Distance From Zero – Pilot Error

Symmetry presents itself in many different ways. In 2020 – at least in my life – this has emanated in unusual ways. A move back to the Philadelphia region entailed a 3,000-mile drive in a Honda Civic. The last time I moved cross country 18 years ago to Seattle it also involved a long drive in a Honda Civic. Peculiar. Anyway, the challenges this year have contained multitudes, and yet as the year closes out I find myself in pretty much the same state I was in as the year started. Anyway, this is all a preamble to the fact that I’ve been sitting on the debut album by Distance to Zero for longer than planned. Not quite post punk, it is a DIY project that speaks to me in a way that the absolute best artists have throughout my life. It also helps that I’ve had a connection to band founder over the last few years.

SJ Collier first connected with me to discuss an act on his Stereokill Recordings label. The Cornelius Crane were an amazing American influenced band and I heavily promoted them at the time (I still love them). From there I worked Mr. Collier and discovered the various bands on his label’s roster. I took particular notice of SupaJamma featuring Martin ‘Sugar’ Merchant from Audioweb on vocals. I loved the instrumental work that SJ Collier did on the various releases. Anyway, he’s been promising a new project for a while now and I’ve been listening to the songs on repeat for weeks. Unfortunately, the best laid plans can go awry, and I found myself dealing with real life issues. 2020, as they say, will be memorable for all the wrong reasons. Or at least, that’s what I say. And yet, the soundtrack played on as we exchanges messages about the state of the world and the randomness of life. And thankfully, the music more than lives up to the kindness shown by Mr. Collier.

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Matt Adey – Love and Deeper Cuts

Recently, I’ve had the chance to spend time with the recent singles from UK artist Matt Adey. Matt first came to the attention of the general public when a track was picked up by DJ Armin Van Buuren and included on a compilation, remixed by Simon Patterson. The new tracks don’t go down a dance path – instead, they hue close to the singer / songwriter genre, as filtered through a Britpop sensibility. Production is being overseen by Chris Potter – known for his work with The Verve and Richard Ashcroft. These songs are simply stunning and whet the listener’s appetite for more. Matt and his team have a unique roll out strategy for the album – a track at a time until the album in full is available down the road (expected in 2020). So, this write up is based on the singles released thus far. And based on those tracks, Matt Adey is a name to watch in the music realm.

Broken Wing has an uplifting introduction with subtle, New Wave synth. Vocally, Matt starts off crooning, which allows the chorus to soar when he gives full throated delivery. Lyrically, the song talks about not being dragged down and moving forward. “You are not your broken wing” is a memorable chorus with a hook that’ll have you singing along. In a Different World has an Echo & the Bunnymen vibe that I found quite alluring. Again, Matt is speaking to matters of the heart in a truly inspiring way. The production allows each instrument space and the way the vocals are layered makes an impact. Fantastic stuff. “Goodbye / Goodbye my love…”. You guessed it; you’ll be singing that refrain after a few spins. Love Is Not a Game carries on with the high quality of offerings, an alternative pop hit in a perfect world. Dare I say, The Beatles came to mind during the la la la lead up to the chorus. Killer tune. I’m not 100% sure if The Girl I Should Have Loved is going to be on Love and Deeper Cuts, but it was a song I kept returning to as I listened to everything I could get my hands on by Matt Adey. It is a slower song than the others with some inspired piano playing. A ballad to offset the other tunes. The last minute or so of the song has impassioned singing, soaring strings, and lyrics seeped in despair.

You can follow Matt Adey here. The tracks are all out now, streaming on all the major services. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming full length based on the strength of these song. Highly recommended.

Verdict: Singles Going Steady

For Fans of: Echo & the Bunnymen, The Church, The Psychedelic Furs, Tears for Fears

 

Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension

In another life, I would find myself in various US cities all across the country for short intervals. One of the pleasures I took with that was picking out the music appropriate for the locale. And so, in the summer of 2005, I found myself driving around Chicago, IL blasting Come On Feel the Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens. For a geek like me, this was absolutely thrilling. The final album in his States albums, it spoke to me on a visceral level. In fact, I’ve long gravitated towards the acoustic based albums by Sufjan Stevens while admiring / not loving his more experimental albums. In fact, 2015’s Carrie and Lowell was easily my favorite release of his – acoustic, personal, masterful. How would he ever follow that album up?

Discounting his collaboration albums, 2020’s The Ascension is the 1st true full-length solo follow up. And it does a neat trick – it rewrites the rules a bit. It sounds NOTHING like his acoustic based albums. But it doesn’t really sound like his experimental albums either. We have an album that shares a remarkable amount of characteristics with Kanye West’s 808 & Heartbreak. Say what you will about Kanye, but that album is a masterpiece in my opinion. And here we have Sufjan Stevens employing his own electronic soundscapes, imbued with a sadness that is disarming. This is an album length anthem for 2020. I would dub it “downbeat anti-gospel music”. And it is (almost) perfection.

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The Flaming Lips – American Head

I have a long history with The Flaming Lips dating back to the late 90’s shows in support of their 1st masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin. I’d previously written them off, firmly convinced they weren’t cool. What can I say, I was pretty damn snobby in my youth. I was wrong. Anyway – so began a 21-year (and counting) love affair with all things ‘Lips. The last time I saw the band live was a true spectacle in support of 2017’s Oczy Mlody.

The Paramount in Seattle is a larger venue, typically the largest arena a band will play if they aren’t playing a stadium show. The show was sold out and was a standing room only type deal. I found myself talking with a group of younger (than me) women who were there because of the Miley Cyrus overlap. An unusual scenario, to be sure, but I found myself explaining the history of the band, why I love them, and how their willingness to experiment resulted in their association with Miley Cyrus. A bodyguard came by, asked the group if I was with them – they said yes – and we were whisked down to the front of the stage, in the place typically inhabited by photographers. I got to watch the band entertain a sold-out crowd from a unique perspective. It was one of the stranger experiences of my Seattle concert going adventures, and one that I loved. But now it leads to that dreaded question – what comes next?

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Metallica – S&M2

It isn’t easy being a Metallica fan – ride or die. For every fan who loves the latest record, there are a loud contingent of fans who will scream “Only the 80’s albums!”. Or even more specific, “Only the Cliff Burton years!”. So, it goes, so it goes. As for me, I think there are things to appreciate in each Metallica album – even Lulu, their oft derided 2011 collaboration with the iconic Lou Reed. In fact, the 2017 show I saw in Seattle was one of the best stadium shows I’ve ever seen – family friendly even, if you can believe that. We aren’t in 1986 anymore, fellas. They are – to quote Grand Funk Railroad – an American band. And perhaps history will view them as one of the most successful bands in history. They’ve long since transcended the heavy metal tag.

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