J Bengoy – Bleached

J Bengoy – Bleached
SONG OF THE DAY

“Bleached” by J Bengoy is an atmospheric, jazzy ballad full of wistfulness. The song evokes a not-so-long past day when “We were so young and naive / Didn’t know just how to feel,” with layered musical elements that create a gentle wall of shifting breezes.

We are eased into “Bleached” by softly strummed E-chords as the droning low E creates a comforting rumble. Twenty-three seconds in, we are introduced to a ringing guitar figure that will be repeated throughout the song. The simple melody and the four-note chorus are almost hypnotic, with only the bridge offering anything approaching complexity. The result is a song that is beautiful, passes too quickly, and lingers in the recesses of your memory along with the half-remembered days spent with someone whose name has passed beyond recall.

J Bengoy, based in Burlington, Vermont, is Justin Barton (keys, vocals), Charlie Hill (guitar, vocals), Greg Heelan (guitar), Ryan Jory (bass, backing vocals), and Patrick Freeman (drums, guitar, backing vocals). “Bleached” is from their new 11-track LP, Dogwood Winter. The album’s music is attributed collectively to the band, while lyrics were provided by Charlie, Greg, and Justin (who wrote the lyrics for “Bleached”).

On their Bandcamp page, the band describes the album as “our collective experiences with youth and the exit from it… As days pass, our memories tend to take on a rosy hue. Dogwood Winter excavates those memories and takes another look, trying to re-discover what was lost over time.” The album covers a range of musical styles, bound together with an engaging pop feel. Every song on the LP could have been a Song of the Day, and I spent a large amount of time deciding which track to feature. My second choice was the country-tinged “Simpsons.” What the heck. Let’s play two!

You can support deserving independent musicians like J Bengoy by visiting their Bandcamp page and downloading Dogwood Winter. J Bengoy’s music is also available on Soundcloud, Apple Music, and Spotify. Be sure to visit the band’s website, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Allison Keil – Blackberry

SONG OF THE DAY
Guest post by Fluffy

Hi. This is Fluffy. The cat. Sometimes the Food Guy lets me write his log post that he puts on the Winternet. He said I could write the log post for today, and he said I should write about a song called “Blackberry” by Allison Keil. Allison is a college student in Saltsberg, Australia. What’s that? Oh. Salzburg, Austria. The Food Guy said Salzburg is where a famous musician named Mozart was born. I haven’t heard of Mozart, but maybe the Food Guy will take me to see him the next time he is on tour. Does he have any songs on Bandcramp?

“Blackberry” is on a new EP called rough recordings, dusty demos. It is a good song for a cat to write about because it’s very soothing and does not make my fur stand up. “Blackberry” is about a person who misses summer. Or maybe she misses someone she met one summer. And she wants the warm sun to come back and maybe the person she misses will come back too.

The Food Guy says that when I review a song I have to give an Obscure Reference. That means I have to say the song sounds like another song that no one has ever heard. One time the Food Guy and I watched a movie called Juno that had some good songs. “Blackberry” sounds like it could be in that movie. In fact it is better than some of the songs in that movie. So that is my Obscure Reference.

On her Bandcramp page Allison Keil says she is a “wacky gal from Seattle making mediocre music.” The Food Guy says she could be a good songwriter. He says when she gets back to Seattle she should start going to open mic nights and playing in coffeehouses and working with other musicians. The Food Guy said, “She has the potential to be very good if she works at it.” I’m not sure, but I think Very Good is better than Mediocre.

Allison Keil has several songs available on Bandcramp. You should listen to them and buy them. Then, when she takes the Food Guy’s advice and becomes a Starving Musician, she will be able to buy cat food to eat. I recommend Purina Pro Tuna. OK that’s all I have. Bye.

Fluffy

Deceived Kids – Seventeen

SONG OF THE DAY

In A Brief History of Time, the late Stephen Hawking theorized that, when the universe reaches the point of maximum expansion and begins to contract upon itself, time will run in reverse. It was a great relief to me when rigorous calculations demonstrated that time will not reverse itself, and Hawking disavowed his theory. For if Hawking’s initial theory had been correct, that time will eventually reverse itself, it would mean that I will have to repeat my high school years. Only instead of starting as a naive freshmen and growing into a slightly more knowledgeable senior, I will enter high school as a worldly eighteen-year-old and leave as a barely-pubescent dork. The horror, the horror.

In “Seventeen,” Deceived Kids kick my apprehension to the curb. They want to return to those halcyon days, to recapture (of course) the happiness of a former love.

Take my hand and bring me
To the place where I first saw you …
I’m going back to that summer when I was seventeen 
I feel like I was sixteen … 

I’m not sure how old the Deceived Kids are, but judging by their pictures, their journey from present day to seventeen would not be as lengthy a journey as it would be for me. Besides, I’ve learned, as Johnny Thunders said, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory.”

Deceived Kids are based in Voronezh, Russia, a city of over 1,000,000 souls about 500 klicks south of Moscow. I usually shy away from the Russian and FSU bands; most are just too hard for my taste. “Seventeen,” though, displays a pleasing pop sensibility. The track is well-recorded and the guys are obviously good musicians, especially lead guitarist Ivan Danilov. I’ll give the singer (Artem Shishatsky, I think) an A-for-Effort for singing in English. It’s not bad and will only improve in the future. “Seventeen” is from the new eight-song LP, Only 7 On 5. The album was written by Ivan and Artem. Overall, an impressive offering. This is a band that will be worth following in the future.

You can support deserving independent musicians like Deceived Kids by visiting their Bandcamp page, listening to their songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to visit their website and follow the band on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Call now and you can be their second Facebook follower! Operators are standing by! Only 7 On 5 is also available on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Waldo Grade – For Real

SONG OF THE DAY

“For Real,” by Waldo Grade, extends the great tradition of California-based electrified folk into the present century. Which proves that you can’t keep a good genre down as long as there are talented musicians carrying the banner.

“For Real” is a slow-cooker, opening with a gentle acoustic guitar, then sequentially adding low-pitched electric guitars, bass and drums, voice, and organ to finally create a full-bodied anthem. The basic riff is simple but becomes an effective organ hook. The track has a Tom Petty Meets Neil Young feel, with Tom on vocal and Neil on guitar. As a Certified Music Journalist, I’m obligated to throw in at least one Obscure Reference. So I’ll say that the droning low D brought to mind David Crosby’s “Laughing” from If I Could Only Remember My Name. I think the E-string has been dropped down a step, but I’m probably wrong.

“For Real” is from the new eight-song album, Eureka. Waldo Grade is San Francisco musician and songwriter Braden Towne, who provided all vocals and instruments except drums (by Bob Nick). On the Waldo Grade Facebook page, we learn that Braden is “pioneering the farm-to-speakers movement with locally sourced artisanal songs.” And for those of you keeping score at home, Waldo Grade is a highway grade between the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin City.

ALTERNATIVE SONG OF THE DAY: It was difficult to choose between “For Real” and the more poppish “Please, Obsolete.” The track has a definite Grateful Dead-like quality, but with a singer who actually practiced before opening the mic. I settled on “For Real” because it seemed more adventuresome. But I’ll throw “Please, Obsolete” out here and let the reader decide.

You can support deserving independent musicians like Waldo Grade (Braden Towne) by visiting his Bandcamp page, listening to his music, and downloading your favorite tracks. I’m sure no one would mind if you bought the entire album. And be sure to follow Waldo Grade on Facebook and Twitter. Act now, and you can be Waldo Grade’s second Twitter follower!

Affordable Convertible – Hawaii

SONG OF THE DAY

“Hawaii,” by Affordable Convertible, is a fine chunk of emo pop punk. Or whatever genre in which you wish to stick it. The track has the self-reflection of emo and the power chords of punk, wrapped up by a pop sensibility that rounds off the rough edges.

“Hawaii” kicks off with a keyboard hook that doubles as the song’s melody. The tune is minimal, but well-delivered. The singer isn’t – I dunno, name a great punk singer – Billie Joe Armstrong? Whatever. He’s on-pitch and makes good use of multi-tracking to fill out the sound. In a Reddit post, the person behind Affordable Convertible says he was inspired by McCafferty, The Front Bottoms, and Modern Baseball. There is a resemblance to what I’ve heard from those bands (which is not a great deal). But “Hawaii” is more accessible, less raw.

“Hawaii” is from the new six-track EP, 2 Cool 4 Me. The EP was “written, arranged, performed, mixed, and mastered by Affordable Convertible.” I’m not sure who – or what – Affordable Convertible is. On his Bandcamp page, he says, “I write, arrange, perform, record, mix, and master all this in my bedroom. If it sucks, it’s because I’m not very good. I’m just making music to hate myself to. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

I halfway believe that Affordable Convertible is a ringer. I hear a lot of bedroom recordings, and this EP would go into the upper tier as far as sound quality, mixing, and musical ability. In fact, it’s better than some of the studio recordings I’ve heard. The guy clearly knows what he’s doing, despite his assertion to the contrary. Oh well. If this was recorded in his bedroom, then he needs to rent out his bedroom as a studio, and hire himself out as a recording engineer and producer.

Whether actually recorded in a bedroom or not, Affordable Convertible’s songs are classic Underwear Music. That is, music guys write and record while sitting in their bedroom in their underwear following a breakup. That isn’t a knock; some of our greatest music is Underwear Music. Go listen to Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.” Roy obviously wrote that while sitting on his bed in his underwear, just him and an acoustic guitar, after his girlfriend dumped him for liking some model’s picture on Instagram. Which brings us to our Alternative Song of the Day…

“The Obligatory Silly One” has the best lyric that I’ve heard in a long time:

There is so much that I need to fix
About myself, but I’d rather just lay in bed
And stare at the ceiling fan, as it uncontrollably wobbles
Fuck, I guess I gotta fix that too.
But it can wait until tomorrow

Been there, done that. That chorus alone makes “The Obligatory Silly One” worth a listen.

You can help support deserving independent musicians like Affordable Convertible by visiting their Bandcamp page, listening to their songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to follow Affordable Convertible on Facebook. Go now, and be among the first 14 people to “Like” the page!

Mike Herz – Knives in Gunfights

mike-herzSong of the Day

“Knives in Gunfights,” by Mike Herz, describes two people at a crossroads. Do they continue an unwinnable struggle, throwing knives in a gunfight, or do they go all in? With the latter choice being either complete commitment or complete separation.

Mike Herz negotiates the delicate trick of being both poetic and deeply personal. Unlike, say, Bob Dylan. I love Dylan’s imagery, the word pictures he paints, but I often have no idea what he’s talking about, much less the cognizance to relate his paintings to my own experiences. Mike has the ability, rare among singer-songwriters, to choose beautiful phrases that describe unbeautiful and instantly recognizable spiritual trials.

I’ve been walking a steep path and pushing a boulder
With both an angel and a chip on my shoulder
Thinking about talking to God but I don’t have the nerve

“Knives in Gunfights” is from the new album, Live in NYC, set for release April 20. The 13-track LP was recorded March 16, Mike’s birthday, with a full band at the Rockwood Music Hall in (you guessed it) New York City. Full disclosure: we attended the show and were lucky to get seats on the front row. You can hear the Raccoonette’s contribution to the soundtrack at the seventeen-second mark. “Knives in Gunfights” is our second Song of the Day from the concert. We previously featured “The Chain,” with a video by the Raccoonette.

I first heard the music of Mike Herz in 2013, when I reviewed his first album, Overgrown. Back then, his words alone were worth the price of admission. Since then, his musicianship, his melodies, and especially his singing, have improved greatly. Mike told me that, as far as singing goes, he was a “late bloomer” who “found his sweet spot.” I get the sense that finding that sweet spot entailed many, many hours alone with his guitar. Until now Mike has been primarily a solo performer. With the addition of a band to provide a fuller sound, Mike’s sweet spot has become larger and sweeter.

Mike’s lyrical abilities, also, have transformed in the five years I have known him. Overgrown was about Mike’s own conflicts and choices. While that is still the case with Mike’s new songs, he is now able to present them with words that make them resonate within the lives of the individual listeners. He is now singing, not just about himself, but about us.

Live in NYC can be pre-ordered on Mike Herz’ Bandcamp page. “Knives in Gunfights” and a second song, “Some Fires,” can be downloaded today. Be sure to visit his website, and follow him on Facebook, and Twitter.