Steve Mason – Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time album review

Let it be known: Steve Mason has some mighty balls. When I talk to my musician friends, they hold this familiar notion that you should try to refrain from releasing a double LP. Its a feat that is generally more impressive to the musician than the audience. Its a nice pat on the back. “I just wrote twenty songs. Listen to them all in a row.” It can be overwhelming as a whole, and it underwhelms each song which may have found a brighter spotlight in a normal 10-14 track album. When you get up to twenty songs in a release, you have to take the album as a whole. It becomes more of a concept. This brings us to the second massive gonad of Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time. It opens with poetry. Yes, you heard me. Throughout the albums are little skits, sound clips and poetic phrasings. In addition to these short pace breakers, the actual tracks contain a massive range of diversity. The slow and soft harmonies of “A Lot of Love” is immediately followed by the reggae beats of  “The Last of The Heroes.” While Mason fully engages with the piano/bass classic rock roots kit, he doesn’t hesitate to texture certain moments with choirs, orchestral breaks and transitions between your typical piano sounds and an electric synthesizer. There are even horn sections if you listen for them!

What Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time is, is ambitious. It is an art project. The singles “Fight Them Back” and “Oh My Lord” are good little pop songs that will keep the general listener engaged, and the final song “Come To Me” effectively washes over the listener. It serves as a calming relief to the auditory journey Mason takes you on. The whole album can be tiring at times, but in a good way. With twenty songs, you have to expect the peaks and valleys. They are well timed in Monkey Minds. I imagine that there are folks driving along who unconsciously find themselves singing along. This is the subtle tragedy of the work as a whole. Mason states that, and the title implies, that we live in a world of “little capitalists” who have gone off the track of our intended purpose. He wanted to gather everything he knew about music and the world and put it in an album. I think he wanted to wake people up to the perspective of life he carries. Unfortunately, such a message requires a sort of in-your-face attitude that Monkey Minds lacks most of the time. It is soothing to the point where you don’t listen to what’s being said. You just enjoy the atmosphere. Even when he speaks directly to the audience, it serves more aesthetic purposes between tracks as opposed to a direct message to the world. But I commend Mr. Mason. I commend the message. Who cares if it doesn’t enlighten the world? Who cares if the album can be a tad schizophrenic? It was a damn good effort, and a damn good listen.


Low – The Invisible Way album review

Low has been together for twenty years now. That’s something in itself. Many marriages don’t last that long these days. The Invisible Way is their tenth album featuring the vocal harmonies of husband and wife duo Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. (See what I did there?) This is just a personal thing, but I’ve always had an admiration for individuals who could sing and play drums at the same time. There is a slight amount of vibrato that would naturally occur from hitting drums while trying to hold notes, but Parker keeps this under control to a surprising degree. That being said, the drumming is highly simplistic. It makes Meg White look good. Not a joke. But Mimi Parker’s vocal capabilities justify the simplicity. You can’t have it all, and with that in mind, you would much rather have the vocal aptitude than the ability to rock out on the drums in a song that runs at 40 beats per minute.

The band aims for arrangement minimalism and instead focuses on their vocal harmonies. Parker’s drum setup is one tom, one snare and two cymbals. (This is an actual evolution from her initial setup of one tom and one cymbal) Tempos rarely push past eighty-five BPM, and mostly hover in a slow and comfy fifty to sixty-five BPM. This I’m sure is to allow Parker to have a good vocal tone. It would be arguable that the simplified drum set that allows her to stand, (creating better posture for singing) is equally correlated with her focus on vocals. 

The Invisible Way not groundbreaking. It caters to Low’s powerhouse attributes, but in a minimalist sense, this is ideal. All the interesting moments are hidden in the textures. A major second will shine through for a beat or two and fade away. It grabs you, but is not insistent. Its very polite about it. You probably won’t have a whole lot of people jumping up and down when a Low track comes on, but I think you will have a very difficult time finding an individual who object to listening to Low. It is nearly incapable of being offensive to the ear. If you see them live, they will be able to reproduce the album experience perfectly. Some songs like “Just Make It Stop” might lack the three part female vocal harmonies, but other great songs like “Plastic Cup” will be sure to please. 


Senses Fail – Renacer album review

Hard rock, bordering on metal, or maybe the other way around. It doesn’t matter. Either way, the result is the same. You get an incredibly technically proficient guitarist and drummer, an alcoholic to play bass and someone with parent issues to scream into a mic. The apparent goal of this kind of music is to empathize with the anger and frustrations of angry and frustrated people. The guitarist, in this mode, is then tasked with using all the tricks in his book to anger his audience. Take all your best techniques, do them as quickly as possible, and make them as unpleasant and cacophonous as possible. On a very basic level, this is what metal music does. It makes being angry okay. It encourages anger. It says to the audience, “be loud, be furious, form a pit and push the crap out of each other.” It should be noted, that this type of music is generally fairly difficult to play. I have a friend who swears by an avante garde metal band called Kayo Dot. Lots of people love this kind of music. I do not. 

I am of the classic mindset. Art is meant to please. Music is an art form meant to please.  Somewhere in the 1960’s, (actually before that, experimental music was very much alive in the early 20th century, but it was entirely underground and unsupported because the Traditionalist generation had this rare thing called common sense) Yoko Ono came along and decided that art meant challenging people’s expectations. She did some weird stuff with blood, feathers and white sheets and signaled to the world that it was possible to make a reputation off of any idea that fell out of your anus. Coupling her retardation with the fact that media distribution was easy, a new wave of art came forward that was essentially “nonsense for the sake of being different.” I theorize that this is where metal came from. We can’t all be musical masters, so some people threw on some face paint, make an awful lot of noise and called themselves KISS. 

There is something to be said for that kind of innovation. I’m glad the people in the sixties tried it. What I can’t stand is the diluted, “kid friendly” versions of it we get today. The kinds of groups who want to appeal to the KISS generation, but at the same time want to grow Justin Beiber hair and attack that daughter demographic. It is a bastardization of a mutation. 

Senses Fail (Does the name inspire much confidence?) was started on the Internet in New Jersey. Do I have to say much more? I guess…

The lead singer “Buddy,” says, “We needed to change it up, do something different and move forward.” Unfortunately for “Buddy,” theses songs may be new to the Failed Senses, but they, like many other songs, have been done before. They’ve been done since the days of prog rock. That’s all prog rock did. Buddy concludes his thought by saying, “If you want something to sound heavy, it’s about the space, not necessarily just the chord structures or the screaming.” This is indicative of a man who has run out of ideas. Any first year music student will tell you, mood is created by the melody structured on top of the chord progression coupled with dynamics and tempo. In other words, screaming on top of chords. 

He is telling the world that the variety of music coming from Senses Fail will rely almost entirely on the producer and sound engineers as opposed to the musicianship of the… musicians. The “space” he is talking about is the studio in Los Angeles their label has set them up in. I can understand this kind of thinking from a top 40 pop artist. Those kinds of songs require a strict format. When you only really have four chords to work with, you have to spend a lot of time with counterpoint and texture to create a level of difference let alone innovation. Metal and hardcore bands are suppose to go against that kind of thinking, not adopt it. What is the point of playing “rage against the man/institution music” IF YOU FREELY ADMIT YOU ARE USING THE SAME TRICKERY? The idea of anger in music manifests itself as being justified in its complication. “My anger is complex, manic, uncontrollable and loud and therefore so is my music.” The music, by extension, tended to be fairly complicated and technically difficult. The content reflected the mindset. Senses Fail do not/doesn’t/don’t do that. They take the essense and simplify. It misses the point.

I feel bad for the Senses Fail members. Most bands who form when they’re fifteen disbanded and get real jobs. The mediocrity of their success has meant that they are now most likely past the point where they can go back to trade school. I would absolutely hate to see these folks when they are fifty. The reunion tour. The comeback album. Going on PBS. 

Overall: There is a mentally infuriating principle in mathematics known as the imaginary number. It is a value, which if squared, creates a negative. It is a confounding concept that can infuriate many, and does not serve a function in the experience of direct space-time beyond serving as a reference point for theoretical physicists in imaginary space-time. (don’t get me started) I think this is an appropriate metaphor for Senses Fail, if their name doesn’t describe it well enough. They aren’t worth paying attention to. I don’t think they pay attention to themselves. If they serve any purpose, it is to indicate on the trajectory of music as a whole, the movement towards the pop sensibilities that as permeated almost all forms of music. Thanks South Korea. I don’t know how, but somehow this is your fault. 


MMOTHS – Diaries EP review

Need to drive six hours on I-5 tonight? MMOTHS new album, “Diaries,” might be the right fit for you. Reminiscent of bands like Massive Attack, MMOTHS isn’t likely to be bumping at a club on a Friday, Friday, Everybody looking for, Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun. MMOTHS is the exact opposite of that. Its not here to make you have as much fun as humanely possible at a Dr. Pepper sponsored festival. It is electronic compositional art. 

Here’s a scenario in which you would find yourself listening to MMOTHS: It’s Friday. (wait I’m not finished) You’re out with that person you met a few weeks ago, and not only are they super attractive, but you aren’t totally disgusted by them as a human being. You take them back to your apartment, and start making your classic moves: Break out the wine, light up a joint (if that’s what you’re into) and tell them that you’re allergic to the same bullshit they’re allergic to. Then here’s when things are different. You actually start making a personal connection with this individual. You find yourself matching up on all the right levels, and this person’s humble awesomeness takes you completely by surprise. Before you know it, your moves are out the window. You don’t make your move at all. You spend the whole night talking, like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in that one movie where they do it, like in that other movie where they do it. And MMOTHS comes on your “Chill” station on Pandora. And for that half hour between four-fifteen and four-forty-five AM, everything is just swell. Everyone’s clothes have stayed on, but your souls are naked. How fucking sweet. 

Born on Soundcloud, Jack Colleran’s first album creates a lovely level of electronic intimacy. The music isn’t for every situation under the sun, but when you find the right moment, like the one listed above, it will absolutely take the cake. His music was born on a laptop, which makes the scale of it quite impressive. You probably won’t see much touring from the Irish twenty year old, but that isn’t really what this type of music is about. Its not meant for the crowds of binge drinking, MDMA dropping festival goers. Its for those people on their come down; the next day, when all they can do it eat frosted flakes, stare out a window, and hope it will and won’t rain at the same time. 


An Introduction to Charlie Leavy

I stumbled upon a Soundcloud account a while back. It belonged to a prolific songwriter from the United Kingdom. Her name is Charlie. She is sixteen. I suspect she have a bit of genius about her. When I was sixteen years old, I had trouble holding major seconds in vocal harmony. I could play four chords on guitar, and my fingers were still getting raw from practice. At sixteen, Charlie has written well over fifty songs, and shows no sign of slowing down. When I last checked in with her, she informed me that in a six day period, she wrote and recorded fourteen songs. Her music can be found here.

MVRemix: How many songs have you actually written?

Charlie Leavy: I have the lyrics to 55 of my songs on my computer but I have actually written quite a few more in the past that would bring the total up to about 65.

MVRemix: What inspired you to play music, and what inspired you to write your own music?

Charlie Leavy: I was inspired to play music when I was very little. I loved singing at home, then I tried out for school plays in primary school and ended up getting a main part in all of them. My love for music developed on from there. I got a small 3 octave keyboard when I was about 8 and started to teach myself, and then I got a larger 6 octave keyboard at about age 11/12 which I loved. I just had a huge passion for music which made me want to learn instruments and sing.

Then for the inspiration for writing songs: I always, from a very young age, made up little songs in my head which I loved doing. Then, I wrote my first song which I named ‘Blank Canvas’ when I was 12 for one of my best friends who was really upset over a boyfriend. Song writing just progressed from there. I loved writing my first song, and singing it after so I just kept writing and I haven’t stopped to this day!

MVRemix: You mentioned you’ve played in bands before. Tell me about them. Do you write songs for those bands as well?

Charlie Leavy: I’ve been in a few bands: The Last Laughs, The Alternatives and Atlas. In the Last Laughs I was just the lead singer and we stayed together for about half a year. We played a gig at a pub and a set for St. George’s Day in the middle of my town. We also did a few school concerts, it was a fun time while it lasted! We wrote one song called ‘That Love Song’, our guitarist wrote the chords and me and our keyboard player wrote the melody and I wrote the lyrics. Then The Alternatives didn’t get nearly as far, we didn’t play anywhere, just rehearsed. And finally, the last band I was in: Atlas. We were a four piece with a lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, drummer and I was the lead singer and bassist. This band lasted the longest out of all 3, we didn’t write any songs together but we did have 2 of mine in our set: ‘Be Mine’ and ‘Hello Hello’. We played a couple of pub gigs and a small charity festival too.

MVRemix: What is your set-up?

Charlie Leavy: My set up is in my bedroom. I have a laptop which has Avid Pro Tools software on. I use the Pro Tools Audio Interface plugged into both my laptop and a Studio V3 Tube MP pre-amp. I then plug my instrument/mic into the pre-amp. I have a mic stand which the mic sits in and I also have a pop filter which I use.

MVRemix: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Charlie Leavy: I draw my inspiration from just about everything. My experiences and feelings, friends’ experiences and feelings, nature, the way people are, sleeping habits seem to be a common occurrence too. I love to take things from different angles and write about what I see in the natural world, then link it to a feeling or an experience. I also am inspired by writing with a message. Quite a few of my songs, (e.g: Good Enough and Who Are You), convey a positive message about loving yourself because you’re you and that’s something I truly believe. I think that way too many people dislike themselves and hate their differences, and that needs to stop. Uniqueness is there for a reason.

MVRemix: Tell me about your songwriting process.

Charlie Leavy: My song writing process varies significantly with each song. For the most part though, I write in my bedroom with a wordpad document open on my laptop. There are exceptions though, for instance: ‘Player 2’ was written on the way up to school and ‘Picture Of You’ was written during Form time at school in my planner. I just try to retain the melody that I’ve thought up until I get home and I can work out which chords I should play. Sometimes I write because I’ve found an interesting melody or some gorgeous chords, other times it’s because I’ve experienced/seen someone experience something that I’m inspired to write about, other times it’s simply because I thought up a few lyrics that I feel like writing a song about.

MVRemix: You’ve done most of your recordings on your own. Do you prefer the do-it-yourself method, or do you hope to find a label one of these days?

Charlie Leavy: I love recording at home. It feels like a mini project and I feel so great when I finish. However, I would definitely like to find a label in the future. I feel like with more professional recordings I could do so much more – in my room I am limited. In a studio I could add drums if I wanted or strings, etc and the tracks could be mixed a lot better since I’m still a beginner at that sort of stuff.

MVRemix: Do you see yourself studying music at the university level, or would you prefer to hit the road and tour your own material?

Charlie Leavy: I actually see myself studying Economics at university, it’s another passion of mine. Music is my ultimate passion though, so, I may study Music at university if it looks like I’m going to make it somewhere. I feel like I need something to fall back on if nothing happens for me regarding Music in the future. However, I would love to tour. If there are ears which want to listen to my voice, my voice will get there. I think touring would be incredible and so fun to do, especially because performing is one of my favourite things ever.

MVRemix: What direction do you want to take your music in the next few years?

Charlie Leavy: In the next few years I’d love to have recorded an album of professional quality in a studio. I’d love to be doing gigs a few nights a week too. I’d also love to experiment with some more collaborations. I think my some of my music will stay I the acoustic genre, but I think that some of my tracks will be a full band because that would be amazing to work on! Also, I will definitely continue to write with all sorts of influences like pop, folk, country and rock.

MVRemix: Any thoughts, comments, questions, jokes or manifestos you’d like to leave us with? 

Charlie Leavy: Yes, I’d like to say thanks for this interview! It’s been really fun to do and something which is a great piece of advice…Two little words; be you.


Makthaverskan – Makthaverskan II album review

The first thing you will notice about this band is that the female lead singer has some pipes on her. The music is a basement band brawl of loud, head-banging, jump-around fun. I could not uncover much on the history of the band, as this is only their second album, and most of the information is not in English. 

While the lead singer has some impressive lungs, the band as a whole is rather lacking. It seems like the kind of thing your little brother’s high school band would throw together. Makthaverskan II shows some slight improvement over Makthaverskan the first, but the core elements are identical. There was not much, if any, musical innovation in their first album, but instead of trying to grow, Makthaverskan did a repeat. Every song tries to be an epic rock anthem. It’s all on the same level. That being said, their new single “Asleep,” is very good. It says everything you will need to know about Makthaverskan. Simple rock songs that let the singer shine. However, it seems doubtful that given the knowledge that every song is somewhat like or identical to “Asleep,” that one would feel the need to listen to the entire album. I found myself getting bored within each song, skipping around the tracks like a busy Chinese restaurant menu. 

There’s nothing wrong or bad about Makthaverskan. There’s just nothing really interesting. There aren’t those moments where you stop and think, “Okay, I’ve never heard that move before.” They played it safe in their debut album, which is fine. It’s unoriginal, but in a comforting way. They can tip their caps to their musical favorites of past. (You will probably find some early U2 in their iTunes playlists) However, by doing the exact same simple safe-playing in their second album it calls to question whether these kids will come out with a third. 

interviews reviews

Adventure Galley Interview

Adventure Galley Interview

Adventure Galley is a Portland based band that found its origins in Eugene Oregon. They recently released a new single called “Semantics,” which can be found here:

George Schultz is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. Back in the day, we did our undergraduate work together at the University of Oregon. I caught up with George over the Internet a few days ago. 

MVRemix: What have you boys been up to these days?

George Schultz: Aside from the usual RV parties, house shows, and general debauchery, Adventure Galley has been writing new songs, which we plan on eventually making an EP out of. We’re also getting ready to release that album we recorded all that time ago. It’s been a long time coming, but we’re looking forward to getting that album out there and focusing on touring and writing more.

MVRemix: You just released the new single, “Semantics.” Is this a preview of things to come? 

George Schultz: Semantics isn’t necessarily a single, though many folks have been referring to it that way. Our intention with that release was to show another side to our music. Most people are familiar with our tracks Addict and Weekend Lovers, which are very in-your-face indie pop songs. Semantics is more laid back and experimental in sound. We wanted to show the folks at home that side of our sound. We enjoy non-standard chord formations and general weirdness in our music and you get a taste of that with Semantics.

MVRemix: I heard you guys were operating out of an old church, is that true? If so, how did that come about? How do you like the space?

George Schultz: For the first time in a couple years the band is all living in the same city. Since February half of us have taken up residence in a 19th century church in SE Portland, OR lovingly referred to as the Funky Church. We filmed our first music video (for Weekend Lovers, which you can see here) at the Funky Church last March and after meeting the residents we slowly started taking over rooms as they opened up. It’s a beautiful space and we have set up a home studio where we are able to demo new music and work out of. Every once in a while I wake up in the morning and get a very surreal feeling like “wow, I live in a church, this is strange, but I like it”.

MVRemix: Is there an Adventure Galley tour on the horizon?

George Schultz: We’ll be doing a bit of touring this summer and fall. We’ll travel around the west coast and hit up the usual spots. More on that later!

MVRemix: From what I understand, there are multiple songwriters in the band. Is Adventure Galley a democracy? How do you guys choose what songs to play?

George Schultz: The dynamic in our band seems to be fairly different from most of what I’ve seen of how other bands function. Whereas most groups have a primary singer-songwriter, we all contribute to songwriting, but when it comes down to it, David and Aaron are the primary creative directors. They each have very different styles that have amalgamated into the sound that is Adventure Galley. We are democratic but in that effort we end up moving in multiple directions every time we write a song together. It’s not simple, but nothing ever is with this band. We don’t want simplicity, we want innovation and beauty.

MVRemix: You wrote the song “Addict,” which won a Toyota music contest a few years ago. Is there a story behind the song?

George Schultz: Well once upon a time in 2009 we wrote Addict, a charming little four chord pop song that we loaded up with as many hooks as possible. In 2010 we decided to record the Right Place to Be EP, on which Addict is a track. One day I was on the internet and saw the Toyota Rock the Space competition and submitted Addict. It was really a fuck it, why not? kind of moment. I didn’t have the expectation that we would win and I didn’t even tell the rest of the band I submitted it until I got a call saying we had made it to the semifinals. After a few rounds of voting we won the contest, got a record deal with Myspace Records and the rest is history. When Myspace went under they gave us the masters to our album and we now get to own our own music. It gives us creative control, which we like, but it also puts a lot of responsibility in our hands to make it a great album before we release it without any additional financial backing. That seems to be the nature of most music today; unless you have somehow developed a lot of hype, you have to make your own way in the world of music. I have developed a great respect for artists who manage to make it through their hard work and creative initiative as opposed to having a good publicist that pushes them as a commodity. It’s a difficult business to be in, and we were very fortunate when we won that contest because we were given an opportunity that is practically impossible to come by in this industry: a no-strings-attached record contract. As far as the song goes, it’s a lot of fun at shows, it’s a good dance track and it’s undeniably catchy. The lyrics were written by myself, David and Aaron and I can’t really say what they’re about, though the themes seem to tie into psychological chaos and addiction. It’s funny, I’ve been asked about the meaning of the lyrics many times since that song was recorded 3 years ago and my answer always seems to change. A song can mean many different things to someone over the course of the years, it’s a matter of listening to it at the right place at the right time.

MVRemix: Any last thoughts, comments, jokes or rebuttals?

George Schultz: I don’t know if your readers are aware that you are a proficient Tuvan throat singer, but my new goal as a songwriter is to write a club-banger of a track featuring your majestic Siberian-style vocals. So they should keep an ear out for that when it happens.

music videos reviews

Bite the Buffalo – Blue Lips album review

One of the problems we see with super-bands, or solo projects of established musicians is that they don’t quite have a rapport with their fellow musicians. The best example of this is Grizzly Bear. The two songwriters, Rossen and Droste, have different vocal styles that has taken three albums to bring together. This is not the case with England’s Bite the Buffalo because the rock duo are brothers. When I first listened to their EP, “Bromigos,” (unaware they were siblings) I was shocked about how together they were. Then I learned that they had grown up together and it all started to make sense. In their full length album, “Blue Lips,” the brothers Goneos essentially deliver a studio mastered version of their EP offering, adding in some additional textural layers to the standard crunchy guitar and drums. 

The two can hold a harmony quite well together, but what impresses me most is the vocal range and variety that lead singer and guitarist Stos offers. The first half of “Blue Lips” delivers a standard rock album offering that one might expect from The White Stripes or The Black Keys, demonstrating the guitar skills of Stos and the intricate musical relationship he’s developed with brother Miti. They’re both very good on their own right, but I am particularly impressed with Stos. The second half of the album loosens up and the listener can really see the melodic variety Bite the Buffalo has.  What Stos does on his own is difficult enough musically. How Miti matches up with all the little breaks and rests is amazing. However, the two don’t dwell on their own musical prowess the way the power bands of the 1970’s did, when everyone had a solo that went on for ten minutes. The two still opt for simplicity, and then pull out their huge musical balls for a moment or two. “With The Thief,” is the album’s best, and a video with a throwback cartoon can be found below the album cover. 

Not only should you check out “Blue Lips” and “Bromigos” to get an idea of what Bite the Buffalo can do, but I highly recommend you follow up with them over the next few years. They seem like very promising musicians, and I am very interested in what they do next. 

music videos reviews

The Cave Singers – Naomi album review

In his own words, lead singer Pete Quirk states, “I didn’t even think we’d make a second record, let alone be writing a fourth record.” 

Their old sound took the folksy minimalism to an extreme. There was not a whole lot of musical variety in each song, which usually focused on one guitar riff for too long. Of the selection that the band itself seems to promote, they all went on for about a minute or two too long. Even the choruses were not really chord changes, but a modulation of the original riff and instead of the crooning croaks of the lead singer, he will play a simple riff on a harmonica or melodica. That being said, the high levels of repetition make is so that each contributing member has a distinct, easily identifiable musical “personality.” You know which guitar parts were done by Quirk because they sound so incredibly different from the rapid style of Derek Fudesco. Additionally, in light of the repetition, the changes that do come are likely to grab your attention. The music will keep you engaged, but doesn’t mind if you drift off. Some of the most interesting note choices the guitarist makes, come in is his decision to NOT change notes when the ear anticipates it, almost as if he is saying, “Yeah, I know you’ve been listening to this four second riff for two minutes. Here it is again.” 

Let it be stated for the record: The riffs are very good, and when you first hear them one might think, “Wow, how did he do that? That’s really good.” However, after four minutes of nothing but that riff, your mind memorizes, internalizes and regurgitates that riff until you are left thinking, “How is he allowed to still do that? They did four albums of that?” It gets stuck your head, but for all the wrong reasons. There is an incredibly frustrating point in the Naomi’s single, “Have to Pretend,” where after two minutes of the same riff, the band plays a different chord for one measure. This is cut off by Quirk who says, “too soon,” and they go right back to the same thing. The next time they make a change? When the song ends. 

To be fair, Naomi takes a much needed, albeit small, step away from this song format. While it hasn’t been entirely abandoned, songs like “Week to Week,” “Early Moon,” and “Easy Way” do include some guitar variety. Quirk still puts his heart and soul into every note he sings, and while I can’t understand a word he says, it is nice to listen to. And in the songs in which the band does default back to the hypnotizing riff repeats, the addition of bassist Morgan Henderson provides some variety and differentiation. (Although try not to mention to them that it’s generally supposed to be the other way around…)

If you hear this band via CD first, you will be pleasantly charmed by them, under the mental assumption that this (before the introduction of the bassist) is a two piece band. If this was a two piece band, it would be something worth paying attention to. The Northwest response to the Black Keys. Sadly, what the Black Keys accomplish with two members, requires three, but more recently, four Cave Singers, and they still don’t quite measure up to Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. On the other side of the spectrum, The Lumineers accomplish the same simple, folksy, charm while providing more variety for the ear in half the time. They started out as a two piece as well. 

The music is perfect for a long drive. It is a band that you and your dad could find some common ground on, especially for a road trip. Their slightly softer, clean sounding new studio album might encourage you to take a peek at their live show, but you may encounter some disappointment in discovering how many people it takes to make such a simple song.

In general, if you went onto iTunes or Amazon and just listened to the sample of the song three times in a row, you would have the whole song. I might go as far as to say that even within listening to the sample once, you might get a little bored. 

Simple instruments and passion are good things in my book. I am usually the one to defend it whenever someone goes on a hipster bashing tirade. I don’t know to what degree I would stick my neck out for The Cave Singers. Just like it is hard to defend rap that talks about beating women and semen, it is hard to defend one-chord indie folk music. This is my first introduction to the Washington based band, and from what I understand, their previous endeavors included a lot of abnormal musical instrument choices. Some of their previous song arrangements called for all three members to play a different percussive tool.  On their website is a video featuring the band as a trio. In the song titled “Haller Lake,” drummer Marty Lund uses just his feet, two tiny shakers, and a plastic red cup. This kind of creative spirit in the face of simplicity is refreshing and definitely a reason to keep an eye out for them on festival line-ups, but there is the underlying assumption that someone will go out of their way to uncover those quirky innovations after hearing a song that repeats itself over and over again. What these boys really need, is someone to remix their songs, cut them up and splice them together to provide some much needed variety. 

Depending on the tightness of your orange or purple jeans, the bushiness of your ironic mustache, the number of PBR’s consumed, and thickness of your retro-specs, The Cave Singers could range from anywhere between a 7.7/10 and a 5.3/10.

music videos

Musician Vs. Performer

Let us begin with a story: Several months ago, out of sheer boredom, I went onto craigslist to look for a jamming buddy. I hadn’t played music with other people for quite some time and didn’t know what to expect. I responded to an ad that said, “Musician Looking For Band!” She was very enthusiastic. She was incredibly friendly, and from looking at her Soundcloud, it looked as though she had been a part of some quality studio productions. 

We corresponded via email for a few days, and ended up meeting on a weekend. She had told me that she was a singer, songwriter and guitar player. The first warning sign was that she showed up about four hours late. My experience in jamming around in Oregon had taught me that this wasn’t entirely uncommon. It was just like spending the day with a buddy, drinking a few beers. It was a low priority thing that could be shuffled around. I was sure it was fine. I was sure we’d still have fun. 

She shows up and we talk for a bit. She’s been involved in music “for years,” but won’t say exactly when she began. She asks me briefly about my music history (I’ve been involved with piano, choir and other things since I was five) but then more to the point, do I want to play live shows. 

Sure? I thought. It’s getting a little ahead of ourselves here. We haven’t even tuned our guitars yet, and she’s thinking about a tour. I suggest we play our songs for each other, just to get a feel for where we are, if there is some chemistry to work with. I play her one of my songs and her response is, “Wow, I didn’t think people actually wrote songs anymore… I thought it was all suppose to be really easy.” 

Now alarms are flying off in my head. Who is this self-proclaimed song writer? I maintain the song isn’t incredibly difficult to play; it’s just not in first position. However, this is my first time meeting this person. I don’t want to get on my soap box quite yet. I ask her to play one of her songs that she sent me online. Her response, “Oh, I don’t know how to actually play that one, but it has the same chords as [some song I’ve never heard of].” 

She then reveals that she mostly sings. She’s a pretty good singer. Good tone quality, but a limited range. How limited? I can sing higher than she can. I try to teach her a harmony line (something she has never done) and after a good twenty minutes of repeating the same four bars, we arrive at a semi-decent level of kind-of-counterpoint. 

I met with her one more time after that horribly confusing encounter. I figured I could just write an incredibly basic, four chord song that we could dick around on. It was the easiest chord progression imaginable. God’s chord progression: C, a minor, F, G. At this point I didn’t expect her to know how to do a barre chord. My standards and expectations had already been shot. But this bizarre, extroverted, bubbly little girl takes it one step further. When I play the a minor chord, she looks at me all confused and says that she was taught that “the A was played like this!” (She plays an A Major) I tell her, “No, no its just the minor chord.” 

“What’s a minor chord?”

Now I am no Bach. I am no Hendrix. I am no Lennon. I do not think I am some amazing, muse granted voice and representative of the creative gods, but if prompted in certain circumstances I will call myself a musician. In the same respect, I would rather eat my own toe nails than call this girl a musician, let alone a songwriter. After some carefully worded prodding, I found out that the chords she knew could be counted on two hands. That may be enough for some people to “make music,” but it is my opinion that an actual musician would strive for a larger tool set. I own a hammer, a crowbar and a handful of screwdrivers, but I do not call myself a contractor, or even handyman. 

Granted, there are some actual musicians who choose to specialize in one particular instrument. That is why we have the title, “vocalist.” Again, I will concede, that the note range the girl could produce, were produced very well. The irritating thing about it is that in so many of her pictures, she is carrying her guitar. She has it slung around her neck, and cradled in her arms like it is an extension of her being, like it is her child. As I learned more about her, the more I realized that she was a performer trying to cast a wide net. She told me about her acting career,  her modeling, and other things you might expect from someone who spends half their time in Los Angeles. 

What am I irritated about then? It is misrepresentation. When I think of a musician, I do not think of Taylor Swift, or Justin Beiber. They are performers. Their individual musical merits do not justify the cost of their tickets, so to compensate, their concerts are filled with costumes, dancers, pyrotechnics, lasers and artificial fog. It is a performance in which music  is the bait by which the audience is drawn – although nowadays it is increasingly the Youtube video. Don’t get me wrong. They do it very well. They are performance artists. This girl I met envisioned herself as the next one-of-those-things. When I think of a musician, I think of those guys who cart around their gear on their backs. I think of the guys who fight for an every-other-week slot at a restaurant on the promise of better tips. They do not prefer to invest in bigger, flashier, louder equipment, but instead focus on themselves, and their abilities to master, manipulate and control their instrument. They search the fretboard, their voice, or the ivory for a technique they cannot presently do, and then push themselves to do it.