music review

WILDFLOWERS AND AVALANCHES
July 12, 2016 2:48 pm

When Jay-Z and Kanye credited Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield as featured artists on Watch The Throne tracks that their original songs were sampled on, it was a surprising move. Once Robin Thicke lost his case against Marvin Gaye’s estate, nobody knew whether to celebrate Thicke getting some semblance of cosmic retribution for being Robin Thicke, or be upset about the implications this decision had about sampling music going forward. It’s lead to a string of artists attributing pre-emptive credits, either as a hat tip to another artist for influencing them, or simply as a way to avoid a lawsuit altogether. Needless to say, sampling music is the hardest it’s ever been. So how could a group like The Avalanches be expected to thrive in such a climate?

As a group who became an integral part to implementing some much needed structure into the style of Plunderphonics, The Avalanches unearthed so much previously unactualized beauty in creating a cohesive song built solely around borrowed seconds from a myriad of others. While militaristic shouting over sloppily looped guitars and Casey Kasem swearing repeatedly certainly makes for an interesting listen, there’s not much deeper substance in what was happening here.

These early works of John Oswald and Negativland were rough drafts to an idea that became more robust with The Avalanches providing a fresher set of eyes. Hip-Hop undoubtedly played a huge part in this. Just listen to The Avalanches REAL first release, El Producto. They try being the Beastie Boys, and… it’s not their finest work.

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After their failed foray as straight-up rappers, Since I Left You harnessed the genre’s production style being able to create this infrastructure as a means to assist rappers in creating these timeless melodies through sampling. The Avalanches simply took it one step further by completely by passing the rapper idea altogether.

But considering the steep prices of royalties and the newfound hoops producers are using to have them jump through, it seemed as though a followup to The Avalanches’ classic 2000 release, Since I Left You, would either be impossible to pull off, or a diluted facsimile to what listeners initially fell in love with.

Thankfully, it took less than 45 seconds of listening to “Because I’m Me” to see that this will not be a problem. Because in addition to the beautiful jubilance radiating from each trumpet blast and guitar riff, they also wisely recruited rap duo Camp Lo to contribute verses on the track, a recurring new element to help differentiate Wildflower from its long shadow casting predecessor.

Each artist is utilized in a way perfectly befitted to their skillet. Danny Brown and MF Doom (another plunderphonics pioneer) go hogwild on the album’s lead single “Frankie Sinatra.” Biz Markie makes such a weird and irreverent idea work so well on “The Noisy Eater,” a song that rivals “Fronteir Psychiatrist” in its beautifully arranged oddball comedy. And Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi contributes a more reserved charm to “If I Was A Folkstar.”  

Not only does “Folkstar” mark Wildflower’s most charmingly somber moment, it’s evidence to show how much the indie world has embraced Hip-Hop and sampling culture since The Avalanches gave us Since I Left You nearly two decades ago. Artists like Chaz, Bradford Cox and the entire Animal Collective contingent have thrived by digging for something new to loop.

Everybody’s caught up to what The Avalanches did so well all those years ago. But the way Wildflower is able to span all the subgenres that have sprouted up since then speaks to how adept they are at being able to navigate each and every new road. Although “Folksinger” is the most blatant example of this, the beautiful “Sunshine” shows this pivot in a subtler light when they elongate her holding onto the ‘iiiii’ note when singing the word “Sunshine” to a degree that would be right at home on a Tim & Eric sketch. But instead of it being some repetitive gag, it gets used as another layer that is used to sing over and it’s absolutely perfect.

SXSW SPOTLIGHT ON: THE DISFUNCTION
March 16, 2016 11:26 am

When you think of a city that produces fresh musical talent, how long would it take you to think of Rincón, Puerto Rico?

A long time, right? Maybe never.

It’s entirely possible that before reading this, you were unaware that a city called Rincón even existed on the northwestern tip of a tiny island nestled snugly between the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Well exist it does. But then, why should you care?

It so happens that this isolated little surf town in the middle of the Caribbean Sea has produced a band of surprising novelty and popular appeal, one that has been making a splash far, far from home all the way up in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Disfunction is a band that you love to love, because they play music for what we like to call the “right reasons.” Theirs is the classic story of a group of childhood friends coming together to play music, just for the fun of it. Isn’t that what music is supposed to be about in the first place?

Is there anything more authentic, more real?

Ok, yes, that opinion may sound a little trite.

But in today’s world of manufactured pop-stars, lone-wolf basement producers, and melodramatic indie acts, wouldn’t it be nice to just listen to a band have fun every once in a while?

disfunctionThe Disfunction is a band that sound like they’re having fun.

Their music is as laid back as the beach scene they came from (and still often play to; they split their time between New York and Puerto Rico, playing shows to a very proud home crowd).

Think of them as a less frenetic Libertines, but with a killer keyboardist and drum pads. Like British Punk without the politics, or like American Indie Electronica without being so over-the-top dreamy.

The Disfunction plays the sort music you’d like to hear as the sun goes down, right as the tiki torches are being lit and another lazy day somehow transforms into the electric atmosphere of the night time party scene.

Expect more good things.

They are currently at work on their new studio album, titled 1,2,3…Testing, while simultaneously touring back home in Puerto Rico. 

And if past efforts are any indication of future progress, you can expect an upbeat album replete with richly layered synth and bass, and topped with smart, punky vocals.

It’s fun, but not frivolous. Carefree without being careless.

It’s music that glorifies all the good in life while silently acknowledging all the bad that hides in the darkness.

The Disfunction will be on display Friday, March 18th at this year’s SXSW at Darwin’s Pub, presented by yours truly, ATYPICALSOUNDS.

WIND DOWN WITH ELVIS DEPRESSEDLY
February 11, 2016 10:43 am

If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and listen to Elvis Depressedly, stat.
I recently had the pleasure of catching the lo-fi band open for The Front Bottoms on the Back On Tour tour this past fall, and I was immediately intrigued. Frontman Mat Cothran (of Coma Cinema) formed Elvis Depressedly in 2011 and has since released seven albums, including two with his fiancé Delaney Mills.

The pair’s latest project New Alhambra received praise from critics following its 2015 release, with Pitchfork calling it “a utopian sort of indie-pop, and ecstatic evocation of the second coming, professional wrestling, and radical positivity.” My personal favorite off of the album is “Rock n’ Roll,” a simple, melancholy tune perfect for the drive home after a long day.

If you’re looking for some chill music to vibe to, Elvis Depressedly is there for you.

ELLIOTT SMITH HEAVEN ADORES YOU SOUNDTRACK RELEASED
February 5, 2016 11:53 am

I was a youthful thirteen years old when I first heard Elliott Smith for the first time in August of 2002. I had just left the Alaska State Fair with a mix of friends and strangers. We all laid around a room listening to a mix CD, and the first track happened to be Smith’s “Say Yes.”

Though it seems it’s one of his more simple songs, it hit me like a brick to the gut and psyche. Music was forever changed for me that day. I couldn’t get enough of him from “Miss Misery” to “Christian Brothers” and then I stumbled on the whole Figure 8 album which figuratively brought me to my knees in amazement. This man was a fucking genius. At that time little did I know his life was riddled with addiction, mental illness and that this creative genius was a cathartic spew of his deepest pain. So, as nostalgic and beautiful as those memories are it’s also melancholic because a year after I discovered his light at the end of his tunnel, he took his own life.

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The throes of addiction, mental illness coupled with the deep claws of a major label seemed to have thrown Smith over the edge. Fast forward to today, there was a documentary released about his life’s work in his music and genius titled Heaven Adores You. From the Heatmiser days to the latest and greatest album that served almost as his suicide note to the world From a Basement on a Hill. There were some songs on the film that had not been previously released, and also some good oldies that everyone can relate to such as “LA” and “Going Nowhere” from his previously released albums. Today, they released the soundtrack to said documentary and it is fire for anyone deeply involved and even mildly obsessed with his craft – like me.

It is a montage of his work from unreleased songs to rarities and live versions of songs we all know as well as earlier or altered versions.  I think my favorite song off the album is “True Love,” though his version of “Plain Clothes Man,” a song he did with  in his earlier days is a masterpiece as well. Smith has a way of roping you in with his humming melodies, overlapping paper thin vocals and completely enthralling guitar and piano. His guitar style hardly needs any back up, he’s the type of player who has
his own rhythm section within his guitar playing style which makes it more dynamic and full. The kicker is that this man is fully capable and very talented at playing just about any instrument you could imagine and recorded a majority of his work by himself. There are some songs on this album that are strictly instrumental.. which to me is almost a travesty because his vocals make him such an icon, though his distinction lies everywhere.

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There are a few rare songs, like “Don’t Call me Billy”and “I love my room” that are borderline hilarious and not his usual cynical and melancholic style. (Think Sliver by Nirvana.) There are 20 tracks that are rare or pivotal to his life in this soundtrack and you absolutely need to take a listen, even if you have never heard Smith it’s important that you do. The last song I want to talk about on the album is called “True Love.” It has to be the song that blew me away the most. The lyrics ‘I just need a safe place to bleed is this where it’s at?’ in which it seems he’s pleading for the world to leave him to revel in his vices, which in the end took him far too soon. His memory lives on in his heavy hearted musical genius. Take an hour to rip your heart out with the Heaven Adores You soundtrack by the late, great Elliott Smith.

GLASS VAULTS’ DEBUT ALBUM IS SHIMMERINGLY BEAUTIFUL
January 29, 2016 9:37 am

The 2010’s have been kind to Glass Vaults. After three EPs, the New Zealanders have finally brought out their debut album, Sojourn and it is a haunting piece of work.

The psych-folk influences are mainly present in the opening tracks of the album, “Life Is the Show” and “West Coast.” They depart from this style fairly quick after that and enter a more ambient territory. Pulsating is a word that comes to mind when listening to Sojourn. All the songs consist of a perfect interweaving of percussion with electronics, ranging from dirty acid squelches to ambient drones. This blend makes for great ambient tracks such as “Don’t Be Shy II” and catchy tracks you just want to tap your feet to, such as “Sacred Heart.

The highlight of the album is without a doubt the title track. A solid 8-minute song, cut down to 5 for the radio edit, that keeps on swelling to tear-jerkingly beautiful heights. Even at its most climactic moments such as this, the album has a beautiful serenity to it. At all times the music shimmers like sunlight bouncing off a turbulent lake.

Glass Vaults have been touring round their native New Zealand consistently since last summer, promoting the album and the EP that preceded it. So far I haven’t been able to find any news on them branching out to the rest of the world. All I can say is….we’re waiting!

“LOVE FOR THAT”- MURA MASA FEAT. SHURA
December 9, 2015 2:35 pm

I have listened to “Love For That” by Mura Masa feat. Shura possibly a hundred times. I have watched the music video maybe a million times. No shame because how could I not?! Masa’s fun flute and steel drum sound mixed in with Shura’s magical lungs that reach the most beautiful pitch gives my ears such a buzz. The music video only adds to the charisma of the song. Theatrics, dancing and an enticing storyline will leave you absolutely falling in love with everything about this single. Check it out below!

Alex Crossan, the 19 year old “beat-slayer, heart-breaker, producer, singer, writer, lover” has got some serious musical chops. Appearing on BBC’s Sound of 2016 List and featured on Spotify’s Spotlight UK, there’s no doubt we’ll be hearing more of this kid. He sets on a European tour starting in the spring, so if you’re around you better not miss this!

His EP Someday Somewhere released earlier this year and has gotten some great reviews.. that’s just judging by the comments on his Facebook page. For lack of a more intricate description upon first listen to the EP, it is pure fire. The funk and high pitched sounds are similarly stimulating to that of a Years and Years/Frank Ocean musical brain child with a heavy dash of electronics to give it the edge so prominent in his sound. This guy needs to come to the US asap. I’m serious.

BREAKING DAY WITH MOON TAXI’S DAYBREAKER
October 27, 2015 5:33 pm

It took me a moment but once I heard a couple songs I realized that I had heard Moon Taxi before.  This band from Nashville who started in 2006 will blow your mind with the musical vastness they accomplish. They’ve had their music featured in numerous commercials, late night shows and festivals. The band released two previous records before their latest and greatest Daybreaker.  They have all the elements of a light indie pop/alternative rock group, with a  darker tinge of garage rock injected into the mix.

Daybreaker was just released October 2nd, just a few weeks ago and has everyone falling head over heals. Most of the songs on the album sound like a mix of Interpol with droning guitar riffs and sound similar to Kings of Leon vocally.  It’s reminiscent of something Danger Mouse might produce save for the grunge here and there throughout the record.  It was actually a pleasant surprise to hear the different sounds they are capable of making as I’m not generally a fan of more fluid indie rock.  But I was thoroughly impressed with how they produced this album and all of its dynamic.

You can really feel their performance, and how every single part of each song melts together in the perfect sequence while appropriately placed. This is the type of band you want to see live because you know they have it down to a science.  All of the songs, including the single “Year Zero” have a slight Vampire Weekend sound with milder vocals and more full sounding instrumentals.  I’d highly advise you to check out their album Daybreaker! If you’re ever in the mood to dance this album will be your best friend.  Check out the Jazzy tune “Make your mind up”  from the new album right here and watch these bad asses focused and rocking live at Lollapalooza.  The Beasts approve and beyond!

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!

Jetlagged With Milosh
October 6, 2015 1:31 am

Milosh is an elegant marriage between original electronic music and an intense personal experience. I am very familiar with making music with your significant other and both the joys and hardships that can come of it. I appreciate the fact that this artist was able to contain and create such a personal experience and add their everyday life to recording. This was present especially in their song “Do you want what I need” where in the band biography on facebook he stated he mic’d himself  “drumming on my wife’s tummy, brushing her skin; edit, cut up and reversed her laughs as we joked over the pure hilarity of it all.”

Often times I cannot relate to electronic music, but then you listen to the sheer personality of the track, and that mentality dwindles quickly. There’s a hint of Animal Collective‘s creativity and obscure recording techniques present.  Just as Avey Tare and his wife used to work together, Jet Lag seems like a long lost psychedelic brother of Avey Tare’s album with Kria Brekkan Pullhair Rubeye but in reverse.

It is very apparent that this artist feels every aspect of the music he is playing and it has been noticed by others as stated by Helene Achanzar in an interview with Rhye that Milosh is a conductor of sorts in his live element.  He is also well known for his band Rhye, who are undeniably emotional as well as felt in the video for their song called “The Fall.”  Every song he puts out cries loving tears and is very thoughtful and diverse. Not a single song sounds like another, which is rare for many bands these days.  Do not get me started on his amazing voice; it is extremely distinctive and surprisingly, he is able to hit notes that would make Mariah herself blink.

In The Ambient Abyss With Mariage Blanc
September 27, 2015 11:39 pm

The first day of fall was the perfect day to put the album No Autobiography by Mariage Blanc on repeat.  The band, from Pittsburgh, P.A. (who is now split between Pennsylvania and Sacramento, California) is the perfect soundtrack for a long drive on a slow Sunday afternoon.

While listening to their song “Silent Nations” I can feel the melancholy overtones pulling me into an abyss of sadness.  The vocals have the similarity of singer-song writer Elliott Smith’s paper thin vocals and guitar picking, with a little more calm in the deliverance reminiscent of Indie pop band Silversun pickups vocal style.

 

It’s no wonder Craig Ismaili included the album in his top 10 for 2015.  The band’s main attributes seem to be nostalgia and melancholy in the rawest form.  Recorded at Tree Lady Studios, the ambient white noise in the background of the track “Nowhere Town” to the finger picking and sliding sounds of the acoustic guitars in “Stay With Me” ultimately reminds me of a Figure 8 (Elliott Smith) and Bon Iver self titled love child.

Eventually when you’re able to pay attention to the lyrics, they melt your heart as well.  Mariage Blanc is easy to listen to and to fall in love with. They feel like a reincarnation of Simon and Garfunkel’s clever and perfectly placed chorus and lyrics that draw you in on the first listen. Who could even renounce the pain felt when you heard “did your heart break down in June?”  I can tell you that it tore straight through my soul and I can only imagine the energy they put into their live show, so if they decide to come to your town, you best be there. You know the beasts will!