Browsing articles from "August, 2011"
Aug 22, 2011

The War on Drugs and Caveman at Cameo Gallery

The War on Drugs are the Philadelphia based band remembered most as where Kurt Vile got his start (probably the reason they have recently garnered so much attention). Since the departure of Vile the band seems to have expanded further upon the ambient sounds that weren’t necessarily so dominate on any of the tracks from their debut EP “Barrel of Batteries.” However, you can hear the transition taking shape on the track “Taking the Farm” from their first sans Vile LP “Wagonwheel Blues.” According to the band their newest release “Slave Ambient” (Secretly Canadian) is “a timeless record – as familiar as it is wholly new, as vintage as it is modern.”

Well, if confusing any potential listeners is their goal… mission accomplished. The live show was a confusing mixture of mellow instrumentation, vocals and a soundscape that blends into a pseduo-abyss. There is no arguing that The War on Drugs are exceptionally talented and have an admirable and enthusiastic fanbase, but the lackadaisical song structure leaves more to be desired. I doubt you will be hearing them on the radio or garnering national notoriety anytime soon, but the live show is impressive enough to carry them further. The War on Drugs have found their niche and have enough support to hunker down in their ambient cave for as many records as Secretly Canadian is willing to put out.

Caveman is another band very similar in sound and background. Forming from the remains of The Subjects, Caveman has experienced seemingly overnight success. For Caveman’s set it seemed as if all of New York’s 20-something music professionals were there to see what the fuss was all about, but struggling to hear a single vocal.

Unlike their tourmates, Caveman’s songs have much more clarity and structure. There are honestly a few tracks that stand out as potentially ready for the masses most notably “Decide” and “Old Friends.” When their album comes out at the end of the year we will offer further analysis/critique, but refrain from obvious comparisons to The Shins until the recordings are out. Nevertheless, if they are going to include so many vocal harmonies on the recordings they either need better vocal mics or stronger projection for the live performance to reciprocate.

Aug 17, 2011

Courtesy Tier… refusing to believe the hype

Last night I had the privilege to see Courtesy Tier at Cameo Gallery with Hollis Brown and Governor. I have actually spent extended periods of time on the road with all three of these bands and while I consider them all “friends” I consider myself a fan with random bits of nonsensical self-indulgent critique like a confusing authority figure with the offensive kind of tourette’s. I guess you can think of a Middle School janitor, you don’t necessarily HAVE to listen to him, but you can’t tell him to fuck off without some sort of repercussion either.

Hollis Brown just finished recording their new album that beams with brilliance and honesty that could find itself in the homes/cars/radios of everyone with a soft spot for the lost art of southern blues… or be another gem lost in the oversaturated Brooklyn music monopoly dominated by electro-pop and trust funds. Nevertheless, someone somewhere WILL care and that’s why they will forever trudge along with shit eating grins as if they know the joke is inevitably on YOU. Once ALBERT sends me some initial mixes I will have MUCH more to say…

Governor would be Cameo’s very own “house band” if they were to still exist from the Bowery era fallout. A throw-back or quantum leap to legitimate guitar dominated rock AND roll, they will forever be swimming against the current, current. A shirtless frontman whose only instrument is the microphone, one guitar and rock star swagger sans cheesy hair and makeup (I HATE those bands) they smartly refrain from power chord addiction and over indulgent solos. Governor have suddenly found a confidence, possibly via their new beast of a drummer, but most likely through a finalized lineup, growing fan base and residency supported by some of the most talented bands in recent years. I seriously look forward to seeing them develop further.

Nevertheless the apple of mines eye is Courtesy Tier. A small in stature duo that create a sound so massive and intense its hard to imagine their isn’t a bassist AND guitarist hiding somewhere in the venue. I have often described Omer’s ability to play the guitar like a madman foaming at the mouth: “You gotta see this guy! It’s like the nerves in his hand are separated right down the middle and information is feeding to them from two different parts of his brain!” Whether or not that’s true, I do watch him play and think of a freak show Lobster Boy or the Penguin. He plays the guitar as if it were a grand piano… a choppy lead fingered progression on the high and a rhythmic bass strum on the low, simultaneous yet individual.

It was mind blowing the first time I saw them at Spike Hill, by chance and through actual tragedy, they had replaced a very ill fated and talented band on a lineup a band I represent was also on. And like any tall tale it all begins with speculation and a feeling that the universe works in its own cynical deviant way. I immediately booked them for one of my shows and without really knowing each other we decided to team up on a tour down to Austin for SXSW. Quickly, the awkwardness of professionalism was replaced by the bro-code of the road and their enthusiasm for all aspects of being an independent musician shined.

For those not in the know, Courtesy Tier have received some of the grandest accolades Brooklyn bands so desperately strive for, that they hire every recent Wesleyan graduate with a “business” to obtain. Yet, Courtesy Tier are navigating the unforgiving music industry like Lewis and Clarke… no manager, publicist or handlers of any kind, just the occasional guide that most likely leads them down the wrong path in the end. They have been pursued by numerous “industry experts” but see past the bullshit of the talking heads and connivers. Rather, they trek endlessly but not aimlessly, just with a subtle wisdom and confidence that success takes time if it ever comes to fruition. Their is no hesitation to play the same songs night after night for two years, because they KNOW that it is the fan and not their own egos that dictate the set list.

I have learned quite a bit from Layton and Omer over the past year. They have set the standard for any band I will ever work with and have recently advised me “not to believe the hype.” Sound advise from a band who just so happens to live every moment according to just that.

Aug 14, 2011

Five great tracks: Edition #1 (Escapists, Yukon Blonde, Kyla La Grange, Various Cruelties, Hot Spoke)

Here’s an attempt to bring to your attention more stuff than we normally do, with a simple, easily-digestible roundup of some great tracks (and bands) we’ve come across of late. Whether it’s signed, unsigned, electronic, organic or recorded in a toilet is not our concern – it just needs to be good. Laissez-Faire, aren’t we? Here goes:

Escapists – “Church Bells” (Unsigned)

Regular readers of this blog should already be familiar with this South London quartet, a band who have played our live nights on a number of occasions. They’re just about to release their debut single, ‘Post Gospel Blues’ in October, but here’s another track from their debut full-length that they’ve posted online. Front man Simon Glancy sings over some aurally pleasing piano chords to create a beautiful and emotive two-and-a-half minutes. If it’s not set to be the LP closer, it should be.

Yukon Blonde – “Fire” (Nevado)

Not a Kasabian cover but a brand new song from Yukon Blonde, Vancouver’s answer to the likes of Local Natives and Fleet Foxes. Off their new EP, ‘Fire/Water’, it’s a retro styled, breezy rocker that evokes images of dog eared 12″ copies of “Harvest”, the sun, and wide open spaces – which they’ll no doubt see a lot of during their forthcoming mammoth 60-date (yes, 60) tour of North America.

MP3: Yukon Blonde – Fire

Kyla La Grange – “I Could Be” (Chess Club)

‘I Could Be’ is the B-side to Kyla La Grange’s latest single on Chess Club Records, ‘Been Better’. Dark, moody and sung in hushed tones, it sits somewhere in between Cat Power and Anna Calvi and displays why KLG is amongst the hottest property on the London music scene right now. The chorus packs a hefty punch, too, with La Grange displaying her remarkable singing talent to its fullest extent. We’re eagerly waiting more where this came from.

MP3: Kyla La Grange – I Could Be

Various Cruelties – “Chemicals” (Hideout)

Since we last wrote about London’s soul-pop outfit Various Cruelties in March, they’ve gone on to sign a major record deal with Hideout – a subsidiary of Mercury. Their highly promising early demo ‘Chemicals’ has been re-recorded and now sounds even bigger and more anthemic than before – presumably the intention of their AR team. Not that it always works that way – sometimes energy and character can be sapped out by expensive production – so kudos to those involved. We expect this to soundtrack a goals round-up near you very soon.

Hot Spoke – “Grimwood” (Unsigned)

Hot Spoke are a new indie/folk band from Down Under, from the same Sydney scene as the much vaunted Cloud Control, Boy And Bear and The Jezabels. They cite Wilco, Jeff Buckley, Nancy Sinatra and Kate Bush amongst their influences, and we’d suggest they’ve probably listened to a PJ Harvey record or two in the past. Singer Vanessa Jade is sure to turn heads and generate plaudits with her very impressive set of pipes – which take centre-stage on ‘Grimwood’, a brooding and very accomplished three-or-so minutes. Be sure to download the similarly veined ‘Chromatic’ below.

MP3: Hot Spoke – Chromatic

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Aug 9, 2011

Ambassadors – “Unconsolable” / “Weight / Lightness”

The more eagle-eyed of you may well be aware of our past involvement with the Brooklyn soul-infused quartet Ambassadors.

In October 2009, in the band’s formative stages, we arranged for them to come over to the UK for a series of shows – one down in Brighton, for Communion, and four up in London, including our own night at the now defunct Legion venue in Old Street. All were memorable gigs, with the band leaving quite an impression on their audiences each night. During their week long trip, they also recorded a memorable session for Balcony TV – you can view that here. In the (almost) two years since then, they’ve honed their craft and slowly built up a fan base back in New York.

Over the last few months, interesting cover versions have been appearing regularly on their website (we featured their weird and wonderful take on The Strokes’ ‘Is This It’ back in April), and have been given away for free – which has served to keep things current and interesting. Now, the band have a debut full-length (entitled ‘Litost’) ready for release and are fresh from high-profile opening slots with The Postelles, Darwin Deez and Viva Brother all over the East Coast.

“Unconsolable”, the first single off said LP, has been put out as a free download, and with any luck should get the ball well and truly rolling for them. It’s a mesemerising, scruff-of-the-neck-grabbing four and a half minutes – all frantic, dual percussion and containing one of the year’s most memorable hooks, delivered by front man Sam Harris’ unforgettable, emotion-filled vocal. Couple this with the far more orthodox, yet perfectly executed pop-rock of “Weight / Lightness” (another album track currently in the public domain), which is early U2-like in its overt ambition, and you have the makings of the next big FM friendly rock band – along the lines of Kings Of Leon, Foo Fighters, The Temper Trap or Local Natives. AR men en garde!

Unconsolable by Ambassadors

MP3: Ambassadors – Unconsolable

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