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 – 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 – Daughter

We are the wild youth

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I first heard about indie folk band Daughter when their single “Landfill” was released about two years ago on their debut EP, and right when I heard it I knew I had found something beautiful. Lead singer Elena Tonra provides shaky, weary, yet gorgeous vocals that perfectly convey the depressing, somber feelings that each song brings, and seems to flush out every dark emotion and demon that seems to envelop her mind. They released their debut album If You Leave last year, and it can only be described as a deeply personal and extremely evocative album. “Winter” starts off the album on an obviously solemn note, but there’s a staggering beauty that remains constant and bleeds out throughout the whole album. In “Smother,” Tonra basically puts her soul out for everyone to see, even sweetly singing “I’m sorry if I smothered you, sometimes I sometimes wish I had stayed inside my mother, never to come out.” It’s  incredibly regretful and depressing, but it’s the genuineness of her voice and the sincerity of the instrumentals that makes it more beautifully melancholic than blatantly dark. “Youth” is the stunning single from If You Leave, and it’s the impressive guitar riffs and well-written lyrics that makes it so meaningful. After all, if there’s anything that Daughter does well, it’s definitely finding meaning in such simple (and not so simple) things. Compared to their other songs, “Youth” is the most upbeat, despite it’s humorless demeanor, and it’s the masked reality that makes the song worth listening to. “Still” and “Lifeforms” explore more of an atmospheric sound as it plays around with deep, ethereal beats and pulsating guitar. “Human” highlights Tonra’s voice and the amazing instrumentals that other band members Igor Haefeli and Remi Aguilella provide her with. It’s true that often times her voice seems measly and hushed, but in reality the music expands it considerably. “Shallows” ends the album with a delicate, yet eerie sounding ballad that includes the album’s title in it’s lyrics, and overall it gives the album a feeling of sincerity along with sort of a cliffhanger for the next one. Yes, Daughter is a band that relies on the feelings of sadness and hopeless desperation for just about all of their songs, and often times these feelings can create a sort of lull that bores people after a while. However, Daughter manages to convey these feelings with a thick layer of authenticity that keeps these emotions fresh and fantastically enticing.

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Band Appreciation Friday – Wild Nothing

And I don’t want to be alone

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Wild Nothing would definitely have to be one of the most poetic bands I’ve ever heard, meaning that everything from the instrumentals to the heart wrenching lyrics and vocals drips with a bittersweet feeling of nostalgia and a yearning for meaning. Jack Tatum, the man who writes these gorgeous, mesmerizing songs, is nothing short of brilliant, and his genuine personality and focused mindset is what makes his band worth listening to.

homepage_large.4b954643From the beginning, Jack Tatum has voiced his own personal grievances with himself and the world around him through his gauzy, hazily entrancing songs, but not the tedious, dull way some might think. There’s an ironic sense of romanticism that remains even when the feeling is anything but, and that contrast really makes you as a listener think about it’s true meaning. Wild Nothing’s debut album Gemini (2010) really embraced this method, and used a wonderfully overwhelming feeling of new age eighties dream pop while they were at it. The songs on this album really did sound dreamlike and seemed to float aimlessly through the air, occasionally with a sullen narrative, like the gorgeous opener “Live in Dreams.” The flute-like instrumentals placed just after the chorus glimmer and gives the song a feeling of magic and innocence before returning to the depressing vocals. “Summer Holiday” sounds just like it’s title. It’s propelled with energetic, warm, and summery beats, swelling vocal tracks, and guitar instrumentals, and has that bouncy sort of feeling that comes with the emergence of warmth and sunshine. “Drifter” and “Pessimist” both share an eerie, dreary sort of persona, but seemed to remind listeners that this was still a highly personal album, and therefore, reflected the inner workings of Jack Tatum’s emotional mind. However, that kind of exposure can be slightly addicting, and with that note the album shifts back into the subtle happiness that is “O Lilac.” “Chinatown” has a light, breezy, entrancing feeling to it’s meticulous instrumentals, while “Our Composition Book” sounds like something straight out of an eighties teen movie with it’s delicate guitar plucks and semi-duet like vocals that are, once again, hazy and sweet in the sad sort of way. Closer “Gemini” seals in all the emotions and ended the album with a sense of new found realization. Gemini seemed to caress the feeling of once again leaving a place that you had no intent of leaving in the first place, or perhaps the painful self-discovery that leads to a changed mindset. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful, and it only continued on into Wild Nothing’s next venture, which would be released in 2012.

homepage_large.90953040Nocturne thoroughly embraced the ideas heard in Gemini, but with a more sincere, straightforward, mature way of presenting it. That signature haziness was used less and everything just seemed a little clearer. From the opening track “Shadow,” it was clear to see that things had changed in the last two years, and that change made Wild Nothing more relatable, approachable, and more well rounded as a band, and Jack Tatum more genuine as a songwriter. “Shadow” is such a breathtaking song, and everything from that highly addictive intro guitar riff to the warm, inviting orchestral backing make it a song that makes clear how talented it’s creator really is. “Midnight Song” is the older brother to some of the tracks on Gemini, and just seems like it has a sense of vitality that the last album lacked. “Nocturne” is one of the stand out tracks of the album, with it’s intricate guitar riffs and mysterious vocals, and envelops you in sound as Jack Tatum insists that you can have him, over and over again. “Through the Grass” meshes together the complexity and sincerity of various instrumentals with delicate, soft, humming vocals, and it’s a marriage that works in every single way. “This Chain Won’t Break” brings back some of the haziness and houses glorious, thoughtful lyrics along with a synthesized backing track that mixes it all together. “Disappear Always” showcases Jack Tatum’s voice a little bit more generously, along with a repeated, yet stunning guitar interlude every so often. There’s a signature style with the strums of the guitar, and with each track, it starts sounding reliable, comforting, and familiar, almost like a favorite t-shirt or sweater. Single “Paradise” begins with swelling tones and beats, and immediately places you on a journey of finding your own meaning, as Wild Nothing has a habit of not matching the emotions of the lyrics to the images that the music itself brings. “Rheya” is just as whimsical as the name suggests, and is the perfect little closer for Nocturne.

Wild Nothing, the brain child of the beautiful soul that is Jack Tatum, really challenges your own personal feelings and emotions, almost as if the music itself is pushing you to the point of self-actualization. After all, if he can pour out every single idea that his life has brought him and create stunning music that perfectly sums up those ideas, then there’s no reason that we, as listeners, can’t put in the same energy into understanding those ideas and relating them to our own situations. Dream pop is dream pop for a reason, and sometimes it’s worth the time to just sit and toss away our worries just to use our imaginations a little more fiercely.

 

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Band Appreciation Friday – Bad Suns

It’s gone but the feeling lingers

Like any other avid music listener these days, I do like to listen to more upbeat, more energetic bands during the warmer months. I find it meshes really well with the feelings of being free and independent, and lets you enjoy things a bit more. One of these bands that I have been loving is the four piece indie band Bad Suns. They’ve been the closest thing to a pop “boy band”  (you know what I mean) that I’ve listened to in quite some time, and they’ve really been showing off their abilities since their debut album was released just last month.

fedea746cd0ecb257a1249d3a2a80bb1_LLanguage & Perspective proved to be a pretty good debut album for Bad Suns. It’s confident, consistent, and overall has a wonderfully overbearing sense of warmth. As far as what they actually sound like compared to other bands, I would describe it as a cross between Bastille and the 1975 (which is funny considering that they actually toured with the 1975 a little while ago). So, obviously, they have a lot of soul and energy, but also embraces the deeper side of things with their vocals and lyrics. The first track “Matthew James” is the best song that fits this description, and it starts the album off with a feeling of exhilaration. “We Move Like The Ocean” follows, which goes hand in hand with “Matthew James” in terms of it’s tempo, instrumentals, and style. It’s actually one of my favorites from Bad Suns, because it spans over a variety of emotions including happiness, nostalgia, and desperation. It sounds like a denial for change and a passionate plead for something familiar, and it’s simply addicting. The stripped instrumentals underneath their songs remind me of a mixture of Tycho, Blackbird Blackbird, and Washed Out, which adds to their ambiance and overall sense of tenderness. “Cardiac Arrest” is upbeat and fervent with emotion, while “Take My Love and Run” has a more tropical, bouncy feeling that sounds choppy and unpredictable. “Dancing on Quicksand” is one of my favorites, no doubt the most passionate song of the whole album, and it definitely houses some of the most indescribable sensations of summer – meaning that it’s fun, carefree, and takes you along for an adventure. There’s absolutely no way you could feel sad while listening to it, and it always reminds me of hanging out with my friends (which I haven’t really been able to do as often as I would like, so it’s nice to simulate). “Salt” tones things down a touch and focuses more on Christo Bowman’s versatile voice, which floats from a deep brooding sound to a glimmering falsetto, as well as stylistic, meticulous guitar melodies. “Transpose” and “Learn to Trust” follow, and then the album comes to a close with “Sleep Paralysis” and “Rearview.” Towards the second half of the album, things tend to become deeper and more introspective despite the consistent tempos and bright, sunny instrumentals, which mostly had to do with the way these songs were sung. “Sleep Paralysis” took the darker route and proved the versatility that Bad Suns really seamlessly incorporated, which I found overall really separated them from those whiny, empty, summer-loving boy bands that try a little bit too hard to make it big. Bad Suns have something fresh and filled with light and color, and they have impressed me. I like how successfully they have showed off their personalities with this album, which I suppose we will only learn more about as the band finds their own respective niche. For now, however, I will continue to enjoy the rest of my summer with Bad Suns as part of my repeating playlist.

 

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Band Appreciation Friday – Disclosure

Cause I won’t let this take control

Ever since Disclosure released their debut album Settle in 2013, the electronic genre has taken a huge step forward and gotten out of the massive hole that had been there for quite some time. The so-called dance music that people had been listening to in years past slowly became more and more “mainstream” (for lack of a better word), and suddenly, Disclosure was like the desperate breath of fresh air that everyone was craving. There are a medley of different sub-genres involved in this brilliant album along with multiple guest collaborators, something that would be impossible to take seriously in a debut album produced by brothers who are barely adults, and yet somehow, they managed to pull it off in such an amazing way.

homepage_large.e117b531Guy and Howard Lawrence of English band Disclosure are wunderkinds, a word that I use very rarely (in fact, I have only used it once to describe James Blake), but is incredibly appropriate here. What they have been able to do in the past few short years has been nothing short of remarkable, and have been slowly building up their abilities mysteriously and skillfully. They were known for their exceptional remixes, and soon were producing their very own sounds. When they got a hold of various guest collaborators, everything started to change and suddenly, Disclosure was starting to become more and more well known. Of course, their powerful single “Latch” with the now-superstar vocalist Sam Smith quickly rose to the top of the charts, giving Sam Smith the well-deserved spotlight as well as themselves. Settle is definitely inclusive, filled with varying sounds and influences, making each track seem to take on different personas and lets each song stand on it’s own. “White Noise” with Aluna Francis of the electro-pop band AlunaGeorge marks the 1/4 way point of the album with an added sense of innocence and brightness, and is a good example of the way Disclosure seems to hit all the marks with their instrumentals when it comes to emotion and feeling. Edward Macfarlane from Friendly Fires also collaborates with the brotherly duo with the incredibly addicting song “Defeated No More,” which shows off his sensual vocal ability and makes the song seductive and energetic all at once. It’s almost as if Disclosure knew this, and that they were almost catering to the fans of the colorful indie pop band and captured Macfarlane’s electricity and dynamic sense of quirk. Of course, Disclosure also showcases the magnificent voices of the women in indie music, and from Sasha Keable’s “Voices” to Jessie Ware’s performance in “Confess To Me”, it’s clear that Disclosure wishes to stomp out the idea that men dominate the often times impenetrable arena of electronic/dubstep music, and level out the playing field. There’s also the song “You & Me” with Eliza Doolittle, which was recently brilliantly remixed by none other than one of the other up and coming electronic artists Flume, who also joins the club of incredibly young musicians (seriously, what is going on? The amount of talent in the newer generations really make me excited for the future of music and seriously inspired). The closer is none other than “Help Me Lose My Mind,” which includes London Grammar’s Hannah Reid and her outstandingly gorgeous and passionate vocals as the main focal point. It’s so beautiful and includes some of the most skillful instrumentals I’ve heard in a electronic song in quite some time. It swells and expands in the most perfect places and implements focused drumming and sampled beats to make it such an excellent closer. Overall, Settle proved that Disclosure is quite the contender in the world of music, and it’s obvious that they definitely deserve all the praise they have received and that we’re going to be hearing so much more from them in the near future.

 

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Band Appreciation Friday – Tycho

Tycho would probably have to be the most perfect example of the new sort of band that has opened my eyes (and my ears), to the vast, expansive world of purely instrumental music. Tycho goes hand in hand with the likes of Bibio, Mount Kimbie, and Public Service Broadcasting, all of whom have inspired me to listen to more music without the use of traditional lyrics. I’ve found over the years that there’s something soothing and wonderful about a melody without a distinct narrative, and it’s a concept I knew I would have to be older to even appreciate. Tycho, also known as Scott Hansen, creates stunning soundscapes that compel you to actively use your mind and supply your own meaning to what you’re hearing, whether that is something simple and casual or something even deeper.

homepage_large.5d4d2528Scott Hansen formed Tycho as a side project to his work as a graphic designer (under the name ISO50). Knowing that, the music he makes as Tycho makes a little more sense, seeing as though they sound like a design project that’s come to life. His work (both his designs and his music) is crisp, colorful, and complex, but at the same time supplies gentle tranquility. It is the epitome of ambient music, and that’s exactly what he did with his first album Past is Prologue (2006), as well as his second and third albums. Since there are no lyrics and his music is forced to be propelled by beats, samples, and synth powered sounds, it can be quite hard to describe his individual songs except for noting it’s various colors and textures. In his second album Dive, all of the sounds that were heard in his debut album seemed to evolve and get more and more mature and luxurious, along with the emergence of new techniques and styles. “A Walk” starts out with a flicker and glimmer of tones and builds slowly with gentle beats, while “Hours” takes a more bluesy, rambling approach with a more 60’s and 70’s vibe. “Daydream,” “Dive,” and “Coastal Brake” seem to all flow together, and is almost like the trifecta to the album itself. “Daydream” supplies the fantasy and whimsy with glittering sounds and a fast paced percussion track, “Dive” is sophisticated and a little mysterious, and “Coastal Break” is warm, inviting, and seems to envelop you with a feeling of familiarity and affection. “Epigram” and “Elegy” join forces and wrap up the album with a more minimal (as far as Tycho goes with minimal) approach.

homepage_large.5a4ec3f9Awake would probably have to be my favorite Tycho album simply because of the obvious evolution into more mature sounds and a newer, profound sense of intelligence. More techniques are used in newer, better, more efficient ways and as a result the music is more complex, cerebral, and overall incredibly gorgeous. Awake was the first album Tycho recorded as a three-piece band, which makes sense considering all the little bits and pieces of instrumentation  you hear sprinkled throughout and placed underneath and between the main melody. The title track “Awake” solidifies that observation with a techno style of instrumentals, along with a simple sample that makes me think of old school video games. It’s nostalgic and beautiful all at once. “Montana” is joyous and light, which is a contrast to the darker, edgier song “Dye,” which includes the melancholic strums of a lone guitar thrown into the mix. Things pick up again with my favorites, “Apogee” and “Spectre,” which both sound loose, ambient, and exhilarating, while “Plains” finishes the album with a soft, introspective overtone that leaves things on a soothing note. The great thing about Awake is that it doesn’t overwhelm you with track after track of complex instrumentals and keeps things short and sweet.

While purely instrumental music is relaxing, the lack of lyrics and a narrative seem to take it’s toll on a listener and often times leave things dry and stale after a few plays. However, Tycho along with other experimental instrumental artists know how to tweak their sounds to keep things interesting and leave you inspired each and every time.

 

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Band Appreciation Friday – The Shins

Because you had to know that I was fond of you

The Shins are such a smart, thoughtful, and inspiring band. Their music is complex both in instrumentals and in lyrics, and each one of their songs sounds like a story with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. There are protagonists as well as antagonists, and overall, this band is compatible with the feeling of curling up with a good book. It’s warm, familiar, and comfortable, and The Shins like it that way. It’s easier to notice and feel when a certain lyric or variation in the music strikes a chord or makes an impression, and that is what makes this band that much more brilliant and innovative.

homepage_large.cfac9a34Wincing the Night Away was the first Shins album I ever heard, which, I know, is shameful, but I loved their song “Australia” so much that I started to listen to their older stuff. “Caring is Creepy” from their debut album Oh, Inverted World showed me that The Shins managed to maintain their original smart, quirky sound through the years all the way to their fourth album. A lot of those songs shared the same intelligence, and overall made The Shins more reliable and relatable as a band. Wincing the Night Away (2007), however, was the start of something deeper and more emotional, and it was more than welcomed because it now showed a new side of the band. “Sleeping Lessons” has this quiet, stifled introduction that then expands into this burst of vocals and rock instrumentals, and showed depth and tenacity. “Australia” barely stops for a breather, with it’s intricate, energetic instrumentals and some of the best, most poetic and meaningful lyrics James Mercer has ever written. It’s quirky and different, which is similar from their earlier songs, but this one was just different. “Phantom Limb,” one of their singles, is slow and refined, yet expansive and shows off Mercer’s developed voice. “Turn On Me” is probably my favorite after “Australia,” and that’s because you always hear the truth in this song. The lyrics are relatable and personal in that peppy, joyful way and it just sounds pure and genuine. “Black Wave” slows things down in an eerie, mysterious way for the second half of the album, and almost reminds me of a Grizzly Bear song with it’s textured instrumentals and intricate guitar melodies. “Girl Sailor” and “A Comet Appears” close the album with a sense of contemplation and contentment, and shows that The Shins were merely attempting to extend their good reputations with the public, which they wholeheartedly did.


homepage_large.ad23bfb9Port of Morrow
was released in 2012, and considering that it had been five whole years since they had released a new album, fans were on the edge of their seats waiting to hear what new sound they had attempted next. Of course, James Mercer forming the electronic band Broken Bells in 2010 with Danger Mouse obviously took a whole lot more of his time, and having to juggle two completely different genres while at the same time remaining true to yourself is no doubt a tricky thing to do. Nevertheless, The Shins proved that they are great multitaskers, as heard in the single “The Rifle’s Spiral.” It sets off the album with a bang, and shows a victorious return to the musical world. “Simple Song” is anything but simple, with it’s thumping drums, triumphant, assertive vocals, and overall overwhelming sense of confidence. It’s an incredible song, and it’s energy is the perfect transition into the slower “It’s Only Life.” However, things pick up again, ironically, with the song titled “Bait and Switch,” which embraces a more new-wave alternative style. “September” is heartfelt and genuine, and sounds like a beachy, tropical indie folk song with a Mercer twist, which usually always means vocal brilliance. “No Way Down” and “For A Fool” both take on the deeper, more emotional approach, while the title track and closer “Port of Morrow” exemplifies that newer, more heartfelt, and more affectionate persona in this album that may as well have been James Mercer’s own personal evolution. His voice is synonymous with the wonderfully weird and eccentric persona that The Shins work so hard to solidify, and it’s his own self-confidence that makes the music worth a listen.

 

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Band Appreciation Friday – Glass Animals

And all I ever want is breaking me apart

Glass Animals are so wonderfully strange. They are definitely one of the most different, and, one of my favorite discoveries of this year, and that all has to do with the fact that they refuse to go with the flow. Their music is described as “cerebral,” meaning that there’s a heavy use of intricate beats, soft, yet buzzing tempos and backing instrumentals, and cryptic lyrics that tickle the brain into a sense of delicate confusion. The four childhood friends are definitely not afraid to get weird, and that all pours into their music and makes it such an experience to listen to.

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Dave Bayley, lead singer of Glass Animals, has a degree in neuroscience, so that explains the fact that his music caters directly to the most sensitive parts of the brain and is described as “cerebral,” as it were. It’s quite ingenious, actually, that he can use his scientific background to make his music sound intellectual and complex, but still manages to make it warm, inviting, and soothing, like the head making friends with the heart. The band started as a solo project until Dave Bayley invited his three childhood friends into the game, and soon, in 2012, they had their first EP Leaflings. Soon after that, they released their debut album Zaba in 2014, and it’s absolutely fantastic. “Flip” starts things off slow, but then erupts towards the end with a full-on electronic orchestral masterpiece. It definitely sets things off on an extremely positive note, and lets the listener know that Glass Animals take influence from exotic R&B tracks and intense sampling. “Black Mambo” starts off with an eerie scratch of strings that give the whole song a sleepy feeling that also manages to leave you on edge. “Pools,” one of my favorites on Zaba, follows the same sort of pattern as “Flip,” but also takes advantage of jazzy tropical beats and melodies and almost simulates the experience of being in a hot, sticky jungle. Dave Bayley has this sort of thick, yet flexible voice that wavers and shines in the most beautiful ways, and his falsetto is just as breathtaking as his brooding, mysterious side. Speaking of his voice, it really takes center stage in their single “Gooey.” “Gooey” is just one of those songs that has more than one meaning. It stands out from all the other songs on Zaba, and utilizes Glass Animals’ more evocative, seductive side. It’s smooth and textured at the same time, and it seems to glide seamlessly through the air. The lyrics are, different, to say the least, but it’s a good example of the band’s creativity and quirk. “Toes” is softer, more relaxed, and “Wyrd” along with “Intruxx” focus more on instrumentals and choral like vocals. The edge found in the first half of the album reappears in “Cocoa Hooves,” where the guitar vibrates and hums secretly while Bayley croons in the most hushed way. The chorus is sharp, metallic, and ridden with high-pitched melodies and tones that make the whole song unpredictable and almost ethereal. “Jdnt” is the showstopping closer, and seems to take a little bit from every past song, making it well-rounded and sort of a last battle cry before the plunge into silence. Overall, Zaba showcased the most exotic, provocative, and tropical sounding sounds that meshed extremely well with indie R&B electronic beats, and the combination of the two creates an atmospheric ambiance that attempts to envelop you in sound. Glass Animals are a fresh new take on the alternative electronic genre, and I can’t help but admire how different they really are. They’re dark, mysterious, and often-times cringe worthy with their lyrics, but at the same time there’s a subtle playfulness that supplies light and warmth. It’s music that you can play no matter what mood you’re in, and it’s hazy, dreamy sounds will most definitely captivate your head and heart alike.

 

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