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Posts Tagged ‘indie’

Despite being formed in 2009, Sans Parade – an indie-rock trio two thirds Finnish and one third Swedish (amongst a studio support cast of several others) – had released only a handful of songs prior to last month, when they released their self-titled debut album. For that, they had good reason. They were working on it.

The band described their journey to the album’s release as ‘long and arduous’, and it’s easy to hear why when listening to the album opener ‘The Last Song is a Love Song’. Not that the song is strained, difficult, or heavy with conflict. It isn’t. Rather, it appears to have been meticulously crafted from the bottom up, thoughtfully structured and arranged, and fastidiously tinkered with to achieve the most accomplished opening statement the band could ask of themselves.

It’s obvious in the choice of instruments, the way they’re played, what they’re accompanied with and when: they’ve all been given a consideration rarely seen amongst fresh upstarts, let alone more experienced outfits. The familiar quiet-loud post-rock dynamic is employed with no eye-roll backlash; instead, the guitar-embellished string section behind singer Markus Pertulla is dynamic and expressive, offering a contained, delicate intensity in the verses, swelling at the bridge, and then throwing it all to the sky for the eruptive chorus. It’s a chorus that begs to be played loud, and you’d do well to oblige.

It’s clear that Sans Parade have not just aimed for, but doggedly pursued, a first impression…

Rock veterans Wilco recently left Nonesuch Records to start their own label, and with that comes, of course, another new Wilco release. “I Might” is the first single off it, initially available only to those who picked up a copy at the band’s Solid Sound Music Festival in Massachusetts but thanks to the magic of the Internet now available here online for everyone. The band’s eighth proper album, tentatively titled The Whole Love is set for a September release.

The track itself has a driving acoustic melody with a thick bass that reminds me a bit of “I Am A Wheel’s” hook minus the adrenaline, but the track is about what you’d expect from Wilco at this stage in their career: enjoyable, light, dare I say happy. It may veer a bit closely towards “dad-rock” for those who didn’t really enjoy Wilco (The Album) but if you like joyful Jeff Tweedy over depressed, pill-popping Jeff Tweedy, than you’ll be even more excited for the upcoming record.

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I think it goes without saying that when it comes to the indie music universe, there was no more celebrated reunion in recent memory than that of seminal Canadian post-rock ennead Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The announcement that they were going to be curating the 2010 All Tomorrow’s Parties Christmas event in Minehead, England created such a wave of excitement that when Godspeed You! Black Emperor expanded their comeback to include a series of tours in Europe and North America tickets sold out almost as soon as they went on sale. On February 22nd, 2011 their reunion tour made its way to Pomona, California, the first of two stops in Southern California (the other being at the Music Box in Hollywood a day later).

Joining Godspeed You! Black Emperor for the night was the stoner-drone band Om. Om took the stage right before nine o’clock. Consisting of bassist and vocalist Al Cisneros (the name should be familiar to anyone who has listened to the pioneering sludge band Sleep), Emil Amos on drums (who also plays in Grails), and multi-instrumentalist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Om’s spiritual bass grooves entranced the crowd at the Fox Theater for a solid forty minutes. Playing a set consisting mainly of tracks from their God Is Good album, Cisneros’ rolling bass grooves and zen like vocals had the audience hypnotized, but this was the calm before the storm, as when it became time towards the latter half of their set, things became more ferocious,…

Electric Owls’ 2009 debut Ain’t Too Bright was one of the year’s overlooked gems – so overlooked, in fact, that we disgracefully forgot to ever get around to reviewing it (though I did save all of our souls by putting it on my year-end list).

No such mistakes this time. On November 9, the other band led by Comas frontman Andy Herod, will release an EP Cullowhee Songs and I will not let it go by without even a casual mention. So here is that casual mention.

Lead track ‘When I Was a Flood’ sets the tone, and that tone is a little more aggressive than we’re used to from the band. Ain’t Too Bright was, ironically, quite a bright record – expansive and ebullient with rich, summery chords and tight vocal harmonies offset with broody, fuzzy guitars.

‘When I Was a Flood’ sounds just as big, but the acoustic guitars have given way to sparse, plucked banjo; the vocal harmonies remain, but they’re stretched and disconnected, while Herod’s lead vocal is a bluesy wail rather than a twee holler; the guitar fuzz has been pushed right down the mix to bare background noise. There are lots of little changes that add up to a fairly different-sounding whole, yet it’s still unmistakeably Electric Owls.

Electric Owls – ‘When I Was A Flood’

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(Photos: Loreana Rushe)

As recently as a year ago, this gig would not have been possible – at least in the order in which the acts took to the stage on Saturday night.

Local act Adebisi Shank’s career trajectory has been well-documented in these pages (though whispers of a US release in the offing may well be new), but the rise of Chicago’s Maps & Atlases has been steeper still, from a college band mixing Tera Melos-inspired math rock with freak folk to cracking the Billboard charts with their debut LP, Perch Patchwork, earlier this year. Saturday’s stop in Whelan’s was the final stop on their first European headlining tour – an event drummer Chris Hainey’s parents marked by flying over from the States (and boy did they stick out, as American tourists are legally obliged to do).

It turns out Maps & Atlases weren’t the only ones saying goodbye, though Adebisi Shank will surely be more relieved than sorry to see the back of this country: the Wexford/Dublin trio are to take on Japan for the jillionth time in support of the recently-released This is the Second Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank. Taking to the stage around the 8.30 mark (an early start for a two-act gig), the Shank pushed all the right buttons, sounding markedly tighter than they did even a month ago when they headlined the State vs. Nialler9 gig in Dublin’s Mercantile Bar.

There’s an old football…

Los Angeles indie rock quartet Warpaint will release their debut album The Fool on October 26, and record label Rough Trade have kindly made the full record available to stream in full via the delightful embedded widget below.

In addition to being a handy excuse to use the word “widget,” The Fool is a genuinely interesting record, running the line from folky indie rock to shimmering post-rock, with electronics and subtle orchestration a fleeting presence.

Warpaint have just finished a run of dates in the United States in support of The xx and will launch their first headlining tour of Europe on Thursday in Dublin, Ireland.

Shakira’s decision to cover the xx’s ‘Islands’ (originally retitled ‘Explore,’ now re-retitled ‘Islands’ again) isn’t exactly a huge shock, having been signposted in the summer with strategically leaked samples and a televised live cover at Glastonbury.

It is rather good, however.

Shakira’s cover is faster and less intimate than the original, laying a thumping club beat below the tropical guitar riff, but it does somehow manage to work.

Ham SandwicH (there’s no real reason for that capital H – it doesn’t make it look any more symmetrical)  released their second album, White Fox, last week (stream here).

To coincide with the release they went on Irish and recorded this oddly brilliant cover of Britney Spears’ slut’s anthem ‘Piece of Me.’

It’s Britney, bitch. Not really.

Ham Sandwich – ‘Piece of Me’ (Britney Spears cover)

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Many of you will remember producer wait what’s, mashup project the notorious xx. The album quickly gained a ridiculous amount of attention from a variety of sources including The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and Rolling Stone among others. Rather than sit back and live fat, wait what decided to ball out and follow up with a mixtape, this is real life, which features some hood tracks that gather source materials from modern indie (Sleigh Bells, Justice, LCD Soundsytem, etc.) and the annals of the late nineties rap (Black Rob, Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz).

wait what – this is real life [Download]

this is real life by wait what

This was released online a couple of weeks ago, but I totally had no idea Ra Ra Riot were even releasing a new album until last week. Since then The Orchard (which comes out 8/24) has been pretty much all I’ve been listening to. Can’t say I was a huge fan of their debut, which reeked of a bit too much Vampire Weekend, but their new album is far more stately, pushing the strings (and those gorgeous girls) to the front of the mix and generally slowing the pace down. Of course, “Boy” differs from most else on the album by being ridiculously bubbly, but it’s also infinitely catchy and is just the kind of summer tune I want right now.

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When New Zealand qualified for the World Cup, I distinctly remember some very proud, vocal gloating from Australians who were looking forward to seeing them getting beaten 4-0 every game. Out of interest, how are the Socceroos getting on with that so far? And how did New Zealand do earlier today? Having said that, there’s no denying that New Zealand are largely attending just to make up the numbers; if they qualify from their group ahead of Italy or Paraguay it will be a shock of the highest order. It’s lucky for me that they’ve qualified, though – partly because they have some pretty great music going on, but mostly because I can now take my one and only opportunity to post a Middlesbrough player.

Look! It’s Chris Killen! And some other guy!

New Zealand’s prime musical export has been indie pop, in various incarnations – Split Enz being the most famous (singer Neil Flynn went on to form Crowded House with some Aussies, the traitor), and The Clean the most influential (as Pavement and Yo La Tengo will only be too happy to tell you). The Chills are probably the pick of the bunch though; certainly, they recorded possibly the greatest single by any NZ indie band in the form of “Pink Frost”, a shoegazey standard with just a hint of peak-era Sonic Youth about it. I’ve never been that keen on the intro, but from the 25 second mark onwards it’s glorious.…

Hello friends. Today is my birthday so I wanted to share a song that somehow, someway captures where I am right now in my life. Memoryhouse’s “To the Lighthouse” is a song that embraces conflicting musical and emotional traits. The song is undeniably wistful and nostalgic. Its fuzzy and reverby synthesized production (people are going to tell you it’s chillwave but don’t worry about it) has the feel of a laser light show slowed down and invokes Carl Sagan’s The Cosmos. This nostalgia gives way to a melancholy in the form of droning guitar lines and impassive lyrics. Despite these overt fixations on lost time and washed out memories, a sense of hopeful yearning pushes through the haze. It’s in the bubbling synth line that doesn’t stop throughout the entire song. It’s in the somnambulating trip hop beat that never gets old. Mostly it’s in the vocals, which rise in subtle crests above the waves of lo fi instrumentals that saturate the song. “To the Lighthouse” uses its own malaise to create a stunning ode to memories, summertime, youth, and “the scattered sound / of time dispersing.”

Memoryhouse – “To the Lighthouse”

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Thanks to Victor for the recommendation.

In Evening Air Album ArtYesterday Future Islands released their second LP, In Evening Air on Thrill Jockey Records. Our track of the day is the first single from that album, “Tin Man,” a track that has an upbeat but moribund energy. Future Islands combines sparse guitar lines with a steel drum and gruff but sensitive vocals that sound somewhere between Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan and PixiesFrank Blank. “Little Dreamer” is the final track of their first LP Wave Like Home which was released on vinyl earlier this year. “Little Dreamer” is a sweet ballad cast in the same lo-fi, bristly electronics of “Tin Man.” Future Islands are strange in that on paper they seems like a combination of common sounds – new wave, punk, indie, folk – but somehow they are leagues above all the other bands dabbling in similar genres.

Future Islands – “Tin Man”

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Future Islands – “Little Dreamer”

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I want to take the chance and present to you a young band from Germany – for several reasons. For one, they are among the best exports from my hometown of Aachen in terms of music, touring and the like. Also, they are a bunch of really nice and fun guys to hang out with, that’s always a plus. But last and cetainly not least: they are giving away their current album “Idee:Mensch” (Idea: Human) for free. So if you might like what you hear here, you can check out the whole package free of charge.

Longing For Tomorrow is a 3-piece Indie / Post-Hardcore/ Punk Rock outfit, that evolved out of a 4-piece Screamo/Post-Hardcore band. As one might guess from the name, early works were completely in English, the band has moved to German lyrics though. They constantly tour, and after a very successful tour through Brazil in late 2009, the band will depart to Russia soon and return to South America later this year.

Below you find some of my personal favorites from “Idee:Mensch”. Check out the bands MySpace for a free download of the album.

Longing For Tomorrow – Was uns bleibt

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Longing For Tomorrow – Gipfelstuermer

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Longing For Tomorrow – Blickes Fang

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Mark your calendars guys, May is going to be goddamn awesome. I mean, when four of your most anticipated albums drop in three weeks, how can it not be? The 4th will see Minus the Bear and Broken Social Scene release Omni and Forgiveness Rock Record. On the 11th, The National releases High Violet, while the 18th marks the release of Wintersleep’s fourth studio effort, New Inheritors. And that’s just as far as indie rock is concerned. Nice!!

Of the two songs Wintersleep has released thus far (the other being first single, “Black Camera”), “New Inheritors” more closely follows the sound Wintersleep established on Welcome to the Night Sky, though perhaps a little more on the mellow side. Regardless, it’s a fantastic cut, and if it’s at all representative of the album, we should be in for something special. Tell all your friends.

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