Star Ghost Dog – Happylove (1998)

Star Ghost Dog - Happylove
Star Ghost Dog

“I guess I’m gonna call in sick today.
I’m feeling way too healthy anyway.”

With those words we’re introduced to Star Ghost Dog. Happylove is choc-full of dark, moody indie rock with bounce. It sounds weird, but it’s true. Star Ghost Dog are masters of dispiriting songs with a spring in their step.

The somber nature of the lyrics can be startling at times. Songs with titles like “Heroin Face,” “Downer,” and “Tell Everyone We’re Dead” probably don’t need to have this mentioned. The title track declares “I love your happy love oh yes I love your happy love love love,” but I’m not buying it. This ain’t bubble gum pop.

Despite the bleakness of the subject matter, there’s warmth to these songs. They sound like pleasantly faded snapshots. They have energy. Guitars fizzle and jump. Boy girl vocal harmonies balance the often deadpan vocal delivery. You can bob your head to songs like “Kite” and “You’re Not There.” Heck, there’s even an indie disco song, “Plus De Vaches.”

On Happylove, Star Ghost Dog are still rough around the edges. By the time of their next record, The Great Indoors, the band will have polished and perfected their sound.

Where to get it:

Jordan Valentine And The Sunday Saints – “Tell Me What’s On Your Mind” b/w “Follow Me” (2011)

Jordan Valentine And The Sunday Saints - Jacket
Jordan Valentine And The Sunday Saints
“Tell Me What’s On Your Mind” b/w “Follow Me”

What we’ve got here is a black, big hole 7″ record in a plain white sleeve. From a vinyl perspective it’s about as simple as it comes. What Jordan Valentine And The Sunday Saints prove with this release is that it’s the music pressed into the vinyl that matters.

I have the Jordan Valentine And The Sunday Saints full length CD and I enjoy it quite a bit (which reminds me, I should review that one of these days). This single is even better. The Sunday Saints’ soul music bleeds into the grooves. “Tell Me What’s On Your Mind” is a classic number with a nice horn arrangement. The band’s own “Follow Me” is the kicker here. It’s an energetic recording with a couple of shrieks out of Ms. Valentine that kill. I love it.

Where to get it:

Jordan Valentine And The Sunday Saints - "Tell Me What's On Your Mind" b/w "Follow Me" - Vinyl

OldJack @ Make Music Harvard Square 6.18.2011

June 18th, 2011 was a good day.

This particular Saturday started with a party for my Big Little One, who recently turned (I can’t believe how time flies) five years old. That afternoon, with some help from my wife, I convinced the boy to hop on the train with me to go see OldJack as part of Make Music Harvard Square…

We take the red line a few stops and arrive about 5 minutes before OldJack are scheduled to perform. Looks like things are running behind schedule. That’s not a good sign when you’re with a potentially overtired boy and dinner time is rapidly approaching. We say hi to Dan Nicklin. Big Little One seems bothered by the noise from the other bands playing. Look! A candy shop! Let’s go get a lollipop.

We walk out with a blue raspberry Dum Dum* and a fresh start. Across the street there’s a little less commotion. That’s where Big Little One gets a couple of licks in before dropping the lollipop in a puddle. Back over to Hidden Sweets we go. This time we emerge with a bubble gum flavored Dum Dum.** Big Little One tells me he’s going to wait until we get home before he eats this one.

The boy is pretty antsy by the time OldJack kicks into “Love Me Or?”. Initially he’s put off by the volume (he’s wearing earplugs and covering his ears, so there’s no real danger), but he settles in by my side as the band plays on. He’s focused. Big Little One is taking it all in. He’s sitting on my knee, now. Content.

OldJack doesn’t seem as intense in the bright of day. It’s a nice change of pace. There’s an ease about them in the afternoon sunshine. The weight they often carry into the wee hours of the morning is lifted. The band, and those watching, are left to enjoy the moment.

I feel a tugging on my leg. Big Little One wants to go. It’s only a few songs into the set, but he’s hungry. And tired. We head back toward the train.

“Dad, when we get in the car can we listen to that band on a CD? I want to hear that song.”

“Which song?” I ask.

“The first one. I want to hear that song.”

“Sure thing, buddy.”

*The lollipop cost 12 cents. The cashier at Hidden Sweets tells me that’s the minimum amount charged on by-the-pound candy. This information is going to come in handy in a bit.

**The bubble gum Dum Dum would also end up getting dropped. The boy was very tired. Thankfully, we had a spare at home.

Tony Savarino – Guitaring (2010)

Tony Savarino

Guitaring makes one thing abundantly clear; Tony Savarino is good at playing the guitar. Really good. On this full length record, Tony has assembled a crack backing band and manages to pick his way through all manner of guitar instrumental. Rock, lounge, spy, country, folk, jazz… it’s all represented here. There’s also an unlisted track that sounds kind of like The Monkees with a female singer (that’s a compliment).

Oh, and the cover photo is amazing.

Where to get it:

Parlour Bells @ The Rosebud Bar 6.17.2011

I’m a sucker for Parlour Bells.

There’s something about their ’80s inspired, moody pop that gets to me. It’s more than just the catchy tunes. Everyone in the band knows exactly what needs to be done. They’ve also got style to go with their substance. They’ve got showmanship. They’ve got a flask.

This Rosebud show proves that the fantastic set I caught at Brighton Music Hall a couple of months ago was no fluke. Parlour Bells are onto something.

Sugar Snow – Sugar Snow (2010)

Sugar Snow
Sugar Snow

Sugar Snow play perfectly pleasant pop. Simone Berk sings sad songs, but don’t distress; the overall tone is indubitably inoffensive. There’s a ’90s indie influence to their modern music. Sugar Snow sometimes sound similar to Aimee Mann, Freedy Johnston or Juliana Hatfield. This self-titled set is a respectable release.

Where to get it:

Muy Cansado @ The Rosebud Bar 6.17.2011

This was my first time seeing Muy Cansado. By the middle of their set I was hooked. Their sound echoes of Boston bands gone by, but it pushes forward. A nod to the past, a wink to the future and a new fan walks out the door of The Rosebud.

The Future Everybody @ The Rosebud Bar 6.17.2011

The Future Everybody opened up another fine show at The Rosebud.* Turns out their guitar based power pop with keyboard icing goes well with just about anything.

*In this case “another fine show” refers to both The Future Everybody playing first on another great bill (as they did here and here) and yet another great night at The Rosebud (like this one or this one). We’re spoiled here in Boston. You know that, right?