Cage the Elephant’s junior album, Melophobia (2013), pushed the already popular band further into the spotlight. This effort saw the band exploring their new, more unique sound; horns, strong bass and drumming, and addictive guitar riffs were part of this new approach. These guys’ next album, Tell Me I’m Pretty, drops December 18th this year, and we already have our first taste of what it’ll be like.
“Mess Around” is the second track off of Tell Me I’m Pretty. Fitting for the title of the album, frontman Matt Shultz sings about a woman who uses her charm to toy with men. An overly-dramatic, eerie whistle in the background compliments the warning to stay away from her–she’s bad news and you should be scared.
The beat and fuzzy guitars make this single sound more like a surf rock groove than layered, rainy weather record, Melophobia. Bass is more often relegated to the background, it’s upbeat, and the hook is easy to sing along to. It still sounds like Cage the Elephant, but “Mess Around” doesn’t take itself very seriously and is a lot less dreary than usual.
Are sunnier days ahead for Cage the Elephant? It’s unclear. According to an interview, “Mess Around” barely made it onto Tell Me I’m Pretty. That means it probably isn’t representative of the album as a whole.
And I hope it isn’t. This single is catchy, but it’s not much of a step forward. The previous record saw a clear attempt from Cage the Elephant to redefine their sound, and resulted in an exciting new take on alternative rock. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong and put out a great album that’s not gloomy; either way, I’m hoping the rest of Tell Me I’m Pretty is a fresh interpretation of their style established on Melophobia. In the meantime, I’d suggest we turn up the volume and sing along!
It’s 10 minutes before the interview and my phone rings to my dismay. The basement of Winkenwerder was not where I wanted to talk shop with one of my favorite musicians. But there I stood, with a piece of TP in one hand and a buzzing cell phone in the other.
“Shit,” I mutter – fully intending my pun as I answer the Texas caller ID.
“Hi, I’m calling for your interview with André. I know it’s not for another ten minutes but he’s ready now and we’d love to get started.”
“Of course!” I grin as it starts to feel real. Standing with my pants half-pulled up, I remember my situation. “Erm… Can I call you back in 5 minutes? I just need to get everything set up.”
“Yeah sure. I’ll call you then.” Click.
I fasten my belt, swing my pack over my shoulder and head out into the hallway – frantic to find a spot to sit in relative silence. Behind a giant stump that looks like it was cut from a forest a millennia ago, I slump over and attempt to set up my audio recording equipment before my phone rings again.
“Ready?” He asks.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I respond with slight hesitation as my recording fails to start. A familiar voice is heard on the line and some light indie rock can be heard in the background.
It’s about time Portland grew up
From his home studio in Portland, Oregon, André Anjos talks about the last six years of his life living in the eccentric city. “I feel like a local,” he states first off, “and I love it here.” He goes on to explain that the city has been changing “like crazy” just like the Bay Area and Seattle. Referencing a recent trend in real-estate listings, he laughs about seeing “No California”-stickers, “as if that would dissuade people from moving here.”
Photo courtesy of Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
“People are complaining,” he goes on to mention. “They’re saying that a lot of things that made Portland unique is getting lost.” Although he really has appreciated the “amazing food” and “interesting things” in the city, André wants Portland to grow up a bit. Hesitating, he puts off the rest of his answer – stating that he might have a better opinion in a couple of years.
Portland, prisons and college
“Everything post-college has been here in Portland,” André goes on to say. “Well, sort of. I spend more time at the airport than at home.” We laugh.
“A couple of friends moved here.” His buddy, Karl Kling, had a girlfriend out here in college and they had a place to move. Rent was “cheap” – at the time it was $500 a month. Coming from a life at Greenville College in Illinois, this was quite the change.
“Three thousand people in the town were prison inmates and they counted that as part of the population,” he laughs. “It was a very small town and a dry town!” He had never heard of something like that before, especially since coming from Portugal, where the drinking age is fourteen.
When asked about his major, André couldn’t help but make a few jokes. “I got a music business degree, which is hilarious.” Greenville college was in the middle of nowhere and the Portugal native decided to learn about music from a bunch of old Illinoisans. “Maybe some basic knowledge came in handy,” he continues, trying to give some credit to his education. “But the music industry changes every year and you’re learning information that’s five years old in college.”
So, in school, he learned how the music industry used to work. “I guess you could say I earned a music business history major,” we laugh again.
The idea of RAC, what happened to the collective
“From the beginning, we wanted to be a group of people that all do remixes under one name,” he explained. “We could gather some talent and do it as a group as opposed to an individual person doing on your own.”
“How did that work out?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“You know when you’re in a group project and you’re the one person doing it all?” He asked rhetorically. “Well, I was doing it all. A lot of people had jobs and real obligations – I was just in school.” So André took over the project and started doing everything under the same name, Remix Artist Collective.
“The name stuck and I kind of ignored it. When I started touring, I brought Karl who started DJing with me.” The definition of the name, he went on to explain had started changing during those tours until it stopped meaning anything. As he moved into producing original music, it ceased to make any sense but, “at one point,” he explains, “I decided that I spent six years of my life building this brand… I’m just gonna stick with it.”
“It’s called RAC,” he concludes. “It doesn’t mean anything – it doesn’t matter.”
Now that things have developed and he’s become a writer of original music, the name has unintentionally become a point of confusion. He’s now writing with other people, covering tracks with his wife and has even produced original music for the HBO series, Entourage.
Independence, album woes and staying relevant
"I feel like I put out a track every week,” André says. “A lot are remixes but… it’s just easier to focus on a song at a time and just put [that one] out.” Since recording his album in 2011 and having to wait three years for the record label to approve the content for legal and distribution reasons, RAC has taken a step back from the traditional record deal.
“After the album came out, I didn’t really feel like it was relevant to do that in 2015,” he says of the album’s long release schedule. As of June 2015, a month after getting out of his contract, André has been dropping music at least once a month with a staggered release schedule. From single tracks to lyric videos, these regular releases are his way of “keeping [his] head above the noise.”
“There’s a lot of amazing work, and a lot of mediocre work out there… [the internet] is so incredibly saturated [with it]. Fortunately, a thing I got used to with remixes is getting to do things very quickly.” Despite the constant work, André is satisfied with this new methodology as, “with a waiting period that was once three years is now two months at the most.”
When discussing the success of his album, he reminisced but responded contritely, “the music doesn’t represent who I am anymore. You have three years of built-up expectations and when they don’t go in [the way you want], it’s so frustrating.”
Making music, with new singles and successes
Last month’s single, “3AM feat. Katie Herzig” (embedded below) has been quite the success – garnering almost half a million plays in the weeks since its release. When I asked him how he felt about this, André answered estatically, “I feel like we’re gaining momentum and people are catching on to what we’re doing. We compare numbers a lot since we’re doing things independently. Keeping my eye on it [lets me] make sure things are going well. I think it’s been a very fun game to get into that that, [especially] in these last couple of tracks.”
With all the data analysis that he and his team had been doing, I followed up by asking why he still makes music. Despite a somewhat-programmatic release schedule and metrics to understand their success, RAC manages to keep the soul in the music.
“So who do you make music for then?” I asked, “Your numbers? Your fans? Yourself?”
“Myself,” André answered, “Absolutely.” Stating that he continues to make music “purely for [his] own entertainment,” the man just wants to be happy with what he does. As it turns out a big part of him being happy is making others happy!
“I’m not just stroking my beard, happily listening to my own music,” he says. “For one, I don’t have a beard and I see it as kind of a game and it’s my job and it’s something to have fun with.” His goal is to “keep going” as he’s noticed the music is “creating an outlet for this weird desire [to] ‘have to make music’ and want[ing] to keep that going.”
“Part of growth is being heard and having people listen to your music,” he says. For André it seems that this is the core of the game. “Artists that say it doesn’t affect them are lying,” he continues. “If a lot of people are stoked about your song, it really affects you.”
In regards to his fans, he said “it feels good when sometimes people will leave really kind messages like, ‘hey this helped me out during this time of my life’.” He hears me smile through the phone and continues, “I don’t sit down and write songs to help people in that way, but it’s a really nice validation.”
Building a synth and making some music
In addition to his solo work as RAC, André still finds time to record music with his wife, Liz. “There was this goal on the surface to release [them] as a free track to celebrate when we hit milestones on social media,” he says of the covers (check them out on soundcloud). “There’s obviously a selfish side of it and it’s a fun project.” Aside from the benefits of recording for fun, he also has been grateful for the opportunity to be creative in a way he hadn’t tried before. “Working with Liz is also really fun,” he sums up, “even though we live together, we rarely collaborate.”
In his home studio in Portland, the electronic musician mostly uses physical instruments, “whether that’s a synth, drum machine, guitar, bass… I have a lot of toys and I just work [here],” he says. “It’s a really nice balance with the touring and, when I’m not touring, it’s good to be home.”
When it comes to his own production, André just “feels more comfortable” playing an instrument rather than programming music on the computer. “You can create exclusive items that you just can’t make on a computer since most people don’t have [the same] instrument,” he explains. “You create a unique sound that’s impossible to replicate.”
“The problem is that I can’t work when I’m travelling,” he continues. “I can’t fix a mix or something when I’m on the road, which can be frustrating.” Despite his long time spent on the road, the remix artist still finds time to come home and write original music on his modular synthesizer. “I’m a building a modular synth,” he says excitedly. “It started with one box and now I have five. It’s so much fun and it’s so nerdy!”
Yet the synthesizer has been more than a toy in André’s creative process. With it’s inspirational aesthetic and pleasantly unique sound, the modular synth has become a “magical machine”:
You turn the lights on and it’s blinking. It gets really heady sometimes when I have to think about every wire. But it creates a situation where a lot of unexpected things can happen. Most of the time they’re very positive things, like happy accidents – you can stumble upon a sound. It’s a magical machine. There’s so much potential that sometimes it’s too much… but it’s great because of that.
After geeking out about gear, it’s easy to become existential in describing the sound of an instrument. So André concludes, “I’m very into the studio and that whole process. I’d say I probably enjoy recording music just as much as I do writing it.”
Inspiration and dedication, some advice for new artists
The PR rep’s voice came over the line, “Hey guys. We’re running kind of behind so this could be the last question or so.” Looking at my notes, I grew excited as I read, “Which relatively new musicians have you been listening to or enjoying lately?”
Immediately, André answered, “A decent amount of people know Pomo. He’s a guy from Montreal and it’s just a breath of fresh air compared to the EDM, droning military march stuff. I really like it. His remixes are really top notch and I always check them out and add them to our set.”
I followed up by asking what advice he could give new electronic artists. He answered:
I think it’s important to learn how a lot of these sounds are created, specifically for electronic artists. If you learn the basics and understand synthesis, it’s going to go a long way. You can’t do the production tricks if you don’t know it. Learn the basics of recording and avoid presets. They are an easy way to get a specific sound that sounds good but then there’s everybody else and they’re using the same thing. If you can distance yourself from that and try creating sounds from scratch, [you’ll find] you’ll especially know what you’re doing.
Another line could be heard coming into the phone call and André began to quickly finish up. “Musicians need to beat themselves,“ he said. "You don’t want to be somebody else since they already exist. You can be inspired by other people, but try to do something that, personally, you’d be.”
almost excruciating wait, ASTR has finally released their new single, “Activate
Me”. Originally intended to be released late February, the duo left fans in the
dark for months as the two worked, unbeknownst to the fans, on a music video.
Below is the product of their labors, a cold, dark video that suits perfectly the
abysmal aura of the band.
is co-produced by Rodney Jerkins (A.K.A. “Darkchild”), an American record producer
who’s worked with the greats (Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston,
just to name a few, he’s also worked with popular artists of the day, like Rihanna,
Justin Beiber, and Lady GaGa.) Both band members Adam Palin and Zoe Silverman have expressed
in previous interviews a great admiration for the production giant, so I can
only imagine the enthusiasm that went into making this track.
As an ASTR
fan from the beginning, I could quickly hear the foreign influence in the
track. ASTR have always steered clear of the simplistic pop beat that is
present in the chorus of “Activate Me”, always opting for the more rhythmic beats
of hip-hop and R&B, as can be heard on the verses. Though Jerkins is an incredible
producer in his own right, I couldn’t help but feel that his presence on this
track was more of a burden than a blessing. The transition and flow of the song feels interrupted by the switch from the rhythmic beat of the verse to the
mechanic beat of the chorus.
said, “Activate Me” is a strong track, perfectly foreshadowing the imminent release of their much-anticipated album. I highly recommend checking out ASTR’s EP, “Varsity”; it’s a perfect collection of moody electronic R&B tracks that sound both sinister and uplifting at the same time.
Stay tuned for more ASTR, these guys are hitting the music scene with
An indie pop band consisting of vocalist Phil Cerna, guitarist Peter McMurray, pianist Jared Fritz, drummer Josh Wiedenmeyer, and bassist Joe Coburn, The New Tribe is a group that, although new, knows technique.
With one single recently just released on iTunes and Spotify, the group’s new track “Human,” written by Phil Cerna, snatches you off your feet with hints in their sound of indie pop group Of Monsters and Men.
Within the first minute of the track, the overwhelming instruments of hard electric guitar and drums give you this impression of a hard rock vibe. Yet, instead of cringing all the way through, your face softens as the track mellows out into Cerna’s soft, tranquil voice overlaying an acoustic melody, and you suddenly realize the hard rock hook works into grabbing you to be pleasantly surprised by the raw vocals of vocalist Phil Cerna.
As Cerna, McMurray, and Fritz harmonize to sing “Nobody’s got what it takes/We’re all just fakes/Doing the best we can/Maybe we’ll make a few less mistakes/But that’s what makes us human,” there’s a heavier emphasis on the instrumentals, and you almost get a vibe similar to Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars.” Yet, unlike with other artists in which instrumentals can sometimes overpower vocals, and also like seasoned professionals Snow Patrol, The New Tribe keeps a perfect balance.
There are other elements to the track that keep you from becoming bored with the typical singer-songwriter vibe: the sick guitar solo in the middle, the great way Cerna demonstrates his vocal range in the bridge singing “Nobody’s got what it takes,” and the trippy jazzy stylings on keys combined with the great harmony of vocals in the last minute of the song.
And additional to great musical technique, the lyricism of Cerna once again appeals to a wide audience on a relatable level, proving that maybe these guys know how to write music.
It’s a solid first debut as original artists, and although you get more of an alternative rock serious feel than the bippy-boppy vibe of indie pop, there’s no doubt these guys can take it far, no matter the direction they take their sound. Phil Cerna’s beautiful clear voice does the band a true favor at vocally leading this single that the musicians plan to place on their upcoming EP in the near future.
The New Tribe could just have been lucky with this first single, and only their future EP will really tell whether these guys have a shot or not. But I’m not going to be skeptical yet, with knowledge that Phil Cerna and Peter McMurry take turns at the role of lead vocalist. With all this talent in one bunch, they’re bound to do something rad.
Take a listen, have a treat, because like I always like to say, you want to get their autograph now so you can sell it for millions later.
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.
October 8, 2014 was a dark day for Crystal Castles fans. Stories with titles such as “Crystal Castles call it quits” saturated our newsfeeds as we sat in a corner wailing along with Not In Love and Vanished while eating copious amounts of ice cream.
No? Just Me? Okay.
Anyway, the pure despair beset upon me by the reports of Crystal Castles’ demise served only to enhance the state of pure bliss I was in the morning of April 16 when I awoke to a passive aggressive message from Ethan Kath accompanied by a Soundcloud link.
The message yielded a response from Alice Glass the next day and Kath later redacted most of the passive aggression, but that drama isn’t what’s important. There’s new Crystal Castles!
The track is called Frail and it’s signature Crystal Castles. It’s heavily distorted and is one of those tracks that melds into the background perfectly when doing anything to a beat, with just enough vocals to give you something to key into without drawing too much away from the instrumentals.
Speaking of the vocals, those on Frail are provided by someone referred to only as “Edith”. Though, they’re virtually indistinguishable from Alice Glass’ due in large part to abundant distortion.
Overall, it’s a solid track, but it doesn’t stand out too much when compared to the rest of their discography. You can listen to it on Crystal Castles’ Soundcloud, linked above.
With Ethan Kath releasing new music under the Crystal Castles moniker and Alice Glass set to release new music in the coming months, it’s an exciting time for Crystal Castles fans. Only time will tell if their split was better for listeners or not.
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.
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.
On February 10 Alabama Shakes released the first single on their new album called Sound & Color, out on April 21. As a follow up to their 2012 album Boys and Girls, I’m expecting really good things from the Shakes’ new material. I already love what I’ve heard in “Don’t Wanna Fight,” but I’m excited to see what else they’re going to bring to the table.
Here’s the “Don’t Wanna Fight” animation video, check it out–
This funky, soulful song revolves around lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard’s mesmerizing voice. The power of the lyrics in “Don’t Wanna Fight” is upheld by the depth in Howard’s voice and the surrounding instrumentals.
The Alabama Shakes have been working on Sound & Color for the past year. Since teaming up with Blake Mills, a California-based songwriter/producer, the band has produced and recorded 12 tracks for this new album that will be released this spring. Sound & Color will be full of genre-bending songs, showing how the band digs into music history, touching on psychedelia and punk, gospel and classic rock, while maintaining the originality that attracted so many listeners when the group emerged from Athens, Alabama in 2011.
The group is planning an international tour upon the album’s release and will be playing at music festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo, as well. The band will also appear on an upcoming episode of Live from the Artist Den, premiering on public television stations this week.
You can preorder this album on iTunes, Amazon or the band’s website. Prepare yourselves for the release of Sound & Color this spring and keep your eyes peeled for the Alabama Shakes’ upcoming tour dates, too.
Jazzy and slow, Jesse Romo, starts off his latest track, “The Beauty of One” with a casual collection of guitar and drums. As the vocals begin, a wave of relaxation washes through all the instruments at once. Although the music isn’t technically difficult, it does challenge the listener to take in the message that Jesse strives to convey. “It is about feeling lost and alone, having a spiritual experience, and coming to find connectedness with the Universe,” the artist shares in the description of the song’s music video:
A compilation of various Yosemite and Joshua Tree time lapses accompany the song as it drifts through various states of calamity. Check out the music video on Facebook or in the stream above.
This track is decidedly different than the music that can be found in Romo’s previous releases. While mixtapes like Listen, Love (Epilogue) and Afterthoughtsrely heavily on sample-based production around jazz and hip-hop, other projects like happykidッ vibes out like old school Nintendo. This single ushers the first time that Jesse’s voice has appeared on a track – needless to say, I am glad to hear it.
To explain the inspiration behind the song, Romo states:
“I started writing this song last summer, during a difficult couple of months in my life. Facing trials and tribulations again recently, but now with a greater sense of hope, I felt it was time to complete the song.”
There’s plenty of more beauty to be found in this artist’s work on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Feel free to stream and download anything as he has gladly offered it all up for free!
Welsh songstress Marina and the Diamonds has just graced us with a brand new gem to sink our teeth into. The disco-y “Froot”—stylized as “FROOT”—is the new title track from her upcoming album of the same name. Always the generous spirit, Marina, born Marina Diamandis, released the song 10 days ago, on her birthday, October 10th. “Froot” sees Marina comparing herself to a ripe fruit, ready to be picked by the man she’s been waiting for. The song’s organic and lush lyrical imagery is in sharp contrast to the shimmery, digitized synths washing in and out of the five and half minute-long track. With tongue-in-cheek rhymes, elastic vocal runs, and catchy hooks, Marina has struck a happy medium between her indie-pop debut LP from 2010, The Family Jewels, and 2012 electropop concept album, Electra Heart. Whether or not “Froot” has enough juice to propel itself into stateside radio, as her single “Primadonna” could only graze, is yet to be seen. Regardless, the song is gaining traction and hype in the blogosphere, and has certainly earned itself a cozy place on my regular rotation.