October 11, 2014

Today's Hotness: Benjamin Shaw, The Sun Parade

Benjamin Shaw -- You & Me EP, detail, transform

>> Our natural inclination is to slag off Audio Antihero for releasing a single for the best song from its recent Benjamin Shaw release some six months after said release, but of course the little London label that could has beaten us to the punch, pre-emptively dubbing the single -- actually an EP -- a "cash-in." Despite the weird timing, the You & Me EP is neither a crass money grab nor a strategic misstep, as Mr. Shaw's stand-out tune -- which we spotlighted in our review of the charming full-length Goodbye, Cagoule World in April -- is supported by three exceptionally good cover versions from others unfortunate enough to be tagged with the descriptor "Audio Antihero artist." Indeed, Shaw's marvelous, wry and jaunty original is complemented by terrific and distinctly different versions from Jack Hayter, erstwhile Bostonian Cloud and Broken Shoulder. One of our favorite musical elements of the original is the burbling synth line, which recalls Hypo's amazing "Nice Day." Cloud has taken that piece of the tune and layered delicate layers of icy guitar and angelic, edgeless vocals over top. Mr. Hayter toys with the meter of the lyrics and renders the tune as a Joe Cocker-esque sea shanty, his papery tenor speeding up and slowing down over alternately syrupy and sticky pedal steel. Experimental droner Broken Shoulder plays to its formidable strengths, rounding out the EP with a strong, other-worldly and five-minute-plus rendering that sounds like the scattering remnants of a dream about the original song. Audio Antihero released the You & Me EP Oct. 6 as a digital download, and we unreservedly recommend it to your attention. Stream the short set via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to purchase for the ridiculously reasonable price of £1, which you should do, before Jamie Antihero starts talking about shutting down the label again.

>> Oh, how we have forsaken The Sun Parade. The Northampton, Mass.-based quartet's terrifically catchy Heart's Out EP was released a month ago, and the set's immediate and revved-up folk-rock tunes have been in steady rotation at the Clicky Clicky dojo ever since drummer Noam Schatz dropped the record on us a few weeks back. Mr. Schatz, long-time readers will recall, previously detonated the cans for the late, great Mobius Band. Schatz has spent time with a bit of musical this-and-that since the end of Mobius Band, but The Sun Parade is the first touring act he's joined up with since the mid-ish oughts. The Sun Parade was out last month with the popular-with-many-people-and-now-Boston-Calling-veterans Lake Street Dive, and we can't imagine its snappy numbers didn't find favor with the headliner's audience. The foursome's Beatles-fed Americana foregrounds sturdy vocal harmonies in its big choruses, punctuates its point with scads of scritchy rhythm guitar, and applies some pretty ripping lead guitar now and again, too, while all the while Mr. Schatz's physical playing spurs the compositions ever onward. EP highlight "I'm Still Here" works itself toward a frenzy in its final quarter, as does the groovier cut "A Plane To New Zealand," but the former tune's crafty chord changes and fluid harmonies in the chorus make for ready hooks that will be hard for listeners to shake. While out on tour The Sun Parade recorded the obligatory Daytrotter session, so if you chew through Heart's Out and need more music, keep your ears open for that. The act has scattered live engagements during the remainder of this fall, including a show in Providence next weekend, and you can check out all show dates right here. Stream the title track to Heart's Out via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to stream the whole magilla and to purchase the short set on CD or as a digital download. It's worth reminding you that Schatz isn't the only Mobius Band alum with new music out there: last month we reviewed Cookies' excellent LP Music For Touching right here. That act is led by former Mobius Band fronter Ben Sterling.

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