AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: WILD PINK/A BILLION LITTLE LIGHTS

Creating a unique musical sound isn’t always planned. Sure, you can think that combining genre #1 with genre #5 and then adding a dibble-dabble of genre #8 sounds like a good idea, more than likely one of those genres will dominate and listeners may not notice anything else. Band bios – usually written by the band members or their girlfriends – promise something spectacular and unique yet end up sounding mediocre and predictably unspectacular. However, there are times when an artist or band creates their own distinct sound accidentally. Influenced by several different genres, the music that they create ends up sounding distinctly original. One of those bands is Wild Pink

Founded in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City in 2015, Wild Pink occupies a musical universe of their own making. Led by singer/songwriter John Ross and featuring bassist T.C. Brownell and drummer Dan Keegan, the trio released three EPs over the next year: 2 SONGS (2015), GOOD LIFE (2015), and 4 SONGS (2016). They followed those releases with their self-titled debut album in 2017. A year later, they issued their sophomore album, YOLK IN THE FUR. Another EP, 5 SONGS, followed in 2019. Throughout these EPs, the band evolved and matured. Ever since the release of that first EP, they planted their roots into the musical soil and, over time, they began to blossom. With nutrients provided by the bands that inspired them, Wild Pink finally bloom in 2021 with the release of A BILLION LITTLE LIGHTS.

Produced by Grammy-winning producer David Greenbaum (U2, Beck, Jenny Lewis), A BILLION LITTLE LIGHTS is a wonderful blend of pastoral pop, rootsy Americana, modern indie rock, and atmospheric post-punk. Existing somewhere between the ethereal musical universe of Cocteau Twins and the laid-back rustic pop of Death Cab for Cutie, Wild Pink create music that seems to levitate in mid-air. Gentle, introspective and melodic, the songs on A BILLION LITTLE LIGHTS reflect the heart and soul of John Ross and his bandmates. Some use loud, angry, and aggressive music to beat the listener into submission, but Wild Pink realize that music is not supposed to frighten anyone. Instead, they use it to communicate, soul-to-soul. With songs like “The Wind Was Like A Train”, “You Can Have It Back”, “Bigger Than Christmas”, “Oversharers Anonymous”, and “Family Friends”, Ross and Co. have given us the gift of thoughtful reflection all wrapped up in sweet melodies. You couldn’t ask for anything more.

WILD PARK

A BILLION LITTLE LIGHTS

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: KAREN MATHESON/STILL TIME

Formed on Oban, Scotland in 1984, Capercaillie is a band that blends both traditional Gaelic and modern Folk music, creating a sound that has delighted audiences around the world for over 35 years. For their first few albums, the group focused on creating music that was modern yet rooted in traditional Folk. Beginning in the early 1990s, they made a slight shift in their sound, adding more modern elements to their recordings, creating a contemporary sound that appealed to a wider audience without alienating their devoted fanbase. Their albums throughout the ‘90s and into the ‘00s were successful, earning the band a larger audience. Their most recent recordings have seen the band return to their folksier roots,  and nearly four decades later, Capercaillie’s catalog remains beloved and respected.

The heart and soul of the band is vocalist Karen Matheson, who has been one of the two only constant members of the band since their inception (the other being keyboardist Donald Shaw). While Matheson remained the voice of Capercaillie, she also embarked on a side career as a solo artist. A dozen years into the group’s career, she released her first solo album, THE DREAMING SEA (1996). Her second album, 2002’s TIME TO FALL, featured musical assistance from Scottish Pop/Soul band Love & Money. Three years later, she issued her third solo album, DOWNRIVER (2005). Dividing her time between her solo albums and Capercaillie, it took another decade before she issued her fourth solo album, the deeply personal URRAM (2015), her first all-Gaelic release. The album featured musical assistance from her Capercaillie bandmates, most notably Donald Shaw. The album received rave reviews across the board and Matheson proved beyond doubt that she was still one of Scotland’s preeminent purveyors of Folk music.

Matheson returns in 2021 with the hauntingly beautiful STILL TIME, an album that was born from the pandemic lockdown. A sonic blend of Americana and Gaelic Folk music, the album – produced by Shaw – features Matheson’s beautiful vocals floating through a collection of songs that reflect the times that they were recorded in: stark and emotional but not without hope. In fact, the musical atmosphere on STILL TIME is not shrouded in grey clouds and sadness. This is an album that gathers together a mix of emotions while standing in the warmth of the sunshine after a particularly harsh rainstorm. The songs, which date back a few years, were not written about the pandemic but the recordings reflect the moods of modern times. Highlights include “Cassiopeia Coming Through”, “The Diamond Ring”, “Orphan Girl”, “The Aragon Mill”, and the title track. An album of beauty and hope is always welcome in a world still reeling from an invisible enemy. STILL TIME is good for the heart and soul.

KAREN MATHESON

STILL TIME

2.12.21

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: JOHN CARPENTER/LOST THEMES III: ALIVE AFTER DEATH

Although filmmaker John Carpenter had already directed two feature films – DARK STAR (1974) and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) – he came to prominence with his 1978 film HALLOWEEN. The movie redefined horror and independent filmmaking and ushered in a legion of copycats. Carpenter then went on to direct films that thrilled a generation of movie-goers: THE FOG (1980), CHRISTINE (1984), STARMAN (1984), BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986), THEY LIVE (1988), and more. Regardless of what the critics or box office said at the time, his films have become part of pop culture. Even today, over 30 years after the 1980s ended, images and dialog from his films are still referenced on social media and in memes. And one should always be reminded that Carpenter was partially responsible for the reinvention of actor Kurt Russell, who went from being the kid that kicked Elvis Presley’s shin in IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD’S FAIR (1963) to portraying Presley in the Carpenter-directed TV movie ELVIS (1979). And as we all know, Russel went on to kick everyone’s butt in the four decades since then.

One of the most impressive aspects of Carpenter’s career is that he was – and has always been – more than just a director. He’s been a writer, producer, executive producer, and editor throughout his career. On many of his films, he’s worn several hats, ushering in a series of fantastical films that he had control over, from top to bottom. However, one of the most important aspects of Carpenter’s films has been the soundtracks. The atmospheric music that added another dimension to his movies was composed by – you guessed it – John Carpenter himself. Yes, that HALLOWEEN film music that haunts you in your dreams and is often used in Halloween mazes and attractions every October. From his first independent short film in 1969 up through the 2018 reboot of HALLOWEEN, Carpenter composed the electronic music score to 20 of the 30 films he has been involved with over the years. His discography is filled with soundtrack recordings stretching back to the late 1970s, but his first official non-soundtrack studio album, LOST THEMES, wasn’t released until 2015. Recorded with his son Cody Carpenter and his godson Daniel Davies, the album proved that Carpenter was still on top of his musical game. The album was followed by LOST THEMES II, released in 2016. And then he returned to the HALLOWEEN franchise and composed the soundtrack to the reboot…

In 2021, LOST THEMES III: ALIVE AFTER DEATH, his third non-soundtrack recording, finally arrives, filled with new music composed and played by Carpenter, Carpenter, and Davies. The music on LOST THEMES III isn’t far removed from Carpenter’s soundtrack work, yet it adds so many layers that it operates on its own as a collection of atmospheric electronic Pop. Each track has a central music hook that appears early on, but as the song progresses, you start recognizing new hooks and new moods that float in and out of each track. Not unlike Tangerine Dream, Carpenter & Co. build mental images through their music. Sticking to the genre he is best known for, the titles of the tracks on this album embrace a horror theme: “Weeping Ghost”, “The Dead Walk”, “Dripping Blood”, “Skeleton”, and “Turning the Bones”. From floating keyboard hooks, to bone-shaking electronic beats, LOST THEMES III: ALIVE AFTER DEATH serves as an excellent soundtrack to the horror of the night and the redemption of the day…

JOHN CARPENTER

LOST THEMES III: ALIVE AFTER DEATH

Available NOW!