February 26, 2015

Choir! Choir! Choir! covers Sufjan Stevens- "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless In Ypsilanti"

I can never get enough of Choir! Choir! Choir! and this Sufjan cover is fabulous:


And here is a terrific live version of Sufjan playing the song at a Christmas show in 2012:

February 25, 2015

Luxury documentary Kickstarter



(Everything below copied and pasted from the official Kickstarter page. They need your help; please pledge, and get some cool stuff!)

A feature length documentary about the band, Luxury. In the wake of a wreck and after several records, 3 Orthodox priests lead a band.

THE BAND: Luxury is a band that began in the 1990's in the small town of Toccoa GA, but from the start, it was clear that their aspirations and influences were elsewhere. Sounding like Fugazi or Shudder to Think fronted by a younger, more vicious Morrissey, they were an anomaly, in Toccoa, or almost anywhere. They brought together such disparate influences that one could barely imagine them co-existing in a band, much less pulling it off as a thoroughly distinctive sound. The English melodicism laid on top of such pummeling instrumentation was a study in contrasts, but it was of a piece, as there was enough of the melodic in the instruments and enough brutality in the lyrics and vocal delivery that it hung together, just so. As singer, Lee Bozeman describes it, "I write these beautiful, nice songs, and then the band destroys them."  Upon the release of their first record, Amazing and Thank You (1995), Luxury seemed poised to move to another level, but a wreck in the summer of 1995 (with tour-mates and fellow Georgians, Piltdown Man) had the opposite impact. All told, there were 3 broken necks between both bands, with Bozeman sustaining the most devastating internal injuries. The wreck changed their fortunes as well (evidently) as their ambitions. With each successive record, there was a greater sense of self-reflection in Bozeman's lyrics, and the music followed that deepening maturity, all the while maintaining the fundamental dichotomy of soaring melodies on top of angular post-punk instrumentation. The first record was essentially a document of their live shows, which were remarkable events in their intensity and the band's posture of defiance directed even at their own audience. On successive records, though, Luxury learned to use the studio as an instrument. While, on the first record Bozeman asks "So, what do you expect from life?" he seems to have spent  each of the following records seeking to answer that very question.

Causation is a notoriously slippery force to get one's hands around. Yet, humanly speaking, it is hard not to point to the wreck of 1995 when hoping to understand how three members of Luxury are now Eastern Orthodox priests (the other two members are an ordained Presbyterian (PCA) elder and an occasional Lutheran deacon, surely cementing their status as one of the most ordained bands in history).  Now, it is doubtlessly a noteworthy fact that members of a band went on to become priests, as members of most bands are obliged to go on and do something different with their lives. But what can it mean for a band led by priests to continue making records?  On their newly recorded fifth album, Trophies, the lyrical themes may be said to be further musings on the expectations and memories of life. But as with prior Luxury records, spiritual concerns are obliquely addressed, if at all. So does Luxury sound anything like a band full of priests? There are several legitimate answers:
1. Who can say? There are no others.
2. Self-evidently they do. For they are.
3. No. They don't even sound like Christians.
THE FILM: Follow the story of Luxury, a band who, on the cusp of success suffer a devastating wreck. In the intervening years, they continue to make records and three members of the band become Eastern Orthodox priests. Through interviews and archival footage, Biography / Autobiography will tell the gripping and poignant story of Luxury and will follow the making of a new record, now as priests.

Matt Hinton would have begun this film years ago had he not been struck with the nagging thought that it is hopelessly lame to make a film about the band one plays in. And yet, it is such a thoroughly compelling story with layer upon layer of additionally rich storylines (e.g. Drummer Glenn Black spent a portion of his childhood in a traveling carnival. Bassist Chris Foley was in a breakdancing crew in his youth before he found punk rock. He and his wife are now raising four sons, the oldest of whom has nonverbal autism) that, in the absence of anyone else making the film, he feels more or less obliged. This feeling is heightened by the fact that Hinton has hours of video footage of the band, both from before he joined and after, which includes live performances, recording sessions and even footage of the band in the hospital, when even their hope of survival after the wreck was in question.  The working title of the film, "Biography / Autobiography" (also the name of a track on the 4th Luxury record Health & Sport) gets at the tension inherent in this project.  This film is not being made by Luxury, but by Matt Hinton with the cooperation of Luxury.

THE PLAN: We have shot over 90% of the film thus far. In addition to the older analog footage, we have visited each member of the band in their respective environments, in Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. We have begun editing, but need to finish the production phase which includes additional interviews in far-flung parts of America. So, we need to travel a bit. The majority of the funds we raise will go towards the post-production phase. We will hire an editor for the last week of the edit to get another set of eyes on the film; someone who can view the film from a position of objectivity and who can brutally cut scenes that we have fallen in love with but which don't actually serve the story. Next, we need to have the film color graded. This is especially important with a film like this that pieces together various kinds and ages of media. Next, we'll have the sound mixed. Again, a film about a band will need good sound. Ultimately we need to output it, manufacture it, submit it to festivals, etc. None of these things are cheap. But we have every expectation that this story will gain national interest and have already hired an excellent publicist. If you or anyone you know has video footage of Luxury, please contact us! We would love to have as much footage as possible at our disposal. As it is, we have plenty of footage to make the film, but every extra camera angle gives us added options for editing! Similarly, if you know of worthy interview subjects you feel may not be on our radar, please let us know. Especially if they are musicians, music critics, etc.



REWARDS: We are excited to offer some great rewards. They are to your right. Note well, we will ship physical rewards to you as soon as the last reward you chose is ready. In other words, we plan to only send one package to each supporter, so if that package includes both a CD of the new Luxury record (which are available to us now) and a DVD of "Biography / Autobiography," which is not yet complete (clearly) it will ship when the DVD is ready. This principle does not apply to digital offerings which might be sent well before the physical packages. Therefore, the estimated delivery dates we have listed are an estimate of when the last item will be ready to go. We are sure you understand.
Here are a few of the rewards available to you:



"Trophies" on CD
"Trophies" on CD



"Trophies" on clear vinyl with limited edition "Aurora" cover
"Trophies" on clear vinyl with limited edition "Aurora" cover



Luxury T-Shirts. Kids not included. N.B., This is one of two possible designs.
Luxury T-Shirts. Kids not included. N.B., This is one of two possible designs.

Risks and challenges

The risks we face are similar to all projects like this. Did we budget correctly? Are we realistic in our timeline? What we CAN say is that if we raise the funds, we WILL complete the film. We've done it before and now that we know what we are doing, we can do it again. By nature, we are optimistic, else we would not even begin. The risk is that we are overly optimistic that we can get it done as quickly as we hope. Perhaps interviewees will not be available when we hope. Perhaps the right editor will be booked on another project. Perhaps the manufacturing companies will have a slow turnaround. When Luxury made "Trophies" we expected to have vinyl pressed at a certain facility. When we were ready to send the final master we asked what the turnaround was. Their answer was "6 months". So, we found a vinyl manufacturer in the Czech Republic who could do it in a little less than 3 months. This is the most likely risk. No matter when we conservatively estimate that we will be finished, there are unknowns. Rest assured, though, when we are funded, we are committed to complete it. Hopefully on time.

February 18, 2015

This Beautiful Mess

My first ever story on Medium, and the first review as a part of the Chrindie '95 publication, is live!

Sixpence None the Richer’s This Beautiful Mess
It the first of many reviews I hope to write for that publication, as I have mentioned countless times 1995 was a very meaningful year for me with so much amazing music.

It is also the beginning of what I hope is a dozen stories about Sixpence None the Richer's "This Beautiful Mess" as we approach the true 20th Anniversary of the album on April 18.

Finally, here is a collage I made of Sixpence memorabilia 6 or 7 years ago. The highlight of it is the setlist from a show in1997 in which "Kiss Me" was first performed live.

February 17, 2015

Female-fronted bands: 1995 and most importantly, 2015

As I am spending a ton of time thinking about and writing about female-fronted bands with significant albums released 20 years ago (Sixpence None the Richer, Hoi Polloi, Fleming & John, and Morella's Forest, most notably), I am having an amazing discovery period during the first two months of this year. I keep finding awesome new female-fronted bands that are releasing new music NOW.

Earlier in 2015 I discovered and wrote about Bandit and Cayetana, who have both released debut albums in the past few months.

Just moments ago, I discovered Football, etc. Here is a terrific new tune from an upcoming EP/7", and they have a large discography you can stream/purchase on Bandcamp (including free downloads of all of their songs that have appeared on 7" records.)
 

Also this week I discovered Speedy Ortiz. I was so impressed by "Raising the Skate", the first song I have ever heard from them, I immediately pre-ordered their upcoming album on gold vinyl.
 

Feb. 19 update: So a day after I posted this, I discovered another great female-fronted rock band, Bully. Paste Magazine did a great profile of them. They are from Nashville and fronted by singer/songwriter/guitarist Alicia Bognanno.

February 11, 2015

New, excellent Dustin Kensrue song; and pre-order new album

Dustin Kensrue debuted a new song today, "Back to Back", from Carry the Fire, due April 21 on Vagrant Records. The track is excellent, and a return to form. He commented on it for Billboard.
 

Dustin Kensrue is one of, if not my favorite, musicians of the last decade. I love all of his work with Thrice (which should be releasing new music this year!). But when Thrice broke up, he moved up to Seattle from Southern California to work at Mars Hill Church. He did "worship" music for them, and released a solo worship album. Mars Hill recently dissolved (and Dustin resigned a couple months prior). While the Mars Hill circumstances were horrible for many of the people involved, the good news for us as music fans is that now Dustin has more time to commit to his solo work and Thrice.

Even as a Christian who feels it is important to worship God through music, I don't like The Water and The Blood, his solo worship album. It has a few good songs, but only one great one ("It's Not Enough"). I think the album, along with his two Modern Post EP's, are very cheesy. I don't want music like this played in church, and I avoid churches who use "modern worship music."

Dustin recently explained on his website the use of the Modern Post band name, and his desire to continue record worship music. Here is an excerpt: "When I put out The Water and The Blood, I made the decision to release it under my name. I think there were good reasons for this, but in hindsight I think it has been confusing to fans of Thrice and my solo work."

He goes on to say he will use the Modern Post moniker exclusively for his worship music moving forward. This is good news for me, and most of Dustin's fans I would imagine, because it means we can avoid The Modern Post stuff and focus in on Thrice and his solo work.

Back to where this post started, I am VERY excited about Carry the Fire. I pre-ordered it on red vinyl yesterday. The track here is excellent, as are other live versions of songs I have heard from it.

Finally, let me make it clear that I love the fact that Dustin sings about his faith in Jesus, and it is a big reason I have followed Thrice and his other work for so long. In fact, to me Dustin is a theologian in some ways, and I have learned a lot about God and the Bible through his lyrics and interviews. But to me there is a big difference between singing about his faith and recording worship music.

I'll end with a question. I know there are a lot of Thrice fans who are not Christians. If that describes you, do you listen to any of Dustin's solo work, and is there anything about The Water and the Blood you enjoy?

February 1, 2015

Mineral: Italy 2015 & Alabama 1997


My wife and I drove from our home in southern Germany yesterday to see Mineral plan in Milan, Italy. Except we never actually saw Milan, as both the concert venue, the Bloom Theater, and our hotel were in far northeast "suburbs." It was an incredible 24 hours, in which we of course saw the concert, but also drove all the way across Switzerland twice, which was indescribable (photo above I took out the car window as my wife drove).

https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3132/3236728995_6f93514001.jpg
The Bloom was in Mezzago, and as we searched for a dinner spot, we discovered the town of Vimercate. Besides finding a great place to eat (and eating Italian food in Italy for the first time), we drove across a narrow bridge on our way from dinner to the show. I could tell the bridge was unique as I passed through each end of it, but it wasn't until doing research tonight did I find out how special it is. The bridge is called Ponte di San Rocco and is one of the oldest bridges in Italy. Apparently a bridge has existed in this spot since the 3rd century, and parts of the current bridge are from the 12th Century.

Back to the main subject of the post, Mineral was spectacular. It is pretty mind-boggling to see them play in 2015, as less than a year ago the four guys in the band have admitted they had no plans to play a single reunion show, much less a world-wide tour. They were definitely raw and rough, but the energy was incredible. As I told Chris Simpson when I spoke to him after the show, I don't know how many people in the audience spoke English, but most everyone there knew all of Mineral's lyrics and sang along.

There is not much more I can say that hasn't been covered in the last 9 months since the band announced their reunion for their first shows since 1997 (and has since taken part in dozens of interviews, podcasts, etc.). I was impressed that they played both tracks off their outstanding 7", and of the seven "essential" Mineral songs I had my wife listen to on the drive down, they played all seven. (We also listened to Chris Simpson's newest Zookeeper album, Pink Chalk, which my wife greatly prefers.)

The setlist is below, and I am almost positive it is correct (but still from memory and notes I took). I took a ton of photos that turned out great. See one below or the whole set here. I also filmed my favorite Mineral song and uploaded it to YouTube (also below).

Mineral at Bloom in Mezzago, Italy
January 31, 2015
Solemn Sun opened



Setlist:
1. Five, Eight, and Ten
2. Gloria
3. Slower
4. February
5. M.D.
6. A Letter
7. For Ivadell
8. Sounds Like Sunday
9. Unfinished
10. If I Could
11. Waking to Winter
12. &Serenading
Encore:
13. Love Letter Typewriter
14. Palisade
15. Parking Lot

 

Lastly, as I was packing for this overnight trip I thought back to when I first saw Mineral in concert; in Birmingham, Alabama in 1997. I did a Google search to see if I could find the date of the show or any other information. What I could not believe is that I was able to find a video of the entire concert on YouTube!

I am unable to see myself in the video because of where I was standing at the venue, but watching it is like going back in a time machine. I didn't remember most of the details, most importantly that the Get Up Kids and Jejune opened, but also randomly that the show was the day of Chris Simpson's 23rd birthday.

I actually took a bunch of photos of this show--but on film--and they are currently in storage so I can't scan any of them. I was surprised to see that "February" and "M.D." were performed both times I have seen the band, as they appear exclusively on a 7" vinyl record (that I bought my copy of at the Birmingham show in 1997).

Mineral at Unity 1605, Birmingham, AL
September 16, 1997
The Get Up Kids and Jejune opened

1. (unknown instrumental)
2. Love Letter Typewriter
3. Palisade
4. Slower
("Happy Birthday" sung to Chris on his 23rd birthday)
5. February
6. Gloria
7. M.D.
8. Parking Lot

 

Ponte di San Rocco photo by Rickseventy79 on Fli ckr.