music news: The Candles on tour now with Norah Jones and new album due out December 16, 2016

The third album Matter + Spirit [The End Records] from New York rootsy band The Candles will be released on December 16, 2016.  Blending 60s troubadour with twangy guitar Americana, the new songs evoke freedom and hopefulness like a cross-country road trip with wide open spaces and big sky, sunshine and open windows. The band is currently opening for Norah Jones ending the tour in Boston on December 10, 2016.


‘Matter + Spirit’ Tracklisting:

  1. Back To The City
  2. Move Along (Feat. Norah Jones)
  3. Blues Skies And Sun
  4. Followed
  5. Lost My Driving Wheel
  6. Something Good
  7. Sunburned
  8. Til It’s Gone
  9. You Won’t Remember Me

tour dates opening for Norah Jones:

12/2 – Philadelphia, PA/Academy of Music
12/3 – Washington, DC/Lincoln Theatre
12/4 – Washington, DC/Lincoln Theatre
12/6 – Red Bank, NJ/Count Basie (TBC)
12/8 – Providence, RI/The Vets
12/9 – Portland, ME/State Theatre
12/10 – Boston, MA/Orpheum Theatre

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show preview: Jaw Gems at House of Blues on December 31, 2016


Looking for a cool way to close out the year? This might be the perfectly chill vibe to bid farewell to 2016. Get lost in the hypnotic mellow beats of Portland, Maine-based Jaw Gems. The electronic collective of experimental producers brings beat-music to a live band setting. Jaw Gems recently released their second album, HEATWEAVER [1320 Records].

JAW GEMS w/ Lettuce featuring Antuwan Stanley (as seen with Vulfpeck)
& TAUK on Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 8pm

venue info:
15 Lansdowne St
Boston, MA 02215
(888) 693-2583


Sat. Dec. 17 – Brooklyn Bowl – Brooklyn, NY *
Fri. Dec. 30 – State Theatre – Portland, ME **
Sat. Dec. 31 – House of Blues – Boston, MA **
Sun. Jan. 8 – The National – Richmond, VA **
Tues. Jan. 10 – The Throne Theater – Wilmington, NC **
Weds. Jan. 11 – Lincoln Theatre – Raleigh, NC **
Thurs. Jan. 12 – Marathon Music Works – Nashville, TN **
Fri. Jan. 13 – Georgia Theater – Athens, GA **
Sun. Jan. 15 – Music Farm – Charleston, SC **
Tues. Jan. 17 – Republic – New Orleans, LA **
Weds. Jan. 18 – Soul Kitchen – Mobile, AL **
Thurs. Jan. 19 – Jannus Landing – St. Petersburg, FL **
Weds. Feb. 1 – Low End Theory – Los Angeles, CA
Fri. Feb. 3 – Gem & Jam Festival – Tucson, AZ

* w/ Break Science Live Band
** w/ Lettuce
More Dates To Be Announced Soon


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show preview: CRX at Brighton Music Hall on Sunday, November 20, 2016


Fronted by The Strokes’ Nick Valensi, CRX melds impressive guitar riffs and power pop elements for high energy songs. Valensi’s vocals sound clear, self-assured and relaxed. On creating CRX, Valensi explained: “The Strokes don’t play that often anymore, and when we do it’s awesome, but it got to the point where I needed to balance that out with a project I could take on tour whenever I wanted to. And the idea of playing clubs again was really exciting to me.”

CRX is: Nick Valensi [guitar and vocals]; bassist Jon Safley; keyboardist/vocalist Richie Follin; drummer Ralph Alexander and guitarist Darian Zahedi.

The band’s debut album New Skin [Columbia Records] – produced by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme – is out now.


CRX at Brighton Music Hall in Boston, MA on November 20, 2016 with Streets of Laredo.

venue info:

Brighton Music Hall

158 Brighton Ave.

Allston, Mass. 02134




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book review: Mister Monkey


Mister Monkey by Francine Prose. Harper| October 2016| 285 pages | $26.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-239783-6

RATING: ****/5*

“They are in this together, everyone is happy to be here and disappointed to be here, glad to have a part in a play, glad to work for scale, but truthfully not all that overjoyed to be working in an off-off-off-off-Broadway production of Mister Monkey, the umpteen-hundreth revival of the cheesy but mysteriously durable musical based on the classic children’s novel.”

In writing this novel about a failing theatrical production, author Francine Prose [Lovers at the Chameleon Club: Paris, 1932, My New American Life, Blue Angel] addresses the rippling effect of the play on a bevy of players. The faltering stage production of a classic and popular children’s novel brings together a disparate group of actors, crew and audience members.  Prose imagines how this rather basic play correlates to the mid-aged actress questioning her career, the child actor playing the titular monkey, the children’s book author and young child in the audience, that child’s teacher and others. Each chapter builds on the past one. The play’s based on a novel about a wealthy New York family who adopts an orphaned monkey. The father’s girlfriend thinks the beloved monkey stole her wallet. The case ends up in court. Absurdity ensues.

Each chapter addresses the play from a different character’s viewpoint adding more layers to the story behind the play. Margot wonders how she ended up working so hard and not advancing her career in the way she’d imagined. She’s playing Mister Monkey’s lawyer in a tiny theater. This isn’t the career she’d envisioned for herself at Yale. She reminds herself: “Art is art, theater is magic, no matter how humble the venue. Together they have transformed a house full of strangers into a group of people all rooting for Mister Monkey!” The home-schooled twelve-year-old actor in the monkey suit became engulfed in everything simian when he landed the role. He also harbors a massive crush on Margot. Costume designer Lakshmi believes “Mister Monkey is a nasty piece of imperialist propaganda justifying human trafficking, which you would know if you were smart enough to substitute a person for a monkey.” Eleanor works as a nurse full-time and acts on the side. The grandfather and his grandson, Edward, attended a matinee of the play. Prior to the play the grandfather started reading the book to his grandson. “The grandfather didn’t like the book either. It seemed obvious and preachy, full of improving lessons about race and class, honesty, justice, and some kind of . . . spirituality, for want of a better word.” Edward takes the playbill to school and a spirited argument about evolution erupts among the kindergartners.

How does this affect Edward’s teacher Sonya? She’s in trouble because her young pupils discussed Darwinism.  Sonya meets a guy for dinner at a fancy restaurant where she ends up next to the book’s author. The date deteriorates quickly. Suffering from PTSD after Vietnam, Ray ending up writing Mister Monkey based on an experience during the war. He’s now wealthy. Whenever Ray receives theatrical royalties he takes whomever he’s dating or married to at the time to dinner at a restaurant called Enzo’s and he gives his favorite waiter Mario tickets to the production. Mario’s fiancée left him—“She was the one who pretended to be someone else, someone who wanted a life of simple contentment with Mario. By then Mario had moved back to his parent’s house for what he’d thought would be a few weeks.” Mario adores the theater and will attend any play and restaurant patrons gift him tickets often.

Prose based the novel on her own experience attending a children’s musical with her granddaughter at a small theater in Manhattan. Prose found the production lacking and tragic and at one quiet moment her granddaughter exclaimed: “Grandma, are you interested in this?” And so Prose wrote this novel to address that question. Fascinating connections allow Prose to explore shattered dreams, unfulfilled goals, success, failure, raising a child in Manhattan, career, love and friendship through wonderful characterizations, vivid prose and a sharp tone. It’s easy to become engulfed in this brilliant, darkly amusing and astutely observational novel.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.

–review by Amy Steele

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show preview: Skinny Lister at Middle East Downstairs on Monday, November 7, 2016


Need a distraction before Election Day? Go see Skinny Lister at Middle East Downstairs. Skinny Lister is a six piece British folk band based in London. Formed in 2009, the band puts on a spectacular live show with its upbeat contemplative songs [combo of originals and traditional Irish songs] and solid audience connection. It’s clear that this band loves touring and performing. Skinny Lister recently released its third album The Devil, The Heart & The Fight [Xtra Mile Recordings] on 30th September 2016. the band released Forge & Flagon in 2012 and Down on Deptford Broadway in 2014.

Skinny Lister is: Dan Heptinstall [lead vocals/guitar/stomp box]; Max Thomas [melodeon/mandolin/vox]; Lorna Thomas [vocals]; Michael Camino [double bass/vocals]; Thom Mills [drums]’ Sam Brace [guitar/ concertina/ mandolin/vocals]

venue info:

Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub

472-480 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge, Mass. 02139

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book review: Pull Me Under


Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce. Farrar, Straus and Giroux| November 2016| 272 pages | $26.00| ISBN: 9780374238582

RATING: *****/5*

At the novel’s beginning, twelve year old Chizuru Akitani, the Japanese American daughter of acclaimed violinist Hiro Akitani, fatally stabs a classmate. She’s bullied in school for one of the most common reasons children tease other children, she’s different– she’s a hafu—Japanese for mixed blood [“Hafu implied my Japanese-ness was the only part of me that mattered, that there would never be enough.”] and fat. Her American-born mother commits suicide. Her father didn’t spend that much time with her (or her mom). She suppressed anger for as long as she could until she was pushed too far by the bully. It’s explained like this: “I noticed at a young age—four years old, five—a dark presence in my chest, a blackness, clinging to the back of my heart. Mostly the thing lay dormant and I could put it out of my mind. But occasionally it swelled like an infected gland. These were the times I felt hurt or angry, the sensations so closely linked that I never separated them until a therapist pointed out the difference. My anger was an organ.”

The haunting story unfolds methodically revealing details. Chizuru serves time in a juvenile detention facility, must denounce her Japanese citizenship, changes her name to Rio and moves to the United States to attend college. She reinvents herself while rarely looking back on her past. Rio strives to blend in and succeeds. This seems quite a positive and mindful manner in which to exist. Rio becomes a runner—“I’d found a way to soothe that curdled feeling of anxiety; when I ran, the bad things fell away.” She becomes a nurse, marries her college boyfriend and has a daughter. She’s the good wife, good mother, and good employee. Of her life in Colorado: “I feel like what I am: a thirty-eight-year-old mother and wife with a retirement fund and a house in the suburbs and a Volvo. My life has been built for safety.” While in the United States, many might present several various facades for various relationships or settings, there’s a name for it in Japan—“Interactions revolve around honne and tatemae. Honne is what you really think and feel; tatemae, like the façade of a building, is the face you show to the world.”  Globally, women are expected to suppress emotions, feelings and thoughts. Perhaps more so in Japan than in the United States although it’s clear per societal standards and the general zeitgeist that outspoken women and poorly behaved women rarely get rewarded compared to male counterparts.

Decades later, Rio returns to Japan to reconcile her present with her past and perhaps embrace forgiveness. Her husband and daughter know nothing about her past. Rio reflects: “Sal doesn’t know all of me. Maybe this is true of all husbands and wives; after all, there are inaccessible places in each of us. Places few would understand, and marriage, I’ve come to believe, is about finding someone who understands the right things without digging up the wrong ones.” At her father’s funeral she reunites with a former teacher, a New Zealand-native named Danny. When Danny says she’s going on a pilgrimage through Japan’s numerous temples, Rio decides to tag along. Along the trail, the women start hiking with a young law student named Shinobu. What Rio discovers about herself as well as her father may affect her life back in the United States.

“I can be hafu, if I want; I can always find someone to call me incomplete. But I can be whole, too; I can be unsplit and complete in the fragmented way that a life is a life.”

Pull Me Under is an exquisitely dark psychological thriller which examines identity and place through its compelling protagonist and story. It’s easy to empathize with Rio and understand her motivations to minimize her Japanese ancestry. Author Kelly Luce provides detailed descriptions –“Ryozenji is all worn stone and dark, weathered wood. A pond with a fountain sits in the middle. Goldfish swarm the edge where an old woman tosses bread. She pinches off a piece and holds it out. A white and orange spotted fish jumps fully out of the water.”–and fascinating cultural elements—“I fill my basket with the candies I loved as a kid: sesame sticks, caramel frogs, tubes of sugar decorated with astrological signs.” Every aspect of this novel creatively allows readers to become fully absorbed from beginning to end.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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show preview: Hinds at Middle East Downstairs on Sunday, October 30, 2016

The all-female rock band from Madrid released its debut album Leave Me Alone at the beginning of the year. Hinds creates infectious, cool songs layered with fuzzy guitar, surfy riffs and lo-fi indie rock elements. This band’s attitude, intensity and emotions bubble through on every song. Female artists still face immense criticism and scrutiny in the music industry. Get out and support women in music!

Hinds is: Carlotta Cosials (vocals, guitar); Ana Perrote (vocals, guitar); Ade Martin (bass) and Amber Grimbergen (drums)


Hinds at Middle East Downstairs on Sunday, October 30, 2016

venue info:

Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub

472-480 Massachusetts Ave.

Cambridge, Mass. 02139

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