Tag Archives: Indie

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

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

 

Right On Time

It’s 1:00 in the morning and I have to be up at 7:00 but I really wanted to get this out. As always, it’ll be edited once someone texts me my latest mistakes.

Teaser: something big is coming soon.

Album: …Like Clockwork             Artist: Queens of the Stone Age

Like Clockwork

So I’m sitting here reading Josh Homme interviews in preparation to write this, and I can’t lie about it. I knew there was a reason he’s one of my favorite musicians. He’s f***ing hilarious (sorry, being around recording industry majors has done a number on my language skills). The truth is, I’ve been out for awhile because sometimes school and life get in the way, but I’ve also been listening to this album nonstop for like two years months. I mean, two years later and it’s just as good as it was the first time. Better, even — because I wasn’t sure that I liked it the first time I listened.

…Like Clockwork was released in the good ol’ U.S. of A back in June of 2013. It was the band’s sixth studio album, and their first on indie label Matador Records after their time with Interscope. Actually, it was their first album since 2007’s Era Vulgaris. I guess 6 years seems like a helluva time between records, but Homme has been involved in several projects since (including Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures) so it’s not like I’ve missed him or anything.

But I did miss Queens. There’s something about their desert rock that welcomes me in every time — but that’s my dark and twisty side talking. QOTSA is a band that combines the sweet with the dirty and the raunchy with the emotional in a way not many bands manage, and …Like Clockwork embodies that better than any of their albums ever have.

This album is their return to the music scene, and boy do they come in with a bang. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart at number one after it’s release (the only QOTSA album to make it to the number one slot), and all of it’s singles placed on the Billboard Singles chart. …Like Clockwork had critics raving, and it got the band three Grammy nominations. It also landed itself on NME’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, coming in at #335.

And, if I do say so myself, there’s a reason. This is a band whose lineup has fluctuated over the years to the point of really only having one constant member (Homme), but they seem to have finally locked it in despite losing their drummer half way through recording. The album contains guest spots from everyone to former collaborator Dave Grohl (who rocks my socks, as I’ve said a thousand times before), to the Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner, to Elton freaking John — who volunteered as an “actual queen,” according to Homme. Former bassist Nick Oliveri even makes an appearance, though not on bass. Together with engineer Mark Rankin, the band has created their best album yet.

…Like Clockwork opens with the sludgy “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” a track that’s got a slow groove. Right off the bat, you can tell that this album is gonna be good. The song is just a preview of the vocal and instrumental experimentation that’s to come, though. The album really doesn’t kick off until “I Sat By the Ocean.” It’s a groovy song with a slide guitar that sticks with you for days, but not in a bad way. Homme croons “Time wounds all heals as we fade out of view,” while comparing a dead relationship to “passing ships in the night,” on the track, proving from the start that he knows his way around writing lyrics.

Really, the album shows a type of restraint that’s not typical of Queens of the Stone Age. Tracks like “They Vampyre Of Time And Memory” and “…Like Clockwork” balance the slow and tame with the hard rock we’re used to and elicit emotions about rock n’ roll  you didn’t even know you had. There’s a personality in the playing that hasn’t been there before.

But what would a Queens album be if there wasn’t a hard rocker? The uninhibited “My God Is The Sun” brings the desert rock right to the table and flies by — more like what we’d expect from QOTSA — and reminds us just what they’re capable of. Really, there’s no wonder it was nominated for “Best Rock Performance” at the Grammys.

And then there’s my favorite track on the album: “Smooth Sailing.” It’s a cocky strut of a song, but the arrogance is earned as Homme sings, “It’s all in motion/ain’t not stopping now/I got nothing to lose and only one way: up.” It’s a clever song that locks in and rolls, and the way Josh Homme plays with his falsetto just adds to the effect.

Really, everything about this album impresses me. The lyrical content is just fantastic — some of the best the band has put out, I would say. It’s very dark and contains Homme’s ever so infamous cynical sarcasm, but that’s what makes it so great. Lines like “To be vulnerable is needed most of all/If you intend to truly fall apart,” found in “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” are easy to miss on the first few listens, but once caught force you to think about their meaning.

While the album does lull a little in the middle during “Kalopsia,” it manages to hold your attention from start to finish. Even the six-minute “I Appear Missing” doesn’t feel so long. It’s an album that’s got talent and showcases it in the best way. In the words of Pitchfork’s Stuart Berman, …Like Clockwork is an album that “kicks like a mule even when it dresses like a queen.”

Like this album? Hate this album? Please, let me know in the comments below!

And as always, never stop listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: If I Had A Tail, Fairweather Friends, I Appear Missing, …Like Clockwork

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

Interview Series: Carlos Cardenas talks The Vast Alps and being an artist today

Ok, I know I haven’t posted in awhile (as per usual) but I have great news! Recently, I created a twitter profile page for my blog (@notreallyindie). Selfless plug time — follow it if you want to keep up with music news and up-and-coming artists! But that’s not the point. The point is, shortly after I created this twitter page a bunch of up-and-coming artists followed me. There was one band in particular from California I took an interest in, so I reached out to them and hoped to land an interview… and it worked! For this post, I interviewed a member of a band called The Vast Alps, and I’m very excited to share with you guys.

The Vast Alps are a 4 piece band from Riverside, California, which is a little over an hour from LA. The band members include Chris Lacayo, Cory McCormick, and brothers James and Carlos Cardenas. Their latest EP, the Auto Pilot EP was released on May 16th, 2014, and since then they’ve been working hard to bring their new fans a bunch of new music. Recently, they entered the NPR music competition known as Tiny Desk and have started a project they call the “1/1 Project” (1 By 1 Project) in which they put out a new song each week. I was lucky enough to speak with their guitarist and vocalist, Carlos Cardenas, about the band, their music, being a new artist in today’s media world, and where they’re going next.

Maddie Luchsinger: So just go ahead and tell me a little about yourself and the band.

Carlos Cardenas: So we’re called The Vast Alps and we’re from Riverside, California. The band is made up of myself, Carlos, and my brother James, and two of our best friends Cory and Chris. We’ve known each other for probably 10 years just as friends. We met in high school and we’ve been friends through college and stuff like that so we’ve been pretty close in that sense. We’ve all played music before being in this band, and we’ve been playing music for the last couple years — not as The Vast Alps, but just for music projects or for fun or for little films — stuff like that. Officially as The Vast Alps we’ve been a band for I want to say eight months. So we put out an EP last year and we’ve been putting out more music. That just started happening in February. We’ve been putting out like a song a week, which is pretty crazy for us. We’re pretty excited to be doing that, actually.

L: So at what point did you guys sit down and say we can do this and put out our own music?

C: I think The Vast Alps started pretty organically. Like we were all friends before this and we were comfortable just playing around and doing everyday things. And then one day we were like, ‘Hey, we have all these songs, we have all these ideas. Why don’t we just start a band and market ourselves?’ and become what we are today. And the timing was just right. I just finished college last year in the summer and our other member Chris has been done with school for awhile. Two of our members are still in college, but it felt pretty good and pretty right for us to start last year and go from there.

L: Did you have any initial hesitations or challenges that you thought might prevent you from being able to form this band?

C: No, I don’t think we really thought about it that much, like we should do it full blown. I think we’re all pretty committed people. Like in everything that we do we like to give it 100%. I think the timing was just right. Like our oldest member Chris got married a year and a half ago. There’s just things in life I guess, you know, finishing school, getting a job, stuff like that, that you don’t wanna be dealing with and trying to be creative as well because I feel like that can get in the way a lot. Like you know, you don’t have a job or you don’t have enough money, you can’t make it a practice and stuff like that. Things just kind of fell into place really well last year and I guess that gave us the time and the energy to do it.

L: Well what kind of gigs are you playing now?

C: Well it’s a weird thing because we’re from Riverside and that’s probably like an hour away from Los Angeles, and it’s so weird the way the music industry is now. It’s crazy. Like you’ve got to be a better band online than you are playing live I guess. So we always talk about amongst each other how ‘we’re not a live band’ just to be funny you know? Like we kind of grew up in the 90s, going to shows and stuff like that. But the way things are now, nobody really goes to local band gigs. Either you hear about somebody from YouTube or something like that. So we don’t play that often, but we try to be pretty selective on the shows that we do play so that it should benefit us. Like the last show we played was at Cal Poly [Pomona] for the school I graduated from. They had a big fashion show and we were actually the headlining band there… So we try to do shows that are going to help the band and promote the band in some way or another. But we’re not really about ‘oh we’re playing at a local pub, friends come and see us’ because people don’t really go to shows that much, so we really focus on our online and social media.

The Vast Alps

L: Did you notice a surge in social media activity with the release of your first EP?

C: It happened pretty slow for us, because like I said we’re kind of 90s kids I guess. So social media is really important to us, but we’re still learning a lot from it. It’s just changing constantly all the time. I guess the coolest thing that happened to us was we made a video for the Tiny Desk contest and then we had like probably 100 or 200 views in the first couple of days and then NPR put our video up on their tumblr page, and as soon as that happened we had like 1000 views the next day or something.Things like that kind of show you the power of promoting yourself on social media and making the right moves… It’s so beneficial to artists who are just starting out. Because it is hard for artists to get noticed but it can be really easy too if you know what you’re doing — if you play the social media game well.

L: Well let’s move on and talk about the music. What are your biggest musical influences?

C: So basically we have three songwriters in the band. There’s Cory McCormick, Chris Lacayo, and myself Carlos. We all write the basic structure of a song and we bring it to the band and the band makes it into a song where we all collaborate. All three of us are pretty influenced by pretty different genres and stuff. Like me for example — I’m influenced a lot by Spanish music, and Spanish rock, and punk and stuff like that. And Cory — he loves classical music and he listens to a lot of hip hop and things like that, and then Chris listens to a lot of mass music and weird sounding stuff that not everybody gets all the time, but it’s really cool, so it makes our music really — like for me it’s hard to pinpoint our genre exactly. Like if you listen to “Fiction,” which is the song we recorded for Tiny Desk, and then you listen to a song like “Dear, Man,” they’re kind of two different genres.

L: Well tell me a little bit about what’s on the Auto Pilot EP. Why did you choose to release those songs?

C: So this is what happened: we have a collection of just recorded songs or just recorded ideas, and we have a lot of them currently. So we thought ‘Ok, we have all these songs, so we should put something out that kind of will let people know this is  what we sound like at the moment, like this is kind of like our sound.’ So we picked four songs that all sound like The Vast Alps but don’t sound exactly like each other. Like we picked the instrumental song that’s just music that’s the one called “Auto Pilot” because we thought it was this really cool instrumental song that we made up and we picked a pretty poppy one which is “Let Your Walls Down” and we kinda just threw in a little pop, and a little experimental, and a little bit of artsy “Dear, Man” kind of vibe and that’s how we chose to put out those four tracks — so people could get an idea of who we are.

L: What’s changed since you released Auto Pilot both within the group dynamic and the music?

C: That’s a good question. The thing that’s cool is that when you release a song you kind of get over it in a sense that it’s like, ‘Ok, we’ve released these songs, they’re forever out on the internet, so what’s next?’ So it makes you kind of look for the next song or the next sound. So more recently we’ve been kind of experimenting with new songs and we’re releasing a song a week… and it’s gonna be pretty different from Auto Pilot because once you put out songs it feels like, ‘Alright, I already did that song in that genre, so what can I do different, and better?’ So it kind of makes you a better artist I think. We’ve just been working on new material and trying to write better songs.

L: What are you calling this project where you put out one song a week?

C: It’s called One By One (1/1).

L: How did you come up with that idea?

C: Well everything kind of goes back to that social media aspect of being an artist. Like people are on their phones like 24/7. That’s just the reality of the world we live in. I don’t know about you, but I wake up and I’m like,’Oh I need to check my twitter’ and “I need to check my Instagram.” Like that’s how our brains are starting to think. So people want content. They want something everyday. And as a musician it’s hard enough to put out an album a year but since we have all of these ideas and songs that we’ve recorded over the last couple of years or months or whatever, we decided it would be cool if we could put that out every week and put out at least one song a week and give the listeners something new every Friday because if you just put out last year, if we don’t put something out next year, you lose so much traction. Because so much is going on everyday. It’s just trying to keep up with the pace of the world I guess.

L: Is it stressful knowing you have to release something each week?

C: It can be, definitely, but there’s a lot about The Vast Alps that a lot of people don’t know. Like we’ve been playing music for a long time and we’ve really honed in on what we’re doing. Like we’ve recorded everything ourselves and we’ve made life really easy for ourselves. And it could be super stressful if we were like, ‘Dude, we don’t have anything for next week.’ Then it would be a nightmare. But we pretty much have it covered for awhile. We have enough material in our computers and stuff that we can just put it together and release it. But it could be a real challenge if we didn’t have the setup that we have… That’s why we try to be self sustainable and do everything ourselves from website, to music, to social media, to everything. It’s the only way to make it nowadays.

L: Well to wrap it up — it’s been almost a year since the Auto Pilot EP dropped. Where do you guys see yourselves next year?

C: Honestly the way that the industry is and the way things are, it’s so hard to picture where you want to be or where you will be in a year. The nature of the game has changed so much you see bands that are overnight successes or something happens that’s just like “Wow!” For us it was being on NPR and the Tiny Desk thing and the fact that we had like 1,000 people listen to our music in a matter of hours has just made me realize that things can really change on such short notice nowadays. So to answer you’re question, I don’t know. I don’t know where we’ll be a year from now. Hopefully we’ll be writing more music, and putting out more videos and just doing what we love to do. That’s why we’re in a band. We love making music — not because we want to be famous or make a ton of money. If that does happen, absolutely! We’ll take that any day, but we do it because we love music.

All Images were found at the Vast Alps Facebook page.

You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheVastAlps, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @TheVastAlps.

The Auto Pilot EP as well as all of their 1/1 Project releases can be found on iTunes and Spotify. I highly suggest checking them out. They’ve got a lot of variation in their music and you can tell they really love what they’re doing. They’ve also released several music videos, all of which can be found on YouTube!

I wish The Vast Alps the best of luck in the coming year and look forward to working with more artists like them!

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:

Your Best Nightmare

Ok. I know this is going to be late. I didn’t start writing until 10:45 because I had to take a cat nap before I started writing. And then another one after. But without further ado, one of my favorite artists —

Wait, what is this? Another repeat artist??

Album: Favourite Worst Nightmare                                       Artist: Arctic Monkeys

FWN

So I’ve talked about the Arctic Monkeys’ rapid rise to fame before, but I’ll leave you with a refresher. Basically, this band is here because of the internet. Their first album went nuts, and over the years they’ve managed to keep their sound and yet always bring something completely new to the table. They started out as these weird looking indie kids and now they’re these clean cut, 50s suave style rockers, but the talent is the same.

AM then
Arctic Monkeys pre-AM
AM now
Arctic Monkeys now

See the difference?

Now last time I wrote about Arctic Monkeys, I wrote about their album AM, which is straight up a masterpiece. People hate on it because of the new image of the Monkeys that came with it, but those people just can’t appreciate a good thing. Favourite Worst Nightmare is totally different from AM, though. In fact, Alexandra and I have had this conversation a few times. Both AM and Favourite Worst Nightmare make the list of top Arctic Monkeys albums in our opinion, so its fitting that we compare the two. You see, if you listened to AM (which you should have and if you haven’t you should NOW) you know that the album is strictly about the lyrics. The instruments compliment and almost spin the words for you as Alex Turner does what he does best, because the lyrics are the song. FWN is not like that. In fact, it’s almost the opposite.

FWN is loud. In fact, you could argue that that was the point. It isn’t about the lyrics, its about the background. But what makes the Arctic Monkeys’ second release so intense is the kind of influences that are apparent throughout the whole album: Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, Sublime, (and as one critic thinks) Red Hot Chili Peppers among many others. I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have picked out the last one on my own, but I totally see where Mark Beaumont is coming from. But what kind of loud you ask? Well, it’s got bass playing that makes the rock gods smile, a very “Strokes” approach to the guitar, and “a 12-armed psychopath” on the drums (another one I got from Mark Beaumont — check out his review here). Whereas AM is about the lyrics, FWN is arguably about the drums. Like Matt Helders just goes nuts, and Nick O’Malley just has to keep up (which he manages quite well).

And those lyrics though. I know I just said that Favourite Worst Nightmare isn’t about the lyrics, but I think the Arctic Monkeys’ lyrics are what they’re known for. I mean Alex Turner is just incredibly clever. He manages to sum up Bowling For Soup’s “1985” in just two lines: “You used to get it in your fishnets/Now you only get it in your nightdress,” found in “Fluorescent Adolescent.” And the album’s opener “Brianstorm,” a go-nuts rock out about some (apparently) creepy guy they met on their adventures is equally as astute. Lines like “And I wonder are you puttin’ us under/Cause we can’t take our eyes off the t-shirt and ties combination/Well see you later, innovator” show just the kind of backhanded way they feel about the guy.

Now, the whole album isn’t loud. There is one ballad (that’s right, I said ballad) found on the album. “Only Ones Who Know” carries a bit of a sad tone and a hint of slide guitar that seems a bit regretful. But there’s just that versatility I mentioned earlier. Their first ballad found on one of their loudest albums. Deceivingly,  “505” opens in a similar way, but turns out to be more of a spy theme than a slow dance.

Regardless of what you find on this album, though, there’s no denying that the Arctic Monkey’s didn’t lose anything on their second album, which is a notable accomplishment for a band. There’s a pretty stark contrast from FWN to where they are now, but they still have the sound that makes the Arctic Monkeys the Arctic Monkeys. I really encourage you to listen to a track or two from both of their albums that I’ve talked about because there is a notable stylistic difference between them, which only makes me love the band more.

Until next week, keep listening!

Honorable Song Mentions: Brianstorm, D is for Dangerous, Flourscent Adolescent, If You Were There Beware, 505