Ben Abraham – “You’re hiding like a memory… Calling to the weakness in my soul”: The Independent (May 19, 2016)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

I am very surprised that I never stumbled upon Ben Abraham when I was living in Melbourne last year (Jan – May), as I would have surely stopped in my tracks if I heard ‘Speak‘ as I passed by the usual buskers on Melbourne’s famous Bourke Street (wonder if he ever busked there). Speak is surely one of the standout tracks (in my opinion) on his debut album, Sirens (Secret Canadian).

A son of two Indonesian rockstars (both parents in a successful 70’s pop group called Pahama), Ben had music in his blood, and his relentless urge to “SPEAK” would eventually manifest into a musical masterpiece that would speak to more than Melbourne. “I never wanted to be a musician… I always wanted to be a filmmaker, and although I never quite made it down that path, that desire I had to tell stories still came with me,” Ben said to the crowd that night at The Independent as the opening act for the fantastic Damien Jurado (see review here). Ben’s desire to tell stories soon became a regular routine at his day job entertaining children in hospitals in Melbourne; Eight years later, he honed this craft into the beautiful album (Sirens) that has been sending SIRENS across international boundaries (esp. the UK, US and Canada). This album was recorded with a rotating cast of friends and collaborators including Gotye and Tim Shiel, as well as longtime friend Sara Bareilles (‘This is on Me‘).

Previously having played at Holwer in Melbourne (where I last saw Harrison Storm and Daniel Champagne) and the Servants Jazz Quarters in London (where I last saw Samantha Crain, Ben was eager to announce that tonight was his “first time in San Fran, and actually the first ever tour in the states.” Sporting a right red Hawaiian shirt and big grin, Ben (who usually is “not a fan of doing covers”), was all amped up and feeling “beachy enough” to cover what he thinks is “one of the greatest songs ever written,”Hyper Ballad‘ by Bjork. (He should definitely apply to play Iceland Airwaves… it was one of my favorite festivals of all time!)

 

As if that didn’t raise enough hairs on our arms, he followed with a gorgeous track called  ‘Home‘, and then with the epic encore of ‘Speak.’ Speak is a gorgeous song that just builds and builds with awesome anticipation, and by the end you might find yourself wiping tears off your face. The honest, timid lyrics about ‘wanting to communicate with others but somehow being pushed away’ is definitely a shared struggle most of us face, especially with the recent explosion of social media, and I hope we can all take Ben’s song as a call to humanity for deeper human connection. If the emotive, echoing effects of his vocals in the mic towards the end don’t “SPEAK” to you, then I’m not sure what will. Be sure to grab a copy of the album!

Radical Face: “So, collect your scars and wear ’em well, Your blood’s a good an ink as any” – The Chapel (May 12, 2016)

The Chapel, San Francisco
Written by Erica Andreozzi

I first saw Radical Face back in Nov 2014 at Iceland Airwaves music festival, thanks to a girl standing next to me up front who said I MUST stay for his set (and boy was I glad I did). Not having known anything about him, I was quickly taken back by the clever tales that he strung into dark (yet witty) songs — tales backed by sweeping strings (my favorite, the cello!) and piercing percussion. I later learned that Radical Face – the moniker of multifaceted musician Ben Cooper — has “always wanted to write a book,” and so it makes sense that his songs are literally book chapters COME TO LIFE. At the early age of 19, Ben wrote two books that tragically were lost in a hard drive crash; but instead of giving up, he turned to music. “I thought: why not do them as records? There could be a set of people, and we follow their bloodlines,” he says, “and instead of passing down genetic traits, we could pass down melodic patterns that mutate with each generation.”

Taking flight with this idea, Ben began working on a series of records (recorded in the tool-shed behind my family’s house nonetheless) collectively called ‘The Family Tree.’ He explains the 8-year journey here: “It all began from a desire to write my own family saga, only in music form instead of a novel. So I started a series of albums that were all interconnected, beginning with The Roots, onto The Branches and finally The Leaves which I just released. Along the way, there were enough songs that didn’t fit within the length of each album, which I collected into a series called The Bastards. All of the songs are related to the others in some way or another, and this website was designed as a guide to help you discover all the different connections… A great place to start is ‘Family Portrait‘ which is the beginning of the Family Tree, all songs and stories stem from this one.”

This TREE-O of records (Bear Machine Records, Nettwerk Music Group) collectively garnered a strong fan base for Ben both in Europe (especially) and the States, and Ben was able to secure two nights back-to-back at the Chapel, the first of which was SOLD OUT. A down-to-earth Jacksonville native, Ben was shocked to see that all these people came to see him play some “sad bastard music” on a weeknight, and warned them of going “down the bummed rabbit hole.” Although some of his songs are indeed “dark” — ‘Ghost Town‘ (about a guy that ends up on the road cause he murders alot), ‘Black Eyes‘ (about domestic abuse), ‘The Mute‘ (about a kid who can’t hear) — he adds lots of levity in between with his dry humor and hilarious commentary. Standouts for me were Black Eyes, We’re on our way (with some intense hand-clapping that Ben joked was really a way to torture his band mates), Welcome Home (awesome “anthem-ic” sing-a-long by the crowd), and OF COURSE Always Gold (where Ben teased his drummer Nick about messing up the keyboard intro, haha). The encore of The Mute and Wrapped in Piano Strings (an oldie but goodie) were awesome as well, and we all perked up with a smile when Ben muttered “Don’t tempt me” in response to a fan requesting that he “Take his shirt off.” The only thing I left bummed about was not hearing ‘The Crooked Kind,’ as this is my absolute FAVORITE Radical Face song, and I was hoping to sing-a-long to the verse that still slays me every time: “So, collect your scars and wear ’em well, Your blood’s a good an ink as any.” For those of you on the East Coast, you can catch him next in Philly, NYC, and the Newport Folk Fest. A radical Radical Face that you definitely don’t want to miss!

(see below for videos and more detail from the show)

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Are We Alive (playlist: March 6, 2016)

Are We Alive

Compiled on March 6, 2016

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Fresh new, VERY UPBEAT playlist inspired by my TOP DISCOVERIES at this year’s NoisePop festival in San Francisco: Day Wave, Harriet, and HEARTWATCH. These three bands are all local, and their catchy, vibrant tracks capture the essence of sunny California quite perfectly. The playlist was also influenced by other bands in town – Joe Purdy, Milo Greene (Jukely event), Penny and Sparrow (soon to write a review), Elle King, Jamie Lawson, and Soren Bryce (reminds me of Daughter) – as well as recent album releases from Ra Ra Riot and Hey Marseilles (who I’ll both be seeing in March) and a new single release from Augustines‘ HIGHLY ANTICIPATED new album. Not only is Augustines one of my FAVORITE BANDS OF ALL TIME, but this new song (Are We Alive) has FIRED ME UP moving into the new year (RISE: The Story of Augustines)- I can’t WAIT till they are back touring over here in the states – the UK has had them for long enough! Other inspiration comes from new discoveries – Funeral Advantage (thanks to my German roadtrippin’ buddies that I met at Penguin Prison last month), Tom Rosenthal (thanks to my London music guru buddy), Baby Brave and Joel Arthur Russel (NoiseTrade). ENJOY!

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Here’s the playlist on Spotify:

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You can download all of the songs (out of order) from my link on Box.com

https://app.box.com/s/ll94qc196usoow6l315q9r2xtzh0qpej

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Irish Margaritas- Harriet  
Total Zombie- Day Wave      
Are We Alive- Augustines
Foreign Lovers- Ra Ra Riot   
Get Louder- Caught A Ghost   
Eyes On You- Hey Marseilles   
Nothing At All- Day Wave   
Inheritance- Harriet
Lie To Me- Milo Greene   
Faultlines- HEARTWATCH
Bread and Bleeding- Penny and Sparrow   
Ten Steps-  Harriet
Perfect Ok- Hey Marseilles   
Chariot- Soren Bryce   
Drag- Day Wave   
America’s Sweetheart- Elle King   
Burbank- Harriet
Broken Bones- HEARTWATCH
My Heart- Hey Marseilles   
Gardensong- Funeral Advantage  
Absolutely- Ra Ra Riot   
See You Around- Joel Adam Russell   
Sirens- Soren Bryce  
Wasn’t Expecting That- Jamie Lawson  
Never Let You Go- HEARTWATCH
Non-Verbal Communication- Tom Rosenthal   
Newport- Soren Bryce 
Plastic Skateboard- Brave Baby   

We Try But We Don’t Fit In- Day Wave   

Ode to Sad Clown- Joe Purdy

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Harriet:
https://beatsthatsetmypulse.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/harriet-i-could-take-you-higher-but-i-cant-take-you-home-youre-a-tough-desire-you-may-be-all-i-needed-but-its-not-like-were-alone-the-rickshaw-stop-feb-25-2016/

Day Wave:
https://beatsthatsetmypulse.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/day-wave-so-just-close-your-eyes-and-ill-close-mine-let-me-close-your-heart-it-just-takes-time-and-well-be-alright-rickshaw-stop-feb-25-2016/

HEARTWATCH:
https://beatsthatsetmypulse.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/heartwatch-meet-me-in-the-middle-of-the-golden-gate-and-feel-my-heart-beat-the-independent-feb-24-2016/
Joe Purdy:
ttps://beatsthatsetmypulse.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/joe-purdy-treat-me-like-a-human-treat-you-like-the-same-maybe-well-all-get-along-some-day-the-independent-feb-20-2016/

Milo Greene: https://beatsthatsetmypulse.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/milo-greene-even-if-your-heart-stops-ill-be-there-to-hold-you-up-brick-mortar-feb-17-2016/

Penguin Prison:
https://beatsthatsetmypulse.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/penguin-prison-just-a-little-more-cause-it-never-gets-old-mezzanine-feb-10-2016/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milo Greene- “Even if your heart stops, I’ll be there to hold you up”-Brick & Mortar (Feb 17, 2016)

Brick & Mortar, San Francisco
Written by Erica Andreozzi

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Glad to have caught Milo Greene this month after finding out last minute about them doing a show at Brick & Mortar as part of a Jukely event.  The last time I saw them was at a Culture Collide festival back in October for a stripped back acoustic set at The Swedish Music Hall. Looking back, each show was super special and unique in its own way. I always find it very impressive when bands can perform both acoustic and electric versions of their albums with flawless execution. Milo Greene does this extremely well, and their harmonies never fail to leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

I was excited when they kicked off their set early with Lie to Me, for it’s my favorite from their most recent album, Control (Atlantic Records). Robbie shed his guitar for this one to lead on vocals, and his call-and-response harmonies with Marlena are nothing short of perfect: “And you want what I’ll never be…Can’t you just lie to me?.. Lie to me.” I also really enjoyed the catchy guitar arrangements led by Graham and Charlie (Andrew’s new temporary replacement).

Next, Curtis’ passionate percussion were a perfect compliment to Marlena’s provocative lyrics in White Lies (another top track from the recent album): “And it’s not right, to keep on leading me on…From now on I won’t try, I’ll just be your white lie.”

Then came Heartless, another song from the new album that started with everyone huddled around Curtis (“The Tron”) and with Robbie joining him for some DOUBLE DRUMMING action. The anticipation was pretty SIIIIICK.

Graham’s vocals took center stage soon after with Cutty Love, and I remember first being caught off WAY OFF GUARD when I felt the power behind those pipes. He definitely covers the deep end in the group, rounding out Robbie’s tenor and Marlena’s alto/soprano with his mighty bass: “Even if your heart stops,I’ll be there to hold you up…Even as the world turns, I’ll be there to watch the fire burn…Burn us both alive.” HOT DAMN.

Just before introducing a new song that they have not yet released, Marlena confesses that she “always gets nervous when they play in San Francisco because it’s the place where it all began for them- it’s like coming around full circle.” You would never know that they were any anxious nerves behind that cool-as-a-cucumber exterior, for Marlena always owns the stage and makes you wish you were that badass chick up with there amongst 4 dudes. Nevertheless, that nervous confession quickly prompted a some males in the front row to serve her up a few tequila shots, and she took both of them back LIKE A CHAMP.

The timing of this liquid courage was pretty clutch, adding even more zest to the tasty teaser of what’s to come in their next album- a new song called Dozen Times that I could definitely hear again A DOZEN TIMES.

Up after that was an old dreamy gem, Perfectly Aligned, and I really enjoy the “Oooo-oo-ooooo Ooo-ooo-ooo” vocal harmonies perfectly aligning with Curtis’ DRUM-SET DESTRUCTION. Soooooo freaking good.

All warmed up now by the tequila, Marlena delivered a red-hot, racy rendition of Lonely Eyes, and her dancing on stage must have lit some people’s fire. Curtis’ drum were also pretty fiery in this one, and he didn’t even have any tequila!

Saving one of their major radio hits for last, Milo Greene unites the audience in a final sing-a-long to 1957, with everyone in the room shouting: “I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go I… I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go I… Takes me away, takes me away, takes me away.” This show surely TAKES ME AWAY to a proper place of musical escape.  ❤

(see below for videos and more detail from the show)

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Tow’rs- “Just Because We’re Breathing Doesn’t Mean We’re Alive”: Neck of the Woods (Feb 12, 2016)

Neck of the Woods, San Francisco
Written by Erica Andreozzi

Ever since I first stumbled upon Tow’rs from a promotional sampler on Noisetrade, I DROPPED MY JAWS in disbelief. HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BAND? Where are they hiding?! Well, turns out they are hiding in Flagstaff, a small town in Arizona that I (oddly enough) know quite well after spending a summer there in 2007 (internship with W.L. Gore & Associates). I felt an instant connection with them, and was incredulous over the fact that they came from a place I was so deeply fond of.  I soon learned that the band was born out of husband and wife duo, Kyle and Gretta Miller, who had been playing music with their best friends — Emma Crislip, Kyle Keller, Kory Miller — for many years (six to be exact) before finally realizing that they needed to bring this music beyond their local Church scene and into the general public. Just like that, the foundation of Tow’rs was laid down- a foundation of folk roots, soothing strings, and happy harmonies that would build one of the BEST BREAKOUT indie/folk bands of 2015 (in my opinion). I guess it’s true when they say that BEST FRIENDS truly make the BEST MUSIC, and I was happy to find “a place at their table” last Saturday night. 🙂

“Through our music, we explore the questions that haunt us, the pain that marks us, and the hope that redefines everything for us.  We invite you into the conversation, build with us, find your place at the table.” -Tow’rs

HUGE THANKS to Tow’rs for coming out west to captivate us with their live set, slaying us with songs like The Kitchen and Circles, both from their newest (and my most favorite) album, The Great Minimum. I really enjoyed meeting the beautiful people behind this beautiful music, and hope that they leave a bit of their heart in San Francisco and come back soon. When they do, I seriously hope they tour with one of my other new favorite folk artists, Zach Winters (who I think would be perfect compliment). For those fans of The Head and the Heart, Horse Feathers, Of Monsters and Men, Blind Pilot, The Oh Hellos, and Typhoon, you HAVE GOT to check them out.

Fresh off their win (‘Emerging Artist’) from the 2015 Viola Awards, Tow’rs released a new album (The Great Minimum) in June 2015. It follows up their well-received debut self-titled album from 2014.

 (see below for videos and more detail from the show)

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Tow’rs had me FREAKING OUT when they kicked off their set with my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE, The Kitchen. The captivating cello intro hooks you HARD and soon has you swaying with every stoke of the bow. Once it does, you can’t help but fall into a reverie imagining how this next verse would play out:

“You made me dance in the kitchen with you
If I was the night then you were the moon
Expectation is the currency of fools   (LOVE)
I spent it on you, I spent it on you.”

This one is another favorite from their collection, and I especially enjoy the plead of electric guitar that perfectly compliments the “pleeeeeease come home” plead throughout.

The beginning of this next one initially reminded me of an old Bombay Bicycle Club song (acoustic) but then came into its own when the perky percussion picked up the pace at the first chorus (“It’s not black or white but in between”).

This next one was major crowd-pleaser and obvious favorite from their debut album

Loved the staggering call-and-response vocals from husband and wife, Kyle and Gretta.

This next one is a definite favorite from their recent album, and I can’t help but belt out the chorus of “Just because we’re breathing doesn’t mean we are alive.” TRUTH BE TOLD. Turns out that Helm is also a favorite of Kyle and Gretta, for it was inspired by the birth of their first son (now almost 1 year old) and about the nervous anticipation that often accompanies such big life changes.

Was really impressed to learn the this one was written by the cellist, Emma, who I was lucky enough to flag down after the show. Cello players hold a very special place in my heart, for cello had come to be my favorite string instrument. I can’t quite pin down what about this instrument makes me melt, but it DOES. Props to Emma for hammering on my heartstrings all night. Also mad props to Kyle for alternating between electric guitar, harmonica, and trumpet throughout the set- a modest multi-instrumentalist who was as pleasant to chat with as he was to watch!

Loved this STUNNING version of Circles as their encore. This here is perfect proof that BEST FRIENDS really do make the BEST MUSIC. I was grinning EAR-TO-EAR as I watched them exchange smiles and laughs while they serenaded the crowd with their dreamy harmonies and soul-stroking lyrics: “Circles are the perfect shape…to describe the hearts of man.” Hands down my favorite part of the night. ❤

 

Max Frost: “Life is a game just stay strong, One day your moment will come, You’ve got to shine till then” – Bottom of the Hill (Jan 23, 2016)

Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
Written by Erica Andreozzi
Yes, he is playing acoustic guitar and electric guitar SIMULTANEOUSLY. That’s right. You’ll often see Max with two guitars strapped on his back and a drumstick in hand. Somehow, he also manages to layer in vocals too — ANGELIC VOCALS.

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Max Frost is anything BUT Frosty. This MULTI-TALENTED, multi-instrumentalist from Austin will have you BURNING UP with a fever BEFORE YOU KNOW IT.  Hints of Chet Faker vocals, Glass Animals grooves, Gnarls Barkley beats, The Neighborhood‘s nastiness (if ya know what I mean)… DISCO INFERNO (hot hot hot!) 😛

Moved by music since he was a wee tot, Max’s experience playing in various blues/grassroots bands and collaborating with various hip-hop artists enabled him to cultivate a unique, eclectic brand of his own: Heart-felt soul steeped with blues, R&B, trip-hop and electronic pop. Sounds like a mouthful, and it IS..  a mouthful that you surely want to GET YOUR FILL OF!!  Max is BLOWING UP big time and you’ll definitely want to catch him early before he is playing huge venues. Atlantic Records has shrewdly snatched him up and is already sending him on tour to far away places like Australia before our neighbors across the pond. I can just now picture those Aussies jumping up and down like “kangas” once exposed to his INTOXICATION (EP, overall vibe!)

I can’t wait for Max to return to SF for his own headline show. His 45 min set at Bottom of the Hill was too short, ultimately leaving us in “suspended animation” until next time. 😉

(See below for more detail and videos from the show)

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Nice and Slow one is FOR THE LOVERS – it had us winking at strangers and swaying “nice and slow” with our neighbors. There’s no denying it’s subtle sexiness and amorous allure. ❤

It is IMPOSSIBLE to not be shaking EVERY LIMB OF YOUR BODY with a FRENZIED FEVER while listening to Withdrawal. Everyone’s bottoms were shaking at Bottom of the Hill that night. The song is just as it sounds!

White Lies for the EPIC ENCORE!! It’s safe to say that WE ALL left Bottom of the Hill with BOTTOMLESS BLISS after that one.

 

Favorite tracks: Glow Long, Nice and Slow, Be Who You Want to Be, White Lies, Withdrawal.

Toured with: Fitz and The Tantrums & Gary Clark Jr

Similar acts: Caught a Ghost (check him out!)