Thursday, January 31, 2013

Album Review: Toro Y Moi - "Anything in Return"

In a world where more and more musicians are heavily tapping into the electronic side of the music scene, Chaz Bundick, better known as Toro Y Moi, has been able to consistently set himself apart and rise above.

Born in South Carolina, Bundick spent the majority of his formative years paying in indie and punk bands before creating Toro Y Moi in 2001 to further his musical exploration. Aside from proving to be a prolific musician, Bundick has proven himself to be a diverse one as well. I don't want to compare the two artists, because they greatly differ for many others reasons, but James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) often comes to mind largely because of his diverse musical upbringing having once played in punk bands prior to the formation of LCD Soundsystem. I think what distinguishes great artists is their diversity, which could refer to their ability to incorporate a variety of sounds or ability to play multiple instruments, but Bundick has the ability to do both.

With heavy interest in his solo career, Bundick began incorporating electronics into his work opening up a wider range of influences such as: 80's R&B, Hip Hop and "Brian Wilson's Pop." As these influences started to become more apparent within his work, 2009 helped him gain notoriety from blogs across the web praising his personalized "chillwave sound," strongly heard on his debut album Causers of Time. The following year, Toro Y Moi returned with a broader sound relying less on drum machines and more of the "funky psych-pop" featured on Underneath the Pine.


After relocating from South Carolina to Berkley, Toro Y Moi has returned with his third full-length LP Anything in Return. Away from friends and family, the album touches on the topic of (Bundick) trying to become a better person with the exception of two songs, said to be his version of "Pop Songs." The first one, "So Many Details," is one of my personal favorites on the album and plays off a much darker tone than what we are used to hearing. Another standout is "Cake," which Bundick allegedly wrote as a pop song that his girlfriend could easily dance to.

Bundick continues to dabble in various sides of modern music-making on Anything in Return, sampling more hip-hop driven songs that feature 4/4 beats and applied effects (often associated within the house genre). "Say That" and "Rose Quartz" resemble more of the "chillwave" sound commonly heard on Underneath the Pine, while "High Living" and "Day One" are more suggestive of a Californian and funk influence.

Overall, Anything in Return puts Toro Y Moi in the middle of the producer-songwriter spectrum and is a clear contrast of the first two albums. The album is "uninhibited by one clear genre," but works in his favor with his ability to combine multiple sounds into something more cohesive and personalized. As a songwriter, he appears to be more confident with stronger vocals throughout. Anything in Return is proof that Toro Y Moi is a prolific and diverse musician with the capability of pushing his own musical limitations. Interestingly enough, with hopes to one day return to his original career as a graphic designer, I hope he keeps music as his primary hobby while pushing his limits, because he has yet to disappoint.


Video: Ra Ra Riot's "Beta Love"

Sometimes being a band's superfan pays off. David Dean Burkhart is a self-proclaimed fan of Ra Ra Riot, and created a video for the band's single and title track from their new LP, Beta Love. The band liked his video so much, they decided to make it the official music video for the infectious song.

The video is equally as smile-inducing and nauseating as the original track, featuring clips from a 1980s San Francisco Bay area dance show called "Dance Party." Some of clips sync up really well with handclaps and awesome hair tosses, I think my favorite occurs right around the 01:27 mark. The video is charmingly awkward, and serves as a great tribute to the 80s dance sound Ra Ra Riot was going for in the new album.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Album Preview: The Phoenix Foundation - "Fandango"

New Zealand's The Pheonix Foundation are back with their much anticipated followup to 2011's critically acclaimed and commercial hit Buffalo. The six piece, consisting of Samuel Flynn Scott (vocals/guitar), Luke Buda (vocal/guitar), Conrad Wedde (guitar/keys), Tom Callwood (bass guitar/vocal), Chris O'Connor (drums) and Will Ricketts (percussion, keyboards),  have returned with Fandango

The album features 80 minites of "soulful yacht rock," heard on the album's opening track "Black Mould" along with pysche-folk on "Modern Folk." It's easy to see why The Phoenix Foundation have already picked up a considerable amount of praise with the release of the melodic ballad, "The Captain" which highlights the vocal talent of frontman Lukas Buda. "The Captain" can be heard below, enjoy.


Eels Share Music Video for "New Alphabet "

The new Eels album Wonderful, Glorious is coming out next week (February 5th), and will mark the 10th studio album from the band.  That in itself is a pretty amazing landmark for a band that still continues to lay low in the world of modern music.  The band have a new video "New Alphabet", which shows frontman Mark Oliver Everett getting bullied by a bunch of kids.

 

Charles Bradley Delivers New Song & Tour Dates


The "Screaming Eagle of Soul" is back with a new song from his upcoming album, Victim of Love, which is due out April 2 from Daptone Records. The song is called "Strictly Reserved for You" and serves as yet another great song from the former James Brown cover artist.

After catching Charles Bradley's show in Milwaukee last year, I felt like a new man. I can not stress enough how amazing his live show is, and I highly recommend you check out his live performance in a city near you (tour dates below). Bradley's show is one that can simultaneously induce tears of joy, pain, empathy, and triumph. You'll thank me for it, and trust me Charles will thank you for it too.



Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires Tour Dates
Mar 21 Savannah, GA - Savannah Music Festival
Apr 12 Annapolis, MD - Rams Head
Apr 13 Charlottesville, VA - The Jefferson Theater
Apr 14 Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle
Apr 17 Asheville, NC - The Orange Peel
Apr 18 Charleston, SC - The Pour House
Apr 19 Athens, GA - Georgia Theatre
Apr 20 Waverly, AL - Waverly Boogie
Apr 21 Atlanta, GA - The Masquerade
Apr 24 Jacksonville, FL - Jack Rabbits
Apr 25 Pensacola, FL - Vinyl Music Hall
Apr 27 New Orleans, LA - New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Apr 28 New Orleans, LA - One Eyed Jacks
May 01 Austin, TX - Antone’s
May 02 Dallas, TX - Trees
May 04 Nashville, TN - Exit/In
May 05 St. Louis, MO - Old Rock House
May 07 Minneapolis, MN - The Cedar Cultural Center
May 08 Milwaukee, WI - Turner Ballroom
May 09 Chicago, IL - The Metro
May 10 Ferndale, MI - The Magic Bag
May 11 Toronto, ON - Phoenix Theatre
May 13 Montreal, QC - Corona Theatre
May 16 New York, NY - Apollo Theater
May 17 Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer
May 18 Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club
Jun 15 Bergen, NO - Bergenfest                          
Jun 16 Oslo, NO - Norwegian Wood Music Festival       

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Album Review: Local Natives - "Hummingbird"



There were very few albums confirmed for release in 2013 that made me more giddy and anxious than the promise of a new Local Natives album. Their previous effort, and first LP, Gorilla Manor, bolstered a sound so attention-grabbing that it was almost impossible to not connect with. A sound that you could swear seemed oddly familiar, even if it was your first time listening to the album; you'd heard the sound before, but it had never been this good.

Gorilla Manor debuted in the UK in November of 2009, but didn't hit the States until February of 2010. Needless to say, the album was a hit overseas, and generated plenty of buzz back home before its release. Songs like "Airplanes" "Camera Talk" and "Who Knows, Who Cares"  all gleamed with pop glory, while hitting hard with affection and vehement emotion; "Airplanes" written about a family member never known, lost, but always remembered; "Camera Talk" telling the story of falling in love (whilst on vacation?); and "Who Knows, Who Cares" features a story line of lyrics that make me wish I could've used it as my HS graduation song (and that drum break!). In 2009/10, it really didn't get much better than these songs.

All of this lead to my anticipation and frantic desire to get my hands on anything new from Local Natives, and I know I wasn't alone. If nothing else, their new material, or lack thereof, was a very good ploy to build the "giddiness" I felt with each new tidbit of info I got.

The band returned home to Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California and built a rehearsal space and studio to begin work on the new album. This allowed them the space and freedom to write songs in a whole new manner, compared to the frenzy that occurred when Gorilla Manor was produced (GM was actually named for the small, cluttered house the band members occupied in Orange County while writing the album).

Fast forward, I guess, and Hummingbird is finally filling my ears.

It starts with "You & I" a fitting opening chapter to Hummingbird: a slow crescendo, sweeping vocals with range to spare from Kelcey Ayer, and a beautiful piano part that actually makes your toe tap more than the actual rhythm sections. Not to mention emotional lyrics to boot: "Where did your love grow cold?/ The closer I get, the further I have to go/ to places we don't know."

Next is the band's latest single from the album, "Heavy Feet" another down-tempo and emotional journey through something seemingly awful. Ayer's ability to wrench your heart with lyrics that are simple yet actually hit you with an uncanny amount of depth. The bridge contains the lyrics "Careful what you say next, don't waste a scene, you're drunk" and if you don't relate to that you're either straight-edge or an actual jolly drunk... either way I'm not buying it.

And this is almost used as rhetoric throughout the rest of the album's material. Each song features haunting lyrics and vocal sections, but rarely more than four verses. The songs are all very repetitive, with bewildering guitar and piano parts, providing depth that just begs for the songs to be seen performed live.

The album's second-to-last song, "Columbia" delivers the theme behind Hummingbird's emotionality, and says "shame on you for thinking we were referring to a pretty little hummingbird..." as Ayer sings in the first verse: "The day after I had counted down/ All of your breaths/ Down until there were none/A hummingbird crashed right in front of me/ and I understood all you did for us/ You gave, and gave, and gave, and gave"

Hummingbird provides a much darker sound than what was put forward with Gorilla Manor. There is no "Camera Talk" - no undeniably catchy song that could garner heavy radio airplay by default. The songs Local Natives created for Hummingbird is anything but light and flighty like its name sake. Instead it is acutely straight-forward, dark, and almost emotionally exhausting. "Black Spot" tells the incredibly macabre story of someone's journey to accepting death: "And I see the things I always knew/ but wasn't sure until now/ that if it comes to claim me/ I won't run." 

"Breakers" is just as defeating. The last line of the song highlights its motifs: the effects of crippling depression, "Breathing out/ hoping to breathe in/ I know nothing's wrong, but I'm not convinced/ I can let it happen, just let it happen/ Just don't think so much, don't think so much." Ayer shows off his unwavering falsetto with "Three Months" when he impressively hits notes throughout the chorus, and the song serves as a perfect soundtrack to the unfathomable low after an unexpected emotional high. The album continues to stretch itself between these two opposite ends of the emotional spectrum (without ever actually highlighting the "highs").

Local Natives enlisted "new touring buddy," The National's Aaron Dessner to help produce the album, and Dessner's fingerprints are all over it... and his fingers were apparently dipped in liquid melancholy.

There enlies my one criticism of the album. The album is so emotionally heavy that it's difficult to believe Dessner wasn't just envisioning a new album from The National while producing Local Natives' sophomore effort. The drums featured in songs like "Heavy Feet" and "Wooly Mammoth" actually sound as if they were sampled from songs by The National. Luckily, the palette of instruments, multi-layered vocals, and Ayer's vocal ability all serve as a saving grace so the likeness isn't as blunt throughout the entire album.

While the palette for Hummingbird was very similar to Gorilla Manor, the scope of the album as a whole was narrowed drastically. The sporadic feeling from GM has been completely left behind, not only as an album but as a place. Left behind are the cluttered rooms that resulted in instruments being knocked around, and with them is the sound that setting created. Hummingbird does not serve as a "sophomore slump" but simply a sophomore alleyway that sets them down a singular path. While it would have been nice to have a few songs to illicit positive emotions, the manner in which Hummingbird is explicitly delivered is still satisfying.

My Rating: 4.3/5


Album Review: Tegan & Sara - "Heartthrob"



Written By: Alicia Roy
If we were playing a game of musical word association, I would immediately associate Tegan and Sara with being thirteen, listening to So Jealous on repeat, and nobody *getting* it or me or anything because feelings are really hard, you guys. 

Nearly ten years later, the Canadian duo releases their new album, Heartthrob, with a considerably different sound but an equally strong focus on feeling a lot of feelings.

Tegan and Sara’s sound has been becoming more and more pop-based and less guitar-centered indie with every project, and Heartthrob is no exception to that rule. The album opens with “Closer” (also the first single from the album), a synthy, dreamy pop dance jam. While being far from the strongest track on the album, “Closer” sets the tone for the sound of the album well; gone are the acoustic guitar and drum set and here are the synthesizers and drum machine. Though the sound is consistent, the lyrics of “Closer” sound almost uncomfortable coming from the duo whose songwriting is more aptly suited for heartache.

Even with their more polished pop sound, there is no confusion as to whether or not this album is Tegan and Sara. While the album title and opening track evoke more of a “fun and confident” Tegan and Sara, most of the album is lyrically consistent with their previous work—forlorn, lovesick, and at least a little self-deprecating. It’s easier to dance to Heartthrob than previous albums, but don’t worry, baby, you can still cry over your ex while you’re busting a move.

With Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara have successfully completed their transition from low-key indie duo to a considerably more polished pop act. This does, however, beg the question: where do the two go from here? Over the past ten years their sound has been slowly but surely heading in this direction, but I fear that if the two make an attempt to make their sound anymore pop, any resulting album will be made of actual sugar granules held together by tears instead of the proper materials that CDs and records are composed of.

My Rating: 3.7/5

Tegan & Sara - "Closer"


Welcome New Columnist: Alicia Roy



My favorite song lyric as a child was "she's a sad tomato" from "Crush With Eyeliner" by REM. I'm not sure what that says about me, but it's probably something. I was raised in Milwaukee, WI on a musical diet that combined Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline with David Bowie and the Pixies. This did not help my reputation as a pretty weird kid in Catholic school, but I was assured by my mother that people would think I was cool when I got older. (Am still waiting for results on this hypothesis.)

I learned the lyrics to "Ignition (Remix)" by R. Kelly in middle school because I thought that would be an important life skill. It is literally the only good decision I made in middle school, and also a pretty good reason to trust my musical foresight.

Writer: Alicia Roy
Email: roy.alicia@gmail.com
Twitter: @notaliciaroy

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wavves Unveil New Album Artwork, Song, Tour Dates


Not to be outdone, Wavves' Nathan Williams made a few announcements this evening, as well.

The new album, out March 26, entitled Afraid of Heights, will feature at least one guest spot by Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley), but you may have known that already. What's news here is the album art (seen to the left), the track listing (seen below), and an expansive tour schedule. Oh, and another new track from the album called "Demon to Lean On" which you can listen to below as well. Also check out the video for "Sail to the Sun" after a statement from Williams.





Williams issued this statement in the press release:

"The general theme of the record is depression and anxiety, being death-obsessed and paranoid of impending doom. I feel like the narration is almost schizophrenic if you listen front to back; every word is important, even the constant contradictions and lack of self-worth. That's all a part of this record-questioning everything not because I'm curious, but because I'm paranoid."



Afraid of Heights Tracklist:

Sail to the Sun
Demon to Lean On
Mystic
Lunge Forward
Dog
Afraid of Heights
Paranoid
Cop
Beat Me Up
Everyhting Is My Fault
That's On Me
Gimme a Knife
I Can't Dream
Hippies Is Punks (iTunes Bonus)

Surfer Blood Announce New Album, Debut First Single

Surfer Blood, your favorite left-of-center-pop-rock band is back with a new song today, along with an announcement that they will be releasing a new album later this year.

The album will be called Pythons; the song is called "Weird Shapes" and it's quite good. Frontman JP Pitts calls it "one of the most dynamic songs we've ever written" and it's hard to disagree. Check out the song below, and head to Surfer Blood's website for a free download of the track.

Surfer Blood starts a tour next month in California, leading up to their "apparent" appearance at this year's SXSW.


Surfer Blood - "Weird Shapes"

The Knife Debut New Song, Short Film "Full of Fire"

Even more video goodies for you this morning, this time from our favorite Swedish doom-electronic duo, The Knife.

The nearly 10-minute-long video (NSFW) is a perfectly twisted and demented pairing for an equally dark song from The Knife. Visual artist Marit Östberg's statement on her film can be found below the video and can be used as a perfect preface/warning to what you are about to watch.

The song itself is fantastic; equally entrancing as it is dark, a statement on gender roles and a politically skewed history, it serves as a perfect teaser of what's to come from The Knife's highly anticipated new album Shaking The Habitual, due out April 9.




From Marit Östberg, director of "Full of Fire" - 

The film ‘Full Of Fire’ started to grow as an embryo in the song´s lines ‘Who looks after my story’. Who takes care of our stories when the big history, written by straight rich white men, erase the complexity of human´s lives, desires and conditions? The film ‘Full Of Fire’ consists of a network of fates, fears, cravings, longings, losses, and promises. Fates that at first sight seem isolated from each other, but if we pay attention, we can see that everything essentially moves into each other. Our lives are intertwined and our eyes on each other, our sounds and smells, mean something. Our actions create reality, we create each other. We are never faceless, not even in the most grey anonymous streets of the city. We will never stop being responsible, being extensions, of one another. We will never stop longing for each other, and for something else.

Watch Tame Impala's New Video for "Mind Mischief"


Tame Impala's "Mind Mischief" from last year's Lonerism is taken to a whole other level in this brand new (NSFW) video directed by David Wilson. The hot-for-teacher video earns most of its NSFW credibility during the spectacular animated, tripped-out portion of the video that is clearly inspired by 80s cult classic, Heavy Metal.


Kendrick Lamar Performs on SNL

Check out Kendrick Lamar performing two of last year's best hip hop songs on Saturday Night Live this past weekend: "Swimming Pools (Drank)" and "Poetic Justice" (sans Drake's verse). Lamar absolutely kills it, performing with a live band behind him, fully-equipped with  keyboards, chimes, and saxophone.

After the live performances, check out the new Lonely Island video featuring Kendrick Lamar. Yes, you read that correctly.

Kendrick Lamar - "Swimming Pools (Drank)" Live on SNL



Kendrick Lamar - "Poetic Justice" Live on SNL



Lonely Island - "YOLO" Digital Short ft. Kendrick Lamar & Adam Levine

Friday, January 25, 2013

Listen: New Song from The Strokes: "One Way Trigger"

At one point in the last 10 years, an announcement for a new song from The Strokes would have caused a little flutter in my heart. Nowadays, I just close my eyes, cross my fingers, and hope for the best.

Take a listen to "One Way Trigger" and decide for yourself. For now, I'll simply state that this single/song leads to me not being overly excited about the new Strokes album, which is due out this spring.








Sigur Ros Announce New Album, Tour Dates

Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Ros have announced the release of a new, "aggressive" record in 2013.  Along with the announcement, the band has also included a brief video preview of an upcoming song.  If the clip is any indication, "aggressive" is the right description.  For those who loved Valtari but preferred the dark edginess of Takk (me)- this new Sigur Ros material is for you.  Also, for all you Kjartan Sveinsson fans out there, the multi-instrumentalist will be taking a break meaning Sigur Ros will function as an impromptu trio during their upcoming tour.

Here's the link to the corresponding article and clip over at Spin.




Sigur Ros 2013 tour dates:

11-13 Perth, Australia - Belvoir Amphitheatre
11-15 Adelaide, Australia - Thebarton Theatre
11-17 Sydney, Australia - Harvest Festival
11-18 Brisbane, Australia - Harvest Festival
11-21 Taipei, Taiwan - Taiwan University Stadium
11-23 Singapore, Singapore - Fort Canning Park
11-25 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Urbanscapes Festival
02-13 Porto, Portugal - Coliseum
02-14 Lisbon, Portugal - Campo Pequeno
02-18 Jesolo, Italy - Palazzo Del Turismo
02-19 Milan, Italy - Mediolanum Forum
02-21 Amsterdam, Netherlands - HMH
02-22 Berlin, Germany - Tempodrom
02-23 Munich, Germany - Zenith
02-24 Basel, Switzerland - St. Jakobshalle
02-26 Brussels, Belgium - Forest National
02-27 Paris, France - Zenith
03-02 Glasgow, Scotland - Secc
03-03 Manchester, England - Apollo
03-04 Manchester, England - Apollo
03-05 Wolverhampton, England - Civic
03-07 London, England - Brixton Academy
03-08 London, England - Brixton Academy
03-09 London, England - Brixton Academy
03-24 Washington, DC - Patriot Center
03-25 New York, NY - Madison Square Garden
03-26 Boston, MA - Agganis Arena
03-27 Montreal, Quebec - Bell Centre
03-29 Ottawa, Ontario - Scotia Bank Place
03-30 Toronto, Ontario - Air Canada Theatre Bowl
04-01 Detroit, MI - Fox Theatre
04-02 Chicago, IL - UIC Pavilion
04-03 Minneapolis, MN - Roy Wilkins Auditorium
04-06 Denver, CO - 1st Bank
04-08 Dallas, TX - Verizon Theatre
04-09 Houston, TX - Bayou Music Center
04-10 Austin, TX - Cedar Park Center
04-12 Phoenix, AZ - Comerica
04-17 San Francisco, CA - Bill Graham Civic
05-14 Tokyo, Japan - Nippon Budokan
05-17 Osaka, Japan - Kobe World Memorial Hall

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Coachella 2013 Lineup Announced

Here it is, folks!


Can't read the bottom of the lineups?

High Highs Debut New Song - "In A Dream"


Australian "dream-pop" duo High Highs are set to release their (much-anticipated) debut album at the end of the month. Entitled Open Season, the group's first single from the album was revealed today, entitled "In A Dream" and is exactly what you'd expect, based off High Highs' previous work... also, really good.

Look for Open Season to release in the U.S. on January 29 via Fine Time.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Listen: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Release "Let The Day Begin"

This morning brings us a great track from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the first single off their sixth studio album Specter at the Feast, which is due out March 19 from Vagrant/Abstract Dragon.

The track is called "Let The Day Begin" and combines the normal sounds you'd expect from BRMC: space-age grunge, garage, psychedelic with a touch of metal. You can stream the track via Soundcloud below, or head over to the band's website and download it for free.


Preview: James Murphy DJ Set - THE MID, Chicago, January 25

Ever since the disbandment of LCD Soundsystem in 2011, founding frontman James Murphy has been simultaneously elusive while maintaining prominence. Murphy can now be found acting, producing new music with familiar faces, and of course, DJing.

Murphy has stated, in both song and interview, that one of his passions is DJing. Ever the elitist tastemaker, James Murphy has always been one of the best at bringing his finer selection of music to the masses... case and point(s): "Losing My Edge" and "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" and the entire DFA record label.

The set will be worth checking out based off of James Murphy's musical prowess, alone.

Don't expect too much aside from the spinning of 45's of house and soul music, and maybe a few tracks from some of the DFA artist roster. But based on Murphy's knack for crowd control and his apparent via musical stylings, I'm guessing you won't be able to stop dancing.

The venue opens at 10 pm and there are a three opening DJs. Tickets are $25 and available here.  Check back here at FPT after the set for a full recap of the event.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Album Review: Ra Ra Riot - "Beta Love"


The last time we heard from Ra Ra Riot, we found them at some sort of crossroad as a band as they put out The Orchard. Their traditional sound, laced heavily with strings and classical music-infused indie tracks was being replaced with heavily pop-inspired melodies. The strings were still there, and the album was still subdued and maintained a steady, down-tempo pace to keep Ra Ra Riot's truest fans content.

But just before The Orchard was released in 2010, lead singer Wes Miles released an LP (aptly called, LP) with side project Discovery, which paired him with Rostam Batmanjli of Vampire Weekend. The album was a huge hit and was arguably the best electronic-indie-side project since The Postal Service. Combining a love for R&B and disco, Discovery's LP was an amazing entry for Miles into the electronic music world (LP hasn't left my iPod since).

Early last year, cellist Alexandra Lawn announced that she would be leaving the band. The effect this would have on the band had many fans feeling skeptical.

All of this has direct correlation with Ra Ra Riot's newest album Beta Love. I've already heard long-time fans of RRR complaining about what they've heard thus far from the album, which takes the cues of Discovery's LP and runs with it.

Every critic will undoubtedly discuss the production of Beta Love, because this album is different than anything Ra Ra Riot has done before. It is strictly pop music: ditching the classical music influences for electronic drum machines and some light auto-tuning. It's not to say that the album is bad, but it's tough not to claim it as a disappointment upon first listen.

Enlisting the production skills of Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello, Wavves) the group built upon demos created by Miles and went from there. The longest track on the album is just over 3-minutes long, with most of the songs coming in at just under 3. This is a stark contrast from their previous efforts; The Orchard didn't have a track less than 3-minutes long and The Rhumb Line had an average track length of over 3-and-a-half-minutes. But more on this later.

Beta Love begins with a solo showcase of Miles' voice: "Oh I most--/ I mostly feel I had a good day/ Oh I most--/ I mostly feel I had a good day/ it wasn't that great..." on the track "Dance With Me" - a fitting open for what's to come from the album. Which proves to be more influenced by electro-pop and powerful new wave than prior works.

There are fantastic pop songs on Beta Love, including the album's title track, which is one of my favorite songs of the year thus far. It combines the grace and range of Miles' voice and dazzling keys with club-infused beats and tempo. Uplifting lyrics centered around the theme of transhumanism and the udder joy of falling in love (seriously, pessimists need not apply) in a "city of robot hearts/ ours were meant to beat." The song is so unabashedly cheerful that it's hard to not allow your mood to follow suit.


The following song, "Is It Too Much" slows things down a little, but still utilizes electronic drum effects that can be somewhat distracting and feel misplaced. "For Once" and "Angel, Please" follow, and bring the mood and tempo back to those established by the previous three tracks. "Angel, Please" features the most prominent usage of strings on the album, and has a breakdown that again will at least humor you a little. According to Wes Miles, the demo for the song started much slower, but the group took a cue from Dennis Herring and Outkast's "Hey Ya" (no joke), and decided to "all go super happy, super positive" with it instead.

And then... there's "What I Do For You" which legitimately sounds like a new Justin Timberlake song. If there's a song that will polarize RRR's fan base, it's "What I Do For You" - featuring layered, squealing vocals, heavy bass and coming in at less than 2 minutes long.

As a whole, there are more enjoyable songs than cringe-worthy on Beta Love: "That Much" features great use of arpeggiators and drum machines, and "Wilderness" is a creepy, dystopian, slowed-down track that sounds much more like old Ra Ra Riot songs than the rest of the album.

Overall, Beta Love lacks the depth that The Rhumb Line and The Orchard provided. Whether this is a conscious effort made by the band or if this is a direct cause-and-effect of Alexandra Lawn leaving the group is difficult to conclude. The group claims that the songwriting process was much different; violinist Rebecca Zeller even stated that with the group's previous efforts the thought process was "what is going to be the string part for this?" and Beta Love featured a more "what does this song need?"-mentality: whether it was strings or auto-tuning, the focus was dedicated to the songs, individually.

This songwriting process obviously elicits a more fun and straight-forward sound, but I'm not sure it's what most people expect or desire from the band.

The general theme of the album is a disconnection from humanism and technology, taking cues from the works and ideas of William Gibson and Ray Kurzweil. And while producer Dennis Herring stressed each member of RRR to rethink their role and focus on spontaneity, Beta Love proves that, for better or worse. Wes Miles has stated "we always liked making music that moves people physically" and the band's third LP will do that, without a doubt. Some listeners will be dancing, others will be taking physical action to hurl the album across the room.

Personally, I think it's important to remember the album title, Beta Love: touching on a "test-period" as the term "beta" applies to technology. This may be a phase for Ra Ra Riot, or it may be a showcase of what's to come. Either way, Beta Love will not destroy RRR as a band; if anything, it may propel them in(to) the future, producing a sound that is much more accessible and in accordance with current music trends throughout the course of an entire album than if the band had just put out "another Ra Ra Riot album."

My Rating: 3.7 / 5

Frightened Rabbit - If You Were Me (Acoustic)

Watch Frightened Rabbit's, Scott Hutchison performs a pleasurable acoustic version of "If You Were Me" courtesy of NME.  The song will be included on the band's upcoming LP release Pedestrian Verse, which will be available February 5th.

 

Monday, January 21, 2013

PAWS - "Sore Tummy (ft. Alice Costelloe)" Music Video

Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, PAWS are a trio that deliver some solid lo-fi/garage rock.  They released their album Cokefloat! back in October of 2012 on the FatCat record label, and have recently produced their new single "Sore Tummy" which has a shiny new video, viewable below.  The song features one of my favorite up-and-coming vocalists in Big Deal's Alice Costelloe.

 

Deap Vally - "Gonna Make My Own Money" Music Video

Although this song was released in 2012, it is currently getting a lot of play in early 2013.  From the first few listens you get a vibe of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeah's on vocals with Jack White ripping it up with the guitar riffs.  Take a listen below and judge for yourself.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Album Review: Indians - "Somewhere Else"

From Copenhagen, Denmark, the emerging artist Søren Løkke Juul, more commonly known as Indians, is set to release his debut album Somewhere Else on January 29th. 


Juul had been working as a backing musician in various bands for nearly 10 years, which left him yearning for a deeper feeling of excitement and nervousness that was lost over time. Challenging himself, Juul took the reigns and began writing songs, releasing "Magic Kids" under the name Indians. Without wasting anytime he was soon spotted and picked up by 4AD (responsible for acts such as Grimes, Bon Iver, Twin Shadow..to name a few), which lead him to the writing of his debut album Somewhere Else.


A few weeks away from the album's release, it's already picked up a considerable amount of momentum, being compared to albums like Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago and it's easy to see why. Featuring 10 personal and carefully constructed songs that "document equal parts of melancholic lament and hopeful stargazing." You can hear a vast amount of tones throughout, which begins with the albums opening track "New": a stripped down track featuring a slow-steady beat accompanied by powerful vocals and dreamy sound effects. "Magic Kids" is one of the the album's most promising songs continuing with a similar new-wave sound featuring a variety of chimes and other electronic sound effects. 

Other tracks such as "Cakelakers" and "I Am Haunted" stray away from the new wave/electronic sound mentioned earlier, carried primarily by acoustic guitar and layered with a simple orchestral arrangement. When you combine lyrics such as, "when you gotta go/and anyway we let you go" with the acoustic driven melody, "Cakelakers" provides a soothing feeling of optimism and letting go. 


It's easy to see why Juul retreated to the Danish countryside to write and record for the album. Aside from the album title, Somewhere Else, the reoccurring theme of otherness is present from front to back and provides you with a sense of time and place, reflecting upon the landscape in which it was created. I thoroughly enjoy the album's overall "seasonal tone"... for lack of a better word. There are times when the album feels more dreary and cold, but eventually leads into something warmer, coupled with more of a buoyant mood. There is a strong sense of "feeling" throughout, enabling you to draw an imaginary scene as you listen.  


Overall, Somewhere Else provides you with 10 carefully constructed songs which take you on an emotional journey and again, ultimately give you the sense of looking out into "somewhere else." It's an excellent debut album that will undoubtably continue to gain praise and attention throughout the year; Indians will be an exciting band to follow for 2013.

Also as an afterthought, I 
unknowingly had the pleasure of seeing Indians open for Other Lives earlier this year; one of the most memorable opening acts I had seen in 2012. When performing live, Juul is accompanied by a three piece band, but also performed solo for particular tracks. 

Head over to www.heyiamindians.com for upcoming tour dates where you can also download "Cakelakers" free of charge. The video below was filmed in one day on Osea Island, a small privately owned island near Essex, UK. Enjoy. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Twin Shadow Remixes "Everything is Embarrassing"


I know it's late and all... but maybe that just makes this post more fitting.

Two of my favorite musical elements of 2012 have combined in the form of a (super upbeat, shoulder-shaking-dance-off-inducing) remix: I present to you..

Sky Ferreira's "Everything is Embarrassing" (Twin Shadow Remix)


Friday, January 18, 2013

Watch: Divine Fits' "My Love Is Real" Music Video

Check out "supergroup" Divine Fits' new video for "My Love Is Real" below.

Just another case for why everything... everything... should be shot in slow-motion.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Christopher Owens Performs "Lysandre" - Lincoln Hall, Chicago


Christopher Owens, the former head of a perennial favorite band here at FPT, Girls, stepped away from the group in July of 2012. At that time, he promised his listeners two things: that he would continue making music, and that he would never be in a band again.

On Tuesday, January 15, 2013, a new chapter in his life and career began, as he began a tour in Chicago to support his first solo album, Lysandre, released that day via Fat Possum/Turnstile (read my review of the album, here). The album serves as a story, Owens' story, of his rise to fame from a troublesome childhood, to travelling to France with his band Girls, as well as a story of boy-meets-girl(-named-Lysandre).

I would like to say outright that the show was fantastic. Owens travels with a 7-piece band, complete with a flutist, saxophonist, and female background singers. For those in the audience who had heard the record before, Owens' set was only there to enforce the fact the album is clearly meant to be taken as a whole; meant to be listened to as a story with common themes and elements throughout. The fact that Owens decided to tour with a full 7-piece band was undoubtedly the right decision for what he's trying to accomplish with the next stage in his career as a solo artist. As he describes in a Pitchfork interview, Owens was approached by people (assumedly in his management, record label, etc.) and told that if he toured with a smaller band, he could stand to make "a few thousand dollars." His response?

"'Fuck the few thousand dollars.' That's a conscious decision. I'm building my legacy and making my dreams come true. What else is there? I don't want a new car."

It takes a lot of guts to do that and say these things, but it is clearly the right thing to do. To leave out specific parts of that album's music would have been like creating a landscape painting without the color blue; elements would have been left out. It's a relief to see/hear a musician live that actually cares about the music being played. Will the sets be the same throughout the tour? Sure. But it's important to remember that this is exactly what Christopher Owens wants.

It goes without saying that he played Lysandre straight through. Owens talked very little in between each song, letting the music speak for him (note: I had never seen Girls before their disbandment, but Owens does not strike me as a "gabber" on stage); there was the occasional sign of gratitude for those of us who came out.

The crowd seemed a little surprised, if not foolishly disappointed, at the material covered in the show. There were no Girls songs played, and the encore was strictly covers. Even if I hadn't known this was going to be the case going in to the show, I would have been extremely pleased with what I had seen. I was able to connect to the songs in a whole new way, as every song was played almost flawlessly with each instrumentation in tact. "New York City", "Here We Go Again", "Riviera Rock" and "Part of Me (Lysandre's Epilogue)" all were played majestically.

The encore, as mentioned, comprised of covers. As each song began, you could feel the audience smile collectively (some even chuckled) as their familiarity with the music hit them.

Cat Stevens' "Wild World", Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" and "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" by Bob Dylan were instant hits with the crowd, as the primarily stagnant audience began to sing along. Check out the classic "Let It Be Me" below, shot live from the event.

Overall, the show was a great success. I'm sure the audiences will become a little more welcoming as the tour rolls along and the general listener will be able to become more familiar with Lysandre as an album, and the notion that Owens is ready to leave Girls' music behind... at least for now.

To see more photos from the show check out the Flickr Photoset here 
(all photography by Kellen Nordstrom)




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ty Segall Debuts Video for "Thank God For Sinners"

Check out the video for Ty Segall's "Thank God For Sinners" song off of his Twins album, out now via Drag City. Eye-catching to say the least, the video features the singer surrounded by assorted body parts, whether hands, feet, hips, legs, what have you. The song is great too, which always helps.

You'll find Ty Segall's tour dates, which kicks off Friday, below the video.





Ty Segall Tour Dates
Fri. Jan. 18 - San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore 
Wed. Jan. 23 - Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress 
Thurs. Jan. 24 - Marfa, TX @ Padre's 
Fri. Jan. 25 - Austin, TX @ Mohawk 
Sat. Jan. 26 - Dallas, TX @ Club Dada 
Sun. Jan. 27 - Memphis, TN @ Hi Tone
Mon. Jan. 28 - Nashville, TN @ The End 
Tue. Jan. 29 - Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
Wed. Jan. 30 - Raleigh, NC @ Kings Barcade
Thurs. Jan. 31 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat
Fri. Feb. 1 - New York, NY @ Webster Hall
Sat. Feb. 2 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Tue. Feb. 5 - Montreal, QC @ Cabaret Du Mile End
Wed. Feb. 6 - Toronto, ON  @ Phoenix Club 
Thu. Feb. 7 - Ann Arbor, MI @ The Blind Pig 
Fri. Feb. 8 - Gambier, OH @ Horn Gallery (Kenyon College) 
Sat. Feb. 9 - Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle [2 shows] 
Sun. Feb. 10. - Omaha, NE @ Sokol Underground 
Mon. Feb. 11 - Denver, CO @ Hi Dive 

Merchandise - Anxiety's Door


Merchandise are a pleasant surprise in the world of music for the year 2013.  Their sound is one that is so familiar to the 80's era when things were much more simple and easy to understand.  The band hail from Tampa, Florida and are about to embark on a month long tour in March.  Check out the track 'Anxiety's Door' below and feel its Smiths/Cult vibes, and for a track that is nearly 7 minutes in length it feels just about perfect.

The band are in the process of releasing their EP Totale Nite, which will be available come spring time.

Totale Nite Tracklisting:
1. Who Are You?
2. Anxiety's Door
3. I'll Be Gone
4. Totale Nite
5. Winter's Dream

 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - So Good At Being In Trouble

Unknown Mortal Orchestra are on the verge of releasing their newest album 'II' which is out February 5th, 2013 on Jagjaguwar.  They are sharing another early peak into the album with the new song "So Good At Being In Trouble".  The new sound for the band is explained best by Ruban Nielson as he describes their sound as "Psychedelic R&B".

Youth Lagoon - Dropla


Youth Lagoon are set to release their sophomore album 'Wondrous Bughouse' on March 5th via Fat Possum and have given us the first listen with the single 'Dropla'.  Take a listen to the new track below as it is a continuing in the same light as 2010's Year of Hibernation and delivering some serious good vibes.  The mastermind behind Youth Lagoon, Trevor Powers has this to say about the new record... "My mental state is usually pretty sporadic... a lot of this record was influenced by a fear of mortality but embracing it at the same time. Realizing that human life is only great because it is temporary. Experimenting with ideas about dimensions. I'm not a gifted speaker, so
explaining things is difficult for me. But music always makes sense."


You can preorder Wondrous Bughouse here.


 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Premiere: The Capsules- "Time Will Only Tell"

For as much of my life is steeped in musical ventures, journeys and, yes, hassles and busy work, too, The Capsules are one of those bands that, upon discovery, made my heart flutter for music all over again. In that regard, I’m happy to share with you the premiere of The Capsules’ single, “Time Will Only Tell,” from their brand new LP, Northern Lights & Southern Skies.

My peers say Northern Lights & Southern Skies lends itself to more of an electronic base than The Capsules’ previous material. Having discovered them less than a year ago, I cannot comment on that aspect. What I can tell you is that it is the perfect blend of guitar ambiance, functional bass and digital rigidity. The textures and tones that sit in the middle of each track make these songs candidates for a playlist that might be called ‘Robin Guthrie and the like,’ especially “Time Will Only Tell,” with its melodramatic symmetry and consistency.

This necessary robotic underbelly, ironically, lends a warm flow that bookends the textures, opposite the soothing one that Julie Shields’ vocals do, the regiment and cadence of which nod directly toward Scarling, Cure inspiration lineage included. The Capsules work the dreampop label, but the songs on Northern Lights & Southern Skies push into a heavier zone that is one part dirty electropop and one part shoegaze, though the latter sounds grittier at its guitar origins than anything we’ve heard over the past ten years or so. Hints of Lush, in fact, twisted up with some mechanical beating heart, might be the reason this record inspires me so. The Capsules’ record release show will take place at The House of Blues in Dallas, TX on January 18. For more information, visit thecapsules.com.



-Janey Criss

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Generationals Announce "Heza"


New Orleans indie rock duo, Generationals, have been delivering catchy pop riffs since the release of 2009's Con Law. The guys are back with the much-anticipated follow-up album titled, Heza (April 2).

The album was recorded in phases between Washington D.C. and the bands hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. Heza shows growth among the band with "more restraint" and a greater "attention to rhythms and textures." The album contains minimalistic tracks like, "You Got Me" to much more straight forward guitars, which can be heard on the album's first single, "Spinoza." Heza seems to be very promising, especially with the new single that can be heard below.