Alt Rock

Wild Pink's "A Billion Little Lights"

 The release of new music from the Wild Pink is cause for mellowed-out celebration and so today we're in luck because the band (but not that band) just yesterday released their third full-length LP (yes I realize that's redundant) and it's called A Billion Little Lights. From the first bars of "The Wind Was Like A Train" an auditory spell is cast by John Ross & Co. as a warm-hued synth melody is joined by chiming guitars and marching band snare and weeping steel guitar woven together like a comfy quilt and finally Ross himself as he gently intones a Zen koan about what sounds like a game of horseshoes played on a frozen lake and how he's got your back despite the seeming recklessness of this scenario with the song culminating in a string section flourish all clocking in at an economical 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

Listening to the opening track I can't help but think of Jason Lytle and Grandaddy during that group's heyday, or at least their gentler material, but Wild Pink provides an Americana spin on the indie aesthetic that sets them apart, and on the whole, A Billion Little Lights finds many beautiful wrinkles to explore in the veins of blissed out folk and alt-country and roots rock reveries all while contemplating subjects such as the inevitability of time's passage and the violent settlement of the West and social media oversharing and Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Florida retirement homes (Ross grew up in Central Florida before relocating to NYC years ago) with the latter two of these enumerated subjects acting as inspiration for the song below whose video features one of the stars of Schitt's Creek and also features backing vocals (just like "The Wind" above) from Julia Steiner who fronts the Chicago-based band Ratboys. (Jason Lee)

 

   

Oceanator "Things I Never Said" vinyl release

Quoting a Deli blogger from a few years back, Oceanator is "the Brooklyn-based grunge project of Elise Okusami, one bore in equal parts from the its [sic] crunch-heavy guitars as well as Okusami's no-holds barred lyricism." I'm opening with this quote since there's nothing to indicate the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has departed from her no-holds and crunch-heavy ways in the interim (but what do I know she could be working on a pirate-metal chiptune opera as we speak) and when it comes to Brooklyn-based grunge well there's still some of that around too--despite the best efforts of real estate developers who are attempting to entirely wall off Greenpoint with high-rise condos, clearly a plot to turn the neighborhood into a penal colony inspired by John Carpenter's Escape From New York so the joke's on the condo buyers and renters--and did you know Brooklyn actually invented grunge. Not the music. Actual grunge.

Oceanator released her debut full-length LP Things I Never Said last summer and reviewers at the time tended to dwell for understandable reasons on the album's recurring themes of cataclysm and apocalypse. Even though it was written and recorded well before the actual apocalypse arrived (the opening act of the apocalypse anyway) Okusami managed to channel the upcoming zeitgeist as demonstrated in the opening one-two crunchy-grungy punch of "Goodbye, Goodnight" and "A Crack In The World." But what's striking in listening to the album now is how little Okusami dwells on disaster itself, and how instead her lyrics so ably depict and dissect all the ways people react to disaster whether interpersonal or societal or both: Hiding away or diving straight into it. Looking to be alone or seeking human contact. Thinking too much or pursuing oblivion. Viewing disaster as an end point or a starting point for renewal. This album lays it all out and it's cheaper than therapy.

Much the same goes for the music too considering how Oceanator conjures an array of psychological mood state. Sure there's the aforementioned crunchy grunge but there's also the poppy bop of "Heartbeat", the new wave sheen of "I Would Find You" (new video alert!) and the classic girl group sway of "Walk With You" (RIP Mary Wilson) which back-to-back make up the middle portion of the album. Things I Never Said climaxes with the penultimate track "The Sky Is Falling" with its dramatic stop-start verses, soaring guitar breaks, and majestic outro that adds layers of additional guitar, keyboard, and ghostly background vocals to the mix before a final breakdown at the end. And finally the closer "Sunrise" is not at all ironically named but instead ends on a ray of hope: "I'm going outside today / I'm feeling like things might be okay." This album takes the listener on an actual journey.

 

And speaking of journeys if you journey over to Polyvinyl Records they've just re-released the album, now available on vinyl for the first time so you can show off your Hi-Fi system to your pet rock. And who wants plain ol' black vinyl (BOR-ing) so you get a choice between Orange Swirl vs. Funfetti aka "Clown Vomit" which suggests these records may be edible but I'd check with the manufacturer first. (Jason Lee)
 

   

Save Our Wicked Lady

Having lived all over this city and its vicinity for a good number of years (Jersey Cit-tay!) this blog writer finally ended up in the borough of Brooklyn in 2019 and felt a sense of unrestrained joy at being in the middle of a live music mecca and seeing tons of shows at tons of venues. And one of the most special of these venues has been Our Wicked Lady aka OWL.

Ever since the pandemic first hit, OWL done everything right. They’ve sold food and delivered beer and bottles of liquor and sold shirts and other merch and even held an online auction. They've supported their staff and their customers by opening OWL's rooftop bar with safety precautions in place, and supported live music by hosting and livestreaming audience-less shows for anyone to stream, with optional donations, and even made those shows viewable in real time from the rooftop.

But despite their efforts there's one major catch. New York's regulatory laws for bars and nightclubs are famously complex and capricious--even under the best of circumstances--harder to discern and follow than it is to figure out what exactly is going on with Andrew Cuomo’s nipple rings or clamps or piercings or pasties or breast milk pumps under his form fitting polo shirts. So no big surprise then that a worldwide pandemic and the subsequent chaotic and disorganized response has only made things that much more difficult for small business owners, bars and clubs in particular.


Regrettably but understandably, the proprietors of Our Wicked Lady have recently come to the conclusion that they must shut down for the time being, and raise significant funds to continue on in the future. So please, if you can, OWL is a crucial venue to this borough and its inhabitants and its music, and all those who enjoy its music, and they deserve your support if you’re someone who reads this blog and if you have the wherewithal which, sadly and understandably, many don’t. But if you do, you can donate to the Our Wicked Lady go.fund.me HERE or buy sexy OWL merchandise HERE and also read more about the people behind OWL and their plight in a recent Reckless Magazine feature HERE.

And now for the personal testimonial part. Two shows in particular at Our Wicked Lady are extra vivid in my mind at this moment even in my quarantine addled state. The first was a packed rooftop show in late summer 2019 as part of Jonathan Toubin’s Sunday Soul Scream series. It was an interesting bill to say the least with its diametrical extremes between the two featured acts but they worked perfectly together, kind of like one of those McDLT sandwiches. Appearing on stage first was L.A.’s Warm Drag with their cool vibez and programmed beats and textured noise and waves of fuzzed-out psych guitar complete with reverb-laden male-female vocalizing kind of like a darkwave Cramps. 

 

And then next they were followed by the King Khan and BBQ Show which was just straight up god damn rock ‘n’ roll (referencing the Cramps again) something like watching a combination religious tent revival and illicit basement burlesque show led by a man inhabited simultaneously by both Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis but with less sense of restraint than either. (!) Truly it was one of those shows where it feels like the crowd turns into one big amorphous organism all moving and shouting and singing and dancing and jostling together--fully achieving a sense of pure ecstatic rock ‘n’ roll communion that’s sadly lacking in these covidly times. 

The other show that stands out at Our Wicked Lady was one of the last shows I saw period in March 2020, an indoor show that had more of an indoor feel to it--like a private party between friends, and indeed there were many friends and fellow musicians there, but with a vibe where anyone could join in and be comfortable. I won’t go into musical details on this one since there were four acts but I’ll list them off--Kino Kimino (see below), Vanessa Silberman, Catty, and Janet LaBelle--and this was another one of those “something kinda magical happening here” shows.

Thinking back on this Kino Kimino et al. show highlights something that’s only been reinforced by witnessing the recent outpouring of love and concern around the plight of Our Wicked Lady. And that's how OWL in its four or five years of existence seems to have created and sustained an authentic community among its regulars, musicians, and employees (categories that easily overlap) which is not the kind of thing that can be easily replaced or replaced at all. Also, during the four or five months that I’ve been the blogger for this site, it’s become that much more apparent how much OWL is a central hub for Brooklyn’s music scene, and certainly for quite a few of the individual bands I’ve written about, some of which I’ve never even gotten to see live so I have my own selfish motives here.

And finally, for any aspiring filmmakers out there, here a little tip: there’s a Decline of Western Civilization Part IV just waiting to be made at OWL alongside other local venues (I’m sure Penelope Spheeris will license the franchise no problem) (LA is over) (jk) so we just need to get these venues around the last lap of this thing and get some bands up on stage like maybe OWL stalwarts like Ash Jesus and Bipolar and Spite FuXXX (see above) plus some others and this’ll be ready to happen. (Jason Lee)

   

Drug Couple & Moon Kissed live tonight

It's my working hypothesis that Becca and Miles are hands down the cutest drug-buddies-slash-couple since the dazed heydays of Juliana and Evan Lemonhead who once dueted on a song called "My Drug Buddy" about just this exact subject. And c'mon I mean being drug buddies with benefits, how much better can life possibly get? Well I'll tell ya how it does, you could also be in a cool indie band together--a cool indie band that could've very plausibly scored a gig at the Peach Pit if this were ah say 1995 meaning you could hang out together with Brandon & Kelly and Brenda & Dylan in cute couple nirvana much like the Flaming Lips and the Cramps and the Cardigans before them. 


In celebration of this winning trifecta of lovin' touchin' and squeezin' the previously mentioned Becca and Miles (have you forgotten the first paragraph already?! maybe slow down on those drugs bubby!) named their musical collaboration Drug Couple. Also not unlike Evan and Juliana before them and their various musical projects over the years, the Drug Couple couple have quite a knack for writing sugary sweet pop hooks backed up by musical textures that can veer from pleasantly jangly to pleasantly jagged at a moment's notice (case in point being the opening track from their 2020 EP called Choose Your Own Apocalypse ((which really is the best any of us can hope for these days)) with said track being called "2027" which is a year that can't get here soon enough). 

And dammit if Becca and Miles are not deceptively wholesome enough to take home to Mom and Dad should you choose to form a thruple with the couple and just in time for Valentine's Day you lucky dog. With all of this in mind and given that Drug Couple are pretty easy on the eyes I don't feel wrong in recommending that you watch them play a live set coming up here in a few hours at 8pm EST--streamed on one of the Deli's very favorite virtual concert outlets known as BABY TV--after which you will no doubt be moved to exclaim, and here I quote the esteemed Steve Sanders after having witnessed the aforementioned Flaming Lips play "She Don't Use Jelly" live at the Peach Pit: "You know, I've never been a big fans of alternative music but these guys rocked the house!"

And here's a big bonus and added incentive. Drug Couple will be sharing the stage with Moon Kissed, an also very cute thruple (in the musical sense that is) who are likewise highly skilled at combining big melodic pop hooks with rocking the f*ck out and if you don't believe me peep the song above which as far as I'm concerned should have been declared the "Song of the Summer" in 2019 when it came out and for every summer subsequently. Moon Kissed are also recent Deli Artists' of the Month so rest assured you should keep an eye out for what these ladies have coming up soon... (Jason Lee)


 

   

Anfang "Tunneller"

Garage Rock quartet Anfang has released their sophomore EP, "Tunneller". This is the group led by the powerful vocals of Andie Zaragoza, and the album follows up their 2019 debut "Anemone".

Zaragoza is accompanied by Christian Newman on bass/rhythm guitar, Mark Tonai on lead guitar and Nick Rissler on drums to create a sound that nostalgic for the peaks of Alt Rock and Grunge.