Archive for July, 2008

Jul 10 2008

Passion Pit – Chunk Of Change

Published by under Boston,Electronic,Indie pop,MP3's

Recently, MGMT has been getting a whole lot of attention. While I think they have some good stuff, this past week I have been obsessed with a band that is simply better than MGMT. Meet Passion Pit.

There is no doubt in my mind that this relatively new electro-pop band out of Boston is going to blow up soon. They are already starting to get a lot of recognition in the Boston area, as they have opened up for Girl Talk, and were awarded the best local act of 2008 by WFNX & Boston Phoenix, which gave them the opportunity to open for Death Cab For Cutie.

Michael Angelakos (lead vocals, keys, piano, synth) was the original brains behind Passion Pit, but his friends Ian Hultquist (synth, voice) and Adam Lavinsky (drums, samples) quickly joined to form the band. Thom Plasse (bass, synth) and Ayad Al Adhamy (synth, sample, voice) were added to the mix soon after. Passion Pit literally just signed to Frenchkiss Records (The Hold Steady, the Apes, the Fatal Flying Guiloteens) who will be re-releasing their EP, Chunk Change,  September, 16th.

Ian Hultquist has been featured on “Indie Muse” before for his solo work, which I also highly recommend you check out. He has a great cover of Wilco’s “Sunken Treasure” and currently does compositions for films. He is a student at The Berklee College of Music.

Fun Fact (via the Boston Herald): Angelakos was taking a class in American fashion at Emerson College and stumbled upon the term passion pit: slang for drive-in movie theaters where kids would make out.

So now you know what passion pit means…

Chunk Of Change (September, 2008):

Passion Pit –  Sleepy Head (on EP, Pretty Penny, but will be released on Chunk of Change.)

Passion Pit – I’ve Got Your Number

Ian Hultquist:

Sunken Treasure (Wilco Cover)

Wilco – Sunken Treasure

Passion Pit’s Myspace | Ian’s Myspace | Frenchkiss records

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Jul 09 2008

Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer

Published by under Alternative,MP3's

 

 

Despite how much I loved Wolf Parade’s 2005 debut LP Apologies To The Queen Mary, their hugely anticipated sophomore effort, 2008’s At Mount Zoomer, remained untouched and unzipped on my desktop for two months before I listened to it. Maybe it was because I was afraid that it would be the ultimate sophomore slump, but really I think I just wanted to give it the in depth listen it deserved. So I finally listened to it about a week ago and I must say, I’m very impressed.

While it’s certainly not as good as Apologies To The Queen Mary, the album has its own distinctive flavor. For the most part, the wild, bouncy keyboard/vocal interplay that Spencer Krug is known for (present on songs like “Grounds For Divorce” or “Fancy Claps” from Apologies To The Queen Mary) are absent. The album is much more subdued. Guitarist Dan Boeckner’s vocals really shine on At Mount Zoomer, often upstaging Krug, who I felt presented the stronger vocal delivery on their debut. The album overall is darker; more songs sound like “Same Ghost Every Night” or “Modern World.” But that doesn’t mean Krug and the rest of the band doesn’t go wild at points, like on the very Sunset Rubdown-esque “Bang Your Drum” or floating keyboard-driven “The Grey Estates.” But songs like “Fine Young Cannibals,” “Call It Ritual” and “California Dreamer,” are turbulent tunes of pounding rhythms, loud guitar and the despondent vocal delivery of Krug/Boeckner. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention how stunningly awesome the 11 minute closer “Kissing The Beehive” is, as each member of the band take turns showing off their musical prowess. At Mount Zoomer is also recorded much crisper than Apologies To The Queen Mary, giving it a sound that I think both accentuates the band’s musical abilities but also removes much of the raw, youthful sound of their first LP.

Yet ultimately, the album relies much more on generic, standard indie pop progressions. Now I’m not saying Apologies To The Queen Mary was anything groundbreaking musically, but I felt it had enough originality to earn it the high rating it holds in my book. The songs were extremely well written. And while At Mount Zoomer has dozens of great head bouncing, sing along moments, the songs simply rely on a lot of the oldest tricks in the indie pop books. But before I start over analyzing the album and finding faults that aren’t there, I’m going to end by saying that At Mount Zoomer is an excellent follow up to a nearly impossible to top debut. Sure, it’s a little cliche at points, but there’s not really a weak track on the album and it proves that Wolf Parade are still on top of their game and are still the best Spencer Krug band. Pick up the album if you’re a fan of stuff like Sunset Rubdown, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Of Montreal, etc. and check out a few mp3s from the album.

 

Score: 8.4 out of 10

 

P.S. How much does that album cover kick ass?

 

From At Mount Zoomer:

Wolf Parade – Fine Young Cannibals

Wolf Parade – Language City
Wolf Parade – Soldier’s Grin

iTunes| Amazon| Myspace

 

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Jul 09 2008

Derby – Posters Fade

Published by under Alternative,Indie pop,MP3's

Almost two years ago, I featured a band out of Portland, Oregon, named Derby. At the time they had released a debut album, This is the New You, and I couldn’t stop listening, especially to the song “Parade.” Derby gets comparisons to The Shins, and Nat Johnson’s vocals bring to mind Elliott Smith (the lyrics are quite different than Smith’s, though).

They have just released their sophomore album, Posters Fade, and while I can’t say  that it’s one of my favorite albums, it has several really good songs on it. My favorites include “If Ever There’s A Reason,””Only What She’s Selling,” “Treetops,” “Stumps,” and “Episode. ”

Derby’s talent lies with their more mellow alternative rock. Some of their songs are a little faster paced, which I feel can throw off the quality of the  vocals–especially because they lack the harmonies that Derby is known for. Granted, the album would probably become monotonous if it was only mellow songs, however, the indie rock songs just don’t do too much for me. They aren’t bad, they just aren’t all that memorable.

Derby is Nat Johnson (lead vocals, guitar, bass), Dave Gulick (vocals, rhodes, organ, guitar), and Isaac Frost (drum/percussions). Nat and Dave started playing together as dorm mates at University of Oregon, and Isaac joined the band after graduating from Oregon State University. They are not signed to a record label.

Posters Fade (2008):

Derby – If Ever There’s A Reason

Derby – Only What She’s Selling

This is The New You (2005):

Derby – Parade

Derby – Proving

Site | iTunes | Amazon | Myspace

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Jul 07 2008

James Blackshaw

Published by under Folk,MP3's

http://www.ravensingstheblues.com/pics/jamesguitar.jpg

 

James Blackshaw is mostly known for his 12-string guitar virtuosity; his ability to expand the sound of a single instrument is very impressive. His style of music ranges from folk to classical to experimental. Sometimes sounding like Leo Kottke or John Fahey and other times sounding like Phillip Glass or Steve Reich, his new album Litany of Echoes, is an intricate musical journey. These instrumental pieces fill up the entire rhythmic grid as Blackshaw plays constantly, barely taking a break to give his hands a rest. He must have incredible stamina to be able to play these pieces he has written. The first track on the album is a minimal piano piece that has little melodic development, but a great deal of rhythmic development, gradually adding more notes creating a tension that doesn’t feel like it gets resolved until the second track. The rest of the album focuses much more on the 12-string, with some strings and piano accompanying it in the background.

MP3: James Blackshaw –  Gate of Ivory  
MP3: James Blackshaw –  Infinite Circle

MySpace

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Jul 06 2008

Ride – Dreams Burn Down (1990)

Published by under Alternative,MP3's,Song of the Day

As far as popular shoegaze (oxymoron?) goes, Ride has undeservedly slipped beneath the overbearing shadow of rock legends, My Bloody Valentine. I recently learned that the British press actually coined the term shoegaze in reaction to Ride’s live show – they would stare at the stage while playing, walls of trembling, shivering noise pulsing behind them. So, in light of what seems to be a modern, indie shoegaze resurgence (see: The Raveonettes, Mew, Blonde Redhead’s 23, basically any indie in the last decade), it is fitting to consult the vaults, and resurrect this gem.

“Dream Burn Down” opens with an impossible momentum – huge, slightly-off kilter drums charging in, backed by a distorted, heavily tremolo’d rhythm guitar. The piercing specifics of the guitar lead are a brilliant (literally, they’re all sparkle) counterpoint to the amorphous mass of sound swirling beneath, propelling Andy Bell’s melody toward a series of immaculate noise breakdowns. As the verses proceed, the anticipation builds, the increasingly frantic instrumentation mirroring Bell’s heightened frustrations: “Waiting, hoping for a sign/That what’s forbidden can be mine/I just want what I can’t have/’Til my dreams burn down every time.” And at the resolution of each verse, the vocals dissolve seamlessly into walls of static noise, a visceral release in a wave of sound.

Sometimes I get a little carried away with my writing, but I think that’s probably a reflection of how much I want people to dig what I’m writing about. There aren’t many songs that I feel my stereo can’t do justice. And this song absolutely kills. Like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, “Dreams Burn Down” demands to be listened to at maximum volume on your system. This is when an 11-knob a-la Spinal Tap would come in handy.

And for a love song on the lighter, less-angsty side, check out “Vapour Trail,” also below for download. Even more swirls!

Ride – Dreams Burn Down (Nowhere – 1990)

Ride – Vapour Trail (Nowhere – 1990)

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With the video below, the interview is kinda lame, but the unplugged song is real cool, done like the Take Away Films of today.

YouTube Preview Image

Site | MySpace | Big Ole’ Fan Website | Amazon |

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Jul 05 2008

Aloha – Light Works

Published by under Alternative,DC,Experimental,MP3's

 

For those who like Sufjan Stevens, The Shins, Rogue Wave, and Jeremy Messersmith I highly recommend checking out the band Aloha. Their albums have been in my iTunes for a while, but it’s not until the last week that I have given them the listen they deserve. Their 2007 release Light Works has a really nice sound.

The 7 track LP is a lot less experimental than the band’s other releases, which they’ve built their name off,  but I personally like it more. It is really mellow, and a perfect prescription for productivity. Truthfully, there are only a few times that you are going to ask “what song is that?” Light Works is not an album set out to impress, meaning you’ll want to listen to it in its entirety.  Like The Album Leaf, you probably won’t grow an attachment to any particular song. The most rememberable songs include “Body Buzz” “The End,””Gold World” and “Passengers.”

Aloha has a really interesting background. They first began to form in 1997, and the four bandmates, Tony Cavallario, Matthew Gengler, Cale Parks, and T.J. Lipple  are scattered across the east coast, hailing from Cleveland, Brooklyn, Rochester, and Washington DC.  Even though they live in different places they manage to get together to make music.  I think that’s really cool. Some bands give off the impression that they formed because it was convenient. However, it can be restricting to allow location to be a collaboration barrier. If each of these guys wanted to make their lives easier, they could probably just start up their own bands in their selected cities. They don’t settle for that though, and are so passionate about what they do,  they will travel whenever and wherever to make music. People who know Aloha’s history like their music that much more.

Aloha is signed to Polyvinyl records.

Light Works (2007):

Aloha – Body Buzz

Aloha – The End

amazon | itunes |myspace

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