Tag Archives: indie

Stream: Nate Henricks – “Apple Juice”

You may remember Nate Henricks from a post that I did back in June. That album, “Neon for No One,” remains one of my favorite finds from scouring the internet obsessively for new unknown stuff. I bought the tape and have been listening to it fairly regularly ever since. “Sometimes I Die” from that album is definitely one of the standout tracks of the year, and will most likely (read: definitely be going on my end of year mix).

Now, the ever prolific Henricks has a new album that is every bit as affecting. It’s actually quite astounding the amount of really top shelf music that he’s able to put out in a year. Counting up everything on his bandcamp page there are 14 releases including this one for you to enjoy.

“Apple Juice” brings us even more of the collage-as-song writing and arranging style that “Neon For No One” is full of. Right out of the gate “Alligator in the Toilet” moves from fairly straight ahead rock into a hardcore punk/metal hybrid and finally to Casio keyboard drum machine weirdness at the end. Yet, as I’m sure I mentioned before, it all holds together so well that each section works like a song within a song.

“Vegetarian Dog” and “Your Arcade Prize” are two “live” tracks that, for more than a minute, had me seriously considering if he actually did play in Tokyo. I mean, I like his music well enough, why wouldn’t there be a ton of people in Japan that are way into his music?  “Your Arcade Prize” is full of catchy hooks and a strangely fitting nod to doo-wop, the end morphing into a blues rock freak out that continues to manages to draw a straight line of 60s influence all the way from beginning to end.

There’s just so much creative energy and so many great musical moments across the 21 minutes of “Apple Juice” that it would be difficult to recount them all. From the rock, pop, blues, metal, punk, and sound collage’s that have found their way into these tracks, those 21 minutes are incredibly substantial. Best thing would be to just listen to the thing a few times in a sitting. Don’t even worry about which track is which, it’s almost beside the point, just take the entire release in as one long idea, as it seems that is the way it was created.

You can check out the album in its entirety above, or head to Nate’s bandcamp page to check out everything else that he’s created. He’s also created a bunch of videos and art that can be found on his website. Speaking of videos here’s one he made for “Vegetarian Dog” below. Now go buy his music, and help support Nate Henricks.

Stream tracks from new Le Rug compilation “Press Start: The Collection”

Le Rug has got pretty good timing, coming at us with a track like “Jailbait,” just in time for the Summer. This track is sure to end up on more than a few playlists designed to accompany roadtrips down a sunny highway to nowhere in particular in the coming months. It’s just one of those carefree and energetic rockers that’s catchy as hell from start to finish.

Of course, being that it is only one track from a 32 track compilation that spans several years, it is by no means representative. “Harold Camping” is a bit more varied in its approach, with the same wild vocal but a guitar sound that is more restrained. Each song throughout the compilation sounds new and familiar at the same time, and though I usually prohibit myself from saying such meaningless-sounding wordfiller type things, it’s really true. Though “Godstar” reminds me of maybe The Burdocks, in the sound of the vocals, and some of the melodies. The rhythms here are less angular, that is for sure, but the melodic sensibility is pretty similar.

Other tracks, like “Get it Over With” and “Dead in a Hole” explore a synthier side that isn’t necessarily any colder timbrally than the other guitar driven tracks, but certainly explore a whole other sound in general. The guitar is ever present, at varying levels of grit. The songs always have the ability to soar and find a way to pull the listener in.

The good news is that there is a whole lot more where this came from. These songs are coming off a 32 track compilation that is set for release June 17th, and can be pre-ordered right now on cassette (recommended) or as a download from Austin’s Fleeting Youth records. According to the press release:
Press Start: The Collection features 5 magnetic and pulsing post-punk releases from Brooklyn’s Le Rug (32 tracks overall)– 3 albums from when Le Rug was more active years ago and 2 new recent EPs released earlier this year.
For now though you can download the tracks above for free. Take some time to ruminate with them. No doubt you will find yourself wanting to listen more and more.

Fleeting Youth//Facebook//Twitter//Instagram//Soundcloud//

 

Album review: Chad VanGaalen – "Diaper Island"

As a musician, and as someone that listens to a ridiculous amount of music, sometimes I am listening just for sounds. Sometimes the melodies and whether or not they are catchy take a backseat to the atmosphere that an album creates.

There have been times  that I’ve been so wrapped up in a band’s unique sound that it’s a week or two of non-stop listening before I start to really focus on the harmonic structure, song structure, melodies and lyrical content that is contained therein. This was precisely the case when I first heard Shellac. I remained entranced by the sound of the Travis Bean guitars and Steve Albini’s trademark recording technique sound.

Chad VanGaalen is similar in the way that his recordings have quite a distinctive sound. His production on the 2 albums by fellow Calgarians Women is noteworthy for being characteristically and decidedly lo-fi. Diaper Island takes those production values and applies them to songs that, while still existing very much in the experimental realm, are considerably less abrasive and confrontational that those of Women. The Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth influence is pulled back while that of Neil Young and The Beatles is pushed a bit more to the front.

Chad-VanGaalen - "Diaper-Island"
Chad-VanGaalen - "Diaper-Island"

There is still quite a psychedelic feel to the album with noisy squeals of guitar cutting through on “Replace Me” and the swirling hypnotic backdrop of “Blonde Hash” that fights against the jangly guitar line until it’s cut out completely when the reverb drenched chorus kicks in. “Peace on the Rise” also features an interesting, harmonically disjointed line that seems to fight the song’s own gravitational pull.

The tunefulness of the songs and the noisiness of some of the odd sounds that creep in now and again are balanced well. Neither draws focus away from the other. The songs have the ability to sound haunting, catchy, sorrowful, tender and sincere. They can also wander into delicate, quiet territory or become invasive and gritty without being jarring. The combination of these affects create a powerful experience.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the closing track “Shave My Pussy” which is, honestly, a really terrific track with a folksy harp line that is plucked out, leading to a truly great chorus. This coupled with, as one can infer by the title, lyrics that are a bit odd to say the least. All in all this is a terrific album and has cemented itself as one of my favorites of the year to date.

Album review: Wild Flag – "Wild Flag"

The much anticipated album from indie rock “super group” Wild Flag has finally arrived, giving everyone something to shout about. One could practically hear the reviewers proclaiming the, at that point unnamed project, “Best of the Year” after Carrie Brownstein announced that she was leaving her post at NPR. It was decided a priori that this group was going to be amazing. I don’t want to start to sound like I totally disagree with the excitement that is surrounding this group, I just am shuddering slightly at the nepotism of the scene.

Luckily for Wild Flag they have released an album that is capable of supporting all of the buzz that has been generated on its behalf. A backwards approach, but that isn’t their fault. From my point of view it seems as if they are starting from as new a place as they can. They can’t help that they were in Sleater-Kinney, Helium and a bunch of other more under-appreciated bands, and why would they want to? It’s that experience that no doubt influenced the formation of Wild Flag and the production of their solid debut album.

Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, formerly of Sleater-Kinney, are joined by Mary Timony on vocals and guitar and Rebecca Cole on keys to create a powerful guitar driven rock sound that seems to be influenced by the spontaneity of live performance. The album’s 10 tracks capture the rough around the edges sound of an experienced live band. Despite their only having been together as Wild Flag for about a year it is clear that their collective experience is guiding their way. This album definitely does not sound like a debut. It is a focused and confident release.

Wild-Flag - "Wild Flag"
Wild-Flag - "Wild Flag"

“Glass Tambourine” and “Racehorse” are two of the more experimental and lengthy jams while “Endless Talk” is reminiscent of The Cars with Brownstein’s sharp, clipped vocals matching to a degree those of Ric Ocasek while her guitar work adds a bit of a more abrasive tone over top. “Short Version” gets right to the point, full steam ahead with blistering guitar riffs cutting through the silence.

Throughout the album Timony’s vocals are contrasted sharply by Brownstein’s. Where Timony’s voice has a more natural and relaxed sound Brownstein’s delivery sounds purposefully forceful. Her guitar style matches her vocal delivery in that it seems to cut sharp angles against the rest of the band. It’s the difference between a song like “Electric Band” and “Future Crimes”. An exciting album from one of the most talked about bands of the year. Thankfully the music seems to match the hype, for once.

 

Wild Flag – Romance by MergeRecords

Album review: Yuck – "Yuck"

Finally, after all the hype of indie culture coming to the mainstream, with Arcade Fire winning the Album of the Year Grammy and every band everywhere looking for a unique sound, we get an album that gives us exactly what we need. Yuck has delivered an album that has garnered a lot of attention for its fresh sound that, ironically, is captured by going back to sounding like the music of the 1990’s.

It is funny to think that we can actually refer to this music accurately by saying that it sounds reminiscent to the songs of late last century. A time when MTV actually played music. When shows like “120 Minutes” would showcase music that was up and coming, college radio fare that was not getting much, if any, mainstream attention. I’m sure I am not the only one that remembers staying up late as a kid to catch a glimpse of all the cool, obscure music that was coming out so that I could slyly reference it later in school when talking to my friends. Man, they would think I was so cool. Not that Yuck’s music embraces obscure acts of a bygone era. On the contrary, it captures the essence of the indie rock scene of the 90s that we all know and love but may have passed by those who were not paying attention. This music is a celebration of a time gone by, though its return is more than welcome.

I read a description online of Yuck as a “rock revival” act. Though I know the point that this particular review was getting at I still find it frustrating that the very people that listen to and love rock music are constantly claiming that it is a dead artform. Take for example every time that The Strokes, or any member of The Strokes, releases an album. The magazine covers seem to always ask, “Can The Strokes save rock?” as if it is a genre that is gone, or at least deteriorated and in need of rescuing. I don’t know if Yuck has the power, or even the willingness to “rescue” rock music but they have crafted a beautiful album that is large in scope and certainly charming in its reminiscence of music that music fans of my generation grew up listening to.
Yuck
Yuck - "Yuck"
Strands of early Sloan, early Smashing Pumpkins, Thrush Hermit, Hum, Sebadoh, The Burdocks and Dinosaur Jr. (in the album’s noisier moments) shine through track after track. The album doesn’t come off sounding like some unearthed relic, nor does it feel or sound old or stale in the slightest. Ideas and sound taken from the 90s are developed a bit with tighter rhythm section behind the initial wall of shoegazey noise.

I’m sure that there will be plenty of people tossing around the term “post-modern” in reference to Yuck. Sure, if the shoe fits, but those that dismiss this album as a simple throwback are missing the point. This album and this band seem to be reminding a tired, fractured and disenfranchised indie-rock fan base, that is constantly pulled from one direction to the next, of where we have come from. Perhaps this album can serve as a reset point where we can ponder the roots of all that is coming out today. Or, perhaps this album can serve as a direct line connecteing the music of today to the music of twenty years ago as an alternate reality where an overabundance of easily reproducable, easily attainable music never came to be and therefore never forced fans to choose one of a mulitude of made up genres to which they pledge their unflagging allegiance. Imagine good music stripped of hipster culture. This, I believe, is the world in which Yuck longs to exist.

The album is an “album”. By that I mean that it is a complete journey from beginning to end. Noisy rockers such as album opener “Get Away”, “The Wall” and “Holing Out” are broken up by quieter, more contemplative material such as “Stutter”, “Suicide Policeman” and “Rose Gives a Lilly”. All the songs feature prominently catchy hooks and layered guitar work. “Shook Down”, with its duetting boy/girl vocal, is especially effective as is the up-tempo distored folkiness of “Georgia”.

It seemed to come at us out of nowhere but now we are 20 years past the Seattle “grunge” explosion and just as far are we from the surge of great music that came out of the Halifax scene around the same time. It seems that this is just about the perfect time for a band like Yuck to bring us right back to the comfort of our indie-rock roots.

Soundgarden has reformed, Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. have been playing shows, and Beavis and Butthead is returning to television. It seems that a full on 90s reboot is taking shape. It’s a good thing that a band like Yuck can make something new amidst all this looking back.
[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/01-Get-Away.mp3|titles=Get Away]
[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/08-Stutter.mp3|titles=Stutter]
[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/04-Holing-Out.mp3|titles=Holing Out]

Album review: Chikita Violenta – "Tre3s"

Chikita Violenta is a Mexican indie rock band that is trying to make waves in a very crowded scene right now. They have the sound and the songs and, mostly, the production backing them up. Unfortunately they are about 6 years behind the times in their efforts making this album sound nearly exactly like what Broken Social Scene was doing back in 2005 with their self-titled release.

It’s not just the sound itself that reminds me of the Broken Social Scene album, or that the same sort of spirit is captured on this album; it is that they pretty directly steal from that album. For example there are spots in “All I Need’s A Little More” that sounds as if it was lifted directly from “It’s All Gonna Break”. Parts of “Tired” are pretty damn close to “Handjobs for the Holidays”. I was wondering what the hell was going on with this album so I started doing a very cursory look around the internet. Normally I don’t look up anything about the band online when I am writing a review, other than to find out member’s names and exact dates of albums for accuracy’s sake. I don’t ever read other people’s reviews of albums and I usually don’t care about how an album was produced unless something really interesting strikes my ear, for example with Women’s albums. I like my reviews to be completely 100% based upon what I hear, but this time I couldn’t let it go. Curiosity got the best of me.

Well….guess what? Chikita Violenta is on Arts & Crafts, the label founded by the main men behind Broken Social Scene. If that wasn’t enough, this album was produced by the very same guy, David Newfeld, that produced Broken Social Scene’s 2005 self titled album. After I patted myself on the back for having such good ears to pick that out (not that it was too difficult being that it was made completely obvious) my appreciation for this album quickly waned. If I would have written a review upon my first few listens, it would have been fairly positive, but then those little things started becoming more noticeable and before long they were spreading like a pox and I couldn’t keep myself from paying attention to them.

Chikita Violenta - "Tre3s"

The sound is molded perfectly to fit that “anthemic” sort of “new wave of arena rock” that none other than Broken Social Scene, and I suppose to some extent those “other” (well, they were the “other” and now are the ones that are more relevant) Canadian arena rockers Arcade Fire, popularized in the early 2000’s. Who could blame them? It’s a great sound. Memorable, emotional, loud and busy. It’s great at filling up all the spaces where music should go with all sorts of wonderment and awe. It’s the sound that could describe that feeling one gets when confronted with something completely amazing, and profound; some grand sight that makes a person feel a oneness with humanity for a fleeting moment. It is the sound of that experience that they are attempting to bottle and make last forever.

Don’t get me wrong, or do get me wrong if you’d like. I don’t like to rip on bands. I don’t really do it that much, or ever. Chikita Violenta is not a bad band. They have written some really catchy tunes, but it seems as though we are prevented from hearing them after all this mimicry is piled on top of it. This places them squarely in the very long shadow cast by some trailblazing indie rock bands. “The Monster (Was Last Seen Approaching the Power Plant)” begins promisingly enough with some Spanish guitar that momentarily breathes new life into the album before everything is once again covered up by a mass of loops, samples and effects in a great whoosh of sound that envelops everything in its warm, stale cocoon.

There are some shining moments on the album, beginning with “Siren” which is a truly affecting song with some emotional power behind it. The latter third of the album seems to strip away at least some of the overdone production and gives us at least some clue as to the group’s abilities as a band. “My Connection”, the album closer, is about as stripped down as it gets here and, unsurprisingly, it is one of the highlights of the album.

Being influenced is one thing, but coming off as almost completely derivitive is another. It is my opinion that this is a band that truly wants to get their music out there, and to be honest, what band doesn’t? The way that Chikita Violenta has chosen to do this though was to attach themselves to the successes of another group and totally relinquish control to the producer in order to capture that certain “sound”, a sound that has already been captured by others.

They need more confidence in their songs. If their songs can stand on their own without the studio wizardry then they will stand out in the crowd. Today’s music scene demands a certain amount of originality. I think that the songs contained within this album may have that desired level of originality, but again, it is hard to tell with all the production piled on top of it. Music shouldn’t be produced like in a factory.

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/08-Siren.mp3|titles=Siren]

Album review: Deerhunter – "Halcyon Digest"

Deerhunter truly lives up to the hype with their much anticipated “Halcyon Digest”. This latest release takes a sharp left turn from previous work, like the album oriented “Cryptograms”. Where that album relied much more heavily on ambiance, spacious sounds and atmospheres, “Halcyon Digest” stands as more of a collection of songs with great hooks and flat-out catchy tunes with classic songwriting rather than an album length experiment. This is an album of much more palatable music that is less confrontational in its sound than their previous work.

This time around the band is clearly influenced by the sounds of groups from the 60’s. There are obvious nods to groups like The Kinks in some of the more up-tempo, driving songs like “Memory Boy”. In that way they have taken the same route as MGMT, turning to the sound of their influences, worn proudly on their sleeves, rather than forging ahead in their formerly bold originality. “Basement Scene” takes a very familiar motive from the Roy Orbison song “All I Have to do is Dream” and runs with it. Cox’s voice trails off, melding with the feedback echo in a blurred crescendo of sound.

The songs throughout are very tuneful and vibrant, which stands in contrast to their former concentration on the more ambient elements of their sound. This is not to say that they have changed completely to an unrecognizable sound, Deerhunter still manage to pack in some hypnotic allure into these tunes. But there is a new connection made. This connection links the band to their influences, which gives the audience a better picture of where it is that they are coming from.

Deerhunter - "Halcyon Digest"

The elements of ambiance and spacey, disconnected arrangements are not completely gone. “He Would Have Laughed” combines arty atmospherics with the newly dialed up accessibility as does “Sailing” with its gentle guitar and background sounds. The slap-back echo that envelops the vocals, with the doubled guitar tone combine to become a sort of characteristic sound for the album. These effects are especially noticeable on opening track “Earthquake!” and album closer “He Would Have Laughed”, making good bookends for the album. They take out their Kinks influence on “Memory Boy” which is an upbeat, forward driving and catchy song, and immediately contrast it with the noticeably darker “Desire Lines” and its gently sung vocals, arpeggiated guitar and echoes of background singing creeping in to create a dense, layered effect. “Desire Lines” lapses into a hypnotic repeated guitar outro that continuously builds for a few minutes only to be stopped when it is faded out and left to linger in your memory.

Singer Bradford Cox’s voice is a little deeper at spots now, and there is the slightest hint of rasp in his voice that adds an element of roughness to even the sweetest tunes on “Halcyon Digest”. Also, adding to their new sound is the addition of a saxophone to “Coranado” which brings to it an interesting old school rock ‘n roll color. They also show that their experimental side has not gone away with 2 part songs “Don’t Cry” and “He Would Have Laughed”. The former song collapsing in on itself into a slow acoustic ending while the latter develops further after you begin to think that the song was coming to an end.

“Halcyon Digest” is a great album that brings together elements of the bands’ influences and works them in with their own experimental sound. The emotional content of each song really grabs the listener and won’t let go, there is a strong connection made here, a connection with the past and a connection between the band and their audience.

Listen: Revival

Watch the official video for “Helicopter”: