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

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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:”

MAJOR LABEL: Good Feminist, Bad Feminist

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.