Alkaline Trio – My Shame is True album review

Musical success is a fickle thing; for any band that sticks around for more than a decade, there’s a danger of going stale. To avoid this, a lot of groups will reinvent themselves or explore new musical territories, which has its own risks. Alkaline Trio has dismissed all of these perils and after 17 years, they’ve managed to stay true to their original sound without getting boring. Their latest album, My Shame is True, is a prime example of this. I’m sure hardcore fans would argue that this album is poppier than its predecessors, which may be a little true, but the heart of the music is still the same: guitars and broken hearts.

When I first heard My Shame is True, I was immediately reminded of my high school emo/punk fangirl days when I first heard Alkaline Trio. I was initially worried that the nostalgic charm would soon wear off, but it didn’t. Though it’s true that my musical tastes have evolved and changed since high school, this album was still fun to listen to. The songs didn’t wrench my bleeding heart like what would have happened back in the day. Rather, these songs hit me in my gut; not quite as painful, but equally as deep. Though I can’t say this with any certainty, I think it was probably due to a combination of my own maturity and the band’s. And that’s a good thing for all of us.

One of the best tracks on the album was “The Temptation of St. Anthony,” which feels like a gem collected from the depths of an older album. The bass solo is unexpected and yet perfect. And lyrics like, “You haven’t lived until you’ve seen suffering like this” are sublimely full of angst.

Another great track is “I’m Only Here to Disappoint.” The aggressive tempo allows some really interesting drum-playing, and the lyrics are of the usual self-depreciating variety that makes it really catchy.

Truth be told, My Shame is True probably isn’t Alkaline Trio’s absolute best. Will I be listening to this album obsessively? Probably not. But what I appreciate and, more importantly, what I enjoy about this album is that it’s what we’ve grown to love from the band and it isn’t old or played out. Despite the album’s moniker, there is no shame to be had from My Shame is True.

Wampire shares new track + announces West Coast tour with STRFKR

Following the release of early singles “The Hearse” and “Spirit Forest,” Wampire are back today to share “Trains” from their forthcoming debut Curiosity. When asked about the origin of the new single, Wampire’s Eric Phipps said:

“‘Trains’ was written during a time when I was young and overly idealistic about love. A lady was driving me wild with her strange affection and I was naively waiting for it to ‘mean something’ or whatever. When she finally skipped town, I was sitting on a train that was delayed for some reason or another and started humming the melody that later became ‘Trains.’ By the time I got home I had the lyrics and rough skeletal structure of the song. Girls are like trains – you’re always waiting for a chance to be let on just so you can hop off at the next stop.”

Along with the new song, Wampire are announcing a run of West Coast tour dates, a handful of which are with STRFKR. Check out “Trains” and all upcoming Wampire tour dates below.

TOUR DATES

5/14 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios

6/4 Tucson, AZ – Club Congress *

6/5 Phoenix, AZ – The Crescent Ballroom *

6/6 Albuquerque, NM – Launchpad *

6/8 Denver, CO – Larimar Lounge

6/10 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge *

6/11 Reno, NV – Knitting Factory *

6/12 Fresno, CA – Fulton 55 *

6/13 Las Vegas, NV – Beauty Bar *

* = w/ STRFKR

After forming Wampire, Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps steadily began to make a name for themselves in the same Portland, OR, scene that has produced labelmates STRFKR as well as Unknown Mortal Orchestra. It makes sense, then, that Wampire came to Polyvinyl’s attention when the duo opened for STRFKR at a hometown Portland show and that UMO’s bassist Jacob Portrait produced Wampire’s debut full-length, Curiosity.

The choice of Portrait was a natural one, with both Tinder and Phipps believing he’d be able to contribute almost as much to the record as they would. And so, in mid-August Tinder and Phipps each brought fragments of song ideas into the studio, before deconstructing, re-arranging, and fitting them back together piece by piece — at times lyrics and melodies were thrown out, brought back from the dead, or improvised on the spot.

This loosely structured approach made the process truly collaborative, with producer Portrait occasionally chipping in ideas for lyrics, arrangements, and instrumentation. The resulting nine tracks are instantly memorable, while defying easy categorization. Says Phipps, “We realized the record began to stray away from having a ‘sound’ and gradually became a platter with an assortment of sounds. The record showcases a flavor we haven’t quite dug into before.”

The album’s diverse combination of sounds ultimately helped give birth to its title, Curiosity — a word that invokes the listener’s wonder at what will greet their ears next, while also describing the overall curious tone the record possesses.

First single, “The Hearse” serves as the perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with the band — its opening notes swelling instantly with electronic organs over a driving drum beat. By the time bass and vocals kick in, you’re already hooked. Elsewhere, “Orchards” weaves an infectiously breezy melody on the strength of vocal harmonizing, tuneful whistling, and undulating guitar lines. In some cases, Wampire’s unique rhythms are best described by the band members, as with “Trains,” a Motown-meets-Strokes track that Tinder perfectly summarizes like so: “It’s sexy, sounds huge, and by all means should be blamed for future babies.”

The album concludes with the equally sensual “Magic Light,” a song centered around a dark seductive bass groove that sets the tone for Tinder’s come-hither lyrics. It’s the kind of track that draws you ever further into the record’s beguiling clutches, leaving a lasting impression that remains well after its final notes have faded out.

WAMPIRE
CURIOSITY
(POLYVINYL)
MAY 14, 2013

1. The Hearse

2. Orchards

3. Spirit Forest

4. Giants

5. I Can’t See Why

6. Outta Money

7. Trains

8. Snacks

9. Magic Light

Wampire photographed by Robbie Augspurger

Case Studies Announces New Album on Sacred Bones + Shares New Song

PHOTO: Angel Ceballos

WATCH ‘THIS IS ANOTHER LIFE’ PROMO ANIMATED BY JESSE LORTZ HERE

Case Studies is the musical project of Jesse Lortz, a prolific Seattle based musician and today he announces his new album This Is Another Life which will be released on Sacred Bones June 11. His lyrics wax and wane with truth and bare tales from his life. Melodies surface as lines hummed in the in-between times. These easy melodies coat the heavy subject matter of suicide, heartbreak, grief and regret. As with his previous project, The Dutchess and the Duke, listen- ing to Case Studies feels like taking part in an exploration of sentimental landscapes. Listen to his first single “Driving East And Through Her.”

This Is Another Life is Lortz’s second full-length solo release on Sacred Bones. It is the follow-up album to 2011’s highly acclaimed The World is Just a Shape to Fill the Night. This is Another Life features guest vocals by Marissa Nadler on “Villain” and was produced and engineered by Greg Ashley of the band Gris Gris. Ashley also plays percussion, organ and adds additional vocals & guitar. Lortz is also helped out by Jon Parker (guitar / piano), Oscar Michel (bass), Joe Haener (per- cussion), Carey Lamprecht (violin) and Shawn Alpay (cello).

CASE STUDIES
THIS IS ANOTHER LIFE
(SACRED BONES RECORDS)
JUNE 11th, 2013

1. In a Suit Made of Ash
2. Passage / Me in the Dark
3. Everything
4. Villain
5. Driving East, and Through Her
6. House of Silk, House of Stone
7. You Say to Me, You Never Have to Ask
8. From Richard Brautigan
9. A Beast I Have Yet to Find
10. This is Another Life
11. Like The Sea (digital only)

Lewis Watson Video Out w/ ELLE Today, New EP Out Now via Warner Music

Lewis Watson’s The Wild EP is out now via Warner Music! With 150K+ fans across YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, The Wild EP was an iTunes success reaching #2 in the US and #1 in the UK iTunes Singer Songwriter Chart.

Lewis Watson has released a live acoustic video for “Into The Wild”. Performing a stripped-back version of the EP track, the intimate performance features piano harmonies supporting his warm emotive vocals. Check out the “Into The Wild” acoustic video.

Click Image Above To Watch “Into The Wild” Acoustic Video

Following shows in the US in February, Lewis sold out a headline tour of the UK last month and is gearing up for more touring throughout the summer including a slot at the prestigious Glastonbury Festival. Stay tuned for more news coming soon!

THE STEPKIDS (Stones Throw) Announce New Album, Tour Dates; Premiere New Live Video

THE STEPKIDS will release the anticipated follow up to their self-titled 2011 breakout debut album this fall. Troubadour is set for release this fall on Stones Throw Records. Look for additional album details to be released in the coming weeks. They will also bring their highly praised live show to the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, a headline show at NYC’s Brooklyn Bowl and more. See full tour routing below.

The Connecticut trio is also set to perform tonight on NBC’s Last Call With Carson Daly. Shot at Los Angeles’ Fonda Theater while on tour with Kimbra last fall, they will perform “Suburban Dream” and “Shadows On Behalf.”

The band also recently performed new album track “The Art of Forgetting” as part of the “In The Red Bull Studio” series, a new video series that features influential and emerging artists performing songs from new and upcoming releases live from Red Bull Studio in Los Angeles. The video sees the band playing alongside eclectic geometric art installations that reflect psychedelic lighting that brings the song to life. In the accompanying interview, The Stepkids–Jeff Gitelman, Daniel Edinberg & Tim Walsh–discuss their forthcoming album, their deep roots in jazz music, performing live and more.

IN THE RED BULL STUDIO Videos

“The Art of Forgetting” Video

TOUR DATES

May 18 Columbus, OH – Woodlands Tavern

May 20 Minneapolis, MN – The Cowles Center

May 22 Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl

Jun 13 Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo Music Festival

Jun 29 Rothbury, MI – Electric Forest Festival

Jul 19 Thornville, OH – All Good Festival

Bitchin Bajas Announce New Album, Bitchitronics, Out July 16th On Drag City

Bitchin Bajas are back, baby! Their new album Bitchitronics, out July 16, 2013 on Drag City, is ready with the quickness we expect from the Chicago-based band – which is funny, since their area of expertise and mastery is in the area of synthetic ephemeral sonic languidity known more instinctively, inclusively (and let’s face it, irresponsibly) as drone music. Put it this way – they make slow music at a fast pace. Bitchitronics is their first realized record as a trio.

Since their first appearance way back in 2010, Bitchin Bajas approach has been simple – unfold tones via synth and keyboard, allowing micro-frequencies to press against each other in a way that pleases the ear, the mind and the soul. From record to record (three albums, a split 7″ and a split 12″, a cassette and an 12″EP), their process is redefined by confronting the technologies of formative and outmoded machines, sliding into different quadrants of the ambient/post-organic/electronic/and drone universe each time around. Thus, the experience of slipping inside their music seems so singular and pure, like floating naked in a sensory deprivation tank. Just us and our minds and the music. Simple, right? But other things occur underneath…

For Bitchitronics, the concept was: use tape techniques to create and then solve problems – loops and edits were there to make things fun and the music great in the style of experimental tape pioneers upon whose shoulders the Bajas play. Mission bitchin’ accomplished! Recording was mostly done in, all over and around a house in Fennville, MI with three tape machines reeling in the sounds – sometimes, in addition to sounds that have never seen the light of day, you’re also hearing the sound of the light of day on the tape (or when they recorded at night, evening stars). Two 1/4″ tape machines were utilized to make loops and execute the Bitchitronics sound system, one of which discreetly captured the combined sounds of the loops with live playing. Once done, it was back to HQ where edits of the 1/4″ recordings were utilized to create larger tapestries on the 2-track master tape.

You want to use the Bitchitronics method for yourself? That’s how it’s done! Taking the long path to realize this album makes for some heavenly music indeed.

BITCHITRONICS TRACKLISTING:

1. Transcendence

2. Inclusion

3. Sun City

4. Turiya

BITCHIN BAJAS TOUR DATES:

Thu. May 9 – Indianapolis, IN @ house show

Fri. May 10 – Columbus, OH @ Double Happiness

Sat. May 11 – Pittsburgh, PA @ 6119

Sun. May 12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Little Berlin (2430 E. Coral St.)

Thu. May 16 – Portland, ME @ Darkmouth Castle

Fri. May 17 – Jamaica Plain, MA @ Video Underground (385 Centre St.)

Sat. May 18 – Brooklyn, NY @ Body Actualized

Sun. May 19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Body Actualized [Cosmic Yoga session]

Thu. May 23 – Lafayette, IN @ Foam City

Fri. May 24 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle

Fri. July 12 – Chicago, IL @ Constellation [Bitchitronics record release show]

Cosines – Hey Sailor Boy single review

D.I.Y. indie label Fika recordings presents Cosines, a ‘mathematical’ pop band from the U.K. What this amounts to is a two-song single called Sailor Boy, that can be heard via the link at the end of this post.

This recording is an interesting affair. If Belle and Sebastian channeled the spirit of Kurt Weill in a highly diatonic frame of mind, the end result might be something along the lines of Sailor Boy. It is indie rock as musical. The harmonic progression, the horn line, and the first person narrative style of the lyrics impart a very old school, torch-song quality to the music. There’s something about the singer’s delivery that is so cooly detached as to hover on the outer edges of the highly ironic.

The second track on the Soundcloud page is a much more straight ahead rocker, yet somehow it channels a quality that comes straight from another decade. There’s a certain kind of sixties underground vibe on this one. The dual male/female vocal lead is a little rough, but the whole concept is intriguing. On the whole, this one satisfies a little more than Sailor Boy. There’s so much energy at work on this track, a lot of which has to do with the rhythm of the pick attacks on the rhythm guitar part. The subtle contrast between the verses and the chorus and the form of the song, while not necessarily innovative, contribute greatly to the songs ability to grab your attention.

The Black Angels – Indigo Meadow album review

Every once in a while you get turned on to a band that you assume must be some kind of a put on or inside joke, and then you realize they take themselves seriously. Enter The Black Angels.

From what I gather, their almost nine years of existence have garnered a fair amount of praise from what passes for the underground scene in this age of wireless connectivity, and this is one of those times when I just don’t get it.

Listening to Indigo Meadow is like some kind of contrived neo-counterculture type of experience, hipsters playing some kind of bad, updated ‘psychedelic rock’. It’s completely pretentious, overblown, and unintentionally silly, which is even funnier, because it’s supposed to be serious, or something.

An example of the silliness of it all is a quote from the beginning of the lyrics to ‘Holland’, which sounds something like: “Usfer gypsy acid-cats on their way up to Holland”, and later on some pseudo-intellectual statement about preferring to ‘die than be with you.’ What exactly is a ‘gypsy acid-cat’, anyway?

I have tried to find something about this band I find remotely tolerable, but I just can’t, which is a shame, because they’ve obviously spent a fair amount of time conjuring up this trite nonsense. They have the whole shtick down pat: Ray Manzarek style organ, fuzzed out bass, Nico-esque female vocalist, and a projected aura of over-inflated ‘artistry’. Maybe it’s just acid damage.

Bill Carter – Unknown album review

In all the right circles of Austin, Texas, Bill Carter enjoys near mythic status. He’s been a strong, solid songwriting presence for decades, his backing band consistently draws from of the most in-demand sidemen the city has to offer, and his songs themselves have been recorded (often w/ hit status) by every national act from the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan to the Counting Crows. And yet, outside of the city, the name Bill Carter is virtually Unknown.

His seventh (by my count) release under his own name, but first with label money behind him, Unknown seeks to show the world what they have been missing with possibly Austin’s best kept secret. Faced with the prospect of creating a ‘breakout album’ (30 years in the making,) it would be easy, and perhaps advantageous, to stick to the formula he’s most comfortable with; in this case, three chord rock and roll, but thankfully, Carter chose to challenge, rather than confine himself here.

That isn’t to say that he’s completely abandoned all that made him great. Those familiar with Carter’s work know he is capable of 3rd person character studies that rival those of Warren Zevon, utilizing the same biting wit and vicious sense of humor. Those who aren’t familiar will be given introductions by way of “Eva Bible” and “Devil In Evilin.”

“Amerijuana” is a quintessential example of the slightly skewed approach and delivery fans have grown to expect. The record’s single, “Anything Made Of Paper,” a deliberate song penned for a very specific event, becomes universal and all encompassing in the hands of Carter and songwriting partner/wife, Ruth Ellsworth Carter, all with the turn-of-a-phrase mastery that envelops his entire career. “Bel-Air Motel” looks at the darkness that “Hotel California” seeks to mask, and as a result, is more beautiful, more unsettling.

Simply put, no one writes songs like this man.

The album’s true victories, however, lie in what is unexpected, even for seasoned fans. A massive spiritual theme runs the length of the record. Devils, angels, sermons, sacrifice and salvation, “Revelry;” the first half tells of a world rich in gospel traditions. It is not a religious spirituality, but a humanist celebration of the mountains and valleys of existence. Perhaps because of that, Unknown has a much more mature voice than any of Carter’s previous output. The smirking aggression of youth is replaced by a calmer worldview. The passion, the wit, the sharpness, the love for life; it’s all still there, but manifests itself in a different way. It’s an appreciation of what remains, of the experience survived, rather than an anger at what might have gotten lost in the process.

My one criticism with this record, and it applies to all of Carter’s records, is that he really must be seen live to truly appreciate. I don’t mean that in a negative way, if fact quite the opposite. Just as when that phrase was used to describe the Grateful Dead, Carter and his band bring an energy and a spirit that simply does not transfer through home stereo speakers. This record is great for exposing you to Bill Carter and familiarizing you with his work.

But when he plays in your town, you better go see him.


Social Studies – Away for the Weekend EP review

Remixes have to be one of the sincerest forms of flattery. Taking the single and title track from their last album, the San Francisco based indie pop duo Natalia Rogovin and Michael Jirkovsky take on a completely different sound with their new EP Away for the Weekend. This EP only features two actual songs, but the remixed versions are absolutely worth noting and is a welcome bonus for their fans. The original single “Away for the Weekend” starts it off by reminding us of their intensity as a duo, with it’s dramatic vocals and percussion-heavy layers. Anchored by the bass drum, the song also features sleigh bells, and what appears to be someone simulating banging on pots and pans. It’s the perfect early spring jam that makes you want to bust open the windows and tackle a giant spring cleaning session. The vocals are especially highlighted in the almost art deco, loungey feel of the remix, which is nearly twice as long as the original song. The electronic layers add depth and give this a futuristic tone that is incredibly catchy to the point of finding yourself moving along with the beat.

The single is complemented on the EP with two electrified and hyped-up remixes of the normally mellow and seductive song “Terracur”. For the listener not familiar with Social Studies and their previous albums, it would help if the original song was included so these remixes could be properly compared and appreciated. The “Skeleton Hands” remix builds up from the beginning with heavy, dark electronic tones and is definitely the best of the three remixes on the EP. It’s vivid and extremely spirited, even though it has an ominous feel. As a sharp contrast, the “Ellie Handing” remix seems to isolate the vocals and amplifies the seductive percussion from the original song. It’s much lighter, calmer, and more mysterious than the other remix.

For an EP of only 4 songs, this is a stellar variety of interpretations and certainly does not disappoint.