Though it was apparently “recorded using legendary audio equipment from Abbey Road and Capitol Records,” Luxury Eviction’s Master of None would have sounded great even recorded on 4-track in someone’s closet. Blair B’s vocals are just that powerful. Her songs could almost be described as avant garde, alternative, and ultimately more substantive versions of James Bond film theme songs like For Your Eyes Only and All Time High. The tracks on this album just have a very epic, symphonic feel to them, but with some edgier, brooding undertones. The songs are very meticulously put together and well crafted. Though they were recorded on top notch (analog?) gear, there isn’t a bunch of processing or post-production tinkering with the sound. It’s mostly left in its fresh and undisturbed form, accented with traditional reverb and delay. My favorite track on this album is probably Dragonflies in Hurricanes, which features some radically retro synths.
[Fran and Stephen are observing from the roof of the mall]
Francine Parker: What are they doing? Why do they come here?
Stephen: Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.
– Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Barenaked Ladies’ One Week was a popular, chart topping hit. I remember driving around Tempe in the fall of 1998 listening to The Edge 106.3 FM, and it seemed like this song was on the radio every 5 minutes…sometime between songs such as Harvey Danger’s Flagpole Sitta and Third Eye Blind’s How’s It Gonna Be? These songs were heard many times on trips to and from Blockbuster Video (as well as Hollywood Video) to rent and return erotic thrillers, midnight outings to Denny’s, lonely drives to North Phoenix, my job at Abercrombie and all the rest.
One Week was one of those cheesy songs that I would have never admitted to liking but knew the words to and would secretly enjoy when it came on. It wasn’t passionately hated enough for me to like ironically, the way I later did with boy bands and Vitamin C, it was at least preferable to rapcore, a genre which I loathe to this day. In 1998, I would have complained about all the music on the radio sucking except the oldies station. This seems laughable in the context of today, when nearly every pop song is processed gibberish. In hindsight, we didn’t know how good we had it!One Week has the feel of a relic from a much more innocent and carefree era. It might as well be 100 years ago and a different country. The plethora of pop culture references in the lyrics are characteristic of Generation X works made at what Bret Easton Ellis refers to as the “height of the empire.”
Watchin X-Files with no lights on,
We’re dans la maison
I hope the Smoking Man’s in this one
Like Harrison Ford I’m getting Frantic
Like Sting I’m Tantric
Like Snickers, guaranteed to satisfy
I remember thinking these lyrics were so dumb, but not because I was opposed to the idea of cheesy pop culture references in songs. It’s just that the particular items referenced weren’t things that I personally was into. I did after all, write a song about Michael from Melrose Place. To revisit and paraphrase that memorable line from 1978′s Dawn of the Dead, such things had an important place in our lives.
I felt as though I owed it to Barenaked Ladies to write something about One Week, given how much enjoyment this jam gave me in 1998. 20 years later I can finally admit it.
All Night is a follow up single to an EP released earlier this year (at only age 17) by Grayson Word, a “soul/pop singer & multi-instrumentalist based in Nashville.” The verses in All Night delight with a loungy, funky pop sort of quality, but where the track really shines is the chorus. Out of nowhere, Word’s voice casually reaches unexpected highs with considerable ease. This dynamic quality is reminiscent of songs like Billy Joel’s The Stranger. It’s evident from listening to even one Grayson Word track is that this kid is no poser. There are tons of aspiring young pop stars out there with recordings which are gummed up with autotune and horrible effects processing to mask deficiencies in skill. All Night doesn’t have any of that and Grayson’s musical chops are confidently displayed in full force. These recordings cut through the BS that infects much of contemporary pop music. On top of all that, this guy is only a teenager and probably hasn’t even reached his full potential yet. The only thing standing in the way of All Night being played in nearly every department store is a lack of industry connections. Hopefully, that will change as the “Word” gets out.
eSensuals is a full length album from Vegas based (originally from Oakland) duo, “Fans of Jimmy Century” (FOJC for short.) The sound is an impressive combination of loungy female vocals, quirky lyrics and “indiewave” dance music. It’s an eclectic concoction that I’ve personally never heard before, (and I’ve listened to a lot of wild stuff over the years) but which this group performs expertly. There are so many detectable musical trace elements here it would be a struggle to name them all (disco, mod, 80s synthpop, vaporwave etc.) There’s quite a bit of variety among the songs as well. They’re not just doing the same thing over and over on this album. Architecturally, each of these songs has its own personality. True to the album title itself, the tracks on eSensuals are memorable for their clever and catchy names, revealing the wit and creativity of the creators. It’s not all a front or a gimmick though, songs like Liquid Chill and Cherry Drops musically live up to their powerful names in every sense. This album is just a really solid representation of indie music in that it finds the perfect balance between skill, aesthetics, humor, and the avant garde without ever coming across as pretentious or ego-driven.
Runaway is the debut single from “Divine,” an up and coming artist from the Philippines. Her mother and sister are both singer’s also, so the passion to perform runs in the family. One listen to Runaway is enough to realize Divine is a talented singer. She sings on key and has a dynamic vocal range. Unlike with other pop artists, the effects in the song are used to accentuate her voice rather than conceal flaws. Take away the beats, the synths and everything else on the recording, and she could still manage to captivate the audience with her vocals alone. She also sings with expressive emotion and a touch of attitude to match the tone of the lyrics. In particular, her rendition of the chorus is where she really shines.
Runaway is a professionally produced pop song of label quality with a video to match. The lyrics center around a love interest whom Divine is advising and pleading with him to run away, so that she won’t have to break his heart. Basically, she has feelings for him but thinks he should stay away for his own mental health. It’s a contemporary spin on a classic romantic theme. I could see this artist rising in popularity if she continues to surround herself with a good team. All of the framework is there. It’s important to mention that Runaway is not officially available yet. It will be available for pre-order on Nov 2nd, and the official release is scheduled for Nov 9th.
XOXOXO was an early 2000s, Phoenix band that almost made it big during the Myspace era. They were fronted by an incredibly talented girl named Rachel Taylor, who tragically passed away about 10 years ago. I knew a girl that performed in a play Rachel wrote titled Sorbet and Other Stuff.The band was somewhat ahead of their time in that they were a polished, synth oriented and fashion conscious indie band at a time when most local indie rock was centered around guitars and Pabst Blue Ribbon. I always admired XOXOXO for aiming for something big. The band released one cd, which is pretty damn hard to find. XOXOXO even had a smear piece written about them in the Phoenix New Times, which is just further proof that they were awesome. XOXOXO disappeared for a while and reemerged with a new name, The Kohl Heart. I seem to recall that they lived in Oakland for a while as well. The members seemed to have a tendency to reinvent themselves just as they were beginning to achieve success. They are mostly forgotten …but not by me. Rachel Taylor RIP.
Struggle With Me is the latest EP from Tampa trio “Phantom Phunk.” Even though the band currently has three members, additional appearances are made on the album by rapper Cloud Master Price. Struggle With Me is an interesting release because it experiments with a combination of punk, neo-alternative, funk and hip hop. The first track, Mediphorical is my second favorite song on the album. It features a terrific, minimalist guitar presence and is fronted by the assertive vocals of Alexa Toro. The song is a great choice for opening track because the energy really gets the album off the ground. Every Where You Go gets into more experimental territory. It’s almost like if you mixed a hip hop jam with a Tegan and Sara song and somehow managed to make it work. No Hard Feelings makes creative use of timing and pauses to set up Toro’s vocals, which display a lot of echoey dynamicism in this song. Something Certain People Say is the best track on the album. It’s got a catchy chorus, the best guitar tone and has potential to be a legit indie hit song. Cheap Thrills is the loudest, hardest rocking song. Cloud Master Price makes another climactic appearance on this track and provides the link it needs to round out the album.
Dandy is the eclectic debut album from Matty Marz. It blends romance, fashion, and pop culture into a record that oscillates between pop and indie rock. I thought I had the sound pinned down with the first track Dirtbag, which is kind of a sassy indie rock song with a sound vaguely reminiscent of mid 00s bands like Franz Ferdinand (Do You Want to.) However, after this the songs transition into much more poppy territory. They are often romantic, soft and musically bright. The backing beats and background music has kind of that early 90′s, funky, summertime Caribbean sound. All these elements are combined in a way which lends itself to an ultimately contemporary feel. Matty Marz’ vocals come across as sincere and tonally are a good fit for this style of music. My favorite track on the album is probably We the People (Interlude,) which is catchy and features an amazing, retro-futuristic beat.
Summer Song (Hey Hey) is a refreshing and avant garde country pop song from Los Angeles based band, “Lyrics of Two.” The track was written by band founder Marie Helen Abramyan, a songwriter and poet whose work we’ve featured before. One thing Marie has become known for in her writing is an emphasis on seasons. Her poems and songs often capture the essence of a particular season, and its role in nature.
Like previous hits such as LFO’s Summer Girls, Lyrics of Two’s Summer Song (Hey Hey) manages to capture the “feel” of summer and deals with recapturing the carefree spirit of summer that’s been lost somewhere in the grind of day to day adult life. The incredibly catchy “Hey Hey!” hook of the chorus serves as a kind of wake up call for the soul. The song is upbeat from start to finish, conjuring up images of frolicking on the beach with friends and throwing frisbees around. It is upbeat in a way that only the season of summer could be, with the feelings associated with the adjacent seasons both left behind and waiting subtly for their turn, temporarily relegated to the margins.
Jet Lag Super Drag is an energetic and soulful rock release from Atlanta based band “Last Chance Riders.” The album has a features a classic rock inspired sound with contemporary flair. The guitars really assert themselves, something which becomes apparent in the first few seconds of the opening track, Downright Disgusted. Whenever the guitars kick in on these songs, they just really have a bite to them. This is not “light rock.” Their sound reminds me a bit of The White Stripes in that it’s very loud and has an analog quality.
Vocalist Jessie Albright does her part with vocals which match the intensity of the guitars and give the band its distinct identity. It would be easy to get away with a less capable singer with this kind of music because the guitars are such a powerful driving force, but Jessie Albright turns out to be a phenomenal vocalist. She really knocks out these songs, balancing emotion, musicality and maxed out rock n roll. Her accent gives it away that you’re listening to a “southern rock” band, but the group’s appeal is by no means regionally limited. The eclectic mix of detectable musical influences ranges worldwide. There are shades of everything from David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” on here to AC/DC. This is a really solid, professional album.