Once again, several of our writers each bring a song to the table and then they each review the song. Listen along to each song (and watch a couple videos!) as you read the reviews!!
Listen to “Operation”: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/09-Operation.mp3|titles=09 Operation]
There’s a nice riff that runs through the whole of this track which is classic indie rock or even 90s alt rock. It’s a nice Sonic Youth or Catherine Wheel sound with heavy emphasis on distortion. I feel transported back 15 or 20 years while listening to it and somewhat wish I was 14 again so I could be forever influenced by this track. It’s an excellent piece of rock ’n roll.
~Daniel Wagner 4.5/5
This is definitely my favorite song of the group. It’s got the all the goods for a 90s rock song: rough and fuzzy guitar with feedback galore, vocals that sound like they are fed through a megaphone, a fast tempo, and a nod to the Smashing Pumpkins. It’s dark, but not too dark. I love the lead and rhythm guitars, prominent all the way through, increasing in complexity as the song progresses.
~Lisa Knight 5/5
I rather love listening to this. It’s thick and forward, always lunging ahead, inducing happiness and carelessness. The main guitar hook has great attitude. And yes, it’s hard to ignore the Sonic Youth similarities but who cares; Yuck has a more forceful energy in this song.
~Zoe Saurs 4/5
The vocals feel 90s, as though Tim Wheeler of Ash and Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins were influences. The guitars spiral in and out while bashing you senselessly, even more so than the drums does. What makes this stand out as an addition to grunge is that there are twinges of alternative overdrives which add a lot of variety in the sound. It’s not just guitar strumming, it’s guitargasm!
~Ken Grand-Pierre 5/5
I’m a sucker for a great guitar-pop sound. This is very Sonic-Youthy, and has a bit of a Nirvana echo to it. I can’t understand what the hell he’s saying underneath that distortion with the mike, though. I’d like to think it’s about the board game Operation instead of something surgical-related. Would definitely sound good at a club while you’re waiting for the next band to come on.
~Nathan Lind 3.5/5
Made In Heights: All the Places
With a victorious drum intro that won me over quickly I can honestly say I didn’t know what to expect from this track. Much to my pleasant surprise did the vocals of a woman begin that put into perspective a marriage between precise drum patterns and effortlessly harmonic vocals. What ensues next is a very pleasant experience which features handclapping and on-point rhythm from the vocalist. Even though this track was most likely arranged electronically you honestly can’t tell. The vocals present themselves in such a delicate and open way that it leaves a profound feeling in you that leaves you wanting more.
The monotone vocals work for this electro-pop song. I also like the quiet, floating chorus of voices in the background. The repetitious loops and electronic percussion make for an interesting mix, although the stutters and reversals in the last half minute are a bit tedious. Overall, it has a laid-back vibe that’s chaise lounge worthy.
It’s alright. Not much distinguishable from other similar-sounding artists like Lali Puna, or Elizabeth & The Catapult. A pretty vocal, a hip-hop meets dance sort of beat, and studio chicanery to create a hip sort of vibe. I guess the best thing I could say about this song is that it sounds like it could be in an Apple ad for the next iPod. These kinds of artists just aren’t my thing.
I love this track. It’s a minimalist composition that is clearly just two people, with a DJ/electronica-style musician and a vocalist, but it works well together. The vocal background sounds add an ethereal feeling to it and the whole song is reminiscent of a tiny little moment frozen in time or a pleasant memory from childhood. There is a lot of Postal Service influence on this band, and lovers of their work beyond just the Ben Gibbard element will find this attractive.
Sabzi’s duo sounds like an equally promising, less lo-fi Sleigh Bells. Kelsey Bulkin’s smooth voice manages to lilt between R&B, rap, indie, and even faint Swedish influences as she sings. Paired with Sabzi’s bright hip hop beats, it’s a fresh song that grows on me with each listen. It definitely makes me want to listen to the whole album.
Miles Kane: Come Closer
Definitely a 60s garage/R&B sound going on here. It’s catchy, and I dig the chorus. It’d be one of those songs I could throw on at a party and people would start grooving. The only bad thing I can say about “Come Closer” is that it’s too short. I could listen to this over and over, I think. I will start now.
I like when frontmen from other bands do solid solo work. It’s a poppy romp with a suspenseful feel, like you are watching a couple stare each other down across a hazy, darkly lit, red room while the woman constantly evades him. The drum beat approaches The Clash at a distance. That and the guitar solo compensate for the highly repetitive lyrics.
The track feels like a hybrid of the 1960s and modern day. Kane utilizes his voice but also takes it to new areas in a more down-tempo beat. It shows that he’s gone a long way because in the past it’d feel as though he were just going along with what music was presented to him or vice versa, but this time around it truly feels as though Kane is the captain of his own ship and it is very enjoyable indeed.
The driving force behind this song is the deep bass line that barely changes during the whole track. It has a dark feel to it as mid-level tones of Miles’ voice give the track an early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club style. Less distortion but the same components are there.
This tune’s beat reminds me of “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell. It has a sexy, low guitar riff, keys and a simple chorus that works. The guitar solo in the second half pulls it out of pop status and straight to retro Brit rock. It feels like there’s something missing, though. It doesn’t quite explode.
Todd Snider: If Tomorrow Never Comes
Listen to “If Tomorrow Never Comes”: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/01-If-Tomorrow-Never-Comes.mp3|titles=01 If Tomorrow Never Comes]
My favorite thing about this track is the piano. I love feeling as if I’m in a Western saloon before realizing that’s not at all where I am. Where I really am, is some intangible limbo between 1880, 1958 and 2011. The sudden “Johnny B. Goode” vibe makes me to imagine a fast-paced movie montage of a slapstick chase scene where both parties just end up on the floor laughing at themselves.
I have never listened to music of this sort. What sort is this exactly? 1950s dance floor boogie-down is what! Todd Snider’s voice is quick and charismatic. He really wows at the 1:43 mark where he changes the song for just four seconds which he begins to sing in a completely different voice and then back to normal quicker than you can say “Hell Mary.” This tune’s pianos, vocals, and wicked guitar solo just make you want to wear an all white suit and air guitar your way into a girl’s heart, and that’s definitely more than ok in my book.
The first 25 seconds open with a nice, slow, peaceful piano leading the listener to a place of comfortable moments and warm fuzzy sweaters. But Todd Snider, he of the sarcastic “Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues,” isn’t going to let you think this is a serious and sentimental tune. He starts rockin’ out with an extremely quick rhythm paying homage to Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” with the strong piano and guitar parts. Two-thirds of the way through there’s a solo that, along with the excellent pace of the whole track, reminds me of early Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. Catchy stuff.
This seemingly simple rock ‘n’ roll song not only covers themes of original sin and meeting one’s maker, but is also a jab to the writer of the Garth Brooks song by the same name. The writer apparently claimed he didn’t “totally, technically or legally really take a song called ‘Beerrun’” from Todd. So Todd planted a line in his own song: “If you can steal from me / I can steal from you.” If you want to know the whole story, go see his live show, or check out his 2011 release, Live: The Storyteller.
This immediately caught my ear because it’s so different than the other four songs. Snider has always been a witty lyricist; you have to listen close to catch what he’s saying, but this is probably my favorite of the five as far as the words go. Still, I can’t see playing this more than a few times. I appreciate what he’s trying to do; playing off the Jerry Lee Lewis vibe. But this isn’t as good as Lewis’ best songs, or even many of his imitators. I don’t think it’s even one of Snider’s best.
The Joy Formidable: Austere
Listen to “Austere”: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/04-Austere.mp3|titles=04 Austere]
“Austere” was first on their 2008 EP, but never attracted a large following in the States. This song has since been re-recorded and now powerfully bangs and crashes even louder like Ritzy Bryan’s guitar is shattering all glass and sanity around her into a dense, epic momentum displacing you from reality. A little bit shoegaze and grunge, it’s wonderful rock from Wales.
It’s a good track, but the background repetition of what could be some crows squawking drives me up a wall. It cuts away a minute in but I’m not sure that’s early enough, and of course it returns later much to my dismay. The rest of the song is decent enough and could be a combo of Letters to Cleo, Luscious Jackson, and Joy Zipper. The song is well structured, too.
The falsetto coos at the beginning are terrible. Is she trying to be Prince or is she stepping on a cat? Musically, it’s decent. A nice big rock sound that’s great coming out of the speakers. Sort of shoe-gaze meets Brit-rock. I just can’t get over that falsetto, though. Can we mute this out of the track?
The energy presented in this track is quite profound. It reaches this feat by never seeming small in scale but without having to compromise. The vocals by front woman Bryan are highly catchy and to think this was made by a trio of people is even more impressive. It does run a little long but that’s because the two minute ecstasy of guitars, bass, and drums melding and clashing together is something you’ll wish is more common in modern music.
Birdie calls in the beginning lead into soft, dreamy vocals, while bass and guitar are at play. The lyrics are a bit cryptic: redemption or loss? It doesn’t matter; the tone in Bryan’s voice makes me happy. The song increases in decibels and complexity as it carries along. In the final minute, the drums take over in a frenzied, progressive jam. It then trickles down to simple keys and fades to a lion’s roar.