American Television – Death Defier

American Television – Death Defier
SONG OF THE DAY

You can bet the farm, bet your bottom dollar, bet five dollars a hole with two dollars in your pocket, or bet yourself that you won’t get dumped for coming home late with the coffee grounds of another woman trailing across that worn out Kirk Cousins jersey. Which brings us to “Death Defier” by American Television. Of all the things you can drop your wad on, it’s that gamble you make on a Relationship that’s either a killer or a death defying ticket to eternal life, the one that has the power to make you feel more alive than a cockroach romping across a stale pepperoni pizza or deader than the open can of beer that’s been sitting in your garage behind the Christmas ornaments since you took down the tree last April. Win the bet or lose, you’re about to have a Life Changing Experience.

“Death Defier” is a melodic buzzsaw, an atom-smasher with just enough pop infusion to leave an aromatic aftertaste, the kind that has you reaching for the replay button and saying, “Uh, hey, let me hear that part again.” The track roars to life with the prerequisite punky guitar/guitar/bass/drums, but the creative song construction and well-sung lead vocal set this track apart from its partners in grime. “Death Defier” rocks hard, but you won’t feel as if you’re being struck repeatedly between the eyes with a ball peen hammer.

American Television, based in Washington, DC, is Steve Rovery (vocals, guitar), Jerred Lazar (guitar, vocals), Bryan Flowers (drums), and Edwin Wikfors (bass). “Death Defier” is their new single, backed with “The Creek.” The band accurately self-describes as “melodic punk.” American Television has been around for five years and, from what I can tell, appears regularly in the DC area. Judging from their videos, the guys are slightly beyond the “snot-nosed punk” stage which, it says here, is a positive. It takes a few years to knock the edge off the angry angst.

“Death Defier” was released in tandem with a special blend of coffee from Weird Brothers Coffee. Buy 16 oz. of beans and you get unlimited listening on Bandcamp and a digital download. Or something like that. Better hurry because, as of this writing, there’s only two bags o’ beans left. At any rate, here’s a cool video showing the guys on location at Weird Brothers.

You can support deserving independent musicians like American Television by visiting their Bandcamp page, listening to their songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to follow American Television on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

And if you’re in the DC area, you can catch American Television live at Club Heaven and Hell on August 16, and at The Pinch on September 03.

Chaotic Bride – Magnetic Love

Chaotic Bride – Magnetic Love
SONG OF THE DAY

Chaotic Bride’s “Magnetic Love” is a righteous romp recalling those days when guys who grew up listening to Hank Williams (senior) picked up Les Pauls and set the world on fire. Rock, pop, punk, and country each take a turn at the wheel as “Magnetic Love” careens through two-minutes-nine of harmonies, humbuckers, and hot melodies. Listen to “Magnetic Love” as you accelerate toward the drive-in on the edge of town that is no longer there, either the drive-in or the town and possibly not your car that was repossessed last Wednesday when it was parked in front of the county library as you were inside checking your Facebook page on the public computer. But wherever and however you listen, listen to “Magnetic Love” loud and often.

“Magnetic Love” jumps out the door fully formed, a mess of guitars soon joined by a vocal that recalls early Elvis Costello. It’s a powerful punch, a wall of sound that rocks but doesn’t forget that the best rock has a melody that you can take home after the show is over. The star of the show in question is the lead guitar, with solos and fills out the proverbial wazoo (I can’t believe I used the phrase “proverbial wazoo”). The only advice I have is to crank up that cowbell that appears around the one-minute mark. What? No, I’m not going to say it…

Both of our regular readers know that the paragraph after the Bandcamp thingy is reserved for the Obscure Reference, our opportunity to display our Encyclopedic Knowledge of Popular Music. The Obscure Reference for today: “Magnetic Love” brought to mind “Walking With a Mountain” from Mott the Hoople’s Live album. You can draw a not-too-curvy line from Ariel Bender’s guitar solos to those in “Magnetic Love.” What? Yeah, I know in the first paragraph I said “humbuckers” and Ariel Bender had a P-90 on that Les Paul Jr. What’s your point?

“Magnetic Love” is from Chaotic Bride’s new three-song EP of the same name. This is the part where I tell you something interesting about the artist. But I don’t know nothin’ ’bout no Chaotic Bride other than they/he are/is from Davis, California. The social media accounts are new, but I have a feeling that the person or persons behind Chaotic Bride have been around for a while. I don’t think this is his first rodeo and, if it is, congratulations on finally escaping from your mom’s basement.

You can support deserving independent musicians like Chaotic Bride by visiting their Bandcamp page, listening their songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. There’s only three of them, so you might as well spring for the entire lot. And be sure to follow Chaotic Bride on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Soundcloud.

Jonny Clousson – Without

Jonny Clousson – Without
SONG OF THE DAY

In “Without,” Jonny Clousson pauses to ask for directions – with or without? – then floors the accelerator and steers his Relationship into the deep end of the swimming pool, all speakers blazing with pure punky pop energy. The relationship in question could be with a formerly-significant other, the car that has a floorboard paved with cast-off memories but that refuses to start when you’re late for work, or that sort-of friend to whom you gave your Netflix password in a moment of weakness but that you really don’t want to hang around with if you can find literally anything else to do on a Friday night. The song is allegedly about giving up cigarettes, but if the number of E’s on your lover’s back changes each time you count them, then it’s time to kick that habit, too.

“Without” is a wonderfully noisy mess with all of the Lo-Fi earmarks that leave marks on your ears. An infectious folky swing below multiple guitars carries the process along nicely, lending “Without” a not-too-serious air, perhaps reflecting the emotional uplift one gets when the words I Quit are finally uttered and the pack, the person, or the oil filter is left in the ditch beside the road down which you have no intention of driving again. Listen for the background vocals that chime in at intervals like that crowd of people who squeeze onto your couch and back up whoever is winning whatever argument is being contested.

Jonny Clousson self-describes as “a singer-songwriter who lives in Philadelphia.” He is (was?) also a member of Almost People, based in Durham, North Carolina. “Without” appears on his recently-released three-track EP, Two Cents. Jonny will be appearing this Saturday, August 11, at Amalgam in Philadelphia. And, looking farther down the road to October, you can catch Jonny Clousson at The Fest 17 in Gainesville, Florida. I’m going to “borrow” his bio from The Fest website because it’s worth stealing: “Jonny Clousson is a songwriter who was last spotted living in Philadelphia. He has no known native habitat and can adapt quickly to his surroundings. Please be on the lookout for all sightings of Jonny Clousson.”

You can support deserving independent musicians like Jonny Clousson by visiting his Bandcamp page, listening to his songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to follow Jonny Clouson on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Ben Talmi – Give It A Shot

Ben Talmi – Give It A Shot
SONG OF THE DAY

Ben Talmi’s “Give It A Shot” is a wonderful wall of slow-brewing positive energy, layers of sound blowing away the “Why?” and transfiguring the doubt as Shaw’s “Why not?” As a great person once said, you miss all of the shots you never take, and if you’re arguing and can’t remember what you’re arguing about, then you’re standing where your heart was and not running toward the sunset into which your heart will ride tomorrow evening.

“Give It A Shot” begins pleasantly but inconspicuously, with basic rhythms beneath voice and guitar, then builds – the way the best pop songs always do – adding voices, piano, strings, and finally a pile of harmonies and background singers. The impact is simultaneously charming and exhilarating, with a timelessness that could be rooted in any decade from the last five and, with luck and lack of a warmed globe, will still be relevant at the next mid-century mark.

Regular readers of these virtual pages know that the paragraph below the Bandcamp widget is reserved for the Obscure Reference, and we’re not about to mess with a formula that has pulled in over three visitors in the past twenty-four hours. “Give It A Shot” has a vaguely obvious resemblance, vocally and melodically, to the power ballads of early 8o’s REO Speedwagon, specifically “Take It On the Run.” But that isn’t the level of obscurity that our readers are seeking; they could find that in Pitchfork though they’d need to turn on an ad blocker. A more obscure reference is Static in Verona (aka Chicago musician Rob Merz). An excellent example of his work is “Funny Things,” which we featured in February. A close comparison of the music of Static in Verona and the work of Ben Talmi reveals that they sound absolutely nothing alike. The similarity is in the feel, and in the dedication to crafting wonderful pop songs, mini-symphonies that stick in your head and trigger an unconscious reach for the replay button.

“Give It A Shot” is from Ben Talmi’s new ten-song album, Distractionism. Ben is by far the most well-known artist that we have featured this year. He has over 9500 Facebook Likes, while many of the musicians we review are so unknown that they don’t even know about themselves. I’m pretty sure that a few of the people we’ve praised think this blog is some sort of elaborate practical joke set up by one of their friends. But Ben Talmi is The Real Deal: a musician, songwriter, arranger, producer, and engineer with a large number of credits for scores and orchestrations in films and television. He is the owner of Greylock Records, “a full service recording studio in Brooklyn, NY.” An interview published last year in Prelude Press is an excellent introduction to Ben and his work.

You can support deserving musicians like Ben Talmi by visiting his Bandcamp page, listening to his songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to visit Ben’s website, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Spotify, and iTunes.

Tampa – Unless

Tampa – Unless
SONG OF THE DAY

Tampa’s “Unless” is a suite of post-breakup sights and sighs, one movement blending into the next, a musical journey that parallels the emotional drive through the mountains that is the daily commute of anyone who has called the moving van on a relationship that is beyond its expiration date, or perhaps awakened to find a rumpled sheet where once a lover rested and a For Sale sign hammered into the still-warm mattress. Listen to “Unless” while wearing a Hawaiian shirt and eating leftover chicken, secure in the knowledge that, no matter where you are, it’s better than where you were.

Tampa resides, not in Tampa – that would be too easy – but in Moncton, New Brunswick. Being an American hiding behind that wall you’ve heard so much about or, in my case, a crumbling privacy fence of sufficient porosity for me to watch the neighbors eating dinner, I had to check out Moncton on Wikipedia. Seems that it’s a rather large town whose most popular attraction is Magnetic Hill, a place “where the local topography gives the impression that you are going uphill when in fact you are going downhill,” and which Tampa should claim as the inspiration for “Unless.” I give these ideas away for free; it’s what I do.

“Unless” is Tampa’s new single, b/w “Intro Heartfelt.” The band comprises Mathieu Leblanc (guitar), Nic Leblanc (vocals, keys, guitar), Marc-André Belliveau (drums), and Katrine Noël (vocals, bass). They self-describe as “a shimmery beach-rock quartet … with tight, driving rhythms and impeccable pop hooks.” All of the aforementioned elements are present in “Unless,” with the North Star being Nic Leblanc’s lead vocal, a voice rooted in mid-70’s punk and New Wave but with shadings of mid-00’s Andrew Byrd.

You can support deserving independent musicians such as Tampa by visiting their Bandcamp page, listening to their songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to follow Tampa on Facebook, and Instagram.

And if you’re in Saint John this Saturday, be sure to catch Tampa at the Area 506 Festival. Sounds like a good time will be had by all!

J Wagner – Where the House Used to Sit

J Wagner – Where the House Used to Sit
SONG OF THE DAY

J Wagner’s “Where the House Used to Sit” ripples through that pleasantly nostalgic space in your head where not-too-country melodies brush against the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen as a steel guitar and a quiet organ paint a pensive backdrop. Listen to “Where the House Used to Sit” while sipping Bombay Sapphire and store-brand Sprite from a stemless wine glass as you ponder the faded prayer flags that hang motionless behind the garden in the airless August evening.

“Where the House Used to Sit” is from J Wagner’s just-released album, A New Story. Selecting a single track to represent the album is borderline heresy. The album’s eleven songs should be enjoyed holistically, as LP’s were experienced in the non-digital age, when the tone arm was aligned with the first track and lifted only for the brief pause required to flip the vinyl disc and commence the second act. The songs of A New Story align in a continuous groove, each moving seamlessly to the next.

The two regular readers of this blog – my cat and my awesome wife – know that, like all music journalists, I am compelled to inflate each post with at least one Obscure Reference. The Obscure Reference for today: A New Story has an overall feel and sound that is wonderfully similar to Marc Brenton’s fantastic 2013 album, Corsair. That’s no surprise, as J Wagner produced, and played on, Corsair. Full disclosure: I have an executive producer credit on Corsair, but they spelled my name incorrectly. So it goes.

Based in Austin, Texas, J Wagner is by far the most established artist that we’ve featured this year. To lazily borrow from his Spotify profile, he was named “a number one best bet” by The Austin American-Statesman. The Dallas Morning News called him “a Texas folk music staple.” And The Austin Chronicle awarded J Wagner the title of Best Local Singer Songwriter of 2014. In other words, he’s The Real Thing.

You can support deserving musicians like J Wagner by visiting his Bandcamp page, listening to his songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. In the case of A New Story, just go ahead and buy the whole thing. You can thank me later. And be sure to visit J Wagner’s website, and follow him on Facebook and Spotify.

Bonus Track: “Abide,” from Marc Brenton’s Corsair, produced by J Wagner. This has been the wake-up alarm on my phone for the past few years. Good song to start the day. Enjoy!