Posts Tagged ‘indie rock’

Allison Weiss – Say What You Mean review

So, I saw Allison Weiss at Bled Fest on Saturday. I didn’t know much about her or her music but when I saw her set with her full band, they put on an infectious, memorable and catchy show. I had to find out more about this band, so her LP “Say What You Mean” (released on No Sleep Records on April 16) was added to my Bled Fest merch bag (along with Tigers Jaw, Into It. Over It. and Kittyhawk LPs).

After listening to Weiss’ album over and over again, I thought I’d do a review.

After Bled Fest, I did a little research about Weiss and her musical career. She’s been doing the acoustic singer-songwriter thing for a few years now, releasing song videos on Youtube. She’s put out a few EPs, records and even toured with Lou Reed’s backing band in Europe. So, she’s got some impressive work behind her already.

Some of the songs are catchier than others but they all have a memorable quality about them. Opening track “Making It Up” has the most infectious kick drum-snare beat that will make you dance. The synth line in the song hooks you in. It’s a monster and will get stuck in your head for days. The bass is smooth yet anchors the song even more. Her vocal hooks draw you in too. “Tell me that I’m making it up and I’ll leave you alone” she sings with a confrontational confidence.

“Nothing Left” has a huge chorus too that sinks in quickly. It’s got a indie-synth pop vibe. It, again, makes you want to dance. “When you’re next to me, you get what’s left of me” Weiss harmonizes alongside an acoustic guitar and punching bass drum. It makes you feel like there’s something bigger coming and there is: the harmonies on the chorus are amazing and the drums go into uber-dance mode. So awesome.

“How to Be Alone” has vibes similar to Atlanta, GA band The Wild. The guitar tones feel a bit similar, particularly the power chords. Maybe it’s a coincidence that The Wild are from Atlanta and Weiss went to school at the University of Georgia but the sounds just cross pollinate, I think.  The end of this song is so sad. Weiss sounds like she’s going to breakdown crying as the repeated refrain of “all the time”, complete with great harmonies, comes in. Gets me every time. Later tracks “Don’t Go” and “Hole In Your Heart” (which Weiss calls her “mean song”)  draws more on the indie rocking side of her set. On the former, more jangly guitars pop in during the chorus as light chugging during the verses keeps the electric guitar in check. This woman has an excellent ear for harmonies, as again, they creep into your head. On the latter, the guitars are quiet during the verses but they burst in the chorus and bridge. The fuzzed bass helps add to the rough-around-the-edges feel too.

“Wait for Me” is a lyrical standout. Drawing on a lush and fitting arrangement of weeping orchestral strings and acoustic guitar, she sings with her heart on her sleeve (as she does throughout the entire album). “I’m missing out on all the places I could go, the people I could know, the nights I’m not alone/We’ll never make it and it wasn’t meant to be/But I’ll wait if you wait for me” she sings during the chorus. The ending refrain of “bye, goodbye” is heart-wrenching, honest and full of emotional power.

“Say What You Mean” is another incredibly yet simultaneously sad and upbeat song. A driving acoustic guitar strum dictates the pulse of the song. The sparse electric guitar line and sputtering drums add to the song’s quirk. The chorus is another monster with an great guitar line and harmonies. This is a masterpiece; it takes all of the elements up to this point (loud, memorable instrumentation, bubbly harmonies and personal-as-hell lyrics) and lets it rip. Best line of the album: “Too young to give a f*** and too young not to care and I’m fine with having fun but this is just unfair”. Raw honesty.

Album closer “I’ll Be OK” shows despite all the despair of a break up and roller coaster emotions, things will be alright. With hints of spoken word, Weiss lays it all out there. “I’ve got my guitar and you’ve got your space/I’m stuck in this place/I kind of don’t mind it/I’m losing my mind/Put off what’s important if it’ll buy me some time/Time to get braver/Time to postpone every failure I can’t seem to disown/And I’m still alone”….and that’s just the first verse. The ending refrain of “I’ll Be OK”, complete with an almost trip hop feel and choral harmonies and synths is the perfect ending to this album. For Weiss, it seems, there was a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s so resonate and bright you’ll definitely go back and listen to the album over and over again.

Next time, she is in Michigan (either by herself or with her full band) I will see her play.

Do yourself a favor and buy this album. You won’t regret it.

Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers release “Ego Loss…” Music Video

Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers released their newest music video for “Ego Loss on Grand River Avenue” yesterday. Filmed by MSU student Matt Hallowell during the Michigan State University homecoming parade last year, the video is one continuous take.

The band are currently working on new music, including their newest single “Home For a Funeral”, which is a free download on their website. Catch them opening for The Wallflowers and Lights at Commonground Music Festival in Lansing, MI tomorrow. Buy tickets here.

Elliot Street Lunatic tour blog Part 6: Home at last

After a week of excellent adventures, great shows and lots of driving, Elliot Street Lunatic and The Cutthroat Drifters played at Mac’s Bar in Lansing along with Detroit’s The Wall Clocks, Lansing’s Commodore Cosmos and Grand Rapids’ Simien The Whale.

Johnathan Mazzei (center) singer and guitarist for The Wall Clocks from Detroit, MI

The Wall Clocks played a damn good show. Lead singer and guitarist Johnathan Mazzei has the look of a ’50s doo wop guitarist with an old-school hollow body (which I can’t name) and microphone plus a full suit. Definitely had the look down. I enjoyed their brand of ’60s-esque psychedelic rock and roll. Their second guitarist even busted out a guitar solo cover of a Pink Floyd song. Good times from these dudes.

 

Simien The Whale and Commodore Cosmos played well too. I (admittedly) didn’t catch much of either set but I liked what I did here. Simien The Whale has a lot of slow, funky jams. Commodore Cosmos (a duo, with ESL’s Jason Marr on drums) with Jon Mickelson on guitar and vocals. I liked the stripped down nature of this band’s songs a lot. Solid drumming from Marr and lots of power chords from Mickelson. Cool stuff worth checking out.

Dave Meyers, guitarist for The Cutthroat Drifters

Later, The Cutthroat Drifters played a pumped, energetic set of rock and roll tunes for the crowd. Over the past few days of touring this band has gotten tighter and tighter and it showed here. Everything was rocked out and on time. Nick Kjolhede has the front man thing down pat. He definitely loves what he does, running around stage and engaging the audience. Definitely entertaining. Guitarist Dave Myers showed his chops, shredding but also jamming the blues. He can play with the best of ‘em.

The Cutthroat Drifters, from Denver, Colorado.

The drumming was great. Simple yet concise. Jeremy Robins (brother of ESL guitarist Eric Robins) played the bass, keeping time and mostly playing root notes. In a rock and roll band such as theirs, root notes and precision are important and the rhythm section do it perfectly.

Elliot Street Lunatic, after a week on the road, played the hell out of their songs. They shows on the road tested them as a band and a unit. They’ve come out of it even better than when they left. The rhythm section of Caleb Knight (drums) and Josh DeBrabander (bass) were tight, bouncy and powerful. Knight has definitely improved over the last week of shows and is definitely home behind the kit. He even sings echoing backup vocals, adding another layer to the band’s sound. Marr and Robins play their parts with a passion and energy that this past week of shows has only helped to increase. One of their newest songs, “Illuminate”, is bouncy and incredibly catchy. The verses will have you hooked.

The band were glad to be back in Lansing after a long week of shows. Here, Josh DebraBander (left) and Jason Marr (right) are featured.

Their set ended with usual closer “Lullaby” but with an extended outro with about 20 people (me included) singing along. With all that momentum, I couldn’t have imagined the band would play another song but they unexpectedly played “Dearly” from their first album “Stories from the Void”. A great end to the tour and a great week that none of us will forget.

 

 

Elliot Street Lunatic tour blog Part 5: Toledo, Ohio and back home to Lansing

Elliot Street Lunatic performed at the Ottawa Tavern in Toledo, OH.

We arrived in Toledo, Ohio at about 2pm after a long night driving through Illinois and Ohio after the show at Reggie’s Music Joint in Chicago. Seemingly arriving in Toledo extremely early, we were bored with nothing to do. We wandered around the city looking for a place to chill and relax but no luck. We went back to the Ottawa Tavern and sat in front of it for a while, chilling and watching Dragonball Z Kai. It’s been a long tour, and by now, the exhaustion has set in with all of us.

Caleb Knight (left, drums) has been playing with Elliot Street Lunatic since the beginning of the year. This show was the first time he has played in Toledo.

Later on, after more killing time, the show finally began at about 11pm with Elliot Street Lunatic. The band, tired like the rest of us, still played an excellent, energetic set although the bar patrons seemed a bit indifferent to them (and the other bands as well). It was definitely a fun show though and reminded us all of what was to come at their show in Lansing. The Toledo show was a warm up for both ESL and the Cutthroat Drifters.

With only three bands, the show would have seemed to go by quickly but it really felt slow and dragged on. Being in Toledo for that long with nothing to do took a toll on us all. The car ride home was a tiring but rewarding one: we were all finally home in Michigan.

Tonight is Elliot Street Lunatic’s return home show with some great bands including The Cutthroat Drifters and Commodore Cosmos.

Elliot Street Lunatic tour blog Part 2: ESL at Bender’s Tavern

Bender’s Tavern, in downtown Denver, was host to Elliot Street Lunatic’s tour kickoff on Saturday May 12. The bill was certainly one I wouldn’t expect ESL to play on. Hard rock and death metal opened and closed the show last night with bands like MF Ruckus and The Hookers playing along with ESL and the Cutthroat Drifters.

Josh and Caleb waiting in Bender's Tavern green room for their set to begin

The venue was really similar to Mac’s Bar in Lansing. In the green room, graffiti and band stickers covered the walls. Most of the bands with stickers on the walls I’d never heard of (and almost all of the band names were terrible too). Caleb, the band’s drummer, who, at 19 years old, was not allowed in the bar area of the venue so he had to wait in the green room before and after ESL played. Also interesting was the building itself: there were two rooms with two completely different shows going on. On one side, the ESL show with tables and a risen stage. On the other was a traditional country band, which actually felt more like a restaurant than a bar.  That was pretty neat.

I missed the first band and I didn’t really care that I did. ESL went on second.  The crowd, oddly and surprisingly consisted of a lot of Michigan friends of theirs, which was a nice surprise for them. Josh, the bassist, was even surprised with a visit from his friend Rachel. It felt like a local show in a way. The venue had the Mac’s Bar feel (but a lot more divey and scumey if you can believe that) and ESL felt at home playing Bender’s Tavern.

Eric and Jason playing during their set at Bender's Tavern on Saturday May 12.

Time seemed to move slowly during their set. The whole 20+ hour drive to Denver, the exhaustion, lack of sleep and gas station diets led to the show. They put a lot of their energy into trying to please the somewhat sparse crowd (maybe 30-40 people were there) and they seemed to do a good job. Opening with a cover of “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles, it seemed appropriate for the hard rock crowd. Playing originals like new song “Illuminate” (which is my new favorite song of theirs), Ghost Town, This Modern World and Lullaby went over well with the crowd. They turned some of the crowd into new fans, as some later bought CDs and T-shirts.

Josh playing bass during ESL's set

The Cutthroat Drifters put on a good set of hard rock and roll. Singer Nick Kjolhede is a great frontman, dancing and swinging the mic around like he’s dancing with it. Bands like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin influenced this band for sure. They play their instruments well and with energy. The guitar play is very good, playing licks and running up and down the guitar. Their show was a good time.

Today (Sunday May 13) is a chilled out day for all of us. Cookout, beer tunes via the record player will make for a good, relaxing day. Tomorrow morning will be the start of a week of shows, beginning in Lincoln Nebraska at the Bourbon Theater.

Music of Mount Pleasant: Newday Dreamers

So, I (Sean) have been in Mount Pleasant going to school at CMU since last August. In my time here, I’ve discovered a few great bands worth talking about. Mount Pleasant isn’t a town to sleep on. Although the scene may be small, it has some great artists and musicians. I’ll be doing a weekly series profiling local musicians here.

First up is Newday Dreamers.

The band is: Micah Bracken, Cody Armstrong, Ryan Heisler and (recently added member) Adam Marth.

Forming in 2008, the band has been making more waves in the last couple years. They played Mount Pleasant festival Midwest Fest last year at Rubble’s Bar. They’ve also played countless gigs at Rubble’s as well as Kaya Coffeehouse and Tea Co. With a sound encompassing indie pop and rock, the band can pull off a slower song but can also crank it into high gear. They played the 2012 edition of the Middle of the Mitten showcase and, at another show, an entire set of Talking Heads songs in East Lansing recently. Their song, “Cars”, is an excellent example of their technicality and skill as songwriters as well. The band have been playing more and more gigs outside of Mount Pleasant at places like Mac’s Bar in Lansing and even playing a gig soon down in Ypsilanti at Woodruff’s Bar. “Cars” is also in rotation on 91.5 FM in Mount Pleasant and 88.9 The Impact in Lansing as well. Expect great things from this band in the future.

Check them out on Facebook, Tumblr and Bandcamp.

Happy Human “Pale is the New Tan” EP Review

Happy Human, a side project of Elliot Street Lunatic, is releasing a new EP this Friday at Mac’s Bar. The EP is entitled “Pale is the New Tan”. Happy Human is Jordan Hahn (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion) Jason Marr (drums, bass, guitar, vocals, synth, percussion) and Liz McDaniel (synth, piano, vocals).

Here’s a review.

I don’t like to describe things as “cute” but that’s really the only word I can use to accurately describe the overall feeling of this record. Everything about the record has a child-like innocence to it. The synths on “Like Robots Do” sound like they’re coming straight from a children’s cartoon like Blue’s Clues or something similar. The drums, all via a drum machine, are simple. The hand claps help add to the childish, cute attitude here.

The title track features a rotating, circular drum beat as well as a single kick drum as Hahn’s drone of a voice says “You’re cold but your heart is warm/you emit too much carbon dioxide/you’re pale just like me/soon you’ll see that you’ll be alright…”. His voice (as a few others have said) has a Lou Reed sing-talk, monotony to it. It, at first, is a novelty but then after a few songs it begins to lose its luster. Thankfully, the backup vocals from McDaniel and Marr (along with friends CJ Kjolhede and Elon Parker) helps to spice up the monotony.

My favorite song on this EP is “You Are the Best”. I love the summer-envisioning acoustic guitar chords and the kick drum pounding. “I can’t wait any longer/To get this off my chest/I just have to tell you/That you are the best” Hahn sings with an affirming, yet subtle vocal. Backing vocals from Marr help add to the catchiness. I love the instrumentation. A piano, acoustic guitar and a kickdrum are all that’s used here. I was starting to get sick of the cutsey synth and dancebeats. Unfortunately, this song is in the middle of the EP.

I am aware that this EP was written, recorded and totally finished in about a month, so I can understand why some of the instrumentation was not varied as there wasn’t much time to try new things. What I do like about the second half of this EP is the lengthy instrumental section on “New Feeling”. I love the guitar solo; the tone of the guitar is subdued yet bright and sunny.

Go see them play at Mac’s Bar with Roll Over Radio, This is My Suitcase and Commodore Cosmos this Friday at 6pm. Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 the day of. The show is All Ages.

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