Infinite Shuffle

May 25, 2014

207 – The Neighbourhood

Filed under: N, Newbury Park Calif. — assman41 @ 12:01 am

If you’re an avid reader of this blog and share a similar taste in music, this week’s band might be a bit of a stretch for you. Basically, you’re either gonna love or hate The Neighbourhood.

I’ve been having trouble coming up with an adequate way to describe this group — and an even harder time explaining why I like it. The five-piece from Newbury Park, Calif., seems like such a departure from the music I normally gravitate toward, but I find myself grooving along to nearly every one of its songs.

Formed in 2011, the group released a couple of EPs in the fall/winter of 2012-2013 before putting out a full-length album, I Love You, in April 2013.

“Sweater Weather” is probably the catchiest and most accessible song on the disc, but there are plenty worth noting. It starts with “How”, a nice slow-burner that establishes the tone.

“Afraid” is a song with a lot of pent-up aggression waiting to burst, but it never does. (Sample lyric from the chorus: “I don’t like you. Fuck you anyway.”)

Next is “Everybody’s Watching Me (Uh Oh)”, a perfect example of the kind of songs that fill this album — rap-influenced indie-rock that’s laid back but with enough of an edge that causes your head to bob in time rather than simply swaying along.

After “Sweater Weather” comes “Let It Go”, the lone repeat from the EPs. On this track, lead singer Jesse Rutherford sounds almost like a male version of Lorde, but with a rougher tone.

The album then takes a bit of a dip with “Alleyways” and “W.D.Y.W.F.M?” — both filler tracks, but still good enough not to be skipped. Things then close out strong with four songs — “Flawless”, “Female Robbery”, “Staying Up” and “Float” — that are solid but probably a step down from the first portion of the album.

The Neighbourhood — also written as THE NBHD — seem like the kind of band that could take off on a similar trajectory as groups such as Imagine Dragons and Bastille. They are set to tour the country the next two months, including stops at various Midwest festivals.

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August 18, 2013

So-so threeplay

Filed under: B, Brooklyn, El Paso Texas, Los Angeles, N — assman41 @ 10:05 pm

The past week, I spent much of my time listening to a trio of bands that, for the most part, didn’t do much for me. But they weren’t irredeemable, and they all had their moments. So, I figured I’d just throw them together in one post.

BOSNIAN RAINBOWS

Besides an interestingly random name, this group has some star power behind it, led by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez — best known as the founder and driving force behind heavy act The Mars Volta — and Teri Gender Bender, the lead singer of Le Butcherettes.

The group was formed in 2012 when Rodriguez-Lopez returned to his hometown of El Paso, Texas, after basically dissolving his main band and began looking for a new project.

With Teri Gender Bender’s vocals leading the way, Bosnian Rainbows deliver a sound that is definitely an acquired taste. Some of the labels associated with the group include experimental rock, electro-rock, art rock and art punk.

A better description might be, “a less accessible version of Warpaint.”

That’s probably the best song on the band’s self-titled debut, which came out this past June. Other decent tracks are “Torn Maps” and “The Eye Fell In Love”.

NO AGE

Weirdo Rippers, the 2007 debut by No Age, is pretty much worthless and does not need to be heard by anyone ever again. But that’s OK, because it provides an origin point for the Los Angeles duo’s interesting progression.

Playing together since 2005, Dean Allen Spunt (drums, vocals) and Randy Randall (guitar) have gradually transitioned from annoying noise rockers to something closer to Dinosaur Jr. with an edge.

The band’s 2008 follow-up, Nouns, is, at its best, like something that could have been on the soundtrack to Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

It’s as close to straight-up indie-rock as the band has come during its career. The group’s next release, 2010’s Everything In Between, gives off more of a lazy-slacker vibe. Things are definitely toned down, a little garbled, with a lo-fi feel.

In terms of accessibility, it falls somewhere between the band’s previous two releases. A little further down the spectrum is No Age’s latest release, An Object, which comes out later this month.

The album has a real post-punk vibe, kinda like Joy Division at their most raw. There are some decent songs, such as “I Won’t Be Your Generator”, but there is plenty of less-than-stellar filler.

THE BABIES

Look at it on paper, and it totally makes sense. A man from a relatively well-known indie band is at a party and he runs into a woman from an equally popular band. They hit it off, and, eventually, they decide they should make music together.

In theory, that sounds like the makings of a decent band. Unfortunately, that formula doesn’t always pan out.

Such is the case of The Babies, the combination of Vivian Girls guitarist Cassie Ramone and Woods bassist Kevin Morby. What should have been a lo-fi fan’s wet dream turned into something closer to the musical version of mumblecore.

Most of the songs on the Brooklyn band’s 2011 self-titled debut are dominated by male-female harmonies, with Ramone’s voice often taking the lead.

On the follow-up, 2012’s Our House On the Hill, Morby takes on a larger singing role, providing the main vocals on several tracks.

While the first album sounded like a poor man’s version of Best Coast, the second offering is admittedly more palatable and more fleshed out. And it’s probably the best album referenced in this post.

June 4, 2013

161 – NO

Filed under: Los Angeles, N — assman41 @ 1:31 pm

One of the most-annoying trends of the last 5-10 years in the indie music world is bands giving themselves incredibly vague, one-word names.

I’m looking at you, Girls, Women, Boy and The Men. (It’s as if these bands are actually part of one, big family.)

Anyway, the latest no-name band is, coincidentally, called NO. Not to be confused with a number of similarly named bands, including a post-punk outfit from Australia that hit big in the late ’80s, this indie-rock foursome hails from Echo Park in Los Angeles and has an EP and some singles to its name thus far.

On that EP, Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever, the most obvious comparison is The National. However, where those Brooklynites’ sound seems to be rooted in punk, NO leans a little poppier.

The above album was released in 2011. But it wasn’t until late last year, with the release of the single, “What’s Your Name”, that the band really started to create some buzz.

On that song, and a few others it recently recorded during a Daytrotter session at SXSW, the band develops a much more anthemic sound, similar to that of White Lies, with slow-burning indie ballads that explode at just the right time.

NO are still a supporting band for now, but it shouldn’t be long before they become a headlining act.

May 6, 2012

113 – Now, Now

Filed under: Minneapolis, N — assman41 @ 12:01 am

With the March release of its second full-length album, Threads, the Minneapolis band Now, Now added a darker layer to its sound while continuing to distance itself from an earlier incarnation.

Formed in 2003 by high school classmates Cacie Dalager and Bradley Hale, the band originally went by the name Now, Now Every Children. Under that moniker, they released a couple of EPs and their debut full-length, Cars, in 2009.

With Dalager in charge of vocals, the group sounded like a harder version of Tegan & Sara. The songs on their first album were tight and catchy, but they didn’t necessarily stand out. The best song is probably the title track, which closes the album.

After changing labels, the band decided to shorten the name in order to disconnect itself from any childish image it had.

With a sleeker name and new label — not to mention a larger contingent after guitarist Jess Abbott joined the fray in 2009 — Now, Now released the Neighbors EP in 2010. While Now, Now’s sound hadn’t progressed much in the interim, the disc did have a couple of stronger songs, including “Giants” and the title track.

In late 2011, the band signed to Chris Walla’s label and put the finishing touches on Threads. With a heavier and darker feeling, the album starts to give off a bit of a Warpaint vibe.

This is the band’s most complete offering to date, with such standout songs as “Lucie, Too”, “Thread”, “Dead Oaks”, “Prehistoric” and “But I Do”.

As the band’s star continues to rise, it has lined up touring dates with The Naked and Famous and fun. It also recently received some praise on NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast.

For more on the band, visit its official website or MySpace page, and be sure to check out this great live video for “Thread”.

March 5, 2012

105 – Nurses

Filed under: N, Portland — assman41 @ 2:19 am

I’ll give this to Nurses, they’re a difficult band to pigeonhole. They’re a mix of several different genres, including pop, soul, folk, electronica and psychedelia.

The best description I found for the group was “psychedelic bubblegum pop.”

Their music is an acquired taste, and I’m not sure I’ve latched on to it just yet.

The above track comes from the Portland trio’s sophomore album — 2009’s Apple’s Acre. Those whiny vocals you hear come from Aaron Chapman and can be found throughout the band’s entire catalog. And they’re the fulcrum between loving and hating this group.

In Pitchfork’s review of the album, the writer describes Nurses’ sound as “the shaggy younger sibling of Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear on a tight budget.” That’s certainly better than anything I could’ve come up with.

The group’s most recent release — 2011’s Dracula — is definitely the most well-rounded thus far. While the songs on Apple’s Acre all kinda run together and sound the same, the tracks on Dracula stand out better and have more nuance.

As I alluded to earlier, I’m not so sure Nurses are my cup of tea. But their sound is not too far from my comfort zone, and I’m confident that at least one person reading this post will fall in love with the band.

July 11, 2011

75 – The Naked and Famous

Filed under: N, New Zealand — assman41 @ 7:06 pm

The Naked and Famous might be this year’s Ladyhawke — an electro/indie-pop band from New Zealand that puts out a couple of amazing singles, but just can’t sustain the awesomeness for an entire album.

I first discovered the Kiwi quintet via my boy, Simon, over at Outroversion. (I’ve never actually met Simon, but I bet we’d hit it off smashingly if we ran into each other at a festival Stateside. What do you say, Simon, SXSW 2012?)

Now, it’s been awhile since I listened to Ladyhawke, but, if I recall correctly, I absolutely loved three of their songs and could do without the rest.

As for The Naked and Famous (TNAF), they dropped their debut album, Passive Me, Aggressive You in December 2010. I’m a big fan of “Young Blood” and “Punching In a Dream” and I’m also digging “No Way”. But as for the rest of the album, I could pretty much take it or leave it.

The Naked and Famous – Young Blood

It’s hard to pick out influences for TNAF, as they don’t necessarily sound like any one or two bands. I will admit that they do a good job of switching up their sound from song to song, but it’s still generally just an amalgamation of electro-pop sounds.

One band that did come to mind on a few tracks was Empire of the Sun.

The Naked and Famous – Punching in a Dream

Clearly, the band has the potential to put out some solid songs. So, I’ll be sure to keep a lookout for any new music it puts out. TNAF is actually gonna be at Lollapalooza this year, but I won’t be in attendance.

The Naked and Famous – No Way

April 26, 2011

CONCERT REVIEW: New Pornographers and The Walkmen

Filed under: Concert, N, W — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When: April 22, 2011

Where: The Vogue Theater (Indianapolis)

Headliner: New Pornographers

Opening act: The Walkmen

My friend, Drew, and I are both big music fans and we both have relatively eclectic tastes. But, for the most part, we don’t really overlap too much. He generally likes his music on the heavier, guitar-laden side, whereas I lean toward lighter fare.

But there are definitely plenty of acts where we see eye to eye — or would it be “hear ear to ear” — and nowhere more so than when it comes to the New Pornographers.

I’ve loved Neko Case ever since I saw her performing solo in 2006, and became a fan of the rest of the crew soon thereafter. Drew’s love of the band peaked after seeing them at a festival a few years ago, and his infatuation with Ms. Case would probably be labeled as unhealthy.

Nevertheless, when their tour schedule was announced in November, we quickly decided we needed book a trip for the Indianapolis show.

And it was definitely an added bonus to see that The Walkmen would be the opening act.

The Walkmen

When I first heard The Walkmen about seven years ago upon the release of their second album, Bows + Arrows, I deemed them another one of the many Strokes wannabes that were on the scene at the time.

But after a few more releases, I started to hear a definite Bob Dylan influence in the vocals — especially throughout A Hundred Miles Off.

After listening to their latest release, Lisbon, a few times, I detected a slight vibe of The National — most notably in the drums. That opinion was cemented after seeing them in concert.

Not only did the drummer — Matt Barrick, who was excellent by the way — remind of The National’s man on the skins, Bryan Devendorf, it quickly became apparent that the two bands are very similar in overall tone. They both play a lot of dark, sorrowful songs that dig into the listener’s soul. Even their more upbeat songs are still haunting lyrically.

As Drew noted before, during and after the show, about one-third of The Walkmen’s songs are boring and the rest are really good. We ended up getting a mix of both types during the band’s set, which was just shy of an hour long.

Personally, I find that The Walkmen’s songs sound a lot alike, so I can never really differentiate one from another. But I was able to pick out a few of their hits, including “The Rat”, “Donde Esta La Playa”, “Woe Is Me” and “Angela Surf City”.

The one thing I noted was that, for pretty much every song, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser waited a longer-than-usual amount of time before singing any lyrics. You can see for yourself in the above clip.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it allowed me to enjoy the solid instrumentation more than I normally would. It was just something that stood out to me.

Drew complained that they ended on the wrong song and should’ve finished on their second-to-last one. I agreed. Unfortunately, I don’t know the title of the last two songs, which might help clear things up a little.

All in all, it was a solid set. Leithauser had great energy during most of the songs and they managed to get my feet tapping and head bobbing on multiple occasions.

New Pornographers

I’d never properly seen Neko Case perform with the New Pornographers. Before last weekend, I’d seen the band twice — once at Pitchfork Music Festival and again at a venue in Chicago. The first time, I was pretty tired and slept through much of the set. The other time, Neko was not touring with the band.

So, needless to say, I was pretty excited to finally attend a real New Pornographers show. (OK, so Dan Bejar wasn’t there, but I’m still counting this.)

Immediately upon taking the stage, they displayed the stature to which they have ascended as they opened with a cover. It was Shocking Blue’s “Shocking You”, which I doubt more than a few in attendance actually recognized. (I certainly didn’t.)

Drew would later note that few bands can get away with such a stunt. Pearl Jam did something similar when we saw them last year and they opened with an acoustic tune.

They then proceeded to churn out songs from all throughout their catalogue, including such ditties as “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”, “Crash Years”, “Twin Cinema”, “Your Hands (Together)” and “The Bleeding Heart Show”, which ended the set.

I found an unofficial setlist online that seems pretty accurate from what I can recall. There’s some debate as to whether they actually played “Jackie, Dressed In Cobras” or not. A couple of people on that site think they did; Drew vehemently disagrees.

Anyway, they quickly returned for a three-song encore that started with my favorite tune of theirs, “Challengers”, the title track from their penultimate album. They sent the crowd home happy by closing with “Sing Me Spanish Techno”.

It was a great set from top to bottom. My only complaint was that Carl Newman’s vocals seemed somewhat muted. Also, Neko’s vocals stood out from time to time, but not quite as much as one might expect.

No matter. Still a great show.

February 13, 2011

Random threeplay

Filed under: Aliso Viejo Calif., B, C, Cleveland, Denmark, N — assman41 @ 4:52 pm

Cloud Nothings

It’s been a whirlwind rise to semi-stardom for Dylan Baldi (aka Cloud Nothings). A little more than a year ago, he was an 18-year-old sitting in his parents’ basement in Cleveland, making songs with nothing besides a laptop and a microphone.

Since then, he signed to Carpark Records, which released a compilation of his various tracks called the Turning On EP. And just a few weeks ago, a more properly produced, self-titled, full-length album dropped.

In the interim, he became a darling of the blogosphere and formed a band that played with such acts as Titus Andronicus, Best Coast, Wavves, Real Estate, Woods, Parts & Labor and Kurt Vile.

The songs on the EP are loaded with the obvious lo-fi, fuzzy, garage-rock sound. The best ones are the title track and “Hey Cool Kid”.

Cloud Nothings – Hey Cool Kid

But on the LP, which was produced by Baltimore-based Chester Gwazda (Dan Deacon, Future Islands), the tracks become tighter and crisper. And the sound develops something of a surfer-punk ethos. It kinda reminded me of what Best Coast would sound like with a male lead vocalist.

Cloud Nothings – Should Have

Check out the band’s MySpace page, where you will find seven tracks to listen to.

Bon Voyage

Based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., the husband-wife duo of Jason and Julie Martin have been making music together for more than 15 years.

Bon Voyage began as a side project for Jason, a member of Starflyer 59, and Julie, the former lead singer of Havalina. They put out a couple of 7-inch records in the mid-’90s then a self-titled LP in 1998. Eventually, they followed that with The Right Amount in 2002.

Then they went on their longest hiatus to date before dropping their third full-length release, Lies, in 2008.

The music on Lies is your basic shoegaze/synth-pop with Julie providing the vocals and Jason doing everything else. There are several solid tracks, including the opener, “Monster”, “Birthday” and “Wake Up, Make Up”.

Bon Voyage – Monster

They also do a decent cover of The Smiths’ “Girlfriend In a Coma”.

Northern Portrait

Speaking of Morrissey and the boys, if you’re still waiting for them to get back together it’ll probably be awhile. In the mean time you could always go check out Northern Portrait.

There’s very little you need to know about this group other than the fact that it is composed of a trio of Danish dudes who sound exactly like The Smiths.

Seriously. Pick any of the 10 songs on the band’s debut full-length release, 2010’s Criminal Art Lovers.

Northern Portrait – Life Returns To Normal

Northern Portrait – What Happens Next?

It’s a solid album, but it’s difficult to get past the feeling that you’re listening to a tribute band.

June 6, 2010

30 – The National

Filed under: Brooklyn, N — assman41 @ 12:01 am

For the first few years that I was aware of The National’s existence, I constantly confused their music with that of Editors. So much so, that when I attended an Editors show in early 2008, I was a little bummed they didn’t play my favorite song. It wasn’t until a couple months later that I realized the song I was hoping for was actually by The National.

The song, by the way, is “The Apartment Story”, the second single off the band’s fourth album, Boxer.

My favorite part of the song is very brief and comes twice in the below video at the 2:50 and 3:15 marks.

Despite considering myself a big fan of The National, I didn’t realize until now that they have released five full-length albums, dating back to 2001’s self-titled debut. I was first introduced to them in 2007 with Boxer and later picked up a copy of the equally solid Alligator (2005). They also put out Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers in 2003 and just released High Violet a couple weeks ago.

Maybe my lack of knowledge is not that big of a surprise, considering The National has to be the best band out there that so few people seem to know about. I realize that their albums have received a ton of critical acclaim throughout the years and they’ve had their share of sold-out shows, but I rarely hear anyone talking about them in the way they might about such indie buzz bands as Vampire Weekend, Editors or Modest Mouse.

In fact, the most publicity the group has received in the past few years was when brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner — two-fifths of the Brooklyn-based group — helped coordinate the Dark Was the Night charity compilation album, which was released in February 2009.

As for the band’s sound, aside from the obvious Editors comparison — and Interpol, while we’re at it — the group’s influences range from Joy Division to Bruce Springsteen — at least according to Wikipedia. I’m not sure how apt The Boss comparison is, but Joy Division is spot-on.

My favorite songs all come from Boxer — including “Fake Empire”, “Start a War”, “Mistaken For Strangers” and the aforementioned “Apartment Story”.

High Violet, on the other hand, is solid throughout but doesn’t seem to have any standout tracks. It has spawned two singles so far — “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Anyone’s Ghost”, both of which I gave 2 stars on my iTunes rating.

With any luck, a spot on this year’s Lollapalooza bill will help create even more fans for this most-deserving band.

December 13, 2009

7 – Northern State

Filed under: Long Island, N — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When I moved to Indiana in 2008, my friend in Pennsylvania and I figured the only way we’d ever be able to hang out was if we met somewhere halfway.

The first such rendezvous was in April of that year, when we hung out in Cleveland for a couple days. In addition to hitting up the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and going to an Indians game, we also wanted to see a band somewhere.

After combing through the scant choices, we settled for a group called Northern State, which was playing at the Grog Shop, near the Case Western campus.

Prior to the show, the only facts we knew were that they were a hip-hop group named after the Northern State Parkway on Long Island. But by the end of the show, we were hooked.

Going into it not knowing much about the group, I was immediately blown away by the rapping chops of these three white girls. They seem like they could hold their own in a freestyle competition — especially the group’s leader, Hesta Prynn.

Once the novelty of seeing a bunch of white girls from Long Island doing old-school rap subsides, they keep you hooked with their harmonies. Throughout their most recent album, Can I Keep This Pen?, they intersperse straight rap songs with some rap/harmony hybrids.

Some of the best examples of Northern State’s sound are on “Better Already,” and “Mother May I?”. They also have several more-melodious, less-rapping tracks, including “Away Away” and “Run Off the Road.”

They’ve put out three full-length albums and a few EPs, and they’ve been associated with a lot of established artists, including The Roots, Tegan & Sara and Adrock from the Beastie Boys.

From time to time, I’ll see/hear something from Northern State that comes out of nowhere — such as Hesta Prynn turning up in a SILK soy milk commercial or a couple of their songs playing in the background of a Grey’s Anatomy episode — and I’ll become giddy all over again.

You can listen to as many as 11 songs and watch five videos at their official website or head over to their MySpace page and find a six-pack of songs.

Since so many of their tracks are available online, I figured I’d just include a couple here that hopefully show what the group has to offer.

Northern State – Sucka MoFo

Northern State – Better Already

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