Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cha Wa Bring The Funk & Feathers

Talk about perfect timing…the arrival of Cha Wa’s album Funk N’ Feathers just happens to coincide with the Mardi Gras season.  This record sounds so New Orleans it sounds as if it were recorded as Cha Wa were marching through the French Quarter.  To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a band that so seems festival born than Cha Wa.  These guys are ridiculously energetic and pumped to bring the sights, sounds, and even smells of Mardi Gras to you by any means necessary.

Funk N’ Feathers has this incredible live feel to it that manages to catch some of the energy that pulsates through New Orleans during this time of the year.  Honestly, it’s almost more energy than the digital music format can handle.  Nonetheless, the party atmosphere that Cha Wa creates throughout this record is upbeat and fun and propelled by songs that are percussive, rhythmic and as the title indicates…funky.  In fact, these guys are so funky that one suspects they could create grooves out nothing but Café Du Monde beignet mix. 

If you weren’t able to make it to Mardi Gras this year in New Orleans and are too lazy to partake in the one at Universal in Orlando, pop Funk N’ Feathers on, cover yourself in beads make a float out of your bed and imagine yourself cruising through the French Quarter.  Seriously.  Funk N’ Feathers is an fantastically fun record that does its best (and does it well) at trying to encapsulate the funk and fun of New Orleans in less than an hour.   Cha Wa have knocked it out of the ball park with this record and short of seeing them in New Orleans Funk N’ Feathers suffices as one heck one an experience by itself.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Jeff Runnings Primitives & Smalls Is A Beauty

Jeff Running’s album Primitives and Smalls is an ethereal dream that washes over you like a fragrant wave of clean laundry on a spring day.  The album is an airy, wondrous exploration of guitar textures, ghostlike drum beats and whispered vocals.  It’s so angelic it doesn’t feel real.  In fact the songs seem so otherworldly I’m kind of convinced that the only way to listen to Primitives and Smalls is by unconscious.

Mr. Runnings has come up with a series of haunting tunes that have some Slowdivian qualities about them but are still uniquely his thanks to his fascinating voice.  While not quite deep or high pitched, Runnings’ voice sounds dazed, hazed, and half-awake as he whispers and sighs his way through the songs that make up Primitives and Smalls.  It’s this heavenly croon that really makes the record stand out.  While the songs on Primitives and Smalls are stunningly gorgeous it’s Runnings’ voice that lifts the record from being just another post-gazing experiment. 

I quite like this record.  It’s chilling, minimalistic tones and slightly drowsy vocals make the record easy to get lost in.  Primitives and Smalls isn’t necessarily catchy or filled with pop hits but rather, is beautiful and transcendental.  This is the soundtrack to the best night’s sleep ever…and after a lot of really crappy nights of sleep this is a dream come true!  Essential listening for anyone remotely interested in shoegazing, dream pop, or a good night’s sleep!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Blessed Isles Are Straining Hard Against The Strength Of The Night

Somewhere between shoegazing and synthpop lies the land The Blessed Isles have staked out as their own.  This dynamic duo specialize in creating ethereal synthy post-gazing works of sheer beauty that are dreamy and otherworldly.  Their album Straining Hard Against the Strength Of the Night is a magnificent effort that’s the closest thing to floating in space I’ve ever heard.  If you can imagine Peter Hook and Elizabeth Frazier working together then you have some semblance of an idea of where The Blessed Isles are coming from.

Straining Hard Against the Strength Of the Night is a hypnotizing effort that is an alchemical reaction between the cross pollination of ethereal sub genres.  From the whispered vocals, the washy synths and distorted guitars The Blessed Isles have such a firm standing in the past that you might think that they were.  And yet, despite their obvious love of all things 80’s & 90’s, the band find a way to take their vintage influences and manipulate them into something wholly modern and unique to them.  Sure you can play spot the classic indie band but it’s more fun to just listen to how these guys written such great songs. Straining Hard Against the Strength Of the Night has so many great choruses and so many huge hooks that just about every song on this album could be an indie pop hit.

There’s really nothing to dislike about either The Blessed Isles or Straining Hard Against the Strength Of the Night.  This is a perfect pop record that’s emotional, catchy and simply gorgeous.  From solid production to brilliant songs Straining Hard Against the Strength Of the Night has it all and it’s easily one of my favorite records of 2016!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Los Hacheros' Bambulaye Is A Modern Vintage Gem

Sometimes good things come in small unmarked packages!  Such was the case when Los Hacheros’ album Bambulaye arrived in my mailbox.  This fantastic album of Latin music harks back to the golden age of the genre and reminded me of the days of my youth in Miami.  This Brooklyn based band are so in touch with the vintage style of the music they love that they recorded the whole thing analog for a grittier and more raw feel; they succeeded as Bambulaye feels and sounds like a record from another time.

With influences ranging from son montuno and guaracha to salsa Los Hacheros’ sound is as diverse as the city they call home.  The result is a record that sounds fresh, alive, and energetic despite looking to the past for inspiration.  Throw in the band’s ability to not only improvise musically but lyrically as well and you have a band that’s vibrant and truly creative.  This creativity and improvisational nature allows the songs of Bambulaye to become these organic, living and breathing works of energy that are fiery and loose.  It’s a magnificent work of art here and Los Hacheros do such a great job of creating an old world atmosphere that it’s hard not to love Bambulaye.

With amazing musicianship, a love of the past, fantastic spontaneity and songs that are almost impossible not to dance to Bambulaye is pure perfection.  Los Hacheros are an amazing unit who have captured the energy and passion of their forefathers and created something uniquely their own.  They might not actually be from the Golden Age of Latin Music but don’t tell them that!  Bambulaye is a constant reminder of how seductive Latin music is and as such it’s an essential record of the genre.  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Witching Waves And Their Crystal Cafe

Witching Waves’ Crystal Café is a restless record of noisy guitars, sugary sweet vocals and driving rhythms.  Sounding something like the Pixies/Breeders with a bit of riot grrl, Lush and Sonic Youth thrown in for good measure Britain's Witching Waves create a raucous distorted wall of edginess with just enough pop sensibility to make it all memorable.  Not overly produced or even overly played, Crystal Café churns through songs in a torrent of frenzied riffs, shouts, melodies and broken drum heads.  It’s all a bit rough and tarnished around the edges but that’s what makes Witching Waves so darn good and fun to jump around to. 

Crystal Café is probably the most American record I’ve heard a British band produce since Urusei Yatsura did things like this in the 90’s.  And while there are bits and bobs that sound British in their tendencies, most of the songs lend credence to the thought that Witching Waves were raised on 90’s indie rock from the States.  Irregardless of origin, the eleven songs that make up Crystal Café are all brilliant and there’s so little wrong with this indie rock gem it’s not even worth mentioning.   From the jumpiness of the guitars to the boy girl vocal trade-offs and even the subdued basslines prodding the songs along Witching Waves have stumbled on to some songwriting gold here and it all comes together to make for one heck of a thirty minute ride.  Raw, unrefined and fun Crystal Café is a modern indie rock classic and one of the best records of 2016 thus far.  

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Versus Is Well Worth The Trip To Eureka California

As shambolic as the cover would seem to indicate Eureka California’s Versus is a crazy ride through the indie rock lexicon.  Sounding like a perfect smash up between Daydream Nation era Sonic Youth, Slanted and Enchanted Pavement, a bit of Superchunk and some surf guitar Versus is a noisy wrangled record of chaotic fun.  This is a sloppy and loud record that hits you over the head with massive melodies, geeky guitar work, and songs that are hard to forget.

Eureka California don’t necessarily write anything overly complicated but what they do write seems to be held together by some broken guitar strings, duct tape, and a bit of luck.  It’s all very messy but its simplistic nature is its greatest asset.  This is a homage to classic 90’s indie rock made with a heart the size of Texas and it’s so in love with that era it’s hard to believe this was released this year.  Versus is an awesome listen and catchier than the zika virus it’s songs recklessly careen through three minutes like a 90 year old granny backing up in a parking lot.  Rough, raw and prone to blowing speakers Versus is a shining example of how indie rawk should be played. 

Eureka California’s Versus could fall apart at any point while it’s being listened to.  Its disheveled songs, shaky walls of noisy guitars and muddled melodies somehow manage to hold together just long enough to work their way into your consciousness and never leave.  It is almost impossible to dislike sloppy stuff like this because its organic nature is so unpolished and raw that its intentions are laid bare. Eureka California are an awesome band and Versus is a trip well worth making.    

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Silva's Jupiter Is A Work Of Cosmic Beauty

Silva’s Jupiter is a musical tribute to the largest planet in our solar system and is inspire by pop, bossa nova, electronica and even chanson.  Led by 27 year old Espirito Santo and his endless fascination by the planet the album is a bit unusual and geeky when you think about it.  Who’s inspired and endlessly curious about a planet nowadays that isn’t in NASA or ESA?  Not very many people but I think that’s what makes Jupiter feel so special it’s an honest and spacious (so to speak) record that reflects the size and strength of the planet.

With Jupiter Silva (Santo) challenged himself to step away from layering endless amounts of music on top of each other.  Instead he chose a more organic and minimal structure that despite its implications still is expansive and vast.  Jupiter is a sumptuous and sensual record that takes elements of hip hop and electronica and chills them to perfection.  The album is a slow moving gyration of steaminess.  The record isn’t blatantly sexy but the slow moving beats, near jazzy atmospheres and whispered vocals create an atmosphere that makes it that way.  From pulsating bass lines, tickled pianos and slow steady beats this record slowly builds up a cold sweat. 

You might not have any idea what Silva is saying on Jupiter but you don’t really need to.  The overarching chilled out vibe and stirring musical passages convey all the messaging you need.  Jupiter is as beautiful as the galaxy itself and as magnificent and majestic as the planet that it’s named after.  Not world music by any stretch of the imagination Silva had created a chilled global downtempo work of awesomeness.