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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

 

 

Underground Mondays: Alea Rae

The folk revival is stronger than ever, and it’s fitting that musicians can release music with ease considering social media is only growing. It’s quite ironic to hear something so condensed and close knit be released on this massive universe of the web. Folk music always has a sense of community whenever I listen to it. The personal experiences related to the themes of the songs grasp my attention in such a way, it’s hard to imagine that millions of others can feel the same way with a click of a button. Gladly I can say that Alea Rae isn’t at the million listener mark, but her music should be.

From my hometown of Vancouver, BC, I came into contact with Rae with her debut EP, Offerings. The 4 song, 13 minute long EP covers a lot of ground, but also holds true to the emotional side of folk music. From the beginning of “An Honest Man”, Rae harmonizes with the melody of the guitar, leading into a smooth roll of the drums that vaguely reminisces a band I’ve been really enjoying lately named Typhoon. The instrumentation on this track contrasts the close-hearted opening with a string section that builds until the ultimate climax. Very calming, accessible, and a solid opener for this record. “Teal” takes a different direction, as it’s not as uplifting, but more accepting. The song is raw, real, and fitting to the experiences we have compared to a happy-go-lucky track.

Rae, who’s radical voice is an abstract mix of folk Karen O and Veronica Falls, shines through these cherished songs. Her ability to start in a deep, almost spoken-word croon that grows into a swooning melody is comparable to Marcus Mumford, who I’m not a huge fan of but it’s one of the few things that I enjoy from his music. “Offerings” is a perfect example of Rae’s ability to dynamically shift a song with her voice alone. It’s what makes the song stand out on these tracks. Not to mention the full band provides excitement to the music.

Too many folk musicians can bore listeners with their music. Especially when they begin the long-winded journey of becoming a musician, sometimes a guitar and sad lyrics aren’t enough to capture their future fans. Rae made the right choice in having a backing band grow these ideas into songs. Her lyricism is strong as well, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Isolation, distance, longing of home, love, it’s all here in these songs, but “Stunning Silence” proves yet again that instrumentation done right in folk can be a game changer that’s hard to compete with. I’m somebody who pushes musicians to try new things, but Alea Rae does indie-folk a favour with Offerings.

 

Be sure to check out her bandcamp below and listen to her amazing 4 song EP:

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: Mariko shows her skills with “On With The Show”

I opened up my email to find a song in there that catches my ear. I listen to everything I receive thoroughly, just in case it I can find use to it. Some I listen more than others. “On With The Show”, by Singer-Songwriter, Mariko, is a fresh track that has been slowly picking up speed over the time it’s been released. Mariko is a Japanese-born, Boston-raised, and currently resides in New York. From the beginning, she knew music was her passion and continues to pursue it. She has even performed at multiple festivals such as Vans Warped Tour, Yellow Phone Music Conference, and has recently been asked to play at Summerfest 2013 in Milwaukee, WI.

Her sound blends the likes of pop duo, Tegan & Sara, with more credible artists like Lykke Li. She also performs with a backing band, giving her sounds that big, rounded sound. “On With The Show” starts with Mariko showing off her vocal range, which is quite amazing. After the drums kick in, the pre-chorus provides another reason why Mariko is an artist to watch. Her shift of sound to the ‘four on the floor’ drums backs of her sharp singing. Even the chorus breaks into a singable adventure.

Another great reason why “On With The Show” is great is because of the simplicity of the song. It’s lyrics aren’t overly complicated, and are great for screaming at her live shows, and the instrumentation is forward and to the point. Even the solo at the end is simple, but still kicks ass. Mariko’s vocals are the center-piece to this song, and are what carry this track the whole way through.

I really enjoy what I hear. “On With The Show” has that hit single charm that cannot be missed. Her vocals are outstanding, and Mariko is a musician who will shine this summer when her festival dates arrive. Be sure to check out the song below, and catch any of her upcoming dates at http://marikosmusic.com

 

Underground Mondays: The Soon-Another release the colorful Autodidact

Glittery indie-pop is at an all time high. It’s on the radio, it’s topping the charts, and it’s in our brains. Bands like Metric, Lights, and Of Monsters and Men are some of the bigger names of musicians that control this genre. What’s even more interesting is that there is such a large geographic area that this music is popular in. Metric is American, Lights is Canadian, and Of Monsters and Men is from Iceland of all places. Now this rule doesn’t apply to all areas of the world, but the next band featured in our “Underground Mondays” segment originates from Peru.  Now based in the great New York City, The Soon-Another contains that indie-pop structure while pulling from their Peruvian roots, which is noticeable in tracks like, “Hogar”. They label themselves are ‘synth-rock’, but I’d argue both genres are applicable.

The band has recently released the album, Autodidact, which is a perfect title for this solid album. The word means to pretty much “teach yourself”, and although these musicians feel formally trained, the tracks presented on this album feel from the heart and gracefully original. Opening with the track, “Like You Like”, the clapping kick starts an adrenaline rush. What I noticed from the get-go is how spot on the harmonies are. The two musician’s vocals blend very well even with the range of the two almost being the same. The next track, “The Garden”, reminds me closely of the infamous iPhone song, “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie”, by the Submarines. It’s a great throwback and although I could never remember the name of that Submarines’ song, I don’t need too anymore because I have The Soon-Another instead.

Three tracks that caught my eye and made me want to return to this album were “Life is Too Short To Suck”, “Empty Space”, and “Time Work”. The entire second half of this album is absolutely killer. The hooks feel fresh, the songs are upbeat and natural, and not too mention “Empty Space” is easily one of the most fun songs I’ve heard in 2013. I also found the “Peace Sells…” influenced bass line amusing in “Time Work”. Ironically, the Megadeth riff fits very well for a genre that is on the complete other end of the musical spectrum. Another great track that only really hit me at the end was “Institutionalized”. I found it had too much of a Queen influence for me, but the minimalist ending and xx sound really fit my style. Less “Bohemian Rhapsody” and more xx and they’d have a contender for song of the year.

Autodidact has a great sound. The appearance of the album artwork presents a wonderfully colorful cast, while the setting is quite bleak. The words are also extremely rigid and harsh, but musically, this album is very opposite. It’s accessible, fun, and dynamic enough for anyone who’s usually the first to turn off any top 40 indie-rock. Surprisingly, the only track I didn’t like was the self-titled, “Autodidact”. I mean, it’s one of the best names for an album in a long time, but the song felt forced to me. The vocalist has this awkward singing-rap thing going on and it didn’t really work. I like the tempo and beat, but it didn’t fit in to the concept of the fresh synth-pop album. The chorus is actually very catchy with it’s repetitive lyrics so I liked that.

Overall, Autodidact, is an exciting release from a rising band. Their sound fits the key points that all big time bands today contain. The killer vocals, the catchy hooks, and the great melodies are a must for any band wanting to make a living off of music. Now most musicians who have that ‘it’ sound gave up any integrity they had when they were presented with a contract, but The Soon-Another seemed to have kept it with this release. The songs are fun, to the point, and are re-listenable. The fact that the band can change dynamics in one song that is even more intense than “Bohemian Rhapsody” is quite respectable. I sense that was the influence behind the track, but nonetheless I’d listen to “Institutionalized” any day over that Queen song. Props to The Soon-Another for this wonderful release! Anyone looking for a great summer/fall album should check out Autodidact; or if you’ve ever considered giving synth-pop a listen, be sure to add this to your list. I know I’ll be listening as time passes.

Be sure to buy their album from their bandcamp here

Feel free to stream Autodidact thing here: 

Here’s the video for the opener, “Like You Like”:

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