Infinite Shuffle

April 4, 2014

201 – Jamestown Revival

Filed under: Austin, J, Los Angeles — assman41 @ 1:54 pm

Reading official band bios can be an eye roll-inducing experience. They are often filled with grandiose language and questionable turns of phrase that would make any English professor weep. And judging by the yarns many of these groups weave, it’s as if being a failed creative writing major is a prerequisite for joining a band.

That being said, sometimes perusing a group’s backstory can help paint a picture that’s almost as powerful as the music. Take Jamestown Revival for instance. Try reading their bio while listening to their debut album, Utah. It’s like some sort of synergistic multimedia project.

If you read the whole thing, then you won’t have trouble figuring out this band. A couple of Texas boys move to California and make indie-folk music with equal parts South and West.

The above track, “California (Cast Iron Soul)”, is the second single off the album, which dropped this past February. It sounds a lot like another member of the L.A. indie-folk rock scene — Dawes. But as you listen to the entire disc, it’s clear that Jamestown Revival has a much more raw sound. Of course, that may just be because all of the songs were recorded in a log cabin in the mountains.

These fellas aren’t going to blow anyone away with a fresh, new sound or any kind of innovative approach to crafting songs. But they do make some great music for sitting on a porch or balcony and just chilling out.


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?

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.

July 15, 2012

122 – Japandroids

Filed under: J, Vancouver — assman41 @ 12:01 am

At this point, I should probably re-evaluate every band that I’ve ever written off.

That’s the lesson that I’ve slowly grasped during the past year or so of listening to new music from bands I’d previously discarded.

The latest retrieval from the trash heap is Japandroids, a punk/pop-rock duo from Vancouver.

I’m not sure if I was confusing them with Japanther or I just heard the wrong song, but I definitely had them pegged as nothing more a couple of loud, somewhat abrasive hacks attempting to play rock but failing.

Turns out, they’re actually pretty solid, particularly on their latest release, Celebration Rock, which came out early last month.

Their 2009 debut, Post-Nothing, was a slightly lighter attempt at garage/pop-punk, with every song coated in distortion. Most of the songs sound pretty similar, but the few that stand out are “Young Hearts Spark Fire”, “Rockers East Vancouver” and “Sovereignty”.

There was also a release in 2010, No Singles, which was just a compilation of a couple of EPs.

The more important album is Celebration Rock, which tones down the distortion greatly, tightens the guitar work and produces songs that are far more accessible.

At several points throughout the album — such as “Adrenaline Nightshift”, “Younger Us” and “The House That Heaven Built” — the Canucks start to channel The Gaslight Anthem, but without all of the Springsteen worship.

The above song is easily the best on the album. But there are a couple more worth noting — “Fire’s Highway” and “Continuous Thunder”. Maybe it’s because I just listened to a bunch of Guided By Voices the other day at work, but “Continuous Thunder” reminds me of Robert Pollard’s crew — but with more distortion.

By the way, if you haven’t already heard it before, Japandroids have a pretty interesting back story. Including the fact that they were all but disbanded when they finally got their big break.

November 7, 2010

50 – Junip

Filed under: J, Sweden — assman41 @ 9:43 pm

When I first heard that Junip was headed by Jose Gonzalez, I immediately scrunched up my nose in disgust. I’m not sure if I was getting him confused with someone else or if I really haven’t heard as much of his solo stuff as I thought I had, but my general attitude toward the man’s music is one of indifference with a tinge of dislike.

However, after the initial contempt wore off and I actually gave the band a chance, I realized Gonzalez really knows what he’s doing.

While the three men that comprise Junip all hail from Sweden, the sound and mood of their music screams Spain or Latin America — actually, it’s probably more of a whisper rather than a scream.

The group has released a pair of EPs — Black Refuge in late 2005 and Rope & Summit in May of this year — followed by its first full-length album, Fields, in September.

There is nary a bad song in Junip’s catalogue, which includes a few standouts, such as “Always” and “Rope & Summit” from the LP, “Official” from the debut EP and the single “Chickens”.

Junip just came through Chicago this month, but, while the group is definitely solid, it’s not the type that I’d want to see in concert. Junip isn’t necessarily a band I’d turn to to drown out the world. Their lo-fi sound is more suited to be played in the background while you read a magazine or balance your checkbook — do people still do this?

For more on the band, check out its official website and MySpace page.

October 3, 2010

45 – Jaill

Filed under: J, Milwaukee, Wisconsin — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I’ve been putting off doing a review of Jaill, mostly because I’ve had a hard time thinking of an apt description for their sound. That’s because they are influenced by multiple different scenes, spanning several decades of the rock spectrum.

Most prominently, Jaill does a good job of channeling the ’60s pop sound — specifically the British Invasion vibe, even though they’re four guys from Milwaukee. Occasionally, they’re also reminiscent of the garage/surf rock of that era.

But they do all this through a modern frame of reference and include some of the lo-fi ethos of the early ’90s. The description they give in their own bio is pretty spot-on.

Up-tempo, guitar-driven twang-twee with punk attitude … disarmingly cheerful at surface level. But, dive into the lyrics and things get weird. Jaill hooks the ears with insistent, upbeat pop and twanged-up garage elements, which grow deliciously darker with further investigation.

I occasionally thought lead singer Vinnie Kircher’s vocals reminded me of the leader of the Cold War Kids, especially on the song “The Stroller”.

True to their early forebears, few of the songs on their second album, That’s How We Burn, crack the 3-minute barrier, which makes the 11-track disc go by quickly. It’s like a shot of pop-rock to get you through the day.

I’ve already listened to it about 10 times since first discovering the album at a couple of record stores while vacationing in Portland and Seattle.

The fact that the band is signed to Sub Pop Records should be reason enough to pick up the album.

Head over to their MySpace page to check out a few of their songs, including a trio from their debut album, There’s No Sky (Oh My My).

May 2, 2010

26 – Jupiter One

Filed under: Brooklyn, J — assman41 @ 6:01 am

The versatility of Jupiter One’s sound can make for a fun listen, but it also makes it tough to pin down an apt description of the band.

They sound like a mix of a lot of popular bands, but it’s difficult to pinpoint which ones. A good place to start might be The Killers and The Bravery, with a little Bloc Party thrown in for good measure.

The indie quintet from Brooklyn is grounded in pop-rock and leans heavily on keyboards and, to a lesser extent, the synthesizer.

Their self-titled debut, which came out in 2007, is loaded with catchy tunes — many of which have found their way into a slew of television, movie, commercial and video game soundtracks.

Some of the standout songs include “Countdown”, “Fire Away”, “Turn Up the Radio”, “Mystery Man” and “Platform Moon” — that last one definitely leans toward the electro sound of such bands as Empire of the Sun, The Presets and Cut Copy.

Considering the high marks of the introductory album, I expected nothing less from the follow-up, Sunshower, which dropped last year. Unfortunately, I was left rather disappointed.

Sunshower is definitely inferior to its predecessor. It’s a mix of stuff that just doesn’t live up to the awesomeness of the debut.

Sometimes, a band’s sound will only change a little from one album to the next. Other times, the contrast is much more stark. Jupiter One (which, by the way, took their name from the ship in the ’60s TV show “Lost In Space”) definitely falls into the latter.

Part of the problem is the wide range of influences the band tries to jam into one album. One second they’re channelling The Cars and Foo Fighters, the next they’re churning out some jazzy-rock that harkens back to the ’70s.

Admittedly, after giving it a second listen, Sunshower had grown on me a little. Part of my contempt is the fact that I put the first album on such a high pedestal that there was no way the band could live up to my lofty standards.

Some of the better songs on this one were “Come On”, “Lights Go Out” and “Volcano”.

You can listen to eight tracks, covering both albums, at their MySpace page.

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