Infinite Shuffle

February 23, 2015

212 – Alvvays

Filed under: A, Toronto — assman41 @ 4:27 pm

For a lot of indie music fans, Best Coast would be considered the progenitor of the recent trend of mixing female lead vocals, lo-fi instrumentation and breezy tunes that belie darker tones. Of course, with pretty much any musical genre, there’s always someone who did it earlier.

One band that could probably lay claim to at least planting the seeds from which Best Coast sprouted is Camera Obscura, the Scottish group that started in the mid-‘90s.

But this post isn’t about who got there first. Instead, it’s about who is there now. Particularly, a band that combines the best of both of the aforementioned groups and puts its own spin on things to create something new.

Alvvays is a five-piece indie-pop group from Toronto that plays songs that would be perfect for chilling out at the beach like Best Coast — as long as said beach is located somewhere colder, like the coast of Scotland.

Alvvays’ self-titled debut was released last July and, within a month, topped the college radio charts.

The group is helmed by childhood friends Molly Rankin (vocals) and Kerri MacLellan (keyboards), who began playing music with Alec O’Hanley. Eventually, they were joined by Brian Murphy and Phil MacIsaac to form the internet search-friendly Alvvays.

Their best-known track, and possibly the most energetic on the album, is “Archie, Marry Me”, a tune that seems like an incredibly bare-bones cover a My Bloody Valentine song. (Not really, but for some reason, that description always pops in my head when I hear it.)

Other strong entries include “Next of Kin”, “The Agency Group”, “Atop a Cake” and my personal favorite, “Party Police”.

The group has been touring all over, including a recent stop in Madison that I was unable to attend. They’ll be in Austin next month for SXSW, which, sadly, I will once again be missing. But enough with my melancholy; just go listen to this band.

February 6, 2015

211 – PHOX

Filed under: Baraboo Wis., Madtown Musings, P — assman41 @ 4:05 pm

I’ve always dreamed of living in a city with a burgeoning music scene. Going somewhere thriving such as Portland, Austin, Seattle or Nashville would be great, but even better is the possibility of landing in a city where the indie scene is either in its infancy or adolescence.

It appears as though my wish may have finally been granted. Just a few months before I arrived in my new home of Madison, Wis., the city’s first breakout act, PHOX, released its self-titled debut album in June.

The group received plenty of buzz from top tastemakers and earned some best-of-the-year nods. And deservedly so.

The group, which is actually based an hour north of here in Baraboo — just outside of tourist trap Wisconsin Dells — officially formed in the spring of 2011 when singer Monica Martin joined a collection of musicians for what was supposed to be a one-off performance at a local show.

Fast-forward nearly four years, and the group has released a pair of EPs, opened for such bands as Blitzen Trapper and The Lumineers and recorded its LP in Justin Vernon’s home studio in Eau Claire, Wis.

The music itself revolves around Martin’s stirring lyrics and voice, backed by solid instrumentation from Davey Roberts (drums), Matt Roberts (keyboard), Jason Krunnfusz (bass), Matthew Holmen and Zach Johnston.

Martin’s voice bares strong similarity to Imogen Heap, but there are also traces of Leslie Feist, Zola Jesus (another Wisconsin native) and the Haim sisters.

PHOX are currently touring the eastern half of the country before hitting the festival scene this spring and summer, where they’re sure to see their fan base grow exponentially.

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