Album Review: Frigs’ Basic Behavior

This is one band I’m excited to see live when possible; their sound is kinetic, chaotic, melancholic…and amazing! Check out up-and-coming band: Frigs!

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Image by Chelsee Ivan

For Blurt Magazine:
Label: Arts & Crafts
Release Date: February 23, 2018

Toronto post-punk quartet Frigs—formerly Dirty Frigs—created a charged debut LP that is unapologetically jagged and intensely electrifying. Only on a first name basis through press releases, following their 2016 EP #Slush#, Frigs—Bria (vocals and guitar), Duncan (guitar), Kris (drums), and Lucas (bass)—return and hit hard on Basic Behaviour. The loud quartet combines noise rock with punk as Bria’s gritty vocals range from growls and shouts to sultry calm. Her vocal styling amps up the already raw music of gnarling guitar, bass, and Kris’ primal drums.

Inspiration of post-punk bands of the past is indeed felt; but, Frigs are simultaneously creating a sound all their own thanks to Bria’s unique melodies and the riotous music. Anxiety, depression, feeling of hopelessness are all themes within the lyrics on Basic Behaviour. Singles “Talking Pictures” and “II” are indeed standout tracks that easily catch your ears for their jangly guitar and haunting melodies. Holding back from no difficult issues, Bria takes on rape and assault with “Chest”: angered by the Brock Turner case that made US headlines, the case inspired her lyrics such as: “yeah, they watch me/stay asleep as you spoil me.”

“Solid State,” a tongue-in-cheek title for a song that touches on mental instability, is another mentionable track. The rolling guitars, plus interjections of guitar wails, and with Bria’s soft vocals-for the first time- hide beneath the wall of sound. “Gemini” is unique as the only track that does not scream of ferocity; the quiet song includes only Bria and a soft keyboard.

All of Basic Behaviour illustrates Frigs’ artistic, Avant-punk abilities, but the third song, “Waste,” is a fun epicenter of their possibilities. The 5-minute track undergoes 4 tempo changes as it starts out with a slow, growling bass, flat guitar plucks, a simple slap on the snare, and Bria’s dragging, slurring vocals. Then after 2.5 minutes, it transitions to a slightly faster tempo as Bria repeats “do you want to talk about it, it’s a waste;” the song picks up and moves even faster with the same lyrics. One last shift occurs as the music ends, and Bria screams into the mic and closes the track with “I am a fortune-teller, baby,” before fading into a rambling.

A raw and solid debut, Basic Behaviour translates anguish into an intense yet catchy album. 

DOWNLOAD: “Talking Pictures,” “II,” “Waste”

I think Frigs needs an official video for “Talking Pictures,” just sayin…listen to this blistering track!

Album Review: Joakim’s Samurai – Proof Positive Electronic Music Can Be Unique

To the naysayers who believe that electronic music is all the same, or “not real music” (just read a few comments on youtube videos…sigh) they’re not listening to the right artists. Joakim is indeed an artist in every sense of the word, from the eclectic sounds he creates down to the cover art for his latest album, Samurai, which is an eye catching photo of him in white makeup akin to the Japanese performance threatre, Butoh. Read more below!

For Blurt Magazine:
Label: Because Music
Release Date: March 17, 2017

French producer and DJ, Joakim Bouaziz, has released his eighth studio album, Samurai, and it defies genre labeling. It is best described as 70s jazz-funk meets 80s electronica. Almost an entirely instrumental affair, Samurai feels more like a Ronin as the album drifts rudderlessly along Joakim’s sonic stream-of-consciousness. Eclectic does not quite pin down how “out there” Samurai can become at times. For instance, “Time is Wrong” is a quiet song with simple Rhodes-reminiscent keys accompanied by Joakim’s warbled vocals that sound as if he’s singing through a fan underwater. He takes a song, that could become a very lovely ballad, and adds a weird little twist. This tendency of Joakim’s encompasses the entire album.

Playing with kinetic sounds that jitter and bounce, Joakim adds sirens, horns, and piano to create delicate music. He will then add his vocals that sound otherworldly, making very few songs sound alike. In “Late Night New City,” for instance, you can hear elements of 70s jazz-funk as a saxophone soars above the fun drum beat. “Numb” sounds like it could be on the soundtrack to an 80s flick as Devo-esque keys and android-like vocals take us back to a time when artists were experimenting with all of the electronic sounds they could create. And that is precisely what Joakim does on Samurai, play and experiment with sounds.

Opening with the recording of a plane taking off, “In The Beginning” literally launches the album. “Late Night” begins with the sounds of riding in a commuter train; Joakims incorporates police sirens, raindrops, wind, and radio static into the songs. And, as diverse as these sounds are, a jazz inspiration is felt throughout. Title track “Samurai” is perhaps the most mundane on the album, with its catchy beat, circling effects, and percussion; and, as such, it sounds the most “normal.” But for Joakim, normal is still well-crafted. The great track includes horns that add a nice layer to the song, and here Joakim’s vocals are not altered as he quietly and effortlessly lifts his voice just above a whisper. 

When Joakim does sing elsewhere on the album, it’s rarely from the beginning to end of a track. “Not Because You’re Sad” and “Mind Bent” include indecipherable whispers and vocalizations that commence several seconds into the track and rest behind the music. In fact, for “Sad,” Joakim added the detail of splitting his vocals so that listeners will mostly hear him from the right speaker. Such a small detail proves the intricacies of his music crafting.

Closing track, “Hope/Patience,” is an appropriate title to leave listeners with (or perhaps we should’ve taken off from here). This album may not prove to be everyone’s cup of tea and may require a bit of hope and patience to listen to Samurai. Joakim has made an album that is simultaneously familiar yet unique and sets you on a creative sonic journey.

DOWNLOAD: “Samurai,” “Not Because You’re Sad”

Watch the beautiful official video for one of my favorite tracks on the LP, “Samurai.”

Phantogram Live: More Than Just An Optical Illusion

Bringing magic to their fans’ eyes and ears, duo Phantogram brought a spectacular show to Rochester, NY. I’m ready to see them again!

For Blurt Magazine:

Seven years have quickly passed since Phantogram’s debut album Eyelid Movies; the 2010 release attracted media attention and garnered fans for their ability to balance pop, hip-hop, electronica and dreamy shoegaze all into one. The New York duo, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, have come a long way since their formative days. After their catchy music caught the ears of industry veterans, they’ve collaborated with acts such as hip-hop maven Big Boi and the eccentric alt-rock group Flaming Lips; further proof of their sonic chameleon abilities.

Perhaps this independent band is on the cusp of transcending the label “independent”; until then, Phantogram continues to tour extensively and made a stop in Rochester, NY while promoting their aptly named third LP,Three. Joining a long night of music, Phantogram was one of five bands performing at Main Street Armory. The roster included a mixture of alternative, pop, folk-rock with bands such as Bleeker, Judah & the Lion and headliner Grouplove; but, this biased BLURTer set her sights solely on Phantogram.

A sizable venue, Main Street Armory was the perfect venue for an indoor, winter festival. Able to hold a large audience concert-goers either milled in front of the stage or flowing about the outskirts drinking or smoking profusely while scores of music goers assured their spot centerstage. Billed to perform before the last act Phantogram played a slightly shorter set, and had one hour to command the stage; they did just that.

Touring with Nicholas Shelestak on effects and keys, and Chris Carhart on drums, Phantogram’s sonic elixir enchanted their fans as the audience cheered, danced, and jumped along to the music. Every song they performed sounded great as Barthel threw her hands in the air to pump up the audience during songs and fans happily joined her. Playing songs from their three LPs and EP Nightlife, Barthel and Carter played mostly high octane tracks to the delight of the crowd.

Opening with older songs first, Phantogram didn’t waste time getting the audience excited with the danceable “Black Out Days,” “Don’t Move” and “Fall in Love.” Early hits “When I’m Small” and their first big single “Mouthful of Diamonds” were met with loud cheers and hands thrown into the air. A multi instrumental band, Barthel switched between her keyboard and bass, while Carter played guitar and effects. Even the slightly mellower, ballad-esque “The Answer” from Three, sung by both Carter and Barthel was a thrilling performance as the bridge of the song gives way to an explosion of guitar and drums; the drumming was exciting to see live as Carhart feverishly and methodically banged on his set.

An exciting band, Phantogram sounded flawless live. Only room for improvement, if only they were not part of a music festival this night and could’ve played a longer set.

Setlist:

Black Out Days
Don’t Move
Fall in Love
Same Old Blues
Answer
When I’m Small
Mouthful of Diamonds
Howling at the Moon
You’re Mine
Cruel World
You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

Roisin Murphy Live in Toronto!

The fan girl in me was psyched! A long time fan of Moloko, I missed the opportunity to see Roisin Murphy live 8 years ago. So here we were, almost a decade later, and the talented singer herself was touring again! I made sure not to miss this show and, as expected from the experienced musician, Roisin Murphy did not disappoint!

For Blurt Magazine:

Touring in support of her 2016 album, Take Her up To Monto, UK songstress Roisin Murphy has come and gone, and it was like a living reverie. Her exceptional musical career began in 1993 with Moloko, a captivating band that merged dance, electronica, and jazz to create several catchy, acclaimed releases before disbanding in 2003. In addition to their well-crafted music, lead singer Roisin Murphy’s artsy, quirky, strange, and infectious stage presence, combined with her powerful yet simultaneously genteel vocals, did not go unnoticed. Murphy has since brought her unique style to her solo efforts and, like her fashion sense, has morphed each release into a different sonic landscape, continually forging a unique sound all her own.

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Murphy’s first album, 2005’s Ruby Blue, was carefully constructed by layering a cacophony of sounds to create an organic, jazz-inspired dance album, whereas her 2007 sophomore release, Overpowered, took on a pop-dance trajectory, dripping in electronica and bursting in great songs. It laid out a welcoming mat in preparation for her subsequent strong albums. Then she didn’t release an LP for eight years. Murphy worked on projects with others and released a few singles before suddenly returning in 2015 with Hairless Toys, which was quickly followed by this year’s Take Her up To Monto. In true Murphy custom, these releases were nothing like her earlier albums. Minimal, delicate, yet still fun and polished, Murphy has unveiled her ability to be transformative.

And so it was on the touring for Monto: the rare occurrence of Murphy in North America. On her first solo tour in Canada, the Toronto audience loved every moment; the delighted fans sang nearly every song, and they appeared to be enthralled, utterly delighted in Murphy’s presence.

For the two hour show at the Phoenix, Murphy included fan favorites from her Moloko days in between material from her more recent releases. The band opened with the first track on the latest album: “Mastermind” is a great opener, as the lilting keys gave way to Murphy’s off-kilter vocals that transitioned between speaking and singing. Yet just when you thought the evening would be highlighting her new songs, the band leapt into the upbeat Moloko single “Forever More” and fans cheered and sang along. Murphy was a treat for the eyes as well as our ears as she changed headdresses, masks, costumes, and accessories throughout the evening. Another treat for fans was the presence of Eddie Stevens, the keyboardist, producer, and composer who has collaborated with Murphy since the Moloko days. It is his tradition to grace the stage shoeless, and he danced in bare feet as he effortlessly controlled multiple devices.

Murphy herself danced, stomped and sashayed about the stage in between singing to the audience and the occasional fondling of her bandmates (everyone laughed at her antics). Making sure she interacted with her fans, Murphy often approached the edge of the stage and reached out to shake hands; one lucky gentleman who stood near center stage was the frequent receiver of her attention as she would lay on the speakers, stretch her arm, and hold his hand while she sang. A photographer’s dream, Murphy’s artful display clearly dazzled the fans. At one point she wore a beautiful, large, white gown and accessorized it with a miner’s helmet that had a flashing strobe light. She switched between multiple head pieces: from a mask with two faces to one with a Pinocchio nose to a crimped, black ball reminiscent to a ‘60s sci-fi helmet to a piece with flowing, red streamers and a red/white bobble at the top of her head. After close inspection you could see it was actually a sideways Ronald McDonald head.

And during these many visual phases, she and the band played on, effortlessly. A quintessential Murphy song to perform, “Sing it Back,” was performed before the encores, reworked but still as catchy as the original studio version, and as Murphy sang the words “sing it back to me,” the concert hall erupted into the next line and commenced an organic call-and-answer moment.

Though her mic this evening could’ve been better—when she chatted with the audience between songs, she could not be heard too clearly—the crowd did not seem to care. Fans knew all of the songs old and new, with perhaps the exception of closer “Pure Pleasure Seeker” from Moloko’s 2000 album, although select fans were clearly familiar with this high octane track.

Now that the two hours of singing and dancing was officially over, the audience cheered and applauded loudly while Murphy again made her way to the front of the stage. This time she walked the entire edge to shake hands one last time, and as she climbed over a speaker to reach the fans at the far right corner, people rushed forward enthusiastically. Murphy took her time, and strongly held as many hands as she could before leaving the stage for the final time. What a strong grip.

Setlist:
Mastermind
Forever More
Dirty Monkey
Dear Miami
Tight Sweater
In sintesi
Tatty Narja
Gone Fishing
Evil Eyes
House of Glass
Ten Miles High
Overpowered
Exploitation
Sing It Back

Encore:
Exile
Pure Pleasure Seeker

 

Album Review: Kelly Lee Owens’ Colorful EP

This may be Kelly Lee Owens’ first EP but she is not brand, spanking new to the music scene. A young producer getting her proverbial musical “sea legs” on the ground, Owens shows great promise for her first release.

For Blurt Magazine:
Label: Smalltown Supersound
Release Date: October 21, 2016

Kelly Lee Owens fully steps into the electronic music fold with her brief yet hypnotic four track EP, Oleic. The Welsh producer has previously worked with other musicians-most notably appearing on fellow UK producer Daniel Avery’s 2013 album Drone Logic-and has since teased the world with tracks released online. Now amassing her songs for her own release, Oleic proves that Owens has a solid springboard from which to launch her musical career.

Repetition is the core of Owens’ sound as swirling effects and pulsating keys continually reverberate and echo, creating an entrancing environment. Unfortunately, not much variety exists in the four songs as the “four-to-the-floor” kick drum is the skeleton of each track. And having the same sonically alluring yet almost indiscernible line “dancing curtains of auroras” utilized in “Elliptic” and “CBM” does not aid in creating different atmospheres. Yet, this infraction is almost completely forgivable thanks to Oleic’s lush production.

With minimalist, down-tempo and bass-ladened dark sounds, Oleic drifts into the realm of deep house and oozes with sophisticated sexiness. The EP includes three original tracks and one reworking of Jenny Hval’s track “Kingsize.” To fully appreciate the depth of Owens’ rework you must listen to the original music-less, 2 minute, spoken word piece. Owens created an entire soundscape and sliced in selected moments Hval’s genteel voice which sounds like soft whispers. An almost lyric-less EP, when Owens does sing her vocals possess an alluring, ghost-like quality that rises unexpectedly and seeps in-between the music.

First single, “CBM,” which stands for “colors, beauty, motion,” is perhaps the best track on Oleic. Well-crafted mellow keys build from a stuttering intro of effects and for the last two minutes of the song, the sound effortlessly changes to bouncing keys that doesn’t lift from the soundscape but permeates just beneath the waves as all the other music slowly trails off leaving the subtle, kinetic effects to carry the track to the end.

Owens has illustrated variety in her previously released singles and displayed that she can weave an array of sounds (her remake of Aaliyah’s “More Than a Woman” is worth a listen). Her earlier material and the sonically rich construction on Oleic is a fine window into Owens’ future LP.

DOWNLOAD: “CBM,” “Kingsize

Listen to my favorite track on the EP, “CBM.”

Album Review: Interpol’s El Pintor

OK! I couldn’t go through with an El Pintor-Spanish for The Painter-metaphor as an opener. Just trust me when I say: Interpol is back and they sound amazing! The gents are in form with their latest, El Pintor, and–if I don’t say so myself–have out-shined their last release, 2010’s Interpol. Where I walked away pocketing a few favorite songs from Interpol (2010) I find myself enjoying this whole album, rarely skipping ahead to the next track, a rare feat in this mp3 age.

Press Photo: Matador Records

For Blurt Magazine:

Album: El Pintor
Label: Matador Records
Release Date: September 9, 2014

Four years have passed since 2010’s Interpol and the departure of bassist Carlos Dengler; for their fifth LP Interpol simultaneously maintain their charged, melancholic rock and tread new grounds. El Pintor is the first album without Dengler’s contribution and the first time lead singer Paul Banks plays both guitar and bass; despite the loss of a band member the post-punk sounds remain as beefy, loud and moody as ever.

El Pintor is not Antics or Turn on the Bright Lights, there are not as many immediate hooks and riffs that were present on these earlier releases; instead, the solid music on El Pintor unveils a nuanced mellowing that has taken over the last two releases from Interpol. Thankfully Banks, Daniel Kessler and Samuel Fogarino have perked up since their 2010 album and have created a louder, more upbeat soundscape for listeners…as upbeat as our melancholic trio will allow, this is Interpol after all.

Kessler continues to create a separate landscape with his piercing lead guitar that adds a detailed accent to each track, “Same Town, New Story,”“My Desire,”“Tidal Wave”and “Twice As Hard”are prime examples. Fogarino’s skilled drumming is best heard on “Anywhere”as he changes the fast pace of the song ever so slightly and leads us to a smoother chorus that booms with his drum rolls. The bass heavy “Everything Is Wrong”is one of the catchiest tracks on the album and the words “Everything is wrong, truly wrong”never sounded so appealing. The one downfall to the piercingly loud executed music, Banks’vocals are drowned out but the themes of love, longing, sadness and a sense of foreboding are not lost.

DOWNLOAD: “Everything is Wrong,” “Anywhere,” “My Desire”

Interview: Cold War Kids’ Soul Punk

A brief encounter with vocalist Nathan Willet, discussing his band’s recent EP and their plans for the future.

The number of artists melding blues, rock, pop and soul into one is on the rise. However, many musicians merely reenact sounds from our musical past and often remain in the confines of this paradigm. Enter California’s Cold War Kids: they have manipulated this fine equation to create a sound all their own, injecting a jolt of adrenaline into this evolving genre.

Photo By: Matt Wignall

En route to Anchorage, Alaska, the last stop of Cold War Kids’ short tour in support of their latest EP Behave Yourself, lead singer Nathan Willet took a few moments in between flights to chat. So while sitting in an airport amongst crying children and chattering passengers Willet discussed future plans for Kids ‐ Willet, guitarist Jonathan Russell, bassist Matt Maust, drummer Matt Aveiro ‐ and the recent release of Behave.

However you’d like to define “success” it is fair to say Cold War Kids is on the cusp of it. When the Kids formed six years ago, they did not put the cart before the horse with delusions of grandeur. “We didn’t really know what our hopes were from the beginning.” Willet says, adding, “All we knew is that we liked the kind of music we were playing. Now we’ve kind of come into success and found our place, it’s very much what we’ve hoped for.”

Humbled by the experience, Willet admits, “I’m always amazed ‐ especially with this last record ‐ that people know all the words, even to the old recordings. It feels good, it’s incredible, it really blows me away. Over the last four years of touring it keeps growing and it’s really great.” However, from the other side of the mic, it is easy to see why spectators become enamored by the Kids; one live performance and they will reform naysayers and recruit new fans. (After having personally witnessed Cold War Kids in action, I can say this with assurance. Before the show began a security guard approached and asked, “What kind of music do they do?” After their sweltering performance I had to ask for his thoughts: with a shrug and smile the bouncer admitted, “Oh yeah, they were good.”)

And three EPs and two LPs later, Cold War Kids’ compositions improve with each release. A bridge between Loyal to Loyalty and their upcoming third LP, Behave is a collection of songs that did not make it onto the sophomore release. One listen to the short, four track EP it’s clear that these songs were not cut due to an inferior sound. “The last record had a darker, broodier sound,” Willet explains. “These songs are more uplifting… lighter, so we re‐recorded them and released them on their own so that people would have a different ‘feel’ before the next album.” Indeed a “lighter” affair, Behave Yourself triggers that happy place in your sonic pleasure center. However, Cold War Kids’ music has always incorporated an upbeat tone even when a sense of foreboding lingers; the key to this juxtaposition, Willet’s lyrics.

Whether a contemplative pessimist in “Something is Not Right With Me,” a lovelorn woman in “Every Man I Fall For,” or a thieving church‐goer in “Passing the Hat,” Willet is known for weaving creative, narrative‐styled words that unveil troublesome tales from unique perspectives. But since the band wants to explore new terrain for their upcoming third LP, this may change… perhaps. Willet chuckles as he stammers, “You know, I don’t know yet. I do know that [the lyrics] will be more personal and less narrative…maybe.”

Well, possibly it’s too soon to make a definitive decision on the future creative process. Yet, one thing is certain: for the first time the Kids will be working with a producer throughout the entire process of album creation. Jacquire King, talented mixer to musicians such as Tom Waits, Josh Ritter, Buddy Guy and more, will add Cold War Kids to his roster. “This is the first time we’ve worked with someone who has a say in the songwriting and helps to shape how things are going to sound. It’s going to be a great experience, having his wisdom,” Willet says. “The old recordings were quick and fun, not a lot of overdub. This recording will be a much more lush arrangement. I think that this is the first time we have a high expectation for people to really respond to a record.”

And with the upcoming LP hopefully the Kids will achieve their ambitions. Fans will have faith; the Kids have every element to make this dream a reality ‐ great music, unique lyrics, and a memorable live show. Willet, clearly, has confidence in his and his bandmates’ abilities when he observes, “I think we are incredibly unique as a band especially compared to the mainstream world. I think that our qualities, combining soul and punk, are unique to people and we are forging ground on a musical category that no one is really doing right now.”

Worth noting, too, is the humanitarian side of the band: Cold War Kids let a portion of their recent ticket sales aid those in Haiti ‐ in addition to a benefit concert recently performed in NYC. Also, they continually raise awareness for Water Wells for Africa. Says Willet, “When we were on tour with Death Cab for Cutie we did a running [competition] where we raised money for [the organization].”

Once back in the sunny hills of California, Willet and the Cold War Kids will soon begin work on the third album. So, on this cold day, resting in an airport before taking off for Alaska, Willet gets one final question from BLURT: If you could choose five words to describe your band, what would they be?

Willet’s response after a moment of deliberation: “Soul punk for young souls.”