Friday, September 25, 2020

Music Review //
"Fantasy Chapel" //

On their debut album "Fantasy Chapel", Riches creates a sound which is somewhere between pop and the unknown.    The first song starts off the album with some rather powerful vocals and that sets the tone for the rest of these songs.   They are all quite intense and on the titular track I am reminded of both Madonna and Queen.   Through some synth it can feel like we're floating in space.   Some light hip hop and Enya comes out as well.    It's dreamy and blissed out with spoken words now with continuing beats.

"God Swatter" has beats and soulful vocals like Pink meets Garbage.  I originally read the title as "God Sweater" and thought it took on a whole new meaning.   "She" is trance, almost industrial, while "Eyes Open But Not Looking" is a power ballad.   This also takes us into our second song about eyes called "Thief In Your Eye".    "Lily" is an absolute banger while "Nakedness" has great beats.   It really begins to remind me by the end of something you would have heard on cassette during that time, like NKOTB, as it just ends with layered vocals singing "I just want a revolution".

Throughout this album there are also tracks called "threshold" and then a number, which are like little interludes in between songs.   They are instrumental and can be relaxing or just kind of a way to smoothly go from one song into the next.   There are five in total and if you had taken them out and just gone from song to song without them this album might not have the same overall affect on the listener.   To go from "Thief In Your Eye" to "Lily", for example-- you can't just do that.   You need that break in between with "threshold 3", as it kind of winds you down from the previous song and prepares you for "Lily".

While this has no physical release as of right now, I wouldn't mind experiencing it as a cassette.  However the only issue I would have with hearing this on cassette would be that at some point it would stop and you would have to change sides.   Yes, you can pull out songs like "She" or "Nakedness" and call them ~singles~, listening to them on their own.   But the truly best way to experience this album is in its entirety, from start to finish, with no interruptions.   That is not something I find about albums a lot but Riches also has an overall sound which just needs to be heard as well.

Cassette Review //
Mezzanine Swimmers
"Kneelin' on a Knife"
(Already Dead Tapes)

$7 //
Edition of 125 //

"Kneelin' on a Knife" starts off with a song of the same name.  It's got these drum machine beats with upbeat rock sounds which make me feel like it is a little bit garage and a little bit trippy, somewhere between Daniel Johnston and Flaming Lips, to speak in generalities.   It gets a little bit sharp now as we just ride that fuzzy wave.    

We go into this groove now, which almost feels like a disco, and then we're slowly trying to warp into another sound as well.  It's so weird because we have this almost completely different song trying to break through behind this loop in front of it.    Eventually, after listening to the song for a bit, it can feel as if these two sounds have blended together but the way that they are presented- with this loop being the loudest part and the vocals so far hidden back- it makes it seem like they are two different songs at times.

Everything feels spooky now as beats come through like a knocking.  Intergalactic tones come through to give it that "The Phantom Planet" type of alien vibe.   It has this way of echoing as well, not just within the vocals but with the way that the bass goes.   Then it begins to feel like these alien tones are really keys or perhaps even a guitar and that brings me back to the idea of this being on those garage rock lines.

On the flip side we open up with beats and the way the tones whirr through make it feel like this song is haunted.   I feel like vocals can be heard faintly in the background, like trapped souls, but this cassette has also conditioned me thus far to hear the vocals being behind every other sound so it might just be my ears playing tricks.  

We come into the next song a bit louder, a messy game of pinball with these start and stop beats.   The vocals are distorted and hidden back there behind the banging and the way this one just feels trippy.   The guitar just floats through these notes and in some ways it makes me think about what Green Day might sound like if they were a more experimental band.   This gets pretty heavy at the end- more bass and distortion just consumes the song.    As we drift off into this distorted sea it feels like it is the only way to go out- wandering and not yet coming home.  

Record Review //
Science Man
"Match Game"
(Swimming Faith Records)

$7 //
Edition of 250 // //

Science Man is back with their particular blend of hardcore and melody.   This time, there is a 7" record called "Match Game" and all of the songs are less than two minutes in length (some are even under a minute).    I have thoughts of this sounding like Drowningman mixed with Snapcase and there is just this certain period of time for hardcore- from 2000 to 2002 or so- where I feel like this would fit right in.

"Surge" is full of music, with Wall-E electronics, but for the rest of this record it just feels like having your face blasted off.   It's loud.  It makes its presence known.   It is, from what I read on the Bandcamp page, the connection between the first full length- titled Science Man- and their next full length which is not out yet.   A little something to hold you over, if you will.

This does end with a drum beat and keys, in a very solemn way, so it doesn't have that same guitar death for the entire time.   It's nice to be able to feel a sense of calm at the end as these songs just rip through, somewhere between hardcore and rock n roll.   A song like "The Rush" really stands out and I think if you're ever just doing something active this would be a good record to put on and get moving.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Music Review //
"Now I Know"

When the song "Now I Know" first starts you'll hear vocals which are then joined by beats.  Musically, this song will take you on a journey through what might sound like rock but has a lot more of electronic qualities to it.   In some ways, it makes me think of a band like The Killers taking up a more electronic-based approach to their sound.   It's just not something I would call full on techno nor would I call it full on rock but it finds a nice way to reach the melody in between the two.

Lyrically I feel like this song tells a story which you can take the meaning of however you might choose (which is kind of the point) but for me it's about how you can view things one way your whole life but then at some point in your life that point of view changes.  I think, especially in our youth, as people we have the tendency to blame everyone else for our problems and what's wrong and we think more of "Well, this person did this so that's bad" and we think less about what we could have done personally to not have it come to that.

I feel this when the lyrics start with: "Some mistakes time cannot fix / And regrets falling like teardrops" (that being the idea that everyone else is wrong) and then go into: "Mistakes can be repaired / I've moved on with no regrets" (the idea that you should try to fix yourself more than trying to fix others)   And I especially feel this strongly about it because of the line: "My truth was my perspective", taking things into account and responsibility for yourself and no one else.   The more you listen to the lyrics and how they change, I hope that changes you in some ways- your perspective at least.

While this video starts within a house it goes out into nature quite a bit.   The main character faces himself more than once and then ends up back where he started, with the fire burning.   This just only seems to support my idea that this song is about self reflection and looking at yourself more than looking at others.   In some ways, if we all looked inside of ourselves and took care of ourselves we might not have to look out for others as much.  Or at least if we are able to take care of ourselves it makes helping others easier.

This song ends with a great electronic breakdown and if you're going to have a song called "Now I Know", in which that title is part of the chorus, you'll have to ask yourself what it is that you now know.   This is never really stated in the song.  The lyrics never say "Now I know how to be a better friend" or something to that effect.   But I think that's the point.  I think in the self reflection of listening to this (and perhaps even taking it into nature with you) you will find out what it is that you know.   What you now know might not be the same as what Orava knows or what I know but that's what makes this song so special.

Cassette Review //
Sam Gas Can
"Gone Doing"
(Already Dead Tapes)

$7 //
Edition of 100 // //

If you open your cassette with a song called "Portobello Season" and it's just 18 seconds of you singing about the title, odds are good I will like your cassette.   The first song on here has these heavily distorted guitars over bedroom vocals and I think we're onto a sound when the next song comes through more like They Might Be Giants.   It also happens to be the titular track and we do hear the words "Gone Doing" in the lyrics, which are words I didn't know how they went together but now I do.

I like the lyric: "Our Bladerunner future keeps enhancing" and not in a bad way but the fourth song feels like a commercial, it just has that energy.   I feel like commercials get a bad reputation because they can get stuck in your head or are something you don't choose to hear but it does take a certain level of talent to create them and to get them stuck inside of heads.   Commercials are just pop music you didn't choose to listen to.   We go into an instrumental number with beeps and bloops like sonar in space.   This takes us into "Carole", which is acoustic strumming like a song from the "Juno" soundtrack. (Big Kimya Dawson vibes)

Frequencies and a tapping now, this becomes peaceful and calm like The Karate Kid.  We go into a looping of singing and other sounds which feel like glitches, but then it's full on singing and sounds more like a traditional song.   By the end you do hear the title of this song- which ic "Click Clack" and for some reason while I listen to cassettes I try to follow along with each song by having the Bandcamp page open when I should probably be using the j-card.

On the flip side we kick things off with "UPTIGHT!" which has ping pong balls bouncing around.   The next song sounds like it has a flute in it and just really has that feeling of a television theme song, specifically from the 1970's as "The Greatest American Hero" and "Laverne and Shirley" come to mind.   This takes us into a slow crawl of electronics and Hendrix-like guitars piercing through.    "White Baby (w/ Zack Lyrics)" has beeping like an alarm and otherwise it sounds a bit like Devo.

The second to last song is fast and distorted then when we reach the end we go into this powerful ballad called "I Shall Be Released".   The nature of the song- the lyrics and just the whole overall way in which it is presented- makes me feel like it is a spiritual number.   At the same time when listening to this cassette and the sounds it can jump to from song to song it feels like perhaps one of the deepest and also final.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Baseball Review //
Great Falls Gators 9, Canton Crushers 0
[9/20/20 @ Bowdoin Field, Canton, CT]

Additional photos can be found here :::

Following the Banditos-Monsters game earlier, I went home, had some food, warmed up and put a jacket on over my sweater for this game.    While it was supposed to warm up in the afternoon, it didn't warm up a lot.   I'd never been to this field before and I'm not even sure I've been to Canton before.   I got off of 84 and went through Bristol (but not near the Blues) and then Avon.   The fun thing is that I got onto the road which this is on and the directions told me my destination was on the left.   There looked to be a baseball game there, but I wasn't sure so I took the first right which also had baseball fields but no one was on them.

I drove back, behind the school and saw umpires who looked like the type and thought "It must be around here".  As I saw the umpires go into the woods I wondered what was happening, such a strange sight for someone who had never been to Bowdoin Field before.   I got out of my car and let me assure you 100% that had I not followed the umpires I would have never been able to find this field.  There are a lot of trees and a smaller path you must go down to find the field tucked away back there.   Later I would realize there was also a road out there so if I had left as I did at the end of the game I would have drove by and seen the field and players on it, but going down this path felt magical like when you go hiking and find a cave behind a waterfall but then imagine there's a baseball game in there.   I felt like I'd go back there again with my dad and it'd all just be woods and I'd tell him "I swear! It was here last time!"

To add to the overall illusion of this game the sun started on the infield and made its way to the outfield.   This made it feel like- for most of the game- that half the field was in the dark while half of it was in the light.   On top of that, there was this rare occurrence at times where a lone ray of sun would come down on Gators' pitcher Bobby Chatfield, and only him somehow (it didn't seem to shine for the Crushers pitcher)

This game started off with the Gators going through their entire lineup in the top of the first inning, putting six runs on the board.   It was just hit after hit after hit.   Some people like to see homeruns, but I like to see the ball just get put into play and the runners just move along the bases.   After the Crushers pitcher sort of got rocked in the first inning, he seemed to settle down in the second inning.   Then the Gators got one more run in the third inning and in the fifth they scored two more, putting them up 9-0, which would stay the final score. 

The Connecticut Fall League has the rule that you stop after five innings if a team is up eight runs or more, which we saw last week with the second game of the double header where the Gators defeated the Millers, but those games were seven innings because of the double header and this game was set for nine innings so they decided to continue and play two more innings, going a full seven.   The game started at 3:30 and by the time they had finished five innings it was only 5:00-ish.   The two innings to take them to the seventh made it about 5:30 but I was there, I wasn't as cold as I was earlier in the day and I didn't know if this field would ever exist again so it was worth the time to just enjoy the game.

Baseball Review //
Milford Monsters 1, Silver City Banditos 0
[9/20/20 @ Ceppa Field, Meriden, CT]

Additional photos can be found here :::

I didn't think I'd be back to Ceppa Field this year.  I'm not sure why, but I just thought that after that last GHTBL Playoff game there that would be it until next year.    Then the Banditos moved their home games from Maloney High School to here, possibly because of the kids going back to school but I can't say for sure.   I also haven't seen the Banditos in about a month because they did two games in the BPT, had a week off for Labor Day and then last week their game against the Durham team was canceled.   I was, among other things, attending the 70th birthday of my father, which as I type it out now does seem more important than seeing the Banditos face the number one team in the league, but hey if I ever turn 70 and someone decides to throw me a party and there's a baseball game that day let's have them overlap.

My first thoughts about this game is that it's cold.  I can't explain to you, dear reader, how cold it was.  I've read the box scores for MLB games and they get really into the weather, but I definitely feel like the highest I saw the weather when I checked it was 62.   Now, I was in pants and a sweater so it was okay as long as the sun was hitting me.   Then there was this cold breeze that would rip through and just make it at least ten degrees colder.   On top of that, it has been dry.  There hasn't been a lot of rain for whatever reason.   So the wind began kicking up all the dirt in the infield.  At one point, the umpire had to call timeout before the pitcher threw to let a little dirtstorm pass.   As someone who has been to see the Banditos when it's felt like 100 degrees it was strange seeing them at this sort of polar opposite weather but, yes, that's just Connecticut for you.

The Milford Monsters went into this double header with a record of 12-3 while the Banditos were 12-4.    They are in second and third place, respectively, trailing the first place Bridgeport team who is 14-3, so they are all really close up there at the top.    That meant, to me, going into this that this would be a great game because not only do you have two evenly matched teams based upon their records but you have them right at the top of the league as well.  Two evenly matched teams at the bottom of the league might be a fun game but it wouldn't be the same.

This was a classic pitcher's duel.  The Banditos had a familiar face on their mound, I believe, from Ulbrich Steel, in Dan Livingston, while the Monsters were also just bringing the heat.    Defensively, no one really seemed to make any errors and it became that proverbial chess game of who was going to break first.  Both teams had runners on base at any time but got out of the inning without any damage done.   It wasn't until the top of the 6th when the Monsters were able to score only one run and it was all that they needed.

One play that particularly bothered me during this game was a ball hit down third base line by Franciso Asencio.    Now, you have umpires behind the pitcher and at first base but I'm sitting over on the third base side and I see that ball drop on the fair side then end up going foul and it gets called foul.   I will admit that it isn't easy being an umpire and making those types of calls, so I'd let it slide, but there were at least four more balls hit to that exact same spot (and I won't say that they were all by the Monsters) and every one of them was called fair.    The key is consistency.  If you're going to call it one way for one player, call it that same way for every player.

I also realized about four innings into this game that the Milford Monsters have Willy Yahn on their team, something which I learned right at that moment.    That would explain why after today the Gators don't have any more Sunday games perhaps.   This is somehow the third team and fourth league now I've seen Willy Yahn play in.   Isn't that crazy?  It will be crazy when we look back at this and he's in MLB.

The first game felt like such a tough loss for the Banditos because it was a one run game that could have gone either way.   Both teams were just playing that good of a game of baseball.  It was something where I would forget at times how cold it was or that the wind was hitting my face and I felt like I was eating dirt because of the suspense.   The second game was not the same.   The second game the cold began to set in for me.   I knew I needed food.  I knew I needed warmth.   And I was going to have to leave by 2:30-ish any way to go to the next game.   The Monsters put up one run in the first inning.   They were breaking Dan Livingston early, as he was pitching both games.  The Monsters put up two runs in the second inning.

At this point, my uncle was here with me and I told him something like "If they put up three runs or more in the third inning, it's over and I'm leaving".   He was leaving as well because he wanted to go watch football.   I can't say for certain that the Banditos lost that second game, but the Monsters did put up three runs in the third inning, making it 6-0 when I left.    The cold was what really got to me- as we went from being in the 60's overnight to the 40's overnight- and if I had known it was going to be this cold with the wind I would have brought more layers but next weekend it will likely feel less cold any way.