Infinite Shuffle

August 19, 2012

126 – Suckers

Filed under: Brooklyn, S — assman41 @ 4:11 pm

As many great stories do, this one begins in a bar.

Shortly after seeing a Destroyer show in Chicago in late June, I was sitting with my friend at The Dark Horse in Wrigleyville, when the bartender started playing a mix of indie songs on Spotify.

As we all discussed various bands and concerts we’d enjoyed, one of the songs caught my ear. After plugging it into Shazam, I discovered it was “Figure It Out” by Suckers. I’d never heard of the band, but the bartender noted that they were pretty good, so I stuck that in the back of my mind for future use.

Fast-forward a bit, and, after listening to the band’s new album, Candy Salad, more than a handful of times, I’m confident that it will be among my favorites at the end of the year.

The first thing you notice when listening to the Brooklyn band’s two-LP catalog is how much its sound varies from track to track and album to album. While the 2010 debut full-length, Wild Smile, was something of a mishmash of influences — including most prominently Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire — the follow-up is much tighter and melodic.

On several tracks, lead singer Quinn Walker’s voice conjures up thoughts of Gruff Rhys, frontman for Super Furry Animals and Neon Neon. On a few other tracks, it almost sounds like the band employed the services of TV On the Radio vocalist and fellow Brooklynite Tunde Adebimpe.

The bulk of the songs on Candy Salad are rather catchy, as the other two band members join the fray vocally while also churning out some “psychotropic hooks.”

In addition to the above two songs, other standout tracks include “Bricks To the Bones”, “Leave the Light On”, “Going Nowhere”, “Charmaine”, “Lydia” and “Roses”.

Sidenote: It was actually while searching for Candy Salad that I discovered Plixid.com. So, bonus points for that.

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November 8, 2011

Threeplay from Down Under

Filed under: Australia, B, S — assman41 @ 2:54 am

I recently had a couple of consecutive days off and nothing planned, so I decided to devote my time to devouring a bunch of new music. I sifted through various blogs I had bookmarked and came across one that is run by a person in Australia. At And Pluck Your Strings, I found a “Best of 2011 So Far” post from July, so I figured I’d check it out.

Turns out, there was a lot of great stuff included there, including a number of quality bands from Down Under that I probably would never have heard of otherwise. Here are three that I found worthy of downloading, plus a bonus track from another Aussie group.

Big Scary

Of all the bands I listened to on the blog, the one I’m most excited about is Big Scary.

The duo of Tom Iansek and Jo Syme came together in 2006 and has put out several EPs, including a four-pack last year named after each of the seasons. Those were compiled into a release, appropriately named The Big Scary Four Seasons.

Last month, the group released its first proper full-length album, Vacation. It starts off very strong with such solid tracks as “Gladiator”, “Leaving Home” and “Mix Tape”.

Big Scary – Mix Tape

Other than “Falling Away”, the eighth of the 10 tracks, everything else is filler, but it’s at least above-average filler.

Judging by this release, Big Scary should be making some noise on the international scene very soon.

Also, I noted on their website that they are set to place at SXSW next year. One more reason — as if I actually required any more — to make a return trip to Austin in March.

Boy & Bear

Speaking of SXSW, unbeknownst to me, the band Boy & Bear were part of the festivities last year. I did not see them, but I did apparently listen to, and like, one of their songs during my preparation for the festival.

Vocally, the group sounds a lot like The Fray, with a little bit of The Avett Brothers mixed in. There’s also some Rural Alberta Advantage in there, but to a lesser extent.

Boy & Bear – Golden Jubilee

That tune is my favorite on the band’s debut full-length release, Moonfire, which came out in August. Other decent tracks include “Feeding Line”, “Milk & Sticks”, My Only One”, “House & Farm” and “Beach”.

Seeker Lover Keeper

One of the more pleasant discoveries on the blog was the Australian supergroup Seeker Lover Keeper. It consists of a trio of female singer-songwriters — Sarah Blasko, Sally Seltmann and Holly Throsby — all of whom have made a name for themselves in a variety of bands and, more prominently, as solo artists.

It would be as if Regina Spektor, Feist and Natasha Bedingfield all got together and put out an album. (I realize none of these women is from the same country, but you get the idea.)

Sidenote: Seltmann co-wrote Feist’s big hit, “1234” several years ago.

As you can imagine, the indie-folk/pop group has amazing harmonies, with each singer getting her share of time behind the mic.

The best song on their self-titled debut album is probably “Even Though I’m a Woman”. Another great track is the closer, “Rest Your Head On My Shoulder”, which does a great job at highlighting each individual voice as well as the three-part harmonies.

Seeker Lover Keeper – Rest Your Head On My Shoulder

YesYou

Another group I discovered on the blog was YesYou, which is the Brisbane-based duo of Jono Kirkham and Gav Parry. So far, they have only put out one easily downloadable song, “Half of It”. Here is said song, as well as a link to a remix.

YesYou – Half of It

July 3, 2011

74 – Spokes

Filed under: England, S — assman41 @ 11:28 pm

A week or so ago, I found myself scrolling through the pages over at my favorite blog from across the pond, Outroversion. I found several new bands that I dug and intend to look into further.

One of the bands highlighted by ole Simon was Spokes, a five-piece from Manchester, England. He noted that their new album, Everyone I Ever Met, was tabbed to win Mercury Music Prize next year. And after listening to a slew of songs on their MySpace page, I can hear why.

Spokes – We Can Make It Out

Simon said they sounded like a better version of Elbow. I’ve only heard one song from that particular British “it” band (“Grounds For Divorce”), but it sounded nothing like Spokes.

They label themselves as “alternative/ambient/pop,” a description with which I wholeheartedly agree. Especially the ambient part. Many of their songs have an almost symphonic feel.

In fact, their debut album, 2009’s People Like People Like You, consists of six long, drawn-out, mostly instrumental songs — only one of which includes any vocals.

But the tunes are so good, I didn’t even notice the lack of words until I was halfway through the album.

Spokes – Young People! All Together

When Spokes actually choose to employ singers, as they did on their second album, they evoke comparisons to Arcade Fire in their manifold harmonies and layers of instruments. The anthemic, almost chanting, vocals also call to mind Los Campesinos!, but in a much more accessible tone.

Spokes – 345

February 20, 2011

NPR threeplay

Filed under: A, Austin, Chicago, O, Pasadena Calif., S — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I was all set to resume writing my usual full-length band posts this week, but then I started listening to a bunch of stuff I’d found through NPR’s various outlets, and I decided I just had to share the wealth.

I have relayed, many a time on this blog, my affinity for NPR’s music feeds — whether it be the All Songs Considered podcast or the Song of the Day e-mail — and both of those contributed to my discovering the about-to-be-discussed bands. In fact, NPR was directly responsible for the creation of one of these groups.

Oh No Oh My

I originally set out to do a full post exclusively on this four-piece from Austin. But then I decided I didn’t have enough to say about them to warrant a lengthy review.

That’s not to say Oh No Oh My isn’t any good. Just the opposite in fact. These guys have been around since 2004, and in that time have honed their sound into some solid indie/pop/folk that is quite pleasing to the ears.

According to their Wikipedia page, all the members can play at least three instruments, and, in most cases, many more.

Despite being around for a while, they just released their second full-length album, People Problems, last month. It’s full of songs that were made for chilling out and occasionally bobbing your head to.

Several of the songs conjure up memories of Ben Folds Five, especially “There Will Be Bones”, “So I Took You” and “Brains”, which is the song that I first heard via NPR’s Song of the Day.

But my favorite track, “You Were Right”, doesn’t really provide a good comparison. It’s just a really tune.

Oh No Oh My – You Were Right

Apex Manor

If it wasn’t for a post by Carrie Brownstein on NPR’s Monitor Mix blog, then Apex Manor may have never come into existence.

In a post on a random Friday in late 2009, Brownstein called on musicians to write and record a song over the weekend.

One artist who answered that call to arms was Ross Flournoy, former frontman of since-disbanded The Broken West. He recorded the song “Under the Gun” and sent it in. Suddenly inspired, Flournoy wrote two dozen more songs.

Fast-forward to just a few weeks ago when Flournoy and thee new bandmates, under the moniker Apex Manor, released the 10-track disc, The Year of Magical Drinking — the title being an overt allusion to the Joan Didion book The Year of Magical Thinking.

I just heard the whole backstory on a recent All Songs Considered podcast, which included the album’s opening track, “Southern Decline”, my favorite on the disc.

Not knowing much of anything about The Broken West, I can’t really compare or contrast the two bands. What I can say is that the Pasadena-based Apex Manor put out solid, vocals-driven indie-folk/pop.

Besides the opener, my other favorite track is “Burn Me Alive”. Half of the instrumentation reminds me of The XX, but with a whole other layer added.

Apex Manor – Burn Me Alive

Other songs that stood out were “The Party Line”, “Teenage Blood”, “Holy Roller”, and “Coming To”.

Here’s the song that got the whole ball rolling.

Apex Manor – Under the Gun

Smith Westerns

Unlike the above two bands, Smith Westerns’ musical roots don’t run quite as deep. The quartet of college-aged kids from Chicago started making music together as high schoolers in 2007. And like a lot of high school bands, their music was pretty awful.

Eventually, they put out their self-titled debut in June 2009. It was heavily influenced by Nuggets-style garage and psychedelia. When I heard the album, I was immediately turned off.

But then I heard a track from their recently released follow-up album, Dye It Blonde, on another All Songs Considered podcast.

Listening to the album, it’s clear that they’re still stuck in the ’60s and ’70s, but they’ve moved on to a different set of influences. Practically every one of the 10 tracks on the disc sound like a mix between The Beatles and ’70s radio rock.

Smith Westerns – All Die Young

It was as if, after splitting up, the Fab Four had secretly joined forces with Nazareth and put out an album together. In fact, the whole time I was listening to it, I kept thinking these songs would’ve been great on the Dazed and Confused soundtrack.

There weren’t necessarily a lot of standout tracks — just a lot of pretty good ones. Here’s my personal favorite.

Smith Westerns – Only One

December 19, 2010

56 – Stornoway

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

I’ve been wanting to write a post about Stornoway for several months, but it’s taken me awhile to find a free (read: illegal) download of their debut release, Beachcomber’s Windowsill.

I first heard about the band roughly a year ago from a few references on the Outroversion blog, but I hadn’t actually heard anything by the group until this past summer when the single, “Zorbing”, was included on KEXP’s Song of the Day podcast.

After hearing it that first time, I repeated it once or twice and was immediately hooked.

While that song seems to combine about three different genres into one track, the rest of album sticks to the group’s signature sound — something like alternative indie music mixed with traditional Irish-tinged ditties.

Stornoway isn’t actually from Ireland. The group hails from the Cowley area of Oxford, England, and is named after the Hebridean town on the Isle of Lewis, which is the northeast tip of the United Kingdom — practically the opposite end of the UK from Oxford.

The band consists of four members, but, as you can tell from the video, it often enlists the services of a trumpeter. There’s also a violinist that joins the ruckus.

The gents have been together since at least 2006 and first started to make some noise in England in 2009 when they released their first few singles. The debut album dropped on May 24 of this year, and, while none of the other songs live up to the awesomeness of “Zorbing”, it’s still a quality disc.

Other solid tracks include “I Saw You Blink” and “Boats and Trains”.

The group finally made its way to the United States in the fall, including a stop in Chicago last month. So, it’ll probably be awhile before it returns.

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

August 22, 2010

39 – School of Seven Bells

Filed under: NYC, S — assman41 @ 12:01 am

On the way to work one recent afternoon, I heard a song during David Dye’s “World Cafe” program that got me very intrigued. I kept trying to pick out one or two lines so I could memorize them and do a search online once I got in the office.

Thankfully, Mr. Dye came to my rescue and let me know the song was “Windstorm”, the first single off School of Seven Bells’ second album, Disconnect From Desire.

SVIIB (that’s their preferred acronym) will always hold a special place in my mind because their song, “Iamundernodisguise”, was one of the first tracks I downloaded upon purchasing my new laptop a couple of years ago.

Listening to their debut album, Alpinisms, the best description of their sound that I could come up with was, “it’s as if Imogen Heap and Thom Yorke had a baby.” Every song is loaded with ethereal, dreamy pop that takes the listener to a higher plane of existence.

While the band itself sounds like it might be a party of one, it’s actually a trio — made up of Benjamin Curtis, formerly of Secret Machines, and identical twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. While the Deheza gals let their voices soar, Curtis sticks to lead guitar and manipulating various electronic devices.

Although the vocals can often be hard to make out, they’re the most important part of the song. According to their Wikipedia page, the group comes up with the lyrics first, and everything else is secondary.

On SVIIB’s latest album, which came out July 13, the vocals are still prominent, but the band turns up the electronica on just about every track.

If you’re interested in seeing them live, the group will be touring throughout September and October all over the U.S.

School of Seven Bells – Half Asleep

March 21, 2010

20 – Shout Out Louds

Filed under: S, Sweden — assman41 @ 12:01 am

As I sit down to write this, I can’t help but think that this will be the worst review I’ve done so far. Not because I hate the band — quite the opposite actually — but because I simply can’t figure out a good way to describe the music.

The Shout Out Louds are kinda like Los Campesinos! but not as wild or as British. In fact, they’re from Stockholm.

They’re sorta like Camera Obscura, but not as dreamy-sounding, and they’re fronted by a guy.

Their vocals might call to mind the Magic Numbers, but they’re not nearly as loaded with harmonies.

Another band that kept popping into my head was The Cure, but I just couldn’t really pinpoint why. After repeated listens, I started to hear it more often, both in the vocals and the instrumentation. But I still thought my ears were playing a trick on me.

Then I read some customer reviews on Amazon, and, apparently, everyone else was hearing the same thing as me. And they kept referencing the same album — The Cure’s The Head on the Door from 1985 — as an obvious influence.

Some other labels one might use to describe the band include indie rock, indie pop, twee pop and shoegazer pop.

However you want to describe the Shout Out Louds, one thing that is certain is that their music is pretty solid. And after recently releasing their third studio album, it’s clear that they’re still improving.

Their debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, received the most critical praise thus far. It provided the music world with a peppy, rocking, slightly distorted introduction to the Swedish quintet.

On their 2007 follow-up, Our Ill Wills, the band smoothed out some of the rough edges and continued to develop its sound. I first discovered the Shout Out Louds through this album’s two big singles, “Tonight I Have To Leave It” and “Impossible”, which are still my favorite tracks of theirs.

The group just released its third disc, Work, on Feb. 23, and it is definitely the band’s best work to date. While none of the tracks have stood out yet as being dominant, all of the songs are above-average, and there’s no real filler to be found.

In fact, the same could probably be said for all their albums. There’s really no bad songs anywhere.

You can listen to six of those solid tracks at their MySpace page and a few more at their official website, where you can also download a special Passion Pit remix of one of their new songs.

Here’s one of my aforementioned favorite tracks. You should be able to detect the Cure vibe pretty easily.

Shout Out Louds – Impossible

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