By: Joseph VanBuren
Chicago-based Castevet is a band that mixes the sincerity of indie with the abrasiveness of punk. And while many bands in the current NYC scene attempt a similar combination, this is a totally different sound. It’s hard to say if this is the result of the Midwest scene or a specific result of Castevet’s personal style, but it’s almost a more sophisticated brand of indie/punk hybrid. At least, the music is distinguished. The vocals, on the other hand: good luck deciphering them. It sounds like Cedric from The Mars Volta is on Valium and pretty pissed off about being in slow motion. When the music’s hitting hard, it fits. But the band has a tendency to alternate tempos, and the half-hearted guttural vocals are sometimes awkwardly out of place. That point aside, Castevet is a tight band displaying creative musicianship and a deep understanding of both their instruments and their chosen genres. The dancing guitar riffs of songs like “(Get) Bucktown” and “Six Parts Summer” compliment the intricate drum parts perfectly. Their song “Midwest Values” is bisected by an awesome melodic breakdown and contains an emotionally striking outro; the rest of the song (all of the parts containing vocals) comes off as quite mediocre, pulling the listener towards the conclusion that Castevet would probably work better as an instrumental band.
By: Joseph VanBuren
Much like their song title “Sleeping Lions,” the music of Annabel is beautiful until it gets stirred up, and then things can get a little intense. Hailing from Kent, Ohio, Annabel is a unique flavor of indie music that is both sweet and salty. Seemingly innocent pop melodies half-buried under art house rock, all pleasantly drowning in an ethereal pool of emo, devoid of the latter’s best known clichés. The band rocks, but does it oh so softly. Even when the tempo is pretty fast, as in “People and Places,” and distortion saturates most of the track, the mood is somehow light and airy. The occasional usage of subtle keyboards, like the bell melody in the aforementioned “Sleeping Lions,” only adds to the jovial personality of their music. Then again, titles like “Widow Party” may raise suspicions that there is something deeper happening in these songs, perhaps something a little morbid. It’s very possible, but with such unique recipes one can merely speculate about the possible top secret ingredients. What can be said with certainty is that Annabel combines complexity with catchiness, which makes for some creative compositions. They are scheduled to play the SXSW festival this year, and it is likely that they will turn many heads.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF WORTH
Article By: Melissa Saunders
Cover Art by: Lucifer Alvini
With a shit ton of Allston bands murkily impersonating some variation of Sonic Youth and/or Crystal Castles, Rodeo Church are rather audacious in their embrace of cheerful indie pop music. Take the opening track of Rodeo Church EP (2010 - Haunted Casino Media), "Miserable;" it is at least titularly misleading. This is an upbeat track both danceable and pleasant. It opens with Jeremy Lee Given's chirpy stippling of synthesizers that recall a less annoying Passion Pit. The chorus melodically swoons upwards but the lyrics are smart and worldly enough that the whole affair doesn't become too cloying: "I know where I am/every day's the same/wake up in the morning/miserable again." "Miserable" is kind of like a sonic speed ball, the "stimulant" being the neatly arranged instrumentation and beaming sing-along chorus, the "depressant" analogous to the post-adolescent malaise touched upon in the lyrics.
The second track, "Laughing Panther/Post-Party Disaster," indubitably stands out with its insidious and creepy bass lines. Adding the bass as a focal point and piling on a distorted, dissonant guitar may not be a new trick but it works on this song. Oddly dank and psychedelic, "Laughing Panther" recalls a more palatable retread of the Seeds: shimmy-inducing sixties garage rock swagger cured with enough deft pop sensibility. Vocalist Adam Young slings some verbal quips that are custommade for the song's femme fatale party protagonist. With lines like, "Run your little mouth like a blow torch" and "put a Band-Aid on my bleeding heart," the sinuous lyrics swirl into the music like libidinous hip swivels the song obviously begets.
The steeze of the EP shifts, however, with track three, "The People That Brought Us Up." The title could easily refer to the New York band the Strokes, as it is most evident here that Rodeo Church are highly influenced by them. The song opens with shuffling drum machine scrambles, slightly gravelly vocals and guitars filtered within an inch of their lives. It's hard to tell if Rodeo Church are indulging in such borrowed familiarity for the purposes of exaltation or emulation. Compared to the aforementioned Sonic Castles/Crystal Youth retreads of Allston, it's paradoxically refreshing to hear a band that sounds like the Strokes, especially with the anticipation of March 2011's release Angles.
Still, the tempo of "People" stays consistently danceable (similar to the boob-bouncing beats of, you guessed it, the Strokes), cohesively listenable. The lyrics are still brilliant; pangs of Allstonian melancholy are apparent in lyrics describing a "sad, decaying city," formerly with "streets once paved with gold" that have turned to "rust and shit and traces of people who probably sold their souls." Juxtaposed with artist Lucifer Alvini's surreal cover art, Rodeo Church's songs are justifiably upbeat; they survived Allston and survive it every day.
Listening to the EP becomes trying as "Desperate Is Not a Sexual Preference" does not get more interesting than its clever title. It is a decidedly more muted song, serving more of a transitional filling purpose than the smart, danceable tracks Rodeo Church does so well.
However, emulating another band so closely, even a well-loved one like the Strokes, could spell future troubles for Rodeo Church. Slack ultimately has to be given because these guys have the chops and enthusiasm and are still figuring out their sound. While the unabashed indie pop is a brave act, the guys of Rodeo Church could do themselves well by tapping into unharnessed originality. With their obvious chops and spirited playing, sounds of Rodeo Church will have any dance floor alive and any room on fire.
By: Ross Edwards
Atlanta band Blame Game bursts with an intensity that belongs in the 90s metal category, since they bring nothing of the bright synth-driven optimism that characterizes new indie music. No, Blame Game is all cowboys with guitar straps, as the quartet pummels through mathy oddities with hardcore surf timbre, while remaining loose, rolling, and defiant. They are guitar leaders, the bass falling into step as a haunting undercurrent, the support below the rippling current of tense strings. They are thankfully not show-offs, concerned instead with the tight blend of wavering guitars as they blur into each other.
Each track is unpredictable, sounding less as songs than as movements in classical pieces, and willing to depart from the Slint-style dynamics that were effective twenty years ago for an aurally expansive approach. For example, an overblown saxophone adds sharpness to attenuated guitars on “Slidin’ Highway.” The song’s distant drums feel as if recorded in a basement or garage, with only enough space to keep the instruments from running together in some non-cohesive wash, even in the midst of cathartic feedback at the end. Vocals sometimes rear their head. The climax of “Slidin’ Highway” erupts with a majestic, massive young male’s voice, as if sung from another dimension frighteningly similar to our own.
“Lemon Drops” is particularly Don Caballero-esque, oozing with post-rock mystery and indecisive melancholy. The song floats about menacingly, and the epic “Clear Change” jangles its loping melodies. It walks the line between clear melodies, beautiful and uncommon, and ambling imprecision that is tenderly human amidst lonely and intense circumstances.
By: Kyle Donley
Boston’s The Grownup Noise has a band name that is anything but ironic. What?! A new indie band without a hint of detached, ironic witticism?! Settle down, hipsters, it’s true. The Grownup Noise make music that sounds like… well, grownup noise. With their EP, Shall We? (2010- self released) the four-piece craft mature, albeit writhing, pop music with rollicking acoustic guitars, pounded piano chords and a cello. That’s right, grownups play cello.
Okay, so maybe The Grownup Noise is somewhat of an ironic title for a band that clearly takes pop craftsmanship seriously. Shall We? delivers its fair share of melody by way of adult contemporary catchiness. There’s no “noise” to be found here, really, as noise would imply dissonance of some kind. The cellist never plays using a beer bottle, no distorted pan flute solos, no acoustic experimentation reminiscent of Gastr del Sol or Mice Parade. Maybe a more fitting band name would be Give This Album To Your Parents.
However, the “noise” that The Grownup Noise seem to be referring to is that of emotional heftiness displayed through the intense interplay of piano and guitar, as well as opaque, vaguely urgent lovelorn lyrics involving “trains arriving” and “taking pills of despair.” Believe it or not, this is when The Grownup Noise are at their best. With singer-guitarist Paul Hansen sounding like James Taylor if he was one of the 500 members of Broken Social Scene, songs like “The Artist Type” and “Outside” elicit beauty out of otherwise trite material - the former with its hypercatchy melancholy (and a dead-ringer for Stars circa Set Yourself On Fire), the latter with its acoustic harmonics and palm-muting restraint smothered in looming intensity that never quite bubbles over.
Shall We? falters when the songs slow down, trading in urgency for wistful ruminations heavy on lilting cello parts. This ranges from “So It Goes,” a largely boring number that only gets interesting when Hansen shuts up for the coda’s swelling organ flourishes, to “Strawmen,” whose potential is overwhelmed by the song’s generic pop formula, to “Six Foot Solemn Oath,” nothing more than puke-pants, cry-baby garbage that seems overly impressed with its cute boy-girl vocals and seventh grade poetry (“Hear the sound of the snow,” what?!).
The Grownup Noise are not trying to be fashionable Brooklynite provocateurs. Which is fine - Lord knows there’s enough of those little bastards running around, wearing acid-wash cut offs and paint-splattered boat shoes. However, to compare their sound to the “blind intensity” of The Velvet Underground (as they do under the bio section on their website) is a crock of shit. This is indie adult contemporary. A hit single or two mixed in with filler, sounding pretty for pretty’s sake.