TWO GALLANTS / THE BLOOM AND THE BLIGHT
Alternately explosive and restrained, the aptly titled The Bloom and the Blight is a meditation on past and present - melodic fury matched with the eloquent, confessional lyricism that has made Two Gallants an enduring favorite of both fans and critics.
Capturing the sound of a new beginning, The Bloom and the Blight celebrates the band's much anticipated reunion following a multi-year break. It is the work of Two Gallants, fully matured, the band fearlessly exploring new ground in search of a sound that defines a very personal catharsis.
"We've both gone through some hard stuff personally, so this album has that element of the cathartic, of a release of tension," explains Adam Stephens (guitar/vocals), "We had taken time off, and we did different things, played in different bands. And in doing those things, being apart and redefining ourselves in that way, we were able to come together with a fresh approach."
That approach includes everything from the distorted ferocity of "Halcyon Days" to the heart-wrenching acoustic ballad, "Sunday Souvenirs". Songs like "Ride Away" boast all the prowling, anthemic strut of classic metal; while tracks like "Winter's Youth" start sweet and sad, than shatter into huge and heavy choruses.
The album's first single, "Broken Eyes," has already become a crowd favorite with its raw, aching harmonies and weeping harmonica.
"Our past albums have been a lot more folk and blues-based, and I tried to move away from that to some extent," Stephens says of the band's fresh direction, "I wanted to find a rawness in the music and take us back where we'd come from, from punk rock and grunge in particular, to our childhood, in some ways."
Friends since they were five, the band grew up playing music together, from early teen-age house parties in their hometown of San Francisco, to multiple world tours. Throughout their extensive travels over the past 8 years including recent tours through China and South Korea , Two Gallants have continued to evolve, both musically and personally.
The bands' very first single, "Nothing to You" (from their 2004 debut The Throes), started off a string of cult classics that helped define their signature sound. The success of the sophomore album, What the Toll Tells (2006), delivered a few more singles, including "Steady Rollin'" and "Las Cruces Jail". The wistful "Seems Like Home to Me" from The Scenery of Farewell EP (2007) and "Despite What You've Been Told" from 2007's self-titled album, provide the framework of the bands development into The Bloom and the Blight.
"This record is important for us - as a next step," explains Tyson Vogel (drums/vocals), "It's a passage into adulthood in a lot of ways. We had a hiatus of a few years, and each of us went through things that we had to go through. This record breaks the silence."
In many ways, The Bloom and the Blight reflects the separate journeys of the duo during these past years apart. We hear Vogel finding his own distinct musical voice on the guitar-driven track he penned for the record, "Decay". "It's about a fissure of self," he says of the song, "how things you can't control, can wound your heart."
And everywhere on The Bloom and the Blight is an urgent, emotional poignancy, a visceral undercurrent that stems, in part, from Stephens' experience recovering from his injuries after a serious van accident.
"I wasn't able to play guitar or piano for about four months," he remembers, "but I started writing songs for the record as soon as I was healthy enough."
Recorded by John Congleton (Explosions In The Sky, Modest Mouse, St. Vincent) at the legendary Fantasy Studios in Berkeley and Tiny Telephone in San Francisco, the sound of The Bloom and the Blight is nothing less than epic. The duo roars and sweeps, guitar and drums fusing into something larger than life.
"He's an artist in his own right," Vogel says of Congleton, "he put his own emotional investment into the songs. And as a result, he took us to another level."
Indeed. The Bloom and the Blight is Two Gallants not only pushing themselves to that next level, but also exploring a multitude of new directions along the way.
"We went on different paths these past years," explains Vogel, "but I think we share a common feeling, a commitment to try to transcend what we've gone throughand build something stronger out of it."
"Everyone becomes sea urchins and rats at night," says PAPA's Darren Weiss, laughing slyly. "It's the nature of being young."
Like with an inside joke you know, you smirk along, succumbing to a moment of reverie. The suggestion of crawling so close to the dirt floods in bastard memories. And so, when the versatile drummer, singer and principle songwriter next puts his band's musical efforts in simple terms such as, setting out to make "American soul music with a punk-rock mentality" on its forthcoming EP, A Good Woman is Hard to Find, you nod along, like, yeah that sounds about right.
There's a poetic purity that runs through the songs, suggesting devious truths and well told lies, rolling along with a natural swagger that thoughtlessly evokes hard-hitting shakes and slow-swinging shimmies. Weiss' earnest vibrato often takes on a Springsteen-like growl in its best moments, crooning reminiscences on "I Am The Lion King," "I got to make a you a woman. You got to make me a man." In each song's groove there's a dangerous sexiness to PAPA-the furious grip of the dance floor, the cold pavement outside, and the way you kiss when you're not sure you'll ever see the person again or whether you'd even want to.
A Good Woman is Hard to Find is an album as ripe for romance as it is partying. It has moments of aggression and simple bliss, with a classic sense of harmony, melody and style. It's a modern, rough-and-tumble take on classic soul, without a doubt. With the help of Weiss' musical partner, friend-since-childhood, bassist Danny Presant, the tracks gain a hip-hop sensibility that separates PAPA from simple revivalists and instead into timeless territory. It's an exacting and revelatory ode to what's wrong with modern romance but what won't stop one from giving it another go. Meanwhile, the cover art shows a waifish, made-up girl, smoking a cigarette, smiling with a come-hither wink that suggests a good time but history argues otherwise. Here we go again. It's an instant testament to our hero's exhausting trials in love and those superficial layers that brutally slice through once promising, meaningful connections.
Weiss and Presant grew up in Los Angeles and have always had a home in California. Weiss is also a passionate painter and writer of prose.
PAPA's A Good Woman is Hard to Find will be released October 4th on Hit City U.S.A. and Psychedelic Judaism.
THE DEAD SHIPS
Electric Ahab is the first full-length record by Los Angeles garage rock band The Dead Ships the duo the LA Times calls "a bluesy wrecking ball." In this album the two men's powerful, stripped down chords and catchy, pop-inflected hooks feel like a more mature iteration of what has drawn the ears of critics across the country: the melodic reconnection of garage rock with its soulful R&B roots. And true to the garage rock ethos, the band used vintage analog gear to record the tracks over one weekend, in two takes to 2"-tape. Electric Ahab is available now on Bandcamp.com and iTunes.
It was during graveyard shift smoke breaks at a t.v. post-production house in LA where guitarist/vocalist Devlin McCluskey and drummer Christopher Spindelilus discovered their shared musical interests and decided to play together. They transformed Devlin's singer/songwriter style into a sound uniquely their owndeveloping the crisp, pop and blues inflected garage rock songs found on their eponymous demo EP (2011.)
The blitz of packed shows and media attention following their demo EP release came swiftly: the duo went on to play sold-out events at legendary LA venues The Echo, The Troubadour and The Echoplex with King Khan, Anthony Greene, Kevin Devine, Girl in a Coma all while garnering blown-away reviews from the LA Times, Buzzbands.LA and OC Weekly, with the latter calling their live shows "visceral and primal".
The Dead Ships ended their first year with a month's residency at Central in Santa Monica, CA followed by their first US Tour in support of their 7" vinyl release, where they were officially selected for 2011's CMJ Music Marathon. In addition to having released their new record, 2012 found the duo nominated as "Best New Emerging Artist, LA" by Deli Magazine and heading to Austin, TX for their first SXSW.
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