Saturday, August 31, 2013
OK, the last time I came across No Age I thought my CD player was going to fall apart. This was a band so chaotic and so destructive I felt lucky to have survived listening to them. But, on their new album An Object, something's changed. While previous efforts were darn near deadly, this record is not as aggressive, noisy, or catastrophic; it was such a change that it made me do a double take.
Sure there's lots of atonal noise and angularity going on here but there are surprising attempts at harmonies and melodies; it's quite shocking! Nonetheless, An Object is still a great record that veers in to aggression and craziness occasionally but has no problems down shifting into something else. I guess you could say that while An Object isn't as aggressive as previous efforts it is weirder than their other records. Within this album there are moody riffs and almost atmospheric sections and passages that will leave you stunned. It's all rather intriguing and is a rather uncharted development for this band but it works and works pretty well.
No Age aren't like many other bands. They seemingly seem to shift between chaos, dissonance, weirdness, and harmony with ease. An Object is all of these things in measured doses and while other records may have made you fear for your own safety this one will have you doubting your own safety. Simply put, weird noise has never sounded so cool. There's truly no age that you can put No Age in and I suspect that's the way they want it.
Hawaii’s very own reggae stars are back; mixing Hawaii pride with Kingston vibes The Green embrace island culture with a bear hug. Their latest album Hawai'i 13 is a living testament to that pride and musical heritage and continues to see this band developing into something that's a mixture of their physical and spiritual home.
Positive and upbeat, the songs here are modern and energetic. Hawai'i 13 is influenced by rock and roll as much as traditional reggae, dub, R&B, and even Hawaiian music. It's enjoyable stuff that's catchy, groovy, and laid back. In other words, it's darn near the perfect reggae album and if you throw their positivity and thoughtfulness these guys are a rapidly approaching musical Nirvana.
Truly proving music is a universal language and reggae is about one love, The Green demonstrate that it doesn't matter where you come from or who you are but what's in your heart that matters and isn't that the message Mr. Marley sang about years ago?
With their latest album, It's Alive, Seattle's La Luz have cemented Link Wray's legacy as one of the most important guitarists ever. The simple fact is that without him, La Luz would not exist. Featuring riff upon riff of awesome garagey surf rock the album sound as if it was recorded using Wray's guitars, in Wray's studio, using leftover Wray riffs. The album is overflowing with twangy and jangly melodic tunes that sound as if Wray silently lent a hand on each one. It's magnificent stuff that reminds me of La Sera records lost in a sweater box underneath her bed or an old album found in a rotting VW Vanagong used during the filming of Endless Summer.
With organs, those guitars, multi-part harmonies, rawness and purity It's Alive is an honest to goodness rock and roll record steeped in history and tradition. The whole thing and especially those twangy surf rocking guitars, with gorgeous melodies and sparkly riffs, is simply amazing. It's Alive is a fantastic record that's about love, heartbreak, and simply being different; it's nothing complicated and doesn't need to be for you to fall in love with it. It's all a bit quirky and a bit retrotastic but it's a treat to just sit and lose yourself in.
As summer turns into fall, La Luz reminds us of the joys of the sun and sand, summer romances, and days lost to doing nothing in particular. It's Alive is an awesome record that's in love with the past but retroactively looking forward to the future. With harmonies that seem like they're from a dream, songs that are uncomplicated and catchy, and a sound that reeks of classicism what's there not to like? La Luz truly are alive and It's Alive proves it.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Coastwest Unrest are yet another folky band that attempt to offer up something a little different. Their album High Times on Lowly Streets is a rustic, woodsy, folk, jam band kind of record that alternates between being something like Arcade Fire and the Dave Matthews Band. A strange combination, I know, but it's just got this hippified pseudo-bohemian feel to it that both frat boys and hipsters would seemingly enjoy.
With awesome baritone vocals that sound like Ric Ocasek lost in the mountains, Coastwest Unrest take all this Northwest log cabin-ish atmosphere and channel it into traditional arrangements and folky instrumentation. The results are songs that have a dramatic deep woods feel. Songs are laden with strings and deep vocal overtones and you can almost feel the foggy coldness and smell the hot coffee as this album progresses. It's all very rustic, arty and sweeping but still still feels intimate and emotional.
High Times on Lowly Streets conjures pastoral images and and a simple life. Wrapped in flannel and given depth with cello and violin Coastwest Unrest have created a homespun brand of folk music that's easy to latch on to. Their ability to weave jam band and arty pop elements into songs give them a widespread appeal that's bound to benefit them. High Times on Lowly Streets might be more suited for a woodsy environment than on lowly streets but that's OK.
I have to admit, Cherry Bluestorms didn't make an impressive first impression with me when I received their album, Bad Penny Opera. I mean look at that cover. It's horrible. It ranks up there with Cancer's To The Gory End as worst album covers ever. So with that image securely tucked away in my brain this band already had one strike against them.
Musically, they kind of swung and missed as well. While not completely folky, the band have this sort of slightly theatrical version of folk music that's not amazing, but not too bad either. What's weird about all this is that the first track on the album, “Bad Penny Overture,” is an impressive instrumental set up. Unfortunately, the album falls off a cliff soon after. Bad Penny Opera is a middle of the road kind of thing that's pretty mediocre. It' just of kind of plods along with an almost singer songwriter feel about it. I want to say that this is loosely some sort of concept album, but I wouldn't guarantee that.
Anyway, despite it's overwhelming sense of just existing there are a few good moments on this record. “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” is a stomping, horn laden pop tune that's a thrilling rush in a sea of mediocrity. Bad Penny Opera clearly has potential and is on the cusp of something better it just never gets there. The Cherry Bluestorms have great tunes within them, they just struggle to set them free. Hopefully, they can let this Bad Penny Opera go and crank out a true opus.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Miami's own garage indie rockers have finally released their self-titled debut album and it's a killer. Having dug through their parents Jesus and Mary Chain records and milked them for all their worth the Jacuzzi Boys have harnessed a sound that feels like the Reid Brothers leading The Drums in a rioutous. noisy, raucous tour of pop music.
Jacuzzi Boys is a chaotic, feedbacky, rough, and ragged record that is redonkulously catchy. These guys have a brilliant appreciation for what makes a great tune and they slather that appreciation all over the songs here. Catchy choruses, simple riffs that drill themselves into your skull, fuzzy walls of guitar noise that overwhelm you and an undoubtedly cool aura all contribute to this record being amazing. There's nothing complicated here and it's all pretty basic stuff but there doesn't need to be anything over the top because what these guys have done with their songs and their guitars is so pure and honest they don't need to bury themselves in those ideals.
When I lived in Miami a band like this could have never existed; it just wasn't possible.. because it wasn't Miami-bass influenced. So, It's amazing to see and hear a band like this doing well not only in the 305 but nationally. Jacuzzi Boys is a fantastic record that's got to be one of my favorites this year and the fact that it's from a bunch of local dudes made good is even better.
The Garifuna Collective are a group from Central America who create music that reflect the culture of the Afro-Amerindian Garifuna community. Their album Ayo is filled with hints of African and Caribbean influences throughout and despite being from Central America this collective has more in common with those influences then their geographical location would lead you to believe. Ayo is an intriguing record simply because of that struggle between location and influence and the songs reflect that constant conflict in a positive light.
Having lost the band's leader suddenly soon after their debut album the band was left without a direction. And while the easy thing would have been to just stop being a collective, the group picked up the pieces and emotions and channeled it all into a new album he would be proud of. Ayo is a soul stirring record steeped in in tradition but thoroughly modern in it's approach and creation. The record has plenty of authenticity and sounds but still finds time to occasionally be funky or groovy. Those occasional glimpses into the bands energy and emotions really give Ayo a sense of freedom that would undoubtedly make their former leader proud.
Steeped with history, tradition, and emotion The Garifuna Collective have found a way to take it all in and craft something beautiful. Ayo is a great record of laid back grooves, traditional sounds and a bit of funk for good measure. They may have lost their spiritual leader but The Garifuna Collective are in good hands here and Ayo is well worth a listen.
With deep tenor vocals that haunt each song like a ghost from beyond the whole thing sounds like it's enveloped in fog in a graveyard. If you add in sweeping atmospherics to the whole graveyard thing Me Moan becomes this chilling and stirring record that's bizarrely hypnotizing...like Dracula's eyes. The songs for the most part are dark but do stumble upon a strange pop sensibility now and again that makes this decidedly weird record quite listenable
Different in every sense of the word, Me Moan is probably the strangest record that will come across my desk that I'll want to listen to many times. Not weird for the sake of being weird, Me Moan sounds this way simply because of Daughn Gibson and his unique voice. Dark days and even darker nights have never sounded so spookily entertaining.
The idea of Barefoot Divas on paper looks absolutely amazing. Six singer songwriters of indigenous origin gathering together in the name of song. Not so bad right? With the divas coming from Austrailia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea it would seem like they would be singing traditional music from each of their island nations. What an unusual and awesome concept, unfortunately, that's not what these Divas do.
As the name might imply...these girls are Divas...as in proper divas. Rather than traditional songs and stories, the Barefoot Divas on Walk In My Shoes unleash a barrage of soaring vocal gymnastics and acoustic R&B that sound more like they came from auditions of The Voice than Papua New Guinea. These girls can sing and sing they do...they're pretty good at it and in an ideal world they'd be giving people like Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera a run for their money. And while there's some power and feeling behind each of these songs it's just not what I thought at all. Throw in the fact that this Walk In My Shoes is a live album and I'm left in total disappointment.
Walk In My Shoes is a record of vocal prowess and not much else. It's not what I was hoping for in any way shape or form and kind of left me hanging. Oh well. If you love The Voice tryouts or just vocal chords on parade you might enjoy these trans global Barefoot Divas but the rest of us not so much.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Rose Windows seem to have emerged out of a coma recently. This band, who seemingly are from 1968, have awoken from their forty year slumber with a series of epic progressive psych gems under the name of The Sun Dogs. Their medical issues are apparently our gain because these guys have brought along their lava lamps, strobe lights, Orange amps, and guitar riffs of the gods with them straight from the past.
The Sun Dogs is twangy, folked out psych with loud guitar freak outs and eternally drawn out jams. This is a band that takes everything we learned in the 60's lets it float around for an eternity and then casts it out in a frenzy of musical mayhem. The Sun Dogs is awesome stuff that sounds something like Janes Addiction meeting Celebration to do the right drugs. Rose Windows are the sound of 1968 and they've come back to haunt us. These guys can play and play they do with massive riffs, spaced out atmospherics and a decent pop sensibility that steers them free of losing the plot. “Native Dreams,” for example is six minutes long but the song is actually catchy and memorable...whether you tripped out or not.
Rose Windows have manage to create an expansive and immense record that's heavy and yet easy on their ears. It's a record firmly entrenched in the past but able to see the future on the horizon. The Sun Dogs is the sort of thing that any self respecting music lover needs to have on while reading The Electric Koo-Aid Acid Test.
Despite sounding as if they've come straight from Carnivale, percussionist Scott Kettner is based in New York and has been studying drumming since his days at university. Little did he expect his studies and love of percussion to lead him to Northeastern Brazil to learn about maracatu drumming but thanks to legendary drummer Billy Hart that's exactly what happened.
Under the guise of Maracatu NY, Kettner has created a band and an album that's a stroke of percussive genius. Baque Do Brooklyn is the very definition of percussive music and while it's led with plenty of horns the album is truly all about the drums. This is the sound of Carnivale moving through the streets and is so rhythmic that it's perfect for marching. Baque Do Brooklyn blends Brazilian maracatu with New Orleans rhythms, funk, and blues. It's a globe trotting record that's all about movement, energy, and the simple joys of beats and brass.
If you love drums and percussion it truly doesn't get any better than this. Baque Do Brooklyn is simply a brilliant record filled with all kinds of rhythms and sounds that creates movement. It's rare to hear drums up front and taking center stage but it does here thanks to Maracatu NY and it's energetic and fun. Baque Do Brooklyn is so authentic that if it had whistles and lines of dancers to accompany it, it would be a street party.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
As one might expect with an artist who goes by their name, Ryan K Hamlin is a singer songwriter armed with a guitar and big songs. His EP Run is packed with country twinges, rock and roll influences, soaring harmonies and apparently a broken heart. The four songs here are all pretty well written and played and to say that they are ready for teary TV moments would be an understatement.
Run is a heart breaking, emotional roller coaster of a little record. With five songs guaranteed to make girls swoon and melodies that will haunt their souls Run is good for what it is. While I'm not a big fan of this sort of stuff I can totally appreciate what he's going after. I'll put it to you this way, if Ryan doesn't wind up with material playing in the background of some CW show in the near future there's clearly something wrong with the world.
As I opened this package I couldn't help but think that it's been six years since Hooverphonic last released a record! That's a lifetime in the music industry, so to actually see The Night Before come across my desk was a pleasant surprise!
Unlike their earlier works, The Night Before isn't so much a trip hop record as much as it's epic theatrical pop. The album is lush, sweeping, and sensuous stuff that will tear your heart apart. It's gorgeous lovelorn pop that's seductively sexy and slyly manipulative; vocalist Noemie Wolfs is determined to have her way with you on this set of songs and you'd be an idiot not to let her.
The Night Before is so dramatically beautiful that the whole thing comes off like a series of torch songs sung in a smoke filled dark room to an enraptured audience. Even at it's poppiest The Night Before is still opulent, textured, and breathtaking. It's obvious the effect of having previously worked with an orchestra has had on the band; the arrangements throughout are stunning and the orchestral sounds continue to contribute immensely in creating an extravagant atmosphere. The whole thing sounds like a John Barry soundtrack on overdrive; it's like a series of the best Bond anthems never written.
Sixteen years after their debut it's awesome to see and hear Hooverphonic carrying on. Overwhelming, emotional, and excellent, The Night Before is a welcome return to form from one of the best bands to come out of the trip hop movement. With music as strong as the songs on The Night Before it's easy to see them continuing on for another sixteen years. The Night Before is a fantastic record and probably one of my favorites of the year..
Adios I'm A Ghost, the third album by northwestern band The Moondoggies and it sees them continuing to explore the territory between Midwest and Deep South while remaining firmly in place up north. Adios I'm A Ghost is essentially west coast pop meeting the deep south in a rock and roll dust up. It's a record that easily switches between rock and roll and pastoral pop and leaves your ears in awe. This is a dusty countrified rock record that's laden with twangy hooks and huge melodies and comes with a sense of drama throughout. The record is expansive and rustic and blends the woodsiness of the Pacific Northwest with the homelike emotions of the Deep South with endearing results .
Adios I'm A Ghost comes off sounding like Chris Isaac in a gang fight with Kings of Leon, Mazzy Star, and The Tyde. The songs are dramatic and sweeping but intimate, rustic and rural. They're plodding but in a beautiful way and will bring to mind long winding roads and breezy drives through forgotten towns. It's all a bit swoonsome and romantic in a yearning for something comfortable kind of way. Adios I'm A Ghost is a great listen and quite a stirring effort. It's power lies in it's subtlety and swoony melodies and how it manipulates you into falling for it. It might not pop you on the top of the head with a hook, but the hooks do find a way into your subconscious and never find a way out; surely a sign of a good record and why you'll love being haunted by these ghosts.
Around this time last year, Kitsune released the nearly perfect Kitsune Soleil Mix to kick off summer. As per usual for the French label the record was monstrous and packed to the gills with brilliant electro, indie, and proper house tunes. As summer 2013 carries on in a blaze of sunshine and humidity, it's a welcome surprise that Kitsune has followed up Kitsune Soleil Mix with yet another slice of sunshiny perfection on Kitsune Soleil Mix 2.
Mixed by Gildas Kitsune and Jerry Bouthier, Kitsune Soleil Mix 2 is an absolutely massive mix that has sun and fun written all over it. The tag team of Kitsune and Bouthier are masterful here seamlessly blending and building tracks into a sexy electro house furor. This is proper dance music that's about as far removed from fratstep and the stuff that nu-metal kids call EDM as you can get. This is REAL dance music. Totally Ibiza ready, you can almost picture the blinding sunsets and massive DJ sets as each song ebbs and flows. Kitsune Soleil Mix 2 is packed with 20 brilliant tunes that absolutely conquer the season.
In the world of dance music few are as on top of their game as Kitsune is. Kitsune Soleil Mix 2 is proof of that. Whether it's their mix CD's, their singles, or even their clothesline, Kitsune is a world apart from everyone else. Kitsune Soleil Mix 2 is so well put together it gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. Kitsune Soleil Mix 2 is pure musical escapism at it's best and easily one of the best compilations you'll hear all year.
Ya know there's just something about Canadian indie rock. It's just so vast, epic, and sweeping than it's American counterpart. While us Yanks tend to rock out, the Canadians tend to make this heady brew of artful, thoughtful, and emotionally draining stuff that soars above everything. We Are The City are just the latest in a long line of bands from the Great White North who do this and do this very well. Their album Violent is anything but, but it is a brilliant record that's another notch in Canada’s bed post of excellent bands.
Violent is herky jerky indie rock with obtuse rhythms and disjointed melodies. Think a bit Arcade Fire, Spoon, Modest Mouse and your kind of on the right track. It's got Northwest Indie splattered all over it and it sets them apart from everything making tracks on the east coast. I love the fact that they utilize organ sounds and keyboards on top of all these mathy stop/start jumpy riffs that kind of startle you in unlikely places. It's all very nervous and disjointed but it works because the songs on Violent catch you off guard and constantly surprise you. It's all very algebraic but with a strong sense of melody and place and it makes an impact simply because it all sounds so unpredictable.
Violent is an excellent album and We Are The City are a fantastic band. Their ability to fuse math fueled indie with an artful pop sense is remarkable. They seemingly run each song through a series of equations and come up with something that's complicated but still simple to latch on to. We Are The City have created an excellent angular and flighty record that's as vast as the Canadian frontier and something that is very easy to get lost in. Canada does it again.