Local Natives – Hummingbird


Rating: ★★★★½

In 2010, Gorilla Manor put this band on every keen indie-music fan’s radar, and since then, due to an insane amount of touring (they’ve played in Austin at least four times since their debut alone, not including the SXSW the year prior) it seems like everyone has been wondering when this band was going to put out a follow up record. But now that time is upon us, a bit of pre-flight jitters and second thoughts fill the air: would it be as good as their debut, or leave fans wanting to break free from the sophomore slump?

Those who have heard the two singles, “Breakers,” and “Heavy Feet,” that the band were circulating in hype of this album should know that Hummingbird is a completely different animal than Gorilla Manor (pun intended). In every way that Gorilla Manor was percussively raw and indulgently explosive, Hummingbird is refined and yet powerful, constantly effervescing in some way—be it a percussive element or a gentle riff, or a cathartic “ooh.” You can hear the difference in the two tracks aforementioned. On “Heavy Feat,” the drums flutter hyperactively in the background while the blissful harmonies you’ve already come to love fill the foreground. On “Breakers,” the percussion is still there, but what is most noticeable are the building waves of “Oohs,” that layer upon themselves and give the song an elegant ferocity that will have you playing it on repeat.

But these two songs are far from the only hard hitting tracks that Hummingbird has to offer—on the contrary, the whole album shines almost as bright as the band’s debut, albeit in a different light. Part of this is due to the National’s, Aaron Dessner, who helped produce this album, as well as his recording studio wherein the band recorded this time around. With his finesse, the band’s nuances are amplified, and a sharper, cleaner record comes into focus in which the music is less gimmicky, and more emotionally accessible. Even on the numbers that are of a faster nature, the lyrics are still vividly expressive, though perhaps on a bit darker, more National-esque, note. Take the opening lines of “Black Balloons,” one of the strongest songs, for example: “I can see the words as they come out of your mouth/Black Balloons form into a poison cloud—” such imagery is much more prevalent.

And in the end, it’s pretty hard to be disappointed with Local Natives, as Hummingbird lives up to the hype even upon first listen and gets better upon repeat. That being said, it’s important to let go of your preconceived notions of this band as one-trick percussive ponies and let yourself be carried away by the refined ferocity, if not, you’ll be passing up on a band who has only put out, and will continue to put out impressive music.

More Blissful Pop from Ablebody

3408002343-1Just a few weeks ago we talked to you about the upcoming release from Ablebody, the newest project of Christoph Hochheim. (formerly of Depreciation Guild/POBPAH).  I’m bringing you another excellent track from his upcoming All My Everybody EP, which will actually be available for everyone tomorrow.  On this latest single, there’s a subtle electronic undertone, built perfectly to accompany the gentle tonal quality in Christoph’s voice.  Slowly but surely he’s making a name for himself on his own, and after listening to this EP, it’s well deserved.

Wimps – Repeat


Rating: ★★★½ ·

As a pseudo-music critic it pains me to admit that I often have a tendency to over-analyze the music put before me.  Sometimes music is just meant to be fun; it doesn’t have to have this higher meaning you can only discern by thumbing through the lyrics sheet.  The debut LP, Repeat, by Seattle’s Wimps is just that.  It’s a rock n’ roll record meant to be blasted loud through your speakers. If you approach it just right, you’re going to pogo about your house like your teenage self.

“Slept In Late” kicks Repeat off in a great fashion, getting your energy pumping from the very get-go.  Rachel Ratner’s vocals have this natural brattiness, but in the endearing manner that most of us who love punk rock will easily enjoy.  Guitars are turned up to just the right levels, careful not to appear over-bearing in front of the drum kit.  That same no-frills attitude comes in again with “Grump,” a song that immediately begins with exuberant shouting.  But, before the group dallies in repetition, they decide to switch things up with careful guitar work instead.  It’s a slight move away from the opening track, albeit not too far.

Upon repeated listens with Wimps my ears seem to gravitate towards “Hello Frustration.”  I love the sound of the guitar here, which almost has a bit of a stutter to it.  The call-and-response lyrics of “let’s grow old and be boring” are perfectly delivered, allowing the song to stand-out just a bit from its predecessors.  From here it only gets better as you blast off into “UFO.” There’s a bit of a swing to the overall feel of this tune, which will have you tapping your toes as you rock along.  And sure, the lyrics might be a bit juvenile, but when did we start taking our rock n’ roll so seriously?

Repeat has a lot of songs that don’t necessarily have lofty lyrical aspirations, but I don’t remember “Judy Was a Punk” being the most poetic piece ever.  Perhaps there’s even a bit of tongue-in-cheek nerdiness, especially when you listen to songs like “Stop Having Fun.”  I mean, come on, the opening line is “I got a long face/that’s because I’m a horse.” You’re allowed to appreciate music just on its own basis, and that’s just what I feel this debut from Wimps provides.  You’re not going browse through the insert looking for deeper meaning in lyrical craftsmanship, but you’re going to have a hell of a time turning this one up really loud.  Throughout Repeat, the vocals are shouted in joy, and the guitars bring in a distorted garage rock mess.  It’s rock n’ roll music, and I love the way Wimps pull it off.


Download:Wimps – Stop Having Fun [MP3]

Buke and Gase – General Dome


Rating: ★★★★ ·

A lot has been made about the talented duo Buke and Gase, with a great deal of the discussion revolving around their ability to use hand-made instruments.  That’s quite a gift, I assure you, but I think the biggest thing to focus on with General Dome, the group’s second full-length, is how it all comes together.  In a basic sense, it’s executed pretty perfectly, leaving listeners with a crunchy bit of art-rock that sounds more like a multi-membered band than a twosome.

From the moment I first heard opening track “Houdini Crush” I was already into General Dome.  There’s a ringing guitar chord just before Arone Dyer enters the picture, her voice soaring heavenly with just a bit of an off-bitch quiver.  The duo uses a sense of playfulness that reminds me of a more-focused Deerhoof, or perhaps less erratic. That attitude carries over into tracks like “In the Company of Fish” where Arone and Aron play off each other before Dyer takes over the lead roll.  Here the guitars sound almost like emotional jabs rather than sprawling chords, but it’s organized in such a fashion that you find yourself mesmerized.

As you arrive at the fourth, titular, track from Buke and Gase, things begin to take root. For me, this was the first track where I really was impressed by the musicianship; I thought it surely couldn’t be less than three people–such is the usage of various sounds.  Dyer on this version sounds more breathy, drawing you into the edgy construction of the track.  It’s similar in fashion to the following number, “Hard Times,” a tune that opens with what sounds like piano tinkering (it’s not) before plunging into the heavier side of the group’s sound.  Layers are placed upon layers, and again, you’re mystified.

But, one thing that would have immensely affected General Dome would have been a number or two that changed the pace a little bit.  There are moments when things seem to change up a bit, such as album closer “Metazoa” or the feeling of added tension on “Split Like a Lip, No Blood on the Beard.”  They alter the formula slightly, but Buke and Gase find themselves middling about at parts…perhaps the downfall of being a duo, as two people can obviously only do so much without giving into unnecessary technology.  That being said, each song on the album (aside from a few artistic intermissions) can be successful on its own.

Some albums need your involvement as a listener, while others can survive as environmental noise…General Dome is the former.  For you to maximize your enjoyment with Buke and Gase, you need an attentive ear that closely follows every structural change or every added instrumental touch.  If you choose to do so, you’ll be rewarded with an experience you’ll cherish from the moment you press play.


Indie Pop Goodness from Hospital

3845608337-1Two things of importance in this post.  First, I feel like I haven’t gotten down on some good old fashioned indie pop in 2013.  Second, I don’t post enough Russian music.  So, I aim to fix that by introducing you to Hospital, who’ve just put out their When the Trees Were Higher (which you can grab for free).  The opening track is really special, using a pristine angular guitar sound combined with underlying electronic creativity.  You’ll find a pleasurable warmth sweeping for you as the song fades to an end.  We might never see them over here in the states, but at least we can enjoy their tunes!


Download:Hospital – Time Will Tell [MP3]

New Folk Number from Y La Bamba

1153Last year, Portlanders Y La Bamba released Court the Storm. It’s combination of Mexican heritage and modern folk led to much success, and they’re already back at it again. January 29th will see the release of the group’s new Oh February EP, and we’ve got the newest single available for you guys. I’m attached to the sound of the guitar in this song, but the vocal harmonies and late-entry of the drums don’t hurt the song either. If you’re into what you hear, look out for the band to hit the road with The Lumineers at the end of the month.


Download: Y La Bamba – Oh February

Love Me Some Benoit Pioulard

benoitBenoit Pioulard has had an interesting career, and by that I mean he’s progressed back and forth in different directions throughout, always careful to stand by his carefully crafted ambient sounds.  His last few releases have seen him take a more accessible approach, providing listeners with a more pop generated sound.  He’s back again with what I’m thinking is going to be a hit; he’ll release Hymnal on March 4th through Kranky. As the releases of 2013 start to get busy, this is one that’s creeping to the top of my list after listening to this track on repeat for the last few hours.

What’s aHappening Austin? Weekend Show Spotlight

austin-skyline-mark-weaverAs rock n’ roll season heads into full swing, it’s time we all take advantate of the many shows that are coming our way in the next few months before SXSW hits us hard.  Surely you know Ty Segall is playing at the Mohawk on Friday night with Ex-Cult and OBN IIIs, but what else is going on in town?  Well, in case Ty isn’t your taste, or you can’t make it, here’s some other show suggestions for a pretty solid weekend in Austin. Read more

New Music from Paint Branch (ft. 2/3 of Q and Not U)

3660865581-1For a slew of folks, moving beyond adolesence in the late 90s brought us into a world of great new music.  For me, one of those acts was Q and Not U, who ended their career years ago. Since then, I’ve kept an eye on the members, particularly John Davis, who has done Title Tracks and Georgie James.  Looking into his projects the other day, I noticed that he had reunited with old pal Chris Richards (QandNotU) to form Paint Branch.  Now, don’t go expecting the group to sound anything like their old act, and that’s not even really the point…just glad to see my old idols banging out new hits.  They’ve just released an album titled I Wanna Live, which you can grab from their bandcamp page for the convenient Name Your Price. I’ve enjoyed rocking out to it all day today, so perhaps you will too.


Download: Paint Branch – Cherry Blossom [MP3]

1 577 578 579 580 581 1,127