The Wombats’ “Glitterbug” – The Third Iteration of a Techno Journey


If The Wombats realized in 2011’s “The Modern Glitch” that they were techno fans, then with their new album “Glitterbug” they have fully embraced the electronic pop first introduced to their catchy UK pop rock sound four years ago. Though a far departure from the drum-driven pop rock of their 2007 international debut album “Tales of Love, Loss, & Desperation” (their technical debut album “Girls Boys & Marsupials” was originally released only in Japan) and certainly not as innovative as “The Modern Glitch,” it is still a fun album that is sure to be a hit among fans of other 80s inspired bands, like the more refined Bleachers or fellow countrymen The 1975.

The album starts out slow with “Emoticons,” a relatable tune for anyone who has dated during the 21st century, however it is a little too mellow as an opening track, especially when compared to “Tales of Girls, Boys, & Marsupials”/”Kill The Director” and “Perfect Disease” from their last two full-lengths. The second track, “Give Me A Try,” would have been a much more compelling opener, especially since it evokes their previous work “Girls/Fast Cars” (I’m on the look out for a mash-up from my musically inclined friends on the internet, so if you’re into remixing hit me up). My personal favorite song, and another track which I think would have been an excellent opener as it sounds new but still catchy, is third track “Greek Tragedy,” which is reminiscent of “1996” but with a darker, heavier twist (check out the music video if you haven’t already, especially if you’ve ever seen “Skins”). It also features harmonizing, which is part of the reason why I originally fell in love with The Wombats’ sound so many years ago (and not just because I have a huge crush on drummer Dan Haggis, but really, I’ll be at your show next week so hit me up).

“Be Your Shadow” sounds like a Genesis remake (I would love for an “Invisible Touch”/”Be Your Shadow” remix as well please, so someone should make it happen), which is funny because this 80s style is pretty hallmark of Bleachers who also have a song called “Shadow.” This new vogue is compounded by the next track, “Headspace,” which sounds like something right out of “The Breakfast Club” soundtrack. “This Is Not A Party” should be on everyone’s summer party playlist – unless you’re friends are like mine and they prefer rap, in which case it’s time for new friends (jk guys, ily). “Isabel” sounds like a throwback to “Little Miss Pipedream” but with no drums. Seriously guys, where are the drums?

Of course then there’s “Your Body Is A Weapon” which you all should be familiar with by now. I’ve listened to it so many times at this point it no longer sounds as catchy and hip as when I first heard it, but that is more telling of my own listening habits than the quality of the song. “The English Summer” sounds super reminiscent of “My First Wedding” and is finally a nice throwback with some quality drums. Though they aren’t amazing, it’s still not a drum machine and it makes me happy. “Pink Lemonade” will make you feel like your love life is uncomplicated, which is why you should download it regardless. Really, I mean it’s a great song that will most likely make you feel great about yourself, and is fun to listen to, along with sounding like something straight from Smallpools but with a British accent.

“Curveballs” is just a great song that has some real drums (again nothing too new but you can hear an actual drum kit at times) that sounds eighties inspired without being as dated as “Headspace” and “Be Your Shadow.” It’s got harmonies and a sexy beat and reminds me a lot of Walk The Moon, so I think The Wombats may gain some new fans thanks to this number.

“Sex and Question Marks,” the penultimate track, is probably the most iconic of The Wombats sound. It’s got some fun drumstick work going on in the background with a bit of harmonizing and this guitar riff thrown between verses that may remind listeners of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. It also would have been a great opening track especially with the line “What happened to us?” vocalizing what listeners are thinking about The Wombats’ evolved sound. The album awkwardly ends it with “Flowerbomb.” It’s a decent, if boring track but the beat doesn’t create a great musical journey with the rest of the album.

For the most part the drums have seriously taken a back seat and in most numbers could, and probably are, replaced by a drum machine, which is a serious shame (again, I swear, it’s not just because I have a massive crush on Dan). The musical style feels like a continuation of a trend, but with bands like The 1975, Bleachers, Walk The Moon, and Smallpools, who all do electronic, retro pop rock much more eloquently, The Wombats may get lost in the indie music scene. It’s a great album for fans of those bands who may have not appreciated The Wombats’ previous work, but I don’t think it can really compete with its contemporaries.

All in all, it’s a good album because The Wombats are a good band, but it isn’t as catchy or impressively drum-y as their first album and it certainly doesn’t make me feel as much as “The Modern Glitch,” which was filled with as much artistic angst as “Tales of Love, Loss, & Desperation” was filled with awkwardly bubbly clever lyrics. Really though, the album is pretty solid – maybe a little too electronic-y with not enough REAL drums or innovative drumlines, but it’s fun and it’s summery and I’m excited because I know they’ll be able to put on a great show with these new songs.

TL;DR “Glitterbug” is a solid summer album for fans of The Wombats as well as Walk The Moon, Smallpools, Bleachers, and The 1975. Must listen tracks include “Greek Tragedy,” “Your Body Is A Weapon,” “English Summer,” and “Curveballs.” Check them out at the 9:30 club on April 30th (that is if you already have tickets, the show is sold out!)

The Districts @ Rock & Roll Hotel

 

Photo Credit: Caitlin Mccan

 

Rock & Roll Hotel is a venue that needs no introduction to those in the DMV. Hosting an eclectic mix of concerts and dance sessions as well as having a more traditional bar for the casual night crawler, it pretty much has something for everyone. On Friday the 27th, it played host to the four piece indie-americana group The Districts. Read the rest of this entry

Album Review- LOVETAP!

Courtesy of Pop-Break

 

  It’s been a long road for Smallpools leading up to the release of their first full-length album. Their first single, “Dreaming,” from their self-titled EP in 2013 was a smash hit, charting as high as #23 on the Alternative Songs list, and appearing in video games like FIFA 2014. The song led to the quartet touring with and opening for some big name acts, such as Grouplove, MS MR, Walk the Moon, and Neon Trees. On each one of their tours, they would play their four-song EP, and then a taste of what would eventually turn into LOVETAP! promising that a new album was on the way.

With many of the songs on the album having been out for over a year, the true shining moments come in the form of new material from the band. Songs like “American Love,” the first track off the album, “Lovetap!” the moniker of the LP, and “What’s That A Picture Of?” serve as fun and dancy alt-pop hits. The group stays true to their own original Californian sound, while also exploring sounds and riffs that come from other alternative and pop inspirations. The song, “9 to 5,” for instance, sounds very much like a track that could come from the likes of Vampire Weekend.

The album flows together in a concise 45-minute ride, leaving the listener dancing and wanting more. It’s an exciting time for Smallpools, and LOVETAP! serves as a strong debut for a group that should be around for years to come.

Preview: sweetlife 2015 ft. local favorites The Walking Sticks

Courtesy of Sweetlife Music Festival

Springtime is here, and with that abundant sunshine comes news of all the warm-weather festival lineups many of us have been anxiously awaiting. One festival in particular that has a place in the hearts of many DMV locals is sweetlife festival, which has gathered many local and big name artists in the same place as the area’s most enthusiastic music fans since 2010. The highlights from this year’s lineup, which is spanning two days, include Kendrick Lamar, Calvin Harris, The Weeknd, Charlie XCX, and many others spanning a wide range of genres.

Sweetlife festival has been a source of anticipation each year by music lovers in the DMV, and the success of the festival each year has allowed for its rapid growth. The idea for sweetlife germinated in the brains of sweetgreen founders Nicolas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru, and Jonathan Neman only 5 years ago. They’ve also enjoyed rapid success of their fast-casual restaurant chain, which is focused on sustainably serving tasty and healthy food, in many US cities. As their business expanded, so did their thinking on what they were capable of accomplishing. The 500-person crowd in 2010 listening to a handful of local indie artists in a Dupont Cirlce the parking lot was a fruitful accomplishment. Yet this pales in what the trio, and their company, are accomplishing this May at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland.

While this year’s festival features many big names currently on the Billboard chart, the spirit of local bands who helped get this festival off the ground have not been forgotten. One of these groups, The Walking Sticks, have been showing off their trademark dream-pop sound throughout DC for the past two years. The band is entering new territory by playing this year’s sweetlife festival, but as anyone who has seen them perform knows, it is something they are well equipped for. After releasing their newest EP, “Pop Dreams,” this past November, it is clear that the band’s momentum has only been speeding up. The soothing, passionate vocals delivered by Chelsea Lee over the melodic guitar and synthesizer played by twins Max and Spencer Ernst promises to be a magical experience on the sweetlife stage. Watch their new music video for “You Got What You Wanted” here, and look out for them at the sweetlife festival, May 30th & 31st at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland.

3/15: MILO GREENE, WARDELL @ THE ROCK AND ROLL HOTEL

Opening the show for Milo Greene was Wardell, a five piece band hailing from Los Angeles. The band went right into it, enthusiastically jamming away. They had an air of grooviness and carefreeness, at home on the stage, connecting with the crowd as soon as the first note was played. The lead vocalist, Sasha, seemed to hit every note on the scale, with an impressive range. Each song seemed to have its own unique feel, yet flowed seamlessly into the next. This band made for a marvelous beginning to the concert, and had the crowd cheering and dancing less than halfway through the set. 

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Photo by Anour Esa

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Photo by Anour Esa

Fast forward 40 minutes, and it is 9:17 pm in a room full of anxious fans waiting for Milo Greene to take the stage. The lights dimmed, cloaking all but a glowing Milo Greene banner behind a wide array of instruments. When the 5 piece band hailing from LA stepped on stage, the entire venue erupted in excited applause. As soon as the music began, the crowd was swaying happily to the flow of the music. With 4 lead vocalists, there was an ending evolution of the sound throughout the show. The sound that filled the venue had a smoky, organic, flowing quality to it; the type that would leave a smile on your lips, and your cheeks flushed. There were at least 20 different instruments on stage, the tools of the artists who occupied it, and were never stationary. One instrument after the other was continually passed along to different members of the band, played with unfaltering skill.

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Photo by Anour Esa

This was the last show of Milo Greene’s month long tour, and it is safe to say you could feel the passion and importance of this show in the band’s performance. The crowd knew every word to every song, and in more than one song, sang the chorus unaided, and cheerily. The set list was a wonderful mix between new and old, from both their new album, Control, and their first self titled album, Milo Greene. Although the crowd has less than 2 months to learn the contours of the newest album, it seemed as if the album was a fond memory of many. Bringing back memories for most was an impeccable cover of Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home.” Throughout the show there were hoots of excitement and joy at the music that was being played, and I personally couldn’t keep a smile off my face the entire night.

After finishing the show, the band hung out and manned their own merchandise table, signing every single thing handed to them, from set lists, to tickets, to T-shirts, to LP’s, to posters. This was a legendary concert, by a soon-to-be if not already legendary band, with a crowd that was as happy as could be.

Young Summer at U Street Music Hall, Feb. 20th

Tinashe’s Amethyst Mixtape

Amethyst by Tinashe. Credit: Tinashe

Amethyst by Tinashe. Credit: Tinashe

 

Following her success with Aquarius and the remixes spawned from “2 On,” Tinashe released her fourth mixtape, Amethyst, yesterday. It’s an appropriate followup to her February birthday, astrological sign, and birthstone. She enlists a crew of artists, including Ritz Reynolds, Dominic Angelella, and Legacy, whom she all worked with on Aquarius, to craft an overall good mixtape, however it leaves something to be desired. One can only look forward to her next release or tour to satisfy oneself. A track-by-track review follows after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry

Elvis Perkins: I Aubade

Image courtesy of Elvis Perkins
An aubade is a morning love song, a song of hope and joy that the new day brings for both the lover and the beloved. Fitting then that singer-songwriter Elvis Perkins borrows the concept of the aubade for his first album in five years. Recorded in multiple locations across the US, I Aubade ranges from lush psychedelia to scratchy lo-fi. In marked contrast to Perkins’s first two records, which utilized fairly standard rock instrumentation, the album features an expansive sonic pallet, from celeste and nylon string guitar to tabla and dulcimer. Normally shadowy and dark with his Cohenesque musings, Perkins’s lyrics take a more surreal bent here. “Hogus Pogus” is an optimistic tale about a man receiving a pig’s heart in a transplant; “& Eveline” is a Donovan-esque fairly tale with a bit less flower power optimism: (“Once more/ you make it through the night/ on the floor/ the sleeper’s open wide.”) Other experiments are not quite as successful:  (“AM” sounds somewhat like what would happen if someone mashed up Sweetheart of The Rodeo era Byrds with Dixieland jazz and had a despairing Woody Guthrie pen the lyrics), and others are simply impenetrable (the downbeat folk-rock political lullaby “$2″). Not surprisingly, the most pleasant tracks on I Aubade are the simplest, including the flowing nylon string guitar and rumbling synth in the short instrumental ” Accidental Tourist (a white Huyano melody), and Perkins’s weary, pained vocals on the  traveler’s ballad “Wheel In the Morning.” “I Came for Fire” showcases the best elements of the “old and “new” Elvis Perkins, as a simple acoustic blues track is haunted by Perkins’s half-whisper/half-warble. Flutes and synth rush in, creating a typhoon of sound so vast you’d think the devil had just tuned your guitar. “Oh to be somewhere/or be somebody else/Oh to have someone/all to myself.” Perkins croons on “All Today.” Those lines speak to the human heart beating under all of that haze and coded messages. There’s a warmth to these songs that’s less evident in his other work, and might not be readily picked up on a first listen, but becomes more and more apparent as you revisit each track and peel away the layers underneath.

Shows We’re Stoked For: Sweater Beats + Kastle + Manila Killa 3/4

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It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited for a show, especially with a lineup this stacked. Thanks to the awesome people behind Closed Sessions, your Wednesday night plans have just been taken care of.

Sweater Beats is bringing his Sweater Weather tour to DC, alongside Kastle and DC’s very own Manilla Killa. Sweater Beats’ music sounds exactly like what his name might imply: super lush and dreamy beats. He’s remixed everyone from Beyoncé to Flume and Chet Faker to Ciara, and put out ton of his own work and mixes.

Kastle brings us vibey dance tracks, and with collaborations with artists such as JMSN and Jason Burns, you’re not going to be standing still during his set. Finally, Manila Killa rounds out the lineup, with his bright and spaced-out beats and diverse sound.

Seriously, for only $12 a ticket, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Tickets are still available here, and if you’re a GW student you can use our special code CSGWU for a sweet disount. Win win win.

– Lotanna Obodozie

THEESatisfaction: “EarthEE”

Courtesy of Pitchfork

For the half hour that I dedicated to listening to awE naturalE, the debut project by Washington state quasi hip-hop duo Catherine “Cat” Harris-White and Stasia “Stas” Irons, it felt almost impossible for me to wrap my head around the soundscapes presented in the work. I was trying so hard to define and compartmentalize what I was hearing into some genre but I quickly found my attempts to be ineffectual and pointless. Perhaps it was because the sound was foreign to me that I liked the album so much – a fresh combination of sound and voice, production and unorthodox poeticism spread across bizarrely-titled tracks and packaged ever so neatly by peculiarly tribal cover art. A strong reminder that new sounds are always welcome.
EarthEE, the duo’s second studio album under Sub Pop Records sees a reprisal of their trans-genre explorations but with a more developed sound and an almost unbelievable feature lineup. The record traverses the worlds of neo-soul, hip-hop and jazz as they harvest elements from each style and throw them together to produce a melting pot of sounds and feels. It’s not strange that this group first gained widespread attention through their feature on fellow Washingtonians Shabazz Palace’s debut, Black Up – in fact it makes complete sense. The similarities in their approach to making music make it seem like they are each others opposite-gender counterparts bound together by the same creative spirit simply pushing it’s voice through different physical vessels. As a result it seemed totally appropriate (if not completely necessary) that Shabazz appear multiple times throughout the project both as individual features and as a duo.
Throughout this project their message is never obvious – it’s presented through abstract lyricism and mysterious sonic landscapes. Essentially, it is unreasonable to suggest that it will mean the same exact thing to different people, but the theme seems to focus on aspects of nature and the universe. It reflects a unity among all living things and human interactions with the spiritual and natural worlds – a principle that lowkey nods at themes centered on the ethereal and abstract. This is modestly reflected in the artwork, which depicts Cat and Stas as Nubian royalties on a suspended golden throne, their attention only to the stars behind and above them because all human matters are trivial in comparison.
The album’s opener continues much in the same vein with dark pharaoh-esque synths and syncopated percussion lines supporting cryptic poetry verses – evocative of some ancient Egyptian anthem. “Said the bird to the water, may I take a sip,” Stas raps as Cat provides vocal harmonies in the background. They seem to have moved away from the political and human subjects examined in awE naturalE to paint pictures (with sound, of course) of things that aren’t of this world. Aptly named “Prophetic Perfection,” the track sees the duo explore the creation of the world by some entity and the interaction of elements in the natural world before human interference.
The sound is abruptly shifted to downbeat Funkadelic/DamFunk-esque sounds while still maintaining spacey undertones as the second song, “No GMO,” plays. Smooth rhythm synthesizers tucked under a layer of piercing leads hit a point somewhere between sexy and weird, right where Stas and Cris fit perfectly. The groovy deep synth carries forward to the next track that sees a return to themes of natural unity through the usage of unorthodox percussion and modern keyboards. “Planet For Sale” presents a sound reminiscent of a fusion between Pharaoh Sanders’s ancient hymns and R. Kelly’s sensual keys. A unity is created between the old and the new – they become one. “How we destroy a planet when we didn’t plant things,” Stas raps over the infectious reverberating snare as she further emphasizes focus on nature and the natural. Cat follows shortly after with a brief vocal line that sounds beautiful at a distance. Paying attention to what she’s saying, I realize that it’s either so abstract that it’s going way over my head or it just doesn’t make sense (as a follow-up to Stas’s verse, at least).
Its not until the fourth track that the first Shabazz Palaces feature comes in (with the first feature overall being on their second track). The male hip-hop duos anaconda-wielding producer/rapper Ishmael Butler – formerly Butterfly of Digable Planets – comes in hot with a laidback yet serious rap. The style of the music has shifted again with the group experimenting with the hip-hop sounds that are at the roots of their music. The beat sounds like it would belong on a remastered Midnight Marauders. Technically simple yet stylistically flawless, it’s almost mesmerizing and you find yourself getting lost. Time is bent around you as the short 2:30 song just seems to linger in a manner most welcome. The first time Shabazz Palaces show up as a group is during the album’s eponymous track where the members pursue a more cheerful approach as they discuss the beauty of black women, love and sexuality.
Me’shell Ndegeocello’s appearance is delayed past the halfway point of the album. 30 minutes through the listen her presence is felt through a prominent and distinct thump. Her bass is so heavily submerged in phasers that she’s just two strings and a wolf pelt shy of being Thundercat, a sound that compliments the atmospheric synths that weave their way through the vocals above. Yet, her vocal presence is limited and as a result I find myself a little disappointed, wanting for more. Regardless, I take a moment to appreciate how smoothly she’s woven into the formula. It feels like a puzzle piece, or when you have just enough coke in your rum.
During Me’shell’s final feature the song starts to revisit the darker tones explored at the very start of the album. The tone persists through the next two tracks, and is further elucidated with the help of Shabazz Palaces, who make their final appearance on the latter of the two, a track titled “Recognition.” Their role has shifted and they’re heard delivering a rhythmic spoken word verse in unison with their female counterparts. The production is minimal for the first half with the focus being primarily on the vocals as they repeat the same two lines over a sinister low ring. The production kicks in just about halfway through, and it would seem as though Rick Wright was resurrected to lend his keyboard talents on this track. The sharp lead synths are eerily reminiscent of the haunting riffs on Pink Floyd’s mid 70’s classic “Welcome to the Machine,” and do well to create a similar atmosphere. The album is brought to a close much within the same ominous light as when it started as they remind you “its not like I haven’t read [your] story, I read [you].”
With the constant shifts in genre, this album bears a similar burden to that of its predecessor, wherein it’s difficult to maintain some degree of flow. From a creative standpoint, this is fair game and even prevents the work from venturing into the mundane. It does, however, present a challenge for the artist to create seamless transitions between the tracks so they could come together cleanly as one body of work. This is this album’s only downfall as the transitions are almost nonexistent. Had the tracks not presented similar concepts to some extent it would be impossible to call this compilation an “album” in good conscience.
Naturally, some tracks resonated within me far more than others but it was straight up impossible for me to skip over tracks entirely. While there were instances where the music just lacked the lyrical emphasis that Stas and Cat’s style is so heavily predicated on, these occasional shortcomings would be made up with interesting production choices. Aside from the seemingly routine harmonizing, repetition was nonexistent in both the lyrical content and production. Each song brought something new to the experience. Although sometimes confusingly abstract, the combination of all these different contrasting elements, the old and the new, the “normal” and the unconventional, creates a refreshing listening experience. An alluring mist surrounds the duo as one comes to the conclusion that they, like Flying Lotus, or Kendrick Lamar, or Kanye West, have seen a world, or a reality, beyond ours. EarthEE is their attempt to bring their audience these other worlds through sonic media. Whether or not you choose to indulge them in their theories on the metaphysical is up to you.

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