Tuesday, March 31, 2020

SAVAGE RADIO PLAYLISTS MARCH 2020: WVMO 98.7 FM-THE VOICE OF MONONA

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #211
"AN EVENING WITH DISQ"
MARCH 4, 2020
1. "Loneliness"
2. "Gentle"
3. "Konichiwa Internet"
4. "I Wanna Die"
5. "I'm Really Trying"

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #212
"AN EVENING WITH WILDER DEITZ"
MARCH 11, 2020

1. "Workin' On 'Em"
2. "Sweatin' The Joneses"
3. "See Go"
4. "Meditation On Compassion (for Rev. John Hicks)"

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #213
MARCH 18, 2020

1. "One More Year" performed by Tame Impala
2. "Classic" performed by The Knocks ft. Powers
3. "C-Side" performed by Khruangbin & Leon Bridges
4. "Oh Yeah!" performed by Green Day
5. "Lighthouse Spaceship" performed by The Lickerish Quartet
6. "When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around" performed by The Police
7. "Splendid Isolation" performed by Warren Zevon
8. "Hide In Your Shell" performed by Supertramp
9. "Panic" performed by Todd Rundgren
10."Swingin'" performed by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

SAVAGE RADIO- SAVAGE ARCHIVES "SAFER-AT-HOME" SERIES
RE-BROADCAST MARCH 25, 2020
SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #109: "SAVAGE RADIO'S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS"-JANUARY 17, 20181. "What's The World Coming To?" performed by Fleetwood Mac
2. "Stop Hurting People" performed by Pete Townshend
3. "If You Don't Like The Effects, Don't Produce The Cause" performed by Funkadelic
4. "Haven't Got A Clue" performed by The Flaming Lips
5. "Hope Of Deliverance" performed by Paul McCartney
6. "Sometimes I Don't Know What To Feel" performed by Todd Rundgren
7. "Hungry" performed by Tony Carey
8. "Liar" performed by Queen
9. "Spin This" performed by Gizmodrome
10."(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" performed by The Kinks
11."Can't Stop The Sun" performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Thursday, March 26, 2020

SYNESTHESIA'S YEAR IN MUSIC: FAVORITE ALBUMS/EPS/SINGLES OF 2019 PART 3

"THESE TIMES"
THE DREAM SYNDICATE
Released May 3, 2019
-Hearing this album just felt so good! While I was never a fan of The Dream Syndicate (not for any reason at all), it was all due to a day when I stopped into B-Side Records for something different and I was overcome with what I was hearing over the store speakers. I immediately picked up this album as well and the entire experience lived up to the little I had heard in store. 

The Dream Syndicate's  "These Times," the band second album since their 2012 reunion, finds bandleader Steve Wynn and company again weaving a succulent spell filled with all manner of six string dreams and tapestries. It was yet another album released in 2019 that did not re-invent the wheel but was a work that featured superb songcraft, performance, production and the ability to inspire consistent, repetitive listening...especially in the Springtime.    
"LOTUS GATE"
KAINALU
Released June 19, 2019
-One of my biggest writing regrets from last year is the fact that I never had the opportunity to write a full length piece about the debut album from Madison, WI's singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Trent Prall who records and performs under the moniker Kainalu.

My introduction to Kainalu began auspiciously three years ago with the release of his masterful debut EP entitled "Bloom Lagoon" (released June 20, 2017), which itself starred what I still feel was the BEST single of that year, the hypnotic dance floor sun-star "Love Nebula." That EP simply had it all, from its gorgeously produced and executed one-man-band aesthetic, which often recalled a taste of Tame Impala psychedelia as filtered through 1970's grooves a la Michael Jackson and Barry White merged with Prall's purposeful weaving of his Asian heritage and Hawaiian upbringing into a sumptuous whole.

With "Lotus Gate," Kainalu has made its unquestionably grand return which has taken everything from "Bloom Lagoon" and expanded the palate into a fully immersive album experience which feels like a luxurious deep dive into the Karmic pool, as evidenced the title track's opening words, "I can dig even deeper still/I can  open the gate/The Lotus Gate is calling my name." 

The rhythmic hand of Michael Jackson is evident from the arrival of the brilliantly titled and instantly captivating "Kamikaze Mushroom Palace," on which Kainalu delivers an opening blast of newfound confidence, as presented though Prall's exquisite bass guitar work and dazzling sunshine drenched keyboards, which is then juxtaposed through insightful, questioning interior musings ("I like to think that I got shit worked out better than I used to/But I let myself get mixed up living through the day by day").

That existential day by day is then presented through the remainder of the album as a beautiful struggle through the never ending pulls of heartbreak (the slow jam that is "How Do I Let Go Of You"), urgent uncertainly (the propulsive space odyssey hyperdrive of "In Need Of Reason") and crystalline odes of meditation and self-therapy (the dance floor wonderland of "Folds Like Origami" and the hip swaying dreamworld transportation of "Finding Peace Of Mind").

The album's most stunning song arrives at the conclusion in the seven minute "Talking Nonsense," which finds our album's narrator at a psychological crossroads that is soundtracked by a languid, percussive groove that oddly enough reminded me a little bit of Traffic in their more cerebral moments, with guest appearances from Aaron Gochberg's vibrant congas and Bradley Giroux's free flowing guitar solo. "My dreams are starting to take me away," Prall sings through a cloud of hazy vocals fading into the ether. "I fear that I'm losing touch"

For quite some time since first hearing the album, I always felt this to be an odd or even unsettling way to conclude "Lotus Gate." But having lived with it for nearly one year, something has occurred to me that makes this conclusion so purposeful. Albums are not designed to be heard just once and then shelved away. When good and great albums are created, they are always and forever designed to be revisited, re-heard, re-experienced, revealing itself continuously as we and the music get to know each other better.

With Kainalu's "Lotus Gate," we have a listening experience that is beautifully multi-layered and purposed. We are able to experience it as a sonic glory, which it most certainly is as Trent Prall, who composed, produced, and mastered the album entirely by himself and even performed the lion' s share of the instruments throughout, has undeniably delivered a meticulously conceived and beautifully sequenced work that is simultaneously limber and loose enough to make the always danceable rhythms elastic through the graceful force and melodicism of his bass guitar driven grooves and the ethereal qualities of his lush keyboards and those aforementioned hazy vocals that drift and glide through the atmosphere.

Even further, it is an album that presents  itself as a rich internal journey, one that is personal and universal, one that is singular yet mirrors our own individual journeys and tribulations, day by day life experiences that often begins with optimism and end in disillusion, only to find a new reason to get up and move and try all over again. Kainalu's "Lotus Gate" is an exceedingly well crafted musical and artful expression of the very existential journey we are all undertaking in our lives, individually and collectively. One that is illustrated from one stunning song to the next, all the way to pressing "PLAY" the moment it ends to hear it all over again.
"ANIMA"
THOM YORKE
Released June 27, 2019
-With Radiohead still on its hiatus and following his eerie double album film score to Director Luco Guadagnino's "Suspiria" (released October 26, 2018), Thom Yorke returned with his latest solo album, which further continues to blur the lines between his solo material and both of his bands in Radiohead and Atoms For Peace. Again collaborating with Producer Nigel Godrich, Yorke's "ANIMA" weaves a lushly dark spell as its dystopian themes and emotions of anxiety are served by an electronic soundscape that is miraculously and simultaneously chilly and warm. Drum machines bubble with restless rhythms while the synths draw up a succulent bath of sound to soak inside of and throughout is the angelic, haunting voice of Thom Yorke swirling in and out of the darkness like a lost soul or lonely ghost.
"KING'S MOUTH"
THE FLAMING LIPS
Released July 19, 2019
-After several years and albums that ventured deeply into the darker, more disturbing realms of psychedelia, The Flaming Lips return to their prettier side with what is essentially a fairy tale. "Kings Mouth," tells the story of a giant King who is born, lives and dies and is beloved by his kingdom. Upon his death, the King's head is severed and transformed into a monument for all to walk inside of and experience the wonderment of the universe and existence itself. Warmly narrated by Mick Jones formerly of both The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite and based upon an art exhibit created by frontman Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips only continue to blaze ahead to their own fiercely idiosyncratic beat, unveiling their trademark strangeness with a gentler sonic ride.
"THE CENTER WON'T HOLD"
SLEATER-KINNEY
Released August 16, 2019
-I came extremely late to the Sleater-Kinney party and in doing so, I had no idea of what to expect...although I did know that some longtime fans were vehemently put off by this album. Yet, even so, I was extremely intrigued due to their collaboration with St. Vincent, who produced the album, as well as the behind-the scenes issues which made for the album's difficult gestation, a period which even found drummer Janet Weiss exiting the band, leaving Sleater-Kinney as the duo of Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker.

That very turbulence is evident from beginning to end on "The Center Won't Hold,"a work that feels tailor made to our exceedingly anxious, tension filled times. The work contains a monstrous sound, fills with heavy riffs and propulsive rhythms that serve what are essentially melodic pop songs..albeit unapologetically feminist pop songs. Real world anxieties merged with internal band difficulties have resulted in a risky, roaring firestorm.
"JIMMY LEE"
RAPHAEL SAADIQ
Released August 23, 2019
-Named after his brother who passed away from a heroin overdose after contracting HIV, Raphael Saadiq has released his darkest, most wrenching work to date. "Jimmy Lee" is an album of mourning and grief certainly but also of lives and souls lost and silenced made even more unnerving due to the aesthetic of not allowing any songs to flow into natural ending but always ceasing abruptly, urgently suggesting yet another life instantaneously snuffed out without warning. 

Despite the grim themes and jarring presentation, the songs themselves are nonetheless overflowing with soul and melodicism, suggesting the classic R&B albums of the 1970's as created by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Eddie Kendricks for example. Finding light and salvation from the depths of darkness is indeed the crucial element of the core of soul music and Saadiq delivers much to be illuminated by.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

SYNESTHESIA'S SESSION NOTES MARCH 2020: THE RISE OF DISQ

DISQ
(l -r Brendan Manley, Raina Bock, Isaac de Broux-Slone, Shannon Connor, Logan Severson)

FROM THE DJ'S STUDIO DESK:
The day has arrived. It is finally here and I could not be happier for these young artists are more than deserving.

It has been a hair over five years since I began exploring and writing about the current crop of musicians that make up the music community here in Madison, WI,  Beginning with Post Social and the now defunct Modern Mod, this journey has consistently proven itself to being as illuminating as well as superbly entertaining as band after band has released (and often self-released) highly original works that each showcase the commitment, talent, drive, tenacity, ingenuity, innovation and most importantly, the joy and wonder of being able to write, perform, produce and deliver musical artistry to any listeners ready and willing to hear something profoundly new.

This journey also led me to see how this community is not limited to the bands themselves but how their existence is symbiotic with the venues and businesses that allow them to hone their chops in live musical settings, plus the local record stores who may sell their albums and the local community radio stations that assist with giving these bands exposure.

It has been a privilege to write about these people and this community as well as have the opportunities to feature members upon Savage Radio, either through their songs and sometimes with on-air interviews. As far as my own perceptions are concerned, I sometimes question or even fear if my enthusiasm might be the result of their proximity to myself.  There is an aspect of being in a vacuum, playing these songs for myself or to what I feel to be are a few friends, experiencing things either on my own or within the confines of the Madison community.

It is a scene that is of us and so it feels as if it is solely ours to experience. Not in a possessive way but something that feels that we are the only people who may know about what is happening. And so, does it affect my judgement? I am conscious of this but what speaks the loudest of all is how these artists, time and again, have proven themselves to me so explosively because they do indeed deliver everything that I love about music itself and the purity in which it is all created, especially as Madison is a city that is far from any sense of the music business industry, therefore lessening expectations and existing firmly in inspiration.

Now, I turn my attention to Disq, originally a duo made up of Isaac de Broux-Slone and Raina Bock, two superbly talented songwriters/musicians who released a stellar work during their high school years entitled "Disq 1" (released July 11, 2016). By the time I had heard of them, Disq already possessed a healthy reputation as they had gained a coveted opening act position for the band Whitney's tour stop in Madison at the Majestic Theater.

I read about the band at the time in the local free weekly newspaper the Isthmus, which then inspired me to check out "Disq 1" on their Bandcamp page, which then inspired me to reach out to Modern Mod/Dash Hounds singer, songwriter, bassist, guitarist Alivia Kleinfeldt for any info about Disq, which then inspired me to reach out to Isaac de Broux-Slone (as I was first listening to the album at that) and by this point I was on my way (and see how this sense of community worked out?).

As with their contemporaries, I continued to experience their pursuits from the sidelines, seeing them perform whenever I was able to do so, promoting them whenever I was able to do so as well and all the while cheering them on as they marched forwards one song at a time.

Yet, it was last year when both Disq and Madison's, but now Chicago based, Slow Pulp both had opportunities to play at the SXSW Festival and it was not terribly long afterwards when I felt a certain shift upwards. Te indie music press reviews for both bands were strong but I distinctly remember a review of Disq's performance, which I think was in Paste, a publication I have read for years upon years, that literally brought tears to my eyes!

I began to tear up because, and obviously, I was so happy for the band but also because, I knew that what I felt to be was existing in a vacuum has punctured far outward from it and what I responded to so powerfully was being responded to in the exact same way. That sense of validation and vindication filled my heart and made me cheer even louder for this band as I only wish for their dreams to be fully realized because they have the goods and they are so deserving due to the fact they are all good, genuine people.

Since I was first introduced to the band, Disq has expanded from the original duo into a quintet, now featuring songwriter, singer, guitarist, keyboardist Shannon Connor (Post Social), singer, songwriter, guitarist Logan Severson (the still gestating Lameena) and drummer Brendan Manley (Post Social, Dash Hounds, Squarewave, Modern Mod). 

They have been signed to the Saddle Creek label, toured extensively, including overseas in England, filmed two wonderful music videos, participated in professional photo shoots, conducted a variety of interviews, have billboards displaying their faces, received radio airplay upon the BBC and oh yes, recorded a full length album last Summer in Los Angeles under the production leadership of Rob Schnapf (Beck, Guided By Voices, Saves The Day, The Anniversary, Tokyo Police Club, Elliot Smith and more) which was just released March 6, 2020 entitled "COLLECTOR."

Several days ago, four of the five members of Disq were guests upon Savage Radio as a means to preview and celebrate the new album and despite what I presume to being a whirlwind around them, they were the same as I had always known them to being. Shy, introverted, fiercely intelligent, empathetic people who also  happen to be enormously skilled in their chosen art. I love them as artists and I love them as people and I sincerely hope that know, understand and will accept my friendship as being just one more person in their corner rooting for them.

As I think of my hopes and wishes for this band as they continue their ascent, which will include more touring and subsequently, more albums under their Saddle Creek deal, that they remain friends in an experience which will house more than its moments of stress and unpredictability, that they enjoy this ride for as long as it lasts for nothing is promised, they they remain fearlessly inventive artists who will make more music in the future, that they take immense pride in what they have already achieved and that this unforgiving industry does not hurt them.

Honestly...Please don't hurt my friends.

But for now, "Collector" by Disq is officially in the world and while I will write extensively about the albumin the near future, what I will tell you now is that I graciously implore you to race out and get it for it is the real deal...

...and when you get it...PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!!

Friday, February 28, 2020

SAVAGE RADIO PLAYLISTS FEBRUARY 2020: WVMO 98.7 FM-THE VOICE OF MONONA

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #207
"SAVAGE RADIO STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS 2020"
FEBRUARY 5, 2020

1. "No More Kings" from "Schoolhouse Rock"
2. "Doomsday Clock" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
3. "Know Your Enemy" performed by Green Day
4. "Welcome To My Revolution" performed by Utopia
5. "War Dance" performed by XTC
6. "Long Road Out Of Eden" performed by Eagles
7. "Final Straw" performed by R.E.M.
8. "Let's Have A War" performed by A Perfect Circle
9. "You Can't Unring The Bell" performed by Funkadelic
10."Where's The Revolution" performed by Depeche Mode

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #208
"HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY 2020"
FEBRUARY 12, 2020

1. "Poison Arrow" performed by ABC
2. "Love Vigilantes" performed by New Order
3. "Love Plus One" performed by Haircut 100
4. "Heart" performed by Nick Lowe
5. "Just Between You And Me" performed by April Wine
6. "The Prettiest Girl In The Whole Wide World" performed by Weezer
7. "Come Around" performed by Rhett Miller
8. "Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore" performed by Sloan
9. "Heavy Metal Tears" performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
10."Never Been In Love" performed by Talib Kweli
11."You're Still A Young Man" performed by Tower Of Power
12."Always In My Dreams" performed by Wendy & Lisa

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #209
"BLACK HISTORY MUSIC CELEBRATION 2020-PART 1"
FEBRUARY 19, 2020

1. "Hell" performed by JAMES BROWN
2. "I Want To Know" performed by Living Colour
3. "She Kissed Me' performed by Terence Trent D'Arby
4. "Beyond The 7th Sky" performed by Lenny Kravitz
5. "Black Hole" performed by Chris Dave and the Drumhedz
6. "Do You Dig U?" performed by Q-Tip
7. "Tax Free" performed by Jimi Hendrix
8. "Folie A Deux" performed by Meshell Ndegeocello
9. "Spanish Joint" performed by D'Angelo

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #210
"BLACK HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATION-PART 2"
FEBRUARY 26, 2020

1. "Who Says A Funk Band Can't Play Rock?!" performed by Funkadelic
2. "Let's Stay Together" performed by Al Green
3. "Maybe Your Baby" performed by Stevie Wonder
4. "Calls" performed by Robert Glasper Experiment ft. Jill Scott
5. "Just Like A Baby" performed by Sly & The Family Stone
6. "Umi Says" performed by Mos Def
7. "Style" performed by Prince
8. "Black Flowers" performed by Fishbone
9. "Mr. Pitiful" performed by Otis Redding

NOW PLAYING IN THE SAVAGE JUKEBOX FEBRUARY 2020

"1979: LIVE FROM MOSCOW"
ELTON JOHN with RAY COOPER
NEW 2020 RELEASE: January 24, 2020
-I was stunned when I saw that this concert was being released.

I vividly remember being perhaps 10 or 11 years old and I was sick, and drifting between being awake and asleep on the couch in our basement. My Dad was downstairs with me and for some reason, as I awoke we both began to watch this documentary film broadcast upon Chicago's WGN channel 9 about Elton John's concerts in Moscow, a period during which Russia was just beginning to allow Western artists to perform within the Soviet Union. With no crazy costumes, pyrotechnics or even a full band, Elton John performed solo piano with only percussionist Ray Cooper (who appeared like some sort of madman Headmaster) in tow and I was mesmerized. 

Now, with "1979-Live From Moscow," we have the document itself finally officially released and completely remastered from the analog tapes as preserved from the original BBC simulcasts and the double album is undeniably sparkling. Mixing his smash hits songs like "Rocket Man," "Daniel," and of course "Bennie and the Jets," with album deep cuts like "Funeral For A Friend," and "Better Off Dead" (a standout track featuring Cooper) and even cover songs like his 12 minute version of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," Elton John stunningly re-establishes himself as a virtuoso musician, composer and singer as the velocity and melodicism of his playing feels like nothing less than shooting stars. What a gift it is that this widely bootlegged concert has finally found its official release, which is more than worthy of earning a spot into your collections. 
"CLOCKWORK ANGELS"
RUSH
Released June 8, 2012
"BLACK ON BOTH SIDES"
MOS DEF
Released October 12, 1999
"TEXAS SUN" (EP)
KHRUANGBIN & LEON BRIDGES
NEW 2020 RELEASE: February 7, 2020
-The collaboration I never expected became the very one that I absolutely NEEDED to hear, resulting in one of 2020's finest releases already.

"Texas Sun," a 20 minute, four song EP from the collective of Leon Bridges and Khruangbin, the nearly indescribable (almost) instrumental trio made up of Mark Speer (guitars), Laura Lee (bass guitar) and Donald Ray "DJ" Johnson Jr. (drums, piano, keyboards), is a calling card so seductive that not only will you be listening to this work repeatedly, you will be begging the foursome to hunker down and create a full album experience.

Languid, sensual, haunting, sun baked, horny and blissfully mesmerizing, "Texas Sun" merges the soulful grit of Bridges with the psychedelic surf funk of Khruangbin so effortlessly that it feels surprising that the merging did not occur sooner. With a sonic palate that simultaneously suggests the  open air found while travelling upon endless highways and the confines of a sweat soaked off road motel room, "Texas Sun" ingratiates itself immediately with the utter confidence of its swagger, groove and vibe and as lusty as it is, the inherent existential journey--both inner and outer--remain paramount and ultimately, transportive.

A stunning merging of the cosmic and the carnal, "Texas Sun" is hypnotic soul at its finest and ladies, do prepare yourselves for the track "C-Side," in particular...shall we say...baby makin' music?
"FATHER OF ALL..."
GREEN DAY
NEW 2020 RELEASE: February 7, 2020
-For an album that despite its 10 tracks is only 26 minutes long--reportedly the band's shortest album--there is quite a lot to unpack musically. "Father Of All...," the 11th album in Green Day's discography, finds itself somewhere in the mid range between their ambitious rock operas "American Idiot" (released September 21, 2004) and "21st Century Breakdown" (released May 15, 2009) plus what just might be my personal favorite "Revolution Radio" (released October 7, 2016) and the overly ambitious yet more than undercooked album trilogy of "Uno!" (released September 25, 2012), "Dos!" (released November 13, 2012) and "Tre!" (released December 11, 2012).

While populated with the same collective of fringe characters and angst ridden themes of their past work, Green Day has altered the presentation by allowing "Father Of All..." to easily exist as their most unapologetically melodic work to date as the band dives into the musical areas of soul, glam and Motown complete with Billie Joe Armstrong's layers upon layers of harmonized backing vocals that surround his strong lead vocals which now reaches into its glorious falsetto as well as his standard pop-post punk snarl.

Essentially, Green Day has created a dance party album where vintage pop and rock is updated to 21st century studio slickness. While it may feel to be more of a slight album or at its best, an album of singles, it is a good showcase for Armstrong's actual songwriting which does illustrate  how difficult it is to write songs this concise (most of the songs hover around the two minute mark) and yet complete.
"CHRIS DAVE AND THE DRUMHEDZ"
CHRIS DAVE AND THE DRUMHEDZ
Released January 26, 2018
"FUCK YO FEELINGS"
ROBERT GLASPER
Released October 3, 2019
"MAN IT FEELS LIKE SPACE AGAIN"
POND
Released January 23, 2015
"FUTURE ME HATES ME"
THE BETHS
Released August 10, 2018
- To my dear friend, WSUM's DJ Nightway, thank you for bringing me here...

Saturday, February 22, 2020

SYNESTHESIA'S YEAR IN MUSIC: FAVORITE ALBUMS/EPS/SINGLES OF 2019 PART 2

"PATIENCE" (single)
TAME IMPALA
Released March 22, 2019
-"Has it really been that long?" asks (ironically, I would imagine) Kevin Parker, the mastermind of Tame Impala on the first new music released in four long years. The opening chords sound like the arrival of Spring itself with its glorious array of sun sparkling keyboards and bouncy rhythms with Parker's ethereal voice flowing through like the warmest of breezes. Yes, it was a song that also felt to be the first signal of a new album (combined with a second single and a "Saturday Night Live" appearance), which ultimately did not arrive in '19 but as of this time of writing, will finally enter the world in mere days. All of us fans Tame Impala waiting and waiting and the band arrives with a track called "Patience." Clever...
"TASMANIA"
POND
Released March 1, 2019
-While waiting and waiting for any news surrounding potential new material from Tame Impala, a friend of mine had asked me if I happened to have heard the a test album from Tame Impala compatriots, Pond, to which I answered that I hadn't, which then inspired a rave recommendation by my friend. I was more than wise to take his advice as Pond's "Tasmania," the band's eighth album, was instantly one of my favorite album of 2019 due to the glowingly wonderful sonic sheen that did indeed recall Tame Impala's specialized brand of neo-psychedelic pop with elements of prog tossed in for the ride (and why not, as Kevin Parker co-produced the album alongside the band). My own personal brand of synesthesia received a powerful workout while listening to this album as the colors blasted from the speakers, with the album's centerpiece of "Goodnight P.C.C.," "Burnt Out Star," and "Selene" making for 16 minutes worth of flying through the multi-colored vortex at the end of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)
"AMIDST THE CHAOS"
SARA BAREILLES
Released April 5, 2019
-My girlfriend released an album in 2019!!!

Ha ha ha!!! Yes indeed, my infatuation with singer/songwriter/actress Sara Bareilles was sparked tremendously within just the prior year. Yet, upon hearing her latest album, "Amidst The Chaos," that spark ignited into a roaring flame as I was superbly taken by Bareilles' strikingly complex and wholly empathetic songwriting, which unveiled a rich and luxurious song cycle that felt designed to ease and comfort us through our vitriolic socio-political landscape and rancorous dialogue.

Unapologetically feminist and proudly wearing its bleeding heart upon its musical sleeves, Sara Bareilles' album fully disarmed me, warmed me, and enveloped me in a tenderness and understanding that is in such short supply, and by album's end, I was convinced that this album was Bareilles' version of nothing less than Carole King's "Tapestry" (released February 10, 1971).
"SEEING OTHER PEOPLE"
FOXYGEN
Released April 25, 2019
I have to admit that I appreciate Foxygen more than I actually like them...and I mean that in the very best way. The duo, made up of Sam France and Jonathan Rado, is a highly unorthodox, fiercely idiosyncratic pair, making difficult albums that defiantly defy categorization and never sound like each other to boot. Arriving after the dissonant and clearly Todd Rundgren by way of "A Wizard, A True Star" (released March 2, 1973) influenced "...And Star Power" (released October 14, 2014) and the Aaron Copeland/Broadway/demented lounge singer pop chaos of "Hang" (released January 20, 2017), Foxygen's latest release was their most enjoyable work to date to my ears as they displayed their songcraft chops with no frills, no bizarre concepts, no art rock smokescreens designed to challenge and dare the listener to stick it out. These songs, performances and production were first rate selections without sacrificing one shred of their left-of-center alt music leanings.
"LUCKY US"
TONY CAREY
Released April 25, 2019
Much like how Sara Bareilles' "Amidst The Chaos" served as an antidote to the turbulent life and times in the Trump era, the latest album from one of my most favorite songwriters of all time was definitely a curve ball of a surprise, especially as Carey's songwriting, whether solo or under his pseudonym of Planet P. Project, tends to flow towards darker themes fueled by a lyricism that is acerbic, sardonic and often chilling as it is poetic and literary. 

"Lucky Us," by contrast, is an album of superior warmth and nostalgia, nothing that I would expect from Carey based upon his past material. Yet, the difference in tone, all essentially ballads, feels so exquisitely fitting  because, again, the album does serve as an antidote to our deeply troubled times, and so, his album of memories, of family and even mortality allows us a different and equally compelling window into his personal world just as the album also mirrors ours as we are clearly embracing our memories and families even tighter.
"BIG DAY" (EP)
SLOW PULP
Released May 15, 2019
It runs only a mere 11 minutes and what is received is an entire, complete musical statement and the band's finest to date. Madison, WI's very own yet now Chicago, IL based Slow Pulp has fully emerged into its fullest fruition as the quartet of Alex Julian Leeds (bass guitar), Emily Massey (vocals, guitar), Teddy Matthews (drums) and Henry Stoehr (guitars, keyboards) have congealed into a musical force who have delivered four new songs of superior texture, atmosphere, dynamics, seduction, aching nostalgia, stunning warmth and melancholic longing.

New material is forthcoming as I have heard at their triumphant homecoming performance at the end of 2019 in Madison, which the band has expressed to me personally may hopefully expand into their first full length album. While I have the utmost confidence in their abilities to deliver the goods, "Big Day" is nothing less than a jewel of a collection showcasing the group at their most intoxicating.
"HELP US STRANGER"
THE RACONTEURS
Released June 21, 2019
Out of all of Jack White's projects, from The White Stripes, The Dead Weather and solo material, his time with The Raconteurs completely hits me in my sweet spot as the aesthetic of four dudes just bashing it out together will always slay me. For their first album in 11 years, The Raconteurs have not missed a step with their specialized brand of garage rock and power pop which features no oddball gimmicks and kooky concepts but is filled to the brim with ace songwriting and killer performances. 
"LET'S ROCK"
THE BLACK KEYS
Released June 28, 2019
Even better was this album, No, the wheel wasn't re-invented or anything but it doesn't have to be when the aesthetic is as strong as The Black Keys have always been. Again, ace songwriting and superior performances are the order of the day with this album, a work that fully warrants immediate repeat listenings. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

THE GIFT: "Y'ALL" WILDER DEITZ

"Y'ALL"
WILDER DEITZ

MUSICIANS:
Isaiah Agnew: Trumpet
Matt Allen: Drums and Percussion
Jacob Bicknase: Drums and Percussion
Bobbie Briggs: Vocals
Alex Charland: Saxophone
Mitch Deitz: Guitar
Wilder Deitz: Piano, Electric Piano, Analog Synthesizers, Guitar, Banjo, Accordion, Backing Vocals
Sam Galligan: Bass Guitar
Dan Haschke: Soprano saxophone
Deja Mason: Vocals
Chance Stine: Flute and Tenor Saxophone
Chakari Woods: Vocals

all compositions by Wilder Deitz
"See Go" contains a variation on a Richard Davis theme


Recorded January 2019 in Rhinelander, WI
"Meditation On Compassion (for Rev. John Hicks)" recorded live at the Stoughton Opera House, Stoughton, WI October 2, 2015

Additional recording in Oregon, WI and Madison, WI

Artwork: "The Key" by Phyllis England

Produced by Wilder Deitz and Bruce Kasprzyk
Released January 23, 2020

The first great album of the new year, and therefore, this brand new decade has arrived and to make this accomplishment even more special, is that the album was placed directly into my hands by the man himself!

Over these past five years or so, my journey into the Madison music community has only proven itself to being enormously fulfilling with each discovery prying the breadth and depth of the artists and musicians that populate it even wider in my perceptions, enlightening and enthralling me each time. At this time, I turn my attention to Wilder Deitz, a member of a richly musical family located upon Madison east side and includes his Father, Ritt Deitz, singer/songwriter/guitarist and folk musician as well as his younger brother Mitch Deitz, singer/songwriter/guitarist and member of Post Social, now on hiatus as he is pursuing documentary filmmaking while based in Chicago, IL.

It feels more than fitting that Wilder Deitz's music is now the focus as Post Social was unquestionably and beautifully my first step into this luxurious music community. For Wilder, a pianist and composer who studied extensively under the tutelage of none other than jazz legend Richard Davis, who himself is now a retired Professor of jazz history, improvisation and European classical and jazz bass performance at my alma mater, the University Of Wisconsin-Madison, a position he began in 1977, my introduction into his musical world has been audaciously enriching as his own sense of community has been as wide reaching in its inspiration and ultimate embrace.

Deitz's debut album "Child's Play" (released June 7, 2016), was an intoxicating calling card for me, a sharp and sophisticated collection of jazz workouts and R&B songs that ran in confident contrast to the primary indie rock scene of Madison. But it was his second release, the extremely rare "Summer Mixtape 2017" (released August 2017 on a limited run of CDs given away at performances) that truly made me sit up firmly at attention.

Again, the album ran in direct contrast to the dominant music scene of this city with its rich amalgamation of jazz, R&B, strong detours into Madison's hip-hop community and even a spiritual. But what was most striking to me about the mixtape was its undeniable sense of BLACKNESS. Indeed, as I drove around the city listening to the mixtape in my car, I often said to myself in amazement, "DAMN!! This is soooo BLACK!!!"

And brothers and sisters, it...was...beautiful!!

Now, I would not be surprised if you are wondering why this impression on my part is notable. You see, Wilder Deitz happens to be Caucasian and yet his compositions are steeped within the musician and conceptual arenas of Black music and therefore, the Black experience itself. What struck me so powerfully, and especially as the topic of cultural appropriation is an essential and appropriately difficult part of our current societal conversation of race and representation, is that his work at no point felt to be derivative, exploitative, disrespectful and mostly, inauthentic. This music felt to be so much of him that what was heard by my ears was nothing less than pure in intent and execution. And it was through that purity that I knew instinctively that Wilder Deitz was an artist I had to keep my eye upon.

I met Wilder Deitz for the first time at a Post Social album release concert a few years ago and our conversation was instantly fruitful as his presence was as warm as his music. We kept in touch, and through my association with WVMO, I had the pleasure and privilege of introducing him and his band at an annual local neighborhood festival. Now, we arrive in 2020, and the joy of having him arrive to personally hand me a copy of his latest album was palpable and in retrospect, it was fully indicative of the music the album contains.

Wilder Deitz's "Y'ALL," itself a dedication to Deitz's Southern roots, is an album of inclusion. Indeed, we are again treated with compositions that are malleable enough to seamlessly house, jazz, soul, hip-hop, funk, classical and even country elements but through the lyrics and the full presentation, we are gifted with the sound of community--from the musicians to each other and to all of us listening.

Side One of this vinyl only release opens with a "Dedication." Invitingly sung by Chakari Woods, this brief, finger snapping opening feels like the spoken grace before a sumptuous family meal.

The relaxed, unaffected R&B swing of "Sweatin' The Joneses," on which Vocalists Deja Mason and Bobbie Briggs proclaim "I ain't sweatin' the Joneses/I don't get jealous and I don't get mad for the things that I never had," the count your blessings sentiments flow with meditative ease as also expressed through Deitz's electric piano, the rhythm section of drummer Matt Allen and Post Social bassist Sam Galligan (who plays brilliantly throughout the album) and Chance Stine's free as a bird flute solo. 

"Darbo Worthington Davis," a song whose title references an east side Madison street that was recently re-named in honor of Richard Davis, itself a passion project of Deitz's, raises the tempo and the heat, suggesting a vibrant block party on its namesake, with Mason's vocals and Mitch Deitz's subtle funk guitar leanings and Wilder's piano solo, which itself is augmented by his analog synth dressings perfectly evoking the mood and setting.

The behind the beat funk of "Sun Dance (For Cooper)," with its combined guitar work from the Deitz brothers, excellent drum and percussion work from both Allen and Jacob Bicknase (who has also performed with Madison's Thompson Springs and Kainalu) and downright nasty saxophone solo from Alex Charland conjures up a sultry Summertime strut.

Side One of "Y'ALL" concludes with two instrumentals which deftly showcase the agility of Deitz's compositions and the playing that exemplifies the musical skills of himself and his bandmates. The speedy workout of "Workin' On Em," finds Wilder Deitz, alongside Bicknase, Charland, Galligan and trumpeter Isaiah Agnew locked together in a tight, streetwise groove while the stunning, glistening "Spirit's Lullaby (For Ikal)" practically floats above the city as if it is the warm breeze itself carried gently along by Charland's saxophone which dances around the cloud like softness of Deitz's electric piano.

At this time, as I am about to recount Side Two to you, I have to mention an album "Y'ALL" began to remind me of, regardless of the fact that the two albums do not even remotely sound like each other in any discernible way. The album in question is The Police's "Synchronicity" (released June 17, 1983), and it is a work that completely defined the musical Summer of 1983 for me as I was 14 years old and wore that album out to the point where I had to purchase a second copy. It too is an album of dynamic musical diversity but it was upon Side Two of that album where its greatness was only elevated by four songs that felt like universes unto themselves but combined into an ambitious, succulent whole.

The second side of Wilder Deitz's "Y'ALL" accomplishes the exact same feat as we also have four songs that are completely different from each other musically yet congeal almost magically and therefore, brings the album to a certain ascension.

The soul ballad "2 In Love," which suggests 1970's era Carole King by way of Stevie Wonder, finds Deitz and Deja Mason in perfect harmony as Chance Stine's flute solo and Alex Charland's saxophone solo beautifully augment.

The six minute plus instrumental "See Go" is a flat out stunning escapade of jazz fusion carried valiantly by Sam Galligan's outstanding bass work onto which Deitz, Isaiah Agnew, Alex Charland, Dan Haschke, Jacob Bicknase and Matt Allen all contribute startling, high flying solos on piano, trumpet, saxophones, drums and percussion respectively.

"Country Dance" was the album's most audacious moment as it is indeed as described, a country song (complete with Deitz's banjo picking), yet one with a R&B soulful spirit as delivered via Deja Mason's enveloping vocals on which she graciously offers salutations with a "Hello brother...Hello Mother, Father, sister, friend" and continues with the grace of communion for all who enter.

The album closes with the sublime, ethereal "Meditation On Compassion (for Rev. John Hicks)," a solo piano performance by Deitz. This track truly made me pause and almost hold my breath with each of Deitz's passing piano phrases, all of which feel like contemplative thoughts themselves and soon, I even felt my own heartbeat slowing yet expanding as if receiving the spirit of the music at the fullest of its intent. I felt those inexplicable chills upon its end and a deep sigh being released from my breath in exhale. It was the sound of grace itself as found within Wilder Deitz's finest recorded moment. Just beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

Wilder Deitz's "Y'ALL" is the very first album of this new year that I have heard and it is already one of its best. It is an album that carries an almost nostalgic 1970's era vibe yet feels so firmly of this very moment in 2020. It rewards the listener with repeat listening which I strongly feel you will treat yourselves to immediately upon the album's conclusion for you will wish to hear it all over again as soon as possible.

I think what amazes me most about the work is that despite the fact that his name is splashed largely upon the album cover and that all of the music and lyrics were composed by him, it is an album of tremendous generosity. Much lie every musicians that I have experienced within this community, Deitz's album is executed without a shred of ego as the music itself is the star and to that end, Deitz is more than willing to have the spotlight shown vibrantly upon his bandmates, especially Deja Mason, as his sense of collaboration has allowed the musicians that have joined him the freedom to stretch, fly and be celebrated (hearing Post Social's Mitch Deitz and Sam Galligan in a completely different context and genre than their own band was especially marveling).

Ultimately, Wilder Deitz's "Y'ALL" is an album of refreshing rejoice, as gracious as a firm and (yes again) warm handshake given in friendship. It is a tender, passionate work that feels like it is existing as an antidote to the speed and rancor of the everyday world in this turbulent 21st century. It is music for the spirit at rest and in thankfulness as well as for the embrace of community and communion.

It is the sound of the feeling I had when Wilder so generously placed this album into my hands as a gift. When you hear it, allow it to be a gift to all of you.