NEPA MUSIC NOTES: Lily Mao, Robinsonade, Jay Luke, Patrick Motto, Lesser Animals, One Thousand Oceans, and more
Every time I think this column is done for the week, I discover a few more songs or albums that deserve your attention. A few of them work perfectly for your headphones as you dig your vehicle out of the snow, while others are better suited for dancing around your living room after you come in from the cold. Whatever music you’re enjoying in this bitter weather, make it local.
🎶🎶 Everyone in NEPA is probably sick of hearing the term “nor’easter” by now, but Wilkes-Barre psychedelic indie folk collective Doghouse Charlie offers a different perspective on winter storms with “The Biggest Snowflake I’ve Ever Seen in My Life,” a song that vocalist/guitarist Charles Davis describes as “a nice, calming relaxation meditation” with a simple video of the gentle snowfall uploaded on Jan. 6. Davis and members of this group also play in Great Wave, who premiered their dreamy single “Autumn Sun” on NEPA Scene in December. They must receive a lot of inspiration from the changing of the seasons.
🎶🎶 Scranton singer/songwriter Lily Mao, who relocated to Brooklyn before the release of her debut album of bluesy surf rock, “Run to Madness,” in 2018, is back with a catchy new single, “Seasick on the Subway.” Featuring her band The Resonators, made up of Nate Jasensky and another NEPA native, Gabby Borges, the track jumped from the subway platform to streaming platforms on Jan. 22.
“It’s a head-banging, foot-tapping, booty-shaking kinda song with just enough rage to make you feel proud of yourself for getting through 2020,” Mao said. “I am proud.”
🎶🎶 Nanticoke guitarist William M. Baron released his debut album of “purely instrumental guitar-driven rock” on Jan. 23, titled “William M Baron – I,” and he has already started on more material, uploading a straightforward video for “Little Nightmares,” a demo for his next album, on Feb. 1.
“I’ve been working on this album whenever I had the time between work and family over the last several months,” Baron said on his Bandcamp page.
“I’ve been writing and recording for a long time. It’s a great hobby that I’ve always loved. My dad taught me how to play drums when I was just old enough to fit on a drum throne. My grandfather taught me how to play keyboards and some piano. I used to sing and make up songs with him when I was 6 years old. When I was 12, I started to play guitar. The rest leads up to the music I make today.”
🎶🎶 Multi-instrumentalist Steve Werner, best known as a solo handpan player and the drummer for Scranton indie rock band Blinded Passenger and singer/songwriter Patrick McGlynn, dove into a new project called One Thousand Oceans and released a debut self-titled album last year. Expanding on what he started with his 2018 solo handpan, cello, and synth album “Incantation,” this new music was created specifically “for yoga, meditation, and relaxation.”
He has since recorded a new single with a hammered dulcimer, handpan, and cello called “Winter Song” at the Windmill Agency in Lake Ariel and premiered it on Jan. 24 with a beautiful music video by Ionic Development that shows off the calm snow-covered winter landscape of NEPA.
“It was pretty friggin’ cold out when I made this,” Werner admitted, so please enjoy this man suffering for his art in the most tranquil way possible:
🎶🎶 Last May, NEPA Scene premiered “Trapped in Your Cell,” a timely warning about the dangers of modern technology by Scranton singer/songwriter Jay Luke. It will be on his upcoming third solo album, “Alone in the Crowd,” which features themes of “hope, the future, observance, love, loneliness, and alienation,” he told me in an extensive interview. Following delays due to COVID-19, the record was finally completed by the end of the year, so Luke released the second single, “Killing Time,” on Jan. 25.
“Each album I work on I want to progress. I don’t want everything I do to sound alike, but I do not want to make a massively drastic jump from, say, being a really rocking album to a weird country sound. I look to people like David Bowie or Prince in the way they were fearless as to trying out whatever they felt in their hearts and not thinking of pleasing others to compromise their art. I feel that if I want to have a punk song, a metal song, and an acoustic song together in one album where most people may separate them is always cool. Painting yourself in a corner is cool if that is what you plan to do forever. I could never imagine the Ramones or AC/DC releasing an all-acoustic album, and that is great because they know what works for them. For me, I always found the fearlessness of Bowie and Prince to be something so appealing, where you are not constrained to a style and can just write your songs how you feel they belong,” the Throop native said.
“This new album is sort of a continuation of previous themes and maturation with how my life progressed since the last one. I think each song has a story or meaning that, to me, are like little snapshots of time. Some may take happiness, sorrow, indifference, anger, or confusion from the music or lyrics but, to me, it is always just me opening up my soul and seeing what falls out and making some sense of it.”
🎶🎶 Pittston singer/songwriter Joe Lombardo poured his heart out in his debut album, “This Is Gonna Hurt,” in 2019, and after playing some full band shows, he officially formed emo rockers The Robinsonade in 2020 with Nick Montini and Ryan Whitman of The Cryptid and Ryan Grutt of Alma Mater, University Drive, and Retrovai. They released a few singles during quarantine, and Lombardo was able to play some acoustic songs during our first pandemic live stream at The V-Spot in Scranton, but COVID delayed the big release of their new EP, “Lukewarm,” until Jan. 29.
It’s here now, so don’t cry… or maybe you should because that’s how those emo kids know you liked it. If you’re feeling depressed, angry, or alone (and who isn’t these days?), this is the pick-me-up you need to pick up right now:
🎶🎶 Danville hard rock singer/songwriter Patrick Motto followed up his 2019 album “Conviction” with a heavy six-song EP, “Reflection: Part 1,” on Jan. 29. The kickass title track received a music video on Jan. 22 that offers a dark look into the mind of this headbanger.
“There comes a point where you put your heart and soul into what you create, and it just needs to be heard,” Motto told NEPA Scene.
🎶🎶 Indie rock band Lesser Animals, which was formed in Scranton in 2008 and is now based in Boston, released their debut full-length “The Feeling Is Real” on Jan. 29, which NEPA Scene previewed when we premiered the single “For Real” in December. Clarks Summit native James Sanderson, the group’s vocalist and guitarist, played an acoustic live stream to celebrate the album of “dining room pop” that was many years in the making. Lesser Animals’ first EP, “Parasalene,” came out in 2012, and they toured with those songs before disbanding in 2014. Sanderson held on to so much music for so long that he revived the name in recent years and finished what he started with a lineup that included both original and new members.
“It was incredibly satisfying being back in the studio after such a long time away, but even more satisfying was getting the songs out of my head and onto the hard drive. It felt like finally being able to let go of a secret after way too long,” Sanderson told me late last year.
“These songs are from the band’s whole existence, hiatus and all. There’s a track I wrote in 2009, some stuff from 2012-2014 from the band’s heyday, a few from a particularly inspired time in 2016, and even a few that I wrote right before recording. It’s almost like a timeline from where we were to where we are, translated with the future in mind.”
🎶🎶 NEPA Scene was the first media outlet to publish the initial details about the first-ever Scranton Ice Festival, and now it’s already here. Starting today, there are some great local bands performing all weekend at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, you can only watch the performances from outside the window as you walk around downtown to see the ice sculptures, but you can also tune in to the live stream on the festival’s website and NEPA Scene’s Facebook page. The goal of the inaugural event is to get people out to support small businesses after a difficult year, so be sure to bundle up and stroll around a bit before going inside to warm up and enjoy the music, preferably with some food from one of the excellent restaurants along Courthouse Square. Check out the full schedule below: