!!! (chk chk chk)'s new album "THR!!!ER"is the fifth full-length from the sonically adventurous sextet and finds the band reconciling its love for building playlists from disparate dance singles with its continued devotion to the cohesive album format. Famous for its off the hinges live shows and relentless touring schedule, this time the group focused itself on lyrics and tighter song structures. To help !!! on this mission, the majority of "THR!!!ER" was recorded with Jim Eno, the drummer in Spoon and one of key forces behind the boards for the lauded indie rock band.
Like many people, Jim was a fan of !!!’s live show, but he felt that they too often tried to capture these performances in the studio. Instead of trying to chase this feeling, Jim encouraged them to create a different type of excitement by using weirder sounds, inventing new dynamics within each song and introducing unexpected changes. “They had this working flow that was a little rigid and I wanted to break them out of it,” says Jim. “Those guys can play, and if you can play, you might as well just play your instruments and record it.” In the end, !!! say it was Jim’s input that provided the cohesion that "THR!!!ER" needed.
Says Offer, “We’ve never tried to make the same record twice, we might have accidentally, but we’ve always tried to push on. For this one it felt like we definitely shoved off from the shore.”
Listen: "One Girl/One Boy" (radio edit)
shadows on the son
Singer-songwriter-surfer Blue-Eyed Son (aka Andrew Hellprin) returns with the "Shadows on the Son"EP, featuring five bar-raising ways to soar with the wind and sing a new song.
Born in Wisconsin, Hellprin grew up in sunny Santa Barbara, California. After graduation from college and in between surfing excursions to exotic locales around the globe, he worked odd jobs and eventually formed the “sonic surf smoke punk” band 40 Watt Domain with a few friends.
“That was a tough time for me, because we had potential but weren’t able to capitalize on it,” he says. “We hit the ceiling, weren’t able to roll with it.”
During 40 Watt’s seven-year span, the songwriting had basically fallen into Heilprin’s lap, and he’d accumulated a lot of tunes. All along he’d made raising the bar his songwriting goal, inspired in part by Elliott Smith’s very personal ways of composing a song.
“His songwriting was much more complex than the usual,” says Heilprin. “His harmonies were amazing and all the parts he played were so different. Then the subject matter, the lyrics –– his writing was on an entirely different level. Storytelling at its finest.”
An idiosyncratic charm characterized Blue-Eyed Son’s 2004 debut "West of Lincoln" on Eenie Meenie. Recorded with drummer Scott McPherson (M. Ward, Elliott Smith, She and Him), and helmed by producer Koool G Murder (Eels, Donavan Frankenreiter), with engineering and production on one song by Doug Boehm (The Vines, Elliott Smith), the album smeared the lines between whisper-sung melancholia à la Elliott Smith and hard-edged poppy fare.
Produced by Australian singer-songwriter Matt Ellis and engineered by Ronan Murphy (King Crimson, Nels Cline), the upcoming "Shadows on the Son" (out 5/28), finds Blue-Eyed Son on an ambitious voyage through uncharted sonic shapes and sparkling lyrical imagery.
The loping strut of “All Went Black,” whose trumpet and chimes shine luminous rays onto a New Orleans-like carnival of sound. The quickstepping “Good Men Die Like Dogs” (“I remember the day John Lennon died”) shuffles on with countrified banjos and curly-cueing electric guitars. The anthemic “We’re Fighting a War” is a cinematic melting pot of epic string swells, marching drums and soaring dramatic arc.
Listen: "All Went Black"
Vocally powerful, soulful and at times even ethereal, this stellar and athletic release from the Seattle band has been turning heads lately and deftly moves from anthemic soloing through power pop chording to punk riffing, and is why they've made one of our flat our FAVE debut recordings of the last 5 years!
+ "One of the better local EP's I've come across recently, the new Gibraltar EP is a mix of raw emotion and heart felt energy."--John Richards | APD/Morning Show, KEXP
+ "... one of the best local debuts of the year." --Seattle Weekly
+ "potent post-punk tempest of, well, loud/quiet/loud dynamics"--KEXP.org's Song Of The Day
+ "falls on the spectrum of all sounds ever made, the fairly new Northwest band pitches a changeup, leaving me with more questions than answers." --The Stranger (Seattle)
A tourbus collision of Interpol & Guided By Voices. The perfect balancing act between janky & soaring guitars held together by saloony yet crushing piano. This is modern and classic.
+ mixed by Matt Bayles (Minus the Bear, The Sword, Mastadon, Cursive)
Listen: "Death Rays"
Songs From Another Love
Tom Odell, winner of this year's BRITs Critics’ Choice Award, not only is currently on tour in North America, but also has released "Songs From Another Love", his debut EP. As part of the tour Odell also just made his US television debut on “Late Show with David Letterman”.
The 22-year-old artist is the first male ever to win the prestigious Critics’ Choice award. Past recipients include Adele, Florence and the Machine and Emeli Sandé. He was shortlisted in the BBC Sound Poll of 2013. Odell studied piano as a child and began writing his own songs at age 13. While he grew up in the West Sussex city of Chichester, his work is deeply influenced by American authors and filmmakers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Kerouac, Woody Allen and Wes Anderson. "Long Way Down", Odell’s full-length debut album, will be released in June.
The EP is out in the States by RCA Records / In The Name Of (the label founded by Lily Rose Cooper aka artist Lily Allen).
Listen: "Another Love"
Trouble Will Find Me
"Trouble Will Find Me", the most self-assured collection of songs produced by The National in its 14-year career, is a tribute to fully evolved artistic vision—and, somewhat less mystically, to sleep deprivation. Last January, following a twenty-two month tour to promote the band’s previous record, "High Violet", guitarist Aaron Dessner returned home to Brooklyn, where the fitfulness of his newborn daughter threw Aaron into a more or less sustained fugue state—“sleepless and up all the time,” as he puts it. Punch-drunk, he shuffled into the band’s studio (situated in Aaron’s backyard), where he amused himself writing musical fragments that he then sent over to vocalist Matt Berninger. Recalls Matt of Aaron, “He’d be so tired while he was playing his guitar and working on ideas that he wouldn’t intellectualize anything. In the past, he and Aaron’s twin brother, Bryce would be reluctant to send me things that weren’t in their opinion musically interesting—which I respected, but often those would be hard for me to connect to emotionally. This time around, they sent me sketch after sketch that immediately got me on a visceral level."
In truth, the band, which includes bassist Scott Devendorf and his brother Bryan on drums, hadn’t planned on recording new music for at least another year or two. The "High Violet" tour represented a quantum leap in The National’s trajectory; the venues got bigger and bigger, and the band felt the pressure to deliver the shows to larger crowds. Matt says, “We enjoyed it, but it was never easy. We always reminded ourselves that all of this is really fragile—that if we don’t deliver in, say, some festival show in Europe somewhere, we could start to slide.” Nor was returning to the studio likely to be cathartic, given the fact that The National’s last two recording sessions have been emotional high-wire acts in which the perfectionism of the five members—particularly Aaron and Matt—sometimes made for a tense time all around.
That didn’t happen this time. The post-"High Violet" sound Matt was seeking, says Aaron, “was more airy, less uptight and anxious. He sent me a lot of Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Dylan and David Bowie. And Bryce and I wanted a more relaxed and open sound too. We’d been getting deeper into the world of composed music in the last few years and developing more of an interest in classic songwriting.” The Dessner twins’ pursuits dovetailed with that of Matt, who says, “I went through a big Roy Orbison phase. I listened to a lot of him. His song structures are innovative, unconventional, yet somehow still effortless.” The Devendorf brothers then supplied their insistent, intricate backbeats, and what emerged was a series of distinctlytimeless musical narratives.
This isn’t to suggest that the songs The National wrote and recorded last winter at Clubhouse studios in Rhinebeck, New York qualify as simple. In addition to the self- lacerating impressionistic scattershots that are Matt’s lyrical stock in trade, they feature time signatures, mixed meter and melody frameworks more challenging than anything the band has previously attempted. Still, "Trouble Will Find Me" possesses a directness, a coherency and—dare it be said about such an unpredictable band—an approachability that suggests The National has at long last located its emotional target.
Listen: "Don't Swallow The Cap" (radio edit)
"Desperate Ground", the new LP from The Thermals, is exactly what the title implies. A dangerous path. A crucial moment. A split second in time when you must stand and defend, kill or be killed. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.
The Thermals have been through worse, and have always lived to tell the tale. Since their zero-fi pants-a-burning debut (More Parts Per Million, 2003), The Thermals have blazed their way through a decade filled with enough fear and loathing to last the rest of the century. They've survived the wrath of God (The Body, The Blood, The Machine, 2006), the fear of death (Now We Can See, 2009), even the soul-crushing torment of monogamous relationships (Personal Life, 2010)!
The Thermals' sixth LP and first for Saddle Creek, "Desperate Ground", is a true scrappy and scratchy return-to-form, with all the raw power and unhinged adolescent energy that made their early LP's so insanely enjoyable. Lyrically, the album is a brash and irresponsible ode to human violence, a black celebration of the inevitability of war and death. A dark and yet joyous affair, "Desperate Ground" tells the (murky) tale of a lone rogue in the night. One man, one path, one sword. An unceasing urge to destroy. A never-ending battle against the forces of nature. A destiny impossible to avoid. All told, "Desperate Ground" is a loud, violent thrill ride, a punk LP as bloody action film. It's The Wipers meets "Die Hard" and "Excalibur".
"Desperate Ground" was produced by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth) in Hoboken, NJ. Agnello and The Thermals completed mixing just hours before Hurricane Sandy ravaged New Jersey. Desperate Ground indeed.
Listen: "The Sunset"
“A lot of Confess is about sacrificing part of your life to something you love to do,” says George Lewis Jr., the nom de plume of Brooklyn indie pop sensation Twin Shadow. “Love and commitment may not be part of my life at this point. So a lot of this record is about my relationships with people, and dealing with the sacrifices I’ve made.”
But throughout that initial rush of attention, a lot of similar adjectives were thrown around to describe Twin Shadow: Heartfelt. Honest. Nostalgic. Lewis’s background was dissected – his birth in the Dominican Republic (as a twin, hence the band name), a lonely childhood in Florida, the eventual move to New York and the fashioning of his own stunning debut album, recording almost entirely on his own, in hotel rooms and in his cramped Brooklyn apartment.
It was, in a way, the portrait of an isolated figure. While "Confess" continues to examine relationships, loss and regret, there’s also a newfound sense of optimism in the songs, and an acceptance of the sacrifices Lewis has made to get to this point.
“There was a charm to the way I did my first record, but you can’t chase that experience down again,” says Lewis, who recorded most of the new record in a Los Angeles between a home built studio and a proper recording studio with keyboardist Wynne Bennett. “It was nice to be alone in my apartment, but now I get a sound in my head it’s nice to have the tools and people in front of me to make it happen.”
The songs on Confess do feel invigorated, as well as louder, more dynamic and certainly more adventurous. Elsewhere on "Confess", Lewis revs up the guitars, engages in some sparse, soulful R&B and goes quiet for a few mournful ballads. But even on the slower songs there’s a livelier percussive presence, thanks to an interesting new sampling technique. “I grew up in Florida, so the first musical impressions I had were from local football games,” he says. “So for this record, I’d go to football fields and record and sample the drums. It’s a fun detour away from the drum machines I used on Forget.”
“I could have done other things with my life, and I’ve wanted to do a million different things that I haven’t been able to do yet,” says Lewis. “I weigh the pros and cons of that a lot in my new record. But music is such an amazing artform -- it can be appreciated by almost anyone, and it means so much to so many different people. I think it’s still the best way to express myself.”
Listen: "Run My Heart"
Modern Vampires of the City
Vampire Weekend have just premiered two new tracks, “Diane Young” and “Step" in anticipation of their forthcoming third album, "Modern Vampires of the City", which will be released on May 7th via XL Recordings.
Having just wrapped a successful final night of SXSW playing to a packed outdoor performance at Stubbs,
Listen: "Diane Young"
Poliça just premiered their brand new song "Tiff" during Coachella last weekend, where they were joined on stage by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. Vernon has called Poliça "the best band I've ever heard."
"Tiff" is the first new Poliça music released since the band's critically acclaimed last album "Give Up The Ghost". Members of Poliça and Vernon first collaborated in indie rock supergroup Gayngs in 2010.
The song will be on their upcoming album later this year.
Poliça re-shape the intersection of pop and digitised R&B via ice cool vocalist Channy Leanagh and Ryan Olson's electronic soundscapes, revealing a tender heart beneath, pulsating with life and raw emotion.
The name Poliça refers to the word ‘policy’, meaning a definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency, suggesting they were formed out of necessity.
Listen: "Tiff" (clean edit)
Afraid Of Heights
Straight from the dungeons of L.A., Wavves are releasing "Afraid Of Heights", their fourth album and first on the Mom + Pop and Warner Bros. labels. Now a duo consisting of guitarist Nathan Williams and bassist Stephen Pope, they sound bigger, brasher, and shockingly more professional than ever on "Afraid Of Heights" which positions the band to take their rightful place amongst the pop-punk gods. You know the story by now. Bored dude in his parents' tool shed-turned-room with no insulation and a record stuck to a hole in the wall to keep the mice out turns on a four-track recorder, fucks around and ends up with two of the oddest, noisiest, and downright catchiest albums in recent memory.
Those two records (the eponymous "Wavves" the eponyymous "Wavvves") were winningly, messily chaotic-grand on a small scale, but not necessarily world-beaters. Which is why when Williams, then solo, linked up with erstwhile Jay Reatard sidemen Stephen Pope (bass) and Billy Hayes (drums) and busted the door down with the stunner that was "King Of The Beach", a pop-punk blackout for the DeLonge and Deleuze crowd. After the smoke of "King Of The Beach" had cleared, Williams and Pope released the "Life Sux" EP, a testament to the crushing powers of rock n' roll and also ennui.
The product of more than a year of writing and recording, "Afraid Of Heights" expands the Wavves sound while remaining true to the band's original vision - it was created with absolutely no label involvement, a specter that nearly derailed "King Of The Beach". Working with producer John Hill (known for his work with M.I.A. and Santigold, as well as with hip-hop acts such as Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan), the band found a willing party in creating what they felt was the truest expression of what they wanted. As for the "Afraid Of Heights" sessions themselves, Williams paid for them out-of-pocket, explaining his reasoning with, "In doing so, I had no one to answer to. We recorded the songs how and when we wanted without anybody interfering, and that's how it's supposed to be."
Even when he reaches outside his own damaged psyche, Williams is still making Wavves songs, saying, "The general theme of the record is depression and anxiety, being death-obsessed and paranoid of impending doom. I feel like the narration is almost schizophrenic if you listen front to back; every word is important, even the constant contradictions and lack of self-worth. That's all a part of this record-questioning everything not because I'm curious, but because I'm paranoid." With their biggest and boldest-sounding record yet, Wavves might have finally come into their own, a fully-realized punk rock force in both sound and vision.
Listen: "Demon To Lean On" (radio edit)
Kids Raising Kids
Kopecky Family Band are not a family by blood, but by bond – through the palpable sense of community and care for one another that the members share (as the new album’s title suggests), forged by time and touring. The band’s origins can be traced back to a Belmont University dorm room, circa late 2007, when Kelsey Kopecky and Gabe Simon first met and heard each other casually play a few songs. The musical chemistry was instant, and within a few short weeks the two had written the songs that would become the band’s debut EP, "Embraces" (2008). They rounded up a group of mutual friends to play with them, and Kopecky Family Band was born.
Kopecky Family Band spent spring 2012 on the road with a co-headlining tour with The Lumineers and supporting Gogol Bordello, and wound down the year with festival appearances at Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.
Listen: "Are You Listening"
It's clear that "...Like Clockwork" isn't so much the return of Queens Of The Stone Age, as the start of something new. QOTSA 2.0, rising from the ashes of difficult times. Their first album in 6 years, it's arguably one of the best crafted rock albums of the recent era.
QOTSA have already confirmed Lollapalooza on August 2nd In Chicago, but they'll be Many More tour dates still TBA-stay tuned.
"My God Is The Sun" is the first single off the upcoming "...Like Clockwork" --out June 4th on Matador.
Listen: "My God is the Sun"
"Soft Will", the third LP from Smith Westerns, will be released June 11th on Mom+Pop.
After playing over 140 shows in support of the critically acclaimed "Dye it Blonde" in 2012, Smith Westerns (Cullen Omori, Max Kakacek and Cameron Omori) returned to Chicago and began writing the follow-up LP. Writing through the Spring and into the Summer of 2012 the band teamed up once again with producer Chris Coady (Beach House, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio) and in August began recording what would become "Soft Will" at Sonic Ranch, in El Paso, TX.
After three weeks of recording at Sonic Ranch the band headed to New York for an additional four weeks of recording and mixing all around the city. Close but not yet done, the band took a break and headed back to Chicago – there they regrouped before returning to New York for a final week of mixing with Coady in early December at DNA Studio. It was there that all the pieces came together and its final shape emerged to become "Soft Will".
Purity Ring make lullabies for the club, drawing equally from airy 90s R&B, lush dream pop, and the powerful, bone-rattling immediacy of modern hip hop. Megan’s remarkable voice is at once ecstatic and ethereal, soaring joyfully through Corin’s carefully chopped beats, trembling synths, and skewed vocal samples.
"one of the year's hottest debut albums"--Rolling Stone
"The duo's debut album feels especially live and fresh."--SPIN
"A crunchy blend of laser synths, boom-bap beats and haunting vocals."--Billboard
"cute but visceral, tender but unhealthily obsessed."--NPR (First Listen)
..."played chilly and tender electro-pop, it's singer Megan James's vocals a drizzle that starts sharp and ends sumptuous."--New York Times