Category: Reviews

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The Great Indie Christmas Playlist

 

Words: Amanda Krew

If Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra just aren’t your cup of eggnog.

Dr.Dog- Oh My Christmas Tree

This EP, released just last year, is packed with Dr.Dog’s signature harmonies and low tech mastering. This album features jokey lyrics found in Christmas Party, quickly contrasted by the classic Christmas sentiment in Rejoice. If you need to escape the usual Deck the Halls and Jingle Bells, these new Christmas tunes should be topping your list.

The Last Bison- Sleigh Ride

This EP is an acoustic/folk spin on holiday classics like Sleigh Ride, Deck the Halls and Oh Holy Night. If you are perfectly content with Trans- Siberian Orchestra’s Carol of the Bells, stay away, but if you like witty banjo plucking over lulling cello bowing, gather ‘round.

Sufjan Stevens- Songs for Christmas

Sufjan (Suhf-yan) Stevens is notorious for releasing awesome Christmas albums, why not bundle them up into a 42 song super album? These lyrically heavy tunes are full of quirky instrumentals found in Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance! and Get Behind Me, Santa!. Stevens also has innovative covers of the classics that don’t stray too far from the original if you need your fill of Little Drummer Boy and We Three Kings this season.

She & Him- A Very She & Him Christmas

You may know the lead singer of She & Him from New Girl or 500 Days of Summer, but you may not have known that her band released a Christmas album in 2011. Zooey Deschanel’s unmistakable rockabilly swing makes this holiday album an instant classic, covering songs like Sleigh Ride and a beautifully minimalistic I’ll Be Home for Christmas.  Just be careful playing this album at your family holiday party, they may just mistake Deschanel for Loretta Lynn!

Los Campesinos!- When Christmas Comes

If you want more rock ‘n roll than “rockin’ around the Christmas tree,” Los Campesinos!’s When Christmas Comes is the album for you. Los Campesinos! mixes electric guitar with the twinkling of jingle bells in their original song, Kindle a Flame In Her Heart.  In this EP of original songs, Los Campesinos! does manage to fit in an acoustic version of The Holly and the Ivy, a far throw from what you will find on the radio this season.

 

Music to Keep on Your Radar, Issue II

Words: Amanda Krew

St. Vincent by St. Vincent

Genre: indie/art pop

Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, delivers her fourth full length LP with what may be a creative peak for the singer/song writer/guitarist. Throughout this self-titled record, we are exposed to a variety of textured tracks ranging from guitar-saturated rock to synth-heavy dance tacks all tied together by Clark’s ethereal voice. The tracks on this album are defined not only by its intricate layers and loops, but also by its clever lyrics covering themes such as the impersonal connection of the digital age in the track “Digital Witness” and the death of youth in “Prince Johnny.”

Dunes by Gardens & Villa

Genre: electronic pop

Santa Barbra natives Gardens & Villa have branched out from the fogginess of their first album in their clean-cut, punchy sophomore LP, Dunes. The minimalist nature of this album creates a “no fuss, no muss” California feel without losing the engaging quality of the record. This album is packed with exciting features such as a flute beat paired with chunky synthesizers found in the track “Domino.” Looped background tracks found in song like “Echosassy” and “Avalanche” are starched to an almost mechanical drone smoothed over by dream-like, floaty vocals of singer Chris Lynch.

This Is All Yours by Alt-J

Genre: experimental rock

Alt-J’s second full length-record, though more easily digestible than their first, is far from conventional. The album spans the arrival and departure of the Japanese city, Nara, which possible alludes to the adventurous tracks found on this LP. Vocals on tracks “Intro” and “Nara” are used more as instruments than a lyrical device, creating what has been referred to as “indie a cappella”. Breaking out of the “indie bubble,” Alt-J has used a vocal sample from Miley Cyrus’s “4×4” in their track “Hunger of the Pine,” repeating and modulating the line “I’m a female rebel.”

A Dotted Line by Nickel Creek

Genre: bluegrass/folk

After a nine-year hiatus, Nickel Creek is back with their sixth studio album. Organic vocals and tinny guitar riffs float through this album as it spans the well-rounded track list. Sara Watkins shows her vocal versatility though rich harmonies found in the track “Where is Love Now” and powerful wails found in “Destination.” Past the vocal tracks, this album also features beautiful bluegrass instrumental songs such as fiddle-heavy “Elsie” and the intricate guitar tune “Elephant in the Corn.”

Nickel Creek shows their versatility and musicianship in this album, making them so much more than just a bluegrass band.

Urinetown Production Filled with Triple Threats

Words: Amanda Krew

This weekend, the stage lights illuminated a Centennial Theatre production in direct contrast with shows we have seen on their stage before. Urinetown is a politically laced, satirical musical, making it a very taboo subject matter for a musical, but under the direction of Ms. Carlson, the production was executed tastefully.

I cannot stress enough how fantastically this show was cast. Miguel Fernandez, playing Bobby Strong, perfectly conveyed humor that, without the proper emphasis, would have been lost in the quick dialogue, and Niall Musonda, playing Mr. Cladwell, could not have created this sinister boss more perfectly. This cast truly showed versatility balancing amazing vocals from Skyler Betz (Little Becky Two-Shoes), Anne Marie Demme (Little Sally), Siena Demes (Hope Cladwell), and Montria Walker (Pennywise) with intricate choreography in the variety of musical genres.

The only critique I could give would be that there was no warning before the end of intermission, causing some unlucky audience members to miss one of the show stopping musical numbers. Despite this minor quirk, the production went on without a hitch, thanks to the skilled stagehands and sound team. I hope you did not miss the four performances of Urinetown; it proved to be one of the most unique shows to hit Centennial’s stage, although it did not exactly have a happy ending!

Upcoming Concerts 10/14/14

Words: Amanda Krew

 

Minus the Bear @ Rock & Roll Hotel 10/19

Genre-Indie rock

If you like- Panic at the Disco, Circa Survive, Modest Mouse

Seattle based indie rock band, Minus the Bear, will be returning to Washington D.C. accompanying the release of their eighth studio album, Lost Loves.  Minus the Bear is a rock band that incorporates subtle electronic beats behind traditional bass, drums, and guitar.  If you need some good old fashion guitar shredding with a bit of a new age twist, be at Rock & Roll Hotel on the 19th.

 

Knox Hamilton @ U Street Music Hall 10/21

Genre- Indie pop/rock

If you like- Imagine Dragons, Foster the People, Matt & Kim

You may know Knox Hamilton by their catchy pop single Work It Out off his EP, The Great Hall, released in late 2013. Quickly gaining popularity, the Arkansas natives recently performed at Austin City Limits and will be playing at 30+ venues across the country. Knox Hamilton delivers a refreshing pop sound that defies the top 50 lists, a must see on the 21st.

 

Cold War Kids @ 930 Club 10/24

Genre- Indie rock

If you like- Cage the Elephant, Band of Skulls, Kings of Leon

Fans are eagerly awaiting Cold War Kids’ new album, Hold My Home, coming out October 21st under Downtown Records. The Long Beach natives are known for their high-energy rock sound with a twist of California chill vocals by singer Nathan Willett. The long awaited new album will be released three days before this 930 Club concert, ensuring a very eager to please Cold War Kids.

 

Sharon Van Etten @ Ottobar 10/25

Genre- Folk/pop/rock

If you like- Karen O, Regina Spektor, Fleetwood Mac

Sharon Van Etten’s fourth studio album, Are We There, may be her most passionate in terms of story telling. Sharon’s lo-fi sound creates a beautifully intimate setting out of the largest venue. The mix of ethereal vocals at the forefront of the tracks on this album with the hard-hitting instrumentals make for an engaging and intense track list. Be sure to catch Sharon’s last US show before she leaves for the Netherlands on November 15th

 

Temples @ 930 Club 10/28

Genre- Psych Rock

If you like- The Beatles (circa Revolver), Tame Impala, The Who

60s inspired rock band Temples is as close to The Who, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones as you can get in this day and age. The England native foursome is a travel back in time from their sound to their 60s psychedelic apparel. Temples delivers swinging vocals over washy psychedelic guitars, straight off of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul. Their new album, Sun Structures, has taken them to the US for the first half of this tour.  Catch them at 930 Club before they take the tour back to Europe.

Portugal. The Man/ Grouplove Concert Review

Words: Amanda Krew

On September 12th, a packed Merriweather Post Pavilion was buzzing with excited fans anticipating Honda Civic’s 13th annual tour. This years headliners included indie-pop crowd pleasers, Grouplove and psychedelic rock group, Portugal. The Man. The two bands gripped the audience throughout the night with powerhouse vocals, infectious dance beats, and mind-blowing visuals; what else could anyone ask for from a live show? Although just about every seat was filled, not one was being sat on.

Portland based, Portugal. The Man spanned their three most popular albums, catering to the mostly new fan base, but by no means did they cut any corners. As John Gourley’s psychedelic artwork poured onto the screen, the iconic lines of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall flooded the venue, concluding in the familiar war cry of “Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone!” Just as the crowd thought they were in for a traditional cover, Gourley’s falsetto buzz took over, blending the classic rock tune into Purple Yellow Red and Blue, a song off their 2014 release, Evil Friends. Without breaking the palpable energy after the opener, P.TM flowed seamlessly from song-to-song covering hits such as All Your Light, So American, and The Sun. What really set this performance apart from the band’s other tours was the light show, projecting virtual clouds over the audience and Technicolor lasers into the lawn. Through the freight train of hits, P.TM folded covers such as Day Man from Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis, and Ghostface Killah’s A Kilo into staples off of their studio albums.

The members of LA based band, Grouplove, walked out onto the dimly lit stage. Singer Christian Zucconi was sitting center stage playing a piano ballad, when the beat finally started to pulse and the lights came up, unveiling the punchy pop I’m With You, from their newest album Spreading Rumours. The set then quickly transitioned to the chart topping songs Itchin’ on a Photograph and Lovely Cup while singer Hannah Hooper danced around the stage in a money-printed spandex body suit occasionally dipping her hand into the sea of jumping fans. As the set dove into the group’s new album, it was apparent, not only by the band’s energy soaked performance, but also by the reaction of the crowd, that the record was a hit. The crowd seemed to know the whole album word for word. Ten songs into the set, Grouplove surprised the crowd with a cover of Beyoncé’s Drunk In Love, complete with a hip-gyrating rap masterfully executed by Hannah Hooper.

The concert concluded in a performance of The Who’s Baba O’Riley with Kyle O’Quinn and Zach Carothers of Portugal. The Man accompanying Grouplove; an appropriate way to end a spitfire performance. Every so often one can witness a live show that makes the ringing ears, sore feet, and the crush of tightly packed crowds worth it. Live shows that deliver musically and aesthetically are far from a rarity these days, but attending this concert raises the bar high for Merriweather acts yet to come.

Music to Keep on Your Radar

Words: Amanda Krew

Lazaretto by Jack White

Genre: Rock

The release of White’s sophomore solo LP, Lazaretto, has been accompanied by an overall new sound from the former White Stripes frontman. Apparently influenced by a recent move to Nashville, Jack White mixes a country twang with his signature garage rock rumble. This album’s eclectic track list includes ingeniously mismatched back-to-back tracks like Temporary Ground, a harmony heavy fiddle ballad, next to the rhythmic hard rock wail found in Would You Fight For My Love.

 

 

They Want My Soul by Spoon

Genre: Pop

Four years after the release of Spoon’s last album, Transference, in 2010, the band is finally back with a new album. The Texas-based quintet has wowed music critics with what is undoubtedly their most adventurous album to date. Tracks such as Knock Knock Knock have become the band’s new signature with its infectious beats and power pop lyrics that seem to waft throughout the whole album. Despite the paradigm change, Spoon has not yet left its roots in the track Let Me Be Mine, which sounds almost straight off their 2005 release, Gimme Fiction.

 

 

 

Half the City by St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Genre: Soul/Blues

Alabama-based soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones have stirred up quite a buzz following the release of their first album, and for good reason! Lead singer Paul Janeway claims to have learned more from being a preacher than he has from singing on a stage. This speaks loads of his revivalesque, pleading verses. Janeway delivers strong, compelling vocals over booming brass lines in tracks such as Sugar Dyed, and shows his versatility in the melancholy coo of tracks such as Broken Bones and Pocket Change. Obviously inspired by 60s era James Brown and the Muscle Shoals movement, St. Paul is proving to be an innovator of the classics.

 

 

 

Trouble in Paradise by La Roux

Genre: Synth Pop

Following a far too long five-year hiatus since releasing her chart topping hit, Bulletproof, La Roux is back with a more mature sound. Lead singer Elly Jackson has been faced with her fair share of “trouble in paradise” preceding the release of this record, including vocal health issues and being left by producer Ben Langmaid. Despite her trials, Jackson has released a fantastically punchy electro-pop album. Tracks such as Silent Partner hold a sense of urgency embedded in a tight, modern, throbbing dance beat. This album follows a relationship stuck in rough waters, all the while riding on Jackson’s pixi-punk voice.

 

 

 

Singles by Future Islands

Genre: New Wave/Post-Punk

Future Islands has quickly become one of the hottest new names in alternative music after their performance of Seasons (Waiting on You) reached second most viewed on David Letterman’s YouTube channel. The Baltimore-based trio’s intensity seems to juxtapose the appearance of khaki-clad lead vocalist, Samuel T Herring, as he weaves back and forth on the stage. Herring’s guttural, quasi-death metal growl found in tracks such as Spirit counteract the more lyrically heavy, gentle track, Back in the Tall Grass. The hulking rumbles deep in the bowels of Herring’s voice balance the tender moments of this record.

 

 

 

Salad Days by Mac DeMarco

Genre: Pop/Rock

In his sophomore LP, Mac DeMarco has single-handedly created one of the most relatable albums of 2014. The notorious indie-rock jokester’s album is riddled with intimate tracks and catchy hooks covering subjects such as independence, wasted youth, and broken relationships; all without crossing the thin yet oh so evident line of a cliché pop album. Simple guitar riffs and minimalistic percussive lines flow throughout tracks such as Treat Her Better and Blue Boy stirring up chill California vibes.