At what point will the masses turn on ukulele wielding troubadours like they did on disco music that day at the ballpark on Disco Demolition Night in Chicago? Can we trick them all into thinking they’re playing the halftime show of the Super Bowl and then drunkenly throw our bottles of rye at them? Thankfully The Leisure Society isn’t all ukulele but there is enough entry level piano and banjo music playing to get you steamed; especially in the Alone Aboard the Ark opener, Another Psalm Sunday, which has a harmonica thrown in mid song just for your pleasure. Sorry, for some reason I can’t get that Hannibal Lecter movie Red Dragon out of my head right now.
The next song isn’t much better as it comes complete with violins and woodwinds that have bad 70’s lounge music as their background. I kept waiting for Jack Tripper’s sleazy buddy Larry to show up at my door flaunting tons of chest hair. By the third song, you realize that all this band is, is a bunch of hipsters who can play a random assortment of instruments . They got together one night and decided that their glorified grad student plays weren’t working anymore, so why not form a band to get girls. They aren’t talented enough to play any kind of solos and musically they are all over the place. They can’t decide what they are or what they want to be, which is ok if you perfect a certain style on one album and then decide to mix it up on another. But to be average at every style you play doesn’t quite work when you are trying to be schizophrenic.
Tearing the Arches Down is their most rocking song and I use that term loosely. They bring in some distorted guitar and it’s the closest thing you’ll find to a traditional rock song on this album. All I Have Seen is the clear highlight with its late 60’s psychedelic harmonizing which instantly draws you in and thankfully it has lyrics you actually care about. The song ends with Hemming singing “No More, No More, All I have seen, take it from me” and fades out with carnival like music, continuing their weird trend of schizophrenia.
Maybe you’re really into folk/rock music and by the end you’ll be drowning in young flapper Roaring 20’s hipster bliss with Forever We Shall Wait and the never ending We Go Together. But for the rest of us, the next time I see some dude with greased up hair, an unnecessary 5 o’clock shadow, and rolled up sleeves; I’m going to assume that he saw the Robert Downey Jr version of Sherlock Holmes one too many times and throw my fedora at him! Oh the irony!
I have no one to blame but myself for never really giving The XX a fair shake. Had I checked them out under normal circumstances I might have liked them, but it just so happened that the first time I heard their debut album was while I was on a road trip with a really hot hipster zookeeper. We were trying to get the party started, and the intro track really delivered in that regard but sadly after that the album was just too slow and dark for the mood we were looking for. Well in hopes of getting laid that night, I instantly took the cd out and blew the band off; especially after I had later heard that their live shows weren’t all that great to begin with. Keep in mind however, that that was reaction to their performances during festivals and those who know The XX knows that their music isn’t really made for the daytime outside show. This is more of the night time club music with strobe lights and possible gender bending.
And I think that this is why bands release Ep’s in the first place; so they can both introduce potential fans to their sound in a rather quick fashion and at the same time experiment with some songs that they wouldn’t normally be able to release. The first track on this EP is Fiction, and it is exactly what you’d expect to hear from this indie pop sensation. It has their signature keyboards and light and complimentary guitar mixed in with the dark and low vocals of Oliver Sim. Once you combine that with his lyrics of “I wake up alone, with only daylight between us, last night the world was beneath us, tonight comes too long” you get a sound that’s next of Interpol’s Paul Banks and the INXS’s Need You Tonight without the charisma.
Next up was Together, the song they wrote for The Great Gatsby. It ends up being a perfect fit for that movie with it’s almost hip hop beat and dramatic violins that come in at the end. However, all throughout this song I just imagined Baz Lurhmann (director) unnecessarily throwing in flying satin sheets and a sky that’s raining pearls just so he can put in his grandiose two cents . But the good news is, that without a tattooed goddess sitting next to me to distract me, I was actually enjoying the album so far. Wait, is that really good news???
Now comes the first of the three Fiction remixes. This reminds me of when Filter had 7 remixes of Take My Picture; do you really that many? This version is a club remix for sure, especially since they just repeat “When we’re not together” over and over again. You can’t help but be reminded of Armand Van Heldon’s Funk Phenomena, which if you were alive when it came out, you most certainly spun a glow stick or two while dancing to it. The funky addition of the guitar might be my favorite part although it only appears briefly in the song.
The second remix is the Mary Jane Coles Version and it also continues to remind you of late 90’s dance music. This one brings back all of the lyrics of the original and musically it feels like something you’d hear in an upscale lounge in Europe or swanky Manhattan. Like my man Bill Cosby said in season 6 of the Cosby Show “This is the best elevator music I’ve ever heard”. I swear I’m related to this man some way somehow!
Finally comes the third and final remix of Fiction and this one belongs to Marcus Wogull. This one has more of a driving beat with the sound of a high hat that’s used for timing. Midway through the song they lose the Russian techno keys for a second and bring in the guitar but then they immediately get bored with that and resort to the unimaginative sound they initially introduced to the track. This is my least favorite of the three but that’s mainly because it’s so repetitive.
Overall I like this EP and suggest you at least give it a listen on Spoitfy.
When you first cue up Joy Formidable’s short EP Silent Treatment, you immediately have the pleasure of listening to the work of English musician/composer/producer William Orbit. Orbit has won multiple Grammy awards for his work on Madonna’s Ray of Light and has also collaborated with British indie legends Blur. This is what you call reaching the big time for a band out of the little known section of the U.K. by the way of Wales. I mean, what’s Wales really known for anyway? Weird indie movies like Richard Ayoade’s Submarine? Their women’s strange and inexplicable love for Tom Jones and David Hasselhoff? I personally know it because of a few naughty nannies that hail from this random country but that’s another story for another time. His work here is on the title track Silent Treatment, which is a heartfelt song that’s about finally getting over someone. In the original, the band only plays acoustic guitars on the track and this allows Ritzy’s (lead singer and guitarist) lyrics and emotion to take center stage. However in Orbit’s version, his addition of a drum beat, piano, and overall production gives it a cleaner feel and turns it into an almost danceable track. I’m not usually a fan of remixes but in this case it actually works out for the best.
If you don’t have much experience with Joy, they bring high energy with almost a grungy sound to your speakers. Ritzy is great as the lead and she has the ability to rip it on the distorted guitar. This EP however shows the more quiet and mellow side of Joy which they have been known to also feature on their albums. They aren’t afraid to slow things down a bit by adding in pianos and electronic keyboards to their songs and this is shown on the album’s third track All the Promise. It’s a nice little song that’s all piano and keys and it ends with Ritzy repeatedly proclaiming that she is more than just a number. But for those that prefer the high energy Joy Formidable, this song simply serves as a nice transition to the EP’s final song Tendons.
The live version of Tendons gives you a preview of what they’re really all about if this is your introduction into their world. It starts off with Ritzy conversing with the crowd and due to her thick accent you can’t understand a word she is saying; which of course only makes her hotter to this particularly lonely fan! This is right before she starts tearing into the powerful chords with her light and pleasant voice perfectly complimenting them. I appreciate it when female vocalist stay in their lane so to speak, and don’t try too hard to be punk or overly masculine. It just comes off rather comical when they do, ask Sheryl Crow when she went through her Chris Gaines phase. I like this EP and I strongly suggest that you get their latest album Wolf’s Law as well.
The first thought that came to mind when I heard The Silver Seas’s title track to their new album Alaska, was that these guys sounded like the Stone Temple Pilot’s awful attempt at a career saving side project. You remember Talk show don’t you? Of course you don’t; that’s because I am the only person who has ever owned that album and actually admitted it. The Seas are pop rock just like Talk Show minus the awesome Hello, Hello. I will say that their lead singer Daniel Tashian has a pleasant enough voice, one that will make pay to attention to whatever he has to say even if you are completely uninterested. It’s nowhere near as cool or as memorable as the great Barry White’s voice but it is similarly effective. Barry could be singing nursery rhymes and women would magically end up pregnant as a result. Again, Tashian isn’t quite there but he’s engaging none the less.
The best way to describe their music is to compare it to what you would likely hear playing at the kiddie stage of a music festival. Here is where you would also see old “hip” parents dancing off beat with their kids who are rocking recycled Toms shoes. It’s not completely awful (and that’s not a compliment), I just can’t quite figure out who their demographic is. Is it these weird out of touch parents, stoners who stumble upon the opening act for Phish, or simply the band’s family members and girlfriends?
Well, as I made my way through this attempt at rock, here were a few tracks that stood out to me. I’m the One was promising at times, that is until the awful musical breakdown midway through the song, this is where they realized that it actually takes just a bit of talent to do something outside of the basic music 101 drum beat. You may want to add in some fills from time to time and maybe even consider playing something better than Chop Sticks during the solo portion of the song.
I must however give them credit for covering multiple genres of music in this album. You have everything from 60’s banjo music in As the Crow Flies to easy listening 80’s in Roxy. And Sea of Regret is actually a pleasant sounding country music surprise with the addition of the steel guitar. They sing songs about love and unforgettable women but then the album eventually drifts off into nothingness. That is until you come to ear piercing Karaoke Star; this song sounds like it was a B side from one of the Flight of the Conchords episodes. Again, that is not a compliment. The closer Wild Honey is probably the best song on the album although it gets a little too Hootie and the Blowfish with the lyrics. “I’d fall deep in the ocean just to find you”
Given the hype that these guys have around them in that area, I cannot believe that this is the best Nashville has to offer. There is absolutely no way that town is as cool as Austin. I say pass on this album and go pick up Scott Weiland’s first solo album instead.
If you are like me and have slowly gotten over Frightened Rabbit, with the thinking that they have pretty much peaked at this point and that they can’t possibly add anything new to the indie scene; then their Late March Death March EP will work as a good lure to draw you into their new album. Early on in their latest effort Pedestrian Verse, the drums along with the keys are dramatic and prominent while the guitars play more of a complimentary role. However they eventually return to the sound that you are used to hearing from them which is guitar heavy and has Scott Hutchison almost crying lyrics into the mic.
As a side note, I am not sure why men in indie bands are so fascinated with crying while singing. This only works if you are Prince and if you are singing Purple Rain. After seeing that movie and seeing how hot Appalonia was, how can you not cry along with him? Well thankfully Hutchison isn’t quite as whiny on this EP.
It starts off with the title track Late March, Death March and once again the drums are prominent. It’s a catchy song that you will find yourself tapping your foot too but it’s one of the weaker tracks on the album especially since it features whistling. Hutchison begins singing about how his cursing in church shocks everyone and how that also stops the joyous handclaps of the congregation; I guess that’s better than calling yourself a black skinhead right Kanye? Well thankfully after this you move on to the acoustic Architect which is a collaboration they did with Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra. It has decent guitars in it but musically it’s nothing special; the strong lyrics however to their best to save it.
I’m not normally down with alternate versions of rock songs however hip hop songs I’m ok with because typically it has a better beat and about 20 guest appearances by other rap artists. Rabbit’s alternate version of Late March sounds like it’s an 80’s cover. It’s like they went into the studio, popped the collar to their leather coats, threw on some face powder, and added in a little mascara before channeling their inner Simple Minds. The fact that they use electric drums and Hutchison’s voice isn’t as whiny as it is in the original, makes this version a little bit better than its predecessor. Now all its missing is a little Drake at the back end of it with P Diddy dancing in the video.’
The last two tracks are live versions of December’s Traditions and The Oil Slick. In December’s he sings about how depressing it is to lose the summer and the sun (obviously he doesn’t live in Texas) and wails “Ït’s not the answer treating cancer like a cold, what do you need from me” The ending is quite dramatic as well as it comes to an operatic climax both vocally and musically. Oil Slick is an odd track that tries to be a bit dancey at times but thankfully returns to a normal sounding Rabbit song by it’s end. I think the live tracks properly capture the energy of their shows and lets you hear that they are clearly not just a studio band. Give this EP a listen and I am fairly certain that you will be back on board with Frightened Rabbit and with what they have to offer.
Whenever I hear stories of how James Murphy didn’t really take off with LCD Soundsystem until he was 32 years old or how Quentin Stoltzfus was about to be sued by a wedding band for using their name before he returned 6 years later and made music with a few members of The Walkmen; it gives me hope that this old man can still make something out of himself. Maybe all I need to do is move to New York and grow an old man beard while drinking PBR with the local hipsters. Don’t laugh, it could work out and I’d become the new Samuel Jackson! But if I am being honest with myself I’ll more than likely end up like his character in Coming to America where he gets beat up by African students while trying to rob a McDowells. “Don’t stall me fat boy! All of it!’
Well once Stoltzfus returned to the scene he formed the band Light Heat and continued to make reincarnated 60’s music but with a modern day indie feel to it. Their sound is not like the latest trend of 60’s lo-fi that we here in Best Coast, The Soft Pack, or even The Raveonettes; who all make good songs themselves by putting a different spin on that era’s sound. But Light Heat with their mix of guitars, organs, drums, and pianos create a sound that is a true throwback and acts as a tribute to that era.
Stoltzfus comes in with his high pitched voice after a driving instrumental opener in Dance the Cosmo Light, sounding a lot like the Beatles when they were young. Right away this sets the tone for what is to come throughout this long awaited album. He soon follows it up with the dreamy Are We Ever Satisfied which has the sound that Scott Weiland so desperately attempted to reach on his first solo effort. The problem Scott ran into is that he took the 60’s too much to heart; you can’t be completely wasted on heroin when recording and performing Scotty. You’re only allowed to choose one. Then on Satisfied, Stoltzfus lets the drums and organs dominate while he allows his voice to act like an additional instrument to enhance the song. And as you’re listening to it, you can’t help but feel like this is the perfect song to take a drive down the coast to.
Once Elevation starts up you realize that this is a record hipsters will jump all over! It’s retro enough to sound authentic and the band itself is still a relative unknown; so they can claim them and still seem cool to their friends while talking about them at the local dive bars. Despite the fact that I may be considered a hipster for liking them, I love their song Lies as it is the most challenging piece on the album. They throw in every instrument you can imagine on this track and it comes complete with what sounds like photon noises in the background. And with the amount of percussion that’s on this album, I can see why The Walkmen are fans.
By the time The Mirror comes on you realize that from an experience standpoint these guys remind you of NYC’s The Cavemen. This is small venue music; it’s too mellow to try and see at a festival unless that festival is headlined by Willie Nelson himself. And if that’s the case, everyone will be moving in slow motion.
In spite of that, I like this trip down memory lane and suggest that you check it out.
If you have ever seen the movie PCU with Jeremy Piven then you know how hard it is to pick a band name that will attract people to you without them coming in with any preconceived notions of what you are all about. They went through names like Oedipus and the Momma’s Boys (too college radio) and My Johnson is 12 Inches Long before deciding to go with the charming Everyone Gets Laid. I would definitely go see a band with one of these clever names . However when someone feels the need to choose haikus for their band name like And You Shall Know Us By The Trail of the Dead or today’s subject The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No longer Afraid To Die; it makes me sigh in disgust. My friend pointed out to me that with a name that miserable, they clearly must be Morrissey fans. And when you think about it that’s actually really funny but I am a huge Thom Yorke fan and I would never name my band This is What You Get When You Mess With Us. Actually, when I type it out; it sounds pretty fresh! We’d clearly be a punk band and our first album’s name would be The Orphans (that’s a Warriors reference for all of you youngsters out there).
The World is an 8 piece band from Willimantic, Connecticut and they have been around since 2009. If you have never heard them before, the first thing you notice is the lead singer’s voice; it literally sounds like he’s crying when he’s singing. And every time he even thinks about sounding like a normal person, it’s as if someone is torturing him by repeatedly hitting him in the balls like they did to poor James Bond in Casino Royale. Every now and then someone comes in and starts screaming in the background to presumably add a little edge but even that falls flat. I do give them credit for trying to be a bit different from the typical indie emo band but maybe being typical should’ve been their goal in the first place, as musically they sound just fine. They bring a healthy balance of distortion and the standard atmospheric guitars you would expect to hear in this type of music. And if you have ever heard the Scottish band There Will Be Fireworks, The World sounds similar to them both musically and in their vocals however the lead here is distractingly bad.
There are actually 4 members of the band who contribute vocally and you hear this on the album’s second track Heartbreak in the Brain. When the distortion in this song kicks in it blends in well with their vocals but the second it becomes harmonic, you are left shrieking in horro. With 8 members of the band there are plenty of instruments to go around including piano and the useless horn that you hear in the next track Fightboat; which is one of the album’s highlights.
Their lyrics are as emo as they come and this is readily apparent in The Layers of Skin We Drag Around when they sing about not being young anymore and trying to learn patience when it comes to dealing with the modern world. They romanticize the days of yesteryear in which we are not that far removed from and have song titles like Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay. Halfway through the album you want to simply give up and share these tracks with your 8 year old nephew but then you hear Ultimate Steve and it makes you wish that they would either become an all instrumental band or just replace their lead singer. It’s not as if they are reinventing the wheel musically but they are at least talented enough to hit the festival circuit.
I will say the production and the mixing of the album is excellent however that can only hide so many flaws and that ultimately makes this an album to pass on. So in the end, I would only suggest pumping this album up to the little annoying cousin of yours who you wouldn’t mind getting beat up at school. I’m kidding; please please don’t do that!
When you have a name like Jack Beauregard you may want to consider changing it to something that is a bit easier to spell so that the slow kid in the class like me can actually find your music. I can’t tell you how many times I Googled their name and Jack Bauer came up instead. There I was looking at Kiefer Sutherland beating up random scrubs instead of actually listening to Beauregard’s new album Irrational. They could go the route of Jon B and change it to Jack B. Or just follow in the footsteps of Ice Cube who dumped his name O’Shea Jackson completely so that he wouldn’t have to wear a dashiki every time he took the stage. And who knows maybe they are headed that way; when you look at the cover of Irrational there are men who are wearing what appear to be yellow jumpsuits. This immediately reminded me of Dignan from the movie Bottle Rocket and to be honest with you I would rather check out a new album by Dignan over that of some band name that I can’t even pronounce.
Well once I finally heard their latest effort, the one thing that stood out to me was that vocally the lead sounds like a weird mix of M83 and Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses while musically they sound a bit like Twin Shadow. This is when they are at their best; when they don’t quite reach this point they sound more like a prepubescent Paul Simon trying to adjust to his voice cracking for the first time. This is heard clearly midway through the album on It’s Going Down, which sadly isn’t a remix to Jay Z’s I Just Wanna Love You. “It’s about to go down!”
There really isn’t anything challenging from a lyrical perspective and that mixes in just fine with the light keys and the beat machines that are used for background noise. As a matter of fact, the pop duo’s Not That Kind would’ve been the perfect fit for Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild things Are. It just seems like it would be an awesome opener for that movie as Max runs around in his outfit along with his new found friends. Where Is The Line is the quintessential 80’s song that somehow escaped that era. You feel like you should be rolling around in a Ferrari while crying and flashing back to when Drago killed your best friend Apollo Creed in the ring. This is easily the best song on the album and it might have you dancing around like a fool. The drums in Bleeding Knees help it stand out a bit as they bring the song to life and make it a bit more grandiose than it actually should be. And I love it for that, when it comes to pop, the more over the to pit is the better.
The rest of the songs run together and are pretty much interchangeable with the exception of Houston; which just like the city is a pretty awful low point. For All The Time is the album’s closer and it gives you some hope that they will one day grow a pair and do something that will allow them to stand out from the pack.
But in the meantime, all this is is pop music that your daughter will only listen to around other girls. So if you are a parent I would suggest that you strongly push this on her so that she doesn’t lose her virginity and gets pregnant while listening to Kings of Leon . Actually now that I think about it, guys will have sex to an ipod that only plays construction music if they have the opportunity to! Lock your daughters up until they are done with their home schooled college courses!
It’s rare today when a band can stay together for 20+ years and still be relevant in the music scene, especially when you are talking about that of an indie band. Typically they make two or three albums and either flame out or get bored with making music and go back to waiting tables at coffee shops so they can hold on to their artistic integrity. But Canada’s indie darlings By Divine Right have been going strong since 1989 and have survived having 1500 different members cycle through the band since its inception. And that’s one thing I’ve noticed about Canadian bands, with the exception of the Japandroids, they either have 20 people playing on stage with them or they have 20 different musicians roll through their band within a year’s time frame. I think they all went to one too many Parliament Funkadelic shows in college and figured that that’s how its typically done!
Well once Jose Miguel Contreras finally stopped getting sidetracked, he buckled down and went in the studio to record their first album in 4 years and the result was the up and down Organized Accidents. The one thing that sticks out on this effort is that the best and most consistent instrument in each song is the bass. You hear that immediately in the opening track Past the Stars when it kicks off with its funky bass line. The second you start dancing it leads you to believe that you’re in for a great album. And their second song Mutant Message allows you to see what’s kept them around for so long; it’s Accidents’ catchiest and most memorable track. But along comes the light and happy Little You, which sounds like a song The Cardigans (Lovefool) would sing when they’re not playing their typical dark metal riffs. Aah, being cute and Swedish can take you far can’t it? But too bad for Divine Right that they are neither cute or Swedish. And so the album goes, pulling you in different directions until it reaches it’s schizophrenic climax in Zoomies; with it’s dark and heavy piano. This is easily one of the best tracks on Accidents.
It’s strange but as I was listening to this album, I felt like I was stuck in the 90’s wearing an over sized flannel shirt while checking out the downer opening band for Helmet in a warehouse venue. I kept waiting for Brandon Lee to jump through a window with his face painted and hearing someone scream “That’s not Skank right there! Skank’s Dead!” “That’s right!” And yes, I just dropped a Crow reference.
In the end the album is mixed well and each song flows right into the next, it’s just that nothing really stands out on it. Contreras mixes up the instruments on each track, which is impressive, however no one in the band appears to be exceptional at playing any of them. There is never that “Oh wow! That sounds amazing” moment. They do however come close in Tremolodians and Mountain’s Friend but that’s just it, they only come close. And sadly that is why this album will be forgotten the second hockey season starts up again in Canada. I’m off to go learn my French so I can pick up ladies in Montreal.
When Vampire Weekend released Contra, I officially wrote them off as the typical indie band who shot to stardom solely based off of the aid of Sirius radio. And as a result they reaped the benefits of being able to procure loose groupies and free booze while touring the festival circuit but then had no clue on how to follow up their successful self -titled debut album. This left them with what seemed like their only option and that was to try and recreate the sound that got them there in the first place. They wrote music that most of us can’t identify with; songs about walking around a rich college campus, being forced to leave Cape Cod, and consuming drinks that most of us have never even heard of. Meanwhile at their shows, rich kids with their boating shoes and linen shorts would dance off beat while high fiving one other, while the rest of us just sat there with our arms folded wondering why we paid to help get these well to do hipsters laid with our hard earned money. The only hope we had for any action came in the form of Consuela the taco stand girl who was working outside of the venue.
So as I was preparing myself for more of the same from their third effort Modern Vampires in the City, I was pleasantly surprised when the opener Obvious Bicycle started up. But just as the Wolf from Pulp Fiction taught me, I didn’t get too excited too soon; I decided to let it play out for a few tracks and then realized that my wish for these guys had come true. They have finally grown in both their song writing approach and in their lyrics. Gone for the most part are the fruity and happy guitars; instead they have been replaced with all keyboards and drums. Ezra Koenig decides to bring introspective and passionate lyrics to this album by writing songs about love, his belief or lack thereof in a higher power, how that will affect his place in an afterlife, and how life in general is tough in a cold cold world. Now that’s something we can identify with! “Life IS pain your highness!”
There will be period of adjustment for the fans of their older work but don’t fret as this album is still full of songs that you can sing along to. There’s the chorus in Obvious Bicycle where Ezra bellows over and over “So Listen Oh Don’t Wait” or the hook in the 50’s sounding song Diane Young that shows that Vampire still knows how to make you dance whenever the darn well please. Don’t Lie might be the best groove on the album with the driving beat of the drums and the emotive lyrics that accompany it. And the haunting keys at the end of Hudson remind you of Miles Davis’s Oh Doctor Jesus and the feelings you get when that song graces your ears. Who would’ve ever thought I’d make such a ridiculous comparison? But it’s true!
In the end, this change of style will do for Vampire Weekend what Ok Computer did for Radiohead, or it will turn the public against them like the removal of makeup and distortion did to Kiss. Gene Simmons needs as much make up and noise as humanely possible to distract you from that face!