Dark

BAT FOR LASHES’ ROMANTIC TRAGEDY
July 13, 2016 6:11 pm

Hey! Guess what? It’s wedding season everybody! Oooh boy, nothing gets me going like weddings, know what I mean? Big crazy ones like they have on TV, with drama galore and maybe people ending up not getting married after all. As long as it’s not mine or my family’s, all bets are off. I want dresses on fire. I want karaoke-related violence. I want Todd from Wedding Crashers screaming at the ocean.

I don’t want death though, that’s usually a little too much for me. Well except maybe in Game of Thrones, then that shit [SPOILER ALERT] happens all the damn time. “Hey, I’m Robb Stark all cool and handsome thinking I’m gonna marry th-” NOPE he gets knifed dead and so does his mom and wife and army. Whoops! Also Joffrey dies at his wedding so there’s that which… is good because he sucks.

INDIO, CA - APRIL 16: Singer Bat for Lashes performs onstage during day 2 of the 2016 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Club on April 16, 2016 in Indio, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella)

(Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella)

But for real, non-HBO death at a wedding is a downer and is too sad. These are difficult times we live in with all sorts of tragedy and stuff, so I like to separate my cry-time from my consumption of media and entertainment.

If you are, however, going to recklessly dangle your negative emotions into the abyss for others to manipulate, you couldn’t do much worse than Bat for Lashes aka Natasha Khan, British “baroque pop” starlet (if that is indeed a genre of music) and creator of The Bride. This is a concept album about a woman whose fiancé dies in a car crash en route to their wedding.

Whoa, that’s a lot to take in all at once. Glad we got all the heavy details out of the way, don’t wanna get too bogged down with the feels. But that’s exactly what you’ll get if you listen to The Bride: a phat-whopping double-dose of straight-to-the-anus emotion. Better strap on your cry-diaper ’cause this shit hits you outta nowhere. Cocked and loaded, ready to blow your bloated heart out of the water. The music is sparse, vocally-centric and rhythmically atypical, almost ambient. The sad-wedding motif is quite clear; song titles like “I Do,” “Honeymooning Alone” and “I Will Love Again” make it hard to forget. But the sadness is deeper than that, more universal than this specific sob story.

Maybe it’s Khan’s history of studying Steve Reich sound installations that makes her music sneak up to your heart like a turtle at a tollbooth. Maybe it’s because her father was once the #12 squash player in the world. Yeah I googled her, so what? Fuck you. Or maybe music is a strong drug not to be taken lightly by anybody, and when you find something that hits this hard you gotta know why before you can move on.

Maybe you should just go listen for yourself and see what this beautifully dark piece is all about.

AGE 18, LUPA J PULLS US IN
April 11, 2016 11:16 am

Sometimes it’s difficult to enjoy a prodigy, not because their inherent level of talent isn’t drop-dead impressive, but because we’re confronted with the stinging reality that we’ve inadvertently missed the opportunity to attain a similar level of mastery.

Enter Imogen Jones, aka Lupa J, an Australian electro-pop songstress with a naturally well-built set of bells, and impeccable songwriting chops to boot.  She also happens to be a mere 18 years old.

Lupa J parses together her ethereal intone with an eclectic pallet of atmospheric samples, sharp beats, and shimmering violin, for which she’s also classically trained. Lupa J’s immersive concoctions pull you deep into her shadowy abyss: a love affair that’s equal parts Grimes, Kid A-era Radiohead, and the stylized theatrics of Kate Bush and BJork. Her music twists your nerves down your spine like the negative space in a horror film–These aren’t the dabblings of a typical high school music student, Lupa J is a true example of an Atypical Beast, through and through.  And her moniker is fitting indeed, as Lupa translate from Italian to “She-Wolf.”

Lupa J also already has a moderate collection of tracks that are available via her SoundCloud, including her newest single “Numb” which will be including on her forthcoming debut EP My Right Name, which will see release later this year. While she hasn’t ventured abroad yet, you can only assume it’s inevitable a music label scoops up an artist as ambitious and marketable as Lupa J in short order, hopefully granting us a chance to catch her state side in the near future.

PROTOMARTYR BRING MOTOR CITY POST-PUNK CHOPS TO UNDERGROUND ARTS
February 17, 2016 11:00 am

Last Friday, February 12th, Detroit post-punk outfit Protomartyr performed at Philly’s Underground Arts in support of their critically acclaimed record The Agent Intellect, their second release via Hardly Art.  It was a frosty evening, but the intensifying snowfall did little to deter a boisterous crowd from cramming into the dimly lit venue.

First on the evening’s bill was Taiwan Housing Project, a local Philly noise rock band that pays homage to ‘No Wave’ provocateurs before them such as  Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. The band features both screeching saxophone bursts reminiscent of James Chance noise experiments as well as lead singer Kilynn Lunsford’s devastating howl, who also strikes an uncanny resemblance to a young Lydia Lunch.   Their sound is an excruciating blanket of atonality and dissonance. Their debut Taiwan Bulding Project 7″ EP is available via M’Lady Records.

Taiwan_Building_Project

Next in line, hailing from D.C., was Priests, a four-piece “Real Life Non Internet Band” that combine psychobilly antics of The Cramps with a relentless tension and grit of punk. The formation of a mosh pit almost immediately commenced upon Priests taking the stage. Cans of beer began to fly overhead.  Audience members, perhaps uninitiated to the more visceral edge of live punk performance, showed visible distress and disorientation. It was chaotic, experiential, it was, “real life non internet.” Their debut EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power is available via Sister Polygon Records.

Priests

Protomartyr closed the evening’s festivities with their smart and gloomy brand garage rock. Songs like “I Forgive You” kept the crowds on their feet with the off-kilter post-punk grooves of Greg Ahee’s impeccable angular guitar hooks and Alex Leonard’s precise drum execution. Front-man Joe Casey was in signature dapper attire as he shared disparaging tales of a crumbling Motor City necropolis in his somber baritone. The performance was an immaculate reproduction of their record, rewarding avid listeners with a near-complete track list of The Agent Intellect, along with a selection of other select tunes from previous output.

Protomartyr_Guitar

LILAC SHADOWS: SUBURBAN POST-PUNK
December 9, 2015 11:28 am

North Carolina. The Tar Heel State.  If you doubt even for a second the musicians of the 9th most populous state in the union aren’t as cultivated or driven as other more-traditional “cultural centers” in the US, you’re dead wrong. Creative forces are bursting at the seems.  Where does it all come from?

The suburbs.

That perpetual drift of corroded mini-malls boasting trends from yesteryear, cookie-cutter development neighborhoods, and beat up school yards that have been underfunded since the beginning of time itself. It’s safe. It’s bland. It’s my childhood.

Perhaps Durham-based gloom-auteurs Lilac Shadows summed up this sentiment best on the title of their debut full-length No Light / No Dark.  There’s a feeling of isolation that defines North Carolina’s musical landscape–but it’s hard to put a finger on it. This band inhabit the so-called Tri-Scene: Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Durham–An art-centric ecosystem of music venues, cooperative grocery stores, cassette tape and vinyl record stores, tattoo-piercing-shops, thrift stores, and all things hipster cool.

Lilac Shadows draw from a wide spectrum of sounds and techniques but front and center is the gloomy-angsty-vibe of late-70s post-punk: Gang of Four, Wire, The The are often sited as being key influences. There’s also a nod to the pissed off shoe-gaze of My Bloody Valentine. Perhaps the best comparable contemporary would be Deerhunter–a band that too often grapples with a similar dismal collective consciousness.

Although Sam Logan assumes most of the creative-duties for the band, the overall varied lineup has included a wide range of other aspiring local artists over the years, perhaps most notably Derek Torres, aka TOW3RS, who you might say is kind of a big deal around here. Lilac Shadows and TOW3RS have done some cool stuff together, including this split Velvet Underground tribute.

Unfortunately, according to their Facebook page, Lilac Shadows appears to be going back into hibernation for the time being to pursuit other creative outlets.  No doubt though, Logan and company will be back with another vicious lineup soon enough.

SPOTLIGHT ON: MUSICOVERY
October 28, 2015 8:55 am

In an internet radio world dominated by big players like Pandora, Sirius XM, Apple Music, Google Play and Spotify, the little guys have a lot to prove just to keep up.

Musicovery is an app that integrates mood-based listening with online radio. It does so in the Songza vein; however, in a much more simplified fashion. While Songza boasts twenty different moods, Musicovery selects the big four: “Energetic,” “Calm,” “Dark,” and “Positive.” The four moods are set up like a grid with the “Energetic” and “Calm” on the North and South poles and “Dark” and “Positive” on the West and East poles. The user selects an area on the grid and the service plays a song based on both where the selected area falls on the mood spectrum and additional genre preferences the user can select.

Sometimes less is more. Other times, less is just less.

While Musicovery’s inclusion of only four moods certainly lightens the workload of the listener, it does not provide the ultimate experience that a more complex service like Songza provides. The few mood choices make the listening experience haphazard and difficult to listen to if you are a listener who has specific taste. Additionally, Musicovery’s lack of activity-based customization reduces the overall efficacy of the platform. If a user isn’t feeling in a particular mood but is doing a particular activity, the user cannot utilize the platform. Finally, the abundant technological setbacks, like not having an app with iPhone compatibility and bugs on the desktop site, make the user experience a frustrating one.

Amidst the more negative analysis, there is a silver lining to Musicovery. I have never seen a more diverse and global approach to the online radio listening experience. Musicovery is a go-to for a listener with a wide range of musical interests spanning every genre and every country of origin. For a World Music lover like me, this app is a great destination for a more globally focused listening experience.

At the end of the day, Musicovery’s globally focused listening experience cannot compensate for its lack of mobile accessibility, glitches on the site, scarce mood options and lack of activity-based listening. While I would love to root for the little guy, I find myself sticking with the big guns like Songza (acquired by Google and integrated into Google Play) and Spotify… at least for now.

602451_417400804981342_1310761499_n

SAY YES TO WAY YES
October 22, 2015 10:02 am

Founded in 2010 in Columbus, Ohio Way Yes has been making waves.  Starting with their 7inch release Oranjudiosoon after an EP Walkability, lastly they released Tog Pebbles in 2013.  They claim on their Facebook info that ‘the band set out to create feel good music with a dark twist.’ and they did just that.  This dark, wispy yet electro-pop sounding four piece paints the picture of addiction and suicide dancing together on a Saturday night.

If I could choose a close cousin to their sound, I would have to say it is a good mix of Panda Bear and Animal Collectives sound.  Both musically and vocally, as it seems the singer has a wide array of vocal techniques and fast moving music to back generally every track.

Tog Pebbles took a minute to grow on me (so did Feels by Animal Collective) but proves to be one of those albums to keep around for good.  It houses the same clever antics of both aforementioned bands such as singing about darker and deeper things while making the listener feel happy at the same time.  A way to alleviate painful memories in a seemingly non-painful way.  Ultimately the BEST part of this album is the lyrics which are available on their bandcamp page.  The song that hits me right in the feels is called “Bloodline” in which the lyrics:

“Wish I could say that I knew ya,
Back before you were gone.
Wish I could say that I knew ya,
When you had your head on

But there’s a demon in the blood line,
That slowly ate away your mind.
A demon in the blood line,
That makes you no family of mine. ”

I have always been intrigued by the power music like this holds, and the contrast of emotions that it evokes. It’s something I’ve never personally been able to recreate so it drives me crazy in the best possible way.  I will have this album on repeat and be using some of these lyrics as a status sometime very soon.  Listen to Way Yes as soon as you’re near speakers!

Blown Away By Allie X
September 17, 2015 11:16 am

AX2

Allie X, I’m your bitch! Hey, that’s how the song goes… But seriously, the Beasts had the privilege to see this rising star from Toronto perform her set at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn last night, and we were truly blown away. The dark pop princess brings a stellar performance, with elements of art and fashion intertwined. Behind those shades lies a girl on the precipice of something Xtraordinary.

Don’t let the pop label fool you. Allie is a classically trained pianist, and her background is clearly present in her sophisticated compositions and arrangements. Her lyrics speak to a generation that has been disillusioned by the rapid disintegration of social norms, from sexuality to drug use, but does so in an empowering way. It’s a high form of art disguised as commercial.

She began writing songs as ‘Allie Hughes’ back in 2006 and just recently released her first EP as Allie X in April. The move notes a culmination of a journey that has taken her from humble Canadian roots to the glamour of Los Angeles, where she works professionally as a songwriter. Though the road has been long, the journey has just begun.

The packed house and roaring applause was just a small indication of the fate of this sensational performer. Expect big things from Allie X and if ever she passes through your town, be sure to check her out. You will be blown away, I promise.

Dark And Colorful: Shady Elders
August 14, 2015 3:05 pm

Shady Elders is a relatively obscure indie-rock band out of Denver, but their delicately crafted, somewhat eerie sound will make you wish you’d heard of them earlier. Lead singer and guitarist Fox Rodemich’s gentle vocals will draw you right into her dark yet colorful world, while lead guitarist Miles Eichner will keep you floating along in a trance like state. Their latest EP The Night Air (released December, 2014) is the perfect blend of clangy guitars, punchy bass, and dreamy synths; a mountain town take on surf rock, dream pop, and garage. Add in the hauntingly sweet vocals and you have a band that is ready to bring their sound to the nation.

A supergroup of sorts, Shady Elders formed in 2011 when Fox, then performing solo as Shady Elders, was introduced to Miles through a mutual friend. After realizing their similarities and potential, they then recruited local musician and band member Casey Banker to jump on bass, and they had their first EP No Favors out in April of 2013. As they recently got back from a west coast tour, I had the chance to sit down with Miles and Fox, and ask them a few questions.

So you guys met on the Denver music  scene. How would you guys define that scene?

Fox: That’s a tough one, there’s a lot of bands and a lot of people that support each other. I would say that, with some of the bands that have gotten bigger over the past few years like the Lumineers and now Nathaniel Rateliff, It’s more of a folky scene. So our band doesn’t really fit that niche, but it’s all supportive. Everybody sort of goes out to each other’s shows, everybody plays shows together, and it’s just a great group of people who get together often.

MilesYeah, and I think generally there is sort of a big folky vibe here but I think that’s just how people tend to view Denver. I think what’s cool about being in sort of a sub-scene like we are here, there are some really good indie-rock; indie-pop bands and that sort of thing here, and all of those bands support each other because of this sort of shared feeling that we’re not that typical folk, Americana Denver sound.

Speaking of your sound, How do you think your initial coming together affected the sound and direction of the music you were making?

FoxWell, we’re still a band that’s evolving. We have influences, of course and yeah we pull from those influences, but I think we’re getting better and better at songwriting as the years go by. In terms of certain sounds and directions, It’s really easy in this band because when we all came together it was like ‘what music do you listen to?’ and ‘what are you’re influences?’ and right off the bat we were all interested in the same kind of music. It made it really easy in terms off creating, because we all could kind of pull from those influences and we were all coming from a similar background. Each band we were in before Shady Elders was different, but I think that it’s constantly changing. The Shady Elders I first created and the Shady Elders now are way different, and it will be different probably five years from now.

So when you guys did meet was it just by circumstance or…

MilesIt was kind of circumstances, I was playing in another band which was sort of my main project at the time. The lead singer from that band introduced us because she thought we’d get along personally and musically. I feel like it slowly started to build up as a main focus. I was playing in three separate bands, but over the course of a few months it became more and more my main focus and now it has been for a while.

Right on. well, in regards to your name ‘Shady Elders’ is there anything in particular you’re trying to evoke?

Miles: What do you think it is? *laughs 

Fox: There of course is an actual story behind the band name. However, it’s one I don’t really like sharing. Shady Elders can be interpreted in so many ways and I kind of like that about it, that people get to choose what it means to them. It could mean older people who are corrupt as fuck, or it could be trees. It could be whatever and that’s kind of what I like about it.

Miles: The thing I like about it is, it could be both of those things, but either way it evokes a kind of dark mysterious vibe, and like Fox was saying there is a story and we leave it up to people to decide, but generally that vibe comes across.

shades

Interesting. Well I know this is personal so don’t feel obliged, but are there any particular experiences or world views that helped shape that shadier side to your sound?

Fox: Hmm, You know I think of music as very therapeutic. In terms of writing and lyrics, if I’m writing and I’m going through something really dark or deep, I can totally express it through music. And not that I’m this dark depressed person all the time, but in those darker more emotionally deep times in your life, you end up creating your best art. So I would say that my life experiences are directly connected to the music I create. Of course we have a pretty democratic way of writing, so they have their input, but I think in general what ends up coming out is a little bit darker but that’s just probably a lot of me being a darker person. *laughs

So what’s the ideal setting in you’re opinion to listen to Shady Elders?

Miles: One thing I think is cool for any music is the setting that your listening in can kind of change the feeling that the music itself evokes, so…

Fox: I was gonna say on a rooftop in New York City when you’re wasted.

Nice. I might do that tonight… So you guys just ended your tour in June. How’d that go? Highlights?

Miles: It went well. Seattle and San Francisco were definitely super fun. I’ d say they were our two favorite cities to play in. So, no surprise there.

shadess

Cool. East coast coming soon?

Fox: Oh yeah, were hoping to. We’re recording a full length album for next year so I’m hoping once that’s all wrapped up and getting released I’d like to do an east coast, west coast, all across the country. We want to get out soon and as often as we can.

So you said you’re currently recording a single. What’s your writing and recording process like?

Miles: I mean we generally record and mix by ourselves, with little help. It’s pretty contained, but it’s not necessarily something were going to continue in the future.

Fox: When somebody has an idea we try it. When they work, they work and when they don’t they don’t. We’re all pretty smart in terms of when we hear something and want to try something we know pretty quickly if it works. So there never comes a time when we’re arguing over something. It’s very much like ‘let’s try this, if it doesn’t work then whatever, let’s move on.’

Cool. So what’s in the future for Shady Elders?

Fox: Well we’re gonna be releasing a single hopefully in the next couple weeks and we’re gonna be writing and wrapping everything up for this full length album coming out next year, so really what we’re doing now is just writing and recording.

Miles: Yeah, we’re over EP’s.

Definitely. So last question – If Shady Elders could transport to any time and place in history, when and where would that be?

Fox: Oh man, okay I’m just gonna say, because of our sound, I think the best place and time would be the prolific CBGB’s era late seventies – early eighties.

Miles: I mean technology wise, If we could go way back and still sound the same, we could just completely blow people’s minds from 120 years ago, that would be fun. It would be an adventure.

Totally, an Excellent Adventure. *laughs Well thanks again for your time guys, the beasts appreciate it! 

Make sure to check out Shady Elders before the Summer ends, and keep your eyes out for their new single coming soon! It’s the perfect transition in to a cool and spooky Fall.