Babes describe themselves as sad and horny. I think “Dad” sticks more on the sad side of the spectrum, but the video is quirky enough to keep out of 100% mopeville. It’s now just, like, 75% mopeville.
“Daisy Garden” by The Provincial Garden is also seriously depressing, but the visuals are gorgeous while doing it. The song is lovely as well.
Spazzy, hectic rockers Hectorina show their particular brand of wild, frantic rock’n’roll in a 10-minute live clip. If you’re into theatrical, artsy, off-kilter, I-have-no-idea-what’s-coming-next music, Hectorina should be your jam.
The best songs move me. The best music videos take the best songs and make them even more powerful. Andrew Judah, already one of the most inventive and creative songwriters I’ve discovered this year, just dropped an absolutely astonishing video for “I Know You Know” that ranks high among the best I’ve seen this year and this decade.
Exzavier Whitley’s “How Will You Be” channels Nick Drake, Alexi Murdoch and other chill fingerpickers of note. Don’t sleep on Exzavier Whitley–he’s got huge talent.
Kye Alfred Hillig performs his song “Ex” as part of an a capella trio, making the already excellent song even more haunting and unique. Hillig, people. HILLIG. GET ON HIS LEVEL.
Stellar power-pop band Bishop Allen with only 14,000 views? WHAT IS THIS?! Give them your view. You will not be disappointed.
1. “Capernaum” – The Collection. The Collection always blows me away with the intricate complexity of their arrangements. It sounds as if David Wimbish has found an entire orchestra to pour his heart into here; whatever’s left over is spilled out in his deeply mournful and affected vocals. The tension between chipper music and deep sadness in the lyrics is beautiful, calling up sentiments similar to Page France and Sufjan Stevens (but way more orchestral–I know, what could be more arranged than Sufjan’s work? Just listen.)
2. “I Know You Know” – Andrew Judah. Judah is one of the most inventive arrangers I’ve come across in a long time. His songs genuinely defy notions of genre.
3. “The Dusty Air I Breathe” – Clockwork Kids. Confident performances and strong production kick this riff-driven indie-rock track up a notch. The powerful vocals here are particularly surprising.
4. “Two Ships” – Field Mouse. Every time I hear palm muting and pad synths, I think Fleetwood Mac. That comparison isn’t too far off in this mystic, dark indie-pop track.
5. “Kaleidocycle II” – Cloud Seeding. Powerful, beautiful instrumental indie-rock that doesn’t turn into post-rock or electro jams is a rare animal, so get out your safari cameras now.
6. “Banks” – Red Swingline. This complex acoustic picking and arrangement by a project that generally does progressive metal basically becomes a rolling, beautiful post-rock tune with some jazzy moments. Pretty cool.
7. “Room and Pillar” – Knife the Symphony. Cincinnati’s finest, most furious punk band is at it again, serving up brutal, dissonant punk that makes me marvel at how three people make this much noise.
8. “Song 32” – The Austerity Program. I don’t need a reader survey to know the readers here aren’t usually metalheads. BUT IF YOU ARE, The Austerity Program is pretty friggin’ impressive with the riffs here.
1. “Holy Ghost” – Michael Flynn. Flynn spent more time in the Radiohead school of electronica than in the club, it appears: Haunting, hooky, high falsetto.
2. “Time Between” – Bear in Heaven. I think we have reached the point where classic rock and indie rock are essentially the same. We could put Bear in Heaven on tour with like half the bands from the ’80s OR The Steve Miller Band and it would be totally cool. This song rules, by the way.
3. “Retro” – After Party. Autotune meets gospel towering meets pulsing electro. Get your slinky dance on.
4. “God’s Oscillator” – Vial of Sound. PROTIP: If you want to catch my attention, namedrop LCD Soundsystem in your press release. Vial of Sound’s new track features some ex-LCD musicians, even though it sounds more like Daft Punk.
5. “I Never Knew” – Wonderful Humans. Big synths, big melodies, airy harmonies: it’s the formula these days. And it still works.
6. “The Dancer” – Villiers. This dark synth-pop track rides the line between ominous and sultry.
7. “Fancy” – Starlight Girls. WHOA, THEY WENT DISCO. FULL DISCO.
8. “My Heart” – Werebearcat! It’s a ballad! It’s a slow jam! It’s an indie electro track! It’s Superman!
I’ve been behind on MP3s and videos, so there’s going to be a lot of them posted in the next few days in addition to album reviews. I’m breaking my “one post a day” rule, but I’ll get back there shortly enough.
Fun in the Sun
1. “Bring You Down” – Ships Have Sailed. Oh man, remember early 2000s indie pop-rock? Like Watashi Wa and stuff? The bright-eyed sound, the self-abasing lyrics, the high harmonies, the twinkly guitars? It’s all here. I can’t help but love this song entirely. That lead riff is just so great.
2. “Bitter Branches” – Static in Verona. I’ve always got room in my heart for a pulse-pounding, towering power-pop song. This one features high, melodic, non-aggressive vocals. It’ll be in your head for a while.
3. “Silhouettes” – Colony House. Are you looking for a fun, upbeat rock track to blast in a car? Here’s my pick for this week.
4. “Boulders” – Dear Blanca. Dear Blanca’s Talker was one of my favorite records of 2013, so it’s thrilling to hear the noisy folk/rock band back with an even tighter sound and lyrical sense. Can we get this band on tour with Conor Oberst already? Please and thank you.
5. “Figure Eight” – Pageant. Peppy acoustic guitars get kicked into overdrive by electric organ and hyperactive drums, turning a folky/poppy tune into a charging pop-rock tune. Fresh, tight, and fun.
6. “Insults and Polemics” – Wall-Eyed. I bet you’ve never head a punk band mashed up with a Norteño band. I bet you’ve never heard a Norteño band. I bet you’re really going to like it.
8. “Come Up and See” – Tree Dwellers. Instrumental hip-hop with an acoustic bent: we’ve got acoustic guitars, cello, and Spanish guitar vibes going on here. Totally cool.
9. “Could Be Real” – Diners. Lazy, chilled-out, but not chillwave, this acoustic (but not folk!) band carves out the hardest space: the space that’s always been there. This is pop music, for real.
10. “Licorice the Dog” – Kye Alfred Hillig. Hillig has been on a songwriting bender lately, pushing the bounds of prolific by doing all of his songwriting in vastly different genres. “Licorice” sees him return to his hometown of intimate singer/songwriter music with great results.
I’ve got a bunch of folk albums coming down the review pipe this week, so I’m naming them all Folk Thousand, because Guided By Voices was great at naming things.
“Listenable” and “enjoyable” sound like euphemisms for “I couldn’t think of anything else to say,” but Rogue Band of Youth‘s self-titled debut LP is immensely listenable and enjoyable. The North Carolina folk outfit have crafted an intimate, relaxed, casual-sounding collection of songs that fall somewhere between Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear.
Opener “Fair Shake” sets the stage of the album with tidy fingerpicking on top of a gentle strum before launching into three-part vocal harmonies. The band sounds completely comfortable here and elsewhere: “Smoke Screens” has an easy flow, while “Blind” has a propulsive energy reminiscent of Blind Pilot. The songs don’t stray from modern folk as a sound, but their songwriting is varied and interesting within those bounds, from country-inflected rhythms (“Daedalus”) to new-school Iron and Wine angst (“The West in My Eyes”). If you’re a fan of modern folk with pastoral vibes and enough angles to keep things interesting, Rogue Band of Youth should be on your to-hear list. You’ll enjoy it immensely.
Cancellieri‘s Welcome to Mount Pleasant takes a more modern tack on new-folk, leaning toward the warm, rolling arrangements of Iron & Wine’s recent work. The opener sets the stage for this album as well, as “Oregon” includes some tender bass work; distant, lightly distorted guitar; double-speed drums pushing the tempo; and a beautiful crescendo to the end that turns into a huge wash of sounds. These are beautiful tunes.
These compositions sound more like songs than they do folk songs; the arrangement of these tunes is indelibly important, and if you covered them with another band they might not hold the charm they have now. This not just true of songs like “Oregon,” highlight “Lake Jocassee,” and the Mangum-by-way-of-Win-Butler awe of “Mount Pleasant.” It’s true of stripped-down tune like standout “Hold On Hurricane,” whose rapid fingerpicking meshes perfectly with singer/songwriter Ryan Hutchens’ fragile yet clear voice.
If there’s a single thing to point to in Welcome to Mount Pleasant that turns these arrangements from standard fare to the excellent collection they are, it’s the drums. The percussion throughout these tunes provides a spark that is often under-utilized in a post-Mumford world where straight quarters on the kick and snare are seemingly all that you need. The drum work here is complex and difficult, yet remains in the background, not stealing the show. It’s the little things that make the difference, and here it’s the drums.
If you’re into warm, enchanting, upbeat folk/indie tunes, you should definitely check out Cancellieri’s Welcome to Mount Pleasant. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, and quite possibly cheered, by the subtle beauty throughout.
Space has been an intriguing concept for musicians for an incredibly long time. (Cue David Bowie!) But rarely has it been as literal a fascination as it is with The Lovely Few, who have named five consecutive releases after heavenly bodies. The Geminids, a third in a series of releases named after meteor showers, features only one song that isn’t obviously named after something in space: opener “Les Anciens,” which is probably something awesome I’ve never heard of.
The Geminids, however, falls in the category of “things I have heard that are awesome.” The Lovely Few’s previous work drew some easy comparison to the bleep-bloop electronic pop of The Postal Service, but Mike Mewbourne and co. have opened up the sonic palette on this one to incorporate a lot more moods. The basic sound is still electronic-based pop, but prog, ambient, acoustic pop, Sufjan Stevens (especially The Age of Adz), and “space-rock” are all equal contributors to the album.
“Les Anciens” shows off this diversity of influences well, opening with a proggy, spacey keyboard line before adding in the signature clicks and pops of twee electronic beats. But all that gets wiped off the board as some tribal-esque beats come in. From there, Mewbourne and his collaborators start to layer sounds and vocals. Mewbourne’s voice is a perfect fit for this environment; it’s evocative but not theatrical, calm but not placid. It holds mystery in it. There are spaces to be explored and pondered in both his vocal delivery and songwriting.
The lyrical elements have a very Bowie-esque feel to them: are they metaphors, stories, or both? Tunes like “Venus” and “Castor and Pollux” beg me to read the whole album as a concept piece about a relationship; “Tyndarids” and “Mars” seem to be just about things in space, with some religious overtones. I don’t think it’s an either/or thing–I think there are levels of content here.
The Geminids is an intriguing album that requires investment. You can just listen to it once to play “spot-the-references” and take in the nice mood, but its true treasures are unveiled after multiple listens. The sleigh bells in “Gemini,” the rhythmic tension in “Prelude,” the pacing of “Phaethon 2″–these are all joys that aren’t immediately apparent. This isn’t an album with singles, really; the thing comes together as a whole. If you’re going on a late-night road trip, or perhaps watching the stars, The Geminids would be a fascinating and rewarding companion.
There’s a lot to be said musically and sociologically about why the emo revival is interesting, but spilling that ink here would do a disservice to Drift Wood Miracle. Even if DWM is the band that has me thinking about it, I think it’s more important to note that this quartet has instrumental chops, songwriting skills, melodic prowess, and the earnest passion to pull it all off. I caught their live show at Kings Barcade last Saturday, and the performance was electric.
The quartet features a relatively traditional setup: two electric guitars, a bass, and a drummer. One of the guitarists and the drummer trade lead vocals, which is only one way the band adds diversity to their set. The band does a great job of covering the acoustic/rock/punk/post-hardcore spectrum, as their set featured highlight moments or songs in each of those genres. They’re comfortable with fragile, gentle emoting and thrashing, technical post-hardcore. “My Condition” handles both extremes with ease, but they can express the emotions on their own as well; “Solum” is a beautiful, tender ballad that sounds like the work of a veteran group of musicians.
It’s one thing to make a racket with walls of amps and speakers, but it’s quite another to resist rock’n’roll and mic your 65-watt amps. The little amps that the members of DWM put on stage thrilled me for a variety of reasons: it nodded to the punk “make do with what you’ve got” ethic, underscores the lack of pretense in the band, shows that the talent here is not just a function of nice equipment/recording, and displays the youth of members. To be this talented while still be in high school is rare indeed.
Many emo bands can be less than energetic live, as the band just stands there. Drift Wood Miracle wasn’t going all Rites of Spring on us, but they definitely showed their passion for the music throughout the set: guitar waving, stomping around the stage, and some passionate jumps (not to be confused with theatrical “rock jumps”) made me feel like I could do more than bob my head to the music. It was a good feeling to watch a band be moved by their own music and then feel the desire to move with it too. This is by no means a new thing–I’ve been moshing and dancing and jumping and bouncing at shows for years. But Drift Wood Miracle got me into it, and that’s a thing worth praising.
Drift Wood Miracle’s rock/punk/emo is impressive and worth checking out. Appropriately, a guy in the audience was wearing a Brand New “Fight Off Your Demons” shirt (The hook in the raw “To Endeavor” contains a modified Brand New quote, even). If you’re into that Brand New/Thursday/early ’00s emo sound, you’ll love Drift Wood Miracle.
If you didn’t hear about Backyard Tire Fire while they were alive, that’s pretty sad but I won’t blame you. My favorite song of theirs was called “The Daze,” which was a song about a band that seemed suspiciously like Backyard Tire Fire. Their brand of perky indie-pop-rock was a ton of fun. But all good things go solo, and now Edward David Anderson has released a solo album. Lies and Wishes is a folk album (because most solo albums these days are, I suppose), and it’s pretty great (because of course it would be).
My favorite BTF song was roughly autobiographical, so it’s fitting that my favorite EDA song off Lies & Wishes is also (probably?) autobiographical. “Son of a Plumber” abandons some of the folky, rolling acoustic strum in favor of a slightly toned-down version of the perky indie-pop that BTF was so good at. When Anderson yawps, “hey!” and lets an accordion solo take over, it sounds just perfect. It’s a song that seems like it always has been and always should be. Even if it doesn’t sound folk, isn’t that the definition of folk?
But the rest of the album holds a little tighter to the folk sound. The opener/title track has cascading fingerpicking reminiscent of early Iron & Wine, framing Anderson’s evocative, occasionally creaky tenor well. “I Missed You” has some downtrodden country strum and sway; “Taking It Out on You” adds some Dawes-esque guitar crunch. “Fires” is a conflicted love song that leans in towards romantic, adult alternative territory (which is not a complaint from this blogger). Closer “The Final Melody” is a perky fingerpicked number that recalls Justin Townes Earl, New Orleans blues, and a cheery chorus fitting of BTF. It’s a perfect mix of the old and new. (Check that whistling!)
If you’re not obsessed with purism in your folk and instead mostly see it as a lens from which to see a variety of melodies and lyrics, Edward David Anderson will charm your socks off. Lies and Wishes is a laidback, enjoyable set of folk/indie-pop tunes that takes itself realistically: not over-serious, but not undervaluing, either. Anderson knows what he’s about, and it shows here. Very enjoyable.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.