Go Sail Away

The story of this band is too ridiculous not to share.  I mean it.  I blame Vampire Weekend for all of this nonsense.  Damn you and your Oxford Commas.  So here we have Tennis.  Named after the man pictured above, who apparently played tennis in college.   Young lovers from Denver start a band after meeting while studying all things philosophical in college.  They bond over their love for sailing and take a voyage up and down the eastern seaboard.  They marry.  They knit their own hats and sweaters.  There’s an apartment lease in Brooklyn begging for the Tennis touch.  They write and record a record, and just like that…the world is gifted with another cheesy “indie” pop duo.

Their music is fragile and coy.  The quiet yet edgy dynamic has been done a trillion times before, think She & Him or Matt & Kim. Singer Alaina Moore has a sugary-sweet voice that powers the music, which alone could very well sink.  Patrick Riley’s guitar lulls you to sleep with its feigned single-note urgency and fuzzy distortion. I dig the playful doo wop vibe of “Origins”, the first single from their upcoming sophomore release Young & Old , hitting stores and digital markets on Valentines Day, 2o12.  But otherwise, this stuff is utterly forgettable.

The whole thing reeks of gimmick.  Tennis is one of those bargain bin bands you might remember hearing, if they didn’t sound like thirty other bands right this second.  Problem is, they’re soon to be everywhere thanks to major music media and their propensity to pander to “bands” tailor-made for hawking cautiously tattered jeans and imported hoodies from Vietnam.


It’s not so bad…

If I was getting a grade for this blog thing, I’d be failing.  I’d be on academic probation.  But since I have six years and two degrees under my belt, I really don’t have to answer to anyone.  But since you’re wondering…I’ve been out of town, no computer access.  No real need to dial in.  But I’ve missed you all dearly.  That being said, this past Friday, Black Friday for all you maniac bargain hunters, was also record store day.  I took my modest record allowance and went hunting in Rochester NY.  I hit up Lake Shore Records and The Bop Shop, two indie record stores that were participating in this years event.

I copped a Flying Lotus full length and a limited edition Ryan Adams 7″.  My prized catch this year is a pretty rad 12″ by The Black Keys.  It’s a reverse single that plays from the center of the record out.  Strange.  And since my record player likes to fight with me on a regular basis, getting the record to play at all was a challenge.  If you’re familiar with The Black Keys you know what you’re getting yourself into.  Their brand of damaged, basement punk-blues doesn’t sound like anybody else.  The White Stripes were too cutesy, and all these other two-man bands just seem to wallow in the noise that The Black Keys branded their own four records ago.

The single comes their upcoming El Camino record due in stores on December 6th.  The sound is where it’s always been.  Stomping rhythm drenched with vintage amped guitars, soaked in that trademark howl.  This one sounds like there’s a carnival organ in there just for shits.  The Black Keys figured out a formula so sweet it works every time.  Any record of theirs is a great place to start.  Do some homework.

My boy has all the moves…

Medium Rare


Part chef, part ice-cold Queens mc, part weed connoisseur, Action Bronson is tough to label.  He’s got a ridiculously confident flow, which batters your eardrums with clever food metaphors, sticky green dreams and homages to his famously lyrical borough.  The dude is hilarious, yet not a joke.  Take a listen to his debut record, Dr. Lecter, or his dead serious cooking lessons, “Action in the kitchen” on youtube.  It seems like when Action does something, he does it one hundred and ten percent.

It’s only fitting that Well Done the result of his recent collaboration with Boston mega-Dj/producer Statik Selektah is pure fire.  Statik’s style is so east coast it hurts.  His heavy beats pound.  They’re laced with chopped and scratched vocal samples that put you in a time machine.  When you open your eyes you’re back in 97′.  It feels like Premier in his prime, and I can’t get enough.  I never thought a NYC/Boston pairing would ever, ever make sense to me… but leave it to these two to make it work.

Action can’t duck the Ghostface comparisons, and in all honesty I felt the same the first time I heard him.  But listen closely, if you can ignore the similarities in the pitch of their voices, you’ll see they couldn’t be more contrasting.  Action raps about what he knows, and that’s good weed, tasty food and weaving his way through the Queens streets he calls home.  Nothing’s changed on Well Done.  Action stays true to form, bragging and boasting throughout the records 15 tracks.  Statik keeps the beats sharp and hard as hell.  If you’re of the era I’m from, you won’t be able to deny a record this fresh.

They’ve Got a Secret…

I remember when the Rapture and El Guapo started pumping bass into the crowd.  Kids at shows were used to the storming and stomping of pure hardcore.  Something cool happened when the rhythm started snaking its way from body to body.   The hardcore kids loosened their bandanas and started tapping their feet.  In no time there were dance floors where the mosh pits used to be.  I’m not bashing heavy music.  I love it.  In fact, sometimes it’s the only thing that makes sense in my head…but other times, when the sun is out and there’s a cold beer nearby, there’s just no space for the doom and the gloom.

Fucked Up are a tremendously talented Canadian hardcore band.  They write epic tunes that swell and burst, the kind of songs that a crowd can live and die by.  But way back in 2007, Fucked Up’s guitarist Ben Cook had a feeling.  It must have been a sunny and supremely perfect day in Toronto.  Maybe there was a Get Up Kids record playing on repeat, or the Buzzcocks kept shuffling on the ipod?  Maybe he was a little burned out by the noise of his current band and was longing for the energy of punk rock?  Either way, Marvelous Darlings was born.

Marvelous Darlings is an unexpected blast of energy.  It’s poppy without being annoying and just loud enough to silence the punk purists.  I’ve played “Teenage Targets” about ten times this morning.  It’s a blast.  “I’ll Stand By Her” is a standout that sounds like a gem from the days of CBGB’s, complete with a jangly hook and a blistering solo.  Keep your eyes peeled for Single Life, a collection of out of print 7″ vinyl releases on Deranged Records.  It’s on itunes now.

Check it out.

Stop Sleeping

New York City is the mecca of creativity.  Argue if you want, but I’m not listening.  There’s really no craftier city in the world.  Only fitting that one of the illest mc’s I’ve heard all year hails from Brooklyn, NYC.  Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire’s  mixtape, Lost In Translation is a splattered canvas of verbal battery.  It’s a throw back to the heyday of east coast hip hop. 

The sound is eerie and manic like Company Flow, yet oddly accessible as if the RZA was on the boards.  It’s hip hop made for hoodies and heavy boots.  It’s the type of tape you play at three o’clock in the morning when people are tripping over themselves looking for a lighter.   eXquire has an unmistakably gritty mass appeal, and I’m on board like I hopped the turnstyle.

eXquire rhymes about real life in New York.  It’s refreshing to hear a rapper spit about the life he lives, not the life he lives for a morning radio show. No references to coke dealing or gun busting.  No party tracks to make it rain in the club.  Lost In Translation is a collection of New York bangers that are so authentic they tie him to the subway tracks.  It’s a record made for people that are really trying to make it it America.  At times the material is dark and walks the fence between sad and depressing, but there’s nothing here to hide.  It’s simple, if life is a mess and you’re an artist, then the art’s a mess.

The Whiskey Keeps Them Young

Will Romeo, the lead singer and guitarist of the hard-charging punk rock and roll band Gameday Regulars recently agreed to chop it up with yours truly.  Throughout our chat we talked about what we like, what we listen to, and why he and his band rule as hard as they do.  Will kept his motor running while I kept firing questions.  During our chat it became crystal clear that he and his band know exactly why they’re here and precisely where they’re going.

SGH: A bands history is like the setting of a good story.  I feel like yours needs telling…

Will: At the start of 2011 my buddy Danny encouraged me to get my old project back together.  He said the songs were great, and to get some new members and track some new songs. I hit up my brother Gino and friend Kenny to get the ball rolling.   We really were all on the same page with what we wanted to accomplish and how we wanted to grow as a band.  We felt this was our chance to play the music we always wanted to play.   In the spring of 2011 we got into the studio with Greg Dunn to track our debut ep.

SGH: I love the EP, But It’s Hell In The Hallway. There’s such a forcefulness about it. It feels urgent and important, like you had something to get off your chest.

Will: The process was different than how we normally record.   Greg helped shape the sound and capture the record we wanted.  We wanted a loud, raw, heartfelt punk rock record.   MTS agreed to release it for us and we were super excited because we knew we were in good hands. The plan for the future is to continue releasing stuff and trying to stay busy with as much touring as possible.  We’re very proud of this record and are stoked the future to grow as band.

SGH: I imagine being in a band with your brother must be pretty fun. There’s a certain element of free speech that enters in when its between brothers, a no holds barred sort of thing.

Will: Me and brother have been trucking at playing music for a long time, at times there was alot of head butting, but at the same time it just works.

SGH: I feel the punk energy in your EP, but I also feel the blue collar, everyday rock and roll sound too. Who molded your approach to song writing?

Will:  I can honestly say the energy we felt the first time we heard Face To Face, Jawbreaker, Hot Water Music, Samiam, The Replacements, Lucero, and this list goes on…we were kinda were sold.   At the end of the day so many bands have gimmicks, an image to uphold, they try to keep up with whats buzzing. We just try to keep it true and heartfelt.  Punk rock is timeless.  Nobody will remember alot of these five minute of fame bands, but bands like The Clash will always be changing peoples lives.

SGH: How big of a role do influences play in your life as a musician?

Will:  Gameday just made it a point to write songs and not try to sound like anything or anyone.   We’re all starting to hear the influences in our music after it’s recorded.  We all have a common respect for each other which is great.   Kenny, Gino, and I just throw ideas on the table and hopefully we capture something and make a song.   The one nice part about being a three piece is it helps us not saturate the music with stuff thats unnecessary.  We’re excited to hear the final product of our new songs.  And we all love Sam Cooke.

SGH:  How do you feel about touring?  It seems with the music industry in an odd place, now more than ever a tour is where a band gets the chance to spread their music and sell some merch.  How does a Gameday Regulars tour come together?

Will:  We love to tour, it’s kind of been life for us for about a decade on so many levels. Me and Kenny were crew for several bands over the years.  Seeing all aspects of road life has definitely given us experience.  Touring is clutch, it’s a lot more important now than it ever has been, also it’s the bread and butter of successful bands.  The reality is nobody really buys music like they used to, you can find everything through file sharing for free.  However, it the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.  Whether we play a basement show in front of four kids or a packed venue, we always get something out of it. This is the reason why we ever wanted to pick up guitars.  Gameday Regulars is new to the road,  but we’re stoked and completly grateful to play any show, meet new people, and hear new bands.  We’re looking forward to be on the road as much as possible, everywhere.

SGH:  How did you guys get linked up with MTS (Mightier Than Sword Records)?  How has the experience been,  and do you plan to record and release more music through them?

Will: MTS is a great label. I’ve known RJ for a couple of years.  RJ and Buddy really care about all of their bands and its been a great experience.  We are really stoked to part of the MTS family.  We’re recording some new stuff in November and mainly just want to stay consistent with new material coming out.  We also want to tour on the EP we just released.

SGH:  Lastly, you mentioned The Clash earlier, what’s your favorite song? I’m partial to “Lost in the Supermarket” followed closely by “Jail Guitar Doors”.  And, what’s your drink of choice?

Will: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Bushmills Irish whiskey.  My favorite Clash song would be “Spanish Bombs”.

—And there you have it.  The working class, ass kicking musings of a true punk rock and roll frontman.  Gameday Regulars EP “But It’s Hell In The Hallway” is out now on MTS records http://www.mtsrecords.com/releases, and itunes.  It’s a slab of genuine, no bullshit, straight ahead rock and roll that plays like the perfect soundtrack for the fuzzy parts of an epic night.  Check out the band on facebook and twitter @willromeo and @gamedayregulars.  Bronx, NY stand up!

how to make it last

i feel guilty watching tv sometimes. it’s complicated, like a relationship. am i supposed to stay loyal to a certain show, to a certain cast of make believers because i was there when they were born? there from day one? i was tightrope walking the fence with hbo’s how to make it in america. i admit i was ready to bail because frankly, season 1 wasn’t that good.

the premise is fun. rag-tag kids from the big city chase aspirations of making waves in the world of fashion design by way of clever t-shirts and fancy hoodies. hipster kids. cool parties. lake bell in her underwear. i get it. yet it sputtered and fizzled out without much in the way of character development last season. i had no idea what finch from american pie or kid cudi (yes, the rapper) were doing there at all. by season’s end they sort of got their line (crisp) up and running and after the somewhat interesting and amusing bullshit they went through to keep their heads above water, i found myself rooting for our two heroes, ben and cam.

call how to make it in america the entourage of the east coast. except ben and cam have no money and only occasionally get laid. odd thing is they never break a sweat worrying. for a show about the struggle, there just aren’t many real problems. for instance, how do two unknown designers live in nyc, wear dope clothes, keep their lights on and eat when they never, ever WORK?

the key to season two is the writing. the characters are becoming more life-like with every episode. people are stressing each other out. people are nailing each others ex’s. people are getting random tattoos and luis guzman is threatening people in a way that only luis guzman can. thanks hbo, you’ve got me purposely watching tv again. partially because it’s getting cold in upstate ny and my bike is almost gone for the winter, and partially because i’m waiting for bubbles and mcnulty to make a cameo. a guy can wish can’t he?