Author Archives: ablum3

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

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Annie Powers/The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – “Come Saturday”

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart is not content with happiness. No, this band is a straight-up, completely legal hit of pure ecstasy, rocking exhuberantly with their influences on their sleeves, combining ’80s notions of electropop with ’60s lyrical storytelling.

The New York based-band succeeds on its mix of jovial amatuerism and pop chops. Its songs are well-crafted shoegaze gems in the same vein as My Bloody Valentine, but also contain sloppy, low-fi instrumentals like any great start-up garage band. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart plays simple, hook-filled songs that could easily fit in the yet-to-be-filmed “High School Musical 4.” Appropriately, the band stole its name from an unpublished children’s story of the same name.

The group’s self-titled debut album boasts sugary pop hits that the listener can simply rock out to. “Come Saturday” is a teen ode to hanging out with your sweetheart on the weekend: “Who cares if there’s a party somewhere? / We’re gonna stay in.” Lead singer Kip Berman’s excited, baritone vocals harmonize wonderfully with keyboardist Peggy Wang’s airy, fragile voice, as if they are simulaneously singing to one another and discovering true love.

Yet, the group is not just twee pop and dreamy lyrics — The Pains match substance with its style. The noisy instruments demand to be heard, yet blend perfectly together. On “Young Adult Friction,” the band is firing on all cylinders, merging innumerable production tracks together to create a multi-layed, giddy tune.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart is a promising, gleeful band — hopefully, it will mature while keeping the heart of a kid.

–By Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf

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The Guggenheim Grotto

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Courtesy of Henry Chen Photography

The Guggenheim Grotto – “Fa Da Da Dee”

New York City’s Guggenheim Museum is recognized for its diverse collection of fine art, running the gamut from traditional Impressionist paintings to more eclectic contemporary pieces. The Guggenheim Foundation has museums across the globe, each boasting works at least as varied as those in New York, nearly making the Foundation’s name a metonymy for myriad artistic influences and styles.

Dublin-based folk-pop duo The Guggenheim Grotto, made up of Kevin May and Mick Lynch, has taken the ideology of its namesake to heart. At times, May and Lynch sound like they are channeling a thoughtful, “The Sounds of Silence”-era Simon and Garfunkel. At other points on its sophomore album, Happy the Man, the duo relies on bubbly, foot-tapping-inducing pop beats. And every now and then, TGG adds an element of surprise, like the a tinge of electronica and female harmony that appear on “Fa Da Da Dee.”

Even TGG’s fun, seemingly mindless songs boast philosophical lyrics, setting the duo apart from the more superficial pop outfits circulating radio airwaves. “Her Beautiful Thoughts” could fall into the trap of a trite song about post-break-up depression (toward the end of the song, the repeated lines of, “She used to say / ‘Let’s get naked and get under the sheets’” is directly followed by, “I just can’t seem to get out of bed anymore”), draws upon some deeper ideas. The song’s protagonist recounts what he misses about his ex, which, in addition to the aforementioned naked bed time, includes her titular “beautiful ideas.” “She used to say that magic was the edge / And science and God, they were the sides of a copper penny piece,” May and Lynch sing.

On the other end of the aural spectrum is “Philosophia,” a folksy and aptly titled look at life. Velvety vocals croon lines such as, “Perhaps no perfect way exists at all, just many different kinds.” Musically, the song has an ethereal feel and includes the distant sound of running water, as if the singers are sitting in the woods next to a babbling brook, contemplating ancient thinkers.
The one-line chorus of “Philosophia” reflects the sound and ideology of TGG: “Oh, to be a work of art.”

–By Executive Editor Ani Vrabel

Seabird

seabird
Courtesy of Seabird

Seabird’s Myspace

The Fray might think they know how to save a life and Jack’s Mannequin may make one helluva mix tape, but neither band brings together passionate piano arrangements, rock riffs and intelligent lyrics like rising Cincinnati-based trio Seabird.

With its captivating 2008 debut ‘Til We See the Shore, the band, which is currently on tour with Jars of Clay, blends these three instrumental and lyrical elements like a group of seasoned veterans. Rather than relying too heavily on the ivories, Seabird crafts songs that are a charming mix of musical influences.

This varied instrumentalism is only complemented by lead singer and pianist Aaron Morgan’s crooning, which traverses the line between raw and refined. The result is a sound driven by both classical chords and heavy bass.

Seabird’s first single “Rescue” is a lush and infectious track in which Morgan sings, “I’m pushing up daisies / I wish they were roses / I feel like I’m drowning / But nobody knows it.” Fittingly, ABC used the song to promote its recently cancelled show “Pushing Daisies.”

But the band’s standout tracks are “Falling For You” and “Maggie Mahoney.” While “Falling For You” successfully captures the eternally-relatable experience of longing, the latter features rapid, spoken lyrics and a retro piano waltz delightfully reminiscent of the 2006 radio reign of Panic at the Disco.

With a sound that is both distinctive and emotionally engaging, Seabird is undoubtedly ready to take flight in the world of popular piano rock.

—By Entertainment Editor Franchesca Winters

The Tunics

the tunics
Courtesy of The Tunics

“If it cuts like a knife I will kill you where you stand,” snarls Joe Costello, lead singer and guitarist of The Tunics in the chorus of “A Winter’s Tale,” a torrid tale of a love triangle that meets a violent end. Violent lyrically as well as stylistically, the fiery Britpop trio roars through the anthemic rock songs of its 2007 debut release Somewhere in Somebody’s Heart. Though the band has been relentlessly compared to the genre’s vaunted quartet, The Arctic Monkeys, it is more sophisticated, darker and scarier than even its chilly contemporary’s Favourite Worst Nightmare.

Rather than lamenting the failed love of fluorescent adolescents, The Tunics’ lyrics center on members’ experiences growing up amidst the rise of knife and gang culture in the dodgy underbelly of London. “But I know where I can came from, the land of weapons and fists / I understand the power of song, and that dreams are made of this,” croons Costello on the track “Shine On,” imparting his faith that music can overcome circumstance.

But the thematic frustration with gang violence comes to a furious head on the following track “In The City.” Costello takes out his exasperation on his guitar as he whips and thrashes through the opening power chords. As Costello’s voice cuts in, he describes the plight of a kid who goes out to the club on a Friday night only to be violently mugged at knifepoint. “What can you do when you know he carries a knife?” Costello asks in the chorus, and quips sarcastically, “But that’s the price you pay for having fun.”

Instead of the adolescent laments of unrequited love and growing pains that provide the fodder for the ditties of other Britpop bands, The Tunics conquer a more serious subject matter with feverish passion, sophistication and devilish wit.

—By Blog Editor Alex Blum

Plushgun

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Plushgun’s Myspace

The only things April showers seem to be bringing to Atlanta right now are gray clouds and cold winds. Although the Weather Channel appears to think this depressing gloom won’t be moving on anytime soon, you can go ahead and kick off the rubber boots right now. That’s because rising indie pop trio Plushgun has enough musical Vitamin D to make summer vacation seem only seconds away.

With sunny, synthesized beats and sweet keyboard melodies, Plushgun rose to fame out of frontman Dan Ingala’s pint-sized Brooklyn apartment. Originally a solo project, Plushgun, which Paste recently dubbed a “lush, bedroom dance pop wunderkind,” released its debut album Pins & Panzers in mid-February to rave reviews.

The album’s hit single, “Just Impolite,” showcases the band’s haunting knack for bringing together the wildly opposite emotions that often characterize real-life relationships. Barely surpassing a whisper, Ingala sings, “Are you frightened by perfection? / Is this who you are, not who you want to be?” to the beat of a sugary keyboard composition. The song is a desperate and — although lyrically denied — obsessive attempt to hold onto love, masked by a bouncy electronic sound.

In fact, lyrics about the loss of love pop up pretty often throughout Plushgun’s instrumentally upbeat songs. In the nostalgic “A Crush to Pass the Time,” Ingala laments being confined to the friend zone. Similarly, “Let Me Kiss You (And I’ll Fade Away)” begs for one last embrace to a background of brief banjo riffs, hand claps and uplifting acoustic guitar. “Dancing in a Minefield,” on the other hand, waltzes between emotional vulnerability and political commentary, themes highlighted by swelling synthesizers.

Plushgun’s variety affords the band a Death Cab meets The Postal Service meets MGMT sound that perfectly captures the conflicting emotions of love and loss. Astronomically, summer doesn’t start until June 21 this year.

Musically, Plushgun makes the season endless.

—By Entertainment Editor Franchesca Winters

The Bird and the Bee

birdbee
Courtesy of The Bird and the Bee

In The Bird and the Bee’s “Polite Dance Song,” the opening track of its 2007 EP, Please Clap Your Hands, Inara George sings “I try to be as coy as I can / But I wanna see your naughty bit / Would you be nasty with me?” Though most of the synth-pop duo’s songs are not quite so risqué, they do share a playful mischievousness that is invigorating.

Indeed, the band started as a playful experiment when, as members Inara George and Greg Kurstin describe on their MySpace page, they “met a few years ago, discovered a common love of jazz standards … nerded out for a couple hours playing every song they knew … and then wrote a record together.”

Kurstin brings a tremendous amount of musical nerdiness and skill to the table. Having written or produced tracks for the likes of Sia, Lilly Allen, Beck and even Britney Spears’ recent come-back effort, Circus, he has a wealth of musical experience that he employs in the masterful musical arrangements of The Bird and the Bee.

On “Polite Dance Song” Kurstin drops a funky, laconically sliding hip-hop beat that introduces George who sings with a with a slow rhythmic flow. The soprano’s upper-register rapping feels both ironic and refreshing.

They do this again in the track “F–king Boyfriend,” where Kurstin mixes frenetic electronic beeps and chimes with jaunty dance beats and synths that glissando kaleidoscopically through the song. In this song about an impatient lover, it sounds as if George stifles a laugh as she sings, “Would you ever be my, would you be my f–king boyfriend”

The key to the success of Kurstin and George is that they don’t take themselves too seriously, experimenting with different musical styles while still keeping their music consistently light and lively. They pepper mischievous humor onto every track, creating music that is perfect for celebrating the closing hours of a week dedicated to Dooley, the Lord of Misrule.

—By Blog Editor Alex Blum

Passion Pit

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Courtesy of Passion Pit

Michael Angelakos is a lover. He’s the kind of lover who sees romance in terms of techno beats and freakin’ on the dance floo’. He’s the kind of lover who digs on Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” and Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” simultaneously. He’s the kind of lover who professes his desire of a woman by shrieking out brilliantly feminine falsettos. But he is, nevertheless, a lover.

Angelakos, the lead vocalist of electro-pop up-and-comers Passion Pit, presented his then-girlfriend his musical project, Chunk of Change, as a belated Valentine’s Day gift. Chunk of Change, the four-song EP/ode-to-love, eventually leaked into the Emerson College community, developing Passion Pit a viral buzz and following around the Boston area.

Passion Pit slowly developed into a full band, reissuing its EP and touring with artists such as Death Cab For Cutie and Girl Talk. Its sound is boundlessly energetic, tightly focused and hook-filled.

On tracks such as “Cuddle Fuddle” (all in all, the poorest choice of song title on the EP), Passion Pit experiments with odd synth choices and ooey gooey lyrics such as “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair / Things are better when you’re with me.” Many of the keyboard instrumentals sound as if they are being tortured, with overly distorted xylophones and computerized pianos seemingly begging for mercy. Luckily, the band never strays too far from pop goodness, singalong choruses and hooky, Walt Disney-esque lyrics.

“Sleepyhead,” Passion Pit’s love note to dance floors and narcoleptics everywhere, shows the band at their best — and weirdest. The song contains samples of Irish harp playing by Mary O’Hara matched with the perfectionist keyboards of Angelakos and pianist Ian Hultquist. Angelakos’ extremely high-pitched falsettos fit in perfectly alongside MGMT-ish electronics and disco-influenced bass licks.

Passion Pit’s debut album, Manners, is due out May 18, promising to deliver more love to the world. The part of the world that grooves on eccentric techno, that is.

by Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf