Category Archives: FEATURES

The Low Anthem: Lonely Eyeland

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The Low Anthem stripped its sound and membership down to the bare essentials to actualize Eyeland

On the subject of epitaphs, it’s been written that the quality of a life is not contained in the dates on the stone but in the hyphen between them. That sentiment is equally true when the dates in question describe the gap between a band’s releases. In the Low Anthem’s case, the five years between 2011’s Smart Flesh and the diverse and distinct Eyeland may have been the most productive and evolutionary period.

After a nearly two-year tour for Smart Flesh, the Low Anthem decamped to its Providence, R.I., base to contemplate its next moves. The band found itself engaged on a variety of fronts—it began a project to rehabilitate the Columbus Theatre in downtown Providence into a performance/studio space; lost its manager to corporate acquisition; its labels dropped the group as the gap between albums widened; and, perhaps most damaging, three of the band’s five members defected for varying reasons. It was a string of events that would have unraveled a lesser group.

“We were floating in free time, just me and Jeff (Prystowsky), the only other original member,” says frontman Ben Knox Miller. “We would look at each other and go, ‘Do you believe in all these other projects we’re doing?’ We agreed that this time was good to let the chemistry fully dissolve back down to the elemental.”

When the space—also named Eyeland—was operational, Miller and Prystowsky further divided their time by recording other bands in the studio and booking the theater. Having vast eyewitness experience on how not to run a venue gave them an upper hand.

“It’s a venue run by musicians, so you don’t walk into an environment where you feel like a fish out of water,” says Miller. “It’s not some corporate place; it’s like our living room and your living room, and it’s very personal. John C. Reilly played here and was interviewed for a New York Times piece, and he said, ‘It’s nice to see the inmates running the asylum.’ That’s the vibe we’ve cultivated.”

Simultaneously, the pair was taking chunks of time to work on what would ultimately become Eyeland. It was a long process made more difficult by the absence of management, finding a new label (they signed with Concord/Razor & Tie/Washington Square) and dealing with the loss of most of the band.

“The record has been like a painting you leave in the kitchen, and every time you sit down to eat breakfast, you’re like, ‘Oh, fuck, I’ve got to cross that part out,’” says Miller. “It’s always there on the wall while all these things have been going on.”

When Miller originally came up with the name Eyeland, he and Prystowsky played a word association game in a local bar, working out the potential ways that listeners might perceive the title.

“There seemed to be a whole host of one-step associations that had very different suggestions,” says Miller. “Without any specific interpretation that this was bent toward, the fact of its interpretational ability gave us the confidence that there was room to explore and let it not be any one of those things. It was very much a process of discovery for us, and I’m grateful for the time we had to let that happen organically.”

As Miller was writing songs for Eyeland, he also conceived a 12-page abstract narrative intended as a liner-note key to connect the arc of the songs. With the shifts and alterations in the album’s form, that idea was shelved.

“At one time, it was very elaborate, and you could trace it from A to B,” says Miller. “Four years later, I’m not sure that’s still true. I don’t have perspective to know that anymore. There were 26 songs when we started looking for a place to record, and I think eight of them survived, so you have this constellation of moments from the story that are now abstracted by what’s been taken away.”

Eyeland was further influenced by the duo’s visit to San Francisco’s Audium, the immersive sonic theater experience that features life sounds mixed with music; Prystowsky subsequently bought a stereo field recorder and began capturing found sounds and atmospheres that added Brian Eno’s aggressive ambience and Tom Waits’ woodshed constructionism to the soundtrack.

“I was like, ‘OK, I get it, but now we also need the music to come the other half of the way to meet that,’” he says. “From that point on, it was like day one again. We had this whole new mission to give that collision some kind of order. That was one of those turning points where we thought we were done, but we were just getting started.”

—Brian Baker

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National Park Radio: Sounds Of Rural America

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National Park Radio is flying its freak flag

“Our songs are big, folky free-for-alls,” says Stefan Szabo, National Park Radio’s ringmaster and songwriter. The romping, stomping tunes on The Great Divide, the band’s debut, live up to Szabo’s description. Although there’s a hint of bluegrass in the arrangements, the band eschews the solo instrumental flights of the genre, going for a lively sound marked by the rhythmic interplay between banjo, acoustic guitar and galloping stand-up bass.

“It’s a singer/songwriter with a band,” says Szabo, “but I don’t like to describe it. If you listen, you’ll understand what it is.”

Szabo played guitar in a Christian rock band in high school, but didn’t get serious about music until he turned 27. “I’ve always wanted to sing, but never gave it a try. In my late 20s, I realized I was running out of time.”

He made an album of original songs in his garage and, after he started playing them live, added other musicians to flesh out his vision. “I’m not an amazing singer or player,” he says. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to not embarrass myself when I perform. I’m just an ordinary person who decided to try and do something extraordinary. I’m just as real and honest as I can be in my songwriting. A lot of people seem to connect with that.”

When the band isn’t on the road, its members live in the rural Arkansas town they grew up in. “We’re isolated from the rest of the world in a lot of ways,” says Szabo. “That’s why my songs reflect real life in Arkansas, which I imagine is similar to life in a lot of rural areas and small towns across the South and Midwest. The whole idea of ‘hillbilly’ backwoods mountain music is fun to play with, which is probably why banjo has such big role in our sound.”

—j. poet

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Cotton Mather: Spiritual Fabric

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For its first album in 15 years, Cotton Mather takes on the I Ching

Cotton Mather’s Robert Harrison gets brownie points for ambition. Death Of The Cool (The Star Apple Kingdom) comprises 11 of the 64 songs he’s been writing in an extended fit of creativity inspired by the I Ching, the ancient Chinese divination text—one tune per hexagram (or reading). Seriously.

“I stumbled upon this idea in 2009,” says Harrison, who first consulted the I Ching for artistic guidance while collaborating with singer/songwriter Nicole Atkins on a few songs that, sadly, she never used. “The specific guidance was about knowing what your talents are and exploiting them in the best way.”

It’s the tail end of South By Southwest 2016, an event Harrison knows all too well. His Austin, Texas, band was one of the more critically hyped acts at the 1998 conference, following the release of Cotton Mather’s four-track power-pop masterpiece, Kontiki. Over dinner at a superb Mexican joint tucked away in strip mall on the outskirts of downtown Austin, an enthused Harrison flits from subject to subject, consulting drummer Darin Murphy across the table every so often. “There are 20 finished tracks, and I’m into the writing and production on maybe 27 others,” says Harrison. “The goal is to hit the halfway mark this summer.”

“It always takes longer than you think it does, and our lives aren’t as simple as they used to be,” says Murphy. “But when Robert is ready to make music, we make time for him, because we know it’s going to be exciting—whatever it is.”

There’s a method to Harrison’s madness. Commentaries about each of the songs can be found at IchingSongs.com. He’s already posted explanations of a least six album tracks, along with four more tunes not on Death Of The Cool, including “The Cotton Mather Pledge”—based on I Ching hexagram number 13, “Fellowship With Men.”

Long-winded explanations would be of little consequence if Harrison’s skewed sense of humor (the album’s title is, in part, an inverted riff on Miles Davis’ classic Birth Of The Cool), and well-honed compositional sensibilities didn’t continue to fuel the Cotton Mather engine. Especially stunning are the extraterrestrial multipart harmonies of Harrison, Murphy and guitarist Whit Williams on “The Book Of Too Late Changes,” “Close To The Sun,” “The Land Of Flowers” and “The End Of DeWitt Finley.” All four songs are vintage Mather with a side of hazy surreality, their structural tinkerings and cerebral aspirations grounded in a classicist’s grasp of melody and dynamics.

Apparently, there remains some concern on Harrison’s part that the backstory might overwhelm the music.

“I don’t like those sort of pompous Pete Townshend narratives,” says Harrison. “I’m the kind of music fan who would hate this project. I’d want to punch me in the nose and say, ‘Just shut up and give me the fuckin’ songs.’”

—Hobart Rowland

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“He’s No Angel”: A Short Story By MAGNET’s Mitch Myers

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Adam Coil was only 55 when he passed away. He was alone in his apartment eating Chinese food and watching The Daily Show when a sudden heart attack took him just before midnight. The moment Adam died, he felt that the entire situation was quite unfair since there were so many things that he’d left unfinished and undone in his life.

He felt ripped off watching his own funeral—that final clichéd conceit—and he cynically observed the assembled few pay their last respects. Adam noticed those in attendance, but was more interested in keeping track of the folks who didn’t show. He ignored most of the grieving and focused instead on the many frustrations and slights that had been inflicted upon him.

Coil’s adieu was not well attended, nor was it an overly emotional affair. Some weary pastor he didn’t even know gave a halfhearted eulogy and besides the obligatory presence of his mother and recent girlfriend, Adam didn’t spot anyone he really cared for.

It all happened so fast after the heart attack—being carted from his apartment to the hospital to the morgue to the funeral home and then the burial service. Still reeling in disbelief, Adam had trouble with this strange flurry of activity. The fact that his ghostly essence was moving back and forth between his close relations and the people handling his remains was very confusing.

Back when he was among the living, Adam worked as a freelance writer, balancing an arts column and news articles with commercial ad copy and press releases. It wasn’t glamorous or lucrative and although he was self-defeating and incapable of raising his own profile, he’d never imagined a different career.

He had displayed a unique grasp of the cultural zeitgeist back in the ’90s, enjoying literary accomplishments and the respect of his peers. But that was long ago. He’d burned many bridges since then and his life was marked by disappointments. Among his many grievances, Adam felt denied the recognition he deserved for his insightful perspective on popular culture.

After days of his spirit being pulled in many different directions, things settled down enough for Adam to discern a pattern. Apparently his spirit was summoned by thoughts and memories. He was being conjured, so to speak, when other people were in the conscious act of remembering him—good, bad or indifferent.

When his obituary finally ran in the local paper, Adam was conjured by a boring couple he hadn’t seen in ages and another dude he hardly remembered. He was further irked that his death barely trended on social media, and there weren’t any tribute pages constructed in his memory. Adam feared that he would soon be forgotten completely.

After his funeral, Adam stayed somewhat active. He was being conjured by his girlfriend Andrea, who spent a lot of time texting her friends. They’d only been together for six months and he wasn’t very attached to her. Still, she cried every day, and spoke of him in this high-pitched whine that Adam disliked.

Adam hated Andrea’s messy apartment and hated her cats—but when he was conjured his spirit was stuck close to that person until leaving their conscious thoughts. He tired of listening to Andrea’s remembrances of how moody he’d been before he died, and so he tried to focus on the radio station she always had blaring. Unfortunately, he hated the radio station, too.

When Adam wasn’t hanging around Andrea’s place he would sometimes find himself back at his mother’s house. His mother, Doris, had a stream of visitors since his passing and many of them brought her food. She was obsessive-compulsive, cleaned constantly and stacked everything edible in old Tupperware, which drove Adam crazy.

Doris had this spiel about how Adam was just starting to turn his life around when he died. That got old quick, and Adam suffered resentfully as she repeated this tale over and over. He resorted to watching daytime TV in the living room when conjured to her side. Adam remained fitful, and could barely distract himself with the television programs, all of which he hated.

Not many people were aware of Adam’s passing and although he was anxious about being forgotten he was also OK with the sparse attention because of his great embarrassment, the one he’d spent decades trying to erase from his mind. Adam was soon conjured downtown by an old editor and another colleague, and they gossiped about him for about five full minutes. He felt an immense relief when the great embarrassment went unmentioned.

Adam had assumed that his spirit would be shuffling off into the sunset somewhere after he was buried. He vaguely imagined going to an alternate afterlife or ascending to the next level of cosmic existence but he didn’t go anywhere at all. He just kept hanging around, still getting conjured occasionally, but with less frequency and less intensity as time went on.

Since he was being conjured less, Adam spent more time drifting in the Grey Haze. This was most befuddling for him. The Grey Haze was akin to languishing in a thick murky mist where his thoughts barely percolated and the Earth was nowhere in sight. Adam struggled to maintain his sense of self when within the Grey Haze, but he was always diminished—lacking focus, energy and stimuli. He hated the strange isolation of the Grey Haze and feared that this suspended state would become his permanent purgatory.

There was one busy weekend when his landlord brought some boxes of his belongings to his mother’s place. The landlord helped her put his computer, financials, old clippings and other junk down in her basement. The landlord commented how little Adam had to show for himself. His mother sadly agreed and went into her spiel about how Adam was just starting to turn his life around when he died. Adam fumed in the basement. He never did like that landlord.

Adam was also weary of visiting Andrea’s apartment. She left food out all of the time and even though he no longer smelled things, it was still a big turnoff. He thought she was getting fat, too—but hanging out at her place was preferable to wallowing in that damned Grey Haze. Andrea kept talking about organizing a memorial for Adam, but he doubted that would ever happen.

Then Adam was conjured over to Andrea’s apartment when his long-estranged friend Roger dropped by. The two were discussing her memorial idea and it was all mildly interesting until the pair started making out and rolling around on the couch. Humiliated, Adam waited for them to forget about him so that he could disappear. They forgot him soon enough, and for the first time he was actually grateful to revert back into the Grey Haze. He sullenly noted that Andrea didn’t conjure him that night, or the next day.

Now on the skids with Andrea, Adam spent most of his time floating restlessly in the Grey Haze or watching TV in his mother’s living room. Unfortunately, there were new indignities. Adam’s mom had actually reconnected with his ex-wife Judy in Phoenix. Their phone calls proved upsetting to Adam since he was reminded of his failures as a spouse, provider and friend. Of course, the great embarrassment was discussed. Man, he hated Judy.

The unchanging drift of the Grey Haze did give Adam time to dwell on the memory he’d left behind. It was the only thing that mattered to him, as his legacy dictated how often he’d be conjured among the living. Fixating on his many resentments toward others seemed to help him maintain consciousness within the Grey Haze—kind of like a nightlight glow in the shaded, formless dark. He wondered how he might improve the quality of his afterlife.

He was especially angry with Andrea, who was now telling people that she was ready to break up with Adam when he passed away. This was the first he’d heard about it, and true or not, it stung badly. She also had begun dating Roger. Adam loathed seeing them together but they kept discussing that damn memorial so he had no choice. He’d never trusted Roger and now thoroughly despised him.

Adam’s mother continued to conjure him. After painfully listening to her drone on about him while restacking her Tupperware containers for the umpteenth time, Adam reached his limit—he couldn’t ignore her by watching TV any longer. Raging, Adam frantically determined that he could actually go into the basement by himself. If he went directly below the living room near his belongings, he’d still be in range of his mother, but could escape her inane ramblings. There wasn’t much to do down there hovering among the cardboard boxes, but Adam was desperate for any relief from his mother’s humiliating discourse.

Things soon reached low ebb. Adam wasn’t seeing Andrea any more, there was no memorial in the works, and no one was conjuring him very much at all. When he wasn’t fulminating in the Grey Haze he was literally hiding out in his mother’s basement. Then one day a young man named Jimmy Boswell showed up at his mom’s house unannounced.

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Rhyton: Right On

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Rhyton pours out the cosmic boogie

Nothing is fixed in Dave Shuford’s musical universe, but balance must be maintained. The Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist digs the structure of roots forms like the trucker C&W of his Georgia youth or the Greek folk music of his ancestors, but he also thrives on improvisation. In 2009, the rollicking D. Charles Speer & The Helix covered the first pole, but the No-Neck Blues Band, his main outlet for freeform flight, was headed for a lengthy layoff.

“I wanted to make sure I had a safe haven for the more abstract realm,” says Shuford. So he founded Rhyton, which is named for a horn-shaped drinking vessel often found in Greek archaeological digs, with bassist/electronic musician Jimy SeiTang (ex-Psychic Ills, Stygian Stride) and original drummer Spencer Herbst (since replaced by Rob Smith). The trio’s first four LPs extend the reality-blurring explorations of groups like Pärson Sound, Edgar Broughton Band and Chrome into realms of Anatolian mystery and Hendrixian distortion.

But then the Helix went on ice, sidelined by a couple of members’ burgeoning film/TV production careers and the arrival of Shuford’s son. Around the same time, SeiTang and Smith embarked upon a major R&B listening bender. The poles didn’t so much reverse as bend and meet to form a perfect circle on their new album Redshift (Thrill Jockey). Shuford has stepped up to the mic, and the jams occasionally cohere into songs. The title tune flows easily from cosmic country shuffle to lunar electronic space-out, and there’s a boogieing take on Joe Walsh’s Watergate-era anthem “Turn To Stone.”

“It was a lot of fun to explore some cleaner guitar sounds, interlocking keyboard grooves and group vocals,” says Shuford. “Plus the lyrics reflect major disillusionment with the political establishment, a theme that is as resonant as ever.”

—Bill Meyer

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Wild Beasts: The Pleasures And Sorrows Of Work

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How Wild Beasts frontman Hayden Thorpe got his groove back with Boy King

Some artists might conceive an entire album around simple, relatable themes, like love, loss or heartbreak. But brainy British aesthete Hayden Thorpe set his thematic sights a bit higher on Boy King, the latest thoughtful treatise from his art-rock outfit, Wild Beasts. On ambitious numbers like “Big Cat,” “Tough Guy,” “Alpha Female,” “He The Colossus” and the sinister, synth-throbbing “Eat Your Heart Out Adonis,” the operatic-voiced artist had one concept in mind.

“This record is about the id and the primal desires—or primal functions—of all these aggressive traits, and how the murderous and sensuous desires coexist,” he says. “A vile man can also be a very tender, caring man, as can a woman. I know I have the impulse to want to murderously eradicate my rivals. Yet I’m also capable of being compassionate and protective of them as well.”

Pretty lofty, as songwriting goals go. But Thorpe thinks it all started with his realization that—since sidling serpent-like onto the U.K. music scene with Wild Beasts’ truly unclassifiable, falsetto-trilled 2008 debut Limbo, Panto and surreal singles like “Brave Bulging Bouyant Clairvoyants”—he had found the notoriety and success he’d been seeking since forming the group with guitarist/co-vocalist Ben Little in high school. But be careful what you wish for, as they say.

“I suddenly realized that the momentum and the force with which I’d propelled my way through to that point hadn’t fixed the things that I thought it was going to fix,” he says. “I’d become this guy that traverses the Earth for his work, a guy who can languish in self-absorption. But the anxieties and insecurities that I had when I was a boy were still with me.”

By reading a series of self-help books by authors like Alain de Botton—and studying the role masculinity plays in our culture—the vocalist reasoned his way out of his situation. As a kid growing up in England’s pastoral Lake District, he had an awestruck take on what being an adult male signified. A man was a commanding, all-conquering hero then, almost indestructible.

“But now I’ve realized that the crown weighs heavy,” he says. “So I guess my existential crisis was about the gap, the space in between what I thought I should be and what I was. So rather than constantly trying to forge your way across that gap, I chose to just be in the abyss, allow myself to bathe in it.”

The societal norms Thorpe examined extended to his own traditionally defined one as a singer in a rock band. He vacillated; was he wearing a metaphorical mask and becoming some larger-than-life creature? Or was he secretly disgusted by the whole transformative process that suborned his true self, every time he took the stage? He understood that it was power he was wielding. But how righteously? And was it macho to even admit such vulnerabilities?

“When you perform live, you exist in an altered state that only those who’ve been there can appreciate,” he says. “You are in a timeless state—there is no before, there is no after. And we can be many people at once, I’ve discovered. In order to be the hyper-real performer, you might have to curl up in a ball and weep afterward.”

Musically, Little was sailing the same turbulent tides. Boy King started with aborted writing sessions with U.K. pals Disclosure, then segued into the composition of what Thorpe imagined would be a neo-soul album. But Little kept bringing more and more industrial-strength filigrees into the studio, until a muscular, stripped-down new Wild Beasts emerged. They trimmed off even more fat—and falsetto—in Dallas, with producer John Congleton. The set buzzes like an angry bumblebee, barely contained inside a Mason jar.

“It has that element of masochism about it, like, ‘Fuck you, glass! Fuck you! Fuck you! I’m going up against you again.’” says Thorpe.

Additionally, Thorpe was going through a breakup with a girlfriend during the whole Boy King process. “And the energy you can harness, the kind of supernova that happens on those occasions? It really corrupts your world view in ways that can really reveal things,” he says. “It cracks open the Earth, and you can look pretty far down.”

—Tom Lanham

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The Twin Atlas: Keep Coming Back

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The Twin Atlas returns after seven-year hiatus

There’s a strummy tradition of pastoral rock from New Jersey that goes back to the Feelies’ The Good Earth and stretches forward to Real Estate. It’s a lineage that includes the Twin Atlas, the home-recording project of Sean Byrne and his friend Luke Zaleski, a pair of Jersey natives who met at the University of Delaware in the mid-’90s. Byrne drummed for several Philadelphia-area bands, notably Lenola and Mazarin, but after he and Zaleski started noodling around on guitars they called themselves the Twin Atlas, releasing the wonderfully titled The Philadelphia Parking Authority Must Die, their first collection of home-recordings, in 2000.

“The early Twin Atlas, which does feel really distant and different for me, does feel like short sketches, things that weren’t necessarily seen through; more like capturing ideas, really rough, really quick,” says Byrne. “As things went on towards the midpoint, around the time of [2005’s] Sun Township, I definitely was trying to evolve the songs more when I was recording them, give them a little more body, with more drums, and take them over to friends’ studios and make them a little more full. Instead of throwing everything and the kitchen sink onto the record and some of it being half-baked, these are more distilled. Quality over quantity, I hope.”

That’s true of the new Big Spring, the sixth Twin Atlas album (not including several collections of bonus tracks and demos) and the first in seven years. In the interim, Byrne devoted himself to raising a family and to releasing instrumental, more ambient tracks under the name Lazy Salon. But during the hiatus, he started stockpiling songs, too.

“The more I started to work on them, I knew they weren’t going to be Lazy Salon things. You know, ‘Looks like a duck, acts like a duck,’” says Byrne. “I talked to Luke, and he wasn’t able to join in on the music and writing of stuff, like we had before, but I prodded him to contribute some lyrics because that’s never anything I put much time into. I felt the switch back on for the project.”

The result is an understated gem, from the brief, reflective “Ride Upon” to the propulsive, Mazarin-like “Atlantic.” At 10 songs in less than 28 minutes, it’s indeed quality over quantity.

—Steve Klinge

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Biffy Clyro: Pause And Claws

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Exhausted from the road, Biffy Clyro went dark for a year to conceive the high-wattage audio circus of Ellipsis

Two years ago, Glasgow-based indie-rock trio Biffy Clyro found itself at the slippery end of an unknotted rope. The band had recently completed five solid years of touring—two on its last album, 2012’s acclaimed double set Opposites, preceded by a three-year stint for 2009’s Only Revolutions—and was understandably crispy around the edges. When guitarist/vocalist Simon Neil began the songwriting process for a new LP, he immediately flipped into road mindset and tried to conceive songs that would work on the festival stages Biffy had been playing in Europe. When his creative juices dried up, he realized his folly, and the band announced that 2015 would be a “quiet year.”

“The main aim was to make music without pressure of shows or release dates,” says Neil in his brilliantly thick Scottish brogue. “I wanted to embrace the joy of making music and not worry about if the songs were fantastic or not. Every song you write is not a golden one. I struggled to feel inspired for the first time following the tour of Opposites, so we felt that we needed to go home and connect with our friends and family again and live fairly normal lives, where we could actually say to people, ‘We’ll see you next week.’ It’s the little things that have been out of our reach for the last 10 years.”

Biffy Clyro’s hiatus yielded big dividends, given the results of the new Ellipsis, named after the three dot punctuation that’s typically used as a placeholder for something left unsaid. Neil admits the title holds particular meaning for the band.

“Normally, an ellipsis happens at the end of a sentence,” says Neil. “We disappeared for about a year and didn’t play any shows, and I feel like people are joining halfway through the thought process. It’s definitely relevant to the record.”

With Ellipsis being Biffy’s seventh record, Neil and his bandmates for the past two decades—bassist James Johnston and twin brother Ben Johnston on drums—wanted to make sure that they weren’t becoming too predictable. Ellipsis covers familiar sonic territory for Biffy—blistering hard melodic rock with a touch of ’90s alternativity and a quick taste of sweet-tart pop—while offering a furiously contemporary energy.

“I wanted us to formulate a plan and find songs that felt like we were saying something fresh and also felt like the best songs we’d ever written,” says Neil. “Sometimes all you need for that is time and patience. We were fortunate we had the flexibility to let it gestate and bloom a bit of its own accord. I needed to put my ego to the side and reconnect with being a teenager again.”

After a two-month vacation with his wife in California, Neil returned to Glasgow, and he and the Johnstons practiced five times a week, returning to a head and heart space until the songs for Ellipsis felt strangely like Biffy’s birth in 1995 when the trio was still in high school.

“We don’t want to be a band that necessarily makes the same record over and over,” says Neil. “When I look at AC/DC, I love them so much because of that exact reason. But for me, I feel like my mind is a bit too tumultuous for that. I’m always looking for the next challenge, and I quite like challenging our fans as well. Our fans are an incredible bunch of people. They really understand their music, and I think they enjoy being taken on a wild goose chase. That’s quite healthy.”

—Brian Baker

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Getaway Dogs: Soul Kitchen

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Getaway Dogs make Brazilian psychedelia … from California

Getaway Dogs inhabit their own starry-eyed universe, drifting along to the tropical pulsation of big bossa-nova guitars, shimmering intergalactic keyboards, somnambulant vocals, whispered percussion and bright, buoyant melodies. Singer, songwriter and lead guitarist Kai Killion was born in the United States but didn’t get serious about music until he spent two years with his extended family in Brazil.

“I grew up with Brazilian jazz, bossa nova, samba and pop, as well as classic American rock and folk,” he says. “I also listened avidly to neo-soul, hip hop, indie pop and psychedelic rock. I found it difficult to stick with just one genre. That’s how I ended up with the sound Getaway Dogs has.”

When he moved back to Santa Cruz, an artistic nexus on the California coast, Killion started playing his songs on the street and at open mics. A few years back, he made a solo album called Mermaid Legs & Getaway Dogs. It was a raw, acoustic effort that featured the luminous harmonies of his pal Samantha Stone, but it didn’t capture the sounds he was hearing in his head. Killion returned to the studio and, over the course of the next two years, put together Lost In The Ebb, the first proper Getaway Dogs LP.

With a small coterie of like-minded souls, Killion made a record full of dreamy, late-night psychedelia that spins a calm, soothing spell. True to its title, the music ebbs and flows, with Killion’s guitar filigrees floating through whirlpools of ambient sound to support his gently surrealistic lyrics and Stone’s sublime harmonies.

“I recruited Samantha to sing on a couple songs the second time Getaway Dogs played live,” says Killion. “She brings the soul to our sound. We share the same taste in music and a love for channeling nature into our expres-sion.”

—j. poet

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D Generation: Walk On The Wild Side

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NYC punk icon D Generation returns with first album in 17 years

It was a painfully clear message that fourth-generation New Yorker Danny Sage received in a local bar late one hard-drinking night a few years ago: His hometown was changing. Fast. Not recognizing the guitarist as one of the founding members of Big Apple garage-punk trailblazer D Generation, a snotty, disrespectful millennial kept mouthing o until he went too far.

“So I finally said, ‘OK—let’s go to the curb,’” the guitarist says. “And the guy literally replied, ‘If you touch me, I’ll sue you! My dad is so and so, the famous lawyer!’ And I just started laughing, it was so embarrassing. I’d rather get punched in the face than whine about how my daddy is somebody important.”

And that, in a nutshell, is the brash street-tough spirit crackling through Nothing Is Anywhere, D Generation’s first new album in 17 years, which includes the same scrappy gang from its eponymous 1994 debut—Sage (who also produced), vocalist Jesse Malin, bassist Howie Pyron, guitarist Richard Bacchus and drummer Michael Wildwood. It’s a defiantly New York collection of working-class anthems that celebrates the band’s gritty urban past (“Apocalypse Kids,” “Queens Of A,” “Hatful Of Rain,” “Not Goin’ Back”) while sneering at the gentrification and pretentious poseurs corrupting its city’s culture (“Militant,” “Rich Kids,” “21st Century Blues,” churning stomper “Mercy Of The Rain,” on which Malin ominously growls, “Everybody wants this year’s model/Everybody wants to take your place”). After calling it quits with a 1999 farewell gig at Coney Island High, these old schoolers are back, angrier than ever and ready to take that fight outside.

It’s no coincidence that many Nothing lyrics ring with the Whit Stillman-ish veracity of overheard pub conversations, albeit knuckle-headed ones. Both Sage and Malin are part owners of separate New York bars—Dreambaby and Niagara, respectively. And they’ve spent many evenings at their establishments, quietly drinking and listening to some often incredibly shallow dialogue.

“It’s just inescapable,” says Sage, who relocated to Los Angeles after the breakup and worked as a personal assistant to a publishing exec before getting homesick. “In D Gen, we all come from here, and from middle-class backgrounds at best. But these people? They’re all über-wealthy, they’re not from the city, and they’ve never been told no in their life. They moved here seven years ago, and they’re an authority on New York culture, but they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. And they have no natural predators. I always tell them, ‘If the city was like it was when I was a kid? You’d be on the back of a milk carton by now.’”

Sage believes that this lack of awareness is aggravated by the impersonal digital age. “People are just oblivious,” he swears. “I’ll see these girls going home at six in the morning, walking down the middle of Avenue A and carrying a pair of heels, bombed out of their minds, and I can’t believe that goes on in any city, not just mine. And it goes for guys, too—maybe they’re a tough kid in their hometown in Ohio. But I don’t know if that counts for much on the Lower East Side at five o’clock in the morning.” It also riles him that many so-called Gotham outfits have only resided in Williamsburg for a few months. “That’s not what a New York City rock ’n’ roll band is,” he says. “So there’s some of that in our album, too, like, ‘Fuck you. We’re here, and this is the real deal’.”

Why regroup now? The timing was just right, Sage says. Year after year, D Gen kept getting reunion offers from Spain, until the band finally accepted. That turned into more overseas dates, then testing the songwriting waters, then cranking out more than 50 kinetic rockers. After tentatively recording more than a dozen cuts with Ryan Adams producing, the group opted to let Sage take the reins, track- ing the material cheaply—and more garage- gutteral—in his basement studio. “We’re huge Ramones, Clash, Pistols and Cheap Trick fans,” he says. “We wanted it to be murky and nasty, like the first Cheap Trick album.”

Politically, D Generation thought returning in this positively surreal election year made sense, too. “It’s like a Nero thing,” he says. “If the fall of Rome is going to happen, you need a little fiddling while it’s all going down. So crank up our album—play it as loud as you can!”

—Tom Lanham

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