Saturday, September 16, 2017

SOLID GOLD: "CONCRETE AND GOLD" FOO FIGHTERS

"CONCRETE AND GOLD"
FOO FIGHTERS

FOO FIGHTERS:
Dave Grohl: Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Guitars, Percussion
Taylor Hawkins: Drums, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals on "Sunday Rain"
Nate Mendel:  Bass Guitar
Pat Smear: Guitars
Chris Shiflett: Guitars
Remi Jaffe: Piano, Keyboards, Synthesizers

All music and lyrics by Foo Fighters

Produced by Greg Kurstin and Foo Fighters
Released September 15, 2017

I think this is the Foo Fighters album that I had always wished that they woud make. Well...just about..let me explain.

When we last left Foo Fighters at the time of their eighth album, "Sonic Highways" (released November 10, 2014), itself the companion/soundtrack to bandleader/songwriter/guitarist/drummer Dave Grohl's superlative HBO series of the same name, I praised the album as being the band's finest release due to there being not one wasted moment in a collection of songs that did indeed represent the band's songwriting at its leanest and tightest as well as showcasing a natural creative progression, beginning with the acoustic based half of the double album "In Your Honor" (released June 14, 2005), which was then followed by "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace" (released September 25, 2007), and culminating with Grohl's beautiful, brilliant documentary film and accompanying album for "Sound City" (released March 12, 2013), the album that indeed gave birth to "Sonic Highways."

All of that being said, and with no disrespect to Grohl and his bandmates for their consistently driven work ethic and hefty flag waving for American heavy rock and roll and for music itself overall, I did wish for Grohl to allow himself to perhaps take some more creative risks as he has more than earned the right to roll the dice on the massive good will that he has earned over the years. On this site, and within my posting for "Sonic Highways," I wrote the following words, which I then published on November 15, 2014:

"I would urge them to completely get outside (ha ha) of their own comfort zone and make an album unlike they have ever made before...

...Record to analog tape again certainly, even use Butch Vig again if you wish and definitely keep collaborating with your heroes and other musical figures. But that's it. Don't record in Grohl's home. Go out into the desert perhaps or any unfamiliar location and just let your freak flags fly. Create nine minute epics to crash alongside one minute punk rock thrashes and then zig-zag into pop songs and hard rock slammers. Do a full on country song. Do a song with no guitars at all. How about instrumentals or even songs that are built from completely different recordings a la Frank Zappa (i.e. take Grohl's guitars from one source and marry them with Hawkins' drums from a completely different recording regardless of tempo) and see what magic arrives. Dabble even further with vocal interplay and stacked harmonies. Allow Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett and Nate Mendel to also create tracks that showcase their respective talents like on Yes' "Fragile" (released January 4, 1972) or Living Colour's "Time's Up" (released August 20, 1990). Trade instruments and even lead vocals as well. Do anything that really shakes you up and then carve it all into a double album, a truly '70s era double album full of color and flash, vision and massive volume. Don't worry if the fans will "get it." Don't worry abut becoming Radiohead. Just be the Foo Fighters and go for it! We've been with you for 20 years, we'll still be here."

As much as I still stand by those words (and still wish the band would indeed make this sort of a album), "Concrete And Gold, " the ninth album from Foo Fighters is an album of such vibrancy, unabashed enthusiasm, creativity and studio driven imagination that it did feel and sound to match the very album that perhaps, I had always wished for them to make. It is a speaker shaking work, packed with sonic delights so fully that even your headphones would be unable to contain them all. The melodies feel as if they have all been shot from canons and the rock and roll fireworks completely live up to their description and then some. Foo Fighters' "Concrete And Gold" is the album that is ready made for the stadium and should be an ultimate blast to hear performed live and even so, it works on its own powerfully well as an artistic statement and testament that in the dwindling rock scene, the mountain that Dave Grohl and his bandmates have constructed is in no danger of falling into the sea. In fact, other mountains should graciously move to the sides because the Foos latest release needs more than enough ample room to swagger!!

"I don't want to be King
I just want to sing love songs
Pretend there's nothing wrong
You can sing along with me..."

Those are the opening lyrics to "T-Shirt," the inaugural track to "Concrete And Gold." More than serving as an invitation to the album itself, it is a statement of purpose that is as overtly political and philosophically probing as any other musical protest statement released this year from LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire to Living Colour, Father John Misty and Kendrick Lamar. With his plaintive, solo acoustic guitar and Grohl's raspy, tender vocal, he certainly is speaking for a nation painfully fatigued with the turbulence of the United States post-election season and current Trump era without ever mentioning names or events. At this time, we know the state of the world is terrifying with no less than uncertainties of potential nuclear war with North Korea looming dangerously overhead. And yet, Dave Grohl soothes and invites, just as much for himself as he achieves for all of us and then...let the s how begin!!!

"T-Shirt," in only less than 90 seconds of duration, EXPLODES into choirs of stacked harmony vocals and wide open skies of guitars. You can almost see the clouds parting, with massive beams of sunrays shining downwards, gracing the Earth in warmth and release before settling down back to Grohl and his quiet acoustic guitar before the floodgates seriously open.

"Run," the album's second track, is a dynamic, pummeling tour de force of rhythm and propulsive force that feels to only increase in velocity (hence the song's title) although in actuality, the band is superbly locked into a tight, fighting precision and the effect is positively breathless, ensuring that we are caught in a whirlwind of what sounds like a thrash metal carnival.

Instead of allowing us to settle down, we are encouraged to keep pace with the band as they launch into the speed racer/percolating drum propelling "Make It Right" (complete with uncredited album guest Justin Timberlake's background chorus of vocal "la la las") and even then, we find ourselves launched into the wild, swirling, downright monolithic "The Sky Is A Neighborhood," during which Grohl suggests his, and our, inner turbulence again as he sings, "Mind is a battlefield/All hope is gone/Trouble to the right and the left/Whose side you're on?"

Delving back into a more autobiographical window, Foo Fighters take us back to Dave Grohl's teen years and his feelings of alienation in an encroaching conservative landscape in the pile driving "La Dee Da," a track that finds the band exploring subtle synthetic textures that doubles with Nate Mendel's bass guitar, therefore deepening the impact.

By the album's midpoint, Foo Fighters are finally allowing us to catch our collective breaths with the more acoustic based "Dirty Water," a selection that features a full summer's wind of gorgeous backing vocals from Inara George of The Bird And The Bee. The aural surprises continue as this song is one that is in no hurry, breezily soaring for nearly three minutes before the full attack arrives and even then, keyboardist Remi Jeffe's synths doubles with Mendel's bass guitar, making the two sounds beautifully inseparable and again providing a bottom end that carries  more weight while also becoming hypnotic.

The more classic Foo Fighters sound returns triumphantly with the roar of the blinding white light of "Arrows," as power chords upon power chords scorch the Earth and spiral upwards splitting the sky with Grohl's battle cry of "Fire away!!!!!!" at the forefront. As the smoke clears and the dust settles, the band bring us to "Happy Ever After (Zero  Hour)," a song of Beatle-esque "White Album" pastoral quality that sits very well within the Foo aesthetic, as Grohl's excellent vocals suggest a gentle campfire with those elegant harmony vocals backing him lovingly.

Speaking of The Beatles, with the astounding "Sunday Rain," Foo Fighters welcome a special guest contributor in an audacious fashion: Sir Paul McCartney, who does not sing or contribute to the writing of the song but participates as the band's drummer!! Surrounding McCartney's expert shuffle groove, Grohl takes a back set vocally to allow drummer Taylor Hawkins to grace the microphone with his raspy soul that suggests 70's era Don Henley, making the six minute track sound sort of like an update of the Eagles' "Victim Of Love."

"Concrete And Gold" reaches its home stretch with the glorious melodic metal of "The Line," and the five and a half minute title track, a brooding, booming Pink Floyd-ian epic featuring the unlikely yet powerfully effective presence of Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman who contributes a reportedly 40 vocal track choir, further cementing the societal angst and struggle inherent within the words of hope that conclude the album. Grohl has mentioned that he wants this album to sort of serve as "Motorhead meets 'Sgt. Pepper'." Utilizing that analogy, then the title track is essentially the Foo Fighters' version of The Beatles' "A Day In The Life," with a massive power chord being struck and fading into infinity.

Foo Fighters' "Concrete And Gold" not only marks the perfect next step for the veteran band, it is a work that represents them at the finest and flashiest they have ever been. Now officially six members strong, the band is a well oiled machine to be true but not one that is happy to lazily rest upon its collective laurels, which they ore than have earned the right to do. Yet, what remains so endearing about Dave Grohl and his bandmates is you can always, without question, feel the strength behind their collective efforts. Nothing is ever phoned in. No song ever feels like a lazy re-write. On the contrary, they are a band that has consistently found ways to craft better songs, which then translate into making better albums with this one being the very best, and most addictive, they have made thus far.

Contributing to their growth, I deeply appreciate how they have taken whatever lessons learned from the previous album and apply them to the current one, therefore we can hear the progression and evolution of a band who has created a signature sound but always finds new ways to try and present that sound, gladly removing themselves from certain comfort zones in order to inspire creation. With "Concrete And Gold," the band made the head scratching decision to work with producer Greg Kurstin of The Bird and The Bee and who has worked the boards for the likes of Adele, Sia, Kelly Clarkson and will soon be heard working directly alongside Beck on his upcoming album--and of course, none of these artists remotely suggest the hard stadium rock and roll that is the Foo Fighters' trademark.

Yet, Dave Grohl remains a fearless and restlessly curious artist as he continues to utilize the sense of camaraderie and musical companionship that has now become a crucial element of the band's work since the "Sound City" documentary and soundtrack album, It may not sound right on paper but once seemingly disparate forces come together in the Foo Fighters' world, great things have the potential of happening, Working with Kurstin, on what is clearly their most produced album to date, has in actuality brought out the very best of the entire band as Grohl's pop sensibilities with songcraft are at their tightest while not sacrificing any rock shock and awe whatsoever. In fact. the band sounds even more bombastic and to an outstanding effect. The melodies, vocals and guitars all feel as if they are in surround sound while the drums and bottom end rumble, rattle, bam and boom with that Zeppelin-esque stomp and yet, almost every song on the album could be released as a hit single.

In fact, if this album reminded me of anything, it just feels more than fitting that Foo Fighters' "Concrete And Gold" is arriving upon the 30th anniversary of Def Leppard's titanic, towering album "Hysteria" (released August 3, 1987), a tremendously HUGE and glisteningly pristine sounding album that blended the world of glam rock, heavy metal and top 40 pop into a magical stew and scoring critical acclaim and stratospheric album sales. Whether Foo Fighters are able to achieve similar goals, especially as the music industry has changed so drastically over the past 30 years, remains to be seen. But, as the musical, artistic statement that it is, it is a perfect album for 2017 that showcases passionately that guitar driven rock and roll remains vibrantly alive and Foo Fighters are one of the best.

And still, it is very easy to take the band for granted as Grohl's easy going, everybody's best friend persona downplays his actual ferocious skill as well as those of his bandmates. In some ways, he is kind of like modern rock's version of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, because they do make it all look so easy and that Foo Fighters have been so dependable throughout the entirety of their 20 year plus career. A bad album has never been made. Their sound has never undergone any radical changes. Their quality control has remained consistent. All qualities that could make it easy to overlook or even ignore the strength of their craft and presentation, especially now as Grohl has peppered many of the tracks with political references that feel purposefully veiled, so to as not upset his populist, inclusive stance with any and all listeners.

But really read and listen closely, as Dave Grohl's social/political views can be easily inferred but they are all presented for each listener to read into them whatever they wish and then, Grohl is able to continue presenting himself as being just like any one of us in the audience as he is struggling with the same fears that we are in a vicious Trump world. As Grohl sings in "T-Shirt":

"There's one thing that I have learned
If it gets much better, it's only going to get worse
And you get what you deserve" 

I know what those words mean to me but they may not mean the same to you and it is in that certain ambiguity that saves the band from becoming politicized even when concerns about the state of the world rear their heads in their songs.
 
Yet, never fear as Foo Fighters are not preaching to us or creating musical diatribes. Like us, it feels as if  they are also just trying to figure everything out while pumping their fists in the air to great, electric rock and roll in the process. And as Grohl sings in the album's opening song, we can pump our fists in the air right alongside them in blissful unity.

Foo Fighters' "Concrete And Gold" is one of my favorite albums of 2017.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

WORDS FOR WALTER

WALTER BECKER
FEBRUARY 20, 1950-SEPTEMBER 3, 2017

Another one gone...

It was very early this morning, Sunday, September 3rd, when I first read the news on-line, deeply hoping that it was yet another internet hoax. But yes indeed, as reported on his personal website and eventually further confirmed through musical outlets, Walter Becker, co-founder, songwriter, guitarist, bassist, producer of Steely Dan, had passed away from as yet undisclosed circumstances. He was 67 years old. 

I have to admit that I had not intended to write a piece about Walter Becker but the musical spirits have dictated to me that this man just needed to have one more soul ready to honor him at this time. And why not, for this man's timeless and iconic contributions to music have indeed existed as a crucial piece of my musical being for much of the entirety of my life. To not pay homage would be insensitive, to say the least and dishonorable at most for Walter Becker truly deserves any and all good words that now arrive in tribute.

Truth be told, Steely Dan and the two core members of that band, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, remain wholly inscrutable and almost unknowable to this day for me. In many ways, Steely Dan proved itself to being the ultimate "faceless" band, musical units that really were not identifiable by the visages of its members and solely through the music and visual presentation as devised throughout their albums, bands like Pink Floyd, Supertramp, and certainly, a collective like The Alan Parsons Project. You never really knew what these figures looked like and their physical appearances never contributed to the impressions of the music. 

Steely Dan felt to be so uniquely anonymous, from the name of the band that suggested an actual person to its revolving cast of musicians from album to album. Who really knew that ALL of the music, concepts and the full presentation of Steely Dan honestly came down to the partnership between Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. Certainly Fagen's presence was more acknowledged as he was indeed the "face" of the band as he was the primary lead singer and frontman. Becker, by contrast, remained in the shadows, presumably where he rather have wished to exist, allowing the music to be in the spotlight rather than himself. But really, at this time, it feels more than fitting to shine that light for the quiet man, whose voluminous material has transcended musical genres, as well as demographics and generations upon generations. It cannot be overstated that Walter Becker was, and shall forever be, a musical giant who pushed the boundaries of what rock and roll music could actually be.  
Walter Becker & Donald Fagen

To my ears, Steely Dan especially felt to be a musical universe created unto itself, so much so, that it is still surprising to me hat they have found an eternal home within classic rock radio stations as their sound so often was based in pristinely slick jazz puzzles rather than raucous rock and roll fury. But maybe it was all in the delivery, the contradictions and juxtapositions of the material Becker and Fagen created together: cerebral music that was populated with stories, themes and characters that described life on the fringes with all manner of low-lifes, miscreants, troubled people and copious alcohol references at the core. Sentimentality and anything approaching the neighborhood of maudlin were strictly off limits as a dark cynicism and wicked sense of humor were at the forefront creating a perfect tension when combined with arcane chord progressions and superior musicianship. Don;t quite believe me? Just listen to the very nasty "Everyone's Gone To The Movies" and tell me that's not rock and roll! 

And yet, there existed a powerful warmth in all of the Steely Dan material, that inexplicable je ne sais quoi that just keep bringing you back to explore all over again and again and again. Just think about the quality and quantity of the songs Walter Becker co-created. "Here At The Western World,""Do It Again," "Bodhisattva," "Any Major Dude Will Tell You," "Deacon Blues," "Josie," "Kid Charlemagne," "My Old School," "Your Gold Teeth," "Hey Nineteen," the epic masterpiece that is "Aja" and so much, much more. Their catalog between 1972-1980 is as jaw dropping and staggering as it is undeniably brilliant and Walter Becker was at the center of every note of it.

I first became aware of Steely Dan during my childhood as songs like "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" and "Reelin' In The Years" (a song I happen to be listening to as I write and also, it is one of those rare songs that I can listen to ten times in a row and it always feels like the first time) populated Chicago's WLS-AM radio. To this day, I have no idea of what or whom those songs are necessarily about and to think, that element has become a Steely Dan key element: songs that are simultaneously crystal clear and maddeningly obtuse, a conundrum that ensures their overall mystery and interpretive quality.

By the time I had discovered FM radio (no static at all), I did become quite versed in the Steely Dan universe while not really knowing who they were at all. I loved every single song and I loved the overall sound, which became so startling unique and instantly identifiable. I remember vividly purchasing the soundtrack for the R rated science-fiction/soft-core animated film "Heavy Metal" (released July 1981), on which Donald Fagen contributed the track "True Companion." Now, at that time, I had no idea of who Fagen even was but the second I heard the song, I remember thinking to myself, "This sounds exactly like Steely Dan!" Now that is a testament to what Fagen created and cultivated with Walter Becker. 

Remember....WITH Walter Becker!!! Just because he remained further from the spotlight than Fagen, that cannot even begin to diminish his essential and irreplaceable contributions to the legacy of Steely Dan and to music itself. It is easy to not take notice or to disregard altogether due to his reticence. But please, as you and I listen and re-listen to Steely Dan, I wish for all of us to really honor the life and artistry of a man who had the ability to envision and execute an amalgamation of jazz, rock, R&B, pop, blues, as well as a supreme gift for language and satire into so seemingly effortlessly as well as defiantly and so lovingly, as we can hear in each and every superbly composed, performed and crafted song and album.

 

While there is not even one bad album in the entirety of the Steely Dan discography, I will never, ever tire of the early '70s haze of their debut "Can't Buy A Thrill" (released November 1972), the brilliant mid period releases "Katy Lied" (released March 1975) and "The Royal Scam" (released May 1976) and most certainly their masterpiece "Aja" (released September 23, 1977). Even so, Steely Dan is one of the rare musical outfits that created a legacy so timeless that one could potentially put on any song or album at any time whatsoever and it will feel absolutely perfect. 

And I am compelled to say it again, Walter Becker, despite his enigmatic nature, was at the forefront of it all and to honor him best is to not just listen but to acknowledge his superior gifts in creating and sharing this priceless catalog that has already withstood the test of time. 

To Walter Becker, I salute you for contributing so heavily to the musical soundtrack of my life for so much of my life. I could never thank you enough.
WALTER BECKER-REST IN POWER

SOUND AND VISION: "GLANCES" SKYLINE SOUNDS

"GLANCES"
SKYLINE SOUNDS

SKYLINE SOUNDS:
ZACH GUYETTE: Guitars, Keyboards, Synthesizers
ALYSSA NIEMIEC: Vocals, Bass Guitar
MIKE NIEMIEC: Guitars, Vocals
DAVE ZAKOS: Drums

Recorded and Edited by Zach Guyette and Mike Niemiec
Mixed by Zach Guyette
Mastered by Lucky Lacquers

Art/Graphic Design by Zach Guyette and Alyssa Niemiec

All music and lyrics by Skyline Sounds

Released June 10, 2017

For me, for now and for always, I will regard the album as a complete work of art.

Certainly, the work of art in question pertains to the music, lyrics and performances and production. But I feel the artful album experience as a whole extends itself from the music to the album cover artwork, to the gatefold, to the lyric sheets, to the liner notes and so on. Every conceivable element contained within the entirety of the package all contributes to and fully enhances whatever sense of alchemy occurred when the songwriters and musicians in question created music from seemingly out of the thin air. Just think of all of the work involved to create a complete artistic statement, let alone even just one song!And because of that, I really wished that albums were thought of as passionately as they were years ago.

Of course, for some of you, these feelings just sounds as if I am forever lost within a "Memories With Grandpa" moment, something purely generational as music is not experienced in the same way as it was in my youth because the entire listening experience has changed. And frankly, sadly, the value of music itself has been wholly decreased, where it all feels to be an accessory, a product, something to just obtain and nothing to feel, to explore, to envelop yourself inside of.

Maybe I am wrong. The world has changed and some of my younger friends truly have no need for the physical representation because they never really experienced it. But at least for me, when I think of my personal relationship with music throughout my life, so many of my favorite musical memories are housed inside periods where it was only me and the album and nothing else whatsoever.

My earliest musical memory involves my obsession with Side One of Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (released ), when I was around three or four years old. I remember just being mesmerized by all of the illustrations, band photos, and the colors of the lyrics as I listened to the songs and made literal images in my head. Or I think of those long summer afternoons pouring over my Beatles albums, diving into songs over and over and over again, wondering about instrumentation and swimming in their sounds. Or even the masterpiece that is Stevie Wonder's "Songs In The Key Of Life" (released ), that massive double album plus four song EP that also housed a lyric/liner note booklet so immense it could have been a full libretto! Those days and that enveloping intimacy with the listening experience served powerfully to shape my love of music to this day. And while I do not have the amount of ample time as I did during childhood, I still cherish any extended period I have where I am able to just listen, feel, imagine and dream.

I do know that I am not alone in these feelings. And I also know that it doesn't mean that what once was could never be again and there are indeed artists still creating the entire album experience from veterans such as Roger Waters for instance, to more recent and formidable musical figures like Father John Misty and Kendrick Lamar. But you know, I do know of a younger, hungrier band that has taken their love of the album as art seriously, richly and beautifully, so much so, that it is not only one of the finest albums I have heard this year, I's like to think that if given a real chance, they could help to usher this crucial appreciation back to the forefront

At this time, I am thrilled to turn your attention to the Madison, WI based band Skyline Sounds,a four piece collective made up of lead vocalist/bassist Alyssa Niemiec, guitarist/vocalist Mike Niemiec, guitarist/keyboardist Zach Guyette and drummer Dave Zakos.
Skyline Sounds first came to my attention early within 2016 and most notably, not through the channels that I had already forged with other Madison based bands like Post Social, Modern Mod, Trophy Dad, Slow Pulp and Dash Hounds. Skyline Sounds happened to be a name that kept appearing within my Facebook feed over and again as I would see announcements regarding their then upcoming live performances around town. The band's name intrigued me and on a whim, I found myself investigating two of their music videos and then, their band website and Bandcamp page, when I took the plunge and ordered their debut album entitled "Color" (released September 18, 2015).

The first thing that grabbed me about "Color" was indeed the album cover, which was even lovelier when the album arrived and I held it in my hands. As for the music itself, the listening experience was even lovelier as Skyline Sounds' calling card served up a sparkling collection of 12 expertly composed, sharply produced and exuberantly performed power pop songs that at times reminded me of Madison's now defunct Modern Mod, albeit a slightly older, more seasoned and mature version--kind of like that band's group of older brothers and sister faced with concerns that bridge the gap between the individualized, universal and existential.

With "Glances," the band's second full length release, that not only finds the quartet fully coming into their own, they have superbly raised their own bar so highly with a work that feels as if Skyline Sounds has rapturously re-introduced themselves as a better, stronger, tighter unit, eagerly ready to present their latest project to the world.

"Glances" opens with the dynamic "Dimensions," where a briefly solo Alyssa Niemiec is followed by a voluminous wash of sound in what is easily the very best opeing moments of any album that I have heard this year so far. "We'd better hope it's not a sign/if this is the new year, go back in time," Niemiec sings while backed by waves of guitars and crashing cymbals before spiraling into a harmonic whirlwind of gracefully shifting time signatures and a killer chorus where she emphatically ponders, "Is it still me?"

With lyrics of shape shifting perspectives, "Dimensions" is a song of powerful arrival, expertly setting the stage for the remainder of the album, which is indeed fraught with all manner of shifting perspectives, expectations, juxtapositions and other musical and thematic surprises. Returning to the song at hand, it feels more than fitting that this song was originally written and demoed on the New Year's Day of 2016. "Dimensions" feels like the combined and conflicting emotions when faced with a new year's prospects when there is nothing else but the miles ahead. Exciting or daunting, a time to be faced or feared, the future will happen whether we're ready or not and as "Glances" begins, Skyline Sounds stands at the precipice.

The album's momentum continues with significant punch and crunch as the propulsive and ironically titled "Stationary," fueled by the sharp attack of Dave Zakos' drums and the chugging guitars of Mike Niemiec and Zach Guyette, and the stunning "Glances Part I," starring Guyette's bouncy synth work, seemingly finds the band in a state of emotional and possibly existential crisis where one's next move is unknown if not inconceivable.

After the powerhouse of the albums' first three tracks, Skyline Sounds brings us into more nuanced and musically diverse territory. First, we reach the meditative, transitional piano instrumental "Alongside," which is then followed by the angst driven power pop of "Perspectives," a song thematically placed within interpersonal emotional confusion that also brilliantly houses a glowing sing-a-long chorus, before again taking us back to the pensive prism and swaying guitars of the instrumental interlude entitled "Standing Waves."

With a shrieking squall of feedback at the album's midpoint, Skyline Sounds roars through the speakers with the appropriately titled "In The Middle," which contains a riff so mammoth that even Billy Corgan would have wished he had thought of it first. In many ways, it feels as if "Glances" had been working itself up to this moment, one where the inherent tension in the songs builds to its boiling point where Alyssa Niemiec sings of allowing the lives of herself and to whomever she is singing to "collect with dust." Yet, instead of blasting apart in fury, the album phases itself into an extended existential dreamworld with the suite of "Lights" and "Ending And Starting," two hypnotically entrancing selections that evoke the sensation of drifting through time and space, whether outer or inner, and the effect elicits a darkly soothing calm that gracefully surrounds simultaneously epic and intimate themes of inter-connectivity .

Blending the cosmic and the concrete splendidly, Skyline Sounds takes us into the final stretches of "Glances" with several stunning tracks where the melodics burst from the speakers more vibrantly than before. Album standout "Time Staggers On," contains superbly delivered push-pull tension and release via whiplash time signature changes that fully augment an acing narrative that grows towards a lush romanticism--a romanticism that feels to fully arrive in the album's next selection.

"Don't Walk Away" is downright glorious, a musical counterpoint to everything that has arrived before. Since Alyssa Niemiec handles the lead vocals throughout the album, the tone and presentation of the songs all feel to arrive from her point of view, as if we are experiencing life, the universe and everything through her specialized, idiosyncratic lenses and through all of its shifting perspectives and emotions. With this track, Mike Niemiec lovingly takes over the lead vocals, as if we are gathering another voice in the universe, and a crucial one at that,  to finally take Alyssa's hand to deliver a powerfully urgent message.

"We'll reach the end organically
So don't try to force it preemptively
The standing waves make it seem 
The sound is much greater than the source of things

Don't run away
Breathe 
We'll make it
Don't run away
I'm just as scared as" 

What does it mean to feel as if you are truly alone in the universe, for better or for worse? Is it independence or isolation or variations of both (and even more) at hand? For so much of "Glances," Skyline Sounds has crafted concepts and musings that feel to be singular yet do reflect all of the existential questions we face simply because we are human beings and because we are alive and completely conscious of our impending mortality. In many ways, "Glances" is a communal experience about feeling alone and then, we arrive with "Don't Walk Away," so beautifully delivered and perfect sequenced within the album as a whole, that the track serves as a glistening lifeline, not solely from the voices of Mike Niemiec to Alyssa Niemiec but from the band to each and every one of us who has chosen to listen.

And still, there is even more as "Don't Walk Away" does not serve as a conclusion or a neatly wrapped bow over the proceedings. "Is It In Me?," the album's third instrumental, provides more interior sonic turbulence before arriving with the warm synth washes and interlocking guitar rhythms and the power pop bashing finale of "Glances Part II," which feels to serve as a resolution or even a benediction of not necessarily lesson fully learned but a spirit now greater informed.

"resonating frequencies
united in a symphony
all encompassing
all at once and what can be"

"Glances" fully concludes with what could be considered the album's coda or epilogue, the bouncy "Who'm I Talking To?," where both Alyssa and Mike Niemiec sing to and with each other with a palpable warmth that the experience of "Glances" is begging to be heard all over again the moment the final chords fade into the ether at album's end.

Skyline Sounds' "Glances" is a gloriously multi-layered release that feels designed to meet each individual listener as deeply as they wish to travel within the music and the presentation as a whole. It is a complete work, a full 42 minute musical universe that leaves no stones unturned yet just enough wiggle room for all listeners to devise their own interpretations and meanings to the material.

In a way, the album often feels like one long song that just happens to be divided up into a series of movements as "Glances" showcases a series of connections, echoes, contradictions and juxtapositions as lyrics and musical themes and passages playfully yet intricately call back to each other throughout its entirety, enhancing the meaning(s) each time--a quality that showcases unquestionably that within Skyline Sounds, and with only their second full length release, we are dealing with seriously talented songwriters, musicians and producers.

The sonic quality of the album is pristine as it carries a sheen glossy enough to stand confidently next to a Pink Floyd or Fleetwood Mac album, but it is also just ragged enough to suggest that Skyline Sounds is that emphatic band down the street hammering away in the garage. Alyssa Niemiec, as songwriter/bassist and lead singer, strikes a warmly serious and confidant presence as she takes us through a world of difficult existential themes and quandaries through her superb sense of invitation rather than anything combative. Mike Niemiec and Zach Guyette make for a formidable guitar pairing as their six string heroics shimmer, glimmer, chime and gleam powerfully and as a great addition, Guyette's keyboard work strikes a glistening balance between New Wave minimalism and lush orchestration, always adding precisely the right touch without dominating the rock and roll energy. Dave Zakos' terrific drums add a bustling kick to the songs, pushing and propelling with an infectious snap, inspiring you to get onto your feet or to grab a pair of drumstick, either real or imagined.

And even with all of this wonderful material to sink into, Skyline Sounds has crafted an album that I wonder was in direct defiance to the current music listening rends and short attention spans as their work does indeed represent the classic album as art experience of the very sort that is just not the norm in 2017.

The attention to the visual details in their band aesthetic has not gone unnoticed by myself, and I do wish to bring it to your attention at this time as the band has certainly spent copious amounts of time figuring out how to cultivate an additional element to their work. With "Glances," Skyline Sounds has also delivered a visual presentation within the packaging that is simply exquisite and fully in conceptual line with the musical and lyrical themes of the songs.

The cover, which you can see at the top of this posting, sports an image of a mountain, which in and of itself, could represent whatever you wish: something powerful, insurmountable, a challenge to face down, an obstacle to avoid as well as any other metaphorical leanings. The CD booklet allows you to either utilize the front or back as its primary image and then, the band has also included two color hued inserts that alter the booklet's image. So, all told, you have seven different ways to work with the cover of the album!

Inside the booklet, we delve deeper as Zach Guyette has designed a series of geometric shapes and a code key all representing states from "all dimensions," "energy," "the unknown" and others which can be utilized with the songs' lyrics to help decipher meanings and even new perspectives. All of these qualities are never presented as gimmicks but as tools to ensure that "Glances" can grow, change and develop into a work that is as immersive as any listener wishes for it to become. And not only did I appreciate the fun of this quality but the attention and devotion the full band possessed with the idea of making something for the 21st century that largely extended itself from just being an anonymous digital file to download.

For me, the experience of "Glances" just took me back to those days when, again, the listening was the event, where every element contributed to the full artistry at hand and on display. Skyline Sounds is a young band that is indeed hungry, passionate about their craft and true artists of the first degree who treat the song as the brightest shining star and work tirelessly to augmenting that brightness with their unquestionable skills and talents.

I am gently urging you to give this band's work a serious try and to even make that investment and purchase a physical copy of the album. Because really, shouldn't one of the best albums of 2017 be treated as a work of fine art?

SKYLINE SOUNDS
https://skylinesounds.bandcamp.com/

http://www.skylinesoundsmusic.com/


Saturday, September 2, 2017

WSPC'S SESSION NOTES SEPTEMBER 2017

FROM THE DJ'S STUDIO DESK:

I have to begin with an apology for you.

Life certainly reared its most persistent head throughout the month of August as I essentially had no new significant postings to bring to you whatsoever. Now, if you have been following my on-line activities, you already know of Synesthesia's sister blogsite Savage Cinema, where I write film reviews. For the month of August, Savage Cinema kept pace as four reviews were written and posted whereas, nothing new was completed for Synesthesia, despite the playlists and an abbreviated version of the monthly "Savage Jukebox" feature.

To explain for you, when I write a film review, the process (generally) goes much faster and if I have ample time and opportunity, I am able to write and post a new review within a day or two from seeing the film in question. Essentially, I need to strike when the proverbial iron is hot and I really hate the times when, due to other responsibilities, I spend a week writing about one film. For music and my activities on Synesthesia

With Synesthesia, the process is much more laborious for me as I do still find it more difficult to write about music as compared to film. I feel the need to listen repeatedly. To perform on-line searches for lyrics if there are no lyrics included in the CD package. I guess what I am saying is that there is much more to my process when I am writing about music--a process during which I am often finding my way through the album all over again as I am writing about it. To make matters more difficult, I do most of my listening in my car as I am driving around and the very best ideas and thoughts I have often arrive then and there, of course, making it impossible for me to write them down to retain them fully, and forcing me to remember whatever little bits and pieces that I am able considerably later.

Also, if I am listening to quite a lot of newly released music, there is just no way my fingers can keep up with how much my ears are taking in. So, that is why I haven't written about many of my favorite albums of the year, including ones by Kendrick Lamar, Father John Misty as well as some terrific new releases from local Madison bands Trophy Dad and Kainalu.

Taking all of those elements in to consideration plus many life responsibilities taking precedent last month, essentially ALL music writings had to take a backseat, something I hope to remedy this month as even more major new music will be released (I am currently listening to the new LCD Soundsystem actually). As of this writing, I am within the final third of a long in progress posting I have been writing about the Madison band Skyline Sounds' latest album release and when I am finished with that one, I was thinking of doing a variation of the "Savage Jukebox" feature where maybe I can re-visit some of those albums I haven't written about plus some new ones and then, there will be some legitimate content for you to peruse.

Life is still extremely busy but I think something new w ill make its way to you in the very near future. So...until then, MUCH music is about to head our way. Keep listening and always remember to...PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

WSPC PLAYLIST AUGUST 2017

August 1, 2017
"Video Killed The Radio Star" performed by The Buggles
"Time Heals" performed by Todd Rundgren

"Little Lamb Dragonfly" performed by Paul McCartney and Wings
"Take It All" performed by Badfinger
"Walk A Thin Line" performed by Fleetwood Mac
"Busy Doin' Nothin'" performed by The Beach Boys
"The Night The Carousel Burnt Down" performed by Todd Rundgren

August 3, 2017
"Older Than I Am" performed by Kainalu-WSPC PREMIERE
"In The Middle" performed by Skyline Sounds-WSPC PREMIERE
"Rocket" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Eastern Bloc" performed by Thomas Dolby
"Pleasure Dome" performed by Van Halen
"I Wanna Know If It's Good To You" performed by Funkadelic

August 4, 2017
"Bam" performed by Jay-Z with Damien Marley-WSPC PREMIERE
"Beat Them All" performed by Public Enemy-WSPC PREMIERE
"Electric Blue" performed by Arcade Fire-WSPC PREMIERE
"Stay Happy" performed by Broken Social Scene-WSPC PREMIERE
"Holding On" performed by The War On Drugs-WSPC PREMIERE

August 5, 2017
"Yes I'm Changing" performed by Tame Impala
"Somebody Up There Likes Me" performed by David Bowie
"Only People" performed by John Lennon
"The Golden Calf" performed by Prefab Sprout
"Woman On A Train" performed by The Fixx

August 6, 2017
"If You Were Here" performed by The Thompson Twins

"Space Age Love Song" performed by A Flock Of Seagulls
"Save It For Later" performed by The English Beat
"The Queen Of Ur And The King Of Um" performed by Wire
"Strange Currencies" performed by R.E.M.

August 7, 2017
"When Am I Going To Mae A Living?" performed by Sade
"Burning Bright" performed by General Public
"Par Avion" performed by Mike and the Mechanics
"Hero Takes A Fall" performed by The Bangles
"Wait" performed by Wang Chung
"Don't Change" performed by INXS

August 8, 2017
"What I See" performed by Planet P. Project
"Picture That" performed by Roger Waters-WSPC PREMIERE
"This World Over" performed by XTC

"Chained To The Rhythm" performed by Nataly Dawn & Sarah Clanton-WSPC PREMIERE

August 9, 2017
"Adios" performed by Glen Campbell-WSPC PREMIERE
"I Know What I Know" performed by The Monkees
"Reconsider Me" performed by Warren Zevon
"Dust In The Wind" performed by Todd Rundgren
"Wichita Lineman" performed by R.E.M.

"Maybe We Be Dreamin'" performed by Thompson Springs-WSPC PREMIERE

August 10, 2017
"Under Cover" performed by Ducktails

"Coming Your Way' performed by Fleetwood Mac
"The Evil Has Landed" performed by Queens Of The Stone Age-WSPC PREMIERE
"We're On Te Road Again" performed by Ringo Starr-WSPC PREMIERE

'The Less I Know The Better" performed by Nataly Dawn and Sarah Clanton-WSPC PREMIERE

August 11, 2017
"Moonlight' performed by Jay-Z-WSPC PREMIERE
"The Message" performed by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
"Paid In Full" performed by Eric B & Rakim
"Star/Pointro" performed by The Roots
"Umi Says" performed by Mos Def
"Get By" performed by Talib Kweli

August 13, 2017
"What's Going On" performed by Marvin Gaye
"Love's In Need Of Love Today" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution" performed by Father John Misty-WSPC PREMIERE
"People Are People" (live) performed by A Perfect Circle
"Imagine" performed by John Lennon

August 14, 2017
"All You Fascists Bound To Lose' performed by Woody Guthrie
"Dublin" performed by Prefab Sprout
"Home Away From Home" performed by The Roches

"It's No Game (part 1)" performed by David Bowie
"Spellbound" performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees
"Humdrum And Humble" performed by Tears For Fears
"America Is Waiting" performed by David Byrne & Brian Eno
"A Boy Named Sue" (live at San Quentin) performed by Johnny Cash

August 15, 2017
"More Trouble Every Day" performed by Frank Zappa

"Impeach The President" performed by The Honey Drippers
"The Other Side Of The Mountain" performed by Planet P. Project
"Everybody Is Going To Make It This Time" performed by Funkadelic
"Fear" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"Rise" performed by Todd Rundgren

"I Want You (She's So Heavy)" performed by The Bee Gees, Dianne Steinberg, Paul Nocholas, Stargard and Donald Pleasence

August 16, 2017
"Troubled Times" performed by Green Day
"We Got To Have Peace" performed by Curtis Mayfield
"Ku Klux Klan" performed by Steel Pulse
"Two Little Hitlers" performed by Elvis Costello and the Attractions
"Lunatic Fringe" performed by Red Ryder

August 17, 2017
"Ticket To The Moon" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
"Balloon" performed by Wendy & Lisa
"Hang On In There" performed by John Legend and The Roots
"Free" performed by Prince
"Rocket Man" performed by Elton John

August 18, 2017
"Chicago" performed by Frank Sinatra
"Chicago" (unreleased) performed by Billy Corgan
"Pulaski At Night" performed by Andrew Bird
"Chicago" performed by The Doobie Brothers
"Living In Chicago" performed by The Bee Gees

August 19, 2017
"Mexican Fender" performed by Weezer-WSPC PREMIERE
"The May Queen" performed by Robert Plant-WSPC PREMIERE

August 20, 2017
"This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" performed by Talking Heads

Buddy Rich & Jerry Lewis drum battle
"Stare Into The Sun" performed by Imperial Drag
"Heart Of The Sunrise" performed by Yes
"Sour Girl" performed by Sarah Clanton

August 21, 2017
"Soncheynne" performed by P.M. Dawn
"Staring At The Sun" performed by Wendy & Lisa
"One Look Up" performed by The Fixx
"Blinded By The Light" performed by Bruce Springsteen
"Brain Damage/Eclipse" performed by Pink Floyd

"Long Shadow" performed by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
"The Celestials" (live) performed by The Smashing Pumpkins

August 22, 2017
"Aeronaut" performed by Billy Corgan-WSPC PREMIERE
"Spark" performed by Tori Amos
"Ticket To The World" performed by Roland Orzabal
"Mysterious Power" performed by Vernon Reid
"Down In A Hole" performed by Alice In Chains

August 23, 2017
"The Sky Is A Neighborhood" performed by Foo Fighters-WSPC PREMIERE

"Phone Call From The Moon" performed by Adrian Belew
"Endless Shore" performed by Melody's Echo Chamber

August 24, 2017
"Dear Life" performed by Beck-WSPC PREMIERE
"Flashing Lights" performed by Kanye West
"Walk On By" performed by Isaac Hayes
"The Cisco Kid" performed by War
"Map To The Stars" performed by Ducktails-WSPC PREMIERE

August 25, 2017
"So What" performed by Miles Davis

"One For Daddy-O" performed by Cannonball Adderley
"Passin' Thru'" performed by Charles Lloyd New Quintet-WSPC PREMIERE
"Caravan" performed by Thelonious Monk
"Summertime" performed by Miles Davis

August 26, 2017
"Politik" performed by Coldplay
"Texas Flood" (live 1985) performed by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
"Blak And Blu" performed by Gary Clark Jr.
"Put Your Money On Me" performed by Arcade Fire-WSPC PREMIERE
"tonite" performed by LCD Soundsystem-WSPC PREMIERE

August 27, 2017
"Freewill" performed by Rush

"The Hissing Of Summer Lawns" performed by Joni Mitchell
"The Door Into Summer" performed by The Monkees
"The Sky Is Fallin'" performed by Queens Of The Stone Age
"Long Hot Summer" (demo April 17, 1968) performed by Jimi Hendrix
"Gone" performed by The Amazing

August 28, 2017
"Sign O' The Times" (live/film version 1987) performed by Prince

"Room In Here' (live SXSW 2016) performed by Anderon. Paak and The Free Nationals
"Let's Go Dancing" performed by Kool and the Gang
"Rhythm Of Life' performed by Hugh Harris
"Lords Of The New Church" performed by Tasmin Archer
"Kind Words (And A Real Good Heart)" performed by Joan Armatrading

August 29, 2017
"Day I Die" performed by The National-WSPC PREMIERE
"Mr. X" performed by Ultravox
"Metro" performed by Berlin

August 30, 2017
"The Blackout" performed by U2-WSPC PREMIERE

"It's Over" performed by Badfinger
"You Do" performed by Aimee Mann
"Survival" performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
"Fade Away" performed by Todd Rundgren
"Love Underneath My Thumb" performed by Wild Nothing
"Funk Pop A Roll" performed by XTC

August 31, 2017
"Vivaldi's The Four Seasons: Summer" conducted and performed by Itzhak Perlman
"Hourglass" performed by Squeeze
"Perfect World" performed by Huey Lewis and the News
"We Got The Beat" performed by The Go-Go's
"Vodka" performed by Moe Berg

SAVAGE RADIO PLAYLISTS AUGUST 2017: WVMO 98.7 FM-THE VOICE OF MONONA

SAVAGE RADIO: "AN EVENING WITH KAINALU"-AUGUST 2, 2017
1. "Welcome To The Blume Lagoon"
2. "Love Nebula"
3. "Older Than I Am"
4. "Wasting Away"
SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #86: "AN EVENING WITH THOMPSON SPRINGS"-AUGUST 9, 2017
1. "Maybe We Be Dreaming"
2. "Sun And Gun"
3. "Dandelion Queen"
4. "Overloadin' My Heart"
5. "Graffiti Rose"

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #87: AUGUST 16, 2017
1. "Fight The Youth" performed by Fishbone
2. "Bombs Away" performed by The Police
3. "Night Rally" performed by Elvis Costello and the Attractions
4. "Stick It Out" performed by Rush
5. "Survivalism" performed by Nine Inch Nails
6. "No Thugs In Our House" performed by XTC
7. "Join The Parade" performed by Planet P. Project
8. "Mina Loy (M.O.H.)" performed by Billy Corgan
9. "People Are People" performed by A Perfect Circle
10."Smell The Roses" performed by Roger Waters
11."Wall" performed by Living Colour

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #88-AUGUST 23, 2017
1. "Overture: Mountaintop and Sunrise/Communion With The Sun" performed by Utopia
2. "Darkness/ Earth In Search Of A Sun" performed by Jan Hammer
3. "Into The Sun" performed by Sean Lennon with Yuka Honda
4. "Markes Lag Stilla" performed by Dungen
5. "See The Sun" performed by James Iha
6. "Mad Man Moon" performed by Genesis
7. "Violet Rays" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
8. "Sisters Of The Moon" performed by Fleetwood Mac
9. "The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice" performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #89: "GOODBYE SUMMER"-AUGUST 30, 2017
1. "The Back Seat Of My Car" performed by Paul & Linda McCartney
2. "Mystery Title" performed by Robert Plant
3. "Gonna Get Ya" performed by Pete Townshend
4. "All Stood Still" performed by Ultravox
5. "Endless Bummer" performed by Weezer
6. "Fractured Mirror" performed by Ace Frehley
7. "All Apologies" performed by Nirvana
8. "The Remains Of Rock And Roll" performed by Broken Bells
9. "Harmony" performed by Elton John

NOW PLAYING IN THE SAVAGE JUKEBOX AUGUST 2017

"STRAIGHT UP"
BADFINGER
Released December 13, 1971
"T-REX"
T-REX
Released December 18, 1970
"ST. CATHERINE"
DUCKTAILS
Released July 24, 2015
"SKIT I ALLT"
DUNGEN
Released September 14, 2010
"WEEZER"
WEEZER
Released April 1, 2016