Gap Dream’s Shine Your Light album review

GapDream_AlbumArt

Gabriel Fulvimar a.k.a Gap Dream was invited to live at Burger Records, an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Fellow Burger Record star Bobby Harlow came in to help record and produce the new album, and it’s a synthy, sexy dream of an album. The new album hits harder than Gap Dream’s previous work, drum machine right up front giving an industrial and harder hitting sound that comes closer to his live show. It’s the perfect balance of a gritty modern aesthetic and chill psychpop. Title song “Shine Your Light” has an epic feel to it, and the video’s film production quality and matter only add to that feeling. “Fantastic Sam” has the perfect flat vocal delivery that brings an edge to the synthloaded beats. The whole album is pretty midtempo, and while I wish maybe some songs were a little sped up, the mellow sound lets more interesting effects come into play so it works itself out. The 60’s sounding reverb drenched “Immediate Life Sentence” brings a great layer of fuzz and Galaga sounding laser noises while “Shine Your Love” has a synthy horn melody reminiscent of “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. It’s like the garage rock version of The Neverending Story score.

Green Day’s Kerplunk! is the album I’m most thankful for.

20131201-121033.jpg

The Westword asked me to write about the album I’m most thankful for, and it was a no-brainer. This album started my obsession with finding new bands, and the reason I created the blog in the first place.

Read it here: Album I’m most thankful for is Green Day Kerplunk!

Mike Donovan new album Wot is clean and strong.

large_donovan_mike photo by John Dwyer

Mike Donovan sounds like a city punk who went to the country and found out he fits right in. Former member of the grittier Sic Alps, he shows himself to be an extremely capable singer/songwriter with this solo effort. The single “Do Do Ya” has such a great guitar twang background slinking up the half step melody, sounding like early Rolling Stones honky tonk. His soft, almost muted at times guitar tone is gorgeous on opening track “New Fieldhand Bop” as he strums just ahead of the beat, sliding each note into place and giving the whole thing some sass.

The tempo of “Fly Them Yourself” drags too slow for my taste, but the energy is high on most tracks, “Sic Ballad” having a soulful “Hey Joe” reminiscent verse; electric guitar sounding just properly dirty enough. The spaghetti western horns and slide guitar of “Sexual Reassignment Surgery Blues” gives serious credence to a song that could be seen as novelty. “MP3 Farm” has a forceful downward strummed rhythm that begs for getting down, and a simple acoustic major key solo. Overall, it’s a really well produced album, he can write beautiful songs, and he sounds good singing them.

Mike Donovan “Do Do Ya” video

Band of the Day – The Spyrals

SPYRALS

Hypnotic garage bands from San Francisco absolutely do it for me. The Spyrals have risen above the rest with a more classic approach, tight drumming and dizzy guitar riffs. This trio is jangly, fuzzy, trippy, and lead singer Jeff Lewis has a great commanding presence and a perfect rock star voice, he can cry without whining the way Neil Young sings. Their album they released this summer, “Out of Sight”, is a great collection of tight, Bay Area sounding rock and roll. I know it’s a cheap cop out to say a band sounds like another, but these guys really do the early Rolling Stones sound well. Opener “Need Your Fire” sounds like it should be in a Quentin Tarantino movie, while “Such A Pain” makes you shimmy with the heavy use of tambourine and delicate repeated guitar riffs. The title track is exactly what you would think a San Francisco garage rock band would sound like, man they nail this sound.

Most of the songs clock in under three minutes, making this album very economical and great for running errands, you never have to sit in the parking lot for eleven more minutes til the song ends like you do with the Grateful Dead. While they have psychedelic tendencies live, at the end of the day this is a tight, concise garage rock band that needs to be played on everyone’s radio. The bassist Dylan Edrich has done time with Thee Oh Sees and Mikal Cronin, so fans of those should check these guys out. Future looks jangly and bright for these guys.

Listen to the album at their bandcamp: The Spyrals “Out of Sight”

Crocodiles – “Crimes of Passion” – ALBUM REVIEW

20130822-114300.jpg

Crocodiles are great at mixing the beauty of simple pop melodies with the chaos of distortion and fuzz without the music even missing a beat, and their latest release “Crimes of Passion” is even more than I hoped for. “I Like it in the Dark” immediately makes the album takeoff, a funky piano line dropping down into the verse while a tambourine frantically keeps the beat until a ripping guitar solo takes over. Everything is well thought out here and flows perfectly, the whole album is a perfect package. Crocodiles are a well edited garage band, all fat is trimmed and they can really just fall right into a chaotic freakout and pull it right back into the melody like it’s nothing.

Their San Diego roots are very evident, especially in songs like “Teardrop Guitar”, filled with melodic California sounding jangly guitar riffs and dreamy, layered vocals. “Cockroach” brings even more organ to the front, really giving the song that great swirling sound I love in psych music. This album is short and sweet, when I got to the end I was actually surprised it was already over, and already yearning their next album. This band has been steadily gaining steam over the years with consistently great recordings, and I think this album might just put them over the top. Thank you, Crocodiles!

Listen to “Teardrop Guitar” here: “Teardrop Guitar” soundcloud

Superhuman Happiness – Band to Watch

20130814-091653.jpg

Their last release “Hands” by Superhuman Happiness starts with what else – hands. “Our Favorite Part” begins with syncopated layers of handclaps, and by the time the vocals come in, the party has started. These guys made a name for themselves playing energetic Brooklyn dance parties, and the vibe is still the same, just on a more grand scale now. They grew a reputation touring with Rubblebucket and Marco Benevento, signed with The Royal Potato Family, and now we have a full length release that’s built up steam for a few months and are about ready to pop.

I have really been anticipating this album since I was told each song segues into each other on the album. The Phish fan in me is always yearning for that seamless transition between songs (pronounced “seegs” by the guys in the poster line in Tahoe), and you do indeed get nonstop music. This album should be in every party host’s catalog, it does the DJ work for you. The handclaps continue through the whole album, and I think they are particularly fitting in the breakdown of “I Can Hear You Calling”. As the theme is repeated and slowly deconstructed, that clapping provides a perfect backbone for any chances the musicians want to take.

“Sentimental Pieces” is a slinky cool groove with vocals that sound a little Eels-like, and “Second Heart” brings the horns and harder dance beats. Once again, syncopated handclaps lead in for “Elevator Elation”, a building, driving song with horns going up in half steps, pushing you further into the ascension. By the time the peak is reached, I’m dancing in my living room, impossible to sit still. As a fan of extended instrumentals, I hope this gets some radio play, it’s definitely the highlight of the album for me. The album ends with “Second Heart Reprise”, a lovely coda that gives the whole album a nice cohesion.

Keep your eyes on these guys, with members from Antibalas, TV on the Radio and tUnE-yArDs making smart pop that at moments sounds like it was written by David Byrne, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.

Listen to “Sentimental Pieces” radio edit here: Superhuman Happiness Soundcloud

Watch a video for “Elevator Elation” here: youtube video

Said the Whale – Band to Watch

20130812-130934.jpg

Once again, a Canadian band has captured my heart with their interesting song structures, perfect melodies, and yearning but positive lyrics. Canadians really excel at this kind of stuff. Vancouver’s Said the Whale have an eclectic style, mixing elements of the 60’s, 80’s and 90’s into a really polished, heavy pop sound. Their new album “hawaiii” (three i’s) drops on September 17th, not wasting any time and taking full advantage of their momentum, and they are touring the U.S. now, with a date at Larimer Lounge on August 19th in Denver. They’ve been popular in Canada for a few years, and just made the crossover with the success of their new single “I Love You”.

I had a chance to listen to the new album, and it’s great stuff, each song is a little pop nugget, really developed pop nuggets. “Narrows” is great straightforward pop rock with the perfect amount of 90’s distortion and jangle, collecting together into a crescendo of beautiful sound at the end. The new single “I Love You” starts out straightforward pop punk, the chorus goes off into a Blur sounding Britpop wall of vocals, and then one of my favorite musical things ever, the continuous tapping of one piano key. I don’t know what it is about that “dink dink dink dink dink” but it sounds like rock to me. They remind me a lot of the band fun. in “Safe to Say”, a big, grand sounding song with lots of pomp and excess. The rest of the album is rounded out with 60’s surf beats, junkie lyrics and Canadian rap a.k.a. all the good stuff. This band is making the big push, go see them in your town: tour dates

Watch the video for “I Love You”, and no it’s not an episode of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, I mean it is, but the band is guest starring: “I Love You”

Gauntlet Hair “Stills” New Album Review

20130727-132326.jpg

Former Denver residents Gauntlet Hair have a new album coming out, and even though they live in Chicago now, people are still crazy about their brand of dark noise pop here. The new album starts with an easily accessible bang with “Human Nature”, a solid dance song with steady industrial beats. The album continues in the same vein with haunting overlapping vocals and discordant tones and notes, giving some songs like “Simple” a great tension and release once you get to the bridge. This album has a heavier influence and sound, at times reminding me of Joy Division and Jesus and Mary Chain, which may be a little off-putting at first to casual listeners of their previous, more pop/dance driven album, but it also sounds more mature and I enjoy seeing growth and progression in a band. Though it is harder to listen too, this often proves more rewarding in the end. With lyrics about falling out of love and the death of emotion towards each other, this music is not meant to be so easy.

Watch the video for “Human Nature”: Gauntlet Hair video

Don’t let the band name deter you, these guys are not 80’s hair metal like I thought the first time I saw their name. They have a big tour schedule, check them out:

07/27/13 Cleveland, OH – Happy Dog
07/28/13 Hamilton, ON – The Casbah Lounge BUY TICKETS
07/30/13 Washington, DC – Black Cat w/ Jackson Scott BUY TICKETS
07/31/13 Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s w/ Jackson Scott BUY TICKETS
08/01/13 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge w/ Dinowalrus BUY TICKETS
08/02/13 Brooklyn, NY – Glasslands w/ Jackson Scott & EULA BUY TICKETS
08/03/13 Boston, MA – Church of Boston w/ Jackson Scott BUY TICKETS
08/05/13 Toronto, ON – Drake Hotel BUY TICKETS
08/09/13 Chicago , IL – Empty Bottle BUY TICKETS
09/29/13 Atlanta, GA – Terminal West w/ Surfer Blood BUY TICKETS
09/30/13 Charlotte, NC – Visulite Theater w/ Surfer Blood
10/01/13 Carrboro, NC – Cats Cradle w/ Surfer Blood
10/03/13 Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel w/ Surfer Blood
10/04/13 Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts w/ Surfer Blood
10/05/13 Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg w/ Surfer Blood
10/06/13 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom w/ Surfer Blood
10/07/13 Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall w/ Surfer Blood
10/09/13 Toronto, CAN – Lee’s Place w/ Surfer Blood
10/10/13 Columbus, OH – The Basement w/ Surfer Blood
10/11/13 Chicago , IL – Bottom Lounge w/ Surfer Blood
10/12/13 Iowa City, IA – Gabes w/ Surfer Blood
10/13/13 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club w/ Surfer Blood
10/15/13 Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room w/ Surfer Blood
10/16/13 Denver , CO – Larimer Lounge w/ Surfer Blood
10/17/13 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge w/ Surfer Blood
10/18/13 Las Vegas, NV – Beauty Bar w/ Surfer Blood
10/19/13 San Diego, CA – The Irenic w/ Surfer Blood
10/21/13 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre w/ Surfer Blood
10/22/13 San Francisco, CA – The Independent w/ Surfer Blood
10/24/13 Phoenix, AZ – The Crescent Ballroom w/ Surfer Blood
10/26/13 Dallas, TX – Trees w/ Surfer Blood
10/27/13 Austin, TX – Red 7 w/ Surfer Blood
10/28/13 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s w/ Surfer Blood
10/29/13 New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks w/ Surfer Blood
10/30/13 Mobile, AL – Alabama Music Box w/ Surfer Blood
10/31/13 Tallahassee, FL – Club Downunder w/ Surfer Blood

Kanye West’s “Yeezus” Leaks, He Frantically Streams it on Youtube

20130614-180416.jpg

Kanye West did everything he could to keep his new album Yeezus from leaking early. MStarz News even wrote an article at just 11am describing the security and stating that it won’t be leaked, whoops:

“Though the record is only four days away from coming out, it shows no signs of leaking. According to Buzzfeed, West and co. have figured out a formula for keeping a hot record under wraps until release day.
West was purposefully discrete when recording Yeezus, opting for small studios in hotel rooms to keep everyone not involved in making the record out of the process. West also avoided storing his work on laptops, instead opting for password-protected external hard drives in locked briefcases.
Songs in production were never sent between West’s camp online. This is a famously insecure way to transfer works-in-progress, as West learned during the making of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Post-production, West kept his album from being mastered until just this week, in order to keep it to himself for as long as possible.
After this process, CDs will be kept in a secure plant and shipped to large chains, where the sealed boxes are under constant video surveillance.”

Nine minutes later it leaked and exploded across the Internet, causing Kanye to quickly put it up on his youtube channel. So who leaked this thing? Someone in the studio where it was mastered, or someone driving the trucks or in the warehouse? I bet they are getting grilled! Guests on the album include Daft Punk, Frank Ocean, and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Absent is the rumored Skrillex, boy oh boy, maybe that song was under super secret security. Oh who am I kidding, I’d probably love that collaboration, he drops “Alexander Wang” in his lyrics, pretty much all it takes for me!

Stream the new Yeezus album here

Finishing touches by the great Rick Rubin, who’s net worth I just found out is $400 Million. Mega props for being so successful while staying true to yourself and looking like birds live in your beard.

20130614-183434.jpg

Ben Lee writes a fantastic album on Ayahuasca

20130610-165710.jpg

I remember the first time I ever heard of Ben Lee. It was a blurb in Sassy magazine about how the Beastie Boys signed his young teenage self to Grand Royal. I wore his tapes out in high school, then moved on to different music and forgot about him save for dating Claire Danes and impregnating Ione Skye (wonder if Ad-Rock is ok to his cheese being with different macaroni). Anyway, I got an email about his new album “Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work” and was immediately intrigued. Ever since the Psychedelic Convention was held in our Oakland hotel and eavesdropping on so many people discussing this spiritual experience, I’ve researched about it a lot. His album is gorgeous, not only inspired from the drug, but with themes revolved around awakening and self healing (I know, I sound disgustingly new age). This doesn’t even sound like Ben Lee’s previous work, it’s like a symphony with occasional Elliott Smith leanings. Watch the trailer for the album, he’s incredibly smart: Ayahuasca Trailer