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Tag: indie

new music: Post War Years, free Live 360 Session EP

Only weeks after my post about British indie rockers, Post War Years’, newest music video (seen here), the band has offered up a free four-song EP of their Live 360 Session. The song for the video, ‘All Eyes’, is on the EP as well as three other new tracks that don’t disappoint. ‘All Eyes’ is probably the most well-rounded of the beasts, but the opening track, ‘Galapagos’, although instrumental, might be my favorite. At just about two and a half minutes long, the track showcases the group’s penchant for ever-evolving uses of electronic-based percussionistic beats. Its name, ‘Galapagos’, does it justice, as one loop of glass percussion – literally a bottleneck effect – is slightly mutated and propagated to create a sonic jungle from a sole, bottlenecked lineage. Add some synthesizer siren calls and you’ve got one trance-inducing island you won’t mind adapting to. The following tracks bring the listener back to more conventionally composed songs with airy vocals that harmonize with metallic bass lines and guitar riffs before ‘All Eyes’ brings the EP to a close. Get a free download of the EP here at the bands site and listen for yourself…trust me, you’ll have it on loop for days.


Death From Above 1979: a look back (and hopefully forward, too)

Down the rabbit hole I fell after the Housse de Racket concert. It started with the likeness, vague and superficial; Housse de Racket is a non-American two-man band that makes rock music dance, and Death From Above 1979 is a non-American two-man band that make rock music dance. Mustaches have or do adorn three of the four total musicians. That’s really about where the similarities end. To be more precise, the former is French and the latter is Canadian, the former is up and coming, the latter has been defunct for about five years.

Whereas HdR have potential and plenty in front of them, DFA79 hit an awesome peak with their only LP, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, an album that – after about seven years of listening to it – still rocks my face. Fans of MTV comedy show Human Giant starring Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel, and Paul Scheer, may know that the theme song is DFA79’s song “Romantic Rights” off of the album. You’re a Woman had everything condensed in a little 35-minute package. They carved out sharp, catchy riffs on a bass, and pounding, danceable beats on a drum set. Songs were never boring or drawn out, they raced and were gone before becoming stale, always leaving you coming back for more. Lyrics were blunt and in-your-face with the minimal range of sex to family – from picking up chicks and the act of intercourse, to mom getting a new boyfriend, to being a good uncle and childhood nostalgia  – that somehow offered depth where subtlety was not. It’s an album that I can honestly listen to three times back to back without being bored. If anything, the second play is necessary just to get a grip on the transient, ravenous thrash that just flew by you.

But here’s where the hole has led me – scouring those five years of what I thought was silence, when in actuality one half of the duo released a solo effort and the other teamed up with Al-P to form MSTRKRFT. Who knew?

Well, I almost wish I hadn’t come across ex-drummer and vocalist Sebastien Grainger’s solo effort. His signature vigor in simultaneously drumming and singing sweaty and frenetic are nowhere to be found. For shame. Other half, Jesse Keeler’s, two albums under MSTRKRFT are much more respectable, although following the all-too-beaten path of Daft Punk’s style. Even his successes in electronic-dance failed to resemble his most vitalizing and breakneck rocking. His put down his sweet-ass Rickerbacher bass (that he plays like a guitar) for good in constructing entirely synth and drum machine tunes. Or at least I thought he put it down for good.

After a  surprise inclusion on the SXSW and Coachella 2011 lineups, the band issued a cryptic statement on their website that would lead us to believe that it was no one-off reunion for shits and giggles…perhaps they’ve realized that together, even if they had their disputes, they were a prolific force to be reckoned with. They also played a festival in Brazil in December and, according to their facebook and twitter, they had been playing shows across their native Canada beforehand. Since their site has been renewed for 2012, hopefully it won’t be long before they grace our ears with new releases and US touring so a new audience can see their intimate and gripping live set. I know I’ll be listening to You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine until then, and I suggest you do the same.

Housse de Racket live at 9:30 Club

With a friend this past Sunday night, I saw a show at the 9:30 Club in DC. I would have posted something sooner, but I had to catch up with Mad Men, Frozen Planet, Eastbound and Down, and now, Champions League football. Gotta have priorities. Anyway, the gig was French duo Housse de Racket from the prolific dance-pop label, Kitsune. It was the band’s first North American tour promoting their recent release, Alesia. Just coming up from SXSW, the two were pumped and excited to connect with a new audience, and although I hadn’t heard much about them before the show besides watching a few youtube videos, they were enthusiastic enough to really get the crowd on their side. I must say, I was not convinced by their videos. Too poppy and too many power chords for me, but I was interested in the electronic dance side of their game and telling myself that ‘any live music is good music’. Ultimately, I know that that sentiment is not true, but I am glad I gave them a second chance because they certainly grew on me and the live show does indeed suit them. Not the most complex music, they made up for any frailties with passion and banter, capitalizing on their French accents to play with the crowd. HdR offer great catchy tunes to dance to, and had it been a Saturday night rather than Sunday, the whole place would have been bumpin’. The singer did acknowledge that fact, though, and did his best to encourage people to forget that they have to work tomorrow (if they’re lucky). Having listened more thoroughly, the duo have definitely progressed their sound with huge strides. I would venture to guess that in one more album these guys who’ve played in sessions with other French pop icons, Phoenix and Air, will be able to attract buzz without having seen their fun live show. Top songs for me: ‘Alesia’, ‘Chateau‘, and ‘Roman‘.

new music: Post War Years, ‘All Eyes’

This single and accompanying video by struggling (in the best sense of the word) Londoners, Post War Years, somehow slipped under my radar when it was released in November. It’s a slight departure from the tunes they’ve been putting out the past couple of years. Typically energetic, the boys have slowed down the pace from danceable speed-freak to a methodical sway. The acid-induced video is captivatingly creepy…just the way I like ’em. About two-thirds the way into the song (and video) they reveal the trick up their sleeve, and that’s what I like about the band. They have progressed nicely in the short span of their existence, and they have a knack for incorporating new, smart sounds to each of their songs. Although I would say a track of theirs called ‘Black Morning’, is still their best song yet, if you give it a listen, it’s comprised of a completely different set of sounds from this new single – and I’m willing to bet there’s more where that came from. Keep an eye out for these brits, they’ll be big in no time.

The Shins and the Stand-ins

This post is inspired by a blog post from September of last year titled Last Shin Standing. Writer Casey Newton details the ins and outs of The Shins‘ transformations in the past decade: their rise to fame and the resulting changes to their roster. I suggest you go check it out for the super-apt analogy of the group through their own song, “Sleeping Lessons,” or if you are clueless about the band’s situation. If you’re to busy for that here’s the short version: frontman and composer James Mercer fired his bandmates after their third successful album together for “aesthetic” differences. Obviously, there’s more to the story, and it’s further fledged out in the aforementioned article.

Now that the ‘new and improved’ Shins have just released their latest album, Port of Morrow, on the 20th of March, judgment day has arrived, and I really don’t see any huge steps in the way of instrumentation that the former band members wouldn’t be able to perform. Frankly, Port of Morrow sounds just like any other Shins album – a bit indie, a bit poppy, and a bit whiney. If this is what Sandoval, Crandall, Hernandez, and Johnson were axed for, I’m not seeing the point. The “band’s” sound is practically the same, save for a few tweaks (mainly provided by Dobson, and I’ll get to her in a moment). What I mean by that is Mercer claimed to have shed his band so that he and his vision could progress and move on to new heights that the rest for some reason or another just couldn’t reach. To be fair, that’s understandable. Those guys can composite their sounds to form beautifully melodic songs, but technically, they are nothing special and only afford so much room for growth. So what has the new band reached? From what I can tell, a better live performance [I haven’t seen them live other than SNL, which is hardly a stage for fair judgment (just ask Lana Del Rey), but that’s the word on the street] and a new album that fails to reach even the heights of Oh, Inverted World and Wincing the Night Away – both performed admirably by the outcasts. My gripe is that Mercer has taken his opportunity to flee what was The Shins, yet he hasn’t flown further than the front lawn. He kept the name on the mailbox, kept the sound, and lost the respect of a sizable chunk of his fans and friends.

It would appear that James Mercer is finally getting what he wanted…band members that can upstage him instead of just play what he says to. New guitarist, Jessica Dobson, poses that threat. On an album of grand proportions that lacks an edgy pertinence, Dobson shines on the final and namesake track, Port of Morrow, while backing Mercer with harmonies and distinctive guitar effects throughout the preceding songs of the album. Not only that, she certainly has the presence to be a frontwoman, as she is already making waves with her own band, Deep Sea Diver, out of Seattle. Their debut album, History Speaks, was released February 24th, and you can stream and buy it on the group’s bandcamp. At least watch this studio-basement video of their two leading singles and witness their jagged, jammy goodness for yourself:

So, at last we can see that there is a silver lining to Mercer’s revolving door of collaborators: stand-ins are people too, and now they’ll get their time in the sun.