By: Keir Bristol
Bern and the Brights, a chamber-pop-rock band from Montclair, New Jersey, sounds like Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s meets Ra Ra Riot… but they don’t. One of the main singers’ voices sounds like the lead in Coheed in Cambria… but they don’t sing about the same things. This band dances between lines and dodges genres in their new album, Swing Shift Maisies.
The EP is short, only four songs, but Bern and the Brights cram a lot of sound into that space. They start off with song “Boo,” which initially seems like a slower rock song with only a steady guitar strum and a single melancholy violin. Then the soothing voice comes in, reminiscent of an old mother singing her child to sleep in a stirring movie on Lifetime (I realize that doesn’t sound very good written out but trust me, the vocals are lovely). Of course the song finishes slightly more up-tempo, which sets the stage for the rest of the album.
Their stand-out track, “Sleepless Aristotle,” rings with a catchy chorus that won’t become sickening after a few weeks, unlike most pop songs on the radio: “Who told you to stay awake at night? / Who told you to stay awake at night?"
The band itself is pretty simple. Guitars, drums, a violin, sensational vocals, fantastic songwriting… and that’s just the four songs on the EP. One could only imagine what Bern and the Brights could do with a longer album or a concert. Which is highly recommended to buy or see.
By: Carlyn Worthy
Indie rock band Vanguard Villains creatively fuses rock and pop to deliver an impressive, distinguished sound on their latest self-titled album, released July 1, 2010. While the band hails from New York, the lead vocalist harbors a voice reminiscent of a young Davy Jones, allowing them to successfully bridge the gap and unintentionally create a Brit-pop sound, heard especially in the song “Admire.”
Vanguard Villains masters the concept of variety and uses it to their advantage in creating the album’s sound. In “Life Howling,” the guitar is light, allowing the drums and vocals to take center stage; a smooth contrast from “Admire” where the guitar is the dominant sound.
While some tracks include vocals, others such as “Unexecuted” are completely instrumental, showcasing the band’s musical finesse and dexterity as they dare to experiment with numerous instruments. Every track has a different mood, whether laid back, energized, melancholy or intense, allowing any sort of listener to enjoy. The Villains also included treats for their fans with acoustic versions of “Admire,” “I Could Save The Day,” and “Give It Up.”
Vanguard Villains is an excellent album, showcasing the band’s talent and unparalleled potential. Most importantly, they have proven they can deliver to any audience while containing their own sound.
By: Keir Bristol
Remember when everyone tried to do that dance-punk thing, thanks to the success of such bands as Panic! At The Disco and Fallout Boy? Electronica-new-wave band Blip Blip Bleep took a cue from Patrick Stump and Brendan Urie, except they replaced most of the guitars with synths and shortened their song titles. The result? Mediocre harmonies, bad songwriting and a horrible cover of The Cure’s “A Letter To Elise.” Some songs should just not be touched, and “A Letter To Elise” is one of them.
The first thought that would pop into most people’s minds listening to Blip Blip Bleep’s new album Like Track Stars is “Didn’t I hear this band at Warped Tour?” And you probably didn’t, but it’s likely you heard a band that sounded just like them. The second thought would probably be, “Is this a cheap version of 3OH!3?” and the answer would be “Yes.”
Not to say that they aren’t worth dancing to, if one were drunk enough and had no shame. After the “Rock (Intro)” in which the first lyrics belt “One Two Three Four Five Six Seven, Why Doesn’t This Thing Go To Eleven?” Blip Blip Bleep moves into the repetitive-as-hell “Freak You Out,” which was probably written about a girl the lead singer Sean Han was either grinding with at a college party or having sex with. Whichever would work.
In the middle of the album comes “Like Track Stars,” a song about a Brooklyn girl with “country blond hair” that attempts to be deep and metaphoric, and just ends up being cliché. It moves on to the aforementioned “Letter” after “Broken Strings,” and ends with “Rewrite The Scenes,” a song about the same girl, plus dark eye-makeup and an iPod with an indie rock playlist. And if that wasn’t enough for you, Blip Blip Bleep graces their listeners with a remix of “Freak You Out,” and the “Rock (Intro)/(Reprise).”
By: Eliza Coolidge
In New York, one can travel the world without leaving its limits. In a city where you can have your pick from falafel, sushi or pierogi within the confines of one square block, it's no wonder the local music scene is as diversely enriched. Jeremy Noller's newest album release, "Music Notes" (expected to officially drop this September), fuses jazz with the alluring, polyrhythmic textures of West African drumming. Noller, a trained jazz kit drummer and world percussionist, frames an intricate multicultural cross-pollination with ease and comfortableness. Noller's steadiness and feathery touch is natural in its references while evading the overtly 'global' diminutions of less fluent fusion musicians. The recording quality is piercingly clear, displaying Noller's confidence in textural range and technical aptitude.
Though technically impactful, some of Noller's compositions are overly loop-based. In "Dawe," the arrangement sequences aimlessly from loop to loop, emitting a "DVD stuck on menu effect." A sax solo is haphazardly injected as a compositional band-aid. The illusion of intent is not effective and hastily terminated by revisiting one of the many heads. While the construction of Noller's grooves are impressive, the transition between their various permutations are often temerarious. It is not until "Small Arms" that the listener is rewarded with a refreshing breath of space and pensive repose. Noller begins driving the tune with a burning push, playfully taunting his bandmates to keep up. Halfway through the tune the band drops out and the bass is featured in a rubato solo. It is a small but memorable compositional gift he gives. When the groove returns, we feel new ears for its sound.
On the title track "Music Notes," Noller introduces the Gyil, a xylophone from Ghana. The groove is airtight with Noller pattering gently in the background. The rhythmic and melodic interplay of the gyil parts are interesting and recall the influences of Steve Reich and his minimalist compatriots. With the ability to regenerate a traditional concept into a modern configuration, Noller keeps his listener's intrigue in the very bi-lingual palm of his hand.
The album as a whole flirts with many compositional notions, at times bestriding the line between minimalistic and instructional. Nevertheless, his album is contagiously jubilant and successfully clears the preoccupied mind of its woes and strains. I happened to listen to “Music Notes" on the fourth day of successive rainstorms and was blithely leavened in mood and spirit. Thank you, Mr. Noller.
By: Carlyn Worthy
Many artists make their start by joining a group to gain recognition. Once they’ve garnered enough exposure, these artists attempt to shy away from their polished image provided by big record companies and pursue their creative ambitions. British guitarist Jody Porter (formerly of Fountains of Wayne) proves it’s more than possible to shed the pop-rock skin with his debut solo album Close To The Sun (Engine Room Recordings, Released May11, 2010).
While not the best vocalist, Porter displays his remarkable skill and unique ear for sound by producing a smooth fusion of rock and jazz. In “Twilite” Porter creates a slow but steady rock ballad complimented with cymbals. He also smartly eliminated competition between instruments, highlighting a different one in each song, like “In Between Time” – possibly the strongest track on the album – where a horn can be heard immediately followed by a melodic guitar and lively snare. In the somber yet affectionate “You’re Not Alone,” Porter changes the sound by making listeners forget the slow tempo and in its place provides an elusive energy.
Impressively, Porter created an album that flows with ease. Every music lover has experienced the feeling of opening a new CD and listening begrudgingly as they realized it was front-loaded. This album can be played from start to finish without skipping over a single track, a rarity in this industry. Even better, Close To The Sun is a jack of all trades in its ability to adapt. This album would compliment your morning run, a lazy afternoon by the pool or an evening drive. Porter’s music is reminiscent of Brit-rock familiars Oasis, Stereophonics and Kula Shaker. With this album, he has successfully created enough variation to stand out, while drawing in the tracks with enough cohesion and consistency to make the artwork a whole.