New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Sharkmuffin, Ceschi Ramos w/ Factor Chandelier, PUP, Lee Fields & The Expressions

The Sharkmuffin trio is based in Brooklyn, and is comprised of of drummer Jordyn Blakely, bassist/vocalist Natalie Kirch, and guitarist/vocalist Tarra Thiessen. This isn’t my first run in with the band, it’s probably my second. If you ever caught any of the trio’s music like I did with the “Tsuki Re-Issue” you’ll hear there’s something pretty damn special about the band, which is a lot to say when you’re basing things only off a couple of songs. But I digress.

The band has been performing and recording music since back in 2013 with its brand of glittery punk anthems that seem to get better with time. As we creep into the middle of 2019, Sharkmuffin drops it’s Gamma Gardening E.P. (Exploding In Sound) which takes its sound even further, expanding on a sound they’ve honed with years of practice. The opening “Reception,” a clever track revolving around how one person at a front desk can make you feel, with echoed vocal effects and some brilliant harmonies over this quick-paced jaunt. That’s followed by “Designer Baby,” which could be 2-songs-in-1. Not long after the minute mark, the track shifts from its mid-tempo brooding with lots more harmonies, electronic washes of sound, into a jamming rock fest. But then it slows back down. There aren’t dynamic shifts but rather those revolving around the tempo. This is possibly the band at its most experimental, ending the track with some obligatory sound effects.

There’s no doubt the band is constantly pushing itself creatively as “Serpentina” plays with its percussion more so than before. While Kirch’s bass keeps a consistent and constant bassline throbbing and Thiessen’s nimble fingers are all over her fretboard tugging on dissonant notes when necessary as will as including those loud riffs as required. This is the track to get lost within! I think I was quick on the trigger when I noted the band at its most experimental, because “Too Many Knobs,” while keeping a tight hold on melody and rhythm here, showcase a frenetic control and guitar fuckery Thurston Moore would be proud of. The closing “Fate” draws on a sliding guitar and heavy riffs that allow it to exude all the sex appeal that can be culled.

Sharkmuffin has exceeded my expectations here with Gamma Gardening. It’s easy to get lost listening to every song on this release, and you’ll be left wishing there was so much more to listen to. Until then, just hit that repeat button. You’ll always be glad you did.

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Even if you don’t know PUP, I’m sure you know PUP. Or at least know of PUP. It’s enough PUP to drive one insane sometimes. But in a good way. PUP has been releasing material since 2013 and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing down on their end. Then again, if they’ve mastered a formula that pays dividends, why would they?

Morbid Stuff (Little Dipper/Rise) is the band’s third full-length release and finds them on a new label but that hasn’t hindered the group’s songwriting or sound. It’s pop/punk delivery is intact from song to song. The opening title track is one of the band’s more powerful numbers on the release, filling it with dueling guitar riffery, melody throughout, and a notoriously powerful rhythm section. But now “Kids,” that’s the track punk music was made for. It begins with spoken lyricism that reminds of Craig’s Finn drawl, as dynamics shift slightly when the PUP gets all anthemic. The frantic pace of “Closure” moves with precision and dynamisms, while “Bloody Mary, Kate and Ashley” isn’t just a clever play on words but is filled with harmonies, strong dynamics and a keen sense of melodicism.

In all honesty, PUP isn’t here to change the world. What they are here for is to make your life more bearable and allow listeners to have a good time. With Morbid Stuff, they accomplish that and much more. Songs about relationships, sibling rivalry, death, life, etc. are what makes life. PUP brings it all to life in their songs and feel good about it.

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I don’t think there’s much left to say about Lee Fields because it’s all been said. He’s one of the last few artists that holds tightly to a soulful and original R&B not many artists, aside from possibly Aloe Blacc, who still performs this style of music. Given, Fields has over 40 years recording and performing, and we can only hope for more to come.

Lee Fields & The Expressions just released It Rains Love (Big Crown Records) and of course, the songs hold candles alongside The Screaming Eagle of Soul Charles Bradley, as well as soulstress Sharon Jones. While they’re no longer with us, Lee Fields is left with the responsibility of carrying that torch. And he comes through. 10 Fold. His voice is easily addictive, and that along with his band The Expressions, it only accentuates it. The band easily flows from one song to the other. While he’s been known to sing sultry love songs, here Lee Fields comes in hard at times, much like on “Wake Up,” where he sings They keep on telling me it’s fake news/oh what am I to do?” and how he’s “Going to believe just what I see / ‘cause what I feel makes sense to me/you can’t tell me just who to be/’cause you are you and I am me/‘cause only the truth can set us free.” It’s clear his emotions run wild here as 2019 has him feeling like it’s 1964. Fields is putting himself out there, but it’s the love songs many want to hear.

“Will I Get Off Easy,” brings it all back as he croons about his woman, accusations, heartbreak, and love, all the while The Expressions harmonizing behind him, filtering in soulful vibes with horns and easy flowing rhythm patterns. But he delivers a much harder edge on “Love Prisoner,” possibly one of my favorite tracks here as the rhythm section keeps that bounce from beginning to end. It’s accentuated by those keys and horns and damn it, it’s a mighty fine party to be had by all around Field’s lovelornings. Favorite? Well, maybe it’s “A Promise Is A Promise.” You can listen to either one and have a damn good time.

How can one NOT fall in love with Fields???? With It Rains Love, the soulful crooner has returned with a powerfully emotional album that should defy the test of time from this century to the next.

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Over the years there haven’t been many artists that challenge the way one should, or could, listen to music. One thing I’ve learned from listening to the music Ceschi has released throughout the years is he’s not here to preach to anyone, bash anyone over the head with ideology or point of view but rather, to simply express himself. That’s what seems to happen here with Sad Fat Luck (Fake Four Inc.)

Once again we find Ceschi aligning himself with producer/sound manipulator Factor Chandelier for another album. Both have found a winning formula so there’s no need to fix what ain’t broke. The artistry filled within Ceschi albums is sometimes uncanny, and there’s no reason why Sad Fat Luck should be any different as the diversity in songwriting is freakishly otherworldly. Influences abound throughout the album that range from being inclusive of Hip Hop, Straight-edge, Punk, and Pop for an amalgamation of a number of elements on one release. While some songs may differ from one another, the album itself is surprisingly cohesive. But that’s Ceschi.

The album opens with “Lost Touch” which makes me question what the fuck it is I’m doing with my own life. Most work the corporate machine to its max capacity, praying for dollars while we all work for change. Only the few are left following dreams in 2019. While it may be as depressing as anything can be, it’s real and rawer than ODB. It should leave listeners and those disfranchised with more questions than answers over a menacing backdrop that leaves one on edge. A complete change of pace can be heard on “Jobs,” which sounds like Factor captured Ceschi’s vocals utilizing autotune effects, as words about drug culture, money, and every day seedy lives that lead to prison, all the while questioning options. This over a mid-tempo bounce with a timbre echoing melancholy.

The title track though, this is a beast of a song focused around dealing with life, death, and everything in between like depression. Here Ceschi occasionally raps as quickly as Chip of the Fu Shickens and you’ll need those liner notes that wrap powerful words over an equally strong backdrop which is as grandiose as anything can sound but when Ceschi offers “Half my friends are dead from tragic accidents, bad habits and madness and the other half’s locked up,” you’ll realize the gritty reality that is his life speaks volumes. There’s a lot to take in on this album, whether it’s the acoustic “Daybreak” where this 2-minute-long track folksy love song is sparse with instrumentation until halfway through, but the monstrous “The Gospel,” Factor captures Ceschi at his best. Imagery of drug abuse are filtered along drum beats as catastrophic dreams are shattered with crack pipes and needles.  

So much to say about Sad, Fat Luck, one might run out of words to describe it all. “Take It All Back (Parts 1-4)” is four songs in one, blending in Hip Hop, to Indie Rock, Punk, and back to Hip Hop. It’s heady, it’s challenging, it’s Ceschi. Then there’s “Electrocardiographs,” his spoken word delivery over sporadic notes and instrumentation. Drugs, racism, self-deprecation, and neuroticism are all factors here, pushing boundaries in an attempt to remove stigmas. “Middle Earth” finds Ceschi duetting with Sammus, who shows a different side of herself within this folk-inspired backdrop and “Any War” finds Astronautalis alongside his homey as they spit political, culturally on the right side of things for the disenfranchised.

There’s so much to dissect from Sad, Fat Luck, and I feel I haven’t touched on much of it. Ceschi obviously brings out his guitar and bass throughout much of it but it’s also filled with friends on violin (Levi: The Pxrtals), horns (Danny T Levin), vocalist Taylor Jade, vibraphone (Jane Boxall), organ + Yamaha PSS80 + accordion + bass + Casio + piano (Gregory Pepper, who I always say should make a Hip Hop album), drums (David Ramos), and the list goes on! But I close out with “Bona Drag Tape” where only Ceschi can somehow rap about “Big Pun eating Mofongo.” I wouldn’t be crazy to say Ceschi has gone and created his most realized work to date and I’d be hard pressed to see if he can top himself here, but I’m sure he’s up for that challenge and will crush it.

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