Fear Of Men – Early Fragments album review

“Do you know what to do when you’re on your own? Do you know what to do when you’re on your own again?” Fear of Men singer/guitarist Jessica Weiss wonders in “Seer,” the opening track on Early Fragments. This nine-track album is a collection of the singles and cassette releases that made the indie pop quartet one of Britain’s most blogged about bands of 2012.

Combining lush, dreamy vocals with lyrics influenced by Anaïs Nin and Sigmund Freud, the London and Brighton-based band sounds like the Cranberries in the midst of an existential crisis. Their first-ever single, “Ritual Confession,” was inspired by letters between Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, while “Green Sea” references the Greek myth of Prometheus, or perhaps Percy Bysshe Shelley’s  Prometheus Unbound (Opening lyrics: “Fall asleep in the green / Under the waves  / Til the birds steal the liver I grew.”)

You won’t be surprised to learn that Fear of Men began as an art student project. The band formed in 2011 as an extension of the ambient soundtrack recordings Weiss made for her short films. She met guitarist and fellow art student Daniel Falvey when he came to one of her exhibitions, and they were soon joined by Alex Flynn-O’Neill on bass and Michael Miles on drums. (You read that right – despite the name and Weiss’ vocals, Fear of Men is 50% male.)

Even if their lyrics didn’t give them away, Fear of Men has made no attempt to disguise its intellectual background. In between links to their surrealistic music videos and latest gigs, Fear of Men’s Twitter and Tumblr pages contain ephemera like quotes from Edgar Allan Poe and Sylvia Plath, a photo of a Yoko Ono art piece, a YouTube video of a Philip Larkin poem, and shorter-than-short Tweets like “Visiting Basquiat’s grave.”

And let’s talk about those videos. There are three of them, each a three-minute work of art in its own right. The most recent music video, for “Seer,” shows Weiss as a beekeeper in a sunny wasteland, looking like a lonesome astronaut in her white coveralls and veiled beekeeper’s hat.

Their name, background, and videos all hint that there’s something special here, but above all, what sets Fear of Men apart is their haunting lyrics. Darkly poetic and unsettling, the lyrics dwell on birth, death, sex, and spirituality, even when the melody is a little more lighthearted. “I remember being born / I remember when I die,” Weiss chirps in the upbeat, almost-danceable “Born.”

Fear of Men recently crossed the pond for the first time to play nine sets at SXSW, as well as shows in Monterrey, Mexico and New York. There’s a proper debut album in the works, so make sure you pick up Early Fragments now.

Chelsea Light Moving – Chelsea Light Moving album review

Chelsea Light Moving’s self-titled release marks the first proper LP that former Sonic Youth guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Thurston Moore has released since his 2011folk-inspired solo album “Demolished Thoughts.” For this project, Moore unites with guitarist Keith Wood from the band Hush Arbors, drummer John Moloney from the band Sunburned Hand of the Man, and bassist Samara Lubelski, who is a multi-instrumentalist and moderately acclaimed solo artist apart from Chelsea Light Moving. Moore takes a 180 degree turn from the stripped down style of his previous 2 solo albums by delivering a piece of work that is more stylistically in line with his much heralded alt-rock bravura.

As one expects from an album spearheaded by Thurston Moore, the album is brimming with dissonant cadences that run wild throughout the work, and the chords never quite seem to land exactly how one would think they would if they were expecting your average alt-rock tune. This mood works in a very grating yet oddly satisfying way. The album opens strong as the song “heavenmetal” serves as a very low-key, matter-of-fact introduction that effectively eases the listener into the album before the heaviness of the other tracks knocks them over his/her head. The second song, “Sleeping Where I Fall” is the album’s standout, as the band rocks a thrilling ode to paranoia and downward spirals that contains a noisy musical interlude that is among Moore’s best. The album drags in momentum a bit in the middle until the haunting “Mohawk” picks it back up and runs with it as Moore delivers a spoken word verse over a steady-picked guitar line and a John Cale-esque drone. The song clocks in at 6:51, serving as a sort of meditation piece.

Thurston doesn’t put on any airs of maturity for this outfit, despite checking in at a not-so-ripe 54 years of age. The record never tries to be musically ambitious, at least when compared to the band members’ previous releases. The release feels as more of a return to form for Moore than a sonically daring endeavor in and of itself. What this means is that while most of the songs are very well done, if a Thurston Moore fan expects to hear him venture on to different and more exciting things, they would be sorely disappointed. Some of the songs sound as though Pavement had a lovechild with Nirvana’s “Bleach” album. While this is surely an interesting combination, that says a lot about the attitude of a 54 year old songwriter that is still writing with the angst of a young man.

All in all, what the album lacks in forward thinking, it makes up for in energy, songwriting, and fire. I personally found the album more enjoyable the first time I listened to it than I did after the first couple of spins, but there is a lot to be taken from this album and it is surely worth at least one listen.

Screaming Females – Chalk Tape album review

If you’ve ever listened to anything by Screaming Females, you’ve likely grown accustomed to their relentless, almost aggressive brand of indie punk. The New Jersey trio’s newest EP, Chalk Tape, is incredibly different. In an incredible way. Though surprisingly short (even for an EP), Chalk Tape beautifully showcases musical styles one might not have thought Screaming Females capable of.

To be clear: this is not some deviation that slaps the Females’ post-punk roots in the face. Rather, it complements the hard, intense style that has served the band so well over the years. Chalk Tape contains a couple of tracks that sound like classic Screaming Females, and those songs are great. “Crushing the Kingdom” is one of those songs. It sounds like it might be at home on any of the band’s previous albums.

But the songs that really matter are the ones that aren’t so classic. They are unexpected, creative, and mind-blowing. The opening track of Chalk Tape is a prime example. With harmonizing vocals and a heavy, funky bass, “Sick Bed” is catchy and slightly reminiscent of Cold War Kids. But it’s wonderful. Throughout the EP, Screaming Females flirts with different elements, from the Middle-Eastern influenced “Into the Sun” to the screamy-metal “Wrecking Ball.”

“Poison Arrow” is a true gem on the album, showcasing more of lead singer Marissa Paternoster’s impressive vocal range. The song’s composition is not complex, but it’s simplicity makes it all the more mesmerizing.

My only complaint with this album is that it isn’t long enough. By the end of the closing track, “Green Vapors,” I was legitimately bummed that there wasn’t more. It’s not that the album isn’t satisfying; I could listen to Chalk Tape on repeat for hours. It feels more like when your favorite television show ends with a cliffhanger and you have to wait nine months to find out what happens. You are enthralled but you crave more.

For the Screaming Females newcomer, I can’t think of a better place to start than this EP. Chalk Tape is a nice little sampler of the full range of skill the band puts into its albums. Screaming Females has proven that they have more in their repertoire than they originally let on. If this is a new direction for Screaming Females, I can’t wait to hear their next album.

Woodkid – The Golden Age album review

Yoann Lemoine is a multifaceted French artist who has the distinction of having worked with Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and even Lana Del Rey. He has been nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards for his directorial work, and has been recognized in Cannes, France for graphic design work on an AIDS awareness campaign entitled Graffiti. All in all, he seems like an extremely busy man. However, he is not too busy to also attempt to become one of the musicians that he so often directs videos for. In an effort to establish himself as a true triple threat, Lemoine has created his alter ego, Woodkid.

Now, there is no problem with a musician attempting to dabble in many different avenues of art. Johnny Greenwood has done incredibly well providing the soundtrack for two incredible Paul Thomas Anderson films (There Will be Blood and The Master), Jay-Z rules an empire of apparel, basketball, and alcohol, and Jack White has done some acting (both serious and comedic). However, this approach does not suit Yoann Lemoine. Simply put, Woodkid’s debut album, The Golden Age, is a lengthy and boring slog through tired string arrangements and clattering percussion that would be better suited for Local Natives or Grizzly Bear.

The record begins with the title track, using dramatic piano tones and undulating string arrangements to build suspense as the piece rushes towards a crescendo of clattering percussion and horns. “The Golden Age” is a song that causes the listener to envision the march of a giant slow moving army, and leaves no mystery as to the vibe that Lemoine is attempting establish. He wants his music to be grandiose, without space or time for vulnerability. It is an aesthetic that permeates the record and belies his background in film, as most of these songs could seemingly serve as the soundtrack for some giant melodramatic movie.

As the album wears on (and it certainly wore on this listener), Woodkid experiments with more clattering percussion, more sweeping strings, and also some incredibly unnecessary instrumental sections. Both “Shadows” and “Falling” left me slumped over my kitchen table wondering at the purpose of their inclusion on the record, and even the most interesting song on The Golden Age, “I Love You”, recycles a rim clicking snare drum beat that sounds identical to that of Radiohead’s “There There.”

It is possible for an artist to spread himself too thin when attempting to take part in many different professional pursuits. With the creation of Woodkid, Yoann Lemoine seems to be working to create a series of songs that could act as backing music to one of his cinematic visions. Without a film to soundtrack however, the album feels flat, overlong, and just downright tedious. Completing a full listen of The Golden Age is truly a chore.

The Spinto Band – Cool Cocoon album review

Cool Cocoon is The Spinto Band’s eigth or ninth album. Active for over fifteen years, this band gets better and better at what they do. This album demonstrates that trait quite admirably. Tight songwriting, of-the-moment electronica inspired timbres, traditional harmonic progressions, and an orchestral rhythmic style all coalesce to produce an album that is sophisticated enough for the hipster crowd while also being incredibly well written.

In pure musical terms, this band is something of an enigma, in that they are old-fashioned in a sense. The songs possess a strong sense of composition, in that they sound crafted by a group of people with very honed sensibilities. The music is truly beautiful, and the icing on the aural cake are the vocal harmonies. The emotional impact conveyed by the juxtaposition of lead vocals and layered backing vocals always packs a wallop.

Rhythmically, this band has no peer. There are times on this recording when it sounds like each member of the band is locking into something completely self-contained and disparate from every other member. The end result is a massive sonority, something along the lines of what the European masters of centuries past achieved with an orchestra, translated into rock and roll terms. The use of varied instrumentation from track to track, coupled with the interspersed keyboard and synth washes adds to this overall feel.

To top it all off, the lyrics possess a literary quality, replete with intelligent word choices and more rhythmic sophistication, this time manifesting in the form of syllable arrangement. This album is indie rock as art.

Devendra Banhart – Mala album review

On its surface, Devendra Banhart’s eighth studio album, “Mala,” is a somber, serious record of romanticism. A deeper look, however, reveals nuances that keeps the album far from boring and breathes new life into classic styling.

The record as a whole has a bit of a cheeky side to it, interjecting a bit of humor and ease into an otherwise serious, earnest collection. “Won’t You Come Over” is Banhart’s version of a guilty pleasure song. While the track is as meticulously produced and curated as the rest of the album, the poppy, bubbly melody and relatively unsubtle chorus asking a girl to come over give the listener the feeling that they shouldn’t like the song. But it’s impossible not to. On “Never Seen Such Good Things,” an ode to exes, Banhart reminisces about “a ceremony so…empty, bitter, boring and hollow.” Banhart waxes poetic about failed relationships with similar feelings—though

Banhart plays around with different techniques within the context of the tracks, allowing the audience to ground themselves and not feel overwhelmed. “Never Seen Such Good Things” incorporates reverb effects and a steel drum into an old-school Western framework, while “Mi Negrita” breathes Spanish in both language and flamenco-esque melody. “Hatchet Wound” is softer and folkier than its title might suggest. Toward the end of the track, Banhart amps up the energy with secondary, background chanting and what sounds like hand claps.

Though he moves smoothly between different techniques and sounds on the majority of the album, Banhart sometimes falls victim to disjointed transitions, truncating thoughts or movements in a way that makes them sound like half-formed ideas. “Your Fine Petting Duck,” a duet with real-life fiancée Ana Kras, curiously transforms from a charming, ‘50s Americana pop back-and-forth to a techno, futuristic club jam. The track changes genre, decade and language in a matter of seconds, creating two completely separate songs. Three songs on the album, including the title track, tap out at a minute and a half, creating odd roadblocks in the album’s progression. Overall, “Mala” boasts the particular brand of dreamy indie folk that Devendra Banhart’s come to embody, while managing to incorporate new, complimentary sounds.

Hollis Brown “Nightfall” Video Revealed + US Tour Dates

Debut LP Ride On The Train Out Now via Alive Records

“packed to the brim with sterling songs” – NPR (KUT)

“Hollis Brown make music that sounds just as alive today as it would’ve in 1966 and will 40 years from now.” – SPIN

“warm, melodic, seventies rock” – Austin Chronicle

“perfectly twangy, Instagram filter haze-y sound” – NYLON

Watch “Nightfall” video

Taking queues from classic pop, rock’n’roll, and Americana, Hollis Brown combines raw rock sensibilities with sweet melodies and heartfelt lyrics to create a rich, warm sound that can fill any room. The band has released their debut full-length album, Ride On The Train via Alive Records.

Full of gritty jams and soft, sweet ballads, Ride On The Train opens with the title track, a triumphant song of new beginnings lead by warm, crackling guitar. “Doghouse Blues” is a straight-up bluesy rock song with rollicking melodies and dirty guitar licks. Despite its title, album track “Down On Your Luck” sets a bright, hopeful tone with twangy guitars and a playful vocal melody, while “Walk On Water” kicks it up a notch with raw vocals and screeching guitar solos. Tracks like the melancholic “If It Ain’t Me” and the powerfully optimistic “Faith & Love” showcase the band’s vulnerable side.

Having already performed alongside acts like Deer Tick and Caveman, fans will have more chances to catch Hollis Brown live on their national US tour. Stay tuned for more from Hollis Brown coming soon!

Hollis Brown National Tour Dates

3/27: Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
3/28: Richmond, VA @ The Camel
3/29: Washington DC @ Bayou
3/30: New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
4/04: Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
6/27: Charlotte, NC @ US National Whitewater Center

The Boxer Rebellion To Release New Album, “Promises,” On May 14

MUSIC VIDEO FOR NEW SINGLE, “DIAMONDS,” NOW STREAMING ONLINE

NORTH AMERICAN HEADLINE TOUR CONFIRMED FOR MAY-JUNE & LONDON FORUM SHOW ANNOUNCED FOR OCTOBER 11

VIDEO: “DIAMONDS” (FROM PROMISES)

London-based indie rock quartet The Boxer Rebellion are pleased to announce details of their new album titled Promises. Co-produced with producer Billy Bush in Los Angeles, CA, and being released on May 14 through the band’s own Absentee Recordings label, Promises is the uplifting and cinematic follow-up to the critically-acclaimed The Cold Still, and will be available to pre-order from Tuesday, April 2.

Photo: Vincent Dolman

The Boxer Rebellion took to their London rehearsal space and transformed it into a recording studio where the songs for Promises would eventually come together over the last 18 months. Moving away from the more analog and darker soundscapes that enveloped the band’s previous album, Promises is a significant step in a different direction for the London four-piece – a hi-fi, soaring piece of work that truly delivers on the band’s epic, signature sound, and individual skill as musicians. From the retro-glossiness of the album’s opener, “Diamonds,” to the wall-of-sound that is “Fragile,” to the towering beauty of “Low,” “New York,” and “Dream,” Promises presents itself as an evolution in aesthetic – diverse in soundscapes but singular in grand ambition – for a band that continues to push and explore its creative ability with each new release.

As a first glance into the new album, the band today officially released their music video for new single “Diamonds.” Shot by British directorial duo Justin and James Lockey (aka Hand.Held.Cine.Club), the film stars lead singer Nathan Nicholson suffering a dead-end job and finding momentary escapism by way of a sudden free-fall flight through the air. Shot in the North of England, the team built an office space inside an empty shell of a building, worked with free-base skydivers in sub-zero temperatures, and plunged into ice cold waters to capture a stark and emotive film fitting to the song’s message.

The Promises North American tour will see the band’s immense live show re-worked from the ground-up, starting in Montreal on May 21 and hitting numerous cities for the first time ever, including Edmonton, Calgary, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh. The band will also play Neptune, Seattle (6/2); Fillmore, San Francisco (6/5); Avalon, Los Angeles (6/7); Metro, Chicago (6/15); and Webster Hall, NYC (6/20). A complete list of tour dates is below, and support comes from much lauded UK-based band Fossil Collective. The band have also announced their largest UK headline show to date, a performance at the legendary venue The Forum on October 11. Tickets are on sale now via the band’s Web site and will be on general sale this Friday, March 29.

MAY

23 – Montreal, QC – Café Campus

24 – Toronto, ON – Opera House

28 – Edmonton, ON – Starlite Room

29 – Calgary AB – Republik

31 – Vancouver, BC – Electric Owl

JUNE

01 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir

02 – Seattle, WA – Neptune

05 – San Francisco, CA – Fillmore

07 – Los Angeles, CA – Avalon

10 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom

12 – Denver, CO – Bluebird

14 – St. Louis, MO – Old Rock House

15 – Chicago, IL – Metro

17 – Pittsburgh, PA – Mr Smalls

18 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer (co-headline w/ Rogue Wave)

20 – New York, NY – Webster Hall

22 – Boston, MA – Sinclair

OCTOBER

11 – London, England – The Forum

Promises track listing:

01. Diamonds

02. Fragile

03. Always

04. Take Me Back

05. Low

06. Keep Moving

07. New York

08. Safe House

09. You Belong To Me

10. Dream

11. Promises

Cold War Kids: Full Album Stream, Amoeba Records, Kimmel, Tour

In anticipation of their April 2 release, fans will have a chance to see the band perform an intimate set at Amoeba Records (Los Angeles, CA) on April 1 at 6:00 PM. On April 2 Cold War Kids will return to “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” for a three-song outdoor stage performance, including the album’s first single, “Miracle Mile.”

Cold War Kids’ headlining US Tour kicks off Wednesday, April 3 at Gothic Theatre in Denver, CO. Sold out shows already include: Minneapolis’s First Avenue on April 5, Chicago’s Metro on April 6, Boston’s Paradise Rock Club on April 10, DC’s 9:30 Club on April 11, Philadelphia’s Union Transfer on April 12, New York’s Webster Hall on April 13, Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle on April 15, the May 24 hometown show at Los Angeles’ Henry Fonda Theatre and Solana Beach’s Belly Up Tavern on May 25. Find the complete tour itinerary below with additional dates planned to be announced next week.

“Miracle Mile,” the first single off the new album, has already received critical acclaim. Vice said, “‘Miracle Mile’ is a grandiose sonant oil painting. It’s magnificent.” Fuse stated, “‘Miracle Mile’ is all revved-up saloon piano, jangling guitar riffs and frontman Nathan Willett’s soulful howls–all part of their signature sound.”

Today also marks the premiere of a remix of “Miracle Mile” by rising Downtown Records duo, Houses.

COLD WAR KIDS TOUR DATES:

April 3 Gothic Theatre – Englewood, CO

April 4 Slowdown – Omaha, NB

April 5 First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN – SOLD OUT

April 6 Metro – Chicago, IL – SOLD OUT

April 9 Newport Music Hall – Columbus, OH

April 10 Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA – SOLD OUT

April 11 9:30 Club – Washington DC

Snowblink – Inner Mini-Mississippi video

Snowblink – Inner Mini-Mississippi video

Fresh off of performances at this year’s SXSW Music Conference, Toronto-via-Los Angeles duo Snowblink will head out on the road starting tomorrow, March 28, for a spring tour supporting Zammuto, followed by a string of headlining dates in New York, Maine and across Canada. The band has also premiered a new video for the song “Inner Mini-Mississippi”, directed by Neil Haverty of the band Bruce Peninsula, via BrooklynVegan – repost here.

“Inner Mini-Mississippi” is featured on Snowblink’s acclaimed sophomore full-length album, Inner Classics, which was released last fall on Arts & Crafts. The duo spent a busy second-half of 2012 on tour with such artists as Feist, Cold Specks, Great Lake Swimmers and spent the winter in Los Angeles writing and performing at a February “Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen” party, with Demetri Martin, Greg Barris, Mark Normand and Matt Braunger.

Tour Dates:

03/28 – Northampton, MA @ The Iron Horse

03/30 – Middletown, CT @ Wesleyan University #

03/31 – Montreal, PQ @ Il Motore #

04/01 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison #

04/03 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Ladies Literary Club #

04/04 – Evanston, IL @ SPACE #

04/05 – Iowa City, IA @ Mission Creek Festival #

04/06 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry #

04/07 – Northfield, MN @ Carleton College #

04/08 – Grinnell, IA @ Grinnell College #

04/10 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom #

04/12 – Columbus, OH @ Wexner Center #

04/14 – Annadale-on-Hudson, NY @ Bard College #

04/16 – Brooklyn, NY @ Cameo Gallery

04/18 – Kittery, ME @ Buoy Gallery

04/19 – Portland, ME @ Space Gallery

04/21 – Guelph, ON @ Ebar

04/23 – Winnipeg, MB @ Park Theatre

04/24 – Regina, SK @ The Exchange

04/25 – Calgary, AB @ Palomino

04/28 – Vancouver, BC @ The Railway Club

# Zammuto