Ex Hex ‘It’s Real’ is a kick-ass fruit punch into your face

Yes, please Ex Hex, give me that Bananarama-pazass, that 80s punk rock with amazing harmonies, that laid back cool-girl vibe that makes me feel like a queen, that makes me want to wear leather pants even though I would look ridiculous but also dresses up all my sorrows into rhinestones and dangerous hair styles.

People, what a gorgeous opener to any album, really

The band’s sophomore (I have not listened to their debut “Rips” yet, but I will) is the perfect release for March, a fresh, wide-eyed rock album that has amazing pop songs and utterly joyful guitar solos. Honestly, Ex Hex’ choruses are catchy but their guitar solos are the kind that dreams are made of. If only every band knew how to freshen them up like this, they’re the tangy breakfast smoothie that kicks you out of sleep in the morning.

Mary Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris present an album that is full with melancholic lyrics of broken relationships, dangerous relationships and looking back, not necessarily knowing whether with relief or sadness (or maybe both). Thematically, it fits those guitar-ladden power ballads of the 80s because pure heartbreak and soul-searching always feels better if a chorus of awesome lady voices accompanies musings like “you feel so haunted but you don’t know why”.

Advertisements

Jon Samuel ‘Dead Melodies’ is a beautiful sophomore

Jon Samuel, probably mostly known for his role as keyboarder/background singer in the amazing Wintersleep, released his debut “First Transmission” in 2012. I was obsessed. This album is an incredibly deep sea sweet water pearl of songwriting and I remember it to be mostly so soft and beautiful, really delicate.

A sophomore after six years seems a big deal, therefore, because first of all, what comes next after such a picture perfect debut and second of all, how much does one change as an artist after six years?

Turns out, a lot and not much, depending on what you’re looking at. Samuel is still a great songwriter and his melodies are as beautiful as ever. But “Dead Melodies” is far from that lovely light debut and starts with fuzzy guitars and a restless rhythm. With a few exceptions, this will be the tonal center point: amazing electro guitar tunes, pop melodies and grand musical gestures, the kind that invite to dance along and sing along. It’s quite possible, that this is also due to producer Loel Campbell (also from Wintersleep) who seems to have been a collaborator and who gave a lot of input and feedback on each song. And this then again makes sense because this album does have little specks of the Wintersleep sound here and there without feeling like a copy but rather a kindred spirit.

In an interview, Samuel calls the title track “vibrant” and that’s a perfect description of most of the album. It shines, it’s a go-getter album, something messily upbeat, something positive.

Like every good dish, Samuel adds texture with the rather melancholic “Modern Lovers” (which is still not sad but more subdued than vibrant and a nice little breather with a very gorgeous instrumental interlude). The following “To Repel Ghosts” is a lovely, relaxed slow-burner only to make way for the pop-tastic “Lesser Evils”. This is the kind of album that shows the attention to the tracklisting because I will assume that this works incredibly well with a Side A and a Side B on vinyl (I’d say that “Lesser Evils” is the first track on Side B?). In any case, it’s appreciated that the energy levels of the song make sense as a whole, as a former mixtape-expert, I appreciate it.

Speaking of “Lesser Evils” – I am all for power pop songs, so I obviously love this, especially since it has a little bit of early 90s, last traces of the 80s dramaturgy which gains momentum with the next song “Unloveable” which smells like that early wave of new wave-revival in the early 2000s, a stomping rhythm, an amazing guitar riff and a very catchy chorus.

I love that every song has a little different sound, a different mood, a different reference without losing the overall feel. It’s a gorgeous album as a whole. I especially appreciate that the last song is the closest to the debut album in sound and feel (the lyrics are cheeky!) but also feels like a Peter Gabriel/Paul Simon-during-their-world-music-phases-in-the-80s-song. It’s such an unexpected, cute and fun ending, it caught me by surprise. I love that.

TBT: John Frusciante ‘To only record water for ten days’ is a friggin’ masterpiece

I still can’t believe that I made the switch from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album “By the Way”* to John Frusciante’s solo albums within weeks without batting an eye lid. The cumbersome heavy melancholy that not just dribbles but is flooding throughout “To only record water for ten days” can be too much at times, especially as Frusciante – in stark contrast to a singer like Kiedis – lets his voice crack and splinter, go into all the directions that are not pretty.

It’s astounding how an album that is such an inaccessible mountain of fuzzy guitar (and vocals) and electronic dabbling, can be – at a second glance – such a welcoming, warm experience.

Continue reading

Mattiel ‚dto‘ – the Wild West never sounded better

Look, if I were to become a long ranger and needed to hype myself up in the morning to fight evil (space?) baddies, I would totally turn up Mattiel’s incredible self-titled debut album because it’s HOT!

Mattiel apparently grew up in rural Georgia on a farm which might be the reason why her music sounds like a thousand miles of solitude but the kind of solitude that makes you mysterious instead of eccentric and weird.

After moving to Atlanta, she started to write and play music alongside Randy Michael and Jonah Swilley. Her debut album is released on the Burger Records label.

Also: Style queen (what a babe)

Oh, what an album, honestly. Back in the GDR, people were obsessed with cowboys and Native Americans (even though most of it was cultural appropriation and worse things) and I remember this kind of music being such a staple of the lonely rider on his horse, trailing his shadow along. Mattiel takes this old fashioned (and ultimately always wholesome) genre and kicks it into the 21st century. Her style is a glorious boost of duststorm-kickassery.

But more than being retro, this album is a whole load of loud, noisy, rambunctious fun. Mattiel is the Coyote’s knees (urgh, pun-alert) when it comes to gorgeous Wild Western Blues Rock.

Again: what a babe

Snail Mail – ‘Lush’ is beautiful indie rock for cool sad people

Lindsey Jordan released her first self-recorded EP when she was 16. I love that we nowadays have all the possibilities to make, produce and release music through the interwebs because many artists can avoid the oftentimes grueling and personality-mutating funnels of the music industry and use Bandcamp and other mediums to gather a small, dedicated fan base and then jump on better things.

Nowadays, Jordan is under the label Matador Records (Interpol, Cat Power, Fucked Up, Yo la Tengo and more). For a debut, “Lush” is absolutely gorgeous and surprising because there’s a very assured earnestness in her music (without being to serious). As a much (MUCH) older person, it’s really interesting to hear these songs about relationships and break-ups and leaving things behind because I remember those days when everything was moving so fast or not fast enough and it was impossible to get your head around whether you really wanted all these changes.

Jordan’s sound is very subdued, classic indie rock that has a clean production but is not overdone. I am quite sure, it translates beautifully on a stage because the songs are so clear-cut, with not much fuss (but a little fuzz). There’s nearly a bit of punk-simplicity in the way she structures her songs. Her guitar and voice take center stage and that’s really all you need, to be honest.
It’s like a really good recipe where few, very good ingredients come together and you can taste all of them (yes, I do like to watch cooking shows, why do you ask?). Nothing gets muddled. It’s the kind of debut album that makes you really look forward for what’s to come but also appreciate what’s already there.

The War and Treaty ‚Healing Tide‘ – great voices, much love and so much joy

Ok, first of all: sorry, I haven’t written anything in the past few weeks. It’s too hot to do anything and first and foremost, it’s too hot to work and stream music because my MacBook will turn into hot coals and I can’t risk either the work-fallout when it breaks down as well as my skin being marked by a f***ing MacBook Pro for the rest of my life. 

But this still didn’t keep me from discovering the new album by The War and Treaty that opens with a song („Love like there’s no tomorrow“) that’s like a shout from the rooftops, mixing Soul, RnB, country and Americana and some of the best duet-dynamics you’ve heard in the last 20 years. 

It’s so much fun listening to these two, I actually got reminded of attending live shows where the sheer craft and joy on stage would throw a blanket of happiness over the whole crowd and engulf you like sunshine. Cheesy, I know but something so gorgeous that lacks any cynicism (but doesn’t lack humor) doesn’t deserve detached irony, it deserves the whole cheesy, emotional approval stamp.

Shake it! Shake it good!

Honestly, „Healing Tide“, the albums titular song is something that could have been plucked right from the late 60s but at the same time also feels like that glimmer of joyful, warm hope that we all yearn so much after hours on that cesspit of human foulness called Twitter and daily news. Honestly, if this album were a drink, it would be that ice-cold sip of mint tea after the hottest day of the year. 

This is an album about love. Michael and Tanya Trotter and married and they share all of it for us whether it’s sweet, raunchy („Jeep Cerokee Laredo“) or loud and clear („Are you ready to love me“). Both Michael and Tanya can sing the house down and know exactly when something needs to be powerful or soft or even a little messy. 

(This is so sweet!)

This album is amazing because the lyrics are loving and cheeky, there’s enough honesty and humor to believe when both croon in „Hearts“ and the musical production is straightforward and never takes over the vocals which is important in an album that features vocals like that. 

I might not be as excited about country ditties like „Hearts“ as much as I love songs like „Healing Tide“ or „Are you ready to love me“ but when the triplet with Emmylou Harris comes around („Here is where the loving is“), I am all aboard the country wagon with all the twangy guitars one can muster up. 

Honestly, this is a beautiful, fun, honest album that just makes me happy. It’s just the right thing.

Florence and the Machine: ‚High as Hope‘ as good as new

I loved Florence and the Machine’s debut album. It was dramatic, grand and full of epos and theatrical songs, cheeky storytelling and some amazing cover versions of underrated songs. 

Since the album reached me during the last years of my life as a student, just getting out of a deep, close to depressive phase, the album also felt like one gigantic catharsis, because Florence Welch is so loud and that’s such an amazing thing to just stand there and shout every feeling from the rooftops. 

However, with her second album „Ceremonies“, I lost her a little. The high production values and the big dramatic arches verged on decadence. It felt like a menu that serves only the richest chocolate cake. It was too much and the accents of her first album got lost in the grandeur of it all. 

Now, with her fourth album „High as Hope“, I feel the joy, drama and big moods of Florence Welch are back in my life and what a rich life that is. 

I am not aware of most music videos because music television is basically dead and done but my gosh, that’s a fantastic music video. 

What I always loved about Florence is her punk infused balance of emotion over beauty. Sometimes, her voice breaks or she gets too loud to sound pretty but that’s just it: it’s not about perfection and smoothness, it’s about that slightly burned note of caramel, that bitter taste of coffee, that off-key note full of feelings.

I also feel like music like Florence’s is such a beautiful thing because she really never shies away from pathos. Loyal readers of my blog know that I – a gigantic fan of classic rock and pretty much all of the 80s pop catalog – have a soft, squishy spot for pathos. Freddy Mercury wasn’t the star he was because he was moderate and cool. He was a star because he gave it all, like a theater actor dressed up colorful enough and talking loud enough that even the last row could feel what he felt. Florence’s music is just like that. It’s such a strong, intense, emotional thing that it can really grip you, no matter where you are, no matter how far away. 

Personally, I love this side of her and I am very glad that Florence went back to less pizzazz in the production and more Feels in the whole album. It’s a beautiful album, an honest album, a great pick-me-up.

I love everyone who emulates Kate Bush during her “Babooshka”-era, so thank you very much, Florence. Also: that’s a banging choreography. It’s so unnerving, I love it!