Tom Vek – Leisure Seizure

So yes, Tom Vek has been MIA for five years, bla bla bla… We can skip the story of his long, mysterious absence from the airwaves to get to what’s important: he’s back and still kicking butt.

His newest album, Leisure Seizure, which is already available digitally but will only get a physical release on September 13th, kept the essence of what made his first album special but polished it, making his sound more coherent. We’re far from the lo-fi vibe of We Have Sound, but that doesn’t mean Vek’s taken away what was gritty and interesting about his music; the better quality of the production actually makes all the subtleties of his arrangements shine through more distinctly.

We Have Sound played a lot with dissonance and Leisure Seizure is no different. From the electronic loops he integrates in his songs to flat tone of voice when he sings, he manages to find the right balance to make all his seemingly cacophonous elements fit together in a pleasing manner. “World of Doubt,” with its pounding drum, clashing guitar riffs and almost spoken lyrics is a perfect example of that skill.

“We Do Nothing” is like a condensed mix of all the good things from his first LP. There’s a little bit of “C-C (You Set The Fire In Me)” in it, some “Nothing But Green Lights” mixed in as well, which is a nice indicator that Vek’s taken all the years since We Have Sound listening back to the songs to synthesize the best things from his first album and build on them.

What he’s gotten really good at is creating a really hypnotizing ambient mood in his songs, no matter how slow or upbeat they are. You hear it as much in the single “A Chore” or the electronic “Close Mic’ed,” which both succeed in how repetition is used to move the song forward rather than become boring and redundant; it’s quite a feat.

All in all, Leisure Seizure is bigger and bolder than We Have Sound was. It’s more mature but it’s also more danceable. Tom Vek is definitely forgiven for having made everyone wait so long for this sophomore release.

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French Horn Rebellion Releases ‘The Infinite Music Of The French Horn Rebellion’

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This Milwaukee duo’s debut album is not something to miss.  This album explores a wide breadth of genres sonically.  It ranges from 70’s and 80’s oriented dance to progressive synth lines and electronic funk.  Wavering vocals, punchy bass lines and crisp synth lines pervade this album, linking it. While at times reminiscent of Phoenix, Daft Punk, and MGMT, the unique combination of crowd-friendly, catchy songs and those that are more introspective and nostalgic creates an album unlike any other.

The album opens with an upbeat, feel-good song, “Up All Night,” which rivets the listener with catchy melodies and synth lines.  This dance-floor mentality is scattered throughout the album; tracks like “The Body Electric” and “What I Want” are riddled with guitar riffs, bass lines and vocals that stick.  “This Moment” is a testament to the marriage of an 70’s or 80’s like riff with punchy electronic moments and a healthy dose of synth action, at the same time, snippets of French horn mingle with the other sounds in the track.   “Running Through the Wild” opens with a cool symphony of electronic musings and melodies before taking off with lyrics like “running through the wilderness hunting for love.”  This track is easy and fun to listen to, while at the same time it pushes the listener.  It would seem they’ve struck the balance between the two perfectly.  The seventh track, “What I Want,” is arguably the centerpiece of this album.  This seven minute long track is anthemic and not unlike a rollercoaster.  With fun and attractive synths and a wavering bass line, this song does not fail to please.  With lines like “We can tell it’s not enough, just bring it back to what I want” and the tin of a melody in the higher register, this track provokes more than just the urge to dance.

As this album moves towards its second half, tracks like “The Cantor Meets the Alien,” “Mawson’s Peak,” and “Antarctica/ The Decision” show off the album’s more introspective side.  These songs highlight the innovation between the two brothers, who seem fond of pushing the boundary between catchy and pensive.  At the same time, “Broken Heart” is an electronic continuation of the same emotional tone of “Last Summer,” whose sentimental and mellow vocals ruminate on events past.  “Broken Heart” merges the upbeat qualities of earlier tracks like “Up All Night” with lyrics a touch more introspective: “I’m so sick of it but I can’t help myself . . . and it breaks my heart.”
French Horn Rebellion has done a great thing with their debut album; their unique sound is both progressive and nostalgic, moreover, it’s superb.  While at times it can seem a bit saccharine, usually it’s just plain cool.  French Horn Rebellion has successfully married 70’s and 80’s-esque chord progressions and brass instruments with electronic funk.   Through this, the pair of brothers has managed to create a sound and style completely their own.

The Strokes @ Madison Square Garden, NYC – April 1, 2011

Photo by the lovely Chelsea Franklin


Like fish to a bait, thousands of Strokes fans piled into New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Friday night. This has been nearly five years too long since the guys took the stage together in the Big Apple.

Openers The Grogs and Devendra Banhart (Who went on way too early), barely gained any attention. Elvis Costello, also known as our “April Fools,” joke, came out and played about three songs as a surprise opener as well. No one really seemed to care unless he was about to take off a mask and reveal he was Julian Casablancas.

We were there to see The Strokes.

A band that brought Rock and Roll alive for many of us in the crowd, you could look around and see the ripped jeans, converse sneakers and unkempt, but perfectly placed hair. It was easy to believe that everything was back in place. Just how we left it five years ago. It was interesting that the band was playing a stadium in NYC, the biggest headlining show that they have ever done in the city. Being about my 6th Strokes show in NYC, I wasn’t sure how they would carry out a big, sold out venue. The answer is nothing more than “brilliant.”

Cue the 9:30 curtain call and on walks the five familar faces. The crowd gave them one of the biggest welcomes I’ve ever seen and The Strokes seemed to be more than thankful. They wasted no time before launching into “Is This It,” a clever first song. Right away we knew every word, so much that Julian commented on it.

The chemistry of the band seemed to be back. They were tight, and not sloppy by any means, even when Casablancas messed up on a couple of lines. Hey, it happens. If you didn’t tell me they were on a hiatus, I would have thought they were playing together every night for the past year together. It was that great. Bands rarely play so perfectly, then again, no band is The Strokes.

From “Reptilia,” to “Under Cover of Darkness, the band delivered. Mixing classics like “Last Nite,” seemed to be flawless amongst the new tracks on Angles, (BMG) which were even better live than anticipated. Casablancas was chatty that night making comments and talking to the band. They seem to be healing with each other and that makes an arena of 25,000 happy Strokes fans. Highlights of the nights included “New York City Cops,” “Life is Simple in the Moonlight,” and “What Ever Happened?,” but honestly, EVERY song was a highlight

Elvis Costello appeared onstage in the midst of “Taken for a Fool,” which seemed to be magical for some or killed it for others. It takes a lot to impress Strokes fans. A lot.

Nick Valensi’s and Albert Hammond Jr.’s guitars intertwined with every single strum and pluck as they held the songs together. Nikolai Fraiture’s bass was smooth and emphasized every note perfectly. Fab Moretti provided brillian percussion bringing up the backbone of the band, even with the occasional use of the drum machine. Casablancas’ voice was dead on with every note and the crowd was right there with him. Jumping into the audience pit a few times, he weaved his way through the crowd and never stopped for a minute. This is always something amazing about the band. They don’t make the fans feel like outsiders, but part of what’s going on.

Climbing on speakers and upper levels, Casablancas was determined to get your attention at any cost. What was that line that Jason Lee said in “Almost Famous”? …”You know what I do? I connect. I get people off. I look for the guy who isn’t getting off and I MAKE him get off.” This my friends is Julian Casablancas. A man who will bend over backwards to make sure you are having a good time and look cool as hell doing it.

A whopping hour and a half later and a short encore, the band closed with “Take It or Leave It.” Just how we remembered it. Ful of energy, an explosion of sound, a jump in the crowd and smooth but raw vocals. As the band left the stage for the night, you could see 25,000 smiling faces.

The Strokes are back.

SETLIST
1.Is This It
2.Reptilia
3.Under Cover of Darkness
4.Hard To Explain
5.Last Nite
6.Life Is Simple in the Moonlight
7.Juicebox
8.Someday
9.You’re So Right
10.Under Control
11.You Only Live Once
12.New York City Cops
13.Games
14.What Ever Happened?
15.Taken for a Fool (with Elvis Costello)
Encore:
16.Ask Me Anything
17.The Modern Age
18.Gratisfaction
19.I Can’t Win
20.Take It Or Leave It

VIDEOS

Secondhand Sunday: Vampire Weekend “A Punk”

It’s only a few days until Vampire Weekend releases their second record Contra (XL) and it’s safe to say that people are pretty excited. Alright, extremely excited. The quartet is bound to make an even bigger splash the second time around especially since they managed to out due themselves, which a lot of people thought would never happen. This edition of Secondhand Sunday is Vampire Weekend’s “A Punk.” Yes kids, thats where it all started. Two more days until Contra!

Vampire Weekend Return with “Contra”

I’m not going to lie. I never ever thought they’d be able to do it. It seemed nearly impossible. It would be too hard. Oh what am I mumbling about you ask? Vampire Weekend. That’s right, the band is back to prove me wrong that they’d never truly survive the dreaded ’sophomore’ slump. It’s nearly as if Ezra Koenig and the boys tried to prove me wrong on purpose. I’ve been defeated.

Vampire Weekend is set to release their second record, Contra (XL), next week, January 12, and has everyone at the edge of their seats. Starting off is the first single “Horchata” that could have easily been on their debut record, as it picks off where the last ended off. Though at the second track “White Sky,” we really start to see some progression in the band’s sound. Koenig’s voice is easily infectious in this song, and the harmonies and ending are nothing less than dreamy….I’m already hooked. “Holiday,” sounds exactly like it should; a beach song filled with melodies that make you want to get up and dance around the room. I may or may not be doing that right now. The band has mentioned that they took influences from ska bands such as Operation Ivy, and it really shows.

Autotune takes over in a new direction for the band on the shortest song on the album, “California English.” It takes a few listens to get used to this one, but in time, it starts to grow on you and the band is really determined to defend this one. “It doesn’t sound like T-Pain. There’s plenty of music from around the world using Autotune besides American Pop,” states Koenig. “Taxi Cab” and “Run,” show the more mature side of Vampire Weekend and it suits them. What we’re seeing here is a band trying to grow up, and they’re doing it well. Not only music wise, but also in lyrics such as in “Taxi Cab” which carry the words  ”In the shadow of your first attack, I was questioning and looking back; You said baby we don’t speak of that; like a real aristocrat.” A true step from their prior work. “Run,” which brings out the musical maturity of the band is filled with unforgettable drums that rhythm keeper Christopher Tomson is quite proud of. “On this song, I experimented with certain rhythms that I avoided on the first record. I like how this song alternates between heavy, Rock-like choruses and reggaeton verses,” he says. I’m with him on this.

The next song  brings us to “Cousins,” which was recordeded in Mexico City and has to be one of the most fun songs written in the past five years. The next track “Giving Up the Gun,” follows right in it’s footsteps making it a non stop indie dance party right in your own bedroom. “Diplomat’s Son,” continues the event with an explosion of reggae beats that seemingly fit the album like a glove. Closing out the experience is “I Think UR a Contra,” which is the most mellow song the band has ever recorded and it uses acoustic guitars and string sections. It’s a beautiful ending to this extremely surprising album. Vampire Weekend is going to be one of the most used names this year, so sit back and get comfortable with Contra. It’s going to be a long ride.

Vampire Weekend is also letting you stream the whole album on their Myspace starting yesterday afternoon. Give it a listen!