Ric Zweig is an unusual artist within the music industry, having put his music career on hold many years ago to pursue a career as a successful lawyer and circuit court judge in southern Florida. Now retired, Ric reignited his music career a little over a decade ago, receiving many accolades along the way. Deeply imbued with a sense of wisdom, nostalgia, and Epicurean philosophy, the music is at once memorable and familiar. Ric handles lead & harmony vocals along with guitar. His band goes by the name Fresh Air and consist of Alex Mallet on lead guitar, Ricky Risquez on bass, and Miguel Cruz on drums. Songwriting is primarily handled by Ric, though band members also contribute to lyrics & music. The latest album More Ric Zweig & Fresh Air features 10 songs that will bring to mind the feeling of having a cold beer on a warm summer day, life’s problems far from mind (if you’ve never experienced that, I highly recommend it). It also is one of the finest records released in 2017 thus far.
The morning of May 18th, 2017 is not one that I’ll forget in my lifetime. I woke up to a message from a close friend indicating that Chris Cornell had passed away at some point early in the morning. Puzzled, it took me a few times to understand what had happened. Out of the blue news about a musician who had long seemed to settle into his lifestyle, it shook me to the core. News and articles seemed light on details at first – at first I thought it had been a hoax – but reality soon sank in. Chris Cornell – Seattle’s son – had passed away at the age of 52 by his own hand.
Black Needle Noise is one of John Fryer’s many projects, with a focus on collaborating with different vocalists and embracing an “anything goes” philosophy. Fryer, of course, was 1/2 of This Mortal Coil – a band who employed a similar approach with regards to guest vocalists. As a producer, he has made his mark with Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Wire, Stabbing Westward, and many, many more. If there is a “John Fryer Sound” it’d have to mine both ethereal & angst, rage & beauty. His collaborator on A Shiver Of Want is Bill Leeb. An early member of Skinny Puppy who found worldwide success with Delerium and Front Line Assembly. Most of my readers have probably heard the Delerium song Silence featuring Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan on vocals – a stunning slice of trance melancholy (in its original form). Which means that this Black Needle Noise / Bill Leeb collaboration should be a match made in heaven – and it is, I am pleased to say.
A Shiver of Want starts out with moody instrumentation shifting into a hymn like spoken verse. A slow build, if you will. Musically, it combines a menacing atmosphere with wholesale industrial aggression. Perfect, in other words. The chorus positively explodes, providing a catharsis of sorts. Lyrically, this is dark stuff. “you bring me down / you tear apart in me / the light you see / pours out of me”. The final 90 seconds or so of the song are perfectly sublime – a perfect meeting of angst, sadness, and hopelessness. “into the night / we fall away / our shadows becoming thin”. Unsettling. Masterful.
For Fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Delerium, This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins, Portishead, Wire, Lush
Atlas Park hail from Northern California and offer up an intoxicating brew of modern rock inspired gems. Formed by Daniel Gatling in 2014, the band has quickly developed a following. Emotive vocals and hummable melodies, what I love about the band is how they tap into that rare part of the brain that makes something feel familiar yet new all at once. Gatling handles vocals & guitar and is joined by John Kahling on drums, John Spomer on bass & synths, and Kat Cahill on lead guitar. Preview of Coming Distractions is the band’s debut EP, and though it has been out for a while, it is new to me. It serves as a taster for upcoming new material.
The return of England’s Curry Quiche comes in the wake of Brexit and the aftermath of the US presidential election. The world has seemingly shifted to the political right and the band takes its cue from the shifting nature of the world. 2013’s full length 1 Seed, No Leeches focused on technology and how human connections were being lost. An intriguing concept that has only deepened with the passage of time. A record that was a joy to listen to, it took its darker subject matter and spun it into a carefree party vibe for the end of the world. Steve Fidler and company gave us a winning formula that seemed designed for the masses. Reggae, punk, britpop, indie – it all made for an intoxicating brew. What will the band offer up on their latest?
Spring is in the air – finally. One of the rainiest winters on record in the Seattle area is finally showing signs of taking it’s leave. Not coincidentally, I’ve had the latest EP from Sunstack Jones on repeat for a while now, summery tunes that have me longing for warmer weather. Hailing from Northern England, I’d imagine the band suffer from the same affliction as I – a desire for the wintry rain to go away. On earlier releases I’ve been transfixed by the band’s ability to work at a convincingly high caliper whilst blending in such disparate elements as folk, pop, shoegaze, & country. Ultimately, I measure a band’s impact by their ability to transport me away from daily life and into their world – on that count, Sunstack Jones succeed wildly. Days Stand Still is the latest offering from the band and it continues their winning streak
It Ain’t Easy sounds like The Byrds meets Ocean Colour Scene and is a standout. A sing-a-long anthem, it hints at despair beneath its breezy tone. “Don’t it seem some things / They just turn to nothing / And I’m barely coping / It ain’t easy”. It is the perfect choice for the single from this release. Days Stand Still has an intricacy to its guitar parts that reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel or Kings of Convenience. Add in those layered harmonies and it is a tune that’ll find repeated plays. Walking in Our Sleep slides into shoegaze territory – a melodic bass line, hushed vocals, and a mix that emphasizes vibe over instrument separation. Always Something Up closes the record on an upbeat, rocking tune that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a mid period album by The Monkees (the absolute highest praise coming from me).
You can find out more about the band and / or order records here. I highly recommend this album – it has been a soundtrack for an unusual month for me, and its summery tones are capable of providing an escape from drudgery. Keep your eyes open for the latest full length from Sunstack Jones – coming out this summer.
Verdict: Shades of Summer
For Fans of: The Monkees, Mojave 3, Neil Young, Galaxie 500, Teenage Fanclub, The Byrds
- It Ain’t Easy
- Days Stand Still
- Walking In Our Sleep
- Always Something Up