Monday, September 30, 2013

Album Review: Migrant Kids - Migrant Kids

Album Rating: A-
The difficult thing about any debut album is figuring out the vision it expresses. There's so much a new band has to do, though--carve out its own space in the big world of music, demonstrate an understanding of its own capabilities and translate those capabilities into a coherent work--that oftentimes that bigger picture gets lost in the shuffle. That's why Migrant Kids' self-titled debut is so impressive: rousing emo-rock anthemia, winding instrumental sections and open ambient spaces add up to a vivid soundscape that towers over just about every other new act this year. Don't let the album's slight thirty-three minute length fool you. It's massive.

Artist Of The Day: Paul Banks

In the sweeping history of Interpol's big collapse from “next big thing” to “plodding, directionless, Joy Division rip”, most people would tend to point the finger at Paul Banks. As notorious for confusing lyrics as he is for his robotic voice, Banks' solo career is fairly easy to dismiss. Considering that it started at around the same time Interpol theoretically fell off a cliff (a statement I disagree with), and was never met with much enthusiasm, why is it worth talking about?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Artist of the Day: Elliott Smith

Be warned: this article will tell you absolutely nothing you don't already know about Elliott Smith. Since you're here, it's a fair bet you've already heard, bought and adored each of his six records. You'll also more than likely rank him among the most gifted songwriters of modern generations, and almost certainly be familiar with the circumstances surrounding his tragic passing. In the past week, you may even have heard Madonna's butchered rendition of 'Between the Bars' - not a particularly welcome addition to his legacy, yet one which proves he and his music are perhaps more relevant than ever.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Album Review: Volcano Choir - Repave

Album Rating: B+
As much as I want to believe that I know a lot about modern music, it seems like every other week a new band that I should have heard about years ago finds a way to pop up on my all-too limited radar that, somehow, has always completely overlooked it. I didn’t know about Grizzly Bear until two years ago, and January was the first time I ever heard of Local Natives, which is almost direct proof that I do, indeed, live in a dark, isolated cave in the middle of the rainforest. This week, my newest missed hype explosion is Wisconsin's Volcano Choir, who have been around since the mid-2000s, racked up significant critical acclaim, and have direct ties to Bon Iver, all completely without my knowing. Regardless of why or why not I haven’t heard of this widely known and respected act, though, I had the interesting privilege of experiencing the band’s newest release, Repave, with a blank slate. I had no preconceived notions of sound, no desire for an adherence to their old conventions, and the only whiff of context onto which I could feasibly latch was the fact that the band was probably pretty good since they’ve sold so many records with Justin Vernon at the helm—albeit, in secrecy to me. So I grabbed a chair and my headphones, set up outside on a beautiful day, and introduced myself to Volcano Choir to see what I’d been missing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Album Review: RM Hubbert - Breaks & Bone

Album Rating: A
Folks turn to a life in music for innumerable reasons, but perhaps the most common is as a form of escapism. Whether they're looking to break free from the monotony of their everyday existence or simply seeking a shield to deflect their troubles, it's a theme that's been prevalent throughout the history of popular music, enriching the lives of countless exponents, be they global superstars or chancers hunting mere appreciation. As if to illustrate music's all-encompassing transcendence, however, there are also plenty who approach from the complete opposite end of the scale, of which RM Hubbert is a prime example. Having led a life riddled with deaths, heartbreak and chronic depression, this Glaswegian chose not to flee from his demons, but rather to tackle them head-on, using them to fuel a reinvention that's quickly propelled him among his nation's foremost cult figures.

Interview With Rare Monk (8/23/13)

One of our favorite new little bands on MuzikDizcovery this year has been Rare Monk. From first listen, they have blown us away by their ability to make segments both crushingly powerful and infectiously catchy, even within songs. The group just finished up their largest tour to date opening up for The Dangerous Summer, and at the Baltimore date of the tour they graciously answered questions from us regarding topics such as playing in new places, the removal of Sleep/Attack from Bandcamp, new music, Daytrotter, music videos, and far more that you can read below.

Artist of the Day: At the Gates

Key Release: Slaughter of the Soul (1995)
If there’s a poster child for going out on top in the music world, it is Swedish band At the Gates. The quintet spent all of two years in the limelight before calling it quits in 1996 at the peak of their popularity, having just released their fourth album Slaughter of the Soul to international acclaim. Based around the talents of brothers Anders and Jonas Björler, At the Gates also featured Tomas Lindberg  on vocals, and Adrian Erlandsson on drums (rhythm guitarist Martin Larsson was brought aboard after two albums).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Artist of the Day: Thank You Scientist

Despite what many purists may think, alternative prog is a real thing.  Progressive music comes in many forms, and New Jersey's juggernaut of a band (with seven full-time members!), Thank You Scientist, is living proof of the potential of this oxymoronic genre.  Take Coheed and Cambria, add a dash of Yellowcard with their catchy choruses and prominent violin, mix them thoroughly, and finally, wrap them up with some Trioscapes alla complex bass-driven rhythms and brass sections to get your finished product.  If done incorrectly, this combination would be just plain disgusting, but I swear Thank You Scientist has carefully refined this blending of styles in their own way to create an absolutely delicious musical treat.  I've been hooked all summer, and now it's your turn to try.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Artist Of The Day: The Oyster Murders

Australian dream pop quartet The Oyster Murders sums itself up nicely on "Disaster Flower Bloom," the first single from its new EP Mourning Birds. Like the title suggests, the band's music hints at tragedy but does so with songwriting that's organic and gracefully expansive: the sound is a heady balance of beautiful acoustics and buzzy vocals teetering on the brink of meltdown. Married couple and vocalists Grant and Wendy Redgen lead us into the band's nightmarish world, providing a melancholy rapport to anchor the album's emotional ups and downs. And there's a lot of downs: "Feed Ourselves to the Wolves" drowns out itself in echo chamber production and guitar fog, while "The Atlantis Quarterly" finds a brief spot of sunshine only for storm clouds to gather in the surprisingly dark chorus. What's ultimately impressive about this dream world The Oyster Murders craft, though, is that even when everything is bathed in a certain ambiguity, the songs themselves chart a clear journey towards clarity, delving into darkness to come up with concise little glimmers of songcraft--music as exploration and antidote. Mourning Birds is haunting, catchy, and vivid, and it'll stick with you even after you wake up.

You can stream Mourning Birds below and investigate The Oyster Murders over on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Album Review: Touche Amore - Is Survived By

Album Rating: A
Brutal. Melodic. Cathartic. These words can be applied to any one of Touche Amore's short bursts of hardcore that span a handful of splits and two previous full-lengths. With Is Survived By, the band blows their back catalog out of the water, up over the mountains and out of the atmosphere in thirty minutes of raw emotional expression. Touche Amore have positioned themselves as one of the most vital bands in the genre with not only the best music of their career, but also the best album of the year thus far.

Artist of the Day: Codeine

In the underrated genre of slowcore, the most underrated of bands was Codeine. The short-lived group only existed for a mere five years, and only released two albums during that time, but they left their mark with some of the most emotionally beautifully songs of the 1990s. Their 1990 debut, Frigid Stars, was a gut-wrenching collection of songs that both rang loud with distortion, only to succumb to the silence of sorrow. The band perfected the loud/soft dynamic on their swan song LP, The White Birch, in 1994, where they created a melodically moody soundscape. 

Codeine reminds us of a often forgotten genre and time in music, where bands lashed out and opposed the popularity of grunge and heavy music. The slowcore movement was sparse, like its music, but still rings true like its reverb.

After a short reunion in 2012, the band's future is unclear, but recent reissues and remasters leave the group's seminal works to be discovered and enjoyed for new listeners. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Artist of the Day: Nicolas Jaar

In the wake of a complete (and tragic) lack of recent formal Nicolas Jaar releases (as nice as the Brian Eno remix was), the release of the Trust compilation from his subscription-based label Other People is more exciting than it probably should be. The compilation features a small group of affiliated artists with a similar quirk to the man himself, with the results ranging all the way from "meh" to holy s*8%!

On the latter end of the spectrum (which, in the end, is the only bit we care about), "Gravity" by Benjha serves as a surprisingly catchy reflection on the drudgery of life. The track includes some very inventive layering and some killer vocal samples, so the hope is for a whole Benjha album from the label soon. Likewise, Will Epstein supplies an excellent opener and finale, both of which set the scene with a jazzy, smoky, late-night piano sound. "Trust II," especially, is incredibly captivating.

Overall it's looking pretty good for the new label, though it remains to be seen whether pay-per-week labels can really work in the long term. Now the complicated set up process is out the way for Jaar we might actually be able to look forward to some new material, though it seems to be a bit much to hope for when I'm booked to see him in just three weeks time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Live Review: O'Brother, Native, Daylight, Local 506 (9/18/13)

After a difficult search for a parking spot, some exquisite Qdoba and a long walk, I finally reached the entrance of the Local 506 in Chapel Hill at promptly 7:30 PM, ticket in hand and excitement brewing. I've been a huge fan of O'Brother ever since picking up Garden Window on vinyl during their 2011 tour with Thrice, and having missed them in North Carolina the past few times, I wasn’t going to let a show slip by me again.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Jukebox: Clear - "Sunlight"

Maybe it's the midterm slump I'm in that's making me go soft, but British five-piece Clear's new single "Sunlight" really sounds like a welcome ray of sun. It sounds like memories I cannot quite place but still resonate with me; the gentle, uplifting piano melodies transport me to the beaches of my childhood, while the band's fantastic harmonies evoke the sort of weary intimacy you usually expect from your parents. "There is nothing to keep my here," the guys sing, yet somehow listeners will find themselves perfectly content to stay for a little longer.

You can stream "Sunlight" below and find more on Clear by visiting its Facebook page.

Artist Of The Day: Moving Mountains

While not entirely unexpected, it's still quite sad to see that Moving Mountains is probably ending their existence as a band after three more shows. The most heartbreaking part about this breakup is the fact that the band may have just released their best record. After the mediocre Waves, it seemed that the band would never hit the heights of their first record Pneuma. However, Moving Mountains is another reinvention of their sound, moving in a sonically different direction from the heavier Waves into a more subdued tone similar to The Appleseed Cast. This isn't a record that is an immediate hit – instead it's possibly one of the biggest growers of the year. Every listen brings more to the table as the record slowly seeps in to your mind. It's a record that needs time and care to really get, just as the band did with the creation of it. If you can make it to one of the band's three final shows in Boston, Brooklyn and Hamden, CT, you should really go see what should be a beautiful end to this band's existence. Check out all the information for those shows on Facebook, and be sure to read our review for the album as well.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Artist of the Day: Julianna Barwick

I believe Julianna Barwick may be a vessel dispatched from on high by something greater than us - God or the universal subconscious or Ancient Aliens or whatever floats your metaphysical boat. With her latest record, Nepenthe, she continues the subtle subtraction of variables from previous releases that change (quite fascinatingly) the mood of her sound infinitely. The Magic Place may have been human, almost whimsical. Nepenthe, though, feels like the language of the world itself, entirely independent of us. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Album Review: múm - Smilewound

Album Rating: B
Like its name suggests, múm has a way with understatement. The Icelandic experimental troupe mashes together bustling elements — a taste of post-rock, a dash of electropop, a pinch of folk — into a melange of sounds layered but quiet, striking a tasteful balance between detailed texture and sweeping soundscapes. Unfortunately, that delicate act is somewhat out-of-tune on the group's sixth album, Smilewound. It's a beautiful work, but the overall effect is one of strange detachment, as if we're looking at a sumptuous dessert from behind the frosty windows of a bakery and the baker has forgotten to unlock the door. With that said, when the album throws new twists into an old-worn indie pop formula, it reaches the heights múm is capable of at its best. If there's disappointment, there's also plenty to be pleased about.

Bandcamp Bargain Bin: September 2013

Bandcamp Bargain Bin is a monthly feature with our partner site wasfuersohr, where you can find some of the best indie Bandcamp releases out there. The catch? Everything on the site is free. Today, we'll cover some of the finds the site has made in the past month--all for the low, low cost of zero dollars!

Devil Marko - 2011 - A Pleasant Exorcism
Brevity is a virtue, and the description for Devil Marko's...divorce-pop (huh?) EP A Pleasant Exorcism proves it with five simple words: "boredom, voyeurism, masturbation, moaning, unemployment." So does the actual music, which swings from devil-may-care ruminations (opener "I Feel Like Death Today") to plucky sing-along tunes (the outstanding "A Suburban Afternoon") and stirring rockers ("I Don't Know What") with aplomb. I admire the scrappy spirit, courtesy of the album's low-key production and a firecracker performance from Mr. Marko himself, who lets cracks of emotion through his weathered, reedy voice. At wasfuersohr, Marko Henkel raves, offering the album five out of five vinyls and comparing the album to "a low-budget and self-produced Julian Casablancas EP." The Strokes comparison doesn't come without strings attached, of course, but Devil Marko's good enough to get listeners to pull 'em.

These Monsters - 2013 - Call Me Dragon
If you're itching for a good punk rock record with progressive leanings, give These Monsters' new LP a shot. Matt Grosvenor has more to say in his review at wasfuersohr: "These four guys from Leeds lay down hefty slabs of punk wrapped in a wicked tapestry of progressive and post-rock (dat sax!) that was just what I needed to remember what music can sound like. I say progressive and post-rock play a role here because while there are vocals (and I assume lyrics as well), they're more of a tribal wail into the mic, that's buried in the mix most of the time (I almost didn't realize it was singing at first), and the songs have a free-form flow to them, with songs gliding effortlessly into the next like a tale born of guitars riffs, and into and out of noodling instrumental flourishes without killing the pacing." The opening track will make or break you, a heavy, oppressive hay ride through a nightmare of guitar squalls and dark, brooding melodies haunting both sides of the road. Let me know what you think if you make it out alive.

Oh, My! - 2013 - This Be Weird EP
I'll indulge myself and make the easy joke: oh, my. Matt Grosvenor over at wasfuersohr has more to say about the Sacramento experimental punk band's four-track release: "It's an EP of four floor stomping, chest pounding tracks from the Sacramento quintet known as Oh, My! Things start off auspiciously enough, a lone drumbeat intro and get a little math-y, a little prog-y, all good, from there on out." One thing both of us agree on is the strong vocals: the band has not one, not two, but THREE lead vocalists — and each brings something for the band to work with.

Pirate Jenny - 2013 - Shipwreck Special
Well, here's a conundrum for the ages: "What would an indie rock band sound like if they wrote songs as if they were pirates roaming the high seas?" asks Matt Grosvenor over at wasfuersohr. Aye, matey, that's a question Pirate Jenny's eager to answer with its new pirate rock (yes, pirate rock) LP Shipwreck Special. " [pirate rock] sounds a bit like ska and indie rock music themed around, well, pirates and life at sea...these guys take the music seriously, with 11 well crafted and extremely catchy tunes of the pirate life," he continues, and the release is fairly colorful for what initially seems like your boilerplate indie-rock served up with a side of scurvy: it helps that the band isn't afraid of tinkering with instrumentation and genre conventions ("Marooned" ends with a surprisingly gnarly guitar solo and a timpani outro). "Definite guilty pleasure material, folks," concludes Grosvenor; personally, I don't even feel guilty about digging Shipwreck Special.

Nika Smith - 2010 - s k i n
"There is something rather personal about these lo-fi releases," writes wasfuersohr's Marko Henkel in his positive review for DIY folk artist Nika Smith's debut EP, and that is indeed its strongest attribute. The six-track release is intimate and showcases Smith's lovely world-wise voice: "Ego" finds her quietly unleashing some personal demons over a bare-bones foundation of kick drum and grungy bass licks, while "My Heart and Window" strips the instrumentation back to the oh-so-familiar acoustic guitar and lets ghostly vocal harmonies take over. It's a well-paved road Smith walks, but as long as aspiring musicians are locking themselves in bedrooms and finding themselves, it's one I welcome with open arms. (On a final note, it appears Smith has released another EP and a single in the three years since this album's release, but I have not found time to listen to them. Curious readers can explore if they so choose.)

If you'll still itching for great free indie music, wasfuersohr posts reviews of new album twice or three times a week! Go check out the site and unearth some Bandcamp jewels. And remember to check for our next edition of Bandcamp Bargain Bin soon!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Artist of the Day: L. Pierre

As if caring for and adding to his young family wasn't enough of a workload, 2013 has also been another productive musical year for Aidan Moffat. With his and Bill Wells' acclaimed collaboration currently on hold, the former Arab Strap man has instead devoted his time to his L. Pierre solo project, a sample-based guise vastly removed from his more familiar lyrical exploits. Kicking the year off with The Island Come True — arguably his finest work to date — the 40-year-old also found time to complete (probably) the world's first Vine album, The Eternalist, unveiling the fruits of his experiment back in July. Now, Moffat is ushering in the autmumn with yet more new material; this time an EP entitled Surface Noise, released as a 10" alongside a re-release of the first L. Pierre album, 2002's Hypnogogia. Described by the man himself as "an affectionate tribute to the wear and tear of overplayed vinyl, the hiss, scratch and pop of records long-loved but worn down," it's set to be "the last L. Pierre release for a while, and quite possibly forever," a prospect that'd be tragic were it not for all the other excellent projects he can turn to.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Album Review: Saves The Day - Saves The Day

Album Rating: B
A new Saves The Day album almost comes with a guarantee. Since 1998's Can't Slow Down, the band has churned out multiple modern classics and a handful of very solid records. I'm not going to go into personal favorites, but it's safe to assume that everyone has a favorite Saves The Day album, and that album differs from person to person. Coming off the immensely emotional Daybreak trilogy, Saves The Day's eighth album, which just so happens to be self-titled, is their most uplifting of their career. While Saves The Day have progressed and changed their sound many times throughout their history, they have kept a loyal fan base that accepts and grows with them. Saves The Day is easily the group's most straight-forward record, but it is also their catchiest and most radio-friendly.

Live Review: Between the Buried and Me, Ziggy's (9/13/13)

The Parallax II: Future Sequence was my top album of 2012, so there was absolutely no way I could ever pass up the chance to see progressive metal gods, Between the Buried and Me, play the fantastic 72-minute record in its entirety right in their hometown and on the opening night of their tour. Taking place at the new Ziggy’s in Winstom-Salem, which has one of the loudest and clearest sound systems in the area, there were hundreds in attendance, all ready to witness the greatness ensue. The Safety Fire, The Contortionist, and The Faceless were definitely fitting openers for the show, but my ever-increasing anticipation for the headliners to take the stage distracted me to the point of being unable to pay attention throughout the majority of these performances.

Artist of the Day: AFI

Most bands rarely see their career extend past more than just a handful of albums. The four-piece alternative rock band AFI have released 8 full-lengths, with 9th right around the corner, and they're only getting better. From hardcore to pop punk to electronica and hard rock, AFI have not only done it all, but succeeded in all aspects of the industry.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Album Review Quickies: September 2013

September has been an absolutely ridiculous month for music. With great albums coming out from the likes of CHVRCHES, The 1975, Nine Inch Nails, Machinedrum, and countless others, there are too many to cover with the few writers we have. So, here's a quick rundown of three which might pique your interest:

Album Rating: A
The Naked and Famous - In Rolling Waves

Let me be the first to express what I'm sure many people's reactions will be to the new The Naked And Famous album: Holy shit. I mean, Passive Me, Aggressive You was pretty good, sure, but this kind of improvement is almost unprecedented. Easily the electro-pop album of the year so far, In Rolling Waves is a fully interconnected, savvy, and intense release which demonstrates beautifully what the group's sound can be at best. A pop album at its core, the release has its catchy moments (the sing-along lead single "Hearts Like Ours, the laid-back "In Rolling Waves), but its really impressive moments come along at wholly unexpected times. Take the perfect crescendo of "To Move With Purpose," which has nearly unprecedented patience in a pop song as the beast slowly builds, adding kick, midrange, and vocals one by one until it finally explodes into a cascade of synth chords and dance beats. The male-female duet of "Mess" works in much the same way, restraining itself and adding on layer upon layer of distortion until the thing breaks loose in a beautiful display of pop music genius. In Rolling Waves comes as a much-needed shock to a somewhat stagnant electro-pop scene, and most of all it's a great example of pop music done right.

Artist of the Day: Gamma Ray

Key Release: Land of the Free  (2005)
Few bands have impacted their genre the way that Gamma Ray has. Though the origins of power metal can be traced back to the early 80’s, beginning with Savatage and Accept and continued by Stratovarius and Blind Guardian. However, it wasn’t until 1988 that the modern power metal sound really found its groove. German speed metal band Helloween released its second album Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 1 that year, melding intricate and high-energy guitar work by Kai Hansen with Michael Kiske’s operatic vocals. After releasing a sequel the next year, Hansen withdrew from the band to pursue other projects. One of these became Gamma Ray, which released its debut in 1990.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Single Review: Slow Warm Death - Madonna

Single Rating: A-
Slow Warm Death are following up their phenomenal debut album with a new single, that is set to be released on a 7 inch sometime in the near future. "Madonna" is the a-side to the record, and is the slowest of the band's song so far. It builds upon itself, step by step over its five minutes of bluesy, garage rock. Also being the group's longest song to date, "Madonna" takes advantage of its length by implementing a epically heavy and noisy ending sequence, featuring frontman John Galm's howling vocals. 

Can we also take a moment to just appreciate that artwork? 

Their debut album is almost out of print. So do yourself a favor and pick it up here. Read my review of said album here, and stream the new song below.

Artist of the Day: Semantik Punk

Aggression and syllables. You wouldn’t think this would be a recipe for greatness, but Warsaw’s Semantik Punk would have to argue otherwise. These newly surfaced art thrashers have just released their debut full length, abcdefghijklmnoprstuwxyz (yes, it’s the alphabet), and their introspective, completely batshit off-the-wall crazy brand of hardcore has me both confused and incredibly hooked. Produced by Ross Robinson, a top engineer who has worked with everyone from Korn to At the Drive-In, abcdefghijklmnoprstuwxyz comes across more like some weird art project dreamed up by some English grad students who love hardcore than it does as an actual album. While, yes, it is a complete record, I swear you’ve never heard anything like it.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Artist Of The Day: The Colourist

Real life has rarely sounded so pretty, but blooming indie-pop group The Colourist has certainly made a colorful splash with its single "Little Games," the first off of freshman EP Lido. While the lyrics are understated and low-key, the delivery couldn't be more exhilarating: the drums hit hard as Adam Castilla and Maya Tuttle's vocals spiral around each other in a hate/love affair. (Note how the video below exemplifies this, elegant fixtures and gorgeous pastel shades being smashed into oblivion. I'm a sucker for any group that can give me some good imagery to work with, and this group delivers it in spades.) The instrumentation, too, is ready for morning radio, a blissful blend of subtle guitar strokes and M83-esque synth squiggles. With no shortage of aspiring indie-pop stars, it takes a lot to stand out, but The Colourist is coming out swinging: "Little Games" is a sparkly, stadium-sized tune that doesn't drown out the heartache, and it gives me hope that this group will take off in the very near future.

You can find more on The Colourist and purchase its debut Lido here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Artist of the Day: Owls

The highly influential emo band Cap'n Jazz may be a common name amongst music history buffs, but the shortly lived reunion of the group under the name Owls, tends to go under the radar far too often.  All original members, minus Davey von Bohlen of The Promise Ring, were accounted for and while only one self-titled album was recorded, the group created a perfect matured progression of their teenage selfs. Comprised of angular guitar lines, howling vocals with abstract, poetic lyricism, and unique time signatures, Owls was the band that Cap'n Jazz would've been if they stayed together. They are a truly interesting group to listen to and compare to their earlier efforts.

After facing a rough breakup, due to internal disagreements all the members parted ways to work on various other projects. Sometimes these were with each other, sometimes not. The entire group never recorded under Owls again though. Until now.

The band is back working on a second album to be released this winter. Buy their debut album below and get prepared.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Album Review: Crash of Rhinos - Knots

Album Rating: B+
There’s a storm brewing across the pond, it seems. Derby, England’s Crash of Rhinos, who’ve already been building up a decent following since their impressive 2011 release, Distal, are armed with a new full-length album and are poised to make yet another great leap towards what I believe to be their inevitable success. The band has certainly kept up the strong pace they established in 2011 with 2013’s Knots, offering up nearly an hour of music and a dense 13 tracks, many of which clock in at over 5 minutes, and not one that stumbles.

Live Review: A Great Big Pile Of Leaves, The Ottobar (8/14/13)

On a Topshelf Records lineup dominated by emo bands, A Great Big Pile Of Leaves is a bit of an oddball. In contrast to the raw emotion of Pianos Become The Teeth or the ambient twinkly soundscapes of The World Is A Beautiful Place, the band embraces a far more accessible indie pop sound. With a knack for massive hooks while surrounding them with multilayered harmonies and sophisticated guitar parts, the band actually has the greatest potential for overall success on the Topshelf roster. If they keep cranking out on performances like their recent gig at the Ottobar, they should top the Topshelf food chain in no time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Album Review: 65daysofstatic - Wild Light

Album Rating: A
When we last heard from 65daysofstatic, the Sheffield post-rock powerhouse was straight out of two back-to-back projects that couldn’t have been more different. The first, We Were Exploding Anyway, took the band in a new direction by integrating EDM into its end-of-the-world fireworks festivities. The other, Silent Running, tapped into a cinematic vein, both a return to 65’s roots and an indication of the grander ambitions the band had sat on for some time. Wild Light, the first 65 release in two years, will naturally inspire plenty of comparisons to both. Like We Were Exploding Anyway, it piles on the electronic atmospherics heavier than ever; like Silent Running, it’s an exercise in balancing futuristic grit with classical gracefulness. The ancestor it truly reminds me of, however, is the band’s sophomore album One Time For All Time. Maybe it’s in how this is one cohesive story being told, a dormant impulse reawakened here as the band dissects and rebuilds itself. Or maybe it’s just my affinity for that album speaking.

Artist of the Day: Chipzel

Spectra is easily the best by-the-book chiptune release of the year. It doesn't quite match up to, say, Anamanaguchi's Endless Fantasy (given that album's in my top 10 of the year and Anamanaguchi is one of my all-time favorite groups, not much does), but its attention to detail and the origins of chiptune is nothing short of astounding. The entire thing was recorded by Chipzel in Little Sound DJ, a program for the original GameBoy back in the '90s, and its depth and complexity is amazing — apart from the GameBoy program's lackluster capability for snares, the entire thing sounds like it could have been made in any professional program. The "bleep-bloop-bop music" that Chipzel has become famous for over the past few years is in full effect here, and standout tracks like "Forged in Stars," a soaring, distorted house tune, and "The Art of War," a beautifully minimalist chiptune take on soothing liquid drum & bass exemplify just how good the album is. If you somehow haven't been convinced to listen to Spectra yet, I'll do all I can to recommend it — it's one of the best musical experiences of the past few months.

Spectra is streaming on Bandcamp here.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Album Review: Moving Mountains - Moving Mountains

Album Rating: B+
Nighttime driving albums have always been a soft-spot of mine. Those certain records that just flow perfectly with the flowing of lights and the cool wind breezing through cracked windows. It is albums like these that stick with you and end up being a part of the soundtrack of the many nights of your youth. Moving Mountains' self-titled is an album that is on the brink of becoming one of those special records. Within itself is a self-contained encapsulation of a certain feeling. The music is fleeting and loose, but grips itself onto your memory, creating blurred recollections when recalled.

Artist Of The Day: Yuck

A vocalist leaving a band often becomes a death sentence for a band. It's just hard for a group to recover when their main voice changes, and very often turns away a large group of their fans. Yuck's relatively long period of inactivity only helped lower expectations for upcoming material, but after a couple listens of Glow And Behold I can safely say that the album has exceeded my wildest expectations. The album pulls back on the haze that covered Yuck, a stylistic change that fits Max Bloom's voice far better than it would former vocalist Daniel Blumberg's. There is also a shift to more sophisticated arrangements, featuring trumpets on about half the album's tracks and two beautiful instrumental tracks to change anyone's perspective of what Yuck actually is. Glow And Behold is a perfect return to prominence for Yuck, and the acclaim should start beginning to pile up very soon. Get excited for Glow and Behold by streaming the two new tracks "Middle Sea" and "Rebirth," and follow them on Facebook for more information regarding the new release.

Album Review: Balance & Composure - The Things We Think We're Missing

Album Rating: A
When Balance & Composure released its first full-length album Separation back in 2011, it thrust the band into the underground limelight. Touring alongside larger bands like Circa Survive hooked new fans and spread the band's gritty, emotional hard rock across the country. From the sweeping choruses to the atmospheric intricacies, The Things We Think We're Missing succeeds Separation in almost every way. A top-tier contender for album of the year, it showcases some of the best delicate maturation and evolution of any record out there.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Album Review: Tonight Alive - The Other Side

Album Rating: B
I'm kind of hesitant to write a review for The Other Side because no matter how complex I make the album out to be, countless blogs will summarize the thing in two sentences "Poppy pop-punk with a serious knack for catchiness and fun. Jenna is hawt." Even so, the album deserves the attention of a full-fledged writeup because it's a great example of the phenomenon of female-fronted airwave-friendly pop-punk that isn't manufactured drivel. Of course, this isn't exactly new — Paramore does this, VersaEmerge (arguably) does this, and...shit, I'm out of examples. A necessary point to highlight with this, therefore, is just how alluring the music is. It's supremely easy to listen to, of course, but the hamminess and general malaise that plagues teeny-bopper pop-"punk" groups like Hey Monday and whatever other artists are selling CDs for Fueled by Ramen nowadays is almost totally absent from The Other Side (cheesy-ass piano intro to "Don't Wish" notwithstanding).

Artist of the Day: Clair Morgan

Standing on stage with his cream-colored Rickenbacker at Richmond’s Gallery 5 on Friday, Clair Morgan didn’t strike me as much more than a little bearded guy with a cream-colored Rickenbacker. Then I saw his fingers move, and it was like a Greek myth where the gods bestow some absurd power upon a seemingly arbitrary appendage for the gifted to use in support of good or evil. Don’t worry, I can confirm that Clair Morgan is on the side of good. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Superlatives: The Nines Festival, Devens, MA (8/10/13)

On August 10, I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic day-long music and arts festival in beautiful central Massachusetts. 2013 was The Nines' first year in existence, but the festival didn't suffer from rookie mistakes (apart, possibly, from the fact that there were only two food carts to cater for the entire audience): the music was seriously excellent, the art displays were vibrant and engaging, and everything about the festival screamed "done right." To give you faithful readers a recap of the festival, we'll give you "superlatives" to describe some of the most memorable moments of the day (and night).

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Watch This: Jake Bellows - "I Know You"

On his recent album New Ocean, Jake Bellows wraps gentle sentiments in sunny songs unearthed from his backyard: it's music both modern in its fusion of genre and nostalgic in its temperament, full of yearning and hope. His new video for single "I Know You" brings out these strengths. Like waves crashing on an isolated shoreline, the song's clickety-clack rhythms persist alongside Bellows as he reaches out, while the guitar is campfire intimate and the warbly flourishes of psychedelic-rock intoxicate. The video, on the other hand, is wholly innocent, documenting the adorable romance of two chimpanzees by cutting together old footage from The Prelinger Archives. Wisely, it plays on the emotional juxtaposition of the chimps' carefree happiness with Bellow's heavier thoughts, making for something that's thought-provoking and contemplative even as it's charming and humorous.

Find more on Jake Bellows at his official website.

Album Review: Annuals - Time Stamp

Album Rating: A
As a North Carolina native, I can remember a time in high school where I couldn’t walk ten feet in the hallways without hearing someone raving about Raleigh, N.C.’s indie-rock superstars: Annuals. Be He Me had just come out, and the band was clearly on the rise, touring with major acts like The Mountain Goats and Minus the Bear, all while releasing their signature brand of incredibly layered, multi-instrumental indie music. But then, sometime after 2008, Columbia Records dropped the band, and Annuals completely disappeared from the public sphere. By no means had the band’s quality of the music suffered (Such Fun masterfully combined indie and country elements, and 2010’s Sweet Sister EP will always have a special place in my heart)—the initial hype had simply died down, and most listeners had already moved on to other acts like Grizzly Bear and Manchester Orchestra, both whose popularity had conveniently soared right around the time that Annuals’ waned.

Artist of the Day: Janelle Monáe

It's no secret that R&B is having a fine time of things at present, nor indeed that it has been for some considerable time. One of this decade's biggest genre-based success stories, its resurgence has seen fresh, ambitious new takes on the style wow critics and unite fans, whilst simultaneously accounting for some of the best music in both mainstream and underground circles. Released back in 2010, Janelle Monáe's sprawling debut The ArchAndroid can perhaps be viewed among the trend's key documents, its ludicrous futuristic droid concept balanced by some of the most creatively vibrant pop and soul heard in many a year. Frequently touching brilliance, it's quality and scale rendered it a difficult act to follow, but with The Electric Lady the 27-year old has seemingly embraced that challenge and turned in a statement which if anything sounds even more definitive.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Live Review: Eels, O2 Academy, Newcastle, 04/09/2013

Not many artists gain a kick from playing to a half-empty room once their gig has ended, but then Mark Oliver Everett - aka E - is no ordinary frontman. The maverick genius behind the Eels, E's boundless wit and tragic past have granted him a rather unique sense of humour, and one which caught out many fans who left Wednesday's show at the O2 Academy promptly after the lights went up. With much of their crowd spilling out onto Newcastle's streets, the group suddenly sprung back onstage to the delight of a few hundred stragglers, who'd already enjoyed a tremendous innings complete with two encores. We should have seen it coming really; and it proved a fabulous way to end the night, even if the main gig itself left little to be desired.

Jukebox: Black Taxi - "The Runner"

"Most of us got houses, but none of us got homes," croons Ezra Huleatt at the start of Black Taxi's new single "The Runner," welcoming us to a world both familiar and exciting. New York City is bustling with plenty of aspiring electropop stars, but if this propulsive, synth-soaked cocktail of Two Door Cinema Club, ZEDD and the sons Mumford abandoned is any indication, this is one band that's wasting no time sprinting to the top. What sells me on this is the chorus, how it ever-so-slightly floats towards some sort of transcendence only to sink again: as glorious a feeling it may be wandering about the city streets late at night, it's going to be a hell of a hangover the next morning. Surprising how blissful it sounds for all the heavy thoughts, though. Makes me excited to see where this taxi's headed next.

Artist of the Day: Touche Amore

Whether you like it or not, Touche Amore is one of the leaders of the new post-hardcore scene. They carry a torch for a new generation of emotion-fused anthems alongside bands like La Dispute and Defeater in a sea that once held such acts as Thursday and Glassjaw. The band keeps picking up speed, regularly drawing piles of stage divers at hardcore festivals and on no-barrier stages throughout the United States and abroad. Touche Amore's pulverizing sound treads territory between a traditional hardcore band and screamo, but with an accessible aesthetic that is neither clean nor harsh. As the band gears up to release its forthcoming third album Is Survived By, we've got some first impressions to share of what is sure to be one of the best albums of the year.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Artist of the Day: Deep Purple

Deep Purple released a trio of
classic albums from 1970-1972.
1968 was kind of a big year for Rock n’ Roll. Yes performed for the first time. Led Zeppelin came together as a band. Black Sabbath began their career as “Earth”. Judas Priest jammed for the first time. In Toronto, Rush kicked off their career. With all these big names, it would be easy to overlook that in Hertford, England, a new rock band was taking shape – a band that would define progressive rock and heavy metal for the next decade. This band was Deep Purple.