Wavves – Life Sux review

Wavves sound like a fairly violent acne outbreak.

Wavves sound like scooping up a loose brick from your parent’s new driveway and throwing it through the window of the other new Starbucks.

Wavves sound like that time you tried miserably to roll a joint with fumbling hands and then made out with the guy who sold it to your friend – with fumbling hands.

I’m not sure how they get away with being this bratty and lazy, but I’m really glad they are. I thought I’d left my emo/punk, greasy angst phase behind me, but Wavves brings it screaming back. Sometimes literally. Not that they’re emo or punk really – please don’t go into this EP thinking you’re getting Dashboard Confessional or the Get Up Kids. Wavves doesn’t try that hard. And trying too hard was of course the folly of that entire movement of the early 2000s.

Their EP boasts only 6 tracks, 2 of which feature other bands, Fucked Up and Best Coast respectively, and one of which is live. It comes across more like a mix-tape, something that rock music should embrace as passionately as hip-hop. If it works for Lil’ Wayne, the hardest working man in show business today, it should work for you. That should be the world’s motto. Anyway, this mix-tape-marketed as-an-EP has a genuine old school sound while keeping it relevant with song titles like “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl” (which eventually turns into a lament about wanting to be Dave Grohl, and I don’t know about the next guy, but that really speaks to me.)

There are a lot of people I would recommend this to on my personal time, and most of them swear by South Park without having any interest in getting tickets to The Book of Mormon. The people I’m sending text messages to asking urgently if they’ve heard this majored in graphic and/or web design but spend most of their hard drive memory on downloaded porn. They are my friends who make enough money to do just about anything they want, but are wearing the same shoes they’ve had since sophomore year of high school, either with more duct tape on the soles or by searching for new ones feverishly on Ebay last year.

Does that sound like you? Then you should probably get this. Then you probably have it already.

Kristen Chenoweth – Some Lessons Learned review

Kristen Chenoweth can sing. Only an autopsy will reveal where, in the cavity of her stunted frame, she manages to store all the air necessary to wail like she does on “Change,” “I Was Here,” Borrowed Angels,” and pretty much in general. And her first solo album, a mix of rock and pop paying heavy homage to Nashville’s signature twang, will surely grace karaoke halls from Riverside County to Mississippi, West Virginia to Walla Walla, Washington. The plaguing question that arises is, Why this type of country? She explained as a guest judge on So You Think Can Dance that her Oklahoma roots give her a soft spot for the sounds of her upbringing. Ok, fine. But why emulate Shania Twain and Faith Hill? Why try so hard to be Carrie Underwood when there are exemplary female artists in this genre like Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and the obvious Chenoweth comparison, the big, bad baby mama of the modern country sound, Dolly freaking Parton?

Her extreme accent seems put upon, like Jessica Simpson and Kid Rock when they realized they’d lost favor with all but the whitest demographic living in the deepest South. The swingy whine of her vocal tone comes effortlessly and satisfies the country quota, but it’s hiding in the background of the thought that she has never sounded quite like that when she speaks. It’s an interesting phenomenon specific to country music because half the time you can’t tell that The Beatles are British or that English is not Shakira’s first or even second language. (Unless you pay attention to Shakira’s lyrics – those are some shaky metaphors.) But like Lauryn Hill, Chenoweth cops an accent and dialect that are not a necessary birthright in order to appeal to a certain group.

The album is not without merit, however. In many respects its construction is solid, enjoyable CUHN-tray. “I Didn’t” uses a snappy and circular humor that induces involuntary smiling and head nodding. “I Want Somebody (Bitch About)” has a personable way of relating us to our best relationships and their idiotically exhausting qualities. “Fathers and Daughters” is the quintessential tale of a daddy’s girl, which the world of middle class white people love to dance to at weddings.

These songs are playlist worthy enough to warrant a listen, but ultimately Chenoweth’s extravagant talent would make a lot more sense portrayed organically.

Felix Rodriguez of The Sounds Interview

In preparation and anticipation of the upcoming DeLuna Fest in Pensacola, Florida, I got Felix Rodriguez of The Sounds on the phone last Thursday, and we both took time off of work to have a little chat.

Ready to embark on the first chunk of their billionth American tour, the interview began with a rather bumbling and perhaps overexcited (I really like The Sounds) “Hey dude! So…where are you?”

Felix: I’m in LA doing some writing.

(Oh well, that’s good because I’m sitting in my office in Midtown Manhattan, furiously typing transcribing every word on a centuries-old MacBook while I avoid questions from visitors and answering the company phone – both of which I am contractually obligated to do. So I know what he means.)

Cool, cool! I’m from LA (lie – I’m from a half hour East of Los Angeles, raised in a town famous for its state prison and being Ryan from The OC’s hometown).

I then proceed to ask him if he is working on new material for the band and if he is responsible for producing the bulk of new material, receiving answers in the affirmative to both queries, although he graciously acknowledges the collaboration with other band members in the songwriting process.

Are you living in LA now?

Felix: No. I live in Sweden.

(I know they’re from Sweden, I did look into their Wikipedia page in preparation for this interview, after all. It’s just that, well, people move. But apparently not ever from Sweden.)

Since my focus is mainly on the Pensacola extravaganza, I look into his preference of music festivals versus touring with a regular line up. I’ve always thought festivals seems like a major pain the in the ass to play, but Rodriguez is a sweet, Swedish boy who seems pretty cool with everything life throws him.

Felix: We are used to playing big festivals. We play many in Europe and it’s awesome because you gain so many fans. There are always people there who would never before see you play.
Touche, Felix.

That’s so true, it’s like, lots of people who show up are probably there by accident or unprompted curiosity and then they leave fans.

Felix: Exactly.

Good point, me.

Is there anyone scheduled for De Luna that you’re really excited to play with or to see?

Felix: (Under obvious pressure from interviewer who clearly wants him to say…) Matt & Kim. It’s always fun to run into old friends at festivals, to have friends along.

I thought so. I’m pretty sure I struck a nerve when I delved into their past, asking questions about touring with No Doubt. In a typically male dominated industry, as most industries are, the music world doesn’t spend a lot of time focusing on female success, unless you’re Beyonce. This tour enlisted No Doubt, The Sounds, Paramore and Katy Perry, an undeniable nod to the power of women in a setting normally owned by men.

Felix: That wasn’t for the ladies. I mean, Marja’s a girl, but all the rest of us are guys. We were a combination of three different acts, all with a very powerful female singer. Why is that weird?”

(Oh…well…um…good) That’s good then! (Although methinks you doth protest too much, Felix old boy…)

Sweden is noted for having a huge death metal scene, and more recently a huge influence on folk music what with The Tallest Man on Earth and First Aid Kit. Has this affected your music at all?

Felix: We’ve always been doing our own thing. I haven’t been really inspired by Swedish music like that. When I was a kid like, 8 years old I was listening to just random people from Sweden, but I’m pretty bad at listening to new music.

People must compare you to Blondie all the time. Are there other bands that come up often?

Felix: Blondie’s a good band too!

I know, they’re awesome, I would just think it gets a little old.

Felix: Everyone, every band, wants to be original, you want to be your own band. But that’s how it is sometimes in the beginning, with the comparisons. Everyone is trying to find your own sound.
I just overheard someone talking about us and The Naked and the Famous – I was like, who? And then I looked them up, They’re good too.

There it is. Felix Rodriguez doesn’t exactly have a lot of time or energy to devote to new music, but that is no reason to ignore his. In fact, if anything, it’ll keep The Sounds sounding like The Sounds we know and love. Eventually I feel as though I’ve neglected my job enough to warrant a stern crack down, and I’ve pulled Felix away from his creative process for a guilty length of time, so I bid him farewell.

Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost review

Father, Son, Holy Ghost is an unlikely title choice for an album that stays true to the modern musical standards of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Then again, Girls are a band comprised entirely of males so maybe outright contradiction is their thing. Or maybe for their title they exchanged the international garage band triumvirate for the paradigm of trinities because they’re just that clever. And maybe Girls is a nod to those who obviously inspire some of their most interesting tunes.

I’m going with the latter of my hypotheses because I want to believe that these guys are as brilliant as the constant repeat of the album in my headphones would have me believe.

This album is really hard to argue with. You would have to love to hate things to do it, like the Karl Lagerfield of the music industry, you would have to get off on stomping on everybody else’s ideas to claim that Girls’ sophomore full-length is lacking in any respect. It is retro in the best way, keeping all the working components of classic rock without any of the kitsch. The Kooks and The Libertines tried to make music like this, but maybe they were too British to make it work.

The sound of Girls is head-nodding for the most part, heartstring-pulling at times, and is definitely the kind of music you wish your boyfriend wrote instead of ripping off the Arctic Monkeys.

People who love Los Lobos and Elvis Costello will love it without annoying those around them who are sick of the hair gel and jean shopping worshipped by that ilk. People who love The Kinks and The Stooges, which I assume are all of you with a working heartbeat, will definitely fall into line by the third track, the distortion heavy “Die” in which Christopher Owens reminds us over and over and that we are totally, absolutely, without a doubt going to die. And sooner than we expect. This track tapers off into a several minute, guitar string bending instrumental that expertly melts into “Saying I Love You,” a goodbye song for sad saps.

If you happen to run into these guys in the Bay Area, make sure to give them a palm chaffing high five.

The Asteroid Shop – The Asteroid Shop album review

The Asteroid Shop’s self titled debut is going to make a lot of people really happy. Fronted by a relatively unknown, yet impressively credentialed Eric Brendo, Asteroid lays on the indie sound pretty thick, and tempers it expertly with clean electric guitars and Jonathan Koya’s crisp drumming approach.

The band hails from Austin, TX, and the proof is in the eclectic stream of cult influences found in their product. Every moment is like turning a page in the who’s who of underground rock of the past decade, including but not limited to, Explosions in the Sky, The Dismemberment Plan and just the faintest whisper of Connor Oberst’s latest projects.

Bright Eyes references tend to automatically turn some of the more soulless music fans running in the opposite direction, but just a whiff is present in the tremulous vocals on “Silver Lane” and “Sinner’s Life” and in the overall feeling of wanting to hang your head with your bangs in your face as you listen. Think of it as the pinch of cinnamon in your grandmother’s homemade pancakes. You can’t even really taste it, but it’s the unsung element that makes them taste better than everyone else’s.

Asteroid Shop has cultivated their sound with an invigorating yet soothing quality, leaking morose undertones. There’s a despair that’s not overt, just unapologetically present the band’s pared down nature of doing just enough. Each track says what needs to be said and then ends with a finality forgotten in the first second of the following song. Only to end again. As philosopher Cher Horowitz once affirmed, “They’re way existential.”

This is what The Smashing Pumpkins would sound like if they were still a band. Well, if they continued being a band instead of hastily disbanding and then irrelevantly getting back together for an ill-fated second try out of greed and boredom.

This is what classic rock will sound like to our kids. It’s an album with staying power, if only enough people decide to get up and get on it.

This is what success looks like, Austin style.

Oh, Sleeper – Children of Fire review

This is music for the hot morning shower after you’ve been up too late, up to no good. This is music for the pre-game pump up or the post-break up meltdown. Basically, emotions had better be running high or in immediate need of amplification.

I do most of my music listening in gigantic headphones as I frantically rush from train to train, perpetually late for my overbooked life, or playing on repeat on the lowest volume setting of my Macbook in a futile effort to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. This is not music for those times.

Ironically, Oh, Sleeper makes a point to keep you awake while you listen. Their songs abound with the requisite double bass and guitars strumming faster than a field mouse’s heartbeat. It’s accessible, solid hardcore with a few pensively beautiful moments characteristic of the genre. There is a high-strung emotionality to hardcore, and sometimes those emotions are displayed acoustically and with soaring vocals.

But only for a second. They’ve still got a reputation to keep.
The lyrics are for the most part indiscernible, but that’s altogether unimportant. Children of Fire is really about the package. The first time they allow their message to be truly understood happens in “Means to Believe” and just so you’re not unpleasantly surprised, this song is about Jesus. Here’s another secret – they all are.

Nothing against religion or religion oriented things, I just have to wonder if making a point to focus on a single topic is ever a good thing for art. It would be like Weezer only penning lyrics about feeling like outcasts, or Lil’ Wayne only rapping about women and marijuana – oh wait…
I guess if it works for other people it can work for Oh, Sleeper.

“In the Wake of Pigs” is the album’s catchiest three minutes, mostly due to the pleasing attempts at harmonies in the hook. The rest is not bad, suitable for road tripping, but largely forgettable. There will be people who can’t get enough, but I imagine most of us won’t be lamenting on how “The Marriage of Steel and Skin” is constantly stuck in our heads.

Juliana Hatfield – There’s Always Another Girl review

At its outset, Juliana Hatfield’s “There’s Always Another Girl” sounds exactly how you might expect. It opens with a female, solo voice and an acoustic guitar pretty much completing the image of singer/songwriter her name evokes. The lyrics are brimming with a lazy angst, and halfway through she tops the track with an easy little piano melody. At best, people will be grateful that the album is delivering exactly what they imagine. Getting what you pay for feels good – at least that’s the reason people go to Chipotle.

Then suddenly, like a flower unfurling in a high definition time lapsed image on Planet Earth, this album blossoms. Leaving the female Chris Martin shtick behind, the songs flirt with a post-grunge 90’s rock sound. Her work is the essence of Pavement littered with Garbage. The track on the album that packs the most bratty bent is oddly enough one in which she whines about not wanting to go out. “I don’t think I’m drunk enough” to go jumping around among “perfume, cologne, sweat and pheromones,” is the gist of the tune, but it throws around so much energy and satisfying guitar riffing that it will inevitably become an anthem for going out. At least for those of us who can no longer listen to Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” as we fix our eyeliner.

Hatfield really crafts a place for her lazy gen X angst to brood, and it’s evident after two listens that these songs won’t leave your head for some time. Tunes like “Candy Wrappers” and “Sex and Drugs” stick in your brain like the girl power honey they’re laced with. There is definitely an experienced songwriter behind all of this, although her seasoned career does not diminish the music’s cute factor. It’s almost like Gwen Stefani never started having babies and quit making listenable music.

Many listeners who gravitate towards a more vibrant sound will latch onto this album while still needing to skip the first track, but I hope Juliana Hatfield doesn’t take that too personally. After all, I do that with The White Album every time.

Balam Alcab – Wander/Wonder review

Balam Alcab, the delicately crafted brainchild of a 20 year old college student, debuted an aptly titled full-length album August 30, Wander/Wonder. The whimsy and disregard of traditional album trajectory contribute to a feeling of not only wandering but floating. Down a river, through the clouds, past the time-space continuum, wherever you want to be this album can take you there – slowly.

The sound is surprisingly sophisticated for somebody with hardly two decades of life to his name. Wander/Wonder has an ethereal feel that gives you the sense it’s been always festering in a locked away place, and like Arthur’s sword, only Alec Koone understood its mystery fully enough to release it. The wetness throughout gives a sense of a primordial being emerging for the first time on land, or crawling back in utero for the coziest of hibernations.

That between place, of neither birth nor death but kind of both hangs in the air upon listening. This album is often two places at once, but there is no middle ground for Balam Alcab. The music would be best enjoyed one of two ways: throwing it on, smoking a joint and having sex before bed, allowing it to hang as a backdrop. Or you could just as easily press play, roll a joint and listen hard to every nuance that sounds like a little gift. Intelligent listeners will indeed feel as though they were the ones to unlock the sound, as each track is personal, secretive and satisfyingly low-key.

The most solid chunk lies in the late middle section. Expect leads into Now Time followed by Oh, Why leaving you in a comparative whirlwind of unexpected string instrumentation, bottom dropping percussion, and a Harajuku angel singing aloft from a cloud over the recording studio. Just when it appears the bass disintegrates to make room for something lighter, it swoops in with a vengeance on Fragile Hope. The whole affair will wrap you in a fluffy down blanket of existential crises, wondering Oh, why why why…why can’t I?
Ambient without feeling morose, Balam Alcab’s Wander/Wonder will be a joy to Panda Bear fans, stoners, and intrepid musical explorers everywhere.