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Underground Mondays: Different Days EP

Nothing makes me more upset than when someone claims to enjoy “everything”, but can’t enjoy the simple things in music. I mean, pop and radio rock is the least challenging form of music to listen to. I understand there are many acts that are pretty bad (Nickelback, Finger Eleven), but claim bands that garner a large amount of success or airplay as not worth listening to is the prime example of pretentiousness. 2013 is nearing the end of it’s spectacular run, and it’s coming down to crunch time when picks are made, and time and time again my most listened too seem to be everyone else’s as well. It goes to show the popularity of an artist.

Now as I type this, I have a certain sound in my head when I think of constant radio airplay. It’s one of three categories. First is the club bangers, think big name rap artist featured on some pop stars track. Second category is the new, popular indie artist that everyone pretends they only like, (Mumford and Sons, The 1975, Capital Cities), and my final category is the tried and true rock. Since the 70′s, rock has been the only form of popular music that still receives radio airplay, even if it has fluctuated throughout the years. Different Days is a Montreal based band that grows from that popularized rock sound we all know. Strong, steady drumming, prideful vocals, and the one of a kind guitar tone. Oddly enough, throwing on the EP I received from them the first thing I thought was, “Is this PJ Harvey in 2000?”. It’s a spot-on comparison I’ve been told, and I guarantee if you listen to “A Place Called Home” and  compare it to the band’s “Inconspicuous”, you’ll agree.

The group takes pride in their self-sufficient way of doing things. Having multi-talented members who can design artwork, master albums, and brag about a degree in classical production(?), they seem to have everything set. “Different Days” is not only the closer to the same-titled EP, it IS the epitome of their whole band. Feedback that salutes Sonic Youth, incredibly strong fills, and even the opening  finger picking foreshadows the ultimate climax. There are so many different sounds on one EP. There’s a heavy metal sound, followed by a top 40 rock vibe, but it doesn’t feel forced with the exception of the opener, “Breathless”. It came across as tinny and lifeless. The upside is that the vocals are incredibly catchy, so it would be a different experience live.

Different Days is a band with a bright future. From PJ Harvey to Bikini Kill, the band knows their roots. They pick and choose only the most engaging parts from each artist to combine it into one unique, colorful blend of music. Different Days EP is a solid showcase into what the group has to offer. When experience and experimenting comes, they should be a band that brings a lot to the table for record labels. I guarantee them as the next indie sweethearts. Listen to “Static” and attempt to put a frown on, which is only acceptable when headbanging.

 

Listen to the entire EP below, and download! 

Be to check out their facebook page here

 

 

Candy Cigarettes stands out among many bedroom acts

I always find it amazing when I hear music that’s created in a bedroom studio. It always has a cozy, warm aesthetic that’s much more listenable than any other genre I find. Perfume Genius and Youth Lagoon have really captured the essence of bringing the music from the bedroom (or a friends) to life. With the release of the weird, but very good Wondrous Bughouse, I’ve felt the need to rekindle some of that lo-fi feel in my daily music listening. A musician that brings together this idea greatly is Candy Cigarettes.

 

Lane Mueller is a solo, self-taught musician out of Portland that has been releasing songs under the alias of Candy Cigarettes. Already playing in festivals around his hometown (The monstrous Kaleidoscope Festival in Eugene, Or), his deep baritone voice is rare to hear in the dream pop genre he’s playing. What makes him special as well is how he can jump from a Matt Berninger rumble to a Ben Gibbard, Postal Service, style of singing. Because of his smaller scale and bedroom feel, it’s obvious the quality cannot compete with some of the bigger players in the business, but it adds to the feel of his music. The tracks I listened to, “Tomorrow”, “Stockholm”, “Call Her Friend” and “My 45″ all fall under the same lo-fi sound, but are extremely different in their own qualities.

 

I’m torn between “Stockholm” and “Call Her Friend” as my personal favorite track from Mueller. It’s easy to tell what emotions he’s trying to convey from his diverse range of sound. “Stockholm” begins as a lonely, National influenced track that bursts into a riff resembling “Entertainment” by Phoenix. I hated that song on it’s own, but Mueller takes the idea of the riff, and creates it into a great ending for a sad, revealing track.

 

“Call Her Friend” was not a track I wanted to hear from the opening guitar riff. it’s too Garage Band like, but I gave it a chance and I found it to be Mueller’s most creative work. I hear an early Death Cab for Cutie influence, but with more desperation with the backing vocals droning off, leading into an outstanding electronic section. The song has so many different noises coming from different angles, but Mueller utilizes the silence of the chorus with the background vocals to create amazing tension and connection with the listener. I also found the bridge and fade out to be very solid, with the exception of the blues guitar that doesn’t fit. Nonetheless, great track.

 

“Tomorrow” was the song that I first heard, and it did really capture my attention. It’s the definition of bedroom music, and that’s not an insult in the slightest. I’m saddened by the fact that many people haven’t been introduced the Candy Cigarettes, or other bedroom artists of the same nature. Mueller’s bio describes himself as “Carved name amongst the elders of Portland’s highly proclaimed music scene”, and it makes scene. This track in particular has huge potential to be a radio hit with a bit of clean-up. My same comment goes as the blues guitar doesn’t fit the overall feel of Mueller’s music, but nonetheless it doesn’t detract from the great ideas.

 

Lane is among the many talented solo musicians who are striving to have their name heard. Some are pretty established, like Mueller, while others haven’t shown a single soul their creations. All we know is it can be a work of genius if we give it a chance. Thanks to the age of social media, we can experience the greatness of millions of musicians, and see their minds flow. Just listen to “Weary Is”, and tell me the closing piano notes don’t make you feel something special. Candy Cigarettes, much like Washed Out, is a unique project that only needs that single opportunity, and at 21, Lane Mueller will be given many.

 

Click here to follow him on Facebook

 

 

Underground Mondays: James Parenti

There’s always a subtle bit of emotion that goes along with simplicity. It’s a mixture of being able to get lost in the music, or the concentration is transferred over to the body of music and it’s purpose. We subconsciously dissect music to fit our state of mind, making connections to either help us or hurt us. The best music can control emotions or create a lasting impression on us. There’s bands and musicians that have created that lasting impression by using complexity to their advantage, but it’s more common to find that ‘it’ sound through experience. Lately, I’ve connected with the indie-folk artist, James Parenti.

He describes his music as, “Rain outside your window”, and although it’s quite accurate, it’s more than that. The phrase to me sounds like it’s in the background, adding to the effect of what’s going on around us. Instead, Parenti’s music is a beating heart in your mind. His debut and most recent album, Maybe That’s Why We Lost, was released in December of 2011 by himself. It’s a mixture of simple, driving guitar playing with intertwining lyrics that act as the lead selling point to his music. Parenti’s voice is very suitable for this style, because it’s so mellow although he is a very talented singer. The trick is that as a listener I think, “I can do that!”, but once I try I only realize how understated his voice is. I can compare it to a folk version of Perfume Genius’, Mike Hadreas, who as well has amazing vocals.

The singing really stands out on tracks like, “Catching Snakes”, and “Don’t Feed The Animals”, where he sings his falsetto and his chest voice, showcasing his talent. Even the guitar and percussion stand out, because to be honest, there isn’t a whole lot going on in these tracks. That’s the beauty of James Parenti, because he uses the atmosphere as an instrument, gripping the listener throughout the entire album. The feature of female singers, Trish and Krystle Phelps, create amazing melodies on these songs. Although very subtle, it’s all that’s needed to progress the tracks.

It’s difficult to describe what songs stand out, because they’re all quite similar. I never found myself bored with these tracks, because a lot like Phil Elvrum’s past band, The Microphones, the album feels like a body of work. I can compare it to the extremely great The Glow Pt. 2, which was released way back in 2001. It’s also difficult to imagine this album being made in the great New York City, because it’s intimate sound reflects that of the North West. I could imagine the sound reflecting the beauty of the city, as if becoming lost in the bustle is a wonderful sight. I make the connections to a suburban North West city, like Seattle or Bellingham, much like Death Cab For Cutie’s early work conveyed. Nonetheless, Maybe That’s Why We Lost is an album anyone can connect with. It’s immediately capturing, only letting go once the entire body of work strikes it’s final note. I know I’ll listen to it more as the future goes on.

 

Be sure to check out and listen to his album at his website: http://jamesparenti.bandcamp.com/

You can stream the entire album here: 

 

 

Underground Mondays: BadBadNotGood reinvent jazz

I love jazz. The energy of the artists collaborating is mesmerizing. It’s arguably the most complex form of music, and surprisingly had the most of controversy when the music was still popular. Many big name musicians died at a young age (John Coltrane at 40, Eric Dolphy at 36, and Albert Ayler at 34), and drugs were passed around like no tomorrow. Everyone had cocaine, heroin, or anything to ease the pain of touring and missing payments. Jazz life seemed like a good life to an outsider, but the business was cutthroat and had no remorse. It’s an overlooked form of music today, and that’s partially because of it’s decline in the late 60′s, early 70′s, but the growing popularity of youth culture helped put a stake in the genre for good.

After the death of jazz, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where did it all go?”. It’s only logical to think that music doesn’t suddenly die for good. If there were huge groups of fans, they couldn’t all leave at the same time. My guess is that jazz helped progress the hip hop movement of the 80′s, which chronologically helped shape today’s popular music. I find it very interesting to see how a super complex form of popular music transform into the simplicity of today’s top hits. Oddly enough, jazz is making a slight comeback. That’s even saying a lot, but with the recent trend of vintage-everything on the rise, the genre has risen to the highest point since it’s decline in popularity.

The jazz hip-hop trio of BadBadNotGood are on the rise, and definitely do not fit in the category of “Underground”, but I had to bring them up. Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, the group has had the likes of Tyler, The Creator reach out to them for a collaboration. Their jazz sound and hip-hop persona has become a trademark to their unique upbringing. The talented members of Chester, Matt, and Alex have created a cool atmosphere that can only be marked by their live performances. Luckily enough, I was able to see them perform on multiple occasions and it oddly reminds me of the DIY hardcore punk scenes of the 1980′s LA core. With this weird mixture of music and culture, how can anyone pass up on it. BBNG are a unique group.

Another reason why I bring them up is because they’re set to release the third album, titled BBNG3, which is a followup to their wonderful BBNG, and BBNG2. The albums have diverse covers of songs by musicians like Odd Future, Kanye West, Nas, and even James Blake. Others like to label them as “Instrumental Hip-Hop”, but I know they have a post-bob sound to them. Their playing style is aggressive, but also very credible. Their soloing style is crisp, and the members like to blend their solos into one another, creating a noise effect that has a punk style. Their appeal spreads from intense jazz snobs to street cred wannabees, but that’s what makes BadBadNotGood the band that stands out among many up and comers. Although still relatively small, I can’t help but see them as household names in a deadly business.

Tracks like, “Flashing Lights”, and “CMYK” prove to me why these guys are continuing to grow. The music is very creative and fresh even if it isn’t originals. The aspect of turnings these songs into jazz pieces is cringe worthy, but the personality behind the band makes it enjoyable and cool. The group itself has a fresh vibe that is unteachable. They’re a real savior to a genre that I would hate to see pass away. Jazz will always be on the back burner to mainstream and indie music today, but BadBadNotGood is turning jazz into an indie genre. They’re taking all the pretentiousness and arrogance out of the genre and making it interesting and cool to everyone. Gone is the hierarchy and conceitedness of the stereotype and in is the cool and fresh version. Thank goodness BadBadNotGood is leading the way of reinventing jazz. I wouldn’t want anyone else with this much responsibility.

 

A wicked video to give you an idea of their live performances:

BBNG x Tyler, The Creator

My favorite by the group: 

Underground Mondays: Throwback to No Wave with Rosa Yemen

Ironically, a genre that takes so much out of music is on the rise again with influence. No Wave was a short lived art scene out of the dirt cheap New York City downtown. It originated with the rise of constant drug use and visual art growing in the New York downtown area, and with a mentality of going against the pop-culture scene, many people took to the underground movement. No Wave is a weird style. It’s mostly atonal, and doesn’t have any sort of song structure. It goes against everything that is popular music, or let alone experimental music. No Wave is the epitome of experimental. Many artists have emerged as extremely influential in this genre, such as DNA, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars, and notably Glenn Branca.

What attracts me to this certain sound is how different it is. There’s no way of comparing it to other sounds, because there is no other sound. For a first time listener, it will be taken as pure noise, but I find that can be the point. It’s almost about pushing the limits of ‘what is music’ with textures. Many of these avant-garde musicians came from New York, but a group I’m very fond of came out of France. Out of all places, a small group called Rosa Yemen released their only EP, titled Rosa Vertov, in their home country. It garnered zero coverage, but lead vocalist, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, went on to have a semi-successful career out of using No Wave as an influence for her world beat and post-punk career. Now Rosa Vertov stands out to me as a great EP from this genre because of how raw it is. At just over eight minutes, this thing really puts a point across. The opening, “Decrypted” has an extremely arrogant and disjointed guitar riff that doesn’t get any easier to listen to as the song progresses. Any sort of structure with this song has flown out the window, and what is left is pure noise. Not the Merzbow style soundscapes, but a very natural and unpleasant sound only found in No Wave. 

The second track, “Herpes Simplex”, has a very strong sense of emotion to it. The screaming from Descloux resembles any sort of garage rock or noise rock vocals today. The influences to bands like Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine are very strong. It’s like a history lesson on drugs. “Larousse Baron Bic” opens with a minimal guitar riff that 100% influenced the riff for The xx’s “Crystalised”. I’d be very surprised if I heard that the connection can’t be made. It’s for reasons like this that this EP means so much to me. “Rosa Vertov” is the fourth track, and it’s a complete mess. The vocals are everywhere, the guitar jumbles from tremolo picking to eight notes, and there’s a large amount of excess noise added onto the track. Not to mention there’s a droning sound in the background that only adds to the tension. A very interesting track to say the least.

Finally, there’s the semi-tonal track, “Tso Xin Yu X”. For once on the EP there’s a set beat and guitar rhythm that doesn’t fly off the tracks after a second. The track ends very suddenly after a minute and a half rhythm section, and sets itself as a solid closer for a wonderful mess of an EP. It’s very hard to describe No Wave without listening to it. I find that every artist has a different idea of what that term means, but to me it’s almost a play on words with “new wave”. It’s anti-tonal sound goes against everything new wave is, and the entire culture behind No Wave plays a very important role in modern music today. Although the sound might not click with listeners, the story behind the scene itself is seminal to anyone interested in music history. A great way to start is with Rosa Yemen’s EP, Rosa Vertov.

 

Here’s the track, “Larousse Baron Bic”, which is actually from the original EP, not Descloux’s solo album: 

Also, check out the great track, “Herpes Simplex”: 

New No Age album to be released August 20

 

Three years have passed since the noise-rock band, No Age, has released an album. It’s a known fact that No Age are also ass-kickers and Everything In Between (2010) is a great album. Even before, Nouns (2008) is constantly on my playlist. The band has yet to release a mediocre album, and the critical acclaim doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. An Object is set to release August 20 in North America and August 19 in the UK. What’s even more promising is the press release for the upcoming album;

“This new LP finds drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt exploding from behind his kit, landing percussive blows with amplified contact mics, 4-string bass guitars, and prepared speakers, as well as traditional forms of lumber and metal. Meanwhile, guitarist Randy Randall corrals his previously lush, spastic, sprawling arrangements into taught, refined, rats’ nests.”

Here’s the setlist for this anticipated album, and another reason why 2013 has been killing it so far. Be sure to listen to the amazing track, “Glitter”, off of the 2010 album below:

 

01 No Ground

02 I won’t Be Your Generator

03 C’mon Stimmung

04 Defector/ed

05 An Impression06 Lock Box

07 Running From A-Go-Go

08 My Hands, Birch and Steel

09 Circling With Dizzy

10 A Ceiling Dreams of a Floor

11 Commerce, Comment, Commence

 

 

 

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