Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bands to Care About: Benjamin Shaw

Acoustic/folk music tends to fall into two categories: Nick Drake or Bob Dylan. The Nick Drakes make sweet, intimate music meant to be heard late at night. The Bob Dylans tell bigger stories with bigger sound, but lose some of that intimacy in the process. Few manage to pull both off without it backfiring horribly, but Benjamin Shaw manages to in strides, and he’s only 22!

Every good word that usually gets associated with this music should be applied here: Raw, riveting, intimate sounds with masterful and pretty heart-wrenching lyrics. But add some new words to the fry as well: Distortion, self-deprecation, and humor. His debut “I’ve Got the Pox, the Pox is What I Got” (review coming very soon) is a shining example of this. You can’t help but sniffle a little to the longing of “Chocolate Girl” then laugh to the lyrics of “When I Fell Over in the City”. The title track is a two-part song, is 10 minutes long, and is so masterfully crafted that it just breezes by in a mental two minutes.

Shaw isn’t resting on his laurels either. Mot only was his debut released on Audio Anti-Hero (a rising indie label if I’ve ever seen one), but he already has new songs up, and supposedly a full length album in the works. Plus he covered label mates Nosferatu D2's “It’s Christmas Time (for God’s Sake)” and possible made it even more depressing. I can’t wait to see what he puts out next.


Benjamin Shaw Website
Benjamin Shaw Myspace

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Single Reviews: Boris-Japanese Heavy Rock Hits Vol 1,2,3

Time for another embarrassing music confession; until these singles came into my hands, I had never listened to Boris before. No, I cannot give a good reason for this, yes I know this is sad, and yes, my puny indie rock ass was blown by these six songs of heavy, experimental, noise infused post-metal.

Each single has a different member of the band, more than likely to show the different direction each single goes. Vol. 1 is the most directly catchy of the three. It starts with "8", which opens with a chugging guitar riff before a few drum hits morph the song into the greatest song Dinosaur Jr never did, complete with guitar let ups during the verse and a sublime guitar solo in the center. The song is just pure ecstasy for the ears! The flip side "Hey Everyone" is more in the metal zone, with chunkier riffs and tribal beats and chants. Still it manages to be catchy in a way only Boris can make metal riffs and screeching vocals catchy.

Vol. 2 would be the most metal/traditional sounding of the three, along with where their experimental side begins to show. "H.M.A. (Heavy Metal Addict)" is just that; the equivalent of crack for a metal head or Boris lover. The thick, body crushing riff that is the soul of the song coupled with the lyrics and chanting would be great as it was, but the quick solo at the middle just puts it over the edge. "Black Original" is the more experimental track of the single, starting with weird effects and a beat that continues (though buried) through the song. The riff is lighter, but still good, and the vocals are more digestible than "H.M.A", but the song is just as good as the previous 3 songs.

Vol. 3 is were the band decides to mess with everyone and go full on experimental, at least for Boris. "16:47:52" is sung by Wata, with nothing more than an airy guitar and simple drumming to accompany her silky voice. It has a real Sigur Ros meets a jazz/lounge act feel to it and I mean that in the best possible. It is extremely beautiful and pretty; destined to be heard on rainy days or deep at night. It gets noisy again on the B-side "...and Here Nothing", but instead of speed, the band dives into their slow metal with a mix of psychedelia and stoner rock. It still has that level of experimentalism to it, with echo galore especially on the vocals and very different drum work that is both minimal and loud at the same time. Sounds almost like a hymn at times, which is very cool.

I know every time I review singles it's never negative and I am probably under the "new band obsession spell". And from what I can tell, every hardcore Boris/metal fan who has read this is probably seeing everything they didn't want Boris to turn into happening before their eyes. However, for the rest of us who just like good music, these are some great single, not only for the unbelievable songs, but the thick, cardboard covers, translated lyrics printed on the backs, and just sublime art work. I feel very jealous of the people who managed to snag the forth single as well.


Boris Website
Buy the singles here, At Southern Lord

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WHY? @ Fun Fun Fun Fest 2009

The final band I was able to take photos of before having to protect my camera from the pouring rain, it was also one of those discoveries that everybody seems to make at festivals. Yes, I know WHY? has been around for a long time, been critically acclaimed, and Eskimo Snow is suppose to be one of their best album to date, but for whatever reason I have never listened to Wolf's music. That all came to a crashing halt when I saw him on stage. What was I more impressed by: how the band managed to pull of a great blend of indie rock, folk, and hip-hop style vocals, how great the songs were, or how rad Wolf's dance moves were? I couldn't name the songs if I wanted to, but every song was quarky without being geeky, and the entire show Wolf had an air of cool surronding him, even when he did dance moves that if anyone one else tried to do, would easily make them a laughing stock. He (and the rest of the band) was that good.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Atlas Sound @ Fun Fun Fun Fest 2009

I don't know what's worse: That I had heard practically no Atlas Sound music and I was getting a front row view, that I only got to see half of the show, or that I think I liked it more than Deerhunter? Even after all this time I still don't know the answers to those questions, but I do know that after having my brain delightfully shredded to pieces by Mika Miko, it was kindly put back together in the trippiest way by Bradford Cox and his backing band. For all the (most undeserved) shit Cox takes for practically everything he does, this live was pretty great. Not only was he able to pull from Trish Keenan from Broadcast to do vocals on "Quick Canal", but the great 5 piece backing band he assembled for the tour gave the music an energy that usually isn't their on the record. Plus, Cox's guitar playing was just sublime and he even managed to not ruin it by pulling out one of those hand less harmonica braces. It was just a great set, and the rain just amplified the music in a oddly pleasant atmospheric way.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Album Review: Cloud Nothings-Turning On

Cloud Nothings have been a band for less than 3 months now. They are another one man lo-fi side project band, this time with members of Neon Tongues and Ponyta. This entire album was recorded and released before they even played their first live shows. It also happens to be one of the catchiest and best debuts of the year.

Cloud Nothings are true endorsers of their name. Besides inspiring the actually unchessey cover art, all their songs have a lightness and softness to them, probably due to being from the Cleveland scene rather than the Brooklyn one. Not to say it's wimpy or boring, but less dark, like if caUSE co-MOTION! wrote longer songs and decided to add fuzz to their reverb. This especially comes out on songs like opener "Can't Stay Awake" which could almost pass for a newer caUSE co-MOTION! track or the tangled mess of a riff that makes up the core of "You Are Opening".

But the whole album is not just one slight rip off of one band. The title track is a stellar mix of knee jerky guitar and nervous vocals, that it would make the '77 Talking Heads proud. Of course that is before the album dives into the bright, utterly unbelievable centerpiece that is "Hey Cool Kid". Made up of a neat sped up vocal delivery, pounding drums, and a guitar line that sound like it's being played on barbed wire strings, it still manages to infect your whole bod and mind more great Slumberland style pop with "Whatcha Wanna Know". The ending track "Real Thing" is a real change of pace, with a top-hat heavy drumming and creepy guitar line that gives the whole song a paranoid or claustrophobic feel that is quite addictive.

What's even better than the greatness of Turning On is how so much more is along the way. A 12 inch, along with 3 other cassettes are all planned in the near future. I cannot wait for 2010!

(mp3) Cloud Nothings-Can't Stay Awake
(mp3) Cloud Nothings-Hey Cool Kids


Cloud Nothings Myspace
Buy Turning On on Cassette or CD Here, At Bridgetown Records.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mika Miko @ Fun Fun Fun Fest 2009

(I know it's been more than a month since Fun Fun Fun Fest ended. I am trying to rap up my coverage this week.)

As much as it really, really sucks that Mika Miko are breaking up, at least they are leaving the musical world at the top of their game. Not only was their set and playing tight as fuck, it was just plain fun. And that's saying something for me, who usually can't get into the live shows of bands that I haven't really listened to. It was raining, but that had no effect on either the crowd or band. It was all snotty, bratty, youth girl punk that made me release I've spent to much time listening to Animal Collective and not enjoying stuff like. Both Victor Fandgore and Jet Blanca call-and-response singing was spot on, especially Fandgore's, who even wore a Misfits T-Shirt in (hopefully) honor of Danzig's upcoming performance. The band mildly taunted the crowed to get more excited for because "this might be the last time you see us, or maybe the first time". This of course led to more moshing and stage diving, along with crowd surfing with a skateboard and by No Age drummer Dean Allen Spunt. Yes, it truly sucks the band is breaking up, but for that brief moment you got to her "Sex Jazz" and Blanca's saxophone one last, it suddenly was that bad. Then the show ended and you remembered how much it sucks.

The Crowd