Archive | September, 2015

Solitude is Bliss

25 Sep

a dyjecinski

My roommate and I frequently find ourselves discussing the entertainment revolution that we are experiencing. Mankind has never been more creative than we are today. Take one look at Vine and YouTube, and there is so much talent everywhere. Because shooting video and recording music have become so easy, everyone has the capacity to be an artist, and we are inundated with new art. Though music videos aren’t a new form of media, they still are finding ways to push boundaries. First there was Michael Jackson, who created the first mainstream music video short film; then Madonna, whose middle name is ‘controversial’; even Kanye West had some illuminating moments, such as when he took literally the idiom ‘moving picture’; and now you have people like Tyler the Creator (warning: ick) making videos only meant to gross you out. A. Dyjecinski brings something new to the table as well with the video for “I’m the Woods.”

Innovation. That’s the one thing that this video is slathered with. I’ve never seen a video within a video, but here we are given two perspectives on the same scene. And what a beautiful scene it is. I’ve never seen snow, so maybe that has something to do with how much I love the snowcapped pine trees. I find this whole video very visually appealing, with maybe the exception of the bland subtitles. The scene is soft yet ominous, the solitude practically tangible.

The concept behind this video is to show how someone might unravel at his or her loneliness. Being suspended in the air on a mountain in thick snow is certainly a recipe for the crazies. The subtitles are vocalizations of the conversation that the protagonist is having in his mind, with himself. It’s funny, but also has an eerie quality, especially when it seems like his two halves are conveying starkly contrasting demeanors. Sure, it could just be inner rambling, just meant to pass the time… but it could also be indicative of something more.

“I’m the Woods” is A. Dyjecinski’s debut single, pick it up here. Find out more on his website and Twitter.


Amy Winehouse Documentary Review

21 Sep


Music Court contributor Beth Kelly is back with a great review of “Amy,” the Amy Winehouse Documentary

Even in death, UK singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse remains an iconic figure in pop culture. Her neo-soul triumph Back to Black won her international fame and fortune – but only part of her renown can really be attributed to her raw talent and vocal skill. Winehouse struggled with addiction, alcoholism, and bulimia for years, and withered under the harsh glare of the spotlight. In the years preceding her death, the young star’s face was often splashed across the cover of tabloids all too eager to document her affinity for drinking and drugging. When she succumbed to alcohol poisoning at the age of 27, few could admit surprise. But who was Winehouse, really? Underneath the beehive and the cat eye makeup, outside the haze of heroin and cocaine, how did the world let such a talented young woman sabotage herself? A new documentary hopes to find out.

As years pass, Winehouse’s devoted fans have seen that she will never truly disappear from the pantheon of musical greats. She’s earned her place among other special musicians we have lost too soon, such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, all of whom died at the young age of 27. Like these stars, a large part of Amy’s downfall was attributed to her inability to “handle” her personal problems while simultaneously churning out successful singles. Documentary filmmaker Asif Kapadia – who’d previously directed a feature on Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna – became attached to the idea of a film which would use unseen footage of Winehouse and focus on her life before she made it big.

The documentary, titled Amy, is a welcome addition to the cache of “Rockumentary” films on similarly tortured stars. It’s received positive comparisons to the acclaimed Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck, which also attempted to show its subject as he “really” was – behind the music and mayhem. Rather than focus on the parts of Winehouse’s life that gave her the most grief (her addiction, her tumultuous marriage), audiences get to see Winehouse’s childhood and early successes. Though her life did end tragically and her death is discussed, in the film we come to understand her passing from the point of view of lifelong friends and beloved family members, not swarms of paparazzi and gossip bloggers.

Since Amy‘s release earlier this summer, the film was met with almost instantaneous acclaim. Critics have praised the way in which this movie humanizes its star – we sympathize with her and relate to the tragedy of a life taken too soon. However, certain members of Winehouse’s family, especially her father Mitch, have criticized the accuracy of the film. Mitch claims he’s been represented as a villain and would like to produce a future documentary about his daughter that more accurately portrays her life. The family does concede that the film includes beautiful videos and photographs of Winehouse, celebrating the parts they loved most about her.

Mere weeks after its release, Amy already sits comfortably in the canon of classic rock music documentaries. It is one of the highest-grossing documentaries ever at the U.K. box office, surpassed only by Fahrenheit 9/11, and has become Britain’s highest-grossing documentary of all time. Amy is widely distributed thanks to a collaborated effort between A24 and DirecTV and is widely available on streaming platforms. It is slated for DVD release in October 2015.

Take Solace in Area of Refuge

17 Sep

area of refuge 1

We’ve all had those nights, where for whatever reason, we decide to simply lie down and become consumed by music. Those are the instructions I followed quite literally on my first Joanna Newsom listen, just add wine. I also did this when I first heard Vulnicura, a heartbreaking record. And Area of Refuge have created something equally as immersive with their recent Series One LP.

Area of Refuge is a duo, consisting of Christopher Morin and Jahna Stanton. Morin was beginning a career making easy listening music, writing riffs on a classical guitar after his band broke up. He played at an art show and there met Stanton, a violinist. They decided to collaborate and play a few songs together, but those tracks turned into an album, sometimes with the addition of the piano, and on one track, an upright bass, viola, and cello. And despite that seeming like fairly limited instrumentation to work with, all fifteen tracks on this record are genuinely unique.

Morin’s guitar work is delicate but cinematic. “Leap of Faith” shows this off, and also makes abundantly clear how talented Stanton is on the strings as well. It and the violin act as voices, with complementary melodies that warm your heart. In fact, the entire record is comprised of the quiet melodies that are better cherished alone. Each chord rings with beauty, and makes it tough to dislike. The grandest of them all is “Seeds of Aspen,” the tune with the upright bass et al; its composition almost seems to tower above the other tracks, but the emotion of the track that follows is equally as impactful. “Big Bad Luck” has a particular violin chord progression that makes me feel a yearning, as if my soul has opened up but I’m not sure for what.

My favorite song is “Shipwreck,” because it inexplicably reminds me Laura Marling. The guitar strums are very deliberate and methodical, then it slides into something bigger, more meaningful. There is something special about each track here, and because Area of Refuge is giving it out at a pay what you want rate, you have no excuse to download it and listen for yourself.

Visit Bandcamp to listen or download Series One.

Luca Bash – The Single Drops EP Review

10 Sep

Modern-day music seems to have an obsession with big beats and EDM-style euphoric rises and drops. Now this isn’t another of those typical reviews slamming EDM for its major successes over the past few years, but it is an review aiming to highlight the beauty and stripped back simplicity of a musician and an instrument.

Italian Luca Bash is one of said musicians, with his new EP, “The Single Drops”, summing up what the medium of acoustic music is, thought-provoking, emotive music that can connect people with its raw power. This EP is a compilation of the ‘best bits’ of the 2014 releases, “Cyan”, “Magenta”, “Yellow” and “Key Black”, plus an original new tune. It’s a novel approach, which shows sheer confidence from Bash in his own output

Bash and his long-time collaborator Giova Pes have combined to create a soulful experience that reaches out and connects with the listener, bridging the gap from record to artist. Kicking off with the new track, “Your Tomorrow”, from the moment Bash’s gravelly tones kick in, over the heavenly acoustic melody, you can close your eyes, lie back and relax. Again, the sound is exceptional here, with the production values high and the crisp instrumentation really matches Bash’s raspy vocals perfectly. It could be said it doesn’t really evolve as a song, but then when a song is the equivalent of a river trickling, does it need to go anywhere providing it is intensely relaxing to listen to.

Second song “Forever Like Asleep”, manages to sound like something heard on a mellower moment of “The Walking Dead”, a show famed for its country influences. The guitar melodies here are captivating and demand attention from the word go. The vocals here are more pronounced and noticeable too, with the musical breakdowns both intriguing and musically diverse too, it’s Bash and Pes showing us, the listener, that they have more to their musical repertoire. At times the vocalisations are slightly strained, but I really think it adds to the level of emotion in the music.

Next up is, “Dear John”, and is where things start to get slightly repetitive. I do enjoy the instrumentation here, as we break into more rhythmic melodies that resonated with me, but I feel this is a song that would excel live, while on record it’s kind of left behind a bit, as it sounds eerily similar to opener, “Your Tomorrow”. It does grow on me as we develop, but I feel that there’s not a lot more to be said about this track. It has more of a sleepy quality than a relaxing one.

The beginning of “Little Tale” sound like a mystical fairytale of sorts, with its mysterious acoustic background, while Bash’s vocals tend to differentiate from what has gone before which is a relief after the slightly derivative nature of “Dear John”. No here, we do gradually build to some form of climax, which allows Bash’s vocals to be a lot more interesting and diverse in their range. The breakdown halfway through serves as something of a harvester for the emotion that is to come in the latter half, we slow down before eeking out another powerful vocal and acoustic combination towards the end of the song, as the acoustics really take centre stage.

This sweet, but short, EP comes to a close with “Black Swans Walls”, which has more than a couple of American reference points, Dave Matthews-esque guitars swelling in the background and providing a suitable backdrop to a hurried Bash on vocals. It all sounds a lot more positive and upbeat, so rather than relax, it gets you a bit more pumped and bouncy! A great way to end such a short little collection of songs, and a nice emotion to leave with the audience, for sure.

Connections have also been important to Luca Bash. He often speaks of the moment where the adulation of a female fan sent shivers down his spine: “Before the final part of ‘Dear John,’ I make a pause after a B7, followed by a G.
When I reached that point of the song, the crowd was quiet and the silence was incredible. But a young female voice screamed aloud ‘Bravo!’ and, despite the fact that I was playing, I heard her. I still remember the shivers. I was unknown, playing a song unknown as well, but able to give emotions. This is the reason why I still compose.”

That much is clear within Bash’s work, you can tell he aims to connect and give people pleasure in his musical truths and personality. With “Single Drops”, he’s only going to connect to more and more people around the world.

Monks of Mellonwah – Disconnect EP Review

9 Sep

download (4)

Following the release of their debut LP last year and accompanying U.S. support tour, exciting Australian band Monks of Mellonwah are back with a brand new EP and Stateside trip to boot.

The alternative quartet has just released ‘Disconnect’ with seven new tunes. It follows a stunning few years for the band, as they took home awards in 2012, for International Rock Band of the Year and Best Indie Rock Band at the LA Music Awards and AIM Awards, respectively. Now though, with Grammy-nominated involved in the production alongside band member Joseph de la Hoyde and A&R Worldwide’s Monte Malone and Sat Bisla producing, they have bigger goals to achieve in the upcoming 12 months.

While 2014 album ‘Turn the People’ was an eagerly-anticipated release after years of promise, ‘Disconnect’ seems them aim to step up through the gears ever so slightly. Opener to the EP, “Never Been Good”, is a bouncy pop tune with a crunchy drum beat in the background built for the live arena and getting audience members to clap along. It’s a strong start and a good pre-cursor of what is to come.

Lead single “Even When It Burns”, is the highlight of the new collection of songs, it has an electrifying guitar riff that accompanies some haunting vocals; as electro-pop goes it’s catchy and has that haunting quality to it. Having listened to it a few times now, it has that essential ‘sticking’ factor, hours after listening to it, you’ll remember its familiar melodies and the chorus of ‘Even when it burns/ the simple things that I know I have learnt’, will be going round and round in your head!

“Show Me Something” has a building quality to it too, that drives the pace slowly but surely with a piano and drum kit. It has a dance music vibe to it too, with echoes of Chris Martin of Coldplay’s falsetto vocals on show too. It probably epitomises what the band are about perfectly in a three-minute pop song- with impressive vocals, catchy drumming and crisp production sound.

And that’s one half down, “Interlude” connects us through to the title track, “Disconnect”, in a Muse-style of theatrics. I’m instantly reminded of The Fray when the song kicks in, but the song develops into more of a love-lorn ballad with a pulsing electronic riff beneath it. It’s a warm, emotive song that strips back a lot of the bouncy tunes before it, and shows the lyrical warmth of the Monks song-writing.

In stark contrast, “Look At Me” opens with a Nile Rodgers-esque spiky guitar riff, throws in some ska drumming and the vocals of British band Don Broco, and a perfect song is made. It feels as though it is a song to be listened to only when the sun is blazing in the afternoon, cloudless sky, and an ice-cold beverage is in hand. It could be argued the song is a bit stagnant in how it really doesn’t develop and maintains that riff throughout, but when a song is this catchy (and yes that’s a word that has been used throughout this review, for good reason!), can you blame it for not going anywhere else?

And that’s almost the end of the road, with closer “Feel It Coming” signalling the end of a short dash of an EP. It is another familiar tale of a journey that sees the band build and build and build to a satisfying musical climax. This sounds as close to an emo-pop-punk as the band manage, with drums that belong to a heavier band during the breakdown late on. But it leaves food for thought, as that’s a possible direction the Monks could eventually take their music perhaps?

All in all, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not “Disconnect” can help the Monks of Mellonwah make that jump up to the top step in terms of musical quality or not. It sounds exceptionally well produced and is diverse enough to suggest that there’s something in the Australians. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out in the future for this promising collective.

%d bloggers like this: