Trevor Powers found a voice for his chronic anxiety and the indescribable feelings swirling around inside of him in Youth Lagoon and the aptly titled debut album, A Year of Hibernation. When “Montana” first came my way I was instantly drawn to the dreamy melancholy floating out of the speakers. “July” has that same feeling; a song that, despite its intentions, builds a soundscape that defines a distant emotion more than creating a catchy melody. It’s like something that would be piped in as your deathbed mind flashed through the disparate chain of memories that is your life. That’s a pretty bold statement considering this Boise native is barely 20 and made this album by himself.
This is the second video directed by Tyler T. Williams who seems to have a knack for underscoring Powers’ uncanny ability to build a slow song into an epic crescendo out of seemingly nothing.
My current celebrity lady crush, Annie Clark, is back with a new St. Vincent album titled Strange Mercy. I always understood St. Vincent to be a pixie-ish waif with a great voice and tender, graceful pop songs. That is until I saw her on Austin City Limits with her full band just tear the ass out of it – changing seemingly mellow numbers into guitar-infused rock. Live, her dainty songs were supercharged with energy and sprinkles of true “axe-work” handled competently by Annie herself.
Strange Mercy highlights some of her live strengths, making great use of charging beats and generous dabs of grinding guitar. The first two tracks, especially “Cruel,” capture the best of what St. Vincent has to offer. Cathartic lyrics housed in elegant and soaring pop and brought down to earth with the chunkiness of electric guitar.
There has been sort of an “Incense and Peppermints” roots revival of 60′s psychedelic guitar rock. Bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre have been doing it all along but more recently, outfits like Tame Impala, The Love Dimension, and even Smashing Pumpkins are busting out albums characterized by pop melodies drenched in guitar effects and reverb, harkening that hazy Hendrix meets Blue Cheer on the corner of Haight and Ashbury sound. Unknown Mortal Orchestra is capitalizing on the same vibe. This trio is out of Portland although the singer is from New Zealand. UMO can be pretty eclectic, but fuzzed out retro guitar rock is the constant theme. This is a live performance of “Little Blu House” from 4Eyes TV.
The Smashing Pumpkins have never been the best visual artists. None of their videos are particularly cool. “Rocket” is one of my favorites because it is whimsical and kind of strange. “Tonight Tonight” gained all the acclaim and it does look pretty good, but its not my favorite song. “Stand Inside Your Love” is most visually exciting and artistic interpretation of an SP song to date. “Bullet,” “Zero,” “That’s the Way,” “Tarantula,” “Today,” and most others are just an excuse for me to listen to the music, but fall short as visual companions. For me, besides “Stand Inside Your Love,” the best video might be Jonas Akerlund’s “The Everlasting Gaze” because it is intense and showcases the band actually playing music without an overarching story line. They are so technically fierce at times that I just want to see Billy play guitar and Jimmy (or Mike) play the frenetic drum patterns heard in the songs as in the unofficial video for “Ode to No One.”
The Pumpkins just released a short film directed by Robby Starbuck for “Owata” – the first since Akerland’s second video and short film about derelict youth addicted to heroin in “Try, Try, Try” – a video that synchs up better with the music. This is such a sweet and dynamic little song – one of the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope releases – that the film detracts from it. I know Billy is a big wrestling fan and this movie is part fan boy love letter, part symbolic tale of the Pumpkins starting over after being shafted by management and fans, but the subject matter would have been better suited for the “G.L.O.W” video. It works because A) it is also the acronym for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and B) the power and heaviness of the song flows better with the elbow-dropping, body slamming action of wrestling. The condensed music video version soon to be released may fare better as a companion to the song than the short film.
Either way I’m holding tight for the album-within-an-album, “Oceania,” a component of the ongoing TBK effort that has the blogosphere alight with stories of Billy breaking out the big, old-school Pumpkin guitar tricks, all 4 members of the band working together to write and record, and the return to the loud and pretty sound that they do so well.
At first listen, this sounds like a Zeppelin / Sabbath inspired southern rock band: power riffs, whiskey-soaked and blues-y vocals, and a bare bones, retro presentation. On further inspection these dudes are Swedish, which explains the glib band name. The fact that they’re Norwegian (actually most of the defunct stoner metal band, Norrksen) and totally rock excuses them from stealing their name from a midwestern middle school metal band.
Room 205 is a sort of an artistic co-op. A revolving cast of musicians work with any number of filmmakers, artists, set designers, and the like to create avant-garde music videos at the confluence of visual and sonic art. Director Otto Arsenault (the naked video with Matt & Kim) works with The Soft Moon and TSM band member, Ron Robinson, who did the lighting and projections on this video for “Parallels.”
It actually look like the Room 205 project is a pretty cool marketing endeavor from a company called incase that makes cool cases for Mac products along with backpacks and messenger bags.
I usually tell non-English rock music to fuck off unless, of course, it is Norwegian Black Metal, but Davila 666 has got a pretty cool tune here. It’s got a retro garage twist that makes it suitable for the climax of a Robert Rodriguez film. I like the singer too. He looks crazy. The gist of the video is this guy smacks the shit out of brunette chicks, then revives them as blonds in his super-cool rock cult. These guys apparently are getting a reputation as the ‘world’s greatest party band” according to Forcefield PR and will be in Gainesville sometime this summer. Anywho, this song is stuck in my head and I pass this earworm on to you.
I’m not all that familiar with L.A-based Lord Huron. I like this song’s Fleet Fox-ish sound with its dark, rustic feel. Maybe it’s because I just watched Jeremiah Johnson on AMC, but I connected with the naturalist tone of a lone mountain man losing his marbles amidst the dreary, yet beautiful backdrop of frontier America.
The swagger, misogyny, antics, tight Lip Service pants, and even the hairless, chubby/skinny Vince Neil-ishness of Steel Panther’s lead singer completely capture the pomp of 80′s hair metal. This satirical comedy act comes so close musically to a Sunset Strip metal band that they could pass for one of them at quick glance. Songs like “Fat Chicks,” “Asian Hookers,” and this one “Death to All but Metal” are hilarious comedic performances that have me simultaneously pissing myself and yearning for a youth full of Headbangers Ball, Metal Edge Magazine and Dial MTV (also a time when I pissed myself).
“Fifty Cent’s a fag / So is Kanye West / Shootin’ hot sperm / On each others chest” – priceless
Ok, Ok so I’m loving Warpaint. Although their name may be better suited for a hardcore metal act, they are an all-girl alternative rock band from L.A. Comprised of actresses, musicians in other L.A groups, and a former Chili Pepper for a brief time they flew quietly under my rock radar until this song, “Undertow” worked its way into my subconscious. Songs like “Elephants” from their debut EP, Exquisite Corpse, rock with heavy, hazy, psychedelic guitar fuzz and usually are the type to grab my attention first, but it is the sweet nouveau-Fleetwood Mac sound of “Undertow” that I can’t get out of my head.