Saturday, February 25, 2012

War - At War For Youth

War is a Danish duo consisting of Iceage's Elias Bender Rønnenfelt and Sexdrome's Loke Rahbek.  While the band name may be a bit common among the funk and black metal crowds, their music definitely sets them apart.  It's a jumbled low-fi tunnel of noise.  The music is something between a raw punk demo and a synthesizer.  It's incredibly dark and rough, yet I feel the urge to dance to it.  Through all of the distortion, it also manages to be pretty spectacular.

The band released their three track single, At War For Youth, earlier this week.  The record is only eleven minutes long, but it leaves a lasting impression.  Honestly, War strikes me as one of those "love them or hate them" bands.  Listeners who are into music with a little extra fuzz will dig it, while others may turn and run.

The title track contains the most audible vocals out of the group, and they're still considerably drowned out.  "At War For Youth" also showcases the Danish punk side of the band most accurately.  "Kains  Mærke" serves as the perfect transition into the b-side, "Brodermordet", which is my favorite from the batch.  The closing song is more dance-oriented.  It's title translates into "fratricide" which, according to the band, is apparently a reference to Cain and Abel.  If you can get past that grim fact, then it's smooth sailing.

At War For Youth is out now on Sacred Bones.  If you'd like to purchase a copy of the single, you can do so digitally here.  For a physical 7", you can go straight to the label here.  Check out the stream of "Brodermordet" below.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Porcelain Raft - Strange Weekend

Over the past few years, Mauro Remiddi has been recording and releasing songs under the name of Porcelain Raft.  As a result, a vast collection of singles, and even a few EP's, can be found across the internet.  A number of these sporadic tracks, such as "Tip Of Your Tongue" and "Come Closer", caught the attention of music bloggers and publications.  Whether intentional or not, this musical idea attracted an eager audience.  During the summer of last year, Porcelain Raft was signed to Secretly Canadian, and so began the journey to his debut album.

Remiddi's life has been quite a journey itself, having traveled around the word and back again.  Originating in Italy, the songwriter has ventured as far as North Korea, finding new homes in London and New York.  This album was created in a New York basement.  Experiencing these places around the globe surely shaped this album in one way or another.

An interesting note about Strange Weekend is that no previous studio, or in this case, basement recordings have been included on the record.  For example, the previously mentioned favorite "Tip Of Your Tongue" is absent.  That leaves listeners with ten unknown tracks to explore.  A couple of the songs have been performed live, so if you've been to one of his shows or heard a live set, you may recognize something familiar.  Aside from this factor, it's all fresh territory.

Strange Weekend kicks off with "Drifting In And Out", a perfect introduction to Porcelain Raft's abilities.  Everything is laden with echo, including Mauro's androgynous vocals.  A dreamy beat serves as the backbone to this adventure.  Lead single, "Put Me To Sleep" further displays his ability to create musical textures for your senses.

"Backwords" is honestly one of the most breathtaking songs I've heard in such a long time.  It's a beautifully tragic piece that I've been fascinated with ever since Mauro's Daytrotter performance back in May of 2011.  When the studio version of the song hit my ears for the first time, I was amazed by the track's transformation.  A stripped live composition had become this incredible force.  The song still holds a gentle touch, but it's now tucked beneath a tear producing climax.

The second half of Strange Weekend brings "Unless You Speak From Your Heart", which recently found its visual partner in the form of a music video.  The footage is reminiscent of a silent movie, as Remiddi moves about, quirky and suddenly with his mimicking partners.  This track may be the best example of how Porcelain Raft can do "pop" music.  It's bouncy and proves to be a successful upbeat moment.

The waves of reverb and distortion that embrace this album have captured a mood that sounds both incredibly triumphant and full of emotion.  It's similar to the sensation of relief one would feel after a deep heartfelt confession.  The album is a focused effort, with a beginning and end that feels right.  I would never take anything away or add another element.  This record is complete in its current form.  It's a short album, and maybe simple in concept, but it fulfills my every expectation with Porcelain Raft.

Strange Weekend paints an honest picture.  One man and his music.  Regardless of other artists or what people say, sincerity is always valued in music.  Listeners want that genuine connection.  I feel like Porcelain Raft has delivered just that with Strange Weekend.

Porcelain Raft is currently touring across Europe with M83.  He'll be back in the US with Youth Lagoon and then The Vaccines later this year.  For a complete list of dates, check out the tour calendar.  For more info on Porcelain Raft's music, head over to his website.

The Soundtrack Of My Life is giving away a digital copy of Strange Weekend to one lucky reader.  If you're the first person to go over here and enter in the unique code seen below, then the album is yours!

*code has been redeemed*

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

YVETTE - Erosion / Cold Sweat

Noise rock duo YVETTE have teamed up with God Mode for the release of a limited edition 7" single.  Erosion is their two track creation.  The record holds both the title track and "Cold Sweat".  Each song prominently features some wicked percussion and piercing notes that could quite possibly shatter a window, and I mean that in the good way.  What else would you ever want on Valentine's Day?

If you want to get your hands on the physical edition, you'll have to wait until March 27.  However, the tracks are available digitally at this very moment.  You can stream and download the pair at YVETTE's Bandcamp.  For more info on YVETTE and their music, check out the band's blog.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Kills: Live At The 9:30 Club

It has been just over one week since The Kills performed for a sold out 9:30 Club crowd in downtown Washington D.C.  The ringing in my ears has subsided, but the music in my head has not.  I can still hear the crunching beat of the show’s opener “No Wow”.  I can still see Alison Mosshart, standing upon the dimmed stage, with tears forming, as she sang “The Last Goodbye”.  These are just two of the many stills that stand out within my mind as I recollect the night.

The evening began when the Brooklyn-based duo Hunters, and their accompanying drummer and bassist, took the stage.  If singer Isabel Almeida’s raucous scream doesn’t put a grin on your face, it’s probably safe to say you’re no fun.  They brought a special dose of energy that invigorated the room and matched The Kills vibe.

Having heard very little of the band in advance, I came away impressed.  I must admit, their single “Deadbeat” has, on more than one occasion, made a home in my head this past week.  The studio version is nearly identical to the live rendition and is every bit as catchy.

The two-piece rock band JEFF The Brotherhood followed, with a set that could best be described as loud and in your face garage rock.  From the first piercing note out of Jake Orrall’s guitar, to the final blast of Jamin’s drum kit, JTB laid down the noise.  Having heard some of their material beforehand, this came of no surprise, and didn’t disappoint.  Though I confess I was a bit distracted during a portion of their set, after spotting Alison Mosshart cheering from an upper balcony to the left of the stage.

After a short break, the curtains that formerly draped the backdrop of the stage were pulled, revealing the very Kills-centric leopard print which hung beneath.  Just moments away now, the crowd grew tense, and the lights dimmed.  Suddenly, The Kills appeared, amongst all the rumbling goodness of “No Wow”.  It provided such a blast of energy, and really set the tone for the entire evening.  When coupled with the duo’s overwhelming stage presence, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better introduction.

I’ve always admired The Kills incredible sense of style.  In person, the duo looked every bit as awesome as you would expect.  Alison’s frazzled pink hair gave way to shades of blonde and black, as she confronted the crowd.  Interestingly, The Kills were joined on stage throughout the night by a pair of bandana-toting upright drummers.  The drummers actually added a nice touch, not only aesthetically, but audibly, even playing tambourines during the closing track.

This first seven-song portion of the show was ultimately my favorite, for several reasons.  Few concert experiences can hope to live up to the pure electric aura of staring eye to eye with Alison Mosshart as she belts the chorus of “The Heart Is A Beating Drum”.  The Kills bleed passion and energy, and it is nearly impossible to resist.

Next they played two old favorites, “Kissy Kissy” and “URA Fever”.  The latter of which received a roar of approval from the crowd, in response to those irresistible telephone beeps.  These tracks perfectly showcased the chemistry between Alison and Jamie.

One of the highlights of my night occurred unexpectedly, just a few songs into the show.  Jamie stepped to the edge of the stage, leaned, and tossed his guitar pick, which landed directly in my hand!

In a rare occurrence, the band was joined by a pair of background singers for “DNA” and “Satellite”. However, their impact was minimal, as Jamie’s wonderful guitar fuzz in “Satellite” stole the focus, lending itself well to the rocking crowd.  The Patsy Cline classic “Crazy”, which seemed to resonate well with the crowd, as did one of my favorites: “Baby Says”.

The slowed-down version of “Nail in My Coffin” seemed to throw everyone off momentarily, but did well to lead into “Black Balloon”.  The crowd did their best to clap along with the aforementioned drummers, eventually admitting defeat and fading into a muffled applause.

During “Tape Song” and “Cheap And Cheerful” the crowd erupted into a free-for-all mosh, as a hoard of individuals made a push to the front of the stage.  This rush resulted in a complete shuffle of positions, and I wound up being pushed back a row.  At the song’s conclusion, Jamie amusingly prompted the crowd, saying “If you're going to fight, please let everyone join in... don't do it while I’m playing guitar, it’s not fair.”  The Kills closed the set with “Pots and Pans”, and briefly exited the stage.

The emotional peak of the night was unquestionably “The Last Goodbye”, the first performance of the band’s encore.  Jamie quietly retreated to a keyboard with a bottle of wine in hand, as Alison took center stage.  The emotion in her voice was remarkable, and seemed to strike the crowd into awe.  They then continued the encore with the always popular and lively “Sour Cherry”, which injected another dose of adrenaline into the now delirious crowd.

The show closed with a pair of songs from The Kills first album, “Keep On Your Mean Side”.  Jamie did the honor of introducing the first track “Fuck The People”, describing it as “One of the first songs we ever wrote.  It’s a very profound and in-depth response to democracy and the complications of life.” As the night came to a close, everyone sang along, soaking up the final notes.

Finally, they played out the last tune of the night, “Monkey 23”.  At the song’s conclusion, Jamie and Alison crept to the edge of the stage and bowed, her glorious fray of pink hair lashing one final time.   The crowd surrendered one more massive roar, their thanks for an unforgettable night.

If you would like to hear The Kills 9:30 Club performance in its entirety, check out NPR’s “Live In Concert” feature here.

Tonight, The Kills will celebrate their tenth anniversary with a performance at Terminal 5 in New York City.  It's sure to be a memorable and emotional night for the band.  The show will be live-streamed by MTV at 10:30 ET, so be sure to tune in.  I know I’ll be watching.  Ten years is a long tenure for any band and should be deemed a great accomplishment.  To put it in perspective, The Beatles entire career spanned only ten years in total.  I want to thank Alison and Jamie for every song, every album, and every show they’ve played in those ten years.  There are no holes in their catalogue, something that’s true for few bands in this era.

Long live Hotel and VV.  Here’s to another ten years.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lana Del Rey - Born To Die

So many artists in today's industry come and go without leaving any sign that they were ever here.  Despite hard work, plans go awry.  Bands crash and burn.  Pop stars build images and personas that never take off.  Occasionally, we run into an artist that skyrockets to success faster than they could've ever dreamed.  Before you know it, they've booked primetime television and sold out venues.  Their debut record is one of the most anticipated releases since your last major label name.  It all happens so fast.

So which type of musician is Lana Del Rey?  Both.  Her former self, Lizzy Grant, is the artist that never was and Lana Del Rey is the artist that we can't stop talking about.  It's all the same girl, but only one version became a sensation.  Same music, different package.

There's no such thing as bad publicity.  It just doesn't exist.  If anyone knows this, it's Lana Del Rey.  From her looks to her voice, the world has become a critic.  "She's a manufactured puppet with no talent!"  "Her lips are fake!"  "Worst Saturday Night Live performance ever!"  Blogs who once worshipped the ground she walked on turned against her.  Cue the mediocre album reviews.

Real lips or not, I anticipated the release of her debut album, Born To Die.  On January 31, I searched the empty shelves trying to find a copy after others had snatched every disc in sight.  Despite all of the naysayers, Lana has an incredible following.  As I placed her album into the stereo, I thought to myself, "Will this live up to the hype?".

The short answer is yes.  The long answer is much more complicated.  Born To Die is packed front to back with that Jessica Rabbit aura, that "gangsta Nancy Sinatra" image.  It's orchestral strings on top of hip-hop beats.  Lana's voice morphs with every song.  A deep purr one moment, school girl whispers the next.  She has this deadly mystique about her, which is only enhanced by the mystery surrounding her rise to fame.

Lyrically, the record is focused on the subject of lost love.  The theme can be summarized by key words and phrases scattered throughout the songs.  Love.  American Dreams.  Money.  Coney Island.  Cherry Schnapps. Die.  The blood splattered lyric sheets tell all.  Her ideas are consistent the entire time.  It never lets up, and this determination proves successful.  The content of Born To Die truly feels like Lana Del Rey.

Many of the tracks on Born To Die had been heard in demo form prior to the album's release.  Everyone and their hipster neighbor knows "Video Games", the song that started it all.  However, there's only one "Video Games" on the record.  It's the most stripped and vulnerable ballad, bare of any hidden tricks.  Every other song on the record contains some kind of beat or radio friendly production move.

Born To Die is a goldmine of melodic treasures.  A large majority of the tracks have choruses to kill for. There are verses that contain such an immense amount of attitude that you'll be repeating them with no sign of relief.  "National Anthem" is one of the biggest culprits.  "I'm your national anthem / God, you're so handsome / Take me to the Hamptons / Bugatti Veyron".  The pouty delivery seals the deal.  Its twin, "Off To The Races", continues this mesmerizing pseudo-rap method.

In terms of bonus content, the US received an expanded edition of the physical album with two extra tracks, "Lolita" and "Without You".  It's a crime that "Lolita" isn't included on the standard issue of the album, but Lana could most definitely pull a "Super Bass" with the song.  It's one of the finer "orchestral hip-hop" moments.

I would definitely classify Born To Die as a pop record.  Despite various influences, it's full of traditional pop song structures and comes in a glossy package.  Listeners who discovered Lana on the alternative blogs may be disappointed with this direction, but if you enjoy an album full of hooks, then this one is for you.

The album reaches a slight stall at "Carmen", which probably should've been switched out for the previously mentioned "Lolita".  Both "Carmen" and "Million Dollar Man" slow down the pace more than I would prefer.  There's also a noticeable skip in vocal production between "Carmen" and "Million Dollar Man".  Lana's vocals seem rather quiet on the former, until the latter starts with a boost in volume.  The two tracks don't outright taint the record, but they lack the power found in songs such as "This Is What Makes Us Girls" and "Radio".

Finding the next pop star is a vicious game of roulette.  You never know who will win and who will go back to the drawing board.  We may not know if Lana Del Rey will still be the it-girl by next year, or if she's even a pop star at all, but Born To Die is a fantastic album filled with so many gems.  It really is a shame that some people will jump to conclusions and judge based on how she looks, or which rumors they deem true, rather than the music.  After every ounce of criticism and praise, listen to "Radio" for Lana's response.  "Not even they can stop me now... their heavy words can't bring me down".

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mr. Dream - Fatherland

Mr. Dream's debut album, Trash Hit, was recently featured on my "Best of 2011" list.  The record was a pinpoint in the wave of whatever we call punk rock nowadays.  Trash Hit not only captured the essence of what punk rock is musically, but it more importantly had the mentality that often makes or breaks an album.

Trash Hit's follow-up is a six track EP called Fatherland, which is set to be released on February 28th.  I've previously compared Mr. Dream to countless other acts, so let's leave out the references this time and focus on the group at hand.  I feel like the trio have established a sound that no longer needs an introduction through someone else.

Right from the first note, Fatherland bleeds that very sound.  It's brash, yet slick.  It's plugged in, but everything's hanging out.

The biggest surprise on the album is "Slow Learner".  Mr. Dream has gone acoustic.  "Slow Learner" sounds like that song you hear right before a band's signature single during a sold out show.  You know, that "lighters in the air, everyone scream along" song.  Now I wouldn't go so far as to call it a ballad, because in my mind, an amped-up version would be stellar.

"The Room" clocks in at over five and a half minutes and closes the EP.  Vocally, this song is Fatherland's highlight.  It also goes to show that whether they have one minute or five, Mr. Dream can pack a punch.

Fatherland is the perfect example of how an EP can be just as effective as a full length release.  This short and sweet album displays the band's growth through some unexpected moves, all while avoiding one of those risky gimmicks.

Fatherland is out February 28th on God Mode in both digital and vinyl formats.  For more info on Mr. Dream, including tour dates with Cloud Nothings and SXSW details, look over here.  To download their debut, Trash Hit, go this way.