Infinite Shuffle

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.

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January 29, 2014

191 – You Are Plural

Filed under: Olympia Wash., Y — assman41 @ 3:07 pm

Have I mentioned how much I love finding great radio stations? Oh, I guess I have.

Well, in my last post, I noted that I first heard Wampire on the radio. To be more precise, it was on the University of Illinois’ student-run WPGU (107.1 FM out of Urbana).

During that brief stint listening to the station last month, I came across several previously unknown bands. One was You Are Plural, a trio out of Olympia, Wash., that is bringing a fresh sound to the indie scene.

Just one look at the group’s main instruments gives you a glimpse into its vibe, with Jen Grady on cello and vocals, Ephriam Nagler on the Wurlitzer organ and vocals and Chad Austinson keeping time on drums.

A good starting point is the band’s sophomore full-length, Rabbit Rabbit, which came out last month.

The group started as a duo (sans Austinson) in San Francisco. Grady and Nagler had been touring as backing members on various acts, including Cursive, The Felice Brothers and Adam Haworth Stevens.

Eventually, the two moved north and focused on their own project, putting out an LP and EP in 2011.

And that’s really all there is to tell. At least for now.

January 22, 2012

99 – Youth Lagoon

Filed under: Boise Idaho, Y — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Reading an interview with Trevor Powers is like getting a glimpse into a troubled mind. For a long time, Powers, whose musical alter-ego is Youth Lagoon, couldn’t properly articulate all the strange thoughts that were cluttering his brain.

It wasn’t until the Boise, Idaho, resident put pen to paper and began writing songs that he was finally able to start relaying to people everything that was in his head.

The end result is The Year of Hibernation, the eight-song debut from Youth Lagoon.

Upon a cursory listen, the songs meld together into a dreamy electronic escape. But that facade belies a darker message in the lyrics.

According to Powers in a review at Amazon.com, “I don’t think I could ever write a completely happy album. It’s not that I’m not a happy person, but I just have too many things in my mind that haunt me.”

While that may be true, he does a pretty good job masking it with beautiful melodies and soundscapes.

Youth Lagoon falls perfectly into the same ilk as Wild Nothing, The XX, Zola Jesus, Beach Fossils and Wye Oak.

Powers masters the slow-build in his songs, starting out soft and quiet before becoming faster and more powerful.

Hopefully, Powers is able to maintain a balance in which he can keep making such beautiful music while also holding on to his sanity.

 

December 11, 2011

94 – Young the Giant

Filed under: Irvine Calif., Y — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I had heard of Young the Giant only in name by the time one of my friends gave me his endorsement of the band. In fact, he had dug the group’s self-titled debut so much, that he had already bought a ticket for their Chicago show in late February.

Normally, that might prompt me to immediately check out what I was missing. But this friend‘s musical tastes are slightly askew from mine. A lot of times, he gets really into bands that I only have a passing interest in — and vice versa.

If one was to chart our musical interests, it would look something like a pair of sine waves, a quarter-cycle out of phase. Kinda like this.

Eventually, I listened to one of Young the Giant’s songs — “Cough Syrup” — on the radio and liked what I heard.

Upon downloading the full album, I was pleasantly surprised by the collection of tunes. The five-piece from Irvine, Calif., churns out music as eclectic as the ethnic backgrounds of its members — Indian, Persian, British and French-Canadian among them.

Built on a foundation of melodic indie rock, the band adds layers of pop and electro to varying degrees. It also does a good job of mixing tempos throughout the album.

Some of the standout tracks include “Apartment”, “God Made Man”, “Garands” and “Guns Out”, the slow, somewhat dreamy closer.

On a couple of tracks — “St. Walker” and, to a lesser extent, “I Got” — I couldn’t help but think of Fall Out Boy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But my favorite track was definitely “My Body”.

After listening to the album a few times, I think I could be talked into joining my friend at the concert in a few months.

April 10, 2011

65 – Yuck

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

With the latest resurgence of the shoegaze and twee genres, there have been plenty of solid acts to rise to popularity. But, for the most part, those bands have been one-trick ponies, churning out albums full of songs that are all pretty much the same.

That’s what makes the band, Yuck, stand out. These four gents from London can not only stare at their kicks with the best of them, they can also crank it up and grind out their share of solid, distorted alt-rock.

Straddling the line between hard and soft, Yuck released their self-titled debut in February and officially marked their spot in the pantheon of fuzz-rock greatness.

From the opening chords of the first track, “Get Away”, the listener is immediately transported back to the early/mid-’90s — to a time when vocals were as much an instrument as a medium for conveying lyrical emotions.

Yuck – Get Away

Yuck’s music is, at the same time, familiar and new. Listening to this album will conjure up many bands from the past — most prominently, but not limited to, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Nada Surf, Yo La Tengo and Teenage Fan Club.

Admittedly, my knowledge of those bands is very basic and limited, but it’s not hard to hear their influence on Yuck. (Sidenote: If you’re interested in a much more profound and eloquent review of this album, go here.)

Yuck – Suicide Policeman

Other standout tracks include “Shook Down” (prominent female vocals with a ’90s college radio vibe), “Suck” (shoegaze with a post-punk feel), “Operation” and “Sunday”.

My favorite song is “Georgia”, which, in addition to the distorted guitars and vocals, includes some harmonies and a nice melody.

Yuck – Georgia

Barely a quarter of the way through 2011, Yuck is firmly entrenched, along with The Decemberists, in the discussion for album of the year honors.

February 21, 2010

16 – Yeasayer

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

I’m not really sure when I first heard about Yeasayer. I know they’ve been in my periphery for the past couple years. I’d hear a song of theirs from time to time, but nothing ever grabbed my attention. I also know they were on the bill at last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, but I never saw them.

Then, within the last month or so, I heard both of their latest singles on the radio, and everything changed for me. My interest had been piqued. I thought I might’ve found an early contender of my eventual “Top 10 of ’10” list, and I had to hear more.

However, I quickly discovered the band was nothing more than a musical version of iron pyrite — you know, fool’s gold.

Yeasayer is a trio that hails from Brooklyn, and its sound is hard to pinpoint. A couple descriptions I read were “semi-experimental rock” and “Middle Eastern-psych-snap-gospel.”

Those are probably about as accurate as anything I could come up with to label Yeasayer’s debut album, All Hour Cymbals, which came out in 2007.

But the album that got me interested in them, Odd Blood, which came out this year, might be a little bit easier to discern. Personally, the best comparison I can make is Hot Chip meets Beirut.

Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of Hot Chip, and I’m even less interested in Beirut.

The one thing that I did enjoy was the vocals, especially on the aforementioned singles, “Ambling Alp” and “O.N.E.”

I’ll probably just end up keeping those songs on my iTunes and deleting the rest — kinda like what I did with Bat For Lashes. (Interesting sidenote, Yeasayer helped produce Bat For Lashes’ most recent album, Two Suns.)

Yeasayer – Ambling Alp

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