BRIGHTON: The Shondes’ Brand of Feminist Pop-Punk Has an Optimistic Edge

shondes

I love when I find a band that simultaneously rocks and makes me smile. Brooklyn’s The Shondes bring a unique outlook to their music—a feminist, Jewish punk band with catchy melodies, soaring violin, epic lyrics and earnest hopefulness. Their lead single, “Everything Good,” from their most recent album, Brighton, exemplifies this style. The lyrics are sweet and optimistic, supported by the romantic violin, but the energetic drums, fuzzy guitar, and lead singer Louisa Solomon’s powerful vocals give the song a punk edge.

The entire album is filled with incredibly tuneful melodies, a particular strength of the band’s songwriting, and the energy is overall a little 80s without the cheesy synths, reminiscent of Blondie, the Pretenders, and even anthem rock like Bruce Springsteen. Solomon’s voice in particular reminds me of Chrissie Hynde, with its ability to somehow be passionate and cool at the same time. And Elijah Oberman’s violin touches are always thoughtful and always strong—I especially love the pizzicato in “Wrong Kind,” a sing-along pop-punk anthem.

Other standouts on the album include “True North,” featuring a nod to their Jewish influences with the lyric “next year in Jerusalem” and an epic breakdown at the end; “Unstill Ones,” which is impossible not to sing along to between the background “oohs” and the “fuck that noise” refrain; and “Nightwatch,” perhaps their most adventurous offering. The guitar is gorgeous, the lyrics sweet and earnest, and the layering of ambient wails, violin, and sparse drums is tasteful and satisfyingly builds to the end. There is much to love about The Shondes and Brighton, from their inclusive and celebratory message to their catchy punk style—but ultimately, they simply make me happy and I like them. To me, that’s the joy of reviewing and discovering new music, and I’m thrilled to have found them.

SOUND: Catchy, energetic punk rock, with a little anthem rock thrown in; similar to Joan Jett, Blondie, The Pretenders, The Bangles, Bruce Springsteen

LISTEN TO: “Everything Good,” “Unstill Ones,” “Nightwatch”

Buy the album on Bandcamp

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Watch their video for “Everything Good:”

SONGS NOT SILENCE: Bringing Female Musicians Together for a Cause

songsnotsilence

Last Wednesday I attended the last Songs Not Silence event of the year, a benefit series that has been going strong since April once a month at The 5 Spot. The series features all female or female-fronted acts and always centers on raising money for a cause. This month’s proceeds will go towards the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Oppostion, and all the artists, including the event’s founder Joanna Barbera, spoke very passionately about the need for our continued support for the Sioux tribe—even though they’ve had a recent victory, the fight is not over!

Barbera says the Song Not Silence series began as a way to bring awareness to the work of Thistle Farms and “real stories and experiences from the mouths of the women themselves.” For those who don’t know, Thistle Farms is an incredible organization that provides housing and employment for women recovering from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. The women produce a bath and body product line as well as artisan goods. “So each month, the ladies from Thistle Farms would set up a table and sell their products. About mid-evening, one would come up to the stage and tell their personal story, their history of drugs and sex trafficking and how Thistle Farms has changed their life.”

Last month was the first month Barbera branched out to other organizations, with November’s show featuring The Oasis Center, a local non-profit that provides programs for at-risk youth and shelter for homeless teens. She followed that expansion with this month’s Standing Rock benefit: “this month was special,” she says, “because I am very passionate about the happenings at Standing Rock.”

The all-female lineup was certainly formidable on Wednesday, with Lauren Farrah offering an intimate solo acoustic set as an “icebreaker.” Megan Palmer was a standout, as was her gorgeous song, “Stetson,” and the moving story that accompanied it—Palmer had breast cancer earlier this year, and the song centers on losing her hair and finding just the right Stetson to wear (and with it, her confidence and beauty). Becca Mancari’s full band set was lively and polished, and Joanna Barbera ended the night backed by two violinist/singers for some of the most inventive music of the evening.

I asked Barbera about the importance of having these female-centered benefits, and she responded that to her, it’s about women standing up for other women and supporting each other. “Society and mainstream media pits women against each other all too often. We compare and criticize ourselves and one another physically, mentally, socially, etc. I want to see more women working together—inspiring each other and building one another up. That was my intention: to bring us together and encourage each other to be our fullest, badass-est selves.”

Songs Not Silence returns to The 5 Spot in February—be sure to check it out, and we’ll see you there!

For more info on each of the featured musicians:

Lauren Farrah: Facebook

Megan Palmer: Facebook    Spotify

Becca Mancari: Facebook    Spotify

Joanna Barbera: Facebook    Spotify

GOLDEN TONGUE: Magana’s Debut EP is an Intimate, Passionate Thrill That Leaves Us Wanting More

magana

Brooklyn artist Magana’s debut EP, Golden Tongue, will be released on Oct. 28, and it’s a tantalizing taste of what this compelling artist has in store for us in the future. Her indie rock/pop style is similar to other eclectic singer-songwriters like St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten, and Angel Olsen, with a bit of 90s alt-girl like PJ Harvey and Mazzy Star thrown in for good measure. The four-song EP kicks off with “Get It Right,” where she blends poetic lyrics with bluntly honest directives like “Get it right if you’re gonna, gonna waste my time, “ and “make up your damn mind.” The harmony is subtly surprising, and her voice is arresting from the first note. This is one of two singles you can listen to prior to the album’s release on Oct 28th, so click here to check it out!

The other single available to listen to now by clicking here is “Inches Apart,” an intimate song which builds beautifully from simple, clean electric guitar and Magana’s voice to a sparse yet lush synth soundscape. This song and the next, “The World Doesn’t Know,” demonstrate Magana’s remarkable ability to craft a musical journey that truly moves the listener through the song to a different place than where they started. The album closes with my personal favorite, “Golden Tongue,” featuring Magana’s sweet yet raucous vocal performance, the most complex and compelling drum groove of the album, and a rich, synth-y breakdown at the end with flashes of Radiohead circa OK Computer. On top of all that, it delivers a gut-punch of a final line in the chorus, “And you’ll never even know / that you’re lonely until you’re old.”

Overall, Golden Tongue is a satisfying glimpse into this Magana’s world and her potential for the future. We hear her evocative vocals, feel the emotion in her lyrics, and sense the intimacy and power in her instrumentation. If I had one criticism, it would be that this album is too short—as each song ended, I felt myself wishing for more, and indeed, with most of the songs clocking in around 3 minutes or under and the EP itself only being four songs, it’s on the short side. However, this may actually be the smartest move she’s made on the entire album, because I truly can’t wait to hear what she does next. For her first effort, Magana accomplishes what any EP should do—put her sound in our heads and leave us wanting more more more.

SOUND: Dreamy, dramatic indie rock/pop in the vein of St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten, and Daughter

LISTEN TO: The whole thing—it’s only four songs! But especially “Golden Tongue” and “Get It Right”

Preorder Golden Tongue here: https://maganarama.bandcamp.com/album/golden-tongue-ep

Links to all of her social are below, and stay tuned for her album release on October 28th!

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Preview two tracks from the album here:

Get It Right: Bandcamp / Soundcloud / Spotify

 

 

Inches Apart: Bandcamp / Soundcloud / YouTube

MAJOR LABEL: Good Feminist, Bad Feminist

goodwitch

Last week for women in music was one of those lil’ of column A, lil’ of column B weeks. Taylor Swift became the first woman to win Album of the Year twice, and used the opportunity to make sure Kanye and everybody else knows that women work hard and are responsible for their own successes. Huge plus in the A column!

Then, on Friday, Kesha tried to nullify a contract that would force her to produce up to six more albums with Sony and Dr. Luke, her longtime producer who she says raped her when she was 18, and has emotionally, physically, and sexually abused her since. Kesha seemed in utter disbelief and openly wept as the verdict was announced. I think most of us were, sadly, not surprised that the court ruled in favor of a corporation rather than a human—it seems the $60 million that Dr. Luke alleges he invested in her was enough for the court to rule that he owned her, fair and square. It is worth mentioning that Sony has offered to let Kesha record with a different producer, but she and her lawyer, probably correctly, assert that the company wouldn’t offer her proper marketing support if she did that, especially since she’s spent so much time and money suing them. Plus, Dr. Luke would still legally own a piece of her work with other Sony producers while the contract is valid. So, column B.

It has been inspiring to see so many people support Kesha on Twitter, and it’s good to know that at least these people recognize the tried-and-true tactics Dr. Luke’s team has used to discredit Kesha’s claims—if he raped her, why didn’t she report it? She’s just trying to defame him!!—as victim-blaming defenses. She likely didn’t report it because she—crazy thought—wasn’t sure anyone would believe her and didn’t want to jeopardize her career. ‘Cause we see how well that turned out for her now that she HAS reported it, right? And even if you truly don’t believe the rape allegations because of the lack of physical evidence, let’s consider her assertion that he abused her for years; Kesha was diagnosed with an eating disorder and feels that because Dr. Luke commented often on her weight, calling her a “refrigerator,” he is at least partially to blame for her development of that disorder. Do we at least see why she might feel unsafe working with this man? Thankfully, many people do. #FreeKesha.

So the support was rolling in on Twitter when Demi Lovato tweeted her support of Kesha while condemning women who seem to be feminists only when it’s convenient for their careers—and EVERYONE assumed she meant Taylor Swift, because Taylor had not tweeted #FreeKesha. Demi clarified that that’s not who she meant, and that she’s just pointing out the hypocrisy of women aligning with feminism now that it’s more popular, seemingly to further their careers.

You know what I say to that? SO. WHAT.

shrug

I’m thrilled that feminism is so popular now! Who cares why people are becoming feminists? Promoting equality and a voice for women is all that matters, whether you’re doing so for selfish gain or not. I honestly think Taylor believes what she’s saying and wants to help young women succeed (and for the record, she made a $250,000 donation to Kesha and offered her support). But even if you don’t believe her, why does it matter if she’s supporting other women out of the goodness of her heart or to help herself? Either way, she’s supporting women!

Feminism means a lot of different things to different people. It can mean bra-burning, man-hating, sexual liberation; it can mean girl power, Powerpuff Girls, girly-is-great attitude. Most recently, with our Emma-Watson-era feminism, it means inclusivity. It means anyone and everyone can and should be a feminist. It means we recognize the way that the patriarchy is structured and the ways that women are still undervalued and underpaid in society, and sometimes disbelieved like Kesha. It means we realize the ways in which men are also harmed by a strict adherence to gender-normative behavior (Get tough! Don’t talk about your feelings! But men are more likely than women to suffer from certain mental illnesses so…). It means we acknowledge that non-white women have not felt included in feminism in the past and would like to make sure we address their issues now. It means we agree that gender is a social construct and that there is room in feminism for transgender and gender-fluid individuals as well as cis-men and –women. In short: there is room for everyone in feminism.

The feminist movement is now, and always has been, about raising women’s voices and making sure they are heard in a society that can sometimes suppress them. So I officially do not care if you think Beyonce is a bad feminist because she shakes her ass onstage, or, leaving music for a minute, if Gloria Steinem thinks young women are bad feminists because statistically they tend to support Bernie over Hillary. These are women voicing what they want and who they are—that’s feminism. And I don’t think the people crying “bad feminist”—Gloria Steinem, Annie Lennox, Demi Lovato—are themselves bad feminists for questioning other women’s true motives in their feminist actions (although they could check the high-and-mighty tone for me, thanks). They contribute to an on-going conversation about what has changed in feminism and what remains the same.

So Taylor, Demi, Beyonce, Gloria Steinem, take heart—you’re not bad feminists, because there are no bad feminists. There are only feminists. We may disagree about the best way to do things, but that’s not as important as the big picture. If you’re for gender equality, then you’re good, and you’re a feminist.

VAMPing

Welcome to VAMP! This blog is all about supporting local female musicians, music lovers, and YOU.

So what is a vamp? Many things:

A vamp is a repeated musical passage, usually played under a solo or dialogue.

vamplogosmall

Can you vamp that while I take a solo thanks

 

It’s a velvet display for a necklace or a bed of rice for the main dish—it’s steady, reliable, and at least mildly interesting, but it serves mainly to support the primary focus. All good music blogs should be like this; yes, a certain amount of self-promotion is always involved in a blog, but giving a voice to talented local artists and providing resources to help musicians improve is the most important goal. I know so many incredible artists in Nashville, and I want to help them get there music out there as much as I can—simple as that!

A vamp is also a femme fatale—a strong, self-assured female character in literature, movies, opera, you name it.

carmen

Carmen, the original bad-ass opera vamp

 

Women are underrepresented in many facets of the music industry; it’s just a fact. I figure the only way to fix that is to talk about the female artists that I love and that deserve everyone’s attention—and to talk about them A LOT. So, the main focus of this blog is to support incredible female songwriters, musicians, and bands in Nashville and around the country. If this describes you and you want to submit your work to my website, contact me here!

 

According to Google, a vamp is also the “upper front part of a boot or shoe.”

vampshoe

Sooo that’s cool.

 

A VAMP is also an acronym for Voicing All My Passions, which is what I intend to do with this blog. I love music and I want to bring good music to appreciative listeners—that’s why we’re all here! All musicians are voicing their passions every time they make music; it’s my hope that presenting musicians and music issues on this blog amplifies their voices and brings their message to a larger audience. Hear some good music, read some articles and interviews, and raise your voice in a song—I’ll vamp for you while you do.