Friday, November 30, 2012

Artist of the Day: Mice Parade

Indie is a genre that has so many connotations, because it's so versatile. Take Modest Mouse and Bon Iver and compare the style of their music, and just try to come up with common characteristics. I mean, we could always go with timbre - guitars, intimate vocals, and ehh... There's not too much else there. The versatility of indie's become a part of modern musical culture, though, and this much becomes clearer through time. One indie group who is damned great at what they do is Mice Parade, utilizing a variety of instruments to convey their message as accurately as possible. Vibraphones, pull-offs on guitars and other instrumental playfulness shows how experimental the group can be while still adhering to their fans' expectations.

Royal's Reveries - On Album Artwork

Album artwork is interesting to me.

All types of artwork are interesting to me, actually. My interest doesn't stem from awe of the artistic merit, or anything of the sort. Instead, I find myself drawn to it because I'm always curious exactly how representative of the music the artwork is. We get an idea of what an album might sound like before we hear it, not in terms of genre but overall mood. For instance, one example of an underlying mood in album artwork is Amia Venera Landscape's The Long Procession, one musical journey that's as desperate as it is unrelenting.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Artist of the Day: Death Cab for Cutie

At this point it sounds ridiculous to even call Death Cab for Cutie an indie band. Sure they have all the hallmarks of an indie group- obscure pop-culture reference for a name, lovelorn frontman, guitarist doubling as a producer- but it's as if they've transcended their own genre. They're simply too big to be looked at as part of a group. For a better part of a decade, Death Cab have been THE indie band, the one that will show up on every teen girl's mixtapes and the background of your favorite TV show just to remind you that even though they're often not on the radio, everybody spins their records.

Jukebox: Athletics - III

This song is on my playlists constantly, and I can't get it out of my head. It might be that it's from one of the best releases from this year, but I think it's something more than that. Our nature drives us towards things that feel appropriate for the time, and place - god only knows that we play Christmas music six weeks before December, but why is that? Because it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and nostalgic, which contrasts the massive piles of snow or drenching rain of the wintertime. Perhaps one of the reasons I can't stop listening to "III" is because, well, it's a song that fits the mood. It's powerful, it's emotional, and the lyrics line up fantastically with the season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jukebox: Freshkills - Positive Vibes

I absolutely despise sharing my thoughts on punk music.  This is because when I do share these thoughts, I sound like an ignorant "get off my lawn" old man, an old man who is so out of touch with the real world that he has to create his own alternate world where everything that is wrong with music boils down to his own ignorant and fabricated fact that punk rock isn't living up to his expectations.  Even though I have been disappointed by the genre's best album for the last seven years, I hate expressing this disappointment because I never want to become the "get off my lawn" old guy when I am just 21 years old, even if it is just about one genre of music.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Artist of the Day: Sloum

It's around this time of year when people like me (who are sexy, with impressive, manly beards and also happen to write about music on the internet) like to look back on a few albums that have been released earlier in the year and think: "now why the hell did I never bring this any attention?." Such an album has presented itself in Sloum's A Prelude to Monsters...: an album that has probably been heard by fewer people than actually read my posts here.

The style is ambient. Dark-ambient -more specifically- but with a charming and inviting post-rock character. As a result, it's incredibly easy to feel yourself slipping into it's ominous yet warm atmosphere, and within it's twirling piano, rasping horns and field recordings Sloum comes very close to producing gold. He misses, sadly: there's a small issue with pacing and a slight sparsity of ideas, but the album still remains a fine example of his work.

He has a new album out, too, which is why he comes to mind. I haven't listened to it yet but that's just about to change...

Listen on Bandcamp
Like on Facebook

Monday, November 26, 2012

Live Review: Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat, Twa Tams, Perth, 23/11/2012

One of the first things many people notice about me is that I'm not at all proud of my Geordie origins. The region itself is lovely, but I honestly can't contain my contempt for the people within it - the delusional boneheaded majority who're quite rightly the butt of the nation's unsavoury jokes. Oh, what I'd give to be Scottish. Things are just better north of the border. People are friendlier. They drink better, swear better, have better accents, grow better beards, and perhaps most importantly they're treated to what I personally consider the finest music scene this flawed, divided island has to offer. It was with little hesitation, then, that I travelled up to Perth to be right in the midst of it, immersing myself in the esteemed company of RM Hubbert, Bill Wells and the one and only Aidan Moffat on a night which proved more than worth the travel expense.

Artist Of The Day: Noisia

It's difficult to sum up the colossal impact that Dutch drum & bass trio Noisia have had on the electronic music world as a whole in a few sentences. Since bursting onto the scene about ten years ago, Noisia have basically gone all over the spectrum of labels, from dark to heavy and back. They've released off of Metalheadz with a minimalist, intensely dark style, they've released off of Ram with a brutal, drum-heavy tone, and most recently they've released off of Mau5trap, of all places, with a more "standard-fare" approach to drum & bass and dubstep. And they've crafted some insane tunes to boot: practically anything off of their first and only full-length, Split The Atom, goes hard and doesn't let up. Even their older, darker tunes, like "Strange Owl Experiment" and "Facade," still keep a heaviness not seen too often in the neurofunk and techstep of the day. You don't know DnB without knowing Noisia, and they're an excellent starting point if you're looking to get into the genre.


Album Review: Periphery - Periphery II: This Time It's Personal

Album Rating: B
I'm known as the progressive / djent guy at Muzik Dizcovery, and that's fine by me. It's definitely the type of music I've spent the most time with, considering my dad raised me on Dream Theater and Joe Satriani. So when an album in the modern progressive realm receives as much backlash as Periphery's latest album, Periphery II: This Time It's Personal, I have to look into the controversy and see how credible it is.

Live Review: Meursault, The Black Swan, Newcastle, 22/11/2012

Although far from revolutionary, one could make a case for Meursault's Something For The Weakened being among the most intriguing musical transitions of the past year. Largely abandoning their electronic flutters and lower than lo-fi aesthetic, the Edinburgh collective's third LP essentially saw them trade individuality for the songwriting abilities of leader Neil Pennycook, uncovering reserves of depth and emotional resonance previously only hinted at. Some would call it bold, others would call it a regression, but few have disputed the end result - perhaps the finest recent produce from Scotland's thriving folk scene. What's also becoming evident, though, is the extent to which it suits their live shows, a fact reflected by both its heavy presence in tonight's setlist and the moving performance it oversaw.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Captain Murphy

When Adult Swim released the fantastic "Between Friends" featuring Flying Lotus and Earl Sweatshirt as part of their 2012 Singles Program, the biggest question on everyone's mind was who the third artist on the track actually was. It's fairly odd for a rapper's first track to be a collaboration with two large artists for a well known cable network, and since "Between Friends," everyone has been making guesses about who Captain Murphy actually is. Is it FlyLo rapping (he's been sharing the tracks and is featured on one)? Is it Tyler, The Creator (sounds like Tyler and has the Earl Sweatshirt/Odd Future connection)? Or is it simply someone entirely new that just knows the right people? Whoever he is, Captain Murphy has shown to be capable of releasing some fantastic music, and his first mixtape Du∆lity confirms that.

Interview With Now, Now

Now, Now (formerly Now, Now Every Children) has been a band for nearly ten years now, but the band's hard work is just finally starting to pay off. Currently signed to Chris Walla's (of Death Cab For Cutie fame) Trans Records, the band's efforts have finally culminated with big tours and even an appearance on Jimmy Fallon's late night show. The band took some time after their show with Motion City Soundtrack and Jukebox The Ghost to speak to us regarding topics such as playing on Fallon, reflections on their latest album Threads, drummer Brad's Sombear project, and more (including an appearance from Jukebox The Ghost pianist/vocalist Ben Thornewill) which you can read below.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Artist of the Day: El Ten Eleven

As you gear up for a hectic day of astonishingly good deals and busy-bee activity, remember to step back and take a breath. Black Friday is a busy day for many of us in the States, but if we get too caught up in bargain-hunting, we let a part of our imperialistic selves take control and forget the humanizing aspect of living - empathy, reflection, self-examination. Tough as it is, we all do it at some point, and to be honest, I find it much easier to think about while I'm listening to some great music. That's where El Ten Eleven comes in. They'll fit just about any situation too, they're lively enough to play in the early morning to get you awake, atmospheric enough to keep you thinking about their music, and they're wholly emotional, so that you can have all the thinking time you need while you go about your day.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Artist of the Day: Iain Morrison

I don't know much about Thanksgiving. All I know is it means the British man must write because apparently he doesn't get to join in. Something about turkeys and some kind of weird event where all the stores are transformed into fighting arenas the day after... I haven't a clue. Anyway, no worries: I have a new favourite singer-songwriter to accompany me as I wallow in a state of equal parts loneliness, confusion and -on the part of the music- general wonderment.

Iain Morrison's music lies on the more instrumental, well-produced spectrum of acoustic singer-songwriters: with far more emphasis placed on instrumental refrains and the gaps between words than the lyrics themselves. His pieces are exceptionally atmospheric (the record label feels the need to inform us that songs were recorded in both the U.S. and Scotland... *gasp*), but it's the soft yet rustic vocals -which sit perfectly in the fuzzy, acoustic nest- that make Iain something to remember. The whole package sums up as incredibly polarised in its effort to be lovely, and it works, because right now I want to sit down and listen to it forever.

I'll probably go and like the guy on Facebook first, though.

Interview: Sithu Aye

Instrumental progressive metal guitarist Sithu Aye sure has shaken up the DIY scene lately. With three releases created over the last year, the artist is redefining the capabilities of writing music alone. October brought us a space-themed blast of an album, Invent the Universe (which we covered here.) I was blessed to be able to catch an interview with the innovative musician, and to be able to ask some questions I've personally been wondering for awhile now. We catch a glimpse of the man behind the albums, what's inspired him to create his music as well as how he goes about making it. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Big Boi

Six years on from Idlewild and five since they announced an indefinite hiatus, the prospect of Outkast's members reconvening seems more distant than ever. Whilst Andre 3000 and Big Boi's separation has proved a frustration for fans, however, there has been a crumb of comfort in the form of the latter's solo career, which took off back in 2010 with the release of Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty. A genuine hip hop tour de force, it was the sound of an artist emerging emphatically from the shadow of his more illustrious partner, and along with Speakerboxxx went a long way towards backing those who consider him the group's superior component. Such arguments could hold even more weight before the year is out, with solo sophomore Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors confirmed for a December 11 release - hopefully a fitting conclusion to the stunning year the genre's enjoyed. With guest slots from the likes of Kid Cudi, A$AP Rocky and Killer Mike early signs look promising, and should it match the excellence of its predecessor there certainly won't be any dissent at his continuing lone ventures.

Full details of Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors can be viewed here.

Official website

Live Review: Frank Turner, O2 Academy, Newcastle, 17/11/2012

No one - not even his most warped, deranged detractors - can possibly denounce Frank Turner's work ethic. The man is quite simply a machine, and shows no sign of slowing even with a relentless schedule that's thus far yielded four albums, a host of EPs and relentless touring since his departure from Million Dead back in 2005. Things may have seemed a little quiet of late, but that's because the Winchester singer-songwriter has been locked away writing and recording a new full length, atop of appearing at the Olympic opening ceremony and stalking stages topless with hardcore side project Mongol Horde whenever he's faced the novelty of a day off. It's an approach that's bearing fruits way beyond his established fanbase. Indeed if this ram-packed return to Newcastle's O2 Academy (solo show number 1,291, no less) proved anything it was that Turner has suddenly, and quite belatedly become massive - a guise which suits him no end considering the confident, crowd-pleasing and utterly brilliant manner with which these performances are conducted.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Album Review: Courage My Love - For Now

Album Rating: B+
Looking back on the release of For Now, it's a little strange that Courage My Love didn't get more support than they did - they seem to be doing everything right. With just over 25,000 Facebook fans and only one YouTube video with more than 1 million views, it's unclear why the band didn't skyrocket like so many similar groups. After all, their marketing strategy seems rock solid. Hot chick singing and playing guitar? Check. Hot chick playing drums? Check (this alone probably should have doubled the size of their current fanbase alone). Hot chick playing bass? Well, no, but you can't be perfect. Ridiculous music videos that showcase said hot chicks and bassist? Check - just look at "Bridges," filmed on the field at a staged football game that's a bit like A Day To Remember's video for "I'm Made Of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?". Ridiculous song titles? Check - try "Anchors Make Good Shoes (If You Have Issues)." Going out of their way to appeal to a large potential group of fans (namely geeks)? Check - "I Sell Comics," a free download off of the band's Bandcamp page, uses part of comic don Walt Flanagan's work as lyrics.

Album Review: P.O.S. - We Don't Even Live Here

Album Rating: B
The most notable difference in 2012’s P.O.S. is he isn’t taking himself as seriously, and this is big news considering 2009’s Never Better. The album existed as a call to arms against pop culture, but in a tightly scripted manner. Each moment was precisely constructed, and every minute detail captured carefully. Never Better is an anthem of its own, but it’s an entirely different beast than the punk-rapper’s latest release, We Don’t Even Live Here. Instead of intricately planned beats, we’ve got more straight-forward punches that are as effective, albeit in a different way than before.

Artist of the Day: Departures

Melodic hardcore group Departures are best known for the way they shocked us last year. When Losing Everything is Everything You Wanted, their debut album, hit the scene and gathered more attention than anybody anticipated. The album was very well-received, too; music critics all over the Internet praised the organic and straight-forward approach the group took, while still thinking outside of the box.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Artist of the Day: Motion City Soundtrack

Although the band undeniably peaked after 2005's venerated album Commit This to Memory, Motion City Soundtrack has had an undeniably good run since their humble beginnings in 1997. The band's new EP Making Moves, released just this week, seems to show an improvement from the disappointment that was June's Go. Motion City Soundtrack, like most pop-punk bands of their generation, are buoyed by strong vocals with decent contributions being made by all supporting instruments- look no further than the drumming on "Time Turned Fragile" for evidence of the band's competence.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Album Review: Cazzette - Eject Pt. 1

Album Rating: B
For all the hate electro house gets from more "cultured" electronic music fans, there's still something to be said for it. After all, it doesn't generally try (or even pretend to try) to be deep, subtle or profound, and while that displeases a lot of people it's not in and of itself a bad thing. It's made for the dancefloor, and though that might not be for everybody, the style has its own time and place. The straight four-on-the-floor beat, the kick or snare doubling over and over again until the drop, the Massive wobbles, the hint of melody before said wobbles kick in, and the jump-up-and-down fist-pump main section are all designed with the average EDM listener in mind, and it's unfair to say it's bad simply because it's made for a more general market than critically acclaimed styles like garage or IDM are. Given that, though, a lot of electro house releases fade into anonymity immediately because many songs in the genre sound too damn similar for their own good. Really, it turns into a "name game," with big-name artists releasing whatever the hell they want and, so long as they meet the minimum electro house requirements, achieving success after success. Even a dismal release can succeed if the artist is well-known enough (see Zedd's Clarity), making it difficult for an unknown artist to break through the walls between them and being recognizable. So, in short, the biggest songs, EPs, remixes, and (rarely) albums are usually released from a few artists on a handful of labels, which isn't quite the healthiest possible scenario for electro house.

Artist of the Day: The Mars Volta

Have we covered The Mars Volta here before?  Perhaps, and that shouldn't be surprising, considering the avid fan base that the prog-rockers have accumulated.  Hell, this writer even considers them to be a favorite band of his, as they were pivotal in driving him towards one of his favorite hobbies--music.

And it is with a heavy heart that this very writer pens "The Mars Volta on hiatus," a handful of words he hoped he'd never have to write.  While they were only active for a decade, they leave a huge crater in the music world.  Rarely can a band be so off the wall and unapproachable, yet be so loved.  With roots starting in post-hardcore, the band quickly changed up their sound into a more progressive delivery.  With an insane amount of members, The Mars Volta always sounded huge.  Strings, brass, and a myriad of percussion create a bombastic sound that channels salsa, rock, and psychedelic into one beautiful modge podge.  Always challenging, the band released albums that nearly wore on one's patience, with wild concepts and long run times.  However, the fervent "catchiness" and complex writing always made it worth it.  Added to that, mastermind Omar Rodriguez Lopez always reserved his most brilliant production skills for each of the band's six albums.

The word hiatus is much more hopeful than a break up, but the band is tight lipped on getting back together.  And while Noctourniquet was a lovely album, it didn't feel like the swan song it should have been.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Album Review: Stumbleine - Spiderwebbed

Album Rating: B
It’s safe to say that after a series of increasingly dull EPs, the idea of a Stumbleine full-length wasn’t particularly exciting. Up to this point, there were many who’d begun to dismiss the style as a whole as stagnant: seemingly safe in the knowledge that there was nothing left for this sugary sweet, dubstep-inspired strain of downtempo. But in surprise to all and not least myself, it seems that Stumbleine has batted down all misconceptions. Spiderwebbed shines as a glimmer of hope for the genre, and the best thing Stumbleine’s ever produced.

Artist Of The Day: Halestorm

In an alt-metal world that has practically stood still for the past 10 years or so, any sort of innovation is welcomed. Even if that innovation isn't much - more melodic guitars, a lead singer that doesn't sound like the lead singer of Seether/Nickelback/Theory Of A Deadman, anything - fans almost always appreciate something new. And while Halestorm aren't exactly reinventing the wheel so far, there's still something about their sound that's refreshing. Lead singer and guitarist LZZY captures the essence of classic hard rock artists like Joan Jett & The Blackhearts with a voice that, instead of being growly and annoying, stays clear and raw. It's probably the most distinctive feature of the band, although the instrumentation is also surprisingly good for a hard rock band like Halestorm are. The other major positive about the band is that their songs are surprisingly catchy - tracks like "I Miss The Misery" and "I Get Off" are good indicators of the band's style, with the power chords and hooks needed with modern hard rock and vocals separating the songs from the rest of the pack. Listening to their material, it's easy to see why such a young band has been signed to a major label already, and so far they've managed to prove their position there.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Interview with KJ Sawka (Pendulum)

After Pendulum, arguably one of the biggest drum & bass acts in the world at the time, broke up this summer, people had mixed reactions. Fans of their recent electro-rock style pined over their split, and the people who were severely disappointed with their shift from the classic jungle style of Hold Your Color decided that the split was a good idea. However, it's impossible to say that the six members of the band no longer influence the EDM world. Lead singer and bassist (and two of the three founding members) Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen are back in the spotlight as Knife Party, a huge electro duo who have cracked the DJ Mag Top 100 after only one year of existence. DJ Paul "El Hornet" Harding (the third founding member) is on tour under the Pendulum name, doing DJ sets all over the world with Pendulum MC Ben Verse. Guitarist Peredur Ap Gwynedd is apparently taking some time off in his home in Wales, much deserved after years of touring with the band.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Interview: Graph Rabbit

Graph Rabbit's Austin Donohue (L)
and Shy Kedmi (R)
Even in this age of limitless access and no-holds-barred exposure, music retains the capacity to surprise and delight like no other art form. A little over a month ago, I was all set to engrave my imaginary 'Album Of The Year' trophy with the name of The Walkmen, whose supreme latest offering Heaven had sat virtually unchallenged atop my mental list since it's release back in May. That, however, was before I was alerted to the existence of Snowblind, the debut LP from Brooklyn's Graph Rabbit that's currently converting all lucky enough to stumble upon it. A glorious hub of stark minimalism, still ambience and superlative beauty, the group's primordial sonic venture is the type of elegant, enveloping masterpiece which only crops up every so often, and even less so courtesy of practically unknown novices. It was my pleasure, then, to quiz singer/songwriter/ guitarist Austin Donohue concerning the group's origins, the making of the record and their future plans, all of which you can read below.

Artist of the Day: Japandroids

Japandroids is a fun band. It's hard to say that about artists that take themselves too seriously, but Japandroids releases material that is easy to listen to, not too over-produced, and has a raw sound that has a carefree vibe to it. The band released their second full-length this last June, and it's a work to be remembered. Not in a solemn way, either; it's a record that you listen to and enjoy thoroughly, nothing withheld, and in doing so, cheer yourself up, bring yourself around to have a good time. Songs like "Fire's Highway" and "Adrenaline Nightshift" bring lots of energy to their repertoire, which is a strong suit for the unrefined garage-rock band, and they really bring out the kind of performance a live show might bring out, but leaves it to be accessible on your phone or iPod, any time you want it. And after three years without a "real" release, critics were just as excited as fans; the lively track list was commended all around and the album was received with acclaim. It's not a surprise, though; one listen will tell you exactly why it was received so well, and why this lo-fi noise-rock duo strikes it well with so many people.

To listen to the album, you can stream it for free on their Polyvinyl Records page.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Artist of the Day: Vacationer

Vacationer's Gone is the reason why you should still believe in the endless possibilities that music can present us.  Even though Gone combines the ambient, quirky, and sophisticated electronic sounds of Deerhunter and Animal Collective with the free-flowing, summery, and relaxing sounds of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dirty Gold, the sound isn't what the most special thing about Gone.  Even though Gone has phenomenal love songs ("Be With You" and "Dreamlike,") even though Gone has great and grandiose rock songs ("Summer End" and "Everyone Knows,") and even though Gone has one of the 10 best songs of the year ("Good As New"), none of this is what makes Gone so inspiring and so reassuring.  The reason Gone is so special is because of the people who are making the album.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Royal's Reveries - On Genres

Genres are as important as they are devilish creatures. It goes without saying that we need genres for the sake of categorization, that we meticulous music devotees view music categorization no differently than having all of our iTunes album artwork as accurate as possible. It's a way of life for us. We divide bands into niches, into movements that share characteristics but also possess innumerable differences. While understandable, this is alarming, and highly problematic for those that care to ever be surprised.

Album Review: Code Orange Kids- Love is Love//Return to Dust

Album Rating: B
Many months ago, I had the opportunity to see Defeater with Touche Amore.  Known as the biggest acts in the scene right now, they didn't disappoint with putting on a nice show.  Two fine bands, really.  Yet it wasn't the aforementioned hardcore heavy-hitters that drew me in.  Sure, the promise of a great performance wrangled me in, but it was the supporting band, Code Orange Kids that truly sealed the deal.

Album Review: Maker - Self Titled EP

Album Rating: B-
When a band releases an EP following their debut full-length, it usually gives an indication as to what direction they're going in. Will they maintain the sound they've already established? Or will they try something a little different? In the case of Maker with their self-titled EP, they're definitely trying to incorporate some variation, but whether the change is positive or negative is very much up for debate.

Album Review: Gifts From Enola - A Healthy Fear

Album Rating: B+
The Mylene Sheath knows exactly what they're doing when they sign bands. They look for eclectic, interesting artists that could strike it big in their genre - and it turns out that they usually do, thanks to masterful production and promotion, as well as incredible musical talent from the artists themselves. Gifts From Enola is certainly no exception, having been on the label for over 3 years, and now having released 3 albums with Mylene. The newest record is something of a shift for the band, but looking at their history, it seems as though their sound isn't ever truly solidified, and they always look to improve or change their music in a way that their listeners don't expect. A Healthy Fear brings a degree of dissonance and tonal experimentation that works in an inspiring way that sets Gifts From Enola apart from the rest of the world of music.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Artist of the Day: Michelle Branch

As pop stars get younger and younger by the day, it's easy to forget Michelle Branch, the 16-year-old who burst onto the airwaves in 2001 with her ubiquitous hit "Everywhere." Eventually forced into retirement by the birth of her children, Branch was able to record 2 albums of her own before the age of 20. Despite her youth, Branch displayed surprising maturity with her song writing and vocals. Although songs like "You Get Me" made her inexperience and age a little more apparent, she hid it rather well. It's easy to compare her to Taylor Swift due to her country influences and focus on relationships but that would diminish the power of her music. It's entirely unique- pop music rooted in naivete rather than risque themes or revenge. It's wholesome, but not sweet as saccharine. "A Drop in the Ocean" showcases a girl wise beyond her years who doesn't shy away from metaphor (albeit basic) when writing.

Her debut, 2001's The Spirit Room is even across the board, with no songs engineered for commercial success, just for expression. It's music for the sake of music, the way that little kids dream pop music is. Although 2003's Hotel Paper saw a drop in quality, it still produced lasting songs like "Are You Happy Now?" Frankly, it's not that Hotel Paper is a weak album as much as it is The Spirit Room was a pop radio gem. Her subtle twang, crisp backing band and charming persona made Branch into a phenomenon in the early 2000's and it's a shame that she seems to have been left behind in the new decade. Look for a new album from Branch next year; perhaps she will be able to replicate the success from her teens.

Personal Website/Blog


Album Review: Storm The Beaches - Hemisphere

Album Rating: B+
Through their short three-year career, Storm The Beaches have seemed to do everything they can do to be "new," and as a result haven't attracted a large amount of attention. They've released two EPs independently through Bandcamp, and now are part of a small record label (Apparition Records, responsible for three bands) that has handled the promotion and releasing of the group's debut full-length, Hemisphere. The producer for all three of the band's releases has had only one other major project as a producer for pop-rock band You, Me, And Everyone We Know. At the time of this writing, Storm The Beaches have fewer than 3500 likes on Facebook and their most popular YouTube video, which was not posted from the band's official channel, has around 3800 views, more than every video on the band's official channel combined. And yet, something seems to suggest that Storm The Beaches will be garnering some serious recognition for their first album. They've been covered on major sites like Alternative Press and AbsolutePunk leading up to the release, and their fan base has been growing exponentially as the release date of Hemisphere has approached

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Album Review: Enei - Machines

Album Rating: B-
A lot of people would argue that the drum & bass scene has been a little too safe the past couple years. Producers like Andy C, Noisia, Friction, and Cause4Concern have dominated the genre for much of its 20-year lifespan, and as a result a lot of sounds in the genre have been used over and over again. It's one of the reasons why new faces are especially welcomed in drum & bass, and Enei is no exception. The young Russian producer (Alexey Egorchenkov) started making waves in 2007 with his first major release on Fokuz Recordings. After becoming the first and only producer to sign exclusively with Critical Music, one of the biggest techstep/neurofunk labels in drum & bass, Enei has been pleasing people left and right with a series of singles and EPs that take elements from both classic jungle DnB and more modern techstep drums and distortion. He's been so successful with his songs and performances that his debut album has been hyped up to levels akin to legends Calyx & Teebee's new full-length, a startling fact considering that duo helped shape the origins of the genre way back in the '90s and are two of the most famous producers in the world. And, although Enei had previously only released up to four songs at a time, no one doubted that he would be able to continue on his hot streak with Machines.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jukebox: Chemtrail - Poison Bag

About six months ago, I released a spotlight on Chemtrail's newest EP, Sounds Like Ghosts, raving about their technique, and how evocative they can be with B-side cuts that sound unrefined in a genre that harps over refinement. There's one song that stuck with me since then, though. "Poison Bag" might be the song of the year in my book; it has everything the post-rock genre has to offer, and more. It's a window into Chemtrail's creative process, a sad story told on a rainy day, a metaphor for passing beyond life, a retrospective of regret - you name it, the song applies. It's just that good.

The song opens with this riff on clean guitar that is played with vibrant clarity, but is pushed down by a hovering riff by another guitar that steals the spotlight, one that'll come back to haunt the listener in choruses to come. The clean guitar is persistent, and plays throughout, forming the backdrop for the melody. Eerie wails echo overhead as the drums push the melody through the verse, aggressing towards the end of each as the hovering distortion comes back as a phantom again and again, growing each time it's played. The bridge is a calm respite, an eye in the storm; there's plenty of tension, but it's not being acted upon, quite yet. However, as post-rock usually does, it begins to expand outwards, more and more, building up after the bridge, until a pre-chorus before the outro re-introduces the distorted riff once again, and a feeling of heavy oppression push the song through an ending that is so powerful that it numbs all emotional centers; as the distorted riff grows, more elements and layers are brought in, and the outro brings on an intense wave of sound, filled with guitar-centered nuances that make it something beyond simply a song. It's a message of power, and of sadness. And it does an excellent job of communicating that message.

If you haven't already picked this EP up, you can do so for free on Chemtrail's bandcamp.

Artist of the Day: Main Attrakionz

Main Attrakionz love dreaming. The cloud rap duo specialize in ambient soundscapes, carved delicately to provide proper backbone for the MCs' lyrics, and the combination works really well. However, none of us would know about Main Attrakionz if the Internet hadn't bent over backwards for them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Artist of the Day: Bombs and Bottles

Sugary-sweet pop with bass seems to be all the rage these days; at least that's what it appears from the large ambient/experimental rock I live under. It's effectively the first sub-culture beneath the wastelands of One Direction, Justin Bieber and all similar forms of hell spawn. Simple enough, really: it's catchy, fun and sometimes even quite inventive. Also, being a sub/counter-culture and all, a lot of affiliated artists like to release a chunk of their music for free, which is jolly nice of them.

Bombs and Bottles is one of these jolly nice people, and he makes music very similar to what I previously described. Think Weeknd-esque vocals over chirpy melodies and the kind of organic, "drop the" bass lines that were really popular about a year ago and you'd be very close. It's closer to dance than volume-worship, however, so what bass is used is often kept to a restrained, catchy level, and do you know what? A lot of what Bombs and Bottles has to offer is really, really good. Sure, there's not much to it, but it's just plain, vanilla enjoyment, so there's nothing to really complain about. The perfect stuff to celebrate with for those who can now get baked legally.

Official Website: I'd personally recommend Tonight and Numb and Young.

Album Review: Liar - Strange Love

Album Rating: 
It shouldn’t of been so much of a surprise that Strange Love was such a personal retelling of Liar’s romance; but it was. This dark garage-house sound doesn’t often strive for intimacy, instead taking a much more detached and reflective outlook, and even when artists like Holy Other and oOoOO defy this it always tends towards generalities more than anything else. In an interview with Earmilk, Liar sets out his objectives, ideas and hopes for the album: revealing the unhealthy levels of love and lust that inspired it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Baauer

In today's EDM world, trap has taken hold of the hearts of millions. The big-bassed sound, the sluggish hip-hop beats, and the heavily distorted upper end make any club go crazy at the mere hint of anything trap. Artists who create this big-bodied sound seemingly make their careers overnight, and both huge bro producers (Dillon Francis) and serious "dark side" DJs (Hudson Mohawke & Lunice, a.k.a. TNGHT) have taken a stab at the genre. That being said, a name to look out for on the dance side of things is Baauer. The 23-year-old has already had releases with Diplo's Mad Decent label after gaining a huge following on his own merit on Soundcloud, and although he's only released a few songs so far he's seen huge support come his way already. A good example of the talent he displays on a consistent basis is his remix of "Rollup" by Flosstradamus. A rap sample and very short vocal clip fall on top of extremely heavy kicks and typical hip-hop claps, and it's clear that it's a song made for one purpose: to destroy dance floors. All of Baauer's songs have accomplished that feat, and it's clear that he'll be going places in the near future.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Album Retrospective: Snowmine - Laminate Pet Animal

Album Rating: A-
How to make a sleeper hit in 2011.

Step 1: Give people the option of downloading your album for free. Everyone and their mother gets music for nothing nowadays, but they’re rather do it legally and tend to warm to the bands that allow them to. Step 2: Have an interesting and appealing album cover. The first opinion of an album is usually from the image on the front, so like it or not it’s aesthetics that decide whether you listen to something or not. Step 3: Make a fucking good album. That’s what Snowmine did.

Album Review: Motion City Soundtrack - Making Moves

Album Rating: A-
On a list of the bigger disappointments of 2012, you will probably find Motion City Soundtrack's latest album Go among the names. After the excellent 2010 record My Dinosaur Life expectations for Go were sky high, but even while there were gems such as "Circuits and Wires," "Happy Anniversary" and "Floating Down The River," the weaknesses outmatched the strengths and led to a very incohesive and unspectacular record. Luckily, Motion City Soundtrack is releasing a new 7" record as part of the band's Making Moves series, and the batch of songs recorded for this 7" immediately stand out as better than a large majority of Go, and is a fantastic cushion for the disappointing blow received back in July.

Artist Of The Day: K Será

I've written about K Será in this space a couple times now, and it's been a little over a year since we spoke with them. Since then they released a solid little EP titled The Cantos ii, and are now following it up with their first full length album, due out early 2013. For now, we have our first taste of studio footage, including some fantastic Casey Crescenzo (The Dear Hunter) mandolin playing. Crenscenzo produced the album, and from the clips we've heard so far, there's some definitely Dear Hunter influences on K Será's already cinematic sound. My one complaint from the EPs was that there didn't seem to be much variety in sound, but based on the clips, there seems to be a tad wider sound on this album, something desperately needed for a 10-12 song LP that isn't as important in EPs. We'll get our first taste of Collisions and Near Misses next week, but for now, you can watch the studio clips here.

Album Review: Reso - Tangram

Album Rating: A-/A
Today's brostep controversy has raged for a few years now, and hasn't shown any sign of letting up. There's an incredible polarization in the electronic scene between the mid-range crowd and the low-end crowd, and neither side seems to care particularly for the other. Almost all brostep artists have come under fire as "unskilled," "obnoxious," "not subtle," and "exactly what's wrong with dubstep today." With that being said, however, one of the few producers who's managed to evade much of the criticism other big names receive on a daily basis is Reso. It's somewhat puzzling that people can fawn over him and not be dismissed as "scene kids," while most of his dubstep does in fact have a certain focus on mid-range sawtooth wobbles. Maybe he's managed to avoid controversy because he's been producing that style of dubstep since he first made it big, back when a certain Sonny Moore was still lead singer of post-hardcore band From First To Last. Maybe it's because he doesn't limit himself to abrasive synth leads, as he's been known to delve into other tempos and styles of electronic music rather than stick with a standard 140 BPM tune. And maybe it's because the "real dubstep" fans recognize (to a certain extent) Reso's talents: his production is always graced with complex beats, an interesting low end, and other elements normally not found in stereotypical brostep.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jukebox: Midnight Conspiracy & Cenob1te - Sentinel

Midnight Conspiracy and Cenob1te are both going to be names to watch in the EDM world in the next few years. Neither duo has been in the spotlight until about half a year ago, when the producers were featured on BT's Laptop Symphony with their song "The Eye," a huge electro house tune that was a good display of everything right in the "bro-house" world. The heavy sawtooth wobbles and pump-up drums of the song pushed both duo's first major-label single release to the top of electro charts around the world. And as much as neither Midnight Conspiracy nor Cenob1te are going to win any awards for subtlety (the latter's first major release came on Excision's notorious label Rottun Recordings, and the former is often grouped with producers like At Dawn We Rage thanks to a similarly abrasive style), it's not what either is going for. For what it's worth, the style of "brutal" house that "The Eye" used worked, creating mayhem whenever any DJ dropped the song during a performance.

Live Review: Spiritualized, Hall 1, The Sage, Gateshead, 01/11/2012

Not many artists can get away with shunning their best album by a country mile, but by the same token few possess a catalogue as strong or expansive as Jason Pierce and Spiritualized. Hugely acclaimed both on record and on stage, the space rock master is noted for his tendency to shuffle setlists, though few who congregated in The Sage's main hall could have predicted such a drastic curve. He had a new record to exhibit in Sweet Heart Sweet Light, but even the most seasoned observers will surely have anticipated a level of reliance on 1997's Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space; universally regarded his masterpiece and a high point of '90s music as a whole. As it was, only a solitary song, "Electricity," made an appearance - and that ended up being an unlikely trough in a show which predominantly focused on less familiar reaches of his discography.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Artist of the Day: Alcest

Music is, and always has been, about communicating a message from the artist, something they hold as a close personal ideal, to the audience. It's intended to be open to manipulation as the artist sees fit and send this message in as receptive a way as they can for the world to see. For Stephane "Neige" Paut, this message is a musical adaptation of memories of a far off country, "Fairy Land," that Neige remembers as a child. The point of Alcest is a way for the listener to be able to experience what Neige once had through his songs. The concept is hard for us to believe, feels so absurd - yet, whenever I hear Alcest, my mind wills itself to wander, and it becomes difficult to focus on the present. To me, this feels like solid evidence that whatever Neige has planned for his music, it succeeds at making the listener escape the world of today for something bigger than ourselves.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Artist of the Day: The Sheds

The Sheds are a band based out of California, whose style of music can best be described as being ska-core. This isn't the most well known of genre combinations, but it's one that works shockingly well where The Sheds are concerned. They put out an EP entitled Self/Doubt earlier this year, and I have to say, it might be the most refreshing release I've ever come across. The punk hardcore aspect of The Sheds is of the same caliber as bands like Balance and Composure, with heavy-hitting chord progressions/breakdown and vocals alike. But it's with the healthy dose of ska influence that really makes them stand out because there just isn't anything else quite like it. Every song on Self/Doubt, from start to finish, is intense, catchy, and infinitely listenable, which should mean a lot coming from someone who's avoided anything ska-related like it's the plague. And better yet, the EP is still up for free download, courtesy of Alternative Press. So, if by some chance you're still looking for something new to listen to, in spite of the obscene amount of music being released lately, I couldn't recommend these guys more. They're both working hard and succeeding at creating passionate and original music, and should be at the top of the list of bands to keep your eyes on in the future.


Artist Of The Day: Dropkick Murphys

It's really no exaggeration to say Dropkick Murphys changed my life. They were essentially the first 'proper' band I listened to, coming along at a time when my CD collection was dominated by Busted (hell yeah!) and at a push the odd Chilli Peppers or Foo Fighters title. My musical tastes have developed quite a bit since then. These days, records like The Velvet Underground & Nico, If You're Feeling Sinister and The Midnight Organ Fight tend to hog my listening, but even so the Boston punks remain among my very favourites. I still attend their gigs, wear their T-shirts and eagerly anticipate each new release, and the recent announcement of an eighth studio LP set the entire process off again. Called Signed And Sealed In Blood, the album is set for release on January 8. and thematically at least will mark a departure from concept-driven previous effort Going Out In Style. "There's an upbeat, party vibe to it," claims bassist and founding member Ken Casey. "It's not that the last album wasn't fun - it was, but it gave me a couple migraines along the way. This time we cut loose." 

2012 may not be over yet, but next year already looks rich with promise, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if this winded up being its first highlight.


Official website

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Album Review: Menomena - Moms

Rating: A
One of my biggest flaws as a lover of music is being a sucker for just about any "diary entry" music.  I am such a sucker for honesty, self-loathing, emotion and romanticism that I often lose perspective on everything that has to come together to make music good.  My love for music that is heavily dependent on lyrics that sound like they came out of a diary means that I have never got the full picture, I have always been given a beautiful art gallery, but have always cut my own eyes out.  I have been taking walks with musical Picasso but have only been concerned about their back stories and not their actual work, I have been on the court with musical Michael Jordan's but have only been looking at their shoes,   I have been given a catalog of Utopia's but have only obsessed over the cover.  It has become clear to me, as I go through days upon days of the bedroom angst of Bright Eyes, the whines of Radiohead, and the pre-pubescent screams of Taking Back Sunday, that I not only need to let me self see the full picture, but that I need a musical awakening.  I was not only loving all sorts of "diary music," but I was becoming ignorant of all other kinds of musical beauty.  I was missing the entire musical stratosphere for one small musical dot and I was missing the entire rest of the musical body for one heart on the sleeve.  What album could possibly get me out of my narrow minded funk?