Princeton Residency Night 2 @ The Bootleg Theater - Ft. TV Girl

Let us take a moment to recognize the efforts of The Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles. Unlike similar nearby venues such as The Satellite, The Echo and The Silverlake Lounge, this unmarked venue on Beverly Blvd. is meticulous about sound and space - providing just the right volume, leveling the instruments and ensuring an all-around pleasant listening experience.

This appreciation for live music is crucial, especially for bands such as TV Girl and Princeton who rely heavily on layering sound and uncommon instruments that require supplementary support.

By 9:45PM, the venue was comfortably packed to welcome TV Girl as their soundcheck revealed the fun foley clips they integrate into their songs, like the nostalgic recording for read-along tapes and a sample of Todd Rundgren. TV Girl charmed their onlookers with funny bits about guitarist, Brad Petering’s, recently bleached (and slightly orange) hair and shamelessly plugging their 7”. These guys didn’t have to try hard to grasp everyone’s attention - their dynamic late 60’s surf rock-meets-70’s sequins style kept the set fresh and fun, incorporating suspenseful escalations and passing through songs fluidly, maintaining a sufficient balance. Their set sustained equilibrium through performing songs from their first 2 E.P’s as well as new songs. “I Wonder Who She’s Kissing Now,” a funky toned extended metaphor with their signature surf-y electric guitar riffs and singer, Trung Ngo’s, boyish allure smoothed the road for old favorite “Lizzy Come Back To Life,” a faster paced song with a grungy drumtrack undertone and Brad’s monotone vocal style. Brad and bassist, Joel Williams, made the delicate process of swapping instruments seem simple by their leisurely guise while Trung focused on levels and build-ups. TV Girl concluded their set with “It Evaporates,” a time machine that takes you back to Prom 1967 as this ballad sways and uncontrollably elicits a smile - something even Trung could not escape.

Princeton confidently approached the stage like it was home and switched out TV Girl’s colorful lighting for a bright white spotlight. Despite playing all new songs from their upcoming record (set for release February 21), save for “Worried Head” and “Clamoring Your Heart,” these leading men still had the crowd dancing and energetically clapping along. Standing at a set of keyboards, Jesse Kivel commanded the stage with twin brother and guitarist, Matt, managing to create a sound that is mellow in concept but subconsciously moves your feet. Princeton was simple on stage: aside from exchanging glances, Ben Usen (keyboards) and David Kitz (drums) merely moved their hands to play their respective instrument while Jesse shuffled in place. Although there was no trumpet (like recordings suggest), we were graced with a clarinet and violin as soon as Jesse invited friends Christina and Patrick of the Los Angeles New Music Ensemble (LANME) to contribute their classical skills, especially necessary in “Holding Teeth.” "Clamoring For Your Heart" ended night two of Princeton’s residency with handsome Morrisey-like vocals and keyboard drippings.

The only thing missing from this night were tailored suits and Ed Sullivan…but there are still two more nights of Princeton’s residency - anything is possible!

Special guests next week are Hands and The New Division

Band Links: @PrincetonMusic @TVGirlz

Also published on Princeton / IRR 

Album Review: Blonds- “Dark Roots” EP

What did you do over Thanksgiving weekend?  Recover from your food coma, swim in your Black Friday deals, gouge your eyes from too much family interaction?  You know what Cari Rae and Jordy Asher did? They made an E.P!  That’s right, while the rest of us were busy stuffing our faces with turkey leftovers (or Tofurkey for you meat-less folk), Rae and Asher put together 5 songs for our listening pleasure.

Blonds introduce themselves with “Treasure Coast.”  A calm, simple track that leaves subtle hints of what Rae and Asher are all about.  Rae’s voice is reminiscent of the entrapping and gritty vocals that made us all fall (hard) for Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  Furthermore, their grungy garage-rock style hooks the part of you that misses the grits of 90’s music that none of us will let go of.

A disclaimer? Dark Roots is raw.  It’s production isn’t fully coordinated, the vocals are flat and its concept seems a little bipolar and contradicting.  By no means at all is any of this a bad thing.  Upon recognition, Blonds offers listeners something indie music seems to have lost since labels started picking the good apples and adding their crispy flare of big bucks - authenticity. The genuine emotions of this duo are emphasized by the vacancies in instrumentals. Similar to 1950’s Doo Wop, Asher’s unembellished guitar riffs pair with Rae’s reverberating vocals as they both meet in the chorus of “Sunshine Hate.”  By incorporating Shaun Cassidy’s 1963 hit “Da Doo Ron Ron,” Blonds’ establishes their style as simple rather than just undeveloped. This buoyancy continues into “Kite” with the added exuberance of cheerful chimes and shining string

These two lighter tracks are sandwiched between the more contemplative and eerie “K.O.” and “206.” Equipped with a quick electric guitar solo and shuffling percussion, “K.O.” defines Blonds’ potential for complexity through rhythm shifts and layering instrumentals. It likely serves the lyrics to know that Rae and Asher are an item, and quite a happy one considering they define Blonds’ as a “day dream in a dreary-painted world.” Rae juxtaposes insecurity with introspect singing, “You say I’m a knockout but please, let me wake you up” and “friends like these don’t grow on trees / with a little love, you’re going to set me free.” If you are a fan of American Horror Story, you’ll no doubt connect with “206,” an eerie track that seduces you in its mysteriousness and stunning strings. Characterized by familiar ambient dripping water and Rae’s husky vocals, “206” opens up during the chorus with repetitive lyrics and a smooth guitar riff.

In their quickly put-together E.P., Blonds show an exciting amount of potential to maintain their simplicity attractively and further execute the bringing-back-rock&roll movement.

Band Links:

Also published on Blonds / IRR

Interview With The Postelles

Hailing from New York, The Postelles are moving up the ladder quickly with their old-fashioned rock & roll sound and easygoing outlook.  With The Strokes’ lead singer, Albert Hammond Jr., assisting their wing span, they have released a full-length album (Metascore) along with their White Night EP and have toured with the likes of Chuck Berry and The Wombats.  Lead vocalist, Daniel Balk, took a moment to enlighten IRR with some Postelles knowledge.

What is the mantra of The Postelles?

Daniel: Make sure you rock before you roll.

Were you already a fan of The Strokes and Albert Hammond Jr.’s solo project before you met?

Yes, we always had a respect for their music.

What has touring with and opening for established artists such as Interpol and Chuck Berry taught The Postelles?

Every tour has taught us something different. Opening for Chuck Berry was amazing and made us feel like we could possibly do this as long as he has.

What was the inspiration behind developing Summer Covers and your song selection?

We wanted to give something back to the fans for free. We also wanted to have a good time doing it. We chose a batch of songs that we felt we could put a summer twist on.

What is your perspective on the music industry currently?

It’s a complete mess. The good thing about that is that most great art comes out of complete disaster, when structured ways of thinking are broken down. In the case of the music business, there is definitely opportunity to take chances.

Do you have any advice for budding bands like yourselves?

Play as many shows as you can. When you are first starting, try and play a show once a week if possible in your hometown.

How do the four of you get along, are there any specific quarks that drive you crazy or keep you bonded?

We all drive each other crazy and keep each other sane at the same time. We’ve known each other since high school so at this point we are beyond friends, we’re family. This means we fight like family but we are also there for one another at any moment. We each have our routines that get us through touring life. David likes to take very long walks in every city we visit. I try and take advantage of the night life in every city. Billy loves creating music on his Ipad and John can read endlessly.

What is your favorite song to perform live?

We have a new song called ‘Tidal Wave’ that we are all having a lot of fun with live.

Have you had any ridiculous requests from fans?

The most ridiculous requests are usually odd places they want autographs whether it’s body parts or accessories. We’ve signed a lot of bodies and a lot of shoes for some odd reason.

Is there a band that you are dying to tour with?

Chuck Berry was maybe at the top of my list. I think we would all love to play shows with The Stone Roses.

Band Links:
Official Site

Also published on The Postelles / IRR

Interview With Datarock

In short, Datarock is a band of the people, and by people, I mean fans of Datarock.  They are constantly on tour, friendly, and dedicated to providing music for the ears that will listen.  Gearing up for their big project, “DATAROCK - the musical,”  vocalist Fredrik Saroea details inspirations, explains the unique Datarcok USB package and even mentions their special material for “super-fans.”

Fredrik: “Cool - let’s do it”

What are the inspirations behind the California EP?

Well, the EP is a teaser for the upcoming project “DATAROCK - the musical”, and it’s inspired by everything from Frank Zappa to The Stone Roses, I guess. “Life Is A Musical” is supposed to be the bastard child of a happy Zappa & a grumpy Laurie Anderson & a male Carrie Fisher gone burlesque with a soundtrack winking to Norwegian new wave pioneers, DePress, mixed with a fraction of The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm”. “Great Pets” is part The Knack, part DEVO, part Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and lot’s of Porno For Pyros - plus tons of quotes of course. “California” is DATAROCK trying to applying an LA attitude, pay tribute to Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West”, paraphrasing The Mamas & the Papas “California Dreamin” and even paraphrasing Woody Allen in Annie Hall (“I mean, who would want to live in a place where the only cultural advantage is that you can turn right on a red light”) to create the ultimate Californian anthem. On “Roller Coaster” I’m not sure what is going on, but for some reason it always makes me think of Robbie Williams (whom does indeed live in Hollywood, California), mixed with a Beasties Boysesque segment Crazy Town style. “Walk Away” on the other side is like a seveties Muppet Show version of The Stone Roses, Charlatans, Ride, The Las, Inspiral Carpets & Happy Mondays…

Are we to expect a full-length follow-up any time soon?

Not really. We’re working on “DATAROCK - the musical”, but it probably won’t be out till 2013 at the earliest. There will be two new albums released digitally next year, but that material is for dedicated super-fans, so we won’t even market the albums at all. One is an instrumental called “Music For Synchrinization” & the other is a compilation of b-sides & rarities called “Lost & Found”.

How was touring Los Angeles in the filming of the California video?

As always, lots of fun. Always crazy in San Francisco & LA.

What was the best part about working with Gerald V. Casale (Devo)?

Getting to know my number one inspiration in the world of punk, post-punk, new wave, art rock & pop!

Where is your favorite location in LA?

Soho House in West Hollywood…

Does ‘California’ have a broader meaning beyond just traveling to California?

Well, you know how California is the promised land for freaks & outsiders across the world? That’s what the song is all about - how tons of artists & whatnot feel a magnetic pull towards California, and how that electric feel inspires so many to embark on the journey of their lives - often based on extreme naiveté & hubris. So the songs is part tribute to a state & a liberal set of values we absolutely love, but also a tongue in cheek comment to a heavily marketed dream perhaps shared with a few too many. Ourselves included!

Where did the idea for the “Catcher in the Rye” USB package come from?

Long story. We used to absolutely love the classic record stores. A few of the guys even worked in record stores for years. But one day we realized that no matter if a few survive, now that everybody has mp3 players on their phones & Spotify playlists to go, the days of the record stores is gone long ago. However, there’s a new kid in town, and that’s the tons of cool shops across the planet that rather than just specializing on music, sell a variety of collectors items that cross path with among others, interesting music - such as designer toys. Usually, these toys are designed by accomplished graphic designers, illustrators and whatever visual artists, and quite often the same visual artists do work with cover art, video & merch for bands. And hey, the toys are even made out of vinyl, just like LPs. Anyways, I ended up having a collection of hundreds of toys, and when I wanted to try and max the potential of a physical digital release, I reached straight out to my favorite designer toy company, and SUPER7 came back right away. And here we are…

Is there a direct connection between “The Most Extravagant Single in History” and the cute Data-Rock package container?

Absolutely. Basically the SUPER7 designer toy is Brian Flynn taking inspiration from DATAROCK’s original Antoine Bouillot designed “Limited Edition” USB jewel box, but mixing in elements of Brian’s Milton character & the Ghostland series’ feel. The content is pretty much the same too - 4GB containing 113 track including two exclusive albums, an excusive “DVD” (meaning high end concert film), 23 music videos & 1500 photos from our tours in 35 countries.

How have you and your sound developed since “Fa-Fa-Fa”?

DATAROCK used to be more of a studio project, but as we’ve become a touring machine, I guess the music became more live-band friendly - basically due to the sound of “Fa-Fa-Fa” and the natural progression thereafter.

Do you have any travel advice?

Plan ahead and use,, &!

What are you listening to right now?

Right this second? Arthur Russell’s “That’s Us/Wild Combination” If you still haven’t caught on to how great these guys are, take a peak.  Maybe this performance isn’t supposed to be funny but I dare you not to laugh at the irony of how well they cover “You’re So Vain.”

Band Links:

Also published on Datarock / IRR

M83 : Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming!

10 years ago, Anthony Gonzalez released his first self-titled record as M83. Since then, Gonzalez has embarked on a successful adventure, surfing through decades of musical influences and suppressed emotions. His 2008 release, ‘Saturdays=Youth’ proved that he had broken through his shell, riding the journey of adolescence but still stifling his emotions. This time around, Gonzalez has broken through the barriers in his double disc album, ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming!’, to connect one’s imagination with their body and encourage an expedition within oneself.

Gonzalez’s intentions with this record were to create varied songs that signify the differences in every individual – the way we see things, the way we live. Diverse styles ranging from spoken word monologues to 90′s pseudo-grunge guitar riffs and orchestral arrangements, the album moves quickly and doesn’t bother worrying about a constant sound. With the help of producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen, the record is excellently crafted and only focuses on the one important consistency: awakening your dreams.

The leading single, “Midnight City,” is explosive. A great expression of M83′s capabilities, it features aggressive synths, colossal instrumentals and Gonzalez’s breathy vocals M83 fans are already familiar with. The true sign of evolution and most attention-grabbing quality, however, is the vigorous saxophone solo by James King that blindsides the listener along with a looping synth.

‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming!’ blooms from the start with “Intro.” Featuring the warm guest vocals of Zola Jesus, “Intro” sets the tone of the album with a whispered monologue and vibrating synths building into crashing percussion and faint angelic hums. The following 21 tracks take you on a celestial, dreamy and meditative path. Massive walls of sound flood inhibitions and let the mind wander. Juxtaposing fluttering synths in “Train To Pluton” with the graceful guitar and elegant orchestration of “Soon My Friend,” Gonzalez exhibits discipline in his ability to stitch varying genres into a unified sound.

When considering the significance of the record, “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” propels to the forefront. Although the perpetual beat is simple, it is intimate – The Shakespeare Bridge Children’s Choir snaps and claps along with Gonzalez as Zelly Boo Meldal-Johnsen tells us an imaginative story about a frog. If you’re aching for a track similar to Saturdays=Youth, look no further than “New Map.” The Purple Mixed Adult Choir aids Gonzalez’s vocals singing, “There’s a hole in your heart, begging for adventure / On Your Own. Can you do it? / The Unknown. Can you face it?”

“Claudia Lewis” is a whimsical exploration of space, incorporating funky bass, shuffling percussion, cowbell and whistles. Just before the record ends, “Steve McQueen” races with inspiration and pairings of electric guitar and sizzling synths. Be prepared for “My Tears Are Becoming A Sea” – an epic narrative that bursts into an emotive and robust performance by the Orphans String and Bass Orchestra.

Gonzalez may consider ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming!’ to be a “retrospective” of himself but it undoubtedly generates reflection and self-examination in his listener as well. Elegant orchestration subtly stimulates while blasts of synths, echoing vocals and monologues inspire your childish dreams with maturity. This dual disc record is a grand demonstration that Gonzalez is deft in his execution of seamlessly transitioning complex layers of sound.

If “Driven by big waves of fire / To run and yell all the way / Nothing can hurt me today” doesn’t rouse you then you have quite possibly lost touch with the dreams that once fueled your imagination.

-Britt Witt

Also Published on M83 / IndieRockReviews

CSS : La Liberacion

You know it is going to be a good album when it starts with I Love You and ends with Fuck Everything.  CSS also successfully includes everything in between: expressing selfishness, loneliness, togetherness, rebellion and being an outcast.

Commencing the record with cowbell (happy now Mr. Walken?), CSS does not just offer party-starting dance pop - CSS is the party and you better be ready to dance as long as they’re playing.  “I Love You” features intergalactic synths that continue to characterize the record as a whole.  Right off the bat, Lovefoxxx’s maturity in writing is crystal clear.  Ok, so “like love and shit” isn’t exactly profound but her extended metaphors (re: “I thought I was a traffic light”) sure are.  Spanish guitar starts “City Grrrl” and a trumpet hums through the chorus, providing a possibly appropriate background for the song’s subject - growing up Lovefoxxx.  Autobiographical, the track itemizes reasons for feeling like an outcast and the buzzing synth punches extra attitude into the track. 

“Hits Me Like A Rock,” fittingly chosen as the single for the record is in one word, defining.  In many other words, this song is exciting from start to finish, throwing instrumental curveballs that only experienced musicians can [successfully] offer.  The pulsing synth and stringy bass line provide ingredients for a timeless track but they certainly do not do it alone.  The cadences in Lovefoxxx’s vocals as well as the complimenting whispers of Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie complete the bubbly melody.  There is no doubt this song will live on past its generic radio-rams-it-down-your-throat play, and with lyrics like “Even after all this time we’ve passed by/It hits me like a rock,” the track has already manifested its destiny.

The album itself is no disappointment for old and new CSS fans.  The sound doesn’t stray from old familiar CSS but it has developed enough to not bore or inflict regret.  The real kicker, however, is the seamless incorporation of other artists sprinkled around the album.  Ratatat’s synths growl in “Red Alert,” hardly deviating from the style of the rest of the tracks.  Their signature crisp drum beats stand up front but do not upstage.  The cascading piano solo in “Partners In Crime” is performed by jazz pianist, Mike Garson, who has also worked with David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails.  Although the strength of the piano sticks out like a sore thumb, its romanticism compliments the context of the track, emphasizing Lovefoxxx’s airy vocals as she sings, “From the get-go, I always thought so, there’s a place where we belong.”

In short, La Liberacion strikes with CSS’s characteristic energy.  Delivering a wide range of lyrical themes and even an entire track in Spanish (title track, “La Liberacion”)!

-Britt Witt

Published on CSS / IndieRockReviews 

Manchester Orchestra: Simple Math

Manchester Orchestra returns with a gracefully evolved record that has grandiose sounds and seems to have honed a genre. Although less intimate than what is typical of the quintet, the album expands individual instruments and switches between emphasizing specifics to blending and creating an explosive sound.

To put simply, this is a concept record. Andy Hull expresses his reality as an open conversation, divulging the questions that the early-matured 23-year old has for his wife and God. The album opens with an intimate letter, “Dear everyone I ever really knew, I do act like an asshole so I can keep my edge on you.” This intimacy quickly wears off by the second track, Mighty, which incorporates heavy power chords and husky vocals.

The title track, Simple Math, is a calm introduction to the record with robust emotion created by the combination of Hull’s vocals and the orchestration building behind the distorted guitar. However, it cannot prepare you for the likes of tracks such as Virgin, which pulls you in with dark guitar riffs and cult-like vocals and sends chills with an eerie choir of children repeating the chorus.
A fitting way to round out a rather arduous ride, the record concludes quietly with a fade out in Leaky Breaks, including a delicate and distorted guitar solo.

Simple Math is an appropriate development pulling from Manchester Orchestra’s roots in previous albums, with quiet and still moments similar to I’m Like A Virgin Losing a Child contrasted with heavy rock breakdowns that became more prevalent in Mean Everything to Nothing. Now, the band finally incorporates the orchestra that their name implies, fantastically collaborating a heavy rock sound with elegant strings.

- britt witt

Originally published on Orchestra/Indie Rock Reviews 

He’s My Brother She’s My Sister kick off May residency @ The Satellite

The Satellite’s May residency is one you do not want to miss. He’s My Brother She’s My Sister kicked off their month-long Monday night residence with a full venue, some dear friends and a burlesque troop.

Cowboy & Indian commenced the month dressed for the occasion wearing paint and ponchos. The band being just over a year old features Daniel James of Leopold & His Fiction, Jesse Piemons from Friday Night Lights and the stunning vocals of Jazz Mills. Their full-band harmonies are powerful – feeling like a southern locomotive heading straight into your ears. A beauteous balance of rustic male and pure female vocals in addition to well-paced songs, Cowboy & Indian captured the crowd and had people dancing early in the night.

The special act of the night were the Rag Dolls, a cheeky burlesque troop wearing, you guessed it, doll outfits. These ladies locked the audiences’ gaze with a couple dance numbers and occasionally revealing their tushies.

Soko and her guitar enchanted the crowd for her last time with great whispers and shouts that well-prepared the anxious audience. Quirky and emotive, she engaged the crowd, making fun of the drunks, loving people’s animated laughs and bringing them really close to the stage. She invited the audience to sing with her for I’m Scared I’m Going To Die Alone but encouraged them to continue singing through the rest of her set because they “sounded like little angels.”

No, they aren’t Donny and Marie but they sure are welcome to take their place from here on! He’s My Brother She’s My Sister feature great complimenting vocals that switch back and forth to tell tales of love, drinking and daydreams. Furthermore, Lauren Brown’s tap dancing as percussion, a stand up bass manned by Fantastic Oliver of The Pleasure Circus and Aaron Robinson on slide guitar make this performance even more unique and zesty. Rachel Kolar wore a billowing white dress that draped to the floor while Rob wore his essential top hat. The dress code of the night was colors and the band was not exempt, wearing purples, turquoise and polka dots. The overflowing venue was excited into dance and sing-along, recognizing the familiar cover of Same Old Ground (Lemon Sun), which also featured a flawless slide guitar solo by Robinson. 

Not only was Tales That I Tell a sing-along for everyone but Rachel also called it an “exorcism so all your demons will be released on this new moon,” a theme that interwoven throughout the set. Their final song of the night, How’m I Gonna Get Back Home, featured prominent tap dancing and a breakdown into a standup bass solo as Rob introduced the band to the crowd, appropriately featuring the lyrics, “I may regret the things I said but I won’t let my mind a fret cause I know everything will be alright.”

The overflowing venue was excited into dance and sing-along, recognizing the familiar cover of Same Old Ground (Lemon Sun), which also featured a flawless slide guitar solo by Robinson.  During The House That Isn’t Mine, the band made an unusual request to turn of all the lights in the venue and slipped on sinister masks to play their most quiet, and eerie, song.  For Lazy Daze, Patrick Joseph joined the stage to assist with percussion while Lauren played a congo drum, enhancing the rustic vibe of the set.  Their new song, Escape Tonight, features rock-influenced guitar and bass riffs as well as a unique clap that Rob and Cowboy & Indian, who joined Rachel to sing back up vocals, had to teach to the crowd.

Each week, He’s My Brother She’s My Sister has you aching to return with great artists and entertainment chosen by the band themselves, next week they will be joined by acts such as The Pleasure Circus and the Sweaters.

Inspired by “escapes, enchantment and illusion” in support of their new single Escape Tonight, each Monday will feature a different theme and dress code as well as a free (for the first 100 attendees to the merch booth) USB cards uniquely tailored to thenight’s entertainment featuring music, videos and artwork.

Did I mention entrance is FREE, every night?! So get there early!

-britt witt

Photo by Zane Roessell.

Originally published on He’s My Brother She’s My Sister/Indie Rock Reviews