Suddenly I have a new favourite band. I love playful music; anything that sounds like fun to make, which is why artists like Animal Collective and Kishi Bashi were instant hits for me. Way Yes are a 5 piece band from Columbus, Ohio, and boy do they know how to produce great sounding music. The first song I heard from them was called Cinnamon, I instantly sent it to my friend and was like, ‘Oh my god it’s Kermit the Frog singing’. The song couldn’t help stretch a smile across my face, but at the same time I was thinking, ‘this sounds bloody good’.
I proceeded to checking out all their other releases. Cinnamon came from their first EP Herringbone, they released a full length album in 2012 called Walkability, and now they have just released their latest album, Tog Pebbles. Like good cheese; their sound has matured from Herringbone (2010), to what is now a cool combo of upbeat and chilled tracks that employ a mix of jungly beats and synthy-pop sounds.
The vocals have taken a step back in the mix too, adding greater importance to the instrumental parts in the songs. Two tracks from Tog Pebbles really stick out for me,Holy Drop and Colerain, because besides the feel-good crescendos, the lyrics carry an unexpected, meaningful weight . They also have the best album art designed by John Malta. We don’t rate music on Universal Wax, so i’m just going to give this artist my most prestigious seal of approval. Now go check them out!
Basic//Complex is a surprise, not to discredit Polytype whatsoever, but this is a deep and rewarding album that manages to pluck ideas from various genres and meld a wonderful, warm yet precise sound that works so well you might not have seen it coming and may be left in your playlist for weeks to come. Continue reading →
So after a whole month of not posting anything, it seemed like the right time to to compile one of my mixtapes. I’ve tried to keep it quite current, however I couldn’t help from posting some stuff from the last couple of years that may have gone unnoticed – or at least I completely missed until now. So without further ado, let’s kick off with Francois and the Atlas Mountains.Continue reading →
I’ve been whistling a song to myself all day, it’s been driving me mad… GIRLS! track 6 from Beastie Boys‘ critically acclaimed and award winning debut album Licensed to Ill. If you like rap/hip hop, metal, punk, rock, or pop (or just songs with funny lyrics) there is something in this album for you, so if you’ve never heard it or it’s been a while, go and check it out.
One of the most striking features of the XX is their visual identity. It’s simple, effective and because they’ve so firmly stuck to it, it has become a firm compliment to their music as well as a bold statement about their ideas. That vision is now spread across two albums as the XX return with Coexist the follow up to their vastly successful and celebrated debut XX. It’s been an ongoing discussion in the office since the excitement surrounding the release of their mercury winning album subsided, just how they would follow it up – would they forge a new path and deviate from the already unique sound they revealed to the public back in 2009 or would they stick to their craft and further hone the sound they created. Personally because there’s no one else out there quite like the trio, I’ve been hoping for the latter. Yes there are similar artists in terms of the ideals and basic execution but no one does the dual vocals or carefully considered minimalistic sound like Romy, Oli and Jamie.
So maybe the important question is if you didn’t like the XX three years ago will Coexist be enough to lure you back in for another listen? Perhaps. It leaves the young, almost naive innocence of the debut for a more developed and focused sound that shows the extensive world touring the band has partaken in over the last three years. it also sounds a little more introspective, mature and the band have opened themselves to the use of their peers styles incorporating almost club suitable beats at moments. It’s remix friendly yet again and thoroughly cinematic – expect to see many of these tracks cropping up on adverts and campaigns post release. However, in turn there doesn’t seem to be any tracks that jump out on a first listen. This is a shame when thinking back to the debut with tracks like crystalized and VCR instantly standing out from the get go with catchy melodies and clever use of dual vocals. I have listened to the album extensively now and I’m not sure I could pick out a specific melody or moment. So it’s a different beast this time, and maybe a little harder to get into, but despite this it’s still a deeply rewarding album with absolutely stunning production. It’s warm basslines throb, subtle percussion layers in unobtrusively; the unmistakeable XX guitar tone is there and compliments the entwined vocals wonderfully. There’s a haunting fragility throughout which crackles with electric energy and there’s space for every instrument to breathe and stand out. It’s also stylish with new instruments being introduced to the sound, among them strings make an appearance and even a steel drum which is used to perfection on the suitably atmospheric Reunion. It’s exciting to listen to and demands a certain level of attention to get the most out of. What it lacks in catchy melodies it simply overflows with atmosphere and creativity throughout. It is genuinely exciting to listen to on a set of decent headphones in an undistracted moment.
There will be reviews that extensively praise the band for sticking to their sound and continuing that identity they have forged over onto a follow up record, there will also be reviews that slam them for staying safe and making the XX part two, not adventuring out to find a new sound. Either way, it’s unquestionable that the XX have serious talent and a sound that is very much their own. Coexist is an incredible album in so many respects and though it only refines the sound the band created four years prior and even if it’s not your cup of tea, it definitely deserves your attention for at least one listen. The band have stuck staunchly to a vision and that’s commendable in its own right. It’s refreshing to hear something so thoughtful, genuine and exciting, and to know it’s being consumed and celebrated on a mass scale is truly wonderful.
Coexist is available for streaming here and is released on September 10th via Young Turks
My latest bandcamp find (damn I love that site) is Chicago based Trevor Menear whose blues filled slices of soul have relentlessly been rocking my soundsystem all evening.
Some Kind of Sunshine was self-released back in 2010 via bandcamp and follows his 2008 debut Introducing Trevor Menear (Shangri-La Music). Infectiously catchy melodies playfully rub shoulders with raw blues guitar and soul filled vocals to a modern rock backdrop. I’d really like to refrain from comparing Menear to other artists but it’s fairly easy to think the raw blues of The Black Keys circa 2008 meets the soul of Ray LaMontagne with a whole lot more variation and ideas thrown in the mix. It’s surprisingly well produced as well, not to discredit Trevor Menear, however it cleverly blends that fuzzy, rough blues tone that bands such a Radio Moscow and Dan Auerbach chase so intently, with quiet acoustics and superb percussion; never sounding over produced and retaining a very organic sound. Album opener River Blues opens perfectly with style and some flowing licks, it’s exciting stuff and builds into a burning guitar solo that sounds thoroughly effortless.
After reading comparisons with Hendrix, and Duane Allman, Menears skills behind a guitar may have a lot to live up to but what really impresses is his restraint on this album. Solos never outstay their welcome, they are written to enhance the song and not purely to show off, something that can and should be greatly admired in songwriters who know their way around their instrument. It’s intelligent writing and only enforces the surprise that this young, talented musician who is not only a brilliant guitarist but proves he’s also an excellent song writer has not been snapped up by a major label already, especially after the recent explosion of The Black Keys into the mainstream of popular music.
Whatever way you look at Some Kind of Sunshine, it is undeniable that it’s a brilliant pop record as well as a superb indie blues record and as a free download (yes it’s free, although we encourage everyone to name a price if they like it and support these artists) it not only deserves to be given a chance but has the potential to spend a long time in my playlist.
Some Kind of Sunshine can be obtained from bandcamp as a name your price download.
Whilst the Fleet Foxes ponder what to do next after last years frankly outstanding Helplessness Blues, Christian Wargo (Fleet Foxes, Crystal Skulls) Casey Wescott (Fleet Foxes, Cystal Skulls) and brothers Ian and Peter Murray (The Christmas Cards) have been busy signing to Sub Pop Records and preparing the freshly released EP Illusion under the monicker Poor Moon.
While it’s clear there are elements of the Fleet Foxes woven through the EP, equally it would be naive to think they’re simply a carbon copy of the band. Any Place is the perfect slow burning dirge which brings to mind not only the Fleet Foxes more mellow numbers but also Midlake. There are shades of The Flaming Lips – most audible on the superb upbeat People In Her Mind and it’s easy to draw Simon & Garfunkel comparisons on the hushed finale Widow. It’s a wonderful blend that really brings this EP to life. Production on the EP is handled with care and varies from spacious light reverb soaked acoustic guitar, to a more electric and full bodied sound that wouldn’t sound out of place back in the 70’s. There’s a lot of variation between tracks but all five sit together gracefully, it builds before dropping down again and as a complete piece it satisfies immensely.
While I’m not familiar with The Christmas Cards music this is without a doubt an EP that fans of the Fleet Foxes can pick up in confidence. For others who might be curious it’s definitely worth a look as a solid debut EP which can slide easily into the Indie Folk genre tag. I look forward to hearing a full length from Poor Moon if this is anything to go by.
Sub Pop have the entire EP up for stream and if you can spare fifteen minutes of your day it gets my recommendation wholeheartedly.
So I suppose my Bandcamp Find of the Week series should technically be renamed Bandcamp Find of the Season. We’ll gloss over the lack of follow ups since that January article, here’s the latest one. I present to you Pickwick.
There’s scant information across the internet on these guys so this is what I do know; there’s six of them, they’re from Seattle, they have a penchant for vintage gear and they love vinyl (men after my own heart there). But what I can tell you from listening to their debut record Myths, interestingly split into three EP’s and released over a period of months, is that they are a great blend of Soul, R&B and Indie rock with shades of blues and the songwriting skills to boot. It’s raw stuff, don’t expect lavish production here. That’s not to say it’s badly produced however, far from it, there’s perfect clarity and it does nothing but accentuate the bands sound, giving each member’s instrument room to breathe and stand out – there are some infectiously catchy melodies here. Most importantly however, it sounds like the band are having fun and this bleeds into their sound freely at all opportunities. Across the record (or three EP’s depending on how you buy it) Pickwick display great skill in creating meaningful songs full of soul. It’s also worth mentioning the interesting presentation and method of releasing three EPs as a full length. The band clearly have a vision and it’s great to see them experimenting with the way they release their music. Each EP comes with it’s own artwork, all stylistically created to compliment each other, it’s a nice idea well executed.
Have a listen over on the Pickwick bandcamp. Note if you want to grab Myths as a complete piece rather than the three EPs via bandcamp, you can purchase it digitally for $8 (USD) or physically for $10 (USD) on their kungfustore here. Highlights include the superb Hacienda Motel (live version below, well worth the watch!) and The Round.
It’s been five years since the well praised Wincing the Night Away and The Shins are back featuring a new line-up with Port of Morrow, arguably their strongest record yet.
Mercers dabblings with Danger Mouse on the superb 2010 Broken Bells record is evident with a slightly more electronic sound bubbling away in the background throughout, it’s never at the forefront but it’s noticeably subtle – a nice evolution of the sound Mercer has crafted for The Shins. It’s also unmercifully catchy; something The Shins have always managed and over time has become apparently easier for Mercer judging by how many of the tracks have been jammed in my mind the last two weeks. Vocal melodies bounce effortlessly along with the music (check out The Rifle’s Spiral (below) & Simple Song for prime examples) and this is really one of my favourite elements of the album. James Mercer really is a genius when it comes to the flow of his lyrics. It’s pretty straight up Indie Pop but goddamn it sounds effortless and so very, very confident.
Five years is a long time and if the sound of Port of Morrow is anything to go by it’s not just Mercers vocal melodies that have been honed, the production is sublime and a leap forward from previous efforts. It’s smooth, warm and well balanced, nothing is lost in the mix and it sounds bright and summery. It doesn’t sound like it’s taking elements from any one decade of the past 40 years but blending carefully the best of all of them. Pacing is well managed with a comfortable blend of slower mellow tracks and more upbeat singles helping the albums rhythm and never really outstaying its welcome. If there was ever any doubt after the line-up changes and five year gap between albums, it is very clear that James Mercer is back. He is The Shins and he’s back, familiar yet better in nearly every way.
If you’re a fan of The Shins you should be checking this album out, I have no doubt about that. If you don’t fall into that camp and you’re on the fence, then you could do a lot worse than checking out this brilliantly catchy Indie Pop record. Finally, it also benefits from excellent artwork courtesy of Jacob Escobedo who also worked on the Broken Bells artwork.
Track listing is as follows (complete with highlighted highlights).
“The Gertrudes sound like a ol’ time saloon party in deep space … experimental noise beds with down home folk passengers, frolicking through original material, played by a veritable orchestra of instruments.”
I feel like that quote pretty much nailed it on the head. Here’s a band you tell have a lot of fun while making their music. The Gertrudes is a mishmash of folk, rock, and pop. There are nine members, and they play a wide spread of instruments, including the theremin! You can imagine the songwriting process to be them all in a room together and suddenly someone goes, “I know let’s try this!”.
They’ve very recently released a new album, Till the Morning Shows Her Face to Me. One of my favourite tracks on the album, Dreams is one of their softer, slower paced songs. I love the vocals and banjo in it, I have a soft spot for girls who sing country music, so this sits nicely for me.
Check out their two albums here. Their first is as enjoyable as the second, I highly recommend you give them both a listen. Here’s a track from the 2010 album, Dawn Time Riot.