Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Caribou - Swim

After hearing the first track "Odessa" off Caribous latest LP, a smooth and eclectic dance track, I jumped at the opportunity to review it (as the lone resident electro lover this often happens). But sadly, sometimes the first track on an album is the best that it's gonna get, and Swim definitely falls within that tragic mold. While this album manages to have a really unique collages of samples through it, almost every other song never builds to any sort of climax (and really why do dance music if you aren't making people dance). However, if you removed every other song from the LP you would be left with a pretty killer EP.

As a rule, the entire album's vocals are auto-tuned... but just enough, and the reverb is just the right amount to soften up the already vanilla voice. "Odessa" (easily my fave track) has a badass layering of faux animal sounds, cymbals, cowbell, and a New Order type bell. "Kaili", the third song on the album is the most traditional dance song on the album, using a pretty basic beat... but to make it less played out there is a mixture of crazy trumpet noises that were probably found in a post LSD Beatles album (AWESOME, ammirite?).

But, "Bowls" is what really caught my ear, a fucking dance song made using the resonant qualities in metal bowls. Although not all of the beats immediately fall into place, as the song continues it all comes together. Using looped samples of bowls, along with a synth shaker, some reverbed bass, harp, and a pretty awesome steel drum line Caribou managed to really impress me.

Although most of the songs drag out for much longer than I wanted to listen for I'd say that Swim is 100% worth a download and listen (if for no other reason then "Bowls", "Odessa", and "Kaili")

(a caribou... just because I all too often forget what bands are actually named after)


Rego - From The Royal Arcade

Following her successful self-released EP Learning To Be Lonely, Rebecca Rego’s From The Royal Arcade continues to display her distinct, sultry voice and knack for nostalgic, homegrown lyrics. The music itself consists of Rego’s acoustic guitar dancing with quiet piano support and twangy electric guitar evoking a wistful southern charm. Don’t be mistaken: Rego’s strong voice (which ranges from that of a young girl full of wonder to a mature vixenish woman) takes center stage as she sings about growing up, lessons learned, and life in general. It’s hard not to fall under her charm on bouncy songs like “Caterpillars” and “Dye Your Hair Red” and the amorous “After The War” and “Gave Me”. If you’ve ever been vaguely interested in country music, Rego’s From The Royal Arcade is an accessible and highly enjoyable folksy listen.


"Astronauts" off of From The Royal Arcade

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Circa Survive - Blue Sky Noise

In 2005, Circa Survive set themselves apart from the myriad of post-hardcore/experimental bands that saw their heyday in the heart of the 00s with their uniquely spacey and tastefully disjointed debut album, Jurturna. But Circa's latest release, Blue Sky Noise, does nothing to set this once scene-worshipped band apart from the scores of others from the aforementioned myriad that have scraped the bottom of the pseudo-experimental genre so thin that they can't help but fall through into blank space.

All that verbiage means is this: the world has too much delay pedal-driven fake prog-rock for one of the scene's (I hate to use that term twice in one review) most near-and-dear to digress to a step above bands like Saosin, the band that lead vocalist Anthony Green got bored with and left before forming Circa Survive.

Blue Sky Noise sees a Circa that has forgotten its haphazard, airy roots and clung onto a more dense and anthemic rock-oriented style that is anything but flattering to Green's abrasively high-pitched shriek. On lead single "Get Out," Green sounds as if he's being viciously and mercilessly attacked by the hideously aggressive and gigantic dinosaurs the heavily distorted power chords seem to try to create (it makes sense, trust me...). On other tracks, like the emotionless "Spirit of the Stairwell," Green's voice goes a bit lower than it's used to and does its best to bury itself under the bland acoustic chords and shuffley rhythm that has become an all-too-frequent staple of Green-penned songs.

To its credit, Blue Sky Noise does what it intends to do on most of its twelve tracks, like the epic and far-reaching "I Felt Free." The colorful mushroom cloud of a song blooms higher and higher with each chorus, culminating in a full eclipse as Green sings "I felt free because of the things you told me" at the top of his helium-filled lungs. And "Imaginary Enemy" and "Through the Desert Alone" are top-notch modern rock radio hits that should appeal especially to high school freshman who want to seem different from the rest of their class that only listens to new Green Day and thinks Death Cab For Cutie just started last year when Twilight came out.

But therein lies the problem: Circa Survive is not a modern rock radio band, and their massive sound used to come from the frantic and random arrangement of ambient noise, never from an outright and artificial attempt to create just that with power chords. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a single power chord on Juturna. Their second release, On Letting Go, was a bit misguided but still full of decent ideas and noble intentions. But the song structures on Blue Sky Noise seem too carefully considered and predictable to look good on Circa.

Maybe I'm just old; maybe I'm too wrapped up in what I've been listening to since after I turned was 16 that I've forgotten how to appreciate pulsing guitar chugs superimposed on top of reverby, cutting guitar leads and played-out 3/4 rhythms. Or maybe something as uncalculated, crudely beautiful and perfectly timed as Juturna only happens once in a band's career.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Glitch Mob- Drink The Sea EP

Upon downloading this EP I immediately knew i would love it, with a track titled "Drive it Like You Stole it" how could i not? Although only 1/2 of the EP is worth hearing that's just fine because there are only two songs. "Drive it Like You Stole it" is a powerful and fun track which can't help but make me think of The Fast and The Furious... while that is not really my jam as far as movies, I am very guilty of loving the soundtracks (i know i know, I'm not proud). The bass is so heavy and consistent, with just the right amount of reverb on it, and the short vocal track is just airy and sparse enough to compliment the hell out of the treble track.

To be fair the second track "Between Two Points" is not awful, just not my style. Its a slow moving and spacey trek that simply just isn't interesting enough to justify the time you have to dedicate to listen to it. The slow beat is fairly consistent on the low end, while the higher notes jump around through different textures and plug ins. Really it's only that if I have to listen to an other arty, auto-tuned, electro track with a girl who sounds an awful lot like Rhianna I'm almost positive my hair will fall out.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Tallest Man on Earth @ The Middle East 4/21

So much music nowadays is accommodated and amplified with sounds and instruments, that we forget that there are actually individuals behind the music. That is what is so beautiful about The Tallest Man on Earth; his music is stripped down to only a man with a raspy voice and his guitar. The passion of his words and his voice make his music so much more powerful than if a full orchestra surrounded him. This power was clearly visible during his sold-out show in the Middle East.
The show was opened by the band Nurses, which did a perfect job in building up the mood for what was to come. Their Indie folk sound could be described as a more electric version of Fleet Foxes. The crowd was very into the music, but it was obvious that everyone was anxiously waiting for The Tallest Man on Earth. When he finally came in and started signing, the entire crowd was utterly perplexed by what they were hearing. In the audience you could feel a strange charge of emotion by every person that was internally experiencing the music. There were moments of pure silence, where the audience was just breathing in the music. Like Dylan, as everyone says he resembles, Kristian Matsson is a poet. His lyrics are heartbreakingly beautiful. In the show everyone sang along to the song “The Gardener”. In which he sings to “stay the tallest man in your eyes”. He played almost every song of the album Shallow Graves from “I Won’t be found” to “Pistol Dreams”. In his concert, Kristian Matsson was definitely the tallest man in everyone’s eyes

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Xiu Xiu, Twin Sister, and Tune Yards @ The Middle East

To begin, Xiu Xiu was one of my favorite bands for almost all of my high school years, when we got their new CD Dear God I Hate Myself I forced the music staff to add it even though I had never listened to it (despite the awful review from Sasha Prell), and immediately requested tickets to this concert. When they took the stage I was horrified to find that: the powerful screaming from Jamie Stewart had turned to wining, which i found just as irritating as reading Hamlet's complaining CHEER UP ASSHOLE! and the playful found instruments which had defined their older sound had gone, being replaced by synth, symbols, and noise.

But the concert was not an total downer and waste of time. All of this negativity is in comparison to the two awesome female fronted opening bands Twin Sister and Tune Yards. Twin Sister is a band that goes along with the dynamic of those dreamy and airy female fronted bands like Jenny Lewis or She and Him that so many of us love. The guitar has that Johnny Marr twang to it from The Smiths that just revs my engine, but unlike my favorite shoegaze band they add in some deep driving bass and a lot of xylophone. After the show I flipped through my iPod to find that Twin Sister already had a home there, with one of my fave singles from 2009 "Ginger", a song about ginger kids and how dangerously devious they are.

However the Tune Yards were what really blew my mind live. At first listen they don't sound as special as they are, but no one can deny the awesomeness of a Reggae vocalist with breasts. It took me a number of songs to understand how they play live but here is the rundown. The band is made up of two people, Merril Garbus on vocals/drum and Nate Brenner on bass. At the beginning of every song she records layers of drum and crazy vocal sounds to make a beat and then loops it and plays over it. It doesn't sound like much on paper... but live it is just insane.

Check out Twin Sister & Tune Yards on

Twin Sister:

Tune Yards:

Quasi Live at the Middle East

Quasi’s show at the Middle East was everything I had hoped for and more. Although I’ve never seen them before, the trio was just as energetic as they’ve ever been I’m sure. And, surprisingly, so was the crowd. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the demographics of the crowd were like, but if I had to give them a name it would be “old kids.” It was very odd.
I mean, I don’t know what I was expecting considering the fact that Quasi’s been around since the 90’s, but I guess I was thinking the audience would either be significantly older or my age. Turned out the average age was (I’m guessing here) around 30. Of course there were exceptions, like the old lady with white hair and glasses totally rocking out in the very front. To their credit, Janet Weiss did say at one point during the crowd that this was the “rowdiest” crowd they’d seen in a while.
The show opened with “Repulsion,” my favorite song off the band’s new album, American Gong. Sam Coomes was totally playing the rock star role, jumping on monitors and standing on drums while wailing on the guitar. A casual observer might even say he stole the show. But don’t be fooled.
The barefoot Janet Weiss was way cooler, even without all the prancing around. She’s got some of the tightest drum beats around, AND she can sing. But it’s not about competition right? The ex-husband and wife do make a good team I suppose... and Joanna Bolme, the bassist, isn’t bad either.
The three band members worked best together during their super sweet jam session in “Bye-Bye Blackbird.” But this drawn out, formless style wasn’t typical of their Tuesday night set. They mostly played stuff off their latest release, which is full of short, almost country-music inspired songs. Coomes did make it to his keyboard for a short while for some of their older stuff, but for the most part he was on guitar- a sure sign that in the midst of music’s “how many weird and wacky instruments can we fit in one song” phase, Quasi is headed in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sightings - City of Straw

I consider myself someone who appreciates experimental music and that embraces anything that is different, but I can honestly say that the album Sightings from the band City of Straws only sounds like noise. And not any kind of noise; the noise that makes you want to rip your head off. When I started hearing the song Hush I thought there was something wrong with my speakers, but as I heard all the song I realized that I was either going crazy or that this band sucks. Their songs truly feel like a high-pitched beep that is slowly making you deaf; which is probably the case of all the band members. If the music were striped down to a more natural sound it could actually be good. The problem is all the weird effects, reverb, and juxtaposition of beats that don’t even match up well together. There is so much distortion in the sound that I wonder how this record even got made. The most acceptable song is Weehawken; which still gives a headache after a few seconds. Modern music should still sound good; it shouldn’t just be random noises with the excuse that it is experimental.

Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring (Kill Rock Stars)

Sometimes I wish I was born into the setting of Where the Red Fern Grows or Shiloh just so I could move to Boston and let Horse Feathers serenade me into daydreams about my childhood in the country. With Thistled Spring, the Justin Ringle solo project-turned-duo-turned-trio-turned-quartet somehow manages to create something even more eloquently picturesque than 2007’s masterful House With No Home without changing a thing.

Horse Feathers sticks out of the beardy-folk clichĂ© like a sore thumb because of its prominent string section. The cello and violin players are as much full-time members of the band as is frontman/songwriter Ringle, so the string melodies serve to offset and compliment the vocals and guitar rather than to simply provide a backdrop. As Ringle’s wispy voice croons like a gust of wind, the strings, as literally as a metaphor can possibly describe, paint sunset-kissed hills and swaying cattails on a canvas of woody guitars and subtle, tasteful percussion.

And Ringle is so preposterously adept at setting scenes with his songwriting that he should be giving Sam Beam and Justin Vernon lessons. He writes in such a way that the lyrics don’t cut through the music but compliment it; the words are not the focus of the music but a point of reference to direct the listener’s Horse Feathers-induced daydream to a certain place in his or her past. Without even paying attention to the lyrics, “As a Ghost” could transport you back seven years to the top of the hill where you had your first real kiss, while “Belly of June” could be something as simple yet so satisfying as a warm gust of summer air from your open bedroom window as you sleep.

Thistled Spring is a perfect album to end a satisfying hard day’s work as you drift off to sleep. It’s equally fulfilling to listen closely and pick up a few beautiful pointers about flawless songwriting. It does what few albums have been able to do successfully in the past decade or so: remain sonically pleasing without sacrificing originality or freshness.


Watch the video for "Curs in the Weeds" off Horse Feathers' last album, House With No Home, and be sure to pick up Thistled Spring.

Thistled Spring is out today (4/20) on Kill Rock Stars.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Foxy Shazam - Self-Titled

Foxy Shazam is Queen for the A.D.D. generation. Hailing from Ohio, this six-man band’s self-titled third album is packed with energetic rock anthems reminiscent of Queen’s glory days. Lead singer Eric Nally’s voice is the love child of Freddy Mercury’s energetic, power-rock vocals and the occasional belting yowls of My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way. The opening track “Bomb’s Away” prepares you for the explosive power pervading the rest of the album. “Wanna-Be Angel” explains the bands epic showmanship with lyrics like “for you I wear this mask/at home I tear it off.” “Count Me Out” recalls the sadder side of romance with piano flourishes and a lively chorus. “Unstoppable” is an epic stadium rock anthem that wouldn’t be out of place in a triumphant sports film. Even “Connect”, with its feel-good gospel choir back-up vocals, manages to maintain the exuberance of the rest of the album. Foxy Shazam will rock your face off.


Foxy Shazam will be playing at the LOLLAPALOOZA Festival this August.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Campbells - The Inside of Out There


After giving the album a quick run through, our music staff came to the conclusion it didn’t sound half bad and we decided to add it and review it. The album has some serious 90's vibes, so I jumped on the chance to write the review. I’ve been listening to the CD all week and while I still like it, some songs have really started to get on my nerves. In other words, the honeymoon's over.

The first song, "Stuck out in Space," is definitely a highlight. The fuzzy guitar with harmonizing vocals make for a great radio hit... if it was 1996. "Liquor and Drugs" sounds like straight up Soundgarden. A slow, steady base line and drum beat paired with wailing guitar riffs and some really great vocals make this song my favorite one on the album.

BUT.... I must warn you- this CD contains buttrock. "Bend" is buttrock to the extreme. Super trebley piano, shallow drums, real high vocals, just all around annoying. Even the lyrics bug me. Some other songs are borderline. Use your discretion, just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’m not going to force this album down your throats, but if you feel like escaping all this 21st century electronica bull shit and going back to beanies and hackie sacks, then The Inside of Out There is worth a spin.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Freelance Whales Live @ The Middle East 4/8

Last Thursday, Freelance Whales opened for the band Cymbals Eat Guitars in the Middle East in Cambridge. And to be honest, this opening band stole the show. They were incredibly charismatic and managed to transmit their passion to the crowd. It is truly great to still be able to hear a band that is amazing live in this modern music era, where many times I have been horrified to find that bands are actually fake studio engineered and can’t play a single note live. After seeing Freelance Whales I restored my faith in 21th century bands. They had a genuine energetic live sound. To top their performance, they closed their set with a cover of my personal favorite Broken Socials Scene’s 7/4 (Shoreline) which made the entire crowd go insane.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

$ by Mark Sultan

Canadian rocker Mark Sultan’s sophomore solo outing $, is an assault on the ears. A hybrid of nostalgic doo-wop and noise-laden garage rock back Sultan’s soulful vocals in an abrasive, but not entirely unpleasant way. Similar to indie darlings The Raveonettes, Sultan’s songs are filled with dark lyrics accompanied by the retro vibes of greaser bike gangs and drive-in theater. Songs like “Ten of Hearts” wouldn’t be out of place at a malted-milk bar of America’s golden past. “Status” starts fast with a guitar riff that makes you want to hop into your muscle car and speed down to lover’s lane. If you can get past the occasionally coarse use of noise, this will make an excellent addition to any rock n’ roll collection.


Monday, April 5, 2010

La Strada - New Home

After initially being bothered that an Indie band stole Federico Fellini’s movie name, I actually felt the title was a good fit. Like many other collaborative bands like Arcade Fire and Of Montreal, the young group La Strada has a sound that can only be mastered with seven musicians. In their music, they combine a broad variety of strings (violin, viola, cello) with sweet sounding instruments like the accordion. This combination of instruments gives the band its mystic, indie sound. Their newest Album New Home includes simple songs like "Julia" that focus on vocals and others like "Mean That Much" that are much more extensive in sound. A common thread for the entire album is the strings, which create a beautiful atmospheric background for every song. One of the most memorable pieces is "The Wedding Song", which initiates with a simple acoustic strumming and soft vocals, but as it continues, it becomes more charged with accordion and violin melodies. The song evolves from a pretty folk song to a powerful poignant tune. This is exactly what makes the band so powerful, its ability to transform a typical sweet folk song into something new. This band is on the road to something good.


Ever feel like you need a break from reality? Do you sometimes find yourself daydreaming and wishing you could really just leave the pressures of life behind and enter your dreamworld? The Sight Below’s new album might be just what you need to give you that final shove.

The 50 minute album gently eases you into this sort of semi-conscious trance in which your whole body is totally relaxed and your mind is free to wonder. I know I sound like some strung out old hippie right now but trust me, I’m not kidding.

It All Falls Apart is the perfect album to listen to while smoking loads of weed and noticing the pleasant texture of your ceiling. I can’t really provide you with any highlights off the album since all the songs sort of blend together- but in the best way, like a nice watercolor painting. I can tell you that the band does cover Joy Division’s “New Dawn Fades,” and that the last track of the album, “Stagger” has some definite underwater vibes.

All I know is that once the stress of all my final papers and exams really starts to set in, I’m going to be relying heavily on this album to get me through it. I suggest you do the same.

Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame (ANTI-)

It took me a few listens to figure out why everyone seems to be all about Dr. Dog lately. It has been a while since I crawled out of my everything-that-sounds-remotely-folky-and-underproduced-with-simple-chords-and-vocal-harmonies-is-awesome phase. For a while, I had a bit of trouble placing a divider between Dr. Dog and that all-too-ubiquitous style that has suddenly become uncool by becoming cool. I'm not sure if the band's recent buzz made me try harder to like it or to hate it, but either way, I found the wrinkle that makes Dr. Dog worth a good deal of the praise they've garnered lately: it's not the 60s-rock gimmick, but the songwriting and subtleties that make Shame Shame a downright pleasant listening experience.

Effectively establishing a theme to pervade the entire album, "Stranger" starts things off by making you think; after a few measures of pondering, the intertwining vocal and guitar lines suddenly morph from bland to painstakingly clever. Similarly, the two chords (immediately distinguishable as D and G, for all you douchey music nerds) in "Shadow People" are inexplicably filled with color just as the three-part background harmonies come in to supplement the recurring "where did all the shadow people go?" in the chorus that will burn itself into your brain for hours.

By now, it's apparent that this band's biggest contribution to musical innovation is bringing it back to basics; who'd have thought a simple vocal melody or well-placed 4-note guitar lick could win over so many fans? The vocal trail in the chorus of "Unbearable Why," for example, seems to wrap itself around the reggae-influenced bassline like a ribbon, but it never quite meets up at the ends. The bass line in the title track does the something similar around the smokey Jim James-led backup vocals as the outstanding track trails off and grooves the album quietly to rest. These songs leave you wondering how something so catchy can be so intellectually challenging.

And then you realize, who cares? It's just music. If you like it, you like it. If not, you don't. Dr. Dog isn't here to blow anybody's minds...they didn't quite blow mine. But that shouldn't be a reason to let Shame Shame pass by. If anything, they encourage self-righteous music critics and pretentious self-proclaimed experts to get their heads out of their high horses' asses and trust their first instincts. For me, hopefully, that's exactly the lesson they've managed to give me in Shame, ShameThat, and a great summer driving record.

Recommended tracks: "Unbearable Why," "Jackie Wants a Black Eye," "Shame, Shame"

Check out Dr. Dog performing "Stranger" at SXSW. Preview the entire album via NPR.

Dr. Dog will headline The Paradise on May 11 & 12 with Deer Tick.

- Mike Flanagan

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Goofy Album Reviews

Here at the music staff, we like to get goofy. Last night, feeling very goofy, I decided to record our first Goofy Album Review. This will be a new music blog video series and everyone will laugh at how goofy it is. So sit back, enjoy some goofiness, and hopefully there will be more on the way.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jeff the Brotherhood

This punk/ grunge duo from Nashville are on the road to promote their new album "Heavy Days" Review coming soon (hopefully!) My heart broke when I found out they won't be in Boston until June 16 when I'll be halfway across the country. But you should all check them out and see if they're coming to your city over the summer!

P.S. Check out "I'm a Freak" on their myspace. So great!

Coldplay releases exclusive fragrance!

Coldplay released their very first exclusive fragrance for men today: Coldplay Angst. You can get all the info on how to order it and whatnot here.

The page reads just like an Onion article, only completely, painfully, and palpably serious and self-aware:

We’re very pleased to announce that Coldplay have today launched their own exclusive fragrance, Angst by Coldplay.

“This is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” said the band’s frontman, Chris Martin. “People like to smell nice and we thought we could help them out.”

Martin was quick to point out that there are bigger and better scents available, but that the band are simply trying to make the best aroma they can, for their own pleasure. “If anyone else likes it,” he explained, “then that’s a bonus”.

The core ingredients of the scent are listed on the Brian Eno-designed bottles as sangre, sudor and lágrimas, all of which have been sourced from Fairtrade suppliers.

Angst by Coldplay is available from today, April 1st, in the Coldplay official store, priced at £42. Click here to order your bottle now.

The model in the picture is Coldplay guitarist Jonny Buckland. Chris Martin’s abs aren’t quite toned enough to sell cologne to dudes, apparently.

…And by the time I finished writing this, I realized the probability that this has something to do with today’s date. Oh well…well played. I'm a little ashamed it took me the five minutes it took to write this to figure it out.

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