Album Reviews

CHASING THE HIGHLAND KITES
June 30, 2016 12:27 pm

Highland Kites is Marissa Lamar and Neil Briggs. Together they are a slow burning, melodic duo rife with dark themes and sweet sounds.

Lamar, the mastermind behind the project, began using music as her catharsis for overcoming a near fatal and prolonged bout with Lyme disease early in her life. Teaming up with Briggs in 2014 along with producer Raymond Richards, the band debuted to solid local fame. Originally from the Los Angeles area, Highland Kites has steadily built up a devoted purist fan base. They offer the soundscape a genuine and pure look at how you can transform your pain into beauty.

Their new EP, Let Me Run, is due out on July 23rd. A small work of five songs, I got an early look at the ethereally beautiful album. With a simple sound, the duo come together easily. Lamar fronts the band, clocking in as singer-songwriter plus keys and guitar, with Briggs hunkering down on drums.

Their LA-origin is apparent right off the bat with “Plastic Towns,” the first track. Lamar plays a mean slide guitar, harkening summer days at the beach under the sun. A common motif throughout Highland Kites’ works is the use of twisted lyrics over seemingly playful riffs and rhythms. Lamar uses her struggle to provide a mad decent canvas upon which the band paints their sound. As Lamar professes: “Stop pouring your heart out, you’re bleeding inside.” A message to all those bleeding hearts out there dying to be heard, take note.

In “Freckles,” Lamar shows off her folk chops, soothing the listener with a mellow vibe. When Briggs tunes in on background harmonies, the band feels much bigger than they actually are. The end result is a gorgeous melody that is entirely entrancing.

“This War Inside” features a fascinating journey through Lamar’s troubles and laments. Following Briggs’ hypnotizing drum beat, the listener is pulled into the quirky darkness that Lamar is trying to purge from herself.

The last two tracks, “Humiliated” and “Let Me Run” both feature energetic, melancholy melodies full of apt guitar and drums. Not eloquent but better: honest. Highland Kites is not a band that is pretending to be anything other than themselves. Taking a full year after their previous EP All We Left Behind, Highland Kites is finally ready to take the stage again.

When Highland Kites decide they want to do something, they take their time and do it well. I encourage anyone inspired by this article to check out and purchase their EP for $5 when it drops on 7/23. They are performing a show in LA after the EP’s release in order to fund their next tour, so if you want to catch them on the road, put your money where your mouth is.

DELOREAN: A MUZIK TIME MACHINE
June 29, 2016 12:04 pm

Delorean has been through more things than your average band since they last released an album. After being kidnapped in 2013 while on tour in Mexico City, the Spanish indie dance quartet have given us their fifth album, Muzik. Dance music requires the ability to be audibly stimulating, but also physically experienced. The majority of the tracks heard on Muzik rely on the driving force of the kick drum and smooth aural landscapes painted by synthesizers. While not a complete departure from their previous sound, this album shows new growth for the band.

The album is nearly 100% electronic with real drums as the only organic aspect of the sound. For this record, Delorean chose to mix their knack for indie pop with their House music influences. In a recent interview, they explained what they meant by House music, “House is a very broad term, so we did not want to focus on a type of House, but to honor all its forms and productions that we have been absorbing throughout our lives.” Those House influences are very apparent on the title track, “Muzik,” opening with an atmospheric synth pad and Ekhi Lopetegi’s vocal part while slowly adding a kick and a snappy high hat before turning into a real dance track for the last half of the tune.

Their DJ mixing abilities that dramatically influenced 2010’s critically acclaimed album Subiza have culminated here on Muzik in an ultra modern fashion. They worked with remixer DJ Kigo to open a local club called Desparrame. This was the launching pad for their remixing skills. The 2013 effort Apar met the critical acclaim of Subiza thanks to a progression in those skills. Since 2010, Delorean has become as known for their marathon DJ sets as they are for their material as a band.

Standout tracks on the new album include “Contra,” “Muzik” and the closer “Parrhesia.” Throughout their career, Delorean have created their own blend of melody and emotions. The sound that they once pioneered is more commonplace these days, yet Delorean continues to deliver the sonic quality that is expected of them. As of now, the band is only playing a handful of tour dates in Europe, but should they announce a tour in the states, they should not be missed. They have toured with the likes of Miike Snow in the past, so it would be fair to expect them on a good tour this time around.

With Muzik, you get a bit less of the indie rock heaviness and more of the 80’s disco vibes that make it easy to see why the band named themselves after a time machine from a classic 80’s film. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that Delorean can and will continue to make modern albums that take us back to a time when dance pop was king.

HUXLEE: ALTERNATIVE POP FOLK MAGIC
June 23, 2016 5:13 pm

Caitlin Notey is a LA native, 23 and the lead singer of alternative/folk band Huxlee. She describes Huxlee’s sound saying, “If Alabama Shakes, Bonnie Raitt and Fiona Apple had a little sister with an undying love of N*SYNC.” Yes, the description is accurate and Huxlee’s sound sends shivers down the spine.

Huxlee consists of Caitlin and her five best friends: Carey Singer (guitar), Mac Sinise (drumers), Nick Chuba (programming/banjo), Joe Scolari (bass) and AJ Novak (percussion). The band met while pursuing USC’s Popular Music program. Caitlin says her band, “Masterfully interprets my jumbled artistic impulses and help to create an expanded and fuller sound than what I could ever imagine.”

They released their first EP Bloom in 2013 containing hits Olivia, Crooked Tree, Isn’t/Anything and more. In July of 2015 they released their second EP Teammate. This EP, just as the last, does not disappoint. Aftertaste, 22,Teammate and If I Don’t Get on TV are a compilation of gritty, pop folk magic!

It’s safe to say they are going to be around for awhile and will only be getting bigger and bigger. For tour dates and to hear their most recent EP, click here.

MUDCRUTCH 2 ECHOES BAND’S PAST WITH ADDED HEARTBREAK
June 22, 2016 1:28 pm

When we hear Tom Petty, most of us think of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the band whose heartland rock sound catapulted Petty and his bandmates, Mike Campbell, Ron Blair, Stan Lynch and Benmont Tench, into fame. 

That said, Mudcrutch, a band prior to The Heartbreakers, was the project that put Petty on the musical map. The band broke up in 1975, but reformed in 2007, and in 2008 released their self-titled album, Mudcrutch, a homely, southern-rock collection containing 14 old and new songs.

This year, on May 20, 2016, the band released their second studio album, 2, through Reprise Records. falls into the same sonic vein as the initial album, but puts a new spin on an old sound.

The album is openly nostalgic, drawing on pastoral themes and the band’s roots in Gainesville, Florida.  In the song, “Dreams of Flying” Petty sings, ‘Better roll your window down, and let it go, crashing down the road.’  You feel like the song is taking you on a trip through time, back to youth, to long, hot summers and a sense of early freedom.

It’s as if the band is intentionally trying to take things back a step from Mudcrutch, and even from The Heartbreakers, and remind us of where it all started. 

In driving, foot-stomping tracks like “The Other Side of the Mountain,” the banjo and vocal harmonies share a lot of tones typical of Bluegrass and other American roots music. 

Even with Tom Petty providing a large part of the vocals, Mike Cammbell’s lead guitar and Tom Leadon’s guitar and vocals make it feel like Petty is stepping back and letting the band roll.

Although 2 does serve as homage to the band’s past, it is definitely clear that several of the band members were also members of The Heartbreakers. 

In songs like “Hope,” Benmont Tench’s contribution on the mellotron, organ and piano, harks back to early Heartbreakers days, and songs like, “I Need to Know” from their 1978 album You’re Gonna Get It

All in all, 2 feels like a smooth blend of the Heartbreakers sound with a re-envisioning of early Mudcrutch, as if they took the best of two worlds, threw them together in a melting pot and said, “Hey, here’s something a little different, but it’s still us.”

The band is currently on tour through California, and will be traveling through Oakland, LA, Santa Ana, and San Diego. 

BAND OF HORSES MAKES EVERYTHING OK
June 17, 2016 12:43 pm

I have been waiting for this for a while now, to hear the symphony of genuine plight orchestrated by the most amazing band on the fucking planet. Am I being a little biased? Nahh *See ‘yes’*.

Band of Horses new album Why are you OK is everything I ever hoped it would be, and more. It’s a thought-provoking nostalgic dream filled with heartache and redemption- a typical commodity for BOH. It’s a sweet summer day, peacefully transporting you to old dreams and love’s past.

This album has a lot of surf-rock rhythm and hints of old country songs your grandfather used to escape as he sipped his barrel-aged bourbon. The lyrics on this album are bittersweet as is every croon of Ben Bridwell’s vocal splendor.

This album speaks to me for other reasons as well. Bridwell spent nights writing this album whenever he was able to get his four children to sleep. Being a musician and a parent myself, I understand how distracting and disheartening it could be to not lose your drive and momentum. Children are wonderful but so is creating music. Ben Bridwell hit this one out of the park.

The drums are a musician’s wet dream with a raw sound subtly filtered through modern recording quality. The bass is a subtle ebb and flow, accenting that old country style. This album takes you into a different dimension as Bridwell’s vocal techniques and dreamy guitar tones sway in your ears.

And oh, I’ve seen it too many times//It’s a test of the spirit versus//The health of the mind

-“Barrel House” from Why Are You OK

With the slow and easy tempos, the solemn “Barrel House” becomes one of my top favorites on the album.

Another fond favorite is “Even Still” which is a slow but desperate heart-wrenching plea for a lover to remain how they once were, when it seems all is over. The song is reminiscent of a lover’s struggles while being a touring musician- or any traveling professional- when all they want is to stay home with their loved ones.

The book marks the page//Sittin’ out in the room//The alters of candles//Castin’ shadows on you//I see the bed in the dark//I could just sleep//I could just sleep

And hear me babe//When I don’t want to say it//See it through//I’m back home and stayin’//I can’t be//alone any more//And I don’t blame you//Or pretend to know//The right thing to do’

-“Even Still” from Why Are You OK

He seems to corral hearts with his incomplete thoughts, because he uses just the right phrases, and emphasizes the important parts, the painful parts. This album had me at OK.

BRONCHO: OKLAHOMA’S GARAGE POP HEROS
11:18 am

Norman, Oklahoma-based BRONCHO (pronounced Bron-CHo) has somehow remained under the radar for the last 5 years. They rattle off an infectious self-described brand of Garage-Pop that taps into the punkier-side of 80’s New Wave. They’ve toured with high profile alt-rock luminaries along the way, but have struggled to settle on a cohesive sound. Band leader and singer/guitarist Ryan Lindsey’s nervous chatterbox wordplay complements their fuzzy, lo-fi delivery resulting in an undeniable retro feel that’s hard to pin-point. Think of the variable collection of devastatingly-ironic bands that were played ceaselessly by independent college radio stations in the late 80’s that first ushered indie rock in as a commercially viable sensation: Violent Femmes, The Replacements, Pixies, and Dinosaur Jr.

There’s also a punk rock edge, a barely-detectable yet omnipresent nod to hardcore punks more contemplatively emotive, midwest cousin championed by Sunny Day Real Estate and The Promise Ring.  These archetypal indie rock tropes blend together along with a witty band name stylized in all-caps for a seemingly contagious recipe–or so you’d think. If there’s been a constant in BRONCHO’s sound thus far, it’s this penchant for fusing together the elements of their idols. Despite a rich pallet of influences, their music remains relatively under the radar–each of their records have shown them moving in a new direction, inching them closer to more wide-spread recognition.

BRONCHO first hit the airwaves in 2011 with self-recorded Can’t Get Passed the Lips, displaying their raw, punk-rock energy along with Lindsey’s angst ridden sneer. This ultimately lead to a short-lived recording deal with Fairfax Recordings, who re-released the record in 2013.

Their second album,  Just Enough Hip to Be Woman came in 2014 via Dine Alone Records, which also saw the band on the cusp of commercial breakthrough. The album was perceived positively by the press, marking a noticeable departure from their first record by incorporating vintage synths into their mix, resulting in a no-less-unpolished, yet overtly poppy feel. The track “It’s On” landed a slot on HBO’s Girls and the album’s lead single, “Class Historian,” became a minor indie hit. The latter has an uncanny resemblance to “Dancing with Myself“, and coincidentally the band was invited to go on tour with the New Wave veteran Billy Idol himself, keeping the group busy throughout 2015.

Their latest release, Double Vanity, was released earlier this month and sees the band heading in another off-kilter direction, this time in an infatuation with the proto-shoegaze of The Jesus and Mary Chain. I mean, just check out this video for “Fantasy Boys“, which looks like it was broadcast on MTV and then recorded via VCR onto a VHS tape. Cool as the final package might be to some (including me), directionally, Double Vantity’s an interesting artistic move. Maybe they legitimately thought an ode to Psycho Candy was going to broaden their fan base. More likely, they’re just having fun creating music they like; maybe they’re not looking for success at all and want to maintain their cult status. Rather, they’re in it for the shrill of entertainment and the admiration they get from their loyal fans, just like the indie bands that brought them here in the first place.

The band is currently on tour with Cage the Elephant and will look to further supplant themselves as Indie’s most underrated band.  Double Vanity is fully streamable through the bands soundcloud page and it’s definitely worth a listen.

SCHOOL ’94 EXPLORES NEW DIRECTIONS IN “BOUND” EP
June 10, 2016 12:35 pm

The music of Swedish 4-piece band School ’94 builds an ethereal soundscape, incorporating driving pop-rhythms and cascading synth, characteristic of classic indie/dream pop. That said, the music doesn’t leave you with a shoegazed wall-of-sound sensation. 

The tonalities are crisp, and the transitions are easy to follow. You almost find yourself waiting for the music to reach an apex, and when the sonic wave breaks, you settle back into the song and Alice Botéus’s propulsive vocals. 

School ’94 hails from Gothenburg, Sweden and is a part of Luxury Records. On Jun. 8th of this year the band released Bound, a six track EP, which includes the popular single “Common Sense.” If purchased through Bandcamp, you receive unlimited streaming of the EP through the Bandcamp App, as well as the option for a quality download in MP3 and FLAC file formats. 

Listening to “Bound,” it’s clear that the band has evolved from their 2014 EP Like You, which is rooted in more characteristically indie, subdued melodies that leave you with a sensation similar to bands like The Drums. Even so, this initial sound behooves School ’94 in the early part of their progression as a band.

In Bound, especially in the EP’s title-track, School ’94 embraces the rock element in their music, drawing on heavy-hitting riffs and a sound that flits around the edges of garage rock bands like Fuzz

Still definitely rooted in indie origins, School ’94 is exploring the edges of the dream pop and alt-rock genres. Their sound is buoyant and refreshing in a realm that many bands get stuck in a rut of repetition and imitation.

School ’94 provides a contrast with the more spirited tracks on the EP with songs like “We Turned Out To Be Lovers,” which emphasizes mellow, bass-centric tones. The sweeping vocals and gentle melodies pick you up and carry you through the song, as if the music is preparing you to dive into the next track. 

“Bound” just feels natural, like the band is giving us an insight into their world, rather than forcing out a particular style of music. 

The EP is available online where you can also buy a 12’’ heavy sided vinyl that contains both the “Bound” EP (side A), and the “Like You” EP (side B).

GO LOCO FOR HEYROCCO
June 8, 2016 5:36 pm

Do you ever just need a shot of some straight-up rock? Something new that fills your need for strong guitar, fast drums and a slick bass? Heyrocco comes from South Carolina with tons of energy and gumption. With songs like “Yeah and “Elsewhere,” they will fill your cup to the brim with attitude. Nathan (Nate) Merli leads with vocals and guitar, Christopher Cool struts the bass and Tanner (Taco) Cooper keeps it together with the drums. Their new EP Waiting On Cool is a breath of fresh air that brings the listener to rock that sounds straight from 1990.

Heyrocco is ATYPICALSOUNDS’ Artist of the Month and in honor of that we got an awesome interview with Taco:

Can you tell me a little about the band?

I met Nate in 6th grade, he was playing guitar and we would play together and go skateboarding, your average bad boy stuff for 6th graders. We met Cool in high school and played blues with him and a girl named Sarah, but we parted ways with her and started up Heyrocco.

How was it different playing in Europe compared to the States?

Its weird, one of the biggest differences was the hospitality from the venues. We’d show up and have an apartment or room for us, [they’d] feed us and [offer] free drinks. They really just tried to make us feel welcome, it was really cool even though we were pretty small.

What is your secret formula for creating music?

Keeping in constant inspiration. If we sit around in the house too long it shows in our music. [When] we are on tour or visiting a place, meeting new people or anything exciting, that is the fuel for our music. We also do the fresh ears, trying to cleanse the palate with ATL Trap music and really hardcore hip-hop.

What is the song that best represents your band?

(Chuckles) That would be a different answer from everyone. I’ll check with them and let you know. I would say “Slice of Life.” It started with trust and it is about trust. I think it represents us and what we’re going to be doing.

*Christopher Cool’s: “Perfect World

*Nathan Merli’s: “It hasn’t been written yet.”

Was there anything that inspired Waiting On Cool specifically?

It wasn’t a person or band. It was an area. We spent two months out in Venice Beach recording a lot of music. It was mostly being in that area and listening to West Coast music, whether it be hip-hop or grunge. That is what really influenced the EP.

You guys have a very specific style, do you try and keep it that way? Or are you open to different stuff?

We just write a lot of songs, there are a lot of outliers on the albums, but there are way more weird ones that we keep in the garage. It gets pretty crazy and weird. We like to try to release a lot of different music, we like bands that have a large variety. I don’t like picking up an album where every track is pretty much the same four chords.

Would you ever consider making a B-Sides Album?

Oh yeah! It’s going to happen for sure. It’s just a matter of time.

Has Heyrocco’s growing fame affected how you write or the band in general?

Overall, it has given us confidence in our writing. With that support we can write new stuff without real hesitation.

13263672_1131803193508394_6257844899282959215_nWhat are you listening to now?

A lot of 2Pac and Miles Davis. Oh, and this band called Rehab, they have this hilarious song called the “Bartender Song.”

Do you see the band moving into different styles in the future?

There’s no way to say exactly. We are going to start recording LP two next month, and are super excited about that. Maybe not a new sound, but new instruments and new arrangements of music. The next one won’t be your standard album, it’s gonna be a lot more experimental.

A lot of focus on tones, I think that the next album will represent the band and what it will be from there on out.

Any new instruments that you’re excited for?

I got Conga drums! They are great, and adding them to any song just makes it funkier, which is awesome.

What are some albums or bands that are essential for rock enthusiasts?

Slanted and Enchanted by Pavement, and Jimi Hendrix, all of his work. If you haven’t listened to his stuff, you need to right now.

As a band, is there anything that you want your fans to walk away with?

Out of everything, we want them to walk away with positive inspiration.

 

Now I need to brush up on my Hendrix, but we were grateful for his time…Heyrocco just got home from a 16-hour drive from Chicago.

After finishing up a European Tour last year, Heyrocco are working on some shows but focusing mostly on recording and hanging out at the beach. Waiting on Cool is a fantastic blend of quick and powerful anthems and slow, thoughtful pieces. I particularly love the slower songs like “Slice of Life.” They have a certain depth that is really hard to achieve for most bands but for Heyrocco, it comes with ease.
Check out their new EP and look out for their new LP hopefully coming out later this year. Listen to it on their site, and check out their other amazing songs like “Mom Jeans” and “Melt” and you’ll have new music to rock out to for the month.

KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD AND KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD AND K
1:18 pm

You can bet those cringe-worthy getups your parents wore in the early-80s are going to be next season’s hot commodity. Human innovation is less about spontaneous combustion and more about an endless mashup of patterns. ‘Dude! What does mine say?  Sweet! What does mine say?’ If only a rock band capitalized on this notion of the never-ending pop cultural Saṃsāra.

There’s no way to properly brace yourself for King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s latest high-octane concoction. Nonagon Infinity dishes out a blissed-out 42-minute jam served with a blitz of viciously fast guitar-play, fist-pumping lyrics, and a time-warping motorick beat. It’s also King Gizzard’s most righteously ambitious effort to date: an album that’s deliberately designed to seamlessly loop back to the beginning, again and again, for eternity. The disorienting bombastity crescendos into a seemingly abrupt end on “Road Train,” which fits back into the first track “Robot Stop.” The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. C-C-C-Combo Breaker!!

Frontman Stu Mackenzie howls out themes of a dystopian future run by robots (The universe is a machine/That has awoken from a dream), evil flying vultures (People-Vultures waiting to begin/Deadly ulcers feeding on my skin), and the nonsensical (Once I’m Mr. Beat/I only miss a beat).

It’s rare to see a band with seven members, but Australian psychedelic rock septet King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard just wouldn’t be complete without two drummers, four guitarists, and harmonica. Nonagon Infinity was released via According to Our Records (ATO), which features a heady roster including Gogol Bordello, My Morning Jacket, and Old Crow Medicine Show. While certainly conjuring up 70s prog-rock of Pink Floyd and Yes ilk, King Gizzard rev up the ferocity by incorporating the harder edge of metal, and the hallucinatory repetition of Krautrock. Sonically, the band resembles fellow-Melbourne garage-rockers The Oh Sees.

The accompanying music videos also match the novelty-rock theme. “Gamma Knife” features the band circled around a makeshift offering pit as the camera dizzyingly pans around King Gizzard and company shredding guitars and banging drums. Druids adorned in brightly colored robes descend from the surrounding foliage. The video comes to an end as the ritual pit spawns a egg-shaped crystal and knocks out the band and adjoining worshipers. Incidentally this seamlessly leads into the next video, “People Vultures” in which the egg hatches a horrendously lofty paper-mache prop, which King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard painstakingly lug around while performing their instruments (you know, like a People Vulture). They are sporadically attacked by jump-kicking villains reminiscent of Power-Ranger which are vaporized by the vulture’s lazer beams.

If you hadn’t guessed yet, the band has already confirmed they will release a music video for each of the tracks on Nonagon Infinity–which might seem like a page out of Beyonce’s playbook–but this case clearly hints that, yes, there will be a never-ending music video to accompany their never-ending album.

If you’re a connoisseur of Rock’N’Roll’s rich history of novelties Nonagon Infinity is a must have–it fits in right next to Flaming Lips Zaireeka, synchronizing Dark Side of the Moon with the Wizard of Oz, KISS action figurines, and the complete Guitar Hero collection. Unsurprisingly so, the prized vinyl pressing of Nonagon Infinity is already sold out on their bandcamp. You can start placing your bets on Ebay where I’m sure it’ll fetch a fair price.

I say tuh-may-tow. You say to-mah-to. I call it retro, you call it nostalgia. Certainly you’re familiar with the old adage that Pop Culture comes in cycles.  Some call it the 40-year-rule, but…

CAR SEAT HEADREST’S NEW ALBUM IS SO DAMN AWESOME
June 7, 2016 12:27 pm

ATTENTION! ATTENTION! FANS OF JEFF TWEETY, RIVERS CUOMO, AND/OR KURT VILE! YOUR NEW FAVORITE BAND HAS ARRIVED!

Will Toledo began self-releasing albums in 2010 at the age of 18. He amassed a sizable online following through the next 5 years as he self-recorded and released 8 albums, 2 EP’s, and 2 compilation albums under the name Car Seat Headrest. Eventually he drew the attention of Matador Records who urged him to rerecord his “greatest hits”–the best songs from all his DIY-albums–for what would become 2015’s Teens of Style. The album was a success and incited a flurry of anticipation for his sophomore release, this time with a full band and completely new material. Fans didn’t have long to wait, and they were not disappointed. Teens of Denial was released May 20th and is totally the most badass piece of music released so far this year.

It’s not just that the songs are awesome, although they are. Confident, anthemic and emotionally-charged, Teens of Denial combines the intellectual satisfaction of a well-made song with the passionate energy of raw human emotion, billowing in the wind for all the world to see. The album should come with free boxes of tissues (for the tears), aspirin (for the heartache) and throat lozenges (for when you can’t help but scream along too loudly and ultimately lose your voice, causing permanent vocal damage (if left untreated)).

No, the real magic is in the details. These are long songs full of build and release, anticipation and resolution, but between each emotional wave is a slightly different tone of voice, a new musical element not previously explored, a heartstring plucked I didn’t even know existed. “I didn’t want you to hear that shake in my voice / my pain is my own” he sings in “1937 State Park,” but that’s not quite true–every evocative shake in his voice is public, and as much a part of the music as the phat beat and driving guitars. His pain is for us all, and it is very real. Maybe try some out for yourself?

*Written by Ian Anderson and Atticus Swartwood