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Alt Rock





A Very Special Episode usher in change with "Fix Your Hearts Or Die"

Reader’s note: This write-up is the first of two pieces on A Very Special Episode’s album Fix Your Hearts Or Die, the second of which is a profile and interview with music photographer/video director/general polymath Jen Meller who's worked extensively with AVSE and who generously provided the image above.

The recent holiday got me thinking “what’s it all about, Alfie?” and here’s what I came up with after binging on chicken tamales from my local taco truck washed down with a few El Presidentes in the middle of the night. Halloween is all about transformation—much like a tamale emerging from its protective corn husk, and yes I’m over-reaching—with kids transformed into demonic pixies looking for their next sugar fix (ok, not such a big change there) and adults transformed into monsters and witches and sexy EMT workers, etc. with the open secret being how it all serves as an excuse to fully inhabit the freaks we already are inside (by “playing pretend” oh the irony) all the while peeling back the façade of normal life and exposing it’s oft-monstrous or just plain weird nature, not to mention our too-frequent complicity in playing the roles we’ve been assigned.

Deep, huh? Or, to put a more positive spin on it, Halloween is an all-American spin on Old World carnivalesque rituals, not to mention Caribbean and South American Carnival traditions, where trickster figures rule the day and where established identities are subverted, taboos broken, excesses accepted, and existing power relations turned on their head. Check out Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World if you got time and wanna read more about it but I’d better move on for now.

Or, as lead singer/lyricist Kasey Heisler of A Very Special Episode puts it on “Fuck Everything,” a track off Fix Your Hearts Or Die, the band’s debut full-length release: “I’m here but I feel like I’m losing me” and it’s not an isolated sentiment, because the notion of identities being up for grabs, potentially transformed and power relations along with them, pops up again and again in Kasey’s lyrics—like on “Cowboy” where she rebukes the song’s titular cowboy in such terms (“you know you had my going / tell me exactly who I am / to keep yourself from knowing”) or on “Weather the Storm” which evokes volatile weather systems as a parable for weathering change (like H.G. Wells said "adapt or perish" or in other words "fix your hearts or die") or on “Fire Walk With Me,” a mood piece that samples dialogue from the film of the same name in which Laura Palmer routines transforms from “goody two shoes Laura" to “very naughty girl Laura" when the sun goes down ("night time is my time") while suffering at the hands of evil, powerful men on both sides of the spectrum.

Related to this theme, it’s perhaps worth noting how by day Ms. Heisle works as an elementary school teacher—and how even outside of the classroom she often wears the wide-open yet indecipherable smile of the grade school teacher that says “no matter what kind of severe behavior problems you happen to have I’m still going to whether the storm”—but come evening, once onstage, and who knows maybe in the teachers’ lounge as well, she transforms into an alternately snarling/smiling rock ’n’ rolling bass-playing demon, a pixieish Gene Simmons with severe bangs but minus the compulsion to bang all her groupies. (to my knowledge, that is, not really my business anyway!)

Lyrics aside, it’s in the music where AVSE really drives home the theme of transformation, for rarely does a band captures volatility/mutability so potently in sound with guitarist Patrick Porter in particular having perfected a pedal-heavy playing style that makes you feel like you’ve entered the eye of a hurricane and been sucked into its vortex and passed into another dimension, assisted by Chayse Schutter’s powerful, nuanced drumming and Kasey’s dynamic bass-ing. 

And while loud-quiet-loud dynamics aren’t exactly a new thing, what sets Mr. Porter’s playing apart from many of his post-Pixies indie guitar brethren is that instead of changing from quiet to loud and back again on a dime, he’s got this thing of gradually morphing and warping the sound from one stage to another like a molting insect in a way that feels organic and highly visceral—who knew there were so many shades of white noise, ranging from etherial to abrasive?—for one example check out “Introspectre” with it’s oozing, mewling, turned-inside-out flanging musical timbres to hear what I’m getting at here, not to mention the vocal echo effect that sounds like someone left their vinyl copy of Fix Your Hearts Or Die out in the sun for too long.

For another example, go no further than album-opener “DFP” (down for pack-hunting?) which could and should serve as the soundtrack to a horror-movie werewolf transformation sequence. From the opening moments of the track the sense of tension is gradually ratcheted up bit by bit (“consume my brain and make it spin / don’t recognize the place you’re in […] there’s a sound that’s humming inside / a feeling that something’s not right”) until finally after several minutes the full on full moon lycanthropic metamorphosis takes place (from about 3:13 to 4:03 to my ears) after which a sudden state of calm descends and it sounds like the song may be over (AVSE are pros at the fake-ending fakeout) before a concluding coda that sounds like a wolf baying triumphantly at the moon. (Jason Lee)





Alt Rock

Time: 
5pm
Band name: 
Earl Grey
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.facebook.com/theearlgreyband/
Venue name: 
Hart Bar in Brooklyn
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The uneasy lullabies of Furrows' "Fisher King"

The debut full-length set by Furrows, called Fisher King, is basically the folk-rock-baroque-dream-pop version of William Wordsworth’s The Prelude or, Growth of a Poet’s Mind because on this record Mr. Furrows (a.k.a. songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Peter Wagner) stares into a chasm and declares it sublime

Sounds like bullshite, you say? Well, mmmaybe, but I'm sure my high school English teacher would be impressed. Anyway, if you’re looking for a record that’ll help you to achieve a state of mellow euphoria, with more than a hint of longing to throw oneself into the abyss, and with lyrics overflowing with pastoral nature imagery like “shining suns” and stars and mountains and horizons and “skies receding out of sight” and “the sounds of the sea filling the air” and really all that’s missing is the “craggy ridge” that got Wordsworth so hot and bothered—then lucky for you because now you’ve found it. (note: even the word furrow itself refers to "a long narrow trench made in the ground by a plow" so it's nature-adjacent at least)  

Given Fisher King’s immersive yet highly generalized lyrical imagery, it’s easy to let your mind drift away and get lost in the pure essence of the music and, fortunately, that’s where Furrows excels most of all. Assisted by producer Sahil Ansari, this is a record full of cellos and Mellotrons and tense synths and “delay wobbles” and “psychic spaces”—played over bedrock layers of delicately strummed acoustic guitars and gently shimmering electric guitars and a rhythm section (Mr. Wagner's on bass, natch) that somehow maintains a steady beat despite all the sedatives they must’ve ingested before hitting the record button.

And sure, there’s some other bands from the past that have given off a similar eternal-golden-hour-bathed-in-a-meloncholy-glow impression ranging from the Chills to the Shins—but this is the present and Furrows’ music speaks to the present-day widespread state of generalized anxiety masked by numbness. (tho’ don't get me wrong, it’s a beautiful album and you’re allowed to be happy while listening to it, you sick bastard!) Either way...we all need to take the edge off sometimes, no? Rest assured this long-playing rekkid will help you to do just that. But only if you don’t mind an uneasy undertow underneath it all which is, as Mr. Furrows himself puts it on “Grey Cities,” “unseen, but always there.” (Jason Lee)





Alt Rock

Time: 
19:00
Band name: 
That Feeling When
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.instagram.com/tfwband/
Venue name: 
Brooklyn Bowl
Band email: 
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Alt Rock

Time: 
09:00
Band name: 
The Mystic Dream
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.facebook.com/rbandthemysticdream/
Venue name: 
Hotel Cafe
Band email: 
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