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Beehive: The 60’s Musical

Beehive: The 60’s Musical

Winter Park Playhouse

We all love the 60’s, even if we weren’t really there. The post war generation hit is high point in those halcyon days; mass media allowed relaxed morals, bright fabrics, and the idea “youth” was a product, and not just an adjective. It also allowed a new musical style parents hated but secretly danced to. Sure, there was a war, race riots and assassinations, but they aren’t allowed inside this hallowed theater so let’s get to the good stuff!

Act One focuses on the girl group sound that filled those A.M. airwaves and eventually late night informercials selling CD collections we all secretly own. Numbers are mostly lead and chorus, and open with “Let’s Rock” and end the first act with a British Invasion medley. Along the way it’s hit after hit after hit: “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To,” “Sweet Talking Guy,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” ‘Where the Boys Are,” and “Then He Kissed Me” are typical. As the show ages, more pointed songs creep in and “Abraham, Martin and John ” dampened things a bit, but we recovered our groove nicely with the entire British Invasion.

As the costumes pile up back stage, we gently reminisce over chances that may have passed us by, or mistakes we made that we will never replicate. Act Two dips in the LSD culture and anti-war material, a Janice Joplin double compete with oddly colored glasses and a mega-bandana lead us out of the decade, leaving the whole disco / punk / soul world to another evening. They say if you remember the 1960’s you weren’t really there. Well, I was. Or maybe I wasn’t. It’s all so confusing….

www.winterparkplayhouse.org

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Music Reviews

The Yawpers

The Yawpers

Human Question

Bloodshot Records

The forth release from The Yawpers, Human Question, is a masterful deluge of so many great sounds and musical inspirations, it’s hard to nail them down to just one sound. It’s everything from acoustic tunes with driving drums like “Man as Ghost” to punk mixed with some industrial rock on “Human Question” and “Dancing On My Knees”. Every song was a new direction I wasn’t expecting and because The Yawpers do it so well, I haven’t quit playing it since it hit my ears.

Nate Cook, Jesse Parmet, and new drummer Alex Koshak do a wonderful job of filling the space through out the album and giving each song something special. While some songs can explode into a wall of sound like “Child of Mercy”, they also create plenty of space on songs like “Reason To Believe” and “Carry Me”. There are flashes of pop mixed with a Wilco-style vibe on “Can’t Wait” and a bit of a Woody Guthrie folk flavor on “Where The Winters End”.

If the energy on the album is anywhere near the live show, they are on my list to get out and see. Their album is available on their website in a couple different vinyl options, CD, and digital download. Grab this album and dig into some of the most original and inventive music to come out this year.

www.theyawpers.com

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Music Reviews

LOLAA

LOLAA

LOLAA is the sister duo of Lex Valentine and Nadia Valerie King. Their self-titled release, LOLAA, is a re-release of 2016’s EP, but with a few changes.

The newly released EP was recorded all in Spanish and while I didn’t note any musical differences between the English and Spanish versions, the simple language switch gives it some depth. The sisters, based in Canada, with roots of Mexican decent, did an amazing job with some unique rhythms and lyrics. Pulled from their varied influences, they blend a mix of solid pop, emotional ballads, and a nod to a number of ’80s influences.

Each of the 6 songs on the EP have a ton of great musical pieces that combine perfectly and use everything from chimes to disco synthesizers to accent the lyrics and drive home the sentiment. The rhythms, while not specifically standard Latin groves, have tons of hidden pieces that require a couple listens to catch all the subtleties.

One of my favorites, “Barricada”, is at times sparse of music while the lyrics Lex Valentine sings carry the strength of the song. The character of the song is smart enough to know her worth and tired of the pain that the relationship is bringing. She’s a woman building emotional barricades to protecting herself, while vowing to not be simply satisfied to sit behind it, but to put up a fight for herself.

The decision to record in Spanish is one that I believe will help draw some new fans across the globe and get LOLAA in front of a bigger market. I look forward to seeing what they put out next and while I’m not sure that Iowa is on their tour schedule at the moment, I’ll keep an eye on them to see what they are up to next.

www.facebook.com/LolaaMusic

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Music Reviews

Aubrey Logan

Aubrey Logan

Impossible

I first noticed Aubrey Logan as part of Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, that group of talented musicians who cover new and modern songs in multiple classic styles. She has turned the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give it Away” into a mod Austin Powers groove, and “Ice Ice Baby” into a vintage jazz piece, providing vocals and trombone accompaniment. So when I saw that she was releasing a solo album, I was intrigued.

Impossible did not disappoint.

The album starts off with a soulful and tragic tale of a woman whose heart is broken right before a trip (“Crying on the Airplane”). It should be illegal for a sad song to be so catchy. Logan wails while her backing band tears up the Stax-inspired tune. After that emotional roller coaster, you think it’s more of the same with “Pity Party,” but they throw you a curve ball with a jazzy song that is actually about getting over a break-up. “Pistol” was picked to be the first single, and it was a damn good choice. It starts with a funky groove, then Logan’s trombone kicks in. While previously her voice has been alternating between sad and cheery, sultry is the only descriptor for the way she sings these verses. The chorus, on the other hand, transitions into full ahead pop star sing-along. If radio play was still a thing, this would be in heavy rotation for the next few months.

The rest of the album continues to span genres, with torch songs, pop tunes, more jazz, and a couple of cover tunes. “California Dreamin'” features Casey Abrams, and gives an almost gospel feel to the classic. While their vocals deliver the emotion of the lyrics better than any previous version, the trombone break in the middle feels out of place. “You Can’t Touch This” is a scat-inspired re-imagining of the MC Hammer hit, and will definitely raise a few eyebrows. Despite the best efforts of the talented performers, something about the song doesn’t click. Perhaps it is because it is so identified with the original artist, including several shout outs to him in the lyrics.

Often you will see a review that says, “there is something here for everyone.” Well, since there really isn’t any country on this album, I guess that isn’t the case here. But Impossible is quite an eclectic collection of songs. Do yourself a favor, and check out “Pistol” at Aubrey Logan’s website or YouTube. Listen to it through good headphones or speakers, not laptop speakers or one earbud. If that whets your appetite, pick up Impossible.

www.aubreylogan.com

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Music Reviews

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas

Telephone / Telephono

Instant Records

I’m always happy to hear good things coming from Detroit. God knows the city has been through hell. While much of the city looks like a ghost town, the arts have been offering a glimmer of hope in desperate times. Hernandez is a Detroit girl with Cuban/Mexican heritage. On her second full-length album, Hernandez pays tribute to her complicated heritage by releasing Telephone in both an English and Spanish versions.

Telephone is the soundtrack to an imaginary movie set in Havana, Mexico City and Detroit. I hear a lot of throwbacks Detroit of the late ’70s in “Hot Damn”. It has bit of Clash guitar crunch with Lene Lovich experimentalist theatrics. “Bad at Loving You” has a harsh electronic tone that blends with salsa rhythms. “Hummingbird” makes me think of an otherworldly techno band trying to do reggae in an episode of Doctor Who. I could go on with analogies, but let’s just say that Jessica has been collecting the debitage of the last 50 years of underground musical sounds and blending them in layers that sound at once familiar and completely unique. This is garage rock burnished to high gloss sheen. This is pop music dirtied up with weirdness and unexpected twists that keep it away from the disposable auto tune pop heap.

As I mentioned at the top of this review, Telephone is available in a Spanish version as well as an English version. The Spanish language version was worked out in Mexico City with producer Camilo Froideval. Hernandez took great pains to make the Spanish versions reflect the ideas she was trying to express in songs she wrote in English. Sometimes, she had to completely reimagine the lyric for it to work in another language. Hernandez told NPR that she wanted her grandmother, who doesn’t speak English well, to be able to enjoy her music. She also wanted to reach out to fans that are Hispanic Americans; to show them it’s ok to be an American who also embraces the cultures of their parents and grandparents. When you think about it, isn’t that really what America is all about?

jessicahernandez.net

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Event Reviews

Shonen Knife

Shonen Knife

The Orpheum; Ybor City, Florida • May 6th 2017

Seeing Shonen Knife is better than Prozac. When this trio of women from Osaka, Japan take the stage it’s hard not to be swept up in their overwhelming joy. Since 1981, various incarnations of Shonen Knife have been celebrating simple joys with spare garage rock tunes primarily written by founding member Naoko Yamano.

Bob Pomeroy

Shonen Knife has never played Tampa, so there was a band of devoted fans primed for this show. The fast paced set opened with some of their classic tunes, including Twist Barbie and Banana Chips before highlighting tunes from their latest album, Adventure. New songs like Wasabi and Rock and Roll T-Shirt have a bit more 70’s glam rock sheen to them. Naoko and bassist Atsuko had fun striking guitar god poses during the instrumental breaks.

Bob Pomeroy

Drummer, Risa looked like she was having the time of her life back there on the drum kit. She got to sing lead on Green Tangerine and just couldn’t stop smiling. Atsuko got to take lead vocals on Wasabi and everyone had fun singing about the Capybara.

Bob Pomeroy

The middle portion of the show covered songs about food. The current tour is called Ramen Adventure. Naoko gave her review of a local noodle shop (very tasty) before launching into the tune Ramen. They also played tunes about Wasabi and Sushi before turning to American food with BBQ Party: a lusty celebration of pigging out on pork products (never mind the diet).

Bob Pomeroy

Old favorites like Riding on a Rocket and Bear Up Bison made the fans happy. Shonen Knife wrapped up the show with a cover of the Monkeys hit, Day Dream Believer. When the show ended, audience definitely wanted more. It looked like almost everyone in attendance lined up to take picture with the band and get records and CD’s signed and just tell the women in Shonen Knife how much they’re loved.

It was a good night to be a rock and roll fan.

www.shonenknife.net

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Music Reviews

The Shondes

The Shondes

Brighton

Exotic Fever

The shame, the disgrace… that’s what this Brooklyn band’s name means in Yiddish. The band isn’t shy about calling out for social justice, for calling out the shame of hypocrisy and intolerance. The Shondes are not shy about acknowledging their Jewish heritage, which has gotten them labeled as “klezmer punks.” Because they are an unapologetically activist band, they have been lumped in with riot grrl and punk rock, and that fits to a certain extent. While the original riot grrls were as sonically raw as they were outspoken, the Shondes strive for a wider, more inclusive world than the safely delineated worlds of punk and Jewish music.

The driving forces behind the Shondes are bassist/vocalist Louisa Rachel Solomon and violinist, Elijah Oberman. Solomon has a clear, resonant voice that is the central pillar of Shondes music. Oberman’s violin is the melodic foil to Solomon’s voice and the main lead instrument. “Everything Good” opens the album with an uplifting tune that may be a love song or an allegory. The next tune, “True North”, sounds a hopeful tone with a chorus of, “I believe next year in Jerusalem, we say, every day is revolutionary day.” It’s a song suggesting insoluble problems do have solutions.

For all the talk about the Shondes being a punk band, I hear a finely crafted pop-rock band. My favorite tune on Brighton is “Carrion Crow”. They lyric, “you shine like an oil spill, you shine like a carrion crow,” are a visceral put down to some unnamed neer do well. (I think of a public figure named Donald, but you can fill in any death eater you like). While the lyric does have a Bikini Kill bite, to me, Carrion Crow sounds like the best song Pat Benatar never recorded. “Wrong Kind” reminds me of early ’80s, Blondie (in a good way). In some ways, the Shondes remind me of Chumbawamba, another band who began with a punk ethos and militantly socially aware lyrics while taking their music into accessible, even commercially viable, directions.

Brighton sounds great. Producer Tony Maimone (ex-Pere Ubu and They Might Be Giants) gets a clean and powerful sound. The instruments occupy their own spaces, so that the parts are distinct while forming a cohesive whole. The little details take the songs beyond just sounding good to being something spectacular. It’s a sound that can and should be heard from a thousand car radios. I’m not sure that happens anymore, but it should.

www.shondes.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Super American

Super American

Golf Pop

Super Americans gives us a super-charged, super optimistic sound that has the happy energy of a 1960’s dance hit and edgy guitar work of a solid modern power-pop band. This little five song EP is packed with gems like the “Push Ups;” here someone’s gal is snatched by “A Guy in a bolo tie,” and you have to sympathize; unless of course you wear a bolo tie. It’s OK if he’s wearing boots and Yoke shirt, but his isn’t a country band. Without missing a beat, we segue in to “Love to Hate” so quickly I didn’t even catch the key changes on the first listen. Then it’s short hop, jump and gelandesprung to “On Top of the World” with its fading view of last week’s GF. The slow intro to Track 4 “Charles Cheatham” is deceptive; soon we’re attacked by a sharp guitar line that dominates the track; the body of this tune is urgent and angry. I’m sure the story behind the band’s name might be fascinating, but perhaps not. There’s not much info on this group out there, even their Bandcamp site is minimal. There are four guys, I suspect they have names and maybe romantic interests, they operate out of Buffalo NY and love Instagram. They have a promising sound, 2 EPs on the street, and they have a gigs coming up in Toronto and Ohio. Give them a listen, I liked what I heard.

superamerican.bandcamp.com/;

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Music Reviews

Lake Street Dive

Lake Street Dive

Side Pony

Nonesuch

Lake Street Dive rocks! Now, people familiar with the band might be saying, “Hang on a second. LSD grooves, sure. Maybe even swings. But rocks?” It’s true! The foursome from Boston has been known for jazzy cabaret sounds in their twelve-year career. However, Side Pony, their new album on the Nonesuch label mixes in soul, disco, and rock influences to deliver the best overall pop record I have heard in a long time.

You never want bad things to happen to the people you love. Or do you? The album starts with “Godawful Things,” where the protagonist is thankful for the broken heart “that brought you right back to me.” In a brief 2:14, we learn both “How Good It Feels” to be alone, and to have someone. The title track is a light romp ode to a flirty hairstyle, and the flirting that comes with it. “Hell Yeah” is a rocking shout out to all of the clueless guys who don’t realize when a girl is flirting with them. Yes, they exist, and Lake Street Dive wants them to pay attention. Disco reigns supreme with the bouncy “Can’t Stop.” On its own, it is a fine song. However, the album transition is jarring, coming immediately after the mellow, jazzy, “Mistakes.” The album closes out with “Saving Up My Sinning,” a bluesy plea from a good girl who is ready to be bad with someone special.

You are going to hear a lot of people praise the lead singer, for a good reason. Rachael Price’s voice is the stuff that dreams are made of, no matter what Bogart said. He sultry smooth tones make you happy to hear bad news, and ecstatic to hear better news. I am hesitant to compare her to any other vocalists, because it might pigeonhole her. She deftly handles the multiple styles on the album, and makes it seem effortless. But the rest of the band is also as impressive. Mike Calabrese is the foundation of the rhythm section, with powerful drumming that morphs to fit the multiple styles present. Bridget Kearney’s upright bass playing stands out on several tracks, driving an infectious groove. And Mike “McDuck” Olson slays on both guitar and trumpet, making the band sound substantially larger than a four-piece. All four members share songwriting duties. Adding to their evolution from jazzy cabaret to eclectic fusion is new producer Dave Cobb, who recorded them in Nashville. In an effort to capture their essence, a majority of the tracks were initially recorded with all band members live in the studio, adding color to individual tracks later.

Overall, as I said, this is the best pop album I have heard in a long time. There is something here for just about everyone. Give Lake Street Dive a try. You will be hearing more from them.

www.lakestreetdive.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Lisa Said

Lisa Said (pronounced Sa’ yeed) is a Tennessee girl from an Egyptian family. She was exposed to old-time hill music, country, folk and rock growing up just like any other girl in the Volunteer state, and she also was exposed to the music of her family’s homeland. All of these influenced find their way into the music on Lisa’s first release, First Time, Long Time.

The EP opens with “Been Around”, an alt-country song spiced up with Middle Eastern-tinged percussion. “Been Around” is definitely my favorite track on the disc because it give a hint of a creative and unique voice. That’s not to say that the other four songs aren’t good. “Hard to Break” is a nice, loping break-up song that has a sly reference a Starland Vocal Band hit (how’s that for eclectic). I would like to hear Said take more chances. Too often the songs play it safe which leaves them sounding a bit too generic. I look forward to hearing what comes next. Lisa Said has skills and could prove to be a very interesting artist.

www.lisasaid.com