Hidden Driver, the opening track of LVL UP ' s third album and Sub Pop debut Return to Love, never stops moving. What starts with unassuming guitars and vocals adds new lines, depths, and intensity, until its unrestrained, triumphant finish. God is peeking, softly speaking, repeats the chorus, working through the relationship between spirituality and creative inspiration, and introducing a band that is always pus hing further. LVL UP -- guitarists Mike Caridi and Dave Benton, bassist Nick Corbo, and drummer Greg Rutkin -- is a true collaboration, a band that takes the stylistically distinct ideas of four members and brings them together into something new.
Caridi, Benton, and Corbo write and sing equally, bringing their work to the group to be fully realized, resulting in an album built on different perspectives but a common drive. We have very different inspirations across the board, says Benton, noting his own admiration for the writer and documentarian Astra Taylor, Corbo ' s interest in the mystical and the occult, and Caridi's attention to personal storytelling. The music itself grows from a shared melodic and experimental sensibility, as well as a nod to iconic influences like Neutral Milk Hotel and Mount Eerie. But each songwriter has a different vision every step of the way, and there isn't always alignment -- it shouldn't make sense, but in the end it does. LVL UP was formed in 2011 at SUNY Purchase as a recording project between Caridi, Benton, and their friend Ben Smith, with the original intention of releasing a split cassette with Corbo's then-solo material.
They instead released that album, Space Brothers , as one band, and Rutkin joined shortly afterwards for the group ' s first show. Smith left the band for personal reasons just before the release of second album Hoodwink'd , a joint release on Caridi and Benton's label Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound. DDW also put out records from other artists in the tight-knit community that launched the band. There's not really a town associated with the school, so there's no bar or club that you could go play in easily, says Corbo. But there was a student center on campus that was all student run. That was a gr eat place to play, and also take care of a lot of practical issues like a place to put your stuff and a place to practice weekly. It was almost like an incubator situation for us and a lot of other bands -- it gave us a little bit of experience and confidence, so it wasn't as scary when we decided to go on tour for the first time.
Also part of that university community was Return to Love's producer Mike Ditrio, who mixed LVL UP 's previous records and was basically a fifth member of the band, says Corbo. He played a huge role in developing the sound, without butting in too much. He also navigated our personal dynamic really nicely. That sound is marked by reverb, harmony and tape distortion, with a keen balance of pop and experimentation. From the fast yet flowing lines of Blur to the all-consuming wall of guitar in The Closing Door, each song pushes and pulls in compelling, unexpected ways. There's deliberation as well as spontaneity -- the latter developed with the help of a song-a-day project, which pushed Caridi and Corbo to write and record full songs in a single day.
Giuda is a five-piece band from Rome, Italy. Their mix of anthemic '70s glam hooks and the punchy delivery of early UK punk, has stunned listeners all across the globe.
Specifically the early 70's pre-punk, glitter days when music was all about monstrous riffs, bousterous attitudes, high energy experimentation and fun. Giuda take that same glammy, proto-punk foundation and fuse it with the grimy, tattered muck of bands like Third World War, Eddie And The Hot Rods and Cock Sparrer to create a timeless arsenal of glam injected, pub rock classics.
At one point during the making of our new record I said to my bandmates, "hey, you only get one chance to make a first Dream Syndicate album in 30 years once in your life." It's a strange statement but one that's hard to refute (unless we end up making one at some point in our late 80's--which, well, you never know).
But that was the attitude we brought to the project. Either the record was going to be great, everything we hoped it would be, or we would just shelve and write it off, both financially and publicly, as a bold experiment that didn't work out.
We felt the odds were in our favor. The 50+ shows we'd played since we reunited back in 2012 had been among the best the band ever played, the perfect mix of agile improvisation, wild abandon and rock solid grooves that had always been the band's hallmark. The only 21st century addition to the band, guitarist Jason Victor who had played with me for years as a member of my solo backing band the Miracle 3, silenced any doubters within minutes of every show. He was the perfect and undisputed heir to the Syndicate axe-slingers who had come before--raw, mercurial, knowing and skilled.
And I wrote a bunch of songs to take down to Montrose Studios in Richmond, Virginia, a place I had worked often in recent years and felt was the perfect immersive retreat where we could conduct our laboratory of past, present and future. It's the kind of studio where you can grab a guitar, sandwich, cup of coffee or beer from your temporary home and stroll just a handful of steps to the studio, ready to work at almost any hour of the day. The Dream Syndicate, after all, was never really about a ticking clock, never a slave to time or space.
The magic? It was there. It was there with almost as much ease and grace as the first rehearsal we had three years before in Madrid despite Mark Walton, Dennis Duck and I having not played together for several decades. In a little less than a week we recorded much more than we needed, guided as co-producer and joined on keyboards by our old pal Chris Cacavas (who was on hand as full-time chef as well--love that guy!)
It was obvious that this would become a record, would not be tucked away as a curio to ooze out over the decades as a bootleg or maybe even forgotten. This was for real. This was going to be the fifth album by the Dream Syndicate, albeit with a long gap since the fourth.
What was started in Richmond, ably recorded by Adrian Olsen (with assistance from his dad, Montrose Studio founder Bruce Olsen) was moved back north to be mixed at Water Music in Hoboken, New Jersey by the legendary John Agnello, who has produced, engineered and/or mixed six of my previous albums. He was the perfect choice, a kindred soul in history, savvy, humor and boundless enthusiasm. The cherry on top was the peerless mastering skills of Greg Calbi, another legend and another regular collaborator of mine.
Its been 23 years since the Toadies started playing rock music in Fort Worth, Texas, but even the band will admit that the road they've taken over that lengthy period of time has been anything but smooth.
Through lineup changes, shelved albums, member departures, band break-ups, one-off reunions and full-on reformations, the Toadies are an act that has experienced nearly everything -- except, perhaps, the freedom to grow as they choose.
On July 31, the Toadies will release their fifth full-length album -- a disc fittingly called Play.Rock.Music., because, perhaps for the first time in their career, the band feels capable of unapologetically doing just that.
After bursting onto the national scene with their breakthrough Rubberneck album, which begat their signature single "Possum Kingdom," the successful follow-up single "Away" and the immense fan favorite "Tyler," the Toadies returned to the studio in 1998 with the pressure of trying to match their first album's success. The result was a disc called Feeler, an album the band's then-label home, Insterscope Records, was supposed to release in 1998/99 but decided to shelve despite the band's protests. So it was back to the drawing board for the 2001-released Hell Below/Stars Above, an awkwardly timed sophomore album that enjoyed moderate success and almost universal critical acclaim but was ultimately doomed because of the seven-year wait it took to arrive.
Without question, it is: With the band's second successful stint now having lasted almost as long as the initial run, Play.Rock.Music. showcases a band in full stride, an outfit with renewed vigor and, perhaps most important, a group with a clear and confident understanding of itself.
The Toadies' long, slithering road to this fifth full-length may not have been pretty. But should it have been? Not at all.
The Toadies don't make pretty music. They make music that music that crawls under, into and through your skin. They make music that makes neck hairs stand on end. They make music that begs to be blasted at full volume -- with haunting lyrics that bear their battle scars proudly.
The Toadies do that masterfully on Play.Rock.Music. And, Lewis promises, they plan on doing that for many other records to come, too. Surrounding the release, they'll proudly showcase this new material this summer - first, while on tour with fellow '90s stalwarts Helmet and, later, at their fifth annual Dia De Los Toadies event in New Braunfels, Texas, on August 31 and September 1.
This, after all, is a band that's released just five studio LPs in 23 years. So you get the feeling that Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler and Blair won't mind waiting a little longer before writing the remaining chapters in their ever-undulating story.
Originating in New Orleans, Tank and The Bangas have all the qualities that relates them, to the city that birth them but a flair that separates them as well. Their performances range from being "One of the most energetic shows you'll ever see" to "A gospel tent in Mississippi". Rummaging through their sound like a thrift store hippie, you'll find the Bangas to provoke a musical reference of Rhythmic Soul and Spoken word among other genres such as Rock, Gospel, Funk, and Folk. Combining the various musical techniques among the Bangas, coupled with the instilling play on lyrics from the lead vocalist; Tank and The Bangas have quilted a unique sound that singles them as one of the most distinctive groups to come out of New Orleans. The group has graced the cover of one of New Orleans most recognized magazines, "OffBeat" and recently won band of the year at the New Orleans Big Easy Awards. The group has opened for acts such as LiAnne LaHavas, PJ Morton, Galactic, Big Freedia, The Revivalist, and The Soul Rebels. Most recently the band was titled as the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest winners.
Seun Kuti is the youngest son of legendary Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. At the age of nine, Seun expressed the wish to sing to his father. A short while later Seun started performing with his father and the band, until his father's untimely death in 1997. Seun, then only 14 years old, assumed the role as lead singer of Egypt 80.
Ever since, Seun has followed the political and social ethos of his father. Along the way, he began to add his own twist to the music, digging deep into various African traditions to reflect the continent's struggles and cultures. About three quarters of the current Egypt 80 line-up consists of musicians that not only played with Fela Kuti, but often were arrested and harassed alongside the founder of the Afrobeat movement.
Seun Kuti has toured the world and released several albums.
Since their formation, TAUK have shared stages with an impressive list of bands (including Widespread Panic, Umphrey's McGee, Lettuce, and Tim Reynolds &TR3), in addition to appearing at festivals like Electric Forest, Bonnaroo, and The Allman Brothers' Peach Music Festival. That rigorous touring schedule has gone a long way in strengthening their chemistry, according to Carter.
"We're doing 140 shows a year and we pretty much live with each other, so there's a healthy respect and trust and love happening there," he says. "We all have a common goal and an understanding that this is something we're compelled to do, and that's definitely brought us close together." It's also helped TAUK develop a reputation as a masterful live act: "TAUK is unstoppable," raved Live for Live Music. "If you haven't see them, dear God, go."
Now on the road again (with upcoming dates including a two-night stint at the Brooklyn Bowl and spots on the Hangtown Music Festival, North Coast Music Festival, and Catskill Chill Music Festival), TAUK also have plans to widen their output by composing scores for film and television. In the meantime, the band is focused on instilling their live show with the same kinetic energy and boundless passion that powered the making of Sir Nebula. "Growing up together as musicians and collectively going on this journey--that's what makes this experience really special," says Jalbert of TAUK's continued evolution. "It's like everything we've learned over the years has been funneled into this band, and now it's taking shape in a really exciting way. We all love what we're doing, and the band just feels like home."
For more than a decade, U.S. reggae artists have been building a foundation from the Hawaiian islands to the east coast. This new generation of reggae artists continues to reach new heights of success with album and ticket sales, as well as winning over fans worldwide. While most modern American reggae bands are rooted in the rock reggae style, there are a few U.S. artists championing the lineage of classic roots reggae traditions, and Los Angeles-based vintage reggae revivalists The Expanders are leading that charge, building their sound around classic 70's and early 80's style reggae, with three part vocal harmonies, conscious songwriting, and an indie-DIY spirit.
The five-piece band comprised of John Asher (Drums, Vocals), John Butcher (Guitar, Vocals), Roy Fishell (Organs), Chiquis Lozoya (Bass, Vocals), and Devin Morrison (Guitar, Vocals) have been making reggae fans and critics take note with their refreshing sound that references the "golden era" of reggae. Morrison and Butcher grew up listening to the record collection of famed reggae archivist Roger Steffens, and credit much of their love and knowledge to the accessibility and education of those experiences. Becoming friends with Steffens' son, they developed an obsession with exploring the deepest reaches of the genre.
The Expanders' new album Hustling Culture was released June 16, 2015, on indie tastemaker label Easy Star Records. Hustling Culture is the band's third studio album, but for the band members feels like their first proper album as a cohesive unit. Asher explains, "Our first album was a collection of music from good friends making a record together. Our second album was a great covers album, but Hustling Culture is the band coming into its own with our songwriting and musicianship." Morrison adds, "For this album we spent more time prepping and rehearsing, giving us more confidence in the recording studio. The result made the process more fun and enjoyable as we approached the songwriting in a more organized way and explored a wider range of topics than on the first album. Our combined efforts really shine through and all the musicians really stepped up and gave an inspired effort on the whole record." In addition to the core members, their extended family includes keyboardist Roger Rivas of The Aggrolites and Rivas Recordings. Rivas has been an integral part of The Expanders' recordings and helped maintain and produce the authentic sounds, which shine through on all the band's releases.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong brings end-of-the-world enthusiasm to their high-energy psychedelic funk. Their infectious electro-funk grooves, undeniable live energy and contagious smiles have their rabid fanbase “the Flock growing exponentially. Based out of Baltimore, MD, this animated quartet has been scorching up the country with their explosive performances and danceable peaks... and they're loving every minute of it