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Picke: NOT A HOOK-UP APP
April 18, 2016 10:40 am

Residents of NYC may recently have spotted a man dressed as Batman, driving around Manhattan in a hot pink Lambo. That man is Mike, the creator of new dating app Picke (pronounced “picky”).

No, Picke is not a dating site for nose fetishists, or people who want to score club drugs (Get it? Pick-E? Sorry). It’s a site for people who want to be clear they aren’t just looking for a hook-up – people that are picky about what they look for in a relationship. In fact, the anti-hookup sentiment is posted all over the site, with messages appearing on the load screen, and the welcome screen for new members.

“I think the whole dating scene in NYC is screwed up. It’s time for people to be Picke again and add value to a human instead of treating them like an object” said Mike in a chat I had with him through the app’s messaging function. “[I want to] weed out the crap and make people not frustrated to date again.”

Will the app accomplish such lofty goals? I hope so, but Internet dating by nature is objectifying and impersonal. In fact, I delete my OkCupid profile every few months because I find the experience so frustrating. I’m interested to see where Mike and his team take the app and if they can achieve success in a market that’s already so saturated.

It’s important to note the app is in its infancy, and new features are still being developed and implemented. The newness of the app also means reviews on it are hard to come by; while researching for this article, I did a search of YouTube for “Picke” to see if any users had posted videos about their experience. I was surprised when many of the search results featured thumbnails of scantily clad women with non-English video titles. Intrigued, I entered the title of one of the videos, “Ekstra picke sa fejsa”, into Google Translate. Apparently “Picke”, or “pičke”, is Croatian for pussy. A strange coincidence for an app that prides itself on not being for hook-ups.

I say give the app a shot – it’s free and Mike is a nice guy. Plus the more people who use the app, the better your chances of finding that one person you can hold hands with for a few months before banging them silly.

A NIGHT OH WONDER AT THE BOWERY BALLROOM
February 1, 2016 12:05 am

The Beasts were out last Friday night to witness the brilliance of our indie friends from across the pond; Oh Wonder, the highly acclaimed and widely talked about indie synth-pop act out of London. Opening the night was Pop Etc., a well respected pop indie outfit themselves, having toured with the likes of Broken Bells, Grizzly Bear, The Kooks and more.

Pop Etc. drew a “sophisticated” crowd of college types and future grad school students, yet their set expressed a sound rooted in punk anthems that have been deconstructed and reassembled as synth based pop songs. The show marked the debut and release date of their new album Souvenir. A high point in the set was a perfectly tempered version of the Tears For Fears classic “Mad World.”

By the time Oh Wonder took the stage, the ballroom was filled to capacity with a slightly older and more culturally hip crowd. Despite the tightly packed conditions, Oh Wonder’s music brought a lightness and fluidity to the crowd. The first song set the tone for a heartfelt night, fueled by the distinct energy that only New York City nightlife can provide. The songs touched upon the delicate emotions of love and navigating this world as a young adult.

Oh Wonder, fronted by Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht, created an impressive buzz in the music world over the past year by releasing one single every month beginning September of 2015. These releases eventually accumulated into their debut self-titled album, which they have since performed on tour internationally. The unorthodox independent release granted them the recognition of millions of listeners on Soundcloud and a contract with major label subsidiary Caroline Records. Even the grand master of pop music himself, Rick Rubin, proclaimed to be a devoted fan.

Despite the highly polished electric sound of the album, Oh Wonder’s live set translates really well acoustically and shows no doubt of true musicianship and aesthetic genius. Each song has been written, recorded and engineered by Anthony and Josephine themselves out of their London-based studio.

Their trans-continental tour picks back up in Europe, starting off in Paris on February 26th, along with plenty of North American shows beginning in May at Sasquatch! Music Festival. If you get a chance to see them live, don’t miss out on this rising act of genuine pop music, that is so full of wonder.

 

CONTACT YOUR INNER JOY WITH DARWIN DEEZ
December 2, 2015 12:17 pm

Ok let’s just clear up this confusion right away. Darwin Deez is the name of a band from New York. But it is also the alter-ego of the band’s front-man and creator, Darwin Smith. He made a splash in 2009 with his self-produced/self-titled record. Featuring infectious pop jams like “Radar Detector” and “Constellations,” the album showcased Darwin’s talent for quirky but catchy-as-hell tunes. After a slight turn towards the angst with 2013’s Songs for Imaginative People, Deez has returned to form with the recently released Double Down.

Double Down shows real growth in almost all aspects. While Songs for Imaginative People was step up from the first record in terms of production, it also had a much edgier sound. Bizarre electronic glitch noises gave the album a unique tone, but the added grit was a bit at odds with Darwin’s pop sensibilities. Still, songs like “Alice” and “Redshift” illustrated Darwin was headed in the right direction. Double Down is a delightful mix of the boppy and emotional tracks we have come to expect from Darwin Deez, along with some new sounds. This added variety gives the listener more to dig into, and all with better production and guitar playing than we’ve heard from Darwin before.

We were able to steal a few minutes from Darwin’s day, and find out a little more about the man behind the Deez.

How did you get into playing music?

I can hardly remember. I mean, Green Day I guess. Dookie came out when I was like 11.

And you started right in on guitar.

Yeah when I was 11. My dad played guitar.

What, would you say, is your ultimate goal when you make music?

I was hanging out with some hipsters yesterday, and I met this guy. He plays with a group called High Functioning Flesh. I went to check his music out after sort of crashing his family’s thanksgiving, and there was a mission statement under one of his songs… I liked it, but maybe it’s also a bit pretentious… but it was something along the lines of “Our music is designed to shock people awake from the spectacle induced coma that society puts them under.” And that made me think about goals people can accomplish through music. Personally I think that music is first and foremost emotional. So my main goal is to help people process and manage their emotional state, and give them an emotional boost. That happiness is the sort of thing I like to get from music. So nothing really grand or political or cultural – although I would love that – but actually in the writing of it, I think a lot more about trying to bring some joy. Because life is dark, you know?

Do you find it hard to fight against the spectacle of society without becoming a spectacle yourself?

Actually, I was listening to High Functioning Flesh, and I was like “Shit.” My music definitely does keep people lulled in a sense. In the same way it makes me feel good, it kinda makes me want to shop. It kinda makes me want to ignore society’s malcontents. So, yeah, I do worry about that. You know, if you’re not raging against the machine, you’re sort of working for it. But I think primarily music is an emotional experience. People need to contact joy inside of themselves before they have the energy to go and do their life’s work, which may or may not be more directly cultural, or more directly working on changing society.

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In 2013 you were quoted in an interview saying, “I think people’s feelings are really important and worth hearing and investigating in every case.” Would it be fair to say that’s a general thesis for your music?

I’m not sure because there’s no listening involved. To take people’s feelings seriously is to listen to them, and I’m not there. They’re listening to me. If in any way it involves them listening to their own feelings, that’s good. But I think to really take someone’s feelings seriously you have to sit there and actively listen to them. Rather than just broadcast musical ideas.

So a lot of your songs focus on these emotions and feelings and relationships, and many of them do so by utilizing an extended metaphor. Is approaching these issues through metaphor easier for you?

I’m trying to make songs with individuality. Trying to make songs with specificity, songs that are memorable. That’s just my way of doing that. The other way that you can do that is you can have lots of particular lines that stand out and grab you. I mean, I do that too, but I’m really striving for memorability. I mean as a songwriter, the words have different functions. It’s like a multi-stage rocket booster. The first stage rocket-blaster-job of lyrics is to get noticed, and the metaphors help in that sense. People can grab onto something that’s explicitly about DNA or the Doppler Effect, or a last cigarette, or something else that’s very concrete. There are other jobs that lyrics have to do, but I think the metaphors have to do with that first stage of rocket booster. Just getting into the listener’s face a little.

If you had to pick another art form to capture these ideas, what do you think you might lean towards?

Prose. I like prose. I like to read non-fiction. I think the last book I read was about American History. I just read the chapters from about the 1950’s to the present. It would just summarize little incidents, and I’d be like “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that. What was so interesting about that?” And then it would go into brief detail about it. I enjoyed reading that. I don’t have a very large attention span so…

So you just came out with a new music video for “The Mess She Made.” You’ve developed a pretty distinct image for yourself as the front man of this band, and you put that in the forefront of this and other music videos. Does that tie into the idea of trying to grab people and grab attention?

Yeah, basically. There’s so much indie music out there. And not only is there a lot of cool music happening now, but there’s five or six decades – even more than that- that’re just totally fascinating. I’m just trying to make myself into a sort of bookmark, so that you can remember where you were the last time you listened to anything that I did. “Oh yeah! Bookmark this guy.” I mean that used to be a way that I liked to dress when I was younger, before I had any success in music and I was seeking my commission in more active ways. I was a New York Hipster seeking self-expression and recognition. Now that I’m older I don’t really walk around like that much anymore. I have a much more conservative look that I rock in my daily life. Which is just a hat basically. But I do think hair is pretty useful for rock n’ roll purposes.

So correct me if I’m wrong, but on your first album you did everything yourself.

Yeah, correct.

But now you’re playing with a band.

I am, but I still do everything by myself on the record.

As a drummer I’ve always been very impressed by your programed drum tracks. Even though the drum sounds aren’t necessarily natural, the grooves are really good. I’ve caught myself on Double Down going back and forth between what I think is live drums and programmed tracks.

Yeah, pretty amazing software these days, huh?

So it’s all programed?

Yeah. Live drums are just so complicated and expensive to do, and then you don’t even have as much control over how it ends up sounding in the end. You just get what you get based on the snare that was available, and the room and the console and the person. I ended up just saving the money and saving the sense of control. I liked how it sounded, so I decided just to stay. It’s like playing blackjack and you’re at 17. Better not take a hit. It’s kinda like that. I did give it a shot for a moment. I had one day in my studio messing around with the drums. On top of everything, you’ve really got to get a good player, and it just didn’t come together. So I just went and got really into the programed drummer in Logic, and did as much as I could in post-processing.

That’s actually pretty impressive! There really is a live feel to the album. A lot of the tracks really feel like a rock band. “Rated R” is like a Weezer tune.

I know! It’s pretty great.

So I’ve seen in other interviews you’ve done that with a couple of songs off the new album, you looked to write based off of bass lines, rather than guitar riffs or melodies. Is that something you’ve been thinking about more – trying to push yourself to write in new ways? You have a niche pretty nicely carved out for yourself with your sound. Do you think that these new types of songwriting techniques could push the boundaries of that?

Yeah, it could have that effect I suppose. I guess it already has had that effect a little bit, I don’t know… I mainly do it to stay inspired. There’s so many moving parts to a song and you can really use any of them as a starting point. It’s a way to keep it interesting when there’s so much structurally to worry about, you know, verse-chorus, verse-chorus. You can take any part of that song and say “We’re going to make a song that definitely has this element going.” And then just build around that. It becomes a completely different experience based on that. So I mainly just do it to keep myself engaged in the process.

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Well however he is doing it, it seems to be working. All gambling references aside, Double Down is the strongest start-to-finish album Darwin Deez has made yet. Darwin’s earnest lyrics combine with some stellar guitar licks for a more polished and complete product than anything that has come before. I just wish I could somehow get the guitar lick from “The Mess She Made” to follow me around wherever I go…

Darwin is finishing up his North American tour over the next couple weeks, so there’s still a chance to catch his energetic live show for some of you. In case you needed any more convincing, I’ve heard the whole band has choreographed dance breaks.

So I’ll see you there?

Cool.

 

LVL UP’S LO-FI LULLABIES
November 19, 2015 5:03 pm

LVL UP has been making waves on the alternative scene lately after a successful Fall tour with Montreal’s Ought, and recently opening for bands such as Dilly Dally and New Jersey favorite Screaming Females, only adding to their already impressive list. With their spellbindingly tranced out brand of lo-fi garage rock, It’s about time these guys got their shine.

The New York based band has been going at it since 2011, when they released their now classic Space Brothers. With their recent summer EP Three Songs released on Run For Cover Records, and only one year after their sophomore LP Hoodwinked, LVL UP continue down the mystical path they’ve set out on. Sonically, Three Songs keeps the fuzzy lo-fi aesthetic of previous releases, but leaves the listener a bit more buzzed- the progression is clear.

A more esoteric look at this band will reveal a magical layer of darkness and mystery. The description accompanying Three Songs takes the listener on a ritual journey, complete with candles and spell. In listening to their full range of songs, It becomes apparent that LVL UP knows something about this world that you don’t, which only adds to their cult-like appeal. While the band undoubtedly fits the New York City suburban stream of consciousness, their long-time presence on the Brooklyn scene has created a very refined culture to their sound. Like reading rare books or taking walks in the woods, this band possesses the rare gift to make the listener feel like they’re alive, and part of an unending chain of nature, life and mystery.

Rather than compare these guys to anyone, the Beasts suggest you check LVL UP out at their December 1st show at Shea Stadium, in Brooklyn, with Elvis Depressedly and enlighten yourselves (but don’t forget your protection).

METHYL ETHYL WORKS UPON YOUR CHEMISTRY
November 5, 2015 10:41 am

Strait off the CMJ circuit and coming to you all the way from Perth, Australia are indie dream-popers Methyl Ethyl. With their 60’s tinged mellow psychedelic sounds, this rising act has a chemistry that works directly upon the soul.a3364250038_16

It seems to be a ripe time for our friends south of the equator, as some of the most defining indie music of this decade has been pouring out of these Australian cities. Perhaps it is the reflection of our own alter egos that we Americans see, or maybe it’s just something in the Oceania air. While Methyl Ethyl will undoubtedly draw comparisons to bands like Tame Impala and Chet Faker, their overall sound is actually quite distinguishable from these more popular Australian acts. And quite honestly, the intrigue is in the anonymity. Methyl Ethyl is still a relatively obscure band. Their budget surely doesn’t meet the heights of some of the more mainstream artists within the indie world. This sonic rawness comes across in their debut LP Oh Inhuman Spectaclereleased June of this year, which ironically parallels albums such as 2001 indie classic Oh Inverted World by The Shins.

The Band formed in 2013, releasing two EPs respectably that year. However their effects heavy experimental sound truly comes to fruition in their most recent release. Oh Inhuman Spectacle is full of delicate arpeggios, fat contrasting bass lines and expertly executed synth tones. The Album begins in a sort of eerie dissociative state which progresses into the soul filled nostalgia of “Twighlight Driving,” eventually ending with “Everything as it Should Be,” which eases you out of the psychedelic trip that was Oh Inhuman Spectacle.

With just under four thousand Facebook followers, Methyl Ethyl has clearly just begun their musical journey. Make sure to listen to their new album and hop on board while they’re still young. The Beasts will be putting this one on repeat and we hope to see them stateside soon!

 

THE ALL ENCOMPASSING- PALATE PLEASING ZULA
November 4, 2015 5:49 pm

Trying to figure out the direction in which electronic music is headed is basically a fool’s errand at this point. There’s just too wide of a range now. And while the variety is wonderful, it can be a little jarring to some seeing such a broad spectrum of brow altitude. It’s like reading a great article on Buzzfeed about the harsh conditions in American prisons, and then being told why Jennifer Lawrence should be your spirit animal in .gif form immediately after.

Nobody can deny how huge those Red Bull guzzling synth monoliths like Steve Aoki and Skrillex have gotten, but plenty of “Purists” hate them and they’re by no means the first wave of polarizing electronic artists. The genre “Intelligent Dance Music” wouldn’t have a nearly 25 year long legacy of Orbital and Aphex Twin junkies swapping vinyls if they were. But at this point, everyone’s using some device learned from a branch of the mighty oak that is the electronic music family tree. So it’s kind of silly picking sides when each camp is connected in some way. This applies strictly to electronic music, not humanity. Continue having wars and stuff.

zuulaThis is what makes a band like Zula so fun. Listening to them is like a blurred canvas of so many different sonic entities. On their debut LP, This Hopeful, they offer up a wide range of grooves to choose from. A song like “And More Business” shows them flexing their dance muscles the most, while keeping it understated. Everything builds from a simple piano riff that’s eventually paired with a very chunky bassline and sporadic synths. Frontmen (and cousins) Nate and Henry Terepka’s echoed vocals add to the trance atmosphere of the song perfectly.

Zula is adept at establishing a foundational pillar in each song. Whether it’s “And More Business’s” piano riff or the drum groove from “Sullen Crackle,” having a constant adds to the effect made by each unconventional loop, as well as their off-kilter guitar work floating intermittently through each song. They’ve shown that they can use those elements as a way to get themselves into a tight rhythm or build up to a huge payoff at the end.

The Terepka’s have that magic touch that lend to the sounds coming together so nicely. They can tap into some of those Thom Yorke-ish sassy howls when they wants to, but can also shift to a more delicate tone perfect for melodies that really stick. Henry is one of those vocalists who can have a mini-hook in the middle of a song by simply repeating a key phrase over and over without it sounding droney in any way. This is done a few times in “Sullen Crackle.” His ear for the atypically catchy is perhaps Zula’s best attribute.

Zula’s knack for unforced catchiness, paired with the variation in their sound should offer something fresh for any electronic fans. These fellas probably won’t be headlining any festivals that hose you down with neon paint, but it’s doubtful they’ll be staying in the niche fringes of the underground either. They’re sort of a tweener band in that sense, and have the all the skills needed to expand their sound further.

AN ENCHANTING NIGHT WITH YOUTH LAGOON
October 30, 2015 10:55 pm

As the lights come up in the Grand Ballroom of Webster Hall, Youth Lagoon’s lead singer Trever Powers walks around the stage with one arm waving and swinging. The crowd goes crazy. He makes his way to the keyboard where his fingers begin to play the first notes of the show. It is clear that this is his passion as he plays the keyboard, as if it is a part of his soul, as if this is the last time he will play these keys. He quickly exits the stage only to come right back to the keyboard and microphone. Expelling nothing but perfect vocals into the microphone while purple smoke brushes over him and the stage, he added to the already omnipresent charisma in the room.

DPP_00I looked below me and saw a sea of fans covered in blue light, completely entranced with the show they came to see. Trevor then begins to interact with the crowd after a few songs, one kid in particular named Eugene. “You seem like you’ve had a milkshake or two.”  Eugene replies, “Chocolate all the way!” Trevor laughs. “Chocolate all the way! Eugene, you are a cool mother fucker.”  Another fan in the crowd excitedly asks, “WHAT’S IDAHO LIKE?” To which he responds, “What is Idaho like? Is this a Q & A? Let’s just turn this into a TED Talk.” The crowd laughs. “So Idaho…There’s some cool dive bars, there’s some isolation, there’s some despair (he pauses) and there’s some potatoes.” Everyone erupts in laughter.

All is good until, wait for it, he realizes his sustain pedal just broke. Keeping his cool he jokes to Eugene yet again, “Eugene you don’t happen to have a sustain pedal do you?” Someone comes to replace the pedal and he tests the replacement with the crowd pleaser, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Without missing a beat he leans into the microphone singing the words How are we supposed to know what’s real and begins to perform Rotten Human. It was a truly poetic moment.

I left my spot for a few minutes to excuse myself to the ladies room. When I came back out, not only was my spot taken, but Trevor’s voice could still be heard despite his absence on stage. Suddenly, I look up right beside me and realize he’s not on stage because he’s dancing on a box right next to me singing his heart out while leaning over the crowd. He then sprints back down the stairs to his keyboard.

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Youth Lagoon embodied every aspect of entertainment and music. Between the beautiful melodies that make you escape to the most beautiful crevices of your mind, to Trevor’s humor and voice and the exceptional band that supports him. Along with great opening performances from musician Ronald Paris and the band Moon King, this show was above and beyond any expectation. And my expectations were already high.

Saintseneca Release The Spirits @ Mercury Lounge
October 11, 2015 12:21 pm

Saintseneca passed through New York City’s Lower East Side on Friday night as they celebrated the release of their new album Such Things. The band shared the Mercury Lounge stage with the likes of Yowler and The Sidekicks as they began the Northeast leg of their three month long Intercontinental tour (wow!). This melting pot of friends and musicians came together in Columbus, Ohio, and they brought a distinct American tinged rock n’ roll with them. Yowler (who also happens to be a member of Saintseneca) began the night with a stripped down solo set which softened the crowd up for the explosive fullness of The Sidekicks. These guys brought an energy to the room which brought you back the post punk days of Fugazi, but with the moves of a thrash rock mosh pit. The show was riddled with minor sound issues, which allowed Saintseneca frontman Zac Little to use his humor to create a comfortable and entranced crowd. And as expected, there were plenty of melodic harmonies, washed out vocals, and musicians switching instruments, which has come to be a routine set for Saintseneca.

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Saintseneca formed around Zac Little after he moved from rural Appalachian Ohio to attend college in Columbus. They have been actively releasing music and touring since 2008. It takes a noticeably different direction as it seems to be moving closer to indie-rock and farther from folk but still keeps a noticeably unique balance between the two. This band is a refreshing escape from the Major city bands which miss out on a large portion of the American experience, and can sometimes be a little too close to each other  stylistically. All in all this is another sonically eclectic album from Saintseneca. The Beasts suggest you have a listen, and step outside the box. Make sure to support them out there when they pass through your town. You can find a complete list of shows right hereand their newly released music video for “Bad Ideas” below!

 

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

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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.

Alberta Cross Is Back In Town
September 15, 2015 9:31 am

Alberta Cross stopped by their adopted hometown of Brooklyn this past Monday night, as they kicked off their North American tour with Heartless Bastards, in support of their upcoming self-titled album, available in October. Petter Ericson Stakee and friends graced the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg and the Beasts were out to welcome them. It was a packed house with a friendly vibe and the sentimental tunes had us all on the same wave.

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Stackee is a humble giant on stage, and his live set is a masterful display of musicianship. His alternative Euro rock-ness is complimented by the eclectic styles of a pedal steel, a french horn, mandolin, and heavy bass. The songs off the upcoming album are sure to tap into the manifold of music tastes in your heads. Even with some minor technical difficulties mid-set, the crowd had plenty of love and energy to bounce back at the band.

A personal highlight was when they brought it back to the early days with a toned-down yet still heavy rendition of “Low Man,” off their very first release The Thief and The Heartbreaker from 2007. It’s been quite a ride for Alberta Cross. I first heard of them through Last Call with Carson Daly back in 2010. Only three years prior, Stackee (originally from Sweden) met his musical counterpart Terry Wolfers at a bar in northeast London. One year later, they were officially calling Brooklyn home, and we’re happy to see them back around. Unfortunately, It won’t be for long.

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Make sure to check out a set when they pass through your town. These guys are true working musicians, and will be on the road all across the country and in parts of Canada (eh), for the rest of September. You won’t regret this unique blend of soul and independent rock and roll. You can find all the tour dates here!

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