Tag Archives: album review

I Swear I’m Good at This: the Debut Album from Diet Cig


My fascination with Diet Cig started when I saw them open for The Front Bottoms and Brick + Mortar last year. At that time, they had one 5-song EP and two singles. Almost exactly one year later, they dropped their first full length album, I Swear I’m Good at This. Frontwoman Alex Luciano keeps it real with her audience and her unbridled honesty makes her lyrics so much more relatable. The opener of the album, “Sixteen”, details cringey moments of dating someone with the same name. Luciano addresses many relationship struggles and problems commonly encountered as one enters adulthood, or at least tries to. 

Among the sweet melodies and talk of relationships are discussions of heavier topics such as gender roles and consent. On “Maid Of The Mist”, Luciano spits out “I am bigger than the outside shell of my body and if you touch it without asking then you’ll be sorry”. Luciano may refer to relationships and seemingly mundane topics, but she remains feminist pop-punk and empowered. “Tummy Ache” and “Link in Bio” is where some of this feminist frustration boils over. 

Overall, Diet Cig nails combining a young innocence with ferocity and empowerment. They blend elements and themes together in a bubbly, dancy pop. I Swear I’m Good at This is an amazing debut album and I’m excited to see where they go from here.

You can listen to I Swear I’m Good at This here.

Diet Cig will be stopping by Seattle on April 28th at Barboza. If you’re able to attend, I highly recommend. The energy present in their music is multiplied by 10 at their live shows. Luciano jumps, kicks, and is an amazing ball of energy. She’ll make you dance even if you’re unfamiliar with their music. You can grab tickets for that show here. 

~Jessica Gloe

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Album review: ‘Pure Comedy,’ Father John Misty

After Father John Misty performed two new songs on Saturday Night Live last month, the online commentary was split in half. Some said his lyrics and fans were pretentious. Others called him genius.

Pure Comedy, Josh Tillman’s third album as Father John Misty, is a calculated mix of both.

The album marks a dark shift in Tillman’s subject matter. While the lyrics on Fear Fun (2012) and I Love You, Honeybear (2015) discuss love, drugs, masculinity, and sexuality, “Pure Comedy” satirizes religion, technology, climate change, politics, and pop culture.

This album lacks the varied pacing of his previous two; almost all the songs on Pure Comedy are slow and moody. One exception is the third track, “Total Entertainment Forever,” an upbeat song you can tap your feet to. It’s a nice breather, and there could have been more songs in this style on the album.

But what Pure Comedy’s sound lacks in speed, it makes up in depth. The instrumentals are far more experimental than either of Tillman’s past solo albums. A minute and a half into “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution,” the fairly simple melody transforms into an angry swell of horned instruments, echoing vocals, and strings. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Despite these changes, Tillman’s songs still fit his Father John Misty persona like a glove. As usual, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether he’s being sarcastic or genuine. But Tillman knows exactly what he’s doing – he makes that clear in “Leaving LA.”  You’ll spend the entire time wondering, “Is he trying too hard, or is he making fun of people who try too hard?” It’s satire at its finest and most frustrating.

Though slow-moving, the album’s beautiful instrumentals and clever lyrics are worth a listen. Whether you roll your eyes or get teary, Pure Comedy will make you think.

Katie Anastas

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Album (EP) Review “Mind the Gap” by Raleigh Ritchie

Raleigh (like ballet) Ritchie (like Lionel) took fans by surprise when he announced the release of his new EP last November. The EP, Mind the Gap, was released on December 16th, 2016 and it’s devastatingly good. Raleigh Ritchie (real name Jacob Anderson) is newer to the music scene, having only just released his debut album You’re a Man Now, Boy earlier last year. Yet, he’s not an entirely unfamiliar face, fans of Game of Thrones might recognize him as Grey Worm, the leader of the unsullied. This is where I discovered him, looked him up one day because I thought he was cute and google let me know he had a few songs floating around at the time (thanks google). Gave one of his singles, “Bloodsport ’15”, a listen and I was instantly in love. It was fate. I’ve been a fan ever since and I am personally so stoked about the recent release of Mind the Gap which is what we are here to talk about.


Start listening while you read: click HERE to go to Mind the Gap on soundcloud!

This EP is an organized clusterfuck of self-deprecation and heartbreak mixed with upbeat instrumental and fast paced lyrics, producing a fantastically odd dichotomy of feelings. The album has a sound that feels derived from R&B but somewhere along the lines it picked up heavy pop influences, with a light peppering of the occasional rap or spoken word. It’s not too much of a departure from his debut album (which I HIGHLY recommend you listen to), there’s a lot of similarities between the two pieces. Raleigh even said himself that he felt the EP was more of a bridge between his debut album and the next, rather than a totally independent piece. I won’t quote him on that because it was in a tweet from a few months back that I won’t even bother to search for. He tweets a lot. (One time, he favorited my tweet – but that’s a story for another time).

Something I love about the sound of this album is the deeper electronic feel with the background vocals. You’re a Man Now, Boy was very flowly and floaty in the background vocals – almost choir-like. Almost fantastical. Whereas Mind the Gap is mostly background vocals that are tuned bytes of Ritchie singing drawn out “ahs” or “ohs” (excuse my inability to quantify music). The subtle electronic qualities are pretty much thrown in your face in the first track off the album Motions, which begins with a brief audio of a Robot fight/break-up. We hear two Siri-esque voices argue about how they feel about each other, resulting in the end of their robot relationship. This persists through the song with brief one liners from either robot voice. It’s pretty rad, if I do say so myself.

Mind the Gap totals 5 songs: “Motions”, “Sicko”, “Liability”, “StraitJacket”, and “Unicron Love” (don’t ask me why its spelled like that – I have no idea). Each song is unique, but they all flow very well together. My favorite example of this is the transition between “Motions” and “Sicko”; “Motions” ends with the Male robot saying “I love you”, only to have the female reply “I know, but you are sick” – and then sicko immediately begins with “Maybe I’m just sick”. Hell yeah. Well, I mean, that’s pretty sad and heartbreaking lyrically, but 10/10 transition. Speaking of lyrics, Ritchie gives the listener a lot to think about as far as sanity and heartbreak go. “Motions” and “Unicron Love” both focus on two different sides of a relationship. Since we know that Motions isn’t the brightest view on love, we can probably guess how “Unicron Love” portrays it.

“Sicko”, “Liability”, and “StraitJacket” all focus more on an introspective view. “Sicko” plays off “Motions” and outlines the chaos of a mind trying to diagnose an internal sickness. There’s a lot of self-doubt and confusion present in the lyrics of this song, ending in the simple conclusion of “Maybe I’m just sick”. Liability is all about feeling bad for yourself. The musical composition of this song is diverse and beautiful, it ranges from flowy and floaty (both technical terms) to harsh and brittle (if that’s a word people use for describing music). The song feels like it’s been written out of a place of anger and defeat, it screams “why me?!”. I’m a sucker for this song, self-pity, now that’s something I can rock to. The song ends with a beautiful, whispered, “oh, fuck off” directly at his own thoughts.

Now, we arrive at “StraitJacket”, my favorite track off the album – this one is just an Ode to Mania, a sweet sweet embrace of the craziness that is our mind. It’s a fast paced, rollercoaster of a song, and there are no seatbelts. Every time you think you’ve reached the climax (not sexual) of the song, you find yourself surprised by even more faced paced energy. At the real, destructive, climax (might be a little sexual) of this song you can practically feel Ritchie screaming in your face. It also showcases one of the best things about Ritchie’s music; his sexy voice and crazy good spoken word influenced rap style. The song ends with a jarringly slow verse of spoken word that asks the listener if any of us (especially Ritchie) are sane; “Fight amongst the foot soldiers, but the war is in my mind”. Not only is the song super fucking cool, there’s a super fucking cool music video that accompanies it. Check it below, it really adds to the song and shows what Ritchie is trying to say with it (basically, that he’s just crazy).

This EP is phenomenal, and you bet I’ll be listening to it pretty much once a day. The title of the EP (Mind the Gap, if you somehow forgot) is really validated by the content of the songs. It’s about watching out for the mental leap in logic from sanity to insanity, it’s fitting for how much attention the tracks give to being not-so-sane.  Raleigh Ritchie is an amazing and talented new artist that deserves a lot more attention than he gets. On the plus side, he’s so unknown that he’ll favorite/retweet your tweets if you tweet at him. But seriously, check him out, between the amazing album art, magically sexy vocals, and make-you-think lyrics there’s nothing not to love. Make sure to check out not only the Mind the Gap EP, but also his debut album You’re a Man Now, Boy! Thanks for reading, I’ll see you back here next week for the rediscovery of Sir Sly

Zach Krieger

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Album Review: Weyes Blood’s Front Row Seat to Earth is an Otherworldly Delight


As the first few seconds of Weyes Blood’s new album ring out, the ethereal piano perfectly sets up the rest of the album: while beautiful, the arpeggio puts us on edge, and as singer and writer Natalie Mering’s vocals come in, it is clear what kind of ride we’re in for.  The album is a trip into the stratosphere, and its songs, the lengthy piano ballads, will make space seem like the perfect place to fall in love.

Front Row Seat to Earth is Mering’s first full-length album since 2014’s The Innocents, another solid effort from the Brooklyn singer, and Front Row picks up right where its predecessor left off.  Piano, along with Mering’s quivering alto, take center stage for just about the entire album, pairing off nicely with some truly lovesick lyrics.

Take the album’s second song, the lurching “Used to Be”, which includes the chorus’ aching line, “Used to be the one/that knew me/saw through me”.  Mering doesn’t hold back the sadness on this album; she lets it lead the way, wearing it like a badge of honor.  On cuts like these, you really start to see shades of Sharon van Etten, another female singer-songwriter preoccupied with pain.  And, like van Etten, Mering does a fantastic job of tastefully riding waves of sadness in these songs.

Acoustic ballad “Be Free” includes some truly enchanting harmonies, lifting the song into the same territory as Radiohead’s “How to Disappear Completely” as a song that doesn’t need to be any more than it is, and it works its melancholy magic to perfection.  “Be Free” is a truly beautiful song, one of the most major-key songs on the album, and yet it never feels truly happy.  It’s a nostalgic song, to be sure.

However, it’s on “Be Free” that I started to notice how long the songs are.  This is a 45-minute album, but it only has nine songs on it, eight if you don’t count the two-minute instrumental outro.  An album like this needs to give the listener a bit more room to breathe; it’s very easy to get lost in a song, like the six-and-a-half minute “Do You Need My Love”, making it hard to pay attention to the entire thing.  The second half of the album tends to get weighed down by this problem.  By the time we get there, we’re already worn out from listening.

That’s not to say these songs are bad, by the way.  “Generation Why” starts very slowly, but its barren sound is a nice change from the overblown noise of “Do You Need My Love”.  It’s vocals, also, echo some of Imogen Heap’s work in the best way possible.  This trend continues on the almost entirely vocal “Can’t Go Home”, which is a nice track but really shows the signs of listener fatigue that gets this part of the album.  Single “Seven Words” is a nice foray back into percussion; though Weyes Blood is almost always at her best when drums aren’t in the mix, we need them here, to keep the songs moving forward a little quicker.  I love the soulful, beachy guitar solo in the middle of this track, bringing a nice swell of melody and color into the song.  “Away Above”, the last track with vocals, is one of the best cuts on the album, with warm acoustic guitar and subtle percussion giving Mering a perfect backdrop to sing in front of.

This is a great album for those who are fans of music made out of great sadness.  The album is haunting in every way, with special considerations going to Mering’s incredible vocal performance throughout the album, which perfectly showcases both her range and her greatest strengths.  The album tends to drag a bit, so don’t expect to be particularly familiar with the last few songs until a few listens in.  Any fans of Sharon van Etten and Sufjan Stevens will certainly enjoy this album, but it’s worth a listen for anybody.

Front Row Seat to Earth is available on Mexican Summer Records.


Mexican Summer

“Seven Words” Video:

-John Morse

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Album Review: West-Chicago Rapper Saba Unleashes New Bucket List Project


The Austin, Illinois native brings hope and energy to his neglected neighborhood with poetic lyrics and organic production dripping with neo-soul

2016 has been a year filled with soulful projects stemming from young Chicago artists, including; Noname’s ‘Telefone’, Mick Jenkins’ ‘The Healing Component’, and of course Chance the Rapper’s explosive ‘Coloring Book’. Saba, an independent poet-turned-rapper, has consistently collaborated with each of these artists, and on his new ‘Bucket List Project’ (Released October 27) he establishes his role in Chicago’s progressive music scene. This project is the follow-up to the 22-year-old’s 2014 mixtape, ‘Comfort Zone,’  which highlighted his creative storytelling and impassioned beat selection. 

A bucket list typically consists of goals and aspirations one dreams of achieving in their lifetime. On his new project, Saba pushes the importance of utilizing ambition through lyrical anecdotes and scattered voicemails regarding the bucket lists of various friends and fellow musicians. Luscious production provided by frequent collaborators Phoelix, Cam O’bi and Monte Booker serves as a perfect backdrop for the album’s poetic reflection on West-Chicago’s repressed neighborhoods. Tracks range from warm and intimate to blunt and intense, but remain focused on inspiring optimism in “the part of the city that they don’t be talking about” to quote the fiery track, ‘Westside Bound 3.” Saba addresses the influences of childhood experiences and relationships in songs like ‘Church / Liquor Store’ and ‘Stoney’ while demonstrating his determination to chase his dream. By speaking on the obstacles obstructing his hometown’s community, Saba finds beauty within the struggle and poetically reinforces the prospect of a brighter future on tracks like ‘Most’ and ‘California.’ All in all, the vibrantly vivid ‘Bucket List Project’ encapsulates the importance of fulfilling goals and living life to the fullest while reflecting on the difficulties of developing in a harsh environment. I highly encourage curious readers to give this innovative project a listen, you won’t be disappointed! 

Listen to Saba’s ‘Bucket List Project’ here

Favorite Tracks: Photosynthesis (ft. Jean Deaux) // Church/Liquor Store (ft. Noname) // Bucket List (ft. Matthew Santos)

Robert B

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10 Albums You May Have Missed in 2015 (part 2)

(continued from part 1)

6. Viet CongViet Cong (released January 20th)

These days, one rarely encounters a “post punk” band in the purest sense, although you can barely throw a stone without hitting an indie band influenced by the genre (and hey, I ain’t complaining). The original post-punk movement peaked somewhere around the late 70s-to-early 80s and was reflected in pioneering bands like Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Bauhaus. Later, it evolved into bands like The Cure, Fugazi, and Sonic Youth, all of them immensely influential for the later emergence of indie rock. While post-punk enjoyed a brief revival in the 2000s through bands like Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs (AKA the music that got me into music), the indie scene as a whole seems to have trended away from harsher sounds over the last decade, although the distant post-punk influences are still present.

All of this is to say that when I first heard Viet Cong’s noisey, impenetrable self-titled record, I didn’t really know what to make of it. Here’s a band that doesn’t care a whit about catchy hooks or song flow; instead, they layer distant, Joy-Division-esque vocal harmonies over driving drum beats and then ride the dark wave. “Continental Shelf” is probably their most melodic offering, and as a result probably the most memorable individual song, but this album is really more meant to be experienced as a whole. (Warning: video slightly NSFW)

Viet Cong draws directly from post-punk in its original form, but never feels like a full-on tribute either, since they layer in more sonic complexity than bands like Bauhaus ever did.

After giving it a few listens, Viet Cong has become one of my favorite albums of the year, if nothing else because it’s so unlike anything I’ve heard in recent memory. The experience is certainly worth 37 minutes of your time.

Recommended Tracks: “Continental Shelf” ; “Bunker Buster” ; “Death”

7. BullyFeels Like (released June 23rd)

One thing that bothers me about modern indie rock music is it’s obsession with ironic detachment. Trust me, I love a good metaphor as much as the next guy, but sometimes it gets tiring to listen to songs that could mean literally anything. In this age of unprecedented music availability, I would argue that the bravest musicians aren’t those most willing to experiment, but instead the ones who aren’t afraid to say exactly what they mean (even if they themselves are unsure what that is). I don’t blame artists for preferring irony to sincerity; if someone criticizes the former, it’s easy to write the critic off as “not getting it,” but a criticism of the latter is in many ways a criticism of the artist as a person.

So it’s refreshing to see a band like Bully come down the pike. The Nashville quartet, led by guitarist/vocalist Alicia Bognanno, does an excellent job exploring unfiltered feelings without being overly gratuitous or overly guarded. Bully tackles topics ranging from an inability to let go of the past (“Milkman”) to losing track of one’s own identity (“Trying”), all backed by catchy, crunchy garage rock and delivered with a raw, punkish edge by Bognanno.

How can you not love a band with lyrics like “Invisible handcuffs locked on me / Been prayin’ for my period all week?” It’s so nonchalant, you almost forget that Bognanno is singing about something too socially taboo for most songwriters, especially female, to touch. Well, fuck that, man.

Feels Like is only the band’s first full album, so keep a close eye on them going forward. Being sincere is risky, but Bully does it anyway, and I love them for it.

Recommended Tracks: “Trying” ; “Milkman” ; “Too Tough” ; “Brainfreeze”

8. Title FightHyperview (released February 3rd)

I’ve been a big fan of Title Fight ever since a close friend offhandedly suggested 2012’s Floral Green to me; nowadays I would consider them one of my top 10 favorite bands. So you can probably imagine the level of hyped I was upon learning they’d be releasing a new album in 2015 called Hyperview. There are plenty of other post-hardcore acts out there, many of them excellent in their own right, but part of Title Fight’s appeal is their musical and lyrical complexity. The band’s sound has changed a lot over the years, moving from raw pop punk to a more nuanced, clean sound, but two things that have always remained constant are the pleasantly dischordant chord progressions and Jamie Rhoden’s gruff yelp.

Then I listened to lead single “Rose of Sharon”, and it became immediately clear that Title Fight had decided to make some major changes on the new record. The same basic chord structures are there, but the rough edge is mostly gone, instead replaced with dreamy shoegaze melodies and a smoother vocal style.

That’s not to say there’s no punk left in them; “Mrahc” showcases the best of both worlds, combining Rhoden’s newly melodic voice with the uptempo crunch that Title Fight fans have come to know and love. After the initial shock of the changes wears off, it becomes clear that Hyperview is an incredibly well-made and evolutionary record. These guys knew exactly what they were doing, and they’re going to make the music they want to hear whether you like it or not. Really, that’s the most punk thing they could have done.

This record is a must-listen for fans of post-hardcore in all its variations. If you’re not so much into the gruff stuff, give it a shot also, because it’ll surprise you.

Recommended Tracks: “Rose of Sharon” ; “Mrahc” ; “Murder Your Memory” ; “Trace Me Onto You” ; “Your Pain Is Mine Now”

9. The Mountain Goats Beat The Champ (released April 7th)

What else can even be said about the Mountain Goats at this point? Founder/singer John Darnielle is a true musical legend, and perhaps the best lyrical storyteller of our time. His lovable, nasally voice has made us laugh, cry, gasp, and stare blankly off into space many times over the course of the Mountain Goats’ 24 year, 15 album career, and Beat The Champ is yet another solid addition to the band’s lore.

This particular album seemed to fly a bit under the radar; I wasn’t even aware that the Mountain Goats were working on anything new until I happened to catch “Heel Turn 2” on a recent episode of “Welcome To Night Vale.” The song stands up on its own with beautiful instrumentation and evocative lyrics, but takes on even more meaning knowing that the whole album is about the private lives of professional wrestlers.

A “heel turn” is wrestler-speak for the moment when someone becomes the villain of a storyline. “Throw my better self overboard, / Shoot at him when he comes up for air” sings Darnielle, stepping into the shoes of a man who’s willing to do what it takes to survive, even if it means hurting others in the process and loathing oneself as a result. It’s a powerful thing, knowing you’re going to let everyone down, but Darnielle is a master of evoking powerful, complex emotions. He continues to do it deftly here.

Don’t sleep on this album, especially if you’re thinking “Wrestling? I won’t understand any of that.” It’s not about wrestlers. It’s about human nature. You’ll feel feelings, even if you don’t know exactly why. It’s what the Mountain Goats do best.

Recommended Tracks: “Heel Turn 2” ; “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” ; “Foreign Object” ; “The Ballad of Bull Ramos”

10. Jeff RosenstockWe Cool? (released March 3rd)

Jeff Rosenstock is downright prolific. As the former frontman of underrated ska-punk outfit The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, as well as the genre-defying Bomb The Music Industry!, the guy is a bonafide DIY legend by this point. Not only has the Long Island native toured tirelessly throughout his career – always all-ages shows, mind you – he’s also started and maintained the only donation-based record label in the world, called Quote Unquote Records. Seriously, all of the label’s music can be downloaded for free on Quote Unquote’s website.

Rosenstock exemplifies the concept of “punk” as school of thought more than a style of music. All of his bands have shared classically punk sensibilities – raucous vocals, frantic drums, political themes – but the music’s energy tends to be focused inward rather than outward, an expression of self-betterment rather than self-destruction. He’s also never been afraid to experiment, at times throwing in Anamanaguchi-esque synth melodies or an entire brass/woodwind section. The result is always refreshing, thought-provoking, and above all else, fun.

His latest effort, We Cool?, is as introverted as anything he’s ever done.
For example, “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry” is a literal apology letter to an old friend, describing an awful tragedy to which Rosenstock responded poorly to at the time. Sonically, the entire album tends more towards early-Weezer garage rock than punk, which is a seamless transition for Rosenstock and helps to lighten up some of the more serious moments. Still, some songs, if you listen carefully to the lyrics, will leave you with a thousand-yard stare by the end.

Of course, there are plenty of fun moments to go around as well, even if they’re rooted in unfortunate circumstance. “Nausea,” the album’s official single, is an uptempo romp with a hilarious music video, despite the subject matter: isolation as an escape from anxiety. Rosenstock’s music always seems to have this kind of bittersweet tone, as if he’s asking you “Hah, life sure is fucked up, ain’t it?” and you’re answering “Sure is, buddy!” If you’ve ever kicked yourself for a stupid decision, felt like a child in an adult’s body, or wondered why there are so many assholes in the world, We Cool? is here to tell you that you’re not alone.

Recommended Tracks: “Nausea” ; “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry” ; “You, In Weird Cities” ; “Beers Again Alone”

Dion Hubble is a second-year Ph.D. student in Molecular Engineering. He’s been doing this weird radio thing since 2011, starting with KANM Student Radio at Texas A&M University. You can catch his show, Bears Downloading, every Monday night from 8-10pm.

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10 Albums You May Have Missed in 2015 (part 1)

This year bore music-lovers the richest crop of artistry in recent memory. Modest Mouse reasserted their status atop the indie-rock food chain with the long-awaited Strangers to Ourselves, an album as catchy as it is sobering. Kendrick Lamar dropped To Pimp A Butterfly with almost prophetic timing and inadvertently became the lyrical voice of a movement. Several underground stars broke free of their respective genres (Tame Impala’s Currents; Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit; Alabama ShakesSound and Color) to become unexpected darlings. Hell, within the last month alone, mega-stars Adele and Foo Fighters have sent us 25 and the Saint Cecelia EP, proving that sometimes famous people are famous for a reason. Regardless, if you’ve been paying any kind of attention this year, you know how many musicians, new and old, have released immensely popular albums.

This article is about none of them.

For every great record that fights, sneaks, or is thrust into the popular consciousness, there are at least ten great records that go relatively unnoticed. Here are a few that defined my own 2015, in no particular order.

1. Toro y Moi What For? (Released April 7th)

Chaz Bundick is, without a doubt, one of my favorite artists. Not only does he put out a new record roughly once per year under stage name Toro y Moi (in addition to last year’s Michael under the name Les Sins), he somehow manages to incorporate new sounds and influences on every single one of them. In the early 2010s, Toro y Moi’s dreamy blend of synth and R&B made him easy to slot into the budding “chillwave” genre; now, that description simply no longer suffices, nor has it been adequate for several years now. On What For?, Bundick manages to add psychedelic rock to his sonic signature, yet still retains the essential easiness at the heart of his music. Lead single “Empty Nesters” boasts a solid groove that breaks into full-out funk at some points, yet always retreats to a sweet mess of bouncy bass guitar and synth.

Yet, amongst an album full of solid tracks, my personal standout pick is “The Flight”. Anchored by a simple, solid drum beat and swirl of guitar licks, Bundick wistfully sings “’Don’t bother to wake me up,’ / You said, ‘Nothing’s worse than leaving a dream,”” a lyric which betrays the resigned sadness lurking just under the surface of an otherwise upbeat album. And the piano; oh god, the piano (1:44 in the above video). That riff alone was stuck in my head for weeks (it’s also slyly reincorporated later on in the outro to “Lilly”).

When I first heard this release, I immediately thought “This is going to be the perfect summer album.” Though What For? will forever remind me of the dull roar that was summer 2015, I recently relistened to the entire thing and found myself thinking “This is the perfect winter album.” I guess maybe it’s just plain good.

Recommended Tracks: “Empty Nesters” ; “The Flight” ; “Lilly” ; “Buffalo” ; “Half Dome”

2. La LuzWeirdo Shrine (released August 7th)

Speaking of sadness lurking just under the surface, read just about any review of La Luz’s latest surf-rock masterpiece Weirdo Shrine (produced by Ty Seagall!) and you’ll find numerous mentions of the album’s dark edge. Indeed, the Seattle quartet’s first full-length release does sport some sinister undercurrents beneath its sun-and-fun veneer. The band was in an almost-fatal car accident while touring in 2013, so that could have something to do with it, although they’ve always been fond of B-horror-movie imagery. The album title itself is a reference to graphic novel Black Hole, in which ‘70s Seattle teenagers contract an STD that turns them into Futurama-worthy mutants. Super duper!

But the constant focus on La Luz’s darker side can make you forget that they make REALLY fun music. Just watch the music video for “Black Hole, Weirdo Shrine”, in which an MS Paint cowgirl goes on some sort of peyote-fueled adventure involving trains, lizards, and an evil twin, all backed by JAMMIN electric organ and tight guitar riffs.

I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m down with it. Lead single “You Disappear” is an even higher-tempo piece of music with an amazing guitar solo, although the video is slightly less trippy. Just slightly.

Bottom line, Weirdo Shrine is one of the downright coolest releases of the year, and you should start paying attention to La Luz before they blow up. Because they’re going to. And in five years when your friends ask you “When did surf rock become cool again?” you can show them this album and watch their heads explode.

Recommended Tracks: “You Disappear” ; “Black Hole, Weirdo Shrine” ; “I Wanna Be Alone (With You)” ; “I’ll Be True”

3. Neon IndianVEGA INTL. Night School (released October 16th)

Have you ever wanted to feel like a character in Blade Runner? Because listening to VEGA INTL. Night School will make you feel like a character in Blade Runner. I dare you to listen to “Slumlord” and tell me you don’t want to put on a leather jacket and wander the futuristic city streets of 2015. I hear by then we’ll have hover cars! And 3-D movies!

Much like the aforementioned Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi, Neon Indian (Alan Palomo) gained his popularity during the emergence of chillwave circa 2011. But if Bundick is the Van Gogh of chillwave, Palomo is the Andy Warhol, his music bright and playful where Bundick’s is melodic and deliberate – you may remember the ultra-catchy single “Polish Girl” that was practically inescapable around 2012. We hadn’t seen much of him since, but it turns out that the wait was well worth it, as Palomo has retooled his sound into something much less chill in the best possible way. 

The whole album feels like a slick ‘80s fever dream, displaying strong retrowave and vaporwave influences throughout, but luckily never veers off into creepy or gimmicky territory. Palomo masterfully walks the thin line between pop smash and genre experiment; for every distorted synthesizer and choppy sample, there’s a strong beat and catchy hook behind the studded leather steering wheel. Lead single “Annie” exemplifies this balancing act; where else have you heard a celesta incorporated into the chorus of an electropop song?

In a recent interview, Palomo described his fascination with filmmaking, saying that intends each song to set a mood, much like a movie scene. Seriously, if Neon Indian doesn’t end up on the soundtrack of the new Blade Runner movie, I’m going to be pissed.

Recommended Tracks: “Slumlord” ; “The Glitzy Hive” ; “Annie” ; “Dear Skorpio Magazine”

4. Hop AlongPainted Shut (released May 4th)

Some people in this world have a certain kind of voice. The type of voice that can convey pain, regret, and loss with seemingly no effort, even if the words being said have no obvious negative connotation. Frances Quinlan, the lead singer of Philadelphia folk rock band Hop Along, has one of these voices. And on the band’s latest album, boy does she prove it.

Painted Shut feels like a collection of short stories, read by a skilled storyteller. There’s no obvious connection between the individual songs, but a common tone takes shape over the course of the album, thanks to the band’s noisey-but-cohesive indie stylings and aggressively earnest vocals. Quinlan’s voice deftly shifts from melodic, vulnerable croon to harsh growl at the drop of a hat, giving every song a satisfying cathartic edge that can make you feel anger, nostalgia, and contentedness all at once. My personal favorite song is “Waitress”, on which Quinlan softly sings “Your friend looked over from the bar/ She must’ve known, who I was / The worst possible version of what I’d done.

What happened, Frances? What could you have done to warrant such intense shame? Throughout the album, it’s moments such as these – where it’s not so much what’s said, but how it’s said – that set Hop Along apart from their peers and make Painted Shut one of the most subtly memorable albums of 2015. If you need a reminder that life is worth living despite all of its ugly, horrifying moments, then this album is for you.

Recommended Tracks: “Waitress” ; “Horseshoe Crabs” ; “Powerful Man” ; “Texas Funeral”

5. WavvesV (released October 2nd)

Wavves’ Nathan Williams is kind of a slacker maestro, making fun, fuzzy surf punk that feels irreverent, but intelligently so. Who hasn’t felt the urge to indulge in a little self-destruction from time to time? The band’s stoned-and-boned gravitas does take on a slightly more somber tone with the knowledge that Williams has admitted to alcohol addiction on at least one occasion. Many of the band’s past works have felt like a substance-fueled romp through endless summer, but their aptly-title fifth album V is more like waking up the next day with a hangover and an empty bottle.

Luckily, the change in tone doesn’t detract from the band’s essence or quality; in fact, Wavves has never sounded slicker. On opening track “Heavy Metal Detox,” the band funnels their trademark psychedelic thrash into a tight, well-paced anthem. Lyrics like “I don’t really wanna act afraid / Not about you, about anything” betray a bit of hesitance in Williams’ otherwise irreverent attitude – who’s he trying to convince, you or himself? A later, jammier track called “Wait” would be easy to mistake for an simple expression of brattiness (“Cause I don’t wanna wait / I don’t wanna wait here”) until you hit the second half of the chorus (“Cause I don’t wanna wait / My whole life / Watch you drowning”).

Hey, sometimes it’s easier to get your own shit together when there’s someone else to be strong for. Shockingly deep stuff from the band that wrote “Teenage Super Party.”

In being forced to confront their own demons, Wavves may be maturing a bit, but that doesn’t make their music any less fun. In fact, its depth catapults V well beyond what it could have been as more of the same old “life sux, get high” stuff. Though don’t worry, there’s plenty of that as well.

Recommended Tracks: “Heavy Metal Detox” ; “Wait” ; “Redlead” ; “Tarantula”

Dion Hubble is a second-year Ph.D. student in
Molecular Engineering. He’s been doing this weird radio thing since 2011,
starting with KANM Student Radio at Texas A&M University. You can catch
his show, Bears Downloading, every Monday night from 8-10pm. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of his “10 Albums You May Have Missed in 2015″. 

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Album Review: We the Kings – Strange Love


I had high hopes for We the King’s
newest album, Strange Love. The band
has been going strong for about ten years, and there have been very few songs
that have earned them negative criticism. But no band is perfect, and they were
bound to make a let-down album eventually. Unfortunately, Strange Love seems to be that album.


The first track off the album, “Love Again”, had me
disappointed from the get-go. Clearly meant to be a dance-pop anthem, its beats
don’t succeed in being catchy and are instead just annoying and monotonous. Upon
listening to the album in its entirety, I realized that it doesn’t sound
like it belongs at all. If I hadn’t known it was by We the Kings, I would have ascribed
it to any up-and-coming boy band. It may be We the King’s attempt at
manufacturing a radio-bound pop single, but in my opinion they just tried too

“From Here to Mars” is another song that seems to emphasize
the Pop nature of the band. Luckily, it is done a lot better than in the previous song. It builds up
nicely from an almost acoustic ballad into an actually pleasant up-beat melody with
catchy lyrics to make it even better. It’s not the best song I’ve ever heard in my
life, but it’s definitely an improvement from the obnoxious “Love Again”.

If anything, the saving grace for the album is definitely “Howl
at the Moon”. It sounds like nothing else that’s on the radio today, and that
works out fantastically. Innovative beats course through the whole song, making
the album exciting again. If all the songs sounded as good as this one, it
would be a great record.

Unfortunately, it isn’t.

Overall Rating: 5/10 – My
overall feeling for the album was just, “meh”. Variety is always a good thing
to have on an album, but Strange Love overdoes it just a bit, leading to an uneasy
disjointed vibe. It has a few good songs, but most can be described as neither
good nor bad. If you’re longing for good music by We the Kings, just go back
and listen to “Say You Like Me” a couple of times. It’ll give you all of the
nostalgia and none of the disappointment.

Kathryn Placer

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Album Review: Fiction Plane- Mondo Lumina

To further prove that the British are taking over the
American Indie scene, Fiction Plane
just released their album, Mondo Lumina, in
the United States. The album and the band aren’t exactly underground, it’s just
taking the States a little longer to catch up on their music. The band has
earned its place in the U.K. charts by putting out good album after good album
after good album. Oh yeah, and the lead singer, Joe Sumner, just happens to be Sting’s
son, which may have earned him a bit more street cred.


It’s no question why the U.K. loves the band, I’m just
wondering why the hell it took so long for the album to get to the U.S.. Mondo Lumina has a good sound and is
pretty chill as far as Alternative goes, nothing like the heavy rock of Royal Blood, but more pop than the Arctic Monkeys.


The most popular song off the album is definitely “Where Do
We Go from Here” and it’s everything you could hope for in a song. It’s a bit
reminiscent of the pop-rock scene from the mid-2000s and is just catchy enough
to get stuck in your head for a while.

I can’t forget to mention “Listen”, the smoothest song on
the record. It’s one of those songs you just know hipsters will be snapping to
while they discuss their “superior music taste” in some bar in San Francisco.

The most unexpected song has got to be “Don’t Give up the
Fight”. It sounds like it’s the song missing from an Old Western soundtrack.
Not to say that it’s Country or that you can hear tumbleweeds in the background,
it’s just that the combination of lyrics and slow-building melodies produce the mental
image of gun-slinging. You should probably listen to it yourself so you
understand what I mean. Whatever comes to mind, you’re likely to agree that it’s
a good song that deserves some radio time.

Overall rating: 7/10 –
Mondo Lumina is a solid album that
has a pretty good variety of songs. Keep your eye out for Fiction Plane,
because they might just be the laid-back indie band that the U.S. has been

Kathryn Placer

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Album Review: Foxing – Dealer


Moving. That’s the word that comes to mind upon listening to
Dealer, the second full-length album from
St. Louis’s Foxing. The band had a lot
of hype to live up to after making a strong debut with 2014’s The Albatross, and this new record
delivers in every way imaginable. I won’t hesitate to call it my favorite album
of 2015.

This record is moving in a couple of different ways. The
lyrics, which are nothing short of fantastic, will move the listener
emotionally. Vocalist Conor Murphy and
bassist Josh Coll pull no punches,
diving headfirst into a number of difficult and uncomfortable topics throughout
Dealer. The lead single from the
album, “The Magdalene”, explores the antagonistic relationship between the
teachings of Catholicism and sex. “Indica” is perhaps the most heart wrenching
song on the record, as it details Coll’s personal struggles with PTSD stemming
from his time spent serving in Afghanistan. Lines like “[and] it breaks my mother’s heart to know
I came back broken” are brutally cathartic.

The music is just as moving as the lyrical content. The
songwriting here is top notch. Foxing have clearly mastered the art of
post-rock crescendos. Tracks like “Weave” and “Eiffel” take the listener on a
journey, eventually building up to goose bump-inducing climaxes.

The musicianship is tight too. Foxing’s rhythm section keeps
songs like “Laundered” grooving along. The guitar-work on Dealer is particularly interesting. On many songs you might not
even notice it, as the guitars sort of hide in the background building texture
instead of sitting in the forefront. You can hear this, as well as some
beautiful piano, on “Night Channels”, my personal favorite song off the record.

I’d say the biggest improvement over The
is the vocals. Murphy demonstrates much more control, as he
strains far less on this record. He nails some beautiful falsettos throughout
the album too, like on “Glass Coughs”. The male/female harmonies on songs like “Redwoods”
are just killer.


Dealer is an
incredible album. Check it out if you’re into post-rock, emo, or indie rock. It’s
emotionally draining, and I mean that in the best possible way. Foxing are
currently co-headlining a US tour with The
World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die
and are being
supported by English math-rockers TTNG.

RJ Morgan

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