Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tonight's Entertainment: The Interview

Last week I caught up with Tyler "Sweet T" Thurman of Tonight's Entertainment, who together with drummer Nick Layman creates sweeping soundscapes of electronic rock. I got the chance to ask him a few questions about their new EP, Drive-By Shootings.

Paisley Music: How did you get started in writing and recording music? Is there anything in particular that inspires you?


Tyler Thurman: I got my first guitar for x-mas one year when I was about 12 or so, but after just a few beginner lessons with a teacher who never showed up, we quit and never found a replacement. My guitar just collected dust for a year or so, and then I slowly but surely began to teach myself to play, with the help of my cousin.

A few years ago I branched out into other instruments and found that my true love is the piano. I realized that I had a passion for music and that if I could spend the rest of my life putting together songs that someone would like, I would be happy. So I began programming beats and instrumentals to play guitar and sing over, and continued to practice guitar and keys until my music naturally evolved into what it is today.

PM: You use a lot of vocal clips to great effect in your music--for instance, the background chatter in "Talking in My Sleep," or the film clip and children's laughter in "A Clockwork Orange." What makes you decide to put a clip in, and how do you go about recording or selecting them?

TT: I try not to use samples in every single song I do, and I don't like to take it to the point that it distracts or takes away from the song at all, but a lot of times I feel that certain sounds or samples nestled into certain songs really add a whole new color and element to the them. Obviously, I sometimes like to use them as a way to emphasize certain phrases or themes to my songs, like the children in A Clockwork Orange coming in as I sing "And the children get excited" etc. But some of my biggest influences and favorite artists use a lot of ambient sounds and samples as almost a replacement for pads and other ambient instrumental sounds to add extra flavor and realism to things.

I look at songs the same way I look at a book and the author. If I read a book and I can picture in my mind exactly the place that the author is trying to describe and paint in my mind, then I consider them to be a successful writer. So when I choose a sample for a song, I try to add things that will help paint the picture I want and really just help take the listener to the place that I want them to go, if that makes sense. I think the best part of music is its ability to transport people and take them places, like an escape that can be taken with you anywhere you want to go. I love drawing that out of songs as much as possible, and I have found that good use of samples and sound clips can really help a lot.

PM: How often do you play live as Tonight's Entertainment? What are your shows like?

TT: Honestly, we have only played two shows together, but they were both with our former band (The Pinstripes). We decided that until we had finished the entire EP and album that we would wait on playing live, so that we could focus all our creative energies on one of those aspects at a time, because I believe they are both very important, but also very time consuming.

We have plans to start prepping for live performances as soon as the album is done, but we really plan on just keeping it local and playing in cities around Louisville that we can drive to and back in a day, as so on. Once we get a record deal or get to a place where we have the money to really tour long distance, I want to get away from traditional touring and gigs, and I want to perform almost a rock opera type of dark musical with a kind of creepy version of Alice in Wonderland feel to it. I'm writing the script right now, but it’s a long, slow process. There is really no telling how people will react, but I have high hopes that if I can get enough people behind me to put it together the way I see it in my mind, it could be a huge success.

PM: What's the story behind the EP's name, Drive-By Shootings?

TT: The album (which is not yet named) is basically a concept album in a way, but only in the sense that it has an overall prevailing theme. The theme of the album is that morality, caring, honesty, respect, and most other good qualities are no longer valued in our media, culture, and society as a whole like they should be. Entertainment in today's world has basically become naked women with unrealistic proportions, blood and violence for no reason, and restraint-free living where everyone just does whatever makes them feel happy in the moment, without regard to one another's well being or happiness. It's why things continue to get worse in the world, and not better. I wanted to write a collection of songs that basically "call out" our culture and society as a whole, and just be willing to speak up and ask the question "Is there really no one left who realizes this is wrong?"

I decided that I wanted this theme to be prevalent in the EP as well, so that when people hear it they can know what to expect from the debut album. "Drive-By Shootings" is the name of the song that will tie the whole EP together, and it will talk about how for entertainment and pleasure we like to get together in groups and just hurl insults/falsehoods. We cause drama and trouble for others just because they may not be the same as us or hold the same views or practices, and I think of that in a metaphorical way as a drive-by shooting.

Thanks to Tyler Thurman for the interview. You can check out Tonight's Entertainment at their page at thesixtyone.com.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Holiday Sweaters" - My First Earthquake releases new video

My First Earthquake just released their new video for "Holiday Sweaters," and it's bursting with holiday goodness. Quoth the band: "A lovely in-between time is upon us as Hanukkah comes to an end and Christmas has yet to crush us with its cheer. What a perfect time for San Francisco indie pop foursome, My First Earthquake to bring you Holiday Sweaters, the video, the free download, and the joy of polyester."



You can download the song right here, and find out more about the album, Downstairs, here.

@1stQuake
on Myspace

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review: Shael Riley and the Double Ice Backfire, Songs from the Pit

Eight songs, one hundred cassettes, thousands of hearts.

So go the statistics for Shael Riley and the Double Ice Backfire's album Songs from the Pit. An album of eight songs, released in a limited-edition set of a hundred cassettes, and put up in digital form on thesixtyone.com where the songs reached a few thousand hearts--each.

"Hold on," you're saying, "am I reading this right? They released an album, in the year 2009, as a cassette?"

Sure--why not? The original explanation I heard was that chiptune music sounds best on tape, and the band wanted the novelty of a unique format. I can't remember the last time I bought an actual cassette tape before this (if ever), but it has a distinct, very real feel to it. It's not just sounds and pictures in your iPod; it's something tangible. Also, my car has no CD player, so it works well enough there.

When I first decided to review the album, I didn't know the first thing about nerdcore. And, well, I still don't. I am in no way an expert in video games, as my experience with them started to get hazy after 1996 or so. (Tetris is still popular, right? Right?) But I first stumbled upon Shael Riley through his project The Grammar Club, and though the musical style has shifted a bit this time arouns, he and his band don't disappoint.

This is an attitude-driven album of love, video games, and kicky melodies. Perhaps the one thing you should keep in mind is that chiptune is woven into the soundtrack, and for those not in the know, that means it sounds a bit like an old NES video game. The album is peppered with references to movies, video games, and general pop culture. It's sassy and irreverent and epic, as it should be.

The first track, the incredibly energetic "Publishing Rights," featuring Schaffer the Darklord, sets the tone right away: this band means business. But it leads into the softer song "The Other Side of Memphis," which is sweet and rather elegant. "How to Fire a Gun" may well be the star of the album, and most of us can identify with the speaker: he longs for independence, and maybe the ability to leave a mark on the world.

"Asian Kids Have all the Best Moves" is a rather fun and touching tale about friendship and trying to assimilate another's (much cooler) culture. "Hipster Hoax" revolves around the catchy hook "It's just a joke, it's a ... hipster hoax that I'm not cool enough to understand," while "Chinese Ninja Warrior" is a cover of The Immortals' theme song for a character for Mortal Kombat. (Yes, I had to Google that.) But the power chords make this song pretty awesome, and the chiptune is trippy.

As for catchy tunes, it doesn't get better than "tip eht fo mottob," a rockin' song that also references Mortal Kombat. The album's outro is a solo piano-backed reprise of "Asian Kids Have All The Best Moves." It's quite pretty, and the stripped-down format lets the lyrics ring out.

Altogether, it makes for a great and intriguing listening experience. The cassette album is currently sold out, but many of the songs are available for listening and purchase on thesixtyone.com.

@ShaelRiley
on Facebook

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quiet Company - "On Modern Men" video

Don't know how I missed this, but Quiet Company has a new video up for "On Modern Men." The colors and clarity are amazing, and it really follows the spirit of the song.



@QuietcompanyTX
#quietcompany
on Myspace

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Swimmers - "A Hundred Hearts"



The Swimmers seem to be stuck in the spring, from their promo pics to their lush indie-pop track "A Hundred Hearts," but that's perfectly fine with me. The song is from their upcoming album People Are Soft, due out Nov 3. The band is Steve and Krista Yutzy-Burkey, Scott French, and Rick Sieber, and it hails from Philadelphia.

The track kicks off with the line "What a sharp imagination," and the narrative framework of the song does inspire some wondering: it's a tabula rasa, telling a story entirely of your own making. It'd be interesting to see what they come up with if they make a music video. Lyrically, the song is quite fascinating, and it has a lulling drumbeat, squeaky-clean synth line, ringing guitars, and dreamy vocal harmonies--basically, the audio equivalent of cherry blossoms falling all over you. Did I mention that it's also highly addictive?

You can preview the album at theswimmers.com.

Upcoming shows:
Nov 6, 2009: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nov 7, 2009: NYC
Nov 13, 2009: Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Nov 14, 2009: Scranton

@theswimmers
on Myspace

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Treasure Island Music Festival Playlist

The site betterPropaganda.com has assembled a playlist for the Treasure Island Music Festival 2009 in San Francisco, California. The playlist includes songs by The Decemberists, Vetiver, MGMT, and more, and all the songs can be downloaded for free.

Treasure Island Music Festival Playlist

Monday, October 12, 2009

My First Earthquake: New video, free download


I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking about Halloween early this year: My First Earthquake, the San Francisco-based indie rockers, are also playing dress-up in their new video for "Sweet Frown."

According to the band, "The video, produced by Jesus Beltran, captures MFE's singer, Rebecca Bortman as a hard-to-please Marie Annotiette with her courtesans and the rest of the band trying to sweetly please her. This video is filled with comedic historical anachronisms from the electric guitars to the Sno-Ball cakes." Works for me. I love the line "Stole a song from Ratatat, and now I know what lawsuits feel like!" But if they go to France, will they have to play as Mon Premier Séisme?




They've offered a free download of the track here, and more info about the album, Downstairs, at www.myfirstearthquake.com/downstairs.

The band is currently on tour in Cali:

Thu, Oct 15: Stanford CoHo, Palo Alto
Sat, Oct 17: The Hemlock Tavern, SF
Sun, Oct 18: Bernal Heights Fiesta, SF
Fri, Nov 13: Cafe du Nord, SF with The Generationals

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Civalias - "We've Got Company"

I stumbled upon Civalias on thesixtyone.com through the track "We've Got Company," and I'm glad I did. Civalias is the project of 23-year-old Adam Stidham, based in Los Angeles. The name sounds like a kicky pharmaceutical drug, but according to an interview with The Examiner, he says it's a combo of the words "civilian" and "alias." Makes sense.

His EP "You.Me.We" is available now, and it's insanely catchy. It has the glamour of pop with a hint of indie rock, and while at first it sounds a little like the Fray (both are piano-backed with breathy vocals), Stidham creates a lush sound all his own. I think a lot of people can relate to "We've Got Company," especially as the music video highlights the meaning of the title:



He's currently working on his first full-length album, and I wish him great luck.

Civalias on Myspace

Friday, October 9, 2009

Stars of Track and Field

Stars of Track and Field just released their fourth album, A Time for Lions, in September. I only heard of them recently so I'm still catching up on their music, but I love their track "Centuries" from their album Centuries Before Love and War.



They are currently on tour across the U.S.

Stars of Track and Field on Myspace

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Florence and the Machine


Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine, was only 22 when her first album, Lungs, was released in July of 2009, but her spectacular voice and command of music make her seem much more mature.

I was hooked last summer on her single "Kiss With a Fist," but it's clear she's not just a one-hit wonder. She's released several singles, and her album debuted at no. 2 on the charts. I particularly like "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)," about her recording process and releasing music:



She also has some dizzyingly cool music videos, especially "Drumming Song," which you can see here.

She is currently on tour in Europe with her band.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How I Became the Bomb: "We have wingspan"

How I Became the Bomb exploded onto the indie music scene awhile ago, earning accolades by various top-shelf reviewers and snapping up a major label, but I'm just catching up to their music. Their new full-length album, Deadly Art, is available at their web site, and while I've only heard a few tracks so far, they've become a new favorite of mine.

In an era where any garage band that can rhyme lyrics is hailed as brilliant, and singing about relationship troubles is sufficient to be called emotionally relevant, I think How I Became the Bomb is a breath of fresh air. Once you read their bio, with claims like "We have wingspan," you know you're dealing with something else.

From their take on the superhero's dilemma in "Secret Identity," to "Blood Will Tell," a genuinely chilling and riveting song, these guys have got sci-fi pop-rock down to, well, a science. They use both a synth and piano, which gives the songs a fuzzy, outer-space feel. And while the band usually dresses up like they're from Back to the Future 2, they drop in more subtle references ("Shoulda listened to Huxley" the singer croons in "Robo," a synth-laced tale of robot revenge), and have dreamed up a world all their own. It's like we're getting a transmission straight from another place--or taking off to explore a new one.

The above image is from their EP Through Adversity to the Stars, one of many EPs they released over the past year, but apparently they've been discontinued in favor of the album compilation. Some of the early songs are still on thesixtyone.com, and a few previously unreleased ones are also on the new album.

Over and out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fanfarlo - "The Walls Are Coming Down"

I really like this Fanfarlo video for their track “The Walls Are Coming Down.” The costumes and symbolism are great, and how many music videos have an escapologist performing the “classic Houdini upside-down strait jacket escape”?



@fanfarlomusic

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Fight Dragons on NES-Rock

Originally posted on Max Bumps.


For Chicago band I Fight Dragons, saving the world--and sounding great--is all in a day’s work. This week I caught up with lead singer Brian Mazzaferri, who explains the band’s mix of pop-rock and sweeping electronic melodies--those cute beeps and bloops from old video games.

“When I heard the distinctive waveforms and patterns of the NES soundcard growing up, it was always associated with adventure, with epic journeys,” he said. The band channels that energy into their songs, be they clever tributes to video games or just plain knock-your-socks-off rock. To play the NES components of the songs live, they use various modified video game controllers, and even a guitar from the game Guitar Hero.

To start, here’s a video of Brian demonstrating the practice studio:




For those who don’t know, how would you explain NES-Rock?

Well, I'd explain NES-Rock (as we define it) as Pop-Rock music plus Chiptune, which is music made using old video game soundcards (specifically Nintendo ones like the GameBoy and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)).

How did you get the idea to combine NES sounds with your music?

It sort of happened backwards. Bill Prokopow and I were making a demo of an early version of "Heads Up, Hearts Down," and I suggested we try to make an intro that would be the chorus as if it were coming out of a Nintendo system. After making the demo and being immensely pleased with ourselves, I stumbled across the chiptune scene in earnest.

There's tons of artists out there making original music using obsolete equipment like GameBoys, NES, Segas, Commodore 64s, etc, and as soon as I discovered that scene I started listening to TONS of it, and I knew I wanted to find a way to integrate that with Pop-Rock. So we set about to do it!

Do you have any advice for musicians who want to experiment with Chiptune?

Well, for anyone who wants to experiment, I'd say if you have some recording background check out free plugins like YMCK's Magical 8-bit and Chip32. They work with garageband, audacity, protools, etc. and make it very easy to start hearing sounds right away.

For people without the background in DAW stuff but with a mind for tweaking, some of the easiest programs are Famitracker, Nitrotracker, or Nerdtracker, all of which let you program within the restrictions of the NES sound card, but there's definitely a learning curve.

For the very hardcore, get a Little Sound DJ or Nanoloop cartridge and a Gameboy! It's very fun to mess around with, and there's great tutorials online.

Thanks Brian! More about I Fight Dragons:
on Myspace
on thesixtyone

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Interview With Flight Crash Companion

This week I interviewed Evan Cooney, the man behind Flight Crash Companion, for Max Bumps.

Evan released his fourth album, No New Message, on June 23rd, and it’s currently a free download at his web site. In the interview, we discussed the new album, his recording process, and one of his tracks.

So ... go check it out!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My First Earthquake: New Album and Video

You only wish you were as cool as My First Earthquake. The San Francisco indie-rock band, generally known for being awesome, just released their music video for "Cool in the Cool Way."

Their songs are delightfully quirky, and worth a listen for their hilarious lyrics, groovy beats, and fantastic vocals and delivery. Their first full-length album, Downstairs, is out now.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

State Shirt

I was looking for an article on my newspaper's web site this morning, and I stumbled upon an interview with musician State Shirt. I had no idea he was from Western Mass! In the interview, he talks about his most recent album, This is Old, and his philosophy on distribution.

Only question is, do his binoculars work at night?




Monday, May 11, 2009

Apparently Sean Fournier really liked my review! So this is my first time being listed on a press page. To celebrate, here's his cool video for "What I Must Do":

Saturday, May 9, 2009

CD Review: Sean Fournier, Oh My

(reviewed for Max Bumps):

I've always been amazed by musicians who create albums on their own, and yet still manage to pack in as much sound as an entire band--heck, sometimes an entire orchestra.

Sean Fournier is such an artist. He's rather new on thesixtyone, but his songs routinely pass 1,000 hearts. And, in an effort to spread the word about his music, he's offering his fourth album, Oh My, for free.



The six tracks are mostly re-recordings of previously released songs, with the exception of the new song "Holding the Hand of the Hurricane." Here's the track listing:

1. Broken Stereo (Accoustic Version)
2. Put The World on Stop (Piano Version)
3. Another Like You (Piano Version)
4. Goodbye (Piano Version)
5. Falling For You (Piano Version)
6. Holding the Hand of the Hurricane

His sound is hard to pin down. I want to say he's a little like The Fray or Quiet Company, but really, the music defies comparison.

The album starts off with "Broken Stereo," a sweet, bouncy, tender love song. The next song, "Put the World on Stop" sparkles with piano melodies; it's a great track for spring, and it's going to see a lot of play on my Mp3 player.



"Another Like You" hums and vibrates with strings, and "Goodbye" shows off his skill at keys.

"Falling For You" feels like a finale for the album, and "Holding the Hand of the Hurricane," an encore. "Hurricane" is bold and percussive, putting on a show of sound that mimics a summer storm.



Overall, Sean Fournier has great vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation. I hope his efforts at promotion work out, because he deserves to be a big success.

You can stream or download the album from Sean Fournier's web site or listen to it on his profile at thesixtyone.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Coldplay to release free album

No, you're not dreaming. Coldplay is giving away their upcoming album, LeftRightLeftRightLeft, for free.

The album contains nine tracks from their live shows (including "Clocks" and "Viva La Vida"), and will be available for download May 15 from the band's web site; a CD is also available for fans at most of their shows this year.

According to the band's site, "
[T]he give-away is meant as a recession-busting mark of gratitude to everyone who's supported them."

How cool is that? It's not a totally new album, but it's a nice token gesture for fans. The music industry seems to be realizing that word of mouth is a better tool than frivolous lawsuits. Rock on, Coldplay.

For more info, check out the band's web site, www.coldplay.com.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spotlight: We Were Promised Jetpacks

I vote We Were Promised Jetpacks as one of the best band names ever. It's not just catchy; it's a callback to growing up with romanticized views of the 21st century, only to get there and end up without flying cars, colonies on the moon, and yes, jetpacks.

But back to the point. This Glasgow-based rock band packs a lot of great music behind their name. Check out "Quiet Little Voices," from their upcoming album These Four Walls:



The album isn't out until June, but this is definitely a band to watch.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spotlight: White Lies

White Lies, formerly Fear of Flying, plays alternative rock that's equally somber and uplifting. Sound impossible? Their single "Death," from To Lose My Life..., makes it work. This is definitely a band to keep an eye out for: this song takes you places, and you won't want to come back.

CD Review: Quiet Company, Everyone You Love Will Be Happy Soon

If you've been on thesixtyone for any length of time, you've probably heard of Quiet Company. They're an indie band based in Austin, Texas, and they're fantastic. Their sophomore effort, Everyone You Love Will Be Happy Soon, came out on March 10. And yes, all their songs are as optimistic as the title.

But Quiet Company combines a cheery attitude with witty, well-delivered lyrics and cascading piano melodies. They'll please most pop and rock listeners, but have a unique sound that shines through the catchy music.

"You better love the life you live," sings vocalist Taylor Muse, and he means it. The album takes on a variety of topics with pure bliss. It has songs celebrating friends who are expecting babies ("Congratulations Seth & Kara"), and amusing takes on fears of the afterlife ("My New Year’s Resolution is To Cope With My Mortality").

And yes, Quiet Company does like long titles. But while the names of the tracks might be hard to read on your MP3 player's tiny screen, the songs are certainly easy on the ears.

The album kicks off with an expedition in search of love in "A Nation of Two," then winds its way through the playful, tongue-in-cheek "It's Better To Spend Money Like There’s No Tomorrow Than Spend Tonight Like There’s No Money" (another long title) and the amorous "Our Sun is Always Rising." The tracks are stylistically very similar, and blend into each other well.

The band gets a bit more serious in the slower "The Beginning of Everything at the End of the World," but still keeps up its realistic optimism. The song leads into the mellow "Red & Gold."

They get back on track with a series of sunny songs, including "Well, the Truth Is…," perhaps the best song on the album, and "On Husbands & Wives," a sweet exploration of a relationship.

"How To Fake Like You Are Nice & Caring," another great track, buzzes with synth melodies and strong vocal harmonies, then fades into the quiet, windswept instrumental "When I Am Empty, Dispose of Me Properly."

At 15 tracks, the album is a bit longer than most, and when it finally winds out, it will leave listeners wishing for more. But there's certainly plenty to hear, and the album gets better on a second listen.

Everyone You Love Will Be Happy Soon is available for streaming and purchase on the band’s web site, http://www.quietcompanymusic.com/.

Monday, April 6, 2009

CD Review: Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, Not Animal

While you were raking leaves last September, Margot & the Nuclear So and So's released two companion albums: Animal! and Not Animal. The unusually-named, eight-piece band from Indianapolis plays a blend of alternative and chamber pop, and has been compared to The Shins and Arcade Fire.

So why isn't the band more popular? Who knows? The lyrics of Not Animal positively drip with melancholy, and they're so catchy that it doesn't matter. The band blends vocals, guitar, and piano with synth, hand claps, percussion, harmonica, bells, a trumpet and violin. And despite the large number of instruments, the band layers the songs neatly.

Not Animal starts with the soft, dreamlike "Children's Crusade on Acid," followed by the interesting, mellow "German Motor Car" and winding, ballad-like "Broadripple is Burning."

"Holy Cow!" and "Cold, Kind and Lemon Eyes" have some great instrumentation with violin and keys, and the vocals don't disappoint, either. But when "As Tall as Cliffs" finally arrives, you'll wonder why the band held out for so long. It's one of the best tracks on the album, and especially shows off their talent at percussion.

"Pages Written on a Wall," another good track, lures you in with a slow tune and then rises dramatically, favoring the brass and drums and creating an eerie mood. "Shivers (I've Got 'Em)" is also great, if a bit dark--which also stands true for the whole album.

The band is currently on tour in the US.

  • Margot and the Nuclear So and So's on Myspace
  • Margot and the Nuclear So and So's on thesixtyone
  • Friday, April 3, 2009

    News Feed: Metric

    Metric's album "Fantasies" comes out on 4/14. If you can't wait that long, you can pre-order the album and download it from their site.

    The Toronto-based indie band has been hyping "Fantasies" for some time, and from the looks of it, fans won't be disappointed. Here's the video for their track "Gimme Sympathy."



    Apparently it was shot in one take. (No word on how many times they had to practice to get it right.)

    The first post

    Well, I finally started a blog. My tastes usually lean toward alternative and indie, but I listen to just about anything if it's catchy. I'll try to post album reviews as well as quick snippets, like youtube videos or information on new releases.

    I'm kilexia on thesixtyone, if you want to track me there.