Archive | June, 2015

Better Than Fiction

28 Jun

A gentle almost lullabye strumming of a guitar opens Summer Fiction’s “By My Side.” It is this instrumentation which makes up the groundwork of the entire song. The base that is set for Bill Ricchini to work his retro magic.

Imagine something James Taylor could have concocted mixed with a bittersweet feeling, thanks to the simplistic guitars and Ricchini’s quiet and soothing voice. The song that comes to mind which holds its weight next to “By My Side” is Simon and Garfunkel “April Come She Will.”There is a soft and comforting sense to the song like “April Come She Will” while they both contain melancholy lyrics sure to relate to many listeners.

Ricchini channels Paul Simon here in his vocals, never straining to reach a high note, keeping the entire tune in a very comfortable range. It is effortless and that is part of what makes “By My Side” so easy to listen to. Some may even classify the track as easy listening, but there is no mistaking the 60s pop folk influences here.

The perfect song to listen to before bed, or lying in the dark, pillows stained with tears, “By My Side” will give you all the feels in all the right ways.

Discography: Summer Fiction (2011). Himalaya (2015).

Official Website: summerfiction.com

A Retro Blast

21 Jun

As soon as I heard “Your Past Life as a Blast” by Okkervil River, I immediately recognized a retro element to it, though I couldn’t place what it was.

The tune which lasts around five minutes is an expertly crafted indie rock masterpiece, something that The Shins may have knocked out, but with more of a new wave 80s spin. The melody is simple enough and repeats on a loop throughout most of the song. If you’re looking for a chorus, you may have to read the actual lyrics to find some symmetry, because for the most part “Your Past Life as a Blast” sounds musically the same. In fact it isn’t until almost the four minute mark that there is a noticeable change in sound which peps up the song until the end where a repeating refrain plays until fade out.

But we still haven’t quite nailed what makes this song such a throwback. To do that we have to travel back to 1966 and Bob Lind’s hit “Elusive Butterfly” Though this track is more standard in its pop structure, the way it flows is similar to that of “Your Past Life as a Blast.” There is also something to be said of both vocal pairs that weave in and out of the story with ease and gentleness.

Of course”Elusive Butterfuly” is musically a peppier song, but it is no surprise that after racking my brain for a good day or two this was the tune that reminded me of “Your Past Life as a Blast”

Discography:

  • 2002 Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See
  • 2003 Down the River of Golden Dreams
  • 2005 Black Sheep Boy
  • 2007 The Stage Names
  • 2008 The Stand-Ins
  • 2011 I am Very Far
  • 2013 The Silver Gymnasium

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

 

Go East!

14 Jun

Clocking in at just under seven minutes, yes seven minutes, East India Youth’s “Hearts That Never” is a blast of electronica pop. Beeps and Boops and tickling synth runs make up the backbone of the track. And while it is definitely modern there are some retro elements to the song.

William Doyle, who is the mastermind behind East India Youth, meshes 80’s goth rock with The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” which is heard in the melody of Doyle’s vocals. It is hard to imagine it not being influenced by that particular Police track.

And it is here where “Hearts That Never” really put a spotlight on the throwback nature of the song. However there are more electronic runs, and distorted backtracks then there are vocals. It’s not a bad thing, it is just the nature of the genre that defines it.

It is the kind of song that is made for dance clubs, spinning as club goers find themselves in a musical trance. It could work as a tune released in the 80s but it also works in this modern age just as easily.

Discography: Total Strife Forever (2014), Culture of Volume (2015).

Official Website: http://eastindiayouth.co.uk/

Go West!

7 Jun

With its wailing electric guitar and pounding drum intro, Western Plaza’s “Change Reaction” sends a jolt of electricity to listeners. Like a wave crashing upon a surfer, the tune catapults itself to true surf rock fashion, rollicking and rolling in and out between high energy almost punk moments, to calmer musical waters.

*ignore wrong title on youtube video*

It would be hard to discuss “Change Reaction” and not mention the pioneers of the genre that are the Beach Boys, so here’s the mention. The tune shows some resemblance to the hit “409” and lead singer Michael Blackwell wears his Brian Wilson sounding vocals on his sleeve. But this track is more experimental.

More than halfway through “Change Reaction” the instrumental solo, a rarity these days, chugs along at a much slower pace, adding some depth and texture to the song. But before listeners can get too comfortable to the new tempo, it perks back up to speed to finish off the song.

Discography: Western Plaza (2015)

Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/westernplazaband

If you are looking for artist to define the summer of 2015, Western Plaza is it and “Change Reaction” is the perfect song that encapsulates all the retro goodness the band brings to the table.