What I’m Listening To…

Heems-Home ft. Dev Hynes

1/2 of the former rap group Das Rascist, Heems is now releasing some (mostly) solo work. While a lot of their tracks have a humorous quality (like this), this is a rare serious offering from them.  While the song carries a negative vibe, it has a relaxing quality. And there is a still a comedic presence in it by way of an R. Kelly lyric. “Shawty quit your bitchin’, be my remix to ignition”…Marvelous

 

 

Health-New Coke

A group that I discovered through hearing their score from a a video game is Health (best song here).  They’re an L.A. based group and what makes them stick out is their heavy use of electronics. They definitely don’t do house or dance music, however. Their aggressive and heavy beats give them more of an industrial sound. This is a classic example of a song of building up to a climax. The video they shot for it matches that perfectly. I posted it but I’ll warn you, it does have some shock value as there’s a rather graphic sequence starting at the 1:30 mark. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s NSFW but it can be unsettling to those with a weak stomach. I prefer this version however as it is condensed and features an outro that serves as an alleviating come down from the climax.

 

 

White Reaper-Make Me Wanna Die

A peppy yet dark track is by White Reaper. Think a classic, fast-paced garage rock sound with invigorating vocals and “Make Me Wanna Die” fits the bill perfectly. Overall, it’s a very fun track that makes a statement that punk rock is still alive in this time of mainstream  pop, folk, and electronic music typically topping the charts.

 

 

 

Gigs: Field Division at Vaudeville Mews 6/16

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A dynamic local band that is worth seeing live is Field Division. They were on hand at Vaudeville Mews earlier this week as an opening act for Futurebirds. They’re a folkwave group that plays regularly here in the Midwest. Through the efforts of Evelyn Taylor and Nicholas Frampton, you get to hear a sound that is dreamy and surreal out of a mostly acoustic set. Most of their songs are about the world around us and their  lyrics describe places and landscapes and connect with people’s relations to them and as well as their existentialism.

Evelyn’s vocals are marvelous and fit this style of music perfectly. Nick’s backing vocals blend in extremely well and these two have come up with the formula for providing a ambient, earthly live show. They have since added a 2nd guitar player which only makes them better. The song below serves as a prime example

 

 

The first act was Conrad Bascom and the Eternal Returners. They provided some vibrancy to the show with a good mix of songs. I enjoyed them the most out of the other acts due to their energy and sound. There was some of the most animated “woo-hooing” I’ve ever seen in a live performance as their closing song had at least 30 seconds worth of it to close out their set. It.Rocked.

 

Next was Canyons; way too down-tempo and slow for a concert style performance. I think their style would be better suited to playing in low-key bars and restaurants.

 

The headliner was Futurebirds. A band out of Savannah, GA. Again, a nice assortment of songs and most of them had a southern sounding quality to them. The crowd really seemed to get into this group and it’s probably because of the highly talented musical craftsmanship and their sound that is non-intimidating and the abundance of hooks it provides.

 

 

By the time Field Division came on, it was fairly late and the crowd had somewhat dispersed. Those that stayed were definitely rewarded with a superb set that didn’t disappoint. They played a couple of tracks of off their most recent release, Reverie State, which can be listened to hereThey sounded just as good live and what’s most impressive to me is the quality of vocals they have for a live set. There was literally no discernible difference between how they sound live compared to in the studio. Few bands and producers can do that.

 

Live for the VM

Live from the VM

 

They also played some of their newer material which I really liked. It fits right in line with what they’ve been doing but also had a more upbeat tone to it. They’re sticking with what makes them unique but also experimenting as well. There’s no shortage of potential with this group and I’m definitely looking forward to their next show. They play at Wooly‘s this Saturday, 6/20 at 9pm. They’ll also be playing at the Des Moines Social Club on July 3rd opening for Windowspeak. I highly recommend saving either of these dates (both Fri/Sat) to check out some great music.

 

What I’m Listening to:

Kristen-Wiig-The-Californians-No-Way-SNL

 

1. Bully-Sharktooth

Count me in as one of those that has embraced this arrival of this band. Bully is a group of out of Nashville and they have a polished, yet traditional garage rock sound to them. This is my favorite song by them, due to the insightful and meaningful lyrics and Alicia Bognanno’s captivating vocals. Her voice is what gives this group their signature sound. The guitars featured are spectacular as well, especially during the chorus.

 

 

2. A$AP w/Clams Casino-Wassup

Clams Casino puts down some classic, ambient beats to the vocals of A$AP. It all makes for a down-tempo loungey sounding track. It sounds like a more bare version of Lil’ Wayne’s Lollipop.

 

 

3. Jamie xx-Hold Tight

An exhilarating track by this mutli-talented member of the xx. A song that will largely go unnoticed even by those that are familiar with Jamie xx; this  and fast-paced song gets better and more invigorating as it progresses. It combines elements of aggressive synths,  layered percussion/bass beats, and  well-placed subtle backing lyrics that are spoken and not sung. Strap yourselves in for the 4-minute, fucking great thrillride

 

 

 

 

Album Review: LP1-FKA Twigs

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A band that is really taking the indie world by storm lately is FKA Twigs (Tahliah Barnett). They were one of the most highly anticipated sets at Coachella a few weeks back and they have basically been on repeat on my CD player at home. Their first effort, EP2, featured 4 songs that were something completely new and different to me. The intricate and diverse instrumentals paired with Tahliah’s emotion filled vocals makes for an imposing listening experience. If you’ve heard this band before, you know it’s them playing the second they come on. It’s not like this style hasn’t been done before, but their sound is so expertly crafted and unique that it makes them easy to distinguish from other RnB acts.

 

Onto their first full length album, LP1. I was not disappointed by this effort.  I had very high hopes after hearing what was a sensational set of songs on EP2 (where my favorite was Ultraviolet, which is the least know of the 4 tracks) . You get 10 songs that are different sounding enough from each other as to not make the album sound repetitive at any point.

 

1. Preface (6/10)-I’m generally not a fan of when bands decide to start off an album with a preface or an intro (this is an exception to that). Thus, this doesn’t have much to offer despite featuring the way talented vocals of Tahliah.

 

2. Lights On (7.5/10)-Pretty simplistic in nature. Few lyrics, although they are clearly very personal to the vocalist. I don’t like the differing tempo in this song. They usually pull this off nicely but here it just sounds disjointed and doesn’t work on this track. It does feature a good closing, though.

 

3. Two Weeks (10/10)-This is the track that generated all the buzz for LP1. You’re drawn in right away with the ambient effects and Tahliah’s vocals on this track are nothing short of magnificent. The lyrics during the verses are nothing special but the chorus is when the song really takes off, due to the vocal/lyric combo and the continuing, almost trance-like vibe the instrumentals provide.

 

 

4. Hours (7.5/10)-This is one of the more stripped down tracks on the record. Other than some subtle instrumentals and percussion, it’s mostly Tahliah’s vocals which are at times distorted to provide that signature haunting effect that FKA Twigs is known for.

 

5. Pendulum (9/10)-This is a song that’s grown on me with many listens over time. I like the mix of less aggressive vocals showcased on the earlier part of the track contrasted with some of the more emphatic bits that come later in the song. The chorus is mesmerizing (especially with final sequence that begins @3:52).

 

6. Video Girl (7/10)-This song has garnered a lot of buzz amongst FKA Twigs followers but it is not a favorite of mine. It is mixed and mashed in this cool music vid advertising Google glass (which is a product that’s  been scrapped last I heard). Alas, I don’t really care for the full version. Either because it’s too slowly developing with a disappointing chorus or it’s devoid of energy altogether.

 

7. Numbers (6.5/10)-To me, it sounds like a knock-off of Purity Ring’s “Amenamy”. You can see for yourself but other than the slight comparison, there’s not much this song does for me. Along with my complaint about “Video Girl” lacking enthusiasm, I would throw this in that category also but this song is even less progressive and doesn’t lead up to anything. However, it’s tracks like this one that set up the rest of the album and are welcome breaks from the intensity that most of the other tracks contain.

 

8. Closer (7/10)-Probably the most obscure and cryptic of all the songs on the album. This is due to the odd childlike vocals and the slightly more upbeat vibe that is not typical of most of their songs. It’s almost a RnB/Gospel cross which is intriguing but this song is so short it caps any interest rather quickly.

 

9. Give Up (9.5/10)-There’s a lot of things that I like about this song. The instrumental effect that opens the song and gets scattered throughout the track is probably my favorite aspect of it. But again, Barnett’s vocals and her dynamic range are showcased very well in this song. What also sticks out is the counterbalance between the dark and upbeat effects that mash together so deftly.

 

 

10. Kicks (7/10)-Not the closing track I was looking for from them. Was hoping they would go out with something big but this is an understated, minimalistic track. Not a bad song by any means but as I stated earlier, it serves more to set-up the more powerful songs on the album. Standing alone, it doesn’t have much to offer next to their other work.

 

Overall Rating: A-. Be sure to at least stream the album but it is worth buying. There are few bands that are capable of giving off such a spirited and vibrant sound with only a few select instruments.

 

 

Quick Hitters: almost summer

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In honor of the greatest season of all, it’s time to look ahead and use songs that have already been released to bring in the summer full force. These are all tunes that have a female lead vocalist along with a lo-Fi sound, which is perfect for summer.

Best Coast-Feeling Ok

 

The first is “Feeling Ok” by Best Coast. Best Coast is one of my personal favorites.  This has been the case since I heard their album Crazy for You which featured classics like “Boyfriend”, “When I’m With You”, and the title track. While their sound has evolved from a vintage lo-fi act to a more polished, contemporary style; they still feature catchy guitar riffs and Bethany Constantino’s vocals seem to have more range than on previously recorder tracks. This song is a prime example of that.

 

Alvvays-Adult Diversion

Another band that gives off a summer vibe with their sound is Alvvays. Taking a page out of CHVRCHES book with the purposely incorrect spelling of their name, Alvvays has made their presence known in the indie scene lately. They join Mac Demarco and Purity Ring as another of my favorite bands that hails from Canada. Adult Diversion is a peppy, evenly flowing track with an equally satisfying verse-chorus combo. It also features some thoughtful lyrics which makes this band stand out to me.

 

 

Beverly-You Can’t Get It Right

 

Simply cannot get enough of this band. The dynamic usage of guitar featured by this group is so powerful. The parts during the bridge and in-between the chorus is where it really shines (@1:29). Drew Citron and Frankie Rose’s vocals pair together exceptionally well yet again for this track. This side project has unlimited potential and I can only hope that we hear news of another album in the works soon.

 

 

 

Quick Hitters: The ABC’s of Non-Singles XYZ

 

We’ve made it! We’ve made it to the end of our countdown. I hope that the jubilant expressions these historic figures have here are similar to what you felt during this run-through of oft-forgotten tracks

 

~X~

Jamie XX-All Under One Roof Raving

 

This catchy, British electronica song is representing the X category and it does it quite well. A song comprised of subtle effect, heart-thumping beats, and a multitude of people with British accents talking about various things. I’ve always liked these types of songs because they take little effort to enjoy. Since there’s not much going on and it runs for 6 minutes, you can sit back and enjoy it for its effective simplicity.

 

 

~Y~

Weird Al Yankovic-MoneyFor Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies

 

While Weird Al has definitely had some misses in his career, I’ve always admired his commitment to the spoof of modern mainstream music. I also really admire his originality when doing so. Some were pretty superficial and unimaginative, like “Amish Paradise” (still funny though). But then there were others where he really thought outside the box. Case in point, his spoof of Dire Straights’s “Money for Nothing”. He took two things that could not have been more unrelated and merges them into something that is pretty comical. Judge for yourself but I think you’ll have a tough time holding in laughter as the backing vocalist bellows out “Be-ver-ly, be-ver-ly, be-ver-ly hill-billy.”

 

 

~Z~

Zero 7-Passing By

 

This band has perfected the art of creating the song that fits the occasion of sitting down after a long/stressful/momentous day in the life of a generation Y’er. They don’t disappoint with the track “Passing By”. One could argue it sounds pretty similar to another of their songs, “In the Waiting Line”, but I feel there’s a enough difference to make it worth your listen.

 

Quick Hitters: The ABC’s of non-singles R-W

“Grand Funk Railroad paved the way for Jefferson airplane, which cleared the way for Jefferson starship. The stage was now set for the Alan Parsons project, which I believe was some sort of hovercraft”

 

~R~

Real Estate-Easy

The opening track of their album, Days. It’s a vintage Real Easte Song; freely flowing but with a nice little hook. They have a way with coming up with choruses that feature Martin Courtney’s vocals blending in well with the subtle yet effective instrumentals that Real Estate provides.

 

 

~S~

Smashing Pumpkins-Geek USA

A longer, more heavier hitting version of another Siamese Dream track, “Quiet”. They have somewhat similar guitar riffs; the ones that made that whole album remarkable. But I like the way this tracks mixes with the pacing and goes from a fast, percussion driven song to a slower, head-rocking masher all within a matter of seconds. While it may not have the luster as “Today” or “Cherub Rock”, Geek USA was just as important to that album as any other track that was more featured on it.

 

 

~T~

Third Eye Blind-Graduate

I think the main reason this song didn’t receive hardly any radio play was because it was on an album that had countless other singles on it. If it hadn’t been on their breakout self-titled album, it likely would be more recognized. It’s nothing much different than everything else they’ve done, but you have like the angsty yet smooth tune this song carries. Stephan Jenkins delivers his noticeable style and along with some good lyrics, this made for another quality release on an album already chalked full of them.

 

 

~U~

Urge Overkill-Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon

I’ll admit that I know no other songs by this group. And I’m willing to bet this song did receive some airplay back in ’92 when it was released. However, I’m putting it in this posting for two reasons. One, there are few bands that start with “U” and two, even though you might recognize this song from “Pulp Fiction”, it’s unlikely you recognize this group. So perhaps you’re being reintroduced to this classic or you’re hearing it for the first time which works just as well.

 

 

~V~

Veruca Salt-Fosythia

This song starts out really chill but progressively gets heavier and concludes with a sweet guitar solo and chorus. Then it ends just the way it began. It’s the guitar/bass combo that makes this song stick out as vocalist Nina Gordon doesn’t seem to put much feeling into her vocals on this track. But I think that’s what the band was going for with this one and you’re left with a under the radar, cool song that doesn’t sound like it’s trying too hard.

 

 

~W~

Wavves-Nodding Off (featuring Best Coast)

My favorite song by this group was a collaboration effort that ended up appearing on the album Life Sux. “Nodding Off” has an amped up intro and the song never really lets up from there. The chorus is extremely catchy and the guitar solo kicks in just at the right time toward the closing of the song @2:40. My only complaint is that it’s ends abruptly making it too short in my opinion.

 

 

Quick Hitters: The ABC’s of non-singles L-Q

~L~

Luscious Jackson-Life of Leisure

 

Sure, everybody remembers “Naked Eye”. There was a lot more to this band than that song. In my opinion, they were a staple to great 90’s music. This was mainly due to their signature bass lines and their smooth, relaxing vocals. This was one of their songs I was lucky I stumbled upon. While many may consider a life of leisure to be desirable, the band is calling out those types in this song. I don’t think you want to be on their bad side…

 

 

~M~

Moby-Rushing

 

If you’re familiar with Moby’s best selling album, Play, then you’re well aware of the stockpile of great songs that are featured in the first part of the album. “Porcelain”, “Find My Baby”, and “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad” are the main ones that come to mind. You may have liked those so much that it caused you to skip through track #4 because there’s no lyrics and it doesn’t fit in that great with the rest of the hits. If you listen to on it’s own, I think you’ll find that it’s quite the work of art. A 3 minute journey into the ambient abyss is what “Rushing” can provide you with.

 

 

~N~

 New Politics-Dignity

 

While this Danish band has been emerging recently (I’d say more declining, based on the strength of their last few songs I’ve heard), one of their earlier releases that got a little airplay was “Dignity”. I’m partial to the chorus. The vocals during that part are what stick out to me. It has some lyrics that speak out against violence, oppression, or something else. Despite it’s somewhat whiny message, it’s a solid song.

 

 

~O~

Our Lady Peace-Happiness & The Fish

 

This is my favorite song off their similarly named album, Happiness…is not a fish that you can catch. It features some really high-pitched lyrics by Raine Maida. It’s his unique vocal delivery paired with some excellent guitar riffs that makes this song memorable. There’s also some peculiar lyrics that also add to the memorabledness.

 

 

~P~

The Postal Service-Brand New Colony

 

Yet another astoundingly great track of their first album, Give Up. This one never became quite as popular as the very commercially successful “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and “Such Great Heights”. I’m not sure why; this song still boasts many listener friendly electronic instrumentals (the intro sounds like a level from Super Mario). Ben Gibbard gives us his usual vocals but it’s the backing vocals during the last sequence of the song that I feel are most appealing (@3:08).

 

 

~Q~

Queens of the Stone Age-The Sky is Fallin’

There are like 10 bands in the history of ever that decided to name their band something that started with “Q”. That said I am grateful for Queens of the Stone Age (Sorry Queen Latifah fans). “The Sky is Fallin’ is another quality song off of the album Songs for the Deaf. There’s more heavy, fuzzy guitar riffs on this album than you know what to do with. That is a great thing, though, and you get another large dose of that here in this song. But amidst all of the rock-outedness that would describe the general direction of this track, there’s a easy listening chorus and some obscure sounding moments in the song that make it more interesting than your typical masher.

 

 

Quick Hitters: The ABC’s of non-singles F-K

Best be packin’ your beats for these tracks

 

 

~F~

Foo Fighters-Halo

Again, probably my favorite song on the album and most of the general public hasn’t heard it. Although, I’ll add that part of the allure of a great song that most people don’t know about is…the fact that most people don’t know about it. It almost makes the track have a more personal feel when you discovered it on your own without the help of the radio/web. One could argue this is a knock-off of “Times Like These”, another great song off the album. But “Halo” boasts some great verses and some very good lyrics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-cih9ofVrs

 

~G~

Green Day-Letterbomb

Track number ten on their legendary album, American Idiot, “Letterbomb” is yet another great song that made the album the 2005 rock album of the year (along with getting ALBUM of the year nominations as well). It’s a fast paced, peppy song that still has a heavy side to it. As always, Billie Joe’s enthusiastic and energizing vocals are the mainstay of this song, it features many exhilarating guitar riffs. My favorite part starts @2:42, a killer bridge that leads into the final chorus.

 

~H~

Hoobastank-Disappear

Even though this song somewhat reeks of mainstreamedness, it’s has an obscure sound to it at the same time. The song did receive a little airplay but most people probably haven’t heard it in a long time. The lyrics are nothing are nothing special but the vocals are great. Doug Robb’s is at his best during the woah-woah-woah-oh-oh-oh’s and subsequent chorus roughly around the 2:03 mark.

 

~I~

I Break Horses-Load Your Eyes

 

This is going to surely be one of the more lesser known bands on this post. Unless you keep up with the indie/electronic scene, then there is zero chance you’ve heard of I Break Horses. Lucky you, as you are about to be exposed to a stream of awesomeness the likes of which have never been seen before! Okay…I may over-hyping them just a tad. I’ll let their music do the talking, the sequence that begins @the 3:00 mark is unparalleled. Enjoy the trip

 

 

~J~

Jimmy Eat World-Authority Song

 

An fun, upbeat song that features vintage Jimmy Eat World guitar riffs. I’ve always enjoyed the backing vocals of their songs as well. The female whose name I haven’t been able to pinpoint, has a voice that contrasts/complements lead vocalist Jim Adkins exceptionally well. This was on one of the bands first albums, self-titled. It also has some funny lyrics, and is worth a look.

 

 

~K~

The Knife-We Share Our Mothers Health

 

An indie-electronic staple, The Knife makes their appearance on this list. A Swedish group, they have a knack for taking quirky sounding instrumentals and mixing them together for an invigorating melody. While they have almost a tropical island beat to them because of the different percussion elements, “We Share Our Mothers Health” has more of an industrial feel to it. I think you’ll see what I mean after listening. The vocals aren’t all that inviting, but after a few listens, you’ll realize that that’s the beauty of it. That combined with all of the other vocal effects makes for an obscure ride into indie electronic greatness.