Monday, May 23, 2016

Songs I Want to Hear Frank Turner Play at the Diamond Ballroom

Frank Turner returns to Oklahoma City on June 1st when he and the Sleeping Souls will take the stage at the Diamond Ballroom co-headlining with Gogol Bordello and special guest Walter Schreifels.  Turner last played in Oklahoma at The Conservatory back in 2011, a show that was breathtaking.  Since that time he has release two excellent full-length albums, multiple EPs and splits, three b-sides collections, a best-of collection, toured the world, and played the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics.  Needless to say, the man's been busy.

I first discovered Turner in 2010 when I saw the video for "I Still Believe" (originally released on the Rock & Roll EP before getting re-released in 2011's album of the year England Keep My Bones).  The song blew me away on so many different levels that I've been a huge fan ever since.  I was lucky enough to interview Turner in 2011 a few days before his show at The Conservatory.  After said show I got to meet Turner and talk with him for a few minutes and that is a memory that I will cherish for a very long time.  Since then I have collected every Frank Turner release that I can get my hands on (physical and digital), pouring over each and every song, reading lyric sheets and thank you notes, knowing that I was taking in something incredibly special.  His music has touched me, given me solace letting me know that I'm not alone in this world, and empowered me to defiantly be myself embracing imperfections and failures as part of standing apart from the crowd.  Sure some of these are things I've felt for years but he put a voice to them in a way that no one else had.  As someone who loves making lists, for years I've had a go-to top five favorite artists of all time.  Needless to say, Frank Turner is now on that list.

This list of songs comes from across Turner's discography and is in the order I'd like to hear them played.  In other words, this is my dream set-list for a show in support of his latest album Positive Songs for Negative People.  Sadly this is a show that I'm not going to be able to attend.  This time of year is the end of the school year and thus comes with all sorts of extra expenses creating a cash shortage in the Brown family household.  Hopefully Turner and company will come back to OKC in the near future.  For those that get to go to the show, please let me know how it goes and if my set is anything like the one they play.

For those interested in going to the show, you can get your tickets here.

For more information on Frank Turner check out his official website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Wikipedia pages.

1.  "Eulogy" (from England Keep My Bones)
2.  "Get Better" (from Positive Songs for Negative People)
3.  "Glorious You" (from Positive Songs for Negative People)
4.  "The Way I Tend To Be (from Tape Deck Heart)
5.  "Love Ire & Song" (from Love Ire & Song)
6.  "Try This At Home" (from Poetry of the Deed)
7.  "The Next Storm" (from Positive Songs for Negative People)
8.  "Vital Sings" (from Sleep Is For The Week)
9.  "Reasons Not To Be An Idiot" (from Love Ire & Song)
10.  "Wessex Boy" (from England Keep My Bones)
11.  "Recovery" (from Tape Deck Heart)
12.  "Mittens" (from Positive Songs for Negative People)
13.  "Four Simple Word" (from Tape Deck Heart)
14.  "Peggy Sang the Blues" (from England Keep My Bones)
15.  "Live Fast Die Old" (from Poetry of the Deed)
16.  "Long Live the Queen" (from Love Ire & Song)
17.  "The Real Damage" (from Sleep Is For The Week)
18.  "Tattoos" (from Take Deck Heart [Deluxe Edition])
19.  "If Ever I Stray" (from England Keep My Bones)
20.  "Nashville Tennessee" (from Campfire Punkrock)
21.  "The Angel Islington" (from Positive Songs for Negative People)
22.  "American Girl" (from The Third Three Years)
23.  "I Still Believe" (from England Keep My Bones)
24.  "Love Forty Down" (from Positive Songs for Negative People)
25.  "Losing Days" (from Tape Deck Heart)
26.  "Dan's Song" (from Poetry of the Deed)
27.  "Glory Hallelujah" (from England Keep My Bones)
28.  "Time Machine" (from Tape Deck Heart [Deluxe Edition])
29.  "Josephine" (from Positive Songs for Negative People)
30.  "The Road" (from Poetry of the Deed)
31.  "Demons" (from Positive Songs for Negative People)
32.  "Somebody to Love" (from The Third Three Years)
33.  "I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous" (from Love Ire & Song)
34.  "I Am Disappeared" (from England Keep My Bones)
35.  "Oh Brother" (Tape Deck Heart)
36.  "The Opening Act of Spring" (from Positive Songs for Negative People)
37.  "We Shall Not Overcome" (from Tape Deck Heart [Deluxe Edition])
38.  "Photosynthesis" (from Love Ire & Song)
39.  "The Ballad Of Me & My Friends" (from Sleep Is For The Week)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

10 Questions with American Television

Hailing from Washington, D.C., American Television play a fun and catchy form of '90s inspired indie punk power pop.  The band's latest release is the five-song Reaction EP available on BandCamp.

This interview was conducted via email May 2 - 5, 2016.

For more information on American Television check out their Facebook, Twitter, and BandCamp pages.

Dave:  How did the band get together?

Steve:  We need to thank Craig Newmark (Craigslist) for this. That website brought Matt and I together 4 years ago after I moved here without anyone to play with. It also helped us find Bryan and Edwin this past year. There are talented people lurking on there, and weirdos. I'm glad we found a couple weirdos.

Matt:  fate.

Edwin:  I was sad, lonely and tired of playing by myself. I threw a listing up on Craigslist and a few days later Bryan contacted me. And the rest is history.

Dave:  What’s the story behind the name American Television?

Matt:  At the time it was the one name we could all agree on, we dug the idea of the AMTV abbreviation and Steve--being a badass graphic designer--felt like he could do some cool stuff with it.  As for meaning, I see it in the punk sense, whereby we are encouraging people to not just robotically ingest the crap that's out there, be it sensationalist 'news' programs or the drudge of reality tv, but rather we'd like to encourage people to think twice about what they're doing or supporting.  Alternatively, I think Bryan and others see it in a nostalgic sense, as a nod to simpler times and good ol' days in the likes of classics Cheers, MASH, or maybe even Mary Tyler Moore or something.

Bryan:  Mary Tyler Moore?! How old do you think I am? That show went off the air AT LEAST 3 full weeks before I was born!

Dave:  For those who have never heard the band, how do you describe your music?

Steve:  I've been trying to hone in on this lately - I say this with some uncertainty because it's hard to draw comparisons, but maybe Methadones meets The Explosion...

We all have a love of 90s rock and melodic punk. That tends to keep us writing somewhere between those two worlds, but we step outside of that comfort zone at times.

Matt:  I like the second line of Steve's answer.

Edwin:  People have asked me this, and I do struggle with this as well. I don't know...take all the good music from '87-'97 throw it in a blender on purée and out comes AmTV.

Dave:  You recently released the Reaction EP. What's the story behind the record?

Steve:  Reaction is the first time all 4 of us are featured on the same recording. We recorded it with Kevin Bernsten in Baltimore. Although 2 of the songs were written in an early incarnation of American Television, we felt they had taken on a new life with the new rhythm section.

Lyrically, It's definitely on the darker end of the spectrum. Sometimes I like to face my negative thoughts head on. Writing is a cathartic experience - and after spilling those emotions on to paper, it's freeing.

Dave:  Do you have plans to tour in support of the new record? What are some of your favorite places to play?

Matt:  We've got work and family commitments to tend to, but have found that weekend warrior-ing helps us play out regionally while keeping a healthy balance with our other obligations.  For example, we're just coming off a mid-April appearance at Death to False Hope Fest in Durham, NC and will be hitting Philly and Brooklyn on May 20th and 21st.

Dave:  Do you have any specific type of songwriting process?

Bryan:  Most of the time, Steve or Edwin bring the bones of something to practice. Then we add from there, drums, lead guitar parts. We all work together on the arrangement. Nothing too complicated.  

Matt:  I gotta say, since bringing on Edwin and Bryan our songwriting has an electricity to it that just wasn't there before.  Those dudes provide such a spark, and an energy that drives us to what feels like a much stronger level of music.

Edwin:  Everything happens pretty organically. Steve or I will bring something to the table and just jam on it with Bryan and Matt and go from there. It's pretty amazing how well we all play off each other. There really isn't any kind of struggle or pressure to create something, it just comes to life.

Dave:  What are your thoughts on the music scene in Washington, D.C.?

Bryan:  I think it's pretty solid right now, as it's always been. There is a good mix of youngsters and old heads making punk, hardcore, and indie rock. Other styles too, but that's what I like. Bars and spaces come and go, but on any given night, there's a chance to go see a band or performer doing something great.

Matt:  Active AF.  Case in point: It's impossible to book a show on an off-night, because there aren't any.  That is a fantastic 'problem' to have.

Steve:  I'm just blown away at how many great bands DC has. You can have 3 great shows on a Friday happening in 3 different neighborhoods and all of them will have great turn outs.

Dave:  This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, television programs, books/authors?

Matt:  Great question.  I don't think we could ever agree on an order, but top bands would include Timeshares, Restorations, Bad Religion, and Jawbreaker .

Edwin:  I love/hate these questions. It'd be interesting to make a "band top 5" due to the melting pot of influences we have. But for writers I will give a shoutout to Kerouac, Poe, and Whitman. And Clerks is only one of the best movies ever.

Steve:  I'll take TV Shows: Breaking Bad,  The Americans, Transparent on Amazon, and some old/canceled shows ... Freaks & Geeks, and this little known "buddy drama" called Terriers that was on FX; it had 1 season and ruled but no one watched it.

Bryan:  My wife and I recently started listening to all our albums in alphabetical order. The best ones I've heard so far are Over the James by Avail and Among the Living by Anthrax. Obviously, with both of those being 'A' bands, we're not too far in. But I am confident that those two will remain on my top 5 even after we listen to Yaphet Kotto or Zoinks, or whatever's at the end of the collection.

Dave:  What’s next for the band?

Bryan:  Even after releasing Reaction, we have some 2016 band goals still to accomplish. Mostly related to playing shows, writing songs, booking at particular venues. Pretty standard band stuff, but enough to challenge ourselves.

Edwin:  I still have 6 songs to write.

Steve:  Haha, that's an inside joke. Me too.

Dave:  Any final thoughts?

Matt:  THANK YOU!!!  We really appreciate your interest and the work you do for our community, keep it up!

Steve:  How does a show like Small Wonder, a TV show about a robot daughter who's family hid her from her grandparents and used her to do house work last 4 seasons? And then Terriers gets canceled after 1?!! Seriously, find that online and watch it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The New 52's 10 Worst Titles per Newsarama

Newsarama has put together a list of the 10 Worst Titles of DC's NEW 52 / DC YOU Era.  Overall, it is a pretty fair list.  There were things in DC's New 52 that worked really well (Aquaman, Justice League Dark, the Court of Owls stuff in Batman) and then there was a lot of stuff that just didn't (Green Arrow, a lot of the stuff in the Superman and Green Lantern books, renaming Captain Marvel Shazam).  Some of the problems had to do with the condensed timeline, others had to do with really confusing stories and origins, and others stemmed from changes for the sake of changes.  There was also the problem of the New 52 being way too dark and gritty.

Comics had gone through what I called the Dark Age from about 1985 - 2005.  After 2005 things started to brighten up and become more hopeful, which I thought was a great thing.  This was the post Infinite Crisis, pre-Flashpoint era that seemed to point towards new and inspiring stories.  Well the New 52 was new but not all that inspiring.  A great example of this is Superman.  After IC his origin was re-imagined by Geoff Johns in Superman: Secret Origin.  This iteration of Superman was everything the character should be: inspiring, humble, and most importantly he was just a good person.  This Superman was fun and flawed and thought of himself as a human (and subsequently Clark Kent) first.  The New 52's take on the character was angry, at times very bitter, and thought of himself as an alien/Kryptonian first.  This was not the guy that made you want to be a better person simply because of his great example.  This guy was kind of a dick.  And as the standard barer of all things DC, Superman was a great example of what was wrong in the New 52.

One of the titles highlighted in Newsarama's piece was Hawk & Dove.  In a lot of ways, this title was doomed right from the start.  The story held onto elements from the Blackest Night and Brightest Day events, even though those events may or may not have happened (Blackest Night was referred to in an early issue of Green Lantern but only in passing).  Because of this, the coupling of Dove and Deadman made no sense.  Then there was the complete overhaul of the duo's origin.  Now instead of being the result of an experiment by a Lord of Order and Chaos that had fallen in love and wanted to prove that the sides could work together.  In the new continuity, Hawk and Dove are the literal avatars of war and peace.  Yeah, I didn't get it either.  The title got the ax after only eight issues and the characters have been lost ever since.  As a fan of the late '80s, early '90s Hawk & Dove comic, this series was a big disappointment.  I love these characters and think they hold a lot of promise and storytelling potential, especially in the framework of the greater DCU cosmology but this just didn't work.  Amazingly, Hawk & Dove wasn't the most egregious sin of the New 52, that distinction would go to the emerald archer.

Surprisingly Newsarama did not include Green Arrow in their list of the worst titles of the New 52 but they certainly should have.  Pre-Flashpoint, Green Arrow was a crusader for the oppressed who was flawed but driven by the best of intentions, quick-witted, earnest, and someone who took no crap.  After the reboot he was nothing more than a pompous rich d-bag with a bunch of toys and no driving moral compass.  Everything that was great about this character, going all the way back to the days of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, was gone.  They tried to incorporate some elements from the excellent TV show Arrow but even that wasn't enough to save this sinking ship.  Now to be fair, I gave up on this title relatively early.  I'd read the first three story-lines mostly out of sheer hope that things would get better (heck I even hoped that the character would improve in the Justice League of America title but I was wrong).  So if things have gotten better I've missed it.

Two of DC's big crossover events that occurred during the New 52 era, Futures End and Convergence, were also included in Newsarama's list.  Both events were bold concepts that just didn't quite work in execution.  Futures End was so long and expansive that it was easy to get lost in the story (and not in a good way).  As hard as I tried, I couldn't get through it.  Convergence on the other hand had tons of potential and did a great job and bringing back past iterations of characters lost to reboots and retcons.  That alone made the series work for me.  It's biggest problem was its utterly anti-climatic conclusion that just happened.  Literally the world was about to end and a few panels later, the universe(s) was reborn.  Just like that.  It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise fun and satisfying story.

Now with the New 52 coming to an end, DC prepares for another reboot, or sorts, with Rebirth.  Based on the previewssneak-peeks, and reviews DC Universe Rebirth is sure to make some happy while angering others.  It's also sure to bring many much needed new eyes onto comic books.  With this new beginning we say goodbye to a continuity and an era that was bold with its intentions despite its missteps.  Here's to this new start with hopes for great stories that will engage and fascinate generations to come.      

Video of the Day: "When Things Fall Apart" by Augustines

Song:  "When Things Fall Apart"
Album:  This Is Your Life (Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Augustines (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Wikipedia)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

EP Review: 'Tender Defender' by Tender Defender

Title:  Tender Defender (Dead Broke Rekerds, BandCamp [Dead Broke], Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Tender Defender (BandCamp)

Sometimes a band can be shackled with the burden of its members' previous projects.  ALL will forever be known as the band guilty of not being the Descendents, while The Draft will be thought of as Hot Water Music without Chuck Ragan.  Sometimes the comparisons are fair and even helpful in a group's formative years and sometimes the new band is able to build a legacy all its own and move out of the shadow of the previous band's legend (see Rancid and Operation Ivy or Fugazi and Minor Threat).  Tender Defender's burden is Latterman.

Phil Douglas, Mattie Jo Canino, and Pat Schramm (3/4 of Latterman) first started playing music together when they were teenagers.  The band broke up in 2007 and the three went on to play in Iron Chic, RVIVR, and Bridge & Tunnel respectfully.  The idea for Tender Defender came after a series of Latterman reunion shows in 2012.  The project took years to come to fruition due to scheduling conflicts and the fact that all three now live in different states.  Luckily the band was able to find time and money to get together, write, and record an absolutely fucking brilliant debut EP.

Tender Defender soars with cathartic crescendos, mighty choruses, melody, and hooks thst defy you to not dance and shout along with gleeful abandon.  On top of all that, the lyrics masterfully capture the frustrations, anxieties, and desperations of the grownup teenage outcast and misfit.  Simply put, listening to Tender Defender is a visceral, if not religious, experience.

The band's sound is very similar to that of Latterman and Iron Chic which Dan Ozzi at Noisey described as "the sort of triumphant, melodic gruff-anthems that lean heavily on the “woah-ohs,” the fingerpoints, and the feel-good shoutbacks."  This is a style that pulls from nearly all of the sub-genres of punk and mixes them perfectly creating a vibrant sound that is unique and familiar all at the same time.  It's a sound that, one could argue, Douglas, Canino, and Schranm created in Latterman.  It's a sound that has influenced a slew of modern punk bands (including some of the best currently in the genre).  Now it's a sound that they have perfected in Tender Defender.

The record opens with "Hello Dirt," a rousing anthem with one of the best opening lyrics in punk rock history:  "You get up, And say hello to the fucking dirt."  I could go on and dissect each song, describing in detail how the lyrics and music connect with full force body blows, define and defy a sound simultaneously, and work so beautifully and perfectly together creating a transcendent experience but that still wouldn't do this record justice.  

I really can't say enough good things about Tender Defender and truth be told 2016 is going to be hard pressed to produce anything that comes close to its intensity, power, and quality.  This is the record of the year.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Currently Listening

1.  "Ownership" by Grieving (from Ownership)
2.  "No Sleep" by Grieving (from No Sleep)
3.  "F.E.F.E." by Tender Defender (from Tender Defender)
4.  "The Tender Defender" by Tender Defender (from Tender Defender)
5.  "Seen Your Video" by The Replacements (from Let It Be)
6.  "Little Mascara" by The Replacements (from Tim)
7.  "Jewels" by Easy Creatures (from Low Fidelity)
8.  "Sick Day" by Easy Creatures (from Low Fidelity)
9.  "Paycheck" by Slingshot Dakota (from Break)
10.  "You" by Slingshot Dakota (from Break)
11.  "Respect" by Muncie Girls (from From Caplan To Belsize)
12.  "Learn In School" by Muncie Girls (from From Caplan To Belsize)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Top 5 Songs by Prince

Thursday the world lost one of its most unique, talented, and iconic voices with the unexpected passing of Prince.  This was such a shocking loss that MTV actually broke character and played a marathon of Prince music videos.

I first discovered Prince in the 4th grade.  I remember coming back from summer vacation and still being full-tilt into Michael Jackson and break dancing (this was 1984 after all and I was all of 9 years old) only to learn that both were passe and the big thing was now Prince.  Shortly thereafter I got a copy of Purple Rain on tape and though a large portion of it was way over my head, I still loved it.  Over the years I followed Prince's career off and on, periodically picking up albums like 1999 and Sign o' the Times but mostly I knew his work through his singles and videos on MTV.  Prince was one of those artists that I always admired and appreciated even if I wasn't really a fan per se.  His untimely death came as a shock.  He wasn't old and always appeared to be young and in good health (he had that Dick Clark, never aging vibe going for him) so to hear that he was gone was a bit mind blowing (and not in a good way).  Lots of things have been said about Prince, his music, and his legacy since the news broke but I found Bob Mould's words especially thoughtful and poignant.
Prince was an artist through and through – always pushing himself to new levels, often creating controversy through his actions and words, and ultimately creating a lifetime of wonderful memories for the world with his incredible volumes of published (and unheard) works.
Make no mistake: Prince was the brightest star in these Northern skies. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and fellow musicians. Prince’s music will give consolation and comfort to the collective grief. Godspeed.    
Since Thursday I've listened to a lot of Prince's music.  I'd forgotten how incredibly good these songs are and it makes me sad that it took his death to remind me of that fact.  Below are my five favorite sings by Prince (in no particular order) also with five honorable mentions.  Rest well Prince.  You will be missed.

1.  "Let's Go Crazy" (from Purple Rain)
2.  "Delirious" (from 1999)
3.  "U Got the Look" (from Sign o' the Times)
4.  "1999" (from 1999)
5.  "I Would Die 4 U" (from Purple Rain)

Honorable Mentions -- 
"Cream" (from Diamonds and Pearls)
"Purple Rain" (from Purple Rain)
"Raspberry Beret" (from Around the World in a Day)
"Kiss" (from Parade)
"Batdance" (from Batman)