Froth was brought to our attention when we received a message from the band inquiring if they could play an in-store set at Stinkweeds before their slot at VIVA PHX on March 11th. While we are always excited to host touring bands, our excitement was given a boost when we gave the band’s newest album a listen. This has all the elements of a Stinkweeds favorite. The hooks are catchy as hell, the riffs are subtle and dreamy, and the music washes over you like an west coast ocean breeze on our sun burned, dried out desert faces. Outside (Briefly) is another one of those albums that always perk someone’s ears up every time we play it, eliciting that familiar record store sentence, “who is this?” It’s always a treat when we can follow up the answer to that question with the good news that these sounds can be heard live and in person. We look forward to hosting Froth and we look forward to seeing all of you at the shop this on Saturday. Music starts at 4pm; absolutely free!
Chicano Batman has, for us, been this elusive phantom… We would hear the name over and over the past few years, but could never quite grasp who or what it was, or how to find them. Needless to say, we were quite intrigued by the overwhelming interest in this band, as well as their clever name, but not until recently could we really get a handle on what it was that this band “does.” The few bits and pieces we were able to track down painted half a picture of an L.A. band with a love for old school R&B, soul, funk and rock n roll, but without that full album experience, it was hard to complete that picture. With their new release of Freedom Is Free, we can finally bask in the full glory that is Chicano Batman. This album is exactly what you want (and is all too often missing) from “throwback” albums. Where many bands stop at replicating the general feel and sound of early influences, Chicano Batman has cultivated a persona that is genuine and modern, even though it is drenched in all the trappings of 60s and 70s psychedelic soul. The greatest challenge with creating music rooted in anachronism is to create something equally timeless. Perhaps there’s something about the current times we’re living in, where a mostly Latino, Los Angeles based band, playing old school style songs about freedom, equality and responsibility for our environment can seem as “on time” now as it might have been 50 years ago.
A common topic of conversation at the shop is direction. As I’m sure most of you do, we often form opinions about albums, in the context of what the band has put out in the past. Maybe this is foolish, since an album is a piece of art and should be rated on its own merits, but there is a story to tell when you see a clear transformation. As much as we love discovery, we also enjoy rediscovery. This is what makes an album like The Navigator such an interesting experience. We are familiar with previous efforts from this band and we have certainly enjoyed them. In fact, 2014’s Small Town Heroes still gets the occasional spin, but an album like The Navigator breaks through all the expectations and comfort that comes from the familiarity of a back catalog. Where previous efforts offered up substantial tunes, wrapped comfortably in the folk idiom, this album dances around early 70 English folk, the swinging breeziness of a Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison or Fleetwood Mac, the intimacy of Carole King to the raw, passionate nature of Odetta. It seems that singer Alynda Segarra wanted to tell her stories through the wider palette of music she has experienced rather than limit herself to american folk music, which is a well suited music for telling a story, however, the words are left to fend for themselves, without the backdrop of the music that comes from that same, intimate place.
For those who many not be familiar, there was a period of pop brilliance that mostly went undiscovered by the main stream. I would date its death to about the late 2000s and its rise around the early to mid 90s. This was hidden under monikers like DIY, Lo-Fi, Twee, or just an overall ambivalence and rejection of compartmentalized genres. Artists like Mirah, Tender Forever, Microphones, Adam Green and Kimya Dawson had a steady flow of just about the sweetest, most intimate and catchy tunes you could produce. Perhaps it’s their candid nature or sadly, the lack of the pop star sparkle that only an expensive stylist can give you, that kept this hidden world in the all ages venues and art galleries. The nature of these ageless tunes were sure to find the ears of eager, young musicians, ready to carry the torch for the under appreciated. Whether or not there stands to be any kind of significant resurgence is left to be determined, but I’ve heard the faint sounds of glockenspiels and the quiet hiss of cassette tape recordings coming from bedrooms and basements. Jay Som just might be the one to inspire these vitamin D deficient geniuses to emerge from their dens. Melina Duerte embodies all that is great about the DIY ethic. First off, she actually does it herself! All the instruments on this album were written, played and recorded by Duerte. Second, a great tune doesn’t need polish. So much that is great about this music is the contrast of kick ass tunes, sung with the confidence that one might read their diary in public, with all the gusto coming from growling guitars, sharp drum hits and jarring dynamics. I’m paraphrasing, but David Byrne had a great quote about singers, saying something like “the better someone is, the harder it is to believe them.” This has always been my problem with the Carly Rae Jepsens and Taylor Swifts. Too good. Too shiny. Not buying it. Jay Som is made of all the same catchy stuff, but made to be relatable to your actual life, and not the one you wish you were living.
I was speaking to a customer the other day about Bjork. She was looking for an artist with a similar voice and I was just absolutely stumped. What I came to realize is that there was something quintessentially 90s about Bjork’s delivery. I often have a hard time finding comparable artists to 90s projects, because, for me, it was a very charismatic time for singers. Singers seemed to have a personality, larger than life and the voices to back it up. It seems now that singers have taken a more subtle turn. Perhaps it’s our current social media society that has artists feeling a bit self conscious about such levels of exhibition, or maybe with the ability to reach people, musicians don’t have to try as hard. Either way, I couldn’t be more into this new found sense of subtlety. Artists like Molly Burch can squeeze more emotion out of a faintly whispered word than most can out of a loudly belted phrase. One term I have thrown around in the past, for this sort of music is “slacker rock.” Please Be Mine fits right in line with the seemingly effortless beauty that makes up a good, lazy album. There are definite comparisons to Angel Olsen, in voice and delivery, but I would draw more comparisons to Olsen’s earlier work, with their Roy Orbison, tom-heavy drum beats and reverb-drenched guitars. Is it such a bad thing to be compared to one of the greatest voices of our time?! No, not really. I can say that this album stands very firmly on its own, as a fun listen, well-suited for long drives, end of day decompression or just gentle swaying, wherever the mood hits you.