Big Wave Riders – Life Less Ordinary

Rating: ★★★★☆

Finnish band Big Wave Riders burst onto the music scene with a pretty solid self-titled EP, and as they’ve spent more time together you can tell that the band’s grown in leaps and bounds.  Life Less Ordinary is an album that evades classification, demonstrating one of those rare acts that’s just going out there to put together the best songs they’ve written and giving them to their fans.

Opener, “Waiting in the Wings” might have a bit of dream-pop swagger to open the number, but as you move into the chorus you’re going to get swept away with the exuberant vocal delivery, sharp, yet backed by soaring touches.  And then in an effort not to replicate themselves too much, they move into “Stuck In Reverse,” which opens with a bit of a funky jam up front, before pulling back ever so slightly to offer club ready lyrics punctuated by a stabbing electronic pulse.  Back to back, these songs might not match, but in the grand scheme of Life Less Ordinary, it’s clear that the group are destined to outlive your genre studies.

The bio page for Big Wave Riders suggests the band are merely out to replicate the styles of their youth, and if that’s the case, I have a feeling that the band spent a lot of time jamming out to the Britpop movement that conquered Europe in the 90s.  One listen “California” and you’ll hear that fuzzed out guitar line with a distant vocal seemingly coming into your ears from a far off place.  It’s catchy; it’s got a groove, but it builds you your anticipation for where they band will go next.  And really, there’s no telling precisely where you’ll end up with this group.

“Sunny Season” is definitely a dream pop track you’d find with a lot of the bands in Europe, using a wash of melodic atmospherics to coat a throbbing bass line.  I will say Treppo’s vocal delivery has a little bit more of a post-punk delivery, giving an edge to the track that you might not have had otherwise.  Still, Life Less Ordinary begs you to move out of your comfort zone and move your expectations to the side.  “Castle in the Air” features an incredible bass line that forces your feet to stomp about beneath your office desk, offering you a nice new-wave bent, but then the song takes off.  The chorus, or what seems like the chorus blasts away into a noisy wall of guitars and vocals being pushed to their limit.  Big Wave Riders never dwell on your preconceived notions, nor their own for that matter, which benefits listeners who want more than just your average album listen.

Band’s like this are bound to succeed, playing on their own terms, playing with all their heart.  You can tell by listening to Life Less Ordinary just how important making music is to the group, just how important music is to the lives of Big Wave Riders.  Listening to this album over and over again, I have a feeling that it will help remind you of that emotion as well.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Waiting-In-The-Wings.mp3]

Download: Big Wave Riders – Waiting In The Wings

Life Less Ordinary is out now via Soliti Music.

 

Black Twig – Paper Trees

Rating: ★★★½☆

It’s clear from the recent rise in Finnish music trickling overseas that there’s quite a bit of great music being created in the country; Black Twig is another act determined to share their creativity with the world.  Paper Trees is their first proper album for the newly created Soliti Music, and while the label may be small, they’ve got some huge sounds to promote.

There’s definitely a diverse sound when you take your first trip through Paper Trees. For me, the biggest standout track was “Death Scene,” the albums fourth track.  It’s got a certain earnestness to fit as much as possible into the song, not unlike recent releases from Cloud Nothings.  Yet, you’ll find one large unifying force lurking in this song, and the album itself; the pleasant vocals help maintain a perfect sense of pop sensibility.

Going back to the beginning, you’ll realize that this seemingly effortless bit of cool was present all along.  Album opener “Four Notes” has a decently jangling guitar line, but the breathy vocals keep the song steadying in the waters of traditional pop tunes. But, just as you think the band’s settled into traditionalism, they warp up the song with squalls of feedback and noise, though not in an overbearing sense.  Such touches are present off and on throughout Paper Trees, demonstrating that Black Twig are definitely working out their sound. And in playing with such sounds, you end up with experimental tracks that seemingly come out of nowhere.

“Kouvala (Slow)” is one such track; it’s a sprawling piece of post rock stretching over seven minutes long.  Vocals on this track are practically non-existent, but the restraint the band displays in the songs construction perfectly displays their supposed intentions, leaving listeners with a taste that is more than just your average pop record.  It’s also indicative of the second-half of the record, which seems to hold a dark, nosier side of things in place. You’ll just have to listen to album closer “Antichrist” to see that the band can sufficiently produce edgier moments with chords knifing in and out of atmospheric negative space.  It will also leave you with the feeling that Robert Pollard just wrote a four minute track, as the vocal stylings and mixture of noise and traditional pop fare both lean towards the aforementioned musician’s work.

Paper Trees seemingly goes all over the place, from screeching post-rock to quieter moments of blissful pop, and yet it’s tied together so well that you’ll hardly notice the change in mood from one point to another.  Black Twig surely are a potent songwriting force; it’s clear in the way the songs are written, and the way the record plays out: you’ll find yourself jamming to this one over and over again, grateful that Finland is finally making its musical mark abroad.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/04-Death-Scene.mp3]

Download: Black Twig – Death Scene [MP3]

The New Tigers – s/t

Rating: ★★★★☆

It’s got to be hard to get your music across the Atlantic, especially when you’re a little known band from Finland.  Fortunately for you, The New Tigers self-titled album has slowly begun to trickle across the seas, bringing us fuzzy pop that’s sure to appeal to listeners of all sorts, crafting tunes that will resonate with your ears time and time again.

Of course, one of the greatest things about listening to The New Tigers is their ability to build their pop from within a realm of lo-fi noise, but then let the songs sprawl out into the great unknown.  Album opener “Clocks of Destruction” is one of two such tracks, building in momentum just near the minute mark, but fading into crafty noise, like Broken Social Scene would pull of when they were in a jamming mood.  It takes a special track to build on what could easily be a two minute pop song and still maintain interest throughout.  “Pocketful of Sand” is the other such track, but it takes just a bit longer to reach the vocals, but they’re so light that you’re likely to just see them as a floating piece of the inherent melody the band has built.  These two tracks alone make for a special listen, but this isn’t all the band wants to offer you.

“Transitions” is a much quieter offering from the band, providing listeners a moment of rest and relaxation as the song itself slowly prods along.  Softly the song meanders along, letting you know that this doesn’t always have to be a forceful trip to the noisy horizon; The New Tigers can win you over with a slow number as well. You can then jump right into the bubbly “Door on the Floor,” a more light-hearted bouncing track that resembles Pains of Being Pure at Heart during their quieter noise-pop days.  It’s great to offer sprawling tracks, but being able to contain yourself is a trait that not every band seems to possess, so its nice to see these guys exploring structure and length.

Perhaps one of the secret gems on The New Tigers lives near the end; it’s called “Velvet Jam.” The more I listen to this track, the more I seem to absorb, pulling me further into the song itself.  There’s bits of jangling guitar, ramshackle drumming, and wispy vocals of the softer sort, carrying the melody along perfectly.  Personally, I like the touch of the knifing guitar line that cuts in and out during what seems like the chorus, just before the jangle kicks back into the track.  It’s the sort of song that begs you to listen over and over again.

It’s interesting when listening to The New Tigers how much they sound like a lot of the American bands we all adore, yet at the same time, they’re able to add their own little pieces, allowing the record to sound vibrant and refreshing. Just one listen to the self-titled record will surely not be enough, as you’ll have to go back again, just to check if it’s as wonderful as it sounded.  I got news for you: it is.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/05-Pocketful-Of-Sand.mp3]

Download: The New Tigers – Pocketful Of Sand [MP3]

The New Tigers is out now on Soliti Music.

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