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Pretty Sick explore the "Deep Divine"

Deep Divine is the “coming out” LP or EP or whatever you want to call it (seriously these terms mean next to nothing today) from the rock combo Pretty Sick. Regardless, both the band name and the record name are spot on. Deep Divine is the sound of teenage kicks colliding with the imperative to “just grow up, be adults and die” in the words of one Veronica Sawyer--a deep dive into the muck and the majesty of teenhood and early adulthood. 

Lead singer, songwriter, and bassist Sabrina Fuentes self-reportedly wrote the songs heard here between ages 12 and 20 and the intensity of these transitional years bleeds into every note. Pretty Sick are indeed pretty sick (double-entendre no doubt intended) and appear to be influenced by early, ground-breaking releases on labels such as Sub Pop, Matador, and Kill Rock Stars--a sound that even a generation later is effective sonic shorthand for surviving adulthood with some degree of mental functioning, passion, and sick humor intact. 

Deep Divine not only captures but updates these sounds and sentiments from the past--for one thing the gender fluidity at play in Fuentes’ lyrics is a clear marker of the contemporary moment (he’s and she’s are pretty much interchangeable). The cover image of the record too is a clear riff-on-cum-update-of a certain iconic album cover for this one old record you may have heard of by some band or other, but minus the dollar bill on a hook seeing as record labels aren’t handing out too many million-dollar contracts these days.

Finally this is also a New York City record to the core. The grungetastic 54-second-long instrumental intro called “Comedown” (perfect place to start!) merges straight into “Allen Street” with its subject staring “out on Allen Street at 7:00 in the morning” the song turns into a mini-travelogue taking the listener from the titular LES location to the “Bowery at midnight in the summer” finally ending up “back in Harlem now you won’t even call me / cut myself up now it makes me feel more holy.” Punny-ness aside this last line captures the tightrope act that Pretty Sick has already mastered: balancing hookiness and grittiness and lower bodily stratum and spiritual elevation. (Jason Lee)

 

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Alex Mali set from Adult Swim Festival

Alex Mali is a native Brooklynite of Trini-Jamaican extraction whose music advocates personal empowerment on the lyrical tip all the while seducing listeners into self-surrender with its flowing syncopations and overall underwater ambience. This weekend Mali was featured as part of the online (is there any other kind?) Adult Swim Festival performing a tight twelve-minute rooftop set recorded as dusk turned to dark over the city. The resulting ambiance speaks to our current moment--isolated and ghostly, defiant and self-possessed. After a triptych of songs in which our narrator fends off gossip mongers and sketchy suitors and broke-boy hanger-on-ers Mali finally achieves release on “Good Good” (“I can feel it in my lungs / I can feel it in my body / Oh it got me speaking in tongues / I can feel it and I want it”) adding touches of melisma and other vocal embellishment to the version heard on her 2020 EP Phenom which is already itself quite high on the ecstatic-o-meter.

Finally, for dessert, check out the official video for “Good Good” below wherein Mali and a cadre of coordinated dancers take Grand Army Plaza by force. And then if that's not enough, tomorrow, Wednesday at 3PM EST, you can watch a livestreaming video premiere of "Fighting Words," the first number heard in the set above, on the YouTube with preceiding livechat. Speak your peace directly to the artist or forever hold your peace. Peace out y'all. (Jason Lee)

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A Very Special Episode go for a "Night Drive"

The “very special episode” is a venerable tradition of the televisual arts wherein our society faces down its most vexing problems with the help of inane plot contrivances, buffoonish acting, and howling laugh tracks. All often oddly endearing nonetheless. The ‘80s and ‘90s were perhaps the golden age of this particular art form with VSE’s used to warn the wider populace against such menaces as marauding punk rockers, pedophile bicycle shop owners, and drunken suicidal birthday clowns. Aficionados today savor the delectable discomfort produced by the best of/worst of (same difference) these “episodes” with their bizarre tonal mashups akin to a saccharin diet soda garnished with a dash of strychnine.

The Queens-based band A Very Special Episode likewise merge the sweet and the serrated and in the process make you a more upstanding and aware citizen. Take their latest single--a bedroom production by obvious circumstance--which is a lo-fi, high-sheen number called “Night Drive.” It starts innocently enough with some rollicking drums, four-on-the-floor bass and sing-songy keyboard over which bassist and lead singer Kasey Heisler lays out the scene: “You see it all stretched before you / purple sky painted over blue.” Sounds lovely! But any hopes for a laid-back evening excursion are soon dashed when suddenly “the night is speeding faster / fade to black” and on cue we change channels to a shimmering-distorted blur of guitar and keyboard with Heisler dropping all social niceties: “Hey, you know what / you got it all but I can’t get you off.” From there we circle back to the opening disco-punk groove now overlaid with a layer of buzzsaw guitar (or maybe a neighbor was testing out their new power-sander next door?) that weaves in and out of the song until its crashing climax.

This all can’t help but remind one of the very special episode of Saved By The Bell where Zach gets Jessie addicted to caffeine pills because I'm thinking those guitars must be the sound she heard in her head by the end of the episode. I mean sure it all starts off innocently enough at the ‘50s diner with our girl Jess sharing her dreams of applying to Stanford and debuting her neat little pop-singing combo with Lisa and Kelly. But by the final act Zach is pumping our future Showgirl full of uppers to help her study for midterms and going all Lou Pearlman on her ass with his girl-group svengali schemes. It’s no wonder Jessie aka “Nomi” would soon find herself working the pole and all thanks to that jerkface Zach! (please rest assured, dear reader, The Deli is sex-worker positive!)

OK so I got a little distracted there. Whatever its lo-fi origins, “Night Drive” is the best encapsulation I’ve heard so far of AVSE’s live sound with its mixture of melodic hooks and knuckle-dragging noise. To end things here with the requisite musical-calculus equation I’m gonna go with equal parts Garbage, The Walkmen, and My Bloody Valentine. Or if you prefer metaphors of the TV/movie variety I’ll give you “Saved By The Bell meets David Lynch” (especially Lost Highway on this particular song, not to mention the band’s logo is a VHS videocassette hmmmmm). If it all sounds up your alley check out “Gravity” below for a slightly more polished version of the AVSE sound. (Jason Lee)

 





Indie Rock

Time: 
18:00
Band name: 
Eden James
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.facebook.com/edenjamesmusic
Venue name: 
Front Row with Eden
Band email: 
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KOTA The Friend tames his "Dragon"

“I used to want to be up on the music blogs / [...] / I may not have a million but I’m chillin’ dawg”

KOTA The Friend is hardly a slacker but he could play one on TV. A multi-instrumentalist who excelled early on as a first-chair trumpet player who taught himself bass and guitar while going on to hold down two jobs and attend performing arts school eventually becoming a producer, photographer, visual artist and interior designer in addition to a musician, the man is actually a polymath if you do the math. Plus on his 2020 full-length Everything KOTA somehow managed to score features from such obscure names (sarcasm alert) as Lakeith Stanfield, Joey Bada$$, and Lupita Nyong’o which is hardly the work of an underachiever. A true DIY artist, it’s been reported elsewhere that KOTA will take on mundane tasks himself ranging from flyer design to directly answering fans’ queries, all the while turning down three major-label offers (so far) in order to maintain his independence. 

And yet, on his latest single “Dragon,” he sounds as laid back as a panda bear that just got laid. (apologies for the mixed animal metaphors, KOTA is actually named for a baby bear of the non-panda variety) Opening with a loping, start-stop jazzy guitar loop, KOTA laconically drops lines like “I do what I want, I go where I please / but still I want more things” over a beat that sounds like an outtake from the Lofi Beats to Relax/Study/Quarantine To videos--sonic shorthand for sitting at one’s desk and staring off into space all day. The conversational flow and mellow vibes on “Dragon” can be deceptive, however, tinged as they are with regret, doubt, and deceit lurking around the corner. Likewise for KOTA's flow itself, laidback on the surface but twisty at times and shifting relative to the main guitar riff.

Not unlike a good friend IRL, KOTA The Friend puts the listener at ease but doesn’t stoop to please, giving it to you straight: "Before it gets better, it's gonna get worse" so you better “Skip the fast pass, be knowledgeable, that’s the bag bag / polish all your skills, set your price, then you tax that.” Sage advice as 2020 slouches towards its end. (Jason Lee)


 

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