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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Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival is a Can’t-Miss Weekend

Image from Music Midtown

This past Friday and Saturday marked the 3rd year of the return of Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival to Piedmont Park.  The two-day festival included three stages and a diverse line-up ranging from rap genius Kendrick Lamar, to classic rock titans Journey, to live show titans Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I attended the festival with a friend who is a graduate student in chemistry at Georgia Tech.  In short, it was an amazing weekend.  After the jump, I’ll be giving you a look at it day-by-day, and then summarizing the festival experience as a whole to wrap things up. [Read more...]

Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Day late and a dollar short, perhaps–this song came out eight whole days ago. In today’s hyper-consuming, Facebook-addicted, Reddit-ing generation where one week becomes one month and a year compresses into a day, a dream that flies past while we watch our lives unfold on our phones’ camera app–I think of Modest Mouse’s song “Heart Cooks Brain”–where was I? I get so flustered with all these lenses obscuring my view–wait, I remember–eight days is a long time. Don’t you know that one of my old high school friends has made 21 new posts since “Reflektor” released? Don’t you know that twenty-one important, life-changing things happened to them in that span of 8 days? I read it, too, all of it. Yet, a year from now, they won’t remember what it was all about. And I won’t remember it, either. They’re someone that I knew but not anymore.

We live now in an embattled state, where social media and self-absorption has blurred and obscured the line between friend and stranger. This is the world that Arcade Fire’s new single, “Reflektor”, inhabits, questions, and condemns. [Read more...]

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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The 1975′s Self-Titled Debut is Driving and Relaxing All In One

Image courtesy of gigwise.com

I discovered The 1975 while browsing r/listentothis on Reddit last year, probably in September or October.  I was immediately enthralled with this band with an interesting name and a catchy, if unpolished, sound and I began looking for a larger catalog .  Or, attempting to find one rather; at the time they had only two EP releases to their name.  Very little information was to be found.  And so I was left to wait patiently for a debut album to appear, only to be met by consecutive EP releases that were interesting, but at the same time so short and left me wanting something fuller.  However, after all of my waiting, their self-titled debut album has finally arrived, filled with songs that sound like they could all be singles yet still find cohesion as a whole work.  Suffice it to say that I am not disappointed. [Read more...]

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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A Modest Proposal in Defense of the EP

I’m a Modest Mouse fan–more or less old news, for those who know me–and my recent fixation has been a revolving cycle of classic Modest Mouse songs: “Night on the Sun,” “Here It Comes,” “King Rat,” “All Night Diner”. Except these aren’t classics. In fact, they’re relatively forgotten because none of them is featured on a single LP. Nor is the National’s excellent “Sin-Eaters,”, nor Interpol’s darkly seductive “Specialist,” nor The Decemberists’ 18-minute epic “The Tain.” These are songs that too few people have, because they were relegated to the lowly EP.

In an era in which music is increasingly consumed by either buying single tracks on iTunes or shelling out $25 for an album on vinyl, the half-length EP is often forgotten.

It shouldn’t be. [Read more...]