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Moon Kissed have something important to tell you and right now may be a good time to listen

Released earlier this Fall (shades of Milton’s Paradise Lost entirely intentional given recent trends) the second full-length by Moon Kissed, called I’d Like To Tell You Something Important (its title a callback to their first record) is a deeply human fusion of contradictory yet complimentary impulses—ranging from its chew-you-up-and-spit-you-out opener “Bubblegum” (“chew you up you're just like bubble gum / I’ll spit you out when I’m done”) to its chew-me-up-and-spit-me-out closer “Chameleon” (“Chameleon, I’ll change for you / I’ll do what you want me to / until I don’t know who I am”) a dialectical lyricism mirrored by Emily, Khaya and Leah's impressively wide-ranging musical palette—skipping like a stone across songs featuring sweet poptimistic flirtation, grinding electro trepidation, epic party-anthem-ification, hushed diary-entry introspection, operatic power-ballad salvation, stripped-down spoken-word elucidation. and last-call-for-alcohol piano-bar romantic resignation.

But no matter how varied the emotional and sonic landscape, it all comes across as a coherent statement—to the extent that raw, urgent passion can be considered “coherent" but let's not get off track here—with the full tapestry of the LP woven together by the consistently ultra-vivid, ultra-visceral nature of the songwriting and arrangements. Indeed, it seems Moon Kissed have got something important to tell us after all. 

Not to knock their first record at all (2019’s I Met My Band At A New Years Eve Party and I stand by my earlier statement that  “Runaway” should by rights be widely known as one of the top bops from the past several years) but in the interim Moon Kissed have taken things to the next level when it comes to making even their more synth-heavy numbers feel entirely organic to the point where practically every song feels like it’s about to crawl out of its own skin, whether due to anticipation or anxiety, dread or desire, morphing and mutating from one moment to the next, a quality that applies equally to Khaya’s vocalizing and also to the production work on ILTTYSI (and even to more lo-fi numbers like how on "Chameleon" the audibly squeaky piano sustain pedal makes you feel like you're sitting there in the same room where it's being performed) a sonic elasticity that helps account for how all the synthetic and organic textures blend together so seamlessly on the record (including the stark cowbell part on "Saturday Night" that nearly rescues the instrument from sketch comedy hell).

What’s more, I’d Like To Tell You Something Important coheres not just musically but also thematically, organized around a central theme of pleasure and its (dis)contents. Or, as Moon Kissed themselves put it on the penultimate track “Bender,” “Let me try to make this better / Let me evaluate my pleasures,” which is a song that both Lady Gaga and Lin Manuel-Miranda must desperately wish they’d written. Except they'd each probably choose to repeat the final rousing chorus a couple more times (at least) so kudos to Moon Kissed for displaying the restraint and self-confidence to leave us wanting more. 

Anyway, safe to say, many permutations of pleasure appear across the album’s 35-minute run time, not only in terms of the most simple-minded mission to “have a good time, all the time” but also in terms of the oft-overlooked complexities of pleasure--whether pleasure as politics (gender politics in particular), pleasure as escapism, pleasure as transcendence, pleasure as power, pleasure as surrender, pleasure as spiritual and/or psychological and/or physical salvation. In a word, pleasure! 

And Moon Kissed don’t limit their pleasure explorations only to making records either. Because their live shows bring an even bigger dose of pleasure to audiences with fearless heart-on-sleeve, inhibitions-stripped-away abandon and a determination to have a good time all the time. On this note, over the past several weeks Moon Kissed have undertaken a three-week residency at the Ridgewood, Queens D.I.Y. spot known as Trans-Pecos with each of the three shows organized around the theme of “Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice” with each ingredient engaged sequentially. (first show “Sugar,” second show “Spice,” etc.)



Except that the triptych-concluding “Everything Nice” event scheduled for tonight was cancelled/postponed out of an abundance of Omicron caution. And to think that tonight's opener Kate Davis should’ve been taking the stage right about now if not for that pesky mutating virus. But on the plus side at least it gives you more time to work on putting together a truly impactful outfit for Everything Nice, whenever it happens to happen, with potential inspirations including (quoting directly from the party flyer here) "poodle skirts, kitten heels, 50s fantasy housewife with a beard, 50s working husband but with a thong, sexism as an outfit, strap ons, breast plate, drag make up, curlers" and I’m gonna go ahead and add "cha-cha heels" to the list cuz I doubt they'd mind and I'm secretly hoping to receive a pair for Christmas.

Which brings us to one last newly-relevant-yet-again-selling-point for ILTTYSI which is that it’s a great lockdown listen, an album conceived and recorded in part during lockdown numero uno or are we still keeping count—meet the new year, same as the old year—that's chock full of the frustrated pent-up passion that's highly familiar to the socially-distanced set by now, besieged as we are by “lonel[iness] and heavy memories [that] linger like a gymnast on a beam that isn’t steady” prone to “walking off cliffs in [our] dreams / wak[ing] up in sweat and it’s hard to breath” counterbalanced by coping skills such as “buying…ice cream to see if it gets better / but nothing’s getting better at all” and finally resigned to the fact that “if the world is about to blow / [we] may as well lose control” to loosely paraphrase various lines from the album. 

And yeah I’m probably making it sound like a pretty despairing set of tunes but it’s really not—there’s plenty of life-affirming lyrics as well (“we should run around the city / everybody kissing everyone / cuz we all know what we all want”) not to mention the overall inspiring live-wire intensity of the music. In fact it’s one of the most life-affirming albums this writer has heard in a while.



So maybe just settle in for the evening, change into your best club duds and put on I’d Like To Tell You Something Important and then dance around your bedroom like it’s Your Own Private Idaho for the rest of the night (and the next night, and the next night) and when you get tired of ILTTYSI you can put on Moon Kissed’s single from earlier this year called “Clubbing In Your Bedroom” and its crowd-sourced, quarantine-themed music video and rave on for the rest of the night or the rest of your life. (Jason Lee) 

 





Josephine Network makes it rain on latest single

HOT TRACKS/HOT TAKES: Josephine Network “I Feel Like Rain” (release date: 12/03/21)

ELEVATOR PITCH: Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” meets Sylvester’s “I Need Somebody To Love Tonight” meets Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand The Rain” meets Arthur Russell/Loose Joints’ “Is It All Over My Face?” with a dash of Steely Dan’s “Peg” thrown in for extra flavour—presented to the public with 3 count ‘em 3 alternative mixes available on limited edition cassingle to be found exclusively at Sam Goody’s Records & Tapes and also for order on the Josephine Network’s Glamcamp page (which redirects you to NYC-based “art pop cassingle label” Paris Tapes) if you’re too lazy to hit the mall.



KEY LYRIC: “Your love, your love is like water / one drop and I’m dripping wet”

PAST IS PROLOGUE: For an appetizing sample of Josephine’s pre-solo-artist musical career, check out Velveteen Rabbit’s “I Wanna Be Your Woman” below (sample lyric: “so lemme be your woman / and you can be my woman too”)  



MUSICAL PROFICIENCY: Junk shop glam slop. Drag yenta boogie rock. Yiddish-infused power pop. Gently-strummed “AM Gold” soft rock. Keyboard-driven Captain Fantastical melodic bops. Girl-group harmonizing in attractive frocks. And now, blissed-out sunshine-pop disco romps. 

Who is a Yenta today? https://www.jta.org/2020/02/04/opinion/who-exactly-is-a-yenta-these-days Captain Fantastic: 

MORE RECENT WORKS: Josephine’s debut LP Music Is Easy was released in early 2020 on Dig! Records. It’s been described elsewhere as walking “the line between sincerity & camp, with a stellar set of songs that’ll grab every rockin’ lover and true believer in pop music from the last half-century by the ears, rattling whatever’s left in-between them, and restoring their dormant faith in music—with ease and a wink.”



And just this year, in March, also on Dig! Records, Josephine Network released a collaborative album with Hershguy. It’s called Stocky Tunes and on Bandcamp it’s described as “a celebratory rock’n’roll smorgasbord of far-reaching sounds and sonic bedlam…[that doubles] down on the adventurous and genre-shirking spirit of their solo efforts [with] lyrics comprised of ribald Yiddish slang of yore (“Cockamun”, “Punim Pisher”, etc.) beside modernized protest songs of the day (“Walk Out Loud” and “This is Track 11”—FUCK 12!!!)" which as a music journalist who is always looking to report the cold and hard truth, I must point out here is actually track 4 on the record.

 

IN CLOSING: Personally, this writer wouldn’t mind if Josephine explored a little further down the “I Feel Like Rain” path on a subsequent EP or even a full LP, because this is such a groovy, vibey-yet-upbeat, danceable-yet-introspective, life-affirming tune. But the one thing that we can probably depend upon from Ms. Network is that there's no telling where she’ll go next musically. And that’s always a good thing for an artist in this writer's book. (Jason Lee)





Eris Drew "Quivering In Time"

DJ and Producer Eris Drew has released her lastest album, Quivering In Time, via the label she co-owns with Octo Octa (aka Maya Bouldry-Morrison), T4T LUV NRG.

According to a statement Drew put out last month on her facebook page, "The album is filled with love, hope and the anxiety of the present. All the tracks exist somewhere between house, breaks and bass, with a lot of scratching, vinyl collages, turntable manipulations, hand-played keys, mutated guitars, hand percussion and other hopefully beautiful chaos".

We agree and would add that Drew draws deep on her Chicago House roots while adding fresh experimentation and live instrumentation to create a sound that would easily fill a small club, a beach party at sunset, or a stadium.

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Austin City Locals, Weekend One: Bat City’s Best

After months of impatient waiting — tantalized by lineup announcements, tormented by rumors of cancellations and pending permits — Austin City Limits is finally upon us. A slightly less star-studded lineup than usual has drawn more than its fair share of criticism, but here at The Deli Austin (and across the city at large) that is cause for celebration.  
Now more than ever, leading local luminaries and hopeful aspirants alike need support and an opportunity to rebound from a truly devastating 18 months. With ACL 2021, C3 Presents has provided that platform: over the course of two weekends, 25+ local (and quasi-local) acts will be showcasing their considerable talents all over Zilker Park. The Grammy-nominated Black Pumas will surely be the biggest draw, but don’t understand the appeal of Dayglow’s warm, fuzzy pop or MISSIO’s woozy, bass-driven alt-electro-hop either. With hundreds of millions of plays on streaming services rewarded with high-profile afternoon spots, we have no doubts that these local favorites’ adoring audiences will turn out in droves.
 
But we’re more interested in the more under-the-radar the acts for whom this opportunity is the culmination of years of blood, sweat and tears (rather than a remarkable and glorious homecoming), and for whom ACL 2021 could be the springboard to launch into the stratosphere of success with which Austin artists so frequently flirt, but all-too-rarely achieve.
 
We are beyond excited to witness these five local artists (and so many others) seize their moment. Play your part. Get to Zilker early. Buy merch. Give back to the community and the culture that has built our city into this tremendous mecca of music, and see for yourself why we are the Live Music Capital of the World.

Audic Empire — Friday at 1:00PM, Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage
Armed with a decade’s worth of mellow, reggae-tinged jams, Audic Empire will be kicking off the festivities in style on the Tito’s Vodka Stage (Friday at 1:00PM — we know it’s early, but security is also notoriously more lax when it comes to daytime doobies).


Loosen ya limbs and lose yourself in a cloud of ganja smoke as these long-time Flamingo Cantina favorites unleash their signature strain of effervescent reggae-rock on an adoring hometown crowd. High-octane tracks like “Come and Toke It” showcase frontman Ronnie Bowen’s smooth hip-hop sensibility (and more than a sprinkling of Bradley Nowell) alongs with sharp solos from guitarist Travis Brown, while the hypnotically up-beat bounce behind “Don’t Wait Up” is sure to seduce audiences across Zilker into the skank pit (not what it sounds like), where frustration and negativity melt away into the liquid sunshine floating out of the speakers.

 
Nané — Friday at 1:00PM, Lady Bird Stage
First set time of the festival and we already have conflicts. Thanks C3 for getting that out of the way early. Nothing gold can stay. Those less tempted by Audic Empire’s fleeting promise of carefree youthfulness will find their own thrills during Nane’s woozy, bluesy set. Simultaneously slick and profoundly vulnerable, vocal virtuoso Daniel Sahad spearheads this thrilling six-piece outfit with psychedelic flair.


 Whether mourning love’s decay on neo-soul slow-burner “Ladybird” or half-moaning punk-infused angst on the pounding, pulsing anthem “Seventeen,” Sahad bleeds personality and exudes emotion with endearing abandon — and without drowning out the equally-incredible contributions of his tight and talented band, whose roster includes keyboardist JaRon Marshall (of Black Pumas fame) and fellow UT graduate and longtime collaborator Ian Green.


 

 
Nané is a young band with exceptional talent. They are adventurous and nostalgic, polished and raw, gritty and smooth — and barely a month into their first ever tour. As the group sheds the sonic skin of some more blatant inspirations (Black Pumas and Bloc Party stand out) to refine and define their sound, Nané is poised and primed for the limelight.


 

 

Primo the Alien — Friday W1 at 1:45PM

The 1980s are back with a vengeance. Between a bewildering revival for parachute pants and mullets and a frustrating rise in conservative politics, that might not be a good thing.

Thankfully, Primo the Alien is on a one-woman mission to ensure that glorious decade (which gave us the Talking Heads, Nintendo game systems, Do the Right Thing, MTV and so much more) is immortalized for the right reasons. Her glittery, gleaming brand of synth-pop reimagines and revitalizes the ‘80s as they could have been, as they should have been: bright, fun, sparkly, sexy.

 

 Merging Kavinsky’s infrared retro-wave aesthetic with CHVRCHES’ relentless, unabashedly pop energy, Primo effortlessly melds genres and generations, breathing new life into sounds that somehow still feel futuristic 30-odd years later. Maybe she really is from another dimension. Maybe, if we’re lucky, she’ll take us back with her.

Sir Woman — Saturday at 1:00PM, Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage

What started as a means for escape and exploration for Wild Child frontwoman Kelsey Wilson quickly built momentum, snowballing out of control and into our hearts, minds and most beloved stages.
Leaving her band’s folksy limitations and lonely lamentations behind (at least temporarily), Wilson turned her talents toward funk and r&b, where she finds herself empowered to express herself in new and uplifting ways under a new moniker.

  

 The response has been deafening: with only a few singles under her belt, Wilson’s new project Sir Woman won Best New Act at the 2020 Austin Music Awards. New single “Blame It On The Water” is a particular standout, the joyful, jazzy break-up song from a woman ready for a new beginning.  Her set promises to be a joyful celebration of life, love and liberation.


 

Deezie Brown — Sunday at 12:15PM, Miller Lite Stage 

Backed by a Bastrop-rooted family with a profound generational love for Southern hip-hop (and connections to Houston hero/Smithville native DJ Screw), Deezie Brown has quickly and not-so-quietly hurdled past his competition to the forefront of the vibrant (and largely underestimated) Austin hip-hop community.
Over the course of three years and three albums, Deezie has drawn inspiration from and contributed to (in equal parts) the mythology of Southern hip-hop with a series of concept albums, all of which fit into a larger universe (his “Fifth Wheel Fairytale”) and message surrounding the possibility of imagination, and the imagination of possibility.

 
Though individual tracks like “Drive” or the Chris Bosh-featuring “Imitate” are immediate earworms, Deezie’s most cohesive project is recent collaboration with charismatic R&B smooth-talker Jake Lloyd, The Geto Gala EP, which spurns egotistic posturing and one-upmanship to invite audiences everywhere to a blue-collar celebration of a bright past and a brighter future.

 
Poetic, principled and profound, Deezie Brown’s music is a testament to the vitality—living, breathing, evolving—of the South’s legacy, a reminder that the region does indeed still have “Sumn’ To Say” and his performance will be as much a coronation as celebration.

 




Catherine Moan sets off a "Chain Reaction"



Months previous to the release of her debut full-length Chain Reaction (Born Losers Records), the first time I heard Catherine Moan’s music was with the song “Drop It!” whose refrain goes: “sway in time, it’s so sweet / drop down low and feel the heat / keep it down low / drop it, drop it feel the heat / drop it feel the heat, drop it feel the heat / drop it, drop it, drop it, drop it / drop it feel the heat” and I was immediately struck by how Ms. Moan had taken the sentiment behind Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (due credit to Lil’ Wayne) and removed both the simile and the spare, ultra-vivid production work—replacing it instead with a neon smear of pulsing analog synths and 80s-esque drum programming (“new retro wave” the kids call it) with the requested acts of “drop[ping] it” and “feel[ing] the heat” (not to mention “keep[ing] this fire burning / ’til the records stop turning”) framed as invitations rather than commands, supported by a bopping electro-lullaby vibe with the song’s only hint of conflict coming in the bridge: “now that we can finally breathe / c’mon and drop that ass / and dance with me.

It was the perfect summer jam and needless to say I was hooked, especially after witnessing the music video which simulates the feel of an ‘80s video dating profile. But then something funny happened. The more I listened, the more I detected a ghostly undertow to the song. Maybe it was the icy pinprick synths in the chorus. Or the airy dissociated-sounding vocals, like being seduced by someone when under ether (hello, Andrea True Connection!) or how the musical arrangement feels like John Carpenter wrote a major-key disco song for one of his soundtracks.

But far from detracting from the song this only deepened my appreciation because, for my money, it’s just this distinctively different kind of tension that makes “Drop It!” and the album it appears on now so oddly alluring—because over seven subsequent tracks Chain Reaction doubles down on the mood-altering mashup of ecstatic release and confining unease and emotional blunting a.k.a. “waning of affect” if you wanna get all postmodern about it (on the latter point, one song on the album revolves around the repeated phrase “I can’t feel a thing” while the chorus of another informs the listener “I want to feel nothing / I want to see nothing”).

And not that you asked but when it comes to cinematic associations evoked by Chain Reaction for me it’s Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner all the way. Because imho all these songs would fit perfectly at a Los Angeles discotheque and lounge circa 2019 as imagined in 1982 (natch!) perfectly capturing the retro-future sound of pop music in a society overtaken by rampant technology, alienation, and environmental degradation (but also, new methods of connection and new avenues of pleasure, so call it a draw!) which leads its citizenry to question what it even means to be “human” anymore (who could imagine such a place!) and where pop music serves both as a crucial mirror-to-society and escapist release (like how Harrison Ford reportedly loved singing “More, More, More” in his downtime). And then seeing Ms. Moan perform her first NYC live show on a rooftop on the first night that Tropical Storm Elsa brought torrential rains to the city (the Our Wicked Lady roof is covered, but still I'm surprised and impressed the show went on) really sealed the deal.

Plus on “Drop It!” in particular I get the feeling Ms. Moan is actually role-playing as a “basic pleasure model” replicant-as-pop-artist à la Daryl Hannah’s Pris character (who shoulda been in a goth band in the movie with her perfect punky raccoon look, or maybe they cut those scenes out) but a basic pleasure model who will gladly crush your windpipe between her thighs when the time’s right—plus you gotta admit “feel the beat / in your heartbeat” is a brilliantly cyborg-y song lyric but hey what do I know—while the other songs on Chain Reaction likewise bring to mind a distinctly “glowing neon signs reflecting off glass surfaces and slicked concrete streets of an urban dis/pleasure district”, with the next track “Wasted” upping the moody-pop stakes with a faded-in intro that could easily be a Vangelis outtake from the Blade Runner soundtrack.

To which you may rightly say: “Theories, schmeries! What does Catherine herself say about the record, her creative process and sources of inspiration?” Well, lucky for you, I asked and she answered, generously filling in some of the details and, no, Blade Runner was never mentioned. Ms. Moan describes her creative process thusly: 

“I write and record off of feelings and whims. Rather than going into a song with a planned idea it usually starts from a melody or lyric I hummed and came up with in the shower or on a walk. And from there it is a playful and chaotic binge of making all kinds of arrangements of sounds and melodies. I'll sit there with my microphone and sing/speak/shout all kinds of quips and lines in different rhythms and styles until something clicks and it all falls into place. And this process goes on until I can't stop dancing around my room until i'm out of breath. It's a style of creativity that I feel is very true to my hyperactive and energetic personality…there's something about spontaneity and randomness that I think can really bring ideas out of thin air and really tap into where I am at the moment.”

And ok none of this sounds very cyborg-like but instead more human than human which hey that’s a good thing and I’m just picturing this process unfolding with a song like “Body Work” as it builds from a reflective electro-ballad (“I get overwhelmed from the start”) to a bedroom-dancing-crescendo during the chorus (“I can’t feel a thing / ‘cause I’m over it all”) which all taps into one overarching theme of the album described by Catherine as “coping with an unnatural amount of alone time with yourself and your body and specifically the places my own mind went from being beside myself too long” which is all pretty damn relatable given the recent past. 

But when it comes to the creative tools she used to make the album I’m on slightly firmer ground given that the songs on Chain Reaction were created using a “tight selection of gear…using a KORG Minilogue, my pink Fender Mustang, a humble Shure SM58, and a handful of VSTs” and judging from a couple demo videos I viewed on the Minilogue it’s especially good at producing the ethereal, shimmering timbres favored by Vangelis and the Yamama CS-80 used on the Blade Runner soundtrack so there ya go. 

Moving from keyboard patches to skin grafts, on “Skin Graft” Ms. Moan elaborates her Cartesian thematics further on a song she describes as being “about [my own] frequent hospital visits and health issues” plus “reacting to a permanent scar I had just acquired on my chin from falling HARD off my skateboard,” but that also comes from “the perspective of elective surgeries people go through with to alter their appearance or ‘fix’ parts of their bodies they don't agree with.” 

“The lyrics ‘scars on my face / stitches cut across / take them away…bind them down’ is a reflection on gender identity and a disassociation and conflict between secondary sex characteristics and androgyny. And more specifically the compulsion to want to change those things to find comfort albeit through drastic, painful, medical procedures like breast reduction [or] full on top surgery [whereas] the chorus ‘I want to feel nothing I want to see nothing’ is very self explanatory…an honest and blunt vocalization of the conflict and the wish to cease and desist any self hatred / body confusion” which raises an interesting if accidental parallel between the song and the movie because they both revolve around being in a state of ontological crisis—a crisis provoked when long-standing, dominant binaries (male/female, human/non-human) are violated and thus challenged which is a brave but risky thing to do—though at least this state of crisis is set to a catchy disco beat which makes for the best kind of crisis.

It’s all enough to make you wanna switch your mind and body onto autopilot (another running theme on the album!) which is addressed head-on in the album’s penultimate track “Lucky Lobotomy” (“Turn myself into the cerebral authorities. Lock me out, toss the key”) which is about how “all the privilege and agency that comes with having a sentient mind can be overwhelming because your thoughts will just go to such unhealthy and painful places that wind up hurting you and god forbid others. But luckily it’s a lovely track so you’re unlikely to suffer any permanent damage. 

In closing I’d say that Catherine Moan’s I-wanna-be-sedated-synth-pop bangers on Chain Reaction are perfect for turning off your mind and floating downstream (despite some heavy, heady ideas as inspiration) or for dancing madly in the middle of the street not giving a damn what anyone thinks because all these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. (Jason Lee)

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