Parenthetical Girls | A Review of Their Charismatic “Christmas” Album

Sick of Bing Crosby, how about some experimental baroque pop for the holiday season. Portland’s own Parenthetical Girls have released a Christmas album. Most Christmas albums are generally wholesome and feature whichever band singing familiar Xmas music. Parenthetical Girls’ Christmas album is a lot more interesting than that, but you wouldn’t want to play it as background music at a family holiday gathering. Don’t be put off though there are a lot of Jingle Bells ringing throughout this album. You can really notice them in Last Christmas, pt II, which is an interestingly sung track that sounds like Brian Molko (Placebo) singing a Christmas carol, but it’s not.  So, if the radio’s incessant playing of Jingle Bell Rock is pushing you into a homicidal rage but you still crave Yule Time music try Parenthetical Girls Christmas.       


Bardo Pond | A Review of Their Self-Titled Album

Bardo Pond originated in Philadelphia, PA. in the early 90s and have made it to the eighth album mark with their first Self-Titled LP. For an eighth album this LP doesn’t feel stale at all, it has the tone of a freshmen work matched with the depth that can only come from seasoned musicians.  Some of the tracks devolve into a kind of free flowing melodic entity that never really goes anywhere but entrances the listener like a moth caught by the glow of a flame. The musical style of Bardo Pond leans heavily on a psychedelic rock influence. It seems that the band can’t get enough time to explore the musical interludes of some cuts from the album, such as the track Undone which spans a whopping 21 minutes. But these extended instrumental portions of the album that are stuffed with heavy droning guitars rattling out distorted riff after riff, lend to the album’s esoteric quality. The extended instrumental parts noticeable in this album might remind people of a relative newcomer to the psychedelic game, namely British Columbia’s Frog Eyes. They too do not shy away from the ever expanding sound.  The music just keeps going, interrupted only for the briefest of moments by delicately laid out lyrics provided by Isobel Sollenberger. Bardo Pond’s new album might prove that eight and not seven is really a lucky number. This is definitely one album to check out.    


My Grey Horse | The Saltway EP

The English band My Grey Horse has recently released their second EP entitled The Saltway. The five-piece band consists of three Butler brothers John, Peter and Oobah the rest of the group is made up by Tom Mott and Joe Nickln. Just like the band’s first self-titled the four tracks that populate EP The Salway do not disappoint. First things first, the album art for this EP is fantastic. The band doesn’t seem to shy away from its equestrian related name, popping a prominent grey horse on the EP’s cover. The image looks like it was pulled from the LSD induced hallucinations of marionette theatre worker.  

The first cut is Johnny Edson and it starts off as something similar to Modest Mouse but evolves into something else altogether.  This song really draws its energy from the drums and less from the vocals; it all ends though in a slow burn resolution. Track two, Smiles Free is more of a straightforward punk rock number, the vocals are suitably inaudible and all of the instruments rattle off in haze to a melody appropriate for fast driver’s ambiance. Tug of Warcraft and Waste of Air close out The Saltway in a strong way. Both tracks have more of a You’ll Never Learn feel, a track from the band’s previous effort.

So, how does this new EP stack up against My Grey Horse’s first one? The answer is, nicely.  EPs are always a taste of what’s to come and The Saltway is hopefully just that.

Prediction: The cover of My Grey Horse’s first full length album will feature a giant top hat wearing grey horse working a troll marionette.     


The Bees | Every Step’s A Yes A Review

The U.K. band The Bees released an album this past fall entitled Every Step’s A Yes, and it has gone rather unnoticed across the pond. This was the band’s fourth full length release. Their sound is a lighthearted combination of folk and garage rock with a retro vibe. For some cuts off of Every Step’s A Yes there is a definite reggae influence, this blend of styles makes for a wonderful variety from one song to the next. The tempo is fairly mild throughout the album and creates a relaxed atmosphere. It’s not surprising that The Bees haven’t made a real mark in the States. It seems that more and more bands have begun taking their cues from past artists, especially from the 60s and 70s of late. It’s not a bad thing, but there is an influx of albums with a similar style to The Bees. Matt Costa’s recent album harkens back to the glory days of rock and roll. Dawes début album from last year was a case of reboot rock fever if there ever was one. Mini Mansion, Dr. Dog, Timbre Timbre, they are all in a similar, slightly more psychedelic boat with The Bees. It’s hardly a bad boat to be in, but it is getting a bit crowed.
Nonetheless, this The Bees album is worth checking out if you are at all interesting in any of the other artists mention. So, if you just can’t get enough of this vain of music, Every Step’s A Yes is right for you.


Dead Ghosts | Taking a Look Dead Ghost’s Self-Titled Album

As a band that calls Vancouver B.C. home, Dead Ghosts must have a lot of American fans saying; “Your Vancouver B.C., I want to go there so badly.” The reply tumbling around in the back of their heads must sound something like, thank 2010 Winter Olympics, you’ve turned my city into the Canadian version of Paris, France. Everyone says they love those cities and want to visit, but they couldn’t name three other cities within those countries if their life depended on it. As for Dead Ghosts’, is actually as interesting as people believe their city to be.
Dead Ghosts have a style that mixes Beach Boys guitar riffs with drastic fuzz of an over spun record. This makes the lyrics of each track off of their self-titled album mostly indecipherable adding to the band’s enigmatic style. Some tracks, like Getting Older, burst out of the gate with an energy similar to that of John Lennon singing Twist and Shout. While others have more of a Deer Tick vibe, with a country melody as the backbone of the song yet still maintain the constant static distortion. This is the best album to come out of Vancouver B.C.’s indie music scene since Frog Eye’s released Paul's Tomb: A Triumph earlier this year. 


Mini Mansions | Self-Titled Full Length LP

The L.A. based band and side project of Queens of the Stone Age bassist Michael Shuman has released its full length LP. The band was formed last year after Queens of the Stone Age took a break and most members spread out into new waters, up until now the most notable of which was Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme’s and the Them Crooked Vultures project. But things have changed, Mini Mansions is one of those band’s that if you were to tell people that, the guy who plays bass in Queens of the Stone Age is in this band too. They would say; “fuck off!”
Mini Mansions has a style similar to the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, ear of The Beatles. It’s is reboot rock the likes of which we were seeing by the discography full in 2009 but became less popular in 2010. Though, you can forget any moderate language you would hear from The Beatles, Mini Mansions have a way of throwing in a few “fucks” here and there to keep the distinction alive. This is not your parent’s music but it sure does sound like it.     
In all Mini Mansions has a lot to offer as a great throw back to a simpler time in music without obviously manufactured pop stars *cough*(Lady Ga Ga) and not every cut off an album was sentenced to a shitty clubs music playlist.   

Contemporaries of Mini Mansions:
Matt Costa (especially his latest album Mobile Chateau)
Elephant Stone


Neon Death Ranger | A Review of the Self-Titled EP

Everyone knows about the classic Love Ballad, boy meats girl, wants to hold her hand and so on. Then there is the Breakup Song, boy loses girl, boy finds solace in booze and punching? Well, what about an electro based song of murder? Enter Portland’s Neon Death Ranger; an electro rock group who have taken a path less traveled in terms of lyrical storytelling. Their five track EP, which was released on Halloween, is set to make the Manson family’s playlist.   
The first cut off of the EP is an 8 minute beast of a song Rainbow Blood Bride that lures you in with a synth feast for the initial four minutes only to break into a threatening set of lyrics describing the familiar idea of a killer hiding in the back of your car with a knife at you neck. The songs that populate this EP stay within the realm of murder fantasies for the most part; ranging from throat slitting to cutting the brake lines.    
The dark nature of this album is perhaps expression of macabre humour or a Dexter-centric take on the love and obsession. Either way, you wouldn’t want to be caught with this album playing in your car if you have a body in the trunk. Neon Death Ranger is fun for the whole Manson family.
You can download the EP in its entirety here.

(We at Indie Blog Shot do not condone murder or even capital punishment for any reason whatsoever.)    Happy Halloween!       


Bad Books | A Review of Their Self-Titled Album

Bad Books has recently released their first effort with a self-titled album of folk inspired music. This six man band is composed of Kevin Devine and Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra.  That’s right Bad Books is the answer to the question on everyone’s lips: will anyone form another indie folk supergroup to stand up to Monsters of Folk?

What Bad Books has managed to bring to the table is very a contemporary style of folk music that can stand up to anyone currently banging a folksy drum. Bad Books begins its debut album with a slow moving number that quickly swells with background harmonies and a flurry of guitars. Numerous cuts off of this album feel like instant classics such as The Easy Mark and The Old Maid which speaks to the inner defeatist in all of us.  As with most indie folk albums (at least the good ones), Bad Books captures a certain spirit with its lyrics and melodies and that spirit is that of the frustration of a young boy tossing a ball against an ally wall while waiting for his father to finish at the pub.    


A Sunny Day in Glasgow | A Review of Autumn Again

The Philadelphia band A Sunny Day in Glasgow has released its third full length album Autumn Again.  Their sound is similar to an ever expanding bubble made entirely out of background noise of the universe; it’s possibly the most annoying album some people will ever have the pleasure to listen to. But for others it might be a welcomed addition to a music library filled with vacant stare inducing dream pop acts such as Animal Collective. A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s newest offering is not without its charm though, the track Sigh, inhibitionist (Come all day with me) starts off with promise, reminiscent of something you may hear from Jesus and Mary Chain but then quickly flutters off into the stratosphere with the rest of this album. The band should also be given some notice for the title of one of the album’s last tracks This assclown eats ambien OR Nobody likes you (No Art) – brilliant!


Taking a Look At My Grey Horse

My Grey Horse is a five piece band from Stratford-upon-Avon, U.K. that is off to a strong start. After a well received first EP the band is set to release its second entitled The Saltway. First impressions matter though, and the band’s first offering left a strong one. The lead vocalist sounds like a well tuned River Cuomo but that does not mean that My Grey Horse is a Weezer clone. No, the young band seems to take some inspiration from acts similar to Canada’s Wolf Parade. This can really be heard in the track You’ll Never Learn which features My Grey Horse’s contrasting vocal harmonies accompanied by a playful keyboard melody. This band isn’t a one trick pony, as the other tracks available on their website makes it clear that My Grey Horse draws from an eclectic pool of musicians for motivation.  As a first attempt My Grey Horse has managed to capture the essence of what good indie music should always embody: it’s slightly raw, has the potential from which to grow and is genuinely interesting to listen to.  Here’s to hoping that My Grey Horse will make a mark with The Saltway EP. 

My grey horse - you'll never learn from Peter Butler on Vimeo.


Kings of Leon’s Micro Interview Series on the Come Around Sundown Album

If you are unaware, the Kings of Leon are set to release their fifth album Come Around Sundown on October 19th which you can preview in it’s entirety here.  That is not the only reason why you should check out this site.  There is an ongoing series of interviews with all four band members talking about each of the tracks. It’s one thing to speculate on what some songs mean and another to get a walkthrough right from the horse’s mouth.  Each one of the interviews, which are at most two and a half minutes long, gives a little bit of history on a particular track, what it’s about when it was written and the circumstances surrounding its recording. It is an interesting series and worth following.

Highlights From the Interviews So Far
In Part 3 of the series the band discuses their first single from Come Around Sundown, Radioactive. They explain that the song was written for another album Aha Shake Heartbreak but just didn’t fit.

 Lead singer Caleb Followill was inspired to write the track Pyro by a news story about a group of extremist Christians that met an untimely end at the hands of the FBI.

The Track Mary was written as an outlet for Caleb Followill’s irritation over his brother/drummer Nathan Followill’s impending nuptials. Hence the first line of the song, “Mary if you wanna!”, which is an interesting revelation, that the track Mary isn’t about being pissed that an old flame is getting hitched but that your brother is getting married.    


Wheels on Fire | Cherry Bomb EP

Wheels on Fire, a band that originates from Athens, Ohio and have recently released their latest EP entitled Cherry Bomb. The three new tracks offered on this EP contain a certain character usually reserved for older musical acts. Their sound which is a nice mix of low-fi garage rock and “The Clash” renewal delivers on energy and style. EPs are meant to highlight the strengths of band’s music which can often lead to a disappointing reception for any full length that follows. But after listening to the band’s latest full length album Liar Liar which only recently came out it’s clear that this is not the case for Wheels on Fire’s Cherry Bomb EP. The EP is right on par with the rest of their work, it’s playful, slightly poppy and hard to find fault with. Wheels on Fire will be touring Europe throughout this October.      


Kings of Leon | First Impressions of ‘Come Around Sundown’

Kings of Leon have had a big couple of years since their release of 2008’s highly successful album Only By The Night. That album brought this band from being one people could barely remember the name of, to a household name. Kings of Leon is now known for songs like Sex on Fire and Use Somebody of the Only By The Night album but it wasn’t long ago in Britain that the band was making musical waves with their older albums such as Youth And Young Manhood or Because Of The Times. These albums rung out to many people because of that undeniable rock feel to them which pulsated with charisma and personality that is usually reserved for the fleeting golden moments that very seldom come for most artists.
The release of Kings of Leon’s fifth album Come Around Sundown is distinctively more mature than any of the other offerings to come before it.  Come Around Sundown doesn’t have that streamlined feel to it that Only By The Night came to be known for, the new album is slower and the lyrics feel like they are coming from a happier place.  Especially when you put them up against some of the lyrics from Because Of The Times which could be best described as a drunken conversation with the lads after a bad break-up with a long time girlfriend.  One of the few real throwbacks on the new album, in terms of lyrics that are more reminiscent of tracks like Molly’s Chambers or Trani is Mi Amigo. In that track the refrain goes something like this “I’ve got a friend, helps me to get up again. Showers me in Booze, tells me I got a big old dick, and then she walks my ass home”. Classic Kings of Leon!   
With any Kings of Leon album it takes a bit of time to process and it’s important to wait until the third or fourth listen to pass any judgment.  If history serves any purpose it should tell us that albums from the Kings of Leon are loaded with gems that just need a bit of time to catch with the people who are listening. The real standouts from Come Around Sundown are Pyro, Mary, Back Down South and Mi Amigo


Matt Costa | Mobile Chateau Review

Matt Costa is a folk artist from the sunny state of California and has released his third album entitled Mobile Chateau. Costa is not exactly an unknown, his critically acclaimed 2008 album Unfamiliar Faces made many peoples ‘best of’ lists for that year, and with his lasted LP, Mobile Chateau he may have a repeat performance. There have been a number of acts to come out with folk albums of note this year and now we have to chalk Costa’s up there along with others like Deer Tick and Jason Boesel.
One thing kept coming to mind the whole time while listen to Costa’s new work: why wasn’t Costa included in the 2009 folk supergroup Monsters of Folk? He’s a folk ‘Monster’ and in the same league as say Matt Ward or Jim James, maybe there was room for only one Matt in the Monsters of Folk or a fifth man would have screwed up the symmetry of the album cover (which was one of the best out of the 2009 and collection of album covers).  C’est la vie. Costa’s album title is also having a negative affect ‘people’ when it comes to the use of French word usage in English writing.
Mobile Chateau has a charm and consistency that reminds you of the Fleet Foxes last album but with out all of their signature harmonies.   The playful guitar portions create an atmosphere that resounds throughout the album and keeps the whole thing grounded firmly in a place that feels vaguely like post Beatles Americana of the 60s. The nostalgic incantations of this album are most noticeable on the tracks, Can You Tell Me, Witchcraft and Stings of Change.     


Weezer | ‘Hurley’ Is Better Than ‘Raditude’

For three years in a row now, the L.A. based band Weezer has released a full length LP, ‘The Red Album’ in 08’, ‘Raditude’ in 09’ and the newest of which ‘Hurley’, dropped on September 14th.  Whenever you have albums that come out in such rapid succession it makes you question the value of the music being produced. How good could this music really be? Well if we wanted to make a power ranking out of just the three latest albums it would start with ‘The Red Album’ followed by ‘Hurley’ and bringing up the rear in a distant, distant third would be ‘Raditude’.
The new album ‘Hurley’ that features a photo of ‘Lost’ star Jorge Garcia who played the character Hurley. It was an interesting choice for Weezer to use just a photo of the big man as the cover art for ‘Hurley’.  No graphics, no words, just a face shot of a grinning Garcia who is instantly recognizable as his famous character Hurley.  ‘Hurley’ (the album not the character) has a much more familiar tone to it than last years ‘Raditude’. The new album has more of that pop rock attitude that we saw with ‘The Red Album’ with playful lyrics and fast paced guitar progressions.  River Cuomo the lead singer of Weezer had a lot of help on this album when it came to writing the songs. Artists like Dan Wilson, Greg Wells and Ryan Adams share some of the credit for ‘Hurley’ and if you listen to “Run Away” the track which Ryan Adams had a hand in you almost think that you are listening to The Cardinals.
Whenever you get right down to it, ‘Hurley’ is a solid album, its not the best Weezer has ever done but it is not the worst either. ‘Hurley’ is a major move back to where Weezer was before they made ‘Raditude’ and that is not a bad thing at all.   


Junip | Fields A Review

In recent memory there has been a deluge of great American folk music coming from all over the world. Whether it’s coming from North America or Europe one thing is clear this music isn’t from the soundtrack from Deliverance. Recently a band hailing from Sweden has made its contribution to the genre in a not so small way. The band Junip, first full length LP titled Fields has the low key style with a slightly psychedelic edge. José González offers up a solid vocal performance throughout Fields. As a singer González s seems to have established a mood in his songs and painted a picture for the listener that illustrates a level of meaning and complexity that only comes with natural talent and a honed skill set.  Key tracks off of Fields are: Always, Howl and Off Point.


The Wilderness Downtown: An Interactive Film That Could Be the Future of Music Videos. What Does Your Wilderness Look Like?

Those who listen to Arcade Fire music are very aware of the emotional influence they posses. Their songs are often so vivid and emotionally charged that you as the listener become heavily immersed in their narrative. Well, now there is a new way to experience Arcade Fire in a cleverly designed interactive music video featuring the song “We Used To Wait” from the band’s latest album The Suburbs.
The concept is simple; The Wilderness Downtown personalizes the video in order to incorporate where you grew up into the story using Google Maps and Street-view. These features along with an image of a hooded person (most likely representing you) running through these suburban streets. All of these factors are then combined to make a very unique experience, one that is both inventive and entertaining.  And in terms of a style of music video for accompanying Arcade Fire’s song “We Used To Wait” there couldn’t be a more perfect fit, it takes the relatability of the song to another level altogether.
You do need to have Google’s internet browser Chrome in order to view videos and the manner they are displayed, kind of like a structured flurry of over and underlaid ad pop-ups providing different perspectives of the address you put in makes for something quite unique.  But about midway through you are asked to write a letter or draw a picture to your younger self. The letter you write can be stored in a virtual post box. There it is submitted to be a visual on Arcade Fire’s tour. If you have been to one of their shows on The Suburbs tour you know that the big screen acting as backdrop for the performance does come into play as a visual aid during the performance. That means your little note to your former self could make it into one of the band’s live performances! As well, these messages are submitted to ‘The Wilderness Machine’ which then prints off a hard copy of these messages on a post card with, get this, laden with birch seeds and can be panted to grow a tree.
When it comes to music videos there is really very little to get excited about, they have pretty much been the same for the past thirty years give or take some choreographic with few exceptions. But The Wilderness Downtown is… something.  Check out The Wilderness Downtown here.                


The Thermals | A Review of Personal Life

In terms of Punk music The Thermals have set the bar for anyone thinking of making an attempt at the now 30+ year old genre of music. What this Portland, Oregon based band established with its previous four albums are among the best of what punk should be today when comes to style and content. You can’t go back in time and be the Sex Pistols or The Ramones and there is no point in attempting to pop punk band because Sum 41 and Blink 182 sucked the life out of that version of punk all together. No, what’s left for punk is exactly what The Thermals are doing, making it sound gritty but tight as all get out.
The new album Personal Life is short and to the point but it leaves a lasting impression. The tracks I’m Gonna Change Your Life and I Don’t Believe You set the tone for the rest of Personal Life with their solid guitar and vocal portions. In terms of content Personal life is a more abstract album in comparison to say, The Body, The Blood, The Machine which had some heavy biblical references mixed with a generous helping of anti-establishment sentiment. Nonetheless, this album is still very good and should be picked up.


Film School | Fission A Review

There is pleasure to be found in the ambient hum generally found in American Shoegazer, not so drab as to bring on depression and not too up beat either. If anything this style of music should elicit a certain level of excitement. The San Francisco based band Film School is one of these bands, with a style which relies very heavily on synth effects and the ability to create an overwhelming sense that movement is inevitable. With their fourth offering of the album Fission, Film School has made a finely tunes piece that has elements reminiscent of Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths, but any initial impression that you might get from this album will be painted with nostalgia. Don’t let this matured 60s garage band sound of theirs allow you to think the band is without its own merit, it is one thing to take inspiration from musicians that have come before you and it’s another to make something not new but renewed out of it. And that is what Film School has done with Fission.     


Dreamend | A Review of So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite

The Chicago based shoegazer band Dreamend has released its fantastically titled album So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite. In it, Dreamend takes the listener on a banjo laden low-fi joyride that ranges from folksy numbers to more standard alternative rock tracks. So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite maintains a steady level of energy throughout the album with a tone that is slightly dark while keeping things from falling into an EMO pit of despair. Unlike most other folk inspired albums Dreamend’s new one incorporates a healthy amount  of distortion (which requires the shoe to be gazed upon in order to work the effects) to take up the background of some tracks, curiously the combination of banjo, distortion and vocal harmonies makes for a very pleasant musical experience, such as with the track A Thought. Ryan Graveface who is the only person in Dreamend (unless you count a synthesizer as backup) and delivers like quartet’s worth.  As for the album as a whole there is a certain quality to it which makes it one of those albums that will no doubt have people taking notice.  
Note: If you were wondering who designed the album art for So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite it was William Schaff who is an artist based out of Providence, Rhode Island. 


The Walkmen | A Review of Lisbon

In their sixth studio album The Walkmen have risen to the occasion and produced a very impressive album with Lisbon. Lisbon is a slow paced atmosphere piece which creates a tone and texture that incites a sense of reflective calm.  The tinny guitar portions have a kind of low-fi effect and set up lead singer Hamilton Leithauser nicely and continue to do so throughout the album. For a band that has been doing this for a decade now, The Walkmen don’t seem to be slowing down and have made a memorable album with Lisbon. 


The Band In Heaven | Taking a Look at Their Collection Of Demos

Hailing from West Palm Beach, Florida The Band In Heaven is a self proclaimed shoegazer band that seems to draw their inspiration straight from the background hum of the universe itself.  In their collection of demos (available for download on their site) the band walks us through their distortion riddled world of drone. A Tunnel into Your Dreams is the opening cut off of this album and it sets a tone, the background always infused with a shaky distortion heavy melody, the vocal portions incite a sense of subtle possession which draws in the listener for more.
What is striking about The Band In Heaven is not really its influences which lay somewhere between Velvet Underground and The Jesus and Mary Chain, but it is in their contemporaries. The only other band that comes to mind that has been able to recently pull off this style of music is The Big Pink from Britain. The Big Pink like The Band In Heaven have a handle on this highly enjoyable style of music. Both bands are definitely worth your time and a listen.
As for just The Band In Heaven, if this album is just a taste of what they can do, it’s exciting to think what a full length album of theirs might consist of. 
There are a number of highlights on this album but the standouts are: A Tunnel into Your Dreams, Dreams (Cranberries Cover) and High Low. 


Arcade Fire | First Impressions of The Suburbs

The Montreal, Quebec, Canada based band Arcade Fire is set to release their third full length album called The Suburbs. Arcade Fire was one of those bands that came out of Montreal during the middle of the 00s but unlike most of their geographical contemporaries, Arcade Fire managed to tap into a wider fan base. It’s hard to call them an “indie” band any more since they are signed to a record and are known here and abroad. Their sound can only be classified in vulgar generalization like baroque pop, new wave (or my personal favorite alterative rock… what sort of rock music does fall under the alterative category in one way or another?).  Arcade Fire style is quite eclectic and in The Suburbs seems to be growing ever more so.   
The first two albums of Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004) and Neon Bible (2007) were both met with critical praise and were adored by fans, spawning a whole movement of Deadhead like followers.  Though the two albums have very different tones they do have one thing in common which is they are expressed with a level of intensity and emotional energy that other bands only hope to achieve.  In fact the energy require to pull off a live performance of the band’s firs two album may have come into play when penning their new album The Suburbs. The Suburbs has a much more mature tone than the previous two albums, taking on some characteristics more akin to Bruce Springsteen at some points (Modern Man) while at others experiments with synth rhythm backed numbers (Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)) that boarder on nostalgic which cause piercing brightly coloured flashes of The Human League music videos.

The most distinctive aspect of The Suburbs in contrast with Funeral and Neon Bible is the lyrical perspective, it seems to have shifted away from a more youthful ideology to more practical concerns, the road, the growing generational divide, seeing friends begin to take on “adult” role and trying to look the part. The underlined idea that seems to permeate The Suburbs are the worries that come with the post university/pre suburban life realization that you’re going to become just another suite that will live and die splitting time between the city and the suburbs.  This idea is driven home with the track Suburban War.   Top tracks on The Suburbs are, Ready To Start, Modern Man, Rococo, Suburban War and Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).

Track List For The Suburbs Due Out August 2nd 2010.
1. The Suburbs
2. Ready to Start
3. Modern Man
4. Rococo
5. Empty Room
6. City with No Children
7.  Half Light I
8.  Half Light II (No Celebration)
9.  Suburban War
10. Month of May
11. Wasted Hours
12. Deep Blue
13. We Used to Wait
14.  Sprawl I (Flatland)
15. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
16. The Suburbs (Continued)


Ra Ra Riot | Boy EP

Ra Ra Riot has recently released a three track EP entitled Boy. If you don’t know about Ra Ra Riot, it is a New York based band and is expected to release their second full length album The Orchard later this year after releasing The Rhumb Line back in 08’. The band’s lyrics, sung by Wes Miles, speak volumes and are accompanied very naturally by violin and cello. Their debut album The Rhumb Line is populated with tracks executed with ease though the skill involved in performing them may be greater than the seeming simplicity that each song may let on. The Boy EP may only have three tracks but gives us a glimpse of what’s to come. The highlight of the EP is Keep It Quiet (Bear), which is set to the background crackling of a fire and an accordion put to Miles vocal contribution. Very simply, very beautiful.    


Arcade Fire’s North American Tour 2010: Ottawa Bluesfest

Arcade Fire is a Montreal musical group who are best know for their emotive catalogue of songs. They recently performed a show from their 2010 North American Tour and we have a break down of that performance at the Ottawa Bluesfest.

Outdoor concert series like Ottawa Ontario’s Bluesfest can be a lot of fun though it does take a bit of a sit in order to find yourself at a respectable proximity to the main stage. Luckily, there is almost always a bit of light entertainment that erupts within an eagerly waiting crowd. Case in point, you end up being located in an arms length of a threesome of very short men smoking the mightiest of spliffs. After one of the three proceeded to explain his technique for smoking, that one must take a large drag then allow the smoke to refill the mouth only to inhale again quickly, which he then demonstrated for his friends and general on lookers.
And as the time ticked closer to the start of the concert and the gentle haze of sweetly sour smoke settled over the mass of people front and center for the show a sense of collective anticipation started to rise. You can hear small patches of people trying to make a vain attempt to insight the traditionally stoic concert going crowds of Ottawa into some kind of visceral act of expression with small radiations of Arcade Fire’s Wake Up. Instead all that is heard is the muffled chatter of the crowd accompanied by a familiar distant melody. 
As for the show itself, the aesthetics of Arcade Fire’s Live Show were relatively subdued. The majority of the band wore red stained clothes splattered on like the group had just come from a slaughter or a feverish session of apartment painting.  The lighting for the show was the standard rock collection usually seen at any professionally designed performance. The back drop for the show was a stage wide photo of intersecting elevated highways shot on an upward pointing angle.  In front of the highway photo was a large display which would project real time and other more random images of the band and stage shaded and coloured in a fashion fitting each song.
What really stood out were the new songs, Rococo, Month of May and others.  These new additions that will be available to buy at the beginning of August were peppered throughout the bands Bluesfest performance. The new songs did not seem to have the same resonance as those from Funeral or Neon Bible albums among even this very Arcade Fire friendly crowd.  In part because most of the people in the crowed had never heard the new songs and the band didn’t seem to have these new additions to their repertoire down to a science yet. Though they did play the single off of their up coming album The Suburbs (of the same name) it had little affect on the crowd. However, when the band preformed another song off of The Suburbs album called Rococo, the crowed ignited. This previously unheard song, Rococo, has all of the elements that made Arcade Fire such a well loved band, a visceral energy that strikes at the heart and a refrain that is subtly subversive towards a certain organized religion.  The best part of the show was hearing the track Wake Up performed live for the first time. Being able to sing along to that now iconic tonal interlude… how sweet it was.  The performance may have only gone on for an hour and a half including the obligatory encore.

But that wasn’t the last the Ottawa crowd saw of the band.
After the show had ended and the streets of Lebreton Flats were filling with people making their ways home, a group of very young boys could be heard playing some classic rock songs on their quarter sized electrics. This very brave performance must have reached the ears of the members of Arcade Fire because there were Win Butler, Régine Chassagne and company singing backup for the tiny rockers. Quite a sight to see, still in their performing attire and tired from their show, the band managed to come out and support some aspiring musicians;  a memorable sight.   

Indie Blog Shot Associate: Evan Robinson


Bombay Bicycle Club | A Review of Flaws

Bombay Bicycle Club is an indie folk rock band… wait make that club, which hails from Crouch End, London. The band is comprised of four members lead by singer Jack Steadman and they have only recently come out with their second album entitled Flaws. They Beat out The XX, The Big Pink, La Roux, The Olivers and Mumford and Sons at the 2010 (National Musical Express) NME Awards for Best New Band.   Some of these bands are heavy hitters, to win against bands’ with serious talent like The Big Pink at their disposal says something about Bombay Bicycle Club. 

About Flaws: The new album flows gently at a steady pacing. Delicate guitar portions accompanied by lead singer Steadman’s unwavering voice, creates an atmosphere akin to what you might hear on an M. Ward album.  It’s the simplicity of the whole thing that thing that makes it refreshing and bright, possibly a component to their taking the title to Best New Band at the NME awards this year. If you were to compare Bombay Bicycle Club to The XX (one of the other bands in the riding for the same NME award) you would most likely start off by saying how different their tones are, one very dark the other very warm light.   


Radical Face | Touch The Sky EP

Radical Face is one of the many associated acts of musician Ben Cooper, a Florida native whose latest recording Touch The Sky EP is an exceptional bit of easy listening.   You might like this EP if you are into breezy guitar riffs and songs with portions of rhythm provided but clapping hands that lead into harmonic choruses… which is exactly how the EP starts off with the track Welcome Home.  The album proceeds from that height and does not disappoint.  Ben Cooper has released one full length album under the Radical Face band name called Junkyard Chandelier which went mostly unnoticed by most.  Radical Face’s Touch The Sky EP is filled with wonderful moments that will no doubt never be heard by more than a handful of people unless one of the tracks ends up on an automotive or Apple commercial.   


Boy & Bear | A Review of With Emperor Antarctica EP (2010)

The Australian band Boy & Bear's history only stretches back to 2009, yet you might not be able to tell after listening to their debut EP With Emperor Antarctica. It’s easily among the best EPs released this year delivering strong harmonies set to a sometimes whimsical/sometimes hypnotizing indie folk musical backdrop. All of the songs on With Emperor Antarctica are distinctly well crafted, with catchy melodies and memorable lyrics. If this EP is any indication a full length Boy & Bear LP should be a thing of great anticipated.

Note: If you are looking for any comparable musical contemporaries to Boy & Bear just listen to Seattle’s Fleet Foxes. They are very similar to Boy & Bear only Fleet Foxes are much darker and boarder on sublime.


Wavves | King of the Beach Album Review

The San Diego based band Wavves will be releasing their latest album King of the Beach August 3rd 2010. This being their third studio album Wavves has managed to smooth out some of the ruff edges to their sound and seems to have found their grove. Known for their distortion heavy contributions to the music world Wavves has painted a hazy humming picture of the California landscape curtsey of song writer Nathan Williams. This band may be based out of San Diego but you could swear the songs off of this album were written with L.A. in mind. Any sheen this album could have is dimmed, coated by the same mixture of fine desert dust and smog that collects on the body as you wander around the city of angels. It’s not so much in the lyrics that this scene of irreversible jadedness is revealed but in the music. The drone aspect of Wavves’ music creates a kind of California Grunge, every fiber of the lyrics screams good times in the sun whereas the melodic backdrop acts as a stark contrast, dulling anything to shiny or sweet.

If you are feeling slightly nostalgic for The Caesars, Wavves may do it for you as well. They sound very similar to The Caesars.


The Like | A Review of Release Me

The L.A. California based band The Like are set to release their sophomore album Release Me on June 19th . Their first was a bit of a flop back in 2005 but the band has returned with a few new members and a more refined sound. With a style reminiscent of the 60s (some guitar riffs feel like they were stripped straight out of The Beatles anthology), that isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. The retro feel of this album should not come as any surprise to those paying attention to the more impressive contributions of the L.A. music scene. Last year the freshmen act, Dawes came out with a roots rock album called North Hills, which could replace one or more favorite classic rock road trip albums in your collection. And like Dawes, The Like have taken their cues from a more glorious time in music with Release Me. What makes this album worth listening to? It’s simple… because it works. Put the girl band thing aside for a moment and think about the music, it’s well put together, it does justice to the era it is drawing influences from and most importantly it’s good.

Note: About the girl band comment: Call it what you want a Girl band or a Lady Band, the fact is it needs to be addressed because the comparisons that can be drawn from other such bands. Take for instance another Lady led band Magneta Lane; a group of young women hailing from Toronto who are putting out music comparable to that of The Like. The only things that make them comparable is that they are both comprised of an all female group, both take their inspiration from past glory of other eras and both make for an appealing musical experience. The comparison would have never been made if it had not been for the all lady line ups in both bands. So there.


Wild Nothing | A Review of Gemini

Jack Tatum the man behind the musical stylings of the band Wild Nothing has recently released the album Gemini. The Virginian native seems to have taken it upon himself to reintroduce the listening public to the sounds of a decade that is both loved and hated by many, namely the 80s. Gemini is heavy on the synth and light on the vocals coalescing in a kind of haze of synth drum kit riddled nostalgia. (There is nothing like banging out a drum loop on an electronic drum kit, like playing whack-a-mole without the mallet.) Nothing really new here, the sound is a lot like Jesus and Mary Chain or The Human League. What the album lacks in vocal execution it makes up for with a rather good showing when it comes to the melodies. Synth drum loops and wonderfully retro sounding keyboard parts are hypnotizing, drawing the listener in and not letting go until the very last track. Tracks to look out for on Gemini are Pessimist, Bored Games and Chinatown. For anyone who misses the 80s and needs a little fix without having to dust off the vinyl, Wild Nothing is the way to go.


The Henry Clay People | A Review of Somewhere On The Golden Coast

The Henry Clay People an L.A. California based band is set to release their newest album on June 8th of this year called Somewhere On The Golden Coast. The band’s founding members are brothers Joey and Andy Siara and the brand of music they have chosen to embody is an attempted combination of old school rock with a heavy punk influence. What you end up with is something that sounds similar to The Thermals but more like if The Thermals had a love child with The Beach Boys. That is how you could describe the overall impression of The Henry Clay People, a kind of endearing throwback to classic rock while maintaining a certain level of frustration with the modern world as only can be expressed via punk.


Thoughts on Arcade Fire’s New Single “The Suburbs”

Arcade Fire is set to release their third LP this August called The Suburbs and the first single is now out under the same title as the album. In comparison to what we have heard from this Montreal based musical group The Suburbs is less sweeping than say Windowsill or Neon Bible. The track has more of a gentle feel to it as if the band has moved passed their, “I’m an angry artist” phase and have begun their “I’m an awesome rock star!” phase. Withholding any final judgments on the album, but if the single is any indication of what is to come (and it usually is) we are in for a different kind of Arcade Fire.


Detroit Social Club | A Review of Existence

Detroit Social Club is a six man band that hails from Tyneside, England and has become rather well known within their country. Though they have not made a name for themselves across the pond their brand of rock is top notch. There have been a few indie acts of note to come out of the U.K. recently, Let’s Wrestle, The Big Pink and The XX. They are not exactly fresh acts, but they are good none the less. Detroit Social Club is a low-fi type of band and it is in the best possible way, the slightly grainy audio quality matched with the ample amounts of distorted guitar create a distinctive atmosphere on the album. Some of the tracks are comparable to the style of Oasis or Kasabian, like Lights of Life but that doesn’t mean this band is without a voice of its own. It is within the realm of what is going on musically in Britain for the past couple of decades and no one here is complaining. Detroit Social Club has put on a solid third act with Existence and should be given a listen.


Deer Tick | A Review of The Black Dirt Sessions

Deer Tick, a band that hails from Providence Road Island is set to release their third album The Black Dirt Sessions in early June of this year. The band has made a name for itself by playing country/blues hybrid making their sound one that is hard to categorize. If there were a band that Deer Tick could be compared to in terms of style it would be Neutral Milk Hotel; a now long over indie band out of Louisiana whose influences can still be felt across the board.

The raspy vocals delivered by lead singer John McCauley resonate throughout the band’s music, the sound of McCauley’s voice stretch and strain to hit those high notes offers the listener a unique experience. Though, some of the tracks off of The Black Dirt Sessions album can sound like they are being sung by David Gray and not McCauley, but this is a minor setback. The album is a worthy follow up to the band’s sophomore effort Born On Flag Day, which did illustrate that Deer Tick is a band that should be watched. And with the rate they are releasing excellent material is also of note, it has only been a year since the release of Born On Flag Day and The Black Dirt Sessions is as good if not better than that album.


Wolf Parade | A Review of Expo 86

The Canadian indie band Wolf Parade is set to release their third album in late June under the titled Expo 86. As a band that has been around since the mid 00s, Wolf Parade has made little headway in terms of mass popularity. But that is kind of what makes them so great, they are like this little indie secret, and don’t say it isn’t so. Ask a passerby on the street if they know what a Wolf Parade is, and they will look at you with a certain degree of confusion and fear. It is safe to say that Wolf Parade is among other innovative bands that work to bring out quality music. Sadly not many people are willing to pay much attention to this band steeped electro-rock.

Expo 86 is impressive as a whole but there are standouts on this album, the dizzying synth interlude of Palm Road comes at just the right moment in the song and is up there with some of their best tracks like Shine A Light and Modern World. The more surreal has crept into the lyrics of this album, more so than with the previous ones, no doubt in part due to Krug’s recent success with his neo-psychedelic band Sunset Rubdown. Disagree? Just listen to the first track on the album, Cloud Shadow on the Mountain then ask yourself what you would do if you were “a dream catcher hanging from a minivan, parked along the waters edge”. Little Golden Age melody is particularly interesting, the non-harmony (they don’t exactly blend) of the dual lead singers, the contrast between their voices, as always, articulates what makes this band distinct and an acquired taste, and with most things that take time to acclimate to Wolf Parade grows more interesting after multiple run-throughs. This album is much different in musical coherence and chemistry in comparison to the band’s 08’ release of At Mount Zoomer. At Mount Zoomer, at its worst though, was its lethargic addition to the Wolf Parade catalogue, though the album was not without its charm, it pails in comparison to Expo 86. This album is an example of the band being back in top form. They (Krug and Boeckner especially) seem to have taken the positive developments from their solo projects and reinvented Wolf Parade as a heartier beast of a musical group. You can feel the best parts of Handsome Furs in the Boeckner heavy tracks and the same is true for the tracks with Krug taking center stage (very Dragonslayer).

The title of the new album Expo 86 refers to the world Expo of 1986 in Vancouver B.C. Canada where the majority of the band’s members are from. This title is likely a symbolic gesture since many members of the band attended that World Expo as children, pointing out to those who thought the band was over due to the success of side projects that it wasn’t. The side projects we are taking about here are Boeckner’s Handsome Furs (Plague Park and Face Control) and Krug’s Sunset Rubdown which brought us the critically acclaimed album Dragonslayer. But judging by the music of the new album all signs indicate that the band has rediscovered common ground and has rallied back for their third album. If you are only going to listen to a hand full of albums this year make Expo 86 one of them.

Note: You how when you really like something you want to have more of it? Well, the associated acts that make up the credentials of Wolf Parade are quite impressive, these men, particularly the vocalists Krug and Boeckner, can’t help but make music, which means there is an impressive extended catalogue that might not have Wolf Parade’s namesake but bares its marks. Through various incarnations members of the band have found several outlets for their dissident sounds.

Track List For Expo 86
1 - Cloud Shadow on the Mountain
2 - Palm Road
3 - What Did My Lover Say (it always had to go this way)
4 - Little Golden Age
5 - In The Direction of the Moon
6 - Ghost Pressure
7 - Pobody’s Nerfect
8 - Two Men in New Tuxedos
9 - Oh You, Old Thing
10 - Yulia
11 - Cave-O-Sapien


Foals | A Review of Total Life Forever

A five man band from Oxford England, Foals are set to release their second album entitled Total Life Forever. Their debut album of 2008, Antidotes was regarded by most as a successful introduction to the public. The fast paced and playful disposition of that album set to an electronically induced backdrop captured a distinctively more upbeat musical variant coming out of Britain. Other bands such as The XX, White Lies, The Big Pink and others stand among the artistic/regional peers of Foals, but all those mentioned have a more darkened tone to their music, making Foals not sunny by any stretch but on the brighter side of the musical scale.

As a band Foals seem to take their influences from the electronic styles populating the music of the late 70s and 80s and you can hear it in almost every track with the synth background rhythms. Foals music is not just to be confined to the synth basket at the local record shop. It is a fusion of rock, techno and dance with a healthy dose of vocal harmonies that insights a sense of resonance.

The album starts off by lulling you into believing that you have by accident put in a Fleet Foxes album as the track Blue Blood begins in that style only to evolve into a more Foals like creation. The album moves in waves, receding only to later burst in a poppy barrage guitars and synth rhythms. Definitely a solid second act for the band.


Phosphorescent | Here’s To Taking It Easy

There are some bands that just seem to get it. Based out of Brooklyn N.Y. the band Phosphorescent is set to release its sixth album called Here’s To Taking It Easy. Phosphorescent is a part of the growing number of musical acts that have made it their purpose in life to blur the lines between country music and progressive indie folk. This might be traumatic to those music snobs who proudly sport an “I Hate Country Music” bumper sticker and believe in the unequivocal dismissal of anything with a classic country riff. Matt Houck the band’s vocalist grounds the whole endeavor delivering a gentle set of songs one after another in an effortless parade of vocal prowess. Contemporaries of Phosphorescent would be: Deer Tick, Jim James, Matt Ward and Dawes. Possible influences of Phosphorescent could be: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash.


The New Pornographers | An Overview of Together

The New Pornographers are known as one of the greatest Canadian indie bands of all time, among the ranks of Arcade Fire in terms of notoriety and influence. With three people shouldering the vocals for the band, their music took on a truly distinctive sound, often embedded with harmonies and shifts in vocal focus between Carl Newman, Dan Bejar and Neko Case. Based out of Vancouver B.C. the band has left a permanent mark in that part of the world, the band being used as a sort of measuring stick for other local artists to lean against and try to measure up to.

The impact that The New Pornographers have had on the music scene is obvious in every attempted copying of their style seen more and more often among up and coming bands today. Albums like Twin Cinema (2005) and Mass Romantic (2000) were very important. These albums embodied a certain aspect of the band, an intensity and vision generally reserved for the most seasoned musicians. But as the years wore on so did The New Pornographers.

It hasn’t been too long since The New Pornographers came out with their album Challengers in 2007, but since then one member of the Canadian Indie band has released a solo album that challenges the need for other members of the band. The person we are talking about here is Neko Case and the album her 2009 release of Middle Cyclone, an album which redefined her as a solo artist and a standout among her peers. Sure Case has released other albums without the help of The New Pornographers, but they couldn’t hold a candle to Middle Cyclone. Case has fine tuned her own brand of folksy indie rock to a point where it is hard to find a fare artist to even propose a comparison; The New Pornographers on the other hand seem to be struggling to recapture some of their former energy with the release of Together.

The title of this album is Together the more you listen, the more you think they might be better if they were apart. Whenever you think back to some of the great songs that this band has come out with such as July Jones, Jackie, From Blown Speakers and Sing Me Spanish Techno, you are given the distinct impression that Together is not the band’s best work. Aside from a few stand outs on the new album like Your Hands (Together) and Silver Denny Dollar this album is definitely a disappointment. The reason being, Together though it’s definitely a The New Pornographers album but it lacks much of the zest the former albums had in spades. Perhaps it is a sign of the band’s maturing but Together feels like a more moderate example of what they are capable of doing.