Infinite Shuffle

January 9, 2013

2012 threeplay

Filed under: Brooklyn, D, England, P, Seattle, T — assman41 @ 10:16 pm

Since I spent much of my last few weeks focusing on the best stuff I’d heard during the past year, I wasn’t able to listen to too much new music.

But as I often do in January, I checked out several of the albums that I’d seen on others’ end-of-the-year lists but were totally foreign to me.

Here are three more bands who put out an above-average disc last year.

DIIV

DIIV is the brainchild of Zachary Cole Smith, a member of Beach Fossils who decided to try his hand at the whole solo thing.

Originally named Dive, this Brooklyn-based outfit takes very dream-pop sound of Beach Fossils and covers it in a heavy, dark shade of gloss. The songs on the 2012 debut, Oshin, are shoegaze with an electro twinge.

TOY

I’ve only listened to the self-titled album once, so I’m not totally sold on TOY. This London-based quintet fills its songs with distortion, but it doesn’t drown out the solid vocals or instrumentation.

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

Perfume Genius

The alter ego of Seattle resident Mike Hadreas, Perfume Genius is basically, at its core, just a dude and his piano. But Hadreas’ voice is so beautiful and he adds enough other layers that the music never gets boring.

Hadreas started recording songs after moving from New York to Washington, and he posted his work on MySpace. He was soon discovered by the British band Los Campesinos! and signed to their label.

Since then, Perfume Genius has released two albums — 2010’s Learning and last year’s Put Your Back N 2 It, the latter receiving plenty of critical praise.

August 14, 2012

125 – Django Django

Filed under: D, England, Scotland — assman41 @ 2:23 am

If you and I have ever had discussed music for any period of time, chances are that I came off as a pretentious, know-it-all indie snob. I don’t mean to act like such a prick, but I tend to be pretty passionate about the music that I love, and the snark just kinda happens.

I’m well aware that my knowledge of music — and musicianship — is very limited, and my taste usually doesn’t jive with that of most people I encounter. As for this blog, one of my main missions is to share good, new (or newish) bands with anyone who happens to stumble upon the site.

And occasionally, I’m willing to put aside my feelings and write about a band that I’m not necessarily keen on but think others with similar tastes might enjoy.

And that brings me to Django Django.

The above track is the first single off the self-titled debut from this Edinburgh-bred, London-based quartet. Defying all labels and belying any influences, these lads mix electro, psychedelia, tribal percussion and a whole host of other sonic blurs into a wall of sound that is definitely an acquired taste.

I first discovered the group a month or so ago via And Pluck Your Strings. The Aussie-based blogger considered the album to be among the best of the year thus far.

Obviously, I don’t concur. But you can be the judge.

July 29, 2012

124 – The Darlingtons

Filed under: D, England — assman41 @ 2:24 am

You know that feeling when you hear a band for the first time, and you know — you just know — that its music is going to instantly become a part of your rotation for many months to come?

With as much music as I listen to, you’d think it’d be a common occurrence for me. But, in actuality, it probably only happens a few times a year — if I’m lucky.

Well, it just happened to me again yesterday. I’d downloaded several albums from a new site I recently found — I’ll go into more detail on that next week — and I was listening to all of them during my shift at work.

They all sounded pretty good, to varying degrees. But once I got to The Darlingtons, I knew immediately that they were special.

Releasing their debut full-length, Decades Dance, on May 21, this four-piece indie rock band from Taunton, Somerset, England, officially staked a claim at being included on many a best-of-the-year list.

Admittedly, their sound isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but that doesn’t stop them from churning out non-stop catchy tunes.

The last time I was this excited about a debut album was probably in 2010 when Two Door Cinema Club hit the scene.

The Darlingtons share at least some of their sound with 2DCC, but they’re not as dancy. They also remind me a bit of Glasvegas, but much poppier and without the thick accents.

There’s really not much more to say about these lads, other than that I really hope they make it to the States soon.

By the way, while there is no filler on this album and the above three songs are all solid, I couldn’t find links to my two favorite tracks — “To Break a Heart” and “A Song For Someone Else In Time”.

June 29, 2012

119 – Band of Skulls

Filed under: B, England — assman41 @ 1:41 am

A lot of times, a band’s first big single stands as a beacon of things to come. Fans can latch on to that catchy song and expect to hear a similar sound on the rest of the album.

But it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes, a band’s big hit sounds nothing like the rest of the album.

Imagine if someone had first discovered Green Day by hearing “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. Said person would be rather surprised, and possibly displeased, after listening to the rest of Nimrod.

That’s kinda the situation with Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, the 2009 debut from English alt-rock trio Band of Skulls. Its most recognizable song is “Light of the Morning”, which was not released as a single, but has been featured in commercials and movies.

While the song is pretty solid, it doesn’t mesh with many other tracks on the album — except maybe “Death By Diamonds and Pearls” and “I Know What I Am”. If you had only listened to that, you’d think Band of Skulls was nothing more than a derivative of the White Stripes.

But delve deeper and you’ll discover a band that has a lot more going on. In addition to their killer riffs, Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson do a great job backing up each other on vocals. And Matt Hayward’s drumming ties everything together.

Other strong songs on the debut disc include “Fires”, “Honest” and “Patterns”.

The group takes its melodic, blues rock to a slightly higher level on its latest release, Sweet Sour, which came out in February of this year. Rather than just churning out straight-forward rock, the Skulls soften it, in a similar manner that Silversun Pickups have mastered.

The top songs here are “Bruises” and “Lay My Head Down”, the latter of which is slowed down considerably and becomes something of a heavy ballad.

Other solid entries include the title track, “Wanderluster”, “Hometowns” and “Lies”.

June 27, 2012

118 – Alt-J

Filed under: A, England — assman41 @ 2:04 am

When I received the text message a few weeks ago, I was excited, but also a little nervous. My friend, Scott, who is one of the few people I respect when it comes to their taste in music, sent me word that I needed to immediately check out the group Alt-J and that their debut album, An Awesome Wave, was easily one of the best of the year.

Naturally, I was intrigued. Usually, before checking out a band, I’ve at least heard a minor mention of it once or twice via various sources. But when I downloaded and first listened to Alt-J, I was flying completely blind.

Upon the first listen, I immediately classified it as “an acquired taste.” It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was gonna take a few more listens before anything grew on me. And, as I suspected, after a handful of spins, I’ve grown — not exactly fond, but — accustomed to the mixture of influences. From Junip to modern Radiohead to some other hard-to-pinpoint elements, Alt-J churn out some tunes that are at times funky, at times electro, but always chill.

As described on their Last.fm page, the music is …

… alt-pop that draws on poignant folk verses, crushing synths, smart hip-hop syncopations and tight vocal harmonies.

The quartet formed in 2007 while the four members were all students at Leeds University in England. Known first as Daljit Dhaliwal then FILMS, the band eventually took on the moniker ∆, which is the symbol that results from hitting Alt + J on a Mac computer. I’m on the fence as to whether that’s incredibly awesome or totally pretentious.

Nevertheless, they worked on their sound for several years and eventually gained a local following. After a four-track demo, they put out a pair of 7″ records and eventually released the full-length debut this May.

While Alt-J almost certainly will not be making an appearance on my best-of-the-year post, I wouldn’t kick them out of bed for eating crackers.

(I apologize if that last clause was confusing. It’s something one of my college roommates used to always say, and it occasionally pops into my head.)

June 6, 2012

117 – The Vaccines

Filed under: England, V — assman41 @ 3:16 pm

I’d love to be one of the first people to suggest The Vaccines’ full-length debut is the perfect album for the summer. Alas, it actually came out in May 2011, so I’m a year late on that one.

But for anyone who hasn’t heard What Did You Expect From the Vaccines, then it’s the perfect album for Summer 2012.

Channeling contemporaries such as Surfer Blood and Interpol, this London four-piece churns out songs that are as poppy as they are droning.

Coming in just under 36 minutes, there isn’t any sort of slow build-up on any of these tracks. It’s just straight-ahead indie-pop/rock with a sometimes sunny hue. (Well, except for the closing track, which is 8:30.)

The above song, “If You Wanna”, is the second track on the album. And it establishes early on the band’s tendency to just repeat a word or phrase for much of a song. That’s another reason the short length of the songs is pretty key.

While the album has been out for more than a year, I’ve only heard about The Vaccines sporadically. And I didn’t decide to finally give their album a spin until I heard the opening track — “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” — played during the closing credits of the most recent episode of “Girls”.

Yeah, I watch “Girls.” What’s it to ya?

Did you notice the Ramones influence on that one?

Anyway, this album would be a great complement to any sunny day. And, hopefully, the band will continue to mature and put out some more complex tunes in the near future.

May 13, 2012

114 – Dry the River

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

I’ll just dispense with the flowery lede and get to the obvious comparison right off the bat: Dry the River is very reminiscent of Mumford & Sons.

As The Guardian noted in its review in 2010, the two bands both offer a glimpse of the pastoral with their infectious semi-acoustic ditties.

(Speaking of that review, I rather enjoyed the way the writer led off by noting that there is no other genre of music that a band named Dry the River could ever fall into besides indie-folk rock.)

But after listening to their debut full-length album, Shallow Bed, which came out in April, it’s clear that Dry the River is its own band.

Where the Mumfords’ songs often have a quick acceleration, Dry the River make a slower progression throughout their tracks. That’s not to say they don’t cut loose a little; they just do so at a more relaxed pace.

Dry the River began as a solo project started by Norwegian vocalist-guitarist Peter Liddle, who quickly joined forces in 2009 with Will Harvey (violin) and Jon Warren (drums). Later, Matt Taylor (guitar) and Scott Miller (bass) rounded out the group, which delivered a pair of EPs and hit a number of notable festivals in England.

The Londoners then headed to Connecticut to record their LP, which is loaded with solid tracks. Besides the above two songs, other standouts include “Animal Skins”, “History Book”, “Lion’s Den”, “No Rest”, “Weights & Measures”, “Shield Your Eyes” and “Family”.

The band will be coming to the States this summer, and I fully intend to see its performance at Lollapalooza.

April 8, 2012

109 – Big Deal

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

Hey, look. It’s a male-female indie-pop duo harmonizing together over sparse, dreamy guitars while singing about alienation and unrequited love.

How revolutionary!

OK, so Big Deal’s formula isn’t exactly innovative. But that doesn’t make their music any less captivating.

The London-based duo of Alice Costelloe, a Brit, and Kacey Underwood, an American expatriate, have drawn comparisons to Wye Oak, Beach House and The XX.

There is no filler among the 12 tracks on their recently released debut, Lights Out. With an acoustic guitar accompanied by a fuzzed-out electric axe, the duo puts forth some solid shoegazy pop that works well both as a main course or simply as background noise.

In addition to the above “Chair”, a few other tracks that stood out were “Swoon” and “Talk”.

While you relax to the sounds of Big Deal, be sure to check out their interesting backstory.

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.

December 25, 2011

96 – The Horrors

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

What better time to post a review about a band named The Horrors than on Christmas Day? The contrast is delectable.

Anyways, I had never even heard of The Horrors until a couple of weeks ago when I started scouring best-of-the-year lists. The English five-piece had received a lot of nods for their third full-length release, Skying.

I’d noted it on several lists, but didn’t pay much attention until I read what Under the Radar magazine had to say after ranking it the year’s No. 5 album:

After the Sonics-worship of their debut and post-punk experiments of its follow-up, England’s The Horrors look back to the melodic rush of such ’80s bands as Simple Minds for Skying. Whether they settle into this sound remains to be seen, but for now they seem to have found a stylistic coat that fits just right.

That description piqued my interest, so I set forth listening to their entire catalog, including 2007’s Strange House and 2009’s Primary Colours.

I don’t know The Sonics’ sound well enough to compare the debut album. All I can say about it is that it was a nearly unbearable mishmash of industrial metal/punk garbage. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who dug that sound, but not me.

The sophomore disc was a welcomed departure from that earlier nonsense. While still rough around the edges, The Horrors start to find their niche in the post-punk genre. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve sworn this album came out in 1983, what with its strong early goth influences.

On the latest album, we find the boys sticking to the post-punk sound, but refining things and adding some slightly poppier inflection. While I certainly wouldn’t rank it among the best albums of the year, it does have its moments.

Some of the stronger tracks include “I Can See Through You”, “Dive In”, “Moving Further Away” and “Still Life”.

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