Sunday, January 31, 2016

“Hungry” by Moats – A Song Review

     Each March, thousands of guitars migrate to Austin, Texas. The migration doesn’t have the notoriety of those by the wildebeest or swallows, unless you’re talking to music lovers. The annual migration is prompted by the Indie fest known as South by Southwest (SXSW).
     A few of the guitars will make the journey with Moats, a band from the UK. We plan to visit those guitars, because evidence indicates they’ll be used in a manner that will be memorable. The latest evidence is “Hungry.” 
    Moats is from Biggleswade/Hitchin. The four members are Matthew Duncan (vocals/guitar), James Pyrah (guitar), Will Elliott (bass) and Nathan Price (drums).

     "Hungry" by Moats

Friday, January 29, 2016

“Hands” by Mantaray – A Song Review

     Mantaray is a six-member band in Jyväskylä, Finland. At least thus far, they have limited their exposure on the standard streaming sites frequented by music "hunters and gatherers.” With an album release approaching, that may change.
     The band is at its best when the guitars are unleashed. That occurs toward the end of the song “Walk” and at times in “Now.” But the guitar work is best appreciated in the song “Hands.”
    The members of Mantaray are Jonne Luoma (guitar), Miika Luoma (drums), Eero Puttonen (bass), Jaakko Mäkeläinen (guitar, vocals) Iida Pekkarinen (keyboards, vocals) and Oula Maaranen (guitar).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

“Glow” by Be Forest – A Song Review

     Be Forest is a trio from Pesaro, Italy. They specialize in moody, guitar-directed Dream Pop. Shoegaze is alive and well in Italy. “Glow” is their last proof.
     The members of Be Forest are Costanza Delle Rose (bass and vocals), Erica Terenzi (drums and vocals) and Nicola Lampredi (guitar). 
     “Glow” by Be Forest


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

“I&I” by LUH (Lost Under Heaven) – A Video Post

     We all have unexplainable attractions. They’re not “guilty pleasures,” since they don’t carry any feeling of compromise of judgement or conduct. Instead, the feeling is that the strength of the attraction is inconsistent with other judgements. For Indie Obsessive, an unexplainable attraction is toward the voice of Ellery James Roberts.

     We were disappointed when Roberts left WU LYF. Turns out, it worked well. He joined forces with Ebony Hoorn to form LUH, which is an acronym for Lost Under Heaven. The beauty of Hoorn’s voice complements the rawness and roughness of Roberts’. The song “Unites” rivals the work of Roberts in his “earlier life.” Well, look out, because “I&I” has arrived. The song takes advantage of the vocal skills of both members, and adds an orchestra. Initially, it’s merely a gentle piano. As the song progresses, the orchestral instruments raise “I&I” to a higher emotional level.

     According to the text below the post of the video on Youtube:
   "'I&I' is the opening to the work we spent the past 18 months developing. The visual was directed by Ebony Hoorn & Florian Joahn.
   'I&I' speaks of impulse & limitation, the thoughts that pass thru the morning air, the embers of a dreams left unspoken then forgotten. The visual [portrays] the taunts of duality, invocation of the rising sun to find the courage to act.
   The song was produced in collaboration with the Haxan Cloak on Osea May 2015 and is released courtesy of Mute Records 2016."

Lyrics of “I&I” are merly:
There’s signs in this early morning
As mindful you wake from your sleep
There’s life in this early morning
A life you want to lead
If you’re not ready
Lay down and fall back to sleep 


     “Unites” by LUH

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

“Wide Open” by Chemical Brothers and Beck – The Video

     Beck joined forces with Chemical Brothers to generate “Wide Open” and people took notice. Now, the video is released and a greater amount of attention is deserved. The dancer is Sonoya Mizuno.

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 a set period of time.  But at least for now, here are songs that qualify as Free, Legal and Recommended (FL&R) downloads.
     Finding songs that can be legally downloaded is easy. The difficult task is to find freely downloadable music that we recommend. The below music covers a wide area of the genre map, but the common characteristic is that each song has “The Indie Obsessive Stamp of Approval."

     The guitars in the single “Down the Drain” by The Fluxx begin in a background supporting role, but execute a coup at 2:28. After the takeover, the guitars reign supreme. The Fluxx is from Oslo, Norway and comprises Stephan Gracia Slaaen (vocals, guitar), Iver Paulsberg (bass), Lars Andre Hagensen (drums) and Jan Kristoffersen (keys).

      “Mariana (I’ll Find You)” is a track from herMajesty, which is a New York-based band. The members are “JP” (vocals, rhythm guitar), David Leather Wood (guitars, backup vocals), Joan Chew (bass), Dov Manski (keyboards) and Konrad Meissner (drums, percussion). In describing the song, herMajestry states:
“'Mariana (I’ll Find You)' features loops of field recordings of rooms in an abandoned home and sounds of a dilapidated front door that were processed in unique ways to create a post-apocalyptic Giorgio Moroder symphonic.  The song, like all of the EP, touches on existential issues of an immigrant man’s journey.  'Mariana' asserts that perseverance, faith and love in times of chaos, transition and loss lead to redemption and salvation."

    The third song is from Turku, Finland. “Nowhere” by Swaying Wires is a track from the album entitled “I Left a House Burning.” The members of Swaying Wires are Tina Kärkinen (vocals, guitar), Sami Lehtonen (guitar), Nicklas Hägen (bass) and Jussi Virkkumaa (drums).

[PIAS] Sampler Provides SXSW Preparation - Noisetrade Tuesday

     Until our library of Noisetrade recommendations is exhausted, most Tuesdays will feature a Noisetrade offer of songs available for the price of an email address. This week’s is a sampler from [PIAS] Record Label.
     For people planning to attend South by Southwest (SXSW) in March 2016, there are five songs from artists who will be among the performers: 
  • Pins
  • Ezra Furman
  • Stealing Sheep
  • Hooton Tennis Club
  • Gwenno

[PIAS] website:

Monday, January 25, 2016

Fred Page and Jack the Fox – Acoustic, Melodic and Vocally Gripping

     “Brother” and “Magnetically” were released at about the same time (November 2015), they are acoustically based, and they are vocally dynamic. Both have tempo variations emphasized by crescendos that end abruptly. Both songs have touches of Ben Howard. But the songs are from artists in different continents.

     “Brother” is the debut release of Jack the Fox. The Australian duo is formed of Justin Lewis and Angus Robb.

     Fred Page is located in London. After bumping into “Magnetically,” we listened to the earlier music of Fred Page, and were impressed by “Concrete,” a release from 2014.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Castles in Air” by Seawaves – A Song Review

    “Castles in Air” begins with a sitar-esque instrument. Soon, there are group vocals and tireless, high energy percussion. Through much of the song, harmonization is easily distinguishable from the typical “blended voices approach.” Instead, one voice is melodic and soothing, while the second is pained. A good example of the soothing/pained vocals is the periodic combination that starts at 1:12, with the statement “A winner every step of the way.” These are some of the characteristics that push “Castles in Air” toward the top of our different playlists.

     “Castles in Air” is the work of Seawaves, a Dreampop duo from Manchester, England. They are Si Van Brussel and Daniel Benjamin.

Friday, January 22, 2016

BottleRock Festival– Why We Bought Tickets

     A San Francisco-based blog for which we have a high level of respect posted its analysis of the 2016 lineup for the BottleRock, a festival held in Napa Valley, California. The post was interesting and informative. We agreed with many of the statements.
     Still, the blog post was a reminder that knowledgeable festival-goers have fundamentally different approaches to accessing the attractiveness of a particular festival. In reading the on-line analysis, the heavy emphasis was on the first five lines of artists in the poster (which is included above). The conclusion was not one that's likely to persuade music fans to purchase tickets. Still, to the credit of the writer, positives were also identified.
     Our approach also starts with the top few lines of artists, since the natural attraction is toward larger print. We like what we see at the top of the BottleRock poster. But the combination of headliners and other featured bands is seldom (never?) the decision-maker for our festival selection. If every performance at a festival were as crowed and background noisy as a typical late performance, it would be difficult to get excited about any festival opportunity. In practice, the lower attendance levels in the early and mid afternoons enable viewing positions that make festival attendance worthwhile.
     So, our approach is to quickly look at the first few lines and then spend a longer time accessing the lines with smaller print sizes. The BottleRock poster only includes three print sizes, which is below the norm. So, it was interesting to work upwardly from the bottom of the poster during the analysis.
     After working through the artists who aren't featured, we had at least ten reasons to attend BottleRock 2016, so we bought our tickets. Here are the ten reasons (one band has two entries, so there are eleven songs): 

     Last week, X Ambassadors visited the Seth Meyers late night show. If you were thinking they were a one-hit-wonder band with "Renegades," pay attention to the piano and vocals in "Unsteady."

     2015 was a strong year for anthems. The Moth and the Flame generated one of the better ones – “Young & Unafraid.” We saw the band as Rickshaw Stop and they were impressive.

      The song “Trip Switch” is bringing well-deserved attention to Nothing But Thieves, but we’re posting “Graveyard Whistling,” since it’s one of our favorite songs of the last few years.

     The Icelandic band Kaleo has two entries. "All the Pretty Girls"

     “Way Down We Go” by Kaleo

     “Somebody plug in the banjo, this one’s a hit.” “2 Heads” by Coleman Hell

     A second anthem – “Could Have Been Me” by The Struts

     “Never a Woman” by White Sea

     “Got to My Head” by Waters - playful

     “Whirring” by The Joy Formidable – at KEXP

     “Sedona” by Houndmouth

     Other "smaller print performances" we look forward to seeing at BottleRock:
Bird Dog - “The Ocean And The Sea” 
San Fermin - "Sonsick
Greg Holden - "The Lost Boy"
Ivan & Alyosha - "Running for Cover"

“Blue Inside” by OnDeadWaves – A Song Review

     Almost certainly, everyone who pays some attention to music experiences moments of sudden appreciation – times in which a song triggers a surge of emotion. The emotion might be an exhilaration that’s triggered by the energy of the song, or it might be a more gentle emotion triggered by an appreciation of beauty.
      We experience an increased appreciation of the beauty of music when “Blue Inside” hits its 0:42 mark. The song is by onDeadWaves (aka On Dead Waves). At 0:42, the vocals switch from a single, slightly anguished voice to a harmonized, tender approach. The song has an impact each time it’s played. We were curious whether “Blue Inside” had a similar effect on others, so we took a quick look at the Hype Machine data associated with the song. As of today, five other blogs have praised the song, but there are only thirteen Hype Machine subscribers who clicked the heart icon associated with “Blue Inside.” That’s more evidence that music lovers are built differently.

    “Blue Inside” by onDeadWaves

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Banners and Tender - Visiting Some Old Friends

     In our list of best songs of 2015, the bands Banners and Tender held adjacent spots. The Tender song was “Belong,” which was number 35, while “Shine a Light” by Banners was 35. Both band have new singles.
     The driving force behind Banners is Mike Nelson, a Liverpool-based singer/songwriter. As apparent in “Gold Dust,” there is the force of a full band in his music. And the force is a strong one. The guitar work in particular is attractive.  
     “Gold Dust" by Banners - Banners will be at SXSW in March. We intend to get into one of the performances.

     Tender again channels Junip (or the Junip frontman, José González) in the song “Lost.” Tender is a duo based in London.
     “Lost" by Tender

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

“Wake Up Slow” by Atlas Lab – A Song Review

     Within a genre they identify as Indie Psych Soul, Atlas Lab releases the EP “Wake Up Slow.” The release date is January 22. The title track is a keeper, and we look forward to hearing more from the EP.
     The song “Wake Up Slow” features a cleanly and crisply played acoustic guitar hook, which is enough of an attraction by itself. But it isn’t alone. The female vocals enter and are soon joined in harmony by male vocals. Even later, the percussion plays a prominent role without interfering with the non-percussive elements of “Wake Up Slow.”


Lyrics of “Wake Up Slow”
Wake up slow
Roll around on the covers
With the light coming in through the blinds
The world is made to your design
Wake up slow, you’ll be fine

In the morning time, you came along
With your silver eyes and your silver song
You sang it soft, you sang it sweet
You woke me from a dream I had for weeks
Wake up slow, you’ll be fine

In the morning time, you drifted out
With your business eyes and your coffee mouth
You saw the sun, you saw the sky
You turned around and went right back inside
Wake up slow, you’ll be fine
Wake up slow, take your time

Well you wanted love, here’s what you asked for
Well you wanted love, here’s your passport

Wake up slow (Wake up slow), you’ll be fine
Wake up slow (Wake up slow), take your time
Wake up slow (Wake up slow), you’ll be fine
Wake up slow (Wake up slow), take your time

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Sampler from Washington Square Records - Noisetrade Tuesday

     Until our library of Noisetrade recommendations is exhausted, most Tuesdays will feature a Noisetrade offer of songs available for the price of an email address.
     This week, the recommendation is a five-track offer of artists with Washington Square, which is an independent record label based in New York. We are particularly interested in “Sirens” by Soren Bryce and “Never Come Back Again” by Austin Plaine.

The Oh Wonder Visits the Neptune Theatre in Seattle - A Concert Review

Event: Oh Wonder visited the Neptune in Seattle on January 18
Bottom Line: Sold out for a reason, an overall wonderful performance
Reviewer: Rebecca Gross; Twitter: @becsgross

     Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht entered the stage at the historic Neptune in Seattle on the night of January 18th as the crowd erupted in cheers. A big “OW,” standing for Oh Wonder, radiated in neon behind their bodies as their magical duet vocals from the song “Livewire” radiated toward the audience.

      This show at the Neptune was just one of the many sold out shows on the Oh Wonder tour.
     “We sold out our last European tour, we sold out Australia, and Russia had more people than anywhere,” West said excitedly. “But we originally didn’t expect to be selling out shows in the UK let alone in America, so it’s really nuts.”

     And nuts it was, seeing Oh Wonder blow up the Neptune with a kind of vibrance unlike any other. But before that, I had a chance to sit down with the masterminds of Oh Wonder, West and Vander Gucht, to chat about the success the band has felt in the last year and a half.
     After exploring themselves as individual musicians for a number of years, the duo met each other about four or five years ago in a music studio in London. West and Vander Gucht bonded over having the same musical tastes – Death Cab For Cutie, Feist, Joni Mitchell, and James Taylor, just to name a few of their favorite artists.

     West and Vander Gucht also cited the UK, and London specifically, as being a large inspiration for their music. West grew up on a small island in the UK and Vander Gucht grew up in London, which the duo said sparked creativity in their music.
     “There’s all kinds of different people [in London] from all over the world,” Vander Gucht was glowing as she gushed about her home city.
     But all gushing aside, Vander Gucht detailed the deeper ways in which London motivated her and West to write music for their record.
     “London is full of successes and failures and wealth and poverty and all this kind of extremes,” Vander Gucht described. “So it harnesses the idea of meeting in the middle and having a kind of universal understanding that we’re all people amidst this injustice and imbalance; we’re all people and we all need to be there for each other in this community.”

     And through the influence of London, the duo started producing music together in September of 2014, and released one song per month for an entire year.
     “We enjoyed the process of writing and releasing our first song so much that we just wanted to have that opportunity to do that twelve more times,” Josephine explained. “There was no intention of marketing.”
     But West and Vander Gucht do recognize, in hindsight, it was a great way to gain (their 110,000!) followers through their Soundcloud account. It allowed listeners to feel connected to their full album, rather than just a few singles. This decision clearly contributed to the hype in the house of the Neptune. Nearly every audience member knew every word to every song, as evidenced by the below video (which was recorded and uploaded by another attendee at the Neptune: thank you "theartistblurgh").

     The duo appreciates their listeners so much, that they’ve chosen to ignore their label’s request to delete their Soundcloud offerings for legality purposes.
     “People listen to us on Soundcloud and we don’t get paid,” Vander Gucht explained, “But the reason we’re here is because of Soundcloud, so it seems so weird to then shut it off. Music should be accessible.”

     One lyric from the song “Dazzle” performed during their show confirmed what Vander Gucht explained about Soundcloud: the duo is not in this business for money. The show was entirely accessible to many different types of people who walked through the Neptune’s doors. People of many ages and demographics were all grooving to the music and taking videos to capture the moment as best as they could.
     Any worry I’d harbored prior to the show about cheesy male/female duet vocals melted away the more I saw West and Vander Gucht perform live. Unlike similar electronic sounding singer/songwriters, the duo plays traditional instruments – piano and guitar – and they have a live band.

     The authenticity of their sound allowed me to hold high levels of respect for them. The combined talents on that stage proved to be thoroughly experienced and genuine, especially Vander Gucht’s flawless piano skills.
     In addition to creating their own music and lyrics together, the duo designs their own posters and manages their own social media. Vander Gucht said she would never allow anyone to put words in her mouth via the internet as a mode of staying close to the groups fanbase, and this bone fide care for the fans shined through the entire night at the Neptune. 

The best recollection of last night's setlist:
1. "Livewire"
2. "Dazzle"
3. "Shark"
4. "Lose It"
5. "Body Gold"/"The Morning" (The Weeknd cover)
6. "All We Do"
7. "Landslide"
8. "Without You"
9. "Midnight Moon" (Acoustic)
10. "Heart Hope"
11. "Drive"
12. "Technicolour Beat"

   This is a second video from last night's performance (another thank you to "theartistblurgh").

Monday, January 18, 2016

“Something for Nothing” by Rationale – A Song Review

     More than once, we came close to pulling the trigger on a Rationale post. “Fuel to the Fire” is blogworthy, but it sat on the “IO wait list” so long that the praise in the blogosphere covered everything we wanted to say, but better. And “Fast Lane” was more attractive yet. But the post didn’t happen – we snoozed; too many brews?

     The latest release from Rationale is “Something for Nothing.” Move over you other performers predicted to have monster years, Rationale should be given plenty of room on that stage. The Soulful Londoner is already a force and is growing in strength.

     “Something for Nothing” by Rationale

Lyrics of “Something for Nothing” by Rationale
Everybody wants something for nothing
Everybody wants a piece of your soul
I just want to be the one you call when things go worse
And I'll come running. Yeah I'll come running

Everybody wants something for nothing
Everybody wants a piece of your heart
I just want to be the one you call when things go worse
And I'll come running. Yeah I'll come running

‘Cause you give me just a little bit
Of the joy that lies within the mess
I just want to be the one you call when things go worse
And I'll come running. Yeah I'll come running

Everybody wants something for nothing
But nobody wants to love who you are
I just want to be the one you call when things go worse
And I'll come running. Yeah I'll come running

‘Cause you give me just a little bit
Of the joy that lies within the mess
I just want to be the one you call when things go worse
And I'll come running. Yeah I'll come running

They can try but it won't ever hold me back from you
Those burning bridges keeping us apart
Let's turn this nothing mess back into something
Calling, I'll come running to you

‘Cause you give me just a little bit
Of the joy that lies within the mess
I just want to be the one you call when things go worse
And I'll come running. Yeah I'll come running

‘Cause you give me just a little bit
Of the joy that lies within the mess
I just want to be the one you call when things go worse
And I'll come running. Yeah I'll come running

Half Moon Run and Emilie & Ogden at The Independent – A Concert Review

     There are bands that must be seen to be fully appreciated. On Saturday January 16, two performed at The Independent in San Francisco. Emilie & Ogden opened. Ogden is a harp, which is skillfully played by Emilie Kahn. Her enchanting performance was followed by a stirring set by fellow Canadians Half Moon Run.
     Bottom line review – Following the show, a regular and knowledgeable concert-goer, who is not prone to hyperbole stated, “This was one of the top five shows I’ve attended.”

      When considering the combination of the sound of the instrument and the visual enjoyment while watching it played well, there is no more beautiful instrument than the harp. Visually, it is much different experience than watching other instruments, since harpists use longer motions that are visible even at a distance. And it’s much easier to appreciate the physics of the instrument, as you hear the higher pitched notes when the shorter strings close to the harpist are plucked, as compared to the longer strings that are distant from the performer.
Typically, The Independent is far less than half full for an opening act, even when the event is a sellout, as it was on Saturday. We assumed we could show up 20 minutes early and have a position near the stage. The attendance for Emilie and her harp, Ogden, was not typical. Their setlist was well attended and highly appreciated. Emilie held attention, and the patrons were not shy in showing recognition for her talent.

     Half Moon Run started their setlist with “Turn Your Love.” Good call guys – the song had the energy to pull the crowd into the “space” that the band would control for the rest of the evening.

     But it wasn't the high energy that made the evening special. If we were to single out one of the many “difference makers,” it would be vocal skills. Each of the four members has a voice quality that would make him a lead vocalist in most bands. As evidence, watch the video of a BBC studio recording of the song "Unoffered" at the bottom of this post (the use of a harmonica only adds to the attractiveness of the song).
     Half Moon Run returned with two encores. In the first, they played “Trust” and the crowd-favorite “Full circle.” For the second, Emilie joined the band in a cover of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” It’s understandable why Clark considered this one of his top five live performances.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

“Daydreamers” by Glint – A Song Review

     The song “Daydreamers” by Glint changed our lives. OK, not in the macro sense, as when music provides clarification and perspective on life. Rather, the song was life changing in the micro sense, since we dropped other immediate plans and started looking for upcoming performances by Glint. Sadly, they aren't scheduled for SXSW or anywhere within the San Francisco area.

     Glint is a New York-based band. The members are Jase Blankfort and Anders Fleming. Their genre is Arena-ready Rock, which typically requires more than two members to generate in a live performance. There is a Youtube video of Glint playing "Daydreamers" at the Glamercy Theatre in New York nearly a year ago. The video shows four members; and they successfully built a "wall of sound." Embedded below is the Soundcloud stream of "Daydreamers." The waveform shows a decrescendo occurring at three-quarters of the way through the song (explosively ending at 3:30). This period of relative quiet resides between two "walls."
     Glint will release its debut album, "Inverter" on March 11 (via Seattle's Votiv). 

     “Daydreamers” by Glint


     “While You Sleep” by Glint