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.

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March 17, 2014

198 – Wild Cub

Filed under: Nashville, W — assman41 @ 12:19 am

Since I couldn’t make it to Austin for SXSW, I figured I’d seek out some bands playing one of the more trustworthy showcases — the Paste magazine party. That’s how I happened upon Thumpers, and it’s also why I finally decided to give Wild Cub a try.

I’d heard of the band once or twice, but I hadn’t listened to it — or so I thought. While jamming out to the 2013 debut album, Youth, I was searching for something that sounded similar in my iTunes library and discovered that I had previously downloaded it several months ago for my brother. Then I recalled him suggesting the band and telling me it was right up my alley.

Turns out he was correct.

Hopefully, I’m not the only person who immediately hears TV on the Radio singer Tunde Adebimpe when listening to Wild Cub front man Keegan DeWitt do his thing. The music is obviously different, but the voices are strikingly similar.

So, with that in mind, the best description for Wild Cub would be a synth-heavy indie-pop band fronted by a toned-down version of Adebimpe.

Throughout Youth, the band oscillates between an homage to ’80s synth-pop and something with a funkier, island-tinged sound. Besides the standout tracks that open the disc — “Shapeless”, “Colour” and the above hit “Thunder Clatter” — the other most notable point on the album is the coupling of tracks 6 and 7.

It starts with “The Water”, which sounds like a mash-up of TVOTR and The Cure. And that vibe continues on “Drive”, which is like a cover of a song that The XX wishes it had recorded.

The band formed after DeWitt, tired of Brooklyn’s high cost of living, relocated to Nashville in 2008 to focus on his music. He met multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Bulluck, and they, along with Dabney Morris, Harry West and Eric Wilson, founded Wild Cub.

They have already performed at several prominent festivals, including SXSW, Bonnaroo and CMJ, as well as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon earlier this year. So, with any luck, that is a sign of bigger things to come.

January 21, 2014

190 – Wampire

Filed under: Portland, W — assman41 @ 2:44 pm

It’s no secret that I would love to move to Chicago. I’ve been “hinting” at it for years, and the yearning increases every time I make the not-quite-two-hour trek westward.

While there are countless reasons why I wish to reside there — or really any major metropolis for that matter — the overriding factor is the quantity and quality of live music available on any given night.

When I was in my peak concert-going mode a few years ago, I was attending 1-2 shows a month — many of them in the Windy City. Nowadays, I only see a few a year, so I’m much more selective when it comes to the shows I choose to see.

One of my good friends, however, doesn’t have that issue. Living in the city, he can go to a show pretty much any time he wants. And rather than only honing in on a specific band or show to see, he’s been able to put his faith in the booking agent at some of his favorite clubs and see bands he has little or no previous knowledge of.

Just last year, he discovered Little Green Cars when one of his friends suggested they go together. And more recently, he went to a Smith Westerns show and saw Wampire as the opener. Both groups were among his biggest finds of 2013.

As for me, I didn’t catch on to Wampire until the last few weeks when I heard them on a college radio station. And having since listened to more of their music, I have become a believer.

Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps have been making music together since 2001, but they officially formed Wampire in 2007. Having been known for enlivening house parties around Portland with their EDM-tinged sounds, the duo changed direction. And the end result was Curiosity, their debut album that came out in May 2013.

The above song, “The Hearse”, is the opening track, and it gives listeners a pretty good idea of what’s in store — a surprisingly tight mixture of lo-fi electronica, garage psychedelia and jazzy surf-rock.

Some contemporaries that come to mind include MGMT, Of Montreal and Peter Bjorn & John.

October 6, 2013

177 – Wildcat! Wildcat!

Filed under: Los Angeles, W — assman41 @ 1:37 pm

Generally, I don’t like to write about a band until it has put out at least one proper full-length album. That way, you get a better feel for its sound, rather than just hearing a few choice tracks on an early EP.

However, that’s becoming a little more difficult as more and more bands choose to drop an EP — or several, in the case of The 1975 — before the inevitable LP. I realize bands have been doing this forever, but I’m referring specifically to groups that clearly have a load of solid songs at the ready but choose instead to slow-play listeners.

Rather than twiddle my thumbs in anticipation, I figured I’d just break my own rule and let you know about Wildcat! Wildcat! An electro-pop trio from Los Angeles, the group put out a self-titled four-track release last month and is tentatively scheduled to drop a full-length by the end of the year.

Judging by the first few songs, the LP has the makings of being top-notch.

Despite the band’s in-your-face name, it’s actually relatively laid back. Friends since middle school, Jesse Taylor (vocals, bass), Michael Wilson (vocals, keyboard) and Jesse Carmichael (vocals, drums) have a sound that would best be described as a toned-down version of MGMT or Passion Pit.

The group, which has only been a proper band for less than two years, has recently opened for such acts as Alt-J and Portugal. The Man — if that gives you another hint at its sound.

And with that, I resume twiddling my thumbs as I wait patiently for the full-length release.

March 24, 2013

152 – Widowspeak

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

Falling somewhere between the sweet, soulful sonnets of Mazzy Star and the darker, heavier dirges of Warpaint comes the Brooklyn two-piece Widowspeak.

The band, which originally began as a trio, is powered by the hauntingly soothing vocals of Molly Hamilton and propelled by the guitar of Robert Earl Thomas.

The above tune is a single from the band’s 2011 self-titled debut. I first discovered the band around this time when a friend tipped me off to them. At the time, I could only find a few songs on their MySpace page, including an even more brooding cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”.

They have since put out a second album, Almanac, which came out in November 2012. Little has changed from the band’s sound. Despite the departure of one of the founding members, the music seems a little more complex, with a greater focus on instrumentation and perhaps a slight uptick in the mood of the vocals.

Widowspeak‘s music is the perfect mix of light and dark, soft and heavy. And they’re a great band to fall asleep to — or anything else you may do whilst in bed.

January 14, 2013

142 – The Wombats

Filed under: England, W — assman41 @ 2:30 am

I still can’t figure it out, but for some reason I’ve heard multiple references to The Wombats in the past couple of months. It’s especially odd since they haven’t released an album since April 2011 and don’t appear to be anywhere close to putting out another one.

Nevertheless, those mentions led to me listening to the Liverpool trio’s two full-length releases, so I figured I’d write a little something about them.

I was first introduced to the band several years ago through the song “Kill the Director”, which was the third single off A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation, the band’s debut album that was released in November 2007.

As you can quickly discern, The Wombats sound like any number of indie-pop/rock bands that were coming out of the UK about 5-8 years ago. Bands such as Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks and The Fratellis, to name a few.

That’s not necessarily the band’s fault, but it does make it sound less original. Also, that whole scene doesn’t really hold up as well nearly a decade later.

That being said, all of the bands put out some good songs, The Wombats included. Other strong tunes on that first album include “Let’s Dance To Joy Division” and “Moving To New York”.

The 2011 follow-up album, This Modern Glitch, added an extra electro vibe and also produced a few good songs, such as “Jump Into the Fog”, “Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)” and “1996”.

The band still appears to be active, and it’ll be interesting to see if/how its sound has evolved — if it ever releases another album, that is.

August 7, 2012

My new favorite website: Plixid.com

Filed under: A, B, F, H, T, W — assman41 @ 4:26 am

The last few months, it’s been difficult to find reliable websites to download music for free. The old standbys, such as MegaUpload, MediaFire and FileTube, have either been shut down by the government or simply don’t return any worthwhile results.

Rather than download RAR and ZIP files, I’d been forced go the torrent route and hope that Vuze would have the albums I was looking for. But that’s generally hit or miss.

But a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon my savior — Plixid.com. Not only does this site provide reliable links to albums, it’s also become an invaluable source for discovering new music.

The site adds one album every 15 minutes. They cover numerous genres and include a lot of new stuff — but there’s also plenty of old albums.

Instead of sifting through everything, I stick to the Indie/Post-Rock/Post-Punk feed and have already found numerous gems. The highlight so far was The Darlingtons, who I featured in last week’s post. But there’s been enough good stuff to keep me busy.

Here are the standouts from the past few weeks:

Air Traffic Controller

Immediately at the start of “Hurry Hurry”, the opening track the album, Nordo, I figured Air Traffic Controller had to be a side project for one of the dudes from They Might Be Giants. You cannot listen to that song and think of TMBG’s “Birdhouse In Your Soul”.

But as the album plays on, the similarities die down and are replaced with some rather catchy tunes. But in the way that one fan’s “catchy” is another fan’s “annoying.”

With some quirky songs about “Field of Dreams” and “Star Wars”, this group keeps things light while still churning out some solid tunes.

Heavenly Beat

When he decided to try his hand at the whole solo thing, John Pena decided not to stray too far from his bread and butter.

Pena has taken the electro-dream pop he helped create as the bassist for Beach Fossils and jazzed it up, infusing it with a new level of complexity.

The songs on the recently released Talent are the kind of dream pop catnip that could lull someone to sleep. But there is also a whole other layer of electro-pop that makes the music more engaging. It’s this dichotomy that makes every track so enjoyable.

Factories

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be humming “It’ll Be Alright” for at least a couple of days after your first hear it via Factories’ debut album, Together.

The second track on the disc, this song is a perfect example of the heights this band can reach when its lyrics live up to the standard set forth by the sonic electro beats that permeate throughout.

The rest of the album is pretty solid, with such notable songs as “Canada”, “Calypso”, “Kamikaze”, “Pressure”, “No One Noticed Me But You” and the title track.

Brainstorm

Here’s one reason you may feel a little apprehensive using Plixid.com. Apparently, Heat Waves, the debut full-length release from Brainstorm, isn’t officially out until Oct. 2. Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying it for the past couple of weeks.

Oh well. I’m glad I was able to hear it early. The album is definitely solid, filled with catchy indie rock-pop ditties. But that description does not do these songs justice.

This Portland trio has an intoxicating mix of influences that work so well together — kinda like Vampire Weekend, except the two bands really don’t sound anything alike.

Check out a few of their videos here. 

Westkust

If you prefer your shoegaze with plenty of fuzzy instrumentation, check out Westkust. Their EP, Junk, is so entrancing.

Trespassers William

The indie gods giveth, and the indie gods taketh away.

Shortly after downloading a few tracks by the group, Trespassers William, I’ve come to find out that they are disbanding. The September release of Cast, a collection of B-sides and rarities, will be the final output of the Seattle group.

After three full-length albums and two EPs, the group’s two main members — Anna-Lynne Williams and Matt Brown — have decided to focus on their solo projects.

From what little I’ve heard of the group’s music, I know that it will surely be missed.

April 22, 2012

111 – Warpaint

Filed under: Los Angeles, W — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Warpaint’s moniker seems mighty apt. Because no matter how many layers of pop sensibility these four women from Los Angeles put into their music, it’s all covered with an impermeable coat of darkness that fills every nook and cranny of their songs.

The above track is from the group’s debut EP, Exquisite Corpse, which came out in 2009. From the opening track, “Stars”, the band establishes a heavy, almost psychedelic, tone. Not ones to show haste, Warpaint’s slow-building style on every song adds to the spine-tingling feel on the album.

They even manage to take a well-known standard and turn it into something raw and primal. On the track, “Billie Holliday“, Warpaint sample and put their own unique spin on Mary Wells’ Motown classic “My Guy”.

They continued to pay homage to those that came before them when they released the song “Undertow”, the big single off their first full-length album, 2010’s The Fool. The song started out as a cover to Nirvana’s “Polly”, but eventually grew into something totally different. However, you can still hear the influence, including in the unmistakable line “hurt yourself.”

While the entire album is pretty solid throughout, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite track, “Baby”. It’s the one track on here that doesn’t quite sound like the rest. It’s almost like an acoustic ballad.

October 23, 2011

87 – The War On Drugs

Filed under: Philadelphia, W — assman41 @ 5:11 pm

So many bands and artists try to channel Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen that a lot of the music just ends up sounding formulaic.

You want to sound like the Bard of Minnesota? Just layer some jangly, folk-pop with mumbling lyrics and you’re good to go.

Looking to bring forth your inner Boss? Throw together some blue-collar lyrics, add some guttural vocals and sprinkle in some harmonica tracks and you can call yourself an honorary New Jersey resident.

Or, you could follow the tact of Philadelphia quartet The War On Drugs, who take their obvious Dylan and Springsteen influences and infuse them with new life while adding a modern alt-country allure.

One of the better songs in their catalog, “Brothers” — from 2010’s Future Weather EP and this year’s full-length Slave Ambient  — is a solid head-bobber that includes both main influences.

The War On Drugs – Brothers

The group formed in 2003, with the soon-to-be-well-known solo artist Kurt Vile as one of its two founding members, along with Adam Granduciel. After dropping a pair of EPs in 2005 and 2007, the first full-length release, Wagonwheel Blues, arrived in 2008. (Doesn’t that title just sound totally like the name of some Dylan album?)

My favorite ditty from this disc is the second track, “Taking the Farm”, which has a bit of Springsteen in it, including his trademark “Hoo hoooo” bellowing.

The War On Drugs – Taking the Farm

But for the most part, this album was all about Dylan. And it can be heard throughout on such tracks as “Arms Like Boulders”, “Buenos Aires Beach”, “Show Me the Coast” and “There Is No Urgency”. That last one had a real Band of Horses feel to it as well.

Next came Future Weather, which, in addition to three instrumental tracks and a pair that would be on the ensuing LP, included the more-than-solid “Comin’ Through”.

The War On Drugs – Comin\’ Through

The band has outdone itself on Slave Ambient. There are a lot of different styles incorporated on the various songs, which helps mix things up and never allows the sound to go stale.

In addition to “Brothers”, other standout tracks include “I Was There”, “Your Love Is Calling My Name” and the closer, “Blackwater”. But my favorite song in the band’s entire arsenal is track 10, “Baby Missiles”, which is one of the album’s more upbeat tunes and seems to borrow its structure directly from Springsteen. There’s also a harmonica and more of the ole “Hoo hooo.”

Before you click the following link, be aware that this song has been stuck in my head for much of the last week.

The War On Drugs – Baby Missiles

The War On Drugs have had a lot of turnover since its inception, but providing it with stability all along has been Granduciel. In addition to being the lead singer, the Massachusetts native also plays guitar, harmonica, keyboards and samplers.

While the band has not reached the popularity of the since-departed Vile, it is certainly not because the music is undeserving.

After checking out their website, I see that they’ll be in Chicago on Wed., Dec. 7 at Lincoln Hall — easily my favorite venue in the Windy City. I can’t see any reason why I won’t be attending that show.

September 27, 2011

84 – Wye Oak

Filed under: Baltimore, W — assman41 @ 4:43 pm

When I first saw Wye Oak perform at SXSW earlier this year, I described their style as something along the lines of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. — even though I’ve never really listened to a ton of stuff from either band.

Apparently, I must not have been too far off, since they played the songs of Dinosaur Jr. during a special tribute show a few months ago.

But after finally listening to all of their albums several times through, I realize Wye Oak’s sound is much deeper and more complex. Mike Powell of Pitchfork described it best in his review of the band’s debut release, If Children …

“… earnest folk-influenced indie rock with touches of noise and dream-pop.”

Wye Oak – I Don\’t Feel Young

Named after the former state tree of Maryland, Wye Oak is the Baltimore duo of Andy Stack (drums, keyboards, backup vocals) and Jenn Wasner (vocals, guitars).

The formed in 2006 under the name Monarch before eventually changing their moniker. The released their debut independently in 2007 and re-released it a year later after signing with Merge Records. Their second release, The Knot, came out in 2009, followed by an EP, My Neighbor/My Creator, in 2010 and a third full-length album, Civilian, earlier this year.

There really aren’t any bad tracks on any of Wye Oak’s albums, but the latest release might be the most solid all the way through. My favorite tracks include “The Alter”, “Holy Holy”, “Dogs’ Eyes” and “Fish”.

Wye Oak – Holy Holy

I just discovered that the band will be in Chicago on Dec. 6 as a supporting act — along with Local Natives — for The National, one of my favorite bands. I very much want to go to this show.

For now, go listen to some tunes at their MySpace page.

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