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.

April 28, 2014

204 – Fear of Men

Filed under: England, F — assman41 @ 11:48 am

When you hear Loom, the debut full-length release from Fear of Men, your first thought may be, “Oh, I’d always wondered what Dolores O’Riordan was up to nowadays.”

As it turns out, she’s still busy in her second stint fronting The Cranberries. But you’d be excused if you thought maybe she had started an indie-rock band on the side.

Actually, that’s Jessica Weiss who’s Lingering around like a Zombie. (I’m not proud of that last sentence.) Weiss’ vocals bear a striking resemblance to those of O’Riordan — minus the Irish lilt — and mixed with a little bit of Tracyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura.

The above track, “Luna”, perfectly encapsulates what this band is all about — shoegazey instrumentation backing dreamy vocals that belie a melancholic tone.

Based out of Brighton, England, Fear of Men are officially a trio, with Weiss, Daniel Falvey (guitar) and Michael Miles (drums). Bassist Becky Wilkie joins the fray for live sets.

The group first pinged the indie radar in February 2013 with the release of Early Fragments, the aptly titled compilation of singles and B-sides. Only two songs — “Seer” and “Green Sea” found their way onto Loom. Among the other six tracks, there are several — “Doldrums”, “Born” and “Spirit House” — that complement the recent release nicely. There are also a couple that never need to be played again — “Your Side” and “Ritual Confession”. Then there’s “Mosaic”, which would be solid if they’d taken out the annoying sample recording that pops up a couple of times.

Loom came out in the U.S. last week, and the band is currently touring with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. They’re actually in Chicago tonight at The Empty Bottle, which has the makings of a great show.

April 10, 2014

202 – TOY

Filed under: England, T — assman41 @ 11:55 am

Invariably, the first thing I do when I hear a new band is start trying to figure out who it sounds like. It’s like second nature — What older groups influenced this one? What newer groups would be considered contemporaries? What is the list of bands that would give the clearest idea of what to expect from this new group?

And, as one might expect, this process revolves almost solely around sound — the aural aesthetic.

But when I first heard the latest offering from the band, TOY, my mind wandered not to who they sounded like but more who they felt like. And quickly it turned into, “When I listen to this group, what other bands do I want to listen to next?”

The immediate answer to that question was Guided By Voices, but a couple of other bands I tossed around were Yuck and Elf Power. Looked at individually, these bands don’t necessarily have a lot in common. But for me, personally, there’s some indescribable link — I find myself drifting into the same mindspace whenever I listen to one of these groups. And now I’ve found another conduit in TOY.

It’s difficult to find any obvious similarities between TOY and the other aforementioned bands. Really, there aren’t many. And whatever those may be are quickly twisted into an elongated psychedelic haze.

I wrote briefly about this up-and-coming five piece from Brighton, England, more than a year ago after seeing it on a bunch of Best of 2012 lists. My description then still holds up:

“Combining the best of shoegaze and psychedelia, TOY churns out some very drony, hypnotic tunes that are likely to put you to sleep.”

As it just so happens, the last couple of times I listened to their second album, Join the Dots, it really did put me to sleep. But that’s not a bad thing. The music is just very soothing and great to have on in the background, ready to be focused upon whenever your ears are ready and willing. (Also, I was listening to it around 2 a.m., so I was just asking to be lulled into a dream state.)

I’m not usually a big fan of psychedelia, but this band manages just enough flourishes to keep me interested. As one Amazon reviewer aptly put it, TOY are basically a palatable version of Tame Impala.

And despite its lazy sound, it turns out the group is rather ambitious, intending to release an album every calendar year. It barely made its 2013 deadline, dropping Join the Dots in early December. But TOY are already planning to put out a live album and EP at some point this year.

They’re currently touring in Europe but do have a few dates in late April-early May planned for the States. However, unless you’ll be on the West Coast or in Austin or New York at the time, you’re out of luck.

So, I guess you’re stuck checking them out via the interwebs. Here’s the entire album in one hourlong clip.

March 13, 2014

197 – Thumpers

Filed under: England, T — assman41 @ 1:09 pm

I’ve always considered myself a very apathetic person. I’m generally proud of the trait — one might even say I’ve often touted it — but I’ve occasionally been called out on it as well. Friends tell me that there’s got to be something I care about, otherwise, what’s the point of living?

It was during one such conversation several years ago that a friend asked me point-blank whether there was anything I was passionate about. I had to think about it, but after a while I landed on music as a real passion. Certainly not playing it, but listening to it, discovering it and sharing it.

Ever since then, I’ve said that my ideal job would involve sitting around all day, listening to music and writing about it — as well as attending countless concerts, of course.

But whenever I read a review on Pitchfork, I question whether I’d be happy doing that for a living, or if it’s better kept as a hobby.

While searching for information on the band Thumpers, I came across a Pitchfork review that made me think the writer must be so jaded and cynical. And it’s certainly not the first time I’ve had that impression while on the site.

My assumption is that, after listening to so much music by so many bands of varying degrees of quality, the novelty eventually wears off and it’s difficult to ever be truly impressed.

I’m not saying Thumpers are amazing by any means, but they’re far from bad. Their debut release, Galore, which came out last month, is filled with the kind of hopeful indie-pop you might expect on a Passion Pit or Friendly Fires album, but with a far less electro-heavy delivery.

The London-based duo of Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr. layer their vocals over a slew of instruments that skirt the edge of being too overpowering. Lyrically, their songs’ winsome emanations belie a forlorn longing for the lost innocence of youth.

This is an album that definitely grows stronger with repeated listens. There are a number of solid tracks, including “Marvel”, “Sound of Screams” and “Unkinder (A Tougher Love)”. Even the filler stuff is relatively catchy — most notably “Come On Strong”, “Now We Are Sixteen” and “Tame”.

The group is currently in Austin for SXSW, then has a brief tour of the West Coast before heading back to Europe. Considering that the album won’t be dropping in their native England until mid-May, Thumpers is at the precipice of what could be a breakout year.

Do yourself a favor and hop on the bandwagon before all the hipsters claim the best seats.

December 12, 2013

186 – Bastille

Filed under: B, England — assman41 @ 3:30 pm

I’ve mentioned before that I rarely ever listen to pop radio anymore. On rare occasions, when I’m in someone else’s car or abode, I don’t have a lot of say over the music — although, I certainly try to enforce my will.

Well, a few weeks ago, while riding with some friends along the back roads of Michigan, the discussion turned to music — as it often does with me. About that time, Lorde popped on the radio and I was informed that they’d heard of the Kiwi songstress well before I ever wrote about her.

While coming to grips with this news, another song came on, and I begrudgingly admitted to liking it but having never heard it.

“Oh, that’s Bastille,” I was told.

And now it’s my duty to pass this on to you, my loyal reader. Although, I get the feeling more than a few of you probably had heard of this band well before it reached my ears.

The pop quartet from London produces the kind of music that seems tailor-made for today’s mainstream radio — catchy tunes filled with pop bombast, a little folk and enough electronics to not be overbearing.

One reviewer in the band’s native England aptly described its sound as “not unlike a mildly clubby Coldplay.”

Bastille was formed in 2010 by lead singer Dan Smith, owner of a signature bouffant coiffure. The group quickly created a buzz with its uplifting tunes that belie darker, melancholic lyrics.

After releasing an early EP, the band signed with EMI and Virgin and set forth releasing the debut full-length, Bad Blood, which came out in the States this past September.

Prior to that, the group had put out a number of singles, which created enough hype at home that the album debuted at No. 1 on the UK charts upon its March release.

In the midst of a worldwide tour, Bastille is currently making their way through the Midwest before heading back to Europe. They’ll return to the States in the spring — including a stop in Chicago on March 31 — before jetting to Australia.

July 24, 2013

Overrated threeplay

Filed under: Brooklyn, England, I, Las Vegas, P, S — assman41 @ 2:26 am

A number of bands have hit the scene in the last year or so that have gained a great deal of hype — some of them perhaps undeservedly so.

Here’s a look at three groups that are better on paper than they are on record.

Savages

An all-girl quartet from London that mixes the sass of Siouxsie and the Banshees with the post-punk ethos of Joy Division.

It sounds like a can’t-miss formula. Unfortunately, Savages missed the mark on their debut release, Silence Yourself, which came out in May of this year.

Instead of an awesome hybrid of two seminal bands, Savages come across as something of a collection of art-rock posers.

There will definitely be a swath of people who fall head over heels for this group, but there will be a lot more that are turned off by lead singer Jehnny Beth’s poor attempt at mimicking Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Parquet Courts

I had never heard of Parquet Courts before reading a blurb in Rolling Stone, which is not necessarily a good thing in my book. And after listening to their debut full-length, 2012’s Light Up Gold, it seems clear why that rag would be all about the group.

Based in Brooklyn, the indie-punk quartet finds its influence in the DIY punk bands of the early ’80s. Unfortunately, rather than using those bands as muses, Parquet Courts seem content to simply mimic them. The result is an album full of derivative tunes.

The music isn’t horrible, but the time you waste listening to it would be better spent looking into Husker Du or The Replacements or any of a number of their counterparts.

By the way, when the album finished playing on MOG, it went directly to a Nickelback song. If that’s not a warning sign, I don’t know what is.

Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons have always rubbed me the wrong way ever since they started gaining buzz last year with the release of their full-length debut, Night Visions. Part of it was probably the fact that I was constantly being besieged with their ads on Facebook.

But their music is just generic electro-pop/rock. They’re lumped in with similar groups such as Grouplove, Young The Giant, Walk the Moon and Neon Trees. But they clearly belong on the less-talented end of that spectrum.

Granted, they have one really good song in “It’s Time” and another decent one in “Hear Me”, but other than that, Imagine Dragons aren’t really worth the time or effort.

After reading that several band members hail from Utah and attended Brigham Young University and that the group won a battle of the bands at BYU, it makes more sense as to why the music seems so vanilla.

Despite transplanting to Las Vegas, they still lack much flair.

July 2, 2013

165 – Just Handshakes

Filed under: England, J — assman41 @ 1:40 am

I guess it makes sense that the band Just Handshakes recently dropped the appendix (We’re British) from their moniker. One listen to their debut single, “London Bound” and it’s clear they couldn’t be from anywhere else besides Ye Olde Merry England.

With vocals that call to mind Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries and backing instruments straight out of early ’80s Manchester, the Leeds-based quartet perfectly replicate the C86 vibe.

(Sidenote: That intro makes me immediately think of “Dreaming” by Blondie.)

While that opening track to the band’s debut full-length, Say It, is a doozy, it’s somewhat misleading in regards to the rest of the disc, which came out in May.

The second track, “Running Wild”, has some of that same Joy Division Lite sound, but it’s also something of a bridge to the remaining 10 tracks, which are clearly more in the vein of early twee and shoegaze.

It’s difficult to decide which is more enchanting — Clara Patrick’s vocals or the perfectly nostalgic instrumentation.

Clocking in at just under 39 minutes, this album is a quick and pleasant listen and grows on you a little more with each successive spin.

Just Handshakes have yet to leave the UK, but a jaunt Stateside can’t be too far off. Right?

May 1, 2013

157 – The 1975

Filed under: England, Numbers — assman41 @ 1:25 am

With three EPs released in less than nine months and another on the way in a few weeks, one has to wonder if the band, The 1975, intends to put out a conventional release anytime soon.

Then again, considering how good the tunes have been so far, maybe it doesn’t really matter as long as the Manchester quartet keeps churning them out on a regular basis.

The 1975 have enough influences that it’s difficult to pinpoint one in particular. They bounce among styles from song to song, but they never stray from the electro-indie neighborhood.

When asked about the band’s influences, lead singer Matthew Healy rattled off a number of acts, including Michael Jackson, Talking Heads and My Bloody Valentine. But he said the most prominent force in their music may be the films of the late John Hughes.

Above is the title track of the band’s second EP, Sex, which came out in November of last year. That song and disc are the band’s strongest to date. The EP also includes the song, “You”, which is slower than most of the group’s tunes and includes an enchanting guitar line that’s reminiscent of Kings of Leon or VHS or Beta, maybe Two Door Cinema Club. (I should note that I’m not too confident in those comparisons. Maybe one of you could provide a better one.)

The first EP, Facedown, came out last August and included the notable “Antichrist”. The most recent release, Music For Cars, arrived in March. Besides the track, “Chocolate”, it’s mostly filler that goes off into a few different directions.

Their fourth EP, the aptly titled IV, is due out May 20. The main single off of it is “The City”, which originally appeared on Facedown and was the tune that helped the band gain traction in the UK. It’s really not that great, so, instead, I’ll leave you with a previously mentioned track.

By the way, the band will be embarking on a U.S. tour next month that winds its way from Tulsa to Atlanta to Brooklyn — so, just the South and East.

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.

January 14, 2013

142 – The Wombats

Filed under: England, W — assman41 @ 2:30 am

I still can’t figure it out, but for some reason I’ve heard multiple references to The Wombats in the past couple of months. It’s especially odd since they haven’t released an album since April 2011 and don’t appear to be anywhere close to putting out another one.

Nevertheless, those mentions led to me listening to the Liverpool trio’s two full-length releases, so I figured I’d write a little something about them.

I was first introduced to the band several years ago through the song “Kill the Director”, which was the third single off A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation, the band’s debut album that was released in November 2007.

As you can quickly discern, The Wombats sound like any number of indie-pop/rock bands that were coming out of the UK about 5-8 years ago. Bands such as Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks and The Fratellis, to name a few.

That’s not necessarily the band’s fault, but it does make it sound less original. Also, that whole scene doesn’t really hold up as well nearly a decade later.

That being said, all of the bands put out some good songs, The Wombats included. Other strong tunes on that first album include “Let’s Dance To Joy Division” and “Moving To New York”.

The 2011 follow-up album, This Modern Glitch, added an extra electro vibe and also produced a few good songs, such as “Jump Into the Fog”, “Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)” and “1996”.

The band still appears to be active, and it’ll be interesting to see if/how its sound has evolved — if it ever releases another album, that is.

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.