One of the wonderful ironies of this brave new world of streaming and downloading is that it has given new life to one of the most traditional formats in recorded music: the single. Don’t get me wrong — I still love albums. But as a lifelong music fan, I’ve always found it rewarding to “consume” music one song at a time. When I was a kid, there was always something super cool about buying a 45 and playing the A-side over and over and over again. That way I really got to know the song. These days, it’s a similar experience when a band releases a digital single. I really enjoy taking in a song as a singular artistic creation. On that note, I love what The Chelsea Curve is doing right now: releasing a series of monthly singles that will culminate with an album release. “All in Time”, out on Red On Red Records, is the Boston trio’s second single and a more than satisfying follow-up to its stunning debut “Girl Cavedog”. “All In Time” is another energetic shot of mod-inspired power pop meets poppy punk. It brings great energy, tons of hooks, and tremendous lyrical substance. And as always, Linda Pardee’s voice sounds absolutely amazing. This is a song about “trying to keep one’s own mental faculties together while watching a loved one lose theirs”. No doubt that’s a very serious theme, but the song is carried off in an uplifting, hopeful way. Running just a few ticks past two-and-a-half minutes, it always leaves me wanting more. Thankfully another single is coming very soon!
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There aren’t many sweeter phrases in the English language than “new Kid Gulliver single”! The Boston foursome has been on fire with its singles over the last couple of years. Its latest, “Boy In A Bubble” , is available now from the always wonderful Red On Records. Again Kid Gulliver delivers a should-be radio hit that combines ear candy melodies with tremendous lyrical substance. The feel of this track is a little bit different from some of the band’s recent singles. My man Ralph Rivera compares it to some of The Cure’s pop hits, and I’d say he’s dead-on. It has a beautifully melancholic vibe to it featuring serene melodic guitars that blend perfectly with Simone’s dreamy vocals. Lyrically, the song was inspired by the forced isolation brought on by the pandemic last year. This is a song that almost anyone will be able to relate to, but I imagine it will especially hit you hard if you live alone. Those hooks lines “Oh, how I wish I was kissed by the sun today/Oh, how I wish I was kissed by anyone today” definitely evoke the heyday of black-clad post-punk pop. And a deeper dive into David’s lyrics finds him articulating the malaise of COVID isolation with chilling accuracy:
Two plastic arms that cannot love/
The sterile air I cannot smell/
The clock keeps time for nothing
That pretty much nails it, doesn’t it? “Boy In A Bubble” is a haunting song, but a beautiful one as well. Part of the appeal of Kid Gulliver is the way David trusts Simone to bring his lyrics to life. The words and voice prove equally important. That, my friends, is true musical chemistry. This is a song about loneliness that will make you feel less alone in the world. In my book, it’s Kid Gulliver’s best single yet. And now I can’t stop imagining David with big hair in the ’80s!
Andrea Gillis has been one of the most outstanding singers and live performers in American rock and roll going back to the early 2000s. As Red On Red Records continues to add premium talent from the Boston music scene to its roster, the addition of Andrea Gillis was a no-brainer. While you might think of Gillis as a soul/blues singer first and foremost, she has created a diverse catalog of music that crosses many genres. “Leave The Light On”, her new single on Red On Red, really shows her pop side. Her inspiration for this track was to write a “feel good, coming out of the darkness, good old fashioned dance number”. And thus “Leave The Light On” is a wonderfully suitable song for this moment in time — as we collectively eye the light at the end of the tunnel. For a dance track, it’s quite mellow. That might seem like a contradiction, but actually it’s not. This is a song that warms the soul. Gillis delivers a beautiful, powerfully empathic vocal. The production on this track (courtesy of Gillis, Marc Pinansky, and Pat DiCenso) is absolutely stunning — weaving together gorgeous synthesizers, a simple & satisfying beat, and a veritable chorus of backup singers. This track features some of the finest musicians in all of the Boston scene (Pinansky, Mike Oram, Ed Valauskas) and really ought to be all over the radio. And, hey, it might be all over your radio if you know which shows to listen to! “Leave The Light On” is the song we all needed right now. If this is your introduction to Andrea Gillis, you’ll want to dig into her catalog over at Bandcamp. It’s full of killer releases bridging the worlds of rock, soul, and pop. Check it out, and you’ll know what people have known in Boston for years: Andrea Gillis is a star!
Wow, has Justine Covault ever hit the ground running with her label Red on Records! Since its launch five months ago, Red On Red has already released or reissued music from 13 different bands/artists — all of them Boston based. I haven’t even come close to keeping up (shamefully I even missed a new Justine and the Unclean single in February!). But it’s not about quantity — it’s about the quality. No city on the planet has a stronger music scene than Boston, and the Red On Red roster is perfectly representative of that. If you dig power pop, punk, garage, indie rock, Americana, etc., this label is a must-follow even if you have no particular connection to Boston. A case in point is the debut single from The Chelsea Curve — a mod-pop/indie rock trio made up of Linda Pardee (formerly of Boston legends Miles Dethmuffen) on vocals and bass, Tim Gillis on guitars and vocals, and Ron Belanger on drums. This band has been ripping up the Boston live scene for a while, and now it finally presents its first studio release. The track is called “Girl Cavedog”, and it’s a stone-cold hit. It’s essentially a love song, but it’s a very original and fascinating love song in the respect that it was inspired by time travel. Pardee says it’s about “a person whose life is repeatedly sidetracked by the comings and goings of a significant other who is a step out of time”. What a wonderfully creative idea! Fortunately, the lyrics are included on the Bandcamp page — and they read like a miniature short story! Musically, the song exemplifies mod-influenced power pop. Clocking in at two-and-a-half minutes, it features tight musicianship and irresistible hooks. And Pardee’s voice will totally knock you out. I’m left wanting more — which is the whole point of a single! Thankfully, this is just the first in a series of singles that will all lead up to a full album in the fall. Check out the brand-new video for “Girl Cavedog” embedded below!
Nowhere Friday Nights, the extraordinary debut EP from Linnea’s Garden, is a release I would recommend to anyone who loves the kind of music I write about — or any kind of music at all! The Boston-based band is fronted by Linnea Herzog, formerly of PowerSlut. Out on Red On Red Records, Nowhere Friday Nights will hit the sweet spot for all of you who like your punk rock and power pop. But it also incorporates influences ranging from glam rock to ’60s girl groups to new wave to ’90s indie/alternative. Herzog, as a singer and songwriter, is a unique and immensely likable talent. She writes smart, funny, and relatable songs with crazy good hooks. What could be better than that? “Non-Dramatic Breakup Song” lives up to its title and is that very rare feelgood breakup song. The words “It makes me want to dance!” are very rarely written about breakup songs, but I would use those exact words to describe this one! “Friday Night” is a triumphant anthem for anyone who turned to music for salvation when COVID threw us all into isolation last year (the lines “Turn up the speaker/And sing like you mean it/You’ve still got the notes in your hands” give me the feels!). “Science and You” is a wonderful little love song that condenses the joy of sharing a life with someone into a few perfect verses of lyrics. “Replacement” is about being stuck in the middle when two friends break up — and doing your very best to dispense good advice. “Glitter” is a sex-positive rocker that’s vintage Linnea Herzog.
Here’s something I will never tire of: great pop songs from Kid Gulliver! “Beauty School Dropout” is the Boston foursome’s new single on Red on Red Records. And no, it’s not a cover of the showtune from Grease. Kid Gulliver’s “Beauty School Dropout” is an original song written by guitarist David Armillotti. In typical Kid Gulliver fashion, it delivers a great mix of power pop ear candy and lyrical substance. I love the sound of this track – it’s got an early ’80s new wave pop vibe to it. It kind of reminds me of a Vapors song with the way the bass totally pops in the mix. And in terms of melodies, I don’t think it’s possible to write a catchier tune. This song is an A-grade earworm! As usual, Simone does a wonderful job of putting voice to David’s thoughtful words. This song, while telling a singular sad tale, offers a great deal of commentary on the superficiality of the “beauty” industry and society’s restricted definition of what it means to be beautiful. In a better world (or a bygone era), this song would be somewhere on the dial every time you turned on your car radio. Kid Gulliver’s hot streak continues!
The Jacklights, the newest addition to Justine Covault’s Red on Red Records, have released a song about winter at the most appropriate time. “Winter”, released this week on Red on Red, takes me back to the ’90s era of melodic punk rock. It could be seamlessly slotted into a playlist between Jawbreaker and Discount. It’s funny how most songs about winter are associated with Christmas and thus disregarded after January 1. Well now The Jacklights have given us a true winter song to get us through the next several weeks! I appreciate how songwriter Nilagia McCoy articulates the way so many of us feel during the coldest months of the year – when the frigid weather adversely impacts the soul and just getting out of bed can be a challenge. Pairing this concept with the theme of loneliness, she’s crafted a powerful and extraordinarily human song. We used to call this “emo” back in the day. But given the connotations that term has taken on in recent times, I’ll just describe this as thoughtful, heartfelt punk rock. It’s the kind of song that you’d listen to on your headphones while you were walking alone in the cold and reflecting on your life. McCoy (vocals, guitar) forms a tight trio with drummer Steve Patton and bassist Michael Allen. “Winter” quickly follows up the band’s debut EP that was released this past October. Be sure to check out Red on Red’s virtual showcase on February 12th where you can catch all-new exclusive music videos from The Jacklights and the rest of the bands on Red on Red!
A few days ago, I wrote about the launch of Justine Covault’s brand-new record label Red on Red Records. This label, which has already assembled a roster including the likes of Kid Gulliver and The Neighborhoods, will of course be releasing new music from Covault’s own bands Justine and the Unclean and Justine’s Black Threads. Red on Red just released a pair of holiday singles this past week. One of them is “An Irishman For Christmas” by Berk/Lehane, which I reviewed a few days back. Today I’m reviewing the other – a wonderful interpretation of the revered Christmas carol “Angels We Have Heard On High” performed by Justine’s Black Threads in their patented bluegrass meets rockabilly style. As usual, the Black Threads lineup features Covault on vocals and guitar, Johnny Sciascia (Eilen Jewell, Cranktones, Jittery Jack) on upright bass and harmony vocals, and Jim Scoppa (T.H. and the Wreckage, Stan Martin Band) on guitar. It’s hard to go wrong covering songs from the ’60s, although in this case we’re talking about the 1860s (with the melody dating back an additional 120 years…now that’s old school!). This is a lively and rollicking version that nonetheless holds faithful to the traditional hymn. Covault’s lead vocal is absolutely terrific, and she and the rest of the Black Threads breathe new life into a centuries-old classic. Fans of Covault and/or Christmas music will not want to miss this one!
Red on Red Records has been officially launched! Red on Red is the newest venture from Justine Covault (Justine and the Unclean, Justine’s Black Threads, WhistleStop Rock). Red on Red has already assembled a fantastic roster including The Neighborhoods, Nightspell, Kid Gulliver, The Chelsea Curve, Cold Expectations, and of course Covault’s bands Justine and the Unclean and Justine’s Black Threads. The label has also signed Berk/Lehane, a collaboration between Simone Berk (Kid Gulliver, Sugar Snow) and the legendary Jerry Lehane (The Dogmatics). 2020 continues to be the year of Simone Berk – which is one of the few good things that can be said about this year! Red on Red has just released Berk/Lehane’s single “An Irishman For Christmas” . Sure, the title brings to mind one of those cheesy Hallmark movies that I can never stop watching. But I can assure you that there’s nothing cheesy about this song! Co-written by Berk and Lehane, this song is properly described as “Boston-Irish-interfaith-romance-folk-punk”. It tells the story of a girl transplanted from Cleveland to Boston who dreams of a very special Christmas gift – an Irishman to call her own. If “romance-folk-punk” is an actual genre, that’s yet another genre for me to embrace! And Berk/Lehane are supported here by a star cast of Boston musicians: James Young, Ed Riemer, Billy Loosigian, and Norm Hartley. I’ve jokingly stated that my disinterest in “modern” Christmas music includes anything recorded after 1970. But honestly, “An Irishman For Christmas” is an absolute delight and instantly joins the list of songs I will look forward to playing every year at Christmas time. Was there ever any doubt that a collaboration between these two individuals would turn out amazing? If Hallmark ever does come calling for the movie rights, I hope Simone, Jerry, and Justine hold out for the highest possible compensation!
“An Irishman For Christmas” is just one of two singles that Red on Red has rolled our for the holidays. I will be posting on the other later this week. Also of note, Red on Red will be celebrating its launch with a virtual showcase at ONCE VV this coming Saturday, November 21. The streaming show will feature exclusive, best-of, and rarely seen videos from its artists, including two live videos of The Neighborhoods, new videos for best-of-catalog songs by Kid Gulliver, Cold Expectations, and Justine and The Unclean, special guests appearances by The Dogmatics and Mess Around co-hosts Jay Allen (with his band the Archcriminals) and Tom Baker (with his band The Dirty Truckers), and culminating with the exclusive premier of the Red on Red theme song and video!! The song was recorded by Justine with David Minehan, Lee Harrington, and Jim Janota, and the video showcases all of the label roster artists and its creative partners. The show wraps with a live chat/interview with label head Justine and some of her roster artists, hosted by DJ JoEllen Saunders Yannis of WMFO’s On The Town With Mikey Dee. For more information, check out the Facebook event page or sign up here!