Tag Archives: indie

#MondayMixtape – Showing the Signs of Spring

deviant art, oo-rein-oo, top 5s, music, rock, jazz, americana, poor old shine, chicago, grace kelly, steve miller band, tallest man on earth, spring, seasons, warm, rain, downpour, optimism, deep thoughts
image by oO-rein-Oo

For New Englanders, the anticipation of warmer temperatures and more agreeable climes around this time of year rivals that of the Christmas season. After a long, cold, hard winter fraught with swirling snow, arctic air, and some of the most woefully wicked, bone-chilling winds seen yet this century, it’s really starting to look like spring is on its way.

You know its coming the way birds and buds are returning to the trees; the way the maple sap has begun to flow in the hills of New Hampshire and Vermont; the way runners have taken to the street in droves after their long winter’s exile to the recesses of their local gym. The great thaw is on and soon local restaurants and watering holes will be putting out their patio furniture, local schools will be planning their end-of-year pool parties and field day gatherings, and back lawns across the state will be filled with the smells of seared and grilled American pride.

It’s a wonderful time of year, though it all happens too fast up here. No sooner do temperatures reach that coveted, agreeable 65 – 72 degree sweet-spot than some sadistic sprite in the boiler room decides to crank it full throttle sending temps into the hot, humid, and heavy upper 80s – 90s and sending us racing to retrieve our AC units from dark, dusty basements across the land. And as we fan ourselves for relief as we wait for artificial electric relief we wearily wonder how on earth it ever could have been as cold as it was just a few months ago.

But for now all is good. All is pleasant. All is just beginning. The gradual warming trend, the longer days and more agreeable nights, the long walks in the great outdoors, evenings spent dining on verandas, and lighter, more liberating feelings all around. So let’s thank our lucky stars and rich, beaming new blades of grass for the return of these blissful moments, and rejoice in the coming of the season with a bouquet of perennial spring-appropriate tracks.

1. Poor Old Shine – Weeds Or Wildflowers

You know that moment when you realize that warmer weather is here to stay? That’s what this song sounds like. It’s the feeling of being reinvigorated and rejuvenated. Everything seems to have been given new life, the gray of winter fades further from your memory, and you start to remember what colors look like. You’re ready to take on the world again. It’s the perfect tune for putting the, ehm, spring back in your step.

2. Chicago – Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is

This song is as pleasant and as familiar as a late spring walk in the park and carries an easy-going attitude to match. You can’t help but listen to this track and think, ah to be the narrator of this delightful piece of sonic euphoria… Well, stop imagining it and walk a few miles in his shoes. Try it. One beautiful day in the near future, turn it on, listen good, and then take the afternoon off for a long, leisurely stroll in the park. Thank me (and the band) later.

3. Steve Miller Band – Swingtown

This band seemed to know the secret to crafting relaxed chill and good cheer in 3-minute increments, and this track is a wonderful example of that. It’s the perfect kick off song for long car rides and trips up to the high country with family or friends. You spend the day hiking, biking, and swimming, and then– since “we’ve been working so hard” all day– you retire to an old, unassuming country pub with a dynamite buffet. It’s the perfect reward for many hours of cold winter toil.

4. Grace Kelly – I’ll Remember April

What’s spring without a few good rain showers? The rhythm and tempo alone paint the picture of the first mid-afternoon downpour of the season in the big city. It’s coming down steady and strong as the human parade darts to and fro under umbrellas, raincoats, and makeshift newspaper rain guards hoping to avoid the puddles on cracked sidewalks, the waves of water drummed up by the wheels of passing traffic, and other umbrella-blind pedestrians coming their way. It’s a sea of black, gray, and wet, soggy newsprint, but even with the wet, wild weather, it still feels good and refreshing.

5. The Tallest Man On Earth – Pistol Dreams

And then, gradually, the storm moves on.  The last residual drops make their descent onto the freshly washed streets, and the clouds begin to lighten and part revealing skies of awesome composure and color. Buildings shine anew in the late afternoon sunlight that leaps out from behind the gray, and people slowly shed their heavy waterlogged layers as they head on home, looking forward to a relaxing evening at home and another lovely day tomorrow.

Monday Mixtape: 5 from 2005

remembering old songs is like remembering old loves

Before we get started, on Friday I was informed that a previous Monday Mixtape post of mine was selected by Blog Better Boston’s monthly themed {hub}LINKS roundup. This month the topic was Winter in Boston, and this post was selected.  Here’s the list of the other Boston Bloggers whose work was selected. Be sure to show them some love!

  • Styled By Jess shows us a recipe to make the most delicious, gooey S’Mores hot chocolate!
  • Country Design Home shares a DIY tutorial on painting snowflakes on vintage blocks.
  • Start planning your next vacation to get rid of those winter blues! Start here with Take Time Away‘s top travel apps.
  • Union Jack Creative looks at a craft cocktail book, and a hand-lettered cocktail recipe.
  • Trends and Tolstoy shares a few tips to keep you stylish during the frigid New England winter.

Now on to your regularly scheduled programming.

2005 was a damn good year for music and a damn gooder year for music discovery. College’ll do that for you, particularly if you’re the type of person who associates with the college radio scene.

The question is whether the music so cherished during one particular moment in life will stand the test of time and endure through the ages. Music tastes evolve and mature (or so I’d like to believe), and the right songs have the ability to evolve and mature with us, while others fade into nostalgia and insignificance.

Let’s see how these former heavy rotation contenders have held up in the intervening years.

1. Hot Hot Heat – Goodnight Goodnight

Then: Energetic, grippy, undeniably catchy tune. The story of the bitter, dejected lover that supplies the fuel to this punchy  2-minute parcel conveys a level of angst I never had the pleasure of experiencing personally. But what does it matter– this thing rocks. Lock and load it, wind it up and let it go.

Now: The beats goes on and the words resonate a little more too, but it does seem to fall short of being a song for the ages. But again, who cares? This song was never meant to be anything more a charged farewell to bad love, written and rendered in driving, anthemic style. Fire it off at will and you’ll still feel that inescapable charge.

2. The Killers – Change Your Mind

Then: An oft overlooked track from the debut album of a band that had a bang-up 2005. Compared to other much loved tracks on the album (Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me among them), this one feels more subdued and more sincere even as it totes much of the same pomp and flourish of the rest of the album. It was the one track on the album that seemed to fit any moment of any day.

Now: Without a doubt it’s still a great track and one that, upon revisiting, feels immediately fresh and new. I’m less certain of the subtleties I once thought I saw in it though, and there’s a definite whimsy bordering on silliness to the lyrics that I hadn’t noticed before (“the sun is gone / before it shines”).

Sun or no sun, at the end of the day it’s still a song that carries with it the endearing theme of second chances and putting it all on the line for the ones we love: “If the answer is no, can I change your mind?”  How about it?

3. The Strokes – Is This It

Then: The spark that set on a musical obsession that included bands like The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, The Kaiser Chiefs, and a whole host of other “The” named bands. An understated way to open an album that really rocked and could easily be listened to on repeat without losing its momentum or shine.

Now: It’s still a killer track, and I still love this band even as I refuse to accept that this band ever moved on to bigger, better, more experimental sonic waters. This band will always be stuck in the early aughts to me. I’m not ready to let go yet.

4. Regina Spektor – Raindrops

Then: Simple, lovely, and poetic. Discovering her style of song craft was akin to finding an oasis in a sea of rowdy, rambunctious, and otherwise noisy fodder. She wasn’t above experimenting with strange chord progressions, dark subject matter, or avant garde structures either, which always kept it interesting. This little b-side that could  made it on to no fewer than 10 mixes made for friends that year.

Now: Simple, lovely, and poetic. Somethings never change and that’s all right with me.

5. Guster – Diane

Then: This one always struck me as the perfect soundtrack for the first kiss scene in a romantic comedy. They’d start it off at a fair volume immediately as their lips meet and then back it off slightly, continuing in the background as the two newly stricken lovers trade happy, knowing looks, and sweet, blissful words of good night. The music then swells to a fever pitch to match the euphoria of the male lead as he walks back to his apartment. The song embodied the feeling of deepening jubilant satisfaction and the promise of good things to come.

Now: Much like the tune before it, this one holds up well. It’s lovely and endearing and perfectly wonderful, even as I’ve realized that the lyrics don’t match up as nicely with the scenario I originally had in my head.

“We lie together and we say it’s love / Who were you just thinking of Diane?”

And there it is: the pesky, persistent sound of relationship insecurity. Are they two people who think they’re in love? Is he all alone in these feelings? What could she possibly be thinking about?

Still, it doesn’t really change the tone of the song completely. It just gives it additional depth and complexity. Just like a song, properly aged and vetted, should.

photo by NeverendingStomp

Friday Live Wire: Winter Concert Preview 2014

fine folk (& rock, & pop &...)
what  a bunch of fine folk (& rock, & pop &…)

On Monday it was cold, by Wednesday it was nearing 50, and now we’re looking at the chance of snow this weekend. And just when I was ready to talk about how things were “really heating up.”

Oh well. It’s better this way I suppose. More seasonal.

I don’t really mind the colder weather anyhow, though the uncontrollable shivering that starts from the moment I step out the door in the morning and lasts until I’m just minutes away from my destination is a little much. Perhaps that’s more a function of having an aging, rickety car… hmm…

One thing that definitely is heating up in spite of the strange, wintry weather is the schedule of awesome music festivals on tap for the first half of the year. Lineups have recently been announced for big name shows like South by Southwest in March, The New Orleans Jazz Fest in April, and The Governor’s Ball in June, as well as the smaller, not as widely known ones like the Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington state, Shakey Knees in Atlanta, or the Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival in Ozark, Arkansas. Big or small, these shows all boast impressive lineups.

Of course, if you’re like me, you can’t necessarily afford to jet yourself to a different festival each weekend beginning in March (or, as in the case of the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, starting two weeks from now). Lucky for us there’s no shortage of great musical acts coming to towns near us this season, allowing us to save on hefty travel costs and protect us from the temptation of raiding hotel minibars the nation over.

To this end I’ve added a concert calendar page to the site so you can get a taste of what’s coming up on the Boston-area scene and what concerts I’ll be heading to. If you’ve got a concert you’d like to suggest, promote, or go to with someone– let me know, and we’ll be in touch.

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of the shows I’m most looking forward to seeing this season.

1. Swear & Shake – Friday, January 17 @ Great Scott in Allston, MA

I’m tremendously excited to see these guys tonight. They’re a fun little foursome out of Brooklyn whose brand of peppy, genre-bending indie rock has been pounding the pavement of the northeast for the last few years, gaining them a number of followers and admirers. It’s admiration that’s well placed as they’re wonderfully talented songwriters and versatile musicians, emulating, shifting, and combining musical formats from bluegrass to grunge to driving dance pop rock. The track above is from their forthcoming album Ain’t That Lovin’, due out sometime early this year.

2. A Great Big World (w/Secret Someones) – Tuesday, January 28 @ The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA

If 2012 and 2013 were any indication, these guys are on target to have a bang-up 2014 as well. The last two years have seen them playing some shows, putting out a few singles, and catching the interest of Ms. Christina Aguilera, who brought them on NBC’s The Voice to perform one such single, “Say Something,” with them. This subsequently catapulted both track and these two lovable, recent NYU grads into the hearts and minds of TV producers and loving public nationwide (not to mention adding thousands of views to their YouTube channel). They’re also releasing their first full-length album next week. Their music is nothing if not catchy and the messages are universal, making it understandable how their other song “This Is The New Year” got its share of national airtime as well (the track conveniently fits in perfect with a New Year / New Beginning theme, so if you’re still looking for that one last track to put on your New Year 2014 mix… I highly recommend it).

And if that all wasn’t enough to raise my excitement  and anticipation for this show, my friends from Secret Someones are supporting these guys, and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing them at a more big-time Boston venue. What a treat.

3. Josh Ritter – Wednesday, March 5 @ The Somerville Theatre

In March Ritter released The Beast In Its Tracks, arguably his most personal and reflective release to date, dealing as it  does with his recent divorce, the isolation that ensued, and the slow, bumpy road to normalcy, new beginnings, and new love. Then he went out and toured it mercilessly in true Josh Ritter fashion.

Ritter is the consummate performer, and his shows never fail to delight and entertain. I’ve seen him 5 times over the last 3 years— twice last year alone— and each time it’s like seeing him for the first time. Euphoria, love, and compassion— these are the hallmarks of his every show. Touring has always been profound catharsis for him, and is no doubt one of the big reasons that’s he’s now able to face 2014 with open, loving arms and continue sharing his stories with all who wish to be a part of the story with him.

4. Snarky Puppy – Friday, March 14 @ The Berklee Performing Arts Center

As much as I’m looking forward to these other shows, I might be most excited, if not most intrigued and downright curious, to see this group in action. This impressive crew of marvelously talented musicians is known to put on a show that is a full-on hyper-sensory experience. With that in mind, although you can probably get a decent taste of by listening to the track above, you really need to see it to believe it.

Just think: if they can fill your computer speakers with such beautiful grace and form— imagine it live. In my mind, I’m already at the show, cheering in uncontrollable gratitude and ovation.

5. Milk Carton Kids – Wednesday, April 30 @ Brighton Music Hall

Still want a little more? That can be arranged. Comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers are well placed, even if the “Kids” themselves would have you believe they don’t know what you’re talking about. Comparisons aside, these guys are ridiculously talented flatpickers in their own right. Both of their albums are lovely stories, concise yet vivid tales accompanied by dueling arpeggios and galloping runs. Just two balladeers, their instruments, and their delicately wavering voices. It’s a performance that’s perfectly suited for the intimate atmosphere that a small venue like the Brighton Music Hall provides.

Still want a little more? Check out the full playlist of samples from the bands I’ll be seeing, and check out the calendar itself for a look at what else is coming to town.

above photos courtesy of (clockwise from top left): swearandshake.com, ianaxel.tumblr.com, joshritter.com, snarkypuppy.com, and glidemagazine.com.
photo collage courtesy of fotor.com

Monday Mixtape: Finding Your Beach

#cruiselife. #jealous.
jsburka: #cruiselife. nickburkaotm: #jealous.

Whenever it gets cold enough during these long New England winters that my toes feel like they would be better suited to serve as ice cubes in a glass of water rather than the useful instruments of basic locomotion they ought to be, I think about my enterprising younger sister Jenn and where she probably is at that exact moment.

Sometimes she saves me the guesswork as she did the other day by texting me and assuring me that she was just “you know, sitting at a beach in Kauai drinking a daiquiri.”

Poor girl.

You see, my sister works as a culinary instructor on a cruise ship, a cruise ship that is currently somewhere in the Pacific Ocean touring the breathtaking and captivating sights of the Hawaiian Islands. Some people have all the fun.

All jokes aside, it’s an awesome gig, and she’s the perfect person for the job. Growing up she was always in the kitchen cooking meals with our parents (I didn’t learn to cook until later, being happy just to be able to sample the fruits of their labors, showing my gratitude by cleaning the dishes afterwards). She loved it from the start, and over time she became quite proficient in both the art of cooking all sorts of cuisine as well as the similarly important art of hosting of trendy, cuisine-themed dinner parties. So it was no surprise she might one day want to do something with those skills.

So she decided to take it on the road, as it were, and she tells me it’s been a lot of fun thus far. This is her second 5 month contract and her second time cruising in the Pacific (her first contract that ran from May to October had her touring the great Pacific Northwest along the outer Alaskan territories). And in case you’re wondering what the worst thing about living aboard a cruise ship is: “The days at sea,” of which there are plenty this time around, what with the ship alternating  itineraries between tours of Hawaii and tours of the Mexican Baja peninsula.

I don’t know about you, but I’d trade 6 days of polar vortex conditions in a drafty apartment for 15 days at sea on a fully-fueled and fully-stocked cruise ship in the tropics any day.

Whatever the case, this mix is really a toast to my little sister, who’s not so little now, taking on the world in fact, and who showed me how to follow your passions with gusto. Last year while most of us were reveling in the aftermath of another lovely family cruise vacation and thinking aloud how nice it’d be to work on one, Jenn was planning her path to doing it. Here’s looking at you kid.

1. Weezer – Holiday

For when you really just gotta get away. I like number 1’s that start off strong, and this track does the trick with its wailing, simple and concise opening riff and strike (it’d definitely make for a rocking start to a cruise band’s repertoire as the ship is heading out to sea on day 1. Just imagine the casual sunbather’s surprise when the steel drum band kicks this one in to high gear…). Can we start calling this a classic track? Because it is. It’s definitely a classic Weezer track if nothing else. Both music arrangement and lyrics have that playful, unfettered, i-just-came-here-to-rock mindset with the just-a-hint of sonic sophistication that made early Weezer so great (dig that half-step sliding harmony in the chorus, and that delightfully sparse, doo-wop breakdown). I would argue it’s one of the finer pieces of their career.

2. Robbie Williams – Beyond The Sea

Cliche? Maybe (read: yes, definitely), but it doesn’t matter. This one sets the leisurely, leave-your-cares-back-home atmosphere of cruise life down to the very last shuffleboard biscuits (and yes, that’s what they’re called). This tune’s a bonafide classic now, but with all due respect to the original, there’s something about rocker-turned-sometime-crooner-turned-rocker again’s rendition that brings out the peaceful, easy feeling for me in a way that Mr. Darin’s doesn’t. Maybe it’s how easy it is to hear him smiling on every last note and on through the fade out, like he’s already on the ship wondering why you’ve missed the boat.

3. Charles Bradley – You Put The Flame On It

This song speaks not of vacations, cruise ships, or getting away from it all, but it definitely has all the easy-going freshness and vibe to make it a perfect pairing. Heartfelt and sincere, this song exudes unending gratitude and love, and the combined talent of Bradley’s effusive pipes and equally exultant horn section could power any seaworthy vessel the duration of its weeklong voyage.

4. Ben Taylor – Nothing I Can Do

This one’s for the quieter, reflective moments. Times of momentary wonder and awe that can happen as much aboard a ship at sea as they can when on dry land (and, why not, on soft, wet sand): that first sunset or sunrise seen from a windy deck, waking up to a day ripe for new adventures in a new town, or that first dip into blue, crystal ocean waters after a good, long beachside mountain hike. Yeah… that sounds pretty good. How soon can we leave for the airport?

5. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Waiting In Vain

Face it: no compilation of music to accompany you on a trip aboard the seven seas can in my mind consider itself worth its salt without at least one track from Mr. Marley and his faithful band The Wailers. It’s a fact that the sounds of reggae are sounds that will forever be part of the island life and experience, and it’s due in large part to this band’s music and vision. Marley was of course more than just the simple, breezy tracks that are so oft heard in those cloying Sandals ads on television, and this one is truly a testament to that end. It’s a love song, sure, but it goes to a deeper, more vulnerable place. It doesn’t come from a place of pure happiness or tragic sadness, but rather a place of hope. Even still, it’s a hopefulness that aches.

Of course, the musics of the Hawaiian and moreover Pacific islands are distinctly not the same as those that hail from the Caribbean, but I’d put good money on the fact that at this very moment, even while floating in the middle of the Pacific blue, that good ol’ pool deck band is getting ready to fire up another Marley standard just like this one.

Photo courtesy of Jenn Burka

Friday Live Wire: Concert Preview – The Color and Sound @ TT The Bear’s

Party with The Color And Sound
Party with The Color And Sound

By Kristin Nicholls of Bishop And Rook

The boisterous cavalry of The Color And Sound recently wrapped up their march across the country on Modern Baseball’s Winter Tour and are heading home to play a vivacious set of indie rock on January 31st.

Formed in 2013, The Color And Sound was formed on the idea of integrating the diverse tastes of the members into a cohesive project, which quickly came to fruition with the band releasing the Spring Tour EP three months after their start. On the horizon of hitting the studio to start recording on their next record, the Boston sextet snagged a coveted spot on the now trending Maryland indie rocker’s post FEST Winter Tour, a ten-stop gallivant across the Northeast and Midwest promoting the upcoming full-length album, You’re Gonna Miss it All (Run For Cover Records), available in stores February 11th.

With influences ranging from folk to pop, there’s something for everyone in The Color And Sound’s hyper-audio sound. The five-track Spring Tour EP serves as a pure demo of the band’s abilities to adapt to various genres including the plucky banjo folk rhythm on “Graves” and harder grunge riffs on “Bruised and Battered”.

In a September 2013 interview with Property of Zack, the band explains, “When we do anything related to our band our only goal is to have as much fun as possible…we always try to translate how much we enjoy doing what we’re doing to whoever will listen,” which is successfully executed during the group’s energetic live sets.

Download the Spring Tour EP for free (at a name your price suggestion) on Bandcamp today and catch the infectious wave of good times when The Color And Sound kicks off The Appreciation Post’s Record Release Show with Pretty & Nice and USA USA USA, at TT the Bear’s, Central Square, Cambridge on January 31st.

Bishop And Rook is a Boston-based independent music blog focused on the local music scene in and around the Boston area. With an emphasis on promoting music within the community, Bishop And Rook strives to inform and educate readers about the current scene with the support of record and live show reviews. Come hang with Kristin and friends at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston, February 15th during Bishop And Rook’s Flirty Thirty Birthday Show featuring Save Ends, Laureate, Rebuilder and Shambles!