New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Tennis System, Ariel Pink, Royal Trux, JOATA

Looks like another week rolled by after a 3-day weekend and everyone is still in vacation mode. How does that happen? Isn’t everyone aware that they need to be on their game from start to finish? Ah but we close out another uneventful week and as an addendum, why I get last-minute information on things is beyond me. This week we threw that last-minute entry because well, that’s how we do.

With that said, JOATA, known to his friends as José Oyola-Velez, dropped a new E.P. Como Se Dice today. It’s a pretty hot collection of bilingual numbers from the Connecticut musician now living in Brooklyn.

The opening “Cambio (feat. Ani Cordero)” is a fucking war cry! Translated to “Change,” JOATA cries out for unity and literally, for change. He sings here for the poor and the disenfranchised, that’s what it basically comes down to. But he does it all under a thunderous bassline and pummeling percussion. Along for the ride is NY Puerto Rican singer adding her tender voice to JOATA’s brashness. He follows the song with “Born In The City Struve (feat. Ceschi).” It’s a simple yet beautiful single, telling a story about his hometown with the help of emcee/musician Ceschi.

JOATA moves into another territory with the Reggaeton-tinged and island indulgence of “Llevame (feat. Li Sierra).” Here is where he sings of the beauty that is Puerto Rico, of its beaches, its local fruit and food, rainforest, and wildlife. He captures the essence of the island here. Li Sierra sings on the track and its magic where she adds to his descriptions with her beautiful voice. I want to just wrap myself around the spacey and ethereal “Outside (feat. ROWAN)” because this right here? It’s just dope AF!

We can all understand that life gets in the way and been four years since his last full-length release. Let’s just hope that we don’t have to wait another four for something else here. GB

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There are moments when people make irrational decisions without having all the information in front of them. A bit rash but sometimes it may be the right one although most times, they fall flat or short of expectations. Maybe that was my thinking after listening to just one song by L.A.’s Tennis System. And maybe I give too many bands the benefit of the doubt.

Either way, the trio – Matty Taylor (guitar/vocals), Sam Glassberg (bass, and Garren Orr (drums) – released Lovesick (Gameface Records), the band’s third album. While we may have our feet firmly planted in 2019, Tennis System exists in and out of reality. It moves through and past decades to create an album that may hold onto a plethora of  90s-inspired rock, but it’s done without the group dating itself. Tennis System may be obvious about its own influences, but it shouldn’t, and doesn’t, matter because the energy surrounding the songs is enough to sustain the band alone. The band has songs though, really good songs.

Opening with the shoegazing “Shelf Life,” the band tenderly drowns out vocals with loads of feedback and MBV-spirited keyboard backdrops and dynamics. Walls of guitar are drenched with a melody that’s as challenging as any, and Garren Orr’s pulverizing drumming puts everything over the top. The song is perfect in every way for over 6-minutes. But the band is also about over-the-edge arena rock. “Cut” again plays with dynamics as fuzzed-out guitars are set to stun as Taylor borrows 80s lyricism with “How does it feel to treat us like you do…” before incorporating his own words and his own chorus of “Paranoia!” chiming throughout. Vocally, the words come across flat, but then again Bernard Sumner was never the greatest singer and pushed off-key notes as well. There’s also a pop sensibility imbued in the band’s songwriting, showcased in the frantic “Alone,” while also pulling off quick tempo changes on “Deserve” without missing a beat. But the band offers so much more as well.

The first 5 seconds of the hypnotic “Rotting Out,” is worth listening to over and over just for Sam Glassberg’s opening bassline alone. The band is sure-footed on this one from beginning to end, adding slightly dissonant guitars, accentuating the track’s explosive melodies. It sets the pace for the shifting “Turn,” which utilizes loud/soft dynamics perfectly, much like the title track that closes out the album. It seems the band has tapped into something many artists fail to capture.

There’s a lot Tennis System has to offer on its new album. So it’s easy to say I was right in my initial assessment from listening to one track because Lovesick, is rife with amazing songs. GB

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I wasn’t sure what to make of the Ariel Pink/Royal Trux release Pink Stuff (Fat Possum) when I first received it. I think I stared at it for some time before actually playing it. It comes as a double 7” and it’s literally songwriter Ariel Pink remixing Royal Trux selections from the band’s last outing, White Stuff. Now, White Stuff brought be back close into Royal Trux’s musical bossom so I didn’t know what the point of this was. Until I listened to it.

Ariel Pink keeps the tempo the same here but can sparse a song’s instrumentation perfectly on “Suburban Junkie Lady.” Washes of keyboards permeate throughout it, keeping it quite engaging while “Year Of The Dog” seems to remove the bluesy feel for a punked-up synergy.  But it’s “Get Used To This (feat. Kool Keith)” that shifts from a street-savvy performance piece to something you may find Kool Keith at church throwing down a cipher. For “White Stuff,” Ariel Pink just may have transformed this one into something that sounds much cleaner, and dare I say, better, than the original! There are obviously the similarities but hot damn, it’s easy to enjoy it because the song itself is tougher than leather.

Ariel Pink needs to delve into remixing or just producing more artists, those hands shouldn’t just be used for creating music under one’s own moniker. Pink Stuff really is some good stuff. GB

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