Category Archives: Experimental

Passion Pit

pit
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

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Air France

air france
Courtesy of Air France

Air France’s Myspace

Air France is not a band. Not really. Air France is a bird singing happily to its friend while constructing its nest in a palm tree. Air France is a couple on their honeymoon, sipping adult beverages out of coconuts and watching the sunset.

Air France is sex on a beach.

By combining influences from the Balearic Islands with the warmth and beauty of the shoe-glaze genre, Air France creates breathtaking, sublime music, transporting listeners to an exotic and incredible new world. Like DJ Shadow or RJD2, the group merges older recorded material, such as animal noises and personal conversations, with catalog instrumentation and some of their own digital electrobeats. Truly, the Swedish duo, who chose to ironically share a moniker with the Paris-based airline, knows how to spin.

Air France’s latest EP, No Way Down, borders on aleatoric — meaning “random” — music, by carefully piecing together conversations, oohs and ahhs, tropical birds, children laughing, ocean waves and instruments like horns, strings and synths. Most of the tracks lack vocals completely, sounding something like the background music you would find at a travel boutique night club.

The track “June Evenings” opens with a far-off woman’s voice bemoaning the changing of seasons: “Spring has arrived early here, a time for lovers / And it is as if the season mocks my sadness.” These melodramatic words launch the song into trumpets, indecipherable vocals and even a verse of whistles.

On a standout track, “Collapsing at Your Doorstep,” Air France combines marimbas, exotic drums and a hypnotic vocal pattern to create the most danceable and accessible tune on the EP. The song gives off a worldbeat vibe, as if the entire universe of Air France takes place under a canopy dance party on some distant beach.

Luckily for the listener, Air France will fly you there, free of charge.

by Asst. Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf

Róisín Murphy

roisin
Courtesy of Jose Goulao

Róisín Murphy’s Myspace

When Róisín Murphy, formerly of the popular European electronic duo Moloko, produced her first solo album, Ruby Blue, it was a titanic flop. It unraveled into an ugly mess of glitches, beeps and strange noises. Her misguided attempt to create an “experimental” album produced one that was serious, cerebral and drab — not exactly the qualities that you look for in a electro-pop album.

But Murphy rebounded on a grand scale in her most recent release, Overpowered, by adding the most essential element of electro-pop : fun. While Ruby Blue evoked a sense of suffering in robot purgatory, the bright synths and funk-inspired beats of Overpowered are sure to invoke uncontrolled bouts of excited dancing.

On the track “Checkin’ on Me,” Murphy departs from the uniform four-to-the-floor beat, a standard of dance music, favoring a doo-wop swung beat that sets the lively tone of the song. Above the beat, she layers bright, brassy horns, sweetly swelling violins and frenetically oscillating guitars. Despite the number of diverse instruments doing drastically different things, her expert musical arrangement makes the song sound textured and full rather than cluttered. In fact, the song is mixed so well that Murphy is easily heard as she delivers her lyrics softly, coolly and with a pinch of attitude.

Even the more subdued and serious songs are tinged with an air of playfulness absent from Ruby Blue. On “Primitive,” Murphy sings with somber determination over spectral humming synths but brightly dinging electronic bells lighten the gloomy tone of the song. Similarly, the standout track “Dear Miami” lambasts the extreme decadence of Vice City. The guitar distortion, synth blasts, violin string picking and intermittent beeping infuse the song with a strong rhythmic energy.

By pumping even her softer and more solemn songs with a manic energy, Róisín Murphy created an album that is powerful and engaging from the first track to last. Taking herself less seriously and having more fun with her music she has risen from the ashes of her failed debut a funky, dancing electro-pop phoenix.

—By Entertainment Blog Editor Alex Blum

Lissy Trullie

lissy trullie
Courtesy Big Hassle Media

Lissy Trullie’s Myspace

She’s graced the fashion spreads of ELLE, posed for hip New York photographer Ryan McGinley, spun tracks at Big Apple hot spot Beatrice Inn and used the skills she honed at Parsons School for Design to create the cover of her soon-to-be-released EP Self-Taught Learner, out Feb. 17. She’s Lissy Trullie and she’s a tour de force in the world of up-and-coming rock ‘n’ roll.

With super-short strawberry blonde hair, mile-high cheek bones and a fashion sense based around leather jackets, bowler hats and cigarettes, Trullie looks like the lovechild of Edie Sedgwick and Bob Dylan -— and her folksy pop-rock is perfectly befitting of her runway-ready style.

The rising rocker’s debut EP boasts five original tracks and an infectious cover of Hot Chip’s “Ready for the Floor” that puts the robotic original to shame. Although anchored by basic chords and simple lyrics, Trullie’s tunes captivate with a soft and stylized new wave sound that is simultaneously fresh and vintage.

On the EP’s title track, Trullie’s voice alternates between a delicate falsetto and a raspy androgynous tone that drawls, “Are you watching me? / Am I different or am I the same? / You don’t have to say I love you too / It’s not what I want to hear from you.” Other standout songs include the upbeat opening track “Boy Boy” and the danceable “She Said.” Not found on the EP but worth the trek to her band’s Myspace is Trullie’s “You Bleed You,” a mellow, lyric-driven folk gem that croons, “I’m sick and tired, tired and sick” with enthralling vulnerability.
With a boyish charm that radiates in both her music and her Fashion Week-worthy style, Trullie might just be the hippest chick to come out of New York since Lady Liberty — not that she’s ever actually left the Harbor or strummed a Fender with quite the same pizzazz.

—By Asst Entertainment Editor Franchesca Winters

Why?

why?
Courtesy of Anticon

Why? – The Hollows
http://rcrdlbl.com/artists/WHY/track/The_Hollows

Rapper Young Churf, best known for his brief spot in Ratatat’s “Seventeen Years,” is in the song saying: “ I don’t write my stuff anymore — I just kick it from my head.” For avant-garde hip-hop artist Why?, a band that sings about masturbating in museums, gypsies with knives and men fornicating at sporting events, listeners may wonder if the group had to kick all that from its head.

However, lyricist Yoni Wolf’s stream-of-consciousness verses and obscure, personal and often polarizing references are as poignant and delicate as reading a diary. His lyrics are beautifully dressed over poppy instrumentals in Alopecia, Why?’s acclaimed 2008 album.

Why?, originally the stage name for Wolf’s solo work, has evolved into a full band, complete with keyboards, bass and electronics. The group combines elements of indie-rock, hip-hop and even folk with an overtly expressionistic and ceaselessly candid tone. The result sounds like the inner thought processes of an adult male in perpetual puberty — confused about the emotional and bodily changes he is facing.

One instance of this is on “Good Friday,” where Wolf explores notions of death, race and sexual fantasy in a way that is mysteriously dark and unquestionably unique. The song opens with a simple bass line and high hat drums, coupled with Wolf’s drawling vocals.

Throughout many of the songs, Wolf’s tone of voice borders somewhere between bored and pleading, as if unsure if he is passionate, narrative or emphatic with his lyrical storytelling. In tracks such as “Fatalist Palmistry,” Wolf accomplishes a more diverse vocal range through multiple vocal tracks, both melodic and monotonous, layered together.

Yet Why? is never too morbid. It might be overly descriptive and sexually experimental, yet it keeps listeners around with well-placed hooks and attention-grabbing lines.

While Wolf may kick things out of his head that are controversial, confusing and all together strange, Why? retains its edge by keeping their ideas linear, exciting and always in-your-face.

by Asst. Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf

Bearsuit

bearsuit
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Bearsuit’s Myspace

At first listen, the British indie sextet Bearsuit sounds like a cacophonous mess. There are electronic beeps, synthesizers, guitars, trumpets, accordions, strings, flutes and clips of spoken word all jumbled into the songs on its 2007 release oh:io. But engaging in a more careful listen of the album sheds light on the fact that the electronic beats seem to line up with the guitars and percussion and the flutes, strings and accordions complement the vocals. Even the spoken word samples seem to fit in the right place.

The track “Foxy Boxer” relies heavily on electronic sounds for percussion but avoids the migraine-inducing thumping beat of a techno song. Functionally, the electronic beeps hit the notes that the guitar in the song wavers between, accenting the high and low notes. The lo-fi distant quality of the male and female singer’s voices on the track create a unique ethereal quality that gives the song an otherworldly and almost spooky sound.

On the single “Steven F—king Spielberg” orchestral strings and cymbal crashes cue in the drums and flute that set the lightning-fast pace of the song. During the first verse the strings thrash violently as the flute glissandos above and below competing for attention. The soft ghostly voices of the singers are pushed almost to the background. In one verse the flute moves with such speed and vigor to rival Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble-bee.”

Throughout their third album, oh:io:, Bearsuit creates a pleasant and interesting organized mess. Listening to the album is kind of like being in an actual Bearsuit. It’s a little uncomfortable, but you can have a lot of fun with it.

—By Entertainment Blog Editor Alex Blum

The Rural Alberta Advantage

raa
Courtesy of Marc Hodges Photography

The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Don’t Haunt This Place”

Nils Edenloff, lead vocalist of The Rural Alberta Advantage, doesn’t really “sing.” No, not really. Instead, Edenloff whispers, sighs, screams, whines, talks, laughs, begs, pines and confides in the listener, welcoming them into his hometown and showing them around to everything and everyone he loves.

Indeed, as the band’s name might suggest, Edenloff grew up in a log cabin in rural Southern Alberta, Canada, a hometown that strongly influenced his songwriting. Now based in Toronto, the band still sticks close to its roots in its complex lyrics, nostolgic vocals and a Canadian-heavy tour to promote Hometowns, the band’s debut album.

Hometowns is, in many respects, a work of true “indie” proportions, with low-fi recording, strained vocals and many experimental tendencies. Yet, what makes the album stand out is the breadth of the lyrics, the emotive vocals of Edenloff and the group’s unique manipulation of the folk formula.

“Rush Apart” and “Luciana” sound like the best parts of Neutral Milk Hotel and The Microphones. Edenloff shouts over noise-folk guitars and bass-heavy drums, which often climax into cymbal crashes and a bold horns section.

“Don’t Haunt This Place,” the quiet standout of the album, starts with warm organ synth and an almost-monotonous Edenloff. The track evolves into an ode to the homesick, the heartbroken and the hopeful romantics, with lush violins, tambourines and the beautiful vocal contributions of bandmate Amy Cole. Edenloff crafts songs that are both joyous and thoughtful, with lyrics that can live and breathe within anyone who has ever missed home.

From Hometowns it is apparent that for The Rural Alberta Advantage, no matter how you change as a songwriter, no matter how far away you move in the world and no matter how old you get, the idea of home is always just a verse or a chorus away.

by Asst. Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf