Sunday, August 26, 2007

8.26.07 recs

Between The Trees.
These guys write impeccable pop rock songs. They're starting to blow up fast, so keep your eyes on them.
RIYL: Mae, Melee, Brighten.

Crash Boom Bang.
Infectious pop rock from Northern Virginia. They put on one of the most interactive and entertaining live shows I've ever seen, and are currently recording their debut LP with Tom Higgenson of the Plain White T's.
RIYL: All Time Low, Cartel, Spitalfield.

These guys are about to release their second album, Black Earth Tiger. It's a big departure from Soundtrack To A Headrush: so much heavier and darker.
RIYL: Every Time I Die, Underoath, Alexisonfire.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Coconut Records - Nightttiming

Coconut Records - Nighttiming
Label - Young Baby Records

Usually, just knowing that a band is fronted by an actor is enough for most people to write them off. However, I am begging you to take a close listen to Coconut Records. It's indie darling Jason Schwartzman's newest project, and the songs can more than stand for themselves, actor supported or not.

Coconut Records' debut album, Nighttiming, is a breezy, hopeful walk through some surprisingly beautiful and endearing songs. The album pushes off slowly with the meandering "This Old Machine," a track that will instantly capture the hearts and ears of Bright Eyes and Death Cab lovers everywhere. Schwartzman's singing voice is decidedly different from his speaking voice, and is very soothing to listen to.

Everything about this record screams California, particularly the aptly titled "West Coast." With its bells and flowing guitars, this song is simply meant to be listened to while driving along the beach at night. The lyrics are not particularly deep, but they fit the laid-back feel of the album to a T.

"Back To You" is along the lines of a Rooney song, which is fitting, seeing as Jason's brother, Robert, fronts Rooney. With perfectly placed handclaps and a catchy chorus, much toe-tapping is sure to ensue.

The album's title track is by far the best on the record. A dance tune of the best kind, "Nighttiming" is a song that will be stuck in your head for days on end; the type of song you'll find yourself craving to hear again and again. "Minding My Own Business" and "The Thanks I Get" are a couple of well crafted pop songs, and songs like "Mama" and "Ask Her To Dance" are very reminiscent of Bright Eyes in Schwartzman's vocal tone. While these styles may seem disparate, all of the songs weave together seamlessly to make an album that flows wonderfully from start to finish.

Full of light hooks and poppy piano pieces, Nighttiming should not be tossed aside as the failed efforts of an actor. Rather, it should be played again and again while dreaming of the California coastline. Very rarely do albums come along that straddle the line between light pop and hip indie, and with Nighttiming, Schwartzman has done that better than I could have ever hoped for.

01. This Old Machine
02. West Coast *
03. Back To You
04. Summer Day
05. Nighttiming *
06. Minding My Own Business
07. Slowly
08. Mama
09. The Thanks I Get *
10. It's Not You, It's Me
11. Easy Girl
12. Ask Her To Dance

* - standout tracks

For fans of: Phantom Planet, Rooney, Of Montreal

website | myspace | purevolume

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I heard the neighborhood was bleeding.

Manchester Orchestra, Unwed Sailor, and Colour Revolt at Jammin' Java, 8.14.07

I was very excited to see this show, as Manchester Orchestra has quickly become one of my new favorite bands, and certainly one of my favorite to see ever since I first saw them with Brand New last spring. The idea of seeing them in such a small venue was wonderful.

The show began with Colour Revolt's Sean Kirkpatrick coming onstage to apologize for the fact that their singer, Jesse Coppenbarger, was sick, and that Kirkpatrick would be just doing a few songs solo. He did a good job of keeping the attention of the audience as he alternated between fast and slow songs for about twenty minutes.

Unwed Sailor took the stage shortly after. I had never heard of them before, and when I realized they were an instrumental band I prepared myself to be bored for the next half hour. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were actually very good. Each song flowed seamlessly into the next, with just enough synth to balance the smart guitar work.

Manchester Orchestra began with just Andy Hull playing "Sleeper 1972" solo on his electric guitar, eyes shut and almost whispering into the mic. The rest of the band crashed to life with "Wolves At Night," and the band proceeded to pound through the rest of the tracks on I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child.

The best performance of the night was easily "Where Have You Been?" which devolved into Hull screaming, sighing, and holding himself up with his mic stand. The entire venue was dead silent for a full ten seconds after he finished before bursting into applause.

I love to watch Manchester because even if Hull's voice cracks, or if Chris Freeman's tambourine is slightly off beat, they're passionate and good enough that it doesn't matter. The band is so young, but their songs are already so mature. Every note is intense and purposeful. It's refreshing.

When called for an encore, Hull returned to the stage claiming they had no other songs, but soon relented and played a song titled "Badges And Badges" from his side solo project, Right Away Great Captain. Although he called it pretentious, it was a nice pop song, quite different from his Manchester material.

All in all, a very good show. Manchester is a band I will not tire of watching anytime soon.

Monday, August 13, 2007

she's driving away from me as we speak.

Holiday Parade, The Mile After, & Every Avenue at Jammin' Java, 8.13.07

Talk about pop-punk: this tour is like a mini-supertour of up and comers in the genre. It was an evening of spin kicks, hand claps, and preteen shrieks, and it was a ton of fun.

Michigan's Every Avenue opened the show, playing energetically to the fairly small cluster of girls standing near the stage. Their set was a blur of synchronized high kicks and arm waves, and they never ran out of steam. Singer David Ryan did his best to interact with the crowd, and was impressively able to keep his vocals strong even while sprinting around the stage.

The Mile After began promisingly with a nicely harmonized rendition of the first few lines of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls." However, the rest of the set was decidedly less high-octane than Every Avenue's, almost to the point of a letdown. This isn't to say the band wasn't good - they had the requisite driving hooks and singalong choruses, but their presentation wasn't as much fun. Singer Chase Holfelder's voice sounded pinched, and they seemed to be just going through the motions.

Holiday Parade took the stage quickly, jumping straight in with "Crimson Red" and never stopping to breathe. It was difficult to hear Andy Albert's vocals, but the rest of the band was dead on in their delivery, with drummer Mickey being particularly fun to watch.


Crimson Red
Abe Frohman
Clothes Off! (Gym Class Heroes cover)
My Philosophy
Driving Away
Another Mistake (I Won't Be)
Walking By
Never Enough

The cover of the first verse of "Clothes Off" was a great surprise, and the band turned it into a nice rock and roll tune. Albert knows how to work the crowd with or without a guitar in his hand, and it's just great to see a band so clearly enjoying themselves onstage.

The band said they'd be shooting a video for "Never Enough" in the near future. Watch out, because these guys are going to be huge.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

8.12.07 recs

All of these recommendations come courtesy of my friend Sally, and I thank her so much for introducing me to these bands.

Leslie Feist is also a member of Broken Social Scene, but her solo work is most impressive to me. She has a beautiful voice and a great ear for melody.

Sondre Lerche.
Singer-songwriter from Norway. He has been called the Scandinavian answer to Bright Eyes, but he is much more polished and refined than that.

Cavil At Rest.
This L.A. based unsigned band writes ethereal, haunting pop songs. Their live show is ten times better than their recorded material, but they're definitely a band you should keep your eye on.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

ScientificLifestyle - The Arrow EP

ScientificLifestyle - The Arrow EP
Label - Mean Red Music
Release Date - 7.24.07

It's hard to be unique in Los Angeles, the town where everyone is trying to stand out. L.A.'s electro-tinged rock outfit ScientificLifestyles is trying their best, but are they making it?

Frontwoman Nicole Porter has breathy, flowing vocals that complement the sparse guitars and offset the rather heavyhanded drumming on The Arrow EP. Opening with "Flight 273," the music sounds a bit like a blast from the past - it wouldn't have been out of place on a soundtrack like Empire Records.

"Glee Slipper" is where the electronica tag on their MySpace shows up in full force, but even here it is not overpowering. It's often hard to understand what Porter's lyrics are - the background vocals tend to compete with hers. However, her voice is pleasant enough that it almost doesn't matter. On this track, the '90s stylings of Porter's voice blend very nicely with the '80s sound of the instrumentals. The song climaxes with a dance breakdown, which would have been a lot more fun had the mixing of the drums been better executed. Still, one can see that it would translate well in a live show. The band slows down for "Chinatown Swan," a very pretty pop ballad. Unfortunately, the midi programming leans toward elevator music on this track. Again, Porter's lilting vocals redeem the song.

The final song, "Or," finds a much happier middle ground between rock and electronic programming. It's the catchiest and most well-produced track on the album. Both the vocals and the instrumentals are clearly heard, and none are done to the point of cheesiness heard on earlier tracks. Overall, ScientificLifestyle's major redeeming factor is that of their vocalist Porter. The songs themselves are not as unique as an L.A. band needs them to be in order to get noticed. Hopefully Porter will be able to find a way to let her voice be heard through other avenues.

01. Flight 473
02. Glee Slipper
03. Chinatown Swan
04. Or *

* - standout tracks

For fans of: Straylight Run, Paper Route

website | myspace | purevolume

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Interview - A Thorn For Every Heart

California's A Thorn For Every Heart are gearing up for the release of their sophomore album, It's Hard To Move You. I got to ask a few questions about life on the road to their frontman, Phil Nguyen.

PPJ: First, please tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Phil: My name is Phil Nguyen and I play guitar and I sing every now and then.

PPJ: What inspired you to begin playing music?

Phil: When I was in jr. high, my favorite band was Reel Big Fish. This was back in '96. My older brother had a guitar and I would sneak into his room when we would go to school and I would try and learn all the RBF songs. But I grew up with older siblings which were all into music which made me love it as well.

PPJ: Are those things the same things that drive you to keep playing today?

Phil: Yeah, that's part of the reason why I still play to this day.

PPJL Does being from California make it harder or easier to break into the music scene?

Phil: I wouldn't say that it's easier or harder. If you have the drive and determination, your music is going to be heard.

PPJ: You're about to release your second LP. What went into writing this record?

Phil: A lot of jamming. We would take a simple riff and turn it to a song that we loved. If we were writing a song and didn't feel it, we would just drop the song and move onto the next one.

PPJ: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your new album?

Phil: My favorite part of the album is just being able to work with these great producers. They have taught me so much. To be honest with you, I am 100% happy with this record.

PPJ: Why was there such a long period of time between your two albums?

Phil: It's like you have so much time to write your first record. And we wanted to make sure for our second album, that we wrote songs that we were all happy with. It took us a bit but we hope it was worth it. We put our heart and souls into this.

PPJ: Your sound has evolved over time. Why the changes, and how do you hope to see ATFEH continue to mature?

Phil: When we recorded our first album we were only a band for almost 1 year. A lot of the songs were written a few months of being a band. At the time our style was kinda all over the place. We wanted to incorporate all our styles into one. I love the first record. I think we did the best we could. But as you get older and are in this band for a lot longer, you mature. We write what we love and what we feel. This second album is exactly what we were feeling at the time.

PPJ: How did you get hooked up with Kickball Records?

Phil: They actually found us on the internet. We put up some demos online and they heard us and emailed us. Talked to them for a few months. Then signed on to the label.

PPJ: You're constantly on tour. Where are your favorite places to be and why?

Phil: Yeah, we tour as much as possible. My favorite place to tour is the northwest. I love Washington and Oregon. I just love the greenery and the clean air.

PPJ: What tour was the most fun?

Phil: Every tour is fun. You meet new people and life long friends. I couldn't
say what was the most fun. But one band that I loved growing up and got the honor to play with was Jimmy Eat World.

PPJ: You've covered Oingo Boingo and Smashing Pumpkins songs for compilation albums. Why did you choose the songs you did?

Phil: We all grew up in the 80's and we all love Oingo Boingo. We just thought that "Dead Man's Party" was a perfect song to cover. When we got asked to do the Smashing Pumpkins tribute album, we were all wanting to do a song that wasn't a single of theirs because we as a band didn't want to butcher the song. We all loved the song "Jelly Belly" so thats how that all came about.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Phil: 1. The Receiving End Of Sirens 2. The Sleeping 3. Paper Rivals.

Thanks again to Phil for answering these questions, and to Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media for putting things together. Catch A Thorn For Every Heart on tour, and keep your eyes peeled for when It's Hard To Move You hits stores.

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