Song of the Day – 9/8/08

Hey everyone. It’s been crazy as always. Good to see you again.

photo credit: Bowen Rodkey

A few weeks ago, I got a chance to listen to the On the Tail of the White Donkey EP, the debut release from folk-singer Vikesh Kapoor. His music always brings me to the same conclusion. We must return to this tradition. There is so much to be had here–so much that real folk music can do for the industry and all the places it reaches.

I can just imagine Kapoor (recently off a successful tour with staff favorite Nicholas Beaven) moving along, each song gracefully falling from his back pocket. Travelling through the heart of an unnamed area,  almost ignoring the complications of musicianship and poetics, he sings his stories. I remember my first experience with his music, sitting cross-legged on the floor of a discreet second-story Allston apartment. There were no chairs, no posters, no amplifiers and absolutely no bullshit.

An Indian-American traditonal folk singer is something to turn your head to at first. His influences are part of a strong force of writers and players that do not share common ground in style, but share a similar need to create this long-forgotten escape that doesn’t have any room for the pitfalls of popular music today. I’ll spare all of you comparisons to others in his genre and simply say this: Everything in his music that at first sounds tired quickly becomes an understanding–that in order to create a piece of intellectual, poetic tradition one must come to terms with both who they are and what they have learned along the long, hard path. Kapoor’s feet are on their way to becoming tough and leathery and we’re lucky enough to catch him so soon.

Over the course of the EP, this truly became clear. Deciding which of these songs was going to be your Song of the Day was tough. Just as important as the individual tales, the whole EP is a coherent, imaginative collection of songs that describe a shared need for honest human connection. If that isn’t the point of this EP, then I would have to say Vikesh Kapoor as succeeded in creating something that, while sometimes inconsistent and unsteady in its footing, is in a way universally relatable–the way it should be.

Some major moments for me occur on the unnervingly beautiful “One Woman Man.” It’s those moments of folk glory where the song sounds as if it is from 1950 until he includes a line with a turn-of-phrase or euphemism that jarrs the listener back into the present. All of a sudden we have something that exists outside of the system. Later on, Kapoor hits what I consider to be a masterpiece, “Willy Robbins.” A traditional folk tale (no chorus, just the adamant painting of a harrowing picture). He sings lines like “then like many working men, he’d shower, watch TV.” and their gravity is unreal. It is truly brilliant.

However, neither of these songs I chose to share with you today. I think you should grab the EP and spend a moment to hear what an honest artist sounds like.  The songs discussed above are even better in context. One song, however, you should definitely hear. “Till the Fields” is a happy, catchy tune with many simple parts working together. Truly, Vikesh Kapoor’s poetry is the most obvious talent, but as a guitarist he supports himself in admirable fashion.

MP3: Vikesh Kapoor – “Till the Fields”

MP3: Vikesh Kapoor – “Down by the River”

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Support Vikesh Kapoor: Buy On The Tail Of The White Donkey EP

Vikesh Kapoor is performing at TT the Bears in Caimbridge on Thursday, September 25th. It’s his only show for a little while so GO THERE.

Pick up an album and meet the guy. It’s all possible with real music.

I leave you with an intimate performace by Kapoor at Firehouse 13 in Rhode Island


Allston (Boston) Rock City

This is a mix of great songs from bands in Boston that, despite my best efforts, won’t get unstuck from my head. And there’s a reason they’re stuck there. That being that they’re great. And when I feel that void creeping in, the one I get after scrolling through all 7,000 songs on my iPod and not finding a single thing to listen to, that I click a random link from one of these bands myspace pages, and hopefully find something new to latch on to. So hopefully, one (or more!) of these tracks will become your new obsession. So folks, here you go, a brief introduction to Allston Rock City. (Some of these albums might be a bit tough to get, so if any of it strikes your fancy, shoot me an e-mail ( and I’ll steer you in the right direction.)

Tulsa – Mass – Clouds of distortion, jagged classic-rock guitar solos, and Carter Tanton’s reverb drenched voice, floating through the song in his best Jim James. This is one of those songs that makes you want to storm a castle with an army at your back. In slow motion. Up hill.
If you dig My Morning Jacket, you’ll love Tulsa. Grab I was Submerged, and look for their newest LP sometime this fall.

The Toothaches – It’s All Gunna Be OK – And after you stormed your castle, settle down with the Toothaches. From their first LP, A Month of Sundays, this is one of the happiest songs I know. And as I sit here, hung-over on a Sunday, it’s all I need. Also pictured above. They’re adorable. Oh god, don’t tell them I said that. They’ll hurt me.

Hooray For Earth – Warm OutHFE are kind of like if the dude from Islands fronted Nine Inch Nails. Or if Beck decided to redo Odelay as a grunge epic. I’ve used this line in a past review, but if the birth of a star were to have a soundtrack, the Cellphone EP (and Warm Out) might be appropriate. Also one of my favorite songs in recent memory.

Helms – It Takes Skin to Win – If Slint formed a super group with Explosions in the Sky, and wrote more hook-oriented songs, it’d almost be as good as Helms. I’ve had this song stuck in the back of my head for three years. And their live shows are unlike anything else in town. Their album McCarthy is a good place to start.

King Tuff – LadyKing Tuff isn’t from Boston, so this is kind of cheating. But he writes brilliant 60s power pop. Super lo-fi, completely self-recorded, he sounds like a more cohesive Television. I was introduced to King Tuff at a show my band played last summer in Vermont. Toward the end of our set, he strode in, looking like a grizzlier Neil Young, walked on stage, picked up a guitar, and just started shredding. He didn’t say anything, it was unreal.

Ketman – Oubliette – When I first saw Ketman, I thought I’d walked in on a Meat Puppets show. They were recently voted best new band in Boston by a reputable weekly mag, and are definitely the best power-trio in town. I did an interview in Performer Magazine with them this month. Their new album, El Torro, is like a hard slap in the face. In a good way.

Twink – What The DickensTwink’s one-sheet describes his music as “chaotic toytronica.” A Very Fine Adventure sounds like one of Jon Brion’s freaked out instrumentals, or b-sides to the I Heart Huckabees soundtrack. Slightly atonal toy piano floats through elaborate arrangements of other toy instruments, synthesizers and a whole bevy of phasing, pulsing instruments I can’t name. It’s a trip, freak out. But make sure a pillow or a friend is handy, you’ll eventually want to cuddle.

Get into it. And please, don’t be shy, contact these people, find where they’re playing, enjoy their tunes, and support local music!

Song of the Day – 7/30/08

Last week I posted about a tour by two fantastic folk singers by the names of Vikesh Kapoor and Nicholas Beaven. I got my hands on their EP’s and this week I will feature them both.

Nicholas Beaven’s five-song Four Track EP is surely a work of art in both content and presentation. The sleeve of the disc was pressed with a hand-carved stamp that he made and a note inside is written intimately for the the listener. The sounds don’t disappoint either.

Reminiscent just as much of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith as the classic folk poets, Beaven’s songs have that eerie bit of honesty about them. The analog warmth of the recordings give his already intriguing progressions and patterns the texture they deserve. His voice could be one of the warmest you’ve heard and the motion of the songs play along perfectly. The songs on the album vary in their power, but just for the sake of its shining moments should you give them your time. Even moreso than his skill on the guitar and his unique approach to songwriting is his ability to invite you to see his person. To bear what may be more suitable for a private journal in such an open spirit is a quality that resides few and far between in music today.

A multi-talented artist from the great city of Chicago, Nicholas Beaven’s “Lady I’ve Yet To Meet”  is your song of the day. Make it speak to you.

MP3: Nicholas Beaven – “Lady I’ve Yet To Meet”

MP3: Nicholas Beaven – “Midnight Moon”

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Passion Pit – Chunk Of Change

Recently, MGMT has been getting a whole lot of attention. While I think they have some good stuff, this past week I have been obsessed with a band that is simply better than MGMT. Meet Passion Pit.

There is no doubt in my mind that this relatively new electro-pop band out of Boston is going to blow up soon. They are already starting to get a lot of recognition in the Boston area, as they have opened up for Girl Talk, and were awarded the best local act of 2008 by WFNX & Boston Phoenix, which gave them the opportunity to open for Death Cab For Cutie.

Michael Angelakos (lead vocals, keys, piano, synth) was the original brains behind Passion Pit, but his friends Ian Hultquist (synth, voice) and Adam Lavinsky (drums, samples) quickly joined to form the band. Thom Plasse (bass, synth) and Ayad Al Adhamy (synth, sample, voice) were added to the mix soon after. Passion Pit literally just signed to Frenchkiss Records (The Hold Steady, the Apes, the Fatal Flying Guiloteens) who will be re-releasing their EP, Chunk Change,  September, 16th.

Ian Hultquist has been featured on “Indie Muse” before for his solo work, which I also highly recommend you check out. He has a great cover of Wilco’s “Sunken Treasure” and currently does compositions for films. He is a student at The Berklee College of Music.

Fun Fact (via the Boston Herald): Angelakos was taking a class in American fashion at Emerson College and stumbled upon the term passion pit: slang for drive-in movie theaters where kids would make out.

So now you know what passion pit means…

Chunk Of Change (September, 2008):

Passion Pit -  Sleepy Head (on EP, Pretty Penny, but will be released on Chunk of Change.)

Passion Pit – I’ve Got Your Number

Ian Hultquist:

Sunken Treasure (Wilco Cover)

Wilco – Sunken Treasure

Passion Pit’s Myspace | Ian’s Myspace | Frenchkiss records