Archive for the ‘alternative’ tag
Brooklyn’s Radical Dads put the power back in power trio; they slice, dice, and shred like no other, thanks to their compelling two-guitar (plus drums) combination. The band’s new single, “Creature Out,” follows their strong sophomore effort Rapid Reality, released only this May. If the hazy, melodic-yet-fuzzy nature of this brand new track is any indication, there’s plenty more good stuff on the way.
Bent Nail is the first official offering from buzzworthy alt-pop project Palehound, and it’s fitting that these six tracks can be all at once twisting and jagged, soothing and sweet. Though leader Ellen Kempner is just nineteen, her expert re-branding of early 90s alternative sounds suggests the maturity of a musician twice her age. Recorded at DIY space The Silent Barn in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and released by beloved local label Exploding in Sound Records, Palehound’s Bent Nail EP provides an honest portrait of Kempner’s life, cleverly painted in strokes of smart, kitschy wordplay and whimsical guitars.
Like debut single “Pet Carrot,” Bent Nail maintains a warm, fuzzy bedroom vibe, as if we’re hanging with Kempner through the night’s witching hour, listening as she pours her heart out through song. “Psycho Speak” is a folk-inspired, syrupy tale of rich lovers, asshole neighbors, and inter-species games of hide-and-seek. “I beat around the same bush every time,” she gripes on “Harvest,” which remains light, fresh, and delicate, even as acoustics swell majestically in power by track’s end. The memorable riff that drives “I Get Clean” is playful, yet undeniably sharp, as instrumentals go toe-to-toe with Kempner’s words. “I’m starting my own continent,” she reveals, and we’re immediately right behind her.
Still, there’s little on Bent Nail that can quite match the subtle intensity of EP opener “Drooler,” a dreamy, slinky little number that’s dedicated to the seedy underbellies of flawed relationships. “Vandalize my body if it helps you sleep soundly,” Kempner bites, serving up chill-inducing vocal shifts amidst clanging and crashing background tension. Bent Nail reaches its satisfying conclusion with the haunting “Flytrap,” but you’ll soon be wishing these sounds could continue, softly lulling you to sleep. The EP may be quite short, and Kempner may be quite young, but Bent Nail leaves a pretty major impression.
3.5 / 5 bars
Last year, Fiona Apple returned from hiatus to release The Idler Wheel…., some of the singer’s strongest work to date. Since that time, she’s made headlines for far less flattering reasons: storming out of shows, heckling audiences, and just acting a bit crazy in general. But that’s okay! Because Fiona recently premiered not one, but two gorgeous new tracks; check out this live version of “I Want You To Love Me” that’s currently making its way round the internet. With tunes this passionate and pretty, maybe we like Fiona just the way she is.
Smith Westerns have always been able to craft the most catchy and seemingly effortless melodies. The band started as a couple of kids in high school singing in unabashed earnestness about what they knew—parties and girls and having fun. That was one of the things initially so intriguing and engaging about them. Now as they’re growing older they’re beginning to drop these associations. ”3am Spiritual”, the opening track of their upcoming album Soft Will out June 25th, shows this slight shift. The melodies are as good as they always were while the production is even more polished than their last release. The lyrics seem to have been written by someone engaging in serious self-reflection after a string of fun, careless nights. After being constantly surrounded by people for a long time and you have your first moment alone, finally, your own self awareness catches up to you and this is what you sing: “it’s easier to think you can’t go on” followed immediately by “please keep close to me, I don’t want to let you off my arm…”
I’ve been listening to the new self-titled record from New York’s Caveman for about half an hour and am, against all expectations, enjoying it quite a lot.
Caveman looks and sounds like a lot of hip bands right now: pictures of them joking around in the studio, one guy in a denim jacket and one guy in a vest and ascot, playing P-basses and hand percussion and generally doing all sorts of normal stuff that young hip guys in bands do in pictures. Leaning out of busses and stuff. “Oh great,” I thought, “another Magnetic-Fields-meets-the-Replacements-meets-Pop-Art knockoff boy band. They even played at Urban Outfitters. I feel sleepy already.”
But lo: I, a jaded and cynical Millennial with the attention span of one of Hannah Horvath’s non-Adam boyfriends, found myself intrigued by Caveman. The record opens quietly, with a sort of austere, folksy chorale sung almost entirely in Bon Iver falsetto. This is “Strange to Suffer,” and it is perhaps the best (and certainly the shortest) song on the record. The tone is set. Then drums and synthesizers enter on the second track, a sort of stock-footage midtempo bluesy number called “In the City” that is very much the response to “Strange.” By song number three, “Shut You Down,” Caveman has found its pace: personable, somewhat reserved, and melancholy. Kind of like my friend Andy after a couple of cocktails. The band’s sonic palette remains fairly static: atmospheric, full of vibrato-heavy string synths and slowly strummed guitars. Album standout “Over My Head” stands out when it slows the band down to molasses-speed, which lets the album’s actual sound (eerie, angelic, ambient) shine through.
Of course the central conflict of the record is its relationship to cliche, and to what has been done. There is a lot of creativity on Caveman, though there is little new: little threads of the Police, the Cure, and of course the Beatles shine through the fabric of Caveman. It’s not an exciting record, but it is pleasant and soothing and sincere and well-made and original. Give it a spin and relax.
4 / 5 bars
Before I bought M B V this morning I re-listened to Loveless, the classic album My Bloody Valentine released two decades ago. It’s an odyssey of sound, a truly titanic record that is as deep as it is wide (and loud). It was – is – a visionary record, made by musicians steeped thickly in their own juices. Loveless surprises and soothes and frightens all at once; two decades after its release, it still sounds fresh, alive, somehow both urgent and distant. It is a record for dreaming and listening. Its place in the history of pop is not incidental.
M B V, the band’s first record since Loveless, does not disappoint. Guitar master and general apathetic-layabout-in-chief Kevin Shields remains the band’s auteur, wailing and screeching and droning and flanging his way across every minute of the record. Shields’ much-imitated guitar tone makes a triumphant comeback as well, and as with Loveless, it’s the guitar that does the majority of the musical work: drum and bass loops beats are the skeleton, Shields’ parts the muscle. To that end, M B V boasts a more pronounced harmonic pallet than on their prior releases.
(Let me back up a minute to do what is rarely done for rock bands, which is to – as James Brown would say – give the drummer some. There can be no doubt that Shields is at the band’s helm, but titanous skim-beater Colm O’Ciosoig is the entire galley-full of slaves breaking their backs on the oars. O’Ciosoig is John Bonham without the ego. “who sees you”, “if i am”, “in another way” – all are predicated entirely on his pounding. Hats off, Colm.)
There is something for everyone on M B V. There’s the charcoal delicacy of opener “she found now”, the throwback rock of “new you”, the full-throttle “nothing is.” And there are lighter moments, like the keening feeling of open sky on “wonder 2″ or the contemplative psychedelia organ music on “is this and yes”. M B V is an trip through recent history: it is no exaggeration to say that all rock-informed music made since Loveless has drawn in one way or another from the record. My Bloody Valentine invented shoe gaze, fused noise and pop, made doom metal beautiful, summitted and (maybe) redefined grunge. All of the things that grew from Loveless can be heard now, here, today, in the focused-unfocused wail of M B V.
4.5 / 5 bars
My Bloody Valentine – if i am
My Bloody Valentine – nothing is
Steven A. Clark is another name involved in today’s r&b fusion. The North Carolina Singer/Songwriter/Producer normally creates all of his music as a solo act, but for his latest project, Clark gets a little help from some friends. He recorded is new single “Bounty” with members of The War on Drugs, Man Man, and Ava Luna for part of the Shaking Through documentary series. The documentary features the making of Bounty from beginning to end. The unique track has an indie, alternative rock, blues, and r&b sound. With a little promo boost and the right team, I think this song would have the potential to be huge. Take a look at the making of Bounty and listen below.
My alma mater, the University of Chicago, loves this phrase: the life of the mind. We love questions, in theory, and ambiguous problems, mainly because they lead to more questions-all of which in turn, enriches the life of the mind. So to hear the band that helped me through my formative years and had almost forgotten about, put a distinct sound to that enigmatic life is too poetic. It’s been over 10 years since the last Ben Folds Five album but the musicianship hasn’t faded and their music is as relevant and witty as ever.
The characteristic Ben Folds Five sound and the lyrics haven’t strayed. If anything, the sound has developed into a grander feel similar to the score of a Broadway play. The composition of “Thank You for Breaking My Heart” makes me picture Ben Folds walking down a gloomy street after a bad break up. Specifically, it’s the breaks in the melody and supporting vocals that set the action in my mind to happen all on stage. At times, the band has a heavier feel with more electric bass than their previous albums that reminds me of the Black Keys but the riffs are distinctly Ben Folds Five. The band takes the right amount of liberty throughout the album to jam and trade solos so as not to dilute the lyrics and melodies. And as usual, the Ben Folds meshes the piano with whatever Blues/Jazz/Rock/Country/Pop feel the rest of the instruments are producing.
Ben lets a lot off his chest on The Sound of the Life of the Mind. Fans have come to learn a little about his love life and its woes, and we get more details filled in with relationships that didn’t work. They’re not major plot points but they are the most poignant memories he holds of them, which is better in a way. He also opens up about the realization of the effects of holding onto an image of his father, frozen in time, who died when he was young on “Away When You Were Here.”