Kenny Wesley probably isn't a name you're familiar with, unless you're a die-hard “So You Think You Can Dance” fan. However, with his debut album The Real Thing, Wesley has immediately established himself as a serious -and seriously fun- artist who's looking to bring funk back.
Welsey influences are undeniable – half the tracks on this album sound like great 70s funk, in the vein of Parliament or the Jacksons, with a heaping helping of current-day synthesizers on top. Wesley shines on these tracks, such as Real Thing and Taffy, with some down-and-dirty fuzz guitar riffs and hot drumming that make head-bobbing a virtual necessity.
From the college town of Ithaca NY comes Boy with a Fish. Their second album, I Put My Tongue On the Window, is packed with driving, swirling grooves, and haunting atmospheres. Lyrically, the album is quirky and poetic, the kind of album that makes you want to sit and pour over the liner notes while you listen. The title track is powerfully and artfully urgent, pairing well with the lyrics, “I'd like to change the name of this plane/I'd like to change where it goes” and “will you save a place for me/will you give me your shoes/will you tell your parents that you love me/even if I lose”.
In contrast, “You Took Me to the Opera” is ethereal and brooding, the song poking a dark stick at the self-confident wealth sometimes symbolized by that genre and its followers. For example, the protagonist sings, “you took me to the opera/and the singer was far away/ it was like the circus but with people who could pay/I liked it when you touched my hand/but I didn’t like the singing/ why do women wear fur coats/and why do they think they’re winning”. The song, “Water On Mars”, with a combination of tough drums, moog synthesizer, electric guitar, and big reverb violin, juxtaposes the grit and struggle of daily life with the otherworldly, scientific pursuit of trying to figure out if there’s water on Mars, resolved in the chorus line, “I don’t care if they find water on Mars”. And, in the song, “The Neighbors” we learn that the neighbors have a truck for sale, keep their dogs outside, and are watching us. Boy with a Fish cook up some edgy food for thought.
Violinist in the band, Judy Hyman, has recorded and toured with Natalie Merchant, and she and husband Jeff Claus, lead singer and lyric writer in the band, have done scores for a number of feature films and award winning documentaries. Oliver Stone has even used some of their music in his film, Any Given Sunday. Hyman and Claus are founding and current members of another band, The Horse Flies, described by Rolling Stoneas, “A band that’s earned a buzz. They churn out swirling, addictive songs blending tradition with invention.”