I will forever sing the praises of Wil Farr, and not just because we have the same birthday. Dude’s been making some of my favorite tunes for the past decade or so, and since teaming up with his latest band, Hurrah! A Bolt of Light!, things have been really jiving. Hurrah!’s fan-funded, self-titled second album feels like a natural evolution from the band’s debut.
Hurrah’s 2011 album, Hello!, was a balanced blend of alt-country sincerity and unbridled rock energy. My favorite song from the band’s full-length debut, “One Drink,” took a simple melody and ran like hell with it. It is still one of my go-to rage therapy aids.
On the new release, Hurrah! reins in that fury a bit, resulting in something that sounds a bit more mature and refined. Compared to early demo recordings of several songs on this album, the band clearly made an effort to sand things down on this outing. “Hands in the Bees’ Nest” particularly reached fruition with a deeper elegance than its original manifestation, trading Farr’s bristling growls for anguished cries.
The album opens strong with “I Sold My Soul,” a relatively upbeat tune showered with handclaps and a catchy chorus of “oh whoa oh”s. It’s easily the most fun, accessible song the band’s put out, and even carries what sounds to be a sweet plea of everlasting (even if a bit futile) love. It’s an appropriate reintroduction to the many talents within the group, Jacob Pleakis returning to pound out keys, Kenny Shaw kickin’ it on the drums, a low bassline from Doug Drewes, and driving guitar licks from Dave Freedman accompanying the stylings of bandleader Farr.
Sargent House continues to make me feel as if there’s hope out there. I had the joy of seeing one of my favorite drummers, Chris Common, play with the band Marriages for this tour. Then you add the amazing talent of Kerry and George from Deafheaven, who headlined the tour, and a beautiful, symbiotic relationship in the most simplest terms is translated onstage. The lineup took me in places where music should: Outside of your comfort level. How these two got paired together is an enigma of the greatest sorts; truly genuine music from extremely talented people.
I’ll open with Marriages. The two main band members, Emma and Greg, who gained popularity in Red Sparowes, continued on and have recorded their debut album, Kitsune. Greg and Emma are two people who just, simply put, play extremely well together. Emma’s hauntingly beautiful voice and even equally beautiful guitar playing have such an emotional quality, you feel every note. Greg’s synth tracks add little flourishes to his solid bass playing that propels every song. This is my second time seeing them live and the first time Dave Turncratz from Russian Circles supported them on drums. As I mentioned, Chris Common went out with them on this tour and held everything together perfectly.
Now for the headliners, who went on tour supporting their second release, Sunbather, out on Deathwish. Deafheaven has evolved in ways everyone thought unimaginable. A new era to the classic thoughts on black metal, Deafheaven draws inspiration from U2 and Morrissey among many other bands not in the genre. That is what sets them apart. They weave a complex web of soft and fast passages. The journey taken is fought and won with every song. The song “The Pecan Tree” is most likely their finest song, opening with pure energy and moving you in so many directions. The title track proves how this band has progressed musically and emotionally as a band.
Gaytheist‘s second full-length album with Good To Die Records, Hold Me…But Not So Tight, was just released this spring and, in short time, delivered to me on beautiful 160 gram white/pink haze vinyl. I was turned onto Gaytheist with their 2012 album Stealth Beats. Their frantic punk riffs — compliments of Tim Hoff, Nick Parks — Jason Rivera’s vocals, and lyrics entangled me into the days of my youth as an avid punk kid.
I frantically rushed inside and put the record on my turntable. I had been holding out, not listening to any songs on the Internet, not spoiling the moment. I contemplated my beverage choice in my kitchen as the first track, “Starring In ‘The Idiot’,” started and ended faster than I could grab a drink. Now that’s punk rock. Rolling right into the next few tracks, I sat down with my beer, closed my eyes, and rythmically bopped my head around. “60 Easy Payments” downshifted the gears and instead of fast-paced trash, they get heavy, but with a lyrical humor that you makes ya chuckle a bit, ’cause most adults have been there.
This is Gaytheist, a perfect blend of punk and what have you. Getting into the album a bit more, there’s pop, punk and some delicious licks that make you feel accepted into whatever party is happening. You are the “it” crowd.
Surf rock seems to be a genre that’s withstood generations of musical shifts, relentless all through the psychedelic ’60s, the metal ’70s, the synthy ’80s, the alternative ’90s, and straight into the new millennium. Even when it didn’t sound like it rode a wave right onto your speakers’ shores, there’s never really been a time since its inception that it couldn’t be heard in abundance.
So some could say that albums like sister surf rock group Bleached‘s debut full-length Ride Your Heart are a dime a dozen. Especially among established contemporaries such as the Drums, Best Coast, Wavves, Veronica Falls, and Tennis. And those people wouldn’t be totally wrong. There’s certainly been a surge in today’s indie rock banks of this particular style, and at times these melodies can start to all sound very much the same.
But there’s a reason why music like this maintains such a strong presence. Its sound embodies a feeling of freedom from everyday life. In all its potential to be mundane, its mere existence symbolizes an escape from the mundane. Those surf guitars send your mind straight to the beach, which is a common place people consider a break from reality, relaxing in the sun and sand, splashing around in the water to wash your cares right away. You can be just sitting at your desk, but when these songs play, you’re taken there, and it’s such a release.
Bleached doesn’t try to mess with this formula, instead keeping the style pretty classic on Ride Your Heart. At times, Jennifer and Jessie Clavin sound like Joey and Johnny Ramone incarnate — especially on album opener “Looking for a Fight” and the subsequent “Next Stop” — but with more reverb.
For the past 10 or so years, the girls in Eisley have been making music that is just as sun drenched as their homestate of Texas, thanks to the sugary sweet angel voices of the sisters Dupree (that’s guitarist/vocalist Sherri Dupree-Bemis, keyboardist/vocalist Stacy King, and guitarist Chauntelle D’Agnosto, who make up the majority of the family band with the help from male Duprees Weston on drums and Garret on bass).
The first time I heard of Eisley was back when the sisters were all blonde babes, mostly still in their teens, doing opening duty for Coldplay (though I don’t like to admit I once paid for a Coldplay concert — I swear, they used to be cool and I was real young). I remember being struck by the overwhelming beauty of the band’s melodies, not to mention the fact that the girls looked like they could have been long lost Lisbon sisters, with matching pale locks and wide, sad eyes, their gorgeous songs always tinged with a sort of melancholy (see early cut “I Wasn’t Prepared”) and occasional creepiness (“Marvelous Things”) that lent the band an eerie Grimm’s brother quality.
Time has been kind to the Duprees, with each record since the self-released EPs they were slinging at that Coldplay concert of yore charting a very clear artistic growth and progression. The girls have left the songs about dragons behind but have perfected their dreamy, fairy tale sound. On their fourth full-length release, Eisley delivers more of the same songs they’ve become known for with their extraordinary melodical grace.
If you have liked anything Eisley has released in the past, you’ll probs be crazy for Currents (Released on Equal Vision May 28th). The album is even strong enough to win over new fans, as well. As a longtime Eisley listener, however, I feel as if the difference between the band’s two songwriters, Bemis and King, has become almost too pronounced, lending the album a slightly stunted feel. Bemis embraces mainstream pop-punk sensibilities with her songs’ chugging structures, while King (who also performs with the amazing Sucre) goes for a more understated beauty on her tracks. It’s that dreamy quality that leads King to take MVP of this album, with her songs “Real World” and “Lost Enemies” lingering in the listener’s head long after the melodies have dissipated.
Pop-punk’s pulse beat strong in the mid- to late ’90s, but somewhere around the turn of the century, it seemed to trickle out. That’s not to say it disappeared, but the sound in general grew stale, as new styles of rock (often borrowing from old styles) emerged in the forefront. With Allison Weiss‘ new album, Say What You Mean, that brand sounds fresh again. Weiss doesn’t necessarily bring much new to the table, but something about her interpretation of the genre brought it back to life in my ears. Her solid power chords, classic yet stimulating, and vocals that convey emotion as much as the lyrics themselves probably have a lot to do with it.
Music can be so powerful when its effect on you is not only visceral, but emotional. I think that’s where Weiss won me over with this release, because her heartbreak is so relatable — as heartbreak is wont to be, I suppose. She covers a decent range of scenarios that can come from a rough break-up, using varied levels of sass to drive her point throughout the album.
Say What You Mean opens with “Making It Up,” a relatively light, poppy tune, implementing a bit of synth atop the basic guitar/bass/drums set-up. The song pleads to an ex-lover who’s acting like whatever they had together never happened: “Am I making it up? Was it not what you said? Was I never the one? Was it all in my head?” This juxtaposition of cheerful melody to despondent lyrics is always a satisfying angle, because instead of burying the listener in sad feelings, it uplifts them.