Album Review: Dirty Projectors

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Dirty Projectors began a while ago as the solo project of frontman David Longstreth, before finding success as a full band with their blend of experimental yet accessible indie pop on albums Bitte Orca and Swing Lo Magellan. However, a new self-titled album finds Dirty Projectors returning to its solo roots under Longstreth. 

Dirty Projectors marks a change in style with its R&B inspired sound. Although I always appreciate artists trying new genres and changing up their music, some of these attempts work better than others. While there are many great moments on this album, a lot of it just does not seem to work so well; not totally unsuccessful, but lacking. 

“Keep Your Name” makes the new stylistic turn of this album immediately clear, with it’s distinctive distorted vocals a bit jarring on first listen. The track comes across a bit as a failed experiment, with the vocal changes (including a pitch shifted sample from their last album in the background) proving to be more irritating than anything. The lyrics feel pretty harsh, with lines such as “I don’t think I ever loved you” and “What I want from art is truth, what you want is fame.”

“Up in Hudson” has some great instrumentation, yet it is brought down by rather awkward, unsubtle lyrics that feel out of place, including “And we both had girl and boyfriends blowing us up SMS” and “Now I’m listening to Kanye on the Taconic Parkway, riding fast/And you’re out in Echo Park, blasting 2pac, drinking a fifth for my ass.” The chorus, however, is probably one of the high points of the album, and the strong outro to the song helps save it despite these earlier flaws. 

The remainder of the album is similarly inconsistent. While there are still great moments to be found, such as the refrain of “Little Bubble”, or the nice backing vocals from Dawn Richard on “Cool Your Heart”, other songs, such as “Work Together” just feel more annoying than anything else, with the overused effects detracting from the overall quality of the song. Some of the middle stretch of the album blends together a bit, with some less remarkable tracks. Although a bit disappointing in comparison to previous Dirty Projectors albums, it is by no means a bad album, with many strong moments on it despite some issues.

Website / Twitter

-Noah Prince

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Slowdive new single: “Star Roving”

Legendary 90s shoegaze band Slowdive has returned with their first new music since 1995’s Pygmalion. Although the group reformed in 2014 for some live performances, they have not released any new tracks until now. 

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I’ll admit, whenever an older band releases new music after long periods of inactivity, I’m usually not expecting much, but Slowdive has such a strong track record of excellent music that I was cautiously optimistic when I heard they had been in the studio. 

“Star Roving” does not disappoint. While their last album had a more minimalist, ambient vibe to it, their newest track recalls the sound of their earlier releases with layers of fuzzy-sounding guitar and distorted vocals. The music in some places sounds reminiscent of the band’s old contemporaries Ride or Chapterhouse, although I was reminded on first listen of the more upbeat Yo La Tengo tracks. I had worried that any new music they put out would sound uninspired or derivative, as can sometimes happen with band reunions, but “Star Roving” shows the band hasn’t lost their songwriting abilities. Hopefully the quality of this track is reflective of any future music Slowdive may put out. 

Find Slowdive here: 

Twitter / Website

-Noah Prince

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Live Review: Car Seat Headrest

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Last weekend I had the chance to see indie rock band Car Seat Headrest, perform live at the Neptune Theatre in what was probably one of my favorite shows I have attended. I’ve been kind of obsessed with this band for most of the year, so finally getting to see them live was a pretty great experience. They were touring in support of their latest album Teens of Denial, definitely one of my favorite albums of the year so far.

The show kicked off after a strong performance by opening band The Domestics, a group I was not familiar with until this concert. Car Seat Headrest then opened with a short Leonard Cohen cover, before kicking the show off with the popular lead track “Fill in the Blank” from their newest album. This was when you could feel the audience really get excited; the level of audience engagement at this show was high, particularly in the front, where many of the people around me were singing along passionately.

The band played many other recent songs including “Vincent” and “Destroyed by Hippie Powers,” as well as older songs such as “Maud Gone” and “Sober to Death,” skillfully mixing different points in their discography. The Teens of Denial tracks stood out especially good live, although I was expecting them to be played, so the older songs were a nice surprise. “Maud Gone” was particularly nice to hear as I was not expecting that song to be played, and it also provided a brief respite of calm among the more high-tempo rock songs surrounding it on the setlist. The audience gave a particularly loud cheer when front-man Will Toledo announced they would be playing a song from Twin Fantasy, probably the most popular of their early albums. The band also experimented with a shortened version of “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” which was reworked in preparation for an upcoming TV performance. Guitarist Ethan Ives’ guitar skills really shone through live, and Will Toledo’s vocal performance was excellent. 

The most enjoyable songs live, in my opinion, were “Strangers” from their 2015 album Teens of Style (a re-recording of an earlier release), and the encore in which the band was joined by Naked Days for covers of “Psycho Killer” and “This Must Be The Place” by Talking Heads, which they brought impressive energy to, and closed off the show on a high note. Overall, it was a great performance and a strong end to the tour.

Car Seat Headrest: Bandcamp / Twitter

Photo Credit: Kevin Tosh

-Noah Prince

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Album review: Catfish and the Bottlemen’s The Ride Makes a Mess Within the Lines

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The British indie rock band Catfish and the Bottlemen released their second full length album The Ride in May 2016, which was, personally, highly anticipated. The roomy sound of the band’s first full studio album, The Balcony (2014), was not lost in The Ride. It doesn’t depart from their established indie rock sound to any extreme, although, with a voice reminiscent of The KooksLuke Pritchard, lead vocalist and lyricist Ryan Evan “Van” McCann does push this album to a new level of heartbreak and entertainment.  Backed by band members Johnny Bond on guitar,  Benji Blakeway on bass, and Bob Hall on drums, the album brings out the highs and lows of life through witty lyrics and uncommonly engaging music.

The album opens with “7”, a smooth intro into the subdued, yet passionate sound of the album.  McCann starts with his usual confident and almost careless method, but by the end of “Twice” the strung out, stirring emotions of the lyrics are apparent.  “Soundcheck” keeps up the noise, and the relentless guitars and drums match McCann’s agitated vocals, while “Postpone” retains some restraint and poses more melancholy lyrics to the listener.  

The noisy rock sound of “Anything” is kept in check by “Glasgow” when they drop the drums and feature a muted, acoustic sound to the guitar.  The quieter song is anything but a break, rather bringing two different sides to the talented band into the spotlight.  The stripped vocals and subdued background leaves the listener alone with McCann and his bittersweet lyrics.  “Oxygen” picks up the pace without losing any of the closeness or longing, and the song blends nicely into the sweet melodic build of “Emily”.

Towards the end of the album, the loud, accusatory sound of “Red” contrasts with the slow, conceding abandon of “Heathrow”.  The band returns to their classic The Balcony sound with “Outside”, the final song on the album.  It finishes with a nearly painful cliffhanger that drops you off into nothing and leaves you wanting more.  On first listen, I thought the stream had an error, and I started the song over only to be duped again by the abrupt end.

The Ride brings in elements of soft rock and pleasing melody to balance the appealing emotional chaos and grunge rock sound of Catfish and the Bottlemen that they established during The Balcony.  The band has a very well balanced sound throughout the album that draws in the listener until you forget exactly what you’re listening to.  Not to say Catfish and the Bottlemen are background music; the album as a whole is earworm-worthy and catchy as hell.    Although The Balcony will always have a special place in my music library, The Ride has made its way into a spot with my top albums for its raw emotion and excruciatingly candid lyrics. 

http://www.catfishandthebottlemen.com/

Catfish and the Bottlemen- “Twice”

Kenzie Wamble

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Jarryd James

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Jarryd James couldn’t possess a cocky ego if it slapped him right in the face.

 Holding a strong, humble, presence in the room, the tall Australian
artist sits will a still calmness about his body. He holds our hands tightly,
asking with an earnestness, “What’s your name, I missed that?”

Eagerly setting in, James is honest and random, as any other
person, laughing and talking about swimming lessons as kids, the summer heat,
and working with troubled kids. This is what pulls him in.

“I was making music for a long time and working with these
kids,” he says. “But then it all went to shit and I just worked for a while. I
had a temper tantrum and just said everything sucks and I don’t want this but
really, it affected me. I was so sad I couldn’t make music anymore, because it was
so impossible to keep making it. And for 2 years, I didn’t make music at all. I
didn’t even listen to the radio.”

James pauses and takes a breath.

“And coming back, I’ve realized how incredibly lucky I am. I
have a lot of friends who are so talented, to be honest, and better than I am.
I’m so fortunate I decided to do this again and that I get to be here and get
to do this.”

Reminiscent of fellow contemporaries, Jack Garratt and James
Vincent McMorrow
, James’ new album, High, swims with melodic vocals and textured
instrumentals.

“There’s an actual bit of me rustling pages of book on one
of tracks and me using an actual nutcracker on another!” James pipes in with a
smile.  With all the texture however,
tracks like “Claim My Love” and “How Do We Make It” echo with emotion, longing,
and nostalgia. The album shines as it varies in tempo and feel, ranging from
more upbeat R&B in tracks like “Sure Love,” to more pop love ballad sounding
tracks like “1000x,” featuring Georgia Nott of BROODS.

As James explains his music career to us, we soon understand
that it’s his underlying emotions that create the works of art he sings. Was
the work with kids influential to his album, we wondered?

“I dealt with a lot of kids who were high school age, and
were very hurt and had dealt with a lot of trauma. So I would say, yeah, it
affected my emotions and my mood. Because, when I’m writing, I go for a mood
rather than a theme. It just what feels like to me. Some people sit down and
say “I want this,” and try to write, and I can’t do this, it would feel forced.
I think in real vague terms, general things. I like to let my subconscious
through. I’m not trying to be innovative. I want my music to be as honest and
pure as possible.”

And we saw Jarryd James own the stage at Neptune Theater in
Seattle, singing soulfully with his eyes closed, we saw his was connected and
disconnected in his own way. He was with the audience yes, but also he was
somewhere else, wherever those underlying feelings lay.

“I needed that two year break not doing music,” he says
softly. “It was a reset, for me to come back to be where I am now.”

Be sure to follow Jarryd James’ tour with BROODS, and
check out his new album, High.

Ariana Rivera

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