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C.D. On Songs: Special Edition – Music From and Inspired by Calling All Angels: A Benefit For Friends of Emilia

December 3, 2010

Welcome to a very special edition of C.D. On Songs. Usually I ask you, the artists, to send me your favorite song. Not today. Now I am in charge, and picking my favorite tracks from my favorite artists. All of whom are playing Calling All Angels: A Benefit For Friends of Emilia. For those of you who don’t know, my wife and I got to spend 13 precious days this summer with our daughter Emilia. She was born quite premature – we weren’t expecting her until September, but she joined us on June 19. We were so happy. Sadly, Emilia’s challenges proved to be too great, and we lost her on July 2. 

Almost immediately, Sarah Korval, Katie Puzo and our very own Ashley Willard – whom are now dubbed the Angels – started planning tomorrow’s show. Friends of Emilia is the foundation my wife and I started to honor our daughter’s memory and provide support to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. They were the people that gave us the precious gift of 13 days with our daughter, and we are eternally grateful. 

Won’t you please think of joining us tomorrow at T.T. The Bear’s? You can buy your tickets right now – because this will probably sell out and I definitely want to see you. Especially you. The fun starts at 12:30 PM with Gem Club, and goes for like, seven hours until the whole thing goes nuts with Bang Camaro. In between, we’ll have Casey Desmond, Stereo Telescope, Lovewhip, Spirt Kid and Sidewalk Driver. I’m even going to play a few tunes with Spirit Kid. And anyone else who lets me. But the proceeds all go to the Beth Israel NICU. I would be honored if you would join me tomorrow at T.T. The Bear’s Place. This one is for you, my tiny honey.

Emilia Marie Di Guardia
June 19, 2010 – July 2, 2010
The sun is up. The sky is blue. It’s beautiful. And so are you.

Click on the link at the bottom of the post to download all of these track together. Look for Emilia’s footprint.

Gem Club – “Sevens”

“Sevens” is a dreamy and haunting space, comprised largely of a darker-than-dark piano working its chords in the murkiest part of the keyboard. The piano leads and proves a symmetry for the string melody that fills out the upper ends of the register. Christopher Barnes’ vocal has just enough hopeful shimmer to its sad sound to provide a faint glimmer of light in the darkness, like a faraway glow in the trees.

For its small ensemble of sounds, “Sevens” is a very rich piece, with the mood being set at once by the first piano chord. Whether it is an acoustic piano or a very, very well done synthesizer patch, you can almost hear the melancholy coating each string and hammer of the piano, seasoning the tone of the instrument like a well-used grill or cooking stone. Barnes doesn’t sound like he is simply playing the piano; he is playing into the piano, pressing his music into it through the keys and letting the sound output things that could not be put into written, spoken or even sung word.

Kristen Drymala’s cello strings seem soaked in the same substance; the friction between bow and string creating a world in itself, like the snowflake that contained Whoville. How deep can we listen into Drymala’s sound? As deep as we want; and the cello’s depths are warm and bottomless. The back-and-forth switch on the bow provides a bit of pulse to the percussionless track. This track does not just have presence, it has a soul and it is a soul that it shares with you.

Stereo Telescope – “Draw Me A Sky”

It has been written that electronic music is the most honest form of music, as it does not seek to pretend to be anything other than a simulation. Think of “realistic” (read: non-electronic) music and the drum mixes. They mix like you are sitting inside a huge drumkit, with a snare drum way over to the left, toms to the right, etc. Is that real? No way. Enter Stereo Telescope, a duo of performers who make electronic music. The thing about Stereo Telescope and their totally new (just over 12 hours old!) song “Draw Me A Sky” is that they use their electronics to create an experience that is perhaps more human than one might expect from any genre of music; leastways it’s more human than you, man. Or you, Rob Zombie.

The organic sounds of Stereo Telescope flow more freely in this track than any synthesized bleeps or bloops or other videogames sounds you might expect to hear from an “electronic band.” Lead singer Nicole Dessingue’s crystal-clear and pitch-on voice is as natural sounding as a briskly flowing spring, and the effect of her vocal timbre is similarly refreshing. Dessingue’s vocals are airy and sonorous; coming through the speakers en masse – which only serves to add to the vibrancy of the vocal performance.

“Draw Me A Sky” is driven not by machinery but by its own internal pulse. The chord progression is not standard, but it flows in familiar patterns nonetheless. We might say that every chord change is not expected – but it is welcome. This song has a tingle to it; a slight bit of electricity that doesn’t seem to come from the binary innards of some computer, but maybe the natural electricity that is in our own bodies, simply brought to life by Stereo Telescope with “Draw Me A Sky.”

Lovewhip – “Wrecking Machine”

I’m sure that someone like the Mythbusters or something have probably experimented with setting sugar on fire to see what happens to it. Or maybe they just run a lot of volts of electricity through it. Our hypothesis is that it probably sounds a lot like this new track from local treasures Lovewhip. Yeah, we said “treasures” because we treasure them, and so should you.

Vocalist Erin Harpe trips the sexy electric in this song, whipping her voice about the melody with what some would call reckless abandon, what others might call disregard for what a human voice can do, but what all would agree sounds mighty fine. She is even joined by a chorus of electrified Mini-Harpes at times, as if you could handle any more of her vibrant, spirited voice.

Harpe’s partner in crime is a brutally infectious rhythm section that is a veritable symphony of synthesized sweetness, from the saturated distortion of the bassy stage-left synth to the ticky-ticky of its counterpart to the right. The thump-thump bass drum serves as a steady heartbeat to the song, even if you feel your own speeding up. Harpe seems addicted to whosoever is the “wrecking machine” subject of the song, and she brings this addiction home to us, planting this melody further and further into our brains with every “Ooh-Ooh-OohOoh” and “Yeah, Yeah!” Lovewhip might not know what they’re doing to us with this song, but our guess is they probably do.

Spirit Kid – “Our Party Host”

Now I said this isn’t the artists’ choice today, and I meant it. But then again, I am kind of part of Spirit Kid. I know what you’re saying, “How the hell can this guy sit and review his own band?” and first off, I will tell you to shut the heck up, this is my column and if you don’t like it, GTFO. Second of all, I am not on this recording, although I am intensely familiar with this song. We don’t really play it all that much, so this is sort of a Spirit Kid deep track that I think everyone should hear.

Why does everyone need to hear “Our Party Host” you might ask? This song is a feat of songwriting, recording and production in almost every way. Emeen Zarookian (AKA both the “spirit” and the “kid” behind Spirit Kid) weaves a long, flowing musical tale in “Our Party Host” that transcends “song” and becomes musical narrative in its structure. Made up of three larger sections – the paragraphs of the narrative – that repeat twice, “Our Party Host” is a journey and not just a string of smaller repeating sections.

Zarookian’s influences shine brightly in this song from the introduction onwards. He starts to Follow The Sun and trips through vivid scenes that include a busy, working bass melody (or, as Zarookian calls it, a belody) reminiscent of a certain left-handed bassist that we all know very well. The bass works its way up and down, with an especially delicious descent in the two-part chorus. The vocal melody hangs around the familiar corners, making the best part of the show the little twists and turns in those corners that are melody changes. Zarookian’s vocal performance is personable and almost conspiratorial; as if he is singing to just you. And maybe he is.

Sidewalk Driver – “Radio”

So many artists are trying to make viral campaigns to promote their music, because, well viral campaigns are the thing you’re supposed to make now. Why? Because it’s viral, duh. But Sidewalk Driver shows the truth of the matter – viral campaigns are generated artificially to create buzz for other things. Our buddies from Sidewalk Driver kind of cut out the middleman of the campaign and just create viral music. As in it gets in your head and gets cozy – because it’s not going anywhere for a while.

“Radio” is a piece that has texture but remains basic-sounding. This is because it relies upon its tonic and its closest and dearest of friendly intervals in both chord progression and melody. The progression keeps moving – but it always remembers where its home is, and no, Happy Gilmore, it is not too good for its home. This gives the listener someplace to hang their hat – and know it will be there when they return. “Radio” becomes a familiar surrounding to the listener almost instantly, no doubt due to their composition.

The band passed along some info with this track, and it seems very appropriate. This song is about a dear friend of singer Tad McKitterick who passed away in 2004, just before Sidewalk Driver became a band. This is important to the track in that it shows the spirit of the band, even when dealing with such solemn subject matter. Sidewalk Driver turns it into a true tribute in “Radio,” which even ends with a soundclip of his friend’s music.

Bang Camaro – “Pleasure (Pleasure)”

This one comes at your from what I consider to be the second wave of Bang Camaro songs. “Pleasure (Pleasure)” is notable as a Bang Camaro track as it not only has a chorus, but it also has a verse and even a (gasp!) prechorus. This may very well be Bang Camaro’s Abbey Road side 2 medley. The way these dudes (and they are dudes, please make no mistake) work, you get three strong, powerful, beer-soaked sections of song, all equally energizing.

“Pleasure (Pleasure)” really works the entire Bang Camaro choir as singers – it makes the listener realize that this isn’t just a bunch of dudes spitting beer in the air – they are all of them talented vocalists. This isn’t a pickup game in the beer league, this is an allstar game that also happens to feature a lot of beer. The choir delivers everything you might want, need or expect. I would be willing to bet that the “Ooh yeah!” tag near the end of the main chorus was totally spontaneous, because – well, listen to it. Before it happens, you know it’s happening. You need it to happen. And that, friends if Bang Camaro’s speciality.

Bang Camaro isn’t just the 20-odd men and their soundman-baffling mic setup, it’s also the stellar band that sets up in front of them. Lead guitarists/shreddhedds Bryn Bennett and Alex Necochea deliver a sinuous duet of sizzling leads, crafting the brand of guit-harmony that is only possible when the two guitarists are excessively skilled and standing back to back, leaning on each other in the most rock and roll way possible. “Pleasure (Pleasure)” brings this rock from Bang Camaro to you; creating a fully immersive listening experience that makes you feel like you are part of the band after the third measure or so. And since they’re so big, you probably are.

Download it!

Want to submit your band’s song to C.D. On Songs?
To be reviewed in a C.D. On Songs column, please:

*Be a Boston-based band/artist.
*Email a single mp3/m4a/etc. (or a download link to one) to cdonsongs (at) gmail (dot) com, with the subject line “C.D. on Songs” (DO NOT send us a bunch of songs and make us pick, we will ignore you). We require a file – not a streaming link.
*Include album cover art if you have any. If you don’t, a band photo or logo is acceptable.
*Tell us when you want to see it! Give us the date of your show and we’ll make sure it runs as close as possible to that day. No kidding.

We will assume that we have your permission to make the song downloadable on Boston Band Crush (readers will want to hear it, after all). If that’s not ok with you, say so and provide us with a link to the song on an embeddable player like ReverbNation – something we can include in the post (and not just link to).

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