Monthly Archives: March 2014

Why Oak?

When I first heard that Wye Oak was dropping the guitars from their new album, I was in #smfh mode. For a band that’s literally made up of just a guitarist (Jenn Wasner) and a drummer (Andy Stack), taking away half of that seemed really drastic. I thought to myself, this could either be really cool or really REALLY disappointing. I’m sad to say, Shriek is the latter.

It’s not like they haven’t incorporated synthetic sounds into their music before. Take the song “Spiral” for instance, which they released as part of Adult Swim’s singles program. A slow-burner built around programmed drums and swirling guitars, “Spiral” was a happy marriage of the band’s signature, sludgy Americana-folk with a new electronic direction (it also helped that the song was actually, you know, good). On Shriek, none of that chemistry between the old and new can be found.

The guitars are completely gone, leaving Wasner and Stack vulnerable. It’s an admirable decision, but the thing about Wye Oak that I always liked was the way Wasner and Stack fed off of each other. Wasner’s guitar and Stack’s strong percussion went hand in hand, which in turn controlled the passion and feel of their past songs like “Holy Holy” or “Siamese”. Now that the guitars have been completely dropped for synths, Wye Oak can’t make up for that missing element, and thus the songs on Shriek now come across as aimless and weak. Hell, at times they even sound like HAIM on a heavy dose of codeine, which I never would’ve expected to say about Wye Oak. Honestly, it’s hard for me to pick out a highlight from Shriek; it’s that bland.

My favorite Wye Oak album is The Knot, which was gentle, sensitive, and real. The noise Wasner and Stack on that album felt so organic and lively. On Shriek, that energy is gone, and it’s disappointing. However, having said all this, I’m willing to chalk it up as a necessary sidestep for a band that is maybe finding its way to a new muse. You can’t grow without the pains, and maybe Wye Oak is in the middle of just that.


Who the F is Bleeding Rainbow?

by Jeff Yerger

There are some things I just don’t understand, like why is the sky blue, how come 7-Elevens have locks on their doors, who are all you people gabbing to on your cell phones at 7 in the morning on my way to work, and why in God’s name is Bleeding Rainbow not more popular than they are?

Yeah, I know, there are plenty of bands out there that are pretty talented  but don’t seem to gather enough ears to hear them, so they get labeled as “the greatest band you’re not listening to,” or something like that. But seriously people, why are we sleeping on Bleeding Rainbow? Is it because they’re from Philadelphia? I mean, I know they have some questionable sports teams (I’m looking at you, Flyers), but Philly’s not all that bad. Plus, Bleeding Rainbow abhors sports (except for basketball, but I mean, come on, does anybody really care about the NBA?), so you can breathe, New Yorkers.

Those two guys from Nirvana… what are their names again?… Kris Novoselic and, uh, Dave F’n Grohl LOVE Bleeding Rainbow! Not enough for ya? Well, how about just listening to the band’s newest album Interrupt, their second release in a little over a year. It’s a damn good record, and one of the most enjoyable of 2014.

Bleeding Rainbow’s brand of straightforward 90s indie rock is loud and grinding but never dull. While 2013’s Yeah Right was more about the band exploring the nuances of their sound a bit, Interrupt doesn’t fuck around, attacking you right from the get-go with “Time and Place.” It makes sense that Grohl and Novoselic dig Bleeding Rainbows, because songs like “Tell Me,” “Out of Line,” and “Images” borrow grungy choruses and guitar tones right from Nirvana’s playbook. The band also owes a lot to My Bloody Valentine (see: “Phrase”), but they know that and it’s totally cool; there is no shame whatsoever.

So, why haven’t more people listened to Bleeding Rainbow yet? I can’t seem to figure it out. Is it because everybody’s too busy crying to that other Philadephia band’s new record? One thing I DO know is that Bleeding Rainbow is truly a hidden gem in the Philly underground, but they deserve (and sound) more than that. I’m thinking Interrupt will finally get the people’s attention, because it should. If not, at least they’ll be our little secret.

New Music: Pool Cosby – MMHMM (remixes x mash​-​ups x edits)

Pool Cosby isn’t your typical band, and MMHMM isn’t your typical remix album. In an era where anyone with GarageBand can create a passable remix, Brooklyn’s Pool Cosby turns the mash-up genre on its head, and in turn creates something entirely organic and fresh. While the White Pandas or Girl Talks of the world rely heavily on computerized beats and blistering EDM freak outs, Pool Cosby makes smooth beats out of live instruments intertwined with hip hop and soul samples, never relying on any clichés.

Pool Cosby is Joseph Caravalho (producer/sampler), Kevin Kuh (Violins), Kristine Kruta (Cello), and Nacor Zuluaga Morelo (bass and drums), and MMHMM shows the band working together as a cohesive unit, capturing their live energy better than anything the band has released thus far in their young career.

The album starts out subtly, as far as instrumental aesthetics go, but then again, introducing your remix album with a classic Sam Cooke sample is anything but subtle. It’s a bold mission statement that says while the likes of Marvin Gaye, the Isley Brothers, and Sam Cooke have long ago laid the foundations of pop and soul, Pool Cosby is here to respectfully and creatively gesture to a new direction. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that what remixes and/or covers are all about?

Other artists like Danny Brown, Frank Ocean, Missy Elliot, Sigur Ros, and even Will Smith are juxtaposed and molded together throughout MMHMM, which isn’t exactly a revolutionary concept, but Pool Cosby’s ability to bring it all together and make it sound natural from song to song truly takes some skill.

MMHMM is a refreshing take on hip hop and electronic music because it never feels manufactured. The live strings and percussion found on a majority of this album and other Pool Cosby tracks add a human element that lots of electronic projects lack.

Download Pool Cosby’s MMHMM here, and be sure to see them at their next show on April 4th at Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn.

6-Point Reference Program for War on Drugs – “Lost in the Dream”

Stream the War on Drugs' New Album Lost in the Dream

by Jeff Yerger

In case you haven’t heard, the War on Drugs’ excellent new album Lost in the Dream comes out next week. It’s a breath-taking piece of epic vagabond classic rock that was recorded in Philadelphia but sounds like it belongs to Anywhere, U.S.A. It’s an emotional album that relentlessly tugs at the heart strings while evoking heavy doses of nostalgia, familiarity, and warmth. All I want to do is live in this album and never return.

Already, music lovers have Lost in the Dream perched at #1 on their year-end lists, even though it’s, well, March. Needless to say, you’re going to hear A LOT about it, even if you haven’t listened to it yet, spoilers be damned. If you haven’t listened to it yet, conversations with your musically inclined friends are going to suck! You’ll have nothing to do but sip on your 16oz PBR can while your friends jabber on about the pure magic they felt listening to album standouts “Red Eyes,” “Burning” and “Eyes to the Wind,” or the tears they cried when they heard “An Ocean In Between the Waves” and “Suffering.” This isn’t hyperbole; this album is THAT real.

Yet, in between the outright song-gushing, one of the main things will undoubtedly come up when talking about Lost in the Dream is the massive amount of influences the album wears on its sleeve. Some are pretty subtle while others are about as subtle as an oncoming freight train, and if you want to join in the conversation without actually hearing the album first, you’re going to want to be able to name drop. So, I have come up with a list of all the artists/bands/sounds that Lost in the Dream references. Think of it as a 6-point plan for your license to talk about Lost in the Dream. You’ll need at least 6 points to successfully talk about the album without hearing it, including at least 1 primary reference and 1 secondary reference. This will at least give off the impression to your friends that you know your shit; it’ll be a primary license, if you will. In order to receive your FULL license to talk, you must actually, you know, listen to the album… which you should… because it’s great.

Here is the 6-Point Lost In the Dream references program:

Primary References (choose at least 1)

4 Point References:

  • Dire Straits
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Tom Petty
  • Don Henley

3 Point References:

  • Bob Dylan
  • The Eagles
  • Bob Seger
  • Richard Marx
  • Bryan Adams

2 Point References:

  • Peter Frampton
  • Sting
  • Fleetwood Mac

Secondary References (choose at least 1)

3 Point References

  • “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits
  • “Against the Wind” – Bob Seger
  • “Dancing in the Dark” – Bruce Springsteen
  • That guitar solo from “Lines on My Face” by Peter Frampton. Man, that was awesome guitar solo. Peter Frampton is a highly underrated guitarist. Dude, what? Seriously. Have you even listened to Frampton Comes Alive? That shit is awesome.
  • “Touch of Grey” by Grateful Dead… which makes sense, since they cover it
  • The Travelling Wilburys, if Jeff Lynne wasn’t in the band but David Crosby was
  • Oh, and “End of the Innocence” by Don Henley

2 Point References:

  • post-Roger Waters Pink Floyd
  • the singer’s voice on here kiiiinda sounds like Peter Gabriel, at times
  • Roxy Music
  • Neil Young, maybe?
  • 80’s Eric Clapton
  • 80’s Steve Winwood
  • Pre-80’s George Harrison
  • That song… oh, what’s the name of it… uhh… shit, this is going to bother me all night… I wanna say it’s by R.E.M.? No, no, that’s not it. Wait… uh… damnit!
  • The National
  • What the Killers wish Sam’s Town sounded like
  • What Brandon Flowers wishes his solo album sounded like
  • What Bono thought Rattle & Hum would sound like

1 Point References:

  • Kurt Vile

Lost in the Dream is out March 18 via Secretly Canadian

A Response to Steven Ansell

A friend of mine pointed me to an interesting article today. Steven Ansell, drummer of Blood Red Shoes, wrote an essay on the current state of music, posing the question: is music becoming a passive experience? Before I dive into this, take a quick read for yourself here.

Quite a thought-provoking question, isn’t it? I certainly think it’s cool that a musician like Ansell is speaking his mind, but in the end, it’s just another unnecessary think-piece about how music – more specifically, how we listen to it – used to be better.

Listen, I understand where Ansell is coming from – he’s pissed that his fans are pissed Blood Red Shoes can’t come to their city or country, out of some false sense of entitlement I suppose. We’ve all been there, but bands are human too (unless you’re Daft Punk) and they can only be in so many places at once. I also understand Ansell’s frustration about concert-goers these days, who seem more worried about taking pictures for their Instagram accounts rather than enjoying the concert experience and living in the moment.

What I don’t understand nor agree with is Ansell’s unprecedented cane-wagging from his porch about these darned the kids and their music these days. Every fucking think piece about the state of music always reverts back to the argument of “back in my day, things were much better!” This argument only makes the writer come across as an ignorant old geezer.

Guess what? Before the internet, things weren’t much different! Sure, music is much more easily available thanks to Spotify, Soundcloud, YouTube, etc., but 30 years ago, music was relatively as easy to obtain. Magazines and newspapers of yore are no different than your music blogs today. And radio? Oh, boy, radio was king, where music was played for free right to the comfort of your living room or car, and you didn’t have to pay one fucking cent for it. Speaking of cars, you could drive right down to the ol’ local record store, where you could browse and listen to music for hours.. for FREE, lest you actually had to, you know, buy an album. Didn’t have a record store nearby? Surely your town had a library, right? No? Well, at least you could steal albums from your older brother. Didn’t have an older brother? What about parents? Friends? Relatives? Dogs? You get the picture.

If you really want to find good music outside of the typical Top 40 bullshit, you still have to dig for it by browsing blogs or music mags, even in 2014. I mean, how else would you even be able to discover a band like Blood Red Shoes? I found them back in 2010 while listening through some CDs at my college radio station. As music director, I had to listen to just about everything that was sent to our station in order to find something good for our DJs to put on air. “Light It Up” happened to catch my attention. Fast-forward a few years, and I used the internet to discover The Joy Formidable, who eventually recruited BRS to open for them on their last US tour; they didn’t just fall on my lap. The Joy Formidable and Mr. Ansell’s music didn’t just passively come to me; I had to search for it. Does that make the music any sweeter to me? No, but I can see why for some people it does. I just simply like their music and the way it resonates to me, and I can say the same about hundreds of other bands. Ansell DOES realize that if it weren’t for the internet and our “new age” of listening to music, he wouldn’t be lucky enough to travel to 25 countries every year, with fans begging him to visit their hometown, right? If it weren’t for the way we listen to music now, Blood Red Shoes would be stuck in the UK playing to a bunch of regulars at an English pub.

Obviously, I think Steven Ansell is smart enough to realize that we simply can’t go back to the way it was in 1984, but I agree with the fact that perhaps music needs to be better appreciated. For many people, music brings pure enjoyment and happiness. It can change lives and open minds. It can provoke political change, start movements, evoke emotions, or simply make you dance. People can lose sight of that. For such a powerful and essential tool to the human experience, music is often taken for granted, and I think that needs to change. The main problem I have with Ansell’s ranting and tut-tutting is that he never offers a solution to this problem! Nobody ever does, not even frequent complainers like Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, and David Byrne.

So, Mr. Ansell, my question to you is: if you think the industry is so screwed up, how do you fix it? Where do we go from here? We all know the band isn’t opposed to thinking outside of the box. I would be curious to hear Ansell’s answer to all of this, and I would love to sit down over a pint and chat with him about it. Maybe someday, if they ever fucking come to New York City again!