Begonia, Alice Howe, Homeschool, Alfa Mist, Thomas Lauderdale & Satan’s Pilgrims, Castle Rat, and Dogma Society are the artists among these press releases for March.
Begonia – “The Only One”: Powerhouse R&B-inspired vocals delivered with great confidence over layered electro-pop instrumentation: this could compete with anything that Adele has released. This is a song off “Powder Blue,” the highly anticipated new album from Begonia—the solo project of alt-pop Canadian artist Alexa Dirks—out on Birthday Cake Records. The album was written and produced by Begonia, Matt Peters, and Matthew Schellenberg (Royal Canoe) with contributions from Jason Agel (Björk, Kelly Clarkson, Prince) and Joe LaPorta (FKA twigs, beabadoobee, Solange). Of “The Only One,” Begonia recalls, “you know that feeling when you think everyone around you is having more fun in their lives than you, so you force yourself out of bed and into the world only to realize you just want to be at home back under the covers? That feeling of running up to the club doors like you are about to enter the best night of your life, but then you end up waiting at the back of the line freezing cold wishing you’d never gone out. I wrote this being like…‘I can’t be the only one, right?’” The new collection of songs wrestles with life’s thornier moments in more evocative ways. When describing the namesake behind the new album, Begonia turns to vivid imagery: her baby blanket, the airiness of clouds on a summer day, chlorine-filled water in a hotel pool, circa-1970s Elvis Presley wearing an ill-fitting jumpsuit, and her collection of faded denim jackets. In celebration of the new album, Begonia is set for a run of U.S. shows in select cities this spring. The dates include a performance at New York’s Mercury Lounge as well as further shows at Los Angeles’ Hotel Cafe, Nashville’s The Basement, Portland’s Hawthorne Lounge, and Seattle’s Sunset Tavern. Begonia has also unveiled the music video for “The Only One”, directed by Gwen Trutnau.
Alice Howe – “Somebody’s New Lover Now”: A country-rock tune delivered with confident vocals, harmonies, and an uplifting tone. This is the second single from Los Angeles-based, Boston-bred singer-songwriter Alice Howe’s forthcoming LP, “Circumstance,” due out on April 21. The song’s accompanying video features in-studio footage of Howe and the band recording at FAME in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where the album was made. “‘Somebody’s New Lover Now’ came out of a phone call with my ex,” she explains. “It was months after I made the difficult decision to move on from the relationship, and the lyrics explore my conflicting feelings of jealousy, disbelief, sadness, and relief that he had finally done the same. But the uptempo musical arrangement, with its ringing electric guitars and Hammond B3 hooks, transformed this painful experience into an empowering, uplifting one,” she adds. “I feel that every time I listen to the recording and each time, I sing it.” Recorded in two sessions at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where the voices of icons like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Otis Redding once shook the walls, “Circumstance” channels their spirits with 11 stirring tracks that pull no punches diving into the vagaries of the heart and her own personal journey. As an old soul inside a 30-something millennial, the golden-voiced Howe puts her stamp on Americana’s venerable strands with 10 standout originals evoking both the classic singer-songwriters and the seminal music that once filled airwaves, roadhouses, and juke joints. “There is so much history there, and I did feel like there was a certain amount of pressure to deliver and be a singer,” Howe recalls of FAME Studios. “I’m in this room with Aretha Franklin and Etta James looking down on me, and it’s like that Mona Lisa thing where the eyes follow you around the room and you’re like: ‘Hi, ladies!’ Those are singers with a capital S.” “Circumstance,” produced and arranged by Howe’s creative partner, Freebo, a veteran bass player and former Bonnie Raitt band member, displays her vocal prowess and introspective writing in abundance, mining both her heart and her musical tastes for a deep, personal journey across an Americana soundscape dotted with blues, folk, country, soul, and rock.
Homeschool – “Bound To Be”: Vibrant organs and percussive beats progressively build a powerful anthemic indie-pop song. Homeschool, the solo project of Tom D’Agustino has shared a brand new single entitled “Bound To Be,” their first release of 2023. D’Agustino (he/they), who moonlights as a recurring star on Dear Edward on Apple TV+, has spent the past year experimenting with music and masculinity, inching closer to what they feel is an “authentic” way of being in the world. As a newcomer to acting, D’Agustino is reveling in the opportunity to explore the worlds of different characters, to “experiment with who I’m able to become,” he says. “Bound To Be,” says D’Agustino, “blends all these different genres like electronic music, salsa beats, and indie rock, to show me that my music can be more than one thing – that it can be unfixed and fluid.” As a genderfluid person, Homeschool is fascinated by the messiness of life and creativity. “I’m finally allowing myself to exist outside of the neat boxes that society tries to place us all in – with my music, my acting, and my identity.” But “Bound To Be” also offers a lyrical warning to D’Agustino’s burgeoning sense of self: “I’m bound to be pumping gasoline.” Translation: this probably won’t end with you being some famous rockstar. Their response: “I think I’m fine with that.” “I may not be bound for some sort of abstract glory,” D’Agustino says, “but I am bound to be honest. I am bound to be someone who lives ‘just now,’ authentically, truthfully, and unabashedly. I am bound to express my fluidity, my perspective, and my gripes, on my own terms. And I’m bound to fucking enjoy it.” Last year, D’Agustino made a splash with a brand new EP, “Homeschool: Book II.” While the preceding release “Homeschool: Book I “— including breakout single “Smartest Man (ft. Samia),” which was recently sync’d in Cha Cha Real Smooth, a buzzing Apple TV+ independent film starring Dakota Johnson — served as an introduction to D’Agustino’s new creative endeavor as “Homeschool, Book II” immersed the listener, and D’Agustino himself, into what this Homeschool universe is becoming.
Alfa Mist – “Aged Eyes”: A cascade of jazzy guitars with breezy vocals for a soul-inflected song and an exotic and calming vibe completed with emotive strings and keys. This is the latest single from “Variables,” Alpha Mist’s new album out April 21st via ANTI-. The track features bass and vocals from his longtime collaborator, Kaya Thomas-Dyke, and follows the release of recent singles “4th Feb (Stay Awake)” and “BC.” Throughout “Aged Eyes,” Alfa Mist leads the way on keys while Thomas-Dyke blends her gossamer vocal over a finger-picking guitar melody to swell into a strings-laden, cinematic chorus. The moving song about a yearning hope, draped in memorably emotive piano melodies and intuitive grooves also features Jamie Leeming (guitar), Avishai Rozen (drums), Peggy Nolan (cello), and Junior Alli-Balogun (percussion). The London-based multi-hyphenate is also set to return to the road for dates in the UK, EU, and United States this spring, and follows his sold-out 2022 tour. Alfa’s live presence is packed with urgent energy and speaks of his restless creativity – a driving force that has enabled his remarkable work ethic to date. Alfa is yet to be boxed into a specific genre as his music spans everything from hip-hop beat-making to producing for artists such as rapper Loyle Carner, composing neoclassical works for the London Contemporary Orchestra, and reworking tracks from composer Ólafur Arnalds and pioneering jazz label Blue Note. Since the release of his first full-length project Nocturne in 2015, Alfa has established himself as one of the UK’s most focused and distinct musical voices, and he has worked with the likes of Jordan Rakei and Tom Misch, drummer Richard Spaven, producer Lester Duval and singer Emmavie. Building on the success of 2017’s debut album, “Antiphon, “which has amassed over 10 million views on YouTube, 2019’s “Structuralism” and 2021’s debut for ANTI-, “Bring Backs,” “Variables” now finds Alfa moving forwards with renewed intensity and purpose. “The whole album is more uptempo and influenced by the freedom of returning to gigs,” Alfa explains. “It feels like I’m coming back to my early days of making grime beats and creating tracks that make me want to bop my head fast.”
Thomas Lauderdale & Satan’s Pilgrims – “Malagueña”: Gershwin reimagined as surf guitar music: this is the result of a strange but successful collaboration between Pink Martini founder Thomas M. Lauderdale and Oregon surf music legends Satan’s Pilgrims. “Meets The Pilgrims,” the long-awaited collaboration between both artists, dates back to 1993 after Lauderdale stumbled on a Pilgrims’ performance in Portland, and, in a flash, envisioned a surf version of his favorite piece of music, Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Three years later Lauderdale began work on two albums simultaneously. The first was Pink Martini’s Sympathique, which would go on to launch Lauderdale’s plucky “little orchestra” into world renown, beginning a musical career that is nearing thirty years of touring, with performances in the world’s most famous venues, and which has spanned 11 celebrated studio recordings. The other album that was underway in 1996 was “Thomas Lauderdale Meets the Pilgrims.” Nearly 25 years later, a hiatus from Pink Martini touring during the pandemic led Lauderdale to unearth the project and commit to finishing it. He re-recorded some piano parts with engineer Steve Sundholm, brought in the Portland State University chamber choir to record some choral parts, recruited self-proclaimed “All-American Jewish Lesbian Folk Singer” Phranc to sing on a cover of the Beach Boys “Girls on the Beach,” and created new mixes of eleven songs with engineers Sundholm and Dave Friedlander, to create an album of blazing new interpretations of beloved standards, alongside classic surf music excursions, tied together and infused throughout with Lauderdale’s grand piano. “Malagueña” is the first taste of the album. About the project, Lauderdale says “One hot summer night in 1993 I saw the Pilgrims play, and I fell hard for these über-sexy studs wearing capes, playing irresistible surf instrumentals. I made my way backstage and suggested that we create a surf version of “Rhapsody in Blue.” We started working together soon after. This album is a physical manifestation of an era of unbridled optimism and artistic collaborative spirit in Portland, Oregon’s cultural history.” Drummer Ted Pilgrim says, about the collaboration, “Thomas and The Pilgrims share a love of catchy melodies, classic songs, and mid-century art and culture. We both brought our own worlds to this project and enjoyed finding out where they intersected. Thomas’s unique style and vision infused our creative process, and I think he also loved being able to let loose a bit with us.”
Castle Rat – “Dagger Dragger”: A head-banging heavy metal number with sexy female vocals adding swagger and sex appeal. “Dagger Dragger”— the second single from a series of upcoming releases from Castle Rat — was recorded in a 150-year-old abandoned church at a secret location in Philadelphia, PA. The single, which serves as a follow-up to the band’s most recent release “Feed The Dream,” was produced and engineered by Davis M. Shubs (Grave Bathers) with Thomas Johnsen (Thantophobe). The mixing process was entrusted to the wise and wizardly hands of Rafferty Jennings Swink (Evolfo) in Brooklyn, NY, and mastered by JJ Golden of Golden Mastering in Ventura, CA. Speaking on the single, bandleader Riley Pinkerton writes: “‘Dagger Dragger’ narrates the tale of a skilled huntress of demons, beasts, and scoundrels, as she battles against a vengeful enchantment. Pursued by a mysterious Shadow Beast, the huntress pays the ultimate price for slaying the beloved henchman of a most powerful sorceress.” The new track also comes alongside an accompanying music video, directed by Gabriel Duque. The video is described as such: “The Dagger Dragger — a huntress of demons, beasts, and scoundrels, faces a vengeful enchantment after slaying the beloved henchman of a powerful sorceress. Plagued by visions of a mysterious Shadow Beast, the Dagger Dragger hunts the beast through an archway of nameless ruins and into the corner of a mystical Realm, where nothing is as it seems. As she plunges her dagger into the heart of the Beast, she discovers it to be no beast at all, as the body of her Lover collapses into her arms. Overwhelmed by the blood on her hands and flashbacks to intimate moments between her and her Lover, she is driven to an act of desperation. She performs a forbidden resurrection ceremony to restore life to her Lover, at the risk of a most serious cost. Death Herself — The Rat Reaperess — is beckoned into the Realm by such a ceremony. In order to restore natural balance to the underworld, the Reaperess must claim the soul of another to replace the one stolen from her grasp. In her final battle, the Dagger Dragger pays for her Lover’s life with her own, as the Reaperess turns the huntress’ own famed blade upon her.” Stay tuned for more from Castle Rat, coming soon.
Dogma Society – “HORNS”: A raw, rather dark, and multi-genre song incorporating elements of grunge, alt-rock, and hip-hop. This is the new single from Dogma Society released alongside a music video, via Ninetone Records. Hailing from Salt Lake City, UT, Dogma Society has been lauded for years now in the underground music scene where they call home, and “HORNS” proves they’re moving up in the world. Of the track, the band wrote: “The idea for ‘HORNS’ all started when we were sitting at a friend’s house. Sinek initially started to play chords on a synth and from there, everything came to life. The emotion and feel coming from the synth pad inspired everyone to start writing. No speaking, no shouting ideas, it all just happened, which is how most of our music is created. The concept of the actual lyrics tells feelings and emotions about love, struggles we deal with on a day to day, and how we are trying to overcome all of these things. This is a vulnerable song from us all individually and you can hear the rawness from each instrument to each verse. The drums were inspired by 90’s boom bap hip hop, the lead guitar was inspired by bands like Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, and the synths were inspired by artists like Gorillaz (which all of us share a similar love for). After it was all done being created, we instantly headed to the studio and laid down the record you hear today.” The intro and chorus begin with vocalist Dirty Chino and lead into the first verse sung by Lord Sinek. The second verse is rapped by K8OH followed by a guitar solo played by Sabby Wolfgang. The closing verse is rapped by Nubes and finishes with the chorus.
Brief Encounters: New Album Releases 3-17-23 – 3-23-22
a coming of age for modern Arabic pop and not Arabic Sahara garage
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – August 1985 (Volume 17, Number 3)
squirming around on her back like she’d just received a double dose of injectable pig wormer
Money, Money, Money: Buying Tickets In 2023
one of the worst endings to a major concert
Sharon Van Etten At The Troubadour, Sunday March 19th 2023
“I always dreamed of playing the Troubadour”
Single by Single review Of Paul McCartney’s The 7″Singles Box Reviewed
a master of melody and less so a master of genre
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – July 1985 (Volume 17, Number 2)
Bill Holdship’s piece on Prince is excellent
Going Steady: New Singles 3-17-23 – 3-23-23 Reviewed
it is like a change in the drill direction