New Track: Connections – Isle Insane

connections-by-seth-moses-millerOn May 11th Columbus OH’s lo-fi power pop concern, Connections will return with their 4th LP, Foreign Affairs on Trouble In Mind Records. Which follows 2016 nearly flawless Midnight Run album. For those unfamiliar, Connections have been churning out high caliber and fuzz covered indie pop for the better part of the last six years and the brand new track Isle Insane is no exception. If anything the new track shows the Ohio quintet refining their sound with even bigger hooks and razor sharp melodies with former 84 Nash members Andy Hampel and Kevin Elliott leading the charge.

We recently spoke with Connections’ bassist, Phillip Kim to gain some insight into the bands creative process and their recent signing to Trouble in Mind Records.

“The creative process is pretty much the same as the other albums. Andy (Hampel) brought new songs to practice directly after we finished Midnight Run. For whatever reason, we labored over them much longer this time. We went back to the legendary Musicol recording studios with this one and worked with Keith Hanlon. Great place, great vibe, good time. We were lucky to have Sharon Udoh from Counterfeit Madison contribute some piano/organ, and it was an absolute thrill to have the great Marcy Mays of Scrawl sing on a couple of the songs.”

“We’re not even sure how the signing with Trouble In Mind happened, Kevin has been in correspondence with Trouble In Mind’s, Bill Roe for years. He always sends Kevin nice care packages of new releases. Somewhere along the way he realized Kevin was in Connections, or Kevin solicited the last album to Bill. Either/or, Bill and Lisa were excited to hear that we had another record on the way and offered to put it out.”
Philip Kim – Connections

Connections will be out on the road in support of Foreign Affairs which will include some dates with Kurt Vile and The Violators with a road trip worthy show at College Street Music Hall in New Haven, CT on June 15th.

Embrace the dual guitar jangle and literal hookfest of Isle Insane below.

Photo Credit: Seth Moses Miller

Guided By Voices – Space Gun [Review]

space gunHow does a writer stay objective when tackling the latest recording from an artist that he’s been passionately following for over 20 years? It’s arduous task no doubt, especially with the singular work ethic and output of Robert Pollard, but one I’ll happily embrace. Whether you are an obsessive that collects original pressings of Acid Ranch, Nightwalker, and Cash Rivers or merely a fan of the mid-90’s trifecta of Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, and Under The Bushes, Under The Stars this latest collection requires your immediate and uninterrupted attention. The material found on Space Gun equates to one of Pollard’s best outings in recent memory and one that can sit proudly next to the band most revered recordings. A logical and exhilarating next step to last year’s How Do You Spell Heaven? and August By Cake.

With the news of Space Gun, also came the caveat that this would be the only Guided By Voices album released in 2018, a newsworthy event unto itself. Over past month or so, I have had the opportunity to really dig in to this LP and that decision seems warranted and necessary. It’s fair to assume that Bob has another album in the can but it’s telling that instead of rolling into his next side project or another GBV release he is exhibiting restraint to give the songs that occupy Space Gun their due. I recall reading that Matador had tried and failed to temper Bob’s release schedule during GBV’s 90’s stint with the label, I guess that goes to show us all, that only Bob can hold back the flood.

Normally on first exposure to a Pollard related release there are those tracks that jump out immediately and then there are the growers that slowly unveil themselves over repeated listening. With Space Gun nearly every song has immediate charms and considerable hooks. The album opens with the sound of an automatic hand towel dispenser before chiming guitars and strong rhythms take hold while Pollard delivers a commanding vocal on the title track and drives the four minute song headlong to a glorious conclusion with the refrain “ all day long…”. From there the album is off and running at a brisk pace before slowing slightly at the blissfully melodic and hook laden Ark Technician. The current lineup of Guided By Voices is a formidable one to say the least and they provide varied and charging instrumentation to accompany one of Pollard’s finest songs cycles. On Liar’s Box Pollard delivers in my estimation a standout on album full of standouts. A song that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on Universal Truths and Cycles or Earthquake Glue. The track begins with angular guitar lines, throbbing bass, and pounding drums before Pollard steals the show with a soaring chorus that proves to be the LP’s most euphoric moment, only to be heightened by a sensational closing guitar coda from Doug Gillard and Bobby Bare Jr. On Sport Component National GBV delivers a 3 part rock opera that distills Bob’s prog, psych and pop leanings beautifully into a 3 minute fist pumping anthem. Then comes That’s Good, a track that first came to light on GBV’s Suitcase 3 in its skeletal form, but on Space Gun the track is given the full band treatment complete with strings and the results are staggering. To my ears, the melancholy drenched track is a distant cousin to the GBV classic If We Wait with immaculate production, courtesy of Travis Harrison. Throughout this LP, Pollard leads this incarnation of GBV through a varied and exhilarating 15 songs in 39 minutes, but not a second is wasted. Space Gun is a herculean rock record that is equal parts power and beauty from the unparalleled creative force of Robert Pollard.

Order Space Gun from Rockathon

In The Key of E: A Conversation With Thalia Zedek

ThaliaTomorrow night we will have the distinct pleasure of presenting a St. Patrick’s Day/post-snowpocalypse rock show in Providence that Michael Marotta of Vanyaland recently quipped “This lineup reads like a SXSW poster crudely taped to a street pole on 6th Street, but one need to not travel to Austin to feel the warmth.” Among the artists on our short list to approach for this event was Thalia Zedek’s visceral post-punk outfit E. I’ve been keenly following along with Zedek’s uncompromising career for the better part of three decades, so I was beyond thrilled to learn that E would be joining the festivities and performing the evenings closing set. Just last night I had the opportunity to chat with Thalia about the forthcoming 2nd full length, the collaborative approach of E, and a recent pairing with Damon & Naomi.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What can you tell us about the forthcoming LP from your latest project E?

Thalia Zedek: It was recorded at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket with Seth Manchester after an extremely long European tour for our first record. We had written a bunch more songs because you can’t go on tour with only 10 songs or you’ll drive yourselves crazy! The rest of the songs we wrote just after we got back so some of the songs were really well rehearsed and some were almost brand new.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What was the process that led up to heading into Machines With Magnets to record the new album?

Thalia Zedek: The usual. Practice as much as possible before you go in and then try to finish the recording as quickly as you can. I think the whole recording and mixing process took about 4 and a half days. But a lot of that was because Seth is such an excellent engineer and producer and so fast with edits etc.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: When you’re writing new material how do you decide if you will assign it to the next E album or to Thalia Zedek Band?

Thalia: It’s a totally different process because E generally writes collaboratively and simultaneously with each other. But once in a while I will come up with something while noodling and know that it should go to E. Often it’s in the key of E!

The AGP: You recently returned from a trip overseas where you played some shows with Damon and Naomi, how did that pairing come about?

Thalia: We kept running into each other at shows and I’ve always been a big fan of their music. Naomi makes music videos so initially we got together to discuss her making a music video for me. But the timing for that ended up being all wrong, so we ended up just hanging out and talking about touring. It turned out that we had worked with a lot of the same people so I asked if they would ever want to do a tour together. I’d been wanting to do some solo shows in Europe but also wanted the companionship of touring with people that I knew and liked. It so happened that Damon had just published a book called The New Analog so the timing was good for them as well.

The AGP
: How were the crowds in Europe this time around?

Thalia: They were really great. It was perfect actually because the crowds were usually about double what either of us would get on our own which is what we had hoped for.

The AGP: With a storied career like you’ve had with Uzi, Live Skull, and Come others may rest on their laurels, but you seem to keep pushing your craft. What continues to motivate you to start up new projects like E?

Thalia: It’s what I love to do and it makes me happy. I tried taking some time off once and I was miserable!

The AGP: What is the one thing that people don’t know about you, but probably should?

Thalia
: I like to have a good time!

The Ash Proclamation Presents:E/Minibeast/Bad History Month/Soft Fangs/Baby!/Lost Film @ AS220 March 17th 7:30- $12 Event Details

If you’re inclined to save $2.00 and get a free comp visit our Bandcamp site.
Advance ticket & the six song compilation Upon Arrival
March 17 Flyer
*Event flyer created by the talents of Mike Quigley

Break And Brace: More Parts Per Million Turns 15

the_thermals-more_parts_per_million-frontal1 This week marks the 15th anniversary of the release of More Parts Per Million, the debut LP, from Portland, OR’s power pop titans, The Thermals. More Parts Per Million is an album that hit me squarely between the eyes with  heaps of lo-fi charm and gigantic pop hooks. In the early aughts we lived in time where the CD was still king. I can’t say I miss that audio format in the least, but I do tend to miss the ritual of excitedly making a b-line to my local record shop after reading review or hearing the last 30 seconds of a song on my  favorite college radio station to hunt down a copy, but I digress. I have a crystal clear memory of the first time I heard The Thermals debut LP. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of my nearby Newbury Comics when the opening chords of It’s Trivia came crackling out of my car speakers and I was instantly taken by that track and everything that followed, including the skuzz pop masterstroke, No Culture Icons. The songs that occupy More Parts Per Million feel off the cuff, full of energy and vitriol. It’s no wonder the album still sounds as fervent and vibrant today as did when it was recorded.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of catching up with Hutch Harris to chat about his bands debut LP turning 15, the songs he’s written for a future solo release, and the eventual retirement of The Thermals.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can you tell us a little bit about the songwriting/recording process for the ended up being included on your debut?

Hutch Harris: All of the songs on More Parts Per Million were each written and recorded in one day. I would write a song on guitar and record it to a click track on my 4 track cassette. I would then track drums and bass. Then I’d sit on my porch and write lyrics, then track the vocals in 3-4 takes. By the end of the day I’d have a finished recording. It was a very satisfying process.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Did you have a specific vision for More Parts Per Million? If so how did you go about achieving that?

Hutch Harris: I wanted something that was very immediate. Kathy and I had just spent a year working on the Hutch and Kathy record. I wanted to make a record quickly without thinking too much about it. And I wanted to do something that sounded like The Ramones.
thermals hug
The Ash Gray Proclamation: When’s the last time you listened to the LP?

Hutch Harris: Many years! I don’t listen to our records very much. I would rather work on something new.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: How do you feel the album has stood up over the past 15 years?

Hutch
: Judging by the amount of attention and love it is now receiving, 15 years later, I feel like it has stood the test of time very well! That makes me feel very fulfilled.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What is the first thing you think of when you hear No Culture Icons?

Hutch: The filthy one-bedroom house where I lived and recorded the record in 2002. I called it the Moss Motel as it was covered in moss and sinking into the dirt. It was demolished not long after I moved out in 2005.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: The How do you feel the band has evolved since releasing that album?

Hutch: I think we started evolving immediately after we released More Parts Per Million. If you record your first LP on a 4 track you have nowhere to go but up! 15 years in, I feel like we have taken the band as far as we can, and I think we should end it soon.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: So, with that news is it safe to say you are not writing the next or final Thermals LP?

Hutch: Not at all! I don’t think we need to make any more records. I have been working on some solo stuff.

The Ash Gray Proclamation
: Can you tell us a little bit more about these solo recordings?

Hutch: I am taking my time but will be releasing a solo record eventually!Kathy is currently working on the first LP for her new band Roseblood. It sounds amazing so far!

The Ash Gray Proclamation: How has the current administration affecting your songwriting and everyday life?

Hutch: It has of course affected my life, but I’m trying to not let it affect my songwriting. I have been writing very personal, apolitical songs. I’m not going to be writing any songs about the evil idiot in the white house. He gets enough attention already.

The Ash Gray Proclamation
: I have read that you have been working with other bands as an audio engineer/producer. Are there characteristics you look for in before agreeing to these recording projects?

Hutch: When I produce other projects I am looking for bands that are passionate about what they do, no matter their age or level of skill. So far I’ve found that in every band I’ve worked with! I love making records and I love helping bands make the records they want to make. I feel very lucky that I get to do it for a living.

More Parts Per Million can be ordered through Sub-Pop
The Ash Gray Proclamation’s 10 Questions With Hutch Harris – 2009.

Fully Realized: Trace Mountains unveil, Salty Sweet

bentonEver since discovering the criminally underappreciated Spook Houses in 2011, I have paid close attention to the output of that bands driving force, Dave Benton. Although Spook Houses were relatively short lived over past handful of years Benton has simultaneously run the estimable New York label, Double Double Whammy  and issued a string of superb releases, with both LVL UP as well as his solo vehicle, Trace Mountains. On March 30th Benton will issue the first proper full length under Trace Mountains with, A Partner to Lean On through Figure 2 Rc.

I recently had the chance to chat with Dave Benton to discuss the creative process the led to A Partner To Lean On and the 3rd and the albums 3rd and final single , Salty Sweet.

I began recording some of the songs at home last year. Cary’s Dreams & Turn Twice came together first as bedroom recordings and informed the tone of the record. In the summer, my collaborator Jim Hill and I were able to get together with Kyle Seely & Nick Corbo to track drums & bass at Gravesend in Brooklyn. The rest of the recording was done pretty much alone at home. It came together pretty quickly.

I’m constantly writing, but not much of what I write makes it much further than little home recorded demos that no one ever hears. Often times these songs are chopped up & recycled into other tracks that may or may not make it onto a record. A Partner to Lean On recycles a lot of my older songs that I felt weren’t fully realized. I wanted to go back to that material not only to see it through, but also to save some newer material for future records.

I’d known that I wanted to redo Salty Sweet for a while and had a bunch of counter melodies to add in. The structure of the song is exactly the same, just a bit tighter and informed by the performative talents of Kyle & Nick.

Trace Mountains will be on the road to support the new set next month with a stop in Allston on April 9th.

Tour Dates:
03/31 Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville *
04/06 Washington, DC @ DC9
04/07 Philadelphia, PA @ The Sound Hole
04/08 New Paltz, NY @ Nachohouse
04/09 Boston, MA @ Great Scott
04/10 Montréal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo
04/11 Toronto, ON @ Burdock
04/12 Rochester, NY @ Small World Books
* w/ Operator Music Band & Spirit Was

Photo Credit: Susannah Cutler

Playlist: Anti-Valentines Day

kennedyYeah, yeah, Valentine’s Day is here. Whatever! I can’t pass up the making of a good list though. It’s like creating the perfect mixtape. However, the thought of doing something overtly sappy, well…that’s just not going to cut it. While I may be very happily involved and committed to the perfect woman for me now, this wasn’t always the case. For this sad sack, I’ve been single far more often than not on Valentine’s Day and it sucked!

So, here’s my list for the singles amongst us culled from more years of experience than I care to think about. To those who refuse to settle, freshly bouncing back from a broken relationship, unable to let go of the past, I salute you with my Anti-Valentine’s Day playlist.

SebadohRebound
Lou Barlow has been dumped and now he’s acting like a dog.

The TheDogs of Lust
Matt Johnson shows Lou how to keep those rebound feelings at bay.

The JamBitterest Pill
You’ve been invited to the Wedding of an ex. She looks perfect and happy, your torn between thinking the sucker she’s marrying has no idea what he just signed on for and wishing you were him. Welcome to this masterpiece by Paul Weller.

P.I.L.This Is Not A Love Song
Valentine’s Day is filled with love songs, but this isn’t one of them.

Joy Division Love Will Tear Us Apart
No anti-Valentine’s Day playlist is complete without this song.

Dead MilkmenIf You Love Someone Set Them On Fire
Dead Milkmen’s answer to Sting. Sometimes while you’re in the full, wallowing grandeur of being single on Valentine’s Day, you just have to add a little humor.

Tom WaitsBlue Valentine
Tom Waits embraces the Hallmark Holiday by summing up every break up that ever happened!

Husker DuDon’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely
I get it, you’re looking for a little booty call. As the late, great Grant Hart put it so succinctly, I don’t want to know if you’re lonely.

Buzzcocks Ever Fallen In Love
Again, no list would be complete without this song.

The ReplacementsAnswering Machine
While most of us will never be Paul Westerberg cool, it’s nice to know that even he has left those cringe worthy messages on someone’s answering machine or voicemail.

Velvet Underground with NicoFemme Fatale
Nico is the ultimate seductress in this song. Don’t even listen to this one. Just trust me.

Kim Deal/Robert PollardLove Hurts
A very rare instance where the cover is better than the original. Sorry Nazareth but Kim Deal and Bob Pollard together? You never stood a chance. The music world thanks you for writing the vehicle that brought them together, though.

If you’re celebrating this day, have a great time. And remember to let your loved ones know you love them every day, not just on the Hallmark Holidays. If you’re single, embrace it with fine tunes! Music can make any day better. Happy Valentine’s Day! Or Happy UnValentine’s Day!

Written by: Chris Kennedy – Boston Rock aficionado and former WFNX on-Air Personality

Twin Foxes – Sleeping On The Attic Floor | Review

AtticIt was in the spring of 2014 when I had the good fortune of being introduced to Providence’s Twin Foxes through the bands 3-song demo release, but that’s all it took, really. The 3 tracks on that EP were played relentlessly and for good reason. Twin Foxes were able to give nods to seminal 90’s guitar bands like Built To Spill, Jawbreaker, and with the pop sensibilities of Superdrag, all while  managing to deliver something wholly original, beyond those heavy weight influences.  Over the next few years Providence’s self-described heavy indie rock outfit delivered a couple of notable releases 2015’s self-titled EP and last year’s split with fellow Providence noise rock concern , Darklands. Both those EP’s found the band pushing their sound into more dynamic directions while fronter, Jared Mann delivered impressive songwriting rife with wit, introspection and alluring melodies.

Today marks the release of Twin Foxes debut full length LP, Sleeping On The Attic Floor which finds the band displaying an even heavier dose of fuzz, shoegaze, and 90’s guitar crunch than it’s predecessors, paired with the bands strongest song cycle to date. Back in December we had the chance to speak with Jared Mann in an AGP interview and gain some insight on the concept of the new material.

It’s probably the heaviest thing we’ve done music and lyric wise. I took on some themes of self-discovery, mental illness, and family history in my own life and I believe used the record as a stepping stone to grow as a person. Music’s super therapeutic for me, and spilling my guts this time around just felt right.”

On the album’s opener, Mountain Twin Foxes kicks things off with a slow building track brimming with chiming guitar and complex rhythms before giving way to exhilarating squalls of feedback. On Drownd, the new sets sure fire hit, (if there was any justice or a radio station worth a damn these days) the band delivers a raucous post-punk anthem compete with a catchy as hell chorus before transitioning into a slowcore dirge. The song is reminiscent of Modest Mouse’s, The Stars Are Projectors, but here Twin Foxes put their own stamp on things with vibrant melodies and pristine instrumentation. Throughout this 10 song LP, Twin Foxes manage to surpass expectations set by their early output and intoxicating Live shows by unveiling a thoroughly engaging and expertly written and produced LP. Speaking of which, the new album was tracked and produced by Mann, an audio engineer by trade at his home studio, Distorted Forest and mastered at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket, making SOTF a true product of the vibrant Providence scene.

Over the past couple of months I have spent a considerable amount of time listening to these songs and as much as I was smitten early on these tracks seem to reveal their subtle charms and considerable hooks during each revisitation. One of the characteristics that I have found in some of my favorite records is those albums that you can put on and find a new favorite track each and every time, Sleeping On The Attic Floor is that type of album. For instance, last month while driving down an desolate highway between Omaha and Lincoln, NE trying to follow GPS directions when seemingly out of nowhere this album’s title track came blaring out of my rental car speakers to bowl me over. The track succinctly encompasses everything that drew me to this band in the first place, angular guitar lines, intricate rhythms, and gigantic pop hooks. With Sleeping On The Attic Floor, Twin Foxes have issued an exceptional record filled with intelligent song craft buoyed upon a  sea of distortion and an LP that begs to be played repeatedly.

Sleeping On The Attic Floor get its official release today via the fine folks at R.I.’s Tor Johnson Records and Boston based Midnight Werewolf Records. Twin Foxes will be out on the road to celebrate the album release with upcoming shows in Western, MA, New Hampshire, Worcester, and Cambridge. Check the bands tour page for details.

[Stream/Buy] Twin Foxes – Sleeping On The Attic Floor

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