i feel a certain appeal is enough

LA duo Kisses (Jesse Kivel of Princeton and Zinzi Edmundson) and their new album The Heart of the Nightlife sound like the names imply – airy, sophisticated, fun, relaxed. Full of breezy jams that are equally at home poolside in the hills or on an open-air dance floor, The Heart of the Nightlife has a chameleonic quality allowing it to shift from day to night, carefree to contemplative.

Eponymous track “Kisses” is smooth and evokes images of white sand beaches and deep blue water. Follow-up “Bermuda” stays on the same path, its bouncy sway and shimmering chimes making it perfect music for cruising among the palms, top down. Middle Eastern themes influence “On the Move” and the album’s instrumental title track. Kivel is responsible for a bulk of the album’s vocals, but Edmundson’s voice comes through on “A Weekend in Brooklyn”.

“Midnight Lover” is has promise, but the repeated phrase “I would like to take you out for a nice steak dinner / just me and you” is ridiculous and an ill fit for the rest of the record. All is forgiven, though, by the inclusion of the stellar track “People Can Do the Most Amazing Things”. Kisses leave the beach behind for the dark of the club. It’s the 80s. As the coked-up horde dances around you, you wipe the tears from your face, staining your lace cutoff gloves with salt and mascara. Swirling lights bounce off the walls, and you realize that everything in your life is falling apart. This is the soundtrack to your life.

The Heart of the Nightlife drops 11.16.10.
Click to download “Bermuda“.

at the end of the day, that’s what the beatles were about: music and death

Welcome to Alan Goldsher’s alternate universe where zombies walk among us, the Beatles were but a footnote in the annals of rock history by the year 2000, and Goldsher is still a rock journalist in Chicago, though he globe-trots to speak with everyone from Roy Orbison to the Devil. In Paul is Undead, readers get a revised history of the greatest mostly-undead band of all time.

Using the Beatles’ real-world history as a framework for his narrative, Goldsher spins a tale of the band’s rise to fame, their murderous rampages (a band’s gotta eat!), and Lennon’s obsession with getting to the “Toppermost of the Poppermost” and taking over the world.

On their way to the top, the Beatles must fight foes like the zombie-hating Mick Jagger, who uses his hips to hypnotize and revives the undead with a big-lipped kiss to the chest, only to kill them for good directly thereafter. Also on the radar is leader of the Zombies, Rod Argent, who despises the Fab Four following a journalist’s claim that the Zombies were trying to capitalize on the boys’ zombie status.

Though thoroughly entertaining as a genre story, the real genius in Paul is Undead comes from Goldsher’s taking what actually happened and turning it on its ear while simultaneously not straying that far from the truth. In the book, the Beatles were able to achieve mind-controlling hypnosis via their vocal harmonies on “All My Loving” while taping the Ed Sullivan show. The glazed looks of adoration and unabashed screeching that were the actual result of virtually every performance in those years is really no different than if Lennon and McCartney had conspired to create such an effect through clandestine means.

A good read for music/Beatles nerds who will recognize the likes of Neil Aspinall and Magic Alex, and/or those who just can’t get enough brain-chomping, detached-limb-swinging, wound-seeping fun.

Paul is Undead will be released June 22, 2010.
Find out more about Alan Goldsher here.

the graft didn’t take

Duluth, Minnesota, home to Retribution Gospel Choir, is a cold, gray place. The natural expectation would be for art to reflect flat cold of the region, but RGC somehow channels the static into something beautiful and pulsating with life on 2.

The album carries a bass heartbeat throughout, ticking away the 34-minute sophomore release. Everything on the album sounds familiar, but with a few exceptions it’s hard to pinpoint any one influence, leading to something original. Counterintuitive, but trust me on this one. Fat guitars with gnarly solos, skittering, skipping cymbals that crash into expansive drum rolls, vinyl crackles and radio static populate 2, giving it the feeling of being tuned in from another time and place.

The front end of 2 is a little more in the straightforward, bar band-friendly vein, and offers up the best candidates for singles and new listeners, particularly “Hide It Away“. That’s not to say the rest of the album is lacking; the sounds and concepts build on each other, creating a thicker, denser listen as you go along, releasing in the last song with the band’s cry for a blessing, for RGC “put our hearts in the promised land / we buried ourselves in the arms of our enemies / so the last thing I need is a lover”.

2 drops 01/26/10.
Download “Hide It Away” here.