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.
Everything will be released January 29th, and it will absolutely
be worth a listen if you prefer your emo with some bite to it.
If a new American Pie
movie were to be made today, Canada’s up-and-coming Seaway would write the soundtrack. Colour Blind is the band’s sophomore album and their first full-length
release for Pure Noise Records, and
it’s definitely one of the year’s best pop-punk releases.
Pop-punk exploded in the mid-to-late 2000’s and, like most
of us, you probably got sick of it. But in the past few years the genre has
seen what could almost be called a re-birth. You’ve got everything from bands
like The Story So Far and Knuckle Puck combining the grit of hardcore
with pop-punk to groups like The Front
Bottoms who put a folk-esque twist on the genre. While the music’s great,
it seems like so much of it lacks the fun
that used to be such a staple of the genre.
That’s where Seaway’s got you covered.
What makes Seaway unique is that they harken back to the pop-punk of the early
2000’s. Remember the days when you’d hear blink-182
and Sum 41 at the mall? From the
start of Colour Blind you’ll
instantly feel like you’re back in that mall jamming to “Fat Lip” over the PA. These
songs aren’t out to make you sad. They’re for blasting on your way to a party
where you hope you don’t hurt yourself doing a keg stand. A few of the standout
tracks are “Best Mistake”, “Still Weird”, and “Turn Me Away”.
The lead single for the album, “Freak”, is the best of the bunch. It kicks off with a beautiful guitar riff and leads into an intro that will make you want to
stop whatever you’re doing and find the nearest available mosh pit.
For some, the nostalgia-factor may come across a little shtick-y,
but I enjoy it. The video for “Best Mistake” bombards you with everything it meant to be
a Canadian kid growing up in the late 90’s. Some of the video’s references
might be lost on Americans, but those of us south of the border will still eat
up the Drake/Degrassi cameo and the old videogame references.
The lyrics, while undoubtedly catchy, aren’t exactly
groundbreaking. The subject matter for most of the songs is your standard
pop-punk fare (girls, not fitting into the crowd, etc.). Sometimes a strong vocal delivery
can make up for less-than-innovative lyrics though, and I think this is where Seaway
really shines on this record. When Ryan Locke, the vocalist with the deeper register,
belts out the chorus to “Airhead” or the outro of “Stubborn Love”, you can
really feel the raw emotion behind the words.
In a style similar to Taking Back Sunday or Four Year Strong (Alan Day of Four Year
Strong was actually one of the producers of the album), the band features two
vocalists who often trade lines back and forth throughout the songs. “Turn Me
Away” is the best example of what can happen when the dual vocals are used
right, and when it works it sounds great.
While this record doesn’t exactly push any boundaries musically or lyrically, it’s just so damn fun. Look for Seaway to make a big splash in the pop-punk scene with this solid release.
It’s always admirable when a hip-hop producer can step in front of the mic and demonstrate serious lyrical and vocal talent. Artists like El-P, Flying Lotus, and Madlib got their starts crafting some fantastic beats before trying their hand at rapping, and each has found success on both fronts.
The latest artist to give it a try is D.C.-based artist Oddisee, who has built up quite a bit of hype in his hometown for his various talents. The Good Fight, his second official LP, is Oddisee’s most expansive and fleshed out release yet, displaying a newfound confidence from the MC. He manages to pay tribute to his city’s diverse musical past while also acknowledging current sounds and styles in hip-hop nationwide.
The most immediately noticeable aspect of this project is – of course – Oddisee’s production. The Good Fight is loaded with jazzy instrumentals that are just off-kilter enough to feel cohesive, but not dull. I could imagine someone like Chance the Rapper or Mick Jenkins sounding pretty great over these beats. Horns and acoustic drums are consistent features on this album, and they both help give Oddisee a discernible and recognizable sound.
I was pleasantly surprised by Oddisee’s abilities as an MC. His confessional and personal lyrics go well with his distinct voice and inflections. This isn’t the most creative or original sounding hip-hop album of 2015, but Oddisee deserves praise for the many strengths of The Good Fight. For example, he dismantles hip-hop’s standard 4/4 time signature by rapping in 5/4 on the track “Counter-Clockwise,” and it’s equally disorienting and impressive.
Where Oddisee could use improvement is the album’s hooks, which tend to feel out-of-place or otherwise pale in comparison to the usually dense and lyrical verses. The vocalists he tends to employ are good singers, but the melodies and lyrics on the choruses aren’t nearly as compelling as the production and verses.
Also, not every track on The Good Fight is a winner. The hook on “Meant It When I Said It” is too close to rap punchline G-Eazy’s “I Mean It” for comfort. I also don’t particularly like the outro that follows the last track, on which an unnamed interviewee sings the praises of Oddisee, comparing him to Blu, while also saying hip-hop has lost its replay value. Self-promotion and braggadocio are important parts of hip-hop culture, but it feels weird and superfluous in the context of this album.
Check out the whole album via the Bandcamp stream below:
All in all, Oddisee impressed me with this album. The production is consistently fantastic, and I love that the beats come off like updates to go-go, an essential D.C. genre. He’s also an ostensibly talented rapper, delivering some of the best bars of his career.
The Good Fight isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it does seem like a significant stepping stone in Oddisee’s career and path to independent hip-hop success. It’s a self-sufficient record that avoids most of the stereotypes involved with most indie hip-hop. It isn’t a “backpacker” record by any means, and I feel like straight-up hip-hop fans will find plenty to enjoy about this album without knowing much about Oddisee or where he comes from. The Good Fight is an admirable effort that doesn’t overstay its welcome or foster any moments of cringe. Oddisee does his thing, he does it well, and then he’s done.
A laid back alternative singer-songwriter who’s been kicking it with the music industry since 2004, she’s come into her own as an artist, and knows her sound. And I’m not surprised, with her skills as a trained pianist and self taught guitarist and trumpet player. An 11-track album, Holly Miranda’s 2015 self titled album is one for the books. A strong start to the record, “Mark My Words,” is a track that begins with hints of a Explosions of Sky-esque guitar instrumental leading into some dreamy vocals and calming bells in background. The way Miranda rifts off into “You were just what I needed” in the first minute of the song is a beautiful demonstration of the very clean tone to her voice. The song is quiet and calming, and is a great hint to listeners of the overall vibe of the album.
And for the most part, her sound throughout the entire album is pretty consistent in terms of vocal and instrumental arrangements. She’s simple. She likes to coo and draw out her soft lilting voice with the help of a piano, and hey it works in a song like her last track of “Hymnal.” Fully demonstrating her vocal range on this track, you see this girl can almost take it to the opera level and you’re impressed.
Leading into the next track, “All I Want Is To Be Your Girl,” I get a more upbeat folk pop vibe, almost reminiscent of The Mowgli’s, but I think what I dig most are the chilled out tracks that have an Ingrid Michaelson feel, especially with the drawn out lovelorn vocals in songs like “Everlasting,” and “The Only One.”
“It’s not until we’re faced with death that we truly understand,” sings Miranda in Heavy Heart, overlain by a beautifully simple piano melody, a track which brought tears to my eyes. These tracks are too real for words, and it isn’t because of some phenomenal innate musical composition (although that is present). Miranda discusses themes of love, heartbreak, and that sense of not being to get someone off your mind, and these concepts if not relatable, are at least ones that evoke emotion.
Best track of the album by far “Desert Call.” Starting it off clean with Miranda’s vocals and some clean, clear cut guitar, “Desert Call” also takes you back to childhood in the summer. The saxophone near the latter half of the track makes you swoon with the sheer amount of jazzy sophistication coupled with Miranda’s suave vocals.
Think Ingrid Michaelson. Think stripped down Florence & the Machine. Think girl next door singing to you about love.
But in actuality, stop thinking and just listen because the album just dropped TODAY on iTunes and is most-definitely dope.
The West Coast duo consisting of former wedding singer, Kelsey Bulkin, and local Seattle-based producer of Blue Scholars, Sabzi, released the single “Slow Burn” on Tuesday. It’s the second single off their upcoming album (out May 26th) Without My Enemy What Would I Do. And I’m a little disappointed.
I want to start off by saying Made in Heights is an amazing group. Attempting to label their sound as a whole proves difficult, seeing as they have yet to accept any one genre themselves. Continuously welcoming suggestions from fans, the current official description includes: mythical filth, pop fiction, beauty slap, goon lit, artisanal (c/t)rap, and west coast gothic. To put it as simply as I can, they are known for pairing soulful vocals with crisp electronic beats and atmospheric soundscapes. At times even incorporating elements of rap into their bright and ethereal sound, Made in Heights weaves an intricate and special sound under the ever-growing umbrella of synth-pop. The only way to truly experience the sound is to hear it for your self, something I highly recommend.
Slow Burn turns its back on this complexity of genres and heads straight for the dance floor. Let me get one thing straight – this track is completely infectious and a solid dancy-synth-poppy song. The track begins with a catchy synthesized staccato baseline with Kelsey’s simmering vocals drifting atop. By the end, snapping and groovy instrumentals layer in, creating an intoxicating, sparkly-smooth pop track. I would be lying if I said I didn’t bob my head to “you give me that burn, burn, burn, burn, burn”. It’s received good reviews from several sources and is now one of their most-listened to songs on Spotify, it just isn’t what I was hoping for.
Listen for yourself in the stream below:
It might be a personal taste issue that turned me off the new single, seeing as the airy female vocals and snappy dance beat of Slow Burn kicked in some post-traumatic stress from my days working in retail. Once you imagine a song bursting from the cheap speakers of a former employer at the mall, it’s hard to listen to it without feeling a little bit guilty.
It also could be the high expectations I hold for the duo, set by their stunning previous work. Ever since first hearing "All the Places” and “Wildflowers” off of their 2012 self-titled album, I’ve been craving more. Even their opening act for TOKiMONSTA I attended in LA last October reflected their original aesthetic I adore, the pair performing synchronized 60’s backup singer dance moves throughout the set. I just hold them up to a higher creative standard than what this newest track has produced. With sporadic releases and no single website to find their collective work (scattered throughout Soundcloud, Spotify, Bandcamp and their website), I was overjoyed to hear about the new album coming out in late May.
Now I’m just hoping that this single follows the rule of singles, and is the lone shamelessly-dancey track of the album; the rest hopefully following more in suit with the innovative sounds I’ve come to expect from Made in Heights.
I first heard of Allen Stone back in 2013. He was a last moment replacement for headliners Capital Cities at our Dawg Daze concert, Fall Fling. I wasn’t too thrilled about this development. I’d been looking forward to jumping around and screaming “safe and sound!” over and over again.
Nonetheless, I went to the concert. It was free, I had nothing to lose. I’m super glad that I went. Allen Stone did not disappoint at all. He danced around the stage frenetically, channeling his inner funk to put on a hell of a show. He had me non-stop swaying to his swanky tunes. Stone banished all my regrets regarding Safe and Sound.
Stone has come a long way since the fall of 2013. He’s now signed to a major label, Capitol Records, and is about to release his third album, Radius, on May 26th.
“Upside” is the latest single off of Radius. The song’s funky guitar riffs and sudden keyboard notes pair well with Stone’s pain-filled voice. The Stevie Wonder influence is plain to hear:
The song laments a love lost, “Your love has no alibi/Still I fuel my appetite,” but also kind of celebrates it, “And I forget the pain it caused/It’s better to have loved and lost.”
Musically, “Upside” is deceptively upbeat. I can’t help but bob my head every time I listen to it. And I’ve listened to it plenty. The hook is cleverly catchy and easy to sing along to, “It keeps turning me upside down/It keeps pulling me underground.” I see this song becoming immensely popular at his live shows.
I really dig Stone’s brand of soul music and can’t wait to hear whatever else he has in store.
You can check out “Upside” here or pre-order Radiushere.
Last quarter, I posted an article on COHO and their efforts to fundraise for their first EP. Needless to say, the IndieGoGo campaign was a success as this weekend, the band released Graves.
Slowly and carefully, the EP begins. Its vocal “oohs” coming in waves over an ever-vibrant guitar. As the introduction to “Orion” comes to a close, the drums commence and a male falsetto rings out over a building set of instruments. This first song sets the mood for the album, introducing COHO’s subtle harmonies and interconnected instrumentation. The song’s lyrics are complicated, yet easy to follow – their meaning pervading the happy Oh’s and Hey’s you can’t help but sing along to!
“Burning Oak” begins with a mix of lyrics and synths so catchy that the passing listener could mistake it for yet another indie-pop song. Yet, upon the entry of guitar riffs eminent of Death Cab for Cutie and a rhythm that carries more than just a dance-beat, the EP’s second song breaks out of the genre’s inherit pitfalls. Instead of relying on an insistent chorus to carry the track, COHO waits until the eventual bridge to make a clear lyrical impact:
All my bones are older in the December
They repeat ad naseum, a series of instrumental and vocal layers adding to the intensity of the climax. A full instrumental breakdown fills the majority of the song’s ending moments, until a final repeat of the chorus cooly ends the first half of the release.
The second half of the EP is calmer than the first – its final tracks, “Disintegrate” and “Graves,” following a slower tempo than that of the first two. Filled with lyrical excellence, “Disintegrate” is a vocal-heavy song. Each instrument and vocal harmony follows the lead of a single female vocalist – the synthesizer carrying the spaces in-between. Simply and succinctly (4:05 is the track length, the shortest on the release), COHO paints a hopeful future for the human cycle of change. “Disintegrate,” the track ends, “if you have lost your love don’t lose your faith / disintegrate and wash away / the memories.”
Chitter-chatter fills the air and a solo bass-line fills the soundscape. The EP’s title track starts out strong – the first minute flying by as each new instrument adds to the last. The two main vocalists work together perfectly, their powerful voices strongly contrasting the easy-going percussion. Repeating their soothingly complex layers of lyrics like those that filled the end of “Burning Oak,” COHO finds synchronicity within their seemingly endless mix of sounds.
The band plays together beautifully and the Graves EP displays this prowess. If you were lucky enough to catch the EP Release show at BARBOZA last weekend, I envy you. Now, more than ever, I am excited to see how this new mix of diverse talent and sound plays out in the future!
Jaapur’s latest release starts out as a series of digital noise. Its momentum and tones feel like a throwback to the over-dubbed days of 8-bit remixes. A series of high and low pass filters add dynamics to the track, which make “Double Much.aac” an excellent introduction to the eclectic (yet satisfying) Organic.
The second track, “Conclusion.txt” starts out quietly as it, like the other songs on the album, plays off of the various computer file-naming conventions. Bass-heavy and trance-like, the contrast between synths and snares provides a basis on which to build a vibrant system of sounds. The melody alternates between instruments, each subsequent variation adding to the last. Towards the middle of the track, the rhythm becomes increasingly danceable, each instrument battling for its turn in the spotlight.
Following the quick-to-end instrumental that came before it, “Effigy.jpg” traces the line between highs and lows. Each synthetic instrument stays within its chosen scale – the unique sounds finding their individual places in the track. Various voices interrupt the flow, interjecting with plays on the name of the song. Although the bass line leaves something to be desired, the catchy chorus makes this track one of my favorites on the album.
The album continues in various forms, the tracks in themselves progressive as they build along with the broken pieces of the same theme. An occasional rap-track, featuring iamlogan and (most likely) Jaapur himself, can be found on the album – the flow, slow to match the tempo.
From disco beats to trance suites, Organic takes us back to a time before heavy-hitting bass lines ruled the boiler room. Be sure to take a good listen to the standouts (embedded below), “Akebono.flac” and “But Do You Know” which features Sarah Rain, Jaapur’s IRL sister, on vocals.
Purity Ring’s sophomore album Another Eternity has been out for a bit now (link to the
full album review later in the article), and I am happy to say that one of my favorite songs on the LP now has a music video (of sorts). The video is a looping
animation of a female with golden feathers instead of skin set to the syrupy track, “bodyache.”
sugary melody of the chorus acts as the perfect high to the low of the
I, I lied, now I’m lying awake
I, I cried ‘til my body ache”
Producer Corin Roddick initiates the track with an irresistibly sweet marimba-like riff
that hovers dreamily over the entirety of the track, teetering right on the
edges of the song alongside the vocals of singer Megan James. You can feel the gravity Roddick adds to the track with his dark synths and rubber-filled bass, leaving James
to orbit with her candied incantations.
track is definitely a highlight of the album, and you can check out a full
review of the album done brilliantly by Rainy Dawg’s Garret Mhere.
Earlier today, Toro Y Moi surprised us all with a track we never expected! “Buffalo” (available on SoundCloud below) premiered on The Fader this morning along with a few insights into TYM’s creative process:
When I started writing this song I was experiencing a bit of writer’s block and this song was what pulled me out. As soon as I wrote it, I knew it would set the tone for the entire album.
And so it did. Comparing this track with TYM’s last release from this album, we can hear similar vibes of snares and solidarity. Both “Buffalo” and “Empty Nesters” rely on a driving rhythm beneath insightful lyrics. ‘Cause you love it all / ‘Cause you’ll find a way / To keep on… Check out the video from the January release below:
Stay tuned (on Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for more coverage of Toro Y Moi’s latest endeavor! I am excited to see what other singles are planned for release before the album (tracklist below) drops in April!
What For? (Expected Release Date: April 7, 2015) 01 What You Want 02 Buffalo 03 The Flight 04 Empty Nesters 05 Ratcliff 06 Lilly 07 Spell It Out 08 Half Dome 09 Run Baby Run 10 Yeah Right