Infinite Shuffle

April 27, 2016

Shazam 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 3:07 pm

One stat I’ve heard bandied about recently is that, of all the apps that people download for their smartphones, they only use a handful with any real frequency.

I can certainly attest to that. I don’t even regularly use the eight that are on my main screen. But one of my favorites, and the one I was most excited about when I originally upgraded from a “dumb phone” several years ago was Shazam. The idea that I could hear a song on the radio, hold my phone up to the speaker and it could instantly feed me all the pertinent details seemed like something out of science-fiction.

Nowadays, I don’t know what I would do without it. I guess I’d be forced to go back to my old method of figuring out songs — trying to pick out some lyrics and quickly searching for them online before I forget them. Most often, I use it while listening to the car radio or when I’m in a store with my girlfriend and hear something that piques my interest. It’s not uncommon for me to be standing in the corner of some women’s clothing boutique, holding my phone up as high as possible toward a ceiling speaker, trying to get a song to register on it.

I’ve discovered countless songs and bands using the app and have blogged about a few. I especially like that I have a running log of all these songs that I can turn to when looking for something to listen to. I decided to compile a full list of songs that I Shazamed last year (who ever thought that would become a verb?), not only to jog my own memory, but also to provide you with some possible new tunes to check out.

Just going through the list, a few things stand out:

  • Whenever I think to pull out my phone to Shazam a song, there’s a decent chance I’ll be doing it again within a few minutes.
  • I often Shazam songs when I hear something familiar but can’t remember the name of the song or band. Or sometimes I think it’s a new song from a band I know and discover it’s actually a totally different band.
  • I’ve blogged about a lot of these bands in the past.
  • I really need to listen to more music from J. Mascis and Dinosaur Jr. as I picked out three of their songs.
  • Apparently, I have trouble remembering the song “Riptide” by Vance Joy, as I tagged it twice.
  • Tycho songs are hard to remember. But that’s probably because there aren’t any words.
  • I don’t have an excuse for tagging two Mr. Little Jeans songs. I need to do a better job or committing their stuff to memory.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the songs. I created a playlist on Google Play, so do yourself a favor and check it out.

  • The War on Drugs – “Disappearing” … Dec 27, 2015
  • Dinosaur Jr. – “In a Jar” … Dec 27, 2015
  • J Mascis – “Several Shades of Why” … Dec 27, 2015
  • Speedy Ortiz – “Tiger Tank” … Dec 26, 2015
  • Catherine Wheel – “I Want To Touch You” … Dec 26, 2015
  • Sun Kil Moon (Admiral Fell Promises) – “Alesund” … Dec 22, 2015
  • Merchandise – “Become What You Are” … Dec 20, 2015
  • Knox Hamilton – “Work It Out” … Dec 20, 2015
  • Taylor Swift – “Wildest Dreams” … Dec 05, 2015
  • A Sunny Day In Glasgow – “Mtlov (Minor Keys)” … Nov 20, 2015
  • Wiz Khalifa Feat. Charlie Puth – “See You Again (No Noun Remix)” … Nov 17, 2015
  • Animal Collective – “Daffy Duck” … Nov 08, 2015
  • Cold Cave – “Pacing Around The Church” … Nov 01, 2015
  • Big Star – “September Gurls” … Nov 01, 2015
  • Joanna Gruesome – “Secret Surprise” … Oct 23, 2015
  • The White Stripes – “In The Cold, Cold Night” … Oct 23, 2015
  • Florence + The Machine – “Shake It Out” … Oct 11, 2015
  • Only Real – “Cadillac Girl” … Oct 04, 2015
  • Frightened Rabbit – “The Twist” … Oct 02, 2015
  • Dinosaur Jr. – “The Wagon” … Oct 02, 2015
  • Midnight Oil – “Dreamworld” … Sep 06, 2015
  • Charlie Puth (Feat. Meghan Trainor) – “Marvin Gaye” … Aug 26, 2015
  • Alina Baraz & Galimatias – “Make You Feel” … Aug 20, 2015
  • Peaches – “Hit It Hard” … Aug 20, 2015
  • The Only Ones – “Another Girl Another Planet” … Aug 12, 2015
  • Wolf Alice – “Bros” … Jul 23, 2015
  • Local Natives – “Heavy Feet” … Jul 21, 2015
  • The Incredible String Band – “A Very Cellular Song” … Jul 17, 2015
  • Toro Y Moi – “Empty Nesters” … Jul 16, 2015
  • Mr. Little Jeans – “Runaway” … Jul 10, 2015
  • The Weeknd – “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey) [From the “Fifty Shades of Grey” Soundtrack]” … Jul 07, 2015
  • Tycho – “Montana” … Jul 05, 2015
  • Valerie June – “Wanna Be On Your Mind” … Jul 05, 2015
  • Vance Joy – “Riptide” … Jun 30, 2015
  • DIIV – “Follow” … Jun 19, 2015
  • Jason Derulo – “Want To Want Me” … Jun 19, 2015
  • Cloud Nothings – “Now Hear In” … Jun 17, 2015
  • Frou Frou – “Breathe In” … Jun 13, 2015
  • Felt – “September Lady” … Jun 10, 2015
  • One Direction – “Story Of My Life” … Jun 04, 2015
  • OneRepublic – “Preacher” … Jun 02, 2015
  • The National – “Sea Of Love” … May 27, 2015
  • The Sundays – “Summertime” … May 26, 2015
  • The Beta Band – “I Know” … May 24, 2015
  • Squeeze – “Up The Junction” … May 24, 2015
  • The Knife – “Heartbeats” … May 21, 2015
  • Sam Cooke – “For Sentimental Reasons” … May 19, 2015
  • Wild Nothing – “Midnight Song” … May 17, 2015
  • We Are Twin – “The Way We Touch” … May 08, 2015
  • Passion Pit – “Carried Away” … May 08, 2015
  • The Stranglers – “Always The Sun” … Apr 21, 2015
  • Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush – “Don’t Give Up” … Apr 21, 2015
  • The Kinks – “Celluloid Heroes” … Apr 21, 2015
  • Television – “Venus” … Apr 05, 2015
  • The Boy Least Likely To – “I See Spiders When I Close My Eyes” … Apr 05, 2015
  • Vance Joy – “Riptide” … Apr 05, 2015
  • The 1975 – “Chocolate” … Apr 05, 2015
  • Jefferson Starship – “Find Your Way Back” … Apr 03, 2015
  • moe. – “Rebubula” … Mar 31, 2015
  • Houndmouth – “Sedona” … Mar 30, 2015
  • PHOX – “1936” … Mar 30, 2015
  • Foxes In Fiction – “Shadow’s Song” … Mar 29, 2015
  • Electric Light Orchestra – “Hold On Tight” … Mar 29, 2015
  • Mr. Little Jeans – “Good Mistake” … Mar 16, 2015
  • Bastille – “Laura Palmer” … Mar 16, 2015
  • White Lies – “Farewell To the Fairground” … Mar 10, 2015
  • The xx – “Night Time” … Mar 09, 2015
  • Sea Pinks – “Freak Wave” … Mar 09, 2015
  • The Royal Concept – “In the End” … Mar 08, 2015
  • The Replacements – “Swinging Party” … Mar 05, 2015
  • The Amazing – “Picture You” … Mar 02, 2015
  • Beach Fossils – “Daydream” … Mar 02, 2015
  • Smith Westerns – “Only Natural” … Mar 02, 2015
  • Hey Marseilles – “Rio” … Feb 28, 2015
  • Pure Bathing Culture – “Ever Greener” … Feb 27, 2015
  • Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting On You)” … Feb 15, 2015
  • RAC (Feat. Penguin Prison) – “Hollywood” … Feb 14, 2015
  • Galaxie 500 – “Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste” … Feb 13, 2015
  • M83 – “Midnight City” … Feb 10, 2015
  • Deerhunter – “Agoraphobia” … Feb 09, 2015
  • Bad Suns – “Rearview” … Feb 03, 2015
  • Canon Logic – “Ibok” … Jan 31, 2015
  • Motion City Soundtrack – “Wait So Long” … Jan 30, 2015
  • Metric – “Help I’m Alive” … Jan 21, 2015
  • Tycho – “Awake” … Jan 20, 2015
  • Gold Leaves – “Hanging Window” … Jan 19, 2015
  • Maps & Atlases – “The Most Trustworthy Tin Cans” … Jan 17, 2015
  • Veronica Falls – “Teenage” … Jan 16, 2015
  • Craft Spells – “Twirl” … Jan 16, 2015
  • Mac DeMarco – “Brother” … Jan 14, 2015
  • The “Glee” Cast – “Cough Syrup” … Jan 05, 2015
  • Television – “I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives” … Jan 02, 2015
  • The Church – “Destination” … Jan 02, 2015

April 26, 2016

New Releases – Jan./Feb. 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 6:00 am

Considering the fact that I have limped into the best-of-the-year blogging process the past few years, I figured it was time to come up with a new strategy. Since I didn’t foresee myself suddenly having tons of extra free time opening up on the horizon, it was clear that I had to do a better job of maximizing the time I do have.

The best time for me to listen to music is at work, when I can just plug in and zone out for much of my shift. But rather than simply pick random mixes on Google Play, as I had been doing for a while, I began taking a more logistical approach.

With the help of Metacritic’s New Releases listing, I’m attempting to keep as up-to-date as possible this year. Of course, I’ve discovered that’s easier said than done, considering it’s the final week of April and I’m already two months behind. But at least it’s something.

Anyway, here are all the albums I deigned worthy of giving a full listen to from the first couple of months (actually, I’m still in the middle of the Feb. 26 releases, but I was getting antsy and really wanted to put up a blog post.) I included a note or two with each — mostly just some initial thoughts on each album. I bolded the more notable albums, and I intend to dedicate lengthier posts to some of these bands in the future, but who knows when that will come to fruition?

Jan. 15

  • Mystery Jets – Curve of the Earth … Kind of a mid-to-late ’70s psych-rock vibe, like Portugal. The Man. Pretty solid album.

Jan. 22

  • Conrad Keely – Original Machines … Debut solo album from lead singer of … And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead. Vocally, it reminds me of the lead singer of Psychedelic Furs and Love Spit Love.
  • Chairlift – Moth … “Romeo” is a great single; the rest of the album is subpar.

  • Aoife O’Donovan – In the Magic Hour … Overall pleasant and upbeat; slightly above-average. It’s nothing special, just nice.
  • The Temperance Movement – self-titled … This is just a classic bar band with the occasional softer tune. In the same vein as The Black Crowes.

Jan. 29

  • MONEY – Suicide Songs … Sounds like a shoegaze version of Conor Oberst.
  • Sia – This Is Acting … There are a lot of catchy songs that share the same formula — slow build into full-throttle electro anthemic chorus. “Bird Set Free” and “Move Your Body” were particularly notable.
  • Wet – Don’t You … This female alt-pop vocalist is very reliant on production effects. Lyrically, it sounds like toned-down remixes of Top 40 tripe. That said, it’s a catchy enough album that I’d listen to it again. Kind of like a guilty pleasure.
  • Night Beats – Who Sold My Generation … It’s a mix of blues-rock and Nuggets-era psychedelia — imagine what the Black Keys might have sounded like if they were born 40 years earlier. But it just doesn’t work for me.
  • Turin Brakes – Lost Property … Vocally, it’s a mix of Rural Alberta Advantage’s Nils Edenloff and Cold War Kids’ Nathan Willett. Stylistically, it’s too complex to describe. Overall, it’s good, not great.
  • Cian Nugent – Night Fiction … Nothing special here. It’s a good album to put on as background music while doing chores or cooking dinner.
  • Cross Record – Wabi-Sabi … This is mostly just an eerie, airy voice; not much else here. This is kind of a poor woman’s Warpaint. It’s not horrible, just average at best.
  • Your Friend – Gumption … Very reminiscent to Beach House (I think?). This one may require a second listen.
  • Milk Teeth – Vile Child … It combines a lot of different elements from various genres, including pop’s catchy female vocals, punk’s snarling male vocals, the fuzzy guitars of shoegaze, some occasional whininess borrowed from emo, and plenty of early ’90s alt-rock attitude.
  • Basement – Promise Everything … This sounds like a band that was heavily influenced by Jimmy Eat World.
  • St. Lucia – Matter … This is some fun, poppy alt-electro with a bit of an ’80s feel — “Rescue Me” wreaks of Duran Duran and Erasure.

  • The Black Queen – Fever Daydream … A surprisingly above-average album. Vocally, it’s reminiscent to Tunde Adebimpe from TV on the Radio, while the electro elements seem like something out of the ’80s — or perhaps old-school NES video games.

Feb. 5

  • Laser – Night Driver … Its 64 rating on Metacritic might be a little high. It’s just boring and uninspired electro-pop soul.
  • Beacon – Escapements … Some more boring soulful electro.
  • The Prettiots – Funs Cool … Here’s a girl group that churns out slacker acoustic pop with amusing, millenial-heavy lyrics and a punk ethos surrounding the whole thing.
  • Freakwater – Scheherazade … They remind me of what Son Volt might sound like if they were an all-female group.
  • Josephine Foster – No More Lamps in the Morning … She is kinda like Joanna Newsome, just more tolerable.
  • Porches – Pool … He’s not bad, but not great. It’s decent background music. “Car” was the lone standout.
  • Nap Eyes – Thought Rock Fish Scale … This is some great, lo-fi, slacker mix of ’90s alternative and modern-day indie. There is definitely some Violent Femmes influence and probably some Neutral Milk Hotel in there.
  • Tuff Love – Resort … It’s got a good slacker-punk vibe with a British female vocalist. How can you go wrong?
  • Field Music – Commontime … This is very quirky indie rock in a similar vein as Of Montreal and Devo.
  • DIIV – Is the Is Are … This is a great sophomore effort full of airy-fairy goodness. “Bent (Roi’s Song)” and “Under the Sun” are standouts.

  • Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony … A good mix of lo-fi, shoegaze, psychedelia and good old-fashioned indie. The real key is the airy-fairy guitar mixed with the female vocals.
  • Mass Gothic – self-titled … At its best, the solo debut from Hooray For Earth frontman Noel Heroux is quintessential baroque pop, but there’s plenty of out-of-place filler ranging from lo-fi fuzz to electro-psych.

Feb. 9

  • Black Rivers – self-titled … This band, which includes former members of Dears, clearly has a mix of a lot of different influences. ”The Forest” sounds like a cross between Muse and Portugal. The Man. “Age of Innocence” is a could-be single very reminiscent of “Wolf Like Me” by TV on the Radio. “Coral Sea” sounds like current U2 vocally.

Feb. 12

  • Basia Bulat – Good Advice … This is a very catchy pop/folk album from start to finish for an artist that is slowly building a name for herself.
  • Pete Astor – Spilt Milk … It’s a good, solid album filled with British-accented folk-pop similar to many artists before him but still worth a listen.
  • Pinegrove – Cardinal … Throughout the album, this group conjures up thoughts of The Decembrists and Death Cab for Cutie, but there’s also some me and early ‘90s college rock mixed in for good measure.

  • Flowers – Everybody’s Dying To Meet You … This is kinda like a modern-day Cranberries, without the accent. It’s really nice.
  • Radiation City – Synesthetica … This act reminds me of St. Vincent.

Feb. 19

  • Fay Hield – Old Adam … If you’re looking for some pleasant Irish folk, look no further.
  • The Fall – Wise Ol’ Man [EP] … This is just a lot of incongruous junk and filler from a veteran group I doubt I’d like even in its peak form.
  • Sioux Falls – Rot Forever … At 16 songs and nearly 73 minutes, critics complain about the runtime, but I had no issues. There’s a lot of solid indie shoegaze to enjoy. “Dom” reminds me of a lo-fi/garage version of Blink 182’s “Adam’s Song”.

  • Seth Bogart – self-titled … This mishmash of various electronic effects and oddly sung lyrics combine to be rather off-putting.
  • The Cave SingersBanshee … This is a not great, not bad offering from this indie supergroup.
  • Ra Ra Riot – Need Your Light … It’s certainly not their best work, but it’s mildly catchy at times.
  • Wolfmother – Victorious … It’s basically what you’d expect from this Aussie band’s fourth album. “Pretty Peggy” is different from the rest and also the best tune on the album.
  • So Pitted – neo … This is definitely on the heavier, punkier side rather than indie, as several sites had tagged it. It’s not really my cup of tea.
  • Marlon Williams – self-titled … It’s a good mix of classic country and alt-country with a little indie-folk mixed in.
  • Choir of Young Believers – Grasque … It sounds like a dude channeling his inner Sade, with underwhelming results.
  • Animal Collective – Painting With … This album is full of the band’s patented wonky, experimental indie-pop/rock. It’s an acquired taste and certainly not their best work.
  • Simple Plan – Taking One For The Team … I’ve never listened to any of this band’s music on purpose, but I have to wonder if it has changed its sound at all in the last decade.
  • TEEN – Love Yes … They have a very experimental sound. It’s reminiscent to St. Vincent.
  • Lake Street Dive – Side Pony … Here’s more of the bluesy rock that put this band on the map a few years ago and made Stephen Colbert fall in love with it.

Feb. 26

  • LNZNDRF – self-titled … An interesting mix of post-rock, electro and quirky indie from members of The National and Beirut. It seems like the type of music that gets better with repeated listens.
  • Holy Esque – At Hope’s Ravine … Vocally, it reminded me of ’80s rockers well past their prime, but the music and instrumentation kept my attention throughout. “Hexx” and “Silences” are standouts.

  • Bay Faction – self-titled … It’s an indie group with some definite jam band influences. It’s something of an acquired taste, one that I don’t have the palate for.
  • Bullion – Loop the Loop … An indie-electro outfit that is kinda reminiscent of Alt-J and Django Django. It definitely falls under the “acquired taste” category.
  • DMA’s – Hills End … More great stuff from this band that’s been tearing it up in its native Australia for the past several years. They clearly owe a debt to Oasis
  • The Dirty Nil – Higher Power … It’s better-than-average indie-rock with a definite punk ethos.
  • Mothers – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired … They’re vocally reminiscent to Joanna Newsome, but not as annoying or grating. “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t” is definitely a keeper.

  • Mount Moriah – How To Dance … Judging by the name, the lyrics and the overall vibe, this sounds a lot like an alt-Christian band. The music is pleasant enough, but the whole church vibe rubs me the wrong way.

January 4, 2016

217 – Squarehead

Filed under: Ireland, S — assman41 @ 8:58 pm

A little more than a decade ago, if an under-the-radar indie band wanted to gain national exposure, it had to hope that some hip music director for a TV show or movie would happen across its music and use a song in the soundtrack.

You know what I’m talking about. Like back in 2004 when Adam Brody was raving about Death Cab for Cutie on The O.C. and Natalie Portman and Zach Braff were having their lives changed by The Shins.

Eventually, musicians took matters into their own hands via social media, such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. But they still know how powerful an endorsement can be when it comes from the right music site or blog.

The next iteration of that is podcasts, where anyone can gush to listeners about their new favorite bands in a way that can’t be replicated simply by the written word.

And that’s how I came to discover the band Squarehead, while listening to Domhnall Gleeson’s recent chat with the boys at Nerdist. The actor plugged a few favorite bands from his native Ireland, including FIDL and Delorentos. (Go here to listen to the interview, or just skip to the 37:20 mark.)

Regarding Squarehead, Gleeson said they were “like a mixture between Weezer and Nirvana and the Beach Boys or something.”

Personally, I don’t hear much grunge influence, unless he’s referring to the lo-fi quality that pretty much every indie band has these days. But there’s definitely plenty of Rivers Cuomo’s crew in there; nowhere more so than on “What’s Wrong”, the opening track from their 2013 album, RESPECT.

As for the “Beach Boys or something” line, he’s referring to the surf-pop vibe that a lot of popular indie bands have latched on to the last few years, best typified by The Drums. It can be heard throughout Squarehead’s album, especially on some of their catchiest tunes, such as “Swing” and “2025”.

(The above video was actually made by Gleeson, along with brother Brian, to help benefit his hospice charity, Immaturity for Charity.)

Just about every song from this Dublin trio is catchy to some degree. Some of the more notable tunes include “Two Miles”, “2025”, “Pulse”, “Magic Darts”, “Knives” and “John Of God”.

According to Wikipedia, the group began in January 2010 as a solo, acoustic project by lead singer and guitarist Roy Duffy. Along with Ian McFarlane (bass) and Ruan Van Vliet (drums), they released a couple of singles — “Fake Blood” and “Midnight Enchilada” — to critical praise before putting out their debut album, Yeah Nothing, in August 2011.

These songs are more homogenous but still catchy, and that surf vibe is even more prevalent. Besides the two singles, another standout is “Confident Girls”.

December 31, 2015

Best of 2015

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 8:56 pm

As you can tell by looking at this site, I had another subpar year when it came to blogging about music. I had a handful of posts in the first half of the year then dropped off the grid at nearly the exact same time as 2014.

Alas, music just isn’t as big a part of my life as it once was. But that’s not gonna stop me from sharing my thoughts on the year that was in music.

During my heyday, I would generally download albums, listen on my iPod, and rank the songs on iTunes’ five-star basis. Nowadays, I use Google Play almost exclusively to listen to music, so the most I can give to songs is a thumbs up or down. Also, the bulk of my listening is via playlists that are curated by a third party rather than full albums.

I found myself playing catch-up the past couple of weeks, trying to expose myself to as many of the “best” albums I could. But there’s still plenty that I either couldn’t get to or that simply fell through the cracks. Nevertheless, here is Infinite Shuffle’s take on music circa 2015.

STUFF I LIKED A LOT

  • CHVRCHESEvery Open Eye … None of these lists is in any particular order. However, if I was going to rank albums, this Scottish group would probably be at the top. … Thumbs up: “Never Ending Circles”, “Leave a Trace”, “Empty Threat”, “Make Them Gold” and “Keep You On My Side”
  • Beach HouseDepression Cherry … This group can do no wrong. … Thumbs up: “Sparks” and “Bluebird”
  • Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit … I was worried this Aussie wouldn’t be able to continue her strong start from several EPs on this debut full-length, but my fears were quickly abated. … Thumbs up: “Pedestrian At Best”, “Depreston” and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party”
  • Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home … This is a group that I wanted to write about all year but never found the motivation. Hearing it first via NPR’s SXSW primer then throughout the year on the Music Choice Indie channel, this all-female shoegazing quartet stuck with me throughout the year. … Thumbs up: “Joke” and “Time to Go Home”
  • Alabama ShakesSound & Color … I wasn’t exactly enamored with their debut album, so I was leery about this one. But they won me over with a more experimental sound. … Thumbs up: “Don’t Wanna Fight”, “Shoegaze” and “Sound and Color”
  • Modest Mouse – Strangers To Ourselves … This one was probably my biggest surprise of the year. I’ve never been a big fan of this group and have only liked a handful of its songs. But they knocked it out of the park on their first studio album in eight years. … Thumbs up: “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box” and “Lampshades on Fire”
  • Title FightHyperview … This was one of my favorite discoveries this year. And it’s probably a good thing I didn’t find out about them sooner, since it wasn’t until this disc when things finally clicked. … Thumbs up: “Liar’s Love”, “Your Pain Is Mine Now”, “Mrahc” and “Rose of Sharon”
  • TurnoverPeripheral Vision … Another great find that shares several traits with Title Fight. … Thumbs up: “Humming”, “Cutting My Fingers Off”, “New Scream”, “Diazepam” and “Take My Head”
  • The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World … I doubt this group will ever make an album that doesn’t make my best-of-the-year list. … Thumbs up: “Make You Better”, “The Singer Addresses His Audience”, “Philomena” and “A Beginning Song”
  • Hop Along – Painted Shut … This was another group I’ve been wanting to blog about all year. In fact, I started a post in July, but never finished it. This is probably one of the most underrated albums of the year. … Thumbs up: “Waitress”
  • Kacey MusgravesPageant Material … This felt a little too much like a continuation of her debut album. But, considering how great the precursor was, she can be forgiven for going back to the well. … Thumbs up: “Biscuits”, “Dime Store Cowgirl”, “Pageant Material”, “Family Is Family” and “Cup of Tea”
  • Kurt Vilebelieve i’m going down … Just more of what you’d expect from one of the best solo artists in indie-rock today. … Thumbs up: “Pretty Pimpin”
  • Best CoastCalifornia Nights … When this group first hit the indie scene five or six years ago — depending upon how hip you were back then — it garnered a great deal of much-deserved hype. Three albums later, and these Cali kids are consistently putting out a top-notch mixture of surf-pop and shoegaze. … Thumbs up: “Feeling OK”
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller … Each year, there’s usually one country album that piques my interest. I hadn’t even heard of this troubadour until I was forced to watch the CMA Awards and he was up for just about every big honor. This is the kind of anti-bro country music that could actually get me interested in the genre. … Thumbs up: “Traveller”, “Tennessee Whiskey”, “Parachute” and “Fire Away”
  • DMA’s – self-titled EP … These lads from Down Under sound like the second coming of Oasis, Blur and all the best Brit Pop had to offer — just 10-times better. … Thumbs up: “Laced”, “Feels Like 37” and “So We Know”
  • FoalsWhat Went Down … There weren’t necessarily any standout tracks, just a few notable ones. But the album as a whole was a solid listen throughout. So much so, that it’s one you can listen to at any time and enjoy. … Thumbs up: “Mountain at My Gates”, “Night Swimmers”, “Lonely Hunter” and “A Knife in the Ocean”.
  • Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool … “Bros” and “Moaning Lisa Smile” are probably two of the best songs of the year. “Your Loves Whore” is also solid.
  • Josh Ritter – Sermon on the Rocks … I’d never paid any attention to Josh Ritter until I heard “Gettin’ Ready To Get Down” a few months ago, and it might be my favorite song of the year. This album is a fun listen — not necessarily elite, just fun. Other notable tracks include “Young Moses” and “Homecoming”.

STUFF THAT WAS DECENT BUT NOT AMAZING

  • Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi … Long considered my favorite band, these guys have definitely fallen off from their prime. That being said, they’re still putting out solid music, just not elite-level stuff. … Thumbs up: “Black Sun” was the first single, but I think “Little Wanderer” and “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” are even better.
  • Florence and the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful … This album was definitely a good listen — and “Ship To Wreck” should be considered among the top songs of the year — but it isn’t one of the year’s best. … Thumbs up: “Third Eye” and “Make Up Your Mind”
  • Deerhunter – Fading Frontier … I think it may finally be time for me to give Bradford Cox’s crew the respect it deserves. I’ve been avoiding this group for years, since being forced to watch it at Bonnaroo and having Halcyon Digest shoved down my throat in 2010. My contempt began to dissolve a bit in 2013 with the release of Monomania, but I wasn’t convinced until now. There aren’t any real standouts here — although “Breaker” is probably my favorite — just a lot of solid tunes.
  • Grimes – Art Angels … I have a feeling I’ll never love an entire Grimes album. But, man, she knows how to churn out some catchy singles. … Thumbs up: “Flesh Without Blood” and “Realiti”
  • Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love … I wish I could get into this band, but I’ve just never been able to. I respect it greatly — particularly Carrie Brownstein — but, other than the occasional single, I just can’t buy in. That being said, this album was certainly tolerable, and I did enjoy “Bury Our Friends” and “A New Wave”.
  • Destroyer – Poison Season … It sounds like pretty much any other Destroyer album, which is an acquired taste. … Thumbs up: “Dream Lover”
  • The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily … As you would expect, it’s very reminiscent of The Black Keys, but there seems to be a more laid-back vibe than in Dan Auerbach’s main gig. … Thumbs up: “Put a Flower in Your Pocket”
  • Gwenno – Y Dyfdd Olaf … I definitely had heard nothing of this artist until a week ago. Turns out she puts out some decent music.
  • Miguel – Wildheart … If I was much of an R&B fan, I’m sure I’d love this. I can tell that he has a lot of talent, and, one day, he may create an album that I fall in love with. But I’d certainly rather listen to this than stuff in the next category.

STUFF CRITICS LOVED BUT I DIDN’T MUCH CARE FOR

  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly … This was pretty much a given; so much so that I wasn’t even going to give it a spin. But, considering how universally lauded it was, I figured I should at least show it some respect. That said, it’s just not my cup of tea.
  • The Weekend – Beauty Behind the Madness … As much hype as this artist and album received throughout the year, it didn’t show up on nearly as many “best of” lists as I would’ve expected. Perhaps that’s because of the reprehensible lyrics found throughout. This disc had so many things going for it, but the lyrics overshadowed everything else. And it’s the reason why something comparable such as Miguel’s album is earning more accolades this time of year. … Thumbs up: “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In the Night”
  • Tame Impala – Currents … I wrote off this band from the moment it came on the scene several years ago. But I occasionally second-guess myself after liking a random song. Then I listen to the album, and it turns out there are only a few songs worth my time. … Thumbs up: “Cause I’m a Man,” “Eventually” and “Let It Happen”
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – E-MO-TION … Everyone was so happy to see this Canuck finally break free from her “Call Me Maybe” curse. That’s all well and good, but she still produces music that is way too mainstream and derivative. She sounds like a poor man’s version of Taylor Swift, and I only have room for one pop queen on my playlist.
  • Jamie xxIn Colour … I’m a big fan of The xx, but their fans need to be warned that Jamie Smith’s solo project is almost nothing like his main work. Other than “Loud Places”, this album is unlistenable.
  • Girl Band – Holding Hands with Jamie … I nearly bought this album a few months ago, while in a local record store, based solely on its location in an “employees’ picks” section. Thankfully, I had a chance to sample it beforehand, because there isn’t a single bit of redeemable music on this disc.
  • Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon … The kid sounds like a hybrid of all the various Beatles’ solo work. He’s got potential, but I’ll pass for now.
  • Halsey – Badlands … “New Americana” channels the wordplay and apathetic rapping of Lorde’s “Royals”. Other than that, meh.
  • Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
  • ProtomartyrThe Agent Intellect

STUFF I’M SURE I’D LIKE IF I ACTUALLY LISTENED TO IT

  • Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
  • Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
  • Torres – Sprinter
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
  • Wilco – Star Wars
  • Sun Kil Moon – Universal Themes
  • EL VY – Return to the Moon
  • DawesAll Your Favorite Bands
  • Mac DeMarco – Another One
  • Desparecidos – Payola
  • The Lone BellowThen Came the Morning
  • The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ
  • Adele – 25
  • Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars

STUFF I STILL NEED TO LISTEN TO THAT OTHERS HAVE LIKED

  • Natalie Prass – self-titled
  • The Districts – A Flourish and a Spoil
  • Twerps – Range Anxiety
  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
  • Marina and the Diamonds – Froot
  • Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People
  • Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness
  • Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style
  • Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, girl
  • Alex G – Beach Music
  • Grill – Before the World Was Big
  • Joan Shelley – Over and Even
  • Bully – Feels Like
  • Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again
  • Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
  • Hound mouth – Little Neon Limelight
  • Seaford Mods – Key Markets

June 29, 2015

216 – Turnover

Filed under: T, Virginia Beach Va. — assman41 @ 4:39 pm

Considering all of the parallels between Title Fight and Turnover, it’d be reasonable to assume that I discovered the latter while listening to the former.

In actuality, I happened upon Turnover while listening to a New Indie Rock mix on Google Play. I liked several of the songs, but one in particular stood out. So much so that I stopped the mix and immediately focused my attention on this band.

Not only did I instantly fall in love with Turnover’s latest release, Peripheral Vision, but almost as quickly did I see an obvious connection to the aforementioned Title Fight.

In addition to sharing a producer on their latest efforts, both bands began in the emo/pop-punk genre before eventually transitioning to more of an indie rock sound. Title Fight’s evolution was gradual and came over several albums. Turnover morphed much more rapidly.

In his review of Peripheral Vision, Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen sums it up nicely.

“In each instance, a traditionalist punk band goes headfirst into more aqueous forms of indie rock, but retain qualities which put them at an advantage over the countless wan, limp bands who decided to sound like the Smiths from the beginning.”

Turnover formed in Virginia Beach, Va., in 2009 and put out a few EPs before signing with Run For Cover Records in 2012. They released their first full-length album, Magnolia, in 2013.

The songs on that disc were a little more toned-down their previous stuff. And maybe that’s because lead singer Austin Getz had more responsibilities after taking over rhythm guitar duties from the departed Alex Dimaiuat in 2012.

Throughout the album, Getz and Co. channel their inner Dashboard Confessional with varying degrees of success. But rather than come off as whiny teenagers pining for love, they seem more resigned and melancholy.

The 2014 EP, Blue Dream, seemed to be a statement to fans that the group was taking things more seriously. It’s just three tracks, but it includes “Read My Mind”, which is the first time Turnover had ever really taken whatever it is that makes them stand out and synthesized it into something more complete.

But even that release couldn’t have prepared the Turnover faithful for Peripheral Vision, which dropped on May 4 of this year.

The first things listeners are struck by are the new guitar sound and filtered — probably auto-tuned — vocals. Right off the bat, on “Cutting My Fingers Off”, it’s clear that there’s a lot more going on with this album, from instruments and vocals to the overall production. And all of it is adding to the sound rather than taking anything away.

“New Scream” is just as strong and leads into arguably the best track here, “Humming”. The opening melody pulls you in and keeps you hooked throughout. And the way Getz sings the chorus is reminiscent of Stornoway — just without the accent.

The album dips a bit on “Hello Euphoria” and “Dizzy on the Comedown”. Neither song is bad, they just get overshadowed by the preceding songs. The latter tune gets points for the line “It’s just a euphoric comedown,” which I can only hope is in reference to the former track.

Things pick up again with “Diazepam”, a song where you start out bobbing your head to the beat, but, by the end, you’re shaking your head in agreement with the lyrics. “Like Slow Disappearing” in another solid track that takes a backseat to its bigger brothers. “Take My Head” is a bit of a sleeper and has all the makings of a single.

Following a couple of filler tracks, the album closes on “Intrapersonal”, which sounds just like another song I loved from the past couple of years but cannot recall right now. (Feel free to listen to it and help me out in the Comments section.)

Turnover are still considered a supporting act, so this summer would be a great time to catch them before they break out. They hit the road in August, spending a couple of months in the Eastern time zone before eventually heading west in October.

June 13, 2015

215 – Title Fight

Filed under: Kingston Pa., T — assman41 @ 3:13 pm

When it comes to the four albums released thus far by Title Fight, NPR did a great job of describing the group’s evolving sound: “A punk band keeps smearing its sound into something prettier.”

Starting with 2009’s compilation disc, The Last Thing You Forget through Hyperview, which came out this past February, there is a steady progression from Warped Tour cast-offs to My Bloody Valentine’s heir apparent.

That first disc, which is a mix of early singles and whatnot, lives up to its emo/hardcore label. Sounding like any number of bands touted by Alternative Press, there isn’t a great deal of substance here.

But with the release of their first studio album, Shed, in May 2011, Title Fight started to show signs of potential, growing heavier and “shedding” the pop-punk vibe. Particularly halfway through the disc on songs such as “Safe in Your Skin” and Where Am I?”

They didn’t take long to show their growth, when, in September 2012, they dropped Floral Green, a much heavier album with almost nary a sign of their pop-punk past.

Now, with Hyperview, the evolution appears complete for the Kingston, Pa., quartet. The disc opens with a very chill, shoegazey “Murder Your Memory” before launching into the mumbled, MBV-soaked “Chlorine”. That vibe continues on the more-decipherable “Hypernight”.

Those three songs, while solid in their own right, are like a preamble before things really take off, starting with “Mrahc”, the first track that seems single-worthy and sees everything starting to click. Then there’s “Your Pain is Mine Now”, which is arguably the most complete song on the album.

“Rose of Sharon” is another catchy tune that manages to differentiate itself from those preceding it. “Trace Me Onto You” feels like above-average filler, and it takes an interesting change of pace about halfway through the track.

“Liar’s Love” is a great example of the group’s sound and the other main contender for top song. It’s no wonder NPR picked it for its Austin 100 mix. It’s followed by “Dizzy”, which is an extra-slow tune that brings you back down to Earth before “New Vision” puts a little pep in your step and sends you on your way.

It’d be nice to think the group has found its sweet spot and will explore this sound for a while, but who knows with these guys.

April 26, 2015

214 – Radical Dads

Filed under: Brooklyn, R — assman41 @ 3:21 pm

It wasn’t until about a month ago that I first heard of Radical Dads. And that was only somewhat in passing when they were mentioned in a Paste article about creative album cover artwork.

Shortly after, a friend mentioned listening to them, so I figured I’d give them a try. And, thankfully, I persevered through the first couple of irredeemable tracks and found something more inviting on the other end.

Universal Coolers, which came out Feb. 25, is the third album by the Brooklyn-based trio. It’s also the best offering thus far as they’ve taken the best qualities of their first two discs — 2011’s Mega Rama and 2013’s Rapid Reality — and synthesized it into something more palatable.

That’s not to say the earlier offerings were hard to listen to. They were just inconsistent with more filler than standouts. “Walking Wires”, off Mega Rama, was probably the best example of their overall sound on that album. Other notable tracks are “New Age Dinosaur” and “No New Faces”, the latter of which is reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky — but with vocals.

The group took a half-step back on the follow-up, cramming it with too much filler and unnecessary distortion. The few worthwhile tunes include the title track and “Stampede”.

Which brings us to the latest disc. The only possible reason I could see wanting to listen to the first two tracks is to make the rest of the album sound that much better. Radical Dads put the best stuff in the heart of the order in tracks 3-5 — there are 10 tracks, so we’re obviously likening this to a slow-pitch softball team not an MLB squad.

“Slammer” and “In the Water” are the first signs that this could be a band worth paying attention to in the future. Then along comes “Don’t Go”, and you start thinking, “Man, this might be an album I come back to sporadically for years to come.” It’s probably not accurate at all, but it feels like this is the band’s first song with a normal verse-chorus-verse structure. It won’t be topping any best-of-the-year lists, but it may be worthy of an honorable mention.

Next up is the title track, which is another strong entry before things start to wane a bit. Thankfully, the album closes on a high note with “Cassette Brain”, a previously released single.

March 13, 2015

2015 SXSW preview

Filed under: SXSW — assman41 @ 3:23 pm

A few years ago, in advance of attending SXSW, I went through the entire 1,200-plus-song torrent and weeded out all the riff-raff before posting a comprehensive list of tracks that piqued my interest.

Not since then have I been so prolific. I did download another year’s torrent, but I can’t even remember how far I made it.

This year, I am once again spending my March in the Midwest, wishing I could be in Austin. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some of the best bands the festival has to offer.

As he has done for the past several years, NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson has compiled a playlist of 100 of the top acts playing at SXSW. The Austin 100 is a great mix of just about everything you’d want to hear or see throughout the week.

That being said, no one is going to agree with NPR’s recommendations 100 percent of the time. In fact, I only “favorited” 40 of the songs — but that doesn’t include songs by Alvvays and Courtney Barnett.

The nice thing about this year’s stream is that once you’ve made it through all 100 songs, you can switch over to Favorites mode and only play the songs you liked.

Below is a list of the acts/songs I picked out. Since the festival is already in full swing and I don’t have a ton of time, I’m just including the brief description that NPR wrote.

Now, go listen to the mix — you can also download it for a few more weeks — and discover some new favorite bands. I know I’m gonna be referring back to this list throughout the year for new bands to listen to.

  • A. Sinclair – “Shiny Things” … A band that knows its way around dense, dramatic rock anthems.
  • Amason – “Älgen” … The Swedish pop quintet sprawls in five directions at once.
  • Charlie Belle – “Get To Know” … Three teenagers play pop with subtlety beyond their years.
  • Chastity Belt – “Time To Go Home” … Smart, unpredictable, feminist indie-rock.
  • Cheerleader – “Perfect Vision” … Bright, shimmery pop-rock, suitable for fist-pumping.
  • Cold Mailman – “Moments” … Synth-y, boy-girl indie-pop that builds and builds.
  • Colony House – “Silhouettes” … A band that knows its way around an alt-rock anthem.
  • Count This Penny – “Shoebox Scene” … Graceful country-pop with gorgeous vocals and Appalachian roots.
  • Donovan Wolfington – “Keef Ripper” … Speedball power-pop with a party-friendly vibe.
  • Fatherson – “I Like Not Knowing” … Scottish-accented rock that builds from a whisper to a storm.
  • Field Mouse – “Everyone But You” … A fizzily agreeable dream-pop charm offensive.
  • Genevieve – “Colors” … Company Of Thieves’ frontwoman sings bouncy anthems of affirmation.
  • Geographer – “I’m Ready” … Openhearted pop-rock, powered by a throbbing synthesizer.
  • Hanne Kolstø – “We Don’t See Ourselves” … Toy-box pop that charms, clatters and soars.
  • Hinds – “Bamboo” … Finds a way to make garage-rock primitivism shimmer.
  • Houndmouth – “Sedona” … A Midwestern roots-rock band relocates its heart to the desert.
  • Howard – “Falling” … Stormily percussive folk-pop that prioritizes atmospherics over uplift.
  • Joan Shelley – “First Of August” … Weaponized melancholy, with tender beauty that soothes.
  • Jukebox The Ghost – “The Great Unknown” … Piano-fueled pop, readier than ever for stardom.
  • Kaleo – “All The Pretty Girls” … Falsetto-fueled balladry meets Icelandic grandiosity.
  • Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band – “Bubblegum” … An introspective singer sheds his quiet side, lets it rip.
  • Knox Hamilton – “Work It Out” … Mile-wide pop-rock, suitable for radios everywhere.
  • Kristin Diable – “Time Will Wait” … A rollicking bar-band throwback, but with maximum star power.
  • La Luz – “Pink Slime” … Garage-rock that’s both playfully light and cavernously booming.
  • The Last Year – “Mania” … Rockers explore synth-pop with sparkling results.
  • The Lees Of Memory – “We Are Siamese” … Superdrag vets play shoegaze rock with an epic swirl of guitars.
  • Makthaverskan – “Witness” … Garage-rock intensity, with enough drama to fill an arena.
  • Moving Panoramas – “Radar” … Dreamy pop meets shoegaze rock to form what the trio calls “dream gaze.”
  • Quiet Company – “Understand The Problem” … Songs about losing faith are rarely this hummable.
  • San Fermin – “Jackrabbit” … Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s chamber-pop keeps getting bigger and busier.
  • Screaming Females – “Ripe” … Scrappy hard rock with big guitar solos, bigger vocals. … Sidenote: this was actually the very first band I saw live upon arriving at SXSW in 2011.
  • Skylar Spence – “Fiona Coyne” … Ludicrously catchy funk-pop from a guy who used to call himself Saint Pepsi.
  • Spring King – “City” … Exactly as its name implies: rock ‘n’ roll for a sunny day.
  • Sunny Sweeney – “Second Guessing” … Smart, salty country songs about figuring life out while we can.
  • Title Fight – “Liars Love” … A punk band keeps smearing its sound into something prettier.
  • Twerps – “Back To You” … Playful, almost primitive at times, and infectiously sweet.
  • White Reaper – “Cool” … Ramones-y pop-punk that wastes few words or chords.
  • Wild Party – “OutRight” … Sleek power-pop that reaches beyond the rafters, all the way to the stars.
  • Young Buffalo – “Sykia” … Insistent, harmony-intensive power-pop with gigantic choruses.

March 9, 2015

213 – Little Racer

Filed under: Brooklyn, L — assman41 @ 1:05 am

When I started this blog several years ago, many of the bands I was writing about fell into the indie-folk category. Not only was I posting about groups such as Mumford & Sons, Dawes and The Head and The Heart, I was often referencing them while drawing comparisons to a slew of up-and-coming bands.

Eventually, my tastes shifted toward a more airy-fairy, lo-fi beach pop sound. Bands such as Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing and The Drums were prominent in that ilk and often earning shout-outs in future posts.

I figured that wave would slowly die off and be replaced by another sub-genre. To a certain degree it has, but it always seems to be simmering on the back burner, just waiting to boil over with another slew of similar-sounding bands.

The latest is Little Racer, a four-piece outfit from Brooklyn that combines all that is great about those aforementioned groups. With its 2014 EP Modern Accent, the band took that catchy, indie-beach vibe and took it somewhere new by adding a clear punk attitude.

That is “Vanessa”, one of the standouts among the six songs on the nearly year-old release. The intro sounds reminiscent of The Vaccines’ “Post-Breakup Sex”.

The disc opens with “Fake French”, a mid-tempo ditty that sounds like a slightly punk version of The Drums. The group beats The Drums drum again on “Ghosty”, a song that also sounds like the closest link to Little Racer’s raw 2011 debut offering, a two-track EP.

In case they hadn’t shown how punk they are, Little Racer close out the recent EP with “Punk Life”, which gives off a weird, “we don’t care if you like this, but we secretly hope you do” vibe throughout the song.

The catchiest song here is the second track, “Dancing”. It sounds like something you might hear on an episode of “The Inbetweeners” — the original British version, that is — or more likely in an Expedia commercial. (That gives me a great idea for a future post.)

Thus far, the crew’s catalog is still in the single digits, so it’ll be interesting to see where they take things from here.

February 23, 2015

212 – Alvvays

Filed under: A, Toronto — assman41 @ 4:27 pm

For a lot of indie music fans, Best Coast would be considered the progenitor of the recent trend of mixing female lead vocals, lo-fi instrumentation and breezy tunes that belie darker tones. Of course, with pretty much any musical genre, there’s always someone who did it earlier.

One band that could probably lay claim to at least planting the seeds from which Best Coast sprouted is Camera Obscura, the Scottish group that started in the mid-‘90s.

But this post isn’t about who got there first. Instead, it’s about who is there now. Particularly, a band that combines the best of both of the aforementioned groups and puts its own spin on things to create something new.

Alvvays is a five-piece indie-pop group from Toronto that plays songs that would be perfect for chilling out at the beach like Best Coast — as long as said beach is located somewhere colder, like the coast of Scotland.

Alvvays’ self-titled debut was released last July and, within a month, topped the college radio charts.

The group is helmed by childhood friends Molly Rankin (vocals) and Kerri MacLellan (keyboards), who began playing music with Alec O’Hanley. Eventually, they were joined by Brian Murphy and Phil MacIsaac to form the internet search-friendly Alvvays.

Their best-known track, and possibly the most energetic on the album, is “Archie, Marry Me”, a tune that seems like an incredibly bare-bones cover a My Bloody Valentine song. (Not really, but for some reason, that description always pops in my head when I hear it.)

Other strong entries include “Next of Kin”, “The Agency Group”, “Atop a Cake” and my personal favorite, “Party Police”.

The group has been touring all over, including a recent stop in Madison that I was unable to attend. They’ll be in Austin next month for SXSW, which, sadly, I will once again be missing. But enough with my melancholy; just go listen to this band.

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