Dave Davison doesn't really understand the label “math rock” that some people have given his band Maps and Atlases. Math rock the music, like mathematics the subject, after all, requires “coldness and calculation,” according to Davison. But the four members of Maps and Atlases met at Columbia College in Chicago—an art school. Davison majored in cultural studies, Erin Elders and Chris Hainey were film majors, and Shiraz Dada majored in sound engineering. As a band, they’ve been called math rock because of their complex rhythmic structures and unconventional time signatures. But with their debut release Perch Patchwork (Barsuk Records), they've written what critics have called a more accessible sound. Regardless, Maps & Atlases plays some wonderfully unique and creative music. But that's what you get when four guys from art school start a band.Read More
It might not be a stretch to say that writing saved the life of singer/songwriter Rocky Votolato. After the release of his previous album The Brag & Cuss, Votolato suffered bouts of depression and anxiety so severe that he barely left his apartment for a year. To overcome this, he did two things: he read and he wrote.
What struck me most, as I talked to Votolato backstage before his show at the Black Cat in DC two weeks ago, was how writing, for him, was an act of survival. While he wrote his latest album True Devotion (Barsuk Records) to appeal to his fans, of course, he found that he needed the album even more than they did. Writing became an act of therapy for Votolato, who told me, "I used to see suicide as a viable option for existential suffering. I used to think it was a fine choice, a justified choice." Votolato no longer feels that way, but those were dark times, made bright by the power of the written word.Read More
This is how I know Josh Carter of Phantogram is at home in in the rural environment of upstate New York: he's recorded the sound of his car driving over a bridge. Not the Tappan Zee bridge, but probably one of those small two lane bridges over the lonely upstate streams and rivers. Having once lived in rural New York near Syracuse for four years, I know what he's talking about. It's the sound of one car on a bridge, with nothing else around. Just you, the car, the bridge, and nature. The sound is pure and unadulterated.
Yes, Carter and Sarah Barthel, the members of Phantogram, live in New York. With their hip hop beats and electronic rock, this is hardly surprising. It's a great place to live if you want to make that kind of music, since you are surrounded by like-minded people. Only it's not New York City I'm talking about. It's upstate New York. And I am not talking about the 30 minute drive from the city that residents of New York City consider to be upstate. I'm talking about Saratoga Springs, New York. (photo credit: Doron Gild)Read More