Saturday, March 9, 2013

THE THERMALS - Live at Hamilton College
March 8, 2013

Portland, Oregon's The Thermals recently signed to Saddle Creek Records and have a new album, Desperate Ground, due out on April 16th. In support of the album, the band is currently on tour. On Friday, March 8, 2013, they made a stop in Clinton, NY at Hamilton College, and reminded us what a punk band really is: one that plays upbeat, energetic, catchy music with very few stops for breathing in between each song.

The concert took place in the small Fillius Events Barn inside the Beinecke Student Activities Village. Opening the show was New Jersey's Screaming Females, a power trio from New Jersey. Blending punk rock, indie rock, and stoner-rock bass lines, the band put on an entertaining, although slightly repetitive, 40-minute opening set. Buoyed by the onstage persona of guitarist and lead vocalist, Marissa Paternoster, they whet the audience's appetite for rock while leaving us wanting something more. And something more was what we got with The Thermals.

The Thermals are an indie punk rock band currently consisting of Hutch Harris on lead guitar and vocals, Kathy Foster on bass and vocals, and Westin Glass on drums. According to the Saddle Creek website, the band was formed in 2002 and has since released six records and toured fifteen countries (while seeing a number of different drummers come and go until Glass joined the band a few years ago). Their set lasted for a little over an hour in what could be considered the "perfect length for a punk band". As soon as they started, the energy level in the room kicked up about 100 notches and what had been a mass of mostly young, awkward hipster college kids standing around, turned into a sweaty mass of mostly young, awkward, hipster college kids dancing and moshing. And let me tell you something about a sweaty mass of mostly young, awkward, hipster college kids who are dancing and moshing: they have body odor and they fart a lot. And they are not opposed to stepping on the toes of older concertgoers that wish to see a concert without worrying about getting punched in the face while simultaneously trying to avoid an attack on their olfactory senses.

But despite the fact that my own concert-going persona does not necessarily line up with that of most other attendees seeing the punk rock bands I love, the concert was an enjoyable blast of rock and roll. The Thermals played several songs off of their upcoming album (I recognized lead single "Born To Kill" as well as what will likely be one of my favorite tracks off the album, "The Howl of the Winds"). Harris fed off the energy of the young crowd; several times, he came into the audience while continuing to play guitar, and he also took an opportunity to crowd surf. The biggest reactions from the crowd were to songs played from the band's wonderful 2006 album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine, including "Returning To The Fold", "A Pillar of Salt", and the set closer, "Here's Your Future". The energy level of the set was unwavering, as well as the musical chops of the band members. The Thermals are truly a professional punk band and a band I'm incredibly happy to say that I've witnessed live. And at the end of the night, I hadn't gotten punched in the face. Success.

Friday, March 8, 2013

JAVELIN - Hi Beams

Javelin - Hi Beams

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, the duo of cousins Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford, otherwise known as Javelin, present their second full-length album. Hi Beams is the follow-up to 2010's No Más; both albums call David Byrne's Luaka Bop record label their home. As a newcomer to Javelin, I cannot compare it to their debut album. However, Hi Beams can be classified as a (mostly) delightful indie electronic-pop romp through a dense forest of sound. Although the album does feel a bit inconsistent at times, the catchiness of songs like "Judgement Nite" (my personal favorite track on the album, and one I fell in love with instantly the first time I heard it) and "City Pals" cannot be denied.

Javelin - Official Website
Buy Hi Beams on Amazon.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

MUMFORD AND SONS - Sigh No More


This debut record from Mumford & Sons was released in 2009, but I didn't stumble upon it until a month ago. I had heard of these guys, described as folk, and I thought they would be some wimpy folk band (read: boring). Then, my good friend Seppi, of the newly formed band Kid Charlemagne and the Magna Carta, sent me a listing of the songs his band would be playing at their first show. Mumford & Sons' "The Cave" was included on the list, as well as a link to the song's lyrics. Curious about this choice of a cover song, I took a look at the lyrics; I liked them a lot. A Youtube play of the song was next, followed by getting the album, and it was then that I fell in love.

This is my favorite record so far this year, regardless of when it was released. I've been listening to it as winter is turning into spring, which also brings many new possibilities to my life, and it has been a perfect soundtrack. It's a big album while keeping its feet on the ground; it's about finding new beginnings, endings, and many of the songs tell us to stay true to our own selves while giving the best we can. Marcus Mumford has one of the most gorgeous, powerful voices I've heard in a while. He can sing a ballad and then he can fill his voice with emotion and kick out the jams. This guy, he can do it all. He sings, he plays guitar, he plays a kick drum simultaneously while singing and playing guitar, and he plays drums. Plus he writes the songs. I can't believe he is only 24 years old because he has a maturity about his music that led me to believe he was much older. The arrangements and the lyrics are all so amazing. I haven't seen them live in person, but I managed to catch the live stream of their set at Coachella over the past weekend. Their songs carry over from the studio incredibly well. In fact, the energy and excitement that was present in their performance and the feedback from the crowd made the band even better than I previously thought they were (if that was possible).

For most of the past month, Sigh No More has been the music that plays in my car as I drive around. Trust me when I tell you that I do my fair share of driving, so this record has been receiving a considerable number of spins. I can't play it enough. I listen to it at work and I listen to it at home. Sometimes I even listen to it at the gym! But back to my previous thought that they were a wimpy folk band: yes, they are a folk band. Have some country, have some folk, have some bluegrass. Have some rock and roll. Have Mumford & Sons. They are a folk band, but they sure as hell ain't a wimpy folk band. They know how to rock out. I think that is one of the reasons why I like these guys so much. They can play beautiful songs that are at home in the sunshine and then switch to playing music with dark overtones that sounds like it's storming outside. They have the capacity to provide intimate, minimal instrumentation with just Marcus Mumford's vocals and guitar and then jump into full-band mode that could fill up an entire ocean with sound. Mumford and Sons are a band that get dynamics, and they use them to their full advantage. I love that a band like this has been tearing up the Billboard Rock charts, because it's good for music. I'm so sick of all those angsty "rock" bands who play terrible music yet manage to hit the charts. Mumford & Sons are a breath of fresh air and I am so happy that they are successful because it gives me hope that good music will eventually prevail.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MIKE POSNER - 31 Minutes To Takeoff


I like how it's called 31 Minutes To Takeoff when the album is actually around 37 minutes long. Perhaps Mike is referencing something else with the title? Who knows.

This is his debut album. His popularity has been buoyed by singles like "Cooler Than Me", "Please Don't Go", and, most recently, "Bow Chicka Wow Wow". Though the radio version of "Bow Chicka Wow Wow" features a guest spot by Lil Wayne, the album version doesn't. Sadness.

Anyway, Mike Posner has never (at least to the best of my knowledge) professed to be a maker of "deep" or "intellectual" music. If he did, then he's a liar. He makes pop music: fluffy, candy-coated pop music. It's sexy pop music though; it grooves, thanks no doubt to his hip-hop influences. This album would be best listened to by people who won't be offended by the dropping of the word "shit" in several of the songs, or the fact that Posner often is either singing about being ignored by girls, picking up girls, having sex with girls, being cheated on by girls, or cheating on girls. We get it, Mike, you like girls. Despite the fact that most of the lyrics are throwaway and even cheesy at times, I like this guy's stuff. Mike's got a unique voice that isn't great but he uses it the best he can. He's got a smooth delivery and exudes charm. I love the horns on "Do You Wanna" which really add some soul to his sound. "Gone in September" is such a sweet little song (it even has finger snaps!), that you almost want to side with this guy who's cheating on his girlfriend. Almost: Mike hits the nail on the head when he sings, "I thought I wasn't like the others...Guess I'm an asshole after all." At least he knows it. We do have "Delta 1406" on here which seems to be about the unintended consequences and worries of becoming famous very quickly.

Overall, I do like this album a lot. I think it will make for good summer jam music: not too deep but it's catchy and polished to a shine.

Friday, March 25, 2011

WIZ KHALIFA - Rolling Papers


I don't know too much about Wiz Khalifa. In the few things I have read about him online, I know that a lot of his "fans" consider him a "sell-out" because he's on a major label now (Atlantic) and this album was a "let-down" based on the strength of his previous mixtapes. Well, I never listened to those mixtapes, and I'm one of the people that first heard Wiz when "Black and Yellow" came on my radio's speakers. So maybe I'm not qualified to talk about this album, but I was hooked on that single the first time I heard it. Every time it came on, the volume went up and I was singing along to the chorus. Eventually, I said to myself, "Self, you should get his album and listen to it."

I'm definitely not any sort of expert on the hip-hop/rap genre, but I will tell you that I enjoy this album the whole way through. Not all of the songs are 100% awesome, but a song like "Roll Up", with its synth backing, is fantastic. Sure, the song material is kinda fluffy (being there and wanting to be with a girl who apparently is with some sort of loser boyfriend but is cheating on him), but who cares. It's nice to see a rapper who isn't afraid to show a heart once in a while. It's probably my favorite track on the disc. And don't worry, we still get plenty of references to "hoes" and "bitches" on other songs so Wiz isn't a total softie! Haters gon' hate on this record for sure, but I'm digging it, so there.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

R.I.P. Speed Bump



Today I lost one of my best animal friends, Speed Bump. He wasn't technically "my" dog but he might as well have been. I know he is in doggy heaven, eating dog bones, raiding kitty litter boxes, playing rope tug-of-war, and impressing all the lady dogs with that ridiculous grin he always had. Speedbump, Bump, Bumble, Bumpzilla, Bumplestiltskin, The Bumpinator, The Abumpinable Monster, and all the other crazy names I made up for you -- I miss you.


Just look at that grin.


Plotting a sneak attack on the litter box, I'm sure.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AUDITORIUM - Be Brave


Be Brave's official release date is January 18, 2011, and all I can say about that is, thank goodness for advance copies.

This album was recorded over a three-year span by Spencer Berger, who did all of the performing, recording, and mixing (later "finishing touches" were added by Pete Lyman). He's now joined by a full band on live performances. Berger is already an accomplished performer, having performed at the Metropolitan Opera from the time he was 9 years old through 12 years old and graduating with a music degree from Vassar College. His talents also go beyond the musical world, as he wrote the screenplay for "Skills Like This", which won the 2007 SXSW Film Festival's Audience Award for Best Narrative Film and garnered many fine critical reviews. But, I digress.

Back to Be Brave, which features 14 songs and clocks in at just over 31 minutes. Upon first hearing the album, it seems warm and friendly. It's that person you meet at a party and you know you've met them before but you can't place where, and they don't seem to recognize you so you don't know if you're mistaken but ultimately it doesn't matter because you are enjoying their company nonetheless. The album's minimalist approach of just guitars, electric bass, and vocals doesn't compromise the full sound of the songs. Berger's voice reminds me of Elliott Smith without the weight of the world bringing him down. Plenty of gorgeous layered vocals on here as well. I guess if I had to label this with a genre I'd say it's singer-songwriter indie folk. Right now, if I had to pick, I'd say my favorite song is "I'm The Enforcer". This is an album for sitting by the fire, drinking hot cocoa, and making out. Fantastic music for fantastic things.

www.myspace.com/auditoriumband
fieldfm.wordpress.com

Sunday, December 5, 2010

JASON ANDERSON - Tonight


This came out in 2007. I won't cover up the fact that I absolutely adore Jason Anderson. Once you see this man perform live, you would probably feel the same. Tonight attempts to capture the magic of his live performances. The best parts on the album are when the crowd sings back to Jason. The album does a pretty good job of showing you the energy and audience participation that Jason has when he plays live, but they still can't hold a candle to actually being there in the circle around Jason and having him sing to you while he plays his acoustic guitar. The songs on this album also feature more instrumentation than just Jason and his guitar. Still, I love this album. Jason has a special way of capturing the moments in life that make your heart happy (or sad, in some songs) and putting them into song. He likes to write a lot about living life to the fullest every day and also just about love in general. Here's some lyrics off of "So Long": "All I want, at least right now, is to be close to you, the smell of your hair is literally amazing, honestly" and "The best thing in the world is to love someone and they love you back." So simple, yet so true; I'm sure everyone's felt this way at some point. The most amazing part, though, is if you were with all of your friends chanting out the "The best thing in the world..." lyrics; you would feel all warm and fuzzy inside. That is the appeal of Jason Anderson.

www.jasonandersonswebsite.com

Saturday, December 4, 2010

THE FUTUREHEADS - "Christmas Was Better In The 80's" (Single)


A holiday-themed song from The Futureheads. The song starts off slow, with a single piano and lyrics that reminisce about the singer's youth and how, as the title suggests, "Christmas was better in the eighties". The song then kicks into the tight post-punk/new-wave you know these guys for, with harmony vocals, chimes, and a propelling drum rhythm. The chimes really give the song a Christmas feel. After the band kicks out the jams, they return to the solitary piano and vocal at the end, which neatly wraps up the song. This is a solid single, props to the band for this one.

www.thefutureheads.com
www.myspace.com/thefutureheads

Friday, December 3, 2010

EDITORS - In This Light And On This Evening


This is the third full-length album from the band that originally formed in Birmingham, England. Half of the band, bassist Russell Leech and guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, now live in New York while singer Tom Smith lives in London (I don't know where drummer Edward Lay resides). In This Light And On This Evening was recorded in London and produced by Flood. This album came out in October 2009, and I've been sitting on it for over a year. Why? I've always liked the singles this band put out but could never get into listening to a whole album. Truth be told, I think this is the first time I've ever listened to an entire Editors album so I can't really say how this album holds up to their first two. The Joy Division comparisons are still present, but the machine-like, synth-heavy backing music really pushes the band's sound in a great direction. Lots of lyrical references to London, God, death, and love. I think Smith's voice is creepy at times (I've always felt the same about Ian Curtis, too). Still, I'm liking this album and I think maybe it's time I gave their previous albums their overdue playthroughs.

www.myspace.com/editorsmusic
www.editorsofficial.com

Thursday, December 2, 2010

RADIO SILENCE NYC - Renegade (Single)


Here's a group of four 16-year old boys who came together from different parts of New York City. According to their website bio, they first started playing together a year ago. Their first single is called "Renegade". The group has partnered with the not-for-profit organization DoSomething.org to use the song, which features lyrics like "Hatred is the enemy!", as an anti-bullying anthem. The song itself is slickly-produced pop rock that owes a big debt to the genre commonly known as pop-punk. Considering they're 16, the song is decent and it seems like they're acting their ages which is good. The guitar solo is the best part, the guitarist reminds me of the lead guitarist from the movie School of Rock.

Watch the "Renegade" video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qon7zy2Qotk

Radio Silence NYC: radiosilencenyc.com
DoSomething.org: www.DoSomething.org.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

ANAMANAGUCHI - Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game (Original Videogame Soundtrack)


I've never sat down to listen to "video game" music before, but I've seen the name Anamanaguchi referenced a few times as being at the top of this genre of music and it's the soundtrack to the Scott Pilgrim movie video game, so I decided to give it a shot. I guess this is what they call "8bit" or "chiptunes" music nowadays. It's uptempo with lots of blips and bleeps. Nintendo sounds. This has a ton of energy and is very well put-together. I can understand why so many people are into this; it's just catchy electronic music with a nerdy side to it. I think I'll go play some Super Mario Bros. now!

www.myspace.com/anamanaguchi
www.anamanaguchi.com

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

KIMBERLEY REW - Bible Of Bop


Kimberley Rew was the guitarist for both The Soft Boys and Katrina and the Waves. Although many don't recognize his name, most are familiar with the big hit song he wrote while with Katrina and the Waves: "Walking On Sunshine". Bible of Bop was released in 1982, a year after the Soft Boys broke up and a year before Katrina and the Waves would release their first album. The album was composed of eight songs; three of these songs were recorded with the Soft Boys serving as the backing band: "Stomping All Over the World," "Nothing's Going to Change," and "Fighting Someone's War". Another three songs put the dB's to work as the backing band: "My Baby Does Her Hairdo Long," "Walking in the Dew," and "Fishing". The remaining two songs, "Nightmare" and "Hey, War Pig!" were recorded with the Waves. Through this set of songs, we see just how good a songwriter Rew was. He was well at home with the post-punk/new-wave crowd; at times, his songs are reminiscent of the work of Television or The Cure. I've listened to this album a bunch of times and I think I like it more each time. Great stuff.

www.kimberleyrew.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

REIGNING SOUND - Time Bomb High School


I recently found out about this band because their frontman, Greg Cartwright, is involved in another project, The Parting Gifts, which also features Patrick Keeler of The Greenhornes/The Raconteurs. Actually, I'm certain I'd heard their band name before but I didn't check them out at the time. As it turns out, Cartwright appears to be somewhat of an underground legend in the garage rock/punk/blues scene, having been the leader of The Compulsive Gamblers and The Oblivians prior to the Reigning Sound. Formed in Memphis, Tennessee in 2001, Cartwright and the band are now based out of Asheville, North Carolina. Time Bomb High School is their sophomore album and it came out in 2002. I wish I'd listened to this album sooner than the 8-year timespan it took me to. This is an awesome album. It combines rock, garage, punk, blues, and it has a very 50s/60s feel to it. Really cool stuff! I'll be looking into their other stuff as well now that I know about these guys.

www.myspace.com/reigningsoundfans
www.intheredrecords.com/pages/ReigningSound.html

Sunday, November 28, 2010

LUCERO - Tennessee


These guys are from Memphis, and the suitably-titled Tennessee was their sophomore album. It came out in 2002. I've been meaning to listen to Lucero for a few years now, ever since I heard their name being tossed around with bands you might like if you like The Hold Steady. While I can see why the comparison was made, Lucero has much more of a country influence. Their singer has a raspy voice that makes you think he might have smoked one too many cigarettes. The album has a warm feeling to it; it's straight-up roots rock. While I think the album could use a bit more variety throughout, I'll definitely be checking into Lucero's other stuff based on the sound of Tennessee.

www.myspace.com/lucero
www.luceromusic.com

Saturday, November 27, 2010

CALVIN HARRIS - Ready For The Weekend


Ready For The Weekend is Calvin Harris' second album. It came out in August of 2009. He continues to make music of the same style as his debut album, I Created Disco: electro pop/dance/rock. While I like songs like "The Rain" and "Flashback" quite a bit, there are a lot of other ones that I'm just not feeling. I find the album to be rather inconsistent as a whole product. I also found the rapping on the album to be out of place. I definitely like his debut album better. Sorry, Calvin.

www.myspace.com/calvinharristv
www.calvinharris.co.uk

Friday, November 26, 2010

CATTLE DRUMS - The Boy Kisser Sessions EP


These guys are from Oneonta, NY. This is their latest EP; it came out in March 2010. Five songs, just over 14 minutes. Yep, this is a punk band. A lot of the guitar lines remind me of math rock guitar lines. The singer either talks or screams a lot of his lyrics but he's a really good frontman. They sound like they'd be fun live.

www.myspace.com/cattledrums
cattledrums.tumblr.com

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


Here is a turkey I colored for you. Regular updates will resume tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DAFT PUNK - Tron: Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)


Finally, new music from Daft Punk! It's been a while. 2007 saw the release of their live album, Alive 2007, but their last studio album, Human After All, came out way back in 2005, so this new soundtrack is sure to be snapped up and listened to quickly by their many fans. The thing is, though, that this is very much a soundtrack to Tron: Legacy. It is more orchestral than electronic. The closest thing on here to Daft Punk's electronic house music is the song "Derezzed" (which, interestingly enough, seems to be the song that is being used to promote the fact that Daft Punk was involved with the movie). They worked with a 90-member orchestra for this, so it makes sense that the sound would be different. That certainly does not make this a bad soundtrack. It's pretty cool as far as soundtracks go. But for those thinking it is the follow-up to Human After All, you may be disappointed.

www.myspace.com/daftpunk
www.daftpunk.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

3OH3 - Streets Of Gold


One of my favorite albums of 2010. I listen to this when I'm at the gym because it really gets me pumped up. I listen to it when I'm just hanging out at home. I listen to it when I'm thinking about partying that night. I listen to it after a night of partying. I listen to it when I'm doing homework. To be honest, it's scary how many times I've played this album. They've definitely gotten better since 2008's Want. Most of the songs are still about girls, sex, and partying, but we also get some "heavier" material (well, heavy by 3OH!3 standards) like the breakup song "R.I.P.". Obviously this album isn't a "huge artistic achievement" but you better believe that it's fun and it's stocked with catchy songs. And isn't that the point of pop music?

www.myspace.com/3oh3
www.3oh3music.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

GIRLS - Broken Dreams Club EP


My first impression of this is that it just sounds depressing. It really could be music for you to listen to as you think about your broken dreams. We get lyrics like "Who wants something real, you could have nothing. Why not just give up, who wants to try?" on the song "Substance" and this offering from the song "Heartbreaker": "There's a voice in the back of my head that says you're always going to be alone". I just can't really get into music with such obviously sad and lonely lyrics. If I'm down in the dumps, I want music that is going to make me happy, not remind me of how crappy I feel. And if I'm already happy, I certainly don't want to be brought down. So this stuff isn't my cup of tea, but maybe it could be yours if you like downer indie-hipster music. Or whatever. I do like the horns on the opening track. I just wish people wouldn't call Girls a "rock and roll band", I mean, seriously, if this is a rock and roll band then I have no idea what the world is coming to.

www.myspace.com/girlssanfran
www.truepanther.com/#/artists/girls

Sunday, November 21, 2010

EXPATRIATE - In The Midst Of This


This album was first released in 2007 but is just now seeing its full US release. Expatriate are from Sydney, Australia, but they now live in Berlin. Remember a few years ago when there was a big explosion of bands influenced by Joy Division and the darker sounds of post-punk? Surely you remember Interpol, Editors, and their less-famous counterparts. Well, Expatriate's album falls into the same genre as those bands. So if you like that kind of music, this will suit you quite nicely. If you don't like that kind of music, I can't help you here. "Crazy" is a pretty catchy song. The album cover reminds me of Wire's Pink Flag.

www.myspace.com/expatriateband
www.expatriateband.com

Saturday, November 20, 2010

WILDLIFE - Strike Hard, Young Diamond


They're from Toronto and this is their debut album. I like it. They sound like a band I already know and love. Put this on and tell your friends it is the new Wolf Parade, they won't bat an eyelash.

www.myspace.com/wildlifemusic1

Friday, November 19, 2010

THE LONELY FOREST - The Lonely Forest EP


The Lonely Forest is a quartet from Anacortes, Washington. They've been making music for several years; their first EP was released in 2006. Their self-titled EP, however, marks their first release for Death Cab For Cutie member Chris Walla's Trans record label. Apparently, The Lonely Forest were the first band to be signed to Trans. I'm not surprised because their music is really good and it bears a likeness to DCFC's sound: driving indie rock. The two bands could tour together and they would work perfectly with each other. The Lonely Forest's vocalist, John Van Deusen, sounds like Michael Stipe at times (except you can understand what Van Deusen is saying). The music has great dynamics with soaring, full-on choruses and laid-back verses. Recommended.

www.myspace.com/thelonelyforest
www.thelonelyforest.com