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MV+EE – Country Stash album review

MV+EE may be from Vermont but they sound like the sirens of Titan. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve got to respect this band. They compound so much into one track, you receive both quality and quantity of sound. Oh, if life was like that.

Country Stash is very multidimensional. While you are listening to the album, there is so much happening in the background, you may look around thinking it is coming from somewhere other than the speakers. The feel of the album is a wind chime. It’s a combination of independent, suspended sounds and vocals, softly colliding in the wind to produce music.

While it’s a five track album, every track on Country Stash is quite bosomy.  In a more appropriate language, a lot is packed into every track. Direct evidence: three of the five tracks are longer than 9 minutes. But MV+EE show that size..or length really doesn’t matter, because the shorter tracks are just as interesting.  The tracks are whimsical and creative. There is a bit of Eastern spice to the album, as if someone mixed curry powder with crushed up ecstasy.  I would shine the spotlights on “The Crash Place of Records” (Track 2) and “Tea Devil” (Track 4). “The Crash Place of Records” is a pretty, water color piece. “Tea Devil,” on the other hand, is a more intense, oil-paint kind of stand-out track on the album. It has the sedated feel of The Kills’ “Hitched.”

In the worst case scenario, the album sounds like you have been date raped at the party and are now coping with the haziness of the after math. But hey, some people are into that kind of thing. In the best case scenario, the album sounds like a post-modern remix of a mediation CD you can buy at a drug store. So yeah, Country Stash is pretty damn cool.

Overall, the album sounds like a happy accident (kind of like most unwanted children). The band is nothing short of a folk beast, a schizophrenic cat, or just a psychedelic pony. MV+EE are just two inches away from too much of a good thing.

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City & Color – Little Hell album review

Oh, Dallas Green. If every rose has it’s thorns, then Alexisonfire are the thorns and Dallas Green is the rose head. Who knew he, by any other name, would smell as sweet. Even sweeter actually. And that name is City & Color.  Alright, hold up. It is a little unfair to yap about Alexisonfire when talking about City & Color, especially since it’s Dallas Green’s third solo album.

I wish I was coming into this album as tabula rasa, but hey, I live in Canada, I’ve watched MuchMusic as a teenager. I am well aware of City & Color’s commercial success with “Save Your Scissors,” “Coming Home,” and “Casey’s Song.” Simply put, I had expectations. Listening to the album felt like what I imagine Katy Perry felt like when she kissed a girl; I wasn’t sure it’s for me, I was taken back, and I liked it.

This album is different. While past albums had a raw, acoustic element to them, this album feels a bit more textured and polished. The album seems more grown up. Dallas Green doesn’t scream from the top of his lungs “Break me” anymore, he explains his emotions in a calm voice. It’s melodic and folky. It’s city in softer color.

The title song is tucked away at track number four, serving as the most familiar on the album. In this song, Dallas lets us know that he is still vulnerable and of course, complicated (“There’s a degree of difficulty in dealing with me”). “Northern Wind” is one of the simpler songs, stripped from back-up vocals and showy guitars. This is the sort of song I associate with City and Color in the first place, the kind that pulls on the guitar strings of your heart. “Hope For Now” is also a strong song. It is the last track and it’s a crossover between City and Color raw emotion and Alexisonfire tough attitude.

Overall, Little Hell is a nice feast of folky tracks, raw indie tracks that we know and love, as well tracks that switched it up a bit. If you like what you hear, come to the Calgary Folk Music Festival on July 21st to see Dallas Green in action.

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The KickDrums – Meet Your Ghost album review

The KickDrums are a pretty modest, two-piece band. If I had to tell you three fun facts about the KickDrums, I would tell you that they are beloved among us lay people for their mixtapes (Coachella mixtape; Ghost mixtape on June 6th). I would tell you that their track “Meet Your Ghost” was featured on an episode of Cougar Town. I would then proceed by telling you to not ask me how I know that.  Thirdly, I would mention that the KickDrums are part time philosophers, with twitter statuses, like “if shit works out its not bc you made the perfect plan its bc it was meant to. at least that’s what i believe”. Deep.

The KickDrums are Empire of the Sun’s children. They are an indie rock band, heavily sprinkled with an electronic sound. If all good things come in threes (like my fun facts, say what), I had three impressions about this album.

At first, I thought this is the perfect companion album. A companion album is a musical buddy. It’s fun and upbeat. It makes you smile. It’s great as a background album because it is not a high maintenance sound, but it’s not the kind of background album that is easily ignored (aka the kind of friend that tags along without an invitation). “Meet Your Ghost”  is the kind of companion you can dance in the car with and do nothing with in your room.

My second impression of the album was the harmony between the rock and electronic influences noticeable on the album and with the KickDrums in general. Heavy drum breaks and classic rock guitar are no Capulet and Montague, but Alex and Matt of the KickDrums are definitely Romeo and Juliet (musically speaking).

But then on the third listen, it feels like an album of heartbreak and disappointment, putting on a good face. With the fun beats and post-punk guitar intros, the lyrics of sad realizations could go unnoticed. Perhaps this isn’t good showmanship but human optimism at it’s best. Like the KickDrums put it on their Twitter.

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Pure X – Pleasure album review

Pure X is truly a band of mystery. The unconfirmed facts are that they are a three piece band out of Texas. They used to go by Pure Ecstasy, a name they came up with while camping. One thing is clear though. Pure X has a hell of a sense of humour. Jesse Jenkins (bass, vocals) once described their sound as “40 degrees + raining + out of coffee + out of cash.” And that pretty much sums it up.

Pleasure is not just an album title it’s a state of mind, better yet a state of heart. This is the album you save for a rainy day. It hangs heavy. It feels like a day where everything went wrong: your cigarettes got wet, your girlfriend dumps you for a guy who wears hipster glasses. Pleasure is a day where you are just “Stuck livin” (Track 7). You just want to slap the album on, have a pity party for one, and maybe try to hang yourself in the shower. Pleasure just hurts so good.

Overall, the album sounds like grunge under water. To fit the mood, the guitar is bleachy and dwindling.  The vocals are circumstantial (try to wrap your guitar strings around that metaphor). The whole album sounds purposefully tired, or simply disinterested, a state I am sure familiar to most. It’s like Pure X is shaking their heads and on exhale utter, “I need a vacation from this vacation.”

The pure magic of pure X is that while they sound like they’re not really trying, they are continuously praised for beauty. Oh, and what beauties they are. They’re like girls so pretty, they don’t even have to try in bed. For a band called Pure X, they are the musical version of vitriol.

The band leaves off on a semi-optimistic note with the last track, “Half Here.” And who knows? Maybe everything will be okay. Maybe we will all recover. Maybe the next album will be called “Brightened” or “Tiger Blood.” No? Well, stop teasing us with rays of light then, Pure X.

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Memory Tapes – Player Piano album review

Memory Tapes is an alias of one Dayve Hawk, who you may also know from Memory Cassette or Weird Tapes. He has been toying around with all kinds of sound in his previous projects, finally landing on Memory Tapes, often described as the pleasant mix of the two. Dayve Hawk seems like the kind of guy who really doesn’t want to step in the same river twice with his albums, always re-inventing his sound. So, what do we have here?

Imagine you got food poisoning from a strange cookie like Alice in Alice in the Wonderland, and shrunk. But the rabbit hole is now a music box. This is the feeling you get from Memory Tapes’ Player Piano. The first track “Musicbox (in)” and the last track “Musicbox (out)” will supplement this analogy (minus the food poisoning). Both of the tracks are soft and a little surreal, kind of like the whole Player Piano experience.

The vocals are classic Hawk. It sounds like a human voice altered by helium, but instead of helium its some indie-pop gas. Unreal. The overall sound of the album is quite peppy, with unexpected, innovative elements. You can tell Memory Tapes worked his ass off to make an album both creative and fun. “Offers” is perhaps my favorite track to showcase Memory Tapes.  

 “Wait In The Dark” and “Today Is Our Life” are the two singles off the album. “Today Is Our Life” is undoubtedly a ridiculously fun track. Forget reinventing sound on one album. Hawk manages to reinvent sound during a single track. Five minutes long, “Today Is Our Life” starts cold, turns hot, and then playfully fades away.  If that’s what menopause feels like, I want in. “Fell Through Ice” and “Fell Through Ice II” are dampers to all the fun the album is. These tracks are hazy beauties, so how can you be mad at that. “Fell Through Ice” is deliberate and a little bit tense. The song starts with a very mild electronic intro, serving as an antecedent to the return of spontaneity of the album.

While Hawk was quoted saying that this album will sound like “psychedelic girl group music,” I insist it’s more like a psychedelic bunny. Player Piano strives to expand our consciousness in a very soft, squeezable way. As always, Hawk leaves us with a question in mind: what’s next?

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James Pants – James Pants album review

James Pants is a one man band, which right there is pretty freaking cool. Discovered in high school, he is pretty musically wise, citing his influences as the 70’s and 80’s, while maintaining that psychedelic, electronic sound.

James Pants’ self-titled album is innovative and overwhelming. There is a lot going on. Forget soft, beautiful melodies. James creates a hard, edgy sound. A soundtrack for a modern runaway. The vocals are lo-fi, distorted, washed out, and echoing. Listening to one of his sounds is a little like walking through a haunted house. I think if you listened to this album hung over, you might actually die. Simultaneously, this album would make a great drinking game. Take one when you hear a musical reference to an artist back in the day.

Overall, the album is hard to describe in a few words. There are not enough words in the English dictionary to describe James Pants in detail and at the same it’s hard to describe in a few words. “Dreamboat” and “Incantation” are two of the slower, cosmic tracks, with mysterious female vocals. These two tracks could be described as James Pants for beginners. “Beta”, to me, is one of the more enjoyable songs. And tracks like “These Girls”, “Body on Elevator”, and “Scream of Passion” showcase the signature James Pants galore. Synthesizers, blitz, and chaos.

All comparisons aside, the fourteen track album does go into some uncharted territories. And like every good album, it has diversified sound while making it clear that all of these songs are by the same artist.  At some points of the album, I felt like I didn’t get it. James confuses me! His music is kind of like one of those super great painting that looks like vomit but is so well received you have to take a closer look.

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Wild Beasts – Smother album review

This is Wild Beast’s third album. This ten track masterpiece is already at number 17 on UK charts. So, for an indie rock band from Kendall, England, Wild Beasts are doing pretty well. Although Smother is a slower album than their previous work, Wild Beasts once again impress.

Wild Beasts are, simply put, unusual. I lack appropriate comparisons with similar sounding bands. The first track is surprisingly sentimental for a band called Wild Beasts. “Lion’s Share” is beautiful; it’s slow with a prominent piano melody and occasional howling.   The vocals on the album are analogous to a wounded animal. It is a compliment, I swear. Somehow even when timid, they’re seemingly dangerous.

The single “Albatross” is tucked away as track number 7; a cross between a lullaby and an angry love letter…to an Albatross. As silly as it sounds, the track is soaked with feeling.  “Burning” is another stand out song. With long musical pauses between each line of the lyrics, this track sets the mood of last words in a dying scene. All of the tracks are completely surreal.

The description of the band as art rock/dream pop could not be more accurate. The way this band pieces different musical instruments and sounds creates a collage of greatness. We live in the type of world where every three minutes, some douchebag forms an indie rock, lo-fi band some place. We are bombarded with sound daily.  Wild Beasts have some unforgettable quality to them, which is a priceless commodity in today’s world of music.

The album as a whole goes down easy. The tracks on Smother don’t at all suit the name, although sometimes the details are so subtle it’s tempting to hold your breath to hear them better. All in all, listening to Wild Beasts is like listening to a lion purr. There is a wild element to the vocals and the melodies, but somehow they come out beautifully tamed.  Even after you turn off the music, this band will somehow stay with you.

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The Sea and Cake – The Moonlight Butterfly album review

The Sea and Cake love firing albums at us every three years or so. Ten tracks there, eight tracks here. Moonlight Butterfly is a mini-album to quench their fans thirst after Car Alarm.  The six track album is kind of like a miniature dessert, leaving you wanting more.

There is something exceptional about The Sea and Cake, but it’s hard to pin point. Something about this band is awfully mysterious.  They’re so relaxed, it seems like they’re not really trying. So laid back, yet subtly confident. Formed in mid 90’s and solidifying a fan base well into 2011, the band is doing something right.

The Sea and Cake are indie rock on gravol (the antinausea medication that makes you sleepy). They are soothing to your stomach and to your mind. Sam Prekop is blessed with light, dreamy vocals. He stretches words like “raaaiiiight” as if he’s stretching and yawning from a good night’s sleep. The first track “Covers” showcases that quite well. With a minute long musical intro, the upbeat tempo, and the chemical X that is Sam Prekpop, you get the perfect essence of the Sea and Cake. “Lyric” and “Up on the North Shore” also follows suit.

When track three, “Moonlight Butterfly,” starts playing, it’s as if you hit shuffle by accident and got a whole other band.  Where are the guitars?  What happened to those sweet, sweet melodies? The Sea and the Cake introduce four minutes of “what the fuck?” with an electric, Sam Prekpop free track. Despite the alien-esque quality that just might suit a moonlight butterfly (from Mars?), I’m not personally a fan.  But it’s nice the band still has a sense of adventure.

Now let’s address “Inn Keeping.” It’s ten and a half minutes long, which practically makes it one third of the album.  I’m going to tough love it. It’s an interesting track but not necessarily interesting enough to be ten minutes.  It’s as if the band slips “The Moonlight Butterfly” under the “Covers.” The electronic sounds are introduced again but are layered and textured with signature the Sea and Cake melodies. And it’s actually done really well.

“Monday” is the last track on the album. It’s a bit slower and softer than the other track. It feels like a tender kiss goodbye from The Sea and the Cake before they disappear on us for an unknown period of time. The lyrics go “taking my time not to lose ya,” which feels like Sam’s way of explaining himself to  his audience. But if you weren’t scared off by the track “Moonlight Butterfly,” then in your head you’re saying, “You will never lose me, The Sea and the Cake.”

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Dominik Eulberg – Diorama album review

Dominik, Dominik, Dominik. Sure I could tell you he has dozens of singles, remixes, and other tracks to his name. But the fact that stands out the most about Dominik Eulberg is that he dreams of becoming a park ranger after retiring from music. Now, I think we have a romantic on our hands.

Eulberg plays innovative, electronic music. His album would appropriate fit in with Bibio or CocoRosie, although some of his tracks manage to sound like music they play at weird night clubs. Lyrically free, Dominik creatively sprinkles his tracks with interesting sounds, like wind charms. Personally, I am amazed at the versatility of the album. It is outrageous. A track like “Teddy Tausendtod” and “Metamorphose” sound like they do not belong on the same album. I will go as far as diagnosing him with split personality. Some of his tracks are sad, demanding complete silence, while others are happy and catchy. He’s not just some douchey DJ either (he’s a park ranger, remember?), even his clubby tracks manage to have some depth.  

The slower tracks are the ones that caught my eye..or should I say ear (lame joke, I know). They create an atmosphere of a Tim Burton fairy tale. It’s difficult to get to the full album, because the first track “Taeuschungs-Blume” is the kind of song you have to listen on repeat at least twice. The vocals consist of a sound reminiscent of hiccups. Oh man, I do wish my hiccups sounded like that. The other memorable track is the previously mentioned “Metamorphose.” This track almost sounds like a modern music box. Dominik manages to add a subtle beat to the piano, complementing as opposed to distorting the beauty. Told you he’s a romantic.

Overall, thumbs up to the German DJ. Combining playful tracks with the kind of music you listen to in the dark alone is like wearing leopard print – hard to do well. So, clear your schedule and listen to the 69 minutes of these innovative, yet non-pretentious tracks. Take this musical journey. Who knows where you’ll end up.

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Girls Names – Dead to Me album review

Girls Names, coming at us from Belfast, describe themselves quite simply as a band that plays “disposable, noise pop songs.” The band is actually a bit incognito to the cyber world we live in. I mean, they don’t even have a Wikipedia page. If you visit their site though, which is actually just a blogspot, you will see that the band has a good sense of humor, despite the bleak album title.

I am going to swoop right in with an unlikely comparison. Girls Names are reminiscent of Joy Division, if Ian Curtis was never depressed. Unlike some other lo fi bands, where the vocals take a back seat, Cathal Cully politely demands attention. His deep, direct vocals are music to my ears. But everyone in this band gets a spiritual high five from me. The album is ghostly charming and tremendously upbeat. They just don’t play guitar like Cathal Cully does anymore. The drums are Oscar winning supporting actors. I am the kind of person who is naturally deaf to all instruments other than guitar. But Girls Names established such a perfect harmony between their drums, guitars, and vocals, that you just have to take them in as the whole package. A bitter sweet package of what could have been but never was. If countries were ran as well as Girls Names play their music, we would have world peace.

This is out of line but I am going to go there anyway. While creepin’ the band’s site, I came across a video/song called “Falling (Twin Peaks Theme)”.  It’s not on the album but it needs to be heard. Cully’s vocals are distant but alluring, just the way a man should be. I can’t praise him enough. The video is low budget (it’s just a rehearsal video), the band is camera awkward and just a little shy. I just want to have my way with them! You can watch it here.

Back to the tracks on the album.  This is the perfect summer listen. Musically, it is peppy and guitar heavy, distracting from the sometimes longing lyrics. With track titles like “I could die”, “Bury me”, “Cut up”, “I lose,” you’ve got a funeral home wet dream. But Girls Names are not that kind of band. They challenge us with a “Why so serious?” Joker smirk and teach us that life and death are something to take lightly.