Frontier Psychiatrist

One thing I love about local radio stations is they don’t play by the rules. You won’t typically tune into your local community radio station and hear the same 40 songs that air on all the other stations. Instead, you hear new music. You hear local artists and international artists. You hear deep cuts and B-sides. You hear genres you never would have tried listening to otherwise. You hear older tunes that don’t get airtime anymore. You hear DJs who want to share things with you, not sell things to you.

I know, I know; that is a romanticization of community radio and a rather naive look at how they work. However, I believe that is what those stations should aspire to. Yes, you will hear repeat songs, sometimes multiple times a day. I got pretty sick of Portugal. The Man for a little while when my local station played “Feel It Still” 5 times a day over the summer, but I still prefer that to standard radio.

Commercials.

Enough said.

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I occasionally find songs from my local high school station, KOHS, and my local community station, KRCL, that push my musical boundaries. For example, I had never been into club music/electronica most likely due to my exposure to that style being limited to the basic beats you hear on standard radio stations and at dance parties (not my thing either). To me, it just sounded like an overdose of dubs, wubs, and wahs that get old really fast. Especially when you start getting headaches, and… Just, no thanks. It’s not for me.

However, my eyes have been opened somewhat. I believe that epiphany began with a song I heard a few years ago on KOHS, “Frontier Psychiatrist” by The Avalanches.

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The Avalanches are a group from Australia who is fairly hard to describe. Their first album has a supposed 3,500 different audio clips sampled into it. After listening to that album, I believe it. The things these guys do are amazing, weaving hundreds of separate samples together to create one cohesive song is a ton of work. I couldn’t do it, though I can certainly appreciate it. And they even do live performances of their music; at one point they had 4 sets of turntables onstage at once along with other various instruments.

I looked up the Wikipedia page for the group as well as read a few blurbs describing them, and I can’t say I have ever found a band before whose genre has been described as Plunderphonics or Neo-Psychedelia before. They also hold the labels of Electronic and Hip-hop, and while I can hear that in their music, that description doesn’t do justice to the complex and nuanced sounds produced by The Avalanches.

Here’s the video for “Frontier Psychiatrist” if you’re interested. It was a runner-up in the Soho Shorts Film Festival in the UK; it’s pretty weird, but it fits the song really well.

This music has a groove to it that is persevering. Something they do really well are transitions between tracks. If you listen to their first album, Since I Left You, the transitions are completely seamless. It’s pretty hard to tell when one song ends and another begins. That makes picking out favorite tracks kind of difficult, so I recommend listening to the album straight through if you feel like giving this band a shot. And if you like that album, make sure to check out Wildflowers as well. It has less of a continuous feel, and they feature a lot of other guest artists that amplify the music deftly. All in all, an excellent follow up to the first album.

If you would like my top 5 tracks instead of listening to an album, here they are:

“Frontier Psychiatrist”

“Because I’m Me”

“Going Home”

“Since I Left You”

“Colours”

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Who knows if we can expect another album from this group. I would like to hear more of their music, but it did take them 16 years to put out a second album. It might take longer for a third, or maybe there just won’t be another one.

In the end, I’m still pretty picky about electronic and club music (frequently the only thing I get out of it is a headache). But I will always at least give it a shot, I never know when I might end up really liking it.

Im glad I found this group, it is completely different than anything I was listening to previously and I feel it illuminates the boundless ways we can pursue music. I hope I continue finding new musical innovations for the rest of my life as well as try to keep a more open mind to new things, even the ones that give me headaches.

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Choice Kingdom

I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this band. I have been looking forward to this post for a while.

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alt-J released their first record in 2012 and I seriously regret that I didn’t become aware of them until about a year ago. The odd name comes from the band’s symbol, the greek letter for Delta: Δ, which can be typed with the keyboard shortcut of alt+J on a Mac computer. This symbol is an indicator of change or difference in scientific equations, which I think it is an apt description of the band.

It was once mentioned to me that no other band sounds like alt-J and I have to agree, they are very unique. This is most evident in the style of their vocals and the way they use common instrumentation that has been arranged in a different and strangely hypnotic way. The almost ethereal sounds on their tracks are really something else. The internet tells me their genres are Indie rock, Indie pop, Art rock, and Folktronica. All of that is accurate, and I had no idea how much I needed art rock and folktronica in my life until now.

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There are a few standout tracks on both of their albums, some of which you may have heard if you listen to alternative radio stations. The ones I can think of that you might know include “Breezeblocks” and “Left Hand Free” If you like intense and well-made music videos, you should check out this awesome video for “Breezeblocks”

I can be found listening to this music at any time, and while listening to individual tracks is fine and good, it really hits home when you listen to an entire album at once. Their albums as an entire piece are impressive and flow really well. I especially like their second album, This Is All Yours, which ends with a bonus track I consider to be my favorite, “Lovely Day.” It is just trippy enough that I tend to close my eyes to tune out of other sensory input to focus on the music just that little bit more.

On that note, I will say that some of their stuff that doesn’t get radio play is a bit more psychedelic than most popular music and many people will likely find it difficult to listen to. However, for me, it hits just right. The way they layer and build sounds together is truly brilliant. If you want a good example of that, check out the track “Intro” from This Is All Yours.

These guys are true artists. They know how and when to add, subtract, or intensify the textures they incorporate into their music. It’s subtle and almost seamless the way they weave together the many small strands of sound into a cohesive unit. Rarely do they include a sound that overpowers another without purpose. Similarly, the sounds they include in each track have a purpose and reason. There are many artists, good artists whom I love, who never quite achieve that level of cohesiveness whether it be due to long or loud solos or vocals that seem to command sole attention. Sometimes those things are exactly what you want, but I always find it fascinating when the instruments don’t immediately identify themselves to me and I have to think a little more about what exactly I am hearing.

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One thing that especially impressed me while I was perusing their music was the quality of their live tracks. I have heard many bands who sound fantastic on a recording but are less than stellar live. Based on the styles alt-J has, I would have expected them to have a difficult time recreating their music in a live setting. I must emphatically say this is not the case. Every song I heard from the live EP they released was fantastic; they stayed true to the songs as they are meant to be and still imbibed the feeling and necessary energy required for a live show. I would jump at the chance to go see them perform.

Overall I am so very pleased to have found alt-J, they are one of my absolute favorite bands to come out of this decade. They have a new album coming out in this summer, and I for one am looking forward to seeing what they come up with for it.

 

Don’t Turn Around

All I can think of when I hear something like Ace of Base (very much early 90’s europop) is just how hokey it is. That might not be quite the right word… oh well. But that is likely because of my age (born in ’89). Ah well, I still enjoy a couple of their hit singles on occasion. Rare occasion. Obviously I must like it enough to have it on my Spotify, but that might just be childhood memories talking.

When I turned on this artist for this I was surprised and kind of annoyed to find so. Many. Remixes.

Not even good ones. I’ll be honest, I didn’t make it through all of the songs for Ace of Base; their particular style just does not do it for me. And the fact that there are apparently albums worth of remixes each dedicated to just one song gets kind of hard to listen to after a while.

The songs I like are most likely ones other people are familiar with. Unless under the age of 20. The songs in question are “Don’t Turn Around”, “All That She Wants”and of course “The Sign“. 

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Pitch Perfect kind of ruined that last one for me though. If you’ve seen that movie, you know what I’m talking about. I liked the movie, because it is ridiculous and fun, but you know how one song can get overplayed on the radio, and over the course of a week or two you can get really sick of it cause you hear it so often? Pitch Perfect accomplished that feeling maybe half an hour into the movie. Hats off to them for that feat; now please never do that to me again. I can barely stand to listen to “The Sign” for more than a minute now.

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Ultimately, I don’t much care for Ace of Base as a whole. Kind of sad to say, but that’s the truth. None of their other songs mean anything to me, and it’s likely the only reason I like the ones I mentioned is they were around while I was growing up.

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Well, you can’t win them all. I guess I’ll stick with what I know on this one.

Against the Odds of Entropy

9 Theory is one of those bands I only knew one song from and didn’t know anything about.

It’s kind of hard to describe the sound right. The facebook page for him describes it as electronic/hip-hop/indie. I suppose that’s about as accurate as you can be with genre labels. It is definitely electronic, though far, far away from dubstep or house, and it has a bit of hip-hop thrown in on occasion between the audio samples. As for indie, I guess that’s what tempers the other two in such a relaxed and unique way.

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I am a fan of mellow music. Seriously, I love easy background music: not stagnant, but not driving either; no harsh out of place bass drops or long and loud solos. Now that’s not to say I dislike those things, in fact I like them quite a bit. To every thing there is a season (turn, turn, turn), and all that. But often I work better or relax a little easier if there is something chill playing in the background. Bonus points if that chill thing has a cool message or thought behind it. And the song “At Home In The Dark” hits all the right points for me there.

I first heard this on KOHS, the local high school radio station, and anytime it came on I enjoyed it, especially the audio samples mixed in. It took me a few listens to figure out what was being said, but I really liked it when I did: “A wise man once said, an error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it” Pretty cool statement if you ask me, and a great message for this song.

So, as you can probably guess I was pretty excited to listen to more of his stuff when I started this little project of mine. And all in all, I was pleased with what I found.

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However I didn’t add any of his other songs to my Spotify account. “Why not if you liked it so much” you ask? Because it really is far too chill to listen attentively to for more than one song at a time. It is the perfect background music, and whenever I had it on the songs blended together as I did whatever else I was doing at the time so that I couldn’t really identify specific tracks I liked. If I had given it more time (I really should at some point) that would probably change.

So, do I recommend 9 Theory? Absolutely, but be picky about the setting. Pretty sure I’ll pick it for the next time I want to just relax.