The Hayseed Boys - meddleander
Meddleander by The Hayseed Boys is something that just needs to be heard because even loosely used most people would hesitant to call this music. It’s basically a collection of tapes that have been collected over the years and then cut, manipulated and sequenced so that it has some kind of consistency. There are 25 tracks on this album with the shortest piece lasting just seven seconds and the longest lasting just over 6 minutes. This project started in 2005 by Matthew Topartzer & Mark Morrison and was self-released in 2006 and then re-released by Lucky Chicken Audio earlier this year,
The first four tracks on this album are a phone conversation between a man and a woman that we get to listen to that revolves around drugs, money and a general feeling of dysfunction (that could be found funny at points). As the conversation plays out we hear strange anomalies of sound in the background. Possibly the slicing of tapes but it is a somewhat eerie ambience of sound that lies underneath the conversation. “I'll Donate Some Money” contains various clips of conversations as well as a disorienting culmination of cascading blips and bleeps. “More Words” freaked me out - it wasn't so much the conversation but the noises in the background. It created an ominous overtone that was slightly uncomfortable. “Sylmar” is the first track that contains melodies (not bad ones at that) that are picked on a clean electric guitar. About halfway through we are introduced to more tape recordings of people’s phone conversations. “Artist Song” is really the first real song on the album. The song is fun, catchy, poppy but sounds like it was recorded on a tape recorder and is plagued by digital distortion. The 15th song on the album entitled ”Tacos” is funny – the conversation we hear is downright hilarious - while “Asleep on the Roof” is another horrible recording of a pretty cool song.
The album progress with manipulated tape conversations and eventually overstays its welcome by the time you get to the 25th song. This album, if you can call it that, isn’t something you are going to pop in over and over again because it has great songs, but because it does serve a purpose. It’s something I can imagine a lot of people either liking or hating. There is some humor in these tapes as well as conversations that can be somewhat intriguing. Overall, this is an interesting concept that is enjoyable, humorous and sometimes inventive but never fully comes to fruition.
A.m. feelgood - feelgood
Do not call A.M. Feelgood your standard garage band. Yes they started out as four guys just wanting to make music that they loved. But Austin, Texas clearly has an underground pool somewhere that is spitting out musicians, left and right. A.M. Feelgood consists of Jake Redding (guitarist), Chris Norfolk (guitarist), Danny Johnson (bass) and Hunter Whitehorn (vocals and drums). Their first album entitled Feelgood has me on my toes. The only reasonable way you could tell that this was a home-made, self released album happens to be the photograph as their cover art work which is a simplistic, starry get together of color.
This four-piece happens to be one of the best sounding, put-together, musically inclined, talented individuals I've heard in a while. Why am I saying this? Because four friends deciding "Hey let's start a band?" doesn't technically happen anymore. And most of all, a group like this doesn't sound this well in-tune with one another. A.M. Feelgood has the longevity to be an instrumental band, to not only record a sophomore album but music videos could clearly be in the soon to be future. If you can already see a scene being played out, as the song progresses to the next measure and step, to me that's how you know you are witnessing a small evolution; that small evolution towards the next album.
With “Anthills” ranging from layered effects to guitar shredding and most of all a lead guitar promise bringing the whole institution together. And to even out the mass of volume, a voice plans out its next move from beneath the entirety. “Honest, I Will” plays with your memory, something sounds vaguely familiar, a classic nod to the early 2000's happens to play on my mind but changes directly as a repetition grows and grows. What I like best is that each track renders its possibilities, in the way that Arcade Fire released The Suburbs. Once you look through the track names of Feelgood, you see everyday occurrences that suburban areas and small towns tend to inhabit. So in honor of summer, listen to this self-released album. It will make you feel at home and hopefully inspired to create your own sort of mischief. Keep a look out for these guys; they could easily end up recording more music, so play catch up now.
Everything’s Nothing, Nothing is Everything by Ryan Knowles is a continuation of his previous album A Spoonful of Sugar,” which was a DIY effort that had a number of good songs but at the same time suffered from shoddy production work that plagued the album. Although far from perfect this album sounds better overall in regards to songwriting as well as quality. That being said it still suffers from occasional production issues such as digital clicks and dynamic inconsistencies. The songs here are simple and usually revolve around just one instrument such as piano or guitar. Simplicity is not a bad thing and more often than not it works on the album although there were a couple of instrumental pieces that I think would have benefited from more instruments.
The album starts with one of the best songs on the album entitled “The Twelfth Floor, ” which is a pleasant, delicately picked melody on acoustic guitar. His guitar picking style is nonchalant and almost feels appropriately lazy. The vocals could have been treated better but overall the song is solid. The second song “Falling” is an instrumental piece that features one acoustic guitar. An impressive array of nontraditional chord structures are introduced nonetheless the song falls a bit short and a full ensemble of instruments would have helped. “The Jumper”s Friend” tells the story of someone committing suicide in a somewhat comical and graphic description. He sings “in my life and the pavement you sure made a dent” which is sort of funny or just in bad taste, however you want to look at it. A short instrumental piano ballad called “O Vos Omnes” shoots right past melancholy and heads towards despair. “Nothing” is very dismal and if Knowles did not mention that these songs were written from a third person perspective I would be a bit worried. The song never gets uplifting and seems content staying in the darkness.
The best song on the album is “Hazel Tree” which contains nice harmonies, a pleasant guitar melody and makes you feel good while listening to it. It became apparent to me that Knowles’ strengths seem to lie in songs that rely on delicate guitar picking and vocal harmonies, something that wasn't utilized nearly enough on this album. While this album is better than his previous effort, its flow is still not consistent. Knowles is getting better and showing progress. I’m excited to see how he matures and finds his style in the future.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
more - there is life
Adam More is the product of being classically trained as a composer and performer before falling in love with the sound of synthesizers. Recorded on his home computer in Toronto, Canada, More has created an expansive sonic landscape through the use of software. He writes by stacking sound on top of sound before going back and cutting out everything that doesn't sound like the song he's working on. In the music you can hear the freedom he feels in creating only for his own enjoyment. It wasn't until he had a pile of music on his computer that he decided to share it with the world. We can all be glad he did.
The album There Is Life begins with swirling clicks and pads that fade in gently before they fill your ears in “A Violet Cubic Sunrise.” This lays the foundation for a melody that is reminiscent of Ralph Vaughan Williams' “The Lark Ascending,” giving the illusion of movement and fluttering wings. “Mango Popsicle Sunset” opens with a trippy drum beat and chilled-out synth tones that sound as delicious as the track's title implies. Whales and sharks getting in each other's way are brought to mind in “Ocean Migrations,” followed by the title track, “There Is Life.”
Easily the strongest of the six, “There Is Life” makes perfect use of found sounds and radio samples to create a mammoth atmosphere that begs you to walk around in its borders. “Games” begins with a pulsing, rhythmic chord progression that feels like the beginning of a large sports event before falling into a world of whimsy and some of the creepy levels from Super Mario Brothers. It's a perfect study in dissonance and competing melodies.
The album closes with the expansive “Upward Clock Barrier,” which sits comfortably at 15 minutes and 52 seconds long. Now, that's a long time for the best of musicians to hold a listener’s attention, made even more difficult by the fact that, save the radio samples, this is a completely instrumental project. The track is held together by a constant, driving beat and also by the fact that nothing really happens until over six minutes into the track. Even though nothing really happens in this song until then, it still manages to hold my attention. This is the work of a very talented composer. There is just enough happening in the chord structure to keep my musician's mind interested in what's going on. All of that to say, this is a good album to listen to late at night. It's got just enough happening to keep it from being a sleepy snore-project while still maintaining a mellowness that suits those hours when your eyes feel like sandpaper.
Basmati - nectar
Nectar is syrupy-thick tribal-like psychedelic rock EP from Basmati. It's got the sleepy headed feel of a bunch of talented teenage musicians improvising mellow ballads but it has the magnetic pull of veterans. Louis Henniger (drums), Seaton Kerby (bass) and Brandon Graig (vocals, guitar, samples/keyboards) are Basmati and the Luddites behind this. The trio uses the wall-of-sound technique effectively, sounding not unlike My Bloody Valentine at certain parts of the EP.
The album kicks off with "30 Spokes Join Together in The Hub" which is a brilliant song that has infectious yet original vocal melodies that are backed by even more original music. The singer repeats the line "If I hurt you, I didn't mean to" that quickly becomes your favorite part of the song. The song only gets better as it progresses as they seem content not to revisit any of there previous parts in the song. "Nala 1 (Whatever you need)" combines the pop sensibility of a band like Animal Collective (think Merriweather Post Pavilion era) with the guitar work of a band like Sonic Youth. White noise and distortion prevail as a rather simplistic pop song hides underneath. The EP closes with "Eyes Peeled (Dope Sliz Mix) which only reinforces that these guys have a knack for creating fun, experimental, pop music.
Delay effects are the main ingredients in this stew. Each song sounds tough and dreamy. The guitar creeps along like a ghostly spider, the chiseled bass carving its path while the measured drum beats produce small but immensely pleasing rhythms. Besides the last track each song has a distinctly welcoming feel, a party invitation from another dimension just this side of strange.
There are shades of Animal Collective here, especially with vocalist Brandon Graig on parallel with Panda Bear or Avery Tare or whoever sings in that band. You know, the one. The music also produces the same sort of drugged out euphoria-inducing bands like Sic Alps produce. Much more gentle though, and it actually lingers with you a bit longer. They get a bit like Sonic Youth with their noise every now and then, and I'm totally down with that. It will take you less than 15 minutes to listen to these four songs and you'll be a better person for doing it.
The Wonderland Massacre (smart) is the first album brought to us by Alpha Waves Blisters. The Wonderland Massacre is a diptych and will be consisting of (smart) and (nude) but in this review we will only be taking a look at (smart). The mastermind behind the production is solo artist Adder W. Blake who has released and mastered his own album. The proof of Blake’s origins is apparent in his vocals; his French accent adds a foreign twist to his electro-esque vibes. Also, his ability to play multiple instruments adds depth to the tracks as they include sounds from keyboards synths, various percussions, vocals and a lot of mixing. The sound of the album falls somewhere in the genre that also includes bands like Air, The Cure, and New Order, which Blake proclaims, is one of the biggest influences behind the sound of Alpha Waves Blisters.
The song “Away” starts with an upbeat electro beat accompanied by percussion before diving into some really catchy vocals that keep the song moving progressively through the memorable beats. Some of the songs on the album can also be classified in the industrial music genre, being a bit heavier with scratchy vocals, which can remind one of bands like Placebo; the song “Jack in Flames” fits that character. “Sky Connexion Fail” is reminiscent of late 80’s electro-rock; the song is short but very upbeat the entire time and also has a little bit of a punk-vibe.
The next song “Multiple Me” is a song that has an intriguing chorus and conjures a world that is high-speed and digitalized, perhaps one of a retro video game. Blake also showcases a softer side with the slower track “Jack 2.0” where piano riffs open the song. Even though the song is not as fast as most of the others on the album, “Jack 2.0” still has a strong beat for listeners to hold on to as Blake talks about a relationship situation. Blake definitely showcases his talents as a solo-artist on this album, and this is just the beginning for the young artist.
little lapin - little lapin
Listening to Little Lapin, the debut EP by UK-born, Auckland-based Lucy Cioffi, is like finding that perfect shell on a beach on a foggy day, cold, white and unmarred by the elements. It's a work of beauty that stands out against the gloom and gives you something to smile about. You would never guess, while listening to these six thoughtful tracks about how to grow up while trying to stay young, that Lapin (French for "rabbit", and I'm going to use this name to refer to Cioffi) was once unable to throw a note out in public. After finding her calling in Raglan, New Zealand, Lapin formed the indie pop band Hand Me Downs and went solo in 2012. You've got to have some confidence when you break apart from your band, and Lapin demonstrates she can hold her own.
The voice. Always the voice you need to talk about first for a solo artist. Lapin's voice is not unique but it is powerful, at times sounding like Emma Pollock of The Delgados and other times like Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine. The songs are carefully arranged and do not follow any particular theme or singular musical style. The dreamy guitar haze of "Waiting Room" swirls around Lapin's voice while "Friendship on Fire" lands center of twee-pop (I think there's even a tambourine).
Lapin is an able lyricist. She says what she needs to say and little else, because what else is there to say? "You take me to many foreign places/I don’t need currency there/when you pull out your funny faces /it’s the best thing you’ve ever shared," she sings on "Foreign Places." There is a fair amount of sugar in that quatrain, and at the same time it's a compliment to her companion. Home is where the heart is, and the heart is always with someone. She sometimes overdoes it; she whispers on "Silent Tears.” "if I thought that you would understand/I wouldn't be here lying soaking wet/in my silent tears." Come on now, that's a bit much. The music on that track is awesome, though, with an anxious rhythm section and a ghostly string piece. The musical variety is what really sets Lapin apart from her peers. There's a willingness to apply herself to different genres here, and she rarely sounds uncomfortable during any of her performance. Like I said, the girl’s confident, and I have no doubt this won't be the last we've heard of Little Lapin.
Brundlefly and the Swede is Jason Socci and Matthew Kohnle. I don't know enough about surnames to make the presumption that one of them is Swedish. They were both in a band called Daybed back during the cusp of Y2K, and more than a decade later decided they weren't getting any younger and recorded this heaping slice of rustic post-rock. I don't know if aesthetic begat the album name or vice-versa, but the basic acoustic cuts were recorded in a cabin outside of Asheville, NC in 2010, and then it was slowly nurtured and mutated through a variety of musical processes until it was released more than two years later. The duo also incorporates electric sounds with strings, flutes and bass clarinets. So, is it worth the wait?
I suppose it doesn't really matter. My Bloody Valentine, Daft Punk and Black Sabbath just released some fantastic albums after years-long gaps and they sound rad. At the same time, they don't really sound new, either. That's a broad statement, but the same goes for Cabin Music. The album is comprised of two slabs of verdant instrumental music - very pleasant, very long, very crisp. "Cabin Music Side 1" is the shorter and softer of the two pieces, with acoustic guitar chords playing off each other so as to imbue the listener with a sense of inner-peace. Until the four-minute mark, then a lilting string section gets trampled by a sudden burst of emotion that recalls the joyful happenings on Do Make Say Think's Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn. Then the soft stuff happens again, then the heavy, and the last few minutes is a dramatic, ethereal comedown with a lot of weird sound effects, including one that sort of sounds like a whale call.
"Cabin Music Side 2,” is far more experimental than its predecessor. It experiments with acoustic rock, soft jazz numbers and outright experimental noise toward the end of the track. Half of it sounds improvised, which creates an interesting dynamic after hearing the skillful orchestrations in the other parts of the track. There is much more going on for it than "Cabin Music Side1,” especially the chirpy robotic whirrs at the two-minute mark and the glam guitars toward the third quarter of the track. Cabin Music is a great listen, especially for the people who grew up with bands like DMST, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mono, you know, post-rock. They don't break any new ground musically but there is enough variety on here to keep listeners hooked from beginning to end.
My Geometric Exile - solar
The fruit of a line of unsuccessful attempts at being in a band, My Geometric Exile takes electronic music and creates something that is not what you would exactly call ambient, though the person behind the project sees it that way. I have to disagree with him, only because of the aggression that is heard in the music. Solar, the first half of the Solar/Lunar double album, demands your attention. It doesn't simply fill in the space around you, giving you something to listen to. It grabs your ears and shoves itself in there, good and tight, and all you can say is "thank you.” Blending rock and punk sensibility (not sound, but the energy) with massive hip-hop beats gives you an excuse to start at the beginning and listen straight though.
*Celestial Embrace* opens the album, like an orchestra tuning and whirring. It hints at what is to come, but is more gentle than *Trains and Time Travel* which starts with a gentle synth chord before a perfectly broken beat begins. The song culminates in a storm of sound: glitch tracks, flutters, trills and whirring fill your ears. The title track is reminiscent of The D.O.T. and showcases a dancy beat that leads the way for mellow pads, like a sunrise. *Melancholy Afternoon* finds it's home on the guitar, full of loops and subtle melody like a Kaki King song that has gone crazy. It's followed by the rocking *Challenge Gravity,” a muse-like riff and electronic drum pattern that plays behind the beat, creating a brilliant, if disorienting, dynamic.
If there is a weak spot on the album, it lies in tracks six-nine. It isn't that they aren't good; they just don't capture the listener's attention the way the rest of the album does. All fears that the album is going to turn out to be boring are laid to rest in *Planes Interrupt My Cloud Meditation,” which pulls from the noisier projects of Sufjan Stevens, namely his album Enjoy Your Rabbit.
Finally, the album closes with *Will You Remember Today?* an expansive and fitting end to the first half of a double album that I'm so glad I had the chance to discover. Found sounds give the impression that you're hearing someone's day through the filter of a fuzzy memory. Laced with the sound of laughter and reverberating chords, one can only hope the protagonist did remember today.
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