USF’s new album ‘Jamaica Plain EP’ Releases New Album

Male duo U.S.F. on Seattle label Highfives and Handshakes has crafted an aquatic club album, Jamaica Plain EP to be released on February 8 of this year.

“Point Break II,” whether or not is alluding to a sequel in song of the 90’s Keanu surf hit, or the reference just conjures images of surfing, but I can’t help but seeing the tops of waves arch over a surfer’s head as he/she cuts through them while this song plays.

The title track is a wonderful ADD reflection on multilayered synth with club beats, delicate melodies and psychedelia.  At first the track submerges underwater through a submarine ride of muffled wave and calming electronic effects, then forges upward into an epic stratosphere of sound. The sudden change of pace goes from chilled out oceanic grooves to heightened synth and booming bass drum determination, ending in a euphoric catharsis. It is truly a story told in sonic tropes.

“Greywolf” is one of two tracks with any vocals, and they are a Thurston Moore-ish fuzzy dictation.

All four tracks including “Branss” which has a M.I.A. base dance beat and helium infused sporadic vocals are all heady ambient pieces that make for an interesting EP that piques many moods.


STRFKR to Release Sophomore Album in March

Who knew death could be so danceable? This is the realization gained after learning that badass synth explosion of pop you’ve been dancing to contains a major theme on Starfucker’s second album: death. It seems the joke is on the consumer of Reptilians, to be released on Polyvinyl in March.

“Bury Us Alive” is the single available for download off the new album. It’s light and effervescent musically with a delightful synth line and silky vocals a la The Dandy Warhols who coincidentally share producer Jacob Portrait with Reptilians’. “Death to set me free” is the line that leads into the exhilarating, hyperactive chorus on “Bury Us Alive,” lending itself to a “live life like the next day is your last” spirit.

It’s a good thing after playing with other band names that they stuck with Starfucker, as it’s immensely fun to say and encompasses that glam party chasing lifestyle inherit in their sound.

Empress Hotel to Release Debut EP

Right now is a really exciting time for pop and rock music in New Orleans and Empress Hotel is a prime example. The group comprised of six young yet seasoned musicians is an offshoot from other bands that came before it, fellow forgers of an indie movement in the Jazz capital of the world.

Brothers Ryan and Eric Rogers on guitar and drums as well as Leo DeJesus on precussion/synth/vocals come from popular bands on the younger generation’s radar in New Orleans, like Antenna Inn and The City Life among others, and lead singer/guitarist Micah McKee founded local favorite Silent Cinema in 2002 which can be held responsible for other spinoff bands from its members, like Big History – a sexy new electronic emphasized band. The main point being, anything coming from this group of guys (and girls: Julie Williams plays keys and sings for Empress Hotel) which also includes Portland transplant Patrick Hodgkins on bass is going to be good.

“Bells Ring” is their recently released single to be included on the self-titled debut EP slated to drop in March on Park the Van Records. Whether it’s the shrill Cassio keys, the doo-woppy back up vocals or the lyrical imagery of not letting it (life?) pass by, the track instills a sense of nostalgia and envy all for an older era, childhood and even pastimes never experienced.  

The drawn out, robust lead vocals that harkens The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser, the steady, momentous drums and the bells that ring through the chorus also give the song a triumphant slant.

And don’t overlook “Here Comes the New Challenger” which can be found on the band’s Myspace page. The song is utterly cool with a Who-esque synth intro, inebriating lyrics and McKee and Williams’ vocal harmonies that are beyond charming.    

Empress Hotel On Tour:
Dec 18 – Park the Van Holiday Soirée at HiHo Lounge – New Orleans, LA
Dec 31 – OpenHouse Music Presents: NYE, The Throwdown (Studio 3 Warehouse) – New Orleans, LA
Jan 21 – The BottleTree – Birmingham, AL
Jan 27 – Lola’s Saloon –  Fort Worth, TX
Jan 28 – Ghost Room – Austin, TX
Jan 29 – Artmosphere – Lafayette, LA
Feb 19 – Blue Nile (Krewe du Vieux) w/ Big History and Booty Trove – New Orleans, LA
Feb 22 – 5 Spot – Nashville, TN
Feb 23 – Tea Bazaar – Charlottesville, VA
Feb 25 – Rock Shop – Brooklyn, NY
Mar 2 – Iota Club and Cafe – Arlington, VA (DC Area)
Mar 5 – Alabama Music Box – Mobile, AL
Mar – SXSW 2011 – Austin, TX

Album Review – Valleys: “Stoner” EP

The cover of Valleys’ newest release, Stoner EP, is well suited to the mood of this three song spell: an image of tainted youth in the form of a young girl painted with Day of the Dead-like makeup. The music is dark and eerie, almost Wiccan, while retaining some sweetness with the celestial, soothing female vocals best showcased on “Ordinary Dream.”

As with the other songs on the EP, the soft vocals are offset by aggressive guitar and drums made jagged by the fuzzy feedback and reverb. This track is appropriately titled as it is deliciously dreamlike with lyrics like “your eyes are steadfast” that melt into the song.

“Ten Thousand Hours” begins with rumbling drums and a steady keyboard line that leads into static and noise as the introduction to the screaming of upset male vocals. In comes a feedback solo that seriously lasts several minutes, during which the mind wanders from the song until it is lured back in by the keyboard and reminded that there is actual music here. As soon as that happens, the song has come to an end.

“The Cold Cold Skinny” starts with ominous xylophone and girl and guy voices singing in unison, with a regimented rhythm that sounds like a chant. Distressed electric guitar in conjunction with shrill, tense keys becomes a recipe for a scene in a horror film, made even moreso with the creepy lyric “Walk into the evening with your cold, cold skinny legs.”

These three songs strategically serve as a tease or a taste, rather, to what this band may be all about, but more must be heard to discover what that really is. From Stoner EP, we get experimental rock, sultry feminine vocals and lyrics with cryptic imagery.

Chevrolet Adopts Dawes’ “When Time Comes” for Commercial

It’s not hard to hear why “When My Time Comes” from Los Angeles band Dawes was chosen by one of the automobile industry’s leading brands, Chevrolet, to score their newest commercial. The single off the off their September 2009 released album North Hills, named for the part of Los Angeles from which they hail, is a real solid, folksy narrative and one that seems to target the Chevrolet demographic.

It’s got that blue collar pride and Springsteen spirit that accompanies all too well the Chevrolet truck and what it represents: The American Dream, more or less. The comparison between Dawes’ video of “When My Time Comes” and Chevrolet’s sampling is a progression. The band’s official video shows an early 20th Century impoverished and enslaved life as the band plays inmates shoveling dirt on the side of the road watched over by oppressive, Aviator-adorning cops, then they escape to a haven in the woods playing makeshift instruments like pots for drums and an upright bass with one string.

The Chevrolet commercial, using effective marketing, shows the modern American life using the truck as proof of endurance and invention ranging from everyday tasks to police missions and ending with a declarative motto: “This is how America gets work done.”

Album Review: Girls – Broken Dreams Club EP

On the True Panther Sounds record label website, a love letter written by label member Christopher Owens is published. Owens and Chet “JR” White are the two California boys who make up Girls. The letter’s subject is you and me: the fans. His confession that without us, their fantastic new EP, Broken Dreams Club wouldn’t exist is oozing with sincerity and endearment to a surprising and delightful degree, for I fear we are the ones who should be thanking them.

It starts out with “Thee Oh So Protective One,” an almost loungey, luxurious cruise ship dance tune. It has the kind of sound meant to be played on or by water, begging for a steel drum to make a cameo, but Girls know better than to ham it up that far. In all seriousness, it’s a well dichotomized song with an easy, rich and full sound with brilliant, almost majestic trumpet incorporation but then sad and unfortunate lyrics: “He’ll never know about the times that you cried in the movies, never know about the times that you cried to the music” and insecure reflections: “I wonder if he’s impressed/Should I have worn the other dress?” This first track is also a great introduction to Owen’s classic vocal style, conjuring that of Burt Bacharach.

White’s bass skills really shine through on “Heartbreaker.” The bass drives the song and adds an extra level of cool to this already radical song. It’s full of charm from the groovy, playful vocals, expert bass, innocent and earnest piano, 80s electric guitar riffs to the light, twinkly tambourine. This well polished song exhibits professional production and a band who means serious business, as far as quality is concerned.

There’s a significant country influence on the title track and on fittingly titled “Carolina,” the former with a somber blues tone actually quite in line with Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning. The muffled, raunchy horns add a nice ragtime jazz touch. “Carolina” is much more experimental but still carries the twangy, drawling, country guitar featured on “Broken Dreams Club.” “Carolina” is a delicious pop dish with booming lines delivered a capella, an oldies “do run run run do do run run” refrain in the background and trippy electronic effects.

“Substance,” if you couldn’t guess from the title, is about drugs: “If you want to shape your brain, I know a substance…that helps you rock and roll.” Ironically enough, it seems to be an anti-drug anthem mocking drug users and their absurd habits, and based on their West Coast, partially ex-hippie cult background (Owens hails from the Children of God cult – or movement – spawned during the 60s California drug phase), are probably mocking themselves: “You can do anything yeah, you can rock and roll outta control/Who wants something real when you could have nothing/Why not just give up, who wants to try.”

This record is buoyant, a little kitschy, and varying in styles. If you’re not already one of the addressees of Owens’ letter, listen o this EP immediately and find out what you’ll soon to be gushing over.