After starts to unfurl itself with clever touches hidden throughout. Horns and background vocals emerge in the mix on “Violet Clementine.” Handclaps and synth samples populate “Spat Out Spit” and “Penny Licks.” Even a sly nod to Spaltro’s past is made with a song named after many a movie-goers snack of choice “Milk Duds.”

Watch the official lyric video for “Spat Out Spit” here

Still, amidst all the experimentalism and forays into straight-up pop, the foundation of After rests in the detailed prose making up the album’s lyrics. Nowhere is this fact more evident than in what could be labeled the record’s centerpiece “Sunday Shoes.”

As hauntingly barebones as some other tracks are stuffed with sound, “Shoes” is a bittersweet poem told over solitary finger-picked guitar that relates the tale of children being eaten by wolves. Harsh right? Yet, while not shying away from some graphic detail, the song also evolves into a somber meditation on death itself and what happens after we die.

Spaltro sings, “You will be laid to rest by gentle hands, and you will be sorely missed / by your mother and your father and you will become your most favorite color.”

It’s an inspiring thought isn’t it? Once dead you will be reborn as a color. Colors make up the world around us, in shades, in shadows, and can mix with other colors to create wondrous new combinations. Aly Spaltro may have dropped the “Beekeeper” from her moniker, but she’s been busy in her own hive turning out a finished product channeling past, present and future, almost like a movie script.

Video stores may be virtually extinct, but their influence lingers, just like After’s bite.

Lady Lamb with openers Rathborne and Great Smokey, April 4, 8 p.m., $13-15, Pearl Street Nightclub, 10 Pearl St., Northampton, (413) 584-7771, http://www.iheg.com/pearl_street_main.asp.

For more information on Lady Lamb or to see future tour dates please visit www.ladylambjams.com.

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Fred Armisen single series features fake Northampton band

BJC - Mass AfternoonIn a 2011 sketch on the late-night comedy program “Saturday Night Live,” some light-hearted fun was poked at a fictitious band on the Western Massachusetts music scene.

Featuring actor Jason Segel (“How I Met Your Mother”) and then-SNL cast member Fred Armisen (“Portlandia”), the bit was a musical send-up of the denim-clad Northampton band The Blue Jean Committee and its “local” hit “Massachusetts Afternoon.”

Now, the spotlight is once again focused on the song as well as its odes to “writing love letters,” “hanging out on the porch,” and “drinking cinnamon beer.”

As the first release in Armisen’s “Hometown Heroes” collection of “carefully chosen singles from regional music stars of decades past,” The Blue Jean Committee’s signature number is being issued by Drag City Records as a 7” split-single with “Embrace Me” from the synth/ post-disco band The Fingerlings, who SNL viewers may remember from a February 2011 sketch on the show that featured Armisen and SNL-alum Dana Carvey.

Watch The Blue Jean Committee perform “Massachusetts Afternoon” on Saturday Night Live in 2011 here:

http://screen.yahoo.com/embed/kristen-wiig-snl-skits/blue-jean-committee-000000237.html

Described in press materials as “little heard pop music classics,” that Fred Armisen heard on his juke-box, each song listed above actually shares its roots in a far more strange and twisted place – Fred’s own mind.

Though now ensconced as the band leader on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Myers,” Armisen’s tenure on “Saturday Night Live” featured the comedian taking on a number of musical roles that often included him taking on the guise of a made-up musician or band and playing a song in the group’s signature style – easy listening, folk, alternative and more.

The release of a second “Hometown Heroes” single has just been announced, and will include The Bjelland Brothers’s “Sparkling Apple Juice” from a 2010 sketch Armisen appeared in with actor Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”), as well as “Can We Stay With You?”, which was first brought to life in a 2011 SNL sketch that featured Armisen, actor Jim Carey, and former SNL standout Kristen Wigg (“Bridesmaids”).

Could a single or two from Armisen’s iconic punk alter ego Ian Rubbish be forthcoming? Fans will just have to wait and see.

For more information on Fred Armisen and his “Hometown Heroes” collection please visit www.fredarmisen.com and www.dragcity.com.

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