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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Stacking The Deck with LTrain
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stacking The Deck is a feature exclusive to Adam’s World where I bring packs of 1991 Pro Set Superstars MusiCards to artists, and we discuss who they find in each pack.

Unlike the L Train subway line, NYC-based rock foursome LTrain are a ride you can count on. Not only do they have no plans to shut down for 15 months in the near future, they’ve been hitting stages throughout the city, and working hard on their upcoming full length debut, Viral Spiral.

Consisting of Crystalla Gonzalez (vocals), Gabriel Castellar (guitar/vocals), Louis Padilla (bass), and Tristan Green (drums), LTrain’s brand of rock features influences that range from Latin to funk.

On a perfect summer day, I caught up with three-fourths of LTrain (photo L to R: Louis, Crystalla, and Gabriel) at The Coffee Shop in Union Square to open up some packs of MusiCards, and talk a whole lotta music. The artists we found sparked memories of everything from musical inspirations, to when imitating a band goes oh so wrong.

Gipsy Kings

Gabriel: Interesting story. My ethnic background is quite complicated. Rather, it’s very complicated. My mom is Puerto Rican, but her ancestry is pure Spanish, so one of the musical styles that she started to fall in love with in her 30s and 40s, when I was a kid, was flamenco.

One of the most popular flamenco bands are the Gipsy Kings, and she would play them as she would clean the house, so I remember the ‘90s, cleaning my room to Gipsy Kings, and not understanding anything they’re saying, and (at the time) not understanding, culturally, what that music meant. My mom was studying to how to dance flamenco, so she was introducing me to the world of flamenco, and what the Gypsy Kings meant to the world of flamenco.

Guitar-wise the Gipsy Kings played a big role in how I understood rhythm. The common electric guitar player kind of sticks to this up down stroke, very straightforward rhythm, but with flamenco music – which is somewhat similar to African rhythms, and funk, and that Mediterranean feel – the rhythm is a little more odd. There’s a lot of odd numbers.

When I started to learn how to play the guitar I started realizing, wow, American music is kind of very straightforward, it’s even, it’s consistent, but flamenco music had this odd rhythm of interesting syncopation, so I brought that to my guitar playing.

A lot of people say, “Why do you play electric guitar so fiercely, and aggressive, and rhythmic?” I’m like, “I grew up on the Gipsy Kings.” I learned that technique from them.

Led Zeppelin

Crystalla: I won’t forget when I first really started listening to Zeppelin because I remember listening to “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and I literally had an eargasm. I was just like, holy shit, this actually exists?!?! They just sounded so amazing, and I fell in love with Robert Plant’s voice instantly.

They had a huge influence. What was it, like two weeks ago, before I recorded I was listening to Robert Plant.

How did your introduction to Zeppelin happen?

My uncle. Growing up he would give me different albums to listen to. He was like, “OK, you have to know The Beatles, you have to know Led Zeppelin, you have to know Aretha (Franklin).” He was like, “You’re gonna learn this song, and that song.”

It’s funny, my main influences are the CDs he gave me as a kid.

Tina Turner

Louis: She’s extremely expressive. Her expression is off the charts. I think she has so much passion, and pain, that it really speaks out more.

I see music as colors, so when I think of Tina Turner I think of brown and orange. She has that range of giving a lot of aggression when she wants to. I can feel what she’s singing.

She doesn’t have to say anything, she doesn’t have to have lyrics, when she sings I can feel the edge of Tina Turner.

The Who

Louis: The bass player from The Who, John (Entwistle), he was a beast. The man played a catalog of the bass, and his technique was pretty much where I kinda adopted my technique from him.

I also love rhythm. Growing up in a Hispanic household I listened to a lot of salsa and mambo. I wouldn’t necessarily pay attention to the bass. When I would feel the rhythm I would understand what I need to do.

Being a bass player is pretty much being a hand drummer. A lot of my style comes from Latin music.

(When it comes to) modern music, I listen to a lot of progressive rock, and I really love playing halftime, and very syncopated, rhythms. The type of music I listen to, (bands) like Tesseract, they give me like a Phil Collins atmosphere with the reverb, and it’s still giving complexity with the rhythm and cord progression.

Sonic Youth

Gabriel: Basically, all those kids that you hate with all the reverb pedals, that’s who they’re trying to sound like.

We do have ambient things about our music, but we use it with caution. There are some bands that take it overboard, and it’s just like you see like these dudes with these humongous pedal boards, and they’re not really playing their instrument, they’re just stepping on different effects, and it’s just like, did I come to look at what you bought from Guitar Center, or did I come to see you play?

As someone who knows his way around a Guitar Center, how many pedals do the people who are imitating Sonic Youth usually end up with?

I would say a minimum of ten pedals. I would say on their board, money-wise, they have $1k-$1.5k on the floor.

And for the record, while the imitators leave something to be desired, Sonic Youth were good.

Yes. I agree. They knew what they were doing.

For more LTrain, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM   0 comments
Pop Shots – At Look At The Charts … From 18 Years Ago
Monday, August 21, 2017

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week I’m hopping into my time machine again, this time setting the coordinates for 18 years ago this week. Stepping out I see … I see many bands that are still successfully touring today!

On the charts, Smash Mouth is at #5 with “All Star,” Sugar Ray is at #12 with “Someday,” and Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas are at #26, inching their way closer to the top spot, where “Smooth” will eventually land, and stay for an incredible 12 weeks.

Yes, the Billboard Hot 100 from this week back in 1999 was filled with summer anthems we still have in rotation today.

So let’s get into this exploration in chart history! Of course, since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

1. Christina Aguilera – Genie In A Bottle

Nearly as quickly as Britney Spears debuted, her longtime friend Christina Aguilera made her voice heard, as well, and she did so in a big way with her oh-so-suggestive debut single, “Genie In A Bottle.” While both made great pop music, for a little while Christina was the less innocent alternative to Britney, and “Genie” had listeners wanting to rub her the right way.

Random thought: I really hope a DJ out there mixed "Genie In A Bottle" with Johnny Gill's "Rub You The Right Way."

4. LFO – Summer Girls

No song better represents the summers of the era of frosted tips than LFO’s “Summer Girls.” With it’s breezy feel, and borderline nonsense lyrics that many of us can still recite today, the song has worked its way to becoming a classic. Ironically, “Summer Girls” will likely be around long after the clothing store it name drops eventually closes its doors, although because of “Summer Girls” there will always be a soft spot in our hearts for “girls who wear Abercrombie & Fitch.”

6. Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way

The ultimate boy band song. No matter which boy band was your favorite, nobody could argue that “I Want It That Way” wasn’t the best, most addictive, song of the era. In fact, it’s so addictive that you can’t even hear the opening guitar, and “Yeeeaah,” without getting the entire song stuck in your head. Forget about hearing “You are, my fiiiire.” You’ll be singing “I Want It That Way” for the next week and a half (not that that’s a bad thing)!

23. Vitamin C w/ Lady Saw – Smile

One of the most underrated pop songs of the ‘90s, with “Smile,” two hit wonder Vitamin C – “Graduation (Friends Forever)” was her other hit – joined forces with reggae artist Lady Saw to give everyone some timeless advice – “Put a smile on your face / make the world a better place.” “Smile” openly admits that life is hard, and suggests creating your own happiness, and happiness for others, as a way of both getting through difficult times, and creating future happiness. Who can’t get into that?

49. Juvenile w/ Mannie Fresh – Back That Azz Up

Eighteen years after its release, “Back That Azz Up” is still the ace up every hip-hop DJ’s sleeve when they want to get the party started. When you hear the strings, you know sh*t’s about to get crazy. Then when Juvenile says “Cash Money Records taking over for the ’99 and the 2000,” any bit of refinement people thought they had goes straight out the window, and everyone within hearing distance goes nuts. Don’t believe me? Crank the volume up, click play, and see what happens. It’s truly a beautiful thing.

62. Len – Steal My Sunshine

The backstory of Len is actually really fascinating, as they worked with some hip-hop heavyweights – including Biz Markie and Moka Only – for their 1999 album You Can't Stop The Bum Rush. The brother-sister duo, however, will forever be remembered for their sole, ridiculously amazing, feel good hit “Steal My Sunshine.” It’s yet another summer anthem from this week back in 1999 that we still spin today.

And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM   0 comments
Vid Pick: Ceschi – Lost Touch
Friday, August 18, 2017

Ceschi is a hip-hop artist who creates lifelong fans with his intense, emotional, live performances. If someone tells you they’re going to see Ceschi for the first time, best believe they’ll be talking about the show for weeks, possibly even months, to come.

This is why I was happy to see Ceschi team up with A Fistful of Vinyl for a live performance video of “Lost Touch.”

His raw, real, personal lyrics, and tear-his-own-heart-out-and-let-his-emotions-bleed delivery are nothing short of enthralling.

I caught up with Ceschi to find out more about “Lost Touch,” his live performances, and the concept of true, authentic, freedom.

All of your songs are deeply personal. Where does “Lost Touch” come from for you, both topically, and emotionally?

“Lost Touch” is a song about work, about who and what controls labor, and who benefits from labor.

It really hurts me to see people I love living a life they've been taught to aim for, while realizing it does not make them happy.

Especially in America, we take a lot of shit, and are taught to settle for it. In fact, we're even taught that we're LESSER members of society for not settling for traditional outlets of labor. 

The concept of freedom is a big theme in the second verse. What do you feel we need to do to have true, authentic, freedom?

That’s one of THE huge questions, and is something I always come back to.

As long as nature is above us, there is no pure human freedom. We are tiny, smart creatures, but we are ants in the grand scheme. To each other we are everything, though, so freedom is a malleable idea. It's subjective.

There is no exact freedom within the confines of this life. Only in death, perhaps? That's why it's always hilariously ironic to me when government officials talk of "free markets" or "wars for freedom.”

In this particular song … it’s basically talking to a pawn – (someone) still believing in this base American idea of freedom – but coming to the realization that there will always be somebody above them pulling strings.

What’s your favorite set of bars from “Lost Touch,” and why?

Probably some of the simplest lines. 

"Broke every bone in your body just to fit into a box.”

“Lost touch like my pinky, no more finger print traces."

These are the types of bars that tween trolls on Reddit love to hate! It makes me so happy to create them. 

Tell everyone a little bit about the project “Lost Touch” is off of, and when we’ll be hearing more from it.

I haven't wanted to talk much about it, because it has sort of shifted, but now it's safe to say that this will come out on a 10 inch vinyl, all produced by Factor Chandelier. Astronautalis will be on one side, and I will be on the other. A few songs each.

(It’s a) sweet little thing that came together from a whole year of all of us touring. 

“Lost Touch” is a live performance video. One of the things that always strikes me about your live shows is how much energy, and emotion, you put into each song. This begs the question, how do you prepare to perform live? What’s your secret formula, because as far as I can tell you should be passed out midway through the first verse of your second song each night.

Learn to black out whether there are two people, or 2,000 people, in front of you.

Maybe that's a rare moment of freedom? {laughs} 

For more Ceschi, you can find his music on Bandcamp.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM   0 comments
3 Reasons You Should See I Am Snow Angel Live
Thursday, August 17, 2017

Last year I discovered the music of I Am Snow Angel when she was on the same bill as my friend KYOSi at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC. It was impossible not to be drawn in by the one woman band who had a plethora of equipment on stage, and was doing live production in addition to singing.

Her style of downtempo electro pop was, in a word, sexy. This is why a few weeks ago, when I saw she’d be performing at the same venue again, I made sure to be there.

What I found was that I Am Snow Angel has doubled down on all the best qualities of her music, and live show.

With that in mind, here are three reasons you should see I Am Snow Angel live.

1. It’s a Sultry, Sensual, Seductive, Time

The combination of I Am Snow Angel’s atmospheric production, and her downright erotic, breathy vocals, make it so that it would be wise to bring a date to one of her shows. To say she sets the mood would be an understatement.

If you close your eyes while she’s performing it’s easy to picture yourself in your bedroom, or the bedroom of your significant other, turning the sheets into a disheveled mess.

That said, I’d recommend leaving your eyes open for a bit, as I Am Snow Angel does all of her production live, and it’s something you definitely want to see.

2. Her Production Set Up is Incredible

Speaking of I Am Snow Angel’s production, with samplers, a keyboard, a laptop, and a guitar, her set up has more cords coming out of it than a VCR in the ‘80s, and none of it is there just for show. She uses every single piece of equipment, building her music from scratch.

When she plugs in her guitar, she twists a few knobs and radically alters its sound from song to song.

Her entire set is like watching a masterclass in modern production equipment.

3. She Lights Up The Stage … Literally

In addition to manning all of her production equipment, I Am Snow Angel also sets up lighting that she controls. That’s right, she isn’t just a one woman band, she’s also her own lighting tech.

This works beautifully, as she mixes the soft tone of her voice with soft colors, which further sets the mood.

To find out when, and where, I Am Snow Angel is performing next, check out her Facebook page for show dates.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM   0 comments
NYC Scene Report – Saint Slumber, N-A-R-C, & more
Wednesday, August 16, 2017

This week’s NYC Scene Report features indie pop-rock band Saint Slumber embracing their “Youth,” electro-pop goodness from N-A-R-C, J Hacha de Zola continuing to push musical boundaries, and alt-electro-pop duo The Blow inspiring people to “Get Up.”

* With a mixture of indie pop, rock, electronic music, and a little bit of R&B, NYC/NJ’s Saint Slumber have created a sound that’s incredibly appealing, and with their latest single, “Youth,” the band seems primed to break into the mainstream.

“Youth” is off of Saint Slumber’s debut EP, Youth//1, and it’s a song that would be just as home on Top 40 radio as it would be being performed on stage at Warped Tour. The crossover potential is seriously insane.

Check out the video, so you’ll be able to say you knew about Saint Slumber before they blew up.

* I dug N-A-R-C when she was making music on the fringes, and heavy into experimentation with electronic music. I may be diggin’ her even more with her new, more electro-pop leaning sound.

She recently released a new album, titled Infinite Mine, the latest single off of which is “Watch Her Dance.” It’s a pulsating pop jam, the video for which features a run through the cleanest, and emptiest, public transportation system I have ever seen (yes, I’m f*cking jealous).

I described the album’s previous single, “Forward Motion,” as “Carly Rae Jepsen for grown ups,” but “Watch Her Dance” is something altogether different, as it pushes the musical envelope in ways only N-A-R-C is able to. Click play, and check it out.

* J Hacha de Zola might be the closest thing we have to a modern day Frank Zappa. The way he plays with sound, including his own vocals, makes his music completely uncategorizable, and I’m pretty sure he loves it that way.

The New Jersey native describes his creative process, saying it’s all about “shooting the arrow first, and then painting the bullseye around it.”

He expands on this, adding, “I never go to the studio with songs written. I allow the musicians to be themselves, and throw all they’ve got at it. Then I’ll go and peel back the various layers to fashion a song from it all. It’s a pretty risky way of making an album, because when it’s all done you may have something that isn’t agreeable to you. Other times, you arrive at something truly magical, and the songs take on a life of their own. There’s a certain kind of voodoo there that could not be planned.”

For an example of what that voodoo creates, check out “No Situation,” which is off of J Hacha de Zola’s upcoming album, Antipatico, due out October 6th.

* If you loved the alt-electro-pop that existed on the fringes of the alternative scene in the ‘90s, you’re going to love Brooklyn duo The Blow.

Consisting of Melissa Dyne and Khaela Maricich, The Blow will be releasing a new album titled Brand New Abyss on September 22nd (they have a ton of goodies offered up in their PledgeMusic campaign).

Dyne describes their new music, saying, “After having worked heavily with samples in the past we got to a place where we wanted to treat electronic sound more acoustically, like something more alive. We wanted to make waves that we could ride, and play around in – newer waves.”

Maricich adds that when it comes to the first single off Brand New Abyss, “Get Up,” “‘Get Up’ started with a crazy sound that Melissa made on the modular synth, and the chorus just popped out of my mouth like something I’d been needing to be able to say for a long time without knowing it. It was like how you write a love song so easily when your heart is being crushed – with this it’s the feeling of my whole spirit being crushed by extreme capitalism, like everything I used to love got demolished, and replaced by a glossy new bank. Then in recent months it was like, yeah, having an intense rap about how it’s all just too much right now feels pretty right.”

“Get Up” with The Blow.

For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM   0 comments
Pop Shots – Days of Their Lives
Monday, August 14, 2017

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Miley Cyrus becoming Younger Now, to Bruce Springsteen’s life story coming to Broadway, to a Brooklyn playground ditching history in favor of a more pop culture oriented name, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

* Miley Cyrus announced her sixth album, Younger Now, will hit stores on September 29th. Hmm, how could she be Younger Now, UNLESS she’s found a fountain of youth! Yes, that must be it, Miley’s found a fountain of youth … and it involves riding a giant penis on stage in front of millions. Eh, I think I’ll just age at the normal pace.

* Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" has become the most viewed video in YouTube history. The clip, which moved past both Psy's "Gangnam Style," and Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again," featuring Charlie Puth, rocketed to the top in a fraction of the time it took either of those videos to amass such numbers. Internet experts have been trying to figure out how “Despatico” made it to the top so quickly. Personally, I’ve been looking over data, crunching numbers, and tirelessly researching the subject, and I think, after many a sleepless night, I’ve come up with the answer – Zuleyka Rivera.

* Aaron Carter took to Twitter to tell the world he is bisexual, writing, “When I was around 13-years-old I started to find boys and girls attractive.” I know his brother was in BSB, but we all want Carter to do a version of NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” now, don’t we?

* Security has reportedly been exceptionally tight for Taylor Swift’s civil case against a former disc jockey she accuses of groping her. This includes not just police, but also a bomb-sniffing dog. Wait, wasn’t someone sniffing a little too close to Taylor Swift how this mess started? Tread carefully puppies. Tread very carefully.

* It looks like Macklemore’s car accident damaged more than just his ride. Although he was not at fault for the crash, because of it he’s been cited for driving on a suspended license, which was the result of an unpaid ticket. Ironically, this makes Macklemore more thugged out than half the rappers who claim to be.

* Bruce Springsteen has announced an eight-week run of Broadway performances titled “Springsteen on Broadway.” The show will mix singing, storytelling, and readings from his 2016 memoir, Born to Run. I just need to know when Tila Tequila will be doing this, mixing rapping from her two EPs, storytelling, and readings from her 2008 memoir Hooking Up with Tila Tequila: A Guide to Love, Fame, Happiness, Success, and Being the Life of the Party.

* During Coldplay’s concert at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., Chris Martin wanted to give some inspiration to local football fans, saying, “One more for your football team. We’re going to change gears. This is going to give you good luck for your football team.” He then sang, “Ohhhh Redskins. Oh Redskins. Ohhh Redskins. Ohhhh.” Yup, that’s Jay-Z’s “modern day Shakespeare” happily singing a racial slur.

* Suge Knight was arraigned in an L.A. courtroom for allegedly threatening to kill Straight Outta Compton film director F. Gary Gray. At this point, Suge’s defense should just be, “Hey, who haven’t I threatened to kill?”

* This year will mark the 40th installment of the Kennedy Center Honors, and LL Cool J will be the Kennedy Center’s first ever hip-hop honoree. If LL is late for the event it’s just because he was at a Red Lobster where Brenda happens to be working overtime.

* It doesn’t sound like we’ll be seeing Liam Gallagher making an appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden for a Carpool Karaoke segment anytime soon, as in an interview with British GQ Gallagher referred to Cordon as a “fat bloke” and a “knobhead.” I feel like being insulted by Liam Gallagher is a right of passage that shows someone is a true celebrity, so congrats to James Cordon on reaching the next level of his career!

* The Weeknd says he’d like to see everyone wearing his first collaboration with sneaker company Puma – which will hit stores on August 24th – including “the Pope and [Barack] Obama.” It’s always nice to have high hopes, but those seem like some high hopes.

* Showing a complete lack of a sense of history, New York City councilman Robert Cornegy officially renamed Crispus Attucks Playground in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Christopher "Biggie" Wallace courts. Listen, I’m all for something in Brooklyn being named after Biggie, but 1. something involving athletics? Really? and 2. Google Crispus Attucks to see why this is ridiculous.

* Christina Perri and fiancé Paul Costabile are expecting their first child together. Perri is in for a rude awakening, however, when she finds out of all the flavors of Gerber baby food, there isn’t a single jar of hearts.

And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM   0 comments

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