29 April 2010

More Videos... But First Save Radio 6

Sharing more videos… but first…

There is an ongoing threat that the BBC may close down Radio 6, a station that I have listened to on the Internet for quite some time. It is one of those stations that really give exposure to talented artists, that may not garnish exposure elsewhere since they are not traditionally radio-friendly or backed by major labels. Check out Radio 6 at this link… and if you are impressed, especially if you are in the UK, join Save BBC 6Music on Facebook. Before the videos, here are four clips of artists (Brett Anderson [of (London) Suede fame], Katie Melua, Friendly Fires, and Editors) voicing their support for the channel from the TheJoyofSixMusic YouTube Channel.

And now for the videos…

Kelis’ “Acapella” from the KelisVEVO YouTube Channel.

The Dead Weather’s “Die By the Drop” from their YouTube Channel: TheDeadWeatherTV.

The Ghost of a Thousand’s “Fed to the Ocean” from the CrashburnProductions YouTube Channel.

JJ’s “Let Go” from the BlankTV YouTube Channel.

Monarchy’s “The Phoenix Alive” from their YouTube Channel: monarchysound.

Editors’ “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool” from their YouTube Channel: editorsofficial.

Young Rebel Set’s “Won’t Get Up Again” from their YouTube Channel: YoungRebelSet.

Gryatory System’s “Yowser, Yowser, Yowser (Reboot)” from angularrecords YouTube Channel.

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27 April 2010

A Brief Rant...

No review this week, and Roman (SDM) is home sick with food poisoning. However, a mutual friend of ours, we shall call her Painted Bird, had expressed the desire to write for the blog… and of course we were more than happy to welcome her to the family. She is an eclectic artist with an eclectic taste in music, and instead of introducing her by means of a review, she wanted to bitch… ummm I mean rant a little. Welcome aboard Painted Bird, and I hope you all enjoy.

Music, a compilation of breath taking songs, colorful words, and that rhythmic feeling you can’t get from anything else, and thus in terms a sanctuary. When I think of music, I think of both controversy and how it has helped us trace ourselves in today’s world. Whether it’s part of the hype machine or not, there is always someone willing to dapple into a specific genre and will just listen to it over and over again until he/she becomes a complete drone to that scene (I’m quite sure everyone knows someone that does that…); unfortunately, with each new drone, they add themselves to the already sufficient population of “people who have no personality,” as said by Emilie Autumn in her song “Art of Suicide”: “The world is full of poets we don’t need anymore; the world is full of singers we don’t need anymore; the world is full of lovers we don’t need any more…” Though Ms. Autumn’s words are poignant, especially of the mainstream, musicians in the last decade have decided to make a more spectacular type of music instead of the same old “sodomy containing music,” which does constantly quote over and over again that they are “gonna get that girl,” gets vague and annoying… all the time you are thinking, “Alright we get it now, get over yourself.”

Honestly that is why I do not listen to the radio, because the music is simply chosen for you to listen to, something that Roman (SDM the man) has written about at length. People become so indulged with the music that of course they know it word for word, but do they ever think to question, “What if they played this song?” Sadly, they don’t. Say I use Little Wayne as an example; he is in fact (to me) one of the coolest rappers I would ever choose to listen to, but, from my experience, if you try to expand the typical listeners’ (of Little Wayne) musical horizons they shoot you down, leaving you slapping around the ground like a goldfish out of water. Actually this has me wondering: Do you know who Neuroticfish is? If you do, then you’re awesome! If you don’t, go to YouTube! He is completely wicked and awesome. So, yeah maybe by now you’ve realized I’m kind of quirky, well duh! I am a misunderstood artist that might turn to cutting off my ear like the famous Vincent Van Gogh, (okay maybe not), but anyhow I’ve come to realize the community I live in stereotypes people either by the music they listen to or by the way people choose to dress.

Truth be told, I’ve been criticized for my being different, but haven’t we all? I’ve been told that since I dress like a “goth rocker” that I must only listen to gloomy rock music, um yeah… if that’s what you think. What people do not see beyond the surface is that I am always trying to expand my world and tastes, including looking into global music. For example, two acts that have really gotten my attention are Tsukiko Amano and The Gazette. So as I said before, music is a type of sanctuary for me, and I often use it to inspire me to create my art, which is often as misunderstood as the artists I listen to.

Unlike so many music listeners today, when I come across music that was made before I was born, I always take a listen, when for most people I know it is simply considered old, useless, and corny. Yet, many of these bands have become some of my favorites. And in this sample the past for music world, it really does upset me that so many people will not listen to older music, because they actually they are listening to a brand new twist of the songs in samples.

Though I think that SDM and all the crew here have done an incredible job with the range of music… though lately Roman is back on a synthpop kick that is driving me crazy… I have decided that I wanted to add to the mix of the blog. Below are a few video clips of music that I love and I hope to find the time occasionally to come back here on the blog and write about the music I love in more specific terms, as well as perhaps look at some of the artwork associated with the music on the blog. Till then, I hope to see you on the other side of my strange musical mix-matched taste.

Dethklok”s “Birthday Dethday” from their YouTube Channel: DethklokMusic.

Live clip of Emilie Autumn’s “Dead Is the New Alive” from her MySpace Video page.

Emilie Autumn "Dead Is The New Alive" Promo

Emilie Autumn (Official) | MySpace Music Videos

Enigma’s “Sadness Part I” from their MySpace Video page.

ENIGMA - Sadeness Part I

ENIGMA | MySpace Music Videos

Sade’s “Smooth Opertor” from the SadeVEVO YouTube Channel.

And a link for Stuck in the Sound’s “Toy Boy” from the irenecommercials YouTube Channel.
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21 April 2010

Happy Birthday Robert Smith

After meeting Roman (SDM) and getting the chance to talk music with him, I learned about his love for The Cure - most definitely his favorite band of all time. Long story short, years later I have become a huge fan of The Cure, and today is Robert Smith’s birthday… so Happy Birthday Robert! (Just in case he is reading!) I thought what better way to commemorate his birthday than by sharing a few videos of Cure covers. Hope you enjoy them!

Blank & Jones’ cover of “A Forest” (featuring Robert Smith) on their YouTube Channel: blankandjonesvideos.

Dinosaur Jr.’s cover of “Just Like Heaven” from their MySpace video page.

Just Like Heaven

Dinosaur Jr. | MySpace Music Videos

Ivy’s cover of “Let’s Go to Bed” from the mintyfreshrecords YouTube Channel.

JES’ cover of “Lovesong” from the BlackHoleRecordings YouTube Channel.

Katie Melua’s cover of “Just Like Heaven” from her YouTube Channel: katiemeluavideos.

Juan Terrenal’s cover of “Boys Don’t Cry” in Spanish from their YouTube Channel: jterrenal.

311’s cover of “Lovesong” from the 311VEVO YouTube Channel

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20 April 2010

The Kissaway Trail: "Sleep Mountain"

Releasing their sophomore effort, “Sleep Mountain” (9 March 2010 in the USA as import CD, 20 April 2010 in the USA as download), The Kissaway Trail sways more towards anthemic indie rock than post-rock, more towards the experience of an album than just a random collection of tracks. Though I could imagine some critiquing this shift in gear, to reproduce a debut album is never a good idea, usually ending in sophomore slumps. In shifting gears, “Sleep Mountain” may not get you off your feet, bouncing wall to wall in your living room, but it is full of another kind of urgency: visceral. There is an emotional undertow to all of these songs that is consistent and anxious and beautiful. This is definitely no sophomore slump!

Okay, I can take some criticism: some people may say that there is nothing really new on offer here – it has all been done before and I am unfounded. And to some degree I would agree; so much of what is out there has sonic cues to past musicians and current trendsetters. There are, however, two distinctions here, and the first is how the ingredients have been measured. Though they may have swayed away from their Sigor Rós and Sonic Youth influences and leaned more towards Arcade Fire and Flaming Lips, they are not reproducing the sound of any of these bands. Instead, they are learning what works well, and, more importantly, what doesn’t really work well. The second distinction is the visceral power the music generates. With the interplay of muttered and crisp sounds, and varying between droning, dirgeful arrangements and luscious ones, The Kissaway Trail is still able to keep a consistent undertow to the music that permeates the entire album.

Opening with the lead single, “SDP,” is a bit deceptive. This is one of two radio-friendly tracks on the album, which capitalizes on musical concepts that are unfortunately worlds away from the world of radio play. However, it is a nice way to ease the listener into the thick of the album. You are instantly, though, transported through an array of soundscapes, notably “Don’t Wake Up” and “Friendly Fire.” The tracks are back-to-back and sonically nothing alike, though both alluring with their syncopated beats. The album goes to a strange place when The Kissaway Trail covers Neil Young’s “Philadelphia.” This personally was a shocker for me, as it was not a likely cover for the band in my mind; furthermore, Young is one of those artists that if you are going to cover, you best do it well… or else! In my book, there are a few reasons to cover a song. The two main reasons are to save a great song from falling into obscurity (like Annie Lennox did with “No More “I Love You’s””) or to bring out a new dimension to a song (like Orgy did with “Blue Monday”). This is a definite case of the later; the somberness of the song has been uplifted away, and instead of warmth in the vocals there is an eerie detachment, making the lyrics sound almost existentialist.

The second radio-friendly song, “New Lipstick” immediately follows “Philadelphia,” which was a great choice in the arrangement of the tracks. The contrast in both songs just brings “New Lipstick” to life in a way that placement after another track would not have done. The shift in tone just makes you want to listen more, but soon the album anxiously treads through the last few tracks to the finale, “Three Million Hours.” And, even with the cover in the mix, it is here when you realize that this is an “album” and meant to be listened to as such, and that near hour process of listening has been cathartic. This is not to take away from the individual strength of each track, but at the end of it all it is the collective experience that etches itself into your memory. And, as I am a lover of albums, this is refreshing in a field of releases that are merely a collection of tracks that have nothing (sonically or thematically) in common.

Track Listing:
1. SDP
2. Painter
3. New Year
4. Don’t Wake Up
5. Friendly Fire
6. Prelude
7. Beat Your Heartbeat
8. Philadelphia
9. New Lipstick
10. Enemy
11. Three Million Hours

Keep up with The Kissaway Trail at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “SDP” from the yeproc YouTube Channel.

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19 April 2010

Catching up with TheMistake and We Have Band

As I am getting ready to head down to my yearly visit to Philadelphia for the Penn Relays, I made it a priority of mine to get this posting out of the way. Post-Wednesday (21 April 2010), there will be no blog postings (at least not by me) till Sunday the earliest – been working on a big one. So, as I have written before, I have been working hard to catch up on a few releases, and I decided to pair these two bands together: one Spanish, one British; one rock, one electronic. I sort of like writing about two bands that have nothing in common, other than solid craftsmanship. Veterans, TheMistake, from España (Spain) produced their fourth album and live up to all expectations and pressure to put forth a solid post-hardcore album. Newbie, We Have Band, from England produce their debut album, totally unaffected by the buzz around their release. Enjoy!

TheMistake: “4”

TheMistake, no space, and not be confused with the Californian band The Mistake, space, hail from España (Spain). And like fellow nationals Amaral and La Oreja De Van Gogh [Van Gogh’s Ear], TheMistake produces current, vibrant, and urgent indie rock – and have decided not to sell out their mother’s tongue, singing in Spanish… ummm Español. Appropriately titling their fourth album “4” (1 February 2010 in the USA via download) on Bcore Disc, that band is subtly making waves in the European and South American indie rock scenes. Their music is best defined as post-punk (revival) meets post-hardcore; while not necessarily radio friendly for España (or the UK or USA, as neither country really plays anything other than English-sung music in its main music outlets), TheMistake’s brand of post-hardcore is more “romantic” and “dreamy” than most, making “4” inviting and alluring in much the same way as early Catherine Wheel.

Though the music may not be as experimental as many other indie bands, there is no dated sound on this album. A typical curse of many Spanish and Latin American bands, which seem to lag behind the Anglo-American dominated rock genre, TheMistake plunges straight forward with attitude and emotionally filled music. With no obvious cues from the current indie scene or previous decades, “4” was composed more along the lines of being sonically a timeless piece. Sure, there are those post-punk moments in the bassline and ambient (and understated) keys in the background, while there are definite post-hardcore beats and a bit of late 70s style punk and 90s indie guitaring, what makes the album so alluring is that it does not degrade itself into clichéd, overdone indie tropes.

Some key tracks to listen to: “Extrarradio” has this powerful undertow and arpeggiated guitar playing that is damn sexy – the song has something of dream pop / shoegaze to it that makes it a definite standout on the album. “Panorámica,” though far from a breather on the album, is one of the most sedate songs on the album, as you are locked into deep introspective mood of the song. As for the most sedate, “Como Lluvia de Plástico” [“Like Plastic Rain”] is definitely the one song on the album that will tug on your heartstrings. The album closes with “Isla de Jura” [“Swearing Island”], the most post-punk song on the album, reminiscent of Joy Division and Bauhaus (and early Interpol); the song is moody, but not broody.

I try to keep my radar tuned to international music, which is sometimes difficult. And, admittedly, there is so much stuff out there (both internationally and domestic) that is just rehashing current successful indie bands and/or just sounds dated. TheMistake does not fall into this category – this is an international band that you should definitely take a listen to. “4” demonstrates that the band continues to grow as songwriters, allowing the power of each song to seep through your speakers. Even if you do not understand Spanish, the music alone is so powerful that with one good listen you may just want to learn a few words in Spanish.

Track Listing:
1. La Felguera
2. Extrarradio
3. Alta Definición
4. Panorámica
5. De Puertas Hacia Fuera
6. Como Lluvia de Plastico
7. Nada Mejor
8. Acto Reflejo
9. Minúscula
10. Isla de Jura

Keep up with TheMistake at MySpace and Facebook. Currently, on MySpace, they are currently streaming five of the ten songs on their current album, “4.”

Typically, I like to post videos from the album that is being reviewed; I am going to break that “rule” right now. This is an older video by TheMistake, as there does not seem to be any other available at the moment and I want everyone to really get a feel for this band. This is “Un Mundo Sin Alfombras Rojas” [“A World Without Red Carpets”] from the bcoredisc YouTube Channel.

We Have Band: “WHB”

We Have Band crashed into my radar when a friend of mine (Little Sister) kept insisting that this band was all that… better than sliced bread… the next big deal. I watched the videos, and even posted “You Came Out” last June. April sees the release of their full-length debut, “WHB” (5 April 2010 in the UK, 5 April 2010 in the USA as download, 13 April 2010 in the USA as importable CD), and one listen later, then a second… and then a third… and I realized I am hooked! There is a sense of familiarity when you listen to the music, and not just because there are many 80s cues. Though We Have Band have ridden their initial hullabaloo and have kept in pace with current beats and fads, what really makes this album familiar is it is as inviting and warm as standard/classic pop. No major poetic standings, no grandiose virtuoso moments, and no obvious, blatant rehashing, they combine all 80s feel good new wave with the latest trends in electropop and dance. And now four listens into the album, it becomes even more infectious.

Though incorporating rock rifts and kitschy vocal arrangements á la Talking Heads, the rhythm treads onto dance territory. There is no lull on the album, no cliché ballad, no somber (to quote the Cure) “death persistent blues.” This is a feel good album, beautiful escapism for three-quarters of an hour… and sometimes that is exactly what the doctor has ordered. Starting with two piano chords, the album opens with “Piano,” with a mysterious electro-bass line, and slowly melds into “Buffet,” which is easily the most distinct song on the album. The party, however, begins with “Divisive” – instantly you are sonically transported back within the first few seconds to some club, probably in 1986, in a seedy part of town. The cinematic quality of the music starts to ooze through from this point on.

The vocals are interesting, as the harmonies are often in three – covering a wide spectrum. Though kitschy like the Talking Heads, the arrangements are warmer like those of General Public. This allows for more diversity and making it harder to anticipate just what is going to come next vocally. It is obvious that We Have Band capitalize on this fact in songs like “Love, What Your Doing?” and “Centerfold & Empty Screens.” Along side the vocals is the constant play between different sounds: from little electronic blips to (effected) guitar – musically, the arrangements are as fresh and diverse as the vocal arrangements.

We Have Band had to struggle with the worse pressure while recording this album: hype! The reality is that most bands, really none, live up to the hype. There is one thing to have anticipation for an album; it is another thing to already be told how that album will best sound. “WHB” may not deliver exactly what was expected, as never selling itself short – the range of music is greater than the original singles; this is better than what was expected. Now the trick, of course, is going to be for We Have Band to put together a tour, continue to keep an audience's attention (especially in a field congested with electropop), and follow up this album, but something tells me that these three have it all planned out – I mean, they did work in the business side of the industry already, they know how to capitalize on hype, and they have the chops to write solid music.

Track Listing:
1. Piano
2. Buffet
3. Divisive
4. Love, What You Doing?
5. Oh!
6. How to Make Friends
7. Honeytrap
8. Hear It in the Cans
9. Centerfolds and Empty Screens
10. You Came Out
11. WHB
12. Here Knows

Keep up with We Have Band at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Head over to their homepage where there is currently a free download of “Honeytrap.”

Here is their video for “Diverse” from their YouTube Channel: WeHaveBand.

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14 April 2010

Back to Videos

Here are some new videos, and a few I thought we should catch up on. Enjoy.

Yeasayer’s “Ambling Alp” from their MySpace video page.

Ambling Alp

Yeasayer | MySpace Music Videos

Delphic’s “Halcyon” from their YouTube Channel: delphicmusic.

Serena-Maneesh’s “I Just Want To See Your Face” from the 4ADRecords YouTube Channel.

Class Actress’ “Journal of Ardency” from the TerribleRecords YouTube Channel.

Signer’s “Languidly Toot” from the CarparkRecords YouTube Channel.

Bananarama’s “Love Don’t Live Here” from their MySpace Video page.


BANANARAMA | MySpace Music Videos

Melissa Auf der Maur’s “Out Of Our Minds” from the RoadRunnerUK YouTube Channel.

Keane’s “Stop For A Minute” from the KeaneVEVO YouTube Channel.

Toro Y Moi’s “Talamak” from the CarparkRecords YouTube Channel.

Kasabian’s “Vlad the Impaler” from their YouTube Channel: KasabianTour.

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13 April 2010

Los Campesinos!: "Romance Is Boring"

Is it 2010 already? I must have hit the snooze button a few too many times. As I rub the sleep out of my eyes and flip through a list of bands and albums that was compiled by the SDM Blog for possible review, one in particular stuck out to me: “Los Campesinos!, have we begun listening to Norteño music?” I ponder. As misleading a band name as I can come up with, surprisingly these guys are not Mexican, but they’re… Welsh (none of them are actually from Wales, but that’s where the band was formed. Semantics, really.) Off the top of my head I can think of many misleading film titles with unexpected protagonists, i.e. “The Mexican” starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, “The Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise, etc… Culture shock aside, let’s get to the music.

Their third effort, “Romance Is Boring” (26 January 2010 in the USA, 1 February 2010 in the UK) starts off a bit slowly with “In Medias Res”; acoustic guitar strumming, violins off in the back but ever present in the bridge: actual strings believe it or not; they’re a 7-piece band, SOMEONE better be playing that fiddle. As it builds up, it’s almost operatic with its slower tempo, huge cymbal crashes, arpeggiated piano, and, wow, horns too. Nice. “There Are Listed Buildings” picks up the pace with an almost ska-like feel, only less orchestrated. One thing that really comes through early on in the record is confidence. To me it sounds like this is the way the band wanted to sound. Every chord played, drum hit, and note blown: “That’s exactly what we meant to do”, is the vibe I get. Very upbeat, very take-it-or-leave-it.

The title track, "Romance Is Boring," is very solid and in-your-face, but in the nicest possible way. “I Warned You Do Not Make An Enemy of Me” got my attention not for its title (which is very cool, you know it is), but for fitting tempo changes, breaks, and hell, that’s a waltz rhythm into such a svelte timestamp of 2:48. “This is a Flag. There is No Wind”: “CAN WE ALL PLEASE JUST CALM THE FUCK DOWN?!” Love it! That’s how you start a movement, if you ask me. Instead of starting The Revolution, that’s how they start the track. To me, it’s a song about motivation, or a lack there of, how “my mind is like a nation’s flag, but my breeze is too weak.” Really, couldn’t care less. How many times have we all felt that way about a person, a situation, or even what’s going on right in front of us? Sometimes, you just can’t be bothered. And just as the record started, so it ends in a screeching halt, kicking the tempo down with “Coda: A Burn Scar in the Shape of the Sooner State”: a welcome cool-down, or smashing into a brick wall? You decide.

All in all “Romance Is Boring” pleasantly surprised me. I will definitely be keeping my ears open for their earlier efforts. I’d like to hear how they progressed into the solid indie-pop band they are today.

Track Listing:
1. In Medias Res
2. There Are Listing Buildings
3. Romance Is Boring
4. We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)
5. Plan A
6. 200-102
7. Straight in at 101
8. Who Fell Asleep In
9. I Warned You: Do Not Make an Enemy of Me
10. Heart Swells/100-1
11. I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know
12. A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; or, Letters from Me to Charlotte
13. The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future
14. This Is a Flag, There Is No Wind
15. Coda: A Burn Scar in the Shape of the Sooner State
16. Too Many Flesh Suppers – iTunes bonus track

Keep up with Los Campesinos! at their homepage, MySpace, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “Romance Is Borning” from their Vimeo Channel: Los Campesinos!

Romance Is Boring by Los Campesinos! from Los Campesinos! on Vimeo.

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07 April 2010

Jónsi: "Go"

This one is for a colleague of mine – hope you enjoy the read as much as the album.

So what exactly do Bang Gang, Björk, GusGus, Mínus, Parachutes, and Sigur Rós have in common? These are all amazing, groundbreaking bands hailing from Ísland (Iceland). And since 1997, Sigur Rós has been hitting the radio waves, festivals, and indie scene with their own unique brand of post-rock. Earlier this year in January, the band announced that they would go on indefinite hiatus, to the dismay of many fans as rumors abounded of a 2010 release. The silver lining to this very dark cloud? Vocalist and guitarist, who is known to use a cello bow on his electric guitar, Jónsi (Jón Pór Birgisson) released his solo debut proper, “Go” (6 April 2010 in the USA). With a pinch of baroque pop and smidge of post-rock, Jónsi produces a cinematically entrancing album, which will simply blow you away.

By no stretch of the imagination is “Go” a major break from the work of Sigur Rós (which is a good thing), but one thing that is a major shift is that all of the songs are sung in English. Typically, Sigur Rós songs were sung in “Hopelandic” – a made-up, make believe language devoid of syntax or grammar, which relies on melodic effect. Though they used the term “Hopelandic,” this is really not new – think of scat singing in jazz or the glossolalia of Cocteau Twins and The Cranes. Jónsi brings this to English on his solo album, and often you are enraptured by the melody of the vocals, the way its arrangements mirror that of the first violinist’s of an orchestra, and not the actual words. Take “Sinking Friendship,” easily my favorite track on the album, Jónsi sings in glossolalia, at first to a bare arrangement, that slowly become more and more orchestrated with the dropping of the beat. Lyrically hard to decipher (“My lips are pale blue, my shivering half-moon; my lost night’s slowest tune is the end of the end of the end… We’re sinking friendships, we drown more and more”), but follow that post-punk stream of consciousness, you are absorbed into the actual arrangements and style of singing. Meaning, in a literal sense, is meaningless; all the matters is the truth of what you feel when you listen.

“We all grow old, use your life; the world goes and flutters by, use your life,” Jónsi sings in “Boy Lilikoi,” and this is the apt theme for the entire album. Life is fleeting; it will always flutter on by you no matter what you do. But this reality does not have to be demure; as the album sonically demonstrates, this is a mantra to live life by. The music is full of urgency and wonderment. Right from the opening, Jónsi advices, “Go sing, too loud, make your voice break. Sing it out, go scream, do shout, make an earthquake” (“Go Do”). The ultimate goal is to live, to find your voice, and face the world, regardless if falling “into landslide” or giving “into low tide.” And you keep growing as a person (“Grow till tall, they all in the end will fall”), because you have no other real choice, as the slow paced “Grow Till Tall” advocates, because at the end of it all we will all fall, so what better way was there to live life than to live to grow?

Jónsi’s message: do not just live life, but live it on your terms. And I think very few musicians are in a better place to make this assertion than Jónsi. From a small nation, he has reached the world with his music and universal consciousness… being openly gay, he has unfurled his craftsmanship paying no mind to stereotypical expectations… living in a literal world, he has produced music that is symbolic and breathes beyond the mendacity of the black-or-white world. “Go” is not an album that should be taken lightly. From its phantasmagoric orchestration to its advocacy to live life, this is an album that not only sings to a generation, but sings beyond boundaries of generation, national origins, or any such translucent boundaries or differences. And if Oscar Wilde was right, that the only reason to create art is for one to admire it “intensely,” then let the admiration begin!

Track Listing:
1. Go Do
2. Animal Arithmetic
3. Tornado
4. Boy Lilikoi
5. Sinking Friendship
6. Kolniõur
7. Around Us
8. Grow Till Tall
9. Hengilás

Keep up with Jónsi at his homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is the link for his video for “Go Do” from the SigurRosHD YouTube Channel.
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06 April 2010

Two Door Cinema Club: "Tourist History"

Lately I have really been into “pop” music, and I want to qualify that a bit. To me, I tend not to use “pop” to signify “popular” music in terms of mainstream music; though some of what I have written about lately has had commercial success in the UK and/or Continental Europe, when I think of “pop” music as a genre I think back to the 1950s. It is sort of mindset you have when writing music; the goal is to write tight songs, on the shorter side, that rely heavily on the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-break/bridge-chorus-chorus format or some slight variation of that. Coupled with catchy lyrics, not all pop music is meant for frivolous entertainment; some pop has been heady and musically innovative (take a look at early Depeche Mode for that). And the thing about pop is that it can exist in just about any style of music, from electronic to rock, from dance to ballads. And of course, pop has never completely disappeared, but quality pop became virtually non-existent in the mainstream for over a decade, until recently. And if you do not think that pop is making a comeback, well then welcome to the world of Two Door Cinema Club.

Hailing from Northern Ireland and merging electropop with a rock format (two guitarists and a bassist, assisted by a drum machine), Two Door Cinema Club joins the ranks of recent musicians (Fyfe Dangerfield, Frankmusik, Goldfrapp, Hot Chip, La Roux, and Little Boots to name a few) who are once again proving that pop music can be vibrant, urgent, and relevant. “Tourist History” (28 February 2010 in Ireland, 1 March 2010 in the UK, 9 March 2010 in the USA as an import, but will be available domestically 27 April 2010) is full of infectious melodies, thriving beats, and winsome arrangements. Furthermore, this is one of those sunny, go lucky albums that just makes you feel good.

Musically, the band definitely has a wide breath of musical cues it has taken influences from: from 80s new wave to the current post-punk revival, the band lusciously combines all their influences in every track. With the opening track, “Cigarettes In The Theatre,” you quickly wonder just what kind of theatre they are talking about: “It starts in the theatre, a night of encounters…” Now hailing from the NYC metro area, I have a good idea of what kind of theatres these may be (especially when the final line repeats, “Tell me your favourite things…”). So even this polish, radio-ready pop ditty hides an adulterated experience in it, which reminds me of the best electropop bands out there – think again of Depeche Mode, specifically “Master and Servant” or “Strangelove.”

The album moves through many different terrains, including an space odyssey in “Eat That Up, It’s Good For You”: “You would look a little better, don’t you know, if you just wore less make-up. But it’s hard to realise when you’re sky high fighting off the spaceships.” (Of course, the operative words may be “sky high,” but let’s take this one literally.) There is also references to insanity: “You won’t believe what I tell you, white coats and clever minds will choose… you get a lot from this: loose tongue and arrogance. It’s not appropriate, don’t think that this is it” (“I Can Talk”). And in “This Is The Life,” there is the affirmation that life is about feeling good: “Feel something right, and feel something good, because if one thing works, you might know it’s true, because if this is the life, this is the life, then who’d argue?”

Musically, the album never really slows down for any one track. Usually, the placement of the slower (or faster tracks if you typically produce slow tempo music) is critical, because it breaks the monotony of the album; it allows what follows after to feel distinct from the prior tracks – it helps to build momentum of some sort or other. It is very difficult to produce an album that spans over thirty-minutes at a constant tempo – and this is more of a reality at the opposite extremes. Of course for diehards of any genre of music, this is not a problem, but for the average listener it become sonically overwhelming or unimaginative. However, that is not the case of “Tourist History.” Two Door Cinema Club produces an album that is an incredible listen from beginning to end, without ever making the listener think that the album is insipid. And how did they pull this off? It comes back to all their cues; though they are all present in each song, the mixology of each song is different. Some songs have more of the new wave, others of the electropop, and yet others of the post-punk revival.

What more can I say? Two Door Cinema Club has released an amazing debut album – if they can manage to avoid the hype-machine and extraneous influences (and of course manage to keep getting along with one another), there is definite potential here. Considering the variety of influences, the soundscape of the future has unlimited possibilities. And as for the present, do not pass up “Tourist History.” Okay, I admit, they could have come up with a catchier name, but just let the music talk for itself.

Track Listing:
1. Cigarettes In The Theatre
2. Come Back Home
3. Do You Want It All?
4. This Is The Life
5. Something Good Can Work
6. I Can Talk
7. Undercover Martyn
8. What You Know
9. Eat That Up, It’s Good For You
10. You’re Not Stubborn

Keep up with Two Door Cinema Club at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is their video for “Something Good Can Work” from their YouTube Channel: twodoorcinemaclub.

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05 April 2010

Catching up with The Irrepressibles and Rouge Wave

Life, life, life… Been trying to do some catching up on a few albums I have listened to that I have not had the time to review, but things keep getting in the way. So this week I promised myself I would do some serious catching up, even if I have to deprive myself of more sleep than I usually do! I really plan on avoiding any end of the year “blurb” posting, as I think that these musicians deserve a full-length review. So here are two bands that couldn’t be more different from one another than night and day. One a British chamber pop band releasing their debut, the other a Californian indie rock band releasing their fourth album and on its way to being veterans, both bands definitely have challenged what is expected of them. What I like about this odd mismatch is that at the end of it all, there is a communality between them, and it is that punk/post-punk ideology of “I am going to what I want, and if you don’t like it, move along to something else.” Both bands approach these albums with true craftsmanship, ignoring any of the brouhaha of current musical trends, and producing subtle irrepressible waves that shouldn’t be ignored.

The Irrepressibles: “Mirror Mirror”

The Irrepressibles is not just any ole band; this is a ten-member ensemble led by Jamie McDermot (vocals, guitar, and composer). The ensemble includes Jordan Hunt, (vocals, violin), Sarah Kershaw (vocals, piano), Sophie Li (vocals, double bass), Rosie Reed (vocals, flute), Nicole Robson (vocals, cello), Charlie Stock (vocals, viola), Anna Westlake (vocals, clarinet, saxophone), and Craig White (vocals, oboe, cor anglais). Definitely influenced by David Bowie and Kate Bush, “Mirror, Mirror” (11 January 2010 in the UK, 4 March 2010 in the USA as an import) offers up amazing chamber pop, bordering on dark cabaret at times, amazing arrangements, and visceral power. Outwardly avoiding the 80s-revival, they mirror the same kind of lusciousness in music of the 80s, instead of the barebones 90s.

This is an album full of music that is theatrical – not just dramatic. There is a sense that this music exists for the stage, where it will unfurl in a way that speakers at home are not capable of translating; there should be acting/miming to this music – I can imagine Commedia dell’Arte’s characters, like Columbine, Harlequin, and Pierrot, pantomiming on the stage to the music. Furthermore, just like the post-punk rockers, The Irrepressibles understand that in the understated and simple there is emotional undertow and power. You would think that as such a large ensemble they would aim at grandiose, over-the-top spectacle, but instead the music relies on simplicity to overpower you.

The opening song, “My Friend Jo,” starts with a harsh, “My friend Jo was a crazy bitch…” and ends with a kiss, and every mood appropriate is thrown in between. The music is dramatic, mirroring the emotional impact of the words and crooning. What follows is very disarming; there is no logical progression to the album – at least not overtly – unless you want to read it as narrative, which may be the point. But this adds to the experience; the inability to know where this is going may be disarming, but it leads to many surprises on the album. One such surprise is my favorite track on the album, “Anvil.” Perhaps the best orchestrated song on the album, the song is full of tongue-in-cheek: “When you were my angel, I was like your anvil.” And where we think of chamber pop as being a “serious” form of music, The Irrepressibles shine through over and over again with a sense of humor that would make Morrissey proud.

“In This Shirt,” the longest and final track of the album, is the most elegiac track on the album. And here is the twist to that Commedia dell’Arte reference: there is not this happy, bubbly, laughter full ending. And though the band is decked out, ready to be actors in Commedia dell’Arte (McDermot looks like a cross between Bowie doing Pierrot, Robert Smith, and early Andy Bell of Erasure), the album ends with the most contemplative, introspective song: “There’s a crane knocking down all these things that we were; I awake in the night to hear the engines pout. There’s a pain; it does ripple through my frame, makes me lame. There’s a thorn in my side, it’s the shape, it’s the prize.” And of course, it is no secret that I love sad, dark pensive music, but only when it really holds up a mirror to a reality we hate to admit to. And what “Mirror, Mirror” will do for you, if you listen carefully, is not echo those fable words from Snow White, but rather hold the looking-glass up to the audience who dares the scratch the surface.

Track Listing:
1. My Friend Jo
2. I’ll Maybe Let You
3. In Your Eyes
4. Anvil
5. Forget the Past
6. Knife Song
7. My Witness
8. Nuclear Skies
9. Splish! Splish! Sploo!
10. The Tide
11. Transition Instrumental
12. In This Shirt

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

Here is some live footage, set to the track “Forget the Past,” from their YouTube Channel: TheIrrepressibles.

Rogue Wave: “Permalight”

Hailing form Oakland, CA USA, Rogue Wave released their fourth album, “Permalight” (2 March 2010). Always shifting their musical priority, this time they tilt more towards their pop sensibilities. Perhaps they are investigating a more radio-friendly format, or perhaps the new bassist (Cameron Jasper) has added a new dimension to the band, or perhaps they have never been happy prioritizing the same sound over and over again in a mindless drudgery of repackaging the same ole shite like many bands do, especially when hitting album number four. Though I am not sure how this album will be received by fans of Rogue Wave who have been with them from their nascent days on Sub Pop, I can say that they have made a skeptic like me take a double take and say, “Wait, there is something here I may have missed.”

I admit I did not run out to listen to this album; the first time I listened to this album was in a friend’s car, at high volumes, speeding – paying more attention to the tunes than really considering that my life was at risk with such a crappy driver. I was taken by just how inviting the album is; it emotes a friendliness and charisma that their past efforts did not. And though this is leaning more towards pop than their past work, it is not as if there is this grand departure of what they have done in the past. Two things that are a major shift are the electronic elements dominating on a few tracks and the production style; the band sounds more refined, but without sounding like a studio band that has no live chops. The album still has that feel of this being recorded by a band that prioritizes live performance.

My favorite track on the album, “Stars and Stripes,” immediately reminded me of The Joy Formidible – that short but powerful indie rock pop song that is not over produced, but arranged to perfection. And immediately I started to wonder were Rogue Waves listening and taking cues from their distant cousins in the British indie scene than their closer cousins in the Californian scene? Reality, from The Beach Boys to Jefferson Starship, from Black Flag to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, there has been music that is arguably “Californian” – none of which really seeps through this album. Actually, this album would rest more comfortably with the likes of The Joy Formidible and Maximo Park. If this were the case, they would not be the first American band to take cues from the Brits (The Bravery, Gossip, Interpol, and The Killers to name a few). And though many of the tracks are undeniably American indie (just not Californian), there are moments that Rogue Wave’s consciousness of music has so expanded that they blow away the contemporaries they are usually lumped with. Just listen to their recent single, “Good Morning (The Future),” and you know what I am talking about.

So, to my friend, the crappy driver, you were right; “Permalight” is an amazing album. From the tight power indie rock to the acoustic numbers, like “I’ll Never Leave You” (“We’re better when our paths combine…”), which sappiness is endearing, Rogue Wave has thrown us a curve ball with this album that really works beautifully. It is not always that a band that has been around for almost ten years makes me stop in my tracks and reconsider what I thought about them in the past, but Rogue Wave did just that. And, if like myself, before this you did not consider yourself a fan, then “Permalight” is the perfect album for you to take the plunge with. As I already said, there is something charismatic about this album that will grab you and just not let you go.

Track Listing:
1. Solitary Gun
2. Good Morning (The Future)
3. Sleepwalker
4. Stars and Stripes
5. Permalight
6. Fear Itself
7. Right With You
8. We Will Make A Song Destroy
9. I’ll Never Leave You
10. Per Anger
11. You Have Boarded
12. All That Remains

Keep up with Rogue Waves at their homepage and MySpace.

Here is their video for “Good Morning (The Future)” from the RogueWaveVEVO channel.

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03 April 2010

The Courteeners: "Falcon"

Hailing from Middleton, UK, The Courteeners recently released their sophomore effort, “Falcon” (22 February 2010 in the UK, 23 March 2010 import into the USA, but downloadable on 6 April 2010). Loved by Morrissey (he even covered “What Took You So Long” on KRCW), he described their music as dynamic… and that hits the nail of the head. “Falcon” is lusciously arranged, but never cramming any one song with too much; an album of songs that work brilliantly together, yet each song emotes vibrancy and life of their own. And since they played their first show at the legendary Roadhouse in 2006, this is a band that had avoided the hype-machine (though it is dying to suck them right in) and gimmicky clichés, and instead has kept developing their chops to produce solid music.

The first teaser of the album was the lead single, “You Over Did It Doll”: “I love it, I shoot it like a tommy gun, but you will carry on until the day you are done. You never know when to stop, you’ll carry on until you’re dead and you drop… You over did it doll.” Solid pop with a funky edge, with wispy keys and a mean guitar riff… this was the first sign that “Falcon” would be a step towards maturity for the band. And this is the inevitable, as we all grow (older) and (hopefully) mature; instead of re-packaging their debut album, they offer up a nostalgic introspection of life. Instead of feigning all of the old emotions and anxieties, they embrace where they are in life.

The album is full of great moments. “Lullaby” is a brooding song of a break-up that apparently was undesired (“The night and day holds memories, but when I think of it now all I see is you at the back and you’re starting to cry. I wish I could have sung you a lullaby, but I can’t because I’m a mess… too proud”). Set to a slower tempo, almost that of a lullaby, the song muses in self-depreciation and regret (“It’s nobody’s fault but my own”). The song works brilliantly, because it never wallows; Liam Fray, instead, sings from a more honest, contemplative place. Yet, like the rest of the album, the song never saddens you, even if you can relate to it. Instead, the album through and through is uplifting.

The closer is one of those arena/stadium anthems: “Will It Be This Way Forever?”: “Victoria Park, after dark, kissing on the wall trying not to fall into your heart, and into your head. Take me somewhere else, take me to your bed…” and the beat drops, “Naïve, young, and not too clever, will it be this way forever?” And yet the song is clever; arranged for maximum impact and catchiness, while avoiding any intense visceral effect, the song easily sweeps you onto your feet. This is one of those songs that I am anxious to hear live in person (YouTube will not do the trick).

And now I feel I need to get on my soapbox – apologizes ahead of time.

I think it is only natural to compare bands, especially to those that came before them; musicians, like any kind of artist (really, like any person), are influenced by what came before them. However, I have grown tired of the lazy, trite comparisons that The Courteeners get with Oasis. Okay, both bands are from the greater Manchester area, and both have singers named “Liam,” and sure Oasis is one of their influences (and also share influences in common), but The Courteeners are also influenced by The Libertines, The Smiths and The Stone Roses (something rarely commented on), and not to mention that the band has none of the acerbic attitude of Oasis (I have never heard of any member of The Courteeners say about a rival band “Catch AIDS and die” (Noel Gallagher on members of Blur in “Melody Maker,” 1995.)) If you have made up your mind that these guys are re-packaged Oasis, then you have been taken in by a trite comparison and not really listening to this band for what they have to offer.

“Falcon” most definitely avoids that dreaded sophomore slump. The Courtneers have produced an album that is distinct from their debut, demonstrates more dynamics and craftsmanship, and really an amazing listening experience. And perhaps the new direction of the songs may take some of their original listeners by surprise, but it is a natural progression that is easy to fall into and has more to offer to others just discovering the band. And if this album garnishes the same success or outdoes that of the debut album, “St. Jude,” it will be in spite of the band, which by no means capitalizes on current mindless, pre-packaged indie pop. Great album, great experience – stop the faffing and take a listen.

Track Listing:
1. The Opener
2. Take Over the World
3. Cross My Heart & Hope to Fly
4. You Overdid It Doll
5. Lullaby
6. Good Times Are Calling
7. The Rest of the World Has Gone Home
8. Sycophant
9. Cameo Brooch
10. Scratch Your Name Upon My Lips
11. Last of the Ladies
12. Will It Be This Way Forever?

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

Here is their video for “You Over Did It Doll” from their MySpace Video page.

The Courteeners - You Overdid It Doll

The Courteeners | MySpace Music Videos
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01 April 2010

The High Wire: "Sleep Tape"

I remember reading some of the buzz from the blogosphere about the anticipation of The High Wire’s debut album, “Sleep Tape” (7 March 2010 digitally worldwide, 8 March 2010 on CD in the UK, import in the USA). I am always weary of “the buzz” about upcoming debut albums, especially when I have not seen the band live myself. All I knew about the band and upcoming album was that they were heavily influenced by dream pop and shoegaze, and that Rik Simpson gave the band some cues for how to self-produce the album – and what better person considering his production work with Blur, Coldplay, and Portishead. And this self-production was also a cause for my own weariness; most nascent bands are still growing into their sound, not to mention learning their ways through the technical aspects of a studio and studio tricks, that taking on production duties can be overwhelming. Though I think albums are usually at their best when co-produced by the band (or even self-produced after gaining experience), this was a bit out of sorts when it comes to what makes good albums. “Sleep Tape,” however, lives up to the buzz and demonstrates that with singular vision a band can self-produce an exciting debut album.

When I say exciting, though, I do not mean the jump-out-of-your-seat-and-get-ready-to-party kind of excitement. I find the album exciting in the sense of it really taking two genres of music I love (dream pop and shoegaze) and melding them together in an enrapturing concept album about the lack of sleep (I myself am a bit of an insomniac). Though the album has a powerful undertow to it, it is a breath of fresh air in the sense that there is no attempt to make this a tantalizing pop album or an upbeat, ready for festivals fair. The High Wire sticks to their guns on this album, and produce an album that captures a mood (and moment) that is elusive and difficult to pinpoint. The album, for the most part, is very sedate and brooding. What really stand out are the double layers of the guitar playing and vocals. For instance, in “Odd & Evens,” the lead single, the traditional distorted shoegaze guitar is complemented with crisp acoustic strumming. It is an approached used in a few songs, including the titular track, “Sleep Tape,” and “A Future Ending.” The later is a haunting track. “A Future Ending” really borders on being a distorted, muddled dirge.

But really what will catch your attention are the vocals: the harmony of a male and female singer. Both Tim Crompton and Alexia Hagen are strong vocalists. And when singing together, unlike other male/female pairings in indie rock, there is a sense that they are singing together, not just going through the motions of uttering the same words. There is most definitely a strong passion emoting from their combined vocals. When they sing “New Lover” (“Yesterday, yes I was kissing someone new, but, my baby, I wish I was kissing you…”), you feel the sincerity of both Crompton and Hagen singing from the heart. It is not often that vocalists can consistently sell their lyrics, but in this case you have two vocalists who consistently sell their lyrics. You will never find a moment on this album when you think to yourself that they are just going through the motions. And when you consider how powerful the music is with the vocals, you are doubly amazed when the band is able to pull off powerful instrumentals as well. Not the kind of mini-songs between tracks that highly annoy me most of the time, but rather fully developed instrumentals. This includes the final track of the album, “Bodyclocks,” which is best described as the moment one finally falls asleep and starts to dream – there is no better way the band could have chosen to close the album.

Now I will admit that I am not ready for a 90s revival (no surprise there), but if dream pop and shoegaze are going to make a comeback and sound this sweet, I say bring it on! Far from cranking out the sounds of old bands like Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, or Ride, this brand of dream pop / shoegaze is relevant in 2010 as the veterans' sounds were a decade or two ago. Just as the original shoegazers defiantly rejected the antics of grunge and Britpop, The High Wire rejects the clichés and expectations of the indie rock scene and festival ready bands. “Sleep Tape” may not be consumer-ready, bubbly indie rock (which is a good thing!), but it is the most refreshing album of the year thus far.

Track Listing:
1. The Midnight Bell
2. Hang from the Lights
3. New Lovers
4. Sleep Tape
5. Honeycomb
6. Odds & Evens
7. It’s No Secret
8. Letting in the Light
9. A Future Ending
10. Exit
11. Leave Me In Love
12. Pump Your Little Heart
13. Bodyclocks

Keep up with The High Wire at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Though there is no video for the second single, “The Midnight Bell,” posted, here is a stream from their YouTube channel: TheHighWireUK.

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