Grumpster "Fever Dream"
For decades, musicians have relocated to big cities like New York, London, and Nashville for their internationally renowned music scenes and histories, but Grumpster vocalist/bassist Donnie Walsh (originally from Salem, Massachusetts) moved to the Bay Area to chase the melodic punk sounds that were bred at the DIY venue 924 Gilman. It was there that he met guitarist Lalo Gonzalez Deetz and drummer Noel Agtane, formed Grumpster, and put out a few early singles and a split before quickly catching the attention of the iconic Asian Man Records, whose founder Mike Park grew up going to shows at Gilman and has said Grumpster brings him right back to the classic Lookout! Records sound. They released their debut LP Underwhelmed with Asian Man in 2019, before signing to Pure Noise for its followup, Fever Dream, out today.
The album was produced by Anti-Flag bassist Chris #2, who told the band he wanted to work with them after they did a livestream with Anti-Flag during lockdown, and it picks right up where Underwhelmed left off, but finds the band sounding even sharper, tighter, and catchier. Like the debut, Fever Dream sits nicely next to early Green Day and Operation Ivy and The Mr. T Experience and others of that ilk, but it also has a fresh indie-punk vibe in the vein of more modern bands like Lemuria, Tigers Jaw, and Joyce Manor. It’s a no-frills, hook-filled record, and if you like punk songs with good melodies, you should give this record a spin.
Harkin "Honeymoon Suite (Rough Trade Publishing)"
From fronting Sky Larkin to performing backing vocals for Dua Lipa on Saturday Night Live via touring as a live member of Sleater-Kinney and in Courtney Barnett’s band, Katie Harkin has become a master collaborator over the past decade and a half. The pandemic changed all that. Cooped up in the titular one bedroom flat above a pub, her second solo album was pieced together with scant contributors sending snippets over the internet. This new process has led to a new palette of sounds. Gone is the slacker indie of her self-titled debut – the electronics that punctuated it are now front and centre. Opener ‘Body Clock’ combines math rock bass with Four Tet-style arpeggios, while ‘Matchless Lighting’ builds from a minimalist synth to a tremolo crescendo, and ‘Listening Out’ throbs with a dubstep-style wobble. Guitars haven’t disappeared completely though, and ‘(Give Me) The Streets Of Leeds’ and ‘A New Day’ are a reminder of why Katie has become one of the most sought-after touring musicians. The final 11 minutes of the album are the most striking of all: ‘Driving Down A Flight Of Stairs’ is a droning synth soundscape that crackles and glitches as it sways between beauty and dread. It’s a captivating palette cleanser. After years of collaborating, Katie Harkin is proving she has plenty to say on her own terms.
Bobby Oroza "Get on the Otherside"
Bobby Oroza puts his desire for the profound on wax with his sophomore album Get On The Otherside. Musically, he has updated the formula we were introduced to on the first record. But lyrically, songs are bravely rooted in the more complicated, ubiquitous inner tangles of life like self-examination and coming to terms with the vastness of the human experience.
With the Coronavirus bringing the world to a halt, Bobby—a father and husband—had to do something. No tours to play or studio time to fill, Bobby found himself back in the construction yard, doing blue-collar work to provide for his family. “I was super grateful for the work—a lot of my colleagues didn’t have an option like that,” Bobby admits. More than a few personal hardships forced him to acknowledge and work through some brutal truths. And what came of it? Well, for one, this new record Get On The Otherside which pretty well describes what Bobby’s been through: He had to demolish his ego, his old ways of thinking, and his tried approaches to anchor into a refreshed perspective with new understandings.
As Bobby tells it, “I had to do some real self-searching, come to terms with what was wrong, and how much of it I was responsible for.” So how does this translate to the new album? Moments of clarity as to where the real value in life lies on “I Got Love”, encouraging numbers like the title track “The Otherside,” and declarations of self actualization on “My Place, My Time.” Even the more straightforward love songs are outside the box lyrically like “Sweet Agony” and “Loving Body.” If you have never had the pleasure of catching one of Bobby’s live shows you may have no idea that he is a maverick on the guitar. He lets us in on a little of that on “Passing Things” with a solo that possesses the same restrained and space that his lyrics do.
As we’d expect, the songwriting still has that raw, direct edge to it. But an evolution has taken place. There are new points of view on familiar territory which in Bobby’s words “For me to love, I needed to take a bigger view of love. One with less ego and more empathy” really hold true. The result is a record with Bobby’s new found humility on full display and a message of encouragement to anyone who is struggling and can’t see a way out.
It still may be hard to nail down and define Bobby and his sound. He’s no one thing more than the other. But what he’s showing us now, on Get On The Otherside, is that we can also label him a soulful, philosophical optimist. Someone who can say a lot with a little, and who wants us all to know that it’s us that has to do the hard lifting to truly live a life in love—both with the world and with yourself.
Dion Lunadon "Beyond Everything (Rough Trade Publishing)"
Beyond your skin, beyond your screen, beyond what you think you know. What lies in this area? An area with no opinions, motives, sides or divisions. An area where governments and capitalists have no currency and the absolute truth reigns supreme.
After releasing his self titled debut album in 2017, Dion Lunadon (The D4, ex A Place To Bury Strangers) is set to release his sophomore album – Beyond Everything June 10th via In The Red Records.
Beyond Everything will be his first release on In The Red Records (an ideal match for his music) as well as his first full length since departing A Place To Bury Strangers. Written, performed and recorded by Dion, the songs tap into a raw, palpable energy that blur the line between the music and the person. Drums on the record were played by Blaze Bateh (Bambara) and Nick Ferrante (The Black Hollies).
Dion says “The record was written and recorded sporadically between 2017 and 2019. I probably wrote about 100 songs during this period. The first album was pretty relentless which I liked but I wanted to make something more dynamic for the 2nd record. Something that could be more conducive to repeated listens. I’d get in my studio, come up with a song title, and start working on any ideas that I had. For example, with Elastic Diagnostic, the idea was to create a hum that evokes the sound of life coursing though your body. Everything else kind of formed around that idea.”
Dion will also be touring with a full band in North America and in Europe/UK throughout 2022.
US dates begin on the western side of the US in June starting in Denver (some of these dates are supporting The Black Angels) and the European and UK dates are in November.
Born in Auckland, New Zealand and now residing in New York, Dion most notably played in The D4, who released two albums on legendary NZ label Flying Nun Records and in New York noiseniks A Place To Bury Strangers.
While taking a break from touring with A Place To Bury Strangers, Dion recorded the self-titled debut solo album encompassing all that he loves about rock ’n’ roll. Previewed by the single Com/Broke, Dions LP arrived in 2017.
Just as the pandemic hit, Dion decided to leave A Place To Bury Strangers and focus on his own music. In June 2020, he released the song When Will I Hold You Again and in September 2020 the Schreien EP which featured a Deutsch version of his song Howl as well as the scorching rocker, Speed.
In 2021 he put a band together to give his songs life.