Sunday, March 31, 2013

Best Of The Year 2013: First Quarter Update

As we've done every three months since the beginning of 2011, we will again be doing quarterly updates in 2013. All of the staff here at MuzikDizcovery listed our top five albums that we've heard so far in 2013, and wrote up little blurbs about why we love these albums. We really hope you check out the albums on our lists, as I'm sure most of them are very dear to us. There's a very wide variety of music that you'll find on these lists, as groups such as Owel, Autre Ne Veut, Justin Timberlake, K Sera, The Story So Far, My Bloody Valentine, Youth Lagoon, Foals and Frightened Rabbit all have mentions from at least two of our staff members, so we guarantee that there will be at least one artist on here that you will end up loving. Check out all of our lists below.

Album Review: The Strokes - Comedown Machine

Album Rating: B-
In 2009, I had no interest in indie rock. I was a wanna-be radical high school sophomore straight out of Episcopal middle school, passing my relatively dull evenings (shouldn’t I have been doing homework?) listening to Propagandhi, Bad Religion, and Rise Against and thinking about how bad President Bush had been. Oh, girls too. I thought a lot about girls. It was girls that showed me the Shins, the Fratellis, the Decemberists, and any number of other girl-wooing indie acts that just ended up making me feel bad about not being able to woo girls. And then there was the Strokes. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I spent a particularly long April of my life with nothing but Is This It on my iPod. I learned every crevice of every song. For the first time in my life, I felt like an album was made just for me.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Anamanaguchi

Do yourself a favor and go watch the video embedded below. It's the music video for Anamanaguchi's new single, "Meow," and it's insane. For those of you too lazy to click the Play button and wait for four minutes, what essentially happens is the four guys in the band go into some sort of demented arcade, join four different "cult"-type groups, die, and get reborn into a live show. It's insane, it's confusing as hell, and it's utterly brilliant. That's the style characteristic of Anamanaguchi, though - the chip-rockers most famous for creating the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World The Game have made an admittedly short career a worthwhile one with their hyper-fast, continually-sugar-high music. Everything they create is a shot of pure, distilled energy, and listening to their music is always a joy if you're in the mood for smiling. Their upcoming LP, Endless Fantasy, looks to further their success, if "Meow," the album's lead single, is any indication. This reviewer will most certainly be looking forward to the release date, for there will be only smiles when the play button is finally pressed.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Interview With Casey Crescenzo (The Dear Hunter) (3/23/13)

When starting out in music journalism, I knew exactly what I wanted to do-- show who musicians really are. Music can say so much, but even if an album speaks perfectly for itself, its creator can, as Casey Crescenzo told me, come across as some "cloudheaded" figure. This is silly, of course-- musicians are just as human as we are-- but it can be hard to realize that, especially in this time of readily accessible music.

Jukebox: Icarus The Owl - Jaguar Shark

"Jaguar Shark" is a standard Icarus the Owl song. Make of that what you will, but there's no way around it - it's something which is so characteristic of the band that almost no one else could have written it, and one listen without context will make anyone say, "Yep, sounds like Icarus the Owl." Personally, I believe it's a very good thing that "Jaguar Shark" sticks to the same formula as what made Love Always, Leviathan such a stellar album. You've got the same quasi-nonsensical title and lyrics, you've got the same "instrumental acrobatics" which fellow writer Jacob Royal loved in his earlier review, you've got the same powerful Joey Rubenstein pop-punk vocals, and you've got the same mathy feel, especially with the kicking and pounding drums. And, to be honest, I'm perfectly happy with this. Though "Jaguar Shark" isn't quite up to snuff with the best of Love Always, Leviathan, it's still a very solid song in its own right. It feels like more of a maze than much of the group's other work in that it's more heavily distorted and foggy than other songs, and as a result it's more akin to their earlier album, The Spotless Mind, which I personally think is a fair bit weaker than the excellent Love Always, Leviathan, my second-favorite album of last year. However, the similarities "Jaguar Shark" demonstrate to the band's earlier work mean different things to different people. And even though I liked the best off Love Always, Leviathan more than "Jaguar Shark," it's still a very solid song, a roller-coaster ride that picks the listener up early and shoots him straight off to the end of the ride. "Jaguar Shark" should whet people's appetites for Icarus the Owl's upcoming EP, and since it's a strong song in its own right it deserves to do so.

You can stream the song here.


Artist of the Day: Waxahatchee

When’s the last time your heard a guitar record that sat you right down next to its maker in a tiny room, staring them straight in the eye? For the better part of the past four or five years, bands have been content sending us out on to wide-open plains or to the top of mountains where the reverb goes on and on forever and a whisper can sound like a shout. No doubt it’s pretty, but honest? It can’t be. It’s fantasy. This is what sets Brooklyner Katie Crutchfield and her indie folk project Waxahatchee apart from the rest. The quality of her vocal performance actually relies on the quality of her voice, rather than carefully produced wafting emanations of glassy fullness that erupt every time so many other lo-fi folkster singer-songwriters so much as hum. Her guitar is just a guitar, a little bit out of tune every now and then, with a wooden body that thumps when it’s accidentally tapped. What she’s doing isn’t new, but somehow it seems revolutionary. Her songs are simple things, but if you’re focused on structure you’re missing the point. It’s the words and the stories, mostly about herself, or at least a character she’s invented with an acute understanding of pain. The songs are themselves are frames, wooden and unadorned, enabling and, in their own way, enhancing the beauty of their contents. 

Defending the Experience: A Brief Response to Anthony Fantano's Recent Justin Timberlake Review

Before I get into the meat of this post, I wish first to express my admiration for Anthony Fantano and his work under The Needle Drop. I am a huge fan of his, and I respect every video he's put out, not least of which including his recent review of Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience. Furthermore, this post will not be a rant. I will attempt to stay away from the dangerous cliff of "butthurt Internet troll" over which many writers of response posts often fall. I agree with, or at least understand, all of Fantano's criticisms of The 20/20 Experience, and this post is meant to deal with what I think he missed regarding the album. (Also, I apologize that this post is a bit late - I've been away until yesterday, and I didn't check my YouTube subscriptions until this morning.)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Live Review: Ajimal, Heartattack & Vine, Newcastle, 26/03/2013

With his debut mini-album finally nearing completion and a brand new single already in circulation, Fran O'Hanlon - aka Ajimal - can justly claim a place along the hottest up-and-coming acts in the North East. Already hailed as "unearthly" and "setting a new benchmark for sensitive pop in 2013," the Mick Ross-produced 'This Human Joy' saw release on Monday, and was available at this launch gig as a special handmade CD, limited to 20 copies. The show itself was similarly exclusive; fans having been encouraged to register online, with 25 lucky pairs assigned a passcode and the secret location, which as it turned out was Newcastle's Heartattack & Vine. An intimate - albeit chilly - renovated room, its cosy confines provided the perfect stage not only for Ajimal, but also the two support acts who preceded his appearance.

Album Review: Old Gray - An Autobiography

Album Grade: A
An Autobiography is an emotional gauntlet. Roughly 26 minutes long, the band delves into traditional emo, building up monoliths of sadness with twinkling guitars and passionate spoken word that will no doubt become a staple in the scene. With a sound similar to heavy hitters Pianos Become the Teeth and La Dispute, An Autobiography will definitely be one of the most vital and important records of 2013.

Artist Of The Day: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Possibly the most well-known indie band around the world alongside Modest Mouse and Bon Iver, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs nevertheless still have their same quirky charm in 2013 as they did over a decade ago. From their self-titled EP and Fever To Tell, though, they've advanced quite a ways with their songwriting, and lost a bit of their punk origins, and 2009's It's Blitz includes more electronic than any of their other albums combined (which is still essentially zero). The recent single off of their newest album, however, portrays a nice compromise, echoic electronic effects over a garage-rock styled, head-bobbing melody, along with excessive lyric repetition in true Yeah Yeah Yeah's style ("Maps," am I right?). An interesting addition to Mosquito's "Sacrilege" is the gospel-like choir towards the end of the song, which sounds incredible due to the way you can vamp on and expand off of a repetitive line in gospel music. The song is a great change of pace for the band, and it brings interesting foresight to the rest of the album, which comes out April 16th.

Further updates are posted pretty consistently on their Facebook page and their own website.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Conquering Animal Sound

Much of the recent focus in Scotland's electronic music scene has centered around Glasgow trio Chvrches; understandable given their excellence, not to mention this week's release of new EP Recover. What their emergence has done, however, is overshadow the return of Conquering Animal Sound, the city's other great electronic exponents whose new album On Floating Bodies merely underlines the worth first showcased on 2011's Kammerspiel. Comprised of Anneke Kampman and James Scott, the duo achieve the rare feats of being intelligent without sounding pretentious, and quirky without becoming an irritant, something that's in no small part down to the ideal correlation of their respective talents. With a stuttering style almost reminiscent Bjork, the former's voice adds a distinct human element to their otherwise otherworldly music, her thick regional brogue decipherable atop a carefully pruned collage of samples and electronics, even with layers of digital manipulation. It's a sound that's perhaps best sampled on fresh cut 'I'll Be Your Mirror,' a shimmering ambient landscape that's akin to countrymen Boards Of Canada, and one which proves precisely why they and their new record are worth your time.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Album Review: Senses Fail - Renacer

Album Grade: B
For me, the essential Senses Fail lyrics are heard on their song “Lifeboats.” Over a sustained guitar riff, singer Buddy Nielsen half-screams, half-speaks “I’m so pathetic, it makes me sick.” To that point, Senses Fail had just been an outlet for Buddy’s personal discontent and vices; tales of alcoholism, visits to the therapist, substance abuse, loneliness and suicidal visions ran rampant. He had always strived to change himself, but with each album came a new set of failures and mistakes that Nielsen seemed almost too ready to share. That moment on The Fire represented him reaching rock bottom. He had always been willing to acknowledge that he screwed up but never before did he say it so bluntly.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Artist of the Day: The Wonder Years

It's hard to deny that The Wonder Years are the biggest up and coming band in the pop punk scene. Over a couple years the band has went from playing small clubs to House of Blues and eventually to main stage Warped Tour. After releasing The Upsides and the fantastic follow-up Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing, The Wonder Years are on the fast track to become the next New Found Glory.

Interview With Andrew McMahon (3/25/13)

Jack's Mannequin may be over, but Andrew McMahon isn't even close to finishing his musical career. He's now working under his own name, allowing him to play songs from the Jack's Mannequin as well as Something Corporate eras of his career, mixed with new material soon to be released. Andrew took time out of his extremely busy tour schedule to answer some questions from us regarding the differences between Jack's and the solo material, moving between Something Corporate and Jack's material in live sets, the release of the new EP, his relationship with fun., the Jack's Mannequin live DVD, vinyl, and much more that you can read below.

Album Review: Daughter - If You Leave

Album Rating: B+
Sometimes, waking up is the most difficult thing to do: if you’re like me, the snooze button on your iPhone’s alarm clock gets far more love than the OK button. But we have lives to slip back into, so eventually we all tumble out of bed, most of us grumbling and wishing we could have just one more minute to gain some strength. In its debut, If You Leave, folk-rock group Daughter’s eventual awakening is hard-fought and hard-won, but in its grip, burying yourself into the sheets proves to be an incredibly tempting offer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Artist of the Day: The Dear Hunter

Let's face it: there's no way to properly sum up what the Dear Hunter has accomplished in the last five years. Casey Crescenzo and company has torn up the indie scene from one album to the next, between the theatrical storytelling of the Act albums to the remarkably diverse Color Spectrum EPs. Every album the group has released has pushed the envelope of the indie realm in some regard, and refined the band's sound even further.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Artist of the Day: yu-chi

Acoustic/ambient musician yu-chi describes himself as "just an ordinary Japanese farmer" on his personal page, but if his first release, which he wrote, performed and produced on his own is any indication, he’s anything but ordinary. monochrome clown is about as perfect a debut you get: it’s a nakedly emotional and even sentimental display, but its melodies are breathtaking. Yu-chi’s sense of production benefits from his roots, as the sparse production lends his equally sparse arrangements an amplified tone of wistfulness. 

yu-chi’s strongest attribute is his deceptively playful songwriting. “The end of the world” plays two forces against each other, pitting a piano-and-strings combination against a line of telephone static. Then all of a sudden, it just stops and switches the focus onto a toy box for one breath—just long enough for the return of the pianos and strings to make a big impact. Furthermore, he utilizes a creative and effective set of instruments throughout “marks of a tear,” which begins with the strums of an acoustic guitar before building into a more subdued take on a folk song, replete with chiming bells and a simple yet heartwarming drum beat. The track then takes an abrupt turn into darkness when it segues into a two-minute outro led by what resembles a clown baby’s voice. (Don’t let that last part scare you.) As a whole, monochrome clown plays like a haunting short film: yu-chi may consider himself ordinary, but his music is anything but.

Both monochrome clown and unevenness, yu-chi's second LP, are available for free on his Bandcamp.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Interview - Tera Melos

After plenty of miscommunications about when exactly I should call Tera Melos' bassist Nathan Latona, I discovered time zones can dissolve even the firmest of plans. I maintained resolve, though, texting the musician to find out when he could have a chat. And when he asked me if ten o'clock worked, I sent him back a big thumbs-up.

The interview/conversation was a blast, and I hope you readers get as much out of it as I did. Nathan's clearly a great guy, and that fact makes me respect genre-benders Tera Melos even more.

Album Review: Technimatic - Mirror Image

Album Rating: B-
There comes a time when music becomes so generic that nothing can save it. No matter how beautiful the production, how well the lead singer can croon or snarl, or how catchy the music, the drab nature of the songwriting and implementation of the music overrides all positive qualities. Last year, this was most noticeable in Imagine Dragons' Night Visions, though a lesser version of this strict adherence to formula was also visible in albums like Enei's Machines and Feed Me's Escape From Electric Mountain, among others. No matter how fun and well-produced every song on each of these releases was, there was an overwhelming sameness and stringent following of genre tropes which cancelled out the good in these releases, resulting in three average albums which displayed a frustrating amount of potential. It's always sad to see music like this, when songs are so nice to listen to, yet so damn average at the same time - this phenomenon happens all too often in music, as it always has, and it's very disappointing when it does.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Album Review: Palma Violets - 180

Album Rating: C+
Judging by the video for Palma Violets’ endlessly buzzed about single, “Best of Friends,” being a fan of the band looks like a hell of a lot of fun. The perks are endless. You’ll be invited to clubs where the roofs are just a bit too short, a kaleidoscope of colored, blinking lights washing over you as you sing the words you know by heart next to another five or six dozen ravished, loyal fans. The video seems to imply that the guys have, over the course of several months, built from scratch an entire community on the sturdy foundation of one three-and-a-half minute rock n’ roll song. A cathartic montage of sorts is interspersed with the performance - frontmen Chili Jesson and Sam Fryer almost share a kiss then bounce away from each other giggling, the guys play around with their instruments in a practice room, joking, laughing, hugging one another. It’s quite the inspiring clip, almost too celebratory for a band that, at the time, hadn’t even cemented their legacy on vinyl.

Artist Of The Day: Willis Earl Beal

Almost everyone is a sucker for rags to riches success stories. Perhaps it’s because humanity has a tendency to root for the underdog, or perhaps because it illustrates just what we’re capable of if really we put our minds to something. Of all the artists who have struggled and toiled to succeed in their trade, few have invested more emotionally than Willis Earl Beal. Beal found himself homeless after a medical discharge from the United States Army and he began working entry-level jobs – all whilst pursuing his love of music. Acousmatic Sorcery is the emotional out-pour of a man who struggled through the tedium and wrote songs when he had “no logical reason to be hopeful.” Thankfully, logic didn't stop him from writing and recording and leaving CD’s and flyers quite literally scattered around Albuquerque. Logic also didn't stop him from getting signed.

Jukebox: Parquet Courts - "Smart Aleck Kid"

I can’t stress enough the extent of my boyish excitement upon learning Parquet Courts had put out a new song as the B-side to the excellent “Borrowed Time.” Like so many cuts from their second album, Light Up Gold, “Smart Aleck Kid” blasts off without a warning shot. What follows is a bit of a punk rock “Flight of the Bumblebees.” The band sets personal records in both speed and snark. If you’re familiar with their past material, that may seem unfathomable. Sure, it’s a bummer that the high-speed snarl keep the lyrics obscured, but the delivery is spot-on, as evocative as some of the band’s best poetry. That’s really saying something. Stream “Smart Aleck Kid” here. It won’t take long.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Artist of the Day: James Blake

In the wake of Overgrown's limited preview, and in the shadow of its release, what's a man to do but tap his fingers on a keyboard in part anticipation and part frustration? It would be a stretch to ignore the flaws in his successful debut -the clunky, autotune awkwardness and overblown repetition- yet inexcusable to pass its successes. Never before had an artist surfed along the wake of the emerging dubstep wave to bring it crashing into the mainstream; his own, hyper-intimate approach was just a bonus.

With Overgrown, James Blake keeps on surfing long enough to flatten out the kinks. The preview hinted at much smoother and more harmonious tracks further spliced with the hip-hop and RnB vibes he glanced at in his debut. "Take a Fall For Me," featuring rapper RZA, takes this to a new level, and pleasingly James shuns the verse/chorus structure of rapper collabs in favour of a kind of synthed out matrimony. It's a new direction for James, and god damn is it working for him. That vinyl won't arrive soon enough...

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Album Review: Kvelertak - Meir

Album Rating: A-
Kvelertak is the sonic representation of a Nordic rampage. If you were to envisage – and I’m sure you regularly do on a daily basis – a horde of Scandinavians ransacking villages whilst partying, then you’d already have a pretty good idea of what Kvelertak sounds like. Imagine hordes of bearded behemoths kicking children, roasting copious amounts of farmyard animals, and drinking barrel upon barrel of potent ale, all with the greatest sense of merriment and camaraderie. Then give this rowdy bunch some instruments and a microphone.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Live Review: Agerskow, Morden Tower, Newcastle, 16/03/2013

It's taken a while, but this week has finally seen a debut release from Agerskow, the creative alias of Yorkshire-born, Newcastle-based songwriter Kate Edwards. A double A-side featuring the tracks "This Train Terminates" and "Fast Hands," the single is the culmination of two years of work and acclaim, both of which have established the former Brilliant Mind member among the finest up-and-coming artists the North East has to offer. It's also one thoroughly deserving of its own launch night - something it was granted with this special gig in the intimate confines of Newcastle's Morden Tower; a turret in medieval city wall, packed to capacity with an audience of around 40.

Album Review: Dorena - Nuet

Album Rating: A
"A lot of things took place in our lives during the past two and a half years since our last release. And as we grow older, we notice that the years keep flying by faster and faster. These songs are ways for us to hold onto things that would otherwise be distorted by memory or fall into oblivion.”
-Kim Ruiz, Dorena

Stop reading this and look at your hand. I mean, really, really hold it right up to your face and look at it. Examine each little line, each part of a map you could get lost in for hours; the colors, subtle shades of peach or tan or mocha, forming a tapestry rich with history; the scratches and scars only you are privy to. Why is it that way? How did it get there?

Those aren’t questions most people are asked every day, granted, but they popped into my head nevertheless as I peered at the hand on the cover of Nuet, Swedish post-rock band Dorena’s newest release. It’s almost childishly small, one little paw in a sea of tan, yet within it, the mementoes of an entire compact life are illuminated, a world built out of kisses and Christmas trees and stuffed animals. I wondered, for a split-second, what secret of life would reveal itself to me if only I could see my own hand the way I saw that hand—and the story contained within it.

Album Review: Wildlife - ...On The Heart

Album Rating: B
Some things in life just are. Whether you like or hate them, they’re so central to everything that goes on that you’ll have to deal with them. ...On The Heart, Wildlife’s sophomore release…isn’t necessarily one of those things, but the part of the body it’s named after is, and its qualities define both the strengths and weaknesses of the album: whatever your thoughts on the group, this album, or the heart happen to be, you cannot be blasé about any of these things. This album isn’t easily describable, in any case. It demands to be felt before it can be evaluated.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Tawny Peaks

What better time to talk about Tawny Peaks than in the days before March Madness? The twinkly emo band came out of the depths of New Jersey to release one of the strongest efforts of the genre of 2012 with their self titled album. The dual vocal dynamic of Charlie Perris and Molly Grund is easily the group's distinguishing feature, as they pull off a technique that is rarely (if ever) used in modern emo music. Perris's voice isn't classically strong, but its empathetic quality is endearing while Grund's sweeter timbre makes the uncharacteristic harmonies work. Grund also takes the lead on the acoustic album highlight "March Sadness" (hence the opening reference). The band also shows an ability to use unconditional song structures and techniques knock them out of the park, best shown on fan favorite "Collect Calling." As the vocalists repeat the line "You act like the world's one giant fuse waiting to blow / And every tiny tremor digs into the very center of your soul," the song gradually speeds up, moving from a snail's pace to a sprint in only four repetitions. The band was just recently signed to Glass Nail Records, and is another great edition to the label's growing collection of talent. The label is finally issuing the record on vinyl, and while it doesn't look like it's going to ship until summer, be sure to get your orders in before it sells out. You can download the whole album for free on Bandcamp, and be sure to order the record here as well.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Artist of the Day: The Knife

A lot has changed since Swedish electronic duo the Knife put out their seminal third album Silent Shout in early 2006. Burial reinvented eerie minimalism, Skrillex won two Oscars, and James Murphy put dance-punk and the entire decade to bed. Most notably, the moody synth-pop the Swedes so avidly and effectively championed became unimaginably trendy. And now, between the lightning-fast ascension-descension of MGMT and the floundering emptiness of chillwave, synth revival may have just run its course. But the Knife is back, there’s no denying that, and their absence has given their image time to grow to a heroic level. Sure, they wrote an opera, and vocalist Karin Andersson had some real success with her trip-hoppy side-project Fever Ray, but the people want the Knife! Well, the Knife is what they’ll get.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Rorcal

Winter is the perfect season for metal. They go hand in hand, truly; with early nights in the cold season, what better way is there to call in the day by blasting some of the darkest genre of music? Sadly, winter is on its way out, but it is fairly safe to say that new metal releases are only beginning. Enter Rorcal, with their third album released late last month. Unfortunately, I was unable to review it within a timely period, but I still wanted to talk about the album, which fits the style of their debut, Myrra, Mordvynn, Marayaa in the sense that it divides the tracks up in a conventional way, but very much hearkens to their prior release, Heliogabalus in terms of musical experimentation. The atmosphere on Vilagvege is well constructed, beautifully set-up by "I" and featured first on "D." However, after the black six begin (tracks "II" to "VII"), the tempo speeds up, leaving the traditional doom feel behind and working their way towards blackened death metal, which is a departure from Heliogabalus in both concept and sound. The change may not be welcome to some, but I think Vilagvege is one of the best metal releases out this year so far.

You can listen to the new record, as well as the rest of Rorcal's discography, on Bandcamp for free.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Hookworms

Much of the recent hype surrounding Hookworms has centered around their supposed association with the 'new psych' scene, an umbrella which also covered last year's poster boys Toy amongst others. Attachment to such a dubious movement, however, doesn't do justice to a group who've emerged with one of 2013's strongest debuts, having spent the past three years simmering and pruning their sound to near-perfection. A mind-bending, mushroom flavoured combination of Spritualized's spacey exploration, Neu!'s krautrock dealings and My Bloody Valentine's sonic terrorism, Pearl Mystic is the type of accomplished, cohesive statement many band's spend their whole careers striding towards. Characterised by the persistent throb of bass and an intentionally murky production, it's a record which could eat its way into your conscience like the small, parasitic creatures their name depicts, albeit in a decidedly more consensual, not to mention pleasurable manner. If they have to attributed to a scene, then surely it's that of their hometown Leeds; one that's experiencing something of a boom, and may well have produced its finest outfit to date.

Album Review: Orphans - Pack Mentality

Album Rating: B
There seems to be a growing trend within hardcore music, and it’s a most welcome trend too. An increasing number of bands are showcasing their ambition by moving away from the short sharp shocks associated with older hardcore outfits, in favour of atmospheric instrumental passages and drawling harsh vocals. This not only results in a broadening of horizons but a fleshing out of material, a definite positive for fans of hardcore who feel frustrated by the abrupt endings and at times half-baked ideas which they’d rather see built upon. Naturally there are bands still prevalent within the genre who are delivering these bite-sized packages of brutality as is their fundamental popularity, but the likes of Circle Takes the Square and Rinoa are challenging the status quo in recent years with stunning releases.

Jukebox: Reso - Axion (KOAN Sound Remix)

It's no secret I'm a huge KOAN Sound fanboy. I love everything they do (even "80s Fitness," which I disliked in my review of The Adventures Of Mr. Fox), and it seems like everything they touch turns to electronic gold. I would like nothing more than to see them live sometime soon, and I'm bummed that on their North American tour on which they are embarking this month they pass right by my hometown. That being said, though, the KOAN Sound remix of Reso's "Axion" is excellent even by my standards for the duo. We loved the original track (and full album) in our review of Reso's Tangram, and KOAN Sound has upped the quality of an already incredible song with their rework. The dubstep-to-glitch-hop treat is absolutely massive, and it's full of all the neuro-esque wobbles and funky beats for which KOAN Sound is so famous. The first half, at 140 BPM, sees the Bristol-based duo take on almost Rockwell-like levels of complexity with crazy amounts of cymbals and toms, and they succeed on every level. What's more, the bass is chest-rattlingly good, the mid-range whipping wobbles are placed perfectly over every section, and the quick breaks in the middle work really well. After a seamless transition to 100 BPM, the newfound "neurohop" section utilizes an undeniably funky beat that synergizes excellently with the neuro wobbles KOAN Sound uses so well. The transition, however brief, is a treat to listen to, and it proves the duo's chops over a glitch hop beat. Overall, though, the remix of "Axion" is KOAN Sound doing what they do best and then some. It's an incredible tune, and I'd hazard a guess that it will end up being one of the top songs of the year - full stop.

Reso's Facebook/Reso's Twitter

KOAN Sound's Facebook/KOAN Sound's Twitter

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Artist of the Day: Harvey Pekar

Good artists borrow, but great artists steal. Cleveland post-hardcore outfit Harvey Pekar may borrow their name from the city's famous cartoonist, but the music they make is anything but funny. The five-piece plays an aggressive punk rock with hardcore influence that is absolutely relentless and cathartic, coupled with an experimental lyricism that makes the band one of the best in Cleveland's punk scene.

Album Review: Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience

Album Grade: A
10 years ago, who would have thought the “Cry Me a River” kid would have done this? In a little over a decade, Justin Timberlake has gone from a former boy-bander with a fresh haircut, trying to convince the world that he is to be taken seriously, into the savior of pop music. In the interim between Justified and now, Timberlake has reminded the world that Timbaland is a producer-de-jeur, released one of the most iconic pop records of the 2000’s (the genre-bending FutureSex/LoveSounds,) and purchased MySpace. Needless to say, he’s come a long way from his “Bye Bye Bye” days.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Artist of the Day: Tera Melos

Tera Melos has progressed immensely in the last eight years. Hark back to 2005, where one can find a wildly confident math-rock-esque group toying with instrumentation like a kid on a playground. Tera Melos' self-titled album was all over the place, in terms of both cohesiveness and scope. After all, the album ended with a 20+ minute experiment into how expressive full-fledged noise can be.

Jukebox: City and Colour - Of Space and Time

Dallas Green might just possess my favourite singing voice of all time, and I know I’m not alone. Since the 2004 release of Watch Out! by the seminal Alexisonfire, Green has built a reputation as an angelic vocalist, so much so that it was no surprise to see him leave the brash post-hardcore heavyweights and begin a solo career that focused on soft acoustics and his key attribute; his voice. His solo releases thus far have undisputedly proved one thing - he doesn't need to be juxtaposed against the ferocious growls of former band-mate George Pettit in order to excel and amaze. A voice alone, however, wouldn't be enough to carry any artist, and fortunately Green possesses the song writing ability to confidently back it up.

Watch This: Pentatonix and Lindsey Sterling - "Radioactive"

Superstar acapella quintet Pentatonix has always been a dynamic force on its own, but in this cover of Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive," the power of collaboration propels its sonic force into a completely different solar system. The group recruited violinist Lindsey Stirling to play with here, a smart choice considering both artists' philosophies: in recent years, Pentatonix has made acapella hip again with innovative arrangements, an abundance of personality, and a willingness to mix genres like SyFy villains mix chemicals, while Stirling has been integrating her rowdy string playing into songs that sound like they got lost on their way to the Billboard charts.

The cover is arranged in a way where the vocals and instrumentals dance around each other in subtle but powerful ways. It's an intelligent rendition of the original, never losing sight of the mounting urgency depicted in its lyrics or the pandemonium of its climax (try and see if you can catch each individual voice in the ending--easier said than done). The video is a visual treat as well; the post-acopalyptic setting is washed-out but dripping in atmosphere, while the composition--tense shots of strings stirring back and forth, shots of isolated survivors singing to themselves, Scott Hoying staring into the basement of your soul--conveys an undeniable sense of dread building within each character before everybody comes together in the explosive chorus. It's at once a world removed from our own and one strangely tethered to it nevertheless, a warning of where things might be headed come 2025 wrapped up in elegant pop hooks and soulful choral vocals. And if these folks have it their way, things might go nuclear before long.

Both Pentatonix and Lindsey Stirling are on tour, so go check 'em out. You can also subscribe to their YouTube pages here (and journalistic objectivity aside, you really should):

Lindsey Stirling

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Artist of the Day: Jessie Ware

From humble beginnings as a sample vocalist working with London-based DJ SBTRKT, Jessie Ware released her debut album last year to widespread critical acclaim but little recognition in the United States. Once word about Ware gets out, however, it shouldn't be long before she becomes an across-the-pond sensation in the same manner as Adele. After all, the two share a talent for big-voiced ballads about men who broke their hearts. Ware, however, breaks the mold of the traditional breakup songs. On "Wildest Moments," she reflects on the relationship from nearly every perspective rather than wallowing in her own emotions. "110%" finds Ware in a moment of pensiveness, pondering what makes a healthy relationship work and how much effort is necessary. More than anything else, she seems to be a genuine human; as ready to accept blame as to give it out- a fresh break from the contemporary "I got dumped and he sucked anyway" motto that pop starlets tend to embody.

Album Review: Geskia! - Silent of Light

Album Rating: A
Amidst crazy dash-cam videos and the introduction of tentacles to all kinds of unholy places, Western culture is now well accustomed to looking east in order to fulfill its taboo-defying quota. When it comes to music, it should therefore be of no surprise to discover no one experiments quite like they do in the east. Russia is usually a pretty safe bet, with Volor Flex kicking up a dubstep storm very recently, but anyone after the real hard shit will want to go further: they’ll want to go to Japan.

Artist Spotlight: MacGregor Burns

There’s a certain haunting humanity to the best folk music. You can hear it when you put on an old blues 78; this untraceable something that can raise the hair on the back of your neck. The music feels natural, stark and candid, but somehow disconcerting, like it's from another place. Art brut is a nice technical term for it: the music made outside society’s tall walls. In modern music, more than a few wanna-be eccentrics and semi-interesting characters have sought after this strange singularity. The problem is, you can’t seek it. In its raw form, it just flows. You’ve either got it in you or you don’t.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Live Review: Frightened Rabbit, Hall 2, The Sage, Gateshead, 25/02/2013

It's little over four years since Frightened Rabbit's last visit to The Sage Gateshead; a fleeting period in the grand scheme of things, yet one which in musical terms represents a vast yearning gap. That certainly seems so in the case of Selkirk's finest, who upon their last visit arrived as virtual unknowns hot on the heels of gargantuan sophomore The Midnight Organ Fight, a stonewall modern classic from which the quintet have truly never looked back. Now, of course, Scott Hutchinson and company are beginning to outgrow their cult status, with a major label deal and UK top 10 album to their name, not to mention a reputation that's well on its way to joining the likes of Belle & Sebastian and Arab Strap in the realms of Scottish folklore. Comfortably selling-out the venue's second room, this show was further evidence of their meteoric rise, aptly showcasing the strides they've made whilst also providing a night that'll live long in the memories of all in attendance.

Artist of the Day: Marie Avery

Marie Avery is a singer-songwriter with the spirit of a phoenix, finding joy in pain and self-reflection. Her latest EP The Fire sees her taking on a myriad of emotional tones and illustrating each with candor and a wicked sense of whimsy. Each track demonstrates her mastery of texture and dynamic—shimmering beauty achieved through sincerity and form in equal measures.

Opener “Caged Bird” feels like the grand opening of a Broadway musical, letting Avery’s wide range and delicate voice shine amongst cocktail lounge piano and hushed stop-start rhythms. Once Avery enters the heart of The Fire, she doesn’t stop burning up everything in her path; “Heavy” is forlorn, bombastic balladry wrapped in ocean-size drums and subdued instrumentation evocating some of Bess Rogers’ finest work, while “Stories,” befitting its name, has something of a fairy-tale aesthetic, laying Avery’s desires to make something out of her life over a dazzling piano arrangement (and making very, very effective use of horns to bolster her mighty ambitions). Perhaps the standout here is “Sailing,” another track which sees Avery laying business down with just the piano to keep her company—yet the atmosphere’s always blooming on the fray, only exploding as Avery finally declares her affections without abandon. “If You’ve Got Time” closes out this stellar set with an enticing offer: “If you come through the back,” Avery lets us know, “I’ll leave the screen door open.” If she keeps putting out material this good, she’ll have an absolute mess in her backyard. 

You can purchase Marie Avery’s EP on her Bandcamp and see a video for “Sailing” here.

Album Review: Les Sages - Blood Harmony

Album Rating: B
Something about Blood Harmony, indie-rock family band Les Sages’ new release, is a bit different. These are the same songs we got off of its LP Share This, but the instrumentation has been stripped-back, the vocals amplified, and the production polished, going for a smoother aesthetic compared to the rougher sound of the LP. It’s ample proof of the band’s talent that it can radically redefine its own pool of work as it does here, and though its latest isn’t quite fully fleshed-out, it’s the rare cover EP that manages to stand as a worthwhile work in its own right.

Album Review: The Delta Saints - Death Letter Jubilee

Album Rating: B+
Sometimes, good music is all about personality. Sure, you can wax lyrical about the social message, or the texture, or the innovations of an artist, but at the end of the day, it’s people who make the songs that resonate with us, and it's people, fictional or otherwise, who we see reflected in them. Ultimately, it's the character of Death Letter Jubilee that makes for an engaging listen, whether from the absolutely blistering performance from lead singer Ben Ringel or from the poetic lyrics and instrumentation. No plane ticket is required here; this is soul-rock that anybody will be able to lose themselves in.

Interview With Owel (3/8/13)

Owel, which according to vocalist/guitarist Jay Sakong is pronounced "ohl," has been recently been making waves in the Jersey music scene due to their excellent combination of ambient string filled post-rock and emo. Formerly known as Old Nick, the band's self-titled record was just recently released on CD, and is now gearing up for the full release of the album. Jay took questions from us involving topics such as the name change, reasons for keeping the original release physical only, release dates for the digital and vinyl versions of the album, an upcoming music video, and much more that you can read below.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Album Review: Doldrums - Lesser Evil

Album Rating: B-
What if I told you there was a place where the future is now? A place where space cowboys sip neon green drinks and dance with girls in tight poly-fiber jumpsuits and coughing hovercars beep beep their way through crowded airways, all under the watchful eye of the closed-caption television cameras. Now what if I told you that place was Canada? Well, I can’t actually say that with any certainty, but, judging from the prolific output of a myriad of excellent Canadian acts, they clearly know something about what’s coming that we don’t. Yes, from the urban pits of the States’ gentle northern cousin there seems to be arising the 2010’s first great musical movement – slimy, mucky dystopian android dance-pop that may be saying something or nothing at all about society, but is fascinating either way. And now, straight-outta-Montreal, the next regiment in the Trashwerkian army has arrived, and its name is Doldrums.

Jukebox: Mutated Forms - Best Served Cold VIP

It should come as no surprise to Muzik Dizcovery readers that I'm a huge fan of deep, dark dancefloor drum & bass. In the past, I've featured this style of DnB with posts about those like EastColors, Rene LaVice, and the NeurofunkGrid/Ammunition Recordings compilation Talents LP Vol. 1, and it's a given that I'll be all over any release like these whenever it comes out. With that said, Mutated Forms' "Best Served Cold VIP" is everything I could want from the darker side of drum & bass. Structurally and conceptually, the song is pretty much standard-fare for the techstep genre in which it resides, but Mutated Forms executes every single element of that techstep style with incredible quality and attention to detail. The synths are absolutely brutal from start to finish, sounding of everything good from the techstep world with their ominous growling. The drums do what they're supposed to - that is to say, be loud, be ticky, and try not to draw too much attention, as everything in the song deserves note. The bass is heavy, just as techstep basslines probably always should be, and it sounds perfectly in line with the rest of the song. Finally, the occasional vocal samples add greatly to the deep, dark feel of the whole experience. Mutated Forms has done everything right on "Best Served Cold VIP," and the original "Best Served Cold" has been transformed into even more of a dancefloor banger of sorts - and in this case that's a very good thing.

You can stream a clip of "Best Served Cold VIP" here.


Artist Of The Day: Sleeping Lessons

It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that post-hardcore as a genre has seen a drop in both quality and quantity in recent years. One band who doesn't fit the unfortunately growing trend however is La Dispute, who are arguably the finest post-hardcore band still regularly active today. It comes as no surprise then to see new bands following a similar blueprint to that set by La Dispute, especially given the success of their 2011 release Wildlife. Enter Sleeping Lessons and their debut EP, Cellar Door. A Cheltenham based four piece, Sleeping Lessons marry melodic guitar lines with harsh vocals and toy with dynamics in varying song structures, resulting in a diverse debut EP that avoids many of the pitfalls newer bands are often associated with.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Artist of the Day: Clem Leek

Clem Leek first caught my eye as part of Black Elk, who released an album called Sparks last year which turned out to be pretty damn awesome (#18 on my end of year list). The south England lad's been pretty busy since then, with the ultimate result being two rather tasty EPs since the beginning of 2013. One took a slightly experimental path parallel to Sparks in a modern-classical-come-ambient way. The other is entirely different, and more than a little difficult to come by.

Released on the wonderfully informal Brian Records, Rest seems more like an afternoon's session of slow guitar jams than a full record. The 17 minute duration is occupied with the most restrained form of emotional post-rock: a minimal collection of ambient buzz and a handful of guitar tracks. Clean, calm and beautiful would be the best way to describe it -favourite of the year so far beautiful, to put it in context- but with a limited release of only 40 vinyls and a small stack of CDs, beauty can't be for everyone.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Swindle

Swindle is a case of interesting dubstep in a world of cut-and-dry music. While that is a bold statement to make about any artist, Swindle has honestly earned the title as his music is an excellent fusion of a jazzy, proggy sound and a standard dubstep beat and bass. The young talent has already been signed to hugely respected label Deep Medi Muzik (home of stars like Mala, Tunnidge, and Kromestar), and for good reason. One listen to "Do The Jazz" and the reason his shocking rise to fame is made clear: his sound is excellent. The drums are light and funky, the synths reek of frosty, clean jazz and the organ lead brings the song perfectly into its main section of thumping bassline and nasally lead. Swindle's music is cool, fun, and intense all rolled into one, and he's quickly becoming a must-listen in the dubstep world.