Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Popping in the burned copy of Caddywhompus’ EP there is one word that comes to mind…Raw. This is not to say that the duo’s 4 songs on the EP, which are also available online for a free download, are not refined or basic in sense. Instead, the rawness comes through in that of the production of the music (recorded in their living room), the packaging (those lucy enough get a burned CD with the names of the songs handwritten on the back of the white envelope) and most importantly the attitude of the songs. This is two guys, one with a guitar and one with a set of drums, making music together who absolutely love what they are doing. With bits of shoe gaze guitars, garage rock, melodic choruses and a hint of punk, it is no wonder where they dreamt up the genre Noise Pop to classify their music. This is a record that will constantly have you moving from uncomfortable “how is making that sound” to catchy sign along to knocking you over the head with a piece of scrap metal.
“This is Where We Blaze the Nuggz” starts the album with a simple guitar opening leading to a click off that immediately transfers into rim shots and hi hat. This all builds with the volume of the guitar with addition of kick drum with a sudden explosion that is nothing short of a punch to the groin. Unsettled by LOUD guitars and vocals that you will probably have to hear 3 to 4 times to understand, the listener is dragged along to a chant of Oh ohhh Oh, Oh Ohhhh oh followed by a melodic guitar. This leads to a moment where Chris Rehm;s fingers dance around the fret board like drunk girl at her senior prom. After another melodic build that alternates from vocals to guitars the song ends a climatic thunderstorm where there are screams of “Waaa Ahhhhh Ahhhh” added to the melody. This is nothing short of what is to come.
When bands are young and looking to produce material many times ideas are taken as individual songs and the end product is a slew of mediocre drawn out songs based on simple concepts. Caddywhompus, however, does not fall victim to such a short coming. Maybe it is their youth in age (Chris, 18 and Sean, 19), not experience, but one of the cleverest parts of the album is the way that each song seems to be composed of pieces of many different songs. “Fun Times at Whiskey Bay” is the perfect example of just how they do this. The heavy intro that steps down to a very simple mid section which is then abandoned almost instantaneously for a repeat of a short version of the intro. This all leads the repetition of what could possibly be one of the best lyrics of any local band this year: “I feel safe with you, and you with me my smile spreads till I can’t see. And you, you are the earth and I am your dirt, we seem to be for what its worth.” The seamless change into “Absinthesizer” again shows the maturity of Caddywhompus. The shortest song on the EP, this is the song where they say “fuck it” and let a great idea stand on very short legs, and that it simply does.
The EP closes out with “Untitled #7408”which stands as the most radio friendly of the album. With the tightest pop structure of all the songs it moves quickly and shows that while they are willing to take risks, they also know how to step back and draw people in.
This is by far one of the most promising local bands to be playing in New Orleans right now, and with a second EP coming quickly on the heels of the first and buzz that will hopefully get people flocking to their shows, make sure you keep your eyes and ears open to what they are doing so you don’t miss a beat.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Smiley with a Knife’s How a Reign Comes to an End is an album that exists in the realm of duality. It is one thing and at the same time the antithesis of that same very thing. For an album that breaks almost every rule of the rock genre in its experimental nature, How a Reign Comes to an End manages to be a rock album. It provides emotion and tells stories without using a single spoken word. It allows the listener to feel free, yet pulls back with a head bobbing groove.
The album begins with a dark introduction, as if one is walking down a poorly lit hallway towards a door at the end with traces of noise around them. As that door opens, one is bathed in light that barely gleamed around the edges of it before and surrounded by sounds. Immediately, the air is filled with bouncy bright guitars, punchy bass and crsip drums. As the sounds grow the title “The Whole Town was Watching” makes sense. Without words, the listener begins to understand the town saw what happened, and now it is all a buzz with the passing of the story. Some are more than happy to continue to pass the story along, while others pause in skepticism. This theme of telling a story through the emotion of the instruments is carried throughout the album, though not are all as quite as airy and bright as the opening track.
“Until the Scandal Unveiled Her” slips into a darker realm where the guitars are forced into a much more rhythmic distorted pattern. Beginning with a drum roll, the bright guitars appear to ricochet from left to right off the straight forward bass, like the ball in a game of Pong. This continues until frustration builds and the guitars erupt into a growling roar.
The guitars are what truly speak through the music. They are the characters allowed to roam seemingly free at times expressing what they see and feel. They are the emotion. To maintain some order and not allowing the guitars to become too free in the space, the rhythm section lays down a solid groove, it is the scenery, the boundaries. The songs become more progressive tales than the standard repetition of parts as are most rock songs. The linear attitude to the songs juxtaposed to the tight bass and drums is clear example of the duality of this rock album – without the linear nature it would be just a rock album and without the tight rhythm it would be pure experiment.
How a Reign Comes to an End exists in a time where so many bands are pushing the limits to the point past the recognizable, Smiley with a Knife achieves a sound that is free, yet grounded – allowing for experimentation while not letting things end up in another world. This duality combined with the emotionality is what gives How a Reign Comes to an End its vitality to stand.
Rarely are there records that are exactly what you expect them to be, yet leave you feeling amazed. Delta Spirit’s Ode To Sunshine is one. My introduction to Delta Spirit was one of excitement and anticipation. I had heard rumblings of their amazing live performance from friends lucky enough to see them at SXSW or in other cities and waited restlessly for their show in New Orleans. To hold myself over till the show, I grabbed onto whatever tracks I could online and fell in love with the rotation of three to four songs. The show did not disappoint as the band delivered an energy that moved the room. Statements such as “I feel like I just went to church” and “I have balls now, and I am a girl. That just made me a man” were spoken in the crowd after the show. I bought the album and took it home.
None of the songs that I had not heard were far from my expectations based upon the short selection I had already heard and what I experienced at the show. Yet, every song grabs you. This is music that lives inside of you. With a healthy dose of Americana mixed to perfection with the gritty raw rock that sounds like the illegitimate child of The Walkmen and the lead singer of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Ode To Sunshine resonates with a listener. It is something familiar, yet at the same time quite different, and most importantly epic.
Of the eleven tracks on the album, the stands out are Trashcan, House Built For Two and People C’Mon. Trashcan comes in with a simple beat that draws the listener in and is then built upon keeping the verses simple. All of which is done to lead to the explosive yet, short chorus that screams out “My Love is coming, I can barely hardly wait…around.” While Trashcan is all about moment, House Built For Two, one of the few ballads on the album, travels, though as if it is a journey on an old rust bike with a slipping chain. The verses coast through with a simple rhythm. The chorus comes in and peddles a little harder, but slows back to the cruising level. The moment of freedom, where the listener takes their feet off the peddles and coasts down the hill, comes in the bridge when a chorus comes in with a simple “Nah, Nah Nah…” People C’Mon is definitely the thickest songs on the album, and the clearest anthem of the album. Grooving bass lines, drum beats and in your face vocals create a robust composition that delivers and as the singer’s raw voice belts out the line “If feeling what I am feeling come on, all you soul searching people come on,” notice how it grasps a hold of your tongue for days on end and come on.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Wolf Parade - Call It a Ritual
Since the day I bought Apologies To The Queen Mary, I have been waiting for new material from Wolf Parade - not because I was disappointed, but because the album was that damn good. I knew there was potential for so much more and sure enough... I was right. "Call It a Ritual" delivers exactly what you would expect from Wolf Parade - dramatic drums (and piano) keeping a marching beat, various instruments stepping in and out of the song, one of those 2 wonderfully awkward voices telling you a dark tale that makes you contemplate whether this is reality or a dream. But there is something else, something that is hard to place. There is a definite maturity that shines through, though the production seems to be, if anything, more subdue than before. It seems as if this song actually sounds darker, like it came out at night under cover and now hides in the shadows. Then when opportune - it snaps, injects you and all you are left to do is wait...
The Control - Black Madonna
It only seems fitting that this song be paired with "Call It a Ritual." I will write a more detailed love note to this band soon in their own blog as they grow. For right now, all you need to do is listen to this song and imagine 4 guys and a girl on stage with a iMac, keyboards, a guitar, a conga and more wires than you can imagine. Oh yeah, and though it isn't there in the recording - a harp. I promise when I saw them, there was a harp, masterfully played. The steady beat starts the song at a quick pace that pulls the listener in, placing them in a trance. Layer by layer that beat is built upon. During this layering, Micah Mckee's ghostly smooth voice chimes in: "You only have to say two words/for me to understand you." If at this moment you aren't hooked, just wait till the chorus explodes with congas layered on top of everything else as he wails "So here's your Black Madonna/Here's the keeper of your children." At the end, after it has graceful deconstructed itself, the song leaves one with a desire for more. And imagine that is without seeing them live, which I promise is where the real magic lies.
Wolf Parade - Call It a Ritual
The Control - Black Madonna
Friday, May 2, 2008
While I love putting on a great album and listening to music in the controlled environment that an artist put out as a total package, there is really is something great about putting those songs into your own controlled package. The parameters have changed over time that controlled said mixes - first there was tape (2 sides limited length), next CDs (limited time) and now the age of I Tunes and the I Pod(unlimited). This evolution has created a strange freedom and, at the same time, a complex problem. To this hipster, the point of a mix is to hear certain songs, in an order, and at some regularity. A few months ago, however, I figured out I had fallen into the digital trap, found a new song, dumped it on my latest and greatest mix without editing it. One day though I realized, there was no order and even more disturbing, the mix had reached an insane length of 200+ songs, meaning I was either selecting particular songs off the playlist, or just putting it on random (which I admit, has its value). This was the moment that I decided to create some rules for my mix.
Now I have many mixes, just as any other hipster does, but I will focus on the "Latest &/or Greatest" mix. Here are the rules:
1. Must fit on a CD - since I hate radio where I live, and my car is not mp3 compatible it just makes since. Plus it is good to impose limits on yourself.
2. Must contain no more 7 "greatest" tracks. - Let's be honest, I want to listen to what is new and hip, but sometimes you need an old favorite to keep things familiar. These tracks consist of any songs from an album I own that is older than a year old.
3. The remainder must be made of the "latest" - The latest include tracks off cds I have yet to get or off an album I own that is less than a year old.
4. No more than 2 tracks from one artist
I update this mix at most once a week, at the least once a month (very, very rare).
My basic goal is share what the "Latest &/or Greatest" mix consists of at any time and do a write up of why I am adding a track to the mix.
Fine, I will give it to you. You've got the rules, so here's the current mix:
1. Black Kids - I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You
2. How I Became the Bomb - Killing Machines
3. Vampire Weekend - Walcott (Insane Mix #2)
4. MGMT - Kids
5. Handsome Furs - Cannot Get Started
6. Wolf Parade - Call It A Ritual (+)
7. The Control - Black Madonna (+)
8. Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #2 (Laika) (*)
9. Antenna Inn - Ernest Brognine
10. Hallelujah the Hills - Wave Backwards to Massachusetts (*)
11. These United States - First Sight
12. Rogue Wave - Lake Michigan
13. John Michael - Every Night of the Year
14. Lightspeed Champion - Dry Lips
15. Bishop Allen - Like Castanets
16. Shout Out Louds - Tonight I Have To Leave It
17. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away (*)
18. The Strokes - New York City Cops (*)
19. The Meligrove Band - Everyone's A Winner (*)
20. John Michael - Not Much to Say
21. Antenna Inn - Stockholm Syndrome
So obviously, or maybe not so obviously, the * above stands for "Greatest." The + is the most recently added tracks (which there are two) which I will start off the addition blogs with this weekend.
Hopefully you kids like this, if not, oh well they're my mixes anyway.
Friday, April 25, 2008
With Josh Hook laying guitar riffs that sound like they were lifted straight out of Albert Hammond, Jr’s mind, the bright guitar is sort of like that junior high school friend you had that you lost touch with for a while but quickly remember why you were friends in the first place. These fast pace guitar riffs coexist with the continued motif of thick bass lines and heavy drum beats that bounce you to and fro. Keyboards provide a texture to the sound helping it exist in the context of where Indie Pop is today. All of this is layered with Dave Monks high pitched and distinct vocals that really give the sound the edge it needs to stand out.
The album as a whole moves fast. As soon as you start it, it seems to end all too suddenly. This wholly makes sense when you take a second and look at the track length listings. While the album contains a full helping of 11 tracks, only one clocks in at over 3 minutes long. Luckily enough, this happens to be one of the best tracks on the album “Your English is Good.” On this track, TPC go back to the choral type chant that appeared on A Lesson In Crime. Once sucked in by the chanting of “Oh, give us your vote / give us your vote / if you know / what’s good for you” over a simple click of drum sticks and bouncing keyboard lines, the full song comes in true TPC style. With lyrics like “And until the tramp finds Christ / Injustice is my middle name,” you have to sit and wonder how something that has you dancing so gleefully can also exist with a dark side.
The only unfortunate piece of Tokyo Police Club’s latest work is the Limited Edition Bonus Remix Disc that came with it. It seems hard to imagine that an original song that would make you want to dance could be remixed into a song that makes you want to press stop. Maybe its just this hipster alone, but I don’t see where they were going with these, and are thankful they came on a separate disc from the actual album.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Occasionally, you come across a band that you feel has something truly special. Then you as soon as you found it that music is torn from you. You sulk. You cry (ok, maybe not everyone does). And you continue your search. Once in rare blue moon, that music comes back, though maybe not with the same name or band members, but the magic is still there. You rejoice.
This epic trial was exactly how my relationship with Hallelujah the Hills began. In the summer of 2005, I stumbled upon a band out of Boston called The Stairs. After surviving a week off of the limited songs I could find online, I purchased their album. The album lived in my cd player. Song after song, On Sleep Lab became a piece in the standard rotation of my life. Then it came, the obituary clipping via a bulletin online, telling me my new found staple would be closing up shop, just shortly after I had discovered them. And yes, I sulked, I cried, and I told everyone who could care less about my loss. I continued to listen to the album, but it was not the same
Then sometime later, I received another online bulletin from Hallelujah the Hills. Who? I did not know this band. Glancing over their information, it quickly became clearer. My heart raced. I rejoiced. HALLELUJAH! The Stairs had returned, or should I say Hallelujah the Hills had been born. The new songs grabbed me, and held me tighter than before. I ordered their full length freshman effort Collective Psychosis Begone. Track by track I discovered that HtH had surpassed what I could have expected. With the conglomeration of instruments, carefully crafted clever lyrics, and pop sense with an edge, songs such as "Wave Backwards To Massachusetts" and "Hallelujah The Hills" made it on mix cds for everyone I thought would care, and some I didn't think would.
HtH's latest release is an interesting one. A band that has gained so much regional success and making the push to become national players have just released Prepare to Qualify for free. Though only an EP, it is still a special piece. After a few solid listen throughs, the song that grabs me like much previously mentioned tracks do is "Nurses 5 Float Past." The clever lyrics still exist throughout, instruments still enter songs at just the right moment and leave in the same graceful fashion as before. This is a great pop Indie album, the kind of album you can put on a party where no one else had heard of them and everyone catches on, without out it sounding too familiar.
Be sure to grab your digital copy of this free EP, and prepare yourself for an adventure that will remind you of road trips as a child with your family - familiarity of your little brothers chatter in a new context, road noise as cars pass that change the usual patterns, and those quirky sayings from the off the wall gas station worker that seems to be in every town you stop - all wrapped up in a musical package that does more than deliver; it steers the ship.
MP3: Nurses 5 Float Past