Infinite Shuffle

June 27, 2010

33 – The Gaslight Anthem

Filed under: G, New Jersey — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When talking about The Gaslight Anthem, I suppose the first thing I should do is address the obvious comparison to Bruce Springsteen. Fans of The Boss would just disregard Gaslight lead singer Brian Fallon as a Bruce wannabe.

There’s certainly some validity to that argument. A native of New Jersey, Fallon grew up idolizing Springsteen and has said often that he is a huge influence on his music. The Gaslight Anthem have even toured with Bruce and his band and played some songs together on stage.

Now, that all being said, The GA is more than just a copycat. Really, the best way to describe them is to call them “a punk version of Springsteen.” The vocals and lyrics are pure Bruce, but the rest of what comes through the speakers is faster and more rockin’ than anything the E Street Band has put out in decades.

The Gaslight Anthem formed in 2005 and released their debut album, Sink or Swim, two years later. It received some solid reviews, but the band didn’t hit the mainstream until 2008 when, after putting out a four-track EP, it dropped its second full-length, The ’59 Sound.

This is the point that I discovered them. A friend burned me a copy of the album and it sounded pretty good. Then, after realizing that they would be one of the opening acts for the Rise Against show I was to attend in November 2008, I started listening to the album more frequently.

By the time that show rolled around, I was looking forward to seeing The Gaslight Anthem as much as the headliner. In addition to the title track, the album is loaded with great songs, such as “Great Expectations” and “Old White Lincoln”.

I’ve been listening to that album off and on for the past two years, but was finally rewarded with a new disc, American Slang, which came out June 15.

I’ve listened to it twice so far, and I haven’t really heard any standout tracks. Musically, the band hasn’t changed much over the course of their three releases — each album has pretty much been a continuation of the one before it.

But when you sound as good as The Gaslight Anthem, I guess there’s no need to change anything.

Here’s the first single off the latest album. It’s the title track.

The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang


June 20, 2010

32 – Niall Connolly

Filed under: C, Ireland — assman41 @ 12:01 am

This is my first — and last, I would assume — shameless plug for a musician friend of mine. Actually, he’s a friend of a friend, but considering he’s Irish and we’ve been drinking together in Chicago once before, we’re practically friends.

Connolly is a singer/songwriter from Brooklyn, by way of Cork, Ireland. I first came to hear of him when my friend, Scott, met him during one of his trips to Ireland a couple of years ago.

He burned me a copy of his 2007 album, Future Tense, and I gave it a whirl. I had to admit, it was pretty solid.

I’m usually not one who goes for the singer/songwriters. While many of them are quite talented, I generally require more instrumentation and complexity to my music than just a dude and his guitar.

That being said, I could definitely tell that Connolly had some chops. While his Irish lilt is ever-present, his sound can’t really be pigeonholed into the Damien Rice/Glen Hansard ilk. His vocals and song-crafting styles could easily be mistaken for somebody born in the States.

A couple of my favorites from the aforementioned album are “70,000 Words” and “If You Find Me In Morocco”. I can still remember singing along to the former when I saw Connolly live at Atlantic Bar in Chicago during Scott’s ill-fated debut as a concert promoter.

Future Tense was Connolly’s third full-length release, and he has since added two more, including a live album in 2008 and Brother, the Fight is Fixed, which comes out July 1.

Scott flew out to NYC to help Connolly shoot the video for the first single, “Jesus Is Coming (And I Can’t Pay the Rent)”. The song is catchy as hell, and the video isn’t bad either. I particularly liked the two lip-synching women.

For more on Connolly, check out his official website or his MySpace page.

June 15, 2010

My favorite radio stations

Filed under: Radio — assman41 @ 6:01 am

One of my favorite things to do when I was living in Charlottesville, Va., and had a Sunday of Monday night off was to turn on WNRN and listen to the “New Rock Now” program. Rhonda Chollock was always there to give me a rundown of the top 10 albums on the CMJ chart that week, then play a bunch of new music that had been recently released or that was coming out the following Tuesday.

It’s been almost 2.5 years since I moved, and that station is definitely one of the things I miss the most about C’ville — that, and the great selection of eateries.

I’ve listened to the station a few times online since then, but I always forget to turn it on in time for my favorite show. I had Monday night off and was all set to listen in, but the schedule apparently changed and something else was on. So I instead decided to check out another internet feed.

Six hours later, and I’m still listening to KOPB out of Portland, Ore. I didn’t realize how awesome its playlist was until now. And it got me thinking about the handful of radio stations that have played an important role in my musical development.

Below are some breakdowns of those stations, as well as a song that stands out when I think of each one.

WQQL (101.9 FM) Springfield, Ill.

Having spent the major portion of my youth in central Illinois, I was raised on generally mediocre mainstream rock stations. Perhaps it was the subpar offerings on those stations that delayed my interest in modern rock.

Instead, during my early teens, I chose to listen to the local oldies station. It tended to set me apart from my peers as I failed to keep up on all the most popular bands. But I made up for it by building a strong foundation in all the best music of the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s.

I feel like that background has helped me to appreciate modern music even more.

J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers – Last Kiss

WNRN (91.9 FM) Charlottesville, Va.

Before moving to Virginia, I’d spent a couple years in the musical wasteland of northwest Illinois, where — as my friend correctly theorized — you could always find a Van Halen or Rush song within 15 minutes of turning on the radio.

Needless to say, I wasn’t discovering too many new bands via the radio waves. I’d long considered investing in satellite radio but kept putting it off. By the time I moved to the Eastern time zone, I was all set to finally get it, but then I read an article in an alt-weekly about a local station and figured I’d check it out.

I had no idea such stations even existed. It was the musical bastion that I’d been pining for. In addition to its constant indie/alternative offerings and the aforementioned “New Rock Now” show, it also had a show on Sunday afternoons called “Les Temps Perdue” that would eventually spur my interest in post-punk music.

Peter Murphy – Cuts You Up

SiriusXMU (Sirius channel 26)

Despite having an awesome local station, I still needed something for the long road trips back to the Midwest. I was still several years away from purchasing my first iPod, and my spindles of CDs were rather cumbersome.

So, when I saw XM players on sale one Black Friday, I splurged and purchased one. It was a portable player that could record several hours of shows. Other than using headphones, the only way to listen to it was to hook it up to my TV and play it through the auxiliary channel.

Anyways, I discovered many a new band through the XMU station and Billy Zero’s shows and “After School Special”. I also loved to switch it up with the Fred, Ethel and Lucy stations (why one of the Latin stations wasn’t called Ricky, I’ll never know).

I was still a loyal listener after moving to South Bend, Ind., and even following the XM/Sirius merger. (I noted that XMU, which became SiriusXMU was one of the few XM stations to hold on to its old name.) But, eventually, I was forced to move on after my player’s battery died and I didn’t feel like getting a new one.

Young Knives – Turn Tail

WNRK (94.7 FM) Portland, Ore.

While still living in Virginia, I took a weeklong jaunt to the Pacific Northwest to visit friends in Portland and Seattle, and I took note of a couple stations out there. KNDD (107.7 FM “The End”) was pretty key for some solid alt-rock.

But it was a Portland station that stuck with me. I listened to 94.7 any time I was driving around The City of Roses, even if it was just to move my car.

I came back home and signed up to the station’s e-mail newsletter and, ever since, have received weekly reminders about how awesome the city of Portland is. Lately, they’ve included free weekly downloads, called “Slice of Heaven”.

Muse – Knights of Cydonia

WGCS (91.1 FM) Goshen, Ind.

After moving back to the Midwest, I was quickly reminded how dire the radio offerings are here. Trolling through all the stations, I was forced to stick with a run-of-the-mill adult contemporary station — although, it does have ’80s weekends every weekend, which is nice.

One of my friends’ girlfriends, who happened to be a Notre Dame alumnus, suggested I give one of the local college stations a try. After the first go, I wasn’t too excited. It was a bunch of Americana stuff I’d never heard before and wasn’t sure I’d dig.

But I gave it another try and listened to for an extended period of time. What I discovered was that, although I didn’t recognize the bulk of the artists or songs, there was some pretty good stuff being played.

I’ve found a bevy of songs that I will eventually try to download, if I can ever find them online. I also found out about David Dye’s “World Cafe” show from 4-6 p.m. that is full of the modern indie stuff I crave.

Boca Chica – Lake Erie

KOPB (91.5 FM) Portland, Ore.

The latest entry in my list of go-to stations appears to be an online-only feed. A branch of the Oregon Public Broadcasting network, OPBmusic is a non-stop stream of great indie music.

It’s also the main curator of the PDX Pop Now! festival and CD compilation set.

I haven’t listened to the station or CDs enough to have a great feel for it. But it’s obvious that this is my kind of station. With any luck, I’ll be able to listen to it somehow when I visit Portland again in August.

The National – Afraid Of Everyone

June 13, 2010

31 – MGMT

Filed under: M, NYC — assman41 @ 8:01 pm

I’m really not sure what to think of MGMT. They put out some very catchy songs on their 2008 debut album, Oracular Spectacular. But overall, I feel like they are an acquired taste — somewhere in the vein of The Flaming Lips, but less experimental-sounding.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you probably have very indie leanings when it comes to your musical leanings and have probably already heard of the New York City duo.

I was hooked when I heard the opening strains of “Electric Feel” — as far as I’m concerned, if you don’t like the opening and closing melody on that song, you’re not human.

Their first single, “Time To Pretend”, was a solid hit as well, but it wasn’t until “Kids” hit the airwaves that they really started to get a following.

Those three songs helped propel Oracular Spectacular onto many a “Best of 2008” list, including my own.

The album itself had a lot of psychedelic influences — as you could probably have guessed by the title — but it was countered by a healthy dose of electronica and pop that made it easier to digest.

The band’s second album, Congratulations, which came out last month, has a whole slew of different sounds emanating from it. Early on the disc, MGMT seems to be channeling more of a ’60s-style psychedelia, something that sounds like a mixture of The Flaming Lips and The Polyphonic Spree.

But then, about halfway through, things take a much more mellow tone. So much so, that the sixth track, “Siberian Breaks”, literally lulled me to sleep — hence the tardiness of this week’s post. That opus, which clocks in at a robust 12 minutes, 10 seconds, is really like four or five vastly different songs rolled into one.

It’s followed by “Brian Eno”, which I would consider my favorite track on the album.

Overall, Congratulations has a lot going on, and the casual MGMT fan might not even realize they’re listening to the same band that put out Oracular Spectacular. But fear not, it’s a quality album — and like its predecessor, it takes a little time to get used to.

P.S. I’ll be seeing MGMT live in Chicago on Friday. Hopefully I get my concert review completed in a more timely manner than this review.

June 6, 2010

30 – The National

Filed under: Brooklyn, N — assman41 @ 12:01 am

For the first few years that I was aware of The National’s existence, I constantly confused their music with that of Editors. So much so, that when I attended an Editors show in early 2008, I was a little bummed they didn’t play my favorite song. It wasn’t until a couple months later that I realized the song I was hoping for was actually by The National.

The song, by the way, is “The Apartment Story”, the second single off the band’s fourth album, Boxer.

My favorite part of the song is very brief and comes twice in the below video at the 2:50 and 3:15 marks.

Despite considering myself a big fan of The National, I didn’t realize until now that they have released five full-length albums, dating back to 2001’s self-titled debut. I was first introduced to them in 2007 with Boxer and later picked up a copy of the equally solid Alligator (2005). They also put out Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers in 2003 and just released High Violet a couple weeks ago.

Maybe my lack of knowledge is not that big of a surprise, considering The National has to be the best band out there that so few people seem to know about. I realize that their albums have received a ton of critical acclaim throughout the years and they’ve had their share of sold-out shows, but I rarely hear anyone talking about them in the way they might about such indie buzz bands as Vampire Weekend, Editors or Modest Mouse.

In fact, the most publicity the group has received in the past few years was when brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner — two-fifths of the Brooklyn-based group — helped coordinate the Dark Was the Night charity compilation album, which was released in February 2009.

As for the band’s sound, aside from the obvious Editors comparison — and Interpol, while we’re at it — the group’s influences range from Joy Division to Bruce Springsteen — at least according to Wikipedia. I’m not sure how apt The Boss comparison is, but Joy Division is spot-on.

My favorite songs all come from Boxer — including “Fake Empire”, “Start a War”, “Mistaken For Strangers” and the aforementioned “Apartment Story”.

High Violet, on the other hand, is solid throughout but doesn’t seem to have any standout tracks. It has spawned two singles so far — “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Anyone’s Ghost”, both of which I gave 2 stars on my iTunes rating.

With any luck, a spot on this year’s Lollapalooza bill will help create even more fans for this most-deserving band.

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