St. Vincent Confidently Cuts To The Core of Her Sound

Album Cover courtesy of Pitchfork

Seemingly on the verge of a real popular breakout  for years after collaborations with David Byrne, Bon Iver, and Kid Cudi, it’s telling that Annie Clark decided to follow up her most successful (and best)  album yet with a self-titled affair. That it’s a fourth album is important as well: if third albums are about solidifying an artistic voice, a thing Strange Mercy did astoundingly well, fourth albums are about proving that you’re more. Some bands choose to build upon their sound like The National did with Boxer or Phoenix did with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, some choose to buck it entirely like Radiohead’s Kid A, or some bands depressingly regress like Metallica’s Black Album. No matter the quality, these albums frequently become a focal point in the discography: a tone setter for the rest of a career. Thankfully, St. Vincent offers a confident distillation of just what makes Clark’s project so fascinating without shedding her experimental roots.
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5 Drummers of Indie Rock To Pay Attention To

A great drummer can make the difference in a band. Anyone will tell you that’s a fact. Try to imagine The Who without the thunderous, kinetic play of Keith Moon. Or “Be My Baby” without that famous drum break and frantic yet tasteful fills by Hal Blaine. Or James Brown’s classic records without the “Funky Drummer” himself, Clyde Stubblefield. Even the much-maligned Ringo Starr knew exactly when to accent a moment in a song with a perfect fill (think “Helter Skelter” or “Drive My Car”) and when to sit back and let the music groove.

Sadly, the drummer is often ignored in indie-rock conversation. Maybe it’s because the genre itself doesn’t lend itself to the kind of flash that classic rock and roll or funk or jazz does (there aren’t a lot of soloists in indie rock). The drumming in a ton of indie rock music also doesn’t move beyond simple timekeeping or tasteful grooves, which doesn’t immediately impress as much as a great jazz solo or a thunderous metal part. As a drummer and indie rock fan, I’ve found the genre to house plenty of interesting and excellent players, some of which don’t get the respect they deserve. These are just a few of the drummers of indie rock who deserve more attention.

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Why October 29th Is Gonna Be Amazing

My reaction upon seeing next week’s new releases
Photo courtesy of Neatorama.

Next week is easily the best week of music releases so far this year. While most weeks may have one or two big releases, this next week has so many interesting listens for fans of all genres, a few of which have me giddy in anticipation.

Here’s just a sample of the smaller releases coming this week. For jazz/hip-hop fans, you have pianist Robert Glasper’s Black Radio 2, the sequel to his smooth album Black Radio featuring guest spots from Jill Scott, Common, Lupe Fiasco, Norah Jones, and more. For you Odd Future fans, Mellowhype drops their new album on Halloween. For hip-hop heads who want to look outside the Americas, UK synth-funk hip-hop group band Paper Tiger (not to be confused with the incredible Minneapolis producer/Doomtree affiliate of the same name) has a new album coming. Metal fans can check out new albums from Toxic Holocaust and Skeletonwitch. Garage-rock/soul/funk-rock fans can feast their ears on the new album from White Denim. And those are just the smaller cool releases I wanted to highlight. Here are the top 5 reasons that the 29th of October is going to be a quite exciting day in music.

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CHVRCHES Soar With Thrilling, Excellently Executed Debut

Photo Courtesy of anotherrainysaturday.com

Coming off of last year’s monster single “The Mother We Share,” many (including yours truly) have been hotly anticipating more from Scottish synthpop band CHVRCHES. Could they sustain the rush of that song over a whole album? Would they be able to bring enough variety in their sugary-yet-melancholic sound to last an album’s length? Thankfully the answer to both of those questions on debut The Bones of What You Believe is “mostly yes.” With the sonic layers to please synth-heads and the songwriting prowess to please everyone else, CHVRCHES has delivered one of the year’s most fully realized debuts and one of the best pop records I’ve heard in ages.

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No Trouble for The National as they Rock the Ryman

Photo by Rick Hawkins for American Songwriter

Everyone has “that one band.” That one band that first exposed you to what would become your taste in music (Modest Mouse for me). That one band that expanded your horizons as to what music could be (Radiohead, specifically the album Kid A for me too). Bands or artists that exposed you to various genres: metal, hip-hop, jazz, what have you. The National is that one band that I listened to every time when things just seemed to suck as a teenager. Of the top 25 most played songs in my iTunes library, 9 of them are by The National (including 2 of the top 3). I have a deep and abiding love for Matt Berninger’s velvety dark-chocolate baritone, Bryan Devendorf’s jittery, spastic drumming, and the Dessners’ genius arrangements. But despite this, I’d never had a chance to see this juggernaut of my teenage life in concert (hence why I woke up early for the pre-sale and refreshed the Ticketmaster page until it actually went live). Thus, this review may be a little skewed. Even on the off chance that the live show didn’t quite match the power of their records, I would be head over heels for that Sunday night. However, I’m happy to report that this (like my experiences with Death Grips, The Mountain Goats, The Hold Steady, My Morning Jacket, Radiohead, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor) was not just a great show, but a defining moment of my year.

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Volcano Choir Repaves Sound for Sophomore LP

Photo Courtesy of Jagjaguwar

Bon Iver may be done for a little while, but between popping up on hip-hop albums big (YeezusMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch The Throne) and small (P.O.S.’s We Don’t Even Live Here), playing with his band The Shouting Matches, and collaborating with The Blind Boys of Alabama, Justin Vernon hasn’t exactly been quiet. Nevertheless, the announcement of another album from Volcano Choir, a collaboration with post-rock band Collections of Colonies of Bees, was a bit of a surprise. Their 2009 album Unmap was a solid collection of abstractions with the occasional killer song (“Island, IS”, if you haven’t heard it, is still awesome), but it was a bit unstructured (and quite strange for my tastes). However,  it seems to have been an important project for Vernon. Just look at the world of difference between For Emma and Bon Iver, Bon Iver: all the layered, more complex instrumentation. The odder, instrumentally complex, direction of Volcano Choir definitely had a hand in influencing that album’s left-turn from the dude-in-a-cabin scrappiness that defined his debut. On Repave, however, it’s Bon Iver that is influencing Volcano Choir.

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The Belle Game’s Solid, Traditional Debut

courtesy of Yours Truly

Like many of you (or at least those who don’t have their ear to the ground in the Vancouver indie scene), my first exposure to The Belle Game came from indie-rock kingmakers Pitchfork, who named their single “River” as a Best New Track earlier this summer. They were right, but to call this band “new” isn’t entirely correct. After amassing much acclaim in Vancouver with two EPs over the course of four years, debut album Ritual Tradition Habit is a chance to cement The Belle Game as a new player in indie-rock (and another chance to prove the good ol’ Pitchfork effect). While it doesn’t quite follow through on the promise of that aforementioned revelation of a track, The Belle Game’s familiar sound lends itself to a solid debut.

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