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Sep 22, 2014
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RIYL: Arctic Monkeys, Portugal. The Man, Hot Hot Heat, Pop Rocks.
Recommended Tracks: All Songs, Particularly: "Circulation," "Southern Comforting," "Smalls, & Tiger."
With little to no filler, JPNSGRLS immediately proves that garage band music is able to stay true to their roots while consistently evolving and enhancing the genre. Although a debut album, JPNSGRLS has created an almost rebellious garage-pop sound while implementing hints of psychedelic indie-rock that is comparable to early Arctic Monkeys albums.
The album is constantly entertaining and its lack of simple filler songs is surprising, particularly for a debut album. The entire track list contains immense bursts of energetic emotion and a continuous wavelength of attitude. The title track “Circulation” is bass filled, magnetic, and hypnotic, easy on the ears for its sound and thought-provoking lyrics. Although the band is talented lyrically, they are immensely talented at creating an ending that is both vibrant and expertly crafted. Quick to utilize a very slow build up, they are consistently successful with a fantastically clattering ending, especially notable in songs “Brandon”, “Mushrooms”, and “Tennis Shoes”.
Although the album contains many notable songs, none deserve recognition more than “Southern Comforting”. It’s almost unexplainably catchy drum/guitar combination melts perfectly into the lyrics creating a sound that can only be described as first-rate.
Overall the album is surprisingly impressive, with an engaging tone, conversational and thought-provoking lyrics, and sincerely entertaining, Circulation is filled with brisk and rarely documented success.
RIYL: Bon Iver, Birdy, Ben Howard
Recommended Tracks: All
Tom The Lion proves that music today doesn’t need auto tune or pop beats to sound good. His album, “Sleep” has a mixture of twelve beautifully written and relaxing songs. Although all the songs have the same style, their unique sound and meanings stand out to the crowd.
“Ragdoll,” the tenth song on the album, is written in a poetic style. He uses almost no instruments and puts an emphasis on his beautiful voice and amazing lyrics. While it is a calm song, it demands your attention. Tom The Lion uses a unique method with this song, taking longs breaks with no music at all. This will keep your interest and influence you to listen to the whole album.
Tom The Lion puts so much emotion into all of his songs; making the listeners feel what he feels. The album is constantly enjoyable, with surprises with every song. Tom The Lion’s album “Sleep” is definitely deserves a listen or two. He still has a small fan base, especially here in the United States, but there is almost no doubt he will continue to gain faithful fans for years to come.
RIYL: Taylor Swift
Tracks to listen to: All songs, particularly: “Boston,” “Home,” “Patti Smith,” “The Sun and the Moon”
Annalise Emerick takes her listeners through the highs and lows of her life. Her album is full of storytelling songwriting covered in a variety of acoustic guitars, banjo, piano, and much more. Her music shows a side of her that’s full of love and adventure that she wants everyone to discover and enjoy.
The songs on the album represent each individual chapter of her life. The first song “The Sun and the Moon” is a love song that has the sweet sounds of a banjo twang in the background. “Boston” brings out the country pop in Emerick as she not only describes her love for a significant other, but her love for music and the world. “Patti Smith” has memorable melodies and lyrics throughout the track. It is an attention grabber because she pulls out all her flaws that she juggles with, but also she expresses how much she would want to be like her many influences.
Overall, Emerick is one of the few singers who are diverse with their music and the diversity she brings is a sign of nothing but success down the road.
RIYL : Two Door Cinema Club, Thelma Plum
Tracks to listen to: “Jumanji”, “Tonight”, “Griffin”
Coming from our Australian friends, Glass Towers, Halcyon Days is a true reminder of summer. Glass Towers gives us that fun at the beach sound without actually having to travel there. Benjamin Hannam provides us with playful guitar riffs, and his mourning cry make for an interesting combination. The drumming of Daniel Muszynski seems to race against the sound of the vocals to create a competition that helps push the songs forward.
The album, which comes in at 38 minutes, gives off a very energetic vibe. Each song carries the same jubilant beat but also offers a different take each time around. The lyrics capture the essence of youth, coming from a band who are going towards the beginning of their adult lives. The songs “In This City” and “Halcyon” offer takes on teenage love and the confusion of looking towards the future, which many of us face in our teenage years.
A highlight song to the album has to be “Tonight.” The guitar riffs mimic Two Door Cinema Club but at the same time carry their own voice and distinct sound. The song presents a very upbeat pace and rides along smoothly like many of the other songs on the album. “Griffin” is another selling point to Halcyon Days. The song presents an exuberant energy. Hannam’s voice gives an excited tone to the song, and bounces along with the guitar riffs. “Griffin” is a song that just generates excitement through its instrumentals.
The album itself is something to listen to if you want to relax, but at the same time can get you to jump up and dance around the room. Halcyon Days is truly an album that will give you some sort of contentment when you listen to it.
RIYL: Two Door Cinema Club, The Strokes, The Artic Monkeys
Recommended Tracks: Around Town, Forgive and Forget, Down, Sunrise
The new album from the Kooks feels like a fresh new take on the classic Rock n’ Roll mixed with electric music with funk and soul influences. The album is a reinvention of the Kooks’ sound and their identity as an indie band with sounds ranging from 60s and 70s rock to disco and funk music with some electric sounding beats.
Their original work from Inside In/Inside Out was more of a younger Artic Monkeys sound. This new album has a sound that is all on it’s own, making this a breakthrough album for the Kooks.
If you loved the sound of the Kooks before they released this album, you may have some mixed feelings about it, but different can be a good thing. The band is showing their diversity within the indie genre by mixing in punchy new sounds with hip-hop influences thanks to their producer Inflo who specializes in the hip-hop genre.
Tracks such as “Forgive and Forget,” “Down,” and then “Around Town” make for a great addition to the party playlist. The hip-hop influences mixed with funk and soul will make you want to dance the night away.
Overall this album is very different sounding from their previous new work, but it defines the new age for the Kooks, a funky new take on indie rock.
Rise Against “The Black Market”
RIYL: The Used, The Offspring, Sum 41
A mix between punk rock and hardcore, Rise Against has released their seventh album The Black Market.
However, with their strong political and ethical views, this album was really nothing new. I mean I really liked the song “Tragedy + Time,” the opening guitar riffs are catchy and the tune is also catchy, but other than that I found nothing really special about the album.
The album might be appealing to old fans who are continuing to look for and listen to what they love, but for someone wanting to branch out their music taste, it’s just the same old stuff. I feel like some of the songs are talking about the same thing over and over and it got boring after a while.
I didn’t exactly hate the album, it just got really old after about four songs and I felt like I couldn’t listen to it anymore.
RIYL: Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd. Lorde
Recommended Tracks: “Waiting Game”, “Someone New”, “Drowning”, and “You Should Know Where I’m Coming From”
If there is one word that could describe Banks, it would be “Goddess”. Her debut album dropped on September 5, 2014 and I can tell you it will be a hit. Compared to Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd, and Lorde, her unique gloomy electronic sound is one that is sure to catch a listener’s ears.
Although her music is described as “dark R&B”, there are a variety of different styles that this album covers. On her title track “Goddess”, Banks describes a one-sided relationship with lyrics like ““She gave it all, you gave her shit/You shoulda crowned her, cause she’s a goddess/Now you gotta deal with this glitch on your shoulder/fucking with a goddess, you get a little colder.” On the other hand, the ballad “You Should Know Where I’m Coming From” shows her soft side and her sultry vocals with her heartfelt lyrics and a piano accompaniment.
After hearing “Waiting Game” a few months ago, I wanted to hear more from Banks and this album did her justice. I believe this should be an album that other people should hear because its different and promotes the new electronic music sound that is now becoming popular. Also, Banks should be recognized for her strong vocals and powerful lyrics. Overall, this album is impressive and is sure to be a huge success.
RIYL : White Stripes(Jack White), Kasabian
Tracks to listen to: “Out Of The Black”, “Come On Over”, “Little Monster”
Royal Blood comes out stronger than dark roasted black coffee in their self titled debut album. Hailing from Brighton, UK, the boys of Royal Blood really bring back the essence of hardcore rock music, a genre that is seldom covered in music world today. In doing this, Royal Blood boldly goes where few other bands will go. Mike Kerr belts Jack White-esque melodies as he goes in hard with bass riffs which, coupled with Ben Thatcher’s drumming makes for a deadly combination.
The 32-minute album could be described as pent up anger with some breaks of calmness in between. The song “Out of the Black” feels like aggression in it’s most raw form through crushing bass riffs .This idea is reiterated as Kerr sings “I got a gun for a mouth and a bullet with your name on it.” This rough, unpolished tone can be heard throughout the album, but it’s what really draws you into the music and keeps you listening to songs like ”Little Monster” and “Come On Over” which carry the same rugged vibe.
Royal Blood would not be something you listen to when you want to mellow out. This is in your face, get the hell out of my way anger. It’s the kind of power that would give you the energy to finish that last part of your workout.
Throughout the album, you’re hit with a rough mixture of drums and bass, but swept away by Kerr’s gentle tone until it fluctuates into a blast. This balance of the two gives the album overall a great sound. This unconventional sound is what brought them towards the top in the United Kingdom, and that is what's going to keep them going on that path.
RIYL: OneRepublic, Linkin Park
Many songs played today are categorized as one specific genre of music, but Coldplay breaks that mold as they spread their own type of music.
Ghost Stories definitely is a story telling album, which includes an eerie vibe, but temperate lyrics.The 40 minute album is a toned-down collection filled with mystery and captivation. It is obvious that the album is about relationships and love. Though there is some expression within the lyrics, the album comes off as lifeless, hence the “ghost”. Each song relates to love, but with love there are complications. Another’s Arms and True Love are songs that are about in denial and avoiding the deficiency of love.
Ghost Stories was released shortly after the divorce between singer, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow. Some state that she was his inspiration towards writing the album, and I agree. This is one of those “I miss what we had” and possibly “I want you back” albums. The way that he put his thoughts into this album definitely shows his feelings towards the situation. At some points there is a battle between instrument and singer as they both try to verbalize the hidden emotions with in the album.
"A Sky Full of Stars," was an attention grabber because it is not like any of the other songs because the instrumentals were fast paced and more energetic. "Another’s Arms", is the complete opposite, you can almost hear ghosts’ being featured as background vocalists, which bring a more supernatural feel.
"Magic" is also an enjoyable song because the lyrics and the music really connect. It’s slow paced, but it is soothing and something to listen to if you want to relax. Some might say that the songs are slow and boring, but if you really take the time to listen to them, there are some good ones that are hidden like "Ink," "Midnight," and "A Sky Full of Stars." Many of the songs off this album are good to listen to if you just want to unwind. The whole album is satisfying for someone who is looking for something simple, but with meaning.
RIYL: The XX, Sampha
Tracks to listen to: “Two Weeks,” “Pendulum” “Video Girl”
Upon first glance, LP1 seems utterly empty, but it isn’t at all. In fact, there is a shit-ton of things going on.
If you’re trying to get a grasp of who FKA Twigs actually is, you’re probably not going to gain a full understanding from this album, but that’s exactly how she wants it. She’s a mystery, plain and simple. It’s clear that, just like us, she too is struggling to understand her true identity. She sings on “Video Girl,” “I can’t recognize me.”
This idea of an identity crisis is furthered through her name; FKA spelled out is Formerly Known As, so who is she now? We’re not sure, and neither is she, but that’s half the fun of the album.
The instrumentation, although I said seems empty, is filled with different drums, synths, people noises, and auto-tune. None of these things take precedence over the others. They all work in a sort of disharmony, which can create quite a terrifying effect. Yes, terrifying. This is moonlight music; it’s definitely not something you would throw on for your pregame or social gathering. Get high by yourself and listen to LP1.
What surprised me most about FKA Twigs and this album is the cohesion that is present all the way through. Each song fades blissfully into the next. There isn’t a song that stands out from the rest, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Mixed with the clunky, sometimes stuttering instrumentals on the album, FKA Twig’s voice serenades listeners and provides a disharmony that makes this album a success.
Photots from our weekend at Bonnaroo including Sam Smith, Ben Howard, The Naked and Famous, The Head and the Heart, Kevin Devine, Jamestown Revival, Lucero, Sam Hunt and Fitz and the Tantrums.
I came home broke, unshowered, gross and exhausted. But I had the weekend of my life. If you can go to Bonnaroo and not feel like your life’s changed a little you did it wrong.
There’s something about existing in place where there are no concerns outside of music that is beyond incredible.
That said, by day 4, you’re bound to be exhausted, sore and flat out worn down. I woke up feeling a little like death. My back ached and my shoulders were on fire, but there were a few artists playing Sunday morning that I couldn’t wait to see.
We kicked our day off with a little bit of a country flair. One thing a lot of people at the buzz may not know about me is that I’m a big country music fan, and the artists we saw Sunday morning more than know there way around a good country song.
We started off with Lucero, a great Memphis style country band, who tread an interesting but great line between country and alternative rock. Lead singer Ben Nichols has the potential to be a great Nashville songwriter but thankfully opts to instead add his own gravely voiced touch to all of his brilliant country-rock songs.
Next we headed over to see Sam Hunt play a small, acoustic set. Sam Hunt is more well known for his songwriting credits, but he has more than enough ability to take over the country pop mainstream very soon. You may best know him for his song “Cop Car,” which Keith Urban has made a massive hit.
He played that song as well as other originals that have begun to grace country pop stations like The Highway on XM. He also has a slight alternative side to him and even puts hip-hop touches on his smart, crafty country songs.
From there we went to catch The Arctic Monkeys on the main stage. Getting close to the main stage is pretty difficult on Sunday as people congregate there, waiting for the night’s headliner. And it becomes even more difficult to reach when someone as great as The Arctic Monkeys are playing. The band sounded great as they played through a mix of their albums, relying heavily of course on their most recent album AM, which is one of my favorite albums from this year.
The Monkeys are so tight that the guitars seem to soar through the mix without much of a problem. Unfortunately, I think some of their sound got lost in the main stage mix, at least from where Joe and I stood, but for those who were close to the stage the set was probably mind blowing.
I headed over to see Fitz and the Tantrums from there. Despite the 91-degree heat, the band conducted their indie rock dance party without letting up. The band’s two lead singers bounced energy off of each other as their voices soared over top of the band’s mix of keys and saxophone. The unique instrumentation was refreshing in a week full of great guitar bands.
We soon went over to see a band that I was maybe the most excited to see during the weekend, Canada’s City & Colour. I’ve been a big fan of Dallas Green for a long time, and I was anything but disappointed when he opened with the gorgeous “Coming Home.” Dallas is one of those rare performers who doesn’t need to jump around or do anything crazy to be mesmerizing. His band of folk rock made quite an impression on the crowd who swayed along as if they were hypnotized. He even took a second to point out his appreciation of a Canadian flag adorning a pot leaf in the crowd.
I then caught a little bit of Wiz Khalifa’s set as the burnt out rapper put on an impressive performance for the crowd he invited to light up with him. Puffing on a joint, even taking a “motherfucking smoke break,” the pot-loving rapper fronted a talented band (appropriately named Kush and Orange Juice) through a great set, including songs from his first albums and recent mixtapes.
Then, along with the entire festival, headed to see the weekend’s final performance by the legend Sir Elton John. It was the 29th anniversary of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, so of course Sir Elton relied heavily on those songs, which the crowd, equal parts young and old, adored. No, Elton John can’t hit the same screeching falsetto notes that he used to, but his voice is as powerful as ever and he brought his incredible songs to a couple very appreciative generations. 20 year olds an 60 year olds a like shouted along to his hits “Your Song” and “Crocodile Rock” as he brought the weekend to a flaming conclusion. The most amazing thing was just how appreciative the legend was to be closing out the festival. He constantly bowed and muttered thank you’s reminding the crowd just how happy he was.
And with that, the weekend neither Joe or I will ever forget came to a close.
Kanye West and Bonnaroo will probably never be friends. In 2008 Kanye showed up hours late for his set, making “Fuck Kanye” the two must popular words in the temporary Tennessee city.
Fast forward to 2014. Kanye comes back. This time for revenge.
Kanye’s set kicked off with the anthemic Yeezus hit, “Black Skinhead.” Full of energy and aggression, Kanye covered the entire stage, shouting his lyrics of cultural criticism and self-praise, his face covered in some odd sort of mask.
In classic Kanye fashion, he neglected the huge screens attached to the stage, which make viewing a little easier for those way in the back of the massive main stage, in exchange for a minimalistic, radiating red backdrop.
Musically, Kanye’s set bordered on flawless. He played everything from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “Runaway” to “Mercy” to the 2004 College Dropout’s “All Falls Down” and “Jesus Walks.”
In a very not-Kanye fashion, he ignored the initial boos and cries of “Fuck Kanye” and “Get Off the Stage.” It seemed as if maybe ‘Ye might just ignore it all and be the good guy Kanye we once knew.
But then things turned bizzare, and the George-Bush-hates-black-people Kanye and the steal-the-mic-from-T-Swift Kanye that everyone expected made an appearance. After cutting out of “Stronger” he decided to address the 2008 Elephant in the venue and reminded the crowd that in 2008 they barraged him and wrote “Fuck Kanye” in the porta potties before he even got there. He then attacked the press for reporting it. He then asked the press if they were going to report about that exact moment with the crowd responding so positively, before again turning ridiculous and proclaiming himself “The number one rock star in the motherfucking world,” prompting a haze of boos from the crowd.
Later, he decided to mix it up and set his next rant to a freestyle auto-tune session, during which he announced that he was coming after Shakespeare, Walt Disney and Howard Hughes. The move was especially ironic after he had just discussed being humbled by a chance meeting with a ten-year-old boy on a plane who was coming just to see him at Bonnaroo.
Still, Kanye wasn’t done, and he later killed the beat on “Heartless” and broke out into a rant that included screaming “Where the press at?” asking all members of the press to raise their hand (awkward). He then exclaimed, “This is real rock & roll!” referring to his set.
But that’s not to say that Kanye didn’t have his great moments. At times he was uplifting and spoke of empowerment. He told his fans, “I talk that shit so that you can talk that shit. If you’re a fan of me you’re a fan of your motherfucking self,” reminding the crowd to be themselves and chase their dreams.
During “Touch the Sky” he begged the crowd to join him in a great moment, calling out, “I heard that if 10,000 people jump at the same time you can feel the earth move.”
Regardless of what happened, one thing became clear during Kanye’s set. Maybe he’s not the “number one rock star in the world,” but he’s damn close. In his exhausting two-hour set, the crowd’s energy never subsided and most people in the crowd knew at least half the words to every single song he performed. Hell, the same can’t even be said for Elton John’s performance.
No matter how you spin it, there’s no denying that Kanye has been one of the most impactful musicians of the last decade. Hate him or love him, this really is Yeezus season, and I for one am glad I’m witnessing it.
Bonnaroo takes a toll on your body. Walking around, standing during shows and sleeping on the ground in a tent can really make your whole body ache. Right now, it’s 10:13 central time on the final day of Bonnaroo. The first three days having been absolutely life changing.
Day three featuring some incredible shows, including the best show I’ve ever seen. Kirk and I began our day at Kevin Devine. Devine’s a Brooklyn musician who Kirk has had the pleasure of interviewing. Devine played a 40-minute set, and he was simply fantastic. He had a really strong surrounding, and even invited fans to meet him following the show. After his show we walked towards the front of the stage and see Grouplove’s Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi. Apparently they are fans of Kevin Devine. Kirk talked to Kevin Devine briefly. There had to be about 40 people waiting to meet Kevin. He was selling t-shirts and vinyl. After Kevin Devine, we grubbed before Grouplove’s show. I ate BBQ pork sandwiches, while Kirk went with Mac & Cheese. Grouplove started at 4 p.m., so we arrived about 30 minutes prior to try and get a good spot. Kirk has seen Grouplove before, but yesterday was my first time, and it was freaking electric. Grouplove goes all out during shows, and I’ve become even more of a fan during their performance. Grouplove opened with “I’m With You” and then continued with songs from their 2013 album titled Spreading Rumors, including “Schoolboy”, “Shark Attack”, “What I Know”, “Didn’t Have to Go”, “Bitin’ the Bullet”, and more. They even tossed out their “Drunk In Love” cover towards the end of their set. Kirk wanted to see Cage the Elephant at 4:45, so he left Grouplove early. He’s disappointed he missed out on the “Drunk in Love” cover.
My phone barely had any service this weekend, so it died on Friday. I didn’t have any way of contacting Kirk since I didn’t have his number saved, but we planned to meet at Cage the Elephant at the “Which Stage.” I couldn’t find Kirk as Cage the Elephant’s set was finishing. We had this meeting spot near a beer stand, but I couldn’t find him. I ended up walking to Jamestown Revival, who was playing at 7 near the main stage, but still I couldn’t find Kirk. Believe it or not, it’s damn near impossible to spot one person in a crowd of 80,000 in a 700-acre farm. I walked back to the spot we planned to meet at for Cage the Elephant, but he wasn’t there. I made up my mind that I would just go see Jamestown Revival, and then see whomever else and meet him back at the campsite later that evening. Amazingly, I saw him walking with his backwards St. Bonaventure hat on, and his neon orange spring weekend shirt, so we walked to catch Jamestown Revival, who really put on an excellent show. They had a number of passionate fans that knew each word to each song. I knew only a handful of Jamestown Revival songs, but I was impressed with what I had heard from the indie folk band.
After Jamestown Revival we ate some food while listening to the beginning of Lionel Richie’s set. We then walked over to see James Blake. We ended up just sitting down a bench away from the stage. After about 30 minutes of James Blake we walked over to Jack White and the main stage. We ended up catching Lionel Richie’s finale, which was Michael Jackson’s “We are the World.” We had to wait 45 minutes until Jack White’s set began, but we ended up with a great spot. My lower back had been killing me for a number of reasons, but mainly because of standing all day. I didn’t think I could make it. I tried to just continue to move around and try to think about anything but my back, but once Jack White began his set, I stopped thinking about my back and I just thought about the music.
White played the best show I’ve ever seen. It was two hours and 20 minutes of pure awesomeness. He gave some inspiring words of advice, along with telling us to thank those workers who have difficult and thankless jobs like those who work in the auto industry. He told the crowd how much he loved his mom, and that if you have a mom, you should tell her that and spend as much time as possible with her. One of the more inspiring moments of the show took place pretty early when Jack White mentioned, “Who makes music happen? Does a tabloid like Rolling Stone make music happen?” then he continued with, “You and I make it exist.” That really spoke to me, and it gave me a personal connection to Jack White and his music that every music fan longs for. Jack White has never been a musician I listen to regularly, but only because I never really got into his music. That show last night changed me. I don’t know if I’ll be some die-heart Jack White fan or anything, but I definitely gained a new perspective on things after hearing his show. My favorite part of the night was his version of “We’re Going to Be Friends,” which has always been one of my favorites. The fans adored Jack White. He could say no wrong during that 140-minute set.
I’ve seen some remarkable shows over the past three days, and today, the final day, hopes to bring even more remarkable shows. I’m excited to see Elton John, Lucero, Artic Monkeys, City and Colour and The Avett Brothers. I don’t know when I’ll post my next Bonnaroo post. It probably will be Monday or Tuesday, depending on what happens with the NBA Finals, but I just want to say how wonderful this opportunity has been to write about Bonnaroo. The word Bonnaroo means “a really good time.” It’s a completely fitting and appropriate word for such a festival. Never before have I witnessed so many people mesmerized in the music. I saw people actually get lost in it. I can’t thank Kirk enough for driving us down and making this weekend one of the best ones of my life. We hope to be back next year, and bring some of our friends, because every single music fan should experience Bonnaroo.
Here are the top 7 shows I've seen so far:
7. Kevin Devine
6. Jamestown Revival
5. The Head and the Heart
2. Kanye West
1. Jack White
We had a feeling that yesterday would be incredible, and it’s safe to say that we weren’t disappointed. Day two was packed full of some of our favorite artists, and every performance we saw was special.
After publishing yesterday’s post and eating some food we headed over to see Sam Smith. Smith is a soulful, pop/R&B singer from the UK who’s probably most known for featuring on Disclosure’s hit song “Latch.”
Smith bet his mother that no one would show up to his first American festival appearance, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. Smith packed the tent as full as you could imagine as he played through some of his popular sings, mixing in a couple from his new album, releasing this Tuesday, as well as an Arctic Monkeys cover.
Smith is a throwback to an older generation with a modern spin. He has the vocal style and chops of the great soul singers— much like another Sam, yes, Sam Cook. He showed his incredible command of his powerful falsetto, singing in registers most of us wouldn’t even dream of for fear of injuring ourselves.
An amazing moment came when he showed the crowd his take on Disclosure’s “Latch,” a delicate, piano driven ballad full of beautiful vocal runs and tear-jerking falsetto flares.
Next, we watched an artist I knew very little about named Danny Brown. He’s made a name for himself through his dark brand of hip-hop and his onstage antics— he once received a blowjob on stage.
One thing about Danny is clear: his fans have a real passion for his music. The moment there was an opening ahead, fans pushed to see how close to the stage they could get. Brown was a little late to the show, but the crowd jumped and filed on top of each other even as his DJ played songs during the wait.
So as you can imagine, the crowd went bat-shit insane when he finally took the stage. Moshing like it was a metal show, the crowd’s energy never subsided, not really even between songs.
Next, we went to see England’s Ben Howard. Joe and I are both pretty big fans of Howard, and being in the photographer’s pit for his show was something really special. The little subtleties of Howard’s sound can get lost in the huge, festival setting, but in the pit, every little ambient organ or synth sound is noticeable.
If you know anything about Howard you know that the man straight up knows how to play guitar. Much like a UK style John Mayer, Howard never uses a pick and plays incredibly intricate finger picking while singing his difficult melodic vocal lines and somehow makes it look effortless.
His band played a little of everything behind him instrumentation-wise. At one point his drummer was even playing cymbals with a guitar. His bass player also played organ pedals, drums and more.
More than anything, Howard amazes with his versatility. From spindly finger picking to up-tempo, electric guitar rock, he played through his set with an amazing sort of relaxed intensity. Songs like “Only Love,” which are incredibly difficult to play, looked almost too easy in the hands of the very talented Ben Howard.
There were so many amazing artists playing on day two that Joe and I had to split up to be able to cover all the artists we wanted to cover. So at this point I headed over to see The Naked and Famous. The band brought their huge sounding electric indie-pop to ‘Roo right after Howard closed. The band have created a lot of buzz in the last year, so the crowd was huge and media were flocking to get some shots of the band.
Photographers packed the pit in front of the stage, which sometimes annoys artists, who request that photographers are only present for three songs, but the band seemed to revel in it, smiling at photographers as they tried to dodge the beach ball flying about the crowd. (Later the lead singer would kick the ball off stage, which consequently hit me in the face. It must be love.)
The crowd, more so than a lot of crowds we saw on day 2, really seemed to pour themselves into the bands set. I watched as all throughout the crowd people screamed the words, eyes closed, hands up like they were experiencing something truly transcendent. If you don’t know the band yet, you’re going to want to get to know them soon, because things are coming for them.
Next came my personal favorite set of the day, The Head and the Heart. One of my good friends in high school introduced me to The Head and the Heart, and I fell in love instantly. When their new album came out this year I immediately wrote a review. The 6-piece folk group played a mix of songs from their two albums to a massive crowd, as they played one of the festival’s two main stages.
“Cruel” is one of my favorite songs ever written, so that song may just be my very favorite moment of day two. Shamelessly, I closed my eyes, threw my hands in the air and sang slightly off-key versions of harmony. I probably attracted a few stares because I was alone, but it’s Bonnaroo. So fuck it.
“Shake” may have been one of the day’s best performances, but like I said, I’m a little prejudiced. The band interacted more with the crowd than most performers, and I think that shows just how comfortable they are on stage, speaking to a crowd that may not all be fans like normal shows.
In a literally picture perfect moment, the sun began to set behind the band as they closed out their set. Anyone on stage with photography rights probably got the best shot of the entire day during that show.
Next, I headed over to the main stage, which becomes a small city during the day, to see Vampire Weekend. They played through their chill indie-rock to probably one of the biggest crowds they’ve ever played to, the cameras always focused on the amazing Ezra Koenig.
The thing first timers like myself don’t know about Bonnaroo is that it’s truly a marathon. 12 hours of standing on your feet can get to you pretty quick, and by the time Vampire Weekend came around I was a little dehydrated, very hungry, very tired and very ready to see Kanye.
Joe and I headed over the main stage area early to eat and get a good spot for the set we’d both been anticipating all day.
In 2008, Bonnaroo got the best of Kanye, who showed up three hours late for his set, but it’s safe to say that Kanye put Bonnaroo its place last night. He played songs from every album and every major appearance he’s done. Everything from the “All Falls Down” to “New Slaves” to “Heartless” were performed.
At times bizzare, at times transcendent, Kanye covered all of the bases that you’d expect him to cover. Whether it be screaming “Where the press at?” in anger, (awkward) or proclaiming himself the number one rockstar in the world, the arrogant but amazing Kanye you showed up in full force. But, so did the Kanye who’s made millions being the best and most consistent face in rap music over the last decade. 10,000 people jumped together, screamed together and smiled together as Kanye played the songs that inevitably make up the soundtrack, in one way or another, to their life. All theatrics aside, it’s safe to say that Kanye stole the show on day 2 and all headliners to follow have a lot to live up to.
After Kanye I planned on seeing Chance the Rapper, so I headed over the tent he was performing at later and caught the end of a superjam that included guests like Ben Folds and Chaka Khan. Sadly, I literally couldn’t stand or stay awake long enough to see Chance, who I’d been looking forward to all week.
Regardless, Friday was without a doubt the best day of my musical life and I can’t wait to see what day three brings, including Kevin Devine, Cake, Grouplove, Cage the Elephant, Lionel Richie, Jack White and Frank Ocean. Look out for more from Joe and I today and tomorrow and check the WSBU twitter for updates throughout the day!
I knew day two would be insane. Some of my favorite bands were scheduled that day, and they did not disappoint. Kirk and I split up more than once on Friday to check out different acts. He, also, had a photo pass which gave him sweet access to the pit level for Sam Smith and The Naked and Famous. We had steak and rice for lunch, and it was delicious. They definitely give you enough food for the price that you pay.
We ate at a table about 250 yards from the main stage called “What Stage,” it is where Elton John, Jack White, Vampire Weekend Lionel Richie and all of the other big names played or will play this weekend. After that we walked around a little bit before Sam Smith. Sam Smith played a great set. I didn’t know a whole lot about Sam Smith before this weekend since I only knew one or two of his songs, but he gave a fantastic performance. We stuck around after Sam Smith, and waited in “The Other Tent” for Danny Brown to go on at 4. We planned to only see Danny Brown for a few songs because Ben Howard was scheduled for 4:30. The crowd for Danny Brown was absolutely nuts. You couldn’t more an inch as they played Eminem and Dr. Dre before Danny Brown got on. It’s always interesting to hear other people’s conversations. We met a guy from Cleveland who was experiencing his second Roo. The place erupted when Danny Brown began his set. Girls and guys tried crowd surfing, but I saw at least two girls get thrown to the ground. People were reckless, and on all kinds of drugs. Kirk and I didn’t get to Ben Howard until 4:35. Ben Howard’s very soft spoken, and he just an amazing guitarist. I’m sure Kirk will discuss how great his guitar performance was in his recap. Howard played one of my favorite songs “The Fear,” which turned out to be my favorite of his set. After Ben Howard finished, I stuck around. The Head and the Heart played about an hour after Howard, so I grabbed some food while Kirk saw The Naked and Famous. I actually got in line to enter the pit for The Head and the Heart. It was the closest I got to a stage all day--about 15 feet. The Head and the Heart played a very memorable set, including "Let’s Be Still", "Down in the Valley", "Lost in My Mind", "Cruel", "Another Story", "Shake" and others. Kirk missed the first few songs or so, but he said they had sounded the best out of everyone he heard. "Another Story" sounded phenomenal live. It’s a song about school shootings, and The Head and the Heart did a masterful performance during that one particular. It’s one thing hearing a live song in the comfort of your home, but hearing it in front of the band with a number of passionate, drunken fans is a whole new, fantastic experience.
I had to bolt The Head and the Heart 10 minutes early to check out CHVRCHES, while Kirk saw Vampire Weekend. I would have loved to see Vampire Weekend since I’ve never seen them in concert, but CHVRCHES is a newer band, and their debut album The Bones of What You Believe is one of the most played albums on my iTunes. Lauren Mayberry, their lead vocalist, is wonderful. She talked a little bit between songs, just saying how it was their first Roo experience, and how they are not American. Some people bring flags during performances. One guy had an Uncle Jessie from Full House one, while others had characters from South Park. This one person at the CHVRCHES show had a blue sword on a flag, or at least it was thought to be a blue sword. Lauren Mayberry asked if it was a giant blue penis on stage. CHVRCHES played mostly every song off of their album; they might have played their whole album but I missed at least the first two songs. They even played a song I never heard before, which I think is called “Strength”. Their best performance had to be either "Night Sky" or "Recover", which are two simply phenomenal songs. I was at CHVRCHES alone, and I sat towards a fence to the right of the stage. I just wanted to sit down, and enjoy the music.
I noticed lots of basketball and football jerseys while walking around at Roo. Of course you saw the obvious ones like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, but then you saw some random ones like Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal Orlando jersey, some members of the Bad Boy Pistons, and my favorite random jersey a Jimmer Chicago Bulls jersey. Jimmer played about five games for the Bulls last season after the Kings released him in February. The runner up for most random jersey was a Jay Williams No. 22 Chicago Bulls jersey. After CHVRCHES, I met Kirk by the stage where Phoenix was playing. We only heard a few Phoenix songs, but they were loud and sounded great.
We headed over to Kanye West about 50 minutes early. We ended up scoring some decent grass. You can check out Kirk's Facebook for a video of "New Slaves." Kanye and Bonnaroo have an interesting history. He preformed their back in 2008, but stirred up controversy with his remarks about Bonnaroo’s producers. Many music critics blasted Kanye West for his lack of commitment and care. I had a feeling Kanye would address his critics during the 90-minute show. I’ve seen some great shows in my life, but I’m not sure anything tops Kanye West’s 2014 Bonnaroo Show. He was simply fantastic. He played all of his hits, including "All Falls Down", "Touch the Sky", "Heartless", "Run This Town", "Bound 2", "New Slaves", "Blood on the Leaves", "Jesus Walks", "Diamonds", "Good Life", "Runaway", "POWER", "All of the Lights" and "Black Skinhead." I’m sure I’m missing a song or two, but seriously Kanye West played all of his jams. He also had some interesting things to say. He talked about the press a few times. He talked about how lots of people traveled just to see him. He talked about how 100,000 people were going crazy as shit during his set. Man, it was absolutely wild. You see hundreds and hundreds people in front you with their hands waving up and down, and then you turn around and you see thousands of people doing the same. Ye would start a song, rap the first few lines, and then say, “Stop that shit.” He then would say some more remarks about the press, give the crowd some inspiration and then would re start the song. Some of the crowd grew tired of his antics, some even leaved, but I loved it. He gave it his all in during his set, and he really delivered, and gave the people what the songs they wanted. He spoke about how so many people traveled to Tennessee to see him humbles him. I never saw Kanye West before in person, so I’m not sure how he is in front of crowds, but I think he opened up more than normal last night. He told the audience that, “if you are a fan of me, you are a fan of your m**her******* self.” In between his banter, Kanye West just played great music. "Runaway" and "New Slaves" had a great vibe, and before New Slaves he claimed that this next song is the realest shit he has ever written. I felt the most energy during "Touch the Sky", "Bound 2" and "Jesus Walks." The production of the show was something I’ve never seen before. The lights were bright, and the screen behind Kanye West had to be 100 or so feet with a silhouette of Kanye West’s movements during the show. The screen also gave some fascinating graphics of the sun. Ye didn’t disappoint, and I’m sure Kirk will go in greater detail.
I was totally dead after Kanye West even though it was midnight. I got a Gatorade and then headed back to the tent to fall asleep. Saturday brings Jamestown Revival, Jack White, Lionel Richie, Kevin Devin, Cherub, Cake, Cage the Elephant, James Blake, Frank Ocean and artists who I will soon discover.
So, funny thing. Manchester, Tennessee is a long way from Western New York. My 20-year old mentality had me convinced that 12 hours was a little bit of nothing, but let me tell you, it’s no joke.
Luckily, 12 hours is a lot more tolerable when Elton John, Kanye West, Vampire Weekend and more are waiting for you at the finish line. When you think you’ve arrived at Bonnaroo, you haven’t. You turn off the highway, turn again and then turn again until you’re in the middle of a field that looks like it should have hosted a civil war battle.
From there you’re guided into a parking spot, which is soon engulfed by other cars surrounding it. Tents are pitched in about a ten foot space near each vehicle, packed on top of each other, creating a camping-style city block.
We arrived a little later than some, and had a little bit of a wrestling match with our tent, and so had about a 15-minute walk into the festival area. That said, the walk doesn’t seem very long when you’re too busy thinking about what’s to come to even begin to think about your paces.
A cloud of smoke has been hanging over Center Roo ever since we arrived, and it’s hard to tell if it’s coming from stages or, well, you know what else it could come from.
Our first show at Bonnaroo was G.O.O.D. Music’s Pusha T. The amazing thing about Bonnaroo is that even the people at the very back of the show sing along like it’s the last thing they’ll ever do. As Pusha T flew through some of his verses, the crowd nodded along, eyes closed, mouthing the lyrics or pumped their hand violently in the air, shouting along.
Thursday is a more quiet kind of day at Bonnaroo, so we checked out a band we’d never really heard of before called Ty Segall. The four-piece tore through a set of punky garage rock that sounded part Cage the Elephant, part Japandroids. Their lead singer stole the show, doubling on throat-shedding vocals and raw, nimble-fingered guitar solos.
We then proceeded to attend an R. Kelly “Trapped In the Closet” sing along. I’ll just let that sit for a while with you.
All the while, Joe and I raved about how incredible tomorrow’s lineup is. Look out for tomorrow’s posts because it’s going to be maybe the best day of our musical lives, and we can’t wait.
It took awhile to get here. I actually left my house on Wednesday morning at 6:15. My dad dropped me off at 10th and Filbert in Philadelphia. My bus left at 7 for New York City.
Once I arrived in New York City, I waited 40 minutes for my bus that traveled to Buffalo. This bus left New York at 10:30, and didn’t get to Buffalo until 6:15.
I spent the bus ride listening to music, mostly. Once I got to Buffalo a Bonaventure friend pick me up. We grabbed Mighty Taco and played basketball. I know that’s not really relevant, but it’s part of the journey. Anyway, Thursday morning I woke up early, and got a ride to Kirk’s house. Kirk and I began our adventure to Manchester, Tennessee at 10. It was a long trip for a passenger, but I can only imagine how it was for the driver. We spent at least an hour in traffic, and Mother Nature couldn’t make up her damn mind as it rained on and off during the beginning of the trip.
We listened to a number of newer albums, including Kanye West, Vampire Weekend, Haim, Jimmy Eat World, Childish Gambino, Drake, among others.
A road trip is great if three things happen. 1.) Good music 2.) Good company 3.) Good food. We had all of the above during this epic 12-hour plus commute. We stopped at Wendy’s, Starbucks and Ralley’s for food and drinks. Once we got to Manchester, we picked up our wristbands. Kirk got a sweet media pass allowing him access to take photos close to the stage. He didn’t use his camera last night since we didn’t get here until closer to midnight.
Once Kirk parked his car, we had to pitch the tent. I’ve never pitched a tent before, and neither had Kirk. We mistakenly pitched the tent in front of the car instead of pitching it behind the car. Although it took us a little longer than we anticipated, we pitched the damn thing. We drank some beers and headed down to the stages.
The first thing you notice about Bonnaroo is how massive the fields are. So many cars, RVs, vans and busses occupy the abundance of land that Bonnaroo offers. Pusha T was playing his set at The Other Stage, so we hit his show first. His set was jam packed with people raising their hands in the air, while rapping word for word. It was a pretty awesome sight to see. Pusha T played the chorus to Kanye West’s “Runaway”, which Pusha T is featured in, and also happens to be one of my favorite songs. It was a really great start to what looks like could be an unforgettable weekend.
Kirk and I then saw Ty Segall, who we’ve never heard before. Ty Segall had so much energy and passion, which really lifted the crowd’s energy. A mosh pit formed, and a number of fans crowed surfed during that set.
We grabbed some beers and headed over to the R. Kelly “Trapped in the Closet” sing-a-long over at the Bonnaroo Cinema tent. We had to wait in line for at least 30 minutes, but it was well worth our wait as fans sang and danced during R. Kelly’s dramatic episodes.
We headed back to our camp spot around 4 a.m., but since there are so many damn cars here we couldn’t find where we parked. Eventually, we found it closer to 5 a.m. Today promises to be filled with some incredible acts. I’ve waited for Friday the 13th’s lineup since the schedule had been released. I’ll be able to see CHVRCHES, Kanye West, Danny Brown, Sam Smith, Ben Howard, Phoenix, Chance the Rapper, The Head and the Heart and Ice Cube throughout today. It will be an absolutely unreal day, and I look forward to sharing that with you.
The Buzz is road tripping to Tennessee! Thanks to Bonnaroo, we will be covering the annual music festival in Manchester. Over 125 artists, comedians and performers will be at hand during this four-day spectacular. Kirk Windus and I (Joseph Phelan) will write reviews on some of the shows we listen to these next four days. Hopefully we can grab an interview or two with up and coming artists. Before we leave, however, we wanted to give you the acts that WE are looking forward to seeing. Some gigantic music names will be in attendance, including Elton John, Kanye West, Jack White, Vampire Weekend and dozens mores. It’s an incredible opportunity, and we are elated to share with you our experiences at one of the best American music festivals.
I’m not really sure what to expect. No amount of reading or video watching will replace actually experiencing Bonnaroo for the first time, so I’m looking forward to seeing the sights, smelling the different foods and listening to the beautiful sounds for the first time. Here are the five musicians I have to see this weekend (in no particular order):
The Buzz likes Ben Howard, a lot. The English singer-songwriter’s album debuted in 2011 with an album titled Every Kingdom, featuring Only Love and The Wolves. He has immensely strong lyrics as a folk artist. His one song, The Fear, is featured on my radio show quite often. My sister’s a huge Howard fan, and introduced me to him back in 2012. Bonnaroo scheduled Ben Howard at Which Stage from 4:30 to 5:30. Howard makes mellow music that gives you peace and solitude. Bonnaroo is filled with diverse musicians, and although Howard won’t wow his audience with energy or power, he does pour his soul into his music, and it’s something I’ve wanted to witness for sometime now.
The Friday lineup is unreal. My day might look like this: Vintage Trouble, Sam Smith, Danny Brown, Ben Howard, The Head and the Heart, CHVRCHES, Phoenix, Kanye West, Ice Cube and Chance the Rapper. Sprinkle in Dr. Dog, Vampire Weekend, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Naked and Famous and Janelle Monae and Friday June 13 might be the best day of my life. This Scottish electronic band has a phenomenal vocalist in Lauren Mayberry. Glassnote Records released their debut studio album The Bones of What You Believe in September 2013. CHVRCHES’s album was my fourth favorite album of 2013 (behind Haim, Kanye West and Kurt Vile), so you better believe that I’m picking to see them over Vampire Weekend who unfortunately plays at the same time.
I emailed Jamestown Revival back in March. I had hoped to book them at St. Bonaventure for a concert. The funds were not there to book a band such as Jamestown Revival. Their debut album, Utah, was released this year. They preformed their single “California” on Conan O’Brien in January. Their Facebook page describes their sound as “indie-rock with a southern slant.” Much of their music is about discovering new adventures, figuring out yourself and what the west has to offer to two Texas friends. I discovered Jamestown Revival in February after their Daytrotter session. They played Golden Age, Time Is Gone, California and Wandering Man. They are an up-and-coming band, so hopefully they become bigger with Bonnaroo exposure. I’ve heard they play loud, engaging shows, so check them out on Saturday at either 4 p.m. or 7 p.m.
I’ve seen Elton John and Billy Joel together once, but I’ve never seen Elton John solo. Bonnaroo saves the best for last with Elton John performing from 9:30 to 11:30 on Sunday night. My birthday is Monday, so technically it will be my birthday for the last half hour of the show, at least on the east coast. Elton John will be fantastic no matter what songs he chooses to play. I have a high level of excitement for Sir Elton John to mesmerize each Rooer. I’m sure he’ll play a bunch of stuff off of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but really it’s just going to be a pleasure listening to one of the best to ever do it.
Music festivals are so cool for a number of reasons. One of them has to do with how many artists gain exposure while playing in front of large crowds. People go to music festivals for big named artists. It’s how Bonnaroo is able to sell tickets. Kanye West and Elton John are the two biggest names in this lineup. Ye played at Bonnaroo in 2008, but it didn’t end well. Basically Kanye West’s show was properly produced because it was still light outside. Kanye West, however, will be on Friday night from 10 to midnight. I anticipate a fantastic Kanye West show, especially given how much criticism he’d receive if it’s anything short of spectacular.
Other artists: Cherub, The Head and the Heart, Lionel Richie, Frank Ocean, Pusha T and Danny Brown
Thursday morning, Joe and I will begin our journey to Bonnaroo. It’s still hard to believe that we’ll be among the 80,000 or so that flock to the acres of Tennessee that for four days become a musical heaven and a sanctuary for fans.
According to google maps, it’s a 12-hour trek from my sleepy little town to Manchester, but I’m sure Joe will find a way to keep me entertained on the long journey.
So what are we most excited for? I’ve been trying to answer that question in my head for a little while now. Well, hanging out with Joe is the obvious answer, but it’s fair to say that Kanye’s at the top of both of our lists. We’ve both been doing our fair share of fan-girling over Kanye lately.
Joe’s lucky enough to have already seen Elton John, but I haven’t and I can’t wait to watch him light up ‘Roo from behind the grand piano.
Headliners aside, I can’t wait to see The Head and the Heart. Both of their albums have been brilliant, and the future’s awfully bright for the band. Cage the Elephant are kind of festival legends, and they always bring an amazing energy to the stage. You never know what will happen when those guys take the stage, and I can’t wait to see them.
Probably second on my list, behind Kanye, would be Chance the Rapper. Acid Rap is one of my favorite albums from the entire year, and I think Chance does absolutely amazing things. He’s bound to rule at Bonnaroo.
I also can’t wait to see Vampire Weekend, The Naked and Famous, Disclosure and Sam Smith. City and Colour are absolutely incredible from the old, Dallas-Green-and-an-acoustic songs to the new, full-band tracks, so I can’t wait to see them. I’ll also definitely be checking out Kevin Devine again. He may not be the biggest name on the lineup, but I saw him this winter and he blew me away. I think he’s probably the most underrated songwriter of our generation, and he’s an amazing guy, so definitely check him out.
Keep your eyes peeled for more from Joe and I. We’ll be writing and posting as much as we can from the festival.
Our co-music director, Kirk Windus, sat down with Kevin Devine to talk about his latest albums, the music industry and politics.
As far as these last two records, [Bubblegum and Bulldozer] are you a little more proud of them just because you did so much work by yourself?
I think I’m differently proud. I don’t know if I’m more proud, but I think that in the last 4 records, from the Brother’s Blood record in 2009, I feel like there was a reset button that got hit on that record after the whole Capitol Records thing happened that was like, “Now I’m going to really just do exactly what I want,” and I think before I was maybe the same way, for better or for worse. Even with the label system I was still doing whatever I wanted. But I just wasn’t entirely sure yet what I wanted to do musically. I mean I knew how to write songs, but I didn’t always know how to present them in their best form. Sometime around Brother’s Blood there was a break from the whole folk-rock thing, so exploring different corners of presentation where things were a lot more expansive and heavy in places and still being pretty in places but stretching out the definition of what that meant.
And I think with these last two records, to me, aesthetically, they’re both really fine encapsulations of the progress that’s been made on a musical front. With the Bubblegum thing, I think we’ve had patches of songs that sounded that way. Like a song here, three songs here, but we haven’t had 40 minutes of songs that sounded that aggressive. It’s not like a metal record, but, for me, it’s the most punk rock music we’ve ever made for a full record. And I think with the Bulldozer thing, if I’d have made that record 10 years ago it would have been much more there. I mean those songs are all acoustic rock songs that got pulled apart and made into something more spacious and dynamic. So, musically I mean I’m proud of them because I don’t think I could have made them the way that they were made if I was making them 10 years ago. But obviously there’s a story in how it got there and got literally made and I’m hugely proud of that. I don’t know if I’m more proud of it, but there’s a more clear line of ownership because there’s no one in the middle. You always feel proud when you’re making it, but then other promotional entities get involved, and that’s their job. That’s what you’re asking them to do. But you can start to get a little alienated from your own thing based on what they’re doing or not doing. So it’s kind of nice not having that with these records. I can say that things went a lot smoother this time around than the last time, which is not necessarily what you expect when you’re like, “I’m just basically going to do it all by myself, meaning like myself, six other people and the entire world are going to do this thing.” So the prize is maybe the same, but the clarity of thought and the level of difficulty and the actual execution, even though we had a lot more to do, it was easier to do it.
It seems like you’ve been able to do all of the same things you’d do with label support, as far as booking pretty big tours, making music videos and promoting the records, without a label. Are you finding it’s really possible to do that in today’s music world or do you think that labels really still have a place?
I think that both are true. I think I would definitely never swear off having a record label. But there’s about ten of them that I would consider, [laughs] and they’re not knocking on my door. But I mean there are really good labels that do really well by artists and have realistic goals and work really hard. And then there are labels that aren’t bad people, and they’re doing their job. It’s just that their job is changing so dramatically every 18 months or 12 months. Sometimes they’re like literally losing their jobs. But in other senses, just the dynamics of the business are changing so much that they’re not sure how to stay on top of it. And I think when you’re someone who’s in my position, like I’m not attached to any sort of trend stylistically or musically. I just kind of write songs. Sometimes they’re loud. Sometimes they’re quiet. Sometimes they’re something else. But they’re not directly pop punk or emo. They’re not folk or whatever you could peg them to market them. They’re somewhere in the middle of all of those things, and I think that makes their job hard. I think right now is not the time for somebody in the music industry’s job to be hard. What sells is what’s easy. There used to be more room for that, and there’s less of it now just because people buy less music.
So I think that this experiment has proved to me that someone of my size can hold firm without a label’s help and even grow a little bit. I mean this is going to sound a little weird, but I’m bigger now than I was two years ago. I’m not exponentially bigger. I’m not like selling out 2,000 seat theaters when I was only selling 200 tickets before, but more people know it than they did two years ago. You know? And that’s happened through making that Bad Books record and then doing what we always do every record, just without a label. So, to me, that proves you can do it. But we also had an influx of $10,000 from our audience to do it. That being said, in music industry terms, that’s not a whole lot of money to pull off a two year project with two albums and tour them, make videos, go to radio, handle press and do all of that, even on a small level. $10,000 to do all of that and make the records, I’ll tell you it goes much faster than most people would think.
You’re obviously quite familiar with Jesse Lacey and you’ve worked with him before. Did it make it easier or harder to work with a good friend as a producer and what did he bring the table as a producer?
I thought he was super professional. He was prompt, punctual and present. Jesse’s a lot of things. He’s a friend of 15 years, so my relationship to him and my thoughts about him are a little different than his fans’ are. I love him for different reasons than his fans do, [laughs] which is good. But he’s not exactly known as being the most prompt and punctual dude, so that was refreshing. And that was really the only concern I had. Jesse’s talents speak for themselves. His enthusiasm for my songs and for my band speak for itself. Our friendship, I knew, wasn’t in any danger. We’re the type of people that I knew if we were a week in and it wasn’t working we’d be like, “This isn’t working. Let’s not do this.” But it did work, and to my ears and to my taste it worked remarkably well.
The one thing that I will say is that Jesse did Bubblegum and Rob Schnapf did Bulldozer. He worked with us on Put Your Ghost To Rest and mixed the Bad Books album. And he did a bunch of Elliot Smith, Beck and The Vines, Guided By Voices. I mean Rob is a monster.
But it wasn’t like I brought Jesse a lot of folk songs and then he turned it into Bubblegum. Like we had, [Mike] Fadem (drums), [Mike] Strandberg (guitar) and I, even over the tour for Between the Concrete and Clouds, those songs had gotten nastier live. And the more we opened for these loud bands, like Say Anything or Thrice or Brand New, those songs just got kind of uglier, in a good way, and dirtier, and I got more confident. I used to be in a band that was like a super fast, loud, Replacements-ish kind of pop-punk band called Miracle of ’86. And growing up, the things that made me play music were things like Nirvana. So that’s always been in there, and we’ve had parts of it, but then I got way into the great songwriters like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Elliot Smith, Sinead O’Connor and Hank Williams, and then I got into Cat Power and stuff that was more subdued. And so I made a bunch of records that were like that. But I’ve been getting back into the louder thing, so I thought I wanted to make one record that was like a punk record and one that was like a folk record. Jesse had wanted to make one of our records with me for years, so it was like, “Well, there’s no label. We’re doing whatever we want. So why don’t you make this one?” So in other words, it was the perfect meeting of the right time for our band and the right guy to do it because he obviously knows his way around loud rock music and also knows his way around songwriting and knows his way around melody and knows his way around layering a studio.
And a big asterisk that needs to be attached to Bubblegum, too, is that Jesse was the producer in a very old school, Phil Spector kind of way. Not in that he had a gun to us in the studio or anything like that, but he would recommend sounds, and he was very idea oriented, very song oriented. But he wasn’t like placing mics or handling the technical side of things. That was a guy named Claudius Mittdenorfer who’s a friend of all of ours. The reason that the record sounds as good as it does is Claudius, too. He’s just not like a famous singer from a famous rock band, so people won’t talk about him as much, but he’s as much the reason that record sounds the way it does as anyone else is. So it’s worth noting that.
What was it like putting out two records at one time? Most people put so much many and everything into just one. Did you worry that that they’d be unbalanced or one would have a better reception than the other?
No, I mean, I knew that, at least in the immediate, that Bubblegum would get a better reception just because it’s a bigger sound and because there’s the Jesse association. And I thought just between the two records there would be more initial excitement about that. And I really understood that, and I had to kind of let go early on because I really loved Bulldozer too. I had to be patient. I knew Bulldozer would find its audience too, and I actually think that it helps Bulldozer that we focused on Bubblegum first and it got such a warm reception because we just released the “Little Bulldozer” video and people love it, and there’s a Bulldozer tour in the fall, so I think that it will be helped by all the focus that Bubblegum got.
Yeah, I hear exactly what you mean. It’s really beautiful and it’s a great record. It’s just very different.
Well, and I think that I like things that hit you in the head, and I like subtler things too. The interesting thing is that they’re [the records] not that far apart in terms of sales. They’re pretty neck and neck. Bubblegum sold more, but not like thousands of copies more. I think that they’re within a thousand copies of one another. And that’s cool to me. Even on tour you can see at the merch table every night, it’s like 55-45 or something like that, and I think that’s cool too. I think there’s a balance there.
What has the reception been like now that you’ve been able to hit the road with the Goddamn Band?
This tour’s specifically been outstanding. And I know it’s a little unusual, considering I have a relationship with Manchester Orchestra. So people coming to the shows have at least heard of me a lot of times. But there are also a lot of them that have heard of me, but never actually heard what I do. They’ve heard Bad Books, you know? Or they’ve heard a song here or there. What I’m seeing on tour is that there are a lot people that had preconceived ideas about what my “thing” was, and then they come see it and basically it’s like, “Oh, I didn’t know you could play like that.” I think people—well—I don’t know what they expect. I don’t know if they expect something like Jason Mraz, like a signer/songwriter thing, or if they expect to see me up there with an acoustic guitar, emoting. And that’s part of “the thing,”— well, not the Jason Mraz thing, that’s not part of the thing— [laughs] but the presentation. Yeah, I really like getting up and playing a song on the acoustic guitar. I always will. I think there’s something very direct about it.
But I also really love getting up, stepping on a peddle and jumping around, making noise and having a drummer beat the heck out of the drums. I really like that too. I think that, to me, we’re making an impression on people who are vaguely aware, but are now kind of joining the fold. And a big part of that is the band. I mean, Ben Hamola from Bad Books is playing drums and he did the Bubblegum tour in the fall too. Mike Strandberg used to work with me for like eight years, playing guitar and singing harmonies, and he also worked on Bubblegum with me. He’s a sort of wizard electric guitar guy who can sort of do anything he wants. And we’re having Andy Prince, who plays bass in Bad Books and Manchester Orchestra, play with us now. Whenever Manchester’s not on tour he’s the go-to guy for me. I sent him 12 songs to learn, since we’re only doing 35 minutes a night, and he showed up to the first rehearsal in Brooklyn and we played through them once and I was like, “Oh, this will be fine.” Like he knew it and not only played the songs, but played them confidently and took risks and moved around. So, for me, I’m like never even thinking about what they’re doing on stage, and that’s like the best possible situation.
Have you been playing any Bad Books songs with Andy since you’re on tour together?
Yeah, we’ve been doing “42,” and I think we did “You’re a Mirror I can not Avoid” one night also. But that’s about all we’ve done so far.
It’s just got to be a lot of fun to collaborate and put those songs in rotation once in a while.
Absolutely! And I mean, since it’s their tour I’m not going to push it. If they want to do stuff for Bad Books I’m happy to. But I’m mindful that there’s a church and state element to it. And it’s a Manchester tour and a Kevin tour, so we’re focusing on Manchester stuff and my stuff, and we both have a lot of new music we just put out, so there’s no shortage of stuff to play.
When you’re writing an album for the entire band, do the songs still start out on just the acoustic usually?
Yeah, they do. I mean there’s a lot of different ways you can play an acoustic guitar. Songs like “Fiscal Cliff” on Bubblegum, that song was written on a nylon string classical guitar. Immediately it became obvious that song was a punk rock song. I mean, you can play a punk rock song on an acoustic guitar and you can play really beautiful, spindly sounding folk music on an electric guitar. You can do a lot with those instruments. But I usually write the structure, the guts of it, on acoustic. But I wrote some of the songs on Bass. I wrote “I Can’t Believe You” and “Sick of Words” on bass guitar and built from there. Maybe “Little Bulldozer,” like the initial riff, was written on an electric. I think I wrote it in our rehearsal space where I have drums and bass, whereas in my apartment I just have my acoustic around usually. So yeah, most of the time it just starts that way and then I hear, “Yeah, this is where the drums could be.” And sometimes that changes and sometimes that ends up being pretty close to the way you imagined it.
Yeah, it was just kind of cool to see the evolution of the songs, like “Private First Class” in a basic state compared to how it sounds on Bubblegum.
Yeah, and I think the challenge is, and I like doing this, is if you can get up with an acoustic and make those Bubblegum songs be still compelling. I think that’s the biggest stretch musically in my career is the acoustic foundation and what they became. So yeah, I think it’s really neat to try to make a gentle, beautiful version of “Bubblegum.” And “Private First Class” becomes more of like a Pete Seeger song or something like a Woody Guhtrie song. It’s a protest song when you play it that way. It’s folk rock. And I have no real problem with that. Folk and punk rock aren’t that far apart in terms of what forms them, the spirit. It’s just about how they get dressed up.
I remember in Buffalo when you said that you’d been meaning to retire “No Time Flat” but a lot of the song was still relevant. What do you think about that song is still true?
Well, I think we’re literally still involved in both of those entanglements [the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan]. Whether we’ve pulled troops or not, there’s an aspect of that which becomes cosmetic. And also, it’s kind of like if you walked into a room in a neighbor’s house and broke everything in the room and sat there and didn’t let your neighbor in for ten years. Then one day you got up and said, “Alright, I’m out” but didn’t fix anything in the room that you broke. I mean that’s kind of what we did. You know it’s funny that I’m talking to you in the lobby of a hotel and there’s big flagpole with an American flag and a proud eagle on top, while I say all of this [laughs]. But anyways, it’s not clean and resolved. And I still feel the same way I felt, and the thing that’s maybe more true about that song now is the embarrassing lack of real debate and dialogue between what passes as the two polls in American political conversation. I think that’s actually gotten simultaneously more absurd and less substantive in the last ten years. The whole Democrat and Republican thing is so Goddamn embarrassing. That, to me, is the stuff in that song that feels relevant. There may be specific references in that song that are a little dated, but it still feels like it could be written now with some things moved around.
And that’s why I’d change the thing about the drones in Pakistan and the “change we can believe in” because it wasn’t just a Bush/Cheney thing. It’s an American axis power thing; it’s what we do. And we do it whether we have a super gun-slinging, maybe less outwardly intellectual right-wing president or if we have a really considerate and thoughtful, world-class orator, quote unquote leftish president. They want the same thing, which is us being the premiere power in the world. Despite the stuff the two sides argue about domestically, when it comes to our international, foreign policy, particularly our expansion, they’re not even different. Not to be like a conspiracy theorist, and I mean I actually don’t think it’s that crazy, but I think that’s why so much emphasis is put on the domestic stuff like gay marriage, healthcare and tax issues is that it distracts us from what’s really going on over there, which is basically always going places and being like, “Well, that’ll be ours now.” You know? Which is a very oversimplified version of what really goes on.
Yeah, I think the line that sticks with me from that song is “you take abortion away and both sides are just the same.” I think it’s a really smart political commentary, and I definitely think that part is really true today.
Yeah, I mean you could move it to a few other things now. But that’s definitely one of them. I mean, every four years they try to overturn that. And I’m glad that hasn’t happened. And I don’t mean to minimize it. Reproductive health is a huge thing, especially if you’re a woman [laughs]. It’s important to have agency over your body. But there’s a lot of other hugely important things, and I think on those issues the sides are really quite similar.
What’s coming up for Kevin Devine? What should the people look for in the coming year?
Well, we’re going to do three more weeks of this Manchester tour, and that comes through your part of the world in about a week. And then after that I do Bonnaroo June 14th. I do a couple shows around Bonnaroo, which will be fun. Then Bad Books has a show at a festival in Texas the 21st of June. Then from like July 4th to 8th I’m doing some shows in the Mid-west with Brand New and festivals. And then a couple more shows in Northeast in the middle of July. Then I go overseas for a few weeks of acoustic stuff. Then I’ll be home until the end of September or beginning of October. Then there’s something coming up that I can’t announce yet and something else that I can’t announce yet either [laughs]. But we’ll be busy and in the Fall Bulldozer will get its fair shake.
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RIYL: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Dinosaur Jr.
Track 2- Matamoros
Track 5- Lost in the Woods
Track 4- Algiers
The album art to The Afghan Whigs’ Do to the Beast may not be the most warm or welcoming, depicting a weird animalistic, sexual scene. But don’t be swayed by it because the album is a rare, dark but gorgeous rock record.
The record really kicks off at the second track, “Matamoros,” which contains industrial sounding verses, (say NIN) which emerge into an eerie, minor keyed, almost-whispered chorus, on which lead singer Greg Dulli croons “I’m over you/ I’ll tell you why/ your kiss is poison.”
The Afghan Whigs have been together since the mid ‘80s, so they don’t need to prove their maturity. But if they did, this record would do it. Songs like “It Kills” and “Algiers” are dark and intense, but also subtle and restrained. The instrumentation on the tracks is limited, using mostly piano and acoustic guitar, but the sound is still full and the band sounds just as intense as on the album’s heavier tracks.
The Whigs may be constantly compared to bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but to call Do to the Beast a grunge record would be a total misnomer. Beautifully dark minor-key piano lines litter the album and the occasional huge major-key chorus (“Lost in the Woods”) keeps this album in pure rock territory.
It’s impossible to say enough good things about The Afghan Whigs. But the one thing that’s really worth mentioning is quite profound. The band that have spent much of their career in the shadows of bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and The Melvins have quietly aged better than Pearl Jam could ever hope to.
It’s a shame that the band don’t get more recognition, but the sublime work that is Do to the Beast may just be a good step towards emerging from that shadow.
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Bears and Motorcycles- Bears & Motorcyles
RIYL: Gary Clark Jr., The Black Keys, Queens of the Stone Age
Track 1- No More Love
Track 2- Key Around My Neck
Track 6- Move A Little Faster
The songs may be simple and can be compared to any alternative band like All American Rejects, Kings of Leon, Fall Out Boy, or Panic At the Disco, but they are catchy as hell.
This band is definitely worthy of being considered mainstream alternative, which is n
Being a guitar lover, I can see that they know their way around one by their display of different sounds and effects.ot always a bad thing. There are definitely people, along with me, who can appreciate Bears and Motorcycles. Their music differs from other alternative acts buy using simple elements like adding a power organ feel or soulful, repetitious riffs throughout many of their songs.
When it comes to music, I can be very picky and the fact that I've downloaded their album onto my phone shows how good I think the value of their music is. Definitely a good listen.
Track 1 – The Man
Track 2 – Love Is the Answer
Track 3 – Wake Me Up (Acoustic)
Track 9 – Red Velvet Seat
Aloe Blacc is bringing music back to where it used to be in the world of Hip-Hop and R&B. As one of the few artists who has great potential in this generation of music, Blacc brings power and meaning to his music. After his album Good Things, Blacc's major-label debut tries to change a vintage sound to a set of hooky soul-pop tunes layered with folk-tinged acoustic elements, which I believe became a success.
On “The Man”, Blacc blends pop, hip hop, and R&B. The words of "The Man" proclaim that the singer has been through a number of obstacles, but he is standing strong and will be. The words are supported with sound and power, without drowning in conceit.
“Wake Me Up (Acoustic)” is Blacc’s stripped-down and intimate version of the radio hit he collaboratedon with Avicii. This song is also a way for Blacc to find his sweet spot between country music and R&B. Blacc demonstrates his increasing talent by holding powerful notes with ease. He does the same with his other songs on the album such as the blues-meets-hip-hop sound on “The Hand Is Quicker,” and the R&B slow jam “Red Velvet Seat.”
RIYL: Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Michael Hurley
Recommended Tracks: All
In a world where college radio submissions come with lots of “please listen to me,” “please love me” promotional materials, LQ Bucket’s The Long Loneliness comes with one quote: “Some say LQ’s like Townes Van Zandt after reading too much Flannery O’Connor…” This quote just happens to be one of the few rare, accurate promotion lines you’ll see.
The Long Loneliness is a bit of a misnomer, as it clocks in at a mere 11 minutes, but it’s 11 minutes of loneliness that you’re going to want to endure. LQ Bucket is where the story-telling brilliance of Townes Van Zandt and the talky, classic folk sensibility of Bob Dylan intersect. Amidst an eerie, buzzing background noise that conjures the feeling of listening to an old record, LQ eases through subtle but deeply emotional stories set to music.
As for the Flannery O’Connor statement, if a Faulkner southern gothic novel was set to music it sound exactly like The Long Loneliness— both haunting and strikingly beautiful. Lyrics like “I had scarlet fever when I was eight/ saw those visions both large and small/ but that was fever talking/ that’s all,” are delivered with a yearning, talky croon that seems to tell stories without any words.
LQ Bucket isn’t just another folk singer. His lyrical styles and guitar playing may not be anything out of the ordinary, but the creativity and delivery of those elements is unusual today. “They Were Orphans Without You” is a brilliant take on an old tale, finding a lonely man crying into the distance where his love lies, telling her that all of his dreams and fantasies are just orphans without her.
When so many releases today are over produced and over refined, LQ Bucket doesn’t clean up undesirable guitar tones or melodic lines. The result is a record that is raw but refined, devastating but beautiful.
Finding LQ online is a little like playing a game of Where’s Waldo, but you don’t want to miss out on The Long Loneliness.
RIYL: Band of Horses, Pete Yorn, Arcade Fire, Ryan Adams
Track 3- Union Station
Track 5- Scotland
Track 7- Houses
Track 10- All That I’ve Wasted
The Belle Jar may have started out as a solo project for singer/songwriter Ryan James, but Union Station is a step out of the singer/songwriter niche and a step into to full-band folk goodness. Now a six-piece, The Belle Jar fill out their instrumentation with just about anything you could hope to hear (violins, ukulele, banjo, pedal steel).
James has the unique ability to write really delicate, meaningful songs that are still packed with energy. You can hear the sentimentality in his voice on songs like “Union Station,” but you still find yourself tapping your foot and nodding your head.
Folky though the album may be, when the band fills out their sound with electric guitar, the result is a really satisfying, clear rock sound that’s more Arcade Fire or Counting Crows than true folk. Likewise, when the violins act more as an embellishment than a leading instrument, (“Scotland”) the result is balladry that transcends folk classifications to create the type of song you might expect from Secondhand Serenade or Dashboard Confessional. “Scotland” may not be the type of song that reinvents a genre, but the yearning harmonies and crooning falsettos present an undeniably beautiful vulnerability.
“Houses” is an up-tempo, acoustic jam that tears a page straight out of Counting Crows’ book of tricks. A four-on-the-floor feel and R.E.M.-like harmonies propel the track forward. This song, the album’s quiet standout track, captures the essence of the band. Taking both the songwriting sensibilities and a knack for crafting simple-but-hypnotizing melodies from artists like the brilliant Ryan Adams, the Belle Jar mold a sound that’s modern folk and edgier alt-rock melted together into a really interesting, refreshing mix.
Hobosexual- Hobosexual II
RIYL: Japandroids, Drenge, Skid Row
Track 3- “Squish It”
Track 5- Hostile Denim
Track 6- A Motherfuckin’ Song About Robots
Track 9- Sex Destroyer
Hobosexual’s promotional line on their bandcamp.com site reads, “2 beards, 4 amps, and more raw talent than Jesus.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, boys.
The Seattle garage/metal/blues/classic/concept album/ weirdo rock duo obviously has quite the sense of humor. From their band name to track names, the two are utterly ridiculous. But one thing that’s no joke is their music. If the Black Keys had a baby with Skid Row, kicked its ass and made it listen to White Stripes, the result would be something like Hobosexual’s new album, Hobosexual II.
Combining classic rock and garage rock feels with whatever else they want, Hobosexual have created a really unique rock album that you don’t want to miss. On tracks like “Squish it” and “Hostile Denim,” the guitar and drum playing duo blow through brutal garage rock while incorporating classic rock guitar solos and Robert Plant-like vocals.
Yes, this is a concept album about robots, hobos, BMX and creeps, but the music doesn’t dabble in nonsense. No, it’s an amps-turned-all-the-way-up rock record—plain and simple.
The album’s coolest and most memorable track “Sex Destroyer” is a classic fret-burning blues-rock track, containing guitar tones that liken The Who, which plays out over four minutes of a rock and roll journey.
Hobosexual II is the weirdest but coolest thing you’ll hear all year and you’re making a huge fucking mistake if you don’t take the time to check it out.
Mas Ysa- Worth EP
RIYL: Aphex Twin
Track 2- “Why”
Track 6- “Shame”
Canadian born songwriter/producer Thomas Arsenault has been making some noise under the moniker Mas Ysa. Mas Ysa’s been called a rising artist by Pitchfork and has opened for Deerhunter. And the noise will only get louder as Mas Ysa’s synth and sample driven electronica sound progresses.
The Worth EP is stocked with ambient electronic interludes and instrumental tracks, but they do very little to segue between and supplement other tracks. That point aside, Mas Ysa’s sound is very unique and doesn’t borrow or steal from any contemporaries, which is unusual in a world where every artist tries to sound like the next.
The EP’s standout track is “Why,” which juxtaposes the tale of an unreturned love over a jumpy dance beat. On the track, Arsenault chronicles a conversation, “She said ‘no, no, I don’t want you’ and I said ‘why?’” to which the girl responds, “You’re not that cute.”
“Shame” follows a similar format. The track tells a dark, despairing tale over dancey synth blares and bouncy hip-hop style drum samples.
It’s impossible to file Mas Ysa under a niche genre, because Arsenault is capable of doing so much. If his next release is a little more focused and comprehensive it has the potential to be something really special, and the Worth EP is a step in the right direction. With Bon Iver-like vocals and LCD Soundsystem samples, Mas Ysa bridges genres to make refreshing music.
The Notwist- Close to the Glass
RIYL: Radiohead, ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead, Foals
Track 1- Signals
Track 3- Kong
Track 5- Casino
Track 7- 7-hour Drive
If you want to know what life in an Ataris game is like The Notwist’s newest album, Close to the Glass, might be a good place to start.
The Notwist have been around since the late 1980s, but have been known to change their sound more than a little. The band has moved from Post-Hardcore early in their career to experimental electronic indie rock today.
As the first two tracks show, The Notwist aren’t afraid to experiment more than a little with tonality. The first track sounds like something straight out of a Super Smash Bros. game with some airy vocals and dis-tonal synth flourishes.
But on the third track, “Kong,” the band abandons their experimental side and dives into catchy, hook-laden indie rock. The track finds lead singer Markus Acher crooning, a little defeated but hopeful, “Are you coming in to drop us off in another spot?/ It's bliss cause I believe in this/ Cause I believe in this.”
Unfortunately some of The Notwist’s lyrics get lost in the air of the synths and spacy guitars, but they come through clear on the album’s ballad, “Casino,” where Acher sings, “After our life in the casino/ we know gambling is a joke/ but to say I’m not here for the money/ is just another word for broke.”
It’s easy to get lost in the overwhelming, full sound on Close to the Glass, but there’s a pop song at the heart of each track. The album may not strike you on first listen, but like the most rewarding records, it get’s more and more beautiful with each listen.
Check out these photos our assistant music director, Kirk Windus, took at a WSBU favorite Kevin Devine concert in Buffalo.
RIYL: Disclosure, Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean
Recommended tracks: 5. lay me down 3. Nirvana 4. Latch
English singer/songwriter, and BRIT critics' choice award winner Sam Smith is a talent that needs more recognition.
After listening to this sampler I'm convinced that everything Smith sings should be acoustic. With a voice like that, why is this man not well known in every household world wide? If you're a lover of quality R&B you would have such an appreciation for his vocals. He sounds like a John Legend/Sam Dew/Vince Kidd mash up and it's so addicting.
The fourth and fifth track on this sampler were especially amazing. Track 5, “Lay Me Down,” is the standout track. It's a typical missing-someone, wish-they-were-with-you, bed-is-empty-on-their-side kind of song, but it's also acoustic heaven. His voice just wraps you in a blanket of soulful emotion that you never ever want to leave.
The first two tracks don’t capture quite as much as the latter. They're still 100% amazing, but they're more up-tempo kind of pop. Smith's vocals are much more suited for soul and R&B than dance pop.
But this guy is definitely going somewhere, I guarantee you'll have him on repeat.
Savannah Smith Live at WSBU
Click the link below to hear the live session
RIYL- Youngblood Hawke, The Joy Formidable
Tracks to Recommend- all songs
There are a few trends that I’ve been noticing in the world of indie/alternative music, one of them being the use of synths. It’s obvious that the synthesizer is the future of the Indie genre. I can’t complain because I thoroughly enjoy the new sounds it brings to music and the new things bands have been able to do with their live performances.
Vinyl Thief utilizes the sounds of synths in a magical way. On Stop Motion, the band doesn’t rely on the synthesizer to define them; rather they let it accent their already full sound. Paired with the standout vocals of lead singer Grayson Proctor and the driving percussion of Andrew Broadway, the synth sounds on the album make it a success.
On a four song EP, there isn’t much time to make an impression. Vinyl Thief jumps right in on their first track, “Smooth.” I’ll be cliché here and say, yes, this song is in fact smooth. Although it’s not the strongest vocal performance on the EP, Proctor’s voice seems to soar above the rest of the instrumentation. On “Faces,” which is arguably the “danciest” song, the drums hit relentlessly throughout, giving it an infectious head-bop feel.
We are going to start hearing more and more bands with a sound like Vinyl Thief and Youngblood Hawke, who have seemed to transcend both electronic and alternative genres. This sound is the future of music and I’ll have to admit that I’m excited about it.
RIYL: HAIM, Broken Bells, Volcano Choir
Track 2- Keep It Healthy
Track 3- Love Is To Die
Track 6- Teese
There’s a reason that Warpaint’s self-titled made all kinds of most anticipated albums of 2014 lists. The female indie rockers have some serious chops.
The album’s not ridden with hooks, but it's easy to see that the band fully intended to create something that in no way conforms to current pop music trends. The record takes the listener on a sonic journey through spacey synths and ghastly vocals. The mix is incredible, and the layers upon layers of sound manage to create something both chaotic and comprehensive.
If you’re looking for something to sing in the car Warpaint not be the place to look, but that doesn’t take anything away from record. Warpaint is more than just an album. It’s an experience. Meant to be digested as a comprehensive work, the songs work together to create an absolutely hypnotizing 50 minutes.
Even Earl Sweatshirt wants to work with the band. And while it may not be the group’s catchiest or most captivating effort, Warpaint isn’t a record you’ll easily forget.
This album consists of one song. Well, that’s how it sounds at least. It’s difficult to tell the differences between each song from the one that comes next. Preeta’s lyrics are nothing more than elementary. She doesn’t provide much hope for the future of the pop music industry with immature insights like “Make love, not war,” and “In this life, we can find eternity.”
The message that she is trying to get across is obvious. It’s a nice message and I know that she means well, but it doesn’t come off as anything profound. She seems like a wonderful woman with a huge heart, but the record lacks a little substance. In the right context Preeta’s music is functional, but there’s nothing groundbreaking on the album and it seems to drag on from the minute the first Hawaiian beat drops.
RIYL: Gnarls Barkley, Amy Winehouse, Esperanza Spalding
Track 3- Hi, My Name is Ana
Track 4- Free Change
Track 5- Good Things
Track 9-Arbys and Sbarros
The mind behind Twinkie Jiggles Broken Orchestra, Sean McPherson, may be best known around the Minneapolis area for his work in the hip-hop group Heiruspecs, but his new project proves that he has a knack for writing really special music outside of hip-hop.
McPherson wrote all of the material for Too Big To Fail and enlisted some really great musicians and female voices like Ashley Gold, Chastity Brown, Claire De Lune and Aby Wolf to fill out the album. The result is something special. Too Big To Fail is one of those rare records that’s both fun and ridden with emotional depth.
McPherson’s arrangements are sparse and not overdone, but still sonically engaging. He employs really tasty piano and organ instrumentation accompanied by some fabulous guitar playing to soar over top of his trademark bass lines. Too Big To Fail sounds like it leaked out of the Motown record collection, mixed with modern influences and released itself.
Songs like “Good Things” are infectious soul-ridden, pop goodness. “Arbys and Sbarros” is another impossibly fun and catchy, yet emotional pop ballad with a hypnotizing groove and pulsing electronic piano sounds. “Hi, My Name Ana” is catchy enough for mainstream pop radio but engaging enough to find its niche in the more intellectual genres.
And that’s what makes this project so great. The songs are all pop at heart, but dressed up in a sentiment that’s more fitting in the soul genre. But don’t think that McPherson is riding the coattails of Bruno Mars or anything. He has more than enough songwriting chops by himself.
Lionize – Reality Check (Single)
After forming together in 2004, the Maryland-based band Lionize shows their passion in music as they prepare to release a new album. Lionize’s music can be described as an eclectic blend of styles, as the group creates sounds that are part stoner rock and part reggae while incorporating blues.
“Reality Check” is the band’s first single off their new album. The single is bluesier rock than the band’s previous album. Also, the heavy riffs and drumming in the song blends well with the lyrics and the voice of lead vocalist Nate Bergman. Not only is the song their first single, but it proves to their fans that they are more mature, becoming a more powerful group than before.
If you like rock and the blues, check out this song. It’s not a bad listen and it gives a preview into what their album will be like. Also, there might be a few songs here or there that have a touch of reggae to them. So if you are wondering what this band has to offer in their evolution of music, listen to “Jetpack Soundtrack” on February 18, 2014.
RIYL: Damien Marley, Bob Marley, Elephant Man
Track 1 – Sippin’ On Rum
Track 3 – Designated Drive
Alexander Star is a recording artist and songwriter whose balances R&B, Hip Hop, and Reggae. Star presents clever hooks and catchy melodies with songs that are relevant to today’s generation. His newest release, the Badd Habitz EP, consists of three songs written about the vices that many people turn to when having fun.
The first song is “Sippin’ on Rum, which features Jamaican singer, Toi. The song is an ideal combination of Star’s melodic rapping style and Toi’s gentle singing voice, creating a “chill” vibe. The song talks about the highs one can get from taking a draw of herb, which helps loosen the mind when trying to relieve stress.
There’s always someone who becomes a “Designated Driva” when another gets too much “buzz” in their system. The last song on the EP features flowing verses from Voicemail Music Group and Shaka Pow, reflecting on a typical night on the town that becomes out of control. However, Star raps/sings about taking the safe route as he illustrates a fun time that most people can relate to.
Star writes songs that merge fun with responsibility as opposed to reckless “habitz.” Between his lyrics and Jamaican beats from numerous of his inspirations, Star has potential to be a good reggae artist.
?ÄčAgainst Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues
RIYL: Foo Fighters and The Gaslight Anthem
Recommended Tracks: True Trans Soul Rebel, Dead Friend, Fuckmylife666.
This album is mixed greatly. I love the opening track. It gives the album a punky sound. In general, the album is very grungy and punky. I compare it to The Gaslight Anthem. They have sort of an Irish punk sound to them.
"True Trans Soul Rebel" takes me back to middle school. This song is much more punkish and and teenage like. The guitar riff is very catchy. They do a very good job bringing in the chugging guitar in the chorus.
"Fuckmylife666" is what I compare to the Gaslight Anthem— a very american punch with a twist of Irish rock thrown it.
"Dead Friend" is my favorite song on the album. It is a happy medium for me. It still has that chugging punk guitar—definitely a rock song— but also a ballad, reminding me of the Gaslight Anthem.
All together...WOW. Has to be rock album of the year
RIYL: The Ravonettes, Best Coast
When I heard of the Dum Dum Girls I automatically thought angsty girl band, but I was disappointed when their first track started playing. I was hoping for a No Doubt, Fiona Apple and The Cranberries vibe. Maybe it was my fault for putting this band on such a high pedestal before even wafting in their sound.
Instead of bra-burning music that I could jump around my room feeling my girl power, I was met with breathy vocals and a mystical Gothic sound with light airy tones. When listening closely I could almost hear a slight similarity to the band Metric, but I did say almost. If you can't tell, this band was not my cup of tea. Their instrumentals were generic and made you feel you were in a bad 80’s Gothic music video. Not to mention that I couldn’t get past the lyrics that sounded like some chick whimpering about a guy that was “Too True to Be Good”.
Emerson Jay- T H E E P
RIYL: Foster the People, Passion Pit
Recommended Tracks: Track 2: Young Svn, Track 5: LZY Me
T H E E P is the first release from the Pittsburgh-native four-piece band, Emerson Jay. Jared Gulden is a twenty-one year old musician and the brains behind the entire operation of Emerson Jay. T H E E P is a six song EP, filled to the brim with electronic synth-soaked happiness.
The band draws its influences from groups like Foster the People and Passion Pit, but still manage to harvest their own unique sound. It’s relaxing, yet exciting and catchy. Track two, “Young Svn”, starts with an infectious guitar riff that leads into a burst of sound and energy that holds strong for the remainder of the song. Jared Gulden is young and new to the music scene, but that doesn’t stop him from delivering some insightful lyrics that add to the quality of the EP. On “Young Svn” he sings, “It's too much to take, how far can you go until you'll have to break?And how will we break? cause it hurts to say that the end isn't far away.” On track 5, “LZY Me”, he questions “May I make up my mind if I change i?, cause I change a lot.” In Gulden’s lyrics, it’s obvious to read that he is nervous of the future. As any musician trying to break in to the industry has probably felt before, Gulden and the rest of Emerson Jay have questions about their future and their music.
Let’s just say that this EP is a step in the right direction. Their sound is something relatively new to the music industry, and will most likely grow in popularity in the near future. Fueled by raw talent, passion and a little bit of luck, we’ll be hearing a lot more from Emerson Jay. T H E E P is a breath of fresh air to music.
RIYL: Queens of the Stone Age, Biffy Clyro, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Track 4- My Kite
Track 5- Amusement Park
Four Italian kids under the mantras E-King, Penguinsane, litteladle and ThEdOg team up with a Grammy-award-winning producer and release a great funk-rock EP. That’s the story of newly Austin-based band Piqued Jacks.
The Jacks take the highly syncopated funk feel of bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and infuse some good old rock & roll on their EP, “Just a Machine.” It doesn’t take long to see just how talented the Italian boys are. “Blackie” is a blazing fast, funky rock track infused with a machine-gun-like bass riff and an infectious poppy chorus featuring some really tight harmonies.
“My Kite” is a gorgeous piano driven song that crescendos into a full-on power ballad that sounds destined for a movie soundtrack, especially during the unforgettable chorus that shouts the cadence “The Ocean is Wide” over bright, cutting guitar sounds.
The band has been making a lot of noise in the Austin, Texas area, and it’s easy to see why after listening to the EP. These guys have some serious potential.
RIYL: The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Japandroids, White Stripes
Track 1- Dreamer
Track 2- Wicker Man
Track 5- Fires
New Mexico-based, blues/funk-rock duo The Lymbs have the same unique gift that made the White Stripes famous: to create an absolutely huge sound with just guitar and drums. The duo combine elements of blues and funk rock with harder, garage rock, mashing up guitar tones that sound straight from a Chili Peppers record with huge, fuzzed out moments that sound like Japandroids on steroids.
Gage Bickerstaff’s seducing tenor sounds like something straight out of the early blues-rock movement— say Cream or Muddy Waters. Plus, he can absolutely shred on the guitar. On the opening track his clean, laid back riffing explodes into a huge sounding, overdriven guitar blitz that will have you wanting to bash your head off the nearest wall and shout for joy at the same time.
Jeff Bell tackles the daunting task of giving a backbone on drums to such a versatile, rhythmically complex sound like it’s not even a challenge. He shuffles back and forth between polyrythmic and highly syncopated licks (“Kerosene”) and heavy half-time thrashing (“Dreamer”) with ease— which is no small task.
In a world full of assembly-line-produced, rip-off bands, The Lymbs take a unique, refreshing approach to bringing back rock music. And they do it in a big way
Recommended tracks: 5. Gone Solid Gone Remix, 1. Laziest Girl In Town Remix, 4. You're To Blame Remix
In a remix to Austin-based singer Elizabeth McQueen's The Laziest Girl in Town album, Brothers Lazaroff join forces with McQueen to create a jazzy, electronic, R&B EP. This EP is one of those that you listen to with quality headphones or a great sound system so you can really hear Brothers Lazaroff's amazing instrumentals.
Track 5, "Gone Solid Gone," really sticks out because of featured artist Thelonius Kryptonite. His smoother vocals were preferred over McQueen’s tone on this track. Don't get me wrong, McQueen has a great voice, especially with her old-school singing style, but Thelonius gives the song such a twist by incorporating his rapping talents.
The opening track on this EP, “Laziest Girl in Town,” is just so mellow and relaxing. McQueen’s voice reminds me of real old-school R&B, the kind that you slowly nod to. And of course Brother Lazaroff is just sick at doing what they do—such a smooth track and a great way to introduce Brother Lazaroff and McQueen.
The fourth track, ”You're to blame,” has one of the best instrumentals on this entire EP. Brothers Lazaroff clearly express how crafted they are on this track. That cool kind of electronic melody along with the background singers and McQueen is so fluid.
Overall, a pretty good EP if you're into a modern, jazzy feel.
RIYL- Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes
Track 6- A Moment’s Grace
Track 8- Back Down the Black
Boy and Bear have been dubbed as the Australian Mumford and Son’s. Upon first listen, every amateur music listener would probably think the same thing. After listening through the album a few more times, you’ll be able to tell the two bands apart and recognize their unique sound.
Their sophomore album topped the charts in Australia, and for good reason. Every song on this album tells a story. The work as a whole gives off a warm, fuzzy sound. There are times throughout the album when you can just feel the pressure building. I found myself waiting for the band to explode into heavier rock riffs but as soon as this anticipation builds up, it dies back down again. In some cases, this would be bad for a band, but I think in the case of Boy and Bear, it works quite nicely. On “Back Down the Black,” the lyrics describe a sort of struggle with what I’m guessing to be drugs. The lead singer describes what it’s like to be scared for someone you love. “There'll be change 'cause this one's too big not to see, but brother you're scared and I'm scared when you're scared 'Cause you ain't supposed to be.”
Its witty lyrics like this that make the album worth listening to. Although it may seem, instrumentally, that the album may drag on, the wordplay and lyrics are what distinguish this album as a success and not a failure.
RIYL – Childish Gambino, Drake (Take Care) , LL Cool J
Track 3 - Dreamer
Track 6 - Gone
Track 10 - Lion’s Den
As a hip-hop artist, writer, and co-creator of Morburn, the Montreal MC L.E.S.’ complex lyricism flows well with the combination of southern bounce and rap. After emerging on the scene in 2008, L.E.S. gives more than what you can expect out of an artist.
The laidback feel and smooth flow of “Dreamer” and “Gone” are the Drake songs of the album. As L.E.S. tells the “baby, don’t leave me because I know I messed up” story, the flow of R&B mixed with his insane lyrics will have you in a trance that’s impossible to get out of.
Soon the album rises to his MC status giving us what he is known for. The track “Lion’s Den” shows MC style that L.E.S. is becoming known for. His dope beat with a gangsta, schizophrenic flow creates a latitude higher than what we want out of a rapper.
If you listen to the album here is a tip: DO NOT SKIP AROUND! The Genesis is one album where one track flows into the next. If you like discovering new hip-hop and are down with a freestyle, L.E.S. will not disappoint.