Archive for the 'Indie' Category



22
Nov
11

Manchester Orchestra “Simple Math”

Manchester Orchestra is an indie band from Atlanta.

Simple Math

This is their third album. The first two I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child and Mean Everything to Nothing both saw significant playtime to get them into my top 20. They’re simple.

That’s the best compliment I can give to a band in a day and age where overdubbing, vocoders, and vox tuning are prevalent. Not the case. What you see hear is what you get.

This album came out in May and hasn’t been met with much fanfare. Which is disappointing considering the almost cultist following bands like DMB, The Black Keys and The White Stripes have.

Their sound is one of a kind and their creativity is like a sunrise on a cold morning.

The album starts off with a bang with “Deer.” Then 2 tracks later with “Pensacola” it really gives you the perspective that these guys are genuinely having fun making these albums and have room for improvisation in the studio. Improvisation in music is almost always a good thing as it leads to creativity and collaboration.
The album gets suddenly somber with “Virgin” which is remarkably reminiscent of just about anything off of I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child and really sets you up for the title track “Simple Math.”

As you can see and hear, these guys know what they’re doing. “Simple Math” was nominated for MTV and UK video awards and the technical aspects of the video are just mind blowing. You usually don’t see that type of production work put into a music video.

They’ve impressed me from day one and I’ve found a place in playlists for whatever mood I’m in.

4/5

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04
Nov
11

Ye Upper Crust – true Rock Nobility

After reading the last post about the band Shpongle and then watching the video I began to chuckle when I saw the chick with the mask and white wig; thoughts all started streaming back about a band I use to see in Boston from time to time named Upper Crust.  With band members  such as Jackie Kickassis, Count Bassie, Lord Bendover, and Duc D’istortion, how can you not love these guys?

Although the make up, wigs, and baroque  schtick was pretty outlandish; these guys actually can play a pretty solid set of punkish rock and rock-a-billy style songs, always entertaining and always full of non-stop energy.  It’s been years since I’ve seen them and I guess they do play from time to time.  Although I’m no die hard fan perse, I felt compelled to mention Upper Crust for the hell of it.  If you want to learn more about these privileged and pompous Earl’s of electric audacity, please check out their website by clicking here.

02
Nov
11

Coldplay “Mylo Whatever-o”

From Billboard:
“Slowly but surely Coldplay have become the masters of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.”

I’m here to tell you how much I disagree with the so called “genius” of Coldplay. Being a master of slinging crap at a wall and picking the 12 best turds does not make you a genius. It makes you lazy and complacent.

Oh but wait! You mean to tell me they’re jazzier? Incorporating more R&B and electronic into their sound?
Good. Another band that sold out to the fad of the times. Then again, I’ll at least give them credit for not making the same goddam album a fourth time in a row.

I swear, if you go into your iTunes/WinAmp/whatever and delete all the Coldplay album names, hit shuffle, you’d never be able to tell what song is off of what album. It’s downright pathetic that they haven’t changed a thing about their sound in so long ever… but the fact that they took this route is almost as disappointing as Skrillex leaving From First to Last to do his own crappy version of dubstep. Ugh, dubstep.

My point is, maybe in another decade I’ll look back on this album differently, but for right now, it just sickens me. This constant bandwagon jumping that record execs know will sell. So why not have Rihanna hop on board to sell more albums?!

Because this sound, this album, that’s not who this band is. They’re a remedial ripoff of the likes of U2, Radiohead, and Wilco. They’re a product of a record company exec thinking it was a good idea to recapitalize on the same sound, again.

This album is no different. It’s a capitalization of the current trendy sound. It’s like with Mylo they sat in studio and said “let’s make our version of OK. Computer while repackaging a couple of B-sides from our last album.” GENIUSES! “But let’s add in a bit of an electronic sound to appease the youth.” PRODIGIES! Piss off you yuppies.

I’m sorry, I’ve never dropped enough acid in my life to “groove” “get wrapped up in” or “sway” to a Coldplay song. No, I’m not sorry. Nor should anything Coldplay written be referred to as “dope beats” “massive anthem” or “rally rebellious youth.” You want to rally youth? Listen to the Sex Pistols, The Clash, get angry at the world you sissies! Or better yet, give your album away for free, like Radiohead did. You want to create a massive anthem? Grow some balls with some sort of call to action/sign of the times type song. Are the uprisings in the Middle East not inspiration enough? The current financial and economic ripoffs? The 1%? You want people to rally around your song, make a song against the establishment, or give your album away for free, like Radiohead did. You want dope beats? Listen to something else.

It’s lame. It’s tired, I don’t understand all the praise Coldplay continues to get, they’re not particularly enticing or exhilarating to listen to. No particular musician or real part of a song sticks out as memorable. Which explains why they re-re-repeat re-re-repeat words in “Paradise” so much. I guess this works to their advantage, so they can pump out the same exact crap every 2 years and you’ll still be enticed enough to buy it and think it’s a stroke of genius. It’s not.

They’re the soft rock, UK equivalent of Nickelback. No exceptional talent, crap lyrics, the constant need to bring in entire choruses to make songs sound full and complete. Soft rock for soft people. Soft rock hides the fact that every song you hear on that same lame ass radio station, that usually goes with the title “KISS” (what an insult to the band) or “EZ Listening” or “Lite,” are the same exact songs with a different singer’s voice layered over the top of that shit sandwich.

Do me a favor? Before you take a bite of it? Throw it at the wall and see what sticks. I bet it’s Coldplay.

2/5 — no wait, Rihanna effect: 1.5/5

31
Oct
11

Shonen Knife – Japan’s Punk Queens on Tour!

While checking out the local club scene about upcoming acts online  this past Tuesday I noticed that the legendary Japanese rock trio Shonen Knife was coming to HiFi Central’s stomping ground of Albany, NY.  The venue is Valentine’s which is a shoe-box of a club normally associated with local hardcore and rock acts that I often choose to overlook on a  regular basis; however though, at times they have had some national acts roll through worth checking out.  The last band that  I wished I had known about was the California rock group Dada; one of the best nationally unknown rock bands to come out the 1990’s.  It would have truly been pretty incredible to see them that close and personal, bummer I missed it.

So, after missing that show I’ve checked the listing from time to time just to see who may be randomly doing a one-night stand.  Well, clearly the waiting and random checking of their site has been well worth the effort since Shonen Knife will be dropping by on Sunday, November 20th (18+ show).  Shonen Knife has been around since 1981; the only remaining member making Shonen Knife still Shonen Knife  is lead singer and guitarist Naoko Yamano.  The remaining founding members Atsuko Yamano (Naoko’s sister) and Michie Nakatani left the band to pursue other interests, but the replacements for these members have held their own over the course of the last decade never losing the true Shonen Knife sound.

Over the course of the past 20 years the band has released 19 albums and toured with the likes of  Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Mudhoney, and perhaps the coolest bragging right, Nirvana.  The band has appeared on the BBC with famed rock radio host John Peel,  performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and has been featured on MTV’s 12o Minutes.  The band was a featured act on 1994’s Lollapalooza tour as well.  So, even though they have not reached the heights of fame since their decade long run in the 1990’s, they still have a loyal following and are anything but a goofy band hanging on to remnants of fame.

HiFi is heading to this show with great anticipation; I would not be surprised if it might be the last chance for you to see them in the US for some while.  This tour is supporting a Ramones tribute album entitled “Osaka Ramones” released this past July, so I’m sure that it should be a fun and unique show!  Get your tickets soon since it will be sold out, especially since Valentine’s only holds about 50 patrons; and be sure sure to bring your earplugs!

HiFi will provide a full review of this show, so check back.

You can check more out about the Valentines show by clicking here.

You can check out some samples of Shonen Knife’s “Osaka Ramones” by clicking here.

28
Oct
11

Matthew Good “Lights of Endangered Species”

Matthew Good is a singer/songwriter from Vancouver, British Columbia (that’s Canada for the geographically challenged) and has been putting records out since the mid-90s. Originally going under the title of MGB, Matthew Good Band, the band broke up after the release of the album “Audio of Being.”

Since then Matt has gone solo, both acoustic and with a new lineup of band-mates. He cites the main reason for the breakup is that they were headed towards “rock purgatory.” We all know what this is, a band becomes so successful with one sound that they (or their label) won’t let them take a step in any other direction for fear that it may not bring in the same type of revenue they’ve grown accustomed to.

Well Matt smashed that notion to pieces in 2003 with the release of Avalanche an album that has been on rotation almost on daily basis for me. The diversity in sounds from track to track was noticeable, a trend that hasn’t stopped since he’s gone solo.

Matthew Good has explored the avenues of acoustic, country, folk, rock, jazz, and often uses classical orchestral compositions in songs: Enter Lights of Endangered Species which was released on May 31st, 2011.

It debuted at #5 on the Canadian chart and the centerpiece of this album are the songs “Zero Orchestra” and “Non Populus” as they bring the past decade of his work into a synergy of sounds.

The best quality of Matthew Good is his live performances. Though he brings politics into the show and talks about current events between songs, he has this brashness of common sense that makes you wonder how nobody has been able to figure out ways to solve these problems before.

I digress, back to the album…

While I know not many of you reading this know who Matthew Good (+/- Band) is, you probably aren’t familiar with his catalog of music. As a fan who does, it’s pretty cool to see him rocking at the age of 40 as if he were still 25.

Between “Non Populus,” “Zero Orchestra,” and “Extraordinary Fades” I can forgive the fact that it’s only a 9 track album. I can forgive that he’s made songs that sound exactly like “Shallows Low” or “In the Place of Lesser Men” on prior albums. I can forgive those because they’re still good solid stand alone songs to someone that’s never heard them before.

And man do these two songs simply blow me away. The fun and the big band swing sorta feel from “Zero Orchestra” and then straight into “Non Populus” which is some serious post-apocalyptic triumph movie score material. The time, effort and willingness to take a chance on something less commercial is especially commendable. Making the best song on the album around 8 minutes long will put some record companies into a real bind to get it on the radio. But I give Good and producer Warne Livesey immense credit for going out and bringing in other artists to do the brass and string sections of the album.

Anyone who’s ever worked in a collaborative effort knows what an absolute clusterf*ck of ideas and egos can spell disaster for an entire effort (Metallica & Lou Reed anyone?) this was almost the case here as well. Luckily strings were pulled (pun intended) and Lights is a huge success in my mind due to the fact that an artist is willing to take on new challenges and produce great new material in directions you and I haven’t seen before.

4/5

11
Oct
11

Motion City Soundtrack Live

Motion City Soundtrack played at Northern Lights on 10.9.2011 and this is what I thought of the show:

The opening bands were hit or miss, the highlight of those being the band Aficianado.

They may not be the best band out there, most of their songs usually follow the same formula *cough* Staind, Linkin Park, Pearl Jam *cough* and I know, they’re not musically inclined other than for that pop/rock radio-play sound. All I say is, so what? They put on a fun show. They are fun guys and they just want people to come and have a good time…

But what really grinds my gears here is the crowd that an otherwise rhythmically pleasing band like Motion City draws…

you know the type

The hipster kids who wear scarves in the summer, the types of kids who have to get thick framed glasses and bring along a measuring tape to find out whose frames are thickest! The types of kids who all have their iPhones out the entire show, trying to record every minute of music so they can run home and upload it to youtube and facebook as to seemingly prove the world wrong: LOOK EVERYONE!!!!!! I went out and have a life! The types of kids who have nose rings. The types of kids that dye their hair pink. The types of kids that shout “Rage!” during a band who has never inspired a headbang to any crowd anywhere, ever. The types of kids where 2 people decide to try and make a mosh pit and crowd surf (in a crowd of maybe 250 people, [it was extremely satisfying to drop him on his head.])

So in short, it just goes to show how followers can ruin a great thing. Religion, I’m looking right at you. Except Bad Religion, they put on an awesome show worth headbanging, moshing and crowd surfing to!

3/5

06
Oct
11

Apparat – The Devil’s Walk (Mute Records, 2011)

Sascha Ring, working under the moniker, Apparat, has transcended to a new level of composing as indicated by his latest endeavor, titled after a poem by 19th century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. The German musician’s 2007 LP Walls showcased a dreamier blend of ambient and electronic pop, suitable for an array of moods. Whereas The Devil’s Walk uses minimal percussive elements and focuses on beautifully crafted pieces; most soaked in melancholy and poetic lyricism while others include smatterings of uplifting string arrangements and tonal progressions.

The album starts with “Sweet Unrest”, which creates an aura of curiosity and wonder experienced when beginning a new chapter in your life. Definitely an appropriate opening track laden with vocal ooh’s, atmospheric textures and a string motif.

Two singles released prior to the album’s release were “Black Water” and “Ash/Black Veil.” (color coincidence or dark thematic implication?) While the former stands as one of the more powerful, cinematic moments on The Devil’s Walk, both tracks are equally poignant and mesmerizing. Once the instrumentation thickens in “Black Water”, a crescendo builds and a climactic point of the song is reached when these lyrics are sung, “Fact isn’t what you see. Not anymore than it used to be.” “Ash/Black Veil” brings string layers and vocals to the forefront, adding a nice touch of progressing percussion that enhances this compositional journey. These two tranquil songs are great tunes to listen to when in transit, especially as day turns into night or when darkness turns to light.

Goodbye” is a song you imagine accompanying a funeral or death scene in a movie. It starts off with ambient noise, when a ritual sounding drum enters, setting the tempo. Then guitar harmonics, prominent piano chords and haunting lyrics sung by Anja Plaschg contribute to the somber tone of this farewell inspired piece.

Another soundtrack style composition is “The Soft Voices Die.” The strength of this song unfolds at the two minute mark, when violins and subtle percussion aid to the bell and xylophone introduction, a nice tempo transition from slow to fast.

There are some truly grandeur sections throughout this album, but it’s lacking the rhythmic elements that Apparat mastered in his previous solo record. Though he began his career making techno oriented beats, even collaborating with electronic heavyweights Modeselektor in 2009 (Moderat), the shift is expected when Apparat mentioned he aimed to “design sounds rather than beats.” Sure, my expectations were high after hearing the first two gorgeous singles but I felt the entire album fell a tiny bit short of its epic potential. Overall, it’s a pensive, ambient soundtrack suitable for rainy and gloomy days.

3.5/5




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