The Denver Film Festival is 41 and bigger than ever. Film programs include CinemaQ, Women + Film, Focus on National Cinema: Hungary, Italian Showcase, Stain Brakhage Vision Award, Panels on journalism, and Denver’s soon to be art event Meow Wolf (there’s a documentary too). The Festival is filled with events from the Red Carpet to the smallest screen, and virtual reality. Here are some of our picks to see:
This Changes Everything – Tom Donahue & Geena Davis (Producer) bring together the biggest names in entertainment including Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Rashida Jones, Sandra Oh, Tiffany Haddish, Jessica Chastain, Cate Blanchett, and Reese Witherspoon to talk about gender discrimination and the solutions post #metoo – https://secure.denverfilm.org/tickets/film.aspx?id=30616&FID=102
Tancred came to our attention with the track “Queen of New York”
The video and the lyrics drew us in like a bee to honey. Nightstand is Tancred’s sophomore album and it has a musical maturity that stands out. Produced by Lewis Pesacov, the album had ups and downs before production. Jess Abbott, formerly of Now, Now, is the voice of Tancred. FEMMUSIC was honored to speak with her about the album. For info visit https://tancredmusic.com/
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Nightstand?
JA: Picking which songs to release as singles was so tricky because the album contains a few different themes, and I was concerned releasing certain singles might give the wrong impression of the album overall. Honestly sometimes I still lie awake at night wondering if we picked the right ones.
FEMMUSIC: I understand you had the songs chosen before going to the studio. How did you go about your song choice? What else did you do for pre-production?
JA: I spent about a year writing songs for this album and I went through so many revisions within in each song, and ultimately scrapped half the album and started over. I guess what ultimately decided the songs was the theme of vulnerability. It cut a lot of more aggressive songs I had written before settling on that theme. We had a few days of preproduction before we started tracking where in the studio we played through the songs and discussed them all.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about Lewis Pesacov. How did you meet? Why did you choose him to be producer for the album? How was he to work with?
JA: Lewis and I were set up to cowrite together but we hit it off so well that we decided to have him produce the whole thing. He felt so open to my creative direction and aesthetic ideas it made working together so easy. But he also challenged me where I needed to be challenged in the studio. It was a great balance.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about some of your backing musicians. I noticed the names Samira Winter & Jenny Owen Youngs. You’re doing more instrumentation with the album. How did you choose these artists? How was the studio experience?
JA: Kevin Medina and Terrence Vitali recorded bass and drums on Nightstand and on my previous album, Out Of the Garden. Samira is a mutual friend of Lewis and I (I was also subletting her apartment while I was tracking Nightstand) and we thought it would be fun to have her do some vocals on the album. Her band Winter is incredible. Jenny and I had been friends for awhile and we’d collaborated around that time on some of her work, so while I was in LA in her neck of the woods I asked her to come sing on something of mine. I carried around a disposable camera the whole trip and I have some great photos of them singing in the studio. Working with friends is so fun.
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
JA: I basically just pick up a guitar and lie around humming things until I find things I like. Or if I’m out in the world and an idea pops into my head I’ll write it out in a note on my phone or record a voice memo for later. Once I have the basic outline for a song done I’ll record each track in a demo and layer on programmed drums and bass and strings so I have an image of my vision for the song to take into the studio.
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
JA: “Demon Rock” by Letters to Cleo shook my world. I’d already dreamed of playing music professionally almost my whole life but listening to that album (Demon Rock is track one) was the first time it felt like it was something I could make real. I connected to the guitar lines, the vocals, the lyrics. I remember lying down in bed and listening to it on repeat all night. I couldn’t sleep.
FEMMUSIIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
JA: Yeah, of course. But I think communicating calmly about things that make me uncomfortable and having some understanding for the context of the moment are tools that have helped me ensure I’m working in a comfortable environment. It took me awhile to not get so mad about it. It’s fair to be mad, shit sucks. But I think it’s detrimental to not leave room for some understanding in any situation.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
JA: I have been deathly into Chelsea Wolfe’s new album Hiss Spun since it came out. Her live show is so sick, her Audio Tree was sick, her tones are sick, her Instagram is sick. I dream of a CW collab or tour.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
JA: The cost of making records (recording, distribution, PR, management, booking) hasn’t gone down but record sales have, so it becomes incredibly difficult to be an artist making everything yet with little coming back financially to support it all. It’s like inflation isn’t accounted for. Making music isn’t about money, but music, like anything, takes time and work. You still gotta eat and pay rent. And then you have people who think it’s ethically wrong to want to profit off your art.. It becomes a snake eating its own tail. At my career peaks I was still scraping by. The infrastructure of the music industry is broken. Short answer: I wish there was enough left of the pie for artists, the people actually creating the music, to support themselves comfortably.
Your Smith transitions from her headlining tour to opening to Rhye, before she opens for the Violent Femmes for October and November. Your Smith recently released her debut, Bad Habit EP that included singles “The Spot” and “Bad Habit.” She is signed to Neon Gold Records, home to Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens. The EP features collaborations with Tommy English, Stint, Nick Davey and more. FEMMUSIC featured “The Spot” in June at:
Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
September 5, 2018
Photos by David A. Barber
People flowed into Pepsi Center while Toronto based rock band Metric laid down their unique brand of music. Lead singer Emily Haines, wearing a gold jacket to match her microphone, brought the focus of attention appropriately upon herself. Metric was thoroughly entertaining for those waiting for the main act to begin.
The Smashing Pumpkins Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour 2018 delivered exactly what was expected of them. They played all the fan favorites and enough covers to keep everyone excited and entertained. The set was simple, yet very well utilized. A pair of giant screens slid in and out of site effortlessly while displaying videos or artwork or childhood photos depending on what worked best for each song. Additional smaller backdrops loaded with lights and video screens were rolled around almost magically. Combined, these screens and lights added up to provide additional entertainment when the band was less interesting or slid out of the way and went dark (or lit up in a new location) in appropriately dramatic fashion when called for.
But that’s all beside the point. The point for this band is simply Billy Corgin. While the rest of the band is amazingly talented, it’s all about Corgin. His music, his vision, his quirky, slightly odd. personality, Him. Even though he spent much of the show looking down at his guitar, he still managed to be the focus of attention and admiration from the crowd. So the crowd got their money’s worth, but it wasn’t sold out. They closed the arena’s top tier of seating in order to fill up the lower tiers. About halfway through the show Corgin let guitarist James Iha sing one. Then a few songs later launched into a cover of Bowie’s classic Space Oddity (Major Tom). After 3 plus hours of music the audience was satisfied. Smashing Pumpkins provides a point of focus and fond memories for people who were growing up in the 1990s. they will always have that and it’s cool that Corgin and his band can take them back down that road once in a while.
Moor Mother – Describing Moor Mother is a challenge. She is an activist, poet, singer songwriter, hip-hop artist, producer and more. She has a visceral tone to her music that challenges as much as it entertains. Her latest album is Crime Waves. https://www.facebook.com/MoorMother/
From the co-creators of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands comes Colorado’s next great concert experience. This 3 day festival includes names like Kendrick Lamar & Stevie Wonder. It has 5 stages (6 when you include the Bud Light Dive Bar), which include everything from national headliners to dj’s and dance music. There are events featuring culinary ambassadors at the Detour Denver, craft beers at Arts & Crafts, distillers, spirits and cocktails at The Flight School, and panels and a marketplace dealing with Colorado’s outdoor experience at The Backyard.
Bishop Briggs (Scissors Stage, Friday) – Bishop Briggs has exploded from her beginnings in 2015 to her debut album Church of Scars. Her latest single is “Baby.” https://bishopbriggs.com/
Cherry Glazerr (Scissors Stage, Saturday) – Clementine Creevy is out of control in this rock band. Apocalipstick is their latest album. http://cherry-glazerr.com/
Florence + the Machine (Rock Stage, Saturday) – From day one Florence Welch has been a dynamo. Her latest album is High As Hope. Florence controls the stage and the audience. Don’t miss this set. https://florenceandthemachine.net/
Jade Bird (Scissors Stage, Friday) – This London artist has been sweeping the US this year. In 2017 she released Something American. Her latest single is “Uh Huh.” http://www.jade-bird.com/
Kelela (Paper Stage, Sunday) – Kelela’s 2017 album Take Me Apart featured singles “LMK”, and “Blue Light.” She has been headlining shows since then. http://kelela.co/
Mavis Staples (Rock Stage, Sunday) – Mavis Staples is making more news now than ever before. Her latest album is If All I Was Was Black. Staples has been honored by the Kennedy Center and has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. Staples has toured with Bob Dylan. She is a living legend and a force to be reckoned with. https://www.mavisstaples.com/
Snow Tha Product (Rock Stage, Saturday) – This California hip-hop artist has been headlining for years and has established herself. She released her full album in 2011, and an EP in 2016. She has been releasing mixtapes since. Her latest single is “Myself.” http://www.snowthaproduct.com/
St Vincent (Scissors Stage, Sunday) – Annie Clark is an extraordinary guitarist and singer-songwriter. She has worked with David Bryne and released 5 studio albums including Masseduction. Her singles include “New York”, and “Los Angeles.” http://ilovestvincent.com/
The Menstrual Cramps – This 4 piece punk band is in your face with their debut album We’re Not Ovaryacting. We first heard of them last year and are waiting for the world tour. https://www.facebook.com/TheMenstrualCramps/
Grace Savage – Grace Savage released Control Freak, a follow up to her popular Savage Grace EP.. She is one of the hottest new artists emerging today. See FEMMUSIC’s interview with her. https://gracesavageofficial.com/
Wolf Girl – This London 4 piece released a 7″ in 2017 featuring “Moody.” This pop band is prolific in releasing material steadily since 2014. http://www.wearewolfgirl.co.uk/
Ms. Mohammed – We previewed Ms Mohammed last year as part of the Matchwomen’s Festival – Ms Mohammed is another facet of Dana Jade. A reaction to the anti-Islamist Brexitreactionaries she strikes out with an anthem called “Alibi.” http://msmohammed.com/
This celebration of women in music features 2 stages and events from workshops on belly dancing and yoga to fire dancers and a kids village. Artists playing include Ayla Nereo, Nina Storey, Bonnie & Bridget from Elephant Revival, Qbala, Ley Line, Whippoorwill, Las Curanderas, and more. For info visit https://sisterwinds.com/
During the hiatus of country’s Sugarland, fans rightfully assumed the break meant the beginning of the inevitable breakup. However, the founding duo Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush have reunited to release new music and hit the road on a new tour to prove they are refreshed and better than ever.
Nettles and Bush became Sugarland since 2004 and saw immediate attention with hit singles like “Baby Girl,” “Stuck Like Glue,” and “Little Miss.” They performed to thousands of sold-out arenas and traveled the world, and as traveled acquired Country music star status. Then, they decided to take a pause. 2012 marked the beginning what would eventually become a five-year hiatus as the two focused on pursuing individual life and career goals. Now, the duo’s 2018 Bigger album release and supporting tour has brought them back together to remind fans that they are still just as amazing.
Sugarland swung through Denver’s Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre June 21 as they performed under a starry sky at the beautiful outdoor venue. Backed by their powerhouse band, Sugarland played a fun and well-choreographed set of past favorites and current songs from the latest album, Bigger. The venue, which accommodates roughly 17,000 guests, can be difficult to fill and easy to lose an audience’s attention in. Yet, the pros can turn the space into an intimate evening with long-loved friends and a dance party that goes into all hours of the night. Sugarland proved to be those pros.
Excited fans jumped from their seats and sang along to the modern country-rock as Nettles vocals resonated into the summer air. Costumed in a circus-themed ring-leader ensemble, Nettles owned the stage as she sauntered, stomped and high-kicked her way through the energetic set. Bush, the counterpoint dynamic force to be reckoned with, oozed his cool Southern charm while taking the lead on guitar solos and occasional vocals. Chemistry exuded from all over the stage, and if there was any fear that time off would generate a rusty return, all eyes and ears were put to rest.
To simply classify Sugarland as an American country duo is a downright gross oversimplification of the band. While country music may act as a foundational root, and the solo work of Nettles and Bush leans towards a heavy twang, the evolution and growth of their 2018 record prove this band is taking even bigger strides towards pushing boundaries. Their latest single, “Babe,” is a collaboration with Taylor Swift which has the band jumping head first into the world of pop-rock superstar with great ease.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Jenny Lewis
by Alex Teitz
2016 has been a busy year for Jenny Lewis. In February she announced the formation of her record label, Love’s Way Records. In March she began touring with NAF. In August she will be touring solo. In September she starts touring with The Watson Twins in honor of the 10th Anniversary of Rabbit Fur Coat.
What is NAF? NAF is Nice as Fuck. It is a 3 piece band with Lewis on keyboard, and vocal effects ,Tennessee Thomas on drums, and Erika Forster on bass. Thomas is formerly of the band The Like. Forster is known as being one of three parts of Aur Revoire Simone. In a departure from her other projects, Lewis does not play guitar in NAF.
Tonight’s show was both intimate and crowded. It was held at the DBG stage which is sunken in and surrounded on 4 sides by grass. This area is filled in by the crowds who bring wine, picnics and an appreciation of music. The VIP area faces the stage. NAF were preceded by the theme song to Jemm and the Holograms. They came on stage and immediately began singing. A couple of songs in Jenny introduced Tennessee. Tennessee then introduced “Cookielips.” “Cookielips” is a song not found on the NAF album and is about getting the crumbs in a relationship. The rest of the show consisted of all the songs from the album including “Higher”,” Angel”, and the single “Doors.” Lewis moved around the stage and even lay down for a moment during Higher. She was smiling the entire set.
The set ended upbeat. NAF did “Guns” with Lewis trying to get the audience to sing along to the chorus of “I Don’t Want To Be Afraid/ Put Away Your Guns.” It is an apt statement for today. NAF ended with the NAF theme which is a great excuse to swear onstage but also has a strong women’s theme. NAF has a dream pop feel and is dominated by Lewis vocals that have always stood out. For info visit https://www.facebook.com/NAFtheband/
There are many myths in the music world. Tour nightmares and dreams make up a lot them. You imagine being on the road with your best friends as a lovefest of drinking, sex and music. That is rarely the case.
Amy Fleisher Madden has known the music world. She started her own music label, Fiddler Records, at age 16. She later became an A & R person signing bands including Dashboard Confessional, New Found Glory The Higher and more. One Million Miles is her book.
A Million Miles is about Maddy Traeger, an underage music fan, who starts her own label and gets to tour with her favorite band, Crimson + Clover. Maddy is an ad hoc tour manager who has to sell merch, dealer with the venue owners for money, deal with the all male band’s issues and still get them from point A to point B. In addition she must contend with heavy drinking, drugs, keeping the band in line to perform and stay faithful to their significant others. She also has to keep her parents informed and question whether a musician back home likes her.
Madden flawlessly describes the feeling of a tour. There is the cramped, underslept journey in the dirty van. Every day is a new place. There are the wild fans, drunken nights and sweaty days on the road. Madden sets the book in 1999, a changing period in the music world. Napster is taking over and bands like Jimmy Eat World are huge.
After reading the book one wonders how much of Maddy is Madden. How many of the road stories were altered to protect the guilty. It is the fact that one has to question, that makes A Million Miles a great read. It gives both the dream and the nightmare with clarity and humor enough to feel like you are there. It is a tender, nostalgic and melancholy journey. This is coming of age story on the road. Any YA who who dreams of the music world should read this book as a guide and warning to any road tours in the future. The tour stories are timeless. For info visit www.amillionmilesbook.com
Misterwives at March 9, 2015 at Bluebird Theater – Denver, Colorado
by Alex Teitz
A half hour before doors a line of 100 people waited outside the theater. The majority were near the minimum age to get in, 16. They were texting, talking with friends, etc… If one listened carefully a whisper could be heard. “Is she alright?” “She missed some tour dates.” “What will happen tonight?” The questions hung in the air.
The openers varied. Handsome Ghost is a two piece from Boston doing a mellow emo folk. All the songs were ballads and were sung in a slow, purposeful manner. Borns is an LA five piece with strong songs and an intimidating stage presence. He stands well over six feet tall.
Then it was the moment of truth. The questions would be answered. Mandy Lee, lead singer and bandleader of Misterwives had missed two tour dates due to illness. She was back tonight. Lee bounced onto stage and dived right in. In the hour fifteen minute show she rarely stopped moving while singing songs from the band’s full length album Our Own House.
The band is a cohesive unit. They are Eitienne Bowler on drums and percussion. William Hehir on bass. Marc Campbell on guitar. Jessie Blum on trumpet, keyboards & accordion. Not given big credit in the album credits is Michael Murphy on saxophone. In the tour he plays a vital role. Murphy and Blum make a bold horn section and turn this rock band into a more seasoned Motown sound.
Misterwives played most of the songs on the album and never lost energy. “Ocean” had a brilliant light show of blue and green that fit this ballad perfectly. “Not Your Way” began with Lee doing push ups while talking on stage. She said the song was for “Society setting standards for women…and men that are BS.” Most of the band did chorus line kicks in unison at one point in the song. “Reflections”, one of the main singles, Lee credited the local radio station for playing it. “Hurricane” began with a wondrous keyboard intro. “Queens” came near the end of the set and began with Lee saying she may not feel physically well, but was mentally awesome. The encore is an amazing number which has to be seen live. We won’t give it away.
Lee is a ball of energy on stage. Tonight she was not at full health. There were times when her voice was hoarse and felt strained. During “Not Your Way” she squirted honey into her throat. During the last couple of songs she did have a small cough.
Misterwives is a Motown infused rock band on stage. This is not as evident on the album. They play with non-stop energy that is never boring. Lee was out. Now she is back and needs to get stronger for the shows ahead. For info visit www.misterwives.com
Booking The Library: A Guide for Entertainers, Musicians, Speakers & Authors
by Jessica Brawner
Reviewed by Alex Teitz
Touring is a challenge for any musician. It involves getting out of your comfort zone and going someplace new to establish a fan base. The prep time can be more complicated and stressful than expected. The rewards can be plentiful or few. When most musicians thing of touring it is to bars, clubs and other big venues. This book is not about that.
Booking the Library is a compact and comprehensive guide on how, why and what challenges there are in booking within the library system nationwide. The guide is actually 2 guides: one on booking for schools & libraries; one on booking in general and survival on the road. It is set up in a clear and logical manner. It begins asking the reader/musician if booking for libraries is even right for them.
The guide is filled with testimonials, checklists and facts. A guide, by its nature, should be easy to pick up and find exactly what you need. This book has that. It gives the reader sample contracts, letters, e-mails that can be customized. It also has tips that are useful for the beginner or pro. Booking The Library makes the point that booking to this selective niche is a way to supplement touring revenue and time.
The author of Booking The Library has a wealth of experience. Brawner ran a successful booking agency that handled over 50 acts for many years. She has toured the world independently and with the Peace Corps, She has moved on from the music industry and is focused on other elements of writing and touring.
Booking the Library is an indispensable guide for most musicians. The practical elements (contracts, sample letters, etc…) are unique to the niche and are not found in any other source specific to musicians. The touring tips, marketing, sales may be found in other sources. Here they supplement what is directly useful. Booking the Library is not meant to be the “be all” guide to touring for every venue. It is a specific guide to a specific niche that should be immediately helpful to any musician. Copies in both print & Kindle can be found an Amazon.com
Edison is a 3 piece indie folk rock band from Denver. Sarah Slaton is on vox and guitar. Dustin Morris is on mandolin, trumpet, vox and drums. Chris Cash is on bass, vox and keys. All the songs were written and performed by Edison. The EP was mastered by Mark Downie. It was engineered and the intial mix was done by Robert Skelton. The final mix was done by Taylor Mesple. Ghosts is a 4 song EP.
Ghosts is a passionate longing collection of music. In four songs the listener is drawn into a world of why’s and how’s. It is also one of the best expressions of why simpler is honest and heartfelt. “San Jose” is a ballad that begins with a gentle guitar and vocalization. “Ghosts” is a stirring arrangement that brings in trumpet and mandolin. “Be Someone” is the most upbeat bringing in mandolin and guitar. “Simple As Sleep” ends with multiple horns.
What drives Ghosts is the lyrics. These are taken from Sarah Slaton’s life. They are painful and reveal a life searching for meaning and place. The songs ask questions and give answers in a direct theme throughout the EP. Many of the most meaningful and memorable songs from the best songwriters (James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Melissa Etheridge) involve the most painful and heartbreaking times of their lives. Slaton has a lock on this and is destined to join that group soon.
Ghosts is a testament to simplicity in honesty. The arrangements are beautiful and haunting. The lyrics speak directly to the soul, and the music lives on afterward. Ghosts should be a lesson to other musicians on how to strip everything to the core, and let it shine. It should be in every collection for 2015. For info visit www.facebook.com/listentoEdison
What if you could do it all over again? If you had the memories of the past and the wisdom of experience, would you make the same choices? That is the question Stacie D’Erasmo brings up with her latest book Wonderland.
D’Erasmo is an Associate Professor of the MFA program at Columbia University. Her prior books include Sky Below, Tea, A Seahorse Yearand The Art of Intimacy. D’Erasmo demonstrates the art of a superb writer in that the images she conveys are full masterpieces in the reader’s mind.
Wonderland is different from D’Erasmo’s prior works. It is a journey into that surrealistic world of modern rock music as seen through the eyes of a former rock star returning to the road. Anna Brundage is the flawed protagonist. She did two albums in her youth. One was a critical and commercial success. The second was a work of art that few understood. She then disappeared. Her comeback tour is more of a fluke, spur of the moment that forces Anna to look backwards at her journey.
Wonderland is filled with the characters of rock music. There are the temperamental band members who have their own issues. There is the legendary rock force. There is the avant guard musician of the hour who makes YouTube videos. There is the beleaguered tour manager. There is even the up and coming band who is booking bigger tours. Throw these characters into a small European tour that includes large music festivals, dive bars and upscale clubs and you have part of the adventure Anna is on. The meat of Anna’s story is her loves. They include her past relationships, her wild upbringing and outrageous family. These are the heart of the book and best read, not talked about.
D’Erasmo’s Wonderland is the journey not often talked about. Everyone knows the rock star’s return, but not enough ink has been given to if that rock star is a woman. This is a rare glimpse backstage into a world everyone wants to know and few experience. The real life comeback stories are plentiful from Patti Smith, Kathleen Hanna, Kim Gordon, Juliana Hatfield to name a few. D’Erasmo’s fictional account is visceral and alive from the opening song to the encore. This is a must read for any up and coming artist to grizzled veteran. For more info visit www.hmhco.com
I recently saw an exhibit of an old master painter. In his youth he would pile on paint as if to make paintings sculptures in oil. As he grew older he applied a lighter touch knowing that it is not the quantity of oil, but how & where it is applied that makes a masterwork. The same can be said of Jessie Kilguss with Devastate Me. This is Kilguss’ fourth album and it reflects a lighter & more precise touch.
Kilguss works with a skilled band. On guitar, keyboard and vocals is Jason Loughlin. On bass, keyboard and vocals is John Kengla. On drums, percussion and vocals is Bob Heath. All the songs were written by Kilguss and John Kengla. The arrangements were done by Kilguss and the band. Devastate Me was produced, engineered and mixed by Joe Rogers and mastered by Joe Lambert.
Devastate Me is a lyric driven album. The overriding them is love lost either through time or physical distance. Kilguss’ vocals recall Emmylou Harris or Allison Krauss. The eight tracks in the album evoke a lush emotional landscape. The strongest arrangements are found in “A Safe Distance From You” & “You Didn’t Do Right By Me” with the former being guitar driven and the latter keyboard based. The strongest songs are “Red Moon”, “I’m You Prey” – which screams as an album single, and “City Map.” These songs wrap the listener in a world of lyrics that is poetical and familiar. “Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight” is a reflection of Kilguss’ childhood on a farm and makes the memories fresh and golden.
Jessie Kilguss is not a household name and that is a crime. Devastate Me is the work of an artist coming into her peak. Overproduction is not a problem here. A light but firm touch is evident throughout. For info visit www.JessieKilguss.com
Ex Cops sophomore album is a pop dance explosion. Every song is filled with hooks that catch the ear and don’t let go. Hidden behind the danceable music are complex lyrics that make this a songwriter’s dream.
Ex Cops is the duo of Amalie Bruun & Brian Harding. The album was produced by Billy Corgan and Justin Raisen. The album features Ariel Pink and L.P.
Daggers is 11 diverse tracks. “Black Soap” & “White Noise” open the album. Both are dance pop songs including “White Noise” which is ironically about wanting to be alone and quiet. “Daggers” & “Burnt Out Love” are powerful ballads. “Daggers” has a sublime drum bridge while “Burnt Out Love” has heartbreaking lyrics on the dead feeling when a relationship is done. The two guest tracks are ballads. “Wanna Be featuring L.P.” is a love song about the love that sneaks up on you. “Tragically Alright Featuring Ariel Pink” has a faint 60’s feel in overlapping vocals and keyboard dominance. “Teenagers” and “Pretty Shitty” are dance songs on different subjects. “Teenagers” is about being as wild as a teenager. “Pretty Shitty” is about being treated wrong in a relationship. “Rooms” could practically be a hidden track because it is simply magnificent. It is about growing out of a relationship and alternates between male & female vocals. It is one of the strongest tracks on Daggers.
It would be a mistake to typecast Ex Cops as synth pop dance band. Most of Daggers could easily be found at a dance club but the real gems are the ballads. The influence of 90’s alternative rock is found in Daggers but it is not confined to it. Hints of the 60s & 70s music eek in. This is neither Smashing Pumpkins nor Chvrches. It is the wild blending of both and much more. Daggers demonstrates the range of Ex Cops as a band. Hearing that range means the boundaries of what is possible in the future are limitless. For info visit http://excopsmusic.com
Pale Hands are a dreampop couple out of Massachusetts. Jen Johnson is on lead vocals and takes a different course from her previous projects of Velah and Static of the Gods. She is joined by her husband Mike Latulippe. Dreampop is a wide genre filled with everyone from Cocteau Twins to CHVRCHES. Pale Hands carves out their place in it their full length debut Spirit Lines.
Spirit Lines is a nine track album. It has the required elements of dreampop with keyboard, distort, synth, percussion and a range of beats. What sets it apart is Pale Hands haunting lyrics and Johnson’s woven vocals. Lead single “Under Over” is about a couple fighting mental illness and goes from subtle melodies to echoey vocals. “Juventud” has a strong beat and background vocals layered with keys. It is about a relationship in trouble. “No Stars” is the strongest song on the album and has a danceable beat mixed with percussion and rattle. The lyrics are sublime and beautiful. “Elemental” is the weakest track on the album. The arrangement is overproduced with layering vocals that are overwhelmed by too much instrumentation. The lyrics are strong and empowering but are not working in the mix. The best songs on the album are “Locusts”, “Juventud”, “Seismic” and “No Stars.”
Spirit Lines will not be for everybody. One hopes the lyrics are not autobiographical since most of the songs are about fighting in bad relationships or situations. Johnson’s vocals bring to mind young Aimee Mann. Pale Hands are a bold entry into dreampop. Their beats and synths are danceable and hide heart retching lyrics. Lyrically Pale Hands stands alone. For info visit www.facebook.com/wearepalehands