If you’re a lover of music of all kinds like me, you often find yourself looking for new groups that sound like others you usually listen to, and some that don’t. Well today I have two recommendations for you, one that may be similar to some of your past listens, and one that is likely completely different from anything you’ve heard in the past. While they may not be new groups, they are likely new to you, and I can guarantee, well worth the listen.
Black Pistol Fire
If I were to tell you there was another two person band on the scene, a la The Black Keys or the White Stripes, you might say, oh not another one. But while Black Pistol Fire is a guitar and drum duo much in the same mold of those others, they bring an energy, innovation, and fury unlike almost anything else out there. The group combines hard rock with a bluesy music festival aesthetic, resulting in truly great tracks like “Hipster Shakes,” “Suffocation Blues” and piping hot “Crows Feet.”
Lead guitarist/vocalist Kevin McKeown could be shooting lightning from his guitar strings with the amount of sheer power he pounds out. Meanwhile, Drummer Eric Owens is about as close to an ape man as you can come, constantly shirtless and all flailing arms and hair, pounding out a driving beat that perfectly accompanies McKeown’s talented guitar playing. The two have such a bold and complex sound that you often find yourself wondering how it is only a two piece band.
While these guys are one of my new absolute favorites, and a constant in my playlists, to truly enjoy them they must be experienced live. Black Pistol Fire has put in the long hours working the festival circuits and constantly performing live, taking time to hone their craft in a way that is not seen as often anymore in the age of singles. I recently had the pleasure to see them perform at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco CA. Seeing these guys takes you back to the mythical age of rock gods, jumping across the stage, and sometimes off it, to perform from in the crowd, McKeown is constantly in motion. More than anything else you can see that these two were born to perform, and that a stage is their true home.
Their most recent album, Deadbeat Graffiti is available now for download, and on vinyl for those of you into that sort of thing. The new album shows that BPF is not only continuing to pump out powerful ripping sounds, but also continuing to hone their craft, fine tuning their signature sound in ways that show great promise for their future.
And now for something completely different. Tinariwen has been around for over 20 years, and even won a Grammy in 2012 for their album Tassili. The group is composed of Tuareg musicians from Mali, who met when they were involuntarily pressed into military service by Muhammar Qaddafi. The group began playing in military camps, and soon traded in their traditional instruments for electric guitars and amplifiers.
The sound of Tinariwen is hard to describe to someone who hasn’t listened to it, but it is reminiscent of sufi mysticism and western rock and roll, bound together by the universal language of rhythm and soul. It sounds all at once tribal and organic, while also being worldly, as though, even without understanding the words one can relate to the emotions being expressed. A rolling beat underlies their songs, with an earthy, windy sound quality, combined with truly talented musicians playing with the unique style of the self taught musician.
The group primarily sings in their native language Tamashek, a lyrical and beautiful language that evokes imagery of the desert that is so often their subject. Their music has been banned in Mali and much of the region on and off for decades due to the rebellious nature of their lyrics. Tinariwen is true rebel music, inspired by the struggle of the Tuareg people and the violent oppression that has dominated their homeland for much of the musicians’ lives. It is the punk rock of sub-Saharan Africa.
Tinariwen’s most recent album, Elwan reflects the recent struggles of the region, with military leaders and Islamic radicals fighting for control. The highlight of the new album is the song “Sastanaqqam” a song of the desert, and a longing to return. Indeed the album represents a longing to return home, since due to political unrest in their homeland this album was recorded in Joshua Tree and Algeria. The band actually records in the desert, bringing along hundreds of pounds of gear, powered by generators, and recording in tents.
Tinariwen is a must listen for anyone who enjoys broadening their horizons, and a worthwhile branch into world music. The style bridges multiple genres and can truly be considered music of the world.