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Seapony, a three-piece act from Seattle, dropped its 12-track debut album, Go With Me, last month. Be prepared to chill out. Relax. The band’s raw combinations of simple drum patterns and catchy guitar rhythms are made to do just that. Best Coast fans should be impressed.
Not unlike many other bands, Seapony holds strong influence of the light and dreamy 60s pop. Jeni Weidl’s pretty vocals are subtle like a light summer haze. Each song offers fun and infectious melodies with simple, not overbearing, drum rhythms.
Standouts include the leading track which is a cheerfully infectious tune, “Dreaming” (it was also released as a single last year); “I Really Do,” as Weidl’s charming vocals complement the driven drum beats over a strong chorus; and “Blue Star,” which offers the perfect combination of another strong chorus, sing-a-long lyrics and tumbling guitar chords. After that the remaining nine songs seem to follow suit and contain a similar tone of fun catchy beats.
For its debut album, Seapony did well. The album is an easy listen, perfect for more than just a few summer days. And hopefully, with its next album, Seapony finds a way to vary from its blueprint and standout from the crowd.
Listen to "Dreaming":
Touche Amore’s third full length album, Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, was hyped for months around the Hardcore music scene. The excitement the band generated from their first and second releases left eager fans wanting more from the hard hitting five piece. Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me is a rare case of an album not only living up to lofty expectations, but far exceeding them. 2009’s …To the Beat of a Dead Horse built a strong fanbase for the band, and they’re constant touring tightened up their sound and exposed them to a broader audience. This album is sure to appeal the established audience, as well as enticing new listeners to the sound of Touche Amore.
Parting the Sea… is thirteen songs long, which seems like it may take you a while to get through. You’ll only spend about twenty minutes listening to the album though, but that’s because the album is just below 21 minutes in length. In the time it takes you to roast a pork, or microwave that case of E-Z Mac, you can listen through this album twice. You won’t have a problem listening through it twice though because you’ll want to start it over the moment the last song fades to silence.
Every song on Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me is full of tempered aggression and is a perfect outlet for frustration. “~” and “Wants/Needs” are two of the standout songs on Parting the Sea and they’re designed to melodically soothe your mind while the driving drums and guitar punch you in the stomach. It’s a high-low sonic attack that you’ll crave to go through again and again.
The songs build in intensity and message until “Condolences.” It’s a break from the hardcore genre except for the singer Jeremy Bolm screaming out faded lyrics over powerful piano chords. It’s the most powerful song on the album, but it’s also the slowest and softest, in a good way, musically.
Every other song on the album, however, has Bolm singing over the driving guitar work of Clayton Stevens, and Nick Steinhardt. The guitars in Touche Amore have always combined the essences of leading and complimenting; always doing just enough to help out without overwhelming anyone else. The driving bass of Elliot Babin adds a heavy compliment to the groundwork and keeps the intensity up to ensure some good spin-kicks across the pit. The drum work of Tyler Kirby is tight and intense. His bass drumming is both melodic and rhythmic; a rare combination you don’t find very often.
Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me will be featured on best of lists this year, not only for hardcore fans, but for music fans of all music too. One of the most anticipated releases of the year, Touche Amore has once again delivered an album that gives us so much without giving us enough.
- Anthony Gannon
Listen to "Wants/Needs":
My Morning Jacket epitomizes the idea of musical exploration. Since 1999, they have changed styles and sounds in fear that that they may fall out of grace. Jim James (also known as Yim Yames), the bands front-man, has expressed in past interviews that he does not wish the band to be “creatively static.” From their debut LP The Tennessee Fire through their 2005 hit Z and even their 2008 disappointment Evil Urges has shown much musical growth and a plethora of creative styles.
On May 31, MMJ, as they are commonly referred as, released a long awaited LP entitled Circuital. The 10-track album contains some of their greatest work. The album starts off with “Victory Dance,” a song that can only be described as a mellow fanfare. Choppy lyrics, pumping bass, electric flourishes with a string-emulating ambience in the background define this song as it builds up into a drum-pounding, guitar-cranking climax.
The title track “Circuital” better exemplifies the sound that My Morning Jacket is most notable for. Rocking electric guitars, a walking bass line and the silky smooth voice of James make this folk-rock jam a must listen despite the songs 7:24 runtime. The next notable track, “Wonderful (the Way I Feel)” brings a reverb-heavy acoustic-folk song to the listeners’ ears.The song consists of a bright acoustic guitar and an electrified slide guitar, giving the audience the feel of a classic folk/alt-country song. James’s lyrics and voice remind listeners of simpler times where the most overlooked ideas and actions made people happy, referring to our childhoods.
The most single-worthy track has to be “You Wanna Freak Out.” Recently performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the track consists of smooth lyrics, a dance-style keyboard riff, folk acoustic guitar and a powerful electric bass and electric guitar. This track creatively combines many styles and instruments to make a brilliant anomaly of a song. “You Wanna Freak Out” is one of those tracks that you close your eyes to and just feel the majesty. From the beginning of the track to the end the listener gets sucked in to the power and mystery of the song.
This album fits well together as a whole and definitely belongs atop their discography as one of their best albums. Although it’s not as innovative as Z, Circuital has a variety of high spots and several tracks that can only boost the quality of the band’s legendary live show.
Listen to "You Wanna Freak Out":
Three years after their last album 200 Million Thousand was released comes Atlanta’s Black Lips’ most structured album yet.
Usually structure isn’t their thing. They tend to prefer the punk, rock n’ roll lifestyle where sloppiness and messy hooks were just a definition of a great rocker. But like everything, things change and for the Black Lips it was for the better.
Usually, they write, record and produce their own albums, but they did things a bit differently this time. With the help of Mark Ronson and Lockett Pundt of Deerhunter, they created Arabia Mountain. Overall, it is a more organized sound, but their crazy attitude shines through in every howl, wail and/or riff of a guitar.
A total of 16 songs on the album may seem like a lot, but mostly every track does not last any longer than three minutes. Their self-proclaimed “flower-punk” style is heard in every track. In “Spidey’s Curse,” they allegedly put a microphone into a human skull to create a unique reverb sound. One of their singles, “Go Out and Get It,” contains this retro surf vibe where you can’t help but dance when you hear the catchy hooks of the guitar.
While listening to Arabia Mountain you may feel as though you have been transported to this sunny party feel where everything is carefree, which makes it a perfect summer album. So, go out and have some fun with your friends and while you’re making memories have Black Lips’ Arabia Mountain blasting in the background.
Listen to "Go Out and Get It":
Justin Vernon created Bon Iver’s excellent debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago as a brooding cry of frustration over loss. The simple folk setup of the album allows listeners to apply meaning and fill the space intentionally left by Vernon. Between fragile strums and stacked overdubs of his own voice, For Emma is a hell of a lot more than nine songs cranked out by a bearded guy in a lonely Wisconsin cabin.
Bon Iver, Bon Iver is about expansion, as good sophomore efforts tend to be. Where For Emma’s “re: Stacks” chimed along beautifully with just Vernon’s voice and guitar, the 10 tracks on this latest release rely on dense layers of production, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Gorgeous opener “Perth” is everything one craves in a Bon Iver song: a simple, dazzling guitar part that leads into a chorus of Vernons singing in angelic falsetto, some pounding percussion and delicate horn accompaniment.
“Perth” leads into “Minnesota, WI,” an usually percussive tune that features Vernon singing in a strikingly lower register. After the drums drop out, dueling banjo and guitar picks recall For Emma’s folk, but the song is more a representation of Vernon’s R&B inklings, which he indulged with funky side project Gayngs last year.
Something to note: Bon Iver, Bon Iver is louder, but still as sweet. Acoustic guitar and broken man folk are noticeably absent here, leaving room for Vernon to flesh out the sound. “Towers” is a total country-folk jam, complete with wailing slide twang and fiddle, but the western glaze doesn’t overtake the song. “Hinnom, TX” is a smoky haze of reverb and Vernon’s deep hums. The piano-driven “Wash.” is a cousin of 2009’s Blood Bank EP’s “Babys.”
At all times, Justin Vernon keeps control. Lead single “Calgary” is a synth-driven ballad that features one of the best moments on Bon Iver, Bon Iver. As the bridge begins, caustic electric guitars begin to take hold, and Vernon’s voice becomes less ethereal and more biting. It’s a testament to how much control he truly has.While closer “Beth/Rest” is a cheese-fest of gaudy electric piano, slow-jam drums and Vernon’s auto-tuned soaked voice, it doesn’t even come close to ruining the album. Sure, it’s no “re: Stacks,” but it’s another side of Vernon. And if nothing else, at least proms across the nation now have another slow-dance option.
Bon Iver, Bon Iver is just that—twice the passion, twice the beauty, twice the Vernon.
Listen to "Calgary"
With a name like Benjamin Francis Leftwich, you’d expect an indie-rock cookie cut-out, complete with pretentious “originality,” and a sound “I doubt you’ve heard before,” however, Pictures gives you quite the opposite.
Leftwich’s newest album is nowhere near short on talent, but he takes an alternate avenue, striking simplicity and softness instead of the usual aloof lo-fi. At first, the opening track “Pictures” sounds like any other acoustic riff, docile and wandering with and undertone of sentimentality, but it’s the vocals that truly make the album.
Similar to the unrefined vocals heard from Bon Iver and Silversun Pickups, Leftwhich uses his breathy rasp to compliment the slight twang of acoustics that he so casually pairs with, what seems like, the perfect percussion. “Sophie” is perhaps the most experimental, incorporating a mist of, what seems to be, tribal drums.
Pictures is definitely worth the listen.
Listen to "Pictures":
Crude, raw, politically incorrect, and they just don’t care. Cheeseburger is all of these things and much more. A hard rock band that plays loud sloppy, and refuses to believe that all the fun has disappeared from music. This is a throwback to the hard rock of the 80s that glorified partying and drugs. Cheeseburger’s sophomore full length Another Big Night Down the Drain revels in the highlife of sex, drugs, and rock and roll the way bands haven’t for thirty years.
If you’re looking for techniclly proficient rock then you’re in the wrong place. Cheeseburger plays loose on purpose which only intensifies the party attitude of the music. You’ll hear the guitar or drums go off beat, the singing is crude and hard to understand in parts, and the distortion is so jacked on the lead and rhythm guitars it’s a miracle you can even hear notes being playes, but it’s all worth it because Cheeseburger wrote one hell of a party album.
The leadoff track, “Party Song,” is what explains what this band is all about. Partying hard and living life the way you want to live it without a care in the world for the consequences. The best part about Cheeseburger is their lyrics which border the line between serious opinions and druken ramblings. Often throughout the course of a song you’ll find yourself listening to what’s being sung and you start laughing because of the ridiculousness of it all.
Another Big Night Down the Drain is the best hard-rock album you’ll hear all year. This is the kind of album that people would get sick of if more bands were like this, but Cheeseburger is so good at playing and partying you excuse everything for the fun. Cheeseburger sings that, “They don’t run until the house comes down,” so let Cheeseburger shake the foundations of your brain with Another Big Night Down the Drain.
Listen to "Winner":
If you could write music to be played in your sleep, what would it sound like? Would it relax all of your muscles to a point of bliss, or would it make you curl up tight in a ball while clenching your teeth because the sleep just won’t come. With the release of Cass McComb’s fifth studio album Wit’s End, you can’t help but feel the pull of sleep that the sound draws listeners into.
Cass McCombs pushes the envelope of scoring the perfect dream world. With gentle tabs on the piano through songs like “The Lonely Doll,” to something a little more earthy in “Buried Alive,” there are no real limits that the artist lets get in his way. Whether wide awake, or fighting your eye lids to stay open, you can’t go wrong with the soothing trance that Wit’s End puts you in.
The slight spat of depression that you may slip into shouldn’t deter you from the album. Its natural sound brings a full spectrum of earthy tones into the overall make-up. It seems to be one of the best-composed albums of the year, and should be listened to on repeat if you have the chance.
Listen to "The Lonely Doll":
This self-proclaimed “lo-fi indie rock band” from Columbus, Ohio works to win you over with their quasi-charming off-key vocals and distorted musicality in Dancer Equired.
“It’s A Culture,” the first song on the album, opens with a disjointed harmony and instruments that aren’t totally in sync with each other, and “Ever Falling In Love” follows with a zonked-out jumble of vocals replaying over a singular guitar and percussion riff. These two songs will set the tone for the rest of the album.
Though Times New Viking is more noise-rock than lo-fi, they still manage a somewhat unique sound. Female vocalist, Beth Murphy, alternates between an aloof style of moaning and a grungy, ground up whine. There’s no solid ground with the vocals, no real notes you can pick out, everything just bobs around, hoping to land on something solid.
“F*** Her Tears,” is probably the best song on the album, coordinating all the sound and vocal aspects to create a really put-together number.
Listen to "F*** Her Tears":
From the ghostly and serene opening chords of Glass Prayer, it is clear that Brooklyn’s Religious to Damn plan to stay with the listener long after the album’s last track has ended. With gossamer male-female vocals and lush orchestrations of sound, Religious to Damn makes a lasting impression.
The band’s sound is pure psychedelic indie experimentation that belongs somewhere between a gypsy caravan and a grungy underground club. Yet these unconventional sounds are fused into melodies that wouldn’t be unwelcome in an arena setting, either.
“Drifter,” a driving tune propelled by a relentless drum beat and haunting organ chords, is a highlight. But to choose just one song to encompass the entire record’s lush wonder would be unfair to both the album and those listening to it.
Listen to "Drifter":