Infinite Shuffle

March 24, 2013

152 – Widowspeak

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

Falling somewhere between the sweet, soulful sonnets of Mazzy Star and the darker, heavier dirges of Warpaint comes the Brooklyn two-piece Widowspeak.

The band, which originally began as a trio, is powered by the hauntingly soothing vocals of Molly Hamilton and propelled by the guitar of Robert Earl Thomas.

The above tune is a single from the band’s 2011 self-titled debut. I first discovered the band around this time when a friend tipped me off to them. At the time, I could only find a few songs on their MySpace page, including an even more brooding cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”.

They have since put out a second album, Almanac, which came out in November 2012. Little has changed from the band’s sound. Despite the departure of one of the founding members, the music seems a little more complex, with a greater focus on instrumentation and perhaps a slight uptick in the mood of the vocals.

Widowspeak‘s music is the perfect mix of light and dark, soft and heavy. And they’re a great band to fall asleep to — or anything else you may do whilst in bed.


March 19, 2013

151 – My Bloody Valentine

Filed under: Ireland, M — assman41 @ 2:47 pm

During the nearly 3.5 years that I’ve been maintaining this blog, I have written about all sorts of bands. But it has become clear that there are a few genres that tend to stand out. They include airy-fairy dream pop and lo-fi, slightly distorted shoegaze.

And in much of my writing, I’ve often mentioned a few bands as obvious influences to these modern acts. They include Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine and, to a lesser extent, The Jesus and Mary Chain. Alas, my knowledge of these seminal bands is extremely limited, but I know enough to be able to spot their influence.

With My Bloody Valentine ending their 22-year hiatus and releasing the sorta self-titled m b v last month, it seemed like the perfect time to finally delve into their catalog. Thankfully, it wasn’t too extensive, since they’d only put out two albums before disappearing.

Upon listening to the group’s 1988 debut, Isn’t Anything, it was understandable why most fans seem to overlook that album. It was necessarily bad, but it was clear that the band was still honing its craft.

Having a solid appreciation for ’80s music, I can only imagine what it must have been like to hear MBV for the first time back then. They’re so different from anything on the radio then, and I’m sure it was just the kind of off-the-wall sound that a lot of people were searching for at the time.

As far as I’m concerned, hearing it for the first time 25 years after it was birthed, it’s not doing a whole lot for me. There are a few noteworthy songs — “I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It)”, “Sueisfine” and “(When You Wake) You’re Still In a Dream” — but for the most part, it’s just a bunch of distortion and unintelligible lyrics.

That brings us to 1991 and the release of Loveless, which is considered by many indie music taste-makers to be one of the most important albums ever released. Maybe if I’d heard it when it originally came out I’d have similar feelings. But hearing it in its entirety now for the first time, it’s not that much different from the band’s debut album.

MBV had clearly tightened their sound during the three years between albums and had become more accessible, but, besides a few strong tracks — “Only Shallow” and “When You Sleep” — it sounds like mostly filler.

Even though their music wasn’t for everyone, MBV had clearly opened a new world on the music landscape and basically invented the shoegaze genre. And they helped influence a slew of bands that have come out since — including more modern ones, such as Yuck, A Place To Bury Strangers, The Radio Dept. and The Helio Sequence.

The band’s recent release is said to include several tracks that were recorded in the early ’90s. And you can certainly hear some of that classic MBV sound throughout the album. But interestingly enough, a lot of the new songs sound as if they’ve been influenced by band’s modern descendants.

Gone, for the most part, is the annoying distortion, and in its place is a much more accessible, melodic sound. It’s particularly noticeable on the aptly titled “New You”.

With any luck, fans won’t have to wait another two decades for the Irish quartet to put out another album.

March 14, 2013

150 – Voxtrot

Filed under: Austin, V — assman41 @ 1:53 am

At their most stripped-down, Voxtrot were an indie-pop band. But the music they unleashed upon the world during the better part of the ’00s could hardly be contained by one genre, and it’s tentacles spread out to a multitude of different nooks and crannies.

During their eight-year existence, which ended in 2010, the five-piece Austin, Texas, crew headed by singer/songwriter Ramesh Srivastava released three EPs, a handful of singles and one proper full-length album.

While their musical output should probably be referred to as a pamphlet rather than a catalog, Voxtrot managed to put out a number strong efforts, with little to no filler in the lot.

The above song is the opening title track to the band’s first EP, 2005’s Raised By Wolves. Within the span of five songs, Srivastava and the boys bounce around from lo-fi pop to early ’90s-tinged Brit rock to surfer rock to indie-pop with a whisper of psychedelia.

The following year, the band put out a pair of EPs — Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives and Your Biggest Fan. The latter, with only three songs, pales in comparison to its five-song predecessor.

The band continues to bounce around in the cavernous genre that is “pop,” visiting different soundscapes and amplifying various instruments, the piano in particular. On MSD&W , “Rise Up In the Dirt” is a strong offering, but it’s topped by “Soft & Warm”, possibly the band’s zenith.

Finally, in 2007, Voxtrot released their self-titled, full-length debut. The group took advantage of the extra room to roam and put together a more anthemic sound. The change of pace is clear from the slow-building opening track, aptly titled “Introduction”. Other notable tracks include “Firecracker” and “Ghost”.

The group released a pair of well-received singles in 2009, but by summer 2010 it had disbanded.

Srivastava has continued making music, releasing a solo EP in 2011. But as for Voxtrot, their legacy will have to remain in a small but powerful collection of songs.

March 8, 2013

149 – Mind Spiders

Filed under: Denton Texas, M — assman41 @ 7:06 am

After listening to Mind Spiders’ catalog a few times, I’ve come to a pretty succinct way to describe them.

“This is the kind of band I want Cloud Nothings to be.”

Now, I’m not totally sure if that makes sense, but I feel it’s at least close to comprehensible.

Cloud Nothings started out as a single dude making music on a computer in his parents’ house and has since blossomed into a full-fledged “garage rock” band. But they seem to operate by just throwing a bunch of stuff together and hoping it sticks. Occasionally, they hit gold, but more often it’s just average at best.

Mind Spiders, on the other hand, seem to set out with a plan of pairing halfway intelligible lyrics with catchy hooks in an effort to create 2-3-minute garage rock gems.

On their sophomore album, 2012’s Meltdown, the Denton, Texas, group manages to pull off this feat more often than not. There is some filler here, but most of the songs will keep listeners from hitting the Skip button.

Among the standouts are “You Are Dead”, “Beat”, “On the Radio”, “More Than You” and “Wait For Us”.

The group had similar beginnings to Cloud Nothings, with Mark Ryan composing the band’s 2011 self-titled first album mostly by himself during a hiatus from a pair of other bands. Once he started receiving requests to play live, he enlisted the help of several other talented musicians, including another guitarist, a bassist, an organist and a pair of drummers who play at the same time.

The debut album was more sporadic in its influences and led to a sloppier sound. But the group has tightened up things on the latest release. While some of the lo-fi qualities have been cleaned up, this music still clearly belongs in someone’s garage.

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