Infinite Shuffle

December 25, 2011

96 – The Horrors

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

What better time to post a review about a band named The Horrors than on Christmas Day? The contrast is delectable.

Anyways, I had never even heard of The Horrors until a couple of weeks ago when I started scouring best-of-the-year lists. The English five-piece had received a lot of nods for their third full-length release, Skying.

I’d noted it on several lists, but didn’t pay much attention until I read what Under the Radar magazine had to say after ranking it the year’s No. 5 album:

After the Sonics-worship of their debut and post-punk experiments of its follow-up, England’s The Horrors look back to the melodic rush of such ’80s bands as Simple Minds for Skying. Whether they settle into this sound remains to be seen, but for now they seem to have found a stylistic coat that fits just right.

That description piqued my interest, so I set forth listening to their entire catalog, including 2007’s Strange House and 2009’s Primary Colours.

I don’t know The Sonics’ sound well enough to compare the debut album. All I can say about it is that it was a nearly unbearable mishmash of industrial metal/punk garbage. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who dug that sound, but not me.

The sophomore disc was a welcomed departure from that earlier nonsense. While still rough around the edges, The Horrors start to find their niche in the post-punk genre. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve sworn this album came out in 1983, what with its strong early goth influences.

On the latest album, we find the boys sticking to the post-punk sound, but refining things and adding some slightly poppier inflection. While I certainly wouldn’t rank it among the best albums of the year, it does have its moments.

Some of the stronger tracks include “I Can See Through You”, “Dive In”, “Moving Further Away” and “Still Life”.

December 18, 2011

95 – An Horse

Filed under: A, Australia, H — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I had high hopes when I downloaded Walls, this year’s sophomore release from the Australian boy-girl duo An Horse. I’d had a positive reaction to their 2008 debut, Rearrange Beds, and expected for more of the same.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I got. The two albums sound nearly identical. Then I went back and listened to the original and realized that, despite having a really great sound, every song was pretty much a continuation of the last.

Judging by their looks, the Australian duo seems like a blonder version of Matt & Kim. And, at times, the music channels their Brooklyn contemporaries — just on a softer, more toned-down level.

Vocally, Kate Cooper sounds like a relaxed version of Shirley Manson. Paired with Damon Cox, they’re somewhat reminiscent of Tegan & Sara, the group that “discovered” them.

This is why it’s difficult to rag on them. Each song, taken on its own merit, is pretty catchy indie-pop. But when you string together 10-12 of them on an album, it can seem pretty repetitive.

Maybe I’m being too superficial. Perhaps someone with a more refined ear can detect nuance in their tunes.

Feel free to check out their website or MySpace page and decide for yourself. Just don’t be surprised if you start to get the feeling that you’re listening to the same song on repeat.

P.S. When you see a picture of them, just remember that the short one really is a woman.

December 11, 2011

94 – Young the Giant

Filed under: Irvine Calif., Y — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I had heard of Young the Giant only in name by the time one of my friends gave me his endorsement of the band. In fact, he had dug the group’s self-titled debut so much, that he had already bought a ticket for their Chicago show in late February.

Normally, that might prompt me to immediately check out what I was missing. But this friend‘s musical tastes are slightly askew from mine. A lot of times, he gets really into bands that I only have a passing interest in — and vice versa.

If one was to chart our musical interests, it would look something like a pair of sine waves, a quarter-cycle out of phase. Kinda like this.

Eventually, I listened to one of Young the Giant’s songs — “Cough Syrup” — on the radio and liked what I heard.

Upon downloading the full album, I was pleasantly surprised by the collection of tunes. The five-piece from Irvine, Calif., churns out music as eclectic as the ethnic backgrounds of its members — Indian, Persian, British and French-Canadian among them.

Built on a foundation of melodic indie rock, the band adds layers of pop and electro to varying degrees. It also does a good job of mixing tempos throughout the album.

Some of the standout tracks include “Apartment”, “God Made Man”, “Garands” and “Guns Out”, the slow, somewhat dreamy closer.

On a couple of tracks — “St. Walker” and, to a lesser extent, “I Got” — I couldn’t help but think of Fall Out Boy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But my favorite track was definitely “My Body”.

After listening to the album a few times, I think I could be talked into joining my friend at the concert in a few months.

December 7, 2011

SXSW 2012: An early Christmas present

Filed under: Austin, SXSW — assman41 @ 2:44 am

As I was just searching for some tour listings for a couple of bands I’m interested in seeing, I happened upon this beautiful link — the list of all the bands that have so far been officially invited as showcase artists for SXSW 2012.

Oh, happy day.

The festival is still a little more than three months away, but I couldn’t help but get excited as I perused that lengthy list.

Of all the bands there, these are the ones I spotted that I’m particularly looking forward to:

Big Scary (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
Class Actress (Brooklyn NY)
Cloud Nothings (Cleveland OH)
Delay Trees (Helsinki FINLAND)
The Ettes (Nashville TN)
Jonquil (Oxford UK-ENGLAND)
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (Waitsfield VT)
VHS or Beta (Brooklyn NY)
We Barbarians (Brooklyn NY)

Choir of Young Believers (Copenhagen DENMARK)
PUJOL (Nashville TN)

Alberta Cross (Los Angeles CA)
Beach Fossils (Brooklyn NY)
The Big Pink (London UK-ENGLAND)
Built to Spill (Boise ID)
Jonny Corndawg (Brooklyn NY)
Cosmo Jarvis (Plymouth UK-ENGLAND)
Cotton Jones (Cumberland MD)
Delta Spirit (Long Beach CA)
Thomas Dolby (Suffolk UK-ENGLAND)
Great Lake Swimmers (Toronto CANADA)
Heartless Bastards (Cincinnati OH)
Hellogoodbye (Long Beach CA)
Horse Feathers (Portland OR)
Sarah Jaffe (Denton TX)
The Magnetic Fields (New York NY)
Anya Marina (Portland OR)
David Mayfield Parade (Nashville TN)
Metric (Toronto CANADA)
Neon Trees (Provo UT)
Ringo Deathstarr (Austin TX)
Scars On 45 (Leeds UK-ENGLAND)
The Seedy Seeds (Cincinnati OH)
Shiny Toy Guns (Shawnee OK)
Stars (Montreal CANADA)
Tammar (Bloomington IN)
Tea Leaf Green (San Francisco CA)
J Roddy Walston And The Business (Baltimore MD)
The War On Drugs (Philadelphia PA)
Wussy (Cincinnati OH)

December 5, 2011

93 – The Horrible Crowes

Filed under: H, New Jersey — assman41 @ 7:04 pm

The biggest concern when a lead singer of a popular band decides to form a side project is that it will sound too similar to the original. It’s understandable, considering that the main vocals often leave the most lasting impression on listeners.

Sometimes, singers’ second acts can sound totally different from the precursor, but more often it’s too difficult a feat to pull off.

Brian Fallon, founder of The Gaslight Anthem, recently took the plunge and landed somewhere in between. For the most part, his new project, The Horrible Crowes, sounds like a very toned-down version of his main gig. But it’s different enough to be more enjoyable than frustrating.

Formed about a year ago as a duo with guitar tech Ian Perkins, The Crowes put out their first album, Elsie, in September to solid reviews. Its 12 tracks go by quickly with a run time of about 45 minutes, so it’s natural to want to listen to the album a few times on repeat.

It’s mostly filled with slow-burning songs of lost love and the like. Unsurprisingly, the best tracks — “Behold the Hurricane” and “Ladykiller” — are the ones that sound the closest to Gaslight B-sides. But on this album, Fallon occasionally trades his Bruce Springsteen mimicry for Tom Waits-style grumbling.

The album is definitely a must-have for Gaslight loyalists, but it should also appeal to all indie rock fans alike.

December 3, 2011

92 – Tammar

Filed under: Bloomington Ind., T — assman41 @ 3:32 pm

I’ve always said that my biggest hang-up with heavy metal is the fact that I can’t understand any of the lyrics. If I don’t have something to sing, or hum, along to, then it’s just not gonna do it for me.

That’s why it’s interesting that I immediately fell in love with the latest album from Tammar. Even though I couldn’t understand a word that lead singer Dave Walter was saying, I could not help but bob my head to all seven of the tracks on Visits.

I should note that the band is nowhere near the heavy metal genre. The five-piece, which hails from the college town of Bloomington, Ind. — just a few hours south of me — churns out a hybrid synth/psychedelic/post-punk.

If that description seemed confusing, just listen to a track, and come up with a better label.

More than one online reviewer compared the band’s sound to 1970s krautrock. And NPR offered a more vivid description in its Song of the Day post.

The music is versatile enough that you could probably listen to it in any setting — while doing the dishes, driving to work or making out with your significant other.

Tammar put out a self-titled EP in 2008 and a live album, I Live Here Now, in 2009, but Visits, which came out this past October, is their first studio release. You can find more songs on their MySpace page and can download a few tracks for free at their Bandcamp page.

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