Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Abandoned Pools Signs to Tooth and Nail, Fixes Your Macbook

Abandoned Pools
It's about 8 in the morning. I have recently gotten out of bed and am still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. The first sip of java has just hit my lips, my email is freshly opened, and I read, "Abandoned Pools Signs to Tooth and Nail Records Today."

Gulp. Rub. Rub.

This came as strange news to me for several reasons. For one, I thought Abandoned Pools was long gone. The last I had heard they released a record was 2005, which was basically the 90s. And in full disclosure the last I had listened to them was when 2001's Humanistic came out - great album, by the way, that if you've never heard, you should hear. Right now.

The second reason this was newsy to me was because in my interning years, indeed not long after Humanistic came out, I worked at Tooth and Nail and I haven't necessarily known the label to entertain many artists who aren't "fresh out the oven", if you know what I mean. I knew this must be a love affair of sorts. I had to know more.

 And before we all dive into the juicy bits, I want to touch on one thing that was left unmentioned in the interview but was all too present as I started to dig into the story that morning. Frontman, Tommy Walter, and wife, Brie, had recently - very recently in fact - lost their baby daughter, Madeleine. I won't go into details because the story will literally shatter your heart, but keep these two in your prayers. If you want to read their story, Brie has been journaling about it here.

 It's been a while since you've released a record. What have you been up to since 2005? Why now for releasing a new album?
I've been writing songs for this album for years but I really just needed a break from it for a while since my experience with Universal Records was not very satisfying. I did a few side projects, mixed and produced some albums, did some music for TV and worked for Apple as a 'Genius' (a job title with great expectations if there ever was one). I've always known that I would put out another AP album eventually. I have to credit my manager, Travis Szendrei, for encouraging me to make it happen finally.

I used to intern at Tooth & Nail and was really intrigued when I heard you're putting out Sublime Currency with them! Can you give us some background about your decision to work with T&N?
They're really enthusiastic and supportive. You can't put a price on that. I've had my ups and downs over my career, and at this point, they seem like the perfect fit for my mindset. It still means something to be on a label and have a company working with you.

I understand Abandoned Pools has always been a solo project for you, with you playing all the instruments on the recordings with the exception of percussion. Can you tell us about that process?
I don't play drums, so I do everything on my own at home and then go into a studio with an actual drummer (for this album Bryan Head and Daniel James shared the job). That's the way I made Humanistic. Armed to the Teeth was a little bit different. I formed a band to make that record, which caused a little bit of good tension between what was best for the song: my home production vs. the live studio production. You can hear that in the song 'Rabble' which has the live drums enter at the bridge. Everything before that is my programming. I'm happy with working they way I did originally. It's easier to keep the sound of the album focused.

Do you have plans to put a band together and take this album on the road for us? What has been your favorite experience playing a live show to-date? 
I already have a live band and we've been doing shows locally. I'd like to do an extensive tour but it has to be under the right circumstances. My best experiences have been playing festivals. Usually it's just mayhem -- large, crazy crowds. And the cool thing is you get to meet a lot of other artists.

Humanistic is one of my all-time favorite albums and I listen to it a ton on my favorite streaming service, Rdio. (I also own the CD - it's packed away somewhere!) What are your thoughts on streaming services like Rdio and Spotify and the impact they are having on the music industry at large? For me, anything that helps get my music out there is a good thing. I'm not looking to get rich making music, I just like making albums. I've got a roof over my head, a great wife, so anything else is just a bonus.


I live in the Silicon Valley and am in touch with my inner (and outer) tech geek. Do you have a favorite app? I hate to disappoint, but my iPhone is ancient. I'm way overdue for an update so most apps on my phone just flail and crash. I stick to card games.

Oh! And can you fix my macbook?  Gladly! I miss that job and I worked with great people. Sometimes I feel like dismantling and reassembling my laptop just to see if I still can.

Abandoned Pools' new full-length, Sublime Currency, will be out TBD on Tooth and Nail Records. Stay tuned for tour dates and for more info, please visit abandonedpools.com.


[Also posted at IndieRockReviews.com]

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ume Kicks Butt, Takes Names.



Hot damn.

Ume?  Heard of them? Probably not. They're a huge-sounding, little-known band from Austin on one of my favorite labels, Modern Outsider. ModOut is run by some good buddies of mine, Erin and Chip Adams. Yep, another husband-wife indie label team. Turns out Lujo is not an anomaly! Which only begs the question, how many husband-wife label teams are out there?

Anyway.

I don't know too much about this band, only the important stuff: that it's lead by Lauren Larson and that they are rocking my face off this morning, which honestly, in a day where The All-American Rejects are releasing a grossly wimpy song like, "Beekeeper's Daughter", is like a breath of freakin' fresh air.

Seriously, Ume and AAR in a ring would not even be a contest. Like, Larson would shake out her blonde locks, whip out her guitar, and shred all over Tyson Ritter and his bony, white ass. And then she'd open her mouth and out would come this other-worldly voice. Then she'd tag team Erik Larson (bass) and Rachel Furher (drums - girl drummers are my fave!) and AAR would see that they're only a three-piece and bam! 3-2-1. Game. Over.

Anyway, Ume just released Phantoms on ModOut, and although I haven't listened to the entire album yet I'm going to go ahead and give it my seal of approval. Why? Because I'm only three tracks in - this video is for track 3 - and I'm literally so excited about this band, that I'm bursting at the seems to tell you all about them and had to do so as soon as possible, preventing me from finishing listening to the album. Truth. Pretty sure this one isn't going to let me down. Or you, for that matter.

Do you like good music? Do you like music that can kick some ass, make you feel alive, and give you hope for mankind? Okay then. Time for some Ume.

 

Phantoms was released August 30 2011 on Modern Outsider and is available on iTunes and in the ModOut shop! They are currently on tour with Cursive - peep umemusic.com for tour dates!  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bluebrain Give Us Their Next Location-Aware Album


Lujo Record's Bluebrain are about to drop their second location-aware album.

Their first album of the kind was the first-ever in music history and corresponded with The National Mall in Washington DC.  You can download it here but be forewarned that unless you are in the boundaries of The National Mall area, the app won't work!  'Tis the nature of the beast. And what a beautiful beast it is!

This second installation, titled Listen to the Light was mapped for Central Park in New York and will be released in the App Store on October 4th.  A third rumored in the series will be created for Highway 1 on the west coast.  Living in California makes me particular excited about this.

Check out this short trailer for Listen to the Light and visit the amazing Bluebrain at www.bluebra.in for more details!





Friday, May 27, 2011

The National Mall - The First Ever Location-Aware Album


It’s not that I am exaggerating or am one to make crazy, unfounded claims, but this seriously is the coolest thing ever. Tonight the Holladay brothers, otherwise known as Bluebrain (Lujo Records), are releasing the first ever location-aware album.  Are you curious?

Friends, I give you The National Mall, an app created for your iPhone, iPad, Andriod.  An app you can download while standing in The National Mall—the strip of green between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.   An app that when you open, will flow music into your ears--music that corresponds to your location. In other words, as you move the music changes.

As Ryan Holladay told Wired.co.uk, "Approach a lake and a piano piece changes into a harp. Or, as you get close to the children's merry-go-round, the wooden horses come to life and you hear sounds of real horses getting steadily louder based on your proximity."

And The National Mall won’t be the only one of these.  Bluebrain has two other location-aware albums in the works.  One that will correspond with New York’s Prospect Park and another that will run the length of Highway One in California.  As a California girl, I’m particulalry excited about the latter.

Check out some samples from The National Mall on Wired.co.uk podcast episode 27, online now.  So frickin' cool. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Elected - Bury Me In My Rings


I remember when I first heard about The Elected, project of Blake Sennet, Jason Boesel and Mike Bloom of Rilo Kiley fame.  A huge Rilo Kiley fan, I was happy for any offshoot, side project, what have you.  I walked into Fingerprints in Long Beach and walked out with Me First, the band’s debut album.  I popped that puppy in my car stereo and the shimmery, California-pop rock sound filled my ears.  My ears were not sad about it and I’ve been following the band ever since.

Their second album, (or rather his second album because let's face it, this is Sennet's baby), Sun, Sun, Sun, was just as solid as his first.  Solid like you’d expect from a professional.  A dude who really knows what the heck he's doing.  Refreshing for a change, no?  And The Elected's latest and third studio effort, Bury Me In My Rings, follows suit.  There are no surprises here, and in a good way.  Unlike so many other things in life, with The Elected, you get what you came for.  Like that awesome veggie sammie at your fave deli.  The one with the provolone and the avacado.  Crap, now I’m hungry.

But that’s not to say this new album sounds exactly like the first two or that The Elected is some God forsaken one trick pony, although I’d be perfectly happy if they were because I totally dig the trick.  No.  See, where Sennet's earlier stuff has a more electronic bend, this new stuff has taken cues from retro R&B and pop, boasting some seriously soulful melodies.  The album’s second track, “Babyface” is case and point of this.  The beat is infectious—you must clap along, in much the same way you’d be affected by a gospel choir. I think. I’ve never actually heard a gospel choir in person, but I’m pretty sure I’d be slain by the spirit.

Speaking of being slain, standout track for me is “Go For The Throat.”  A song with a title like that best have some attitude, right?  It does.  If this album were a Tootsie Pop, this track would be the Tootsie Roll center.  It’s just a perfect pop song.  Totally groovy, funky beat that vibes like a 70's disco gem, expect it's not disco. The lyrics look lame on paper, but when coming down the vocal pipes of Sennet, those words are like chocolate.  Very sweet.  That dude could sing about paddling a boat through sewage and it would sound romantic.  It would.

In fact every track on Bury could be filed under “perfect pop song.”  And perhaps this is my one critique.  I find so much beauty in imperfections, and these songs are just perfect. Every last one of them. Even the down tempo "Who Are You" gives nod to vintage Hollywood.  I could swear it's straight out of an old 40's flick. It’s as if Sennet has been spending his Friday nights honed up in the library or the studio, crossing all his pop T’s and rock I’s.  Come on dude, where’s your humanity?  Where is your face in the toilet from all the partying? Let’s see some mess.

But as neurotic as I am, I certainly can’t blame anyone else for perfecting their craft.  And in all honesty, it’s probably exactly what drew me to the music in the first place. That is, after the Rilo Kiley thing and my wildly unhealthy girl crush on Jenny Lewis.  The Elected play music that’s easy-breezy and it’s nice to not have to think about something for once, isn’t it?  I think so.


Bury Me In My Rings was released May 17th on Vagrant Records.  The band will be touring nationally in support of the release this summer.  For more information, visit them at http://theelectedband.com/ .


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Violet Burning - The Story Of Our Lives

photo credit: timm ziegenthaler

Here's a little biography I wrote for The Violet Burning to go along with the release of their 9th studio album--34-song album, I might add--The Story Of Our Lives.  Enjoy reading and be sure to put some Violet in your ears.




The Violet Burning - The Story of Our Lives:
Liebe über Alles, Black as Death and The Fantastic Machine

It's that ache in your heart.

That place inside you where all the stuff collects and collides like junk in a drawer. Except it's not junk. It's real and it matters and it's the matter that makes you. It’s that ache that makes you want to fight and surrender, scream and sigh. It's decaying and it's beautiful and it's full of these awkward opposites. So full that sometimes you don't understand. You can't understand.

But then someone or something comes along to give it shape, a voice. Someone whose ability to capture this space is so pure, so precise, that it springs hope within us and legs to stand on.

Something like The Violet Burning.

The Violets (affectionately called) have been making music under the direction of creative mainspring, Michael J Pritzl, since 1990. A prolific songwriter, Pritzl's story is one of endurance, endurance manifested in a plethora of albums and relentless touring throughout the US and Europe. Endurance resulting in an absolute rabid following of fans. Though Pritzl has surrounded himself with different musicians through the years, the music has never been compromised and the fans keep coming back for the powerful, guitar-driven rock The Violets never fail to deliver.  This time that rock is enlivened with the drumming virtuosity that is Lenny Beh.  A stunningly emotive addition.

Nothing proves The Violets bring the rock better than their latest effort, their 9th full-length studio album, The Story of Our Lives: Liebe über Alles, Black as Death and The Fantastic Machine, an audio triptych of sorts. The album's 34 songs are divided into three parts: Liebe über Alles, Black as Death and The Fantastic Machine. Although asunder, the album rages with rock and drips with beauty, all the while shaking it's figurative fist at a digital age wherein, despite the abundance of material available, artists still feel beholden to the 10-song album format restrictions of the past.

The Violets didn't feel this restriction and because of that, The Story of Our Lives is not just an auditory experience, it is a multi-sensory aesthetic experience. These songs didn't take a week to write or two days to record. The artwork wasn't thrown together in an hour in Photoshop. This is a complete body of work that began as a spark of an idea and has now been seven years in the making. In this way, it defies the unspoken and mediocre standards of today, offering up an incredible sonic experience in addition to a riveting lyrical journey.

And the journey is a familiar one. In fact, it reads like some of the greatest novels ever written. The Fantastic Machine sets the tone for this journey as "Where It All Begins" climbs from a pensive, pretty melody to an all out blur of frantic guitars, over which "my heart and soul are wired in!" is screamed wild and breathy. It's the definition of epic, and songs like “Machine Beat Sabbatha” and “Imminent Collapse” follow suit, allowing the listener in on the chaos that's brewing in the heart of our character. “The Letting” and “Leaving” tell a quieter story, one that will course through your veins with their beautiful sadness. And in the end, our character leaves The Fantastic Machine behind, giving up on a life that has been selling him lies.

Black as Death picks up where this sadness leaves off, descending on ears like a bat out of hell--an almost mindless storm of sound and distortion. “My Name is Night” is case and point of this, heavy and teeming with Sabbath-like drumming. “Maelstorm” expands into this chaos, the entropy of its opening guitars hitting like the explosion of tides. Pritzl's delicate falsetto dancing atop the water. And then there is “Rock Is Dead”, which exists not only as the definition of pop song perfection, but shows our character gaining strength.  Shivers run down your spine when he screams, "I'm going on, going on!"  "In Ruin" leaves a sweet taste in our mouths with it's swirly delays, rhodes bells and sweeping cello.

Enter Liebe über Alles, The Story of Our Lives' graceful and exquisite counterpart.  Our character has chosen death, but now lives to continue his journey home. A beautiful relenting, “Mon Désir” is honest in both melody and lyric as Pritzl’s broken voice sings, "All I want is you."  "Arc" has a driving rhythm that climaxes with an explosion of spirited strings.  "I am coming home!" The dreamy and romantic ballad, "I Caught Fire", is encased in a haze of fuzz guitar, pulsing drums and the descending piano, "…in all the songs of men and angels, if I have no love, I'm blank." And finally “through a life, blessed and cursed, love and only love goes on and on…” the true rest of “Liebe über Alles” and the final acknowledgement that our character has made it home.

This is not just another album by another band.  This is a realization.  A realization that this story--the struggle and the heartache, feeling lost and so alone--belongs to each one of us.  It’s the way we feel when we are sad and broken and it’s the way we feel when we are so complete and content, at home and at rest within ourselves and with others and with “The Lord of Song.” It’s knowing we’re not alone in this big, messed up machine of a world.  It’s the hope of “every corner of our heart and soul” being made for someone who loves us more than we will ever understand.

This is the story of our lives.

The Violet Burning is Michael J. Pritzl, Daryl Dawson and Lenny Beh. THE STORY OF OUR LIVES:Liebe über Alles, Black as Death, andTH3 FANT^5T1C MACH1N3 was written and recorded by Michael Pritzl at Nowhere, CA studios (various closets, garages, entry ways, and bedrooms in Southern California) and features Eleanor Beh on Cello and Jeff Schroeder of Smashing Pumpkins (lead guitar on 3 songs). The Story Of Our Lives was released digitally at thevioletburning.com March 5, 2011. The triple album will be coming worldwide one part at a time via iTunes, Amazon, and other online digital resellers throughout 2011. The triple album will also be available in it’s physical, beautiful, limited edition, 80-page packaging via thevioletburning.com beginning April 4, 2011.  The Violet Burning are now planning US and European tour dates.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grouplove "Colours" Music Video



Grouplove - "Colours"
Directed by Jordan Bahat
Cinematography by Kris Carrillo

After seeing Grouplove live last week at the Independent in San Francisco, I thought there was no hope for us having a relationship. Look, when it comes to new bands it takes a certain amount of convincing for me and any little thing can throw off the feng shui. This night it happened to be a pair of terrible mom jeans keyboardist, Hannah Hooper, was wearing. Never mind that. I should know better than to let a little thing like mom jeans, awful as they are, keep me from something that is altogether completely lovely, like this video.

I’ve seen a lot of videos in my thirty *coughcough* years of life and this one easily tops the list. It’s everything you’d want in a video—an interesting concept, beautiful cinematography. And something I’m always amazed directors fail to do is done perfectly here—what you are watching matches up perfectly with the eb and flow of the song. It’s as if the God of Music and the God of Art met and made out for five glorious minutes. My favorite part happens at 2:56. Look for the air drums. It makes me so happy I wanna give the whole world a high five.

Grouplove's self-titled debut EP is out now on Canvasback.

(Written for Indierockreviews.com)