January 22, 2015
At a time when Internet hype threatens to smother any semblance of genuine talent, it’s difficult not to be cynical. Rest assured, however, that Zola Jesus deserves all the praise. Nika Roza Danilova is the real deal.
For those wondering if Danilova can replicate the powerful vibes of her latest album, TAIGA (review), in a live setting, the answer is yes. Her already-amazing voice is actually better in person than on record, which is kind of astonishing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
By Tyler Hodg
On the surface, The Westies appear to be nothing more than a generic soft-rock band, but when examined more closely, they are much more than what meets the eye (and ear). The stories behind the band and their music are equally intriguing, and both lend a hand in creating a more extraordinary picture, in the form of their debut album West Side Stories.
Tribute cover albums occupy such an odd space. If a band covers a song too faithfully, they’re destined to be compared, probably unfavorably, to the original. If you add nothing to your interpretation, then why cover the song in the first place? If a band goes too far afield in their musical choices, and they make the song truly their own, then they have the purists who complain that they haven’t hewed closely enough to the source material. It’s a tightrope.
On Stoned – A Psych Tribute To The Rolling Stones, the artists from the neo-psych scene (the Allah-Las, The Tulips, Clinic, Tashaki Miyaki, Yeti Love, et al.) tread that tightrope. Some of the covers are straightforward, faithful renditions (with more reverb, because it’s neo-psych music), and some take the songs in a much different direction. It’s an intriguing record.
Sons Of Hippies’ version of “Gimme Shelter” is one of the more straightforward covers. While fully recognizable, Sons of Hippies add unexpected depth to this effective version. Lead singer Katherine Kelly’s vocals are delightfully husky. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as done by Pink Velvet keeps the iconic riff firmly in place (because, well, you have to, don’t you?), but makes it suitably fuzzy and prominent. L.A.’s Tashaki Miyaki’s “Take It Or Leave It” is fantastic. From the surf-inflected guitar, to lead singer Lucy’s bored/tough girl group vocals, the song is a highlight of this record.
A couple of the tracks veer into near Goth territory. The Vacant Lots’ “She Smiled Sweetly” is Gothy and electronic, with vocals that could have come straight from a Laibach song. Shiny Darkly’s take on “Under My Thumb” has a darkwave feel as well, surfing on a massive wave of sound and echoes.
Yeti Lane’s version of “Sway” from Sticky Fingers is drenched in reverb and subterranean guitars. The singer has a sweet voice buried in the mix and the furious fade out is powered by a guitar that buzzes like a hopped up angry mosquito. “Sympathy For The Devil” via The KVB takes the original in a completely different direction, and it works. Instead of being stripped down, The KVB makes the song larger and nearly epic. The Tulips take the melody of “Wild Horses” and change it just enough that while it is recognizable on the chorus, the verses go in an unexpected way. This version is bold and dreamy, with swooning back up singers and hushed lead vocals. It’s an alluring take.
“It’s Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It)” becomes a stripped down, lo fi song, perhaps played on an ancient keyboard, in the hands of Clinic. The vocals are bizarre and oddly mincing, but somehow it works. It’s endearing. And strange. Strange, too, is Pure X’s version of “Beast Of Burden,” with an electronic sheen and robotic (in a good way) vocals.
Stoned – A Psych Tribute To The Rolling Stones is an interesting bit of business. Taken as a whole, it serves to highlight some of the Stones’ more obscure tracks, as well as showcase some up and coming neo psych bands. There’s a metric ton of reverb and some ennui-laden vocals. It’s surprisingly cohesive for a tribute album, especially for a band whose catalog is as massive and varied as the Stones.
Stoned – A Psych Tribute To The Rolling Stones was released through Cleopatra Records on January 20.
Jim White’s collaboration with The Packway Handle Band is an early entry in the “most delightful albums of 2015” list that I am currently compiling (in my head). Full of clever, cinematic lyrics and ripping bluegrass, Take It Like A Man is a joy from start to finish.
Fans of The Venture Bros. are a diverse bunch, but at least two things unite us: a love of all things Venture, and patience. Though the show’s been around for 12 years now, it has yet to begin its sixth season. But unlike a lot of other animated television, particularly those in its Adult Swim family, The Venture Bros. has always displayed a high degree of polish in everything from the writing, voice acting, animation, and score.
What if I told you that you missed one of the best movies of 2014? What if I also told you that you never even heard of it? Luckily I didn’t make that mistake so I don’t want others to make it, either.
By Tyler Hodg
In their 15th year as a band, The Decemberists continue to release albums that sound nothing less than pure, and What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World is no exception. It’s modest. It’s relatable. It’s fantastic.
Elephant Micah’s (Joseph O’Connell) songs on Where In Our Woods sound archaic and primal, but in a quiet kind of way. They’re hushed and spare, connected to the earth and the air and the migratory patterns of birds. Where In Our Woods haunts and moves me, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
It’s difficult to describe the sound of the UK’s The Vagaband. They’re a little folky, with a dash of vaudeville, a generous dollop of rock, and a not fleeting resemblance to Pink Floyd. They traffic in pastoral sounds with interesting instrumentation. Their second album, Medicine For The Soul, is a pleasant surprise; it’s chock full of banjos and horns, jaw harps and fiddle, and charming, ear-wormy tunes, as well as a smart cover of a Ween song.
There’s only so much one can say about The Guest without starting to spoil the film’s many finely-crafted layers of plot revelation. But the setup in itself was intriguing enough for me to want to watch it, along with the knowledge that this comes to us from the extremely humorous, twisted, and subversive team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett who also brought us the excellent You’re Next (review).