Category Archives: Music
Andrew Bird’s career arc is epitome of what any musician dreams of accomplishing. Though he began as a virtually unknown classically trained violinist / folk musician, he has built not only a remarkable worldwide fanbase, but created a unique image and an unbelievably characteristic sound through persistence and perseverance. On the past few LP’s, we’ve heard walls of sonic beauty created by violin lines over violin loops over violin loops over guitar over bass and drums, complimented by other bell instruments and virtuoso whistling. Not to mention the eloquence and subtlety of Bird’s voice, ranging from singing virtuoso passages full of wordplay to mumbling incoherent phrases to repeatedly humming just a few notes.
With Hands of Glory, Bird has returned to his midwestern roots. Where recently his bluesy, folksy violin background has been relatively contained, serving more as his influence (starting with 2003’s Weather Systems), Hands of Glory marks their full re-emergence. In fact, this album bears the most resemblance to The Swimming Hour and all of his older, pre-2003 Bowl of Fire releases. It is stripped down, down home-y, and artfully simple, sidestepping the scientific lingo on recent releases (calcium mines and measuring brains) and almost constant wordplay (“Anonimal”, for example). With this collection of country covers and album reworks, the listener is presented with lines such as “take your apples from the earth” and “if I needed you, would you come to me?”. Complicated riffs in 7/8 have been substituted with genuine sentiment over simple grooves – a testament to Bird’s musicality, versatility, as well as his ability to make heartfelt, stripped down music in 2012. The album feels like it was recorded in your living room; there are no barriers between artist and listener. That’s probably because it was recorded in a barn, around a single microphone.
In an today’s age of the explicit, Andrew Bird has managed to release an introspective, nuanced, minimalist, and beautiful album. And there’s no saying where he’ll go next. And that is a good thing.
You can go and stream the entire album for free here.
This is a fall album if I’ve ever heard one… seems like the perfect soundtrack for walking through fields of fallen leaves and apple picking all while drinking a hot cup of cider. Or trying to find a job. That too.
We took a break over the past few months. We’ll be back soon. In the meantime, check out my favorite song of the summer–Lil Wayne’s “Dear Summer.” It’s from a few years back, but it’s still dope as hell. Stay tuned!
A long while back in middle school, as I was discovering my first taste of independent music in the heyday of Drive-Thru records, I listened briefly to a group on their roster called Steel Train. For eighth grade me, they were nothing that really stood out compared to the other Drive-Thru bands that had captured my attention, and I went back to listening to The Early November and The Starting Line (nothing wrong with that!).
A few years later Lucas tried to tell me how good they were by sending me their cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” I became a little more interested and checked out “Better Love,” a song that details the lead singer, Jack Antonoff’s, high school relationship with…Scarlett Johansson. Yep. That would be a tough one to get over. Anyway, their music for some reason still didn’t hook me and thought that I would never really enjoy the band that much.
Cut to last week when I saw the cover of their new independently released self-titled album. I loved the album art immediately, and the image of the punk girl particularly struck me because I’ve been reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series recently.
Their most recent Self-Titled album plays out like a retrospective study on the last half decade of indie rock, which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing! There are Animal Collective-like whoops and hollers, chiming guitars that evoke Vampire Weekend, and a general epic feel that echos the recent Springsteen obsession of punk bands like the Gaslight Anthem
The standout track for me, however, is the pop abandon of “You Are Dangerous.” Piano and palm muted guitars periodically rise and fall over a stop-and-start rhythm section, which gradually builds to a catchy-as-hell post chorus guitar riff that makes me want to dance around forever. Add in some obligatory vocal “oohs” and you’ve got a great mid-summer jam.
With specific online purchases of the album the band is also giving away an alternate version with every track covered by a different female artist! This is a pretty sweet idea, and is made only better by the fact that Lexington native Amanda Palmer lays down her own version of Steel Train’s “Behavior.” Awesome!
A band I’ve been listening to a bunch recently is Boston’s own BIRTHDAYS. And really, what better music matches a cool, cloudy June day in Massachusetts? Non-traditional percussion, guitar drones, analog synths and yelpy vocals all blend together in a raw, lofi melange, courtesy of messrs. Sammy and Kevin. Listening to BIRTHDAYS reminds me of the feeling of excitement I’d get while falling asleep the night before my own birthday when I was a young’un. THEY’RE SO NOISY AND COOL I wanna be their friends
There’s also something about BIRTHDAYS that is entirely danceable. I can’t help but bob along to songs like “Biggie Shorty” or “part that grows,” even though there is no drum beat that makes your chest reverberate. While listening to BIRTHDAYS, I get the feeling that their band rehearsals are lots of FUN. Where they could be serious, they instead get silly. It’s happy music!!
Fans of BAIXA, Hear Hums, Here We Go Magic, MANNERS, or Truman Peyote may like BIRTHDAYS. It’s good music to listen to during a thunderstorm, or when trying to fall asleep on long car rides. I highly recommend these dudes!
Click here to download a brand-new song entitled “Every Time I Swim (Ariel)”! It’s apparently about “seeing The Little Mermaid when I was five years old and falling in love.. realizing for the first time that I dig girls and that they aren’t yucky.”
In my ongoing quest to discover the zeitgeist of the times, I present to you: VACATION DAD.
My friend Mark brought this dude (the drummer of FARMS) to my attention a month or two ago after discovering “ihopeyrfavoritecoloriseverywhere” on some music blog. I’ve been listening to him basically non-stop since then… I’m not really sure why I haven’t posted him on here yet. Better late than never, I suppose.
His EP is more atonal and drone-y than his newer stuff. You can definitely hear FARMS all over this EP–giant swells of sound, blissed-out sonic soundscapes, but a noticeable lack of drums. In the back story to this EP, you can see why Vacation Dad is an artist of the times:
i started flirting with this girl
she was married
then we sex in a tent one thing led to the other
we dated for a while
then we broke up cause i suck
then i got laid off cause the economy is bad
i had a real job one with
i recorded this to make myself feel good
Anyways, I’m not posting the EP for download, so whatever. Download it off his myspace if you’re interested. However, the melancholy sentiment of his explanation for recording his EP carries on to his newer songs.
Since he’s a drummer, his tracks have kick-ass percussion. The drums sound HUGE (especially on “Hemp Scented Body Lotion”), like strange futuristic machines making music because there’s no need to make anything else anymore because IT’S THE FUTURE and the humans are gone. And also these machines have found out how to love. Like Wall-E except less heartwarming and family-friendly.
The synths are also boss. Fuzzed-out to the max, thundering, with gigantic amounts of reverb. The 8-bit tones almost sound like they’re lifted from Super Mario World or something. Mix in some crazy, ecstatic yelps delayed-the-fuck-out with a massive, bleating dance beat (I’m talking about “Dream Boat,” here) and you’ve got a recipe for some nice risotto/balls-to-the-wall awesome song of the summer. Some people are talking about a “chill-wave” “movement” thing, and maybe this “qualifies”, but I don’t really know because I don’t read pitchfork. “whatever” “man”
I like his newer stuff a bit better than his EP. He’s releasing a split with Truman Peyote later this year (“Dream Boat” is a sneak preview from the split), and the songs are amazing. Don’t miss out on this dude–you’ll be hearing about Vacation Dad in the future.
I recently had a dinner conversation with some friends about music. I talked with them about what I mentioned in my post on Totally Nebular–that is, I’m trying to find music that speaks to me, as a 90s baby growing up in the shadow of the 80s, that 80s that defined the sound of music in the last decade. As I said before, how can I relate to music that was created when I wasn’t alive for the creation of it? Obviously, you can have appreciation for music no matter when it was created, but I feel that those who created 80s-derivative music created it out of an ironic appreciation for the shitty music of their childhood. I didn’t grow up with Scorpion and Flock of Seagulls, though…! So that’s where I’m at currently; I’m looking for music that has the mood of my growing up, that reflects conditions I can relate to.
So where does this long diatribe lead us? To FARMS of course! I’ve been meaning to post them on here forever seeing as I’ve been listening to them for a month or so. They’re fucking awesome, and totally have that feeling I’ve been looking for. They do a better job of describing themselves than I could:
One member of FARMS has a fully functional synthesizer in his head and holds his mouth a little open like a third ear. One member of FARMS is a fucking ‘showboat’ who works drums like a middle schooler trying to show an older girl his ‘passion’ or how good he is at making out. One is a pleasant, video game psychic and one applies corporeal metaphors to like everything, and then smiles. FARMS is a Wisconsin band, because sometimes there is nothing else to do here/there than take drugs and go into woods or drive on interstates. They play in a basement with a coal chute and a bat.
Their music is absolutely wonderful. Whooshing synthesizers, delayed-the-fuck-out guitars and intricate, pulsing drums seem to define their sound a bit. Most of their songs are instrumental, but who needs lyrics anyways? They’re also really good at writing subtly catchy hooks. I’ve been whistling along to “We’ll All Be, On The Home Team” and “we got a box of white tape snakes” for weeks now. It’s all pretty lofi and grimy. Their drummer also makes music under the name “Vacation Dad“. Check him out–I’ll be posting him on here later.
When I listen to FARMS, I feel like they’re affirming life for every animal on our planet, like they’re celebrating going outside, like they’ve got nothing to hide from anyone. “All the lies you’ve ever told don’t really mean a thing, the ocean seems to say,” says Machi Tawara (and FARMS duh lol but with music instead of haikus lol lol)
If I were you, I’d download their EP1 and their song “we got a box of white tape snakes” immediately. It’s great summertime porch-sitting music. Put on FARMS and watch the red sun set, and pretend it’s never going to come back