Infinite Shuffle

September 26, 2010

44 – Miniature Tigers

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

One of the first things I did during my first full day in Portland recently — after hitting up the foodcarts, of course — was making my way to a record store.

I spotted one pretty quickly while attempting to navigate the slightly confusing streets — Jackpot Records, which is located on NW Bursnside, about a block away from the world-famous Powell’s Books.

Upon entering the store, I headed directly to one of the listening stations, and the first album I played was Fortress by Miniature Tigers. I was immediately bobbing my head along to the tunes that were coming through the headphones.

My favorite was the second track, “Rock & Roll Mountain Troll”. It starts out slow, but then, at the 0:40 mark, it really picks up and gets going.

In reading reviews of the band, I noticed that there were several mentions of The Beatles and Beach Boys as far as influences — and even a couple of nods to Weezer. But the one group that stood out the most to me on this album was Of Montreal — so much so that I keep getting a hankerin’ for Outback Steakhouse every time I listen to this album.

The similarities to the Georgia lads can be heard on several tracks, including “Gold Skull”, “Egyptian Robe” — which sounds like two or three songs in one — “Japanese Woman” and “Tropical Birds”.

On the opening track, “Mansion of Misery”, they even reminded me of Arcade Fire — that is, if Arcade Fire was a four-piece from Phoenix.

Another strong song, “Bullfighter Jacket”, opens with a punk-tribal-scream thing that I’ve heard before — possibly in multiple songs — but I just can’t place it.

And on the closing track, “Coyote Enchantment”, I could not help but recall Sugar Hill Gang’s “Apache” when I heard the opening bars, which were sustained in the background throughout the entirety of the song.

Fortress, which came out in July, is actually Miniature Tigers’ second full-length album and was preceded in 2008 by Tell It To the Volcano.

I went back and listened to the debut and was immediately greeted by a track I’d heard often but forgot all about, “Cannibal Queen” before. Now I suddenly remember hearing about this band awhile back.

Other than the opener, I wasn’t overly blown away by this album. It wasn’t bad, by any means, it just wasn’t as strong as the follow-up.

A couple of songs I did note included the title track — which reminds me of the previously mentioned “Rock & Roll Mountain Troll” — and “Annie Oakley”, which kinda sounds like The Magic Numbers, without all the harmonies.

To hear more of Miniature Tigers, visit their MySpace page.

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September 19, 2010

43 – Zola Jesus

Filed under: Los Angeles, Wisconsin, Z — assman41 @ 12:01 am

As I was driving out of Seattle a few weeks ago, bound for a brewpub in Tacoma, I had the radio in my rental car tuned to KEXP — which, other than “The End”, is really the only station Seattlites should ever listen to.

Anyways, as I was peering at the Space Needle in my rearview mirror, a song came on the radio that was so dark and haunting, I couldn’t help but become transfixed by it.

I had to wait a few more songs before the DJ came on and alerted me that the track was “I Can’t Stand” by Zola Jesus.

Naturally, one of the first things I did when I returned home from my vacation was look up this mysterious artist. Turns out it’s just one woman — Nika Roza Danilova — a Wisconsin-bred lass who relocated to Los Angeles and put her opera training to good use by channeling the darkest of old-school goth music.

She reminded me of a few artists from the ’80s. At first, I thought she sounded like the Cocteau Twins on crack — or, more correctly, depressants — but, perhaps a more apt comparison would be Siouxsie and the Banshees.

A contemporary counterpart would be The XX, but a lot darker and more gothic. Ironically enough, she will be opening for the “female chromosomes” on a tour of the U.S. this fall.

Zola Jesus put out a lot of music the past couple years, including a couple singles, three EPs, a split LP with Burial Hex and a trio of full-length albums. The last of which, Stridulum II, builds on a similarly named EP and includes several strong tracks, including the aforementioned “I Can’t Stand”, the opener, “Night”, and “Sea Talk”.

For more songs and info, check out her MySpace page and official website. There are also a few tracks available for free download at RCRD LBL.

September 12, 2010

42 – Light For Fire

Filed under: L, Portland — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I recently returned from a vacation that included stops in St. Louis, Portland and Seattle. Any indie fan worth his or her salt knows that those last two cities have some of the biggest music scenes going right now. And I made sure to absorb a little of that mojo during my stay.

It was actually my second trip to the Pacific Northwest. During my first jaunt, I discovered one of my all-time favorite albums — Elf Power’s Back To the Web. I picked up several new CDs on this trip, but toward the end of my stay in Portland, I realized I’d never seen any live music in the PacNW.

I decided to rectify that, and chose the Doug Fir Lounge as the venue for my Rose City baptism.

The night I was there, the headlining act was Pete International Airport, a side project of one of the members of Portland’s very own Dandy Warhols.

The group sounded solid on MySpace, but I have no idea how it sounds live, because I was too tired to stick around for the final act. But that was OK, because I’d already seen a band worthy of the price of admission.

When I walked down the stairs to the faux mountain lodge-looking joint, I was immediately greeted by a band that sounded like it could’ve easily been the main draw.

That group was Light For Fire, an indie act based out of Portland. On stage, they’re a five-piece, but at their heart, they comprise two main members — vocalist J. Nicholas Allard and Jeremy Sherrer on drums — and three other backing members.

Allard and Sherrer were previously in more of an indie-rock/pop group, The Village Green, which took its name from a Kinks album.

Their current incarnation is very much an indie-rock/folk venture. Vocally, nearly every song on their self-titled debut conjures up memories of Conor Oberst. Some that stand out in this regard are “Where I Was Born”, “NY (By the Hand)” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes”.

But there are a few tracks that take a lot of influence from Spoon — such as “The Letters” and “Green Life”.

I was gonna list a song of each variety, but WordPress is being a bitch, so you’ll have to head to their MySpace page, where you can hear six different songs, including an unreleased track, plus a demo.

Judging from their blog, the band is still in its infancy. It’s unsigned and self-produced the album, of which I apparently received a very early copy.

The group supposedly will be touring soon, so you should check it out. Even if you sleep through the headliner, at least you know the opening act will be solid.

September 5, 2010

41 – Hey Marseilles

Filed under: H, Seattle — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Upon my first listen of Hey Marseilles’ debut album, To Travels & Trunks, my initial thought was that it sounded like an Irish band covering The Decemberists.

As it turns out, the band is from Seattle. So, basically, they’re a Seattle band with a French-sounding name pretending to be an Irish band pretending to be a Portland band pretending to be a group of turn-of-the-century sea-faring knaves.

OK, so maybe that’s not the most accurate interpretation. But, to me, they do seem to have two very distinct influences — The Decemberists and Irish music.

The band started slowly in 2006 when Nick Ward and Matt Bishop played together as students at the University of Washington. Eventually, they grew to seven members and released their aforementioned debut album in 2008.

While a huge hit in the Northwest, it’s taken awhile for Hey Marseilles to gain a wider audience. But eventually, the band earned enough praise to have the album re-released this year.

The disc starts and ends with instrumental tracks. So, the first real song, is the title track, which starts out immediately sounding like some Irish dirge before quickly transitioning into the indie folk that persists throughout the entire album.

The next track, “Cannonballs”, reminded me a little bit of The Avett Brothers’ “I And Love And You” — but just a little.

That was followed by the album’s catchiest song, “Rio”, which was my initial conduit into the band, via NPR’s Song of the Day. NPR’s Stephen Thompson described the song as “a worldly chamber-pop gem marked by a full-to-bursting, jauntily percussive sound in which seven people politely clamor to be heard.”

After the mostly instrumental “Cities” comes another string of solid songs, including “Someone To Love”, “Hold the Morning” and “You Will Do For Now”. Also in that mix is my other favorite from the album, “Calabasas”, which reminded me of something Great Lake Swimmers might’ve done.

Hey Marseilles – Calabasas

With any luck, Hey Marseilles will continue to develop a wider audience. In the meantime, check out their official website and MySpace page.

Interesting sidenote … I first heard about Hey Marseilles shortly before leaving on a vacation to Portland and Seattle last month. I didn’t see them out there, but I did discover several other new bands that I’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks. So, stay tuned.

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