Archive for Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter

Best New Band/Album Ever, August 2013 Edition: Houndstooth’s “Ride Out The Dark”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 3, 2013 by johnbuckley100

The Portland (OR) band Houndstooth have just released their first album, Ride Out The Dark, and through our jeweler’s loupe, we spy a gem.  It captures that magic moment in 1966 when folk bands all went electric and their ace guitarists began noodling at length, as the female vocalist swayed at the front of the stage.  Or maybe it captures that magic moment in 1976 when Richard Hell had left Television and some hipper-than-thou Downtown rock crits put ’em down as  a Southern boogie band, just because Verlaine and Lloyd liked stretching out the songs with gorgeous psyche fretboard wandering.

Actually, it’s to a Southern band that they compare themselves, which is odd, as they’re about as much a Southern band as Wilco is.  Sure, on “Wheel On Fire” we hear some harmony guitar, but really, they sound a lot more like a Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, or Brooklyn’s Widowspeak, than Wet Willie, or even the Alabama Shakes.  Yeah, there’s an affinity to Alabama Shakes in that there’s a glorious raw guitar sound, but Katie Bernstein has a pretty, not particularly dramatic voice, and no one would confuse her for Janis Joplin.  As readers of Tulip Frenzy know, we like Widowspeak, but find them wanting, a bit too slight and ethereal, and here’s where Houndstooth’s so delightful: talk of folky pysche notwithstanding, the band has grit, the backbeat kicks, and on a warm summer night we’d love to to be on the slope downward to the outdoor stage as the sun sets and guitarist John Gnorski settles into one of his extended riffs, eventually levitating everything, the band, the stage, the crowd.

Something tells us we’ll be listening to Houndstooth a lot for the rest of August, and in the months/years/eons to come.

Tulip Frenzy’s #8 Best Album of 2011: Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter’s “Marble Son”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

With a voice we compared to the Good Witch, and a guitarist with more tricks than the Wizard of Oz, Jesse Sykes &  The Sweet Hereafter’s Marble Son was the strangest album we’ve ever been unable to get off our playlist.  Phil Wandscher’s tasteful, artful pickings struck a chord, if you will, as it took time til we learned Whiskytown’s great guitarist was backing a singer with so odd a vocal aspect singing genuinely powerful tunes, at which point it all came clear. If not a pure psychedelic band, as some claimed, a record that brought both Whiskeytown and the Quicksilver Messenger Service to mind was a welcome addition to our iPod.

Jesse Sykes And The Sweet Hereafter Spend The Afterlife In Our Mind & Then The Mystery Gets Solved

Posted in Music with tags , , on September 14, 2011 by johnbuckley100

A stopped clock is right twice each day and about once a year, Jon Pareles actually does his job well enough to send us off to check out music we had not heard before.  So it was, in early August, that we discovered Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter’s Marble Son.  It’s a beguiling record, spooky, weird, and haunting.  And hugely satisfying.  But of course while Pareles’ description got us intrigued enough to check our couch for quarters before walking down to the iTunes Store, he was off in his description of the band. “There’s nothing neo- about this band’s psychedelica,” he wrote.  Okay, we thought.  We filled up the waterbed, donned our paisley duds, and put on the headphones, only to discover… well, the music’s not quite psychedelic, neo- or otherwise.  Something else, something that we couldn’t quite put our finger on.  It was killing us.  Love the band, the guitarist is a killer, but who’s he when he’s at home, as they say?

On the difficulty of categorizing these guys we might even be sympathetic to the Chief Music Critic For The New York Times, or whatever Jon amounted to, because this is a hard band to get a handle on.   These aren’t refugees from the Summer of Love. Better to imagine Blind Faith recording their album in the Bay Area, in that achy period of post-psychedelic disillusionment.  When they flex their power chords, which they do quite often, the thundering riffs can bring to mind current San Francisco neo-psychs Assemble Head In Starburst Sound, or maybe Black Mountain, though there’s a finger-picking delicacy too. What makes The Sweet Hereafter sui generis — and passing strange — is their leader’s voice.  There is nothing else in rock’n’roll music to compare to Jesse Sykes’ voice.  We’re sort of amazed that someone who sings like she does would think of music for a career path.  And we like her!  This isn’t a put down!  But when we close our eyes and try imagining who might be singing, I swear to God what comes to mind is a vision of The Good Witch breaking into a lamentation over being dumped by the Wizard of Oz.  And then the band leaps into this Quicksilver Messenger Service coda that makes Devendra Banhart’s band seem like plodders.  When Sykes sings a single line, unadorned by harmonies layered on by herself or others, there is something so theatrically out of time that, yeah, I guess psychedelia sounds about right.    And when she fires up the whole chorus — listen to the title track, for starters — angelic magic comes galloping in like a horse of a different color.

So we got to thinking… As unique as Jesse’s voice may be, the guitarist sounds familiar… and is so remarkable, for weeks we’ve been tantalized.  “This sounds like someone, who?”  And we read her bio on her website, and saw the reference to “Wandscher” and thought about it a little… the tumblers begin to click… and we slapped our forehead!  It’s Phil Wandscher, the guitarist from Whiskeytown!  The hugely canny guitarist on only the single greatest record of the ’90s, Strangers Almanac.  And it all makes sense.  So… imagine if Whiskeytown were jamming in some first communion afterparty with the Good Witch…  Well, you get the point.  Now get the album.

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