The LA indie-rock duo Mating Ritual has released The Bungalow, a quirky album made for the summer of 2020 that we never got. Finished on the day before mandatory quarantine hit, the album plays like an ironic look at a world that at one time, we thought was for certain. Vaguely inspired by the duo’s east-LA home, The Bungalow deepens Mating Rituals’ already cavernous pool of influences by incorporating elements of Bossa Nova and Disco. Previously known as Pacific Air, brothers Ryan Marshall Lawhon and Taylor Lawhon have already released three albums in three years, as per their ambitious and assured commitment to releasing five albums in five years. These released albums, How You Gonna Stop It? (2017), Light Myself On Fire (2018) and Hot Content (2019) have amassed much praise from The Consequence of Sound, Billboard, and the like, and The Bungalow is sure to follow in these footsteps.
“We wanted this one to be almost entirely light-hearted,” Ryan said about the album. To inaugurate this sentiment, The Bungalow offers the opening track, “Welcome To The Bungalow”, in which a jazzy backdrop radiates from your speakers, reminding one of easy-listening lounge music. Then, a slightly distorted voice begins to speak to you, to welcome you to “the bungalow.” He tells you that you’re “free to dance, if you’d like, or take a seat if that’s more your style.” His words are so specific, so vivid, and so personal. “There’s terry cloth robes in the bathroom if you need to wash the day off you.” It feels oddly unsettling… but certainly intriguing.
“Welcome To The Bungalow” functions as a swanky interlude that introduces the next three songs on The Bungalow. As we move through the album, we see two more of these interludes and two more sets of songs. The first trio is a dance group full of funky basslines and groovy melodies that entreat the dancers visiting the bungalow to get on their feet. The next track, simply called “The Bungalow”, furthers the all-embracing mood of the previous track, the words “come over to the bungalow, I’d like to show you around,” sung by a chorus of voices that conjure up images of a man leading a happy group of followers to the fabled bungalow, with people joining as they move along. Infused with arcade-style electronic sounds and vivacious energy, “The Bungalow” leads right into the next groove-filled song: “Voodoo.” This track begins with some Mother Mother-like vocals followed by a grand string flourish that could be taken right out of a song from the 70’s, but simultaneously manifests the present with alt-rock guitars in the chorus. “Elastic Summer” adopts a reggae beat and a retro melody that sounds like synthetic stars, but still sounds undeniably modern, straddling the line between past and present.
In another interlude we visit the street that the bungalow resides on– “The Third Steepest Street In America.” The jazzy drums and sax return, and the distorted voice continues to reveal odd and intimate details. It ends with an unresolved harmony and an upward moving melody to incite tension that diffuses into the next trio. “Unusual” initiates the three-track era of sweeping synths. It uses a drum machine and a thick atmosphere that surrounds a playfully disjunct chorus melody. The bridge is a colourful landscape with glittering synths and guitar. “King Of The Doves” may start with a clean drum beat, but soon enough some 80’s synth melodies enter the mix. The edge of the leading voice is coated with background vocals which are robotic, clear, and distorted at different times, creating a unique effect. After a guitar solo, a DEVO-esque bass pulses along, leading the track to its end. “Heart Don’t Work” is a slow tune with the disposition of a ballad, but it’s thickly layered with synths and Peter Gabriel-style drums that deviate from the classic piano ballad. As the lyrics say “I don’t know why my heart don’t work like it should,” it comes to attention that while this album may sound light-hearted, there are some deeper themes that are embedded in the lyrics to look out for.
We return once again to the lively bungalow scene in “My Postmate Is Here.” We hear the same eerily familiar voice talk, but there is also a second voice warbling in the background. It’s words are hard to make out, and they distract from what the first voice is saying, making for the perfect transition into the final trio of songs. These songs are harder to categorize, on one hand they share a sound with the album as a whole and elements of the other two trios, but on the other hand they are unique. “Ok” has the least amount of synths. For a moment it feels like it has an attitude with the edgy, swaggering guitar and bass, but when you listen to the words– “we’re all just trying to survive” and “I’m asking why,” it frames things in a more humbled light. The line “I wanna know the way I used to feel the sunlight on my face” is amusingly relevant; while it’s not about quarantine, those who have been isolated in their homes these past months can certainly identify with it. This track is sweeping in the sense that the nature of the vocals make one imagine him on his knees in an open field, pleading to the skies, but it’s missing the heavy synth component of the second trio. “Raining In Paradise” is similar to “King Of The Doves” with its cool synth melody, but it’s less atmospheric. This track features my favourite vocal performance– the melody plays with a higher range and has challenging leaps that are navigated expertly. Finally, “Moon Dust” is slow, soft, and more tender than any of the previous tracks. It feels familiar almost immediately with its soothing piano part and recognizable melody. A lunar synth interlude makes this track true to its name.
Although “Moon Dust” fits with the album overall, it shows how far the album moved from the opening track. It’s as though after your long day at the bungalow you’re beginning to grow tired and decide it’s time to go home. And of course, this cues a final interlude, titled “So Long, Los Guapos.” This interlude isn’t like the others. The distorted voice says “thanks for stopping by… until next time,” periodically throughout the minute and a half long track, but instead of the clear jazz sound, we get an atmospheric soundscape with guitar and some synth melodies. In some way, it feels like the perfect summation of all of the different tracks that are heard in The Bungalow.
The Bungalow embodies the carefree nature and gaiety of the summer we might have had if Covid hadn’t hit. But with its heavy use of nostalgic synths and hints at retro styles, perhaps it also functions as a projection of how society’s tendency to yearn for the past in the face of tension in the present. When you hear Peter Gabriel-esque drums or funky bass lines from the ’70s, you’re transported back to a time when the most recent worldwide pandemic was the Spanish Flu. No matter how you feel about the past or present, however, The Bungalow is a party where the hosts seem to know you better than you know yourself.
Make your way over to the third steepest street in America and stream Mating Ritual’s fourth album in four years. “We are proud to present our new album 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐮𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐥𝐨𝐰 out now! Make yourself a daiquiri, light some incense, and enjoy the ride” — I like how quirky these guys are.
The Dead Milkmen’s (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang 7”, marks the first release since the 2017 release of Welcome to the End of the World EP. The legendary Philly punk band was set to record their new album in 2020, which came to a halt due to the pandemic. However, their latest release features their post-punk leaning cover of Heaven 17’s classic, anti-Fascist anthem “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” and a new original single called “A Complicated Faith” on the B-side. The release comes via Philadelphia-based independent label The Giving Groove, who donate all label profits to a 501(c)3 music-related charity; The Dead Milkmen have chosen Girls Rock Philly as the recipient for this release.
“(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” comes right in time for the upcoming Republican National Convention. The track gives Heaven 17’s original a facelift, adding a steady and updated beat to match their original sound and 1981 lyrics. After playing the track live in concert, after the 2016 election, the band headed to the studio to record their version. The band’s original song, “A Complicated Faith” is three minutes of Depeche Mode-inspired rhythms and a scalding guitar solo courtesy of Joe Jack Talcum. The two tracks stick to their melodic brand of on-topic, thumping beats.
After over 30 years of making music, give or take a 13-year break, The Dead Milkmen still got it. The band’s current lineup consists of Rodney Anonymous (a.k.a. Rodney Linderman), Joe Jack Talcum (a.k.a. Joe Genaro), Dean Clean (a.k.a. Dean Sabatino), and Dan Stevens, who joined the group following the death of original bassist Dave Blood. With the release of (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang 7”, fans will be delighted to have new songs to listen to until the anticipated album is out.
Today, the deeply relevant EP Finishing School was released by Brontë Fall. The literature-infused pen name is the songwriting project of classically trained musician Teri Bracken, who is ever inspired by the Brontë sisters and their courageous defiance of social norms at a time when women’s voices often went unheard. After coming across Emily Brontë’s poem “Fall Leaves Fall”, Bracken fell in love with the idea of finding beauty in the darker seasons of life. In her own life and music, Bracken embodies the spirit of this poem and the Brontë sisters with an openness and eloquence that firmly impresses her messages in her listeners’ minds. Most of all, Bracken wants to use her art to empower those around her and to connect with those who can identify with her experiences. She says:
As a musician, I almost feel like I’m defending who I am and what I want. Perhaps I feel pressure to be a certain way. These songs were written about feeling proud of where I am and what I’m doing. It’s about feeling empowered wherever you are in life, and celebrating the past while building your own kind of future.
Bracken attacks her issues from different places, opting for a tougher sound in “Warrior”, “Bad Ideas”, and “White Dress”, but also showing her softer side in “Six Years”, “Freeway High”, and “Give You A Halo.” No matter her musical approach, however, her words show her courage and boldness to say what she has to say. Finishing School is packed with empowering anthems, sometimes punchy, sometimes subtle, but all with catchy choruses that use repeated words and melodic lines to drive her points home. Each track deals with a female experience, entertaining and inspiring her listeners along the way.
“Six Years” is a celebration of aging contrary to the praise put on the youthfulness of women in today’s world. Bracken’s voice isn’t loud or confrontational as she sings, but rather it assumes a calmness that comes from a place of complete honesty. Yet at the same time, her voice could fill an entire room, ringing out full and glorious. The track slowly builds, with drums and the bulk of the music only coming in in the second verse, giving it its anthemic quality as Bracken sings “I’m six older, six years smarter, six years stronger with a will that’s unbreakable.” “Freeway High” is all about liberation and letting go. On the surface, this liberation is symbolized in the freedom of an open road but, on a deeper level, it calls to mind the freedom that the Brontë sisters and Bracken herself were (and still are) fighting for. The track has a bit of a country sound, drawing the line between Bracken’s pop and rock influences. Her soaring vocals rise straight to heaven where they’re greeted by angelic harmonies, while a solo violin part adopts its own sense of liberty as it freely moves through notes. In a heartbreakingly tender but equally powerful ballad, “Give You A Halo”, Bracken sings of someone she’s afraid of losing, written for her Grandma. It begins with a ¾ time piano part that reminds one of a black and white scene of a Parisian street in a melancholic french film, setting the sentimental mood for the track. Strings slowly join in, exploring soul-stirring deep ranges that fortify her words. As Bracken sings “Oh late at night I try to call on you without tears in my eyes… but I’m not ready to give you a halo,” with such an earnest conviction, you can’t help but to feel your own heartbreak.
While all of these tracks are similarly calm with a subtle sense of empowerment to them, Bracken is far from one-dimensional, and the remaining three tracks on Finishing School show it. “Warrior” is tough with its electric guitar and blues-rock singing style. Dealing with the fight against misogyny in business and the music industry, this track is a swaggering anthem that uses a piece of wisdom from Donatella Versace (“A dress is a weapon”) to depict femininity as an arsenal. From her voice to her words, Bracken is unapologetic and badass, singing “go ahead and call me a tease, I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve.” “Bad Ideas” has a darker sound to it, with low-range underlying harmonies and short string strokes that add a sense of drama. The song points out how complicated life can be, wanting to “unbreak” someone’s heart even though it’s a bad idea. To close off the EP, “White Dress” returns to the spunky energy of “Warrior” but in an old-fashioned way– using an organ and a bluesy sound that feels somewhat ironic set against her modern feminist words. About the constant pressure to get married, Bracken defies expectations and sings “it may not look like the rest, this is my white dress,” showing that she can find fulfillment outside of marriage.
This closing track brings us right back to the core of the album: honesty. Bracken is channelling the Brontë sisters and their feminism to provide an EP that not only speaks her truth about the expectations that persist for women even today but also gives validation to anyone out there who wants to break free of those expectations. Finishing School may cross into different genres and explore varied musical elements, but each song is unified by Bracken’s expressive voice, and most importantly, her beautiful and pertinent words.
It has been nine years since David Newton & Thee Mighty Angels released the debut EP, Paint the Town, so there’s no better time than now to release a debut album. A Gateway to a Lifetime of Disappointment is Newton’s debut solo album and a modern contemporary take on the melodic uplifting side of the 80’s post-punk sound. He continues the earlier sounds from his band, The Mighty Lemon Drops, where he wrote songs and played guitar. After the release of Paint the Town, Newton focused on producing and engineering for other artists at his Los Angeles recording studio.
A Gateway to a Lifetime of Disappointment is written, performed, recorded and mixed by David Newton. The first single, “The Songs That Changed Our Lives”, features lead vocals by Eddie Argos from Art Brut. It lists Argos and Newton’s favorite tracks growing up that had an impact on them, accompanied by a video of well-worn 7” singles. With a mix of new and old songs from the previous EP, they flow together and represent the vision Newton had been chasing. “In Love and War” starts off on the right foot, an upbeat pop track to tease the rest of the album. The introduction of “The Kids Are Not Alright” draws you in and repeats through the background of the track. The themes of the tracks chronicle the joys and disappointments of what life can throw at us. “Avoid It” warns to stay clear of anything that will make you crash and burn. The track is somehow similar to the sound of Pink Floyd, but more upbeat.
The album is a prime example of the variety in Newton repertoire, mixing genres and stepping outside of the box with lyrics. “My First Band” and “Paint the Town” fit between the styles of indie-rock and pop. Although Newton took on most of the work on this record, he did have help from other musicians. “Bittersweet” features Sarah Negahdari on vocals and Nick Amoroso on drums, adding some flair to the track. The shortest and sweetest track, “This Time”, is all about happiness and love. Listening to it you can feel the emotion behind his voice, making it the most sincere on the album. Similarly, “Connect With You” has an almost giddy feeling to it, connecting you to Newton. A Gateway to a Lifetime of Disappointment is the return from David Newton & Thee Mighty Angels the world needed.
Singer-songwriter Kandle (Kandle Osborne) found herself recording her latest release Stick Around and Find Out during lockdown. But you know what they say; extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary music. Okay maybe that isn’t what they say, but in this case, it is true. The Canadian artist was focused on her vision for Stick Around and Find Out and the result is a great addition to her work. The varying sounds through the tracks fit together just right for a solid EP.
Osborne went through a journey to get where she is today, all while reclaiming her sound. According to her recent Instagram post, each song was recorded in a different city by a different producer and each was written in one day. On “Spell”, there is a story behind the catchy lyrics. It is about falling for someone and giving them all the power, like there is a spell controlling and pulling her back in. Continuing on this journey, Osborne finds herself helpless on “How Can You Hurt Me”. Not only are the lyrics relatable, but the music behind the lyrics can pull you in all by itself. The smooth production behind the tracks puts the songs on another level that will have you dancing along in your room. “Just To Bring You Back” is one of the more upbeat tracks in the collection. It sounds funky and somehow spooky, feeling like it would be the perfect music for a Halloween party on a show like Euphoria.
“Better Man” finds Osborne in control of her music after being tangled in recording contracts. Produced by Ben Simonetti (Zac Brown Band) and Liam O’Neill (Kings of Leon) in Nashville, the track is probably the most personal and freeing track after being stuck in such a difficult situation. Osborne said on the track, “I signed away my freedom. I wasn’t allowed to perform or release music or do anything, consequently, my career was put on hold for years. I was taken in the prime of my career and was stopped — my music was lost. Four years later, I started my battle for freedom.” Now that she can create songs like “Little Bad Things” and “Cemetery”, where her smokey vocals flow freely through her creative lyrics, she is thriving. Even with her final track, “Happy Pills”, she continues with clever lyrics and unique sound. The lyrics, “One to keep me calm / two to stop the pain / three to right my wrongs / and four…”, echo around the mind long after listening to the track.
After all that Osborne has been through, she is now at the top of her game. Her songs are cathartic, but at the same time seem to focus on empowerment and looking towards the future. This EP is only the beginning of her talents and she is bound to take off and become a big name in the industry. The charm shines through the music and her talent is undeniable, as she writes her own personal experiences instead of aiming for cookie-cutter radio tracks. Stream Stick Around and Find Out now.
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids reach their peak powers with their latest album Shaman!. The jazz collective created a stellar album that just adds to their impressive discography. The album was produced by Malcolm Catto at his analogue HQ, Quatermass Studio in London and the cover artwork features an exclusive painting by Japanese artist Tokio Aoyama. The album includes expansive tracks that touch on all different subjects, but blend together like they were meant to be. Ackamoor explains, “I wanted to use this album to touch on some of the issues that we all face as individuals in the inner space of our souls and our conscience. The album unfolds over four Acts with personal musical statements about love and loss, mortality, the afterlife, family and salvation.”
The expansive nine tracks tackle spiritual jazz with introspective themes, a different journey than their last release. Through different moods and emotions, Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids take you on a wild journey. Starting with the 12 minute title track, “Shaman!”, they dive straight into soul-searching and dealing with masucline vulnerability. The variety spreads through the song, showing the lengths they can go to with their talents. However that variety is not limited to this track, it shows through others like “Dogon Mysteries” and “Eternity”. Now more relevant than ever before, “When Will I See You Again” mourns the sudden loss of loved ones. This track could resonate most with people because of the crisis we are fighting everyday.
“Theme for Cecil” is Ackamoor’s tribute to his mentor Cecil Taylor, whom he studied piano with in the early 1970s. The tributes don’t stop here, they continue with “Salvation” and “The Last Slave Ship”. These tracks are paying homage to their ancestors and referencing the Clotilda, which was the last ship to bring slaves from Africa to the United States. And finally, the best for last, “Virgin”. It is an anthem of forgiveness, new beginnings and self-healing, and the collective’s best track on the album. It encompasses everything they were trying to capture and ties the album together.
Although the band was formed in the early 1970s, time has done nothing but helped to season these professionals and it shows. It would feel like an injustice to not name those involved on the project, because of the talent and work put into this project. This fresh line-up includes original 1970s Pyramids member Dr. Margaux Simmons on flute, Bobby Cobb on guitar, long-term associate Sandra Poindexter on violin, Ruben Ramos on bass, Gioele Pagliaccia on drums and Jack Yglesias on percussion. Shaman! shows that they are not playing around and that they are here to make the best music they can.