Mass Recovery | Record Reviews & Music News

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Only Ghost in Town - The Summer Was Over Before it Began

The Only Ghost in Town – The Summer Was Over Before it Began

The Summer Was Over Before it Began is the first release from The Only Ghost in Town, the nom de plume for bespectacled New Jersey native Dan Saraceni (also of buzz-worthy indie band By Surprise, recently signed to Topshelf Records). The Summer Was Over is Saraceni’s ode to obscure lo-fi pop; his eyes only looking up from shoegazing to seek out the first Castor CD on Discogs. The album, originally released on cassette by Long Island’s Rok Lok records, has been self-released on CD-R with 3 additional songs, expanding on TOGIT’s drone-and-moan fuzzed out blend of whirring guitar distortion and faded vocals.

The album begins with “Aware”, which begins with 5 seconds of twinkling guitar atop reverby vocals (“And I wonder where the summer goes”) before urgently plunging into strident guitar chops. On just listening to the first track a few things become readily apparent. One, Saraceni has listened to quite a bit of Further in his time (it’s no secret, there’s a Further cover a few songs into the album). Two, the lo-fi production fits the music like a youth-large My Bloody Valentine T-Shirt. Three, despite the vocals being buried and sometimes indiscernible, the songwriting is oddly catchy and I find myself mumbling along in the car and humming the melodies at my desk at work.

The album is impressive even when it breaks down the wall of sound, tones down the distortion, and turns up the vocals. “Too Much” excises the tinny drums in favor of confessional Secret Stars-eque vocals where Saraceni asks “Is it so wrong to miss you when you’re gone? I think I’ve said too much now, you probably think I’m nuts.” “Too Much” is one of the longer songs on The Summer Was Over, clocking in at 3:11 (I’m sure Dan would appreciate a “Come Original” joke here), yet it doesn’t betray the short emotive bursts of the 1-2 minute tracks that drive the album.

In terms of the three additional songs, “Snowglobe” is a noisy trek through the halls of unrequited love, “Candid Summer” is an upbeat instrumental track that eases some of the sonic tension that binds the album, and lastly “I Know” offers a perfect closing track that brings the The Summer Was Over Before it Began full circle, exuding big guitar riffs, ebb and flow vocals that crest melodically during the chorus, and enough lo-fi distortion to make a young J Mascis jealous.

There are a few copies of The Summer Was Over Before it Began on cassette left at Rocklok, they are only $5 and close to selling out. The CD-R is available in the same place for $4. You can also stream the album on bandcamp.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

State Champion - Stale Champagne

State Champion—Stale Champagne

Stale Chapagne

This review is a solid six months overdue. This is not to say that Stale Champagne has gotten lost in the shuffle of my record collection (which is currently strewn over my bedroom with unsheathed vinyl sitting atop an out-of-order Wurlitzer). No, Stale Champagne has been spinning under the needle of my record player for months now. The CD copy is perpetually in my car stereo or in the pile of receipts and change in the center console, always at arm’s reach. The more I listened to Stale Champagne the more daunting it became to write a review that actually did justice to how good this record is. Well, better late than never.


State Champion’s full band debut is in a word remarkable, a 40-minute long 8-song amalgam of the unabated twang of country western honesty and the sparse and raw instrumentation of ethereal indie rock. Ryan Davis sings these songs with a preacher’s zeal—a secular gospel underlies the album’s guitar distortion—and I find myself picturing the songs being played in an abandoned church turned honky-tonk. The vocals echo off the rafters with messy notes reverberating through dilapidated pews. A group of ghosts tap their feet to the drum and bass and hum along with the violin. They start to get rowdy during the end of “Keeping Time”, they stand with mouth’s agape, completely speechless, during “Come See What I Have Done”, and they demand an encore after “Just an Answer.”

That’s how I picture it in my head anyway. In terms of locating State Champion’s sound outside of my overindulgent (and not especially descriptive) imagination, they sound like Hank Williams Jr. discovering shoegaze or like Towns Van Zandt after a night of hitting the bottle and listening to the MC5. The Louisville natives’ go from the quiet contemplation of a Leonard Cohen song to the grating urgency of something by Fugazi without so much as blinking an eye. If this is confusing, try hearing all of this from a band that looks like Nirvana after getting stuck in Merle Haggard's dressing room.

Stale Champagne opens with “Thanks Given” a track I had fallen in love with previously through a collection of lo-fi demos entitled Horse Paint (each with a different hand-drawn cover and tracklisting). The song is a bit more polished here, but still possesses Davis’s trademark muddled guitar playing while his whisky-worn voice winces, “Is it so wrong to just give thanks for a holiday?” and offers a follow up with the steady clang of drums and guitar noise amidst the howling proclamation, “There’s a hole in my chest where the sunshine don’t fit, but my heart still works and it bleeds through my shirt like a whip striking down the bandits and the Benedicts.” The song benefits from having a full band on board, with Mikie Poland on bass, Sabrina Rush on violin, and Aaron Osbourne on drums, concluding the song in a thundering crescendo.

State Champion is one of the few bands I can say have effectively married the intimacy, and impressive lyricism, of singer-songwriter compositions with the dynamic pull of a rock band.  Davis’s writing is smart without being pretentious, imaginative without being verbose, and while it’s difficult to offer up one well written verse in an album full of exemplary lines, here is one from “Keeping Time”:   “I drove to the white house in my church clothes just to see if you were sleeping on the lawn but all I found was freedom in a window blinking my name in neon, please keep it on. I fell asleep myself you know I was dreaming of the tri-state and beyond. I had Lincoln looking over me saying ‘fuck it man I guess the golden days are gone.’” The music matches Davis’s intonation perfectly—a dreamy organ purrs alongside the vocals until the drums kick in with “I had Lincoln looking over me,” and the song is carried out in foot-stomping alt-country fashion.

Stale Champagne is, as I said before, remarkable. All 8 songs are impressive, ambitious, and well-written. I can honestly say this is the best thing I've heard from Davis and crew so far, and furthermore, one of the best records I've listened to in the past year. Stale Champagne a limited pressing of 500 copies on clear vinyl. They are $15 on the Sophomore Lounge website. Buy one for yourself and everyone you know.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Everyday Use" - Digital Download

Free Download


Makeout Party - Never Run in a Crowd (Unreleased)
The Sharpest - A Sunrise
The Bynars - Asking Your Mom for Money (Unreleased)
Chalk Talk - Everybody’s Doing It
By Surprise - $600 Exorcism (Unreleased)
Animal City - The Quits
Bearstronaut - The Wire
Fishing the Sky - Hope You Like Beer!
State Champion - Come See What I Have Done
The Thin Heir - Knock It Down With Fists
Factors of Four - Lighthouses (Unreleased)
That Really Awesome Dude With a Guitar - The Red and Gold
Mike DeBenedictis - The Machinist’s Son
Coalmine Canary - At Least for Last Night
Giving Up - Inlaws? More Like Outlaws.
From Sky to Sea - Deerfield (Live)

Thanks to everyone who came out to Mass Recovery Fest last weekend. A special thanks to anyone who bought the tape. We still have a limited number left so if you'd like to purchase one and support future Mass Recovery Releases you can
- Paypal $6 to with your address.
- Send $6 in money order, check, or concealed cash to
Shawn Massak
506 Massachusetts Ave
Lunenburg, MA 01462

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mass Recovery Fest - Artist Showcase #10: The Sharpest

Every day I'll be posting an Artist Showcase--a short introduction to each one of the bands playing Mass Recovery Fest this year.

The Sharpest

The Sharpest’s latest endeavor, the Charm EP, offers a workable model of music that is both unabashedly original and accessible. Jake Dubios weaves together melodic vocals that stretch dynamically from howl to falsetto over bright guitar, flickering and churning through each song. This Massachusetts quartet, also featuring Matt Huszar, Vasya Kochura, and Alexandre Clement, translate the beauty captured in their recordings seamlessly to energetic live sets all around the Northeast.

The Sharpest will be headlining Day 2 of Mass Recovery Fest as well as playing a bevy of local shows including one at Great Scott in Allston on June 3rd opening for the fantastic Kinsella-inspired British band, This Town Needs Guns.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mass Recovery Fest - Artist Showcase #9: Blackbear

Every day I'll be posting an Artist Showcase--a short introduction to each one of the bands playing Mass Recovery Fest this year. Mike Ellison and Erica Smerica wrote this one.


BLACKBEAR is 400 feet tall, and built by Patagonian vaqueros. In its formative stages, it features four sets of wings, but as it matures, the wings atrophy as the legs grow stronger. These dudes run on atomic energy, the EMP emitted by solar flares, and the nightmares of children. They pull inspiration from geographical landmarks and will be pre-forming on day two of the fest.*

*Editor’s Note – Blackbear is, weirdly enough, also the name of a central Mass hardcore band who are performing day 2 of Mass Recovery Fest. I can only assume that this performance will coincide with the pre-forming of the 400 foot tall, nightmare fueled monster listed above. If you’re interested in either Blackbear the band or Cloverfield Pt.2, come to the fest.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mass Recovery Fest - Artist Showcase #8: Peter Piek

Every day I'll be posting an Artist Showcase--a short introduction to each one of the bands playing Mass Recovery Fest this year. I've been lucky enough to enlist the help of Tony Marciello who wrote half the reviews including this one.

Peter Piek

It often seems that in the realm of art there are only three types of people: unoriginal copycats, inaccessible artìsts, and, the very rare balanced artists. If this is the case, then Peter Piek is a very rare individual; part author, part songwriter, all painter. Peter Piek plays, for lack of a better description, pop music, however he plays it on his own terms; his music is catchy, fun, and enlightening without being gimmicky.
Hailing from Leipzig, Germany, Piek has a busy schedule of shows lined up for the next few months in promotion of his recently released “What About The Ladies?/You’re So Right!” EP and his forthcoming full-length album. He will be playing Day 1 of this year’s Mass Recovery Fest.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mass Recovery Fest - Artist Showcase #7: Remainder

Every day I'll be posting an Artist Showcase--a short introduction to each one of the bands playing Mass Recovery Fest this year. I've been lucky enough to enlist the help of Tony Marciello who wrote half the reviews including this one.


Formerly C’est La Guerre, Remainder is one band’s ode to 90’s screamo, and it’s pretty awesome. Both melodic and grating, the band revolves around distorted guitar and thunderous drums and bass while vocalist Chris Childs screams his heart out. Their sound anchors somewhere between Refused and the slowest Converge and though this band is still in its infancy they certainly have the potential to be the next Page 99. In addition to Childs, band members include Kevin Smith on drums, Sean Cody on bass, and James Kelly on guitar and background vocals.
Remainder currently plays between Boston and Rhode Island, and just finished recording their first full-length, “Set Aside Your Fears,” with plans to release it April 3rd at the URI Coffeehouse. They have a bunch of other shows lined up in the next few months, one being Day 2 of Mass Recovery Fest on April 10th.