Sunday, June 30, 2013

Best Of The Year 2013: First Half Update

Welcome to MuzikDizcovery's quarterly article on our favorite releases of the year to date. Each of our staff members has posted a list of our five favorite albums of the year to date, with a little blurb showing why we love each one so much. Every album released in 2013 that we have heard was eligible, even if the album has not been released to the public just yet. As always, there's a wide variety of music on these lists, and every release on here is worth checking out. Owel, The World Is A Beautiful Place, Kanye West, Captain, We're Sinking, Rare Monk, Justin Timberlake, Sigur Ros, The Knife, Tegan And Sara, Youth Lagoon, The Wonder Years and Lights and Motion all take prominent spots in multiple lists, and represent some of the best that 2013 has to offer. Check out of all of our lists below, and click on any links in the album names for our reviews.

Artist of the Day- Charli XCX

Chances are you've heard Icona Pop's surprise hit "I Don't Care" if you've ventured to the club or flipped the radio on in the past month. Forgotten in the furor over the Swedish duo's success is the featured artist and writer of the anthem, Charlotte Aitchison, better known as Charli XCX. Ahead of her time as a member of the new British assault on American pop radio led by Adele, Jessie J (who also wrote a hit single for another artist, Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA" before finding success of her own with "Domino" and "Price Tag") and Cher Lloyd, Charli was signed as 14-year-old on the strength of her MySpace hits "Art Bitch" and "iFranchesckaar!" Since then, she has gone basically dormant. Potential debut 14 was never released and although she released two EPs in 2011, neither of them was received with much fanfare or promotional material. She's certainly a different breed of starlet- her vocals sound like a laryngitic Ellie Goulding, her choice in style is hard to identify (although the picture provided a cross between Helena Bonham Carter and Marina Diamandis, another UK import who hasn't made big waves on the pop charts)- but she still calls rising star Sky Ferreira among her close friends and released 2013's True Romance on Atlantic Records. The five promotional singles from her debut failed to generate the same amount of buzz combined as "I Don't Care" has, but this seems par for the course for Charli XCX. Her album was delayed for a full year, has been in production since 2010 and she still can't justify the Next Big Thing label Atlantic certainly placed over her head six years ago when they took a chance on the precocious teen. None of her music may be radio-ready yet, but she has such a distinct persona and ability to nail her interpretation of 80's synth-pop, it seems inconceivable that she will remain an insider secret for much longer. The worst thing that could happen is she becomes Ester Dean, clandestinely writing all your favorite Top 40 songs, quietly hoping one day she will be the one scoring your backseat singalongs.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Interview With Fake Problems (6/10/13)

Fake Problems may have felt pretty inactive over the past year or so, but the band has actually been busier than ever. The band has been working on a brand new album, and while the process has taken longer than expected, the band hasn't kept us in the dark. To prepare us for what should be a phenomenal follow-up to the fantastic Real Ghosts Caught On Tape, they recently released a split 7" with Florida buddies You Blew It!, and showcased a number of new songs on a big tour supporting The Menzingers. We caught up with the band on the DC date of that tour, and talked about topics such as the new album, the end of their partnership with SideOneDummy, Taco Bell commercials, the band's love for covers, and far more that you can read below.

Artist Of The Day: dep

Imagine yourself running through the forest, shoes flung into the bushes. The fog of the dawn is thick, so thick you can barely see your hands. It’s soft earth under your feet, though—must have rained last night—and it kisses your heels every time they touch the ground. All you have with you is the misty hope of something waiting for you at the other end of the path and the murmurs of the birds to guide you there. These are not exercises in visualizing: these are the last known surroundings of one Danny Peck, though he’d prefer it if you called him dep. Quite literally. The song’s name is “Last Known Surroundings.”

He’s a wanderer, dep: from the throes of his bedroom, he’s written 19 albums, dabbling in everything from acoustic folk to electronica. Yet it’s on Ever Looming, his twentieth release, that he asserts he’s really found himself—in all honesty, the music speaks for itself. Say hello to thundering walls of percussion, distant but ever-so-slightly morose vocal chants, dazzling toybox keys, and soulful strings adding up to what feels like the soundtrack for the Inception sequel Christopher Nolan never wrote. Ever Looming is a fitting opus for a bedroom producer, a blanket for troubled souls, capturing a sense of exhaustive wandering but balancing it with aesthetic beauty and a soothing peace. It’s hard to see in the fog, but dep promises you that you are not alone. And he has the musical chops to make you believe it.

Ever Looming is available for free now, and you can also find plenty of info on dep (not to mention downloads!) on his official page.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Artist Of The Day: The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die

Can you ever really beat jumping off a high rock into a lake on a really hot day? Sure, that game console you reserve special veneration for and that tablet which your eyes ignore even pretty girls for are both great, but once you slip outside the confines of the increasingly technological age and look outside your window, there is some serious excitement and beauty out there. Can a ‘like’ on a social networking site or a comment on your blog ever really provide the same lasting satisfaction that plunging head-first into a cool body of water from above can? No, you’re damn right it can’t.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Artist of the Day: Four Tet

Four Tet's announcement of a new album, and one which according to him is the best he's made, has caused more than a stir last week. To try and give an explanation as to why: his two releases in the last 12 months have been critically acclaimed despite one being a selection of old, unreleased material and the other a collection of singles previously released on Soundcloud. To give another explanation: everyone likes Four Tet, and his signature blend of live percussion, guitar and electronic tomfoolery casts a wide net for anyone exploring music to fall into.

2013 is an exciting year for Four Tet in more ways than a new album, as it marks the 10 year anniversary of his most popular release Rounds. Commemorated with a special 10 year anniversary edition, fans now have access to previously released live performances which see Four Tet playfully tweak around with classic tracks. He distorts moods and keeps anyone familiar with the original recordings guessing, injecting a completely new mischievous flow into old classics. The album itself is still sounding as fresh as ever, so if the new album really is as good as he suggests then it is something worth clenching the edges of our seats for.

Four Tet is on Facebook, where everyone is convinced he's Burial.

Album Review: Melt Yourself Down - Melt Yourself Down

Album Rating: A-
Plenty of artists have received their big break on Later... with Jools Holland, but few over the past two decades have come near to making the impression Melt Yourself Down did upon their appearance last month. They may never touch the sales figures of Adele, Seasick Steve or Jessie J, whose careers all experienced liftoff following stints on the BBC's flagship music programme, but it's fair to say this collective's performance transcended all of them, particularly within the context of a largely disappointing series. Perhaps more than anything, it evoked At The Drive-In's infamous farce back in 2000, albeit minus the carnage and with a significant hike in musical value. Sound-wise they bear little resemblance, but the sight of vocalist Kushal Gava tearing around the stage amid a backing of unhinged sonic chaos was more or less in the same mould, and quickly made a name of what until then had been one of the nation's great up-and-coming secrets.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Cherry Coke

It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of most of the popular progressive house that's produced on a weekly basis nowadays. Much of the material that shoots up the Beatport charts sticks to the "clean vocal intro, anthemic chorus, massive buildup, another anthemic section, repeat" formula that's become rather popular with the so-called "EDM Revolution" in America. Cherry Coke does not fit in with the stuff I dislike. Sure, his remix of Pendulum's "The Island" follows this strategy. However, his clean Swedish-house synths and buildup are unlike the drivel that most producers stick to. The contrast between Rob Swire's vocals and the "anthemic chorus" instrumentation is good enough to bypass the fact that it's somewhat formulaic, and the tune is one of my favorite progressive house releases of the past few years. "Milky Way" is even better - it's easy to picture even music fans worth their salt losing it when the massive, euphoric synth buildup plays out. Cherry Coke is still a relatively young producer, and it'll be interesting to see what happens in the future.


Jukebox: Typhoon - "Young Fathers"

Oregon-based folk supergroup Typhoon often concerns itself with the passage of time, a theme that it continues to take in haunting, emotional directions with its latest single, "Young Fathers." As always, the band shows off its sun-kissed charm with soft ooohs, a hearty serving of choral camaraderie, and rich, jovial instrumentation (including horns, harmonica, lounge guitar, and maybe even a touch of trip-hop). For such a joyful display, though, the song's twistier than a strawberry Twizzler: a grizzled Spiderman, it swings from cobweb to cobweb picking at the pictures of a parent/child relationship long gone. Long-time listeners will know, however, that this is hardly music for moping, as Typhoon approaches this introspection with irresistible energy and a sincere, untarnished sense of wonder.

Sometimes, I worry that becoming an adult will mean letting go of happiness and hope and barren love, all those matters of the heart that we're warned will shrivel in the glare of the world. Why I love Typhoon--and why "Young Fathers" moves me so--is because it always reminds me that sometimes when you grow up, your heart grows a little bit too.

Typhoon's upcoming LP White Lighter is out August 20 on Roll Call Records.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Captain, We're Sinking

Last year, The Menzingers released their highly anticipated record On The Impossible Past. The record ended up exceeding all expectations, winning them over a wider fanbase and helped position themselves to sell out quite a few dates on their recently completed headlining tour. Captain, We're Sinking opened that tour, and the release of their debut full length record The Future Is Cancelled may put them on the path that The Menzingers has travelled in the past year. The comparisons to The Menzingers continue on past just the shared tour, as both bands play lyrically powerful, dual vocal led melodic punk. The similar influences aren't surprising once you hear that guitarist/vocalist Bob Barnett is related to Menzingers's member Greg Barnett. However, The Future Is Cancelled definitely wins the diversity aspect of the comparison. "Adultery" is one of the strongest openers of the year with its dark, chaotic verses where you can feel the whole band losing their sanity. The shouts of "you're in my head" relate perfectly to the mood created by the verses and show how powerful the songwriting is for such a young group. The Future Is Cancelled moves beyond just simple, fast punk songs and shows off a band creating music far beyond its years, only signaling more greatness to come in the future. You can stream The Future Is Cancelled on Bandcamp, and be sure to follow the band on Facebook.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Artist of the Day: These New Puritans

Okay maybe it’s because I’m one of those useless music dweebs who’s, like, worried about the future of rock and stuff, but the most exciting thing for me about Field of Reeds, the latest outing by London-based art-rockers These New Puritans, is what comes next. TV’s golden number is 100. The rare show that reaches the 100 episode mark has earned its place in the cannon. If you’re asking me, music’s number is four, but the algorithm isn’t so simple. A degree of subjectivity must be applied, along with that testy and oft overused descriptor: great. One great album can, by itself, alter the course of rock’s evolution, but may just be lightning in a bottle. Four great albums means a great band. The Velvet Underground, Dylan, Talking Heads, the ‘Mats, the Stones, the Beatles, Sonic Youth — these are the pillars of rock, and they’ve all done it. These New Puritans have one more to go.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Live Review: The Front Bottoms, Black Cat (6/2/13)

I have been lucky enough to see The Front Bottoms five times now, and there's been quite a noticeable progression for them in their live performance. Only a year and a half ago they performed as a two piece, using a macbook to fill in the horns and synth parts. They soon added a bassist and became a three piece, and for this album cycle they finally are a full four piece band that can play electric guitar, bass, keys, and trumpet to go with the group's two core instruments of acoustic guitar and drums. Even while the live lineup and arrangement has been in flux, the one constant for their sets is an intense outpouring of energy. Their fans feed off it and create an environment surprising for the music they play, forming a chaotic storm of kids jumping, dancing, and screaming their lungs out.

Artist Of The Day: Iron & Wine

Sam Beam has had a large hand in the popularization of indie folk. Along with folks such as The Mountain Goats, Fleet Foxes and of course, the band that comes to everyone's mind for the genre, Mumford & Sons. As far as staying to a particular sound goes, though, Beam has a particularly simple time due to being a solo project, and the biggest perk that comes with being an individual in the music industry is room for creativity. For example, he began with a solely folk-central sound, with a Neil Young sort of style, purely acoustic strings and a fresh sound in the new millennium that we hadn't been accustomed to for quite a while. As he wrote more and more, Beam added other tastes and colors into his music, including electric guitars and brass instruments. He's also explored different types of sounds, delving into traditional Mexican music, pop, jazz and R&B, while keeping the core of Iron & Wine at the base of everything. His most recent effort, April's Ghost On Ghost, expands the pop sounds featured on his previous album, Kiss Each Other Clean, but including some of the experimental jazz style and of course, his folk roots.

Beam will be touring for Ghost On Ghost more extensively in the fall, so take a look for tour dates and locations on his site.

Album Review: Her Royal Harness - The Hunting Room

Album Rating: B
It's a shame that Her Royal Harness's The Hunting Room almost inevitably won't find popularity easily. The album and its genre - self-professed "alternative pop" — are caught in an unfortunate chasm between (and maybe even nowhere near) the two markets of radio pop and radio-friendly alternative and indie rock. I don't see the bare-bones instrumentation of "Bear In A Trap" fitting in on the Hot 97s of the world, nor do I think the dark and driving "Blood + Fire" would do well on the alternative stations around the globe. This isn't a dig at the album itself, of course - plenty of good music won't show up anywhere near the radio. It's just a little frustrating to see an album as sullenly entrancing as this without much chance of appeal to the larger audience it deserves, barring a Pitchfork review or something of its ilk.

Album Review: Night Verses - Lift Your Existence

Album Rating: A-
Rising from the ashes of post-hardcore band The Sleeping, vocalist Doug Robinson wasted little time lamenting his old project before forming Night Verses. Leaving a successful project to initiate a new one is a risk which sometimes sees artists fall off the musical map, but when such boldness is channelled correctly and substantiated with the skill to execute it then success stories are born - and it hasn't taken Robinson and Night Verses long to establish themselves as one such story. After testing the waters in 2012 with debut EP Out Of The Sky, the reaction was such that a full length album has surfaced little more than a year later. Lift Your Existence sees all the seeds which were sewn on Out Of The Sky nurtured and in full bloom, and the finest qualities of their debut have been exorbitantly expanded on.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Event Preview: The NINES Festival (Devens, MA, USA)

Prior to this year, it was tough for New England music fans to get out to all-day festivals. Lolla was in Chicago, Bonnaroo was in Tennessee, Coachella was in California. However, this year two excellent festivals have been added. First, the Boston Calling festival (showcasing some of the world's best alternative and indie rock) has been such a major success that the festival's organizers have added a second date after its May premiere in September. Second, and less publicized, The NINES has been created as a way of promoting music in Central Massachusetts. Showcasing artists from all across the musical spectrum (Explosions In The Sky, Delta Spirit, Kid Koala - all the way from post-rock to electronic to more "accessible" music), the festival is sure to impress anyone who plans on going thanks to the wide swath of styles and the quality of all the music which will be there. The festival's introductory press release is below:

Artist Of The Day: Wolf Down

European hardcore outfit Wolf Down really know how to bring the mosh. The currently four-piece vegan straight-edge outfit play a straight forward style of relentless hardcore. The riff-based, breakdown style and atypical three-minute song lengths give Wolf Down a new dynamic in a scene where start-stop tempo shifts and one-minute songs are the norm.

Live Review: Tame Impala, The National (6/18/13)

Photo by Caroline Creasey
I encountered a strange and disheartening paradox as I sat in the balcony of Richmond’s National last Tuesday, letting palpable gushes of fuzz wash over me from Tame Impala’s medium-sized amp rig in a haze of wet, flanged heat something like the heavenly twin of the hellish humidity that lay in wait outside the venue’s doors. Just by writing this review, I’m squandering your chances of being quite as blown away by the band as I was. See, I had heard some things about their live show a little bit after the militantly chill Lonerism dropped. Apparently, they were bad. I remember quite specifically the words “worst show I’ve ever seen.” It must have been the gambling rush that took me down to the box office back in April (fuck an online fee) to secure my spot in the crowd of curiously diverse concertgoers. I guess that sexy-swampy production works for everyone.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Interview With A Little Orchestra (6/10/2013)

Members of A Little Orchestra
Not every up-and-coming ensemble can attract talent from almost a dozen different bands; yet that's exactly how A Little Orchestra came to be. Centered in England, the group has just released its debut: Clocks, a free-spirited collage cobbled together from whispers of indie pop, film scores, and folk and featuring performances from artists all across the musical spectrum. I contacted members Monster Bobby (sadly, that is not his real name) and Natalie Hudson via email to ask a few questions about their origin story, the namesake of their band's debut, and what's in the cards for the future.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Artist Of The Day: The 1975

By the end of 2013, I guarantee a majority of alternative music listeners will have fallen in love with 1975. I have easily noticed their ascendence in popularity, as between March 30th (the first time I saw the band live) and tonight (my second time seeing the band) they have more than doubled their amount of Facebook fans. Their continuous output of EPs has kept their hype moving along to the point where it is assured that their debut LP will sell a surprisingly large amount of copies. In fact, "Chocolate" has been getting radio play on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio top 40 channel Hits 1, and it wouldn't shock me to see the song slowly rise the charts throughout the summer. It's the perfect warm weather jam; the song is contagiously catchy and is a super fun singalong to blast in the car. The group's self-titled album will be out on September 10th, and keep your eye on the band's tour dates on Facebook. They're a fantastic live experience and as their popularity rises, so will venue sizes, so be sure to see them as soon as you can!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Album Review: Kanye West - Yeezus

Album Rating: A+
Looking back now that the dust has settled a bit, Kanye West's interview with The New York Times set the stage perfectly for Yeezus. The interview was a case of 'Ye's massive ego run rampant, a piece of work which inevitably caused both fans and detractors of the producer and rapper to shake their heads in disbelief (or lack thereof) and pity. West's focus on self and lack of perspective angered many, and the popularity of the interview and analysis thereof (see Vulture's "The Sixteen Most Amazing/Ridiculous Things Kanye Said in His New York Times Interview") was indicative of the polarizing nature of Kanye's personality. The cynical among us may have assumed the interview was nothing more than a publicity stunt, meant to sell copies of West's then-upcoming album and create hype where there was (apparently) not enough before. It's entirely possible this theory is true, of course, though as Pitchfork astutely pointed out in their analysis of the album Kanye is "now making a point out of rejecting corporate sponsorship."

Artist of the Day - Lil B

You can say what you want about Lil B, and Lord (or should I say Based God?) knows you probably  have thousands of criticisms loaded on your tongue if you're ever heard Wonton Soup in the back of your buddy's Jeep, but he doesn't care. The 23-year-old rapper and chief practitioner of the #BASED lifestyle, one that eschews negativity, discrimination and anything else that may interfere with the pursuit of happiness, has no time for those who choose not to appreciate his strange approach to hip-hop. In an interview with Complex magazine, Lil B (born Brandon McCartney) explained others harbor animosity against him because "what takes them 10 hours to do takes me 30 minutes." His material is so streamlined and produced so efficiently he needed 33 Myspace accounts to hold all his material. The depth of his library is so incredible it seems, like the oceans themselves, impossible to explore its entirety.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Virt

Every music fan has a watershed moment or two: for me, my watershed moment was listening to Jake Kaufman’s groundbreaking chiptune release, FX3, all the way back in 2009 (like any superhero worth his salt, though, he goes by his alter ego Virt). Every song was unbelievably moving: he was taking the sounds from our childhoods and pumping out sprawling, emotive pieces of progressive rock music. I was a boy consumed.

Album Review: Blitz Lunar - Triptunes

Album Rating: A-
Diversity just may be the best part of the chiptune community. In the past few years, Nintendo aficionados have experimented with everything from drum and bass to twisted, seductive salsa to ‘80s-style disco. Of course, many of those artists have also become musical chemists in the process, finding increasingly bizarre and fascinating combinations of genres. Blitz Lunar is one such omnivore, not to mention one with quite the palate. His debut Triptunes, one of the finest of 2013 to date, should prove a feast for even the most voracious appetite.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Interview with Robin Staps of The Ocean (6/17/2013)

The Ocean released their 6th album,
 Pelagial, this past April.

The Ocean is a progressive metal band from Berlin, Germany led by guitarist Robin Staps. The band released three albums between 2004 and 2008 as a revolving cast of musicians (nearly 40 by some accounts) before settling on its current five members. The quintet's sixth album, Pelagial, was released earlier this year on Metal Blade records. I interviewed Robin about his writing process, the new lineup, and their spot on the upcoming Summer Slaughter tour.

Artist Of The Day: Trentemoller

Exactly in the same way that I woke up one day craving mushrooms above all other foods, I woke up one day with a musical itch which no amount of guitar could scratch. Both were urges which I’d never seen coming: especially because of my previous distaste for both fungi in any form and for electronic music and its sub-genres. Like many my journey began with the enigmatic Burial, but soon a minimal electronic producer from Denmark by the name of Anders Trentemoller usurped him for superiority.

The gorgeous “Miss You” and the tranquil “Take Me Into Your Skin” instantly dragged me in, and they provide a soothing soundtrack to nonchalant days when you’re simply content to drift in and out of conscious thought alongside ambient music, whilst the likes of “Vamp” increase the reverb and provide altogether denser affairs which require more of your attention. These are just a few of the efforts from his first album The Last Resort, and his second album Into The Great Wide Yonder contains many in a similar mould.

Trentemoller has recently toured with heroes My Bloody Valentine and Depeche Mode, and with rumours of a third album abound, he could be set to add yet another gem to the so far brilliant playlist which 2013 has built. If you’re curious to hear Trentemoller at his finest, look no further than the video below.

Album Review: The Hush Now - Memos

Album Rating: B-
As much as we love to place ourselves at the center of our Very Hollywood Stories, our day-to-days are rarely as fun or stimulating as what’s playing at the local theater. The sun’s always couched behind the clouds; the rainbows are muted and our clothes are never in Technicolor. Our words fall just short of eloquence, our conflicts simmer rather than explode, and if the final act ever takes place at the airport, it's not because we caught the one in the nick of time—we’re watching the plane take off. On the whole, I suppose Memos does a fine job capturing all of that. A series of sketches steeped in understated sadness, it’s a fine companion for a sleepy second period, a brief walk down the Han River, or a lonely midnight spent writing essays for some music discovery website that offers no health benefits or even pay. If only it weren’t as slight as its title suggested.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Artist of the Day: Son Lux

"I'll tear you apart with beautiful things" is a pretty good way of introducing Ryan Lott, a New York multi-instrumentalist producer who likes to mix soft vocals with brash, dramatic music under the alias Son Lux. Taking a lot of inspiration from trip-hop, Lott's music often borrows the stumbling percussion and melodic complexity. It's a sound which comes across as fragile and intimate, and the presence of lyrics have lead many to peg Lott as a rare electronic singer-songwriter.

The gentle yet also epic tones he creates have made Son Lux popular when it comes to his omnipresence in soundtracks, such as Looper and the hit UK drama Skins. It's something we don't hear elsewhere too often, which would make the fact his new single, Tear, follows the exact same style quite welcome.

Live Review: Iceage, Strange Matter (6/11/13)

It’s a natural fact: people love to be herded. This simple law of humankind can go a long way in explaining the languid go-nowhereness of America’s college-aged brood. No leaders, no movements, no causes so to speak are made evident to us on the flashy electronic windows we look to for any and all evidence of a world outside the little clouds of semi-urban academia that to us are everything but are invisible from space. Instead, stagnation and cyclical gridlock. Time is moving forward, but we’re not. The solution? Make a movement out of our lack thereof.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Album Review: Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest

Album Rating: A-
Eight years is a long time to go absent, but fans of Boards of Canada don’t seem to mind.  For them, that’s eight years to listen to Music Has the Right to Children and Geogaddi on loop: forever. Both have helped catapult the press-shy Scottish duo from collectors’ archives to a level where a single, one-of-a-kind record will set the internet alight. This is not to rule out the rest of their discography, but while scattered EPs and tracks may sometimes match the two goliaths in quality, they are always left in their shadow. BoC’s good is very good, and their best –for some- can be the very best, so it might be of no surprise to see the merely excellent concede with second place.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Album Review: Swindle - Long Live The Jazz

Album Rating: A-
In my opinion, the moment most characteristic of Swindle’s debut Deep Medi album is the point at the beginning of “Pledge Allegiance” where a disembodied, heavily edited voice repeats the album’s title over and over again. The pitch-shifted synthesizer, nasally quick guitar chords, and dubstep-styled bass all contribute to the image the album’s title attempts to create. On Long Live The Jazz, Swindle demonstrates that “the jazz” is very much alive, but in a much different form than the genre’s pioneers must have imagined over the course of its formation at the turn of the 20th century. Rather than upright bass and baby grand plunking out a tune behind a woman scatting in stunning dress and furs at a swanky club or backroom, its new form (in Swindle’s mind at least) takes place in a modern recording studio, every instrument a product of a MIDI keyboard and a copy of Pro Tools, and a packed club, the crowd in baggy T-shirts and cargo pants, high out of their minds, jamming to the sounds coming out of a DJ’s equipment.

Artist Of The Day: Chemtrail

Chemtrail recently Kickstarted a new album in an attempt to try to get their fans to fund their music, and see how much of a demand there was for a crowd-funded album. The results were very optimistic; the band not only hit their goal, but surpassed it by almost $1500, which allowed for not only a vinyl and digital version, but also for a CD version as well. It does make me pretty happy to know that a great band like Chemtrail has enough fan support to be able to do this sort of thing though. Their entire discography is golden, and the Sounds Like Ghosts EP got me very excited for any new music they're planning to put out. I'll be reviewing the digital version of the album in the coming weeks, but needless to say, there's a lot of good things already happening for the band, and I'm excited that there are still loyal fans out there that want to support their favorite artists.

You can find the Chemtrails discography here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Midnight Faces

Personally, the best little band discoveries are the ones that I see live and had no knowledge of their existence before a mind-blowing performance. In late March, I went to see a fantastic band called The 1975 (lots more coverage of them coming soon), but I paid attention to the openers up until the moment that the first one began. Midnight Faces won me over almost immediately through ambient electronics and synths along with a pop sensibility and fantastic songwriting. Phil Stancil's vocals soar across the soundscapes produced by Matthew Warn, who had previously worked with Fleet Foxes Josh Tillman (of Fleet Foxes and Father John Misty fame) as the post-rock group Saxon Shore. Warn's post-rock background is displayed through the captivating arrangements of synth and drums, but at the same time Midnight Faces couldn't be further from post-rock, as ridiculously catchy vocal melodies dominate both the choruses and verses of many of the tracks on the band's debut album Fornication. The band has been playing shows around my current turf of the Washington, DC area, but they should soon be touring both country-wide and internationally. Absolutely check them out if they come to your area, so be sure to follow their tour dates on their Facebook page. Fornication will be released on June 18, and you can preview tracks and preorder the album on their Bandcamp page.

Album Review: Sigur Ros - Kveikur

Album Rating: A
I honestly cannot recall an opener in recent times that's excited me as much as "Brennisteinn:" The strained, distorted build, simmering to a point where it seems set to collapse under its own weight... Those immense, molten slabs of bass, splurging through your speakers, hitting you head-on like a ton of lead bricks... That ominous, foreboding drop, leaving you swamped in violent swathes of bow guitar work... It's an introduction listeners have become accustomed to over the past few weeks, yet familiarity does nothing to dampen the formidable impact once it's set into motion. More significantly, these dense industrial shock waves essentially signal the return of the Sigur Ros we know and love; the lukewarm reception afforded to initial comeback Valtari having barely even been granted time to dissipate. It's almost as though that LP was merely a teaser — a low-key slow-burner devised to curb expectations and whet appetites ahead of the true re-emergence of one of the great bands of our time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Album Review: Courage My Love - Becoming

Album Rating: B-
It's entirely possible that Becoming is an example of a young pop-punk group maturing nicely. The songs are more varied, there's a noticeable lack of chugga-chugga-chugga breakdowns, and there are some excellent slower songs that would have felt totally out of place on For Now. However, it's more probable that this EP shows Courage My Love with far more resources with which to record. The eminently marketable Ontario trio is releasing Becoming on a branch of Warner Music, and everything here displays significantly more polish than was evident on previous releases. The guitars are sharper, the songwriting itself is more "genre-standard," and the vocal harmonization is better executed.

Artist of the Day: Melt Yourself Down

Later... with Jools Holland, BBC Two's flagship music programme has built much of its reputation on featuring small, exotic artists and propelling them into the public's conscience. As the only show on British mainstream television dedicated exclusively to music, it plays a vital role in both the listening habits of its viewers and the broadening of their horizons, and although somewhat stale the latest series still delivered a handful of performances which evoked the institution's enduring spirit. By far the highlight of that recently concluded spring run was its sixth episode, which together with the established excellence of Low and John Grant included an incendiary appearance from emerging London outfit Melt Yourself Down. Fresh, vibrant and brimming with manic energy, their impulsive romp instantly sparked memories of At The Drive-In's legendary mess back in 2000, although this time there was legitimate musical merit to go with the unfolding sonic bedlam. Sure enough, the six-piece have seen their profile rocket in the month or so since, but even more exciting for those who first encountered them on Jools... is that that run through "We Are Enough" merely skimmed the surface of what the group has to offer.

Album Review: Jimmy Eat World - Damage

Album Grade: C
As someone with little experience in the fields of adulthood and breakups, I was left with plenty of questions when Jim Adkins announced his group’s latest effort would be an “adult breakup record.” As far as I could tell, all breakups are fundamentally the same; perhaps the parting of adults is more amicable and less hormonally-charged than that of two young adults or twenty-somethings, but the sting of being told, or telling, you are incompatible with another human, someone who was once the center of your world, must still feel the same, right? Bearing this question in mind, I approached Damage as an opportunity to hear the traditional breakup record handled with grace and flipped on its head.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Artist of the Day: Cerce

Chaotic hardcore youngsters Cerce have been gaining some traction. Their abrasive music combines characteristics of powerviolence, screamo and riot-girl punk to form a grungy offensive coupled with a heart-racing live show. Introspective and critical lyrics will hit home, reverberating bass notes will insight two-steps, and sporadic drum assaults will twist minds. Despite their young age and relatively short life in the hardcore scene, Cerce is proving to be one of the most hardworking and promising bands in the scene.

Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork

Album Rating: B+
Era Vulgaris was a slightly disappointing but highly predictable misstep by Queens of the Stone Age. After all, how many bands retain consistent levels of quality when their most creative and influential members are slowly stripped away? Although Era Vulgaris showed glimpses of why The Queens are the kings of mainstream rock music, it yearned for the intensity of Dave Grohl behind the drum kit, and it suffered from the lack of vocal variety which Mark Lanegan previously brought - not to mention the contributions of the notorious Nick Oliveri. Seeing all of these familiar talents in one place again in one capacity or another was almost inevitably going to result in an excellent release, but ...Like Clockwork has managed to exceed even that expectation, and is comfortably the band’s finest release since 2002’s seminal Songs for the Deaf.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Artist of the Day: Light Bearer

Key Album: Lapsus (2011)
There are bands that take their music seriously, and then there is Light Bearer. Behind the monolithic riffs and post-metal crescendos is a group of musicians who have a story to tell, and Light Bearer’s scheduled four-album cycle is their medium. Drawing from a wide array of influences, including the Book of Genesis, Dante’s Inferno, Paradise Lost, and His Dark Materials, Light Bearer has put together an epic narrative as a metaphor for human nature and the corruption of religion. Also presented over the tetralogy are ideologies on such diverse subjects as gender discrimination, the evolution of sexuality, and cultural stereotypes. This is a band that has put a great deal of time and thought into its project, and so far the results are stunning.

Album Review: Kalmah - Seventh Swamphony

Album Score: B+
Few bands have exemplified the maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” better than Kalmah. Since 1998, Finland’s answer to In Flames and At the Gates has been machining high-octane death metal with commendable consistency, with a slight turn towards thrash in the middle of its discography. Now on its seventh album in fourteen years, Kalmah seems to have flown under the radar somewhat compared to contemporaries such as Dark Tranquility and Children of Bodom. Perhaps it’s because Kalmah arrived on the scene a few years late, or because they’re from Oulu instead of Gothenberg, but this oversight certainly isn’t due to a lack of quality material. It wouldn’t be hard to make a case for Kalmah’s second album They Will Return being a genre classic, and five of its six full-length efforts are generally held in high regard (with 2008’s For the Revolution perhaps falling short of the rest). So Seventh Swamphony comes with something of a pedigree, as Kalmah’s core lineup of brothers Pekka and Antti Kokko, bassist Timo Lehtinen and ├╝ber-drummer Janne Kusmin are back for another swamptastic voyage.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Interview with Royal Teeth (6/3/13)

Royal Teeth is one of the most exciting new indie-pop/dance-pop groups to grace the American music scene, and though they've only been around for a few years they're already making a name for themselves. The group has an EP on Dangerbird Records, released there about a year and a half ago, and it's quite a solid release of upbeat, energetic pop music. The group has a new full-length, Glow, out on August 13, and is currently headlining a tour all across the US in support of the album. We recently had the opportunity to speak with the band briefly in anticipation of some Northeast tour dates and the album's full release date about the album itself, the band's early days, the excitement around having a new LP ready, and Dangerbird.

First of all, can you introduce yourself for the readers?

I'm Gary, and I sing and do a little bit of guitar and drums in Royal Teeth.

You’ve got a new album, Glow, coming out on August 13. Are you excited?

Very excited - this album feels like it's been a long time coming. We've technically had the EP [Act Naturally] for over two years now, and we released it to Dangerbird a little over a year and a half or so ago, so we're very excited to get a full album out to everybody.

I loved the poppy, upbeat feel of Act Naturally - I think it’s been one of my favorite shot-in-the-dark finds ever since I discovered you guys off the Dangerbird sampler for Record Store Day. At the same time, though, it felt a little short - part of the problem with EPs, I guess. Now that you have the full album, though, you'll have a bit more space. How do you think that space allowed you to flesh out your sound?

I think we made an effort to keep the big, upbeat positive energies there that we had on the EP. I definitely think that with a little more time, and being on the road for the past year and a half and all, I think it's really given us a chance to expand on that and do more. I think the album has a little more of an intimate vibe, it's a little more personal. And also, I definitely think we captured a little more of the live energy that we have on the road - I think from just being together and touring so much we kind of wanted to approach that as a little more than what we did on the EP. When we recorded the EP, it was one of the first things we had ever done. We had always played local shows, we hadn't even toured yet, it was a very new experience for us to make that. And to be able to do the album, I think it gave us a chance to really be ourselves more, to do what we wanted, and, you know, put our experiences in. I'm really happy with what we'll be able to present everybody with soon.

On that note of "the EP was before everything really got started," how'd you guys get formed?

We formed a little over two and a half years ago. I moved into Lafayette with our bass player, Joshua Wells, and we started playing music at the time. There were two other band members in Royal Teeth that played music with Josh for two years, and so when we needed more members we reached out to those guys, to see if they wanted to get back into playing music. Our guitar player, Stevie, was in a local band around town. Louisiana has a lot of music, a lot of bands - you're connected to a lot of people in different projects, and that's kind of how it started. [Singer] Nora, she was the last person to join the band, and she's never actually been in a band before, but she graduated college in Lafayette with a few of the guys and moved to New Orleans, and when we needed a female singer they suggested her because of word of mouth that she could sing well. So, we kind of stalked her, and looked her up on Facebook and messaged her, and met with her and had coffee, and asked her if she could play a show a week later. She did it, and she's been in the band ever since, so that was lucky for us.

Why'd you guys decide to go with the unorthodox double lead vocalist idea?

When we first started playing music, it was just me by myself, and of course we ended up with the double male-female lead vocalist thing. At the same time, we were figuring out our style of music as well. When Joshua Wells and I first started playing music, we had to come around to what we really wanted to do, because it was kind of a fresh start for both of us, to do whatever we wanted to do. I think the direction it ended up going, which, you know, is what Royal Teeth is, is that I'm a big fan of all kinds of music, but I was really into old folk music, which always had a couple singers at a time, and a lot of harmonies, and I was always interested if I could do that. We had a friend of ours from Lafayette that was the first female singer that was in the band, and she quit before we had Nora, and when we had her I just got really interested in the idea of the play back-and-forth of male-female vocalists, and I figured we could add a little more depth to what we wanted to do, you know, get both perspectives of a male and female. At the same time, if you're sending one message, you can double it up with a male and female voice. I really liked the way that when we got Nora it really came together. I think our voices suit each other really well, and I think it makes us as a duo more powerful.

Royal Teeth is currently on the opening leg of a nationwide tour. How is it to be the lead act? Does it feel weird that people are paying money to see you specifically?

Yes, absolutely. (laughs) We're still technically new to touring, it's been about a year, but at the same time we feel like we're pretty used to touring. At the same time, we're not used to being the headlining band. It's a whole new nervous feeling when you know that kind of rests on your shoulders, you know, that people are there to see you, and you have to be able to put on a really great headlining set for everybody. We take that very seriously, and at the same time we're very excited to be able to do it. And a lot of times on past tours we'd do 30-minute sets, opening sets and things like that. To be able to have a full set for everybody is really, really great, so yeah, we're really excited.

You're an up-and-coming act on the prestigious Dangerbird Records. What was the signing process like?

It was great. A lot of things really worked out for us, and we're very lucky that they did. The timing of everything couldn't really have been better. We were actually surprised at how quick everything happened with the band when we started with Dangerbird. The way it started was basically that we had a show on Halloween night in New Orleans at a venue called Napalm, and so we were all dressed up in foolish-looking costumes on Halloween and it was a packed club show, and the former president of Dangerbird, Jeff Castelaz, was there, and he saw the band play. Right away, from then he got in contact with us, and we had coffee with him, and he expressed how much he enjoyed the show, how much he really liked the vibe and energy of the band. And I think that when he mentioned that stuff, it really connected to what we value as a band, the fact that we can bring a lot of very positive energy to our show and performances, and it really just felt like they got it, you know? We really liked the idea of Dangerbird as a smaller label that can really nurture and help a new band and help us grow. We were a little timid, though, since we'd heard all the horror stories about things that could happen to bands on their first-time labels, and so we waited until we played South by Southwest for the first time. We had such a great time at that festival and met a bunch of great people, but after we finished that we made the decision that we were going to make our home Dangerbird. We finally did shortly after that.

How much does the label influence you guys in your writing and recording?

The great thing for us at least is that Dangerbird is very open to letting us be ourselves, and I think that was a very good thing. At the same time, it was great to have people on your team that could give you honest opinions and honest critiques. Sometimes, when you're in a band, you're so focused on something that it's hard to take your mind out of it and analyze the situation, so it's nice to have a team of people that are all working towards the same goal, trying to get you from point A to point B. When it came to the record and everything, we got to make the decision on the producer we wanted to work with, and they were very supportive of it, and very supportive of helping us get the product we wanted. Now that we have it, we feel great about it, and it's a good feeling to know you have people on your side who are working for the same common goal. The main thing they influenced me on was following my gut, because we're only going to make the best product where we feel we're really happy with what we're doing.

A lot of my friends have heard of you because your track "Wild" was in FIFA 13. How'd the song get there, and how does it feel to have that kind of exposure?

It was amazing. The funny thing is that I don't play video games personally very much, but our guitar player loves soccer and plays FIFA all the time. I think that was kind of an "aw crap, we made it" moment for him, and he was like "oh, look at us, we're on this FIFA game." And actually, I knew it was one of the biggest sports video games in the world, but I don't think I quite realized the kind of impact it would have until we noticed that a fan had posted a fan video of "Wild" on YouTube, and on the FIFA webpage they linked that video to their page, and they were showing the artists they had. In a short amount of time, the views on that video skyrocketed because of the video game, and people were leaving comments and stuff. And I think right then I realized "oh crap, this is huge." We're very grateful for that, that it's helped the band reach so many people that we would have never been able to reach before. When you're a new band, and you're really working hard to get your name out there, a lot of stuff takes a long time, so something like that is really a huge breakthrough in terms of getting your music to more people's ears quickly.

You guys are deeply rooted in the Louisiana music scene, as you mentioned earlier. Can you talk about that scene?

The band is split in Louisiana. Two of our members live in Lafayette, and a couple in New Orleans.  When we first got started, actually, I think for us it was good because there are three major markets that we like to play at - New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette. When we started, instead of oversaturating ourselves by playing New Orleans every couple of weeks, we would do a show in New Orleans, wait a couple weeks, do a show in Lafayette, wait, and do a show in Baton Rouge. It gave us a chance to branch out and play for more people at the beginning, and it helped us as a new band. I think the location in general is very good because even though we might not sound like a traditional New Orleans band, I think living there provides us with a really positive energy and a really big party atmosphere, and we try to do that in all of our performances. That's what we carry with us.

Any up-and-coming bands (aside from you guys) that we should be on the lookout for?

Well, we're on tour right now with American Authors, and those guys are amazing and so much fun to be on the road with. We got lucky enough to play with them a while back, and we had such a good time that we had to have them with us now. Then, on the later half of the tour, we'll be playing with a band called The Colourist. We actually haven't met them yet, but their music's great and we're really excited to play with them. We've actually gone on a couple really great tours with bands that were getting played on the Sirius XM radio stations, and we've got a lot of friends from bands like that. We've met A Silent Film, which is a great band, and we've met Gold Fields and Animal Kingdom - these are all bands we've got lucky enough to play shows with and get on the XM radio at the same time.

Any final words?

Thank you for taking the time for this. We're really looking forward to the shows coming up.

We'd like to thank Gary and Royal Teeth for taking time out of their busy touring schedule to field this interview. The band has quite a few dates left on their tour, which you can check out here, and of course they have their debut LP, Glow, out August 13. We'll most likely be posting a review of the album when August rolls around, so check back here for more news.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Beck

Musical chameleon Beck Hansen has touched upon almost every genre imaginable in his 25 year long career. With twelve full-length releases to his name, he’d probably be forgiven at this point for hanging up his almost uncountable array of instruments and retiring to one of the beaches you think about whilst listening to Sea Change. Instead, 2013 is likely to benefit from 2 brand new Beck releases – one acoustic and one which he's termed a “proper” follow up to 2008's Modern Guilt. Given the great success Beck has achieved over the years it’s not without a hint of irony that he postulates “I’m not sure if it’s relevant any more” about his sound - especially as no two of his albums sound alike.

Whether Hansen will follow the tried and tested Odelay route or whether he’ll revisit the experimental psychedelics of Midnite Vultures remains to be seen, but what little we do know from single “Defriended” suggests it’ll likely be more from the latter than the former – exciting news for fans of his more exploratory work.

Album Review: Camera Obscura - Desire Lines

Album Rating: B
Although they're a popular and acclaimed outfit in their own right, it's fair to say Camera Obscura's career do date has been dominated - and to an extent undermined - by constant comparisons with another member of Glaswegian pop's elite. It's an association that's haunted them ever since Stuart Murdoch handled production duties on debut LP Biggest Bluest Hi Fi, to the extent that you'd be hard pressed to find a single review in the past 12 years which doesn't make use of the words "Belle and Sebastian" - this one now included. In fairness, the parallels are understandable, especially after Murdoch and company's mid-'00s radio-friendly makeover, but it's still an unread and rather dismissive method of evaluating a group who over the years have done more than enough to carve their own sonic identity.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Interview With Josh Durocher-Jones of Howl (6/4/13)

Howl is a heavy metal band based in Providence, Rhode Island. The group released its sophomore album Bloodlines in April of this year. I contacted guitarist Josh Durocher-Jones, who was brought in shortly after the band released its debut in 2010, to ask some questions about how Bloodlines came together and the group’s creative process.

Artist of the Day: Courage My Love

Courage My Love is moving up the pop-punk food chain quite rapidly. After a rather solid debut EP, the Ontario-based trio has apparently been signed to a branch of Warner Music, who will be releasing their next EP on June 11 (streaming here). And why shouldn't they? As I pointed out in my earlier review (linked above), the band is very highly marketable. What's more, though, they make some really solid pop-punk on the poppier side of the spectrum. While their first EP wasn't all that intricate, it was energy-laden, catchy, and fun — and time will tell if Becoming holds up to the high standards the band set for themselves.


Album Review: City And Colour - The Hurry And The Harm

Album Rating: B+
Sometimes when I listen to music, I like to ponder my favourite rock vocalists. Not only that, but I like to imagine the chosen ones having a sing off, or more accurately, a battle: crooning, shouting and screaming near indecipherable lyrics into each other’s faces until they’re slowly whittled down until only the finest survive. This probably isn’t normal, and I doubt it’s healthy either, nevertheless, the plethora of above average vocalists are chipped away to reveal an inevitable face-off between two men. Dallas Green, formerly of Alexisonfire fame, unleashes ethereal lullabies whilst Fair to Midland’s Darroh Sudderth bounces around melting faces and pretending to be a Viking - and it’s a hard fought outcome which is only decided by my mood.

Album Review: The Super Happy Fun Club - All Funned Up

Album Rating: B+
There’s more than meets the eye with All Funned Up, the debut LP of one Super Happy Fun Club. At first glance, it’s a no-nonsense, balls-to-the-wall pop-punk assault with little purpose other than getting fans in the mosh pit and keeping them there. But the band’s name isn’t all bitter irony: the band’s logo allows the chirpy cloud domain over the crossbones lurking below, after all, and its music doesn't shy away from steeping resonance from images plenty of disaffected teenagers and twentysomethings should latch onto. On this debut release, the band builds in just about every conceivable way from its first EP, showing a matured perspective and backing it up with stronger songwriting and instrumentation.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Artist Of The Day: CHVRCHES

After Purity Ring took over the indie world with their future leaning synth pop sound, it was rather obvious that similar bands would soon rise up along their success. CHVRCHES may lack the hip hop influence that Purity Ring has stuck into their signature sound, but the fact that each of the groups has a female vocalist sweetly singing over electronic beats with infectious melodies is enough for an association to occur. Meanwhile, both groups have taken similar trajectories to their popularity. Both Purity Ring and CHVRCHES only had a small number of songs released to enormous hype before a highly anticipated full length album, and based on the brand new track "Guns," it looks like CHVRCHES is going to follow Purity Ring's path to selling out large clubs. The higher pitched and lower pitched synths blend together seamlessly to create the driving beat of the chorus while Lauren Mayberry's vocals are more immediately pleasing than ever before. While not as in your face catchy as previous singles "The Mother We Share" and "Recover," this track may be the best constructed of the songs to date, and only indicates a blockbuster of a debut to come for the trio. Make sure to keep up with the band on Facebook and stream "Guns" on Soundcloud.