Follow Me Into Sweet Fields of Blue: a Tennis Review


Tennis came back last month with there latest album Yours, Conditionally. After a months out at sea, facing nature and the isolation of the vast ocean they’re back at it making dreamy surf pop.

The duo had worked together with Urban Outfitters as they tracked their adventures writing the album out on the high seas. The married couple of Alaina and Patrick Moore along with one other person took to the ocean on a sail boat. The couple have sailed before, often a method in their writing process. The album is the end result of love testing it’s limits against outside forces and inner struggles.

The duo can’t help but make me think back to Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s relationship. Although their love ended with a separation, it’s the brilliant way the two complimented each other that reminds me of the former. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Tennis live twice during their last tour and could feel the love between them from across the stage. It’s easy to see how much they support and encourage one another.

This album is a lot like their other albums, it’s warm and invokes that desire to head to the islands with your loved one. The songs feel like sunshine on your skin the very first day of spring. Alaina wrote this album as the result of her exploring and learning the limits of her love. As a wife, a lover, a partner and a friend she found herself challenging the roles she’s come into. Her marriage has taught her what it’s like to share a life with someone else yet still remain true to herself and be her own person. They’ve become a team but at the same time she understands how necessary it is to still be able to function on your own.

Ladies Don’t Play Guitar was their first release from the album. The song is her reflection on her experiences in the music industry and how being a female musician has affected her. She believes in feminism and how necessary it is for us to stand up for our beliefs and this song came at a time in her life where she’s felt the most empowered.

Other songs like Matrimony and My Emotions Are Blinding and 10 Minutes 10 Years display how her marriage has affected her life and their music. Matrimony was written as a reflection of the day they were married. Lines in the song were thoughts that crossed her mind that day. It’s personal and so incredibly sweet you can’t help but smile and wish you had been invited to their wedding.

Fields of Blue, personally my favorite off the album was inspired by the logbook or as Alaina put it, “her teenage diary”, of their days out on the choppy waters. Her findings came out sounding very stream of conscious and like that of the diary of young romantic. She became inspired by one entry in which she had written, “Follow me into sweet fields of blue”. One can’t help but yearn for their love and the sea all at once while listening to her dreamy, sentimental voice.

It’s refreshing to hear an album so consistent with its theme and quality. Often more and more artist feel like they’re trying to release singles rather than songs that flow together in an album. Yours, Conditionally takes us on a trip and leaves us wanting love and adventure out in open waters.

9 out of 10, oh what’s the use in resisting?

 

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The Front Bottoms Back on Top Bottom


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I was wondering why all the hipsters in my life went crazy. I was wondering why every high school girl I dated started foaming at the mouth; why every guy with a beard and man-bun ripped off their flannel, tossing aside their kombucha, started jumping through the windows of record stores.

And I found the answer: when I listened to The Front Bottom’s new record, Back on Top.

There are a couple of reasons why I think the group’s 5th record struck a chord with so many folks around my age – born in the mid-90s.

We’re all about the age when we feel like we need to do something crazy and rebellious. I recently moved to Midtown with my ballerina girlfriend, grew a mustache, play jazz and make coffee for a living and like doing stupid stuff with my equally as stupid friends.

This is a theme that Back on Top addresses quite frequently. Going to parties, hanging out, figuring out life, dancing, rocking out, and being emotionally strung out on relationships and our new found feeling of independence – and all with the looming reality that we have to grow up at some point.

Stuff to which kids in their early 20s can relate.

Not you? Is it just me?

But the lyrics and the way these ideas are expressed aren’t trite – they wax poetic. They’re genuine and heartfelt. You can feel this guy’s struggle.

Especially the rap verse at the end of “Historic Cemetery.”

But I can’t help but note that at times the rebellious attitude feels a little bit contrived like they’re trying to market themselves to young folks.

The second reason is that they just sound like bands we liked when we were even younger than we are now with heavy influences of early indie rock.

Not the foo-foo Sufjan Stevens fluff, but Pavement, early Death Cab, Dinosaur Jr., Weezer, The Smiths, REM, Nirvana, Modest Mouse, Joy Division, and New Order.

The 90s – and definitely their sound – is popular right now. I know because that’s what I know. I was born to young artists living in Oakland in the 90s who did nothing but have the time of their lives despite their poorness.

This record makes you want to let down your hair, be rough around the edges, and shotgun a PBR.

Speaking on being rough around the edges: this albums apparent lack. The production is so clean; the players are so together, this record lack the grungy sound I feel it tries to invoke with the exception of a few voice cracks from Brian Sella. Usually, I applaud god production, musicianship, and well-executed vocals, however, it has to fit the genre. These guys have come a long way from playing garages and house parties like they used to.

That being said, there is no telling whether they made the decision to sound clean or not. Now that they’re signed, the label often makes production choices to better represent the label.

All things considered, I really enjoyed this record. It made me feel nostalgic for times I haven’t experienced, which is a tough thing to do.

Devan is a dj for KSSU

Review of Caracal and Art in General


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Before I write a review of a new album, I sit down and read a few other reviews to check to see if there was anything I missed.

I did that in preparation to write my thought on Disclosure’s most recent release, Caracal. What I found was several reviews expressing that Caracal is more of the same from the electro-pop bothers, but I spun this record again this week and realized that music critics don’t cut artists any slack.

For the record, I wouldn’t classify myself as a critic, just a musician sharing his humble thoughts.

This record was incredibly well crafted. Disclosure is consistent and leaves no stone unturned in their production. It’s ultra-clean and brutally crisp. The way they produced this record is what they know. It’s what they do best. So why criticize them for not pioneering a completely new sound? Their subdued beats and subtle bass allows for the intensity to build to an intense degree without getting exceedingly loud or obnoxious like dubstep. Another thing I admire is the limited amount of sounds they employ. At any one time I can only identify up to five or six different sounds. And yet, they are able to paint an incredibly intricate soundscape. Who cares if their record sounds similar to the last one? Does that even count as a bad thing? Settle changed pop music forever – and for the better. Bob Dylan released five records before he went electric.

Similar to settle, Disclosure recruits a cast of A-list artists as features on their tunes; among them Sam Smith, Lorde, and Gregory Porter. Sam Smith comes back with the track, Omen, a seemingly somber and equally as groovy sequel to Latch. Lorde’s track Magnets straight swings, man. How Disclosure achieved such a laid-back groove with computers is beyond my knowledge. Gregory Porter’s appearance on this record makes me intensely happy. Porter is a contemporary jazz singer fairly popular on the jazz circuit. For a musician in the jazz world, this is an incredibly huge break for him. The optimist in me would like to think that people would hear the track, research the singer, listen to some of his music, and become an everlasting jazz nerd. A boy can dream. Overall, is seems as though this record was made to be a catalyst of dancing. Nothing is too fast and the average song length is just under five minutes. But nothing ever gets boring, the brothers seem very careful about adding and subtracting textures when needed to catch the ear and keep the crowd interested.

Speaking of catchy, every track has a great thematic melody that has its own hook. Sometimes it sounds like they borrow ideas but, hey, what is art but the synthesis of preexisting ideas? Everybody has their own musical vocabulary.

As for me, it is clear that Disclosure knows what they are doing and do it well. Sounding like yourself is not a crime. The real offense is when you do not.

Devan is a dj with KSSU

Beirut’s No No No is Pretty Pretty Good


1433178285.671_beirut-no-no-no-575x575If, for some abstract reason, you follow my reviews on this blog you’ll know that I apply the concept “regression to the mean” to just about everything. Folks, I’ve found another case with Beirut’s new LP No No No.

I’ve always really enjoyed Beirut’s music. Front man Zach Condon has always drawn from exceptionally hip sources to influence his writing from Eastern European folk music to a full, Mexican brass band.

Condon’s compositions are habitually repetitive and layered and No No No is no outlier. However, this time Condon seems to have drawn from the pop idiom as an influence. It’s certainly not a bad thing; all the tracks are catchy and easy to listen to. The vanilla harmonic structure leaves the ear wanting more; and especially when the record ends at an abrupt 29 minutes.

I was a little disappointed at the lack of horn usage, but Condon picked up the slack with the addition of buttery strings and just a smidgen of synth to spice things up a little.

There are plenty of things that catch the ear, but you really have to listen for them. They don’t necessarily slap you in the face. That being said, track nine, “Fener,” has a metric modulation right in the middle that totally takes you off guard. If I’m speaking above your head that means there was a time change, or the pace or tempo changed. I was tapping my foot like a crazy person to see if it was a hip polyrhythm superimposed onto the first part but I couldn’t discern anything. Or maybe I’m not hip enough…

All in all, No No No is a good record and I’d recommend it. But without sounding too passé, I’m more of a fan of Beirut’s earlier work. Especially if you really want to capture the true essence of their sound.

Devan is a DJ on KSSU

Deerhunter Album Review


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If you are wondering where the hell popular music is going these days, it is actually right back to where we started. This phenomenon is clearly stated in the theory of “Regression to the Mean.” That means, everything has a tendency to drift back to the average. That’s why your favorite team performs a little worse the next season after a great run. It is normal, and it even applies to Deerhunter’s new release Fading Frontier. The band, beginning with their debut release Cryptograms, explored some pretty out there sounds relative to the world of indie-pop.

But Fading Frontier is the most cut and dry Deerhunter drop to date. Its format is pretty standard: vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and some electronic effects interspersed here and there. The record is relatively short, weighing in at 9 tracks just under 37 minutes. Unlike previous releases, this record’s sound is clean and crisp departing from the super washy, yet somehow gritty sound they have achieved in the past.

Overall, this record lacks energy for the type of pop they are going for here. In prior records they’ve captured the chill vibe perfectly. Fading Frontier leaves you wanting more: a longer record and a skosh more rock ‘n’ roll.

However, that’s not to say there are some awesome cuts of this record. “Take Care” is a dreamy ¾ time jam. Following “Take Care” is “Leather and Wood,” an empty, mellow, and tormented addition to the record that is the sonic outlier of the record that sets up the next cut, “Snakeskin,” with surprising contrast. “Snakeskin” is funky and bombastic with a super interesting harmonic structure, minor to major, that catches the ear. It is certainly my favorite track with a vibe similar to a band called White Denim that you should definitely check out if you dig Deerhunter.

Devan plays music on KSSU usually Jazz.

Depression Cherry Review


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Starting on August 28th, friends and social media have been going nuts for a recent record from a band that has previously flown under my radar. My inner hipster reacted typically by avoiding the band altogether. Praise for this record got louder and louder and I ultimately gave in to my curiosity. Now you can add my voice to the cacophony.

Search Beach House on Google and Wikipedia describes them as a “dream pop duo” which is an absolutely spot-on characterization. French native Victoria Legrand and Baltimore’s Alex Scally have been making music together since 2004 which makes me disappointed I haven’t heard of them sooner.

Their latest release, Depression Cherry is where indie-pop and chillwave meet. The whole record is mellow and introspective with a texture I can only describe as creamy. Give it a listen and you’ll feel as though you’re walking through a thick mist. The Northern California coast comes to mind. An artist can achieve an ether-like sound with a couple of simple devices all of which can be heard on this record. One of which is repetition. Many of the sections in the songs repeat quite a few times with colors and sounds wafting in and out. This creates a trance-like feel and extends each song by quite a bit putting the mean track length at around five minutes. By no means does this take away from the song. It makes me think the album was composed in sort of a daze.

This, however, brings me to my one criticism of the record: there are little to no distinguishable qualities about each track. I didn’t really notice that the record ended nor could I tell you one track from another. This could easily be a symptom of only listening through twice, but hey, it’s the only bad thing I have to say.

The explosion of this record made me realize another thing that I love: their record label, Carpark Records. Most of the artists on the scene are signed to a large, catchall label that’s only objective is to generate revenue. Most boutique labels have long but died out, however the artisan culture that has been brewing in recent years has given rise to some incredible sounds. Carpark is home to many artists I love: Skylar Spence, Toro Y Moi, Dan Deacon, Speedy Ortiz and on and on. Carpark is capitalizing on sounds they like plus sounds that are popular while still letting artists do their thing. Toro Y Moi records their records in the leader’s living room!

So here’s what the doctor prescribes: listen to music by label. Check out all the artists on a label that produces a sound you dig; Carpark, 4ad, Jagjaguwar, Warp, Partisan and so many more like them. It will expand your musical horizons, your musical awareness, and you will discover a bunch of bands your friends have never heard of.

But I digress. Depression Cherry is a good record that well deserves the hype in my social media sphere.

Devan is a DJ with KSSU

Skylar Spence is Prom King with New Release


prom-king-560x560Right now, in 2015, the 80’s are in style in American popular music. But with a new release from Skylar Spence, the 70’s appear to be creeping in. Beginning as Saint Pepsi (changed because of obvious legal reasons) Ryan DeRobertis rocketed to the forefront of the chillwave and vaporwave scenes remixing disco. Now he has made the decision to bring his own voice into his music – literally. Prom King is a batch of tunes of DeRobertis’ original music featuring himself on vocals. The entire record is catchy, ultra danceable, and super accessible although – I hate to admit – too complex for the mainstream airwaves despite the success of the track “Fiona Coyne.”

Perhaps I consider the record accessible because it deals with themes related to being a young male in America trying to find his way: wooing a girl, falling in love, being cheated on, vanity, and so on. These themes seem trite and a little hackneyed, but Skylar Spence frames them in a different way that teases out the sensitive side of men in American culture. In “Can’t You See,” an explosive single, DeRobertis addresses vanity but as a cloak for anxiety, “I’m in love with my own reflection” he sings. Skip forwards a couple tracks and you’ll encounter “I Can’t be Your Superman” a very personal story of a tough relationship with a friend. In an interview with Billboard DeRobertis said, “Superman is a song about a friend who was living very dangerously for a while. Around the time I wrote the song, I realized I was kind of an enabler of this behavior by not acknowledging the problem, but things soured as soon as I opened my mouth about it. It’s not easy to help anyone who doesn’t see the problem themselves, and that’s where the song stems from.”

Not only does this record contain myriad complex emotions and feelings, but they are nested in music that complements them flawlessly. This is what made the greats great – their lyrical sense. Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald always considered the lyrics to shape the arc of the song, their phrasing, and dynamics. DeRobertis seems to pay close attention to the lyrics and as a result created extra layers and depth to the songs and not to mention this record grooves like HELL. No record dropped in a long time has inspired my body to move so much. It is a disco-pop wonderland that sets itself apart from other popular dance music because of its amplified musicality. Many tracks even harken back to his Saint Pepsi days with excellent instrumentals that include brassy horn stabs and brilliant string quartet colors especially “Bounce is Back.”

All nuance and complexity aside, Prom King is still excruciatingly fun and if you listen to it its guaranteed to end up on your gym playlist immediately as it did for me. All in all, Prom King is an excellent record and is definitely worth the purchase.

Side Note: Check out his other releases under the moniker Saint Pepsi. Hit Vibes is available for free on Bandcamp and is highly recommended.

Devan is a DJ with KSSU

“Matriarch” by Veil of Maya Album Review


 

Veil-of-Maya-Matriarch-artwork-600x600So here I am, chilling in my philosophy class before the professor shows up. I whip out my iPod and check out the channels I am subscribed too. I mostly use YouTube for finding new music and cool skate videos. Browsing through the videos, I noticed that Sumerian Records put out the whole new Veil of Maya album “Matriarch” and I about exploded. I had to sit for an hour and fifteen minutes anticipating the awesomeness of VoM. Luckily, I only stayed in class for about twenty minutes because class today was an optional Final Exam Study session. Who needs to study for finals anyways? I’ll just wait until the day before my finals.

So I had already heard a few songs from the Album and had already been in love. The rest of the album was fantastic as well. I did not even need to listen to the entirety of each song before clicking to the next and welcoming in frission (where you get goosebumps from good music). There was the usual VoM stuff; technical math-core (complicated song structure), drop tuned guitars, and ominous background sound effects. VoM threw in some new stuff such as clean vocals (in comparison to the low gutturals from the “Common Man’s Collapse” Album), guitar melodies in the higher registry, and an overall album theme, hence the name “Matriarch”. Before the album was released, my favorite of the leaked songs was Mikasa, which also had a music video. There was heavy breakdowns, awesome never-before heard clean vocals, and an overall empowering feeling brought forth by the entire band.

Looking at the track listing, each song is named after Matriarchs or powerful women, both fictional and non-fictional. In one of the YouTube comments, someone even mentioned that one of the song names is a very threatening character from an action anime. I took the Youtuber’s word and moved on to the music. I will have to say that my favorite song, other than the leaked ones, would have to be “Daenerys”. I have no idea where the name Daenerys comes from, but it did not spell check me on Microsoft Word, so it is legit. Anyways, the song starts out really light with some nice moving around on the guitar. It then goes into a two-measure guitar solo before the vocalist pops in and the song takes a more serious turn. With some power chords blasting right into a heavy breakdown, Veil of Maya shows off what they are known for. Right after are some clean vocals from their new vocals, which were pretty impressive by the way. The chorus is repeated throughout with some technical instrumentals in the background, before closing the song with a guitar solo build up to more cleans and a mini breakdown. Finally, a guitar playing a riff in the higher register ends out the song.

Most of the time I listen to music on YouTube except for when I really like a whole album, which I purchase to support the band. Veil of Maya, I’m going to support you and buy your new album “Matriarch” when I get home tonight.

Thanks for reading everyone!

I may or may not have a show during finals week due to, well, finals. However, check out www.kssu.com and listen to other DJs do their stuff!

Much Love,

DJGingerbeard

Lights: Little Machines


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Lights has always been a favorite of mine, from The Listening to Siberia, she has always managed to capture my imagination and transport me to a world of imagination. Well-crafted lyrics with musicality to die for, there is really no reason not to love her music. So, rather large shoes to fill with her 2014 album Little Machines. But the question remains – did Lights live up to the extremely high standard that she set for herself with her previous album releases? In a word, yes.

The more that I listen to the album, the more I realize how much attention was paid to track placement, musicality, lyrics and overall production of the record. The level of detail and passion that has clearly been poured into the album is evident from the first moment of listening to it, all the way to the end.

There is a certain ebb and flow to this album, where each song seems to lead so perfectly into the next, and there is a rhythm to the album as well. Starting off slow and gradually building up, than drifting off again until the end, which (especially on the deluxe album) seems to tie everything up so nicely.

While I love the whole album, there are a few songs that stand out to me as especially noteworthy, and let me just say right now that I am not all that knowledgeable about music production and sound, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

One song that I feel I must mention is Child, a song off the deluxe edition. This song is a bit slower that most on this album, but captures the listener much like Light’s earlier song Pretend, off her album The Listening. There is an innocence to this song, and while listening to it, I can’t help but be a little nostalgic for my own childhood. And, as with everything on the album, the song sound amazing as well.

Another few songs that I want to single out are around the middle of the album. They are The Same Sea, Speeding and Muscle Memory. These three songs are seemingly related and based on their placement on the album (all together in the middle) I have, for some reason, associated them with each other. They do have a similar sound and meaning (of course, meaning is often subjective) but I think these three songs are about love, as well as moving on to new and exciting things. Like I said, all subjective.

There is really no way to describe the album in full, as I feel like I would never be able to do it justice. You will have to listen to it in order to fully appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship that has clearly gone into the new record from Lights. If you are already a fan, or new to her music, Little Machines is absolutely well worth a listen, and if you are anything like me, it won’t just be one listen, it will be quite a few.

David Moore is a dj with KSSU

Death Cab For Cutie: Kintsugi Review


death-cab-for-cutie-kintsugiKintsugi def. is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

 

It’s also the title of the latest work from indie rock giant, Death Cab for Cutie. It is the first album released from the group since the departure of founding member and guitarist, Chris Walla. Walla’s exit from the band and the title of the album are not at all unrelated. The band is broken, but frontman Ben Gibbard refused to let that hinder their musical ability. And boy, did they deliver.

The whole album is laced with an undertone of sadness and distance most likely related to Walla’s departure and Gibbard’s love life – possibly still recovering from his divorce with Zooey Deschanel in 2012. Gibbard’s ability to convey his emotions musically and lyrically is absolutely unparalleled. For this album this is especially true for the tracks, “No Room in Frame” and “Hold No Guns.” Both are incredibly sincere and you can hear the intent behind the lyrics in the timbre of his voice alone.

Their album prior to Kintsugi, Narrow Stairs, Death Cab made it a point to create a less guitar-centric record. Kintsugi, however, is definitely a departure from that. It still plays with cool sounds and pushes the limits of electronic textures in a standard rock band setting. Something Ben Gibbard is not uncomfortable with based on his side project, the Postal Service.  New textures aside, Kintsugi is still so inherently Death Cab. Their mark is left in all the tracks and it makes you nostalgic for “The Sound of Settling” and “We Laugh Indoors.” The guitar lines that pop, the brilliant Ben Gibbard pre-chorus, and the memory of their 90’s grunge days are all things I love about this band.

Like most of my blogs, this leads me to a nearly unrelated diatribe. Death Cab for Cutie continues to produce music with a certain factor that a lot of modern bands don’t: authenticity. This is something I feel very strongly about and so I end up discussing it a lot, and this is mostly a criticism of the modern pop music machine. A lot of “artists” perform a song, it gets publicized, tons of radio play, and the record company makes a killing. The song goes out of style and the artist is chewed up and spit out by the public. This has cultivated a one-hit-wonder culture in our country that is ruining the music business. A Top 40 artist might produce an album, but that’s only used as a vehicle to deliver their single to our ears. Kintsugi is so carefully stitched together by the band, you can hear every sound, every bass drum hit has a purpose. That’s the kind of music industry that I’d like to see put in place. And there are artists out there that I can make it happen. I believe in you.


Devan is a DJ with KSSU; thoughts and opinions of the DJ may not reflect the station as a whole.