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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BANNERS Shines a Light on the Grace of Vulnerability

For fans of: Coldplay, Novo Amor, Bastille, Seafret, Dry the River

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Stream the EP from
Spotify here

 “I want to believe all is
well that ends well, but I just can’t convince myself” 

–Mike Nelson in “Ghosts”

We all already know
that the more fraught an artist’s work is, the more I will love it. That’s why I was
initially enamored of BANNERS’ eponymous debut EP, but not entirely fulfilled
by it.  

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Mike Nelson: the man behind BANNERS

From the cathedral to
the stadium, Mike Nelson has
established himself as a worthy artistic contributor to both contemplative and inspirational
settings. With a background in choral singing and a falsetto akin to Peter
Liddle’s from Dry the River, Nelson
crafts a striking musical identity and an auspicious album under his new title, BANNERS. His single “Shine a Light” was
featured in the FIFA 16
Soundtrack,
from which it garnered substantial attention and praise. In
an interview
with Consequence of Sound, Nelson said “[Shine a Light] is about
feeling lost at sea and desperately searching for a beacon of
light. It’s about waiting for that one big wave to finally pull you under while
clinging on to that one last ray of hope. It’s a song to the person in your
life that offers salvation while the storm is raging around you.”

This compelling sentiment is tangible in BANNERS’ raw live
performances, but seems to be missing in the groomed EP version, which threatens to
drain the life out of the song’s stirring search for optimism. Because of this, “Shine a Light” isn’t the strongest statement made in BANNERS.

The often spellbinding opener, “Start a Riot,” has Nelson swearing to fight for his lover in any dire circumstances that come their way. The unique instrumentation carries the song, sometimes to its detriment, because the chorus can’t rise above the verses prior to it. The melody in the chorus should be the punchline, but it feels more like an afterthought to the oaths sworn in the buildup.

“Gold Dust” has an arrestingly minimalist intro and
distinctive melody, both of which make it one of the most memorable songs on the EP. Nelson
seamlessly shifts in and out of his falsetto, demonstrating both vocal prowess
and a captivating gentleness as he softly encourages his darling that even “when it’s all gone to rust”, they can turn it into gold dust. Ah, the romance. 

The subtle integrations of organ and violin in “Ghosts” were a wonderful nuance, complicating the otherwise underwhelming ballad.

“Back When We Had Nothing” proves that “all is well that ends well” is an empty platitude. The finale is disjointedly resigned and joyful, remembering and seeming to celebrate an uncomplicated time when having nothing meant having everything. This doesn’t blend thematically with the other
tracks, and isn’t confident enough in its delivery to convince listeners that
this really is a happy ending.

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 BANNERS live at Rockwood Music Hall in December. 

BANNERS is an impressive and powerful debut, but Nelson is too careful
with his creation. With this EP, he
demonstrates mastery of British alternative pop — but also indicates that he is capable of much
more than that. Each song resolves in subdued settling; it is too neat
and tidy to match the preceding lyrical and melodic pain.
I wanted to hear chaos and reconciliation in this EP – to feel the extremes
that are so beautifully conveyed when Nelson sings live. But such momentous territory
was only traversed at surface level. The clean, flat conclusions to allusions
of severe sadness left me somewhat perplexed. If Nelson lent his commanding
voice and broken lyrics to a more daring sound, he could transcend the brand of
restrained English woefulness that he comfortably embodies now. If the progressions following the rhythmically suspenseful
expositions of each song fulfilled their climactic promise, BANNERS would be a singularly profound voyage.

Album
rating: 7/10

Standout tracks: “Start a Riot,” “Gold Dust”

Follow BANNERS on Soundcloud, Spotify, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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DJ M-Schizzle

Basement – Album Preview

England’s Basement
are releasing their first new album in four years and the alternative rock
scene is buzzing with excitement. The band went on hiatus in 2012 after the release
and supporting tour of their last full-length, Colourmeinkindness. Since then, they’ve released just one EP, 2014’s
Further Sky.

The five-piece from Ipswich,
England blends pop-punk, emo, grunge, and hardcore. Their sound can switch from
angry and head-pounding to ambient and wistful at the snap of a finger. My
personal favorite song of theirs encapsulates this perfectly. The tune starts
out with vocalist Andrew Fisher
crooning about someone who is regrettably no longer in his life before quickly
turning into a hardcore jam.

Three singles have been released in
anticipation of the new album, Promise
Everything
. The first single and title track of the album picks up nicely right
where Colourmeinkindess left off. The
bass break halfway though the song just slays. 

The next single, “Oversized”, is
a slightly slower, softer, and more melancholy tune. It doesn’t jump out at me
like some other songs in their discography, but it’s solid.

The third and final single, “Aquasun”,
is easily my favorite of the bunch. The chorus is a little more poppy than
anything they’ve done in the past, but at the same time it just feels like a
classic Basement song. The bridge and outro are so chill. I love it. “Aquasun” also features the band’s first music video, directed by their very own guitarist, Alex Henery.

Promise
Everything
will be released January 29th, and it will absolutely
be worth a listen if you prefer your emo with some bite to it.

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RJ Morgan



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Artist to Watch: Hinds

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You probably didn’t know that you needed noisy, lo-fi garage rock made by an all-girl band from Spain, but here’s the thing: you do. Not to fret, though, there’s a way to satisfy this need: listen to Hinds

Originally named Deers, Hinds was founded in Madrid as a duo by Carlotta Cosials and Ana García Perrote. The Singles “Bamboo” and “Trippy Gum” put the girls on the map before Ade Martín and Amber Grimbergen were added to the ensemble. The resulting group is cute, fun, and fresh, but not in an all-girl-bubblegum-pop-group kind of way. It’s more of a running-around-the-streets-of-Madrid-while-drinking-a-40oz-and-smoking-a-cigarette-while-chilling-with-your-besties kind of way. It might have been easier for me to just show you a video instead of typing out all those hyphens, though:

Hinds delivers a style of rock which seems to be male-dominated in recent years (don’t worry, Sleater-Kinney, I’m not forgetting you). In my opinon, it’s refreshing to listen to loud, angsty songs about boys for a change. Their newly-released debut album, Leave Me Alone, is already capturing the interest of music bloggers everywhere. The band’s also embarked on a European tour, and they’ll be here in Seattle on March 27th at the Sunset Tavern. 

The band’s songs are catchy and just straight up fun. They’re perfect for singing along in a convertible with the top down while driving down the sunny California coast, or, more realistically, humming to yourself while you try not to slip on Red Square on the way to class on a rainy day. (But I’ll admit it: sometimes it’s hard to understand exactly what they’re saying. Not that it really matters.)

So, if you like good rock, girl-power, or need something to scream at the top of your lungs and stomp around to, look no further. These girls are the real deal. And, going back to how cute they are, they even have a cute arcade game on their website, complete with sangria and chilis. Yes, really. I’ll leave you now with a quote from one of their YouTube video descriptions that really resonated with me: “VIVA EL ROCK !! WOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHOOOO ROCK IS THE MISSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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Notable tracks: “Bamboo”, “San Diego”, “Garden”

For fans of: Best Coast, King TuffThe Velvet Underground, Alvvays, Courtney Barnett

website // facebook // soundcloud //

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Ann Evans



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Album Review: If I Should Go Before You — A Lament in the Colour of Blues

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If City and Colour’s Dallas Green aims to explore every hue of
the sonic spectrum, he has gotten one color closer with his latest release. 

Green’s body of work is versatile to say the least: he is a guitar
player and vocalist in the recently reunited post-hardcore band Alexisonfire,
and he is also the man behind tender acoustic love songs like “Northern Wind” under his alternative artistic identity City & Colour.
In keeping with Green’s exploratory nature, this record steps distinctly onto
new turf, though not with resounding sure-footedness.

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Image courtesy of neontommy.com

The record opens with “Woman”, a sparse, pulsating
blues ballad with chilling instrumentation and forlorn lyrics that mourn a
collapsed relationship. The song builds until Green’s vocals are soaring over
walls of sound rolling forth in waves, conveying a palpable torment. Such
melancholic inspiration is not novel for Dallas Green, but this stylistic
movement is an unmistakable evolution. 

The next few songs prove to be less memorable. “Mizzy C”
confronts struggles of creativity and artistic maturation over a musical career.
Ironically the track is not as distinct as others on the album, but its message
still rings out through a rhythmic chorus. Green hits his stride with “Wasted
Love”, which best weaves together the new elements experimented with on the album.
The chorus is catchy and the movement of the guitar and percussion creates a
complex and engaging soundscape. The upbeat escapist fantasies in “Runaway”
and “Map of the World” are relapses rather than revivals of old work. The steel
guitar is played with more than once on these tracks and is not misplaced, but neither is it
used to craft something extraordinarily fresh.

“Blood” is without contest the standout track from the album,
reminiscent of previous triumphs like “What Makes a Man?” From its first stirring
phrase the melody promises to haunt listeners long after the song finishes. The
unique implementation of trumpet and howling vocals as well as some of
Green’s best lyrics on the album capture the passions of the record in a truly remarkable
finale. 

Green seems to shine most in subdued minimalist soundscapes,
where his sophisticated lyrics have the necessary space to resonate and his
arresting melodies can hold the undivided attention of the listener.  With
If I Should Go Before You, Green
departs from this territory somewhat; he tackles themes of worthiness, wanderlust,
frustration, dissatisfaction and heartbreak while simultaneously experimenting
with new genres. He doesn’t quite juggle both endeavors successfully – the album
is a sometimes lackluster culmination of blues, R&B and country with only a
few climactic moments. But perhaps those few climaxes are redemptive. 

Some of
the songs (”Northern Blues”, “Runaway”, “Map of the World”) do not singularly offer a
profound impact, but the record in its entirety tells a powerful narrative that
is communicated with visceral honesty and emotion. All criticisms aside, this soul-bearing
journey absolutely warrants quiet appreciation and contemplation as we experience
its aching meaning in our own lives.

Favorite tracks: Woman, Wasted Love, Blood

Album Rating: 7/10

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DJ M-Schizzle



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Jarryd James – “Do You Remember”

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Almost a month ago, Jarryd James (broody-looking guy in above photo) released his debut single, “Do You Remember”, confirming his status as an artist to keep an eye out for in the near future. 

The track is a lovely mixture of genres–a little bit indie, a little bit electronic, a dash of folk. James, who is from Brisbane and is currently opening for Angus & Julia Stone on their Australian tour, reminds me a lot of James Blake and James Vincent McMorrow. Vocally and lyrically, he is definitely on par with both. 

That falsetto. 

The gentle riff that begins this song is catchy and calming, and James’ breathy, soulful voice on top of the deep, rhythmic percussion that kicks in is enough to make anyone feel at peace. I dare you not to sing along when the chorus rolls around for the second time.

It seems unfair to be left hanging after such a great debut, but I strongly suggest following Jarryd James on Soundcloud and/or Twitter to stay posted on what’s to come–if this single is any indication, it’s going to be unreal. 

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