It never crossed my mind how twee country sounds. As The Eerie Green have taught me, it sounds quite pleasant. Maybe that's simplifying it too much, because The Eerie Green have a very strong sound that walks across coals not just of country or twee-pop, but of folk, samba and arena rock as well. It's not as weird or daunting as it sounds, and I think some genre hopping was unintentional. Let The Light Shine On sounds like a bunch of adorable unblemished teenagers, who just happen to be excellent musicians, attempting to run away cross-country while trying to be back home in time for dinner. It's impossible, but just look at them try. The Eerie Green has some fine men and women in its employ, all of whom can play and have good ideas, but the album is hampered by good ideas being dragged out to the end. This is a real black eye for an album that otherwise sounds awesome.
The album overstays its welcome by a good amount of songs, and "Let The Light Shine On" is hardly the emotional send-off the listener deserves after such an ordeal. And yet, the first half of Let The Light Shine On is what I like in my twee country: Strong vocal harmonies, guitar-playing that can sound ferocious or precious and light-hearted lyrics about being young and fun and trying out love. There're some clever touches like in "Wolves,” when actual samples of wolves are heard. The best track, "Who Do You Think You Are,” is a bruising song of scorn, with rattling percussion setting up the backdrop for the midnight-in-the-woods duet of Layten Kramer and Logan Thackray. There are other songs like this on the album, but they can get too saccharine for their own good. Well, The Eerie Green is confident. That much is clear, and the album is well worth your time (feel free to cut into some tracks). I'm interested to see where these progenitors of twee country see fit to evolve their sound.
When was the last time you saw someone drop whatever they were doing, stand straight up, and declare "I'm going to New Zealand!" Never. Despite a gorgeous climate, beautiful geography, some of the friendliest people on the planet, and kiwis, damn kiwis, New Zealand never seems to be on anybody's epiphany list. Perhaps that's why Tablefox is filled with angst. These Aucklanders lay down five-tracks of lush guitar-driven teardrop music on their EP Passenger. Now, I don't know if there's a direct correlation between not wanting to go to New Zealand (tourism is nine percent of the country's GDP, you monster) and Tablefox's music, but it made me at least consider a vacation there. Maybe I just wasn't meeting the right people? Least now I'm listening to the right music.
Passenger grabbed my attention immediately with its lush guitar work, harkening back to Emo's golden years, if there was ever such a time. To get this much sound out of three people is downright impressive, and the three men in Tablefox play like the veterans they'll someday be. The jaunty drumming and the undulating bass lines give the rhythm section the versatility to pull a song in with tight orchestration or to let the songs bounce around the autumnal vocals of their vocalist (Notice how I didn't name anyone? In the business we call this "teasing" or "laziness."). At times, the album reaches heights of musical jubilance, even sounding anthemic. There're some great lyrics to be heard here, though because of the emotional drive, they can come out sounding overly indulgent. "You're a cannonball. You could start a war. But you gave your heart." It’s an interesting metaphor, but a bit much for a breakup song. And yet, the boys are just flexing their muscles right now. The band is currently working on a debut full-length, slated to drop later this year or early next. Keep a lookout for it.
King Friday’s previous release Let Him Eat Cake (Songs of Birds) was an album full of timeless songwriting, exceptional ballads and some of the best vocal work I have heard since “Kathy’s Song” by Simon and Garfunkel. King Friday’s most recent release This Is Supposed To Be Fun is possibly even further refined then their previous release. The songs are sparse but command your attention because of the emotional resonance that is conveyed. As with the previous album the thing that stuck out to me was the vocals that have an honesty and comfort in them that is lacking in so much of today’s music. Some songs revolve around gorgeous guitar picking while others revolve around a piano. Either way the songs’ emotional impact is apparent throughout. A lot of bands try to emulate some of the classics like Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles and fall off the mark. With this album I don’t feel that way. It seems as if these young men are perhaps misplaced in time and are just doing what comes naturally to them. Perhaps the only thing I would want is more. The songs are almost all under two minutes and I wouldn’t have minded a centerpiece song going into the five minute range.
“What Things Become” revolves around a piano melody and lyrics that are inspired and thought out. I liked how things were sounding right out of the gate. The second song “Word Games (Cut and Run)” picks thing up a bit introducing drums into the mix. This is a song that could easily be a sing-along or stuck in your head for the rest of the day after hearing it on the radio. One of my favorites amongst the songs was “On the Same Page” which displayed their guitar picking ability and makes you remember that in this day and age with all these computer programs sometimes all you need to make a great song is a guitar and your voice. That is ultimately why King Friday is making good music, they haven’t forgotten what matters most in a song is the song itself.
It is no secret that Toronto breeds good bands. Maybe it’s something in the air; maybe it’s because good music tends to breed good music. Modern Sands is no exception to this truth as their recently released self-titled debut EP showcases a band who is rooted in gritty shoegaze and jangly pop that hides behind good songs that are executed well. Combining fuzzy guitars and delays pioneered by bands like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine and later emulated by bands like Deerhunter, Modern Sands uses the same arsenal of sounds to entice the listener. One other thing I would add is that there was an ethereal quality that slightly resembled the band Real Estate. This conceptual idea on this EP reminded me of The Suburbs by “Arcade Fire.” A lot of the topics revolve around the existential dilemma that plagues America’s youth as boredom sets in with nothing to do but get intoxicated. The band says “It takes on themes of intoxication, disillusionment with the concept of love, and the desire to use music and art as a means to escape the mundane realities of lower middle class suburban life.”
The first song entitled “Décor” was probably my favorite. I immediately fell in love with the guitar riff and knew I was in for a treat once I heard the vocals. The guitars’ hooks were really catchy and so were the vocals. I found nothing wrong with the tune. It had everything I look for when I want to hear good indie rock. The second song on the EP “Pistol Burn” was a solid effort. Not as infectious as the first song but still worth your time to listen to. “Rolleiflex” sounded a bit rough in that I think the mix could have sounded a bit better. Nonetheless, the song was catchy and displays a different vocal style not unlike something you might hear from The Magnetic Fields. The album closes with “Loop 13” which is an instrumental track that utilizes crashing guitar chords and builds in momentum and white noise before the bands’ instruments come to a somewhat anti-climatic ending. Modern Sands debut EP is a good listen that showcases a band that I can easily see climbing up the ranks of the elite as they refine their sound.
The Noble Firs are all over the place...literally. Vocals and guitars come from Alaska, the drummer is located in California and the bassist is from D.C. Getting together for practice must be a real pain. They recorded their first self-titled EP after only three practices (I wonder how long those practice sessions were?). While there are definitely some areas that could be improved, it is pretty impressive. Mixing together different elements such as surf, shoegaze and folk, these are solid songs and have occasional highs that surpass their growing pains. There are only two songs on this EP “Electric Jellyfish” and “Skin and both showcase the bands’ talents. The band explains that “the lyrical content of 'Electric Jellyfish' should give the listener the feeling of a nighttime stroll on the coast while 'Skin's' mood is more likened to meeting your soul mate on an exotic bird-watching trip but forgetting to exchange information and regretting it a day later.”
Electric Jellyfish has a good groove, an infectious vocal melody as well as a good rhythm section. The chorus fell a bit flat but was far from bad. For playing together for such a short amount of time the song was impressive. While the first song was a solid song I enjoyed “Skin” more. I felt the song was more dynamic and had a little funk on it. The song was a bit more fun conjuring up hints of vampire weekend. The song does have one of the best buildups I have heard in awhile. At the 2:05 mark the tension explodes with a ridiculously catchy guitar lick. Both songs are easy to digest and while there is nothing wrong it left me longing for something else at times and I’m not sure exactly what. Well, I hope these guys like long practices because I have to imagine they probably have two-week long practices to get to the point they are at. All kidding aside the guys released an impressive couple of songs here that display that these guys may have a bright future in front of them.
Angel Ortega is a song-writer and performer who hides under the moniker "Dive Signals" to deliver a free-form, experimental blend of sounds: Feeling uneasy at the idea of sticking to one genre exclusively, Angel strives to color his music with influences as diverse as shoegaze, electronic, glitch, post rock and ambient, to name a few, creating a sound that is really close in nature to that of many Icelandic groups such as Sigur Ròs, Mum or Seaber. On the album Bedrooms, the quest for sounds is way more relevant than the song structure itself, as Dive Signals offers nine moody, candle-lit tracks which slowly move the record from one place to another as the flow goes on, alternating static drone landscapes with glitch-tainted electronic beats, synths and guitars producing walls of sounds (think Brian Eno!).
Ambient-based electronics is definitely the blueprint for this album, which in a fitting comment by the artist himself, is described as a "series of experimental oriented sketches" adorned by a lo-fi production that adds to the darkness and mystic power of the compositions, making the minimal, yet accomplished arrangements even more compelling to listen to. Some songs like "Projection" find beauty in the chaos similar to how Alog did with their wonderful album Miniatures. Other songs like "10 stories" sound like what you might imagine the primordial soup of life sounded like 5 billion years ago. Tiny fluctuations flicker in and out as the song emerges. Other songs like "Minor" have an overtly ominous overtone that sound like an impending doom is present....loved it. Besides the music, the artwork deserves to be mentioned here: The beautifully painted flowers showcased on the front cover manage to fall perfectly in-line with the sounds featured on the record: Usually it's hard to mix a colorful artwork with a mellow, ambient based type of album, but the artist did a great job here, utilizing a still life portrait of various flowers to truly capture the essence of the music by Dive Signals.If you are a fan of ambient, post-rock and minimal electronics, this is definitely an album that will stay in your record player for a while!
Based out of Melbourne in Australia, live electronica duo LazyBoyProactive strikes the audience with a fun moniker and with a really cool sound, based on a modern and tight dance-type of production together with pop sensibilities and club music energy. The duo has been active since 2006, with the final aim to offer much more than music to their audience, striving to deliver a mind-blowing audio and visual experience at their live shows, featuring stunning visuals and clips alongside the tracks from their debut album, aptly titled Kaos Dream, an album name that is based on the concept of turning chaos into real art through the natural chemistry of their collaboration as a duo of producers and live performers.
Although the music by LazyBoyProactive can essentially be described as techno/dance, there is a strong rock component on it, not only because the duo featuring Ankei and Munkei perform live with electric guitars, but also because the sheer power and energy of their music has got this strong rock swagger to it. This music is really meant to be listened to out loud, possibly from a cool venue's PA system, because the songs featured on the album Kaos Dream could constitute a really mind-blowing live set, full of break-downs, build-up and steady beats. Kaos Dream features 13 tracks, each one ranging from four to roughly five minutes in length, with the exception of "Cybernetic Tribe,” that closes in at 7:18 making it the longest tune on the whole release. The band ironically states that "the vocals are done in a lazy manner but proactively" - and upon listening to the vocals on the songs, it’s quite easy to see what they mean. There is very little screaming and shouting manically, but the sleazy, laid-back vocals still manage somehow to inject a good dose of energy into the songs, perfectly melting on top of the synth-based effect and beats! This is adrenaline inducing album that hits hard and will keep the club kids on the dance floor till the wee hours of the morning.
Hailing from Leicester, UK, No Exit Plan is a duo consisting of Andy Bennet and Richard Harris, starting out as a studio project with the idea to expand the line up to a full band when more chances to perform live arise. Given the nature of the project, you can expect a full band sound that you wouldn't normally get from a full line up as opposed as a pair of musicians, but in a studio everything is possible! Andy and Richard set out to blend their pop-punk background with an electronic set of sounds on their EP Out Of The Dark, a collection of four songs that blink an eye to new wave pop, but keep the grit and raw energy that only a loud electric guitar can deliver on the forefront of their mixes.
"They'll Never Know" is the first of the batch, opening with heavy riffs and catchy melodies, perfectly balancing the power and the melody. The vocals are distorted during the verse and the once the chorus hits its almost as if they just change genres. I had conflicted feelings about this. “Coffee Jar” follows the same line, if even a little more 80s oriented, with the tight, gated snare and heavy-synth arrangement. This song could be described as an interesting and unusual clash between bands like Fall Out Boy and Skid Row in their 80s glory days. "Let It Sleep" brings the guitar back on the forefront of the sonic formula crafted by the Leicester duo, spiced up with a really interesting drum groove and cool synth bass lines.Closing number "Face" is described as an EP bonus, and it could be considered a bold song to feature on this EP because it contrasts quite a lot with the rest of the music, showcasing a straight-out dance pattern. There are only four songs on this EP, but this is enough to give a hint of the broad vision so dear to the band and to shine a light on their eclectic approach.
Located in Quebec, Canada, Rhino has been playing together for about two years. They finally got around to recording some of their material last fall and created their first self-titled EP Rhino. This is straight-up gritty, garage rock album not unlike The Strokes’ earlier albums. What happened to those guys anyway? This album sounds like a couple of guys jamming in a room together on real instruments who have fun doing it. The album is fun, loose, unpretentious and also has some catchy tunes that will not blow your mind with originality but may keep you coming back for more. The best thing about this album was that I didn’t have to strain my brain trying to figure anything out.
The album starts with an upbeat song “Saigon” which contains that 1950’s style drumming that I’m a sucker for and the main reason that I loved Beck’s New Pollution all those years ago. The song rocks pretty hard and does a good job with vocal duties as the band adds some nice backing vocals to the front man slightly distorted lead. I won’t deny the fact that the second song “So Tired Out” is very similar to sounding like The Strokes. The song is solid despite the fact I wished I heard a bit more originality. There is nothing wrong with paying homage to your influences but this song felt a bit too close for comfort at times. The best and most original song to me was “Glock.” It contained some much-welcomed organ as well as a bit of shedding of their influences and finding their own sound. The EP closes with “Fake Kids,” which was the most exuberant song on the album. Not a bad way to end the album. This a solid debut and while they wear their influences on their sleeves for the time being, this EP shows a lot of potential in a band that is just getting started.
I always wonder what it would be like to be in a band with your significant other. I have to imagine there are pros and cons. In the case of Nicholas James and Cara Summer who are a married duo under the name of “Get Along” there seem to be more pros. The band is a mishmash of genres. The vocals are soulfully song by Cara who sounds a bit similar to Ann Wilson from Heart. The songs are a bit all over the place sometimes infusing electronica and at other times sounding very traditional. The sound they are going for needs a hi-fi quality and this wasn’t apparent through some of the songs. Despite the occasional blunder this is most importantly a heart-felt record that was an ode to one of their friends who passed away. According to the band a number of songs are directly about this event and exploring the human emotion to be loved. The EP We Tried So Hard to Be So Cool is ultimately about finding solace and finding joy in what you do have. I personally can’t think of much of a better reason to start making music.
The EP starts off on the right foot with “The Good.” Everything works well here. I was loving Summer’s soulful voice, crushing drums. and organ. Lasting right under 2 minutes I was hoping to hear more of this style on the next song but unfortunately I didn’t get it. What I got was a synth bass-inspired song that sounded a bit muddy and uninspired compared to the first. The song also suffered a bit because of the lo-fi aesthetic. Luckily, this was the only real misstep. The next song “Kissing Song” was a bit lighter and more organic. It was a good song except I had no idea what to make of the sort of rapping that entered during the middle of the song. The last two songs “I’m Not Alone” and “Jonah, We’re Listening” are both soulful numbers. I felt like Summer was conjuring the ghost of Joe Cocker on the last song. I really like the way it ended with electronics. I wish there was more experimentation like that on the whole album. So what we are left with is incredibly heartfelt album that even when it misses the mark on occasion makes up with it with soulful singing, good song-writing and visceral emotion.
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