Indie Pop

Ode to Songs from Leonard Cohen
November 11, 2016 2:10 pm

In the days since we’ve begun grieving over the results of the 2016 Presidential election, it’s a wonder if this year is worth it altogether. Various news outlets confirmed on November 10 that Canadian music legend Leonard Cohen had died at age of 82, leaving behind family, friends and his latest album, October’s “You Want It Darker“.

Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker

His deep, rugged vocals and a beautifully realized heaviness to delivery adds depths with a sludgy and distilled aftermath on his final work.

Cohen was an inspiration for many artists and it’s easy to hear this influence in artists like Jeff Buckley and Josh Ritter. His infamous song “Hallelujah” has been covered by music’s biggest names at least once in their careers. Cohen’s musical themes range from religion to sex and one can turn to many of his songs in French for a beautiful spin on things. His artistry and talent made him Canada’s equivalent to Bob Dylan or Paul Simon, but with the experimental off the cuff of Tom Waits.

Cohen possessed an impressive catalog outside of “Hallelujah”. His debut album “Songs from Leonard Cohen” was released in 1967 and released shortly after was “Songs from a Room” in 1969, featuring the beautiful “Bird on a Wire“. These are two greatly influential albums for me, although I loved to see him progress to the force he became at the end of an eighteen album run. I love the minimalist style he kept throughout those albums and consider them my keepsakes.

 

Cohen was also known for his poetry and the otherworldly way he crafted language. I imagine a lot of it had to do with his open mind and vast love for experiencing the world. In 1992 he released “The Future”, an album with a dark political tone; I wonder if Cohen knew something we didn’t. Lyrics like “I’ve seen the future brother: it is murder” shows that he didn’t just write songs and poems without thought; he wrote in a way that highlighted his eloquent coordination of words.

In a 2014 interview with Q Magazine, he explained how “Canadians are very involved in our country. We are on the edge of America and we watch America the way women watch men,” before pausing with perfect comic timing and stating “Very, very carefully! So when there’s this continual cultural and political challenge right on the edge of your lives, it develops a sense of solidarity. So yes, it is a very important element in my life.”

America has watched Leonard Cohen “like women watch men”, evident in our own Bob Dylan. It is these types of artists with blind aesthetic brilliance that we savor and hold to elucidate our own lives and trials. We will miss you Leonard; you were a Beast of a lyricist and a lover of all things. Thank you for your legacy.

 

EXPRESS YOUR PINEAPPLE: REMINISCING THE SOUNDTRACK
October 28, 2016 4:20 am

So, here’s the thing. I’m supposed to write a serious music review, and I totally could, except it’s 2AM on a Friday and I’m watching Pineapple Express on TNT (We Know Drama). I should really be sleeping. That’s what a sensible person would be doing. They’d be sleeping there all numbly-bumbly thinking how sweet it is being asleep safe and sound right as rain, all cozied up gaining valuable, usable energy for the strenuous day that may or may not be ahead of them, I don’t know, I don’t know who we’re talking about. But I cherish that thought, that sleepy paradise. I want it so bad. Dammit if I could only just produce some content first lickety split. And also dammit because this is a great movie. I will, without a doubt, watch this entire thing right now instead of sleeping. Can’t leave Dale and Saul hanging.

m-i-a

This soundtrack too though, this is a work of art. This is the real winner, all the way through til the end. This is a content goldmine staring me square in the face screaming “Hey what’s up let me just turn your whole world upside down for a second here thanks.” I’ve been thinking about this all wrong, what am I doing?! Well I guess about to review this movie soundtrack, that’s what I’m doing. Buckle up.

Okay first we have Paper Planes, duh. Gotta be first on the list. M.I.A. blew up that year, not saying all because of this movie, but hey I’m not saying otherwise neither. That was a great year for everybody. Stay woke. The song isn’t actually in the movie, but I mean everyone remembers that trailer, right? Fuck this is a good movie.

The real headliner is Electric Avenue from Dale’s sweet opening “you’ve been served” montage. Instant classic. The scene, not the song. It’s an old song. Eddy Grant was already “classic.” But the movie really brought him to the forefront, at least for me, and I’ll always be thankful for that. We need to focus on the good things in life. “Out in the streets!” That’s what he says in the song, and it’s pretty good, because it’s a song about a street. Pure genius.

Next up is the most dopety-dope song ever, and by “next” I don’t mean chronologically next, but rather in terms of my vaunted quality-assessment hierarchy, determined through my capacity as self-proclaimed official movie-soundtrack reviewer. I’m talking of course about Poison by Bel Biv Devoe, and if you don’t know that then you don’t know jack. Wake up. Your world is not as it seems. What a seriously good song, mad props to Pineapple Express. They really nailed it with this whole soundtrack. Jeez Louise!

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Uh oh, look out, we got a piping hot track coming fresh out the oven–Public Enemy‘s Lost At Birth. I like this scene because he says “melon farmers,” which is what they say instead of motherfuckers on TNT (We Know Drama). You’re not allowed to swear on television. Wow, Public Enemy really ties this whole scene together. Somebody did their job real good when they picked that song for this scene. What a sick nasty awesome so fucking sick movie soundtrack.

Damn there’s a lotta reggae on this mix. Wanted Dread and Alive (see what they did there? With the dread?! Cuz they have dreads!), a Bob Marley deep cut (well obviously), a reeeal laid-back Ring Of Fire cover (like Johnny Cash but way chiller). See, the movie is named after a kind of marijuana from the movie, and there’s a lot of people who sometimes associate reggae music with marijuana usage for some reason. So when a movie gets made about a hairy Mary Jane strain, they’re gonna mix up a little reggae in there. That’s just the world we live in. We didn’t choose it, we were born into it. Forced from the warmths of prebirth out into the cruel, unforgiving hellscape we inhabit every waking hour of our lives. I mean it’s just monstrous out here.

Well, that’s all the time we have for today. The movie is over so I’ve now fully exhausted my content resource. Thanks to all who participated, especially you still reading this and also the good people over at TNT (We Know Drama). Let it be known that this is a can’t-miss, won’t-disappoint, doesn’t-even-flinch-as-it-knocks-you-out-of-your-socks kinda flick, and if you haven’t seen it, well why did you read this entire review of a soundtrack for a movie you’ve never seen? Yeah, that’s what I thought, you’ve definitely seen Pineapple Express. It has a pretty awesome soundtrack. I know, right? Cool, glad we’re on the same page. Let’s be sure to always stay positive in the face of any near-universal suffering we might encounter on a regular basis. Okay bye!

JAPANESE WALLPAPER EMERGES FROM ITS COCOON
October 27, 2016 9:28 am

When I was 17 years old, I was doing what most other 17 year old teenagers do; playing sports, doing homework, driving a car for fun, I was even playing guitar a lot by most standards. But I was creating nothing like Gab Strum did in his seventeenth year.

He started the electronic pop project Japanese Wallpaper and released his first single “Waves” back in 2014. Even at this early stage in his career, the sounds he created were nearly on the same level as ambient titans Tycho and Boards of Canada. The ethereal, jovial tunes started drawing attention from some pretty well-known folks in the industry such as fellow Australian, Chet Faker. Also in Gab’s seventeenth year, he won Triple J’s Unearthed High competition. Oh, and his track “Breathe In” was also featured on the soundtrack for Zach Braff’’s follow-up to Garden State, Wish I Was Here. Seventeen! I think this goes to show how the state of modern music equipment has altered the music scene. If a high school kid fifty years ago wanted to make music with more than a guitar, he would find it incredibly difficult to do so. The tools to do so weren’t easily available yet. Now we can download software on our laptops and create magic.

Gab did his first tour of Australia back in 2014 with great success. He has since been putting out EP’s with some fantastic remixes in the last couple years. Most recently this year he released the single “Cocoon.” Earlier this year, he released a deluxe edition of his self-titled EP that came out in 2015 with a slew of new remixes. The remix of Between Friends” by Sable is a noteworthy track from the record. The single “Forces” featuring Airling is a smash. I think it’s safe to say that Japanese Wallpaper has a promising future ahead of him. He has a few tour dates left in 2016 if you happen to live in a major Australian city. I imagine he’ll make his leap over to the states soon enough and I for one will be right there in the crowd grooving along to these incredible tunes.

THE BLACK PARADE IS BACK IN A NEW WAY
October 19, 2016 11:23 am

“When I was a young boy, my father took me to the city, to see a marching band…”

This line of lyric is so universally known by the rock world that no one can hear this song and not feel some strong attachment to it. My Chemical Romance‘s immersive album The Black Parade was part epic, part tragedy filled with soaring highs and wallowing lows. Rock Sound magazine is celebrating the 10th anniversary of this legendary album with the story of the creation and life of The Black Parade and an incredible amount of content.

9390352-368-k802450A decade is a long time, in 2006, the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii came out, Casino Royal and Cars debuted, Justin Timberlake was bringing “Sexyback, Shakira’s hips didn’t lie and Daniel Powter was still having his bad days. This was a year of strong movement in pop culture and punk rock was being redefined. My Chemical Romance way making one of the biggest movements because of their raw style of music, fashion and tone in their genre defining The Black Parade.

Rock Sound’s October edition is an essential for any punk, emo, rock or ska fan. There is a beautifully told story of MCR’s creative process of The Black Parade and its life and impact it had on the band. It is filled with a lot of funny small stories and interesting insights on why the band took a break and how they dealt with all of these changes.

However, the part of this edition that seems more interesting and gripping is the cover album that accompanies the issue. Rock Sound gathered a grand collection of artists deep in the indie rock world to cover each song on The Black Parade giving each track new life while saluting them with praise and honor at the same time. From Escape the Fate‘s similar and powerful rendition of “Dead!” to Twenty One Pilot‘s heart breaking performance of Cancer and Against the Current‘s different take on Teenagers, this album brings new life to The Black Parade while reminding you how truly amazing this album was and still is.

I would recommend anyone and everyone who is a fan of MCR, The Black Parade, punk, rock, indie, ska, heavy metal or good music in general to pick up this epic issue of Rock Sound with the additional tribute album. MCR is also celebrating this 10th anniversary with a special deluxe edition that any fan NEEDS to get, you can’t miss this. The Black Parade is amazing in both forms and may their music and memory carry on.

BRAVE BABY BECOMES OUR NEW ELECTRIC FRIENDS
October 18, 2016 9:41 am

Brave Baby are a band from Charleston, South Carolina that currently carries the torch for the niche genre of southern indie rock. That title is normally reserved for bands that have at least one banjo, or cracklin’ piano, not synthesizers, 60’s-style organs, nor lead singer Keon Masters breathy delivery. The 5-piece is an eclectic mix of tender melodies, upbeat, danceable, radio ready singles, and southern charm.
They released their debut record Forty Bells on Charleston indie rock label Hearts and Plugs in 2013 that bring a DIY ethos, self-producing that record in their storage unit turned recording studio. The band released their follow up, Electric Friends, in 2015 to critical acclaim taking a giant step forward in terms of songwriting, and musicianship. The band’s multi-layered, synth-pop approach falls right in line with the millennial culture. Songs like “Daisy Child”, “Ancients”, and “Larry on the Weekend” have poured on comparisons to Arcade Fire, The Shins, and Death Cab for Cutie. The band is at once delicate, needing great care and undivided attention, yet ready for the long road-trip, with too many friends, crammed in the backseat of a Toyota Corolla.

HER NAME IS BANKS
October 12, 2016 5:35 pm

Her name is Banks and she should be on your your radar by now. If not, no worries we have you covered—you won’t lose any indie points yet.

Jillian Rose Banks, known by her fans as BANKS, started gaining buzz in 2013 when she toured internationally with The Weekend. Since then she’s performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and has been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and the Divergent soundtrack.

BANKS makes beautifully haunting pop music that is intricate and witchy (check out tracks titled Haunt and Poltergeist). If you’re a fan of Halsey, you’ll definitely vibe with banks, as they both deliver the edginess mainstream pop needs.

She doesn’t shy away from talking about serious issues like depression and emotion in her lyrics, which is an important for a mainstream artist to address.

I think there’s this stigma and this fear. I’ve experienced it in business as a woman; people call you emotional when you’re just saying what you want. It’s actually not emotional, it’s just factual. And I think people kind of put this projection onto women like they’re being hysterical, bitchy or like a diva when they’re just working and being strong. I think it’s not only important to be connected to your emotions, but also to not feel like you’re being emotional when you’re not. [Learning] that has actually really helped me to feel empowered,” as told to ID magazine

On her newest release, The Altar, she belts out assertive, sneering lyrics on the lead single, “Fuck With Myself,” that just might prove her edginess the key to her longevity.

Her name is Banks and she’s on her way to becoming a bonafide pop icon, so you’d better not forget her name.

MELO-X KNOWS WHAT IT TAKES TO CATCH BEYONCE’S ATTENTION
October 7, 2016 12:58 pm

MeLo-X  is traveling at warp speed. Pedal to the metal. The Brooklyn-based multimedia artist has a boundless artistic vision that rejects the conventional division lines between sight and sound.

Although best known for his collaborations with Beyoncé—the free-spirited rapper and hip-hop producer has also directed and scored films, designed art installations that they have at the MoMA and Guggenheim, is a trending fashion tastemaker and an advocate for staying grounded and true to your roots.

It would be difficult to find an artist in Brooklyn with a more varied palette than MeLo-X, and that’s saying a lot.

Yoncé-X

The self-proclaimed Renaissance man—born Sean Rhoden—got his first big break in 2014 following the release of Beyoncé’s self-titled surprise album. MeLo-X released an unauthorized collection of remixes titled Yoncé-X EP  which when picked up speed and went viral, eventually catching the attention of Queen B herself.

And there’s no one more powerful, more influential in the music biz than Beyoncé.

Pop artists are often treated as gods living among mortals—transcending human existence and amassing devout worship. If ever there was a pop artist that fits—if not demands this treatment from her fans—it would be Beyoncé Knowles.

Lemonade

So when MeLo-X was asked to co-direct the accompanying film scores to Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On the Run Tour, he jumped at the opportunity and didn’t look back.

Soon he was flying out to LA to help Beyoncé co-write and co-produce tracks “Hold Up” and “Sorry” off her 2016 album Lemonade.

Keep in mind, producing a Beyoncé album isn’t a typical of the industry. Rather, to visualize the scale of such a project, it’s easier to liken the undertaking to that of a Hollywood blockbuster—dozens of writers and producers converge on each track to produce the most immaculate, pungent production possible. But that’s exactly where MeLo-X excels—collaboration.

His sparse productions, often centered around spaced-out percolating frequencies, give a dark, spatial depth to the music he touches—his voice is understated yet distinct at the same time.

Curate

Both his overall aesthetic as well as his affinity for collaboration are in full view on his 2015 solo CURATE EP which features music from buzzing hip-hop artists Little SimzKilo Kish, and Raury—he also released an interactive app to accompany the EP allowing fans to create their own remixes.

2016 has been nothing short of a whirlwind for MeLo-X. He hit the year off with another remix collection, titled Adele-X, centering yet again on the music of a pop music enigma as his subject.

MeLo-X  also recently released a track with glitch-centric electronic artist Machinedrum called “Angel Voice”—as well as helping produce track “Cleopatra” for up-and-comer Queens-via-Bengal hip-hop buzz magnet Anik Khan.  While it might be impossible to tell what MeLo-X will take on next, it’s certain he won’t be slowing down his pace anytime soon.

TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB IS THE SHAMROCK MUSIC KING
September 29, 2016 5:27 pm

Two Door Cinema Club are an Irish indie rock trio that seemingly just want to dance. Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday, and Kevin Baird make music that instantly plug ear-worms to your cerebellum with instant infection. Their music videos are also as infectious, showcasing the band’s quirky, yet honest, sense of humor. Forming in 2007, while the lads were still in school, they have since released two full-length albums, with one on the way in October, and a handful of EP’s. They have gained a substantial following in their home country of Ireland, and are doing the same in the US with incessant touring and festival appearances.

Prior to forming Two Door Cinema Club, the trio performed as a band in their teenage years dubbed “Life Without Rory”. The band, released 3 demos,  finished dead last in local competitions, and decided to move on to greener pastures. The trio came back together to form another band without a full-time drummer and settled on the name Two Door Cinema Club after Sam Halliday’s mispronunciation of the local movie theater the Tudor Cinema.

Two Door Cinema Club released an EP in 2009 titled Four Words to Stand On that gained a little interest. Their first full-length record, Tourist History, was released in 2010 with the band finding their niche. Tourist History went on to be selected for the Choice Music Prize for Irish Album of the Year. Follow-up album Beacon was released 3 years later to similar reaction pushing the band to release a four-part tour documentary entitled What We See. An EP, Changing of the Seasons, came in 2013 coupled with a jump to Parlophone Records in 2015. Their third proper album, Gameshowand first for Parlophone, is slated for release in October, 2016.

Two Door Cinema Club will be featured at the Austin City Limits Festival on October 1st, and will continue touring North America through November 2016.

VIBBLE: SMALL START WITH GREAT POTENTIAL
September 28, 2016 11:18 am

Vibble, for all intensive purposes, is your personal mix board. With transitions, samples, and faders, Vibble gives you the sense of being a DJ while cutting out the complications. It is stylistic, easy and fun to play with, a for sure download for someone who asks always wants the AUX cord in the car. However, the app is pretty minimal and would need a lot of updates and expansions to amount to something of real substance.

The App runs with Sound Cloud. You can search Sound Cloud through this app very smoothly and very fast and add the song you want to a simple playlist. You can play a number of different samples right over the tracks adding air horns, drum beats, and vinyl scratches to whatever you like on Sound Cloud.

I love Sound Cloud as much as the next person, but the fact that this app only uses Sound Cloud is pretty limiting. Even artists like Flume or Porter Robinson which have a strong presence there, don’t show up with any music inside the app. So unless you know a whole mess of small time artists off the top of your head, it’ll be difficult finding anything worth mixing and fooling with. I’m not a pro with this app either, so I might be missing how to use certain parts like saving music playlists or bookmarking artists, but as of now I haven’t found a way to retain any mixes or set-lists that I’ve made.

With all this said, it doesn’t mean the app is great in concept. The accessible fading and samples are refreshing, the design of the app is bright and fun, and the potential for greatness is there. I can’t wait to see this app a couple of months from now, it’ll be the new way to listen to your Sound Cloud favorites.

 

MIIKE SNOW: POP BEATS MODERN MUSIC NEEDS
September 22, 2016 6:05 pm

Miike Snow is the indelible, organic, pop hook-laden band consisting of the production team of Bloodshy & Avant, coupled with singer Andrew Wyatt. The group has been releasing albums of danceable, heavy, somewhat macabre music since 2009. Three albums to be exact, Miike Snow, Happy to You, and iii, all distinct in their own right, but inherently easily recognizable as Miike Snow.

Prior to forming Miike Snow, the production team of Bloodshy & Avant, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, were sought after producers and songwriters by some of the biggest names in pop music. Karlsson was a member of the Swedish hip-hop group Goldmine and toured with The Fugees. Under the moniker of Bloodshy & Avant, the duo produced singles for Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and Britney Spears, eventually going on to win a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording for Spears’s 2004 hit “Toxic”. Bloodshy & Avant was introduced to classical and jazz educated Andrew Wyatt through a mutual friend and took the name Miike Snow. The name was also a play on Japanese film director, Takashi Miike, when they added an extra “i” for their eponymous debut in 2009.

Their music has been described as “A-Ha meets Animal Collective” by The Guardian, which is a great description of the groups deep, rich production beats, and Wyatt’s soft baritone and strong range. The group has gone onto win some awards of their own, and has developed a deep respect from a multitude of artists including: Depeche Mode, Kings of Leon, and Vampire Weekend, through their remix collaborations. Miike Snow released their latest record iii in March of 2016 with tracks “Heart is Full”, and “Genghis Khan” accompanied by full-length feature videos to great fanfare. Miike Snow played a string of 2016 summer festivals including Coachella, The Governor’s Ball, and Lollapalooza, and continues their North American concluding with the Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 9th in Austin, TX. If you find them near you, you need to see him and get get addicted to their amazing music.