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It was sometime last winter when I was first introduced to the music of Michael Sweeney, who would soon be adopting the Loser moniker to release his pastoral and understated brand of indie pop, I was immediately bowled over by the songs that he had been writing and recording in his apartment in my former hometown of Marshfield. MA. There is something instantly familiar about the material that Loser has shared thus far, but at the same time Sweeney manages to pull off the arduous task of taking on heavy weight influences like Elliott Smith and George Harrison and turning out something wholly unique and all his own. I recently sat down with Michael to discuss his songwriting process, playing out, and becoming Loser.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Initially you were recording under your birth name, Michael Sweeney, what precipitated the name change to Loser?

Michael Sweeney: I had always played in bands growing up. So, naturally when I started writing and recording songs on my own, I used my name. But after playing some shows, I realized that my name was white noise in the singer/songwriter scene in Boston. Loser came naturally when I decided to put a name on it. I think it reflects a lot of the things I write about and I think it is fitting for a solo project.

The AGP: What is your approach to writing and recording songs
like Home or Friends (What You Have)?

Michael: Both of those songs came out of things that I was going through. I usually write all the time and then will write some guitar parts separately.
Those two things usually find each other over a few weeks. But, with these two songs in particular, they were written from such an honest and natural place that they were written and arranged very quickly.

The AGP: Do you feel that the environment of where your songs were created contributes to Loser’s overall aesthetic?

Michael: I think it totally does. I was kicked out of a band almost ten years ago because I didn’t hang out with them enough. So, hanging at home with a guitar and a few other instruments around, alone really made the songs what they are. I liked developing these thoughts and parts myself instead of having to compromise with anyone. Loser was the end result of writing songs in a tiny apartment .

The AGP: How do you feel the songs which you recorded at home
translate to the Live setting?

Michael: I think they are better live. I really like playing them for people. For some reason the vocals never come out right. Probably because I record all of them in a living room with very cheap, basic equipment. But, playing shows is really great. I like getting people into the songs.

The AGP: What’s can we expect from Loser in the coming months and 2016?

Michael: I’m working
on a bunch of new songs. Possibly working with some friends in a new band on some different sounding stuff for me. Hopefully a mini tour around the northeast.2015 was a great year for me. 2016 should be pretty awesome too.

Loser will play The Ash Gray Proclamation Presented Harvest Home Benefit along with Cameron Kieber of Eldridge Rodriguez, Philosophical Zombie, and Burglary Years at Nosh Tavern in historic Plymouth this Sunday. Check the event page for further details.

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Ted Billings former fronter and chief songwriter of the criminally overlooked and now defunct Age Rings has returned with a cracking new outfit, Philosophical Zombie and an impressive debut LP, Loneliness Is Blue And Not Blue recently released on NYC’s Killer Wail Records.

Philosophical Zombie occupies similar terrain as Billings former band, Age Rings but with a little more grit. After a short stint in Brooklyn, Billings wrote and recorded the album after returning home to the South Shore of Massachusetts. He was unsure of what would become of the new material before playing the tracks for some friends and hooking up with their newly launched Killer Wail Records, the label founded by Jessica Zambri ( x Zambri) and Noel Heroux (x Hooray For Earth). 

The LP opens with the sludge pop anthem, All Men which sets the table for the albums 10 track with intelligent lyricism laced with liberal doses of guitar fuzz. Elsewhere tracks like Liar and Garden Grows Regardless, find Philosophical Zombie churning out ragged and effecting songs. Even when the walls of guitar cacophony threaten to drown these track Billings delivers a quantum sized pop hook to keep things teetering but never collapsing under their own weight. Loneliness Is Blue And Not Blue is as balanced as it is unfettered, an LP chock full of exemplary rock songs from start to finish.

Philosophical Zombie play The Ash Gray Proclamation Presented Harvest Home Benefit this Sunday at The Nosh Tavern in Plymouth, alongside Loser, Cameron Kieber of Eldridge Rodriguez, & Burglary Years.

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Tonight Boston’s indie rock stalwarts, Hallelujah The Hills celebrate 10 years of their existence. In that time the band has been responsible for some our favorite recorded moments. From their debut Collective Psychosis Begone to last years Have You Ever Done Something Evil?, Hallelujah The Hills have established themselves as one of America’s most vital and increasingly consistent rock bands. Plus, they write guitar anthems with gigantic hooks and we dig em’ for that. Lucky for us HTH are showing no signs of slowing down.

We recently caught up with Hallelujah The Hills founder and chief songwriter, Ryan Walsh to discuss this weekends performances, recording a new album, and the book that’s being written about them.

The Ash Gray Proclamation:This weekend marks 10 years almost to the day from Hallelujah The Hills 1st show, can you tell us how the band has evolved since then?

Ryan Walsh: For awhile, the lineup was changing at the pace of seasons of America’s Next Top Model. Instruments came and went. We just made our first LP that had the same exact lineup as the last record. I guess that’s a kind of stability. Sometimes feedback gets very popular inside the band, other times arpeggios become all the rage. But we never stop making new songs and playing America’s dive bars with the enthusiasm of a band playing an arena.

AGP: How does the current state of the band compare with your vision for HTH when you first started out?

Ryan: I didn’t look this far into the future. The crystal ball I purchased was off-brand and faulty. We made a joke in our first album’s press release that we’d release 33 records before breaking up. That still seems impossible, but a little less impossible now.

AGP: You were recently in the studio recording your new album and follow up to Have You Ever Done Something Evil? What can you tell us about the record?

Ryan: It’s a nutso ride through coo coo town. I tried to get confused while writing, and I tried to carry that feeling over to the band. There were many times we put something on the recording last week and we’d say, “that’s the strangest decision, but might be my favorite part of the song.”

AGP: Hallelujah The Hills will be the subject of a book from M. Jonathan Lee in the near future can you tell us how that collaboration came about?

Ryan: Jonathan opened his second novel, The Page, up with lyrics from our song “Hello, My Destroyer.”  I was so honored. Then he had this idea for the book about the band making a new record. I told him we weren’t famous; he and his publisher still wanted to do it. Whenever this band has had the chance to say yes to something unusual, we’ve done it. Jonathan’s been here for over a week now, at the recording sessions and hanging out back home here in Boston. He met my Mom last night. At the end of the interview, she made me take a trunk of VHS tapes I was storing in her basement away as I left with him. It’s good to stay humble.

AGP: What can fans expect from this weekends performances celebrating 10 years of HTH?

Ryan: There will be songs from over the years, sure, but it won’t be a nostalgia fest. The only reason I’m comfortable nodding to the 10 year anniversary angle of all this is because it coincides with forward-thinking stuff like a new record and this book. We haven’t played since June, that’s the longest we’ve gone without a show, I think. We rehearsed last night and all agreed: we are definitely American rock band Hallelujah The Hills.

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Boston/Brooklyn noisegaze outfit, Coaches have made a triumphant and fuzz drenched return with their latest single Elizabeth Warren. The new track reads like an open letter to the Massachusetts senator and future presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren. The track was issued by the band in the last week and finds Brady Custis and Co. delivering a bracing and hook laden anthem. Coaches will release the forthcoming Shush, EP via local taste making imprint, Disposable America on December 4th. You can pre-order now.
Local oddball punk trio (yes,that’s a compliment), Psychic Dog arrived on our radar with the release of their impressive debut full length, Big and Lonely and their subsequent ragging performances at 2015′s Rock And Roll Rumble. So, it’s with pleasure that we point you to Psychic Dog’s new set, Adios Huevos which is being issued by Boston’s Ocelot Records. We are currently obsessing over the EP’s centerpiece and nearly seven minute sludge punk anthem, Tune Her. Psychic Dog will celebrate their new EP with a Halloween night release show tomorrow at Club Bohemia in Central Squares Cantab Lounge along with Idle Pilot, The Coward Flowers, Hambone Skinny and The Guilloteenagers.

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As co-founder of both NY/Boston noise pop outfit The Beatings and Midriff Records Cameron Keiber has been responsible for some of the finest releases within the northeast’s indie rock landscape. His current project and main songwriting vehicle Eldridge Rodriguez is no exception. With impressive releases like The Conspiracy Against Us and 2011′s You Are Released already to their credit the bands forthcoming LP, The Castrati Menace has been garnering some pre release buzz.

The LP opens with the squealing and fuzz drenched Big Dead Heart which sets the tone for the 9 track noise rock triumph. The Castrati Menace finds Cameron Keiber turning in arguably his strongest song cycle to date which Eldridge Rodriguez balances with electronics, screeching walls of distortion and a propulsive drumming courtesy of Dennis Grabowski and aided by bassist David Gabrowski and guitarist Clayton Kieber.  What’s most striking about this LP isn’t the moments of cacophony as enthralling as they are,but the songs themselves which stand up individually and are manaage to be all uniquely engaging. Tracks like Giving Myself Over To Boston and Stay Angry are examples of Kiebers ability to write bracing rock songs with quantum size pop hooks. Throughout The Castrati Menace Eldridge Rodriguez deliver 9 tales of cathartic and aresting noise rock while turning in one of the most satisfying listens of the year.

Eldridge Rodriguez will celebrate the release of The Castrati Menace tonight at Wonder Bar in Allston with Party Bois and Sky Jelly. Go get the rock and order the album from Midriff Records.

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When Jimmy Hewitt retired Orca Orca, his Boston based and might I add terrific dream pop outfit we were pretty bummed. That feeling eventually subsided last July when Hewitt released a collection of demos he had recorded in his Wesrtern, MA confines under the moniker of Lost Film. Well nearly a year later, Hewitt is poised to issue Imago, Lost Film’s full length debut and if the recently shared advance track, Something’s Missing is any indication, Imago may be the soundtrack to your late summer night comedowns. On Something Missing , Hewitt manages to find some sort sonic equilibrium with equal parts melancholy, redemption,  and subdued pop hooks.

Lost Film have announced a few Live dates in support of the new LP which includes a  can’t miss show at Great Scott on September 3rd along with Bent Shapes, Funeral Advantage, & Magic Magic.

We’ve been following the rumblings of Mint Mile featuring Tim Midyett formally of indie legends, Silkwork and The Bottomless Pit for a hot minute and we’re chuffed to find that Mint Mile has just released there debut EP , In Season & Ripe. Earlier this week the track Modern Day arrived on the interweb and immediately  bowled us over on first listen. The 12″ EP can be ordered through the fine folks at Comedy Minus One and also features appearances from members of Tre Orsi, Jeff Panal (Songs: Ohia) and Midyett’s former Silkworm bandmate, Andrew Cohen.

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Who doesn’t like a feel good story of an underdog that get their much deserved due.  So to hear that former Bostonian’s and current Brooklynites, Infinity Girl have inked a deal with NYC based Top Shelf Records and the shoegaze titans will be releasing their sophomore full length set, Harm on August 28th which follows 2012′s Just Like Lovers EP and there debut, LP Stop Being On My Side. Infinity Girl have offered up the advance single Firehead, which finds the quartet stepping out of their reverb soaked comfort zone into a frantic and arresting place, the results are breathtaking. We just found our most anticipated album of the year.

We are currently obsessed with Hermits On Holiday the first single from DRINKS, which features Tim Presley of California’s psych dynamos White Fence and Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon (Neon Neon & Gruff Rhys). On August 21st DRINKS will issue their debut LP jointly on both Heavenly Recordings and Birth Records. The title track, which appeared on-line earlier this week finds, Le Bon taking on lead vocals and guitar with Presley on bass and White Fences’ Nick Murray guesting on drums. The track is strangely intoxicating and instantly satisfying.

DRINKS play The Middle East on October 19th, not to be missed.