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Vow of Volition Make the Final Round of the Battle for Warped Tour

The Vans Warped Tour was the first festival for many of us back in the day. As young'ns, it's likely we didn't necessarily think about all that went into figuring out the bands to book and play the whole shebang. Part of that process, at least locally, seems to be through a series "battle of the bands" style competitions specifically for landing a spot on the fest. Quite a few Portland bands have been furiously playing against one another for said spot, and djent/prog metal act Vow of Volition are one of the acts that made it to the finals.

Warped Tour was always the type of festival that included much in the realm of pop punk, punk punk, emo and metal, so Vow of Volition's advancement to the final round is no surprise. Their incredibly technical, at times jazzy metal stands out in Portland's pretty linear popular music scene, and is much worthy of the attention its getting.

Those that want to support Vow of Volition in driving home the permanent spot can go to the Battle for Warped Tour finals Saturday at the Hawthorne Theatre.

Psymon Spine record release livestream

At first I thought Charismatic Megafauna must be the name of a rubber-suited mecha monster featured on an old episode of Super Sentai which would be pretty exciting. But instead it’s the name of the new Psymon Spine album which is nearly, if not equally exciting, depending on your feelings about the hyperkenetic Japanese teen superhero live action TV drama versus the Brooklyn-based band that co-founded the Secret Friend immersive art and music party series alongside POND magazine.

Anyhow the album in question strikes me as sounding just like the cool airport lounge music of the future we were all promised as children. But instead we got phone charging stations and Cinnabon franchises rather than having sleekly-funky space-age psych-pop bands paid to serenade harried travelers and to maybe even make them dance.

But going to airports isn't too appealing these days so it’s all good. We're all far better off sitting at home in front of our computers and luckily that’s just where Psymon Spine is playing an album release party to be livestreamed tonight at 8PM EST as the most recent installment of BABY TV alongside openers Dream Chambers and Hypoluxo, the latter of whom were featured not so long ago on this very blog. 

Wild Pink's "A Billion Little Lights"

 The release of new music from the Wild Pink is cause for mellowed-out celebration and so today we're in luck because the band (but not that band) just yesterday released their third full-length LP (yes I realize that's redundant) and it's called A Billion Little Lights. From the first bars of "The Wind Was Like A Train" an auditory spell is cast by John Ross & Co. as a warm-hued synth melody is joined by chiming guitars and marching band snare and weeping steel guitar woven together like a comfy quilt and finally Ross himself as he gently intones a Zen koan about what sounds like a game of horseshoes played on a frozen lake and how he's got your back despite the seeming recklessness of this scenario with the song culminating in a string section flourish all clocking in at an economical 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

Listening to the opening track I can't help but think of Jason Lytle and Grandaddy during that group's heyday, or at least their gentler material, but Wild Pink provides an Americana spin on the indie aesthetic that sets them apart, and on the whole, A Billion Little Lights finds many beautiful wrinkles to explore in the veins of blissed out folk and alt-country and roots rock reveries all while contemplating subjects such as the inevitability of time's passage and the violent settlement of the West and social media oversharing and Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Florida retirement homes (Ross grew up in Central Florida before relocating to NYC years ago) with the latter two of these enumerated subjects acting as inspiration for the song below whose video features one of the stars of Schitt's Creek and also features backing vocals (just like "The Wind" above) from Julia Steiner who fronts the Chicago-based band Ratboys. (Jason Lee)


Oceanator "Things I Never Said" vinyl release

Quoting a Deli blogger from a few years back, Oceanator is "the Brooklyn-based grunge project of Elise Okusami, one bore in equal parts from the its [sic] crunch-heavy guitars as well as Okusami's no-holds barred lyricism." I'm opening with this quote since there's nothing to indicate the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has departed from her no-holds and crunch-heavy ways in the interim (but what do I know she could be working on a pirate-metal chiptune opera as we speak) and when it comes to Brooklyn-based grunge well there's still some of that around too--despite the best efforts of real estate developers who are attempting to entirely wall off Greenpoint with high-rise condos, clearly a plot to turn the neighborhood into a penal colony inspired by John Carpenter's Escape From New York so the joke's on the condo buyers and renters--and did you know Brooklyn actually invented grunge. Not the music. Actual grunge.

Oceanator released her debut full-length LP Things I Never Said last summer and reviewers at the time tended to dwell for understandable reasons on the album's recurring themes of cataclysm and apocalypse. Even though it was written and recorded well before the actual apocalypse arrived (the opening act of the apocalypse anyway) Okusami managed to channel the upcoming zeitgeist as demonstrated in the opening one-two crunchy-grungy punch of "Goodbye, Goodnight" and "A Crack In The World." But what's striking in listening to the album now is how little Okusami dwells on disaster itself, and how instead her lyrics so ably depict and dissect all the ways people react to disaster whether interpersonal or societal or both: Hiding away or diving straight into it. Looking to be alone or seeking human contact. Thinking too much or pursuing oblivion. Viewing disaster as an end point or a starting point for renewal. This album lays it all out and it's cheaper than therapy.

Much the same goes for the music too considering how Oceanator conjures an array of psychological mood state. Sure there's the aforementioned crunchy grunge but there's also the poppy bop of "Heartbeat", the new wave sheen of "I Would Find You" (new video alert!) and the classic girl group sway of "Walk With You" (RIP Mary Wilson) which back-to-back make up the middle portion of the album. Things I Never Said climaxes with the penultimate track "The Sky Is Falling" with its dramatic stop-start verses, soaring guitar breaks, and majestic outro that adds layers of additional guitar, keyboard, and ghostly background vocals to the mix before a final breakdown at the end. And finally the closer "Sunrise" is not at all ironically named but instead ends on a ray of hope: "I'm going outside today / I'm feeling like things might be okay." This album takes the listener on an actual journey.


And speaking of journeys if you journey over to Polyvinyl Records they've just re-released the album, now available on vinyl for the first time so you can show off your Hi-Fi system to your pet rock. And who wants plain ol' black vinyl (BOR-ing) so you get a choice between Orange Swirl vs. Funfetti aka "Clown Vomit" which suggests these records may be edible but I'd check with the manufacturer first. (Jason Lee)


If you're at all retro-minded or if you're J.G. Ballard-minded you've probably heard of a song called “Warm Leatherette” by a band called The Normal, or maybe you've heard the cover version by Grace Jones. It’s become pretty iconic over the years. But it was originally released as a mere B-side and The Normal was not really a band (probably fooled ya with that '70s-looking-collective pictured above) being instead just this one British guy named Daniel Miller who founded a record label called Mute Records to put out the single, with the label soon becoming a pretty big deal and taking on a life of its own.

But back to our subject, the original A-side to "Warm Leatherette" was called “T.V.O.D.” which stands for Television Overdose and its entire lyric consisted of the song title's repeated over and over broken only a single stanza: "I don’t need a screen / I just stick the aerial into my skin / Let the signal run through my veins / T.V.O.D."

Well what if we told you there’s also a contemporary Brooklyn-based band called T.V.O.D. and that the band (not entirely unlike the song "T.V.O.D.") addresses our posthuman future in song and in sound--a future that may have finally arrived in full blown form in 2020 and '21--but with strong intimations of human longing and even intimacy hanging on for good measure. Fittingly for their name, Brooklyn's T.V.O.D. are prone to making sounds that could make some listeners feel a bit jittery or twitchy (call it David Byrnitis) or have you feeling mildly sedated and mildly euphoric all at once all while being catchy and cool sounding, in support of lyrics on subjects like self-medicating in disco huts and sentient sexually-frustrated bank accounts.

Give a listen to the EP Daisy up top to see what you think, or listen to the song below which happens to be one of this writer's faves from the EP. It's their slinkiest song and apparently the band got some nice endorsement money for making banking options sound so sexy so good on them. And then below that you can check out an earlier single that gives a very different perspective (a more puke-splattered perspective!) on the world of high finance and the cultural logic of late capitalism.

Despite all my hopes based on their band name, T.V.O.D. are in fact not a collective of sad horny TV-addicted cyborgs who like to go out dancing to disco punk, but really just five human beings sitting on a couch in Queens--as I recently witnessed--humans who have played (or still play) in other NYC-based indie bands like THICK, Star 80, Low Mein, and Acid Dad. But on the couch they don't bring these bands up instead sharing their thoughts on the moral culpability of Godzilla, and their desire to eat like Ryan Seacrest, and then they get up and walk over to a stage with instruments on it and play songs in real time including several songs that have yet to be been committed to digital circuits or streaming media which is pretty cool.

If you need proof of any of this there’s an app for that and it’s called FLTV (editor’s note: not technically an app but a dedicated webpage on Vimeo) where the letters stand for Footlight Television--another acronyms with TV in it which makes it easy to remember. In addition to the T.V.O.D. segment, the Vimeo page is full of other live-show-and-interview content provided by the good people at the Footlight Bar in Ridgewood, Queens and made available for a small fee. Just think, for the amount it would once take you to order a good-quality draft beer (non-happy-hour rates) at a bar or club, you can now order a band to sit down for an interview and play a live set all for your own pleasure. So maybe this whole post-human thing isn't all bad after all. (Jason Lee)


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