Monday, August 18, 2008

So, THAT Happened...

It will be obvious to anyone who is familiar with this blog, or even to new visitors who check the dates, that I shut down FEMALE FRONT in early 2007. That is to say, I stopped updating this blog and the radio stream at Live365, although both are still available to view and listen as a sort of continuous archive (more on that shortly). I also pulled the plug on the companion website, (aka

It was a very difficult decision for me to cease what was not only a passion of mine, but also essentially my only creative outlet. There were two major circumstances that led to this decision: One, I was able to spend less and less time on a project that frankly deserved more and more of it. I wasn’t on top of it the way I needed to be, and the quality was suffering as a result.

The second reason was the real clincher: I moved office locations in my day job, and the new location blocked (and continues to block) the web domain Meaning, I can’t listen to my own station, or any of the other outstanding stations hosted by Live365, during the day while I’m at work. This defeated the purpose of running the station, as far as I was concerned.

The thing is, I and many of my fellow broadcasters at Live365 started our stations because we wanted to listen to music that we liked, but which nobody was playing. So, we had to take matters into our own hands. The other side of the coin was the fact that we could share this music with the rest of the world in real time, which one can not do with an iPod.

So, yes, I was and remain passionate about FEMALE FRONT as a cause; but if I can’t enjoy the fruits of my own labor and expense, then 50% of my motivation is removed. In my case, this was enough to be the deciding factor. I'm sorry if it sounds selfish, but if I can't enjoy my station, no one can!

The FEMALE FRONT radio stream is still available to Live365 “VIP” members at the same location: VIP membership costs only a few dollars a month, and gives you an ad-free experience: No in-stream ads (on privately-run stations), no banner ads and no pop-ups on Live365 web pages. Plus, VIP's can listen to archived streams like mine. The playlist is exactly as I left it in 2007…over 20 hours of excellent music, rotated randomly.

Of course, this blog and the previous incarnation are still here, and I intend to leave them up as long as possible (forever, if I can arrange it).

Although the companion website is history, you can still view it using the wonderful Wayback Machine! Visit the Internet Archive at, and in the Wayback Machine search box, enter “” (without the quotes, and with no “www”). Be patient – the Wayback Machine is slow, but it really works!

Like the logo? You can still buy your very own version of it applied to some great merchandise, at the Female Front Greymarket! T-shirts, hoodies, mugs and even ladies' underwear -- we stack them deep and sell them cheap! Or, just enjoy the "From the designer" descriptions for each product (somebody's got to).

Finally, I would like to thank all of the amazing artists that inspired and continue to inspire me. I apologize that I was not up to the task of keeping FEMALE FRONT up and running, but if I get an opportunity to resurrect it, I absolutely will. Thanks also to the listeners; it’s quite an ego boost when people pay attention to something you’ve done, and respond in a positive way.

The mission for FEMALE FRONT still exists, so put the word out any way you can: Because Radio Needs Women.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Needle: Comfortably Numb

A few weeks ago, I received a package in the mail from a band called Needle. The package contained one (1) beautifully designed and packaged CD album entitled Songs Your Mother Never Sang You, and one (1) of the greatest promotional items I have ever seen from any band ever: A ball-point pen shaped like a hypodermic needle, complete with an unknown blue liquid inside. The pen could be clicked open by pressing down on the hypodermic plunger. This item was so incredibly cool that Mrs Arhythmius literally pouted for two days, until I finally gave in and said that she could have it (which is why I can not produce a photo of this item for your viewing pleasure).

I realize it doesn't sound like much, but I've always been interested in marketing; and trying to market an indie band is a difficult proposition requiring maximum creativity on a minimal budget. So congrats to Needle for creating the perfect "tie-in" (to be used after you tie-off?).

What differentiates a well-packaged indie band from a well-packaged commercial band is usually that the indie band starts with great music, and then comes up with the packaging; with commercial bands it's often the inverse (which is probably why they're called "commercial" bands). Fortunately, Needle is a creative enterprise first and foremost.

So, just what is Needle all about? Well, for me, Needle is about the chill-outiest chillout band I've heard in a good while. A collaboration of vocalist Julie Cornett and guitarist Steven Beck (with both parties playing every other instrument heard on the album, save strings), the name "Needle" was appropriate for this project: A musical opiate so spare and melodic, it lulls you into an altered state; a shot of aural laudunum so strong, it practically leaves track marks.

What I appreciate about Needle is that, even with the bare-bones arrangements, it's still an Alternative album at heart (yes, I still use that term, even if Radio no longer does). It never sounds like a Folk album or a Cabaret oddity. The songs are as straightforward as the arrangements are not -- the stimulant that keeps you awake to enjoy the barbituate. Not that I'd know these references firsthand; Music is my drug, man...

Here's an example of the overall vibe of the album: The cover of Neil Young's "Helpless" is probably the most uptempo song on the disc. But my favorites are "Make Love" and "Lost" (both added to the playlist), which manage to quietly soar. Also excellent are "It's No Secret" (the quietest, calmest song to ever remind me of something by Punk girls The Slits -- wish I could remember which song) and "If".

Some of Steve Beck's guitar parts remind me of Robert Smith's handiwork -- which may be one reason why I insist on thinking of this as an "Alternative" album. As for Julie Cornett's vocals, I imagine the most typical comparison she gets is to Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies. There is certainly a similar ideal at work with both bands, but the songwriting is so different that ultimately only a limited comparison can be made. Any aural similarities probably have more to do with Needle's decision to use mostly first takes for the final versions of their songs, a technique that Cowboy Junkies also utilized on their most successful album, The Trinity Sessions. Needle took the additional step of layering in more vocal harmonies, which is fine with me, because I love kind of that stuff.

If I had not heard any of Songs Your Mother Never Sang You, and someone played me only a short clip of a track, then I might have thought that the music was a bit too quiet to play on the station. But each song tends to build into unexpected heights, often with nicely unsettling melodies. This is an album for discerning listeners, but once you inject it into your bloodstream, it will stimulate your pleasure receptors with chilling certainty.

Julie Cornett of Needle

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Girl On Top: Rhythm Method

After some home-network retooling necessitated a longer-than-expected hiatus, FFB is back; and I can finally tell you about a band I've been dying to plug here.

Boston-based Girl On Top is an Indie-Rock band fronted by the prodigiously talented Karen DeBiasse (more about her in a moment). Their latest CD, Cherry Blossoms/Sakura is out now, and FEMALE FRONT is also playing two tracks from a yet-to-be-released album.

One of the more notable aspects of the music of Girl On Top is how eclectic it is. When I first popped-in the new CD, I figured I was in for a solid, Alternative Rock-style album, since that was the sound of the first couple of tracks. But then the next track was more like a late 70's rocker, and the next one was a Pop-Punk quickie, and so on. G.O.T. influences seem to range from classic artists like Joan Jett, Heart and Pat Benatar, to contemporaries like Auf der Maur -- but any such references are subtle, and the music never lets itself get pinned-down to any one type of sound.

Indeed, the songwriting is probably the most impressive part of Girl On Top. This is thanks largely to the imagination and intellect of Karen DeBiasse, a woman who has more musical education than probably the entire roster of Sony BMG Records. Of course, formal musical training is never a guarantee of quality music, but it may provide a clue as to how Ms DeBiasse can make it look so easy. So many of the songs in the Girl On Top catalog just work, while never losing their indie-cred. In fact (here comes my obligatory one criticism), the Indie sound can sometimes be a hindrance; I would love to see what Girl On Top could do with a big recording budget and unlimited studio time. I am convinced that they would not let it go to their heads.

Still, songwriting always trumps production. Some of the songs that are worthy of individual praise here include: "Army Nation", one of the boldest, most searing political protest songs I've heard in a very long time, set to a steady, almost incongruous Reggae-like groove. Thematically, it's reminiscent of Kate Bush's "Army Dreamers", but whereas that song was a twisted little lullaby, this one gets right in your face with its anti-war, anti-political message. It goes far beyond the typical war-is-bad platitudes that most artists feel comfortable delivering, and climbs way out on an ideological limb. And I so admire Karen DeBiasse for doing it. The song appears on the unreleased album, so hopefully that will be available for sale soon.

G.O.T. also gets political with two other songs on that album: "Always", which has catchy, radio-ready harmonies, and "Livin' a Lie", which is in rotation now on FEMALE FRONT.

I also dig "Atomic World", a six-and-a-half minute psychedelic masterpiece on the Cherry Blossoms/Sakura album. I almost never put songs that long on the playlist, but I had no choice with this one. I'd also like to recognize the excellent work of Jack Rootoo, the lead guitarist on the Cherry Blossoms sessions, and David Simmons, lead guitarist on the new material including "Livin' a Lie".

Also added to the playlist was the co-title track, "Sakura" -- a Japanese-language version of the song "Cherry Blossoms" on the same album. Karen DeBiasse does not speak Japanese, so she had a student translate the lyrics, and then memorized them for recording. I don't speak Japanese either, but I do occasionally play Japanese artists on the station, and this song reminds me of one of those cute J-Pop ditties. Besides, anyone who does that much work for one song deserves to be played.

Karen DeBiasse is someone who has worked so hard at her craft for so long, that it bugs me to see that Girl On Top is known mostly as a local act. This is an artist and a group that deserve more attention, and from forces more powerful than this little radio station and blog. Check out the song samples from Girl On Top, and purchase the CD's if you like what you hear!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Betsy Spivak: Warped Vinyl

Cyberspace -- The final frontier. These are the voyages of It's perennial mission: To explore strange new glitches. To seek out new downtime, and new ways of pissing me the hell off. To boldy prevent FEMALE FRONT from providing much-needed exposure to very deserving artists!

Yes, as you may have noticed from the absence of my sanity, I've been dealing with more Blogger bugs. Since it defies logic that a platform which is part of Google -- the largest bleeding-edge technology company in the world -- should have such abominable service, I've developed a theory: Maybe it IS a conspiracy. Maybe Blogger is really a front for Clear Channel, and every time they see me promote an independent artist, they pull the plug.

Well, if anyone pulls the plug while I'm telling the People about
Betsy Spivak, then there'll be hell to pay, Mister!

No flowery statements are required here. Simply put, Betsy Spivak is one of those artists who single-handedly validates the existence of FEMALE FRONT Radio...and all in the space of seven songs.

The songs in question are on Ms Spivak's new CD, The Scratch on My Vinyl Soul (to be fair, there are actually nine tracks on the CD, but two of them are reprises). And the songwriting of the songs in question is quite terrific. Ms Spivak's cheerful, indie-grrl delivery belies a wonderfully twisted sensibility, delivered in simple but nicely melodic arrangements that further serve to lure you in for the kill. The result is a Bride of Frankenstein-like amalgamation of sensibilites: 90's-style Indie Rock, 70's Carole King-style singer-songwriter Rock, and... Tom Waits.

OK, so the Tom Waits association is the most direct: The album contains a cover of Waits' song "Ol' '55". The great thing about Betsy Spivak's version is that...well, she can sing. Look, I know how awesome Tom Waits was and is, both as a songrwriter and as a dude in general. He has many, many enthusiastic fans who adore his work. But that still doesn't mean the guy can sing. And Leonard Cohen? Yeah, he can't sing either. Doesn't mean they're not otherwise talented; it just means that their songs make excellent covers for people who CAN sing.

As I've mentioned, Betsy Spivak can write, too. "The Spider" is her own cabaret-style, Tom Waits-esque number, a real mood piece. But the rest of the album is more upbeat, with clever lyrics and fun arrangements usually centered around Ms Spivak's upright piano (well, it sounds like an upright, but I'm no expert). Just buy the CD already, I don't think I'll be able to do it justice here.

With The Scratch on My Vinyl Soul, Betsy Spivak comes across as so smart, funny and talented that your mother is already wondering why you can't ever go out with a nice girl like that, anyway?! (Not that your current girl isn't nice, but you know how your mother can get.)

Here's wishing Betsy Spivak the best of success; and if the Clear Channel guys are watching...go ahead, everybody, flip 'em off!