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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: October 8, 2018

Weak in the knees over Weakened Friends, When Particles Collide

Written by: Aimsel Ponti

Cam Jones, Sonia Sturino and Annie Hoffman of Weakened Friends Photo by Anthony Yerba

This week’s Face the Music is sponsored in part by the letter W.

Two fantastic Maine-based rock bands, Weakened Friends and When Particles Collide, are making national noise with new albums. Between the two bands there are five total members. Both bands are making waves with outstanding new music and national tours. Both bands are making me mighty proud, and both bands are among the hardest working musicians you’ll ever encounter.

I’ll start with indie-rock act Weakened Friends. It’s the Portland trio of Sonia Sturino (guitar, lead vocals), Annie Hoffman (bass, vocals) and drummer Cam Jones. Its debut full-length album, “Common Blah,” drops on Oct. 19 on the Don Giovanni label, and there’s a show that night at Port City Music Hall to mark the occasion.

From there, the band heads out on the road for shows all over the East Coast and Canada, along with a show in Paris and two in England in the middle of the month-long run of dates.

Weakened Friends formed five years ago and released the EP “Gloomy Tunes” in 2015, followed by “Crushed” in 2016. The track “I Don’t” from “Crushed” made it onto my “14 Best Songs of 2016” list. Last fall, Weakened Friends released the song “Hate Mail,” and guest guitarist J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. branded the song with his, if I may coin a term, fuzzorific licks. “Hate Mail” was wisely chosen as one of the “Common Blah” tracks.

The album’s first single is “Blue Again,” and it starts out fairly chill with Sturino singing the line, “I’m a little bit awkward the way I stumble.” But that lasts for all of 25 seconds, after which Sturino goes into full-on shriek mode: “I will never, I will never, I will never go back.” The gloves are off with her blazing guitar, Hoffman’s weaponized bass and Jones’s drums. With shades of ’90s-era angst but a here-and-now urgency, “Blue Again” is tremendous.

Here’s “Blue Again”

“Peel” is the next single, and in less than two and a half minutes, Weakened Friends has made an atomic song that will further propel an already upward trajectory that included an appearance earlier this year at the Boston Calling music festival.

The band sent me an advance copy of “Common Blah,” and I’ve been happily switching between air-drumming and swinging my head around in various directions listening to songs like “Waste,” “Aches” and, especially, the title track. Over the course of the album’s 10 tracks, Sturino sings about bitterness, loyalty and kicking losers to the curb, among other topics, and every song is a heat-seeking missile of indie-rock accomplishment.

Weakened Friends “Common Blah” album-release show with Nervous Dater and Mouth Washington

8 p.m. Oct. 19. Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland, $12 in advance, $15 in advance, all ages. portcitymusichall.com


Sasha Alcott and Chris Viner of When Particles Collide.
Photo by Jenny Bergman

WHEN PARTICLES COLLIDE is the alternative rock duo of Sasha Alcott (guitar, vocals) and Scott Viner (drums, vocals). They’re technically based in Bangor, but more often than not, they’re out on the road touring. Between 2012 and 2016, they averaged between 70 and 100 shows a year, and that includes a 2014 eight-week tour of the entire country.

As I write this, Alcott and Viner are somewhere near Colorado on their “Unstoppable” tour, which wraps up in California at the end of the month.

They met in 2010 when both were in a Bangor production of “Hedwig and The Angry Inch.” Sparks flew musically, and then romantically, and a few years later they were married.

Photo by Zachard Ward, artwork by The Secret Bureau of Art & Design

When Particles Collide just released the EP “Fade to Gold,” and it opens with the vocally huge “We’re Gonna Need You Now.” With just piano and Alcott’s potent pipes joined by Viner’s, the song stays on a sulky simmer, perhaps to get the listener ready for what’s to come, a musical “buckle up” if you will. And it’s a good thing because “Bell Jar” opens with a blazing guitar lick from Alcott and an explosion of Viner’s drums. “We can live at the base of the mountain or the mouth or the sea/We can let the breeze come and whisper all that we never got to be.”

“Best Friends” is my current favorite of the six “Fade to Gold” tracks. It’s melodious and ferocious, and the pacing is impeccable. Alcott repeats the words “radio fire” throughout the song, and maybe some stations will take the hint because this tune is radio-ready for sure. (Full disclosure, I’ve been playing it on my local music show, “Music from 207” on WCLZ.) The same goes for “Lay My Body Down for You.”

Here’s a live clip of “Best Friends”

“Fade to Gold” closes out with “Good Girl,” and it’s as good a song as any of WPC’s tunes, exemplifying Alcott’s guitar chops.

Keep tabs on the band at whenparticlescollide.com and on social media.

Lastly, I have to share their band statement because it says so much about who they are and why music is so important. “Rock ‘n’ roll is about singing and playing the truth so that we can be a little more human, so that we can better understand ourselves through the power of rhythm, melody and verse. WPC believes this art form makes us all feel empowered, inspired, connected and unstoppable.”

 

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