Friday, October 29, 2010

Matt & Kim - Sidewalks

The energy that Matt & Kim draw forth in their music is equivalent to an army of 10 year olds riding on pogo sticks with a sugar high. Like their raucous live show, the Brooklyn-based duo’s third album continues their music tenure with the kind of sprightly joy that could make even the most jaded cynic crack a smile. Sidewalk’s beats bounce side to side with a structured rhythmic power that never feels too anxious. The secret lies in pure simplicity; you can hear every single layer of each song. While the recipe seems simple—squiggly synths and catchy keyboard earworms mixed with an all-over-the-place beat—Matt & Kim throw magic dust into their drinking water. Nerdy electronics zip through “Red Paint” like bolts of lightning, heightening the song to exhilarating levels of adrenaline. Matt’s vocals are easy to sing along with, especially in the hooky first single, “Cameras,” where they declare to the Facebook generation, “no time for cameras/we’ll use our eyes instead.” It might be the most genuine anthem the duo has ever written. After all, Matt & Kim’s lyrics are often a collection of specific observations of life around them, citing specific examples of everyday life, like “sleeping on the ground/grass is much greener from down here” in “Ice Melts” and “notebooks filled with lines/and the clocks filled with good times” in “Where You’re Coming From.” Who to better explore the delight of capturing life through memories instead of digital images? “Silver Tiles” builds up slowly, opening up to the ultimate party jam, with talks of hopes and friends amidst spazzy synth buzzing and warm melodies. While many of us gave up childhood bliss long ago, selling our pogo sticks and switching our candy addictions to coffee, Matt & Kim are still around to bring the fun back into life.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Cloud 9 with Cloud Nothings

Find the original article below in the Cleveland Scene. I love this paper and the city it lives in. Oh, and check out Cloud Nothings Monday at the Beachland Ballroom because I cannot and I guarantee it's going to be amazing.

Dylan Baldi is a music digger, one of those kids who searches obsessively on websites and at record stores for new tunes. He's vague about his actual sources, but you get the impression that he gets his favorite new low-fi records from an obscure noise blog written by some kid in Idaho or maybe from a friend of a friend who runs a tiny record label outside of Seattle.

Most people probably never heard of the bands Baldi says are his current faves: Julian Lynch, Big Trouble, Ducktails. But Baldi — who records as Cloud Nothings — doesn't care how big they are, and he certainly isn't paying attention to their production values. What matters most to him are the melodies at the core of the songs.

But don't mistake him for one of those cooler-than-you PBR-sippin' music snobs you want to slap silly. The Westlake native laughs as he confesses that his favorite melody right now can be heard in a Top 10 song: Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream."

The 19-year-old Baldi's low-fi recordings are a long way from Perry's mass-produced pop dreams — he plugged a microphone into his computer to make every single instrument heard on his debut album, Turning On — but they feature the same catchy hooks that make them just as irresistible. "It's definitely the way the melody works over everything else," he says.

That's no more evident than in the first song Baldi wrote under the Cloud Nothings moniker, "Hey Cool Kid." At the time, he was a Case Western Reserve University student. And as he had done before with other songs, he posted "Hey Cool Kid" on his MySpace page.

But there was something special about this one. Otherwise, the song would have simply rotted in cyberspace like so many other cuts posted by kids making music in their parents' basements. But "Hey Cool Kid" caught on, thanks to a familiar-sounding intro groove that eventually settles into a big, catchy, and super-clean melody.

It's hard to make out a lot of the track's nuances. For one thing, the highs and lows are pretty much nonexistent. For another, Baldi's voice is mostly hidden inside a repeating guitar riff. The casual nature of Baldi's songs gives them a sense of coolness and whimsy — a happy medium between toe-tapping dance rock and sleepytime indie rock.

But Cloud Nothings' music is also scruffy, loaded with charisma, and down-to-earth fun. You can't understand what Baldi is singing about most of the time, but that's not the point. "It's not about the lyrics," he says. "I write about imaginary scenarios that could happen to people."

The music's charm comes from the low-fi sound of the homemade recordings. Baldi says he made the record in his parents' basement out of necessity, but it ended up becoming a badge of honor. "Luckily, [low-fi recording is] a cool thing to do right now," he laughs. "It happened to work out for me."

After hearing some of Cloud Nothing's music, Bridgetown Records — a small label in La Puente, California — contacted Baldi about releasing Turning On at the end of 2009. The album was recently reissued by Carpark, a bigger indie label that will put out Cloud Nothings' second album during the first couple months of 2011. Baldi is working on that record now.

In March, Baldi gathered a few local musicians and went on his first tour as Cloud Nothings. He booked the entire run himself, asking bands around the country if Cloud Nothings could open for them. They now have someone to do that kind of stuff for them, which is a huge weight off Baldi's shoulders — especially since the group will soon be heading overseas for its first European tour.

Famous landmarks (Baldi says he's pumped to see the Eiffel Tower), sold-out shows (Cloud Nothings have opened for buzz band Wavves), and a booming blogosphere fan base — not bad for a kid who was making music in his parents' basement not so long ago.

The biggest problem these days is keeping sane during long van rides from city to city. So Baldi and his bandmates listen to Jock Jam mixes, fret over their haircuts, and talk about their favorite Cleveland restaurants. Sure beats wondering if the washer and dryer are going to mess up that song you're working on.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Deerhunter - Live Review - Beachland Ballroom

At a Deerhunter show, you live and die by Bradford Cox’s guitar. While the remaining three members hold each song steady, Cox submerges the atmosphere in rushing distortion and sporadic soloing, all laced with incredible technical skill.

When the Atlanta-based band stopped through Cleveland last night in support of their fourth album, Halcyon Digest, they played a set list heavy on their new tunes, mixing in older audience favorites like “Don’t Stop.” As they ripped through their opening song, “Desire Lines,” Cox lifted his guitar straight up into the air, deliberately picking a soaring riff while rhythm guitarist Lockett Pundt held the vocals. Cox took over the mic for most of the set, with Pundt reappearing later in the night with “Fountain Stairs.”

Halfway through the set, “Memory Boy” and “Rainwater Cassette Exchange” were rendered short, punchy, and rhythmic-based, striking a contrast to “Don’t Cry,” where the pace changes several times and crescendos hit the crowd like sledgehammers. At the end of the song, Cox proudly told the audience he wrote it as a tribute to Cleveland’s own Pere Ubu.

At times, the guitars felt like weapons, Cox moving his hand impossibly fast across the bridge and rendering a ‘60s surf vibe into something scarier and more ambient. Yet Deerhunter also released the crowd into a relaxed trance, closing with an extended version of “He Would Have Laughed,” the last song on Halcyon Digest.

The contrast between clean and dirty sounds, both in terms of feedback levels and melodic succinctness, was a constant reminder that Deerhunter cannot be pinned down. While most of the crowd walked out of the ballroom dazed with the show’s intensity, Cox remained on the stage, his ax aside, to talk with fans.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Avi Buffalo Interview

I did this interview back in March, and another last week. I'm totally obsessed with the thought that Avi puts behind his answers, and his quiet insight. More in-depth article to come!

Avi Buffalo Interview by nomistakeinmixtape

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Avi Buffalo Dispels Rumors

NME did an interview with Avi Buffalo last week, making a big deal that his sophomore album is influenced by Dr. Dre. As I suspected, the whole thing was exaggerated.

As told to me by Avi,

“That was just terrible, evil music journalists. The line the guy asked me was what I was interested in making as a record, and I used The Chronic as an example that kind of takes the listener on a journey or an adventure. It has things like sound effects between songs, and I thought that was neat, and I’d like to learn how to organically produce something like that in the studio. And of course I hear that the headline is ‘Avi Buffalo Draws Influence from Dr. Dre for His Next Record,’ which is totally and completely blown out of proportion and not one example of something. All sorts of sounds, songs we’ve been listening to on the road from Arthur Russell to The Chronic to The Band, and John Lennon, and just good old music is what we’re probably going to want to be drawing from.”

Photo from OC Weekly

I Want:

a table made of disco balls.

When I was little, I used to dance around the family room table with my dad and sister to Hall & Oates and even U2. All the time. This activity would be so much livelier with three disco balls in the middle of the table!

Image from Fashion Toast.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Someone Please Remind Me

to write a long blog post about my sincere love for Dashboard Confessional, and how I think it shaped my entire adolescence within the short period of two years.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Solid Gold

Every day should feel like this. Make it happen for yourself.

I'm going to hire the Eagles of Death Metal to follow me everywhere I go, playing this song.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

Sufjan Stevens is not above using a vocoder – the same digital technology that gives Kanye West and T-Pain their signature alien-smooth vocals. In fact, on his first original album since 2005’s Illinois, a collection of acoustic and banjo tracks backed by an orchestra, Stevens doesn’t shy away from the extraterrestrial or bizarre. You wouldn’t expect it from The Age of Adz’s sweet-as-a-cherry opener, “Futile Devices,” but the album swirls with complex, spastic electronic material. Three minutes into Adz, you hear the spaceships landing and laser guns hitting wall after wall of psychedelic, ominous synthesizers. The Michigan native adds tormented vocals, a brass section, choirs, and string instruments to his electronic compositions. It’s not his first time Stevens has gone beat-crazy; his second album, released 9 years ago, showcased his interest in electronic music in an even more extreme setting – without vocals. On Adz, he pushes artistic boundaries, at times challenging his listeners to open their minds to a style that stretches far from the quiet beauty of religious songs like “To Be Alone With You,” or the detailed storytelling of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr,” which both contain little more than an acoustic guitar. Stevens spends 25 minutes closing the album with the mind-bending “Impossible Soul.” It encapsulates everything the enigmatic songwriter has been striving for: beauty, manic musicianship, creative fusion, and most importantly, a sort of alienation – both sonic and literal.

Sufjan and Vegas Nightclubs

I can't say I'm happy to be back in Cleveland, but I can't say I'm unhappy. I feel like I've had months worth of experiences in the past week. Things are moving at breakneck speed, and I mean that in more serious terms than Tokyo Police Club on their last album. I'm floating in and out of my own understanding of myself. What is my identity? Who in the world am I? Do any other 23 year olds feel so puzzled by the constantly changing nature of their lives?

I don't know whether to write about Sufjan Stevens and his new incomprehensible album, or about the nightclub scene in Las Vegas. For some reason, neither of them feels real to me.


We stepped into Tao, a club in the Venitian. We went through the red ropes, insisting that Javier at the Red Rock put us on the VIP list.

When we stepped inside, what we saw looked a lot like what some dude captured on his blog. Nearly nude Asians washing each other in a bathtub. Glasses of $1100 champagne, passed into our hands without questions asked or money exchanged. Girls in thongs that glimmered with the same kind of string lights you might hang up in an overly cheesy dorm room. Men in loose ties. Waitresses with four pens in their cutoff jean short pockets.

Sitting on the couch, this Ohio girl repeatedly tried to shut her jaw, which seemed to drop open at the slightest happening.

But who am I kidding? This was ridiculous, but the reason I write about Tao is the music. The DJ was changing songs at 30 second intervals - not in a manner that he messed up or picked the wrong song - rather, it was a dance party for the perennially ADD tourists and Vegas regulars. Songs melded together, from LL Cool J's "Phenomenon" to Katy Perry's "California Gurls." Pinging between rap songs that I'll never know the titles to but will always know the words to and pop hits that were somehow turned trendier and skankier in the surroundings, it was an absolutely immersive experience.

The speakers were glowing. We were yelling to understand each other, or whispering in one another's ears. It was living a dream in the sense that this wasn't real - or was it real? Vegas runs on appearances, on the image, on making something into something that it's not. The glamour and the talent and the beauty and the richness and the grandeur are what meets the eye, yet not what you go to sleep understanding.


What can we go to sleep understanding about Sufjan Stevens' The Age of Adz? Reality and surreality flutter in and out of these songs, colored by a mechanical, technical chamber choir. The songs are real, but much like Vegas, they feel strangely out of place in my life, and they reek of that same sort of overwhelming expansiveness. It is difficult to see myself in this music; the difficulty lies in finding a point of reference that I can relate to myself.

Listenability. I don't think it was a factor in Stevens' writing or recording process. If he is making art for the sake of being artistic, that's fine. However, as of my 3rd listen, I don't have anything to grasp onto. It's like providing me with an obstacle course that involves full body strength and skill, then taking away my legs and refusing me prosthetic ones. How can I appreciate it if the tools are not provided? I can try to cultivate those tools on my own, but by the end of my experience, will it be gratifying? Will I enjoy the very difficult ride?

Individual songs are beautiful. I step inside "Futile Devices" like I step inside layers of plush blankets on the first cold day of winter. The sparse quality, hushed vocals, and stomach-pit-creating acoustic guitar plucking is the stuff of dreams.

"Get Real Get Right" stands in the middle of the album, a totem pole of impossibly confusing faces and symbols that don't make sense if you don't have an oral history of the tribe who carved it. Noises, effects, new ideas, multimedia, digital sound, haunting choirs, grating synthesizers, beeps, uneven percussion that replicates the unstable innerworkings of an MRI machine. All of these ideas and more are layered and layered into a musical piece that takes some real determination to appreciate. It's not impossible to enjoy, but Stevens is really making it a challenge.

My friend Will said that many of the songs, upon further listen, seem to be nearly impossible to recall, or, rather, he doesn't remember which ones he wants to hear again. That might be the worst thing a real music fan can say about an album. What is an album that initially sounds good but holds no place in your memory? Not all music has to be sticky. But I think it should draw you in and keep you there on its own merits.


I guess I go to sleep wondering about merits. What is real, and what can we believe in? If our music changes in rapid succession, and our focus isn't held on any one thing long enough, and we are overridden in life by distraction, how can we develop deeper connections? And what makes it all worth it?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Young Studs in Love - Band of Horses

Not too long ago, Creighton Barrett took his mother to see Eclipse, the third movie in the Twilight series. A theater full of screaming Jacob and Edward fans isn't where you might expect to see a 32-year-old rock dude. But the Band of Horses drummer had something special to share with his mom: One of his band's songs is on the movie's soundtrack.

But most of the time, says Barrett, he cringes when he hears his music. It's not that he isn't proud of what his band is doing; it's just that he'd rather be listening to Kid Cudi, Gayngs' bedroom R&B, or some kind of Turkish psychedelic rock — all of which are the furthest thing from Band of Horses' sweet, sprawling ballads and colorful Americana indie rock.

Barrett joined Band of Horses shortly after frontman Ben Bridwell encouraged his old friend to move to Seattle. Barrett and Bridwell met as teens in South Carolina, but moved to Washington in the early part of the millennium because of the city's fruitful music scene. While Bridwell was playing with Carissa's Wierd, Barrett spent his time drumming for punk, metal, and math-rock bands.

In 2004, Bridwell formed Horses (the "Band of" part came a little later), and Barrett had to relearn how to play this new music. "[It was difficult] coming from the background I'm used to, which is like retarded, whatever-you-want [drumming]," says Barrett. "Just being able to smash things behind the kit is a lot easier for me than being the anchor and really locking down on it and being the guy who's driving the bus."

An anchor is exactly what Band of Horses' songs need. The title track to their third and latest album, Infinite Arms, sounds like rushing waves crashing on the shore before they gently recede. The tug and pull comes from Bridwell's sweet-as-honey vocals and Tyler Ramsey's gooey guitar droplets. Creighton ties these airy melodies together with slight and subtle cymbal crashes.

The five-piece band — whose current lineup came together after the release of 2007's Cease to Begin — excels at creating delicate love songs and the kind of harmonies that make you tip your head back at the end of a long day and sigh. "I've always been enamored with harmonies, but I've never been in a band with anyone who could sing," says Barrett. Now that he is, his perspective has shifted. "I really learned melody and harmony from these guys, and it's really changed my mind about everything."

New songs like "Blue Beard" show off the group's quiet balladry, as do favorites from the first two albums. Cease to Begin's "Detlef Schrempf" — named after a German-born pro basketball player who spent time with Seattle's former team, the Supersonics — floats on intricate finger-picking and an all-encompassing wash of keys. "The Funeral," from the band's 2006 debut, Everything All the Time, swells from reverb-tossed acoustics to a full-on rocker.

Infinite Arms features more sonically huge and upbeat numbers than the first two Band of Horses albums. Barrett says they were going through a lot of changes during the writing and recording of the record. They left Seattle and returned to sunnier Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, to be closer to their families. Plus, Bridwell wrote several songs while he was preparing to become a father for the first time.

And sometimes, simply enough, an album just calls for some upbeat songs. "You just kinda need a faster song just to make the record flow or to make some songs stick out from the others," says Barrett. "You kinda just need some pop in there."

"Dilly," which Ramsey wrote, pops to life with a hooky chorus. And "NW Apt." is a sharp turn from Infinite Arms' slower songs, with guitars growling as Barrett thrillingly speeds over his percussion fills.

The album took two years to record, while the group was flying to Europe to play festival shows, pouring the money they made back into studio costs. Phil Ek produced parts of Infinite Arms, but by the time the record was in the can, the band was working almost entirely by itself. Barrett says they found this somewhat spontaneous process helpful.

"We would come home at night after spending a long day in the studio, and we would listen to everyone's demos, and we'd be like, 'Oh my God, we need to work on that — it's rad!'" he recalls. "So the next day we'd go in there and work on that song from scratch. It was like a living will or something. It was crazy.

"But it's hard to say what we were set on making," he adds. "We were changing it all the time. What we knew is that we had the chance to showcase this lineup, which is a solid lineup for the first time."

Find it at Cleveland Scene.