Hey friends, get ready to hit the dance floor! There is another track from Minnesota’s stellar ska preservationists, the Prizefighters, just about to hit the public domain on May 19th. I can’t get enough of the good protest energy these folks put forth with this upcoming album of theirs, and this track is no less a statement to be made, but listen closely because it’s not entirely what you think!
Think and Pray, the next song released from the band’s up and coming full length record Punch Up, is a body-moving, groove heavy message of hope that positivity can change the world around you. It’s also a cool dig at all the “thoughts and prayers” offered into nothingness every time something tragic happens in our country – usually the result of senseless gun violence. This smart dual meaning is brilliantly laid out among the hearty dancing tone of traditional ska energy, always done so well by the Prizefighters. Their upbeat throwback vibe, laced with words that truly mean something, is a refreshing and welcome addition to the world. I am a fan of telling folks that you get back the energy you put out to the universe, and this song reminds us that while simple phrases in tragedy can be trite, real change can be effected by true positivity. That is something we can desperately use these days as the younger among us are doing their best to try to change our world for the better. I cannot wait for this record to hit. What a fantastic soundtrack to these times!
Check out Think and Pray on all streaming services!
You can get the full length record Punch Up when it releases on June 9th on vinyl, CD, and digital. The band’s album release show, which is sure to be a blast, will be going down at the Turf Club in St. Paul, MN on June 14th. If you can get yourself there, get those tickets here!
One of the absolute best parts of starting this blog way back in 2011 has been the people I have been able to meet through their incredible music. With a small handful of exceptions, I have met the most stellar people through simply wanting to share their music with other people. I have met people from all over the country. People who make all kinds of music and give all kinds of energy. It’s been such an adventure and has warmed and broadened my life in so many ways. One of my favorite people that I have had the pleasure of doing this work with is Ryan Liatsis. A man unmistakable around the jam scene because of two key things – his insanely talented guitar work, and his mustache.
I have done work with Mr. Liatsis through several of his projects, most notably his original band ShwizZhttps://www.facebook.com/ShwizZ and more recently his work with the vocal magicians in Western Skieshttps://www.facebook.com/westernskiesmusic. Both have been an exceptional example of what a guitar master he is. His signature sound is of the soaring variety, velvety smooth and seemingly effortless. It was of course an absolute privilege to get the opportunity to review his most recent release, one that is all his own, and one that has this signature sound on a fantastic display. If you love a versatile, guitar focused instrumental album, this is for you and you are in for a trip.
Ryan is a man of many talents, and that is evident in his new and very first solo release, Music That Makes No Cents, Vol. 1. This record is his decade long labor of love and is almost entirely self produced, self recorded, self mixed and self mastered. All songs were written by Ryan and all instruments with a few exceptions were played by Ryan. Let me state first that if you are going to invite a few special guests to help out with your solo record, there are few I would choose other than the ones he did. Most are drummers, with the likes of Neal Evans, Kito Bovenschulte, Kevin Soffera, Jordan McQueen, and Paul Cesario. He also gets some help from exceptional bassist and fellow ShwizZ musician Scott Hogan. It’s a well stacked grouping of awesome.
The first track, 11:11, kicks open the whole collection with a very hard rock spiced piece of Ryan’s multi-layered shredding, woven with synth and heavy drum work (care of Paul Cesario). The album then moves over to Dragonfly which immediately gave me super calm vibes while still having an earnestly rocking soul. Easily my favorite song on the album. This is that soaring guitar sound that Ryan does so well. Almost midway, it slows to a piano solo before picking back up with guitar that gives an emotional feel. This song will take you on an adventure, if you let it. Speaking of emotional, All On One is gorgeous, beginning with a dreamy far off sound that pulls you in. Not quite as calming, but it will definitely give you the feels for something with the subtly climbing notes and really pretty break about halfway through that comes back hard right into your heart. This expertly layers sounds to give depth in places throughout the songs in a way that plucks right at your internal strings.
Saturator is another great rocking track, with drums care of Kito Bovenschulte. This song is a mix of exceptional guitar playing dexterity while keeping with head bobbing beats. Coming in strong and hard with melodic layers of sound, it has fantastic use of climbs and stops. It’s absolutely talking to you throughout. I love that Ryan uses the guitar like a vocal in that respect. There is a story being told throughout this record but it’s entirely up to the listener to discern or decode exactly what that is. Every track is deliciously different and capable of captivating even the most captious listener.
My genuinely take on Music That Makes No Cents, Vol. 1 is that it’s brilliantly written and put together beautifully. This record is a batch of stories told through music like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book, and it’s all up to you which road you take and which page you turn to. There is trip worth taking with yourself within, and I highly recommend that you do. I am sure if we picked Ryan’s brain as to what he envisioned while writing these songs over ten years, he would have buckets of information for us – but what fun is that? I didn’t really get into instrumental albums outside of old jazz and the occasional Joe Satriani song until very recently and this album was such a breath of fresh air for me. My advice to you is do what I did when I first got my hands on it. Plug in a really comfortable pair of headphones, get good and cozy in your favorite spot, close your eyes, and let the music take you where it will. Additional substance assistants are entirely up to you.
You can get yourself a download of Music That Makes No Cents, Vol. 1 over at BandCamp here:
When I was 16 years old, I was introduced to the wonderful world of ska music. It was the mid-90’s and ska was in its third wave height so it was easy to fall in love with the sound and the energy. We were buying comps, heading to The Wetlands in NYC, covering ourselves in checkers, and enjoying this craze for everything it was worth. It was easy back then as it was on MTV and in the malls where we found ourselves creeping most weekends. I have memories of traversing the mountain roads of northern New Jersey with the sounds of the Toasters blaring from crackling speakers in an old Mazda, trying like hell to sing along with the chat version of The Toasters’ “Dub 56” and failing miserably. The man behind that fast chat was Coolie Ranx and in our minds, he was the master of that sound.
Since his work with The Toasters, Coolie went on to found The Pilfers which brought ska and punk rock energies into a rugged but danceable sound he called “raggacore”. Meanwhile, he continued to add his particular style and power to the mixes of dozens of releases and has remained a fixture in New York City’s ska and reggae scene. Coolie Ranx is honestly one of the hardest working members of the scene since 1990 and continues to bring that signature sound he nurtured and perfected to the masses.
Fast forward to now, and I have a message from Coolie asking me to check out his soon to be released single, “Oh Girl” for the blog. Suddenly I was 16 years old again. I have been devouring this song since I got the link and I honestly cannot get enough.
This track is everything you would expect from Coolie Ranx and more. His vocal is that soaring and brilliantly melodic sound that he has cultivated throughout his career. It carries you through the song with a comforting presence while telling a story of struggle, self-doubt, and a pure but heavy yearning. It’s a gorgeous combination, rounded out with a pulsing, heavy vibe and his signature “raggacore” sound in breakdown. The flow rises and falls in a multifaceted grind and infectious groove while pulling at your soul in the way he uses his voice. The drums, guitar, and those vocals culminate in aggressive tone at the build-up, creating a feel of pure ache, climaxing while still being groove heavy and danceable as the song comes to a close. Absolutely brilliant.
The accompanying credits go to Phil Wartel on steady hitting drums, Steve Capecci on groove-heavy bass, Jonathan Uda bringing the sky-high guitar riffs, and programmed drums, overdubs, and those flowing keys to Computer Paul. Honestly, if you can get through this song without moving with the beat and the energy of it, you might want to check your pulse. This is pure groove.
But as always, you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out the track “Oh Girl” on Spotify, Apple, and other streaming services today and see for yourself…