Archive for February, 2022

The Magus due out March 4th

This mustachioed magician’s new EP has left me spellbound. Peter Cat (Cat Cat) is the mostly solo project of Graham Neil Gillespie, the dapper “sophisti-popster” behind glam-o-rama hit The Saccharine Underground. Peter Cat brings his brand of wry humor and introspection to a new four track EP, entitled The Magus. I was lucky enough to get to listen to the whole shebang before release and it is fan-flipping-tastic.

It starts with “Blue Raspberry,” the second single off the EP. It’s got a dreamy surreal quality over the beat, meant to illustrate the song’s theme of projecting a fantasy and expecting it to be real. The lyrics start with a touch of meta humor and end in a melancholy that I found really easy to connect with. “Blue Raspberry” sets the tone for the rest of the EP in that The Magus balances introspection and darkness with wit and rhythm throughout the four tracks. For every chuckle, there’s an equal tug at the heart. But for every earnest admission, there’s a knife twist, too.

If Peter Cat played Skyrim…

Track two, called “The Magus” (named for the John Fowles novel) is the inspiration for the characterization you’ll hear in this song’s Billie Eilish-adjacent sprechgesang. Here, Gillespie is taking on the role of the magician as he welcomes you to his show, where he plays with both the heads and the hearts of his victims. It grows atmospheric and tense before exploding into delicious baroque pop.

The EP’s biggest star is also its first single – “Melon Dating Simulator.” It is an instant head-bopper with an absurd twist. Again, the speaker is willing to skewer himself for his bad behaviors, but now he has found his other half in the form of fruit, inspired by Gillespie playing (and having high praise for) a dating simulation game called Superstorm Melon Date. Insert a series of puns and a vaguely dystopian atmosphere, and this one is a certified earworm. Listen for the one off-beat Meyers-Briggs joke that makes me cackle every time I hear it. It’s so very sing-able that I have subjected it to dozens of people in my day job who are forced to listen to me (to which I respond “yer welcome.”

Closer “Disappearing Act,” starts with a piano cabaret-type tune that illustrates when the singer is reasoning with a lover versus narrating his actual intentions. It lends itself so beautifully to a theatrical visual (in my mind), complete with 2d urban backdrops backdrops and the depressing glow of a street lamp. The main character is revealed to be just another manipulative bottom-feeder of relationships, who gloats out the side of his mouth about how he patronizes his lovers so he never has to face himself. Behind it reveals the emptiness that causes such a chasm where a decent man would otherwise be. The piano grows moodier as it takes on more finality and the EP is carried to an end.

All in all, it feels like a piece of theater, lends itself to fun mental visuals, and carries an EP-long narrative if you look for it. I keep being struck about my own willingness to empathize with the character speaking in these songs even though it would be misery to be in a relationship with that kind of person. It all makes my brain go tingle, and that makes me happy.

This EP is not to be missed. Peter Cat play shows around Glasgow so definitely check ’em out if you’re lucky enough to be in Europe. I would love to hear how these tunes sound live, but alas, I live across an ocean from where they play, so let’s cross our fingers and hope for a stateside visit one day. The Magus comes out on March 4th – GO GET IT!

I also got the chance to have a brief 1-on-1 with the man himself. We will have that up for you soon!

Peter Cat Cat Cat Instagram

Peter Cat’s Bandcamp

Peter Cat’s Official Website

Henry Solomon is an accomplished saxophonist who is most known for being The Guy In The Video For “Summer Girl,” being that he recorded three songs on HAIM’s latest album, Women In Music Pt. III. He’s also the saxophonist for Thumpasaurus, a group I admit to being insanely fond of, comparable to the level that Soda loves Jellyfish, or to the level that teen me loved Led Zeppelin. So naturally, I’ve been flavoring my life with their individual accomplishments, and the first I can find the words about is this sweet little eight minute EP Solomon made in partnership with gentle-voiced bedroom popster Allie Kelly.

It starts with “Menthol,” a breathy synthy ambiance that uses the sensation of menthol as imagery for something cutting. I can’t quite figure the lyrics out, other than the sense that the “knife” she mentions is sharp and turned inward. It’s a nice use of imagery, because the feeling of dragging on a menthol (especially for the first time after a long day) matches Kelly’s breezy vocals – it’s a sharp but refreshing discomfort to fill your lungs with minty smoke. The video makes a nice background visual. Both Kelly and Solomon have great hair and earrings and are having a fabulous night on the sidewalk, and it’s kind of amusing to watch them play around with cigarettes despite clearly being non-smokers.

I think the song that nailed it for me was “Salmon of Positive Energy,” which is certainly the background music of a video game I’ve played in my subconscious. On its own, it becomes an upbeat metaphor for some elusive wisdom, like an unformed out-of-grasp thought or the memory of a dream that’s slipping away upon waking. Per Solomon’s Instagram, the actual Salmon is a “mythical creature that protects fishermen from danger, and and brings happiness and good luck.” The song’s imagery invokes nighttime, but the sound feels, to me, like traveling at dawn through a clear sky. It just feels good and floaty. The song itself was inspired by/written for footage of salmon fishermen, which is interesting except that after four and a half minutes of upbeat drum loops and seascapes, a salmon meets his maker with a hearty stabbing. I appreciate the irony. This one stays on the playlist.

The EP ends with a minute-half little tune “Oh Song” that has the softest little sax, and Kelly’s vocal that seems to be reaching out to either keep/discard a lover depending on if you hear “can” or “can’t.” I choose to hear it as a breakup song but that’s because I’m a feminist curmudgeon and never want to hear a woman offering to be whatever someone else wants. Still, it makes what might be an ugly or desperate feeling into a pretty sound, and I wish there were more than a minute and a half of it.

**Update: April 2022

For some reason, “Oh Song” kept bouncing through my inner monologue at least once per day for a while. I felt like I misinterpreted it and it kept bugging me like it sat on my conscience. As I kept hearing it in my mind, it would morph into the song from the Mario 64 water level “Jolly Roger Bay” because my brain free-associates like it’s perpetually writing bad poetry. But somewhere in the mental swirl came the realization that this song is what an orgasm sounds like. It’s not “Oh, Song.” It’s the “O” song, which makes its short length, sound, and words make total sense in a way I didn’t really get when I first reviewed it.**

Overall, the Menthol EP is a good nighttime listen for settling in with some hot tea and a Marlboro Smooth. They’ve also got a limited edition cassette that comes with a bonus remix, and I’ll update this post when I have the goods in hand. In the mean time, check out the Salmon of Positive Energy video here, and links below.

Allie Kelly & Henry Solomon Bandcamp

Allie Kelly Instagram

Henry Solomon Instagram

Les Cooper Himself

Les Cooper a Toronto’ based producer, mixer, multi-instrumentalist, JUNO award winner, and very cool name haver, has released his debut single, “Stranger.” It starts with buzzy tones before Les’s haunting vocal slides into consciousness. Layers upon layers of swirling instrumentation weave through Cooper’s mellow voice. The speaker of the song seems to carry a very intense and public hurt as it tells the pain of feeling left behind after someone else’s success: Everyone will say that you’re the one that shook them up/the one that tore them down. There is a sense of the speaker struggling through this rawness as they encounter this person’s exploits in other places: Everyone may write about the things you did, the lies you told, the hearts you broke. I get the sense that the hurt may be public, but the speaker feels quite invisible, like they’re the one becoming a stranger. It’s a good atmospheric mellow. I wonder what he’ll come up with next.

Listen to “Stranger” on your preferred platform

Les Cooper Instagram

Altameda – Nightmare Town

Posted: February 9, 2022 by Kat Meow in Altameda, Canada, Rock

Altameda, the nom de tune of Edmonton (Alberta) duo Troy Snaterse and Erik Grice, are launching a new album in April entitled Born Losers. From this album comes this driving Springsteen-ey track “Nightmare Town.” This upbeat ditty tells the irrational dreams of an angsty youth that thinks he would do almost anything to get out and start his adulthood. He recounts fantasies and memories that ring of youthful freedom. It’s got that kind of foot-stomping beat that is classically North American rock. For me, it calls up imagery of warm spring nights in the suburbs, corner-store sodas, and dusklight games of hide-and-seek. It’s got a really solid blend of piano and vocal that feels wistful but not quite desperate. Compared to the similar story in Tracy Chapman’s classic “Fast Car,” “Nightmare Town” is less of a plan and more of a wish. I get the sense that the young protagonist does more dreaming than doing, a recipe for unfulfilled wanderlust that feels more like cruising down the highway on a road trip than running away. It has some vague hope underneath, even though it is a reminder of how I used to look at my hometown through brown-colored glasses, as I now shop for houses in that same town. Oh, life. A good listen, check ’em out.

Altameda Instagram 

 Altameda Twitter 

 Altameda’s Website

It was sometime back in the early 00s when I got into King Crimson. I got to see them live with John Paul Jones when I was a Zeppelin die-hard and JPJ was touring behind The Thunderthief (2001). I got to hear the rhythmic daymare of Thela Hun Ginjeet for the first time in my life. The mix of strange and almost discordant rhythms did more to get me dazed than the contact high and warm pocket vodka. I remember being completely entranced until the song ended and I finally shuddered back to life. At the time, I also was discovering Zappa, and knew their common link was Adrian Belew. Young Lions, the first album I landed on at (thanks good ole Mr. Cheapos!), ended up tucking itself into the folds of my hippocampus in my Personal Museum of Eternally Beloved Music. This album is a mission of optimism with claws, set to vaguely jungle-ish rock drums and Belew’s unbelievable shredding. After now twenty years, whenever some Facebook chain email crosses me asking for my top fives or tens or “I listen to this when,” I instantly see the white-pink hue of my copy of Young Lions.

It starts with this pulsating stomp with bells on its ankles, that give me visuals of bonfire parties and hunting predators. This song always sends me deep into the stories in my consciousness and push up fruits of lush colors and imagery – sometimes a cavewoman lover shimmying for her beau, other times eyes in the bushes in the quiet blue darkness; a stalking foot of a carefully moving something. The driving stomp careens into a solo with a some instrument that I have no fucking idea what it is (probably some genius machination Belew does with pedals and pixie dust). It sears as much as it sings, stomping along with rhythmic grunts and twittering flutes, until the entire jungle erupts in natural rapture. It is a masterpiece of sound and joy and it moves me every time.

From there Pretty Pink Rose takes over. A guitar-crazy wailing pop smash, (the album’s one single and video), Pretty Pink Rose is just a good honest rock song. Total shoulder shimmy danceable. I won’t pretend to understand the lyrics, but they’re Bowie lyrics so they work well on their own just by sounding beautiful, nevermind what world-shaking political meanings Bowie may hide in there if you have the patience to search. “The left wing’s broken, the right’s insane” was one of the easily reachable bits to grasp, and rings even more frustratingly true the further we live through history. Other lyrics call up images of the Russian monarchy and seem to bite. Man, I don’t need to know what the hell the song is about, but the hooks in this song are so fun to sing along to, it doesn’t matter.

Humor me a personal story: There was a long time I didn’t pull this album out for a listen. I’m a sensitive soul and the universe decided to backhand me. When I was about 19, traveling the country with Led Zeppelin fans, I took my all Adrian Belew CDs on one of the coolest music adventures of my life (which I shall save for another post). My copy of Belew’s Op Zop Too Wah was with me, and it was super special. It had been gifted by another Belew fan on the internet with the caveat that I must one day pay it forward to another person who might like it. It was precious cargo, cargo that came with a mission. I wanted to make sure I had a few uninterruptable listens, and flights to and from Ohio were as good an opportunity as any.

So naturally, the airline lost my luggage.

When my bag arrived home 9 hours after I did, it was unlocked and all my beloved CDs and CD Walkman were gone. Heartbroken. I couldn’t bear to replace them, even though members of that Belew group sent me replacements and sympathy. But I felt so fucked up about it that I couldn’t really enjoy them without thinking about the violation of some chode stealing my stuff. And I always felt bad having never been able to complete my mission of paying a Belew CD forward. I sort of just blocked it out like it would be forever sour.

It took me until the darkness of 2020 to be able to see the light in this album again. In one of my many moments of deep orange panic, watching the world fall apart in front of me, I started singing “Looking for a UFO” at the top of my lungs. “Somebody will have to fall out of the sky, somebody to show us how to survive. Wouldn’t that be nice?” It sure felt like it. It came out of me randomly and at full volume like a cry to the gods (in the form of a catchy pop song). After all, it is three and a half minutes of upbeat but desperate hope when everything felt hopeless. Why not call upon the aliens? “I wonder what they see on earth. Do they see the hate and hurt? Or do they see the Christmas lights and mirth, and hear songs of peace on earth? Well maybe they would know, a way to make it so.” Maybe they do! Maybe we do, too. I confused the hell out of my neighbors, but I was happy.

One of the weirdest slam dunks on this album is I Am What I Am, which is a jam-along with cult radio evangelist Prophet Omega. I have always had a personally embattled relationship with spirituality, and this beat and monologue would make me scoff at the same time as “I am what I am, and that is all I am, and I am it” became an arcane mantra I would jot down in my notebooks in college. It’s this narrative of self-acceptance and living in the moment that is really engaging and healthy and light, although the guy also seems a little more than eccentric. I’ve since learned that Omega is some kind of legendary cult figure in Nashville music, and you can download his sermons/buy stuff about him from Genuine Human Productions here:

Genuine Human Productions Bandcamp

“Men In Helicopters” is an assault on poachers, and to some larger extent, the sins of our consumption. Belew’s rage is unfettered and raw in its biting lyrics. “Wouldn’t it be odd, if there really was a god, and he looked down on earth and saw what we’d done to her? Wouldn’t it be just, if he pulled the plug on us, and took away the sun?” I can hear a little extra breath in Belew’s rage, as if mentions of copters come with a snarl, a desire for justice. It gives you a push.

I always listen to this guy start to finish – there’s so much more to get, whether it’s the vaguely ethereal cover of “Not Alone Anymore” of the Wilburys, or “Phone Call From the Moon” or Belew’s personal cover of King Crimson’s “Heartbeat.” It’s a powerful album that more people ought to know about it. I could go on, but I won’t, because this review is already long. But I will say this:

DO YOU WANT A COPY OF OP ZOP TOO WAH? Help me complete my mission. I will send you a copy of Op Zop Too Wah on the condition that you one day pay another Belew album forward to someone else. Help me solve the mission I started 20 or so years ago in the primordial ooze of the internet. Reach out to me on Instagram! Cheers!

https://adrianbelew.net/

Adrian Belew’s Facebook

Adrian Belew’s Insta