Infinite Shuffle

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.

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April 26, 2015

214 – Radical Dads

Filed under: Brooklyn, R — assman41 @ 3:21 pm

It wasn’t until about a month ago that I first heard of Radical Dads. And that was only somewhat in passing when they were mentioned in a Paste article about creative album cover artwork.

Shortly after, a friend mentioned listening to them, so I figured I’d give them a try. And, thankfully, I persevered through the first couple of irredeemable tracks and found something more inviting on the other end.

Universal Coolers, which came out Feb. 25, is the third album by the Brooklyn-based trio. It’s also the best offering thus far as they’ve taken the best qualities of their first two discs — 2011’s Mega Rama and 2013’s Rapid Reality — and synthesized it into something more palatable.

That’s not to say the earlier offerings were hard to listen to. They were just inconsistent with more filler than standouts. “Walking Wires”, off Mega Rama, was probably the best example of their overall sound on that album. Other notable tracks are “New Age Dinosaur” and “No New Faces”, the latter of which is reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky — but with vocals.

The group took a half-step back on the follow-up, cramming it with too much filler and unnecessary distortion. The few worthwhile tunes include the title track and “Stampede”.

Which brings us to the latest disc. The only possible reason I could see wanting to listen to the first two tracks is to make the rest of the album sound that much better. Radical Dads put the best stuff in the heart of the order in tracks 3-5 — there are 10 tracks, so we’re obviously likening this to a slow-pitch softball team not an MLB squad.

“Slammer” and “In the Water” are the first signs that this could be a band worth paying attention to in the future. Then along comes “Don’t Go”, and you start thinking, “Man, this might be an album I come back to sporadically for years to come.” It’s probably not accurate at all, but it feels like this is the band’s first song with a normal verse-chorus-verse structure. It won’t be topping any best-of-the-year lists, but it may be worthy of an honorable mention.

Next up is the title track, which is another strong entry before things start to wane a bit. Thankfully, the album closes on a high note with “Cassette Brain”, a previously released single.

March 13, 2015

2015 SXSW preview

Filed under: SXSW — assman41 @ 3:23 pm

A few years ago, in advance of attending SXSW, I went through the entire 1,200-plus-song torrent and weeded out all the riff-raff before posting a comprehensive list of tracks that piqued my interest.

Not since then have I been so prolific. I did download another year’s torrent, but I can’t even remember how far I made it.

This year, I am once again spending my March in the Midwest, wishing I could be in Austin. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some of the best bands the festival has to offer.

As he has done for the past several years, NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson has compiled a playlist of 100 of the top acts playing at SXSW. The Austin 100 is a great mix of just about everything you’d want to hear or see throughout the week.

That being said, no one is going to agree with NPR’s recommendations 100 percent of the time. In fact, I only “favorited” 40 of the songs — but that doesn’t include songs by Alvvays and Courtney Barnett.

The nice thing about this year’s stream is that once you’ve made it through all 100 songs, you can switch over to Favorites mode and only play the songs you liked.

Below is a list of the acts/songs I picked out. Since the festival is already in full swing and I don’t have a ton of time, I’m just including the brief description that NPR wrote.

Now, go listen to the mix — you can also download it for a few more weeks — and discover some new favorite bands. I know I’m gonna be referring back to this list throughout the year for new bands to listen to.

  • A. Sinclair – “Shiny Things” … A band that knows its way around dense, dramatic rock anthems.
  • Amason – “Älgen” … The Swedish pop quintet sprawls in five directions at once.
  • Charlie Belle – “Get To Know” … Three teenagers play pop with subtlety beyond their years.
  • Chastity Belt – “Time To Go Home” … Smart, unpredictable, feminist indie-rock.
  • Cheerleader – “Perfect Vision” … Bright, shimmery pop-rock, suitable for fist-pumping.
  • Cold Mailman – “Moments” … Synth-y, boy-girl indie-pop that builds and builds.
  • Colony House – “Silhouettes” … A band that knows its way around an alt-rock anthem.
  • Count This Penny – “Shoebox Scene” … Graceful country-pop with gorgeous vocals and Appalachian roots.
  • Donovan Wolfington – “Keef Ripper” … Speedball power-pop with a party-friendly vibe.
  • Fatherson – “I Like Not Knowing” … Scottish-accented rock that builds from a whisper to a storm.
  • Field Mouse – “Everyone But You” … A fizzily agreeable dream-pop charm offensive.
  • Genevieve – “Colors” … Company Of Thieves’ frontwoman sings bouncy anthems of affirmation.
  • Geographer – “I’m Ready” … Openhearted pop-rock, powered by a throbbing synthesizer.
  • Hanne Kolstø – “We Don’t See Ourselves” … Toy-box pop that charms, clatters and soars.
  • Hinds – “Bamboo” … Finds a way to make garage-rock primitivism shimmer.
  • Houndmouth – “Sedona” … A Midwestern roots-rock band relocates its heart to the desert.
  • Howard – “Falling” … Stormily percussive folk-pop that prioritizes atmospherics over uplift.
  • Joan Shelley – “First Of August” … Weaponized melancholy, with tender beauty that soothes.
  • Jukebox The Ghost – “The Great Unknown” … Piano-fueled pop, readier than ever for stardom.
  • Kaleo – “All The Pretty Girls” … Falsetto-fueled balladry meets Icelandic grandiosity.
  • Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band – “Bubblegum” … An introspective singer sheds his quiet side, lets it rip.
  • Knox Hamilton – “Work It Out” … Mile-wide pop-rock, suitable for radios everywhere.
  • Kristin Diable – “Time Will Wait” … A rollicking bar-band throwback, but with maximum star power.
  • La Luz – “Pink Slime” … Garage-rock that’s both playfully light and cavernously booming.
  • The Last Year – “Mania” … Rockers explore synth-pop with sparkling results.
  • The Lees Of Memory – “We Are Siamese” … Superdrag vets play shoegaze rock with an epic swirl of guitars.
  • Makthaverskan – “Witness” … Garage-rock intensity, with enough drama to fill an arena.
  • Moving Panoramas – “Radar” … Dreamy pop meets shoegaze rock to form what the trio calls “dream gaze.”
  • Quiet Company – “Understand The Problem” … Songs about losing faith are rarely this hummable.
  • San Fermin – “Jackrabbit” … Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s chamber-pop keeps getting bigger and busier.
  • Screaming Females – “Ripe” … Scrappy hard rock with big guitar solos, bigger vocals. … Sidenote: this was actually the very first band I saw live upon arriving at SXSW in 2011.
  • Skylar Spence – “Fiona Coyne” … Ludicrously catchy funk-pop from a guy who used to call himself Saint Pepsi.
  • Spring King – “City” … Exactly as its name implies: rock ‘n’ roll for a sunny day.
  • Sunny Sweeney – “Second Guessing” … Smart, salty country songs about figuring life out while we can.
  • Title Fight – “Liars Love” … A punk band keeps smearing its sound into something prettier.
  • Twerps – “Back To You” … Playful, almost primitive at times, and infectiously sweet.
  • White Reaper – “Cool” … Ramones-y pop-punk that wastes few words or chords.
  • Wild Party – “OutRight” … Sleek power-pop that reaches beyond the rafters, all the way to the stars.
  • Young Buffalo – “Sykia” … Insistent, harmony-intensive power-pop with gigantic choruses.

March 9, 2015

213 – Little Racer

Filed under: Brooklyn, L — assman41 @ 1:05 am

When I started this blog several years ago, many of the bands I was writing about fell into the indie-folk category. Not only was I posting about groups such as Mumford & Sons, Dawes and The Head and The Heart, I was often referencing them while drawing comparisons to a slew of up-and-coming bands.

Eventually, my tastes shifted toward a more airy-fairy, lo-fi beach pop sound. Bands such as Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing and The Drums were prominent in that ilk and often earning shout-outs in future posts.

I figured that wave would slowly die off and be replaced by another sub-genre. To a certain degree it has, but it always seems to be simmering on the back burner, just waiting to boil over with another slew of similar-sounding bands.

The latest is Little Racer, a four-piece outfit from Brooklyn that combines all that is great about those aforementioned groups. With its 2014 EP Modern Accent, the band took that catchy, indie-beach vibe and took it somewhere new by adding a clear punk attitude.

That is “Vanessa”, one of the standouts among the six songs on the nearly year-old release. The intro sounds reminiscent of The Vaccines’ “Post-Breakup Sex”.

The disc opens with “Fake French”, a mid-tempo ditty that sounds like a slightly punk version of The Drums. The group beats The Drums drum again on “Ghosty”, a song that also sounds like the closest link to Little Racer’s raw 2011 debut offering, a two-track EP.

In case they hadn’t shown how punk they are, Little Racer close out the recent EP with “Punk Life”, which gives off a weird, “we don’t care if you like this, but we secretly hope you do” vibe throughout the song.

The catchiest song here is the second track, “Dancing”. It sounds like something you might hear on an episode of “The Inbetweeners” — the original British version, that is — or more likely in an Expedia commercial. (That gives me a great idea for a future post.)

Thus far, the crew’s catalog is still in the single digits, so it’ll be interesting to see where they take things from here.

February 23, 2015

212 – Alvvays

Filed under: A, Toronto — assman41 @ 4:27 pm

For a lot of indie music fans, Best Coast would be considered the progenitor of the recent trend of mixing female lead vocals, lo-fi instrumentation and breezy tunes that belie darker tones. Of course, with pretty much any musical genre, there’s always someone who did it earlier.

One band that could probably lay claim to at least planting the seeds from which Best Coast sprouted is Camera Obscura, the Scottish group that started in the mid-‘90s.

But this post isn’t about who got there first. Instead, it’s about who is there now. Particularly, a band that combines the best of both of the aforementioned groups and puts its own spin on things to create something new.

Alvvays is a five-piece indie-pop group from Toronto that plays songs that would be perfect for chilling out at the beach like Best Coast — as long as said beach is located somewhere colder, like the coast of Scotland.

Alvvays’ self-titled debut was released last July and, within a month, topped the college radio charts.

The group is helmed by childhood friends Molly Rankin (vocals) and Kerri MacLellan (keyboards), who began playing music with Alec O’Hanley. Eventually, they were joined by Brian Murphy and Phil MacIsaac to form the internet search-friendly Alvvays.

Their best-known track, and possibly the most energetic on the album, is “Archie, Marry Me”, a tune that seems like an incredibly bare-bones cover a My Bloody Valentine song. (Not really, but for some reason, that description always pops in my head when I hear it.)

Other strong entries include “Next of Kin”, “The Agency Group”, “Atop a Cake” and my personal favorite, “Party Police”.

The group has been touring all over, including a recent stop in Madison that I was unable to attend. They’ll be in Austin next month for SXSW, which, sadly, I will once again be missing. But enough with my melancholy; just go listen to this band.

February 6, 2015

211 – PHOX

Filed under: Baraboo Wis., Madtown Musings, P — assman41 @ 4:05 pm

I’ve always dreamed of living in a city with a burgeoning music scene. Going somewhere thriving such as Portland, Austin, Seattle or Nashville would be great, but even better is the possibility of landing in a city where the indie scene is either in its infancy or adolescence.

It appears as though my wish may have finally been granted. Just a few months before I arrived in my new home of Madison, Wis., the city’s first breakout act, PHOX, released its self-titled debut album in June.

The group received plenty of buzz from top tastemakers and earned some best-of-the-year nods. And deservedly so.

The group, which is actually based an hour north of here in Baraboo — just outside of tourist trap Wisconsin Dells — officially formed in the spring of 2011 when singer Monica Martin joined a collection of musicians for what was supposed to be a one-off performance at a local show.

Fast-forward nearly four years, and the group has released a pair of EPs, opened for such bands as Blitzen Trapper and The Lumineers and recorded its LP in Justin Vernon’s home studio in Eau Claire, Wis.

The music itself revolves around Martin’s stirring lyrics and voice, backed by solid instrumentation from Davey Roberts (drums), Matt Roberts (keyboard), Jason Krunnfusz (bass), Matthew Holmen and Zach Johnston.

Martin’s voice bares strong similarity to Imogen Heap, but there are also traces of Leslie Feist, Zola Jesus (another Wisconsin native) and the Haim sisters.

PHOX are currently touring the eastern half of the country before hitting the festival scene this spring and summer, where they’re sure to see their fan base grow exponentially.

January 16, 2015

210 – Courtney Barnett

Filed under: Australia, B — assman41 @ 12:27 pm

If 2013 was the year that Kacey Musgraves became a breakout star, then 2014 was when music fans started to see the full effect of her success as the next wave of young, independent, female singer/songwriters followed her arrow and made a name for themselves on the national — and international — level.

The artist who may have benefitted the most from the exposure was Courtney Barnett. The 26-year-old badass from Melbourne, Australia, had been putting out her own music since 2012, but it wasn’t until last year that she finally saw the fruits of her labor.

“Avant Gardener” is the pinnacle track on her pseudo-full-length debut, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, which came out in October 2013. It combines a pair of EPs — I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris and How to Carve a Carrot into a Rose — to give listeners a full picture of what Barnett is trying to convey.

Clever lyrics are the strongest element of her music. Making them all the more decipherable is a slacker vibe throughout, from Barnett’s deadpan delivery to the purposely bumbling mix to the overall lo-fi nature of the recordings.

At times, Barnett’s songs sound like Lily Allen — that is, if the latter were a guitar-playing Aussie instead of a wannabe rapper with an annoying Cockney accent.

The album is ideal for doing chores around the house as the pacing never really ventures from the medium range. The above two tracks are the rowdiest on the disc, while most of the others are coated in a thick haze of apathy.

The tune, “Lance Jr.” is probably the closest thing to middle ground in this collection, with its tongue-in-cheek lyrics and melody that always seems ready to bust out but never quite does.

The darkhorse is “Anonymous Club,” a slow-but-stirring track in the middle of the album that catches you off guard until the end, when you’re suddenly tempted to hit repeat.

Barnett began her career playing in a grunge band, Rapid Transit, in 2010-11. She moved on to the psych/country band, Immigrant Union (2011-13), which was founded by Brent DeBoer of The Dandy Warhols.

During that time, she started her own label, Milk! Records, in 2012 and released her first EP.

By October 2013, after dropping another short disc and the combined double EP, she took things to the next level with a breakout performance at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York.

According to Wikipedia, she recorded a full-length album last April, but a release date is still unknown.

December 31, 2014

Best of 2014 – My list

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 8:45 pm

If you’ve happened upon this blog post via the home page, you may notice that, until now, the most recent post had been from June. Various factors contributed to my hiatus, not least of which was a lack of motivation.

While I’m still battling said dearth, I would’ve regretted not putting out some sort of Best of 2014 list. It’s something I look forward to every year, and I know my reader(s) feel the same way.

Unfortunately, since my music listening has been sporadic at best the past several months, this list will be anything but comprehensive. As of this summer, I’d only had a few albums and songs on my running end-of-the-year list. But there has been plenty of music that has piqued my interest since then, and it deserves some sort of recognition.

So, here goes nothing …

HALFWAY POINT

By June, I had written about three bands that I figured were worthy of year-end praise.

  • Run River NorthRun River North … Favorite song: “Lying Beast” … My penultimate post this spring was on a band that I remain ecstatic about. This group of six Korean-Americans channeled their inner Of Monsters and Men and put out of the year’s best albums — even if no one is actually talking about them right now.
  • HighasakiteSilent Treatment … Favorite song: “Leaving No Traces” … Released in April, this Norwegian outfit’s first full-length album has been criminally overlooked on most end-of-the-year lists. It’s jam-packed with songs that evoke comparisons to Lykke Li and First Aid Kit but also stand out on their own.
  • Bad ThingsBad Things … Favorite song: “Caught Inside” … This is the indie group best known as snowboarder Shaun White’s side project. The album doesn’t necessarily have any standouts, but put together, they form an album that is at least worthy of honorable mention status.

STILL TO COME

The list of artists I intend to write about has been growing since the summer, but there are a few that have been at the top of the list all along. They all released albums this year that have received multiple spins by this blogger, and they’ll all eventually get their day in the sun here.

In the meantime, here are some brief thoughts on each.

  • Bleachers – Strange Desire … This side project from Jack Antonoff — better known as a member of fun. and boyfriend to Lena Dunham — put out its debut album to much acclaim in July and has spawned several radio singles. The opening track, “Wild Heart”, was not one of them, but I consider it my favorite. Other notable songs include “I Wanna Get Better”, “Shadow” and “Rollercoaster”.
  • PHOX – PHOX … Having only listened to this album a couple of times, I have yet to deem any tracks as standouts, but that’s OK, because overall, it’s a solid release. Great as background music, this group conjures memories of fellow Madison product Zola Jesus and Sharon Van Etten.
  • Mac DeMarco – Salad Days … When I listened to this Canadian singer’s sophomore album in April, I remember being a little turned off by the hype it was receiving at the time. But I begrudgingly admitted that it was pretty solid was something I would need to spend some more time with. I still have yet to do so, but I can safely say that it at least deserves recognition here.

TOP OF THEIR GAME

There were a few established acts that put out, arguably, career-defining albums this year. One of them I have written about in the past, while the others are well-known enough that there really isn’t anything new I could bring to the table.

  • The War on DrugsLost in the Dream … The third album from this Philadelphia crew takes the group’s trademark mix of dreamy vibes, catchy beats and lo-fi instrumentation to the next level. Notable tracks include “Under Pressure”, “An Ocean In Between the Waves” and “Red Eyes”. But, really, the entire album is top notch.
  • Jenny Lewis – The Voyager … The former lead singer for Rilo Kiley is no stranger to great music. In addition to that band’s catalog, she’d already put out two acclaimed solo albums before releasing a third in July. With nary a hiccup, it captures all that is good about this still underrated songstress. The standouts are “She’s Not Me” and “Just One of the Guys”.
  • Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues … The album received a great deal of hype as the first release after lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman. But the backstory could only carry it so far. The reason it’s still receiving praise more than 11 months after its January release is because of the quality of the songs. The opening title track is the standout, but the group maintains a high level throughout.

HONORABLE MENTION

There were also plenty of other established artists that have received accolades for their releases this year. Alas, I can’t give them my full support, since I’ve only listened to one or two tracks from any given album.

However, considering their track record, I’m confident they are at least worth mentioning here.

POSSIBLE PRECURSORS

There were also several songs I heard this year that I fell in love with, but I never got around to checking out the rest of the albums. So, depending upon my future research, you may be reading more about these acts in the coming months.

  • James – “Movin'”
  • Strand of Oaks – “Goshen ’97”
  • Alvvays – “Party Police”
  • Little Racer – “Dancin'”
  • Echostream – “Cool Kids”

STANDOUT SINGLES

Speaking of singles, here’s a mixture of songs that stood out to me this year, even if their albums weren’t totally deserving of such high praise.

  • Jamestown Revival – “California (Cast Iron Soul)”
  • KONGOS – “Come With Me Now”
  • Mr. Little Jeans – “Runaway”
  • Hozier – “Take Me To Church”
  • FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
  • Taylor Swift – “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off”

June 28, 2014

209 – Ponychase

Filed under: Nashville, P — assman41 @ 12:24 pm

While looking for a new, permanent site to stream music following the demise of MOG, I decided to use Bandcamp during the interim. It’s a site that has been paying big dividends for me, but one that I’d never taken full advantage of.

Rather than just include a couple of videos for a band, it allows me the ability to embed an entire album stream in my posts. Besides that, I’d used it often to easily listen to full catalogs from bands.

But recently I tried something new on Bandcamp — searching for new acts. After bouncing around the site a bit, I stumbled across the “Fan Spotlight” section and saw this review by Abby Holmes regarding the band Ponychase and its debut album, Parade of Youth:

“Friends” is like a song that plays at the end of an ’80s romantic comedy/drama when the leads rush to each other and do a spin-kiss. And that feeling you get when you see those two characters is exactly the feeling you get while playing this album.

She’s right. But that description would be apt for the whole album, not just its second track.

The vibe is there from the beginning on the opening title track all the way through to closer “Melissa”. It’s like the soundtrack to the teenage years for anyone who had a Brat Pack poster on his or her wall.

Photo credit: Patrick Rodgers (http://instagram.com/p/N5Lxk4Ij0Q/)

Photo credit: Patrick Rodgers (http://instagram.com/p/N5Lxk4Ij0Q/)

And just the like the album, the band itself is jam-packed full of awesome. The Nashville-based quartet is something of a Music City supergroup. It all starts with singer/songwriter Jordan Caress, who honed her skills as a multi-instrumentalist in backing bands for Caitlin Rose, Tristen and others.

Joining Caress are her brother, Alex (Little Bandit), who churns out spot-on nostalgia via the synthesizers, Beth “EG” Cameron (Forget Cassettes) on guitar and Brian Siskind (Fognode, Good Rester) on drums.

On “Resurrected”, another strong track, the opening notes almost mimic those of David Lee Roth’s take on “California Girls”. But it quickly turns in to a slow, shoegazey tune that would fit well on a Lykke Li album.

The sugary sweet sounds belie the melancholic tone of the lyrics that describe the struggle of growing up as an LGBT teenager. Like in “House in the Valley”, where Jordan yearns “to live in a house in the valley, where my parents and my teachers can’t find me” and trying to “heal” her “disease.”

The full-length album came out this past March, and was preceded by a self-titled EP in November 2012 that acts as a great appetizer to the main course.

Besides Bandcamp, Facebook and Twitter, Ponychase don’t seem to have an official website. And it doesn’t appear that they are touring at the moment. But you probably have a decent chance of catching them if you happen to be spending some time in Nashville.

June 24, 2014

208 – Run River North

Filed under: Los Angeles, M, R — assman41 @ 2:12 am

In the fall of 2011, Of Monsters and Men quietly released their debut album, My Head Is an Animal in Iceland, and it slowly made its way around the globe. Arguably one of the best albums of 2012, it went platinum and eventually peaked at No. 1 in Australia, No. 3 in the UK and No. 6 in the United States.

Since then, fans have been clamoring for more, and, according to a recent interview, a new album is on the way, but a release date has yet to be announced.

In the meantime, there have been plenty of bands vying to usurp their indie-folk/pop thrones, but few have managed to ascend to the top. But there’s one that is just starting to gain steam — barely a blip on the radar now but destined to become the next new “it” band on the indie scene. And, coincidentally, before a name change, it even had “Monsters” in its moniker.

The group, Run River North, shares many musical similarities with their Scandinavian brethren, right down to their quiet-loud-quiet song structure, beautiful blend of male and female vocals and the communal vibe they give off.

Of course, it’s the differences that make them stand out. There is nary a horn to be heard on the group’s self-titled debut that came out in February. Oh, and then there’s the fact that Run River North is made up of six Korean-American 20-somethings from the San Fernando Valley.

That is the original video for “Fight To Keep”, which, as you can see, was recorded exclusively in the band members’ Hondas. The video went viral and caught the eye of Honda executives, who decided to surprise the group — then known as Monsters Calling Home — by lining up a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in September 2012.

(If you can’t get enough of that song, check out the professionally shot video starring Diedrich Bader — from The Drew Carey Show and Office Space fame — that is rather dark and may have been influenced by the movie, Surviving the Game.)

The group formed in 2011 when singer/songwriter was hiking with friend and future bandmate Joe Chun and they talked about their shared experiences of growing up in an immigrant family. That discussion stirred a lot of emotions in Hwang and eventually spewed forth in the form of the song “Monsters Calling Home”. (Yes, the band’s original name. It gets kinda confusing.) He then recruited friends from church to fill out the roster.

The band members discussed their upbringing and how it affected their music during recent interviews on Acoustic Cafe and Here & Now. (One interesting tidbit you’ll glean is that two members are classically trained violinists and the drummer came up in the punk and heavy metal scene.)

After gaining some much-needed exposure, Run River North signed with a label and set forth recording an album. Influenced by such bands as Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and The Shins, the group was fortunate enough to work with Phil Ek, who produced albums for all of those well-established acts.

Ek’s magic touch can be heard throughout the album, including on the third track, “Lying Beast”, a slow-burning tune in which Hwang does his best Conor Oberst impersonation.

There’s a dearth of filler here as just about every track has the ability to get stuck in your head. Some of the other more notable songs include “Run River Run”, “Somewhere”, “Excuses” and “Foxbeard”.

Run River North are crisscrossing the country this summer and fall, including a stop at Schubas Tavern in Chicago on July 21. Now is your chance to check them out before all of the hipsters catch on.

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