Infinite Shuffle

March 8, 2013

149 – Mind Spiders

Filed under: Denton Texas, M — assman41 @ 7:06 am

After listening to Mind Spiders’ catalog a few times, I’ve come to a pretty succinct way to describe them.

“This is the kind of band I want Cloud Nothings to be.”

Now, I’m not totally sure if that makes sense, but I feel it’s at least close to comprehensible.

Cloud Nothings started out as a single dude making music on a computer in his parents’ house and has since blossomed into a full-fledged “garage rock” band. But they seem to operate by just throwing a bunch of stuff together and hoping it sticks. Occasionally, they hit gold, but more often it’s just average at best.

Mind Spiders, on the other hand, seem to set out with a plan of pairing halfway intelligible lyrics with catchy hooks in an effort to create 2-3-minute garage rock gems.

On their sophomore album, 2012’s Meltdown, the Denton, Texas, group manages to pull off this feat more often than not. There is some filler here, but most of the songs will keep listeners from hitting the Skip button.

Among the standouts are “You Are Dead”, “Beat”, “On the Radio”, “More Than You” and “Wait For Us”.

The group had similar beginnings to Cloud Nothings, with Mark Ryan composing the band’s 2011 self-titled first album mostly by himself during a hiatus from a pair of other bands. Once he started receiving requests to play live, he enlisted the help of several other talented musicians, including another guitarist, a bassist, an organist and a pair of drummers who play at the same time.

The debut album was more sporadic in its influences and led to a sloppier sound. But the group has tightened up things on the latest release. While some of the lo-fi qualities have been cleaned up, this music still clearly belongs in someone’s garage.

October 31, 2012

134 – Sarah Jaffe

Filed under: Denton Texas, J — assman41 @ 1:44 am

I don’t recall if I’ve ever broached this topic here before, but I have a strange aversion to solo artists. And not for any real logical reason — or at least none that turns out to be accurate.

Whenever I see that an act is just one person, I immediately picture some dude or dudette strumming an acoustic guitar and singing in a sparsely populated coffeehouse somewhere.

And when I see that someone is a singer/songwriter, I often lump them in with all the rest of the dime-a-dozen lot and move on to the next act. Part of that is that I assume a solo artist’s sound is very limited and not nearly as expansive as that of a band.

Now, obviously, I realize that perspective is very ignorant and more than a little naive. But I can’t help it. And because of it, I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of great artists.

But one that managed to make it through my “rigorous” filter is Sarah Jaffe. The 26-year-old songstress from Denton, Texas blends a mostly folk-pop sound with the occasional electro or rock influences — particularly as of late — into an enchanting mix of sounds that’s more powerful than anything at your local coffeehouse.

The above track is the standout from her debut full-length, 2010’s Suburban Nature. It displays how well Jaffe is able to add depth and complexity to all of her songs. Other solid tracks from the album are “Before You Go”, “Better Than Nothing”, “Summer Begs”, “Pretender” and “Watch Me Apart”.

An alternate version of “Clementine” — one that’s piano-based and much more soulful — can be found on the 2011 EP, The Way Sounds Leaves a Room. Also included among the eight tracks are a great cover of Cold War Kids’ “Louder Than Ever” and one of Drake’s “Shut It Down”.

Toward the end of that release, Jaffe starts to show signs of a transition to a more electro sound. And she brings that home on her sophomore full-length, The Body Wins, which came out this past April.

That’s the first single, and, in addition to a great video, it shows a much edgier side to the one-time folkster. Admittedly, I’m not as big a fan of this new sound. But it’s not necessarily bad. In addition to the above song, another solid track on here is “Talk”.

Jaffe played SXSW this year and has toured with some decent acts. With any luck, she’ll be able to cultivate a larger audience over time.

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