OCCY ‘No Way’

occy

It makes sense that Tommy Hinga headed back to his native West Coast after spending time in Brooklyn with The Denzels and before creating his solo effort, No Way, under the moniker OCCY. On No Way, Hinga starts with his previous band’s garage rock Echo and the Bunnymen vibe, then runs things through a psych filter steeped in the DNA of San Francisco’s music lineage. Crisp, melodic bass lines, fuzzed-out guitar jangle, and reverb-saturated, deep-well vocals, all awash in layers of murky keys, come together in 2-3 minute psych-pop bursts interspersed with a few slightly more adventurous synth tunes. Taken as a whole, the overall feel  of the album is, los grillos imagines, not unlike the aural equivalent of waking at dawn on a fog-rolled beach as somewhere behind the heavy grey day the sun is just starting to think about warming its way through the constant cool breeze that chills your bones and makes you wish you had a lighter instead of matches or damned if you might never get that joint lit. But then, at last and last match, success! And then you draw deep, lie back and exhale, and watch the smoke mingle and dance with the fog as it rolls onward toward the city.

No Way is out now via Admirable Traits Records. Check it out here.

Dawnbringer ‘XX’

dawnbringer xx

Seemingly from out of nowhere comes this cause for horn throwin’, head bangin’ celebration. Chris Black, Chicago’s fount of heavy metal,  has dropped a new Dawnbringer EP called XX, and it’s five tracks of dark and melodic metal with a crisp production that combines the tight and shiny aspects of Black’s High Spirits with the more sprawling existential despair of what he tends to do with Dawnbringer. What I love about Dawnbringer is it reminds me of the metal that rattled my speakers in my youth but without pandering or seeming like a surface level throwback to the past. There’s always a depth to Black’s music that makes it stand out from the rest of the retro-rocking pack. And fuckin’ hell if the dude doesn’t know his way around a hook. With big riffs and melody to spare, XX is bound to be the catchiest, hardest rocking album “dedicated to death” that you’ll hear all year. Or ever.

XX is out now and available at the Dawnbringer Bandcamp site. Check it out here.

Peter Ferry ‘Old Heart’

old-heart

I was a big fan of Peter Ferry’s first novel, Travel Writing— it’s mystery and cleverness and emotion– so I was excited to hear he had another novel out in the world.

Now I have just finished Old Heart, and I have to say that as much as I enjoyed Travel Writing, Old Heart really took hold of me. It’s just an absolutely lovely story that manages to, by telling the tale of this one man and his family and his love, get at the very stuff of life. And it’s touching and sentimental but not saccharine or maudlin or any of those words or notions.

I finished it late one night by a tiny clip light as my wife slept, and by the time I got to the final page, there I was, weeping in the near dark of my room from the beauty and sadness of it all, my wife sleeping snug beside me, and it all seemed a bit silly but also perfect. I can’t remember the last time I responded to a book quite so viscerally, and I couldn’t recommend it more. It is a novel that deserves to be read, and I think readers deserve to read it.

Do yourself a favor and grab a copy here (or at your favorite local bookstore). And head here to learn more about Peter Ferry and his work.

When I think of Old Heart in terms of music, for some reason the first artist to pop into my head is Richard Thompson, so here’s one Thompson wrote for the second album by the great Fairport Convention, What We Did on Our Holidays. It feels appropriate.

Clara Engel ‘Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss’

clara engel

 

Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss, the latest collection of hypnotic, ethereal blues from Clara Engel, took the cricket all the way back to this mystery of a girl we used to know, back when we were much younger than today. She was a mystery but she was also as seemingly innocent as they come. She had dark hair and ivory skin, and she loved kissing in the shadows. And she had the pointiest canines– bright white and near razor sharp– I’ve ever seen. Except on vampires.

One night I walked with her through a dark field at the edge of a swirling ocean of a crowd gathered for a music festival. She pulled me along by the hand as she looked for shadows in the night. And when she found the darkest shadows she could find under a massive oak at the farthest edge of the field, she pushed me up against the tree and looked up at me and smiled. Mysterious, innocent, seductive. Her bright white and near razor sharp canines shone in the darkness. She wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled her lips to my ear. “You know I’m a vampire. Right?”

And of course I’d had the thought. You couldn’t see those teeth and not have the thought. But the rational– or maybe the cynical– part of me knew it wasn’t true. That it couldn’t be true. But there was another part of me– the part of me that felt most alive in that moment, the part that wanted mystery and danger and seduction– that part thought maybe, just maybe, it was true. And maybe that part of me– as this mysterious, innocent girl with dark hair and ivory skin and pointy canines slid her lips from my ear to my neck and sank her teeth into my flesh– maybe that part of me even hoped it was true.

And that’s how Clara Engel’s latest feels. Mysterious, innocent, seductive, but with an underlying, almost spiritual menace. It reveals itself gradually, patiently, almost imperceptibly, and pulls you in slowly, wrapping its arms around you and whispering softly in your ear. “Demons are real.”

Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss is out now on cd via Paradigms Records here. Or you can grab it on cassette via Auditory Field Theory here.

And be sure to check out the Clara Engel Bandcamp site here.

Long Live Motorhead! Long Live Lemmy!

motorhead

I’d heard Motörhead as a young high school rock ‘n’ roller, but the first time I really heard Motörhead was one weekend night when I was hanging out with one of my best buds, Jerome (dubbed “Motorhead” from this particular night forward, a nickname he rocks to this day, over 25 years later, though it’s oft shortened to Motor– as in Uncle Motor, Papa Motor, etc.).

So Motor and I are in his faded yellow ’69 Mustang Fastback doing what small town Texas teens do on weekend nights, gathering in some random spot on the outskirts of town with our raging hormones and sixers of Busch and/or Milwaukee’s Best (the Beast!) for the best approximation of a party that we could rouse on any given occasion. On this particular night, before we head across the dark field toward the distant flicker of a campfire, Motor insists that we have to listen to this badass Motörhead song on the latest live album, Nö Sleep At All. “I mean really listen, Willie.” Then he pops the tape into his Radio Shack cassette deck and cranks up “Just ‘Cos You Got the Power”.

And I do as I’m told– I really listen. And it blows my mind.

First comes Lemmy introducing the song. Then the riff. Simple. Propulsive. Then a wailing, soaring guitar solo. Then Lemmy’s gravelly, iron-fisted voice. And those lyrics…

You might be a financial wizard,
With a sack of loot,
All I see is a slimy lizard,
With an expensive suit,
Go on and run your corporation,
Go and kiss some ass,
You might buy half of the nation,
But you can’t buy class

…I mean, 16/17-year-old me was all in. Especially once Lemmy growls the chorus…

Just ‘Cos You Got The Power,
That don’t mean you got the right

That’s right, motherfuckers.

I still can’t think of a better anthem for the powerlessness and estrangement and angst of youth. Even if you don’t dig the unmistakably heavy metal sound, you can still get behind the attitude– pure rock ‘n’ roll. Whether you’re a blue-haired skate punk, a floppy-haired Smiths fan, a stringy-haired metalhead, or anything in between, if you’ve ever felt disenfranchised, Lemmy is speaking directly to you. Hell, even if you’ve left rock behind for rap and the power of the likes of N.W.A, or if you’re a classic Texas shit-kickin’ country boy, the attitude still takes hold of you.

And that’s what Motörhead does– crosses genres and unites hearts and minds and rock ‘n’ roll souls. That’s the Lemmy legacy. That and some seriously badass songs.

Long live Motörhead. Long live Lemmy.