Band Appreciation Friday – Favela

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Ever since I first heard the track “Easy Yoke” from 21 year old Leeds-based producer and vocalist Favela a few months ago, I have found myself going back to it over and over again. There’s not much information on the musician, and his identity is still unknown (at least, to my knowledge), but I am glad that this music is available on it’s own volition. His style of electronic music is so gorgeous and sweetly mixes the beauty of love with the pain and bitterness of loss.

Favela’s Easy Yoke EP (his second) was released earlier this year and only houses three songs, but each is enough to tide you over and satisfy your ears to an elevated extent. Each is chock full of emotion, sacrifice, and purity, and has a kind of irresistible melancholy that forces you into paralysis of the best kind. “Sunlight” starts out the record on a lovely, yet slightly somber note, with shimmering synth and beats that come in after the first refrain. It’s definitely true to it’s title, considering that it literally sounds like sunlight pouring in through the trees and shining on perfectly blue water. The most beautiful thing about Favela is that he effortlessly manages to make you imagine these scenes, but they seem to change every time you listen. “Easy Yoke” starts out with these breathtaking, colorful violins that provide the emotional backbone as a whole. Of course, it’s about love, but it’s clear the concept is based on something more meaningful and poetic, due to the delicate nature of the song. It floats and drifts on these same violins until the synth and drum beats kick in, and again, it’s so amazingly sung. The vocals touch on metaphors galore, and they always mesmerize me into a trance whenever I hear them intertwine with the glorious electronic instrumentals. It’s one of those songs that’s just too beautiful for words, and in the end, it allows for the listener to provide their own meaning. The EP ends with “Throne,” another delicate, yet highly complex and fervent track. The synth and hazy vocals play around a little more here, with alterations and variations on texture, technique, and emotion. We hear a new aspect of his voice as well, and it’s more energetic and hopeful whereas the first track was dreamy and the second desolate and somber. Together, these three songs made up Favela’s second EP perfectly. Each has an intricate construction, yet individually they have a personality all their own. Hopefully soon Favela will release a full-length album soon in continuation with these tracks, but in the meantime, I’m happy to have these three as a placeholder.

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Band Appreciation Friday – Washed Out

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Washed Out has time and time again been an incredibly impressive example of the chillwave genre. The genre has obviously grown over the years, and with it, the techniques used along with the ideas responsible have solidified and matured as well. Synthesizers willingly take a front seat while guitars and other instruments remain as accompaniment, and vocals are hazy, soft, and dreamy. Although these instructions might sound simple on paper, execution takes both a steady hand and a steady mind in order for the product to not sound messy and forced. Basically, Ernest Greene knows what he’s doing, and it’s clear with each listen.

Greene’s debut album Within and Without was released some time after his EP Life of Leisure, and houses a lot of the same blissful, atmospheric tracks. Opener “Eyes Be Closed” sounds dreamy and celestial, brimming with positive energy and synth that seems to illuminate with each beat. “Echoes” diffuses more into a dance track, with it’s bouncy, metallic sounds and fast-paced drums, and it’s here where we can hear a slight comparison to fellow chillwave enthusiasts Toro y Moi and Tycho. “Amor Fati” is probably my favorite off of the album, simply because I feel it’s one of the only ones that voluntarily takes you on a journey from start to end, much like the content of it’s music video. It actively sounds optimistic, deep, and introspective, and it’s these three ideas that seem to bounce off each other so beautifully. “Soft,” much like it’s title, is lovely, mellow, and beautifully lyrical. Greene’s voice is gorgeous, and the fact that the words all blend together make it even more fantastical. While you might have to actually look up the lyrics to understand them, that effort is worth the beautiful imagery that’s enhanced with the music. Within and Without is a wonderful album that eases you in gently into the world of chillwave, lovingly omitting the intense, complex ideas that often times steer others away. I enjoyed Washed Out’s sophomore album Paracosm a bit more, mainly because of the fact that it sounds more mature and sophisticated. It’s album cover was bright, colorful, and more intoxicating than their debut, which was more intimate. Immediately from the tropical sounding track “Entrance,” and it’s repeated aviary sounds give it a beautiful, exotic edge that streamlines wonderfully into “It All Feels Right.” Here, it’s clear that Greene took on a more psychedelic, MGMT style approach with these songs, although it’s extremely muted. “Don’t Give Up” is lush and vibrant, with a deep, intricate vocal track, that, for the first time attempts to break free from the normal progression that it usually takes. Greene’s voice is more readily and clearly heard, which is all I wanted from the first album. “Weightless” rings true to it’s name. The sparse arrangement of drums and percussion mixed with the broad, expansive dreamscape that is the synth is breathtakingly gorgeous. I’ve found over the span of these two albums that something that Washed Out is skilled at doing is providing a narrative and plot to his sounds, which is what makes him a force to be reckoned with. Speaking of which, “All I Know” follows the same path as what I feel is it’s predecessor, “Amor Fati,” I see  them as equals, both in their delicate, yet powerful construction and it’s intense, yet beautiful melodies. Title track “Paracosm” merges well into the closing tracks “Falling Back” and “All Over Now” with a triumphant, amazingly overwhelming sense of pure confidence. While With and Without is better considered a nocturnal masterpiece, Paracosm is more of a brisk, light listen meant to be enjoyed driving over sun kissed highways and basking in the warmth of the outdoors. Washed Out, despite his hilariously ironic name, is anything but. He knows how to evoke feelings of love and harmony with the bitter emotions of loss and pain, and that honesty shines through effortlessly.

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Band Appreciation Friday – Tame Impala

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Even from the inevitable decline of psychedelic rock in the late 1960’s and the legendary albums released by bands such as Pink Floyd, the Kinks, and of course, the Beatles, it still seems that the genre has always had an incredibly comfortable spot in the world of music. It has come back and grown considerably throughout the years, with newer and fresher techniques. Australian band Tame Impala and their signature psychedelic vibes to frontman Kevin Parker’s hazy croon is evidence enough that what they’re doing is highly remarkable, and definitely comparable to a time long past.

Tame Impala’s debut album Innerspeaker was released in 2010, and immediately audiences and critics were acknowledging how much this really sounded like something out of a late-60’s time capsule. From the airtight, pressurized track “It’s Not Meant To Be” and on, it’s obvious that the band was going for just that, and makes it crystal clear with Hendrix-style guitar riffs and whimsical, hazy feedback. “Alter Ego” is deep, introspective, and the narrative Parker provides with his passionate voice is enough to make it one of the absolute best tracks on the album. Critics have mentioned the resemblance of Parker’s voice to the legendary John Lennon, and it does; however he does know how to use it to his advantage. Some of the tracks, however, don’t seem to have a set direction, seeing as though some pass the six-minute mark, which does slightly take away from their intentions, but it also shows the intense dedication. Then came Lonerism, which, in it’s delicate construction and focused mindset, made it highly superior to their debut. Instead of focusing so hard to be an album that seemed like it belonged with the rebellious, unrelenting outbursts of their ancestors, they instead revived that mindset into something a little more advanced. “Endors Toi” plays around more with synth and electronic elements, which at first listen seems odd, but then as each second passes, its no longer such an oddity. It’s as if this sort of evolution was meant to happen, and the beats and atmospheric elements present in the song make it highly addictive. “Mind Mischief” showcases more of those addictive, memorable melodies that Parker writes so well, and the hazy, loose construction only makes the song better. “Why Won’t They Talk To Me” is strangely supersonic, a space oddity that transforms into a heartfelt ballad that pulls and tugs at heartstrings and encapsulates feelings of inferiority and isolation. It’s the perfect introduction to their single “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” which is honestly one of the best off of the album due to it’s simplicity. The complexity lies comfortably in the spirit and instrumentals, making it accessible to any audience, which is something that I suppose is important in a genre so fine tuned to a certain demographic. “Elephant” dances the same dance as the tracks before, providing a memorable, thick, protruding bass line that would again make the band more popular for the masses. Album closer “Sun’s Coming Up” reminded me more of The Beatles than any other song that Tame Impala has ever done, and instead of treating it with disdain, I thought it was a pretty clever, albeit bold move on their part. Ending with such an acoustic, intimate song proves the band’s ability to be close with their audiences, pulling them back to reality after the forty-minutes of hazy lucidity.

Even though it’s incredibly clear what Tame Impala’s inspirations stem from, the music they create as a result of that obsession never seems forced. As a band, they’ve figured out that it’s not so much the sound that needs to be imitated, but the deep spirit that runs rampant in the melodies, which is clearly heard in any of their recognizable songs.

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Band Appreciation Friday – The xx

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The xx have always succeeded in cultivating some of the best dark, luxurious, and intelligent minimalist pop while, at the same time, managing to remain at a level of maturity and sense of sophistication. Their slow, mellow songs are perfect when you’re in desperate need of relaxation or some brief introspection, and that’s due to their rich vocals and atmospheric instrumentals.

The London based indie band formed the band while they were still in high school, when they were still a four-piece. Main singer and guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim have always had this dynamic energy that pushed them to the top, and that energy has only grown stronger. Since their high school days, they have evolved and matured (even if that meant dealing with the departure of guitarist Baria Qureshi) and in the process, they have made two exceptional albums. Their debut album The xx starts off with “Intro,” a stark instrumental that’s sort of a primer for the rest of the album. Starting albums off with instrumentals is something I really enjoy, because it’s a chance to prepare for the vocals ahead. “VCR” is scarily dainty, but that is eradicated quickly by Croft and Sim’s deep, emotional voices. “Crystallized,” one of the band’s best songs, is absolutely gorgeous in composition and arrangement. I love when the bassline is the prime force in a song (see “Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz” or “Come Together” by The Beatles), because it’s an instrument that’s often times wrongly overlooked. Again, the lyrics and vocals are fantastic, and shows the beauty in their relationship. “Islands” is more delicate in construction, while “Heart Skips A Beat” and “Shelter” show more of the band’s intense vulnerability. It’s been said that The xx feel uncomfortable receiving praise or even being in the spotlight, and that timidness comes out in the music. However, it’s the furthest thing from a detriment, because it ends up making their music more real. “Shelter” is actually one of the most beautiful on the album due to Croft’s amazing, rough-yet-soft voice. “Basic Space” is a gorgeous representation of Croft and Sim’s relationship, where she provides the echos and he fills in the spaces. “Night Time” and “Stars” seem to go hand in hand, and together close such a powerful collection with some of the best vocal performances of the album. Coexist starts off with “Angels,” one of their best tracks. Each second seems to be drenched in this thick, severe beauty, and the minimal use of instrumentals, again, proves to be beneficial. “Fiction” is taken over by Sim’s gruff, dark, albeit soothing vocal ability, and the aggression in the track itself often times reminds me of Trust and his similar throaty, gravelly technique. “Sunset” provides a little more percussion and energy than what I’m accustomed to with The xx, but that effect somehow let me know that this second album had a little more color and warmth, even though The xx is mostly known for monochrome; black and white melodies and harmonies that manage to be highly fulfilling. “Tides” has this stark, yet stunning duet by Croft and Sim, while “Unfold,” Swept Away,” and “Our Song” provide this flawless countdown to the utter void that is the end of the album. I do have to say that I enjoyed their first album more than their second, mainly because I feel the emotion is stronger and more concentrated, but in terms of composition and intelligence, both are strong contenders.

The xx have never been one to be overtly flashy or overwhelming. They thrive best in simplicity, where they belong, and as a result, it sounds more thoughtful. With these two albums, The xx prove, without hesitation, that quiet, ghostly, beautifully written songs are just as, if not more, effective than loud, complex, and unnecessary every single time.

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Band Appreciation Friday – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs are known exclusively for their rebellious, dark, and fiery personalities, as well as the upbeat, evocative tracks they deliver to their audiences so well, which makes them perfect to talk about on a holiday as terrifying as Halloween. Karen O is such a powerful force to be reckoned with, and it’s clear she doesn’t let anything stand in her path. It’s important to note her defiance and tenacious strength as well as her sensitivity and emotion in writing and performing these tracks, which is why, in the long run, the band has evolved and matured into something amazing over the years.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs have such an exhaustive discography, so to go through each one would make this post incredibly lengthy. Instead, I’ll just mention some of the outstanding tracks that made me love Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the first place! The first song I ever heard by this band was the amazing song “Maps” (come on, you saw that coming), and immediately I was hooked. That incessant, unrelenting guitar trill that marks the start of the song is absolutely genius, because it gives Karen O the ground she needs to stand on. Her voice is so wonderfully strange because of the fact that she’s not afraid to embrace her lower register, and doubly unafraid to let loose in the second half of the song. Although at times her voice can turn into faint shrieks and awkward gasps as if she is trying to keep up with demanding instrumentals, it still seems to work within the context of the song she is performing and takes away that aura of peculiarity. Their art-pop, rockabilly, garage-rock embraces also come out in the song “Date With The Night” and “Man” where the instrumentals provided by Nick Zinner and Brian Chase are the main showstoppers. These instrumentals, throughout the span of their albums, are rarely background, but rather piercing instruments in which more emotion bleeds out.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs are nothing if not versatile, which is why their transition to disco-punk in their album It’s Blitz! was taken well. Fever To Tell was basically just a warm up, with it’s often times loose construction and strange content, and now this album showed off a new, focused aesthetic that refused to back down. Karen O’s vocals are more matured here, and things seemed to have an aged intelligence that is clearly heard. That mindset didn’t push them back in the slightest, for this album was almost world’s better than their debut. Of course, there’s the single “Heads Will Roll,”as well as one of my favorites, “Dragon Queen” in the new disco-inspired beats shine through. Everything from the lyrics to the complex guitar parts in these two songs is perfection, and both never fail in providing ample emotion and intricate lyric construction. It’s because of how well things are organized that allows Yeah Yeah Yeahs to get away with an overall simple instrumental backing, and shows their skill as arrangers. “Runaway” shows off the slower, eerier side of O, and sounds delightfully creepy and grotesque, something that the band seems to embrace through their song titles and album artwork. Speaking of which, Mosquito was probably one of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s greatest conquests, and from the title track “Sacrilege,” its so obvious to hear. Another thing about Karen O is how blatantly direct she is with her target audience, as heard in “Mosquito,” while “These Paths” show off that heavily desired slower, more evocative pace instead of overwhelming with their aggressive instrumentals. Mosquito, as an album shows, most importantly, how much the band really has grown from the grainy, aggressive debut album they released ten years ago, and their maturity and confidence throughout it all, which makes Yeah Yeah Yeahs so iconic.

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Band Appreciation Friday – Majical Cloudz

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I first heard of Majical Cloudz about a year and a half ago when I came across their song “Bugs Don’t Buzz” during an off period at school. I guess it had an effect on me, because I distinctly remember hitting the repeat button over and over again for the rest of that day. The stark piano loop that propels the song had me in it’s clutches, and the sparse, grim, almost terrifying vocals mesmerized me and inspired me all at once. Needless to say, I was intrigued, and started to go deeper and deeper into this dark, deep, yet unbelievably beautiful void that is Majical Cloudz. The journey was well worth the time, because now they are one of my absolute favorite bands.

Devon Welsh is the force that makes Majical Cloudz so brilliant, although synth programmer Matthew Otto helps as well. However, it’s Welsh’s voice and stage persona that separates this band from all others. It’s as if he gets into this trance-like state whenever he performs, and often times, it almost seems like he forgets to blink. It’s quite intense, but makes sense with the ideas and words he so passionately sings. The music itself is minimal, with these beautiful effects that transform simplicity into a muted, subtle complexity with the touch of a key. Their debut album Impersonator was one of the best of the past year, and each track is nothing short of a masterpiece. Title track “Impersonator” shows off Welsh’s amazing ability to be emotionally direct, and there’s immediately a sense of urgency that runs throughout the rest of the album. “This Is Magic” touches on some deeper lyrics, and the slow, haunting beats and tones help to bring on the eeriness of the whole thing. Then there’s “Childhood’s End.” This is definitely one of my favorites, and the most evocative song on the entire album as well. The repeated piano notes take on their own persona, and pushes Welsh’s vocals so that they float on their own accord. The lyrics are so dark, depressing, and desolate, but again, like all of their songs, the way they are sung so passionately and beautifully gives them a softer edge. It is here where the listener can truly hear his voice in all it’s glory, and the story he sings is enough for you to relate it to whatever is happening in your own life, though there’s a chance you haven’t been through the same things that he has. “I Do Sing For You” and “Mister” relate directly to the subject of love, and each approaches the subject differently but effectively. I do have to mention that Welsh’s voice reminds me a bit of Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode (which I love), seeing as though they both have that gruff that sits around the edges of their voices. “Turns Turns Turns” is different and plays around more with the synthesizer, and provides this sort of movement that’s a constant force. “Silver Rings” and “Illusion” much like the duo I mentioned earlier, seem to be related in some way. These particular tracks seem to build as the song plays on, adding layers and layers of instrumentals and emotion, as well as Devon Welsh’s powerful upper register. Since the release of their first album, Majical Cloudz have also released singles “Love Soul” and “Savage,” both of which are some of my favorite tracks they have ever done. “Love Soul,” again, showcases some repeating elements, with a echoing piano chord, while “Savage” is probably very close to being the best vocal performance that Devon Welsh has ever done. Impersonator, as a whole, however, was a really, really personal album, something I’m sure was a bit difficult for them to release. There’s obvious pain and sadness to the record, but there’s happiness and hopefulness too. It’s often times difficult to hear and appreciate, but it’s there, almost like a ray of light into hordes of lurking shadows. It forces you to contemplate more important things and pushes you into the line of embarrassment, but it’s something you’re grateful for later. 

I really admire Devon Welsh because of how deep and sensitive he really is. He’s so personable and respectful towards others and aims to make each member of his audience feel included (just read his blog, you’ll know what I mean) and that sort of thing goes a long way in a business that seems to put musicians and artists on this unreachable pedestal. It’s incredibly inspiring, and adds to the intense beauty of their songs. It takes time to understand and relate to it, and I always seem to think a little deeper about myself and the world around me when I listen to any of their beautiful songs.

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Band Appreciation Friday – Temples

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Boy, do I love the seventies. The hair, the fashion, and obviously, the music. It was as if everything came alive – both vocally and in the instrumentals – and people started to take more risks and experiment more than ever before. Some of the greats (and some of the bands my parents and older brother grew up with) came with that era – The Animals, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and obviously, The Beatles – and I’ve found that I seem to sometimes relate these influential sounds to bands of today. I love whenever someone, anyone, can take something and breathe new life into it, and Temples have done such a great job in bringing back some of those wonderful techniques and overall magic back into the twenty-first century.

Of course, nowadays, seventies inspired music bears a new name – and a new genre – and it appears to be more popular once it’s called “psych pop.” I have no problem with this new and improved epithet, and it does do Temples justice. These four friends from England definitely look like a psychedelic rock band, what with their ornate, elaborate outfits and the perfectly permed hair of lead singer and guitarist James Edward Bagshaw. It works even better considering they accurately embody and seem to worship the old days, and that their music is incredibly on point. In fact, some say their only complaint is that it’s perhaps too perfect, which seems to injure their credibility, but I believe that their passion and deep devotion to their art keeps them in the clear. Immediately from the first five notes of the first track off of their debut album, you can hear the distinct influence straight away. “Shelter Song” sounds almost reminiscent of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper,” and it jingles and jangles with such ease and feeling that you can’t help but do a double take at what you’re actually listening to. Title track “Sun Structures” mixes together hard and soft, and intertwines a sort of delicate tenacity with tranquility. Bagshaw’s croon slowly becomes more and more potent, and very beautifully embodies the essence of nostalgia and love. The lyrics are so poetic as well, seeming to touch on everything from metaphors about nature to the joy and privilege of love. “Keep In The Dark” is one of my personal favorites, and that’s because it sounds so different from the rest of the songs on the album. It’s more minimal in the verses, but it’s the chorus that’s absolutely phenomenal. The way it sways and radiates is so comparable to the techniques that newer bands like Tame Impala and MGMT have succeeded in making their own, and Temples’ new take on it is so excellent. “Mesmerize” is the most psychedelic for sure, and that strong riff that attempts to float and drift like an escaped balloon. It has that frivolity and lightheartedness about it but also remains at such a high stature, and it’s that dynamic ability that Temples pride themselves on. “Colors To Life” has that America (the band, not the country) folk feel to it, but almost with an ethereal and psychedelic twist that makes it incredibly powerful. “Fragment’s Light” is a great closing to Sun Structures, simply because it shows the softer side of the band, something that wasn’t really heard throughout the rest of the album. It has that soft, almost Fleet Foxes feel to it, and it rounds out the album quite effectively.

I enjoyed Sun Structures so much because of the distinct comparison to thse carefree times, and I keep listening because of its devotion. Temples have achieved such a great following with this excellent debut album, and have proved that this type of music is still very much alive.

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Band Appreciation Friday – Cloud Castle Lake

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Cloud Castle Lake is my favorite musical discovery of this past year. Their music is unlike anything I’ve ever heard and I love it because it’s warm and inviting, but there’s a level of complexity and intensity that gives it an intellectual edge. The Dublin trio released their debut EP Dandelion about a month ago, and each track seems to be brimming with energy and resilience. Honestly, it takes some bands an album or two before they really find their niche, but these talented musicians seem to have a few years of experience under their belt. Fresh, brand new, and inspired by the likes of Radiohead and Sigur Ros, Cloud Castle Lake are slowly becoming more and more popular in the indie music world.

Daniel McAuley’s voice is such an evocative force. It floats and soars with grace and delicately matches the sort of experimental instrumentals that bandmates Brendan Jenkinson and Rory O’Connor provide almost effortlessly. Their new EP only has four tracks, but like I mentioned before, each one has enough depth and meaning to truly be mistaken for an entire album. “A Wolf Howling” is the most dark out of the bunch for sure, and that is due to the bombastic drums and aggressive, fiery bass line that propels the song to it’s entirety. McAuley’s voice then comes soaring in with an eerie undertone that is absolutely perfect for the overall feeling this song brings. “Mothcloud” and “Dandelion” are absolutely gorgeous, and they both effectively show off the band’s quieter, more poetic side. “Dandelion,” especially, seems to paralyze you and almost abduct you into another world – one that’s obviously more beautiful and forgiving than the one you’re currently in – and doesn’t let you go until every emotion in your body has turned to a sort of sweet sickness that can only be described as a mixture of melancholy and hopefulness. It is here that McAuley takes on the form of nephilim, a sort of other-worldly existence that provides that otherwise unreachable falsetto, and that marvelous skill is partly what makes this band so fantastic. “Sync” is my absolute favorite from the album, and its that track that sent me spinning. There’s a rich, yet highly complex narrative to this track, and it’s clearly heard even from the very beginning. It starts out slow and soft, and then, without warning, erupts into this amazing crescendo in instrumentals and these bits and pieces of amazingly written commentary. It’s a whole new level of jazz that also adopts a style of funk into the mix, and it’s simply outstanding. Big band instruments take over and provide that spirit to keep the song moving forward, and it never ever seems to back down. However, like all other Cloud Castle Lake songs at the moment, it is always Daniel McAuley’s voice that is the dominating force. It’s as if he’s competing with himself throughout the whole song; almost as if he is seeing how far and how high he can really go. This passionate struggle is heard with the entirety of the heart as well as the ears, and that beautiful anguish in his voice provides something that pages and pages of words explaining the same emotion can’t. It’s an incredibly passionate, exhilarating experience to listen to it, and it always leaves me inspired and ready to take on anything.

Cloud Castle Lake are, in a word, magnificent. They seem to actively embody the very essence of the creative spirit – a constant yearning for something beautiful and magical – and that spirit is seen in each of their meticulously complex, but still glorious, works of art.

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Band Appreciation Friday – Slow Club

Ever loved and lost it all?

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I love Slow Club mainly because of Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson, and the way their relationship plays into their music. I also admire them because of their amazing transformation of their sound over the past few years. They started out as an upbeat, simple, bohemian indie folk band, and now their genre is something else entirely.

Yeah So (2009) was Slow Club’s first album, and like I mentioned before, it was chock full of peppy, upbeat indie folk songs that had cute, simple lyrics like If we’re both not married by twenty-two/ Could I be so bold and ask you? As far as instrumentals went, it was mostly sparse acoustic sets where their beautiful voices took center stage (listen to “When I go,” “Apples and Pairs,” and “Trophy Room”). Things rapidly changed with their 2011 album Paradise, where they started to experiment a little more with newer techniques and slowly shifted away from their mainly acoustic instrumentals. There was more depth and darker emotion than their first album, but it was remarkable how they managed to keep so much of their former ideals as part of the process. “Two Cousins” and “Where I’m Walking” are prime examples, and it’s here where you can hear a drastic change in both of their voices. Their ranges are broader, more defined. “Beginners,” my favorite off of the album, is the showstopper. It’s right smack dab in the middle of the record, and serves as the ultimate climax to the album as a whole. It’s the most complex song that Slow Club has released up to this point, and the subject matter, although about a relationship, is still dark and emotional. Their voices seem to shine throughout the song, and that guitar riff that shows up every now and again is so melancholic and entrancing. It perfectly sums up the confusing emotions of a breakup, and the lyrics are wonderfully poetic. It was clear at this point that Slow Club was slowly moving to the darker side of things and it was also clear that while they had no plans to go back to their former selves, they would never forget their roots.

They released their third album Complete Surrender this year and I have to say that it’s their absolute best album to date. Complete Surrender finally had that intense depth and emotion that was missing all those years. More emphasis is placed on arrangements and rhythm, and it really makes a difference. “Tears of Joy” has a bluesy rhythm that merged so well for their finely tuned voices, while “Everything Is New,” houses evocative vocals and instrumentals. Speaking of arrangements, “Suffering You, Suffering Me” is one of the absolute best tracks of the album, and shows off Rebecca Taylor’s impeccable vocal ability. It seemed that her voice went through a transformation as well over the last few years that left it sounding more mature, jazz-inspired, and bright. The band and orchestra backing only add to the song’s tenacity, and it was ultimately those additions that made the album stand out as a whole. “Number One” as well as “Paraguay and Panama” embraced their softer side again, as well as Charles Watson’s voice alone. His voice transformed too, and now both of them seem to work even better together. Speaking of that dynamic relationship, “Complete Surrender” seems to highlight it so very well. This title track might be the best song they have ever written, and the power it has makes it so amazing. It showed the band’s descent into more soulful tracks, showing how strongly they both understand the new genre they have started writing for. This song never fails to make me feel inspired, and everything from the meticulous orchestral arrangements to Rebecca Taylor’s brilliant, strong voice. “Wanderer Wandering” closes out Complete Surrender, and it’s slow, ethereal feeling along with the use of electronic elements rounds out the album as a whole, leaving it on a high note.

Slow Club, to put it simply, know what they’re doing. They have a wonderful sense of how their voices and instrumentals work together and what lyrics will pull the most emotion out of their listeners. However, It’s their friendship that helps them both out in the long run – that platonic, unadulterated love that they share – and it’s something I envy with all of my heart.

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Band Appreciation Friday – Rhye

Why can’t you stay?

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Back in 2012, unknown band Rhye released a few, beautifully produced videos with sensual sounds, gorgeous imagery, and the voice of a singer that sounded wonderfully delicate. Soon, they were beginning to peak interest, with comparisons being made to Sade and other sensual, female artists. People were surprised when they found out the lead singer was actually Mike Milosh, a man. The band then released their debut album Woman in 2013, but still, they were considered a mystery – the very epitome of anonymity. However, the more people listened, the less that mattered, and soon, Rhye was starting to become one of the years best artists.

Personally, I don’t really think Milosh sounds all that feminine, but I can see why others do. I just believe that his voice is just a softer falsetto and an overall different sensation that others are used to, which might be attributed to be described as more feminine. In “Open,” a song dedicated to his wife, this effect is easily heard. Minimal, yet atmospheric beats along with delicate guitar surrounds his voice and highlights it to be incredibly intimate and sensual. The lyrics are deeply personal and poetic, and it immediately gained attention. As a matter of fact, simple, unfettered beats and tones seem to run rampant in this album, which adds to it’s overall sensuality. “One Of Those Summer Days” and “Verse” are prime examples, and it also shows Rhye’s infatuation with basic R&B beats and a love of synth-pop. The inclusion of beautiful orchestral interludes that show up every so often work to soften the edge that appears with the changing metallic beats, and that dual effect works in their favor. There are also times where the tempo seems to quicken and hasten, as seen in their other single (and my personal favorite) “The Fall.” That gorgeous repeated piano introduction grabs my heart every single time, and it only gets better from there. It’s incredibly difficult to capture attention with a song that uses such repeated, unchanging beats, but it works simply because of a wonderfully unique voice. I only say this because – and let’s be honest here – the main attraction with Rhye is Mike Milosh’s exquisite voice, and it’s what makes the band that much more amazing. In “The Fall,” that magic quality of his is amplified, and the swelling of his voice with the soft drumming is other-worldly and incredibly hypnotizing. “3 Days” and “Last Dance,” the other more upbeat tracks, play more with instrumentals and electronic effects, but the vocals and main bassline are still the main contenders. And finally, “Woman,” the title track, effortlessly closes the album with a feeling of inspiration and a sort of silken tenacity that consists of mostly sweltering and radiating vocal breaths that shake and waver in the most gorgeous ways. It wraps up the album abruptly, but does so gracefully and wonderfully.

The two members of Rhye refuse to show their faces, at least, for the moment, because they believe that the music is really the only thing that matters. It’s inspiring, depressing, and lovely all at once, with the desirable effect of putting listeners in a trance, and I have a small feeling that they won’t remain anonymous for very long because of it. Ultimately, They want people to form their own opinions of their music and sculpt their own interpretations without being distracted by the images that surround it, and that delicately placed veil allows you to better understand their main focus – love and lack thereof.