Albany Music Review: Around the World and Back – Songs To Sleep To

Around the World and Back have been around for a few years now playing indie rock made notable by great guitar tone and skill. Their latest release is an E.P. titled “Songs To Sleep To”. As far as album titles go, this is about as straight forward as things get. This is a soothing album meant to be listened to in your bedroom. If you’ve heard the band previousl, you know that they frequently employ great dynamics to make a song. However, it’s a nice change of pace hearing a finished project with a cohesive theme. While most bands just lump together a few good songs this really feels like an album. Also, the fact that it’s an E.P. is perfect because while 40 minutes of this kind of music might get a little boring, seventeen minutes of it is perfect.

One of the first things I noticed about the record is that the band weren’t afraid to take a step back and focus on the song. No one’s overplaying on any of this and it definitely adds to the overall feel of the record. The subtle slide guitars in the background are very reminiscent of Mazzy Star and reoccur through the album. All of these songs flow together so well that when I initially tried to review these song by song it just didn’t work. Everything from the melodies, to the instruments used, tones, lyrics, and even background effects all re-occur and blend together so well that you can often transition into the next song without really noticing.

With that said, after listening a few times there are a couple stand out tracks. “@$%^” is an instrumental interlude that combines digital drums with analog instruments that will appeal to fans of Thrice’s Water E.P. The other song that really stands out is the last song “Advice”. Distant drums and airy vocal harmonies give this a haunting feeling that really makes it sound like a closing track. The slide guitar returns again acting almost as a narrator of the album to tie everything together and the guitar solo in this is one of the best written pieces of music I’ve heard in a long time. It’s so subtle that you almost don’t notice how good it really is. Not to mention the tone is one of the best I’ve heard period. Guitar nerds take note, Marco Testa is the man to talk to when you want to geek out on gear.

This is an incredible E.P. that is also free. So really, there’s no reason to not be listening to this. Put it on in your bedroom, take a nap, make out with your girlfriend, smoke em if you got em, but just listen to this. Be on the lookout for a full length in early January.

The E.P. can be downloaded for free on Around the World and Backs Tumblr.

Any bands that would like to have their demo reviewed can send an e-mail to

Recap: After The Fall Record Release Show

Mike Moak of After The Fall. Photo: Andrew Franciosa

Saturday was After The Fall’s record release show at Valentines, in Albany. There were a lot of great bands on the show, such as Make Do and Mend, The Stereo State, Legit, Coughing Fit and I believe two more that I can’t recall. After The Fall played a ton of new and old songs which was awesome to be able to hear your favorites as well as a healthy dose of the new record. The new record is really great; you can stream it on their Punknews page if you haven’t already.

KC Carvill of After The Fall. Photo: Andrew Franciosa

Marty of Legit. Photo: Andrew Franciosa

Legit played before Coughing Fit and I was really surprised how rad they were. For some reason I hadn’t heard ’em before.

Sean of Coughing Fit. Photo: Andrew Franciosa

My good friends Coughing Fit played and as usual things got rowdy. It was only my second time getting to see them and it was better than I remember. If you’ve never seen them live, head to their MySpace and check out the video on their page to see what to expect when they play.

Steve “The Model” Golding of Coughing Fit. Photo: Andrew Franciosa

Rad hand drawn Swampy sticker in the troth! Photo: Andrew Franciosa

I had a super fun time and wish I could have stayed and partied it up a bit after the show, but I had to race bikes 5 hours after this show ended. Good job for putting on a great show guys and best of luck on tour!

Central Warehouse was on fire!

I was headed out of the house to pick someone up and as I’m pulling out of the driveway, I noticed that Albany’s favorite eyesore, The Freezer Building (actually called Central Warehouse) was on fire, like really on fire. So naturally I ran (literally) inside, got the camera and started snapping away.

Edit: The APD said in a press release that the fire was caused by Gorge Ellis, a contractor who was stealing metal pipes out of the building to scrap. He apparently took 200,000 pounds of metal which he sold for $26,000.

Recap: Acoustic Music at Muddy Cup

Last Friday night, there was a really great show at Muddy Cup. The atmosphere was really warm and nostolgic. I really feel all the people there missed the old open mic days where everyone would come hang out and drink some coffee (or beer if you found an empty cup and went over to Price Chopper). The lineup was Caleb Lionheart, Nate Danker, Steve Layman and Terry Connell. Every act was great entertaining to say the least, and it was great to be able to catch up with old friends.

Steve Layman

Nate Danker

Caleb Lionheart

For a little sample of the music, check out the video below:

I hope more of these happen.

Columbus Day: How to Celebrate a Cultural Heritage

“See? Italians are a happy people,” said the North African gentleman working the silver jewelry kiosk in Washington Park during Albany’s Columbus Day Italian Festival on October 9th. He was referring to a man named Michael who loudly pounded one of the conga drums for sale. Michael was chanting something meant to spoof Native Americans, but not before he had a chance to haggle the man down to $17 for a ring he couldn’t believe fit his thumb. He smugly walked away with a blonde who was all legs. “There’s nothing wrong with happy.”

And what’s not to be happy about? On Saturday the dog walking green was transformed into “zona bambini,” with pony rides and petting zoos, an authentic marionette show that invoked images of the Emperor Charlamagne’s imperial conquest of Europe, and several Italian-style big bands. On the pond crooner Guytonno sang “Johnny B Good” and his “favorite oldies,” instructors taught any takers how to play bocce, and the APD RV sat idling all afternoon for good measure. Tinkers sold trinkets and venders sold tons of food. I mean, nothing says Italian like “Crazy Herb’s Texas Bar-B-Que.” Family fun, knick-knacks, calories, and music; how could it get any better than this?

Perhaps, if the sentiments surrounding Columbus Day truly reflected a celebration of the Italian-American Heritage there would be reason to sing its praises.

Columbus Day came to be celebrated in the United States during a 19th and early 20th century of discrimination against immigrants as a whole, but also against Italians and Catholics more generally. Perceived to be purveyors of a papal conspiracy to influence the Federal government, groups from the “Know Nothing” Party to the Ku Klux Klan outwardly opposed immigrant’s rights as American cities industrialized and came to fruition. Even as late as the 1960s, during John F. Kennedy’s campaign for president, xenophobic rumors abounded of the Pope having the young Catholic’s ear, heart, and administration. Against this backdrop, it only makes sense that an Italian-American lobby might seek to establish a holiday that celebrates Italian-American culture, heritage, and nationwide contributions. But why elevate Christopher Columbus?

Christopher Columbus did not discover “America.” Christopher Columbus took what was to be America by storm. He claimed America. He slaughtered its people; he enslaved its people; he Westernized, Christianized, and vilified its people. Lands with people who already had a rich culture, folklore, medicine, infrastructure, writing systems, tools, scientific and mathematical achievements, literally several civilizations comparable to the best the Old World had to offer, in some ways outshining them altogether. While Europe was in its dark ages, tossing human waste in the streets, spreading plagues, even dismantling Roman masterpieces to build far cruder walls and buildings, the Inca were performing brain surgery. See terrace farming. See chinampas. See Chichen Itza.

Christopher Columbus conquered America; or Cuba, the Bahamas, and parts of Central America if you want to get technical. The ways in which his crew brutalized the locals are detailed in his ship logs, and widely written about, most notably by the late Howard Zinn in A People’s History of the United States.  The attempts by Columbus, as well as generations of other conquistadors, imperialists, and missionaries, to force Anglo-European culture and Christianity onto an unwilling populace runs counter to the cultural celebration, to the survival of Italian-Americanism, its adherents were seeking to lionize in the first place. There was senseless murder. There was enslavement. There was conquest, not discovery. And Columbus conquered it all for Castille and Aragon, the Catholic Monarchies of modern day Spain, not Italy.

Why not celebrate Italian politicians who fought for the rights of immigrants to participate in the rat race for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? Why not celebrate Italian musicians who contributed to jazz, blues, rock and roll, and popular American culture? Why not celebrate a culture so vibrant that it survived the journey to America, the travails of Ellis Island, and generations of birth, growth, and renewal? Why not celebrate the struggle that Italian immigrants overcame in overcrowded urban hubs like New York, New Jersey, and California to become part of what it is to be American? Why not celebrate a people who acted as the progenitors of future generations of leaders, inventors, educators, and trend setters? Let us remember the lives of true Italian-AMERICANS, not the beginning of a long history of Native American colonization, enslavement, Anglicization, and genocide. No one celebrates the life of Benito Mussolini simply because he was Italian; no one celebrates the priest turned child molestors simply because they are Catholic; Christopher Columbus should not be the exception.

So when the African vendor asked, “How do you say ‘thank you’ in Italian?” with a smile and a wink, I felt it only fitting to oblige his request.
“Grazie, I believe…”
“Gracias!” said the man, “Thank you so much! Michael is a crazy guy, but he is so happy!”

There is nothing wrong with being happy, as long as you’re happy for the right reasons. Happy Leif Ericson Day.