underground music

BAND OF HORSES MAKES EVERYTHING OK
June 17, 2016 12:43 pm

I have been waiting for this for a while now, to hear the symphony of genuine plight orchestrated by the most amazing band on the fucking planet. Am I being a little biased? Nahh *See ‘yes’*.

Band of Horses new album Why are you OK is everything I ever hoped it would be, and more. It’s a thought-provoking nostalgic dream filled with heartache and redemption- a typical commodity for BOH. It’s a sweet summer day, peacefully transporting you to old dreams and love’s past.

This album has a lot of surf-rock rhythm and hints of old country songs your grandfather used to escape as he sipped his barrel-aged bourbon. The lyrics on this album are bittersweet as is every croon of Ben Bridwell’s vocal splendor.

This album speaks to me for other reasons as well. Bridwell spent nights writing this album whenever he was able to get his four children to sleep. Being a musician and a parent myself, I understand how distracting and disheartening it could be to not lose your drive and momentum. Children are wonderful but so is creating music. Ben Bridwell hit this one out of the park.

The drums are a musician’s wet dream with a raw sound subtly filtered through modern recording quality. The bass is a subtle ebb and flow, accenting that old country style. This album takes you into a different dimension as Bridwell’s vocal techniques and dreamy guitar tones sway in your ears.

And oh, I’ve seen it too many times//It’s a test of the spirit versus//The health of the mind

-“Barrel House” from Why Are You OK

With the slow and easy tempos, the solemn “Barrel House” becomes one of my top favorites on the album.

Another fond favorite is “Even Still” which is a slow but desperate heart-wrenching plea for a lover to remain how they once were, when it seems all is over. The song is reminiscent of a lover’s struggles while being a touring musician- or any traveling professional- when all they want is to stay home with their loved ones.

The book marks the page//Sittin’ out in the room//The alters of candles//Castin’ shadows on you//I see the bed in the dark//I could just sleep//I could just sleep

And hear me babe//When I don’t want to say it//See it through//I’m back home and stayin’//I can’t be//alone any more//And I don’t blame you//Or pretend to know//The right thing to do’

-“Even Still” from Why Are You OK

He seems to corral hearts with his incomplete thoughts, because he uses just the right phrases, and emphasizes the important parts, the painful parts. This album had me at OK.

NIGHT TERRORS OF 1927, THE ORIGINALS
February 21, 2016 10:01 pm

Night Terrors of 1927, the newly-formed indie pop group from Los Angeles featuring Blake Sennett and Jarrod Gorbrel (formerly of Rilo Kiley), shows great promise for the kind of pop that, as pop rarely is capable of doing, can make you feel complex emotions. Their debut album, Everything’s Coming Up Roses, does so in an edgier fashion than almost any band that could be considered pop, and in some instances might even be considered slightly experimental.

A clear influence for Night Terrors that comes to mind is the seminal indie pop group The Smiths. The emotionally-charged lyrics and catchy-as-hell melodies sound like a band paying tribute to Morrissey and company by taking the latter band’s blueprint for great indie pop and expanding on it with modern pop instrumentation and production, but Night Terrors does so in a way that still allows them to create a sound that is entirely their own.

On Everything’s Coming Up In Roses, the band uses entirely modern instrumentation, Smiths-influenced lyricism, and contemporary pop-music production to create a sound that is entirely theirs, and their blend of these qualities make their album stand out among their peers. There is no lack of bands in the indie music scene attempting the same feat as Night Terrors of 1927, but the difference is that this band uses the noteworthy qualities of their highly influential predecessors while still creating music that feels contemporary, while many of their peers that attempt to do the same sound trite in comparison.

Night Terrors of 1927 uses their influences as exactly that, not to copy bands that have already left their mark on music history, but to continue where influential indie pop bands have left off by creating music that leaves behind nostalgia in favor of fresh, contemporary music transcends the barrier between influence and originality.

OBERHOFER RULES THE NIGHT
October 20, 2015 9:06 am

Last Wednesday night was pretty crazy when Oberhofer took the stage at Mercury Lounge for CMJ. As a New Yorker, he seemed to have a lot of friends and supporters at the show to see some of the craziness he does on stage. At one point during the show he hopped off stage mid-song, grabbed a trashcan, sat on a chair and started throwing some shit out. It was bizarre, yet I was fascinated by his odd charm.

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How’s CMJ been so far? Is this your first one?

It’s been going really well. I’ve done it for 3 years.

So what was going on with that whole trashcan situation?

I saw a lot of trash on the ground and I just went out and found a trashcan. I brought it in and I just put some trash in it in front of everyone so they saw that it was a trash can. I saw a lot of people put trash in the trash can so they just didn’t leave it on the floor. I don’t do it at every show, I just noticed the trash tonight. Not some kind of metaphorical reference.

How’s the reaction to your latest album Chronovision?

It’s been great, I haven’t heard anything negative. I’ve only heard positive stuff from hundreds and hundreds of people.

How is it different compared to your first album?

I produced most of it and the vibe is a little bit more sophisticated, the feelings are more sinister yet optimistic, fatalist.

What’s your favorite off the album?

Don’t have a favorite, but I like “Listen to Everyone” the most. The two bookends, the beginning and the end are my favorite parts from that.

I heard you had to write 106 demos to create this album.

I didn’t HAVE to, I just did. You have to write a lot of songs to figure out what you need on your album, to figure out what you’re going for and for your label to approve of it. When you sign a record deal, you can’t release anything unless your label approves it. That’s just how it works. That’s just cost of being in a record label. You don’t get to release anything you want. It needs quality control. So it took me a long time to release a record, come up with demos and songs that I really liked and the label also liked. I would not be able to ever release something under contract that was only one and all the others. If you want to sign to a record label, then you’re making public music and you’re making music to sell other people for a living under contract. So you have to be at least a little bit concerned as to whether or not other people will like it. But you don’t want to write music with that in mind, which I didn’t do. I just kept writing songs and 12 out of the 106 that I wrote ended up being okay by everyone’s standards. And I didn’t compromise at all, and I just wrote music the way I wanted to write it until 12 songs ended up feeling right.

How long was the whole process?

4 years.

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Are you a fan of posting on social media?

I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan, but I use it because its a popular media and its a way to interact with people and a way to present your personality and your character. However if it didn’t exist, other people would pay more attention to other things that aren’t social media oriented. So I’m a fan of people interacting and people being passionate about artists and people paying attention to what artists do and listening to them. However, given the fact that social media is so heavily saturated you have to do hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of interviews for anyone to pay attention to anything, and it all just gets lost in a massive sea of social media. Everyone’s got hundreds and thousands of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter followers. It’s all there, its all in the open and everyone has a bunch and there’s not really much selectivity.

Do you always take care of the merchandise table?

I always go to the merch table so I can meet people, talk to them, and make sure they know that I’m available and let them know that I’m a real human who likes to interact with people and cares about other people.

Are you a vegetarian?

I’m a vegetarian- well, I eat fish. I’m a pescetarian. I don’t really classify myself, I don’t have rules so, I mostly don’t eat meat. For the most part.

For your health or ethical reasons?

Because of both, or for whatever reason. I haven’t eaten meat in a long time. I used to be able to eat white meat and now I just feel really bad eating it, and I can’t. I’ve just filtered it out of my life. I don’t need it, I don’t depend on it, it doesn’t really change the way I feel. And I’m really glad because it’s wasteful. I don’t need to support that industry. I’d rather support local farmers and people that make really healthy food and cook vegetables. I’d rather spend my money on that rather than spending money on crazy factory farm industry that just kills animals. If you go to farmers markets, it’s cheap as hell. It’s cheaper than non-organic food at the grocery store! I go to a farmers market every Sunday in New York and I get tons of vegetables and they’re so cheap I can’t believe it.

Weekly Beats First Installment
October 9, 2015 1:26 pm

I’d wanted to start sooner. One of my earlier memories is confidently telling a friend of mine that I was going to learn the drums, only to then hear my mother hold in a scoff. Then, turning to my friend’s mom, “He’s going to take piano.” I didn’t hate piano, but the excitement that would come with my first drumset and lesson was certainly not included. I finally got my chance at the end of 6th grade. Since then I’ve studied rock, funk, R&B, jazz, marching band and drumline, hip-hop, steel drums, Latin percussion, Ghanaian drumming, taiko, electronic and experimental music, and others.

What has always grabbed my attention were the areas where these worlds cross over. How certain principals are tied to certain types of drumming, while others permeate throughout the world of percussion. Every new discipline I’ve learned has taught me something about drumming as a whole.

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One of the last disciplines I learned in college was from my last drum set instructor, Bill Carbone. This was a lesson that had been preached one way or another for more or less my entire musical career, but one that didn’t stick until more recently. Bill showed me how to discover and absorb great drumming through recorded music. Not that I had never paid attention to the drumming in songs before, but Bill pushed me to actively listen to the parts. To think not only about the part itself, but why the part is being played that way. And most importantly, that 90% of the time, less is more.

A tool Bill used through my final year of instruction was an ongoing Spotify playlist called “Drummer Trax.” All of the songs that Bill assigned students to study are on it, and many more besides. Bill also pushed me to make my own playlist. To find the songs that inspire me as a drummer, and figure out why.

I never had a chance to complete it with full satisfaction, but now my vehicle exists. This is to be the first of a weekly installment (if you did not surmise that from the title). Each Friday I’ll bring you three songs; one new, one old, and one you might not have heard, like below. One theme will tie the three together. There will be an ongoing playlist that grows every week. It will be groovy as hell.

The New One

Last week New York based Darwin Deez came out with their third album, titled Double Down. A full review of this album is in the works, but for now we’re going to focus on the second track “The Mess She Made.” The song starts with a wet smack and the whole band is immediately into the groove. What follows is often referred to as a break beat, an eight/sixteenth-note centric groove that the entire Drum & Bass genre is built on top of.

Deez’s drummer (who after what should have been more than enough searching, is only credited as “Greg”), has his own application though. The song is a little more ambient than typical Deez fair. While the busy layering of guitar tracks is still present, the parts are more spacious than usual, as is the vocal melody. What really pushes this song forward is the driving drum beat. It’s a nice juxtaposition; the intensity of the drums against the more reserved nature of everything else. Greg does a very nice job of pushing the song forward tastefully, without overpowering anything else. There are a few tricks he uses to accomplish this.

Firstly he plays very few fills, which could become very distracting very quickly in this type of song. When he does fill, they tend to be steady streams of sixteenth notes, keeping the momentum of the song going. What Greg usually plays instead of fills is… nothing. This is a super powerful technique. The drum track all-of-a-sudden stops. The listener is left hanging, leaning in, waiting for the beat they KNOW should be happening. It’s used all the time in hip-hop beats. You’ll hear the beat, or even just certain parts of it dropping in and out, creating tension. In those split seconds, the listener is begging to have the drums back, and when they finally do return, the same beat that you were just listening to is now fresh and exciting.

Greg combines these things with something else inherently tied to break-beat drumming: hitting off beats. Off beats drive things forward. They push toward the next step in the pattern that your brain is anticipating. Most frequently Greg will drop out on the “and of three,” or 75% of the way through a measure. This feels like a jarring halt; the drums hit a wall. When he crashes back in on the downbeat it’s the damn breaking, everything suddenly back in action. He does this almost every chance he gets throughout the song, and every time it’s awesome.

Listen for the guitar hook. You’ll know it when you hear it, just Darwin and Greg, guitar and drums. The two parts lock in perfectly, playing off each other while the band plays hits. A guitarist with a super-ear for pop hooks, Darwin Smith knows good drums when he hears them.

The Old One

Now, to find where Darwin Deez got all these great ideas, you really only need to look in one place. It is place I will likely go often in this column, as it is not only a major tenet of my drumming education, but a foundation, a pillar for most modern music. That place is the wonderful world of James Brown.

For those that don’t know him, first of all shame on you. He created funk. And not the goofy, boppy, jammy funk you hear across college campuses nationwide. He was playing hard funk. Real funk. One defining aspect of James Brown’s style is straight ahead feel of the drums. Syncopation didn’t come from a “funky drum beat.” It came from Brown’s two drummers, Clyde Stubblefield and John “Jabo” Starks, laying down time with all the rest of the band playing off of it. What’s important is feel of the song, not whether or not what they’re playing is considered cool (even though it definitely is).

Today we’re looking at a Stubblefield groove, 1968’s “I Got The Feelin’.” Again, a major driving force of the song is the drums. Also using the “wet-smack beginning,” the tempo is not that fast, but the song feels quite upbeat. Part of this is that Stubblefield almost exclusively emphasizes off beats. In between these hits you hear him pattering out streams of sixteenth notes, essentially the same fill that Greg uses in “The Mess She Made.” While “I Got The Feelin’” does not feature the super-frequent drop-outs like Deez does, it does drop out for a bridge section. This allows Brown to pull the listener in with his “Baby, baby baby’s” before the whole band is right back into the groove.

Listen to how the horns interact with the drums. When do they line up? When don’t they? Why is it so freaking cool? Now go back and listen to the guitar riff breakdown in “The Mess She Made.”

The One You Might Not Have Heard

Now listen to these concepts on fleek. “Uh Ah Brrr” by Calibro 35. This contemporary Italian funk band cranks up the tempo and cuts loose. Like The Meters on speed. A slick opening fill leads in to a steady stream of quick parts and melodies, always coming back around to the “Uh” “Ah” “Brrr” grunts that make up the chorus (something else pioneered by James Brown). Lots of off beats. The drums periodically drop out. All of the things, just more-so. Also flute.

So check ‘em out. FOLLOW THIS PLAYLIST. Check back next week for another short list. And keep it feelin’ good.

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Mexico City Blondes Give Me Watery Dreams
October 6, 2015 11:09 pm

By pairing dream-like melodies with trip-hop vocals, Mexico City Blondes are bringing something new to the table.

Allie Thompson and Greg Doscher, who met in Santa Barbara decided to make music together after discovering they shared a lot of the same favorite bands. Growing up listening to folk music led Thompson to start playing guitar and write her own songs. Doscher, formerly of Tripdavon, was intrigued by Thompson’s voice and wanted to try something new.

In the summer of 2014, the pair released their first amazing single, “Fade” under the name Mexico City Blondes. Despite not being signed to a label, MCB peaked at number one on Hype Machine’s Most Popular chart twice that summer, a well-deserved merit.

Following the success of “Fade,” Thompson and Doscher decided to hire a live band to tour with, as well as assist with writing and recording new material (as if they needed the help). All of these extra hands on deck came in handy. Last month on Sept 15, their self-titled debut EP was released, which included singles such as “Colors”, “Shot the Moon” and “Watery Dreams” (my personal favorite). These singles have an eerie, sexy  sound that hypnotizes you into a state of ethereal funk.

MCB’s signature lush sound and slow, sultry vocals have attracted an almost cult-like following, with “Fade” drawing approximately 550,000 plays on their official SoundCloud page.

Mexico City Blondes’ debut album is anticipated to drop later this year.

Artist of the Month: Multimagic
September 28, 2015 9:39 pm

It’s that time of the year again, when spots throughout New York City transform from concrete jungle to music mecca. CMJ is upon us and the beasts could not be more stoked! For one week in the middle of October, it will be impossible to walk down the street without hearing sounds from emerging artists across the globe pulling you into bars and clubs from all directions.

Even more impossible – selecting one of these artists to feature as our October “Artist of the Month.”

We landed on Multimagic and the landing stuck.

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Multimagic is a five-piece Indie-Pop outfit composed of Singer/Guitarist Coran Stetter, Keyboardist Brian Davis, Guitarist/Singer Ben Hines, Bassist/Singer Mia Carruthers, and Drummer Sebastien Schultz. They all met in Cincinnati, OH where they were each involved in the local music scene in different capacities. When I asked how the band got started, Singer/Guitarist Coran Stetter said “Once the five of us were in the same room, it was clear that something was happening and the friendships blossomed out of that realization and commitment to the project.” The take-away word there for me is “friendships.” You can really feel the friendship in the way their music comes together with such ease– whether it’s the keys and the guitars riffing off of one another or the vocals sliding in and out of harmony seamlessly.

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Of their musical influences, Stetter cites Arcade Fire, Wild Nothing, and Tame Impala. However, he also mentions the significance that local Cincinnati bands like Molly Sullivan and The Yugos have had on their music.  There is something magical (dare I say multimagical?) about this band. Maybe it’s the energy booming from the up-tempo bass/drums? Perhaps it’s the dreamy quality of the ethereal synth pads fluttering beneath bouncy guitars? For me, it’s the way the band seems to blend large scale indie-pop sound with their own local flavor in stand-out anthems like Let Go.”

With only three songs released to date, Multimagic’s appearance at this year’s CMJ is a testament only to the strength of the music—a refreshing change of pace in today’s pop music landscape.

As for what we have to look forward to from this band, we’ll have to wait and see. They’re currently in the studio recording their debut full-length record, though they have no set release date. While I personally am on the edge of my seat waiting for more music from this group, I did find comfort  in knowing that I get to see them play live at CMJ in just a couple weeks. If you’re in the New York area, be sure to check them out on Wednesday 10/14 at The Holy Underground showcase at 7:30 . You do not want to be the one who missed this band when they’re playing sold out venues later down the road. See CMJ tour dates below!

MULTIMAGIC CMJ DATES:

TUESDAY 10/13: DoNYC CMJ Kick-off @ Arlene’s Grocery – 4pm

WEDNESDAY 10/14: Holy Underground @ Berlin – 7:30pm

THURSDAY 10/15: Birddog Day Party @ Bowery Electric – 2:30pm

Band Mom Presents @ Passenger – 1:15am (Thursday Night)

SATURDAY 10/17: Hallelujah Blackout @ The Rock Shop – 4pm

Cannons Can’t Hide From Us
September 15, 2015 10:07 am

On September 10th, Cannons released their first full length album…but you wouldn’t know it looking at their Facebook page. The past month shows a solid string of posts promoting their new video “Trapped (Night of the Gas Station Explosion),” a song off the new record, but nothing mentioning the record itself. Odd.

Odder yet is the fact that their page links to a website that doesn’t exist and has no mention of where the band is from. The answer to that question is Tel Aviv (relevant, no?), which can be found on their Bandcamp page. But be careful, Googling “Cannons Band” will likely lead you to the page for an LA group of the same name. You’ll find the same goes for a Spotify search.

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But if you can actually navigate to the correct Bandcamp, or sit down to watch their videos, you’re in for a treat. The new album Nothing Anywhere is groovy and professional. Think Foster The People with more of an ear for modern indie. Instruments are layered well and played with a tight execution. The singing has a bit of that loveable English-as-a-second-language flair, setting it apart from standard indie-pop. Catchy melodies ebb and flow through a record that captures a slight nostalgia for early 2000’s alternative, while maintaining its modern feel.

Cannons’ new album is impressive, but their videos are even more so. There are two that go along with the new album, but the first came out almost two years ago. The Invisible Cities video is beautiful and thought provoking. Bright colors and nature scenes stand in contrast to the troubled protagonist (Cannons’ front man Sagi J. Shahar). The video becomes increasingly surreal as it moves along, ending with a scene reminiscent of Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles (sometimes pointed to as the inspiration for Rust Cohle’s circular view of time in the first season of True Detective).

Cannons’ new video is even better. Highlighting a lazy day in the life of a couple in love, and ending with a bit of mystery, “Trapped (Night of the Gas Station Explosion)” is emotional, sexy, and evocative. The video mostly consists of two people laying or sitting around, yet manages to be thoroughly gripping throughout. In the end, the video is perhaps more intriguing than the song. While pleasant and ethereal, sonically it is a bit stagnant.

Cannons raises questions, in both good ways and bad. Their music videos are engrossing and understated, leaving the viewer curious and hungry for more. Their album is lively and crisp, but for a band with such quality in their art, why have a Facebook page that barely offers any info that we want? Why does it take a concerted effort to find out where they’re from? They have the means to produce two high quality music videos, but not to host a website? Cannons is a band with serious chops, but if all this effort at trying to find out who they are just a part of forcing you to find the art, then they are truly succeeding at it because we tried hard. However, with another band of the same name to compete with, they need to get their online presence together.

Porcelain Raft: The Half Awake EP Release Party
June 30, 2015 10:30 am

Friday night saw the crowd at Baby’s All Right welcome the release of Half Awake, the new EP from Porcelain Raft that came out earlier this month. Porcelain Raft is the solo project of Italian-born Mauro Remiddi, who recently launched his own record label, Volcanic Field. As if both of those accomplishments weren’t enough reason to celebrate, the audience was already in high spirits from that morning’s Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage a right nationwide, a feat that was proudly announced onstage by a majority of the night’s performers and was met with cheers each time.

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Half Awake is a superb addition to Remiddi’s already extensive catalog; this being his 10th EP and the follow-up to his full-length 2013 album Permanent Signal. The night’s set consisted mainly of tracks from the new EP plus Permanent Signal, and his 2012 album Strange Weekend.

The sound of Porcelain Raft is hard to fully articulate. It’s a unique amalgamation of ambient pop, shoegaze, and something that sounds a bit like early Jesus and Mary Chain, and Half Awake is no exception. It’s miles and miles of dreamy reverb, led by an androgynous-voiced angel. “Love Chain” stands out as the most pop-oriented track on the EP, following a more traditional song structure and featuring a chorus that quietly demands you sing along.

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Remiddi is most well known for his poppier singles, including “The Way Out” and “Cluster”, which are both fantastic tracks. But to focus only on his bigger releases would be to miss out on the genius of his experimental nature. His setup onstage consists of a microphone, guitar, a series of synthesizers, a keyboard, and some effects pedals. He creates the music from scratch right in front of the audience, allowing them to become part of his creative process.

During his set, Remiddi also performs a couple of “acoustic” songs, e.g. songs he performs using only vocals and his electric guitar with no added effects. While singing, he steps away from the mic, still playing, but using only the natural amplification of his voice to carry his lyrics across the crowd. It’s a beautiful moment, and stands as testament to his natural ability as a performer. The show ends with Echo, which is left to loop when Remiddi disappears backstage. The audience soaks up these last moments, staring off into the smoke and colored lights on an otherwise empty stage.

Listen: “Love Chain” from Half Awake EP

Great Good Fine Ok Dances the Night Away
June 29, 2015 4:37 pm

I first stumbled upon Great Good Fine Ok last year at Brooklyn Bowl after getting hooked up with a free pair of tickets. Having no idea who they were I didn’t have any expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised with their upbeat pop dance tunes that I haven’t been able to find in any other band lately. I was introduced to a glamorous robe with golden sequins all over it and my eyes were fixed on that for the most part. Speaking with Jon Sandler from the band last week, I started to appreciate his love for kimonos after he let me in on his journey to find the best vintage stores in the nation. The more I spoke with him and dug out information about GGFO my curiosity grew even bigger and I had high expectations for their show at Baby’s All Right.

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This time around, the crowd was greeted with a turquoise sequined robe which clearly stated that he was ready to party. The room got hot pretty fast and Jon described how it felt like we were in a bikram yoga class. Nevertheless, the band members continued the show with their long sleeves and cared more about putting on a great show.

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Even though the stage was pretty small and limiting for all four band members, they managed to project their energy by dancing and banging on glowing drum sticks. The crowd sang along and danced together, clearly not getting enough of their music. They finished their show with an epic Diamond Body pose which I can see getting popular among fans in the near future.

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