TDP Review: Spirit Kid ‘Is Happening’

avatars-000063119425-lyv08j-t500x500Boston-based indie power pop band Spirit Kid recently released a second album, Is Happening, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. With this long New England winter finally coming to a close, the beachy, dreamy sounds of Is Happening remind listeners that summer is around the corner; and the promise of summer, encapsulated in this record, makes everything better.

The band is really a project of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Emeen Zarookian who is backed on stage by various members of other Boston outfits, including Bent Shapes and Babydriver. In the studio, however, Zarookian IS Spirit Kid.

Heavily influenced by ’60s British bands and psychedelic sounds, Is Happening captures a certain energetic and soulful nostalgia. The opening song, “Everything is Old,” bears an instrumental resemblance to the Stones’ “Get Off of My Cloud” and echoes The Animals’ “I’m Crying.” The sound may be familiar, but that doesn’t mean the song – or the album, for that matter – lacks originality. Zarookian, clearly a skilled musician and impressive talent, combines the familiar with the new, making the album contemporary and relevant.

Is Happening shifts between moments of high energy on songs like “Slow it Down” and “Making Excuses,” to mellower songs, like “Is This Heaven.” The majority of the album, however, falls somewhere in between, which seems to be the best place for Zarookian. Although Is Happening is consistently strong, there are a few standouts. “Playing Cupid,” which Spirit Kid released in time for Valentine’s Day, is much more bluesy 50’s crooner than hazy 60’s psychedelic. The great mix of sounds – from swelling to discordant to jazzy – works well paired with Zarookian’s sharp voice. Another striking song on the album is the closing track, “You Know She Would,” which also highlights Zarookian’s vocal talent and his ability to move fluidly from one style and sound to another. There is a bit of intentional jarring in this one, but it works. The whole album works.

As the weather is shifting and the sun is shining, Spirit Kid is happening. Tune in.

TDP Sweet Sixteen: Ms. McAuliffe

Ms. McAuliffe, described by some of her freshman students as “smart,” “fun-loving,” and “laid-back,” is a math teacher at Burlington High School. Here is what she has to say about what she was listening to at sixteen. 

imagesAs I started this I realized that my sixteen-year-old self was not all that different than my…. not-16-year-old current self  – all over the map.  In high school, I bounced around a lot.  I had a lot of friends in all the different social groups, and I got along well with everyone, but never had a best friend or a perfect clique that I fell into. I think I liked it that way.  My closest girlfriends were those I played soccer with.  “Let Me Clear My Throat Now” was on our warm-up TAPE  year after year.  It reminds me of fall afternoons and summer double-sessions.  When I switched into hockey season, where I played on the boys team, I had no choice but to listen to Nirvana, RATM, and endless Metallica.  Intense.  Those bands make me think of before-school practices, pasta parties, and completely inappropriate hockey movies.

I had one goth friend (I’ll shamefully admit that our friendship outlasted our common interests because her family had the INTERNET and we could spend time on chatrooms… so cool).  No Doubt was what she would play that I could tolerate (with NIN and Marilyn Manson being the other options).

My first two concerts were Phish and then Shania Twain.  Go figure.  Shania was my gateway into loving country music.

3EB makes me think of my friends who got into things that I didn’t want to get into.

Friends and Dawson’s Creek theme songs… couldn’t leave those out.

gty_dawsons_creek_cast_lpl_120716_wmain

Each of these songs brings an exact person or group into my memory.  I like not fitting into one category of music.  Being open-minded in music, and life, has exposed me to songs/bands/people that I probably wouldn’t have expected myself to like.  It’s helped me as a teacher because sometimes I think I can see parts of these songs… whether it’s the emotion or the lyrics or the scene… in particular students.  I think this helps me relate to them in ways I wouldn’t have anticipated.

 

 

 

TDP Review: Lake Street Dive’s ‘Bad Self Portraits’

For fans of Alabama Shakes, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Joy Kills Sorrow

6867620_origLake Street Dive – a rootsy, jazzy, indie quartet – is a band whose star is most definitely on the rise. Fronted by the powerful vocals of Rachael Price, the group has buoyed past ‘buzz band’ and moved on to becoming one of Amazon’s bestsellers. Their self-titled 2010 release, followed by a 2011 live album, recorded in Cambridge’s own Lizard Lounge, certainly raised some interest. However, it was their rendition of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” which they released on YouTube in 2012 to promote their covers EP Fun Machine, that got over 1.5 million hits and started the band’s ascension. The song showcases their early jazzy sound, highlighting the talent of upright bassist Bridget Kearney, Mike Olson’s trumpet skills, and the soft but driving percussion of Mike Calabrese. The beautiful harmonizing and clear charisma evident in this video prompted some serious attention.

The new album, Bad Self Portraits, which was released in February, certainly has them making the rounds. Recently you’ve been able to catch them on The Colbert Report, Letterman, and even in Carnegie Hall. They were a hit at T-Bone Burnett’s Inside Llewyn Davis tribute concert, and are rapidly increasing their fan base. Their sound, which definitely looks to some of the softness in music of the past, also embraces a very contemporary rawness. The mix works. Price’s surging vocals, that are a little bit Bonnie Raitt rasp and a little bit Sarah Vaughan smooth, capture straight heartbreak, aching desire, and personal progression. These topics are tried and true, but their coverage of the subject matter is fresh. And although the vocals will stop you in your tracks, Price does not overshadow the explosion of talent present in her band-mates. This band is unified, energized, and powerful. Bad Self Portraits is certainly a testament to that.

From the doo-wop sound of “Stop Your Crying, ” and the sweeping vocals in “Rental Love” to the more frenetic, rocking sound of “Rabid Animal,” Bad Self Portraits is a diverse album that will certainly get you moving. The band’s first wholly original release, Bad Self Portraits is a strong addition to their growing catalogue – dynamic, commanding, and memorable. Lake Street Dive may have started as a country side –project of some New England Conservatory students, but it has developed into something so much bigger and so much better. Listen. You’ll dig it, Devils.

 

 

Lake Street Dive is playing a sold-out show at Royale Boston this weekend, but you’ll be able to catch them when they come back around this summer.

Bad Self Portraits – Overall Rating 4/5

 

 

TDP Music News: The Pixies Poster Contest

006be73bb436dbdcd7e794a4d3f4f40d-640x360The Pixies, Boston-based trailblazers of alt rock, are releasing their first studio album since 1991’s Trompe le Monde, and they’re reaching out to fans for some creative assistance. The band, famous for their trademark loud-quiet-loud sound, are seeking a poster design for their new album, Indie Cindy.  The artist who creates the winning design, chosen by the band members, will receive $500.00 and an autographed copy of the limited edition commemorative lithograph created from the artist’s design. The deadline for submissions is April 10th. You can read about all the details for the contest here.

Need a little inspiration to get you started? Check out Pixies’ classic “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and get designing, Devils!

TDP Recommends: ‘Grease’ – Presented by the BHS Music Department

The BHS spring musical, Grease, opens this weekend and it promises to have you dancing in your seats.  This spoof of high school life in 1959 is full of teenage stereotypes and questionable messages, but there is no denying that it is F-U-N. If you missed today’s preview assembly of the show, you really missed out. The BHS Devils were born to hand jive, baby.

Greased Lightning_9563Fifties pop music, which is highlighted in the performance, is characterized by a mix of big-voiced crooning, R&B traditions, and sentimental swooning. (Just see Dr. Nassiff’s Sweet Sixteen for evidence of that point.) Directed by John Middleton-Cox, the high energy cast of BHS’s production of Grease does justice to a beloved era in music and American culture. From Steven Gelberg’s compelling delivery of “Those Magic Changes” to Mikayla Merrill-Withycombe’s beautiful rendition of “There are Worse Things I Could Do,” this production certainly spotlights the musical talent of BHS students and honors early American rock-n-roll.

Although John Travolta’s “Greased Lightnin'” has nothing on that of BHS’s own Mike Garcia, listening to it is a great way to get psyched up for the show. You can sing along to the soundtrack to the 1978 film adaptation of the musical by playing it below. Be prepared, though. The BHS production includes a few lyrical alterations that tone down  some of the play’s more suggestive content; this soundtrack does not.

Get your tickets to Grease before they sell out. You’ll dig it, Devils!

Click HERE for ticket information.

TDP Sweet Sixteen Playlist: Mrs. Rose

Mrs. Rose is a valued member of the BHS English department revered by her students for her “ability to teach difficult material by making it relevant and cool to talk about.” She is described as “challenging,” “interesting,” and “sweet.” She is also respected for her “sick sense of style” and “great laugh.” This is what she has to say about what she was listening to when she was sixteen.

Bradley-Nowell-300x226Oh the memories this project elicited! I spent a lot of time listening to music, like most people do when they are 16. I started to explore my musical tastes a bit more at this age, which is pretty well represented by this list. Most pop music was uninspiring and Nirvana had introduced a whole new world of music to the pop world in the early 90s. I loved all of the long hair, flannel wearing bands, but Nirvana and Pearl Jam have special places in my heart. To this day Pearl Jam’s Ten is one of my all-time favorite albums. From there I became obsessed with alternative music – indie rock and punk particularly. Not only was I listening to more and more music, I started to go to more and more shows my junior and senior years of high school. As I look at this list I realize all of these songs are still in my music rotation, because my tastes have not really changed that much, matured maybe, but not changed. This is what I was listening to when I was 16.

1 Hole – “Violet”
2 Mazzy Star – “Fade into You”
3 Pearl Jam – “Alive”
4 Face to Face – “Disconnected”
5 Green Day – “J.A.R.”
6 Big Head Todd and the Monsters – “Broken Hearted Savior”
7.The Pharcyde – “Passin’ Me By”
8. Lagwagon – “Violins”
9. Tori Amos – “Little Earthquakes”
10. Nirvana – “Drain You”
11. Radiohead – “Just”
12. Oasis – “Don’t Look Back in Anger”
13. Fugees – “Killing Me Softly”
14. Sublime – “Badfish”
15. Nine Inch Nails – “The Perfect Drug”
16. A Tribe Called Quest – “Electric Relaxation”

TDP Playlist: St. Patrick’s Day Soundtrack

20070731084953_dubliners_dsc_3438_bSt. Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious holiday that honors the heritage of the Irish. What better time to celebrate Irish music? Here is the perfect soundtrack to your corned beef and cabbage dinner. It ranges from songs by popular artists like the Dropkick Murphys  to traditional Irish ballads. It should have something for everyone around your dinner table.

 

After you’ve finished dinner, after you’ve tipped your glasses and uttered “sláinte” to your loved ones and those who have fought for the love of Ireland, after you’ve practiced your Irish step dancing, after you’ve searched your yard for four-leaf clovers and rainbows ending in a pot of gold, after you’ve completed your leprechaun traps, please consider taking a look at the New York Daily News‘ exploration of the musical contributions of the Irish. You can read the article here. We also suggest that you check out boston.com’s Shamrock-n-Roll playlist. Today is not only a day to wear green, it’s a day to celebrate culture – a culture rich in musical tradition.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Devils! May the road rise up to meet you.

TDP Sweet Sixteen Playlist: Mr. Carr

Mr. Carr, a BHS history teacher, is described by his students and colleagues as “passionate,” “highly motivating,” “memorable,” and “wicked smart.” He is also known throughout BHS as a “die hard” track coach “who is there to champion you when you win and to pick you up when you don’t.” Here is what he has to say about what he was listening to when he was sixteen. 
images

I actually got my first CD player and CD (Led Zeppelin IV) for my 16th birthday. I listen almost exclusively to 60s and 70s classic rock, since music effectively died for me when John Bonham died in 1980 and Led Zeppelin disbanded. My mom claims I was conceived at Woodstock (the time matches up perfectly). But my dad takes pains to remind her that he wasn’t there. In any case, though not part of the Woodstock generation, it is my music. Although I did go through my obligatory heavy metal stage in the 80s (Iron Maiden) and then right before heading over to Germany for the one-month-long German exchange program we had at BHS at the time, a bunch of us got hooked on Falco and even got to see him in concert at the Munich Olympic Stadium. Falco I only have on cassette and don’t listen to anymore. All of the others are part of my 600+ CD collection that I still listen to. I heard there is music online now apparently?

Mr. Carr’s Sweet Sixteen:
Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced (1967)
Moby Grape – 8:05 (1967)
The Doors – Tell All the People (1969)
Fleetwood Mac – Oh Well (1969)
Jethro Tull – Reasons for Waiting (1969)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Ohio (1970)
Grateful Dead – Ripple (1970)
Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee (1971)
Led Zeppelin – Going to California (1971)
Roy Harper – One Man Rock and Roll Band (1971)
The Who – Behind Blue Eyes (1971)
Bob Marley and the Wailers – I Shot the Sheriff (1973)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Rush – Tom Sawyer (1981)
Iron Maiden – Run to the Hills (1982)
Falco – Rock Me Amadeus (1985)
NOTE: The following song from Mr. Carr’s list is not included in the Spotify library, so we’ve provided a YouTube clip below.
Roy Harper: “One Man Rock and Roll Band”

TDP Recommends: ‘I Can Only Give You Everything’ by Nick Waterhouse

Nick Waterhouse has soul. Although he got his start in the garage rock scene of Orange County, his time as an R&B DJ prompted a move to the South and the recording of his debut album, Time’s All Gone.  The album is strong from start to finish – full of swirling soul, smooth and howling vocals, frenzied rhythms, and high energy. Waterhouse, The Los Angeles guitarist and crooner, brought his Motown sound to the Brighton Music Hall last night to promote his upcoming album, Holly, which is due out on March 4th. Holly promises to be another stellar mix of throwbacks to the time in American music that brought us Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Etta James. This track, “I Can Only Give You Everything” is a mix of surf rock, soul, and sixties girl group, with a hint of doo wop swagger. It will tide you over until the release of his second album. Dig it, Devils!

TDP News: It’s Beatles Week on Letterman

images-1Beatles Week on the Letterman show is coming to a close. This past week, the late-night talk show host David Letterman has been featuring artists honoring the Beatles. The Letterman stage is the same stage on which the Fab Four made their first U.S. appearance fifty years ago this Sunday. Letterman’s Beatles Week has been an effort to commemorate that momentous occasion, and recognize the vast impact the Beatles have had on music and culture in that time.

imagesFeatured artists include: Broken Bells, who played “And I Love Her” and “I Am the Walrus”; Sting, who performed “Drive My Car”; and Lenny Kravitz, accompanied by Letterman band leader Paul Schaffer on keys, who played “Get Back.” Last night, the Flaming Lips, accompanied by John Lennon’s son Sean Lennon, who was wearing the same hat his father wore on the album sleeve for Hey Jude, paid tribute to their psychedelic predecessors with a dramatic rendition of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” As is typical of the Flaming Lips’ performances, the visual impact of the show was just as significant as the auditory elements. Tonight, Ms. Lauryn Hill will is scheduled to perform.

The entire week of Beatles tributes has been leading up to the premiere of the much anticipated CBS documentary on the band. This Sunday, at 8 p.m. EST, CBS will air a two-hour special, The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles, documenting the Beatles’ arrival in the U.S. and their famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The program’s airing coincides with the exact day, date, and time of that Sullivan show.

Broken Bells, with Ringo Starr: “And I Love Her”

Sting, with Ivy Levan and Mike Einziger: “Drive My Car”

Lenny Kravitz with Paul Shaffer: “Get Back

The Flaming Lips and Sean Lennon: “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”