Tag Archives: music

The Postal Service’s “Give Up” to be reissued in 2013

22 Jan

Yesterday, The Postal Service quietly announced that a deluxe version of their debut album, Give Up, will be reissued April 8.

That being said, it’s been a long ten years since The Postal Service first debuted, so the news seems to be both exciting and underwhelming at the same time.

The Postal Service, which consists of Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie, Pinwheel) and Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel), came around when today’s 20 and 30-somethings were busy soundtracking the best days of their lives.

For me, The Postal Service came during high school – a time when the lack of the band’s immediate presence left some making homemade t-shirts and swapping burned copies of CDs between the busses after school. But for everyone who loved them, The Postal Service came before The O.C. shot Death Cab For Cutie to fame and before rock-turned-electronic was an experiment rather than a cheap way to shake things up.

Singles like “Such Great Heights” and “We Will Become Silhouettes” have been famously covered by artists such as Iron & Wine, The Shins and Amanda Palmer. The songs have also been featured in movies and television shows such as Garden State and Grey’s Anatomy.

As of now, The Postal Service have not announced another album, and it’s likely they won’t. As for tour dates, Billboard is claiming that they’ve “confirmed” a Coachella appearance with other dates in the works. Unfortunately there’s no other hard evidence from the band to back that claim. My advice? Don’t hold your breath too long – the rumors are still just that. Instead, take a moment to appreciate Gibbard’s latest solo album, Former Lives, or Tamborello/Dntel’s Aimlessness – both of which dropped last year.

The deluxe edition of Give Up, which features guest vocals from indie queens Jenny Lewis and Jen Wood, will come in a 2xCD, 3xLP and digital download and will include two new songs, along with a few other bonus features. For more information and updates, visit their website.

For now, here’s a walk down memory lane with their video for “Such Great Heights.”

Video

Hype, or something like it…

18 Jan

Local Houston musician, Ryan Montalvo, is at it again.

It hasn’t been long since the September release of his second full-length album, A Voice From The Crowd, but Montalvo doesn’t seem to be plagued with lack of creativity or commitment to his work.

 

Montalvo officially began writing new material for his third album, currently untitled, on December 3.

For more information, follow him on Facebook and Twitter. You can also download his first two albums via Bandcamp for free.

My Favorite Releases of 2012

7 Jan

2012 has been a whirlwind year for music. It seems like everyone is releasing an album, going on tour, collaborating and then some. Perhaps it was the supposed “apocalypse.” Perhaps it was something in the water. Whatever it was, it was nearly impossible to get my list down to 10, 15 or even 20. Though I stopped at 25. I assure you I could have gone on longer.

Here are 25 lucky bands and artists that made it to the the top of my list. You can share questions, thoughts or your own list in the comment section below.

1. Menomena – Moms

For their first release as a duo, Menomena put forth one of the most emotionally honest albums of the year. Moms

touches on the effect of parental relationships and lack thereof (no pun intended). Danny Seim and Justin Harris, trade off storytelling throughout the ten-song effort. It’s dark, it’s brutally honest, and it’s a breath of fresh air for all parties involved. Be prepared to keep this in your record player for months.

2. Ben Kweller – Go Fly A Kite

After his last release, Changing Horses, it was unsure if Kweller would go pop, rock, or country. Instead, he went with all of the above. Go Fly A Kite, released on Kweller’s own label, The Noise Company, takes his best work and makes it better. Even the badass album packaging can’t hold a candle to just how great these songs are, but it is pretty cool to have a diorama record cover, complete with the chords for every song.

3. Cursive – I Am Gemini

Though Cursive is best known for their concept albums, I Am Gemini takes it to another level entirely. The story revolves around two twin brothers – one good, one evil – and carries out a story that you can’t look away from. Even better, Cursive pulled out all of the stops, bringing in Kasher’s theatrical-scoring background to really bring the story to life. This album is a must-have for any lit-nerd.

4. DZ Deathrays – Bloodstreams

Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, this dance punk band is no frills. Singer Shane Parsons will tear you in half with his gritty vocals, while drummer Simon Ridley pounds into his kit without apologies. With the clever use of pedal-work, these songs will catch you off-guard and keep you dancing for days on end.

5. Liars – WIXIW

Liars weren’t lying when they said this album was different. It’s their most atmospheric effort to date, and their experimentation paid off greatly. Somehow, it’s both soothing and driving at the same time. You won’t get bored of this album.

6. Hop Along – Get Disowned

Sometimes a band and it just clicks. This is the case for me with Hop Along (thanks to dear friend’s recommendation.) In their debut, the Philly-based trio put together an atmospheric alternative album that takes you from acoustic to rock and back. Singer Frances Quinlan’s raspy, perfectly imperfect vocals will steal your heart and keep you hanging on her every word. Do not miss out on this album or this band.

7. Wild Nothing – Nocturne

If you didn’t find yourself dancing to this album beneath dim lighting at a house party, you didn’t truly live this year. To put it best, Wild Nothing is the kind of band that would be on a John Hughes soundtrack if John Hughes were making “brat pack” movies nowadays with its equal parts of new wave, pop and synth-powered indie.

8. The Jealous Sound – A Gentle Reminder

Hopefully you’re lucky enough to know about The Jealous Sound. If not, it’s time for a formal introduction. A Gentle Reminder is so effortless, with all of their late 90’s/early 00’s indie rock charm, it’s as if the band never took a  ten-year hiatus after their debut full-length, Kill Them With Kindness. Most bands don’t have that kind of staying power, let alone enough to make a comeback. The Jealous Sound did it swinging.

9. Ceremony – Zoo

Ceremony is typically known for their more aggressive sound, but when the Bay Area-based group slowed it down, they didn’t become boring. Zoo is fast-paced without giving you whiplash. More importantly, the group pulls from a pool of influences and finds a creative way to blur lines between punk, hardcore and rockabilly without  feeling pretentious. Some claim this album is mediocre, I’ll politely decline. Not just anybody can get into my Top 10, okay?

10. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits

Divine Fits is a super group in its own right, consisting of Britt Daniel (Spoon), Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks), and Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs). Daniel and Boekner compliment each other so well, it doesn’t feel like a game of tug-of-war. The songs are no more like one than like the other, but their influence is obvious at every turn. The album is playful, sexy and every other adjective you imagine a good rock album should be.

11. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

Seattle-based rapper, Macklemore, is everything a grass-roots musician should be: talented, artistic and  driven. With viral hits such as “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love,” Macklemore brings a much-needed voice of intelligence and awareness to hip-hop. He’s as quick as Jay-Z, as catchy as Kanye and as funny Dave Chappelle.  This isn’t your best friend’s hip-hop.

12. Sleigh Bells – Reign Of Terror

I never thought I’d place Sleigh Bells in my top ten, but it was hard to pick up anything music-related and not see an ad for Reign of Terror. Needless to say, I gave in. In short, Sleigh Bells features Alexis Krauss, a bad-ass little firecracker of a singer, with Derek Miller, former guitarist for Poison The Well, on guitar. Mix it up and you get something like hip-hop infused cheerleader shred rock. No bubblegum bullshit. It’s the mixture you never knew you were missing.

13. Sara Bareilles – Once Upon Another Time (EP)

Once Upon Another Time highlights some of Bareilles’ best work to date. Her voice packs a punch as she delivers emotionally charging lyrics. Even better, Bareilles blazes down a path all her own, separate from other pop singers entirely. These five songs will take listeners from a cappella cathedral to blues, from blues to pop, and then back again.

14. Why? – Mumps, Etc.

Why? isn’t known for their modesty, but more so for their crippling honest. It’s just what works for them. On Mumps, Etc., the group’s nucleus, Yoni Wolf, delivers cleverly-written lyric full of self-awareness, the art of aging with bitterness, and where to go when you’re not really sure what you’re doing anymore. If you still can’t visualize it, take poetry, throw in equal parts of sexual frustration, indie rock, hip hop and experimentation. Throw it in a blender, and you’ve got one of the best albums from this year.

15. Fiona Apple – Idler Wheel…

When Fiona Apple’s new album dropped, fans couldn’t help but rejoice – especially following all of the issues she was having with her label. Lucky for us, they released it. Idler Wheel… brings us a vision of Apple who’s as sharp as she’s ever been, orchestrating brilliant piano compositions alongside poetic grace. Her voice is stronger than ever, the lyrics cut a little deeper, and the songs sound more mature (complete with big band and  jazz influences.)

16. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse

Slaughterhouse is something between hi-fi grunge-punk and  lo-fi dance-punk. Compared to Ty Segall’s solo work, Slaughterhouse has layer and depth. Admittedly, it’s at its best when Segall’s voice isn’t completely fuzzed out. More importantly, it’s a ride through underground punk in 11 tracks. This is a definite recomendation to anyone how enjoys dancing in crowded, sweaty basements that smell of sweat and cheap beer.

17. Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit

In the four years since their debut, Delta Spirit has matured from a group of soulful, wide-eyed friends into men observing the world around them. Their third, self-titled album has proven that the band ages like a fine bottle of whiskey. Whether you’re seeking nostalgia, awareness or something else, this album will hold your attention. The album is up more than it’s down, but if you’re into songs that are as cinematic as they are rock n’ roll, this album is for you.

18. Two Gallants – The Bloom and The Blight

At times, you’d think that The Bloom and The Blight was more peaceful than previous releases. Au contraire. The quieter moments have more folk undertones, but when it gets loud, it tears into you with the force of heavy rock. Worry not, though. The sound is still very much Two Gallants.

19. Minus The Bear – Infinity Overhead

Minus The Bear has always known what their sound was. Even so, the group has transformed over the years without changing much at all.  Regardless, the group has found a way to blend previous experiments in more electronic sounds with their perfected skill in rock. Infinity Overhead might not be as sexually charged as OMNI, but it will still make you want to hop between the sheets with someone.

20. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

At times, this eight-song doozie has the grunge appeal of Smashing Pumpkins. Other times, it feels like you’re listening to a clever fusion of The Vines and Real Estate. It might sound like a head-scratcher, but somehow, it works. Don’t question it. Simply put, Attack On Memory drips nostalgia, finding a way to bring some of rock’s most delicious moments back to life all at once.

21. The Mountain Goats  – Transcendental Youth

Transcendental Youth kicks off with the uplifting bang, “Army aka Spent Gladiator 1,” crying for anyone listening to “just stay alive.” This type of loving wisdom is what has kept The Mountain Goats around for so long. Darnielle’s excited strumming and modest vocals are shaped by Owen Pallett’s arrangements, making this album as full of life as Darnielle himself.

22. Maps & Atlases – Beware and Be Grateful

On their second full-length, it seems settled that Maps & Atlases have progressed traded in their multiple time signatures for harmonized vocals. And the truth is, they’re better for it. They’re staying relevant for their talent, not simply their ability to pull tricks out of their sleeve. The songs are more aware, more well rounded and, often times, more sincere.

23. New York City Queens – Burn Out Like Roman Candles

This Houston-based group worked tirelessly to write, record and produce their sophomore album. It’s composed tracks are both breezy and electrifying. This is the kind of rock that oozes promise of a bright, full future.

24. Tame Impala – Lonerism

Labeled as “neo-psychadelic,” Lonerism is the perfect soundtrack to smoke to. Once you get past the initial Beatles-inspired sounds and visualize something other than bell-bottoms or a laser show, you’ll find cleverly created pop melodies veiled in fuzz. The drums on Lonerism have a refreshingly clear compared to other modern-psych bands, and the guitar almost comes secondary to the bass groove and shimmering keyboards.

25. P.O.S – We Don’t Even Live Here

In his fourth effort, rock-hop artist POS takes his music to a new level. With beats that act as a cinematic backbone, his lyrics pack a one-two punch harder than ever before. The bass drum will make your heart race as artists such as Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Astronautalis are featured on tracks that tackle social issues across the board.

Paying attention: Not just for the classroom

16 Oct

Today I got on Twitter, as I do every day from my phone, to check up on news, daily quips and to update the world on my own livelihood. But unlike every other day, I saw a tweet from TheBestManager that spoke to some issues I’ve personally been focusing on in the past year or two.

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The tweet, shared by Sargent House – a record label for bands such as Fang Island and Tera Melos – touches on quite a few sore subjects in the music industry.

Where do I start? There’s the obvious one – talking and taking pictures during a concert, ensuring that everyone around you is distracted from the performance. Then there are the less obvious ones – never listening to albums in full, skipping through well-written articles to get to links and videos of performances, and my favorite, the decline of magazine sales.

The truth is that the addiction to electronics and quick results has created such a big disconnect that there’s no rug large enough to sweep it under. In an age where you can do almost anything from your phone, people have forgotten how to be interesting without one.

Are we really having trouble retaining all of the information thrown at us, or have we just stopped paying attention? Do we really need to take pictures to remember a concert or prove that we were there, or have we stopped placing importance on how great the band was in exchange for likes on Instagram?

The truth is that I’m not immune to wanting to share my experiences with the world, but I’ve learned to set limits for myself. I’m writing this blog in hopes that a few of you will realize it, too. And really, it’s not hard to make the change.

Instead of snapping pictures throughout the concert, take a few during the first song. After that, stop trying too hard to get the perfect picture and focus on what you paid money for. Instead of talking to your friends in the back of the venue, actually listen to the opening acts. You’ll probably like them, and it’s a great way to find new music. When you get on the internet, don’t just start link-jumping. Read it, comment and share it with people if you like it.

To me, it’s all about making an effort to respect those around you. The music industry is a community, and you have a hell of a lot more power as a fan than you think.

Most importantly, try to minimize your dependence on technology – even if it’s only for a few hours during a concert. Or a movie. Or dinner with friends and family.

Pitchfork’s “People List” – By Hipsters, For Hipsters?

26 Aug

When Pitchfork released its “People’s Choice” list last week, assholes seemed to tighten up a bit. But it wasn’t the readers that the list seemed to piss off, so much as music writers that don’t work for the website. But when you consider the source, are the results really a surprise?

Pitchfork kicked this list off as a way to celebrate its 15-year anniversary, but with a list that spans from 1996-2011,  “People’s Choice” is already set up for failure.

Sure, lists make the music blogosphere keep spinning. And yes, it’s a nice package of 15 years. But when push comes to shove, music of the 90s will always be completely different from the music of the more tech-savvy decade that followed.

Then there’s the fact that the list might have been a year in the making, but it still feels flawed.

If I were the editor, I would have dedicated a 16-weeks to voting, tackling each year one by one. Instead, the voters (88% of which were male, by the way) weren’t really allowed to form their own opinions. They were, however, asked to vote on their favorites from the 116,009 albums found in Pitchfork’s archives.

The list is heavily in favor of “classic” albums from the 2000s. In fact, the two years with the most albums on this list? 2007 and 2010.

If you look closely, there are about the same amount of 16-20 year olds voting as there are 26-30 year olds. If you put that into perspective, nearly one-fourth of the voters were younger than four years old in 1996. Some of them weren’t even born yet (we see you, 15 & under.)

I myself am 23. I am the same age as Pitchfork’s largest audience and I was seven years old in 1996.

I get that this is the “People’s Choice,” but there’s something ominous about looking at a list of 200 albums where some were lucky enough to have their entire discography on the list. So why do some artists seem like a shoe-in? Do they deserve the credit, or were voters really afraid that they’ll somehow be seen anonymously voting from their personal computers for non-hip bands?

I can’t dispute that Radiohead deserves the #1 spot. Out of the 25 cities, only two – Houston and Minneapolis – picked something other than OK Computer as the best album of the past 15 years. But what happened to the rest of the list?

Craig Hlavaty of Houston Press made some legitimate points in an article he penned after results went live, one of the biggest being that neither Houston nor Austin voted Texas-based bands among their Top 20. Maybe voters misunderstood the assignment? Or maybe Houston Press’ sister publication, L.A. Weekly, was right to call these voters out on their shit by making their own list of the 20 Worst Hipster Bands.

Their pick? Bon Iver.

Pitchfork’s list of finalists is compiled of 132 artists. Of those artists, 31% got more than one album on the list, while 13% had their full discography included.

But though most of the picks on the list feel predictable, others don’t belong in a “Best of…” list, no matter who compiled it. And for Pete’s sake, what’s the deal with the Top 20?

Sure, it’s easy to see why Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk Hotel rank so high – they’ve made albums that not only stand the test of time, but that felt original and inspired the masses. Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion, on the other hand, might have been a great album, but did it really influence more bands than The White Stripe’s Elephant? The simple answer? Hell no.

But not all was lost. Some hidden gems give hope that at least a few hundred of the voters knew what the hell they were doing. Well, sort of.

Of the albums listed, the most surprising placements were Weezer’s Pinkerton (#118), which fell four spots after Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds and only three spots before Eminem’s Marshall Mathers EP. It’s also a shock that Interpol’s Antics scored lower in the rankings than Turn On The Bright Lights. Bright Eyes only landed on the list once.

Pitchfork might be known as “Home of the Hipsters,” but they taught us an important lesson – there’s an art to critiquing. Like FOX News, Pitchfork seems to have an audience that doesn’t understand how to form their own opinion. Instead, they regurgitate biased opinions of their faithful (but misguided) leaders.

If you’ve yet to look at the list for yourself, it’s fun and interactive, but you’ll probably just get pissed off. Brace yourself.

Barely Blind hits MTV

21 Aug

As a native Texan, I know and follow many bands based in my home state. But when Barely Blind, one of my favorite up-and-coming acts, announced that they would be relocating to Los Angeles to start the next chapter of their journey, it was a bittersweet moment.

Now, with nearly ten years, three albums and countless live shows under their belt, the group has been featured on MTV’s “Fresh New Music” list for August. To be more exact, Barely Blind have landed the #7 spot behind the likes of Beyoncé, Norah Jones, and Brandy.

MTV is currently shining the spotlight on their most recently recorded music video for “Inner Child,” which was directed by Tyler Gorrell. The song is the first single off of their third album, Wilder Child of a Thousand Suns.

It’s always nice to see bands grow up and get a hold on the dream they’ve been chasing. It’s even better when you see it happen with a talented band you believe in, that’s been working their ass off since day one.

For more information on Barely Blind, including tour dates and (free!) music, visit their website, Facebook or Twitter. They even have one of those videos that will make you want to be in a band on their YouTube channel.

Review: Best Coast – The Only Place

9 Jul

When Best Coast released their debut album, Crazy For You, Bethany Coesentino was hailed as a woman to keep your eye on. Now, she seems to be molded after a sort of one hit wonder more than this generation’s leading lady.

With the May release of their sophomore album, The Only Place, Coesentino & Co. seemed dead set on reminding us all that they’re from California. As if that were ever in jeopardy of being forgotten.

In a nutshell, The Only Place is merely a grown-up, less colorful, polished version of Crazy For You.

Starting with the album art, The Only Place (seen above) definitely carries on the tradition of animals, maps and California being used to really give the listener a vibe of the band before they even hear the album. The same tactics were used with Crazy For You, and it’s starting to seem like Coesentino has a one-track mind when it comes to her, er, art.

When Best Coast announced that The Only Place was in the process of being recorded, everyone wondered what the group was going to sound like. After all, drummer Ali Koehler announced she was no longer with the band right before Coesentino revealed that she would like to embrace her country side on the new tracks, with inspiration coming from the likes of Loretta Lynn. Then it was announced that famed composer and producer, Jon Brion, would be behind the wheel of the project.

But even with Brion’s help, Best Coast proved nothing on The Only Place, other than the fact that they might want to consider renaming themselves “One Trick Pony.”

You see, the problem with this album is not that the songs aren’t good – most of them are pretty catchy. The problem is that they sound so much like the tracks off of Crazy For You, they’re actually hard to listen to.

The album opens with the title track, which sounds like something the Governor of California commissioned Best Coast to write for a commercial campaign to attract tourists. While the sentiments are understood (California is a wonderful, magical place), it’s hard to want to dive head-first into the album. First impressions really are hard to shake.

The following track, “Why I Cry,” sounds like melodies and chord progressions were copy and pasted from Crazy’s “Happy” and “Goodbye.” This same pattern follows with tracks like “Do You Love Me Like You Used To” and “Let’s Go Home.” Really, you can’t listen to any track on the album without being immediately reminded of one from Crazy.

Coesentino told to Pitchfork that The Only Place is “more about self-discovery and figuring out who she is.”

Crazy for You was written in a very insecure, weird, 22-year old phase in my life,” she said. “I’m 25 now, and things in my life are much, much different than they were then. This record is really personal.”

Unfortunately, it’s hard to hear this album and not wonder what Brion, Coesentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno were listening to when they put the finishing touches on the album. Even the lyrical content of the songs haven’t evolved past that first album any more than the songwriting has. And while there’s nothing wrong with a brutally honest or even vulnerable track, building a career off of songs that read like a boy crazy teen’s diary isn’t something to aspire for.

But all hope isn’t lost. When push comes to shove, Best Coast still has talent behind the name. Albeit misplaced, they truly are talented. Hopefully we can chalk this off another sophomore slump, and the duo really does some growing for their next release to make up for lost time. If not, well, there’s always their first album.

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