Thursday, October 31, 2013

Live Review: Volcano Choir, 9:30 Club (9/12/13)

The sad reality about Volcano Choir shows are that a large amount of people are there to see Justin Vernon. The Bon Iver superstar's involvement in the project drove in plenty of fans solely due to name value, but Volcano Choir isn't a band that features a "frontman." It's a magical collective of similar minded and equally talented musicians, merging together to form wonderful music. In a live setting, this feeling of teamwork displays itself even more blatantly, creating a performance that could be appreciated by all for the musical brilliance coming from the stage.

Artist of the Day: The Misfits

In honor of the spooktacular day that is Halloween, why not explore the original icons of horror punk? The Misfits, characterized by their Crimson Skull logo, mesh with this frightful holiday all too well. If you're looking for a quick fix of everything dark and scary, look no further. Slide your mask over your face and enjoy the glow of jack-o-lanterns throughout your neighborhood in punk fashion.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Artist of the Day: National Sunday Law

Key Release: La Storia di Cannibali
It's astounding how often mediocre bands consistently become huge while far more interesting artists remain in the shadows. Sure, there are the heavyweights of progressive metal like Tool and Mastodon, but the vast majority of bright ideas aren’t coming soon to a music store near you. Unfortunately, National Sunday Law’s work has so far fallen into that vast majority. National Sunday Law’s sound fluctuates between sprawling post-rock complete with GY!BE-style samples (“City Dwellers”), and what sounds like a Baroness record played at half speed. Songs evolve over several minutes, with dissonant guitar riffs skittering over thunderous doom-metal chords; acoustic guitar interludes tread lightly over Derek Donley’s seismic drumming as he maximizes the impact of each tom hit and cymbal crash. There are a number of ideas that permeate their lyrics, including paganism and spiritualism, supported by cave painting-esque bucks on their most recent alsbum cover and the occult-nature song titles (“Theriocephaly” means having the head of an animal, while “Antoillier” is Old French for “antler”).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Album Review: Campfire OK - When You Have Arrived

Album Rating: A-
Some of the best music requires a little waiting. With each listen it seeps into you, fated to soon become an ineffable part of your identity. You never know it when it’s happening, of course, but for some reason you go back time after time, possessed by an instinct of greatness—before finally a switch flips in your head and, for the first time, you get it. I know this feeling well because it’s what I felt my sixth or seventh time listening to When You Have Arrived, the sophomore album from Seattle folk-rock band Campfire OK. More than almost any other album this year, it crackles with creativity and warmth, and even if that won’t win it any Grammys the experience is still remarkably fresh.

Artist of the Day: Park

Reunions often make me skeptical. Yes, I’m always upset when a favorite band of mine calls it quits, and any chance to actually see them play again after I thought it was all over is certainly welcomed. But at the same time, the reunions I’ve experienced in my lifetime (Blink-182, Latterman, etc) have usually left something to be desired—like the magic that made the band so great back in the day just can’t return once the members split up. Park, however, has found a way to prove me wrong again and again with their almost yearly reunion shows in Illinois, and now that they’ve announced a new full length, any possible skepticism I could have had has been replaced by unrestrained nostalgic excitement and anticipation. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Live Review: Pearl Jam, Wells Fargo Center (10/21/13)

What better way to cap off the release week of Pearl Jam's new album, Lightning Bolt, then to see the band live? I was graced with the luck to be in the massive audience at the Wells Fargo Center on October 21st, where Pearl Jam took the stage for over three hours. The band had no opener and needed none. Every person there was there for Pearl Jam, and their fandom and marveling showed it. The arena packed in, filling the floor and almost every seat, even the seats behind the stage that had almost no view of the band.

Pearl Jam took the stage to the roaring of the crowd, and started off the set slowly, with "Pendulum," from their new album. The brooding track laid way for the next two slow-burners, and the crowd was rather subdued until the fourth song in, where Eddie Vedder led one of the largest sing-a-longs I've ever experienced with "Elderly Women..." The crowd drowning out his vocals at multiple points made the song all the more special, peaking in the swelling of the bridge and the shouting "I just want scream hello!" The set then kicked right into gear, as the band ripped through early favorites ("Why Go," "Animal") and new, soon to be favorites ("Lightning Bolt," "Mind Your Manners"). The band chose to play a large portion of their often underrated album Yield, which was an amazing treat for fans. Songs such as "Wishlist," and "Given To Fly" are anthemic songs, packed with immense amounts of emotion, and Eddie Vedder delivered them perfectly.

From start to finish, Vedder's vocals never once faltered. His pitch perfect tune was incredible, and his strength and showmanship is truly legendary to watch. The band plays better live than they could ever record, with many songs have extended endings or mid-sections. For example, "Even Flow" featured a lengthy solo by Mike McCready which was one of the greatest guitar solos I have ever heard in my life. His playing exudes so much emotion and feeling and when coupled with Vedder's vocals, creates a uniquely astonishing experience. "Rearviewmirror" closed the beginning set, and featured an uplifting jam during its bridge before plummeting back into the song's ending. It was one of the nights most magical moments and was a perfect ending to the first half of the show.

The band them came out with acoustic guitars and played a handful of quieter songs, as Eddie talked to the crowd like it was only a fraction of its size. All throughout the night, he spoke with such high regard for his fans and his band, even referring to the crowd as "friends and friends we don't know yet." Other standout moments consisted of Vedder swinging from lights during the extended jam of "Porch," the powerful building of "Crazy Mary," and the fan-favorite "Not For You."

Pearl Jam proved to be a legendary live band, which only helps cement their impression on rock, and music in general. Go see them live. You'll never be the same again.


1. Pendulum
2. Long Road
3. Low Light
4. Elderly Women Behind the Counter in a Small Town
5. Why Go
6. Lightning Bolt
7. Mind Your Manners
8. Brain of J.
9. Animal
10. Pilate
11. Even Flow
12. Infallible
13. I Got Id
14. Wishlist
15. Sirens
16. Lukin
17. Not For You
18. Let The Records Play
19. Spin The Black Circle
20. Rearviewmirror

21. Man of the Hour
22. Off He Goes
23. Yellow Moon
24. Mother (Pink Floyd cover)
25. Given To Fly
26. Unthought Known
27. 1/2 Full
28. Leash
29. I Believe In Miracles (Ramones cover)
30. Porch

31. Crazy Mary
32. Alive
33. Sonic Reducer (Rocket From The Crypt cover)
34. Indifference

Artist Of The Day: IU

The best musicians are often storytellers, and one of my favorite storytellers is Korean pop star IU, known as Korea's darling little sister. Her poppy confections are tinged with a hint of fantasy, and over the past few years she's taken that concept in a number of interesting directions. First, there was 2010's smash hit "Good Day," on which she spun her innocent longing into a uplifting dance-pop ditty; on her follow-up "You And I," she took inspiration from The Invention Of Hugo Cabret in a moving tale of waiting for love. Though she's always showcased considerable skill as a songwriter (her early EPs and albums are both loaded with self-penned guitar ballads, some of which are devastating in their sparseness), her bread-and-butter has always been old-fashioned pop tunes with soaring choruses and theatrical flourishesthe oh-so-Shakespearean emotions of youth expanded onto an IMAX screen, big-hearted and romantic and affecting in ways very few of her contemporaries can touch. Come for the movie, stay for the music.

All the while, she's blossomed into a remarkable young voice. On her third LP Modern Times, she may take inspiration from the showtunes of days past, but the resulting sound is entirely her own. The dynamic instrumentation benefits from a nice balance between organic orchestration and much-improved production, and IU makes full use of her wispy, emotive voice. On the stunning "Bad Day," she quietly builds steam before pitching up a storm in the ballad's climax, and on "Everybody Has Secrets," she holds back as much as she gives.

The lead single, the bluesy, upbeat "The Red Shoes," which crams in a high school concert band's worth of horns, cocktail piano, soaring string melodies and a classic big-band beat into one jam, is a standout. IU's feelings have never been as complex as they are here (the song's lyrics, a wistful take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, are open to interpretation), yet she's never sounded as at home as she does here, capturing nostalgia, whimsy, desire and resolve in one bravura performance. She finds joy in every corner: the song is utterly charming and undeniable proof that she's ready to be more than the girl next door.

Find more on IU over at Facebook.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Artist of the Day: Baroness

Savannah, Georgia's Baroness is one of metal's most interesting acts that are currently making music. With three wildly successful albums under their belt, the future only looks even brighter for the sludge/alt-metal group. Baroness play a style of metal that can be accessible to even non-metalheads. Their music is melodic and even falls in the area of alternative at many points. The vocals are rich and powerful, and the guitars harmonize perfectly together. The group's three albums (Red, Blue, and Yellow & Green), each have a distinct theme and attitude about them that makes them stand on their own, yet they are all recognizable as Baroness' work.

After a tragic bus accident last year, the group is continuing on strong, even after the departure of their bassist and drummer. Thankfully everyone survived the accident, and while the band took well deserved time off, they are touring once again and moving forward. Keep your eyes on what they'll do next, because I'm sure it'll be another interesting chapter in the band's career.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Artist of the Day - Arcade Fire

Who else, really? I mean this is the band who unite the ever distant worlds of pop music and the internet music crowd: everyone likes them. Well, everyone in this case is not everyone, but the widespread popularity Arcade Fire enjoy has made them a mainstay in gathering-based playlists ever since Funeral. They've just put up their new album for streaming on Youtube, too.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Artist of the Day: Machinedrum

Machinedrum's Vapor City has withstood the test of a month of listening. A wonderfully skittish take on Chicago footwork and juke, the album is in essence exactly what makes Machinedrum such an alluring young artist. Pitch-altered vocals, warped synths, clicky and insistent kicks, and overbearing bass combine to form beautiful energetic and dystopian soundscapes. Nowhere is this more apparent than standout track "Don't 1 2 Lose U," a wonderfully schizophrenic take on rapid, skittering house. Really, though, it's the story of the whole album: quick, witty, scared, and most of all worthwhile. Machinedrum has avoided the sophomore slump completely with Vapor City, and it's wonderful to see the kind of success he's had here.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Artist of the Day: Oneohtrix Point Never

Despite his album leaking, in what translates to a decade on the internet, a couple of weeks ago, Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin) somehow managed to give some momentum to the release of R Plus Seven. Maybe it's because this is his first album on Warp records, or possibly due to his recent collaboration with Tim Hecker? It's more than likely the case that ever since his smash-hit release (in relative terms) Replica this experimental musician has been widely regarded as a talking point for those who like to sit down with an album and delve into its secrets.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Live Review: RVIVR, The Pinhook (10/22/2013)

I have one tattoo on my body, and it’s a Latterman tattoo. I got it the second I turned 18 (since the law in North Carolina makes you wait until then, in hopes of avoiding some bad teenage decisions), and to this day, I still wear the Latterman hoodie I purchased for myself when I was a sophomore in high school. I am, of course, sure my devotion for Mattie Canino’s old band is probably the last thing any member of RVIVR wants to hear romanticized yet again, but needless to say, I was ridiculously excited to see one of my favorite musical idols perform in a small, intimate setting on Tuesday night.

Artist of the Day: Cults

I listened to the whole of Cults’ new album, Static, for the first time while flipping through used material in Richmond’s Plan 9 Music. As a foraging soundtrack, it was perfect. It was also unmistakable. I spent much of the summer of 2011 drowned in the bubbling bright wash of the band’s self-titled debut. It’s not really something I listen to anymore, because I left it back in a different period of my life, and when Madelin Follin’s distinctively pretty squeal hit my ears I was almost taken aback. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Artist of the Day: The Weakerthans

Some bands just seem to unfairly slip under the radar, and Winnipeg rock band The Weakerthans embody that. Not only are they Canadian, which ensures that any chance of exposure was fairly negligible, but oddly they toured so relentlessly in their prime that even in smaller cities it was hard to get particularly excited about their concert announcements. In fact, in their hometown they're well known for often playing free concerts in libraries. Perhaps most unfortunately, their style from a musical perspective is very easily dismissible. The indie side project of Propagandhi bassist John K. Samson is too simply described by comparing them to who they sound like; I've heard both "Pinkerton meets Transatlanticism" and "landlocked Decemberists" before. However, to judge The Weakerthans based only on these qualities is to miss out on one of the most talented lyricists in the indie-rock canon, and at least two extraordinary albums.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Artist of the Day: Poliça

Released last February, Poliça's Give You the Ghost was an album of contradictions. A unanimous hit among critics, the Minneapolis group's debut nevertheless felt strangely unfulfilled - apparently housing every element required for greatness, yet rarely threatening to culminate or piece them all together. An intriguing chin-stroker of a LP, it bore all the hallmarks of a grower, but refused to surrender its secrets upon further inspection, and what's more its supposed strengths could likewise be construed as crucial flaws. Indeed, for all its sleekness, dexterity and enveloping weight, their fragmented R&B sound fell some way short in its search for memorable hooks, while Channy Leaneagh's vocals often sounded smothered; burdened by a heap of effects which all but drowned out its evocative range. Above all, however, it struck of a group set in their ways, but unable to execute them; one offering a wealth of valuable innovations, yet lacking the songwriting nous with which they could flourish.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Artist of the Day: The Chariot

Goodnight my lady, and a forever farewell. Georgia's chaotic metalcore torchbearers the Chariot are about to hang up their hats, embarking on a huge final tour before they disband. The four-piece play the most relentless and mind bending metal they can, twisting between more technical mathcore and straight up thrashing full-power riffs. Their intense live show will leave you feeling awestruck. As one of the most important and caustic artists in the genre today, the Chariot stands as a monument to metal core's past, present and future.

Album Review: Olan Mill - Hiraeth

Album Rating: A
If there was some divine creator, it was very cruel of him to make beauty boring. By beauty, I mean pure beauty: the untainted, excessive pleasantness which swans itself before us like some untouchable ideal form of being. We look at beauty and think “wow, isn’t it nice?” before turning away. It’s unattainable, it’s unrelatable and it’s boring. Boring boring boring.

It was down-right malicious of this creator to make beauty in tandem with tragedy so brilliant. Or was it generous? Musical bliss comes to most of us in some way but usually reaches a peak in a cathartic blast of negative emotion. The metalhead growling out lyrics in the centre of a mosh pit and the sullen man brought to paralysis by sorrow are both feeling the same thing: relatable, unmistakable beauty. But what comes first, negativity or the search for beauty? Both will inevitably lead to the other, bringing release or suppression depending on which direction your disposition goes

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Album Review: Widowspeak - The Swamps

Album Rating: A-
While always a nice offering, EPs always leave something to be desired with me. In my eyes, 20 minutes is simply not enough time for any recording to make a complete musical journey from point A to point B, where you travel across an entire arc and feel a lasting impression by the final notes—where you meet someone, watch them grow over the course of the album and, finally, take some of that growth with you. Extended plays come and go. They give you a taste, but leave before your palate can truly appreciate the subtleties, which is precisely why I was skeptical of Widowspeak’s newest EP, The Swamps. January's Almanac was an impressively dense offering, with plenty to absorb and experience, so this record’s short run time seemed to have “incompleteness” written all over it. How wrong I was, though, as The Swamps pulled me in tightly during my first listen and has continued to keep me stuck in its oddly appealing mud ever since.

Artist of the Day: Kalmah

Key Release:
They Will Return (2002)
Few bands have exemplified the maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” better than Kalmah. Since 1998, Finland’s answer to In Flames and At the Gates has been machining high-octane death metal with commendable consistency, with a slight turn towards thrash in the middle of its discography. Now on its seventh album in fourteen years, Kalmah seems to have flown under the radar somewhat compared to contemporaries such as Dark Tranquility and Children of Bodom. Perhaps it’s because Kalmah arrived on the scene a few years late, or because they’re from Oulu instead of Gothenberg, but this oversight certainly isn’t due to a lack of quality material. It wouldn’t be hard to make a case for Kalmah’s second album They Will Return being a genre classic, and five of its six full-length efforts are generally held in high regard (with 2008’s For the Revolution perhaps falling short of the rest). Kalmah’s core lineup of brothers Pekka and Antti Kokko, bassist Timo Lehtinen and über-drummer Janne Kusmin have been together since 2002’s and that quartet is still keeping the band going strong.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Album Review: Katy Perry - Prism

Album Rating: C+
Depending on whom you ask, Katy Perry is either a generational spectacle or exactly what is wrong with the music industry. Last year’s biopic, Part of Me, promotes the innocent and fan-loving Katy who hit the scene in 2008, and it’s frankly hard to knock her for her personality. This is someone who was sequestered by her parents (both ministers) and rejected a number of times before convincing Capitol records to take a flyer on her and…well, the rest is chart-topping history. But perseverance doesn’t sell records nearly as often as sex appeal, and that teenager who left home with Hollywood dreams has increasingly fallen into the trap of naked album covers and thinking anyone over the age of sixteen takes her music seriously. After the unprecedented success of Teenage Dream, it’s unfair to expect anything but more of the same on Prism, for better or for worse.

Live Review: RM Hubbert, The Cluny 2, Newcastle (09/10/2013)

Let's face it, plenty of artists can put on a great live show. The ones worth getting excited about are those who turn in the types of memorable, life-affirming performances which epitomise why we follow music. Only a select few, however, are capable of  retaining that wonderment from night to night; staggering with each fresh appearance no matter their exposure or familiarity. Over the past year or so, I've come to realise RM Hubbert is one of those gems. I've seen him four times during that period, and although the initial 'wow' factor has dissipated , the sheer awe of sharing a room while he plays his music remains as strong as ever. You know more or less what you're going to get, but that does nothing to dull its effect - a phenomenon once more evident at The Cluny 2, the final stop on his biggest UK trek yet.

Album Review: Ty Segall - Sleeper

Album Rating: B
Ty Segall has been one of rock’s most lovable characters in recent years. Seeing him live will reinvigorate your faith in music’s unifying powers. Reading an interview will get you bummed about not being able to hang out with him. It all comes down to one simple fact: Ty Segall is music lovers. Like Kurt Cobain before him, he’s got no intention of deifying himself or putting himself up on a pedestal. Instead, he’s reverent. His music is a celebration, in itself, of the heroes of rock and roll that have come before. Again like Cobain, his tricks are the delicate hand of his pop-smithing and the vicious primalism of his style. He’s got the ears and he’s got the chops. After putting out just an obscene amount of material in 2012, including the excellent Twins and Slaughterhouse, Ty’s taken a step back this year with Sleeper and made a tough choice: to chill out, surrendering the thick safety net of punky ferocity.

Album Review: Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt

Album Rating: B
Pearl Jam have proved themselves to be one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Having lasting over 20 years, without any significant lineup changes or inner band drama, it's safe to say they will be around for many years to come. On their tenth studio album (!), Pearl Jam find themselves in a realm where they have been for the last few of their records. It is an area of comfort and familiarity, that will satisfy their long term fans, but may not entice new fans that well.

Lightning Bolt is the band's first album since 2009's Backspacer, an album that was met with mixed reviews. Lightning Bolt doesn't innovate or evolve off of the band's past few albums. Their standard, almost garage-rock tones are a significant change from their grunge roots, but the band plays it well. But after a four year wait between albums, Lightning Bolt feels like a bit of a let down. If the record came out shortly after Backspacer, this wouldn't be much of an issue, but after a lengthy wait, one would expect more from such a legendary band.

Artist of the Day: Wolves and Wolves and Wolves and Wolves

It’s not often that I find great bands from around my area, but when I do, I latch on tightly. Barrow, from Greensboro, is one of my favorite local discoveries I’ve stumbled upon since living in North Carolina, but recently, Winston-Salem’s Wolves and Wolves and Wolves and Wolves (Wolves x4 from here on out) has definitely been giving them a run for their money. Growing up listening to bands like Hot Water Music and The Lawrence Arms, Wolves x4’s classic melodic punk style with gruff vocals is the perfect nostalgic kick for an old time Orgcore fan like myself. With a recent full-length entitled Subtle Serpents under their belts and another seven-inch on the way, Wolves x4 certainly has a lot going on right now, so why not jump on board? 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Jukebox: The Foreign Films - "Fall Of The Summer Heart"

Bill Majoros spent an year to visualize and record his new single "Fall Of The Summer Heart," and the long period of marination has yielded a delicious harvest. Over the track's thirteen minutes, it comprises eight different movements (Majoros, for his part, describes it as a "song within a song within a song") and touches on everything from brooding orchestral folk to sunny guitar-pop, holding listeners' hands through a tour of pop music's history. As a tribute, it's commendable, but it also shines as an epic in its own right. Each movement touches on a different aspect of the relationship Majoros is singing about, and the way he uses the different sensibilities of each genre to express his complex emotions makes for a emotionally resonant journey through time and love.

"Fall Of The Summer Heart" is the first single off of The Foreign Films' upcoming sophomore LP The Record Collector, which is slated for release in April 2014. It's streaming and available for free download below. You can also learn more about The Foreign Films at its official Facebook page.

Artist Of The Day: Twin Forks

You know that feeling in your heart when you're at a concert and everybody around you is standing up, and you don't know what the words to the music but the mood is just so fun that you can't help but join in the screaming? It swept over me once again when I first listened to Twin Forks' debut EP on a foggy Tuesday morning. The folk-pop quartet is led by guitarist and vocalist Chris Carrabba, whose vocal performance is truly rave-worthy. His voice brims with unbridled conviction, heartache, and energy, and it's impossible to keep your eyes off of him whether he's yearning for connection on "Back To You" or baring his soul on "Can't Be Broken." Each member brings crucial elements to the overarching sound, though: Suzie Zeldin's mandolin playing brings a breezy, festive feeling to the tunes, while bassist Jonathan Clark and percussionist Ben Homola serve up rhythms you can't help but clap along to.

What can I say? The enthusiasm is contagious: I could ramble on and on about Twin Forks if you gave me the chance. It's impossible to pick a standout on an EP where every single song is something you can imagine something you can imagine singing as you untangle your hair in the morning, skip down the steps to the subway, dawdle in your lunch line, or sit in the park on a particularly lovely fall afternoon. This is music that will bring people together, made for bleeding hearts and joyful spirits alike, and I'll be sharing it with everybody I know until it reaches the stadiums it deserves to be played in.

You can stream the band's music below and find more at its Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Artist of the Day: Pearl Jam

What is a better way to celebrate the tenth studio album release of one of rock music's most iconic act's then with a retrospective on the group's illustrious 20+ year career? Pearl Jam bursted into the rock scene and brought forth grunge to the national spotlight. With their legendary debut album, Ten, and its plethora of hit singles ("Even Flow," "Alive," "Jeremy," and "Black"), the band rooted themselves deep into music legacy almost immediately. After nine more studio albums, ranging from the post-grunge Vs., to the more mature, adult alt-rock of Yield, to the almost post-punk aspects of Backspacer, Pearl Jam has kept their devoted fan base pleased for the entire length of their career.

Led by iconic frontman Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam has paved the way for numerous bands, while still remaining exciting and relevant. The band shows no signs of slowing down either, with a two-month, national tour ongoing right now.

Even if you aren't a fan of grunge or early 90's rock music, Pearl Jam will have something to please you with. Littered throughout their discography are lush ballads, intense punk romps, and classic-rock infused jams. The band is as diverse as anyone could hope for, and has truly proved themselves to be living legends.

Here's to another ten years Pearl Jam.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Artist of the Day: Jon Hopkins

Despite his resounding success with Immunity this year, the Jon Hopkins bus seemed to pass me by. Not through ignorance, at least mostly not: it's just a lot of great electronic albums come out every day and Immunity just seemed like one more on the pile. Lots of people like him, but so what? Why should I care?

The answer to the second of those two arrogant questions came seven hours into Simple Things festival when Jon completely outdid a line-up full of some of my favourite artists. His mostly midi-controlled set saw an old firestation packed like a sardine tin completely fall in love at the same time - so much so a woman turned round to me on hearing the word "disappointing" (I was talking about another artist) and asked what the f*ck I was on about. If I wasn't a good foot taller than her she would probably have floored me as well.

A very good show with a very bassy set then, so I suppose it would be fitting for me to start working through his reputedly excellent discography. This has included a very recent film score for How I Live Now, which is entertaining despite containing a bit too much teen-angst rock (if a term ever made me feel old, this would be it) for my tastes. In any case, he did a fantastic job; it looks like my love affair with Jon Hopkins is set to be a life long one.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Watch This: Hellogoodbye - "(Everything Is) Debatable"

The evolution of Hellogoodbye has been fascinating: while many of its synth-pop peers have been pulling in more electronic directions, the band went in the opposite direction on 2010's lush but organic Would It Kill You?, and on its upcoming third album Everything Is Debatable, its two spheres of influence finally meld into one hugely satisfying whole. (Look for our review of that album in the upcoming weeks.) The band has just released the video for its single "(Everything Is) Debatable," and it's a surprisingly spooky affair, finding frontman Forrest Kline floating in the air in a variety of settings: above a quiet forest lake, amidst the radiant glow of the sun, and in an isolated room, for starters. The video leaves things open to interpretation and elucidates a number of possible meanings. When Kline can only skim the surface of the pond he's hovering over, is he stuck there, only able to experience life removed from it all? When he slowly ascends towards the sky, is he being abducted or set free? Is this enlightenment or exorcism? The song raises these questions too, squiggly synths and guitar lines stolen from Bikini Bottom all tinged with urgency, but the video goes beyond. It touches on the supernatural but in doing so illustrates themes of relationships, honesty and intimacy that are powerfully human--and the same can be said for what Hellogoodbye is doing with its catchy, thoughtful tunes.

Everything Is Debatable is available worldwide on October 29. Find more on Hellogoodbye on the band's official Facebook page.

Album Review: Drake - Nothing Was The Same

Album Rating: A
Nothing was the same. These four simple words can sum up Drake's career and artistry at this point in time, right after his third studio album has been released. Nothing Was The Same, being the follow-up to the insanely popular Take Care, could've been doomed from the start. To reach the bar that one has previously set is one thing, but Drake has exceeded everyone's expectations of him and has made the best album of his career.

Drake, in my opinion, was never meant to be a rapper. He started his career as an actor on the Canadian teen-drama Degrassi, where he played Jimmy, a boy who became handicapped and was limited to a wheelchair. To break from this must've been difficult, especially in a hip-hop scene that is more hateful than anything. Drake has set himself on a completely different path than his peers. In so, he has created one of the best hip-hop records in the past decade.

Artist of the Day: Ariana Grande

"Are you kidding me?" some of you might be saying. "Why the hell are you featuring an artist like Ariana Grande? She sucks, right? Tell me she sucks." The one problem with that idea: she doesn't suck — far from it, in fact. Sure, her debut album Yours Truly is syrupy and safe, but it's still beautifully executed pop and cheesy '90s R&B. Just listen to standout "Baby I" and fall in love with the simplicity of the three-word chorus. Alternatively, try the smoky, glossy "Tattooed Heart" and let the luscious timpanis and strings take you away as Grande croons sweetly in the foreground. One of the most surprising outcomes of the year, Yours Truly is a wonderful album, one that should not be missed by any pop fans, and Ariana Grande has taken the first step in the direction of proving herself as a legitimate artist.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Hellogoodbye

While this fantastic musical year that is 2013 is beginning to finally come to an end, there are still a couple of records that could very well enter that upper echelon of releases this year. Hellogoodbye's new record Everything Is Debatable might only be highly anticipated by those who listened to previous release Would It Kill You?, but the album's high acclaim as well as a huge upcoming tour supporting Paramore has pushed the album's hype far higher than those who consider the band nothing more than a "one-hit wonder" would expect. It's a slight shift from the organic, earthy feel of Would It Kill You?, instead adding in subtle electronics to the still lush indie pop sound the band previously perfected. "Just Don't" has a pounding bass that puts the band back in the dancy territory of their debut, yet it still feels like a totally different band. Everything Is Debatable isn't another enormous leap forward, but it's a refining and reorganization of what has become the band's signature sound. Be sure to look out for an upcoming album stream by following the band's Facebook page.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Artist of the Day: Oneohtrix Point Never

I like to celebrate heroic and time-honored American tradition of making art without any financial ambition. Brooklyn-based producer Daniel Lopatin’s latest outing as Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus 7, shares a lot of characteristics with some of the coolest of electro-pop’s contemporary cool. The record floats in a crowd populated by the likes of Grimes, Doldrums, and any number of other tinny, kinda edgy pop melodists. The difference is, this is not pop. Not by a long shot. 

Lopatin’s first release on the chronically progressive Warp label (home to Boards of Canada and Aphex twin, among others), R is a conceptually spastic, head-twisting oeuvre that screams composition as opposed to collection of songs. In fact, it’s impossible to separate any track from the whole without losing something from the narrative. Lopatin does an excellent job of setting the scene. The sounds he chooses, clinky old-fashioned chorus pads, rising tides of tonal fuzz, and general sonic bedlam, evoke a world at once crowded and incredibly lonely. Think of the city on a rainy day — 8 million people and they’re all inside. 

Even though there aren’t any hits, so to speak, on the record, he clearly understands how to put together a song. “Still Life,” jarring as it is, has a clear climax, a clear structure, and it’s clearly gripping. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Album Review: Grouplove - Spreading Rumors

Album Rating: A-
Grouplove is a band that is made having fun. Their name alone exudes a special warm feeling. The indie band from LA know exactly how to have a good time, and spend the majority of their new album, Spreading Rumors, doing it. Their 2011 debut album, Never Trust A Happy Song, was a rambunctious romp through spacey synths and gang-vocalizations. This trend is continued without a hitch on Spreading Rumors, where the band truly grows into themselves as musicians and as a collective.

Artist of the Day: Wintersleep

What happens when a city is both small and fairly isolated, but filled with college kids eager to find live music? Well, first of all its music fans have to cope with the fact that few of their favourite bands are ever going to play there. Secondly, it has to make its own music scene. Halifax, Nova Scotia, a city on the coast of the Atlantic, has done exactly that. After its alternative scene petered out after a peak in the early '90s, during which the city quietly earned the nickname “Canada's Seattle” (I swear), the college town struggled to find worthwhile new acts, especially as the same ones played there over and over again. However, thankfully in the music vacuum, an excellent band called Wintersleep have lived up to bands like Sloan, and reinvigorated the indie scene in the city.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Artist of the Day: The Twilight Sad

The notion of arriving fully formed is so often applied to bands it's become something of a cliché, and in reality it rarely tells the entire tale of a group's inception. Some, for instance, may point to The Twilight Sad as an example, but theirs was a case of rapid development as opposed to embryonic perfection. Released in 2007, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters was the sound of a group firing on all cylinders; a magnificent culmination of elements laid down whilst members still attended school, and enhanced in the four years since they started taking themselves seriously.

No matter its origins, many elements of the debut from Kilsyth's finest are beyond debate. Among the finest, and certainly most underrated, entrances of the past decade, it announced the coming of a truly special outfit who'd swiftly be recognised as an institution of Scotland's music scene. Sure, it was hardly a turning point in musical history, but its sound was unmistakably that of a band forging its own path, guitarist Andy McFalane's warped guitars and accompanying accordions creating a monument of volume and warmth against which James Graham instantly announced himself among the great Scottish singers.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Artist of the Day: La Dispute

With a post-hardcore edge and a poetic delivery, Michigan powerhouse La Dispute distance themselves from their contemporaries. In addition to dual guitars, bass and drums, they incorporate synths, bongos and even recorded coin drops to add a unique depth to their progressive experimental music. Falling somewhere between Thursday and a spoken word monologue, La Dispute is a band that you must listen to. Now.

Album Review: San Fermin - San Fermin

Album Rating: B+
Yale student of music Ellis Ludwig-Leone retreated to the mountains for six weeks and returned with a dissertation in hand. Granted, a dissertation set to music, as the result of his short retreat is now the debut of new indie-rock project San Fermin. Befitting the plight of grad students nationwide, the album's defining characteristic is how meticulously it has been fussed over. Its scope is grand, dealing with classical themes of youth and love through literary allusions thrown every which way. The music sounds engineered, every note, shift, and pang of heartache carefully calibrated against 20 other elements vying for competition. In the wrong hands, this could be a recipe for disaster, or worse, indifference, but somehow Ludwig-Leone and friends pull it off, finding the magic in the science.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Artist of the Day: Intronaut

Key Release: Prehistoricisms (2008)
Just when you think Intronaut can’t twist and grow any more, it knocks down another musical wall and continues on its way. This nigh-unclassifiable Californian quartet has changed the game with every release – from Meshuggah-slaying debut Void to stoner-jazz tour-de-force Valley of Smoke, every album has been different from the last and enjoyable for new reasons. It’s fascinating listening to the group’s breakthrough opus Prehistoricisms and hearing the difference between two consecutive songs; take, for instance, the meticulously planned polyrhythms and explosive drumming of “Australopithecus”, immediately followed by “The Reptile Brain,” whose impressively authentic Indian raga impression foregoes technicality entirely for an otherworldly trip into Eastern melody and meditation.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Album Review: Joanna Gruesome - Weird Sister

Album Rating: A-
Joanna Gruesome’s Facebook page describe’s the band’s sound as “C86 noise punk blah blah blah.” Gee! What an undersell. There are a million and one bands putting music out into the hopefully-infinite capacity of the internet that I might call C86 noise punk blah blah blah bands. A quick listen through the band’s first LP, Weird Sister, kicks ‘em right off the list. Scratch. A quick listen through the band’s first LP’s first track should do the trick. Lord knows I love a good cannonball of an opener (no pun intended - this girl-fronted punk band doesn’t even really sound like the Breeders. Imagine!), and “Anti Parent Cowboy Killers” might even eclipse the one-two explosion of “Master of My Craft/Borrowed Time” from Parquet Courts’ recent Light Up Gold. 

Album Review: Signals Midwest - Light on the Lake

Album Rating: B
A wonderful little record popped up in my inbox last month from Tiny Engines, a label I’ve always enjoyed, and for weeks now, it has served as a perfect introduction to a band I believe could be the newest potential Orgcore poster boys: Signals Midwest. After earning a slew of positive reviews from their 2012 effort, Latitudes and Longitudes, the band is back with a new full length, and this time around, these Cleveland, Ohio boys have chosen to take on far more, with Light on the Lake exploring everything from new genres to significantly more complex lyrics.  It's an ambitious effort, with almost all positive results.

Artist of the Day: Legs Like Tree Trunks

I’ve never really understood why bands sell cassettes these days. I mean, I guess I get that it’s a cool vintage collectible novelty, kind of like vinyl, but the art is nowhere near as big, which is always a big selling point for me, you have to rewind to listen and they are way too easy to lose in your car (guilty as charged), so whenever I see a band selling these little gimmicks, I tend to pass them over. But so help me, when Legs Like Tree Trunks put up a colored cassette of their 2012 release, Future Reference, for sale, with an extremely limited amount of copies, I ripped out may wallet and grabbed one immediately without ever giving it a second thought.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Album Review: Into It. Over It. - Intersections

Album Rating: A-
There is no better title to Into It. Over It.'s new record than Intersections. The band, a brainchild of the insanely busy Evan Weiss, has created a mature second album that follows up and expands upon 2011's Proper. While Into It. Over It. started, and in some ways will always just be Weiss' project, his recent foray into full-band territory has been wildly successful. On Intersections, we find Weiss almost stripping himself down to his acoustic roots, while still maintaining his infectious full-band sound.

Artist Of The Day: The Slims

Travis Atria and Colin Whitlock are renaissance men; together, they are The Slims, a soul duo from Florida with a bunch of ideas and the know-how to execute them well. Though almost everything on the group's new full-length, Slowpoke, was performed, recorded, and produced by them, the resulting concoction sounds like the collective work of a good dozen people. There's an adventurous bent to the songwriting, with the band drawing from a bunch of influences: reggae on "Ain't No Rush," surf rock on "She's Talking" and a touch of gospel on "Hymnal." Also worth noting is the fact that The Slims share a member with Morningbell — Travis Atria, whose expressive, sensual vocals fit in nicely here. He also brings a more-is-more ethos to his other project, as even in a chilled-out setting like Slowpoke's, the music is always shifting, eager to head for new pastures. This is a group to keep an eye on.

Stream Slowpoke below and find more on The Slims at the band's Facebook page.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Artist of the Day: Sunny Day Real Estate

Sunny Day Real Estate was the highlight and pinnacle of the shortly lived second generation of emo, that graced the early '90s. The aggression and energy of the first wave of emo, fronted by bands such as Fugazi and Cap'n Jazz, was replaced by pure emotion and soft-loud dynamics. SDRE were a band that defined this evolution of emo music; one that treaded the lines of post-grunge very well.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Festival Preview - Simple Things

On Oct. 12, Simple Things storms into Bristol to take control of the cities’ iconic venues and jam them full of - by the looks of their website - as many sort-after musicians as they can fit. The third iteration of this now very talked about one day festival invites its 4000 guests to 17 hours of electronic, indie, dance and a leftfield version of any genre you can put a name to.

Visitors to the mainstage in Colston Hall will be treated with the likes new-age jazz/electronic act Portico Quartet, the bombastic taste of These New Puritans, German electronic legends Pantha Du Prince and Modeselektor, and finally Nicolas Jaar, who will no doubt be spinning some of his brand new Darkside material. It’s a diverse bill, and you can’t help but wonder Modeselektor will pull off their beat driven techno in a seated venue, or even whether they’ll follow through with a habit of soaking the audience in champagne. In both cases: I hope they do.

Round-Up: September 2013

Greetings! Here at MuzikDizcovery, we run across more amazing artists than you can shake a fist at...or write about, unfortunately. Round-Up is a monthly feature that attempts to cover some of the great musicians who we may have missed but are just as deserving of our attention.

Jordan Klassen's new album Repentance dazzles with its surfeit of creativity: featherweight choir voices, xylophones, and even goofy boiiiiing effects make their way into the first track alone, and the album doesn't hold back on the whimsy from there. That said, these compositions also display a sense of vulnerable humanity. Klassen knows his way around a melody, as evidenced by his performance on songs like the soaring "Piano Brother," equal parts uplift and urgency. The songwriting often puts layers together in interesting, unexpected ways; lead single "The Horses Are Stuck" could very well pass as a B-side from a Disney movie soundtrack, with its colorful instrumentation, guttural choir vocals and folksy, ultra-catchy melodies, but there are hints of darkness sprinkled throughout the song. Repentance may sound as bright as a Technicolor lollipop, but at its core resonates a voice seeking redemption and connection, and when Klassen reconciles those two sides of his identity, there are few artists who can reach the heights he touches. Stream the entire album below:

Artist of the Day: Until The Ribbon Breaks

UK-based producer Until The Ribbon Breaks has been seriously making a name for himself these past few months. Bursting onto the scene with a remix of Tegan and Sara's "Closer" and a great feature on Run The Jewels' "Job Well Done," the man just released his debut major-label EP, A Taste of Silver. The release is near-perfect chilled-out and glitchy hip-hop, incredible throughout its five tracks. The young producer's ear for subtlety and detail is outstanding - take "Perspective" and its sublime, subdued bassline. The EP (and, really, everything UTRB has released thus far) is fantastic, and definitely worth a listen if you have an ear for hip-hop at all.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Watch This: Pentatonix - "Royals"

Everything acapella powerhouse Pentatonix does makes me grin from ear to ear (I refuse to apologize for that wordplay), and its latest cover of Lorde's "Royals" is no exception. There's plenty to analyze here: let's start with the music. Mitch Grassi is in his element carrying the song's verses, touching on the thinly veiled bitterness of Lorde's original performance but imbuing the little ups and downs with glee, while Kirstie Maldonado and Scott Hoying add dimension and character; group beatboxers Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola (no doubt helped by the great production values) absolutely stun with their versatility--the way the group takes a bare-bones arrangement and completely owns it is a treat to hear.

The video is just the icing on the cake: there's much to read in it, but essentially the big idea is that this group is the real deal. There are no gimmicks here, no crystals, Maybachs, diamonds on timepieces--just five incredibly talented young musicians showing what they've got and inspiring everybody who watches. When they reach the heights of the chorus and shout "Let me be your ruler!" you can only oblige.

If you haven't already (and really, how have you not?), go check out everything on Pentatonix's YouTube page. Right now. Do it. Then go to the group's Facebook page and order PTX Volume 2, its upcoming new release.

Artist Of The Day: Mansions

I can honestly say that Mansions's upcoming record Doom Loop may very well be my most anticipated record of all time. Dig Up The Dead slowly but surely moved towards the top of my list of favorite albums, and at this moment I consider Mansions my favorite band of all time. The band has so far released one track off the record, and if "Climbers" is a representation of the overall sound of the album, we should expect a combination of the distorted crunch of Dig Up The Dead with the catchiness of New Best Friends, creating almost a perfect middle point between the albums. Based on "Climbers" and the other two live tracks that Christopher Browder and company have been playing for over a year now, there's very little chance that Doom Loop isn't one of the best albums of 2013. Stream "Climbers" right here, and be sure to follow the band's Facebook page for more details on the album.