THE LISTENING ROOM
Sponsored by East Wisconsin Savings Bank
Joshua Hester is one-third of Listening Party, the alternative folk trio out of Milwaukee whose music has found a home on The Avenue. Joshua’s the guy on the right side of the stage unassumingly, yet very skillfully, handling guitar, mandolin and bass duties. During a live set you’ll see those skills take center stage when he loops a solo arrangement. We wanted to know what Joshua was listening to that might have influenced him.
Listening Party is a band you definitely want to see live – for more information and show dates visit https://www.listeningpartymusic.com or follow them on Facebook.
Check out “Train” from Listening Party’s most recent album LESS IS MORE
Radiohead/Thom Yorke – THE KING OF LIMBS
Beginning with my early teens, Radiohead has been in my heavy rotation, to the point where I did not listen to much else. I have this way of obsessing over a musical influence, dissecting the puzzle, reading and learning each phrase, note, and part. There is a particular aspect of Yorke’s music that speaks to me; abject despair and relentless optimism, both working in tandem.
The album, THE KING OF LIMBS resonated with me most of all during a time of much emotional duress. Out of the whole piece, “Separator” was the song that I fixated on. The syncopated drums, a dreamy soundscape lined bottom and top with perfect layers of bass and keys/guitars. The haunting vocal lines of Yorke telling a story of perpetual discomfort and progress, begging to be let out of the dream.
Lord Huron – STRANGE TRAILS
Another amazing album.
When I first heard the song “The Night We Met” by Lord Huron, it struck me. That ethereal chorus warbling in the background, the arpeggiating guitar and shuffling drum beat. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, haunted by the ghost of you.’” I read that line and got goosebumps.
Then there’s “Fool for Love.” The ballad of a man fighting for the woman he loves against the aptly named Big Jim and losing everything in the process. Embracing his failure, we see a fallen warrior regretting but one thing: leaving his opponent alive. The song closes with the lines “I stare into the endless sky, and the sorry tale of my life goes by. I drift into the great unknown, and I really don’t know where I’m going.”
Punch Brothers – WHO’S FEELING YOUNG NOW?
The opening piece of this record, “Movement and Location” speaks volumes. It’s a song that came about when Chris Thile and Noam Pikelny were discussing the pitching technique of former Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux. It’s percussive, ambient, and driving. The unerring thump of the bass with Chris Thile’s unique percussive mandolin playing immediately catches my breath in my throat, regardless of how many listens I get in.
Pair that with the tracks “Flippen,” “Patchwork Girlfriend,” their cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A,” this album clearly exhibits a new genre of music, dubbed “progressive bluegrass.” It’s just a perfect personification of that term and has enchanted me since the first listen.
What are you listening to?
Local Live Music Enthusiast - Avenue Supporter
Yes, that’s me in front of the stage at many local performances. Nothing will make the stresses of the day disappear faster than seeing magic being created in front of us on an almost daily basis here in Appleton. The best thing we can do to support the local music community and the musicians is to buy their music and merchandise. The added benefit of still buying a CD is discovering a new song that maybe hasn’t been played live or will never make it to the radio. More often than not, there is a hidden gem buried within the songs or is the last song on the album. That is the focus of this Listening Room.
First up is Dead Horses. If you haven’t seen them live yet, I can’t recommend them enough. The best way to describe seeing them in person is their performance is like a long hug dipped in tequila. It just keeps getting better. The last track on their album, CARTOON MOON, is “Peace My Soul.” When the day is challenging, pour yourself two fingers of your favorite whiskey, and this song will bring you back around.
Dead Horses “Peace My Soul” https://youtu.be/nvp-f-s96cE
Another favorite, with Appleton as their second home, is Listening Party from Milwaukee. Weston, Joshua and Jacob never disappoint and are in town almost every month. Each performance is different with variations being done on many of their original songs. And when they do a cover, they make it their own. “The Rock,” the sixth track on their self-titled album, is what got me hooked. These guys should be more famous and it’s only a matter of time. Be sure to check them out before their visits become less frequent.
Listening Party “The Rock” https://youtu.be/ZaF_728gi-c
Next is Auralai, the genius of Nate Lehner and Stephanie Tschech really shine with their album, SONGS FOR DOGS. I attended the CD release concert at Rock Garden Studios and have been a fan ever since and just saw them recently when they opened for Shawn Colvin in Oshkosh. The second to the last track is one where Nate takes over as lead singer with, “Already Always Yours.” If I could sing, this is the song I would sing to a significant other.
Auralai, “Already Always Yours” https://youtu.be/i6aI03jCkr8a
Another favorite, well-know in Appleton, is The Belle Weather. Not only do Eric and Tom have full time jobs, they manage to play over 100 gigs a year. I’m honored to call them friends and they have performed at my house three times. On their last studio album, SUITCASE, the fourth song from the end, “Unbound,” is now my go-to song. The lyric, “I want to be your lost and found,” gets me every time. Give it a go. Another favorite is ninth track on their first album, HOLD ON, is “Portland.” A tale about old friends reuniting.
The Belle Weather “Unbound” https://youtu.be/vVms-uUnx-Q
The latest album by The Mascot Theory, DAWN AND WHAT COMES AFTER, is their best work to date, in my opinion. The last track, “Unstick The Words,” is hauntingly beautiful. The moment I hear it, the hair on the back of my neck stands up and when it’s finished, I’m hitting the repeat button. Sonically delicious!
The Mascot Theory “Unstick The Words” https://youtu.be/XHUefWzXYQ0
This leads us right into Christopher Gold & The New Old Things with their 2016 release, WHICHEVER WAY HOME. As a person who has moved many times in the last 15 years, some by choice, some not by choice, the last song, “Coming Home,” really resonates. I’m a big fan of acoustic songs with a searing electric guitar in the background. And this song does not disappoint.
Christopher Gold & The New Old Things “Coming Home” https://youtu.be/T1bksQ1rn5s
On this journey, we can’t leave out Wild Adriatic, Mile of Music favorite. Their album, Feel, contains two must-listen-to songs. The first track is a song called “Appleton” a nod to their home-away-from-home and the song they end many of their local performances. The other is the third track, “Come Back Baby,” and will get you grooving. This song has it all. Listen for yourself.
Wild Adriatic “Appleton” https://youtu.be/PPcehORLn-M
Lastly, and for me personally, no Listening Room is complete without mentioning Wisconsin’s own, Willy Porter, based in Milwaukee. I may be a bit biased. Back before he was famous, we were students together at UW-Eau Claire and I was there from the beginning. If you asked me my top three bands/performers in the world, he is one of them. Each song is a favorite. He has an EP that came out in in 2012 called CHESSEBURGERS & GASOLINE. The third track is “Digging in the Dirt,” a seven minute Peter Gabriel cover. This comes with me on road trips. It starts out slow and methodical and builds up. And before you know, you listened to it four times and can’t get enough.
Willy Porter “Digging in the Dirt” https://youtu.be/0PTg91R5Y0k
Tom Thiel, Guitarist, Singer-Songwriter
Tom Thiel is best known for his years as part of the veteran Fox Valley trio, Boxkar. In 2017, Thiel released his first solo album, “Old Shadows,” and brought home a WAMI Award as Singer/Songwriter of the Year. Currently you can find Tom performing with Mudbone (along with Jay Stulo, Rodney Zimmerman, and Spencer Panosh) Sundays 6-9 at Gibson Music Hall, or sitting in with Kurt Gunn’s band. Several cuts off of “Old Shadows" have become favorites in the Avenue’s playlist.
“Usually when someone asks me what my favorite band or album is, my brain just locks up. It’s like the feeling you get when you walk into a record store and are so overwhelmed that you immediately forget what you had come in for. Some people are content listening to the same things they listened to in high school but I’ve always enjoyed finding new things. My ears get bored easily. I think listening to new music enhances your memories by providing an aural point of reference. For me, 1993 was the year of Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk, the fall of 1999 was Filter’s Title of Record, and 2013 was Justin Jones’ Fading Light. It’s so cool to keep adding on to your life’s playlist. Here are a few albums that have made my life’s playlist.
Gregory Alan Isakov Evening Machines – In October, Gregory Alan Isakov released Evening Machines and it’s really grown on me. The songs are so spacious and cinematic and his quiet melancholy voice fits so well over the top. There are subtle hooks in the songs that pull you in over time. There is a really amazing video for the song “San Luis” that was shot at Great Sand Dunes National park during a sandstorm.
“San Luis” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BJ7MDOmLPE
Nicholas Raymond Summer Shoes – Another new favorite is Nicholas Raymond’s Summer Shoes album. The entire album is full of great songwriting. The opening track “This Side” is like a song within a song. I love it! “Lights and Sounds and Colors Collide” is another of my favorites.
Summer Shoes on Bandcamp https://nicholasraymond.bandcamp.com/album/summer-shoes
Pat MacDonald Begging Her Graces – My brother played drums with Pat MacDonald for a little while years ago. They traveled around doing a 2-piece thing and I got to see them a lot. Pat was so particular about his sound and he always sounded amazing. I love Pat’s album Troubadour of Stomp and I listen to it all the time but there is something about “Begging Her Graces.” It’s dark, with some lighter moments, and full of Pat’s cleverly cynical lyrics. “Little Dark Angel” is my wife’s favorite and I would have to go with “Tyranny of Beauty.”
“Little Dark Angel” https://youtu.be/EZXUm1UC0DQ
Shakey Graves Audio Tree Sessions – As a kid there was a lot of music in my house but it was a lot of K-tel Greatest Hits Collections. I was always drawn to the epic classic rock guitar songs from bands like Foghat, Free and Led Zeppelin. I’m still drawn to the guitar and lately I’ve been really into Shakey Graves’ guitar style. It’s blues based, percussive and a little dirty. A great example is either of the Audio Tree Sessions he did in 2013 and 2014. He has a lot of stuff on YouTube and every live version is a little different.
Shakey Graves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD72LbIk02M
Motherfolk – Motherfolk - As far as Mile of Music artists that are in my current playlists, my wife Shawn saw Motherfolk a few years ago and turned me on to them. I really love their stuff and whoever runs their Twitter account is hilarious.
Melissa is not just an Avenue listener and supporter, she’s one of the most tireless consumers of live music in the area. About this time of year, anyone who knows her starts asking, “what’s your number?” And that’s because she is a dedicated chronicler of all the live music she sees. And “your number” refers to the number of live music sets she’s seen this year. And THAT number, is impressive. Darn near impossible for mere mortals. So when she talks music, listen up!
Recently she’s joined Redshift Headlights, a local Oshkosh group featuring vibes, guitar with lots of pedals, drums, second guitar, bass with occasional fuzzy pickle, rhodes, synth, drums, trumpet, singing, and infrequent timpani. The band’s second album OSHKOSH will play a vinyl release show November 3 at Bare Bones Brewery in Oshkosh, and will open for Field Report November 16 at The Howard, also in Oshkosh. Find out more at redshiftheadlights.com
What I am listening to is always shaped by the outstanding talent that is brought into the Appleton area on a regular basis. We are lucky to live in a community that supports its artists so readily and enthusiastically. I am happy to have the “champagne and caviar problem” of having to make a choice from the two or three shows I have interest in seeing on a given night.
On October 9, I saw the Avett Brothers at the Fox Cities P.A.C. Having been a fan since their “Emotionalism” album released in 2007, I was excited to see them live for the first time right here in Appleton. They did not disappoint! Their performance was filled with musical diversity with solo or duet performances as well as full on band songs. Standouts for me were “The Ballad of Love and Hate,” “Murder in the City” and their closing song, “No Hard Feelings.”
Avett Brothers “The Ballad of Love and Hate” https://youtu.be/6Pre7bINBps
I have been enjoying the Mile of Music Flashbacks on 91.1 The Avenue. I have also benefited from Mile artists returning to town for shows. I was lucky enough to see three such shows this month. The first was Micah Schnabel at Stone Arch. I love his passionate songwriting and have nearly worn out my copies of both “Your New Norman Rockwell” and “I’m Dead Serious.” His lyrics offer challenge as well as hope. The second was Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery at Deja Vu. I appreciate the literary references in the lyrics, the ethereal falsetto of the vocals and the musical communication within the band. I would definitely recommend “Alyosha” and I’m looking forward to their new release, “PSYCHO/TROPIC,” due to be released before the end of the year. The third show was Desert Noises at Mill Creek. I like this band more every time I catch them live. Their original guitar player, Pat Boyers, has returned to the band. He is a fantastic player and the band is really hitting on all cylinders live. I particularly like their songs, “Don’t Really Know What to Say,” and “Oak Tree.” In addition to a great rhythm section and guitar, this band has outstanding vocal harmonies.”
Micah Schnabel “I’m Dead, Serious” https://youtu.be/xHVF6Ozl_PM
Joshua Powell “Gunfighter Ballad for the 21st Century” https://youtu.be/M34U2Xkxyv8
Desert Noises “Oak Tree” https://youtu.be/B23PAapyQiQ
Just today, I discovered that the legendary John Prine will be visiting the Fox Cities P.A.C. in May. I could not be more excited about the opportunity to see him live for the first time. I have been listening to Prine’s music for over 40 years. His “Hello in There” makes me emotional every time I hear it to this day. His new album, “The Tree of Forgiveness” is as strong as anything he’s written across his career. “Caravan of Fools” and “Summer’s End” were standouts for me on this excellent album.
John Prine “Caravan of Fools” https://youtu.be/SKyhYtmwVyU
Avenue Community Relations Director
Maybe it’s the fall weather, or maybe it’s the nostalgia inspired by our new Mile of Music Flashback series…but I find myself wanting to slow down and revisit some favorite music lately. Normally, I’m chasing new music and feeling pulled down more musical directions than I can manage. It’s a great problem…so much music, so little time.
In the last week I’ve spent a good amount of time in my car. Rolling down the highway between decent radio stations, I reached into my console and found the “Less is More” cd by Milwaukee-based Listening Party. I love this album front to back. I love the catchy simplicity of the title track. I can hear how much fun these guys are having in the rollicking rhythms of “Train.” I feel the nostalgia in “Ruthie” and “Disco” – both tunes that honor grandparents of band members. Then there’s “Bones,” “My Old Self” and “Rocky Road,” all songs that are very easy to love on first listen – which for me can also mean they burn out quickly. But these songs just get better and better to my ears. And while I hate choosing favorites, I think I found one on this disc in “Old American” – the vocals are warm and comfy like the right scarf on a cold autumn day.
These guys have become favorites – I can hear them on The Avenue and have seen them a lot live. But in my car, with the opportunity for focused listening, I found an even deeper appreciation for this album. And I found myself pondering the lyrics and before I knew it, it had repeated 3 times and I still wanted more. Check out their music and live schedule here listeningpartymusic.com
Listening Party “Train” https://youtu.be/ANMoRX5IUlM
Listening Party “Bones” https://youtu.be/ZVvONBMHe3g
The Mile of Music Flashback series got me thinking back over my own Mile of Music 6 experience. It’s easy for it all to become a blur, but I kept coming back to a couple of performances that felt almost magical, not only for the music but the dreamy atmosphere created during the performances. One of those performances was by another Milwaukee-based artist, Abby Jeanne. I caught a partial set and was definitely left wanting more. Unfortunately the performance I tried to see at Mile was rained out, but I was inspired to see her live in her hometown. I found her on-stage energy joyful and completely intoxicating. And I can’t sum it up any better than Shepherd Express did, “Milwaukee wailer Abby Jeanne has a robust, jazzy voice that rivals the greats – Ella, Amy, even Janis. Her music plays like a talent reel, shuffling through bluesy torch songs, moody trip-hop experiments and unhinged rockers, the constant thread being Jeanne’s go-for-broke determination and her refusal to let the world wear her down. What an absolute thrill it is hearing a singer this powerful just cut loose, free of any genre restraints.”
She’s headlining a show at Turner Hall in January. Learn more here abbyjeanne.com
Abby Jeanne “Be in the Sun” https://youtu.be/s-HkJx3am9Q
More videos here http://www.abbyjeanne.com/videos-1/
And in this same vein, I almost accidentally saw Pip the Pansy’s performance in The Alley at MoM6, and I’m so thankful I did. Enchanting, magical, trippy, dreamy, a kaleidoscope of colors. And now I’m hooked and so are many others. When she returned to Appleton (from Atlanta) last month, a whole crew of local devotees showed up adorned in Pip-style flower adornments and hair styles. I love floating away to “Royal Blue Daydream” listen here https://youtu.be/jK6WWYDHaBM
What are you listening to? Click here to let me know!
This week in the Listening Room we catch up with another one of our very talented, local singer/songwriters, Nicholas Raymond. Raymond first caught the attention of audiences as the drummer and singer for Traveling Suitcase. He most recently released Summer Shoes as a solo project and has been touring in support of that. He stopped in Avenue studios recently to talk music and influences and a couple of songs from that album. We loved getting to know Nicholas a little better by learning what music influenced him.
Check out Nicholas Raymond’s music for yourself here www.nicholasraymond.bandcamp.com and on The Avenue.
“It took me a really long long time to pick a few key records. These are the albums that are always my go-to.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sex Sugar Magik
“My first memory of the curiosity of music was seeing the “Give It Away” music video. I was 4 and would dance around the living room in my underwear with my blanket pretending I was in the band and full of attitude with Anthony Kiedis. A few years later I stole the tape cassette out of my older brother’s room. I remember riding my bike around the neighborhood, blaring it as loud as my Fischer Price tape player would go. The album has amazing dynamics and I swear the compression on the snare drum on that record subconsciously made me a heavy hitting drummer to this day.
Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give It Away” https://youtu.be/Mr_uHJPUlO8
Incubus – Morning View
Freshman year of high school was when I really dove into the album Morning View. I’d say this band has shifted with every decade of my life since then. I originally fell in love with Incubus when seeing them perform a song live on television for Ozzfest for their record Science. Years later I have a memory of being at a summer festival and the song “Pardon Me” from Make Yourself played on a radio by the ferris wheel and I was mesmerized when I learned it was Incubus. I was struck by how different a band could sound and I found myself dedicating all of my free time to becoming a better drummer. I wanted to be in a band like Incubus, or any band really.
Then I heard “Wish You Were Here” sitting in the kitchen and thought THIS band was going to be my new favorite band. Much to my surprise, it was Incubus. This band is always changing and trying new things. Sometimes it takes me a few listens when they release new material. I couldn’t ask for more out of art, something that inspires change and can make you uncomfortable because it’s new.
For me Morning View was made at the peak of the band really finding a voice for themselves in a big industry. They all lived in a house on the beach together and made this record in that house. Much like my first pick was made with Red Hot Chili Peppers. Man I love these bands so much I'm in tears because of how grateful I am that they truly made me the musician I am.
Incubus “Wish You Were Here” https://youtu.be/8295rOMvtQI
Queens of The Stone Age – Villains
Last, but not least, out of the 20 years of alternative rock filling my mind & soul, this band is my favorite and each record is a coming of age musically and lyrically.
Josh Homme is a songwriting machine to me. I love the way he makes things dirty, haunting and intelligent. I dream of catching a gig with a pro like this. It’d be like going to Harvard or Yale.
Queens of The Stone Age went from hole-in-the-wall dive bars to packing out arenas and making records with people who produce Lady Gaga albums. Hence why I think Villains is so awesome. They went with someone who turned their already super unique recording techniques into a new dimension of sounds. The thing I enjoy about Queens is all of their riffs are catchy and they feel like the best rock & roll dance moves you could ever bring to the floor. When you get hit with tracks like “Fortress” and “Villains of Circumstance” and goosebumps go down your back and your heart hurts a little. In this record Josh talks to his children and family. Being a pro is tasking, the amount of miles Homme has put into his craft is insane. Lines like “Miss you now what’s come over me? We’re hostages of geography” reminding everyone it’s not easy to work as hard as he does.
Queens Of The Stone Age is my favorite band to watch live and I dream of coming close to hitting any ripples they’ve influenced.
There is so much more that moves me and fills me with passion for music. These records are ones I pick over and over. Thank you to these artists for paving such a cool road to try and keep up with… For setting people free and bringing all different humans together all over the world for decades to share a concert and a moment.
Queens of The Stone Age “Villains of Circumstance” https://youtu.be/fsqhJcGbaEI
A unique singer/songwriter from Appleton, Chris Jourdan picked up a guitar at age 18, fell in love and began to harness the power of music. Formerly the frontman for Wisconsin jam band The Wandering Foolz, as a solo artist, Chris puts on high-energy acoustic performances. Described by some as John Mayer meets Pearl Jam with incredibly busy but not invasive guitar playing.
Here’s Jourdan’s “Downtown (Scratch the Surface)” https://youtu.be/rIe-pCfLZYc
“I've always followed my ears whilst finding my way through this wonderful musical landscape that is before me. With a little help of my friends as well, I've found a vast variety of music sustains my interests. After all, I'm a mere human with a set of emotions...and the music I decide to put into my ears tends to follow. But, if I must whittle it down, here are my two favorite bands that you might not know about. I picked these bands due to my emotional attachment to them. In the darkest times in my life we've shared moments. Also in the funnest and brightest times too. Though we are not in the same room very often, their music has journeyed my soul and I am thankful.
“One of the bands I just cannot get enough of is an amazing rock band out of Japan. They go by the name One OK Rock. My close friend and drummer Alex first brought their music to me. I heard a couple songs and the it brought me back to my youth. It was loud in all the best ways. The chugging yet precise guitar riffs that were so incredibly catchy, they were almost lyrical. The One OK Rock sound features extremely tight, almost progressive drumming alongside easy to digest bass lines.
“Of course, to complete this for me they had to have an amazing vocalist, and they do in Taka Moriuchi. This guy is an absolute powerhouse. Vocal range that will bring you to tears at moments in songs like “Heartache,” or make you shout along in the song “Decision.” Both songs can be found in their first all-English release 35. It defines what Pop-Rock should be.
“They have mixed both Japanese and English lyrics into their music on most other releases. I believe this has created a conversation in which both Japanese and American audiences are curious about what the other is saying. They are literally one of the biggest bands in the world. Google image search their show at Yokahama Arena and you'll see what I mean. Pay attention to One OK Rock!
See Crowds for One OK Rock at Yokohama https://goo.gl/images/QMKujt
One OK Rock “Decision” https://youtu.be/j4sEvo4ojq8
Next we venture to Chicago and the one and only Umphrey’s McGee. With an extremely versatile setlist and an ensemble of beyond-stellar players, these guys will surely deliver something you love if you give them long enough. I’m shy to admit the number of times I’ve seen them...my friends will tell you it’s more than a lot!
“One of the first things I’ll tell you is hang on to your pants. These guys are all in! Hands down, they have one of the best light shows in the business! And... If you have enough time you'll hear them hitting on multiple styles of music like they own them all. It'll have you moving without a doubt.
“They shine strong with the song “Glory.” I’ve shed some tears during this song. I urge you to listen to the many versions they have put out of this beautiful song. To me, it feels like the guitar is shedding tears as he plays it. This song alone can carry me through some hard times.
“If you wanna really hear them open up, check out the song “Divisions” which is harder to come by these days but is absolutely epic, and well defines what the band is capable of. This band can take a song, cover it, and make it their own. Check them doing “Africa” by TOTO, or my personal favorite, “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel. They also do a stellar version of “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd. Check out their version from Red Rocks and you won’t be able turn it off. I strongly encourage you to peel yourself off your devices and go see them live the next chance you get. They really care about you coming. But if you can’t make it they offer their concerts live as they happen for a small cost in HD from folks such as tourgigs.com and nugs.net. Don't miss it!
Umphrey’s McGee “Glory/Bridgeless” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJ43IwF-oWk&feature=share
Umphrey’s McGee “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=998TzVK7pQ4&feature=share
“I appreciate you taking some time to see what’s in my jukebox! Now go put it in yours!”
Avenue Programming Director
It’s Rob’s job to listen to music, and he listens to a lot of it. He’s been busy adding a lot of new music to the Avenue’s playlist recently. What’s caught his attention? Well, you can tell by tuning in to The Avenue, but here are some recent stand outs.
“I continue to be blown away by how much new and original music comes from this community. Several local artists have released new albums over the summer. Kurt Gunn’s Long Drive to Nowhere is fantastic from beginning to end. On first play, I remarked that most of the songs were hits, or should be. You’ll hear several cuts right here on The Avenue.
“Nicholas Raymond recently stopped in Avenue studios and gave live performances of a couple cuts off of his newly released solo effort, Summer Shoes. Raymond’s vocal range is really impressive and enjoyed his observations about the creative process. Local audiences know him as part of Traveling Suitcase. Check out “Lights and Sounds and Colors Collide,” “Fang,” and “Ms. Conception.” Listen here: https://nicholasraymond.bandcamp.com/album/summer-shoes
“I’m loving the latest releases from Dead Horses’ My Mother the Moon, Kyle Megna and The Monsoons’ The Great Divide, Listening’s Party Less is More, Feed The Dog’s Tenderloin, and Adriel Denae’s self titled solo debut. All of these local favorites have had a place on The Avenue playlist and it’s great to be able to go deeper with them. And speaking of local favorites – I’m also very excited to add new tracks from J-Council including “Careful” and “Never” which showcase Jon Wheelock’s signature soulful groove.
“As for Mile of Music artists, I’ve enjoyed spending more time listening to Smooth Hound Smith, the new Bascom Hill release West Wind Girl, and discovering more music from Girl Blue.
Smooth Hound Smith “California Sway” https://youtu.be/krW2jT_tsCI
“As for national acts, I keep coming back to the latest releases from Randy Newman, Brandi Carlisle, Ray Lamontagne and John Prine. You may notice Mary Black showing up on The Avenue’s playlist. I’ve been a fan of hers for some time and as big as she is in Ireland, she should be more well known here. She’s timeless – if you haven’t heard her before check her out. I had the opportunity to meet her a while ago and found her to be as authentic as her music.
Mary Black “Carolina Rua” https://youtu.be/UOS_DxyBPRQ
“And of course, as a long time fan of the Cowboy Junkies I eagerly dug into their new album All That Reckoning and it doesn’t disappoint… it’s understated and haunting as always.
Cowboy Junkies “All That Reckoning Pt. 1” https://youtu.be/bLUVYVkAyOE
The Right Now
The Right Now has made a few stops in the Appleton area including Mile of Music 6. The 7-piece Chicago based band has a pop-meets-soul soul sound that will get you up and dancing! Their latest release “Starlight” caught the attention of NPR’s Sound Opinions who hailed Berecz’s performance as “stronger...than Adele” while others dubbed the songs “insanely infectious and incredibly well crafted.”
You can check that out for yourself here: The Right Now's “Too Late” video.
Learn more at therightnow.com
Teddy Pendergrass “Love TKO”
The Right Now has a long history with this song. Musically, it’s a pretty direct influence on us –smooth, sultry, midtempo, and straddling the line between 70s and 80s R&B…that's one of our happy places. Teddy’s voice is so smooth but conveys such urgency, and I think that’s true of our own Stefanie Berecz too. For a long time, it was the unofficial anthem of The Right Now’s tour van – we’d be loading out of a venue and one of us would sing out “Think I better let it go…” and it was a vocal free-for-all from that point on. Listening back, it’s fun to hear all the ideas we stole from this song...those rhythm hits underneath the “looks like another love TKO” line have definitely shown up in a TRN song or two.
Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real “Fool Me Once”
I don’t know if anyone watching The Right Now would associate us with any kind of country music, but we all value the power of a good singer singing a well-written song. That’s basically what it’s all about. There are a billion examples out there, but lately Chris (guitar) and Brendan (keyboards, bandleader) have been digging into this 2017 album from Lukas Nelson. Some songs, like this one, are right-down-the-middle country-rock tunes, and others are deeper and more complex, but if “Fool Me Once” doesn’t grab you by the guts, then I don’t know what will. The refrain is “Fool me once, shame on you, I'll be gone,” and Lukas sings it with such swagger – but it’s really a scaredy-cat song, basically saying “I’ve been hurt before and I’ll run at the first sign of trouble.” How do you pull off so much bravado singing that?? I dig the patience and restraint in the guitar lines. It doesn't hurt that Lukas is Willie Nelson’s son. You can hear the Willie influences, but Lukas is his own man and he sounds great.
Chaka Khan “Like Sugar”
Oh yes, some Chaka. We’ve been covering her for 10 years now – she’s a Chicago hometown hero and just so, so, so underrated. Her new single is based on a simple pentatonic groove, with plenty of triangle percussion (and those of you who’ve seen our live show know that we love some triangle!) Stefanie points out how it’s similar to our track “Hooked.” (https://youtu.be/eLQfr6VKMx4) Chaka’s greatness isn’t on full display here, but her imagination and openness to new sounds are easy to hear. This track is like sugar....so sweet! And the video is just a delight. And from our guitarist, Chris: “I've learned to trust Chaka. When I spot a record of hers that I don’t recognize, I buy it with implicit trust, and have yet to be disappointed. TAKE A CHANCE!”
If you’ve attended last year’s Christmas on The Avenue concert or Uncovered Too in June, you’ve seen and heard her perform with her father, Steve March-Tormé. And just like her father, she has plenty of opinions on music! To mark back-to-school week, we thought we’d check in with a school-aged member of The Avenue family, Miss Ruby March-Tormé, and find out what music has caught her attention.
“Aw, sweet!! I’ve got my own Listening Room! Being the youngest here, my music choices tend to be newer songs, though I do love a lot of older music too, thanks to my dad. It’s also stuff you don’t usually hear on the radio. Almost all of the stuff that I listen to is musical theater, simply because it’s one of my biggest passions. I love how the songs really tell a story and you can tell the actors are feeling what they’re singing. I think that’s one of the greatest things about the genre."
“We’ll start off with the most popular of my faves: Dear Evan Hansen, by Benji Pasek and Justin Paul. It’s a musical about a kid named Evan Hansen, who has a social anxiety disorder that makes it hard for him to connect with his peers. Evan learns that a boy in his class recently committed suicide, and through a misunderstanding, the boy’s family thinks that Evan was his only friend. Evan goes along with the lie, and the story continues. It sounds dark, but it’s surprisingly uplifting. If you’re going to listen to it, make sure you have tissues nearby because YOU WILL CRY. We went to see it on Broadway last summer and there wasn’t a single dry face in the audience. On top of that, the music is stunningly gorgeous and all the actors are incredibly talented. (It won SIX Tonys in 2017!) My personal favorite song is “You Will Be Found,” which ends the first act."
You Will Be Found https://youtu.be/mSfH2AuhXfw
“Another musical I’m in love with is Be More Chill by Joe Iconis. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. It had a two-month Off-Off-Broadway run and a cast album in 2015, but two fans took to social media and spread it like the plague. Now it’s as popular as “Dear Evan Hansen!” The musical is about a boy named Jeremy, an awkward high schooler with a crush on a cute girl named Christine. Jeremy takes a pill called the SQUIP, a quantum supercomputer that implants itself into Jeremy’s brain and tells him how to be more chill (pun intended) and win over Christine. Wacky! It’s geared more towards teenagers and millennials than Dear Evan Hansen, but it’s definitely still worth checking out. The music is of course phenomenal, and totally worth your time. My favorite songs are “I Love Play Rehearsal” and “Michael in the Bathroom.”
Michael in the Bathroom https://youtu.be/Dj1P-5Ey4dU
“My current favorite is – surprise! – not a musical. It’s an album comprised of musical theater songs! Two-Player Game, by George Salazar and Joe Iconis (Name sound familiar? Joe wrote “Be More Chill!”) contains songs written by Joe, and sung by George (although, Joe sometimes sings, too...there might also be some kazoo action). George played Michael, Jeremy’s best friend, in Be More Chill, and his singing in this album is equally, if not more, incredible. My current favorites are “Broadway, Here I Come!” and “The Answer.” First time listening to them, I was so excited I can only express it through keysmashes: ASJDFJHBIJADIHWSJIFKJD!! Be sure to check them out!"
Broadway, Here I Come! https://youtu.be/UPXYg3SfDVk
“My fourth and final (for now...) recommendation is Little Windows, by Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones. I’m normally ix-nay on country music, but I can’t help but love this adorable album. The songs are frustratingly catchy, with great harmonies and clever lyrics. It’s easily the most lighthearted and blissfully simple of my selections. One of my favorite songs is “Make a Wish on Me.” If you prefer more modern pop tunes, this is the album for you."
Make a Wish on Me https://youtu.be/4ds-kuXrpqI