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.

May 25, 2014

207 – The Neighbourhood

Filed under: N, Newbury Park Calif. — assman41 @ 12:01 am

If you’re an avid reader of this blog and share a similar taste in music, this week’s band might be a bit of a stretch for you. Basically, you’re either gonna love or hate The Neighbourhood.

I’ve been having trouble coming up with an adequate way to describe this group — and an even harder time explaining why I like it. The five-piece from Newbury Park, Calif., seems like such a departure from the music I normally gravitate toward, but I find myself grooving along to nearly every one of its songs.

Formed in 2011, the group released a couple of EPs in the fall/winter of 2012-2013 before putting out a full-length album, I Love You, in April 2013.

“Sweater Weather” is probably the catchiest and most accessible song on the disc, but there are plenty worth noting. It starts with “How”, a nice slow-burner that establishes the tone.

“Afraid” is a song with a lot of pent-up aggression waiting to burst, but it never does. (Sample lyric from the chorus: “I don’t like you. Fuck you anyway.”)

Next is “Everybody’s Watching Me (Uh Oh)”, a perfect example of the kind of songs that fill this album — rap-influenced indie-rock that’s laid back but with enough of an edge that causes your head to bob in time rather than simply swaying along.

After “Sweater Weather” comes “Let It Go”, the lone repeat from the EPs. On this track, lead singer Jesse Rutherford sounds almost like a male version of Lorde, but with a rougher tone.

The album then takes a bit of a dip with “Alleyways” and “W.D.Y.W.F.M?” — both filler tracks, but still good enough not to be skipped. Things then close out strong with four songs — “Flawless”, “Female Robbery”, “Staying Up” and “Float” — that are solid but probably a step down from the first portion of the album.

The Neighbourhood — also written as THE NBHD — seem like the kind of band that could take off on a similar trajectory as groups such as Imagine Dragons and Bastille. They are set to tour the country the next two months, including stops at various Midwest festivals.

May 18, 2014

206 – Protomartyr

Filed under: Detroit, P — assman41 @ 11:17 am

The hardest part about describing a band such as Protomartyr is that it channels so many different influences into its music at any given time.

At their most catchy, the four dudes from Detroit create an enviable mix of lo-fi, shoegaze and post-punk — imagine Cloud Nothings meet Lower Dens.

That is “Come & See”, a track off Protomartyr’s sophomore album, Under Color of Official Right, which dropped in early April. The disc is 14 songs strong and touches on all the best elements of indie rock. (Here’s a link to “Maidenhead“, the album’s opening track. Click it; it’s worth the effort.)

Lead singer Joe Casey occasionally channels his inner Ian Curtis, particularly on “Ain’t So Simple”. At other times throughout the album — such as on “Trust Me Billy” and “What the Wall Said” — Casey’s vocal delivery conjures memories of Julian Casablancas during the early days of The Strokes.

Other comparable bands that are often mentioned in reviews of Protomartyr include Pere Ubu, The Fall, Wire, Editors and Interpol. But while they clearly sound similar to many of these bands, they’re also distinct enough to stand out on their own with a style that could only have been created here and now.

Originally a duo named Butt Babies, the band eventually morphed into a quartet with a new moniker before releasing its debut, No Passion All Technique, in 2012. The songs here are definitely more raw than the newer offerings, but there is still enough nuance and craftsmanship to hint at the potential of the band.

The album opens with several pure punk tracks before eventually making its way to “Three Swallows”, a slower tune focused on drinking. But fear not, the rest of the disc is filled with Casey’s old-school, sing-songy punk sneering.

Protomartyr are currently on the West Coast and will make their way across the country this summer.

May 13, 2014

iTunes threeplay

Filed under: C, England, Portland — assman41 @ 2:48 pm

Ever since my iPod went kaput in November, I’ve been listening to music almost exclusively via MOG. While that’s all well and good, I miss being able to pull up all the random stuff I’ve downloaded over the years that is nowhere to be found on that particular site.

That, coupled with the fact that my laptop is running dangerously low on available disk space, has led me to revisit my iTunes library for the first time in months. Among the 15,500 songs, there’s a lot of junk. And a lot of stuff I’ve never even listened to.

So, in the interest of finding “new” music and unclogging my computer, I figured I’d check out some of the mystery bands and see if they’re worth keeping. The results were mixed.

Canterbury

I’m not sure how I came to have Canterbury’s 2009 debut album, Thank You, on my computer, but I’m guessing it had something to do with Simon over at Outroversion.

At various times throughout the album, the five lads from Surrey, England, conjure memories of such bands as Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, All-American Rejects and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. The music is neither horrible nor great but is rather disposable.

Formed in 2005 by several boarding school classmates, the group waited until it had a proper fan base before releasing its first album. Since then, Canterbury have lost a founding member, replaced a drummer and released two more albums — 2012’s Heavy in the Day and Dark Days, which came out this past January and hit No. 1 on the U.K. rock chart.

Whether their sound has improved in that time is up to anyone who deems them worthy of further listens. I do not.

Chew Lips

Unlike Canterbury, I actually remember the name Chew Lips. Alas, that’s all I knew — the name. Apparently, I’d listened to about the first half of their 2010 debut, Unicorn, but I certainly didn’t recall any of it.

That’s probably because of how boring it is. Filled with derivative, electro indie-pop, the album sounds like a slew of others from the genre, with nothing setting it apart.

Formed in 2008 in East London, the duo of singer Alicia “Tigs” Huertas and multi-instrumentalist James Watkins have only released the one full-length album. The group received its share of hype at the time and rode that buzz through a relentless tour schedule.

They’ve put out a number of singles and EPs, remixed some other artists’ songs and had several of their songs remixed. But other than that, it looks like their momentum has officially petered out.

Chromatics

Apparently, Chromatics had an interesting run before landing in my laptop. That includes sizable lineup changes after the release of each of their first two albums, which resulted in a notable shift in sound by the time they released Night Drive in 2007.

No longer a noise-rock group, the band from Portland transformed into a electro-pop foursome.

Then came 2012’s Kill For Love, which took the band even farther from its roots and into a post-punk, post-rock arena.

That title track sounds like something straight out of 1980s Manchester, mixed with a modern ambience. It’s the second song on the album and is preceded by “Into the Black”, an impressive take on the classic Neil Young tune, “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black”.

The third track, “Back From the Grave”, is more of the same Joy Division-meets-M83 goodness. But, from there, things start to lose steam.

And by the time the auto-tune kicks in on “These Street Will Never Look the Same” — the sixth of the 17 tracks — there’s no going back. It’s too bad considering the promising start to the album.

  • P.S. Considering I never made it past the letter C, you can bet I’ll be doing several more of these iTunes spring/summer cleaning posts.

May 4, 2014

205 – Magic Man

Filed under: Boston, M — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I have visited New York City a few times the last couple of years, and I’ve managed to go to at least one indie rock show each time. My favorite was definitely Memorial Day weekend last year when my host and I attended a show that was so “Brooklyn” that it could have been a scene from Girls.

It being New York, there was no shortage of things to do on this particular night. After narrowing it down to two possible shows, we finally picked one not too far from his place in Prospect Lefferts Gardens at The Red Lotus Room.

To give you an idea of how hipster this affair was, the show was a fundraiser for an upcoming solar-powered music and arts festival. As for the venue, it looked like some abandoned warehouse or something similar. There was a dude standing outside the nondescript entrance, and I thought for sure he was gonna ask for the secret password.

Once inside, we found a sparsely decorated space with some mismatched and eclectic furniture and a stage in the corner. I didn’t feel like paying for alcohol, so I chose a carbonated coffee drink that I immediately fell in love with. And after a couple of opening acts — Christina Courtin was good, the other was not memorable — we were treated to a surprisingly solid show from headliner Magic Man.

The Boston-based band hadn’t officially put out any music at the time, so I held off writing about it. Since then, I’ve seen Magic Man pop up from time to time, and it appears that they released an EP, You Are Here, in September.

The indie-synth band definitely has been influenced by The Killers and their brethren. You can hear it on two of their best songs, “Texas” and “Nova Scotia”. Another track, “Waves”, takes that modern electro vibe and makes it sound nostalgic, like something straight out of 1985.

“Every Day” is a relatively catchy tune that, at times, sounds like a male version of HAIM‘s “Forever”.

The one less-than-stellar track here, “Paris”, isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. It’s basically just filler that sounds off compared to the rest of the songs on the release.

Magic Man is heading out on tour this month, supporting Panic! At the Disco. They’ll be traversing the country, so you should consider checking them out. And feel free to leave before the headliner takes the stage.

April 28, 2014

204 – Fear of Men

Filed under: England, F — assman41 @ 11:48 am

When you hear Loom, the debut full-length release from Fear of Men, your first thought may be, “Oh, I’d always wondered what Dolores O’Riordan was up to nowadays.”

As it turns out, she’s still busy in her second stint fronting The Cranberries. But you’d be excused if you thought maybe she had started an indie-rock band on the side.

Actually, that’s Jessica Weiss who’s Lingering around like a Zombie. (I’m not proud of that last sentence.) Weiss’ vocals bear a striking resemblance to those of O’Riordan — minus the Irish lilt — and mixed with a little bit of Tracyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura.

The above track, “Luna”, perfectly encapsulates what this band is all about — shoegazey instrumentation backing dreamy vocals that belie a melancholic tone.

Based out of Brighton, England, Fear of Men are officially a trio, with Weiss, Daniel Falvey (guitar) and Michael Miles (drums). Bassist Becky Wilkie joins the fray for live sets.

The group first pinged the indie radar in February 2013 with the release of Early Fragments, the aptly titled compilation of singles and B-sides. Only two songs — “Seer” and “Green Sea” found their way onto Loom. Among the other six tracks, there are several — “Doldrums”, “Born” and “Spirit House” — that complement the recent release nicely. There are also a couple that never need to be played again — “Your Side” and “Ritual Confession”. Then there’s “Mosaic”, which would be solid if they’d taken out the annoying sample recording that pops up a couple of times.

Loom came out in the U.S. last week, and the band is currently touring with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. They’re actually in Chicago tonight at The Empty Bottle, which has the makings of a great show.

April 27, 2014

203 – Mr. Little Jeans

Filed under: Los Angeles, M, Norway — assman41 @ 3:00 am

When I first heard Lykke Li back in 2008, I never would’ve guessed that six years later, I’d be using her as a reference point for so many new artists. It seems like a new woman or female-fronted band pops up every month that owes a debt of gratitude to Li for paving the way for the recent surge of soulful electro-pop.

It was only a few weeks ago that Highasakite was dominating my airwaves, and now one of their Norwegian brethren has taken their place in the form of Mr. Little Jeans. The name — which is an awesome reference to a bit character from the movie, Rushmore — is the moniker for Monica Birkenes, who left Scandinavia for Los Angeles, after an extended layover in London.

Last month, she dropped her debut full-length, Pocketknife, which is filled with catchy hooks and enough beats to get hips shakin’ and heads bobbin’.

That’s “Runaway”, probably the best song on the album. Just listen to that chorus, and you’ll immediately want to put it on repeat.

There is very little filler among the 12 tracks here, with each song conjuring up a different influence.

The solid opener, “Rescue Song” is reminiscent of Feist and Ingrid Michelson and others of that ilk. It’s followed by one of several sleeper hits on the album, “Mercy”, which is so sneaky that it isn’t until the song is over that you realize how great it was. And then you’re forced to play it again.

Then comes the aforementioned “Runaway”, which could easily hold its own against any of HAIM‘s recent hits.

That is followed by “Oh Sailor”, featuring the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Youth Chorale. If it brings to mind Dead Man’s Bones’ debut album, that’s because the entire thing was a collaboration with the same youth choir. Also, both albums were produced by Tim Anderson.

“Don’t Run” calls to mind both Li and Zola Jesus, but by the end it suffers from Anderson’s reliance on computer effects.

“Good Mistake”, which was the title track of an EP released in February, rounds out a strong first half to the album.

The back half of the disc is notably lacking in flair, but it never sinks too far. Track 9 is a cover of Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”, which helped Mr. Little Jeans earn some internet buzz a few years ago. It’s followed by another sleeper track, “Heaven Sent”, which seems like it should be higher up in the pecking order.

“Far From Home” is one of several songs in which Birkenes sounds like she could be related to Imogen Heap — or at least have the same auto-tune program as the former Frou Frou singer.

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.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/wi1zMj-RXlU” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

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.

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.

April 4, 2014

201 – Jamestown Revival

Filed under: Austin, J, Los Angeles — assman41 @ 1:54 pm

Reading official band bios can be an eye roll-inducing experience. They are often filled with grandiose language and questionable turns of phrase that would make any English professor weep. And judging by the yarns many of these groups weave, it’s as if being a failed creative writing major is a prerequisite for joining a band.

That being said, sometimes perusing a group’s backstory can help paint a picture that’s almost as powerful as the music. Take Jamestown Revival for instance. Try reading their bio while listening to their debut album, Utah. It’s like some sort of synergistic multimedia project.

If you read the whole thing, then you won’t have trouble figuring out this band. A couple of Texas boys move to California and make indie-folk music with equal parts South and West.

The above track, “California (Cast Iron Soul)”, is the second single off the album, which dropped this past February. It sounds a lot like another member of the L.A. indie-folk rock scene — Dawes. But as you listen to the entire disc, it’s clear that Jamestown Revival has a much more raw sound. Of course, that may just be because all of the songs were recorded in a log cabin in the mountains.

These fellas aren’t going to blow anyone away with a fresh, new sound or any kind of innovative approach to crafting songs. But they do make some great music for sitting on a porch or balcony and just chilling out.

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