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If their first album was already a mix between a west coast and southern feel, Ivan & Alyosha’s newest album, Its All Just Pretend, synthesized those themes in a more expressed, driven and full manner. The album retains the band’s lyrically uplifting nature and musically soothing and flowing nature, but delivers it in perhaps a more expressed, confident, and uplifting manner. Lead singer Tim Wilson’s soulful and yearning voice is harnessed in a clearer, more up front manner, commanding the attention of the listener from the first song of the album. The rest of band plays with increased vigor, even during slower songs such as “Tears in Your Eyes” and “Drifting Away,” delivering a more cohesive and substantive record. The album definitively speaks to the growth that the band has undergone, being I&A’s now second full-length album. While the album does have an air of reminiscing and reflection, it seems to have a positive drive to it, emitting a mature, hopeful sound to it.
The album begins with “Something is Wrong,” a steady tune, that synthesizes Wilson’s sustaining vocals with a driving accompaniment of bass, guitar, and drums. The song then melts quietly and slowly into one of the most driving songs of the album, “Bury Me Deep” delivering pounding drums and bass and concise and catchy vocals. The band then grooves straight into “All This Wandering Around” which retains the energy of “Bury Me Deep” with Wilson belting out vocals throughout the song, in perfect pace with the rest of band. The title track of the album, “It’s All Just Pretend” takes on a more reminiscent, somber tone, with soft guitar and percussion and Wilson’s deliberate and calm vocals in the beginning, intertwined and accented by electric guitar riffs and steady drums. The song speaks of bittersweet reflection and contemplation, ending with the guitar anthem fading away in the background.
Skip ahead a few tracks an “Oh This Love” will have you swaying and dancing its beat, energy, and persistent lyrics, bordering between a sad and happy love song. A few tracks later, “Modern Man” injects high powered energy into the album with distorted guitar, driving drums, and filtered vocals. The song emanates a driven and independent response to some of the slower songs from the album, showcasing yet another feature of Wilson’s singing repertoire. “Let Me Go East” brings the listener back into the world of rock’n’roll, sounding like a 21st century revamping of some of Chuck Berry’s and Jerry Lee Lewis’s tunes from the 50’s, with (some) elements of 90s punk bands like Social Distortion. The song drips with opportunity and youth, speaking to its title to let (whomever) go east. The album closes out with the soft and sweet “Don’t Lose Your Love,” a contemplative, charming, and reflective song that despite its wistful sound, ends the album on a slow, but hopeful note.
Seattle’s Ivan & Alyosha brought out yet another astounding and wonderful full length album that gave the listener plenty to hear and a nice pallet to ponder their own thoughts on. The album can be interpreted many different ways, with its sound driven and full, but many times deliberate and reflective. The album solidifies the band’s west coast/southern fusion in a delightfully complex and robust manner. This album is perfect for any summer day, providing something not only to move one’s body to, but one’s mind as well.
The band is on its summer tour for this album right now, and will be making a stop in DC this Friday, May 29th to perform at U Street Music Hall. Don’t miss it! If you’re interested, you can buy tickets here.
The 930 Club was packed beyond belief with people and anticipation. When Matt and Kim came on stage, a roar like no other came over the entire crowd, balcony and pit alike. The Brooklyn hailing duo was beaming and ready for a crazy show. Not 1 minute into their set, Kim, notorious for being one of the most energetic, pumped up performers in pop today, jumped on top of the bass drum of her drum set and started dancing and hitting her sticks against the frame of the drum.
Matt and Kim went right into it, playing with a blazing energy and stage presence, dancing, asking the audience to dance and give it “100 percent” tonight. The duo was beyond pumped to be playing two sold out shows in a row at the 930 club, which they referred to as “world famous.” The band connected and fed off the audience in a way I have not seen before, and with raging success. I came in expecting to see an indie-pop duo play some music and possibly dance a bit, and was instead hit in the face with one of the most energetic, pumped up dance parties I’ve been to. Mid-way through the set, Kim stood back on the bass drum (she did this probably 20 times throughout the show) announcing to the crowd “fuck a sing-a-long, I need to see some mother-fucking crowd surfers here tonight!” And as if on-queue, the crowd surfing began and did not end until the very last song of the show.
This show was unlike most shows I have been to in that the duo did not rely on their musical talent to guide the show (although they are undoubtedly musically talented). The two youthful and passionate musicians used their energy and hype to create an incredibly intense show with Matt remarking towards the end that the crowd went past 100 percent and made it to 150. The duo was far from perfect, and it didn’t seem to bother them or anyone in the venue. Matt had 2 fingers taped together which he had broken in an earlier show. He assured everyone he could still do everything he needed to make it a legendary show, adding that “being perfect is fucking boring.” If the show’s musical performance wasn’t perfect, the show’s physical performance and energy made far up for it until the very end. Throughout the show, they would play little intermissions where they would play short renditions of “Up in Here,” “Just a Friend,” and more. Many many many hundreds of balloons were thrown into the audience, only adding to the massive dance party aesthetic.
Towards the end of the show, Matt said that “We know its hot in here…but we’re about to make it much hotter,” unveiling a parachute which was draped across the first 50 feet of the pit overtop of the audience, and then promptly asked those underneath to go absolutely crazy. After this, Matt asked everyone in the pit to scrunch together, raise their hands up flat, and make a dance floor of sorts for Kim to stand on. Miraculously, the “handfloor” worked, with Kim dancing literally on top of the crowd, and making it back to the stage unharmed. (I dont know if she could even be harmed, I swear she’s made of steel). The band rocked the house with performances of songs off their newest album, New Glow, and of course, the song that perhaps started it all for them, “Daylight.”
This show was indeed legendary; Matt and Kim are not a show to miss out on. They lead and pump up a crowd like no other band in the indie-pop scene, and give you every single bang for your buck.
When HOLYCHILD took the stage, the 930 club was almost filled, all in anticipation for Passion Pit, and clapped avidly when HOLYCHILD, led by vocalist Liz Nistico and producer and multi-instrumentalist Louie Diller, came on stage. The band’s instruments sported lots of flair and streamers and 3 members were sporting a Hawaiian shirt. Without a bassist or guitarist, HOLYCHILD indeed was different than most bands.
Their sound, defined by them as ‘Brat Pop’, was an upbeat mix between catchy vocals and driving percussion over synthesizers and keyboards, that had many people in the audience dancing and cheering to the music as soon as the set started. There is no doubt that many had not experienced a band as interesting or different as HOLYCHILD in previous shows they’d been to. Nistico danced with absolute energy across the stage in harmony with her singing, never resting in one place too long. Multiple times, Nistico went into the crowd, singing from various locations of the 930 club, including the floor of the pit and on top of the bar.
The band as a whole delivered an incredibly energetic performance, full of life and youth, engaging with the audience relatively well. After giving an incredibly energizing opening set, HOLYCHILD bowed together before taking their leave of the stage, grinning from ear to ear. The young and lively band thrived at the 930 club, feeding off the energy of the crowd while generating its own as well.
I had a chance to interview Louie and Liz after the show, you can listen here.
In a half filled, dimly lit U Street Music Hall, Australian Stu Larsen and Japanese Natsuki Kurai came on stage to a small but cheery crowd. Stu has been on the road for the last 5 years, having driven some 8,000 miles in the last 3 weeks of touring with Natsuki. He met Natsuki at a concert in Japan, and now they’ve toured across the United States together. The tour started in Japan on April 12th, and ended in Atlanta on May 10th. With Stu on the guitar and vocals, and Natsuki playing harmonica, the two played an incredible set together. Their sound flowed throughout the room, blending between Stu’s earthy and captivating voice, and Natsuki’s explosive and cascading harmonica riffs. The performance felt incredibly intimate throughout the set, with Stu asking the audience to sing the chorus of a few songs, and at one point bringing the opener, Matt Sanders and a few friends on stage to sing a song together.
If Stu wasn’t enchanting enough on his own, Natsuki blew it away for everyone in the crowd. Stu and Natsuki were perhaps at their best when they played “This Train” a song from Stu’s 2011 album, Ryeford. Amidst Stu’s vocals and driving guitar, Natsuki went crazy with the harmonica playing mind bending riffs. Most of all, the show felt natural and intimate. Perhaps it was the nature of the venue, but I think it was mostly from the warm atmosphere created by Stu and Natsuki. The duo played music from all of Larsen’s albums, mostly playing from his most recent album, Vagabond, which was released in 2014. The show was all in all a wonderful, heartwarming experience, like a conversation with old friends and new.
I had a chance to interview Stu before the show, and talk to him about his musical journey and his travels. You can listen to the recording here.
Photos by Anour Esa
“Hello Washington, my sweet babies.”
These were the first words uttered by The Wombats lead vocalist, Matthew “Murph” Murphy at the 930 Club here in DC. These weren’t his last, as the band hailing from Liverpool played 90 minutes of joy-filled, energetic music, full of youthful lyrics sung by Murph and the majority of the audience.
The Wombats had an energy and persona on stage that could only come from playing for more than 12 years together as a band. Each member of the trio laughed, joked, and smiled their way through their set, feeding off one another’s energy. Bassist Tord Overland perhaps gave the most energetic performance, dancing bombastically across seemingly every part of the stage that night, and once even falling over during their number “Greek Tragedy,” as drummer Dan Haggis described: “ass over tit.” But Overland got back up and the band played on, albeit a bit giggly. Throughout the entire performance, the band led a hilarious chant of “Grossman,” their nickname for their tour manager, Simon Fuller, highlighting the hallmark playful nature of The Wombats. (We’re simply going to assume that Wombats are playful marsupials based on how friendly Murph, Dan, and Tord were.)
When we spoke to Murph in our interview prior to the show, he said he was thrilled to be on another US and Canada tour, this tour so far having “been the best US tour we’ve done,” with an increased North American following and The Wombats’ first sold out show in DC. The show at 930 was definitely a testament to this, as nearly everyone sang along to each song, reacting with shouts of joy to each song in the set. The Wombat’s opened with their first release from their newest album, “Your Body Is A Weapon,” following it up with the older “Jump Into The Fog” and an energetic drum transition into one of their originals, “Moving to New York.” The band played songs from every one of their albums, including numerous ones from their recently released Glitterbug. Though the album was released only 17 days prior to the show, the audience had no difficulty in picking out each song and singing and dancing along. While the most recent album had more electronic elements, the live performance of both new and older songs blew the crowd away with an incredible driving energy that never died down, even during their slowest numbers. The band’s performance of their whimsical classic, “Little Miss Pipedream” was even better than the original album version, with Dan playing the keyboard, bass drum, and harmonica, at one point simultaneously, and had the crowd swaying and chanting along to the peculiar lyrics, giving the crowd a bit of a rest from the mostly upbeat set. The band closed out their encore with their hit single from their first album, “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” igniting the crowd in a wild and ecstatic fervor, every single person dancing and jumping up and down to the music.
The Wombats delivered a truly memorable performance on Thursday night’s show at the 930 club, giving every part of the audience what they wanted, delivering each song with a festive and gleeful stroke, and enjoying themselves heavily as they went.
Anour Esa & Julie Hansen
Photo Credit: Meghan Montgomery and Anour Esa
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
Erstwhile indie rockers Modest Mouse announced a new album recently, Strangers to Ourselves, and based on the first two singles- (the bring down the world party jam “Lampshades on Fire” and the folk-tinged “Coyotes”), I expected the album to be familiar territory for MM- with a few new sonic flourishes and an enhanced environmental awareness beneath Isaac Brock’s painfully cryptic lyrics. That what makes “The Ground Walks, with Time in A Box” such a pleasant surprise. The main riff (which sounds like a schizoid mutation of “Float On’s” classic progression filtered through Interpol’s post-punk revivalism), struts and starts as Brock cooly delivers some of his most delightfully misanthropic lyrics to date: (“The world’s an inventor/ we’re the dirtiest thing he’s thought about/ And we really don’t mind”). Florid imagery (“Trees drop colorful fruits/Directly into our mouths”) clashes with impenetrable strings of words (“Eyes vacuum up light/sound gets trapped by the mouth/What to do with the remainder/When the dents, the dents, get hammered out/ Then we’ll travel through time”). Jittery plucked strings and an in-your-face horn section keep the bombast flowing without letting it tip into overindulgence. All seems relatively sane until the chorus, where eerie harmonies slide into Brock’s ghost-like phase shifted vocal. After a couple more choral repetitions and two new verses, the track descends into controlled noise, with the guitar offering blasts of pitch-shifted chords, much like “Dramamine.” After that subsides, the horns threaten to blast off into full on mariachi mode. Synths and percussion take on a sort of wormhole-funk motif as the main riff returns, only to be punctuated by Brock’s warble and closed out with a melange of more percussion, steam pistons, and an electronic bit which sounds as if it’d work well in a remake of 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Our predecessor left this box and something’s clawing around/ I think it really wants out’ snarls Brock in the last verse of the song. What the hell? Let it loose! Modest Mouse are like Pandora’s Box, you never know quite what to expect from them, but one thing’s for sure. It’s going to be a pretty awesome ride.