indie music

CHAMPION: Album Review

A few weeks ago Bishop Briggs released her sophomore album CHAMPION. Her debut came out about a year and a half ago and in that time Briggs has been touring while simultaneously working on new music. Bishop Briggs released the bonus track “Hold On” in 2018 as well as the single “Baby”. Neither made the cut for the new album. In the weeks leading up to the release, Briggs released several new songs featured on the album. One of those singles was the title track “CHAMPION” which has since reached the number 22 position on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart.

CHAMPION picks up right where Church of Scars left off. It’s filled with more soulful alternative/indie rock jams. It’s a great follow up, especially with sure hits like CHAMPION, the break up anthem “TATTOOED ON MY HEART”, and “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”. If anything I think this album differs only slightly stylistically due to the less predominant bass in the tracks. Even with that slight difference, the bass is still there, just a bit less than in Bishop Briggs’ debut.

This album is definitely worthy of a listen for alternative/indie music fans, especially those who love Bishop Briggs and her powerhouse vocals. Bishop Briggs has yet to announce any 2020 tour dates but is currently finishing up this year touring in Europe. I suspect she’ll be going strong into the new year with more shows and festivals after this new release late in 2019. Keep an eye out for her and her tunes in the new year because she’s bound to be on the 2020 concert/festival radar.

Generationals

In 2011, as you might know, I got into the indie music scene. Foster the People was the first band to really transition me away from emo, punk, and pop punk. Another band I got into around that time was Generationals. I discovered the song “Trust” through the television show Pretty Little Liars. At the time the show was in its first season and used plenty of indie music as background. To this day I still listen to Generationals from time to time and I figured it was about time I wrote about this low-key indie duo.

Generationals are an indie pop/new wave group from New Orleans, Louisiana. The group consists of Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer. The duo formed Generationals when their former band The Eames Era, famed for having a song on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, broke up. Joyner and Widmer named the group Generationals after the issues in the 2008 presidential election being referred to as a “generational issues” by CNN, which they frequently watched while recording.

The group released their debut album Con Law in 2009 to mostly favorable reviews. Their first EP Trust was released over a year later in November 2010 followed by their second album Actor-Caster in March 2011. The group toured in support of bands like Broken Social Scene and Two Door Cinema Club during that time. Their music was also featured in many forms of entertainment like commercials, movies, and television shows.

Since their early days Generationals have routinely released music with the albums Heza (2013), Alix (2014), State Dogs: Singles 2017-18 (2018), and most recently Reader as Detective which was released this past July.  I’ve followed the group with songs here and there over the years. Most recently though I’ve fallen in love with the song “Gatekeeper” from their latest record and it has made me want to listen to them more like I used to back in my early days of discovering indie music.

Their sound hasn’t strayed much over the last 10 years. They’ve consistently released music that fits perfectly in the indie pop genre. They have a similar sound to bands like The Kooks or Peter, Bjorn, and John. Although they might not have as much indie scene cred as those two acts, they definitely fit their genre just as well.

If you’re into that late 2000’s-early 2010’s indie scene, Generationals are a great group to listen to. In fact, they’re just a great group to listen to regardless. They’ve been in my music rotation for long enough and there was a point I listed them as one of my top 5 favorite bands. So just listen to them. They’re timeless and pretty great. They’re generational(s)!

 

 

Without Fear: Album Review

Back at Coachella this past spring, I discovered Irish singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy. I wrote about him and the experience a few months ago. On October 4th, Dermot Kennedy released his debut album Without Fear so I figured I had to do a review of it, especially since I’ll be seeing him perform for the second time this week!

Since the release, Without Fear has reached number 18 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart. The album contains a little bit of everything. It’s got pop-bangers like “Outnumbered”, “What Have I Done”, and “Power Over Me”. It’s got hints of electronic music in songs like “Moments Passed”, “Outgrown” and “Without Fear”. “Moments Passed”  and “Outgrown” even have elements of hip-hop as well, along with the song “An Evening I Will Not Forget”.

Lately Dermot Kennedy is being referred to as the Irish Ed Sheeran. I’m guilty of this comparison as well, but Dermot Kennedy is definitely different than the red-haired English pop artist. His music is a bit darker and more folk-focused than Ed Sheeran. I’ve also compared a few of his tracks to indie folk artist, Bon Iver, especially the song “Moments Passed”. One distinguishable trait in his music compared to other artists though is his Irish accent.

Since Coachella, Dermot Kennedy has definitely been growing in popularity. He is currently on tour in support of his new album in the U.S. and Europe. He will be touring into early 2020 playing larger scale venues in the U.S. I’m convinced Kennedy’s popularity will continue to grow as time goes on. If you don’t want to be late to the Dermot Kennedy party, I highly recommend listening to Without Fear. This is a debut album you don’t want to miss.

Hey I’m Just Like You: Album Review

A few weeks ago Tegan and Sara released their ninth studio album. The Canadian duo has been making music since the early 2000’s, but this album is a bit more special than the others they released prior. The album coincides with the debut of their memoir High School. The book is about their musical beginnings, growing up, and attending high school in the 90’s. While working on the book, the twins found a bunch of cassettes with early recordings of songs they wrote during that time and decided to re-work and re-record the songs. From there, Hey I’m Just Like You was born.

The new album pays homage to their rock and punk rock roots while still incorporating the pop sound they’ve grown into over the years. The best example of this is the track “I’ll Be Back Someday”, which was one of the first songs from the album that Tegan and Sara released. The song has a very clear and distinct punk influence. The lyrics reference themes of their adolescence like drug use, relationships, friendship, love, and self-reflection. Hey I’m Just Like You is also the first Tegan and Sara album recorded by an all female team.

Tegan and Sara are currently on tour in support of the album and book. Many of the tour dates are sold out. Fortunately, I’ll be attending one of their shows next week. I already picked up a copy of the book before I left to work Austin City Limits. Then I bought the album while visiting Waterloo Records on one of my off days in Austin. It’s safe to say I’ve been prepping for the last 2 1/2 weeks, but I love a good Tegan and Sara show. I highly recommend the album if you’re a Tegan and Sara fan. This one is definitely unique and yet at the same time I think you’ll be satisfied because you’re still getting what we all know and love from Tegan and Sara.

When You Say “Best Friends” Means Friends Forever

It started with a girl. Last weekend I went to a punk show in Philadelphia. Rancid, Pennywise, and Suicidal Tendencies are all on tour together with a few other bands and they played a well known Philly venue that we all still refer to as the Electric Factory. I was supposed to attend with my friend Ashley and her friend Kelsey, but when Ashley took an offer to sell merch for Rancid, that left me and Kelsey to attend together. I just met Kelsey earlier this month so going to Rancid together really gave us the chance to hang out and get to know each other. We started talking about music and eventually got into talking about Brand New and Taking Back Sunday. They were two of my favorite bands in high school and Kelsey’s all time favorite bands. Since my Rancid hang with Kelsey, I’ve listened to both bands a couple times and for nostalgia’s sake, started reminiscing about how wild it is for someone to love both bands so much given their history.

Again it started with a girl. Jesse Lacey of Brand New and John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday were childhood best friends. They both were part of the famed Long Island music scene in the early 2000’s. As rumor has it, at some point in their friendship there was a girl that got in the way. No one knows the exact story of what happened. From what I know, it was something along the lines of Jesse was with a girl that cheated on him with John. It incited a well-known emo music feud between both bands. Songs from both bands’ first albums pointed anger and hatred towards each other (Brand New’s “Seventy Times Seven” and Taking Back Sunday’s “There’s No “I” in Team”). There was even band merch that did the same (“Because mics are for singing not swinging”, a dig at TBS frontman Adam Lazzara’s mic swinging style and “Proudly Swinging Since 1999”). Yet, while listening to these bands in high school, I loved both of them. Sure, I favored Brand New over Taking Back Sunday, but I definitely loved both and listened to each during certain periods of high school. Most of my friends did too. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who has chosen one and hated the other? Do those people even exist?

That’s what got me thinking about it this week. It’s crazy that we loved both of these bands. The songs they wrote that took aim at each other had some incredibly violent lyrics. “And you can think of me when you forget your seatbelt and again when your head goes through the windshield!” or “Best friends means I pulled the trigger. Best friends means you get what you deserve!” I mean come on! These are intense words. They’re actually threats! But when you’re in high school in the mid-2000’s, you don’t think of it that way. You just love the music and you relate to the lyrics.

I will say though “Seventy Times Seven” was the fuel for a lot of my own teen angst towards friendships. In fact, I think both of these bands taught me about friendships through their songs. I realized the importance of calling someone a best friend and what that meant. Of course, actions speak louder than words, but…words can be powerful. You don’t want to waste words on lower cases and capitals. You want them to mean something. So in high school, I started using the term “best friend” sparingly because in my mind “best friends” meant friends forever. I learned that from Brand New. It’s still something I hold with me to this day. I actually took those words for granted recently and I needed to remind myself to not do that again after it happened so again I looked towards “Seventy Times Seven”. This is why it’s still relevant 15 years later.

Sadly though, in recent years, a lot of people began to have mixed feelings about Brand New. In late 2017, Jesse Lacey was accused of sexual misconduct and a lot of fans were upset by the allegations. Mostly, I think people realized that Jesse Lacey wasn’t who they thought he was. Before that happened, Brand New released one final album, Science Fiction, before calling it quits last year. Taking Back Sunday however is still touring. They’re embarking on a 20 year anniversary tour this fall. John Nolan is still part of the band even though he took a brief break from the group in the mid-2000’s to form Straylight Run. On the tour they’re playing their first album Tell All Your Friends in full. It’s definitely going to bring up a lot of feelings for fans and maybe even for the band. Who knows maybe we’ll find out exactly what happened between Brand New and Taking Back Sunday? Maybe not though. I will say I think the feud might have been blown up out of proportion and there’s evidence of that as well (cue the video of Jesse and John playing with Say Anything). It was still enough that we never got a Brand New/Taking Back Sunday tour. Despite everything surrounding both bands, I’m glad they gave us the music that they did. It was the soundtrack to my youth. Even if I no longer feel like a failure by design or a wishful thinker with the worst intentions, their music is still relevant to me at times and I still love connecting with people over it.

 

Feed the Rhythm Inside

Right before the new year I was involved with an event in Philly called HiJinx. The night before working my role for the small festival I stayed at my friend Noah’s house. We hung out with his friend Lou, had a few drinks, and played a dice game called Yamslam. He put on some background tunes while we chilled and then suddenly I heard a song that really caught my interest. It had an upbeat electronic pop sound. It made me want to get up and dance or crush a work out right there. I asked Noah who it was and he goes, “Client Liaison!” I never heard of the band. Flash forward 8 months later and now I’m a Client Liaison fan as well.

Client Liaison is an Australian indie pop duo. The group is comprised of Monte Morgan and Harvey Miller, who attended Grammar school together in Melbourne, Australia. Along with their tunes, the duo is well-known for their high quality music videos. Their first was for their first single “End of the Earth.” The song and video was released in 2012. It wasn’t until 2014 that Client Liaison released a debut eponymous EP. They began touring around the same time in support of Miami Horror and later joined Flight Facilities on tour. They began playing some Australian summer festivals in 2015 and 2016, but also made their U.S. festival debut at Firefly in 2015.

The band released their debut album Diplomatic Immunity in November of 2016. The music video for the track “A Foreign Affair” earned Client Liaison a J Award in 2017 for Australian Music Video of the Year. The band has yet to break into success in other parts of the world like the U.S. and Europe, but I feel like it’s only a matter of time before they do. Since their debut album, the band has released the singles “Survival in the City” in May 2018 and “The Real Thing”, which debuted 3 weeks ago. They will soon be releasing their second album and already have a fall tour in their homeland of Australia planned.

Client Liaison’s sound combines indie pop and electronic music. It has a very 80’s/early 90’s feel as well. That style is replicated through the band’s appearance and music videos. The song that hooked me on the group was “Feed the Rhythm” off their self-titled EP. Most of their tracks have an upbeat groove similar to that song.

Unfortunately I’m not sure if or when I’ll have the opportunity to see Client Liaison perform because their music has yet to take off in the U.S. I keep hoping they’ll either tour here or gain a few more fans in the States that really up their U.S. cred. For now, I’ll just keep listening and trying to spread the word about this duo from down under. So check these guys out! “Turn up the treble to the level and the speakers to the sky”, they’ll keep feeding the rhythm and they’re definitely full of good indie pop vibes.

Doom Days: Album Review

Since Bastille released their sophomore album in September 2016, they’ve still been very much active in the touring and music world. They toured through 2017 and released new music in 2018 including the chart topping hit “Happier” in collaboration with EDM DJ Marshmello. It all lead up to the release of their third album Doom Days on June 14th.

Bastille’s new album is another indie pop/rock masterpiece from the British band. I feel like every Bastille album is just a continuation of the prior. Their tracks have catchy hooks that seem to stick in your head well beyond the 3-4 minutes you spend listening to a song. The consistency of their sound and vibe is a thing of beauty. I think part of the reason for that is Dan Smith’s smooth, hypnotizing vocals. Their sound also dives a little bit deeper into electronic music this time around. “Another Place” has a tropical house feel to it. “Million Pieces” also bridges that gap into electronic music. Lyrically the new record feels like it’s about getting through tough times. Songs like “Quarter Past Midnight”, “Joy”, and “Those Nights” are perfect examples of that theme. 

Bastille will be embarking on a fall tour in support of the album across the U.S. and Canada. They also have announced dates across the U.K. and in Australia. I’ve already picked up a copy of the new record and have planned to try to catch them on this tour. Bastille has put out consistently good records since their debut in 2013. They also put on a great live show. Definitely listen to this new record whether you’re a fan or casual listener because it’s another good one. You’ll probably fall into it just like I did and just like “The Waves”, you may even “get carried away.”

Fever Dream: Album Review

After working two festivals and being forgetful about the blog for a month and a half, I’m back with an album review. In fact, in the past few weeks several artists I like have released new music and I’ll probably do a couple more reviews in the coming days/weeks.  First up is the latest from Of Monsters and Men, Fever Dream.

Fever Dream is the third full length album from the Icelandic indie folk pop group. It was released on July 26th. This is also the band’s latest album since 2015. The band hinted working on new music in spring 2017 via their instagram, but “Alligator”, the first single from Fever Dream, dropped a little under two years later. Fever Dream is full of melodic indie pop jams similar to their first two albums. There’s not one particular track that stands out as being “that song” like “Little Talks” was on their debut, but there are several songs that will surely grow to be popular amongst fans of the band and indie music fans alike. One of those songs is “Wars” which is about a mind war between loving and not loving someone. One of my personal favorites is “Ahay”. What I can say about the track is that the chorus is extremely catchy.

As I mentioned, over the years Of Monsters and Men has stayed consistent on their sound. The vocals of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson create a beautiful harmony which have become a signature mark of the band. They’ve also stayed within the realms of a mixture of indie pop and indie folk music, which is always a good thing as a fan. They’ve also routinely used native instruments like the glockenspiel as part of their music.

I’m definitely a fan of Fever Dream because I’m a fan of Of Monsters and Men. Even if you’re not a huge fan, the album is still worth a listen if you’re a fan of the indie pop genre. The new record is a great album to put in your car while heading on a road trip during these summer months. I felt like it was at least while driving to my gig the other day. This fall, the band will be embarking on a tour in support of their latest work. Check out Fever Dream when you have the chance and check them out in a city near you soon.

You’ve Got That Power Over Me

Back at Coachella this year during Weekend 1, I was walking out of the Mojave Tent after listening to Lizzo absolutely crush her set, when I was intrigued by the music I heard coming from the Gobi Tent right next door. I took a slow walk by the stage and really liked what I heard. It sounded like a mixture of pop, folk, and rock music. I looked to see who was on the stage and found out it was an artist by the name of Dermot Kennedy.

During Weekend 2, I went to his set with a friend after again hearing Lizzo perform some of her set. Although I was feeling kind of tired that afternoon and decided to sit on the side listening for a bit, I enjoyed listening to Dermot perform and told myself I was going to start listening to him after Coachella. Sure enough I followed through.

Dermot Joseph Kennedy is an Irish singer/songwriter/musician who hails from Rathcoole, Ireland, which is about 30 minutes from Dublin. He began playing guitar at age 10 and started songwriting by the age of 14, but did not start focusing on music until his late teen years. He played open mic nights, competed in talent competitions, and began busking on the streets of Ireland to get noticed. However, the use of a streaming platform is where his breakthrough came from.

He developed a following through Spotify and self-released music on the platform for the last couple of years. He released his self-titled debut album on January 4th and was signed to major label Interscope Records shortly after. His sophomore album Without Fear is set to be released in late September. Kennedy spent the last two years touring in Europe, Australia, and the U.S. He even played several major U.S. festivals including Bonnaroo in 2017, Lollapalooza, SXSW, and Austin City Limits in 2018, and Coachella in 2019. He will again be embarking on tour this fall in the U.S., Canada, and Europe in support of his newest album.

Kennedy’s style is just as I described it – a mixture of pop, folk, and rock music. He even incorporates a bit of hip-hop on a few of his tracks. His sound at times reminds me of a darker, more Irish version of Ed Sheeran. Yes, you can definitely hear the Irish accent in his music too. It’s actually pretty sick!

As I mentioned I first heard of Dermot Kennedy while attending Coachella this year. That’s why it’s always worth it to walk around and check out some sets by artists you might not know anything about at any music festival. You might just find something that you really like. I always feel like Coachella brings me to listen to different artists or gets me into artists I only knew a little bit about before. It was no different this year with the introduction of Dermot Kennedy. I highly recommend checking him out since he’s still very much on the rise. I may even try to see one of his shows during his tour this fall. He’s super talented and his tunes are pretty good as well. Here’s a few you might want to check out:

  1. Power Over Me
  2. Outnumbered
  3. After Rain
  4. A Closeness
  5. Glory

Father of the Bride: Album Review

On Friday, one of my most anticipated albums of the last year came out. Since early 2018, I’ve been waiting for the release a new Vampire Weekend record. Friday it happened. Vampire Weekend’s latest album, since Modern Vampires of the City came out in 2013, Father of the Bride was released. The album’s been teased for months with the release of singles like “Harmony Hall”, “2021”, “Sunflower”, “Big Blue”, and most recently “This Life” and “Unbearably White”. Finally the full album is out and I must say it’s not what I was expecting, but it hasn’t disappointed me yet either.

Father of the Bride is one of those albums that need to grow on you. It’s clear that in the last six years things have changed for frontman and songwriter Ezra Koenig as well as for the band itself (original member Rostam Batmanglij left the band in 2016). The sound is much more different than prior Vampire Weekend records. Koenig’s vocals are the one thing that distinguishes many of the new tracks as being Vampire Weekend songs. There are elements of country, jam, and pop in the record, which is much different from the former albums that have taken sounds from music of other cultures.

Another new addition to this album is the collaboration with Danielle Haim from the sister trio group Haim. She’s featured on three tracks and provides background vocals for a few other songs as well. As a big Haim fan, I’m into this. I never expected the collaboration, but I sort of love it? It adds a female voice to Vampire Weekend that didn’t exist prior. The songs featuring Haim are the ones that sound much different than typical Vampire Weekend. I do like it, but I also kind of wish the songs were more Vampire Weekend sounding with a Haim addition instead of being more Haim sounding with a Vampire Weekend addition.

It’s evident that with FOTB Vampire Weekend has grown and matured in life and in music. In fact, I noticed while seeing them at Lollapalooza last summer that the people attending their set were all older, probably in their 30’s or late 20’s, which if you’ve been to Lolla you know is rare because there’s an overflow of high school and college kids every where. It was pretty cool. So I guess in a way with their new music, Vampire Weekend is growing with their fans. Overall I like the album. I don’t love it. There are a few tracks that are sure bangers, mainly “Harmony Hall” and “This Life”.  The rest really need to grow on me. As I listen to the album more and more though in preparation of seeing Vampire Weekend in concert in September I’m sure I’ll be into a few more songs. I’ll probably still be jamming to “A-Punk”, “Walcott”, “Unbelievers”, and “Oxford Comma” though too. And if you’re a big Vampire Weekend fan I’m sure you’ll be doing the same.