Monday, July 30, 2018



One of the reasons why I have always struggled writing music reviews or synopses of albums that I really like is describing the why.  Why do I like it?  What makes the music so worthy of further investigation?  Sometimes it’s easy, because there are records that tap into just the right sections of my grey matter that inspire words by transporting me to another place in my mind, or tap into seriously deep-seated emotions.  Some bands are simply easy to compare to others.  Most of the time, like regular people, I like what I like, because the music provides me joy.  When it comes down to it that is the main reason why we all like what we like.  This leads me down the road of trying to figure out why I’ve always had the inclination to try to sell people on the music that I think is worth hearing.  What’s the old simile?  “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”  It’s not easy.  Maybe I do it, because I like to write, and am unbelievably passionate about music.  Essentially every moment of my life is linked in my thoughts with a soundtrack of some sort.  It is the way I remember dates, seasons, people from the past.  And when I say ‘I like to write,’ that’s really only true conceptually.  I am only occasionally inspired to actually attempt the work, and I have essentially no audience to write for (thanks to those who do stop by and read!).  Hence, my reluctance.  I occasionally awkwardly write about mostly fairly obscure music to an audience of almost no one.  What is the point?  The point is that when I come across music that I enjoy so much, that I cannot at least try to scream it out to the world, and so here we are yet again.

Brazilian five-piece Oxy have released a debut album, Fita, that is providing me great joy.  There is something very comfortable about their sound.  The music hits notes that my brain seems to be seeking.  Not to get too sciencey, but Oxy’s sound molecules are causing my ear molecules to tingle the feel good molecules in my brain.  When I first heard the single, “Pink Socks,” I felt like I was listening to one of those formative songs that expanded my tastes back in my teen years.  It’s not that it sounds like anyone in particular or of a time, it’s that the song feels like it’s been a part of my life forever.  If forced to give comparisons, I would say that they lie in a beautiful dream pop world somewhere between the crisp pop-rock of Julie Plug/Marine Life and the more shoegazey Mira

Fita feels like a more veteran album than a debut, because it is unified throughout.  The quiet and pleasant opening notes that begin the slow burning “Into,” are seamlessly repeated at the end of the closing “80s.”  “Into” is the perfect song to begin an album with.  It is simple and mellow and step by step, patiently, it builds tension and suspense, until it explodes to a wordless musical chorus that stretches to the far corners of the stratosphere and then rebuilds again.  During the second explosion, we find what seems a pronounced Pink Floyd influence, as a guitar solo takes command (not sure who plays what) in a similar tasteful style of David Gilmour.  This wonderful guitar work also shows up midway through on “Reality” and the previously mentioned “80s.” 

Meanwhile, “Realdaze” and the first single “Pink Socks,” are absolutely stunning pop songs – the kind that should be dominating the hit charts all over the world, but don’t ever seem to.  “Realdaze” has grit and emotional impact along with its lyrical refrain “I choose you,” while the more atmospheric “Pink Socks,” glides along with a bassline that makes one instinctively bounce along.  Come to think of it, the fourth song, “Carriage,” should be a huge single too, as Sara Cรขndido’s varied vocals really stand out on this song. 

Speaking of varied, Fita, has a nice mixture of styles and tempos as it progresses, without breaking from the very strong vibe that unifies the entire collection.  The second half runs a little long, but once you’re in the album’s zone, you really don’t want it to end anyway, so that’s a minor issue.  Like I said earlier, their sounds hit just the right notes.  “Trying” is a fairly straightforward rock song, while the penultimate, “6th Sense” covers all kinds of ground with its catchy guitar melody, fast chorus, and alternately dreamy and chaotic bridges.  I bet that one is a highlight live.

It seems as though shoegaze is alive and well in Brazil.  I’m surprised by the resurgence over the last ten years in places like Texas, but I’m learning that it has caught on all over the world.  As long as we keep getting great music out of it, I’m all in.  Please do yourself a favor and listen to this wonderful collection.

Oxy "Pink Socks"

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Becoming Real Forever

Tender Age
Becoming Real Forever
(SINIS Recordings)

Holy shit, have I been out of it!  As mentioned in the previous post (It’s Beginning to and Back Again), I’ve been on autopilot for a few years with regards to keeping up with music, but, thanks to Amber Crain’s amazing When the Sun Hits blog and internet radio show on DKFM, I got clued in to Tender Age just in time for their debut album’s release and I am thankful.  Tender Age are from Portland too, so they’ve been right under my nose this entire time. 

This young five piece apparently recorded this album in a shack over at the coast, in Seaside.  Having grown up on the Oregon coast, I can just imagine how out of place their squealing guitar feedback and extreme dissonance must have been, but at the same time, it somehow makes perfect sense.  I have a distinct memory of riding in a car crammed full of high school classmates heading southbound on Highway 101 on a school night in the late 80s to attend an art opening at the Cultural Center in Newport.  Everyone in the car had a piece in the show, but me.  I was, and still am, the eternal supporter (the bridesmaid, the caddie, the cling-on, the groupie) of the arts – never the artist.  Along the way, we were listening to Sonic Youth’s brand new Daydream Nation, which I had dubbed for my old friend Ian, who was driving.  I distinctly remember gazing out over the Pacific Ocean at sunset on the way up the hill of Cape Foulweather with a huge grin on my face taking in the stunning view as the middle part of “Silver Rocket” went about destroying the car’s speakers.  Becoming Real Forever reminds me of this moment.

From what I’ve seen, Tender Age sometimes get labeled with the “shoegaze” tag, likely because of their liberal use of feedback to create some pretty intense soundscapes.  They remind me more of the aforementioned Sonic Youth, or Dinosaur, or Pussy Galore school of rock and noise - something that would come out on SST, or Homestead Records – all influences on those early shoegaze bands.  Plus, vocalist/guitarist, Tauna Leonardo employs a cool, otherworldly and disconnected Kim Gordon style spoken word approach on songs like “Olives Choice,” “Dark Circles,” and the first half of the epic “Cellphone Tower.” Tender Age are excellent when it comes to using three guitars (Leonardo, Elaina Tardif, and Christopher Klarer!!!) to create feedback which invigorate their songs with chaos.  The searing presence of the noise gives their songs an urgency and the feeling that the entire procedure might run off the rails at any moment.  It’s exciting!

It doesn’t hurt that the opening song, “Don’t Mind,” is an addictive pop song buried within a Psychocandy-era Jesus and Mary Chain wall of screeches, a ramshackle looseness, and a deep bassline that booms and moans like a really strange harbor buoy that’s way too near for comfort.  I find myself listening to it over and over.  When drummer, Olives, leans into the hi-hat during the bridge between the chorus and the second verse, I feel like an itch is being scratched.  That crazy low sonic boom bass, creatively guided by Bryan Robertson, guides the similar “Isn’t Real” as well.  The trudging and heavy “Lowers” leaves behind a trail of wreckage in its wake, along with a surprising sing-along vocal melody in the chorus.  The funky shuffle of “Deluxe” is the oddball track of this bunch, but a welcome breath of fresh air, and a touch of needed variety – making it a standout.  So too, the breathy acoustic ballad, “Nothing” that closes side one with a real touch of beauty.

Overall, Becoming Real Forever, seems to express a sentiment of feeling disconnected, disengaged, and separate from the rest of the world.  This is a feeling I think a lot of us can identify with in this age where so many of us are overcrowded yet completed isolated.  So much of what happens anymore does not seem real at all.  There is a definite surrealism to their sound with all of the noises coming at you from everywhere, as well as decay and destruction.  They build somewhat basic rock song foundations and then take sledge and jack hammers to these structures and present the remains as the finished product.  Have you ever wondered how an old section of sidewalk can become so broken up over time, when it is made out of concrete – something so indestructible?  Tender Age might have been there blasting away just before you arrived.  I highly recommend this album.

Tender Age "Isn't Real"

Saturday, July 7, 2018

It's Beginning To And Back Again

About a month ago I received an iPhone from the IT guy at my job.  This was to replace the Windows Phone that I hadn’t really used for several years at work and rarely pulled out of my desk drawer.  The sad fact is, the Windows phone was my first smart phone and it was terrible.  My personal cell phone is very very old.  It was a free knock off Blackberry.  The only reason I bought a cell phone in the first place was when I was on the kidney transplant waiting list in 2004 and I didn’t trust the beeper the transplant clinic provided me.  I get made fun of a lot when I pull out my antiquated old phone, but I never really had much of an interest in having a smartphone.  My biggest fear being that as soon as I had one, I’d be somehow connected with work all the time.  I can barely mentally take a full day at the office as it is, why would I want to deal with the constant crises 24/7?  This is the same job where someone urgently called me for some simple question while I was being poked and prodded in the ICU a few years ago.  There is a level of helplessness that many of my beloved co-workers seem to possess that constantly flusters and frustrates me.  Being reachable at all times worries me.  If you’re still with me, you’re better than me, because writing that paragraph bored me.  At any rate, I have decided to actually give this 21st century phone thing a try. 

Yes, I have found that I now check my work messages during evenings and answer work phone calls on weekends.  Yes, it has already spoiled a night’s attempt at sleep a few times.  In fact, I just reflexively checked the work Outlook for emails as I’m typing this on a Saturday.  WHY?!  I don’t want to know even while I’m in the office!  However, what I didn’t think about is the easy access to music that this new-fangled phone provides.  I also discovered that my ears quickly eject the earbuds that came with the phone by spitting them out every few minutes. 

Music has been my lifeline since I was about twelve.  When I was first able to get a job at the age of 14, I began spending all of money on records and it rarely slowed down since.  It has all evolved ever so slightly over these way too many years, but the search for new-to-me sounds seems to be part of my DNA.  I don’t play any instruments, my voice is like some sort of nasally appropriation of a Peanuts cartoon adult (come to think about it, so is my writing voice), but I can handle listening to music intently and with purpose and telling anyone and everyone I can about the stuff that inspires and energizes me.  That’s been predominantly what this blog I’ve mostly abandoned is all about – sharing my love for the music I choose to purchase (and yes, I do purchase it) and doing my best to get others to do the same.  Alas, I’ve never been able to find much of an audience over all of these years, so I crawl back into my shell and keep to myself. 

The last few years my music passion has admittedly cooled.  I actually went through a period where I purchased no music between August 2015 and April 2016 (I did receive a couple of crowd-funded CDs in the mail during this time), which was disconcerting on many levels.  However, this smart phone has changed things.  Now, when I leave the office, I head to a place where I can walk in a forest, or quiet neighborhood, and jam those earbuds in for a few minutes at a time, and walk with a soundtrack of fantastic music!  These are all things I could’ve accessed before on my laptop, but just didn’t - things like: Jack Rabid’s weekly Big Takeover Radio show (I’ve been reading his magazine for 27 years!!), or the When the Sun Hits show every Wednesday on DKFM preceded by Louder Than Bombs on local station House of Sound (Wednesday evenings have become a new version of my old Sunday nights in High School with the New Music Show on Q105 and MTV’s 120 Minutes!).  What this phone has taught me is that I had stopped seeking as much as I used to.  That I was falling into complacency.  I had followed the When the Sun Hits blog for years via Facebook, but only barely paid attention to the posts.  Most of the artists mentioned were unfamiliar, so I skimmed by and I regret it.  Now that I’m actually listening to host Amber Crain’s carefully curated show, my ears have been opened again, and I feel pretty damn excited about it.  I haven’t been introduced to this much new music in such a short span of time, since I was in my early 20s and it is refreshing.  And DKFM!  An internet radio station that plays so-called “shoegaze” music 24/7?  Are you kidding me?!  A couple of Sundays ago, I went for a morning stroll (awkward stumble?) and tried out DKFM’s Classic station and heard eight straight songs I spent time and effort tracking down in the late 80s and early 90s!  It was as if I ran across an old mixtape and popped it into my Walkman.  The source material is expanding too, as I have been turned on to The Kitchen Sink (Elizabeth Klisiewicz's show on Strawberry Tongue Radio) and This Radiant Hour (Girl Afraid's show on on DKFM).  I’m sure there will be more.

Here I am, not jabbering on about the music I think you should be listening to, but instead where you can find the great music you should be listening to.  

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