Saturday, October 31, 2015

“Belong” by Tender – A Song Review

     Tender identifies its influences as including Caribou, Air, The National and Tame Impala. As we listen to their song “Belong,” our thinking is that the song is most similar to Sweden’s Junip (and the solo work of its member, José González).  But Tender took the best elements of the Junip sound, added some its own, and generated a song that should project Tender into the spotlight.
     “Belong” has a gentleness (yes, a Tender-ness) in its vocalization, despite the message. “Belong” is about a self-destructive person who struggles with, but still asks for, the help of another. The best guess at lyrics is at the bottom of this post. At times the vocals closely interact with the the synth, which plays a key role in the song without ever attempting to take control.

     Tender is a duo based in London. “Belong” is one of five tracks on the EP “Armour.”
“Belong” by Tender


Lyrics of “Belong” (chime in if you hear a mistake)
Won't you stand in my
Won't you stand in my way
Please stop me
Won't you stand in my
Won't you stand in my way
Please help me

No I don't belong, do you want
But I'm shot dead
But maybe I won't feel the shoot
And maybe I could cherish my name

Oh I wish you’d stop me
Before I go and hurt myself again
Before I have to try to explain
Oh, what have I done?

Take me under your wing
Show me shelter from evil things
Can't leave me alone
Don't leave me alone for long

No I don't belong, do you want
But I'm shot dead
But maybe I won't feel the shoot
And maybe I could cherish my name

Oh I wish you’d stop me
Before I go and hurt myself again
Before I have to try to explain
Oh, what have I done?

Take me under your wing
Show me shelter from evil things
Can't leave me alone
Don't leave me alone for long

“Dealer” by Foxing – An Album Review

By Rebecca Gross (Twitter: @becsgross)

     Foxing, an Indie rock band out of St. Louis, Missouri, have just released their second album, “Dealer,” and the group’s sound is as consistent as ever. While the group pulls from their post-rock/emo roots, they manage to create their own genre with this new album. With an ambient and fluid—yet powerful—sound, “Dealer” is hard to turn off. Reminiscent of a cross between Arcade Fire, The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Beirut, and a bit of Death Cab For Cutie, the sound Foxing produces on this album is without a doubt unmatched by all other music currently being released.
     One of the major distinctions this album possesses compared to others is the wide variety of instruments heard, and the unique way in which instruments are used in conjunction with each other on this album. Classic Indie rock instruments such as guitar and drums are heard, but they are used creatively. The harmonica, piano, and trumpet are also employed, permeating a new realm of sound most bands will not delve into.
      There are many great finds on this album, but the best tracks are those that project more ambient tones than peppier, upbeat ones. Almost symphonic in sound, “Winding Cloth” immerses listeners in waves of sound and instrumentals. One of the best songs on the album to check out is “Indica,” which contains mostly ambient and soft-spoken vibes, but still manages to throw in trumpet and interestingly downbeat tones at parts, which is highly representative of the album in entirety. The lyrics are also beautifully tragic, and speak to drug induced guilt: “And of war bonds and blood stained hands / Combat neurosis shys from indica strands.” Enjoy the matchless melodic sounds, while contemplating deep lyrics created by Foxing with their new album.

     “Indica" by Foxing

Friday, October 30, 2015

Riley Pearce and Jake McMullen – Singer/Songwriters

     This post features songs by a pair of 22 year olds from different sides of the globe.
     Riley Pearce is a singer/songwriter in Perth, Western Australia. His song “Brave” was released in August 2015, but we only recently realized its effectiveness. The trumpet plays a strong role in creating a woeful essence, while the vocal fluctuations add to the emotional tone of lyrics that are highly poetic without rhyming. We aren’t confident that the first line is right, but to understand the reference to the fluctuations, pay attention to the vocals in the first verse::
You're scared 'cause I answered
This feeling in my head is being there for too long
We sleep now with the light on,
But shadows make shapes in the light
And I don't know what they might be.
“Brave” by Riley Pearce

     Jake McMullen is from Orange County in California, but moved to Nashville to further his career. As a blog with its roots in California, we find it a little sad that talented artists relocate from the state for career reasons. But we certainly wish Jake well. Based on the song “Always,” he has the talent to succeed regardless of his location.
     “Always” by Jake McMullen

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

“I Know What I Know” by Geographer - A Song Review

     In reviewing recent posts, we have spent a lot of time in the UK. Physically, we haven’t been within 5,000 miles of the UK in the last month. Musically, our posts have visited the area often, particularly for a blog that is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Well, it’s time to talk about a blogworthy song from the San Francisco-based band Geographer.
     Geographer recently released “I Know What I Know.” The song incorporates an array of elements. Early in the song, we hear a Synth-generated sound similar to that made famous by MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” and “Kids” (the TimewARP 2600 synthesizer?). And we love the guitar that first enters at the 0:56 mark.
     The song is a cover of a track from Paul Simon’s highly praised 1986 album, “Graceland.” Simon was inspired by the South African sound and even included the Gaza Sisters to provide unconventional backing vocals. No disrespect to the very gifted Paul Simon, but we certainly prefer the Geographer cover.
     The members of Geographer are Mike Deni (vocals, guitar, keys, synth), Joyce Lee cello, synth), Duncan Nielsen (guitar, bass, synth, vocals) and Cody Rhodes (drums). The press material of the band is pasted at the bottom of this post.

     “I Know What I Know” by Geographer

Helpful Press Material:
      San Francisco-based romantic indie pop artist Geographer (aka Mike Deni) creates timeless compositions by fusing blossoming synths with precise orchestral arrangements. With the release of his third LP Ghost Modern (Roll Call Records) earlier this year, Geographer fashioned his most cohesive and compelling work to date out of a desire to instill thoughtful songwriting back into today’s popular music.

     Deni, out of an almost Freudian attraction to water, wrote much of the record during trips to a cliff overlooking the beach in the Presidio of San Francisco to write lyrics in the back of his car. Despite the cleansing nature of the scenery, he considers the meticulous writing process one of the most difficult and greatest learning experiences of his life.

    While taking time off to craft material for the follow-up this summer, Deni recalled a cover he produced last year of the Arthur Russell track “This Is How We Walk On The Moon.” The re-working had been so inspiring for Deni that he decided to record an entire oeuvre of covers, culminating in the release of the "Endless Motion EP," set for release this December and to feature re-workings of tracks by Felix Da Housecat, New Order, Kate Bush, and Paul Simon. The project, a prelude to tour dates with RAC and 'The Big One' New Year’s Show in San Francisco with The Flaming Lips, puts the lush instrumentation that has become synonymous with Geographer on full display.

Geographer - "Endless Motion EP Vol. 1" Tracklist:
1. Ready 2 Wear (Felix Da Housecat)
2. This Is How We Walk On The Moon (Arthur Russell)
3. Age Of Consent (New Order)
4. Cloudbusting (Kate Bush)
5. I Know What I Know (Paul Simon)

“Wars” by Eliza Shaddad – A Song Review

     It’s not often that while listening to a song, there are as many questions about the studio personnel as there are about the performers. “Wars” by Eliza Shaddad is an exception. Shaddad is a singer/songwriter located in London. In addition to the vocals, she provides the acoustic guitar that’s heard throughout “War.” According to Shaddad, “Lyrically, the song is about fighting to hold something in…”
      “Wars” is radiant from all directions – writing, performance and studio processing. The writing and much of the performance belong to Eliza Shaddad. But we also tip our hats for Chris Bond as the producer, Catherine Marks (Wolf Alice and Foals) as the person providing mixing, and John Davis, who had the responsibilities connected to mastering.

     “Wars” by Eliza Shaddad - The song will be on the upcoming EP "Run," which is scheduled for release in early 2016.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

From the Mailbox of Indie Obsessive – The October Post

      Each week we consistently dig deep into the treasure trove of email submissions, read the stories of artists as they create and release new music, and listen to songs from around the world.  Truly we are grateful for the volume of submissions we receive, so please continue to send them along!  Since we are not able to post song or album reviews for each submission, we will start a series of posts to share noteworthy obsessive highlights from the Indie Obsessive mailbox.
This month’s Mailbox features email submissions
received directly from the Artists featured below.

Presented by Karen M.
     From a minimalist email submission, we received this message:
“Hello.  This is Jon Worthy.  I just released a solo EP ‘Unconventional’ and wanted to submit it for review.  Below are links to my Facebook and SoundCloud pages.
     “I’m so Lost” by Jon Worthy

      Quoting the email we received from the band Sundara Karma:
We wanted to send you the new video for our track 'Vivienne’.  'Vivienne' is the lead track from our upcoming release ‘EP II.’”
      “Vivienne” by Sundara Karma


      From the email we received: 
Hello!  My name is Aisha Badru, I’m an artist based in New York.  This morning (October 20) I released a new single from my upcoming, second EP (to be released in March) and would love to be considered to have my single featured on your blog."
     “Young” by Aisha Badru


     From the email we received, The Masks wrote:  
We would like to submit our latest Officer ‘Chasing Glory’ for consideration to your blog.  It’s a collaborative track with Rossi Riko about self-reflection and making a change, starting with the man in the mirror.”
     “Chasing Glory” by The Masks

“Talk in Riddles” by Kassassin Street - A Song Review

     Kassassin Street continues to evidence increasing maturity. We enjoyed earlier releases, particularly “Centre Straight Atom.” That song is an explosion of energy. And if there is a use of a simple woodblock that can be referred to as “brilliant,” then we’ll argue that it should be applied to the 2:18 mark and the later return of the woodblock in “Centre Straight Atom.”
     The early releases of Kassassin Street were not immature in structure or execution. But the latest release, “Talk in Riddles” shows an understanding that typically requires more experience than a band in its first year of releases. The song begins with a short Halloween-ready intro leading to an energy-filled Pop sound. The sophistication appears later. Probably the best example is during the instrument-only segment starting at 2:13. At that time, “Talksin Riddles” is relatively simple, with one of the two instrument contributions merely alternating between two notes. Soon, it becomes apparent that a transition is to occur. No big deal, song transitions are common, right? The sophistication is in the execution. At 2:43, the slow crescendo launches the transition. The crescendo clearly signals the approach, but the energy transition still has an unexpected “kick.”

     The members of Kassassin Street are Rowan Bastable, Nathan Hill, Ryan Hill, Andy Hurst, and Tom Wells. The band is based in Southsea, U.K.  
     “Talk in Riddles” by Kassassin Street

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dominant Female Vocals – The October 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 must dominate the song.

     Lyrically, “60 Minutes” is about a relationship that is ending, with the woman selflessly staying quiet with a secret that might cause the man she loves to reconsider. The woman allows the man to leave her, because he needs his freedom. Instrumentally, “60 Minutes” is a lesson in how to use percussion to effectively drive a song, while allowing strings to subtly appear and then quickly disappear. Vocally, the song is an announcement that London will soon be the epicenter of a popularity earth movement named “Emmi.” 
      Emmi is currently based in London, but she is from Perth, Western Australia. 
     “60 Minutes” by Emmi

     Lanterns on the Lake is a band formed by Hazel Wilde, Paul Gregory, Ol (Oliver) Ketteringham, and Bob Allan. They are based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK. Within their song “Faultlines,” it’s the vocals of Hazel Wilde that provides the qualification for this post. It’s the piano that guaranteed that the song would be part of the post.  
     “Faultlines" by Lanterns on the Lake

     Ardyn is the sister-and-brother duo of Katy and Rob Pearson. They are twins from Gloucestershire, UK. The song “Universe” is the title track of an upcoming EP, which is scheduled for release on November 13. 
     “Universe” by Ardyn

     Kissy is the performance name of Sasha Ortiz, a singer/producer from Austin, Texas. She is currently based in Brooklyn. Kissy has toured as a backup singer for The Kills and Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, but now shows her skills with the release of “Even If the Cops Come.”
      “Even If the Cops Come” by Kissy 

     Let’s finish with an Indie Punk trio from London. Cat Bear Tree are Zoe Konez (guitar, vocals), Claudia Mansaray (bass, vocals) and Sarah Smith (drums, vocals). The band features guitar hooks and three voices that are individually sufficiently strong to vocally carry a band.
     “Adult” by Cat Bear Tree

Saturday, October 24, 2015

“The Birds of Finland” by Conner Youngblood – A Song Review

     Digital or vinyl? In the “good ol’ days” of all vinyl, album covers often identified the instruments that added to each song and the musicians who played the instruments. There are many positives to the digital music age, but it has become more difficult to determine which instruments are being used, partially because information isn’t made available and partially because it is increasingly easy to simulate different instruments using a synthesizer or other device. The Internet should make the information more accessible, but it doesn’t always work that way, unfortunately.
     Conner Youngblood is a multi-instrumentalist in Austin, Texas. Of his songs, we are particularly fond of “The Birds of Finland.” It would be interesting to know the instruments used during the song and how many are played by Conner. Based upon information about his other work, that’s him on the harp. Clearly, it’s Conner with the Bon Iver-type vocals. The rest is unknown, at least to us. But that doesn’t prevent us from enjoying the song.
     “The Birds of Finland” has an extended introduction – about 1:30. During the intro, a wind instrument (an Irish flute?) is the primary instrument, but it’s the harp that is more likely to hold the attention of the listener. For us, the body of the song switches the roles, since the harp probably gets more exposure than the wind instruments, but we find ourselves paying close attention for the horn (trumpet?).

     “The Birds of Finland” by Conner Youngblood


Lyrics of “The Birds of Finland”
Facilitate this fall of August
The autumn winds, the summer forfeits
The bittern’s boom will disavow
All the time we’ve wasted now

Fabricate this borderline
Between the fire and the focus
As the wren churr through the pine
I doubt you will ever notice

And I know I’ve got my stubborn ways
The shovelers soon fly away
While this winter moon will disavow
All the time we’ve wasted now

Formulate and fortify
The spring becomes our alibi
The eider’s plume will disavow
All the time we’ve wasted now

And I know you’ve got your subtle ways
The hooded crow is here to stay
But this idle June will disavow
All the time we’ve wasted now

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Brothers Vinyl - Releasing 365 Songs in 365 Days

     If you visit the website of Brothers Vinyl, you’ll see the stated objective:
This year we are focusing on redefining what life can be like if you spend every day of your life doing what you love. We are releasing 365 songs this year, every one of them written and recorded in 2015.  Life is short and should be lived in passion and devotion. Find what you love and never hold back.”

     Reflecting on the objective, we become sheepish. At the start of each year, the team at Indie Obsessive sets the informal goal of posting one review per day. We have yet to reach 365 posts in a year. And it’s much easier to write a review of someone else’s music than it is to write the music. Additionally, it’s much easier to embed reviewed music into a post than it is for the bands to generate that music, even after the songs are written.
     Brothers Vinyl’s name for the project is “More Days Like This.” The name is consistent with the original motivation – after a rewarding day of recording a song, the attitude is that there should be “more days like this.” A careful explanation of the project is available at Rad Austin Magazine – CLICK HERE.
     The band has four members, namely Kyle Seigel (vocals, guitar), James Gibson (guitar, vocals), Kyle Hayes (bass) and Josh Drew (drums). For a number of the songs in the project, contributions are made by others.
     As of today, Brothers Vinyl have released 216 songs as part of “More Days Like This.” We became aware of the project a few days ago, at song #213. If you're interested in tracking the progress of the project, just bookmark the Soundcloud page of Brothers Vinyl:
     As evidence that Brothers Vinyl are taking this seriously and are producing attractive music, embedded below is #213, entitled “A Mighty Hand.” The start of the vocals has a Modest Mouse feel to it, but the song goes in a different direction. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Miner and Katie and I – Song Reviews

     The odds are against simultaneous obsessions with two Folk-based songs featuring male/female vocal blends. Let’s increase the level of difficulty – the first name of the female members must be “Kate.” Well, it almost happened; one is Kate and the other is Katie.
     One song is “Better Instincts” by Miner, which is the last name of three members. The husband-and-wife team of Kate and Justin Miner is joined by Jeremy Miner (brother of Justin) and Tobias Urbanczyk. Miner is based in Los Angeles.
     “Better Instincts” is destined for an album, “Tuanaki,” scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2016. According to Kate:
“’Better Instincts’ explores the perpetual inner battle between our aspirations and darker impulses - a battle often lost despite our best intentions.”

     The second song is “Bones” by Katie and I. Katie is Katie Overbury, while the “I” member is Lewis Veakins. They are a singer/songwriter duo in Liverpool.
     “Bones” is blogworthy because of the quality and attractiveness of the two voices and the arrangement of the vocalization. The strings that appear in the second half of the song are the bonus. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Silent Film and Flagship – A Concert Review

     A Silent Film visited San Francisco again. This time it was at The Independent and it was in support of a third album, which is entitled “A Silent Film.” The show was attended by an audience that was less than capacity, but demonstratively knowledgeable about the music of the band and appreciative of the performance. A Silent Film was upbeat and energetic, which was a contrast to the somberness of the opening band, Flagship. The members of Flagship put on a strong performance that certainly increased their fan base, but were clearly still affected by last week’s death of former member Grant Harding.
      A picture of the setlist resting on the stage of The Independent is included in this post. Frontman Robert Stevenson brought his usual level of charisma from the UK (Oxford) and performed enthusiastically for fourteen of the fifteen songs. The exception was “Message in the Sand,” the first song of the encore. Only the two core members (Stevenson and drummer Spencer Walker) returned for “Message in the Sand,” a song about a man who struggles with voicing his love, but has no problem with using a stick to write it in the sand. The song was down-tempo and heartfelt. The other three members of the band returned for “Harbour Lights.”      

     Interestingly, Flagship also has its frontman and its drummer as the two core members, who are joined by other talented musicians. The band is based in Charlotte, North Carolina and includes Drake Margolnick and Michael Finster. Particularly in view of the recent death of their friend, Flagship surpassed expectations.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Moon Taxi at The Chapel – A Concert Opportunity

     It’s a conflict in interests! On the one hand, Moon Taxi should not be playing at venues that aren’t sold out. If we can help sell tickets, we're in. The band has that rare performance combination of a strong setlist, charismatic band members, and solid band chemistry. On the other hand, we're holding only four tickets in that hand, and four might not be enough. What if we decide more are needed after the tickets are no longer available? Oh well, it's a risk.

     A few weeks ago, Moon Taxi announced a fall tour that includes a stop at The Chapel in San Francisco (November 12). Since that announcement, there's been no hesitation in answering the question, “What concert are you most anxious to attend before the end of 2015?” Moon Taxi has a Rock sound that is influenced by the Nashville origin of the band. It’s a sound that is gaining attention. In 2015, Moon Taxi played a number of the top U.S. festivals, including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits (pictured above). The opportunity to see the band in a small venue should not be missed. The tour schedule is included at the bottom of this post. 
    If you're interested, our first post about Moon Taxi (and some of our favorite songs) may be found at CLICK HERE.

     “Make Your Mind Up” by Moon Taxi

Moon Taxi Tour for 2015
OCT 31 - Chattanooga, TN Track 29
NOV 5 - Englewood, CO Gothic Theatre
NOV 6 - Colorado Springs, CO @ The Black Sheep
NOV 7 - Richfield, UT @ Sevier Valley Center
NOV 8 - Las Vegas, NV @ Brooklyn Bowl - Las Vegas
NOV 10 - Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up Tavern
NOV 11 - Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
NOV 12 - San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel for tickets CLICK HERE
NOV 13 - Portland, OR @ Star Theater 
NOV 14 - Eugene, OR @ Wow Hall
NOV 15 - Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
NOV 17 - Sandpoint, ID @ The Hive
NOV 20 - Saint Paul, MN @ Turf Club
NOV 21 - Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre
NOV 22 - Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
NOV 28 - Atlanta, GA @ The Tabernacle
DEC 3 - Bloomington, @ IN The Bluebird
DEC 4 - Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall
DEC 5 - Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall
DEC 6 - Cincinnati, OH @ The Ballroom at The Taft Theatre
DEC 18 - Birmingham, AL @ Iron City
DEC 31 - Nashville, TN @ War Memorial Auditorium