Infinite Shuffle

December 27, 2009

9 – Forward, Russia!

Filed under: England, F — assman41 @ 12:01 am

On their debut album, Forward, Russia! sounds like a mixture between the Arctic Monkeys and the Hives but with the vocal stylings of Bloc Party.

Early in their career, Forward, Russia! thought it was a good idea to name songs with numbers, in the order they were written. So, that first album, Give Me a Wall, has 11 tracks, opening with “Thirteen,” closing with “Eleven” and ranging from “Seven” to “Nineteen” in the interim.

Because of this, it’s rather difficult to keep the various tracks straight, but I know it starts off strong with “Thirteen” and “Twelve.” Things take a bit of a turn toward The Killers and White Lies on “Nineteen,” the album’s fifth track.

On their MySpace page, these lads from Leeds categorize themselves as “experimental/indie.” That becomes evident as Give Me a Wall progresses through various spurts of thumping, yelling and chanting. On their Wikipedia page, one of the band members is even listed as “electric guitar, shouts, synth.” But it all seems to work pretty well and never crosses the line into unaccessible. If you end up giving this disc a listen, just a warning, the ninth track, “Seven,” may get stuck in your head for a couple days.

On their follow-up album, 2008’s Life Processes, Forward, Russia! follows the path of the aforementioned Bloc Party. They become slower, heavier and deeper as their sound grows more akin to TV on the Radio.

I only just recently listened to this album for the first time, so I don’t have a lot to say about it. But it seems pretty solid, and I’ll be interested to see where they go from here.

Unfortunately, it might be awhile before we find out, as they’re apparently on hiatus, according to their official website.

Below is the first song from their debut album. Hopefully, it gives you a pretty good idea of what this band is all about and why I loved this disc so much.

Forward, Russia! – Thirteen

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December 20, 2009

8 – The Magic Numbers

Filed under: England, M — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Upon moving to Charlottesville, Va., in February 2006, I quickly discovered an awesome independent local radio station (91.1 WNRN) that played non-stop indie rock. After being forced to listen to shitty corporate rock, oldies and classic rock stations my entire life, my ears were suddenly inundated with a constant wave of amazing new music.

One of the first bands I discovered was The Magic Numbers. The London-based quartet is often compared to The Mamas & The Papas, both because of its composition — it consists of a pair of brother-sister tandems — and its signature harmonies.

Additionally, the band members’ scruffy appearance would make their hippie forebears proud. But The Magic Numbers also compare favorably to more modern brethren — most notably, the New Pornographers.

Their self-titled debut was easily one of my favorite albums of 2006 — it was actually released in August 2005, but those are just details. I even got to see them live, but I showed up late and only caught the last few songs.

It wouldn’t be the last time I took The Magic Numbers for granted. For a variety of reasons, I never listened to their follow-up album, Those the Brokes, until recently, even though it came out in November 2006. It’s an oversight I definitely regret as the sophomore effort picks up right where the first one left off with the band’s distinct slow/fast, pop/folk harmonies.

They also released a six-track EP titled Undecided, which I’m still trying to track down. And, according to their less-than-stellar official website, they’re releasing a new album in Spring 2010.

In the meantime, visit their MySpace page and listen to eight of their tracks, including “Hurts So Good,” the first single from their upcoming album.

And here is one of my favorite songs from their debut album …

The Magic Numbers – Forever Lost

December 13, 2009

7 – Northern State

Filed under: Long Island, N — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When I moved to Indiana in 2008, my friend in Pennsylvania and I figured the only way we’d ever be able to hang out was if we met somewhere halfway.

The first such rendezvous was in April of that year, when we hung out in Cleveland for a couple days. In addition to hitting up the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and going to an Indians game, we also wanted to see a band somewhere.

After combing through the scant choices, we settled for a group called Northern State, which was playing at the Grog Shop, near the Case Western campus.

Prior to the show, the only facts we knew were that they were a hip-hop group named after the Northern State Parkway on Long Island. But by the end of the show, we were hooked.

Going into it not knowing much about the group, I was immediately blown away by the rapping chops of these three white girls. They seem like they could hold their own in a freestyle competition — especially the group’s leader, Hesta Prynn.

Once the novelty of seeing a bunch of white girls from Long Island doing old-school rap subsides, they keep you hooked with their harmonies. Throughout their most recent album, Can I Keep This Pen?, they intersperse straight rap songs with some rap/harmony hybrids.

Some of the best examples of Northern State’s sound are on “Better Already,” and “Mother May I?”. They also have several more-melodious, less-rapping tracks, including “Away Away” and “Run Off the Road.”

They’ve put out three full-length albums and a few EPs, and they’ve been associated with a lot of established artists, including The Roots, Tegan & Sara and Adrock from the Beastie Boys.

From time to time, I’ll see/hear something from Northern State that comes out of nowhere — such as Hesta Prynn turning up in a SILK soy milk commercial or a couple of their songs playing in the background of a Grey’s Anatomy episode — and I’ll become giddy all over again.

You can listen to as many as 11 songs and watch five videos at their official website or head over to their MySpace page and find a six-pack of songs.

Since so many of their tracks are available online, I figured I’d just include a couple here that hopefully show what the group has to offer.

Northern State – Sucka MoFo

Northern State – Better Already

December 6, 2009

6 – White Lies

Filed under: England, W — assman41 @ 12:01 am

This London trio’s debut album, To Lose My Life, is dripping with the sounds of all the best post-punk bands of the ’80s. Joy Division, The Cure and Echo and The Bunnymen are obvious influences. So to are modern brethren such as The Killers, Interpol and Editors.

When I originally downloaded the album this past spring, I actually got a bunch of shoddy — possibly live — tracks. You could tell the songs were decent, but the quality really detracted from the experience, and I only listened to the entire album once.

I finally got around to re-downloading the album with the proper studio tracks, and it’s like night and day. From the solid opening track, “Death,” I was pulled in by lead singer Harry McVeigh’s dark voice.

I was already a big fan of the early singles — “E.S.T.” and “To Lose My Life” — but after the second listen I found a lot of new favorites, such as “A Place to Hide,” “Fifty on Our Foreheads,” “Unfinished Business,” “Farewell to the Fairground” and the aforementioned opener.

With my second attempt at downloading, I also picked up three bonus tracks and a couple remixes. The extra songs “You Still Love Him” and “Black Song” definitely give off a Killers vibe.

I’m currently listening to the album for the second time today and I’m officially in love. I’d compare it to Glasvegas’ self-titled disc from last year, as both are debut albums packed full of great songs. And just like their Scottish counterparts, To Lose My Life will definitely be on a slew of Best of 2009 lists, including mine.

You can hear a few songs on their MySpace page and at their official website — including a bunch of remixes for “Death” — so below I’ve posted one you can’t find. It’s the song that led me to White Lies in the first place.

White Lies – E.S.T.

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