Music: if it isn’t about some kind of catharsis, it isn’t about anything. This week’s spot-on Sunday Morning Music clip, from Nashville-based Photo Ops, is “Memories That Glow,” a sublime, dream-pop tune that — like so many great, deceptively Pop-sounding songs — is deeply rooted in the desire to transcend lingering emotional pain through an effective aural medium. It hurts so good, as they say.
The video for “Memories That Glow” is pleasingly seductive and visually abstract in a way that fully evokes warm waves of haunting nostalgia. Aurally, vocalist/songwriter Terry Price recalls both Brian Wilson and 70s-era Todd Rundgren (whose enduring “Hello, It’s Me” manages to be both sweetly uplifting and profoundly melancholy simultaneously). And with its simple, one-line lyrical hook, “Leave me Alone,” Price creates a 4-minute gem that would have fit perfectly among the track listing of the The Beach Boys‘ masterpiece, Pet Sounds. Listen and tell me you don’t agree.
“Memories That Glow” can be found on Photo Ops‘ sophomore offering, Vacation, just released on February 11th via Bad Friend Records. Vacation is available now on iTunes and Spotify. Enjoy!
Back when I used to eek out a few bucks writing about music, one particularly hard ass editor accused me of being “not a real Rock Critic.” This was likely due to my unwillingness to indulge in the widespread practice of pondering the sociopolitical leanings of a band in the context of a record review rather than just basing my critique on how the music sounded to me. I never really got that approach. I’m not interested in reading paragraphs of turgid, impenetrable prose and rock-crit wankery. Just tell me how the music sounds so I know if I want to buy the record.
Along those lines, The Sheepdogs are a band that’s easy for me to write about, because their music sounds amazing. This Canadian Classic Rock quartet (who in 2011 won a contest making them the first unsigned act ever to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine) have three independent albums under their belts and an EP released on Atlantic last year, but this record is their major label debut (produced by Patrick Carney of The Black Keys), and it’s beyond impressive.
“Laid Back” and “Feeling Good,” the first two tracks on the disc set the tone for the entire album: This is an exceptionally great feeling album of groove heavy tunes performed by a band that embraces an extremely lyrical approach to their playing. Lead singer Ewan Currie (whose voice has been compared to The Guess Who’s Burton Cummings) delivers the kind of quietly confident, effortlessly powerful vocal performance that is the mark of true natural talent. Guitarist Leot Hansen is doing wildly innovative stuff on the guitar while paying homage to tone masters such as George Harrison (“Never Gonna Get My Love”), Duane Allman (“Javelina!”) and of course Jimmy Page (“Sharp Sounds”). He’s amazing. Drummer Sam Corbett varies his drum feels to serve the song and his rhythm section partner, bassist Ryan Gullen holds down the bottom end while layering in adhesive hooks. This means that The Sheepdogs are just as vibrant and tight live as they are on disc, and you can’t say that about many acts these days.
What’s most impressive about The Sheepdogs is the band’s ability to integrate their influences so seamlessly that the songs are instantly familiar without sounding derivative. “Is Your Dream Worth Dying For?” feels pleasantly infused with tiny reminiscences of Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw The Light”, “While We’re Young” comes off like a revamped version of “Shapes of Things” and “In My Mind” captures the same kind of transcendent, euphoric quality as a song like Cream’s “Badge” without sounding anything like that song. As an aside, at least half these tracks indicate that The Sheepdogs should have a ready-made fan base in anyone who ever cited The Grateful Dead as a favorite band.
In their review of The Sheepdogs, Rolling Stone wrote, “Listening to the Sheepdogs is like having good luck finding classic rock stations on a long road trip.” I agree with that sentiment, but to me it feels fresher than that: as if it were possible travel back in time and actually hear new songs from a ‘70s band. It’s a refreshing reminder that the most vital benchmark of what constitutes good music is (or should be) that the music just sounds good.
Ringo Starr Arrives for his Exhibit at Pop International Gallery, Soho (All Photos By Gail)
There’s a wickedly humorous story in Beatles’ legend that goes something like this: when asked by a journalist if Ringo Starr was the best drummer he’d ever heard, John Lennon replied, “Ringo isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.” As hilarious as that joke is, I think that Ringo Jokes exist for the same reason that Blonde Jokes exist: because people are jealous. I mean, Ringo Starr was in The fucking Beatles, and The Beatles invented everything! As far as I’m concerned, he has carte blanche to do whatever he wants. Ringo Starr!
In addition to currently being on a national concert tour with the most recent incarnation of his All Starr Band, Ringo is also touring his original artwork. On Monday, June 25th, he made a pit stop in Soho to host a VIP reception at Pop International Gallery on West Broadway. The packed-to-capacity gallery space was filled mostly with “VIP” patrons who had previously purchased signed copies of the drummer’s colorful, school of Pop art, but plenty of Music Biz celebrities and Ringo supporters were on hand as well.
We spotted the legendary Todd Rundgren (a current member of Ringo’s All Starr consortium) as well as previous RASB contributors like drummer Greg Bissonette and MTV-Generation rocker Billy Squier, who has been flying below the radar lately but still looks fantastic.
As celebrity artwork goes, I have seen work by Academy Award Nominated Directors and Tabloid-Fodder Rock Has-Beens that did not impress me much, but Ringo’s work is vibrant and accessible. It’s easy to see the influence of modern Pop innovators such as Peter Max and Andy Warhol in Starr’s work, but he also has his own whimsical style that is distinctly Ringo.
Part of all proceeds from sales also go to support The Lotus Foundation, a charity founded by Ringo and his wife Barbara Bach. The foundation’s primary objectives are to offer financial aid and assistance to facilitate family and child welfare, women’s issues, animal protection, addiction recovery and education.
We had a fun time at the reception and really enjoyed Ringo’s art work. And while it was a minor thrill to be in such close proximity to THE Ringo Starr, it was a wee bit of a bummer to be actually unable to meet him, due to his giant body guards and the mob scene-generating essence of the situation (i.e. Live Beatle in Person) in general. So close, and yet so far, as they say.
Pop International Galleries is Located at 473 West Broadway, New York, NY 10012