Fingathing are an English electronica duo of Sneaky (bass) and Peter Parker (turntable) that have been at it in the English underground for twenty or so years. Their mostly-instrumental electro-meets-hip hop sound is given further character by driving percussion and vocal sampling. The result is a groove like no other – spacey but dramatic, heady but body rocking at the same time. Their new 4-track EP Where You At? carries their deep red energy into a new era.

Where You At starts with “Devil Banger,” a smash of heavy metal guitar and turntable scratch that I could foresee devolving into a pit at a show, if their crowd were so inclined. It’s an introduction to a zombie dance party that continues into “Man Made Monster,” where the bass feels like cartoon monsters having the best basement rave. The monsters rise from the dead, possibly to feed on the brains that make up the cover of the EP. These visuals aren’t present in the songs themselves, but Fingathing’s album covers and art paint a NickToon panorama of characters and aesthetic details that make me, as a visualizer, so intensely engaged. I only hope they swing around NYC again, because visuals (by third Finga Chris Drury) are apparently a major part of their live show, and I missed my last opportunity.

May 26th 2015 Fingathing in Berlin Photo: Pablo Castagnola

The next tune is the titular track, “Where You At?” which brings that drama and suspense that feels much like an action scene. “Where you at?” the vocal loop asks, among sirens and steel pan drum over a vaguely Caribbean beat, that lends the notion of apocalypse, danger, and need to escape and find one’s people. This exemplifies Fingathing’s creativity at their best – layers of careful percussion paint so much flavor into a four minute masterpiece. Where You At? ends with “Disco Grande,” another simply delicious groove with claps and strings. Disco has always had a way of bowing heartstrings for aural drama, but Fingathing’s style makes “Disco Grande” feel devastating – like we’ve been listening to a groovy tragedy. The fates of the protagonists in my visuals are unknown, but damn is my body moving.

Fingathing produce story-laden soundscapes coupled with narrative concepts that make it completely unique. Add to that the sci-fi visuals, one might be tempted to make a comparison to Gorillaz except without Damon’s presence constantly pulling you out of the fantasy. Fingathing is one of my favorite bands to just lay back and feel – Sneaky’s double-bass has its own gravitational pull. Where You At marks another entry into a brilliant catalog. Don’t sleep on them.

Fingathing Bandcamp

Fingathing.co.uk Website

Fingathing Instathing

Finally! After years of wait, our own Soda Survive has finally brought his newest project into the daylight. Coventry Carols is a reunion of (e)motion picture’s Soda and drummer Terry Taylor, along with bassist Clifford “Sugarbear” Catropa. Together, the trio have emerged victorious from their first gig in nearby Connecticut, and have released their premiere track “The Well,” due to hit virtual airwaves on Friday (but purchasable from bandcamp at this very moment).

“The Well” is a alt-rock bopper, or as was recently noted during an interview on Bitten Apple TV, “a 90s throwback to the future.” The Well starts with a jaunty guitar riff over Terry’s tip-taps, that sound much like a rock-and-roll kid’s jaunt in a playground. Soda’s vocals come in, bringing in a little Billy Corgan flavor along with the lyrics that make me wonder if “The Well” is a metaphor for the darkness of the pandemic (Will we ever see the light again?/These times they are so cruel). Alternatively they might reference Soda’s recent years of medical challenges, a well from which he has emerged victorious. All in all, The Well is a 90s-ey, garage-y, grunge-y rock tune that will woo a few of the emo kids to boot.

The well single has four tracks, including an instrumental, and a remix by Coventry Carols album producer Joey Zampella (Life of Agony). Long Island can find Coventry Carols playing at Mr. Beery’s at the end of the month. Keep an eye open for their forthcoming cassette and CD, too – Coventry Carols has just joined the roster at Rescord!

coventrycarols.com

Coventry Carols on Bandcamp

Cover art by Graeme James

This one comes from New Zealand by way of Amsterdam. Graeme James, multi-instrumentalist and composer, is releasing a new album called Seasons on Nettwork Records. Inspired by his relocation from New Zealand to Amsterdam, the album is rich in layers of strings and delicate vocals. All together, James is a one-man band. He wrote, produced, and plucked nearly everything on this record, sans a few guest vocals, percussion, and brass. For the most part, James is as self-made as it comes, even drawing the album’s covers himself. James’s complex and earthy tunes capture cycles of life and weather with masterful precision. All in all, it’s a great flavor of indie folk that recalls shades of Villagers and perhaps Mumford and Sons (with better vocals and more optimism).

Seasons is a thoughtful and reflective set of tunes. Using the changing of seasons as larger metaphors for changes of life, he paints portraits of love and growth. Summertime sweet “Field Notes on an Endless Day” has tonal shades of Zeppelin’s “Going to California” amid its joyful ease. Single “Everlasting Love” is a straight-up country toe-tapper rejoicing one’s long-term affections: “If all that I had was you, I’d be the richest man on earth.” To use the lingo of the kids, that’s relationship goals right there. Autumnal ballad “All the Lives We Ever Lived” reflects on youthful exuberance, lamenting “We only wanted to live forever – was that too much to ask?” The whole album is a gorgeous mid-afternoon listen, curled up with a long term lover or a sleepy dog, warm like the cup of cocoa you’ll crave during “The Weight of Many Winters.”

The standout track for M-S-G is “The Voyage of the James Caird.” It is as dramatic a saga of a shipwreck survival as you can get, and as engaging as it sounds. Graeme’s voice takes on a more soulful thickness even than his other tunes as he tells the story of a real ship that near missed at rescuing its inhabitants. The percussion adds a rock beat to the gut-tingling drama of plucked high notes and rolling deeper tones. The cymbals crash like the waves against the resilient boat hull. From where it’s placed on the album, it feels like just the kind of tale you’d tell around a crackling fire on a cold winter evening, when one might need a message of persistence in peril. You know, kind of the way sea shanties became a thing during COVID for the same reason. No wonder Rolling Stone highlighted the track as a “Song[s] You Need to Know.”

If you’re into indie folk, check out Graeme James. Seasons comes in like a lion on April 1st.

Graeme James Website

Graeme James Instagram

Graeme James Bandcamp

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, 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

This song makes me woozy and a little tense, in all the ways a really engaging piece of experimental music should. “God Complex,” is the newest release by chamber pop trio Gentle Party. The song starts off with breathy vocal notes that posit a tonal wondering. The song becomes lush and delicate like an edible flower, and it stays in the back of your mind, strumming its inquisition. Then the lyrics come in and ask the most frustrating question every fan of everything has had to ask themselves in the last few years – can you separate art from artist? But it’s no matter – God Complex is less about answering the question and more about pointing a finger at every fake and fraud that begs forgiveness because they got caught. And in that, they may be a “gentle” party, but “please forgive me while you pray at my feet” is a statement wrapped in barbed wire scraping the bleeding arms of the patriarchy. “I hope you diligently pray” is a beautifully veiled threat.

The video expresses the concept in a gorgeously surreal narrative as the “god” and his black hands play paper doll with the otherwise powerless protagonist. She’s caught in the narrative of a figure that admires her beauty but controls her every move when he’s not swallowing her whole in his palm. He adorns her life with symbols of control like crucifixes, instruments of torture, and chess pieces. A couple of moments make me wonder if he thinks himself Zeus, and his doll an amalgamation of his many wives represented by many legs. Either way, it’s gorgeous, start to finish.

Time to rant: Does an artist deserve to be separated from their art? This question has been bugging the funk out of all of feminists for eternity and everyone else since #MeToo. I struggle with this as someone who LOVES a lot of art from men. I’ve been let down by so many artists, ones that I really connected with and whose art has illustrated pivotal moments of my life. I’ve navigated that with all of the same dissonance. I can never forgive some performers, but I can forgive others once I weigh my discomfort with their crimes. I try to forget some songs and consider others guilty pleasures. There are performers who go unscathed despite multiple reports of violence, and I watch them and seethe. And then there are performers now that would deeply hurt me if they ended up #MeToo-ing someone. I force myself to keep remembering to “kill my idols” but it is so hard when the voices that often speak to me belong to to the same half of humanity that commits 97% of sexual violence.

“God Complex” is the second single from the upcoming album God Complex, hitting the ground on February 17th. Check them out!

Gentleparty.com

Gentle Party Youtube

Gentle Party Instagram

Social Order – “Never Again”

Posted: January 19, 2022 by Kat Meow in Kat, Music, Single, Social Order

Members of The Mowgli’s, Metro Station, and Parade of Lights met and swirled during lockdown to combine their powers into anthemic synthpop. Their newest track, “Never Again,” tastes a little like The Escape Club marinated in delicious synthy goodness. The lyrics tell a tale of a busted up dramatic relationship that’s as fun as it is destructive – not that breaking the bed sounds like actual fun. Still, stuff like this is my Captain Crunch and I can eat the whole box.

Never Again by Social Order on Soundcloud

Social Order on Instagram