Soft and strong aren’t always words that you’ll hear next to each other, but it would be harder to find better descriptors of The Answer by Troy Kaszas. This track brings back fond memories of adult alternative at the turn of the century and dips playfully into the more colorful elements of modern pop. Amidst a dense mix that never feels overcrowded, Kaszas displays a penchant for intimate, piano-driven verses that explode into guitar layers that might surprise local rock musicians. Beyond this, there is even time found for filtered electronic touches that really help the song stand out among anyone who would liken it to many groups in the alternative scene
The Answer is more than a sing-along for fans, it’s an emotional expression that shouldn’t be overlooked. In an age where hits can be about anything from what drugs we’re taking to literally describing dance moves in-time with a beat, Kaszas serves as an example of what many aspire to when they think of music as a medium of communicating things that won’t always translate from words alone. The Answer is a track that could grace a shopping mall speaker with its ease of tone one night and then erupt as echoes from a distant arena the night after. Whether you’re looking for something soft or something strong, this song may be The Answer.
Luddy Mussy is a talented and creative group with a very special approach to musical composition. The recent track, “Is A Sound”, is a stunning piece that clocks in at 13 minutes. Throughout the length of the song, Luddy experiments with various genres and patterns, flirting with pop, rock, jazz and many other styles. The song opens up with lush and embracing piano tones, only to follow with some stunning drum arrangements. The electric guitars, however, truly takes the spotlight.
What I find really amazing is that the guitar is certainly not the loudest or most upfront element in the mix, yet it definitely leads the songs, helping it move forward with some really cool effects. From stunning slide phrases to amazing old school fuzz tones and stunning noise breaks, the guitar really adds something special to the mix, going for a rock edge with an atmospheric feel. I love how the vocals come in at about 5 minutes into the song, when you least expect them to surface. The song makes me think of bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins or The Goo Goo Dolls, but with a more progressive and experimental feel.
Illustrada is a project with a very understated and intimate way to combine indie-folk with pop. Their recent single, Wide Eyed Tigress, is a track that blends in lush shoegaze textures with earnest folky guitars and beautiful vocals that remind me of the work of artists such as The Tallest Man On Earth, Ben Howard or Fleet Foxes, just to mention but a few. While the acoustics strum gently, electric guitars create beautiful textures that make me think of the work of artists such as Sigur Ros.
The arrangement of this song is simple and not too cluttered, yet the tune has a rich and deep sound, full of beautiful ambiance. The vocals are present, seamlessly cutting through the mix without overpowering. Wide Eyed Tigress certainly stands out for its simplicity: the song is elegant, classy and understated: this simple formula goes a long way, serving the project well. I love the playfulness of this song, as well as it’s sweet and delicate overtones.
The reason that Grad Party’s music is so compelling is that it seems to tug at musical threads across all ages of pop and indie evolution. There are emotive new-pop vibes from the post-punk era, a slick late night 90’s chart feel through to the glorious understatement in keeping with the best of todays sonic troubadours. Soulful vocals, delicate chiming guitars and chilled dance beats blend effortlessly and a wonderful sonorous haze drifts across the song, softening the edges and making it already sound like half timeless pop classic, half perfect forward step.
A modern take on 80’s baroque pop? An answer to the frivolity of the current state of the charts? A pop chill out? An indie return to form? Of course it is all this and more but for those of you of a certain age or a certain geographic location it does resonate with the sound of British underground pop, indie music in its original incarnation, the sound of fledgling label releases run out of the back of a record store. More that that Feeling sounds like a lost Dream Academy song and that will do me just fine.
The term “singer-songwriter” seems to have become short hand for a certain type of musician. These days it seems as if you could blindly throw a stone and not fail to hit some over-entitled, gap-year troubadour treating us to his accumulated life experience since leaving home not six months previously. Normally in a wide brimmed hat. Thankfully artists such as Jen Simmonds remind us that all is not lost, far from it and she offers us a lush and sonorous response that swiftly destroys such negative stereotypes.
It Can Only Get Better is a smooth and slightly psychedelic haze of chiming guitars and picked acoustica, minimal beats and a voice that is both emotive and seductive. The charm of the song is that whilst it deals with unrequited love it comes from a positive and uplifting place, a neat trick if you know how to do it.
There is a wonderful understatement to No Secrets, one that is unusual in this world of bravado and bombast, glitz and glitter. Whilst their peers are writing anthem ready pop in the name of indie, Nobodies Birthday are the masters of the slow burning, brooding meander, never giving away the goods too quickly, never falling for gimmickry or losing site of the song in the name of a quick buck.
Even when the choruses do kick in it is more a series of musical plateaus rather than the mountain peak meaning that as the song crescendos its way to the finish it gradually pays off as it goes along rather than having one music punch line which is often followed by an anti-climax. Nobodies Birthday are the masters of restraint, slow unravelling and heightened anticipation, which means that whilst others may be described as anthemic, they manage to be majestic.
Have you ever enjoyed a certain type of music with the specific intention of passively listening? Need something to hum along while you focus on your daily monotonies and responsibilities? Dead Sullivan’s Sever is just the song for you.
Are there cute, imagery-laden lyrics hiding under a blanket of soft guitars in this song? Yes, but what’s more readily in the foreground are crinkling percussive bits and page turning samples that provide the illusion that the song is blossoming in the background of its own official recording. If that’s not a unique approach, I don’t know what is. Sever is aptly named as it seems to be gently removed from the listener enough to alter their mood and help them find a drowsy contentment without having to engage much in actually listening. This passive pop leaves so much to be discovered upon placing a headphone in one ear and another in the ear of a good friend to explore together.
Dead Sullivan proves inventive and evocative on this track. It has its own listening scene built into itself and seems perfect for so many specific moments of the day that there’s little excuse not to have it on a readily available playlist.
Pop-rock with a social conscience…now there’s a thing. Whilst pop music is normally fixated on short lived, chart friendly, statistic driven song and rock music is doing its best to look self-important and a bit hard, along comes a band able to drive down the middle of that highway neatly swerving the clichés that little either side of the tarmac. Sonically Sleeping Babys pull of the neat trick of being able to meld the sweetness of pop with the muscle of rock to make music which has appeal to both camps but in the case of Resistor it is what they have to say which is the real break through.
The message is more poignant than ever in the modern and overly connected world. Every word and deed was consequence, from the face-to-face and obvious to the anonymous and distant but that those actions not only matter they also define who you become as a person. So who do you want to be? It’s your call!
There is a dark and unsettling heart beating at the centre of Slightlykilld contrasting with the slick and sweet indie-rock that it comes wrapped in. The result is that beguiling blend of light and shade, allure and menace, the sonic equivalent of that moment when finally get up the courage to talk to the gothic beauty you have been pursuing all night and knowing that it will end with you used, lost and heartbroken. And knowing too that it will be worth it.
It’s the same blend of surface glamour and hidden danger that coils through The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Garbage and so it is no surprise to find that they have already opened for the latter to a sold out Moscow arena. It is also proof that seduction is better than savagery, for at least with seduction you go to it willingly.
Chris Garcia may just have stumbled on the perfect template for modern pop, a way of using all its immediacy and infectiousness but retaining the integrity of the indie artist and the subtlety of the folk troubadour. Many have tried but he seems to have hit on a winning formula with The Fantasy.
Just enough coffee house folk seeps through, plenty of the modern singer-songwriter styling, enough indie vibe to keep it on a modern path and more than a touch of the pop jaunt normally associated with the likes of Jack Johnson. That is quite a lot to juggle and Chris Garcia does it elegantly and eloquently and for that he has my upmost thanks.