Tue, 18 Jun 2013 12:03:00 +0000
I have to admit Portland area band Hausu conjured up strange images about their name. I wondered what does it mean? Where's it come from? How the heck do you say it? What's it all about? Listening to their album, Total, didn't improve the situation. Where did that come from? Who's it sound like? And why?
While I have no idea about the name, as it turns out, much of Total revolves around thinking about things on a musical basis and being shaped by the small, indescribable elements that make their influences special. Acting like a band of mad scientists, what Hausu comes up with is a noisy indie rock record that hovers some where around the mid-90's. While you might shrug at that rather cliched summation, what's really striking about Total is how effectively Hausu has taken a band like Dinosaur Jr. and let it make a guitar based mess over and on top of The Cure. If slackers wore eyeliner and goth's were slackers you'd have Hausu in a nutshell. Total is noisy, depressing, twitchy, and fairly lackadaisical. It's got walls of churning guitars turned up to 12, bashed drums and apparently Robert Smith on lead vocals. This is the sort of record where guitars are shredded into wood chips, vocal chords are left in a shambles, and songs are somewhere between collapse and not caring. It's all very passive aggressive stuff that's simply fantastic.
Total is a dense, complex and freaked out record. It is a nervous and edgy record that's the very definition of post-slacker rock. If Dinosaur Jr. were thirty years younger this is the kind of record they'd make and heck might even still be making. It's an impressive homage to the past that pushes things in a anti-depressant fueled way forward. They readily admit that their record is an assemblage of observations made by four different people and collected in one place. Total is that place and it's one heck of place to be.
Chance Wiesner's Takin' A Chance On Love
Mon, 06 May 2013 12:16:00 +0000
Chance Wiesner is pitched as a freak folk kinda guy. You know the kind of guy that plays strummy acoustic stuff but gets weird while doing it. But the truth is his album Takin' A Chance On Love is more along the lines of old 80's indie pop records than anything freaky much less folky. If you can imagine old TV Personalities songs being covered by Lawrence from Felt you kind of have an idea of where Chance Wiesner is coming from.
With twee-ish strums and boy/girl harmonies Chance Wiesner creates this intimate environment that sounds yearnful and earnest. The songs Wiesner creates are shy and shuffly and it's almost like Takin' A Chance On Love is a statement of his philosophy rather than a record he's listen to. It's all pretty good stuff and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by it all because the second I saw that it was labeled as freak folk I almost tuned it out.
As it stands though, Takin' A Chance On Love is a funny, quirky, lo-fi ride through the trials and tribulations of Chance Wiesner. It might not be a big production but Takin' A Chance On Love is packed with honesty and heartache and what more could you want from a record now days? Here's hoping that Chance's chance never pans out...I mean we want more records like this don't we?
The Bodies Obtained Are Lower Than My Hand Will Go
Sat, 13 Apr 2013 11:57:00 +0000
It's hard to believe that The Bodies Obtained are on the fifth album already. Wow...that's scary but not quite as scary as their latest album Lower Than My Hand Will Go. This chaotic, noisy synth punk record is the sound of the early 80's beaten up with a mallet and the recorded for prosperity. Imagine Suicide in a knife fight with The Residents and you can kind of get a feel of where these guys are coming from.
This is synth punk and it's violent, random, and about as unmusical as it sounds. This of course makes Lower Than My Hand Will Go a fascinating record. The sheer difficulty of listening to the choppy rhythms, broken 80's synths, half developed ideas, weird song structures, and general disorder make getting through Lower Than My Hand Will Go a challenge. The whole thing reminds me of this sort of gothic synthetic theatrical event with a broken calliope attacking it's audience between the ears. It's strange and unlike anything you've heard. I'm pretty sure, in fact, it's the weirdest record I'll hear all year and I'm not quite sure whether or not I actually like it.
Lower Than My Hand Will Go is bizarre, dissonant, over the top and barely musical. Lower Than My Hand Will Go is the kind of record that befuddles, amazes, questions, and challenges. Is it music? Is it theater gone wrong? Is it listenable? It's worth a listen to try and figure those answers out and for the sheer craziness that's contained within but not really much more. In the end I was more intrigued by The Bodies Obtained and what they do than a fan of it.
More Like Trees Grow Roots, Shoots, and Leaves
Sat, 13 Apr 2013 11:51:00 +0000
British band More Like Trees are an interesting lot. Bursting out of the very competitive London music scene the band have only been together for two years and in that short time have made quite the name for themselves. Why? Well this three piece group do something very few groups manage to do...rock the heck out on acoustic instruments. Yeah, you read that right...these guys kill it on acoustic guitars.
Their album Roots, Shoots, and Leaves is an impressive effort that's so far away from what your thinking it's not even fair to think of it. The band and this record is beyond energetic and packed with sweeping drama and an almost mariachi like feel to it. It's quite jaw dropping when you think that all this ruckus is done with acoustic guitars and not much more. The band are exceptional musicians and their ability to strum the devil out of their instruments while playing like mad men is truly impressive. I don't know how many sets of strings these guys go through but I'm willing to be it's more than a few.
They might label themselves as strum and bass but Roots, Shoots, and Leaves sounds like a cross between The Coral and the Arctic Monkeys on a bit of a trip. I'm not really sure how else to describe these guys except to say that it's all slightly psychedelic with reggae, folk, flamenco and indie influences all crashing headlong into each other. I thoroughly enjoyed their approach and their ability to write songs that are emotional and kinetic is just awesome. Throw in their rather impressive cover of Intastella's hit, "The Night," and you have a record that touches on Britpop and coffee house cool all in one sweeping motion. They might only have acoustic guitars and might strum said guitars but this is one group who are seemingly mad fer it!
Roots, Shoots, and Leaves is an impressive effort that kicks the entire acoustic music genre in the butt and turns it upside down. This is what "folk" music should sound like. It's emotional but it has energy. It's thoughtful but has a sense of fun about it. It's music you want to listen to again and for a bunch of guys with acoustic guitars to do something like that is surely a sign of the apocalypse.
Io Echo At The Ministry Of Love
Sun, 31 Mar 2013 05:08:00 +0000
Io Echo are a stunning duo from Los Angeles who have stumbled upon their (dare I say it,) parents record collection, fallen in love with it, and pilfered as many influences as they could from it. Labeled as an industrial tinged group their album, Ministry of Love is anything but. Instead they sounding more like a Creatures side-side project mixed with bucket loads of shoegazing sheets of noise. The result is something that has this early 90's feel to it and really has more in common with the sort of things that 4AD used to release than anything Einsturzende Neubauten has ever done.
With the vocals of Ioanna Gika sounding like Siouxsie lost within a seemingly endless fog and the reverbed and washed out guitars of Leopold Ross crashing together, the band create this ethereal world that they're obviously absorbed in. The whole thing sounds like a modern update of the Cocteau Twins in an invisible fight with The Heartthrobs, The Creatures, and even the Dum Dum Girls. Packed with loud, gauzy, and gorgeous soaring pop the record is all about being lost in its own little environment and not being able to find its way out. It's riveting stuff that's so rooted in the records I listened to in my 20's it scares me. This record hits home, it pulls at my heart and reminds me of all the cool sounds that blew me away when I was a kid. As if to illustrate that point "Stalemate," at times, sounds so much like The Heartthrobs, "Kiss Me When I'm Starving," it could very well be them circa 1992; it gave me goosebumps.
Ministry of Love is worthy of your heart. It's an amazingly emotional and pretty record that tugs at your ears and soul for 55 minutes. It soars toward heaven on the wings of an angel and is welcomed with open arms when it gets there. This is the sound of a dream you don't want to end. It's the sound of the greatest love. It's the sound of something awe inspiring. Ministry of Love's songs are beautiful and Ioanna & Leopold have truly created something magical here. This is without a doubt this one of the best records of 2013 and might just be my favorite record this year.
Redtenbacher Funkorchestra Are In The Cooker
Sun, 31 Mar 2013 04:59:00 +0000
The rather complicatedly named Redtenbacher Funkorchestra have created one the most seriously groovy funk records you are likely to hear this year with their latest album entitled The Cooker. To put it succinctly the thing is fifteen jazz funk greats played with such intensity and down home funktasticness that if you don't find yourself at least tapping along to the record you must be dead. Overflowing with jazzy vibes, funky grooves and late 70's atmospherics The Cooker is a scorching hot release that knows how to get the heck down.
Packed to the rims with awesome bass lines, guitar runs, and enough B3 organ workouts this the sort of record that shows just how good Redtenbacher Funkorchestra are at letting their musical imaginations get the best of them. Throw in some ridiculous horn work on top of that imagination and you have a record that's just on a whole different level than anyone else right now. These guys can play and play they do on The Cooker and they're so good that they even make Happy Birthday sound like the grooviest thing since polyester. The Cooker is filled with movement and action and the songs are swinging, catchy, and impossible to forget.
There's no denying The Cooker and with a name like that how would that even be possible. This thing rocks, rolls, but never loses its soul. It's the sort of album that's perfect for car chases with Starsky and Hutch or running through the Streets of San Francisco. It's filled with energy, grooves, and a musicality that's hard to ignore. This record had to be called The Cooker because what else could you call something that's filled with so much hot stuff?
Vandana Vishwas' Monologues
Sun, 31 Mar 2013 04:51:00 +0000
Vandana Vishwas is an Indo-Canadian artist who takes the best of traditional Indian influences and blends them with modern techniques in a gorgeous brew of sounds that are both hypnotizing and fascinating. Her album Monologues is the result of a collaboration between her and her husband and reflect the talents of both artists pretty well. It's an meditative, intimate, and beautiful record that uses instrumentation you know and instrumentation you do not to convey its free spirited yet firmly rooted songs.
Monologues is a record steeped in history and custom but unafraid to let other non-traditional sounds permeate it's songs. While sitars and tablas are pretty much the basis for most of the songs here, several songs utilize jazz-like arrangements to give the songs added depth and a modern feel. I found it fascinating and imaginative how the two different worlds mingle simultaneously and co-exist relatively well. Monologues is a record at peace and lost in ecstasy and after a couple of listens it's very easy to become lost in it's world as well. The songs on Monologues cast a spell over your ears with their subtle pace and ambiance. Vishwas' songwriting is as mesmerizing as her trembling voice and the way she's able to hold the listener in a trance is awesome.
Monologues is a great record whose strength lies in it's ability to take the ancient and modern and make them sound unique and fresh. The intertwining of the two influences give the album room to breathe and develop and allows it to be more accessible. This is a simple record that utilizes very few instruments or production techniques and Vandana Vishwas' ability to give it an authenticity and purity is refreshing.
Justin Ancheta Plant's Roots
Sun, 31 Mar 2013 04:37:00 +0000
Justin Ancheta is a busy guy. From being in four or five different groups that aren't his, writing socially aware songs, teaching and creating art, and recording records the guy probably doesn't have very much time to breath. Yet somehow this guy, who probably keeps 5 Hour Energy in business, single handedly has managed to release his own record under the name of Plant. Now, to say Plant is an interesting effort is to discredit it because you are not likely to hear another record like this one this year.
Taking the strange bedfellows of reggae and klezmer music and making them work together and sound good is an accomplishment in and of itself. The fact that Plant not only does that but throws in hip hop vibes and indie rock drama to the mix and you suddenly have one culturally and musically diverse affair. Plant is filled to the rim with a crazy combination of sounds that shouldn't work in any way shape or form but somehow Ancheta makes them functional and cool. He establishes awesome rhythms that are a perfect blend of his influences and just happen to have a clarinet of the klezmer variety sitting on top. It's really hard to describe effectively and it's something you truly have to hear to believe but Plant really is a very cool listen. The whole thing has political leanings and message driven songs but it's all wrapped up with this unique blend of tunes that are appealing and aurally mesmerizing...or should I say klezmerizing.
Plant is the sort of record that proves reggae's message of one love eleven times over. This is a globally influenced and aware record that has a message but knows that the music comes first. Ancheta's ability to mix all these sounds into something that makes sense is not only a reflection of his songwriting ability but his never ending workload and ethic. Say what you will but his constant on the go lifestyle has paid off here with these influences living together in musical harmony. Unusual but good, Plant is the sort of record I imagine John Zorn listening to while on vacation.
No Hay Banda Wow And Flutter
Sun, 31 Mar 2013 04:26:00 +0000
Danish dynamic duo No Hay Banda are a seductive synth group who are clearly in love with the classic sounds of the 80's and see no problem with bringing them into the 21st century by any means necessary. Their album Wow and Flutter is a lush experience that's by far some of the coolest music to come out of Denmark ever. With a darkly delicious palette of synthetic sounds, driving beats, and ditties that are depressingly danceable these guys are operating on a Teutonic dance floor straight out of the Cold War.
Wow and Flutter is an ultra cool record that takes Berlin's synthetic detachment and rams it into chillwave at high speed. The result is a record that's smoky and at times gauzy while finding itself lost in a hangover. Wow and Flutter is sexy and it's dark detachment is alluringly hypnotizing and comes complete with sirenesque vocals that could lure men to their doom. This is the sound of electronic seduction that wraps huge hooks around your ears, sucks you in and never lets go. They might only be a duo but No Hay Banda find a way to make this record that sound as if there were a 100 musicians assisting them. Synths wash over you, guitars crunch, beats sweep you off your feet and the vocals make you fall in love and there behind it all are just two people.
Wow and Flutter is impressive effort that very rarely falters. From the, "Riding on the Metro," vibe of, "Inventing A Machine," to the potential hit of, "Neurotica," Wow and Flutter is packed with stark, cool, and beautiful tunes that sound larger than life. No Hay Banda have done an excellent job here of channeling the ghosts of the past into something that's minimal, modern, and very very good.
Paperhaus Go Lo Hi Lo
Sun, 31 Mar 2013 04:20:00 +0000
Paperhaus are an interesting band simply because they seemingly pick a genre to work in and then record a record within that genre. A strange approach, I agree but it seems to work out for them. While their debut EP was an alt-country sort of affair, their latest EP Lo Hi Lo is well informed by their Smiths collection. Sounding alot like The Smiths at times, Lo Hi Lo is moody, jangly, and very easy to latch on to. The lead off track "All Through The Night," is the kind of song that would make Johnny Marr blush or Morrissey run out and get a lawyer if he should hear it. It's that good and it's kind of scary how they may have inadvertently out Smiths'd the Smiths.
Lo Hi Lo is moodily brilliant and while depressingly short at four songs they do make a rather deep impact rather quickly. If the dizzying Marr influences aren't enough then the second and third songs, "Helicopters," "Corazon," have even more of an 80's and 90's British pop influence running through them. With enough jangly riffs, gauzy feedback, dramatic vocals and a shyness that is criminally vulgar the songs hark back to much cooler time in music. Even the EP closer, "Twisted Tumble," has this vintage feel to it that harks back to a much better time. Lo Hi Lo is an impressive effort that makes you wonder why they even bothered with trying their hand at alt-country; it's so good it makes me want to force Paperhaus to record 100 more songs like these and never let them never utter the words alt-country ever again.
Joanna Borromeo's Kaleidscope Of Sounds
Sun, 31 Mar 2013 04:13:00 +0000
Another day another neo-soul singer. There are so many at this point I'm beginning to wonder if they're not grown in a vat somewhere and then released as older ones burn out. As the great pop conspiracy grinds on without us knowing about it, Canadian singer Joanna Borromeo is the latest artist to discover her parents old records and be influenced and guided by them. Her rather cool looking album Kaleidoscope is a jazzy, chilled and soulful record that's a bit more mature than many of her peers.
Joanna Borromeo is soulful for sure, but there's this jazzy undercurrent throughout each of her songs that kind of veer away from being R&B or neo-soul and kind of take her more into being a chanteuse of some sort. Kaleidoscope is the sort of record that would find a perfect home on a contemporary jazz station with it's horns, superb drumming, and stirring vocals. While she may be part of the whole neo-soul thing this girl clearly has aspirations to leave that behind and move into more "adult" territory. Borromeo can sing either genre pretty well, but the songs on Kaleidoscope tend to lend themselves to her more jazz inflected vocals and one can't help but wonder if that's where her heart lies. There's very little diva-tastic wailing to be heard. Instead there's deeply emotional lyrical play and even when she has fun on a song like, "Your Shoes," she still lets the jazzy influences shine through above and beyond the soul-funk.
Joanna Borromeo is far from a cliche neo-soul chick. Oh no, she's too powerful, to mature, and has songs that are stronger than steel to come from an assembly line. Borromeo is diverse and entertaining and while I'm not the biggest fan of the genre she's entertaining enough to make me want to listen to her sing.
Kitsune Returns to America
Sun, 31 Mar 2013 04:03:00 +0000
At this point, I'm not really sure why I even bother writing about Kitsune records. I mean seriously, they can do no wrong. Everything they put out is simply fantastic. Their latest compilation, Kitsune America 2 picks up where the first volume left off and continues to search under rocks, in clubs, and in bedrooms across the nation looking for the hottest electronic talent in the United States.
They find it here, there, and everywhere in between. In fact I'm sure they've found so much of it they could probably issue twenty volumes of this series and still not be done. Anyway, Kitsune America 2 is a brilliant mash up of styles and genres; chillwave, electro, and even indie are all well represented on this compilation. From Tidus' downtempo acid trip of, "Say It," to the Italo Disco flavored influences of, Alison Valentine's, "Circles and Triangles," and even the indie stomp of Papa's "Put Me To Work," Kitsune America 2 is another dose of perfection. I don't know how they manage to be so consistent, but they are and this record is proof of it. It's kind of ridiculous at this point that they so easily issue records of such great magnitude and grooves and have yet to let me down.
From electro to downtempo, indie rock to house Kitsune leaves no stones unturned when searching for talent or tunes. Kitsune America 2 is evidence of that and should reaffirm anyone's belief in America's ability to produce brilliantly blinding dance music that isn't from Skrillex. There is life outside of EDM and Dubstep and Kitsune America 2 is a tribute to the scene that hasn't forgotten there's a lot more to dance music that brutality. Kitsune America 2 is a masterful compilation and I can't wait to hear Kitsune America 3!
Kobo Town & John Brown's Body Welcome Spring
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 17:38:00 +0000
With the temperature outside being 80 degrees, I think it's fair to say that Spring (or Pre-summer) has officially sprung. That can only mean one thing...dreams of spring break and summer vacation! And what goes better with vacations, holidays, and island getaways than a slew of new tropically influenced records. It's that time of the year for music as well...the market is about to be flooded with all kinds of reggae, soca, dancehall and island jams. Well, as fate would have it two such records have just shown up on my desk...it's as if it was planned! Going by the rather unusual names of Kobo Town and John Brown's Body, neither of these band are actually from the Caribbean but both their albums sound like they were recorded there and have a very authentic feel to them.
Kobo Town's Jumble In The Jukebox comes to us from that hot bed of island getaways...Canada! Yes, Canada. Despite the mandatory rolling of the eyes and all that goes along with that, Kobo Town actually create some rather amazing calypso. Seriously. I'm talking like Harry Belafonte like calypso. The record is packed with songs that are optimistic, energetic and upbeat while maintaining a level of intelligence about them. Kobo Town is rooted in activism and politics but cover it all with sunshine and love. Jumble In The Jukebox is the melding of island influences and modern musical techniques that sound authentic despite being uniquely Canadian. If anything, Jumble In The Jukebox illustrates the influence and prevalence of island music in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed this record; it's lighthearted feel and intelligence made it an absolute joy to jump in line with.
Just down the pike from Canada in that other hot bed of reggae music, Boston, comes John Brown's Body. This Bostonian band has one of the more unusual names for a reggae group and in fact actually don't have a member named John nor do they possess his body. That being said, their album Kings And Queens is a delightfully good straight ahead reggae record. Kings And Queens is incredibly catchy and summery which if you live in Boston in March is probably a good thing. All joking aside, the musicianship is top notch and the horn section is on fire throughout this record. In fact, I'm willing to say that the horns on Kings And Queens is what makes this album worthy of repeated listening; they totally give John Brown's Body another dimension. As if to prove that point the last tune on the record, "Searchlight," is a genuine pop hit that has vacation written all over it.
So, now that you have your bags packed and your flight booked pick up these albums, slather yourself in sun tan lotion and enjoy your vacation. Be sure to send the bands photos of said vacation because after all...it's still winter up in Boston and Canada!
Hills Like Elephants Are Unique
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 15:00:00 +0000
I'm not exactly sure how hills can be like elephants, but for a band name Hills Like Elephants is among the more interesting ones I've heard in a while. The name has a certain late 80's, early 90's feel to it (think Echo & The Bunnymen) and so does the band's sound. They're an interesting combination of soulful songs, falsetto vocals, and classic alternative structures. They describe themselves as Motown with drum machines and while it's hard to find that on their album Feral Flocks I can see what they're trying to get at.
Feral Flocks sounds cool; it's unusual and doesn't sound like anything else right now. It's got this kind of early U2 vibe pulsating through it and at times vocalist Sean Davenport almost channels the soul of Bono into his voice. If you throw that stuff into the musical pot next to this ethereal indie dance thing they try to create you might understand where Hills Like Elephants are coming from. It's hard to describe and, honestly, Feral Flocks isn't the easiest record to get into. While it's hooks are fairly obvious and well structured I suspect most people would have issues with Davenport's vocals. They're just so, err, out there and un-indie rock that it's probably off-putting to your average hipster. Given time, however, Davenport's croon wins you over. You kind of have to think of Hills Like Elephants as an American blue-eyed soul group that's lost in their Style Council record collection; once you let that settle in Feral Flocks becomes rather enjoyable.
There aren't a lot of bands like Hills Like Elephants in the States. Their ability to take late 80's British pop mix it with an overabundance of soulful singing and get tolerable results. But much like Weller did with the Style Council, they manage to make it work. Spending time with Feral Flocks is essential; the more you spend with it the more you'll find yourself liking it and the more it grows on you. Hills Like Elephants clearly know how to write a good song, it's just getting used to their approach that takes some time.
Birds and Arrows and Coyotes
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 15:00:00 +0000
Birds and Arrows are a Chapel Hill/Durham NC trio that play folk music. They are rustic, backwoods, folksy and truth be told rather boring. Their latest album Coyotes is a pastoral, quiet, strummy thing that has absolutely no verve to it. It's three people, acoustic instruments, some songs and that's it.
I'm not a fan of this genre at all and Coyotes made me want to howl like one as I begged for mercy. I wanted to like this record because the first tune, "Firefly," was actually pretty decent in a bedraggled lovelorn ballad kind of way. I thought to myself, "Hmm...there's actually some potential here." Then by the third song I was done. When, "The Rest Of Your Life," started and seemed to just be a girl and something being strummed in an altogether too earnest manner I had difficulty listening to the record. I'm sorry, I think I'm too hyper for music like this...it's just so slow and so meandering and so serious that it gets annoying.
Folk to me is like being behind the guy who does 45 mph in the fast lane of the interstate. Slow, annoying and mind-numbing. It stresses me out and I need to listen to something like Morbid Angel to reaffirm my belief in music. Life is miserable, we get it and we've all had our hearts broken...I just don't want to get mired down by it and wallow in it. Just move on. Please. Heck even the kings of mope, The Smiths, had a sense of humour.
Kaleidoscope Jukebox's Infinite Reflection
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 15:00:00 +0000
Another Friday and another perfectly well timed album of globally groovy chill out. Its that time of the week when I'm overwhelmed, stressed out and ready to go home but thanks to Kaleidoscope Jukebox's album Infinite Reflection I think I'll be able to make it to 5:30. Thanks to the lushness and diversity of sounds on Infinite Reflection my tension is driven away and I'm allowed to get lost in it's ethnic influences and downtempo grooves .
Kaleidoscope Jukebox has created a world in which deep bass, sitars, percussion, stringed instruments, crisp beats all mingle together in harmony. Creating lush soundscapes and imaginative arrangements, Kaleidoscope Jukebox shifts genres and influences at the flick of a switch. It's pretty awesome the way that it's done and very cleverly carried out. One minute you'll be lost in India then the next in a gypsy like environment from the Balkans. Infinite Reflection is all over the place but so well put together that it all flows into one giant...err...infinite reflection.
Meditative, opulent, and varied in its approach, Infinite Reflection never gets lost in it's own trance like state. Kaleidoscope Jukebox not only knows how use it's palette of sound wisely it also knows that having a song sculpted around that palette is important. Infinite Reflection is catchy, deep, and endlessly fascinating and the sort of thing that's easy to listen to repeatedly no matter the day of the week.
David Starfire Ascends
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 15:00:00 +0000
David Starfire's Ascend is a wolf in a sheep's clothing. Disguised as a world music record with references to Bhangra and reggae Ascend buries what this record is all about deep within it. The first four songs of this album seem to hint at a Bhangra chill out record with global grooves permeating throughout the songs. It's all very chilled coolness and then it happens...
The bottom drops out. Somewhere around the fourth song Ascend turns into this face melting dubstep record. It leaves the chilled out vibes of the first three songs in the dust and turns into this brutal beatastic excursion into the darker recesses of electronica. It's almost as if David Starfire simply tuned on a switch and boom went the dynamite. It's a pretty drastic shift in dynamics that would probably scare the bejesus out of anyone who thought this was an Indian influenced chill out record. That being said Ascend is pretty awesome. I love both aspects of this effort...the global chill and the brutal bass. It's a slap across the face when it happens but it hurts so good and sounds ridiculously powerful.
Starfire clearly is comfortable in any situation and this record proves it. His ability to layer hip hop, dubstep, electro, Bhangra and even reggae all with in a song is impressive. He can rip your head clean off with a brutal bassline but still make the song catchy enough to linger within your skull for days. "House of Bhangra," and "Knight Riddum," are perfect examples of this as the tunes are absolutely blinding and still capable of dance floor destruction.
Ascend is an impressive, cleverly disguised record that lulls you into a false sense of chilled security before it pulls the rug out from under you. While I'm not normally a huge fan of dubstep, I thoroughly enjoyed David Starfires globally influenced grooves. This is one dubstep record worthy of your attention even if you hate the genre.
Cherie Lily Works Out Til Dripping Wet
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 15:00:00 +0000
Cherie Lily is a fitness instructor who takes her art, or exercise, so seriously she writes her own music for her work outs. It's a bit unusual to say the least but it explains why she's wearing a leotard on the cover of her EP, Dripping Wet. That aside, I'm sure the question you are undoubtedly asking, "That's great but is it any good?" Well, that's a good question and when you think about what these songs are probably used for...yes. If you think of it as straight ahead dance music well then it's as cliche as it comes and the whole thing reeks of something straight out of an American Apparel assembly line.
Dance music in work outs is supposed to motivate, energize, and pump you up and Dripping Wet does exactly that. It's all high energy stuff with pounding beats, motivational lyrics (albeit in a sexual way), and hooks that would seem to be totally in sync with some sort of exercise class. It's not bad for what it is...stereotypical dance music. But that being said...it's just packed to the brim with cliche's. Let's see...Sexy girl in leotard, check, picture of cleavage on the cover, check, the name Dripping Wet, a sound similar to a modernized C&C Music Factory, check, high energy fist pumping beats with build ups that are straight out of dance music 101, check. It's all here and as a stand alone dance music single it's hard to not to listen to this record with a grain of salt. I mean for the love of God, there's songs called, "Lotion," and "Get Sweaty." Yikes. Now, in the context of something to do the Insanity program to, this is PERFECT. I mean the song, "Total Body Workout," is so motivational it'll make your muscles sore from just listening to it.
Cherie Lily is undoubtedly talented; from exercise to choreography, writing music and rocking the dance floor Cherie has seemingly got it all covered. While Dripping Wet is a mixed bag from a pure dance music perspective her ability to motivate and create music to get healthy to is awesome. I enjoyed Dripping Wet. It is what it is and it makes no bones about it and you can't hate something for at least being honest. If you're looking for motivation and pumping beats next time you want to work out...pop this record on and you'll be Dripping Wet.
We Are Loud Whispers Overcome Suchness
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 15:00:00 +0000
We Are Loud Whispers are the latest dynamic duo to emerge out of nowhere but unlike most, the members of this band haven't actually laid eyes on each other in over five years. Putting together songs in a Postal Service kind of way, We Are Loud Whispers pieced together their album Suchness through email. With one member in Seattle and one member in Honshu there were a few barriers to overcome like an ocean, occasional language issues, and the inability to physically play together but somehow, some way they overcame all that and created something magical.
Slightly twee and altogether delicate, Suchness is a gentle, meandering record that unobtrusively makes it's way through ten songs without raising it's voice once. Instead , Suchness is a dreamy and sleepy record that sounds like it's been stuck waking up and stretching for months. Slightly ethereal and minimal in it's construction, Sonya & Haitani weave this very fragile tapestry that's held together by Sonya's whispers and Haitani's gentle strums and washes. Using bare electronics and gently played riffs the whole album sounds like it could shatter into a million pieces if Sonya raised her voice or hit a high note. It's really all in their name if you think about it...they are indeed loud whispers.
Suchness is a hug-able record that's the very definition of twee pop cool. One listen to, "Western Town," confirms this; with it's horns, broken beats, adorable hooks and Sonya's sighs the song is simply almost to much for your heart to handle. Emotionally charged, but woozily motivated We Are Loud Whispers are lost in the miasma of indie pop, synth pop, and a catatonic state. Despite what you might think, it works for them as Suchness is dreamily perfect and the sort of thing that's near unforgettable.
Lapalux Gets Nostalchic
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 15:00:00 +0000
Lapalux is the name of a British producer who was raised in rural Essex and while the only way may be Essex for some, Lapalux sought a way to escape and so he turned to music. Under this guise Stuart Howard embraced technology with a lean toward the atmospheric as a means of moving on and escaping his surroundings. His album Nostalchic is kind of a clever play on words that hints at where Lapalux has been and where he hopes to go; moving forward by looking at the past.
Nostalchic is a great record of minimal beats, opulent synths, and atmospheric hazes that create a chilled, pastoral soundscape that's about as far away from Essex as Lapalux could ever hope to be. Sounding more like something the Curiosity picked up on a sonoscope on Mars, Nostalchic has this archaic simplistic spacial feel to it that seems to move through your soul. It's a texturally rich record that, dare I say it, hints at a sense of comforting nostalgia while maintaining this futuristic and otherworldly space vibe to it. Call it chillwave, near-ambient, whatever you want it's glitchy brilliance can handle it and expound upon it.
Lapalux has created a world in which to get lost in with Nostalchic. It's minimalism, ambient textures, and hazy style is easy on the ears and rich for the imagination. While there's no standout single per-se, the album taken as a whole is a rich audio experience that's pastoral, futuristic, and electronically pervasive. If the Only Way Is Essex then it seems as though Lapalux how's found his way out and is headed to space with Nostalchic in hand.
Plena Libre's Corazon
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 14:53:00 +0000
Plena Libre are a high energy group of Puerto Rican's that helped bring their roots and music of their home island to the global stage. Through the mixing of native, Caribbean, and Latin influences this group creates a diverse sound that jumps between genre's like planes hop between islands. From meringue to songo and even Latin jazz and rock the band clearly is open minded to anything that enriches their sound. Their latest album Corazon see's this diversity placed center stage as the album takes the rhythmic core of Puerto Rican music and mixes it together with a seemingly limitless palette of sounds and textures.
Corazon is very rhythmic oriented and features a high degree of movement throughout each of the nine songs featured. This is a record that refuses to sit still and clearly loves the sound of the drum, conga, and other forms of percussion. It's fairly obvious about midway through the record that Plena Libra readily emphasize the drum with attention paid to influences outside of Puerto Rico. They're very skilled at this as the album segues flawlessly through sounds and outside influences and rolls in and out like the tide. The record's dynamics are enjoyable and they do a good job all around as much of Corazon is upbeat and danceable with the percussion leading the way.
I thoroughly enjoyed Corazon. It reminded me of being back home in Miami and anything that does that is a winner in my book. This is the sound of the Caribbean and while it might be from Puerto Rico you can pick out the diverse influences and where they came from without much effort. Corazon is the sound of history, tradition, and fun all wrapped up into one awesome record.
Shannon And The Clams Dream In The Rat House
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 07:00:00 +0000
If we are in the middle of a 90's reunion clearly someone forgot to tell Shannon and the Clams. You see Shannon and her Clams are firmly entrenched in recording as if it were 1962. This is a three piece group that so fully embraces early rock and roll that you'd swear these guys were well into their 70's and somehow stumbled upon a record label to record them. Clearly in their 20's, however, Shannon and the Clams are obviously in love with the pure, simple sounds of early rock and roll and their album Dreams In The Rat House is a living tribute to it.
Much like the Pipettes, Shannon and the Clams are far from a novelty act; these guys have legitimately good songs and enough pop sensibility to write tunes that bear hug you with hooks. This is modern day doo wop and the sort of thing that would probably make their grand-parents proud of. Dreams In The Rat House isn't the sound of rebellion or angst but pure unadulterated fun and is seemingly from a time when rock and roll was subversive and new. Dreams In The Rat House is an awesome record that's the perfect blend of garage rock rawness, doo wop love songs, and swoony pop in a sugary rush of un-coolness.
Raw, under produced and ridiculously authentic sounding, Dreams In The Rat House channels it's inner Ricky Nelson perfectly. I love this record, it's simplicity, purity and goodness is simply irresistible. I wish more bands would discover the classic goodness of early rock and roll like Shannon and the Clams have and embrace a time when music was fresh and fun. It was a brilliant time of discovery, creativity, and honesty...something that the music industry and music in general is lacking today.
Mudhoney Fly Past Vanishing Point
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 07:00:00 +0000
If there's one thing Sub Pop records is known for it's grunge. They practically invented the genre, they definitely curated it, and then they broke it mainstream with good ol' Nirvana. One of the lasting legacies of that whole movement were and still are Mudhoney. These guys have been cranking out the garage rock jams for well over twenty years and amazingly they're still at it. While they might be wearing flannel now to keep warm as opposed to looking cool, they still are able to write amazingly heavy, yet catchy indie rock and one listen to Vanishing Point will not only reaffirm your faith in their ability but the genre of grunge as well.
Vanishing Point is awesome stuff; it's raw, punky, thrashy, heavy and still remarkably catchy. With choppy riffs from broken guitars, screamed vocals, bashed drums, bluesy breakdowns, metal freakouts, and a lot of disheveled chaos Mudhoney beat the living heck out of their instruments here to create songs. Short, sweet and to the point Vanishing Point doesn't even remotely hint at the fact that the band has been doing this for over two decades. In fact, Mudhoney don't sound a day over five on this record. It's so pure and so good you'd swear this thing was recorded and released somewhere around 1991 when Mudhoney were at the height of their career.
These guys clearly still have the knack for indie rock and it's a joy to hear. Vanishing Point is proper grunge from a proper grunge band hell bent on proving there's no need for a post-grunge revival when the original masters are still kicking around. (How many times can I use the word grunge in one sentence?) I love this record; it's a constant reminder of why I loved Sub Pop back in my early 20's...the bands were heavy, cool, and loved metal as much as punk and smashed it altogether with reckless abandon. If the 90's are indeed back...then here, ladies and gentlemen are your elder statesmen.
Fetsum And The Colours Of Hope
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 07:00:00 +0000
Urban folk singer, Fetsum is a troubadour who creates soul inflected intimate music that mixes reggae, R&B, and acoustic music together into a quiet introspective brew that's half quiet storm half folk journey. His album The Colours of Hope is a diverse recording that probably has more in common with someone like Jeffrey Osborne or Al Jareau then someone from the modern folk scene. That being said, it's pretty obvious that this is not your usual folk record.
The Colours of Hope is an up close affair that as the title states is hopeful, optimistic, and positive. Fetsum is a soulful singer and he wears his passions and emotion on his sleeves. As a result, The Colours of Hope is a pretty chilled out record that features some nice acoustic work and non-standard instrumentation delivered with a lot of heart. While this record might not have a "hit," amongst the nine songs that make it up, the record is gripping and engrossing none-the less.
The Colours of Hope might not be the sort of record you run home to listen to repeatedly, but it is a record well worth your time. Fetsum's intimacy, honesty, and optimism is highly respectable. Hovering outside of the norm, Fetsum demonstrates he is a fantastic songwriter who's found a comfortable niche utilizing non-standard influences and sounds to create a folk record that non-folkies like me can at least listen to.
Elements Of Life Eclipses Expectations
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 07:00:00 +0000
Last updated at: 5/22/2013 4:53:59 AM ET
When one thinks of Louie Vega one cannot but help to think of house music and Masters At Work. This legendary producer practically created, defined and popularized house music throughout much of the 80's and 90's. Now Little Louie has come up with another idea that goes by the name of Elements of Life. This live orchestrated group creates a energetic fusion of global sounds that's as diverse as Vega's hometown of New York City.
Elements of Life's new album Eclipse took four and a half years to create and features elements and sounds of Afrobeat, jazz, Latin, R&B, Gospel, and of course house. The record also blends the occasional spoken word passage into the mix creating a completely fascinating vibe that hovers between coffee house cool and a jumpin' jazz club. Eclipse is an awesome record of diversity, brilliant arrangements and features a band that can play the heck out of anything put in front of it. With members coming from all over and allowing their influences and ideas to flourish within the Elements of Life, Louie Vega and his band have created a vibrant exciting group that is filled with so much creativity and vivacity it's stunning.
With soulful, intelligent lyrics and enthusiastic musicians Eclipse is full of musical surprises and never ceases to entertain. This is the sound of the world and it's themes of inspiration and hope are universal and far reaching. Little Louie Vega may be a legend on the dance floor but he's clearly making another name for himself with Elements of Life and Eclipse is proof of that. In fact, this is the sound of a true Master At Work.