Premiere: Emerald Comets – Isolation Daydreams

Emerald Comets

Since disbanding Boston’s dream psych concern Guillermo Sexo, Reuben Bettsak has been busy recording music with Infinite Room and recently the reconstituted Emerald Comets and with the Covid-19 Pandemic Reuben has taken to writing and recording a forthcoming LP, Strangelands. He recently gave us a sneak peak into to recording process as well as a taste of what we can expect from the new album.

“When this whole quarantine thing took place, it really disrupted everything in the way we ran our lives. After about a week of being isolated in my house in this weird new world, I wrote, and recorded Isolation Daydreams. The experience was very therapeutic for me. I realized that writing,and recording would really help my state of mind through this thing. I asked the band if they would like to work on music remotely. The rest of the band, Jason Layne, Tim O’Keefe, and David Altman, added their parts, then I had Jeremy Lassetter (Ghost Box Orchestra)add some guitar. We then sent it over to Justin Pizzoferrato to mix and to Carl Saff to master. What started with one song has progressed into an album called Strangelands that we are finishing up. It’s been a weekly process. I have the rest of the band add their parts to one song each week, and then Justin mixes the song at the end of the week.I think the best part about this experience for me besides the musical therapy is that I’m really excited about this album. I’m really proud of this collection of songs, and the great contribution made by the band, and everyone involved.”

For Strangelands Bettsak enlisted the assistance of some notable guests Bo Barringer (The Wrong Shapes), Ryan Connelly (Hallelujah The Hills), Chad Shivers(Infinite Room), Jeff Barsky (Insect Factory),Jeremy Lasssetter (Ghost Box Orchestra), Anar Badalov (New Dog), Sophia Cacciola, Michael Epstein (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling), and Katharine Rahilly Altman.

The band had been working on a batch of new songs before Covid-19 turned the world upside-down, but Bettsak wanted to create another batch for Strangelands, unique to what he’s been experiencing through this ongoing global pandemic. It’s a pleasure to share Isolation Daydreams, the first track from the upcoming Emerald Comets full length release. It’s a lush and layered composition witch captures those daydream prone moments of life in quarantine, perfectly.

Premiere: Mythical Motors – Twin Sun Trajectory

mythical

It’s a pleasure to share Twin Sun Trajectory from Chattanooga’s lo-fi garage pop concern, Mythical Motors‘ forthcoming album Leviathan Messiah. Matt Addison has been releasing records under the Mythical Motors moniker since 2006 while managing to quietly amass a strong catalog of arresting and hook heavy fuzz pop recordings.

Addison describes the new track: “it’s a power pop song featuring prominent synth and an unusual structure. The lyrics describe the joys of raising a family despite the uncertainty of modern times

For the latest release Mythical Motors return with the 14 track Leviathan Messiah which follows last years terrific, This Is What The Twilight Zone Prepared Us For. The album was mastered by Todd Tobias (Circus Devils/Robert Pollard) and will be available tomorrow digitally and on limited edition cassette.

Addison recorded Leviathan Messiah at home over the past year or so and describes the album is a bit of a departure from their recent releases. “some songs stretch out a little longer than usual. In addition to our lo-fi power pop sound, there’s also more of a focus on fully fleshed out acoustic songs. There’s also songs that combine the more aggressive elements of post-punk, psychedelic rock, and prog rock.”

You can pre-order Leviathan Messiah directly from the Mythical Motors Bandcamp page.

Premiere: Fake Rays / Greed Island Split Release

Greed

We’re thrilled to premiere the forthcoming split release from two of New England’s finest bands. Boston’s moody punk concern Fake Rays (F.K.A. Sorry) and the New Hampshire Seacoast’s post-punk rippers, Greed Island have teamed for a split release on Midnight Werewolf Records. Each band contributes 3 tracks to the release which you can hear in full below. The cassette can be pre-ordered now.

The bands contributed their own bios for the uninitiated:
Greed island is a Seacoast, NH post punk band that kills time by watching anime and shredding fuzzy riffs together. We take influence from bands like Pavement and Dinosaur Jr to bring our own brand of weird rock.

Fake Rays – “For a bio we’ve opted for a haiku format”

Once we were Sorry
Moody apologetics
Now we are Fake Rays ”

Pre-Order Greed Island/Fake Rays

The AGP’s Top Albums of 2019 [Belated Editors Edition]

Decks

When I started to compile this list and reflect on the releases and events that shaped my 2019 the year was coming to an end and I for one couldn’t have been happier about that. In full disclosure in the early stages of working on this piece I put a playlist together and named it 2019 – Go Fuck Yourself. A bit low brow but a title that accurately surmises my sentiment for those 365 days that occupied 2019. In addition to some personal challenges I was faced with last year the world continued to deliver heartbreaking blows with the deaths of two of my all time favorite artists, David Berman and Daniel Johnston, respectively. But, as I was often reminded in 2019 there is power and catharsis in music and sometimes a great song can change your day and perspective in under 3 minutes, or less in some cases. 2019 was an exceptionally strong year for music and brought both new releases from long standing favorites, indie legends and exciting new acts that captured my attention and provided the soundtrack to a year that is gladly in the rearview. This list could have easily been expanded to 40 albums if not more, however these 20 records are the ones that I turned to the most, connected with, played loudly in the car, on long runs in the woods, and forced upon my friends and loved ones. Let’s try to see past the fact that It’s already February, better late than never I suppose.

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20. Gruff RhysPang! (Rough Trade)
Former Super Furry Animals leader, Gruff Rhys follows 2018’s Bablesberg with a magnificent album of pastoral chamber pop about the decaying state of the world sung entirely in Welsh with production assistance from South African electronic artist Muzi.

Bandcamp | Stream | Rough Trade Records

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19 . The Black WatchMagic Johnson (Atom Records)
The long running Los Angeles dream pop concern, The Black Watch issued yet another gem in a string of engaging, literate and infectious LP’s with Magic Johnson. Not even my east coast pro Celtics bias could deny the strength of this album and shimmering pop sounds within.

Bandcamp|Stream |Atom Records

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18. SneezeFin (Midnight Warewolf / Tor Johnson Records)
Boston grunge punks, Sneeze first popped onto my radar in 2011 and I’ve followed along closely over the past 9 years as they’ve released a remarkably consistent string of releases. Fin follows 2016’s excellent Rot EP and finds the trio delivering there most varied and anthemic album to date.

Bandcamp | Stream | Tor Johnson Records | Midnight Warewolf Records

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17. Peyton Pinkerton Ex Tomorrow (Darla)
The former New Radiant Storm King, Pernice Brother, and Silver Jew, Peyton Pinkerton returned this year with what has turned out to be my favorite of his solo offerings. Ex-Tomorrow is filled with intelligent and exquisite guitar driven pop songs. What more could you possibly need?

Bandcamp | Stream | Darla

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16. FCKR JR I’m Sorry Mom and Dad (Born Yesterday Records)
Late last summer Ben Grigg (Geronimo!, Whelpwisher, Future Biff) unveiled the full length debut from his latest project, the fantastically named FCKR JR. A staggering blend of shoegaze, ethereal guitar lines, and considerable pop hooks. Slippercore is real!

Bandcamp | Stream | Born Yesterday Records

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15. Versus – Ex Voto (Ernest Jennings)
A very welcome return from a band I’ve admired since the early 90’s. Versus deliver this new set with finesse and refinement of a band that’s been at it for 3 decades but one that’s not satisfied to rely on their past accomplishments. Ex Voto is an infections and arresting LP that finds it’s creators sounding recharged and as vital as ever.

Bandcamp | Stream | Ernest Jenning Record Co.

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14. Horse Jumper of LoveSo Divine (Run For Cover)
Boston’s slowcore concern HJOL made the move to Run For Cover Records for their 2nd LP and found the band pushing their sound into exciting new directions with a blissful marriage of beauty, sadness, and noise.

Bandcamp | Stream | Run For Cover

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13. DiivDeceiver (Captured Tracks)
On Deciever Zachary Cole Smith leads Diiv through their most accomplished song cycle to date, while adding a new density and a fresh coat of grime to the shoegazers sonic pallet, providing new vibrant texture to dark tales of addiction and recovery.

Bandcamp | Stream | Captured Tracks

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12. Christian FitnessYou Are The Ambulance (Self-Released) Cardiff’s Andrew “Falco” Falkous delivered his sixth LP, under the moniker of Christian Fitness with You Are The Ambulance and further solidified himself as formidable songwriter and grade A noisemaker. Flippant post-punk anthems filled with razor sharp wit from the Mclusky/Future Of The Left fronter.

Bandcamp

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11. The Astounds Ancient Flying Ghosts (1262936 Records DK) A new record from Dean Wells (Capstan Shafts) is cause for celebration especially when said album is as good as Ancient Flying Ghosts. 10 songs in under 20 minutes for an euphoric lo-fi blast and oh so many hooks!

Bandcamp | Stream

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10. Possible HumansEverybody Split (Trouble In Mind)
It took Melbourne’s Possible Humans 7 years to release their debut full length, Everybody Split. After self -releasing the album in Australia Everybody Split saw wider release this summer courtesy of Trouble In Mind Records. Recalling the blissful jangle of early REM, The Clean, and The Feelies while distilling those influences into a unique and engaging debut LP.

Bandcamp | Stream | Trouble In Mind Records

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9. J. RobbinsUn-Becoming (Dischord)
30 years deep into a remarkable career with bands like Jawbox, Goverment Issue, and Burning Airlines J. Robbins issued his first solo LP ripe with thoughtful and honest post-hardcore anthems.

Bandcamp | Stream | Dischord

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8. Brat Curse Brat Curse (Anyway Records)
Columbus OH’ Brat Curse specialize in fuzzed drenched power pop and on their 2nd LP they deliver 12 infectious ear worms that seem to stick with me for days. This superb collection of concise and exhilarating mid-fi indie rock unveils a new favorite each and every visit.

Bandcamp | Stream |Anyway Records | Just Because Records

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7. Smug BrothersServe A Thirsty Moon(Self Released)
Smug Brothers’ creative force, Kyle Melton set up a home studio earlier this year and proceeded to record three new albums. Attic Harvest arrived in February then All Blur Spark was delivered in July, both of which are absolute gems and worthy of your attention. However, the material on Serve A Thirsty Moon seems like a step forward. A bit more anthemic, focused and affecting. This album has been in constant rotations since it’s November release.

Bandcamp | Stream

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6. Honey RadarRuby Puff of Dust (What’s Your Rapture?)
Philadelphia’s Jason Henn and friends delivered yet another satisfying and timeless album of hook heavy lo-fi pop with Ruby Puff of Dust. The latest offering sounds like it could’ve been easily released at any point in the last 30 years but as luck would have it came to us this year with quantum sized hooks and sweet melodies under a thick layer of tape hiss and buzzing guitars.

Bandcamp | What’s Your Rapture?

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5. Pernice BrothersSpread The Feeling (Ashmont Records)
September brought the 1st new album from Pernice Brothers in nearly a decade with the 11-track, Spread The Feeling. The album features appearances from past Pernice Brothers alum as well as a stunning collaboration with Neko Case, but what keep me reaching for this album over and over is an exceptional song cycle from Joe Pernice, chock full of beautiful lyricism and striking melodies.

Bandcamp | Ashmont Records

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4. PileGreen and Gray (Exploding In Sound)
For the past 12 years Boston’s Pile have delivered 7 LP’s of arresting post-punk while somehow upping the anti with each release. Green and Gray follows 2017 excellent A Hairshirt of Purpose and takes yet another step forward in the evolution of the band’s sonic capabilities. Rick Maguire delivers a stunning song cycle throughout Green and Grey while leading Pile through a well-balanced album filled with jagged noise and striking melodies.

Bandcamp | Stream Exploding In Sound

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3. Hallelujah The HillsI Am You (Self-Released)
The three years it took for Hallelujah The Hills to follow up 2016’s A Band Is Something To Figure Out was in fact well worth the wait. Who knew while Ryan Walsh was promoting his exemplary first novel, Astral Weeks: A Secret History Of 1968 he was also hard at work along with his band mates crafting Hallelujah The Hill’s flawless new LP. I Am You contains quantum sized hooks, accomplished and varied instrumentation, as well as Walsh’s greatest lyrical contributions to date. A masterful LP from start to finish.

Bandcamp | Stream

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2. Guided By VoicesZeppelin Over China / Warp and Woof / Sweating The Plague (GBV Inc.)
2019 was the year a perennial favorite delivered 3 exquisite LP’s in a 12 month span and provided the arduous task of picking a favorite. Zeppelin Over China is a 32 song monster and arguably the crowing achievement from Robert Pollard’s most recent and technically proficient line up Guided By Voices. May I refer you to Your Lights Are Out? A personal favorite from an album choc full of life affirming rock songs.


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Guided By VoicesWarp and Woof (GBV Inc.)
Compiling tracks released on 4 EP released between 2018-2019, Acid Rock, Umlaut Over The Ozone, 100 Doug’s, and Wine Cork Stonhenge. If you think it’s just another in the long line of Robert Pollard releases or an odds and sods collection you’d be dead wrong. Warp and Woof is a superb LP and one of Guided By Voices most varied and infectious albums in recent memory.


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Guided By Voices Sweating The Plague (GBV Inc.)
As I mentioned in a recent review Sweating The Plague contains some instant ear worms, but the tracks that really satisfy are the songs that reveal their greatness and subtle complexities over repeated listens. All three of the albums Guided By Voices released this year offered an overabundance of riches and each further proves Bob and this exemplary line up of musicians continue their hot streak but on Sweating The Plague, GBV goes all in on a menacing and gargantuan rock record that gets better with every visit.

Bandcamp |GBV.Inc ~ Rockathon Records |Stream

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1. Purple MountainsPurple Mountains (Drag City)
The fist time I heard this album it struck me to my core. Delivered in mid-July, Purple Mountains marked the return of David Berman after walking away from Silver Jews and music entirely in 2011. After David’s tragic suicide in August it took me a lot of time to return to this devastating and beautiful record. These 10 songs are his final artistic statement and in the aftermath of his death they hold even more weight and insight into David’s struggles. It’s remarkable that he was able to pull this off while in the grasps of such debilitating demons. Purple Mountains is outright masterpiece and I don’t throw that M word carelessly or often. In this case it’s completely warranted, but I like many others would give it back in second to change the course of his tragic end. DCB Forever and ever.

Bandcamp |Drag City Records |Stream

Honorable Mention: Pavlov’s Puss – Comfort Food | Halfsour – Sticky | Titus Andronicus – An Obelisk | The Gotobeds – Debt Begins at 30 | Kal Marks – Let The Shit House Burn Down Starflyer 59 – Young In My Head |Pedro The Lion – Phoenix | Mike Krol – Power Chords | Lud – Yellow House Trigger Cut – Buster | David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights – Bobbie’s a Girl | Uranium Club – The Cosmo Cleaners

Review: Guided By Voices – Sweating The Plague

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For someone that has lived with this the 3rd LP of 2019 from Dayton, OH indie rock luminaries, Guided By Voices since last summer, I sure took my sweet ass time getting around to submitting my unsolicited evaluation. Before I dive in, allow me to digress on a personal note. 2019 has been a tough year for me personally with plenty of ups and downs, with a whole lot of uncertainty as to what the future will hold. So, for this to be the year for my beloved Guided By Voices to deliver three LP’s, It’s not an overstatement to write the following: these albums and the songs that occupy them couldn’t have been released into the world at a better time. In February Robert Pollard and co. kicked off the year with the exceptional 32-track double album, Zeppelin Over China, the hook fest that is Warp and Woof was delivered in April, and last month the band issued their most concise outing since 1987’s , Sandbox with Sweating The Plague. Has anyone ever started review with a thank you? I suppose it doesn’t bode well for objectivity but then again, this blog is in fact named after a Robert Pollard song and after 13 years I feel like you should know what to expect by now. The point I’m struggling to make here is that there is catharsis in music, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be heart on your sleeve confessionalism or cry in your pillow emo, not that there’s anything wrong with that, when executed correctly, of course. The 68 songs that Bob and Guided By Voices unleashed into the world this year gave me something to cling to when I felt like things were slipping from my grasp and when I needed them most, so I am forever grateful for that and for this band I have obsessed over since 1994. Now that I have that off my chest lets proceed headlong into Sweating The Plague.

Unlike last spring’s immediately accessible and infectious Warp and Woof, Sweating The Plague takes a more subtle approach and reveals itself over repeated listens. Not to say there aren’t a handful of instant earworms within. For instance, both Street Party and Ego Central High come charging out the gate with mammoth hooks and stunning melodies. There are still days when I wake up with the latter’s chorus “Find your elevation while you can” bouncing around my head. A fine way to drag oneself out of bed and face the challenge of a brightening new day. Plague’s radio ready, should be hit (if radio didn’t completely suck), Heavy Like The World is a stunning pop song that only Bob Pollard could write and then re-write. The re-recording of The Suitcase 2 gem, I’d Choose You, is the gorgeous centerpiece of Sweating The Plague. Last May I was standing next to the person that will soon be my x-wife at The Paradise in Boston as Doug Gillard began to play the songs opening chords when I caught that look, you know the look, the why are you freaking out look? I was having a moment that will forever be connected to that song. I attempted to explain, turning to her to say it’s I’d choose you! It’s on Suitcase 2! She just nodded, smiled and pretended to care. Before long I realized it wasn’t what I thought it was, it was even better. From that moment on the that balcony with a big part of my past that song instantly became the anthem of an excruciating year, but one that delivered more hope through melancholy and beautiful melodies than anything I’d heard before.
“Heavy like the words on your tattoos”.

Considering the bands output, especially this year, us Guided By Voices fans certainly are a spoiled and lucky lot. Any concern over the albums shorter track listing quickly subsided after spending time with these 12 songs. The line-up of Doug Gillard, Bobby Bare Jr., Mark Shue, and Kevin March continue to shine supplying varied and adroit instrumentation throughout to complement an exceptional song cycle with not one skippable track in the set. Sweating The Plague never loses momentum, in fact as of late I’m completely stuck on the albums final three tracks, with the infectious and anthemic Immortals, My Wrestling Days Are Over which features the band playing along with Bob’s demo giving the track a decidedly lo-fi feel, and my current favorite of the LP, Sons of the Beard, a fantastic multi-part and epic prog rock track, complete with strings and a liberal dose of synth that Keith Emerson would be down with. It’s been a marquee year for Guided By Voices with each of their three releases being as vital and unique as the next but with Sweating The Plague, Guided By Voices delivered something special, an album that is equal parts dense, subtle, and completely exhilarating. Some albums hold extra meaning because they help you get through the hard shit and some albums are special because they contain great songs that stick with you long after the record stops spinning, for me Sweating The Plague is both.

Sweating The Plague can be obtained at Rockathon Records/The Factory Of Raw Essentials

Gamma Country: A Conversation With Kyle Melton of Smug Brothers

Smug

It was sometime in the spring of 2011 when I fortuitously stumbled onto Smug BrothersFortune Rumors, LP and I immediately latched onto it and become particularly obsessed with the albums 3rd track Interior Magnets. I think I’ve put that song on about 10 or 11 mix-tapes and playlists since then. The Dayton OH outfit specializes in charming and infectious lo-fi pop and with each release the bands chief songwriter, Kyle Melton seems to sharpen and further enhance his song craft while continuing to refine the Smug’s sonic pallete.  A fine example of this is the three full length that Smug Brothers issued in the last 12 months, which in my estimation are three unique sets of concise and engaging anthems, jam packed with pop hooks and charming melodies. I recently caught up with Kyle Melton to discuss his bands prolific year, his new home studio, and what lies ahead for Smug Brothers in 2020.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: It’s been a busy year for your band. The year started with Attic Harvest, followed by All Blur In Spark in July, and then last month you released your 3rd full length of the year with Serve A Thirsty Moon. What do you attribute this creative surge to?

Kyle Melton: I think the biggest thing is that we’re recording at our own space now, The Holler. Not having to come up with money and time to go into a studio has been incredibly liberating for us. We made some investments in recording gear in late 2017 that enabled us to do the work on overdubs and mixing that in years past we’ve had to go elsewhere to do. We still do basic tracking on the trusty Tascam MKIII 4-track cassette recorder, which we’ve done since Don joined Smugs in 2008, but rather than take those 4 tracks to another studio for overdubs and mixing, we’re doing that in-house now. It’s enabled us to keep working at various stages with tracking, overdubs, and mixing that have slowed us down in the past. Additionally, with Scott Tribble coming on board in 2018 and Kyle Sowash joining on bass this year for Serve A Thirsty Moon, we have two new guys who are bringing in new ideas, which keeps Don (Thrasher) and I motivated to keep coming up with fresh ideas. I’m always writing more songs, so I think we’re in a place where we’re able to keep up with that flow and get them out into the world more frequently.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Your latest LP, Serve A Thirsty Moon was released earlier this month and has quickly become a go to record for me. What can you tell me about the writing and recording for this album?

Kyle Melton: With the exception of the track My Future In Bones which was tracked in March 2017, all of the material on the new album was tracked between fall 2018 and summer 2019 at The Holler. Most of the material was written over the last couple of years, some of it as recently as this past January. Five of the songs that made the album were actually all written in one Saturday morning writing session. While much of the album started with our basic tracking setup of Don and I laying down drums and guitar with Scott and Kyle adding their parts later, Scott and I did a handful of tunes together on the fly including Earl of Snakes and A Good Day For Civilization. Finding time to do overdubs was tricky, as my wife Emily and I had our son, Charlie, in January and so my time to do music-related activities was at a premium. Scott did a number of his parts at his place and sent them over to me. Kyle knocked his bass parts out in a couple of sessions. Since we’re in different cities and two of us have young children, we have to work to find time to make the music happen. We were also working with a bit of a deadline for this one, which we almost never do. There was an event in Dayton called Local Music Day which was November 8th and 9th which was put on by founding Smug Brother Darryl Robbins. He asked us in the spring if we could have something ready for the event, which meant we had to be done by the end of August to get it to master, press, etc. We had a batch of 33 songs in April that we were working on and we whittled that down to the 21 that made the album at the end of July.

The Ash Gray Proclamation
: This record seems to be even more hook laden and anthemic than it’s predecessors. What was catalyst this time around?

Kyle Melton
: That’s very kind of you to say, Bryan. I think the Smug thing has always been about hooks and anthems, so maybe we’ve just figured out how to dial it in more effectively after all this time. I think it also helped that we had more time to work on each track to add some of the extra percussion, backing vocals, and other overdubs that maybe we ran out of time to do in the past. I also think we were all pretty excited about this particular batch of material.

The Ash Gray Proclamation
: You recorded this LP at The Holler In Columbus as you did with Attic Harvest and All Blur In Spark. What can you tell me about the recording experience for the last few Smug Brothers releases?

Kyle Melton: Well, to clarify, The Holler is just my basement where we have our recording/practice space set up. My wife is a saint for letting us do our work here. Once we got a digital interface in late 2017, that enabled us to do the overdub and mixing work when time allowed, which has been a major difference from how we worked in the past. Previously, it was finding time and money to go into a studio and getting things done. We’ve gotten some better mics and other gear that has upped the quality a bit as well. I went to recording college way back in 1993, which came in handy once we got this setup together. Learning how to work in the digital realm has been a steep curve but I think we’ve improved significantly over the course of these three albums. With Attic Harvest, we were recording in very different spaces in Dayton and Columbus, and so the sound is much more varied than on All Blur And Spark and Serve A Thirsty Moon, which were both primarily done at The Holler. Also, as Scott and Kyle have integrated into the Smug sound I think we’ve turned a bit of corner and have quickly come into a new form that presents a lot of fresh opportunities for the music.

The Ash Gray Proclamation
: With Attic Harvest you turned to crowd sourced funding from your fans. What was that experience like for the band?

Kyle Melton: We were extremely humbled by the support we got on the fundraiser for Attic Harvest. You never know how something like that will go, so to have been able to raise half the funds to press to vinyl for the first time was great.

The Ash Gray Proclamation
: Smug Brother fans that donated $50 or more during the Attic Harvest campaign were rewarded with a song you wrote specifically for them. When did you realize that those tracks had morphed into your next album with All Blur In Spark?

Kyle Melton: As I was preparing each individual track I think I dropped them all into a playlist to make sure the sound was consistent across the tracks and listening to them in a group it was just a eureka moment: “What if we put this out as an album?” We got everyone’s permission since it was a bonus offer they had paid for and everyone was good with using their track. With us having spent all the time tracking and mixing, it seemed like a cool thing to then put them together as a release. The big thing for me was that these particular songs would have never come out this way in any other context as a Smug album. With each contributor choosing only a title and not having any idea what the song was, other than being full-band or acoustic, there was a random element that was so out of our hands I really liked. We sequenced the tracks for final release but the tracks themselves we had no role in choosing.

The Ash Gray Proclamation
: What can we expect from the Smug Brothers in 2020?

Kyle Melton: We hope to get out and play live more next year now that we have a solid live lineup. I don’t see us doing any major touring but we may get out a bit more in 2020. Other than that, we’ll be working on new releases for next year, maybe a surprise or two, so keep an ear out.

Premiere: Black Helicopter – Seams Of Geldor

Black Helicopter

Today Boston’s post-punk titans, Black Helicopter return with a new limmited run latthe cut 7″ single, Seams Of Geldor b/w Dead Wrong (Bullet Lavolta Cover) on Chunklet Indistries. The single promptly sold-out, but you can still procure the tracks digitally. The release serves as a precursor to a full-length LP due next year and recorded by Elio Deluca at The Soul Shop in Medford. Seems Of Geldor, which we have the honor of sharing today employs the bands trademark brand of brash storytelling set to a hearty stew of layered guitar over rhythmic slabs. In other less joyous news the bands bassist Mike Davis has decided to end his tenure with the band, but will turn in one last performance tonight at O’Brien’s. I recently spoke to Black Helicopter as well as Mike himself to discuss the line up change and tonight’s bittersweet occasion.

Mike provided continuity of Black Helicopter’s soul when we needed it most. He helped us reinvigorate classic BH tunes and with Can Keskin, brought added excitement to creating new material. We are proud to have had him in the band and owe him a debt of gratitude.” – Black Helicopter

I’ve known Matt and Tim for roughly more than 30 years but never really played with them. I was always a big fan of Black Helicopter so when Zack left I jumped at the chance to play. I was excited to play the songs I loved as a fan like Army Pup Tent and Mousemeat but also to write new song with them. Tim is an amazing musician and can come to practice with a new song in the BH style every week. It’s impressive and intimidating. I’ve been doing this for most of my life now with Luca Brasi Blacktail and Windmills by the Ocean and just need a break. I can’t be the bass player BH needs so I’m happy to see they have not missed a step and have added Arnne Victorine to complete the trio. Lots of amazing stuff coming from BH and now I can go back to enjoying it as a fan. I just hope I get a discount on merch.” – Mike Davis

Tonight Black Helicopter celebrate their new 7″ release as part of The Ash Gray Proclamation Presented show at O’Briens along with The Astounds (featuring Dean Wells of Capstan Shafts),Greed Island, and Park Doing. Event Info

Back Chorus: A Conversation With Tobin Sprout

TobinSproutandBand2017

Over the past few months I have had the pleasure of corresponding with Tobin Sprout. The musician, songwriter, illustrator, surrealist painter, and former Guided By Voices member was incredibly generous with his time and was willing to field my questions on his upcoming music and art projects. He shared some thoughts on the now 25 year old Bee Thousand, his former bands 1994 masterpiece and we even chatted a bit about his short lived but superb band, Eyesinweasel.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Last summer marked the 25th Anniversary of the release of Bee Thousand. How do you feel that the album stands up after all these years?

Tobin Sprout: I think it’s as strong as ever. B-1000 could come out today and sound just as relevant as it was in the 90’s. Time makes the masterpiece. I think a lot of the music today draws from this album.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: When is the last time you listened to it?

Tobin Sprout: It’s been awhile. I will have to sit down and listen to it.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What was the one song on the album that you enjoyed playing Live the most?

Tobin Sprout: I think we played everything on the album at one time or another. Queen of Cans and Jars, love the riff. Tractor Rape Chain has that chord slide that’s hypnotizing. Smothered In Hugs just pounds power chords, its getting louder. I still play Awful Bliss into Mincer Ray in my sets, love playing those too. Mincer Ray I just play a D most of the time, the bass carries the rest. Echos Myron was always a great one to play live. On a lot of the album I used a guitar to play bass, and EQ the 4-track to give it more bottom. That’s how I recorded the end of Echos, it was easier to hit those notes on guitar than a bass. I think we just didn’t have a bass available at the time. I guess the one I liked playing most was I Am A Scientist, I think it was the hit and the one that really got the crowds up, loved the video too.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Over the last year I’ve seen that you’ve been recording new material. What can you tell me about those tracks and plans to release your next album?

Tobin Sprout: I have an EP and an album pretty much finished. Working on getting a label right now. The EP will come out first, it has a remixed version of Supersonic Chairman and 3 other songs. It’s more guitar driven than the LP. The LP will be called Empty Horses or The Return. Its very piano driven, and a bit darker than the EP. It was recorded mostly with my Band at Tommy Schichtel‘s Studio Goon Lagoon in Grand Rapid. Tommy on lead guitar, Gary Vermillion on Drums, and Steve Vermillion on bass. Also did some of the recording at my studio in Leland Mi. A song called Every Sweet Soul was recorded by Ferris Henning. Ferris also did a video for the song. Hope to get the EP out before the end of the year. The Album will come out next year. Then hope to tour it.
More to come!

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can you tell me a little bit about your current art related projects and/or a follow up to your children books, Tinky Put His Little Moon To Bed and Elliott?

Tobin Sprout: My Wife Laura is also an artist, she does 2D and 3D mixed medium. Uses old magazines and found objects. She calls it Life In A Box. She just had her 4th show at the Old Art Building here in Leland. We also do collaborations, where she gives me a box and some found pieces and I Paint something on the box and give it back to her to add something. It’s interesting to see how the original Idea changes into something different.She also has written a follow up to Tinky that I am going to illustrate. Elliott is out of print, but I plan to re edit it and make it available on Kindle, along with another book I wrote before Elliott called April and Elliott. Still painting and might release a booklet with the EP of my paintings.

Tobin

The AGP: What was the creative process like behind the new releases?

Tobin: I worked with the band as much as possible. Mostly at Tommy’s studio in Grand Rapids. I would send demos to Gary and Steve so when we meet at Tommy’s they would have ideas and had worked out the structures. Tommy would be placing mics and running the tape machine so would add his parts later. It also gave him time to think about his guitar parts. Once we have the basic tracks, I would add vocals and overdubs. By the next session Tommy would have his parts recorded, so we would spend time adding whatever we felt was needed then mix. At one point we also brought in Drew Howard to play pedal Steel on Breaking Down and All In My Sleep.

The AGP: As you mentioned the album is more piano driven than the EP, so I’m wondering if you had a vision going into the studio and how does the recording match up with that?

Tobin: I don’t think I had a vision but the album just grew into two different albums. About two thirds of the album worked really well together which stayed on the final album. And the others were put on the EP. Not that one was better than the other. The album is more darker piano along with a few simple acoustic pieces. Where the EP is straight up two guitars, bass and drums.

The AGP: I was in attendance for The Cambridge, MA Eyesinwesel show that ended up being captured and released as Live In The Middle East on that tour and to me there was something very special about that line up that night performance. What comes to mind when you look back at that creative period, those two releases, and the subsequent tour?

Tobin: Gary and Steve (Vermillion) were in the band then, might have been the first tour with them. Don’t remember it being one of our better shows but it seems to be a favorite of a lot of people. It was recorded by the CBC from a mobile recording studio. It was recorded digitally to tape.

*Live Photo of Tobin Courtesy Of Mike White

Thanks again to Tobin for the time and for the follow up to our 2010 interview.

Hallelujah The Hills Return With Folk Music Is Insane

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Boston’s purveyors of intelligent fist pumping anthemic indie rock, Hallelujah The Hills are set to return sometime this fall with their 7th LP, I Am You. The band has yet to announce the specifics of their release plans, but I’ve been assured those details will be shared soon. In the meantime HTH has shared the forthcoming albums first single, Folk Music Is Insane on various streaming platforms. Founder and chief songwriter, Ryan H. Walsh has shared some thoughts and a little bit about the motivation
behind the bands ode to music genres.

Music genres can help you understand what you’re about to hear, but they also carry a lot of baggage with them. If I tell you I’m about to play you a country song, you might even start to guess at some of the lyrics (“lost my truck, lost my car, got fired” etc). I like when expectations are subverted, so I started thinking about true but unlikely statements to make about music genres. Best one I came up with was ‘Folk Music Is Insane.’ I truly believe that. And singing that phrase on top of a deep, distorted rock n roll riff? Well that’s just the kinda thing this band was born to do.” – RHW

The band has also deemed their new song t-shirt worthy and I tend to agree. You can obtain and support HTH as well their forthcoming release efforts by obtaining and sporting the Folk Music Is Insane T-Shirt around town.