This blog has been slowly finding its feet again after a year of lockdowns, cancelled festivals, closed venues, and postponed released. I am DELIGHTED beyond all comprehension to be bringing my followers and readers some exciting stuff and amazing new music. A Perfect Mess has always been set on bringing new music to your ears.
This pandemic has created a drought in new music and I think we are all feeling it’s emptiness in our souls. Just when I think I can’t take any more and might waste away completely, Nyack New York’s prog-fusion powerhouse ShwizZ is here to bathe us in hope and soaring guitar vibes with their new track, Clock Tower. It’s a killer tune and I can’t wait for everyone to get a listen so we can discuss!
Never one to shy away from the melding of meditative music and hard, heavy hitting rock, the guys in ShwizZ don’t disappoint with this new track. Guitarist Ryan Liatsis brings his gorgeously airy guitar work that goes from gentle and introspective to heavy, while still soaring, over the course of the song. It’s like being in a dream sequence as the song progresses through rooms of thought and emotion, changing ever so slightly and then completely before bringing you back. Drummer Andy Boxer is, as always, creating a perfectly melded series of beats that leads you through the highs and lows of the song with effortless precision and perfect emotion. The song also brings in the talents of bassist Scott Hogan who lays a deep, heavy and melodic groove, and William Burgaleta on amazing keys that are at times straight up otherworldly. All together, these gents are creating a deliciously epic trip that I seriously can’t stop listening to.
Not to stop at just an incredible song, ShwizZ has also graced us with a video that you can check out below: Give a watch and a listen and tell me what you think!
Hey friends, how are you all doing out there in La La Land? Are you ok? Are you getting enough sunshine? Have you been drinking enough water? It’s important, you know, that water. It keeps all your cells happy. This pandemic has been really hard on so many people. We are social creatures and being away from our people has been ridiculously difficult. One of the things missed most has been live music. It’s been a year since I saw my last live show. Since then I have been known to cry from the crowd reaction on a live album. I wish I was kidding.
In the last month or so, some show announcements have been creeping out. Bands are willingly traveling to places like Florida and Texas that have flung open their doors like COVID never existed and want everyone to come hang. Now I am not saying that’s a terrible idea, but really? I understand you have a living to make, but are the lives of your fans worth that guarantee? Is it too soon? I don’t know, guys. I just don’t know what to think about the bands doing this.
This is why I was DELIGHTED though to see a few bands taking it upon themselves to book their own shows where they control the space and they can keep things safe. One of those is The Slackers.
The greatest band in the land, my happy music. Some of the nicest guys out there doing this ska thing for 30 years. When it comes to the ins and outs of tours and making your living, I trust the guys that have been doing it year after year all over the US and Europe for three decades. They are doing some small, very limited ticket parties with an established social distancing plan and a BYOB theme. Their first is coming up on May 7th and 8th in Jackson, NJ. All COVID restrictions will be followed. I don’t know about you guys, but a BYOB party with the Slackers sounds like salve for my soul.
If you are interested, please send a shout to firstname.lastname@example.org for ticket info. You can pay via PayPal or Venmo and tables are available for up to 6 guests. There is a $50 minimum donation per person. Check out the flyer for more info, and keep it here for updates!
One minute we were dancing in the crowds in a sweaty club, and the next minute we were home on the couch, trying to make sourdough bread. We saw it coming here in America but we, in our arrogance and false sense of security, didn’t understand just how hard it would hit. It knocked us squarely on our ass. Pure confusion followed. We remained in our homes, locked away from everything we knew up to that point. Some of us, like my family, continued to work. I worked from home for a couple months and then was back in my office. It’s been scary, but I am profoundly thankful. My husband’s day job was considered essential so he continued to go to work every day without break (except for a two week quarantine) in the public. Most requests for blogs and freelance album review work dried up. My husband’s band stopped abruptly. All bands we knew did. Tours were cancelled. Venues shut their doors. Festivals were cancelled. An entire industry slammed to a grinding halt. The ripples are still being felt now, so many months later.
It’s been an enormous struggle for so many. Not just musicians but crew members, recording staff, production staff, media, food service, security, etc etc etc have felt their world’s simply stop. It’s been unprecedented in its damage and its reach. The pandemic showed no mercy and no preference and crumpled long standing partnerships and plans. The music world will probably never be the same. Even as states like my home in New Jersey are cautiously green lighting the reopening of indoor dining and music venues at a 25% capacity, artists and fans alike are still weary. It matters little to those who miss live music if they have seen the ravaging effects of what COVID-19 can do. Other places like New York have temporarily halted the ability to hold live events for profit in an effort to keep the spread of the virus at bay by preventing the temptation for people to take that risk. Other states are allowing large gatherings. Some states are allowing drive-in theater like shows where fans stay in or around their cars. Things are changing and even maybe slowly adapting, but no one has any idea where it will lead.
In terms of adapting, some artists have found a new source of income and material online.
Many artists decided this was as good a time as any to share their skills and took on virtual students for lessons. It’s nice to have the opportunity to learn some techniques from people you admire who would not have otherwise had as much time to devote to such a thing, and people are willing to pay for it. There have been some large scale presentations as well. We watched The Dropkick Murphys do their annual live St Patrick’s day show virtually and then watched them play live to an empty Red Sox stadium for charity. I don’t think I ever enjoyed a couch tour scenario anywhere near as much as I enjoyed those two show. In the months that followed, we saw other bands taking a page from their book.
Bands like The Slackers have taken to the internet as individuals as well as a band to bring their live show into anyone’s living room who is willing to watch. Bands like Twiddle and Goose have been playing with the concept of large scale living room couch tours. Some artists charge a fee. Some simply ask for donations be made. Online “busking” took on a whole new life when the world shut down. New Jersey’s own Catherine Sisco saw the need for a platform for these artists to find a larger audience online and Busking Down The House was born. BDTH created a space for the fan to meet the music safely in their homes, live every day. It created a daily virtual showplace for a musician to set up from home and be able to play whatever they wanted for a built in audience. The group grew quickly and at present boasts a viewership in the tens of thousands with shows every single day. Artists like Tim Palmieri from Kung Fu are there with solo shows regularly. The way it works is simple. Using the Facebook group as a platform, the viewer can tune in and enjoy the show for free or toss a donation of any size. The artist’s Venmo or Paypal is displayed. There is a schedule posted regularly and the group is always taking submissions.
Do you roll with the change? Music as an industry has always evolved. Things are very different now than they were 50 years ago in terms of everything from the way music creates profit to the way it’s consumed to the manner in which intellectual property is trademarked. Things never stay the same, but I don’t know that, as an industry, there was ever such an abrupt shake up from every possible corner. So what does it mean going forward? What happens now? Where do we stand today? I can opine on this topic all day and if you ask anyone who has shared a cocktail with me over the last six months, you know I will. However, I decided to ask some folks who call music their home what they thought of the state of things now.
Do you anticipate a rapid return?
Travis – Hub City Stompers:
I certainly WISH for a rapid return, but I do not anticipate one. Any return to live music needs to be commensurate and accordant with the safety of attendees and performers.
I’m fiending like a rockless crackhead to play shows again, but I would never risk anyone’s health just to satisfy my own personal urge to play. People need to hold shit down, ride this out, and do what they gotta do so life can get back to normal all the quicker/sooner.
Ara Babajian – The Slackers:
I don’t anticipate a rapid return. I think everything will likely be some combination of live streaming and private parties, at least for bands at our level. I think bands should definitely charge/attempt virtual tours.
Eric Abbey- Abbey Productions, Jay Navarro & the Traitors, Detriot Riddim Crew:
I do not think a return will be rapid. As someone who produces shows and plays them, I do not want to risk band mates exposure, but also put people who come to shows at risk.
Jenny Whiskey – Hub City Stompers, Rudeboy George
Well…I may be biased since my source of income is not music. I have a day job that enables me to work from home , and admittedly am very lucky in that regard. As far as shows go, I don’t anticipate all of the dank dark smelly venues we are accustomed to playing will be open for shows any time soon. And it fucking sucks because those places survive on shows and DJ nights. Outdoor gigs are going to be the next step I think. I love virtual fests and it’s been tiding us over but I think people are getting antsy in the pantsy to see real live humans playing music.
Will Hanza – Escaper:
For those that live for live music… we all have to find a way to be safe and respect this virus. It’s no joke. But we adapt. Evolve. Do the best we can. And for those moments we can get that live music in, it’s all the more special these days.
Ryan Brice – Your Mom’s Hot:
I think that a good number of people will be pushing for a rapid return, but I anticipate a more cautious approach. I have tickets for the Joan Jett/Poison/Def Leppard/Motley Crue show in August (it was rescheduled for July 2021) and even if we were farther along in our reopening phase, I would still be nervous about the big crowds. I’m not sure that’s an opinion shared by a lot of people.
Do you feel better “busking” online from home?
Travis – Hub City Stompers:
At the moment I’m fine with putting together “virtual” performances and videos. And not even for money, necessarily, but just putting stuff out there so people have something from you to enjoy and so that you’re not sitting on your ass without creating and/or performing. HCS doesn’t plan to charge for any of the virtual performances we’ll be putting out in the near future (unless it’s going to a charity of some sort).
But I certainly don’t take umbrage with any other band doing so. If bands that are typically dependent on income from live performances are hurting right now then that’s one way they can try to minimize the damage. And if their fans want to pay for the band’s performances then so be it.
Eric Abbey- Abbey Productions, Jay Navarro & the Traitors, Detroit Riddim Crew:
Busking Online will not work for small local acts. The larger touring artists yes, this is a good plan. For smaller local bands this is crushing.
Jenny Whiskey – Hub City Stompers, Rudeboy George:
I think scenes should take a lot of cues from the drag and burlesque communities. They rely almost solely on tips for their income and I am continually impressed with how they’ve come together to create space for their craft even during this shitshow. They’ve utilized platforms like Twitch and Instagram Live for weekly showcases, set up virtual tipping mediums and organized drive up events and that seem to be keeping them afloat. Despite the fact that those performers generally work on their own as opposed to a band of 6-7 ska nerds, I think we can take something from that and make it our own.
Will Hanza – Escaper:
I have to admit that at first, I only begrudgingly got into the live streams. Before all this, I wasn’t trying to be guitar-on-the-couch internet hero, I was trying to play live shows as often as possible. When that became, well, impossible, seemed like the streams were the way to go. And for awhile, it was actually pretty successful. I did some well attended and received streams with Busking Down the House, Woodstock Radio, Freaks Action Network and some just on my own page. It felt good to connect with people. However… I have to be honest, it isn’t the same as feeling real time energy interaction with an audience that’s in the room with you. I am not trying to sound complain-y. I know so many people out there are struggling and my concerns are tiny in comparison. That said. I am trying to find ways to bring live, in-person music in a safe way. When I play, I want to be a conduit for the bigger energy that flows through me, through the music, and through all of us. Being in the present moment. Not playing at people, but with… We all do it together in a fantastic energy feedback loop.
Ryan Brice – Your Mom’s Hot:
I haven’t personally been busking, but something like that would be way out of character for me. I don’t even like to play shows that require us to sell tickets – I feel like a pompous ass asking my friends and family to pay to come see me perform. I’m not a musician to make money or to supplement my income – I play cover songs in a bar to have fun and get out; I don’t depend on the money I make from those gigs to pay bills or survive.
I had not heard of the “virtual tour” thing, but at first thought I find it laughable. Put in the album and listen, or go on YouTube and watch a live video. At second thought, however, I am sure there’s a sizable subset of people who would “attend,” either as a way to support their favorite artists (who may be struggling as well and looking for a way to stay afloat) or just to feel connected to the outside music world again. Like the busking thing – It’s not my cup of tea, but I’m not against the idea.
How do you think a struggling American populous is handling their lack of live music (and potentially income that would have previously paid for it)?
Travis – Hub City Stompers:
I’m sure they’re fiending to attend shows just as badly as bands are fiending to play them. And I’m sure they are adjusting and appreciating whatever means of performance bands can put out and provide.
All I can say is that I sure as hell hope that when all this is over and shows can resume that people don’t so readily go back to taking shows for granted and sitting on their asses at home when they have the opportunity to go out and see shows
Ara Babajian – The Slackers:
I think the struggling American populace is handling their lack of live music by going out and toppling Confederate statues, which I wholeheartedly encourage.
Eric Abbey- Abbey Productions, Jay Navarro & the Traitors, Detroit Riddim Crew:
I can’t even comment about the American populous right now as I do not understand anyone risking their lives and others just because they do not want to wear a mask. Unfortunately, this is a huge wake up call for a a lot of people playing music and it sucks. I hope that we can build something new out of this.
Jenny Whiskey – Hub City Stompers, Rudeboy George:
I know a lot of folks are struggling financially right now, not just performers , but many others. And spending money on events is t exactly in their budget to begin with. So perhaps utilizing these virtual shows and outdoor spaces might make for an affordable means for folks to enjoy it without going broke. I suppose we will have to see what happens. Honestly I think everyone’s getting a little stir crazy, and could use some escapism to forget for a second that we’re in an actual horror movie right now, and it’s gonna take some time for us, to get back to rubbing up against each other in a sweaty basement.
Will Hanza – Escaper:
As the weather warmed the idea of safe outdoor events became a reality. Escaper just did two events (a live stream at Mountain Sky in PA with 10 socially distanced guests, as well as a private outdoor party that had minimal people and followed safety guidelines). On July 17th we played an outdoor patio show at Orlando’s Bar in Burlington, VT. Seated, 50 person capacity, again following safety guidelines.This is where we are at. Outdoor, safety-following shows. This includes the drive-ins that have been popping up. I have attended one and hope to get the band to do some soon.
Ryan Brice – Your Mom’s Hot:
I think people are starting to go stir crazy and are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. I had practice with my band for the first time in 3 months last week and it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Art (especially music) brings us together and soothes our collective savage beast. Case in point, look how happy everybody’s Facebook posts were the weekend when Hamilton was released. We had something exciting to engage about that wasn’t all the crap going on in the world. I hope live music returns quickly and safely and fills the void that so many people are feeling.
Personally, I miss all of you out on the floor. The last show we saw before the whole world came down was our friends in New York’s Peak. They have been doing some online work through all of this as well, including the release of a few virtual performances, some rebroadcasts with commentary from the band, and singer/guitarist Jeremy Hilliard did a series of acoustic shows from his living room with themes, requests and dedications. As much as we loved the virtual content we got from one of our favorites in the scene, we look forward to the sweaty dancing energy of a live show that simply cannot be replicated in the living room. I don’t know what this pandemic world will bring us in the next few months, but I know I miss stuff. I miss dancing and not caring how bad I was at it because the energy from the band was incredible. I miss dirty venue bathroom selfies. I miss all you guys.
Times have been dark and confusing for a while. COVID-19 has ransacked life as we know it and those of us in various music communities feel it as hard as anyone. Venues are shuttered. Tours are cancelled. Studios are closed. Musicians, producers, crew, photographers and journalists, fans and everyone who calls “music” home are stuck secluded from everything we know about the sanity and insanity that was our lives. Things have been lonely and quiet and frankly very depressing.
Sometime at the beginning of the pandemic shut down, the band Goldfinger re-recorded a few of these more recognizable songs from their homes. They put them out as videos and I shared most of them with glee as they were a wonderful piece of nostalgia for my cranky old Gen-X ass, but they were also a glimpse of the normal that we so desperately needed. They showed that people were ok at home and still wanting to make music. People we knew. People we loved. I admit I also had a total voyeur thing with seeing people’s homes, but it was a comfort to see that we were ok. Lots of bands started putting out videos like this around that time. Musicians from home still making music. It was hope!
Time has dragged on and there have been fewer and fewer of these types of videos popping up. Some folks have gone back to work at their day jobs. Some people have started to slowly venture back out into the world like mole people in the bright sun as things slowly reopened. We are still so far from normal though. There are still no tours, still only very small shows, if any, in most cities. Some venues have closed for good. Most places are not allowing large gatherings and those that do are questionably safe as the pandemic still rages on through America. I miss shows and live music because that is where my friends are. It’s where my blog is. It’s where I feel most alive. I like to say I don’t much like people but the truth is that I like my music people and I miss the ever loving shit out of them.
So what do we do now?
I can’t speak for many these days, but I can say that The NPC’s had a great idea and it’s one of the most invigorating things I have had the pleasure of seeing since this madness took over our world. You might not know who the NPC’s are. You can hop on over to their Facebook page and give them a look at https://www.facebook.com/thenpcsmusic and see their origins. What began with a desire to put together a cover song has turned into a movement to keep music alive. To put it simply, it’s a collective of musicians who work together from afar to do random covers. Artists who might not be in the same time zone as one another but who love the idea of collaborating on songs they love. In times like these when we can’t just meet up at our local practice spot and put something together, this group has tapped into something incredible. Several of my friends from the punk and ska world have been there for a bit. I had no idea what was brewing over there.
Now I am not shy about telling the world I am almost 42 years old. It might explain some of my tastes. It’s also going to make it make a little more sense when I tell you that when the first Tony Hawk Pro Skater came out, I played it all freaking day. We all did. We would play it in groups. We would play it alone. We would sit on the phone with friends and play it. The soundtrack was our soundtrack in the rest of our lives so that just made it better. When they announced that it was coming back, we were all singing along already. The NPC was no different and when Goldfinger’s Superman was mentioned, it didn’t take long for 56 musicians to want to be involved. Yes, 56 musicians. Horn players alone make up 25 of them. They come from all over the country. They are in their kitchens, basements, home studios, backyards, skateparks, their lives. Try not to feel the joy. Try to ignore the smile you will get watching and listening. I dare you…
It hit the interwebs on Friday and everyone, including Goldfinger themselves, have been sharing it like crazy and feeling the warmth of love, ska, skateboarding, and nostalgia flow through them. I am incredibly proud to promote it here on A Perfect Mess. I’m proud to call many of the participants my friends and the NPC a glimmer of hope in a dark world to remind us how sunny the world actually is.
How are we all hanging in our quarantines and shut-downs? Is everyone ok? I know the solitude and confusion has been rough on a lot of us, and I am hoping everyone is holding up out there. The one thing that is getting me through these rough times has been the sprinklings of new music I have been getting to write about, pushed along by the fact that you all want to read about it and hear about more – so thank you! I know we are far apart these days, but we will get each other through this. Music is life, after all.
I have said it before and I will say it again – reviewing singles is becoming my new favorite thing. It’s like wine tasting. You get just a sip of something you had no idea you wanted, and now you cannot wait to bring home that whole bottle. It’s even more delicious when you know you will have to wait for more because the album is not out for another month or so. Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Something like that – ANYWAY – the guys in Shwizz have released an epic teaser to their upcoming album, Big Things, with two early released tracks. Shwizz is an incredible band comprised of two members – Ryan Liatsis on guitar, keys, and vocals, and Andy Boxer on drums and vocals. You might remember we did a review of their last record, Shwizz II not that long ago and talked a lot about what incredible players and writers these guys are. Well, guess what? They are back with more of that goodness for you with these two tracks!
I have to admit, I have been devouring these songs amidst all the chaos of the pandemic and our lockdown. I think we can all use something to look forward to these strange days, and hearing these songs is going to be that thing for you. I already cannot wait for the full album to be released, and I think you will find that you agree. This is just a sampling, and the two songs are so diverse from one another that I cannot wait to see what the rest of the record has in store for us.
The first of the two songs is called Unnamed King. It’s a heavy as hell, hard hitting song that the band did with Consider The Source bassist, John Ferrara. Unsurprisingly, his bass lines in this song are epic. The whole song from start to finish is simply fantastic and proves what a force Shwizz is in their writing styles. The drums hit with perfect precision and incredible force. Boxer takes you through the rises and falls in the track with incredible creativity. The guitar Liatsis lays down is soaring and heavy while still being so smart and intricate. Ferrara’s bass work in the beginning is such a different intensity than at the end of the song. The writing is brilliant in that it’s this perfect mayhem of precision and power. I asked Shwizz drum master Andy Boxer where this song came from:
“I wrote the song 4-5 years ago after seeing Consider the Source. I laid down the foundation and Ryan blasted it to another level.” That’s an understatement! Dive into this song and let it take you on a journey!
The second song took me by surprise. It’s called Your Call Is Very Important To Us and if you think it sounds familiar, you are probably right. “It’s inspired by hold music. Like, literally.” says Boxer when asked what prompted them to write the song. When you hear it, you will know right away. It’s an amazing song in that, for a moment, it sounds like every horrible hold experience you ever had. That typical tune. You know the one. Gentle and calming to assist your mood while you wait for someone to take your concerns. Then it breaks into these absolutely gorgeous guitar solos that really highlight what an incredible player Liatsis is. The tempo of the song picks up, then down, taking you up and around on a roller-coaster ride. There are these great drum hits and combinations that set the pace and changes. The whole track intensifies at the ¾ mark, taking you higher and higher with ferocity from the dance between drums and guitar. Then the song comes back down around to that familiar tune and gently ends. I was just floored by the whole thing. I mean, who else can take hold music and make it into a crazy good, intricate song? No one but Shwizz, and that’s why this band is amazing.
That’s why I cannot wait for this album next month. The upcoming album, Big Things, will be available June 26th and you can find out more by heading to the band’s website, https://www.shwizz.com.
My blogs don’t flow like they once did. Music just isn’t feeling all that exciting from the confines of my couch. I know I am battling many of the same internal demons that so many of you are while being isolated. I have been badly in need of something delicious to reignite me. And then something fell into my lap about a week ago when a friend tossed me an email…
I love reviewing singles. It’s like tasting wine that you can’t yet buy a full bottle of. I get these small tastes of new sounds and it creates a craving for something I didn’t yet know I even wanted. That is how it was hearing this fantastic new track from Inner Sounds, featuring Agustina Giovo called “The One”. Before last week, this was a project that was nowhere on my radar. Today, I am sitting here absolutely chomping at the bit for more from these folks. This track is a perfect blending of throwback feel and new flavor. It’s fresh and creative while still pulling bits of familiar styles that, despite sounding like something you might know, sound brand new. It’s been a while since I heard something that felt this exciting, but I am incredibly intrigued. So here we go!
Inner Sounds is comprised of Chris Aguayo and Zac Carson. They put our their debut record, a psych-rock and electronic blend, back in January 2019 with a follow up track in May of last year. Carson released his own album, “Between Two Worlds”, in 2018. The two developed the music portion of the track “The One” at their studio in Jersey City, NJ. They then welcomed the gorgeous vocal talents of Uruguayan singer/songwriter Agustina Giovio to inject her incredible abilities into the song. Giovio came to to the states by herself as a teen and is known as an incredible songwriter and vocal talent, having been featured on MTV, Telemundo, and others. Her voice is hypnotic and magical, but don’t take my word for it…
The song is sung as a beautiful duet between Aguayo and Giovio that blends styles and feels and creates an incredible vibe that permeates every part of your soul. This song struck me somewhere deep. It’s emotional and those soulful vocals absolutely soar. Giovio is an extraordinary vocalist. The beat of the song is steady like a heartbeat that runs through the track with the energy of a power line. Lyrically, it tugs your heart with a deep and resonating desperation that you can just about taste – and you want to. You will feel it and want to know the story. Vocally it’s laid out in such a way that by the second listen, you want so badly to be singing along whether or not you know the words. I was! I sincerely want so much more from this trio. This song made me feel so many things – deep.
Some bits and pieces on this track – this was Aguayo’s first time rapping on a released track. He also produced and mixed the song, which was co-produced by Carson and Giovio. The song was mastered by Grammy winner Mark Christensen who has worked with some small time folks…you know, The Killers, Tony Braxton, OK Go. So obviously it’s fantastic. The song was completed in February 2020 before this Covid-19 madness took us over and sent us inside. It’s been rough on musicians and performers, especially those with music just waiting to be heard. I am thrilled that they went ahead and put this gem out there for everyone to enjoy. This is a song that needs to be heard. According to the song’s bio, there is another pending Inner Sounds release out there. I genuinely can’t wait!
The song was released on April 21 and you can actually check out a really cool video to accompany it right here on the Inner Sounds Facebook page:
Check it out and let me know what you think! Absolutely follow that Facebook page!
You can check out whats going on with Inner Sounds and Agustina Giovo on Instagram at
If you had told me a year ago that the entire world would be in the clutches of a pandemic right now, I would have told you that you watch too much TV. Yet here we are, three weeks into a stay at home order. I live in New Jersey, close enough to New York City that we follow close behind as they shut things down. As of now, I believe, we are shut down until further notice. I just did a Google search real quick to see if I could find a date – and I can’t. I was watching the daily briefings from our governor for about the first week and a half. I can’t do it anymore. Since I work in education (financial), we have been working from home for a few weeks now. My husband is considered an “essential” employee in retail but has been quarantined after an exposure for close to two weeks. He goes back in a few days. My kids are home, my high schooler doing school work virtually, and my pre-schooler doing what she can to stay sane. As are we all.
I think I speak for a lot of us when I say I have been clinging a little harder to social media since this began. Updates, live streams, just a kind word all goes a long way. There have been wonderful challenges set to music and artists coming together virtually to help busk for one another. Despite what is going on in our daily world, there is still a trickle of new music coming out and it’s like the coolest salve on a burn when it does. The most recent one I have been digging on is the single “None of Those Things” from the always honest and fun Andy Frasco & the U.N. Talk about sunshine in the darkness. This song feels like a wave and a smile when you feel the loneliest you have ever been. They say the right music can change the world, and while I don’t know so much about changing it, the right song sure can cheer it the hell up. And we need that. We needed this song.
Musically, it’s got a fantastic groove. Body swaying groove that runs up your spine with great singalong lyrics. I am super excited to check this out live – whenever that is again. The overall vibe of this song is hopeful and strong. “Happiness will keep us free”. I think that is a sentiment we are all clinging to right now as we are locked away from our normal worlds and the faces we love. The age old saying is that money can’t buy happiness – which I’m sure is true if you have some. This song takes that idea in a far more relatable direction though and goes into the happiness you feel when you don’t have wealth and material happiness to lean on. A pure happiness that comes from experiences, togetherness, and love. It’s about finally getting all your dreams and realizing that it was never about the material. It was about the journey. It’s about the fact that you get to do what you love most every day.
At least, that was my take on the tune. No matter what the meaning is, the song is absolute fire.
Its no secret that I’m an enormous fan of Brooklyn psychedelic jamtronica powerhouse, Peak. Since catching them a couple years back at Arlene’s Grocery for a Jamwich review I was writing, they have become one of my absolute favorite live bands to follow. Their shows are energy packed and laced with powerfully written music that moves you inside and out. Individually, they are some of the most talented players I have ever had the opportunity to work with and are consistently blowing my mind. Together, they are a brilliant blend of skill that is creating some of the most exciting music to come out of the Northeast jam scene right now. If you have not gotten out to see them, I can’t say enough that you are missing a really good damn time.
Just this weekend, the band officially released their first batch of favorite jams from 2019/2020 Winter Tour live shows called Hot Clips Volume 1. This is the first release from the band with their current lineup – Jeremy Hilliard on guitar on vocals (Turbine), Kito Bovenschulte on Drums (Particle), Josh T. Carter on Bass (Hayley Jane and the Primates) and Johnny Young on keys and vocals (Mick Taylor, Artimus Pyle). The band has been extremely busy between touring and building their home base studios in New York. The album is available now on all platforms, so pick your favorite and give it a good listen. With the pandemic cancelling shows and tours left and right and grounding live music as we all self isolate, this release is a wonderful salve for those itching for delicious live jams. The music was lovingly mixed by the band’s own Johnny Young and the sound is fantastic.
As for the tracks themselves, one of my favorite songs that Peak does live is Barometric Pressure (Here Comes The Rain). The version on Hot Clips is as good as any I have seen live. It’s got Johnny’s trippy key work blending over Kito’s intense drumming. The guitar and bass come in between and create the perfect shake your body dance track. Seriously, if you are standing still when the jam kicks in ¾ through, you might want to check your pulse and make sure you’re still alive. I would put these guys up against any major jamtronica player in the scene right now because they more than hold their own – they are dominating. Another favorite that got included is Win Some, Lose Some. This song has such a cool city vibe. It feels like a dark club and a cold beer when it starts out. The vocals are fantastic and super clean. The song itself is a perfect blend of funky groove and bluesy jam. Jeremy’s guitar work on this track is exceptional and really showcases him as a player. Josh’s bass work is equally stellar on this track and just funky as hell. Path Paved with Roses is my absolute favorite Peak track, and seeing this song live is some of the most fun I have ever had standing up. Not that I was standing still, because I wasn’t. That’s not possible. This is some of the best Kito/Josh bass and drum work in all of Peak’s live catalog and if smiling had a sound, this would be it.
Can’t Love Somebody is a really cool Johnny fronted track with some really fun jamming that kicks on halfway through. They do some really fun builds in the jam and hit these great climax moments. Just super fun stuff. Wild Ride is another one we love to get down to live, so I was excited to see that one featured. It’s some immediately body-moving groove that I would dare anyone to try and keep still during. It’s not possible. Songs like this one just permeate you and before you know what’s going on, you are dancing with whoever happens to be next to you. I know this first hand. The dance jam on this song is absolute fire. I have never been someone that got down to live albums all that much, and this is a collection of songs that I can totally rock out too. They are extremely well done in not just the songs themselves, but the recordings are super clean. It’s a lot of fun to review music you genuinely love, but what these guys are doing is so much more than that. Their ever evolving music is a breath of fresh air in a really stale room. Don’t take my word for it though, and give it a listen. Give yourself some room to dance too…
Check out Hot Clips Vol. 1 on all the places you like to stream, and keep an eye on what Peak has going on. As soon as it’s humanly possible, they will be rescheduling their spring tour so you can get yourselves out there and shake it along with them live. Until then, let this new release keep you moving. Jeremy will be doing a live stream on Peak’s Facebook page (link below) on Monday March 30th at 8pm. I checked out his last one and it was super fun! Listen in, toss some tips, and love on some live music.
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and I can’t wait to see you all out there again really soon!
I don’t get to do as many rock album reviews as I would like to these days, so this has been a real treat. Deletto is an incredible rock project based out of Northern New Jersey and their debut album, OldKID, was just dropped on January 24th.
New Jersey breeds a whole lot of amazing things. I should know, as this is my home. Naturally if I get the opportunity to talk about music that was organically grown here in our amazing corner of the world, I am freaking delighted. This is not your ordinary band though, as Deletto is comprised of just two people. You would have no idea if you simply picked up the album and gave it a listen. The sound is enormous and the vibe exploding from within the music is incredibly powerful. The marriage of guitar and drums on every song displays a unique intensity that is very much their own. Founder Chris D’Eletto is behind the passionate vocals, the celestial guitar work, and the haunting keys. Kito Bovenschulte (Particle/PEAK) is behind the dynamic and potent drumming. These two gentlemen have created a powerhouse of sound, and you need to be listening. I don’t see this stopping any time soon.
This album in general is intense and loaded with potency. The opening track on the album, “Runaway”, opens into a haunting walk with Chris’s melodic vocal as the song builds. It’s a sensation of being guided, and I love that feel. Then Kito’s intense drums crash in and seem to kick the door wide open. The song packs a lot of emotion into only 2:51, and that’s impressive. Lyrically, it cracked me right in the head. It’s funny how the universe will find songs that speak to you and throw them at you when you least expect it. There is a delicate understanding here layered beneath the music, and it’s a great way to open the listener to what this record is going to do.
“Where the Wild Sleep” is incredibly captivating immediately. It’s got every element of a fantastic rock song but turns the volume way the hell up on everything. The vocal is incredible and gripping, and the more I listened to this record, the more that became one of my favorite aspects of it. If you read this blog regularly, you know I am a bit of a vocal junkie. Deletto feeds that in a huge way, especially the way the vocals are layered on a track like this one. There is softness, there is intensity. It’s a dance between the two, and it’s deliciously compelling. I love the rise and fall this song takes the listener on. And again, the drums – powerful and intensely precise.
Speaking of vocals, hop on over to “Violence Defines Her” and find Chris’s stellar chops over what begins as a very controlled guitar vibe. Give the song just a few seconds though, as those gorgeous vocals will open up with soaring emotion that carries the song as it climbs with intensity before exploding with Kito’s incredible ferocity. I love everything about this song. The emotion behind this song, and every song on this record, is so raw that it’s almost anxious at times. It makes for a wonderful listening experience. It’s gripping. It has gripped the hell out of me and I’m not letting go.
“Somebody Else” is another example of that vivid and impassioned voice married with the steady, intensive beat. The guitar work is incredible on this song as it lends to the passionate vibe as the song carries you through. This honestly might be my favorite song on the record for that trifecta of intensity and the way the song rises and falls with that guidance. It’s one of those songs that you can’t help but move with. The drums on this song deserve special mention for that wonderful controlled energy. I can’t believe this whole thing is just two people.
Honestly, I could very easily sit here and describe every song on this album, but you need to hear it. These are songs written to be felt.
I have nothing but praise for this record. There are plenty of albums I have listened to intensely for a week for purposes of review and rarely picked up again. This is not going to be one of those. I am a fan. The music is incredibly well written, the album fantastically recorded and produced, and it’s honestly been a while since I heard something that captivated me as hard as OldKID has. If you have not given this a listen yet, I suggest it strongly. I also suggest getting out to Debonaire Music Hall in Teaneck, NJ on Friday March 6th for the official album release show and see this incredible project blow the doors off. You can get the details in the link below.:
I have had this blog almost a decade. In that time, it’s grown as I have grown. My taste in music has always been eclectic and varied, but what I was reviewing was pretty safely within modern folk and very ska and reggae focused for a long time. My husband had tried unsuccessfully to pull me into the jam scene for years and I guess I just wasn’t ready to let go of all my preconceived notions yet because I resisted. Then one day while driving his car, Twiddle came on. Something in the song I heard resonated within me, and it wasn’t surface. It was deep. It reached into me and found a place that was parched and hurting and doused it in understanding. It had been a long time since a song hit me that hard, and I got curious. I started to dissolve their whole catalog and career up to that point. It led me to other artists I devoured just as hard. It led me to shows and festivals. Twiddle was my gateway to this scene – a place I have found love, acceptance, friends, and so much to write about.
Beyond Twiddle, I have been a fan of Mihali on his own for a while. I have seen him cover Round Here from the Counting Crows, one of my very favorite songs, in such a manner than I found myself screaming along in tears. A few years ago while interviewing Aqueous in the hospitality tent at a festival I was covering for this blog, Mihali strolled in and had a seat with us. He was delightfully kind, which was appreciated when I fully expected him to act in line with his success. (something I have encountered all too often since starting this blog) It was a wonderful surprise that I take great pleasure in telling people who decide to talk trash.
I guess that’s part of the reason I have been so damn excited for this solo record from Mihali to drop. I have been craving more of that vibe that pulled me in so hard. The record, Breathe and Let Go, is everything I had hoped it would be. It has the uplifting soul and deep feel of someone who has so much to say, but words don’t say enough so he artfully crafted music to narrate that train of thought. While you find words sung by a voice so uniquely Mihali, you also find and entire album’s worth of musical explorations to carry you where you need to go.
The album kicks off with the title track and its bright acoustic entrance, flavored a short time in with some steady beat and words that I think I really needed lately. “Breathe and let go, relax and go slow, let your life unfold…” Mihali is narrating a string of thoughts that I think will resonate with a lot of people in these tumultuous times when we are not sure if our path is the one we should be on, and that maybe we think about that too much. Or at least that was my take. The song Stubborn Smile was one that was released a short time ago, giving us all a taste of what was headed our way. It quickly became a favorite of mine. It’s that light reggae feel with fun sing a long vocals that we can relate to hard these days. I have always loved the thoughtful and reflective way that Mihali constructs vocals. It’s one of the reasons I loved Twiddle so much. Mihali sings songs I can so deeply feel, not just hear.
The track Enemies is stellar on its own, but it’s even more delicious with the talents of Matisyahu laced throughout. It has this deep, get-low kind of groove that infects you with a feeling that shakes your hips good and slow. I am digging hard on Mihali’s vocals on this one. His voice is very uniquely his, but I like what he does with some of his higher edges on this. Carved Lines is another good one that plays with acoustic guitar and self reflection. I like that stripped down sound so much. As much as I like Mihali as part of a powerful and talented four piece band, I really dig his work in a singer/songwriter role as well. It suits him just as well. I also really love Over Land and Sea. It reminds me of so much of the 60’s folk flavor I have been covering myself with my entire life, care of my parents and their deep love of that scene. It’s a stripped down song about love, simple and soulfully delicious. This song and it’s feel is everything I love so much about music.
My favorite song on this record didn’t surprise me, because it’s the first solo song I knew of Mihali releasing a million years ago – Fading State. I have been loving this song for a while! The track features guest vocal from Nahko and Trevor Hall, creating a triple threat of vocal groove and vibe that kicks you good and hard in the soul. My background and deep love for all things ska, reggae, and rocksteady lit up the first time I heard this track. I love so much about the feel of this song. Its not like the other songs of deep personal reflection, and instead seems a call to action – and man, do we need that. “It’s time to wake up”. That’s an understatement, gentlemen. We should be playing this song loudly right now, sharing it with everyone we know, and inspiring that awakening. I see this as an anthem for the balance of this year while we navigate this storm together.
All in all, the album is thick and warm with feeling. It illustrates the broad stroke of Mihali’s pen, and I love that it really shows his soul wide open in its words and feel. You don’t need to dig Twiddle to appreciate what he has done here. This record was well worth the wait, and I look forward to playing it on repeat this weekend. There is so much to love. Much like life. You can find it streaming everywhere right now, and I encourage you to get on that immediately.
You can catch Mihali out on tour in support of this record with friends like Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, Luke Mitrani, and Rich Ortiz. He puts on a really great show, and I plan to head out for the Bowery Ballroom show on March 31st myself. I hope to see you out there!