Archive | November, 2014

Music To Occupy Your Mind

30 Nov

Right from the first few strums of the guitar, and lead singer Connor J O’Brien sighing, you can sense that there is something off about Villagers “Occupy Your Mind” in the best way possible.

Dark, industrial, and filled with electronic elements, “Occupy Your Mind” has an intense musical flavor of Bauhaus “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in just a shorter format. It’s mysterious and unsettling, with a chorus that uses repetition as an under layer which also serves as the main desire of the tune.

O’Brien is smooth and yet mechanical, conveying a seedy energy that matches the heavy instrumentation which often sounds like the soundtrack to a horror video game which builds to a cacophony of sound right at the end of the track.

And while “Occupy Your Mind” certainly is delving into the gothic tunes of the 1980’s, it also has an element of The Doors “People Are Strange” to it, menacing and off-putting in a perfect marriage of era’s.

Let’s not forget the lyrics, which over the chorus are spoken and not sung, giving the song more of a creepy feeling.

“Well there’s a crack in the ceiling/And there’s a hole in the sky/And there’s a government warning/They don’t like our kind.”

To compare the song to a modern day band, it at times, delves into arctic monkey territory, but it is definitely its own being.

Discography: Becoming A Jackal (2010), Awayland  (2013).

Official Website: http://www.wearevillagers.com/

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Spend The Night With Mini Mansions

23 Nov

Mini Mansions have released a cover of the early 1980’s Sparks song “Sherlock Holmes,” and it couldn’t have come at a better time with the BBC’s Sherlock a smash hit around the world.

And while the official single has its positive features distinguishing itself from the original by speeding up the tempo,  bringing in a Beatles-esque vocal showcase at times, and overall providing a sweeping and epic feel to a tune that originally was much more subdued, It is the live version, recently recorded in one take with one microphone  that I want to pay special attention to.

This version more accurately matches the speed of Sparks original. The bare bones instrumentation of only a piano and two guitars allows for a more delicate vocal performance from lead singer Michael Shuman who despite not being from England, handles himself at times as the John Lennon of the band.

The live version allows for a more haunting sound that suits “Sherlock Holmes” perfectly. And while the anthem quality is toned down a bit, the chorus still packs a punch that elevates the song, capturing some of what is produced on the official single.

You may be hearing “Sherlock Holmes” for the first time in your life through Mini Mansions, thinking the recent Sherlock obsession has spawned the track, or maybe you are already familiar with the original. In either case this live track is something that surely Sparks would be proud of, proving they are a band that one should keep their eyes on.

Discography:

  • Mini Mansions (2010)
  • The Great Pretenders (2015)

Official Website: https://myspace.com/minimansionsmusic

Totally Tanlines!

16 Nov

With an emphasis on the electronic new wave sound of the 80’s, Tanlines brings “All of Me” a song that authentically sounds like it is from the past. But with one exception.

Though the larger part of the song has a New Order “Blue Monday” vibe, albeit a lot less heavy, moody, and dark, the chorus allows “All of Me” to enter into the modern world. It conjures up Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” and MGMT’s “Kids” with echoing voices and a lighter, airier feel.

Tanlines has its finger on the pulse of alternative from the past and the present and they meld the two brilliantly. Part of what bridges the two decades is the sporadic hand claps which give the song an easy, accessible, and timeless feel.

Many very successful bands have relied heavily on new wave music to catapult them to stardom such as the killers, for example. And while they also achieve the same effect, “All of Me” is more of a triumph than ever because in a sea of other imitations it comes off as the real deal. It fits in with what current radio stations are playing today, but it also isn’t farfetched to imagine hearing it on the radio back in the day. I cannot say that about the killers, who lean more towards the modern end of the spectrum.

Neither is better than the other, but for the sake of this blog, retro elements take precedence. So Bravo to Tanlines for creating authentic content that spans time.

Discography: Mixed Emotions (2012)

Official Website: tanlinesinternet.com

Follow The Sun

9 Nov

Sharon Van Etten’s “Everytime The Sun Comes Up,” is a modern day revelation with an 80’s twist. You will find yourself absolutely mesmerized by Van Etten’s smoky but smooth vocals that match Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders).

But there is also a hint of another retro sound here. After multiple listens, especially to the spellbinding chorus in which Van Etten croons “Everytime The Sun Comes Up I’m in Trouble,” I heard similarities to this tune and Echo and The Bunnymen’s “Bring On The Dancing Horses.” It has that same dramatic flair, done in a slower tempo. And yes, the chorus to both songs do line up. Listen with an open mind and you’ll hear it.

But Van Etten brings this track into the modern world with her blunt, bordering on crass, lyrics. It’s a portrait of a bruised person, and by God it is a wonder to the ears.

Singer/songwriters, such as Van Etten, can often leave a melodramatic impression on listeners that is overbearing, but on “Everytime The Sun Comes Up” Van Etten manages to captivate her audience into really hearing what she has to say without bombarding them with melancholy.

It’s more than just a song. It’s more than just a girl singing. It’s an experience.

DiscographyBecause I was in Love (2009), Epic (2010), Tramp (2012), Are we There (2014).

Official Website: http://www.sharonvanetten.com

 

Stay Awhile With The Appalachians

2 Nov

“Stay” by The Appalachians is the type of track that has retro subtleties with a modern punch. It shifts back and forth between delicate verses and a powerful and forceful chorus. And while most songs with contradicting sounds struggle to find the balance between the two, The Appalachians have hit their stride making it appear seamless

The driving guitar melody which remains throughout the entirety of “Stay,” the glue of the track if you will, has remnants of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice.” And it also has that same quietness and fragility.

But once the chorus crashes, like a musical tidal wave, the tune takes a commanding turn reminiscent of Stroke9’s “Little Black Backpack.” It’s loud and brash, the vocals hazier and harsher, making it a surefire attention grabber. What might come off as a lo-fi sleeper song suddenly wakes up and alerts listeners that “Stay” has something to say.

The chorus, with its brazen attitude also matches the urgency and desperation of the lyrics “I want you to stay/I need you right now.” Much credit goes to lead singer Adam Sutkiewicz who weaves in and out of softness and imposing sound with complete ease.

While it would easy to dismiss “Stay” as just another indie rock song, it’s small retro elements draws attention to the fact that when all is said and done The Appalachians, whether intentional or not, have the ability to draw on the past to create a modern work of art.

Discography: The Appalachians (2014).

Official Website: http://www.theappalachiansband.com/home.html