All posts by Eddie Ugarte

Another week has flown by and as everyone hits the reset button getting over last week’s SXSW, we’re all inundated with a multitude of emails and phone calls. It’s another week of avoiding people you really don’t want to speak to and playing catch-up with the real world you didn’t want to deal with. That’s not to say the hypocrisy we’re all faced with when someone places your face to your name, buys you drinks and then acts as if they’re clueless when you hit them up won’t continue post-festival, it’s just a way of industry life. But we’re all just trying to get a grip on reality here. With that said, three weeks out and I was finally able to see Logan, Hugh Jackman’s final hurrah as the Wolverine. I know I mentioned it last time but fuck it, I can mention it as much as I want really. The film was a smoker, no spoilers here, just a great story and lots of necessary violence. But regardless, that’s not what we’re here to focus on now is it? Nope, we have other things that need your undivided attention.

It seems like today we’re taking a look back at musicians that aren’t positioning themselves for a comeback by releasing new material that’s long overdue. The late 80’s saw the birth of Pavement, one of a handful of groups that set the standard, like Sebadoh, for what many believed “indie rock” truly was. The group did create a template for others to follow suit; so long as you had good songs, you could record them with a not-so-perfect aesthetic and rock out. When the group dissolved back in 1999 both founding member Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg continued to record music, Malkmus with his band the Jicks and Kannberg with Preston School of Industry. Malkmus was the one with much more notoriety but it shouldn’t downplay Kannberg’s releases.

I’ve never referred to Kannberg by name but always by his alter ego Spiral Stairs. I’m grateful to see him back in the fold with his second solo release under the SS moniker. Doris And The Daggers (Nine Mile Records/Domino) is his first release in 8 years, following up his 2009 solo album The Real Feel (Matador). He admits life got in the way of music, which is why there’s such a hefty break between album releases. Family will do that to you. But it seems after living in Australia and then moving to Los Angeles, the feel and timing was perfect. And it’s even better for old and new fans. There’s an energy that’s bursting through the new album and it’s apparent although there are moments that give a hint of nostalgia. The album is rife with grooves that will either keep you swaying or a captivating beat that’ll have your foot tapping along in unison. But the songs here aren’t about creating a new genre or sound but about updating a rock universe with good fucking songs (the expletive was necessary.) The opening “Dance (Cry Wolf)” hits on a rhythm and capitalizes with it. The simplicity of three-chords can always turn into something that sounds intricate if put together correctly and done with ease. As I randomly volley from track to track, it’s “The Unconditional” that I keep coming back to, where Spiral Stairs sings/speaks lyrics about what else? Unconditional love. It’s something most parents will be able to relate to. His words resonate as he takes real life family situations and puts his spin on it.

Spiral Stairs - Doris And The Daggers
Spiral Stairs – Doris And The Daggers

But it’s “Emoshuns” where the nostalgia comes into play, or it’s possible that the song is just done the ‘Spiral Stairs way.’ It’s reminiscent of Pavement, or even a Preston School-type arrangement in song structure. It’s pretty monotone but catchy.  It leads straight into “Dundee Man,” clearly swirling around his days living down under, with an underlying keyboard lying just under those guitars. Here’s where the nostalgia comes into play as well: as it ends with noodling that could be found on an album by another group on the come up as well.  It’s just a few seconds but he makes it his own. It’s easy to fall in love with this album just based on a few tracks but that’s not to say you shouldn’t listen to it from beginning to end. “AWM” is another standout with strings but songs like “Mothers Eyes” and the title track will keep you coming back.

Boss Hog is a name that I never thought I’d ever mention again unless referring to it as a throwback because well, you’d think Jon Spencer (Blues Explosion) is the only one there with a hankerin’ to release music. That isn’t the case though because the Hog is back! Christina Martinez and Spencer, her sideman/husband, along with drummer Hollis Queens, bassist Jens Jurgensen and keyboardist Mickey Finn are back again dishing out their brand of punk blues as only they can. I was doubtful before putting Brood X (In The Red) through the wringer but guess what? It’s like these fuckers never stopped playing. The band rattles off track after track of searing numbers. “Billy” is completely draining, musically storming through with a singular vision: to destroy and tear shit up! When Christina sings “Billy’s on fire /  Feet on the ledge / The brink of destruction / The brink of desire” you get the sense there’s only one way out of this melee. There’s no slowing down for the band, which becomes obvious on “Ground Control” where the band filters in some organ when Spencer occasionally maniacally shouts after Martinez’s lyrical bursts. The band brings in that heat, especially when Hollis Queens sounds like she’s the reason Chuck D once rapped “Hear the drummer get wicked.” There are a number of high peaks going through this album, like “Signal” where the rhythm is going to hold onto your senses, and randomly have them flaying along the sides of your skull. When Martinez sings “The I.R.T.,  the 4-5-6 to the 1-2-3” you can only imagine the grime in New York City’s underground. By the time you get to “Rodeo Chica” the mood changes as the bottom end caves in under the weight of the sludge the group is carrying. They speak another language here albeit briefly. “Venga chica con mi” doesn’t seem off here. The 10 blood curdling tracks that comprise Brood X just may bring the band to the top again.

Boss Hog - Brood X
Boss Hog – Brood X

 

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Today Is The Day – Temple Of The Morning Star

Last but never least is Today Is The Day, that metal band that throughout the years has been difficult to classify. Why? Steve Austin and his merry band have sometimes reworked their instruments in a number of different ways with each subsequent release.  Throughout the course of the group’s 25-year existence, it has gone through a multitude of changes, leaving Steve Austin as the only constant member. The band is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Temple Of The Morning Star (The End Records) by re-releasing the album in a deluxe edition form. That’s 17 songs with an additional 4 tracks of demos.  The album is a blistering indulgence of sonic energy. Yes!

 

Boss Hog: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram
Today Is The Day: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram
Spiral Stairs: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Supremely talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Xenia Rubinos has generated a buzz with her acclaimed album Black Terry Cat. Rubinos shares new video for her song “L.O.V.E.” which was released on Amazon’s Valentine’s Day compilation Love Me. The clip features a noticeably euphoric Rubinos dancing throughout Manhattan, joyfully interacting with the city’s inhabitants.

Rubinos explains, “”I wanted to shoot a video that encapsulates being ecstatically in love and wanting to scream it from the rooftops, to share that bubbly feeling with everyone. I want to bombard everyone with pure love laughter and excitement! I was inspired by the black joy project which seeks to fill social media with as many uplifting images of POC as possible. This is my ode to brown & black joy, being in love and sharing that exuberance with complete strangers all around the city, feeling that universality of love connecting us all. This is us casting a love spell on the world, this is us showing you brown & black joy, this is us visualizing & manifesting a reality centered on love for one another and the simple joy love brings.”

 

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Chicago Hip-Hop really is something that you can’t mess with or deny. Throughout the years there has been a surge of quality music you’ve probably never heard. Everyone knows of Common, Lupe Fiasco, Chance The Rapper, Rhymefest and Kanye but artists like Longshot, Psalm One, Copperpot, and Modill; these are artists who released amazing albums. One such notable artist is Thaione Davis. I first discovered his music based off of an E.P. in 2004 entitled Situation Renaissance which blew my mind. How was it that his cadence always brought me back to the same tracks over and over. The cuts were rough, with production by longtime collaborators like Kenny Keys and others but it was hypnotic.

It wasn’t until 2009 when he released Still Hear that it was game over. Obviously the title was a play on words but it’s the 15 tracks that would mark this album as possibly one of the greatest albums most people have never heard. It’s a gritty album, with production handled completely by Rashid Hadee, and flows in one direction: higher and higher. In all honesty, the album is beautifully scripted, dealing with love, heartbreak, money (or lack of), inner-city life, and teaching youth. It’s everything you want to hear from someone that has something to say. The album may have been released in 2009 but after listening to “Confessions Of An Adolescent” which Hadee begins with news clips of shooting deaths in Chicago set to a soulful backdrop one could imagine Marvin Gaye singing on, the relevance in 2017 still makes it strong. When Thaione begins his story, life just gets completely twisted. Sad but amazing.

This isn’t where Thaione Davis’ music begins and ends, he has a heavy repertoire of releases which come highly recommended. And just know one thing, Thaione Davis continues to release music, baring his soul. He has a purpose.

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Thaione Davis

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

His new album Captain California (Strange Music) dropped on March 10, 2017 and now MURS has shared the second video off of the album “Lemon Juice.” It features MURS’ friend and long time collaborator, Curtiss King. The song and video have MURS and Curtiss competing for the attention of a woman, all while trading some barbs back and forth. According to MURS, Positive K’s 1992 joint “I Got A Man” was the inspiration.

“Lemon Juice (feat. Curtiss King)” Video:

 

“GBKW (God Bless Kanye West)” Video:

 

 

Fresh off of their collaboration with Marvel Comics, Czarface has not only delivered a new audio adventure complete with narration, it has given us an extra-large, full color, action-packed 24 page comic book with it, housed in a beautiful gatefold jacket! In the spirit of the highly sought after Power Records series from the 70’s, you can read along with the comic and hear the story come to life on vinyl with this Record Store Day release. Now the group has unveiled pages from the Gilberto Aguirre Mata-illustrated comic.

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The first weapon drawn in a conflict is language, but the first weapon drawn for Czarface is the music. Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck & Esoteric carved a niche for Czarface with venomous vocals, but the musical production is their super power. Powered by the trademark sound of The Czar-Keys, a sound that’s been developed since Czarface’s first LP in 2013, “First Weapon Drawn” serves as the soundtrack to Czarface’s mysterious origin.  Look for “First Weapon Drawn” as part of Record Store Day on April 22nd.

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It’s pretty redundant to say music is ubiquitous because, well, you know, everyone’s heard at least one song in their lifetime. There’s a lot of unoriginal, reworked styles of music and plundered melodies that some artists blatantly lift from others and call their own. It’s the same with television and films, as the idiot box turns box office smashes into revamped series and movies are constantly being rebooted with lackluster motivation and effects. I’ve been meaning to go see Hugh Jackman’s final performance as Logan for the past couple of weeks but who knew it would STILL be sold out? It’s one of the few times I’d make a wholehearted effort to see a film that’s bringing the conclusion of an actor’s most popular role and a comic that had been a part of my youth. What does all this have to do with why you’re here anticipating with gleeful fervor the next item at hand we’re about to discuss? Absolutely nothing. The detail expressed with nothing so pertinent stresses that attention deficit.

There’s only one item at hand released today that I’ve been listening to over and over again. At first glance, or listen, you may think Zaga Zaga is just another international band that plays aggressive music to distract from any real musical talent they might have. That might be something someone closed-minded might think but Zaga Zaga is more than just a noisy band. The self-proclaimed “post-hardcore” band hails from Tel Aviv Yafo, Israel. This self-titled release is the band’s first full-length album and it rips their contemporaries to shreds. I know that comparisons are cheap but I’m not above making them. Zaga Zaga takes the best of the genre, mixes it with crazed dynamics and then pieces it all together for an unrelenting 11-song explosion.

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The band opens up the album with “Black T,” with dueling guitars and a full-frontal rhythm section. The band is eerily reminiscent of early day Today Is The Day, where everything is explosive and unrelenting and the stop-starts are all rhythmically on point. It’s the same throughout the album, which is expressed best on “Animal House” and flaunts briefly with a catchy melody that dissipates quickly. The 11-song album comes and goes much too quickly, and there isn’t one track here that passes the 2-minute mark. But that’s ok, you simply have to hit the repeat button. Zaga Zaga has a lot of good to offer up here. I want to hear more. Again and again. And again.

Zaga Zaga
bandcamp

The Puerto Rico native AJ Davila has been a staple of underground rock in both the States and Latino culture. He’ll soon arrive with his second album, El Futuro, dropping on Cinco de Mayo (Discos Panoram). After sharing the first single “Beautiful” a few months back, today he shares the video for the second single “17.” No matter what language he sings in, which is usually both, the feeling the music captures is undeniably rich and pure.

If you thought the “Shoegaze” genre died at the tail end of the 90’s you’d be dead wrong. The relatively unknown Jaguwar creates music that…well, literally blisters through sensors with walls of guitar, deep rhythms and gorgeous melodies. The group’s own biography is short, straight to the point and leaves off where influences ceased to exist:

“Three people fell in love over noisy soundscapes and purple stars. Influenced by too many coffee and cigarettes while listening to My Bloody Valentine Vinyls in the dark they put together fuzzy reverb guitars with punk rock attitude. In 2014 the first EP came out to show the world how sugar noise can be.”

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Jaguwar is from Germany and includes band members Lemmy Fischer, Oyemi Noize and Chris K. The group’s II EP was released a year ago (Prospect Records) with little fanfare here in the States. It’s a shame because it wrecks havoc on just about every level. The group hasn’t had many releases, only the I and II EPs but they’re well worth it. While most groups that followed were a pale comparison of the first few  bands like My Bloody Valentine and their ilk, Jaguwar continues where the forerunners of the genre began. The music is apologetic in its approach and that’s a good thing. I’m sure it overruns even the band members’ attempts to control it. They simply let the music…go.

Currently getting ready for a European trek:

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Jaguwar: I EP

Jaguwar: Facebook // Soundcloud

Recent news of Oxbow‘s seventh album, Thin Black Duke (Hydra Head, Out May 5th) was met with much anticipation, and now the group shares its first audiovisual insight into the record, in the form of a new video for “Cold & Well-Lit Place” directed by Chris Purdie

Over the 30 years of Oxbow’s operations, no one has come comfortably close to classifying the Bay Area group. This could arguably be the result of Oxbow’s ongoing evolution, butaccurately describing any particular phase of the groups’ seven-album career is no easier than describing the broader metamorphic arc of their creative path, modifiers like “noise”, “avant garde”, and “experimental” frequently get tossed about, but even honing in on a head noun any more specific than “rock” becomes problematic. Sure, the band employs the standard rock choices of instrumentation and displays the requisite evolutionary tie to the blues, but such vague designations mean little. So it’s tempting to attach the only-slightly-more-specific handle of ‘punk’ to Oxbow, if one’s view of punk is narrowly focused on the kind of free-jazz inflected antagonism later-era Black Flag inflicted on the nascent American hardcore scene. But punk’s primitivism is completely at odds with Oxbow’s highly disciplined approach. This is especially true with their seventh album Thin Black Duke, where Oxbow’s elusive brand of harmonic unrest has absorbed the ornate and ostentatious palate of baroque pop into their sound, pushing their polarized dynamics into a scope that spans between sublime and completely unnerving. This is new musical territory for all parties involved.

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Oxbow – Thin Black Duke

  1. Cold & Well Lit Place
  2. Ecce Homo
  3. A Gentleman’s Gentleman
  4. Letter Of Note
  5. Host
  6. The Upper
  7. Other People
  8. The Finished Line