30 September 2009

Videos on a Brisk Evening

Ah, that brisk air is blowing through my window - autumn is here! This is definitely my favorite time of the year. Thought I would catch up on a few videos by artists we have posted before. Hope you enjoy!

V.V. Brown's "Game Over" from her YouTube Channel: VVBrownTV.

The Joy Formidable's "Greyhounds in the Slips" from their YouTube Channel: TheJoyFormidable.

Reverend and the Makers' "No Soap in a Dirty War" from the WallOfSoundRecording YouTube Channel.

IAMX's "President" from their YouTube Channel: iamx.

Fever Ray's "Seven" from the MuteUSA YouTube Channel.

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29 September 2009

The Twilight Sad: "Forget the Night Ahead"

Confession: I have a soft spot for dark music. The sort of music that has an emotionally laden undertow that is not always obvious but grips you subtly and then never lets go. (Perhaps this is the result of listening to too much Bauhaus at a young age.) Though it is arguable that it is an easy formula to get this effect in music, I have to point out that countless of bands have tried to generate this kind of undertow and at the end of it all they failed, degenerating into a death and gloom spiral that is boring, cliché, and unlistenable. But the Twilight Sad is able to generate that kind of undertow on their sophomore effort, “Forget the Night Ahead” (22 September 2009 in the USA, 5 October 2009 in the UK). Though they touted this album as a break from their nascent work, it really isn’t this major departure – I do not think that fans of the Twilight Sad are going to be taken aback with the album, instead they may find it a bit more interesting than their debut.

I can imagine all of the comparisons to My Bloody Valentine already, but this album is perhaps most comparable to the music of Mogwai. It has that same cinematic feel to it, but there is definitely more of an emphasis highlighting the lyrical content of each song with the music than writing music that independent to the lyrics. Unlike Mogwai (or My Bloody Valentine for that matter), the music speaks for the lyrics and is constantly constrained by the theme of the chosen song. Though this is not a new development for the band, “Forget the Night Ahead” differs from their debut in that it is louder. The deafening distorted and effected guitar often drowns out even the drums - you got to love effect pedals!

Though the opening of the album hints to what is to follow, “Reflection of the Television” is quite sedate and passive as a listening experience – and this is brilliant. Why? Television is a passive experience, and that is the kind of experience you receive while listening to the song. The track is followed by the lead single, “I Became a Prostitute.” Describable as infectious, the song would be a perfect radio-ready song if it weren’t so unsettling in sound – let alone lyrically. “That Room” is a definite highlight and standout; wrapped around a steady piano, drums, and bass, with splashes of guitar riffs that vary from low, eerie distortion to in-your-face walls of sounds. My favorite track, however, is “The Neighbours Can’t Breathe.” First off, it feels more epic that its five-and-a-half minutes (the longest song on the album). Second, below the awkward rhythm, muted by the sincere burr, and hidden by the distorted, multilayered arrangements, there is a pop sensibility to this song that is really fine-drawn. This song stands out among all the other songs on the album for its ability to generate more than one emotion in the span of one song – from distress to anxiety, from resignedness to hopelessness – this song will leave you in a state of emotional confusion, and I personally appreciate a song that can do that to me.

The Twilight Sad delivers a solid album with their sophomore effort. May it have fallen short from expectations? I think so, but then again who had those expectations? There are two ways of looking at any album. The first is drag in an endless array of comparisons with what is popular and hip, impose on it your own expectations, and pigeon-hole the experience of the album on some random scale of 1 to 10, or no stars to five, or whatever. This does no justice to any album. Though I think it is important to know what are the influences of a band and/or if the album is just rehash, when you look at an album with this kind of view, you will ultimately see everything that is “wrong” with it. But, if you go the second route, to judge an album against itself and the work and capabilities of that artist(s), then you can unlock and unfurl everything that is beautiful on that album. And “Forget the Night Ahead” is a beautiful album. Between its sensual darkness and its unsettling mix down, the album is a cryptic journey through life’s shattered expectations and veiled experiences we hardly want to be conscious of. My advice: allow yourself to be unsettled, move out of your comfort zone a bit, and take the journey. You may end up forgetting the night ahead, but this is not a forgettable album.

Track Listing:
1. Reflection on the Television
2. I Became a Prositute
3. Seven Years of Letters
4. Made to Disappear
5. Scissors
6. The Room
7. That Birthday Present
8. Floorboards Under the Bed
9. Interrupted
10. The Neighbours Can’t Breathe
11. At the Burnside

Keep up with The Twilight Sad at their homepage and MySpace.

Here is a video of a live performance of “Seven Years of Letters” from the kexpradio YouTube Channel.

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26 September 2009

Steven Severin Answers 7

Siouxsie and the Banshees cofounder, bassist, lyricist, and songwriter Steven Severin is a founding father of the avant-garde punk movement and has been scoring soundtracks for film and television for the last several years. His latest series of performance works, “Music for Silents,” sees him performing live electronic soundtracks to screenings of silent films, both old and new.

He will be coming to New York City on Saturday, October 10th, at Le Poisson Rouge, Greenwich Village. Severin will be performing to the 1928 French surrealist silent movie classic “The Seashell and the Clergyman” (below) as well as to other contemporary works made by up-and-coming filmmakers. This show is for ages 18 and over and is his American debut. Tickets are only $20.00! (info below) And though he is running a busy schedule, Severin has agreed to Answer 7.

1. Who are your musical and non-musical influences? How have they changed throughout the years?

Musical: I think everything I listen to influences me in one form or another, good or bad, because at heart, I’m still essentially a “fan.” It started with the Beatles and The Stones, then the Mothers/Beefheart, then The Velvets and Can, then Bowie and Roxy. After that I became a musician myself, so my relationship to music changed forever. All the fervor that I originally channeled into appreciating other people’s work then went into my own. It’s almost impossible to just “enjoy” music, as I naturally pull apart the arrangement and production and analyze the lyrics as I listen. That said, something comes along every so often that just blows me apart and makes me realize why I still do this.

Non-Musical: To me music is the most magical of all the arts. It connects memories and buried emotions. It involves mathematics and chance, love and anger. At best it can be as immense and terrifying as a cathedral or as delicate as the tide receding from the sand. I’m intrigued by how people use and need music, how it interfaces with the other arts. That’s why I started making music for film, theatre, and dance. Each conjunction throws up new responses and I love that.

2. Many younger bands are citing your work as an influence; what do you make of this post-punk revival? How does it stack up against the late seventies and early eighties?

I don’t think about it to be honest. Things like that are so far off my radar. I can’t afford to look over my shoulder as I might miss something beautiful on the horizon.

3. I was inspired when you mentioned in an interview that the process of learning to play the bass and writing music involved dismissing clichés. What clichés have you had to dismiss in composing music for films?

Two things were very apparent once I started to get immersed in film music. One was the obvious signposting of drama and the other (which is criminal in my eyes) was the use of “ethnic” music. It drives me insane when people use so-called “exotic” music to denote something “foreign”—especially if they get the location wrong. I can’t think of examples right now (I’ve probably deliberately erased them), but say using something generically “Oriental” or “Latin” that might actually be from the wrong continent. It’s just lazy, cultural fascism.

4. You’ve described the process of writing scores for silent films as “liberating,” as there is no voice. But are there new challenges and/or constraints involved in composing music that already has an existing visual component?

Some people are able to just write music that sits on top of the image and in many cases that’s all the director wants. I can’t do that. I have to get right into the film, reacting sometimes frame-by-frame. Because my tools are electronic I love creating sounds that are so immersive, you can’t always tell whether it’s sound design, Foley, or score. In film music (much more so than in “pop” music) the silences and pauses are so important that they are part of your palette also. Consequently, you’re forced into unusual rhythms and patterns, bizarre instrument groupings, in short ideas and concepts that you just wouldn’t imagine without the image stimulus. There is no “one way” to score a film—in fact, it’s almost boundless.

5. Other than personal appeal, what was your process of selecting a film like “The Seashell and the Clergyman “ to work with?

It took quite a while to land on “Seashell” as my first foray into “live” accompaniment. I didn’t want to start with something that was really well known and didn’t particularly want to go straight into a full-length movie. “Seashell” ticked both those boxes—and because it’s only thirty-five minutes long—it forced me into conceiving the concept of a two-part show. Everything fell into place when I finally saw it.

6. With the Banshees, you were upfront with your bass. But now you sit on the side of a stage as a film is playing. As an artist and performer, how have you had to redefine and adjust your relationship with your audience? Do you find the same level of empathic connection?

It is different but also similar in that I’ve never been the center of attraction on stage and that’s how I like it. The screen is my new “front person,” if you like, and for the most part I prefer all eyes to be on her/it. For someone who’s spent all their adult life on stage, I’m very uncomfortable in the spotlight. I’m slowly getting used to it though (smiles).

7. Out of curiosity—is there any impulse or desire in you to compose and perform music in the vein of a rock band? If so, how you would you approach it now? Or is this part of your life you have closed the door on for good?

I’ve absolutely no desire whatsoever to compete in the “rock” arena, either by forming or joining a band as my main concern. If the right opportunity arose I would consider a “tour” with someone, possibly—as a one-off project. I would love to have the budget to perform “Music for Silents” with a live band and/or live string section. That kind of interaction would be fascinating.

Before you miss the opportunity to be part of Steven Severin’s live solo debut in New York City, go directly to the Le Poisson Rouge’s box office via this link, and purchase tickets. Again, the show is 18 and up, and tickets are $20.00.

You may also want to work your way over to your iTunes store and check out his work:

“Music For Silents” (2008) (link)

“Beauty and the Beast” (2005) (link)

“The Woman in the Dunes” (2000) (link)

“Maldoror” (1999) (link)

“Visions” (1998) (link)

Keep up with Steven Severin at his homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is a short excerpt from Severin’s performance of “Globe” to “The Seashell and the Clergyman” from his YouTube Channel: stevenseverin.

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23 September 2009

Del Marquis Answers 5

I recently put up a review of Del Marquis’ solo work to date and his latest release “Runaround” (link). When I asked him if he would have time to answer a few questions for SlowdiveMusic, he was more than happy to take the time to answer our questions. Considering his busy schedule, I would like to thank Del Marquis for Answering 5.

1. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

I picked up the guitar because of The Cult's 1989 album “Sonic Temple,” up until that point I was listening to Erasure, Alphaville, Yaz and The Cure. There was something slick about “Sonic Temple” (Bob Rock production) but heavy, and nuanced that made me decide I needed to Rock! Subsequently giving up synth pop for hard rock, metal and Britpop. I eventually gave up on this phase sometime around Supergrass' first album ('95), I lost interest in the guitar all-together and picked up albums by Mouse on Mars, Autechre & Aphex Twin. I was still heavy into challenging music by the time I was asked to join Scissor Sisters, that re-introduced me to guitar and many other styles of music that I had previously lost touch with; namely disco, funk, pop and proper songwriters. I pull from all these influences now; it’s all fair game.

Outside of music? I remember seeing a performance by Bill T Jones that made me want to run home and write a song. But as a generalization, I like beautiful things; I consider myself an “Aesthete,” as pompous as that may sound; it upsets me when I see a disregard for harmony. I see this in architecture, design, music. I'm influenced in positive ways by beauty, and in opposite and equally important ways by Chaos.

2. Venturing into solo territory must be exciting; what is the difference between working on your own and working within a band?

I'm an accessory to great songwriting in Scissor Sisters; writing riffs, hooks, solos, and occasionally a song from its inception. Obviously the sound of my own music differs wildly, because I write the lyrics and compose the music. That's the difference.

3. When you sit down and compose, who is writing "Del" or "Derek"? What is that relationship between the artist and the man?

I'm never Derek onstage, but offstage it depends. I was reading an interview with Nick Lowe, where he explained that a song is done when it sounds like a cover. I sympathized with this because most of my heavily produced songs were homages and about creating a world bigger than me as an individual. But the more personal songs are written/performed with earnest intention that is hard to dissociate with Derek.

4. Without giving too much away, what are your favorite pieces of equipment to record with, your favorite pieces live, and what carries over from the studio to the stage?

My favorite guitar to play live is a 1975 Gibson 335 w/ Bigsby tremolo. I was a Suede fanatic, saw “The Drowners” video and HAD to have that guitar. Everyone that plays it says it’s unlike other 335s, and it’s been my guitar of choice for 15 years. In the studio, nothing in particular, whatever is close by or convenient. I get tripped up when things get complicated in translating ideas to tape/computer.

5. Out of curiosity, you have admitted to stalking a few guitarists - why them?

I was a zealous fan of music; it was a way to get closest to what I loved. I'd jump onstage after shows so I could grab a set-list, a drumstick, a guitar pick... and haunt the backstage occasionally to get a photo or autograph. It was a phase; if anything, I have the opposite feeling regarding people I admire now. I'd rather love and respect my image of them and the music from afar. That is why I am ambivalent about Twitter and Facebook; they might be necessary evils, but it takes the mystery away from new artists.

Keep up with Del Marquis at his homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and the Scissor Sister's homepage.

And if you have not gotten “Runaround” yet, click on the link, mosey on down to the iTunes store and purchase it.
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Here are six videos that I have been grooving too lately. Enjoy!

MSTRKRFT, featuring John Legend: “Heartbreaker” from their YouTube Channel: MSTRKRFTMUSIC.

Chickenhawk: “I Hate This, Do You Like It?” from the RocahProductionsUK YouTube Channel.

The Answering Machine: “Okalahoma” from their YouTube Channel: AnsweringMachiineBand.

Little Boots: “Remedy” from her YouTube Channel: littlebootsvideos.

Kids Love Lies: “Under the Bed” from their Viemo Channel: Kids Love Lies.

Under the Bed by Kids Love Lies from Kids Love Lies on Vimeo.

Empire of the Sun: “Without You” from their YouTube Channel: EmpireOfTheSunSound.

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22 September 2009

The Big Pink: "A Brief History of Love"

Signed to cutting edge 4AD, the Big Pink has the scary task of following the tradition of pioneering, thinking-outside-of-the-box musicians such as Bauhaus, the Clan of Xymonx, GusGus, Lush, the Pixies, and Xmal Deutschland. But the duo (Milo Cordell and Robbie Furze) has taken the challenge and has produced an incredible album. Neither pop nor industrial, neither radio friendly nor obtuse, this is an adventure through a soundscape that’s inviting but coarse, as one of this years greatest odes to the past takes on a new twist for a new generation – “A Brief History of Love” (14 September 2009 in the UK, 22 September 2009 in the USA) is quite literally a standout, both sonically and in feel, in the field of music out this year.

Their namesake is from the Band’s debut album (“Music from Big Pink”), the Big Pink does not stretch that far back for their sonic queues. Actually, they do not even stretch as far back as the early 80s as many bands are currently doing. Instead the Big Pink takes its queues from late 80s, early 90s indie, industrial rock, and shoegazing. And though it may be easy to dismiss this album as a rehash of My Bloody Valentine or the Jesus and Mary Chain, what you really get here is highly crafted music that fits comfortably with this generation’s indie rock, festival ready music – but yet does not ride its coattail. Heavily compressed music, which uses electronic sounds for more than ambience, but also for melodic and emotive effects, the Big Pink sets themselves apart nicely from the indie hype machine, which is obsessed with post-punk revival. In mindset, they have more in common with the industrial influenced shoegazers, who played around with the mixing board for a distinct, slightly out of the ordinary, feel. With that said, the melodies are all theirs and incredible. They are those simple kind of memorable melodies, coupled with relevant lyrics, which often state the obvious, to the point that you can relate to it and say, “Hey, I wish I put that to paper first.” Take “Velvet” as the prime example. It has this airy, ethereal feeling during the first verse, that gives way to highly compressed guitars, feedback, and an electronic bass, and as you are expecting this perfect moment, this fantasy full of love, they smack you in the face with reality: “These arms are mine, don’t matter who they hold you’re made for me, and I’ll leave you alone… you call out my name for the love you need, which you won’t find in me.” Ah, those futile attempts of finding love in wrong the places and people.

The opening of the album, “Crystal Vision,” starts with a slow buildup of sounds and arrangements, which never quite explodes but keeps building into a deafening wall of compressed guitars. You sort of know from the beginning that these boys are going to play with your expectations of music – the album is not predictable, as it dredges through a thick undertow, holding your attention most of the time by what is out of sorts, the counter-intuitive arrangements. But unlike the plethora of “avant-garde” hipsters who try to pull this off, the Big Pink does not fall short. It is the charm of their music. Like in the second track, “Too Young to Love,” the background “clapping” type sound shouldn’t fit in, but it does, and you get into that groove. Another great moment on the album is “Frisk,” where the Big Pink really plays with the “techno” elements of their music. Nowhere on the album is background “noise” so interestingly arranged, almost the antithetical of the main melody.

If you swear on the post-punk revival, you are going to find a hundred reasons not to like this album, but if you listen to this album for what it is worth, you are going to be impressed. It may not be the most cutting edge, and it may not be the least derivative (which would be a funny accusation in a musical field of indie rock bands that all take their queues from the past), but what you have here is something distinct from what is out there. What you have here is something that is interesting. This is not the repetitive, 80s obsessed music that is prevalent today, and you should allow yourself to get tickled pink and take a serious listen to this album.

Track Listing:
1. Crystal Visions
2. Too Young to Love
3. Dominos
4. Love in Vain
5. At War with the Sun
6. Velvet
7. Golden Pendulum
8. Frisk
9. A Brief History of Love
10. Tonight
11. Count Backwards from Ten
12. Stop the World – iTunes bonus track
13. Dominos, Rustie Remix – iTunes bonus track

Keep up with the Big Pink at their homepage and MySpace.
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15 September 2009

Muse: "The Resistance"

The first time I heard about Muse when was I dragged to a small show in New York City late in 1998 and I was immediately impressed. But it was their 2001 release, “The Origins of Symmetry,” that blew me away – completely! From the opening notes of “New Born,” to the sophistication of “Bliss,” to “Citizen Erased,” a song that is the mantra of all mantras, I immediately realized that these three guys (Matt Bellamy, Dominic Howard, and Christopher Wolstenholme) were perhaps the most talented musicians of their generation. Then “Absolution” (2003) was released, and that was the clincher for me. Their follow-up to “Absolution” would bring Muse worldwide recognition. And now, 15 September 2009, Muse has released their latest album in the USA, “The Resistance,” and I think I may be the only one sitting in the corner in subtle resistance on this one, but I have no problem with that.

Off the bat, I want to say that it is a good album, with eleven tracks, that draw on a wide range of influences and style. And I know that the album is going to get some heavy rotation on my iPod, solidly better than most of the music out there this year, but this is not a great album, not for Muse at least. Okay, I am guilty of any and all accusations of being tougher on veterans in the music industry than newbies, but I feel that veterans have the experience and the security (financial and in a solid fan base) to produce new music that lives up to any expectations of them. And yes, I would say if any other “new” band released this album, you would probably hear me saying, “Wow, this is amazing.” But this is not any new band; this is Muse, whose first professional release came in early 1998, not last year.

First off, with a title like “The Resistance,” I expected more “Apocalypse Now,” more “Citizen Erased,” more “Take a Bow,” but the album is comfortable in not being very resistant to anything in particular. The lead single and album opener, “Uprising,” immediately showed the potential of what this album had to deliver. This is tongue-in-cheek at it’s best: a popish, new wavish, rock song, which sounds friendly and inviting, until you hear Bellamy sing, “They will not force us, they will stop degrading us, they will not control us, we will be victorious…” This is capped off with a falsetto, “So come on.” (But it does bare an uncanny resemblance to “White Wedding” by Billy Idol.) Immediately followed by the titular track, “The Resistance,” Bellamy croons, “Love is our resistance; they’ll keep us apart and they won’t stop breaking us down. Hold me, our lips must always be sealed.” Shifting pace between verses, bridge, and chorus, the song is catchy, but the moment you start to buy the resistance as love metaphor, Bellamy sings, “We must run…” Run? That is resistance?

This is followed by my favorite track on the album, “Undisclosed Desires.” I am not sure I any longer buy Muse’s assertion that they are not influenced by the Cure and like post-punk bands after hearing this one. From the theme and lyrics (“I want to reconcile the violence in your heart…”) to the music (laced with layered ambient keys, propelled by a steady, repetitious rhythm), Muse definitely takes a new direction for this number, one that is really unexpected. I think that is what makes it the gem on the album. Then the “United States of Eurasia / Collateral Damage” sneaks in. This is perhaps the most derivative song that Muse has ever recorded – think “Lawrence of Arabia” meets “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Musically, perhaps a less exposed teenager might hear the song and be wowed by its air of originality and power, but those who have seen the classic film and heard the classic Queen song know better. (Actually, Queen’s influence is worn on Muse’s collective sleeve for this entire album.) And the “Collateral Damage” part is actually by composer Frederic Chopin, but works really well – hey some teens are finally going to get an education in classical music!

A quick tour to the end… “Guiding Light” goes back to an 80s esque feel. “Unnatural Selection” is the eeriest song on the album but is also the one track that guitar aficionados are going to love. “MK ULTRA” combines the most aggressive elements of new wave with that unique rock edge of Muse. The piano driven “I Belong to You + Mon Coeur S’ouvre A Ta Voix” is a cutesy piano song, sung in both English and French. Then the album comes to a close with “Exogenesis.” The long awaited symphonic song promised years ago. Would it be all orchestrated? Would it have those electronic disco beats we were teased about? Written in three parts – “Overture,” “Cross Pollination,” and “Redemption” – the first part is orchestrated to perfection, as Bellamy singing style mirrors the motions of the first seat violin. “You stole my overture, trapped in God’s program, oh I can’t escape…” Incredible song, incredible execution, but hard to stomach from a man who once sung, “Come ride with me through the veins of history, I’ll show you how God falls asleep on the job.” (“Knights of Cydonia”) The second part, “Cross Pollination” has two major points to fall in love with. Bellamy on the piano and how the “rock” component of the music just barges in and then lightly flutters away. Then the final part, “Redemption” – “It’s our last chance to forgive ourselves.” Emotionally, the most powerful of the three parts; it is hard not to allow your heartstrings to be moved. And while listening to this song for the first time is that I thought, “This album should have been called “Redemption,” not “Resistance,” because there is no resistance going on at the end of it all.”

And that is the thing about the album, there does not seem to be cohesion – is it redemption or resistance? Is it Queen or something new? Each Muse album after the debut had a definitive theme or two running through it, each album had a range of music, often time being experimental, but there was always a sense of listening to an album. And that is where this album, “The Resistance,” falls short – it feels like a compilation, not an album. Perhaps it is the fault of composing music over different time periods, perhaps it is the result of living in an iTunes world where the concept of a cohesive album has been shredded to death, or perhaps, what I do not want to believe, it is because this was a somewhat rushed, under thought recording experience. Does the album get my recommendation? Hell yeah, as I said from the start, this is a good album, better than most of the playing field out there. But did this album live up to my expectations of what Muse is capable of? No, and I know I am only one of thousands who have been waiting faithfully for this release, but I think I have matured enough in my listening and experience of music not to allow anticipation and desire for a new release to taint how I experience a new album. Or, perhaps, I just have higher standards for Muse because I believe that they have it in them to write and produce the greatest album of all time – and I think I will keep waiting for that.

Now, back into the corner of the room, I think I have to listen to “Undisclosed Desires” a few more times.

Track Listing:
1. Uprising
2. Resistance
3. Undisclosed Desires
4. United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)
5. Guiding Light
6. Unnatural Selection
8. I Belong to You (+Mon Coeur S’ouvre a Ta Voix)
9. Exogenesis: Overture
10. Exogenesis: Cross Pollination
11. Exogenesis: Redemption

Keep up with Muse at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
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13 September 2009

Del Marquis: "Runaround"

Native New Yorker, Del Marquis is most famous for being the guitarist of the Scissor Sisters; the stoic, silent member, whose guitar playing is as slick, sophisticated, and progressive has his image implies. He is one of those underestimated guitarists that truly has a range of styles that he can put forward. Brilliantly, there is always a different approach / mindset between what he does in the studio and live. Whether strumming an acoustic or being a virtuoso on a Gibson, he always delivers what is needed for the official recording or changes it up to get an arena audience off their feet and partying along. But as much as I am a fan of the Scissor Sisters, this is about Del Marquis who has recently ventured into some solo releases, and on 22 September the next EP “Runaround” will be released, and you should not miss it.

Just to put the information out there, Del Marquis first solo EP was “Hothouse” (2 December 2008). There is a quality of personal warmth, which you get from the first track, “Remember Me Young,” with its interplay between acoustic and electric guitars. And though there is a definite influence from the eighties, it is not rehash – by any measure. Incorporated here are the best kinds of hooks that the 80s had to offer, while being fresh and relevant to the music scene now. And then the final track, “Hothouse,” is right out of left field; starting with “Freedom of speech and expression,” Del Marquis takes a real political stance, something that most musicians are afraid of doing. The follow up EP, “Character Assassination,” was released 2 March 2009. The titular track as familiar as the debut EP, but Del Marquis switches it up for “Raise the Level.” Truly a dance ready track, the song shows that Del Marquis can work as comfortably in rock, pop, or dance, with guitars or synths. But the track that is really going to get your attention is “Raise the Level Shadow”; sinisterly sexy, this piece has warmth to it that most electronically based music lacks. Teaming up with Embryoroom (Edwin Quist), on 26 March 2009, they jointly released the full length “Litter to Society.” Oscillating from cutting edge experimental pop to full fledged experimental electronica, the album is a journey through an ever-shifting, sometimes friendly, sometimes disarming, but always engaging soundscape. “Litter to Society Shadow” is one of those tracks that really see the meeting of worlds – electronic meets pop sensibilities, post-punk arrangements meets dance, the ambient meets the elusive.

After hearing this, how could you not wait in anticipation for something new?

Three new tracks accompanied by five remixes, Del Marquis mixes it up on the “Runaround” EP. Opening with “Runaround,” the track is dance ready, funky, with a clear understand of what made some of the best 80s dance tracks universal, timeless classics. Moving to “Lie By the Bed,” Del shifts to a piano-pop mentality, incorporating brass, he throws in a bit of humor, like “…if you lie with the vicar, you will wake up with sores…” The last of the original tracks, “Each Time I Reach the Sun,” just blew me away the same way that Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill” continues to blow me away twenty-four years after release. Not because he stuck to the true-and-tried conventions and rules of what makes timeless music, because that simply does not exist. But rather, because on this one Del Marquis really reached outside of the box – there is no rhyme or reason to this track, there is no way to define it in a definitive style. What you have here is real artistic growth; years of listening to Jane’s Addiction, the Cure, shoegazing, and disco and being a fan of music… Years of composing music with others, from glam to electronica… and always continuing to be active in not just the New York music scene, but the global scene, Del with this track composes what most musicians hope they will – a mind-blowing timeless, universal piece.

Now, I am not a purist – I can really appreciate a good remix when it is done well. The Bullycau Remix of “Character Assassination” gives the song a suave, late Erasure-esque feel. The Lifelike Remix of “Litter to Society” brings out the vocals into the forefront while adding a solid dance beat. Then there are three remixes of “Runaround.” From playing with vocal effects to a plethora of electronic sounds, the three remixes break from the feel of the original completely, but yet hold onto the core melodies and bring out a new potential of how the song could have evolved. But that is the thing about remixes – it is all about showing the possibilities that lie hid inside of the song; a mere extended version does not do any justice to a song, and losing the melodic content of the music is essentially just writing a new song with the same lyrics. To get remixes just right is the art of finding what lies deep inside and how to reinterpret the song without losing the actual song. And these remixes do just that.

So do yourself a favor… as you wait for next week’s release, head over to iTunes and start downloading and catching up with Del Marquis’ solo work (and his work with the Scissor Sisters if you are not familiar with it). Then on the 22 September, download “Runaround” and dance around your pad. (Oh, yeah, and go over to MySpace and/or Facebook and support the man.)


Track Listing:
1. Remember Me Young
2. Cry, So Long
3. How I Lost the Plot (and the Ego Survived)
4. Hothouse

“Character Assassination”

Track Listing:
1. Character Assassination
2. Raise the Level
3. Harmony Park
4. Untitled
5. Character Assassination
6. Raise the Level Shadow

“Litter to Society” (Del Marquis and Embryoroom)

Track Listing:
1. Litter To Society
2. Backroom
3. Litter to Society Shadow
4. AKL Shadow
5. Any Kind of Love
6. Bug
7. Backroom 2
8. I Believe in You
9. Litter to Society – video
10. The Third Rail, Part 1 – video
11. The Third Rail, Part 2 – video


Track Listing:
1. Runaround
2. Lies by the Bed
3. Each Time I Reach the Sun
4. Character Assassination – Bullycau Remix
5. Runaround – Baron von Luxxury Silver Lake of Disco Dreams Remix
6. Litter to Society – Lifelike Remix
7. Runaround – Luis La Roche “in 1995” Remix
8. Runaround – Loose Cannons Supersonic Remix

Keep up with Del Marquis at his homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and the Scissor Sister’s homepage.

Here are the videos for “Character Assassination” and “Litter to Society” from the embryoroom YouTube Channel.

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Catching up with the Phantom Band, Mew, the Benefits, and Street Sweeper Social Club

Though I am sad to see the summer has waned away into the nothingness of memories, I love the autumn and those chilly nights of hanging out on a mountaintop with a few friends, blasting music away in the background. Cool nights, crisp air, colorful landscapes, and late nights out in the East Village or Brooklyn, with the same group of friends, up to no good. Musically, an entire new world of releases, before the holiday season, intense shows on tight touring schedules, and my yearly process of starting to look back at a year of releases. This blog has covered well over seventy albums already this year (not to mention some retrospectives on older stuff) and a steady stream of videos we wanted to share because we really liked them or they caught our attention visually or were total cheese that you had to love it. But before moving on to anything brand smacking new, there are four albums that were released prior to September that we wanted to share with you by The Phantom Band, Mew, The Benefits, and Street Sweeper Social Club (which was written by Bloodybones, who wrote on his laptop while soaking up some rays in Florida).

The Phantom Band: “Checkmate Savage”

This is one of those CDs that was released around the time that I created this blog, and it just got right by me. “Checkmate Savage” (26 January 2009) is the debut album by Scottish band The Phantom Band. In their earlier days before release, the band flirted with many different names for the band, as well as a plethora of styles, but as they became more and more serious about the music they were performing, the name evolved into the current incantation and stuck. A six-man band (Rich Anthony, Gerry Hart, Duncan Marquiss, Greg Sinclair, Damien Tonner, and Andy Wake), musically they are a bit darker than the average indie band. There is an air to their music that makes me wonder if Siouxsie and the Banshees influenced them, whether directly or indirectly. They share that same sort of luscious hollowness and cinematic hooks to their music.

Ultimately, if phantoms are impossible to grasp, so is their music – in a good way. Though you may hear strains of influence, what makes this band fun is that they are hard to pin down. But as I said before, there is this cinematic attractiveness to it; the arrangements will leave you in suspense during long build-ups before the beat drops, moods will change from one moment to another, and you will find different reasons to love each song on this album – much like the scenes in a movie. Here are my two picks off of the album. “Crocodile” – an incredible instrumental epic (seven and three-quarters minutes), it constantly leaves you mesmerized with their ability to generate such emotional intensity from music alone. My second pick is “Throwing Bones”; speak about a song that is hard to put a finger on. Musically, it incorporates divergent elements of music, while sporting out the most interesting arrangements of guitars on the album.

A certain (former) green-haired friend of mine continuously says how she loves this band, and I think anyone who has really listened to this album will echo her sentiments. Though only nine-song long, it is a fifty-four minute journey into a subtly powerful soundscape that is memorable and powerful. If you have not given this album a thorough listen to, check it out.

Track Listing:
1. The Howling
2. Burial Sounds
3. Folk Song Oblivion
4. Crocodile
5. Halfhound
6. Left Hand Wave
7. Island
8. Throwing Bones
9. The Whole Is on My Side

Keep up with The Phantom Band at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Mew: “No More Stories Are Told Today, I’m Sorry, They Washed Away; No More Stories, the World Is Grey, I’m Tired, Let’s Wash Away”

How is that for a title for an album? “No More Stories” (for short) was released on 17 August 2009 in Scandinavia, 24 August 2009 in the UK, 25 August 2009 in the USA, and 26 August 2009 in Japan, and it is the fifth album by Danish band Mew. Now officially a three-piece band (as bassist Johan Wohlert left to spend time with his family), Mew continues to shine through with their brand of shoegazing meets experimental dream pop. From the opening, “New Terrain,” the album will blow you away; the song contains backmasking (recording music backwards); actually, the backmasking is an entire other song, “Nervous.” Disarming, but yet appealing, right from the beginning these veterans know exactly how to hook you into their groove.

Recording the album in part in Brooklyn, there is that element of New York savvy and uncompromising conviction running right through the songs from composition to production style. Mew knows exactly how to throw out the rulebooks and get things done ingeniously by their own whims. Take “Repeaterbeater,” which does not contain the provocative title anywhere in the lyrics (“Why should I hold this girlfriend as tight as I ever could, now why should I?”) really shows how they can write from outside of their own experiences, while taking something so powerfully laden and conceptualize a new wavish, rock-pop song of it.

Mew is a brilliant band that never disappoints; here is another interesting tidbit you should keep your eyes open for. They are currently working with director Martin de Thurah filming a three piece series of videos for the album: “Introducing Palace Players,” “Repeaterbeater,” and “Beach.” Breaking with normal conventions when it comes to how they put music together, they are even willing to take risks with videos. This is not only a band that you will be in awe of with their catchy, out of leftfield music; you can also respect their efforts. Check out their work.

Track Listing:
1. New Terrains
2. Introducing Palace Players
3. Beach
4. Repeaterbeater
5. Intermezzo 1
6. Silas the Magic Car
7. Cartoons and Macrame Wounds
8. Hawaii Dream
9. Hawaii
10. Vaccine
11. Tricks of the Trade
12. Intermezzo 2
13. Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy
14. Reprise

Keep up with Mew at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

The Benefits: “Seize the Day”

We are going to stay in Denmark for two in a row. I came to hear the Benefits’ debut album, “Seize the Day” (11 May 2009), at Gray Door Studio, where it still continues to be played in heavy rotation. Principally a duo (Ilang Lumholt and Thomas Stengaard), which brings two other members on stage with them (Peter During and Mikkel Riber), the best way to describe they music the produce is heavily American influenced music with European sensibility.

Essentially a pop band, incorporating a lot of R and B elements to their music, the Benefits are at their best when Lumholt is at his most soulful. But the European sensibilities kick in with how the beats come in and out, how the music is highly layered and textured, and the electronic elements. Typical of all great Scandinavian bands, the Benefits pay meticulous attention to small details. Just take the track “You Ready, Let’s Go.” Starting with a simple piano arrangement, the electronic elements slowly flutter in, never allowing you to register the developing arrangements. The beat drops out of nowhere, and what you have here is one of the most fluidic songs of the year. And it is not all soulful music, “You Drive Me Crazy” (“You drive me crazy… bitch!”) looks towards surfer and 60s rock ideas for a kitschy ditty. And in “Living in an Igloo,” they experiment with the percussion, mixing, and a cacophonous melody.

From one album, the Benefits have shown the potential to grow in many different directions, or perhaps they will continue to genre-bend. What is definite, it is a shame that more people have not heard of the Benefits – so here I go again: go to their MySpace and click the “Friend” feature and support them if you like what you hear. It is going to prove very difficult State-side to find their music, but possible if you have access to a shop with a great import section. But the more followers, the more buzz, the more likely there will be a formal American release.

Track Listing
1. Seize the Day
2. I Wanna Do It
3. Code Red
4. Last Night
5. You Ready, Let’s Go
6. Come Home
7. Physical
8. Every Sucker
9. You Drive Me Crazy
10. Living in an Igloo
11. Are You Happy Now?
12. Last Night – acoustic

Keep up with The Benefits at MySpace.

Here is their video for “Seize the Day”; also here is a live performance of “I Wanna Do It” supporting Rihanna. Both are from their official YouTube Channel: thebenefitsmusic.

Street Sweeper Social Club: “Street Sweeper Social Club”

This one is for people who have had to sell their stuff to get by. For the single parents having to make ends meet any way they can. This is for the kids in the hood who struggle to survive today, keeping their head down and their noses clean in hopes to see tomorrow. For the workingman on the grind: This is Street Sweeper Social Club.

Never being one to sit still and keep his mouth shut, Tom Morello’s (of Rage Against the Machine fame) travels have brought him to Boots Riley to form Street Sweeper Social Club. Always political, always edgy, always holding in front of your face what’s uncomfortable and overlooked. The elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. This record rides those elephants in with air horns blaring and fists pumping; a wakeup call to the masses. The self-titled debut (16 June 2009) has Morello’s tried and true mix of funk, rock, and hip-hop behind Riley’s poetic yet poignant vocals. Political hip-hop over rock, that’s what we’re talking about here. And it works. Thematically the record doesn’t just take a stab at the excess and corruption of the upper class, it straps a vest made of dynamite to its collective chest. It’s one big “Fuck you!” to those in power.

I first heard of Street Sweeper before their evident name change, as support for the recent Nine Inch Nails / Jane’s Addiction tour aptly called NIN/JA. I downloaded tour sampler tracks and “Clap For The Killers” caught my attention. As a guitarist and gear junkie, immediately I thought “I know this sound, who is Street Sweeper?” After a little homework I heard the first single “100 Little Curses,” and I was hooked. This is not one to be missed.

Track Listing:
1. Fight! Smash! Win!
2. 100 Little Curses
3. The Oath
4. The Squeeze
5. Clap for the Killers
6. Somewhere in the World It’s Midnight
7. Shock You Again
8. Good Morning, Mrs. Smith
9. Megablast
10. Promenade
11. Nobody Moves (Til We Say Go)
12. Promenade, live – iTunes bonus track

Keep up with Street Sweeper Social Club at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is their video for “100 Little Curses” from their YouTube Channel: streetsweepermusic.

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09 September 2009


Enjoy the videos!

Karen O & The Kids' "All Is Love (Where the Wild Things Are)" from the petebune YouTube Channel.

Hot Rats' "Can't Stand It" from their YouTube Channel: TheHotRats.

O.Children's "Dead Disco Dancer" from their YouTube Channel: ochildrentv.

Fuck Buttons' "Surf Solar" on the yesbutton YouTube Channel.

Cosmo Jarvis' "She's Got You" on his YouTube Channel: CosmoJarvis.

Filthy Dukes' "Tupac Robot Club Rock" from their YouTube Channel: FilthyDukes.

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06 September 2009

Festival Bands

A friend (Mirage, co-writer here) and I sat down the other day and started to discuss the festival experience and how festivals are becoming a major musical outlet for audiences, even here in the USA with four major festivals (All Points West, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Coachella Festival, and Lollapalooza). There is definitely a big draw to festivals, whether they are the one day or three day variety, it allows an audience to see multiple bands for a fraction of the price it would take to see them separately. The Cure, in 2004 touring to their self-titled album, toured the USA in a “festival format,” with two stages and eight bands any given night including Interpol, Rapture, Mogwai, Muse, Cooper Temple Clause, Scarling, Head Automatica, Melissa Au Du Meir, Thursday, and Cursive. Linkin Park has set up Project Revolution, and radio stations are jumping the bandwagon as well, as KROQ in San Bernadino with Inland Invasion. But it is more than just the economic advantage for an audience member of seeing forty bands for 200 bucks, there is a culture and a camaraderie that exists at festivals.

First off, for younger bands, it is an opportunity to play in front of thousands; the young Muse played everything from the Livid Festival in Australia to Hurricane Festival in Germany when they had released their deubt album, “Showbiz.” Young bands have a greater chance of establishing themselves with the exposure that they might not have otherwise. And even bands that are established, like Placebo, who have played the largest of venues in Europe, Australia, and Latin America, get the opportunity to show what they are made of in front of a stage of thousands when they toured with Projekt Revolution in the USA.

Second off, though there are specialized festivals, like Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Germany, most of the major festivals attract a plethora of bands of different genres into one event. This has two effects. The first is that most members of an audience have a range in tastes. Most people do not listen to just one genre of music, but rather a range of music, and festivals will allow them to relish in all of it. Second, bands get cross-pollinated with ideas. Rock bands get to see pop and electronic acts, dance acts get to see rock acts, etc… In this “indie”/genre-bending world we are in, it allows bands to hear and witness audiences buy into different ideas, giving them ideas of their own.

Third, competition. Fuck the pop charts; between payola and paying for commercial time to play music, and all sort of backroom dealings, charts represent the competition between record companies and promoters, not musicians. To see bands rise to the top, look at festivals. Now they are not playing on their own, they cannot just go passively through a standard set of singles and think the audience is going to buy it. Bands have to put their best foot forward; there is a reason why the Cure, Depeche Mode, and Metallica always headline festivals, it is not because they have been around for years, as many veteran bands are not headliners; it is because they can deliver live.

Fourth is the economics of it. Bands can tour the festival circuit all summer long, with little expense to themselves. Could they make more money on their own? Perhaps, if they are large enough, but the reality is that the music industry is losing money every day. The paradigm is starting to shift from selling records to selling concert tickets (wonder why they keep getting more and more expensive?). Remember, tours use to be shorter, the average live set 45 minutes. Now, tours go on for 18 months at time, with over 150 dates. Festivals are a sure way for the industry to recoup some of its lost royalty funds, while providing audiences with the best value for their buck.

Below are five bands known for their festival performances. We decided to review five albums/bands of recent music, but that predated the blog by a few months, to give an idea of what might be seen on the festival circuit.

Glasvegas: “Glasvegas” (2008)

Scottish rock band out of Glasgow, Glasvegas formed in 2003 and clawed their way to national and European recognition in a slow and deliberate process. One of the distinct things about this band is that it is three boys with a female drummer (Caroline McKay). Releasing their self-titled debut album in the UK on 8 September 2008, it reached the #2 in the UK and Ireland, and #5 in Sweden. What helped their popularity? Well, touring with the likes of Muse, Oasis, and U2 did not hurt a bit, but hitting the festivals was a smart idea: Godiva Festival, Glastonbury Festival, Reading Festival, Leeds Festival, Kendal Calling Festival, Standon Calling Festival, Oxegen Festival, T in the Park, Coachella Festival, Hurricane Festival, Roskilde Festival, Rusirock Festival, Eurokeenes Festival, Benicasism Festival, Gurten Festival, and Lollapalooza – and that is the way to spread the word around in 14 months.

Why is it a must? Combining a bit of noise pop with shoegazinig, this debut album packs a subtle punch. It is never in your face, but there is definitely an emotional undertow, which is sort of addicting. Incorporated are elements/songs that everyone will recognize instantly: “You Are My Sunshine” and “Moonlight Sonata,” and the deluxe edition even includes “Silent Night / Noapte de Vis.” Our pick for highlight track: “Geraldine.” It is all about the power of subtlety. It is the type of song you can imagine some crowd surfing and cell phones (lighters have been replaced at live shows) whirling around. It is just one of those songs that lack any virtuoso qualities, but still sucks you into a trance, into a soundscape that is melodically perfect. And if you invest in that deluxe edition, you get “Fuck You, It’s Over.” It has that appeal of late 80’s angered music by bands associated with the gothic rock and post-punk scenes. What makes the song interesting is that it is not sung from the vocalists’ (James Allan) point of view: he sings from a gay point of view, and the band does not hold back: “I gave you all the love a boy could ever need, and in this world there’s only one of me. And all there is left is the realization that we’re never meant to be. Fuck you, fuck you, it’s over.”

Track Listing:
1. Flowers & Football Tops
2. Geraldine
3. It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry
4. Lonesome Swan
5. Go Square Go
6. Polmont on My Mind
7. Daddy’s Gone Home
8. Stabbed
9. S.A.D. Light
10. Ice Cream Van
11. Careful What You Wish For – Deluxe Edition
12. Fuck You, It’s Over – Deluxe Edition
13. Cruel Moon – Deluxe Edition
14. Please Come Back Home – Deluxe Edition
15. A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss) – Deluxe Edition
16. Silent Night / Noapte de Vis – Deluxe Edition

Keep up with Glasvegas at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is the Glasvegas video for “Flowers and Football Tops” from their MySpace Video page.

Glasvegas - "Flowers & Football Tops"

Snow Patrol: “A Hundred Million Suns” (2008)

One of those bands formed at university (the University of Dundee to be exact) and working out of Glasgow, Snow Patrol (formed as Shrug, then shifting to Polarbear then to Snow Patrol) is a band that suffered more than their share of pressure and stress early on – from avoiding legal issues with the original name of the band (as an American band was named Shrug as well) to members not being able to cope with the stress of being in a band. But this never got them down, and intelligently, this is one of the bands that knew how to use the festival circuit to gain exposure and build a fan base. Moreover, in recent times they have started Polar Music, a publishing company that does not put the pressure on emerging artists, as they want to offer one album deals and allow artists to grow at their own pace.

Why is it a must? Well, “A Hundred Million Suns” was recorded in part at Hansa Studios in Berlin, which gets points in my book. Gary Lightbody (vocalist) was inspired by particle physics, another one of those things that gets points in my book. And with tracks like “Take Back the City” (“Take back the city for yourself tonight; I’ll take back the city for me…”), is one of those songs that leave you flabbergasted when you realize it reminds you of the last time you went out to the City for a bit of (non-laid back) partying. Then there is “Please Just Take These Photos from My Hand,” which is one of those songs that will strike a chord in you if you ever lost someone that you were not just in love with, but also loved dearly. It is the tale of trying to leave those memories behind… the futile attempt to forget. Definitely a universal album from beginning to end, it will be hard not to relate this album on many levels.

Track Listing:
1. If There’s a Rocket Tie Me to It
2. Crack the Shutters
3. Take Back the City
4. Lifeboats
5. The Golden Floor
6. Please Just Take These Photos from My Hands
7. Set Down Your Glass
8. The Planets Bend Between Us
9. Engines
10. Disaster Button
11. The Lightning Strike

Keep up with Snow Patrol at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Kaiser Chiefs: “Off With Their Heads” (2008)

What is a “Kaiser Chief”? The band took their name after a South African football club (that’s soccer!), Kaizer Chiefs. Combining punk urgency and new wave quirkiness, artistic introspection and a kick-ass sense of humor, the band was an out of left field success with fans and on the festival circuit. From first listen, you might not immediately imagine them playing in a field with 80,000 people going crazy, but when you start to feel yourself connected to their music, you understand the sway they have over an audience. It is not because they use a generic approach to hooks and crooks, but rather they compose each song to its own maximum potential.

Why is it a must? “Off With Their Heads” is definitely a step away from radio-friendly music in a traditional sense. Sarcasm and a cutting wit, the album is lyrically as catchy as musically. Take the lead single, “Never Miss a Beat,” which is an anthem against the lack of formal (school) or cultural (television) education, yet the “kids on the street, no they miss a beat…” Why? Because, “it is cool to know nothin’…” a growing reality in our world! Wrapped in an urgent, almost despair oozing, beat, what makes the song work is what makes most Kaiser Chiefs’ songs work: they do not bitch and moan, complain and pout at the problems of the world; they put it out there for you, with a twist and a sense of humor and allow you to make the most of it. If you want a band that can be critical, but never preachy, this is your band.

Track Listing:
1. Spanish Metal
2. Never Miss a Beat
3. Like It Too Much
4. You Want History
5. Can’t Say What I Mean
6. Good Days Bad Days
7. Tomato in the Rain
8. Half the Truth
9. Always Happens Like That
10. Addicted to Drugs
11. Remember You’re a Girl

Keep up with the Kaiser Chiefs at their homepage and MySpace.

Here is their video for “Never Miss a Beat” from their MySpace Video page.

Kaiser Chiefs - Never Miss A Beat

Kings of Leon: “Only By the Night” (2008)

Kings of Leon is one of those great American bands that are more popular in the UK than here. Hailing from the South (Nashville, Tennessee), the quartet is composed of brothers. Their music blends elements of Southern rock, garage rock, and an indie mentality of being distinct. Though many “indie” bands are not capable of writing distinct music, this is not problem for these brothers. Aggressive but cathartically infectious, straightforward but intricate, the Kings of Leon are a study in contradictions. And though they have worked the festival circuit to obtain global success, Caleb Followill (vocalist) was not afraid to tell the Reading Festival audience members who were not fans, “…we’ve worked hard to be here. We’re the goddam Kings of Leon, so fuck you.” Of course, they complimented the Leeds Festival (the second, less referenced half of the “Carling Weekend,” though no longer referred to as such) crowd two days later.

Why is it a must? Well, because as Caleb said, they’re the fucking Kings of Leon. “Only By the Night” shows the growth, maturity, and incredible craftsmanship of the band. “Closer,” a darker number than usually expected from the Kings of Leon, the song creeps in its layered soundscape, with guitars trying to escape into a full-fledged orgy of sound, but they never do. Caleb sings, “Driven by the strangle of vein showing no mercy, I do it again; open up your eye, you keep on crying baby, I’ll bleed you dry…” This is pretty fucked up shit you might expect from a gothic rock band, but the Kings pull it off in “Closer” with their aggressiveness and certain sleek sexiness that they seem to be able to produce in their music. The album closes with “Cold Desert,” clocking in at over five minutes, which includes a fade out towards the end that makes you think the song is about to end before it picks up again; there is a definite feel of epic proportion to the song. They end the album with a soundscape that smacks you hard in the head; not the fastest, not the hardest song on the album, the sense of melancholy in the song is cathartic to anyone who is listening. Brilliant, but then again, they’re the fucking Kings of Leon.

Side note: there are two distinct covers to the album, the first of the two being the official cover. I have only seen the second as an import in the USA.

Track Listing:
1. Closer
2. Crawl
3. Sex on Fire
4. Use Somebody
5. Manhattan
6. Revelry
7. 17
8. Notion
9. I Want You
10. Be Somebody
11. Cold Desert

Keep up with the Kings of Leon at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Razorlight: “Slipway Fires” (2008)

Razorlight is one of those British bands that have achieved an amazing measure of success in the UK and Ireland, but have not seriously caught on around the world, though their latest album also did well in Germany. From early on in their career, they were smart to jump the festival bandwagon, like playing Live 8 at Hyde Park in 2005. (Supporting veterans like Queen and the Rolling Stones did not hurt either.) They have been slagged off as another generic piano / acoustic rock outfit, but this belies the truth. It is smart to remember that Razorlight does not always produce / mix down their songs in the same vein as many piano bands, and though their music may sound warm and friendly, lyrically they have a way of making a listener feel, well, a bit uncomfortable.

Why is it a must? “Slipway Fires” did not receive the critical reviews that the prior two albums did, and this was a good thing – a blessing in disguise. For the first time, Razorlight ignored what was expected of them and the hype machine and concentrated solely on their craft. With their third effort, Razorlight did not produce an easily consumed album; instead the album is meant to make you think (I know, how dare they!). Though the music is not a great departure from their previous efforts, the lyrics will give you cause to pause. “What is love but the strangest of feelings? A sin you swallow for the rest of your life…” (“Wire to Wire”). There is also a real narrative quality to many of the lyrics that are comparable to some of the best in the industry (Bob Dylan, Robert Smith): “…she takes me to a warehouse in the city, her gaze as vacant as a byline in the news, and I reach in disbelief then resign myself: she’s slumming it, in someone else’s shoes…” (“Burberry Blue Eyes”). Don’t allow the epitaphs like “sissy rock” disway you from listening; this is an album that is full of wonder and substance that will get you thinking.

Track Listing:
1. Wire to Wire
2. Hostage of Love
3. You and the Rest
4. Tabloid Lover
5. North London Trash
6. 60 Thompson
7. Stinger
8. Burberry Blue Eyes
9. Blood for Wild Blood
10. Monster Boots
11. The House

Keep up with Razorlight at their own band page, official homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.
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02 September 2009

One Hundred Hurricanes Answer 5

I got a chance to review One Hundred Hurricanes’ debut album “60 Years Under the Stars” last month (link), and was more than surprised to hear from Denny Dingus (lead guitar) shortly after posting the review. Again, another great band that you should definitely support; hailing from West Virginia, their straightforward, gimmick free approach to indie is refreshing in a field of bands that are trying to sell contrivances. I want to thank Denny for finding the time to consult the rest of the band and answer these questions for me – so with no further ado, One Hundred Hurricanes Answer 5.

1. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

All of our influences vary pretty much from month to month. We just try to surround ourselves with great music both new and old and draw from that. There are some stalwarts of course for all of us such as The Beatles, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Motley Crue (our drummer is huge into Tommy Lee), The Snake The Cross The Crown, The Who… I'll stop here; this list of course could go on for days. We also read a lot. We write a lot based on our lives and the things that we observe in our daily routines.

2. How did the band form and come up with "One Hundred Hurricanes"?

We were going by the Getaway originally. Just try searching that on MySpace. Almost everyone has something like that or similar. So we tossed around a couple of ideas, but nothing really stuck. Our bassist was listening to MC Chris at the time and drew a line from one of his songs for the name. MC says, "I've got nothing but a hundred hurricanes in my way. AKA People saying quiet down and behave, fucking lame like the mother fucking trucker hat craze." We took that as meaning people standing in the way of doing what you want to do, telling you that you should just sit down and shut up cause you'll never get anywhere, so why try. We really liked that idea, and the name has a really nice ring to it.

3. There is a definite emphasis on prioritizing the live aspect of the music, but out of curiosity, how did you approach the composition and recording of "60 Years Under the Stars"?

That's pretty much the way we wanted it, really. Of course we would love to have the many bells and whistles that a huge recording studio would have provided us with, but for these songs they stand on their own without a lot of post-production. As far as the approach to recording we didn't have a set concept, I guess, for the way we wanted to track them. Mark Poole, who recorded our album, has an amazing way of leading you to the right conclusion for a song without forcing his will upon it. All of the rhythm tracks (drums, bass, rhythm guitar) were done live together and then we just pieced the vocals and lead tracks onto that. I think that's where a lot of the energy comes from in the songs. Also I think the sense of urgency with which we had to record the tracks contributed for better or for worse.

4. It is becoming more and more common for bands to be part of a "scene" or have some gimmick up their sleeves. One Hundred Hurricanes, however, seems to stand out from those classifications; how is this an advantage (or disadvantage) to getting the word out about your music?

It is a little of both (advantage/disadvantage). We have never been the type of guys who subscribe to a "scene" or a "gimmick," even before we got into playing music. As far as advantages go, I think it makes people pay more attention to what we're doing musically than to anything else, be it clothes or onstage antics. Also I feel it makes it more accessible, which is what music is supposed to be about: emotions, and drawing on them both the good and the bad. Disadvantages are numerous, with a scene or anything like that you'll ultimately have people that will like you just because you are a part of something they are. So that can be tough to try to make people who normally wouldn't like or go to your shows get past all of that B.S.. Also it can be tough booking because some bands will only book with other bands who are of the same genre or the same content. For us we go out every time we play and leave it on the stage and people can think what they want about it. We really enjoy what we do, and I think that carries over to the audience, if they are willing to give it a chance.

5. You guys have played your own shows and festival situations. How do you find you have to switch up your approach to playing and performing in order to connect to your audience in different situations, venues, or locations?

That is one of the benefits of our style, all we have to do is control our volume. Of course our set list will change to fit wherever we are playing, you can't really rock out a coffee shop. But generally we go about it the same every show; 'Steal Ears' is something we often say before we play, it just means play your heart out and make people listen and pay attention. You're never going to be loved by everyone you play for, that's just the nature of the beast, but if you play like you give a damn people will too.

Keep up with One Hundred Hurricanes at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Again, head over to MySpace, check out the sound, click that “Add Friend” feature and support the band.
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