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Valleys – Are You Going to Stand There And Talk Weird All Night? album review

Valleys are the result of longtime collaborators Marc St. Louis and Tillie Perks who pour their heart and soul into their just-released sophomore full-length album Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night? The Montreal-based duo showcases their multitude of musical and lyrical talent by sharing vocal duties while Marc plays guitar, keyboards, and drums while Tillie plays the keys, guitar, and sequencer. Their sound has so much depth and intensity that it would be nearly impossible to guess that it was from a duo.

This album is full of darkness and loss but at the same time seems cathartic and healing. Stemming from Tillie’s loss of family members and Marc’s end of a relationship that led him on a downward spiral,  it’s clear that Are You Going To Stand There…? was made to be a coping mechanism for this duo. We can feel the depths of their grief and witness their healing in the process with lyrics about finding religion and maturity.

The intro on the opening track “Micromoving” feels like a funeral procession with a slow organ and haunting vocals but things immediately start to look up with the addition of a dance beat that completely entrances you and leaves you wanting more, which can only be described as uplifting uncertainty..

They’ve called the album the “happiest sad album” you’re going to hear. The song “Undream a Year” is the epitome of that, with it’s heavy electronic pop sound that would otherwise sound great as a dance track if it didn’t have some of the saddest lyrics to accompany it. The 8 minute epic track is an emotional roller coaster of both music and lyrics.

Even though it’s melancholic and at times depressing, Are You Going To Stand There…? is hypnotizing, refreshing, intimate and alive. This duo’s range of talent will not go unnoticed and hopefully they will be able to find happiness with their inevitable success.

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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.

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Lewis Watson – The Wild EP review

With the British invasion of mellow rockers such as Ed Sheeran and even Coldplay’s Chris Martin, the undeniably talented singer-songwriter Lewis Watson is setting himself up to be the next big thing. A welcome treat for his massive international fanbase, the London musician debuts his third in a series of EPs from Warner Music called The Wild. This 4 song EP tells an emotional story filled with love, but hints at heartbreak which strays from his usual optimistic and warm sound. His vocals and lyrics are so good that he doesn’t even need music to back them up…but it’s a welcome addition.

The Wild starts off with the dreamy and loving track “In the Wild”  that is filled with incredibly descriptive lyrics which paint a picture of a journey that you can’t help but want to be a part of, and fall in love with. The amorous tone emanates further with the track “Little Darling” which has all the necessary ingredients to be a wedding dance song. It’s slow, simple, sweet and incredibly romantic from start to finish.

This EP is not all rainbows and butterflies however. It takes a dark twist with the most emotionally-charged song, the ballad “It Could Be Better”. Lyrics like “if the rain stops falling, you start to see the tears in my eyes” combined with soft harmonies is so sweet yet tragic at the same time that it’s exquisitely agonizing.

Just as The Wild seemed to be a collection of soft and subdued singer-songwriter ballads, the shockingly percussive jam “Hold On” is quite the feast for the senses and is a great sendoff for this EP. It’s funky, dark, and deep and surely showcases his wide range of ability.

Remember this name: Lewis Watson. We’re in for another great British talent to grace the airwaves and it’s clear he’s only just begun.

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Colleen Green – Sock It To Me album review

It may be only March, but 2013 is already starting to show us what the future of music is going to look like, and it’s all thanks to our advancing technology. Musicians can now fend for themselves with solo projects that produce enough substance and depth to sound like a full ensemble.

Oakland California resident and self-proclaimed “stoner pop” musician Colleen Green is living proof: a one-woman show that does it all with a drum machine and an electric guitar. She is about to storm the scene with her first full-length album titled Sock It To Me.

She is clearly influenced by the ghosts of punk rock’s past, most notably the Ramones. It’s no coincidence one of her previous recordings was a song titled “I Wanna Be Degraded”. With heavy, methodical guitar riffs mixed with uncomplicated electric beats, Green shows us she’s not here to mess around.

Sock It To Me is a simple and captivating album that flows fairly well but has some inconsistency that she will only improve with time & experience. It is especially apparent on the tracks “Only One” and “Darkest Eyes”. While the guitar draws me in, her voice is overshadowed and leaves me wanting more. However, it completely rebounds with what is arguably the best on the album, “Time In The World” which brings the focus to the beats and showcases her vocal talent, which are both completely on point on this lively track.

The title track on Sock it To Me is dreamy and futuristic and is the attention grabber on the album, which I was shocked by a note that sounded like my computer was suddenly on the fritz.

Her sound is abrasive yet pleasing, and it shows that she represents the punk rock princesses out there currently struggling to find music to relate to. On the melancholy-toned track “Every Boy Wants a Normal Girl”, she sings about how she wishes she was a normal girl – but only sometimes.

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How To Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion album review

Earlier this year, Trent Reznor announced that he had plans to take the Nine Inch Nails on the road in 2014. For those who can’t wait that long, fans of Reznor’s work will be pleased with the first full-length album Welcome Oblivion from his pet project How to Destroy Angels which will surely hold them over in the meantime.

This album is undeniably similar to the Nine Inch Nails and seems to be reflective of his work scoring the soundtrack for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. But How To Destroy Angels has a welcome twist: ethereal vocals and piercing electronics from Reznor’s wife (and former West Indian Girl singer) Mariqueen Maandig and producer Atticus Ross.

Welcome Oblivion is chock full of heavy and emotional yet ambient beats and leaves you wondering what Reznor & company have up their sleeve. Once you can get past the striking and sometimes shocking high pitched electronics it’s a stellar creation that almost could come out of a futuristic video game that’s epic from start to finish.

The song “Too Late, All Gone” is edgy with it’s catchy call & answer rhythm and a chorus hook “the more we change, everything stays the same” is a conundrum that fits perfectly with the album’s tone. “Ice Age” is a folky and minimalistic track which showcases Maandig’s vocal talent and has a refreshingly light feel. The bold chorus on “How Long” may lend itself to be the most addicting part of the album.

Reznor’s signature style of gritty, hypnotizing, and mind-bending rock comes out in full force on “The Loop Closes” which is by far the best song on the album. The layered vocal crescendo towards the song’s end is the perfect nod to the Nine Inch Nails sound of the past, and it gives the album closure yet leaves us wanting more.

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Wild Belle – Isles album review

With undeniable talent – and good looks to boot – the Chicago-based brother & sister duo Elliot & Natalie Bergman of Wild Belle give us a refreshing taste of what one can hope to be the future of modern rock music. After drawing huge interest at South by Southwest in 2012, the duo is about to storm the scene with their highly anticipated debut album Isles.
Any rock band that has a saxophone gets points in my book for it’s added depth and uniqueness. Wild Belle is no exception. As a matter of fact, this might be some of the most intriguing and irresistible rock music I’ve heard in awhile. With dreamy vocals and soulful sax mixed with Caribbean rhythms from steel drums and reggae beats, it’s apparent that we’re no longer in Chicago but have been transported to the islands and partying on the beach. It’s hard not to sway with the music like palm trees sway with the sea breeze.

This is island music with soul. It’s psychedelic, catchy, and seductive. That tone is set from the start with the album’s first single “Keep You”. The reggae-heavy jam showcases their unique and free-spirited sound, especially Natalie’s enchanting vocals mixed with infectiously smooth sax riffs that seem to play cat & mouse with the bass line.

The rest of Isles is packed full of lively and carefree tracks highlighted by “It’s Too Late”  and “Love Like This”. It makes a surprisingly pleasant turn with the retro, organ-laced song “When It’s Over”, which could very well be one of the best tracks on the album. Elliot takes the lead on vocals, and it seems like big brother wants to have his turn in the spotlight which is a stellar contrast to the rest of the album that further proves how talented these siblings are.

This album’s March release was perfect timing for those craving the warmth and relaxation of summer. Put on your headphones, turn up the volume, close your eyes, and feel the sunshine. As long as these authentic and feel-good vibes keep coming, I have no doubt that we are only seeing the beginning of what Wild Belle has to offer.

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Mogwai – Les Revenants album review

The Scottish post-rock band Mogwai was given an opportunity that seems to be rare in modern day entertainment. They exclusively recorded the soundtrack (released on Rock Action Records & Sub Pop Records) to complement the critically acclaimed French television series Les Revenants. A full length album’s worth of dark and dramatic tracks is a brand new addition to their previously sold out limited edition EP of songs from the show earlier this year.

What has been called “cosmic” rock has taken a decidedly dark turn with Les Revenants. While there are similarities to their previous albums with anthems of heavy distorted guitars and thundering drums, the overall tone is much more melancholy. This soundtrack perfectly harmonizes with the show’s haunting themes of zombies and death.

With each listen, you get a feel for the story without having to watch the television show. , it almost feels like I’m walking alone through the woods in the dark, feeling like someone is following me from the shadows in the foggy moonlight. There is no coincidence that “Les Revenants” is translated from French to English to “Ghosts”.

The musicianship cannot be ignored.The soundtrack is filled with with epic drums, twisted distortion from the guitar, and slow and steady piano anchored by trance-inducing instrumentals. It has the theatrical quality and consistency to underscore a big budget epic war film. Songs like “Modern” even hint at dubstep while “Relative Hysteria” definitely rings true to it’s title. “The Huts” is the simplest and most stirring song, which is a total contrast to the anthemic track “Wizard Motor” which rounds out the album’s heavy tone.

Vocals don’t make their appearance until the 13th track of the album which seems to be a fitting end. The song ”What are they doing in heaven today?” is as deep and dark as the rest of the soundtrack and plays perfectly with the same theme of death and ghosts. The lyrics “sin & sorrow are all gone away” is bittersweet and plays perfectly with the story that seems to send us back to the world of the living with a new perspective.

After listening to this album in its entirety, I am left feeling much more depressed and melancholy. However, fans of the band and television show should view this as a musical treat.  It is made from the kind of stuff that makes you want to curl up into fetal position and wait out the zombie attack.

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Data Romance – Other album review

With a mix of seductive vocals and intense lyrics perfectly layered in between slick beats and countless instrumentals, Vancouver’s electro-indie duo Data Romance have stormed the scene with their first full length album. Released from Street Quality Entertainment & Dine Alone Records, Other is a satisfying change of pace from the party rock anthems and billowing folk rock tracks currently gracing the airwaves.

Simply put, this is an exceptional and refreshing piece of work. Crafted by the duo consisting of Multi-Instrumentalist/Producer Ajay Bhattacharyya and Vocalist/Lyricist Amy Kirkpatrick, the mature and dynamic follow up to their self-titled EP is a sweet feast of electronic deliciousness.

Other is a delightfully minimalist take on modern electronic music. From the first listen, their sound is heavily inspired by Radiohead, and is reminiscent of The XX and Bat for Lashes. The production quality is spot on and creates a vibe that seems to be beyond it’s years.

This album gets better with each play. At first, it requires concentrated, conscious listening but with the volume turned way up, I’m captivated even more. It becomes clear that I’m on a journey so stirring that it almost feels spiritual. It feels like being on a ride that you don’t want to get off of.

Other paints a musically psychedelic picture of longing and desperation, with lyrics to match. The haunting and hypnotizing journey begins with “Caves”, where Amy’s seductive vocals are quickly brought to life and given a sense of urgency with Ajay’s instrumental magic that sets the mood for the rest of the album.

The most enchanting song is the track titled “Cargo”. The reserved, sweet, and soft ambiance combined with the lyrics “let me hold, some of the weight for you, let me hold, until my arms go” solidifies the album’s emotionally-charged tone. Right after “Cargo”, the intensity changes with the catchy groove “Can’t Keep Your Mind Off” and the momentum picks up to lead us through the rest of the album.

The pure talent is showcased in the song “Guard” which rounds out the whole album. Taken literally, the line “when you’re sick of the old, and you want in the new” is exactly how I feel about Data Romance. It’s new, fresh, and has potential to be the modern pop ballads of the future. Be on the lookout for this duo to hit the tour circuit this year, they will not disappoint.