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Jul 262011

clap_your_hands_say_yeah_graffitiClap Your Hands Say Yeah blew me away with their debut album. They were able to create fun, heartfelt rock with the rhythm of Talking Heads and jangly melancholy of Modest Mouse. Their second album, Some Loud Thunder, showed signs of growth, but failed to capture some of the magic of the first. Then they were done. One of the most buzzed about bands in recent history just shriveled up and died. Remember, they were one of the first to use digital and social to create, distribute, and market their music by themselves selling thousands of copies on the Interweb with no professional representation at all? It was a kind of blueprint laid out and used by nearly everyone over the last 6 years. Well, Alec Ounsworth realized that although the band is really good he, by no means exhibited enough songwriting strength and notoriety to strike out on his own. He saw an overcrowded indie market and cried, “Me too, me too.” Well he is back with CYHSY and a full album, Hysterical, is due in September.

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Jul 262011

besnard-You-Lived-in-the-City-review_kisses-and-noiseThe Besnard Lakes are good. They are able to create grand, atmospheric alternative rock music and disguise it within the indie genre which, for some reason these days, earns it more street cred. A big reason TBL is able to achieve this is the dreamy vocal pairing of the husband-and-wife team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas. Jace sounds like Brian Wilson in space while Olga’s ethereal croon is also retro and incredibly distinctive, complimenting her partner perfectly. They are one couple I would love to hear argue … if they sang their displeasure at each other.

This release, You Lived in the City, is a strange entry as it highlights the best of TBL in “We’re Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time)” and “The Corner.” The songs have the same hazy, psychedelics and grandiose approach that drew me to the band initially. The downside is that it highlights only half of Besnard’s vocal tag-team with Goreas taking lead duties on both.

The other two songs are instrumentals and, although haunting and expansive, it reduces this EP to two songs and two slow, dirge-like instrumentals. “Holiday Sin” sounds like it could easily fit on the soundtrack to Kubrick’s 2001 and “Some Colour in the Sky” would be a great intro song for the band in concert, but the two are too similar to be on a four-track collection. The overarching objective could be another EP featuring Lasek so the two releases compliment each other, but the end goal is yet to be seen.

The real keeper here is “The Corner” – a big, powerful, driving tune of epic magnitude. The end of the previous instrumental bleeds seamlessly into “The Corner” and the song subtly builds on the lingering stream of synth lines. Then the driving drum beat is added with a crunchy bass progression until the layers of guitar distortion swirl in chaos around the sweet, calming anchor of Olga’s voice and the song fades quietly away.

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Written for Suburban Apologist, Tampa’s Best Music Blog, 7.26.2011

Jul 182011

youth-lagoon_new-music_review_kisses-and-noiseThe first time I shared this song with someone they said they dug it. Then asked whether this band would perform live in a dark chamber or long hallway. I answered, “dark chamber.” Apparently this was a rhetorical question. Yes “Montana” by Youth Lagoon – aka Trevor Powers – sounds very dark, but it is also epic and sweeping in a very subtle way. The same way “You and Whose Army” by Radiohead is: quiet, but creeping, growing and deceivingly powerful.

Montana by Youth Lagoon

They removed the Soundcloud track so here’s the video:

Youth Lagoon – Montana from Tyler T Williams on Vimeo.

The song pokes at an indescribable feeling by trying to convey this mood through layers of evocative melody and somber tone; The state of mind of smiling while you’re crying. Instinct tells me the rest of Trevor Powers’ music builds on the collision of morose and grandiose based on this quote:

“For my whole life I’ve dealt with extreme anxiety.” says Powers. “Not anxiety about passing a test or somewhat normal things, but weird.. bizarre things. Things that only I know. I sometimes feel like I’m literally being eaten up inside. So I started writing these songs. Not just songs about my anxiety, but about my past and my present. Songs about memories, and all those feelings that those bring.”

More Music from Youth Lagoon on his Bandcamp page

Jul 152011

washed-out-within-and-without_kisses-and-noise_reviewNow that the fervor over the chill wave has receded maybe we can sit back and evaluate the music for what it is (or isn’t). Whatever chill wave was – or is – it really only turned out 3 “bands” that I can recall: Toro Y Moi, Neon Indian (maybe my favorite), and Atlanta’s Ernest Green, aka Washed Out.

Within and Without represents Washed Out’s first complete album of new material as the first two EP’s are the summation of Green’s earlier recordings. This effort allows Green to dig in, taking the waves of muted synthesizer and 80’s new wave pop feel to a more expansive and complete body of songs. “Eyes be Closed” and “Echoes,” the first two tracks, establish a mood and the broader musical sensibility Green is communicating. It harkens the ethereal and slightly dark feelings of another one-man-band that gets it right, Active Child, with an emotive and even chilling sense of longing.

The third track, “Amor Fati,” which I think is Italian for I love fat chicks, picks up the pace and delivers a little pop gem in the vein of the Thompson Twins. This song, and the whole effort actually, conjure images of crazy hair and bleak English streets in a Joe Jackson / Human League video sort of way – the time when MTV ruled the world. I think it is that feeling, the ability to strike a deep emotional chord with a seemingly innocent pop song as some of the best 80’s pop did that draws me to “chill wave.” Or it could be the ability to capture that sound in a modern way that makes it emotional to me. Who knows?

I will admit that the first listen or two didn’t really grab my attention, making me lament the advent and conflagration of the ubiquitous guy and his computer “band” dominating the indie scene. As I listened the scope of the album settled in and I warmed to the concept. Something about it just feels like summer. “Before” is another excellent track and has a vocal sample that I can’t recall for the life of me (someone help me out here), and the album stays strong – with the exception of “You and I” which is kind of a yawner, through the beautiful outro of the last song, “A Dedication.”

Before by Washed Out

Album review written for Suburban Apologist