All posts tagged: Pete Chianca

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CD Review: Spottiswoode & His Enemies, “Wild Goosechase Expedition”

It’s a good bet that whoever says there’s no such thing as an original idea — in music or otherwise — has not taken a good close listen to Jonathan Spottiswoode. The London-raised performer has a popular following in New York City, but many might not know what to make of the gravelly-voiced singer-songwriter’s theatrical rock adventures, touched as they are with elements of jazz, folk, Broadway and Leonard Cohen-style poetic musings. Have I lost you yet? If you’re still reading, you may just be the target audience for “Wild Goosechase Expedition” (Old Soul Records), an ambitious, far-reaching 17-track song cycle that’s ostensibly about a tour gone bad but can be seen as nothing short of an analogy for life itself (the “Wild Goosechase” of the title). Or maybe they’re just a bunch of songs — with Spottiswoode, you never know. Spottiswoode breaks the album into four sections, kicking off with the innocuously titled “Setting Out” and gradually working toward the much darker “Starvation and Surrender” segment that closes out the record. Things start out …

CD Review: Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata, “The Hills are Alive”

Did you ever wonder what Tales from Topographic Oceans might sound like if it were written by Rodgers and Hammerstein instead of Jon Anderson and Steve Howe? Me neither, but that’s just the type of question that tends to pop into your head when listening to Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata’s The Hills are Alive (Canal Records), the instrumental rock quartet’s loopy re-imagining of the songs from The Sound of Music. Not that any of the songs, featuring a bevy of guest vocalists like Jane Siberry and Carole Pope, resemble the collected works of Yes, per se — although there are more than a few moments of progressive rock grandeur among the varied genres that make up the disc. It’s a whiplash-worthy tour de force through a melange of styles that, for the most part, have very little in common, other than being the last things in the world you’d associate with Rodgers and Hammerstein. Although on second thought, they do share one more thing: A clear love and respect for the material, which is probably why …

Farkakte Film Flashback: “Are You Ready for the Summer?” Edition

Given that as I write this, the forecast for the week is a steady snow starting on Tuesday and tapering off sometime in 2013, I have decided to spend the remainder of the winter in Aruba. Unfortunately, like James Taylor with Carolina, I can only afford to go there in my mind, where the airfares are cheap and I look much less globular and pasty while sunbathing. But imagining I’m warm and that my lawn doesn’t resemble the surface of the moon only goes so far. I find it’s also helpful to tune into some movies that put me in a more summery mood and remind me that in just a few short months I’ll be back at the beach, where I will be chewed to death by a giant shark. But even if Jaws (1975) has many of the elements that epitomize the summer movie, including sand, surf, skinny-dipping and Robert Shaw being bitten in half, it’s missing one important component of all great summer flicks: Bobcat Goldthwait in a Godzilla costume. Also Annette …

The Pop Culture Year That Wasn’t: Top Stories of (Fake) 2010

Popdose teams up with world-renowned CAP News for a look at the most important pop culture stories of the past year. February: Stern Gets Ellen, Kara DioGuardi to Kiss at Idol Audition HOLLYWOOD (CAP) – Howard Stern got off to a good start during his audition to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol, convincing fellow judges Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi to make out on camera. “C’mon, just one kiss. I won’t be able to concentrate on the contestants unless we get this out of the way,” Stern can be seen saying on the audition tape, which was acquired by TMZ.com. “Make out for 30 seconds and we can all get on with our day.” “OK, now with tongues,” he added when they finally acquiesced, prompting a three-minute kissing and fondling session. “Wow, that was really the last thing I expected to happen,” said Ellen afterward, adding it wasn’t the type of thing she’d usually do. DioGuardi, however, admitted that it’s the type of thing she does “all the time.” “I mean, just look at …

CD Review: Frank Turner, “Rock & Roll”

Leave it to British folk-rock rebel Frank Turner to come in under the wire for 2010 with Rock & Roll, a five-song EP that offers 17 of the most compelling minutes of music released this year – and that, despite its brevity, more than lives up to the promise of its title. Not necessarily so much in style, which incorporates folk, punk, roots and balladry as much as it does shout-to-the-rafters rock ’n’ roll. But the spirit is pure rock – Turner has always been a missionary for the redemptive power of picking up a guitar, and like his stellar full-length 2009 album Poetry of the Deed, Rock & Roll seems designed to shake the cobwebs off anyone who ever doubted that three chords could change your life. In fact, on the opening track, the arena-ready “I Still Believe,” Turner declares, “Who would have thought that after all, something as simple as rock & roll could save us all?” and he sings it like he means it. It’s a driving, guitar-heavy number complete with a …

Farkakte Film Flashback: Off-Kilter Christmas Movie Edition

When I was a kid, every year around this time I would watch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I did this despite the fact that critics regularly put this 1964 movie on their list of the worst films of all time, probably because of its inane plot, juvenile dialogue, bargain-basement costumes and the fact that it appears to have been filmed entirely in a single room that may or may not have been made of cardboard. I think I may have watched it because as a child, it’s comforting to know that Santa, in addition to bringing you toys every year, is also capable of warding off an alien invasion if necessary. Also, New York’s Channel 9 scheduled it on a Saturday afternoon every December — your choice was either that or reruns of “Hee-Haw” on Channel 11, and Roy Clark certainly never conquered any aliens, with the possible exception of Minnie Pearl. (Incidentally, I’ve embedded the entire Santa Claus Conquers the Martians below via Hulu, in case you ever have a spare 80 minutes …

CD Review: Jason D. Williams, “Killer Instincts”

On “Like Jerry Lee,” the opening track to Jason D. Williams’ new album Killer Instincts, he deals right off the bat with the uncanny similarity — in look, ability and style — between the singer and rock ’n’ roll icon Jerry Lee Lewis: specifically, whether he may be the Killer’s next-of-kin. “I coulda found out once but I didn’t,” sings Williams, blasting out piano riffs so potent you can practically feel his fingers bleeding. “I figured either way it would be more than I could stand.” Apparently there’s a back story between Lewis and Williams, a 51-year-old Memphis boogie-woogie piano marvel — something about a DNA test whose results was never revealed — but as Williams hints at on “Like Jerry Lee,” whether there’s a blood connection or not doesn’t really matter. When it comes to piano chops, a clear belief in the power and the glory of rock ’n’ roll, and unadulterated audacity, they are blood brothers in the best sense of the word. Killer Instincts is Williams’ first album of original material, and …

CD Review: Elvis Costello, ‘National Ransom’

“You can’t hold me, baby, with anything but contempt,” Elvis Costello sings amid dueling guitars on the explosive title track that opens his latest album, “National Ransom” (Hear Music). It’s a classic Elvis indictment – this one taking on greed and conspicuous consumption – and an indicator that we may be about to experience Costello in full-on acerbic rock mode. Nothing wrong with that, but Costello quickly disabuses us of that notion. The second track, “Jimmie Standing in The Rain,” is a character study of a lost soul that wouldn’t be out of place in Weill’s “Threepenny Opera.” It’s positively literary – “Nobody wants to buy a counterfeited prairie lullaby in a colliery town,” he notes almost matter-of-factly in one deceivingly elaborate verse – and a sure sign that when it comes to the whole of “National Ransom,” all bets are off. Unlike some of Costello’s albums – which can hew to a certain style, almost to a fault – “National Ransom,” recorded largely live in studio in Nashville with his band the Sugarcanes, takes …

CD Review: Leland Sundries, “The Apothecary”

The Boston Phoenix described indie-folk act Leland Sundries as “The Band meets Lou Reed,” and as intriguing a prospect as that is (I have to suppress an image of Reed and Levon Helm in the back of a barn getting sloshed on moonshine), it doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Yes, on their debut EP “The Apothecary” (L’Echiquier Records), out this week, lead singer/songwriter Nick Loss-Eaton’s vocals do evoke Reed’s trademark mid-register delivery, and the band is certainly steeped in Band-worthy Americana, to such a technically proficient and historically reverent degree that it’s hard to believe they’re a bunch of young guys from Brooklyn. But they also have a wry lyrical bent and atmospheric vibe that belies the description — it might be equally accurate to describe them as Leonard Cohen by way of Uncle Tupelo. Or maybe to just dispense with the comparisons, and give them credit for being a wholly original outfit that just released one of the most exciting musical debuts of the year. If you’re of the opinion that an EP …

CD Review: Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”

When Arcade Fire turned up in 2004, it was with nothing less than the most uplifting reflection on mortality ever put to record, the elegiac yet hopeful Funeral. Their 2007 follow-up Neon Bible was less focused, but more anthemic — tracks like “Keep the Car Running” soared, buoyed by the driving, almost reckless strings and pianos behind vocalists Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. Now they’re back in concept-album territory with The Suburbs (Merge Records), and while suburban sprawl might seem like a more prosaic subject than the meaning of life and death, their 16-song exploration of the ennui and misspent youth in the rolling developments beyond America’s cities make it almost as fascinating. While the album may lack the dynamic anthems that marked Bible — with 16 tracks, it’s harder for the standout songs to break out of the mix — The Suburbs does make up for it in thematic ingenuity. It feels in some ways like the flip side to Lou Reed’s New York (1989) — instead of exposing the underbelly of urban existence, …

CD Review: Gaslight Anthem, “American Slang”

If there’s one thing American Slang isn’t, it’s a Bruce Springsteen tribute album. Gone are the direct references to Springsteen lyrics and mentions of Mary and Janey that dotted the Gaslight Anthem’s breakout sophomore album, 2008’s The ’59 Sound. But that doesn’t mean the shadow of The Boss doesn’t loom large over their latest release. Brian Fallon and the Jersey boys that make up the Gaslight Anthem were always more Springsteenian in spirit than in practice, with Alex Rosamilia’s punky guitars and Benny Horowitz’s pounding drums making their three-minute records more reminiscent of the Clash than of the E Street Band’s piano-and-saxophone epics. But in Fallon’s raspy sincerity, his desperate images of heartbroken loners and crushed dreams and the band’s embrace of the power of rock ’n’ roll redemption, Gaslight Anthem is the current frontrunner in the battle of the Springsteen successors. On American Slang, though, the band is much more than that, with the Joe Strummer influence clearer than ever as it mingles with shades of reggae, grunge and Ramones-era punk pop. Songs like …

CD Review: The Henry Clay People, “Somewhere on the Golden Coast”

The L.A.-based rock combo The Henry Clay People were the darlings of the blogosphere for a time in the wake of their 2008 album For Cheap or for Free. With their punkish sensibilities and lead singer Joey Siara’s somehow appealing style of yell-singing (he out-Finns Craig Finn of the Hold Steady in that department), the Henry Clay People sound like something refreshingly different — but it’s also telling that if you stick their track “You Can Be Timeless” into your iTunes “Genius” function, it tends to turn up songs by Bruce Springsteen, Marshall Crenshaw, The Kinks and Tom Petty. For their new album, Somewhere on the Golden Coast, the band has honed even further their ability to hold onto those influences while plowing headlong into the future with a clean, literate, joyously noisy sound that bodes well for the direction of rock ’n’ roll — if we’re lucky. The band’s punk bona fides are present right off the bat with “Nobody Taught Us to Quit,” a one-minute raver with a message of dedicated slackerism. “Nobody …

CD Review: The Contrast, “God of Malfunction”

Where does Stevie Van Zandt find these bands? It’s easy to imagine the Wicked Cool Records founder prowling around with his ear pressed up against strange garages, listening for the vague strains of Hammond organs and Rickenbacker guitars in his never-ending quest to keep rock ’n’ roll alive. Van Zandt made his way to the UK for his latest discovery, The Contrast, whose founder and lead singer David Reid hails from Glasgow — apparently by way of Liverpool, Memphis, L.A., the Brill Building and Asbury Park, judging from the variety of influences that make up the pop mélange on their new album, “God of Malfunction.” And The Contrast — around since 1999, with the new album being their first of new material on the Wicked Cool label — has found a winning formula with Reid’s laconic vocals, the band’s exuberant backup singing (it seems they’ve never met a “bop-shoo-wop” they didn’t like) and an unabashed pop sensibility planted somewhere between the Spencer Davis Group and The Knack. (With a little bit of the Ramones thrown …

CD Review: Butch Walker & The Black Widows, “I Liked it Better When You Had No Heart”

I don’t know about everybody else, but I for one couldn’t be happier about the return of the ’70s flourish. You know, the urgent strings, the unnecessary but wholly welcome background harmonies, the non-sequiturs spoken through a vocoder … by the ’90s I was afraid all this stuff was gone for good. Damn you, Nirvana! We’ll, I’m happy to report that all of those are present on Butch Walker’s latest, I Liked it Better When You Had No Heart (One Haven Music) — on one song, the rollicking “House of Cards,” he practically morphs into ELO before our ears. The result is meticulous and exquisite; Walker has talked about how quickly the album came together, but it certainly sounds anything but dashed off — no surprise given his stints as a producer for the likes of Katy Perry, Pink and Weezer. But as satisfying as his ’70s sampling is, Walker’s not content to stay in one decade. A Byrds-cum-Petty jangle weaves its way though its share of tracks, including “Trash Day,” the modern-living lament that …

Five Albums You Should Have Bought in 2009

Now, don’t get the wrong idea: This is not a “best of” list — that would indicate that I listened to every album released and compared them, which sounds like it would be exhausting; who has that much time? (Well, yes, Ken Shane, but who else?) Instead, I prefer to offer these up as 2009 albums you might have missed, but that you should definitely acquire before the clock strikes midnight this Dec. 31. Frank Turner, Poetry of the Deed (Xtra Mile Recordings/Epitaph Records). Like so much good rock and roll, this album is nothing less than a call to arms – for the most part to “pick up your guitars,” but is there a higher cause, really? Turner makes that plea in the ragged “Try This at Home,” one of several songs that sound like they were belted out on a street corner; others have higher production values, but all have a punkish sensibility that’s contagious, and then some. Turner, from London, has more than a little Billy Bragg about him, and even goes …

Farkakte Film Flashback: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” Edition

Thanksgiving is upon us once again, and you know what that means: Dinner, and awkward interaction with little-seen family members. And then dessert. Because let’s face it — without food we might as well just call each other and have awkward silences over the phone. And the cinema is no different. So, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I’d revisit some films where the dinner table is practically its own separate character, because somehow these movies wouldn’t be the same if the characters went bowling or water skiing instead of sitting down to break bread (although in a few cases those are options I would like to have seen). Notorious (1946): There are so many little rules you should follow if you want to throw a truly special dinner party. For instance, you may want to consider cloth napkins folded like a swan. Also, if your wife is a spy, make sure the man she really loves doesn’t come to rescue her from certain poisoning when you’re having all your high-ranking Nazi friends …

Book Review: Clarence Clemons & Don Reo, “Big Man”

One thing you learn pretty early on in Springsteen saxophonist Clarence Clemons’ memoir Big Man (Grand Central Publishing, 400 pages, $26.99, Oct. 21) is that you’re not going to be reading any of the real juicy stuff. “Maybe I’ll write a book that has all the sex-and-drugs stories from the early years and publish it after all of us are dead,” Clemons writes. “Nah, I can’t do that either, ’cause now all of us have kids and grandkids.” But beyond the fact that you know a lot got left out of Big Man — a nickname Clemons says came not from Springsteen but from a little old lady in Bloomingdale’s — there’s another complicating factor: A lot of the stuff in it never even happened. Clemons and his writing partner Don Reo label a good number of the chapters “Legends,” and promise that those sections include “some fact and a lot of fiction.” It’s unorthodox, but just think of the trouble James Frey could have saved himself if he’d included the same warning. Still, you’ve …

Farkakte Film Flashback: It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Business Edition

Michael Moore’s latest, Capitalism: A Love Story, opens around the country today, and if the early reviews are any indication, it’s yet another cleverly executed and scathing reminder of how we’re all … wait, let me check my notes … ah, yes — majorly screwed. Taken as a whole, the Moore oeuvre seems dedicated to the concept that before we die we’ll all be laid off, betrayed by our government, shot, burdened by lousy, expensive heath care, and cheated out of our tax dollars and retirement funds, possibly all at once. Moore’s latest is of course aimed at the business titans of Wall Street who let us have it twice, first by ruining our economy, then by wheeling and dealing the government into ponying up billions in public money so they could get started on ruining it again. I’m sure Capitalism is well executed but no doubt depressing, at least for those of us not on the receiving end of the aforementioned billions. I prefer my cinematic big business to be the fictional kind, where …

Farkakte Film Flashback: Strange Magic

There is a new Harry Potter movie out this week, which millions of fans are extremely excited about, even though they’ve all read the books and know exactly what’s going to happen. Also, they don’t seem to mind that it’s based on the one that was mostly flashbacks, meaning there’s less Harry than in the other movies – although we do get to see young Dumbledore, who, rumor has it, looks exactly like Chris Pine. I’ve read all the books, and one thing I enjoyed about them was the way J.K. Rowling wove the world of magic so cleverly in with our own. Somehow, the wizardry practiced and taught at Hogwarts seems to make logical sense – it propels the story while at the same time serving as a sharp satire of academia, and as an added plus it steers unsuspecting young readers toward godless occult practices. Wait, wasn’t that the idea? Regardless, in the Harry Potter films, such a rich and layered portrayal of the existence of magic is unusual for cinema – mainly …

Farkakte Film Flashback: When Good Dinosaurs Go Bad

I’m not a fan of the Ice Age movies. OK, I like the little squirrelly guy who continually risks severe bodily injury in search of a nut, because I can relate to that. But it seems to me the minute Ray Romano and Denis Leary open their animated mouths to earn their paychecks for a day and a half’s work, the air drains out of the entire enterprise. This week marks the opening of the third film in the Ice Age series, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which — in a signal of the level of desperation among the marketing specialists herded into a room to come up with these movies — adds the aforementioned dinosaurs to the mix, despite their extinction 25 million years before the Ice Age movies take place. Now, I don’t expect cartoons to be realistic, necessarily; I know most prehistoric sloths didn’t talk like John Leguizamo either. But this seems particularly bald-faced: Why not add in a contingent of robots and space aliens while you’re at it? (That sound …