Infinite Shuffle

November 25, 2012

138 – The Sun Parade

Filed under: Northampton Mass., S — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Everyone wants to discover the next ground-breaking band that totally changes the music landscape for years to come. Unfortunately, those acts don’t pop up very often.

Instead, you usually come across bands that are putting out music that sounds a lot like the rest of your iTunes library. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As long as said band brings a slightly different vibe to the table, it has a shot at making it into your rotation.

So, if you’re a fan of indie-rock/folk/pop — and you probably are if you’re reading this blog — one such band that might pique your interest is The Sun Parade.

Treading on ground already covered by bands such as The Lumineers, Wilco and Rural Alberta Advantage, this duo/quartet from Northampton, Mass., still manages to grab listeners with an eclectic mix of tunes.

On Yossis, their debut full-length release from earlier this year, the tandem of Chris Jennings and Jefferson Lewis — they’re often joined by bassist Jacob Rosazza and drummer Colin Jalbert — use a range of instruments to produce plenty of catchy beats, but it’s the vocals that reel you in.

The song, “Nothing Lasts Forever” sounds like Wilco attempting to channel The Beatles. Another track, “Chicago”, calls to mind Jeff Tweedy’s crew, but that might be because of the title more than anything.

“Pickin My Pockets” and “Lies” both sound like they could have been found on The Lumineers’ recent album. Other strong tracks include  “Need You By My Side”, “Bottom of the Sea” and “Oh No”.

November 21, 2012

Way-back Wednesdays I

Filed under: Way-back Wednesdays — assman41 @ 12:01 am

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me a brief email, letting me know that he’d recently gained an affinity for ’80s pop music and that he was officially taking back every disparaging word he’d ever said about the genre.

As a self-described ’80s music aficionado — at least for someone in my age range — I’ve had plenty of insults flung in my direction. But that just goes with the territory when you love a genre that is so easily derided.

Upon hearing of my friend’s interest in ’80s music, I sent him a link to an old post on some of my favorite songs from the era. I was taken aback when he said he’d never heard of the band Big Country. It was at that point that I decided I needed to school him on one of the most eclectic and fun eras in pop music.

So, from time to time — hopefully, at least once a month — I shall post a video playlist of various songs from the ’80s, with a few early ’90s tunes mixed in occasionally. These are by no means the absolute best of the best. Mostly, it’ll just be a hodgepodge of songs that pop into my head. And, as time goes on, I’ll look to include more obscure tracks.

Now, without further ado, here are 20 songs that you should hear on any ’80s station worth its salt.

The videos were thrown together in a stream-of-consciousness manner. Here’s the playlist in alphabetical order.

  • Baltimora – “Tarzan Boy”
  • Toni Basil – “Mickey”
  • Blondie – “Dreaming”
  • Depeche Mode – “Enjoy the Silence” *
  • Dream Academy – “Life In a Northern Town”
  • Frankie Goes To Hollywood – “Relax”
  • Peter Gabriel – “In Your Eyes”
  • George Harrison – “Got My Mind Set On You”
  • Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – “The Message”
  • The Hooters – “And We Danced”
  • Bruce Hornsby & The Range – “The Way It Is”
  • Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – “Bad Reputation”
  • Limahl – “Neverending Story”
  • Mr. Mister – “Kyrie”
  • Men Without Hats – “The Safety Dance”
  • Mike + The Mechanics – “All I Need Is a Miracle”
  • Peter Murphy – “Cuts You Up”
  • Paul Simon – “You Can Call Me Al”
  • ‘Til Tuesday – “Voices Carry”
  • Twisted Sister – “I Wanna Rock”

* This was recorded in 1989 and released in early 1990.

November 18, 2012

137 – The Dentals

Filed under: D, Switzerland — assman41 @ 7:55 pm

“Listen to these words I sing. They don’t even mean a thing. Nobody ever gives a shit. These melodies are the best in town.”

Those lyrics pretty much sum up the music of The Dentals, a not-so-new four-piece indie-pop/folk group from Lucerne, Switzerland.

Formed in 2002, it’s taken the boys a decade to put out their first full-length album. Listening to the songs, it’s clear that the delay wasn’t due to painstaking craftsmanship so much as it was general apathy.

That’s the first single from Tennessee, which was composed and written over the course of several months last year while the band shacked up in the sleepy town of Spring Hill, Tenn.

On the surface, the band plays straight-forward acoustic pop songs that are simple, catchy and fun. But a simple listen to the lyrics — which are very easy to decipher through the slow, almost storytelling rhythm of lead singer Fabio’s vocals — paint a picture of a group that likes to have a good time.

Planted squarely in the self-created genre of alco-pop, The Dentals like to write a lot about drinking beer and just generally being slackers. It was likely a nice fit during their early years as an indie-punk band.

Nowadays, it just adds an amusing dimension to their catchy tunes.

That song is the opening track, and, despite mentioning getting drunk, it really isn’t about beer. According to the band’s website, it’s about trying to get over an ex-girlfriend.

Speaking of lyrics, “I Am an Artist” is just a humorous ode to being a pretentious artist. “Devil In My Hand (Part 2)” makes fun of drinking light beer. And “I Love You Even More” has the Fabio talking about all the parts of a woman he loves, but especially a certain attribute: “There’s one thing I like more than the rest. It’s true, your nipples are the best.”

“Not Every Idiot Knows How To Drive a Car” and “I Am Well But You’re Paul Weller” are decent songs with longer than necessary titles, while “Mentally Retarded” is just a throwaway song.

The album’s closer, “B-side”, is slower and generally darker in tone, and it tells the listener that, even though there’s no point to life, that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun while we’re here.

They don’t have any shows currently booked, but The Dentals seem like the type of band that SXSW audiences would adore.

Just sayin’.

November 14, 2012

Plixid plethora No. 2

Filed under: Belgium, France, Sweden — assman41 @ 6:07 pm

I just downloaded a slew of new albums from Plixid.com. Here are my thoughts on some of them.

Lilly Wood and the Prick

The French duo of Nili Hadida and Benjamin Cotto formed Lilly Wood and the Prick in 2006 and have put out two albums — 2010’s Invincible Friends and this year’s The Fight.

I admittedly don’t know The Gossip’s catalog well at all, but Hadida’s vocals are reminiscent of that group’s front woman, Beth Ditto, particularly in the key of The Gossip’s “Standing In the Way of Control”.

The Fight opens strong with “Where I Want To Be (California)” and maintains a nice level throughout.

Here’s the band’s first single off its debut album.

Elvy

From the opening note of Elvy’s recent release, Misery Needs Company, it’s clear what the listener is in for — ukulele-powered indie-folk.

Thankfully, the ukulele is not at all overpowering and generally provides a nice foundation for Elvy’s soft lyrics.

As the album progresses, he starts to incorporate more piano, nowhere more masterfully than on the closer, “Light”.

As a sidenote, the song “Aging Love” reminded me of a Nirvana acoustic song — one from the MTV Unplugged album that I can’t quite place.

The album, which came out in June, is actually the second full-length release of the year by the Belgian singer/songwriter. He put out The Home and the World in March. Prior to that, he released three albums in a two-year period from January 2004 to January 2006.

All five can be found on his Bandcamp page.

Caviare Days

The Swedish sister act Caviare Days gets its name from a line in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. While their name derives from 1930s literature, their sound is far more modern and eclectic.

Starting with an indie rock base, Lina and Maja Westin infuse their music with equal parts electro and psychedelia and seem to touch on several other genres throughout their self-titled debut album.

“Fresh Tomatoes” sounds like something that might have come out of England or San Francisco in the late 1960s. Meanwhile, “High” is filled with horns that give it an almost gypsy rock feel. And “Shut the Door” is just straight-up garage rock.

Press Gang Metropol

The debut album from Press Gang Metropol reminds me of how all of the best post-punk bands from the ’80s and early ’90s probably would sound now if they tried to put out an album.

And with good reason, since three of the four members of this French band previously played together throughout the ’90s in the coldwave band Corpus Delicti, which reached cult status in their homeland after breaking up in 1996.

After going on to several solo and side projects, the three main cogs regrouped toward the end of the last decade and were joined by a fourth member. And they finally put out their first full-length disc this year.

At its best, Checkpoint, mixes the vocals of Psychedelic Furs with the signature guitar strains of Joy Division. On songs such as “Empire Square”, “Sound/Wave” and “Parade”, it’s conceivable that they were recorded 30 years ago.

However, the rest of the album is just filled with derivative tunes that wouldn’t have even been a B-side for one of those aforementioned iconic bands.

November 6, 2012

Electro Election Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Are you pumped up to pick a president? If not, maybe one of these songs will get your electro/electoral juices flowing.

All of these are great songs by artists that aren’t good enough to warrant a real post — kinda like most politicians out there.

And, while this next song really isn’t that great, the video should help you deal with any hanging chads you may encounter.

November 5, 2012

136 – Milo Greene

Filed under: Los Angeles, M — assman41 @ 3:00 am

One of the most underrated figures among all of the late-night talk show hosts has to be Carson Daly. Part of that is attributed to his time slot, but more of it is probably due to his formerly douchey public persona. However, since he rejiggered the format of his show several years ago, it’s easily become the hippest, most refreshing thing on late-night television.

The best element of “Last Call With Carson Daly” is the expertly shot concert videos that anchor each show. And it was on a recent episode that I got my first look at the band Milo Greene, whose performance of the song, “1957”, was featured. I had heard the song before on the All Songs Considered podcast and took note of it. But seeing a live version took my appreciation to a whole new level.

The song calls to mind Of Monsters and Men — but only in the male-female harmonies. It is nowhere near as bombastic as their Icelandic counterparts. That being said, the song is probably the fastest-paced track on the album.

For the most part, the group sticks to softer, more heartfelt tunes, filled with swaying harmonies and crescendoing percussion. For comparison’s sake, imagine how Wye Oak might sound if they had twice as many band members.

Speaking of the band’s makeup, it’s a five-piece that hails from Los Angeles — oh, and nobody is named Milo Greene. Besides the drummer, everyone else plays various instruments and shares vocal duties. That not only results in the great harmonies, but it also reduces the chances that any of the songs will sound too similar.

In addition to the aforementioned Icelanders, Milo Greene would fit nicely on a playlist that included Mumford & Sons, The Head and the Heart, The Lumineers, The Avett Brothers and Fleet Foxes.

On the band’s self-titled debut, which dropped in July, there are 13 tracks, but four of those run in the 30-90-second range — and a couple of those are more instrumental in nature. Of the more conventional tracks, there is no real filler. Besides the above two videos, other strong entries include “Take a Step”, “What’s the Matter” and the instrumental “Polaroid”.

November 2, 2012

135 – Cold War Kids

Filed under: C, Long Beach Calif. — assman41 @ 4:48 am

It happens all the time. A new band hits the scene with a really popular song and gets a lot of buzz behind its first album. By the time the next release drops, there isn’t necessarily another big hit that galvanises the fan base. The hype dies down and listeners move on to the next “it” band, paying little attention to future releases.

Often, that kind of procession is warranted, as bands only have a couple of really great songs in them. But, sometimes, bands end up improving, yet there’s no one around to notice.

That’s where Cold War Kids find themselves. They hit the ground running in October 2006 when they released their debut full-length, Robbers & Cowards. The album was highlighted by the big single, “Hang Me Up To Dry”.

There were some other decent songs on there, including “We Used To Vacation” and “Saint John”, but, for the most part, the band was a one-hit wonder. Part of it was due to its unique sound. Nathan Willett’s vocals are like nobody else’s, and they sound like they may come from a slightly masculine woman.

By the time the follow-up album, Loyalty to Loyalty, came out in 2008, the band’s juice had run out. And with only one notable track on the release — “Something Is Not Right With Me” — the band appeared to be destined for the clearance section on Amazon.com.

Then something interesting happened. The band put out a four-track EP, Behave Yourself, in early 2010. Clocking in at just under 15 minutes, there wasn’t much to the release — except that all of the songs were pretty decent, particularly the single, “Audience”, which easily ranks as one of the best songs in the band’s catalog.

Barely a year later, in January 2011, Cold War Kids put out their third full-length, Mine Is Yours. While it didn’t receive the same kind of buzz as previous releases, the album is easily the band’s best to date.

Led by the opening title track, the disc is filled with soulful, indie rock songs that have little of the abrasiveness of the band’s earlier output. The bulk of the songs here are very accessible and at least mildly catchy.

Other quality tracks include “Louder Than Ever”, “Finally Begin”, “Skip the Charades” and “Royal Blue”.

The album charted surprisingly well, which makes one wonder if there will be renewed buzz for the band when it inevitably releases another EP or full-length within the next year or so.

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