Friday, June 29, 2012

Interview for Interrogating the Interesting

Recently I was interviewed about music and Austin by a great blog called Interrogating the Interesting. Check out the interview here!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Electric Guest: Introducing “Mondo”


Electric Guest are a kind of funky, soully, poppy duo that hail from LA. The band consists of Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton. Off the back of a really successful EP last year called “This Head I Hold”, they’ve put together their first album proper “Mondo”, which is gonna be officially released on 12th May on the “Because” Record label.

It’s already up for pre-order from the band’s website which you can access here and also from the regular places like iTunes and Amazon. There’s been a huge amount of press interest and hype surrounding these guys and it’s really easy to see and hear why. They’re providing a sound that is really lacking at the moment within music, a sort of easy to listen to vibe that isn’t lyrically challenging or taxing but complex enough with a few of the tracks to need more than one listen to fully understand and appreciate what it is they’re doing that’s so infectious.

What do they sound like?

So laid back they’re horizontal. For this album they’ve taken on board hip producer Danger Mouse and his touch and style shows through in heaps and tons and gallons. This is probably the sort of music that’s slightly cliquey - would gain critical acclaim, that fans would rave about but might not shift many units in terms of sales. Though that said, the band is marketed by Monotone Inc who look after Jack White, so it’s not beyond the realms of impossibility for them to do really well. If they didn’t sell well, it truly would be a bit of a shame really, because they do hipster cool really really well and they have a certain swagger about their sound which is hard to find anything to compare with. Here’s a sneak preview of one of the tracks from the album, called “Awake”





It’s got a really good vibe to it, almost in a way harking back to that really cool Bacarach-y type stuff of the 1970s, and the sort of sounds that uber hip French bands like Stereolab were churning out in the 1990s. It’s coming out at the right time of year too as it sounds so Summery and is probably the kind of thing you’d want to have on with all the windows open in your apartment on a warm day. Here’s a second sneak track, called “Troubleman”





It has a softer vibe to it, and is a much longer track than “Awake”, it seems darker and more soulful by comparison and demands more than one listen to get the full benefit of its musicality and rhythms.

As a final preview, here’s the official video for another one of the tracks from the album “American Dream”. Singer Asa Taccone has such a distinctive vocal style – sometimes just for split second you see him in the videos and think he has similar mannerisms to someone like Prince, a little something in the eyes maybe. There is something quite unique about what he does to the sound of the songs that draws you in.





A few critics have wondered whether Electric Guest are in fact a pastiche band, whether what they are doing is gently sending up the styles of music they are playing. Asa’s brother Jorma is a comedy performer and has been part of a US troupe called “The Lonely Island”. He also helped to co-write some songs that appeared on Saturday Night Live. Maybe this has led some writers to assume that if his brother is doing it parody and pastiche must be in the blood. It’s up to you as a listener to decide at the end of the day. It’s truly hard to decipher who they may be sending up in all honesty, which leads to the thought that it’s just an idle rumour brought to fruition by someone with maybe too much time on their hands!

Can I see them Live?

You sure can. They’re playing dates in Washington DC, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Austin and Houston at the beginning of May. They’re hopping over to the UK and Europe for a mixture of gigs there, and then back over to the US by the end of the month for more dates in Portland, George, San Diego and Pasadena. For a full list and where to but tickets look no further than here. If you want to liven up your listening over the Summer and pick something truly hipster and designed to get you in a good mood then you really need to look no further than Electric Guest. It’s your duty to give them a go. You know you want to.

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Imogen is a freelance writer from England who writes for a number of finance journals covering topics as diverse as saving money on car insurance, buy to let insurance and investing in the stock market. Music is one of her passions and she is rarely seen writing at a coffee shop without her enormous headphones!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Friends: Friend Crush

Causing a quiet stir since they formed in September 2010, Brooklyn-based Friends are proof that indie, pop and sparkling vocals go together stunningly. The band consists of lead singer Samantha Urbani, Lesley Hann on bass, percussion and backing vocals, Nikki Shapiro who plays guitar, keyboards and some percussion, Matthew Molnar on keyboards, percussion and bass and last but not least Oliver Duncan is the band’s drummer. The band is tentatively signed to the indie outfit “Lucky Number” records and have already had two successful and critically acclaimed singles.

Last week saw the release of the band’s third single “Mind Control” which has been really well received and showcases the bands inspiring, poppy, upbeat sound and a full length album looks set to follow later in the year (with, as yet, no major label take up – note to record labels out there: take it up!)

Tell us What They Sound Like?

Kind of poppy, funky, electronic-y, trippy and really infectious. They seem to take all the best nits of pop and mix them with indie cool to come up with this awesomely danceable music. It’s sort of punky too, there’s a real DIY feel to this – not overproduced or overblown.

The band started out named as “Perpetual Crush”, again almost aiming themselves as a sweet disco type outfit – in reality there’s so much more to them than that. Lead singer Samantha Urbani was an artist for a while but always knew she wanted to do something relating to music, as she’d been writing songs for a lot of her life. She then took the fruits of her labor and played them to her friend Matthew Molnar (who is now the bands keyboard player) and the rest is history. They eventually settled on the name “Friends” for the band after hearing and loving the Beach Boy’s album of the same name (incidentally it also happened to be Brian Wilson of the said band’s favourite album that they did).

If you wanted a comparison – a band to say “they sound like this” maybe think about an outfit like The Waitresses or something similar. They’ve got that really strong feminine, punchy, harmonised vocal that goes so well with the bubblegummy keyboards and strong drum sound. Here’s their first single “Friend Crush”, a perfect example of what we’re talking about!



There’s also some kind of ghostly ethereal sound to their music – in the background to the tracks you can hear echoy sighs and breathy sounds, which give a lightness of touch to the music – softening tracks which otherwise might sound a bit harder edged. Overall it’s a really special thing, they could just be another crossover outfit, trying to be all things to every genre, but they’re not. It’s like they’re managing to take the best of all elements of music and put them together.



There’s something so infectious about their basslines, something that makes you want to if nothing else drum on the desk in time. Their videos just seem to have a gloriously arty feel to them, “I’m His Girl” is everything that encapsulates what was great about 1980s pop music – kind of has an MTV cool feel to it, but brought right up to date for a modern audience.

Are They Playing Live?

They love live. They’re playing across Europe over the next two months and have just earlier this month played SXSW in Texas. 17th April has them playing a live date at the Eco Plex in Los Angeles. However, after their escapades in Europe they’re coming back stateside to play some dates throughout June, starting on the 16th of the month at the Schubas Tavern in Chicago, followed by dates in Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Austin and Houston, finishing their stint is a gig at the Bowery Ballroom in New York on 7th July before they hotfoot it back for the Europe festival season. Full details and venues can be found here: Friendzone. If you want a break from the norm, you want something poppy, uplifting and inspiring – Friends should be your go-to band, full of energy, enthusiasm and pizzazz you can’t fail to warm to them!

Imogen is a freelance writer from England who writes for a number of finance journals covering topics as diverse as saving money on car insurance and investing in the stock market. Music is one of her passions and she is rarely seen writing at a coffee shop without her enormous headphones!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SXSW Day 3 - Saturday, March 17th

Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds at Waterloo Records
First up for Saturday were garage rock and punk band Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds. The band is fronted by guitarist Kid Congo Powers aka Brian Tristan, who used to be part of The Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and The Gun Club. I thoroughly enjoyed their slightly quirky but fun set of songs, including a song called "History of French Cuisine" and a cover of "I'm Cramped" by, you guessed it, The Cramps.











Built to Spill at Cedar Street Courtyard

Oberhofer at Cedar Street Courtyard
From there I headed over to Cedar Street Courtyard again to catch Brooklyn indie rock band Oberhofer's performance. Their music is undeniably catchy, best exemplified by the single, "Away Frm U." While it's great to see bands that can perform live as well as they do on an album, it's also nice to singers with charismatic stage presences, essentially elevating them to performers. Brad Oberhofer was just that guy. His youthful enthusiasm for his guitar playing and willingness to entertain the crowd was a sight to see. At one point he ran up the stairs by the stage to the balcony and swung down it like a monkey. I have to say, after seeing the band live, the studio versions of their songs don't do them as much justice. Idaho rockers Built to Spill put on an amazing set, with the sheer loudness of their three layered guitars. I was impressed with how in time they kept with each other, and no one was overpowered instrument-wise. Unfortunately, the vocals were soft to inaudible the whole time. They have just the right mix of alternative rock and jam band tendencies (yes, this makes their songs quite long). Although their last release was in 2009, their laid back nineties rock was much appreciated by the crowd, and makes me wonder why I haven't checked them out all these years. One of my favorite songs was "Traces, " which you can watch here. They closed out a great set with crowd pleaser "Carry the Zero."

Shiny Toy Guns at Auditorium Shores (courtesy of Baylor Lariat)
226/365:  The Cult featuring Matthew McConaughey
The Cult featuring Matthew McConaughey at Auditorium Shores
Shiny Toy Guns, an electronic rock band from LA, played a set at Auditorium Shores in the late afternoon. They used to be one of my favorite bands when We Are Pilots came out, but after the lineup change I wasn't so keen on them anymore (although there were a few songs I liked off of Season of Poison). Now that they have Carah back, I was excited to see them come back together as a band. It was like she had never left. Her and Chad have great vocal chemistry. The band performed some songs from their upcoming album III, as well as older songs "You Are The One," "Don't Cry Out,"

two highlights, "Starts With One" and "Le Disko" They also did "Ricochet," (one of the songs I liked off of SoP) which sounded great with Carah singing it, and their cover of Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)." Austin rock band The Bright Light Social Hour played after that, and like some local bands, are pretty overhyped. They played a diverse set of songs, but nothing really sunk in for me. The vocals didn't do anything for me either. The Cult headlined a much larger audience than the one at Waterloo, which was obviously a more scaled down version of what they're capable of. I was excited to see them again. Ian Astbury is a great frontman, and guitarist Billy Duffy has a great sound. The set was stronger than the day before, and new songs as well as old were played. As an added treat, the band brought Matthew McConaughey to play the bongos on "Spiritwalker" (which you can watch here) and new song "Lucifer." Towards the end of the set Astbury demanded that the crowd let loose, and they did for the last song "Love Removal Machine." It was a great way to bring an end to my SXSW.

Here is my last playlist. I hope you enjoyed my SXSW recap!

Monday, March 26, 2012

SXSW Day 2 - Friday, March 16th

Of Montreal at Waterloo Records (courtesy of their Facebook)
Gary Clark Jr. at Waterloo Records
Psychedelic Indie pop rock band Of Montreal were the first act I saw on Friday. I've heard some songs of theirs here and there, so I was somewhat looking forward to their set which included songs from the newly released Paralytic Stalks. I was pretty disappointed with them. The set was very disjointed, and while there were a couple of better moments, it never found a good groove. Howlin Rain was our segway act for Gary Clark Jr. Briefly looking them up before their set, I had a feeling that they would be pretty good. I was right. The band has a cool seventies vibe to them, and they played a very energetic and great set of songs from their new album The Russian Wilds. Austinite blues rock guitarist Gary Clark Jr., referred by some as the next Jimi Hendrix, was next. I obviously had high expectations for him, and was not let down. I'm just not sure of his relation to Hendrix except for the color of his skin. His skills on the guitar are impressive though, and he has a great voice to match- almost a dead ringer for Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Clark chose to adopt a serious stance throughout his set, letting his guitar skills shine through. The songs "Please Come Home" and "Bright Lights" from his most recent EP were highlights. The final act at Waterloo were The Cult, a British post-punk and hard rock band from the eighties. With an overwhelming amount of photographers present, they performed an intense set of songs from their new album to come out in May. They also played their biggest hit, "She Sells Sanctuary." The band was very well received, which you could tell they were pleased with.
The Cult at Waterloo Records (courtesy of Facebook)
Counting Crows at Auditorium Shores (courtesy of 5342 Studios)
Counting Crows played a lengthy free show to a crowd of thousands at Auditorium Shores, which is the perfect setting for such a group, overlooking the city of Austin on such a lukewarm night. I chose the word "lukewarm," because I'm not such a fan of this group. Yes, I've only heard their singles, but I've never been impressed enough to check them out beyond that. I couldn't get into most of their set, except oddly enough a couple of country covers they played and the song "Color Blind" is nice. I won't deny that singer Adam Duritz has a great voice and some of the lyrics of their songs were good- it's just musically I wasn't very moved by it. The band performed old songs as well as new ones from their new album "Underwater Sunshine (or what we did on our summer vacation)," to be released in April.

Day two had its ups and downs, but it was still a fun time. Here is a second playlist for these artist. Are you ready for day three?


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