Monday, 28 July 2014

album review: radiator hospital - torch song

The best bands make you wish you wrote their songs. Radiator Hospital is one of those bands. 
With album artwork by Phoebe Harris, guest vocals by the Crutchfields and Maryn Jones, and instrumental features by Kyle Gilbride and Keith Spencer, they prove it also takes a village to craft a timeless album.

The way Sam Cook-Parrot writes is theatrical. The same emotional heft in a silent film starlet's eyes is in his songs. The first Radiator Hospital song that broke my heart was Our Song. This album feels like a continuation on that story, only now the stakes are much higher.

In a way Torch Song is the follow up to 2013's Something Wild, but it's hard to say with a band this prolific. There were two more releases between last July's Something Wild and Torch Song, but both heavily featured covers and demos of songs that wound up as more realized versions on this album.

TS opens with Leather and Lace; high energy, quick paced, and true to RadHos' form. Sam ends the song with an impressive vocal run in vein of Something Wild's Ghost Story.

Contemporary DIY heavy hitters are all over this album. It's reminiscent of early 2000s Saddle Creek scene camaraderie in that many of the same names pop up on each other's albums. The first guest appearance on Torch Song is Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield. If Sam were Conor Oberst, then Katie would be Jenny Lewis.

Leather and Lace spills into Blue Gown, which is equally frantic. Katie Crutchfield sings an unusual and arresting melody, while Kyle Gilbride contributes a hooky guitar solo.

"I'm yours but not by name."

Cut Your Bangs gives Pavement a run for their money as far as catchy songs about cutting your hair go. The bass line keeps the song dancing forward like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain.

"When you lie to me it's in the small stuff."

The Eye has an almost world music feel to it. I think I might even hear some claves in there? Again, it's very cinematic. I could see a string section recreating it for a Disney movie.

Venus of the Avenue, however, might be the epitomic theatrical song on this album. It paints a portrait of two boys in utter adoration of someone. "Mikey and Jon" sit at a piano and pine over the object of affection with nervous excitement. It perfectly illustrates the kind of frightened love only fanatics can relate to. It reminds me of a song you'd hear when someone in a movie realizes they're in love with the sleeper hit. (see: the Julia Gulia vs. Mrs. Robbie Hart scene in the Wedding Singer)

"We didn’t think that you could find us just from the songs that we sing."

Fellow Swearin member, Keith Spencer plays guitar on 181935, which makes that 3/4 of Swearin appearing in the first half of the album. Where's Allison?*

The only lull in the album is on Five and Dime. It's not a bad song at all, just less memorable than the flawless first six, which is an impressive streak. Perhaps this song's placement is for the best. It contrasts the starkness of Fireworks and makes it pop as a standout track on the album. Maryn Jones of All Dogs takes on sole vocal duties this time, a position Allison Crutchfield took on Are You Feeling Me? from Something Wild. Maryn sings in a weakened whimper, which is unlike the vocal work she does in her own band. Sam too takes on this defeated slur of speech in a couple of songs. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I wouldn't put such perfectly subtle choices past this band. These songs tell stories, and they tell them well.

Bedtime Story feels like the first track of Side B. It walks you away from the emotional rubble that Fireworks left you in. The slamming on the guitar between verses gives you hope. It's the friend that buys you drinks and lets you crash with them after a gnarly heartbreak.

"I just wasn't bred to sleep alone."

I'm All Right. Shit. The emotions are back. God damnit.

"I don't know if you got my letter. I don't know if your cheeks got redder."

I'm guessing the female vocals on Honeymoon Phase are Cynthia Schemmer, and they're gorgeous. It seems as though this song is about a different girl. A girl who isn't as exciting, but is still lovable and probably healthier to love. This is the first song with a hint of optimism. The clouds have just begun to part.

Sleeping House is minimal and electronic. The fire's gone out, but the embers are still there.
The guitar solo in Just May Be the One is the water on those embers.
While I'm flying off the rails with metaphors, I'll say if Fireworks is a knife in your heart, Fireworks (Reprise) twists that knife. Sam responds to the female voice in Fireworks with some different words and in a lower register. His own point of view. He is remorseful, but not entirely apologetic. It takes two after all.

"A little spark doesn't mean you're the only one."

The softer moments on this album are equal parts Pinkerton and Paul Baribeau, who also hails from Michigan. It has the innocence of the Modern Lovers and probably the self-assuredness of some other great musician I'm unfamiliar with. Sam is a fan, and he wears it on his sleeve. On the Radiator Hospital bandcamp page there is a notation on Venus of the Avenue saying that it was partially inspired by Mink DeVille's Venus of Avenue D.

*Here's Allison! She sings the choruses with Sam on the otherwise spoken word type closing track, Midnight Song. It's a celebratory end that says, "We made it."

Torch Song closes nicely, leaving all loose ends tied up. The end is satisfying, like a movie where you know the good guy is gonna be ok. Here's hoping Sam's next muse doesn't do him in, cause the world needs these songs.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

video killed the radio star: slutever - white flag

Recent LA transplants, Slutever, released a music video by Faye Orlove for the song 'White Flag' and it rules as much as Dido's White Flag.

slutever style board

Saturday, 26 July 2014

birthday list

My birthday is coming up on August 4th, so I decided to make a hypothetical birthday list like the ones I'd make as a kid (only way more expensive.)

1.)  hot pink Lisa Frank studded vest

2.) Moon phase bed runner

3.) Girl faces dress

4.) Tatty Devine Large brown tortoiseshell glasses necklace
5.) Lazy Oaf 'Let's Make Out' shirt

6.) Lazy Oaf Tuesday cropped shirt

7.) Emoji stickers

8.) Jeffrey Campbell heart platforms

9.) Tatty Devine pink poodle necklace

10.) Happy Meal party dress

11.) Miss Piggy party dress

12.) Garden Gnome high heels

13.) Charles Burns embroidered cyclops head

14.) handmade marianne leather t-bar heels in soft hologram

15.) Lazy Oaf cosmos dress
sold out: I am devastated I snoozed on this.

16.) Vandor rainbow cloud teapot

17.) weather pattern sweater

18.) tickets for Paramore on the Monumentour

19.) Monumentour merch

20.) Wildfox Luna shades

 21.) Wildfox Lobster Lenon sweater

 22.) UNIF Blotter Kimono

 23.) Wildfox Rainbow sweater in mint

 24.) UNIF Stay Fly Kimono

25.) Wildfox Watermelon sweater

upset phase two

I somehow waited until now to read Girls to the Front. I got to the part where the writer is talking about Nation of Ulysses' mission statement and Bikini Kill's deliberate, revolutionary aspirations. It made me wonder what I wanted for Upset and from Upset.

I started Upset as a way to stake some claim for myself musically. I believe every person's role in a band is of equal importance, and I think some of my former band mates would disagree. I wanted to be part of a band, not in someone's backing band. I also didn't want to be the kind of musician with a backing band. As a drummer, I felt I was making the same physical and emotional sacrifices as everyone else, only with less reward.

Both bands I was in before Upset, I had joined somewhere between formation and ascension. I knew if I were to continue playing in bands, I wanted it to be something I helped build from the ground up. I needed to prove to the world and myself that I am capable of creating. We accomplished that with the first album.

Now what? Where do we go with this? I guess part of the battle is knowing that you want to keep fighting.

I want to reach as many people as possible with music that is sincere and empowering.
I want to be an accessible band of smart women.
I want to be able to finally do what I was always too timid to do.
I want to explore my relationships with female friends and dissect them and reflect on them.
I want to be honest and open about my body image and the struggles I have with it.
I want to learn to be honest with myself and write about my experience as a woman.
I want to sing about my love for my boyfriend.
I want to share my shortcomings.
I want to inspire a generation.
I want to make sense of my thoughts and memories through song.
I want to outdo myself and challenge myself to get better and stronger.
I wanna make someone cry and start a band.
I want to leave behind a legacy.
I want to have fun creating things with my friends.
I want to feel part of something bigger than myself.
I want to stop worrying about who I will appeal to.
I want to create what comes to me, free of pretension and constraints.
I wanna scream.
I want Rachel to sing too.
I want to hurry up and write another album.

I have to be patient and have faith that all of this will come together the way it should, but I also need to keep moving forward. I don't want to wake up one day and realize I've just been shifting my weight side to side. There's not enough time for that.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

etsy listing blast

While I was home in the beginning of the month, I had to help my parents organize my stuff in the attic. They are moving to Florida, but my brother is buying the house we grew up in, so I get to keep a lot of my stuff there. I brought back a bunch of treasures I found up there and I just listed some of my vintage clothing collection and old favorites in my etsy shop. Link here: her name is ali shop

Sunday, 20 July 2014

the fashion of bikini kill

I could write a very long winded post about how important Bikini Kill is to me and all women in music and how they shaped the person I came to be and the path I walk on, but today I just wanna talk about how amazing their style was and how I continue to draw inspiration from the fashion of Bikini Kill.

Clothing aside, Bikini Kill's "don't fuck with me" attitude is my number one style inspiration. Before discovering Bikini Kill, I dressed to fit in. I would wear clothes to hopefully bring me closer to the norm. My hair was long  and blonde and I seldom wore more than chapstick on my face.

When I got into the music and message of Bikini Kill through teen movie 10 Things I Hate About You, there was a shift. I was exposed to a type of femininity I knew little about. As a kid I always pushed the boundaries of what was expected of little girls; I played drums and shot bee bee guns, but as a tween I briefly lost that spirit. I quit the school band and traded in my jncos for skirts and platforms.

Bikini Kill taught me you could have it both ways, and that conforming with what is expected of girls is boring and sad. I started to wear what I liked, not what I thought other people would like. I got into lipstick. My boyfriend at the time hated it and said it made me look weird. I didn't care. It made me feel powerful. I wore high ponytails like Kathleen Hanna, scarves in my hair like Kathi Wilcox, and big old band shirts like Tobi Vail. I started shopping at thrift stores and wearing Chuck Taylors and making homemade shirts with iron on letters. I finally started to express myself and find out who I really was. My girl friends and I would cut and dye each others hair. Sometimes we looked ridiculous, but finding ourselves through fashion was one of the funnest times of my life. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

fruit grunge

While I was looking for a background for this blog I came across a term that was new to me: soft grunge. It was a suggested Google image search for tumblr backgrounds. I perused the various soft grunge images. There were dreamy stills of light refracted through water, melting smiley faces, pastel tie dye and other muted versions of co-opted 90s nostalgia. I found a Wikipedia page devoted to the genre, and learned more about tumblr genres. I had no idea that seapunk was born out of tumblr. To my knowledge, fashion always came out of music, not blog culture. I guess this is what it feels like to get older.

I started to joke about how my friend Rachel and I were "accidentally soft grunge." While my band, Upset, were touring Australia we taught White Lung about soft grunge and pastel goth and spent the tour pointing out things that fit the bill.

At the airport in Auckland, Rachel opened her computer which has a background of fruit miniatures. Patty looked over Rachel's shoulder and said "God, you and Ali are the same person," and I said "Yea, duh, we're soft grunge." Patty then said the most genius thing ever and coined a new tumblr genre:

She said "You guys aren't soft grunge, you're like, fruit grunge."

It made perfect sense.

We started naming things that would fit the "fruit grunge" mold. Here's a fruit grunge style board for you. Maybe you're accidentally fruit grunge?

fruit grunge

Saturday, 12 July 2014

your schtick sucks: why cheeky was the best

You might be familiar with the bands Big Eyes, Aye Nako, and the Babies, but have you heard Cheeky?

Cheeky were one of the most important bands I had the privilege to see in various basements and punk houses in NY and NJ from 2007-2009.

Cheeky first came onto my radar when my friend Sarah had a song called Bad Mood on her Myspace profile (that really dates the short existence of this band). The song starts "I'm in a bad mood and I just woke up this way." I loved it instantly. The vocals were androgynous, the guitar was more skilled than most local bands, and the drumming was impeccable. Cheeky were the toughest band I'd ever heard, and 3/4 happened to be girls.

Also, their name. Cheeky is the most genius name for a band that plays fuck you songs like Grow Fins, Turkey and Get Outta Here.

When you saw Cheeky live, you felt like you were seeing something really special. Not only were their songs are all perfect, but each member of the band brought something important to the table. They were the kind of band where you wanted to know everyone's first and last names and follow anything they did or made. If there were Tiger Beat posters for each of them with fun facts and stats, I would've had them. I had to resort to hanging these polaroids in my bedroom in a line with 'CHEEKY' written in the margins.

Kate Eldridge

Angie Boylan

Kate Wadkins

Brian Schleyer

After their debut, Choke on a Cheeseburger, they released a number of songs on different 7"s.
My knowledge of the timeline of their releases is foggy, but I do know they had a substantial followup release to Choke on a Cheeseburger called What the Heck. Part 1: Is this Normal? into Part 2: This is not Normal! is stuck in my head more often than not.

Following their dissolution, Kate Eldridge started Big Eyes, Brian started the short lived (but almost equally amazing) Big Soda with Kyle Gilbride (who went on to form Swearin') until he joined the Babies, Angie drummed in a number of bands, but drums primarily in Aye Nako now, and Kate Wadkins pursued higher education and a writing career. Check her out here: Wisdom Tooth

For all things Cheeky, I've provided you with a slew of links that I STRONGLY urge you to click on. It would be impossible for you to be disappointed. Watch every video and read every lyric. It won't compare to how it felt to see them in person, but it is a lucky glimpse into an unfortunately short lived, yet epic band.

Myspace: the portal through which I was introduced to Cheeky
If You Make It: this site has some great videos of Cheeky live as well as a Cheeky Pink Couch Session
Choke on a Cheeseburger: you can download Choke on a Cheeseburger here. There is a suggested donation of 3 dollars, but really it's worth much, much more. there are a handful of photos here

P.S. Cheeky covered Slingshot Dakota and it's better than the original.*

*my humble opinion

video killed the radio star: veruca salt - number one blind

Not only is this my favorite song off of American Thighs, but everything about the styling in this video is perfect. It reads like a Veruca Salt - American Thighs mood board; the falling leaves, faux fur jackets, virginal white clothing motif, sun, moon, stars, stalagmites and stalactites.

Here are my favorite stills from this video and some style boards recreating Nina and Louise's impeccable styles.

Louise Post
louise post

louise post by alexandria-koehler featuring a leaf pendant

Nina Gordon
nina gordon