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The Baltimore-based indie rock duo Wye Oak, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, released their third album last week. The ten-track album, Civilian, was among the most anticipated in 2011 and lived up to those expectations.
Like Beach House (another Baltimore based male-female duo), Wye Oak engages heavily in trance-like effects that sound larger than just the two-person lineup. Wye Oak stands apart, however, with its attention-grabbing volume. So it’s more than appropriate when the leading track, “Two Small Deaths,” opens with ambient chatter that is abruptly cut off by steel guitar and electronic effects.
Wasner’s guitar wailing and range grab attention in other tracks, too. Listen to the elegantly played out chords of “Doubt,” her Sonic Youth-esque snarl in “Holy Holy” and well-played figures in “The Alter” to hear her magnificent power.
Other standouts include the title track, "Hot as Day" and "Dog Eyes."
Wye Oak took a big step forward, created a more complex sound and produced its best album yet. Stick around because the band is only going to continue to grow.
Listen and be captivated from beginning to end.
Listen to the title track, "Civilian":
Revolver gives a sampling of the kind of acoustic folk that earned it a French Grammy nomination with its new EP, Parallel Lives. Despite all three of the band’s members being born in France, Revolver shows clear roots in British and American classic rock-folk groups and clear possession of the English language. One wouldn’t be far off calling them the French Fleet Foxes.
“Losing You” stands out for its fantastic harmonies and storytelling that take you to another place for two minutes and 41 seconds. The EP’s opener and title track trails only “Losing You” in greatness, featuring only vocalist Ambriose Willaume apart from the harmonious refrain to emphasize the song’s great lyrics.
With just four songs, Parallel Lives, leaves the listener longing for more. The short closing track, "Balulalow" (1:16) feels like a tease of something greater about to come from Revolver.
Listen to "Losing You":
“Experimental” is a ten-cent word that lazy journalists toss around in reviews to fill space. It takes a true artist to merit a fine complimentary adjective like that, but PJ Harvey truly warrants it on Let England Shake, her eighth studio album.
Too few albums seem unified through and through, but Harvey really tries to perform the title act through 12 songs, each tackling another component of the motherland’s complex past and modern history. “Let England Shake” begins things in a spooky whirl of musicality, with Harvey singing “England’s dancing days are done” over a subtle collection of percussion, brass and even a xylophone.
The music conforms to standard singer-songwriter fare, but it’s the expansion of what’s already there that makes Harvey an experimentalist.
“The Glorious Land” builds around thick percussion layers that sound like someone shaking a large sack of pennies. A sad trumpet pipes over the rising sound, peppy when it shouldn’t be, like a dog jumping around in the car driving him to be put down. “England” plays like a requiem to the titular nation, with Harvey’s near-yodel filling the empty spaces between acoustic guitar strums.
“Bitter Branches” tells of pointy war, with the title objects being the arms of soldiers spreading into the world. This rich metaphor makes for a gripping two-and-a-half-minute tune that passes quickly like oncoming fire. Album closer “The Colour of the Earth” features PJ and her frequent collaborator Mark Harvey crooning about a fallen friend over chiming U2-like guitars and a thunderous kick drum pounding intermittently, like a soldier’s stomp.
Despite the grim images of twisted trees, war-painted scenes and dark places, Harvey ends the album triumphantly, as if the Union Jack were cinematically waving above. Using autoharp, mellotron, trombone, trumpet, xylophone, saxophone, organ, piano and violin on top of her traditional lineup of drums and guitar, Harvey’s experiment becomes sentiment on an album all her own.
Listen to "The Last Living Rose":
Bardo Pond’s eponymous eighth album is composed of seven acid rock songs that make the listener question if what they’re hearing is real or just an induced haze of noise their brain decided to feedback. Despite only being made up of seven songs the album lasts just over an hour, averaging just less than ten minutes a song.
Midway through the album, the listener is greeted with a 21-minute slow ride in the name of “Undone.” The first half is filled with noises and indiscernible singing courtesy of vocalist Isobel Sollenberger. The second half picks up the pace slightly, but doesn’t elaborate on anything established in the first half. This technique actually works out quite well because throughout the whole jam, there is a constantly, slowly building tension in the music. The twin guitars of the Gibbons brothers, John and Mike, are fuzzed to death and drenched in wah. They add to the tension and are constantly floating in and out of the pyramid of sound that works its way through the album.
Completing the pyramid at the base are the drummer and bassist, Ed Farnsworth and Clint Takeda respectively.
The other songs on the album follow the same formula of slow and driving noise that seems to say something without ever saying anything. There is a way this music is supposed to be performed and Bardo Pond doesn’t deviate from the band’s past work.
Known as the world’s most essential psychedelic rock experience, Bardo Pond have started 2011 with a burnt-out bang. Their fans wouldn’t have it any other way. This album may very well be the bone-chilling experience of the year.
Listen to the epic "Undone":
Chillwave as a genre and an ideal conjures up summertime imagery by its very nature. But something about Toro Y Moi, the project of South Carolina’s Chazwick Bundick, feels otherworldly—transcendent. With Underneath The Pine, his sophomore venture, he doesn’t just send listeners to the beach to watch the tides change; he puts them in a hot air balloon to cross international borders and just admire the landscapes.
The undeniable “Still Sound” combines the jive of funk basslines with elements of disco and the soft call of Bundick’s vocals. “New Beat” gives a kick in the pants instantly and barely relents for the duration. Fittingly, “Got Blinded” works supremely well with eyelids shut, allowing the background echoes to envelop and flock until the melody has to cut through with vigor.
And that’s the very thing about this album: the melody. Alone, the backbeats and harmonies would work well enough, but it’s Bundick’s sense of melody that separates Underneath The Pine—and Toro Y Moi in general—from the rest of chillwave.
Listen to "Still Sound":
Elk’s Justin Stein had an important decision to make while working on Let’s Get Married. He had to choose between replacing his computer and paying rent. Stein moved in with his parents and chose instead to replace his computer. As a result, he presents to music world a distinctive album that touches just about all genres.
By switching gears of a soft medieval, courtly sound to an electronic wave of sound, the first track, “Let’s Get Married,” immediately demonstrates what Elk’s album is all about. Adventurous jumps are synonymous with Let’s Get Married.
An African melody backgrounds “Volleyball.” The initial feel-good beat layers with an almost anxious fuzziness mid-song. A voice enters out of nowhere, speaking unintelligible English. Quickly, the song switches back to harmony African modernized with electronic bops.
The adventurous, short album sends listeners on a journey. The repetitiveness and playfulness of Let’s Get Married is the contradiction of typical music. Rather, it is the collaboration and combination of sounds and efforts. And while it is an acquired taste of sound, there exists a level of appreciation and awe for a musician who rejects the typical and looks for his own sound.
Listen to Elk's music below:
Classically trained in opera music, Alex Winston’s musical diversity is extensive. Winston, a Detroit native, grew up listening to MC5, Iggy Pop and The Stooges and the best in Motown and Americana. She opened for Chuck Berry in St. Louis and has recently worked with The Knocks to produce her debut mini-LP on HeavyRoc Music.
Scheduled to release Feb. 22, Sister Wife has the perfect combination of old and new with Winston’s unique touch to live up to the high expectations of all the “Big in 2011” lists her name appeared.
Standouts include “Choice Notes” with its feel good piano beats and catchy chorus; “Sister Wife” and its lofty but carefully arranged drums and Winston’s distinct vocals; “Sweet James” as it puts a fashionable spin on her Motown and Americana influences; and “Locomotive” with its catchy lyrics and airy melody.
Winston takes her musical whimsy and makes it accessible to just about any listener. She describes it best herself, “It’s feel good music.”
Listen to "Choice Notes":
WSBU ADVANCES TO TOP 10 FINALISTS FOR MTV AWARD
ST. BONAVENTURE, FEBRUARY 16, 2011 – WSBU, St. Bonaventure University’s student-run campus radio station, has been voted into the top 10 finalists for mtvU’s 2011 College Radio Woodie Award.
An email sent by MTV said, “With much research and a tremendous response from your listeners, we’ve narrowed down the top 50 College Radio Stations.” Listeners casted their votes online until February 8, when it was announced that WSBU had made it into the top 25 nominees. On February 15, after more voting, MTV announced that WSBU had made it into the top 10 finalists.
The sixth annual mtvU Woodie Awards will air live on Wednesday, March 16 at 12 a.m. on MTV, MTV2 and mtvU from the Austin Music Hall in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest Musical Festival, according to the MTV email.
Listeners can vote online until March 1 at http://radiowoodie.ratemyprofessors.com/ as many times as they want.
In addition, WSBU has compiled PDF files of its current and older publications and has hosted them on its website at http://wsbufm.net/. These include past issues of The WSBU Beat, The Buzz Beat and The Buzzworthy, all available for download for free. St. Bonaventure alumni are encouraged to email the station at firstname.lastname@example.org with any past publications WSBU may be missing on the website.
They're back. More than three years since the ground-breaking pay-what-you-please release of 2007's In Rainbows, Radiohead unceremoniously announced their eighth studio album, The King of Limbs, less than a week before its downloadable release. CD and LP versions of the album will be available in March, while what the band calls the first "newspaper album," including 600 small pieces of artwork, will ship in May.
As for the music itself, it's pure Radiohead. It's more the spacey, spooky Kid A sound than the tighter rock of Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows, starting with the loopy "Bloom."
The album showcases Phil Selway's drumming as well as any, and the album's second track, "Morning Mr. Magpie" is no exception. Frontman Thom Yorke's voice induces chills as he shrieks "You've got some nerve, coming here."
It may take many more listens to fully evaluate and understand this latest effort, but all early signs look positive to me. Few acts know how to generate excitement over their material like Radiohead.
Listen to the album's first single, "Lotus Flower":
Shoegazey beach pop seems to be the name of the game in indie music these days, and who better to lead it than some crazy cool surfer chicks with dreamy voices?
Is/Is fits right in with contemporaries Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls, with the fuzzy guitar layers and pretty half-whiny vocals, but also recalls the early dream pop of My Bloody
Valentine. Ethereal and cloudy, this trio of garage-beach thumpers transcends the trivial and aims a bit higher than just the lifeguard’s lookout tower.
“So Long” is a swirly dreamer with a steady backbeat, perpetuated by groovy percussion. “Pretty Girl” rolls along with a pounding fuzz-bass riff atop crashing cymbal-snare sex. The punky “Eating Hourglasses” is a beach-punk anthem straight from the garage that will have all the stoned surfers bobbing their heads at the show.
Is/Is is loud, aggressive and a tad angry, but, most importantly, Is/Is is euphonious—the prime example of a beautiful mess of sounds fitting together perfectly.
Listen to the dreamy "So Long":