Infinite Shuffle

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.

October 17, 2013

179 – CHVRCHES

Filed under: C, Scotland — assman41 @ 1:31 pm

Not too long ago, I wrote about the recent trend of bands using monikers that were difficult to search for online — BOY, Girls, Women, The Men.

The band CHVRCHES could have had a similar issue, but they purposefully used the Roman V instead of a “u” in their name so as not to get confused with actual churches during searches.

That’s not exactly reason enough to trumpet the band — although it’s close. Thankfully, its debut album is filled with catchy songs that need to be appreciated.

The Bones of What You Believe was released late last month to much critical praise. The group’s main sound isn’t anything new — female vocals on top of a ton of synths. The thing that separates CHVRCHES from the rest of the pack is Lauren Mayberry, the siren who dominates every track on the album.

Whereas many of their contemporaries — such as The Naked and Famous, Cut Copy and Shiny Toy Guns — bury the vocals under synths and production effects, CHVRCHES put an emphasis on the vocals.

The trio is the latest export from Glasgow, and they’ve been slowly building buzz since forming in 2011. A breakout set at SXSW and opening slots for Depeche Mode and Passion Pit were followed by the release of the Recover EP this past March.

The full-length album is filled with single-worthy tunes. In addition to the above two tracks, other notables include “Recover”, “Gun” and “By the Throat”.

The group is on a lengthy tour with most of the shows overseas. It will make a swing through the U.S. in November but only in the southern half of the country.

August 15, 2013

170 – Mikal Cronin

Filed under: C, San Francisco — assman41 @ 1:10 am

One of the tidbits that often comes up in stories on Jack White is the number of various bands and side projects he’s a part of. It’s true that White is a busy man, but he looks like a sloth in comparison to Mikal Cronin.

Dating back to 2005 — and probably much further back — the San Francisco-based garage rocker has been actively providing his guitar skills and occasional vocals to a number of bands, such as Epsilons, Moonhearts, Okie Dokie and Party Fowl, a few of which also included high school pal Ty Segall. Cronin is also a mainstay in Segall’s live band and has collaborated on an album — 2009’s Reverse Shark Attack — with him.

But Cronin’s best work has come most recently in the form of his solo releases — 2011’s self-titled “debut” and this year’s MCII, which found its way on to several mid-year best-of lists.

Where most of his early work consisted of him adding a fuzzed-out guitar to throwaway garage-rock compositions, the 27-year-old has shown himself to be a formidable force through his solo releases.

His self-titled disc opens with a harmony straight out of a Beach Boys recording studio, and it lingers throughout the album.

The second track, “Apathy” — which, cleverly, is about how he doesn’t want apathy, has a subtle nod to the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”. And as the album progresses, it feels as if the Beach Boys and Beatles hung out together in a garage all day playing pop-rock music.

Jump to this year’s release, and there is still some of that residual ’60s vibe, but Cronin adds some more modern influences. Well, modern as in ’90s alt-rock. Several songs on MCII — such as “Am I Wrong”, “See It My Way” and “I’m Done Running From You” — give the impression that Cronin listened to a lot of Weezer and Guided By Voices during his formative years.

The album starts strong with “Weight”, which establishes that Cronin has kicked things up a notch from his previous release. That transitions into the best song on the album, “Shout It Out”, a ditty that will get stuck in your head immediately.

In fact, many of the songs on this album are liable to bounce around in your head for a while. It’s front-loaded with several strong cuts, but after the fifth track, “Peace of Mind”, which calls to mind Wilco, the disc starts to peter out.

Even so, this album is one of the strongest to drop this year and should help Cronin continue to prove himself a strong solo artist.

April 14, 2013

155 – Citizens!

Filed under: C, England — assman41 @ 12:01 am

“Hot Chip meets Franz Ferdinand.”

Those five words rather succinctly sum up the sound of the band, Citizens!

The London-based electro-indie quintet has a very similar style to Hot Chip — both vocally and instrumentally — but with the occasional added flourish of Franz Ferdinand. That’s not surprising considering its 2012 debut, Here We Are, was produced by Franz frontman Alex Kapranos.

Above is one of three videos produced for the band’s first single, “True Romance”. The other two feature a couple performing several interesting dance routines and a sadistic puppeteer.

The song is a pretty good indicator of what a listener can expect to hear on the album. In addition to Hot Chip and Franz Ferdinand, there are some other bands evoked on the disc, including The Killers.

Other notable tracks include “Monster”, “She Said” and “(I’m In Love With Your) Girlfriend)”.

By the way, if you do find yourself searching for Citizens!, make sure you include that exclamation point. Otherwise, you run the risk of accidentally listening to gospel/Christian music. And nobody wants that.

November 2, 2012

135 – Cold War Kids

Filed under: C, Long Beach Calif. — assman41 @ 4:48 am

It happens all the time. A new band hits the scene with a really popular song and gets a lot of buzz behind its first album. By the time the next release drops, there isn’t necessarily another big hit that galvanises the fan base. The hype dies down and listeners move on to the next “it” band, paying little attention to future releases.

Often, that kind of procession is warranted, as bands only have a couple of really great songs in them. But, sometimes, bands end up improving, yet there’s no one around to notice.

That’s where Cold War Kids find themselves. They hit the ground running in October 2006 when they released their debut full-length, Robbers & Cowards. The album was highlighted by the big single, “Hang Me Up To Dry”.

There were some other decent songs on there, including “We Used To Vacation” and “Saint John”, but, for the most part, the band was a one-hit wonder. Part of it was due to its unique sound. Nathan Willett’s vocals are like nobody else’s, and they sound like they may come from a slightly masculine woman.

By the time the follow-up album, Loyalty to Loyalty, came out in 2008, the band’s juice had run out. And with only one notable track on the release — “Something Is Not Right With Me” — the band appeared to be destined for the clearance section on Amazon.com.

Then something interesting happened. The band put out a four-track EP, Behave Yourself, in early 2010. Clocking in at just under 15 minutes, there wasn’t much to the release — except that all of the songs were pretty decent, particularly the single, “Audience”, which easily ranks as one of the best songs in the band’s catalog.

Barely a year later, in January 2011, Cold War Kids put out their third full-length, Mine Is Yours. While it didn’t receive the same kind of buzz as previous releases, the album is easily the band’s best to date.

Led by the opening title track, the disc is filled with soulful, indie rock songs that have little of the abrasiveness of the band’s earlier output. The bulk of the songs here are very accessible and at least mildly catchy.

Other quality tracks include “Louder Than Ever”, “Finally Begin”, “Skip the Charades” and “Royal Blue”.

The album charted surprisingly well, which makes one wonder if there will be renewed buzz for the band when it inevitably releases another EP or full-length within the next year or so.

May 28, 2012

116 – Car On the Moon

Filed under: Brooklyn, C — assman41 @ 9:06 pm

About two weeks ago, I made my maiden voyage to New York City. I’ll admit that I was a touch intimidated leading up to the trip, but it ended up exceeding my expectations in terms of awesomeness.

In addition to all the great food and drink I consumed and the various interesting sites I checked out, the highlight of my trip was probably discovering a new, great band.

There weren’t too many scheduled events on my itinerary for the week, so my host and I often just came up with things to do on the fly. One night, we figured we’d try to find some live music, which, pleasantly, is not at all difficult to do in NYC.

We ended up finding a cheap show in Park Slope at a great little venue called Union Hall. The main floor is a quaint bar with great seating, nice ambience and a couple of bocce courts. Downstairs is where they put on shows.

Basically the size of someone’s basement, with a stage on end and a bar at the other, Union Hall is the perfect place to discover up-and-coming bands before they get their big break.

While all of the acts were solid in their own right, it was the first group we saw that turned out to be the best.

Car on the Moon is a four-piece band from Brooklyn that comfortably straddles the area between folk and indie-pop. Most of their songs are of the slow, quiet variety and are occasionally accented by louder, more raucous choruses.

At the core of the band is Elias Orling, the lead singer and lyricist, who seems ready-made to front an indie-folk band. Providing some female backing vocals is multi-instrumentalist Sylvia Chen. Along with bassist Steve Ferrara and drummer Danny Festa, the group put out its self-titled, full-length debut in September of last year.

Some of the standout tracks include “Sea of Indians”, “Doctor”, “Love You More”, “The Bridge” and “My Only Drum”.

(Unfortunately, there are no videos online to link to, and I can no longer upload songs.)

To check out all 11 songs from the album, head over to the band’s website.

I got a chance to chat with Orling for a few minutes after his band’s set. He said they’d just finished a stretch in the recording studio, which hopefully means there will be more to come soon. As for touring, he said they’ll try to canvass the greater New York area on weekends, but it’ll probably be a long time before they ever make it to the Midwest.

April 2, 2012

108 – The Courteeners

Filed under: C, England — assman41 @ 2:04 pm

If you’re looking for another run-of-the-mill indie rock/pop band from England, you could certainly do a lot worse than The Courteeners.

The quartet from Greater Manchester formed in 2006 and has put out a pair of full-length albums — 2008’s St. Jude and 2010’s Falcon.

The debut, which was loved by at least one blogger, was filled with a lot of songs that sounded like pretty much everything else that was coming out of the British indie scene at the end of the last decade.

While their sound was not very distinct, The Courteeners did manage to put out a couple of solid tracks, including “What Took You So Long?” and “Cavorting”. The best tune on here — and the band’s best one to date — is “Not Nineteen Forever”, which charted rather well and has been used in several TV shows, including Cougar Town.

With Falcon, the band managed to add a little complexity to its sound and kicked up the electro vibe a bit. In terms of solid tracks, it has its predecessor beat, with such ditties as “Will It Be This Way Forever?”, “Take Over the World”, You Overdid It Doll”, “Lullaby” and “Scratch Your Name Upon My Lips”.

While neither album would be considered a must-have, if you downloaded all of the aforementioned songs, it would probably make for a worthwhile eight-track playlist.

March 25, 2012

Update threeplay

Filed under: C, F — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When I started this blog, I had grand visions of posting about a bunch of new and newish bands, then posting updates whenever they released a new album. Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet.

But three bands that I wrote about in the past all happened to put out some solid releases at the start of 2012, and I had to make everyone aware of them. Coincidentally, all three were included in “threeplay” posts, so, it seems fitting that their updates would be part of another three-pack.

fun.

On their second album, fun. answer the question: “What would Queen have sounded like if they were an emo band?”

Nate Ruess’ signature Mika/Freddie Mercury vocals are still ever-present throughout Some Nights. But this time around, they’re complemented by some very strong, complex instrumentation.

The big single, “Tonight”, which features some backing vocals from Janelle Monae, is a great, slow-building anthemic pop-rock song that has the potential to make some end-of-the-year lists.

The title track includes some harmonizing that conjures memories of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Other strong songs include “One Foot”, “Carry On” and “Why Am I the One” and the bonus track, “Out On the Town”.

On a less-than-positive note, in case you were wondering how annoying Ruess’ voice would sound auto-tuned, just listen to “Stars” or “It Gets Better”. It certainly couldn’t get any worse.

First Aid Kit

Whatever made me originally think of Joanna Newsom is no longer present on First Aid Kit’s latest album, The Lion’s Roar.

The Sisters Soderberg have taken their folk roots and added several layers to create a richer, deeper sound. On several tracks, they channel their country-folk influences, especially on the big first single, “Emmylou”.

It’s pretty cool to hear a couple of Swedish girls in their late teens/early 20s name-checking Emmylou Harris, Graham Parsons and June Carter and Johnny Cash.

While that song will almost-definitely make my Best of 2012 mix CD, there are several other solid tracks on the album. They include the title track, “Blue”, “I Found a Way” and “King of the World”, which includes backing vocals by Conor Oberst.

Considering how much hype this album received — or at least on the indie scale of hype — I’m hopeful the band can parlay this into a bigger following.

Cloud Nothings

Plenty of bands change their sound from one album to the next. That’s just natural and to be expected. But the transformation that Cloud Nothings have gone through in less than a year is nothing short of amazing.

After two albums filled with lo-fi pop created on a computer in his parents’ basement, Dylan Baldi hastily assembled a band and hit the road. And after playing countless shows, he apparently realized that his songs didn’t lend themselves to very much improvisation in concert.

So he and his crew headed to Chicago and teamed with legendary producer Steve Albini to create an album full of songs that he could bend to his every whim whilst on stage.

The end result was Attack On Memory, an eight-song disc loaded with grungy, distortion-laced, shoegazing, heavy rock that harkens back to the early ’90s.

Or, as a friend of mine simply described the new sound — “it’s raunchy.”

Personally, this album isn’t exactly my cup of tea. It’s too much fuzz and not enough heart. That being said, there are a few songs I dug, such as “Stay Useless”, “Fall In” and “Our Plans”.

I’m certainly not going to push this band aside. Baldi’s output has been somewhat prolific thus far, and I’m eager to see in what direction he takes his band in the future.

March 18, 2012

107 – Craft Spells

Filed under: C, Stockton Calif. — assman41 @ 12:01 am

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, then I only need to use two words to adequately describe the music of Craft Spells — “trance mix.”

Alas, you probably don’t come here that often — or ever — and only happened upon the site while searching for SXSW torrents, or you were duped by one of my Facebook posts.

Nevertheless, “trance mix” simply means that Craft Spells would fit perfectly in my correlating iTunes playlist alongside the likes of Wild Nothing, Youth Lagoon, Beach Fossils, Lower Dens and The XX.

It would be very easy to get Craft Spells’ dreamy, shoegazey synth-pop confused with that of the aforementioned bands. In fact, it’ll probably take many more listens before I have any real chance of differentiating them.

From what I can tell from the debut release — 2011’s Idle Labor — this four-piece from Stockton, Calif., plays at a slightly faster pace than its brethren, has a very steady drum beat throughout and mixes in a surf-pop sound from time to time.

Besides the above two videos, other strong tracks on the album include “The Fog Rose High”, “For the Ages”, “Scandinavian Crush”, “From the Morning Heat” and “You Should Close the Door”.

Craft Spells will be hitting the road this Spring, including a stop in Chicago in late April when they’ll open for The Drums. Should be a great show.

September 20, 2011

83 – The Cave Singers

Filed under: C, Seattle — assman41 @ 5:49 pm

Considering the long odds, most musicians would consider themselves extremely lucky if they ever reach a national level of acclaim.

More rare is the artist who can build an audience with multiple bands. That’s what makes the career of Derek Fudesco so impressive.

Beginning in the mid-’90s with Murder City Devils, then with Pretty Girls Make Graves and now with The Cave Singers, the Seattle-based musician has helped put three separate and disparate bands on the map.

While Devils (garage rock) and Pretty Girls (art rock) are/were solid in their own right, The Cave Singers are the group that most tickles my fancy. I’d heard of them before, but didn’t give them a second thought until a friend recently suggested I listen to them.

From the first song, “Seeds of Night”, the opener on 2007’s Invitation Songs, I knew I was gonna like these guys.

The Cave Singers – Seeds of Night

In addition to Fudesco, the indie folk-rock trio includes Pete Quirk and Marty Lund. Forming in 2007, they’ve put out three albums — including 2009’s Welcome Joy and this year’s No Witch.

The Cave Singers – Hen of the Wounds

While everyone in the group sings, Quirk is the main vocalist. His influences are hard to pinpoint, but at times he sounds like Billy Corgan trying to sing folk-rock.

The Cave Singers – Gifts and the Raft

According to their record label website, the band will be in Chicago on Oct. 1 — at a pretty sweet-looking free festival, no less. Alas, I’ll be working that day. Perhaps next time.

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