Bang – Nightmare of You

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After releasing a self-titled debut that is one of my favorite albums, I was eagerly anticipating Nightmare of You’s next release. When their EP, Bang, came along I couldn’t wait to have a listen. Unfortunately, Bang is incredibly disappointing and flat.

It’s clear the band is trying to take a new direction, but that path lacks the cleverness that made the band so great. The lyrics on Bang don’t mesh, and show none of the cunning coyness and detailed imagery that one come to expect from the band. The lead guitar lines that were so distinct from any other band are nowhere to be found. The songs here seem unimaginative and too much like every bland indie pop band out there. For example, the title track “Bang” essentially just sounds like a bad Franz Ferdinand track.
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La Blogotheque (Take Away Shows) – The Best Site You’re Not Visiting

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Blogtheque.net is one of the most breathtaking music sites on the Web. Home to hundreds of rich and unique live performances, the site features the who’s who of critically acclaimed indie music and showcases their abilities in raw, stripped-down concert reality. But odds are you never visited it because, well, the Web site is French. However, the site can be accessed in English (even if at times it’s broken English) by visiting TakeAwayShows.com.

What exactly are these “Take Away Shows”? They are videos, shot mostly in France, of artists performing their music in a variety of unconventional settings. On top of fantastic music, each video is lusciously shot. The images are vibrant with color but have a rustic feel of simplicity. The result is pure video gold almost every time.

So many performances stand out. Arcade Fire plays “Neon Bible” in an elevator. Beirut croons through “Nantes” on a street corner. Man Man wildly howls in a park as French children on rollerblades assist in the noisemaking. R.E.M. strikes up a tune in a van. My favorite performance has to be Tapes ‘n Tapes playing “Insistor” while walking up a street, avoiding traffic, and coming up with some ingenious percussion.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. The site also features Animal Collective, Vampire Weekend, Cold War Kids, The Shins, Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens, and many more. Heck, they even inexplicably have Jason Mraz on the site (who sticks out like a sore thumb beaten with a hammer). With more than 150 Take Away Shows, most of which consist of multiple videos of different songs, you’ll be hooked and returning for more in no time.

*Published in today’s issue of The Gonzaga Bulletin*

In Camera – Arthur & Yu

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Arthur & Yu is a calm group. They’re not gonna blow you away in any sense of the phrase, but they don’t intend to do so. Everything is peaceful in their own little world and their debut LP In Camera shows this.

The band consists of Grant Olsen and Sonya Westcott, both of whom provide lead vocals. I absolutely love Westcott’s voice. It’s so delicate, soft, and tender. Her voice is the epidome of comfort singing, it just feels like a warmth wrapped around you. On the other hand, Olsen’s vocal leave a bit to be desired. The interplay of tones between the two is really what the music is built around, but still Olsen’s vocals are just a bit to stark and sharp. They seem harsh and uninviting in comparison to Westcott’s gentle coo. This becomes more evident when the listener hears “There Are Too Many Birds,” where Westcott is the only singer. You don’t miss Olsen’s voice one iota while listening to the track, which is rather telling.
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Autopilot Off [EP] – Autopilot Off

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In the pop punk heyday that occurred earlier this decade many bands got their undeserved 15 minutes and than abruptly disappeared. Lost in the shuffle was one pop punk band I loved dearly, Autopilot Off. They were a group who stood head and shoulders above most of their peers and yet never got their moment in the sun. Despite this, their self-titled EP is still one of my favorite listens when I’m in the mood for some great pop punk.

Autopilot Off had a sound that was just so much more powerful than their peers. A big part of this is Chris Johnson’s bass-baritone vocals. Unlike so many of the whiny singers of the genre, his voice posses a resonating presence that doesn’t grate on you after listening to it for an extended period of time. The percussion also packs a wallop that to one of the punchier snare drum sounds I’ve ever heard.
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Dusty Days: Warped in Montana

Just to prove to myself that I have made progress as a writer I though I’d dig up my very first music article.

Dust, music, community part of Montana’s Warped Tour

While many people tried to find a way to stay out of the sweltering heat, thousands gathered at the Valley Ice Garden in Bozeman for this year’s Vans Warped Tour.

The Warped Tour gives Montana music fans an opportunity to see bands that would normally never come through the area. This year featured one of the most diverse lineups in the tour’s 11-year history. Stages featured hard-core acts, such as Atreyu; punk bands, including MxPx; emo groups, such as UnderOath and My Chemical Romance; and even hip-hip from Gym Class Heroes and The Transplants.

The bigger bands played on one of two main stages while smaller acts played on a number of smaller stages. Each band performed a 30-minute set.

One of the signature characteristics of the Warped Tour’s Montana stop every year is the dust. Almost all the bands commented on how unbelievably dusty the air became when fans in the mosh pits moved around. Some bands even joked that they didn’t need a fog machine because the kids in the pits kicked up enough dust to make the whole place hazy.

The dust, combined with the scorching heat, made for a tough day for most concert-goers.

One of the most unappreciated aspects of the tour is the community of people who attend. People from all walks of life stand side by side to watch a band.

The music unites the people for at least one day. People who would never dream of doing anything together sing along as their favorite bands play. There were pre-teens and parents, dropouts and honor-roll students, kids wearing Senior football shirts and others covered from head-to-toe in black.

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Natural Selection – 1090 Club

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1090 Club recently released their second LP Natural Selection digitally (via eMusic, iTuens, Amazon, AimStreet, ect.). While it might be easy to miss a release like this, you’d be foolish skip over one of the best albums of 2008.

I adore 1090 Club’s sound. They get such a big sound out of a 4-piece (keys, drums, guitar, and violin) in part due to the fact that all members sing. And on Natural Selection, the band’s sound gets even fuller. Some of this has to be attributed to Steve Fisk’s production on the album. The most noticeable thing is how reverb heavy songs are, especially in comparison to the band’s past work. While it’s not bordering on Arthur & Yu territory, it is very noticeable, and for the most part welcome. It adds to the band’s vocal harmony, arguably the band’s biggest strength. They may be the best band I know at trading harmonic vocal lines, and use this to full effect on the exquisite “Off My Mind.”
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Delayer – The Heavenly States

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Some great albums create musical movements. Some define certain genres. Some don’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard. Some speak to something deeply personal at the certain moment you first hear it.

Still other great albums don’t try and reinvent the wheel, they keep it simple but make do everything to near perfection. Delayer by The Heavenly States fits that mold to perfection.

Everything about this album just feels right, each song seem so natural. The Heavenly States do a tremendous job of balancing songs that rock out with slow soft songs on Delayer. The result is an album that doesn’t grow stale in the least with repeat listens, instead rewarding the listener with its precision.

The album starts in full throttle with a series of tunes that aren’t afraid to have fun while rocking out. The opener, “Morning Exercise” is a blissful little ditty with a chorus that seems like a tongue and cheek call out to other artists who forgot the enjoyment of the music along the way, with lyrics that go, “It hurts so bad, this goes on the record. This goes on the record it hurts so bad.”. The great opener is followed by two songs that keep up the frantic pace. “The System” starts with a dirty guitar intro/solo that seems to have a mind of it’s own, it’s almost like an untamed entity of its own, and it’s wild nature continues as the band tries to harness it without caging it for the rest of the song. The results are simply fantastic. The third song “Lost In The Light” seems like a gospel tune for the lost rockers, complete with an actual gospel choir singing backup vocals. These songs strip rock and roll down to it’s roots to get the soul of the music and then add musical layers on top to achieve a big detailed sound.
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