best-emerging-bands-artists

KITTY COEN

artistImage: 
   

Vow of Volition Make the Final Round of the Battle for Warped Tour

The Vans Warped Tour was the first festival for many of us back in the day. As young'ns, it's likely we didn't necessarily think about all that went into figuring out the bands to book and play the whole shebang. Part of that process, at least locally, seems to be through a series "battle of the bands" style competitions specifically for landing a spot on the fest. Quite a few Portland bands have been furiously playing against one another for said spot, and djent/prog metal act Vow of Volition are one of the acts that made it to the finals.

Warped Tour was always the type of festival that included much in the realm of pop punk, punk punk, emo and metal, so Vow of Volition's advancement to the final round is no surprise. Their incredibly technical, at times jazzy metal stands out in Portland's pretty linear popular music scene, and is much worthy of the attention its getting.

Those that want to support Vow of Volition in driving home the permanent spot can go to the Battle for Warped Tour finals Saturday at the Hawthorne Theatre.

   

Dreamer Isioma "Dreamer"

Dreamer Isioma has released the first four chapters of film that appears to be building to the release their debut full-length album.

The series of truly inventive videos finds Dreamer co-staring with HateSonny with appearances from array of other characters including NombreKARI.

   

2021 In Review: Been Stellar's "Kids 1995" is like a lucid dream

Been Stellar dropped “Kids 1995” in late November 2020 and it’s a pretty rockin' song, but with a strong undertow of melancholy too, not unlike a lot of the best alt-rock songs released in actual 1995—songs that make you wanna head-nod along, and hold your head in your hands, if both were possible at the same time.

This impression is only heightened when it comes to the hook (when the time is right / you just have to take it... / …with you, Jesus Christ / it’s like time is naked / and you feel all right / I’m not feeling too good myself) because for one thing it’s unclear whether “you just have to take it” is intended as positive-incentive or punishment or something else. And it's set to a propulsive rhythmic chug and a soul-laid-bare melodic hook that only heightens the "lucid dream" quality of this twisty four-and-a-half-minute song, all fuzzy around the edges but yearning for...something...it's difficult to say what exactly when dreams and realities get all blurred together in a lucid dream state.

And as it turns out "Kids 1995" is about a dream in reality so there ya go. More precisely, it's about a dream that's loosely related to the movie Kids (I watched the movie Kids / and then had a dream about you and me / but things are different / you’re holding a camera and yelling ‘Cut’), the notorious 1995 flick that opens and closes with Lou Barlow-penned songs (credited to Deluxx Folk Implosion and Sebadoh, respectively) and one of these songs is even name-checked in Been Stellar's lyrics (and then the credits rolled / ‘Spoiled’ Sebadoh) which is fitting since "Kids 1995" is Lou Barlow-level on the emotional resonance-o-meter.

And although the song's not 'about' Kids, the movie does echo through some of the lyrics (how did you get to this place / how many hits did you take; or; he died of old age / in the prime of his youth) and either way there’s a "fall from innocence" theme happening for sure. What’s more, singer/lyricist Sam Slocum says the friend with the camera in the opening lines basically acts as "a foil" of the song narrator’s own internal struggles and uncertainties. And in the same interview where I stole this tidbit from, he also reveals that "Kids 1995" was originally written a couple of years ago and even though the song has evolved “it almost feels like I’m watching a movie of my past self” in releasing it recently.

So let's see if I've got this right? Been Stellar have written a song about a dream inspired in part by a movie, but also about a guy shooting a movie, but the guy in question is a projection of the dreamer in part at least, a song about a dream which to one of its creators feels like watching a movie of his own past life. Cool. I'm digging the whole Hall of Mirrors thing going on here—fragments of dreams, realities, memories, fantasies all reflecting back against each other ad infinitum—which only heightens the lucid dream impression I'm already feeling from the music.

Plus I'd say Larry Clark’s Kids is a perfect reference point for capturing this vibe because it's about as lucid as movies get (maybe a little too real at times) but equally dreamlike too (the handheld camera and 'total immersion' aesthetic make it feel like you're on as many drugs as the kids) plus when it comes to "loss of innocence" what movie could be more fitting which is probably why when it was originally unleashed into theaters some reviewers deemed Kids an instant masterpiece (or later, an enduring masterpiece) while others deemed it “nihilistic pornography.” Likewise, the fates of the actual kids cast in the movie (a motley crew of skate kids, street kids, and scenesters, not a single professional actor among them) diverged widely with two of the kids becoming cinematic critical darlings and superstars (including the 19-year old screenwriter) while a couple of the kids sadly ended up dying tragically young which is the kind of life's crossroads that "Kids 1995" is about...so full circle!



The other big selling point for watching Kids today is how it functions as a lurid love letter to pre-gentrification New York City, and Manhattan in particular, having been filmed just before the borough was transformed forever by the Giuliani administration which is more than mere nostalgia for anyone who’s lived in NYC long enough, past or present, likely to identify with the eternal struggle against the corporate merchants of conformity. 

And Been Stellar appear to side with the iconoclasts in valuing the vital energy of 'New York Gritty' and in doing their part to capture and preserve the city's energy in song and also in music visual form—with Kids-reminiscent shaky, handheld camcorder footage as witnessed across their video output.

The band even maintain this vital energy when they slow things down a bit as on the "Kids 1995" B-side “Optimistic”—a shimmering deceptively mellow tune that builds to an emotional peak about 2/3 of the way through before receding back to a more contemplative vibe but giving notice that "now you must decide / does this mean we speak our truth / or are we just getting by?" thus distilling down what I'd consider (rightly or wrongly!) the core question behind the A-side's lucid dreaming plus much of their other output so far. (Jason Lee)

Band photo by @drake_lcl

 

   

F*ck You, Tammy seeing double on Twin Peaks cover version

The final episode of Twin Peaks’ second season was originally broadcast on June 10, 1991, its last episode for over 25 years. The episode (in)famously ended with an extended, mind-bending sequence set in the Black Lodge where some of the show's lead characters are trapped, but in the form of their evil doppelgängers, including an “Evil Coop” which was a shocker since Agent Dale Cooper was the all-American-black-coffee-and-cherry-pie-lovin’ hero of the series. But in the end, the real-world Good Coop is trapped in purgatory with his mirror-image facsimile Evil Coop released into the world to wreck havoc having been possessed by the show's personification of evil Killer BOB who grins and rants manically at fake Cooper from a fractured mirror. And, oh yeah, SPOILER ALERT! 

This was the unresolved ending to a show already fixated on doubles, dualities, and doppelgängers for the duration of its first two seasons. So it’s fitting there's a band out there called F*ck You, Tammy (see Twin Peaks: The Return to get the reference, again a doppelgänger is involved) who formed to perform live versions of music from the Twin Peaks universe. Because when you think about it, copies and interpolations of pre-existing songs (a.k.a. “cover versions”) are essentially the musical equivalent of doppelgängers—with covers having near-identical surface characteristics to the original in most cases (the same lyrics, melodies, chords) but nonetheless transformed into something new, whether a semi-precise-but-not-quite-exact imitation or a more radical reinterpretation. 

The song that's covered by F*ck You, Tammy at the top of this page is called “Sycamore Trees”, composed by frequent David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti with lyrics by Lynch himself. It was introduced in the Twin Peaks episode described above when Agent Cooper first enters the Black Lodge, sung on camera by the legendary Jimmy Scott (or rather, mimed on camera to his own voice). The F.U. Tammy rendition fittingly adheres to the David Lynch ideal of a near-identical doppelgänger. But one with significant differences gradually becoming visible, or rather audible, a copy that takes on a life of its own. 

And speaking of copies taking on a life of their own, here’s how lead singer Devery Doleman describes their rendition: "Sycamore Trees" is one of my favorite songs to perform because not only is it an incredible song, but it's such an intimate back and forth between everyone in the band: there are certain moments where the band follows the vocal, others where the vocal responds to the band.  Maybe our third show Anthony, our sax player, decided that he would wait somewhere off stage and then start the sax solo from the audience, and we've done at each live show since. And it feels from my point of view that in the first half of the song she is searching for someone in the woods, and when the sax comes in, it's the arrival of the person she's seeking - but it's different every time we perform the song. I think our version, while faithful to the original, is even darker if that's possible. 

In common with Twin Peaks' doppelgängers, the song's original vocalist Jimmy Scott also knew a thing or two about being one way on the outside while being another way on the inside, as a result of Kallman Syndrome—a syndrome causing its victim to never reach puberty which accounted for Mr. Scott eternally boyish appearance and striking soprano voice, but a voice weighed down by adult experience and heartbreak. A specialist in cover songs, he was known for wringing nuance and pathos out of familiar pop tunes and jazz standards, locating their dark underbelly with his tremulous-but-super-intense vibrato like on “Laughing on the Outside” above where the emphasis is definitely more on “crying on the inside.”

And finally, a final plug for the recent pair of DELI-assembled year-end 2020-2021 comps (check out PART I and PART II on Spotify!) which serve as twin doppelgängers in their own right (!) and which contain seven count ‘em seven (!) cover versions covering the full spectrum of coverdom—with Cigar Cigarette & MOTHERMARY doing Cyndi Lauper, Catherine Moan doing Depeche Mode, Weekend Lovers doing George Michael, Slut Magic doing Bobby Darin, Desert Sharks doing ’Til Tuesday, Spite FuXXX doing Dolly Parton, and Jess Casinelli doing The Smiths. (Jason Lee)

Cover photo by Simon Sun