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Dayglow's Latest Effort is Dreamy and Down-to-Earth

 Not since 2018’s Pray for the Wicked by Panic! At The Disco has there been an entire popular album that dares to tackle the topic of what it’s really like to be an older teen or a twenty-something - until Dayglow’s Harmony House.


 The “roaring 20s” summer that was ruined last year by the COVID pandemic meant that more dreams, more adventures and more social possibilities were put on hold until recently, thus providing a particularly fertile ground for the frustration and the desiarate longings common to this life phase.


Twenty-one-year-old Dayglow (real name Sloan Struble) is, for better or for worse, more Cory from Boy Meets World —- upbeat and lacking in an ounce of cynicism, despite some sensitive traumas and feelings —- than he is Panic’s Brendon Urie or a young, sarcastic Beck. (He does look a lot like MellowGold-era Beck as well as resembling 1970’s teen heartthrob Vincent Van Patten which certainly does not hurt him with a young female audience!)  Dayglow’s upbeat personality shouldn’t be surprising given Dayglow’s now well-known love of situation comedies from past eras.


An important question is whether his fans will embrace an entire album of situation comedy joy throughout the growing pains with lessons learned from a supposedly simpler time period, whether they will relate to a whole album of the sweet old-school romance of his 2019-2020 fan favorite single Can I Call You Tonight (Notice that the title says nothing about texting).


The answer is resoundingly a yes. Dayglow has found a way to give advice that could ordinarily sound very annoying to young people if it came from the authority figures in their lives. He makes as many embarrassing confessions as does Brandon Urie (for example in

Crying on the Dancefloor, “Medicine” which has a strong subtext of loneliness and social media). The bonding effect of his honesty is very important to understanding his appeal.


Equally important to how Dayglow can be so appealing and genuine in 2021 with his 1970’s- 1990’s nostalgia and lack of darkness for darkness’s sake is that he wraps it up

In the rambunctious fun of 1980’s to

1985 MTV pop singles. 


Anyone in 2021 of any age who faithfully goes to dance and socialize to the tune of their favorite eighties covers band can tell you that this music took chances in order to create a fun escape from work and classes. The rhythm and tune of Dayglow’s Balcony sounds like My Sharona’s desperate pseudo-confident yearnings (think that damn beat) and Dancing On The Ceiling’s giddy synthesizers. . 


A song from the late 1970’s (along with the early 1980’s, it is the musical era Dayglow professes a love for in interviews) that definitely comes to mind on Dayglow’s tune Whoa Man is REO Speedwagon’s ballad Blazing Your Own Trail Again. It’s a post-breakup song of encouragement that was important to young people in 1979 just as “ Whoa Man” will likely be today. 


His video clips for Harmony House show an strong literacy in eighties MTV. With more bright pinks and teals and striking outfits than a Cars video and more societal observations than a Dire Straits clip, Dayglow is set to encourage his peers while entertaining them as well. There’s some parallel here between these musical acts of the eighties that hit stardom through

MTV and Dayglow’s hitting stardom through Tik Tok and the viral hit Can I Call

You Tonight.


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Sarah Jarosz' Roots Feel New and Polished At the Same Time

Four-time Grammy winner Sarah Jarosz is bringing new life to the Americana roots musical genre. Serious enough to win the Fresh Grass Foundation’s 2017 commission to write a thirty minute original piece featuring traditional bluegrass stringed instruments yet fun enough to share cocktail recipes during her two online after shows recently, Jarosz is full of surprises.


On her commissioned piece called The Blue Heron Suite, released on May 7, Sarah never fails to amaze even the most faithful Americana music fan with how versatile her octave mandolin, her acoustic guitar and her clawhammer banjo, joined by a bass guitar (Jeff Picker) and guitar (Jefferson Hamer) can truly be. Falling somewhere between classical music and folk rock, Blue Heron Suite will inspire mandolin and clawhammer banjo players for the foreseeable future.


The commission awarded to Jarosz by the Fresh Grass Foundation states the following on its website: “The FreshGrass Composition Commission is our flagship grant, given annually to an artist whose work reflects the FreshGrass mission to preserve and support innovative grassroots music. Composition Commission recipients write a new long-form piece of music for an ensemble that includes some elements of traditional string band instrumentation,” Blue Heron Suite therefore is not a traditional album of songs (unlike her 2020 Grammy winning World on the Ground album). 


This cohesive new album contains songs, interludes and reprises that are most satisfying to listen to in one sitting, preferably with headphones and with the high quality setting if you are using the Spotify app!


Jarosz has not only excelled at writing and performing a piece that fulfills the purpose of  her award. She has also written a testimony to the comforting and strengthening importance of family and friends at a time in one’s life when crummy circumstances are blindsiding a usually upbeat individual. Jarosz’s theme of experiencing her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis ( now in remission) and the devastation of Hurricane Harvey at a much-loved town near her Texas hometown of Wimmerley back in 2017 is proficiently reflected in the way the music finds strength after the suite’s turning point during Interlude Two. 


An example of how her music evokes the storyline of her experience is Interlude Two’s pleasing clawhammer banjo strumming, calling to mind her thinking over what her mother and friends have said. This interlude then leads to the appearance Jarosz’s trademark powerful vocals (rather than the higher-pitched vocals heard up to this point) for the first time on this album. 


For the remainder of Blue Heron Suite, the music becomes more upbeat —- not exactly her boisterous Little Satchel (a bluegrass standard she covered on World On The Ground in 2020) but that’s what makes Blue Heron Suite so beautifully and genuinely relatable to anyone that has come out on the other side of a crisis or a tragedy.


Sarah’s concert swag available online also will delight and surprise her fans new and old. In addition to some of the prettiest t-shirts and tank tops with artwork by her friend Taylor Ashton,  Jarosz offers imprinted kites (!) and bluebonnet seed packets in true Texas fashion. 


Don’t forget, there are imprinted Blue Heron tumblers for enjoying her cocktail recipes!


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VALE explores playful sentiments in their new release En El Pecho

Two young sister-goddesses of VALE release their new single and music video “En El Pecho.” The musicians are twins, Valeria and Valentina Perez, who not only wrote the lyrics and music, but also served as creative directors for the music video project.

 

 

With enchanting guitar and Colombian flavored sounds, the release showcases their angelic voices and songwriting. The spanish song is not limited to spanish-speakers because the chorus is mellifluous and memorable: “Canta, canta! Siente, siente! Que el corazón nunca nos miente. Baila baila, a tu manera. Llevame a donde tu quieras.” You could put it in google translate or maybe you took enough spanish in school to know they’re saying: Sing, sing, feel, feel that the heart never lies to us. Dance, dance in your own way. Take me wherever you want.”  


Their songwriting skills extend beyond a catchy chorus as their lyrics speak of exploring hidden landscapes in a lover’s chest (pecho), and the value of letting go as a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. 


Check out the music video to see manifested joy and purity in two young artists frolicking amongst blue skies and bounding in a green meadow. Their outfits are hip with sheek sunglasses and their coordinated colors complement the nature that surrounds them. The video conveys youthfulness in the sweetest way as bare feet kick at the sky. VALE brings us this uplifting tune, En El Pecho, just in time as a summer soundtrack for music lovers to sing, feel and dance with.

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Seven Spires Finds Clarity in Chaos

 Seven Spires’ This God Is Dead feat. Roy Khan properly puts “symphonic” in “symphonic metal.” In places the 10 minute track is almost theatrical, showing as much DNA from Andrew Lloyd Webber and neoclassical experiments like Trans-Siberian Orchestra as Nightwish and Maiden, particularly in the harmonies early in the song. Any number of metal bands have tried to bring that heavy Handel energy, but the clean vocals on “This God Is Dead” genuinely recall a classical choir, not just 6 people with a combined 20 feet of hair trying to sound like one.

The heavy stuff isn’t quite as accomplished, less for lack of quality than a glass-smooth mix that takes some edge off the harsh vocals and thudding rhythm. Riffs and beats come fast and heavy, but the production is so clean and the melody so prominent that we lose any At the Gates-style snarl. The result recalls anime and videogame soundtracks, for good and ill: screams are screamed, heavy guitars happen, but the melody is so prominent and the mix so smooth it’s not quite music to mosh to.

That said, a few missteps in songwriting and production aren’t nearly enough to write off this beautiful beast. The track finds its footing in the second half, delivering demonic snarls, elliptic spoken word and soaring harmonies with equal aplomb. There’s nothing tongue in cheek here, thank God – we’re a little over metal bands that think metal is hilarious – just musicians who love the genre giving everything they’ve got. Respect. The lyrics deserve a special shoutout: the delivery may not be perfect, but the text achieves the rare goal in high-concept metal of interesting the listener as much in its righteously Gothic plot of remorseful ghost, raging daughter and rising demon as the music backing it.

In short, “This God is Dead” by Seven Spires is big, smart, fun and heavy, a righteous blast of epic scope in spite of a mistake or three. This is music to swordfight your possessed brother atop a burning cathedral to. Light some candles, crank headphones to 11 and bang your head. We certainly did.


-- Matt Salter

 

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Heartless Bastards Rock First Encore at Mohawk’s Reopening

 On Thursday, May 27th, Heartless Bastards kicked off Mohawk’s first sold out show since the apocalypse. Demand was high enough for Mohawk to add a second performance to the weekend’s roster. The venue’s capacity was set at 50%, approximately 450 people, so the sold-out show felt comfortable and spacious (and wow, wait until you see the renovated bathrooms at Mohawk). 


Tender Things opens the show with country, hippie charm. From Northern Kentucky, they toted their 6-piece to Austin including a fiddle player and a cowboy on a pedal steel guitar. The Austin crowd receives this country folk getup with open hearts and roaring applause. They play songs from their new album, How to Make a Fool, most notable was “I Don’t Know How to Love You.” The atmosphere is pure elation and joy as this is the first live show for most folks, especially at a venue that feels like home.

 

Everything feels new but with a familiar air. Austin has been home to Heartless Bastards since 2007, and it feels poignant and right that they play one of the christening shows of live music’s return. Energy climbs as Heartless Bastards take the stage with lead singer, Erika Wennerstrom in a black-velvet-fringe romper with rainbow stripes. Wennerstrom announces that their new album will be released this fall 2021. They play new songs from the upcoming album, songs drenched in rock and marked by Wennerstrom’s throaty voice and lyrical talent and featuring sublime guitar moments by Lauren Gurgiolo, another Austin treasure. Wennerstrom sings, “it’s a beautiful life if you let it be,” from the new album’s namesake track, “A Beautiful Life.” 

 

Among the new sounds, old favorites are mixed in like “Only For You,” and “The Mountain,” as well as “Extraordinary Love” from Wennerstrom’s solo album, Sweet Unknown. They gracefully and appropriately close with “Revolution,” their 2020 release, before the audience beckons them for a mutually deserved encore. 

 


The bands continually pronounce and pour out their gratitude to play music, the crowd showers the musicians with cheers and hollers, the full moon rises in the Eastern sky. Half way through the set, Wennerstrom seals the moment by saying we should never take these times together for granted. Both bands will be performing at Austin City Limits this fall season.

 

-- Mel Green

Photo credit: David Brendan Hall

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