Album Review: Jaguwar, “Ringthing”

Jaguwar began life as a trio, formed in Berlin, Germany by Oyèmi and Lemmy in 2012. Their drummer Chris signed up in 2014 to complete the current line-up; to date, they have released two EPs and have taken their wall of sound (heavily “shoegaze” influence – think My Bloody Valentine, Lush and Curve influenced noise pop) on to countless shows in the U.K., Denmark, France, Serbia, Germany and beyond.

This first full-length album, Ringthing is a shimmering, energetic reverberating, crashing monolith of an album. Jaguwar sway from combining sweet pop figures with white-hot amphetamine noise to sounding like a serendipitous encounter between Husker Du and Ride. “Noise & detail” is how the band describes their soun, which would not be wholly inaccurate.

Starting with the frenetic “Lunatics”, it’s an enjoyable sensory assault; you want, need and like gripping onto the bar of this musical roller coaster as it takes you up and down with no restraint; “Skeleton Feet” is another pulsing track that opens with an exquisite sound of guitar scrapes that can be likened to a melodic pane of glass breaking and falling in tune; “Slow And Tiny” uses a cacophonous soundscape in the background of an otherwise breakneck tempo that reminds one of running through a nightmare – haunting yet completely enticing.  “Crystal”, has that certain ’80’s swirling feel – a cross between The Cure and Siouxsie & The Banshees – one of those great, cinematic musical ice sculptures that shimmers; “Away” is straight out of the Chameleons/early U2/Comsat Angels/Sound school of structure and production – echogated guitar, space and heavily propulsive rhythm section and the aptly-titled “End” is a soundscape instrumental that oddly enough sounds a great deal like Husker Du’s “The Tooth Fairy & The Princess” – a slab of modern psychedelic to end this spectacular album in a very satisfying fashion.

What can I say more than you really need to seek this album out and listen to it, from beginning to end.  A dynamic debut album that gives me more hope than I’d previously had – that young bands are taking their cues from one of the richest musical periods and putting their own stamp on it.  Well done…  well done, indeed.


Ringthing is currently available

Popdose Premiere: Dhanya, “Lesson”

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to gain exposure to a variety of world music through an artist I was working with, particularly Indian melodies that were, at once, derived from Sanskrit texts but which also had a significant pop element.

This amalgam made the genre accessible to those who had maybe never delved into the uber-popular but somewhat unknown body of work from Indian artists and definitely gave me deeper appreciation for those infectious sounds.

In that same vein comes Dhanya, a Venezuela-born and raised artist who channels her Indian roots in varying degrees into her music. Today, I’m really stoked to share “Lesson” with you. It’s a track that calls back to Dhanya’s roots in subtle, but incredible, ways in slight variations in arrangement that tilts a bit Eastern.

The result is an over-seven-minute song that takes the listener on a colorful, powerful ride across the world and replants him or her back on comfortable soil. This is an ideal place for world-music beginners to start — Dhanya is an excellent tour guide.

“Lesson’s” lyrics are also deeply introspective, reflecting subtle spirituality that’s gorgeous and ultimately meaningful. “This was originally a poem I wrote,” says Dhanya, “reflecting on how life lessons can often seem like a horror movie — being swallowed up by the earth and being pulled underground to be re-worked and healed in the dark. Instead of resist, you accept and learn the lesson or it will chase you relentlessly.”

Check out Dhanya’s “Lesson” in its Popdose Premiere below, and watch for her self-titled debut out February 1!

Popdose Exclusive Premiere: Jack Mosbacher, “Ready for Something Good”

Popdose presents another exclusive premiere with this new song from San Francisco-based singer Jack Mosbacher.  “Ready For Something Good” is the title track from his upcoming album of the same name.

His radiant sound has evolved to exude the old school power of Alabama Shakes and Leon Bridges, with the pop sensibility of Andy Grammer and Ed Sheeran. Today, Mr. Mosbacher aims to add happy elements to the next generation of soul.

In his own words, “this song was my best shot at fighting whatever pessimism and fear is gripping the world right now with some small dose of optimism and hope. I so badly want 2018 to be a good year, for me and for all of us. I think we’re all so ready for something good, so I figured if I sang it over and over, I might do my small part in manifesting it into happening.”

Ready For Something Good will be released on Friday, January 19th, 2018

Popdose Exclusive Premiere: Steve Barton, “Before I Get Too Young”

Popdose is very pleased and proud to present to you the first brand new track from acclaimed singer/songwriter/guitarist Steve Barton (from the legendary band, Translator), “Before I Get Too Young”. This upbeat, delightfully spiky track is from his forthcoming 3-CD (yes, you read correctly – a triple album!), Tall Tales & Alibis.

The three albums which make up Tall Tales And Alibis each have their own unique feel. Album one is filled with more upbeat songs; album Two captures a moody vibe – and is all sung in Barton’s lower register. There is a cover of “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” and a slow, quiet and dark version of Steve’s Translator hit “Unalone.” He plays and sings everything on these two records himself, and produced these tracks at his studio in Portland, OR. The third album is a band effort recorded in Los Angeles with a core group, specially hand-picked for these sessions. The line-up includes Dave Scheff from Translator on drums, Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello’s Attractions on drums for three of the songs, Nelson Bragg (Brian Wilson band) on percussion, Derrick Anderson (Bangles) holding down the bass spot and part of the treat is having the band play live in the studio on all cuts.

So close your eyes and listen in to this wonderful new track from Mr. Barton.  As per usual, he delivers.

Tall Tales And Alibis will be released on Friday, March 2d

Popdose Video Premiere: 3 Videos That Will Transport You Elsewhere

As the world gears up for the Grammys, it seems like pop fever has swept the nation (or maybe just LA, where I live). I’m finding myself turning to some snackable, light fare in the form of ’00s and ’90s Top 40 pop more than ever, delighting in the not-too-complicated hooks and easy-going melodies.

But also, I’m loving some of the new pop emerging onto the scene, largely made by independent artists. I’ve got such a soft spot for these warriors who put everything they have behind their craft — hence why, in other realms, I write essential resources for indie and DIY musicians.

Today, I’ve got three awesome finds for you readers. These videos were all made by artists invested in their crafts on every level and doing an astounding job. The accompanying videos to these stunningly catchy tracks each transport listeners to a new, exciting place. Join me in going there, won’t you?

“Meant to Be,” Alexa Friedman

While it’s easy to get swept away by the lush visuals of a gorgeous private beach, it’s important to listen to the words of Alexa Friedman‘s “Meant to Be.” While so many pop tracks focus on superficial grandiosity, she sings about a sense of self that’s betrays her young years. It’s a crucial message for her peers who are growing up in arguably the toughest time in history — political drama, the threat of domestic and international terrorism, and, oh yeah, social media. Her sweet vocals complement the lite-EDM backbeat, also, which makes this track a treat for the ears, too.

“Right on Time,” The APX

From the beach we travel back in time to the ’80s. Holy hell, the first time I heard this song, I swear I de-aged. It’s got the great funk groove of a throwback classic, but with a modern feel that makes it feel hip and somewhat secret, like only the coolest people would know and appreciate “Right on Time.” The APX (short for the After-Party Experience) is a husband-and-wife duo who were clearly born to make this insanely on-point sound that completely transcends time and space. If you think I’m over-exaggerating, have a listen and tell me you wouldn’t have bought this on cassette at one point in your life.

“Crazy,” Myles Marcus

Our next destination isn’t so much a time or a place but a feeling. One that we’ve probably all faced at one point in our lives (or most certainly will). Myles Marcus captures the desperation and frustration of being unable to stop your mind from thinking about someone, even when that person is destructive to themselves, and, ultimately, to you. “Crazy” is a soaring ballad that’s beautiful simple but also extremely earwormy. Marcus, who attended Berklee (so you know he’s a pro at crafting an emotional melody), has such gorgeous vocals that they might make you crazy. This track and video certainly will — in a good way.

The Ted Zone: “David Bowie: The Last Five Years”

It’s been two years since David Bowie left this veil of tears. And in that two years, there’s been a lot of time to reflect on the cultural impact of his music. Whether you like early Bowie, Berlin Bowie, ‘80s Bowie, ‘90s Bowie, or albums he recorded in the 2000s until his death, it’s clear that it has been a mixed bag for an artist whose first single (“Liza Jane”) stiffed in 1964 when he fronted the group Davie Jones with The King Bees.

For the new HBO documentary, David Bowie: The Last Five Years the focus is supposed to be the period from 2011-2016, but producer/director Francis Whately didn’t have much footage, interviews, or images for a 95-minute documentary, so he had to stretch. With a film like this, the compelling story is how, after a long absence, Bowie came back to recording music without compromising his artistic vision. Now, if Bowie — like people in many parts of the world — compulsively and obsessively chronicled his life on social media, there would be a plethora of material for the documentary. But, Bowie being Bowie, he went the other way. Opting for obsessive privacy, he kept any details about work on his album “The Next Day” completely secret. That meant having the musicians who backed him in the studio sign non-disclosures agreements, people who did the artwork to do the same, and even the director of the videos for the record. All of it was hush-hush. The result was — in an age where very little can be kept secret — a surprising return for Bowie. He did absolutely no press for the record, nor did he tour to support the album. His decision to lay low on promotion paid off. The album was number one almost worldwide and certified Gold or Platinum in many countries.

For Bowie’s on again/off again producer Tony Visconti, he was surprised by the reflective tone of the album’s first single “Where Are We Now?” Not only does the song reference his long stay in Berlin, Germany, but in the video, Bowie can be seen wearing a t-shirt that says “m/s Song of Norway.” The reference? Well, it’s about Hermione Farthingale — with whom he had a relationship and collaborated with a group they formed with John Hutchinson in 1968. Yes, she’s is “the girl with the mousy hair” in “Life On Mars?” and the Hermione in “Letter to Hermione.” Farthingale left Bowie for an actor she met on the set of the film “Song of Norway” — which she was acting in. As Bowie said in the documentary, “That really broke me up.” It took him a long time to get over her split with him. Seems unrequited love knows no bounds — and even after being happily married to Imam for decades, it’s clear Bowie still bore the emotional scars of that early relationship.

The interviews with Bowie’s band members who worked on “The Next Day” and the jazz group led by sax player Donny McCaslin on “Blackstar” had some nice moments where they broke down a couple of the songs to show what they added to the proverbial mix — and it was quite a lot. Other highlights of “Blackstar” sessions were when Tony Visconti isolated Bowie’s vocals to show how much he was putting into his vocals on “Lazarus” (you can hear Bowie breathing hard between verses).

Maria Schneider with David Bowie during the recording of “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime).”

Knowing this was his last album, Bowie ditched any pretense of commercial viability in the songs by exploring a noir jazz vibe with Maria Schneider on the first version of “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” in 2014. That song went through a major musical revision on “Blackstar” with a kind of manic drum and bass underbelly that changed the tenor of the song. If “The Next Day” has a “looking back” quality (as Visconti said at one point in the documentary), “Blackstar” was both a progressive push to try something new and a bit of a retrospective as well.

With the musical “Lazarus” Bowie wrote (mostly because he wanted to write a musical for a long time), it’s interesting to see footage of the actors rehearsing scenes, and how the musical director convinced Bowie to use the song “Heroes” in the production — even though he was against it until he heard the altered version. Michael C. Hall does give it his all in his portrayal Thomas Newton (The same character in film The Man Who Fell to Earth), but clearly the musical was more of a way for Bowie to explore eras of his life with music from his catalog that, as my Popdose colleague Bob Cashill wrote in his review of the production, “… is about poses, images, stage pictures–milk and blood are spilled, balloons are kicked around, teenage groupies and Kabuki-masked phantasms loll about.” Perhaps those poses are what Bowie’s career was about: A professional life without a central narrative.

How very postmodern.

While the musical lacked structure, Whately’s documentary is more conventional in its ambitions. Focusing on the musical and last two albums are points where Whately aligns the subject with the title of the film — but alas those moments are doled out sparingly. Instead, the film gets sidetracked with extended sections of Bowie’s career in the 1970s. While much of the footage from that era may not have been exhibited before, it dilutes the main theme of the film: Bowie’s last five years. Now, it’s clear the lack of material meant Whately chose to broaden the scope of the film, but he was not bound by a running time. He could have made a very tight one hour documentary with the footage he had from 2003 to 2016. Instead, Whately traversed some of the same ground he explored in his 2013 film, David Bowie: Five Years. As important it is to highlight Bowie’s cultural impact in the 1970s, it’s a well-trodden path. The overall disappointment of David Bowie: The Last Five Years is that it sheds very little light on Bowie’s late-career projects — or the man himself in the winter of his life.

Soul Serenade: Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, “Little Latin Lupe Lu”

Before the Righteous Brothers became the megastars they would become when “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” raced to the top of the charts in 1964, brother Bill Medley wrote a song for the duo called “Little Latin Lupe Lu.” It was released as the Righteous Brothers’ debut single in 1963. It was moderately successful, just edging into the Top 50 on the Pop chart. Stardom would have to wait another year for the Righteous Brothers.

The original version of “Little Latin Lupe Lu” was not the only version, or even the most successful. The latter designation would go to a band called Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels who released their cover of Medley’s song in 1966. Unlike the Righteous Brothers original or subsequent covers by the Chancellors (their 1964 version was a regional hit in Minneapolis and Chicago) or the Kingsmen (theirs reached #46 the same year), Ryder’s torrid take on the song was a bonafide hit, racing all the way to #16 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Ryder came out of Hamtramck, Michigan and formed his first band, the Tempests, while he was in high school. The Tempests gained some popularity in the Detroit clubs but it wasn’t long before Ryder was fronting another band, Billy Lee & the Rivieras (Ryder’s given name was William S. Levise, Jr.). Along the way, they came to the attention of Bob Crewe whose production and songwriting credits included a number of hits for Four Seasons. The first thing that Crewe did was to change the name of the band to Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels.

Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels

The original Detroit Wheels lineup included John Badanjek on drums, lead guitarist Jim McCarty, and bass player Earl Elliot. The Wheels breakout single with Ryder was “Jenny Take a Ride” which reached the Top 10 in 1965. The follow-up single was “Little Latin Lupe Lu” and it did nearly as well in 1966. But the best was yet to come as Ryder and his Wheels had a stone smash with “Devil With a Blue Dress” that same year. In 1967, “Sock It to Me, Baby” almost equaled the success of “Devil” reaching #6 on the Pop chart. All of the singles were originally released on Crewe’s DynoVoice label with Crewe producing.

In 1968, Ryder left the Wheels behind for a solo career. He had some success with his version of “What Now My Love,” reaching the Top 30, but that was the last single he placed in the Top 50. In the early ’70s, Ryder formed a band called Detroit that included Badjanek and guitarist Steve Hunter. Lou Reed liked Hunter’s playing on the Detroit version of his song “Rock & Roll” so much that he grabbed Hunter for his band. That said, the one album that Detroit released in 1971 barely crept into the Top 200.

Ryder developed throat problems and bowed out of the music business in the 1970s. He managed a comeback in 1983 with an album called Never Kick a Sleeping Dog which was produced by John Mellencamp. The album spawned a Top 100 single version of Prince’s “When You Were Mine.” Ryder’s most recent album, The Promise, was released in 2012. It was his first album in nearly 30 years.

McCarty and Badjanek reunited later to form a group called the Rockets, and McCarty had some hard rock success with the band Cactus. Meanwhile, the influence of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels has proved incalculable, inspiring rockers like Mellencamp, Bob Seger, and Bruce Springsteen, whose “Detroit Medley” was a staple of his live set for years.

Mitch Ryder was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Forty-Six

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross:  Episode Forty Six

2018 doesn’t even blink its’ sleepy, hungover eyes open as Jon and Rob get right back to work, talking things over and hit the ground running.  The discussion runs like a river – talking about the criminal enterprise known as “cable T.V.”; New York City’s appalling mayor; the never ending sense of “entitlement” running rampant; the Bitcoin lunacy; media gadflies and buzzwords that need to go away, “In Our Heads” and so much more.

Sit down and take your place as part of a very warm conversation – Radio City is the perfect way to start the New Year…

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Forty Six

The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.

Single Review: Bellringer, “Stumble Bum/Triangular Object”

No matter how much he loathes it, Texan and musical-firebrand Mark Deutrom forever might be inextricably linked with Melvins, the legendary Gods-of-Thunder quartet whose debut he released on Alchemy 30-odd years ago and, more importantly, for whom he played a mean bass during a good chunk of the 1990s.

But the Deutrom story did not end when he left Melvins circa Honky – no further evidence is needed than his current band, Bellringer, which released a new, one-song single a few days ago, in the egg-still-on-ear moments of the new year.

The song, titled “Stumble Bum/Triangular Object,” centers around something very non-Melvins, an almost jazz-pop lurch with off-kilter drums and a hummable, two-part melody. But, as on Bellringers’ Jettison LP, that’s just a point of departure. Deutrom, who wrote and produced the piece, is not interested in conventional time, and he darts from one suite to the next with a seeming disregard for transition. It suits drummer R.L. Hulsman, with their rubbery angularities, well and gives the track a weird dimension that’s inviting – listen to the psych-trance guitars over buzzing bass in one section, get hooked by the bass-drum lurch elsewhere. Deutrom’s got the right prescription.

All of this continues to beg the question, though: how many times do we need to write about Deutrom, Bellringer and the solo efforts – which have a pretty rich biography of their own – before we drop the Melvins footnotes? I, for one, like the context but, with tracks like this, Deutrom continues to craft his own epic narratives.