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That Dog Bites Back

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I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest I was the only person working for a huge insurance company in 1997 with a poster of That Dog on my cubicle. They hypnotized me at Mercury Lounge and I walked home in a happy haze to my $78 a month Chinatown apartment. Different times, indeed.

That Dog broke up after releasing Retreat from the Sun, a perfect concoction of power-pop sweet & sour that holds up 20 years later. While they reunited in 2011,  the new record finds them one Haden sister short, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this partially crowd-funded affair. Certainly Anna Waronker was still at the helm, with Rachel Haden on bass, and Tony Maxwell stepping away from a TV exec gig to record and tour this new record. I still had mixed feelings going in.

Fear not, Old LP is super on-brand and contains some excellent songs, as well as those honeyed harmonies we’ve come to expect. Tight and poppy and full of energy, Old LP is a return to form, albeit with some added maturity. What I didn’t expect was the emotional weight of the title track, an ode to the great Charlie Haden, who died in 2014.

Catch That Dog at Warsaw in Brooklyn tonight where they’ll be playing with string accompaniment.

 

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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GANG STARR “ONE OF THE BEST YET”

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Straight out the gate we’re taken down memory lane with an intro reminding us of what Gang Starr was and still is about! The intro brought great comfort to my ears in letting me know that their main ingredients of boom bap and rhymes weren’t going to be forgotten. True to my hypothesis, the bar continued to rise and rise throughout the album.

The unmistakable cuts, clever samples and monotone flows are in full display. Exactly how you would expect to hear a Gang Starr album! The repeat again and again factor is naturally achieved from beginning to end. Thank god for technological advancements or there would be an abundance of damaged records, tapes and CD’s out there due to overuse! It was as if the album was recorded with elements of the past with intentions of the future!

With that notion in mind, DJ Premier and Guru enlisted the services of some of their familiar collaborators and recruited some worthy new friends to join the movement. The likes of M.O.P, Q-Tip, Group Home, Royce da 5’9″, Jeru The Damaja, J.Cole, Ne-Yo, Nitty Scott, Talib Kweli, Big Shug and Freddie Foxxx make up the ensemble of talent that merged perfectly in this tremendous gift to Hip-Hop.

It was as if the album was recorded with elements of the past with intentions of the future!

The cameos of his son Keith Casim Elam on the album and in the music videos (Family & Loyalty/Bad Name) brings this project full circle. His father would have been proud of the family representation and the Gang Starr extended family showing out on every opportunity in “One Of The Best Yet”.

 

At this point we can only hope that Premier has an extra stash of Guru vocals hidden somewhere that he’ll bless us with in the near future. It’s been quite evident from the reception of the Hip-Hop community that Gang Starr has done it again and will always be welcome fruit to our musical appetites!

HB aka The World Traveler is fully committed to exploring and sharing with you what the world has to offer in travel and music. Get on board and enjoy the ride!

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Janita’s New Song “Bliss I Once Had This”

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Fresh from her residency at NYC’s Mercury Lounge, ECR Music Group recording artist Janita releases the new single “Bliss I Once Had This” on October 18, and we have the premiere.

The guitar-forward track, which you can hear below, is a notable change from Janita’s last record, Didn’t You, My Dear?, also produced and recorded by label owner and musician Blake Morgan.

Janita describes the song as “a declaration of joyful defiance in darkening times.” The track taps into the moment when empathy meets apathy, when we’re as likely to question “Who am I to feel happy now?” as we are to throw up our hands and say “Never mind.”

Janita and Blake share guitar duties on the track, rounded out by Miles East on drums and percussion and Justin Goldner on bass.

Janita’s last show this year is in her hometown of Helsinki at the legendary Tavastia-klubi on November 10.

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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Pixies Straighten Up and Fly Right

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The Pixies demoed over 20 originals and some covers in their upstate NY sessions with producer Tom Dalgety last year, whittling them down to 12 tracks for the new gothic record Beneath the Eyrie. Much of the warts-and-all recording process was captured in the excellent 12-part lead-up It’s a Pixies Podcast. You’ll find no other iconic band pulling the curtain back on their process with the same amount of honesty.

Dalgety has a way of smoothing over Pixies’ rough edges to sometimes exquisite effect. Other times you may miss the rust and crunch of producers Steve Albini and Gil Norton. But it’s not 1988, and this is an older, wiser band with adult aches and pains – and a sudden interest in being less obtuse. Some fans may not be ready to hear Black Francis sing straight-forward lines like “I’m ready for love” and “Last night I was driving around, nothing to do, thinking of you.” Fans of Frank Black, however, may be better prepared. Personas are a bitch. So are rigid expectations.

Folks like to talk about a Pixies “sound,” and there is something certainly recognizable as that, but the sonic arcs between albums only extend a record or two. Surfa Rosa and Doolittle share a sound, but there’s less in common between Doolittle and Bossanova, or between Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde. Indie Cindy (made 23 years later) does pick up where Trompe left off, but the next two records, Head Carrier and Beneath the Eyrie, find the band moving beyond that entirely, even though the DNA is most assuredly Pixies.

Eyrie kicks off with the bubbling “In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain,” a track with no real precedent in their catalog, but another that proves drummer David Lovering is the skeleton holding the body up. Things get a little more traditionally Pixies with “On Graveyard Hill,” even if the lyrics are less esoteric than fans have grown to expect. This rolls into “Catfish Kate,” a downright story song with Black playing narrator Blackjack Hooligan. The track is one of the few on Eyrie to employ that tried-and-true loud/quiet/loud aesthetic.

Guitarist Joey Santiago lets it rip on “Ready for Love,” bringing his new-found sobriety into focus. Perhaps in deference to Joey, the band’s upcoming tour will be dry – no drugs or alcohol. I know it’s not as simple as that, and perhaps Black’s marital woes have something to do with cleaning up for the tour. But wine is all over this record (and the podcast), especially in the tipsy chorus of the Tom Waits-ish “This Is My Fate” and in the poetic refrain of “Silver Bullet.”

“The shade is drawn with stem and vine
Burned in the flame of a man condemned
With venom wine and golden dawn
A silver bullet in the chamber turning”

Bassist extraordinaire Paz Lenchantin gets writing credit on the ’90s-sounding “Long Rider” and sister track “Los Surfers Muertos,” which pay homage to a fellow surfer that lost her life carving the waves. “St. Nazaire” throws a raucous bone to fans, with a story steeped in the type of seaweed-covered mythology Pixies die-hards know well. It’s not as delightfully unhinged as “Planet of Sound” or “Blue Eyed Hexe,” but it’s a welcome bit of aggro.

Inspired by Black nearly driving into a deer on the way to the studio, the sprawling “Daniel Boone” slowly swells into a version of Pixies that fans have yet to meet. There’s a slow beauty to the track that resembles some of the quieter moments on Indie Cindy, but not hardly as compressed.

Eyrie ends with another ‘tranquilizing drink,’ “Death Horizon,” a mid-tempo ditty that puts the finishing touches on what may very well be a break-up record for Black Francis. In that way, it feels like Black has shed his personas and fronted the band as his true self, Charles Thompson, for the first time. It’s who he was all along.

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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