My DC flag tattoo is burning like the Death Eaters’ when Voldemort came back at the end of Goblet of Fire, which can only mean one thing…
Exclusively DC-area bands on the column today!
And what fortuitous timing, as DC Music Download’s Autumn Spectacular is this Saturday, featuring performances by DC acts Typefighter, The Sea Life, Teen Mom, and Lowercase Letters. Plus the whole thing benefits a charity called Guitars Not Guns, so spend your Saturday night enjoying DC music and supporting not guns.
- Two-Inch Astronaut – “Foulbrood”
The first single released from Two Inch Astronaut’s upcoming album, also named Foulbrood, was meant to win over people who might have been aware of the band a bit but weren’t hip enough to have delved into the group’s electric, complex (ultimately rewarding) past material. Basically, people like me.
And I’m sold.
Only a few months ago, when writing a poor man’s guide to In It Together Fest, I described them (lazily) by saying:
“They’re from the DC area and during their best songs, they’re trying to bring back a 90’s-esque, quirky but still aggressive rock sound. I didn’t need to know much more before I jumped on their bandwagon. My guess/hope is they’re an album away from making their more melodic, more math rock album and it will be awesome.”
And while “Foulbrood” does give credence to my prediction, I shortchanged them in my description. I went back and listened to their 2013 LP Bad Brothers and heard an album that was taking from a variety of influences (do I hear local stalwarts Dismemberment Plan and Q and Not U in there?) to make intentionally messy but structurally sound emotionally intelligent rock music. At times it’s kitschy, at times it’s harsh, at times it’s pretty. It may slag a bit with its deeper cuts, but it’s an album that showed a promise that “Foulbrood” seems to be fulfilling now. Besides, the fact that they wrote a song like “Slip Disco” as early in their career as they did should have been an obvious sign.
Expect more singles getting released in the next few weeks and given the fact that this band seems to be playing a show a weekend, at least a few chances to catch this new stuff live and in the flesh. Until then, for new fans and old, here are two tracks they did for a split EP with Grass Is Green that are pretty cool listens.
- Fellow Creatures – Shuka Shuka (DEMO)
Fellow Creatures were birthed from the ashes of deceased DC favorites Ugly Purple Sweater (meaning Fellow Creatures is comprised of 2 of the 5 members of Ugly Purple Sweater), but this very new DC act goes for something far groovier and dare I say sexier than Ugly Purple Sweater’s more rock-based material. You may be able hear the same kind of guitar tone on “Shukka Shukka” that you can hear on Ugly Purple Sweater’s western-esque “Central Detention Facility Blues” if you listen closely enough, but it seems like frontman Sam McCormally is really letting loose with this one. Hell, even the phrase “shukka shukka” is just kind of fun to say.
And maybe it’s just the imperfect demo recording, but there’s something wonderfully raw about this track that I can’t get enough of. Considering this is only the first thing released from Fellow Creatures, I am ecstatic at the thought of where Mr. McCormally and Will McKindley-Ward will go next.
BONUS: Great ending to the song.
- Dead Professional – “Bad Memory” and “Downtown at Sundown”
I wrote about Dead Professional back in February thanks to 9:30 Club’s Maggie Cannon, but after getting an advanced copy of his new EP Hard Hard Hard earlier this week, I wish I had never heard him at all.
Instead, I wish I could have stumbled upon him one night at DC9 or Velvet Lounge after a night of moderate drinking was catching up to me, only to ever so slowly come to the realization that I was in the presence of a phenomenal kind of rock act that my tipsy brain could have been convinced was time-warped from an era much cooler than this one — something one doesn’t come across a lot these days. I’d want to order one more drink and savor the mood of seeing a kind of rock-and-roll that has almost flickered out to the point of extinction. That is what I want.
However, while I have much more to say about DC’s answer to Tom Petty, I’m waiting until closer to November 18th when this EP gets released to unleash those very important thoughts onto the world. Until then enjoy the new single, “Bad Memory,” an older song, “Downtown at Sundown,” and live out my boozy music fantasies by catching him October 16th at Rock and Roll Hotel with Caveman.
- OriginAlias – Hylozoism EP
A few weeks back I got an email from one OriginAlias that went like this:
No one really gives a shit about an EP full of beats. Beats aren’t ‘sexy,’ no matter how awesome they are. Beats are only perceived to be as good as the rappers they have going over them.
And that’s unfair to the rappers.
A good rapper can take any beat and make it golden. ODB used a chirpy, repetitive middle-C piano note and created “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” But they deserve more and I want to help them.
I have Masters training in audio engineering, I understand the importance of organic instruments that may take more time to record but that sound better than Ableton sound (no matter what version you’ve upgraded to). I understand that when a rapper and a producer are able to feel unlimited in terms of their creative potential, then there are no limits to their potential creative output.
…With this EP, I want to give rappers a chance to try something new in hopes of giving them a chance to discover something bigger. As producer, I promise not to simply deliver a bunch four bar loops beats with a formulaic drop. So in that same spirit, I want rappers to promise to build a powerful narrative, unique delivery, and bring that spirit to life. This is going to be a challenge to work with. But that’s hip-hop. It’s about proving your talent. And all the old battles have been fought and won. It’s time to try something new.
I mean, what do you say to that?
It’s not often I write about instrumental tracks, much less songs that are intentionally just beats meant for someone else to work with — save for !llmind’s laud-worthy Beats for Kanye — meaning OriginAlias’ is at least right on his first point. Unfortunately, he’s pretty spot on about his other proclamations too. Rap, by its sheer logistical history, was birthed from going over or on top of pre-existing music, but as the genre evolves, storytelling through instrumentation not just lyrical content is becoming more and more coveted. And as a Master-trained audio engineer, this OriginAlias guy has the right kind of resume and pedigree to understand that.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how many hip-hop artists are going to be up to the challenge.
His EP, Hylozoism (something he says involves ‘the understanding that the universe and everything within it is One’), is an impressive display of technical production skill and unabashed creativity, that’s for sure, but he might be asking too tall an order from today’s hip-hop artists.
For one, with the exception of “From Away,” the album is fairly dark and more in line with the industrial sounds of “Gold Letters,” meaning an artist would have to match that mood and intensity and yeesh not everyone’s Yeezus. Secondly, working with these tracks means having an intimate understanding of them and their compositional structure; you can’t just go freestyling over it because out of nowhere the beat will drop out, dissolve, explode, or transition into something else entirely; sometimes that’s a pleasant surprise (3 minutes into the 2nd track), sometimes it makes your brain hurt. Working with this would mean having an intimate understanding of the craft of songwriting. And I just don’t know if hip-hop is ready for that kind of transition yet. Would I love to see some people try it? Of course. Do I think it’s going to happen? Probably not.
But just to spur some creative juices and it’s the end of the column and I’m feeling crazy, if anyone does feel inspired by something off the Hylozoism EP, send me a copy of the recording and I’m basically contractually obligated to post it on the column, right?
Bryce Taylor Rudow