Sunnyside Studio, Produced by Feeding Frenzy, recording engineer James Bartlett
Mastered by Frank Steiner Jr.
This band, now two years old. released their first full length: Positive Vandalism. Daniel Firmin, primary vocalist has a tone that is tender. He sounds like an old friend giving kind advice. On track 4, Sleep, this “Wise Uncle persona” is demonstrated to great effect. With cello and toy piano making a gentle lullaby, this is the best of the slower tracks. Ryan Bateman’s voice is thrilling to hear, it creeps along lower than Daniels, less confident but compelling. “Lay your ahead down try to get some sleep.” and the tone of what he sings about is often darker as well. The lyric, “Tell all the jokes that we already know,” is an effective way of communicating cabin fever and the darkness in Alaskan winters. Rebecca File’s vibrato weaves in and out, I have often called her tone “operatic,” her own material is impressive, though here she is often a backing vocalist. On Rambler she takes the lead, and tells a story of a troubled family. This song really has a pleasant feel, with piano, twinkling banjo and a chugging guitar that manage to never get in each other’s way. Having three vocalists fills the album with variety. Take me to the River has some creepy overtones, and a set of wood blocks sound like clopping horse hooves. Cheat and Steal has a trumpet played by guest Shane Artz. This slower, New Orleansy style is a big improvement over their version on their previous EP. Now Chad File is a bonafide member and his drumming is a welcome addition on tracks like Take Me to the River. On some tracks he backs off and plays only a little percussion. Rebecca’s melodica lines bring a pleasant counterpoint to the vocals and violin. Sometimes Ephy Wheeler can chug along confidently with her cello, other times she plays the violin like a shuddering orphan weeping in the rain.
I asked Ryan for a few details about the recording process and he said, “it was really fun working with James. He’s just a really cool all-around guy.” We discussed the recording process and he gave a few insights: “The recordings are like a time capsule of how we played the songs six months ago. It was tough to lay down tracks in April and then in July get back in that mood we had been and do overdubs. ” The album has many “just right” moments, where the banjo and voices combine in a way that is quaint, familiar and charming. Feeding Frenzy succeeds at combining Appalacian folk with pop and revealing a darker edge; they deliver ten amazing songs, full of emotion and weight.
ffo: Old Crow Medicine Show, Asylum Street Spankers, Avett Brothers, Decemberists Tom Waits, Murder By Death
Dysfunctional Dingus Cafe
Saucy Yoda busts out of portland, playing house parties, bars, underage clubs and anywhere the masses gather. She’s there with her mp3 player in hand to crank out some party jams and elicit laughter. Her rhymes fly so fast and furious, its impossible to catch it all on one’s first listen. References to 80’s nostalgia, jokes, innuendo and unguarded observations are flung overwhelmingly at the listener: some couplets resemble yearbook scribblings, others: bathroom stall wisdom, filthy children’s hopscotch songs, and the rest, the kitchen staff’s secrets you weren’t supposed to hear. She starts the party off with a very silly rap full of puns and metaphors comparing asian food to sex. Album opener, Wanton has much less of the slick “produced sound” its got real drums and an acoustic guitar. “He’s going down to sushi town for a spicy tuna roll.”
She performs alongside indie rock bands as opposed to other female rappers…because there are no others like her! I think she might find a welcome audience alongside comedians. She’s better (and less arrogant) than Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim, but the radio djs don’t know yet. She shows she’s not a one trick pony, she can rap about sex, drugs, and beer! Her first cd, “Return of the Douche” had tight radio friendly beats and samples with a fast delivery and lots of vocal overdubs. The newer cd has a more organic sound, with a live bass on many tracks and much more guitar. Both albums deliver laughs and “oh shit” moments in spades. I liked the first one more, as it seemed more personal and the tempos were faster. There are no tracks here asking the deep feminist issues/social questions like, “isn’t makeup a form of a lie?” Its just a party, backing off from the social commentary and the philosophical, but still demonstrating that Saucy is smart and ridiculous.
Stuck in the City
Kung Fu Bakery
There are some singer songwriters who write songs about being cassanovas and dandies, and they brag they haven’t worked a day in their life and you believe them. But when Brandon sings about working hard- it sounds so genuine and world weary you trust that this voice has traveled some roads and lifted some heavy things. Brandon sings with a tenderness, an authentic honesty. There is a timelessness and an integrity so I trust that when he sings of breaking his back it has come from a genuine experience.
On this, his first album, he has some fantastic musicians helping out, and some beautiful female vocals from Kelli Schaefer. He demonstrates control in the vibrato of his voice, that ads that extra touch of sympathy to his poetic observations. The last track demonstrates this as he stomps his foot on a wooden floor. This track has an interesting choice in equalization that makes the track sound like it came from a radio 80 years ago.
Somehow in his lyrics regarding relationships with women he strikes the nail on the head with lines like “golden girls can’t fall in love with anyone.” Another tear jerker is the line, “I know that many men have tried at winning you, I’ve got nothing to prove but I would lie that down and raise the stakes, cuz I ain’t got no place without you.” In his lyrics about love he sings about a man deciding he is ready to commit, and feelings of fear over being rejected. He will break your heart with lines like “take your hand in mine, (let’s) go as fast as we want it to.”
A surprisingly sweet moment comes when he voices that something important to him in a wife; one who “wouldn’t correct me whenever I had an idea in my head.” I suppose we all want that, but do we have the balls to ask for it? He sings of his unborn children, and his love for them and his plan to “teach them to work hard so the land wouldn’t starve them.” It reminds me of Jeffrey lewis’ “Back when I was Four” as he muses about his unwritten future. Other times, Brandon reminds me of David Dondero or Van Morrison.
Many of these songs are about God, the devil and a wandering soul trying to make sense of it all. On first listen, you might confuse it for a gospel album.
I talked to him about why he writes songs about god. He said ” I did feel awkward about it once. I was afraid that people would judge me, but as those songs came out I saw they just couldn’t be any other way.”
Kelli Schaefer’s vocals are a delightful frosting on the cake. Supposedly, after she played a show, Brandon approached her and told her “I like your voice- please sing on my record,” and she did!
He has toured in Australia and the states. This is his first album and it is fantastic. Listen, share it with your friends, your mom, your pastor, and everyone.
The Fastest bear
Anchorage, AK, 2011
The Fastest Bear play spastic frenetic math rock, alternating between clumsy and precise. Tempo changes and odd time signatures are the norm here, and an idea never drags on so long it becomes unwelcome. Most of the guitar playing is rapid tapping through a overdriven amp.
Occasionally Justin lets loose some jazz chops, other times chugs away at the double bass pedals, emulating a staccato palm muted metal bassest. At 1:30 “Yes Dumping” even becomes melodic, if only for 15 seconds. The instruments are mixed well, the disc sounds like they are playing right in front of you.
Live, Jay puts on a show of his messiness, sometimes dropping the guitar, playing only a few notes as the minutes drag on and Justin keeps the madness going.
I have seen a few math rock bands play live, this one is among the best, even with only two members and no vocals. The delivery is fast, and there’s a certain charm to Jays lacklackluster delivery of his ironic song titles. “Interested in metal, here for friends” is a song name that stuck out for me, but I certainly can’t tell them apart.
This 2 song sampler gives an idea of their sound and introduces you to them; acts as a business card; and it is fine for what it is. I hope they will deliver a full length soon.
For fans of: Hella, Russian Circles