Posts Tagged Music

new music: Lean Year; Misty Boyd

“Come and See,” Lean Year

–a meditative and profound song with lilting vocals and a mesmerizing melody. Powerful and elegant. Lean Year is Virginia-based singer Emilie Rex and filmmaker/musician Rick Alverson [The Comedy, Entertainment]. The duo co-wrote the album at home in Virginia and recorded it at the home studio of Chicago musician and engineer Erik Hall [In Tall Buildings, NOMO]. Lean Year’s self-titled album is out now.

“Oh Marie,” Misty Boyce

— This is an aching, sad, beautiful, winding song. The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s full-length album, Get Lost, will be released on February 16, 2018.  As a popular keyboardist, Misty Boyce backed Sting, Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles and BØRNS. She recently lost her brother to an opioid overdose and her step-father to suicide. The indie-folk artist turned to writing music to work through the varied emotions she felt after these losses and hopes to reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction, mental illness and suicide. Boyce said: “Sometimes, I write to get the things I don’t want to feel out. And then maybe somebody else hears it and feels the same way, and it makes us both feel less alone. I get very frustrated with how disconnected we all are from each other, and how we’ll use whatever we can get our hands on to other people, whether it’s religion or our phones or what you like on Pinterest—anything to make us feel right and prove other people wrong. And then we don’t have to listen anymore. We can just tune out and focus on our own self-obsessed worlds. Nobody’s listening. It’s a scary thing.”

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: Furniture Girls

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Seattle, Wash. electro-rock band Furniture Girls formed in 2007 and creates raw, energetic and thoughtful music. The band infuses a soulsy, bluesy sound into its already cool, funky eclecticness on the new album In Shadows—released in August. It’s a fantastic album—superb arrangements and emotive vocals. I played over and over in my car for weeks. It’s skipping which happens with CDs. Cool opening bass riff on the first track “Doobius” and I particularly connected with the songs “My Time” [of course I like a song with the line: “Nothing’s quite as dark as a bright sunny day.”] and “Heirlooms.” Hoping the band will be able to tour the East Coast in the near future.

Furniture Girls is: stayC Meyer [lyricist/lead vocalist], Jim Watkins [bassist/producer], drummer Thane Mitchell [drummer], guitarist Jason Lightfoot [guitartist] and vocalist Kate Bradley [vocalist].

I sent a few questions over to stayC and Jim via email.

Amy Steele: How did you get together?

stayC: I was in another band at the time with fG’s current guitarist, Jason Lightfoot, called Gracie Law & the Pork Chop Express. My high school friend, Nikki Wolgamott, approached me to start an electronic side project. In the beginning, it was just me & Nikki, 2 drum machines, & I was playing a little guitar. Nikki brought in Bubba Jones, who then brought in drummer Thane Mitchell and then bassist Jim Watkins. After Nikki and Bubba left for other endeavors, we brought in Jason Lightfoot on guitars and eventually Kate Bradley on.. well, a lot of stuff.

Amy Steele: Why did you name the band Furniture Girls?

stayC: The name is taken from the 1973 Sci-Fi classic Soylent Green, in which the high-priced call girls of the “future” were referred to as “furniture.”

Amy Steele: What is the Seattle music scene like these days?

stayC: Vast. Diverse. Massive. My only complaint about the Seattle scene is that there is so much going on, it’s impossible to be aware of it all. There’s a lot of good stuff going on in this town right now.

Jim: At the same time – and this probably true of any big city – you really have to get out to live shows to discover what’s happening. For example, Seattle’s got a (well-earned) reputation for producing alt-rock bands, but an incredible improv funk/soul scene has been thriving here for years as well, and it’s barely talked about. On the one hand, it’s cool that there’s an “underground” scene than only locals are aware of, but it’s a shame that some of these bands aren’t more well-known.

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Amy Steele: There are bluesy elements to the songs on In Shadows. The opening for “Doobius” grabs listeners immediately with that intense drumbeat and then that grooving bass throughout. What a superb sound. It’s a very cool album. The melodies are lush and eclectic. What was the creative process like?

stayC: The creative process for In Shadows was unlike any of our previous albums. This was the fastest we’d ever written, recorded, and put out an album. We were less concerned with a cohesive concept, per say, and more concerned with just getting out what we felt was a worthy body of work.

Jim: Working on this music was honestly the most fun experience I’ve had in my eight years with this band. The five of us started from square one (with a marathon writing/jam session) in August of last year, and by January we had eight new songs ready to record. By contrast, some of the songs on our previous releases were a year or two old before we ever took them into the studio.

 

Amy Steele: I’ve already mentioned [via Twitter] that I love the songs “My Time” and “Heirlooms.” Listening to them in my car when I often get anxiety has been super effective. Such outstanding lyrics. Plus gorgeous vocals. What inspired these songs? How about the songs “Solitary” and “The Want.”

stayC: Ok, lets see – first of all… anxiety sucks. It is no fun at all. So to think anything we’ve done can actually help lessen the effects of anxiety is hugely flattering and incredibly satisfying. An artist always hopes to bring joy to the listener, but relief? Well, that’s just huge.

I’ll go one at a time on the song inspiration. “My Time” actually came to me while laying in a hammock on a lovely summer day. For whatever reason, I began imagining a body lying in a field enjoying that same beautiful blue sky for the last time. Morose, I know, but that’s just where my mind goes sometimes.

“Heirlooms” was written the morning after I had to go through a bunch of my grandmother’s things after she passed. I was fortunate to have 2 strong grandmothers and I wrote this song for them and all they left behind. I also reflected on what was important to me and what I would leave behind.

Funny you should mention “Solitary” and “The Want” in the same breath. They were both inspired by my current beau, a touring musician who’s away a lot.

Amy Steele: When did you decide you wanted to be a singer or could sing? Have you had vocal training?

stayC: I did take a vocal lesson. Once. The very first time I tried to perform solo, I choked. Big time. Couldn’t control my breathing. I ran out of air and couldn’t figure out how to make the sounds I knew I was capable of making. The vocal coach I went to in my early twenties was awesome. She specifically told me, “I can teach you to sing. I can train you to sound like everybody else. But I don’t want to do that. I want you to sound like you. I’m just going to give you the basics and teach you how to breathe.” I really appreciated that advice and coaching. I first “thought” I could sing when I was very young, but I never had the confidence. It’s all about confidence. That didn’t come for me until I was 22 years old.

Amy Steele: You write the lyrics and then have the band put music to them or does the music come first and you put lyrics to it or a little of both?

stayC: Both. Some songs I’ve written with lyrics, melody, and complete arrangement. I record all of that to a click track and Jim (bassist) composes around it. Other songs start out as (mostly) finished instrumentals that Jim composes, and then I’ll write to that. There are a few songs we’ve all written in the same room together as a band. Those are more rare, but we enjoy that process equally.

Amy Steele: Have you faced any particular challenges as a woman in music? What do you think about the state of women in music today?

stayC: We have a fantastic and talented group of female musicians in this town who support and promote one another. I have never felt like an outsider or like I wasn’t respected as a woman in music. I feel like the men in the scene give equal weight and respect to the women in the scene. Sure, there are pressures to look a certain way as a woman, but I feel that’s just as much self-imposed. Really, if the music is good, you should be able to look any way you want in this day and age.

Amy Steele: What makes a good song?

stayC: What makes a good song is anything that grabs you. Anything that pulls at your soul and won’t let go. Anything that makes you hunt all over to find it so you can listen to it over and over again. That can be a musical hook, a lyric, a vibe. Right now – I’m pretty obsessed with Tame Impala’s “Let It Happen.” Something about the keyboard line in that song. I dig it.

Amy Steele: What new music are you listening to?

stayC: My tastes are all over the map. I’ve been listening to Sleigh Belles, Elephant Gun Riot, The Adarna, and American Pinup, to name a few. But also, I listen to a lot of not so new stuff.

Amy Steele: What show are you currently binge-watching?

stayC: My recent binges include Stranger Things, Between, and Penny Dreadful (really bummed it got cancelled). I also have been watching American Horror Story since the beginning. Oh, and I recently got into Roadies.

Amy Steele: Come play this way. The Middle East in Cambridge would be a perfect venue.

stayC: I would absolutely love that!! Furniture Girls have yet to make the East Coast, but I have a lot of family there so it’s just a matter of time.

 

 

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STEELE PICKS: 20 Best Albums of 2014

In 2013 I had a list of 30 best albums. I’ve managed to take it down to 20 this year. There are a lot of women on my list. 17/20 female-fronted bands or female artists. Female vox, darkness and swirling rhythms appeal to me. That’s why I adore Field Mouse so much. Lana Del Rey, Zola Jesus and Lykke Li are dark and dramatic. While I never liked The Pretenders all that much, I appreciate Chrissie Hynde and listened to her powerful solo album over and over. Megafauna is heavier rock than what I generally listen to but with a female singer– a feminist and lawyer– it’s kick-ass. Some are more electronic dance music [EDM] like Banks, Yaarrohs, Phantogram and FKA Twigs. Paloma Faith and Lilla incorporate world music, vibrant beats.

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1. Field Mouse, Hold Still Life [Topshelf Records]

my review

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2. Dum Dum Girls, Too True [Sub Pop]

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3. Lykke Li, I Never Learn [Atlantic]

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4. Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence [Interscope Records]

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5. Banks, Goddess [Harvest]

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6. Zola Jesus, Taiga [Mute]

my review

phantogram voices

7. Phantogram, Voices [Republic]

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8. Morrissey, World Peace is None of Your Business [Harvest]

paloma faith

9. Paloma Faith, A Perfect Contradiction [Epic]

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10. Bee vs. Moth, Shelter in Place [Aggraveire Music]

my review

jenny lewis

11. Jenny Lewis, The Voyager [Warner Bros.]

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12. Chrissie Hynde, Stockholm [Caroline]

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13. Lilla, The Awakening [Lucky Records/karisma music]

STEELE interviews Lilla

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14. Megafauna, Maximalist [Danimal Kingdom]

my review

karen o crush songs

15. Karen O, Crush Songs [Kobalt]

yaarrohs

16. Yaarrohs, Flesh and Blood EP [Glass Air Records]

the kooks

17. The Kooks, Listen [Astralwerks]

fka twigs

18. FKA Twigs, LP1 [XL Recordings]

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19. Jen Wood, Wilderness [Radar Light, New Granada]

my review

o'death

20. o’death, Out of Hands We Go [Northern Spy Records]

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SUMMER CONCERTS IN BOSTON AND OUTSKIRTS

MATTHEW SWEET— yay! I think I still have the little stuffed lobster he re-gifted to me.
Girlfriend Tour
Paradise
Tuesday, June 19

REEL BIG FISH
House of Blues
Wednesday, June 20

Passion Pit
Friday, June 22
Bank of America Pavilion

THE HIVES
House of Blues
Saturday, June 23

FIONA APPLE
Mountainpark
Holyoke, Mass.
Saturday, June 23

The Wang Center
June 30

THE BEACH BOYS
Bank of America Pavilion
Tuesday, June 26

SCISSOR SISTERS
House of Blues
Saturday, June 30

NORAH JONES
Bank of America Pavilion
Sunday, July 1

STEVIE NICKS
Bank of America Pavilion
Tuesday, July 10

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
Mountainpark
Holyoke, Mass.
Friday, July 20

Rufus Wainwright
Bank of America Pavilion
Sunday, July 29

Coldplay
TD Garden
Sunday, July 29

Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra
Middle East – Downstairs Cambridge, MA
Thursday, August 2

Toadies

Helmet
Toadies
Paradise Rock Club
Friday, August 3

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thoughts on the demise of WFNX by a former intern

Heartbreaking news to hear that another radio station succumbs to a corporate takeover. It just can’t make enough money in this economy or in these changing times. As a journalist, I understand just how much the internet’s changed media and the public’s consumption of news and new products.

While a sophomore in high school, on my boom box in my bedroom, I heard my first song on WFNX: “Running Up That Hill,” by Kate Bush. The reception always proved challenging. I’d make mix tapes from the radio. Remember that Gen Xers? In 1986 I saw my first concert–General Public– at The Orpheum.

I spent 25 years listening to WFNX and discovered lots and lots of new music: Catherine Wheel, Rancid, Blur, The Charlatans, Lush, Ivy, Curve, R.E.M., General Public, The Cranberries, The Smiths, Fiona Apple, Joy Formidable, Mistle Thrush, Letter to Cleo, Trona, Orangutang, Naked and Famous, Big Audio Dynamite, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Foster the People, Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons, Garbage, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, The Black Keys, The White Stripes and many more. Sure I have new and different sources to discover new music now but maybe I’m old-fashioned that I enjoy the radio format and listening to DJs chit-chat.

My strongest friendships and relationships will always be based firmly in alternative music. I realize that I have more Facebook friends connected to WFNX than to my high school [shout-out to Acton-Boxborough]. In college, my friends and I went to “X-Night” at Axis on Landsdowne Street every Saturday night to hear DJs spin WFNX-influenced club and dance tunes. I even ran into Donnie Wahlberg and Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block there one night. I met a guy there who I went on a few dates with. It was part of our collegiate routine as was the station along with MTV’s 120 Minutes.

While completing a graduate degree in print journalism at Boston University, I interned for then Music Director Laurie Gail [thanks again for early copy of IVY] at WFNX. Despite being a writer, I wanted to learn about the music industry directly and what better way then at my favorite radio station, WFNX. I wrote those A-Z FNX-files heard online– bios of bands. I pulled music for special themed weekends. I filed. I organized. I met lots of cool people– Neal Robert [“Amy, could you please step out for a minute I’m going on air.”], Liquid Todd [thanks for the writing tips], Jason Steeves, Angie C [sweetness], Henry Santoro, Julie Kramer [lots of good karma], Angelle Wood, Roubena Surenian, and tons of cool bands.

I’m a talented writer but if it weren’t for the internship and Laurie Gail I doubt I’d have gotten paid writing gigs for The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe [lasted four years–thanks again Steve Morse], The Weekly Dig, WBUR and now The L Magazine. I may not have become a staff member anywhere as I’d have liked or made the money I’d wanted but I still write about music and hopefully always will.

with Iain Baker of Jesus Jones in New Jersey [I gifted him the Red Sox hat]

Music is a major aspect of my life. Can be a deal-breaker in many cases. Country music or world music 24/7? Haven’t heard of some of my favorite bands. Don’t listen to music that music or think there’s a difference in genres? No thank you. At 42, I meet people daily who’ve never heard of the artists and bands I listen to and cherish. It amazes me. But I like it that I’m in that elite club of those with exquisite taste in music.

If it weren’t for WFNX, I’d never have followed Jesus Jones [I still remain friends with keyboardist Iain Baker] and The Charlatans on tour– from Washington, DC to Montreal. I’d never have dated silver-tongued [in every way] Jed Parish from The Gravel Pit. I’d not have hung out with Karen and Anne and Bridget. Or Trona, Cherry 2000 or Fuzzy. And I wouldn’t have hooked up with a guy at the Rancid show at Avalon, a guy at The Arctic Monkeys concert and a guy at The Cult. Plus there’s all those guys I made out with–PJ Olsson, who opened for Rufus Wainwright at TT the Bear’s and Bobby Schayer, then drummer for Bad Religion. Oh, and best kisser ever Jon Baird of Seventeen.

with Rob Collins of The Charlatans, 1992

As former Program Director Max Tokoff told Julie Kramer today (paraphrased) ‘WFNX listeners are above-average, more discerning, intelligent, willing to take risks . . .’ Today, I still listen to WFNX. Especially while driving. My publicity contacts have shifted to much more independent than before with smaller, lesser known acts. My tastes are a bit broader– I listen to NPR/WBUR and I like some alt-folk, alt-country acts but my favorites remain alternative such as Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Joy Formidable, Keane, Gorillaz, Juliana Hatfield.

I’m an alterna-chick always and forever. #WeAreWFNX

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film review: I Can Do Bad All By Myself

People say Tyler Perry’s films are formulaic, his films are sexist, and his films revolve around weak women relying on men and the church to save them. Well, I am not an expert on Tyler Perry films—I’ve only seen Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Why Did I Get Married?– but I am a feminist and I was not offended by I Can Do Bad All By Myself. I have not seen all the Madea films because that caricature just turns me off. I saw a Friday matinee of I Can Do Bad All By Myself in Boston. The audience was composed of mostly African-American women. I didn’t see any men and am almost positive I was the only white woman in the crowd. I’m not surprised. I’ve read that Tyler Perry’s demographic is African-American women over 30.

In her article “Tyler Perry’s Gender Problem” in The Nation, Courtney Young wrote: “Though Perry repeatedly references his admiration for and allegiance to African-American women as a foundation of his work, his portrayal of women of color undermines the complexity of their experience through his reductionist approach to the characters and his dependence on disquieting gender politics. Perry may see himself as crating modern-day fairy tales for black women, but what he may not realize is that fairy tales, in general, have never been kind to women.

I agree with Young about women and fairy tales. There rarely is a happily ever after if you look beyond the sparkles, roses, and gowns. I disagree that I Can Do Bad All By Myself is an example of a fairy tale masquerading as another Tyler Perry film. It’s moving and effective. It focuses on a singer who is in a really bad place [and can’t at least a few people relate to this? I certainly could and so could apparently more than a few vocal audience members].

April [Taraji P. Henson], a nightclub singer, has fallen into a comfortable lifestyle with her abusive married boyfriend [Brian J. White] who supplements her income. She’s unmotivated to make life changes; she’s rather selfish and isolated from family and friends. Okay, so the woman needs much better self-esteem. It will either come to her or it won’t. She will realize that she herself can do it on her own at some point or she will self-destruct because the way she downs alcohol she is on her way down that road. Madea [Tyler Perry] catches 16-year-old Jennifer [a very talented Hope Wilson] and her two brothers breaking into her home, she brings them to the house of their Aunt April, who is not happy to see them. April soon finds out that her mother has died and these kids have no one else.

Yes, there’s another man in the picture: a cute handyman named Sandino [CSI Miami’s Adam Rodriguez] but he’s not there to sweep her off her feet. He’s just perhaps going to nudge her along a bit. He’s wonderful with children and has that easy-going, Zen nature. To think that she will improve her life solely due to the influences of a man is completely insulting to audiences. Relationships can help augment someone’s life but for anyone to think that April would not have decided what to do with her niece and nephews on her own time without meeting Sandino is downright insulting to April. She’s a strong woman who’s made some mistakes in the past. Henson is bold, and emotional in every scene. She acts with her eyes. Those wide, brown eyes are the windows into every emotion April feels. It works and she turns in a commanding, near tear-jerking performance in I Can Do Bad All By Myself. That Madea shows up ended up being okay because her scenes were few and far between and remarkably toned down. There was just enough Madea to provide comic relief from the seriousness at hand and not enough to engulf the audience in her absurdity.

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