Infinite Shuffle

February 24, 2013

148 – Geographer

Filed under: G, San Francisco — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When a band drastically changes its sound from one album to the next, it runs the risk of abandoning fans along the way. But Geographer may have found the key to overcoming this problem.

They’re basically two completely different bands on their two full-length releases. And, while there’s sure to be some upheaval from the early loyalists, there’s also bound to be listeners like myself who are entranced by both stages of the metamorphosis.

In the beginning, there was Innocent Ghosts, the 2008 debut from the San Francisco trio. It’s filled with great indie-pop songs that are as catchy as they are melodious. Lead singer Michael Deni mixes his vocals beautifully throughout the record with a mysterious female singer. And it all melds well with the instrumentation of Deni (guitars, synthesizers), Nathan Biaz (cello, synths) and Brian Ostreicher (drums).

The standout tracks include “Can’t You Wait”, “Each Other’s Ghosts”, “Atmosphere”, “Wonderful” and “The Morning”.

Then, two years later, came the EP, Animal Shapes, which totally shifted the soundscape. Gone were the female harmonies, and in their stead was a huge influx of electronic flavor.

Suddenly, Geographer had gone from a really catchy indie-pop band to one of those indie-electro outfits that are more of an acquired taste. They’d basically become Yeasayer Lite.

But it turns out their songs are still accessible and not nearly as annoying as their Brooklyn counterparts. All six tracks on Animal Shapes are solid, with “Night Winds” taking top honors.

Geographer continued on this electronica course with the release of their second full-length album, 2012’s Myth. It’s not as strong top-to-bottom as the EP, but it definitely has some standout tracks, including “Shell Beach”, “Life of Crime” and a longer, better version of “Kites” than the one on the EP.

Geographer was recently in Chicago as the headliner for Family of the Year. I would’ve loved to have gone, but, alas, it was sold out by the time I became interested in it. Maybe next time.

The good news is they’re already back in the studio working on new songs.

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February 19, 2013

147 – Longwave

Filed under: L, Manhattan — assman41 @ 2:09 am

The priciest and most important purchase I’ve made so far in my life — besides a couple of vehicles — is my laptop. When I broke down a few years ago and decided to get a new one, I went all out and chose a MacBook, which cost me about $1,600.

I generally am not the type of person whose life revolves around material goods. But I have to admit, ever since I obtained this little guy in November 2008, it’s added a little bit of joy to each of my days.

And, while there are several reasons I love having it, the biggest change has been my improved music experience — in regards to listening, downloading, storing and any other facet you can think of.

I’m not going to continue rambling on about my computer. I only brought it up because I was recently reminded of the period when it first came into my possession. One of the first things I did was start searching for music and trying to build my iTunes library.

And one of the first songs that I ever put on there turned out to be a KEXP Song of the Day podcast that I could only listen to on the laptop. It was “No Direction” by Longwave. I hadn’t listened to said song in several years, but I recently saw the band listed among related artists to Film School, and my memories of the song and the laptop came rushing back.

So, more than four years since I first heard that song, I finally got around to listening to the rest of the band’s catalog. And, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

The band was formed in New York City in 1999 by guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Steve Schiltz. The quartet got its big break while playing at the Luna Lounge in the Lower East Side. It signed to the club owner’s record label and put out its debut, Endsongs, in 2000.

Despite there being no real standout tracks, the album was solid and eventually helped land the band an opening spot for such acts as The Strokes and The Vines. That in turn led to a record deal with RCA.

And in 2003 came Longwave’s major-label debut, The Strangest Things. This album was a notable step forward for the group as it continued to hone its sound. Several sources label the Longwave as a shoegaze or post-punk band. But their sound is more reminiscent of such alt-rock contemporaries as Jimmy Eat World and Nada Surf — and maybe even Filter at their poppiest.

The above video is one of the best tracks from the album, the opener, “Wake Me When It’s Over”. “Everywhere You Turn” is a close second, while “I Know It’s Coming Someday” is another solid entry.

Prior to heading to the recording studio for their next album, Longwave lost half of their roster with the departure of the bassist and drummer. They made do and, in 2005, put out There’s a Fire. The lineup change didn’t seem to have a huge impact, other than maybe adding a little more edge to the album.

The standout is the closing track, “Underneath You Know the Names”. Also strong are the title track, “Tell Me I’m Wrong” and “Fall On Every Whim”.

Not long after the album’s release, Sony (RCA’s parent company) merged with BMG, which resulted in Longwave leaving the label. That led the members to go on hiatus and try some side projects. Eventually, they got back together, signed with an indie label and released Secrets Are Sinister in 2008.

Once again, there are several strong tracks, including “Sirens In the Deep Sea”, “Satellites”, “The Devil and the Liar” and the aforementioned “No Direction”.

Considering the band’s loose footing at the time and the four-year span since its last release, it wouldn’t be a surprise if that was Longwave’s last hurrah. At least it was a good one.

February 13, 2013

Way-back Wednesdays III

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

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I bring you another installment of great songs from the ’80s. As opposed to the last edition, I put forth more effort to make sure I compiled a really good batch of tunes.

For some reason, the video playlist keeps skipping several songs, and I have no idea what’s causing that. So, if you want to make sure you get to see all 20 videos, just check the alphabetical list below and find the individual videos you missed.

Sorry.

  • ABC – “When Smokey Sings”
  • Crowded House – “Don’t Dream It’s Over”
  • Cutting Crew – “Any Colour”
  • DeBarge – “Rhythm of the Night”
  • Erasure – “Oh L’Amour”
  • Fine Young Cannibals – “She Drives Me Crazy”
  • A Flock of Seagulls – “Space Age Love Song”
  • Haircut 100 – “Love Plus One”
  • Corey Hart – “Never Surrender”
  • Don Henley – “The Boys of Summer”
  • Icicle Works – “Whisper To a Scream (Birds Fly)”
  • Johnny Hates Jazz – “Shattered Dreams”
  • Nu Shooz – “I Can’t Wait”
  • Psychedelic Furs – “Heartbreak Beat”
  • Split Enz – “I Got You”
  • The The – “This Is the Day”
  • UB40 – “Red Red Wine”
  • Ultravox – “Vienna”
  • When In Rome – “The Promise”
  • Yaz – “Situation” … the band is known as Yazoo outside of the U.S.

February 11, 2013

146 – Film School

Filed under: F, San Francisco — assman41 @ 3:23 am

The most obvious element of the shoegaze scene is the fuzzy, distorted lo-fi feel that covers just about every song in the genre. But an aspect that is just as important, if not often overlooked, is the poppiness.

According to spell-check, that’s not even a word. But it’s definitely a key ingredient to any good shoegazer song. Because without it, you’d just be left with something closer to metal or punk.

One band that seems to value that pop element more than most is Film School. The San Francisco-based quintet can certainly stare at its Chuck Taylors with the best of them, but it also knows how to churn out a catchy hook.

Lead singer Greg Bertens (aka Krayg Burton) formed the band in the late ’90s and has been its only constant ever since. With the help of members of the bands Fuck and Pavement, he put out Film School’s debut, Brilliant Career in 2001.

Bertens had an entirely new cast of characters alongside him by the time the band put out a self-titled release in 2006. The album is full of great, indie rock songs with slow pacing, some dreaminess to them and definite shoegaze and post-punk elements. Besides the above-linked “Breet”, other notable tracks are “Like You Know” and “11:11”.

It wasn’t until the release of Hideout the following year that Film School really turned the corner musically. And it’s no coincidence that this transition occurred after great upheaval in the band’s roster, when three members were replaced. The most notable addition was the band’s first female member, bassist Lorelei (Plotczyk) Meetze, whose vocal presence helped give the band a totally different dimension.

On Hideout, the musicianship seems much crisper than earlier offerings, and it translates into several more standout tracks. The opener, “Dear Me”, sets the stage for a livelier experience. It’s followed by such other strong entries as “Sick Hipster Nursed By Suicide Girl”, “Two Kinds”, “Go Down Together” and “Plots and Plans”.

Film School continued to build on their sound and, in 2010, produced their best album to date with Fission. There is no filler among the 12 tracks, and things once again start off strong with the opener, “Heart Full of Pentagons”. Other notable ditties are “Meet Around 10”, “Distant Life” and “Find You Out”.

It’s been 2.5 years since that release, and fans are psyched for some more music. But, judging from the band’s website, there will be nothing new any time soon.

February 7, 2013

The Vaccines and the nature of encores

Filed under: Concert, V — assman41 @ 4:55 am

When: February 6, 2013

Where: Lincoln Hall (Chicago)

Opening act: San Cisco

So, what exactly is the etiquette when it comes to encores. Should fans just expect them to happen, or do they need to fight for them?

That was the question my friend and I were pondering after watching The Vaccines play a rather blazing set last night. Having listened to the band’s live album earlier in the day, I knew that it might take a little longer for them to return to the stage for an encore.

As it turned out Wednesday night, the band members had played their last note well before anyone in the audience realized it.

This is a phenomenon I’ve never fully grasped. Before I ever started attending concerts, I’d read about encores and had assumed they were exclusive to only the most special of shows. According to a different friend of mine, encores have likely been around as long as there’s been rock ‘n’ roll.

Either way, by the time I was regularly attending concerts, it’d apparently become commonplace for bands to perform encores. And I quickly grew accustomed to the routine of the band leaving the stage, fans cheering for a bit, then eventually chanting “One more song! One more song!” And, without fail, within a minute or two, the band would return to the stage, re-tune their instruments and play anywhere from 1-4 more songs.

But that hasn’t always been the case. When seeing the band, Glasvegas, a few years ago, they weren’t able to do an encore because they only had about 11 songs under their collective hat, so they just played them all — in a less than lively manner I might add — then called it a night.

Another Scottish band took a different tact. I’ve seen the group, We Were Promised Jetpacks, thrice now. At the first show, they left the stage and fans assumed they’d be back shortly. But then the lights came up and that was it. The next two times I saw them, they at least warned fans ahead of time that they don’t do encores, then proceeded to fulfill that promise.

And that’s when I started wondering about the nature of the encore and what its point was. I mean, if basically everyone was doing it, is it really special anymore? Why not just forego it and play all the songs you want to in one fell swoop? Why throw in an unnecessary break just to build some suspense for the last few songs?

And what about the fans who are conditioned to expect an encore? Do we need to be corrected of this bad habit? Should we make sure, if we want an encore, to clap and chant and make it clear to the band that we want to hear more?

Unfortunately, at the end of The Vaccines’ show, the crowd was a little too lackadaisical in its request. There was a brief chant of “Three more songs!” and an even briefer “10 more songs!” but that was about it.

As we eventually filed out of the venue, one guy in the audience applauded the move by the band. To paraphrase his thoughts, when a crowd is really into a show and cheering loudly for an encore, it’s impossible to turn that down.

Maybe that’s all it boils down to. An encore should only happen when both the band and the audience have earned it.

What are your thoughts?

I posted on The Vaccines’ Facebook page asking them why they didn’t play an encore. If they happen to respond, I’ll be sure to update this post.

UPDATE

Based on posts from other fans on Facebook, and a brief status update by the band, lead singer Justin Young’s vocal chords were shot after pushing it too hard during the show. According to one commenter, they had an encore built into their set list, but they had to bail early. It would’ve been nice if someone could’ve at least told us what was going on, but what are ya gonna do?

February 3, 2013

145 – The Depreciation Guild

Filed under: Brooklyn, D — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Born nine years apart, my brother and I were never very close growing up. We had nothing in common — I was into sports and he was into music.

I’d often go into his room and stare at his posters of Culture Club and Pet Shop Boys and always be confused and curious. Growing up within earshot of his room was something of a blessing and a curse since it was impossible to escape the noise. But it also left me with a lifelong appreciation for ’80s music.

I didn’t really start to find my musical footing until after college. As I was starting to discover the indie scene, my brother was still heavy into his electronic music. But eventually, the two scenes started to overlap a bit and my brother started getting into bands such as Editors and MGMT.

So, finally, within the last decade, we actually had something that connected the two of us — a love of music. And, as the little brother, I was always trying to earn points by finding new bands for him. As it turns out, I was pretty good at it and have led him to a slew of great groups. But try as he might, he has not been able to reciprocate very often. He tends to overestimate my interest in electro-heavy bands because I may have liked one song by The Presets or Cut Copy.

But there have been those rare occasions when he’s been integral in me falling in love with a band. One such group is The Depreciation Guild.

I’d heard them for the first time in the summer of 2010 via the KEXP Song of the Day podcast. I thought it sounded like something he’d enjoy and played it for him. Then I noticed the band was coming through Chicago and suggested the show to him. He ended up listening to their music and said it sounded like something more to my liking. But I never delved any further.

Fast-forward about 2.5 years, when I unearthed our email correspondence regarding the Guild, and I finally got around to listening to the band’s entire catalog for the first time. And I immediately knew my brother was right — this was definitely a band I could get behind.

Too bad they broke up a couple of years ago.

The above song is actually the one that first turned me and my brother on to The Depreciation Guild. It comes from the band’s second and final full-length release, 2010’s Spirit Youth.

The song captures the band’s overwhelming shoegaze vibe, which permeates through all of the tracks in its catalog.

After listening to the album — as well as the band’s 2007 debut, In Her Gentle Jaws — it’s no surprise that front man Kurt Feldman is also the drummer for The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. Both groups share that notable shoegaze, dream-pop, post-rock niche. Other acts that come to mind include Wild Nothing, The Radio Dept. and M83.

While The Depreciation Guild will not be making any new music for the foreseeable future, you can still enjoy the small collection of tunes they left behind.

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