Kid Cadaver – Kid Cadaver album review

Kid Cadaver are a three piece from Los Angeles. They have been active for the last couple of years, and this is their second release.

I am personally not a fan of the bands name, to the point where I had to force myself to listen to the songs contained in the download link. While the name might make one think that this is going to be some kind of campy horror-punk band, the band is actually some kind of danceable electro-rock music, at least in my opinion. Right out the gate, ‘Let Your Youth Show’ bursts out with a stadium-sized helping of singeableness. This song probably kills in a live setting.

These guys excel at writing melodic hooks and singable choruses that grab your attention and make you want to sing along. There is an almost wistful melancholy at work; check out the backing chorus on ‘Stable’. To see how they are able to reinvent a technique, notice how the background chorus makes a reappearance in the next track, ‘Hesitating’. Same technique, but the emotional impact is very different. ‘Hesitating’ also features some of their most catchy melodic phrasing.

If you’re looking for musical brutality and heaviness, you will not like these guys, but if you’re looking for solidly written material that is danceable and fun while being musical and intelligently constructed, definitely give these guys a whirl. This album could be the soundtrack for a really happening party, a testament to the beauty of youth.

The Get Togethers – Home As In Houston album review

Great music can help us through some truly trying times. Even in some of our bleakest moments, having such a pure emotional outlet to hold onto can act as a sort of beacon, illuminating a strength in ourselves we never knew existed. This acts inversely as well. As musicians create, they pull from within themselves to overcome immense existential trials.

Such is the case for Nashville, Tennessee-based The Get Togethers’ debut record, Home As In Houston. Released on September 24th, the group marries indie rock and pop with a finely tuned ear. On top of tight musicianship and infectious melodies, Bethany Gray Frazier’s tumult of an adolescence is the basis of the entire LP.

The listener is taken back to the year 2007. Then seventeen, Bethany Gray becomes romantically involved with one of her teachers. The police investigations and court hearings that would follow alienated her from her peers, an almost impossibly real turn of events that led to a devastating high-speed car collision, marking the end of this chapter of her life. Each track on Home As In Houston is named for one month of the year, describing the events that transpired in each month. Acting almost as a diary, the album trudges through heartbreak, loss and desolation, narrated by Gray Frazier herself. The lyrics are dense, with an overwhelming capacity for lovelorn catharsis, but are delivered plainly. It is devastatingly easy to feel exactly what she feels, becoming involved in the story.

Even aside from the loose narrative and obvious thematic elements, Home As In Houston stands strong musically. The standard rock outfit matches the tone of the lyrics almost effortlessly, with practically unforgettable hooks and driving choruses, both complimenting Bethany Gray Frazier’s vocal work and carving out its own path just beneath her dreamy croon.

With the release of the Home As In Houston LP now under their belts, The Get Togethers are planning a full US tour for the fall of 2013. The single, “June,” can be streamed on the band’s SoundCloud page while the record hits digital and select brick-and-mortar stores. The Get Togethers have truly set a high bar for themselves and their brand of indie pop.

Crystal Shipsss – Dirty Dancer album review

Berlin based musical mastermind Jacob Faurholt is back with his newest creation under the moniker of Crystal Shipsss. This is a fairly lengthy affair, spanning 13 tracks in length, and will be available September 23rd.

Crystal Shipsss seems to revel in schizophrenic isolation. The displaced quality of the vocal track in the overall mix would seem to bear testament to this fact. There are times when the vocals are swimming in a sea of aural chaos; lyrics such as the oft-repeated ‘I’m not crazy’ further reinforce this understanding. As with all other instances, the insistence on the sanity of the protagonist would appear to underpin the notion that sanity is in fact not within his grasp.

Musically, the aural aesthetic is an extension of the last album. There is a lot of reverb and distortion, but whereas a metal band would use the distortion and reverb to elicit a type of bludgeoning force, the use of distortion is much closer to the concept embedded in the name, while the reverb supports that sense of dislocation and questionable mental fitness.

The use of distortion as an effect results in a type of aural obscuratanism, a blurring of instrumentation and definition, something almost psychedelic and deconstructed. This might explain the overarching emphasis on sanity at different points, because this is in fact the musical rendition of a mind on lysergic, the soundtrack to a mind-blowing peak.

The thing that ties this bit of neo-psychedelia together is the sense of melody that was in evidence on the last album. In a very oblique way, the melodic element in Crystal Shippps’ music is similar to the melodic devices employed by Albert Ayler- simple, diatonic, catchy and singable, a perfect foil to the sheer trippiness of the rest of the proceedings.

Lorde – The Love Club EP review

Sixteen year-old New Zealand singer-songwriter has been making waves since the release of her first EP titled The Love Club. Her single “Royals” has been picked up by US independent and college radio stations and is gaining traction. Her voice sounds mature despite her young age and is cleverly recorded with complex, minimalist, yet forward-thinking beats. Lorde, born Ella Yelich-O’Connor, was actually signed to Universal at age 13 after an A&R scout saw video of her performing at a school talent show. Years later, she unveiled her talents to the world. Since blowing up the charts in New Zealand, Lorde released The Love Club EP in the US this June and saw it sell 85,000 copies in it’s first week.

Her songs are poppy and vocally driven, with innovative beats to rival the best in hip-hop. “Bravado” opens the collection with a sort of personal admission that she knew she was destined to be here someday. Our heroine sings: “I was raised up to be admired, to be known.” Layered vocals preclude the entrance of a dynamic beat. Lorde, who writes her own songs, sounds confident in her delivery. The nuances in the production make for a well-rounded and exciting listen.

“Royals” is far and away her strongest song on the EP. Witty lyrics describe an opposition to the materialistic boasting that is often found in pop-culture and popular music. She bounces through the pre-chorus, singing: “Everybody’s like: ‘Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on a time piece, jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash,’ we don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair… we’ll never be royals….” This type of perspective is perfect for a generation more in tune to the issues of the world. The generation who is growing up with iphones giving them a world of information at their finger-tips… subsequently creating a generation too knowledgable to be caught up in meaningless materialism, especially in the midsts of today’s world economy. The layered chorus almost literally soars, bringing the listener to new heights of appreciation. “Royals” is infectious and content driven; it is no surprise this song is such a hit.

More impressive production is displayed on “Million Dollar Bills” and “The Love Club” which feature beats created out of Lorde’s own vocal samples. This innovation gives Lorde a unique sound. “Million Dollar Bills” has the energy of a club song mixed with the lo-fi keys one might find in a Foster the People tune. These tow songs sound more typical for a high school artist: cheeky and energetic. The closing track, “Biting Down,” has more of an experimental, “out-there” vibe, with Lorde unexplainably repeating “it feels better biting down” over a pulsing beat. 

Lorde has released a few singles since the release of this EP, namely “Tennis Court” and “Swinging Party.” She has plans to release her first full length album in September 2013, which will be titled Pure Heroine. With The Love Club EP, Lorde has successfully provided a teaser to build hype for a huge response on her first full length album. Stay tuned.

Dylan Ewen – Alt 2013 album review

Basement shows are sometimes a mixed bag. When you’re half-cocked, sweaty, rubbing against a few dozen doing the same, any grunge-y blast of noise coming at you can be just as entertaining as the last. Amidst this blur often comes a hotbed of new ideas where people get ballsier than they would had they been playing for a more broad audience above ground. This can be a powerful force, although some musicians can get too comfortable in that reassuring cul de sac. It pleases me, then, whenever I hear an artist who has the potential to break free of that which they may not want to break free from. They are the ones who stand out from the pack as the alpha dog, although they may come in the form of any archetype at all, including the depressed, the lonely, and the frustrated.

Dylan Ewen seems to be a man who is nothing short of honest. Take a look at his tumblr and you’ll find comics and drawings about insecurities most men would take in silence to their grave. Yet through his art, and especially his music, he turns these would be destructive forces into the driving power of his work. This is never more apparent then on Bufu Records Alt 2013

Alt 2013 is a four song statement articulate in its brevity. Initially we get a fuzzy summation of the existential dread and philosophical confusion that comes with the early 20’s. “Ego Trip” can be a song in which you identify in the frustration of feeling nihilistic in the face of the zealous and blindly faithful, or a reminiscence of a former life lived in chaos depending on your point of view.

Even though the lyrics can seem negative at times, the fuzzy surf rock nature of Dylan’s aesthetic makes it all fun and worthwhile even if you don’t agree with his ethos. In “You’re a bitch Part 2 (still a bitch)” Dylan makes an antagonistic declaration which could have come off in a totally different way if it didn’t sound like he was standing up for himself and the bitch in question didn’t actually sound like a total bitch.

Musician and artist types, as well as those who rejoice in social media, will likely find “I live in public” to be an anthem for them. Once again its possible to read the song multiple ways, as an attack or an admittance, in this case I would say both. To me its admission of being an attention whore, and loving it, and hating it. Where to place the blame? Was I born like this? Or did my idols and lovers twist me into this? All of this is put to music in a simply effective way.

Of all the underground kids who lived and died by the basement house show, Dylan Ewen has what it takes to break out, if he wants to that is. I would be overjoyed to see him headlining clubs and making a living out of his work. At the very least there are hundreds of basements around the US and abroad who would be honored to have the chance to get drunk and sweaty near him, even if they don’t know it yet.

Gogol Bordello – Pura Vida Conspiracy album review

The difference between disliking a band and respecting a band is an important one. If there is sufficient evidence that a certain group is a bunch of talentless hacks, than there’s nothing wrong with saying so. Being second-rate, by the way, has nothing to do with character and everything to do with artistry. Criticism need not be personal.  Over the last decade or so, Gogol Bordello has built up a reputation as an eccentric group of gypsy punks who are very talented at the stirring the pop cultural pot. Their name comes from the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, who introduced Ukrainian culture to Russian culture. The band’s goal of bringing popular music from Eastern Europe to the English-speaking world has succeeded fairly well, and this is why, as mentioned earlier, it is easier to respect Gogol Bordello than to like their music.

Pura Vida Conspiracy has all of the pomp, spontaneity and sense of humor that is to be expected from the band at this point. Frontman Eugene Hütz gargles and stammers through the album with furious apathy. His idiosyncratic, yet consistent vocals matched with the accompanying rock band, accordions, and violins creates a homogenous feel to the tracks, and during some moments it feels gimmicky. Yet, Hütz is actually from Ukraine, and as a result, the synthesis sounds authentic. Thus, Vampire Weekend syndrome, whereby rich white males appropriate world music in a quixotic attempt to appear cosmopolitan (put on some yacht rock, dude), is, thankfully, avoided.  The band sounds best when they change paces on tracks like “I Just Realized,” or the sweeping finale “We Shall Sail.”

Blurring pop genres is a very difficult thing to do, and it is often said that the best artists accomplish this mighty task. Though I have not seen Gogol live, I’ve heard that they’re great performers. This may explain my relative disinterest with their recordings. Despite what School of Rock may have wanted us to believe, a great rock n’ roll show does not change the world, but it may prompt you to be more enthused about a band and, in turn, appreciate their recordings more than you would have. Pura Vida Conspiracy sounds consistent with the rest of their discography, and diehard fans will be pleased.

Demon Queen – Exorcise Tape album review

The LA electronic beat maker Tobacco has teamed up with Zackey Force Funk to make the tight outlandish sounds of Demon Queen. For anyone not familiar with Tobacco’s previous work, the creative sounds he laces into neo-industrial beat driven tracks seem to pull you in multiple directions at the same time, which can be a mind warping experience. Meanwhile, and unlike really any other rapper, Zackey Force Funk relies on his ability to croon, opting for a falsetto and soft-spoken delivery where other rappers typically boast with bravado. Tobacco is known for his work with Black Moth Super Rainbow, and a sort of obsession with analog electronic insturments, such as the vocoder and the Rhodes keyboard. He has also had a productive career as a solo act, releasing two full length albums and three EP’s in less than four years. With both his solo efforts and Demon Queen, he has notably taken a more experimental and slightly more adventurous approach to his music.

Dropping Demon Queen into your player starts off as a bold move on its own. At the first notion of effected vocals which lead us into the galactically heavy, 80’s style synthesizers of “Lamborghini Meltdown,” the adventure is already well underway. The sound is so fresh and futuristic, and crafted with such precision, it becomes infectious. Tobacco’s backing vocals in “Vodka” sounds like robotic, a theme in his solo work as well. Deep sub-synth bass ripple along the low end and Zackey Force Funk’s high pitched croons echo’s bounce along the track. Chuck Steak’s slow rapping guest spot on this track brings a nice new flavor to the mix.

The demonic party continues with hot and ominous bangers like “El Camino 2” and “Swoll Tongue.” The latter of the two featuring an onslaught of high end electronic madness. The breakdown regresses to vocals, keys and an obviously audible click track. Tobacco’s seems to be toying with the ideas, and the winning ones stick, a boldly creative approach not nearly prevalent enough in today’s music. The composition on “Swoll” proves to be very well rounded, with the melodic chorus likened to a valley between the synthetic mountains.

N8 No Face boasts “ten thousand push up’s before my breakfast-es” on the opening the “Demon Practice.” This two minute blast is in your face with no apologies. Playing the Demon Queen hype man, N8 No Face proves to pump up the distorted demonic beats to their fullest potential. “Love Hour Zero” is an excellent break from the madness. A ballad, really, the tune shows the versatility of the group. Effected acoustic guitar twangs over the pumping “80’s exercise tape” beat. The lead is reminiscent of a classic TV show introduction, in the best way possible.

The album’s first “single” is “Rude Boy,” a dynamic story about a dude shooting his gun off in the middle of a ripping party. Interlacing creative sounds own this beat, with an echoing lead creating waves over multiple effected keyboard riffs. N8 No Face comes in to explain the details with clarity. “Bad Route” has no guest spot which means Zackey Force Funk and Tobacco take turns telling the story; Zackey with light and extremely tasteful crooning, and Tobacco with his robot voice , use of samples, and tight, infectious synth leads. “Despise the Lie” is an awesome blast to wrap up the album, rounding out the cast of characters with an excellent guest spot from Isaiah Toothtaker. The song starts with his aggressive line “get these suckers the fuck up off of me.” This tune proves there are no weak tracks in this collection.

Quite possibly the most interesting album released this year, Demon Queen should certainly raise some brows with Exorcise Tape, in addition to confusion amongst innocent bystanders and, ultimately, the energy of the dance floor at the trendiest of underground clubs in LA, New York and elsewhere. Those bold enough to throw this demonic album in their players will be exposed to something completely new and totally wild. The use of guest spots was wise and absolutely enhances the final product. Mastermind Tobacco and compadre Zackey Force Funk should be commended for seeing this project through and approaching it with such open creativity, for what came out of it is devilishly good.

The Memories – Love is the Law album review

The Memories are a sun-soaked, dreamy power pop band based out of Portland, Oregon, sharing members with the punk outfit White Fang. Their most recent release (on Burger Records, a label with an impressive repertoire, to say the least) Love is the Law features seventeen songs to the tune of short and sweet. Simplicity, then, is the key stylistic element. The bare-bones guitar riffs supplement lyrics that stick to talking about girls and weed. Sound easy to get into? Transparent, almost? That’s absolutely right.

Simplicity should never be interpreted as a flaw. Some of the most beautiful songs ever written have been created on the foundation of just four chords (and sometimes even less). What The Memories have going on Love is the Law is a prime example of what critics and music dorks alike refer affectionately to as “slacker pop.” Not to be confused with actually lazy songwriting (and make no mistake, the lines can often blur), the songs are crafted in such a way that would inspire visions of the band members sitting together in a cramped apartment or practice space thick with pot smoke, banging out these songs in rapid succession. The lyrical content seems to be hastily concocted, scribbled on crumpled scraps of paper salvaged from old notebooks and the backs of fast food receipts. With this comes a certain charm that many bands try to emulate, but few are successful in.

Standout tracks on the album include “En Espanol,” “You Need a Big Man,” and “Go Down On You.” With the song titles as straightforward as they are, the feeling of the album is easy to pin down. “You Need A Big Man” is entirely absurd, which makes it a great (albeit questionable) addition to the album. The lyrics are lewd, childish, and terribly tongue in cheek, with a hummed vocal part in lieu of a guitar solo. In a strange way, it sort of embodies Love is the Law. It’s respectable pop without taking things too seriously. This is a fun listen above all else, and easy to immerse oneself in. The attention to sound and atmosphere, appearing in short bursts yet leaving an impression on the album as a whole, make the record that much more substantial.

The overall impression to be drawn from Love is the Law is face-value: what you see is what you get. It seems like common sense, or even lackluster to a certain degree. There is no package here, nothing to be sought after or understood. No big picture, no pretense, just a collection of summery, jangling pop songs. And sometimes that’s all you need.

Tobacco – Exorcise Tape album review

The heading for this current review is misleading. Yeah, Tobacco is involved in this record, but an entity who goes by the name of ‘Zackey Force Funk’ is involved as well. The end result appears to be called Demon Queen. There are actually a number of guest musicians on this one, but Tobacco and Zackey are the primary dudes on this recording.

Not being all that intimately acquainted with Tobacco’s back catalogue, I dutifully cued up Spotify and took a trip through the weird, theoretically uninformed world of Tom Fec. It was definitely worth the journey, mostly because of the way it informed my understanding of how this new album/sonic mutation sits in relation.

Right off the bat, this recording is dirty, and I’m not talking about production. This is some straight up stripper music; sexual references drop like crazy, and I don’t honestly remember the last time I heard that many references to female genitalia, especially on the aptly named Puni Nani.

The music itself is some kind of electro-disco, with falsetto vocals that are swathed in a kind of detached cool, delivered over a highly electronic musical arrangement. Fec’s innate musicality shows through, as the ideas are nothing short of brilliant. The music teacher in me wonders what might happen if he got over his prejudice and embraced the science of tonal arrangement; the fact that that will probably never happen is fine, because it ultimately doesn’t matter. The upshot is that this album is a very ‘not for children’ sex romp replete with great musical ideas in the writing. It’s a highly worthwhile, and highly naughty, listen. Let it rock you.

Coke Weed – Back to Soft album review

While much less twangy than their earlier albums, Maine-based group Coke Weed’s third album Back to Soft maintains the band’s dreamy, psychedelic sound. With the haunting vocals of lead singer Nina Donghia and the resonating guitar that reminds me a little of San Francisco band Thee Oh Sees, Coke Weed’s new album is equal parts trippy and relaxing. Although the steady drum backbeat featured in many of their tracks paired with Donghia’s purr creates the illusion of laid back songs, upon closer inspection, Coke Weed’s lyrics can be pretty intense. Already reaching Internet popularity, the spacey, beachy track “Anklet” starts out with Donghia lazily drawling, “Captivator/You are settling in/I am fixated.” Yikes.

Fans of Coke Weed’s earlier albums, Volume One and Nice Dreams, may be disappointed by the lack of the country-western vibe that was so present in both of the albums preceding Back to Soft. If one listened to “Frizz” off of Volume One and then “Anklet,” they might think the songs were by two entirely different bands if it weren’t for Donghia’s distinguishable drawl. Although I personally prefer the floaty, more heavy on the drums sound of Back to Soft to the band’s previous albums, people who have followed Coke Weed since they formed in 2010 may feel just that–like they’re listening to an entirely different band.

Upon sitting down to write this review, I wrote out several phrases that could describe Coke Weed’s sound. Right after I finished jotting down the non-word “garage-band-y,” I stumbled across an article which informed me that Coke Weed recorded their second and, as previously stated, much more country-infused album Nice Dreams in a barn in only an hour and a half, and that they recorded it live, meaning that any accidental slip-ups in the recording process became part of the album. A band that has the confidence and easy-going attitude to do that is pretty cool indeed in my book. Cross out “garage-band-y” and put “barn band.”

So, if a dreamy, psychedelic, trippy, relaxing barn-band-y musical group with haunting, purring vocals and spacey tracks with intense lyrics sound interesting to you, make sure the next album you illegally download (or honorably purchase on iTunes) is Back to Soft.