Once again, a handful of our writers each brought a song to the table for each of us to review. Listen to each song as you read our reviews on bands like Sufjan Stevens, Fitz and the Tantrums, and more!
The David Wax Museum: “Beatrice”
Listen to “Beatrice”: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/03-Beatrice1.mp3]
This sweet little Mexo-Americana band resides in Boston, and was a featured artist at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. The lead singer, David Wax, studied folk music in Mexico for a year, brought back a love for the Mexican guitar (jarana) and donkey jaw bone (quijada) for percussion and infused them into his songs. I love the unusual waltz tempo, his drawling verses of regret and the beautiful harmonies with Suz Slezak on the chorus. Grab a Modelo, a hammock and enjoy.
~Lisa Knight (4/5)
Acoustic guitar gets me every time, add in strings and I’m a happy camper. But for some reason, I spent the first two minutes of this song thinking how cheesy it sounded every time he sang “Beatrice.” But the song is long for a reason–the second half picks up with Mexican strumming and Wax starts wailing in an achingly uplifting way. It feels organic and curious. Now I see why this song is awesome.
~Zoe Saurs (3/5)
If you’re looking for something you’ve never quite heard before, you can easily settle with this song. With their Mexo-American sound, the David Wax Museum infuse “Beatrice” with a barrage of instruments that aren’t in your typical indie pop song. But, it’s David Wax’s Rufus-Wainwright-like voice that really drives this song.
~Allen Cooley (3/5)
Kind of reminds me of a young Neil Diamond singing folk music, borrowing lyrics from Elvis Perkins and maybe even a dash of Italian authenticity. I like this song because it changed directions often each time I thought I had the direction pinned down. Kept me thinking the whole time, while I listened to the catchy flow.
~Mackenzie McAninch (4/5)
I can’t help think Eels-by-way-of-Calexico when I listen to this song. The vocals remind me a lot of Mark Everett, and the music has got that easygoing Mexican style. It all comes together quite nicely! I wish I could have heard this one in the summer – this song shouldn’t have to deal with impending sunset. The mandolin and thin violin are a really nice touch.
~Eli Badra (4/5)
Mr. Gnome: “Sit Up & Hum”
Listen to “Sit Up and Hum”: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/05-Sit-Up-Hum2.mp3]
A little bit of Portishead and a little bit of Sonic Youth but entirely it’s own, Mr. Gnome has an amazing and colorful sound. This song best captures what makes them interesting, with entrancing vocals from lead singer Nicole Barille and Sam Meister’s impressive drumming. That girl can really play the guitar, too.
I love the constantly-shifting aesthetic of this song: it just builds on itself really well, working into a frenzy before floating back down, only to start back up again. The singer’s voice gets nice and sharp at the most intense parts. The freakout in the middle is classic psychedelic. I really feel like I’ve gone someplace by the time the song has run its course.
The shy, coy voice of Nicole Barille crackles in monotone through the first verse, and I feel like I’m listening to a record on an old phonograph. Her voice breaks into modern times and blasts into a short chorus, only to quickly change back into another echoing verse, then slams into a screaming guitar solo. It is a haunting, mesmerizing piece of progressive, psychedelic rock with many complex layers.
Love the old school radio sound on the vocals for the first 30+ seconds. This is classic mr. Gnome with the stop and go, mind blow tempo. Adding reverb to Nicole’s voice really highlights the production on this song. And if Sam keeps bashing away at drums harder and harder like he seems to, they’re going to have to get him a drum set made of titanium.
This song satisfies. When I want it to take me to the next level, it does. I love the quiet/loud dynamic. I love her voice. It his this delicate strength to it that’s elegant, quirky and powerful. The song feels like down tempo in its quieter moments and approaches punk in its heavier moments. Pretty perfect.
Sufjan Stevens: “Too Much”
Listen to”Too Much”: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Sufjan-Stevens-Too-Much.mp3|titles=Sufjan Stevens – Too Much]
Really like the melting, electro-odd sounds here to start off the sound. The verse parts are pretty melodic with the words “There’s too much riding on that” repeating over and over. Then the chorus always erupts into a possible soundtrack for a video game where you are riding through a virtual tunnel. Insane amount of sounds from samples happening here. Maybe a tad bit too much at almost seven minutes long.
At first I thought I’d like this song more if it was instrumental–I really got into the horns and loved how the vocals were less prominent at the end. However, it’s not the easiest song to actively listen to. Upon every listen, it fell into the easy-listening/background music category. I couldn’t get excited about it.
I’m not terribly familiar with Sufjan’s work, but I know enough to realize that this is a pretty big departure from what we’re used to. I wondered if there would be any acoustic instrumentation at all until hearing winds halfway through. Sufjan manages to keep the fundamentals of his sound intact through this shift, though, and it feels just right when the group singing kicks in.
I feel sorry for the sad saps who dismissed Sufjan Stevens’ venture into electro-pop. What they failed to realize is that Stevens is a great songwriter regardless of what instruments he uses. The song starts off with a confusing set of electronic beeps until slowly a beat breaks through the disarray and Stevens’ soft melody brings the song into a clear focus. Even when the song ends on a two-and-a half minute instrumental electronic freak-out, we still can’t help but be impressed by Stevens’ ear for pop melody and his guts to try something different.
There is an overwhelming amount of noise in this overlong song. I like his clear, soft voice, the lyrics, and the basic melody, but there is just way “too much” going on for my brain to handle. I can appreciate Sufjan’s experimentation with music, but I think I’m more of a musical realist. I would like to hear the song after some of the electronic layers were peeled away.
Marnie Stern: “For Ash”
Listen to “For Ash”: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/13-For-Ash.mp3|titles=For Ash]
It feels weird to give your own track a perfect score, but “For Ash” is one of the best I’ve heard all year. Marnie Stern does a really good job sidestepping the usual expectations held for “indie girls.” She isn’t specifically outrageous, nor is she just a pretty face with a guitar. In fact, she can play the shit out of that instrument, and in “For Ash” manages to get technically precise and huge in sound while still maintaining a certain expressiveness that could easily be lost in all that’s going on in the track.
Stern’s vocals are such a wonderful instrument in this song. For a song about the aftermath of a suicide, it’s hard to tell since the distortion and overall sound is so empowering. It’s definitely the kind of song that enables release. More please.
The opening fast guitar sequence quickly grabs my attention, but once Marnie Stern starts singing, I’m lost. I can’t follow the yelling vocals; they make me uncomfortable. I do like the melody and progressive sound, but the strange turns and tempo changes throughout make it too abstract for me. I’m more of a John fan, not Yoko.
Sure, there is a lot of thought and production here, but I agree with Lisa and simply can’t get past the annoying Yoko Ono-like screeching with the synth riding on the hairlines of nerves either. Too much repetitive freakout sound for me.
Right from the get-go, this song explodes out of the speaker at such a pace that the ear can barely keep up. Drummer Zach Hill continues to impress with every second the song goes on, toying with the tempo as only the best drummers can. The lyrics are mostly incomprehensible but the lyrics are meant to take a backseat here. Plus, after you hear your first, “Hiyaaaa”, what else do you really need?
Fitz and The Tantrums: “Money Grabber”
Listen to “Money Grabber”: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Fitz-The-Tantrums-MoneyGrabber.mp3|titles=MoneyGrabber]
Love the high energy. Love how it instigates dancing. Love the 1960s soul, lo-fi sound. Not remarkable or particularly memorable, but definitely a song I want to listen to again and again, if only for the sax.
“Money Grabber” is an extremely funky and soulful song by a band who is trying to push things forward in a genre most people have forgotten. Understandably, this is not an easy job. Lead singer, Michael Fitzpatrick, has the pipes to get the job done but never really impresses beyond that. His metaphorical lyrics also have no use here; they just rob the soul from soul.
The chorus and horn section are what make this song, but for good reason: this is a refrain that’s going to be running in a loop in my head for a maddening number of hours. Really, it feels like the verses and bridges are just excuses to get us to listen to the chorus again. There’s a classic rock feel to the tune that works well for this structure though, and is that a hint of Robert Plant I hear a little after two minutes?
If you listen close you can hear drums, bass, keys, brass and tons more happening in this song. It’s the same way when you see them live. Fitz has a really crisp and clear voice, and his enthusiasm helps set the tone for this band that’s helping to bring Motown back in a heavy way.
Dig it–this is old school, retro soul! The echoed vocals, keys and horns give “Money Grabber” that perfect, early sixties vibe. I danced my way through this song. They also jammed with Daryl Hall and are featured in the latest HTC ad, which gives them a 4.5 in coolness.