Saturday, January 31, 2015

Broken Back – A Band Review

     Continental Europe offers both Broken Back and Milky Chance. There are sufficient similarities to justify referring to them in a single blog post, but sufficient differences to convincingly argue that they are in different genres. The more established (but still rising) Milky Chance is more firmly rooted in Folktronica than is Broken Back, which is more Electro-Pop (“Poptronica?”).
     Broken Back is based in Paris, which is about 450 miles (724 km) from Milky Chance’s home in Kassel, Germany. Broken Back is the performance name of Jérôme Fagnet, a 23 year old singer and songwriter. With each new release, Broken Back seems to get better. He's charting in the right direction. The most recently released single is "Halcyon Birds."

     “Seven Words” by Broken Back

     “Flashed Junk Mind” by Milky Chance

Videos of the Week

     There were two strong performances on U.S. late night television. The first was by Milo Greene. The Los Angeles band visited Conan. On February 11, they will perform at The Independent in San Francisco.

     Ben Howard and his skilled bandmates put on an entertaining performance with David Letterman. Often, Letterman will not pay attention to his musical guests during their songs. With Ben Howard, he paid attention and even asked a relevant question afterward. On the other hand, when he walked over to talk, Letterman called them “Ben Harper.” Letterman can be a clown when he interacts with the bands, but he will be missed after he retires this year.
      Ben Howard will also be in the San Francisco Bay Area on February 11. Howard will visit the Fox Theatre in Oakland.

And for fun, here’s a commercial for orange juice. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

“Never Mind the Fine Print” by Albert – A Song Review

      Albert is a band in Malmö, Sweden. The band released its debut album almost a year ago, but the more recent release of a video for our favorite song prompted this post. The title of the song is consistent with the feel of the track, at least until the crescendo near the end.
     “Never Mind the Fine Print” has a relaxed, “never mind” approach in its presentation. During the first minute, the percussion is simple, the guitar is “clean,” and the keys are slightly hypnotic. It’s the guitar that we tend to follow through most of the song. On the other hand, it’s the piano that plays the major role during the energy build within the final minute.

     “Never Mind the Fine Print” by Albert

Thursday, January 29, 2015

“White & Blue” by Flower Fellow – A Song Review

Contributor: Karen M.

     The depth of this soulful song by Flower Fellow belies her 17 years on our planet.  Upon first listen to “White & Blue," I thought of Fiona Apple, PJ Harvey, quite a depth of emotion and playful range in her voice.  Can easily imagine this song accompanying a climactic scene in a movie.  Love the way Flower plays with the word “rooftops” (1:22 and throughout) as well as varies the tempo with taking downturns (2:47) signing, “These flowers seem quite dead to me, to me.”  The purity of her voice does not require background support, it stands alone shouting from the rooftops. 

     Flower Fellow is the performance name of Colette Olive, who is based in London. If you're interesting in additional information, pasted at the bottom of this post is the press material that accompanied the email invitation to review “White & Blue.”

     “White & Blue” by Flower Fellow

The press material for Flower Fellow:
“Someone told me there's a girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.”      And here, in 2015, we find Led Zeppelin’s proverbial flora flame alight in 17
-year-old songstress Flower Fellow . She’s a child of the 70’s, albeit born a few decades late; flowers in her hair, flowers in her heart; on her sleeve, between her
toes and probably any other place physically conceivable. Though a hippie at heart, Flower Fellow’s debut offering ‘White & Blue’ strays far from the acoustic, desolate
shrubbery of ‘budding singer-songwriter’; emerging grand in scope, lush in whimsy and attesting an artist well beyond her years.

    ‘White & Blue’ serves the first taste of Flower Fellow’s forthcoming ‘The Rabbit
EP’ – set for release May 2015 via Circus City Records. “It’s a song I wanted to make dense and orchestral as possible, to emphasise the antithesis of the major and minor chords,” explains Flower. “They represent something more to me;
they're the ups and downs of my own life during a particular summer.”

    Borne of a dull, sleepy town on the outskirts of London, the young artist always ran a little left of centre. Her fascination with Buckley, Hendrix and The Doors had peers bemused; the flared jeans and mix-matched ‘90s grunge tees probably didn’t help either. “I've always stuck out like a sore thumb,” Flower muses. “It wasn’t until I started Art College in London that I found a place where I belonged, where people read books that weren’t just the ones in their exams and people have their own copies of Jimi Hendrix, not just their parents’ old hand me downs.”

    In those same college halls, you’ll find this philosophy and art history major buried eye-deep in Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath... probably coiled tactfully in lotus flower position, but that’s beside the point. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Flower Fellow."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Little Empire Records Offers a Strong Collection

      Yesterday, the record label “My Little Empire” presented a “name your price” collection of 19 songs on Bandcamp. The London record label is less than a year old, so the strength of the collection is surprising. For us, “Passing Ships” by the Travelling Band leads the way, but there are others in the collection that we recommend.
     The Bandcamp opportunity is embedded below. The Soundcloud versions of the songs we recommend are also included. You may find others more attractive, but that's a healthy aspect of music appreciation and a complement to the up-and-coming record label.

     “Passing Ships” by the Travelling Band
     “Stereo" by Tenterhook

     “We Are Sound" by Corbu

     “Give Me Over" by Heath

     “Goodbye" by My Sad Captains

Monday, January 26, 2015

“Dialogue” by Valise – A Song/Band Review

     Death Cab for Cutie is releasing new music. If you care, listen to the Dallas-based band Valise. Bands on the ascending portion of their popularity graph are always more interesting than bands that have reached their pinnacle. There is a greater energy to the band, a stronger appreciation for every opportunity, and a better chance for fans to have a desirable vantage point during live performances. And if the band is generously allowing free downloads, you can’t ask for more.
     Valise uses vocal processing similar to that “other band,” so the similarities are amplified. But Valise incorporates its own characteristics and those of other bands. As an example, the first 25 seconds of “Charlie Gray” provide an Arcade Fire introduction to the portion that includes vocal processing (a vocoder, we believe).  
      Valise will release the album “Young Bloomer” on February 24. The free downloading will likely end on or before that release date. The members are Vince Penick, Jared Travis, Casey Newton and Ricky Johnson.

     “Dialogue” by Valise (while available, the free download is available by CLICKING HERE).

     “Charlie Gray” by Valise (while available, the free download is available by CLICKING HERE).

     “Don't Forget Me” by Valise (while available, the free download is available by CLICKING HERE).

Sunday, January 25, 2015

“I Believe” by We Were Strangers – A Song Review

     Stefan Melbourne is “stepping away from performing as Stefan Melbourne and launching a new project called 'We Were Strangers.’” That’s an announcement on his personal Facebook page. It’s a straightforward statement. But if the promise of the first song from the project is believed, the music world should pay close attention. Indie Obsessive is among those who respond to that promise with an emphatic “I Believe.”

     We don’t know the names of the other members of the project. The media sites of We Were Strangers are almost barren of information. The pictures appear to be from the early stages of an effective pillow fight – not much insight there. But We Were Strangers only released their first song this week, so details may follow soon.

     “I Believe” is a somber track with instrumental and vocal surges that convey the emotions of the lyrics. The song is about the male member of a couple still having belief in the relationship, but the female keeps pushing him back, “and that hurts.” The early portions of the song are carried by the piano, while the string instrument (cello?) has an increasing importance to the emotional feel as the song progresses. 

     “I Believe” by We Were Strangers

     “Something of Mine” by Stefan Melbourne (featuring Chloe Leavers)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Female Dominant Vocals – Rae, Rae and May

     In this month’s post of songs that feature strong female vocalization, the artists are Alea Rae, Rae Morris and Laura May. The name similarity wasn’t planned, but it wasn’t avoided either.
    Alea Rae is a trio based in New Westminster, Canada (near Vancouver). The members are Alea Clark (lead vocals, rhythm guitar and synth bass), Jeremiah Ackermann (percussion and vocals) and Patrick Farrugia (lead guitar, vocals and bass). For their song “Lancaster,” Alea Clark’s vocal abilities provided the qualification for this post, but it’s the combination of vocals and guitar work that placed the track in our most frequently visited playlist.

     This is a repeat appearance of Rae Morris. We count ourselves as being on the Morris bandwagon and look forward to the release her debut album, “Unguarded,” on January 26. She is based in Blackpool, U.K.
     "Love Again"

     I.AM.L (or I Am L) is the performance name of Laura May, who was born in Ireland (Cork) and is now based in Brighton, U.K. With just a quick view of the Soundcloud waveform, it is apparent that “Lonely in Paradise” includes a number of intensity transitions. What is not apparent is the skill in executing the transitions and the care that was taken in the mixing. This is a song with power.
     “Lonely in Paradise”

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Donkeys at The Chapel – A Concert Review

     Each year, January is the weakest month with respect to concert opportunities. There are a number of reasons – band members and concert-goers are experiencing some post-holiday burnout, no festival opportunities to motivate tours, fewer new releases to promote after the push to drop albums prior to Christmas… 
      Still, there are always some hidden gems. On January 21, a gem was uncovered at The Chapel in San Francisco. The Donkeys made the trip from San Diego and brought an entertaining evening with them. The high energy of the band carried into the crowd. There was unabashed singing, random fist-bumping, energetic dancing, flying women’s undergarments… [WAIT!  What was that last one? Yes, a turquoise bra was thrown in the direction of band member Tim DeNardo. Being in a rock band can be dangerous.]
     While other bloggers have no problem describing the band’s sound ("jangly guitar/harmonization California rock") or with identifying a compatible band (Pavement), we do. During their setlist, The Donkeys traveled from vocal-heavy ballets ("Blues in the Afternoon”) to instrumentals (“Lower the Heavens”). Guitarist Jessie Gulati used a slide during “”Blood Hound” and at least one other song. There wasn’t a sitar at this performance, but The Donkeys are known for using one.
Click to enlarge
     On a personal note, we want to praise The Chapel. Two of us had supper at the venue. The food was good, the beer was effective, and the employees were friendly and helpful.
     The four members of The Donkeys are Timothy DeNardo (bass and guitar), Jessie Gulati (guitar), Anthony Lukens (keyboard), and Sam Sprague (drums). The band’s setlist at The Chapel is shown in a caption of this post. It includes a stick figure with the thought bubble referencing “Francisco.” Huh? Of the songs that are visible (the leg of the micrphone stand covers "Scissor Me Cigs") , the setlist shows:
Excelsior Lady
Ceiling Tan
Nice Train
Oxblood (Tim vox)
Blues in the Afternoon
Ride in the Black Wave
I Like the Way You Walk
Blood Hound
Boot in the Seat
Born with Stripes
Come on Virginia
Try to Get By
Lower the Heavens
Lower the Heavens

“Don’t Know Who We Are” – It wasn’t part of the setlist, but it’s a personal favorite.

Photo Credit to Scott K.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

“Colours” by Turtle – A Song Review

Contributor: Karen M.

     When taking an eye exam, there is a portion of the exam during which a random light quickly appears and disappears, and if you notice that light, you should press a clicker to mark recognition of its appearance.  Embarking on a similar experiment with Jon Cooper’s (“Turtle”) new song “Colours,” I closed my eyes while reclining and listened to this superb track, mentally marking the appearance of lush changes in ambient layers. “Colours” begins subtly, building layers with synthesizers, then the appearance of soaring lyricless vocals as you continue to propel forward in a changing landscape of layered sounds.  At the 1:42 mark of the song, a more industrial sound appears, with a heavier consistent clanging beat.  Those initial beats are precise and then they morph into a beat but with a trail.  Particularly appreciated the transition at 2:25, digging deeper, unzipping yet another layer. 
     In the end, listening to this track with eyes closed was a fruitful endeavor as I was able to view shifting colors (U.S. spelling) through the changing ambient landscape.  We look forward to Turtle’s second EP release “Colours,” which is due out April 6th via Beatnik Creative (Palace & Eliza Shaddad.)

     “Colours” by Turtle

Additional information received from the email submission:
‘Colours’, the title track from Turtle’s eagerly awaited 2nd EP, is yet another looped euphoric dance beauty serving as the perfect teaser for what is to come with the EP’s official release. Colours is the second of three instrumental electronic tracks from the release, highlighting Cooper’s diverse ability as a beat maker as much as a singer/songwriter. 
Debut EP ‘Who Knows’ saw Cooper unify critics and gain comparisons with the likes of Jon Hopkins, SOHN and Tom Yorke, including being championed heavily by the likes of Lauren Laverne, Gilles Peterson, Nemone and Steve Lamacq BBC 6 Music, Huw Stephens BBC Radio 1,and NME.
Since his debut Cooper has been busy reworking acts such as Lyla Foy, Phoria and Khushi, earning him a sterling reputation as a remixer, with tastemaker blog Gold Flake Paint referring to his remixes as ‘the most impressive we’ve heard in 2014.’
Turtle’s second EP Colours, which is due out 6th April 2015 via Beatnik Creative (Palace & Eliza Shaddad).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

“Religion” by Howard – An Album Review

     In discussions revolving around the preference of finding individual songs or exploring albums to discover collectable “bodies of work,” we unapologetically are in favor of collecting songs from different artists. Whether we’re in the hunter mode (discovering new music) or the gatherer mode (buying discovered music for burning onto a single CD), we enjoy working with individual songs.
     So, when we were introduced to “Money Can’t Buy” from the Brooklyn-based band Howard, we were satisfied - a song we enjoyed from a band we didn’t previously know. Better yet, the song triggered a learning experience, because Folktronica was not a genre within the Indie Obsessive wheelhouse. The term "Folktronica" seemed to be more of an oxymoron than a genre designation. The blog post went up January 1 (CLICK HERE, if you’re interested). 
     Yes, we were satisfied; but Howard wasn’t finished. Today, Howard released the ten-track LP “Religion.” The song “Falling” is nearly as strong as “Money Can’t Buy.” “Falling” includes vocal layering (for example, starting at 0:40), which is a growing obsession of this blog. And it is heavy on the use of “tribal” drums in the second half of the song. 
     Also among the ten tracks is “Fool.” While a number of the tracks include aspects of Alt-J, it’s “Fool” that is most closely aligned with Alt-J, but better in some respects. We also recommend the title track, “Religion.”

     “Falling” by Howard

     “Money Can’t Buy” by Howard

“Dare” by GRRL PAL – A Song Review

Contributor: Karen M.

     I’m not usually a fan of Pop music, but the song “Dare” by the girl-boy electro-pop duo from Perth, Australia combined a tasty blend of Pop/Electronica that inspired me to dance, as well as imagine that I was a choreographer and wardrobe designer for a kitschy pop video. Images of variations on Harajuku Lovers, Hello Kitty, oversized lollipops (Willy Wonka style) and flashy high-top striped dance sneakers floated through my head. The email submission we received from GRRL PAL stated “Inspired by a game of spin-the-bottle under the influence of an activity that’s only legal in Amsterdam and the state of Colorado and laced with their signature synthy-pop-bedroom-vibes, DARE challenges you to come along on a dream-weaving adventure.” Well, count me in. 
     The Electronica takes on loopy swirls beginning at 1:25, 1:36 and 1:46, mirroring the full circle that would certainly enhance a game of spin-the-bottle. Then, there’s the playful staccato-like vocals “Take me higher, I like your fire, feeling shyer.” The Electronica solo at the end also makes sense as you’d need some time to move forward and act upon the direction of your bottle.

      “Dare" by GRRL PAL


Additional information received from the email submission:
The track was co-produced by Parker Ighile (Rihanna, G-Easy & Nicki Minaj) during the duo’s adventure to the states. Producer, Danny K and vocalist, Jay Le Kat, began creating their synthy-bedroom-pop in 2013. At the beginning of the duo’s short life they released ‘Amazon’ (March 2013), which received attention from Triple J and Triple J Unearthed. Soon after, GRRLPAL began playing live shows, supporting the likes of Rüfüs, The Jungle Giants, Willow Beats, Clubfeet and Miami Horror. as well as joining San Cisco on tour.

Amazon’s release received international blog love and interest from renowned industry experts. Resulting in the duo flying to America to live and work with acclaimed producer, Parker Ighile for two months. The duo worked with Parker on ‘Dare’, which is the opening track of their upcoming EP; they also worked on two other songs which are due out later in the year.

With their trip to the states and a year’s worth of song writing, GRRL PAL set out to release a song a month for the duration of 2015 via Soundcloud. With their first release in over a year, ‘PARADISE’ managed to clock up over 50 000 Soundcloud plays in a month, also receiving Triple J love, maintaining high rotation on Unearthed Radio and opening up ‘Colab Festival’ track: “Sing-songy vocals dance their way over a bed of propulsive beats and right into your pleasure centres.” Continuing their song a month ritual, GRRL PAL are kicking off the year with ‘Dare’ and their EP is due out in April.

Monday, January 19, 2015

“Toledo” by Glass Elephant – A Song Review

     Just in the first minute of Glass Elephant’s “Toledo,” there are three unrelated reasons to find yourself saying, “Hey, I like that.” First, there’s a clean guitar that repeats a simple three note/four note pattern, but causes us to pause anything else we might be doing when “Toledo” hits the top of our playlist. Then comes a lyric having a subtle but clever misdirection, as the reference switches from time (days) to distance (miles) -
Cause I’ll feel better in a day or two or 365… miles away.” Immediately after that statement, there is a vocal cooperation (lead with backing vocals) that has much in common with one of the characteristics that we enjoy most from The National.  
     Glass Elephant is based on Brooklyn and comprises Russ Flynn (lead vocals, guitars, organ, Wurlitzer and synthesizers), Sam Petitti (backing vocals and guitars), Jack Hill (backing vocals, electric bass and synth bass), and Danny Wolf (backing vocals, drums, percussion and programming).

 “Toledo” by Glass Elephant 

“So Polite” by Sasha Siem – Song Review

Contributor: Karen M.

     Sasha Siem recently released “So Polite,” which is the lead single from her debut album “Most of the Boys.” The album is slated for release March 2 via Blue Plum Records.  “So Polite” reminds me of visiting a Modern Art museum, where I stood viewing a piece that I’m not sure I understood. It didn’t really appear attractive at first glance, yet I stood there for longer than I expected, intrigued by the details.
     “So Polite” incorporates elements of classical music (see 2:07), light pop notes, like a bird bouncing swiftly from wire-to-wire (with the repeat of “people haven’t asked me”), mixed with clunky background banging on kitchen pots and pans sounds.  The intermix of pauses is also appreciated, one in particular where Sasha then soars with her slaying pure voice with “Even in Love” at 1:09.  This pretty playful piece, though, represents someone who is feeling the antithesis of the lyrics “I’m fine…I don’t mind”.  I can feel the hidden raw emotion of what is not revealed, which continues to draw me in. 
     Sasha is influenced by PJ Harvey and that is “visible.”  There’s a lot to appreciate in this piece, but just like viewing art in a museum, either you will take time to absorb its layered nuances or will just rest your eyes/ears upon it and then qickly pass by.

     So Polite” by Sasha Siem

Pasted below is information from the email invitation to review “So Polite:”
     ‘So Polite’ and the debut LP see Sasha’s classically trained musical background collide colourfully with her appreciation of more contemporary artists such as Andrew Bird and PJ Harvey, whilst the single itself is “a rage against fakery, against fear, against hiding the truth and the isolation that can come when community and true care between people is missing” – all succinctly and poetically summarised in the song’s lyric; ‘We’re fine, we don’t mind/We’re all so polite because we want to be liked’.

     Written during a spell in Berlin and later produced by Valgeir Sigurðsson (Sigur Ros, Bjork, Bonnie Prince Billy, Feist) at Reykjavik’s legendary Greenhouse Studios, Siem’s debut LP Most Of The Boys is a song cycle. Its twelve songs are as linked by their themes as by the sonic world they inhabit - born of an unlikely collusion of influences that Siem has woven together: her years spent composing and performing award-winning contemporary classical music; her fascination with likeminded lovers of innovative songwriting and unusual arrangements and her youthful love of the canon of great songwriters that emerged in the 1960s.

     At its core, Most Of The Boys is a love story; the songs demonstrate a protagonist on a quest through a series of entangled relationships and binding attachments. If this protagonist starts puppet-like with a clinical, almost detached perspective of the world within which she is entangled (“How do you kiss a kind man, then cut him out at the second draft?” – ‘Kind Man’s Kiss’), then she emerges full-bodied and awash with the passionate life force of her inner being on My Friend (“You have the answers inside and with a hand on your heart they’ll guide you”). Closing track ‘Valentine’ – with its hazy, extended instrumental interlude - signals she has dived off the stage of Most Of The Boys, with its theatrical carousel of failed relationships, and into her inner psyche. Love, she discovers, is found within.

     Sasha Siem grew up in London as the daughter of a Norwegian father and an English Art-historian mother. She began playing the piano at the age of five, picked up the cello soon afterwards, and by the age of 11 found herself studying at London’s Guildhall at weekends. By her 20s – having studied at Cambridge and, later, Harvard – she had composed for, amongst others, the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, while in 2010 she won a prestigious British Composer Award. Being a lover of poetry though, she yearned to write songs which would marry her words and music, rather than the orchestral or chamber pieces that had dominated her commissioned work to date. When initial experiments with singers proved frustratingly formal, Siem undertook a year-long retreat to Berlin, where she wrote her first collection of songs that would grow into a debut album that manages to be imposing yet subtle, playful and ever-sincere.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Videos of the Week – Well, That’s Different.

     We recorded the visit of St. Paul and the Broken Bones to the David Letterman talk show. It was Letterman at his best/worst. No pressure here – Play the song as a final request, as if I were dying. 
     The band is the all-male version of Alabama Shakes. They will be at the San Francisco Fillmore for two dates in February.

     Here’s the scenario – you are releasing an album and have an upcoming performance that you’d like to promote. There are a number of well-worn promotional approaches. But you’re a band with imagination; you’re Eyes on the Shore. So, you get everyone in a pedicab and perform on the streets of San Francisco.
     They will probably be more conventional during their performance at Slim’s on January 24, but maybe not.  


     The official video of Panda Bear for their song “Boys Latin” is a color bonanza.

Three for Free, Legal and Recommended (“FL&R”) – The January Version

     Free and Legal Downloads? Yes, at least temporarily. Bands often temporarily permit free downloads of new releases.  The end of an offer might be based upon reaching a maximum number of downloads or the expiration of some period of time.  But at least for now, here are songs that qualify as Free, Legal and Recommended (FL&R) downloads.
     City Reign is a band based in Manchester, UK. The members are Chris Bull, Michael Grice, Duncan Bolton and Ryan Ashton. “Disappear” has been available as a free download since November 2014. The guitar work is too attractive to continue to justify the freebie. This download does require an email address, but we are looking forward to the email updates, particularly one that announces a visit to the U.S.

     “The Cross We Bear” by The North Country is a sometimes delicate and other times explosive blend of Folk and Rock.
     We’re a little fuzzy on the list of members, because Braden Dauer is not in the above picture, but he has been the band’s violinist. Since the violin plays a key role in “The Cross We Bear,” the band members are Andrew Grossman (vocals and guitar), Leah Gage (percussion and vocals), Braden Dauer (violin), Shaun Dubick (bass and keyboards), Ilia Kobrinsky (guitar), Jonathan Parker (saxophones) and Michael Hernandez (drums). 

     “Get Behind This” is a song from flor, a band that is not in favor of capital letters or information that goes beyond the minimum. According to the band’s Facebook page, they are in hood river, oregon and the members are z., d., k. and k. Oh well, let the music speak for the band.   

     St. Sleep is in London via Iceland. The band has a three-track set on Bandcamp, with a name-your-price offering.

     “Can You See It” by Jungle Doctors, another name-your-price offer.