Infinite Shuffle

April 21, 2013

156 – BOY

Filed under: B, Germany, Switzerland — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Usually, when you hear “boy” and “band” in the same sentence, the image that comes to mind is a group of teenage lads with similar-looking outfits and finely coiffed hairstyles dancing and crooning to a sea of screaming prepubescent girls.

One thought unlikely to cross your mind is that of two European women standing on stage, playing guitars and churning out some very catchy indie-pop to a decidedly unisex audience.

And that’s what makes the band, BOY, so intriguing. Consisting of singer Valeska Steiner (Switzerland) and bassist Sonja Glass (Germany), the duo has been gaining a lot of steam recently following its first tour of the States, which included a stop at SXSW last month.

The group, which formed in 2007, dropped its debut album, Mutual Friends, in Germany in 2011 and the UK in June 2012. It didn’t receive an official release in the U.S. until this past February, which means their hit song, “Little Numbers”, deserves to receive some love on end-of-the year lists.

On first listen, BOY‘s vocals sound very similar to those of Feist. But after repeated spins, Steiner’s voice becomes more distinct, with hints of Suzanne Vega and Imogen Heap popping up on occasion. And Glass comes in to offer harmony, adding complexity throughout.

While the above song is the standout, there are several notable tracks here, including “Oh Boy”, “This Is the Beginning”, “Waitress”, “Drive Darling” and “July”.

Considering the fact that the band is just starting to gain traction stateside, it seems primed for a major breakthrough within the next year or so.


April 14, 2013

155 – Citizens!

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

“Hot Chip meets Franz Ferdinand.”

Those five words rather succinctly sum up the sound of the band, Citizens!

The London-based electro-indie quintet has a very similar style to Hot Chip — both vocally and instrumentally — but with the occasional added flourish of Franz Ferdinand. That’s not surprising considering its 2012 debut, Here We Are, was produced by Franz frontman Alex Kapranos.

Above is one of three videos produced for the band’s first single, “True Romance”. The other two feature a couple performing several interesting dance routines and a sadistic puppeteer.

The song is a pretty good indicator of what a listener can expect to hear on the album. In addition to Hot Chip and Franz Ferdinand, there are some other bands evoked on the disc, including The Killers.

Other notable tracks include “Monster”, “She Said” and “(I’m In Love With Your) Girlfriend)”.

By the way, if you do find yourself searching for Citizens!, make sure you include that exclamation point. Otherwise, you run the risk of accidentally listening to gospel/Christian music. And nobody wants that.

April 7, 2013

154 – Little Green Cars

Filed under: Dublin, L — assman41 @ 2:03 am

Finally! An actual new band to listen to. After months of listening to bands that have been around for years — and even decades — I’ve got a truly new band to rave about.

Little Green Cars are a quintet of 20-year-olds from Dublin that just released their debut album, Absolute Zero, and are already receiving loads of praise from all of the various indie tastemakers.

The group, which first formed in 2008, churns out catchy indie-pop/rock in a similar vein to both Milo Greene and the Magic Numbers. That may seem like an odd pairing, but that’s because Little Green Cars‘ sound varies greatly over the course of the album.

The one aspect that holds strong throughout are the amazing harmonies, anchored by the band’s lone female member, Faye O’Rourke, and paired nicely with lead singer Stevie Appleby, who often sounds like the little brother of the Magic Numbers’ Romeo Stodart.

Somehow, the band lucked out and got Markus Dravs to produce its debut disc. Dravs is the man who helped create both Mumford & Sons albums, the last two releases from Arcade Fire as well as music by Coldplay and Bjork.

The album is loaded with solid tracks, especially the above “Harper Lee” and “The John Wayne”. Other notable songs include “Angel Owl”, “My Love Took Me Down To the River To Silence Me”, “Big Red Dragon”, “Please” and “Them”.

Even the lesser tracks grab your attention, such as the seemingly misplaced “Red and Blue”, which auto-tunes Appleby’s vocals to the point of sounding like Imogen Heap.

While touring the States, they have been receiving plenty of buzz from sets at CMJ and SXSW, as well as every stop along the way. They recently came through Chicago, which is where a friend of mine saw them and relayed their awesomeness to me.

Judging from the various write-ups Little Green Cars have already received, it looks like their star is only going to continue to rise.

April 2, 2013

153 – The Shins

Filed under: Albuquerque N.M., Portland, S — assman41 @ 3:03 pm

Has another band ever been so positively affected by a movie than The Shins? A couple that come to mind are Simon & Garfunkel with The Graduate and The Bee Gees with Saturday Nigh Fever, but both of those bands were already popular before the movie soundtracks took them to new heights.

As for The Shins, outside of the most in-touch indie kids, nobody had ever heard of the Portland — via Albuquerque, N.M. — group before they had a couple of songs included on the Garden State soundtrack in 2004.

The band’s frontman, James Mercer, must have been pinching himself when Natalie Portman handed Zach Braff a pair of headphones playing “New Slang” and told him the song would change his life.

By the time the movie was released and the band started to acquire a horde of new fans, it had already released a second album, 2003’s Chutes Too Narrow.

Within these first two albums, The Shins’ sound had already become signature — catchy indie rock/pop, with sometimes sad lyrics but always with James Mercer’s high-pitched, almost falsetto voice.

Besides the above clip, other songs from the first album that may have an effect on your life include “Caring Is Creepy”, “Know Your Onion!”, “One By One All Day” and “Weird Divide”. Another track of note is “Pressed In a Book”, simply because of how much Mercer’s voice sounds like Carl “A.C.” Newman’s.

The second album doesn’t have any real standout tracks, but there are some notable ones, such as “Mine’s Not a High Horse”, “Young Pilgrims”, “Pink Bullets” and “Gone For Good”. The album opener, “Kissing the Lipless”, is also strong, but it stands out because of how much the band suddenly sounds like some emo group — like Dashboard Confessional or something.

By the time they released their next album, The Shins were worried about being pigeonholed as “that band from Garden State.” When Wincing the Night Away came out in 2007, the group had taken their sound and added a little more airiness to it. And with it came some of the best music they’ve put out to date.

“Phantom Limb” is probably the best song in their catalog, but “Australia” is a close second. Other strong entries are “Sleeping Lessons” and “Sea Legs”.

In the ensuing years, Mercer ventured into various other avenues, including a rather successful side gig with Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) in the band Broken Bells, which released its critically acclaimed self-titled debut in 2010.

But Mercer eventually returned to the band that put him on the map, except that three-fifths of the roster had been overhauled since the last album. Despite that, in 2012, they put out their fourth album, Port of Morrow, buoyed by the single, “Simple Song”. Other notable tracks include “September” and “No Way Down”.

Besides appearing in a recent episode of “Portlandia”, it’s unclear what Mercer is up to nowadays. But, considering all of his side projects, it certainly must have something to do with music.

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