Friday, July 21, 2017

Food Flavored Album Review: Recharge by the Tambo Rays

The first time I experienced Larabars was at the finish line of a half marathon. The company sent someone to hand out samples. I grabbed a handful, scarfed them down, remember liking them and then moved on. Years later, those little bars began showing up in grocery stores. Every time I thought about purchasing a box, I'd look at the price and head the other direction. Those bars, in all their plant based and gluten free glory, were definitely not cheap. To combat the drain on my wallet, I did what most adventurous kitchen types would do, I started making my own version..

Then Larabar brought out a new line of products called Larabar bites. These were essentially the bars rolled into truffle like bites. So, I started making them too. Recently I've become enamored with the double chocolate brownie bites. These bites consist of just six ingredients: dates, cocoa, dark chocolate chips, coconut flour, almonds and sea salt. In my kitchen I added a seventh, coconut shreds. To make the bites just stuff all these ingredients into a food processor and pulse until they become tiny bits. Then add a little water, pulse a few more times and voila, start rolling chocolate snowballs. While working out the logistics of this recipe, I listened to the new Tambo Rays EP, Recharge (released on July 17th via OIM Records). Both the bites and the Tambo Rays EP had a lot in common.

Recharge kicks off with the upbeat, sun soaked, pop rock of "Yes and No." According to the band it is a song about letting go of old habits, the uncertainty of wandering through new territory and confronting the difficulties that arise from leaving behind the safety net of the status quo. Hmm...sun soaked, letting go of the status quo, releasing old habits. Sounds a bit like coconut flour if you ask me. Coconut flour is born and bred from a fruit that hangs out on a tree that is found in tropical, sun soaked climates. In the bites that I created, the coconut flour took the place of traditional flour. It can be tough to let go of white flour, and it certainly is the road less traveled, but sometimes it can be so worth it. These bites were one of those times.

Recharge's second track, "Always Down" embraces the same sort of glimmering pop as "Yes and No" but the lyrics hint at something a bit more melancholy. "Always Down" was written about being there and supporting a friend who is dealing with some dark days. The necessary support is most apparent in the lines "And I'll always be there for you, situations unknown, and I'll always be there for you, to take you where you want to go to." These lines are ambiguous in the sense that they allow the darkness to remain unnamed. When a friend says they need you, it doesn't really matter what the situation is, you go. And if they need you to take them somewhere, again, the destination isn't relevant, you drive until they are satisfied. Satisfaction, underlying darkness. Not only do these words describe, "Always Down" but they could just as easily represent the chocolate chips and cocoa powder found in this recipe.

"Wrong Turn" takes the adage go big or go home and makes it reality. This isn't just a pop song. It is a sonic, tilt-a-whirl of wavy synths, moody percussion and sexy guitars. These elements provide a stylized base to prop up Sara DaMert's emotive lyrics. "Wrong Turn" is the second most evocative track on Recharge. Long after the EP fades to silence, the lines and sounds of "Wrong Turn" remain in your brain like little earworms of enthrallment. The Medjool dates used for these bites are every bit as enthralling, moody and evocative as "Wrong Turn." Medjools, because of their elevated status in the date world are often referred to as kings, diamonds or crown jewels. Not sure you can get more enthralling than that. They have a rich, sweet taste that brings to mind differing food moods like caramel, honey or cinnamon.

What ties these chocolate bites together is the almonds. The "almonds" of Recharge is the closer, "Get It Right Now." This track is the most evocative of the lot because it combines aspects of each of the previous tracks. "Get It Right Now" features some of the same sonic elements as "Wrong Turn," the upbeat, sun soaked pop of "Yes and No" and the underlying melancholy of "Always Down." Its chorus seems to say that despite the fact that you are going through or have previously gone through some tough moments, time will heal those wounds ("To fall in love it just takes time"). Same with those pesky almonds. Pulse a bit and try to roll these bites and you'll be met with the tough almond exterior. But give it some time, pulse a bit more and you'll wind up with an easily moldable nutty treat.

Recharge by the Tambo Rays and Double Chocolate Brownie Bites have a number of things in common. Ultimately what stands out is the staying power of each. This staying power is created in both of these by combining catchy immediacy with a subtle and brilliant nuance.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Food Flavored Song: Bear Claws by The Academic

Let's take a nostalgic look over our shoulder for a few moments. Look over there, I see the 1980's. Ah and the 50's, they were pretty sexy in a completely harmless way. Here we are, the 1920's. That's where we want to be. It was here, in the roaring 20's, that the sweet, yeast-raised pastry, known as the bear claw came into being. A bear claw, for those not in the know, is a pastry filled with almond paste (and sometimes raisins) that is shaped like a semicircle with slices along the curved edge. As the dough rises, it separates evoking the shape of a bear's toe. Thus the name, bear claw.

Just twelve days ago Irish indie rock band the Academic also decided to send a nostalgic glance over their should. They too saw "Bear Claws." But in their world bear claws are not pastries, they are themselves, as teenagers, trying to navigate their way through the "minefield that is youth socializing." The song is, according to the band, about all the stupid things that they did during their youth. It is about thinking only in the short term, not worrying about long term implications. It is also asking people to be honest and open rather than holding back. Something that is much easier said than done.

You want honesty? Looking nostalgically over my shoulder to my youth, I realize that I only ate a bear claw once. I didn't like it all. Thankfully the Academic version of a bear claw is so much easier to stomach.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Artist's Cookbook: What's Cooking With Swine Tax?

Vince Lisle likes to cook Italian food. Well, maybe likes isn't strong enough of a word. Vince Lisle is passionate about cooking Italian food. He is so passionate about it that every day for two years he would cook (and eat) a different dish of risotto or pasta. He collected his favorite recipes, notes and stories about Italian cooking and published them on his blog Cibo Di Chenzo.

Aside from cooking, eating and blogging, Vince is also the lead vocalist and guitarist for Newcastle upon Tyne alternative rock trio, Swine Tax. These guys make music that is well structured and warmly laid down. Lyrically they deal with personal themes like social alienation, uncertainty in love and chronic pain (something that Vince suffers from).

Swine Tax's second single, "Brittle," is hot off the presses. The song instantly struck me as something I would be listening to on the regular. First there's Vince and his vocals. He presents the lyrics in a variety of fashions throughout the track. There's the high pitched siren, not a grating siren that is blaring right next to you, but a more restrained one shooting off in the distance. There's the hypnotic choir like sounds. And the pogoing chorus. All of these surround the frenetic verses that border on losing control but never quite do. Then there is the lyrics themselves. How the hell can you not find yourself relating (and singing along) with introspective lines like, "Please don't love me, I'm not worth it, please don't love me I don't deserve it"? Backing (and sometimes fronting) the vocals are spirited guitars which roam around distorted and garagey in places and clean shaven singer-songwriterish in others. Sometimes they shake fast, sometimes they move slow, other times they just make you wonder if the dreaminess you are experiencing is a sign that you are asleep. The song's drums play out in a similar manner. They slow down, they speed up, they hypnotize. Swine Tax's "Brittle" is indie rock at it's finest. All those changes in timing, vocal deliveries and style lead to a truly unique and scrumptious listening experience.

After blasting through "Brittle" about a dozen times, I asked Vince which of his recipes he would suggest pairing with it. He said the Pasta with Sardines, Almonds, Olives and Blood Oranges. Hmm... I thought that comparison made total sense to me. I mean you have a pasta made up of a number of distinct elements, including crunchy almonds and salty olives. Just like the music in "Brittle." Then you throw in something as stand out, complicated and subtly brilliant as a blood orange and you've got a meal that is off the charts. Or, as Vince says, "seriously scrumptious." That's the vocals and lyrics in "Brittle."

Scrumptious meal, scrumptious music.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Listen: Rose Avenue, Basement Revolver and Olivia O'Brien

You're all set with your kiwi, it's drying nicely in the oven, so let's check on some tunes to make the next seven hours go as fast as possible.

"Losing It" by Rose Avenue sounds like a sink full of bowls and a cabinet void of them. It's handful after handful of breakfast cereal shoved straight into your mouth (no filler). "Losing It" is the soy milk that is poured directly from the carton into your mouth, that falls down your chin and onto the floor. It is the neighbor who rings your doorbell and says something hilarious about your car's flat tire. It was such a hilarious statement that you lose your cereal all over your welcome mat and immediately call for your kid to bring her stuffed animal to clean up the mess while you go get a shot of kiwi flavored kombucha. It is being a professional football player, getting pulled over for driving under the influence, and blaming it all on that kiwi kombucha.

In non foodie terms, "Losing It" is like reliving the best day of your life, remembering your greatest friends and telling your teacher to stuff it over and over for four minutes and seven seconds.

Next up is the heartbreaking single "Tree Trunks" from Basement Revolver. The song was written by lead singer Chrisy Hurn when she started experience panic attacks for the first time. She felt an increasing need to find someone, someone professional, who could teach her better ways to cope. The song also mirrors how she imagines the environment to feel. This is partially due to the fact that the environment is tied to a lot of people's mental health. Chrisy was able to find the help she needed and now she is passing that experience on to you. In her own words, "I would encourage everyone to go after the mental health resources that are available to them."

I'm going to go ahead and add my two cents, therapeutic cooking. Try it out. If nothing else, your kitchen will smell great and you just might create something worth eating.

Olivia O' Brien's "RIP" (pronounced R.I.P not rip) is about those people in your life who are important to you (or who you are romantically invested in) that switch things up and become something you don't recognize anymore. That old version of them, the one you knew, is dead and gone and won't be back.

In kiwi terms, "RIP" is like when you put that shit in the oven for seven hours, even though the temp is only 170. When it comes out you won't even recognize it. That juicy, vibrant fruit has been replaced by a wrinkly, chewy, shriveled thing.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cook: Dried Kiwi

On a recent trip to Costco, J-Fur and I were grabbing things willy nilly and throwing them into the cart like we were on one of those grocery store game shows. One of the things that wound up finding its way home with us was a gigantic plastic container of kiwi. I average, on average, during an average week, like one kiwi eaten. J-Fur is probably further south then that, let's say 1/2 a kiwi a week. Z-Bot and Special K, don't touch any fruit that's green. This plastic container consisted of multiple pounds of kiwi (I'm talking like five or six). What the f*** was I going to do with all that kiwi?

I started doling it out at the local libraries. Psst....kid. Come here. You wanna kiwi? While I successfully dispersed some, I still had a lot left over. I put a few in a batch of kombucha. My plastic kiwi container wasn't even a quarter empty yet. I ate my weekly allotment, took a few out to play kiwi Bocce and put some over my eyes at night. More remained. I began dreaming in kiwi and tasting in kiwi and coloring in kiwi. At this point I knew I needed to put a halt to all things kiwi. There would be no kiwi pizza, salad dressing or Etsy style earrings. Enough was enough. I took the remaining kiwi, which wound up being about ten of those tiny oval shaped fuzz fruits, sliced it real thin like, tore off the outer layer and laid it out single file on a wire rack stabilized over a cookie sheet. I put the rack and cookie sheet in the oven at an extremely low temperature (170 degrees Fahrenheit) for around seven hours. Boom! Dried kiwi is served!

If you ever find yourself in the land of too much kiwi, take my advice: play some bocce, get your macular degeneration reversal swag on, then use the rest for a healthy, filling, dried snack.

Click (Music): Sacred Hearts Club, Punk Super Groups, Plastic Picnics and Nine Inch Nails

"Miss It Still" by Plastic Picnic

A picnic in paradise. Edible flowers strewn all over a plastic tablecloth laid out in the sand. A delivery guy riding a scooter bringing bags full of Cuban food. Fried yucca. Yellow rice. Black beans. Garlic dipping sauce. Crushed styrofoam containers ditched underneath the lifeguard chair.

That's "Miss It Still," the first ever release from Roll Call Records new singles label Highland Park.

"Here With You" by Lost Frequencies & Netsky

Brunch at a tiny cafe located alongside the riverwalk. People dodging in and out. You hardly notice because it is just you, her (or him) and the giant Belgian waffle covered with fresh fruit compote. A street performer comes up and busts a move. This time you do notice. You offer him a waffle as payment. He takes it down the street holding it like a wrapped burrito in his hands.

That's "Here With You" by Belgian hit machine Lost Frequencies and producer Netsky.

"Glass" by Sunset Lines

A dingy bar. A weird stained glass window stuffed into the corner of the men's (or women's) room. Your favorite guilty pleasure starts playing on the jukebox. You grab a hot chocolate from one of those 70's style vending machines and make your way to the dance floor.

That's "Glass," the debut single from San Francisco based Sunset Lines.

 "Bicep" by TR/ST

A narcissist suffering from an elongated battle with impurity and worthlessness. Taking a walk through a field in the middle of nowhere. Picking wild onions. Stirring them into a soup that is left behind uneaten because of a lack of hunger.

This is "Bicep" by Toronto based musician TR/ST.


"Legends" by Sleeping With Sirens

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, your new official song for Team USA on their road to the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics..."Legends" by Sleeping With Sirens.

"Less Than" by Nine Inch Nails

A lyric video in which the lyrics are written in a video game. How awesome of an idea is that!

"Witches" by Good Kid

A lyric video in which the lyrics are written in a video game. How awesome of an idea is that! Wait, what? Didn't I hear that somewhere else recently?

I do think I'd rather play this one.

"That Thing" by Hazel English

Hazel English's video for "That Thing" is an ominous experience in isolation. The lone figure on screen throughout is English and she finds herself sitting on a bed, in an empty theater and swimming in a pool. At every twist and turn it almost seems as if the person watching the video shouldn't be there, like you are some dirty peeping tom. The exception seems to be the theater. There it was the shadowy figure on the stage that seemed like they didn't belong.

The filmmakers for this video, Kelia Anne and Luca Venter did an awesome job with the colors. Each scene and outfit have connects which just adds to the eeriness.

"If There Was Ever A Time" by Armstrongs

The "super group" called Armstrongs consists of two famous elder Armstrongs and two of their younger relatives. We've got Tim Armstrong. Tim has spent the last three decades in band's such as Operation Ivy, Rancid and the Transplants. Accompanying Tim in Armstrongs is his nephew Rey. And we've got Billie Joe Armstrong. Billie Joe has been in Pinhead Gunpowder, Foxboro Hot Tubs, The Network and, most famously, Green Day. Accompanying Billie Joe in Armstrongs is his son Joey (of SWMRS fame).

Armstrongs first release "If There Was Ever A Time" is being released via Hellcat Records. All proceeds from the song, yes 100 percent of them, will got to 924 Gilman: a DIY, nonprofit, all-ages venue for music, art, and community events in Berkeley, California.

"Sit Next to Me" by Foster the People

Only one week left until the release of Foster the People's new album Sacred Hearts Club. Seems like the perfect time for a new single. So here it is:

"Don't Delete the Kisses" by Wolf Alice

This video confused me for about two minutes when I first saw it. I hit play and immediately clicked into a new tab. Every time I looked back at the tab with this video the picture was the same but the music continued to play. I couldn't figure out why my computer was glitching so bad. Turns out, it wasn't my computer. This video has no movement in it. "Don't Delete the Kisses" comes from Wolf Alice's upcoming album, due out in September. Of course, you could go ahead and pre order the album and get "Don't Delete the Kisses" as an instant gratification gift single. Your call. Are you patient? Or not?

 Get All of 2017's Click Tracks (when available) in One Spotify Playlist:

Friday, July 14, 2017

Food Flavored Artist: Swedish Death Candy

I dozed off last night while watching American Anarchist, the documentary about author William Powell. While I was sleeping I had this crazy dream that Malcolm Mooney, Tony Iommi and Willy Wonka started a band together. At one of their practices the three got the crazy idea to take a break and cook up some recipes from Wonka's copy of The Anarchist Cookbook. They started with Powell's version of homemade napalm. When the napalm was finished, Wonka hid it in his drum kit. He took it back to his lab and turned in into a batch of Swedish fish.

At this point in the dream, I woke up. As I stumbled back to my bed I thought to myself, damn man, that dream needs some sort of soundtrack.

This morning I logged into my email and I got that soundtrack. It comes courtesy of the band Swedish Death Candy. Their new single "Oh My" is a psych-pop killer. The song starts humbly with an organ a la the Doors. Then the crunching, heavy riffs, clanging cymbals and fuzz pedals take over. At some point singer Louis begins dropping lines of the fleeting nature of love and beauty and taking a chance on something before its luster fades.

The fuzziness of "Oh My" reminds me a lot of UK fuzz band Eat Fast who had an impressive run of singles last year. I'm hoping that means that Swedish Death Candy can make the second half of 2017 their year.

Let 'er rip: