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Vow of Volition Make the Final Round of the Battle for Warped Tour

The Vans Warped Tour was the first festival for many of us back in the day. As young'ns, it's likely we didn't necessarily think about all that went into figuring out the bands to book and play the whole shebang. Part of that process, at least locally, seems to be through a series "battle of the bands" style competitions specifically for landing a spot on the fest. Quite a few Portland bands have been furiously playing against one another for said spot, and djent/prog metal act Vow of Volition are one of the acts that made it to the finals.

Warped Tour was always the type of festival that included much in the realm of pop punk, punk punk, emo and metal, so Vow of Volition's advancement to the final round is no surprise. Their incredibly technical, at times jazzy metal stands out in Portland's pretty linear popular music scene, and is much worthy of the attention its getting.

Those that want to support Vow of Volition in driving home the permanent spot can go to the Battle for Warped Tour finals Saturday at the Hawthorne Theatre.





95 Bulls live set on FLTV

First, a shout out to all those musical acts who choose to use defiantly G**gle proof name. Some of these acts have been profiled in these pages recently such as Navy Blue, Woods, and Slut Magic (ok not so much the latter tho’ that particular phrase does have an Urban Dictionary entry which sounds totally bogus but I digress) and now we can add 95 Bulls to this special list.

In theory, anyway. Maybe it’s only because the Big Googly Eye In The Sky knows me too well but the band’s Instagram account came up as a first page search result, plus another first page hit courtesy of our good friend(s) at Bands Do BK who in late October premiered the 95 Bulls’ two-track debut single “Big Fight”/“Crazy” and shared vital stats on the band's origins (basically an indie rockin' punk rawkin' bartender and barback and barfly supergroup formed at Our Wicked Lady) and motivation for formation (quarantine-itis).

Maybe it’s got something to do with the latter but I'd respectfully submit that 95 Bulls could furnish an appropriate soundtrack for any of your potential choices in a game of “F*ck, Marry, Kill” (well dunno if you'd wanna get married to any of their songs but they've got good tunes for people you wanna f*ck or kill for sure). This F*CK/KILL duality comes across even more strongly on stage where the band members flirt and rage musically in equal measure like if you can imagine a more aggro B-52s--plus the groovy-warbly Farfisa keyboard makes this comparision even more apt and ups the dance ante significantly--or maybe they're more like a Great Dane getting overly frisky and thrusting his snout deep into your crotch to the point where you get kinda turned on but fear for your genitals at the same time. Anyway I've used up my allotted number of analogies so will leave it at that.


And yeah you heard right I said *on stage* because you can at this very moment watch a live set and an interview with 95 Bulls as part of Footlight Bar’s “FLTV” series filmed under safe conditions at Brooklyn’s Starr Bar. Check out the link HERE where for a small fee you'll not only see the last-danceless Bulls play live and hear some of their unreleased songs like “Red Nails,” “Trichotillomania,” “Young Love,” “Golden Tooth,” and “Your Father’s Watch,” but you'll also witness exclusive footage of the band drinking heavily in the recording studio and also a couch-based convo with sparkle-masked host Kendra during which intimate thoughts are shared on penguin orgasms, band Tinder accounts, getting twerked on at Covid testing sites, meeting depressed divorceés In New Jersey, and the ultimate dream of receiving a Popeye’s sponsorship. (Jason Lee)





Midnight Sister get to "Painting the Roses"

That sketchy looking dude on the corner asking if you like Hunky Dory era Bowie or Black Box Recorder or St Etienne is most likely selling bootlegs of the new CD by Midnight Sister that just came out this Friday and he’s got his target marketing game on point. Too bad tho’ he didn’t get the memo about the whole streaming thing, but it works out nicely for you cuz you just saved a few bones and can listen to Painting the Roses (Jagjaguwar) through various types of devices at your convenience.

And get this Midnight Sister isn’t even British. Instead they’re Angelinos but it makes sense when you find out that the duo of Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian are, respectively, a music video/short film director and a film scorer in their other lives. So all those finely honed and orchestrated arrangements and glam antics and dark disco dramatics arise organically from their residing in the Town of Tinsel.

Plus their film backgrounds pay off when it comes to making music videos natch as dispayed in the trippy videos on display here. (Jason Lee)





Sunflares EP

One good thing about playing in a one-man shoegaze band is that you always know whose shoes you’re gazing at. And for a style of music that’s the aural equivalent of cocooning, this sense of isolation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On Sunflares EP, which you guessed it, is the coming-out EP by Sunflares, a project said to be inspired by the isolation of quarantine (wait, better make that the “staying in EP”) the alone time appears to have paid dividends.

And the same goes for listening to the EP for those of us under our fifth or sixth lockdown. When lines like “Are you out there?” and “I wanna know your secrets” emerge from the layers of fuzz and flange they sound eerily familiar as they’re questions I’ve been asking myself after sitting at home for the whole night, drinking an entire case of Bud Light that was planned to last for the rest of the week or longer, but at least existential crises keep things interesting. Shoegazer, know thyself.

Sunflares’ opening track “Numb” kicks things off with some nice Lush-like swirly guitars, but any trace of Sweetness and Light is quickly interrupted when the song shifts into Superblast mode with distortion turned up to 13, but with a cool little Cure-like melody over the top and some satisfying tom-tom fills, before settling into the first verse with this enterprise’s Kevin Shields fully engaged and phaser pedals set to stun, all ready to swoop in and take out the Ringo Deathstarr. And here’s a couple music videos for those two very subtle Lush references I made because I’m always looking for a good excuse to post Lush videos.

In other words, Mr. Sunflare hits the major signposts you’d hope to hear on a 2021 shoegaze album (or shoegaze EP let’s not be pedantic here) with satisfying walls of sound and layers of effects-laden guitar smeared across this EP like strawberries and cream. But at the same time there’s some enticing twists and things are mixed up nicely overall, between and within the four tracks on offer, with shifting tempos and textures and heavy-devy parts and dreamy ambient parts. And finally here’s a video for the even more artfully subtle Cure reference contained in this paragraph. (Jason Lee)





Bimi "Too Fast"

R&B artist Bimi released a series of singles in 2020, and the most recent was called "Too Fast". Last month she released a video for the single via Pink Room Studios. Bimi was born in Nigeria, but relocated to Chicago at a very young age. She has been making music for the last five years, but seems poised for something big in 2021.

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