The Belle Jar- Union Station
Mar 5, 2014
RIYL: Band of Horses, Pete Yorn, Arcade Fire, Ryan Adams
Track 3- Union Station
Track 5- Scotland
Track 7- Houses
Track 10- All That I’ve Wasted
The Belle Jar may have started out as a solo project for singer/songwriter Ryan James, but Union Station is a step out of the singer/songwriter niche and a step into to full-band folk goodness. Now a six-piece, The Belle Jar fill out their instrumentation with just about anything you could hope to hear (violins, ukulele, banjo, pedal steel).
James has the unique ability to write really delicate, meaningful songs that are still packed with energy. You can hear the sentimentality in his voice on songs like “Union Station,” but you still find yourself tapping your foot and nodding your head.
Folky though the album may be, when the band fills out their sound with electric guitar, the result is a really satisfying, clear rock sound that’s more Arcade Fire or Counting Crows than true folk. Likewise, when the violins act more as an embellishment than a leading instrument, (“Scotland”) the result is balladry that transcends folk classifications to create the type of song you might expect from Secondhand Serenade or Dashboard Confessional. “Scotland” may not be the type of song that reinvents a genre, but the yearning harmonies and crooning falsettos present an undeniably beautiful vulnerability.
“Houses” is an up-tempo, acoustic jam that tears a page straight out of Counting Crows’ book of tricks. A four-on-the-floor feel and R.E.M.-like harmonies propel the track forward. This song, the album’s quiet standout track, captures the essence of the band. Taking both the songwriting sensibilities and a knack for crafting simple-but-hypnotizing melodies from artists like the brilliant Ryan Adams, the Belle Jar mold a sound that’s modern folk and edgier alt-rock melted together into a really interesting, refreshing mix.
Hobosexual- Hobosexual II
RIYL: Japandroids, Drenge, Skid Row
Track 3- “Squish It”
Track 5- Hostile Denim
Track 6- A Motherfuckin’ Song About Robots
Track 9- Sex Destroyer
Hobosexual’s promotional line on their bandcamp.com site reads, “2 beards, 4 amps, and more raw talent than Jesus.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, boys.
The Seattle garage/metal/blues/classic/concept album/ weirdo rock duo obviously has quite the sense of humor. From their band name to track names, the two are utterly ridiculous. But one thing that’s no joke is their music. If the Black Keys had a baby with Skid Row, kicked its ass and made it listen White Stripes, the result would be something like Hobosexual’s new album, Hobosexual II.
Combining classic rock and garage rock feels with whatever the fuck else they want, Hobosexual have created a really unique rock album that you don’t want to miss. On tracks like “Squish it” and “Hostile Denim,” the guitar and drum playing duo blow through brutal garage rock while incorporating classic rock guitar solos and Robert Plant-like vocals.
Yes, this is a concept album about robots, hobos, BMX and creeps, but the music doesn’t dabble in nonsense. No, it’s an amps-turned-all-the-way-up rock record—plain and simple.
The album’s coolest and most memorable track “Sex Destroyer” is a classic fret-burning blues-rock track, containing guitar tones that liken The Who, which plays out over four minutes of a rock and roll journey.
Hobosexual II is the weirdest but coolest thing you’ll hear all year and you’re making a huge fucking mistake if you don’t take the time to check it out.
Mas Ysa- Worth EP
RIYL: Aphex Twin
Track 2- “Why”
Track 6- “Shame”
Canadian born songwriter/producer Thomas Arsenault has been making some noise under the moniker Mas Ysa. Mas Ysa’s been called a rising artist by Pitchfork and has opened for Deerhunter. And the noise will only get louder as Mas Ysa’s synth and sample driven electronica sound progresses.
The Worth EP is stocked with ambient electronic interludes and instrumental tracks, but they do very little to segue between and supplement other tracks. That point aside, Mas Ysa’s sound is very unique and doesn’t borrow or steal from any contemporaries, which is unusual in a world where every artist tries to sound like the next.
The EP’s standout track is “Why,” which juxtaposes the tale of an unreturned love over a jumpy dance beat. On the track, Arsenault chronicles a conversation, “She said ‘no, no, I don’t want you’ and I said ‘why?’” to which the girl responds, “You’re not that cute.”
“Shame” follows a similar format. The track tells a dark, despairing tale over dancey synth blares and bouncy hip-hop style drum samples.
It’s impossible to file Mas Ysa under a niche genre, because Arsenault is capable of doing so much. If his next release is a little more focused and comprehensive it has the potential to be something really special, and the Worth EP is a step in the right direction. With Bon Iver-like vocals and LCD Soundsystem samples, Mas Ysa bridges genres to make refreshing music.
The Notwist- Close to the Glass
RIYL: Radiohead, ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead, Foals
Track 1- Signals
Track 3- Kong
Track 5- Casino
Track 7- 7-hour Drive
If you want to know what life in an Ataris game is like The Notwist’s newest album, Close to the Glass, might be a good place to start.
The Notwist have been around since the late 1980s, but have been known to change their sound more than a little. The band has moved from Post-Hardcore early in their career to experimental electronic indie rock today.
As the first two tracks show, The Notwist aren’t afraid to experiment more than a little with tonality. The first track sounds like something straight out of a Super Smash Bros. game with some airy vocals and dis-tonal synth flourishes.
But on the third track, “Kong,” the band abandons their experimental side and dives into catchy, hook-laden indie rock. The track finds lead singer Markus Acher crooning, a little defeated but hopeful, “Are you coming in to drop us off in another spot?/ It's bliss cause I believe in this/ Cause I believe in this.”
Unfortunately some of The Notwist’s lyrics get lost in the air of the synths and spacy guitars, but they come through clear on the album’s ballad, “Casino,” where Acher sings, “After our life in the casino/ we know gambling is a joke/ but to say I’m not here for the money/ is just another word for broke.”
It’s easy to get lost in the overwhelming, full sound on Close to the Glass, but there’s a pop song at the heart of each track. The album may not strike you on first listen, but like the most rewarding records, it get’s more and more beautiful with each listen.
Check out these photos our assistant music director, Kirk Windus, took at a WSBU favorite Kevin Devine concert in Buffalo.
RIYL: Disclosure, Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean
Recommended tracks: 5. lay me down 3. Nirvana 4. Latch
English singer/songwriter, and BRIT critics' choice award winner Sam Smith is a talent that needs more recognition.
After listening to this sampler I'm convinced that everything Smith sings should be acoustic. With a voice like that, why is this man not well known in every household world wide? If you're a lover of quality R&B you would have such an appreciation for his vocals. He sounds like a John Legend/Sam Dew/Vince Kidd mash up and it's so addicting.
The fourth and fifth track on this sampler were especially amazing. Track 5, “Lay Me Down,” is the standout track. It's a typical missing-someone, wish-they-were-with-you, bed-is-empty-on-their-side kind of song, but it's also acoustic heaven. His voice just wraps you in a blanket of soulful emotion that you never ever want to leave.
The first two tracks don’t capture quite as much as the latter. They're still 100% amazing, but they're more up-tempo kind of pop. Smith's vocals are much more suited for soul and R&B than dance pop.
But this guy is definitely going somewhere, I guarantee you'll have him on repeat.
Savannah Smith Live at WSBU
Click the link below to hear the live session
RIYL- Youngblood Hawke, The Joy Formidable
Tracks to Recommend- all songs
There are a few trends that I’ve been noticing in the world of indie/alternative music, one of them being the use of synths. It’s obvious that the synthesizer is the future of the Indie genre. I can’t complain because I thoroughly enjoy the new sounds it brings to music and the new things bands have been able to do with their live performances.
Vinyl Thief utilizes the sounds of synths in a magical way. On Stop Motion, the band doesn’t rely on the synthesizer to define them; rather they let it accent their already full sound. Paired with the standout vocals of lead singer Grayson Proctor and the driving percussion of Andrew Broadway, the synth sounds on the album make it a success.
On a four song EP, there isn’t much time to make an impression. Vinyl Thief jumps right in on their first track, “Smooth.” I’ll be cliché here and say, yes, this song is in fact smooth. Although it’s not the strongest vocal performance on the EP, Proctor’s voice seems to soar above the rest of the instrumentation. On “Faces,” which is arguably the “danciest” song, the drums hit relentlessly throughout, giving it an infectious head-bop feel.
We are going to start hearing more and more bands with a sound like Vinyl Thief and Youngblood Hawke, who have seemed to transcend both electronic and alternative genres. This sound is the future of music and I’ll have to admit that I’m excited about it.
RIYL: HAIM, Broken Bells, Volcano Choir
Track 2- Keep It Healthy
Track 3- Love Is To Die
Track 6- Teese
There’s a reason that Warpaint’s self-titled made all kinds of most anticipated albums of 2014 lists. The female indie rockers have some serious chops.
The album’s not ridden with hooks, but it's easy to see that the band fully intended to create something that in no way conforms to current pop music trends. The record takes the listener on a sonic journey through spacey synths and ghastly vocals. The mix is incredible, and the layers upon layers of sound manage to create something both chaotic and comprehensive.
If you’re looking for something to sing in the car Warpaint not be the place to look, but that doesn’t take anything away from record. Warpaint is more than just an album. It’s an experience. Meant to be digested as a comprehensive work, the songs work together to create an absolutely hypnotizing 50 minutes.
Even Earl Sweatshirt wants to work with the band. And while it may not be the group’s catchiest or most captivating effort, Warpaint isn’t a record you’ll easily forget.
This album consists of one song. Well, that’s how it sounds at least. It’s difficult to tell the differences between each song from the one that comes next. Preeta’s lyrics are nothing more than elementary. She doesn’t provide much hope for the future of the pop music industry with immature insights like “Make love, not war,” and “In this life, we can find eternity.”
The message that she is trying to get across is obvious. It’s a nice message and I know that she means well, but it doesn’t come off as anything profound. She seems like a wonderful woman with a huge heart, but the record lacks a little substance. In the right context Preeta’s music is functional, but there’s nothing groundbreaking on the album and it seems to drag on from the minute the first Hawaiian beat drops.