Holy Esque – Self-Titled EP

The first thing one notices about Holy Esque is the vocals of lead singer Pat Hynes. Strangely enough, Hynes vocals, at times, sounds a lot like an awkward mix of Conor Oberst, Kurt Cobain, Everything is Wrong-era Moby and Andy Gibb, pre stroke. There seems to be an unnatural throaty shake and/or quiver in Hynes’ voice that has the uncanny ability of simultaneously being attractive and repulsive. More about Hynes’ voice later.

Holy Esque is a four-piece band from Glasgow, Scotland and this four-track, sixteen minute EP is their debut release. Not much is known about Holy Esque. Without a website and outside of a social network page, the Glasgow foursome are a bit of a mystery.

The EP’s opening track “Ladybird Love” is a gigantic song full of sound, emotion and undecipherable Cobain-mimicked vocals delivered with a Billy goat quiver. It is a great introduction that showcases Holy Esque’s potential. I’m not quite sure what Hynes is singing about, but I kinda want to know. His vocals pull me into his lyrics.

“Rose” is a more accessible track that begins with a simple guitar riff and a somber but bouncy Interpol drumbeat. Once again, without a lyric sheet, I can’t decipher the lyrics, but the music takes the listener through emotional waves and crashes. I can imagine “Rose” being the band’s first single to be played on old-fashion radio.

The band calms things down on the slow and awkward “Loneliest Loneliness.” Hynes vocals are more pointed and restrained, but they zag while the music zigs. There seems to be a lot of word play going on in Hynes’ lyrics. It’s a song that still has issues that need to be sorted out.

“Prophet of Privilege” is the anti-climatic end of the EP. Once again, it’s not Holy Esque’s best, but the music is strong. I have a feeling that this song sounds better live than in the studio.

Holy Esque has my attention. Hopefully this EP will lead to a record contract for these Scotland noise merchants. With the right guidance, Holy Esque has the potential to be a strong musical force in the near future.

April 27, 2012. Albums. 1 comment.

The Raveonettes – Into the Night EP

Following up their two thousand eleven release, Raven in the Grave, the Danish indie rock duo is back with a brief four song EP. At this point, everyone has grown accustomed to The Raveonettes and their Jesus and Mary Chain-like songs that are filled with a forceful and edgy electric guitar coupled with attractive bursts of noise. With this EP The Raveonettes haven’t evolved, but they certainly haven’t disappointed.

In a recent press release, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo confesed that this newest release is “a delightfully damaged ode to the letdowns of lost love, with dreamy harmonies.” The harmonies are definitely “dreamy,” and there is plenty of talk of heartbreak on the EP’s sonically filled opening track, “Into the Night” and in the Stereolab-sounding “Too Close to Heartbreak.” The departing track, “Bad Ghosts,” is a start/stop fuzzy Spooky-era Lush sounding composition that has Foo sarcastically singing, “I’m always here right by your side.” Somehow I just don’t believe her.

Into the Night is a sample of a full-length album that will reportedly be released later this year. All four songs on the EP sound very familiar, but there is a comfort in that familiarity. That said, one would hope that The Raveonettes would push their sound a bit further on their promised upcoming full-length release. If you have an iTunes gift card left over from this past X-mas and you need some songs to give your somber spring a soundtrack, Into the Night is a safe purchase that won’t offend.

April 25, 2012. Albums. Leave a comment.

The Black Belles: Third Man Records’ Black Sheep?

Even the flip side photograph of the “Colbert single” is mocking the Black Belles.

Whatever happened to The Black Belles? After more than two years they have released four 7”singles, two of which they weren’t the main focus of the product. Oddly enough, Elvira and Steven Colbert were the highlight of two of the singles. Great marketing move having a new band not being the focus of a single with their name on it. Also, the Belles released their full-length debut, with little excitement or promotion, on November eighth, two thousand eleven. Since then, the Black Belles have disappeared into their manufactured darkness.

Jack White, The Black Belles’ Svengali-sound dictator and image overseer weakly attempted to garner excitement about the band with an odd appearance on the Stephen Colbert show where the gals awkwardly backed up Colbert as he goofily sang “Charlene II (I’m Over You).” Can one imagine a newly formed Sex Pistols backing Rodney Dangerfield? Oasis backing Seinfeld as he tried to sing some half-hearted composition? Of course not. Why would White subject the Belles to such humiliation? It’s much like Jagger and Richards delegating Jones to playing sitar on “Street Fighting Man.” It’s worth mentioning that the Colbert promotion focused more on White and his Third Man Record products rather than the Black Belles. Why bother bringing the Belles along if you’re not even going to involve them in the segments? People didn’t purchase the Colbert/Belles 45 for The Belles; they bought it for Colbert.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjBOs1njwEU Notice how at the seven second mark, YouTube poster GasperSavage says, “I order his (Colbert’s) new single. . .” Clearly proving that most bought the single for Colbert and not for The Black Belles.

Extending himself a little further, White continued his gimmicky record making–like vinyl needs a gimmick to sell–releasing a reported three hundred absinthe colored vinyl of the Belles debut release that mainly ended up in the hands of eBay vultures that had no interest in listening to the quirky colored record with quirky looking women holding hands on the cover. The news of the greenish colored vinyl release was mainly whispered at the local record store; the larger, iTunes consuming consumers were left in the dark.

After this underwhelming promotional attempt, the Belles have never made a live performance on any late night tee vee shows, which is customary when any band with a buzz releases a new album.  Turn your tee vee on any night and you’ll see a mass of flash-in-the-pan bands poorly performing their “hit” single on Kimmel, Fallon, Daly, Ferguson and, of course, O’Brien. It’s well known that White is a close friend with Conan, and one wonders if White has even thought of asking his friend if the Belles could blow through a three-minute performance of “Honky Tonk Horror” on his late night show. What’s the harm in asking? At the other end of the spectrum, White didn’t have a problem getting Karen “Nico” Elson a sleepy performance on Letterman, nor did he have any difficulty taking Wanda Jackson from the senior home to the Ed Sullivan Theater. But the Belles back up Colbert on a cable tee vee show that is only watched by a certain demographic, one that doesn’t have an interest in discovering a new band, especially one that is made to appear laughable through Colbert’s comedic attempts?

I can’t help but think that there is a larger, feminist issue brewing here. The Black Belles have the songs, the talent, and the look, but they have a management team “Nasty Little Man,” which, rhetorical, their horrible moniker reads like they should be promoting grainy footage of cheaply purchased celebrity porn, not talented musicians. It seems apparent that “Nasty Little Man” doesn’t know how or doesn’t care to market an extremely marketable band. What else could it be? After over two years of being signed to Third Man Records (TMR), Dana West, spokesperson and gatekeeper of the Belles, strangely labels the gals an “up and coming band.” Well, of course they’re going to be viewed as an “up and coming band” after two plus years if you don’t have a management team that properly promotes the band. Hell, the Sex Pistols were together for thirty months, maybe less, and released four singles and one full-length album and their musical and cultural influences still echoes through the entire world. Not comparing the Belles to the Pistols, but the example is used to emphasize the power of how fast a band can explode in the right situation. So are the male performers at TMR and those managed by “Nasty Little Man” treated with the same lackadaisical approach? And I’m sure Dana West will give some sort of statement filled with banal platitudes, or even worse, she’ll just ignore the criticism all together. Most of us don’t like being told when we’re failing (miserably) at our jobs.

Sadly, The Black Belles debut album was simultaneously ignored by Spin, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Paste, Stereogum and Magnet—just to name a few. Doesn’t this become a point of crisis for “Nasty Little Man” management? Outside a couple impressive music blogs, The Black Belles debut didn’t exist. And they still don’t exist.

To add insult to injury, one of The Black Belles first U.S. performances during their 2012 tour was at a The Center Stage in Muncie, Indiana. This is the kind of club Great White could bring down with fireworks. Muncie is most known for a fourth-tiered party college that Letterman graduated from. What a lonely concert that must’ve been. The poor Belles probably put on an amazing show as they sweated black eyeliner and sang “Pushing Up Daises” (a prophetic title for their career under “Nasty Little Man”) while the aloof crowd talked over their performance.

Back to the issue of feminism, the only live performance I’ve seen of the Belles was on a DVD I had to spend sixty dollars on through White’s Vault program. Oddly enough, the girls’ performance from the Halloween night extravaganza was pared down to four tunes (roughly thirteen minutes), with most of the performance was visually distorted with the excessive use of a fog machine combined with a camera man that was probably reading the camera’s manual while shooting the show. The other performance on the album was The Greenhornes, a Mudhoney-like band who performed fourteen songs. But who’s keeping count?

Maybe the larger problem originates with White. I mean, he does spread himself thin. Between scripted appearances on “reality” tee vee shows and heavily promoting his forthcoming solo album on SNL, sans the Belles, and frantically creating gimmicks to sell records, maybe White has just lost track of the Goth gals. Maybe he can’t bear to fight for room in front of the mirror with the girls to apply his make up before the red light of the camera flips on.

White almost comes off as a child who received too many toys for X-mas and he quickly tosses the toy fire truck over his shoulder to investigate the miniature train set sitting at his feet. The fire truck being a metaphor for the Belles. He wants to do so much that he ends up doing very little, especially for those bands signed to his label.

While White is busy setting balloons free across the south with some new single that a handful of people might hear, or handing out records recorded at an incredibly slow speed, maybe he should light the proverbial fire underneath “Nasty Little Man” management’s ass and, at the very least, get the Black Belles a performance on The Kelly Show, The View or whatever show(s) Dr. Drew hosts. If something doesn’t happen fast, “Nasty Little Man” and Dana West might be doing PR for Great White or even promoting a new Crash Test Dummies album. These bands seem more their speed.

Lastly, or quite simply, TMR should apologize to The Black Belles, pay out their contract and let them go and flourish with Sub Pop, Polyvinyl, or even Matador. Something tells me that one of these three record companies will cut through the gimmicky bullshit and get The Black Belles the attention they most certainly deserve.

April 14, 2012. Essays. 1 comment.

Lissy Trullie – Lissy Trullie

Fans of Trullie have been waiting for this, her full-length debut since she teased us with the Velvet Underground-meandering single “Madeleine” in November of 2011. Trullie’s follow up to her 2009 EP “Self-Taught Learner” continues to harvest that well balanced pop sound, but many the of the songs are pushed further as she layers vocals, employs brass instruments, and uses Le Tigre-like handclaps to give each song a larger, more emphatic sound.  Some of these musical advancements/adjustments can be heard in the album’s hopeful opening track, “Rules We Obey.”

The album’s third track, “It’s Only You, Isn’t” is an upbeat Miley Cyrus (sorry, Lissy) track that relies heavily on a dub-step beat that is accentuated every few seconds by an early 80s guitar strike that Pat Benatar wouldn’t be embarrassed to dance to.

As the album carries on, Trullie’s songs get stuck in the Delorean somewhere in 1986 and the tracks become less inspired and original. “Caring,” “I Know Where You Sleep” and “Heart Sound” are perfect examples of this time travel trouble. The tracks aren’t bad, but we’ve heard them sung from less beautiful singers a thousand times over.

If I’m being honest, this release is two or three songs too long. This is not to say Trullie’s songs aren’t thoughtfully composed; they’re certainly not album filler by any means. Concurrently, it shows Trullie’s ability to write a few brief solid tracks that dares anyone not to hum along to. I’d like to see Trullie stick to releasing EPS with a few over thought yet thoughtful songs before she delves deeper into full length releases. And, come on Trullie, with your beautiful looks, Apple’s even more beautiful computer programs and an extra pot of coffee, you could have created a much more appealing album cover; it seems like a last minute thought rather than a well-planned composition. Stop imitating that I’m-at-a-funeral-somber-Posh Spice look and let your physical beauty shine.

April 12, 2012. Albums. Leave a comment.