Infinite Shuffle

September 24, 2013

176 – Twin Forks

Filed under: T — assman41 @ 3:45 pm

My girlfriend definitely has the ability to turn me on. But she’s never been too good at turning me on to new bands. (How ’bout that for a lead, huh?)

We have a lot of things in common, but musical taste is not one of them. I suppose the best way to summarize it is that she could go anywhere in this country and find a radio station to enjoy. I could not.

So, when she posted a link on my Facebook wall for the band Twin Forks, I was nervous to say the least. Particularly when I saw that the group was fronted by Chris Carrabba, the former lead singer of her favorite group of all time, Dashboard Confessional.

I figured I’d give it a quick spin, decide it wasn’t for me, then let her down gently.

That plan went by the wayside as soon as I hit the chorus of “Something We Just Know”.

The second track on the new band’s recently released self-titled debut EP, it is insanely catchy and a perfect example of why this band will earn endless comparisons to such acts as The Lumineers.

Every one of the songs on this disc would be worthy of radio airplay, particularly “Back To You”, the awesome opener, and “Cross My Mind”, which seems destined for a 2014 Volkswagen commercial.

Anyone worried about this group being a Dashboard spin-off need not worry. Those days are clearly in the past for Carrabba. The closest he comes is on “Can’t Be Broken”, which slows things down a bit, but only intermittently.

Even the weakest song here, the closing “Scraping Up the Pieces”, is worthy of at least one star on the iTunes scale.

The only bad thing about this album is that it’s so short. The five songs are over before you know it, forcing you to immediately hit the Play button again.

We are tentatively planning on seeing the band when it comes through Chicago this weekend, so I would imagine it will have a more fleshed-out setlist, likely including a cover of the Talking Heads’ “And She Was”.

September 18, 2013

175 – Telekinesis

Filed under: Seattle, T — assman41 @ 4:36 pm

I’m always a little leery when I see that a musical act is being promoted as just one person. Whether it be an artist going by his actual name (e.g. M. Ward or Conor Oberst) or a pseudonym (e.g. Phosporescent or early Bright Eyes).

I realize that most of these solo artists have some help on a record and in live performances, but, generally, I assume their music is going to be too boring or not have enough going on.

I’ve often been proven wrong in this regard, but never more than when I listened to Telekinesis. While it’s often referred to as a band, according to most sources, its sole member is Michael Benjamin Lerner.

Considering the number of instruments that can be heard on his/their albums — guitars, bass, keyboard, drums — one is left to wonder if he just moves from station to station, recording each instrument and piecing it all together in the end. More than likely, he’s got a bunch of studio musicians helping him out, but they just don’t get prominent credit.

All of this is really irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that Telekinesis has put out three albums since “forming” in 2008, and all of them are above average.

That is the big single from the band’s 2009 debut, Telekinesis! It’s a pretty good representation of what Lerner has been doing ever since. Just straight-forward indie rock that’s catchy and filled with fun, clever lyrics.

Other strong tracks from that disc are “Imaginary Friend”, “Tokyo”, “Look To the East”, “All of a Sudden” and “Calling All Doctors”.

Lerner’s vocals are reminiscent of fellow Seattle resident and doppelgänger Ben Gibbard, whose Death Cab For Cutie bandmate, Chris Walla, does a little bit of everything, including production, on Telekinesis’ first two records.

The 2011 follow-up, 12 Desperate Straight Lines, isn’t much different from its predecessor. Lerner and crew do sprinkle in a few different rock styles throughout. There’s a little bit of grunge on “50 Ways” and something harder on “Fever Chill”. The best is when they throw in a post-punk guitar riff on “Country Lane” and “Please Ask For Help”.

Other notable entries here are “Gotta Get It Right Now”, “Palm of Your Hand” and “Car Crash”.

For the latest release, Dormarion, which came out this past April, Lerner traveled to Austin, Texas, to record in the studio of Spoon drummer Jim Eno. The album is named after the studio’s location, on Dormarion Lane.

I don’t know if the switch is what caused it, but this record isn’t as strong as the previous two. It does have a very strong single in “Ghosts and Creatures”, but the rest is hit or miss. The few other songs worth mentioning are “Wires”, “You Take It Slowly” and “Ever True”. A lot of people have praised album opener “Power Lines”, but it’s only so-so.

It would appear as though I’ve already missed Telekinesis’ latest swing through the Midwest. Perhaps I’ll catch him/them when they pass through again.

September 16, 2013

174 – Diarrhea Planet

Filed under: D, Nashville — assman41 @ 10:43 am

There are two things that are inevitably included in every review that’s been written about the band Diarrhea Planet. First, there’s the obligatory not-so-clever comment about the band’s shitty name (see what I did there?). Then, there’s the eventual description of their raucous live performances.

Having never seen them in person, I can neither confirm nor deny the latter, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and assume they’re the real deal. Judging from their two albums, it seems like a safe bet.

Their 2011 debut full-length, Loose Jewels, is a solid table-setter and probably a closer representation of their live show than the follow-up release, I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, which came out last month.

With the vast majority of the 11 tracks clocking in at under 2 minutes, the first album almost seems like a sampler of sorts, with no other purpose than to get the Nashville sextet’s music out there and heard.

The recent release is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor in terms of complexity, production quality and just about every other metric.

Where Loose Jewels came across as a demo cassette, Rich …, is a true album with no real filler among the 13 tracks. It’s not quite worthy of being included in a best-of-the-year discussion, but it’s not far from it.

That’s “The Sound of My Ceiling Fan”, probably the best track on the disc but far from the only good one. Other strong offerings include “Kids”, “Emmett’s Vision”, “Lite Dream” and “Ugliest Son”.

I definitely intend to give this album more spins throughout the year, but I am admittedly glad to be done with this post. Now, I can stop awkwardly searching for “diarrhea planet” while sitting in a coffee shop.

September 11, 2013

173 – Speedy Ortiz

Filed under: Northampton Mass., S — assman41 @ 11:45 am

Fret not, riot grrl fans, there are still plenty of new acts out there to feed your need. But nowadays they often come with a twist.

The latest entrant in the race for your affections is Speedy Ortiz, a four-piece outfit from Northampton, Mass.

Started in 2011 as a solo project by former guitarist Sadie Dupuis, it had expanded into a full-fledged indie band by 2012 and churned out an EP and a couple of singles before dropping a proper full-length, Major Arcana, this past July.

If the music doesn’t scream it, that video should have tipped you off — this band is heavily influenced by the ’90s. There’s the halting guitars and lyrics, the lo-fi quality and the ever-present slacker vibe emanating from every track.

So, it’s not exactly riot grrl, but it’s definitely from that era.

If you want to see the entire 12-minute performance on KEXP, go here.

September 10, 2013

172 – Bass Drum of Death

Filed under: B, Oxford Miss. — assman41 @ 3:34 pm

Last week, while at work, I was completing some tasks after deadline. Since there was only one other person in the office, I decided to turn on some music.

The volume was loud enough that she could hear it, and, after a while, she said it sounded familiar and asked what I was listening to.

I semi-pretentiously told her she hadn’t heard of Bass Drum of Death, but I did agree that it sounded familiar. That’s because the garage rock outfit from Oxford, Miss., isn’t exactly charting new territory. John Barrett and his crew are following the sure-fire formula of guitar and drums, simple lyrics and short songs.

But despite its heavily trafficked status, rock music at its most bare bones will always appeal to the masses.

The above tune is the first single off the group’s second full-length release, the self-titled album that came out this past June. Clocking in at just under 35 minutes, the 11 tracks here are reminiscent of Cloud Nothings — and pretty much every other garage band that likes distortion.

It’s a slight progression for the debut full-length, 2011’s Gb City. That album was not only bare bones, but it was only about half as skeletal as its successor.

You can hear the simplicity on the title track.

The act has been around since 2008, when, as a solo project, it was known as John Barrett’s Bass Drum of Death. But it wasn’t until Barrett enlisted the help of others that the group really started to take off.

It has had songs featured in movies (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), video games (MLB 2K12 and Grand Theft Auto V) and commercials (for H&M clothing and NASCAR). I suppose that’s where my co-worker could have heard of them, since she’s a big NASCAR fan.

Anyway, if you’re just looking to kill some time or tired of listening to your iPod on shuffle, feel free to check out this band. It’s not re-inventing the wheel, but it’s a good palate cleanser.

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