Album Review: all boy/all girl – “Tiny Iglesia”

all boy/all girl is an abstract chamber-pop act based out of New York CityThe band recently contacted me, asking if I could review their debut album Tiny Iglesia. I was floored when I received a beautiful green marbled LP and a lovely hand-written letter from the band (they were obviously after my heart). So here my friends is all boy/all girl. Enjoy.

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This band is neither all boy or all girl, they are a collection of both.

With a total of seven members in all boy/all girl, the band incorporates a vast amount of different instruments and sounds on Tiny Iglesia. Viola, cello, trombone, trumpet, ukulele, bongos, and upright bass all have their moment to shine, but together create an interesting pallet for vocalists Danielle Lovier and Jessie Rogowski to harmonize over. The tribal like drums on “Animal” fit nicely with the song’s primal theme, and the plucking viola strings on “Burundi” make the song pop.

On songs like “Fall” and “Algorithm” the instruments seem to play around with each other, morphing the progression of the tracks, surprising the listener with the numerous changes. In “Algorithm,” the song starts with smooth jazz guitar and trumpet, but quickly evolves into a punchy hook that could have come out of the musical Chicago. It’s a definite highlight on Tiny Iglesia. 

However, what Tiny Iglesia has in musical dynamism, it lacks in other areas. For instance, the vocals on “Animal” don’t match the intensity of the lyrics or the music: they’re more of a purr than a roar. With “Fall,” the vocal melody during the chorus is slow and repetitive. Unfortunately, that’s a recurring theme on Tiny Iglesia. On “Dirt” the lyrics seem to drag on and on, “After all is said and done, dirt is what we all become. After we have had our fun, dirt is what we all become.” I find myself waiting for the chorus to be over so we can get back to the interesting melodies like in the first verse.

“Summertime,” “Water,” and “Nightingale” all have similar problems. The vocals are drowned out by these layered instruments, and sound weak in comparison. Each of these songs do have appealing parts in them, but the stuff in between doesn’t keep me coming back. The three songs were previously released on all boy/all girl’s self-titled EP, but featured more stripped down instrumentals and reverb laden vocals. I wish more of Tiny Iglesia sounded like this. The vocals seem more potent and sincere.

Lyrically, Tiny Iglesia deals with themes of childhood, aging, changing, and longing for the youth that seemed to have rushed right by. The line “This is the place from whence we came.” from the opener “To A Flame” is alluded to again in the closer. The phrase is fitting tagline for Tiny Iglesia, and throughout the course of the album we see the narrator develop. Unfortunately, it’s not always a smooth ride. Along the way there are some cringe-worthy lyrics.The worst comes in “Summertime”. The theme of the song is nice: the long days of summer, playing with friends, and having adventures. But, I’m just pulled out of that mindset by cliches “rain, rain, go away, come again some other day,” and “April showers bring May flowers.”

Overall, my problem with Tiny Iglesia is that most of the songs leave me apathetic. There are interesting moments musically and lyrically, but it’s too spotty. There aren’t enough catchy, fun moments to appeal to the pop side of chamber pop. And conceptually the themes aren’t existential enough to appeal to the artsy side of chamber pop. Most of the story is just played out in front of you, and you’re not left with anything to ponder. So if Tiny Iglesia doesn’t make me dance, and it doesn’t make me think, then what am I supposed to do? Hopefully, all boy/all girl will incorporate one or both in future releases. That’s something I would love to listen to.

Hear more from all boy/all girl on their website, Facebook, and Bandcamp.

My Eulogy of Lou Reed

If you’re unaware, rock n’ roll great Lou Reed died yesterday at the age of 71. He was a revolutionary musician, singer, and songwriter, and his work with The Velvet Underground, along with his solo albums, continue to influence artists of all genres. This is my depiction of how I knew Lou Reed, and the affect he had on my life. Enjoy.

Lou Reed: March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013

We’ll start in New York City during the mid-60’s, The Velvet Underground comes under the management of art phenomenon Andy Warhol. Led by guitar player/singer Lou Reed, The Velvets become the house band at The Factory, Warhol’s art studio, and hangout of New York’s outcasts. They release a few poor selling records, and disband in 1970. Fast forward to 2010, a young music lover hears “Heroin” for the first time. I was instantly transfixed by the vivid imagery and compelling vocals. I’d never heard anything so dark, so real. I thought to myself, “This was made in the 60’s?” My vision of the 1960’s until that point was the hippie stereotype. What still amazes me to this day was that this music was coming out at the same time, but no one had heard it. It was the counter-culture to the counter-culture. “I guess, that I just don’t know” resonated with the isolation that I was feeling at the time, and “Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life” was more honest than anything I had ever heard.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college, when my roommate Kevin MacKenzie really showed me the prophet that was Lou Reed, or as we put it “Lou Motherfucking Reed”. You’ll never find a bigger Lou Reed fan than Kevin, we listened to all of The Velvets’ records, and he got me into Reed’s solo albums, namely Street Hassle and Transformer. But, Reed’s presence left an even bigger impact on me. He was so fucking cool. The leather, the sunglasses, his mannerisms during interviews, he didn’t give a fuck. He was punk before punk was a thing, and he was everything I wanted to be.

Everyone knows, or should know, that The Velvet Underground & Nico is one of the most influential albums of all time. Brain Eno said it perfectly, ““The first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years, but I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Everything that came after in rock n’ roll was influenced by The Velvet Underground. Their lyrics paint a portrait of the grimy underbelly of New York City, a place where freaks and weirdos reigned supreme. Lou Reed was a journalist of sorts; the words he wrote were his direct perception of that New York scene. Lou Reed is New York City. When I listen to The Velvet Underground & Nico, or any of The Velvets’ or Lou Reed’s albums, I’m transported right into The Factory with Warhol, Reed, and a bushel of transvestites and drug dealers, and I’m home. Reed’s description of that 60’s New York scene led me to delve deeper into the fashion, the art, the feeling of that time period. Without Lou Reed, I can confidently say, there wouldn’t be The Vinyl Warhol. There may be a music blog, but it wouldn’t be called The Vinyl Warhol.

Lou Reed was an artist. He made art that everyone could relate to. He practically invented the underground music scene. And I’ll never forget him. Thank you.

Do yourself a favor and listen to everything by Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.