Monday, November 29, 2010

nihiti - other people's memories

In my cynical and overly critical opinion, we had a shitty week in terms of new music. None of the albums sent to us this week got my vote, so I'm not going to dedicate a lot of time explaining why these bands suck when one quick listen will suffice. This band was actually the best of the week by far, and perhaps the biting tone of the following review is somewhat undeserved. But hey, if I want to be a good music critic I have to be an asshole, right? I'm just taking out my frustration on the only band worth commenting on...last week was a great week for us, and this Thanksgiving week just fell short of anything at all remarkable. Oh well. Here goes:

nihiti is so cool that they don’t even use capital letters. if you know how to come up with one marginally intriguing chord progression and play it unwaveringly for three minutes to an off-time gaggle of misguided, fake bongo-based percussion and add swirly-girly effects, you know how to impress hipsters, so fuck grammar, right? wrong. i go to the most shamelessly hip college in the universe, and i’m nowhere near impressed. some of the chord progressions, basslines, and percussion rhythms are somewhat interesting, but nothing pulls me in because the songs lack substance. there is nothing for me to sink my teeth into; there’s no juice. this album is distinctive from other electronic albums in that the tones are mostly natural and the instrumentation includes real tools, but that’s just about the only positive aspect of other people's memories. there is absolutely no attention to songwriting. that’s my biggest bugaboo. if you’re going to shit all over Steve Grammar’s grave with your name and album title, make sure your music doesn't suck;

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Parting Gifts - Strychnine Dandelion

The Parting Gifts is definitely the kind of band you would have to see live to feel the full effect of their music. I say this without having seen them myself, because it is the obvious feeling you get after hearing their album “Strychnine Dandelion”. Their aggressive vocals and fast-distorted guitars have so much contained energy you can’t help but feel the desire to mosh in a crowd full of crazy people. With an obvious influence from The Doors, their music has a sense of rawness. The male vocals are subtle and agressive at the same time with an intensity similar to Jim Morrison. Other songs like “Don’t Stop” embody the feeling of teenage angst of 70s Punk. The vocals are brutal and intense with anti-establishment lyrics. “Don’t Hurt me now” sounds just like Iggy Pop and could easily be part of the Trainspotting soundtrack.

If you are about to go to a crazy punk concert, pre-game on The Parting Gifts and you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Charles Bradley - No Time For Dreaming

Charles Bradley strives and strains his avuncular little vocal fibers for the extra mile to the extra mile. Where he could reiterate his mid-range register in the opening bars of “The World (Is Going Up In Flames),” he leaps from the mere stratosphere to the moon as he sings “Nobody want to take the blame / Don’t tell me how to live my life / When you never felt the pain.” His Menahan Street Band answers his pile-driving calls with congregation-quaking responses and orbits around his expressive vocals with a rousing brass section and multihued bass. And if that’s not endearing enough, he’s an old man from Brooklyn who trudged through a seemingly hopeless childhood and had to wait 40 years to get his break in the music industry. Oh, and he doesn’t make shitty, pompous indie music like all his neighbors.

Like the aforementioned pompous indie bands channel a putrid concoction of Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective (who, as it happens, are not even from Brooklyn), Bradley channels none other than the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. But there is more merit to his blatant Brown impersonation than there is to copycatting for profit; Bradley is a soul revivalist. He’s not only old-school, but shamelessly old-school. And not just that, but, at 62, he’s authentic. His spoken-word opening verse in “The Telephone Song” hugs so surely to his mighty bird-of-prey caw that Bradley makes Flight of the Conchords look like a couple of grade-A jamoke assholes for their parodical “Business Time.” The track opens to the sound of a telephone dial turning (yes, turning) as Bradley mellifluously whispers, “Remember that time when we was just layin’ down together, side-by-side, and your love just hit me so strong…I love you baby, just come home, it can’t be this way no mo’.”

Bradley has mastered the James Brown shtick right down to the physics-scoffing perm, but he makes his mark as a songwriter within those parameters with his autobiographical numbers like “Why Is It So Hard?” and “Heartaches and Pain.” The lyrics in the former are about as cryptic as a Paul Pierce tweet (“It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents to South Beach”…anybody?) as Bradley sings “I was born in Gainsville, Florida / I traveled far and wide / Then I moved to Brooklyn, New York / I had hard times, but sometimes I hold on.” Similarly, the latter plods along like a lazy July afternoon as Bradley croaks, “A friend grabbed my shoulder / And he said these words to me / Life is full of sorrow / So I have to tell you this / Your brother is gone” out in front of the band’s ironically cheery demeanor.

But the superb Menagan Street Band is sure to lift at least a little of the spotlight from the flamboyant Bradley. The brazen horn section launches “Golden Rule” into the sun the same was Allen Toussant’s brass menagerie lifted much of The Band’s later material from the depths of obscurity. “Lovin’ You Baby” is a champion of electric soul guitar, a twinkling ode to Bradley’s special woman and America’s precious six-stringed sacred harp simultaneously. “I Believe In Your Love” extrapolates that motif as the guitar and bass pace around each other until they’re both dizzy enough to fall out and let the horns and chorus vocals take the floor.

No Time For Dreaming hurls even us 90s kids into a state of nostalgia for the 70s, but that’s not to say it sounds lifted from a time capsule. The production is clean and tastefully spare but never overproduced or intentionally lo-fi. The young band’s new-age take on soul makes Bradley’s Brown flashback all the more genuine, and his effortless vocal acrobatics show the agility of a man one-third his age. It might be wrong to call Bradley a soul revivalist; as far as he’s concerned, it never went anywhere. This is no neo-soul…this is the real thing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tyvek- Nothing Fits

Jam packed with frenzied vocals, fuzzed up guitar, and sharp drums, Tyvek’s newest album, Nothing Fits, leaves no room for boredom. The Detroit band sounds like they came straight out of the late punk/early grunge scene. The record’s lo-fi recording style even gives it that good ol’ DIY feeling.

Some things you will NOT find on this album...
Island-like bells
A gentle guy/girl vocals duo

If you’re sick and tired of the previously listed things taking over new music, Tyvek is the band for you. Give a listen to “Blocks,” “Potato,” and “Pricks in a Car,” off of Nothing Fits.

Fun Fact: Tyvek is a synthetic material that is incredibly tear resistant, but easily cut with scissors or a knife. If you’ve ever been to a music festival you’ve probably been branded with a Tyvek wristband.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eux Autres - Broken Bow

Recently the California surf sound seems to be back with female vocalists. The brother/sister band, Eux Autres seems to fit perfectly in this new music crave. They have an undeniable resemblance to Best Coast, with a female voice that seems sung through a handheld megaphone. Yet the vocals in Eux Autres have the perfect amount reverb and distortion.

Their newest album, Broken Bow is filled with beach-like sunshine songs; with fast guitars and sweet piano melodies that float on top of the effortless drumbeats. The songs have a basic song structure yet they have a quirkiness that sets them apart. “Jamais” is a song in French that features the singer Heather Larimer’s lo-fi voice with a perfect tone and harmonization. “Under Rays” is a song The Beatles would of written if they lived in California. And “Rosehill”, which features a male voice provides a great compliment between vocals.If I were on a road trip to the West Coast, this would definitely be the soundtrack of my ride.

Viva - Rock & Roll Lover

Viva’s website tells me that I could think of the titular singer/guitarist “as a female Jeff Buckley.” I’m not gonna do that. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I popped Viva’s album Rock & Roll Lover into my computer but it sure as shit wasn’t Jeff god damn Buckley. I couldn’t decide if Rock & Roll Lover was a cool album title or not, if the cover looked good or not, if I liked the track names or not. However, once the first song started, I was sold.
Bursting at the seams with energy, the first song (incidentally, it’s the title song) consists of a groovy guitar lines, some pounding drums, and a really sweet horn section. All of these are good things. Topping the layer cake of great instrumentation is a voice that falls somewhere around the B-52s.
Further into the album, you’ll stumble across the eclectic beat poetry meets Warren Zevon meets quirky white girl gem that is “What’s Your Sign, Baby?” The song is fun but I’ll be damned if you ask me what the hell this girl is talking about. Also pay attention to the awesome sax solo towards the end of the track.
Deeper and deeper we go as “$15 Dollar Buzz” bleeds ska influences. The song is so genuine that it’s hard not to like. The song “Go-Go Boots” is a few years to late for the sexual revolution but it arrived just on time to be a hit with its retro sounds and funky keyboard/synth riffing. Did I mention the funky bassline?
In the final analysis, this album is tons of fun. The musicians sound like they’re all having great times. Once in a while, I found myself wishing that Viva would let go on her vocals a bit more, she has a tendency to sound a little withdrawn, but when she lets loose you really know it. Keep an eye on these guys, they might go places.

Cee-lo Green - The Lady Killer

Cee-lo Green has got a hell of a lot to live up to. His flawless single, “Fuck You” made it onto basically every party playlist since it was dropped over the summer, and everyone is on the edge of their seats to hear The Lady Killer, his newest release. Let me tell you how excited I was to see this album title on the list for this week’s review. Furthermore, I get to be the proud bearer of good news in letting you know that this album is everything it should be.

The Lady Killer opens in true grandiose fashion with one of the sweetest intros I have heard in a long time. Sultry piano? Check. Dramatic horns? Check. Badass lines about ladykillin’? Mother fucking check! This doozy of an intro draws us straight into the synth-driven, dance-beat-boppin “Bright Lights, Bigger City,” a song that drips with 80s influences. Cee-lo’s voice is in perfect form as he croons sweet lines like, “Friday is cool, but there’s something about Saturday night.” Sweeping synth strings and a reverbalicious bridge drive the final 80s nail in this dancehall coffin.

Following "Bright Lights" comes everyone’s favorite tune, “Fuck You.” There isn’t much to say about this song that hasn’t already been said so I’ll leave it at that. The song rules. The rest of the album flows smooth-as-silk. The soulful beatcentric “Bodies” may not be the strongest song on the album but damn is that chorus infectious. It’ll stay in your head for a while. From there, we are taken on a trip through time and genre from the gospel meets pop vibe of “Satisfied” all the way to a 50’s high school dance anthem aptly titled “Old Fashioned.

In all, this album is astoundingly cohesive. It’s timeless. With something for everyone and a huge buzz, this album is going to tear up the charts. There’s nothing not to like. Although songs like “Wildflower,” which drags on a little, break up the smooth pace, they don’t stray far off the path and it’s still easy to find a groove. Cee-lo’s gonna kill a lot of ladies with this album.

Swedish House Mafia - Until One

     Although this album does follow a lot of the traditional electronic/house forms that I wish I heard in more albums we get in to WECB (most notably the smooth –almost inaudible- transitions between tracks), the fact of the matter is that the tracks chosen to remix/edit/mash-up are simply just outdated enough to be entirely irrelevant.
      I found this extremely strange if for no other reason than this is an electronic/house album, an album which falls into a genre which is (almost) by definition required to be up to date (to the week) on new music releases... always scouting for new tracks. However this is exactly what SHM didn't do, causing them to seem painfully out of touch.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Pains Of Being Pure Of Heart at The Paradise Rock Club

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart brought Boston a fun set of sparkling and shiny twee-pop during their set at the Paradise Rock Club last week.

The set was made up of a mix of cuts from their 2009 self-titled debut LP, 2009's Higher Than The Stars EP and a new track here and there. From the second they took stage, it was clear that the goal was to get the audience dancing. The songs were fast, jangly and full of tongue-in-cheek lyrics sung by doe-eyed singer, Kip Berman. They raced through several songs before finally pausing to thank the audience for coming.

One highlight was Young Adult Friction, a standout from the debut. The song tells the story of a young boy and girl who have a fling in the stacks of a library. Featuring an uber-catchy chorus that chants "don't check me out!", the song live was a 3 minute long piece of pure pop brilliance. Another standout from the show was the new track, Heart In Your Heartbreak, the lead single from the band's upcoming second LP, Belong. Heart In Your Heartbreak showed that the tracks from the new album will be just as catchy and fun as the old ones are.

The only qualm I had about the show was it was simply too short! The entire set (including the encore) lasted just 45 minutes. After the band left the stage, it was obvious that everyone in the audience wanted more. Despite that, the Pains put on a lovely show. If you have the chance to see the band, do it! They won't disappoint.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Black Angels at the Paradise

The Black Angels show at the Paradise this week was, well, sorta’ stinky. (And no, I’m not referring to the guy next to me whose dinner was definitely disagreeing with him) As much as I love them- yes, I still love them and always will- the Black Angels played like an opening band.

They started off strong with each of the first three songs taken from their three different albums. They kept playing, seemingly enjoying themselves, and the crowd was having fun. But then they played “Manipulation” a classic off of their first album Passover and they lost it. For whatever reason they really screwed up the song, and from there on out the energy was just gone. On top of that, the next song they played, “Yellow Elevator,” is on of the more complex tracks from their newest album, Phosphene Dream. They weren’t comfortable with it, and especially after the mess of “Manipulation” it just didn’t go well.

Alex Maas was having trouble with the microphone- too much reverb, not enough reverb- Nate Ryan couldn’t hear himself on the guitar, Kyle Hunt broke a bass string in the middle of playing “Haunting at 1300 McKinley,” the band just fell apart.

But that’s not to say they didn’t have a few good moments here and there. They did. They were all on key playing Phosphene Dream’s “The Sniper” and they did a great job ending the show with “Young Men Dead.” Overall though, they just weren’t really in the zone.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

No, Thank You Mr. Amaker.

An email we received yesterday... 

"Howdy Margaret [WECB], 

Just dropping you a quick email to personally say thanks for giving my new album some attention.  We're out on tour right now and it means a lot to me to hear that we're getting radio support.  Brent Amaker and the Rodeo thank you for your efforts!  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Another big dump...

Somehow my password changed without me changing it. That, or I'm a complete dumbass and made it something I wouldn't remember last time I changed it. Either way, I have a bunch of reviews backed up from the past several weeks. Here they are.

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - Acoustic Sessions 

Sean Lennon and his wife, Charlotte Kemp Muhl, combine their bold, clean, British-tinged harmonies with colorful acoustic chords and fantastical lyrics. Lennon echoes his father’s interest in pairing lively nouns with unlikely verbs and adjectives to create lyrics and melodies that dance to their unpredictable chord progressions. The songs are not as sweet and accessible as they at first appear for their sometimes jarring chord changes, but their juxtaposition against the soft vocals and warm guitar tone makes this album interesting enough to get through pretty easily. It’s not the kind of album that you’d listen to regularly, but it’s good to have a wild card to go to when you’re absolutely stumped on what to listen to on your walk back from the T.

Zach Hill - Face Tat (Sargent House)
Add Zach Hill’s sophomore LP, Face Tat, to the ever-present and increasingly significant “What is music?” discussion. Hill, the swooned-over drummer whose oddly timed and seemingly impossible beats have marked innumerable bands (perhaps most notably Hella), adds Master Noise Arranger to his impressive resume with thirteen tracks of pure, unadulterated, and meticulously calculated chaos.
The at times nearly amusical programming on this album benefits incalculably from Hill’s virtuoso-caliber drumming; his signature bone-crunching hits in out-of-fucking-nowhere meters do their darndest to demolish the (intentionally) overwhelming wall of noise that Hill staked somewhere between Animal Collective, Dan Deacon, and Tera Melos territory.
“Memo to the Man” gives us a first clue that most of these songs were probably written (or, more aptly worded, constructed) over drum beats and patterns. Hill’s latin-esque, frantic roll drives the track beneath a light but sticky film of electronic banter. Perhaps the most friendly track on the album, “The Primitives Talk” is the closes thing to a conventional song that Hill is willing to create with his solo venture. It highlights one of the rare moments on Face Tat where any kind of melody is distinguishable from accidental crossings of programmed paths. If not for the virtually unfollowable time signature in “Burner in the Video,” one might be inclined to sing along to the Crash Bandicoot-style pseudo-tribal melody as well.
The album mercifully (I say that with at least modest affection) ends with “Second Life,” an industrial march with a forcefully infectious choral hook that sticks to your brain like musical fat. In fact, it might be the only hook you remember after listening to Face Tat. Whether that’s a good thing or an abomination is up to the listener.

The Avett Brothers - Live, Volume 3 
There has always been something about The Avett Brothers that I just miss. I could never put my finger on it any more than I could put my finger on why the world seemed to be so enthralled by their folk-rock standard rewrites; all I knew was that I really, honestly wanted to like them.
I was hoping their performance at the Newport Folk Festival this past August would present me with the epiphany that the state park full of Avett Brothers fans seemed to have experienced to the fullest. I think I came close, but it wasn’t the divine revelation I was looking for. The best thing, maybe the only thing, about the Avett Brothers on record that impresses me is their whistle-clean sound and harmonies that could’ve only come from the same womb. But on the harborside main stage in Newport, the brothers sounded rough; they replaced the equalizing harmonies with haphazard yelps and the barky guitar tones with tinny, poorly mixed mush.
With a mixture of hope and technology-wrought cynicism, I hoped the Avett Brothers’ third live album would smooth out some of those sonic wrinkles. It didn’t. On one hand, I admire them for allowing the record to accurately portray their live sound (this came shortly after I heard The Band’s Complete Last Waltz bootleg in contrast to the official deceptive spotless official Last Waltz). On the other, however, I wish there was at least a trace of their studio sound in their live show. Sometimes a little shot of energy in a live show is a good, even spectacularly great, thing…in the Avett Brothers’ case, it just makes them sound sloppy and out of control.

Venetic - Signs and Pointers

There’s a fine line between quirky, simplistic cleverness and amateurish showboating. There’s the pervading no-so-funny joke that all you need to be famous today is FruityLoops and a MySpace account. Venetic may not be all that famous, but their almost cartoonishly base instrumentation and structureless arrangements point more directly to dilettante rather than to maverick tendencies.
Opening track “Quantative Easing” does its best to trick you from the get-go as the overly percussive organ repeats the same intermediate-level phrases for almost five minutes straight. The drum machine is programmed to play a rather interesting and unorthodox beat on this song, but a deeper dive into Signs and Pointers will reveal that the unconventional percussion amount more to no one in the band knowing how to play drums than any kind of calculated originality.
“Into the Light” amounts to five minutes of one clumsy, wah-clouded guitar progression with an occasional, heavily distorted lick thrown around every minute or so. The band dedicates the first minute to singing the eight lines or so of lyrics (the first time vocals appear on the album), and the last four to jamming on the four chords that repeat throughout the entire song…only there’s almost no variation on any aspect of the song whatsoever at any point.
More of the same ensues throughout the rest of the album. The music on Signs and Pointers isn’t challenging in a satisfying way; there is no payoff for getting through to entire album, or any one song for that matter. There are no dynamics, no intriguing structures, and very little emphasis on strong songwriting. I just found myself asking, what do I have to gain from listening to this album?

I also have some videos to post and some more reviews if I can find them. Until then, enjoy these aforementioned albums (or don't) and tune into the New Music Show every Wednesday from 6 to 8 (

William Ryan Fitch- Music for Honey and Bile

Asthmatic Kitty records, the record label started by Sufjan Stevens, recently released Music for Honey and Bile, the latest album by film composer William Ryan Fitch. The album came out as part of Asthmatic Kitty’s Library Catalog Music Series, which the label defines as “a series of instrumental albums designed for possible use in films and television, background sounds for home or office, or personal needs, such as relaxation, stimulation, meditation, concentration, or elevation.”

Although Music for Honey and Bile was not composed specifically for a film, it is easy to envision an array of scenes to go along with the songs. Fitch, having scored nearly 30 films in the past two years- some of which have premiered at film festivals such as Sundance and SXSW- clearly has a knack for creating music to pair with motion. When first listening to the album, even before I learned all about Fitch and the Library Catalog Music Series, everything I saw seemed to have some sort of story behind it, a story that matched the mood of the particular song playing at the time.

Music for Honey and Bile is a beautiful album. It makes everything around you far more aesthetically pleasing while listening to it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say the album itself is aesthetically pleasing, sounding like Monet’s Impression, Soleiol Levant.
Every last corner of every single song overflows with a huge variety of sounds elicited from a vast array of instruments, all of which are played by Fitch. This is the sort of album that needs to be listened to in it’s entirety, so I can’t really give you any track recommendations, but I can list for you the instruments on the album just to give you an idea:

Piano, organ, wurlitzer, pianet, guitars, pedal steel, drums, saxophone, percussion, marimba, cello, violin, viola, bass, contrabass, mandolin, banjo, hammered dulcimer, vibraphone, trumpet, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, programming, erhu, sarangi, etc, etc.

Interested? I hope so. Asthmatic Kitty suggest that it’s Library Catalog Music Series is perfect for “accompaniment to cooking, eating, sculpting, exercising, high stakes poker, soaking, panoramic landscapes, cuddling, car chases, drawing, knitting, bandaging, romance, playing chess, or planning the rest of your life, of which this is the first day.” So get out and go chase some cars or just stay home and soak, but whatever you chose to do, do it while listening to Music for Honey and Bile.

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno’s Small Craft On a Milk Sea is a cinematic album composed of instrumental pieces that vary from the purest piano melodies to the harshest experimental sounds. The album started as an effort to release songs that hadn’t been included in Eno’s film score for “The Lovely Bones”. In collaboration with fellow musicians, Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams, Eno succeeded in creating a fantasyland just as magical as any great movie.
All of the songs in the album have completely different directions and sounds. “Emerald’s a lime” is a beautiful track with slow piano melodies wrapped around ambient sounds. It has a very minimal approach with much repetition and an overwhelming sense of space. Other pieces like “Horse” and “Paleosonic” are much more experimental. They reminded me of Johnny Greenwood’s solo work, which is futuristically dissonant.
Mostly known for his works as a music producer, Eno has done infinite music projects and experimented with musical genres over decades. In an interview he did on NPR, Eno said that when composing he tries to imagine “a kind of music that hasn’t yet existed”. If this is his goal, he clearly succeeded with Small Craft On a Milk Sea.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Infantree Growing Out of Infancy

 Infantree came of age at a time when more was more in the Indie music scene. The more keyboards, the more vocal effects, the more synthesizers a band boasted, the more praise they got from Pitchfork- think Animal Collective and MGMT. But somehow this young southern Californian band was able to escape the fad unscathed and has gone from recording in basements to playing SXSW in just one year.
It wasn’t always this way though. “I think we were trying a little too much,” said Jordan Avesar, drummer. “Now we just try to get to the simplest form of the song, the skeleton.”
“Over embellishing… it can just get to be too much,” said Matt Kronish the guitarist/ banjo player. “Yeah, you don’t always need all those instruments,” added Don Fisher. Fisher, by the way, is in charge of  “all those instruments,” playing bass, mandolin, keys, and guitar.
Infantree’s simplistic sound has gotten them plenty of attention. The band is now signed to Vapor Records, had their documentary “Food for Thought” shown at Bonnaroo this past summer, and performed at SXSW in Austin, Texas last March. Although they didn’t get to see any bands play at the festival- other than “some weird Russian” group- they described the experience, their first major gig, as “eye-opening.”
“It definitely makes your skin a little thicker, seeing all your competition there in one place,” said Alex Vojani, the guitarist/ lyricist.
But Infantree need not worry. Their unique sound and small band likability factor has given them a running start on the music scene. The band is currently promoting their newest album, Would Work, on their first ever tour, which kicked off in Cambridge, MA October 19th at T.T and the Bears.
Would Work is one of those albums you put on and instantly feel comfortable with. It’s loaded with perfectly blended harmonies and catchy rhythms. Listening to it, it’s easy to forget that the guys making the music were just jamming in their basements not long ago. Some highlights off the album are To & Fro, Mourning Glory, and Rubbed Raw.
Stay tuned to WECB’s New Music Show on Wednesdays from 6-8 to hear these songs and more! Also, make sure to keep an eye on Infantree’s Myspace for the upcoming Mourning Glory music video.

-Mariella Minton 

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