The Bee Gees on diazepam? Formed at Paul McCartney’s performing arts school, LIPA, this self-proclamation from Liverpool (via Norway/Ireland/Brazil) trio All We Are is a bit of a head scratcher if one only ever heard the barn burning single “Keep Me Alive”. Upon listening to the whole of the album, Stone (Domino Recordings), […]
Here we are on the fledgling wings of yet another year, thousands of bands vying for our attention in a sea of Soundcloud links, drop dates and nervously planned record release gigs. On days like this I’m glad to be a lowly consumer rather than an actual musician. While it makes me sound lazy (and talentless), I much prefer snuggling on the sofa with a cup of coffee and listening rather than wrangling up band members’ calendars and figuring out who is available on what date at X venue in X city. What a headache. Cast solely as the role of Listener, I have none of the drama I hear and see occurring regularly among some of my musician friends (and strangers alike). I can pick and choose the little nuggets of lovely I listen to rather than say, having to sit through a longwinded Skype yarn from my drummer who has to go to his kid’s 1st grade Noah’s Ark performance instead of playing a gig that’s been planned for ages. Because, you see, Abby’s Imaginary Band is made up of oldsters, like me, with decent taste, day jobs and offspring:
“HE’S THE MALE OSTRICH. I CAN’T MISS IT.”
What a fucking pain. Right. Happy New Year. Moving on.
I must admit that while I scour the internet, shops and magazines for new music, radio has proven itself an integral part in opening my ears to tunes I otherwise would have missed. Take new-to-me favorites Crushed Beaks and their airwave-friendly single ‘Overgrown’.
A few choice senders have been playing the grooves out of it, and for good reason. Hailing from SE London, Crushed Beaks have been tickling ears with several EPs since 2011. 2015, however, will play host to their full-length debut, Scatter. Armed with a mutual love of horror flicks, Alex Morris, Matthew Poile and newest recruit Scott Bowley present smart, hook-filled pop with just enough fuzz and grit to tempt the ears of staunch shoegazers and indiepop kids alike (hi).
Continue reading Twenty fifteen and Crushed Beaks →
It’s been a while.
My locale has changed. Much like when I made the move from DC to Munich 4 years ago, my head has been about as far from writing as it could possibly be. Attempts to weave a cozy expat nest for myself while simultaneously trying to blend into (a new) German society has proven a challenging preoccupation, seeming to wipe my brain free of all levels of creativity and thoughtful anecdotes. I am, however, cautiously happy to report that after nearly ½ a year, I’m finally feeling like a Berliner. So much so that I was able to dip my tour guide toes into the pool for the loveliest bloke from Bristol last weekend, successfully (more on that in later installments). As I’ve ambled my way around this city, this Berlin, as with all of the other places I have lived, the same control is beating in my head and heart as different variables insist upon crashing before my feet. As I stumble, alone or in the company of others, my records lift me up. While it means much more to me (and my sanity) than yours, it looks like I’m back. Take me or leave me.
The beauty of Berlin, as compared to, say, Munich (or even DC) is that I feel more comfortable in my own skin here than in any other city I have ever called home. There is an unkempt sexiness and invincibility lining the streets and silhouettes of everyone. Berlin is perfectly imperfect. Moreover, and most importantly in this the Knox Road arena, I have interminable options as far as live music is concerned. When I say everyone plays here…I mean everyone. And if they aren’t, they’re striving to. I have no desire to land myself completely in the poorhouse, so feverish list-making and gentle gig selecting is necessary, as I am, for the most part, jobless. That said, I manage. Thanks for asking.
Rambling on with specifics of gigs attended seems futile. East India Youth, Lymbyc Systym, This Will Destroy You and a laundry list of jangly greatness at Pop Fest Berlin, to name a few. Per my years gone by, there hasn’t been a lack of live music in my life. Thankfully. Most recently, however, I was able to catch the quintet who provided a delightful chapter to the soundtrack of my first Berlin summer: Alvvays.
Continue reading [Abby’s Road] Always and forever →
Ed Note: Abby’s Back!
At the only German gig in his 5 stop European mini-tour, Knox Road favorite Radical Face (Ben Cooper) was in typical form. Armed with his Jacksonville, Florida-based band, he delivered, per usual, a tome of stories plucked from a variety of his records released since 2007. It seemed to […]
Well. My journey in the south will soon be over. It’s officially official: in a couple short months my better half, our cat and I will be packing up and heading north. Berlin, we’re coming at you. I must admit that while I adore Munich, I am looking forward to a change of scenery and a more, well, ‘multi-culti’ atmosphere. As this decision was being made I realized that aside from going on about the gigs I’ve hit, I never really talked all that much about the local music scene here as I see it. Maybe I should while I’m still a citizen of this great city. So. Munich.
On the surface, as with many big-ticket tourist destinations, Bavaria, specifically Munich, is a region/city steeped in tradition. Pre-war, post-war, lederhosen and beer, the preconceived notions of an international community based on history’s timeline are about as real as the glossy travel brochures have them appear to be. There is a revered beauty and charm connected to the region that cannot be denied. That said, while many young people visit Oktoberfest annually in full-blown tracht and regalia, Munich is about as rich with progressive musicians and art as a city comes.
There really is no physical nucleus to the “scene” in Munich…one I’ve encountered, anyway. It is really just one giant amalgam of local venues + musicians/fans sprinkled about the city. It’s all pleasantly accessible. And, if you can believe it, it’s pretty radio-centric as well. With online access and specialized streaming tools it had (shamefully) been years since I dialed into an actual station; since my college radio days in the early-90s I guess. It was on holiday visiting my Bavarian in-laws some 5 years ago when I heard a song on the car stereo I assumed was some long-lost Sarah Records gem I missed somehow. Confused, I settled and checked the tracklist from the show and was floored to find that it was Wild Nothing hailing from the VA/Washington, DC area WHERE I WAS LIVING AT THE TIME. Appreciate the irony: I had to come to Munich to hear someone from my backyard. On the radio. Right.
It’s mothership being the Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), PULS Radio successfully caters to younger listeners and those who wish to hear a mindful mix of music running against the mainstream and a good dose of homegrown artists as well. Via their website one can become connected to a veritable cornucopia of music, pop-culture interviews, videos and events with a fingertip. The end of November brings the annual PULS Festival, the biggest indoor radio festival in Europe. Hosted in the classical music soundstages of the BR, it is an international evening of progressive and new live music. This year’s line-up included but was not limited to NYC’s Haerts, Copenhagen’s Reptile Youth and Munich’s own Aloa Input. The best of show this year happened to be a rap artist (!) from Augsburg. I give you Blindspot.
Continue reading [Abby’s Road] It’s not your Oma’s Bavaria →
“Despite the commerce involved, we hope you will consider this our gift to you.”
-Low’s Christmas liner notes.
Ahhh the holidays. For me it’s Christmas. Now while I lean toward the more secular, bedazzled version containing spangles, boughs of holly and sticky mugs of Glühwein rather than mangers and swaddling clothes (blatant honesty, folks), I understand that all encompassing ‘holiday time’ means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I have shamelessly chosen the Candy Cane Lane version and I’m happy with it.
Continue reading [Abby’s Road] Best wishes →
It’s been a while. Radical Face. What a lovely place to start. So…
Recently I had the pleasure of seeing the last gig of the Radical Face EU tour here in Munich. While the exquisite recorded versions of Ben Cooper’s songs machine ideas into an almost hand-hewn reality, the live versions are remarkable as well for a slew of other reasons. Taking into consideration Cooper is (mostly) a one-man operation when recording, one would assume that a live setting would be more than challenging. Naturally, variations in the natural fabric of the recorded songs occur and are welcomed. With the inclusion of a viola da gamba and bass on this tour, the *collection of Radical Face touring musicians (friends on and off the stage for years) were a marvel of good humor and song. And to be able to spin such beauty into this cover? It’s like voodoo.
Coinciding with the US/EU tours, late October/early November (depending upon where you call home) welcomed the release of Radical Face’s newest LP and 2nd installment of the Family Tree trilogy, The Branches. The aural equivalent of a tome of ancient photos and pages of handwritten tales of familial woes and joys, it is true to form and does what all of Cooper’s releases have done since Ghost way back in 2007. It evokes a sense of history and heartbreak, taking root at the base of one’s spine at first listen in an attempt to draw you into its biology. And succeeds.
Continue reading [Abby’s Road] Freundliche Stammbaum →
By the time this is published I’ll have crossed the bridge into my triumphant, 40th year. While I am wracked with thoughts like “how the hell did THIS happen?” and “…but I still look like I am 25…” (just agree with me), I also realize that I haven’t said thanks to the many folks I don’t have the luxury of seeing or speaking to everyday. You know…people I am only acquainted with virtually or via the airwaves. Individuals who, despite distance and some mystery, still make my life extraordinarily fantastic. Who? Well…here goes:
Firstly, to the songs that fill my otherwise quiet days with song and emotion: bless you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: records and their tunes are the most loyal friends I have. They are ready and willing to hang out at a split-second’s notice, and they don’t drink or eat much (read: more for me). Oink.
To my 6 readers: yes! Thanks for being my audience and giving me feedback enough to keep on going. Seriously, to be brutally honest? Audience or not, I find getting my ramblings down and out rather than clogging up my head rather meditative. That said, if my words can make one person go out and listen to a record for the first time or revisit something that has been collecting dust on the shelves for ages? Huzzah! Worth the time it took to scribble things down nine times over. Ten, even.
To the music-hungry youth of the world: GO ON! Keep blogging..keep listening..skip lunch and buy vinyl! You have the time to immerse yourself in all that’s new and gorgeous, music-wise. Keep teaching me. I love it and I still have a lot to learn. Just agree to listen to me a little. I’ve been around the block several times and, well, I know my shit. Mostly.
Continue reading [Abby’s Road] Danke schön, darlings… →
It is a gorgeous notion at its core, mirroring images of multi-culty folks, paws locked or arm and arm, hugging trees and drinking Cokes. This imagery, however, isn’t the stuff of reality if you pay society too much attention. Lucky for me, for as I run from the images of discord into the arms of what I know best, another interpretation of said word erases, if only for a few moments, the ugliness of the world around me. Escapism via music? You know it.
Touching on escape for a sec: I had my semi-annual mom-holiday visit last month (explaining away my Knox Road absence a little) which was, as it always is, lovely. We traveled together to Greece. Crete, specifically. As I’ve been there before I asked my mother where she’d like to visit. Matala was high on her list, its seaside cave living and sea air inspiring the likes of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan back in the day, two of her favorites. We chatted and planned our busier days from sunbeds alongside the Mediterranean. During the silent moments when I fretted about transportation around the island and getting from A to B painlessly, I couldn’t help but gravitate to some of the music she filled my childhood home with as solace. It seemed fitting. Kate and Anna McGarrigle and their simple harmonies proved quite meditative.
I suppose my love of close harmony all started when I was in junior high school, just before I really came in to my own musically as far as records and bands are concerned. When kids were deciding on sports or art or instruments, attempting to build a foundation of what mind-numbing guidance counselors referred to as “well-roundedness” (sigh), I settled on chorus and choir and succeeded in it competitively as an Alto II. I adored it. Bet you didn’t know that, right? I’m chock-full of surprises.
The beauty of the chorale or choir in this case was learning one voice part on my own. Perfecting it in its singularity. Only months later did voices from across the city/county/state came together for the first time. Prior to formal introductions and really meeting the other hundred or so voices in the room, upon a conductors cue the most amazing, unified 8-12 part harmony would resound. The hum of so many voices coming together in such a way lifts me up from behind my knees with gentle, invisible hands every time. For a few seconds I am weightless.
Continue reading [Abby’s Road] Harmony. →
Known by Washington, DC’s 9:30 Club show-goers far and wide, Josh Burdette, beloved manager and crew chief, has passed away.
A fixture at the 9:30 since 1997, if you didn’t KNOW him know him you knew of him: his pierced face, quiet strength and wall-like stature keeping things flowing and orderly inside and outside of the V St. […]