Infinite Shuffle

May 25, 2014

207 – The Neighbourhood

Filed under: N, Newbury Park Calif. — assman41 @ 12:01 am

If you’re an avid reader of this blog and share a similar taste in music, this week’s band might be a bit of a stretch for you. Basically, you’re either gonna love or hate The Neighbourhood.

I’ve been having trouble coming up with an adequate way to describe this group — and an even harder time explaining why I like it. The five-piece from Newbury Park, Calif., seems like such a departure from the music I normally gravitate toward, but I find myself grooving along to nearly every one of its songs.

Formed in 2011, the group released a couple of EPs in the fall/winter of 2012-2013 before putting out a full-length album, I Love You, in April 2013.

“Sweater Weather” is probably the catchiest and most accessible song on the disc, but there are plenty worth noting. It starts with “How”, a nice slow-burner that establishes the tone.

“Afraid” is a song with a lot of pent-up aggression waiting to burst, but it never does. (Sample lyric from the chorus: “I don’t like you. Fuck you anyway.”)

Next is “Everybody’s Watching Me (Uh Oh)”, a perfect example of the kind of songs that fill this album — rap-influenced indie-rock that’s laid back but with enough of an edge that causes your head to bob in time rather than simply swaying along.

After “Sweater Weather” comes “Let It Go”, the lone repeat from the EPs. On this track, lead singer Jesse Rutherford sounds almost like a male version of Lorde, but with a rougher tone.

The album then takes a bit of a dip with “Alleyways” and “W.D.Y.W.F.M?” — both filler tracks, but still good enough not to be skipped. Things then close out strong with four songs — “Flawless”, “Female Robbery”, “Staying Up” and “Float” — that are solid but probably a step down from the first portion of the album.

The Neighbourhood — also written as THE NBHD — seem like the kind of band that could take off on a similar trajectory as groups such as Imagine Dragons and Bastille. They are set to tour the country the next two months, including stops at various Midwest festivals.

May 18, 2014

206 – Protomartyr

Filed under: Detroit, P — assman41 @ 11:17 am

The hardest part about describing a band such as Protomartyr is that it channels so many different influences into its music at any given time.

At their most catchy, the four dudes from Detroit create an enviable mix of lo-fi, shoegaze and post-punk — imagine Cloud Nothings meet Lower Dens.

That is “Come & See”, a track off Protomartyr’s sophomore album, Under Color of Official Right, which dropped in early April. The disc is 14 songs strong and touches on all the best elements of indie rock. (Here’s a link to “Maidenhead“, the album’s opening track. Click it; it’s worth the effort.)

Lead singer Joe Casey occasionally channels his inner Ian Curtis, particularly on “Ain’t So Simple”. At other times throughout the album — such as on “Trust Me Billy” and “What the Wall Said” — Casey’s vocal delivery conjures memories of Julian Casablancas during the early days of The Strokes.

Other comparable bands that are often mentioned in reviews of Protomartyr include Pere Ubu, The Fall, Wire, Editors and Interpol. But while they clearly sound similar to many of these bands, they’re also distinct enough to stand out on their own with a style that could only have been created here and now.

Originally a duo named Butt Babies, the band eventually morphed into a quartet with a new moniker before releasing its debut, No Passion All Technique, in 2012. The songs here are definitely more raw than the newer offerings, but there is still enough nuance and craftsmanship to hint at the potential of the band.

The album opens with several pure punk tracks before eventually making its way to “Three Swallows”, a slower tune focused on drinking. But fear not, the rest of the disc is filled with Casey’s old-school, sing-songy punk sneering.

Protomartyr are currently on the West Coast and will make their way across the country this summer.

May 13, 2014

iTunes threeplay

Filed under: C, England, Portland — assman41 @ 2:48 pm

Ever since my iPod went kaput in November, I’ve been listening to music almost exclusively via MOG. While that’s all well and good, I miss being able to pull up all the random stuff I’ve downloaded over the years that is nowhere to be found on that particular site.

That, coupled with the fact that my laptop is running dangerously low on available disk space, has led me to revisit my iTunes library for the first time in months. Among the 15,500 songs, there’s a lot of junk. And a lot of stuff I’ve never even listened to.

So, in the interest of finding “new” music and unclogging my computer, I figured I’d check out some of the mystery bands and see if they’re worth keeping. The results were mixed.

Canterbury

I’m not sure how I came to have Canterbury’s 2009 debut album, Thank You, on my computer, but I’m guessing it had something to do with Simon over at Outroversion.

At various times throughout the album, the five lads from Surrey, England, conjure memories of such bands as Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, All-American Rejects and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. The music is neither horrible nor great but is rather disposable.

Formed in 2005 by several boarding school classmates, the group waited until it had a proper fan base before releasing its first album. Since then, Canterbury have lost a founding member, replaced a drummer and released two more albums — 2012’s Heavy in the Day and Dark Days, which came out this past January and hit No. 1 on the U.K. rock chart.

Whether their sound has improved in that time is up to anyone who deems them worthy of further listens. I do not.

Chew Lips

Unlike Canterbury, I actually remember the name Chew Lips. Alas, that’s all I knew — the name. Apparently, I’d listened to about the first half of their 2010 debut, Unicorn, but I certainly didn’t recall any of it.

That’s probably because of how boring it is. Filled with derivative, electro indie-pop, the album sounds like a slew of others from the genre, with nothing setting it apart.

Formed in 2008 in East London, the duo of singer Alicia “Tigs” Huertas and multi-instrumentalist James Watkins have only released the one full-length album. The group received its share of hype at the time and rode that buzz through a relentless tour schedule.

They’ve put out a number of singles and EPs, remixed some other artists’ songs and had several of their songs remixed. But other than that, it looks like their momentum has officially petered out.

Chromatics

Apparently, Chromatics had an interesting run before landing in my laptop. That includes sizable lineup changes after the release of each of their first two albums, which resulted in a notable shift in sound by the time they released Night Drive in 2007.

No longer a noise-rock group, the band from Portland transformed into a electro-pop foursome.

Then came 2012’s Kill For Love, which took the band even farther from its roots and into a post-punk, post-rock arena.

That title track sounds like something straight out of 1980s Manchester, mixed with a modern ambience. It’s the second song on the album and is preceded by “Into the Black”, an impressive take on the classic Neil Young tune, “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black”.

The third track, “Back From the Grave”, is more of the same Joy Division-meets-M83 goodness. But, from there, things start to lose steam.

And by the time the auto-tune kicks in on “These Street Will Never Look the Same” — the sixth of the 17 tracks — there’s no going back. It’s too bad considering the promising start to the album.

  • P.S. Considering I never made it past the letter C, you can bet I’ll be doing several more of these iTunes spring/summer cleaning posts.

May 4, 2014

205 – Magic Man

Filed under: Boston, M — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I have visited New York City a few times the last couple of years, and I’ve managed to go to at least one indie rock show each time. My favorite was definitely Memorial Day weekend last year when my host and I attended a show that was so “Brooklyn” that it could have been a scene from Girls.

It being New York, there was no shortage of things to do on this particular night. After narrowing it down to two possible shows, we finally picked one not too far from his place in Prospect Lefferts Gardens at The Red Lotus Room.

To give you an idea of how hipster this affair was, the show was a fundraiser for an upcoming solar-powered music and arts festival. As for the venue, it looked like some abandoned warehouse or something similar. There was a dude standing outside the nondescript entrance, and I thought for sure he was gonna ask for the secret password.

Once inside, we found a sparsely decorated space with some mismatched and eclectic furniture and a stage in the corner. I didn’t feel like paying for alcohol, so I chose a carbonated coffee drink that I immediately fell in love with. And after a couple of opening acts — Christina Courtin was good, the other was not memorable — we were treated to a surprisingly solid show from headliner Magic Man.

The Boston-based band hadn’t officially put out any music at the time, so I held off writing about it. Since then, I’ve seen Magic Man pop up from time to time, and it appears that they released an EP, You Are Here, in September.

The indie-synth band definitely has been influenced by The Killers and their brethren. You can hear it on two of their best songs, “Texas” and “Nova Scotia”. Another track, “Waves”, takes that modern electro vibe and makes it sound nostalgic, like something straight out of 1985.

“Every Day” is a relatively catchy tune that, at times, sounds like a male version of HAIM‘s “Forever”.

The one less-than-stellar track here, “Paris”, isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. It’s basically just filler that sounds off compared to the rest of the songs on the release.

Magic Man is heading out on tour this month, supporting Panic! At the Disco. They’ll be traversing the country, so you should consider checking them out. And feel free to leave before the headliner takes the stage.

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