Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Just a Phase (EP)


this is a collection other people’s songs
I changed some of the words - some I didn't really know how they go
this is the most naked and personal I’ve felt on a record so far  - despite the fact that these songs are not my own
(sometimes it’s easier to be yourself in someone else's skin) 

Reimagined, performed, and recorded by Mike Sim
Mixed and Mastered by Brady Custis


Songwriting credits:
She Said:
:::song collage:::
song-writing credit to: The Beatles, Third Eye Blind, Bjork, and the Backstreet Boys & Mike Sim

She Said: 
A reimagining based on the song by Amy Alvey off the album "Big Ten" (2012)

 A reimagining based on the song by the Goo Goo Dolls off the album "Dizzy up the Girl" (1998)

Dirty Mind: 
A Reimagining of the song by Prince off the album "Dirty Mind" (1980)

I Wanna Be Your Dog:
A reimagining based on the song by the Stooges off the album "The Stooges" (1969)

Many thanks to Brady Custis - this record would not be what it is if it wasn't for his work shaping the way it sounds in mixing and mastering.  Being able to collaborate with him on it was truly wonderful and I hope to work with him again on future records.  If you haven't checked out his band Coaches - do so - they've got an EP called "Shush" that's super dope and will be coming out with a full length soon.

Also - thanks to my brother Ryan for his eyes / direction in creating the album artwork for this.

And thanks y'all for listening

Much love,
Mike Sim 

Monday, September 18, 2017



Property Materials at Deep Thougths JP (HUMANHOST, Moondrawn, Solei, CASUAL DECAY, & J Bagist) 

The National @ The Wilbur 





The Pharcyde @ Middle East



Grizzly Bear @ HOB


King Crimson @ The Orpheum


A Perfect Circle @ Agganis Arena 

Hassle Fest 9 @ ONCE 

FRIDAY 11/10 LINE UP (final line up & order may change)
Dan Deacon (MD)
Xiu Xiu (CA)
Ed Balloon
Viki (MI)
Erica Eso (NY)
Sidney Gish 
Brandie Blaze
Pink Navel 
Solo Sexx
Lost Dog
Rex Mac
SATURDAY 11/11 LINE UP (final line up & order may change)
Pere Ubu (OH)
Sunburned Hand of the Man
Ono (IL)
Pill (NY)
Obnox (OH)
Trinary System
Silk Purse (NY)
Buck Gooter (VA)
Creative Healing
Ak'chamel The Giver of Illness (TX)
Nice Guys 
Lady Pills 
Omni (GA)
Escuela (NY)
Brain Famine
Leopard Print Taser
Salem Wolves


Slowdive @ Paradise Rock Club 


Mogwai @ Royale


Pinegrove @ Royale 

Converge @ Brighton Music Hall 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Newport Jazz Festival 2017

After 63 years of curating the Newport Jazz Festival - George Wein is still doing it right.  Although the line-up wasn't as consistently amazing as it was in some of the recent previous years, the festival did a better job of booking some well chosen cross-over artists and continued to try to bridge the gap between jazz and hip-hop (which I wrote about last year on my thoughts of the festival in 2016) as well as featured some of the most forward thinking and progressive jazz artists alive today.  


(Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith performing some of their material off of their 2016 album "A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke)

The headliner on Friday was Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.  It was the original line-up - with the phenomenal harmonica player and pianist Howard Levy and they played a lot of their classic material from those early albums.  

(Bela Fleck & the Flecktones) 


Vijay Iyer Sextet was the most exciting set of the weekend to me.  The sextet is comprised of Vijay Iyer (piano, Fender Rhodes), Graham Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn, electronics), Steve Lehman (alto saxophone), Mark Shim (tenor saxophone), Stephan Crump (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums) - They played material off their upcoming album "Far From Over" which will be coming out August 25th on ECM - which I'm sure I'll be writing about in my top albums of 2017.  The compositions they played were groove centered and sounded rooted in the early M-Base music (such as the early funkier Steve Coleman releases) and melodically and rhythmically mind bending.  

DJ Project Logic (DJ Logic's jam band) was the biggest letdown of the festival.  DJ Logic is one of the musicians most credited to bringing jazz to hip-hop - and this ensemble is more or a less an improvisational collective.  A lot of jam oriented projects are pretty hit or miss - depending on how the jam is that set - but this project failed more often than not.  They showed up over a half hour late leaving keyboardist James Hurt to play solo for this time.  Once the rest of the band showed up, they spent 15 minutes playing in a way that sounded more like a soundcheck than a performance and then a lot of the times it just sounded dull and uninspired.  And the biggest bummer about it was African Kora player Foday Musa Suso (who was the player I was most excited about in this ensemble) was not even there for it.  DJ Logic is a great turntabilist - and it was cool being able to hear him play with the Philadelphia Experiment on Sunday - but he is completely incompetent as a bandleader if this set was any indication of his abilities as one.  

Another highlight for me on Saturday was Henry Threadgill's Zooid.  Threadgill is one of the most important composers in jazz history and at age 73 he's still one of the wildest around today.  It was a much more stripped down ensemble comparatively to his double up ensemble on “Odd Locks and Irregular Verbs” (which was in my top 10 albums of 2016).  The compositions played were like a hypnotic maze - melodically angular, and harmonically otherworldly.  


The fort stage on Sunday started out with the Maria Schnider Orchestra.  She played a lot of new material which was incredibly beautiful, often very cinematic, and in the case of one of her new compositions called "Singularity" quite apocalyptic.  

(Donny Mcaslin playing with the Maria Schnider Orchestra) 

Jason Moran's Fats Waller dance party was a lot of fun - he played mostly off his great 2014 album "ALL RISE: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller" as well as a reimagining of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" (which was played more in the style of Fats Waller) and a song called "All Rise" which was not on the album - but was one of my favorites of the set - it began very traditional harmonically and kept twisting rhythmically until it spiraled out into chaos, then coming back full circle.  

(Jason Moran as Fats Waller)

Bokante replaced Andra Day on the main stage in a last minute schedule change due to her being sick.  They are a new international ensemble featuring singer Malika Tirolien (from Guadeloupe), three guitarists from Snarky Puppy (Michael League, Chris McQueen, and Bob Lanzetti), lap steel virtuoso Roosevelt Collier and several percussionists - one of them being Jamey Haddad, one of the most inspiring teachers I had at Berklee who opened up my ears to music from many different countries.  I was surprised at how great this ensemble was since my expectations were low because of three members being from Snarky Puppy (whose music has become more accessible, generic, and dance oriented over the years) - But after seeing how other previous members of Snarky Puppy have left for other projects and it seems like these guitar players have been putting more energy into this project than they currently do with Snarky Puppy, it seems as though the success of that band has allowed them to pursue other projects with more creative freedom such as this band.  Bokante's set was incredibly groovy, psychedelic and fresh - looking forward to checking out their new album and to hearing where this ensemble goes.  

The Roots were the closing set of the Festival.  Unfortunately this set overlapped with Hudson (the supergroup featuring DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski & Scofield - I would have absolutely loved to see this as well since all these players are amazing - but since the album they put out was somewhat disappointing, and I hadn't seen The Roots in a decade and it seemed like the more important set in regards to a historic happening with the Newport Jazz Festival, I chose to see the Roots.

To be clear - the Roots are not jazz - but as the NJF have been trying to bridge the gap between jazz and hip-hop and book cross-over artists that are in this area - The Roots being a live-band hip-hop act were a logical choice to book for a headliner in this vein continue pushing the festival in this direction.  

Their set was extremely solid overall - consisting of a lot of their classic material from their older albums, a decent amount of covers/medleys, and solo-improvisations from different members of the group.  My biggest complaint was some of the covers didn't work quite as well - such as the cover of the Herbie Hancock song "Actual Proof" which fell flat, and "Sweet Child of Mine" (which although was fun and the crowd seemed to be excited about it - I couldn't help thinking about how many other things they could have been playing - and it wasn't the a pretty strange place to be playing in such a straight forward way at the NJF - even if it was only briefly in the context of a medley).  But the classic material they did play made up for this - the highlight for me being "Without a Doubt" into "Dynamite" off their masterpiece "Things Fall Apart".   Questlove's timing is remarkable and the Roots are truly great performers - they were able to put together a wildly entertaining production that was a great way to close out the festival.

This year was historic in regards to them booking a relatively straight-forward hip-hop act and I'm curious to see where the NJF will go from here - if they'll continue to book hip-hop artists to try to bridge the gap between these two communities - and if so who they will book.  I could see artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, and Flying Lotus (given his lineage) going over relatively well.  I'm also curious if they will try to push to booking cross-over artists in other genres to draw more of an audience - such as artists in the jazz-influenced post-rock community such as Tortoise and The Sea and Cake.  The festival sold a little over 8,500 for the Saturday and Sunday - which is a little over two thirds full (when compared to the Newport Folk Festival which sells out the 12,000 person capacity before the line-up is even announced) - which I feel like is probably at least part of the reason for them booking acts in this category.  My biggest hope is that in doing so that festival goers who do come only to really see these headliners do get exposed to other acts and are turned on to them and that the festival continues to stay true to continuing to book the best and most progressive acts in jazz today.

Much love,
Mike Sim

Monday, July 31, 2017

Newport Folk Festival 2017

I got the opportunity to go to the Newport Folk Festival this past weekend.  It was the first year I’ve been since 2012 and after going again this year I hope to never miss a year again. 


Big Thief was the reason I was there and was easily the highlight of the festival on Friday.  Their set was very different compared to their performance at Brighton Music Hall I caught earlier this year and felt incredibly raw and very in the moment.  They did a few tracks off "Masterpiece", a few off "Capacity", and the other four songs were new unreleased songs.   

The version of Lenker playing the song “Capacity” by herself brought me to tears and the reimagined version of the song Mary was absolutely gorgeous and the highlight of their set for me.  I don’t want to say too much about the new material…but I’m very excited for the direction Lenker is heading as a song-writer.   

You can listen to the full set via NPR: 
Caught a bit of Ben Gibbard's set which provided some good nostalgia hearing a few of those Postal Service and Death Cab tunes solo acoustic.  And Fleet Foxes' played from all three of their records - some of the new material didn't sound as tight without the production that is on the record, and was surprising to hear as much material off that first record - but overall it was definitely a fun way to end the first day at the fest.

(Fleet Foxes)


(Angel Olson playing with Jim James)

The only thing I feel like writing about from Saturday is Wilco's set which closed out the day.  The set was absolutely amazing and significantly darker than the last time I saw them at the Newport Folk Festival in 2012 - In “Via Chicago” they got way noisier and the drum freak out escalated to a point that was crazy gnarly, Nels Cline’s solo in “Impossible Germany” was mind blowing, and the some of the rockers (such as "I'm the Man Who Love's You" and "I'm Always in Love") grooved incredibly hard.  They closed by bringing out Billy Brag out for the song “California Stars”, which is a song with lyrics by Woody Guthrie that they put music to on their 1998 record “Mermaid Avenue”.  Wilco are one of the best live performers in rock and roll - and I'm incredibly thankful to have had the chance to see them again in this amazing venue.  


Pinegrove were rad - If you hadn't heard them before they're like Emo-country-rock - if that sounds appealing to you, check them out.

(Rhiannon Giddens)

The set which was billed as Speak Out was a protest celebration from a variety of artists including Sharon Van Etten, Jim James, Billy Bragg and Nathaniel Rateliff, Margo Price, Lucius and a many more.  These artists covered some classic rock/folk tunes such as Dylan's "Masters of War" and Lennon's "Working Class Hero" but also more current and less expected songs as well.  As a whole the program was truly emotive - the only moment that I felt was not pulled off was featuring Shakey Graves who sang on a tune, "I'm Better Than You" - which was satirical, but to me the joke didn't quite fit with the rest of the set and detracted from the set.  

(Sharon Van Etten singing Sinead O' Connor's "Black Boys on Mopeds") 

It was really cool to see this and to see the Folk Festival come full circle - in a way back to it's roots in the 60s in which the music was so connected to the civil rights movement.  It was so powerful hearing protest songs promoting peace coming from a military fort in this political climate in which there is so much hate, racism, and xenophobia. 

The last set of the day was John Prine - this set was truly magical.  He played a lot from his classic self titled debut, as well as several cuts off "Bruised Orange" and his 2005 record "Fair and Square" with guests such as Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd), Jim James, Lucius, Margo Price, and Justin Vernon.  The whole thing thing seriously felt like a dream and still on cloud nine from being able to catch it.  You can listen to the set via NPR

Looking forward to the Newport Jazz Festival next weekend - till then...

Much love,

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Top 5 Albums of 2017 So Far

5-DAMN. - Kendrick Lamar - 8.7 

Kendrick's Lamar's worst album so far is still the best hip-hop album of the year so far.  This album is more raw and less filtered and feels almost like a mixtape at times - and although conceptually it doesn't hold together as a whole and there's some real clunkers like "Loyalty", "Love" (which might be his all time worst song), and "God" - there are some real gems as well such as "DNA" and "Humble" and plenty to make "DAMN." an essential listen for any hip-hop fan.

4-Anti-Hero - Kneebody - 9.3 

This is probably Kneebody's most consistently solid release so far.  Highly recommended if you dig the group's previous work or for anyone interested in groove-oriented modern jazz.  

3-A Crow Looked at Me  - Mount Eerie - 9

This is the best thing Phil Elverum has released in nearly 15 years and is one of the the most emotionally draining and psychologically intense record's I've ever heard.  He wrote and recorded it immediately after his wife passed away from cancer and is a meditation on this loss and beginning his new life as a single parent.  


2-Stubborn Persistent Illusions - Do Make Say Think - 9.3 

Do Make Say Think are among the greatest post-rock bands - on par with groups such as Tortoise, Godspeed You Black Emperor, and Stereolab.  "Stubborn Persistent Illusions" is their first album in 8 years and might be their best.  


1-Capacity - Big Thief - 9.5 

Big Thief's follow up to last year's "Masterpiece" is truly phenomenal and is the best indie-rock record that has come out in years.  The grooves are more hypnotic, the lyrics are more intimate and filled with mystery, and their is a bit more of a mystical vibe in the mix.  I haven't been able to stop listening to it since it has come out and it has truly been an inspiration.  


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Boston Calling 2017


Tool are the reason I bought a ticket to Boston Calling.  I saw them on the line-up and immediately bought a 3 day pass since they hadn’t announced which day they were playing yet and I was afraid that it was going to sell out.  I looked at the rest of the line-up after I bought the ticket and was pleasantly surprised to see some other acts I dig that would also be playing.  

Tool are probably the artist most responsible for me becoming an musician/artist.  In 7th grade Pearl Jam were the band that got me to buy a guitar - In 8th grade Tool were the band that made realize music could be a spiritual thing and changed how I looked at music.  The last time I saw Tool was over a decade ago - and to me their music has only improved to me as I’ve gotten older - I’m able to appreciate it more as my ear has grown and I've experienced more things.  I consider them one of the few rock bands who are better than (or at least as good as) the Beatles - who have pushed the boundaries of their genre and perfected it more than any other band has.  

So needless to say - my expectations were sky high - and Tool surpassed them.  They opened with “The Grudge” - and it was every bit as heavy and transcendental as I could have hoped for.  Some other highlights were “Third Eye”, “Opiate” (which had a new extended jam section in it - which I almost mistook for a new song until they went right back into the hook), as well as the jam in “Schism”.  Their visuals were unreal and I can't even articulate how incredibly inspired I was by the production.  I could honestly gush on about them forever - but it was easily one of the greatest rock concerts I have ever been to and well worth the price of the Boston Calling ticket.  


I was really curious about his new live set up - The first half of his set he performed off his new record “22, A Million” which I don’t really care too much for compositionally (which I wrote about in my end of 2016 list) - so outside of a few tunes and a more improvisational extended section of “21 Moon Water” I found myself just wishing I had seen him during a different tour and that Collin Stetson was still playing with him.  But the second half of the set he played the first few tracks off his self titled record as well as a couple cuts from “For Emma, Forever Ago” which were adapted for the new sound pallet he had been working with.  These songs maintained their compositional integrity and were able to take on a new life which was dope to experience.

Chance was one of the closing acts on Friday - and although I was slightly hesitant with my decision to see him over Sigur Ros (the hardest decision of the weekend) - it was definitely a choice I was happy with by the end of his set.  He was backed by the live band The Social Experiment - and it was one of the best live band hip-hop set I’ve seen.

He played mostly from the gospel inspired album "Coloring Book" but also played tracks that he had been a part of in collaboration with other artists such as "Sunday Candy" and his work with Kanye on "The Life of Pablo" - such as "Ultralight Beam"

His visuals were very cartoonesque and perfectly fit the tunes - and his energy was uplifting and often reminiscent of a preacher - and he completely succeeded in bringing the positive spiritual vibes to the rain soaked listeners.

Although the person mixing them did not mix them right for their sound (for one thing the vocals were way too loud) - and a 3:00 PM set isn’t ideal for this kind of music - they still delivered one hell of a performance.  The set was brutal - initially playing a lot of their faster material, opening with one of my favorites of their’s “Dark Horse”, and then going into a lot of their slower tempo compositions as the set progressed - closing with the epic “Jane Done” 


SCHEDULING CONFLICTS:  So this is one that a lot of people are saying - but why on earth would they create some of these overlaps?  I mean...just look at this schedule if you haven't seen it lol.  For me these terrible overlaps happened on Friday and Sunday - and on Saturday there was only one artist I actually wanted to see (Danny Brown).  And I heard many people complaining on Saturday - such as that they had to choose between The 1975 and The XX (whose music is relatively in a similar genre)…while I basically decided on the one I disliked the least between the two.  I assume their logic was that they would have the similar acts be on the same day and have the bigger acts later on in the night - but in doing so they created so many overlaps that could have been avoided if they made the things happening simultaneously on different stages be things that would definitely appeal to different audiences.  

SOLANGE: Solange backed out of performing hours before she was supposed to go on because of “production delays and complications beyond her control.”  I was super bummed about this since this was one of the acts I was most excited to see.  They got Migos to replace her whose set was boring as fuck.   

NO LOCAL ACTS: I understand that this is a mainstream festival - not one that aims at building a Boston music community - but it would have been so easy for them to have a local tent of artists from the Boston electronic music scene (or any of the Boston scenes for that matter).  Or to book some more local acts earlier on in the day.  They’ve booked some Boston legends such as The Pixies and Converge - but it would great to see this expand to some of the more up and coming acts as well.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Twin Peaks (Visual Album)

The visual album “Twin Peaks” is out now

The album starts as a rescore of the pilot episode of Twin Peaks and gradually spirals out in Lynchian fashion.  The first half of the album (“Dear Laura Palmer”) is almost entirely taken from live performances at Industry Lab and Jamaica House during the Fall of 2016 and is more raw and improvisational.  The second half of the album (“Fire Walk With Me”) is more composed and produced and was almost entirely created by filming and recordings from after the live performances.


Dear Laura Palmer,

Fire Walk With Me



One night after seeing a show at the Industry Lab I was talking to Tim Davison about an OST series he was starting through Boston Hassle.  I mentioned that I composed a piece called “Fire Walk With Me” which uses primarily Twin Peaks video samples and lyrically takes a lot of material from dialogue from Twin Peaks as well and how I was thinking about messing with the pilot episode as well.  Before I knew it, the show was set up and billed as an original score to the pilot episode - so I started working on creating more multi-media work in the world of Twin Peaks.

I started by recreating the Angelo Badalamenti scores, and then by rescoring the pilot episode with original music, and then as I became more and more immersed in the world of Twin Peaks I could no longer separate myself from the material I was writing traveled down the lynchian rabbit hole.

Dear Laura Palmer,

I have a Laura Palmer in my life - someone whose life was filled with secrets, died too young, and visits me in my dreams everyone once in a while.  She was actively dying when I first watched the series in high school and passed away shortly after. This played into my obsession with this universe in which one can walk between two worlds that can be tapped into through dreams.  I wanted to communicate with my Laura Palmer, and I feel like in some ways dreams and this music allowed me to do so.

Fire Walk With Me

The second half of this record, “Fire Walk With Me” has been existing in one shape or another for over 7 years:

This song was initially inspired by a near death experience/awakening which became “Hope I Live Before I get Old”, a song I wrote for the band I was playing in at the time, Koala, which ended up on our 2010 album “Xibalba”.

In the Fall of 2014 when the bass player of the Koala’s father took his own life by fire, I began revisiting this material - interweaving it with new material I had been writing and a collage of lyrics taken from a variety of sources (many of which are lines from characters in Twin Peaks).  This song is dedicated to all who grapple with addiction and mental illness - too all those playing with the chance to walk between two worlds - and to all those who have danced too close to the flames.


Written/reimagined, performed, recorded, and produced by Mike Sim
Mixing for “Falling” (Theme) & “Dear Laura Palmer” by Mike Sim
Mixing for Fire Walk With Me by Brady Custis
Mastering by Brady Custis
Filming by Ariel Rejman & Mike Sim
Photos by Adam Blake

Video and Audio from live performances
-11/19/2016 @ Industry Lab
-12/2/2016 @ Jamaica House


Thanks to David Lynch and Mark Frost for creating this wonderful and strange world of Twin Peaks that I've been living and working in for the past seven months.
Thanks again to Ari Rejman, Brady Custis, and Adam Blake for helping make this project possible.
Special thanks to Tim Davison & Boston Hassle for inviting me to participate in the OST series and giving me the opportunity to compose and perform this work at Industry Lab.


:::the owls are not what they seem:::