Distraction #74

A few years ago I had a roommate who was an absolutely huge Avett Brothers fan. I am very sad to report I did not take that opportunity to check out their music.

However! I have made up for the lack of The Avett Brothers music in my life since then. I can’t remember when I first actually got into it, but I am very glad I looked a little deeper the last couple of weeks. These guys are fantastic musicians as well as excellent storytellers. I would be so excited to go see one of their shows, everything I’ve heard from their live albums indicates they would be a great band to see perform.

For those that have never heard of The Avett Brothers, let me give you the run down. The band is made up of Scott and Seth Avett as well as Bob Crawford and Joe Kwan. They also have a few other members for live performances. I won’t give you a history of the band here like I have for previous posts. Instead, I’m going to focus on the music.

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This music belongs in the genre of Americana, though it can also be classified as Bluegrass, Folk, Folk Rock, and Indie Folk. For me, Americana music is light and fun, and I feel that reflected in The Avett Brothers songs. They also have some more somber or serious tunes as well, and those are just as good. I can definitely appreciate a band who knows how to balance having ballads and emotional tracks with more uptempo exciting numbers, and The Avett Brothers balance that perfectly.

Their instrumentation is classic Americana most of the time, though they don’t let anything as trivial as genre labels put them in a box. You’ll find that their lyrics are often more similar to alt and indie rock than bluegrass, and their arrangements are fairly a-typical as well. In fact, one of the reasons I love their music so much is that I don’t always know what to expect from them. They always sound like themselves, but their songs don’t sound the same at all; each one of them unique and well-thought out.

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Their most recent popular song “Ain’t No Man” has had quite a bit of radio play, drastically expanding their listener base. It’s a great song and I quite enjoy it, though it has potential to be overplayed so I don’t listen to it much on my own. Another popular song is “I And Love And You” which while distinctly a ballad in it’s tempo and style, also has interesting and visual lyrics that keep you hooked.

The Avett Brothers have many songs I truly enjoy, but none tickled me quite as much as “Distraction #74” which has the most fun vocal arrangement I’ve heard in a long time. These guys are quite good at harmonies and vocal arrangements. Seriously, go listen to that song all the way through. You won’t regret it.

I would like to give you a top 5 songs to listen to by The Avett Brothers but bear with me here. It’s gonna be hard to narrow it down to just 5, so I’ll exclude the songs previously mentioned to thin it out (but those ones are awesome too, go take a listen).

“Kick Drum Heart”

“Satan Pulls The Strings” – this one has a distinctly different instrumentation and is an interesting change of pace.

“Murder In The City”

“Bella Donna”

“Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise”

And just cause I can’t help myself, I’ll add another one:

“Slight Figure Of Speech”

Oh, and here’s a great music video for “Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise” that I really enjoyed.

This is just a really fun band to listen to. They’ve gained a fan for life in me, and I would encourage anyone to listen to their music. Go check them out!

 

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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.

Do I Wanna Know?

I don’t exactly recall the first time I heard Arctic Monkeys, but they have such a recognizable sound I can always identify their music when I hear it. While they can be categorized as indie rock or garage rock, they have a very distinct British punk influence and a just altogether dark sound that is not often found in popular groups.

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Don’t they look like they could have opened a show for The Clash or Buzzcocks back in Britain’s punk rock heyday?

If you’ve been following my blog, you are probably aware I’m a big fan of music videos, and honestly, that’s what stuck out to me about this band in the first place. The main imagery of their music video for the track “Do I Wanna Know” is distinctively an animated sound wave pulsing to the beat of the song, only to transform into a hypnotic and very strange animation centering around a black and white sound wave. It… gets a little weird at the end. However, that returning image is also incorporated into the album cover for AM as seen here:

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I wouldn’t say that one is my favorite video by them, but it is memorable, and it is an amazing song as well as a surprising earworm. That guitar riff in infectious.

My favorite video is the one I will post under this paragraph, “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” It has a minute and a half intro, playing a part of “Do I Wanna Know” before it gets into the actual song. It’s a slightly unusual video, and instead of trying to explain it I’ll just let you watch it. Note the Parental Advisory warning, please.

Those are two well-known hits by Arctic Monkeys, both of which are from their most recent album, AM. As far as I can tell, that is the album that really took off in the U.S. though they had been popular in their home country of England before then.

Arctic Monkeys have that iconic British punk sound influencing most of their stuff while still adding a flair all their own and pulling little influences from other contemporary artists. All together, they really make it work for them. While they haven’t produced another album since AM in 2013, they are reportedly back from a two-year hiatus and are working on another studio album in L.A. I certainly will keep an eye out for it, and I hope they make more music with their distinct style while also breathing some new life into it.

Other songs I recommend: “Arabella” “R U Mine” and “I Wanna Be Yours” all from their AM album (my favorite, obviously), and “Love Is A Laserquest” and “She’s Thunderstorms” from the album Suck It and See, and “Fluorescent Adolescent” from Favorite Worst Nightmare.

If you like classic punk rock or garage rock, you should definitely give Arctic Monkeys a try.

Thanks for reading!

Super Rad!

The Aquabats! started as a joke band, and honestly, I really respect that. They set out to have fun more than anything else and I think that is what made them stand out so well. Their particular gimmick worked out really well for them in my opinion.

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I didn’t know much about The Aquabats! until just this past summer when I was exposed to more of their music and then had the opportunity to see them in concert. They are very fun to see live as a staple of their performances is the theatricality in their live shows. Each band member has their own super-hero identity as well as matching costumes. Villains and choreographed fights, as well as videos, are included in the performance and ultimately they are all good showmen. Their songs are fun and silly, their performance entertaining, and their attitude infectious. Altogether, you can’t really go wrong with a band like The Aquabats!

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As for their musical style, The Aquabats! definitely started out as a ska band with all the elements of the genre such as a walking bass line, off-beat rhythms, big horn sections, and driving guitar. Some other well-known ska bands to emerge from the 80’s and 90’s include The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, and Sublime. This wave of the genre could probably more accurately be termed as Ska Punk as it includes many Punk elements. If you like Punk at all, I suggest you give Ska a try.

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As The Aquabats! continued in their career their music evolved to include influences of New Wave, Rock, and Synthpop as well as Ska and Punk. If you listen to some of their earlier music such as “Super Rad!” or “Idiot Box!” which are both on their 1997 album The Fury of The Aquabats! you immediately hear exactly what Ska sounds like. However, if you listen to some of their later music such as “Shark Fighter!” “Hey Homies!” and “All My Money!” from the 2011 album High-Five Soup! it has an obviously more new wave and synthpop influenced sound. It seems like they traded out the horns for synth. I wouldn’t say I prefer one style over the other, they are all obviously the same band in lyrics and arrangement and are fun songs to listen to.

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The Aquabats! had a TV show for 3 seasons called The Aquabats! Super Show! I haven’t watched any of it so I can’t give you any more info on it, but from what I can tell it is full of stories about the band as superheroes, uses a mix of live action and animation, and is fairly pointless.

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If you want a good example of how ridiculous (in a good way) this band is, here’s the video for “Super Rad!” Also here is a link for “Shark Fighter!” Listen to both and notice the difference in the instrumentation between the older and newer style.

The Aquabats! are kind of ridiculous. Their lyrics are not serious in the least, their musical style is upbeat and fairly fanciful, and they wear matching spandex and domino masks. Seriously. They are a freaking awesome band. How many musicians write songs about shool pizza day or giving out hugs? These lyrics are fun, lighthearted, and singable, and you may have noticed their habit of overusing exclamation points.

All I can really say about The Aquabats! is that they are extremely fun. If you want to listen to some of their music, I recommend the following tracks: “Super Rad!” “Red Sweater!” “Pizza Day!” “Pool Party!” “Hey Homies!” and “The Legend Is True!” There are many other really good songs by this band, but those might be my favorite

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Give it a shot, I really think you’ll enjoy it! They are super rad after all!

Wreck Of The Day

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Anna Nalick is most well known for her first single “Breathe (2 AM)” and indeed, that was the only song I really knew by her until recently. It’s a great song, well written both lyrically and melodically, and I will always enjoy when it comes on. As I began to delve into more of Anna Nalick’s music, I thought of how this typically goes one of two ways: either the single I was aware of initially is nothing like the rest of their music and that is why it stood out, or it is exactly like everything else they’ve ever written and sadly it all sounds the same.

In this case, we lean towards the latter option, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I rather liked the rest of her music. There was a big influx of female singer/songwriter artists in the 2000’s however, so her music isn’t as unique or singular as I would like. She does distinctly fall into that category along with artists such as Michelle Branch, Vannessa Carlton, Missy Higgins, or A Fine Frenzy.

If I were to suggest just one song for you to listen to aside from “Breathe (2 AM)” I would suggest “Wreck Of The Day” It’s pretty mellow, but that is the style I tend to drift towards. Here’s an acoustic video if you’re interested:

Overall, I feel like she is a talented lyricist. So if you decide to listen to her music, pay attention to the lyrics, that’s where she shines. I feel this is especially true for “Breathe (2 AM)”.

Keep an eye out for my next post on Bossa Nova!

Obsession

Just a quick post for you today.

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When I started playing Animotion what I found was a sound that is the epitome of 80’s music. They don’t have a ton of music on Spotify, but I feel there was plenty to get an understanding of their sound. As a majority of pop music in the 80’s, this features heavily on the synth. In fact, if I were to describe synthpop or New Wave, this is a prime example for me to use.

Animotion had exactly one big hit, and I would say it is their best song. If you are not familiar with the song “Obsession” here is a video link for you to check it out. The video is almost even more stereotypically 80’s than the song, you really ought to watch it.

It’s got some nice elements to it, the synth is driving, and the guitar riffs fit really well into it. If you like it, maybe check out their song “I Want You” or if you enjoy lyrical humor in the same way I do, listen to “Bad Review”

All in all, This is the music I would expect to hear if I turned on an 80’s based internet radio station, so if that’s your thing, check it out.

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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.