Archive for the ‘Listen local’ Category

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Best of 2010: debcha’s tops in [Boston music] tech

December 23, 2010

 

Cross-posted from Boston’s best local music blog, Boston Band Crush.

 

Boston is a music town. And Boston is a tech town. So it’s hardly surprising that Boston and Camberville produce an enormous amount of interesting stuff at the intersection of music and technology. Here are five of my favorite examples from this year:

1. Mashup Breakdown

Benjamin Rahn, of Cambridge, created an addictive site that visualizes the use of samples in songs, and launched it with (of course) Girl Talk’s new album, All Day. As you play tracks from the album, each of the samples used is highlighted and identified. The best part? It’s an ongoing project. So if there’s a song that you’ve always been curious about, go to the site and find out how you can participate.

2. The Swinger

It’s been a great year for Somerville’s The Echo Nest, a music intelligence company. They closed on a major round of funding, and provided the brainpower behind a host of great projects, like MTV’s phenomenal Music Meter site (yes, I know you’re thinking “MTV? Doing something worthwhile with music. Really?” Yes, really. Check it out.) And they had a viral hit on their hands with The Swinger, a bit of computer code that can make any song swing by automagically time-stretching the first half of each beat and shortening the second. Check out some examples here.

3. The Toscanini Gestural Interface

Boston hackers Lindsey Mysse and Robby Grodin showed off the Toscanini Gestural Interface (named after the conductor, not the ice cream) at the most recent Boston Music Hack Day. It’s a watch that turns movement into music (via Max/MSP commands). See it in action in the video here.

4. Dance Central and Rock Band 3

Across from the Middle East, an unremarkable office building houses the giant of music games, Harmonix. While they face an uncertain future, they released not one, but two incredible games this year. You’re probably already spending your evenings rocking out or getting down in your living room.

5. Another Green World (33 1/3 Books)

What possible relationship can a book about a 35-year-old Brian Eno album have with the Boston music/tech scene? Geeta Dayal, a Boston-based arts critic and MIT grad, wrote a short but brilliant book that investigates Eno’s 1975 album, which is deeply rooted in technology and technical concepts, especially in the field of cybernetics (defined and named by MIT professor Norbert Weiner in 1948). Even if you’re not a techie, it’s worth a read for how it illuminates one artist’s creative process.

 

 

Deb Chachra (debcha) writes zed equals zee, a Cambridge-based blog about music and technology, and curates the associated Tumblr. You can catch up with her at shows around the city, or you can just follow her on Twitter.
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Watch local: Do It Again

April 19, 2010

Guest blogger Scott writes:

In an earlier post about Kickstarter, I gave the example of how the producers of a documentary about The Kinks were funding its editing through small donations. That movie, Do It Again, premiered in March at the Cleveland International Film Festival to positive reviews, and will be showing in Somerville at the Independent Film Festival Boston on Saturday, April 24th. I haven’t seen it yet, but it looks to be less of a music documentary and more of a Nick Hornby/Studs Terkel mash-up, in that it isn’t so much about The Kinks as it is about how people (creator/star Geoff Edgers in particular, but also the people he enlists in his quest) think, or even obsess, about the band. And while the Hornbyish narrative story of a quest to reunite The Kinks is intimately tied a single band, it can be seen as a lens for thinking about the Terkel-ish question of why people love the bands they love and how that love shapes them. In that sense, it seems like a good pairing for The Heart is a Drum Machine — One asks “What is music?”; the other asks “What does music mean?”.

Previously on z=z: Watch: Music docs at IFF Boston, Apr 23-25

Image: Photo of Ray Davies from the Wikimedia Commons, used here under its Creative Commons license.

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Listen local: art rock vs Americana edition

April 3, 2010

Today in Boston: Two great bands (in two completely different genres). Two CD release parties. Two different venues. At exactly the same time. The horror. What’s worse, members of both bands are friends of mine (and frequent commenters here at z=z).

Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling is duo Sophia Cacciola and Michael Epstein (also of The Motion Sick). Their music is loud, minimal (just drums, bass and vox), and angry. Themed off the TV series The Prisoner, their music and lyrics deal with similar themes of alienation and totalitarianism. Despite all that, their songs are inexplicably catchy (occasionally dangerously catchy, as I found myself singing/yelling along to “Gun gun gunning for you!’ as I drove on the interstate). They’re releasing their debut EP, The New Number 2, today with a set at Church.

Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, with Voodoo Screw Machine, Gene Dante and the Future Starlets, Vostok 4 and Corey Tut at Church of Boston

MP3: Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling – Episode 1: Arrival [more info/buy]

Kingsley Flood, on the other hand, is a (post-?) Americana  band, blending traditional folk instrumentation (including fiddle and mandolin) with lyrics touching on modern and urban themes – think Wilco or Hey Marseilles. And they put on a fantastic, energetic, compelling live set. They’re celebrating the release of their debut full-length, Dust Windows, with a show tonight at the Middle East Upstairs.

Kingsley Flood, with Cassavetes, Grown-Up Noise and Spouse, at the Middle East Upstairs

MP3: Kingsley Flood – Roll of the Dice [more info/buy]

Both bands go on at 10 pm. Decisions, decisions….

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Vivian Darkbloom’s Wii Guitar

October 30, 2009

Finally, rock star guitar posturing is being put to good use! Rob Morris, frontman of Cambridge, MA’s Vivian Darkbloom, uses a Wii remote to control his guitar effects. The position and acceleration sensors in the controller, fixed to the body of his guitar, lets him access a range of effects by how he holds his instrument (check out the video above to see it in action, or this one for more background).

You can check out the Wii Guitar in person tonight (Friday, October 30th)  in Cambridge—Vivian Darkbloom has a gig at TT the Bear’s. Doors at 8 pm.

And I can’t help but think that Rob Morris should get together with John Mileham of The Franklin Kite.

MP3: Vivian Darkbloom – Cold War

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In heavy rotation at zed equals zee

October 19, 2009

DNFMOMD photo

Some music, mostly local, that’s getting a lot of listens here at zed equals zee headquarters.

Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling (pictured): Boston music power-couple Sophia Cacciola and Michael Epstein (also of The Motion Sick) are Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, currently working on a Prisoner-themed EP.  I went to their debut show and was just blown away by Sophia’s vocals, and I’ve been listening to the few songs they’ve released, on repeat. DNFMOMD don’t really lend itself to a ‘recommended if you like,’ since they don’t sound like anyone else, but maybe Kim Deal Gordon*-fronted Sonic Youth?

MP3: Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling – Episode 1: Arrival [more]

The Beatings: What post-punk is supposed to sound like. There’s a fantastic (in both senses) review of Boston’s The Beatings new album, Late Season Kids, over at Ryan’s Smashing Life, and more MP3s for you to listen to.

MP3: The Beatings – Bury You [buy]

Eric Schmider: We’re welcoming new Boston arts and music blog Bean Town Vision to the scene and thanking them for the intro to local retro-oriented indie rocker Eric Schmider. You can read a full bio and a preview of the upcoming show (Wednesday, October 21st at Toad) with his current project, Mollycoddle, over at Bean Town Vision, as well as download some more demo MP3s.

MP3: Eric Schmider – Knee Deep [more]

Rah Rah: Regina, SK’s Rah Rah just released their debut full-length, Going Steady, and I’m enjoying it immensely, especially the quirky love song, “Tentacles” (about accepting free tango lessons from a beautiful troll, and a betentacled beloved).

MP3: Rah Rah – Tentacles [buy]

*Edit: Gordon, not Deal. Not like I didn’t just read Goodbye 20th Century. Where is my mind?

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New Mission of Burma single, whoo!

July 13, 2009

MoB SSL

Matador Records just posted a single from the upcoming album by Boston musical heroes Mission of Burma. The Sound the Speed the Light, is scheduled for release on October 6th. If this single, “1, 2, 3, Partyy!!” is any indication, it’ll be a worthy successor to The Obliterati (which came out in 2006). Check it out yourself.

In case you missed it, Mission of Burma blogged the making of this album in March 2009 and you can read the posts at their site.

More info and album preorder.

MoB at z=z.

MP3: Mission of Burma – 1, 2, 3, Partyy!

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Listen local: The Franklin Kite

July 4, 2009

FK Batt Expl

Cambridge, MA’s The Franklin Kite (whose principal, Ryan Hickox, is a charter member of the z=z Overeducated Musicians Club) have finally, finally released a new EP, Explosions and Batteries. To celebrate, they’ll be throwing a release party at the Middle East Upstairs on July 6th (yes, it’s a Monday, but you should be well-rested from the long weekend). Go check out their electronica-tinged indie rock goodness. They’ll be sharing their night with Brooklyn electropop darlings Red Wire Black Wire.

MP3: Franklin Kite – Antoinette [buy]

MP3: Red Wire Black Wire – Compass [buy]

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Listen local: Visqueen

May 8, 2009

Okay, now I’m really annoyed at the music industry. How come my local radio station played all kinds of crappy third-rate Nirvana wannabes on the other side of the continent, but I had to wait until 2009 to hear about Visqueen? (Seattleites and dedicated indie-music lovers, feel free to upbraid me for my cluelessness.) I caught their song “Beauty Deluxe” on KEXP a few weeks ago (off their sophomore release, Sunset on Dateland) and I’ve been exploring their back catalog since. Their power-pop sound has a bit of a harder punk edge, like The New Pornographers laced with the Buzzcocks. Couple that with lyrics like, “Circuitry has soldered me like fuses to a frame/a tiny dial, and love erupts on broadband” (from “Crush on Radio”) and I’m a goner. The best part? It looks like they are set to release a new album this year, their first since Sunset in 2004, so I’m crossing my fingers for a chance to see them live.

MP3: Visqueen – Beauty Deluxe [buy]

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Listen (really) local: The Moondoggies

April 20, 2009

moondoggies

Seattle’s alt-country-garage group The Moondoggies played a free show on the HUB lawn of the University of Washington campus last Friday afternoon. As far as venue locations go, this one was pretty unimpeachable, being just a few hundred metres from my office. The lovely spring day and campus buildings were a perfect backdrop to The Moondoggies’ Southern-rock-style twangy guitar and three-part harmonies.

MP3: The Moondoggies – Changing [buy]

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The Motion Sick, Boston’s best local band!

April 17, 2009

tmsbest

The Motion Sick is Boston’s Best Local Band! We are psyched to congratulate z=z friends and faves The Motion Sick on being the Boston Phoenix Best of ’09 Reader’s Pick – “nerd meets quirk meets Steampunk meets pop meets Kurt Vonnegut.” What more excuse do you need to go check them out?

MP3: The Motion Sick – Winged Bicycle [buy]

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SXSeattle Send-off at the Tractor Tavern

March 6, 2009

hymns

Even if you can’t make it to Austin this year, you get an excellent side benefit – the SXSeattle Sendoff show at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard. The lineup includes z=z faves New Faces and Hey Marseilles, together with Battle Hymns (pictured), the new band of Cameron Elliott, formerly of the Western States. I’m really looking forward to hearing their Silver Jews-esque Americana live. Headlining are Champagne Champagne, who I didn’t really think were my speed, but I’ve only heard great things about their live show (like this Seattle Subsonic review). Top to bottom, it’s a great lineup and well worth checking out on a Friday night. Doors at nine, and a very modest $8 cover, which will help keep the bands in gas and tacos.

MP3: Battle Hymns – For Arlene (on Memantine)

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Benefit concert: Factory Records tribute

February 13, 2009

joy-division-graffito

In keeping with my current trend of not being in the same city as the shows that I want to see, what I would be doing if I was in Seattle on Saturday night is going to this show. Chop Suey is hosting “Dancing on the Valentine,” a benefit for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, and it’s a tribute to Factory Records. So go watch 24 Hour Party People, dig out your t-shirt with the radiofrequency pulses or the yellow happy faces (as appropriate), and channel the spirit of Tony Wilson. And then go to Chop Suey on Saturday night.

Lineup: Peter Parker, Hotels, Police Teeth, Haunted Horse, Leaders of Men, Motorik, This is Friendly Fires, Funkscribe, Atticus & the Arteries

(to be perfectly fair, part of the reason I won’t be in Seattle is because I’ll be going to this show)

MP3: Hot Chip – Transmission (Joy Division cover) [buy]

Image: Holy Mother of F*ck I Love Joy Division! by Flickr user dullhunk, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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Listen local: The Hush Now

February 12, 2009

the-hush-nowTo quote (and, well, repurpose) Hippocrates: “Life is short, art long.” So I have to appreciate The Hush Now‘s decision to make their self-titled debut available as a free download, in its entirety, in advance of tonight’s release party (February 12 at TT the Bear’s in Central Square, Cambridge). You have a few hours to listen to it in the warm glow of your computer before deciding whether you want to venture out into the cold Boston night to hear The Hush Now play live. Having given it a hearing myself, I think that their shoegazery-but-not-aimless music would be worth the effort.

MP3: The Hush Now – Sadie Hawkins Dance [download]

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Listen local: Clatter Clatter

February 10, 2009

too-many-boxesClatter Clatter is another Boston-based band with roots at Berklee (gee, you’d think they were educating musicians or something). They just released their debut album, Too Many Boxes, in January. The songs range from gorgeously  atmospheric (“Just to Say”), to Ben Folds-style piano-driven tunes (“Downpour”), to almost 70s rock sounds (“Australia”). It’s short notice, but they are playing at TT the Bear’s in Cambridge tonight (Tuesday, February 10th); if you miss them, you can check out their Myspace page for additional upcoming shows, including an opening spot for Youth Group in April.

MP3: Clatter Clatter – Just to Say [buy]

[Left Coasters, I promise I'll have some more Pacific Northwest bands soon!]

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Listen local: Logan 5 and the Runners

February 4, 2009

Logan 5 and the Runners

I think that Boston’s  Logan 5 and the Runners pretty much had me at their name (if you are not as much of an über-geek as I, this is the reference. If you are, there might be a new version coming out next year.) But it’s their Britpop-esque sound that sealed the deal – if Pulp and Roxy Music, had a bastard love child who was born in the 90s and is now an avid consumer of TV, movies and the Internet, it might sound like Logan 5 and the Runners. Singer David Berndt (who bears a resemblance to actor Michael York, which inspired the band name) has a voice which sounds raw and sexual with an overlay of sophistication, or possibly the other way around. As befits their sci-fi namesake, Berndt’s vocals are backed by synthesizer hooks and tense guitars, coalescing into a catchy and memorable sound that evokes an alternate-history 1980s London.

They’re playing at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain on Friday, February 6th, in support of their recently-released debut album, Featurette. Check them out.

More Logan 5 and the Runners: Boston Phoenix article, website, Myspace

MP3: Logan 5 and the Runners – Girls of the Internet [buy]

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Listen local: The Crocodile Cafe returns!

January 20, 2009

071217_crocodile_cafe

Word on the street (well, actually, in the coffee shop) is that the Seattle’s famed Crocodile Cafe, which closed abruptly nearly a year ago, is on track to re-open. While the Croc is still pretty mum and the website is still under construction, The Ting Tings are scheduled to play on April 12th. zed equals zee didn’t relocate to Seattle until after it closed, so I am really looking forward to checking it out.

(thanks to Peter for the tip!)

MP3: The Ting Tings – Great DJ

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Listen local: Hey Marseilles

January 19, 2009

hey-marseilles-2

Hey Marseilles nearly made me miss a flight. I saw them at the Three Imaginary Girls holiday party, and they were so good that I decided to catch their headlining show at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard last week, even though I had a 4:45 am wake-up call for a 5:15 am cab to the airport the next morning. Unfortunately, the late night meant that I slept through my alarm and only woke up when the cabdriver called my landline.

It was totally worth it, though. The Tractor show started with a procession by the band through the crowd, and I do mean ‘procession’ – with seven members, the band is quite a crowd themselves. Matt Bishop’s appealing voice is backed by viola, cello, trumpet and accordion, in addition to the more conventional rock instruments. They sound like a rather less fey version of The Decemberists – more grounded and earthy.

myspace website

MP3: Hey Marseilles – Rio

Image: Hey Marseilles by Flickr user Tyson L, reposted here with permission.

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Listen local: Passion Pit

December 11, 2008

passion-pit-info1

[click image for full version]

The head of BBC Radio 1 thinks that Cambridge, MA’s Passion Pit are the next big thing. Radio 1 is unusual in that it is simultaneously non-commercial and mainstream and, at least in the UK, getting added to its playlist means you’ve made it to the big leagues. The Guardian recently posted an interview with Radio 1’s head of music, George Ergatoudis, about the process by which artists get chosen for airplay. It’s kind of nice to read about their involved process of meetings and how their challenge is to balance music that is accessible and that which is more difficult (rather than, say, about how they are beating off promoters with a stick or quietly doing pay-for-play). To be perfectly precise, Ergatoudis says that Passion Pit are the next MGMT, which makes sense given that they occupy a similar point in the happy, catchy, danceable pop-electronica space.

Incidentally, the image above is a charming review of both a Passion Pit concert and their album, Chunk of Change, by artist Andrew Kuo; click on it to see the full version.

MP3: Passion Pit – Sleepyhead [amazon]

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Threesome: Back in Boston, briefly

December 5, 2008

boston-tiltshift

Regular readers know that zed equals zee temporarily relocated its headquarters from Boston to Seattle this summer. Well, debcha is back in Boston for the week, and here are some songs commemorating her adopted hometown. First up is a terrific live version of “The Ice of Boston” by the late, lamented Dismemberment Plan. Next up is the Dropkick Murphys doing “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” with lyrics by Woody Guthrie. It’s off their 2005 album The Warrior’s Code, but you may have heard it on the soundtrack to The Departed. Finally, the Dresden Dolls‘ unassumingly titled “The Jeep Song,” from their self-titled first album, is a hilarious and painful tale of a black-Jeep-driving lost love on the streets of Boston.

MP3: Dismemberment Plan – Ice of Boston (live)

MP3: Dropkick Murphys – I’m Shipping Up to Boston [amazon]

MP3: The Dresden Dolls – The Jeep Song [amazon]

Image: Flying Into Boston 005 – Tilt Shift by Flickr user tostie14, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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Listen local: The Cripples

December 2, 2008

cripples

Nothing is forgotten on the Internet. A friend of mine turned me on to Seattle-based synth-punk band, The Cripples, that were around a few years ago when he lived here. As far as I can tell, they are defunct-ish (the most recent update on either their homepage or Myspace page seems to be 2005), and I can’t really find any evidence that they’re doing shows. And while I think the picture above is of them (I ganked it from their site, after all), it does seem little short on synths for a synth-punk group.

None of this changes the fact that they sound really cool, like the Buzzcocks, only with keyboards. And it begs the question – why aren’t there more synth-punk bands? But if anyone in the area knows if The Cripples are still doing gigs, or if the principals have moved on to other bands, feel free to share it in the comments.

MP3: The Cripples – Contraception

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