Afghan Whigs- Do to the Beast
Apr 10, 2014
The White Buffalo commands the full attention of whatever room he’s occupying at that very moment. On stage, the over-six-feet-tall grizzly man grips his guitar with force, belting out his wooded lyrics like the poet laureate of the forest. He spouts folktales of lost love like a frontier gunman on the run from his charred past. But The White Buffalo’s most charming quality is his humanity—each song is a personal reflection, especially the spiteful ode to whiskey on “John Jameson” and the self-explanatory “Love Song #2.”
With his long brown mane, fuzzy beard and shirts that can only have been bought from big-and-tall stores, The White Buffalo is a man’s man: a drinking, fighting, soulful man who ain’t afraid to tell you everything, no matter what you might say about it. “I’m sloshed and seein’ stars,” opens his whiskey croon, but you listen deeper and more personally to hear him finish the story. And that’s the whole heart of The White Buffalo—his stories.
Without ‘em, would this large American bard have been able to put out records and tour relentlessly to support them over the past five years? Nope, didn’t think so. Walt Whitman wrote about a unified America, one that spans oceans and mountains with a strong sense of brotherhood. While The White Buffalo might seem like a cold drunkard who’d rather fight his fellow man than embrace him, his story is all of ours, and it’s all-American.
Listen to "Love Song #2":
After an eight-year hiatus, The Greenhornes, the trio from Cincinnati, Ohio is at it again. ‘****’, their latest album, gets right back into the garage rock the band is known for. On the other hand, this album happens to be pure poetry.
If “Underestimator” doesn’t hook you from the very first guitar strum, the catchy lyrics surely will. Lead singer Craig Fox pleads with his love with a familiar notion, “I’ll spend my day, waiting for you.” You find yourself not only drawn in by the song, but empathizing with the rocker. The band is rounded out by bassist Jack Lawrence (of The Dead Weather) and drummer Patrick Keeler, who both also play with Jack White in the Raconteurs.
All-in-all Greenhornes has matured in the eight years they have taken off. ‘****’ definitely lives up to its name.
Listen to the upbeat "Underestimator":
Jessica Hernandez brings the heat both vocally and instrumentally in her new album, Weird Looking Women in Too Many Clothes. Her unique vocal construction draws the listener in, entertaining them with thoughts of macabre circus sideshows, and Mardi Gras.
The infusions of brass, keyboard and avant-garde percussion give the pieces a jaunty tone, which contrasts highly with the dark nature of the lyrics. Each song shows a different side of Hernandez’s vocal range while continually complementing the spirit of the album as a whole.
Hernandez’s unique gothic-soul vocals create a chilling semblance with their drawn out vibrato and ghostly underlays. Her deep tambour on “Moonstruck” sounds like a dirge, bringing the listener back to the voodoo and black magic of New Orleans.
Overall, the album sets the bar extremely high for this up-and-coming group. The thought and effort put into each aspect is not only apparent, but necessary for the album to provide so much auditory pleasure. From the bubbly melody of “In The City” to the slower, more melancholy mastery of “All So Mute,” Hernandez does not disappoint.
Listen to "In the City":
San Francisco-based band The Fresh & Onlys have been bringing their garage-pop sound to the music scene for three years, making a name for themselves by combining the hard-hitting chug of garage rock with the playful twang of folk rock.
Play It Strange is The Fresh & Onlys third album in as many years, and it showcases a cleaner, more easily accessible sound than we’ve seen so far. Singer Tim Cohen doesn’t provide much color in his flat, baritone vocals, but taking the backseat to the melodies and rhythms from the guitars and drums works in The Fresh & Onlys favor to create heavily instrumental and interesting songs. At times throughout the album, it sounds as though they’ve played around with different musical genres, putting their folk-rock, garage-pop spin on sounds you’d usually attribute to old western movies or songs you’d hear from The Beach Boys. Every song brings something new to the listener, keeping them interested and making us all wonder what they’ll come up with next.
Check out the video for "Waterfall":
Electronic music isn’t all soulless beeps or mindless techno. Gold Panda, aka U.K. producer Derwin Panda, creates music rich with emotion and imagery on his debut album.
Lucky Shiner is a journey. Panda draws on his time studying culture, history and language in Japan to take the listener to the Far East. What’s truly fascinating about the songs, though, is that the nostalgia isn’t lost on the listener. Songs like “Same Dream China” draw on the traveler in all of us to create emotional connections. The stories become personal for each listener. The instrumental nature of his music allows Panda to produce intense images. Visions of a wintery night (“Snow & Taxis”) or the bustle of Mumbai (“India Lately”) instantly flood the listener.
The vivid imagery of Lucky Shiner makes for an incredible listen. Panda’s stories have no words, but the listener knows exactly what he’s saying.
Listen to Gold Panda's "Same Dream China":
The trio Coastwest Unrest formed in 2009 in Las Vegas. In that time they’ve released two albums, their debut effort Songs From the Desert and their sophomore follow-up Old Weird America.
Old Weird America is essential Coastwest Unrest; it is full of instantly catchy folk-rock tunes that utilize all three members of the band, Alex Barnes and brothers Josh and Noah Dickie.
Tracks like “Down in the Mouth” showcase the bands signature sound as acoustic guitars play catchy rhythms, harmonica and drums add to the overall ambience, and the violin played by Barnes always seems to do a lot without ever doing too much.
Old Weird America came about from CU’s travels across the country and their inspirations during specific moments of touring. You can feel the haunting reach of “Weird America” in every song on the album. Old Weird America is the wonderfully elusive second effort that surpasses the original.
Listen to "Down in the Mouth" for a taste of Coastwest Unrest:
The Black and White Years have been around since early 2006, after band members Scott Butler, Landon Thompson, and John Aldridge met at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. They began to play music together on the local scene and recorded their first EP just before adding drummer Billy Plotts into the mix in 2008.
Two years after producing their debut album, the Black and White Years are back with their sophomore album, Patterns. Butler and Thompson are at the forefront of the album, bringing with them not only their relaxed vocals, but also the power-pop background sounds that are present throughout the entire album. If The Black and White Years are one thing from the opening song “Up!” to the closing “Promises”, it’s consistent; each and every song unites the band’s desire to produce songs with complex lyrics with upbeat, electronic background music, encouraging listeners to not only take them seriously as musicians, but to enjoy it as well.
Listen to the opening track, "Up!":
“I don’t know—it’s mellow, kind of late-night music,” replied singer-songwriter Steve Schlitz when asked to describe his music in his own words. And it’s a fair description—there aren’t any loud, bang-it-out, anthemic choruses. No bluesy riffs snaking around a frisky bassline. No goofily misplaced electronics. This is personal, intimate, delicate music—“mellow, kind of late-night music,” indeed.
Schlitz took a break from his New York-based indie group Longwave after a 10-year run to start up a smaller, more personal project called Hurricane Bells. Using only a simple laptop studio in his house, Schlitz expected to make a few songs, sell some music and do a quick tour. Instead, Hurricane Bells blossomed into an expansive endeavor, with a B-side from his initial recordings ended up on the Twlight: New Moon soundtrack. Since then, Hurricane Bells performed at South by Southwest and cranked out a five-song EP entitled Down Comes the Rain.
“Make a Deal With the City” beings boldly with a charming, familiar electric melody laid over standard pop-tune drums. The song, a cover of East River Pipe’s of the same name, is a quaint introduction to this mellow act. Schlitz comes into full view with his cover of Blue October’s thumping “Into the Ocean.” Substituting the overdramatic electronics of the original with simple drum pounds, shakers and an acoustic current, Hurricane Bells offer a new imagining of an incredible song.
Let’s dissect the band’s name: a hurricane is a powerful force, and bells are soft, sweet and charming noises. Yeah, sounds about right for this band.
Listen to Hurricane Bells' latest single off Down Comes the Rain, "The Waiting Song":
With surges in production of both post-psychedelia and minimalism in the indie world, it’s easy to lose some bands in the shuffle. But when one band combines both halves so fluidly and endearingly, it’s hard not to perk up.
The all-female quartet Warpaint released The Fool on October 25, and it has a closeness about it that encourages dark, empty-room listening and strict attention.
The for-your-ears-only vocals feel almost whispered and calm—even exacting. The intricate-but-delicate guitar work adds a warm and rich timbre to an open-air mix, leaving listeners pining for what’s next.
For a debut LP, The Fool extracts many emotions effortlessly: suspense, solitude, excitement, discomfort, and joy.
Listen to "Undertow":
Cloud Nothings is 18 year old Dylan Baldi, who originally started recording music in his basement using a microphone and his computer, creating raw and intense lo-fi music that sends the blood moving through the body.
Turning On compiles what Cloud Nothings has released so far. What stands out are the summer-sounding jangly guitars with their wavy distortions and layered vocals that accompany them. With this distortion, however, it may take a while for it to fully grow on new listeners. But once it does, it is sure to be something that you will embrace and love. The title track “Turning On” has a distinct bass line that stands out from start to finish, while the opening track “Can’t Stay Awake” opens up with a powerpop, Superchunk guitar riff. Most of the tracks on Turning On are about three minutes long. Because the tracks are so short, it makes for a quick, easy listen and may become the next staple for a summer barbecue.
Check out the fuzzed-out "Can't Stay Awake":