Category Archives: British Bands

Reminder to Breathe

Finals are over!! It’s finally summer!! I should not be as stressed out as I am right now!! Regardless, it was super convenient that I took entertainment reporting and writing with the one and only Holly Gleason this semester, so I have a record review written for you already — and bonus: it’s been graded.

Album: Lungs
Artist: Florence + The Machine

Lungs

Atmospheric might be one adjective you could use to describe Florence + The Machine’s debut; forceful, another. Frontwoman Florence Welch shows her fantastical side on Lungs, and she has enough talent to make it worth listening to. Her fantasy worlds create floating sensations, but her voice keeps listeners grounded as she sings about death, violence, and lonliness.

Though other female artists of her caliber prefer heavier sounds — Amy likes horns, Adele is partial to piano — Welch prefers harps, chimes and bells. The airiness found on Lungs could easily pull listeners out to a darker version of Neverland with Peter Pan, but use of heavy drums and Florence’s pipes keeps her audience on the ground wishing instead.

Lofty though the album may be, Welch’s lyrics tend to tell twisted stories. The Jack-White-esque single “Kiss With A Fist” is a stand out sonically, but it sets the lyrical tone. It seems easygoing enough, but lines like “A kick in the teeth is good for some, but a kiss with a fist is better than none,” make light of a tumultuous relationship as an angry Florence sings about mutual domestic violence.

The morose “Girl With One Eye” is an even better example. The track, the majority of which is comprised with a lone, echoing electric, deep drums and cymbal work, hovers above listeners as Welch slurs about cutting out some bitch’s eye for pissing her off.

Musically lighter tracks like “I’m Not Calling You A Liar” provide the perfect gust of wind to sustain wishful flight, though. Sleigh bells accompany light piano to open the track, and a harp joins in at the chorus to complete the atmospheric feel. In “My Boy Builds Coffins,” Welch crafts a dark story that brings listeners to a faraway fantasy world, while the band’s use of rolling guitar riffs, light harp runs and airy cymbal work creates the scenery.

Welch’s stories wouldn’t be so captivating if not for her voice, but that’s something Welch knows. The effect found on Lungs isn’t something many bands can craft successfully, but Florence + The Machine play to their strengths to create a strong debut.

Honorable Mentions: Dog Days Are Over, Howl, My Boy Builds Coffins, Hurricane Drunk

Chasing Tail

Well it’s been awhile hasn’t it? I’d like to say I have an excuse — like taking 18 hours of intensive writing courses and doing publicity for more than one artist — but really those don’t hold up in court because I’ve been out of school for over a month. Honestly, it’s been so long that when I logged onto WordPress I was surprised to see that my blog was still getting steady views.

The truth is, I work a shit ton and I’m just tired and these posts take time. But I’m back, and I’m here to stay (but you’ve heard that before, haven’t you?).

For my millionth debut, I bring you yet another from The Bottlemen.

Album: The Ride
Artist: Catfish and the Bottlemen

The Ride

Since all of you have been longtime readers, you know that I’ve written about CATB before, sometime in early 2015. They had released their album only a few months prior at that point and were touring the States for what I believe was the first time.

My how times have changed.

Now they’re back in the States and they’re bigger and better than they were last time, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This isn’t a live review. This is an album review.

Catfish and the Bottlemen released their sophomore album, The Ride, just last month on May 27, this time with Capitol Records. It’s another short album — only about 40 minutes long — and it managed to peak at number 1 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart. Here in the states, it peaked at 28 on the Billboard 200, which is about a hundred places higher than their debut.

All in all, I’m not totally sure what I was expecting from CATB the second time around, but somehow I think they managed to both deliver and disappoint at the same time. I’m not saying it’s a bad album, but things have certainly changed.

I feel like this is a good point to mention that Dave Sardy produced The Ride. This small tidbit of information honestly confused me a little. Sardy has worked with everyone — including The Bottlemen’s heroes, Oasis — but this particular piece of production was actually quite disappointing.

Catfish, for their part, delivered quite well I think. Lyrically, The Ride doesn’t quite stand up to The Balcony, but gems like “7” hit you with classic Van McCann lines like “I don’t think through things, I never get time cause I don’t think things through.”

The best songs on the album can hold up to the CATB we’ve grown to know and love, but the rest seems like filler. Musically, every song manages to catch the audience’s attention, especially with the soaring riffs found in “Twice” and “Postpone,” and softer, acoustic tracks like “Glasgow” and “Heathrow” keep the album from sounding like more of the same.

But what about that production element I spoke of earlier? Well. Let me tell you.

The production was honestly what upset me most about the album. It just wansn’t up to par. Catfish’s sound hasn’t changed for the worse, but The Ride comes across as too clean cut. It lacks a rougher element that The Balcony brought to the table. Musically, they’ve leaned towards The Strokes but cleaned up their sound like they’re trying to hide something. It’s an odd combination, to say the least.

In short, it’s an album that was meant to be performed live, and Van McCann will tell you that himself. The Ride’s tendency for live performance only becomes more evident when you hear it in person. In fact, I didn’t decide that I liked the album officially until after I saw them in St. Louis Tuesday night. The way The Bottlemen play together only reinforces how good the material actually is, and boy can they put on a show. It was even better than the last time I saw them.

In short, The Ride is a pretty good listen — if you’re willing to listen with an open mind. It’s not The Balcony, but then again, I’d be disappointed if it was.

Honorable Mentions: 7, Twice, Emily, Red, Heathrow

“The Wonderwall Album”

Happy Almost February! I hope you’re not stressed out to your eyeballs like I am! I made a New Years’ resolution to post once every 2 weeks at least. I’m pretty sure this doesn’t hold to that, but at least this is #2 for January, right?

I’ve got a good one for this week. It was supposed to be my last post but I scrapped it for TLSP and rewrote it anew for today.

Album: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Artist: Oasis

Oasis_-_(What's_The_Story)_Morning_Glory_album_cover

Why am I writing about Oasis? Good question. I guess I like a challenge. But what can you say about Oasis that hasn’t already been said? Nothing, if we’re being honest.

But I like to think of myself as a one stop shop for album information, so maybe if you’re reading you’ll learn something you didn’t know already.

Oasis was obviously a staple of the 90s. They’re one of those bands that makes me cry every time. Their albums have been hailed as record-breakers, they’ve made it on too many “greatest” lists to count, and they were one of the greatest acts in Britpop ever. They were big from the beginning — they formed in 1991, and their debut album, Definitely Maybe, was the fastest selling debut album in the UK at the time of its release.

Now, a little history about the band’s members: The band was initially formed by Liam Gallagher as “The Rain,” but eventually they invited his older brother Noel to join. Noel came on as lead guitarist with the agreement that he would do all of the writing for the band. Both brothers were big partiers and they had quite the reputation for their sibling rivalry, and one brother or the other was constantly leaving the band for some reason or another. The band swapped several drummers over the years, but more people were concerned with the fights Liam and Noel would get into.

Oasis also had a reputation in the media for their rivalry with Damon Albarn’s band Blur (see also the Gorillaz), since both bands were heading the Britpop movement. From what I understand, Noel and Albarn have put aside their differences since the 90s.

Eventually, the band broke up in 2009. Liam went on to form Beadey Eye and Noel went on to form Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (who happen to be playing at the Ryman on my birthday, hint hint Mom and Dad).

Also, for the purposes of discussing Oasis’ music, I feel like I should mention that Noel Gallagher and Oasis have successfully been sued at least once for plagiarism.

But on to what you guys really want to hear about, right? The Wonderwall Album.

Just kidding. It’s called (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and it’s awesome. It was released in October of 1995 (I mean, how 90s can you get?) on Creation Records and it sold over 300,000 copies in it’s first week. In fact, as of 2014, it was rank as the fifth best-selling album in the UK, and at the time, it was the third fastest-selling album in the UK. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 and made it in the top 10 all over the world. Now that’s just impressive. Rolling Stone even included it on their 100 Best Albums of the 90s and their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time lists.

The album included many of the band’s most well-known singles, including “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” “Some Might Say,” and “Champagne Supernova.” I’d argue those are the only four Oasis songs a lot of people know. They aren’t the best on the album though — not to say they aren’t good, because they are.

I really find the material on WTSMG? fascinating. I can’t help but feel incredibly nostalgic every time I listen to it. Maybe it’s Noel’s lyrics — “Where were you while we were getting high?” — but there’s something about them that always captures your attention. Of course, Noel himself says most of the lyrics on the album were gibberish, but Liam disagrees. Even if they don’t mean anything to Noel, they still mean something — but let’s be honest, no one’s really sure what that meaning might be.

Regardless, his writing style mimics that of John Lennon better than anyone I’ve ever seen (and that might be because he’s ripped off a few of his lines here and there, but I digress). Lines like “Slowly walking down the hall/faster than a cannonball,” found in “Champagne Supernova” are exactly what I’m talking about. And he’s so consistent. “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” undoubtedly a tribute to John Lennon’s “Imagine” (it opens with the same piano chords, after all) does it best with lines like “So I’ll start a revolution from my bed/Cause you said the brains I had went to my head.” I’m pretty sure Noel got that one from Lennon himself, actually.

As AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine put it: “This is where his genius lies: He’s a thief and doesn’t have many original thoughts, but as a pop/rock melodicist he’s pretty much without peer.”

And he’s right. Noel might not always be completely original, but he’s easily one of the best songwriters of his generation. He brings the best from the artists he idolizes and mixes them together to create a movement. His soaring melodies and clever lyrics combine to give the album so much variance, and it all culminates into these feelings you’re left with as a listener as image after image is painted for you with words. There’s a ring of sadness to a lot of the material that I know I’m not imagining.

It definitely means something.

And while I generally think Noel Gallagher was the better vocalist (who doesn’t love the chorus in “Don’t Look Back In Anger”?), I’ll be upfront and say that without Liam’s vocals this album wouldn’t be the same. He’s forceful when he needs to be, cheeky when it’s called for, and his voice adds to the nostalgia I feel every time I listen. He brings something different to the words than I think Noel would — and that’s the beauty of it.

Oasis had a tumultuous run, but I think that’s why they rock with the best of them. Liam and Noel both have a lot of passion for the music and they both poured their hearts and souls into it. And I think that’s the reason for the nostalgia — their feelings take hold of yours. And that’s the genius found in (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

 

What are your thoughts on (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Love it? Hate it? Comment here, Facebook or Twitter! Until next time, keep listening.

Honorable Mentions: “Cast No Shadow,” “Some Might Say,” “She’s Electric,” “Morning Glory”

Information pulled from Oasis’s band page, AllMusic.com, and Billboard.com

Understated Indeed

Oh, New Years. Last year I’m pretty sure I made the resolution to keep up with my blog, and that went fantastically unwell. So I’ll make the same resolution this year, but honestly, I can’t promise anything cause I’m taking 18 hours next semester (because obviously I must love stressing myself out).

Honestly, this post was originally going to be about Oasis. I’ve been feeling hella nostalgic for the 90s lately and sometimes when I need a good cry I listen to “Champaign Supernova” and just eat my feelings. But plans change, and I decided to write about The Last Shadow Puppets instead,  because 2016 is the year of their return and I’ve been a little obsessed with The Age of the Understatement lately.

I’ve literally been working on this post for like a week now. It was tough to write so cut me some slack on this one.

Album: The Age of the Understatement
Artist: The Last Shadow Puppets

TLSP

The Last Shadow Puppets are undoubtedly one of my favorite supergroups — if you can call them that. The project is something Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner and his bestie Miles Kane (of The Little Flames at the time) threw together after both bands toured together in 2007. While both of them are members of successful groups, I have a hard time classifying TLSP as a supergroup honestly. I just don’t think of them like I do, say, Them Crooked Vultures. I sort of like to imagine Turner and Kane are just BFFs who like to rock out together — sort of like me and my bestie, if we had musical talent.

While Turner and Kane initially started writing for the project in 2007 while touring together, the project didn’t really come together until 2008. Most of The Age of the Understatement was recorded with producer/drummer James Ford at Blackbox Studios in France, and with the help of Final Fantasy (AKA Owen Pallett) and the London Metropolitan Orchestra, the album became the best compilation of music you didn’t realize you need in your life.

The Age of the Understatement dropped in April of 2008 on Domino Records and the band embarked on a brief tour. A few shows were played with a 16 piece orchestra, which is just hella cool. The project has such a unique sound — like James Bond come to life — and seeing them with an orchestra would just be magical.

Speaking of the sound though, the duo list their main influences as Scott Walker (the musician, not the politician) and early Bowie, but the cunning lyrics found on the album are obviously influenced by John Lennon and several other late 60s artists as well. Ultimately, the album comes together to sounds like something you’d hear in a spy movie. The sweeping strings coupled with that 60s rock band sounds remind you of secret agents, long dresses, big jewelry — the kind of glamour and suave style that you’d find in a 60s film. It takes you on an adventure to another place, but as Heather Phares put it in her review, the album doesn’t overstay its welcome. Most of the tracks on the album fall short of the three-minute mark and it ultimately makes for a short listen.

To start, The Age of the Understatement kicks off with its title track. There’s a kind of urgency to the album — it begins with a fierce tympani roll and the forceful vocals you’d expect from Alex Turner. But the whole album isn’t like that, though it maintains its rigor. The album lightens up with “Standing Next To Me,” but the sweeping “Calm Like You” reminds the listener of just how awesome Alex Turner is at his vocals. Lines like “Accidents and toffee drops/And thinking on the train,” keep the 60s dream alive with the addition of a great horn section, and Turner handles the vast chorus like it’s nothing.

And let’s just be honest for a moment here. Sam Smith, you can step aside. TLSP would school you in a 007-off any day, despite having never actually written a Bond theme. In fact, the ever so suave “My Mistakes Were Made For You” could probably even hold its own against Adele (blaspheme, I know). The elusive femme fatale that seems to haunt many of the songs on the album seems like she would fit in perfectly as a Bond Girl. As Turner sings “And in the backroom of a bad dream she came/and whisked me away enthused,” you can just imagine the type of girl she is. Lines like “And it, the fame that put words in her mouth/She couldn’t help but spit them out/Innocence and arrogance entwined, in the filthiest of minds” only add to the picture. Add in a few harmon mutes, toss in the strings, throw in a key change. It’s all there: the perfect Bond theme.

Admittedly, some tracks such as “Separate And Ever Deadly” and “I Don’t Like You Anymore” sound like something the Arctic Monkeys might play, but The Last Shadow Puppets manage to separate themselves from the other members’ separate projects. The album manages to keep up it’s tempo but varies stylistically in a way that keeps everything interesting. In short, it’s a work of art.

No wonder everyone is so excited for their return. They’ve only been teasing us for 8 years now.

I’ll attach a video below for those who are interested in the band. Until next time (because who knows when that will be), keep listening. And watch out for The Last Shadow Puppets’ new album, coming soon!

Honorable Mentions: The Chamber, Black Plant, The Meeting Place (or just Meeting Place, depending on where you live), Time Has Come Again (or The Time Has Come Again, depending on where you live)

 

*This post contains a link to Heather Phares’ review of the album, found on AllMusic.com

 

Overrated — Or Maybe Just That Good

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? This one has been a long time coming but the unfortunate thing about college is that you spend so much time wasting time that when you actually have something you want/need to get done, you can’t get it done because real life gets in the way.

For those of you that don’t already know, I’m no longer studying at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville — I’m now at MTSU. So if I’ve got any readers in the Boro, let me know! I’m missing way too much live music just by virtue of the fact that I hardly know anyone out here and I need someone to go to shows with.

But on to the music, right? That’s what you came here for anyway I’m assuming. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Album: OK Computer                                                                                 Artist: Radiohead

OK Computer

OK Computer. One of the greatest albums of the 90s? One of the greatest albums ever? The album that made Radiohead? Some say yes, others no. While Radiohead might be the music gods of the 90s to some, they’re simply an overrated band to others.

Let me explain how I moved from the latter category to the former:

I used to be really into Muse (I swear this is related). In fact, I’m still into Muse (despite how weird they’ve gotten), and my Muse Pandora station has been a favorite for years. I’m pretty sure it’s been a favorite since I was like 11 or 12 (because of course I lied about my age to create a Pandora account). Anyways, on that Muse Pandora station, I heard a lot of Radiohead. Of course, I knew about Radiohead — or at least I knew of them, and I knew that they were hailed as this amazing revolutionary band. In short, I was completely underwhelmed. I thought they were weird, I hit skip, I moved on.

As I got older I came to appreciate the big Radiohead hits out of the 90s: “Creep,” “Karma Police,” “Paranoid Android.” Again, I never really listened and while I thought they were good songs I failed to really see the significance.

THEN I read an article about how Dave Matthews is a huge Radiohead fan. Actually to be honest, it didn’t change my opinion of them, but it maybe it did make me listen closer — so thanks again, Dave Matthews! — because now I finally realize what Radiohead did and why everyone should listen to them.

And so here I am, at age 19, having finally gotten the memo, and hoping to give you some insight. Which is why I chose this album to write about, rather than their debut or their sophomore efforts.

So, for those of you who were like me and wrote Radiohead off the first time, let me introduce you to the band. Radiohead is a five-piece, post-Britpop, experimental rock band out of Abingdon, Oxfordshire. They actually formed in the ‘80s while in school, but they didn’t really make it on the big stage until their first album debuted in the early 90s. Most of you might recognize their hit single “Creep” which was one of the singles off that album.

While I would give both of their first two albums positive reviews, many view OK Computer as Radiohead’s most important album and I think I would be inclined to agree — this is the album that made them artists rather than just another 90s band. The album was released in May of 1997, though it didn’t hit the States until July. Though this was only their third album, the band elected to self produce with the help of Nigel Godrich, who has worked with artists such as U2, Beck, and R.E.M. The album was released by Parlophone Records in the UK and by Capital Records in the United States. Their previous album, The Bends, was super successful in the UK, so OK Computer was met with a lot of anticipation — it debuted at number one in the UK and held that position for a couple weeks.

But now that we have the cold hard facts out of the way, let’s talk about the music. Radiohead’s sophomore effort was sort of the melancholy, personal and emotional material you’d expect from a tortured artist — it was the bands way of coping with the stresses of their newfound fame. But OK Computer was more of a reaction to the material found on The Bends. It would have been really easy for Radiohead to churn out the same material that was found on The Bends — it would have been good, even. But maybe not great.

Instead, the band set out to produce a new album that had different material — so different that the labels were a little nervous with the finished product. Most of the album was recorded in and old mansion known as St. Catherine’s Court; the band didn’t have a deadline for this production so they took advantage and went creative ham on it. Recording in an old mansion allowed the band to use different acoustic styles and I think that OK Computer wouldn’t be the same if it had been created in a studio.

But I think what makes OK Compter so fascinating is the material on the album. The lyrics are highly impersonal but very emotional. Thom Yorke himself described the lyrical content as snapshots of what was going on around him — reactionary almost. Subject matter ranges from highly political statements to aliens to schizophrenic social climbers, while the overall sound is almost celestial in nature. I would say this album is what launched the sort of electronica era, though all the sounds on the album were made with guitars and synthesizers. It’s a montage of layers and layers and layers, played with undeniable skill, that peel back to reveal Yorke’s tortured falsetto. It’s pretty impressive, really, because it sounds like there should be too much going on.

Take for example the lead single from OK Computer, “Paranoid Android.” It’s not your typical single in that it’s six-and-a-half minutes long and involves about three distinct changes, but several people have regarded it as the “Bohemian Rhapsody” of the 90s. While I wouldn’t necessarily go that far (and neither would the band, since it was sort of a gag song), I would say it’s a pretty good sample of what the album has to offer. Lyrically it explores the mind of someone who’s clearly insane: lines like “Please can you stop the noise/I’m trying to get some rest/From all the unborn chicken voices in my head,” start the song off on an interesting foot while layers of both acoustic and electric guitars combine with synthesizers, a voice box, and Yorke’s haunting vocals.

OK Computer takes it’s listeners on a musical ride. Tracks like “Karma Police” and “Climbing Up The Walls” are constantly building tension and others like the hard, political “Electioneering” release it in a way that makes the album flow like one continuous piece of work. All the while, lines like “For a minute there, I lost myself,” found in “Karma Police,” and “Show me the world as I’d love to see it,” found in “Subterranean Homesick Alien” leave the listener empathizing with the singers sense of solitude and loneliness. And to tie it all together, the track “Fitter Happier,” found in the middle of the album gives the listener the sense that the world is fast-forwarding before his or her eyes while the voice of a robot rattles off life advice.

Sure, it’s not a concept album, but OK Computer has a concept. Maybe I wouldn’t describe it as “positive” — though I think that’s the comparative vibe the band might have been going for in relation to The Bends, but in 1997, Radiohead released an album that was way before their time. Hundreds of bands have tried to go for the same thing, but Radiohead pulls off the chaotic layers and sci-fi sound with an artistry that hasn’t been matched in a long time. No wonder critics loved it.

Requests? Leave them here, Facebook, or my Twitter page! I lost my list of suggestions, so seriously throw some out there. Who knows when I’ll write again, but until then, keep listening. And seriously, listen to this album. It’s excellent.

Honorable Song Mentions: Airbag, Subterranean Homesick Alien, Electioneering, Lucky — just listen to the whole thing really. It’s that good.

One For Your Inner Animal

So I have a hilarious story for you guys. And by hilarious I mean not funny, somewhat ironic, and possibly a little embarrassing but I have no shame. I actually wrote half this post in February. And then I got distracted by this thing called school/work/triathlon/life and literally stopped mid-sentence. It happens. So naturally I trashed the whole thing and started over.

As always, the following post was churned out in maybe an hour tops and hasn’t been proof read. Shoutout to the people who text me with a list of my errors when a post goes up, you guys (Alexandra) are the real MVPs.

Album: Zaba                                                                         Artist: Glass Animals

Zaba

So who are Glass Animals? I’m not exactly sure to be honest. My first exposure to them was from the one and only Alexandra, because who else keeps me up to date on what’s coming out? Let’s face it. If it weren’t for her and 90.3 The Rock, I’d be stuck in 1996 (which was a GREAT year for music). I remember she got in my car and was like, “Dude listen to this!” (not her exact words, but I gave you the clean version). And then we listened to “Gooey” and I still can’t really tell you what hit me. All I know is I went home and downloaded the album and bought concert tickets not too many months later.

But really. Who are Glass Animals? I wish someone would tell me because really all I know is that they’re from Oxford, England and their lead singer, Dave Bayley, studied neuroscience or something along those lines. Literally, their Wikipedia page looks like this:

GA WIKI

So despite the fact that I scoured the internet and watched a lot of interviews and still can’t tell you squat about the band, I can tell you about their album. Which is I guess why I’m here anyway.

Zaba was released on June 6th, 2014 in the UK by Wolf Tone, which is “super-producer” Paul Epworth’s label. Not kidding — he’s produced everyone from Adele to Florence + The Machine to Coldplay to someone nobody had heard of until Kanye called Paul McCartney (hopefully you picked up on that sarcasm). The album was released about a week and a half later in the US of A on June 17th. I think. At the concert — that I saw on Wednesday, by the way — he said something about that day being the anniversary of their album (I think), but that day was the 10th. So maybe I can’t actually tell you anything about their album either. Who knows? Apparently nobody.

The band actually had a pretty decent fanbase by the time their debut was released because of the Leaflings EP and opening for bands like St. Vincent, but it only got larger and more dedicated after the release of Zaba. Glass Animals fans are Glass Animals fans. You love em or you hate em. And even though I consider myself a fan, it still sort of eludes me why I’m so mesmerized by them.

But seriously, I said I’d talk about the album so let’s talk music.

Zaba is a pretty interesting album, I won’t lie. Interesting is just one of many adjectives that could be used to describe how weird it is. Supposedly — and I’m still not sure if I believe it — the album was inspired by a children’s book called The Zabajaba Jungle, and some songs were inspired by other adventure novels. Honestly, if you watch an interview with these guys it’s a tossup as to whether or not everything they say is bullshit or not, but we’ll roll with this one because after listening, you can buy into it.

There’s something really distinct about Zaba in that it almost sounds like a continuous 40 minutes, but if you pay attention you know exactly what song is playing and when it changed. But here’s the catch: I can never think of which song is which if I’m not listening. The album certainly sounds like it could have been inspired by a jungle book, let’s be honest though. Zaba combines elements of R&B with world music and a very particular kind of weird indie. All in all, it sounds like the Rainforest if the Rainforest had a soundtrack.

If you haven’t picked up on it already, Zaba is a vibing album. Meaning it’s really more about the vibes than making sense. A lot of times Bayley coos nonsense at you and it’s the perfect kind of music for a fuzzy evening. Hell, they even have a track called “Hazy.” Zaba‘s got a heavy, dewey sound that makes you want to sway and takes you to new places. The sounds on the album ebb and flow with several low points and even more extreme high points.

But my biggest problem with the album? Sometimes I don’t think they know when to stop. I find myself skipping on to the next song about two thirds through a track sometimes just because it’s too much. It almost overwhelms your senses. I honestly think it was better live because of the way they translate the crazy electronic almost house-ish sound into a guitar or bass solo. It’s more… manageable? I mean, don’t get me wrong. This album is fun to listen to, but by the time I get to the end of “Hazy” or “Wyrd” I’m ready to reset my brain and move on.

So there you have it. Probably one of the best and weirdest albums I’ve recommended. Zaba will either win you over or turn you off, but you’ll never know until you give it a listen.

Oh, and they put on a great show. Go see em live cause it’s SO worth it. It might even be better. Until next time the urge to write hits, keep listening 😉

Honorable Song Mentions: Black Mambo, Pools, Gooey, Toes, Wyrd

Who Covered Who?

So it took me awhile to update this one and here is why. I originally wrote about Glass Animals and had the post like 80% done but then I completely changed my mind and I haven’t had time to write the new one. Instead of writing about an album this time, I’m writing about my top 5 favorite covers. Glass Animals is soon to come, and I’m kind of thinking of posting about Catfish again because good god were they amazing. Anyways, on to the music.

All Along the Watchtower
Cover Artist: Dave Matthews Band
Original Artist: God Only Knows (Kidding, it’s Bob Dylan)

I remember one time I had a conversation with my best friends mom about Dave Matthews Band, and I remember her asking, “Do you know what drives me crazy about Dave Matthews Band?” I asked her what, and she told me that they cover “All Along the Watchtower” like it’s their own song. I guess some people are entitled to that opinion. I full-heartedly disagree, however.

I like this version because it throws in a little Hendrix, it throws in a little Dylan, and it mixes it all up with DMB. Over the years it’s become an up to twelve minute spectacle that builds into the best jam ever. And I really mean that. “Watchtower” as us DMB fans call it is possibly one of my favorite things to watch the band play. Hell, even Bob Dylan himself likes DMB’s version.

The Man Who Sold The World
Cover Artist: Nirvana
Original Artist: David Bowie

I’m just gonna get this out of the way, cause it’s something I’ll get a lot of hate for: I am all for David Bowie. Really I am. But Bowie’s version of this song is just weird.

“The Man Who Sold The World” is another one of those songs that is pretty famous for how many people have covered it. The song itself has a bit of an ambiguous meaning, but the lyrics are sort of about someone’s multiple personalities and finding oneself. It’s kind of a horror twist on a coming of age kind of deal. The reason I like Nirvana’s version better is because of what Kurt Cobain brings to it, and honestly the content is probably why the song was important enough to him to even bother covering it. Seriously, listen. It’ll put you in a dark mood though — don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Do I Wanna Know?
Cover Artist: MS MR
Original Artist: Arctic Monkeys

I love the Arctic Monkeys. I love MS MR (post about them to come soon). And I love this song. So naturally I love that MS MR covered this song, and I’m extremely jealous of Alexandra cause she got to see it live and I have to rely on YouTube. Oh well.

Why do I like this cover? Well besides the fact that it’s almost impossible to not have a major girl crush on Lizzy Plapinger, the duo manages to take the song, smooth it out, add a few things, stir in a little funk, and it still keeps to the original. Despite the fact that they’ve put their own spin on it, it’s got the same emotion with a slightly different tone. Basically, this is a perfect example of how covers should be done.

We Can’t Stop
Cover Artist: Bastille
Original Artist: Miley Cyrus

I know, Miley. Gross. Really can’t stand her (though she doesn’t irk me as much as she used to, surprisingly). Hot damn Bastille turned this song to gold though. I’m not even kidding when I say you can actually take this song somewhat seriously.

The cover starts with a sick bass, includes some great piano, a violin, a tad bit of guitar work, need I say more? And despite the overall serious tone Bastille brings to the song, Dan Smith makes fun of the cover a little by adding the line “only Dad can judge us” (instead of “only God judge us), and throwing a little bit of “Achy Breaky Heart” in just for kicks and grins. Because I’m posting this, you guys had better watch to the end because it’s hilarious.

Hold On We’re Going Home
Cover Artist: Arctic Monkeys
Original Artist: Drake

This totally makes the list because, despite the fact that I don’t really listen to or even like Drake, I’ve heard this song a million times and the Arctic Monkeys completely transform it. They take the song and give it a totally different vibe. It sounds like something that should be in a Target commercial and I mean that in a fantastic way (not even a hint of sarcasm, even though it totally sounds like it). They turn it into a funky almost dance number that sounds like it should’ve come out of another era, and Turner’s voice is completely magical as he serenades you with Drake’s words. I think this is my favorite version of this song. So you should listen.

I highly recommend listening to all of these. Until next time, keep listening!

Catfishing

Look at that. A post that was promised and it’s even on time. Please, hold the applause.

Album: The Balcony                                                      Artist: Catfish and the Bottlemen

Catfish

Honestly, I don’t know that much about this band. They’re from Whales, which is pretty cool. I don’t know about that many bands from Whales. I do know that they’re fairly new on the scene having just come together in 2010. According to their Wikipedia page, they started off playing covers of The Beatles (which earns them mad respect points) and eventually moved on to writing their own stuff. Originally they just played “opening” gigs in parking lots before other artists’ shows. Soon enough they got their record deal in 2013 and emerged fast by playing the festival route the following year. In September of 2014 they dropped their debut, The Balcony. That was in the UK. Don’t ask me when the good ol’ U.S. of A got it cause I can’t tell you.

So before I say anything about the band or the album, I want to point out that frontman Van McCann (not his real name, but I wish it was) claims his inspiration comes from The Strokes and Oasis. What does this tell us? 1) he has really good taste in music and 2) he’s fond of 90s music. He might be my favorite person already. And might I just say, Catfish nails it.

Now Ben Homewood of NME called Catfish’s sound “about nine years too late.” He said it (or, wrote it rather) pretty negatively. His review called The Balcony “ham-fisted” (whatever that means) and goes on to slam McCann’s lyrics and the band’s overall sound.

My opinion? Homewood just doesn’t appreciate what Catfish is bringing to the table. Or maybe I’m just sentimental. This album is about nine years too late, and I can give him that. But it’s honestly something that needs to be here and now.

So what is their overall sound? Well if Oasis and The Strokes had a baby that grew up to become a rebellious indie teenager under the influence of The Arctic Monkeys, it would be Catfish and the Bottlemen. So let’s talk about that for a second.

First of all, I have mad respect for the band. They said they wanted to sound like The Strokes and Oasis and they do (if not a little lighter on the Oasis side). Not many really pull that off. So maybe that’s a good thing, and maybe that’s a bad thing. Maybe they aren’t original enough. Maybe they know exactly who they want to be as musicians. It could go either way. Regardless, they bring the “indie” sound to an old favorite.

Now The Balcony had it’s fair share of singles. Usually I hate people who only know/talk about the singles, but I’m gonna be that person for a second. I feel like CATB definitely picked their strongest songs to release, and it did them a world of good. “Pacifier” opens up with a distorted guitar riff that’s just screechy enough to hear a definite melody. It’s fast paced and heavy on the drums, and McCann’s actually quite the vocalist. There’s something to say about artists who aren’t afraid to roughen their voice. It’s quite honestly 90s-tastic. And if The Strokes’ influence wasn’t apparent enough in that track, there’s always the ever so pop-rock “Kathleen.”

As far as lyrics, I can admit that McCann has some work to do. He wrote most of The Balcony’s tracks when he was just fifteen and sixteen, so yeah. Some of them are the work of a teenage boy. But some of them hold insight that most sixteen year old boys don’t have. For example, in “Pacifier,” McCann mourns a lack of understanding with a lover as he cries “You just don’t know how it feels to lose/something you never had and never will,” which is a concept I think most people don’t often think about.

The Balcony received mixed reviews. Most critics put it somewhere in the high-middle. Some loved it. Some (like Mr. Homewood) hated it. Regardless of what other critics think though, I liked the album. It’s got something that I think a lot of younger people missed out on in the late 90s and early 2000s — something that I think they shouldn’t have missed out on, and something I was very fortunate to be very exposed to (thanks Lindsay & Erin!). Catfish is merely reviving their opportunity.

Personally, I think they’re a band who know exactly who they want to be. I like what they’ve got and they can only grow from here. I’m very excited to see where they take their sudden fame. And I’m also very excited to see them next month.

Until next week (or whenever the hell it is I post these days), keep listening 🙂

2014, It’s Been a Good Run

Well, here we are! It’s the end of 2014, and so starts another year. I’ll admit, I’m very proud of myself for making it this far with the blog. I honestly didn’t expect to find myself still blogging at this point. With that being said though, I would like to take a moment to talk about some changes for 2015!

This year, I’m going to be a full-time student, teaching swim lessons twice a week or maybe more, and training for a triathlon. My weeks might be getting pretty busy from this point forward and I MIGHT end up switching my update day — just a heads up so you can watch for that. I also have made some changes to my page. I’m really going to try to post a playlist on the sidebar at some point.

But I also want to talk about 2014 (I was going to update on Christmas Eve, but we had no internet *surprise surprise*, so I think a New Year’s post is appropriate).

In 2014, I went to a total of thirteen concerts. Not bad, if I do say so myself. That comes out to about one a month (which Alexandra and I were totally doing for almost six months). But which concert was the best? Here is my definitive ranking of the top 5:

5) Frank Turner

ft2

So, I sort of had a hard time with this one. I was going to say The 1975, because it was totally sick and Matty Healy is Matty Healy and I’m not afraid to fangirl about it, but then I remembered White Arrows/The NBHD. That was just an amazing show. The energy at that show was amazing and I discovered a really awesome band called White Arrows. But then I remembered Frank Turner. I was going to go with The NBHD anyway, but I ultimately decided on Frank Turner for one reason: he really cares.

Frank Turner 2At one point in the show there were a few kids who wouldn’t leave him alone or start heckling and he went off and had them thrown out. Ultimately, it kind of seems like a jackass move (sorry for the sketchy language, Mrs. Clupper), but after the show it almost seemed like he felt bad about it. But in the moment, he wanted to share his thoughts and his feelings that he pours into his music with the audience and these kids weren’t very respectful of that. Also, at the end, during “Four Simple Words,” he brought three kids from the audience on to the stage and gave them tambourines. So yeah, Turner wins.

 

4) Local Natives

Local Natives 1 Local Natives 2

 

 

 

 

 

I have no words. I wish I had words. But I don’t. I still can’t listen to Local Natives without being overcome with PCD. The emotion and excitement of the concert are still so alive, and I saw them in April. I mean, forget about that group of kids that stood in a circle at the front and talked the entire time. The rest of us were so involved in the music and the atmosphere and the lights and the emotion. It went from upbeat to slow and emotional to excited and everything in between. I highly recommend.

 

3) DMB (That’s Dave Matthews Band for anyone not in the loop)

This picture 100% belongs to the band's instagram page.... I was WAY too far away.
This picture 100% belongs to the band’s instagram page…. I was WAY too far away.

DMB will always make the list. They can go out there and not sing a single word and still make the list. The music is what matters at a Dave show. You make so many friends, and Dave fans are pretty die-hard. Dave shows unite thousands of people, the music is always good, you can dance like no one is watching, and the energy of the band really translates to the crowd. There’s nothing like yelling “YEAH” at the top of your lungs during “#41” with hundreds of other people. So really. Even if it isn’t a good show, it’s a great show. Everyone who can go see DMB should go see DMB.

 

 

 

2) JT

JT1JT2 JT3Honestly, I haven’t been to a show like JT’s before. Like, holy crap does this guy have talent. And the setup — I mean the stage FREAKING MOVED. I don’t even want to know how much that costs. Regardless, it’s really refreshing to see a pop artists with real instruments to accompany him. Plus, he brought out Garth Brooks at our show so we were basically winning as an audience. Would I go again? Probably. Could I afford it? Hell no.

 

 

 

 

 

1) Fleetwood Mac

FM2

I saved the best for last. I truly mean it was the best. You know how you see these bands that were super cool in the 70s and 80s, but now they’re just sad and they should probably stop (*cough*KISS*cough*)? Fleetwood Mac is not one of those bands. They haven’t lost anything. And let me tell you, Christine McVie KILLED it. Like, she sounds exactly like she did in the 70s. It’s amazing. And despite the fact that Lindsey Buckingham takes himself way too seriously, he’s super talented. They all are. I won’t even lie about it, I totally cried when they came out and started playing. I have nFM1ever been so overwhelmed by greatness. I have never been in the same room with such greatness. It was the most amazing moment of my life. I’m seriously considering going by myself to the show in Knoxville, despite the fact that it will more than likely empty my checking account. It was that good.

 

 

So there you have it. These were my top five, and if you get the chance to see them, I highly recommend it. What were your top five concerts on 2014? Let me know in the comments here, on Facebook, or on Twitter! You can also follow me at @notreallyindie on Twitter for updates on the music scene!

As always, keep listening 🙂

Also, if the picture placement is odd, I apologize.

70s? Try 80s.

Wow. Long time no see, or rather read. Or write. Whatever it is. I know I promised The 1975 last week. I also know I went AWOL. You see, there’s a story behind that. Once upon a time, a girl started her first semester in college, and one of her professors assigned three things that she had all semester to do. So naturally, she waited until the day before they were due to start/finish them. That day was last Wednesday. In my defense, one of them was about The 1975 concert, so I kinda wrote my blog without actually writing my blog.

I also know that I promised some other music for this week. It will be coming Saturday. I’m setting big goals for myself. After crushing my finals in a frenzy of stress, caffeine, and last-minute-study regrets that involved very little sleep, I’m ready to return to the blogosphere with a new and improved vigor. Ha. Just kidding. I’m still waiting until the last minute to write these. Onto the music:

Album: The 1975                                                                            Artist: The 1975

The 1975

Almost every review I’ve read (and granted — it was only two that I read start to finish) began with a touching story of a band called something or other that was just about to make it before they fell off the face of the earth. That band was The 1975. I’ll give you the shortened version: The 1975 has gone through like a million and a half band names. Their latest (before The 1975, obviously) was just about to make it with their EP single “Sex,” and then they suddenly disappeared and the accompanying video was removed from the internet. Later, they reappeared as The 1975 and released a few EPs before finally releasing their debut album, The 1975, in September of 2013.

There — now you’re caught up. The 1975 was a pretty ambitious debut. Most bands don’t start with 16 songs on their first album. Of course, several of these songs were released on a few EPs before the album, but they were all revamped during the recording of the album. Now, in my opinion, this is one of those bands that you’ll either fall in love with, or blow off after one listen. To be honest, I was almost in the latter category, but Alexandra’s a little obsessed and thanks to the song “The City” I didn’t blow them off. Not to say that I didn’t think they were good, but they were just… unexpected.

Unexpected sounds like a bad word. It’s got a negative connotation. I guess what I meant is that I expected them to be darker, for lack of a better word. They film a lot of their videos in black in white. A lot of their pictures are in black and white. They wear leather jackets and have cool haircuts. Brit pop was literally the last thing I was expecting. But seriously, it’s like Duran Duran meets The Arctic Monkeys but Matty Healy’s accent is like Alex Turner’s on crack and the 80s sound is that of Boy George. Ok, maybe not that bad. But back to the accent — I actually had to google some lyrics for once, and it was an odd experience because let me tell you: the lyrics I made up did NOT match the ones on the page.

But before I talk about the actual music I want to talk about what other critics had to say. Some critics loved it. In fact, Ryan Gardner of absolutepunk.net called the album “timeless already” and gave it a 9.5. I mean, I liked it. But a 9.5? That leaves no room for improvement! On the other end, some hated it. Caryn Ganz of Rolling Stone gave it 2/5 five stars and said that “The 1975 could use some enunciation lessons and an editor.” Harsh, really. I guess it’s not as bad as 1/5, though. (Links to reviews are at the bottom of the post).

I guess if you were to ask me, I’d fall somewhere in the middle but on the more positive end. I think I’ll go with a 7. Here’s why:

I’ll start with the good things about The 1975. For one, the band was incredibly ambitious and I think it definitely payed off. I think the album manages to keep it’s audiences attention despite the length, because their straight up 80s beats are incredibly catchy and make you want to dance in odd ways and Matty’s voice is wonderful. Yeah that’s right. I’m going to fangirl a little and call him Matty.

Secondly, I think Healy’s writing is pretty clever. Admittedly I can’t say it about all of the lyrics found on The 1975, but I would go with about 80%. The lyrical content mostly focuses on sex, drugs, and depression, but The 1975 knows exactly who they are. In “So Far (It’s Alright)” Healy sings “You just write about sex and killing yourself and how you hardly ever went to school.” I think it’s exactly what the band is going for though. A lot of their songs came out of their formative years and they’re very honest about where they came from and what they were doing back then.

I also think that the band is at it’s strongest when it goes for the more upbeat. Don’t get me wrong here, I love “Robbers” and other slower songs on the album. They’ve got a lot of emotion that I think is lacking from most music you hear today, but tracks like “Chocolate,” “Girls,” “Heart Out,” and “Sex” (among a million others I could keep naming) are where they seem the most comfortable.

But for as catchy and wonderful as this album is, there are some cons. Like I mentioned earlier, I think we can expect more from this band. The overall sound of the album doesn’t change much. For the longest time, in my head I would merge “Heart Out” and “Settle Down” in my head and realizing they weren’t in the same song was one of those earth-shattering moments. And that’s my point I guess — they all kind of run together (with a few exceptions of course). I also think that Healy has room to grow as a song writer, not that he isn’t doing a great job already. I admire their ambition and I’m excited to hear what comes next.

Until Saturday, keep listening peeps. Sorry I’ve been gone for so long 🙂

Honorable Song Mentions: It’s all good. I guess if I had to pick some, I’d go with The City, Sex, Girls, She Way Out, and Robbers (but only AFTER you’ve seen the music video — it’s sad).

Reviews: