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Jun 222010

Look at them in their little sweaters!

I’ve opined about the conflagration of indie / alternative duos so I will digress in expounding on Phantogram’s musical configuration. “Mouthful of Diamonds” is the first song I’ve heard from this Saratoga Springs group. It is a dark, lush, almost symphonic pop song that lingers in me brain. Not since Ice Cube on N.W.A’s “Dopeman” has the lyrics “Getting high on your own supply” sounded so poignant.

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Jun 212010

Australia’s Tame Impala is what I’ve been waiting for. The alternative music scene is bustling with lush pop songwriters, nifty duos, and electronica hybrids which are all great, but sometimes atame dude needs a little rock! It is nice to hear a fresh treatment to straight-forward guitar rock and Tame Impala is able to do so with a contemporary twist on 60′s rock ‘n roll.

Two trends in indie / alternative seem to have a strong hold at the moment. There is the 80′s influence evident in the likes of Julian Casablancas, Cold Cave, and Yeasayer with another retro movement focused on the sounds of the 60′s – from the Brill Building pop emulation of She & Him, and Cults, to the late 60′s psychedelia of the new Smashing Pumpkins material, Hot Rats, and Tame Impala.

Their first full-length album, Innerspeaker, manages to bring the musical charge of guitar rock pioneers Blue Cheer and meld it with a late-era Beatles charm. “Desire Be Desire Go” slogs out a thick, chunky fuzz riff with a McCartney-esque lead vocal that breaks into an expansive middle-end jam reminiscent of Cream. “Alter Ego” floats on mind bending, space-age layers of guitar and synthesizer while the vocals swirl in reverb. Fancy little stops are thrown in to reveal a band with tight song construction and while the track progresses faster and faster to crescendo, it never becomes too hard – the gloopy, drooling paste of psychedelic charm seems to smooth out the edges.

This band is going boldly where other band’s have gone before, but using some of the best tricks in the bag to breathe life into the modern rock scene. Impala digested the finer points of the past to produce some of the freshest sounds in alternative music which is a difficult maneuver; reinventing a sound and feel whilst steering away from derivative retreads.

Written for REAX Online 6.20.2010

Jun 152010

cults_kissesandnoise_reviewDuos, duos, duos – what the fuck? They are everywhere, crowding the music scene with interesting variations of electronica, pop, and rock. Of course there are The White Stripes and The Black Keys, but it goes way beyond that. Let me see, there’s The Big Pink, Sleigh Bells, Phantogram, Crystal Castles, The XX, Ratatat, Dirty Projectors, Xiu Xiu, Matt and Kim, Japandroids, YACHT, and what seems like hundreds more. It may have something to do with the economy, the new music model, technology or more likely a combination of all three. By that, I mean with profits falling, touring becoming more costly, and technology allowing artists to create richer, fuller music and perform it with limited live instrumentation may be causing an underlying tendency to streamline the concept of the traditional band. Whatever the reason, duos are ruling the indie scene and Cults is one of the newer groups to enter the fray.

Cults is a band steeped in mystery – at least for now. This could be purposeful in order to develop a rock facade or unintentional due to the quickness of their proliferation. With heavy airplay on satellite radio and a far reaching groundswell rumbling on the blogosphere Cults quickly became a band to watch. With only a Band Camp site and 3 songs available for download Cults seems woefully unprepared or deftly calculating.

Go Outside is the first single from the EP. A song that feels light and uplifting reveals, on closer inspection, a sad and desperate plea to overcome depression. The track is eerily low-fi and simultaneously sugary sweet. It begins with a creepy recording of Jim Jones pleading with his flock, then a simple melody on xylophone. Next come the spectral layered vocals given the bottom-of-the-well production treatment, light guitar, organs, and a chunky bass line mashed out on a synthesizer.

Cults may be the strongest entry in the wave of 60 retro pop because of the power of melody and musical nuance. “Most Wanted” and “The Curse” like “Go Outside” embrace pop vibrancy while simultaneously imbuing dark undertones. These songs sound like they walked right out of the Lesley Gore or Ellie Greenwich songbooks and got smacked around by Pro-Tools and strokes of modern irony along the way.

Written for REAX Online 6.12.2010

Jun 132010

Wow. Passion Pit is pretty popular. The long line in front of Firestone and down Orange Ave. told the story. That and the fact that I, personally, digitally molested about 394 people on my tedious walk from the front door to the back bar, and for that I’m sorry. Tokyo Police Club was in their encore as I made my way in. People seemed just as psyched to see them as they closed out with “In a Cave” and “Breakneck Speed.” Passion Pit brought a good light show and super-high energy to a rabid crowd on their first-ever stop in Orlando.

“Moth’s Wings”

“Better Things”


Jun 122010

This was indie buzz bonanza weekend for Firestone in Orlando. Friday night saw West Palm Beach’s own Surfer Blood open for 80′s pop-sters The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Actually, a last minute switcheroo had Surfer Blood headlining. The Firestone is a challenging place (at best) to sound good in. It sucks because of its potential to be such a great venue, but alas, it genuinely sounds like shit. Pains and Surfer Blood’s sets came off like they would be pretty good in a different room. Pains slithered through a quick set of their shoegaze-y 80′s pop while Surfer Blood amped up their 60′s surf pop meets Dinosaur Jr. sound. One thing which surprised me was how, um, uh, flamboyant – yeah, SB’s – singer, Nick Klein is. He sashayed and pranced back and forth with true frontman swagger – something lacking these days. They swept through a set including “Floating Vibes,” “Swim,” “Slow Jabroni,”  and “Catholic Pagans.” Members of Pains joined SB to close the show with an ironic stab at Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” from 1999.

Surfer Blood “Floating Vibes”

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart”

Covered for REAX Online 6.12.2010