Infinite Shuffle

June 29, 2015

216 – Turnover

Filed under: T, Virginia Beach Va. — assman41 @ 4:39 pm

Considering all of the parallels between Title Fight and Turnover, it’d be reasonable to assume that I discovered the latter while listening to the former.

In actuality, I happened upon Turnover while listening to a New Indie Rock mix on Google Play. I liked several of the songs, but one in particular stood out. So much so that I stopped the mix and immediately focused my attention on this band.

Not only did I instantly fall in love with Turnover’s latest release, Peripheral Vision, but almost as quickly did I see an obvious connection to the aforementioned Title Fight.

In addition to sharing a producer on their latest efforts, both bands began in the emo/pop-punk genre before eventually transitioning to more of an indie rock sound. Title Fight’s evolution was gradual and came over several albums. Turnover morphed much more rapidly.

In his review of Peripheral Vision, Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen sums it up nicely.

“In each instance, a traditionalist punk band goes headfirst into more aqueous forms of indie rock, but retain qualities which put them at an advantage over the countless wan, limp bands who decided to sound like the Smiths from the beginning.”

Turnover formed in Virginia Beach, Va., in 2009 and put out a few EPs before signing with Run For Cover Records in 2012. They released their first full-length album, Magnolia, in 2013.

The songs on that disc were a little more toned-down their previous stuff. And maybe that’s because lead singer Austin Getz had more responsibilities after taking over rhythm guitar duties from the departed Alex Dimaiuat in 2012.

Throughout the album, Getz and Co. channel their inner Dashboard Confessional with varying degrees of success. But rather than come off as whiny teenagers pining for love, they seem more resigned and melancholy.

The 2014 EP, Blue Dream, seemed to be a statement to fans that the group was taking things more seriously. It’s just three tracks, but it includes “Read My Mind”, which is the first time Turnover had ever really taken whatever it is that makes them stand out and synthesized it into something more complete.

But even that release couldn’t have prepared the Turnover faithful for Peripheral Vision, which dropped on May 4 of this year.

The first things listeners are struck by are the new guitar sound and filtered — probably auto-tuned — vocals. Right off the bat, on “Cutting My Fingers Off”, it’s clear that there’s a lot more going on with this album, from instruments and vocals to the overall production. And all of it is adding to the sound rather than taking anything away.

“New Scream” is just as strong and leads into arguably the best track here, “Humming”. The opening melody pulls you in and keeps you hooked throughout. And the way Getz sings the chorus is reminiscent of Stornoway — just without the accent.

The album dips a bit on “Hello Euphoria” and “Dizzy on the Comedown”. Neither song is bad, they just get overshadowed by the preceding songs. The latter tune gets points for the line “It’s just a euphoric comedown,” which I can only hope is in reference to the former track.

Things pick up again with “Diazepam”, a song where you start out bobbing your head to the beat, but, by the end, you’re shaking your head in agreement with the lyrics. “Like Slow Disappearing” in another solid track that takes a backseat to its bigger brothers. “Take My Head” is a bit of a sleeper and has all the makings of a single.

Following a couple of filler tracks, the album closes on “Intrapersonal”, which sounds just like another song I loved from the past couple of years but cannot recall right now. (Feel free to listen to it and help me out in the Comments section.)

Turnover are still considered a supporting act, so this summer would be a great time to catch them before they break out. They hit the road in August, spending a couple of months in the Eastern time zone before eventually heading west in October.

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June 13, 2015

215 – Title Fight

Filed under: Kingston Pa., T — assman41 @ 3:13 pm

When it comes to the four albums released thus far by Title Fight, NPR did a great job of describing the group’s evolving sound: “A punk band keeps smearing its sound into something prettier.”

Starting with 2009’s compilation disc, The Last Thing You Forget through Hyperview, which came out this past February, there is a steady progression from Warped Tour cast-offs to My Bloody Valentine’s heir apparent.

That first disc, which is a mix of early singles and whatnot, lives up to its emo/hardcore label. Sounding like any number of bands touted by Alternative Press, there isn’t a great deal of substance here.

But with the release of their first studio album, Shed, in May 2011, Title Fight started to show signs of potential, growing heavier and “shedding” the pop-punk vibe. Particularly halfway through the disc on songs such as “Safe in Your Skin” and Where Am I?”

They didn’t take long to show their growth, when, in September 2012, they dropped Floral Green, a much heavier album with almost nary a sign of their pop-punk past.

Now, with Hyperview, the evolution appears complete for the Kingston, Pa., quartet. The disc opens with a very chill, shoegazey “Murder Your Memory” before launching into the mumbled, MBV-soaked “Chlorine”. That vibe continues on the more-decipherable “Hypernight”.

Those three songs, while solid in their own right, are like a preamble before things really take off, starting with “Mrahc”, the first track that seems single-worthy and sees everything starting to click. Then there’s “Your Pain is Mine Now”, which is arguably the most complete song on the album.

“Rose of Sharon” is another catchy tune that manages to differentiate itself from those preceding it. “Trace Me Onto You” feels like above-average filler, and it takes an interesting change of pace about halfway through the track.

“Liar’s Love” is a great example of the group’s sound and the other main contender for top song. It’s no wonder NPR picked it for its Austin 100 mix. It’s followed by “Dizzy”, which is an extra-slow tune that brings you back down to Earth before “New Vision” puts a little pep in your step and sends you on your way.

It’d be nice to think the group has found its sweet spot and will explore this sound for a while, but who knows with these guys.

June 22, 2014

MOG threeplay

Filed under: Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, T, V, W — assman41 @ 12:10 pm

MOG is dead. Long live MOG.

What began as a hub for music bloggers and morphed into a music-streaming site officially went kaput at the end of May, replaced by Beats Music.

I have yet to decide if I want to subscribe to Beats or choose a different source to stream my music. That’s one reason I haven’t posted in nearly a month.

Anyway, before MOG said goodbye, I had been working on a compilation post of three bands I’d discovered through the site. It took several weeks for me to finally finish, but perhaps it’s fitting, considering how often MOG would cause my web browser to freeze whenever I tried to close it.

Vanaprasta

I don’t recall which band I was listening to at the time, but eventually, after that particular album finished, MOG turned to its radio play, which usually included related artists. That’s how I first discovered Vanaprasta and its catchy single “Nine Equals Nine”.

Aside from a handful of songs, the unsigned quintet from Los Angeles seems to be trying its hardest to channel Kings of Leon. Lead singer Steven Wilkin is just the latest in a long line of Caleb Followill wannabes.

That’s not to say this group is horrible, just derivative. Formed in 2009, Vanaprasta released a three-track EP, Forming the Shapes, in March 2010. It included a decent opener, “Color of Sin”, and a couple of skippable tunes.

The following November saw the release of a proper full-length, Healthy Geometry, which opened with the above-mentioned “Nine Equals Nine”. Other than a few songs — such as “Come On”, “Supernumerary” and their best Radiohead impression, “Crushing Ants” — the album is mostly dreck.

I’m not even sure how the group landed on MOG, but maybe it should consider following a similar path and just fade into obscurity.

Wildlife Control

Apparently, the group Wildlife Control had a viral hit on YouTube with the February 2012 release of the video for “Analog or Digital”. (The 8-bit version. Not the stop-motion inset.)

That track was released as a single in December 2011, led off the EP Spin in March 2012 and was the only above-average song on the band’s self-titled full-length debut, which landed that July.

Other than a few blips on some “notable” blogs and radio stations, the band has yet to create much of a stir. Formed in 2011 by brothers Neil and Sumul Shah, Wildlife Control call both Brooklyn and the Bay Area home. To that point, their album includes tracks titled “Brooklyn” and “Oakland”.

Other than their single and the track “People Change” — which randomly calls to mind Phoenix — the group sounds like a hybrid of a lot of other indie bands. And when Neil starts tickling the ivory, Wildlife Control morphs into a poor man’s Ben Folds Five.

They did release a couple of singles in 2013 — “Different” and “Ages Places” — that show they may be starting to develop a more interesting sound. But we’ll have to wait until they put out another album before that theory is proven.

Tycho

Probably the most interesting band on this list is also the most surprising for me. If you’re a loyal reader of this blog, you’ll know that I have a hard time getting into instrumental music. Apparently, if I don’t have some lyrics to sing along to, it’s not worth my time.

The only vocal-free music I’ve taken to in the past few years is some of the stuff on The XX’s debut and the opening theme to the show Friday NIght Lights, which was done by Explosions in the Sky.

But I guess it shouldn’t be too shocking that I’d become enamored with an artist that is basically a mix of those two groups. Also known by the moniker ISO50, Scott Hansen has been putting out ambient, post-rock music as Tycho since 2002.

Also known for his photography and design work, Hansen paints vivid pictures with his lush sounds. After releasing a couple of full-length albums in the mid-Aughts — Sunrise Projector and Past is Prologue — his musical output was restricted to singles for several years before he returned with Dive in 2011 and followed with Awake this past March.

Where Dive had a faster pacing, Awake slows things down, resulting in an even more pleasant listen. The album starts strong with the title track and “Montana” — both of which would be perfect entry points for fans of The XX. As the album progresses, Hansen mixes in the Explosions influence while maintaining a chill vibe throughout.

Started in Sacramento and now based in San Francisco, Hansen does take his Tycho act on tour and includes a live band. (One can only imagine how many concert-goers inevitably fall victim to slumber during a set.) After spending July in Europe, Tycho will make a quick sweep of North America, including a rather random stop in Urbana, Ill., in September.

April 10, 2014

202 – TOY

Filed under: England, T — assman41 @ 11:55 am

Invariably, the first thing I do when I hear a new band is start trying to figure out who it sounds like. It’s like second nature — What older groups influenced this one? What newer groups would be considered contemporaries? What is the list of bands that would give the clearest idea of what to expect from this new group?

And, as one might expect, this process revolves almost solely around sound — the aural aesthetic.

But when I first heard the latest offering from the band, TOY, my mind wandered not to who they sounded like but more who they felt like. And quickly it turned into, “When I listen to this group, what other bands do I want to listen to next?”

The immediate answer to that question was Guided By Voices, but a couple of other bands I tossed around were Yuck and Elf Power. Looked at individually, these bands don’t necessarily have a lot in common. But for me, personally, there’s some indescribable link — I find myself drifting into the same mindspace whenever I listen to one of these groups. And now I’ve found another conduit in TOY.

It’s difficult to find any obvious similarities between TOY and the other aforementioned bands. Really, there aren’t many. And whatever those may be are quickly twisted into an elongated psychedelic haze.

I wrote briefly about this up-and-coming five piece from Brighton, England, more than a year ago after seeing it on a bunch of Best of 2012 lists. My description then still holds up:

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

As it just so happens, the last couple of times I listened to their second album, Join the Dots, it really did put me to sleep. But that’s not a bad thing. The music is just very soothing and great to have on in the background, ready to be focused upon whenever your ears are ready and willing. (Also, I was listening to it around 2 a.m., so I was just asking to be lulled into a dream state.)

I’m not usually a big fan of psychedelia, but this band manages just enough flourishes to keep me interested. As one Amazon reviewer aptly put it, TOY are basically a palatable version of Tame Impala.

And despite its lazy sound, it turns out the group is rather ambitious, intending to release an album every calendar year. It barely made its 2013 deadline, dropping Join the Dots in early December. But TOY are already planning to put out a live album and EP at some point this year.

They’re currently touring in Europe but do have a few dates in late April-early May planned for the States. However, unless you’ll be on the West Coast or in Austin or New York at the time, you’re out of luck.

So, I guess you’re stuck checking them out via the interwebs. Here’s the entire album in one hourlong clip.

March 13, 2014

197 – Thumpers

Filed under: England, T — assman41 @ 1:09 pm

I’ve always considered myself a very apathetic person. I’m generally proud of the trait — one might even say I’ve often touted it — but I’ve occasionally been called out on it as well. Friends tell me that there’s got to be something I care about, otherwise, what’s the point of living?

It was during one such conversation several years ago that a friend asked me point-blank whether there was anything I was passionate about. I had to think about it, but after a while I landed on music as a real passion. Certainly not playing it, but listening to it, discovering it and sharing it.

Ever since then, I’ve said that my ideal job would involve sitting around all day, listening to music and writing about it — as well as attending countless concerts, of course.

But whenever I read a review on Pitchfork, I question whether I’d be happy doing that for a living, or if it’s better kept as a hobby.

While searching for information on the band Thumpers, I came across a Pitchfork review that made me think the writer must be so jaded and cynical. And it’s certainly not the first time I’ve had that impression while on the site.

My assumption is that, after listening to so much music by so many bands of varying degrees of quality, the novelty eventually wears off and it’s difficult to ever be truly impressed.

I’m not saying Thumpers are amazing by any means, but they’re far from bad. Their debut release, Galore, which came out last month, is filled with the kind of hopeful indie-pop you might expect on a Passion Pit or Friendly Fires album, but with a far less electro-heavy delivery.

The London-based duo of Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr. layer their vocals over a slew of instruments that skirt the edge of being too overpowering. Lyrically, their songs’ winsome emanations belie a forlorn longing for the lost innocence of youth.

This is an album that definitely grows stronger with repeated listens. There are a number of solid tracks, including “Marvel”, “Sound of Screams” and “Unkinder (A Tougher Love)”. Even the filler stuff is relatively catchy — most notably “Come On Strong”, “Now We Are Sixteen” and “Tame”.

The group is currently in Austin for SXSW, then has a brief tour of the West Coast before heading back to Europe. Considering that the album won’t be dropping in their native England until mid-May, Thumpers is at the precipice of what could be a breakout year.

Do yourself a favor and hop on the bandwagon before all the hipsters claim the best seats.

September 24, 2013

176 – Twin Forks

Filed under: T — assman41 @ 3:45 pm

My girlfriend definitely has the ability to turn me on. But she’s never been too good at turning me on to new bands. (How ’bout that for a lead, huh?)

We have a lot of things in common, but musical taste is not one of them. I suppose the best way to summarize it is that she could go anywhere in this country and find a radio station to enjoy. I could not.

So, when she posted a link on my Facebook wall for the band Twin Forks, I was nervous to say the least. Particularly when I saw that the group was fronted by Chris Carrabba, the former lead singer of her favorite group of all time, Dashboard Confessional.

I figured I’d give it a quick spin, decide it wasn’t for me, then let her down gently.

That plan went by the wayside as soon as I hit the chorus of “Something We Just Know”.

The second track on the new band’s recently released self-titled debut EP, it is insanely catchy and a perfect example of why this band will earn endless comparisons to such acts as The Lumineers.

Every one of the songs on this disc would be worthy of radio airplay, particularly “Back To You”, the awesome opener, and “Cross My Mind”, which seems destined for a 2014 Volkswagen commercial.

Anyone worried about this group being a Dashboard spin-off need not worry. Those days are clearly in the past for Carrabba. The closest he comes is on “Can’t Be Broken”, which slows things down a bit, but only intermittently.

Even the weakest song here, the closing “Scraping Up the Pieces”, is worthy of at least one star on the iTunes scale.

The only bad thing about this album is that it’s so short. The five songs are over before you know it, forcing you to immediately hit the Play button again.

We are tentatively planning on seeing the band when it comes through Chicago this weekend, so I would imagine it will have a more fleshed-out setlist, likely including a cover of the Talking Heads’ “And She Was”.

September 18, 2013

175 – Telekinesis

Filed under: Seattle, T — assman41 @ 4:36 pm

I’m always a little leery when I see that a musical act is being promoted as just one person. Whether it be an artist going by his actual name (e.g. M. Ward or Conor Oberst) or a pseudonym (e.g. Phosporescent or early Bright Eyes).

I realize that most of these solo artists have some help on a record and in live performances, but, generally, I assume their music is going to be too boring or not have enough going on.

I’ve often been proven wrong in this regard, but never more than when I listened to Telekinesis. While it’s often referred to as a band, according to most sources, its sole member is Michael Benjamin Lerner.

Considering the number of instruments that can be heard on his/their albums — guitars, bass, keyboard, drums — one is left to wonder if he just moves from station to station, recording each instrument and piecing it all together in the end. More than likely, he’s got a bunch of studio musicians helping him out, but they just don’t get prominent credit.

All of this is really irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that Telekinesis has put out three albums since “forming” in 2008, and all of them are above average.

That is the big single from the band’s 2009 debut, Telekinesis! It’s a pretty good representation of what Lerner has been doing ever since. Just straight-forward indie rock that’s catchy and filled with fun, clever lyrics.

Other strong tracks from that disc are “Imaginary Friend”, “Tokyo”, “Look To the East”, “All of a Sudden” and “Calling All Doctors”.

Lerner’s vocals are reminiscent of fellow Seattle resident and doppelgänger Ben Gibbard, whose Death Cab For Cutie bandmate, Chris Walla, does a little bit of everything, including production, on Telekinesis’ first two records.

The 2011 follow-up, 12 Desperate Straight Lines, isn’t much different from its predecessor. Lerner and crew do sprinkle in a few different rock styles throughout. There’s a little bit of grunge on “50 Ways” and something harder on “Fever Chill”. The best is when they throw in a post-punk guitar riff on “Country Lane” and “Please Ask For Help”.

Other notable entries here are “Gotta Get It Right Now”, “Palm of Your Hand” and “Car Crash”.

For the latest release, Dormarion, which came out this past April, Lerner traveled to Austin, Texas, to record in the studio of Spoon drummer Jim Eno. The album is named after the studio’s location, on Dormarion Lane.

I don’t know if the switch is what caused it, but this record isn’t as strong as the previous two. It does have a very strong single in “Ghosts and Creatures”, but the rest is hit or miss. The few other songs worth mentioning are “Wires”, “You Take It Slowly” and “Ever True”. A lot of people have praised album opener “Power Lines”, but it’s only so-so.

It would appear as though I’ve already missed Telekinesis’ latest swing through the Midwest. Perhaps I’ll catch him/them when they pass through again.

July 17, 2013

167 – Tidelands

Filed under: San Francisco, T — assman41 @ 4:17 pm

Finding a band with a totally original sound is a bittersweet experience for a blogger like myself. There’s the obvious joy of discovering something new and perhaps exotic. Unfortunately, on the flip side, there’s often no comparable bands to use as a jumping-off point.

So it is with Tidelands, the relatively new indie-pop duo from San Francisco. “Pop” might not be the most apt description, as the group has veered more closely to classical, folk and prog on its first two albums.

That is the mesmerizing video for “Holy Grail” off Tidelands’ 2011 debut, If … It consists of more than 1,000 watercolor paintings done by one of the band’s artist friends over the course of four months.

It gives you an idea of the plane of thinking and introspection where band members Gabriel Leis (vocals, guitar and flugelhorn) and Mie Araki (drums and keyboards) generally reside.

The band gets plenty of help from friends on the album, including Magik*Magik Orchestra, which lent a chamber-pop feel to several tracks.

The sound is fleshed out by violins, cellos, rich guitars, a flugelhorn, trumpets and many other instruments left to the imagination.

On their 2012 follow-up, We’ve Got a Map, Tidelands build on their sound and move a little closer to true pop.

Leis’ voice occasionally drifts into Pink Floyd territory — nowhere more so than on “Toaster”.

With several songs in their catalog surpassing the 6-minute barrier, Tidelands could be a harder taste to acquire among today’s ADHD-addled youth. But if you have the time to relax and listen, it’ll be worth your while.

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.

October 2, 2012

Updates — All good, none great

Filed under: B, G, H, T, X — assman41 @ 2:16 pm

Many well-known bands released highly anticipated albums in the past month or so, and the theme seemed to be about toning things down.

Now, depending upon the band, that could mean veering toward a calmer sound (Band of Horses, The Gaslight Anthem), softening an electro vibe (The Helio Sequence, Two Door Cinema Club), or nothing at all, since you can’t really get any more toned down than The XX already were.

Band of Horses

I might as well start with the album I had been anticipating the most. After a substantial ascension on their first two albums, Band of Horses took a bit of a dip on 2010’s Infinite Arms.

As it turns out, that was just a sign of things to come. Their latest, Mirage Rock, is aptly titled as it’s less an indie-rock album and something closer to alt-country.

That’s not entirely true, but on several tracks you can hear the band’s slow progression toward a more folk/country sound.

The Gaslight Anthem

Possibly the best album among the five here is the latest from The Gaslight Anthem. Maybe it’s just because I had seen them in person recently, but there’s really no filler on Handwritten.

Continuing the shift away from their punkier roots, these Jersey boys churn out more solid indie-rock, highlighted by such songs as “Keepsake” and “’45′”.

One noticeable difference here is that they throw in a few change-ups along the way with some slower, softer songs. So much so, that you almost think you’re listening to a different band.

The Helio Sequence

I wasn’t sure if I’d ever hear a new Helio Sequence album again. Not because I thought they were breaking up. It had been awhile since their last release and I’d mostly stopped caring about them. But when I saw that Negotiations was out, I figured I’d add it to the rotation.

The band, which is known for having an evolving sound, continued that trend since its last full-length album dropped in 2008.

The last time we saw The Helio Sequence, they were churning out indie electro-pop that was incredibly catchy. Now, they’ve slowed things down considerably and added some more complex layers.

They’re starting to sound like a retro version of Band of Horses. Actually, they’ve kinda leapfrogged peak-era BoH and are heading toward the contemporary version.

Two Door Cinema Club

I’ll always have an interesting story of how I first discovered Two Door Cinema Club. And their first album will always be a favorite. But I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to recapture that lightning in a bottle.

Their latest, Beacon, definitely has some good stuff on it — including “Sleep Alone”, “Next Year” and “Handshake” — but it’s not the same start-to-finish gem.

On this one, you won’t find the catchy electro beats on every track like the previous offering. But they’re there in spurts.

The XX

I was not an early adopter of The XX. I avoided them for the first several months of their highly buzzed infancy. But I eventually came around and fell in love with their debut album. So much so, that I was both eager and nervous about the eventual follow-up.

Thankfully, like all of the above albums, Coexist, is in no ways a bad recording. But it’s admittedly not as good as the original.

There aren’t any obvious hits, but there is still plenty of good music to relax to.

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