Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Daughter Covers Daft Punk: "Get Lucky"

English Indie trio, Daughter, has one of the most unique tones in the indie music pool.  The breathy sweetness of lead singer Elena Tonra’s voice creates an almost euphoric atmosphere with each song.  Their most recent release, If You Leave, from April 2013 is a simply stunning album.  It’s so peaceful and mesmerizing that you feel detached from the world while it brings you on an eerie and emotional journey.

I honestly don’t know how I’ve just discovered their cover of “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk!  Regardless, they’ve completely transformed the song.  If you’re a fan of JJ, then this will be right up your alley.  Honestly though, if you’re a fan of music, then this will be right up your alley!

Questions, Comments, Recommendations or Inquiries?  Follow or contact me!
 photo emailFINAL_zps1430d04b.png photo bloglovinFINAL_zpsc4a11271.png photo facebookFINAL_zps76ae967f.png photo googleplusFINAL_zps0bcaeb8a.png

Monday, 30 September 2013

Now Playing: "Darkest Place", Woman's Hour

In true English fashion, when September hits it brings with it heavy coats and thick, plush scarves and gloves. So naturally, I’ve had to accommodate by adjusting my main playlists from the likes of HAIM, Selah Sue and TV Girl (and secretly a little Mungo Jerry!) to the Replacements, the Del Fuegos and Baths.  I mean, normal people do this with each season change – right?!

My favorite wintery playlists generally feature a good, eclectic mix of electronic beats and acoustic guitar.  And a lot of Amy Winehouse!  Think something along the lines of “Miasma Sky” by Baths, then “After the Storm” by Mumford and Sons, followed by “Moody’s Mood for Love” by Amy Winehouse.  A good combination of dark, moody and melancholy - with little else in common!

The most recent addition to this borderline ridiculous mix is “Darkest Place” by Woman’s Hour.  It’s slow, eerie, ridden with emotions and has some absolutely stunning vocals.  If there’s any song that’s going to get me excited for winter, this is the one.  The song will be officially released on the 21st of October (along with this pretty disturbing cover), but for now you can check out their soundcloud here, and the song “Darkest Place” Below! 

Questions, Comments, Recommendations or Inquiries?  Follow or contact me!
 photo emailFINAL_zps1430d04b.png photo bloglovinFINAL_zpsc4a11271.png photo facebookFINAL_zps76ae967f.png photo googleplusFINAL_zps0bcaeb8a.png

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Review: Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe

I’ve made it clear that electro-pop/techno music isn’t my thing.  A lot of it just feels like a guy playing his ipod to a crowd of people, with a severe lack of talent.  However, there are always some really exciting exceptions that make me eat my words.  Last year, the most notable of these exceptions was Chvrches.  I discovered them at a Two Door Cinema Club gig and have been avidly following their career ever since!

“Lies” and “Recover” had both been released prior to their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe.  At such an early stage in their career, their ability to produce strong, catchy songs like these was so exciting!  There was so much that they could have done with this album, so when the 24th came around, I was pretty damn excited.  The album features “Lies” and “Recover”, as well as 12 songs and 2 remixes.  There are 6 additional songs available, depending on your edition.

The opening song is a break-up anxiety ridden electronic gem.  From here, the songs only get catchier.  “We Sink” has an addicting chorus: “I'll be a thorn in your side, till you die” and “Gun” is the clear single.  It’s upbeat with great lyrics and is just angry enough to get you chanting them (think Robyn meets Passion Pit).  The beginning of “Tether” reminds me of a lighter version of Florence and the Machine; it’s mesmerizing and enchanting.  “Lies” has been re-recorded for the album and I think this new version has lost the raw, authentic, punchy charm that the original recording had. 

The male vocals, provided by Martin Doherty in “Under the Tide” and “You Caught the Light” add a really nice change-up in the layout of the album.  The chorus of “Night Sky” is M83-intense and, like the intenseness of a lot of other songs on this album, masks the inner complexity.

Considering their lack of instrumentals, Chvrches are able to create some really incredible hooks.  Their music proudly represents the emerging electro-pop genre.  It’s innovative with fantastic songwriting and infectious harmonies.  It’s certainly not the most creative or experimental new album I’ve heard recently, yet that allows them to create seamless arrangements.  It’s layered with constant synth waves and high energy.  Having said that, I think they should have stuck with the electro-pop sound.  The slightly more macabre “Under the Tide” and “Science/Visions” seem out of place and don’t match up to the general pop-grandeur of the rest of the album.

Chvrches are a fiery combination of Passion Pit, Depeche Mode and MS MR. Believe the hype and listen to this album!  They’ve certainly got the potential to be one of the best things to hit U.K. pop music in a while!

Questions, Comments, Recommendations or Inquiries?  Follow or contact me!
 photo emailFINAL_zps1430d04b.png photo bloglovinFINAL_zpsc4a11271.png photo facebookFINAL_zps76ae967f.png photo googleplusFINAL_zps0bcaeb8a.png

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Wilder Maker Part 2: Interview

After a few listens of Year of Endless Light I had a lot of questions and I got the chance to ask lead singer Gabe Birnbaum a few!

Essence Rare: Okay, can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration for "Float Us Through the Barroom"?

Gabe Birnbaum: Barroom is inspired musically by the George Harrison album All Things Must Pass. I love how huge and spacious that record sounds, and of course Will Graefe's slide guitar solo (1st take, by the way, dude's a freak) is a nod to that, in addition to being beautiful. Our setlist code name for the tune is still "Harrison."

Lyrically, it's about the idea of forgiveness, of being genuinely wronged and managing to still get past that and love what hurt you. Easier said than done.

ER: "Slow Life", the second single off YoEL is such a beautiful song!  What was your inspiration and what are the lyrics about?

GB: Thanks! Slow Life comes out of something my friend Will Stratton said about wanting every song to sound like acoustic Big Star. I sat down and the first two chords popped out. I hardly ever use big suspended chords like that (the second chord in the verse) but somehow in the context of that thought it felt right. 

The lyrics are about how ambition shapes you as a person, about the particular vulnerabilities and strengths of someone who is always gazing far ahead of where they are. Specifically, it concerns a young woman leaving NYC to recover from some kind of huge emotional crash. It's narrated by a friend who still lives where she came from. He's hopelessly in love with her and thinks she should love him, but she barely notices him. Most of the songs on the record are about people incapable of loving one another, no matter how much they may try, and this is no exception. I like that I am not in this song. 

ER:Where does the name "Wilder Maker" come from?

GB: Katie (our keyboard player) came up with it. 

ER: Each song is incredibly different in regards to instrumentals, tone & even genre!  Who would you say are your main influences?

GB: I grew up playing jazz saxophone and making really intense noisy music, and between then and now I've been in soul bands, acoustic folky bands, violent noise bands, and weird art-jazz-rock bands. I currently play in Debo Band, which plays Ethiopian music. So I've always been all over the place. 

I'm not sure who the main influences are, really. There's a lot of 1971 vibes on this record, but I try to steal as far and wide as I can, just to even things out. Here's a partial list who have inspired things on YoEL- John Phillips, Bill Callahan, Biggie Smalls, Neil Young, Nico Muhly, J. Dilla, Joanna Newsom, Elliott Smith, Phosphorescent, Van Morrison, Suji Kwock Kim, Isaak Babel, T.S. Eliot, Will Stratton.

ER: Since your music is so varied, how would you describe it to someone who hasn't heard it before?

GB: I am terrible at this. I say different things every time and it never feels right. Recently I made business cards, which means -20 punk points but at least when someone says "What does your band sound like?" I can just hand them a card. 

ER: What can we expect from Wilder Maker following this LP?  Will you be producing a full album or doing a tour?

GB: We've got a couple music videos in the pipeline for songs off this record, a boatload of new songs (see parts of some of them and mucho tour dates:

09.11.13 - Boston, MA @ Great Scott
09.12.13 - Brooklyn, NY @ Shea Stadium
09.13.13 - Portland, ME @ The Big Easy
09.14.13 - Pawtucket, RI @ Machines With Magnets
09.29.13 - New York, NY @ The Ace Hotel
10.01.13 - Brooklyn, NY @ The Counting Room
10.09.13 - Brooklyn, NY @ Muchmore's
10.10.13 - Northampton, MA
10.11.13 - Rochester, NY @ House Show
10.12.13 - Oberlin, OH @ The Cat In The Cream (Oberlin College)
10.13.13 - Chicago, IL @ The Whistler
10.14.13 - Milwaukee, WI @ Yield Bar
10.15.13 - Madison, WI @ TBA
10.16.13 - St Louis, MO @ TBA
10.17.13 - Nashville, TN @ TBA
10.18.13 - Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR Pub
10.19.13 - TBA
10.20.13 - TBA
10.21.13 - Boston, MA @ Northeastern After Hours
10.22.13 - Middlebury, VT @ The Gamut Room (Middlebury College)
11.14.13 - Princeton University w/Nat Baldwin

Unfortunately, there won't be anything in London anytime soon... but I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for a future English tour!  Wilder Maker could be coming to a city near you, so if they are be sure to check them out.  You won't be disappointed!

Questions, Comments, Recommendations or Inquiries?  Follow or contact me!
 photo emailFINAL_zps1430d04b.png photo bloglovinFINAL_zpsc4a11271.png photo facebookFINAL_zps76ae967f.png photo googleplusFINAL_zps0bcaeb8a.png

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Wilder Maker Part 1: Year of Endless Light Review

For the past 2 months, I’ve had Highs on repeat – surprising after my slightly obsessive review, huh?  In timing somewhat akin to fate, I recently discovered Wilder Maker and Highs have acted as the perfect warm-up for them.  Lead singer Gabe Birnbaum contacted me and very kindly sent me a copy of their new LP, Year of Endless Light – is there a better kind of mail to get?! 

A quick read through his bio said that he, like me, is from Boston so I may have had a slight bias when I went to listen the 8-track LP.  At first glance, I was a little taken aback as the tracks range from 4 to 12 minutes!  That’s a bold move, given the emerging ADHD generation.  While people will listen to all 8 minutes of “Stairway to Heaven” there are endless songs that just aren’t compelling enough to convince people to stick them out.

So, in order to prevent myself from completely making my mind up about them before having heard a single note (this is a legitimate problem I have with music!), I moved on to the first track: “Float Us Through the Barroom”.

The song begins with soft guitar and each syllable beautifully stretched out.  A duet soon emerges that seamlessly weaves into the accelerating guitar.  I find Birnbaum’s voice so fascinating as through each song it seems to seesaw between strength and desperation.  Each word is passionate and warm, and it feels like the words are being drawn out by the instrumentals, which results in a very pleasant tone.

The next track, “Wasting my Time” changes up the tone completely!  Suddenly, you’re a fly on the wall in a dustbowl jam session with Woodie Guthrie – Birnbaum’s voice even conforms to the change in genre.  The song finishes with a 70s-inspired guitar riff.  This is the type of song that I picture M. Ward producing if he spent a few years in Alabama!  I’m generally not a big country fan, but this is a great track.

“Hangs Hooks” then darkens the mood with ominous harmonies and is followed by “Song for the Singer”, perhaps my favorite song off the LP!   It’s a little slow, and definitely not the most exciting track off the album.  However, this is the music at its finest for me.  My favorite song of all time is “Uncertain Smile” by The The.  It’s caulk-full of solos leading up to a very longwinded crescendo with the best kind of lyrics: poetic and ambiguous.  While “Song for the Singer” sounds nothing like “Uncertain Smile”, it’s still that type of song and is a win in my book.  However, it could definitely be shortened (it’s 12 minutes and 30 seconds!), not that I felt myself thinking that throughout the 12 minutes.   “Invisible Order” is another one of those types of songs.  It begins with an unexpected saxophone; the first 15 seconds are suitable for a plot change in an Audrey Hepburn movie!  The vocal doubling on the track is really well done and there are some beautiful trumpet and piano solos weaved in.

At first, “Slow Life” reminded me of Bon Iver, but after a few more listens the song is actually very unique.  Usually the easiest way to describe an artist or a track is to compare it to another artist or track… but with this one I really struggled!  It has mesmerizing lyrics, harmonies so strong and passionate it sounds like a full choir and a captivating chorus.  This is the best song off the album, no question.

“Lullaby” preemptively slows you down for the end of the album and for the last song, “Holy Night”.   This is perhaps a slower way to end the album then I would have liked, given the more upbeat beginning.  “Holy Night” is peaceful track, however, calling a song “Holy Night” and including jingle bells makes a little out of place! It’s a great song, but it probably should have been saved for a Christmas album – and this is coming from a Jew!

Year of Endless Light is a music genre roulette wheel where you win at every outcome.  I’ve previously said how I love bands that can venture out into a new genre without losing what they quintessentially are.  Yet, this usually happens across separate albums… not throughout a single LP!  On YoEL, each song literally changes genre, but I never found myself disappointed.  This makes it difficult to know much about the band as I’m not sure I could even place them in a genre (it’s going to take me ages to write the labels for this post!).

As I listened to and experienced a multitude of instruments, vocals and genres, I found that it was all accompanied by a bizarre feeling of understanding.  Even though you won’t completely know what’s happening to you as you hear each track… you’ll just get it.  If that’s not the sign of an impressive musician and lyricist, I’m not really sure what is.

Year of Endless Light was released today!  It can be heard and downloaded here.  I was lucky enough to get to chat with lead singer Gabe Birnbaum and ask him a few questions about the album - all this to come tomorrow!  In the meantime, you've got 8 fantastic tracks to get your hands on.

Questions, Comments, Recommendations or Inquiries?  Follow or contact me!
 photo emailFINAL_zps1430d04b.png photo bloglovinFINAL_zpsc4a11271.png photo facebookFINAL_zps76ae967f.png photo googleplusFINAL_zps0bcaeb8a.png

Monday, 9 September 2013

Review: Volcano Choir, Repave

In 2009, during the climb of Justin Vernon’s fame, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the formation of Volcano Choir.  Collections of Colonies of Bees just seemed too post-rock to be a good fit with Justin Vernon’s distinctive somber tone!  Then, when Unmap was released, it seemed like those premonitions had come full circle.  The album just didn’t seem all there, and we soon found out why.

Different aspects of the album had been recorded and then sent via email to be compiled.  Does that sound like the making of a Grammy award-winning album? Don’t think so.  There were a few gems, like “Island, IS” and “Seeplymouth”.  But honestly, it sounded like the musical equivalent of writing your dissertation the night before!  The skill was there, but what they needed was a deadline-less period of writing and collaborating.  They needed to figure out how COCOB’s post-rock sound would work without over-shadowing Vernon’s breathy, dreamlike vocals.  They needed to create something natural.  They needed to treat Unmap, as a musical folly and develop!

So that’s what they did.

Repave is the combination of the COCOB and Justin Vernon that we were all hoping for 4 years ago.  Vernon’s distinctive voice is in your face (in the best way possible) and COCOB has a very welcome influence.

The opening track “Tiderays” is a perfect power ballad.  The structure is very similar to “Perth” from Bon Iver, Bon Iver; they both begin with soft yet powerful guitar, which then melds into strong, civil war sounding drums.

“Acetate” is my most listened to song off Repave.  It’s a fantastic song with the perfect flow for endless replays.  In fact, it seems to show a new openness to Vernon, in comparison to his previous work with Bon Iver.  Continuing with the war theme, it leads smoothly into “Comrade”.   This song has a very full arrangement, which is ideal for Vernon’s voice.

The clear single off the album is “Byegone”; it’s a modern folk song for the masses.  “Alaskans” is full of peacefulness and sweetness and provides uplifting lyrics with calming acoustic guitar.  It’s so well composed and a highlight of the album.  Suddenly, the album catches you off guard with a darker twist in “Dancepack”.  Everything is just a little off with this song, rhythmically and vocally.  Suddenly, an album full of uplifting and calming lyrics changes to the sarcastic repetition of “Take note, there’s still a hole in your heart”!

Finally, “Almanac” completes the album with a myriad of synth and guitar harmonies synonymous the to waves that the album strives to create (judging by the cover).  I don’t know how Vernon does this, but each sentence sounds and feels like an inhibited scream!  It’s awesome.

The lyrics throughout this album are unsurprisingly ambiguous.  I’m all for ambiguous lyrics, but Vernon has been known to produce lyrics that are downright ridiculous and don’t match up with the heavy, emotional tone of the instrumentals.  As the listener, this makes it seem like the lyricist is just messing with you and it’s irritating at times.  Regardless, the lyrics generally seem to hint towards the idea of moving forward and not letting previous difficulties hold you back.  In a word, repaving.

This is a difficult album to come to a conclusion on.  I really enjoy listening to it, but not because it’s new and exciting.  I enjoy it because aside from a few aspects, it’s essentially another Bon Iver album.  So on the one hand, it’s a great album.  On the other, it’s nothing new.

Check out: "Acetate" and "Byegone".

Questions, Comments, Recommendations or Inquiries?  Follow or contact me!
 photo emailFINAL_zps1430d04b.png photo bloglovinFINAL_zpsc4a11271.png photo facebookFINAL_zps76ae967f.png photo googleplusFINAL_zps0bcaeb8a.png

Saturday, 31 August 2013

If You're Going to Listen to One Indie Band This Year - Make it Highs!

I don’t even know how to begin to explain my excitement over this band.  They’ve released one self-titled EP with a total of five songs and I am literally jumping up and down with excitement over it as I type this!  The band is composed of 5 musicians from all over Canada and has a fresh, modern sound with an unexpected afro-beat inclusion.  I previously wrote about Little Comets and I was talking about how they had some unwelcome genre changes with a few songs that I didn’t think flowed with the rest of their album or their work.  Sometimes, artists should just stick to what they know.  Unless you’re Highs… and you apparently know everything!

To prove this, I’ll go through each song on their EP and you won’t believe that I’m talking about the same band!

“Summer Dress” is a summer anthem, no question.  It’s cheerful, catchy, and romantic and honestly sounds like the beach.  Don’t ask me what “sounds like the beach” actually means, as I won’t be able to give you an answer… but it really does!  It starts off with a Foals-style guitar intro that leads into a quick and up-beat percussion.  Bands like The White Stripes and She & Him have developed the modern duet.  In this song, Highs introduce their fresh take on that, with a trio comprised of lead singer Doug Haynes, Karrie Douglas and Joel Harrower.

The first Highs song that I heard was “Nomads” and I think it’s their most beautiful song to date.  The stunning duet between Haynes and Douglas demonstrates their highly compatible vocals weaving together in a crescendo to the final chorus of “Yeah, I know it hurts you when I’m leaving, but I must because it’s something I believe in”.  Their lyrics are simple, yet powerful; the true sign of a fantastic songwriter.  Also, prepare to have “Give it up” echoing in your head after a few listens!  Probably not that best message, but catchy nonetheless.

“Harvest” slows things down even more with a dreamy intro, only to break into a catchy indie-pop beat about halfway through.  The control demonstrated in the vocals here is really incredible.  If you’re not already a fan at this point in the EP, then music probably isn’t for you.  Just kidding, but how could you not be?!

Even though “Fleshy Bones” sounds nothing like TV Girl, the combination of the lyrics and melody reminded me of them.  This is because the dramatic nature of the lyrics, where the narrator is questioning every aspect of their relationship and the alternative motives that their partner has for staying with them, while retaining a poppy, up-beat melody.  I absolutely love when bands do this and I think it’s such a cool way to present a dark theme.

“Cannibal Coast” is a perfect song to conclude this EP as it really encompasses Highs' style, tone, and most importantly, skill.  The arrangement is beautiful and the vocals are addictive.

A lot of new music today begins as catchy, but soon becomes repetitive and boring the more you listen to it.  Highs have produced an EP full of songs that need to be listened to over and over again in order to appreciate intricate aspects that aren’t apparent at first listen.

Highs epitomize everything that I love about music and I can’t wait to follow their career and see what they do next!  Their music is available for free, here, but it's an EP that's really worth buying and a band that's worth supporting!

Questions, Comments, Recommendations or Inquiries?  Follow or contact me!
 photo emailFINAL_zps1430d04b.png photo bloglovinFINAL_zpsc4a11271.png photo facebookFINAL_zps76ae967f.png photo googleplusFINAL_zps0bcaeb8a.png