Damn This White Reaper Tune is a Gem

reapyThere are times when you make a mistake at SXSW.  My big regret, especially after hearing this track, was missing out on White Reaper.  I heard they absolutely killed it, throwing an energetic live set together to match their equally rambunctious tunes.  They seem to have shredded a bit of that psych approach that got them some early attention, wrapping this new song in nothing but huge hooks and solid drumming.  It’s the sort of tune that’ll appeal to your punk friends, but will grab your on-the-fence indie rock bros too.  Their debut album, White Reaper Does It Again, is set for a July 17th release via Polyvinyl Records.

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Pure Pop from Fred Thomas

fredFred Thomas has made his mark throughout the last decade with Saturday Looks Good to Me (I still adore Every Night).  But, as he steps into his own, I think he’s making a statement as one of the great pop songwriters we’ve got around.  There’s no frills and hiding behind studio tricks, instead just rocking this song with his voice and his guitar.  I’m always amazed how much people can accomplish with so little, and there’s a lot here for great pop fans.  Look for his solo effort, All Are Saved, which is being released by longtime label Polyvinyl on April 7th.

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Get On Board the Jacco Gardner Train

jackoI’m pretty sure I’ve implored you get behind the music of Jacco Gardner already, but in case you haven’t jumped aboard this train, take a listen to his newest tune below.  There’s hints of psychedelia, but I like the light-hearted soulfulness that comes from his vocal display.  The guitar continues in the track, taking on a fuzzier note as a high vocal jumps from the distance for accentuation.  This should be enough info to get you excited for his new album, Hypnophobia, which is slated for a May 5th release via Polyvinyl.

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Show Preview: The Dodos/Springtime Carnivore (02.18)

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Date 02.18
Location The Parish
Doors 9:00pm
Tickets 15$ Here

Now this is a show I am super excited for as both of these bands are on the heels of releasing killer albums, so you really can’t afford to miss out on this night of music. Up first will be Springtime Carnivore, the psychedelic pop project of Greta Morgan, whose debut album is filled with classic pop hooks and effortlessly reverb soaked vocals that will set your feet to dancing and your head bobbing in approval. If you’re having doubts check out “Name on a Matchbook” below and get hooked.

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And of course, who can forget the main act of the night, The Dodos, whose recent fifth studio LP felt like a trip back to their high energy sound. They’ll surely bring a setlist of new and old tracks, both of which are bound to delight. If you haven’t already, listen to “Competition,” so you’ll be refreshed and reminded of how infectiously good these guys are at making rustic pop music.

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Sonny & The Sunsets – Talent Night At The Ashram

sonnyRating: ★★★★☆

For years, Sonny Smith, with and without the Sunsets, has been turning out a ton of youthful and light tunes, incorporating aspects of whimsy into his odd indie rock music to create a genre all its own. Talent Night At The Ashram marks yet another album for Sonny and company, but this time around, a running thread of melancholy and seriousness runs through with the whimsy, creating an album exploring the relativity of normalcy.

The overall sound on Talent Night At The Ashram continues in classic Sonny & The Sunsets style: soft indie rock with a touch of whimsy, but elements on this album make it feel slightly like a stripped down approach to glam rock, a-la Ariel Pink, but with more subtlety and nuance. The guitars are twangy and distorted, there’s a heavy reliance on piano or synth riffs that runs through and under everything, and Sonny’s vocals seem as distant as ever. Opening “The Application,” gives you a brief insight into this transition, as the song meanders along, with Sonny opening with the lyrics “I filled out the application to be a human being,” underscored by a twee synth riff, creating a rosy sound that’s juxtaposed by the solemn lyrics Sonny spins. This is where the gravity of album lies, and it works well for the band.

Sonny continues his tradition of storytelling, as most of these tracks tell the tale of some, often titled woman and her thrills and spills in daily life. You get the obvious ones, like “Alice Leaves For The Mountains,” and “Icelene’s Loss,” in which the title characters are the main focus of the songs. As you delve deeper into the album, it seems that each song talks about matters of daily life. Take centerpiece and main attraction track “Happy Carrot Health Food Store,” which listens more like a multi-act play, with its distinctive movements. The first of which gives you classic Sonny, setting up the stage with exposition of this imaginary, or perhaps real, natural health food store that you enter “through a mystical door.” This opening brings the eclectic glam rock, with clip-clopping percussion and Sonny’s faded vocals. Then you transition to the next act, where the band really kicks in and you’re greeted with vast and detailed imagery of the characters that work there, and when the band launches into its wirey guitar chorus and following instrumental break down, you’re completely hooked into this weird little play. The ending acts gives you Sonny talking with a barking dog, which, oddly enough, feels like the only natural end to this exercise in the sometimes mundane, yet meaningful nature of daily life.

Talent Night At The Ashram walks the line of sincerity and irony with a smirk and a wink, and sometimes an outright grin. Admittedly, this album takes a little work to enjoy: the music is subtle and not overtly becoming on first listen, and I found myself needing a few spins around before I could really sink my teeth into the tracks. However, once I got on board, the album really opened up and revealed that Sonny & The Sunsets somehow still have a bit more up their sleeves to give to you. Spend some time with this record and get lost in its subtleties.

 

The Dodos – Individ

PRC-284LP-COVERART_HIresRating: ★★★½☆

I’ll be honest and say that after this band put out their first record, back in 2008, that their music lost the same kind of forceful spirit that Visiter seemed to embody. Each following record they put out pulled me in with a single or two, but failed to put together something cohesive enough to really stick as a staple in my listening catalog. Individ is as close as San Francisco duo Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have come to duplicating the success of that first record.

Now, Individ doesn’t simply duplicate the same exact sound that these two began with, but repurposes the original style and tweaks it in a new controlled chaos that works for this rustic and forceful core sound. The tracks feel more refined but not any less exciting; they build and change, emotive and powerful. On a whole, the songs grow on each other, and the album is a true slow burner, picking up strength and peaking at the end. That’s not to say that the early numbers aren’t interesting: opener “Precipitation” is a long number that reboots and refreshes your memory of The Dodos. This song starts loosely and then gets tightened as it goes, mirroring the progression of the album as a whole. Long and grittily buzzing guitar noises welcome you, and then those infamous full and But before you know it, the band turn the corner and bust into full force, from subdued and controlled to a full sprint or a dance around the fire. This is the sound that you came to know and love early on from these guys and its back.

“Competition” marks the place in the album where The Dodos really hit their stride and only go up from here. This track is among the shorter and snappier numbers of stripped and energetic rag-tag rock that the band offers on the record, with its extra full sounding lead guitar sharply carrying the track, backed with a secondary cutting riff. In addition this song is completed with a vocal part that moves past the usual softness and into an emotive and interesting state. After this you get other wonderful songs like the sweetly melodic “Goodbyes and Endings,” that utilizes the full drums to juxtapose with the high yells of the chorus. Then there’s “Bastard,” a completely understated track that feels like The Dodo’s doing some extra lo-fi action a-la The Velvet Underground.

Soon you’ve reached the end of this forty-minute adventure, and while this album takes a lot of positive steps in a direction that seems natural and right for the band, Individ has a little trouble taking off, and some tracks are lackluster. However, the growth and attributes that this album contains overall outweighs the mediocre and leaves you ready to spend more time with The Dodos once again.

 

More Sonny & The Sunsets

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So we’ve already given you some hype over this new Sonny & The Sunsets album, Talent Night at the Ashram, that’s coming out February 17th via  Polyvinyl Records, but when Sonny Smith gives you another tasty track to jam to, it’s really hard not to share the love. The song below, “Happy Carrot Health Food Store,” is quite long, but by no means boring. Sonny & The Sunsets have seven minutes of quirky rock and roll for you in their classic style, which is anything but classic. Have a listen and get psyched for the new album which you can preorder right here.  

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Of Montreal Continue Sonic Versatility

quebecI’ve been jamming to the music of Of Montreal for well over a decade now, and I honestly never have an idea what on Earth Kevin is going to release with his band.  Just last year they offered up the masterstroke, Lousy with Sylvianbriar, but it looks as if the group are going to delve back into their funky bits for their latest release, Aureate Gloom.  Still, there’s something in Barnes’ composition, and his voice (!), that always draws me into his work, so any new album is bound to have something great, for my ears anyways.  This new LP will be released by Polyvinyl Records on March 3rd, just in time for the band to bring the funk to their hordes of fans…including myself.

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Rejoice in New Sonny & the Sunsets

sonnyThis is one of those pieces that really excites me.  I love the work of Sonny Smith, so I’m excited to hear that he’s got new tunes coming our way; I was beginning to think it had been awhile.  But, that being said, he seems to be taking a step in a slightly new direction here.  Now, it’s not that I don’t really love this track, because I do, but if you’ve listened to his latest releases with Sonny & the Sunsets, there seems to be more of a group effort in the song’s construction, which casts a wider net on Smith’s spin of pop music.  The rest of the band seems more involved, and I think that’s going to set things up for quite a listen when Talent Night at the Ashram is released via Polyvinyl on February 17th. This number also got some nice video treatment you can follow HERE.

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New Music from Wampire

wampyweeksWampire burst into my personal subconscious when I caught their rad set over at Mohawk this past year; I was immediately hooked.  They had this weird blend between catchy hooks and surfy pop songs, which led me to immerse myself in their first LP.  Now they’re back, though it seems that they’re playing with a bit more urgency, and possibly a slight bit more noise.  The single below has them playing louder than I’ve heard, though you still can’t escape that they’re operating from within the confines of pop structures. It always make me feel like just letting go, driving fast and pumping my fists in the air.  I expect more of the same when we get to hear Bazaar on October 7th via Polyvinyl.

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