Chris Collins is a major contributor to Boston Hassle, as well as Boston Counter Cultural Compass and BOW shows. Chris also hosts an all-local radio show MASS AVE AND BEYOND @ WZBC 90.3fm Fridays 5-7pm.
So many lists, its hard to keep up! Here’s one more to throw on the heap of great music that was 2012. This was the year I dove headfirst into the Boston community’s vibrant and diverse pool of aural pleasure. I cannot accurately express my pride and profound gratitude to have experienced not only so much great music, but also so many beautiful people. Much love.
Favorite forward-thinking electronic dance music: TIME WHARP, M. CONSTANT & the JASS crew
Boston has a steady history of quality electronic music, sure, and there are several club dance nights, like Elements and Make it New, that bring a reliable, coherent sound to large and growing legions of fans. But frankly there hasn’t been anything as to rival the cutting edge scenes in the UK or California, that is until JASS burst onto the scene a little over a year ago. The JASS collective, led by founding member Patrick Loggins, aka Time Wharp, have in the past year released a steady stream of intelligent electronic music that weaves the far reached of Brainfeeder-esque THC beats with the ethereal, bass blasting production of Hotflush records and likeminded ‘post-dubstep’ UK DJs, all into a playful tapestry free to experiment and incorporate various flaring trends in hip-hop – trap, juke, its all in there, whatever gets people moving. Look out for more from these guys in 2013, including hopefully some vinyl releases and a continuation of their solid residency at the Phoenix Landing.
Favorite nostalgic 90’s revivalist band crush: FAT CREEPS
It can’t be helped. I love Fat Creeps. I’ve been crushing on them since the beginning of the year, when I stumbled upon a couple singles on their bandcamp. I was immediately hooked on the ennui harmonies – like whispered dreams with a backbite, punctuated bursts of heavy reverb riffs and pummeling drums. The music is so simple, so straightforward, the lyrics so earnest, the sound so bare – that it just disarmed me immediately, like the subtle glance from a beautiful stranger across the room, unexpected yet familiar. Yes, it sounds like its straight out of the 90’s, yet there is no band from that arbitrary period that quite resembles this group. Their sound is almost like a nostalgic reminisce of a vague time more than a decade past, reformulated with an attitude that is firmly planted in the contemporary mindset. That got a little abstract; All I really want to say is: please don’t leave us for Brooklyn, stay with us forever.
Favorite band that makes me feel, like, really feel: KRILL
Of all the new music that came out this year, I listened to Krill by far the most frequently (either local or not) and also saw them live most often, and yet they are undoubtably the hardest for me to describe accurately and with justice. When they released their album in March, I quickly became addicted to the dissonant, reverb soaked melodies and rapid tempo changes, but it was singer Jonah Furman’s wide-range singing -from high pitched croons to gutter moans -and earnest, image-laden and yet immediately relatable lyrics that kept me coming back again and again. The genius of the band is how they revolve around and play with what feel like old 90’s alt riffs but quickly shift into something more, deeper and more complex. Live, all the groups best qualities from the record burst forward with life: The soulful yearning in Jonas’s singing, the sweet interacte interplay of instruments that brood in groans of bass and searing guitar before desceding into exuberant jam of existential self-assertion.
Favorite band that will quickly destroy my eardums if I dont start wearing earplugs: BANG! BROS.
BANG! BROS. was born this past summer when members Mark Johnson and ARKM Foam went without their bandmates in Hunnie Bunnies and Peace, Loving, respectively. Both inclined to live improvisation and exploring the noisey outer reaches of electronic sound, and also both living at the Whitehaus, it was inevitable that this match made in heaven would come up with something amazing. BANG! BROS is an extremely loud affair, with the pair pounding on half-broken drum machines and distortion petals in intuitively coordinated, highly expressive movement, creating blasts of warped noise one second, and near silence the next, save the flicker of a pitch-twisted snare. While their prolific recordings make an excellent headphone experience for the ear open to the aural wonders of dissonance and noise, nothing can replicate the live experience. One feels compelled to dance, both by its loudness and intensity, but also the almost graspable figment of a beat, recalling hip-hop roots but pulled apart in so many disjointed directions as to feel more like an acid-soaked free jazz session. Their superb collaboration with the talented Andy Allen, formerly of Guerilla Toss, speaks to this affinity, as his staccato saxophone warbles matches perfectly with B!B’s psychotic beats. Look out for many, many more releases on great labels in 2013. And do yourself a favor and see them live.
Favorite band that inevitably makes me shake and dance with joy: HANDS & KNEES
Somerville/Cambridge’s pRIMORDIAL sOUNDS had a great year with a lot of fantastically fun shows and a couple of solid releases. CreaturoS got a lot of well-deserved attention with Swampp Thingg in November, but it was PS’s other release this year that stole my heart. Hands and Knees play a boisterous concoction of blues rock riffs, smart, catchy lyrics and a back beat that just picks you up out your chair, throws you on the dance floors and refuses to let go till you let that hair down. This ain’t no standard backyard BBQ jam, no, they sound more like an amphetamine-fueled trip through backwood trails and expansive, sun-kissed landscapes. Layers of balanced effects lovingly applied to their beautifully produced record Red Hot Minnow add subtle touches of psychedelia that make for apt backing tunes for a roaring party or an afternoon outing. When something feels this good, it can’t be wrong.
Favorite holy, soul-touching brother: FRANK HURRICANE (HURRICANES OF LOVE/GANGSTA LOVE)
Frank Hurricane is a saint. There I said it. Anyone whose met this traveling troubadour will attest to his bright, charming attitude and wild spirit, wise far beyond his years. His soulful strummings rumble through my mind like a deep steady stream flowing down with holy vibes from pure whitecap mountaintops. Psychedelic stories of puffing pounds of cheese and moonlit midnight blues weave seamlessly into his meandering folk tales. But its his work as Gangsta Love, his hip-hop project, which has lately captured my attention. Frank brings that same heartfelt attitude, but with minimal effective g-funk synth beats and a commanding, cutting flow that always delivers the message firmly on-point. His latest performance in Boston at the Smokey Bear Cave left me literally stunned. Fortunately, this ramblin’ man has decided to take up permanent residence at last at Turner Falls in western Mass, that growing mecca of freak fun. Expect many new recordings from this holy brother in the new year. And oh yeah, he’s playing in Boston THIS SUNDAY!
Favorite psychedelic videodrone brainfuck: LANGUAGE SEX DRUGS VIOLENCE
Joe and Pat of the S.B.C. have been a much-needed pillar in the experimental underground scene this year, and they’ve startled many a seasoned freak with their trance-inducing video music project LSDV. Their process is an amalgamation of previously compiled movie and TV clips, culled from the far reached pop culture and bizarro bottom bin tapes, then mixed in real time on VHS with a slew of visual effects that deconstruct and rebuild in an endless loop of mutant media. The sonic component, a direct product of the live video mixing, is a anarchic mess of warped sludge, vocal samples, and delayed feedback loops, forming deep pools of schizophrenic drones that would disturb even the Skaters. Somehow they keep a coherent thread through all this controlled chaos, delivering a veritable smorgasbord of demented delights that leaves the audience both deeply disturbed and yet strangely at peace. They’re doing something truly unparalleled here, and my proverbial hat’s off to them.
Favorite band that is no longer a band: CAMP HOPE
Camp Hope was another band that captured my heart this year. They sadly disbanded before I had the chance to catch them live, but their memory lives on through two (humbly named) ‘demos’ of irresistibly sweet baroque pop. With such, bright, sunny tunes – packed with unusual harmonies, pretty guitar hooks, tight, upbeat drums and ingenious lyrics, I kept returning to Camp Hope’s catchy gems like an addict in need of a fix. Their songs are immediately accessible, yet never grow stale with thoughtful prose and a subtle musical complexity that pays dividends with repeated listens. Their sound is a personification of a stubbornly sunny early spring day, deep blue sky populated with thick tufts of ivory clouds, languidly passing like a quiet mood of bittersweet melancholy. Camp Hope may be no more, but hope persistes in the form of lead singer and producer Jesus Vio, whose nascent solo career promises to be luminous and fruitful. The whole BUFU Records crew is doing great things as well. Stay tuned.
Favorite band that makes me proud to live in Boston: GUERILLA TOSS
Guerilla Toss is for me one of the best bands in Boston, and from the looks of their live shows I’m not alone in that opinion. These guys are of a rare breed that both revel in the Allston gutter of noise, feedback, dissonance and a balls-to-the-wall attitude, yet they’re also grads of NEC and also really know how to play their instruments. A first time casual listener might write off this band as just another loud noise act, but anyone paying attention can see something special here: Disjointed spasm of noise punctuate an atmosphere of morose foreboding, growing ever louder like an encroaching Mongolian horde, yet strains of erratic post-punk rhythms gradually emerge from the noisey gloom, practically compelling you to thrash along to these raw syncopated rippers. Although G. Toss has been banging heads since 2011, it was the addition of singer Kassie last spring that really brought this group’s sound to a new sonic plateau of psychotic funk. If you haven’t yet heard their debut LP Jeffrey Johnson (Feeding Tube) do yourself a favor and get bent to this. Expect much, much more from these kids in ’13.
Favorite live performance: SCOTT STAPP @ GAY GARDENS
With such an ample load of mind-blowing live performances this year, its plain impossible to pick among them with much justice. But the performance of Scott Stapp, Frank Hurricane and Con Tex’s tribute to Creed’s notorious lead singer and 90’s alternative rock in general, at GG’s this past summer stand out for producing in me so many intense, conflicting feelings at once. Their stripped-down, crazed medlies of old forgotten hits, reinterpreted with the wild raw energy you’d expect from these bare-chested Whitehaus cats, made me want to thrash about, get wasted, laugh heartily and reminisce about the music of my half-forgot innonence, all at once. I was in such a daze at this show, I barely noticed when they started throwing chairs and instruments, hurling them across the basement and only inches from my head. It wouldn’t have mattered much if I’d been hit – I was in drunken ecsacty. Scott Stapp are touring the East Coast this February with BANG! BROS. and Horaflora en route to Miami’s International Noise Conference, and they’ll probably have a new record with them. Be smart and take advantage of the opportunity to see these fools shotgun beers and blow minds.
Well, thats all for 2012. What’s up, 2013?