Better late than never? Isn’t that what they say? Sometimes life gets in the way of those self-imposed deadlines that you set for your small blog. Get ready for that one-two punch of posts this week and then boom, right back on schedule.
Music For Touching entered my life through one of those “if you bought this, then try” emails. It came in hot and unapologetic. The preview track, “Crybaby (A),” is an in-your-face pop number whose bass line immediately hypnotizes you. Add in catchy melodies and the bombastic baritone saxophone sounds of previous On Queue cameo mention, Colin Stetson, and you have a perfect representation of this avant-garde pop hit.
When the Brooklyn-based indie group, Mobius Band, broke up in 2010 after two releases on Ghostly International, the three members all began pursuing new projects. Peter Sax began recording as Ladies and Gentlemen, Noam Schatz became LOLFM, and Ben Sterling created Cookies. This new period of uncompromised creative output resulted in Music For Touching, a brilliant display of comforting and familiar pop melodies dressed in an experimental edge giving a new sense of humor, grit, and unexpected splendor to the popular music canon.
The album–best played front to back and uninterrupted due to the creative and seamless transitions heard throughout–draws from a range of disco, hip hop, classical pop, and electronic timbres that blend with the voices of Melissa Metrick, Areni Agbabian, Ashley Giorgi, and Ben Sterling.
In my opinion, the true anthems on this record are “Go Back,” “Crybaby (A),” and “Kathrine.” Cookies cleverly spaces these more upbeat and slightly less experimental moments relatively evenly throughout the 10-track work. They become almost aiming points that are found through a weaving path of art songs and interludes. The opening track, “1000 Breakfasts With You,” is rich in trap influence and juxtaposes the serene vocals with distorted guitars and synths in a minimalistic style before leading into “Go Back.”
“Spill Of Sugar” and “Music For Touching” align closely with the idea of ballads. They both act as palate cleaners placed in between maximalist and experimental soundscapes like “Introduction” and “Human Problems.” I am most impressed by the pacing of this project. When it comes to experimental music, I find that my attention can be lost in moments of oversaturation. The experimental edge makes a positive impression on me in this release due to the moments the listener is given to recover or recharge. An intensely catchy pop melody and structure gives way to a gritty experimental take on pop. Rinse and repeat.
This is the only release from Cookies thus far. The band has gone silent since the media buzz that formed around this album in late-2014. There is no shortage of sonic and formal creativity keeping this album playing on my queue frequently. I’m keeping my fingers tightly crossed for a Sophomore project from Cookies.
I love this next story. Shout out to Harry Shapiro for hipping me to this gem of a record.
The setting is a town of 600 in Alaska steeped in Tlingit tradition. In Kake, Alaska, which sits on an island in the Southeast part of the state, Archie James Cavanaugh was born and raised. The small town was brimming in musical talent and housed a forty-piece jazz orchestra. Smaller groups of varying genres came from this group and is where Cavanaugh credits his early musical exposure and interest.
Cavanaugh’s musical promise grew through his years in school. He took guitar lessons from local legends and never lost sight of his dream to record and album. Soon, Cavanaugh decided to assemble a professional band and travel to a recording studio in Portland, OR in order to make this dream a reality. The result was an incredibly elegant and well received debut album whose best tracks rival those of any major label release of the time. In fact, many mistook the “A&M” printed on the album to be the major label when it actually stands for “Archie and Melinda,” a nod to his wife who co-wrote the album.
Cavanaugh is deeply religious and in touch with the traditions of his Tlingit community. This can most prominently be seen in the album artwork: an image of a raven that represents Tlingit mythology in which a raven opens Pandora’s Box. Sickness and disease spread into the world and turning it from white to black. For such a dark story, the album has no lack of joy and pulse within the sound. “Light Unto The World” is a soulful gospel number that rings with a religious enthusiasm heard in Cavanaugh’s voice and the deep and lively connection within the band.
The album opens with the most well known and strongest track, “Take It Easy.” An acrobatic and catchy bass line is soon joined by guitar chords and glide with an exceptional ease within the groove. The title and theme of the song match perfectly with the vocal style Cavanaugh brings to the entire album. He is laid back and sings with a confidence that and be felt reverberating through the entire band.
The impressive musicianship on every track lifts up even some of the, perhaps, less captivating moments of the album. “High Rise” features the distinctive and funky organ and horn writing in the album, but the other true highlight of the album comes with “Make Me Believe.” The band plays a tight groove during the hook of this love song that made waves all the way in Japan where it was released as a limited edition single.
It is through word of mouth occurrences, like Harry’s suggestion to me, that this private press release has given Cavanaugh a couple of hits and a little bit of stardom. It has been a slow rise for this masterpiece, but it seems to be starting to get some of the recognition that it deserves. The 26-year gap between his first and second release is a good indicator of the pacing associated with the career of this talented performer. While it might not be immediately apparent from the Native American artwork and title, Black and White Raven is a window into ‘70s soul music rich in vibrancy and funk.
If you are ever given the opportunity to see a Peanut Butter Wolf live DJ set, don’t hesitate and immediately get tickets. There are few people who have the ability to turn DJing, often viewed as a passive action with little skill other than buttons needed, into an eclectic display of music history and musicality. Once I saw Peanut Butter Wolf live, I went home and drove into any recorded set I could possibly find. I stumbled across one done for Bandcamp Weekly earlier this year. The set featured many new and old gems signed to Stones Throw Records including a single from a then upcoming release by Jerry Paper. October 12th was a long awaited release day for me and Like a Baby did not disappoint.
Born Lucas Nathan, Jerry Paper is based in LA and draws on his experience moving from New York city to the West Coast while exploring themes of “the endless human cycle of desire and satisfaction.” The laid back and low volume album bristling with wavy synthesizers and reverb soaked vocals is co-produced by Matty Tavares, a member of BADBADNOTGOOD. Those familiar with the jazz fusion and free improvisational style of this band and Tavares voice on keys and synths will feel right at home.
There is an undeniable dreamy timbre through the entire album. It is a pleasant blend of psychedelic rock meeting wistful synth textures of electronic music. For lovers of lo-fi, there is more than enough to enjoy. The album begins as though it is powering on. “Your Cocoon” (the single featured in Peanut Butter Wolf’s set) climbs up to speed into a wash of funky drums and plucky guitar accompaniments.
“A Moment” has an undeniable bossa nova flavor to it made clear through the driving brushes on drums and the silky background vocals. “My God,” another single from the project, is a melancholy meditation on the true importance of financial worth. Many of the narratives sung through the album are sometimes hard to decipher due to the unique and thick processing done to Jerry Paper’s deep vocals. This does nothing to take away from the album and adds a mystique that compliments the sound.
I feel like there is a definite embrace of what may be seen as “cheesy.” It is a quirky sound, but it is so refined and self-aware that it sets itself apart in its own category. The album is as pleasing to listen to as it is filled with deep commentary on the reality of our surroundings allowing the listener to sit back and relax or interact in a more thought provoking manner. It is a soft-rock masterpiece that has been well worth the wait.