I haven’t really been updating lately. I’m not sure if I should apologize or what, but I do feel guilty about it and feel I should give an explanation. This site started off as a hobby, and when it comes to hobbies, I follow a circle of obsessing until I burn out until I obsess again. There’s part of the reason. Another part is that I am hopelessly infatuated with MY NEW BAND NEW CANADA, which has been taking up quite a bit of my time. What the hell, as long as I’m plugging, here’s the old one too. I might as well milk a couple of downloads out of all this attention.
27teethdc is a huge labor of love for me. Music is my favorite thing in the world and I live to discover the way it connects with people, whether they’re creators, interpreters, or listeners. I never crafted a formal mission statement or anything like that, but I’m committed to writing thoughtful, honest reviews and profiles of artists I genuinely like. If I don’t enjoy anything about a submission, I probably won’t review it. I just don’t see the point otherwise.
Writing these reviews is equally wonderful and frustrating. I take immense pride in what I do and I work really hard to write about acts that interest me. That takes a lot of searching around, listening, fact-checking, thesaurus abuse, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I love this SO MUCH! But I don’t get paid, I barely get submissions, and sometimes I have to take a break.
I took one and it felt great! I really missed doing this, though, and keeping up with all the internet friends I made. So I guess this is a long and sappy way to announce BREAK’S OVER! Expect new content in the next couple of days and even more after that. I’ll probably get obsessed again, and I’ll probably get burnt out again, and I’ll probably stop again. But I’ll be here and listening no matter what.
“I am going to die,” says Roof Doctor. Well, yes, we’re all going to die someday, but I think Roof Doctor is implying their time has come. Color me insensitive, but I don’t believe them. A sense of pending doom usually brings out desperation, or insight, or at the very least some sort of confidence that something definite is about to happen. Roof Doctor, on the other hand, can’t stand behind their own emotions. Their lyrics are peppered with stubbornly living neuroses, like “am I allowed to feel…” or “would it be wrong to say…” Even the morbid title track has little to do with death. There’s certainly a sense of resignation, but with a clear possibility of escape if and when the right kind of love comes along.
It’s not that I don’t sympathize. Hard times are hard. It fucking sucks when you’re fresh out of college and the only job you can get is washing dishes. Roof Doctor maybe know a little something that, but they’d rather use those experiences to add a sense of place to the real subject on record, which is how they’re hopelessly miserable and lonely and alone. Never mind that there’s five of them, and if their songs are any indication, they can apparently rally more friends to go to the beach so they can all pretend they’re homeless for an afternoon.
Condescending fantasies like that are what bug me most about this album. Because beyond their heart on sleeve boo-hooing, Roof Doctor sound like a bunch of entitled dopes. They’re tired of the kids (note: I checked, these guys are all in their early 20s) callously telling them that things aren’t that bad. They’re tired of trying to be nice to heartless women that won’t simply give them a relationship. They will just DIE if they have to keep working at that most unimaginable of indignities, the minimum wage job. But maybe, they won’t… if they can only get a human female to hug them and love them and tell them everything’s ok and definitely not cheat on them.
I’ll say that I liked the music alright. It’s diverse, saxophone fronted surf-punk that could be really good once they grow up. I’ll give them some teeth for that. Baby teeth.
About 7 years ago, I worked for a music licensing company (which will remain nameless) that was aggressively pushing a breathless singer-songwriter inspired mainly by 90s tv theme songs (and who will also remain nameless). This artist seemed like a charismatic person and the songs weren’t BAD in any way. But they were bland, and worse, obsolete. The team moved ahead anyway, promoting in one myopic way after another. The one sincere element of their campaign centered around telling people that the artist’s fake-sounding last name was indeed real.
This artist is still around today, just as unrecognizable. At some point, there was a genre shift to rootsy alt-country and one single Kickstarter-fueled album. In this same span of time, James Michael Haitchwai made 6 full-lengths. He never got anywhere either, but he had a better time doing it. He also got more people interested in his music than ol’ Emerson Devilhorse up there.
James has been a DC fixture for a long time, both as a solo artist and in the mad science rock band Surgery Dot Com. He goes out of his way to prevent the kind of listen-and-forget experience that Big Music thrives upon, so you probably don’t know about him unless you’re way underground. He quits music as often as he releases albums, and the albums are covered in creepy notebook sketches and unparseable song titles. They’re also filled with excellent, exploratory punk rock betraying a heart that just might care.
His latest is a digital-only 6-track called “Dad-Roc Demos.” This being James, it’s not clear if these are old demos, new releases, works in progress, or all of the above. However, it is a more intimate selection than his prior full-band works. James sings in a Lou Barlow-style croon and mainly uses clean guitars that add a trebly edge to his jagged chord voicings. On the whole, there’s a laid back kind of aggression that suggests JMH is growing up, but he left in a few blasts of noise lest you think he’s gone soft.
James made “Dad-Roc Demos” available for free streaming and download through his bandcamp page. He then announced his official retirement.
Local duo Hand Grenade Job are a genreless enigma. Equal parts music and performance art, their approach is cryptic and minimal. Lyrics are often vaguely related images and repeated in unison melodies until a meaning sets in. Skeletal guitar notes and toy percussion set the eerie atmosphere on record. Seeing it live adds to the mystery. The members arrange the stage to look like a suburban living room, with amps, xylophones, and music boxes among tables, lamps, photographs, and fake plants. The band is as likely to clap and recite jumprope chants as they are to play any of their items. Their songs seem like soundtracks to rituals. That seems to be the desired reaction.
Hand Grenade Job’s official release is a self-titled tape. Its six songs are succinct compared to their free-form shows, but not at the expense of their unpredictability. The compact standards appear early on, and the remaining tracks center around occult jams. Side A carries most of the melodic weight with several vocal-driven pieces, while Side B is dominated by the dark atmospherics of “Witchcraft” before colliding to an end with the cacophanous “Anti-Fascist Hex.” The experience is chilling and notably unique when compared to their already singular shows.
Besides arty uniqueness, Hand Grenade Job comes to the table with the singing skills to pull everything off. They hold their voices firm and stay consistent across long drones. They project specific emotional qualities and switch between them mechanically and easily. With the limited accompaniment, this is like a high-wire act, and I’m impressed. The band’s virtuosity is in taking things that shouldn’t belong together and making them work.
Just when I wonder if anyone cares about real prog anymore, along come Raleigh, NC’s Savage Knights. I am seriously giddy over finding these guys because they happen to play my favorite music to ever exist. It’s full of jagged brutality that’s heavy on both the improvisation and, unexpectedly, the funk. Imagine Jimi’s Band of Gypsys embracing free jazz, or maybe a secular version of Zorn’s Masada. It’s not pretty music, it’s equally challenging for both player and listener, and it’s from an old enough place that it’s often snubbed as pointlessly anachronistic. Savage Knights aren’t doing themselves any favors by exploring this stuff, but that doesn’t stop them from bringing it anyway.
And boy, do they bring it! Their new album, “Halo of Wire,” consists of 7 extended jazz-rock workouts. The band has a real strength for creating solid, memorable riffs that they deconstruct into pure sound and back again. Cellist Chris Eubank and guitarist/reed player Crowmeat Bob handle most of the solos, often playing over one another with Ornette Coleman-style ferocity. My favorite parts, though, are the understated basslines of Joey Chorley. Dark and curt, he grounds the band in a way that makes their noisier workouts sound apocalyptic.
Artists working in this vein are only as good as their ability to be spontaneous. In this regard, Savage Knights are flat out fucking formidable. Their music is full of personality and imagination, taking you on an insane trip with no dead air.
Oh, shoegaze. It promises so much and yet so many bands fail to deliver. There’s a handful of Slowdives and Kevin Shieldses in the world sincerely interested in the compositional properties of volume and harmonic distortion. They’re outnumbered by the dimly lit crowd of reverb jocks ahh-ing wordlessly over the same one chord miasma. It’s the music of gear worship. Ideally, it opens the potential of loud, dreamy psychedelia beyond classic rock-style riffing. More often than not, it’s a chance for eBay hounds to show off what their new rigs can do.
DC’s Dangerosa understands this well. They live and breathe shoegaze, and they know that it works best when the acoustic space is treated like another band member. They tracked their new album, “Massif,” in a church to allow the sounds to blend, refract, and form incidental melodies. Unfortunately, the results of this are a mixed blessing (pun intended). At times the recording feels like a distant wash, to the point of drowning out the band’s most characteristic element, vocalist Avé Luke-Simpson. Her long notes and emotive vibrato are an enlivening addition, and it’s a shame just how often she’s lost behind cymbals and flanging guitars.
Dangerosa have a refreshingly thoughtful approach to shoegaze and they sound like they put on a killer show. You have “Massif” to tide you over until your next chance to see them live.
Princess Reason are a perpetually heartbroken indie pop band from College Park. They record hushed love songs that rarely break the minute and a half mark. They’re sung with warbly vocals and cut off suddenly, as if they’re secret messages tracked in rare moments of privacy. Singer Jack Stansbury coyly mumbles the lyrics, which fluctuate between bursts of raw feeling and their awkward aftermath. All in all, it’s music that excels at creating a very specific setting of youthful longing and melodrama.
Princess Reason’s new cassette, the “Always Pretty” EP, delivers 4 songs in under 10 minutes. It’s enjoyable and it showcases the germ of a good idea. The band works well together and there’s no uncharacteristic moments. The problem is there aren’t a whole lot of moments, period. The release comes on strong and retreats away immediately, cursing its stupid hormones. Perhaps that’s the whole point, but personally I’d have liked to hear more.
“Always Pretty” is available now from Tricot Records. I checked the delivery methods, but unfortunately, they don’t include an option where a shy boy sticks the tape in your pocket while hiding his eyes under a hoodie.
For those of you unfamiliar with MacGregor Burns, I’ll summarize the experience. Mac is based in Baltimore, but he travels the country with a dog named Sylvie and a guitar he got from a thrift store. He mostly plays living rooms. Those are the static elements, everything else is up to chance. I’ve seen him do sets of absurdist comedy, I’ve seen him drop trou to win over an unkind audience, I’ve seen him rope in local musician friends for singalong jams, and I’ve seen him make it all work. Every now and then, he lowers his guard enough to play a song and that’s when things get interesting.
For all the jokes and nonsense banter, Mac’s music is grounded and harsh. His blues-like guitar lines are stark and operate on their own broken sense of groove. His lyrics veer into yelping and howling with no clear logic, and the words that come through are dark. Sometimes his eyes are shut tight as if in a trance, sometimes they’re wide open and he stares down everybody in front of him. Then he stops playing, the spell is broken, and his guitar becomes an oar as he pantomimes being in a rowboat.
Mac’s new album is called “Chill Sade.” It’s more fleshed out than his previous works, but only ever so slightly with light keyboard tones and sparse drum machine beats. The results are interesting, if somewhat mixed. Some of the tracks come off awkward as Mac can’t quite catch up to the beat. But many of the new songs are warmer than ever and successfully fuse the two halves of MacGregor’s personality. “That Woolly Moon,” for instance, has an optimistic sing-along vibe, while “The Wild Frontier” maximizes the new setup across a three part epic.
“Chill Sade” is uneven overall, but it’s the kind of experiment I love to hear. MacGregor Burns pushes himself to write in a new format, investigate new subjects, and be more than another brilliant performer that falls short on record. It’s a wandering, frequently brilliant journal entry of an album from a man that spends most of his life on the road.
“Brothers Kardell’s sounds on SoundCloud” by Brothers Kardell
I’m going to confess something right now. It might discredit me completely, but it’s been gnawing at my soul for some time and I need to get it out there. I… have a music degree. Please understand, I mean no harm. I thought it was a natural thing to do - I love music, ergo, I should go to school for it. I found out that one does NOT study music if they want to work with music, much like future lawyers don’t begin as paralegals. The music school mindset is one of a monastic adherence to Doing Things Right. Smooth and tight are the orders of the day. Want to rock the boat? Try writing a progression in fourths. It’s a dream background for future accountants. As far as getting people’s attention goes, you’re better off at the psychology building.
Except sometimes it works in the opposite way. Every now and again a couple of weirdos slip into the classically-trained diamond factory. They come out with impeccable ears, clinical technique, and a healthy disrespect for stylistic rigidity. Our local example are the Brothers Kardell, a couple of Peabody Institute brats and IRL brothers writing rhythmic etudes based on everything they ever heard. Their music blurs the lines between sheer brilliance and sheer trolling. Soaring contrapuntal melodies crash into samples chopped and jackhammered beyond recognition. Dad rock guitars flail for respect over farty synth parties. Anyone can upset a yoga class with Skrillex breaks, but few would do it in compound meters.
Their stuff is calculated to get under your skin and dare you to keep listening in a way I haven’t heard since that Unicorns album 10 years ago. It’s ingenious and infectious and wild, so wild that it exists only in the outer frontiers of SoundCloud. But I feel so strongly about the Super Kardellio Bros. that I’m going to write them up anyway. 27 big smirking, caffeine stained teeth. Our first perfect score. Congratulations, boys!
“Beautiful, Peaceful, Ghosts” EP by the Escape Artist
DC cranial rock quartet The Escape Artist went through a watershed moment a couple of years ago. After spending the better part of a decade playing algebraic post-hardcore, they took a brief hiatus. They rested. They got married and had kids. Then they reemerged as a calmer and, dare I say, more carefree sort of band. The cragged melodies spread out into rolling hills, the clamorous music became as urgent as a stargazing session on a summer night. The band that once spotlighted the difficult and uncomfortable seems to have achieved sincere, cosmic peace with themselves.
The Escape Artist’s new EP in this style is called “Beautiful, Peaceful, Ghosts.” Like its name implies, these 4 songs are gentle and focused on setting a mood. The long notes glide through sparkling reverb, while the vocals are whispered as often as they’re sung. However, it would be a mistake to overlook the level of innovation at work. When the band slowly constructs and dissolves echoes on “Eta Carinae” or creates cathedrals of sound on the title track, they’re firmly comfortable in their new skins and achieving something advanced and novel. They’re still challenging their listeners, albeit in a more patient way. The payoff is worth it.