Infinite Shuffle

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 24, 2014

Extended threEPlay

Filed under: Australia, B, Lawrence Kan., Southern California, V, Y — assman41 @ 3:19 pm

Having grown up in the post-vinyl era, I never understood why EPs and LPs basically had the same name but meant different things. I mean, “extended play” and “long play” sound pretty similar to me.

Even though I grasp the backstory behind the names, I still wish someone would come up a better, more sensible label for shorter releases.

Now, as I step down from my soap box, this seems like a good time to pay homage to Rob Gordon and The Beta Band by selling you on three EPs that recently piqued this blogger’s interest.

Bad Suns

It’s only fitting that I first heard this band on a college radio station. These four SoCal dudes range in age from 19-22 and look like they just stepped off of a Warped Tour stage.

Thankfully, their music is advanced beyond their ages and destined to take both indie and mainstream radio by storm.

It’s a full-on blast of electro-tinged indie-pop that will excite fans of Foster the People, The 1975, Young the Giant, Grouplove and that ilk.

Bad Suns dropped Transpose in January, and, with only four tracks, it’s hard not to keep hitting repeat every 14 minutes or so.

The song that’s gonna get the most airplay is “Cardiac Arrest”, but “20 Years” and “Transpose” are both almost at that same level. Meanwhile, “Salt”, pales in comparison, but that may just be because of how great the other tracks are. It’s a decent song and was actually released as a single.

You can check out all of the tunes on their Tumblr. And, thankfully, there’s more on the way as Bad Suns are expected to release a full-length album later this year.

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Vancouver Sleep Clinic

Fans of “old school” Bon Iver rejoice! There’s a new male falsetto on the block ready to fill the void that Justin Vernon left behind when he decided to put together a real band and take his music in a different direction.

Rather than retire to a cabin in the woods, 17-year-old Aussie Tim Bettinson found his bedroom at home to be sufficient while recording the songs that would become the Winter EP, which was released last month.

The six tracks here owe their existence to both Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago and Sigur Ros’ Valtari.

More than just a plaintive voice, Bettinson manages to add enough instrumentation to give his songs some depth.

Really, that’s about all there is to say. If you liked Bon Iver’s first album, you’re sure to love Vancouver Sleep Clinic.

Your Friend

In a similar vein as Vancouver Sleep Clinic comes Your Friend, the musical alter-ego of Taryn Blake Miller. The recent University of Kansas graduate isn’t doing anything fancy on her debut Jekyll/Hyde EP.

Originally released by cassette tape label 808 New York Tapes out of Lawrence, Kan., the six tracks here are about as bare bones as you’ll find on the indie scene.

The most complex song is “Tame One”, which was my entry point to Your Friend after reading about her on SPIN’s website.

Miller captivated the Lawrence music scene during her time there and originally put out the EP herself last August. But it got a more commercial release earlier this month through Domino Records.

March 14, 2013

150 – Voxtrot

Filed under: Austin, V — assman41 @ 1:53 am

At their most stripped-down, Voxtrot were an indie-pop band. But the music they unleashed upon the world during the better part of the ’00s could hardly be contained by one genre, and it’s tentacles spread out to a multitude of different nooks and crannies.

During their eight-year existence, which ended in 2010, the five-piece Austin, Texas, crew headed by singer/songwriter Ramesh Srivastava released three EPs, a handful of singles and one proper full-length album.

While their musical output should probably be referred to as a pamphlet rather than a catalog, Voxtrot managed to put out a number strong efforts, with little to no filler in the lot.

The above song is the opening title track to the band’s first EP, 2005’s Raised By Wolves. Within the span of five songs, Srivastava and the boys bounce around from lo-fi pop to early ’90s-tinged Brit rock to surfer rock to indie-pop with a whisper of psychedelia.

The following year, the band put out a pair of EPs — Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives and Your Biggest Fan. The latter, with only three songs, pales in comparison to its five-song predecessor.

The band continues to bounce around in the cavernous genre that is “pop,” visiting different soundscapes and amplifying various instruments, the piano in particular. On MSD&W , “Rise Up In the Dirt” is a strong offering, but it’s topped by “Soft & Warm”, possibly the band’s zenith.

Finally, in 2007, Voxtrot released their self-titled, full-length debut. The group took advantage of the extra room to roam and put together a more anthemic sound. The change of pace is clear from the slow-building opening track, aptly titled “Introduction”. Other notable tracks include “Firecracker” and “Ghost”.

The group released a pair of well-received singles in 2009, but by summer 2010 it had disbanded.

Srivastava has continued making music, releasing a solo EP in 2011. But as for Voxtrot, their legacy will have to remain in a small but powerful collection of songs.

February 7, 2013

The Vaccines and the nature of encores

Filed under: Concert, V — assman41 @ 4:55 am

When: February 6, 2013

Where: Lincoln Hall (Chicago)

Opening act: San Cisco

So, what exactly is the etiquette when it comes to encores. Should fans just expect them to happen, or do they need to fight for them?

That was the question my friend and I were pondering after watching The Vaccines play a rather blazing set last night. Having listened to the band’s live album earlier in the day, I knew that it might take a little longer for them to return to the stage for an encore.

As it turned out Wednesday night, the band members had played their last note well before anyone in the audience realized it.

This is a phenomenon I’ve never fully grasped. Before I ever started attending concerts, I’d read about encores and had assumed they were exclusive to only the most special of shows. According to a different friend of mine, encores have likely been around as long as there’s been rock ‘n’ roll.

Either way, by the time I was regularly attending concerts, it’d apparently become commonplace for bands to perform encores. And I quickly grew accustomed to the routine of the band leaving the stage, fans cheering for a bit, then eventually chanting “One more song! One more song!” And, without fail, within a minute or two, the band would return to the stage, re-tune their instruments and play anywhere from 1-4 more songs.

But that hasn’t always been the case. When seeing the band, Glasvegas, a few years ago, they weren’t able to do an encore because they only had about 11 songs under their collective hat, so they just played them all — in a less than lively manner I might add — then called it a night.

Another Scottish band took a different tact. I’ve seen the group, We Were Promised Jetpacks, thrice now. At the first show, they left the stage and fans assumed they’d be back shortly. But then the lights came up and that was it. The next two times I saw them, they at least warned fans ahead of time that they don’t do encores, then proceeded to fulfill that promise.

And that’s when I started wondering about the nature of the encore and what its point was. I mean, if basically everyone was doing it, is it really special anymore? Why not just forego it and play all the songs you want to in one fell swoop? Why throw in an unnecessary break just to build some suspense for the last few songs?

And what about the fans who are conditioned to expect an encore? Do we need to be corrected of this bad habit? Should we make sure, if we want an encore, to clap and chant and make it clear to the band that we want to hear more?

Unfortunately, at the end of The Vaccines’ show, the crowd was a little too lackadaisical in its request. There was a brief chant of “Three more songs!” and an even briefer “10 more songs!” but that was about it.

As we eventually filed out of the venue, one guy in the audience applauded the move by the band. To paraphrase his thoughts, when a crowd is really into a show and cheering loudly for an encore, it’s impossible to turn that down.

Maybe that’s all it boils down to. An encore should only happen when both the band and the audience have earned it.

What are your thoughts?

I posted on The Vaccines’ Facebook page asking them why they didn’t play an encore. If they happen to respond, I’ll be sure to update this post.

UPDATE

Based on posts from other fans on Facebook, and a brief status update by the band, lead singer Justin Young’s vocal chords were shot after pushing it too hard during the show. According to one commenter, they had an encore built into their set list, but they had to bail early. It would’ve been nice if someone could’ve at least told us what was going on, but what are ya gonna do?

December 17, 2012

140 – Sharon Van Etten

Filed under: Brooklyn, V — assman41 @ 6:20 pm

Since hitting the scene in 2009, singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten has been grabbing listeners with her beautifully haunting vocals and heartfelt lyrics.

With her debut, Because I Was In Love, the New Jersey-born, Tennessee-educated Brooklyn transplant began her ascent from timid folk singer to confident balladeer.

The songs on that first album were all sung in a very somber, melancholic tone and reflected on destructive past relationships.

The following year, she released, epic, which showcased a new, brave voice and bolder lyrics. The vocals were still haunting, but the sorrowful tone started to give way to empowerment.

The standout tracks include “Don’t Do It”, “Save Yourself” and “One Day”.

It was around this time that Van Etten developed a connection with boroughmates The National, touring with them in Europe and opening some shows in the U.S. They also collaborated on an original song — “Think You Can Wait” — for the soundtrack for the film, Win Win.

She began recording her next album in the garage studio of The National’s Aaron Dessner. And after several months, she released Tramp in February of this year to much critical acclaim.

Sonically, it’s the next step in Van Etten’s evolution. She continues to grow more confident with her voice and lyrics, and the songs themselves are more layered.

Adding to the complexity of the album were the contributions she received from such friends as Matt Barrick (Walkmen), Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Zach Condon (Beirut), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Julianna Barwick and Dessner himself.

The album is her best to date, with such strong tracks as “Serpents”, “Leonard”, “We Are Fine” and “Magic Chords”. It’ll be interesting to see how Van Etten continues to develop from here.

June 6, 2012

117 – The Vaccines

Filed under: England, V — assman41 @ 3:16 pm

I’d love to be one of the first people to suggest The Vaccines’ full-length debut is the perfect album for the summer. Alas, it actually came out in May 2011, so I’m a year late on that one.

But for anyone who hasn’t heard What Did You Expect From the Vaccines, then it’s the perfect album for Summer 2012.

Channeling contemporaries such as Surfer Blood and Interpol, this London four-piece churns out songs that are as poppy as they are droning.

Coming in just under 36 minutes, there isn’t any sort of slow build-up on any of these tracks. It’s just straight-ahead indie-pop/rock with a sometimes sunny hue. (Well, except for the closing track, which is 8:30.)

The above song, “If You Wanna”, is the second track on the album. And it establishes early on the band’s tendency to just repeat a word or phrase for much of a song. That’s another reason the short length of the songs is pretty key.

While the album has been out for more than a year, I’ve only heard about The Vaccines sporadically. And I didn’t decide to finally give their album a spin until I heard the opening track — “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” — played during the closing credits of the most recent episode of “Girls”.

Yeah, I watch “Girls.” What’s it to ya?

Did you notice the Ramones influence on that one?

Anyway, this album would be a great complement to any sunny day. And, hopefully, the band will continue to mature and put out some more complex tunes in the near future.

April 18, 2010

24 – Vampire Weekend

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

I realize most, if not all, of you are well aware of Vampire Weekend, but I’ve been kinda busy this week and am up against a deadline, so I don’t have time to discover a lesser-known artist.

Vampire Weekend broke onto the indie scene in 2007 with a self-titled EP and had already become a hipster’s wet dream before releasing their first full-length album (also self-titled) in January 2008. With their Peter Gabriel-like mix of rock, folk and African beats, the New York City quartet was unlike anything being played at the time.

Their sound might’ve been something of an acquired taste, but that didn’t stop them from putting out numerous catchy songs, including “Oxford Comma”, “A-Punk”, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”.

The initial success led to immense hype as they prepared to release their follow-up, Contra, in January of this year. Despite everyone clamoring for its arrival, it took me awhile to finally listen to it. Mostly, all the hype inevitably soured me on wanting to like it, and the first track I heard, “Horchata”, rubbed me the wrong way.

I was also delayed by the fact that I couldn’t find it anywhere online to illegally download and was eventually forced to — gulp! — actually purchase the hard copy.

I probably would’ve waited longer until I could get it for free, but I had agreed to see them in concert and needed to actually hear the album beforehand. I was a little concerned with seeing them live, because I didn’t think their sound would translate well to the stage. But I was dead wrong. They totally rocked my socks off.

Their latest album has definitely grown on me, with such strong tracks as “Cousins”, “Diplomat’s Son” and “Giving Up the Gun”. Who knows, I might even end up being one of those bloggers who are foaming at the mouth in anticipation of their third album.

Now, following a suggestion from one of my loyal readers, I thought I’d embed some videos instead of just songs.

Here’s one from each of their albums. Enjoy the cameos in the latter.

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