May 20th, 2013
Rainbow Arabia - "He Is Sorcerer"
Rainbow Arabia is from Los Angeles and bringing with them a funky mix of global pop and psychedelic beats. “He Is Sorcerer” is off their newest release, Fm Sushi, which is their second full-length album.
Posts tagged "weekly release spotlight"
The most striking element of this record is how universal Cronin’s lyrical themes are, despite their highly personal nature. He gives the listener a full scope into his troubles and desires, but at no point does it feel alienating or difficult. His life may be on display with this record, but his problems are easily relatable. His music provides the perfect backdrop for his confessional lyricism, blending elements of 1970s power pop, ‘90s grunge, and West Coast garage rock, but with a keen understanding of arranging and layering. Cronin shows distinct confidence and mastery with instrumentation, giving each track the perfect amount of tension and release.
Recently, Adult Swim included one of Cronin’s tracks, “Better Man”, on their newest garage rock compilation, Garage Swim, a collection of unreleased garage rock tracks from bands like Bass Drum of Death, Thee Oh Sees, and King Tuff. Cronin’s inclusion is intriguing. Although the garage scene he’s affiliated with heavily influences his music, his songs have more in common with Blue Album-era Weezer than they do Black Lips or Ty Segall. Those who are expecting another entry into the West Coast garage rock canon with Mikal Cronin’s new album may want to look elsewhere. Sure, this album can get heavy, but that’s not the point. MCII relies more on the power of Cronin’s arranging than it does his fuzz pedal, and listeners will be more inclined to sing their hearts out than bang their head to this record. With MCII, Cronin turns his contradictions into choruses and has made one of the standout records of 2013.
Written by Andy Engstrom, Radio K volunteer
Written by Tom Steffes, Radio K volunteer.
Wakin on a Pretty Daze
On his 2011 breakthrough, Smoke Ring for My Halo, Kurt Vile pawned off his lo-fi, bedroom rock for a more polished, hi-fi sound. His washy guitars and slurred vocals came through clearer than ever before, an almost contradictory concept that paid off by attracting a wider, more mainstream audience. He continues to explore the studio on Wakin, but this time around, his songwriting gets the listener more involved. The opening track rolls us out of bed, clothes us and reminds us not to rush into the day. The core of the album, a casual collection of deeply reflective songs, sends us on our way, keeping us mindful of our loved ones (KV has a family now) and what really matters when the day is done. Then, in the quiet of the evening, we pour our aches and pains into finding that 'golden' guitar tone, one that encompasses this whole crazy cycle called 'life'.
Wakin is Vile's most linear, yet sprawling release to date. Songs drift about for 6-10 minutes, remaining cool, calm and sufficiently stoned throughout. No specific instrument or vocal melody stands out in the arrangements, yet the songs still resonate with the listener through their bold repetition. Vile seems more comfortable on this cut too, utilizing more tracks to layer his guitars and experiment with synthesizers. Not to mention the clever album art, which still shines proudly on a wall just off a popular Philadelphia train line.
Collectively, Vile's latest effort is beyond impressive. Though you won't find him breaking out of his shell too much, Vile explores new sonic territory that fans old and new can get into. Best of all? Wakin is timeless. Go ahead, listen to it so much you get tired of it; these songs will still sound fresh twenty years from now.
Written by Alex Simpson, Radio K volunteer.
LA duo Rhye, comprised of singer Mike Milosh and producer Robin Hannibal, prove that alternative R&B is here to stay with their debut release, entitled Woman. Milosh’s soothing and androgynous vocals blend together with the downtempo rhythms of Hannibal’s instrumentation. The group released two singles, “Open” and “The Fall”, in late 2012, doing so without much press. The singles quickly caught on and they announced that a full-length would be released on March 4th.
The album opens, fittingly enough, with the track “Open”; starting with a string and horn melody that unfolds into a soothing, chilled out song, topped by Milosh’s haunting falsetto and sparse lyricism. The instrumentation hints at melancholy undertones, and Milosh’s lyrics back that up, singing about broken love and trying to stay open. “The Fall” picks up the tempo and mood, proving to be one of the ‘dancier’ tracks on the album. “Last Dance” is another highlight, with the instrumentation of the song somewhat remnant of 70’s R&B, with a crunchy guitar line and stabbing horns. “Verse” brings the tempo back down to a crawl, and has the sparsest instrumentation on the album, which really allows Milosh’s emotions to come through on the track.
“Shed Some Blood” also has sparse instrumentation, but the funky guitar returns, along with the beautiful vocal harmonies Milosh creates on this track. “3 Days” brings the dance back, with a steady bass line and tasteful synth riff resonating throughout. “One of Those Summer Days” begins with a beautiful guitar line and is accompanied by Milosh’s stunning voice and lyricism, which holds true throughout the track. “Major Minor Love” and “Hunger” follow next, continuing to balance between melancholy and upbeat, both coming through in their own regards. The final track, “Woman”, proves to be a very solid title track, as this song in particular captures the way Hannibal provides very ethereal yet substantial instrumentation, allowing Milosh to create simply beautiful vocal harmonies.
With the release of Woman, one can only hope that Rhye continues as a project of these two musicians so our ears can be graced by beauty like this for years to come.
Written by Josh Olson, Radio K volunteer.
Ride Your Heart
If there's fun in dysfunctional relationships, Bleached have found it. On their first album , "Ride Your Heart", Jessica and Jennifer Clavin and company ride the highs and lows of a love life through music. The songs extend the addicting 3 chord LA punk of their previous band Mika Miko with added texture and instrumentation. That being said, if girl-group garage rock is your thing, you won't be disappointed.
The first song, "Looking for a Fight", comes out swinging with a psychobilly stomp that will get you moving. The lyrics, "You better stay clear / 'cause I'm looking for a fight" foreshadow the rest of the album's therapeutic venting. The feeling is evoked again by the excellent second track. However, the real magic happens during the third song, "Outta My Mind". During that track, the punk energy of the first two tracks appears to slow for a blissful moment of self reflection during a beautiful vibraphone solo midway through the song. While the solid garage rock runs rampant through out the album, these moments of quiet balance them well.
The album continues to delight with the reggae intro of "Dead in Your Head" and the power pop of "Waiting By the Telephone" and "Love Spells". The title track comes in almost secretly, mimicking the intro to a previous song. However, its lyrics, like "Hotels and endless nights / don't know what's going on inside", capture a certain confusion and drunken ambience in a way rarely heard. The song must be heard. Another highlight is "Guy Like You", a quieter, nicely-textured shuffle with slide guitar.
As a whole, the band shows a lot of strengths with this album. They know how to write a punk love song and have an excellent production taste informed by 60s and 70s pop. This album is a great listen and I hope to catch them live soon.
Written by Luke Taylor, Radio K volunteer.
Sock it to Me
With roots in the DIY scene in Boston and currently based in California, Colleen Green is catchy, lo-fi pop punk dynamo. Her second release on Hardly Art Records, and first full-length LP, Sock it To Me, follows in the footsteps of her previous tapes, including Milo Goes to Compton and Cujo, mixing the sweet simplicity of the lyrical content with minimal drum machine beats and gritty power chords.
This album is fun – a lot of fun. It's as simple as that. The first track “Only One” is a catchy ode to the perfect boyfriend. Lyrical themes reminiscent of high school love continue in track two, the upbeat and synth heavy “Time in the World”, and throughout the album. Her characteristic girl-group meets grunge style, especially evident in the track “Every Boy Wants a Normal Girl”, is charming and irreverently cool: “...sometimes I wish I was a normal girl / like the ones at my school / popular and so cool”. Think Little Peggy March meets The Ramones.
Sock it To Me is an immensely listenable album. Colleen Green is a one-woman show that doesn't disappoint.
Written by Emily Ewen, Radio K volunteer.
Colleen Green - "Time in the World"
Montreal’s Arbutus Records has pumped out another act to drool over. Blue Hawaii has released their second album, Untogether. This sophomore attempt is a bit of a diversion from their 2010 release, Blooming Summer, but still presents the compositional nature of fleeting cohesion and predictability with fluttering soundscapes that makes Untogether a much appreciated release.
This album certainly has it share of captivating moments. The album starts of with the track “Follow” which beckons the listener to do just that, as an apparition of a voice begins to come out of the feathery droplets of a dream like soundscape. Listening to the bouncing beats and glossy waves of bass on the track “In Two” directly into the next track “In Two II” is possibly one of the better moments of the whole album, as it takes a very pleasing turn in tempo and accentuates the strengths of “In Two” to create an atmosphere fitting for many dancefloors.
Untogether is fine addition to 2013 and a wonderful statement from Arbutus Records that they are more than their most recent success. Additionally so, they will continue to produce entertaining acts such as Doldrums and Blue Hawaii to flesh out their sound to define their label, or so much as they care to admit. Blue Hawaii’s new album is an entertaining listen and worth several spins, as nothing is quite the same even after multiple run-throughs.
Written by Jerod Greenisen, Radio K volunteer.
Reviewing the album in the back yard of my dad’s house in Las Vegas, in sun kissed weather; this album is the perfect start to spring break. Kicking back and listening to Strike Gently feels like a forgotten record that is what I needed to hear. Strike Gently release in perfect timing to get stoked for summer and all the jamz that we are getting ready to enjoy. Although Strike Gently may be much different from the indie-disco aura of their self-titled release in 2008, The Virgins came back swinging. This Brooklyn based quartet takes us back to the classic rock sounds of the 70’s and 80’s. Strike Gently’s flow is surprisingly dynamic. The jams range from romantic rock with Blue Rose Tattoo to the skuzzy sexy hit Flashback, Memories, and Dreams. It seems the five-year break was worth the wait. Donald Cumming, the lead singer holds down that Lou Reed esque voice and the hopeful guitar riffs and melodies that are iconic to The Virgins, but for any Julian Casablancas or Strokes fans there is a definite trace of some thing else. Julian Casablancas is the owner of Cult Records and it seems after listening to Strike Gently that Donald and the boys have picked up a little bit of that Strokes energy. The Virgins are defiantly playing on that post-punk New York aesthetic and are doing a smashing job. And not surprisingly however, considering they are Brooklyn natives.
This reinvention of the Virgins is a great listen and if you are looking for a nostalgic classic rock wormhole I’d say this album is for you. Some of my favorite picks were Impressions of You and Travel Express (from me). The Cult Tour is on the loose!
Written by Candice Hafalia-Yackel, Radio K volunteer.
STRFKR wants you to dance. But you have to look cool while doing it. Over the course of their existence the Portland based outfit has married style and substance time and time again, with just enough intrigue to keep the listener intrigued. Between their controversial names (Starf**ker, Pyramid, Pyramidd, then the radio-friendly STRFKR) odd song titles (Rawnald Gregory Erickson The Second, for example), and visual eclecticism, this band wants to be known, but not fully understood. With Miracle Mile, they accomplish just that.
This is STRFKR’s third release, following Reptilians in 2011, and it keeps the hipster kids shaking their hips from start to finish. Lead single While I’m Alive is the indie response to the #YOLO craze, without the annoying Drake T-shirts and sorority girl antics. It has a better baseline, too.
Leave it All Behind is perhaps the centerpiece of STRFKR’s current sound, with left-of-center synth patterns and indomitable groove. The band is at their best when they let their melodies soar, and the end of this track transports the listener to whatever planet Joshua Hodge lives on.
Other high points on the album include YAYAYA and Kahlil Gibran, which are other refinements of their overall sound. Atlantis is another burner, with high-pitched synths punctuating Hodge’s woozy vocals to great effect.
Overall, Miracle Mile is not an album that will change the world. But it accomplishes its central goal of keeping its fans and attracting new ones with its catchy, slick sound. And if everyone committed themselves to the aesthetic that STRFKR does, we’d have one cool, bright, and groovy world.
Written by Erik Lundborg, Radio K volunteer.
Youth Lagoon’s newest release is imaginative, whimsical, and curious. The solo artist, 23-year-old Trevor Powers, leaves you in a trance during his second album titled Wondrous Bughouse. His songs are layered with synthesizers and delays, all topped with thought-provoking lyrics about life, others, and himself.
The cover art is just as interesting as the music behind it. What looks to be a middle schooler’s watercolor interpretation of unwound intestines revealing psychedelic worlds, the image keeps you wondering what it all means. The longer you stare, the more you observe, and the same can be said for the album’s music. With every listen, you hear new synthesized effects and quirky embellishments. Just like the album art, Lagoon’s tunes are a journey through unnatural worlds. Songs like “Attic Doctor” resemble an underwater circus, while “Raspberry Cane” sounds something similar to an exotic graduation ceremony at Disney Land.
There’s hardly a song under the 5-minute mark on this 51-minute album, but nevertheless, the tracks cohesively tie together through sustained instrumentals. It’s definitely worth letting the songs flow together instead of playing them on shuffle. Wondrous Bughouse already has two singles, “Mute” and “Dropla,” but also keep an ear out for “Attic Doctor.”
Powers’ biography found on Fat Possum’s website states that his inspiration comes from various bizarre thoughts he has about spiritual worlds and psychological elements. Through his fascination of mortality, he transfers his fears and realizations into lyrics and melodies. Powers experiments with these ideas and uses music to organize them.
This is Powers’ second full album following his 2011 release The Year of Hibernation. Youth Lagoon’s Wondrous Bughouse is released on March 5, 2013.
Written by Meagan Nouis, Radio K volunteer.
[Mom + Pop]
Very few songs on FIDLAR’s self-titled debut clock in past the two minute mark, the exception being the 7 minute opus “Cocaine” at the album’s rear. The rest of the album features rip-roarin’ pop punk gems that ease their way into your ear whether you think their songs are PC or not. (They’re not.) Shades of Blink 182, Green Day, and the Black Lips come through in every track.
“Cheap Beer” is the lead single; an irreverent ode to getting drunk off of whatever is left of your minimum wage paycheck that features the shout-along, “I! Drink! Cheap! Beer! So! What! F**k! You!” They channel their inner Pixies with the catchy-as-all-get-out “Gimme Something,” and the riffs on “Blackout Stout” are as crunchy as can be. “Max Can’t Surf” is an ode to poor friend Max, who needs to take off his skinny jeans and trade them in for board shorts if he wants to get his skills up to par. The rest of the songs are searing, catchy, and LOUD.
Overall, despite the album’s immaturity, the band shows a promising ear for catchy melodies that should serve them well going forward. That is, if they can scrounge up enough pennies from the couch for bus fare to the studio.
Written by Erik Lundborg, Radio K volunteer.
2012 was a hell of a year for Søren Løkke Juul. The 33-year-old resident of Copenhagen, Denmark, began the year with a promising new project called Indians, and played his first show under this moniker in February. In March he published a low budget YouTube video for one of his songs which eventually got clicks from the folks at one of the foremost independent record labels - 4AD. It was the kind of break that every aspiring musician hopes for. By early September he was signed, but by then he was used to the excitement. He'd spent the summer gigging with the likes of Bear in Heaven, Other Lives, Lower Dens, Dan Deacon and Beirut.
But this is beside the point. What's important here is the record. Somewhere Else is one that is all about contrasting juxtapositions and combinations. The most obvious would be the combination of traditional acoustic guitar playing and occasional bowed string instrumentation with spacious synthesizer tones. More abstractly, there is the combination of great ambition with great modesty. The modesty lies not within what is obviously audible in terms of instrumentation and arrangement, but rather what isn't played, and that's what makes it distinctive. As the album progresses, one begins to understand the minimalist nature of its construction. If I had to give a quick Tweet-length description of how Somewhere Else sounds, I'd say it's kind of like the quiet bits in Sigur Ros songs that happen before or after the loud ones. While that's really not descriptive enough, it conveys the point that this record is about comfort. There's no unsettling crescendos with glorious release, but that's not a bad thing. It's far less draining and exhaustive than that practice. Indians is fine with cutting a track that is no more than a voice over a warped piano backed by some strings ("Melt"). The arrangement is effective, so what else is needed?
I've come up with a better description to describe how this record sounds, but it's quite a bit more conceptual. Remember how I said Somewhere Else is about comfort? What it really feels like is the tranquility that accompanies the sensation of waking or drifting in to sleep. As long as that feeling is in tact, nothing is wrong. When it ends, you're stuck with the outside world. I guess that's why there's a "Repeat" button.
Written by Tom Steffes, Radio K volunteer.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Although the follow-up may not be as immediately satisfying as the debut, repeated listens prove this record to show a great deal of progression for the band as well as a much more succinct dexterity of sounds, rhythm, and groove. For fans of early Pink Floyd, Grizzly Bear or Foxygen, the newest record from UMO is a must-listen.
Written by Andy Engstrom, Radio K volunteer.
Hung at Heart
Written by Andy Engstrom, Radio K volunteer.
We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Foxygen’s new album is a freewheeling journey through a modernized 1970s. The album’s title—We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic—is only the beginning of the nostalgic, psychedelic era. This is the band’s second studio-released album following their 2011 release of Take the Kids Off Broadway.
The young band members, Sam France and Jonathan Rado, use a variety of instruments, tempo changes, and key changes throughout the album’s nine songs. The album starts off with the ear-catching and mellow tunes of “In the Darkness” and “No Destruction.” Just imagine watching Forrest Gump, and this album would fit perfectly as the soundtrack with its fun and sentimental sound. By the fourth track, Foxygen sings a catchy, swaying melody about San Francisco where we hear female vocals for the first time. The album adds a bit of funk with songs like “Shuggie” and “Oh Yeah” while still carrying the Beatle-esque electric guitar riffs and piano jams. Peace & Magic closes with a rock ballad that creatively ties together their use of instruments and expansive sound.
Foxygen’s newest compilation brings you back the good ol’ days of love and experimental music. Strong singles such as “Shuggie,” “San Francisco,” and “On the Mountain” are sure to leave a reminiscent impression. The two band members reside from New York and will soon begin a tour through Europe. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic was released on January 22, 2013.
Written by Meagan Nouis, Radio K volunteer.
Hailing from sunny California, The Spyrals have released their debut self-titled album via Inside the Moon Records and Mock Records last year. Even though the band comes from a bright and colorful state, the album color is in black and white. The background looks foggy and the band members look like they are in England, or even our very own Duluth, in the 1980s. In a world of MP3s and internet downloads instead of the physical and tangible music of the past, this band has put serious thought and creativity into their image.
The psych-rock trio transcends time with the band’s psychedelic sound that transports you to another decade. The album kicks off with “Lonely Eyes,” which is bittersweet. It has a strong rhythmic backbone, but the hesitantly hopeful melody and the lyrics speak of seeking love and the heartfelt ache that loneliness brings. The next track, “Disguise” is full of guitar and vocals that drip with the swagger and attitude that can only come from the sixties and seventies. “The Rain” features the harmonica and maracas, which sound fantastic in this song. Overall, The Spyrals are true rock ‘n roll with thumping bass and drums, strong and melodic guitar, echo-y and authentic vocals, and straight-from-the-heart lyrics. The album is pumped full of raw, high energy and soul.
In a world where digital rules and analog drools, it’s great to find a band that hasn’t left the good ol’ fashioned guitar and drums to another decade. The spirit of the golden age of rock is here to stay with The Spyrals. We can’t wait to hear more from this band in the years to come.
Written by Angela Ross, Radio K volunteer.
[Fiction / Casablanca / Universal Republic]
The electro duo’s third album, entitled (III), is an honest attempt at capturing the anxiety towards suffering on tape. And interestingly enough “(III)” is Ethan Cath’s first attempt at solo-ing a production, who has a “strictly no computers” ethic, preferring to put the process straight to tape. This ethic may be conducive to the album’s high strung and hopeless feeling within. There is no way to escape the crushing intensity and anxiety of this album, even when it becomes apparent the duo is well aware of its prowess in EDM circles. This awareness is precisely what makes Crystal Castles so honest and keeps them afloat in a genera that seemed to be birthed from their initial release. The high energy and rave-like beats are thrown through this filter of Crystal Castle’s dystopian design, but EDM is always within the periphery.
Crystal Castles’ unique quality comes to surface, most transparently; on the tracks “Sad Eyes” and “Telepath” were it would seem no amount of energy was spared in adding layer over layer of expensive, frosty, synth to hold-fast the over-powering tension from the piercing drum and echo of Glass’ angelic shrieking. Much of Glass’ lyricism seems to come from a place of higher understanding, or at least we are led to believe she is infallible, in her attempts to both sooth and shock her audience. In each track it seems Glass is both frustrated and endearing towards her audience that is unable to comprehend the crushing weight of imperfection and grinding suffering that is rampant in modernity. Or, much like a mother cradling her idealistic son in the aftermath of his attempts to change the world for the better.
Written by Jerod Greenisen, Radio K volunteer.
Tara King Th.
Uncolored Past (part I & II)
Written by Tom Steffes, Radio K volunteer.
Written by Ross Koeberl, Radio K volunteer.
Written by Tom Steffes, Radio K volunteer.
The Casket Girls
Written by Ross Koeberl, Radio K volunteer.
Our House on the Hill
Opening track "Alligator" immediately draws the listener in with it's energetic rhythm and Morby's all-too-familiar laments: "Life is funny/Life's a laugh/Life is lonely/Yeah, it's a drag." This whimsical self-loathing creeps up again on "Slow Walkin", while songs like "Mess Me Around" and "Mean" are full of aggressively charming sneers; a delicate balance of sincerity and facetiousness. While the album's first half is filled with rollicking guitar riffs, songs on the second half of the album are more mellow and stripped down. Ramone's folk-tinged vocals shine most as she sings of melancholy wanderlust on "See The Country". The album repeatedly touches on youthful themes of desperation, confusion, and isolation, yet it's surprisingly endearing and hopeful, lifting your spirits with catchy melodies that will be a struggle to get out of your head.
With this album, The Babies have matured and progressed without losing sight of their delightfully messy roots. Noticeably more crisp and refined in its production than their lo-fi, ramshackle debut, Our House On The Hill is evidence of a band that have established themselves beyond just side-project status.
Written by Rachel Dorn, Radio K volunteer.
Clinic, the Liverpool noise-rock band released their seventh studio album, Free Reign. Known for their trademark surgical masks, off-kilter vocals, and nonconventional song structure, Clinic decided to release another record that synthesizes their old sound with the modern indie-pop.
On first listen, it’s difficult to miss the influence that modern dream pop has had on Clinic’s sound. It’s important to note that this is not Clinic’s first experimentation with this sound – Bubblegum was the first record to do so. However, this album is not only an amalgamation of the drone-induced pop that permeates today’s indie scene; it is also a showcase for Clinic’s ability to push the envelope.
In the past, Clinic’s form of pushing the envelope usually surfaced as using noise and organs powder their album. On Free Reign, they have opted to minimize the noise and replace it with different instruments. Most notably, the elusive saxophone appears in many tracks. It lends its serpentine, cunning sound to the foundation that Clinic lays; it’s almost like icing on a cake.
Overall, Free Reign is exactly what needs to be seen from Clinic right now. It shows how easily monotonous dream-pop can be changed to express different emotions. Furthermore, it shows that Clinic is still functioning as an astute group of musicians. I can’t even begin to predict where they are going to go, musically, from here.
Written by Ben Chin, Radio K volunteer.
Clinic - "Miss You"
Wiping Out Thousands
This Came First
Wiping Out Thousands are Twin Cities electro-rock duo Alaine Dickman and Taylor Nelson. Following up their successful Reaction Machine EP, they unleash their debut LP, This Came First released on October 23rd. They invite you to their underground of sonorous strata.
“More Than Five Million” welcome you with vocals belting an anthem and layered musicality rushing in to flow along. Silken vocals and lively guitar ride atop thrashing sonar waves in “Creation.” Silent suspensions erupt into diverse paces that entice you to wonder what the sonar waves will throw at you next.
This Came First is similar to a theatrical experience with “Follow Me into the Wake” as a transitional intermission. But this intermission won’t allow you to get out of your seat while a dark atmosphere unfolds. “Follow Me into the Wake” expands into an echoic chamber of piano and vocals and flawlessly contract into an industrial pace of tiered clicks and taps. The layers blend into a build-up that twists until it disappears into a sudden silence.
Over the summer, I heard “Beach” for the first time when Wiping Out Thousands performed it at the West Bank Music Festival and am thrilled to hear it on this record. The storytelling of this piece is beautifully crafted. The voice softly wanders in and out of the sharp static winds accompanied with fluid piano droplets.
“As We Sink a Foot Deeper into the Earth” winds the album down to a gorgeous finale. It contrasts the albums high-paced movement with the simplicity of gradualness.
Get This Came First for free or pay what you can. According to the band’s Facebook page it’s what they desire, “We believe in giving our music away for free. It's not a product, it's our art. And we don't like the idea of putting up a pay wall between us and any potential new listeners.” Are you craving more? Wiping Out Thousands will be playing at the Ice House with Phantom Tails on November 30.
Written by Abbie Gobeli, Radio K volunteer.
Written by Jenny Ackerson, Radio K volunteer.
Written by Tom Steffes.
The album begins with a whispering, mantra-like repetition of the phrase "gotta be above it" on the track "Be Above It", evidence of Parker's detachment and self-seculsion, a recurring lyrical theme throughout the record (see: "Why Won't They Talk To Me?"). But while his songwriting conveys sometimes-cynical, always-genuine reflections of isolation one might expect from an album titled Lonerism, this is juxtaposed by consistently poppy melodies and buoyant guitar riffs. In fact, the infectious, Lennon-esque "Feels Like We're Only Going Backwards" may just be the year's best pop anthem. Not everything on Lonerism is so sugary sweet, though. The stomping rhythm of "Elephant" draws to mind hints of Black Sabbath, and closing track "Sun's Coming Up" ends with a deeply melancholic, meditative outro. The album never stays in one place for too long, constantly traversing different textures and territories.
Given the widespread accessibility of digital enhancement in today's age, it would have been easy for Parker to drench his songs in so many effects that the listener gets lost along the way. But instead, he focuses on quality over quantity, creating a deliberate balance that allows room for his songwriting prowess to shine through. Intricate, smart, and genre-bending, Lonerism is the kind of album that reveals itself in new ways with each listen.
Written by Rachel Dorn, Radio K volunteer.
[Young God Records]
Enter The Seer. The group's 12th studio effort is reminiscent of Soundtracks in that it magnificently sums up practically everything they've done previously and then some, which is no small feat for a group with as many eras as this one. "A Piece of the Sky" treads new ground with its surprisingly clean melodicism towards its second half. Sprawling epics such as the characteristically aggressive "The Apostate" and the title track show that few groups aside from possibly Godspeed You! Black Emperor can construct such a glorious cacophony, while more compact numbers such as "The Daughter Brings the Water" and "Song for A Warrior" recall the tender explorations on their criminally overlooked MCA (!) release The Burning World.
The other crucial connection between The Seer and Soundtracks is that they are both essentially films for the ear. Certain editions of The Seer came with a sticker on the shrink wrap which read, "An unfolding cosmic heave of bliss, love, blood, and light. Technicolor sonic cinema for true seekers of oblivion through sound..." which is so accurate a descriptor for this release that I might as well just delete any of the text I've written before or after it. Similarly, Soundtracks was intended to function as a "soundtrack for a non-existent film", and both albums run for at least 2 hours. I'm not sure if Roger Ebert would agree, but you can take my word for it: The Seer is the best film you'll hear all year.
Written by Tom Steffes.
On September 18th, 2012, Grizzly Bear released their fourth full-length album entitled Shields. Many critics had their doubts about it after the widespread success of Veckatimest in 2009. Fortunately for Grizzly Bear, those doubts are now a thing of the past. With Shields, the band induces a full scale of emotions through compositional diversity. “Sleeping Ute” starts electric and ends with a lone classical guitar, a stark contrast intriguing to the ear. Songs like “Yet Again” and “Sun in Your Eyes” flaunt the band’s thick vocal harmonies, while “The Hunt” has dissonant qualities reminiscent of sophomore release Yellow House.
As a whole, this record is an ideal mixture of catchy hooks and sprawling arrangements. With bassist Chris Taylor producing, all ten tracks come through like bolded font. There are few weak spots even after a dozen listens. Don’t be surprised when Grizzly Bear snags a few Grammys in February.
Written by Alex Simpson, Radio K volunteer.
Dark Dark Dark
Who Needs Who
[Supply & Demand]
Local chamber folk group Dark Dark Dark returns with a purpose on their third full-length Who Needs Who. We hear the band bring their strong acoustic foundation with singer Nona Marie Invie’s voice as unique and evocative as ever. The album is focused, consistent, and at it’s best very evocative of those nostalgic feelings of love we all have. It settles on what used to be, what could have been, and how it is to deal with the silencing progression of time. From the funeral dirge in the opening title track, the listener is settled into a very somber, introspective environment. Ghostly backing vocals intertwine with a trumpet that, while typically a triumphant instrument, is relegated to a sad punctuation mark.
The emotional threads run deep in this album whether it’s Invie’s longing for the “time when you cherished me/oh to go back to the place when your hands moved over me “ or the sweetest moments in a dive bar slow dancing to Patsy Cline. These are threads that everyone can relate to. It punctuates a homespun heartache that is at the core of this album’s power. The chamber folk instrumentation weaves well with Invie’s words, providing a warm, yet at times haunting energy.
The melancholic orchestration, for some elusive yet captivating reason, is further accentuated by the use of a waltzy ¾ time signature throughout much of the album. This is a technique that Dark Dark Dark has used before. With waltzes always being associated in our collective unconscious with a pristine romance, it’s twisted, heartbreaking application in Dark Dark Dark’s music strikes an incongruent romantic contrast that we all experience in love. We build these conceptions of romance only to have them tragically torn. It evokes a derelict ballroom and a tattered, forgotten prom dress.
It’s interesting that the album ends with a song called The Great Mistake, as it’s the last signature the band puts on its work, but it keeps with the themes of introspection, regret, fading memories, and the inevitable, cold passing of time. The album has a few upbeat moments, and one of them is at the very end. It’s as if among all the weighted emotions of life, in the end, there exists some kind of accepting, c'est-la-vie flourishes in us all.
Written by Ross Crandall, Radio K volunteer.
Dark Dark Dark - "How It Went Down"
Centipede, however, stands well on its own - the band has taken the pop elements from their hugely successful previous album and drenched them in layers of ambient sound. The result is a group of songs that may take more work to really dig into, but reward the listener all the same.
Highlights include “Today’s Supernatural,” the lead single that sounds like a twisted, bouncy circus, and “Rosie Oh,” which sports a springy riff that compliments the opaque lyrics quite well. Many of the best songs work because they don’t need all the extra noise; for example, if you stripped down “Wide Eyed”, you’d get a beautiful song reminiscent of the Beach Boys on Pet Sounds. “Wide Eyed” is also the first song in Animal Collective history where band member Deakin sings lead vocals, and his relaxed tone provides a welcome contrast to Avey Tare’s rushed yelps.
Centipede Hz is not as immediately arresting as its predecessor. However, that in no way makes it a bad record. Fans of the band should definitely pick the album up, it rewards further listening with everything one expects from Animal Collective: childlike wonder, interesting melodies, and, most of all, fun.
Written by Kia Farhang, Radio K volunteer.
Written by Tom Steffes, Radio K volunteer.
It’s no coincidence that this album is titled America because the album is perfect for one of those iconic American pastimes: the road trip. In an interview with NPR, Deacon articulates this: “I do many, many cross-country trips a year because I tour, and it's hard to — you could really despise every aspect of what you think American culture is but it's hard to deny that the land itself is beautiful.” Songs like “True Thrush” and “Lots” have a speedy, galloping pace reminiscent of pavement flying under the wheels of the car. Noises and chirps soar by like the many bugs and birds that fly by your windshield. Looking out the window, the rush of hundreds of pine trees suddenly gives way to a field of golden corn. Now imagine all this corn is actually multicolored, and you’re getting an idea of what the songs are like. The purely gleeful epicness of these songs evoke the very American feeling of freedom, of unshackling yourself from the past and blazing a new trail: “Cold throne, no sire/Black earth past fire/Flushed out regret/No past, no sense/Brave days ahead/None rest, none yet/Once choice to make/Get ready to go”.
The album then moves to “Prettyboy” which stands for that moment in your journey when night has fallen, and you’re tired; you take your sweatshirt and put it between your head and the car door as a makeshift pillow. You look up at the night sky and the stars and blissfully contemplate the mysteries of the universe: Why are we here? What’s out there? Are we alone? Deacon does a good job of pummeling you with loud soundscapes, but then has the good sense to not pummel you with some frankly beautiful songs.
The latter half of the album is the “USA” suite consisting of four movements: Is a Monster, The Great American Desert, Rail, and Manifest. During this suite, we hear another unlikely pairing: classical and electronic. Working with what may seem like foes on the surface level, Deacon brings together a John-Williams-esque score with his brand of fuzzy electronics and tribal beats. They may seem like a beauty and a beast, but they sure do dance an elegant dance.
Throughout the entire album, Deacon brings a level of ambition that stands toe-to-toe with the country itself. He taps into all of its grandeur, inconsistencies, surprises, and, of course, weird noises.
Written by Ross Crandall, Radio K volunteer.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
In the eleven tracks of Aufheben, Newcombe provides a personal definition of the German term, which means both to preserve and to abolish. In defining Aufheben, Newcombe creates an ever-flowing, united collection of themes, textures, and influences, constructing the sense of transformation. A few key tracks from the collection are “Viholliseni Maala” featuring vocals, entirely in Finnish, from Eliza Karmasalo and the opening number “Panic In Babylon” which blends the band’s psychedelic roots and Middle Eastern influences.
Written by Zoë Peterson, Radio K volunteer.
Fergus & Geronimo
Funky Was the State of Affairs
By way of high-energy post-punk jams, comic lyrics and spoken-word skits, Fergus & Geronimo piece together a dystopian sci-fi future. Throughout the album, the duo experiments with genre-hopping -- roaming through indie rock, psych, jazz and synth-pop. A few of the most prominent tracks include “Roman Tick” with its quirky wordplay, “Off the Map” which features a rad bassline, and the dancy number “Marky Move.”
The quirky energy, inventive nature and catchy-as-hell songs are never boring. The concept of the work requires little interpretation, yet succeeds in stimulating ever-entertaining conspiracy theories. Funky Was the State of Affairs is a trip you don’t want to miss, folks.
Written by Zoë Peterson, Radio K volunteer.
This successfully creates an atmosphere that many Yeasayer fans know to expect - one of various prophecies and intellections- this time deeper, darker, and trippier than the band’s earlier efforts. In “Longevity”, a single released earlier this summer, we hear this self reflection as Chris Keating, Yeasayer’s lead vocalist/keyboardist sings, “Live in the moment, never count on longevity, please.”
This emphasis on the short-term, if you will, is later juxtaposed in “Henrietta”, a track inspired from Henrietta Lacks, a woman circa 1951 whose cancerous cells were taken without her permission, and to have kept alive and growing on their own- the first “immortal” human cells grown in a lab. Keating chants, “Oh, Henrietta, we can live on forever,” as if to preserve her enduring legacy.
Similarly, with this week’s release of Fragrant World, Yeasayer’s own legacy of progressive yet alluring musicality/lyricism will surely impress fans and intellectuals of all sorts.
Written by Monica Omodt, Radio K volunteer.
You know, I was really skeptical about Purity Ring at first. How many more guy-girl duos with loose "dream pop" and "synthetic beats" tags did I really need? Terms like "witch house" and "electropop" were also being thrown around which had me hopelessly confusing them with White Ring, the guy-girl duo out of NYC. I entered my first listen with low expectations and didn't anticipate making it past the first few tracks before I'd go back to something I presumed to be more important. Within a few minutes that closed mind was like a clam being opened with a crowbar. Forget about it. I'm hooked.
One can't discuss Shrines without mentioning the lyrical content. Frontwoman Megan James began scribbling poetry when she was 16 without any expectation of anyone else ever coming in to contact with these deeply personal and often surreal texts. The first track greets the listener with the phrase "Adorn me in feathers from dead birds". The second with a chorus containing "cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you". "Belispeak" addresses the narrator's grandma with the lyric "Drill little holes into my eyelids that I might see you when I sleep". Some of the lines in "Saltkin" read as if they're straight from a black metal song.
Production is key to this kind of music and Corin Roddick, the other half of the duo, doesn't fool around. He uses techniques that are distinctively 2012 - warped vocal samples that have been lowered an octave, an unabashed affinity for slinky hi-hat-centric beats like those found in trap and Memphis style hip-hop, and lots and lots of side-chain compression. Many layers of huge synthesizers and samples twisted beyond recognition add to the opaque collage that fills the space not occupied by Megan James' sweet voice. Comparisons to Clams Casino have merit.
The uninitiated but interested should heed this reviewer's recommendation: there are many times to listen to this album, and during daylight is not one of them. Shrines is a late-nighter all the way through. It's the kind of album you'll get sucked in to until you've had it on repeat until sunrise. Who needs sleep when you've got an album that already sounds like a dream anyway?
Written by Tom Steffes, Radio K volunteer.
Hope in Dirt City
[Upper Class Recordings]
The song “Get on Down” has a beat that pays homage to the renaissance of Hip-Hop by laying out a heavy drum kit on top of samples suited up with funky synths. The many different elements come together and create the illusion of a minimalist approach, which makes for a refreshing sound. Cadence Weapon enters and decides to leave out the recurring hooks. Instead he showcases his ability to layer complex rhymes while at the same time produce noteworthy rhythmic patterns. The result is two solid verses that let the world know he is hungrier than ever.
After the long wait, Hope in Dirty City comes to satisfy our need for a Hip-Hop artist that can deliver. Cadence Weapon integrates many different influences from Jazz to Indie-Rock without it feeling forced. This album instead creates a coherent and innovative musical profile that leaves us wanting more.
Written by Octavio Abea, Radio K volunteer.
Young People's Church of the Air
It sure did! But luckily for avid followers of the art rock scene, Deleted Scenes was ambitious enough to issue a re-release that includes two new bonus tracks. The switch over to their new label, Park the Van, sparked a second release for their follow-up of their acclaimed 2009 debut LP Birdseed Shirt. For those of you who did not catch Young People’s Church of the Air the first time around, now might be the time to give it a listen. It is practically impossible to categorize this album into a single genre, and the wide range of musical influences that can be heard provide reason to believe that this album has qualities most music fans will appreciate.
A majority of the songs have condensed layers of activity that synchronize very well. “The Days of Adderall” may come off as a flurry of scattered noises on the first listen, but don’t give up on it before the chorus. The random clatters drop out, leaving a catchy blend of spacey guitar strums and distant vocals. “Bedbedbedbedbed” features a captivating drum loop that sucks you in while front man Dan Scheuerman serenades an “immaculate girl sent from above.” Deleted Scenes sheds their playful side when “A Bunch of People Who Love You Like Crazy” comes on – a heavy, ambient mesh of a jam that embodies power not heard up until this point in the album. A hint of some dubstep influence sets this track apart from the others.
Musically speaking, Young People’s Church of the Air is all over the place – but in a good way. At one particular instance, it sounds as if the Beach Boys have traveled through time from the 60’s to record “Baltika 9”, which is easily one of the most energetic songs on the album. A couple of tracks down the line, they morph from Brian Wilson and the gang into a modern version of The Pixies for the garage/grunge rock tune “What an Awesome Backhanded Compliment”. The shrieking guitar riff over the distorted bass will surely strike a chord with anyone who loves to crank the volume and rock out. Each song is different from the last, which makes Young People’s Church of the Air a distinctive album even though the sources for their inspiration are thrown in the listeners’ face.
The four-man band from Washington, D.C. has been busy as of late. From touring this summer to support their re-release to writing new material that they will record later this year for their third LP, Deleted Scenes is no doubt the most productive group of people in our nation’s capital. If you have the chance, it is recommended that you give this album a listen. Overall, it is a solid sophomore effort from a band that will hopefully continue to grow and develop their own style.
Written by Luke Hochrein, Radio K volunteer.
But where Forget was focused on the feelings of the past, Confess is all about the details of the present. Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr. meticulously wrote and produced each song, including recording almost every instrument and dub on the album. His effort and attention to detail pays off. There isn’t a moment where his dedication isn’t both self-evident and rewarding.
George Lewis easily combines the flanged guitar and synth organ sounds of 80’s New Wave with cutting edge, hip hop influenced beats and synths. Every track is carefully enshrined within a shimmering halo of reverb. However, this is no lush, shoegaze reverb. This is the hollow ambiance that comes from confessing your sins in the belly of a barren cathedral.
Confess truly shines when Lewis lets loose on the uptempo tracks like Five Seconds, Beg for the Night or Golden Light, which perfectly capture his renegade, motorcycle riding persona dealing with the untimely end of his relationships. He boasts about his unflinching acceptance and indifference, yet every boast reveals his own insecurities and weaknesses.
Over the years, Lewis has never stopped refining his sound, leading to an incredibly cohesive album. Every track flows right into the next with a perfect cadence of slow and soft mixed with fast and heavy. The range of expression he can coerce out of his synths and guitars is staggering. In a moment they can change from delicate and intimate to triumphant and boisterous. This emotion is matched by the lyrical content and their delivery, leading to a powerful look inside the heart of a renegade.
Twin Shadow is the stage name of multi-instrumentalist George Lewis Jr. Started in 2006, Twin Shadow released its first album, Forget, in 2010.
Written by Alex Breyfogle, Radio K volunteer.
Don’t be fooled by their opening song “Heaven,” which starts with a leg-kicking, hair-shaking tune, because Pomegranates opens up to their soft side by the time track five, “Something Everybody Wants,” comes around. The following songs, “Letters” and “Dream,” reminisce with a slower, retro-80’s sound. After the urge to sway back and forth with a lighter (or a smart-phone app of one), the tempo picks back up for “Lost Lives.” Heaven closes with a piano ballad, accompanied by electronic instruments with lots of delays and echoes.
Pomegranates certainly shines with their new release. The album is perfectly laid out with its consistent sound and cohesive style. They excel in combining classical instruments, such as piano, and mixing in synthesizers, electric guitars, and studio produced sounds. The vocals are unique due to their variety; some songs have the singers harmonize in a Beatles kind of way, and other times, it’s a one-man-show of simplicity and emotion. You’ll find that Pomegranates successfully explores different genres and decades of music. “Sisters” makes you want to wear raggedy T-shirts, and “Night Run” will put bubble gum and Scrunchy stores out of business. Each song is full of character, but all of the songs together are what make the album complete.
Pomegranates is composed of four members: Jacob Merritt on the drums; Isaac Karns and Joey Cook with vocals, guitars, keyboards; and Curt Kiser on guitar. They began in 2006, and their first album was released in 2009. Since then, they have managed to produce an album every year. The members reside from Cincinnati, Ohio, and they went on tour earlier this year.
The Daredevil Christopher Wright
The Nature of Things
[File Under: Music]
depression - Machines have won the war/" Machines may have won the war, but these three midwest
born folkies are proving that humans still have so much more to offer than technological perfection.
Their organic and simplistic approach to music is worthy of attention, especially in the age of lush
digital sounds. Even though the group recorded with Daytrotter founder Patrick Stolley and had access
to a full studio, they still decided to focus on creating dense pieces of music solely within their playing
range so they can perform the songs live.
Instead of lavishly laying down beds over beds of background music, the group focused on using the
instruments only to accent each story rather than create an aural landscape. The result leads to an open
ended approach for listeners, inviting you to come along for the journey amongst confident melodies
and subtle yet poignant percussion. As you interact with each song, it's hard to not imagine yourself
running slow motion through the sunsoaked forests somewhere between Eau Clair and Minneapolis.
For as many in the Eau Clair music scene, Minneapolis is a close second as their musical home. The
space between speaks to an area that cares deeply for the heartfelt pieces of art - and "The Nature of
Things" shows that the group's artistic attention is focused on the elements that make up truly great
songs. Whimsical and light enough to hum along with, yet with each passing glance the tunes turn
into deeper and deeper pools of wisdom of what it truly means to be alive in the 21st century. Past the
gadgets, past the social media factories at work - "The Nature of Things" reminds us of a simpler time
amongst a chaotic and stimulus inflated world. They've nailed the sweet approach to songwriting on
previous releases, but this latest album makes a bold statement as to why they'll stay around for much
longer than the average human lifespan.
Much as their contemporaries Fleet Foxes, the harmonizing on their sophomore effort "The Nature
of Things" showcases the intrinsic beauty of the human voice. As energizing as it is calming, the
power of their vocals far exceeds any machine's interaction. Following their 2011 EP "The Long
Suffering Song," The Daredevil Christopher Wright focuses on the simplicity of acoustic sounds, while
performing elegant complex arrangements for seemingly simple songs. With each listen, the thick
sounds presented distill down to the three men composing each song, leading you through this carefully
orchestrated playground of perception. Focus on tracks "Blood Brother," "Andrew The Wanderer," I &
Thou," and "The Animal of Choice" which also appeared on their last EP release.
Written by Caleigh Souhan, Radio K volunteer.
If you’re in the mood to pick up some good vibrations, Dent May is your man. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, May attended both NYU Film School and Ole Miss, studying English and Southern Studies. Fortunately, he finally found musical inspiration in the work of artists such as Serge Gainsbourg and Lee Hazelwood. Although he started his aptly named project, Dent May, in 2002, he held off releasing an album until 2009. But those seven years must certainly have been the necessary amount of time to nail down a style and image that could even make one of the Queen’s guards with those fuzzy hats and stoic faces smile. The first release came out on Paw Tracks, and was to be called The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele. Although it led to his title as one of the Best New Bands of Mississippi by Boston Phoenix Annual 50 Best Bands in America, and to his being chosen by Animal Collective to play at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival in 2011, The Good Feeling Music was only a precursor to the second and most recent release, Do Things.
Do Things is reminiscent of an electronic reincarnation of the Beach Boys born in the disco era. Not a song on this album speaks to anything but feeling good and living happily. A glance at the carefree image of lake relaxation which adorns the cover of the record, along with track titles such as “Fun”, “Best Friend”, “Don’t Wait Too Long”, and “Wedding Day”, set the mood for the rest of the album, and it doesn’t disappoint. Constant harmonies and melodies that flutter up and down octaves like a bird to whom flying is still a novelty create a light-hearted tone, combined with the two-step dance beats and heavy synth which add the “have fun, let loose” flavor. The icing on the cake is the inspirational lyricism, with lines like “Don’t wait too long, you’ve got to stand up and do your thing” and “Don’t know what’s in store for me but I think it’s gonna be fun” every word on every track is positive. Especially with a warm and bright summer gaining full speed, this album is quite worth the time investment for the smile it will put on your face.
Written by Alex Dziura, Radio K Volunteer
[Polyvinyl Record Co.]
Written by Tom Steffes, Radio K volunteer.
After receiving nothing but good reviews from punk blogs around the globe for his 2008 debut, Was Dead, King Tuff is back bigger and badder with his self-titled second release on Sub Pop. It comes chock full of suitably titled rock and roll, sass-pop, garage-psych gems.
The album takes off with the aptly named opening track, “Anthem.” The howling guitar is, simply put, pure rock and roll. You can’t help but raise your fist, tap your foot, and yell along with King (Kyle Thomas) as he sings of love songs that “rot in your head.” The album takes a swift turn into a little dancey-pop tune “Alone & Stoned,” full of sing-along choruses and a punchy snare beat that makes you want to “take a walk on the moon” along with King Tuff and all of his headphone wearing friends. And before that dance bug has a chance to wiggle itself out of you, “Keep On Movin’ ” comes by to save the day with a hip-shaking ‘50s bass line and King Tuff’s sassy attitude. The album finally takes softer, more sincere turn with “Unusual World.” The synths mixed with the 50s-esque drum beat that seems to inhabit this entire record, transports you to an interstellar (unusual) world where saddle shoes, moon dust, and movie monsters co-exist. Before your mind is left to wander too far, the album’s single, “Bad Thing” bursts into catchy guitar riffs and a chorus that would even make loveliest cookie-making grandmother scream “I’m a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaad thing!” from her knitting chair. The bluesy, grimy tale of a crew of creepers preying on a woman in “Loser’s Wall” is by far the darkest track on the album and, frankly leaves you feeling a bit used and abused (in a good way). After a few more rockers and foot stompers telling you to “break the rules” and an ode to our favorite celebrities claiming, “they’re foolish and beautiful / they’re the stupid superstars,” King Tuff croons about the “Swamp of Love” in true rock ballad fashion. The album closes with another dangerous dance inducing beat sing-along, “Hit & Run.”
King Tuff will make you dance until your booty hurts, and will make your neighbors hate you (or love you) for never taking it off of your record player.
Written by Chase Mathey, Radio K volunteer
“Passage,” the first track, lures you in on the dream-like voyage with its cool, calming vocals and slow thumping piano and kick drum. Pallodino’s shaky vibrato then suddenly detonates accompanied by windy currents of drums and static as Pallodino’s vocals entangle the uproar, “Just don’t let them chase you.” The album transitions into “The Night,” which is as audibly dark as its name. It is an aching cry that is tragically beautiful with its hopeful vocalizations and twinkling child’s piano keys. It clamors against the dark waves that are emitted throughout all of Passage. Exitmusic approaches “White Noise” with daring experimentation driven by a thumping drum beat and fuzzy guitars. Pallodino‘s wails reverberate to the point where it sparks out of an overloaded speaker that hazily fades in and out. “The Wanting” is a soothing piece that entrances you like an echoing siren. Slowly, you can’t help but to drown in this swelling, sonorous ocean.
Written by Abbie Gobeli, Radio K volunteer.
Indie rock is a tough world in which to exist in 2012. Too many of its players take a slightly overdriven guitar, plunk out some major chords in common time, and call it a day once they've gotten a predictable haircut to match the music.
Lower Dens have decidedly placed themselves outside of this realm. First of all, they've done their homework. Driving rhythms with a polite hustle underpin many of the tracks present here, a clear nod to the drumming style present in Germany's Krautrock movement of the late 60's and 70's. I could count all the drums fills present on Nootropics on one hand. Layers appear over the rhythm, bury it, but never stop it from chugging along. Those layers are frequently composed of organic sounds pulled from what seems to be a myriad of guitar effects pedals and obscure synthesizer settings. Such tones make it clear that much time was spent in the recording studio, also evidenced by the unique textures created by multiple vocal overdubs singing in different tambres to create an occasionally otherworldy vocal presence.
Surrealism seems to be a key theme to this album. It's apparent from the cover artwork that it's intended for a late night. What first struck me was its slight similarity to the cover art for David Lynch's psychotic 2006 film Inland Empire. While it doesn't have the "freak out" moments in that film which actually did give me nightmares for a few evenings, it would be totally appropriate to occupy the sonic space of the film where the characters wander around mysterious grimey urban areas at odd hours. There's an incredible uneasiness present when they want it to be, such as on the album's closer, "In the End is the Beginning".
The album is mellow, sure, and if you don't pay attention you might pass it off as another indie dream-pop release. I ask that you keep those ears alert and attentive while absorbing Nootropics as its detailed and rich production will reveal a ghostly sensibility to the album that may be lost on the casual listener but if noticed will make the album an entirely more enjoyable experience. It must be hidden in the reverb.
Tom Steffes is Radio K's Digital Media Producer.
Bloom is the fourth LP from the indie dream pop duo Beach House, and the first release since their 2010 breakthrough album Teen Dream. Since forming in Baltimore, Maryland in 2004 Beach House has continued to gain following and has gone from opening for big name acts like Vampire Weekend and Animal Collective to becoming one of the most popular indie bands of date and headlining their own sold out shows.
In a Pitchfork interview, Alex Scally stated, “I hate it when bands change between records…that’s not how we work.” The same drum machine beat throughout the song, Scally’s simple yet melodic riffs, Victoria Legrand’s hauntingly beautiful vocals, and the appropriate tone humming in the background has been Beach House’s style since day one and Bloom isn’t looking to change that. This album manages to succeed where many bands fail, in that it keeps the same sound that made people love the band in the first place while somehow managing to sound completely new and interesting.
“Myth” opens Bloom the same way that “Zebra” opened Teen Dream. An inviting oscillating melody starts and the drum machine kicks in to build up Legrand’s vocals. Melodies build on melodies and some slide guitar gets introduced and it all culminates into an enticing trance for the rest of the song. “Wild” introduces a rare hook into the band’s lyrical index when Legrand softly shouts the words “Go on pretending”. The lyrically loaded track “New Year” proves just how deep this album goes with its captivating melodies and phrases like, “All I wanted comes in colors”. Also as a special treat there is a hidden track about six minutes after the last track, “Irene”, ends.
Beach House is a great band to try out for those who are fans of or are looking to get into dream pop, and Bloom is a great place to start. The songs are beautiful and border the line of catchy without being generic. Each track is very listenable and the lyrics and layered melodies will ensure that listeners continue to hear something new even after multiple plays.
Written by A.J. Kellogg, Radio K volunteer
It's safe to say that Beach House's fourth album Bloom has been one of the most anticipated albums of 2012 so far. They've been gaining steam at a steady pace over the course of their previous three LPs, with Teen Dream finding positions on many "Best of 2010" lists. Bloom feels like Teen Dream's dark side. It feels like what Teen Dream turns in to at night when nobody is watching. The two openers, "Myth" and "Wild", are unquestionably the group's most sinister numbers thus far, but they have a sexy side about them too that was hinted at on previous Beach House releases but finally comes to fruition here.
What's made Beach House so consistently satisfying is that they stick to their distinctive formula and revel in it. It's comforting to put on a few tracks of Bloom and be greeted by their signature archaic and crackling drum beats lured from the exact same synth-organ they were using 5 or 6 years ago. An iconic reverb-laden Fender guitar tone and choir of Victoria Legrands is all that is necessary to fill out the material and make it unmistakably Beach House. New on Bloom however is an emphasis on pulsing low frequencies that make this collection of tunes feel heavier than previous releases. It feels less lazy and more urgent. The group do slip in to their more casual mood during a few choice moments, such as the ascending chorus to "The Hours" with its almost sassy attitude. It almost seems like what some call a "hairbrush song", one that girls sing in front of the mirror with their hairbrush. Victoria Legrand sounds as if she's practically mocking you for not singing along, or giving you a knowing smirk if you cave in and join her.
The group's name seemed so appropriate on early releases which sounded like the sun just beginning to rise over a rickety wooden shack surrounded by sand. Waves gently lap up on a discarded Stratocaster and a Roland Rhythm 77 analog rhythm machine to coax sunbleached melodies out of them. On Bloom the sun has set long ago allowing the stars to shine down on the now sand-encrusted gear to seduce these haunting melodies up towards the heavens.
Written by Tom Steffes, Digital Media Producer
Other People's Problems
If someone told you that English electro-pop gloom rockers Breton (named after the French father of Surrealism André Breton, not to be confused with the delicious crackers) were just now getting around to releasing their full length debut LP, you might be surprised. Since releasing their first EP in 2010, the London-based group has been steady at work. Now a full 5-piece band, Breton put all those pieces in motion and more on Other People’s Problems, out on Fat Cat Records. With assistance in the form of outsourced-then-chopped-and-rearranged piano and strings by German composer and fellow label mate Hauschka, Breton has served up 11 tracks full of sonic depth, intermittent intentional noise, and awkward dancing potential.
The record launches listeners into the interesting style of the band on the song “Pacemaker,” wherein beneath a deliberate pause lasting almost 15 seconds fades in the Frankenstein’d strings and low-key dance beat that populate much of the record. Breton frontman Roman Rappak’s layered vocals and distorted lyrics make the strings sound creepier than they might otherwise, with tracks like “Oxides” and “Edward the Confessor” carrying on this audio imitation of the cloudy skies in London, the video for the latter doing so quite literally.
The stand-out songs on the record have to be “Governing Correctly” and “Ghost Note,” both of which make use of multiple layers to bring out a blend of British alt dance rock like Bloc Party and the smooth style of a Mystery Jets mellow number. The low bass line on “Governing Correctly” works well with the toe-tapping digital drumbeat, and the bouncy vocals nearly disguise the melodrama in the lyrics. “Ghost Note” brings a more synth-style, combined with muffled vocals, a Daft Punk-esque sustain breakdown and the ever-so-slight hint of a triangle in the background.
For people who have always wanted a bit more Crystal Method in their Editors, the experience that is Breton’s debut record will not disappoint. There is something for everyone on Other People’s Problems, and with each new listen you may pick up nuances that were missed the first time around. It’s the LP that keeps on giving, and that sounds like a pretty good problem to have.
Written by Noel Clark, Radio K and Culture Queue volunteer
Here We Go Magic
A Different Ship
For three years now, Here We Go Magic have established a cozy little niche straddling a line somewhere between swirly dream folk and krautrock. It's a sound that's been difficult to point a finger at. Instead, we've been left poking around trying to make sense of HWGM's landscapes of noise, following lead vocalist Luke Temple's stream-of-consciousness lyricism like a trail of bread crumbs through the dense foliage (or, if you're feeling fiery, "like a machete chopping through the untamed wilderness.") Meanwhile, getting pleasantly lost in Here We Go Magic territory right alongside us were a couple of mad British geniuses who you may have heard of. One of said blokes was Thom Yorke, the other was Thom Yorke's producer/good buddy Nigel Godrich.
H'okay, story time: Legend goes that at Glastonbury 2010, HWGM played a morning set to a mostly unenthusiastic and tiny crowd in which Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich were essentially the only ones completely zoning into the music. Can we just imagine that for a second? Expecting a modest, semi-lame morning festival set -- and getting pretty much just that -- except with Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich going completely apeshit at the front of the stage. Thom and Nigel both substantially dug the Glastonbury set and immediately went backstage to talk to the band about it. Long story short, Nigel was all "Want to make music sometime? I'll totally produce it," and Here We Go Magic was like "Sure." And from this wonderful inkling of collaborative thought, Here We Go Magic's third LP, A Different Ship, was born.
A Different Ship presents a new kind of Here We Go Magic. The scatterbrained and rickety train of thought that drove the band's previous releases is still present, but it's been smoothed out and shaped into a sexy new package -- kinda like if you traded in a Jeep Wrangler for a flying Jetta. Gone are the fizzles, pops, and blissful cacophony that highlighted previous HWGM releases -- these have been replaced by decidedly cool, well-polished space, nary a sonic imperfection to be found. Think of A Different Ship as a field guide to Here We Go Magic penned by Mr. Godrich.
Musically, the album's ten tracks are all over the place, ranging from 'Slowhand'-era Clapton channeled through something like a nervous breakdown ("Make Up Your Mind") to delightfully stoney walkabouts ("Over the Ocean") to bugged-out concoctions that, at once, resemble King Crimson and Crosby, Stills & Nash ("I Believe In Action"). Yet, somehow, every song on here possesses a similar metallic sheen that makes the whole damn album seem concisely like it should have been packaged with a free Member's Only jacket. In a good way.
On the surface, A Different Ship is a strikingly easygoing record, but weirdly deliberate flourishes of dissonance and tension in nearly every track create a subtle sense of winking anxiety. It's a "more than meets the eye" sort of deal; a consistent undertone suggesting that Here We Go Magic didn't utterly abandon the dark, enchanted forest they came from when they stepped onto Nigel Godrich's yacht of the future. At times, A Different Ship practically begs you to ask the question of if its overpowering breeziness is merely a guise for a massive storm-a-brewing. At other times, it's a super enjoyable and concise record that both fits well and distinguishes itself amongst Here We Go Magic's back catalogue. Did I mention it's incredibly chill? It's incredibly chill. Just don't analyze "A Different Ship" too closely or you might get pleasantly seasick.
Written by Kevin Tully, Radio K International host and volunteer
Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Jason Pierce, principal member of Spiritualized returns after a four-year hiatus with Sweet Heart Sweet Light recently released on Fat Possum Records. Spiritualized was born in 1990 in the United Kingdom after Pierce split from his former band, Spacemen 3. Over the past twenty years, Spiritualized has evolved with an ever-changing membership; Pierce being the only constant member. Spiritualized is usually characterized as having a predominate space-rock sound as heard in significant albums such Lazer Guided Melodies (1992), Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space (1997), and Let it Come Down (2001). Their sixth full-length album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light takes a step back from Spiritualized’s space-aged days, landing them on a earthier, raw sound.
Spiritualized has formulated a tradition where he initiates his albums off with a small overture. He begins Sweet Heart Sweet Light with the simply titled, “Huh?”. You may scratch your head at such a curious title leaving your mind to wander through a fairy-tale swell of violins, synthesized twinkles, and faint whistles to ease your ears. Then, an unexpected swarm of accentuated musical layers reverberate through your speakers with a heavy guitar strumming explosion sprinkled with Pierce’s jagged edged voice similar to that of Liam Gallagher of Oasis of the lengthy, nine minute “Hey Jane.” The album slows down to “Get What You Deserve” echoing a white-noise static that filters through a slow swelling string orchestra. The track seems to drag on with its mellow drive and repetitive lyrics for a while. But then you’re in for a surprise when all of the sudden, the ending blasts you awake with its rapid additions of rattles and drum beats haphazardly falling through each incoming arc and trough of string orchestration. The pinnacle song, “I Am What I Am” grabs you by the shirt collar with its clattering tambourines and rolling piano rumbling underneath. Back-up singers vocalize in gospel fashion to amp up the attitude behind the song title’s statement.
Spiritualized took a great risk turning away from their infamous space rock synth but came out successful taking you on a journey littered with detailed melodic tiers accentuated with a gentle swelling string orchestra, white noise buzz, and gospel vocalizations. Spiritualized’s sixth album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light is currently out on Fat Possum Records.
THEESatisfaction seem to have a pretty good handle on what it takes to make the grade at Radio K. The Seattle based hip-hop duo, consisting of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White, offer up a sound on awE naturalE that is hypnotic, diverse and expository; with lyrics that speak to anyone who happens upon the group’s debut release on Sub Pop. The Seattle musicians consider their music an ‘extension of themselves,’ releasing songs that pose questions while addressing topics that range from “needs” to “sweat.” As the divas that comprise THEESatisfaction prepare for list of shows in May, awE naturalE finds itself the focus of this week’s Weekly Release Spotlight.
THEESatisfaction’s debut full-length release draws inspiration from numerous genres of music, fostering a sound unlike any you’ll hear on radio today. Few vocalists compare with these two; “Cat,” a singer who provides a mellow stream sound through which “Stas” maneuvers, dropping lyrics that cut straight to the point. The tracks on awE naturalE are constructed with mathematical precision, weaving harmonies with beats twice looped to create a sound that is mysterious and driven. It’s a Seattle sound, one that moves; similar at times to the drone of a sitar. Tracks from awE natural seem to pass unnoticed, until a new beat with a new message signifies what’s up. The songs on awE natural demonstrate THEESatisfaction’s keen sense of structure in music. As artists, Cat and Stas stray from typical song writing techniques, using technology to create vibe that lures one to further explore their sound.
It’s difficult to categorize the THEESatisfaction, and the sound of awE naturalE, due to the pair’s unique approach to making music. The upbeat tempo and variety of environments you’ll encounter while listening to awE naturalE are pleasing to both the ear and the psyche. Whether THEESatisfaction is performing on the road, or creating a new sound in their living room, Radio K looks forward hearing more from Cat and Stas in the future. We also hope you enjoy this week’s Weekly Release Spotlight artist as much as we have!
Written by Todd Crotty, Radio K volunteer and Rock & Roll Over host
With their mellow funk beat revival sound, Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White emerge onto the scene as THEESatisfaction. Based in Seattle, WA, the incredibly dynamic duo are not afraid to give listeners a deep, distinct dose of their Pacific Northwest style on their debut LP, awE naturalE out on Sub Pop Records. They know you like it, and they know you are going to dance whether you want to or not.
The record is full of atmospheric sounds. On the song “Earthseed” we get a melancholic piano pounding out an unsettlingly catchy melody to the slightly scattered drumbeat. The last 30 seconds of the track spit creepily politicized lyrics that match the tone of the song perfectly, with the kicker, “THEESatisfaction could give a UHHH about a fascist.” Then, as if you just woke from a bad dream to find yourself at a classy salon-style party, we arrive at “QueenS”, the first single from awE naturalE. The beat is almost like a calming alarm clock, followed by the words, “leave your face at the door, turn off your swag, check your bag, from you limbs to your Timbs, get down… but whatever you do, don’t funk with my groove.” The smartly-named “Enchantruss” sounds like the background music to a haunted rollercoaster ride. The looping, chant-like vocal back beat is accompanied by mentions of Orson Welles, time-travelling nightmares, Archie Bunker and Black Jesus. If you took the best Erykah Badu and Common records and melted the vinyl down, what you would be left with when it cooled is this collection of 13 tracks.
On the whole, THEESatisfaction drops the needle on an energetic yet smooth ride through a debut record that shows great promise and demonstrates skill and passion. Stas and Cat fill the peaks and the grooves on awE naturalE with their sultry voices, honest emotion and clever style.
Written by Noel Clark, Radio K and Culture Queue volunteer
Bear In Heaven
I Love You, It's Cool
I Love You, It’s Cool, out on Hometapes, begins gravitating toward that blissful black hole oblivion I mentioned and really draws the listener in with the second track, “Reflection of You.” Imagine yourself as Alice in Wonderland falling in that darned tree after chasing that darned bunny, but instead you descend twinkling and repeatedly singing, “Dance with me,” with John Maus. Walking through the hollowed universe, you are then greeted by Corey Heart in darkness, and sunglasses. Upon first listen, you’ll understand, but after two or three more listens, the similarities you first observed disappear almost completely. “Sinful Nature,” is up next, my favorite song on the ten track album attributed to the catchy riffs, or perhaps the wave-like sound making a visible impression on my dancing techniques. There’s that black hole again. “Cool Light” may leave you hanging and your grooving will suffer, but all is well again once “Kiss Me Crazy” begins. Jon Philpot (awesome last name, by the way, even more so as a tea drinker himself), who first formed the group as a solo artist, shines his vocals best in this number. “World of Freakout” has an incredible buildup mid-song keeping your ear follicles on the edge of their eardrum and leads into “Warm Heart.” Oddly noticeable, the synths made me want to march for an electronic instrument army with reverb megaphone in hand. Second to last, “Space Remains” seems to hail from the dada movement with layers beyond layers almost sounding too overwhelming for taste, but the title leaves room for interpretation. Closing the album with six minute track “Sweetness & Sickness,” an almost haunting echo feels as if it were circling you as your body leaves the other end of the black hole, fittingly.
Tracks from I Love You, It’s Cool may come off too spacey or psychedelic as individual songs for some, so I suggest listening from beginning to end, and surely an adventure is to be had in that world of ‘space’ you used to describe its sound. As a whole, the album felt more mind stimulating and sound-rich than any other album I’ve heard in 2012 thus far. The album is out now on Hometapes.
Written by Leah Garaas, Radio K volunteer