Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wedded Bliss

Cedar Avenue

Husbands and wives tend to make pretty good music together. See: Sony and Cher, Wings, Sonic Youth, Mates of State, Arcade Fire and about a million other acts, including Cedar Avenue. The Twin Cities band is led by Jessie and Derrin Mathews who, along with their bandmates, craft plaintive and ethereal indie pop. 7 Years unfurls with a tambourine rattle, lapping acoustic guitars and the charming back and forth of boy-girl harmonies. Electric guitars, pounding tambourines and pummeled drums ratchet up the urgency on Up North, while a scattershot beat picks up the pace on Tuesday. The diaphanous After All acts as a panacea to those hot flashes, smoothing over ruffled emotions with sailing falsettos, ebbing guitars and the treacle of a glockenspiel. Once you’ve heard the dreamy and dynamic melodies of Cedar Avenue, you’ll be a fan till death do you part.


UTG: Footage of What Could Be Sonic Youth's Final Show Ever

Sonic Youth may have very well performed live for the final time last night. Don’t worry, we have the footage.

Taking into consideration Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon’s recent separation, the future of Sonic Youth has been unknown for months. Last night’s show at the SWU Music and Arts Festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil was the last on their website and no statement about future plans have been announced or revealed. You can view video from the show of the band performing Death Valley ’69³ after the jump.

Even if this is the end of Sonic Youth’s live run, that doesn’t necessarily rule out future studio albums. I know the future looks bleak to fans, but try and stay positive until we have more definite answers. We’ll let you know as soon as anything changes.

View original article on Under The Gun Review.

Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Grooms Go From Pavement To Peter Gabriel On 'Prom'

The Brooklyn-based trio Grooms debuted in 2010 with the album Rejoicer, prompting members of the press to haul out wheelbarrows full of references to ˜90s alt rock, with Pavement and Sonic Youth taking up the most room in the cart. Bandleader Travis Johnson admits that those comparisons were not completely without merit, but his band has moved into other realms with the follow-up, Prom. On this album we definitely moved away from some of the more classic ˜80s and ˜90s American indie-rock influences we’ve used before, he explains, We weren’t really thinking of those bands at all when we were making this record¦ They were probably fairly accurate [as comparisons] before, but they seem less accurate to me now.

Where Rejoicer bore a relatively straightforward production style that put the focus squarely on Johnson’s off-kilter guitar arithmetic, Prom is a shadowy record that plays a constant game of sonic hide-and-seek, offering flashes of rich textures that retreat evanescently before you can sink your teeth into them; it boasts a more 3-D approach to the recording process, turning the sounds emitted by Johnson, Emily Ambruso and Jim Sykes into a ghost army of funhouse-mirror reflections, teeming with complex textures and caroming constantly from bristling discord to fragile beauty and back again. So what was in Johnson’s Soundcloud during the making of Prom? For this record we were listening more to things like Broadcast or Tortoise or Peter Gabriel or something, he says. The post-rock references ring true, and what’s more, there’s a quality to the album that recalls the try-anything aesthetic of other, nearly forgotten ’90s acts of that ilk, like Long Fin Killie and Moonshake.

But there’s one influence that has left a deeper mark on Johnson’s songs than any band could, and that’s his ongoing struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Johnson has let it be known that much of his music is colored by his experiences with OCD, but going public with that kind of personal information wasn’t a snap decision for him. I actually did have hesitations about it, he says, not because I care about people knowing things like that about me, but because I hate when people exploit things like that. I think I was actually talking to my mom, who also has OCD, and she was just talking about how it’s not exploitative to talk about where the songs are coming from, which is largely through this really thick lens of OCD.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Harmony: Indie Rock Finds Its Voice(s)

Ask a music fan in their late 30s or 40s “ preferably one stuck in their formidable years, and not an old hipster “ to define indie rock as a sound, and you’ll unquestionably hear some semblance of these words: Loud. Abrasive. Anti-Authority. Forward-thinking. Think about indie-rock forebears, and some may even call them unlistenable: Sonic Youth reveled in noise; Lou Reed couldn’t sing to save his life; Michael Stipe’s lyrics made no sense. And yet, in the past few years, an unmistakable trend’s emerged that’s made indie rock something entirely different “ in a word, beautiful.

That trend is harmony, the melding of vocals singing different notes to create a full, hopefully gorgeous chord. Admittedly, harmony has been a trait of indie rock since the early years (Kim Deal and Frank Black dabbled, as did Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl) but only recently has it become an indie-rock trademark, rather than a side note. Blame (or thank) The Shins, whose New Slang made Natalie Portman swoon and Zach Braff famous six years ago, opened the door to indie-rock sensitivity in a way it’d never been opened before.

Only in the last couple of years has harmony become zeitgeist-y, though. First came the Fleet Foxes, the ultra-hyped, superbly bearded Seattle band whose atmospheric, folksy Sun Giant was the toast of 2008, thanks to singer Robert Pecknold’s harmonizing with all of his band mates to create glorious, seemingly impossible vocal collosi that are at once overwhelming and majestic. Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear broke out last year with Veckatimest, which took the Fleet Foxes lushness and weirded it up, the group-sings so striking, they won the band the top spot on the Wall Street Journal’s list of the best records of 2009. And now, Angelenos Local Natives take the trend a step further, with the foursome bringing the fuzz of electric guitars (and the jumpy rhythms of bands like the Talking Heads) to the party, busting out three-and-sometimes-four part harmonies that’re both electrifying and soothing, occasionally simultaneously. Listening to them “ or any of their predecessors “ may not be an anti-authority statement the way, say, listening to Iggy was in 1972, but so what: who needs attitude when you can have lusciousness, instead?

-Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller is the LA editor of Thrillist.com and has been writing about music professionally for over a decade for publications including the Los Angeles Times, Relix, and Esquire.com.