Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Do It Together Boston :: 2010 Review, Part II

On a snowless day in January, I moved to Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Since the previous summer I had been working to promote and prepare releases with an art collective called The Whitehaus Family Record. Through the group and other associated collectives, I saw most of my favorite shows of 2010 and the Whitehaus even had a hand in one of my favorite records of 2010.

My new apartment was just down the street from their four story house that is best explained as a living and breathing art project. Junk, toys and broken instruments dangle from every corner and every chandelier as an ongoing dumpster diving piece. The place houses anywhere from ten to fifteen people, stacked high on homemade bunk beds or sometimes even living behind a curtain under the stairs. They are any manner of artist including poets, musicians, and visual artists. On any given day, one could walk into the house and find them performing a number of rarities: from remixing the audio from children’s VHSs on a floor littered with pedals to eating extremely salty oysters and preparing a living beverage called Kombucha.

What makes the Whitehaus and also the other musicians in Boston all the more interesting is that they tend to share a collective ethic both musically and spiritually. At the Whitehaus they call it The Yes Wave, and it also serves as their genre to subvert categorization. Sure, it’s based around openness , inclusion, and anti-elitistism, but it’s really about addressing and accepting everything that comes your way. To welcome whoever or whatever comes to your door and wants to play in your living room, to be open to whatever someone is trying to show you.


Whitehaus Family Record Family Record 
March 20th
The Whitehaus Family Record
The music that comes out of the house is diverse and The Whitehaus Family Record Family Record has a little bit of all of it. Capturing the house’s constant “hootenannies,” the record’s eclectic nature made it very similar to the kinds of shows one might stumble upon at the house. It was the first vinyl compilation the group had released and was a great way to kick off the year. Read the Mango Nebula review of the record here.

Greg Mullen :: The Hungry Ocean
March 26th
Songs With Homes
There were a lot of inspiring things in this record that made it a favorite. Greg Mullen was one of the masterminds behind Blastfest and held the stage by himself for his set. Most of Mullen’s shows in 2010 were solos with a meager attendance, which is a shame, because his songwriting is amazing. Unfortunately, Mullen has since moved to Austin, Texas, but hopefully his tour route will wind its way to Boston again. Read the Mango Nebula review of the record here.

MANNERS :: White Wool Fog or The Cave of Light Within
June 5th
Son of Bees
The man behind MANNERS, Greg Besun, is from Portland, Maine, but has lived at the Whitehaus for a long time. MANNERS started out with heavy influences from Phil Elvrum. The early releases bear an experimental randomness similar to The Microphones. In 2009, MANNERS recorded the darker Look Into, Look Unto as a three piece band. It includes the scary and honest track “Knives,” which has the line “I wear a coat of knives, try and hold me.” 2010 saw MANNERS taking the recording process to the next level, using professional equipment and a four track machine. The result was a more fully realized, more MANNERS, MANNERS record called White Wool Fog or The Cave of Light Within. A highlight of Blastfest was when MANNERS changed the lyrics of “Knives” during their set to “I shed my coat of knives so you could hold me.” Read the Mango Nebula record review here.

Many Mansions and Truman Peyote :: Peaced Together
March 2nd
The Whitehaus Family Record
These two groups share a loop and sample heavy style that made this split release make a lot of sense. Many Mansions underwent some exciting changes in 2010. Usually the group is just one Shane Donnelly, kneeling over pedals and wires like a snake charmer after someone had dumped out a bag of snakes before him. Donnelly started playing with members of Lord Jeff (another band that I saw a lot in 2010) and the arrangement came to include drums and guitar, which made for an interesting addition to the spiritual aboriginal samples and beats. I didn’t see a lot of Truman Peyote in 2010, but they played a lot. The band was doing very well for themselves and also had an excellent split EP with Breakfast of Champs artist, Turtle Ambulance.

Peace, Loving
I wish I could include some audio from Peace, Loving here, but this is a band that makes much more sense to see. Sure, an instrument like a banjo will make an occasional appearance, but their sets are mostly comprised of flowing noise pieces: factory saws, chains, spinning coins, bird calls, and the staggering poetry of Brian S. Ellis. Peace, Loving is a real experience to see. Check it out here.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champs was a record label that really picked up in 2010. Surprisingly, the base of operations was also The Whitehaus as one of the founders, Jimmy Hughs, moved there at the beginning of the year. Read the Mango Nebula article about Breakfast of Champs here.
Quilt :: Agents of Play
May 1st
Breakfast of Champs
Quilt is a clever experiment, because it found a new and very different niche for the styles of the bands its members came from. Anna Fox Rochinski had been doing more folksy music with ethereal vocals and Shane Butler came from the pop nonsense of The Good Party. However, Quilt is a slightly psychedelic, electric heavy, haunting project. Together with drummer Tayor McVay, who also worked with MANNERS, they formed a trio of swirling vocals to make one of the most unique bands in Boston. Read the Mango Nebula record review here.


Girlfriends :: Government Seizure
July 1st
Aurora7 Records
Besides the Whitehaus and Breakfast of Champs, Jamaica Plain is host to a slew of other creative minds, such as Girlfriends. Perhaps the most promising band of 2010, Girlfriends followed the release of their first cassette with a vinyl single, Government Seizure. They were even voted best rock band of 2010 by the Phoenix. The band’s lyricist, Ben Portrykus, is the same as from another Mango Nebula all time favorite band, Christians & Lions, and Girlfriends bears the same poignancy with a goofier attitude. Read the Mango Nebula review of the record here.

The Points North
The Points North :: "We Have Opened Up!"
Even though they didn’t have a proper release except for a couple singles, The Points North deserves to be mentioned because they played a lot of shows in 2010, even in Australia. They are a folk band that could put Fleet Foxes to shame. Their first album I Saw Across the Sound came out in 2009. Similar to the Whitehaus, they live at an artist’s house in JP that hosts occasional shows. As a tribute, “We Have Opened Up” captures the spirit of Jamaica Plain and its citizens quite well.

The Needy Visions :: Not Titled Record
May 5th
Bodies of Water Arts and Crafts
The Needy Visions are a band that are very definitive of Jamaica Plain. Simple, fun loving music designed with a community in mind. Main songwriter Dan Shea is a very active promoter and organizer responsible for some of the best events in the city as Bodies of Water Arts and Crafts. Together with bassist Sam Potrykus, they assist with the Boston’s Counter Cultural Compass, which are brightly colored show-notifying fliers you may have seen in various places across the city. Read the Mango Nebula review of the record here.


Hands and Knees :: Wholesome
December 1st
Even though Wholesome came out in 2011, it’s included because it’s one of the things I listened to most in 2010. I’m not sure exactly what part of Boston they’ll say they hail from, but the music is perfectly suited power pop rock for Allston basements. I had the privilege of playing one such show with the band and it was the most I’ve ever danced in Boston. Even their Christmas single has all the energy and attention to detail as any other album song. Read the Mango Nebula review of Wholesome here.

Doomstar! :: Rainbow Bloodsucker

February 18th
Born in the sludge of some cement lined room with snaking pipes in a city where broken glass lines the streets, Doomstar! are surprisingly poppy. It’s shoegaze with rainbows. Along with Young Adult’s LP, Rainbow Bloodsucker was one of the most interesting things to come droning out of a basement in 2010.

Spirit Kid
January 19th
Emeen Zarookian is a hard working musician, releasing music under his own name and playing with loads of other bands for years. In the disguise of Spirit Kid, the first album hits his spastic, irresistible pop just right. It manages to be a bit experimental within a short pop format and maintains just the right lo-fi quality for being well recorded. They even got a song in Weeds.

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