Maine Summer Mixtape 2015
Ninety minutes of local music, reviewed
by Chris Busby and Peet Chamberlain
Do you remember when mixtapes were actually tapes, blank cassettes dubbed with 60 or 90 minutes’ worth of songs? I was there, back in the ’80s, kneeling in my bedroom in front of the dual cassette deck, the index finger of one hand poised on the pause button of Deck B, the index of the other hovering over the pause button of Deck A or the lever that dropped the needle onto the record spinning below.
Making a mix was harder back then. These days you can just drag and drop, adding or deleting songs with the click of a mouse. But back then it was tricky to sequence songs without too much (or too little) silence in between, and getting the levels right was a chore. You also had to give more consideration to which tracks to include. A dud on a CD or iTunes playlist can be skipped in an instant. On a tape, the listener is forced to fast forward, a maddeningly inexact act.
Earlier this summer I decided to tackle the long list of local releases we haven’t had the time or space to review since last summer. It occurred to me that the best way to approach this mountain of music would be to treat it as material for an old-school mixtape. Limited to 90 minutes, only the choicest songs would make the cut, though I also kept in mind that this would be a summer mix. Several review-worthy releases are not included here simply because the tone of the music doesn’t fit with the rest of the tape. Among those is Stone Tools’ solid thrash-metal debut, Stoned to Death; Hessian’s masterful throwback metal record, Bachelor of Black Arts; and The 10000 Things, by indie-folk duo Snaex, a heavy collection of very moving personal and political songs from which I could not extract a cut that wouldn’t cloud its neighbors.
I asked local musician and frequent Bollard contributor Peet Chamberlain to check out a bunch of stuff I still didn’t have time to listen to, and his takes on some of those releases are included, as well. You can hear all these tracks on our website, thebollard.com. And if you come to our 10th anniversary party on Sept. 10, at Portland House of Music, I may even have a few cassettes of this mix to hand out.
“range four harry”
The first song on a mix has to be especially good. It’s the bait you need to draw in the listener and persuade them to commit to the rest of the tape (or at least Side 1). The best lead-off tracks also refer, often slyly, to larger concepts at play in the mix.
In these respects, “Range Four Harry,” by Lewiston indie Renaissance man Jessy Kendall, who records as Letterfounder, is the perfect fit for this collection. This gorgeous, shimmering ballad floats along on a gently loping bassline and strummed guitar strings that sound as clean as wave-washed stones (both courtesy of collaborator Victor Leclerc), while seagulls cry and children play on the sonic bed beneath. The lyrics include beguiling (if not baffling) references to an alien (the titular “Harry;” Google it), geopolitics and pop stars. When Kendall croons “I’ve got those Lionel Ritchie moves / You got that Warren G. retro,” you know this song is gold.
In an e-mail, Kendall, who works part-time at a shelter for homeless teens, explained that this was initially a rap song. “A youth had challenged me to a battle and I don’t rap, but what I came up with were those lyrics,” he wrote. “I lost.”
The album this song appears on, Smile Anyway, was posted online last summer and subsequently updated with new tracks in a new order. It’s one of the strongest alternative folk-rock efforts I’ve heard from a Maine artist, which is all the more remarkable given that most of Letterfounder’s sprawling oeuvre consists of electronic music. That influence surfaces on Smile with samples and funk inflections, though there are several other acoustic cuts (“Star Staggering,” the title track) that rival this gem’s glistening beauty.
There’s a treasure trove of albums, artwork, video and writing (Kendall also publishes the Letterfounder zine) to be found at letterfounder.flavors.me. (Warning: you can get sucked into this site for hours; as Leaves Leaves advises on their record, “bring snaxx.”)
“Electric Cold (Long Hot Summer Night)”
Just a few months after dropping their first full-length, the awesome Abominable, hip-hop trio The Yeti delivered another album last year straight outta left field. On Yeti Hendrix, DJ and producer TheLin mines Jimi classics and interviews by and about the guitar god to build a funky base for rappers Syn The Shaman and Dray Senior to take off from. There isn’t a weak track on this release, but “Electric Cold” may be the strongest, and the title fits this mix perfectly. You get lines like, “that radio shit is just popular / it’s not what’s poppin’,” from Dray, Syn rapping about sneaking whip-cream hits in a store’s cooler, and a great quote from Little Richard to set up the next song…
“This Time Next Year”
Getting’ Tight With Dreadnaught Rock. Yes, Richard, that’s just what we need here, preferably with some Hendrix-worthy guitar work, and Dreadnaught delivers. The proggy power trio has been at it for nearly two decades now, and this catchy number comes from their EP Getting’ Tight With Dreadnaught, released this spring. Tempting as it was to drop the opening instrumental, shredder “Nervous Little Dogs,” in this mix, “This Time Next Year” has hints of ’70s AOR (album-oriented rock, a la Chicago and Steely Dan, in this case) that nicely foreshadow the same in the next selection.
Love What You Love
Pop-rock wunderkind Zach Jones must’ve dusted off his E.L.O. records in the process of making this breezy, richly textured opener for his latest release, last winter’s Love What You Love. Though no longer in the shadow of former As Fast As frontman Spencer Albee, Jones shares his pal’s penchant for saccharine songwriting, and several tracks on this album are too precious for their own good. I recommend the rockin’ “Lucky One” and the stirring, yet tempered, closer, “Out on the Town” for those who need to monitor their aural glucose intake.
Mistakes Were Made
I suppose we’ve gotta put the Spence song next. He has to be on this mix somewhere. Love him or loathe him, Albee’s a gifted songwriter who makes infectiously catchy music, though much of it sounds the same. I like the bouncy psych-pop nugget “One 2 Three,” which first surfaced on the Love Is Not Enough EP last fall (and reappears, along with the other three tracks, on this full-length). But the lyrics — “Won’t you play with me? / 1, 2, 3 / Will you sleep with me? / 1, 2, 3” — sound like something a sex offender registered on Sesame Street would say. The title track of that EP is cool, too (I think there’s even a minor key in there somewhere), but its spiteful, self-pitying tone (“you’re fucking him / you’re fucking me”) is too much of a downer for a summer mix.
Best to stick with this slinky number, the subject of which is how cool Albee is. “You’re a page and I’m a book,” he says to the guy whose chick he’s angling to steal. Ooooh, snap! (Are people still saying that?) I also like the line “she’s drinking wine from a paper cup,” but could swear I’d heard it before. Turns out Albee recycled it from an As Fast As song called “Beakless Bird (Jerking Off In a Paper Cup).” Eeew.
“Our Boy Looks Good on the Tube”
Isn’t This a Bit Excessive?
Speaking of people who aren’t Facebook friends with Albee, this is a good place to include one of the tracks Peet Chamberlain wrote about. The Portland five-some Volcano Rabbit’s dirty elixir of pop and punk is a good antidote to the syrupy stuff that precedes it here. Their nine-track debut, Isn’t This a Bit Excessive?, is “great car music,” Peet wrote. “Their melodic, energetic punk gets you excited to step on the gas pedal even if you don’t really have any place to go.”
“Our Boy Looks Good on the Tube,” with its “simple I-IV-V chord progression and background ‘ooh’s,’” has the ingredients that make this band’s music exciting, according to Peet. “Singer John Vavra has one of those voices where he can be really fucking loud and hit every note. He sounds like he’s young but has smoked two packs a day since he was 9.”
Aside from the Irish punk of “The Ballad of Justin and Blaine” and the annoying ’90s Internet dial-up sound that opens the album, Peet liked the rest of Excessive, as did I. Throw “Duke of the Darned” on, too, and keep an eye out for cops.
Deboning Swedish Fish
We’re now halfway through the first side, in the meat of the order — time to throw on another slab of punk rock. Leaves Leaves is a side project of the indie-rock band Great Western Plain. Tim Berrigan of GWP is on drums and Michael Powers plays guitar, joined by Sam Baldwin on bass and singer Paige Clifton (who plays drums in the band Babe). Deboning Swedish Fish is classic basement music — simple, loose, funny and fun.
GWP’s tendency to idle in lengthy instrumental stretches is largely reined in here. Clifton’s vocals are unpolished but enthusiastic, and the lyrics, which I assume she wrote, are sharp-tongued and -witted. “Surrounded by surfers, but I can’t find the ocean,” she dryly remarks on “Denver Kinda Suxx.” “GPC III” has it all: a great groove-driven riff, couplets like “PBR is gonna get her backstage / tikka masala in the microwave,” and a squealing squall of a solo at the end. What gets me, though, is the way Clifton screams “AH-HAAAH!” at the end of the chorus — it comes as a shock at first, like the yell of an attacker in the dark. Killer.
The Gamma Goochies
Never Learned to Dance
The Gamma Goochies play raw, bluesy bar rock spiked with punk and soul. Recorded, apparently live in the “studio,” by Mike Cunnane (Bad Leg, Cheerwine), Never Learned to Dance is a warts-and-all document of the Goochies’ live show, minus singer Aaron “Hot Dog” Haines’ manic stage antics. Veteran guitarists Bart Joy and Jeff Crane bat riffs back and forth and take workmanlike solos like it’s just another night at Geno’s — no art, no overdubs, no regrets.
Most of the 13 songs here are covers, including the raucous opener, “Bourgeois Town.” It’s loosely based on a Leadbelly song, “The Bourgeois Blues,” a stinging indictment of racism in Washington D.C., replete with two references to being called a nigger. In the Goochies’ hands, the lyrics are pared to little more than a chorus complaining about gentrification in Portland. It’s best not to expect too much from this band.
“Love Man,” one of two Otis Redding covers, is another inspired choice (an overlooked burner from one of the posthumous albums), but also another example of Haines cutting out too many lyrics. “Security” works better, giving Haines ample opportunity to leap into his untamed, higher register. He can’t touch Otis’ masterful ability to make all four syllables of the title distinct notes, but that would really be expecting too much.
9 Song Demo
Drummer and producer Mike Cunnane moves in front of the mic, and picks up a guitar, in this band. Here’s Peet again…
Bad Leg makes fast, angry punk music that doesn’t fuck around. Whether calling out catcallers or chemtrails on their nine-track demo, singer Allison Slattery is able to make her point swiftly and with enough rage to keep you fired up long after it’s over.
Most good punk records are short. Classics like Wire’s Pink Flag or the Ramones’ debut can be played loud in your apartment and are over before the cops arrive. The members of Bad Leg definitely have this aesthetic down. Drummer Ryan Charest, bassist John Slattery and guitarist Mike Cunnane play tight and aren’t interested in showing off.
“Close Talkers” is a favorite because of its silly, yet very real, subject matter. “I know your breath stinks and I’m wondering if mine does, too,” Slattery shouts over a breakneck beat and power chords. “You smell like you’re dying/ you should get that checked out / you say you got laid this weekend/ I have my doubts.”
Bad Leg isn’t breaking any new ground, but who cares? (Other than your neighbors, but they don’t count.)
Five of the Eyes
As professor Robert Pollard, of Guided By Voices fame, once explained, the four P’s of rock are pop, punk, psych and prog. To maintain the proper balance of those four forces on this side, it behooves us to include Five of the Eyes’ prog song “Eos” here. (Plus, it’s 5:26 long, leaving just enough room for the two psychedelic tracks to come.) What’s gifted vocalist Darrell Foster singing about? I have no earthly idea, nor do I care. What I do care about are the gnarly guitar groove that opens this song, the acoustic break in the middle, the rippin’ solos at the end, and drummer Peter Griffith’s brilliant time-keeping throughout. I hear these guys are even better live. Bring your eyes to their Aug. 28 gig at Empire.
“Sunny Ground Of Sound”
Bigger Than Jesus
S.S. Cretins play classic garage psych, distinguished from its lighter brethren by its grit, noise and rockabilly roots. Bigger Than Jesus, the five-track live EP the Cretins released this summer, is a shambling sampler of fuzzy freakouts (one song is simply titled “Freakout”). The foursome’s own description of their music on their Facebook page says it best: “sloppy sweaty sounds to go through your ear and out your rear.”
“Push Thru the Veil”
Side 1 ends with this nugget by Herbcraft, a group that also includes singer-guitarist Matt Lajoie, of S.S. Cretins. Peet wrote about this one, too…
Herbcraft makes music for you to get lost in. They know how to take a riff and push it to its limits. “Push through the Veil,” from their upcoming album Wot Oz, is based entirely around a stoned guitar line drowning in its own reverb. Bass and drums soon arrive to make a comfortable groove as all kinds of psychedelic madness swirls around behind it.
When the vocals come in, so many effects are piled on top that it’s almost impossible to make out any of singer Matt Lajoie’s lyrics. With Herbcraft’s music, though, you don’t get the sense that the vocals are meant to be understood. Lajoie’s voice wants to be equal to all the sounds around it, which helps emphasize the communal hippie vibe the trio gives off.
Released last October, “Veil” is our first taste of Wot Oz, which is scheduled for release on Aug. 21. The affordably priced 45 single, featuring an “exclusive stereophonic mix,” also includes an “exclusive dub version” on the flip (out) side. That sounds quite collectable. “Veil” indicates that Herbcraft, now over half a decade deep into this trip, are evolving without abandoning the approach they began with. At their best, they remind us that sometimes the best way to grow is to let it flow.
When Particles Collide
“05_There Are Some Things-_AAyan_EQd”
As Bob from Enterprise Records explained to me years ago, the first song on Side 2 of an album is almost as important to the listening experience as the opening cut, for much the same reason (bait). Acts of the ’70s and ’80s, the era of vinyl and cassettes, tended to reserve this spot for one of their best songs, and this mix follows that maxim.
The Bangor rock duo When Particles Collide released a six-song EP this spring in memory of two friends, both employees of a downtown pub, killed by a drunk driver last summer. This Town is a heavy-hitter sonically and emotionally. Sasha Alcott has a voice of uncommon power and guitar chops to match. Chris Viner, her drummer/husband, fills out their sound with Bonham-sized beats and creative fills.
WPC’s music is an amalgam of many kinds of rock: punk, metal, grunge, Southern, classic, new wave. This EP tends toward the darker end of that spectrum. “Storm Cloud” is an unabashed head-banger. “These Stories” sounds like Queens of the Stone Age covering Dio-era Rainbow. (And yes, that sounds awesome!)
The tune I picked, “There Are Some Things,” has a bright, booming party chorus, but that’s hardly half of what makes this song great. In the verses, Alcott is directly addressing the departed, telling them the news and gossip they’ve missed. The pitch and intensity of her voice build to progressively higher levels. By the end of the third verse, she’s screaming, “you shut down the WHOLE DAMN TOWN!” By the end of the song, her unabashed anguish actually smashes through the conceptual wall separating the art of “performance” from stark naked reality. There is no song anymore, just a grief-stricken friend raging against fate.
Play this track loud and listen hard and you will be fucking floored. WPC plays Bissell Brothers Brewery in Portland on Aug. 15.
The only musical puzzle piece that fits next to that cathartic song is “Salvation,” a recent single by singer-songwriter Jacob Augustine. Its gentle musical bed, smoothed with lap steel by McKay Belk, is a balm for the eardrums Alcott scorched, and Augustine’s graceful voice is a source of comfort and wonder. On this enigmatic song, you marvel as his high tenor flutters up somewhere between a high lonesome yodel and a theremin as he sings the words “blue” and “news” in the choruses. There is no answer; there is only amazement and appreciation.
“I Want More”
Omnipresent is the long-awaited sophomore album from Old Soul, a loosely defined group led by singer-songwriter Mike O’Hehir. Old Soul’s eponymous debut, a folk-rock album with Eastern European accents, was one of the best releases of 2011 that nobody heard. Inspired by a romance between O’Hehir and Danielle Savage, a childhood friend who became the group’s bassist, the first record was permeated by the kind of blissful, slightly psychedelic vibe that’s impossible to create on purpose.
O’Hehir and company try anyway on Omnipresent, and often come close. Opener “From a Dream” is a lovely and expertly executed song. “Sol Do Mar,” with its accordion and horns, evokes a lazy, boozy evening in a balmy seaside city. And “I Want More,” my pick for this mix, has a catchy, easygoing bounce and a jovial atmosphere created by the small gang of musicians playing together in some Kennebunkport room.
Absent Savage, O’Hehir sings with two talented female vocalists here: Amy Allen, on “Rest,” and Sara Hallie Richardson, on three other cuts. The results are mixed. When O’Hehir starts playing in that plucky, old-time jazz style, it’s a signal the song will soon melt into schmaltz. Still, anyone impressed by the first Old Soul record will find plenty to like about this one.
The title track to folk-bluesman Dana “D.” Gross’ third album fits the groove of the preceding song so well that it had to go here. Plus, it’s got a funky, shuffling drumbeat and spacy little breaks into which the song seems to be pulled by gravity — pretty cool.
“Juggernaut” is the most unconventional composition on an otherwise highly conventional collection of countrified roots music. It’s well played and well sung throughout. If traditional Americana is your thing, Juggernaut will earn its place among the hundreds of similar albums on your sagging shelves. If not, well, then I guess we’re done here.
“Keep Your Nose Clean”
Blood From a Stone
Dreadnaught guitarist Justin Walton really impressed me with his first solo album, 2011’s It Takes a Toll, and my high expectations for this follow-up have largely been met. Walton proves that roots music doesn’t have to be boring. Of course, it helps when you’ve got astounding chops on the guitar, the Stevie Wonderesque ability to play seemingly any instrument you lay your hands on, and a penchant for post-modern genre-hopping.
“Keep Your Nose Clean” creeps in with funky stutter steps before blooming into a keyboard-drenched pop ballad of sorts. My favorite thing about this song, though, is the fact its second half starts with a crazy-good guitar solo that most acts would either end with or use as a bridge back to the chorus. Walton, being his own boss here, decides to return to the chicken-picked groove he used in the beginning and launch into yet another, even more awesome solo.
Walton has a recurring solo gig this summer on the patio of The Porthole, on Portland’s Custom House Wharf. You can catch him there Aug. 11 and 22.
The Mallett Brothers Band
“Late Night in Austin”
Lights Along the River
The Mallett Brothers Band plays modern country, which has no place on this mix or any other respectable collection of music, but they often rise above the doldrums of that dreadful genre by injecting shots of Southern rock into their sound, as Steve Earle showed the world how to do a few decades ago. “Late Night in Austin,” which opens the Malletts’ new album, is the strongest example of this style on the record, with “Les Pauls” a close second and the raucous, but clunky, closer, “Tip Up,” an ode to ice fishing (a.k.a. drinking beer), staggering in for the bronze.
The band also distinguishes itself from the mod-country rabble with more traditional material, like “Tennessee,” and songs about life in Maine (“The Irene,” whose subject is lobstering). There are a few yawners here, but “Late Night” ain’t one of ’em.
Murcielago is a damn good stoner-rock band. That said, the stubborn fact is that, at least for listeners in Maine, they’re unlikely to ever emerge from the tall shadow cast by Fred Dodge of Eldemur Krimm, whose group, after a lengthy hiatus, has returned to reclaim the crown. Murcielago bassist and singer Neil Collins and guitarist Matt Robbins both played in prior incarnations of Krimm, and it’s clear they’ve endeavored to keep its swampy, sludgy spirit alive. Yet the riffs and (most noticeably) the vocals fall short of the high bar Dodge set with the help of half this act.
Partly to avoid that comparison, but mostly because it’s a really good tune, I’ve chosen the short acoustic instrumental “Smoke Season” for this mix. It functions on Murcielago much the same way Jimmy Page’s acoustic interludes (e.g., “Bron-Yr-Aur”) do on Zep’s records — a lovely little breather among the bombast. Consider it your cue to roll one up for the rest of Side 2.
“Coma Vacation Hostage”
Dead Souls Sessions
Bangor native Will Bradford made four albums last decade with his band SeepeopleS before taking a long break in 2010 to kick substance-abuse problems. Now he’s back with a new version of the group (featuring such familiar Portland faces as keyboardist Frank Hopkins and bassist Dan Capaldi) and a sprawling double album, Dead Souls Sessions.
“Who’s got time for SeepeopleS when they release albums that rely less on an empty hook or a banger beat, and more on a strong narrative arc and thought provoking storytelling through sound and lyrics? They’re simply not a one hit wonder kind of band … Add to that SeepeopleS’ firmly ‘anti-genre’ sound, and the odds are stacked against this band ever fitting into the compartmentalization of the musical landscape.” That’s not a critic talking. That’s their publicist.
After two listens to all 106 minutes of Dead Souls, I found myself asking the same question: Who has time for this? Indeed, SeepeopleS is not a one-hit-wonder band. They’re a no-hit band, and that’s no wonder, given that this claustrophobic clusterfuck of a double-disc is smothered in gauzy effects, beyond pretentious (“Gogol’s Tea Dance Dinner Mint”?), and way too long for anyone’s good. Even Bangor Daily News writer Emily Burnham, whose reviews are more like feature stories, said half of this release should never have been made available to the public (in a more politic way, of course). By the end of disc two I was jonesin’ for an empty hook or a banger beat.
Still, give Bradford some credit — the guy tries, and he obviously put a lot of work into this album, even if it was way too much. “Coma Vacation Hostage” transcends its terrible title by virtue of the fact it sounds like the alien love child of Brian Wilson and The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne. Lines like, “You give me over-the-rainbow cold shoulders” threaten to drag the track back toward that little trash can in the corner of the screen, but ultimately its sunny disposition and fulsome hooks earn it a spot here.
A Severe Joy
“(In the Middle of My) Love Machine”
Ex-Spouse frontman José Ayerve is A Severe Joy, a one-man whirlwind of club beats, electro blurps, lyrical bravura and provocative dance moves. After releasing two proper albums, Ayerve embarked on a three-year project to make 10 limited-edition plexi-disc singles (20 tracks in all), an endeavor he finished this June.
My favorite of the recent ones is the A side of No. 9, “(In the Middle of My) Love Machine,” which came out in March. Fun, unpredictable, and hooky as hell, it leans more in the rock direction of his old band, which I’ll keep missing until he reforms it for more than a few one-off gigs.
Why Am I So Happy?
I don’t want to review Spose’s new album. I just want to say I’m proud of the guy. Catapulted onto the national stage five years ago by the lightening-strike success of his single, “I’m Awesome,” and just as abruptly spit out by the merciless/clueless machine of the music industry, he’s kept working hard and stayed true to himself, his family, his fans and his community. No wonder that, as he mentions on this record, strangers in his home state give him free weed and Dunkin’ Donuts just for being himself and continuing to represent other hard-working Mainers.
Why Am I So Happy? is an exceptionally strong rap record, even by national hip-hop standards. Its 14 proper songs are packed with clever and genuinely funny lines, and the flow is flawless. The production belies the fact Spose’s own Preposterously Dank Entertainment label doesn’t have the cash to blow on sample clearance, but he and the local musicians all over this release make the most of what they’ve got.
I’m also loathe to echo the critical consensus that this album represents Spose’s growth as a person, his maturity or whatever. The couple cuts that explicitly address this subject are the least lyrically interesting here. Still, there’s no denying that Spose is transcending the tired tropes of bong hits and booty calls that characterize so much modern hip hop. Dig the title track, a genuinely thoughtful rumination on the peace and prosperity Americans take for granted on a globe wracked by violence and misery. Or “Gesundheit,” the cut I chose for this mix, an indictment of domestic violence that makes its points without being preachy (and contains the genius line, “two shots through the heart / double Bon Jovi”).
“Alternative Radio” is a fitting tribute to the non-commercial stations capable of actually making a difference in listeners’ lives. And Spose hilariously punctures the fear-mongering and repression practiced by television news: “The sun is shining and the chickadees are chirping, but 2015 could actually be one of the most dangerous years on record,” a phony female newscaster warns at the end of “Happy Right Now.” “We’ve got seven things you should be afraid of this summer, coming up at 11. Plus, a check of the weather!”
A commenter on iTunes called this the summer record of the year. Aside from this mix, he’s probably right.
“BRZOWSKI – Bombs Make Noise (Feat. Swordplay, PT Burnem)”
Ritual Abuse: Mixed Cape I
Brzowski is another local rapper who deserves props for his perseverance and dedication to craft. He’s a relentless presence on the mic and on the scene, promoting underground hip hop like it’s his job (which it ain’t, he works maintenance at MECA).
Vinyl Cape pairs Brzowski with producer/instrumentalist C$ (pronounced “C-money”) Burns and turntablist Mo Miklz. Ritual Abuse is a dark, Gothic, metallic and abrasive collection of remixes, covers and unreleased rarities. (An “unmixed” version of the album was released at the same time last April.)
More appropriate for October than summer, its gloom lightens slightly toward the end on this bumpin’ number that also features rappers Swordplay and PT Burnem. “All I wanna do is get crunk and rob banks,” they declare. To which one naturally asks, “Who doesn’t?”
Universe Thin as Skin
So it’s 4 a.m. and the acid is wearing off. You’ve had a crazy-fun trip and now it’s time to return to reality. You feel tired but unsleepy, slightly greasy, and a strong craving for fresh-squeezed orange juice, but nothing’s open yet except Denny’s.
What record would be perfect right now?
The former members of the avant-garde rock collective Cerberus Shoal have released a number of albums lately that you might consider. Chriss Sutherland’s Snaex duo will almost certainly provoke a crying jag, though, and Big Blood’s double album, Double Days I & II, released last February, is really cool but really trippy, and you were just there.
Ah, here it is: Universe Thin as Skin, the debut solo album by Tom Kovacevic, a vet of Shoal, tarpigh and Fire on Fire who still plays with the neo-Flamenco group Olas. On Universe, Tom K., as his friends call him, presents the Arabic music he’s been studying and playing for the past two decades. There’s oud, nay flute, djembe and tchung drums, and Kovacevic’s arrestingly beautiful voice.
This is the record you need to return to earth. It’s calming, graceful and intriguing, recorded at the legendary South Portland communal “House of Shoal” by Big Blood’s Caleb Mulkerin, who left the atmospherics in.
“Flowers are marching / mountains are lifting / people are treating each other with kindness,” Kovacevic sings on “I’ll Ask You,” his cadence rising and dipping like a bird on a breeze.
Someday, my friend. Someday.