Infinite Shuffle

August 27, 2012

127 – U.S. Royalty

Filed under: U, Washington D.C. — assman41 @ 12:39 am

It’s interesting how much track sequencing can influence one’s appreciation of individual songs on an album.

Organizing tracks is a lot like setting a lineup in baseball. You really want a good song at the beginning to set the table and get a listener pumped up for what’s to come. Then you eventually move into the heart of the album where all the best songs are. And then, if there’s any filler, it’s thrown in toward the end.

And just like a baseball team, the strength of some songs can have a positive impact on the ones that follow.

Case in point, Mirrors, the 2011 debut from U.S. Royalty. While the D.C.-based quartet didn’t necessarily start its album off strong, tracks 3-6 sustain the disc and make the whole thing a worthwhile listen.

The opener, “The Mirror”, is just a short intro track that’s not bad but not anything special. It’s followed by possibly the worst track, “Hollywood Hollows”, a bluesy rock number that falls short of whatever pinnacle it’s trying to reach.

Then come the heavy hitters. “Monte Carlo” sounds like VHS or Beta or some other indie-electro band trying to cover Fleetwood Mac. It could be the standout track on a lot of albums, just not this one.

That honor belongs to track 4, the cleanup hitter, “Equestrian”. I can’t place who it sounds like, and maybe that’s because it’s similar to several bands, but this song is the big single on this album for good reason. It’s the type of song that should be getting loads of radio play, but sadly isn’t.

Next up is “Vacation Vacation”, which is definitely a solid song in its own right. But its value is bumped up a notch because the listener is already on a higher level after hearing the previous two songs.

Also riding the wave of momentum is “Old Flames”, another slower song that is pretty good, but sounds even better because, by this point, you’ve already been sold on the band.

The rest of the album is solid filler — not great, not horrible — with a slight uptick at the end in the form of “Voice Memo”.

But five noteworthy songs out of 10 isn’t too shabby for a band that few people have ever heard of.

And the boys are already working on a follow-up disc.

August 19, 2012

126 – Suckers

Filed under: Brooklyn, S — assman41 @ 4:11 pm

As many great stories do, this one begins in a bar.

Shortly after seeing a Destroyer show in Chicago in late June, I was sitting with my friend at The Dark Horse in Wrigleyville, when the bartender started playing a mix of indie songs on Spotify.

As we all discussed various bands and concerts we’d enjoyed, one of the songs caught my ear. After plugging it into Shazam, I discovered it was “Figure It Out” by Suckers. I’d never heard of the band, but the bartender noted that they were pretty good, so I stuck that in the back of my mind for future use.

Fast-forward a bit, and, after listening to the band’s new album, Candy Salad, more than a handful of times, I’m confident that it will be among my favorites at the end of the year.

The first thing you notice when listening to the Brooklyn band’s two-LP catalog is how much its sound varies from track to track and album to album. While the 2010 debut full-length, Wild Smile, was something of a mishmash of influences — including most prominently Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire — the follow-up is much tighter and melodic.

On several tracks, lead singer Quinn Walker’s voice conjures up thoughts of Gruff Rhys, frontman for Super Furry Animals and Neon Neon. On a few other tracks, it almost sounds like the band employed the services of TV On the Radio vocalist and fellow Brooklynite Tunde Adebimpe.

The bulk of the songs on Candy Salad are rather catchy, as the other two band members join the fray vocally while also churning out some “psychotropic hooks.”

In addition to the above two songs, other standout tracks include “Bricks To the Bones”, “Leave the Light On”, “Going Nowhere”, “Charmaine”, “Lydia” and “Roses”.

Sidenote: It was actually while searching for Candy Salad that I discovered Plixid.com. So, bonus points for that.

August 14, 2012

125 – Django Django

Filed under: D, England, Scotland — assman41 @ 2:23 am

If you and I have ever had discussed music for any period of time, chances are that I came off as a pretentious, know-it-all indie snob. I don’t mean to act like such a prick, but I tend to be pretty passionate about the music that I love, and the snark just kinda happens.

I’m well aware that my knowledge of music — and musicianship — is very limited, and my taste usually doesn’t jive with that of most people I encounter. As for this blog, one of my main missions is to share good, new (or newish) bands with anyone who happens to stumble upon the site.

And occasionally, I’m willing to put aside my feelings and write about a band that I’m not necessarily keen on but think others with similar tastes might enjoy.

And that brings me to Django Django.

The above track is the first single off the self-titled debut from this Edinburgh-bred, London-based quartet. Defying all labels and belying any influences, these lads mix electro, psychedelia, tribal percussion and a whole host of other sonic blurs into a wall of sound that is definitely an acquired taste.

I first discovered the group a month or so ago via And Pluck Your Strings. The Aussie-based blogger considered the album to be among the best of the year thus far.

Obviously, I don’t concur. But you can be the judge.

August 7, 2012

My new favorite website: Plixid.com

Filed under: A, B, F, H, T, W — assman41 @ 4:26 am

The last few months, it’s been difficult to find reliable websites to download music for free. The old standbys, such as MegaUpload, MediaFire and FileTube, have either been shut down by the government or simply don’t return any worthwhile results.

Rather than download RAR and ZIP files, I’d been forced go the torrent route and hope that Vuze would have the albums I was looking for. But that’s generally hit or miss.

But a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon my savior — Plixid.com. Not only does this site provide reliable links to albums, it’s also become an invaluable source for discovering new music.

The site adds one album every 15 minutes. They cover numerous genres and include a lot of new stuff — but there’s also plenty of old albums.

Instead of sifting through everything, I stick to the Indie/Post-Rock/Post-Punk feed and have already found numerous gems. The highlight so far was The Darlingtons, who I featured in last week’s post. But there’s been enough good stuff to keep me busy.

Here are the standouts from the past few weeks:

Air Traffic Controller

Immediately at the start of “Hurry Hurry”, the opening track the album, Nordo, I figured Air Traffic Controller had to be a side project for one of the dudes from They Might Be Giants. You cannot listen to that song and think of TMBG’s “Birdhouse In Your Soul”.

But as the album plays on, the similarities die down and are replaced with some rather catchy tunes. But in the way that one fan’s “catchy” is another fan’s “annoying.”

With some quirky songs about “Field of Dreams” and “Star Wars”, this group keeps things light while still churning out some solid tunes.

Heavenly Beat

When he decided to try his hand at the whole solo thing, John Pena decided not to stray too far from his bread and butter.

Pena has taken the electro-dream pop he helped create as the bassist for Beach Fossils and jazzed it up, infusing it with a new level of complexity.

The songs on the recently released Talent are the kind of dream pop catnip that could lull someone to sleep. But there is also a whole other layer of electro-pop that makes the music more engaging. It’s this dichotomy that makes every track so enjoyable.

Factories

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be humming “It’ll Be Alright” for at least a couple of days after your first hear it via Factories’ debut album, Together.

The second track on the disc, this song is a perfect example of the heights this band can reach when its lyrics live up to the standard set forth by the sonic electro beats that permeate throughout.

The rest of the album is pretty solid, with such notable songs as “Canada”, “Calypso”, “Kamikaze”, “Pressure”, “No One Noticed Me But You” and the title track.

Brainstorm

Here’s one reason you may feel a little apprehensive using Plixid.com. Apparently, Heat Waves, the debut full-length release from Brainstorm, isn’t officially out until Oct. 2. Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying it for the past couple of weeks.

Oh well. I’m glad I was able to hear it early. The album is definitely solid, filled with catchy indie rock-pop ditties. But that description does not do these songs justice.

This Portland trio has an intoxicating mix of influences that work so well together — kinda like Vampire Weekend, except the two bands really don’t sound anything alike.

Check out a few of their videos here. 

Westkust

If you prefer your shoegaze with plenty of fuzzy instrumentation, check out Westkust. Their EP, Junk, is so entrancing.

Trespassers William

The indie gods giveth, and the indie gods taketh away.

Shortly after downloading a few tracks by the group, Trespassers William, I’ve come to find out that they are disbanding. The September release of Cast, a collection of B-sides and rarities, will be the final output of the Seattle group.

After three full-length albums and two EPs, the group’s two main members — Anna-Lynne Williams and Matt Brown — have decided to focus on their solo projects.

From what little I’ve heard of the group’s music, I know that it will surely be missed.

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