Friday, May 15, 2009

Silversun Pickups Take Us For a Ride

Silversun Pickups has a great name, a great sound, and a passion for taking their listeners on widely divergent paths. The band consists of Brian Aubert (lead vocals/guitar), Nikki Monninger (bass/vocals), Christopher Guanlao (drums), and Joe Lester (keyboards). Their second full-length album, "Swoon" hit the records stores last month to very positive reviews.

Named after a liquor store in Los Angeles, the band drifts the listener through a group of calm, floating songs, then plunges downward into a spiral of screaming guitar distortion. Their first single, "Panic Switch" breaks open with a fuzzy, distorted intro, and then Brian Aubert's whispered growl breaks through... "When you see yourself in a crowded room/Do your fingers itch, are you pistol-whipped?/And will you step in line or release the glitch?/And can you fall asleep with a panic switch?"

One of my favorite songs on the album is "The Royal We" which features choppy bass beats layered over explosive guitars, with Aubert working up to a scream: "You said you believe, but believing won't fly/Right before you hit your prime/That's when we fell in love, but not the first time/And when it's all over and you open your eyes/You see the room turned on its side/And you'll be lying down and over on the floor; signed, The Royal We." Aubert's voice on this song brings to mind Billy Corgan, but Aubert's got his own style and sharp lyrics that set the band apart from other top alt bands.

"Draining" is a glistening song where the band takes a breather, getting their breath back as Monniger and Guanlao tap out a meditative rhythm that provides a backdrop to Aubert's addictive chants.

If you're ready to take a ride through a shimmering variety of audioscapes, this record's for you. Silversun Pickups is an immensely talented band that is destined to surprise and amaze us for years to come.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Frightened Rabbit Jumps to Major Notoriety

Frightened Rabbit is an amazing Scottish quartet, consisting of Scott Hutchison (vocals, guitar), Grant Hutchison (drums, vocals), Billy Kennedy (guitar, keyboards) and Andy Monaghan (keyboards, guitar). The band has released two studio albums, with a third to be released at the end of this month. Their second release, The Midnight Organ Fight, really shows off their earnest, straightforward songwriting skills. Their first song, "Modern Leper," simply oozes with soul and vulnerability. It starts out rather slow, then pulls you in with a roar at the end. The lyrics simply grab you by the throat and don't let go - "Is that you in front of me/ Coming back for even more of exactly the same?/ You must be a masochist/ To love a modern leper on his last leg." "Backwards" is another strong song that reveals Scott's spare yet emotive songwriting: "I'm working on my faults and cracks/filling in the blanks and gaps/and when I write them out they don't make sense/I need you to pencil in the rest." Grant's drumming is felt strongly through the record, yet it doesn't detract from the songs. In Heads Roll Off, Scott's voice has a bewitching folk quality that is somewhat reminiscent of Glen Hansard's (from the movie Once and the band The Frames). Simply marvelous.

You can catch Frightened Rabbit at Portland's Holocene on October 30th.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

TV on the Radio -One of My Faves for 2008

TV on the Radio is one of the most talented bands on the planet. Of course that's just my opinion, but if you spend just ten minutes listening to their new album Dear Science, I'll bet you'll agree with me. This five-member New York band burst on the scene two years ago with Return to Cookie Mountain. With "Dear Science," the band has managed to up the ante with a very unusual-yet-oddly-comforting layered sound that just floats you up into the atmosphere with closed eyes and snapping fingers. The imagery this music brings to the foreground is utterly mind-boggling. On "Halfway Home," musician/director/actor/film animator Tunde Adebimpe croons "Wild spirit winds from out your chest/ Collides with world and wilderness/ It needs a gentle hand to call it home/ Now surfs the sun and scales the moon." Mmm-hmm. You may have heard "Dancing Choose" on indie radio, which blurts out snippets of rap rants, saxophone thumps, synthesized beeps and more. Every time I hear it, I catch another few layers of sound that I hadn't discovered before. "Golden Age" is my favorite song to listen to while watching depressing financial news on CNN with the sound turned off. The compositions live and breathe with you for a long, long time. I'm simply addicted.

"A lot of bands have something to say," said multi-instrumentalist David Sitek. "We have something to ask."

My question for TV on the Radio is: When are you coming to Oregon? Bendites can catch the band in San Francisco at the Warfield on November 9th.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Duhks Evolve with "Fast Paced World" Album

Here I am, driving down the road, listening to a song called "The Mighty Storm" on the radio. My first thought was that Joan Osborne finally has a new album out! I was surprised to find out that the band is actually the Duhks, an absolutely fantastic neo-folk band from Winnepeg, Manitoba. Sarah Dugas is the lead singer, and she has an amazing set of pipes. The band is comprised of Jordan McConnel on guitar, pipes, whistles and vocals, Leonard Podolak on banjo and vocals, Sarah Dugas on vocals, Christian Dugas on percussion, and Tania Elizabeth on fiddle/violin. Their sound is definitely hard to put a label on. It's an amazing conglomeration of sounds, ranging from soul to folk to bluegrass to French lounge pop. Their live shows are apparently not to be missed. Check out this incredbile performance at Merlefest 2007.

The band is passionate about environmental issues, and they've started The Duhks Sustainability Project. Their goal is to tour as sustainably as possible, which means using biodiesel fuel, buying food from local organic farmers, and wearing sustainable eco-conscious clothing.

Catch their performance at Portland's Roseland Theater and Grill on September 28th.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Pillow Queens Are Ready For Their Closeup

How many bands do you know that describe their music as garage animal? In the case of Austin-based band the Pillow Queens, the shoe fits. The band, comprised of Duncan Malashock (vocals/guitar), Will Slack (vocals/guitar), Eric Loftis (bass), and Carolyn Cunningham (drums), have only been playing together for about two years, but I imagine they'll soon be getting nationwide press and radio coverage. They just released their first album titled "Kookoolegit" with Monofonus Press, a company that brings together musicians, artists and writers and combines their efforts into multimedia packages and performances. In this case, if you purchase Kookoolegit, you'll also get a short story penned by Karen Davidson called "Clear Violet."

The music is definitely experimental and rough, with obvious punk influences, and the lyrics can throw really throw you for a loop, alternating between joyful and ironic. The album really works well when all twelve tracks are taken as a whole. "Hot Song" and "Real Cool Head" will get your body moving, while "Animal Poseurs" is a delightfully weird song that describes people posing as different animals. "Lava Lamp" brings to mind images of surfing at Mavericks, with Lou Reed singing in your ear. "Dubai-bai" takes you along on a strange little trip to Dubai with these lyrics: "I'm gonna break up this band. Sail everyone's ship, so I can afford to snowboard indoors in the desert in Dubai."

At the end of September, the Pillow Queens will head to the northeast for ten days to promote their album. I look forward to seeing them grow as a band. In a perfect world, I could see David Byrne or T-Bone Burnett producing their next album.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vampire Weekend Biggest Little Indie Band That Could

In less than 18 months, the band Vampire Weekend has gone from an unknown Columbia University band to a huge musical phenomenon, thanks in part to several hundred music blog reviews, a Spin magazine cover, and a stint as MTV's Artist of the Week .

The four-piece band is comprised of Columbia grads Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij, and Chris Tomson, who look like they just stepped off the set of "Dead Poets Society", complete with button-down shirts, khaki pants and boat shoes. Their self-titled 2008 album "Vampire Weekend" on XL Recordings is an eclectic mix of Afropop and British indie-rock, with spare sing-song guitar and simple lyrics that immediately pull you in. It's an exquisite summery album that you can't help but listen to over and over again. One of my favorite songs is "Oxford Comma", a compact but tightly written song about a guy who is disgusted with his girlfriend's petty obsessions. Another favorite is "A-Punk" (see their video here), a twitchy little song with a funky drive and rhythms straight out of the African savannah.

Check out their network TV debut on The Late Show with David Letterman. They also did a fascinating cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere" while performing on Australian radio station Triple J. Hey all you Bendites - be sure and catch their show on September 5th at Portland's Crystal Ballroom.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

MySpace Records Issues Re-Release of "Polysics or Die"

by All right people, summer's just about over. Put your Havaianas back in your closet. And those summertime Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, and Amos Lee tunes can all go to the bottom of your iPod rotation. Fall is just a mere 32 days away, so chug that pot of coffee, buy the Polysics' new album "Polysics or Die!!! Vista", and crank the speakers up to ELEVEN. Kaja Kaja goooooo!

Polysics is a Japanese "new wave" band that has a unique Devo-esque punksynthpoprock thing going on. They call their type of music "technicolor pogo punk" which seems about right. The band is not surprisingly named after the classic Polysics Korg synthesizer. They recently signed with MySpace Records and have re-released their 2005 album, now titled "Polysics or Die!!! Vista." Polysics' lyrics are an interesting mishmash of Japanese, English and, um, jibberish. All the songs are infectious, but "Electric Surfin Go Go" is one of my favorites. If iTunes isn't your thing, you can purchase their album on their MySpace page. Be sure and keep an eye out for "They Ate The Machine" which will be released in the U.S. at the end of September.

They don't have plans for a US tour anytime soon, but those lucky Europeans get to see them at Festival Marsatac on September 27th in Marseille, France.