Every year for the last 3 years I have been invited to act as a nominating committee member for the Westword Music Showcase. Every year I publish my picks for the sake of total transparency and because I think these bands deserve some recognition (even if they didn’t make the final ballot cut). The rules for nomination were simple: name 20 local bands which have had an impact on me in the past year (with the stipulation that none can have business ties to me, because that would be a conflict of interest). I have taken things a step further and decided to not re-nominate any act which I nominated in a past year. So here they are, in no particular order:
Night of Joy
Oak Creek Band
Fingers of the Sun
Panal SA De CV
I would have also nominated the following, but can’t since they’re all affiliated with my record label (don’t let that stop you from checking them out).
While remixes are usually reserved for dance/electronic music, local mix-tapist/remixer/producer/experimentalist Patrick Lee took on the unique challenge of spicing up a track from The Knew. “The Key” appeared on last summer’s EP Before It Ends and already had a healthy dose of The Knew’s brand of dance-rock before Lee got to it. The result is a beats-meets-rock tune that showcases the talents of both the originators and the remixer.
You can catch The Knew live this Friday at Hi-Dive as they play with an extended line-up. Patrick Lee will be there playing organ and a 3-piece horn section will round out the 8-man Knew. Also playing: The Swayback and The Photo Atlas.
This week we’re going to take a trip back in time. The year is 1986: the Russians have launched Mir, Ronald Reagan is president, the Miami Vice-look still has a stronghold on fashion, and a post-Garfunkel Paul Simon just released a new record titled Graceland. It’s quite unlike anything we’ve heard at the time: a mix of pop, African-influence, zydeco, and a healthy dose of Simon’s knack for stellar songwriting.
From the opening track “The Boy in the Bubble,” it becomes apparent that this is not your average 1980′s pop record. Using the correct proportions of accordion, clean electric guitar, and African roots the songs manage to ebb and flow while remaining cohesive as a whole record. My personal favorite tracks come in the middle of the album- “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and “You Can Call Me Al.” “Diamonds” begins with a soulful delivery from Ladysmith Black Mambazo and continues into a bright story of optimistic love.
“You Can Call Me Al,” on the other hand, is one of those songs that you can’t help but dance along with. It has a great 4-on-the-floor dance beat with plenty of 80′s synth and horns. Oftentimes I find myself humming “If you’ll be my bodyguard I can be your long-lost pal…”
In 1986 Graceland won the Grammy for record of the year (back when that award might have actually meant something). Recently, in 2007, it was added to the US National Recording Registry and has come back into vogue as African-infused beats and clean electric guitars have again become popular in mainstream music. While they may not readily admit to it, bands such as Vampire Weekend owe a lot to Graceland for helping to define a sound that has a certain timeless quality. Take a trip back in time and hear the record that has been inspiring musicians for the last 25 years- borrow your parent’s copy, dust off the turntable, and enjoy.
Listen to Graceland below.
Well everyone, this is it: The Something Like Sound Graduation Party & Farewell Showcase. An event to celebrate ends and beginnings. Come down to the Meadowlark on Friday May 13th for a night of music and revelry as Fellow Citizens, Red Fox Run, PANAL S.A. DE C.V., and Thrifty Astronaut provide the tunes. Mines students get in for free and it’s just $7 for everyone else. Don’t miss this event! Click the poster above for the Facebook invitation.
Things at Something Like Sound have hit a feverish pace as we approach the final month of active existence. In the wild business that was the pre-SXSW weekend, I caught the send-off show for two Act So Big Forest acts going on a week-long spring break tour. Thrifty Astronaut and Galaxies (both of whom have a surprising lack of songs about outer space) played the modest Yellow Feather Coffee on Santa Fe. These are a few shots from that evening.
Catch both bands this weekend at the FoCoMX festival in Fort Collins.
Electro-pop (e-p) is an interesting creature. The seminal e-p record was 2003’s Give Up from The Postal Service. It was a somber reflection on life matched with 8-bit bleeps-and-bloops, synthesizers, and danceable beats. Owl City moved the genre on to more accessible grounds with 2009’s Ocean Eyes using ultra-sugary lyrics about lightning bugs and dentistry. It is on from this backdrop that I will introduce Galaxies- an electro-pop project headed up by Colorado musician and Act So Big Forest cohort Dillon Groeneman.
With regards to the aforementioned spectrum between sobering and sugary, Galaxies falls somewhere in the middle- which I would say is a good thing. The trouble with overly-morose electro-pop is that the lyrics undermine the fun instrumentation and my issue with overly-sweet lyrics is that they’re just cheesy. Galaxies manages to find balance between serious and fun with song like “Lost at Sea” and “At The Zoo With You” (along with other songs about zoos and animals). My favorite song is certainly “Kite Song,” which features beautiful airy female vocals.
Instrumentation is where Like A Lion really shines. In addition to synthesizers and samples, Galaxies uses live drums, ukulele, and guitar. The album’s BandCamp page claims it has been “years in the making,” a statement which shows a dedication to polished and cohesive sound. At the end of the day I would say that Like A Lion really shows Galaxies’ potential and ability, so give it a listen- you can stream this entire record below.
There’s a new lo-fi surf group in Colorado: Moon Tides. The newest members of the Act So Big Forest collective have 2 songs out: “To Be” and “Swimming.” Both are full of bright, reverb-drenched, summery guitars and breathy vocals. Moon Tides will be playing the upcoming FoCoMX music festival at the Alleycat Cafe in Fort Collins at 8pm on Saturday, April 9th. Keep an eye out for these guys, as I’m sure they have more up their sleeves.
Watch the video for “Swimming” and listen to “To Be” below. Click for more Moon Tides.
There are good days, then there are excellent days. Today was one of the latter variety. In the two-and-a-half years I have spent crafting articles here at Something Like Sound I have witnessed an explosion on the Denver music scene. The number of local-centric blogs has steadily increased as Denver set about carving a place on the national scene. I’ve seen bands come and go, I’ve spent long hours writing, sorting through photos and wading through seas of sweaty concertgoers. There have been times when I wanted to quit, and there have been moments of sheer ecstasy. At the end of today I can say I’m honored to have found a place in the history of Denver’s music scene as an archivist, patron, and lover.
The news of winning Westword’s “Best Music Blog” for their Best of Denver 2011 issue truly made my day. Joining the ranks of Donnybrook Writing Academy and One Track Mind is an accolade I’m proud of, thank you. Perhaps now would be an opportune time to make the following announcement: I will be retiring Something Like Sound on May 13, 2011.
After trying to find someone to take over, I determined that it would be better to end SLS when I graduate from Mines. This website is ripe with my personality and experiences- it is, for the most-part, my college music experience. The site itself will stay up indefinitely, as an archive of the Denver scene from 2009~2011. I will make the following promise though: If any student at Mines wishes to start their own music blog I will gladly help them start it up and make networking connections (I still feel like CSM needs representation on the local college-music scene).
Thanks again to everyone who helped out along the way. Stay tuned for the last month and a half of Something Like Sound- there are still more articles to be written. Also, keep your calendars open for May 13th, because we’re going out with a bang- a night of music and celebration at The Meadowlark (more details soon). I am moving to Austin (the live music capitol of the world), so chances are I’ll get the itch to start blogging again, just with a new project…
South By South-West (SXSW) was two weeks ago, and I have only now found time to write down some of my thoughts. Life has been busy, but this post is better late than never. Without further ado: The Best and Worst of SXSW 2011
Showcase: Impose Magazine (3/18 at the Long Branch Inn)
Baths and his impressive digital skills
The heart of SXSW is discovery. I stumbled upon this showcase after a day of hanging out with FLASHLIGHTS and the crew from Speaker Snacks and I stayed after they left for the evening. Impose‘s lineup was the kind which could be a festival all its own- featuring GOBBLE GOBBLE, Braids, Baths, Weekend, Cloud Nothings, and No Joy. An eclectic mix of dance, electronic, punk, and lo-fi kept me intrigued and waiting for the next act. See more photos here.
Sets: The Strokes (3/17 at Auditorium Shores) & Memoryhouse (3/17 at Swan Dive)
The packed crowd at The Strokes
There were so many great sets during the week that I couldn’t choose just one to feature. The Strokes, those mainstream, larger-than-life rock stars showed their gusto by headlining the Auditorium Shores stage (one of the largest at SXSW) and cemented their spot with a full fireworks display during their finale.
Canadian chill-group Memoryhouse bathed in blue light
One group that I made an effort to see was Memoryhouse. After being taken with their recent 7″ a few months ago, I determined that I wanted to see them live. Turns out they’re even better live than on the recordings. Their set at the excellent Brooklyn Vegan showcase allowed me to cool off from the heat of the day and bask in the soothing music.
Place to park: East of I-35
The neighborhoods surrounding the historic French Legation Museum had some prime parking spots. Being east of I-35 ensured that the typical downtown traffic was less and the relative lack of “no parking” signs was encouraging. Furthermore, our car never got towed, ticketed, or broken in to. Last, but not least, from the museum it was only a short walk to get to 6th downtown, or any number of spots on the east side (including the Long Branch Inn, Cheer Up Charlie’s, and the Fader Fort). Only complaint: you had to get there early to snatch a spot
Free booze: New Belgium Fat Tire beer at SpokesBuzz party
Fort Collins’ian Danielle Ate The Sandwich at the beer-lover’s favorite party
Maybe it’s because I grew up in Fort Collins, maybe it’s because they make a damn good beer; in either case the free Fat Tire from New Belgium hit the spot at the SpokesBuzz party. There were also some great Colorado-local acts there (including blog-favorite Danielle Ate The Sandwich). Next year, when I’m living in Austin, I will go to any party that has free Fat Tire.
Free food: Rachael Ray’s party
Rachel Ray’s party had a marked lack of hipsters
Where to start… perhaps the fajitas, or the chili, or the burgers, or any number of other fantastic snacks made food-personality Rachael Ray my favorite person on our last day in Austin. While the music was not quite up to my tastes, the food certainly was. Add free Blue Moon and margaritas to the mix and it was all worth it.
Way to spend your time: Standing in line for Purevolume House & Fader Fort
Toro Y Moi played the Fader Fort… although waiting in line sucked
We got in to Austin on the Monday of SXSW. We spent Tuesday standing in lines. For 5 hours we waited to get wristbands to the “super-exclusive” (read: over-rated) parties thrown by Fader and Purevolume. The worst part: We didn’t even go to any of the mediocre showcases at Purevolume and I only went to Fader once for Toro Y Moi.
Mode of transportation: Walking
So many sore legs
Being on your feet for an entire day is one thing, walking around on the concrete for 6 days is just masochistic. If it weren’t for the logistical nightmare, we would have all been riding bicycles and saving our energy for more important things (read: drinking). I suppose walking wasn’t the absolute worst mode of transport, I saw some pretty dorky looking people riding Segways.
Decision of the week: No sunscreen on the first day
Charlie Sheen called, he wants his look back
That’s me after our week in Austin and 16 hour car ride home. Do I look burnt out? Sure I do! The entire week would have been much more pleasant if I hadn’t gotten sunburned the first day while waiting in endless lines. Be safe kids, wear sunscreen at SXSW. Note to future companies who want my respect/business at SXSW: In addition to giving away free booze, give out some sunscreen too.
Hangover: The day after the Sony party
Technology giant Sony threw a party to show off their fancy TVs and computers, we showed up just because they had one of the best open bars at all of SXSW. Unfortunately it was a little too good and the next day felt terrible. It reminded me that drinking in moderation is important, and having a designated driver is even more important (I didn’t drive home that night).
With South By South-West (SXSW) last week, the last month has been a bombardment of showcase announcements and stories about “must-see” acts. Among the throngs of hipster-fodder is one band that keeps rising to the surface: Toro Y Moi. To be technically correct, Toro Y Moi is really just the stage name for Chazwick Bundick, a South Carolina native who has helped define the obtuse faux-genre “Chill-wave.” (Editorial note: With the exception of 1980′s “New Wave,” I find it difficult to take any modern “-wave” genre seriously).
Tags aside, there is a reason Toro Y Moi has persistently shown up on my radar. Apart from the marketing campaigns and associated buzz, the new record Underneath The Pine is a fresh and accessible collection of laid-back dance songs with smooth overtones.
There is a certain vintage feel to Pine, as each song draws from classic-sounding instrumentation and traditional beats (there’s no trip-hop on this record). “New Beat” stands out for its contemporary take on disco, but don’t worry, there’s nothing cheesy here, just 70′s synths and maybe a few bongo samples.
While other “wave” groups such as The XX, MillionYoung, and STRFKR have markedly darker, more electronic sounds, Toro Y Moi maintains a certain air of warmth. That warmth is what sets this band apart and is the reason they have come into vogue. Rather than being strictly dance music or exclusively ambient and “too cool,” Underneath The Pine comes from a collective nostalgia.
Toro Y Moi will play the Larimer Lounge in Denver on March 31. Watch the video for “New Beat” below.