Infinite Shuffle

June 28, 2014

209 – Ponychase

Filed under: Nashville, P — assman41 @ 12:24 pm

While looking for a new, permanent site to stream music following the demise of MOG, I decided to use Bandcamp during the interim. It’s a site that has been paying big dividends for me, but one that I’d never taken full advantage of.

Rather than just include a couple of videos for a band, it allows me the ability to embed an entire album stream in my posts. Besides that, I’d used it often to easily listen to full catalogs from bands.

But recently I tried something new on Bandcamp — searching for new acts. After bouncing around the site a bit, I stumbled across the “Fan Spotlight” section and saw this review by Abby Holmes regarding the band Ponychase and its debut album, Parade of Youth:

“Friends” is like a song that plays at the end of an ’80s romantic comedy/drama when the leads rush to each other and do a spin-kiss. And that feeling you get when you see those two characters is exactly the feeling you get while playing this album.

She’s right. But that description would be apt for the whole album, not just its second track.

The vibe is there from the beginning on the opening title track all the way through to closer “Melissa”. It’s like the soundtrack to the teenage years for anyone who had a Brat Pack poster on his or her wall.

Photo credit: Patrick Rodgers (http://instagram.com/p/N5Lxk4Ij0Q/)

Photo credit: Patrick Rodgers (http://instagram.com/p/N5Lxk4Ij0Q/)

And just the like the album, the band itself is jam-packed full of awesome. The Nashville-based quartet is something of a Music City supergroup. It all starts with singer/songwriter Jordan Caress, who honed her skills as a multi-instrumentalist in backing bands for Caitlin Rose, Tristen and others.

Joining Caress are her brother, Alex (Little Bandit), who churns out spot-on nostalgia via the synthesizers, Beth “EG” Cameron (Forget Cassettes) on guitar and Brian Siskind (Fognode, Good Rester) on drums.

On “Resurrected”, another strong track, the opening notes almost mimic those of David Lee Roth’s take on “California Girls”. But it quickly turns in to a slow, shoegazey tune that would fit well on a Lykke Li album.

The sugary sweet sounds belie the melancholic tone of the lyrics that describe the struggle of growing up as an LGBT teenager. Like in “House in the Valley”, where Jordan yearns “to live in a house in the valley, where my parents and my teachers can’t find me” and trying to “heal” her “disease.”

The full-length album came out this past March, and was preceded by a self-titled EP in November 2012 that acts as a great appetizer to the main course.

Besides Bandcamp, Facebook and Twitter, Ponychase don’t seem to have an official website. And it doesn’t appear that they are touring at the moment. But you probably have a decent chance of catching them if you happen to be spending some time in Nashville.

June 24, 2014

208 – Run River North

Filed under: Los Angeles, M, R — assman41 @ 2:12 am

In the fall of 2011, Of Monsters and Men quietly released their debut album, My Head Is an Animal in Iceland, and it slowly made its way around the globe. Arguably one of the best albums of 2012, it went platinum and eventually peaked at No. 1 in Australia, No. 3 in the UK and No. 6 in the United States.

Since then, fans have been clamoring for more, and, according to a recent interview, a new album is on the way, but a release date has yet to be announced.

In the meantime, there have been plenty of bands vying to usurp their indie-folk/pop thrones, but few have managed to ascend to the top. But there’s one that is just starting to gain steam — barely a blip on the radar now but destined to become the next new “it” band on the indie scene. And, coincidentally, before a name change, it even had “Monsters” in its moniker.

The group, Run River North, shares many musical similarities with their Scandinavian brethren, right down to their quiet-loud-quiet song structure, beautiful blend of male and female vocals and the communal vibe they give off.

Of course, it’s the differences that make them stand out. There is nary a horn to be heard on the group’s self-titled debut that came out in February. Oh, and then there’s the fact that Run River North is made up of six Korean-American 20-somethings from the San Fernando Valley.

That is the original video for “Fight To Keep”, which, as you can see, was recorded exclusively in the band members’ Hondas. The video went viral and caught the eye of Honda executives, who decided to surprise the group — then known as Monsters Calling Home — by lining up a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in September 2012.

(If you can’t get enough of that song, check out the professionally shot video starring Diedrich Bader — from The Drew Carey Show and Office Space fame — that is rather dark and may have been influenced by the movie, Surviving the Game.)

The group formed in 2011 when singer/songwriter was hiking with friend and future bandmate Joe Chun and they talked about their shared experiences of growing up in an immigrant family. That discussion stirred a lot of emotions in Hwang and eventually spewed forth in the form of the song “Monsters Calling Home”. (Yes, the band’s original name. It gets kinda confusing.) He then recruited friends from church to fill out the roster.

The band members discussed their upbringing and how it affected their music during recent interviews on Acoustic Cafe and Here & Now. (One interesting tidbit you’ll glean is that two members are classically trained violinists and the drummer came up in the punk and heavy metal scene.)

After gaining some much-needed exposure, Run River North signed with a label and set forth recording an album. Influenced by such bands as Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and The Shins, the group was fortunate enough to work with Phil Ek, who produced albums for all of those well-established acts.

Ek’s magic touch can be heard throughout the album, including on the third track, “Lying Beast”, a slow-burning tune in which Hwang does his best Conor Oberst impersonation.

There’s a dearth of filler here as just about every track has the ability to get stuck in your head. Some of the other more notable songs include “Run River Run”, “Somewhere”, “Excuses” and “Foxbeard”.

Run River North are crisscrossing the country this summer and fall, including a stop at Schubas Tavern in Chicago on July 21. Now is your chance to check them out before all of the hipsters catch on.

June 22, 2014

MOG threeplay

Filed under: Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, T, V, W — assman41 @ 12:10 pm

MOG is dead. Long live MOG.

What began as a hub for music bloggers and morphed into a music-streaming site officially went kaput at the end of May, replaced by Beats Music.

I have yet to decide if I want to subscribe to Beats or choose a different source to stream my music. That’s one reason I haven’t posted in nearly a month.

Anyway, before MOG said goodbye, I had been working on a compilation post of three bands I’d discovered through the site. It took several weeks for me to finally finish, but perhaps it’s fitting, considering how often MOG would cause my web browser to freeze whenever I tried to close it.

Vanaprasta

I don’t recall which band I was listening to at the time, but eventually, after that particular album finished, MOG turned to its radio play, which usually included related artists. That’s how I first discovered Vanaprasta and its catchy single “Nine Equals Nine”.

Aside from a handful of songs, the unsigned quintet from Los Angeles seems to be trying its hardest to channel Kings of Leon. Lead singer Steven Wilkin is just the latest in a long line of Caleb Followill wannabes.

That’s not to say this group is horrible, just derivative. Formed in 2009, Vanaprasta released a three-track EP, Forming the Shapes, in March 2010. It included a decent opener, “Color of Sin”, and a couple of skippable tunes.

The following November saw the release of a proper full-length, Healthy Geometry, which opened with the above-mentioned “Nine Equals Nine”. Other than a few songs — such as “Come On”, “Supernumerary” and their best Radiohead impression, “Crushing Ants” — the album is mostly dreck.

I’m not even sure how the group landed on MOG, but maybe it should consider following a similar path and just fade into obscurity.

Wildlife Control

Apparently, the group Wildlife Control had a viral hit on YouTube with the February 2012 release of the video for “Analog or Digital”. (The 8-bit version. Not the stop-motion inset.)

That track was released as a single in December 2011, led off the EP Spin in March 2012 and was the only above-average song on the band’s self-titled full-length debut, which landed that July.

Other than a few blips on some “notable” blogs and radio stations, the band has yet to create much of a stir. Formed in 2011 by brothers Neil and Sumul Shah, Wildlife Control call both Brooklyn and the Bay Area home. To that point, their album includes tracks titled “Brooklyn” and “Oakland”.

Other than their single and the track “People Change” — which randomly calls to mind Phoenix — the group sounds like a hybrid of a lot of other indie bands. And when Neil starts tickling the ivory, Wildlife Control morphs into a poor man’s Ben Folds Five.

They did release a couple of singles in 2013 — “Different” and “Ages Places” — that show they may be starting to develop a more interesting sound. But we’ll have to wait until they put out another album before that theory is proven.

Tycho

Probably the most interesting band on this list is also the most surprising for me. If you’re a loyal reader of this blog, you’ll know that I have a hard time getting into instrumental music. Apparently, if I don’t have some lyrics to sing along to, it’s not worth my time.

The only vocal-free music I’ve taken to in the past few years is some of the stuff on The XX’s debut and the opening theme to the show Friday NIght Lights, which was done by Explosions in the Sky.

But I guess it shouldn’t be too shocking that I’d become enamored with an artist that is basically a mix of those two groups. Also known by the moniker ISO50, Scott Hansen has been putting out ambient, post-rock music as Tycho since 2002.

Also known for his photography and design work, Hansen paints vivid pictures with his lush sounds. After releasing a couple of full-length albums in the mid-Aughts — Sunrise Projector and Past is Prologue — his musical output was restricted to singles for several years before he returned with Dive in 2011 and followed with Awake this past March.

Where Dive had a faster pacing, Awake slows things down, resulting in an even more pleasant listen. The album starts strong with the title track and “Montana” — both of which would be perfect entry points for fans of The XX. As the album progresses, Hansen mixes in the Explosions influence while maintaining a chill vibe throughout.

Started in Sacramento and now based in San Francisco, Hansen does take his Tycho act on tour and includes a live band. (One can only imagine how many concert-goers inevitably fall victim to slumber during a set.) After spending July in Europe, Tycho will make a quick sweep of North America, including a rather random stop in Urbana, Ill., in September.

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