Tag Archives: Indie

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Album Review: American Football (LP2)

AF_2016_LP_Jacket_PRINT.inddYou might be under the assumption that after seventeen years, certain aspects of a band would have changed so fundamentally that the sound is no longer prevalent – or in some cases, even relevant – in this day and age. With the much anticipated release of emo darling American Football’s second self-titled LP, colloquially known as LP2, the question on anyone’s mind is: how could these low-fi leaders of the Midwest emo scene, now approaching middle-age, deliver the same je ne sais quois melancholia reflected in the average twentysomething?

Overall, our fears have been assuaged. American Football’s lead singer Mike Kinsella has taken the care to keep the overall theme of the band crystallized in time, with messages successfully delivering the old emo nostalgia they so masterfully perfected at the turn of the millennium. Kinsella’s lyrics remain fatalistic in meaning and poetic in delivery, and are peppered with ruminations on the passage of time. The instrumental accompaniments are still as ambient and intricate as they were nearly two decades ago, albeit more produced and expanded with the help a full back-up band. American Football remains a fan of discordant time signatures, with guitar riffs and drum sets cleverly syncopated in rhythmic harmony to create a constant, moving ebb and flow underneath Kinsella’s vocals. 

Kinsella’s voice has aged like a good oak table, becoming more weathered and smooth as the years have passed. It remains a sturdy and present force amidst the swirling guitar, bass, and drums. However, his vocals stand at the forefront of tracks as compared to the last album, where he had a tendency to submerge himself in the instrumentals and resurface for clarity and emphasis. You won’t find any tracks along the lines of LP1’s “Honestly?” here; Kinsella has made the full transition into “frontman” after years performing as his solo act, Owen. 

The album begins quietly with “Where Are We Now?,” as if waking from a dream; chime-like electric guitar pickings precede Kinsella’s quiet “Where are we now?”. It is a subtle nod to the years that have passed since he last assumed the American Football mantle, and the song itself feels like shrugging on an old, well-loved jacket. American Football plays around with syncopation in “My Instincts Are The Enemy,” with choppy guitar and drum melodies acting as an introduction for Kinsella’s vocals, which alternate between his signature plaintive cry with soft falsetto. “I’ve Been Lost For So Long,” the first single released by the band, is a bleeding-heart track begging to be performed in front of an audience. It’s a new switch compared to the “old” American Football; most tracks on LP1 are contemplative and wandering, while this tightly produced track expertly fields a strong drum beat amongst layered guitar arpeggios. The syncopation returns for emphasis on the chorus. “Give Me The Gun” is an active track that also strays from the meandering ways of yore, focusing instead on projecting an atmosphere of constant fluid movement; guitars and drums are heavily layered.

The album art from American Football’s LP1 features the plain exterior of a lit house at night, providing an accurate air of isolation and late-night contemplation. Compare the LP2 album art, which features not the outside but the inside of a nameless house, with the viewer’s vantage point set on an open door bathed in a morning glow. The subtle contrast provides a glaring thematic message: the outside façade may have not changed much, but the core entity now lends an entirely different view, and a hopeful one at that. While this may be the last we hear from American Football for the foreseeable future, the impact that these lost boys – now grown –  have had on countless other lost listeners will continue to stand on solid foundations.

Album released: October 21, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Concert Review: Courtney Barnett @ Metropolis

courtneyCourtney Barnett has amassed a huge following over the past year with her heavy handed approach to irony-ridden folk storytelling.  Her straightforward manner of songwriting follows her everywhere as she tours with only a three piece band and doodles the designs for all of her merch and album art.  This week at Metropolis, Barnett showed just how fun she can be in front of a rowdy crowd with a deep sense of love and admiration.  The near 90-minute set served as a perfect rundown of her whole career including her newest single “Three Packs a Day” as well as older hits off of her first EP Sea of Split Peas.  Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the night was just how well received her set was.  Having gotten the chance to see her last summer at the Newport Folk Festival, I felt like the massive Metropolis crowd served her music well, with each and every lyric and guitar lick being supported by riveting cheers and rousing sing alongs.

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Album Review: Ra Ra Riot – Need Your Light

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Released on February 19th, Need Your Light is the fourth album from indie rock band Ra Ra Riot. The band’s latest release has cemented their departure from their earlier Syracuse roots in baroque-pop towards a hip, Brooklyn-based synth-pop, this new musical identity first explored in their previous album Beta Love. Need Your Light is superior to Beta Love in numerous aspects, and embraces the synth-pop style with far more ease. However, the latest album is imperfect even in its triumphs.  Continue reading

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Album Review: DIIV – Is The Is Are

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DIIV’s 2012 debut Oshin was one of the most widely received Brooklyn-indie albums we’ve had in the past few years; the band played shows incessantly and gained their fan-base with brutal force. Now in 2016, their long-anticipated sophomore album Is The Is Are, after several singles, has finally been released. Since their debut album, frontman Zachary Cole Smith and his girlfriend were arrested for drug possession, which was quickly followed by his entering rehab, and bassist Devin Ruben Perez made several offensive posts on 4chan that were seen as outrageous by fans. Needless to say DIIV followers expected a lot from Is The Is Are. Smith clearly wants to send out a new message that he and DIIV have deeply changed. (much of this change points towards the topic of addiction/sobriety). As Zachary Cole Smith puts it, “I feel like when discussing this album, a lot has been made of its relationship to drugs, and my own personal relationship with drugs…it is so important for me that this album register to people as being as true and as honest and as rooted in reality as possible.” Smith has promised to show his emotional development through Is the Is Are. The question remains, however: does the music show it? Continue reading