Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Family Crest and Other Recommended Concert Performers

     We spent another enjoyable evening at The Chapel in San Francisco. There were four performances representing a variety of genres. One trait that the performers had in common – they all deserve significantly more attention than they are currently receiving, although at least one is traveling along the on-ramp of wide-spread notoriety. We purchased tickets because The Family Crest was headlining. But before The Family Crest played their first note, we had received more than our money’s worth of entertainment.

     The first band was Before the Brave, a San Francisco band which exited their hiatus when offered the opportunity to join the others at The Chapel. During that hiatus, they were working on an album. 
     They had an effective entrance, particularly for those of us who are just becoming familiar with the band. Only a female/male vocal duo was on stage for the start of the first song, with the male playing an acoustic guitar. After the audience had settled into that arrangement, a third member appeared (almost secretively, since the stage entrance is a narrow door at the bottom of a staircase). When he picked up his electric guitar, the audience voiced its appreciation – good got better. After the audience had again settled into the arrangement, two more members appeared – better got best.
     Before the Brave is a Folk-Rock band with a greater emphasis on the Folk than the Rock. The band is particularly strong on female/male harmonization, an energetic stage presence, and the electric guitar (a Gibson, I was told). The five members are Beth Garber (vocals), Jason Stevens (acoustic guitar, vocals), Kyle Redmond Teese (drums), Ryan Devisser (electric guitar), and CJ Bergman (keys).
      “Free” by Before the Brave

Hey, we know - poor photography. Sorry!
     Zachary Blizzard was second. We had seen him at The Chapel once before - when he opened for Bear’s Den in March 2014. So, we thought we knew what was to occur.  But Blizzard was a far more accomplished guitarist than we remembered. And he has a very interesting vocalization style. He seems to often perform without Cannons and Clouds, a San Francisco band in which he is the lead singer. We have to put Cannons and Clouds higher on the list of bands to see!

      Smoke Season occupied the stage next. Our research was useless. It described the band as having an Americana flavor. We never tasted that flavor. Our description of their music is that it's Electronic with a heavy dose of vocal processing. Even for our favorite bands, it's common to experience a short attention drift at some point. We never experienced a drift during the Smoke Season set. The pink-haired Gabrielle Wortman was a whirlwind of movements, sometimes intentionally mechanical and sometimes smooth and sultry. Guitarist Jason Rosen never really “let it fly” on the guitar, but his style fit the songs well and the purity of his voice was an interesting contrast to his look in his tank top.
      Smoke Season was in San Francisco for the single performance, since they had a scheduled appearance at Sayers Club in Los Angeles the next evening. The Facebook page identifies their hometown as Hollywouldn't, California, and their genre as Dustbowl Soul. It's not true for their other songs, but if you like Delta Spirit, you’ll likely enjoy their single “Badlands.”
      “Simmer Down” – the final song in the setlist of Smoke Season


       This was our third time seeing The Family Crest (fourth if the guest visit by frontman Liam McCormick with Austin’s Mother Falcon is counted). We have run out of superlatives in describing the band, but the band hasn’t run out of discoverable nuances. We would describe the band as being Orchestral Rock, but their self-description is Baroque Pop. A cello, a trombone, a bass fiddle and a flute, along with the more standard instruments of bands we see – this is the type of band that must be personally experienced to be fully appreciated. It won’t be the last time we see The Family Crest.
     The members are Liam McCormick, John Seeterlin, Charlie Giesige, Laura Bergmann, George Mousa Samaan, Owen Sutter, and Charly Akert.
      “Love Don’t Go”
     Below is a video from the performance, but it was captured by an unknown follow attendee. Thank you, sir!

Videos of the Week – Including Glass Animals

     Glass Animals was the most interesting of the many appearances of Indie bands on the late night talk shows this week. The band played its hit “Gooey.” While it was far from the first time we heard the song, the television performance was the first time we understood why "Gooey" is receiving so much attention. Live appearances can make or break bands.

   This is entertaining.

Turntable art

Friday, February 27, 2015

“Way It Is, Way It Could Be” by Weather Station – A Song Review

     It's early 1970’s Joni Mitchell accompanied by the Ravi Shankar sitar sound, despite Shankar only having a guitar available for the performance. That’s what we hear when “Way It Is, Way It Could Be” hits the top of the playlist. The sitar-like flavor is most apparent just after the slight crescendo which begins at 2:30. But “Way It Is, Way It Could Be” is actually a song from Toronto’s The Weather Station. The voice belongs to Tamara Lindeman. On the upcoming album “Loyalty,” Lindeman plays the guitar, keyboard and banjo. In sports, the expression would be, “She’s got game.”
     According to the website of The Weather Station, “Loyalty” is “a collaboration between Lindeman and Afie Jurvanen, also known as 'Bahamas.'” The Facebook page identifies the members of The Weather Station as Tamara Lindeman, Ben Whiteley (bass), Adrian Cook (pedal steel), and Ian Kehoe (drums). The album is scheduled for release on May 5, 2015.

     When is the best time to listen to “Way It Is, Way It Could Be?” Our response is: “Those times that allow you to quietly appreciate the talent of skilled artists and then ask yourself why you don’t make the time do so more often.”

     “Way It Is, Way It Could Be” by Weather Station

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Blisses B - A Concert Announcement

     Blisses B is a native Bay Area band, based in San Francisco/Oakland. The band consists of four members, Noah Libby on vocals, guitar, mandolin and banjo, Benjamin Keegan on keyboard, guitar, mandolin and vocals, Evan Bautista on drums, and James Touzel on the bass guitar and vocals. They classify themselves as being a Psychedelic/Rock/Folk band with an upbeat sound and charismatic energy, while having a goofy stage presence. We’ve seen Blisses B multiple times in an array of venues throughout San Francisco and are happy to say we will be attending their album release show at the Great American Music Hall this Saturday, February 28th.

     The latest album, “Sea Level Astronomy,” was recorded in 2014 and has 10 tracks; our favorite being “Montevideo.” Noah is a true lyricist, and with the assortment of instruments, Blisses B has leverage to vary their sound among folk, bluegrass and being groovy.  If you have the opportunity to check them out on their upcoming tour, we advise you not to hesitate. Below are a few songs off their newest album - “Sea Level Astronomy.”


     “Sea Level Astronomy" 

     “Living Trust"

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

“Drifting“ by ON AN ON – A Song Review

     Terms such as “brilliant” are overused in the music blogosphere in the same manner that superlatives are overused by sportscasters. “Greatest,” “best’ and other superlatives are thrown around so often in sports that they don’t have much impact, other than to negatively reflect on the credibility of the speaker. So, Indie Obsessive has a strong preference to stay away from terms like “brilliant.” 
     The arranging and the mixing of “Drifting” are brilliant. The Chicago/Minneapolis trio ON AN ON should be centered on the Indie radar screen.
     Listening to the song, there are a number of nuances for which the most appropriate reaction is to appreciate the time and effort that went into “Drifting,” even after the song was written. This is not a song that went quickly from paper to final product. And it’s not a song that grows tiresome even after repeated play.
     Looking at the Soundcloud waveform, there are four occasions of quick amplitude drops. After three of them, instruments support the vocal line “And if I stay” (at time marks 1:13, 2:17 and 3:27). For the first of the three, a simple guitar is synchronized with the four words, “And if I stay.” In comparison, after the second drop, the guitar is more intense and a piano jumps in at the word, “stay.” That foreshadows the exit from the final drop, when the vocals and instruments are more forceful and the song becomes more rhythmic.
     But the best exit from an applitude drop occurs at 2:44, when a crescendo leads to an emotional shout of “I gotta get out!” 

     The members of ON AN ON are Nate Eiesland (vocals and guitar), Alissa Ricci (keyboards), and Ryne Estwing (bass) - Brilliant!

“Flying High” by Leaf Erikson – A Song Review

     Indie Obsessive will always favor clean, crisp guitar presentations. Into that preference steps Leaf Erikson with its debut single “Flying High.” The song features deceptively intricate guitar and relaxed vocals and synth.
     It isn’t easy to track down information about Leaf Erikson. This is not Detroit’s Leaf Erikson, which has Hip-Hop tracks on the compilation album “Flying High.” Instead, it’s London’s Leaf Erikson, which was first introduced last year, when the Facebook page of the band Flashguns announced that members started a new band called Leaf Erikson.
     “Flying High” by Leaf Erikson

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

“Run” in the Band Name

     Recently, a couple of enjoyable songs surfaced from bands having the word “Run” as part of their band names. That triggered a memory search of other bands with the term and then an Internet search for some others. Here are the Top 10 qualifiers after:
   1. Eliminating genres that are covered with greater skill by other blogs – Run the Jewels.
   2. Giving a greater preference to more recent songs.

     “Comfortable Lie” by Why We Run
Previously, the band used the name Cogel. They are based in Sydney, Australia. 

“Comfortable Lie” is available as a free download at

     “Wasted in the Sun” by Run Rabbit Run
Run Rabbit Run is also from Australia, but this time it’s Melbourne.  

“Wasted in the Sun” is available as a free download at

     “Pilot” by Amber Run
Amber Run is a London band.

     “Call Me in the Afternoon“ by Half Moon Run   
If you have an opportunity to see this Canadian (Montreal) band perform the song live, plan your schedule around it. They have built the song into a show in itself.

     “Dumb in the Sun” by Run Things – from Los Angeles

     “Hiding Flowers” by RUN! – from Frankfurt Germany

     “Lying Beast” by Run River North – From San Fernando Valley, California

     “Teeth” by Run Tiger Run – Liverpool, UK


     “War of Words” by Ella on the Run – we’re back to London

     “Dimensions in My Crown” by Should We Run – Finishing Strong, this is a band based in San Francisco.

Monday, February 23, 2015

“No Silence in the City” by Cold Roses – A Song Review

     Indie Obsessive has a high level of respect for bands that incorporate non-standard instruments into their music. Therefore, we respect the Philadelphia band Cold Roses, and we would even if the band’s sound weren't so intriguing. Depending upon the song, Cold Roses fuses different sets of genres that include Americana, Blues, Rock and Soul.
     Our personal favorite from Cold Roses is “No Silence in the City.” The featured instrument changes often (among the keys, horns and guitar), ensuring that the song doesn’t grow stale. And the vocal strengths of the band are a good match with the vocal demands of the song The other track that stands out is “Cutting It Close,” with its sections having emotionally driven vocals and instrumentation separated by guitar-paced interludes, as if time is required to calm down or to consider how to express the emotion.
    The members of Cold Roses are Rob Clancy (lead vocals, guitars and harmonica), Brandon Porter (bass and vocals), Alex Ayala (keyboards, piano and vocals), R.M. Webb (percussion and vocals), Tom Petraccaro (tenor saxophone) and Rick Rein (trumpet and tambourine).

     “No Silence in the City” by Cold Roses

     “Cutting It Close” by Cold Roses

Sunday, February 22, 2015

“Into the Wild” by Victoria – A Song Review

     A visit to the website of the London band Victoria immediately triggers the loop mode for the song “Into the Wild.” We have two comments. First, the song is strong enough to meet the scrutiny that any song experiences when repeatedly played. Second, because Victoria has been performing “Into the Wild” since at least April 2013, they likely have other material ready for release soon (such as the song “Lights” (below), but with an electric guitar).
     Embedded below are the 2015 version of “Into the Wild” (Soundcloud) and a 2013 version (Youtube).  In the 2013 recording, Victoria utilizes a cello, which was played by Joe Ware. In every other aspect, the 2015 version is far superior. The forcefulness of the percussion is very noticeably increased. Similarly, vocal power increases, rather than decreasing, when the instruments momentarily step back late in the song (at the 2:28 mark of the Soundcloud version and at the 2:35 mark in the Youtube version). Additionally, the Angels and Airwaves guitar sound seems more at home in the current approach (that guitar sound is first featured at 1:08).
      The members of Victoria are Alex Thomas (guitar), Charlie Martin (keys and backing vocals), Chris Moore (drums), Harry Johnson (bass) and Joe Housley (lead vocals and acoustic guitar).

     “Into the Wild” by Victoria

     "Into The Wild" (Surrey Sessions)  - April 2013

     “Lights" by Victoria

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sundara Karma – A Band Review

     In discussions among music lovers with the time to stay reasonably current on the new releases, it is common to ask for predictions as to which little known bands will soon experience popularity explosions. The discussion first turns to factors that make the predictions difficult. The next step is to identify bands that deserve far more attention than they receive and an equal number of bands with a popularity that is baffling.
     Let’s cut to the final part of the discussion - when bands are named as possibilities.  Indie Obsessive names the U.K. band Sundara Karma. With each release by the band, the foundation for the prediction solidifies. Most teenagers are just searching for a direction, but the four that form Sundara Karma appear to have selected a musical destination and  to possess a roadmap as to how to get there.
     The most recent track from Sundara Karma is “Waves,” which supplants “Loveblood” as our favorite from the group. Both surfaced in 2015 and will be among the four tracks on “EPI, which is scheduled for release on February 23.
     Sundara Karma is based in Reading/Berskshire, U.K. The band name is Hindu based. In Hinduism and Buddism, “karma” relates to moral causation. Sundara is a Sanskrit term that generally means “beautiful” or “noble.” A band with good karma? The members of Sundara Karma are Oscar Lulu (vocals and guitar), Haydn Evans (drums), Ally Baty (guitar) and Dom Cordell (bass). 



     “Hustle" - not a track on "EPI"

Sundara Karma - Hustle from Colin Greenall on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

“Weekend” by The Mispers - A Song Review

     You know you’ve “gone off the deep end” (the end where there is little chance of being rescued) when you give serious thought to scheduling a long awaited trip to Europe on the basis of seeing a particular band. We wish The Mispers would announce if they will perform in their hometown of London during July.
     The Mispers released another strong single – “Weekend.”


     The band is named after the police slang for “missing person.” The members of The Mispers are Jack Balfour Scott (lead vocals), Joey Arnold Zapata (rhythm guitar, vocals), Diego Porto Belmonte (lead guitar), Hannah Van Den Brul (violin, vocals), Jordan Grispino (drums).

“Song for Zoe & Gwen” by Yumi Zouma – A Song Review

     The expression is “Out of sight, out of mind,” but the message applies at least as well to the other senses. Because it was last September that we last heard a new song using a children’s choir for backing vocals, we forgot how much we enjoyed the feature (if you’re interested, our collection of Indie songs using kids’ choirs is available at CLICK HERE).

     The blogosphere has been pushed slightly off its axis by the release of “Song for Zoe & Gwen” by Yumi Zouma. For us, the most attractive feature is the backing vocals. The soft lead vocals and the Dream Pop guitar are important contributors to the quality of the song, but the backing vocals establish “Song for Zoe & Gwen” as being blogworthy. We understand that the voice (voices) is likely that of band member Kim Pflaum, but the childlike nature is endearing (similar to the choir in “Oh Sailor” by Mr. Little Jeans).

     Yumi Zouma is a trio based in New Zealand, but with ties to other continents. The members are Charlie Ryder (Paris), Josh Burgess (New York) and Kim Pflaum (Christchurch, New Zealand). On March 10, Yumi Zouma will drop its second EP, appropriately entitled “EP II.”

      “Song for Zoe & Gwen” by Yumi Zouma

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dominant Female Vocals - The February Post

     The common feature among the songs in this post is a heavy reliance upon female vocals. A song with vocals which accompany equally powerful instrumentation would not qualify. The vocals have to dominate the song.
     In this post, there are three vocalists representing three continents – North America, Europe and Australia.

     Ryn Weaver is headed to San Francisco and there are still tickets! On April 15, Weaver will visit The Independent (CLICK HERE for tickets). “Promises” has more of a Beyoncé flavor than her other releases, particularly in the first minute (if you disagree with the comparison after the first minute, your opinion likely won’t change - and you may be right!).
     “Promises” by Ryn Weaver

     Islander” by Robyn Sherwell is percussive Pop. Sherwell is based in London.

     “Glory Days” by ILUKA from Sydney, Australia. We enjoy the entire song, but it's not until the final minute that she shows the power of her voice.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Vocal Layering of Dissimilar Lyrics - Lyrical Layering

     Obsessive behavior cannot be forced and is not governed by the calendar. That’s one lesson from 2014. After our obsessive behavior toward the use of the trumpet in Indie music became more controlled, we wanted to focus on the cello. Without question, our appreciation for the cello increased. It is perhaps the most effective instrument in musically conveying certain emotions, such as by creating a mournful undertone.
     But while the intent was to build an obsession around Indie cello during 2014, the behavior never reached the stage of obsessiveness. Instead, the interest turned increasingly toward layered vocals. Not the layering of the same voice or different voices over the same lyrics (such as layered harmonization); the still growing interest is in the simultaneous singing of different lyrics. The best example of "lyrical layering" might be a video that is included here, with two people mashing Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran songs. But that best example is not where we want to start.

     It is common for the lyrical layering to occur in the second half of a song. That describes “Delete” by DMA’s. The song surfaced in early 2014, but we embarrassingly missed the boat until much later. DMA’s is a trio based in Newtown, Australia. The members are Tommy O'Dell, Matt Mason and Johnny Took.
     For us, “Delete” is a turn-it-up-twice song. That’s a song that triggers a first increase in volume when it begins and then a second one when the song reaches its best feature. The best feature is the layering that starts at 3:17. Is that a twelve-string guitar that enters only shortly before?  
     “Delete” by DMA’s


     Stuart Newman identifies his hometown as South Coast, UK. In his song “One Big F,” the lyrical layering dominates the second half of the track.
           “One Big F" by Stuart Newman


     The video layers Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran songs. “Thinking Out Loud”/“I'm Not The Only One” MASHUP (Sam Tsui & Casey Breves). 

     “Hey Mami” by Sylvan Esso doesn’t delay. The duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn is better known for their single “Coffee,” but it’s “Hey Mami” that excels in the use of lyrical layering.
      “Hey Mami” by Sylvan Esso

     In “Shuffle” by Bombay Bicycle Club, the lyrical layering starts at around 2:46.

     Small Wonder is the performance name of Henry Crawford, who is based in Brooklyn. The female voice belongs to Susannah Cutler. The layering occurs at the 4:43 mark, but there is plenty to enjoy during those first four plus minutes.
     “Until I Open My Wings” by Small Wonder

     “Till Forever Runs Out” by Alex Vargas incorporates lyrical layering near the end of the song. For a much longer time, we are “teased” with the layering, as the lead vocals and the backing chorus take turns, but with a small overlap. But with about a minute left, the lyrical layering is in full force. Alex Vargas is located in London.
     “Till Forever Runs Out” by Alex Vargas

     “Falling” by Howard – yes, we are fans.

     Let’s finish with lyrical layering that was the goal from the outset.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Wildfront – A Band Review

     It doesn’t happen often, but bands will sometimes have an instrumental sound that pushes us to immediately check the band’s tour schedule, because we want to watch the connection between the instrument, how it’s being used, and the resulting sound. It is far more common to have a gradual buildup of a desire to see a band. In early February, we heard the song “Strange Gold” and immediately checked the tour schedule of the band Wildfront. Unfortunately, the Nashville band hasn’t booked a West Coast tour.
     It’s the guitar of “Strange Gold” that distinguishes the song, although it is aided by what is likely a synth-generated trumpet sound (for example, at the 0:28 mark) and the percussion. The song is the title track of the six-song release of February 7, 2015. Because we don’t have a better description, we’ll go with Robert Smith of The Cure playing Country Rock. One flaw with the description is that Wildfront is not a Country Rock band. They define themselves as being in the Dream Pop genre, and it seems as appropriate as any other genre label.
     Wildfront was previously Josephine and the Wildfront. The Bandcamp site for purchasing “Strange Gold” lists the members as Josephine Moore (vocals and guitar), Krista Glover (synth), Devan Kochersperger (bass), and Preston Vaughn (drums), but other band sites name John Corlew as a contributor.

     “Strange Gold” by Wildfront

     “Love Is Not Eternal” by Wildfront

     “Sovereign” by Wildfront - Currently a free download