Kiam Records CMJ Showcase: Tim Foljahn, Jennifer O’Connor, Tron & DVD, Amy Bezunartea, Clint Michigan, Vinnie Scorziello of (Choo Choo la Rouge), Jesse Moore


A rock band.

Tim Foljahn

Tim Foljahn’s solo records have always been inward looking. They’re written, played and recorded by the man himself, sparsely set, late night interior monologues intoned in an echoey baritone that pretty much defines the sound of being alone.

Sure Foljahn has played with other people — most notably with Steve Shelley in Two Dollar Guitar, but also as a guitar for hire with Cat Power, Townes Van Zandt, Half Japanese, the Boredoms and Thurston Moore’s Psychic Hearts. Most recently, you could catch him on the hit show Orange Is the New Black. He’s a member of Assistant Warden Caputo’s band Sideboob. (In real life, Sideboob’s songs are written and performed by Adopted Highways; that’s Foljahn, Jennifer O’Connor and Tom Beaujour.) Still, despite all this collaborating as a songwriter and sideman, in his solo work, he seemed up to now, fundamentally solitary.

That’s why Fucking Love Songs is so surprising and ultimately so satisfying. It engages with others, specifically significant others, in a cycle of songs about relationships. “While I was writing the songs, I had relationships starting, relationships ending and relationships starting again,” says Foljahn. “It just seemed natural to write about them. People would ask me what I was working on, and I would say, ‘Oh, a bunch of fucking love songs.'”

But it’s not just the other people in the songs. It’s the ones on the record – including two extra guitar players, two drummers, a bassist, even back-up singers — that make this album so densely collaborative. Consider, for instance, “Wild Tonight,” with its slow, blistering lead, its bluesy in- the-pocket rhythm guitar, its sweet, sweeping gospel chorus, its raucous drums. That’s Smokey Hormel, who has played with Tom Waits, Beck, Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, Neil Diamond, Norah Jones and Adele, on one guitar. Foljahn met him while auditioning, twice, for a spot in Beck’s band (Hormel beat him out). Tom Beaujour, the album’s producer/engineer, plays another guitar. Jeremy Wilms is on bass, and Jon Langmead, a drummer for Mark Eitzel and Jennifer O’Connor, punches out the beat. (Brooklyn drummer Brian Kantor sits in on two other tracks.) O’Connor and Amy Bezunartea sing harmonies.

The result is a beautifully layered, dense, full-band sound that amplifies Foljahn’s evocative songs. Bend your ear to “Legends” with its cavorting, porch-picked guitar lick (Smokey again), its lilting, group-sung chorus, its sunny, folk-scented lift. Or check out “Etant Donné” a headlong, full-on garage rocker. “For me this is a totally upbeat pop record,” he admits. Foljahn recorded Fucking Love Songs over a two-year period at Nuthouse Recording in Hoboken with Tom Beaujour (Juliana Hatfield, Nada Surf, Jennifer O’Connor ) producing and engineering. “Tom gets such great sounds,” Foljahn says, “To my ears, his records have more resonance than you hear in current albums. There’s almost a sound of the 1970s in it.”

The main thing, though, are the songs, as cracked and individual as ever, but focused this time on love. “When I listen to a song I really like, I’m glad to be right where I am in the song, but I’m also wondering what’s coming next and a little bit sad when it’s gone,” says Foljahn. You might find yourself feeling the same way about Fucking Love Songs.

Jennifer O’Connor

Jennifer O’Connor (born November 8, 1973) is an American singer-songwriter. She has released a series of well-regarded solo albums, and has either toured or played with Wilco, the Indigo Girls, Feist, Yo La Tengo, Dump, and the Mountain Goats, among other bands and musicians. Paste Magazine has called her a “songwriter’s songwriter,” describing her albums as “master classes in economy and clarity

Tron & DVD

Tron! And DVD (also known as Super Rap Duo Awesome Force) are two of the hardest working, and most diverse, brothers (in the literal sense) in the hip-hop game. Straight out of the burbs of NY, Tron! & DVD can go from lyrical, to party mode, to emotional tunes in the blink of an eye.

They are the only unsigned Hip-Hop artists to play The 2011 Bamboozle Festival & 2011 Vans Warped Tour. They have opened for Grieves, Budo, K. Flay, OnCue, Down With Webster, The Dean’s List, Ghostface, Saigon, Sheek Louch, Spose, Matt Toka, Moosh & Twist, Huey Mack, Ground Up, Hawthorne Heights, I See Stars, etc.

They have done shows at Webster Hall, Santos Party House, The Bitter End, The Knitting Factory, Glasslands, among other popular venues in the NYC scene.

They make their own videos, book their own shows, make their own beats, record and mix their own tracks, drink their own brews, and make their own sandwiches. seriously, what else do you need?

Amy Bezunartea

Amy Bezunartea – New Villain – September 25, 2015

“A clear voice and an unsparing eye define the songs of Amy Bezunartea… She keeps the music slow and sparse, sometimes just a lone guitar or piano note, deliberately exposing the way her terse lyrics and finely chiseled melodies carry uncomfortable insights about herself and others.”
-The New York Times

“Singer-songwriter Amy Bezunartea’s latest single, ‘Oh The Things A Girl Must Do’ is gently sung, but it’s not an easy listen. Bezunartea’s voice and her soft guitar play in stark contrast to her frank, razor-sharp lyrics about the pressures put on women.”- NPR Music

From the glacial pulse of album opener “Call on Me” to the somber piano and vocal arrangement of set closer “All This Wreckage,” New Villain, Amy Bezunartea’s sophomore release on Kiam Records, establishes her place as a riveting voice for an extreme age.

“To me, the idea of being a new villain is that the usual rules don’t apply and you don’t have to stay in your place. I don’t mean ‘villain’ in a violent way,” explains Bezunartea. “It’s really about waking up and refusing to play along with the powers that be – the forces that rely on us to be complacent, broke, scared, addicted, depressed, stressed out, etc…”

New Villain, recorded over the course of two years with co-producer Tom Beaujour, employs a palette that is deliberately sparse. Guitar, piano, electric guitar and an occasional drumbeat, are all that fill the sonic space around the singer’s clear voice, which she uses to deliver lines that are bold and often confrontational. This lyrical stance is more commonly associated with the screeching punk of Bikini Kill, or the booming indignation of Public Enemy than with an artist who generally performs solo with a classical guitar (as Bezunartea did on a recent tour supporting Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields). This silence between notes, as heard on the haunting “Wild Thing”, and the breathtaking and emotionally naked “Oh The Things A Girl Must Do”, leaves ample room for the listener’s own thoughts, yearnings and probable discomforts.

On her 2010 debut, Restaurants and Bars, Bezunartea chronicled a life spent working in the service industry with a gritty wit that NPR called “humorous, poignant and true.” New Villain widens the scope of her focus, taking a hard but thoughtful look at how our modern world can be alternatingly suffocating and liberating, dismissive and inclusive. Ultimately, New Villain confronts the question of how to survive in a messy time. And while it takes on its fair share of “they’s,” and “you’s,” Bezunartea’s work is often most compelling when her gaze turns inward.

“A lot of the record is about trying to harness all of your frustrations into something that is actually productive, despite having a voice telling you that nothing you do will ever be good enough,” she explains. On the chorus of “Friends Again,” Bezunartea makes an impassioned overture to her relentless inner critic. “Forgive me and I’ll forgive you,” she pleads. “And we can finally live, weightless and free, friends again, you and me.” As the melody soars on an updraft both melancholy and sweet, it becomes clear that self-acceptance is perhaps the most political act there is.

Clint Michigan

Clint Michigan has been heralded as “delicate and devastating” (Paste), “heartwrenching” (The New Yorker), “plaintive and at times haunting” (Time Out New York), and “magical stuff” (Detour) announced the band to be a powerful presence in the world of alt-folk music, both for songwriiter Clint Asay’s affecting lyrics and the rhapsodic, reflective harmonies woven throughout its tracks. Clint Michigan’s music has been featured on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and in 2013 at the Sundance Film Festival’s premiere of Liz Garcia’s “The Lifeguard”. Clint Michigan is currently recording their third full length “Knickerbocker Street” and will be released in the fall of 2015.
Clint Michigan’s “Coeur d’Alene” from CLINT MICHIGAN on Vimeo.

Jesse Moore

Hale is the lush solo endeavor of Philadelphia based musician Jesse Moore. With influences ranging from Rhye to Fleetwood Mac, Moore’s pop sensibilities make for a sound that is both refreshingly new and warmly familiar.