Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Voice of Commercial

Does that voice sound familiar? Daniel Zott, lead singer of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., is the lead singer of a new commercial. Here he is featured alongside members of his other Detroit-based band, Victorious Secret.

Canadian musician Eric Violette was the frontrunner of the FreeCreditReport commercials for several years, but when the credit rating service changed their name to, they also searched for a new band. I was totally surprised to see Daniel Zott singing this new catchy jingle on TV and I'm not sure whether to be excited or bummed out. It is catchy though and it's a nice change from the old tune!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Remembering Earl Scruggs

Born in the county adjacent to Earl Scruggs and raised on healthy doses of bluegrass, it is only appropriate that we honor Earl Scruggs and his contributions to bluegrass and the banjo. Known to play a tune or two on the banjo myself I know that I have Scruggs to thank as a pioneer of the "three- finger picking" bluegrass banjo style.

Scruggs was born in 1924 in Shelby, NC. He rose through the ranks of musical fame in Nashville, TN and played in the first  bluegrass band, aptly named the "Blue Grass Boys". His unique finger-picking style could be heard in "The Beverly Hillbillies" theme song as well as the film "Bonnie and Clyde". Scruggs and Lester Flatt won a Grammy with "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". Scruggs died in Nashville of natural causes on March 28 at the age of 88.

Foggy Mountain Breakdown - Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt

Monday, March 26, 2012

Artist Review (Forecastle Preview Edition): Ben Sollee

Kentucky native Ben Sollee will be gracing the stage at Forecastle this year for the first time. Sollee is best known for his unique "genre-bending" cello style that blends classical sounds with folk, bluegrass, R&B, jazz, blues, and rock. His positive perspective on life shows in his music and lyrics.

Sollee started playing the cello in elementary school and fell in love with the classical instrument because of its many different sounds. His first musical influence (besides classical) was jazz and blues, listening to musicians such as Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, and Ray Charles. He later got into folk music and his influence from both genres shows in his songs.

In 2005 Sollee joined legendary banjo player Bela Fleck and formed The Sparrow Quartet with other musicians, making big strides in his music career. After recording the group's first LP, Sollee debuted Learning to Bend, recorded with multiple musicians for different songs. Learning to Bend had great, upbeat songs with wonderful lyrics and soon became a huge success, allowing Sollee to become well-known throughout the folk music world.

In 2010 Sollee recorded an album with Kentucky local Daniel Martin Moore titled Dear Companion, which was produced by another Kentucky native, Jim James, of My Morning Jacket. After the release of the album the trio toured together to promote the issue of mountaintop removal in the Appalachian mountains. As the three are very close, one can only hope for guest appearances during this year's Forecastle performance.

Following his success, Sollee has done many tours with his band which features Jordan Ellis (percussion) and Emily Hagihara (vocals and fiddle). The tour that gets a lot of attention is his "Ditch the Van Tour" in which he and his band travel only on bicycles with their instruments, which he has been doing since 2009. Ben Sollee released his second LP in 2011 titled Inclusions

Be sure to check out Ben Sollee and his talented band the Sunday of Forecastle. His heartfelt music will leave you feeling happy with a positive outlook on life.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bonnaroo 2012 Lineup

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has a stellar lineup with music sure to please all walks of life. Headlining this year is Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish and The Beach Boys. Other notables include North Carolina bands, The Avett Brothers and Ben Folds Five (on a reunion tour), as well as The Shins and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. See the full lineup here. Other activities include a full comedy lineup (in the works), art, theatre, dance, gardening, and instrument building at "The Academy" at Planetroo, Adult Swim's Ragbag of Jollification and a beer tent featuring over 20 U.S. breweries. 

So what's new with the festival?
Bonnaroo is releasing an interactive app with a Bonnaroo countdown and "Radio Bonnaroo", featuring the sounds you'll hear at the festival. 

Carpooling made easy!
Bonnaroo is partnering with Zimride to make it easy to save the planet and share a ride with fellow festival-goers. Arrive with four or more people to be eligible for prizes. 

Bonnaroo is in Manchester, TN from June 7-10.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Beach Boys

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Concert Recap: Neon Indian + Purity Ring

Purity Ring
It was a sold out show at the Cat's Cradle this Wednesday, as Neon Indian and Purity Ring fans got a megadose of low-fi synth-pop. Purity Ring opened the show and, given their talent, is sure to have someone opening for them next time I see them. Instead of relying on stage lights the DJ had a contraption rigged to his sampling equipment. The colors on the lights around his console corresponded to the beat and a large bass drum on the stage would light up during bass beats. Megan James' vocals were slightly haunting, though meticulously well-pitched, and married well with the DJ's almost spooky music samples and beats.

As the anticipation built for Neon Indian, a sea of flannel shirt-wearing fans wielding PBRs packed in around the stage. Neon Indian opened with "Local Joke" from Pyschic Chasms (2009). Much of the original music remained in tact, but some guitar leads were slightly lost in translation. They also relied on a drum kit instead of low-fi drum samples. The crowd responded well to the more popular tracks. The band played a long synth-heavy segue into "Pyschic Chasms" and the crowd began to move as the synth-bass line drove the song along. "Polish Girl" (Era Extra├▒a, 2011) was also a huge hit and a segue into "Dead Beat Summer" made both tunes even better. Lead singer Alan Palomo even let the crowd sing the chorus. Palomo told the crowd there was one song left in the set but said that since we were "such a great audience" they would play on through the encore set, which included "Terminally Chill" and "Should've Taken Acid With You". All in all it was a great night of low-fi/chillwave, right in my backyard.
Alan Palomo (lead singer, synth)
Leanne Macomber (synth, vocals)
 playing a tune on bass

Monday, March 19, 2012

Artist Review (Forecastle Preview Edition): Galactic

With all the great bands set to play at Forecastle in Louisville, KY this summer, one band that I am looking forward to seeing is a New Orleans-based funk/jazz band Galactic.

Their music has a lot of energy with roots of Cajun music mixed with many other genres, such as, hip hop, electronic, world music, rock, blues, and jazz. Many songs feature contributions from artists of various genres, giving Galactic an even more unique sound.

Galactic has been around since 1994, having released nine LP's since that time along with live albums and music on various soundtracks. However, I only started listening to Galactic in college when I got a hold of Ya-Ka-May in 2010 while working at WRFL 88.1 FM. They released another album just after Mardi Gras this year titled Carnivale Electronics. The album has a lot of Cajun and funk influences, which makes listening quite enjoyable. The band has a lot of passion and energy in their music and that energy is sure to carry over into their live performances. Galactic consist of 5 regular members, Robert Mercurio, Jeff Raines, Richard Vogel, Stanton Moore, and Ben Ellman, however, I can see them inviting many other artist to play with them during their performance at Forecastle.

I couldn't think of a better place than to see this band perform than outside on a warm, summer day. Galactic is scheduled to play on Saturday and I will be there ready to dance to some great tunes. You should join!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Upcoming Concert: Neon Indian vs. Miniature Tiger

Two great bands are headlining shows in separate venues just miles apart on the same night and I still haven't decided who to go see. Neon Indian will be at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, N.C. and Miniature Tigers will be at the Night Light in Chapel Hill.

Neon Indian
Texas-based Neon Indian is headlining at the bigger venue of the two and is a very tempting choice. The quintessential low-fi, chillwave group is sure to have concert-goers enthralled with their usage of classic synthesizers and looping gear. Opening act Purity Ring's beats go hand in hand with Neon Indian, and features a female lead vocalist to cut through heavy synthesizers and looping.

Miniature Tigers
Miniature Tigers, a Brooklyn-based indie-rock group, is headlining with several smaller but talented opening bands. Electro-punk group, The Chain Gang of 1974, and gritty surfer-rock group, Pretty and Nice seem like two interesting opening acts. However, I would most like to see San Francisco-based trio, Geographer. Their music falls somewhere between acoustic indie-pop/rock and electronic, and frontrunner Michael Deni's vocals are nothing short of amazing. I do worry that with three opening acts, each band will only get a short gig on stage though. Which show would you choose?

Purity Ring - Loft Cries
Neon Indian - Polish Girl
Geographer - Kite
The Chain Gang of 1974 - Undercover
Pretty and Nice - Tora, Tora, Tora
Miniature Tigers - Female Doctor

Friday, March 16, 2012

Great Music for a Great Road Trip

Every great road trip needs a great soundtrack, regardless of where you're headed. On a recent trip home to see my family I pulled out my case of CDs (yes, I still have one of those) and left the iPod stowed away. I found that in listening to entire albums, I enjoyed the music much more and was less likely to skip any songs.

I started out the trip with Death Cab For Cutie's Photo Album (2001). Ben Gibbard's clever lyrics took me on an emotional journey through the eternally sunny Los Angeles in "Why You'd Want to Live Here" to his friend's loathing of his late father in "Styrofoam Plates". I was in the mood for more Ben Gibbard and I popped in The Postal Service's sole LP, Give Up (2003), and found myself wishing they would release a second album. As the Appalachian mountains welcomed me home, I finished off the trip with two My Morning Jacket albums, Z (2005) and It Still Moves (2003).

Bon Iver
Departing from Asheville on an unseasonably warm, late winter's day, I decided to roll the windows all the way down and blast Bon Iver's second self-titled album (2011), which won "Best New Artist" and "Best Alternative Album" at the 2012 Grammys. Later, just a day after a lighthearted debate with my brother about which Ben Folds Five album was the best, I decided to give The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messener (1999) a spin. I continued my trip down I-40 to the tunes of Maritime with We, the Vehicles (2006). And finally, in range of WKNC 88.1 FM, I finished off the trip with some of their jams. Now, enjoy a sample of my road trip soundtrack!

My Morning Jacket - It Beats 4U
Bon Iver - Perth
Ben Folds Five - Army
Maritime - Young Alumni

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Artist Review (Forecastle Preview Edition): Sleigh Bells

It's been usually warm so far this month and it's not even officially spring yet. So with the temperature being above normal, I am previewing a band that is known for turning up their guitar sound level above normal. Sleigh Bells might not to be new to some of you, as their first LP Treats came out in 2010 and became a big hit on college radio stations across the country. Their poppy song "Rill Rill" was a great song off that album, however, the song was not a representative of the band's overall music genre. Most of their songs consisted of heavy, high-volume guitar chords. I once read an article that jokingly pointed out that Sleigh Bells turns their guitar up to volume 11.

In February, the young duo released their second album titled Reign of Terror. Again this band kept their loud guitar (Derek Edward Miller), strong drumming, and poppy/yelling vocals (Alexis Krauss). Both albums are great, but it will take some getting use to if you don't like it at first. They seem like a great band to see live, as their music has a lot of energy with a great mix of heavy metal guitar but with a poppy (almost like Pixies) beats and vocals.

Sleigh Bells will be playing the Friday of Forecastle weekend and many people (including myself) will be attending their show ready to rock out, as should you!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Artist Review (Forecastle Preview Edition): Washed Out

A trailblazer of the chillwave genre, Washed Out will be performing at Forecastle this summer. Washed Out is Georgia native Ernest Greene's stage name. He began creating music in his bedroom studio in 2009, moving up through the ranks of the music world via music blogs and MySpace. From 2009-2010 he released three EPs, the second featuring some of his most popular tunes to this day (Feel it All Around from Life of Leisure). In 2011 he shook the music world with the release of Within and Without, a more polished sounding album, which peaked at 26 on the U.S. Billboard 200.

Chillwave has been described by its artists as "funk in slow motion", and Washed Out really encapsulates that idea. Songs have a dreamy, low-fi, synth-ridden feel with rap and R&B influences. Vocals are flooded with reverb, making it nearly impossible to understand. In a sense, the vocals just become another instrument in the music, and for Washed Out, that works very well. If you make it to Forecastle this summer, Washed Out is a must see. If you can't make it to Louisville for Forecastle, check Washed Out's tour page for 2012 dates.

Eyes Be Closed by Washed Out (Within and Without, 2011)
Feel it All Around by Washed Out (Life of Leisure, 2010)
Belong by Washed Out (High Times, 2009)

Track Review: Myth by Beach House

Beach House, the Balitmore, MD dream-pop duo has done it again. "Myth", a single from their up-and-coming release, Bloom (May 2012), is nothing short of amazing. Though I expected a deviation from the norm of Victoria Legrand's dreamy vocals, Alex Scally's flanged guitars, and subtle drum-beats, what I got instead was more of the same, and it was perfect. "Myth" is a track that would fit well on Devotion (2008) or Teen Dream (2010), and is certainly welcome on Bloom. The big question is, will the rest of the album sound similar to this track? I can't wait to find out!

Myth by Beach House

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Track Review: Ed Is A Portal by Akron/Family

After a few days of bitter cold weather here in Kentucky, the sun is out and thawing the snow. And while it is thawing why not melt away those winter blues with Akron/Family's "Ed Is A Portal"?

Akron/Family is a gifted group of musicians who do a wonderful job mixing different genres of music (folk, bluegrasss, experimental rock, etc.) to create fantastic jamming songs that sound fun and magical. "Ed Is A Portal", off their 2007 LP, Love Is Simple, is a great example of what the band is capable of creating. Their real talents come out in their live shows, so if you have a chance to see this band live, don't miss out on a memorable experience.

Artist Review (Forecastle Preview Edition): Wye Oak

Fans of Walking Dead might recognize Wye Oak. Their single "Civilian" from their 2011 LP, Civilian, was played during the trailer of the show's second season. However, for those who don't watch The Walking Dead, this band might be new to you, as they were new to me until I saw them on the Forecastle lineup.

Wye Oak is a duo indie folk/rock band out of Baltimore, MD consisting of Andy Stack (drums, keyboards, and backup vocals) and Jenn Wasner (vocals and guitar). Wasner's vocals and guitar playing style reminds me a lot of bands, such as Beach House and Modest Mouse. The overall genre is reminiscent of Pavement, Wilco, Sonic Youth, and The Pixies. So, if you like soft vocals, heavy guitar, and catchy drum beats mixed with early indie rock influence, this band is for you.

This band likely already has a strong fan base and after checking out Civilian, I am hoping to get a chance to see their live performance if I can squeeze them into what is already a packed Saturday during Forecastle.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Concert Recap: Dr. Dog

The best thing about going to a live show is hearing a band play that one song you thought they picked just for you. Dr. Dog did just that for me several times at Headliners in Louisville, Ky. Their set list consisted of many great tunes from their discography, past and present, and it felt like they knew what songs I personally wanted to hear.

My friends and I were fortunate to purchase our tickets beforehand, as tickets sold out 30 minutes before the opening band even started (a surefire sign Dr. Dog is becoming quite popular). The opening band, Purling Hiss, was not the kind of band I was expecting to open for Dr. Dog. They were talented musicians, however, I was not impressed by the genre. The lyrics were poorly written and relied too much on heavy, shredding guitars in each of their songs. I was releived when they were done and people started setting up the stage for Dr. Dog, which was a pretty interesting setup.

The crew rolled out a stage setup that reminded me of a high school play: a bedroom wall with interesting posters, a fake Siberian tiger head, and a window with stars and a waning crescent moon in it. I loved the setup from the moment I saw it and the crowd began to get excited about what was soon to come. I knew then that it was going to be a great show. 

Dr. Dog started the show off with a fantastic song, "That Old Black Hole", from their new album, Be The Void. However, they only played new songs occasionally, going back to their older albums and pulling out great songs like, "The Breeze", "The Rabbit, The Bat & The Reindeer", "Shadow People", "From", and "I Only Wear Blue". While I wish they would have gone back a bit further and played songs like "Ain't It Strage" or "The World May Never Know", it was great to hear the songs they chose. They also picked great new songs such as, "These Days", "Heavy Lights", and "Do The Trick". However, my favorite song ("How Long Must I Wait") off of Be The Void was not played, leaving a small void in my concert experience.

Although they didn't play "How Long Must I Wait", I consider the show a great success and I left feeling very satisfied. Dr. Dog has such great songs to sing and dance to live that anyone who sees them live will have a great time. I met up with a friend of mine who had only heard their new album, however, he loved listening to all their songs and he danced along with me, enjoying their old tunes as much as me. So, next time you have a chance to see Dr. Dog live, take anyone who enjoys good live music and loves to dance--you will not be disappointed. They will be back in Louisville at Forecastle Music Festival in July!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Concert Recap: Hammer No More the Fingers with The Big Picture

The Big Picture
It was an amazing night complete with stellar live music at the Tir Na Nog this Thursday. First on the stage was The Big Picture, a big cast of all-star local musicians from the NC Triangle music scene. The songs were very interesting to listen to and avant-garde in a sense. One song seemed to be inspired by Ratatat, the next sounded like Flaming Lips, all the while featuring Lost In the Trees-like vocals and harmonies (the entire band singing together). 

Duncan on guitar
Joe Hall on guitar
Headlining was the Durham indie-rock trio, Hammer No More the Fingers. The set started off with Duncan (bass, vocals) playing two songs on a guitar tuned baritone. I was very excited to hear Duncan play guitar, as he has always stuck to the bass. HMNTF played about 8 new songs which was very exciting. This leads me to wonder if a new album is in the works. The new songs had very unique sounds; funky, emotional, even reminiscent of Radiohead at times. Other tunes captured that classic bass-driven HNMTF sound with crisp, soaring harmonies that so many fans desire. Their encore set featured two of my favorites: Vodka Grasshoper and O.R.G.Y. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday night--did I mention it was free?
Finishing an epic set

Artist Review (Forecastle Preview Edition): Justin Townes Earle

As my first pick for the "Artist Review" Forecastle edition I chose a newly discovered (for me, at least) Americana/Country singer, Justin Townes Earle. Set to play the second day of Forecastle (Saturday), Earle has a traditional Country/ Folk sound with strong, heartfelt lyrics similar to that of Country legends (Merle Haggard, Kriss Kristofferson, and Steve Earle).

The son of Steve Earle, Justin was born into the music lifestyle and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, so naturally Justin has strong roots with traditional country music. However, unlike Steve Earle's Texas-style country music, Justin's style is more mixed with folk, blues, and southern rock. This fusion of genres is what makes Earle's music appealing to me and although he has had rough patches in his music career, I am looking forward to seeing him live on a warm mid-summer day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Forecastle Music Festival 2012 Lineup

For people living in central Kentucky and southern Indiana, Forecastle is the closest and best music festival in the area. Over the past decade, in the heart of Louisville, Forecastle has become one of the best outdoor festivals in the country and to celebrate its 10 year anniversary, one of Louisville's most successful bands, My Morning Jacket, will be headlining and collaborating the festival's lineup.

Yesterday the lineup was released with many great bands set to play at the festival, headlining each night will be Bassnectar (Friday), My Morning Jacket (Saturday), and Wilco (Sunday). The rest of bands are a great mix of popular alternative Pop/Rock (Sleigh Bells, Beach House, Atlas Sounds, Andrew Bird, Dr. Dog, Deer Tick, etc.), Folk/ Classic Country (Ben Sollee, Justin Townes Earle, The Head and The Heart), Techno/ Electronic (Girl Talk, Washed Out, Flying Lotuc, etc.), Blues/ Soul (Galactic, Stax! Soul Revue, Charles Bradley), Heavy Metal (Clutch) and Rap (Atmosphere).

Here is the complete list...

There are currently 3 Day tickets available for $144.50 (soon to be $159.50).

Single day tickets for $49.50 will go on sale this Friday (March 2nd).

VIP 3 Day tickets and 1 Day tickets are available as well ($350.00 and $150.00).

I plan on writing up on some of the bands playing at the festival over the next few months, so stand by for some in-depth reviews on bands you may not know about but might be interested in seeing at the festival this year.

I hope everyone who wants to make it out to Louisville, Ky July 13-15th for this fantastic festival gets a chance.