Infinite Shuffle

July 24, 2013

Overrated threeplay

Filed under: Brooklyn, England, I, Las Vegas, P, S — assman41 @ 2:26 am

A number of bands have hit the scene in the last year or so that have gained a great deal of hype — some of them perhaps undeservedly so.

Here’s a look at three groups that are better on paper than they are on record.

Savages

An all-girl quartet from London that mixes the sass of Siouxsie and the Banshees with the post-punk ethos of Joy Division.

It sounds like a can’t-miss formula. Unfortunately, Savages missed the mark on their debut release, Silence Yourself, which came out in May of this year.

Instead of an awesome hybrid of two seminal bands, Savages come across as something of a collection of art-rock posers.

There will definitely be a swath of people who fall head over heels for this group, but there will be a lot more that are turned off by lead singer Jehnny Beth’s poor attempt at mimicking Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Parquet Courts

I had never heard of Parquet Courts before reading a blurb in Rolling Stone, which is not necessarily a good thing in my book. And after listening to their debut full-length, 2012’s Light Up Gold, it seems clear why that rag would be all about the group.

Based in Brooklyn, the indie-punk quartet finds its influence in the DIY punk bands of the early ’80s. Unfortunately, rather than using those bands as muses, Parquet Courts seem content to simply mimic them. The result is an album full of derivative tunes.

The music isn’t horrible, but the time you waste listening to it would be better spent looking into Husker Du or The Replacements or any of a number of their counterparts.

By the way, when the album finished playing on MOG, it went directly to a Nickelback song. If that’s not a warning sign, I don’t know what is.

Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons have always rubbed me the wrong way ever since they started gaining buzz last year with the release of their full-length debut, Night Visions. Part of it was probably the fact that I was constantly being besieged with their ads on Facebook.

But their music is just generic electro-pop/rock. They’re lumped in with similar groups such as Grouplove, Young The Giant, Walk the Moon and Neon Trees. But they clearly belong on the less-talented end of that spectrum.

Granted, they have one really good song in “It’s Time” and another decent one in “Hear Me”, but other than that, Imagine Dragons aren’t really worth the time or effort.

After reading that several band members hail from Utah and attended Brigham Young University and that the group won a battle of the bands at BYU, it makes more sense as to why the music seems so vanilla.

Despite transplanting to Las Vegas, they still lack much flair.

July 17, 2013

167 – Tidelands

Filed under: San Francisco, T — assman41 @ 4:17 pm

Finding a band with a totally original sound is a bittersweet experience for a blogger like myself. There’s the obvious joy of discovering something new and perhaps exotic. Unfortunately, on the flip side, there’s often no comparable bands to use as a jumping-off point.

So it is with Tidelands, the relatively new indie-pop duo from San Francisco. “Pop” might not be the most apt description, as the group has veered more closely to classical, folk and prog on its first two albums.

That is the mesmerizing video for “Holy Grail” off Tidelands’ 2011 debut, If … It consists of more than 1,000 watercolor paintings done by one of the band’s artist friends over the course of four months.

It gives you an idea of the plane of thinking and introspection where band members Gabriel Leis (vocals, guitar and flugelhorn) and Mie Araki (drums and keyboards) generally reside.

The band gets plenty of help from friends on the album, including Magik*Magik Orchestra, which lent a chamber-pop feel to several tracks.

The sound is fleshed out by violins, cellos, rich guitars, a flugelhorn, trumpets and many other instruments left to the imagination.

On their 2012 follow-up, We’ve Got a Map, Tidelands build on their sound and move a little closer to true pop.

Leis’ voice occasionally drifts into Pink Floyd territory — nowhere more so than on “Toaster”.

With several songs in their catalog surpassing the 6-minute barrier, Tidelands could be a harder taste to acquire among today’s ADHD-addled youth. But if you have the time to relax and listen, it’ll be worth your while.

July 8, 2013

166 – Kacey Musgraves

Filed under: East Texas, M — assman41 @ 3:20 am

The thing about country music is that, for the longest time, it’s been saddled with several stereotypes that tend to turn off the more pretentious of us music fans.

You know what I mean. It’s too conservative or uber-patriotic or influenced by religion. Every song is about guns or trucks or beer. Or it’s about a guy drinking away his sorrows after losing his woman or his dog — or both.

I realize stereotypes are usually nothing more than gross generalizations and that there’s some solid music to be found in the country genre. But at the same time, I’ve already got my hands full in the indie realm and don’t have any desire to stray too far.

But every so often there comes along a twangy act that catches my ear. A few years ago, it was The Band Perry, and before them there was Those Darlins.

And today it’s Kacey Musgraves, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter from East Texas. When I first heard her mentioned on NPR’s “All Songs Considered” podcast late last year, I figured I was getting in on the ground floor with Ms. Musgraves.

Turns out, she’s been doing this whole music thing for more than a decade, having self-released three albums since 2002 when she put out her debut a month shy of her 14th birthday.

But she didn’t land on anyone’s radar until 2007 when she placed seventh on the reality show, Nashville Star. And this past spring she released her fourth full-length album and her first with the support of a record label.

On Same Trailer Different Park, Musgraves shows off the lyrical chops and crooning vocals that landed her several country music award nominations earlier this year.

I couldn’t help but post back-to-back videos. Both songs are so good and filled with clever wordplay and lyrics that seem practically foreign in a country song. From the opening line of “Merry Go ‘Round” — “If you ain’t got two kids by 21, you’re probably gonna die alone.” — to the main theme of “Follow Your Arrow” — “Damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, so might as well just do whatever you want.” — Musgraves takes all the adages and life lessons she learned while growing up and turns them on their head.

There are plenty more great lines scattered throughout the albums on songs such as “Silver Lining” (“If you’re ever gonna find a silver lining, it’s gotta be a cloudy day.”), “My House” and “Step Off”.

There are also some tracks that have a more traditional vibe — such as “Blowin’ Smoke”, “Back On the Map” and “It Is What It Is”. And then there’s “Keep It To Yourself”, which could probably be a hit on every country and pop chart out there if it was ever actually released as a single.

In addition to her own work, Musgraves has helped pen songs for such singers as Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert and Gretchen Wilson and also wrote a song for the Nashville TV soundtrack.

She’s currently on a tour that will take her to the West, Southeast and Northeast before jetting off to Europe in the fall.

From there, her next destination appears to be superstardom.

July 2, 2013

165 – Just Handshakes

Filed under: England, J — assman41 @ 1:40 am

I guess it makes sense that the band Just Handshakes recently dropped the appendix (We’re British) from their moniker. One listen to their debut single, “London Bound” and it’s clear they couldn’t be from anywhere else besides Ye Olde Merry England.

With vocals that call to mind Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries and backing instruments straight out of early ’80s Manchester, the Leeds-based quartet perfectly replicate the C86 vibe.

(Sidenote: That intro makes me immediately think of “Dreaming” by Blondie.)

While that opening track to the band’s debut full-length, Say It, is a doozy, it’s somewhat misleading in regards to the rest of the disc, which came out in May.

The second track, “Running Wild”, has some of that same Joy Division Lite sound, but it’s also something of a bridge to the remaining 10 tracks, which are clearly more in the vein of early twee and shoegaze.

It’s difficult to decide which is more enchanting — Clara Patrick’s vocals or the perfectly nostalgic instrumentation.

Clocking in at just under 39 minutes, this album is a quick and pleasant listen and grows on you a little more with each successive spin.

Just Handshakes have yet to leave the UK, but a jaunt Stateside can’t be too far off. Right?

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