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.

Eisley – Currents album review

There seems to be quite a bit more buzz surrounding Eisley than I had initially realized there was for this folk-influenced pop rock outfit from Tyler, Texas.

With their latest Currents being my first listening experience, I was surprised at the apparent microcosm I was being thrust into, even upon my first listen. Eisley seem to have a knack (even without knowledge of the rest of their body of work) for creating a dense atmosphere, remaining present throughout the whole of the record. Perhaps “orchestral” does not accurately describe Currents’ sound, being created principally by typical rock instruments, but the movements and feelings throughout vaguely resemble something along those lines. Sherri DuPree’s vocal work adds an important ingredient as well. Her voice almost inexplicably contributes to the record’s sonic presence, yet remains distinguished and melodic, soaring above the rattle and hum of the instrumentation. Even further, the presence of atmosphere does an excellent job in tying this album together. There never seems to be a lull in energy and emotion, something I now consider to be one of the defining aspects of Currents.

In the midst of all the atmosphere and continuity, Eisley truly has an ear for the hook. Their loosely folk-based sentiment married with indie pop (as broad of a tag as that may be) serves as an excellent representation of a trending sound. It is hard not to hear traces of Arcade Fire, Florence + The Machine, or a host of other groups that share a similar sound. Bands of this caliber seem to have successfully calculated a balance between quality musicianship and accessible, radio-friendly music.

That being said, it seems that while the group paid close attention to the detail and composition of the record, it seems to have fall short in the diversity department. While the album remains loosely thematic and has a distinguished flow and consistency of motion, Eisley does not stray far outside their realm of comfort. This can be interpreted in two general ways: the first being that Eisley have found their sound and are sticking to it, which is commendable in and of itself. Consistency is important, and a band with too varied a range can often seem amateurish or indecisive. On the other hand, though, it does not seem far-fetched to say that Eisley can be easily categorized as a band. While they stand established, the comparison to other groups (as mentioned above) is a simple one. This is in no way meant to be a negative commentary on their music, but instead a praise. They are successful in the actualization of their sound, but at the same time, not much of what they’re doing is groundbreaking or entirely original.

Currents, as a whole, is a well-crafted pop record. Their influences shine through clearly, with a decidedly “Eisley” spin present throughout. It stands as a cohesive, strong-standing representation of Eisley as a band and of those that fit into the genre. While not entirely groundbreaking or fresh, it was catchy and emotionally charged throughout.

Still Corners – Strange Pleasures album review

The London-based duo, Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray, better known as Still Corners released their sophomore album Strange Pleasures last month. The album ambles to a start with an introspective number appropriately titled “The Trip.” Where it takes you depends on who’s listening—for me—it was through middle America: cracked desert highways, vacant diners, shanty mobile homes decked with naked dolls missing eye balls and limbs… the whole gambit. Eventually the guitar solo transported me to a time when I fixated over the pentatonic scale in my parents’ basement, but the mellifluous vocals of Tessa Murray brought me back to where I started… the middle of nowhere, and in this case it wasn’t such a bad place to be.

As the architect of Strange Pleasures, Hughes has an uncanny knack for blurring lines between lush ethereal instrumentation and synthetic rhythms. The track titled “Fireflies” is a testament to this notion. There’s something retro about the reoccurring synth motif that silhouettes Murray’s weightless vocals, yet the transient groove undulates in and out with artful precision; producing a shimmering sound that only Hughes could have procured by following his own musical instincts, and what better place to find inspiration. With sounds that suggest inspirations suffused in the 80’s, Strange Pleasures is evidence that Hughes has been honing and refining those sounds ever since. Soaked in translucent nostalgia, the album drips with euphonic colors reminiscent of bands such as The Cure, Cocteau Twins, and The Passions, though refracted through Hughes’ own growing musical and personal experiences. This equates to a record veiled in cosmic darkness with some surprising tracks leaning less on ‘dream’ and more heavily on ‘pop’ indiscriminately peppered in; track #7 is one that comes to mind.

Vocal glissandos whimsically accompany the hypnotic swing of “Future Age,” a song that packs enough punch to jolt you out of whatever dreamy state the proceeding tracks lulled you into. While the rest of the record oozes with atmospheric residue, this upbeat anthem keeps your toes tapping and your feet anchored to the ground. Once you arrive on the final track you should be rightfully subdued into a subtle numbness. The title track “Strange Pleasures” is as much of a culmination as it is an encapsulation of the album as a whole. It succinctly embodies the essential aesthetic features of tracks one through eleven and does so effortlessly: Synth driven harmonies, perpetual instrumental lines that drift alongside Murray’s meandering vocals, and pensive lyrics propped by the musical canvas by which they float.

Everything adds up to a collection of contrasting songs each with characteristic elements distinguishing them from one another, yet the haunting soundscape and electronica dream theme cohesively binds the tracks together splendidly. Strange Pleasures is a wonderfully crafted addition to the Indie-dream pop subgenre, and although it’s quite a departure from their massively cathartic debut Creatures of an Hour, it’s invariably the next step in Still Corners’ stylistic development and growing success.

Yellow Ostrich – Ghost EP review

Yellow Ostrich may have released a full-length album earlier this year, but that hasn’t stopped their creative juices from concocting yet another, more aurally uniform piece via their moody and appropriately dubbed Ghost EP.

If the name Alex Schaaf rings a bell, it’s because he also figures as lead singer for Wisconsin-based band The Chairs (not to be confused with the British band). Yellow Ostrich started off as Schaaf’s solo project in 2009. The following year, Schaaf relocated to Brooklyn and added drummer Michael Tapper to the lineup, with bassist Jon Natchez joining in 2011. In the few years they’ve been together, the trio has been nothing less than prolific, releasing 3 albums—Wild Comfort (2009), The Mistress (2011), and Strange Land (2012) as well as 3 EPs—The Serious Kids EP (2010), The Morgan Freeman EP (2010), and Fade Cave EP (2011). Their sound blends indie rock, indie pop and lo-fi influences.

Ghost—the band’s 4th EP—was released on October 22nd, 2012 on Barsuk Records. The tunes are mostly mellow, dreamy slow tracks that bring to mind acts like Radiohead and Grizzly Bear. “Ghost” starts off on a slow, cautious note before building up momentum to brutally honest lyrics while “Here Today” has an ambient-acoustic vibe that diffuses the theme of uncertainty.
“Chills” packs the EP’s strongest punch, with its intense acoustics and drumming whereas the intensely dreamy “Already Gone” may be the album’s most experimental track, with the sound evolving three times in the span of less than three minutes.

Overall, Ghost is a brief, mellow airy-acoustic experience. Compared to previous EPs, Ghost is not as vocally-focused (Fade Cave EP), and is neither Hip Hop-tinged (Morgan Freeman EP), nor dance-based (Serious Kids EP). By adding Ghost to the list, they show their experimental tendency to immerse themselves into a specific genre, making for varied EPs that are unique in style and range while remaining easy on the ears. Some may also check out a live rendition of the EP via their tour that kicked off on October 26th, 2012.

Satellite Stories – Phrases To Break The Ice album review

It’s time to put your party hat(s?!) on because Satellite Stories demand nothing less in their fun-filled album Phrases To Break The Ice.

Singer-guitarist Esa, guitarist Marko, bassist Jyri and drummer Oli-Pekka formed in October 2008 in Oulu, Finland. Even if by 2010 these Scandinavian satellites had only a 3-tracked promo EP to their name, their SoundCloud demo plays boasted remarkable numbers and led them to be the most blogged about Finnish band of that year. They’ve also graced international crowds with their party-based indie-pop sound through European and Japanese touring. In August 2012, the quartet also added to their list of achievements top ranking status amongst hypem.com’s most popular band list and the number one spot on We Are Hunted remix charts. The band has also had songs play in MTV’s Jersey Shore show.

Phrases To Break The Ice—released on September 21st, 2012 on XYZ Berlin Music—marks the band’s first full-length release. It encompasses all their previous single releases so that you may rest easy knowing you’re not missing a beat—literally. Their sound entails incredibly catchy, upbeat indie rock with a hint of electronic dance influence. Basically, you’ll be dancing and singing along and enjoying every minute of it. “Kids Aren’t Safe In The Metro” channels new experiences and hopeful love while “Helsinki Art Scene” addresses self-realization and defying conventional scenes to the sound of an infectious guitar riff. “Mexico” and “Costa Del Sol ‘94” reflect the fearless youth-driven longing for escape to exotic locations, contrasting “Mt. Foreverest”—a gentle, acoustic reflection on life that figures as the album’s only slow track.

With its youthful approach, catchy choruses and energetic beats, Phrases To Break The Ice does just that, and quite irresistibly so. The sense of nostalgia mixed with the invincibility of youth give the album a pleasantly familiar feel.

An escape to unadulterated bliss you’ll long to make on a repeated basis.

Sky Ferreira – Ghost EP review

While Sky Ferreira’s musical past was mostly dance-oriented, her latest Ghost EP delivers a set of somewhat different, yet highly appealing tunes to the delight of varied listeners.

Los Angeles-native Sky Ferreira was surrounded and influenced by music from a young age, what with having a hairstylist mother whose client was none other than Michael Jackson himself. By the time she turned 15, her significant MySpace following—thanks to her appealing demos—had led her to Swedish producers Bloodshy & Avant, which ultimately culminated in a record deal with Parlophone records in 2009. Soon after, she appeared in Uffie’s “Pop The Glock” video, starred in independent drama film “Putty Hill,” and was featured in both American and European magazines. She released her tracks “17,” “One,” and “Obsession” as singles, with “Obsession” featuring in the first soundtrack album to the popular Vampire Diaries TV series in 2011. The same year she also released her first EP titled As If!

Sky’s second EP Ghost was released on October 16th, 2012 on Capital Records, and entails collaborations with Cass McCombs, Jon Brion, Greg Kurstin, Ariel Rechtshaid, and Dev Hynes. Prior to the EP’s drop date, the single and video for “Red Lips” were released in July 2012 and the ’80s dance-inspired video to “Everything Is Embarrassing” was released on October 1st, 2012.

While Sky’s first EP was mostly dance-pop oriented, Ghost is distinctly darker and grungier. And who better to bring out one’s rough edges than Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson—co-writer of the rockin’, in-your-face “Red Lips”—with a provocative video to boot. Unlike her previous EP, the dancey “Lost In My Bedroom” stands out as the only electropop track of the bunch. Just as aurally touching are the lovely acoustic tracks “Sad Dream” and “Ghost,” in which the melancholy permeates, setting the stage for Sky’s beautiful voice to shine through.

The Ghost EP is highly fulfilling in its entertaining ability and aural diversity. The tracks channel different moods and musical genres and there’s a distinct sense that we’re seeing the more mature, less teenybopper-ish side of Sky Ferreira. If the Ghost EP is anything to go by, it’s likely that her full-length album I’m Not Alright—whenever it does drop—will both please long-time fans and generate new ones.

The xx – Coexist album review

Three years after their hit debut album, The xx’s latest release renews your opportunity to plunge into your realm of deep, dark, and mixed emotions.

Hailing from the U.K, band members Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim met as students at London’s Elliott School and began performing in 2005. The following year, they added member Jamie Smith to the group. Their self-produced debut album xx, released in 2009, met with high acclaim, ranking amongst the top 10 on Rolling Stone and NME’s “best of the year” lists. After extensive touring, TV shows and media airings, the album went on to earn the Barclaycard Mercury Prize in 2010 and was soon certified platinum. Drawing from a variety of influences such as pop, post-punk, R&B and EDM, theirs is an intensely morose, airy sound through which to channel your own painfully delightful heartbreak.

The xx’s second album Coexist was released on September 11th 2012 by Young Turks, with a deluxe vinyl LP release date of September 25th 2012. The dreamy, acoustic “Angels” and the ambient-entrancing “Chained” were released as the album’s first two singles. “Fiction” is a keenly moving ode to longing while “Reunion”‘s dreamy steel drums and subsequent EDM vibe renders it a multi-layered experience. “Swept Away”—with its dance-tinged beat—provides the album’s most upbeat moment.

Overall the album is a distinct chill-out, lounge-appropriate compilation of darkly intense tunes. Its themes of love and heartbreak makes it a highly relatable and influential piece, luring you into a world of nostalgia in mere seconds. If it must be compared to the previous album, Coexist channels a more uniform sound as well as more EDM influences than its predecessor. Part of its appeal might be in having a different impression during the first few listens, almost as if paralleling the complex nature of emotions.

Out of sight, out of mind, it doesn’t mean you’re not mine, croons Romy in “Unfold.”
Just the excuse I need to relish in my sporadic possessive-obsessive tendencies.

Deep Time – Deep Time album review

I just awoke from my post-Osheaga hangover – a week and a half after the festival had ended. I admit, that’s a terribly sad feat for a reasonably fit guy like myself. Regardless, it’s nice to get back into the grind and listen to some new music. Deep Time’s Self-Titled album, which means it’s called Deep Time, you delinquent, looked kinda promising for a pop duo from Austin.

Nine tracks deep and simplistic, Deep Time is rather average upon first glance. It’s still average upon a second glance. Deep Time suffers from what I like to call “Same Old Indie Pop” disease, which cripples albums with mediocrity in its melodies, arrangements, and riffs. Its saving grace is Moore’s voice, which is quite unique for the genre, as it never decides to enter the higher register. She’s got this sultry sound that enhances tracks quite a bit. But her backing? It’s rather lame. Look no further than “Sgt. Sierra” to see a prime example of a song that lollygags from beginning to end. “Coleman” is no better, with a clanging and repetitive key arrangement that I could’ve put together (and I’ve never had piano lessons).

As I said, Moore’s voice saves a few tracks, namely “Gilligan.” She reminds me of Florence Welch without the high notes in this tune, cooing out “Is it too late, too late, too late?” during the chorus. Admittedly, the backing is a lot more varied and creative here – so kudos for that. Actually, for once I prefer the second half of the album over the first half. The first half comes off as bland, while the second half shines in comparison. Even the closing track, “Horse” really mixes things up in an intriguing way, having Moore sing in an almost folky way.

But then I go back and listen to “Clouds,” and I realize that regardless of its pleasant second half, Deep Time is truly mediocre overall. Believe me, I don’t get any joy in saying such things. I like simplicity, but when you only have two band members to rely on, and you’re putting out an album in an over-saturated market where synths reign supreme (see Passion Pit’s Gossamer) – you’ve gotta do something special to catch my attention. Deep Time hasn’t done it here with the album being half as good as it could be.

The Crookes – Hold Fast album review

Pleasant riffs and decent pop sensibilities are the defining traits of Hold Fast, the sophomore release from The Crookes, but if it is musical depth you are looking for, this probably isn’t the album for you.

The sound of The Crookes is not one that offends by any means, one that comes off as a blend between Buddy Holly and Elvis Costello. Unfortunately, they don’t quite have the freshness of Holly and lack the musical craftsmanship of Costello. Opening the album is a track called Maybe in the Dark and there is hint of promise here. An engaging riff and the sound of a band that enjoys what they are doing. Unfortunately, this same energy starts to immediately die down by the time we hit the second track, Afterglow. What we are left with for the rest of the album is background music. Nothing bad by all means, but not a work that really engages the listener and leaves them wanting more.

This isn’t a completely bland effort though. There are moments when The Crookes really try to shine. The namesake of the album, Hold Fast offers some life to the listener with earnest vocals and riffing guitars. The closer of the album, Sal Paradise, is an attention worthy song and one that stands out as a soulful and heartfelt piece. Next to these songs though, the rest of the album just feels like musical filler.

The genre of pop music filled with jangly guitars is one that is strongly coming back into vogue, and The Crookes are certainly a good example of this style. The music is decent, the themes of love and relationships that are lyrically explored are common enough and resonant, and the musicians are energetic enough. The problem is that there really isn’t anything below the surface here. Hold Fast is not a deep thought provoking release…and that’s ok. Not every band needs to be a complete cerebral experience. It does leave the listener wanting a little more though from time to time.

Tanlines – Mixed Emotions album review

I was skipping around the satellite radio channels the other day, trying to find something that suited my mood. I stumbled across Tanlines for a few seconds, decided I wanted to blast some EDM like a musically inept teenage raver, and went on with my life. But was I ever glad to arrive home, check my email, and be assigned to review this album. With summer fast approaching, Tanlines’ Mixed Emotions is an experimental indie pop album that will be on repeat.

The NYC band’s debut opens up with “Brothers,” which reminds me of some new wave Tears For Fears’ jams. Soothing, yet poignant, and yet exciting – and yes, I’m totally aware that makes no sense. The majority of the album has that kind of retro feel to it, and it’s nice to hear something similar to a genre that has been deemed passé. Heck, their album cover even looks like Tears For Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair’s. But I digress…

In contrast, the album has some incredibly upbeat tunes, with “All of Me” being a personal favorite, and the followup “Green Grass.” Throw in a good bit of production value, a nice drumline, and then add Eric Emm’s vocal talents – you’ve got yourself a stellar setup. Chilling keys and vocoded vocals make songs like “Not The Same” sound incredible. You’ll also get some odd moments in this album: what sounds like bongos on “Real Life,” and some eastern world sounds on “Cactus.” Honestly though, it’s a welcome addition to this debut.

I’m surprised that I don’t have anything bad to say about these guys or their album. That’s it. There’s no mixed emotions when it comes to this record (I’m sorry – I had to). Go see them on tour and buy their stuff if you want: http://www.tanlinesinternet.com/