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Befriend The Bears – Before They Take Over

December 29, 2011 4 comments

Lions and Tigers and.....

Befriend the Bears is an Austin-based seven piece virtuosic pairing of amorous tonal textures and feverishly erotic vocals which leaves the listener reaching for that post-coital cigarette. Their debut EP Before They Take Over is a multi-layered, eclectic work combining elements of indie-folk, funk, psychedelic, soul with a solid foundation of good old fashion rock’n’roll. The band’s ability to defy genre and stylistically spill out track after track of woven, burning storytelling that elegantly raises your emotional temperature.

Bringing in a horn section (Eduardo Ramirez-Sax, Marc Oran-Trumpet, Jason Morris-Trombone) to accompany fierce bass lines (Josh Arredondo), inventive-dynamic percussion (Behn Stuart) and siren like vocals (Tiana Berlin), they toss the salad of genres even more when the lead guitarist (Aaron Sekula) switches to the Korg for their Pink Floyd-esque song Red Lantern.

While the song Red Lantern is the last track of their debut EP Before They Take Over, it is truly one to really savor. Beginning with lyrics coded with quiet anger and soft vocals to match, the song then leads into a lyric free showcase of instrumentation solos. After some seriously intense bass chaos the song drops you off a high energy cliff and swiftly catches you with a soft emotional sax followed by sweet but mournful vocals.

The EPs second track “Stolen” exemplifies the delightfully haunting songwriting that has kept my finger on the repeat button. Memorable guitar licks, meticulous rhythm and vocal harmonies I could live in. BTB’s prowess in melody and lyric is unmistakable. Don’t miss this EP when it drops in January 2012.

Befriend The Bears – Stolen

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Andy Went to a Concert 2: Kaki King

Howdy you’all!  I come to you today with a much belated review of Kaki King’s April 17th Middle East show.  Yes I know it’s May now, I BE SORRY!

Let me paint you a scenario……. ok done.  Now let me TELL you a scenario.  It’s a cold, rainy night in Cambridge.  The air whips past your face like air whipping past your face (couldn’t think of a good analogy).  Streetlights illuminate and puddles accumulate (woah, that almost rhymed).  There is a soft thumping from the rock club in front of you, drowned out only by the line of 4.2 million people waiting to get in to it (perhaps sliiight exaggeration).  You are wearing a hooded sweatshirt AND a suit jacket because you’re so INDIE!

Anyways, a bunch more crap happens. they don’t accept my confirmation number for the tickets I ordered. have to beg my way into the club. cried a lot… blah blah blah.  Let’s get to the actual show.

Kaki’s new album Junior came out in early April and this show was part of a touring effort to promote the sale of this record.  “Ok, gotcha!  So she pretty much played new songs the whole time, huh?”  See, that what I thought! (We have so much in common… you wouldn’t happen to be free for dinner Saturday?)  Contrary to common conception, she played a really good mix of old and new songs, pitting new rock anthems like “Death Head” against classic acoustics like “Goby“.  The real difference in the show came in the energy.

Kaki King April 17 2010

It's rainbow because fuck you that's why!

This was a rock show.  As someone who has seen Kaki twice before, her typical show consists of a more laid back atmosphere.  Her shows are usually very banter-driven (seriously, if she weren’t a musician, I’d recommend stand up… great personality).  This show, however, was much more music-centric.  The songs were the focus of this show, and who could blame her?  This crowd wasn’t the type to sit quietly and listen to stories or jokes.

Come to think of it, this crowd wasn’t the type to sit quietly and listen to ANYTHING!!  At one point it got so loud one mutha’ucking genius decided it would be prudent to yell “SHUT UP” at the very tippiest toppiest of her lungs….. Bit of advice: remember all those movies where, if it’s too noisy, yelling something really loud shuts everyone up?  Those movies BLOW!  That doesn’t work!  It only makes everyone louder!  If the person who did that is reading this: I hate you! (but no, seriously call me… we’ll do dinner… ohgodplease*)

Now, with all this commotion, one might assume that the performer might get a bit flustered.  Not the case. Kaki King is an entertainer, pure and simple.  She fed off the energy of the crowd. In fact, during her encore (a performance of crowd-pleaser “gay sons of lesbian mothers“) she put the music on a loop pedal and jumped off stage and into the crowd.  It was there that she proceeded to dance… and dance…. and dance.  T’was awesome to say the least.  If I’d had a dollar for every time Kaki jumped off of something during that show, I’d be a rich man…(and a genius for finding a way to make money off of that).  All in all, kick-ass show!  Mucho approved-o!  A-plus-o! and other things that end in o.

2010: early birds and most anticipated

February 19, 2010 Leave a comment

weeks like these it’s important to stay positive. both of the radio broadcasts you participate with have been cancelled due to sports, the winter olympics give you  a choice of women’s ice hockey or figure skating for your viewing pleasure, the weather is as noncommittal as a vegas marriage. music is a sound refuge (pun intended).

i think it’s still early enough in the year to start this list, so here it goes, my personal favorites of the last 1.5 months and the upcoming acts i’m most excited for.

Joe Pug – The Messenger (2/16/2010)

the past 6 months have been made better since I first heard this upcoming singer/songwriter’s daytrotter session. since then his earnestly crafted lyrics, artful command of the guitar and folk sensibilities have haunted my daily airwaves. his debut full length album rounds out an already soaring songbook in the wake of two dazzling EPs, “Nation of Heat” and “In the Meantime” chronologically. You can join his mailinglist and treat yourself to some free dowloads(Including the complete “In the Meantime” EP).

Yeasayer – Odd Blood (2/9/2010)

Yeasayer is a band that has elements of everything i like to see in a band. electro/dance grooviness, experimental capacities, infectious melodies as well as thoughtful, inspiring songwriting. i honestly feel like this is an album accessible to music lovers and outside the indie circle. the albums out now and if you like what you here bellow, i highly recommend giving these guys a thorough listen.

Broken Bells – Broken Bells (Due 3/9/2010)

i’m quite sure when it started or how i feel about it yet, but the evidence is out there. 2009 showed a compelling trend toward the “indie supergroup” (e.g. Discovery, MoF) and it continues here with the melding of James Mercer(of The Shins fame) and Danger Mouse. if you’re like me and can’t wait till march to hear this wholly unique combo, you can illegally download a late 2009 leak of the whole damn thing (at least that’s what they tell me).

Broken Social Scene – “The New Album” (Due 3/4/2010)

i wish i could say more about this but all the information i have on it is here. i know with moderate certainty the name of this album will not be “The New Album” but that is all they are saying. i can say that i’m glad that bss is back to their old tricks as the incestuous culmination of nearly the entire Arts&Crafts label. i’ve only moderately enjoyed the “Broken Social Scene Presents…” series, and am ready for full force fiesta comparable to there self-titled release. wikipedia tells me that for the first time in bss history, “Amy Millan, Emily Haines, and Leslie Feist have reportedly recorded a track together” so that’s something to be excited about.

UPDATE

The Morning Benders – Big Echo (Due 3/9/2010)

thanks to ILOVEYOUnimba, The Morning Benders are in my life. i have him to thank for that. if you’re not familiar with their sweet’n’sour-post-pop-indie-love sound, you might want to get to know them. their website offers a free mp3 of this album’s leading track as well as measures to preorder the CD/Vinyl/T-Shirt/betamax etc.

Mint Chicks – Bad Buzz EP (2/21/2010)

just caught this one. it’s nice when i catch wind of wonderful music sprouting up in the world outside of us/canada, and this new zealand fairing lo-fi(ish) 60s pop-revival is worth the worldly view. the latest EP is being released exclusively on an 1GB flash drive (with style). this sort of thing reminds of a similar media i bought at an illinois concert.

sorry for the 500 word essay, i’ll try to be more concise in the future.

Categories: Review, Roundups Tags: , ,

El Ten Eleven at the Middle East Downstairs (courtesy of Matt Burton)

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

El Ten Eleven opens their Monday night show at the Middle East with an upbeat, punchy bass line, followed by a layering of melodic and harmonic lines that sounds like it would take three or four guitarists to handle. Yet El Ten Eleven is only two people, Kristian Dunn (bass) and Tim Fogarty (drums). Although fans are quick to recognize the iconic double neck Carvin guitar/bass that is responsible for many of the bands songs, Kristian says that he considers himself a bassist, “Most of what I do on guitar is just messing around,” having grown up working out songs from his favorite bands in his youth. “We didn’t have tabs back then,” he says, “I’d spend hours in my bedroom trying to figure out songs” from his favorite bands. As the band follows up their opening song (from their currently in progress next album) with two songs off of their second album “Every Direction is North”, it’s easy to see that this perseverance has paid off. The two-piece sounds as tight live as they do on the recordings, which is impressive considering the amount of material and gear they have to manage. But unlike electronica duo Ratatat, to whom the band is often compared, you won’t find any laptops on stage. While Kristian relies on looping pedals to achieve the band’s sound without additional members, Tim combines an electronic drum kit with his normal acoustic set, everything is done live and manually. Tim says that his electronic kit offers more diverse sounds than he can get from even a truckload of snare drums. El Ten Eleven combines electronic and pop influences into a tight, instrumental package.

While comparisons to the aforementioned Ratatat and other electronic acts such as MSTRKRFT, equally abundant are comparisons to post rock bands such as Explosions in the Sky (of Friday Night Lights fame). One website describes their sounds as “Justice meets Tortoise”, although when I asked Kristian if bands like Tortoise and Explosions were much of an influence, his answer was “No. Honestly, it [post-rock] bores me. Our songs aren’t like that, they’re more like pop songs”. This is especially evident if you listen to their latest album, “These Promises are Being Videotaped”. With bass-heavy techno-style tracks like “Jumping Frenchmen of Maine” and “I Like Van Halen Because My Sister Says They Are Cool”, any musical similarities to Tortoise begin to fade – in fact, the band recently toured with Justice. Although the change in style from their previous two albums may have alienated fans, Kristian says they have been generally supportive and excited about the new tunes. I myself was a little on the fence about “Promises” (being more of a Tortoise fan than a Justice one), but after a few listens it definitely began to grow on me, and seeing them – no, hearing them play the songs live was amazing. Their set consisted of songs from all three albums and a few covers, including Radiohead’s Paranoid Android, and a new cover of Joy Divisions “Disorder” in the encore, along with fan favorites like “I like Van Halen…” and “My Only Swerving”.

Although they say they are currently thinking about signing with a record label, they’ve released three albums now without the help of one – all available for download from the bands site. Taking another page out of Radiohead’s book, the downloads are priced at whatever you want to pay (CD’s are also available for about $10). While some might question the financial savvy of essentially relying on your fans’ generosity, Kristian says that “We actually started making more money when we started doing the tip jar thing”. “A lot of people still download it for free, but then they come to the show and feel kinda bad and buy a CD. I think it’s great – if they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t be at the show or buying a CD”. Looking at the cheering crowd packed into the Middle East upstairs, I would say it’s definitely paid off. Despite difficulties on the road, like having their van broken into, the band presses on. If you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend seeing them live, but at the very least you should download their albums, whether you pay or not – you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to love about El Ten Eleven.

-This review was provided courtesy of WRBB DJ Matt Burton

Categories: Interview, Review Tags: , ,

Kings of Convenience – “Declaration of Dependence”

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Over the past year or so, I’ve divided my time between my work, my friends and listening to acoustic pop duo Kings of Convenience. Their intricately intertwined acoustic arpeggios and haunting baritone harmonies have given me goosebumps (hopefully it’s not something more serious) since the very first time I heard them just over a year ago. Songs like “I’d rather dance with you” and “Misread” (both off of the 2004 “Riot on an Empty Street”) became a mainstay on my personal sountrack. So you can imagine my joy upon hearing that the Norwegian pair had just released their new album “Declaration of Dependence”

Ok, so a bit of background. Kings of Convenience are not for everyone, fans of metal, hard rock and women who are nursing or pregnant should consult a doctor before listening to KoC. These guys are quiet… like really quiet. Hell, their first album was called “Quiet is the New Loud”, and you know what? That’s the only album that makes noticeable use of percussion. Most of what you could conceivably call percussion in either their 2004 “Riot on an Empty Street” or the new “Declaration of Dependence” comes from string smacks distributed throughout the swirling guitar arpeggios. The band consists of Norwegian Guitarist/Singers Erlend Øye (also of Whitest Boy Alive) and Eirik Glambek Bøe. You’ll notice that both of these musicians have that awesome O with the slash through it, which leads me to believe that all of Norway is f***ing awesome. One last bit of background, though they are more popular in Europe, they will forever be overshadowed as the second most popular band in America whose name starts with “Kings of” (falling just shy of their Leon-esque rivals).

Ok, so lets get to this new album shall we?

First thing I notice is that this album has taken a less poppy turn than their previous “Riot”. On that album they really took off with popular songs like “I’d Rather Dance With You” and “Know How” which were very up-tempo and had catchy melodies. It appears as though this new album will be more of a return to their early work on “Quiet is the New Loud”. Immediately it is evident that they’ve still got it. The album opens with “24-25” a slow acoustic ballad which showcases their fundamental style: simple, straightforward guitar and vocals. Their voices spend most of their time twisting around each other like smoke rising from a newly extinguished candle. This is consistent with their previous work, but is nonetheless beautiful in a slow lilting sort of way.

The album then moves into slightly more uptempo selections such as their first single off the album “Mrs. Cold”. This single serves to change the mood from the slow, lilting “25-24” to a more playful one, starting off with the words “Hey baby”. From here the album only gets better and better. I’ve become personally attached to songs like “Me in You”, “Rule My World” and the albums second single “Boat Behind” (seen here live) which resorts back to the use of violin in support of their bouncing guitar and fluctuating vocals. “Rule My World” doesn’t seem like it should stand out in any way. Sure its kind of catchy, and the musicianship is clearly present, but it’s not a track you would expect to stick out from the rest. Well let me tell you, that song has been stuck in my head all day long, which normally annoy me, but this song is seriously good. The thing I absoutely love about this album is that even when they use chords, they’re not the same overused bland space filling power chords you hear in most music nowadays. Each chord could be listened to on its own, on repeat, and still not be boring.

Overall, this is the kind of album that you want to listen to as background noise, but the complexity of the chords and harmonies won’t let you. You almost have to pay attention to fully understand the songs. In their previous work, they wrote easily accessible songs that were both catchy and slightly more complex than the rest of the pack, but on this album they aim for a richness not seen in the pop songs of “Riot on an Empty Street” and succeed. My only complaint is that I kinda like a straight pop song every now and again, and this album doesn’t seem to have one. Overall I give it an A-. If it had had a “I’d Rather Dance With You”-esque single it would have gotten an A hands down.

In their own words “I can’t stop listenin’ to the sound of two soft voices twisted in perfection, from the reels of this record that I found.” (from the song ‘Misread’ found on “Riot on an Empty Street”)

Listen to their myspace!

“Rush” – – Black Gold

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

These days, it’s impossible to label something with just a genre. You can’t be hardcore, you’re “screamo post-metalcore.” You can’t just be pop, you’re “psychadelic girlpop with a psychobilly tinge.” Part of it is musical evolution, and that’s a good thing. Black Gold’s debut is fairly good at this mixing of genres, but it makes the album a little hard to get behind, just because they haven’t finished their trek to finished band.

The disc starts with “Detroit,” a pop song with airy vocals and heavy beats. The piano adds a nice touch. Effectively, it’s like they’re taking the beats and legitimacy of Passion Pit and mixing it with the sexy pop of the Friendly Fires. The second track, “Plans & Reveries,” tries to be a pop anthem, but it just makes it generic but trying the big catchy choruses on for size. It’s hard to sing along to, which is a no-no for pop music.

Track three, “Breakdown,” has me mixed. Now the track is a sexy dance song, but it tends to fall flat in the chorus. Now, this was the moment that I remembered that I had seen this band live, opening for (lol) Jaguar Love. I remembered this track because it was hot as hell. It was a dance INFERNO in the Middle East Upstairs. The track on the album does not reflect this very well. This gives me hope that they just don’t translate to tape well.

Then we get to track 5, “Silver,” which is a Jet-a-la-Shine-On pseudo-folk ditty that just doesn’t do much for me at all, especially in the world we’re in that inundates everything with “folk.” Track 6, “Shine,” doesn’t improve much, though it does have a vaguely Sondre Lerche feel to it that I can appreciate.

Basically, the end of the line is that the first four tracks are some hot electro-pop, the next four are folk-y parlor tunes, and the album ends on some underwhelming Third Eye Blind/Semisonic type tunes. Grab “Detroit” and “Breakdown” and call it a day; seeing these guys live is totally worth it, but Rush leaves me mostly unimpressed.

Categories: Review Tags: ,

When You Grow Up #1

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment

There are only 2 kinds of people in the world… AND I’M 3 OF THEM!!  We all know this is, of course, a lie.  There are billions of kinds of people in the world: short ones, stout ones… ones that wear socks AND sandals (come on guys)… ones who cite overused cliches (come on me)…. ones who are REDUNDANT (“overused cliche” is redundant… come on people, stay with me).

Now in the modern world there are just so many options for what kind of person to be.  When you were a kid, I’ll bet you had a pretty good idea of what you wanted to be when you grew up: a fireman, a veterinarian, even a princess (for some of the guys who are reading this).  Well you were young, and things have changed, now you’re not so sure.  Well LET ME HELP YOU OUT.

Every now and then I’ll be picking out a few of my favorite songs and reviewing them here.  I will then group these by what kind of person would like them.  Listen, read, and if you like 2/2 songs, I’ll suggest what you should be when you grow up.

The Songs:

“Harder Better Faster Stronger” – Daft Punk.  Yes this was a song before Kanye West got his bespectacled hands all over it.  In fact it was a really good song… This song certainly has enough of a beat to classify it as a “dance” song, but this isn’t really a get out of your chair and boogie kind of jam.  The focus is really more on the melodie, which if you hadn’t noticed, is really catchy.  For the most part, the tune is carried out by a vocoder… which almost makes you want to rise up against your human overlords, who have let you carry out all the work while they all sit on a yacht in Bill Gates swimming pool (i.e. the Bering Sea). \”Harder Better Faster Stronger\” – Daft Punk

“Heartbroken” – Meaghan Smith.  I just heard this song for the first time a few days ago and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.  This song, “heartbroken” is the kind of song that fills your heart with whimsy like the first time you had eggnog when you were a kid.  The interesting thing about this song is that the tune is so happy and upbeat, but the message is so downtrodden… So really, it’s like the first time you drank beer when you were a kid, you’re happy but you don’t have any reason to be happy.  Listen to the song on her myspace.

Did you like those?  SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?  What could these songs possibly have in common?  Well, I think that based upon your tastes, when you grow up you should be: “AN OLD FART WHO REFUSES TO ACCEPT NEW TECHNOLOGIES”.  Why?  Well if you listen close enough to each song you can hear there is that faint crackling sound that can only come from vinyl being scratched by a needle.  This sound is, of course, intentional in both songs, but come on dude… get with the times.  It’s the 21st century.  We currently have phones that allow you to browse the web to search for other phones.  We have robots that can… err… carry old people places.  Even still, there is something to be said about the faint warm crackle of an old phonograph, even if Daft Punk is throwing it through 12.2 billion filters.

Categories: Review Tags: ,