Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Interview: Priests

Hailing from Washington DC, are you a fan of the Riot Grrrl movement and are there any other artists in the area that you're excited about right now?
We do like a lot of music that is generally categorized as "riot grrrl", yes. But we also like a lot of jazz, lo-fi bedroom pop, noise music, "77 punk",  doo-wop, old "surf" style guitar instrumental music, lots of different styles of hardcore, old and new hip-hop. We like a lot of stuff, we are big fans of a lot of disparate kinds of music. And we always wonder, why is it no one asks us about this music? Why do they always ask us about Riot Grrrl? We have a few ideas, but don't want to make assumptions. A lot of bands we're into around DC these days. Some of them are Give, Protect-U, Teen Liver, The Deads, Dudes, Foul Swoops, Cigarette, Big Hush, there are a bunch, a lot of them aren't even new. 

You've just announced you're working with Don Giovanni, how does it feel and what made you go with them?
We are working with Don Giovanni and are very excited about this. We have our own record label, Sister Polygon Records, which is how we released our first single and first two cassettes. We became friends with Joe over the summer, he asked if we'd ever be interested in releasing some music on his label. We said well, maybe we'd like to do that but we'd like to get to know each other first. So we played a show together in New Brunswick with his solo project Modern Hut and lo and behold, we all became friends. So Don Giovanni and Sister Polygon will be co-releasing the next Priests record, and we're all really excited about this.  

Don Giovanni has a lot of other great female-fronted bands and female artists on the roster, was this something that you considered when deciding to work with them or was it just because you liked the label?
We just like Joe, we like how he does business, Don Giovanni just seemed like the "right" choice. Have you ever seen When Harry Met Sally? There is a part when one of the older couples are talking and the woman is like, "You just know, the way you know about a good melon", it was sort of like that. We published something in The Media last spring about our upcoming tour, about how we think accessible community space and playing all-ages shows are important. And Joe wrote to us and said hey, I thought that was cool. I just wanted to write and say hi.
You call yourself a "real life non internet band", what is it about being an internet band that disinterests you? Do you feel any disconnect with technology?
I think that is part of the description on our tumblr, yeah. All we mean by that is our band isn't just a website. We make records and play shows "IRL" (internet speak for "in real life", for the uninitiated) and it just goes beyond the internet. Uh, but sometimes for me personally the internet does accelerate communication and human relationships in a way I haven't become totally accustomed to yet, I feel like I don't always translate myself the way I'd like to, but I have a feeling a lot of people have this problem.    

You recently released Tape Two, a cassette-only tour release, what is it that attracted you to releasing music on cassette? Are you very involved in DIY culture?
Cassettes can be produced quickly, they are inexpensive, and cassette players are also very inexpensive at most thrift stores. A lot of people don't necessarily have cassettes or their players lying around, but if you'd like to be a part of that it isn't difficult. You don't need a lot of money and really, you might find a lot of cool music on tape for not a lot of money. The problem really is that you might find some bad stuff, too. One time Gideon found this tape that had 4 faces on the cover made out of clouds, it looked like it could've been a lost Earth, Wind & Fire record or something? Or maybe it was an Earth, Wind & Fire record? Anyway, it was a real let down for us because the tape was actually boring, there were no hits on it. No "Getaway" or "Shining Star" or anything like that. So yeah, I guess tapes are still a roll of the dice but we like them. We like them better than CDs but really, I'm even coming around to those. I mean, however you want to listen to music. We live in the future, the world and the music are truly at your fingertips. You can do whatever you want.    

Are you currently working on any new music or are you focusing on playing shows in NY and DC?
We're working on new stuff! Always working on new stuff! We get bored otherwise. Washington DC is our hometown though.

You wrote a song about author and playwright Lillian Hellman,  has her writing inspired your music in any way? 
She's so cool! I mean it's like the lyrics I wrote in the song, I literally read a biography about Lillian Hellman and thought, wow. Cool lady. Deserves a song. I'd encourage anyone to read about her life or read some of her plays or other works, she was a real character.

Lillian Hellman was very politically involved and you also mention some of early American politics in 'USA (Incantations)', are you a very political person?
Isn't everyone a political person? Even when we don't realize it, our actions and our values and opinions, the way we live our lives, all this stuff has meaning and impact.  

Do you have any other inspirations that influence the way you make music? 
Pretty much anything I surround myself with is an inspiration, I'm a real sponge. I think all of us are, we're all very impressionable and sensitive.  

Aurora Mitchell

Monday, 27 January 2014

Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes

High Hopes is the sixteenth album from the Bruce Springsteen, tidying up songs written over the course of the last decade or so alongside a couple of covers and a re-recording of his Steinbeck-inspired anthem for the common man, ‘Ghost of Tom Joad’

Several of these tracks were recorded during a break on the Wrecking Ball tour with ex-Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and though on the surface purveyors of widescreen American rock and ferocious rap-metal have little in common, both Springsteen and Morello share a sense of empathy with the downtrodden and a debt to the works of both Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan that makes their collaborations less unlikely than they may initially appear. Unfortunately whilst perhaps shaking Bruce out of his roots-rock comfort zone is an admirable goal, many of Morello’s worse impulses are allowed to run unchecked. On the seven minute revisit of ‘Ghost of Tom Joad’ – explosively covered by Rage on their patchy covers album Renegades - he smothers the track in wah-wah sounds, guitar pyrotechnics and his famous axe-as-turntable screeches but ends up with a lesser result than the stripped back original.

Springsteen has never been afraid to sing songs about the little man even now that he’s a very big man indeed but conceptually the grab-bag nature of the tracks undermines any sense of High Hopes as a cohesive album. For aficionados a studio release for ‘American Skin (41 Shots)’ – originally written about the killing of Amadou Diallo by New York policemen and revisited in the wake of the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. – offers compelling testimony that Bruce has had a much better 2000s than he had a nineties but bar a pair of classic modern-era Springsteen cuts High Hopes flounders under the weight of curious celtic drum flourishes and predictable songcraft.

‘This is the Sword’ and ‘Hunter of Invisible Game’ are as stuffy and lifeless as their titles suggest, whilst the plodding ‘Harry’s Place’ suggests that although Springsteen can churn out widescreen mid-tempo rock in his sleep Harry’s place may actually be in the retirement home.

Fortunately, the sax ecstasy of ‘Just like Fire Would’ and ‘Frankie Fell in Love’s wailing Steve Earle guitar swing the pendulum back in favour of the more uplifting end of his output; tales of burning love with just enough hints of darkness to navigate a descent into hokey cheese but when you stop to think what High Hopes tell us about Bruce Springsteen, about America and about rock music, you realise that this is more of a stop-gap affair than a burning romance.


Max Sefton

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Sound InPhotos: White Lies @ Camden Roundhouse

White Lies played an amazing show at Camden's iconic Roundhouse and Braden was on hand to take photos. There were lazers and everything.

Braden Fletcher

Albums of 2013: The Top 20

We've made it! You're most likely reading this looking forward to most of 2014 and we'll bring you that soon, but this was important for us to finish. It's been a pretty strange year for all of us here at Sound Influx and we hope you're still there.
If you are, we're rewarding you. Here's a bucket tonne of music links from our top 20 albums of the year!

20. Queens of the Stone Age - Like Clockwork

19. Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest

18. Foals - Holy Fire

17. AlunaGeorge - Body Music

16. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - ii
"The dreams that creep through his unconsciousness seem to be a recurring theme on ‘II’ and with its imagery of drifting away on the sea they find their most impressive outlet here." Max Sefton

15. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
"Vampire Weekend have done it again. With ‘Modern Vampires Of The City’ they have created a beautiful, infectious and strange record. And ‘record’ seems the right word. It is the last chapter in a trilogy, a record of the lives of characters first visited on their self-titled debut in 2008. It is a chapter sound tracked by tracks laden with hooks, peppered with infectious rhythms and more measured harmonies and melodies. Singer Ezra Koenig’s voice is also shown off to a greater extent on this record than any other. And it really does sound effortless." Holly Read-Challen

14. Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt
Waxahatchee's record is truly the surprise story of the year. The kind of sound that Ms Crutchfield creates is not the kind that usually spikes the interest of those 'in charge' of hype and yet Cerulean Salt became one of the 'buzz' records of the year. The simple truth? Because it's brilliant. It's the kind of album that doesn't require you to be anywhere or in any mood, because it sets the mood for you. For that, it earns a place in the top 15!

13. The Front Bottoms - Talon of the Hawk
(Braden's Album of the Year)
There's little I can say about this record before I start gushing about it. As such; if you want an honest rock and roll record that makes you happy that passionate music about one man's every day struggles, look no further than Talon of the Hawk.

12. DJ Koze - Amygdala

11. Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
Democracy dictates that this was released in the UK in 2013, so here it is.

10. Disclosure - Settle
You're no one until you make our top 10, but try telling Disclosure that at this point.

9. Daniel Avery - Drone Logic

8. CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe

7. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience Pt.1

6. Phoenix - Bankrupt!
"There is every chance this could be the album which pushes Phoenix out to more ears than ever before and in doing so may mean they are lost forever to those who have held the secret so close to their chests for so long. Only time will tell."  Paul Shiernecker

5. Everything Everything - Arc
"They’ve done it then, the Manchester foursome. They’ve made an album that manages to balance the indie/dance/pop/experimental with radio playability and pure integrity. It’s not perfect, but we’ll be hard pressed to remember 2012 if more albums come like Arc this year."  Braden Fletcher

4. Arcade Fire - Reflektor

3. Kanye West - Yeezus

2. The National - Trouble Will Find Me


Holy fuck, the Mercury's got it right. We're here at the top of the list with what our staff voted as the best record of 2013 and it's the one that won the Mercury Prize. We didn't see this coming, but when James Blake makes music as good as he does, was this ever really a surprise?

That's that then.
See you in the right year!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Albums of 2013: Part Two

So this is it. This is the antithesis of what we should be doing as a music site. That's probably the worst way to start any post ever, but when we're less than 10 days away from February and only just finishing our records of the year from the year prior; we have to put our hands up and say it.

We're going to do better for you some time, we promise. There's change coming, we'll inform you all about it soon.

In the mean time, here's the biggest and best rundown we can muster whilst we're on hiatus.

39. Connan Mockasin - Caramel

38. Matthew E White - Big Inner
Stream here

37. Deafheaven - Sunbather
Stream here

36. The Men - New Moon

35. Sigur Ros - Kveikur
"In recent years, viking funerals in which the deceased is sent out to sea on a burning pyre have somewhat decreased in popularity. However, if a standard cremation simply isn't your thing, Sigur Ros' latest release 'Kveikur' will serve as the perfect soundtrack." Lewis Shaw ()

34. Kavinsky - Outrun
I (Braden) maintain that if Daft Punk had made a concept album with the amount of power Kavisnky pushes in Outrun and then whacked their collaborators in there, we'd all be heralding it as one of the albums of the decade; but it wasn't to be. Luckily, Kavinsky made this record anyway.

33. The Haxan Cloak - Excavation

32. Janele Monae - The Electric Lady

31. The Pastels - Slow Summits

30. Deerhunter - Monomania

29. Volcano Choir - Repave

28. Blue Hawaii - Untogether 

27. Drenge - Drenge

26. Candy Claws - Ceres And Calypso 

25. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories 

24. My Bloody Valentine - m b v

23. Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse 

22. John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts 

21. Charli XCX - True Romance 

Tycho - Montana

We've been fans of Tycho for a long time here at Sound Influx since his breakout record 'Dive' in 2011, a beautifully lush album that takes you to a whole other place.

New track Montana is more of the same, cascading beautiful synth harmonics and tender guitars lay at it's heart building majestically into something rousing and damn-right inspiring. His new record is set for release on the impeccable Ghostly International on March 17th and looks set to take Tycho's elegant textures to the next level.

Toby McCarron