Tag Archives: surfer blood

Album Review: Boxed Wine – Cheap, Fun EP

Seems I haven’t posted on here for a ‘bit.’ I’ve been a tad busy with the real world, but I figured if I liked something enough, then I should probably write about it.

Boxed Wine just put out their second EP last week, as a preview of an album that should be out in the Spring. They describe themselves as ‘indie party pop,’ and this looks to be just that. In a time when so many bands are afraid of the term ‘pop’ on account of it sounding mainstream, the band bats a blind eye and throws their cards in. The results are exactly what one would expect; catchy, simple songs about having a good time.

The first track is “Bones,” and has a bit of a rockier sound than the other two, and might remind fans of their first EP. Still, it’s sonically bigger than what they’ve done before and is more along the lines of Young the Giant than Two Door Cinema Club.

“Boomerang” is next, and that’s where they find a pop groove that could legitimately get people dancing. If you don’t get the damn title stuck in your head, there may just be something wrong with you, with the band coming off a bit like the child of Hot Hot Heat and MGMT. Weird, I know.

It’s on the last track, “Dayglow,” where they start to really stray from their formula. It’s still poppy, but the dance element sticks through more than anything else. The beat sounds like a Pitbull b-side more than an indie rock band from New Jersey, but somehow Boxed Wine makes it work. This might be where they’re going with their sound, but all three tracks could point to a possible direction change.

Overall, the band gets to the point, and maybe that’s what we really need in 2013?  With the indie scene how it is, it’s kind of refreshing to hear a band honestly describe themselves and not come off as pretentious. Hopefully this EP doesn’t have the best songs from their album, but being how different their songs have been up until now, I don’t even know what to expect. All I know is that it might be cool, and will definitely be fun.

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Blowing Up: Fort Lean

Fort Lean has a great sound, and that’s about as descriptive as I can get after listening to their music on repeat for a while. Influence-wise, it’s a strong combination of quite a few things (classic rock, surf rock, modern loft rock), but also has a surprisingly timeless quality to it. I’m not trying to be pretentious here, nor trying to put the group on a pedestal. I just think that their inability to be pinned has helped them achieve some solid press.  From other reviews I read (on account of being a little lost here), I picked up a few recurring nuggets I’d like to share.

  • The band wants to be superstars, which is quite a lofty goal in our modern scene.
  • The lead singer’s name, Keenan Mitchell, reminds me of Goodburger.
  • He is the owner of quite a mane of hair.
  • Fort Lean is self-described as a mythical place of stars and stream-cooled wine.
  • Not everyone is a champion of the group, nor its ambitions.

This last one was interesting because I found another reviewer who didn’t know what all the fuss was about, and I half agree. The songs on the self-titled EP and new single are quite good, especially “Beach Holiday” and it’s borderline insane lyrics, but something seems amiss.  The tunes haven’t necessarily stuck in my head like I would hope a newly buzzing band’s material would. 

Of course, I’m not trying to knock the band and am completely happy they’re gaining success. But when I see a group in the New York Times and on an mTV site, yet can’t remember what their songs sound like after multiple spins, something seems weird. Maybe their semi-surf sound and grandiosity is pushing them into an ‘mindie’ kind of position, but they also haven’t released enough to tell.  I remember feeling this way about Surfer Blood, who’s now signed to a major label (so what do I know?). Their live show is supposed to be good, so maybe that’s helped push them as well.

Feel free to take a listen below and see if you agree. I might just be playing Devil’s advocate here, but let’s not forget that the group did grab my attention and inspire me to write about them.  That says an awful lot. To sum up, while Fort Lean’s promise is undeniable, the future will see if they deliver on it. 

*mindie is a Hipster Runoff term that makes more than the usual amount of sense.

 

Pixies, Surfer Blood @ Wellmont Theater 10/27/2011

I’ve had the privilege to see a legendary band or two in my day, but the Pixies were really something else. They didn’t feel like a legendary group at all, and came across more as a few friends who got the old band back together. What I didn’t expect was that the old band would be so damn good.

Surfer Blood got the show started, and it slowly became apparent as to why they won the opening slot for this tour. Despite a leader who sounds like Morrisey, the instrumentation of the group is actually pretty akin to the Pixies sound. The reverb guitar and off-kilter song structures made the bands influences show. It made sense the influencers themselves would play after, and Surfer Blood seemed happy to be there. Despite these positives, my sentiments on the group haven’t really changed since the last two times I saw them.

They ultimately remind me of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, in that they have a few really catchy and well written songs, but ultimately come off as a bit boring. They’re generally fun to watch, but lack the hooks it would take me to spend thirty dollars on their own concert. The band falls into this weird trapping as a never-headliner in my head, and maybe I’m crazy for it but that’s just my honest opinion. The difference between Surfer Blood and SSLYBY is that the latter seems completely satisfied with their lot in the musical world, and I’ve grown to really respect that. On the flip side, Surfer Blood act like they to want to be the biggest band in the world, and with a forthcoming major label record they might just get it.

After some waiting, the Pixies took the stage (along with a very powerful smoke machine) to rapt applause (and probable coughing in the front row). The band went to work and announced the Doolittle b-sides as they played through them, joking at the knowledge that nobody really wanted to hear them to begin with. It’s was smart to get them out of the way, as people would definitely not have tolerated the songs at the set’s end. None of the four were bad, and I felt “Manta Ray” easily could have found its way onto the parent record if given the chance. My thoughts about this were pretty much cut off when the opening of “Debaser” ripped through the amphitheater.

At that moment it felt like there was only one band in the world that mattered, and the Clash weren’t even on my mind. Here was the reason the people pushed for the Pixies to reunite, conveniently and completely encapsulated within three minutes. They had the charm of the Violent Femmes and the power of the Ramones, and they knew exactly how to play off of that combination. The best part is that they not only sounded exactly like they did twenty years ago, but that they knew it and pushed themselves harder as a result. Doolittle came to life in a way I never thought it could, and a huge amount of credit needs to go the sound man, because it was easily the best sounding show I’ve heard all year.

Frank Black’s voice is really a thing of beauty; one that can only be appreciated during “Tame” when he howls like an animal rather than a man.  “Wave of Mutilation” was gorgeous (especially Kim Deal’s harmonies),  and “Here Comes Yor Man” still makes me think of the spiritual sequel to the Velvet Underground’s druggie anthem.  While I wasn’t as familiar with the deeper cuts on Doolittle, they didn’t disappoint in any way whatsoever.  Each track was pure Pixies, and Black was smart enough to make every song worth hearing, whether it be for an undeniable hook, a blistering guitar solo, or even an insane drum beat.  I had no idea what a skilled drummer Dave Lovering was, and it’s something that only comes out in person.  I’m not sure if he adds parts, but it certainly feels like it in a live setting.

After the album’s set, they took their standing ovation and gave the crowd a bow before departing.  Quickly returning, they filled the entire theater with smoke, which might have been a mistake because something or someone cut the power in the middle of their encore.  This forced a short interruption, but things were back to normal soon enough and the band flew through “Bone Machine,” ” Nimrod’s Son,” “Where Is My Mind?” and “Gigantic.”  Even if I was upset not to hear “Holiday,” “Alison,” or my personal favorite “Dig for Fire,” I can’t deny that the Pixies put on quite possibly a show I’ll remember forever.  Between them and Jeff Mangum, I think I’ve filled my awesome quota for the next two years…

Top 20 Albums of 2010: Part One (20-11)

It has been a long year for music, or maybe it’s just for me personally.  Having to write about music so often is tough, but it makes me constantly listen to new artists (fantastic!).  It’s not that I’m listening to more or less music than usual, but the amount of different music is staggering.

This list is of my personal favorites from this year and why I feel they belong here.  “Personal” means tailored toward indie rock, btw.  I know Kanye’s album is great and chillwave has taken over Pitchfork and Stereogum, but they just don’t so it for me like these albums do.  I know they’re great on their own terms, but my world isn’t shaken by them daily.  (If Kanye’s Graduation came out this year, things would be different.  I adore that album.)  So let’s begin, yeah?

20) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Yes, Arcade Fire is great.  Yes, this album is too long and there is some bullshit in there. Yes, The Suburbs is still better than 95% of everything else that came out in the last five years, especially Neon Bible.

19) Spoon – Transference

Is there a more consistent band in today’s scene than Spoon.  Album after album they keep refining their completely unique sound and only gain more fans in the process.  This is something like their seventh good album in a row.  Who does that?

18) The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

I’m surprised this album hasn’t turned up on more lists this year.  It’s honestly fantastic, and not even by Bruce standards.  The songwriting itself is once again impeccable, but what really impresses me is the outright sound of this album.  It sounds so pure and meaningful, and it gets better with every listen, especially “The Spirit of Jazz.”

17) Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

This is hard to write about because I’ve only listened to it a few times, but I could tell it’s worth including.  Plus the band lives right next to me in Bergern County, NJ.  Listening to it right now actually makes me think that this is the kind of music that would come from Glen Rock.  I wonder if any of my friends know them.  Hmm…

It’s funny the influences you can hear on this album.  There’s definitely some Bruce, but not as much as you’d think (and not anywhere near as much as Gaslight Anthem).  I actually hear more of Conor Oberst in this than anything else, like if Desaparecidos had made a second album with help from Tom Gabel of Against Me!  That’d be so damn cool.  Wow, that’d be SO DAMN COOL!

16) Wavves – King of the Beach

This album is just fun.  There is no secret meaning, no hidden agenda, and no goal.  It’s slacker pop made by a stoner with a great sense of melody.  I sincerely hope this earned you enough money to be high for the rest of your life, Nathan.  Please make some more awesome music, yeah?  Check out my review here.

15) The National – High Violet

This band just keeps evolving.  They are now this dark, brooding, towering behemoth of a group that churns out intense and ultimately moving songs.  I can’t believe they wrote “Abel” only two albums ago.  The National is on a different plateau now.  Yet, whether it’s their older sound or their newer one, it’s all still incredible.  Talent is in no short supply with members as gifted as these, and they do not disappoint.

14) The Walkmen – Lisbon

I will always love the Walkmen.  They’re creative in every direction, but still maintain their soul throughout it all.  That is what keeps the band together, their soul that is.  You can see it clearly in every performance.  They are so dedicated to their art that it’s impossible not to at least appreciate it.  The fact that they also write cohesive albums that share a single feeling really puts them high in my “Most Respected Bands” list.  Lisbon sounds like a victory lap, and it should be.

13) Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

As I said in the review, this sounds like the future of music.  It is stunningly gorgeous, written from the heart, and given the orchestration only a song-writing genius could imagine.  I can’t listen to this album often because it is completely overwhelming to my senses.  Music should not be able to alter mood this easily, and that is the true talent that Stevens possesses.  I don’t know how he plans to top this, but that’s what I thought last time too.  Wow.

12)Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

Surfer Blood are going to get bigger and bigger, and probably rank up there in terms of Arcade Fire popularity in less time than you think.  When I saw them, I couldn’t help but notice what a solid band they are.  Their album is great, but the real promise they show lies in some newer songs they’ve been playing live.  The band has an enviable ability to genre hop, and it’s going to serve them well in the future.

11) Suckers – Wild Smile

Suckers are intense.  They use that intensity to wow you.  The band is energetic, fun, and sometimes sounds just a little bit evil.  That’s a good thing, and I think everybody on earth should be forced to listen to “Easy Chairs” once before they die.  Too bad it wasn’t on this stellar album, but “Black Sheep” more than makes up for it.

NOW HERE IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR, YOU SEXY THIEVES:

Arcade Fire – Ready To Start

Wavves – Post Acid

The Walkmen – Angela Surf City

Sufjan Stevens – Too Much

Surfer Blood – Swim

Suckers – Black Sheep

The Gaslight Anthem – The Spirit of Jazz

Spoon – The Mystery Zone

The National – Terrible Love

Titus Andronicus – A More Perfect Union

If you are downloading, pleas take the time to read my hard written work! It took me like two hours to put this half together and I’d Much appreciate it!  Comment to!

The Genre of Loft-Rock

There is a new genre forming, and I’ve been trying to come up with a name for it.  Just as chillwave came about a few years ago after a number of bedroom pop acts exploded from their homes, a group of bands today seem to be influencing each other’s sound in the same direction.  These bands have reverb-drenched guitars mixed with soaring harmonies layered over bombastic drums.  Often, there are moments of yelling, and the songs usually build to a climax of some sort.  Can you think of and bands like this?  How about these:

  • Arcade Fire
  • Local Natives
  • Suckers
  • Young the Giant
  • The Union Line
  • Surfer Blood
  • The Morning Benders
  • Ravens & Chimes
  • Avi Buffalo
  • Funeral Party
  • The Walkmen
  • Wildlife

Getting the picture?  Here’s some that are close but not quite.

  • Tokyo Police Club (too rocking I’d say)
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (a bit closer to chillwave)
  • Freelance Whales (a tad too folky)
  • Foreign Born
  • Fanfarlo (folktastic)
  • The Ruby Suns (tropical)
  • Fool’s Gold (really tropical)

So yeah, if you’re familiar with a few of the bands above, I think you can start to see this trend.  The name I came up with is Loft-Rock, taking the word “lofty,” which is clearly the feeling of the genre, and adding “rock” to it.  Simple enough, right?  I’m hoping this catches on, because there really hasn’t been a category to place these bands in except for just “general indie rock.”  I think it’s about time this changed.  So, without further ado,  I now present to you Loft-Rock, the biggest genre of 2010…

Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)

Local Natives – Sun Hands

Suckers – Black Sheep

Young the Giant – My Body

The Union Line – Goldmine

Surfer Blood – Swim

The Morning Benders – Excuses

Ravens & Chimes – January

Funeral Party – Finale

The Walkmen – Angela Surf City

Wildlife – Stand In The Water

Enjoy!

Concert Review: The Drums and Surfer Blood at Webster Hall

This was a good show.  Nothing about it was particularly monumental, but both Surfer Blood and the Drums played solid sets.  Each band ended up playing most of their songs, which makes sense being they each have a bit over an album’s worth of material to rely on. Continue reading