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“Suburban Blues” if, the band

if, the band

Suburban Blues EP Review

Unsigned

Released August 16, 2016

Genre: Indie Rock

Young and talented Dallas, TX indie rock trio if, the band have just released a new EP and it showcases a wide array of influences while also succeeding in showing the strengths this group has to offer. Although five tracks long, the EP is full of bright ideas from noteworthy inspirations executed in a tasteful manner from a surprisingly young group.

The opening track “The Enabler” is a riveting instrumental that sounds like a Kid A – throwaway led by a catchy riff and some noisy atmosphere to add some meat to the track. The title track features some mumbled vocals which can easily be traced back to some influence from Slint’s masterpiece Spiderland. The dynamic between the dissonant guitars and “all-over-the-place” drums evoke Spiderland vibes and complement the sinister vocals perfectly as they all build to a thunderously noisy climax (my personal favorite part of the record). If anything, this goes to show how skilled the trio is at crafting tracks that sound larger than life.

The EP slows down a bit midway as we are treated to a lower dynamic of instrumentation on “For Sure” along with some acoustic tracks to close the album. However, these tracks are not for the coffee shop connoisseur; “For Sure” builds to another noisy climax which changes the pace of a rather humdrum vibe that precedes it. “Up.Down” features some pretty acoustic guitar leads that are admirably composed, but did little to gain my attention and feels oddly placed within the EP. However, the closing track has some interesting electronic drums in the background while also adding some sharp and intoxicating Interpol-esque guitar leads to close off the album on a rather sinister note, the likes I welcomed warmly.

Suburban Blues shows that if, the band listen to plethora of musical acts that they have thoughtfully echoed into their own sound. They’ve also shown an absurd amount of talent at such a young age, and have so much room to grow & create. It also goes to show what you can find in the deep & dark caverns of Bandcamp – where the future of music are starting to make their voice heard, for little to no money at all. My advice? Step away from the radio/Top 40/iTunes list, and find something new to listen. After this particular release, you’ll be glad you did.

FAV TRACKS: The Enabler, Suburban Blues

LEAST FAV TRACK: Up.Down

SCORE: (7.3/10)

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“Closer” The Chainsmokers

The Chainsmokers

“Closer” Track Review

Disruptor/Columbia Records

Released July 29, 2016

Genre: Electropop

Let’s get one thing straight: I loathe EDM, and (objectively) The Chainsmokers are the epitome of everything I hate about this god-forsaken genre: cheap hooks, half-assed lyrics, soulless instrumentation, pandering to wide audiences, and the need for ridiculously annoying synth hooks blown up over a ‘drop’. That, plus the culture’s moronic, indulgent, & insipid drug/concert atmosphere, defines the soulless and useless musical wave that is known as EDM. Yet, The Chainsmokers have been doing something different; they glimpsed it on “Don’t Let Me Down” with its shockingly depressing and melancholic lyrics combined with its (seemingly) joyful instrumentation, the track is rather joyless and goes against the cheap thrills of traditional EDM music. In practice, and theory, it’s more interesting than I wish it was.

With “Closer”, The Chainsmokers create something strange: a genuinely evocative and enjoyable electropop tune, abandoning the EDM construction/framework that has gotten them this far (beginning with the culturally relevant yet painfully TERRIBLE “Kanye” & “#Selfie”). The Chainsmokers use all the instrumentation they need – no need for superfluous whistles & bells (even if they elevate the song to a total groove machine à la Jack Ü’s  debut). Combined with pop singer Halsey’s lush and sensual vocals, The Chainsmokers create a lean & tightly composed track that you can bump in the club, or when lying in bed daydreaming.

The instrumentation is basic in practice with the usual snaps, claps, electronic kit, etc. + the waves of synths, and a wonky ass synth lead to complement an orechstra-esque synth chord progression. It all culminates in a sugary sweet, but dangerously addictive track that I can’t help but repeat. Although the vocals are lazy, and cover much of the same ground of love, longing, wanderlust, youth, and escape that EVERYONE covers (yes. EVERYONE. jesus, PLEASE sing about something different) – the delivery keeps it interesting enough to listen to again and again.

Now I’m not saying I’ve warmed up to EDM music or the culture, because I don’t think I ever will. But when you have the right elements, and use them tastefully; when you don’t underwhelm nor do you become indulgent, or pander to audiences – you can create a great pop song, one that isn’t as cheap as its predecessors indicate. The Chainsmokers surprised me here, and that’s impressive to say the least.

PRETTY NEAT TRACK

SCORE: (7.5/10)

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“Starspawn” Blood Incantation

Blood Incantation

Starspawn Review

Dark Descent Records

Released on August 19th, 2016

Genre: Death Metal, Progressive Metal

Denver-based band Blood Incantation explore space on their 35-minute debut full-length, Starspawn. Following a well-received EP in 2015, the interstellar sonic force hopes to gain new listeners and cover new galactic ground. Although space is a mysterious and difficult thing to explore, these death metallers traverse the stars with technical prowess without inundating their compositions with unnecessary solos and musical showboating. For a band that is so obsessed with space, the songs are very purposeful, even the 13-minute long “Vitrification of Blood (Part 1),” which kicks the album off. The song is technically demanding, with winding riffs and complicated drum fills peppered throughout, but all the transitions between musical ideas are seamless. No one idea lingers around too long before a new one is naturally introduced. The tremolo picked riffs that precede the more downtempo and crushing riffs are well-placed and gripping. The last 3 minutes of the song are preceded by an awkwardly placed arpeggiated passage that is not fitting with the rest of the song, although it does add to the spacey theme with the funky chord progressions establishing an ominous feeling.

The other songs do not have any structural flaws and adhere more to the space theme sonically. “Hidden Species” fits the space theme better with vocal echoes and alien noises. The odd chord progressions fit the mold better as well. The melodic dueling guitar riff in the middle of the title track inspired me to take up arms in anticipation of an intergalactic war. The closing riff is hard and the little pinched harmonic that closes each bar causes hairs to raise on my skin.

Although Blood Incantation isn’t doing anything completely unique (bearing a strong resemblance to later Gorguts) they are doing it right. Expect these guys to gain more buzz in the coming months.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Hidden Species (Vitrification Of Blood Part 2), Starspawn

LEAST FAV TRACKS: Vitrification Of Blood (Part 1)

SCORE: 8.0/10

Courtesy American Football

“I’ve Been So Lost For So Long” American Football

American Football

I’ve Been Lost For So Long” Review

Polyvinyl Records

Released on August 23th, 2016

Genre: Emo, Indie Rock

It’s been 17 years since seminal emo band American Football has released a full-length. However, 2016 will bring not only a new president but also a new set of songs from one of, if not the most, celebrated indie rock band of all time. In anticipation of the new album, a new song has been released. Although this song has a lot of the winning formula for American Football, it just falls short of rekindling the old magic.

Yes, the pretty twinkly guitar riffs are there. The emotional and earnest singing is there. However, one of my favorite things about American Football in the past is completely ignored here; there is very little progression or changes in ideas. The same riff is barely changed throughout the whole song and none of the “math-y” tendencies from their previous work is present here. There aren’t any interesting drum fills and no interesting time signature changes.

I hope this isn’t indicative of what the entire album will be like. It’s not awful, but it sounds like an average American Football ripoff band. Hopefully October 21, the self-titled album’s release date, will be different

SCORE: 6.5/10

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AMERICAN FOOTBALL ANNOUNCE FIRST ALBUM IN 17 YEARS & SHARE NEW SONG

Illinois emo pioneers American Football have been mysteriously teasing fans on Facebook with videos of the classic house from their landmark debut LP soundtrack to, possibly, new music this past week.  Now it appears fans have gotten the answer they so desperately craved as the band has announced their first album in 17 years. It’s called American Football, their second following their 1999 self-titled debut (also the same name), and it’s out October 21 via Polyvinyl in the U.S. and Wichita in the UK and Europe. American Football was recorded at ARC Studios in Omaha, NE, and SHIRK Studios in Chicago, IL, and was produced by the band and Jason Cupp.

That’s the album art above. Listen to a new song below titled “I’ve Been So Lost For So Long” along with the track listing.

American Football (2016):

01 Where Are We Now?
02 My Instincts Are the Enemy
03 Home Is Where the Haunt Is
04 Born to Lose
05 I’ve Been So Lost for So Long
06 Give Me the Gun
07 I Need a Drink (or Two or Three)
08 Desire Gets in the Way
09 Everyone Is Dressed Up

Additionally, the band has announced a handfull of tour dates. Check them out below:

10-29 Chicago, IL – Vic Theatre
01-28 New York, NY – Terminal 5
02-11 London, England – Shepherd’s Bush Empire
02-25 Los Angeles, CA – The Ace Hotel Theatre

thom green

THOM SONNY GREEN (ALT-J) RELEASES DEBUT SOLO LP HIGH ANXIETY

*Press Release
Thom Sonny Green‘s debut solo project, High Anxiety, is out today via his own label Sudden Records (in conjunction with Infectious) in the UK and Canvasback in the US. The album is a far cry from his work as alt-J‘s drummer, experimenting with the more cerebral side of electronic production in the vein of Clams Casino, Arca, Aphex Twin and others. High Anxiety highlights Thom’s long-standing interest in the more abstract spaces of electronica with an album that is warm yet experimental, playful yet considered, superficially accessible yet simultaneously deep, while demonstrating his complete artistry as songwriter, producer and visual artist. In addition, fans can visit Thom’s website to create their own mixes of several bonus tracks that don’t appear on the album.

The album’s diverse 21 tracks (premiered in full via Billboard) were produced over the course of two years on the road with alt-J, drawing inspirations all over the world. Green displays a true auteur’s knack for versatility, hopscotching effortlessly from the pastoral, Boards of Canada esoterica of tracks like “Oslo” and “Palms” to the narcotised, lysergic, trip hop of “Ping,” and the ominous, juddering rhythms of “Blew” and “Large,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a David Lynch soundtrack. Green teamed up with visual artist and director Nichola Farnan, creating unique pieces of video art to accompany each track, forming a completely immersive experience for the listener, allowing them to lose themselves in Green’s distinctive, surreal, all-encompassing world. The album and its visualizers are available for streaming everywhere digitally, plus limited CD and vinyl copies here.

HIGH ANXIETY TRACKLISTING:

1. Vienna
2. 40 Beers
3. Market
4. System
5. Blew
6. Arizona
7. Oslo
8. Ping
9. Cologne
10. Houston
11. Oakland
12. VVVV
13. Phoenix
14. Large
15. Palms
16. Beach
17. Grounds
18. Preach
19. Christ
20. Meh
21. Neon Blue

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FRANK OCEAN DROPS NEW ALBUM: BLONDE

Following a perplexing release schedule, multiple delays, a frustrating sequence of events that confused and alienated many fans, a visual album entitled Endless, and a music video for a new song titled “Nikes”, Frank Ocean has dropped a third album entitled Blonde (following Endless & 2012’s channel ORANGE.)

Listen to Blonde and buy it here. Take a look at the album cover & track listing below.

Watch “Nikes”:

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Blonde:

01 Nikes
02 Ivy
03 Pink + White
04 Be Yourself
05 Solo
06 Skyline To
07 Self Control
08 Good Guy
09 Nights
10 Solo (Reprise)
11 Pretty Sweet
12 Facebook Story
13 Close to You
14 White Ferrari
15 Siegfried
16 Godspeed
17 Futura Free

Let’s hope this media frenzy is officially over, and the surprises are, at last, done for.

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OAKTOPIA ANNOUNCES BLOOD MOON PARTIES!

The critically acclaimed Denton music festival has just announced its local lineup of musicians, billed as “Blood Moon Parties”. There will be 90+ acts spread out over 9 venues throughout the three day festival. You can see the local lineup above and the full lineup with headlines such as Norah Jones, Rae Sremmurd, & Wavves, below.

Buy tickets here.

Read our coverage of the festival last year here.

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Death-Grips

“Bottomless Pit” Death Grips

Death Grips

Bottomless Pit Review

Third Worlds / Harvest Records

Released on May 6th, 2016

Genre: Industrial Hip-Hop, Experimental Hip-Hop, Electronic

The internet is a pretty strange place. In it, you will find countless Death Grips memes, fan-boy Reddit threads, trash, and above all, you will find MC Ride, Zach Hill, and Flatlander getting high off of all of it as they plunge further into the bottomless pit of dark and twisted cyber-punk insanity that put Death Grips on the map.

In other words, Death Grips’ internet presence and their relationship with their fan-base is ultimately essential to the content of their music. On the opening track, Death Grips references once again how large their influence over the music industry is, possibly dissing people who copy their style explaining “I Keep Giving Bad People Good Ideas”.  Delivering their most insane and punishing song since “You might think he loves you for your money…”, it’s a nearly heavy metal track with devilish guitar leads popping in and out and an extremely creepy female vocal repeating the chorus maniacally. The trio then keep the energy at max on the following track “Hot Head”  where MC Ride goes into a fit of rage, screaming incomprehensible sounds as pummeling guitars, synths, and drums blast sporadically.

On the track “Eh” Death Grips flips a 180 and brings a surprisingly reserved and almost…cute instrumental. But this begins to make more sense once MC Ride explains that he doesn’t give a f*ck and that his reaction to anything is usually no more than “eh”. Going even to say that he could one day get bored and say “…Death Grips…eh…” and quit the band altogether. On “Trash”, which sounds like millions of servers struggling to upload information, MC Ride furthers this apathetic attitude by explaining that he sees everything that Death Grips uploads as no more than another pile of internet garbage, yet it seems like he embraces the idea. Repeating incessantly: “We know trash, we know clean don’t last, Never last when we load trash, We upload trash…trash begets trash.”

The Track “BB Poison” returns to the idea of Death Grips’s audience being under their control, not only because of their music, but as well as their twitter account. Dropping their twitter name, (@bbpoltergeist) MC Ride sounds like he is speaking directly to each of DG’s fans that obsess over everything that they put on the internet, even referencing an actual tweet from their account: “It won’t lit”. He then says “Zach hit them off like, “It won’t lit,” they shit bricks, bbpoltergiest, don’t touch this” Showing how they enjoy the confusion that fans get from things the band uploads that don’t even make sense.

“Three Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood” a highlight in the track listing, features one of the most catchy yet disturbing hooks on the album with MC Ride chanting “I’m all up in my glory-hole, S-O no no no…” With some of the most vile and profane lyrics on the entire project and a skittering beat of rattling hi-hats and guitar-like synths, this track sounds like MC Ride describing a night at his favorite underground BDSM club.

While tracks like “Ring a Bell” and “80808” breeze by without much in the way of new ideas for DG, the band finishes off the album with the title track “Bottomless Pit”. Another crushingly powerful heavy metal track which sounds like falling down an actual pit. It brings the project to a momentous close as MC Ride tells you just how he wants you to feel after listening to this album…like he’s “f*cked you in half.”

Ultimately, Bottomless Pit features some of Death Grips’ most memorable production and hooks since their cult-smash The Money Store, yet slightly more direct, aggressive, and precise.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Giving Bad People Good Ideas, Hot Head, Warping, Spikes, Bubbles Buried in This Jungle, Eh, Houdini, Three Bedrooms in a Good Neighborhood

LEAST FAV TRACKS: Ring a Bell, 80808

SCORE: 9.1/10

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“Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing” LUH

LUH

Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing Album Review

Mute Records

Genre: Electronic, Dark Wave, Goth Wave (?), Noise Pop, Baroque, Alternative Rock, (TOO MANY SUB GENRES TO NAME)

Released May 6, 2016

LUH (Lost Under Heaven)’s debut record, produced by dark ambient wonderkind The Haxan Cloak, is an unsettling, deceitful, yet compelling record. The moment you hit play, any semblance of subtlety and serenity is thrown out the window. Lead vocalist Ellery Roberts’ voice is one that is not easy to listen to, but it’s also not easy to forget. It’s raspy and throaty delivery complements the multitude of different tones this album has to offer. From orchestral/post rock buildups (“I&I”) to the traditional pop structure with some sharp synths to taste (“Beneath The Concrete”) to ambient soundscapes (“Future Blues”), there’s a lot to go around.

The two-piece, composed of Roberts & Ebony Hoorn, manage to make their music sound larger than the sum of their parts. The record’s compositions are massive, cinematic, and sprawling – sound more and more like a super group of 10+ bandmates rather than two people. While the songs experiment with different compositions and arrangements, they are nonetheless rendered redundant by Roberts’ same vocal delivery and the album’s consistent and encompassing mixing. Granted, it’s basically the same song reinterpreted twelve times over, but it’s a good song and in any piece of art this rich and complex, there’s some nuances worth revisiting.

FAV TRACKS: I&I, Unites, Future Blues, $ORO, Lost Under Heaven

LEAST FAV TRACK: First Eye To The New Sky (kinda)

Score: 7.2/10