No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time for Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble Mania!
NOW (International Anthem)
A few years ago, I saw Stevie Wonder perform Songs in the Key of Life in Hartford. Blissful disbelief had me floating all night. I still can’t believe I had the privilege of seeing a genius of that magnitude performing an album that good. No one blends harmony, melody and rhythm like Stevie, especially on Songs in the Key of Life. His 1976 masterpiece shows him at full stride and serves as an invitation to join something larger, kinder, deeper—in all ways better. That holds true when I revisit those songs and it certainly held true that night in Hartford. The stage was dense with musicians and singers—guitar, bass, percussion, drums, strings, horns, a chorus. But it was never cluttered because it was all under the direction of an auteur.
No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time for Los Lobos Mania!
Notes on Los Lobos’ “Native Sons”
I once published a theory about bands with five guys. It went like this: bands with five guys suck. I published the theory in a zine and we received dozens of letters, most contesting the theory and saying what a fool I was. When my band played shows, strangers accosted me to tell me I was wrong. I can be timid and don’t always think well on my feet outside the classroom. Yet I fended off all challengers. The theory was silly but surprisingly solid.
Jeff Tobias has been a part of two of the most consistently great outfits making music these days, Sunwatchers and Modern Nature. But Tobias’s own skills as a songwriter are also considerable, and his new solo album Recurring Dream makes that very clear. It abounds with eminently catchy pop that grapples with sophisticated and complex themes, and it further reinforces Tobias as one of the most interesting musicians working today. I talked with Tobias about the album’s genesis, technology, and what’s next for him.
At the same time everyone was pronouncing NYC dead, two local guys, separated by thousands of miles, were collaborating on a pair of singles that look for the square root of Captain Beefheart and the Ramones. With this follow-up to their buzzed-about 2020 debut, One Act Sonix, which got heavy airplay on WFMU, Vapor Vespers delivers the goods, right from your favorite late-night slice joint. Long-time Brooklyn Beat and now Hudson Valley scenester Sal Cataldi works the Robert Fripp guitars and Krautrock electronics; Bronx-born Mark Muro pines and opines on spoken word. I caught up with the pair last week via email, just as they were preparing to launch the new singles, complete with oddball videos comprised of found footage and various Ryan Trecartin-approved pixilations.
The music made by Gdańsk’s Trupa Trupa covers a wide range, both musically and emotionally. “Fitzcarraldo,” from their 2020 EP I’ll Find, is more on the blissed-out side of things, juxtaposing nimble guitar melodies with an airy musical backdrop. The brand-new video (also available below) finds the band crossing the United States, and includes some footage shot at their show at Union Pool.
For the last year or so, I’ve been seeking out music that pushes towards the blissful, the contemplative, and the immersive. Cue the band numün and their 2020 album voyage au soleil, which brings together a sense of the cosmic with some virtuosic playing. I’m a fan of the other bands in which these guys play, including SUSS and Gamelan Dharma Swara, and I was eager to hear what this configuration would come up with. When I finally did, I was ecstatic; last fall, I spoke with the trio over Zoom to learn more about their approach to ambient music.
What does it mean to create a new artistic form? Anna Heflin did just that with her new album, The Redundancy of the Angelic: An Interluding Play. She describes the work, which blends music and text, as having been inspired by “spiders, apocalyptic angels and my encounters in Los Angeles.” The result is a challenging, immersive work that draws on a host of disparate influences. We spoke about its genesis and her own multidisciplinary pursuits via email.
Jeff Jackson is the author of Destroy All Monsters, a heady yet visceral take on rock music, violence, and the nature of communities. Jeff Jackson also plays music in Julian Calendar, a postpunk band whose music could also be described as heady yet visceral. Since 2017, the group has released 5 records, including 4 EPs in the Crimson Static series.As an admirer of Jackson’s work in both spheres, I reached out to him about discussing the evolution of his foray into music, and how it’s affected his writing.