Try the Pie at Collapse Board

Oh, god. Help me. I keep thinking about him lately and I don’t even know why.

OK. Calm down. No, don’t calm down. He didn’t come in tonight, Karl told me, because he was admitted to the hospital today. I tried not to ask too many times – Karl had to run glasses to the bars, anyway – but when he came into the dishroom and I inquired again, he read me one text from him. Something is bleeding and I don’t know where, he said.

I’m at home now, in bed, writing this into you…but my mind drifts off, over and over, spinning like the ceiling fan above me. Sometimes I wish I could just tell someone, anyone, about this feeling – how I shudder when he comes near, not of fright but sheer joy; how I ache when his knee gives out; how I loathe the loitering crowds that he loathes to serve. If only I could sing like Bean Tupou, maybe it’d be easier. Just sing, to only the desk lamp and the laptop, with just a guitar or a ukulele and maybe a little drum or something and share the CD-Rs only with your closest friends. She’s already stolen the line I’d say:

To be quite honest with you, I’ve had this feeling all along, and it’s been eating at my bones / and you probably think it’s strange that I’ve waited all this time to tell you so

See, that’s why I hate this furtive journal-writing. Cos right now, I don’t know if, if – the urge to find this hospital that he’s in, the pity that washed over me when he told me about the seizure that threw him down the stairs, the happiness that bounces in me whenever he’s happy and cracking jokes – if that’s all what love entails. But Tupou can share her feeling in a song, and she never has to explain who she’s referring to, and I could tell her, if ever I saw her, that I’ve felt that way about someone, too, and it’s not strange at all. Secrets eat at my bones, and I can’t let them out, either.

I guess that’s my other obsession lately. I can’t stop listening to Try the Pie. Sometimes I try to envision that apartment, especially in the quiet where you hear the cars rushing underneath. But mostly, I listen to her proclaim the little nagging thoughts that always haunt me – like when she laments how her legs move away from the one that loves her, and how “all my hours are spent thinking about how all my hours are a waste”.

And the bravest words, the admission tucked in the warm curl of “Alot of Things” – “Sometimes I find it so hard to be just your friend”. (Why can’t I say this out loud?)

The songs nestle in my head, and they nurture these thoughts, these concerns I shouldn’t have. Maybe I’m OK. Maybe he’s OK. Maybe I’ve never desired love until sweet folk like Tupou describe it in such hushed, holy terms, with such precision and care that you could rest your head on its shoulder.

All I can do, diary, is wait.

Tupou’s ad hoc solo endeavor Rest is out now on HHBTM Records. Order it here.



Primitives at Cryptic Rock

The Primitives catapulted to commercial popularity after the inclusion of their song “Crash” in the soundtrack of the 1994 movie Dumb & Dumber, which starred Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. However, in the New Wave/Indie Pop music scene, the English band has been active as early as the mid-’80s.

Formed in 1984, in Coventry, England, The Primitives currently consist of original founding member Paul Court (guitar/vocal) and longtime members Tracy Tracy (vocal) and Tig Williams (drums) with new member Raph Moore (bass). Style-wise, their music runs in parallel with the sunny vibrancy of ’50s- and ’60s-originating female-fronted Pop groups like The Chordettes (“Mr. Sandman”), The Crystals (“Then He Kissed Me”), and The Ronettes (“Be My Baby”) but with the updated relevancy of the kind of New Wave that emerged in the 1980s. The Primitives’ songs may be best played alongside those of batchmates like The Shop Assistants (“I Don’t Want to Be Friends with You”), Talulah Gosh (“Steaming Train”), Transvision Vamp (“Tell That Girl to Shut Up”), The Darling Buds (“Hit the Ground”), and Voice of the Beehive (“I Say Nothing”). From the recent and current scene, one may even throw in some Camera Obscura (“I Don’t Do Crowds”), The Pipettes (“Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me”), The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (“Young Adult Friction”), Best Coast (“Let’s Go Home”), and PINS (“Young Girls”) and one gets a better sonic picture of the genre.

During their prime, The Primitives got to release three albums—Lovely (1988),Pure (1989), and Galore (1991), until their disbandment in 1992. They since reformed in 2009, and in 2012 released the all-covers Echoes and Rhymes, their first full-length in twenty-one years. Two years after, another album was unleashed, the recently released Spin-O-Rama. Considering the sound of these two comeback albums, the band seemed to have not really aged or gone on a hiatus and its members have not been affected much by whatever changes in musical landscape have occurred in the mainstream for the last twenty years. The trademark jangly, subtly fuzzy, and melodic sound and cutesy voice behind The Primitives is as vibrantly present as ever. Such stylistic consistency is certainly one of the band’s traits that have endeared them to their longtime fans, and this same sonic identity will be what newer and younger enthusiasts of the genre will love them for.

Entitled Spin-O-Rama, The Primitives’ latest, fifth offering was released on October 13, 2014. It opens with the rapturous sugary Pop Punk of the title track; with its pristine plucked guitar, melodic bass lines, frenetic drumbeats, and saccharine voice, The Primitives and their distinctive sound are definitely back. Following next, in similar yet less urgent heartbeat, is “Hidden in the Shadows,” whose thinly slicing, razor-sharp angular guitar strums and trebley bass rolls complement Tracy’s voice in a balance of blissful agony. And then Court steps in to take his turn on the microphone as he sings the organ-drenched “Wednesday World,” whose short and simple structure suits well its relatively slow tempo. “Follow the Sun Down” enters with a Led Zeppelin vibes albeit expressed in miniature and coy terms; its metallic sheen afterwards filed out of its rough edges by the keyboard’s celesta sound.

Court’s soft and intentionally sluggish singing voice returns in the midtempo “Purifying Tone,” which, coupled with its spiraling and shimmering guitars, sounds like it was plucked off Sonic Flower Groove, the mellifluous first album of the seminal English band Primal Scream (“Gentle Tuesday”).

The album’s mid-song, “Lose the Reason,” is also the highlight. It best carries the typical style of the band—punky and dancey beat, fuzzy guitars, complementary keyboard melodies, rolling bass lines, and the interesting interplay of Tracy’s teeny-weeny voice and Court’s languid vocal styling. This mirrorball-worthy vibes flow into the equally danceable “Petals,” whose stops-and-starts, guitar ad-lib, and chord changes will remind the listener of the style and structure of The Primitives’ most popular song, “Crash.”

“Working Isn’t Working” is a less textured affair— only virtually the rhythm guitar, bass, drums, and vocals with minimal but ear-catching organ drone and little guitar plucks as the song slowly fades out. The monotonous yet catchy “Velvet Valley,” which may be nicknamed “The Shalalala Song,” evokes a similar sucrose Guitar Pop simplicity best delivered in the 1990s by the likes of the Scottish band Teenage Fanclub (“What You Do to Me”). This sweet bandwagonesque monotony continues on in “Dandelion Seed,” until finally, The Primitives wrap upSpin-O-Rama with a short reprise of the album opener, conjuring a picture of the band’s muse putting a final offertory ribbon around her band’s latest offering.

With less than thirty minutes of music, divided into eleven tracks, The Primitives once again deliver an album full of blissful Pop ditties oozing with New Wave sensibilities. This is in keeping with what the band has always been good at and capable of since its heyday— a reputation that has long elevated them into the pantheon of Indie Pop icons. After giving Spin-O-Rama a good spin, the listener will surely be afflicted with a trigger-happy impulse to give it another spin, and another one, and another, until someone says…”Let’s Go ‘Round Again”! CrypticRock gives Spin-O-Rama 4 out of 5 stars.


SPC ECO at When the Sun Hits

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SPC ECO, Thee Koukouvaya at Stereo Embers

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SPC ECO at Raised by Gypsies

The first time that I listened to “DARK MATTER” we were driving in the car, the three of us, on our way to our first hockey game.     We were technically on our way to Springfield, MA but we drove past it to go up to the Holyoke Mall first.     There aren’t a lot of places you can go within Connecticut that take more than an hour but from Meriden, CT to Holyoke, MA is a pretty decent drive and we listened to this SPC ECO album the whole way there.    I only make mention of this because I own so many great albums which have stayed with me over the years and I’ve always found myself listening to them and under the impression of my hearing it for the umpteenth time and yet most of them I cannot recall the first time I heard them but assume it was inside somewhere.    Knowing we experienced “DARK MATTER” for the first time on our way to our first hockey game makes it as special a memory as this album is itself.
 The sound of SPC ECO is one that can be described with many different tags on Bandcamp but ultimately has the vocals and beats at the forefront.    You can call it dark beats, futuristic electronica, dreambeats and probably a few other genres on Bandcamp I don’t want to look up.   The thing is, the music has a post apocalyptic sound to it on some levels and as such reminds me of something you’d hear on the soundtrack to “Tank Girl” and yet at the same time could be on the soundtrack to “The Crow”.   If you require a point of comparison with another existing artist you’d probably go for Garbage or The Postal Service but that isn’t even quite close to how wonderful this sounds.
 One of the biggest factors on this album is the mood it sets and that is done by the tempo.    I like to think of it as being rather sullen and brooding, taking us somewhere but yet it is mellow and chill while still maintaining a certain sense of supsense.    Though it seems like it should not be possible the songs on “DARK MATTER” manage to keep a steady tempo, never slowing down too much and never gaining too much speed, and yet it still seems urgent.   It has that same appeal as something I would say was from the “Alias” soundtrack, or if you could just imagine the speed on this cranked up ten times faster, but yet it can somehow do all that without making the beats faster.
 The beats are also what control the music, which in a way reminds me of hip hop or trip hop but only taken to another level.   It’s not something I can quite explain because I’ve not heard anything like it before, but even though there are other sounds within these songs (including vocals) the beats still remain at the front.   I can only really compare it with how you see a band perform live: the singer/guitarist in the front and center, a bassist to his or her left, another guitarist to the right and then the drummer behind all of them, somewhat hidden behind the drumkit.     As I listen to these songs, I imagine the drummer being front and center, somehow in front of the drumkit even, with everyone else in the background (Though the vocals could be side by side at times)
Though the tempo can change at times into these bursts of lightning which might find you on edge if you are otherwise feeling relaxed, the fact of the matter is that one of the best words to describe the vibe of this album is chill.   However, even though it has that laid back essence to it there is still this importance, this rising within it which makes me feel like it is quite more punk rock than anything else calling itself punk rock these days.   This might not be the brash, screaming in your face type of music you’d expect to resemble such ideas but it does have that “We’re here and we are not to be fucked with” attitude that I just also love so much because it might not be obvious but it is still there.


SPC ECO at Santa Sangre Magazine

Dean and Rose make a spectacular hard left turn into a new arena of sound with their latest, the tempo slows almost to a stop and the atmospheres become so overpowering they nearly knock you out. Now previously they’d sparkled and shined through artful pop but here in this isolated and remote locale we find them stretching out and letting their hair down; when they were picking album titles they surely must have known this would be the one. ‘Dark Matter’ borders on trip-hop but it doesn’t go full on torch song in any of the tracks you’ll hear. Rose has many things to let us know about and few of them sound positive. Interpersonal betrayals and backstabbing treachery appear to be the order of the day with Dean composing what can only be called menace to accompany her words.

SPC ECO have really hit their marks this time around and indeed, over the last couple of albums have become more and more assured. They name no names and offer up little in the way of influence; this has always been how Dean Garcia has written music and now even here where the sun is choked out by thick, rolling clouds of magnificent bass you cannot help but sing along. For how sedate people expected this one to be it has remarkable groove with devilishly placed beats accentuating Rose’s dynamic delivery. What’s more,this record is lengthy with not one note wasted and nothing cluttering up the field. I’d like to see the in house production teams the majors have try to match what I’m hearing here. Just try not to embarrass yourselves too much, little ones.

Somewhere between the small hours and dawn with the dew still clinging to roadside fauna viewed from inside your sleek vehicle with the undertaker glass barreling down the motorway… that’s the setting and these are the pieces to get you there. One sits in silence hearing a song like “Meteor”, unable to muster the courage to interrupt. I know what they’ve done with ‘Dark Matter’ is probably a one-off but goddamn what an excursion this is. Right into the heart of darkness with these two as your pilots; just sit back and try to relax as the intent and tone of what is on here may tempt you into an uneasy sleep.

Yet somehow you’re wide awake.

‘Dark Matter’ glistens and glows like an immaculate Opal lurking in it’s own corner of shadowy contemplation; you’ll have to wait for your eyes to adjust in order to perceive it but once you do my friends, it will pull you in with an undeniably seductive ease. Much like words whispered with the promise of discrete indiscretion; their fulfillment achingly just out of reach… and so we play this again and again.

Through headphones these are even more disturbingly complex and reveal an entire terrarium of fiendish delights. More effects and even more dynamics have somehow been broken out of the SPC ECO arsenal to deliver maximum damage to unwary speakers so watch out. I did this and could feel as well as hear my monitors bulging at the seams trying to keep up as the gain increased. This is very much an in-the-ear sort of release, something to put the Cochlea through it’s paces with. It is definitely worth your while to track this down and lucky lucky us the band themselves have put it up for sale through their Bandcamp. These two are waging a guerrilla-style campaign against musical lethargy and wear their DIY approach like a badge of honor; don’t scoff at it, they’ve managed to get signed yet again to a label and have a new album in the can for 2016.

I’m hopeful they’ll get the recognition they deserve. They have certainly earned it.


Try the Pie at Radio Static Philly


Stutter Steps at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If you’ve been to concerts at The Andy Warhol Museum, you may be familiar with the man who has been curating these prestigious indie artists for the past 15 years.

He introduces the shows, but now he’s doing something different at the mic: presenting his own music as the singer-guitarist for Stutter Steps.

Stutter Steps isn’t a real band, exactly, and it’s going to perform for a limited time only, which might be only one show. However, Stutter Steps has a made a debut album, in the vein of such bands as Luna, the Go-Betweens and the Feelies, that is already bringing the band national attention.

The self-titled album’s nine songs have been in the works for 15 years, but more as a hobby for Meadville-area native Harrison, who’s been juggling his role at the Warhol with raising a family with two kids. In the early ‘00s, he was part of the short-lived indie-pop/twee-pop trio Tourister that didn’t play here much but put out a singles and did some touring, including playing the Detroit Pop Festival.

In the fall of 2012, with his kids getting older (now 7 and 9) and his wife, a printmaker, having finished an exhibit, “she kind of said ‘It’s your turn,’ ” he says.

“Not like I had any delusions that I would quit my job and go tour,” he remarks of the opportunity, “but I always wanted to make a proper studio album, with an engineer and a producer.”

Part of his inspiration came from interacting with two of his musical heroes, Dean Wareham and partner Britta Phillips (both of Luna), whom the Warhol commissioned for “13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests.”

“Getting to know them, being on tour with them, being around that project, seeing how they wrote songs for those films, I was really inspired by that project.”

Ladybug Transistor/Essex Green guitarist Jeff Baron, who was living in Pittsburgh for a time, suggested he work with Ladybug founder Gary Olson, who in turn agreed to produce the record in a bucolic, wooded cabin in the Laurel Highlands rather than in his Brooklyn studio. They recorded the album there with singer Cindy Yogmas, bassist David Horn and drummer Sean Finn (The Red Western), with Mr. Baron emailing his tasty lead guitar parts from his home in Vermont.

Once it was mixed at Marlborough Farms studio in Brooklyn, Mr. Harrison says, “I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I just wanted the experience. Jeff said, ‘This is really good. You should try to release it.’ ”

That’s where the Pittsburgh-based Wild Kindness entered the picture, agreeing to release the album even though Stutter Steps was more a studio creation than a band.

Far from sounding like a vanity project or some dad’s weekend hobby, it’s an irresistibly catchy guitar-pop record — alternately dreamy and driving — that fits alongside the Velvets, Feelies and Go-Betweens. The album eases in with the relaxed song “Fog,” inspired by the autumn scenes of Julianne Moore in “Far From Heaven,” and by the end, it’s clicking on all cylinders with the left-of-the-dial radio gem “Go On.” Mr. Harrison, who is also a fan of Bill Callahan and Stephin Merritt, has an unpolished voice and a dry, honest delivery that gets better with every listen and Ms. Yogmas provides gorgeous harmonies.

Magnet has praised “Fog,” which includes a slide guitar part from Mr. Wareham, as an “organic and breezy indie tune” and Austin Town Hall trumpeted Stutter Steps as “a new band to adore.”

Again, “band” is a tricky word here, as the release show on Saturday could be a one-off. Ms. Yogmas is flying in from San Francisco to appear and Mr. Baron will be replaced by Phil Jacoby from Sleep Experiments.

Asked about pulling together a live show with limited rehearsal, Mr. Harrison laughs and says, “It’s not like we’re doing free jazz.”


Stutter Steps at Performer

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Antlered Aunt Lord at Songs Smiths

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