Tag Archives: Alternative

The Molochs Make a Virtue of Being Outsiders

The Molochs

Photos by Angela Ratzlaff.

Lucas Fitzsimons and Ryan Foster are used to feeling like outsiders. Growing up in an Argentinian household, Fitzsimons felt different from the other kids at school. Both of them are soft spoken, and neither of them are fond of the social climbing and extraneous noise that characterizes the LA entertainment industry.

That outsider mentality serves as inspiration for the music they create as The Molochs. The duo don’t kowtow to local trends; instead, they keep doing what they’ve been doing for years: making blues-based guitar music rife with lyrical honesty. While the songs have an upbeat musicality, there’s a palpable sense of somberness lurking beneath the grooves.

The band recently signed with Innovative Leisure, a label that hosts a roster of acts including Tijuana Panthers, Nick Waterhouse, De Lux, Classixx and Bad Bad Not Good, and have gone from playing shows at small dive bars to festival slots at Primavera Sound in Barcelona and Noise Pop in San Francisco. They’re also gearing up for tours in the U.S. and Europe.

We spoke with Fitzsimmons about returning to the country of his birth, operating outside the industry, and how a trip to India inspired him.

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Monica LaPlante Funnels Fear, Darkness, and Phil Spector Into Shadowy Garage Rock

Monica LaPlante

Garage rock can be a beginning, middle, and end for many who make it, but Monica LaPlante—a 25-year-old singer-songwriter and guitarist—isn’t interested in cookie-cutter revisionism. Her 2013 debut, Jour, has a bright indie-pop feel, steeped in 1960s allure. But as the name of her new Noir EP makes clear, she’s darkened considerably—and gained substantial depth along the way. Noir’s songs, particularly the locomotive (and ridiculously catchy) “Hope You’re Alone” and the harmony-drenched “From Your Shadow,” are rich and endlessly playable. Each one occupies its own highly-specific sonic space, and the entire EP showcases a formidable talent coming into her own. LaPlante spoke with Bandcamp’s Michaelangelo Matos at the Amsterdam Bar in downtown St. Paul on a drizzly fall afternoon.
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Album of the Day: Permit, “Vol. 1”

Barreling from start to finish in less time than it takes to brew a pot of coffee, Vol. 1 from Indiana duo Permit crams a truckload of hooks into songs the size of a Smart car. Not one of them crosses the two-minute mark, and that’s to the record’s great benefit: rocketing from verse to chorus and back again, Permit have figured out the trick to writing pop songs is to double-down on the melody; everything else is just window dressing.

A side project of Drew Auscherman of Hoops, Permit trades that band’s laid-back, meditative indie-rock for power and velocity. “Track #1” (apparently, they don’t have time for song titles either) revs up hiccupping anxiety pop to light speed, guitars jittering away frantically vocals morose and mournful. “I’m having trouble moving on,” goes the chorus, just a few seconds before the band does just that. “Track #2” shrinks the swagger of Thin Lizzy-style radio rock to thimble size, the blistering riffs sounding so synthetic they could soundtrack Spy Hunter. Even though the songs are compact, they still find space to spread out: “Track #4” is laced up with a boot-stomping country-fried guitar riff, and the whispery, subdued vocal melody on “Track #6” contrasts beautifully with the blown-out, in-the-red instrumentation. Vol. 1’s 11th hour release date makes it the perfect salve for an often wearying year: turn off your brain, turn up the volume; repeat as necessary.

J. Edward Keyes

The Prolific Howe Gelb on “Erosion Rock” and the Tucson Indie Scene

Howe Gelb. Photo by La Tête Krançien.

Howe Gelb. Photo by La Tête Krançien.

When Howe Gelb appears on my computer screen for our interview, he is wearing dark sunglasses, turquoise rings, and holding an “I Heart Dad” coffee mug. “You don’t mind the sunglasses, do you?” he asks. “It’s morning here. Also, they have built-in readers.”

Gelb celebrated his 60th birthday in October with a bash at Tucson’s Rialto Theater—one that was attended by Exene Cervenka, John Doe, and Scout Niblett. Over the past 30 years, he has produced around 50 albums, hopscotching across dozens of genres (punk, indie rock, country and jazz), and released under a flurry of band names. There were four albums with The Band of Blacky Ranchette, a pair of one-offs with OP8 and Arizona Amp Alternator, and a whopping 21 under his own name. Giant Sand, his best-known project, released 26 albums between 1985 and 2015.

For his latest record, Future Standards, he’s added a brand new moniker: The Howe Gelb Piano Trio, for an album that’s a reimagining of the American songbook. Recorded in New York, Amsterdam, and Tucson, the record features Gelb on piano; Danish bassist Thøger Lund (who has played with Great Sand for 15 years); and drummer Andrew Colburg, with guest vocals provided by Phoenix-based Lonna Kelley (whose voice recalls Dolly Parton’s) and a little help from a drummer who moonlights as a bartender at NYC’s Village Vanguard.

Gelb moved to Tucson in 1972, after his family’s house in Pennsylvania was destroyed in a flood. Although he now spends a substantial amount of time in Europe (his wife is Danish), he’s still considered one of the leading lights of the Tucson indie music scene. In fact, on the day we spoke, Gelb was scheduled to give a TED Talk about that very topic.  So, how was he going to approach it? “I haven’t figured it out yet,” he said. “Maybe I can practice on you.” Continue reading

Islet Build “Utopian Gnome Sanctuaries” With Jagged, Mystic Post-Punk

Islet

When Islet arrived in 2010, it would have been easy to view the defiantly DIY Welsh quartet as a bit of a gimmick. No member of the band held a fixed role. Live, they frequently switched instruments with one another, and would run around the room chanting and using a venue’s walls to create impromptu percussion. At a time when blogs governed taste, it was widely reported that Islet didn’t even have a website. (They did—but so many journalists claimed they didn’t that nobody bothered to look for it.) Fortunately, the quality of their music outweighed any appearance of novelty; their songs wove together wild chants, rabid percussion, and slippery guitar—like Gang Gang Dance, if they’d come to life in Henry Cow’s Cambridge.

In the three years since their last album, Released by the Movement, Mark and Emma Daman Thomas got married and had a kid, and moved with Mark’s brother JT to the rural Radnorshire village where the Thomases grew up, leaving Alex Williams behind in Cardiff. “It’s not like we feel isolated from music,” Emma says. “That was a really big reason for us to move up here, because we knew we’d be able to make sounds virtually anywhere, because it doesn’t affect anyone. It makes such a big difference to have that freedom. And I really like the idea of going away and making something where nobody else would know what you’re doing.”

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