Single Reviews

Review: Arliss Nancy / Those Crosstown Rivals – Split 7″

tcrMuch has been said for American rock n’ rollers Arliss Nancy around these parts. Their new album Wild American Runners is easily one of the most stellar releases of 2013. This new 7” split from Shitstarter Records is both a great way to acquire some short run Arliss Nancy vinyl and a great way to discover this split’s other recording artist Those Crosstown Rivals. The latter, taking a page from the same Americana-drenched rock n’ roll book as Arliss Nancy, are a little less polished and more cow-punked, but still boast the same kind of urgency and guitar-fueled reflection as their split counterparts.

The 7” version of this release features a track each, the Wild American Runners featuring “Both Got Old” from Arliss Nancy and “Look At Me” by Those Crosstown Rivals. While the AN cut is from an album, the TCR song is something we haven’t heard yet, and it’s a rollicking train of Southern-flavored rock that’s got a little bit of classic Against Me! in it too.

For those who purchase this release digitally, you get two bonus tracks for your troubles; “Can’t Go Back” and “Kentucky Woman” from the artists respectively. Both are added reasons to sink your teeth into either band as they are both crafting songs of their genre with great success. You can’t go wrong with either band so why not get both?

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The Arliss Nancy / Those Crosstown Rivals Split 7″ is available now via Shitstarter Records. You can listen to Those Crosstown Rivals’ “Look At Me” below:

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Album Reviews

Review: Five Iron Frenzy – Engine of a Million Plots

EngineofaMillionPlotsIn my review for Less than Jake’s See The Light, I made mention of several bands who always held the third wave ska flag high with their craft. For some reason, I forgot to mention Five Iron Frenzy, who after a ten-year hiatus are back with a kindling of new songs, tied together with a deft ribbon titled Engine of a Million Plots. In hindsight, this oversight is made ever more glaring upon repeated listens of the new album, a wonderfully nostalgic but incredibly refreshing repaving of an old road.

That old road, third wave, has seen a remarkable rekindling over the last few weeks, most notably from their “old guard” of established acts still breathing the fire they did when they first burst on to their respective musical landscapes. Five Iron Frenzy, perhaps slightly less on the forefront than say Less than Jake or the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were during their height of popularity, had been one of the more consistent acts. Their albums were always good, in many ways. My most compelling recollection was their album Our Newest Album Ever!, a sprightly, homely at times, wind in your hair ska/punk album that dug deep into the core of what it was growing up during these times.

Now a decade removed from their last output, Five Iron Frenzy continue their remarkable track record with songs still entrenched in their love of ska, rock and punk, while being in tune with the contemporary world around them. The album’s musical output is as strong as ever; with tracks like the up-tempo “We Own The Skies” and “Against a Sea of Troubles” showcasing their impeccable blending of ska and punk while “So Far” (candidate for best song they’ve ever written?) is your uplifting anthem driving home the band’s trademark tone and message.

There’s an energy and vibrancy to this album that you’d think would dissipate after all these years, but it seems the ten-year gap has not only re-energized the band, but has armed them with a bounty of material. There is a greater injection of alternative rock than we’ve seen in the past, but the amalgamation of the band’s past with its present and future comes together in an incredibly rewarding manner.

As songs like “I’ve Seen The Sun” and “Blizzards & Bygones” close out proceedings, you are left with a certain blessing of musical enlightenment and artistic satisfaction. There is depth in the album but there is also a great feeling of warmth through it all. With the Engine of a Million Plots, we’re taken on the ups and downs of life and music with poise and grace. An enriching and rewarding listen.

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Five Iron Frenzy’s new album Engine Of a Million Plots is available from the Five Iron Frenzy store. Check out their video for “Zen and the Art of Xenophobia” below:

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Sight & Sound

VIDEO: Arliss Nancy – “Both Got Old”

Without doubt, one of my favorite records this year was Arliss Nancy’s Wild American Runners, a record I said “put the American in American Rock Music“. It’s the truth, and in support of the record the band have just unveiled the video for the track “Both Got Old”.

Simple, straight forward, a little rustic, but as American as can be without it becoming a John Mellencamp video. There’s a lot of beard action going in the video but don’t let that be a deterrent of any kind.

The song is from Wild American Runners but is also a cut from a split 7″ the band released with Those Crosstown Rivals which features a track from the band each, but if you purchase the record digitally, you get two bonus tracks to go along with it. The 7″ is available physically and digitally via Shit Starter Records.

Check out the video below:

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Sight & Sound

Listen: Bruce Springsteen – “High Hopes”

One of the most memorable things about seeing Bruce Springsteen live this past March was his incredible energy through the near 4-hour show. Springsteen shows no signs of slowing down either as a new album, his eighteenth, is due out January 2014. The new material will be followed by another trek across the globe (including Australia) next February.

The album, titled High Hopes, features the reworked title track originally recorded back in 1995 as part of the Greatest Hits sessions. The song has been re-recorded and will be the lead off single from the album, and the new version can be heard below. The new version of the song came from the suggestion of touring member and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who had convinced Springsteen to add the song to their recent set list.

Springsteen recalls the events leading up the song’s reworked Morellosization;

[quote]”I was working on a record of some of our best unreleased material from the past decade when Tom Morello (sitting in for Steve during the Australian leg of our tour) suggested we ought to add “High Hopes” to our live set.  I had cut “High Hopes,” a song by Tim Scott McConnell of the LA based Havalinas, in the 90?s.  We worked it up in our Aussie rehearsals and Tom then proceeded to burn the house down with it.  We re-cut it mid tour at Studios 301 in Sydney along with “Just Like Fire Would,” a song from one of my favorite early Australian punk bands, The Saints (check out “I’m Stranded”).  Tom and his guitar became my muse, pushing the rest of this project to another level.  Thanks for the inspiration Tom.”[/quote]

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Featured, Interviews

The Astronaut: An Interview with Lights & Motion

From the embers of a thousand stars comes the music of Lights & Motion; the musical project of Christoffer Franzen. A self-taught musician of introspection, his music is a dream-like journey into the stories of his imagination. Written through the clouds of insomnia, Franzen has painted the night sky with his latest album Save Your Heart. Released via noted indie label Deep Elm Records just months after his debut, Save Your Heart has received praise and accolades from countless sources, all citing Franzen’s ability to turn the greatest of human inspiration into music.

We sit down with Franzen to talk about his craft, his passion and where his journey will take his listeners.

Congrats on the release, how does it feel now that the album is out after all those months of work?

Thank you!

Well you know, it’s sort of a weird feeling, because I have been working so hard and so focused towards making this album a reality that I haven’t really stopped and taken a look around. I never took a break after releasing Reanimation, my first album, because once that was done I got this feeling that I kind of have right now, which is a feeling a completion in the sense that this has been the big goal all along, but also a bit of emptiness due to the fact that this is something thats been taking up most of my life for this past year. You go from working 40 hours a week non-stop on this thing and then all of the sudden it’s done, it’s out, and people hear it for the first time and it’s somewhat scary. It’s been yours alone for such a long time and then you get to share it with the world, and I think that this is something that all creative people experience, the gratitude of having your work being noticed and the fear of letting it go, and to say that this actually is the finished thing, and I’m not going to work on it anymore. It’s out of my hands. I feel proud

What about all the overwhelmingly positive feedback?

The feedback, as you said, has been overwhelmingly positive and that’s so humbling, I can’t tell you. Because you don’t really think about this things when you are in the middle of the process, or the eye of the storm as I like to call it, because then it seems so far away until a possible release, so you sort of just focus on the music and that lays before you. But to get this much appreciation is extremely fun and something I never count on because who knows what people are going to think. But for the most part, the thing that makes me really amazed is that people still take time of their day to actually sit down and listen to something that I’ve created. That still blows my mind, and to be able to share this music with people from all around the world, it gives me endless joy. The feeling is like you are alone in the creation, because I always work alone on these Lights & Motion albums, it’s just me in a dark studio all through the nights, but then you walk out the door when it’s all finished and suddenly I feel like I’m in a band of 30,000 people, it’s absolutely amazing. I really feel like I have a close bond with my fans, and maybe it has something to do with what I just mentioned before, being alone in the creative space, but I feel such a commitment to them, and it’s that personal interaction that makes me work that much harder in order to achieve my goals.

How did you get started with the “self-learning” of music?

That’s a good question. I first started playing guitar when I was 16, that was the time I got my first ever acoustic guitar for christmas, so I began pretty late. Then I practiced for probably 4-5 hours every day (my poor mom and dad) and then I got into bands and all these things that you do as a young musician.

After a few years of things not really taking off, I started to feel this itch to not having to depend on other people for creative purposes. I used to wish that I was a singer and not just a guitar-player because then I actually could steer the ship a bit more and not be forced to check the schedules of 4 other people with busy lives.

I managed to get access to a studio, a very simple set-up, and during a time of sleep depravation and insomnia I started to basically spend all my nights there by myself, just fiddling on different instruments and ideas. I used to record small pieces of music that sounded awful, but I loved it because it gave me such creative freedom.

I would go there on saturday nights while everyone was out partying, and I wanted to join them but I just couldn’t let go off the studio. Just 30 more minutes I would say when they called and I would be there until 5 am.

Eventually after battling with this thought that I wanted to do something by myself, I decided to buy a bass-guitar, some drumsticks, I started to play the piano, and even though I didn’t really know any theory, I could hear when it resonated and that was a big kick. So I would try all these different instruments and record myself over and over in layers so that I could make it sound huge and not just like one guy in a dark room. I just had such a need for control and I knew exactly what I wanted, so I ended up doing every single sing by myself. I learned all the instruments I needed for what I could hear in my head, I recorded and recorded and recorded until my ears bled, and slowly I got better at it

I now have two albums out, and still I have no formal training. I have been responsible for composing, playing, arranging, engineering, producing and even mixing. And that’s what I always wanted. To be able to go from the first fleeting idea to a finished product without breaking the chain of command, which in this case is just me.

I have never actually considered myself to be that musically gifted. I always just said that you just gotta put in the hours and practice. And a lot of that self doubt was blown away after I took the courage to record Reanimation. And that I owe everyone out there who has emailed me, written on Facebook or soundcloud about how they enjoyed the music and made it a part of their day. That was incredibly humbling for me, and for that I will always be grateful.

Save Your Heart comes less than a year after your debut, how did it come around so quickly- was it just natural inspiration to keep writing?

After Reanimation was out I felt that I had so much creativity left that I didn’t want to stop. I jumped right in and started recording ideas, the first of them being ”Heartbeats”, the opening track. Even though it was written probably 1 month after the first album was out, I already knew it was going to open my second album, whenever that was going to be or whatever it was going to sound like. Then of course I would sit on things for months, just listening back and forth and adding sprinkles of sonic fairy dust and try to really make it shine in it’s own right. I tend to work like that; very fast and effective when laying down the foundation, but then I spend an enormously long time finding the sound for things, getting into the arrangements and the production side of things. In the opening track there is probably 80-90 different tracks layered, and if you listen really carefully in good speakers I’m sure you would be able to make it a lot of details in the background, ambient movements and stuff that you might not think much about but if you were to take those sounds out, a lot of the magic of the song is lost.

How did you and Deep Elm come together? It seems like the perfect fit for both of you.

Deep Elm signed me back in 2012, after hearing one of my first tracks called ”Home”, which was released on my first album, but back then it was only a demo. I knew them through Dorena who I had met in the studio, and I thought that they would be a perfect fit for my vision of this project. Since then, John (who runs Deep Elm) and I have been working very close throughout this entire process. They give me complete trust and creative space, and I look to them for everything surrounding the releases to the day to day givings of me sending them tracks and asking for their opinion. Its’s been working really well I got to say, for the both of us. I’m just grateful we got the chance to meet because it was a series of small stuff that led us there.

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Listen to music from Save Your Heart:

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You talk about music similar to painting and how your songs have a certain hue to them, what are your favourite “colours” to paint with at the moment?

Yeah that’s right, and I understand that it might be a hard and abstract concept to grasp but I really do think of music in terms of colors. If something sounds earthbound and calm I immediately think of colors like yellow and brown, whilst sounds that have a big quality and a sort of distance to them are blue/violet to me, and blue/violet was exactly what I wanted to bring into this record, Save Your Heart. This is all very visible in the artwork as well, done by an amazing artist called Elias Klingen. I went to him and I pretty much said; “Look. I have all these colors in mind and I want to make em shine and blend together to represent the music I’m writing for this album. It’s called ‘Save Your Heart’, so maybe that could be a starting-point for you. I want the colors to feel alive and to illustrate the sonic identity of this record.” He did an amazing job, I couldn’t be happier with the results.

I wanted this album to venture higher up in the skies, towards the stratosphere, and then stay there. In comparison, Reanimation is more earthy for me, it takes place down here while Save Your Heart is up above the clouds in terms of the sonic identity.

What was your process for writing Save Your Heart, did you write a lot of the material at once, or was it more of a gradual process?

I never really took a break, but the process was different. Some stuff came right away and then I worked on it for months. Snow was an early one, and I probably did 3 different versions of the outro before settling on the one you hear now, and that’s also how I work. I search for that, in my mind, perfect thing.

Some of the tracks like “Save Your Heart” and “Atlas” came to life just 3-4 weeks before the mastering was scheduled to begin. Then we have tracks like “Sparks”, “Bright Eyes” and “We Are Ghosts”, who have in one way or another been sitting around on tapes for years. I tried to dust them off and I obviously changed a lot of things within them but It’s kind of funny to think that these demos I made back when I was just alone in a studio with no name or anything, would end up on this album all this time later. Very rewarding for me personally.

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Your songs have a very dream-like, stratospheric aura to them— would you say that Save Your Heart has a distinct “theme” or story to it?

I always try to think conceptually and visually while I write. Reanimation came from me not being able to sleep, and by chance discovering this amazing world which I would get lost in, and I never wanted to wake up. I would sit in my studio at winter, 4 in the morning, looking out the window and see everything being lit up and covered by snow, and I would feel like I was the only living person awake in the entire city. That was pretty magical sometimes. For Save Your Heart, I really wanted it to be an escapism as well, but the main thing for me with this one was that determination of having the courage to go with your passion, and not cave in even though it’s easy to do. This project takes up a huge amount of time and effort in my life, and sometimes it’s hard you know? You see friends and family doing “proper” jobs and giving in to the “conformity” of society. At times it’s a struggle not to let your passion go because it’s hard doing this. And that is really what Save Your Heart is for me. It’s an encouragement to stick with the things you love and see them through. If you find that thing, you owe it to yourself to keep it alive. I think that’s extremely important. For me it is.

Do you have a particular track on Save Your Heart you can say was the most satisfying to complete?

Well it’s hard because every song has different things related to it, but if I have to pick one I would say “Heartbeats”. Simply because that song turned out exactly as I had hoped, and it was the foundation on which I would then proceed on with the other songs of the album.

Will you be touring in support of the record?

I would love to tour, but right now it’s not planned at all. I spend so much time writing this music that once I’m done, I sort of step out into the world again from my studio and realize that it’s a much bigger place then I remembered, and so if I were to tour I would want to do it just as had envisioned it, like I did with my music.

It would take a lot of planning and ambition, and I have simply not had the time to do that properly yet with touring. But I’m thinking about it a lot now so who knows..

Now that you’ve conquered the stars so to speak, where do you go next with Lights & Motion music?

Haha, well I definitely want to keep writing. I might release some new music next year and in the meantime I want to keep writing film music which I have been doing a lot this part year in between the more traditional L&M songs, and these pieces of music has become quite popular on Soundcloud, so that’s a big ambition right now.

I would love to score a film someday. That’s a big dream of mine for sure. I am such a movie-goof and I probably check IMDB on my phone 5 times everyday for new trailers, so being able to score one one day would be so cool.

Who knows..

If listeners can take one thing away from your music, what would you like that one thing to be?

A sense of hope.

 

Lights & Motion’s new album, Save Your Heart, is available now via Deep Elm Records. You can read our review for it here.

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Sight & Sound

Video: RDGLDGRN – “Power Ups”

Here is the new video from Washington, DC trio RDGLDGRN, who manage to do what so few can; successfully blend hip hop with rock and indie. It’s refreshing, decidedly contemporary, but also pushing forward in directions new to the ear.

Not bad for material on a debut album, which is out now and simply titled RDGLDGRN (which, for those who haven’t quite picked up yet, is Red Gold Green).

They’re touring too, all over the world and will be Australia in a few weeks before heading back to the US for a lengthy tour. Details are below.

Tour Dates:
11/22 – London, UK @ Underworld#
11/23 – Bern, Switzerland @ Festhalle*
11/24 – Vienna, Austria @ Wiener Stadthalle*
11/29 – Brisbane, Australia @ RNA Showgrounds **
11/30 – Coffs Harbour, Australia @ Coffs Harbour Showground **
12/1 – Sydney, Australia @ Barangaroo **
12/6 – Canberra, Australia @ Exhibition Park **
12/7 – Melbourne, Australia @ Birrarug Marr **
12/8 – Adelaide, Australia @ Ellis Park **
12/27 – Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live ^^^
12/29 – Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall
1/31 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues ^^
2/7 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza ^^
2/8 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza ^^
2/13 – South Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground ^^
2/14 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa ^^
2/15 – Toronto, ON @ the Annex Wreckroom ^^
2/16 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar ^^
2/18 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom ^^
2/19 – Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall ^^
2/20 – Chicago, IL @ Metro ^^
2/21 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre ^^
2/22 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line ^^
2/23 – Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room ^^
2/25 – Denver, CO @ Gothic Theatre ^^
2/26 – Salt Lake City, UT @ the Complex ^^
2/28 – Seattle, WA @ Crocodile Cafe ^^
3/1 – Portland, OR @ Peter’s Room at Roseland ^^
3/2 – Eugene, OR @ Wow Hall ^^
3/5 – Santa Cruz, CA @ Catalyst Atrium ^^
3/6 – San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s ^^
3/7 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey ^^
3/8 – San Diego, CA @ Soma ^^
3/9 – Tempe, AZ @ Club Red ^^
3/10 – Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad ^^
3/14 – Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s ^^
3/15 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues ^^
3/16 – Oklahoma City, OK @ the Conservatory ^^
3/18 – Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco ^^
3/19 – Atlanta, GA @ Centerstage at Midtown Complex ^^
3/20 – Charlotte, NC @ Visulite Theatre ^^
3/21 – Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts ^^

* Vans Warped Tour Europe
** Vans Warped Tour Australia
# The Kevin Says Tour w/ Itch, Hype Theory, Ghost Town
^^ w/ Aer
^^^ w/ Soja

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Headlines, Music

Bob Dylan, let’s never do interactive again

Is Bob Dylan dead? He’s not right? I’m pretty sure the most famous marbled-voice folk troubadour is still alive and relatively well. I know he’s a little aged now, and sometimes, when he speaks, we have no idea what he’s saying- snapping out of it only during his most sanguine times- with his guitar. But really, there’s got to be a reason for this right?

An explanation is needed for this, his much talked about and heavily shared ‘interactive’ video for “Like A Rolling Stone”. The concept for this new media venture is you, the user, being given the opportunity to “make” a new video for one of Dylan’s most celebrated tracks. Now “make” is generously used here, and before you get your Michel Gondry/Spike Jonze video dreams up, let’s just say that the interactivity featured here is about as interactive as Night Trap the game was back in 1992. Which to say, wasn’t very interactive at all.

For sexed up males in 1992, Night Trap was a schlocky, and quite terrible, “sexy” video game made up of footage that was meant to be interactive. But unlike the games of today, all you could do with actual video footage was switch between scenes, hoping to catch up a glimpse of a half naked coed as she was stalked in her house.

This new interactive video gives you about as much control as Night Trap– except the “clever” part is that the video they use (synced footage from made up TV shows, movies, news broadcast) is singing along to “Like A Rolling Stone”.

I fumbled about, slightly confused as the video rolled footage from a reality show called “Bachelor’s Roses” (yes, that nice lady pictured above is singing a Dylan song). It left me wondering who these people were and thought maybe it was just an ad playing before the footage. Turns out, this WAS the footage I got to be ‘interactive’ with. I managed to get a few minutes into the video before I realized I couldn’t do anything but change channels and turn the volume up and down. Neil McCormick of The Telegraph asks; “is the interactive new video any good?”

No Neil, it’s not. It’s terrible.

What’s the point of this exercise? Perhaps Dylan, or more specifically, his label/management/PR, are just trying something new.

Perhaps this is all terrible because it’s Dylan and the footage used would best be kept on the TLC scrapheap. Either way, Bob, please, let’s never do interactive again.

The concept isn’t entirely at fault. What if you could make a Dylan video made up of old 60s footage? Now there’s an interactive video that would be worth your time.

Just imagine.

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