SXSW is currently taking over the North American music world, but I’m not there this year. To deal with this sadness, I have largely ignored what’s going on out there in Austin. So here are a bunch of tracks by bands that may or may not be showcasing at SXSW.
1. “It Takes Over” – Dream Curtain. I like chillwave so much that I wrote an academic paper about it. Dream Curtain loves chillwave so much that the project keeps making hazy, woozy, reverb-heavy, summery slices of wonder.
2. “Strange Feeling” – Panama. The ’80s influence is strong with this one. Piano, synths, a move-your-feet beat? It’s all happening on this yacht, y’all.
3. “Mountain (Alternate Version)” – Driftwood Miracle. What was a churning, heavy emo track is transformed into a lounge-y, chilled-out track with wah guitar and silky keys. It’s suprisingly fun and only a bit cheesy.
4. “Conquer It All” – Afterlife Parade. U2 and Coldplay influences abound in this upbeat indie-rock track, but it’s far more enjoyable than Coldplay’s “Magic.”
5. “Clearhead Real” – Plateau Below. Starts out a chill, spare guitar-pop track, turns into a big ‘ol guitar-rock stomper. (Bonus: The album art is a striking representation of the sound.)
6. “Bad News” – Slinger Francisco. I listened to a lot of Tooth & Nail Records pop-rock in the early 2000s, and Slinger Francisco takes me back to those heady days of MAE and Watashi Wa. Pop-rock arrangements with an emo heart and pop-punk vocal melodies.
7. “Cruel to Be Kind” – The Worriers. Alternately sneering and jubilant, hyperkinetic Aussies The Worriers come off like a Southern Hemispheric answer to The Vaccines.
8. “Why It Stopped Raining” – The Bacchanales. Frantic Southern rock with a ’90s bent — from Australia.
9. “Melt” – HEYROCCO. Another tune full of mid-’90s guitar crunch, this one tells the story of teenage (?) romance at the highest possible volume. That chorus is towering, catchy, and even sweet.
10. “Bells of Paonia” – The Fresh and Onlys. Walls of guitars have rarely sounded so warm and inviting. A truly touching shoegaze-inspired tune.
11. “Cherry Tigers” – Low Forms. A straight-ahead rock’n’roll charger. Low Forms is a duo coming right out of Minnesota, where they know a thing or two about noisy indie rock.
12. “Electric Feet” – 28 Boulevard. You want a big, happy rock song? Here’s a big, happy rock song.
The Jim Ivins Band‘s five-song EP is expertly constructed late-nineties and early 2000s pop. The Goo Goo Dolls, Mae, Train, and more of their ilk are all sonically referenced throughout this EP. To some, that’s the kiss of death. To me, it’s pretty stinkin’ awesome. I may be a sucker, but I’m friggin’ in love with Train’s hit “Hey Soul Sister,” and I’m excited about the Jim Ivins band.
The connection to Mae is very strong, as Jim Ivins and Dave Elkins have very high, warm voices and similar melodic ideas. The connection to the Goo Goo Dolls comes through the recording style, which punches the acoustic guitar way up in the mix and puts the electric guitar behind it as support. It results in a very full pop sound, but not in a wall-of-sound way. When you hear it, you’ll know it. You’ll most likely like it, too; it’s a very warm, pleasing sound.
The songs here are great on their own merits, too. Some albums make a great sound but create interchangeable songs within it; that’s not the case here. “The Chance” has a wonderful chorus hook that will stick in your head. “Back to Reality” has a great guitar riff throughout the chorus that will make you want to put the song on repeat. “How to Hold On” has a melody that Relient K would have been proud to write, and that’s high honors from this guy.
Jim Ivins Band’s self-titled EP is a bright, warm, charming release. I can see myself rocking this in my car on a road trip with the sun shining down. It’s the type of music that just begs to be sung along to. Pop songs may only be three minutes long, but if you put them on repeat, they last a whole lot longer. So it goes with the Jim Ivins Band.
Logan Lynn is an interesting artist. He falls solidly within electro-pop, but the overall tone is darker than average, with sexual innuendo practically screaming at you within every song. The musical style reminds me a little of Mae or Joy Electric, but other than that I’ve really got no point of reference to help you out with. From Pillar to Post is his newest album, and today I’ve got the pleasure of talking about it on the interwebs.
The album opens strongly with “Feed Me To The Wolves,” a track that’s heavy on the electronic and light on pop. The sound is full and thick, with lots of synth (the good kind) layered under his vocals. The song is a little simple lyrically, but the overall polish more than makes up for it.
Further in, “Write It On My Left Arm” breaks up the rhythm Lynn builds up for himself with faster tempo and some great percussion. It’s one of the standout songs of the album, with great energy and snarky lyrics like, “When the going gets tough / The tough quit going to work.” As the album progresses, you’ll hear little word plays and witty turns of expression that add a lot of personality to the songs.
“Burning Your Glory” is another of the better songs on the album, with talented instrumental composition at the beginning of the track. It has a great beat, though it would have been even better had he included even more variation on the opening theme. Unfortunately, the song is hurt by what feels like an overly-long rendition; it could have been trimmed without losing any strength.
Logan Lynn closes out with “The Dotted Line,” an off-the-wall change to his sound that aptly wraps up everything else. It’s more hip-hop or club than anything before it, with a section of harmonic conflict that only reaches resolution when he enters on vocals. Lyrics are a bit dark, ending with things like, “No one to hold you / no one to sign / no one to sign on the dotted line / …. you’ll have to save yourself this time.”
From Pillar to Post makes for an entertaining listen. Logan Lynn blends his electronic styling perfectly with his vocals, and has created an album that is very clean, adding in nice touches here and there like his verbal wordplay. In later works, I’d love to see him further develop his lyrics – expanding and increasing those touches would make a good artist even better.
There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this new band Mae. They sport a cryptic band name, cd name, and website name. They have an independent label affiliation, but play all over mtv, mtv2, and mtv.com. Who are they?! Let’s see…
The album kicks off with some distant sounding, haunting, but very beautiful melody. That’s a great indicator of where the album falls on the ears: music that rocks, but is also beautiful, creative, and tightly crafted. The intro flows into the lead single, “Embers and Envelopes”. It always seems that the most annoying on any album becomes the lead single. It’s way too melodic, with not enough crunch in the guitar, strength in the vocals, or coolness in the riff to make it work.
Next, some minor chord hitting on an acoustic guitar opens up the moody, driving rock of ‘This Time Is The Last Time’. This is different, because Mae’s signature style is to put the focus on individual instruments, which means that the band is hardly ever playing with all the pieces together except for choruses and bridges. It flows perfectly though. Where the previous song featured misplaced vocals, a boring riff, and no creativity, this is completely the opposite, delivering the best of all three. It’s one of the rock-ier tracks on the album. “All Deliberate Speed” bridges the gap between the first two songs, with the moody but never dark sound of track 2 with the high vocals and melodic energy of one. It is easily one of the best on “D:B”.
“Runaway” passes, and “Sun”, a bass-driven song, appears. This song contains the actual line “Destination: Beautiful”. It also features a great breakdown, catchy chorus, and beautiful piano outro. “Last Call” is catchy to the max throughout the song, and “Skyline Drive” slows things down in a simple, beautiful, satisfying way. Then, to reverse the energy, “Soundtrack to Our Movie” starts out in true Mae fashion but eventually features three different guitar riffs (seriously, riffs.). You’ll press repeat on this one.
“Summertime” finds us….rocking out! The entire way! The best rock song on this album, it features passionate vocals, catchy melody, driving rhythm, and happiness. It’s the single that has been all over MTV, and with good reason. Slowing things back down on “Giving it Away” is a good touch, and the astutely titled, infectious “Goodbye, Goodnight” ends us on an high note, tempo and mood -wise.
Overall, I love this CD. The lyrics here are great. They actually don’t deal with relationships that much (Thank You!), but with frustrations, insecurities, and overall, hope. Perfect for a mellow day, it’s a beautiful, rocking piece of art. It fits the rock scale somewhere between the Lifehouse and Coldplay, with the intensity of Lifehouse and the beauty and tightness of Coldplay. Mae is the band to watch. Pick up this CD now, cause it will be a classic someday. 9 out of 10.