I am Eli Watson, and I am currently a student at The University of Texas at Austin. Anything that relates to music I write about: show reviews, interviews, album releases, I do it all, and then some. If you would like to know more about me, or would like for me to do some press for your group, let me know. I am always willing to help out.
Metalcore group Oh, Sleeper puts the brutal in brutality when it comes to intricate, metal-driven guitar work, heavy, crackling drums and harsh, screamed vocals. A cross between August Burns Red and The Chariot, Oh, Sleeper has made a nice home for themselves in the realm of metalcore, having created a more solidified sound in their latest release, Children of Fire.
A common problem with metalcore groups, is the tendency to be redundant, providing an onslaught of constant, cacophonous sounds. This is where Oh, Sleeper triumphs; in songs such as “Hush Yael” and “The Conscience Speaks,” the band takes moments to be melodic with soothing, clean vocals and soft guitars, before exploding into a chorus filled with ear-piercing cymbal hits and carnal, gutteral screams from vocalist Micah Kinard.
The band still remains heavy throughout the album though. Opener “Endseekers” starts off with loud guitars fighting for supremacy against Kinard’s Spencer Chamberlain-esque vocals, and Zac Mayfield’s powerful drums. “In The Wake of Pigs” begins with in your face, spoken word vocals from Kinard, backed by dischordant guitars.
Overall, the album is well done. The album is not constantly heavy and chugging, allowing the band to display some variation that works in their favor. The band at times sounds like mere images of similar artists Underoath or The Chariot, but they still manage to separate themselves from many of the artists affiliated with the metalcore genre, delivering an album that is melodic, and packs a punch too.
Keeping things minimal. This is how Geir Jenssen captivates his listeners. No flashy, explosive percussion; no heavy synths. Just a straight to the point minimalist approach that is eerie, yet intriguing. Jenssen (whose “Novelty Waves” was used for the 1995 campaign of Levi’s) and his chilled-out, spaced-out (the guy uses sci-fi samples) ambient ear candy has been present since 1991. Now, Jenssen is back with his latest release, N-Plants.
Inspired the Japanese post-war economic miracle, each track on N-Plants is named after a Japanese nuclear plant. Songs such as “Sendai-1,” brews a melting pot of weird sounds and crescendoing synths and loops, pushing the album into multiple directions as it goes from growing dynamically, to returning to its minimal state.
Most of the tracks retain this formula of gradual growth, followed by a vast array of short and reverberated sounds. Jenssen is obviously channeling his inner Aphex Twin, manipulating each syncopated hit so that it moves the song into a new direction, creating a transition that remains subtle, but still captivates.
N-Plants is a strong delivery from Jenssen; there is no dubstep experimentation, or cacophonous horn-sounding samples shattering walls of heavy percussion. Instead, Jenssen keeps things relaxed, relying more so on the space within the songs, and how that space elongates the sounds coming through.
Jenssen wants you to enjoy the silence on N-Plants. Lay back, relax and allow N-Plants to take you into an abyss that you may never want to leave.
Jon Brooks, better known by his alias, The Advisory Circle, is something of an ambient, music-making sorcerer. Throw in some surreal, spacey synths, a little bit of acoustic guitar and downtempo grooves, and you have music that is fitting for a soundtrack, elevator or library. With that said, As the Crow Flies, is the type of album you could expect to hear in these environments.
“Now Ends the Beginning,” starts off with downtempo drums, loopy synths and otherworldly sounds, introducing the listener to a world of complete ambiance. “As the Crow Flies,” is one of those Aphex Twin-sounding songs; staccato keys that produce a feeling of discomfort, over a space of absolute minimalism, “As the Crow Flies” is disturbingly good.
“Learning Owl Reappears,” builds up and down with reverberated synths and echoed percussion. “Beyond the Wychelm,” begins with piano, as other instruments begin to float over the base it has created. Xylophones, synths and other sounds create a very ethereal atmosphere, opening the song up to a very eerie transition that occurs.
“Wheel of the Year,” and its syncopated synths, stand out over most of the other tracks. It is just so much more vibrant; it starts off energetic and mysterious, reeling the listener in as it continues to grow. “Lonely Signalman,” ends the album off just right; spacey sounds, loopy synths that sound like they were taken from an old 1980’s game and weird vocal samples, “Lonely Signalman” follows the same path as most of the songs on the album.
As the Crow Flies is an album that showcases Jon Brooks’ ability to create minimalist, ambient music. He stays in his comfort zone, not allowing things to float into unfamiliar territory. When it does, it is only for an instant, before going back into a world of familiarity. The formula works for Brooks, but for those looking for some new, innovative direction in the world of ambient music, you won’t find that here. Some songs are noteworthy, and do show that Brooks can piece together some good music, but for the most part, the album just floats from beginning to end, having its high points of glory, and its low points. If ambient music, with a dose of minimalism is your thing, then As the Crow Flies is definitely for you.
Gomez is a band that has maintained a certain easy-flowing, innovative approach to their music. Since their 1998 debut, Bring It On, Gomez has since paved a creative, musical road, filled with songs that showcase their ability to write catchy, melodic tracks, while adding sprinkles of blues, psychedelia and krautrock into the mix. Their latest album, Whatever’s on Your Mind, shows the band still working with an anything-goes ethic, and it definitely works in their favor.
“I Will Take You There,” is a funky, feel-good track, that grooves all over the place with its luscious vocal harmonies, and horn parts from Antibalas member, Stuart Bogie. “Just As Lost As You,” is absolutely poppy, with its thumping bass, and melodic piano playing above everything else.
“Options,” has the swagger of a hard rock, blues song; the driving drums support explosive acoustic guitars, crescendoing sax lines and beautiful vocal harmonies. “Our Goodbye,” flows like something of a Smashing Pumpkins song, circa Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Melancholic strings, provide the base for Ben Ottewell’s flawless vocal delivery.
“Song in My Heart,” starts off with electronic sounds, before exploding into a chorus that will immediately have you hooked. The syncopated guitar parts only add to this quirky, out-of-the-box track. “That Wolf,” is a great combination of electronic experimentation, and alternative rock energy. Bouncy synths loom behind drum rolls, before being overpowered by heavy guitars.
“X-Rays,” is a great album ender; soothing guitars over flowy synths, and a melodic xylophone flying above, the song moves like that of a movie, as it starts off happy and bouncy, before transitioning to this ghostly, eerie atmosphere, and returning back to its upbeat comfort zone.
Whatever’s on Your Mind is kind of all over the place, but in a good way. No song sounds the same, and just when you think you have figured out the puzzle that is Whatever’s on Your Mind, Gomez throws another curveball into the mix, allowing their definitive sound to be accompanied by strings, saxophones and anything else they may seem fit. Overall, the album is a great listen, and it shows that Gomez can still experiment with some of the present sounds of today, and not lose themselves in it.
The summer always welcomes sounds that produce a feeling of euphoria; beautiful, luscious chord progressions, simple, yet groovy drum samples and a calming, tranquil vocal delivery, are the usual ingredients to summer soundtracks. This is the case with SHINE 2009. Combining the downtempo vibes of groups such as, Thievery Corporation, or Zero 7, with danceable beats that nod nostalgically at ’90s techno, SHINE 2009 delivers an album that is absolutely enjoyable.
Realism begins with “Graduation,” a track that oozes with poppy percussion, soothing vocals and staccato piano hits. The chord progressions are infectious, allowing Sami Suova’s voice to just float over everything. “Public Exposure” sounds exactly like any major dance club hit of the ’90s. Reverberated loops and piano hits are supported by wavy synths; the song does not have any significant changes, acting as nothing more than a simple dance track.
“One” stands out because of its Thievery Corporation-like sound. The wah-wah guitars at the beginning of the song, open up a realm full of xylophone hits, tambourines and synths. Following “One,” is the even cooler “Realism.” “Realism” just grows; airy, free-flowing synths provide a bridge for Suova’s straight-laced vocals. “New Rules” is the track that stands out; both the drum beat, and the bass melody remind me of P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss,” as it just grooves. It is definitely the album’s butt-shaker track.
“World” continues with the group’s familiar ’90’s sound, with its syncopated piano hits and head-moving drum beat. “Modern Times” ends the album with bouncy synths, groovy bass and body-moving drums.
SHINE 2009’s Sami Suova and Mikko Pykari accurately bring back the 1990’s dance sound that made everyone move. The group is obviously very comfortable with creating a sound that is heavily influenced by the ’90’s, which can help, or harm them. Yes, they do the music absolute justice, but in not really experimenting with their sound, they do not really stand out as much as they possibly could. Regardless, the tracks are great to listen to, and are perfect for a night of dancing, or a day of complete laziness. If you grow nostalgic for the that ’90s definitive dance-groove sound, and are looking for nothing more than minimal, body-shaking tracks, SHINE 2009’s Realism is the album for you.
Austin, Texas has been known to produce some pretty amazing bands. Explosions in the Sky, Spoon and now The Wooden Birds. Indie rockers who have a knack for creating poppy hooks and melodic chord progressions, The Wooden Birds are absolutely soothing in their delivery, and their latest release, Two Matchsticks, is the perfect soundtrack for the summer.
Thumping bass and luscious harmonies from Andrew Kenny and Leslie Sisson, “Folly Cub” opens up the album, keeping things simple, and giving the listener a small sample of what is to come for the rest of the album. “Two Matchsticks” is an acoustic track that stands out due to its powerful chords. Sisson’s voice accompanies Kenny’s in the second half of the song, sounding like something out of a Silversun Pickups album.
“Criminals Win” is upbeat, with a few percussive sounds accompanying simple, yet memorable guitar parts. “Company Time,” and its syncopated hits will remain dormant in your head, as those dynamic harmonies from Kenny and Sisson float on top of tambourines and guitars.
Ben Gibbard guests on “Warm to the Blade,” a track that is grappling and captivating in its simplicity. Gibbard’s vocals are so calm, allowing the song to just flow, and end so soon, that your finger will instantly start it over again.
“Baby Jeans” shows Sisson doing lead vocals, her voice powerful, but still soothing and angelic-like. The poppy chorus will grab you immediately; the harmonies are so beautiful, and the call and response between Sisson and Kenny is really cool too.
“Too Pretty to Say Please” stands out from beginning, to end. The upbeat strumming, and the soaring harmonies from Kenny and Sisson, combine to create another great song. “Struck By Lightning” sounds something like America’s “A Horse With No Name,” with it’s semi-surreal sound.
“Secrets” is such a great song; beautiful chord progressions underneath Kenny’s vocals, along with a catchy, melodic hook that you will be singing to yourself over and over again, “Secrets” is a really good song that should be longer. “Be No Lie” has traces of Beatles in it; from its harmonies in the very beginning, to the melodies being sang, “Be No Lie” sounds like a pop hit from the ’60s. Lastly, “Long Time to Lose It” is the epitome of Two Matchstick’s sound; the syncopated hits are a nice addition, and the harmonies toward the end of the song are complete ear candy.
Harmonies, luscious chords and simplicity, are the three ingredients that make The Wooden Bird’s music so enjoyable. From the very first track, to the very end, Two Matchsticks moves in a very subtle way, allowing itself to be the top pick for a nice day of laziness, or just having a relaxing day with friends. It is no surprise that The Wooden Birds have gained a positive reception since their debut album, Magnolia dropped; they rely on key components in music that have stood the test of time for many, many years. Lay down, take a deep breath, and press play; Two Matchsticks is about to make your summer days even better.
Before talking to Grace Potter I was informed by Grace’s publicity agent, of how much of a badass she is. While describing Grace to me, her publicist made one thing very clear: “Do NOT put Grace in a box. She will break right through it.” Frightened, but even more enthusiastic about talking to Grace, I braced myself, slowly realizing that I better choose my questions wisely, because to try and sum up Grace Potter through comparisons and similarities, would not get the job done at all.
I have been a fan of The Dear Hunter for such a long time. Having worked with bands such as, The Fall of Troy (you are missed greatly), Tera Melos and Circa Survive, The Dear Hunter have made a name for themselves as experimental, prog-rockers, with a hint of blues influence. Taking a break from their six-album “Acts” project, the group will be releasing their latest full length, The Color Spectrum.
The Dear Hunter is malleable; they can form into many different sounds, and manipulate those sounds to push boundaries in the realm of music. The Color Spectrum is a great example of that. The album showcases itself differently from the rest of the band’s discography; it shares no relation to the “Acts” storyline. Therefore, we see the band experimenting with the idea of colors of the spectrum via music, and the concept plays very well.
“Filth and Squalor (Black),” starts off with grimy, electronic sounds and vocal parts from Casey Crescenzo, before shifting to explosive drumming from Nick Cresenzo, and Mars Volta-esque walls of sounds.
“Deny It All (Red),” starts off heavy, and the vocal harmonies are beautiful, while still remaining hard-edged. “She’s Always Singing (Yellow),” shows the group’s ability to write catchy, poppy songs, without losing their authenticity. The xylophone playing the melody with the guitar will make refuge in your ears, battling with The Beach Boys-like vocal part during the bridge.
“Things That Hide Away (Green),” is just well-structured. Strings, slide guitars and a haunting, spine-tingling vocal harmony, this track is beautiful. “The Canopy (Green),” keeps the spectrum green, with its upbeat drums, folkish guitar strumming and relaxing lyrics. It is a song that calmly moves around, not creating any drastic changes, and keeping things simple.
“Trapdoor (Blue),” is a melancholic song, as the band shifts from upbeat tempos, to a slowed down, 6/4, full of reverberated guitar, heavy piano and a belting Casey. The guy can seriously deliver some great vocals. “What Time Taught Us (Indigo),” carefully combines percussive, electronic hits, with soothing vocals and spacey keys, to create a Muse-like piece that blows up with sounds, only to end quietly with sporadic, electronic percussion.
“Lillian (Violet),” and its smooth transitioning from a 3/4 to 5/4 in the beginning, will catch your attention, leading into a realm of strings and piano. “Home (White),” has the makings of a good soundtrack song. Beautiful chord progressions, with strings calmly playing in the background, Casey’s vocals soar over everything. “You can come back home,” sings Casey, as the song fades out with an echoed piano.
“Fall and Flee (White),” is appealing from the very beginning. Starting in an almost Animal Collective-esque fashion, the group starts with sensual vocal harmonies and electronic sounds, before building up with ear-controlling tambourines, and smooth chords.
The Dear Hunter is a one of a kind band; to have the ability to be experimental, while still creating songs that are absolutely catchy, and enjoyable, is a challenging feat. The group does it with ease, showing a plethora of sounds and influences through their music. Each song can stand out on its own, and the track listing allows the album to just flow, ending on a strong, and powerful note. Catchy songs, interesting use of instrumentation and vocals that will give you goose bumps, The Color Spectrum is an album that you must check out.
With techno and its many subgenres moving into more explosive, dynamic samples and sound manipulations, it is always great to hear an artist that combines the minimalist, percussive-heavy style of techno, with the more modern, dubstep sounds of today. 2562’s Fever does just that.
David Huisman’s production is enticing. “Winamp Melodrama,” and its spastic, staccato percussive hits are the first thing to hit you, followed by warped synths and spacey loops. “Juxtapose” is a combination of short snare hits, bubbly synths and reverberated background sounds.
“Aquatic Family Affair” will take you on an underwater dance adventure as crescendoing chord progressions grow out of shaking maracas and pumping bass hits. “Intermission” is a nice, downtempo track that uses raindrop synths, syncopated claves and immediate bongo hits.
“Flavour Park Jam,” and its dubstep, half-time feel are infectious; the slushy synth sounds, along with the off-time sounding drum pattern, will mess with your head, showing that 2562 also has a knack for creating musically complex pieces.
“This Is Hardcore” is actually very hardcore; bumping bass, explosive hand claps and a swiveling loop that sounds like a disturbed beehive, “This Is Hardcore” is eerie with its metallic bells and underlying synths. “Brasil Deadwalker” is a move-to-the-floor track with its spontaneous synth hits and thumping bass. The more heavier part sounds like something from The Immortals with its frenetic synths.
“Wasteland” moves all over the place with loopy bass hits and spacey samples. This track gradually intensifies, as more sounds are incorporated, and the song begins to create a base for itself. “Fever” is the epitome of the album. Growing into a fusion of breakbeat drum patterns and shaky synths, “Fever” continues to grow all the way until it is finished.
You would never guess that this whole album is built on Disco samples; it sounds completely like the work of its maker. Start-stop percussion, sensual chord progressions and breakbeat patterns that are absolutely danceable, Fever delves into an experimental realm that shows Huisman’s ability to carefully craft together songs that take sounds from multiple genres in the world of electronic music. Bold and creative, Fever may put you in a dancing coma. But, trust me, it will definitely be worth it.
Eddie Vedder has multiple faces; he is known as the crooning, wild and uncontrollable front man of Pearl Jam, the folksy, soft-spoken singer-songwriter for the movie Into the Wild and most recently, a surreal and tranquil ukulele player. Following ’07’s Into the Wild, Vedder has now released his second solo album titled, Ukulele Songs.
Eddie Vedder can do many things; he is a talented artist that is always expressing himself in different ways. This is the case with Ukulele Songs. 16 songs, each one less than four minutes in length, shows Vedder going through themes of loneliness, sadness and desire, over infectious chord progressions that set the mood for a nice day of relaxing, or hanging out on the beach.
“Can’t Keep” begins with fast strumming, and chords that have a heavy, Pearl Jam likeness to them. Vedder’s baritone vocal style has not aged a bit; he can still manipulate his voice with ease, crescendoing from quiet, to loud in an instant.
“Without You” is absolutely catchy; poppy chord progressions and a chorus that will be hummed and whistled for days to come, “Without You” is nicely done. The 1929 “More Than You Know,” is done justice by Vedder. His cover of the classic is a nice addition, and it shows his ability to confidently tackle songs, and put his own spin on it.
“Broken Heart” has a melancholic, waltz-like feel, slowing down and starting up again as Vedder sings about a failed love, and what it produces. “Longing to Belong” features Vedder’s ukulele with that of a cello. The vulnerability in his voice on this song goes well with his longing, desire to be with whoever he is referring to.
“Light Today” is calming; with not much changing in the ukulele part, and the ocean waves looming in the background, Vedder allows his voice to float over the song, his voice full of shaking conviction. “Once in a While” is another cover that is coolly done by Vedder. Keeping it in a doo-wop feel, the chord progressions are beautiful; Vedder keeps up with the changes with no difficulty, making the classic his own.
Ending with another cover, Vedder closes out with “Dream a Little Dream.” Beautifully done, Vedder’s cover creates a serene atmosphere, his voice soft, but powerful, only strengthened by the ukulele’s strumming.
Reflective and somber, Ukulele Songs carries a melancholic feel throughout the album. It is enjoyable, and the covers are done in a way that still retains its origins, while adding some new flavor to it. Vedder’s singing of heart break and lost love could become redundant for some listeners, but overall the album strangely creates a mood of relaxation.
More poppy sounding than that of his Pearl Jam work, Ukulele Songs shows a different side of Vedder; it is a side that reflects his life by the ocean, a calming and reassuring aid to Vedder’s melancholic sound. Simple, natural sounding and pure, Ukulele Songs brings music back to a minimalist state, with Vedder showing that every once in awhile it is always good to just relax, and allow the music to take you away.