hipster

Almost Everyday: Album Review

Another album that was released within the last two months was Matt & Kim’s Almost Everyday. I was also fortunate enough to finally be able to see Matt & Kim perform live at the end of April. It was one of, if not the most fun show I’ve ever been to. I was starting to get tired waiting for them to come on, but as soon as they did it was pure joy for the hour and a half set they performed at Brooklyn Steel complete with blow up dolls, balloons, and a wall of death. After seeing that show, there was no question that I was going to pick up their album that was due out less than a week later.

I was eager to check out this new album because I really liked the single “Forever” that they released in the weeks prior to the album release. Almost Everyday doesn’t stray from the quality indie pop featuring synth and drums that Matt & Kim are known for. I think some of the synth sounds have even grown on this particular record.

After listening to the album, I didn’t feel like any songs jumped out at me in particular. I had a similar feeling when New Glow was released. With that album, I had to listen to it several times for a few songs to really start sticking with me. Eventually I got into a few songs on that record though. As for Almost Everyday, I’ve taken a liking to “Glad I Tried” and “Like I Used To Be”, along with “Forever”, which I already enjoyed before I heard the full length album.

Several of the songs have a lot of meaning and depth. The album was written over a time when Kim was recovering from her ACL injury and the band’s future felt like it was in jeopardy for a brief time. Thankfully Kim made it through! Truly, they both did though and this new album is a reflection of that.

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Good Winter

In the beginning of 2007, I was a senior in high school. I listened to primarily punk/alternative rock music with the occasional ska and hardcore mixed in. I had just started a band with my three friends so we could play together in our school’s senior talent show. I went to shows, hung out with my band, and felt completely in my element. At the time, I had no idea my music taste would change again four years later (no pun intended) as it abruptly did when I was a high school freshman. I had no idea what album was in the process of being created and how it would come into my life when I was in an entirely different place.

In the winter of 2007, Justin Vernon (who I mentioned in my Grammy’s post) decided to spend 3 months in his father’s Wisconsin cabin after a rough time in his life (band break-up, relationship ending, battling mono). His intention was to recuperate from those circumstances, but what happened was the creation of an incredible work of musical art. He wrote and recorded songs completely by himself. He named his project “Bon Iver” which was his own variation of the French expression “bon hiver” meaning “good winter”.

Bon Iver’s first album was released in limited capacity in late spring 2007 (500 copies). The album entitled For Emma, Forever Ago contained the original recordings Vernon did while in seclusion in the cabin. The CD release show took place at the House of Rock in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (now home to Eaux Claires Music Festival which Vernon created). After the release show, the album received some attention from blog sites and indie publication site, Pitchfork, which lead to an eventual signing with indie label Jagjaguwar. The album was re-released in February 2008 under the new label, and went on to have much success, especially the song “Skinny Love”.

In 2009, Bon Iver released the EP Blood Bank featuring three new songs, “Beach Baby”, “Babys”, and “Woods”, and previously recorded song “Blood Bank” which didn’t make the cut on the first album. Bon Iver’s sophomore self-titled album was released on June 17, 2011. The album slightly differed in its sound compared to the first which featured a more intimate approach that really focused on Vernon’s vocals and guitar playing. The sound in For Emma, Forever Ago was so beautifully simplistic. The self-titled album kept the same mellow Bon Iver feel, but featured a more advanced sound quality. Obviously it wasn’t recorded in the same type of environment as the first. It used more instrumentals and had less of a focus on the vocals and guitar. Nonetheless it was still a beautiful compilation of music. In fact, the following year the album received a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album and Bon Iver received the Grammy for Best New Artist (which always struck me as amusing considering he was not at all “new” at the time).

I had not even heard of Bon Iver until after the release of the second album. Like I said before, I was in a totally different place musically when the first album was released. When the second came out, I had just started to get into the indie scene. It was still a few months later when I first heard “Skinny Love”. I really can’t remember how or when I first heard the song. It might have been a recommendation from a friend or it might have been on a Pandora station, which I frequently used to find new music at the time. Either way, it was in September of 2011 that I first heard it. I immediately took to the song. It was much softer than other things I listened to at that time. I would tend to listen to it when I was feeling upset. I was upset often then too. I went through a difficult transitional period around that time where I began questioning a lot of things regarding my future and aspirations. To say music is what I turned to is an understatement. Music always helps me, no matter what I’m feeling, and it helped then too. “Skinny Love” was just a part of that. Within the next few months I purchased both For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver. I also became a big fan of the song “Holocene”. I’ve always felt that Bon Iver’s music is the perfect soundtrack for fall and winter. It’s possible because that’s when I first listened to it. It’s also possible because it has a peaceful, mellow sound that mixes well with the cold air and lifeless conditions the seasons bring. You can be the judge if you listen to my song recommendations.

Anyway, Bon Iver went on hiatus in 2012 and has not released any new music since. Recently though, Vernon confirmed that the hiatus has come to an end as the group intends to play the inaugural Eaux Claires Music Festival in July. New material should follow. Until then we just have to wait to see what’s in-store for Justin Vernon and his band.

1. Skinny Love

2. Holocene

3. Blood Bank

4. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover) (so much better than the original)

5. Flume

6. Blindsided

7. Towers

8. Creature Fear

9. Hazelton

10. Perth

Musical Enlightenment Part 2: A Hipster Story

So last week I talked about how I went through a whole “musical enlightenment” as a freshman in high school. To me the whole concept is rare because it’s only happened twice in my life. The first of which was under the influence of Dashboard Confessional. The second I’ll tell you about now.

Right before I graduated from college was a super weird time. I was sad and scared and way less happier than I was about getting out of high school. I’m sure so many people have felt that, but as a result I found some new outlets to become immersed in. One of those was a TV show that I’ll save for another time. The other was indie music.

Ok I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t Dashboard Confessional an indie band too? Didn’t I already listen to that stuff? Yes and no. Sure Dashboard was an indie/emo style that was big in the early 2000’s but it was 2011 and this was the stuff that hipsters liked not emo kids. Plus in the years since Dashboard I explored so many musical genres that I really fell out of the indie scene (I liked ska, pop punk, late 80’s hardcore, etc.). It was like a rediscovery of indie. The style had also seemed to progress from the Dashboard time period. Some bands had a more electronic indie thing going on, while others didn’t. The emo vibe was definitely phased out though.

Anyway, at the time, my friend and I used to text each other music to listen to (I’m convinced everyone should have a friend like this). She knew of and listened to plenty of indie bands/songs. Most of what she recommended was that style, which sort of encouraged me to try to find similar music to send to her because that’s what I knew she liked, not the pop-punk/punk/alternative stuff I was currently into. I ended up liking a lot of songs she recommended which made it easier and motivated me to find more just like them too. My friend and those recommendations were a huge part of my second “musical enlightenment” and I’m forever grateful, but there’s more to the story. There had to be one specific band that was a game changer for me right? Right and here’s who they are and how it happened.

Another friend of mine made me a mixed tape (mixed CD) at the time. There were a few catchy songs on it and I uploaded the ones I liked to my iTunes. During the same time period I used to watch Dancing with the Stars with my mom (I still watch it on occasion). That season one of the “stars” on the show was Chelsea Kane (formerly known as Chelsea Staub from the Disney Channel…yeah I know..judge me) and I was rooting for her to win because 1. I knew who she was and 2. I followed her on twitter. Around then she started a website that she was pretty active on. She talked about fashion, travel, food, and music to name a few. Because I followed her on twitter she used to post when she’d update and because we had some similar interests I used to check out her posts. So one day she made a post about a band she was into at the time whose first album was soon to be released. She also posted a youtube/music clip link to their most popular song. So I naturally started listening to it and I was hooked immediately. The funny thing was though I felt that I heard the song before. Lo and behold, I had heard it. It was the first song on my friend’s mixed tape and it was one of the songs I already put on my iTunes. I immediately texted my friend who made the mixed tape and told him about how good the song was and how I heard about the band on this famous girl’s website. That band was Foster the People and the song was “Pumped Up Kicks”.

Within the next month of my Foster the People discovery, I bought their album Torches and listened to it nonstop on the drive to Williamsburg, VA (my vacation destination of the year). I planned and bought tickets to see them in Philly in June (never ended up making it to the show…worst night…still bummed about it). I stayed up late to watch them perform on Jimmy Kimmel. I also texted my friend who I shared music recommendations with shortly after the discovery and recommended the song to her. She hadn’t heard it yet and loved it too.

Foster the People’s music is considered to be indie pop and that’s just what it is. It’s upbeat indie with a bit of that electronic/synth style I mentioned. It was much different than what I was listening to 2 months prior, but I loved it. They were the first band that sparked a dramatic change in what I listened to since Dashboard Confessional did this 7 years earlier. Although my interest in that type of music started a little before I discovered Foster the People, they were the band that really put the change in full swing.

Their first album Torches is on the list of my favorite albums of all time. Even though “Pumped Up Kicks” was the song that reeled me in, “Helena Beat” was the song that kept me wanting more. I fell in love with “I Would Do Anything For You”. I had dance parties to “Don’t Stop” and “Houdini”. I sang at the top of my lungs to “Call it What You Want”. It’s just a great album. Their second album Supermodel which came out this past year can’t compare to Torches in my mind. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but Torches was way too catchy and will always be highly regarded by me. When I finally did get to see Foster the People live the following summer, I knew the words to almost every song (I was so mad about the ones I didn’t so I downloaded those songs the next day). It was all thanks to falling in love with a band from a different music scene.

So that’s the story of my second musical enlightenment and I guess how I became a hipster. Shoutouts to all the people mentioned above for making it happen and here’s the Foster the People song recommendations:

1. Pumped Up Kicks (you should know this song by now as it got pretty big in the months following my discovery)

2. Helena Beat

3. Broken Jaw

4. Coming of Age

5. Don’t Stop

But really, just listen to all their music, especially that first album. It’s love, love, love and if you have it, it’s amazing.