Frank Smith – Nineties

franksmithRating: ★★★★☆

Frank Smith is a band, not a man.  I figured you would know that, as the group has been knocking around for nearly 10 releases, but I’m thinking Nineties is their best work to date.  It’s got roots in the world of folk music, sure, but it pushes the envelope with more than its share of loud guitars and careful musical accompaniment.

You won’t find a better opener for Nineties than “We All Win;” it opens with little more than vocals and strummed guitars…a few of the notes receive an extra twang in the mix.  While it might be one of the quietest tracks on the record, it provides a teaser of sorts, just whetting your appetite.  Soon you’ll find the pure pleasure that is “Beaten Sacks of Death.” I love the way the guitar turns at the chorus, taking the Americana roots and gearing it up for a more rocking ensemble.  What steals the show, at least in this tune is the accessorizing done musically; the accompaniment draped all provides perfect accentuation at every turn.  Oh, and wait for the stomp just after the 2 minute mark; you’ll surely come back for more.

What will stand out to many of the fans of Frank Smith will be the more complete, even louder, presence here.  If you look at the middle section of the album with songs like “How Many Ways” and “It’ll Be Over Soon,” you will see the decibels rising in your ear, but importantly, the band’s sound isn’t lost here.  There’s a slight drawl on the vocals on “How Many Ways,” and the song opens slowly.  However, the group jumps off into a rocking jam; dig the echoing guitar in the background.  “It’ll Be Over Soon” nears a full on rock track, though with hints at country nostalgia with slight electric organ touches throughout.  The chorus reminds me of how good simple lyrics can come across in this genre, like those great Old 97s tunes.

Even with the louder sound here, don’t sleep on the band’s ballads.  “One Day” is probably one of my favorite tracks on Nineties.  Everything on this track fits; there’s acoustic strumming, changes in the vocal pitch, gang vocals, piano tinkering, even a distorted guitar breakdown…this song has it all.  It all prepares you for the elegant album closer, “Chewing Glass.” The piano serves as the backbone on this number, with the guitar swirling around both vocals and piano.  Personally, I like the fact that the lyrics can be easily sung, as is the case with all the tracks on the record.  If you’re not affected by one listen to this tune then I have a feeling that something’s wrong with your heart.

I don’t want to make too much of a fuss about a more pronounced sound on Nineties, as I think that’s really unfair to the record.  While it may be louder, you’ll find absolute joy listening for the finer touches in the nooks and crannies of the album; you’ll also rejoice that Frank Smith sounds exactly like, well, Frank Smith.  I think the band is officially ready to take on the world, so join in on the fun, won’t you?


Download: Frank Smith – Chewing Glass [MP3]

Warm Soda – Someone For You

tumblr_mii422dWF51qeazcjo1_1361334027_coverRating: ★★★★½

Out of the ashes of Bare Wires comes Warm Soda, but this time around things are going to be glistening with pure pop.  It’s not like this wasn’t lurking around the corner, but with Someone For You the band has created something that will inevitable find itself stuck in your head, and heart.

Let’s get the bad thing about this record out of the way, if you can even really find a fault here.  Okay, it does sound a little bit the same through and through, but I’m not biting that that’s entirely awful.  After all, when you find so many songs filled with hooks and anthemic choruses you’re going to be happy they didn’t try to diversify their sound too much, choosing to rock it the way they do best.

“Violent Blue” kicks off the album with one of the heavier tracks present on Someone For You, using a quick pace and steady drumming to propel the track.  But, the chorus of “violent blue” hints at the more pop-centric leanings of the group, preparing you for a fun filled ride of hits.  Basically, that starts as soon as you hit tune #2, “Someone For You.”  While the cymbal work and drumming hint at a more garage filled sound, the soft quality of the vocals working against the chiming guitars definitely makes you feel good.  I especially like the way vocals blow you away with the drawn out “you” at the 1:47 minute mark. It’s just a teaser though, making way for the crunchy goodness of “Jeanie Loves Pop.”  If you need a standout track to pass along to your friends in mixtape format, then you have to include this song.  There’s a rawness to the guitar playing, yet the chorus is as anthemic as you can get, begging you to shout it out at the top of your lungs.

I think one of the best attributes of Warm Soda is the ability for the drums/guitars to work against the brighter quality of the vocals.  For the most part, the drums are pretty steady and pushed up in the mix, like in “Waiting For Your Call.”  Here, the guitars and the cymbal work build this incredible tension that you expect the band to unleash, but the twist of the knife comes via the melodic chorus relief.  Is the track heavy? Is it a pop tune? Neither, it’s just a rad tune. The same can be said for “Busy Lizzy” with its knife’s-edge guitar work and quick blasting drum work, all centered around a cool vocal that’s slightly coated.  Just wait for the boys to bang out the ending with pure pop class.

Honestly, I know a lot of people that think the Exploding Hearts sound could never be done again.  It came at the perfect time in indie rock, but now is the time for Warm Soda.  They combine elements of garage rock and power-pop to perfection; there’s not a band out there doing things as well as these lads.  Someone For You is filled with hit after hit, and you can’t ignore a single song for fear of missing greatness.  The best thing you can do? Buy this LP right now!


Download: Warm Soda – Waiting For Your Call [MP3]


Sharing A Track By Fol Chen

Good Friday. Slow Friday.

How about a little something you might have missed post? Well, don’t mind if I do do. Take a listen to this lovely track by Fol Chen off the album The False Alarms on Asthmatic Kitty. <- one of my favorite label names Hang with it through the lead in…

BTW, there will be a couple more SxSW related posts from this kid next week. Not done yet. Nope, not me.

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Pure Beauty from Wintercoats

705236_533455266681988_285299108_oIt’s really remarkable when you listen to the music of James Wallace, the one man composer who works with various friends to flesh out his sounds under the name Wintercoats. I like the light-hearted feeling and the feathery quality of the vocals. He’ll be releasing his new Heartfelt EP over in Australia on April 7th through Yes Please.  If you need a composition piece with an other-worldly edge, then allow yourself to be carried away by this new tune.


Download: Wintercoats – Everyone Seems To Be In On Something [MP3]

New Pop from TORCHES

tochesYou know, I definitely have been enjoying straight rock n’ roll this year, but I don’t want to forget that I really do love great pop music; I won’t hide from that.  This new jam from TORCHES is really enjoyable, and you’ll be able to get your hands on it via the band’s new If the People Stare EP on May 6th…for free I might add.  On this jam the vocals are way up front in the mix, and they definitely have a strong focus, but I like a lot of the light cymbal work that’s going on in the background of the song.  It’s just a good pop ditty. You can enjoy that can’t you?


Download: TORCHES – When You Gonna [MP3]

Rad Post Rock from Cobalt Cranes

CobaltCranes_album_LOW_RESI’m really stoked on this new jam from Cobalt Cranes.  There’s something about it’s nostalgic 90s post-rock bent that really is working for my ears.  At the same time, that heavy bass line combined with the atmospheric guitar work cascading in and out of the tune definitely provides the song with modern appeal; I also appreciate that it’s a bit more melodic than some of the rocking tracks I’ve been jamming to lately.  If you like what you’re hearing then you can grab the band’s debut album, Head in the Clouds, on April 9th when it’s released by Anticc Records.


Download: Cobalt Cranes – Shake [MP3]

Welcome Return from Blue-Eyed Son

W139I actually haven’t heard anything about Blue-Eyed Son in so long that I can’t even remember the last time I busted out their old record, but I’m glad the group is back in the fold.  They’ve got a new five song EP titled Shadows on the Son that will be heading your way on May 28th courtesy of Eenie Meenie Records. It’s weird, but every time I listen to the group, I think back to the innocent days of Beulah, where great pop songwriting and usage of horns was bred out of late night jams rather than extensive layering.  Regardless, I really think people should write more songs like this, both musically and lyrically.


Download: Blue-Eyed Son – All Went Black [MP3]

Wavves – Afraid of Heights

Wavves-Afraid-Of-Heights-600x600Rating: ★★★☆☆

Nathan Williams, better known as Wavves, may have crossed your radar at some point, be it through the media realm of the indie music world, or through his music; either way, Wavves is one of the most buzzed about bands. Back in 2010 he released a full length album, which seemed to take the buzz to a whole new level and his relationship with Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino made for his place as the title within his 2010 release: King of the Beach. Now that it’s been a few years and the buzz has died down some, will Nathan Williams come back swinging from the fade?

The answer isn’t so straightforward, as this is decent album, but the honeymoon stage for fans may be long gone. Afraid of Heights begins with some tinkering instrumental, feeding the anticipation of audiences. The first track, “Sail to the Sun” bursts into life quickly, though, the guitar wailing along with Williams’ vocals, as he kicks straight into it. Fast paced and laden with lyrics classical to the California punk lifestyle that Wavves has always explores. It’s a short and sweet track, but reminds audiences that this guy knows how to rock.

Pushing onwards, you’ll find that it’s not all full speed ahead on Afraid of Heights. The second song, “Demon to Lean on” evokes a sound that reminds me of a grungier, wilder, Weezer, which isn’t a bad thing. Tempo slowed, you can focus on the details that Williams has to offer, which include small nuances within the verses. Other strong moments on this album include, “Dog,” which gives listeners a break from blasting guitars and offers a catchy chorus to sing along. Later on, “Cop,” continues this milder, less garage-rock style, with mini-builds inside of it to explode into choruses, but as on “Dog” there aren’t those waves of dominating electric guitar. Some fans may detest this, but Wavves may be gaining some new fans.

What works against Wavves on Afraid of Heights is time—the album just feels long. With songs that are so repetitive and similar to each other, it seems like a few could have been cut from the track list that would have simplified the album and made for a snappier overall sound. Williams’ music gets a bit sluggish toward the end, and so did my interest, which may be the biggest problem for listeners on here.

Regardless of length, there are some excellent garage rock tunes on this album, which should feed the buzz just enough for Wavves.

Return To Form From Rogue Wave


It’s no secret around these parts that the ATH crew wasn’t exactly in full support of the last Rogue Wave album Permalight from 2010.  Nothing against the band, as everyone is entitled to change their sound as they see fit, but we just didn’t get the move towards a full on experimental dance band.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’m excited to share this new song “College” that appears to be a return to the poppy goodness that we used to love about this band.  Welcome back guys.

New album Nightingale Floors will be available on June 4th via Vagrant Records.

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New Beauty From Active Child

Active Child

Over the last year, I’ve developed a major fan affair with Pat Grossi and his experimental pop group known as Active Child.  His album You Are All I See was, and still is, one of the most underappreciated gems from 2011 that somehow gets better and better with every listen.  Well today I’ve got some great new for fans of the group with this brand new track “Evening Cermony”.  It’s a great track similar to what I’ve grown to love about the act with it’s synth pop, beautifully placed harp pieces, and the glorious voice of Grossi mixed in superbly as usual.  Enjoy.

Stay tuned as we get more news about the upcoming new album.  This track actually appears on the soundtrack for the upcoming film The Host.

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