Miracle Johan – Green 17

“Antoine Walker! Antoine Walker! Antoine Walker! Welcome hoooooome”
Sings Miracle Johan over a gutsy self-produced medley of sound effects, and one passionately laid down drum track. And such was the start to a four year, one-of-a-kind creative streak that began in 2005 when Antoine Walker was traded back to the Celtics after stints in Dallas and Atlanta. So just as Danny Ainge, the boss of the team, had vowed to rebuild the C’s and get a 17th banner hanging in the rafters of the Garden, so did Miracle Johan eventually make a vow: to record a song for every player on the roster of our beloved basketball team until they got that Championship. Weird, yeah, but we’re talking Miracle Johan.

He was easing himself back into 4-track recording after having played bass in the western Mass. band Bears. In his words, he recorded a “weird instrumental using crash cymbals as hi hats and was going to put vocals down when I realized I had no idea what I was going to sing about. Antoine’s first game back after the initial trade was happening that night, so I just sang about that (assuming I’d someday return to do something more serious over it).” So what did he do? He showed some friends his creation and mustered up the courage to post the song to Celticsblog.com in a very 2005 “Hey-look-what-i-found-on-the-internet” way.

His friends made him a Myspace and a second song “I Swear to God I’m Funky” was in the works. This one was about seven foot, gum-chewing center Mark Blount. Miracle Johan raps from the perspective of Blount. Brilliant. What I love about these songs: they are raw, imperfect recreations of moments in time. I was a teenager writing about the Boston Celtics on my Boston-sports themed website when I first encountered Miracle Johan. He would join my staff and write some amazing articles, but at the same time he was leading a charge of what some may call Outsider Music; Miracle was amassing from scratch a four volume musical of his thoughts on the Boston Celtics in real time. And, these were real heady tunes, something collectively closer to underground punk rock/hip hop than anything seeking approval via formula or precedent.

One example of the spaciest of space jams: Dan Dickau, the not oft-remembered reserve guard, sings on Volume 2: “sitting in the hospital bed. Used to play basketball, now I’m learning how to play the guitar. It’s a good, good thing that I don’t don’t need my ACL to jam out on the guitar.” Miracle Johan’s Dickau is either a brilliant Jandek or a talentless hack, but more likely messed up on meds as he sings of “A Zillion Ponies.” Miracle’s songs displayed, in his own words, “musical evolution,” and the variety over the years certainly displays this.

So there’s “Scabs,” the redhead current Boston Celtics analyst/broadcaster Brian Scalabrine who needs very little introduction. White Mamba is a legend among basketball fans around the world. Not the most gifted player (career average 3 points per game and only 61 total starts over 10 years), his personality and hustle is/was A+. Miracle Johan paid fun tributes to him with the tough-guy jam “Hard Rock Life” (featuring a more than on-point guitar solo and overall virtuoso playing) and the french horn elementary throwback “Awesome O’Clock”. Scal, if you haven’t heard these, check these out now! Right now!

The one constant each year was a song for future Hall of Famer and hometown hero Paul Pierce. First was the “Return of the Truth,” which has Pierce rapping: “This city’s more than irish pubs and bars, you want proof? I’ll show you about a dozen scars, I’m the truth.” Pierce sounds optimistic about raising another banner to the roof, but patience is a virtue they say. The next year freaking Paul Pierce informs us in “No Media Love” that he knows he’s one of the best players in the league. Any other chatter about him is irrelevant. Well, until he got injured during the 2006-2007 season. Pierce was hampered with foot and elbow injuries and the Celtics ended up losing eighteen straight games, a franchise record. Something had to be done. Over a spacey synth sequence, Pierce wonders, after the awful season has ended, in “Nowhere to Go But Up”:

“Am I really the captain of a team with the second worst record in the entire NBA? The most celebrated franchise in the entire history of the NBA. And now it has nationally been criticized and accused of tanking to get a high lottery pick? Are you serious? This is the Boston Celtics.”

We all know what happens next. Danny Ainge ‘wisened up” and made some deals to “be at an elite level”. Banner 18 level. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett. The Big 3 they were called. An unstoppable force with a 66-16 record. “A Whole New Pierce” speaks of the new team dynamic that got everybody excited. Things were much easier with proven all-stars playing next to and bringing the best out in Pierce. At the end of it, there’s a snippet of Naismith Hall of Famer Bob Cousy, who did some commentary alongside beloved announcer-duo Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn. With the Celtics off to a 7-0 start to the season, Cooz asks “Why does it seem like a lot more fun so far this year? Why are we smiling a lot more?” We all know the ending: they won it all. And ten years later (earlier this year), Pierce’s #34 got raised to the rafters at the Garden.

The up-and-down and all around events year-in and year-out gave Miracle plenty of material, but there was usually a little scrambling as Miracle found himself in the quagmire of devoting free time to the endeavor, not to mention recording VHS copies of every game (to use for sampling the commentary of Mike and Tommy). Miracle’s lyrics could almost be analyzed as separate from the music, as listeners are presented with engaging captions of the season and all of these player personalities. Different and more exciting than reading a blog or watching a post-game show on TV. A solid supplement or stand-alone endeavor!

So you’re wondering: how popular was Miracle Johan at the height of his game? Other than real life friends and in Celtics message board enclaves, Miracle got around a bit. One day he noticed a gigantic spike in his daily PureVolume listenership: 3,000+ listens. What’s the story with that, he wondered. It turns out his page had been linked to on a Bill Simmons’ ESPN daily links posting. Not bad. A couple other noteworthy media mentions turned up: his friends in The Mobius Band name dropped him in a Pitchfork interview and more locally, the Boston Phoenix hunted Miracle Johan down, invited him to a game, took his picture, and next thing you know: a feature story was published. (The Boston Phoenix shut down in 2013 and with it came down the article, which had also been posted online.)

As for the actual Celtics – were they bumping Miracle Johan in the locker room? Rumor has it, yes. Maybe. Perhaps Justin Reed (rest in peace) passed along the legend of Miracle Johan after they had a chance meeting in the bowling alley adjacent to MJ’s high school reunion. The Celtics second round draft choice Reed just so happened to be at Kings Bowling Alley. Miracle mustered up a bit of old fashion bravery, approached the big dude with the goatee and eventually slipped the baller a link to his PureVolume. Wild!

The legacy of Miracle Johan is that damn, some guy actually did this. And he did it so good. He inspired me in my own home-recording adventure, reminding us, much like Kevin Garnett did after the Celtics won: ANYTHING IS POSSSSSSSSSIBLEEEEEEEE. Heck, he might have also inspired a Paul Pierce commercial on ESPN. A passion and a sense of humour wins you championships. Scalabrine knew that. Miracle Johan did, too.

To commemorate the Boston Celtics championship run in 2008, to celebrate all of the music that Miracle Johan created since he began the project in 2005, and to optimistically anticipate Banner 18, KLYAM Records is proudly releasing eighteen, four tape box sets of Miracle Johan’s music. Each individual volume/year will be available as well! All of Miracle Johan’s Green 17 and other recordings dating back to the late ‘90s (special shout out to the Hawaii Demos) are streaming on Bandcamp!

Cinco De Mayo Recommendations – REQUEST FREEBIRD, TIFFANY’S HOUSE, BIRTHING HIPS

Its Cinco De Mayo, you’re slizzard, you’re supposed to play in Puzzle Mansion in a quick minute, but isn’t everyone? But you decide it is maybe best to sit back, keep sucking on the 16 OZ Bud Lite Limes and let your music community know how you really feel by recommending obscure Boston bands. Looks like the Hassle got hacked or something, so you’re left with KLYAM.

Let’s start with Request Freebird. I love Request with a lot of my heart because I always have hated solo acoustic acts. Request plays electric, and his songs chord-wise are easy to play and he makes it no mystery by posting what they are on his Bandcamp. But that is not important. I’ve heard “sad” tossed around, by the singer and his followers, but to me he speaks of realities, that blend his own subjective experience – walking to Korn concerts – with stuff that pretty much all us teens and 20-somethings and 50-somethings know a thing about. So all this shit, might make you think, well you are describing what you first said you hate. I’m not a sing-a-longer, or clap a long-er, but Request is the ultimate exception. Something about his performance and music in general is like a light switch turning on or a magnet, just very attracted to its simple, ultra modern story telling, of a guy who has been doing his own thing, perhaps very awkwardly, for years. My first Request experience was at Wicked Mess, but the essence of it all – the artist who has been called ACLU Benefit and Field of Sheep – is something I’ve witnessed many a time over the past couple years. We first met on the Orange Line coming home from a Halloween show at the Elks. Our most recent non-show meetup was in front of a Whole Foods and culminated at an unopened golf course.

Tiffany’s House – damn I wish Bandcamp had an auto-replay function or something, for stuff like this. Never seen The House, maybe this weekend. Kind of like a Request thing going on, at least for my interpretation’s sake. Very Bedroom but instead of guitars and ukuleles or whatever, The House seems to just work with a keyboard and voice. The song DIRT up on the ole BC is a SONG. Hilarious bizzaro existential/lonely lyrics, minimal Dream elements. A chill JANE LA ONDA , more stretching less rambunctious physicality. Choice material.

Birthing Hips – Is there a Band Like Birthing Hips? Not that I’ve seen, not for my money. A group that can do whatever and I trust in ’em fully. That tells you shit and I’m glad. Like I’m glad that I am suckering you into reading this and you see the name BIRTHING HIPS , and you think folk ? World music ? No, I don’t know anything about music. But I think they have their shit together. There are a lot of CHANGES, a lot of ””WEird”’ things going on that you don’t see in a typical four piece incarnation, But in that way it is Psychedelic. You can’t keep up. Carrie guides the way, and her band holds no prisoners. The unpredictable gets me everytime and I hope it gets U!!!!!!!

Night Sun – “On My Way”


Night Sun
 is the collaboration between Cole Alexander (Black Lips) and Curtis Harding (Kirkland Underwater/Cee-Lo Green back-up singer). Those two played their first show together in Atlanta last night.

Creative Loafing Atlanta has uploaded “On My Way,” which will be featured on their 2012 debut EP.

Check it out: http://clatl.com/cribnotes/archives/2011/11/29/night-sun-feat-cole-alexander-of-black-lips-debuts-tonight

Top 5 Favorite Musical Acts (at the moment)

Hey sorry readers I haven’t been around lately (school work), I should be posting again regularly by the end of next month. Anyway I have had some time to check out some bands I never really gave a chance to before so I figured I would share them with you.

1) The Kills

2) Cage the Elephant

3) The Drums (personal favorite right now)

4) iO Perry

5) The Stills

Band Spotlight: THE ORWELLS


Location: Chicago, Illinois
Sound: Fuzz Pop
Description: Haven’t been this excited about a new band for a while. They got the garage rock revival thing per se going in the innate catchiness of their music, but have what I would consider a world of fuzz that just kind of builds on top of said greatness.
Top Songs: Pretty much all of the ones on their MySpace
Comparison: Ty Segall
Link: http://www.myspace.com/themonstertones

Video:


Envy on the Coast: The Impetuous Lowcountry

I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning.
Andy Warhol
Lowcountry is a work of art born from spontaneous action. It is a common misconception that spontaneity (especially in music) derives from laziness, carelessness, or too much pot. This my friends is entirely wrong. After all, there is no such thing as too much pot! In a Youtube interview with lead vocalist, Ryan Hunter explained the band’s approach to recording their final album. There was no thinking involved while playing. Clearly a lot of thought went into this approach. It’s something that only experience can explain. By forbidding any form of processing during the recording stages, the members of EOTC relied solely on their subconscious and musical relationship. This daring approach truly allows the music to take control and grow its natural roots. Most well-known musicians concern themselves with radio standards, mass appeal, and easily digested song structures. Often times these concerns can sacrifice originality. Kiddos…let me introduce Lowcountry; an organic musical masterpiece.
I highly recommend this album to anyone who is looking for that fresh rock album that becomes your best friend. No matter what type of music you enjoy, a few key ingredients are crucial. The music needs to be catchy, relatable, real, and obtain some form of original substance to it. If an artist lacks these ingredients then they ain’t gonna stick for long! Luckily, Lowcountry has each of these substances cram packed into each song. It’s a frenzied, emotional journey from start to finish.
An enjoyable album is difficult to find. An album where an artist has created their own unique sound, and maintains that vibe throughout is nearly impossible. Lowcountry is the pearl for 2010. You have never heard anything like this. Vocalist, Ryan Hunter also recorded the drum tracks for the album. There is a lot to be said for this. The drums are all about pocket time, groove, and punch. Bassist, Jeremy Velardi adds tremendous depth to this powerful pulse. I’ll say it again (and you will understand when you listen) this album is all about groove! Much of todays rock music contains overbearing drum, and guitar parts. Often times I find myself listening to a band and the song will sound like a group of musicians competing for lead role. The instrumentals on Lowcountry are noninvasive to the lyrical value on the album. In between catchy vocal hooks you will be swept away by the blend of spacey, experimental guitar hooks and kick ass Southern leads.
There also lies a wonderful strangeness to this record. It’s the little things like a track of voicemail messages leading into the mesmerizing song “Like I Do.” It’s the Twilight Zone narration that kicks off “Southern Comfort.” It’s the sound of toe tapping in “Made of Stone.” I always frowned upon bands that tried creating a “dark edge” to their album by putting satanic pictures on the album cover, playing triplet double bass drum patterns, or adding an endless amount of pinch harmonics to each song. Lowcountry is dark and heavy as hell for none of the above reasons. Listening, I can’t help but get the vibe that these guys simply don’t give a fuck. The album is painfully real. It’s alien. The band plays with rests and space like never before. Listen to “The Devil’s Tongue.”  Rather than take away from the mystery of EOTC, I will leave the rest up to you.
Unfortunately, Envy called it quits this year. All the members are involved in new projects. A friend once told me he believes most brilliant bands have serious inner struggles. I believe that very thing.