Today is an exciting day. Atlanta boys, Gringo Star have officially released their new album, “Count Yer Lucky Stars.” If you read no further, at least click HERE, and buy this album NOW – you will not be sorry.
Sitting with the band in their well-used tour van at the end of September, I tried my best not to be breathless and wide-eyed. There are many musicians I meet who are “bigger” than Gringo Star, and I am generally pretty calm about the whole experience: “So you play music. Let’s talk a little about that…” Insert cheerful banter here… “Thanks for your time, and good luck on your tour/new album/new chinchilla, etc.”
But Gringo Star is different.
Perhaps it helps that I lived in Atlanta for most of my life, had several incredibly hip friends in common with the Gringos, constantly read about their crowd- and critic-pleasing performances on countless music websites, but never came close to actually meeting them. Gringo Star was like some urban legend.
Perhaps it also helps that Gringo Star, with their hook-filled brand of jangly garage rock, produce almost precisely the kind of music I would attempt to make if I had any musical talent.
Whatever the case, on that September night I accepted a swig of Jameson’s from Nick Furgiuele with a kind of nervous reverence that made him visibly uncomfortable. I tried to be cool, but damn, I love this band.
“Count Yer Lucky Stars” picks up where their previous album “All Y’all” left off, and runs with wild, yet extremely well-orchestrated abandon. Their signature core of delightfully rattly garage rock rounded out by gorgeous, echoey surf pop is there, and so is the aura of wry, British Invasion boys. Add to this several years of experience, musical refinement, and hard touring, and you end up with delicious new depths to the Gringos’ already multi-layered sound. On the surface it’s often still raging youth, but just beneath that you’ll find some damned talented men.
Produced by Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley, Deerhunter), “Count Yer Lucky Stars” sparkles in its cohesiveness, but never loses the Dirty South soul these boys are known for. The songs are punchy, sometimes dreamy, sometimes noisy, but always awesome.
The first single, “Shadow” is catchy and memorable while still maintaining a titillating balance of dark psychedelic-tinged indie rock. It’s the perfect first single from this more mature album; on the surface it sounds somewhat sweet and innocent, but scratch just a little deeper, and you’ll find a very dark night.
The title track “Count Yer Lucky Stars” rocks with a fierceness. It begins with a healthy dose of Kinks-esque sound, and goes on to deliver a staggering bassline and quietly screaming guitar.
“Come Alive” and “Esmarelda” feel right out of 60’s England (in the best possible way), while “Jessica” perfectly suggests the 1950’s sound New-Wavers wanted to capture, but usually couldn’t.
I wanted to choose a favorite song off the new album to feature, but I can’t begin to raise one above the others. Each track stands on its own, and is a little sparkling gem of perfection. Put them together, and they create an album that is a pleasure from start to finish.
Back at the Boston gig in September, I was shocked to find a sparse crowd inside. The venue may have been part of the problem: It was a place that’s not very well-respected, with horrendous lighting, and an equally bad sound system. The club management had also nixed all of Gringo Star’s usual stage theatrics – not even a fog machine was permitted. Probably tired, and possibly feeling a bit deflated, Nick, both Petes, and Chris took the stage with undaunted charisma, and tore into their set. I was blown away. I couldn’t help but stomp my foot along with their intoxicating beats, but what I really wanted was to jump up and down. For their entire show.
Gringo Star passionately marches out musically sophisticated songs; makes them sparkle, makes them bounce, and then makes them sound deliciously messy. They switch instruments so fast that it’s hard to keep up with who is playing what on which song. It might seem like showing off until one realizes that they do all of it with classic punk “We don’t give a f**k” looks on their faces.
Trying to pin down just why I loved this music so much, I finally realized that the Gringos perfectly combine garage rock with punk with surf with sixties Brit pop with psychedelic licks. Just saying that is difficult – imagine playing all of that together, and doing it brilliantly. Yes, if The Ramones could have babies with The Kinks, and The Ventures could have babies with The Byrds, and those children grew up and had babies of their own together, well, you might get something that sounds remarkably like Gringo Star.
I love this band.
Gringo Star is currently on a national tour, and returns to Atlanta for a homecoming show and official album release party on November 19th at Star Bar!
Pick up a copy of their new album “Count Yer Lucky Stars” HERE.
Transistor-on Takes “The Way Back Down” on EP
Transistor-on calls their goods “fuzzed out reverb music,” and in the spirit of post-rock, EP The Way Back Down is full of that melodious texture and sensation. Recorded at The Cottage with Damon Moon, The Way Back Down is a mere four tracks. But those songs make a satisfying sampling of a band with a big future ahead.
Atlanta duo Joey Piersante and Chris Armistead offer up a hazy fugue state that is the blueprint for this coming summer, showing that they can run with the best of the lo-fi crowd with their unique rhythms and finger-picking. The minimalist use of instruments that whip up the dream poppy wall of sound succeeds in taking the listener in a layered, chill journey.
Tracks like “Calling Out” and “Solar Flare” are so catchy (the former with its title refrain; the latter with its main guitar melody), that they etch onto your brain and trick you into thinking these are songs that have been around for maybe 20 years or so already.
Reviewers are throwing out comparisons—and they’ll continue to—of Transistor-on to Explosions in the Sky. The similarities are there for sure; both bands share a genre, after all. But saying only “they remind me of Explosions in the Sky” overlooks the fact that Transistor-on are stepping out in earnest on this EP, sounding comfortable in their skin without being jaded. Plus, having smoky vocals on the tracks adds to the spacey miasma and mystery that serves as the overarching feel of the record. The singing on “Empty Planet,” for example, highlights the track’s slow burn into its rocking guitar-driven crescendo.
Though the last piece on The Way Back Down is called “Exit,” by no means is that a harbinger of the band’s future. Transistor-on closes with a sure-footed tapestry of distortion and crisp rhythm, wrapping up a consistent and skillful release that definitely marks their arrival.
The Way Back Down is available to stream on SoundCloud or for purchase on iTunes. The gorgeous photo cover by Richard Casteel.
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Emily Hearn Saves Time in a Bottle on “Hourglass”
Emily Hearn’s sonic journey on Hourglass shows that she is a woman coming into her own, figuring out the knots of past heartache, the bliss of newlywed life, and the passage of time.
Time acts as the overarching narrative on the record; Hourglass spans the two years following the Athens, GA native’s debut Red Balloon and 2013 EP Promises. “We fall in or out of love as time moves us,” she explains. “We learn life-changing lessons as time goes on. We figure out how to handle important relationships as time shapes us. We decide who we want to be and what we believe as time reveals our priorities. And ultimately, we grow older as time goes by.”
Hearn sings wistfully “Oh, to be young, and to have time” on the third track “Oak Tree,” longing for the naïve feeling that time would never move forward, or at least not so fast. She frets over seeing her parents age so quickly. The existential worries of a twenty-something come delivered in a package of a catchy, infectious chorus and clap-along-able melody.
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