Infinite Shuffle

February 27, 2011

63 – Gospel Claws

Filed under: G, Tempe Ariz. — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Following last week’s NPR-themed post, I bring you another band I discovered through the All Songs Considered podcast.

Gospel Claws is a five-piece indie rock group from Tempe, Ariz., formed by Joel Marquard, the founder of the equally impressive Dear and the Headlights.

He left that band in 2007 due to its heavy touring schedule, but it didn’t take long for Marquard to find a new musical outlet. Gospel Claws formed later that year and they released a self-titled EP in 2008, followed by their first full-length album, C-L-A-W-S, late last year.

From the opening track, the sizzling single “Walk Me Down”, Gospel Claws channel The Walkmen and Cold War Kids into some solid indie rockin’ goodness.

Other than Marquard’s vocals, which call to mind those of Cold War Kids singer Nathan Willett, the 11 tracks on this album all have their own feel. From a retro-fitted ’50s-style love song (“Stars In My Heart”) to an incredibly lo-fi tune that channels Appalachia (“Somebody Stole My Heart”) to a really slowed-down surfer-rock ditty (“Need For Speed”), the band keeps you guessing at every turn.

Gospel Claws – Need For Speed

In addition to the noted Cold War Kids and Walkmen comparisons, you can also hear something reminiscent of Okkervil River on tracks such as “Baby, I’ll Take You Home” and “La Pequeca”.

Gospel Claws – La Pequeca

Gospel Claws has opened for such bands as Wild Nothing, Abe Vigoda, Cotton Jones, No Age, Plants and Animals and Portugal. The Man. They’ll be hitting the festival circuit this year, including stops at Coachella and SXSW, where I hope to catch them in a few weeks.

For your listening pleasure, you can find 11 tracks — including some older stuff — on their MySpace page. And over on their official website, you’ll be greeted by tons of news updates, plenty of videos and other assorted goodies

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February 20, 2011

NPR threeplay

Filed under: A, Austin, Chicago, O, Pasadena Calif., S — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I was all set to resume writing my usual full-length band posts this week, but then I started listening to a bunch of stuff I’d found through NPR’s various outlets, and I decided I just had to share the wealth.

I have relayed, many a time on this blog, my affinity for NPR’s music feeds — whether it be the All Songs Considered podcast or the Song of the Day e-mail — and both of those contributed to my discovering the about-to-be-discussed bands. In fact, NPR was directly responsible for the creation of one of these groups.

Oh No Oh My

I originally set out to do a full post exclusively on this four-piece from Austin. But then I decided I didn’t have enough to say about them to warrant a lengthy review.

That’s not to say Oh No Oh My isn’t any good. Just the opposite in fact. These guys have been around since 2004, and in that time have honed their sound into some solid indie/pop/folk that is quite pleasing to the ears.

According to their Wikipedia page, all the members can play at least three instruments, and, in most cases, many more.

Despite being around for a while, they just released their second full-length album, People Problems, last month. It’s full of songs that were made for chilling out and occasionally bobbing your head to.

Several of the songs conjure up memories of Ben Folds Five, especially “There Will Be Bones”, “So I Took You” and “Brains”, which is the song that I first heard via NPR’s Song of the Day.

But my favorite track, “You Were Right”, doesn’t really provide a good comparison. It’s just a really tune.

Oh No Oh My – You Were Right

Apex Manor

If it wasn’t for a post by Carrie Brownstein on NPR’s Monitor Mix blog, then Apex Manor may have never come into existence.

In a post on a random Friday in late 2009, Brownstein called on musicians to write and record a song over the weekend.

One artist who answered that call to arms was Ross Flournoy, former frontman of since-disbanded The Broken West. He recorded the song “Under the Gun” and sent it in. Suddenly inspired, Flournoy wrote two dozen more songs.

Fast-forward to just a few weeks ago when Flournoy and thee new bandmates, under the moniker Apex Manor, released the 10-track disc, The Year of Magical Drinking — the title being an overt allusion to the Joan Didion book The Year of Magical Thinking.

I just heard the whole backstory on a recent All Songs Considered podcast, which included the album’s opening track, “Southern Decline”, my favorite on the disc.

Not knowing much of anything about The Broken West, I can’t really compare or contrast the two bands. What I can say is that the Pasadena-based Apex Manor put out solid, vocals-driven indie-folk/pop.

Besides the opener, my other favorite track is “Burn Me Alive”. Half of the instrumentation reminds me of The XX, but with a whole other layer added.

Apex Manor – Burn Me Alive

Other songs that stood out were “The Party Line”, “Teenage Blood”, “Holy Roller”, and “Coming To”.

Here’s the song that got the whole ball rolling.

Apex Manor – Under the Gun

Smith Westerns

Unlike the above two bands, Smith Westerns’ musical roots don’t run quite as deep. The quartet of college-aged kids from Chicago started making music together as high schoolers in 2007. And like a lot of high school bands, their music was pretty awful.

Eventually, they put out their self-titled debut in June 2009. It was heavily influenced by Nuggets-style garage and psychedelia. When I heard the album, I was immediately turned off.

But then I heard a track from their recently released follow-up album, Dye It Blonde, on another All Songs Considered podcast.

Listening to the album, it’s clear that they’re still stuck in the ’60s and ’70s, but they’ve moved on to a different set of influences. Practically every one of the 10 tracks on the disc sound like a mix between The Beatles and ’70s radio rock.

Smith Westerns – All Die Young

It was as if, after splitting up, the Fab Four had secretly joined forces with Nazareth and put out an album together. In fact, the whole time I was listening to it, I kept thinking these songs would’ve been great on the Dazed and Confused soundtrack.

There weren’t necessarily a lot of standout tracks — just a lot of pretty good ones. Here’s my personal favorite.

Smith Westerns – Only One

February 13, 2011

Random threeplay

Filed under: Aliso Viejo Calif., B, C, Cleveland, Denmark, N — assman41 @ 4:52 pm

Cloud Nothings

It’s been a whirlwind rise to semi-stardom for Dylan Baldi (aka Cloud Nothings). A little more than a year ago, he was an 18-year-old sitting in his parents’ basement in Cleveland, making songs with nothing besides a laptop and a microphone.

Since then, he signed to Carpark Records, which released a compilation of his various tracks called the Turning On EP. And just a few weeks ago, a more properly produced, self-titled, full-length album dropped.

In the interim, he became a darling of the blogosphere and formed a band that played with such acts as Titus Andronicus, Best Coast, Wavves, Real Estate, Woods, Parts & Labor and Kurt Vile.

The songs on the EP are loaded with the obvious lo-fi, fuzzy, garage-rock sound. The best ones are the title track and “Hey Cool Kid”.

Cloud Nothings – Hey Cool Kid

But on the LP, which was produced by Baltimore-based Chester Gwazda (Dan Deacon, Future Islands), the tracks become tighter and crisper. And the sound develops something of a surfer-punk ethos. It kinda reminded me of what Best Coast would sound like with a male lead vocalist.

Cloud Nothings – Should Have

Check out the band’s MySpace page, where you will find seven tracks to listen to.

Bon Voyage

Based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., the husband-wife duo of Jason and Julie Martin have been making music together for more than 15 years.

Bon Voyage began as a side project for Jason, a member of Starflyer 59, and Julie, the former lead singer of Havalina. They put out a couple of 7-inch records in the mid-’90s then a self-titled LP in 1998. Eventually, they followed that with The Right Amount in 2002.

Then they went on their longest hiatus to date before dropping their third full-length release, Lies, in 2008.

The music on Lies is your basic shoegaze/synth-pop with Julie providing the vocals and Jason doing everything else. There are several solid tracks, including the opener, “Monster”, “Birthday” and “Wake Up, Make Up”.

Bon Voyage – Monster

They also do a decent cover of The Smiths’ “Girlfriend In a Coma”.

Northern Portrait

Speaking of Morrissey and the boys, if you’re still waiting for them to get back together it’ll probably be awhile. In the mean time you could always go check out Northern Portrait.

There’s very little you need to know about this group other than the fact that it is composed of a trio of Danish dudes who sound exactly like The Smiths.

Seriously. Pick any of the 10 songs on the band’s debut full-length release, 2010’s Criminal Art Lovers.

Northern Portrait – Life Returns To Normal

Northern Portrait – What Happens Next?

It’s a solid album, but it’s difficult to get past the feeling that you’re listening to a tribute band.

February 6, 2011

62 – Annuals

Filed under: A, Raleigh NC — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Of all the different ways I’ve discovered new music, the most bittersweet is when I find a band on my iPod that I either didn’t know was there or simply forgot existed.

It’s great to find good music to listen to, but it’s kinda disappointing to think I easily could’ve been listening to it for the past couple of years.

I recently went to iTunes and, not having anything specific I wanted to listen to, just sorted the songs by “Play Count” and found something that had zero listens.

And that is the story of how I became reacquainted with the band Annuals.

I listened to the group’s debut album, 2006’s Be He Me, and immediately downloaded its next two discs.

It’s hard to really pinpoint the band’s sound. It’s as if the six-piece from Raleigh, N.C., compiled all the best elements from a bunch of popular indie groups, yet it never seems derivative. It melds everything together into a rich, smooth cacophony that is pleasurable to the ear.

Annuals – Complete or Completing

Some of the bands the music conjured up include Modest Mouse, Mutemath, Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional, Pinback and Death Cab for Cutie.

Reading the customer reviews on Amazon of Annuals’ various albums, there are a lot of wide-ranging influences listed, including: Beach Boys, The Cure, U2, Arcade Fire, Animal Collective, Broken Social Scene, Neutral Milk Hotel and Badly Drawn Boy.

When listening to Annuals’ three full-length releases consecutively, you do notice a transition between each album. On 2008’s Such Fun, they take their folk-pop sound and infuse it with some electronica. Then on 2010’s Count the Rings, they speed things up and add more layers to make things even more radio-friendly.

The latest album is probably their best. They really seem to be putting things together and coming into their own on these 11 tracks. While the first two releases didn’t really have any standout songs, Count the Rings has several worthy of the repeat button.

In fact, it looks like the band hit the ole repeat button a few times itself, as three songs on the most recent album — “Hot Night Hounds”, “Springtime” and “Hardwood Floor” — all appeared on Such Fun originally.

Annuals – Hot Night Hounds

It’s difficult to find out any new information on the band since its second release. In fact, I only knew about the latest album because it was mentioned on the group’s Wikipedia page. Count the Rings is listed as an import on Amazon, and iTunes doesn’t even offer it.

The band’s official URL redirects you to its MySpace page. There’s no current tour information, but you can listen to a few songs there.

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