Primus, Mastodon, All Them Witches, and Jjuujjuu announce big U.S. tour.

Weird rock maestros Primus, metal giants Mastodon, psych-rockers Jjuujjuu, and blues-psych heavyweights All Them Witches are going on tour starting in May.  Primus and Mastodon will share the stage with Jjuujjuu and All Them Witches on various spots of the tour, but any of these dates are worth seeing.  This will probably be one of the heaviest / trippiest tours of the year, so don’t miss it.

Keep your mind open.

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Top 30 albums of 2017: #’s 5 – 1

Happy New Year!  What were the best albums of last year?  Well, these topped the list for me.

#5 – Blanck Mass – World Eater

The somewhat startling cover is a warning for a powerful, teeth-baring electro record that somehow catches all the chaos this year displayed.  There was a lot of early buzz about this record upon its release, and for good reason.  It’s a stunning piece of synthwave, dark wave, and psychedelic fever dreams.

#4 – All Them Witches – Sleeping Through the War

This psychedelic blues-rock was pretty much a lock for my favorite rock record of the year as soon as I heard it.  ATW brew up haunting tracks that range in subjects from being stuck in purgatory to internet addiction (which are pretty much the same thing).

#3 – LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

Their reunion was possibly the most anticipated of the year, and they proved they hadn’t lost a thing on this great record.  Front man James Murphy‘s lyrics are as searing as ever as he confronts aging, love, social media, partying, and Millennials.  One of the singles, “Tonite” (one of my favorites of the year) is a great example.  It’s a song about songs, but it’s also about the fears and joys of aging.

#2 – WALL – Untitled

This is a bittersweet choice because one of the best post-punk records, and best records in any genre, of the year is by a band who broke up before it was released or even named.  WALL‘s only full-length record is shrouded in mysterious lyrics about the current political landscape and the band itself.  It’s also full of sharp guitar hooks and sass that is sorely missed.  Consider yourself blessed if you caught one of their too few live shows.

#1 – Kelly Lee Owens – self-titled

I read a review of this album that described it as “a breath of fresh air.”  I’m not sure I can beat that description because this stunning debut is the most beautiful record I heard all year.  Ms. Owens’ synth soundscapes immediately seem to lighten gravity around you.  It’s a tonic for the toxic atmosphere we’re living in right now (both in the real world and in the one that blitzes us from cyberspace every day).  If 2017 got you down, listen to this album today and you will have a much better outlook on the year to come.

Keep your mind open.

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Top live shows of 2017: #’s 10 – 6

We’ve reached the top ten in my list of live shows for 2017.  Who’s here?  Read on…

#10 – Kasabian – House of Blues Chicago – Chicago, IL September 20th.

“I don’t know why this show isn’t sold out?” was the sentiment held by me and at least a few others when Kasabian played in Chicago.  “These guys sell out Glastonbury!” said a guy behind me, referring to the massive British music festival.  Sure enough, Kasabian put on a great, energetic set that had everyone bouncing and dancing.  It might’ve been the liveliest set you missed all year.

#9 – All Them Witches – Founder’s Brewery – Grand Rapids, MI March 19th.

I was stunned to learn that Nashville’s All Them Witches were playing for free up in Michigan.  I was even more stunned by their set, which was a tight set infused with blues, rock, voodoo rock, and psychedelia.  It immediately made me want to catch them again as soon as possible.

#8 – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Metro – Chicago, IL April 8th.

2017 has been the year of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  They’ve release four albums this year and a fifth is due to drop any day now.  Their show at Chicago’s Metro was one of the craziest I attended all year.  They tore through a set that not only played older material but also included tunes from the (at the time) unreleased album Murder of the Universe.

#7 – Anoushka Shankar – IPFW – Ft. Wayne, IN March 26th.

This show gave me chills.  Anoushka Shankar is perhaps the greatest living sitar player on Earth, although I’m sure she’d disagree with that statement.  Seeing and hearing her in an acoustically perfect venue playing traditional ragas might convince you of my earlier statement, however.  It was a sublime performance.

#6 – Flying Lotus – Mamby on the Beach – Chicago, IL June 25th.

Flying Lotus was the final act we saw at Mamby on the Beach this year.  It was chilly by that time of day, but his set made you forget about the cool air blowing in from Lake Michigan.  The visuals were stunning and the sounds he made from his mushroom cloud-like stand were an impressive array of psychedelic, trip hop, and dub sounds.

Who finishes in the top five for 2017?  You’ll find out tomorrow!

Keep your mind open.

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All Them Witches to start second 2017 North American tour November 3rd.

Nashville’s All Them Witches will be returning to the U.S. and Canada for another tour in support of their excellent album Sleeping Through the War.  The tour starts November 3rd in North Carolina and ends November 18th in Milwaukee.  Don’t miss them if you get the chance to see them.  They are great live and amiable chaps to boot.

NOV 3 • Cat’s Cradle • CARRBORO, NC
NOV 4 •
The Southern Cafe and Music Hall • CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
NOV 5 •
Rock & Roll Hotel • WASHINGTON, DC
NOV 7 •
The Foundry at The Fillmore • PHILADELPHIA, PA
NOV 8 •
Music Hall of Williamsburg • BROOKLYN, NY
NOV 9 •
Higher Ground • SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT
NOV 10 •
Fairmount Theatre • MONTREAL, CANADA
NOV 11 •
Lee’s Palace • TORONTO, CANADA
NOV 12 •
The Bug Jar • ROCHESTER, NY
NOV 14 •
Ace of Cups • COLUMBUS, OH
NOV 15 •
Hi-Fi • INDIANAPOLIS, IN
NOV 16 •
The Mill • IOWA CITY, IA
NOV 17 •
Turf Club • ST. PAUL, MN
NOV 18 •
The Back Room at Colectivo Coffee • MILWAUKEE, WI

Keep your mind open.

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Live – All them Witches and Irata – Grand Rapids, Michigan – March 19, 2017

It was an easy two-hour drive to Founder’s Brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan and worth the time to see Nashville psych / blues rockers All Them Witches.  It was the end of the winter leg of their tour, and I was glad they made it.  I’d read about a show they had to cancel just a few days earlier due to the band being struck with stomach flu, so I’d called the venue to make sure the show was still happening.  I was assured everything was fine.

It was.  I met ATW’s lead singer and bassist, Charles Parks, at the band’s merch table and chatted with him.  I told him I was glad to see him healthy.  He described the last week as a mix of blizzard weather and lots of vomit.  He said everyone was back in shape and that the flu was “nothing a lot of cold showers and sleep” couldn’t cure.

Opening for ATW was a metal band from North Carolina called Irata, who had been with ATW for the entire tour (no word if they also caught the stomach flu).  Irata was already into their set by the time I got there and had the crowd cheering.  They played a good blend of metal and stoner rock, and I’m always impressed when a drummer can sing lead while hammering out complex beats.

Irata

All Them Witches didn’t disappoint.  Opening with a great rendition of “Alabaster,” they played most of their new album, Sleeping Through the War (which is one of my favorite records of 2017 so far), and had fun going into free-form jams on tracks like “Internet” and “Don’t Bring Me Coffee.”

All Them Witches

As I expected it would be, hearing “When God Comes Back” live is like standing in front of a tidal wave.  They went for broke on it, perhaps because it was the last show of the tour.  Drummer Robby Staebler’s kit seemed to small for his tall frame and Hulk-like smashing.

All Them Witches altering minds with “My Last Name Is the Blues.”

They ended with “My Last Name Is the Blues,” which I’d heard on their fine live record Live in Brussels, and I was delighted to hear it in person.  They stretched it out for what seemed like ten minutes and it was outstanding.

They did what any good band does – leave you wanting to catch their next show as soon as possible.  Don’t miss them if they come to a town near you.

Keep your mind open.

All Them Witches – Sleeping Through the War

Eight tracks are all that’s needed by All Them Witches (Ben McLeod – guitar, bass, mellotron, percussion, Charles Michael Parks Jr. – vocals, bass, guitar, mellotron, percussion, loops, Robby Staebler – drums, congas, Allan Van Cleave – keyboards, organ, piano, mellotron) to make a powerful statement about living in 2017 on Sleeping Through the War.

Starting with “Bulls,” the album goes head-first into psychedelic territory with reverbed guitars and vocals while Parks sings about sleeping through not only the wars outside our borders, but also the ones on TV, the ones in our heads and homes, and the ones right next door. “I’m married to my boredom,” he sings. How many of us can relate to that, either in our own lives or the lives of our loved ones?

“Don’t Bring Me Coffee” is a hammering rocker that I think is about the proliferation of hipster consumers. I don’t know which of the Witches played bass on this track, but whoever did was trying to flatten the studio walls. “Bruce Lee” is as fast and bold as its namesake, and I love the space-rock guitar in it as Parker sings about trying to center himself after a bad relationship has ended, and not by his choice. The band almost ventures into stoner rock on the prime numbered “3-5-7,” and that’s all right with me. Staebler’s grooves are sweet, and Van Cleave’s keys are, as usual, excellent.

“Am I Going Up?” is a fine example (in the guitar riffs) of the Nashville blues influences All Them Witches adore. The song is about the uncertainty of death, and Parks wondering if he’s going to heaven and how long he’ll have to wait in the ground before he moves in either direction (or at all). “Alabaster” is about Parks’ childhood, how much things and the people have changed around him, and how much he is changing into them (“Every day they look more and more like me.”). The whole band grooves hard on this track and I’m sure it’s excellent live.

“Cowboy Kirk” might be the name of a childhood hero of Parks (“Love you like I love Cowboy Kirk,” he sings at the beginning.), but the person seems to be an allegory for Parks’ wishes to return to a simpler time. The song isn’t simple, that’s for sure. The guitars are layered on top of each other and I love how Staebler’s drums stay crisp throughout the tune.

The closer is “Internet,” a song about how people use what should be a magnificent invention for learning, art, and outreach to instead hide from reality and do Big Brother’s work for them. “All the moss of my childhood turned to eggshell while I wasn’t looking. If you’re asking me, I’ve got one thing to say: If I can’t live here, guess I’ll go live on the Internet,” Parks sings, verbally throwing ice water in our faces.

Most of us are sleeping through one war or another. It could be a literal one that we hope will just end if we don’t pay attention (i.e., Syria) or one we stopped caring about a long time ago and are just going through the motions of it by this point. It could be a war with a dream we refuse to chase or a trauma we refuse to confess. We have to wake up. We have to open our eyes and, yes, get off the Internet.

We need this record.

Keep your mind open.

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All Them Witches – Live in Brussels

Live in Brussels by psychedelic blues rockers All Them Witches (Ben McLeod – guitars, Charlie Michael Parks, Jr. – vocals, bass, and guitar, Robby Staebler – drums, Allan Van Cleve – keyboards and violin) is one of those rare live records that pulls off a double feat. It makes you want to see them live and it makes you want to hear their new record as soon as possible.

I mean, the album opens with “The Death of Coyote Woman,” (in which Charlie Parks apologizes for the band “not being the best at being on time”), over ten minutes of stunning, fuzzy psych-rock that would make the MC5 and Pink Floyd proud. “Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird” keeps the guitar distortion on thick, which is all right with me. It flows into the stunning “When God Comes Back” that has both blues and metal fans nodding in time.

“Dirt Preachers” (from their excellent album Dying Surfer Meets His Maker) takes on a cool new tone with the excellent keyboard work by Van Cleve on it. “The Marriage of Coyote Woman” is a slick blues jam. The keyboards on “Elk.Blood.Heart” are like something from an early Peter Frampton record. The guitars on “Open Passageways” are a bit Middle Eastern, which is a nice touch. “Talisman” is a gritty folk ballad and a favorite among the crowd, especially when it transforms into an early Pink Floyd-like jam.

Speaking of epic jams, wait until you hear “Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters,” which clocks in at 14:40. It’s a stunner with a lot of great keyboard work from Van Cleve. “Mountain” is a great blend of Americana and pysch-rock. “Heavy – Like a Witch” is another trippy rocker, and “Charles William” is a solid close to the set…until the encore when they play their version of a blues classic – “My Last Name Is the Blues.” It’s over eleven minutes of psych-blues freak-out and was worth the price of admission for the Brussels crowd.

You can get this whole album for free, by the way. I suggest you leave a tip to be nice. They suggest six bucks on their Noisetrade page, and that’s a steal for something this good.

Keep your mind open.

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My top 25 albums of 2016 – #’s 15-11

We’re halfway to #1 on the countdown!

#15 

The Kills released a great album for their 15th anniversary.  Ash & Ice oozes with their sweaty, smoky, whiskey-tinged rock and is one of the best albums about love and sex from 2016.

#14 

I didn’t expect a full record of shoegaze from the Duke Spirit, but Kin is the best shoegaze record I’ve heard all year (and probably of the last two or three years).

#13

All Them Witches released a live album last year (which I still need to get), teased a new album for this year, and started 2016 with Dying Surfer Meets His Maker – a great blend of stoner metal and blues voodoo rock.

#12 

Comacozer contacted me through this website and asked if I’d like to hear their record.  I’m glad I said yes, because this stoner metal album, Astra Planeta, is amazing.

#11 

The KVB make excellent dark wave and shoegaze.  It’s a bit difficult to believe at first that just two people produce that much sound.  Of Desire was recorded on vintage synthesizers and sequencers, and the rich sound produced is excellent.

Who’s made it into my top 10 for 2016?  Come back tomorrow to find out!

Keep your mind open.

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My top 10 albums of 2016 so far.

It’s been a good year so far for music.  I’m finding excellent stuff every month.  We’re halfway through the year, so here’s a quick recap of my top 10 records of 2016 so far.

  1. David Bowie – Blackstar: A powerful way to end one’s career, let along a legendary life.
  2. The Besnard Lakes – A Coliseum Complex Museum: It’s still the most lush, beautiful record I’ve heard so far this year.
  3. Night Beats – Who Sold My Generation: This band gets better with each record, and this one is a tour de force.
  4. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity: Easily the craziest record of the year so far.  You can play it on an infinite loop beginning with any track and it will repeat without any noticeable pauses, stutters, or breaks.
  5. WALL – self-titled EP: WALL are currently my favorite discovery of 2016.  They’ve brought back a fierce post-punk edginess that I didn’t know I was yearning for until I heard them.
  6. Underworld – Barbara, Barbara, We Face a Shining Future: This record is so good that it might go higher on my Best of 2016 list by the end of the year.  It’s a fabulous return for the band and wonderfully optimistic.
  7. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool: One word to describe this record – Heartbreaking.  Most of the songs are about the end of Thom Yorke’s 20+ year relationship with his girlfriend.
  8. All Them Witches – Dying Surfer Meets His Maker: This is simply a great rock record.  No muss, no fuss.
  9. The Duke Spirit – Kin: I’m so happy they’re back and even happier that they’ve put out the best shoegaze record of the year so far.
  10. Golden Dawn Arkestra – Stargazer: Pure cosmic funk that can induce dancing in even the grumpiest of grumps.

Keep your mind open.

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All Them Witches – Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

ATWDSMHM

A friend of mine introduced me to All Them Witches (Ben McLeod – guitar, Michael Parks, Jr. – bass, vocals, guitar, Robby Staebler – drums, Allan Van Cleave – keyboards, violin) when she sent me their 2014 album Lightning at the Door and said, “I think you’ll like these guys.” I’m not sure if she thought I’d like them because their name involved witches and she figured that would go along with my love of old horror movies or if their psychedelic desert rock would intrigue me. She was right on both accounts.

Their new album, the intriguingly titled Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, rises and ebbs like waves and can easily lull you into some sort of trance. The opener, “Call Me Star,” builds to an almost menacing drone and slips right into “El Centro,” which is over eight minutes of psychedelic greatness. McLeod pulls in riffs that could’ve been used in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune movie if it had ever been made. Van Cleave’s synths add a touch of weird playfulness that is somewhat disturbing (in a good way), Parks’ bass sounds like a ghost, and Staebler beats his kit like it will power a rocket launch.

“Dirt Preachers” is the first single off the record. It starts with a weird bass dirge and then moves out at a pace best suited for late night high speed driving. It has a great Led Zeppelin-like breakdown in the middle that is outstanding. “This Is Where It Falls Apart” might be about a relationship. The blues harmonica, sad drums, and distant vocals seem to relate that something is coming to an end, but it may be the end of this reality for all I know. The track is like a half-awake dream.

“Mellowing” lives up to its title, and McLeod’s work on it is excellent. Van Cleave is all over “Open Passageways” with spooky synths and even better violin work that makes the track sound like something you’d hear on a Scottish moor just before a banshee steps out of a tree next to you. “Instrumental 2 (Welcome to the Caveman Future)” would be great for a live-action Thundarr the Barbarian movie considering the title and how it drifts from thudding rock to mystical tones. “Talisman” sounds like a mix of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Jesus and Mary Chain.

The closer is “Blood and Sand / Milk and Endless Waters.” I have a feeling the first half is war-themed, with the second half being the images seen by a wounded or dying soldier on a stormed beach. It’s definitely trippy enough for that.

This is a great way to start off your psychedelic music collection for 2016. All Them Witches are about to take off on a tour of Europe for the spring. Catch them if you can. They’ve moved up high on my list.

Keep your mind open.