Infinite Shuffle

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.

March 7, 2014

196 – Fitz and The Tantrums

Filed under: F, Los Angeles — assman41 @ 2:45 pm

I love Shazam. When it was first introduced several years ago, I thought mankind had reached the zenith of innovation.

“You can just point your phone in the direction of a song playing on the radio and it’ll tell you the name and artist? What is this, Hill Valley, Calif., circa 2015?”

It was several years before I ever had a phone actually capable of downloading the app, but you can be assured that it was the first one I grabbed. Since then, I’ve used it in bars, restaurants, department stores, while driving in the car and even at a concert or two.

The best is when I discover a new band through it. But more often it’s a song I’ve heard before but can’t quite place. And sometimes, it turns out to be a band I do know but have deemed unworthy of my ears.

That was the case recently when, on two different occasions, I heard two catchy new songs on the radio and immediately headed to Shazam. Both times, it came back saying — much to my surprise — that the band was Fitz & The Tantrums.

That was one of the songs, “Out of My League”, which is the lead single off their sophomore album, More Than Just a Dream, that came out last spring. It’s a much more modern take on the neo-soul sound the group has been developing since bursting on the scene a few years ago.

If you listen to enough of the Los Angeles-based six-piece’s music, you may notice something missing — guitars. That is by design. Founder and lead singer, Michael Fitzpatrick, expressly set out to create music without the ubiquitous instrument.

In an interview with Waster.com, he said:

“I wanted to see if we could create something that felt like it was full and rich and felt like it could be heard on the radio, without those guitars. … All of a sudden, it becomes more about the rhythm section, the bass and the drums and what the organ’s doing. And it creates this really cool pocket for the vocals to sing in.”

Fitz & The Tantrums’ style has been described as “soul-influenced indie pop,” which would be accurate nowadays. But when they put out their debut, Picking Up the Pieces, in August 2010, it was strictly soul, straight out of Motown.

That song, along with the single “MoneyGrabber”, helped catapult the album out of obscurity and to the top of the Billboard Heatseekers chart in 2011.

The album isn’t bad, but it’s a bit of overkill, and the group starts to sound like a one-trick pony after a while.

The new stuff isn’t that much of a departure from the original sound, but there’s been enough of a makeover to make it much more palatable for a modern audience. So much so that Ellen DeGeneres was recently dancing to “The Walker” during a pre-Oscars commercial.

I suspect this group puts on a raucous live show. And it looks like they’re still out on tour, with several stops in college towns and various festivals planned for the spring and summer.

May 22, 2013

160 – Foxygen

Filed under: F, Westlake Village Calif. — assman41 @ 1:28 pm

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of the Rolling Stones. And you were super-excited to see them on the cover of last week’s Rolling Stone magazine.

I’m just kidding. Other than an album’s worth of songs from the ’70s, I couldn’t care less about the band. And the fact that they’re the cover story in 2013 is a perfect example of why that magazine is worthless.

I only bring it up because of how much I was reminded of Mick Jagger’s vocals while recently listening to the band, Foxygen.

That tune, “Waitin’ 4 U”, is from the band’s 2012 album, Take the Kids Off Broadway. Hearing that makes one think that Jagger stepped into a portal back in 1973 and arrived in the Los Angeles suburbs in 2005 and decided to start a psychedelic indie rock duo.

In actuality, it was Jonathan Rado and Sam France who joined forces in Westlake Village, Calif., and set forth making several EPs full of experimental, avant-garde, garage rock.

The group’s early work is an acquired taste. But on the recent release, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, which came out this past January, the band finally starts to put things together in a more palatable manner.

The song that’s been getting a lot of love lately is “San Francisco”.

In April, the group released Jurrassic Exxplosion Phillipic, an LP they recorded in 2007, to the public for the first time. It’s a bit of a time capsule for the band, considering how much it’s grown since then.

For now, it might be wise to stick to the newer stuff. Especially if you still long for the Rolling Stones’ heyday.

February 11, 2013

146 – Film School

Filed under: F, San Francisco — assman41 @ 3:23 am

The most obvious element of the shoegaze scene is the fuzzy, distorted lo-fi feel that covers just about every song in the genre. But an aspect that is just as important, if not often overlooked, is the poppiness.

According to spell-check, that’s not even a word. But it’s definitely a key ingredient to any good shoegazer song. Because without it, you’d just be left with something closer to metal or punk.

One band that seems to value that pop element more than most is Film School. The San Francisco-based quintet can certainly stare at its Chuck Taylors with the best of them, but it also knows how to churn out a catchy hook.

Lead singer Greg Bertens (aka Krayg Burton) formed the band in the late ’90s and has been its only constant ever since. With the help of members of the bands Fuck and Pavement, he put out Film School’s debut, Brilliant Career in 2001.

Bertens had an entirely new cast of characters alongside him by the time the band put out a self-titled release in 2006. The album is full of great, indie rock songs with slow pacing, some dreaminess to them and definite shoegaze and post-punk elements. Besides the above-linked “Breet”, other notable tracks are “Like You Know” and “11:11”.

It wasn’t until the release of Hideout the following year that Film School really turned the corner musically. And it’s no coincidence that this transition occurred after great upheaval in the band’s roster, when three members were replaced. The most notable addition was the band’s first female member, bassist Lorelei (Plotczyk) Meetze, whose vocal presence helped give the band a totally different dimension.

On Hideout, the musicianship seems much crisper than earlier offerings, and it translates into several more standout tracks. The opener, “Dear Me”, sets the stage for a livelier experience. It’s followed by such other strong entries as “Sick Hipster Nursed By Suicide Girl”, “Two Kinds”, “Go Down Together” and “Plots and Plans”.

Film School continued to build on their sound and, in 2010, produced their best album to date with Fission. There is no filler among the 12 tracks, and things once again start off strong with the opener, “Heart Full of Pentagons”. Other notable ditties are “Meet Around 10”, “Distant Life” and “Find You Out”.

It’s been 2.5 years since that release, and fans are psyched for some more music. But, judging from the band’s website, there will be nothing new any time soon.

January 21, 2013

143 – Family of the Year

Filed under: F, Los Angeles — assman41 @ 8:22 pm

It’s been almost two years since I saw them live at SXSW, but now seems like as good a time as any to talk about Family of the Year.

The indie-pop group from Los Angeles has roots in several different locales, particularly Massachusetts. Brothers Joseph and Sebastian Keefe were born in Wales and eventually moved to Martha’s Vineyard. They were part of a couple of regionally well-known bands in the Boston area. Eventually, they and some bandmates moved to L.A., where they met Christina Schroefer, thus completing the core group that would become Family of the Year.

While occasionally dabbling in some different musical genres, the vast majority of Family of the Year’s sound centers around beautiful male-female harmonies and pop-folk instrumentation.

That is the first track on the band’s debut EP, 2009’s Where’s the Sun. It was originally titled “Down to the River” but was changed when it was included on Songbook, the debut full-length that was released later that year.

While the album was a nice starting spot for the band, it only had one other real notable track, “Let’s Be Honest”.

During the next two-plus years, the group put out a trip of EPs — Through the Trees, St. Croix and Diversity. The most notable track from these that wouldn’t eventually make its way on a full-length in the States was “Chugjug”, which was included in a 2010 Advil commercial.

Finally, in July 2012, the band put out its sophomore full-length, Loma Vista. With its tighter compositions, stronger harmonies and catchier tracks, the album stands as a notable step forward for the band.

Some of the better tracks are “The Stairs”, “Diversity”, “Hero”, Everytime” and “Find It”. But the best track here, and arguably the band’s best to date, is “St. Croix”.

Family of the Year were actually just in Chicago on Sunday for the final day of the Tomorrow Never Knows festival. Unfortunately, the show was sold out by the time I became interested in it.

With any luck, it won’t be too long before they return to the Windy City.

December 27, 2012

141 – Fort Atlantic

Filed under: Athens Ga., F — assman41 @ 1:14 am

The musical pairing that is Fort Atlantic likely saw its stock rise within the last week after having its anthemic single, “Let Your Heart Hold Fast”, playing during the climactic final scene of the most recent episode of How I Met Your Mother.

That’s certainly how I came across the group, which is basically Jon Black, a singer, songwriter and musical jack-of-all-trades, paired with drummer Josh Cannon.

The duo came together in 2010 after Black had been tinkering in his new home studio in Athens, Ga., wrote a bunch of new songs and decided what he created was bigger than anything he could handle, so he called in Cannon for support.

With the help of New York-based mixer/producer Tom Schick, they put together a 10-track, self-titled album that was released in May of this year. For the most part, the disc is full of solid folk/rock-pop. But at times they dabbled with the laptops a little too much.

The first two tracks — “No One Will Know” and “Career Advice” — are good old folk rock. Then comes the aforementioned “Let Your Heart Hold Fast”, which could easily be in consideration for everyone’s song of the year if anyone else actually knew the album existed.

After the mostly forgettable “Up From the Ground”, things go in a totally different direction with an artsy/experimental 8-minute-long “I’m Wrong”, which is an instrumental for the first five of those minutes.

That’s followed by “Movie Screen”, a very slow, churning, powerful song that is almost ballad-like. Then on “New York Lights”, Black brings things back to the folk side. Way back in fact, as he does his best Bob Dylan impression, right down to the harmonica.

Next is “My Love Is With You”, which is more of a modern alt-country ballad, something that Ryan Adams might sing. Then they close with a couple more forgettable tracks — “The Wrecking Ball” and “There Is Love”.

All in all, Fort Atlantic certainly have the potential to craft a great song, they’re just a little to hit-and-miss. Black and Cannon need to figure out what kind of band they want to be and then stick with it rather than jumping all over the place on each record.

August 7, 2012

My new favorite website: Plixid.com

Filed under: A, B, F, H, T, W — assman41 @ 4:26 am

The last few months, it’s been difficult to find reliable websites to download music for free. The old standbys, such as MegaUpload, MediaFire and FileTube, have either been shut down by the government or simply don’t return any worthwhile results.

Rather than download RAR and ZIP files, I’d been forced go the torrent route and hope that Vuze would have the albums I was looking for. But that’s generally hit or miss.

But a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon my savior — Plixid.com. Not only does this site provide reliable links to albums, it’s also become an invaluable source for discovering new music.

The site adds one album every 15 minutes. They cover numerous genres and include a lot of new stuff — but there’s also plenty of old albums.

Instead of sifting through everything, I stick to the Indie/Post-Rock/Post-Punk feed and have already found numerous gems. The highlight so far was The Darlingtons, who I featured in last week’s post. But there’s been enough good stuff to keep me busy.

Here are the standouts from the past few weeks:

Air Traffic Controller

Immediately at the start of “Hurry Hurry”, the opening track the album, Nordo, I figured Air Traffic Controller had to be a side project for one of the dudes from They Might Be Giants. You cannot listen to that song and think of TMBG’s “Birdhouse In Your Soul”.

But as the album plays on, the similarities die down and are replaced with some rather catchy tunes. But in the way that one fan’s “catchy” is another fan’s “annoying.”

With some quirky songs about “Field of Dreams” and “Star Wars”, this group keeps things light while still churning out some solid tunes.

Heavenly Beat

When he decided to try his hand at the whole solo thing, John Pena decided not to stray too far from his bread and butter.

Pena has taken the electro-dream pop he helped create as the bassist for Beach Fossils and jazzed it up, infusing it with a new level of complexity.

The songs on the recently released Talent are the kind of dream pop catnip that could lull someone to sleep. But there is also a whole other layer of electro-pop that makes the music more engaging. It’s this dichotomy that makes every track so enjoyable.

Factories

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be humming “It’ll Be Alright” for at least a couple of days after your first hear it via Factories’ debut album, Together.

The second track on the disc, this song is a perfect example of the heights this band can reach when its lyrics live up to the standard set forth by the sonic electro beats that permeate throughout.

The rest of the album is pretty solid, with such notable songs as “Canada”, “Calypso”, “Kamikaze”, “Pressure”, “No One Noticed Me But You” and the title track.

Brainstorm

Here’s one reason you may feel a little apprehensive using Plixid.com. Apparently, Heat Waves, the debut full-length release from Brainstorm, isn’t officially out until Oct. 2. Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying it for the past couple of weeks.

Oh well. I’m glad I was able to hear it early. The album is definitely solid, filled with catchy indie rock-pop ditties. But that description does not do these songs justice.

This Portland trio has an intoxicating mix of influences that work so well together — kinda like Vampire Weekend, except the two bands really don’t sound anything alike.

Check out a few of their videos here. 

Westkust

If you prefer your shoegaze with plenty of fuzzy instrumentation, check out Westkust. Their EP, Junk, is so entrancing.

Trespassers William

The indie gods giveth, and the indie gods taketh away.

Shortly after downloading a few tracks by the group, Trespassers William, I’ve come to find out that they are disbanding. The September release of Cast, a collection of B-sides and rarities, will be the final output of the Seattle group.

After three full-length albums and two EPs, the group’s two main members — Anna-Lynne Williams and Matt Brown — have decided to focus on their solo projects.

From what little I’ve heard of the group’s music, I know that it will surely be missed.

April 15, 2012

110 – French Films

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

The Finnish fivesome known as French Films falls somewhere between Surfer Blood and The Drums on the indie surf-rock spectrum.

At times they sound like an indie-rock band with surf-rock influences; and other times they sound like a surf-rock band with indie-rock influences.

The above song is from their debut EP, 2010’s Golden Sea, which consists of four tracks that lean more toward the beach than the garage. In addition to the title track, the disc includes “Lift Me Up” and the better-than-good “Dropout Jr.”.

All of those songs, as well as a few from their 2011 full-length debut, Imaginary Future, can be found at their MySpace page, which is actually how I first discovered the band.

With 10 songs, including the previously released “Golden Sea”, the full-length allows French Films to show off their depth as they bounce from The Drums to Jesus and the Mary Chain.

Some of the stronger tracks are “Living Fortress”, “Escape in the Afternoon” and “Up the Hill”.

Considering the band doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, nor can it easily be found on Amazon, it might be awhile before French Films make their way to the States for any kind of lengthy tour.

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.

October 15, 2011

86 – Foals

Filed under: England, F — assman41 @ 3:03 am

If there is one sub-genre of indie music that is hit-or-miss with me, it’s electro. I’m not a huge fan of it, but if a band does it just right, then I can be reeled in.

There are several such bands that remain on the fringe of my musical universe — such as The Presets, Cut Copy, Golden Filter and Hot Chip, to name a few.

One band that seems to have found itself just inside of my orbit is Foals. The five-piece from Oxford has put out a pair of full-length albums since forming in 2005.

The debut in 2008, Antidotes, is reminiscent of Hot Chip and VHS or Beta, with a little Bloc Party thrown in. The pace of the album is breakneck, filled with the clamor of guitars, cymbals and vocals all delivered in a staccato manner.

It’s something of an acquired taste, but there are some decent songs on there, including “Big Big Love (Fig. 2)”, “Two Steps, Twice” and “Red Sock Pugie”.

Foals – Red Sock Pugie

The disc actually debuted at No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart and eventually went Gold there. As did their 2010 follow-up, Total Life Forever. That collection of songs is a little slower and deeper, but not by much.

The most noticeable aspect of the sophomore offering is that the songs are a little more complex and less similar to one another. It seems like more time and effort was put into crafting them, which is a clear positive for this album.

Some of the better tracks include “Miami”, “Black Gold”, “2 Trees” and “Blue Blood”.

Foals – Blue Blood

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