Archive | June, 2013

The High Wire and the Last Night on Earth

30 Jun

The High Wire

In advance of its third release, The High Wire is previewing “LNOE,” a warm, string-laden piece that packs a punch. The song will officially be released on July 29.

Originally the outlet of singer/songwriter Tim Crompton, The High Wire expanded to include West coast Canadian Alexia Hagen and UK native Ross Forrest. Citing Motown and the Gorillaz as influences, the band creates a melting pot of pop-sensitive pieces that utilize modern psychedelia and folk influences.

The band’s music has been described as everything from “Delirious shoegaze” (Artrocker) to “a narcoleptic wonderland” (NME), but “LNOE,” represents a different approach.

The rhythm is almost exclusively driven by an orchestra of strings, and this creates an ethereal sound that bounces off the listener. The persistent chorus is one part Coldplay, one part MGMT – an eclectic blend that utilizes hard-hitting British pop/rock and American psychedelia. While the harmony is strong and the song is certainly potent, the melody lulls the listener, almost inebriating them with the rich sound. Excellent release. We are looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.

Check out more of The High Wire on the band’s Website, Facebook or Twitter

Let’s Go Safari teach the art of breaking bad news

28 Jun

There’s a saying that you should break bad news with cake. (Or, according the current Internet trend, cute animals.) Even if they are devastated by the news, it is scientifically impossible to stay down for long with cake. Dorset-based band Let’s Go Safari have taken this method to the logical extreme by delivering almost hilariously bleak messages to summery indie pop.

Let's Go Safari

Ignore their depressing promises: the five piece band have definitely been having a good year. In the last twelve months, they have signed to Red Dragon Records, released their first EP ‘Curiosity Killed… Let’s Go Safari’ and recruited two new members to their guitar pop family. Their aim is to create ‘meticulously messy’ songs which they seem to have achieved; each song bounces from verse to chorus in unexpected ways. If you are a fan of the Shins, you will feel in familiar territory with them, despite the South Coast accents.

The most downcast song on the EP (Curiosity Kills…) is the ‘Glad to Be a Grad’, which explores the journey from optimistic University student to jaded graduate. “Take it from me, the job market’s crashed,” lead singer Ryan Woods chirps happily to an unbearably sweet pop riff. Fortunately, The simple, music-box like riff prevents it from being too depressing.

Let’s Go Safari also get a chance to show their more romantic side on ‘Down in the Basement’, although it’s filled with the same painfully honest Arctic Monkeys-like social commentary. The singer explains he doesn’t care if he a girl doesn’t ‘put out’ on the second date, despite lusting after a romance straight from the movies. Like all of their songs, it has a catchy chorus that crowds could easily pick up and sing to at a festival, as well as enough hidden depths to keep dedicated fans interested.

Check out their website, and follow the band through their Facebook.

Through It All with Kye Alfred Hillig

24 Jun

Kye Alfred Hillig

Kye Alfred Hillig has recorded 18 full length albums of original material and has written more than 1,000 songs. He has been the primary songwriter for four bands, been on multiple regional and national tours, and performed many shows in the Pacific Northwest before going solo in 2012. He is the quintessential troubadour; his granular croon and unique brand of folk combine to create original pieces that fill each album with full-blown hits.

So, why do we not know more about Hillig? Perhaps it is because he first went solo last year. Well, if his first two solo efforts are indicators of success, Hillig will soon be a household name for folk lovers. Put simply, this man can sing, write, and play. His twangy croon has elements of Josh Ritter and Conor Oberst, and his lyric balances metaphors, axioms, and personal anecdotes.

While different in voice and lyrical content, Hillig, in his sheer productivity, reminds me of John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats. Similarly, each song of his is original and listenable – a tremendous quality and feat for a musician.

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Together Through it All was written during Hillig’s first months of employment at a funeral home in the Puyallup Valley of Washington State. He gathered several songs for the new album, and, even though it had only been four months since the release of his debut album solo album Aurora (Darnielle-esque!), Hillig is a songwriter and felt the itch to get in the studio and lay down the new tracks for his second release. The album was released in February of 2013.

This song plays right into my weakness. Introductory staccato piano chords and accordion (seriously, I cannot help from being lured by Parisian folk!) So, immediately “An Unedited Presentation of Souls” sent me back to Jardin du Luxembourg. Hillig’s apt vocal, well-placed harmonies, and rapid-plucked acoustic guitar do not hurt. With the fused style of Joe Purdy and the Counting Crows, Hillig allows the song to flourish with rich instrumentals and soothing vocals.

“You & Me & Time” emits a different feel; a folk ballad that moves like calm waves undulating in the ocean. Hillig’s versatility is striking. This song also has some of Hillig’s most inspired lyrics on the album – simple and beautiful:

“And I don’t care if they think we’re wrong
And I don’t care if they hate this song
Let them paint the world so black and white
I’ll take the colors that make up our lives, and baby we’ll paint the night”

When asked about his inspiration, Hillig said:

“The thing that inspires me most in music is the continual investigation of difficult subject matter, the areas and ideas that make most of us uncomfortable. I’ve found that these places are gold mines for creating work that feels meaningful to me. It wasn’t until going solo that I really found my voice in music. Since then it feels like I’ve really discovered who I am as a songwriter. I believe strongly in going to work for my music. Making myself available for songs to happen is a vital part of the process now. I don’t sit around waiting for songs to fall in my lap. I start fiddling with instruments daily like an archeologist trying to unearth something, waiting for something to show itself. Some days I find something worth keeping. Some days I don’t.”

Doesn’t this excellently describe the writing process (songwriting/prose/poetry)? It is like an archeologist trying to unearth something. Luckily for Hillig, he rarely digs without finding precious metals.

Check out the rest of Together Through It AllFollow Hillig on his Facebook and Website

 

An Airborne Toxic Orchestra Event – Summerstage 2013

22 Jun

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It was around halfway through the show when Airborne Toxic Event lead singer Mikel Jollett joked with the crowd that he may mess up “Dublin,” a new song he had only played a few times live. But as he plucked the first few acoustic notes of the piece, the sky painted on the horizon transformed from a dense gray to a palette of pink that penetrated the skyscrapers and accentuated the rich music. The halcyon scene demonstrated the model of an outdoor concert. But, the weather doesn’t always respond.

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As the above picture suggests, when we arrived to Central Park Summerstage, the weather was less than ideal. A persistent sprinkle fell on umbrellas and Summerstage ponchos. The Calder Quartet, a LA-based string quartet that has become an Airborne Toxic Event staple, opened, and, for the most part, drove the rain away.

Ensemble LPR, an assemblage of the finest New York-based concert musicians, joined The Calder Quartet on stage after the Quartet’s opening act. If one stumbled into Summerstage – which was quite possible considering that the concert was free (thanks to the generous City Parks Foundation), he/she might have assumed the crowd had gathered for a classical orchestra. And that was one of the most gripping parts of the show. It was just not your typical rock show.

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But, to be honest, I don’t believe anyone in the audience was expecting a typical rock show, because Airborne Toxic Event does not put on a typical rock show. The energy and skill demonstrated by the band is striking. It is not just music; it is art. Instead of simply creating catchy alt/rock pieces, Airborne Toxic Event prefers to script a scene (much like the inspiration for the band’s name, Don DeLillo), and this ability sets the band apart from others.

Perhaps the greatest indication of this individuality was the crowd at the show. Lining the front row barrier behind the photo pit was a wide array of ages, and, most surprisingly, everyone knew the words to each song. These were Airborne Toxic Event diehards, and, unlike with most bands, I couldn’t typify the standard Airborne Toxic Event fan. This evinces the diversity of the band and explains its growing audience.

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The crowded stage of talented musicians produced a full orchestra sound that elevated the show. It is clear that Airborne Toxic Event is not a band; it’s a symphony, a full on powerhouse that combines the potency of a full orchestra with a traditional genre and bends it. The resulting amalgamation is music that could only have been created by the mind of true artists!

This was best portrayed by the performance of “Sometime Around Midnight,” one of my favorite Airborne Toxic Event songs because of its sheer ardor. Not only did the orchestra carry the crescendo, but also most individuals in the audience knew the lyrics and emphatically sang along. It was electric.

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Airborne Toxic Event concluded the encore with a jam-packed version of “Missy” that featured teasers from American classics, “Ring of Fire,” “Born in the USA,” and “American Girl.”

Overall, while wet at times, Airborne Toxic Event put together a tremendous show, packed with oodles of impressive sound, and much credit to the Calder Quartet and Ensemble LPR who helped carry the show with precision and fervor. Throughout the show lead singer Mikel Jollett effusively thanked the crowd for joining the band at Summerstage, and the band’s humility was refreshing, but considering the tremendous entertainment that the band provided, it was the crowd that thanked the band for one of best free concerts I’ve been a part of – rain or no rain. As Jollett said in his introduction, “f*ck it, it’s Central Park!”

Check out the Summerstage schedule.

Winning to Oasis Break-Up

21 Jun

liam and noel

Every break-up has a winner and a loser. There is always one person who has a sense of relief it is over while the other is consumed by regret. This is as true of bands as relationships. When Noel Gallagher left Oasis in 2009, he seemed determined to become the victor, claiming he “simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.” Since then, bile has flown freely as both he and his brother Liam have competed to show who could rebound quickest. With Beady Eye about to release its second album, BE, it seems like a good time to analyse who actually won the break-up and answer the question of who had the true talent in Oasis once and for all.

The divorce got off to an unexpected start as Liam announced that he and the remaining members of Oasis were going to continue making music, and renamed themselves Beady Eye. Keen to have the first word, they released Different Gear, Still Speeding in 2011. It was a bombastic remix of Oasis’s style, doubling down on old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. There were hits – particularly ‘Bring the Light’ – but nothing on the anthemic scale of Oasis classics like’ Wonderwall.’

While Liam was surviving, Noel was actively flourishing with his new-found freedom. He formed Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds to breathe life into the material that had been sitting unused while he was in Oasis. The result was a great British album that sounded like the Kinks, Oasis and the Beatles all at once. The melodic highs of ‘If I Had a Gun’ and ‘The Death of You and Me’ were higher than on any Gallagher album since What’s the Story (Morning Glory?)

This brings us up to the present day and the release of Beady Eye’s second album, BE. Liam’s vocals are on top form as usual and the whole band gets a workout with swelling brass sections. ‘Flick of the Finger’ sounds like the climax of an action film, and the whole album will go down well at festivals this summer. However, it is unlikely to draw people in who weren’t Oasis fans.

Although the first round has undoubtedly gone to Noel, the future is uncertain for the Gallagher brothers’ rivalry. The success of High Flying Birds seems to have filled his ambitions for the moment. His collaboration with psychedelic group hasn’t surfaced two years after it was recorded, and he has recently suggested he may never record another album.

Of course, even in the messiest splits, there’s always the chance for reconciliation. The brothers are asked about reuniting Oasis in nearly every expletive filled interview and their responses have varied wildly. Noel has been philosophical, saying “you can never predict what you’ll be doing in 20 years” while Liam has gone on the record as saying he would “do it for nowt.” With the 20th anniversary of their debut album coming up next year it may be too soon to declare a victor.

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