Friday, July 20, 2007


John Doe - "A Year In The Wilderness" Album Review

July 19, 2007

John Doe, former leader of L.A. punk icons X, has shifted gears from his punk days in favor of a long and celebrated solo career exploring rootsy country rock, a direction only hinted at in the last efforts of X . Doe's new album, A Year in the Wilderness, incorporates the best of his own history, but also enlists the help of roots rock guitarist Dave Alvin, and Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys. For that pitch-perfect charm so characteristic and unique to much of his work with X, female voices Kathleen Edwards, Jill Sobule and Aimee Mann are woven prominently into many of the songs, nicely complimenting his style. He even shares writing credit with his ex-wife and ex-X-band mate Exene Cervenka, on the bitter sweet "Darling Underdog." That's a lot of X's.

The album opens with an almost confusingly brief piano interlude before one of the albums purest and gutsiest rock numbers, "Hotel Ghost," featuring a raucous guitar solo that Chuck Berry would be proud of. But punk fans shouldn't get too used to the noise because as quickly as it came it is replaced by one of the many slower-paced, reflective (anti-)love ballads, the highlight of which is the lost-in-love "The Golden State," a gorgeous battle-of-the-sexes duet with Kathleen Edwards.

This album is about love if it's about anything, but Doe still leaves room for tales of murder like "The Meanest Man in the World," a haunting song reminiscent of Johnny Cash. John Doe seems as comfortable seeping into your consciousness as he is breaking through its doors, a dynamic quality that Doe abundantly shows through the album's middle stretch. "There's A Hole" and "Lean Out Yr Window" rip through his brooding Nebraskan landscape like a truck convoy, full of piano and guitar driven sing-along choruses, and even some hand-clapping for good measure, before he returns us to the plaintive bite of his dusty, hotel-dwelling swagger.

The majority of the album is a twangy, slide-guitar-laden meditative
collection set at the pace of a man in no hurry to get somewhere fast, likely because he's already been there. A Year in the Wilderness was recorded in less than one month, but the decades of John Doe's experience come through; it sounds weathered and worn, gritty, mature, soulful and contemplative in its content and heart, with a fantastic production to balance. John Doe may be a punk icon, but he's found his soul with the Americana roots sound, and only gets better with age.

-Jordan Clifford

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Thomas Dybdahl - Interview and In Studio Wrap Up

July 20, 2007

Thomas Dybdahl has been a bright star rising quickly to international fame through Norway's burgeoning music scene, though his mark has yet to be made on America's fickle musical foreground. Easily comparable to valuable Norwegian imports such as Sondre Lerche, American fans of soulful folk might more easily think of Damien Rice when they hear the subdued power of Dybdahl's sound.

Flying in from Norway for a very short engagement in the U.S., armed only with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica (a far cry from his full and swinging band), WERS was Dybdahl's first stop before a show at The Paradise and then Living Room in NYC where he had previously played with Sondre Lerche on their successful tour together. Though he spends most of his time at home, Dybdahl says he comes to New York specifically to write music. "I just like the vibe there," he says, "there's so much happening." Thomas actually named one of his albums One Day You'll Dance For Me, New York City, but when asked if this title indicated his intentions for this visit, he opted for a less goal-oriented approach. "I'm not out there to conquer the states, I just want to show people my music," admitting that it's the journey and not the destination, the only goal being to "just have fun on the way there."

Inspiration for his acclaimed album Science doesn't come souly (bad pun intended) from New York, as he explained about his song "U," an homage to soul greats D'Angelo, Prince and Al Green. And a worthy homage it is. Thomas has an innocent sensuality to his voice, taking long breaths while wandering through a few repeated phrases of gratitude to the trifecta of modern soul.

I had the unique opportunity as someone in the studio with free hands and a pair of house keys to play accompaniment on his fantastic song "Cecilia," instructed by a carefree Dybdahl only to go with the pace and experiment when needed. Maybe I, as a writer, just can't keep the beat, or house key percussion worked better in theory than it did live, but unfortunately my Norwegian music career was short-lived when Thomas burst out laughing and had to start over.

The set ended with a lovely piece for which he admitted ripping off music from Mozart's Requiem. In "Still My Body Aches," Dybdahl's voice echoed the title, sending out small explosions, and weaving in and out of high and low notes.

Though Thomas Dybdahl has yet to be given the credit he deserves in America for his award-winning sound, coming to the States from the height of popularity in Norway is just another learning experience for him. "It's like starting from scratch, almost. It's a nice feeling to be able to play to people without them having any...preconception about you."

-Jordan Clifford

For the article on and pictures of the studio session, go here

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Monday, July 16, 2007


Rilo Kiley "Under The Black Light" New Music Forecast 07/16/07

New Music Forecast
This is pretty much a summary of a band bio, including notable achievements, generally accepted categorizations, interesting or quirky facts or stories, etc to make the ignorant reader of interested in a band. Any inaccuracies on my part should be taken up with the multiple other websites I got my 4th hand knowledge from.

Rilo Kiley

How often do the lives of child stars end in anything but tears, let alone, god forbid, a bright future? What are the odds that two child stars would get together to form a rock band? With the exception of The Coreys, a band I'm hoping to dream into existence, indie rockers Rilo Kiley are the only ones exploring that particular niche, and doing it well. While the status of fronting band members Jenny Lewis (vocals, guitar, keyboards, "Troop Beverly Hills") and Blake Sennett (guitar, vocals, "Salute Your Shorts" and "Boy Meets World") as child "stars" may be debatable, their rising status on the indie pop/rock scene is not, a point that their forthcoming album Under The Black Light will no doubt solidify.

Drawing from many influences including country and jazz, their sound varies from lo-fi coffee house to polished hook-heavy pop, with some strings and horns thrown in for good measure. Their rock star status and label status both seem to follow parallel to their musical evolution into Major, going from the extreme indie and the ultra hip Saddle Creek, home to Bright Eyes and other celebrated indie names, to their own Warner Bros.-distruted Brute/Beaute label.

Walking the line between cynical hipsters and light-hearted folk-pop, the usually catchy Rilo Kiley have deservedly been to some degree darlings of the Pitchfork-influenced rock world, covering wider ground as their music develops with layers of appropriately distributed gloss, without losing their edge. The fantastic vocals of Jenny Lewis define the Rilo Kiley sound, and she continues to deliver style and talent along with her band mates. For an example of the bouncy, crooner-rock stylings of their new album (available 8/21/07), look no further than their groovy, sexy new single "The Moneymaker", it will have you shaking yours (your money maker, that is).

With ties and collaborations with Bright Eyes and The Postal Service, appearances on Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel and 3 acclaimed indie pop albums under their belt and major label support, Rilo Kiley's profile is reaching levels that even starring in "Salute Your Shorts" can't match.

-Jordan Clifford

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The Cast of "Side By Side By Sondheim" on WERS 07/08/09

July 08, 2007

Boston is known for its lively and varied arts culture during the months of the school semesters, but when those hordes of students leave and the dust settles, what’s left to do in the summer? That's the question the New Repertory Theater in Watertown sought to answer with its production of Side By Side By Sondheim, the theater's first ever summer production.

Side by Side by Sondheim is a musical review of Stephen Sondheim, perhaps the best and most influential lyricist and composer in the history of Broadway, combining some of his most famous songs from his early body of work including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Gypsy, Pacific Overtures, West Side Story, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, and many other obscure numbers. There is something for everyone. This was a logical choice for the summer said Rick Lombardo, Artistic Director of The New Repertory Theater, because "Sondheim is the favorite of Boston bar none".

The three-member cast is comprised of Leigh Barrett, Maryann Zschau, Brendan McNab, all three thought to be "the prime Sondheim interpreters." Along with show pianist Todd Gordon and Rick Lombardo, they visited the WERS studio for Jonathan Colby's show "Standing Room Only". This was a particularly interesting interview because Colby himself was chosen to be the narrator of Side By Side because of his seemingly bottomless knowledge of Sondheim trivia and place in the Boston theater community.

To display the talent of Sondheim, who has revolutionized musical theater for the last 35 years, and of the stellar cast, each performed a solo tune from their review. Maryann Zschau sang a beautiful "I Never Do Anything Twice” from The Seven Percent Solution. Following that Leigh Barrett performed the popular "Another Hundred People" from the influential show Company, and Brendan McNab did "I Remember" from Evening Primrose. The three talents teamed-up for “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle, and closed the set with a bit from the eponymous “Side by Side."

The cast got along great with their fellow cast member Jonathan Colby and informative conversation about the show and the history flowed. Lombardo commented that "Side by Side is about his early to mid work, not including the 'mature' later work," while Colby and others drew connections between the reviews early-yet-astoundingly-brilliant songs and those of the later work, like Sweeney Todd. Sondheim himself is a passionate composer and lyricist, and "arouses a lot of passion from musical theater lovers" says Lombardo. Anyone who loves musical theater, or just the best music and lyrics from the unquestioned master, Side by Side by Sondheim is playing through July 22nd at the New Repertory Theater, and is perfect entertainment for the summer.

-Jordan Clifford

To view pictures of the performance with Leigh Barrett, Brendan McNab, and Maryann Zschau, go here

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Reports (Boston Band) on WERS 07/09/07

This band insisted on a name that makes it frustratingly impossible to search for them online. Fortunately, for your own sanity, there isn't much to be found online yet anyway, so just enjoy the fiscal charts, consumer statistics and congressional webpages that come up instead.
Hopefully this will add to there online presence, making it the 3rd relevant hit for them. I wish they had more press because I really liked them.

Artist Interview/Live Mix Wrap-Up at WERS 07/09/07:

When the words "I like it loud" were jokingly proclaimed by Reports' deceivingly coy-looking bassist, Ben 'Rocco' Marci, during sound check for their WERS set, I should have known then that those would be the last words I'd hear for the night. Everything thereafter was muffled by a ringing in my ears, but that's OK because I also like it loud, and I'm not quite as fond of my eardrums.

The Reports sound is a maelstrom of bristling guitar riffs, meaty bass and heavy drums with symbols to spare, but are bouncy and catchy enough to make any disconnected hipster tap their feet (even while plugging their ears). Their set at WERS, in support of their album Mosquito Nets - which displays equal parts Oneida, Mission of Burma and Sonic Youth - hit the ground running with a two-part number called "Move and Glow." The psychedelicated "Yr Honor" plundered its way through plugged ears, and the more poppy toe-tapper, "Quarters," finished things off with a consolatory bang, like an older kid who might rough you up a bit, but will buy you a beer afterwards. If their sound isn't totally balls-to-the-wall, it's at least balls-to-the-closest-available-surface.

Reports is a Boston/Somerville band made up of at least twelve rotating members (all staples of the scene themselves), but performed in studio as a trio. Songwriter Martin Pavlinic explained, after the band recorded the album as a four-piece, they decided "to try something different," and constantly change the line-up, "rotating as an experiment." The experiment turned out to be a success, resulting in variations on their loosely-played garage rock, sometimes including two drummers, extra guitars and, for the first time at their upcoming July 17th Great Scott show, a keyboard player.

The fun they're having with making music extends from their evolving shows to their record label - Paper Cities, an almost exclusively vinyl start-up headed by Reports founded Martin Pavlinic. Owning Paper Cities makes it "something that is really hands on and special," as if saying to music fans, "we made this ourselves, please enjoy it." Though, in tune with their musical collective philosophy, the album is available digitally for free on Inman Street Records - if you like that kind of thing. These attitudes go hand-in-hand with their heavy involvement in the Boston music scene, which they describe as "under-appreciated." Marci adds that "people underestimate how complex and how many facets it has... it has multiple scenes and it's interesting to see how they interact," words that could definitely be applied to the band itself.
-Jordan Clifford

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WERS Radio

I recently started writing band interviews, in studio live performance wrap-ups, album reviews and "new music forecasts" for Emerson's famed WERS ( Independent radio, one of the most popular stations in all of Boston.
I will be posting whatever I write for them here, regardless of the context being strange. I will also be posting full interviews with bands of interest (because why waste it, right?) that are either abridged or left out almost completely for WERS purposes. Perhaps that will bring this little blog that couldn't a few more hits.

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