Friday, September 30, 2011

End Of Year 2011: Third Quarter Update

This is the third edition of Muzik Dizcovery's quarterly update. Every staff member will put out a top five list, allowing them to indicate their absolute favorite records of 2011. Additionally, it will be able to alert you of albums that you may not have heard of otherwise. This list does not only include albums that have been released as of September 30th, as any album that we have heard so far this year is free to be included. You can read the first quarter update here, and the second quarter update here. All the lists can be seen below the jump.

Album Review: This Time Next Year - Drop Out of Life

For me, pop-punk can either epitomize what makes modern music great, or what makes modern music the blight of this generation. After all, we've seen the likes of excellent acts such as Taking Back Sunday and Yellowcard arise around the same time as Good Charlotte and Sum 41. These bands are polarizing in their legacies and in their critical reception. Luckily 2011 has seen a preposterous amount of great pop-punk, revitalizing the post-Blink-182 scene, and giving hope to a new era of the genre. Well 2011, it's time to welcome another fantastic addition, as This Time Next Year's Drop Out of Life offers up a solid and enjoyable listening experience, standing tall next to the year's best offerings.

Album Review: All Get Out - The Season

Rock music always has it's 'in' sound, and at present that beat combination seems to be the one favoured by bands like Brand New and Manchester Orchestra. This comes not through the cynical will to shift units, rather inspiration from landmark records such as The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me and Mean Everything To Nothing, as hordes of young pretenders seek to replicate such achievements with their own emotional masterpieces. Needless to say the majority will fail, but there may well be a few gems among the pack, and with sufficient growth they could well emulate the success of their predecessors. It's for this reason that none of these bands should be dismissed, and while it's not outstanding by any means, All Get Out's debut LP provides plenty of evidence that this group could well progress to far greater heights.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Album Review: Blink-182 - Neighborhoods

Anticipation for its release may have surpassed fever pitch, but Neighborhoods still arrives as one of 2011's most unexpected triumphs. Lets be honest, we all thought that this would suck, and not without reason; the three members haven't exactly covered themselves in glory since parting company six years ago, and as with the majority of reformed bands there was always the nagging question as to whether anyone would actually still care. The response which met the various taster tracks unleashed earlier this year confirmed that Blink do indeed remain a relevant force, but the general feeling among fans was that this album would prove a dismal failure rather than a jubilant return. It didn't bode well.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Album Review: Giraffes? Giraffes! - Pink Magick

Whenever I think of music that sounds exactly like how the album cover looks, I think of My Bloody Valentine's influential 1991 album, Loveless, that set the foundation for what we now know as shoegaze. The album sounds exactly what it looks like, Belinda Butcher and Kevin Shields making blurry pink haze with their guitars. After listening to Giraffes? Giraffes! third full length, Pink Magick, I feel a similar connection between the artwork and the music. The artwork is extremely abstract and messy, yet beautiful and creative. And there are no two finer adjectives that I could think of to describe the album. Amongst Pink Magick's frantic breakdown-like explosions and intense post-rock influenced crescendos is some of the most unique and innovative music I have ever heard in recent years.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Album Review: Sóley - We Sink

Icelandic music has a “sound”—dreamy vocals, creative instrumentation, an ethereal quality that makes it hard to put an auditory finger on anything concrete.  On her first solo album We Sink, Sóley Stefánsdóttir, better known as Sóley, breaks away from her work with two of Iceland’s better-known acts Sin Fang and Seabear to forge her own sound.  We Sink has the same ethereal quality, the same creative instrumentation, and Sóley’s vocals are as gently slurred and dreamy as either of the other two projects, but where the music of Seabear and Sin Fang conjured images of pristine landscapes and summer days, Sóley’s music takes on a more nightmarish quality.  The collection of songs has a colder feel, a minor tonality, and the lyrical content of a horror film.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Youth Lagoon

I've never been to Boise, ID, but a handful of preconceived notions and a perfunctory google search yielding the headline of "Non-profit donates $10,000 toward Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline" have led me to believe that perhaps I'm not missing much. To my knowledge, the city of Boise is notorious as a place stuck between an archaic past and a bright future, with recent entrepreneurial generations putting their best foot forward in the attempt to tame the expansive Idaho landscape and to sprout an environmentally conscious city from the depths of Mother Nature's creative prowess. The money-minded city-slickers aren't the only ones leaving their mark on that staggering stretch of America, however. For as the townsfolk of the great Northwest get up and go about their quotidian affairs, something bigger than that yet subtle as a raindrop into the sea is coming to fruition beneath their very feet. Somewhere in a dark and damp Boise basement is Trevor Powers, the one-man force behind recently fabricated Youth Lagoon, endeavoring to bridge the daunting gap between past and present, to truly compromise his city's role as a naturalist's Eden and a playground for tycoons. With his debut LP under his new moniker, entitled The Year of Hibernation, Powers is doing just that. In listening to "Afternoon", a number built on synthesized instrumentation alongside the natural simplicity of whistle-based melodies, Powers has showcased his ability to create surreal, layered tracks that sound out with the poise of not just one man, but nature itself. Simple yet elegant, affecting but understated - The Year of Hibernation is a young man's compelling realization of his insignificance amongst nature and humankind, as well as his general, beautiful indifference toward that fact. I guess that means one more apathetic soul for Boise's suicide prevention team to keep an eye on.

Stream some Youth Lagoon tracks over at Pitchfork, or visit their Facebook.

Live Review: The Subways, O2 Academy 2 Newcastle, 25/09/2011

I'm a keen follower of the UK's indie scene, but even so The Subways seem like an anomaly in my taste. I'm the type of music listener that appreciates invention, ambition and originality, three attributes that the London three-piece's music is completely devoid of, yet they're a band that I've always kept an eye on and have invariably enjoyed. I wouldn't go so far as to call them a guilty pleasure, but they're hardly a favourite among critics, with new album Money & Celebrity in particular bringing about a reaction which could be described as was mixed at best. As with many bands of their ilk, their popularity also appears to be on the slide, and so this tour saw them visit smaller venues than they're perhaps used to, with this gig taking place in front of only 200 spectators. To their credit, though, they seemed undeterred by this regression, and as per usual failed to disappoint with a racous hour-long set.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Album Review: Saves the Day - Daybreak

Genre giants Saves the Day have thus far had quite a remarkable career, spanning three separate decades with seven full length releases, and it’s quite clear that all the hard work has paid off. Save the Day’s Daybreak is as daring as its title. Released on September 13th through Razor & Tie, Daybreak is Saves the Day’s most impressive album yet.

Album Review: Iselia - Life From Dead Limbs

Just as the post-hardcore/emo/post-rock hybrid has just about run its course, the fresh faced young lads from Iselia come and turn heads. Releasing a brief but lovely EP back in 2010, the band has since garnered a respectable amount of praise. It's not often a band seemingly comes out of nowhere, demanding attention, but that's exactly what Iselia have done. Thus, the praise and attention have culminated in clamoring for a full-length debut. Well Iselia have released their anxiously awaited debut, and the result is everything a fan or newcomer could want.

To be quite honest, on Life From Dead Limbs, Iselia don't do anything new. They just do it better than anyone else. Their large range of influences allow them to have many peers, mainly Pianos Become the Teeth, Touche Amore, and even Envy. The product matches the exceptional pedigree, as Life From Dead Limbs is a beautiful, heavy, and emotional amalgamation of emo, post-hardcore, and post-rock sensibilities. The latter influence mainly deals with the more melodic passages and climaxes, as the average length songs are void of any egregious and overblown buildups. The use is effective and balances the harder influences nicely.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Album Retrospective: 15 Years of Pinkerton

I have my posse of cool hipster friends that I normally discuss music with. We're all big fans of Weezer, and very often the age old Blue Album vs. Pinkerton argument arises. Personally, I don't know which one I prefer. Blue Album has all of the catchy and infectious tunes like "Buddy Holly" and "My Name Is Jonas", while Pinkerton taps into my inner (or maybe more outer than I'd like to admit) 90's emo boy with tracks such as "Why Bother?" and "Butterfly". Both albums are fantastically excecuted in their own seperate ways, but I feel like Pinkerton was a more important release for the band. Pinkerton was the first release that signified what Weezer would later become.

Album Review: Collapse Under The Empire - Shoulders & Giants

A fantastic mix of hopeful, dark, and anarchic post-rock and instrumental music, Collapse Under The Empire hails from Hamburg, Germany. Their music embodies a variety of big-name bands in instrumental music, notably God is an Astronaut, Mogwai, and Sigur Ros, as well as Explosions in the Sky and 65daysofstatic, and each of these influences actually appears in this album, as well as throughout their earlier works.

The second track on the album, "Giants", carries with it a bit of a more murky feel, opening with synths and tonal drum hits, contrasting sharp staccatos with flowing, minor-keyed legatos, and eventually a light, angelic keyboard line. As the song progresses, the drums help to bring the song along, and a reverbed guitar brings another deep and melancholy element to the track, which begins to build up with a final addition of bass. The keyboard actually leads the melody, with sadly crooning guitars providing most of the chord structure, and a moving drum line akin to God Is An Astronaut helps to provide a strong sense of tempo variety. As the song progresses to its final chorus, all amps are turned up to 11, and the guitars scream depressive lines of their own as the song ends in chaos.

Pianos Become the Teeth - The Lack Long After

When Pianos Become the Teeth dropped their debut record, Old Pride, I honestly didn't think a whole lot about. I passed it off as a solid, but forgettable post-hardcore/emo mash-up that used every trick in the book. But since those two years ago, I've come to realize how exceptional it actually is, and now the band's sophomore release is right up there with my most anticipated albums of 2011.

Passion is what Old Pride had that other albums don't. It was emotional, gut-wrenching, and completely genuine, and I've not heard any of their peers match it since. It's this that has me so pumped for The Lack Long After, as the band promises a "darker and heavier" sound.

Recording began late this summer at Developing Nations Studio, and wrapping up a few weeks later. Topshelf Records will be releasing the album on November 1st, and it is with high commendations that I implore you to check it out. Follow the band on Facebook here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Insouciant

The beautiful transition between summer and autumn is probably my favorite, but at the same time my least favorite time of year. I am usually in a state on insouciance, or lighthearted carelessness, but at the same time I feel melancholic in my day to day activities. This is usually the time of year where I stay in my room and wear sweaters and listen to American Football and various other projects of the Kinsella brothers as I sit at my window and watch as the bright green foliage of the past two months blankets my backyard in a shroud of earthen tones that I will later break my back raking up. A band from Newfoundland, New Jersey called Insouciant captures the emotions of the end of summer's youthful warmth and the beginning of winter's long and brittle prelude just about perfectly. Currently working on their follow up to last year's masterpiece, Dresser, Insouciant blends the gloomier side of autumn's beginnings with the leftover happiness of summer using their own unique electric piano tinged brand of midwestern emo. This is expressed best on the grandiose 9-minute long title track on Dresser, which closes the album on an uplifting tone, implementing instruments such as glockenspiel and melodica in their already impressively tight instrumental line up. The band has a rather extensive back catalogue, beginning with the rugged lo-fi release known as NR-004 on their bandcamp, which introduced tracks that would appear on later releases, including "Locked", "Discontinue", and "Turtle Light". Not including Dresser, the band also has out two more equally fantastic full lengths, Search Party and Fall, all of which are out on New Jersey based independent label Not-Rock Records. If you are a fan of the twinkly guitars, wurlitzers, and this beautiful yet depressing time of year, I highly encourage you to check out Insouciant, and I guarantee you will get something out of it.

You can download Dresser for free on Bandcamp.

Artist Spotlight: The Hawk In Paris

Dan Haseltine has been making music for almost 20 years, released over 9 albums, and won 3 grammy awards, but there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of him. Haseltine’s successful band Jars of Clay specializes in Christian rock. On his new project, The Hawk In Paris, however, Haseltine teams up with producers Matt Bronleewe and Jeremy Bose to move away from spiritual content in favor of a totally new project that encompasses all my favorite things about indie music, most especially the power to fuze genres and drag classic styles out of the past and into the present. Indie-tronica has become a “thing” over the past few years with the discovery of The Postal Service and Owl City, but The Hawk In Paris goes all the way back to the roots of electronica and matches it with today’s modern advancements in technology and sound. “The New Hello (His)” is a dark and infectious nod to German 70s musical legends Kraftwerk. The Hawk In Paris updates the classic sounds of Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode for the 21st century and it is a treat for anyone with any leanings toward the electronic genre. Many of the songs are mellower than their predecessors—“Between The World And You” and “Curse The Love Songs” are breathtakingly gentle and show off Haseltine’s falsetto. The trios musical prowess shines on the two versions of “The New Hello” which feature the same vocal melodies but entirely different tonality, key, and instrumentation, making The Hawk In Paris the only band I’ve ever seen to so fully and radically imagine a song in two different ways. You can check out The Hawk In Paris here and I promise you that you won’t regret it.

Album Review: The Front Bottoms - The Front Bottoms

The Front Bottoms' self titled debut album is introduced with the line "please fall asleep so I can take pictures of you and hang them in my room, so when I wake up I feel like everything's alright". In a way, this line is in no way a bad way at all to introduce The Front Bottoms as a band. The band's lyrics often seem to follow the story of a stalker helplessly in love with his high school flame who consistently ignores him and upholds restraining orders. Throughout the album, the band maintains a rather comical atmosphere, balanced between the often ridiculously blunt lyrics that make murdering your own father seem humorous, Brian Sella's nasally voice that sounds halfway between John Darnielle and Jeff Mangum, and the recurring string section and piano that sounds like the band made no effort whatsoever to cover up the fact that it was done on an old Yamaha keyboard for beginner piano players. But despite all of the laughs that the quirky indie-pop duo might produce, the emotional response from this album is nothing less than overwhelming.

Artist Spotlight: Moonlit Sailor / Rhodes / Elk Split

Rarely do three-way splits come about, especially with three bands that have a lot to learn about each other and about their own musical progression. However, cue the EDiLS Records Split Series #2, a fantastic split between Moonlit Sailor, Rhodes, and Elk. With an exclusive new track from Swedish post-rockers Moonlit Sailor and two exclusive new tracks from Rhodes, who are centered in the UK, there's a lot of sound-good, feel-good music on this fantastic split. From dreamy, soaring post-rock to light, twangy, heartfelt, fun indie rock, it's impossible not to love this sampler from these three bands.

The split is released on Bandcamp on September 22nd.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Album Review: Andrew Jackson Jihad - Knife Man

It would be pretty easy to just tell you to go get Knife Man right now. I mean, it would make my job so much simpler, because really it's simply essential 2011 listening. However, for those not easily convinced, I'll delve into why Andrew Jackson Jihad have crafted what is quite possibly their greatest achievement. Added to that, Knife Man is without a doubt one of the most exhilarating, enjoyable, and positively fascinating records this year.

Album Review: Chelsea Wolfe-Ἀποκάλυψις

Ἀποκάλυψις is just the sort of thing that really makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Odd, considering how dark, desolate, and cold it actually is. Yet can't deny the marrying of a low-fi, Enemies List Recordings-esque sound with the charm of a female folk artist. It's languid, mystifying, and completely arresting. Chelsea Wolfe has made an unsettling, but comforting record that really displays a great sense of creativity, as well as musicianship.

Ἀποκάλυψις (a title which I won't even pretend to know how to pronounce, or explain its meaning) is a tough nut to crack. It's part folk, part indie, and part low-fi avant-garde. Largely it revolves around a very dark aesthetic. The fuzziness of the production only furthers this, as it makes Wolfe's already eerie vocals come off as otherworldly. That's the charm of Ἀποκάλυψις though, because even withing it's harsh, cold sounds, it somehow sounds so wonderful human and inexplicably comforting.

Album Review: Into It. Over It - Proper

Over the past three or four years, there has been no artist as devoted to concepts (except possibly Casey Crescenzo) as Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. From 52 Weeks, a massive project that involved releasing a new song every week for a year, to Twelve Towns, a collection of splits that were based off twelve different cities and the experiences that Weiss had in those towns, to IIOI/KOJI, where Weiss wrote about five Chicago neighborhoods, Into It. Over It had never released an actual cohesive full-length release. Proper is the release that Into It. Over It fans have been waiting years for, and the amount of work put into it is easily noticed. The instrumentals are more polished, the hooks are stronger, and Weiss officially emerges as a superstar in the emo/indie/pop-punk scene, and a man capable of crafting brilliant releases in any form.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Album Review: St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

St. Vincent is, and always has been, a beautiful amalgamation of a flashy, gaudy 80's pop star, a thoughtful indie artist, and a musician with a penchant for all things avant-garde. Needless to say, Annie Clark is ineffably weird, incurably bizarre, and unabashedly strange; an artist who's musical endeavors make her impossible to pin down and examine closely. Instead, it's easier to just listen without making sense of anything, because when approaching St. Vincent, and namely her newest record, Strange Mercy, it's best just to go along for the ride. And what a ride it is.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Album Review: The Subways - Money & Celebrity

I must admit, I had my reservations about the new Subways album. It's not that they're incapable - their debut Young For Eternity yielded a handful of successful singles and 2008's All Or Nothing was an excellent follow-up - but their limited musical flexibility and the current absence of guitar-based music from the charts seemed to suggest that their relevance was on the wane. Thankfully, though, Money & Celebrity excels in every way that we could have hoped, and although it never really deviates from expectations it nevertheless proves another solid entry into their catalogue of above average pop rock records.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Artist Spotlight: 2:54

Three reasons why 2:54 are awesome:

Reason #1... The name - it's genius! It refers to a particular moment in their favourite Melvins song ('A History Of Bad Men' if you were wondering). What's not to like?

Reason #2... Boy-girl duo's are getting a bit dull now, so the fact that this paining is exclusively female is somewhat refreshing.

Reason #3... Their music, of course. It's loud, scuzzy, sexy and sinister, ingredients which frankly can't fail when they come to the brew.

The brewers - London sisters Hannah and Colette Thurlow - have been making waves for a few months now, having initially caused a stir with the demo of their track 'Creeping.' It's not hard to see why, with the seductive mix of shoegaze mystery, grunge fuzz and metallic crunch combining to wondrous effect, a trick they've repeated with the handful of other songs released. That small catalogue is due to be expanded on November 14th, when they finally unleash their debut EP, Scarlet, which will feature four new cuts. For now, though, you can head over to their Soundcloud page to hear for yourself what all the fuss is about.


Scarlet tracklist;

1. Scarlet
2. Wait/Await
3. Got A Hold
4. Dawn

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Album Review: Hot Water Music - The Fire, The Steel, The Tread/Up To Nothing 7"

Despite being out of the game for quite a tat, fans have never really forgotten about Hot Water Music. Truly, the myriad of bands who cite them as an influence have not forgotten them either, as Hot Water Music have left a crater-like impression on the modern day punk scene.

HWM have been releasing music here and there since their last full-length album, The New What Next, but nothing in the form of a true follow up. The Fire, The Steel, The Tread/Up To Nothing 7" isn't simply a two song collection, but rather, the promise of what is to come, as the band are currently working on a new record. Still, not to be outdone by such momentous news, the 7" is a delight all by itself. Sure it's incredibly brief, but it's a wholly enjoyable, hard hitting work that more than lives up to the name of Hot Water Music.

Album Review: Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

They may have been hyped to high heaven, but you can't help but feel for Girls with regards to how easily they were dismissed by many upon their breakthrough in 2009. Due in large part to their attitude rather than the music they made, the LA duo were categorically thrown in with slackers like Best Coast and Wavves, despite the fact that they were producing music of far greater depth and sophistication than any bands of that type. Their debut LP, Album was unleashed to plenty of acclaim, but did little to alter their perception among critics, so the ball was firmly in their court to with regards to proving doubters wrong come the follow-up. Father, Son, Holy Ghost jumps at that chance, exceeding it's predecessor and in doing so providing more ammunition for their growing group of fans rather than their opposite numbers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Download Asteria and State Champs Latest Records For Free

I put Asteria's album cover to the left, mostly because I've already covered State Champs on the site. But don't think I'm favoring either release over the other. Both releases are fabulous in their own way. Asteria's record Momentum brought much improvement to the band's fairly generic pop-rock sound, especially in the technical sense, as Momentum may be the closest thing we have to The Graduate (R.I.P.) at this current time. While Asteria doesn't bring the consistent atmosphere that The Graduate does, there are moments in which you may think you're listening to Anhedonia.  State Champs is more reminiscent of Such Gold, Four Year Strong, or New Found Glory in their aggressive pop-punk songs, and released one of the most consistent pop-punk EPs of 2011. Both the records are being given away by the bands for celebratory reasons, and there is no reason to not at least give them a chance. You can download Asteria's record here, and State Champs' record here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hidden Hospitals

The only thing worse than a breakup is when a band seemingly disappears off the face of the planet. If a band has an official breakup, then at the very least you'll expect there not to be any more music. But when a band goes inactive and stops updating their profiles, there's still that small bit of hope that the band is still in existence. Damiera had been consistently updating fans on a new album, but suddenly stopped updating for over half a year. Luckily, a few members of Damiera have just announced they're in a new band with members of Kiss Kiss, in which several Damiera demos have surfaced as Hidden Hospital tracks. While Hidden Hospitals isn't as mathy and technical as Damiera, they're definitely groovier and more accessible, all while being led by David Raymond's characteristic vocals.  The band recently released their first EP titled EP 001, a strong five song release that can be heard and bought right here.

Yukon Blonde-Fire//Water

Canada based Yukon Blonde are set to return next month with a new EP entitled Fire//Water. Fire//Water is the follow up to the band’s rather successful first outing, of which garnered them a respectable amount of praise.

The EP was written partially on the road, and partially off the road. It promises to retain the same "folksiness" and catchiness of their self-titled, as well as show a growth and maturation. They same excellent hooks found on Yukon Blonde will make their appearance as well. More exciting is the fact that the band wrote and recorded 15 tracks over the course of a summer, 11 of which will make their debut on their sophomore effort, slated for release in 2012.

The new tracks that fill the EP will be featured on the band’s massive upcoming tour. Yukon Blonde has displayed quite a lot of promise, and is definitely something to keep on your radar. Look for Fire//Water when it drops October 11 on Dine Alone Records.

Kevin Devine - Between the Concrete and Clouds

Remember the long lost days of throwing a baseball around with your father at the neighborhood ballpark? You'd start off with a casual catch, dad's eyes twinkling at your ever-improving form. Then it was onto infield practice, the perfect excuse to get dirty whilst trying to imitate the sprawling web-gems of your favorite major-leaguers. As late afternoon became evening, your final test of the night ensued: batting practice. And with each pitch that dad lobbed over the plate, you swung as if that 400-foot fence was an attainable feat - clink! Foul ball. Then, quickly resetting and refocusing, another pitch - clink! Foul. Third, fourth, fifth, and sixth attempts followed in much the same way, with subsequent pings from the bat marking foul ball upon foul ball. Finally giving into the mounting frustration, the bat falls to the dirt along with hope and self-esteem. Your inability to achieve as desired seems such a major pitfall, until the feel of that fatherly embrace on that shoulder preceded the words you'd heard many a time before: "It's alright, son. At least you're consistent."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Live Review: Leeds Festival, Part 3 Of 3

Friday and Saturday of Leeds 2011 had been great, but even a cursory look at the lineup would tell you that the third and final day was where the fun and games lay. The NME/Radio 1 and Festival Republic Stages looked strong as ever, while the Lock-Up Stage made a welcome return after it had been transformed to the Dance Stage the day before. The days highlights didn't take much seeking out, though, since most of them were positioned on the Main Stage. Things came to a head with the festivals' first 'co-headliners,' The Strokes and Pulp, but there was also gold to be found earlier on in the day, with critical darlings The National, emo legends Jimmy Eat World and timeless festival veterans Madness all coming in late afternoon. It was a day that promised much, and proved to live up to every expectation and then some...

SUNDAY (28/08/2011)

After two days which had been mixed at best on the weather front, the sunshine finally made a long overdue appearance late on Sunday morning. This only worked to improve the atmosphere on site, but Main Stage openers The Joy Formidable still had the strong wind to contend with. Nevertheless, the Welsh rockers managed to battle the elements and played a solid set drawing from their excellent debut album The Big Roar - which is one of my personal favourites from this year. Some of their unnecessary instrumental jams did get lost in the bluster, but the quality of songs such as 'Whirring' and 'The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade' was more than enough to see them reign supreme. There are plenty of bands out there that try to resurrect the qualities of grunge and shoegaze, but few do it as well as this trio, and although this wasn't the best I've seen them it was still a solid way to get the day underway.

Artist Spotlight: Hands of the Templar

Hands of the Templar is the solo project of a Christopher Yabsley. Not too much further information is given about the band anywhere, but then again, that isn't such a negative thing. The self-titled EP is currently the only thing Yabsley has out right now, and it's on Bandcamp for free stream and a name-your-price download. The reason? Yabsley doesn't care about the money he intakes. He wants to spread the feeling and exploration of music on one's own, in order to allow different people to feel different ways about the same songs. He describes his music thusly;

"Long ago people were in tune with the intrinsic value of music. We did not need to be told what a song was about. We did not need to be told how it made us feel. We did not need to be told what the lesson learned was. We simply knew. 'Hands Of The Templar' is my journey back to that state."

Hands of the Templar isn't about one specific theme of music, or a specific message about music. It's all about a journey, back to a time where people knew how music made them feel, unrestricted by genres or rule sets. Yabsley breaks free of musical conventions with the Hands of the Templar EP, and it really is an emotional exploration - it's something very unique, moving, and absolutely special.

You can check out Hands of the Templar on their Bandcamp, and keep up with the band on Facebook.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Album Review: The Horrible Crowes - Elsie

Here's a revelation that'll shock you all - Brian Fallon loves Bruce Springsteen. Ok, you probably knew that already, but the Gaslight Anthem turned Horrible Crowes frontman seems intent on making his admiration for The Boss more and more blatant with new album he releases. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. The 59 Sound was an Americana-tinged punk classic, while follow-up American Slang's more populist wanderings were no less rewarding, so it should come as no surprise that this first album in collaboration with friend Ian Perkins also proves a thoroughly fulfilling listen.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

School Project: Important Issues (Farewell Fighter - The Way We Learn)

For my History of Rock Music class for school, we had the following prompt:  Choose and discuss a song or album that you feel best represents important issues in your life and the lives of your classmates.
I felt Farewell Fighter's latest EP represented this question perfectly, and my response can be read below.

The teenage years are perhaps the most important years of any human’s life. An enormous amount of changes take places, including social growth, puberty, and most importantly self-direction. Nashville, Tennessee based pop-rock band Farewell Fighter focuses on this intriguing period of time on their latest EP The Way We Learn, a seven track effort that brings a listener through the teenage years, as band and listener join together to realize the importance of understanding one’s self and living life to its fullest.

Album Review: Thrice - Major/Minor

It's almost preposterous how good Thrice continue to be. Really, it's just ludicrous that after eight albums, Thrice are still at the top of their game, churning out record after record, song after song, with the same energy and fervor as when they were younger. Starting with their sophomore effort, The Illusion of Safety, Thrice have gone from a passionate, energetic post-hardcore outfit, to a more thoughtful alt-rock group whose material is both experimental and comfortingly familiar. Regardless of what sound the band employs, the result is almost always incredible. This is also the case with the band's most recent album, Major/Minor,a record which sees the band exploiting everything from their past, whilst making something amazingly fresh and exhilarating.

Album Review: Hope I Die Virgin - Is Forever No Way

Spacey, comfortable, and at times edging on creepy, Hope I Die Virgin’s debut record on Fysisk Format, Is Forever No Way, is just as daring as it is advertised to be. The Oslo, Norway based group spends much of their time creating moody, synth driven soundscapes that take the listener for an emotional ride. Rarely concerned with appealing chord progressions or basic song structure, Is Forever No Way is an unrelenting barrage of atmospheric noise that has its own charm and appeal.

Album Review: Polar Bear Club - Clash Battle Guilt Pride

Sometime last decade, Polar Bear Club became one of those bands that exploded onto the blog-centric, web-driven scene. With their debut EP, Summer of George, Polar Bear Club became a precious, secret find that oddly propelled them into becoming a rather well known group, that even today continues to grab new fans, and turn heads with each release. However, the punk/post-hardcore outfit hasn't quite moved past their punk infused melodic, yet sort of heavy sound that's defined their past few releases. And while their newest album, Clash Battle Guilt Pride doesn't exactly see the band expanding their sound too far, it's still an incredibly pleasing listen from start to finish.

Album Review: M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

The first album we've heard from Anthony Gonzalez in three years, and what a refresher. M83 comes roaring back, as much as a shoegaze band can, with Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, a diadem of a double album that easily exceeds the hype that was started for in back in June. The feel for the record is pretty true to the title - Gonzalez himself told Spin magazine that it's "mainly about dreams, how every one is different, how you dream differently when you're a kid, a teenager, or an adult". The album has a lot of great musical moments that connect to those visions of dreams that Gonzalez has, and adopt a mixture between the styles of Saturday = Youth and Before the Dawn Heals Us, with plenty of both synth-pop and dream-pop interchanged with the tracks, and plenty of variety to go around the 22-track double-album.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Album Review: Grouplove - Never Trust A Happy Song

Really, you have to wonder whose bright idea it was not to release Never Trust A Happy Song until now. It’s timing is appalling, given that Grouplove’s debut album is in essence the perfect summer record. Even now, I can imagine people sipping cocktails, lounging on the beach, getting wasted at house parties, or whatever else they do with their mid-year months with this album blasting in the background, so to release it no sooner than the leaves have begun to mellow seems like a missed opportunity to say the least. Poor marketing should not, however, detract from what a good album this is, and with a bit of luck they should still be able to come back and rule the festival circuit next year.

Interview With God is an Astronaut

After three years, God is an Astronaut is finally back. On their second North American tour, Niels and Torsten Kinsella, along with their drummer, Michael Fenton, kindly took a few minutes (that turned into a half hour) out of their busy schedule in order to answer some questions about the 2010 album, Age of the Fifth Sun, the show, and the band in general. They took some time going in-depth about which direction the band was going, some information on future releases, and how they really felt about different criticisms and comments being made about GIAA.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Live Review: Leeds Festival 2011, Part 2 Of 3

One of Leeds festival's biggest traditions is the presence of a Main Stage 'rock day,' and this year that label clearly fell on the Saturday. This tends to be my favourite leg of the three-day event, but this time the schedule seemed fairly weak. My Chemical Romance were underwhelming headliners, and were mostly joined on the bill by over-the-hill punk bands and metalcore scenesters, though in fairness Rise Against and Deftones were notable exceptions. Thankfully, the lineup on the NME/Radio 1 Stage looked far healthier, with some of the best emerging names in indie stuffing a bill which was unfortunately topped by the most unworthy of headliners in Beady Eye. Saturday also saw the punk-orientated Lock-Up Stage transformed into the Dance Stage, the schedule on which held no appeal to me whatsoever, but luckily this was cancelled out by the Festival Republic tent, which had another strong-looking day in prospect.

SATURDAY (27/08/2011)

Day two also proved far more forgiving on the weather front, but that didn't stop fans from once again packing the NME/Radio 1 tent to capacity. First up on that stage were Pulled Apart By Horses, for whom this festival appearance also represented a homecoming show. This was the third time that I've seen them live, and each time has been better than the last. The Yorkshire quartet bridge the gap between hardcore and good old fashioned rock 'n' roll, and if you're still looking for a reason to like them they also have a song called 'I Punched A Lion In The Throat.' They played that as the closer, and it capped off a very solid performance which went down a storm with the audience, many of whom will have followed these local heroes from the start.

Artist Spotlight: Little Kid

It's frustrating that some artists take the whole lo-fi aesthetic a little too far, but sometimes the quality of their songs is such that you can forgive this misjudgement. This is very much the case with Kenny Boothy, who recorded his solo project Little Kid's debut album on four track tape, and it shows. The louder moments on Logic Songs are scuzzy beyond belief, and can become unbearable at times, but the quieter folk-ridden sections which make up the majority of the LP more than make amends. It's the kind of gentle pastoral strumming that bands like Eels and Sparklehorse used to do so well, and Boothy's fragile delivery certainly recalls that of Mark Linkhouse as well as other flawed geniuses such as Elliott Smith. It'll certainly strike a chord among those who like their indie supplied with a heartbreaking emotional sucker-punch, and it's this depth which makes the lack of sheen easy to overlook.

You can stream and download Logic Songs for free on Little Kid's Bandcamp site here.

Artist Spotlight: Algernon Cadwallader

The boys in Algernon Cadwallader have listened up and taken a lot of notes from every Kinsella brother endeavor. Cap'n Jazz, American Football, Make Believe; if the Kinsella brothers had a part in it, members of Algernon Cadwallader have almost undoubtedly heard it. I feel so confident in saying this solely on account of the heavy influence that these groups have had on AC's songwriting - the spastic, whiney vocals, the constant waltzing of twangy clean guitars, and an overall downtrodden demeanor, offset by the facade of twinkly and upbeat emo jams. And with two full-lengths, two EP's, and a killer demo already released, Algernon Cadwallader are in no way new to the game. Yet with every release, they manage to maintain a youthful freshness in their attitude, causing every bittersweet track to scintillate with a resentful but hopeful charm. It's hard not to relate such music to pretty much every one night stand of my college career thus far: it's sloppy, it's sporadic, and it's most likely too intoxicated to realize how awkward it should be. But in the tempestuous buzz of the moment, it feels like it might not be the worst idea in the world. So finish you beer, rubber-up and give Algernon Cadwallader a shot - you've got nothing to lose, apart from half an erection and perhaps your dignity.

RIYL: Snowing, 1984!, American Football, Cap'n Jazz, Hightide Hotel, etc.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Squid The Whale

Ignore the rather awful band name that Squid The Whale unfortunately decided to brand themselves as. Instead, simply think of them as one of the best upcoming bands in the scene. Though Gatsby's American Dream has reunited, their lack of updates has led for a need for more bands such as Squid The Whale, morphing that progressive pop-punk style that Gatsby's branded to their own wonderful sound. After losing former singer Robert Weber after the band's debut release A Worrisome Voyage Through Inclement Weather, the band recruited Bradley Walden (formerly of pop-rock band That Was Something), immediately pushing. Walden's vocals are reminiscent of Nic Newsham, and fit the music much better than Weber's Brendon Urie-like voice. Walden's vocal prowess is extremely noticeable on acoustic closer "Drown", which brings memories of Envy On The Coast. New War is a perfect introduction to Squid The Whale's new lineup, while creating extremely high expectations for a follow up. Based on the band's easy transition between vocalists, these expectations should be easily met. You can stream New War on Bandcamp here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Album Review: Family Lumber - Look To The Sidelines

I don't think it's all too preposterous of an assumption to say that Michael Tietjen is most likely a pretty ordinary guy. He gets nervous around girls. He falls victim to a contrived sense of self-doubt just a little too often. He's got a decent awareness of his strengths and talents, sure. More often than not though, these positive notions fail to surface on account of a less-than-assertive personality and a generally phlegmatic demeanor. Perhaps I'm being far too presumptuous, considering I've never even met the fellow. But just a few listens through Look To The Sidelines, the latest effort from Family Lumber, Tietjen's Long Island based indie troupe, presents the listener with a pretty clear picture of the sort of man that Michael is.