Black Swan Lane – Under My Fallen Sky

I don’t know of too many artists who continually reach new heights with each album release, but Black Swan Lane are an exception to the rule. Formed from the ashes of The Messengers, the early albums included members of The Chameleons and The Sun & The Moon in their midst. Comparisons to The Chameleons were apt – Black Swan Lane excels in ethereal guitar work and haunting vocals that give power to the lyrics. The last few records found Black Swan Lane working with the core duo of Jack Sobel and John Kolbeck, leaving some of the connections to Manchester, England behind. It has made no impact on the quality of the records the band is putting out – each release feels like its own majestic universe. Under My Fallen Sky the band’s first release since 2014continues the trend.

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Pure Hell – These Boots Are Made For Walking b/w No Rules

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Pure Hell’s tagline is, of course, being one of the 1st all black punk bands – ever. Death (all black protopunk band out of Detroit) may have recorded first, but Pure Hell (to my ears) sound closer to the late 70’s punk music that changed the world. Hailing from my hometown of Philadelphia, PA, Pure Hell came together in ’74 and ended up being managed by Curtis Knight – famous for his association with Jimi Hendrix in the mid 60’s. A move to New York and a successful tour of England weren’t enough to make Pure Hell a household name. The band fell apart and a full length album sat in the vaults for over 20 years. The only official release during the bands original run was a 7″ – a Nancy Sinatra / Lee Hazlewood cover and an original b side. These Boots Are Made For Walking remains true to the punk tradition of taking a familiar tune and imbuing it with punk attitude and speeding up the tempo quite a bit. Singer Kenny Gordon offers up a perfect mix of attitude and chops.  No Rules comes off like The Stooges filtered through the Sex Pistols. In other words, perfect. It captures the essence of the era “no rules / no rules / for you and me!”. These tracks along with the album cut in the late 70’s are available on the Noise Addiction compilation. Absolutely recommended.

Giants In The Trees – s/t

In late November I found myself at The Sunset Tavern in Seattle for the sold out record release party for Giants In The Trees – a new band featuring Krist Novoselić of Nirvana fame. The last time I’d been to The Sunset had been to see Fred & Toody of Dead Moon fame. Fred Cole had recently passed away so I wore my Dead Moon shirt in his honor. There were 2 opening bands, Giants In The Trees were not due on stage until after 11 PM. After the 2nd band played, I noticed Krist hanging out backstage near the merchandise table – I bought 2 copies of the debut album “Record Release Party Commemorative” edition (an extra copy for a friend, not an eBay reseller), and wandered over to introduce myself. I talked pretty quickly introducing myself and the 1st thing Krist said was “I like your shirt”. I was thrilled, shook Krist’s hand, and headed back to my spot directly in front of stage. I’d only heard two Giants In The Trees songs – I really was curious about what the evening would be like.

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Kevin Junior & Los Tupper – Si Minor Seventh

Kevin Junior was best known as the leader of The Chamber Strings and his association with the late brothers Epic Soundtracks and Nikki Sudden, both of Swell Maps fame. Kevin passed away in early 2016 at the age of 46. Flashes of brilliance marred by bouts with personal demons, Kevin Junior was an immense talent. Si Minor Seventh was to be Kevin Junior’s return after a long period of musical inactivity. Recorded in 2015 in Spain w/ the band Los Tupper after a short tour, there was optimism that the EP would lead to good things. It wasn’t to be – Junior signed off on the cover art (it IS perfect) just two days before passing away. Los Tupper had detailed instructions about the final production flourishes needed and this stands as the final release from Kevin Junior. A posthumous EP that stands as his finest release (in my opinion).

Los Tupper features Raúl Real on bass, Manu Gastado on electric guitar, Pepe Terán on keyboards, and Jesús España on drums. They compliment Kevin Junior perfectly – the hopefulness, longing, and sadness all are conveyed expertly. Junior seemed enamored by rock star cliché’s in his life – the drugs, the drinking, the women, the debauchery. Here, he sounds resigned. Honest. It is disarming and beautiful. The EP starts out with Ruins – a slice of girl group melancholy that features a guitar solo by Charlie Mysterio. There is an air of true regret when Kevin sings “I came here just for you”. Times Are Hard For A Dreamer has the lushness of Imagine era John Lennon mixed with the confessional era of Plastic Ono Band. Haunting. You’re Coming Home This Xmas is a pseudo Christmas song, but what it really is, is a plea for new beginnings. Debris was the only song that wasn’t tagged to be a part of future projects by Kevin and I’m not sure why – it is another highlight. Bluesy guitar, plaintive vocals, lyrics that tug at the emotions. “You tried to tell me / But I had to learn for myself”. Perfection

Big thanks to SunThunder Records for sending me a 7″ and CD version of this gem. It is a masterpiece. RIP Kevin Junior.

Verdict: Perfection

For Fans of: Nikki Sudden, Epic Soundtracks, Television Personalities, Bruce Springsteen, East River Pipe, Seu Jorge

Tracks:

  1. Ruins
  2. Times Are Hard For A Dreamer
  3. You’re Coming Home This Xmas
  4. Debris

Jenn Vix – Unlocked

The last few years offered up some unexpected challenges to Rhode Island’s Jenn Vix. A medical misdiagnosis that almost lead to death would alter anyone’s perspective on life – with Vix this was especially true. The latest EP follows 2015’s Strange Buildings EP and in Vix’s words “This EP is inspired by feelings I had when I became ill…I wanted to explore different sounds, and it felt good to do so. After my illness, it took me a year and a half to be able to even listen to music again. Change is scary, but it can also be refreshing. I recently had to burn a few bridges, but they say that the brightest light can come from the bridges you burn. I agree.” The EP once again features a host of ridiculously talented collaborates including John Ashton of The Psychedelic Furs & Satellite Paradiso, Frank Coleman of Satellite Paradiso, and Danny Chavis of The Veldt who provides an outstanding remix. What’s the result? Jenn Vix is a standout among a cast of standouts who has delivered a masterfully executed EP that is breathtaking.

 

Alive Again kicks off the EP with spiky post punk guitar and vocals that balance the line between rage & beauty. Happiness never sounded so good. “I feel alive today / Something good is taking me over / I feel joy again / I feel a power surging in me”. Complicated Man is the single and I can see why – it is a catchy post modern gem that is lyrically focused on covert and destructive relationships. It never comes off as bitter though you’d be forgiven for thinking that while singing along with words like “He’s a complicated man with an agenda / He knows all the right things to say”. Vix’s vocals sell the tune completely, a compelling mix of Siouxsie and Nico. The track is appears in remixed form by Danny Chavis and it creates an even more haunting atmosphere. Both versions are spectacular. Unlocked closes the EP and features John Ashton on guitar. It is simply stunning – the band locks into a groove, the bass creating a hypnotic groove while Ashton creates a holy squall of white noise & Jenn Vix sings her heart out. That’s Paul LF on bass and Frank Coleman on drums by the way. I wouldn’t mind hearing a full length from that core group. Perfect.

You can pick up the album from Jenn Vix’s bandcamp. You can also follow her on Facebook to keep up with the latest news. A classic mini album, one that I will surely return to many times. Recommended.

Verdict: dark gem

For Fans of: The Psychedelic Furs, Nico, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Slits

Tracks:

  1. Alive Again
  2. Complicated Man
  3. Nerve
  4. Complicated Man (Into The Veldt mix)
  5. Unlocked

Downfall 2012 – We Welcome The Pain

Do you remember the mid to late 90’s when nu metal became the dominant sound of the airwaves? The music scene was struggling to find the next big thing in the wake of grunge, and the angst of nu metal became the next big thing. The debut album by Downfall 2012 would fit right into that sound – a nice mix of angst, aggression, and slower moments. Downfall 2012 have made an impression on the national scene, having shared the stage with Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister, and many others. The band hails from Houston, TX and has won multiple “Texas Buzz” awards. We Welcome The Pain is the band’s 2017 offering, a compilation of reworked older tunes alongside new songs.

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Bruce Springsteen – Dream Baby Dream

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

It would seem an unlikely cover – Bruce Springsteen, considered not cool for as long as I remember (though that is changing) – giving his own interpretation of an old electro punk classic by the band Suicide who came up on the late 70’s and are about as uncompromising as they come – harsh, minimal beats by Martin Rev and beat poetry sung in a somewhat appealing croon by Alan Vega. But Bruce’s roots go deep with dissonant music and the two would strike up an acquaintance that was founded on mutual respect. In the mid 00’s Bruce & the E Street Band started covering Dream Baby Dream  – a song that perfectly balances hope & sadness, traits right at home on a Bruce Springsteen record. The Suicide version veered towards the sadness and the Springsteen version adds a layer of hope. In fact – some Springsteen fans may not realize it is a cover. Before he passed away, Alan Vegas said this of Springsteen’s cover “A lot of bands have done my stuff, Suicide stuff, and they basically try and copy and do it the way that you do it. Thank God – finally somebody did their version of it. He did it his way, and such a great way, that I’m going to have to sing it that way, or not sing it at all any more.” The song was released on a 10″ single in 2008 and later was re-cut for the High Hopes album in 2014. The 2014 version features Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello on guitar which brings the punk roots of the song full circle. A perfect cover.

Ella Atlas – The Road To Now

Ella Atlas features Stephen Masucci on guitars, bass, and keyboards, and Tarrah Maria on vocals, guitars, and keyboards. Stephen’s name might be a bit familiar to those who follow the indie scene – as a member of The Lost Patrol and The Lovely Tangibles, he has made his mark on the scene with his Twin Peaks worthy musical styles. Tarrah co-wrote some of my favorite songs by The Lovely Tangibles, so I knew this had the potential to be a match made in heaven. The duo have influences ranging from Pink Floyd to Ella Fitzgerald and have a dynamic that is uniquely their own. The Road To Now is their debut album, arriving just a month or so after their 1st single. The band more than delivers on their promise – this is a striking debut album that will reward listeners after repeated spins.

When The Gods Are Fading is the 1st single from the band and fittingly, it opens the album. A slow fade in to an ethereal lament of love & loss. A dreamscape that sets the tone for the entire record. I love these lines “When the war is done / Paradise isn’t safe / Will you believe now?”. Waking Up does the slow fade in trick again with the song announcing its arrival with a glorious wave of white noise, surf guitar, and impassioned vocals. A tone poem dedicated to uncertainty, this is one of my favorite songs on the album. “I used to hear the trumpets / You were right / Nothing’s ever certain”. Horses On The Run 1st appeared on an album by The Lovely Intangibles and was a co-write with Tarrah Maria. Here, Tarrah sings her heart out performing the tune. Again, this is a standout track – an instantly memorable moment on the album. Calm gives way to the storm – an explosive chorus that is begging to be played on the radio. Can’t Go Back is a sad lament to the end of a relationship, the music & words expertly evoking a sense of loss. Shades of Cocteau Twins on this song. Skin And Bones closes the record on a strong note – in some ways, it encapsulates all the band’s strengths. Emotive vocals, strong lyrical content, and music inspired by – but not tied to – the sounds of shoegazing. “If you’re feeling like you’re haunted / Come and dance with your ghost”

You can follow the band on Facebook and buy the album on Bandcamp. It is a debut worth seeking out – enchanting, unique, original. You’ll hear shades of Stephen Masucci’s earlier work with The Lost Patrol and The Lovely Intangibles but it feels like this partnership with Tarrah Maria has brought something different to the mix (not better – different, in my best Eddie and the Cruisers impersonation). Seek out Ella Atlas – follow them, support them. You won’t regret it.

Verdict: promising debut

For Fans of: Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star, Luna, Slowdive, Lush, Ivy

Tracks:

  1. When The Gods Are Fading
  2. Red Kingdom
  3. Hotel You
  4. Waking Up
  5. Horses On The Run
  6. Breaking Ice
  7. Something To Be Desired
  8. Blindful & Bliss
  9. Can’t Go Back
  10. Leave Me In Blue
  11. Skin And Bones