Category Archives: Album Review
The air surrounding Generationals music can only be described as a utopia of bliss. With seemingly little effort, this duo from New Orleans combines contrasting areas of the indie soundscape into a mastery of uninhibited swoon. I’m not altogether clear on what that means but listen to the album and tell me I’m not right.
Heza is a pysch-pop trailblazer driven by airy guitar riffs crossed ever so pleasantly with genre bending synths. This album essentially achieves the opposite of heavy; resulting in an experience that literally leaves your mind tingling. You Got Me and Put a Light On pack a one-two punch that spreads energy throughout the entire album. Seriously. Watch this video and there’s no way you’re not dancing like the whitest person you know in seconds. Welcome to the shortlist for album of the year, Heza. Tell your friends.
Luckily, for my local readers, Generationals are playing shows in Richmond and DC this month. Catch them at Strange Matter (RVA) and Rock N Roll Hotel (DC) 4/16 & 4/17, respectfully. Heza is out now in the US via PolyVinyl. Get your copy here!
On the precipice of an era in music where the casual listener’s attention span can barely last a commercials length, there are albums being put out that hope to buck this unsettling trend. Albums that you don’t want to switch off. Albums that inspire and linger in the corners of your conscience. Alt-J is a breath of fresh air with majorly addictive qualities.
Described as “folk-step”, this group from Leeds pushes out a genre defying combination of emotionally charged music. I keep returning to An Awesome Wave, always leaving mystified and awestruck. Song to song, this debut album never shows its hand early; yet still manages to flow seamlessly forward. Hell, you’ll even have trouble predicting the next verse in many of these tracks.
Short instrumental respites effectively segment the album and provide logical transitions that connect effortlessly. Not to mention, they’re quite beautiful by themselves.
If you’re waiting for a weak/out of place track on this LP, you won’t find one. The first single, Breezeblocks, is well positioned as an energetic primer for the rest of album. Just an all-around great song that hints at the physical insanity to be delivered later by Fitzpleasure. A brief acoustic guitar interlude segues perfectly into the beautifully melodic Something Good. One of the softer tracks offered by An Awesome Wave, yet easily one of the strongest tracks.
Dissolve Me is one of those songs that you never expected to be your favorite. But after returning over and over again, the vocal harmonies and developed passion expressed through Joe Newman’s delivery are too much to ignore. I’m hooked. See ya later. Can’t wait to follow alt-J’s development and catch many, many live shows (hopefully).
alt-J (∆) – An Awesome Wave
Check out the wild video for Breezeblocks after the jump.
Well, what is it? Only February? And I think I have already found a serious contender for album of the year. It happened by chance that I came across Porcelain Raft and this album. Thanks to Porcelain Raft’s label, Secretly Canadian, I now have an instant classic to delight my ear drums for the ever existing future. Funny, how that works, when you’re not expecting to be blown away, 35 minutes later you standing around wondering where your left shoe is.
After finding my shoe, I took another dive into Strange Weekend, then another, then fourteen more. Honestly, this album has everything. Porcelain Raft combines new age electro-pop synths with that perfect pinch of dreamy, shoegazing guitar riffs. Head man Mauro Remiddi, provides impeccably layered vocals throughout this debut album. Upbeat pings and pangs are looped/twisted/intertwined with a consistent deeper and more brooding mood that provides a depth rarely heard in the age of the electronics. Listening to this album, it’s almost impossible to keep the head from bobbing.
Unless You Speak From Your Heart
Put Me To Sleep
If you’re not listening to Youth Lagoon, you need to be. Right now. I know, I have generally positive words for most everything I post to this site. This band is part of the exception. Youth Lagoon has captured the essence of music and stapled it to my heart. It’s impossible to believe that the talent behind this band, Trevor Powers, is a 22-year-old indie rock start-up.
Powers applies expert precision while combining synths and loops with lighthearted, melodic keys and instrumentation. Everything comes together as a dreamy, rhythmic fusion that is absolutely addicting.
The songs crafted into The Year of Hibernation draw heavily from Powers’ childhood experiences. Every song touches on struggles from his not too distant past. There is a loneliness to the lyrics. 17 is rooted with poignant advice Powers received from his mother; “Don’t stop imagining. The day that you do is the day that you die”. Posters sums up the motif for this album perfectly. He talks deeply about dreams never realized and the emptiness felt as they fell beyond grasp (“My whole life is filled with posters / My whole life if filled with posters”). On July, we hear two sides to the story. Five years apart with two very different feelings.
Though, stealthily, and quite beautifully, The Year of Hibernation breaks out of the monstrous nightmares and talks of love lost. Clearly there is a shining light that drives Powers. Which, I think, adds incredible depth to Youth Lagoon. This isn’t your normal dreamy pop, chill-wave attitude. Powers has cultivated his voice to speak on his experiences as a whole. The result is one of the best albums of the year.
Youth Lagoon – Posters / Cannons / 17
One apt phrase to describe this band’s sound: pure Pacific Northwest bliss. Loch Lomond have been making solid headway on the indie folk scene since their 2003 debut. Now, with Little Me Will Start A Storm this group out of Portland has put it all together.
Strange and creative; inventive and unique; foreign and familiar. Lomond builds passionately on the rising and falling emotional tide fluctuations throughout each song. In Elephants & Little Girls, Ritchie Young tells a tale of dreams remembered only to be forgotten just as quick. This play leaves you with a brief sense of longing for some far off truth. Almost without notice, that feeling is replaced and the dream is relived.
This back and forth is paramount throughout the album. An overarching lively joyousness is manufactured out of a deep, brooding undertone that never fully surfaces. The use of differentiated stings and keys in I Love Me provides a refreshing yet sorrowful contrast to the upbeat tones of Elephants and Blood Bank.
Little Me Will Start A Storm clearly offers Lomond’s most complex and instinctive project to date. The six part folk instrumentations and vocal harmonies create a multi-faceted, thoughtful sound that resonates throughout. The band’s ability to seamlessly change the featured instruments song to song adds to the mysterious ebb and flow. The end result is a complex mixture of talent that highlights Lomond’s maturation process. Do yourself a favor and give this album a listen, it repays immediately and generously.
Elephants & Little Girls
If you do one thing tonight/this week/this year, it should be to listen to Milo Greene. Their songs are draped with ever changing, layered harmonies that will leave you lost in the moment of sound. Milo Greene’s debut EP, The Hello Sessions, is made up of four diverse songs that impact a still and deep feeling that lingers long after the songs are over. I am left wondering what I was doing for the past four minutes after each song.
1957 shows off the talents of female vocalist and guitarist, Marlana Sheetz, and is easily one my favorite indie folk songs of this year. Silent Way is laid out beautifully by the drooping banjo plucking and intermittent violin while the chorus repeats, longingly, “When we’re older can I still come over?“.
Milo Greene has the great privilege of touring with the infections Civil Wars this fall in what will be a must-see concert. And aren’t we so lucky that they will be hitting the area twice! I already have my tickets to the DC show so get yours fast because dates are quickly selling out
- Saturday Oct. 22 @ The Jefferson Theater; Charlottesville,VA
- Sunday Oct. 23 @ The Lincoln Theater; Washington D.C.
Seattle strummer, Bryan John Appleby, has just released his first full length LP, Fire on the Vine. After hearing just one song, I immediately voiced my stamp of approval and I predict he will become a household name before long. Fire on the Vine is a deep and introspective musical exploration which intensifies with folk explosions throughout. This is the type of album I would recommend putting on when you want to delve deep into thought. Appleby’s voice is refreshing addition to the indie-folk movement.
Songs Noah’s Nameless Wife and Honey Jars are more than solid bookends for Fire on the Vine. Each song builds on the logical path of succession throughout the album. The Words of the Revelator stands in the middle and ties together the full emotional experience.
I would like to thank Seattle music blog, Sound on the Sound, for introducing me to this incredible new talent. Head over their site for a special video on Appleby; highlighting how this album came to be in the space it was written. Stream Fire on the Vine in its entirety below and pick up a copy of the CD to support this up-and-coming artist.
I have been holding back on my devoted readers. I’ve been keeping a new favorite band secret for a few months now. For this, I am sorry, because The Head and the Heart have completely swept me to the bandwagon. What’s even worse is I am seeing these guys perform in C’ville this August, and you likely are not. Be jealous.
The Head and the Heart will give you comforting inklings of The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. But don’t be so quick label them as the “next” of anything. Their debut, self titled album, gives hints of a developing sound that has the potential to elevate them to the stardom spectrum. Songs Down in the Valley and Lost in My Mind give you that toe-tapping, knee-bouncing movement that is so crucial in this indie folk movement. I suggest picking up this album immediately and trying to scrape up the last remaining tickets to their summer tour. Enjoy.
Listen: The Head and the Heart – Down in the Valley
Lost in My Mind
Saying White Denim’s genre is difficult to pinpoint would be a vast understatement. On their fourth studio album, D, I find myself constantly skipping back songs to figure out what the hell is going on. Fortunately, all of this makes great music. From one song to the next, you hear musical styling comparable to Yes, Radiohead, Jethro Tull, the Grateful Dead, Without Gravity, etc… mixing together to form something fresh out of the classics. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the song Drug sounds eerily similar to a mix of Pink Floyd and The Dead.
Listen: White Denim – Street Joy