dreampop

THE MUSICAL CAVITIES OF EVAN VOYTAS
May 18, 2016 12:46 pm

Evan Voytas is a musician originally from Pennsylvania, but who now resides in the L.A. area. If you have ever wanted someone who could sing like Passion Pit combined with obviously simplified synthesized drum beats and snares, you’ve found your man.

The on again, off again pop musician should know better. After having studied classical composition and atonalism in New York, the city built on cacophony, Voytas picks a candy cane swirled voice that is diabetically sweet. Vocals ethereal and distant, his production can be groovy in a minimalistic, 80’s nostalgic vibe kind of way. Which is fine as the sounds of the 80s have come back en vogue over the last few music cycles. The problems only begin to arise a few listens into his 10 odd tracklist: the same rhythms, the same motifs abound over and over. This isn’t nostalgia, it’s monotony.

Granted, the track “Tomorrow Night We’ll Go Anywhere,” off of his LP Feel Me came out more than five years ago. But still, there is little excuse for your professional music sounding like you whipped it up on Garageband. Crappy synths, nauseatingly sweeping violins, the whole album sounds as if Voytas is whispering at full volume. Most of the five track album leaves me uninspired, with little exception. A few seconds of saving grace on each track, the rest is overdone or underdone or simply tacky.

It feels lazy; a little too simplified. Like giving the people what they want when you know that you can give them something better: what they need. I know I’m sitting here in my armchair and lambasting someone who is putting himself out on the line for the world to judge. But I have to judge fairly, and in my opinion Voytas is settling for less. It sounds like he has an idea of what can work musically, and can theoretically create a piece that does sound good. The disconnect happens in the depth of the material and the implementation. The tunes make me want to bob my head, but more often than not into the wall or keyboard.

When listening to “Lite Conversations” and “Disappear Into The Stars,” two of his more recent works, it feels as if he is trying to put together tunes he heard while a child and misremembering just enough to make it fall puzzlingly flat. “Lite Conversations” in particular had me snoozing in a matter of moments. Three minutes too long, this is the type of music that I imagine makes great music videos. Gorgeous blonde hair flowing in the breeze, as the drop top convertible spins down the road into the sunshine. Unless you’re in that fantastical moment, I cannot in full honesty recommend Voytas as a musician.

With no new songs in the last year, give or take, and no tour dates currently on-going, it appears if Voytas is snoozing on his career. Which honestly, might be in everyone’s best interest unless he settles on something more tangible. Give the people some brussel sprouts; something to chew on that won’t rot us from the inside out.

BRAIDS – A Return To Form?
August 14, 2015 2:21 pm

To this day, BRAIDS‘ 2011 debut “Native Speaker” remains nothing short of extraordinary. The album ranges from tender and minimal to loud and crass, sometimes within a single song. The tracks are layered with complex drumming patterns and guitar riffs that melt together with electronics to create a uniquely hazy and ambient soundscape. At the forefront is Raphaelle Standell-Preston, whose vocal gymnastics have justly been compared to those of Icelandic pop legend Björk. Now, four years later, how are they holding up?

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In the spring of this year, we saw the release of their third album Deep In The Iris. It has received praise for being a slight return to form, after their more electronic and minimal second full length release Flourish // Perish. It’s BRAIDS’ first album to be recorded outside of Canada, seeing as the band felt that they needed to clear their heads after months of recording Flourish // Perish in a windowless garage in Montreal. The album was recorded in various remote spots across the US, including a cabin in the desert of Arizona.

This new adventurous approach to the writing and recording process has clearly had an influence on the band’s overall sound, though not as much as you might think. It is indeed refreshing to hear them using more live instruments again in songs such as “Taste” or “Warm Like Summer,” but the magic of their first release hasn’t entirely been recaptured for me. Many of the songs on Deep in the Iris were written around the same time as those on Flourish // Perish, and this still shows clear as the band still relies more on electronics than I would like. Nevertheless, I do agree with the band’s own statement in an interview with HungerTV that this album is more “uplifting, cathartic, and aggressive” than the previous one. If I had to choose three words to describe what I liked about BRAIDS, it would probably be those!

A key element that has always remained consistent in all of BRAIDS’ music are Raphaelle’s vocals. She continues to use her voice in unexpected ways, and the crass honesty of her lyrics is always refreshing. Deep in the Iris has been greatly sold on the fact that it is their most lyrically explicit release to date. Its subject matters are darker and more topical than the band’s previous releases. This is most noticeable in their single “Miniskirt,” which is perhaps also the most aggressive and cathartic track on the album. (“I’m not a man hater / I enjoy them like cake / But in my position I’m the slut / I’m the bitch / I’m the whore / The one you hate”) As always, Raphaelle is not afraid to swear or be sexually explicit, so it’s great to hear her take the issue of rape culture and slut shaming head on.

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For me, BRAIDS’s latest two releases haven’t been as gripping as Native Speaker (the ultimate highpoint being the song “Glass Deers”). Songs like Miniskirt are still a clear indicator that they are capable of great things, and I hope they’ll continue to build on this in their next release.

Teen Commandments Keeps Brooklyn Dancing
May 19, 2015 10:09 am

Rough Trade is one of my favorite venues in the city, so it’s always been a pleasure to see bands play here. Living in NYC for a while, I’ve heard about this Brooklynite band Teen Commandments but never had a chance to see them. I caught on to the accidental (or deliberate) biblical references once I learned that the lead singer’s last name was Moses. If I wasn’t already intrigued, I was now.

I didn’t know what to expect from Teen Commandments, but their stage presence is astonishing. There were neon wires drooped on stage and a seemingly random taxidermy squirrel propped on a chair behind the bassist. They walked on stage with retro white outfits and lead singer Brett Moses donned a biker jacket that made me nostalgic for the 80’s. Adorned with a flower crown and a beetle necklace, Moses attire was nothing short of eccentric, but I was instantly fascinated by his unique style and quirkiness.

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The crowd’s eyes were immediately glued to them, and their upbeat synth-pop tunes were controlling my body. Their heavy beats and clear cut sounds of the guitar fused so well, it was almost impossible for me to stay still. People upfront were showing off their dance moves as if they finally got a chance to go to the disco. As the music progressed, the crowd followed. By the end of the night, everybody was raising their hands and swaying back and forth. This show took me through an epic journey to the 80’s! Definitely a local band to check out if you’re in the city!

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After the finale of Teen Commandments’ superb performance, three piece band Prinze George showed a graceful presence on stage. They’re a fashionable band who brought a very authentic sound to the scene. What a great end to a great show! I finally have another band to add to my list.