Young the Giant’s Home of the Strange Concert

On January 2011, the song “My Body” hit the airwaves and entered this generation’s collective consciousness. The song was very energetic and catchy. It was one of those songs that made you want to get up and dance or shout along. For starting indie-rock band Young the Giant, they never thought they would make it big. Little did they know that they would be a bigger band than they had ever imagined.

From the early days of their self-titled album to the current Home of the Strange, Young the Giant has always been a favorite band of mine. Each of their albums has an undeniable charm that has matured the more they write music. I was constantly on alert for when they would tour since the release of their newest album. There was no doubt in my mind that I would go, especially considering it had been three years since they last came. Once the dates were announced, I was able to get a ticket for the, no surprise, sold out concert.

I could tell this was going to be a big show with the amount of people bustling everywhere. The densely packed crowd stirred with commotion as they awaited the appearance of the main event. The stage was decorated with flags and the backdrop of Young the Giant’s new album. As I reached to get my phone from my pocket, the lights shut off and I was pushed forward by the current of fans eagerly wanting to inch closer to the stage. It was time.

The band had appeared and opened with the heart pounding, rock-ridden “Jungle Youth”. Each guitar strum and beat of the drum packed a punch. Sameer Gadhia, front man for the band, may have kept a bit of a poker face throughout the show, but his dance moves truly reflected his excitement for performing.

Young the Giant have quite a diverse repertoire that range from rock heavy songs like “Somebody to Believe In” to more soothing ones like “Titus was Born”. They easily transitioned from one to the other without having it seem strange or out of place. Songs like “Elsewhere” and “Art Exhibit” provided a nice, tranquil atmosphere that provided for a more intimate performance.

I couldn’t help but think how extremely talented each of them were as they played songs like “Cough Syrup”, “Mr. Know-It-All”, and “Mind Over Matter”. Payam Doostzadeh on the bass with a calm eloquence. Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata on the guitar with astonishing dexterity. Francois Comtois drumming with smooth swiftness. And Gadhia not only had an impressive control over his voice, but a remarkable skill on various other instruments.    

They closed the show with “Home of the Strange”, where the whole band let loose and hopped from one side of the stage to the other. As they walked off the stage the crowd had become louder than they had ever been. Ears were ringing as we all enthusiastically cheered for an encore. It was not a wasted effort as Young the Giant returned to play three more songs.

“Amerika”, “Silvertongue”, and “My Body” brought out different excitement levels for both the band and the audience, increasing with every song. They brought an extra cheeriness to “My Body” as the entire crowd bounced to the highest of their abilities.

The show was exceptionally memorable and spirited. While I can recall many parts that were unforgettable, the one that catches my attention has to be when they played their song “Firelight”. This song mainly puts its focus on soft guitar string plucks and Gadhia’s airy vocals, but introduces some subtle drum beats towards the end. Gadhia requested that the audience take out their phones and lighters when the drums come on to light the venue. The dimly lit area transformed into a room as bright as a spotlight. It felt magical.

It’s no wonder that the Young the Giant show was sold out. They managed to play the entire Home of the Strange album plus some favorites from prior albums. There was such a joyous energy that rippled from the stage to the very last person in the back of the crowd. They played an incredible show that was worth going to despite being sick. I congratulate Young the Giant for how far they’ve come and I can’t wait to see what’s to come of them.

On the Radar – Glass Animals

“Twee vole go dig your hole/Squish squirmies in your nose/Tree hairs in your eyes/You smile so super quiet.” I have heard some strange lyrics before, but none as poetically odd as the ones featured in the song “Wyrd” by Glass Animals. Dave Bayley, the lead singer, is a genius when writing intriguing lyrics that’ll make your ears tickle with delight. Of course, the music itself is enough to do that.

Glass Animals are an English indie rock band that have entranced many due to their hip-hop inspired beats and trippy tunes. It all started in St. Edwards School in Oxford when Bayley would occasionally spend his free time writing songs and lyrics. It wasn’t until after college that he was able to convince his friends to start a band with him. Despite never being in a band before, Drew MacFarlane, Edmund Irwin-Singer, and Joe Seaward joined him by playing guitar, bass, and drums respectively. In 2012, they released their first EP Leaflings which caught the attention of producer Paul Epworth (Foster the People, Bloc Party, Crystal Castles, etc.). From there, they proceeded to work on their first album.

Their debut album Zaba was met with great reviews by critics, and it was well worth the praise too. Zaba happens to be one of my favorite albums because of the curiously phrased lyrics and minimalistic, psychedelic instrumental compositions. Zaba is exotic with a very jungle infused theme rhythmically all the while being a bit seductive with its soft, somewhat electronic ballads. The creatively made ambient sounds throughout the album are enough to make you want to really listen to what’s actually happening. It’s rare to find an album where all the songs are likable and mesh together so well, and yet Zaba does this almost effortlessly. “Gooey”, one of the band’s more popular songs, is deeply R&B inspired with some weird verses such as “Right my little pooh bear, wanna take a chance?/Wanna sip the smooth air, kick it in the sand?/I’ll say I told you so but you just gonna cry/You just wanna know those peanut butter vibes.” “Hazey” is a soothingly simple song filled with pops and snaps that make it hard not to dance to.

How To Be a Human Being, the band’s second album, was released earlier this year being the complete opposite of what Zaba was. It wasn’t shrouded in mystery or a dreamy atmosphere. On the contrary, their lyrics were more straight-forward, the tone was happier, and it felt like more of a groovy indie pop album. They decided to take a different approach and make a concept album where each song is a story about a different character. “Life Itself” for example takes the listener through a peculiar man’s life and the downward spiral it takes because he refuses to live in reality. “Youth” is a bittersweet melody about a parent giving up their child in hopes that they will live a better life. “Mama’s Gun” is a particular favorite from the album because of the sweet flute samples from The Carpenters and Bayley’s delicate vocals contrasting with the morbid subject matter of a woman with a mental illness, probably schizophrenia, murdering her husband.

Glass Animals are slightly weird and mesmerizing. They have the ability to awaken your senses by painting a vivid picture with their songs. The amount of detail they put into their music is so amazing that it deserves to be listened to on a nice pair of headphones or a speaker to really appreciate it. If you are ever in the mood for calm yet whimsical music, I say Glass Animals is a must.

Concert Review – Mr Little Jeans

There was a palpable excitement in the air as the crowd, myself included, in Kilby Court anxiously waited for Mr Little Jeans to appear. The crowd huddled around the stage both to get a good view and to warm up from the frigid night. Some decided that the best view was actually outside looking in through the window. Everyone started to cheer when the background music turned off and the lights started to dim. The time, albeit a little late, had started.

Norwegian born singer Monica Birkenes, better known as Mr Little Jeans, is as graceful as she is talented as she hopped onto the stage with her black dress and green bomber jacket. Her performance on November 18 proved that as she playfully danced across the stage while singing her beautifully composed songs. Her name had been on my radar since I had discovered her cover of Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs.” She took the wonderfully cheery song and transformed it into a slightly ominous, electric ballad. From that point on, I was drawn to the “electro-pop diva” and her dreamy, synth-pop tunes.

There was a good mixture of old and new as Birkenes performed hits from her debut album Pocketknife and songs from her latest EP F E V E R S. She brought the spunk on “Valentine” as she swiftly hit the high notes in the chorus. Everyone started moving the second they heard the hip and groovy opening drum beats of “Lady Luck.” Birkenes’ vocal talent was truly showcased in “Fever” where her airy vibratos echoed through the audience.

You can tell Birkenes was born to be a performer as she commanded the stage. She danced in a delicate matter as she skipped from left to right on the somewhat cluttered stage. With a venue as intimate as Kilby Court, it’s easier for artists to interact with the audience during shows. Birkenes took full advantage of this as she tried to talk to her audience before, sometimes during, her songs and even asked for assistance in singing one of her songs. During “Rescue Song,” she jumped off the stage and asked many in the crowd to hum the background melody for her. Eventually she found her gal and she all but exploded from happiness watching this girl hum along.

Despite being a relatively short set, about under an hour, there was no shortage of entertainment. After the show, my friend and I decided to visit the merch table because I had wanted a poster. Unfortunately, there was no poster, but about two minutes after I had had entered the merch area the leading lady herself appeared. Her bubbly personality that was previewed on stage was just as evident as she autographed memorabilia. Birkenes is a kind soul with a smile that can go on for miles. Meeting her was a pleasure and her concert is one I’m sure I won’t forget.

On Your Radar – Mutemath

Dapperly dressed and unbelievably energetic, I discovered Mutemath when I stumbled across a curious video for a song called “Typical.” The video starts with a man in a gray button down and red bow tie playing some power chords on a guitar. He slowly starts backing away to reveal a somewhat chaotic looking scene around him. Brightly colored paint and post it notes littered the floor of this monochrome room. More band mates start to appear, but each of them seem to move a little peculiarly. It’s a little odd, until I realize that the band is performing the song backwards. The music video intrigued me enough to make me want to find out more about this band.

Mutemath started as a collaboration project between singer Paul Meany and drummer Darren King in 2002 when Meany was still in his previous band named Earthsuit. King would send Meany some demos and remixes he had done. Meany liked the work King did and started a correspondence with him where they would go back and forth exchanging new songs. Soon after, King moved to New Orleans to put more dedication into this project. With the addition of Greg Hill on guitar, later replaced by Todd Gummerman, and Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas on bass, this small collaboration evolved into an actual band.

Experimentation has always been key for this alternative rock band. They are constantly striving to find new and innovative ways to create extraordinary music. It’s fascinating to watch some of their “behind-the-scenes” videos because their determination and creativity are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They’ll tweak with samples many times before committing to something they like. Sometimes it involves slowing down or speeding up an instrument to the point where it’s nearly unrecognizable. The result is a fantastically composed, multilayered song.

I find myself drawn to Mutemath because of their uniqueness and incredible performances. Songs like “Typical” and “Spotlight” are upbeat and lively rock tracks to jam to. “Pins and Needles” offer a calmer almost somber side to Mutemath as Meany delicately sings, “And I’m growing fond of broken people/As I see that I am one of them.” While they have many great songs, “Clipping” has to be a personal favorite of mine. Throughout the song, loops of a distorted piano parallel with cheerier sounding piano notes as it builds up to a beautiful violin solo.

 Mutemath’s recent album Vitals is a testament to how much this band has evolved. Vastly different from their previous album Odd Soul, which was more of a soulful/bluesy album, Vitals shows off an invigorated new Mutemath with more synths and a more indie pop vibe. Meany really opens up to fans as his songwriting is more honest than ever on this album. “Composed” talks about trying to find peace during panic attacks while “Used To” deals with letting go of a toxic relationship.

Despite the fully transparent lyrics, there are songs on the album that lighten up the mood. “Monument” for example, is a euphoric celebration of a couple’s love. It is a perfect combination of poppy rhythm and joyful synths.

Filled with optimism and spirit, Mutemath doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. They recently finished touring with Twenty One Pilots and just released a remix album consisting of new versions of songs from Vitals. Mutemath’s hard work and dedication is admirable and well worth the listen.

 

Empire of the Sun – Two Vines

If Empire of the Sun’s goal is to transport listeners to another world with their music, I’d say they’re doing a pretty good job. They somehow always manage to create a fantasy-like ambiance in their songs. With a dazzling headpiece and flashy outfits, the Australian duo has returned to deliver an album to satisfy our eardrums.

When Empire of the Sun came into the music scene with Walking on a Dream, they caused a stir with their experimental nature and whimsical music. They lost a bit of their momentum when Ice on the Dune came out, but they seem to bring it back on the latest album Two Vines. While not having the initial charm that their first album had, Two Vines brings about poppy tunes infused with electronic elements.

Two Vines starts slow with “Before”, a groovy tune that pairs well with singer Luke Steele’s airy vocals.  The album then kicks into gear with the first single “High and Low.” A song inspired by a childhood friend, group member Nick Littlemore hoped to lyrically channel the experiences of adolescence. There is an innocence in track as Steele sings, “Now we are running in a pack to the place you don’t know/And I want you to know that I’ll always be around.”

As the album progresses, we reach the track “Friends.” It is a curious composition as a sluggish drum beat eventually transforms into a danceable breakdown. While I think the band went a little too heavy with the auto-tune, the captivating synths makes up for it.

Towards the end of the album, their slower tempo songs take the spotlight. “Digital Life” offers a more futuristic track with industrial steam intertwining with an oriental sounding melody. “To Her Door” closes the album with a triumphant ballad that features the beautiful guitar playing of Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac.

Empire of the Sun’s unique style alone draws attention, but their creativity with music is what makes fans stay. Their music never fails to take the listener on a journey to a colorful paradise. Two Vines certainly does that with a vivid ride through their jubilant jungle.

Empire of the Sun will be playing a show at the Great Saltair on December 3.

On Your Radar: Bad Suns

The moment I first heard the band Bad Suns, I became completely entranced with their music. There was something hypnotic about them that drew me in. Whether it was the singer’s soothing voice or their dreamy melodies, Bad Suns had me craving more.

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Bad Suns is comprised of lead vocalist Christo Bowman, bassist Gavin Bennett, drummer Miles Morris, and guitarist Ray Libby. The band is often described as 80’s new wave as they tend to get comparisons to iconic rock artists of the 80’s such as Depeche Mode or Elvis Costello. It’s no surprise considering Bowman grew up in a very musical household where he became inspired by the records his father would introduce to him. He was so inspired that he learned how to play guitar and started writing his own songs. This would later help him when the band released their debut album.

Language & Perspective was a great introduction for the indie pop band. It set the stage for the young musicians and showed people they were ready to enter the music scene. The first single “Cardiac Arrest” put the artist on the map with its mellow, almost beach like vibe. Bowman ingeniously compares extreme feelings one might have towards another person to a cardiac arrest. “Sleep Paralysis” is a personal favorite from the album as the band finds a way to make this song pleasurable yet disjointed.

With the attention they gained from their first album, Bad Suns began touring with The 1975 and The Neighbourhood as opening acts. After many months of touring, Bad Suns released their second album Disappear Here earlier this year on September 16. Sophomore albums can be a little tricky for some bands because they’ve already developed a fan base and expectations are raised. This seemed to be no problem for them as Disappear Here is a perfect successor to Language & Perspective. The songs are catchier and have more of a depth to them. The opening and title track for the album “Disappear Here” is a nice welcome back to the band with an upbeat rhythm. Bowman has an extra zing in this song especially evident during the chorus. “Heartbreaker” touches on a feeling that many young adults experience: the fear of failed relationships. He pretends that he’s okay and can go on without her, but it’s an act.

Bad Suns is a modern, retro sounding band filled with spirit. Their honest, sometimes cynical, lyrics not only make them relatable, but prove that they too are learning how to navigate life. With the amount of optimistic energy they bring to their music, it’s a band that I consistently find myself putting on repeat.

Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues

When it comes to alternative rock music, there are bands that are absolutely quintessential to the genre. These bands dominated the airwaves in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and helped pave the way on what alt rock should sound like. Even though lately many of them have not been as popular as they once were, there are a select few who prove they are not out of the game, like Jimmy Eat World.

Jimmy Eat World formed in 1993 in Mesa, Arizona. They had released two albums in the 90’s but didn’t see commercial success until the release of their 2001 album Bleed American. Many notable singles were bred from that album, from the title track to “Sweetness”, but nothing compared to “The Middle.” From there on out, Jimmy Eat World was one of the staple bands of the emo/pop punk scene. They stayed in the limelight for their next two albums Futures and Chase This Light, however, they started to drop off the music scene with Inverted and Damaged. After touring got done for Damaged, the band decided to take a year off for a much needed break.

Integrity Blues is a nice welcome back for Jimmy Eat World after their hiatus. They came back with new ideas and a new approach on how they would develop their songs. The whole theme of this album revolves around acceptance of life and the changes it brings with it. “Pretty Grids” and “Get Right” call upon all the rock lovers with their heavy guitar breakdowns and profound bass lines while “You With Me” and “It Matters” show their capability to embrace a softer side as singer Jim Adkins calmly serenades the listener.

“Sure and Certain” was the first song I heard that notified me that they were making a new album. I remember the first time I heard it I was extremely overjoyed. It was as if the band never took a break to begin with. The opening lively guitar strums combined with the anthem-like drum beats was enough to ensure me that Jimmy Eat World had returned.

While their past two albums were not highly successful, Integrity Blues reminds fans why they fell in love with Jimmy Eat World in the first place. It hits listeners with deep feelings of nostalgia. For me, the album transported me back to the days where I had Futures on repeat. The band was able to create an album that was consistent to how they sound without being repetitive. The long awaited album had finally come and it didn’t disappoint.

 

 

Two Door Cinema Club – Gameshow

Fans of Two Door Cinema Club, myself included, have patiently waited for new material to be released. At times, it was uncertain as to whether or not they would come back as the band members were dealing with their own problems and projects. After 4 years of waiting, Two Door Cinema Club are back and sounding more confident than ever.

Produced by the infamous Jacknife Lee (Crystal Castles, Silversun Pickups, Weezer), Two Door Cinema Club’s newest album Gameshow is a modern take on classic rock music. Singer Alex Trimble names David Bowie and Prince as major inspirations for this album and it is evident, especially in songs like “Bad Decisions” and “Surgery”. The band has experimented a bit to add more of an electronic sound to their songs while still keeping their alternative sound that drew so many fans to listen to them. Yes, Two Door Cinema Club have followed in the path many other bands are taking with the 80s music revival, however, they do it in such a way that is refreshing and pleasurable.

The first track “Are We Ready? (Wreck)” reinforces the idea that Two Door Cinema Club has returned stronger than ever. Trimble makes some brazen statements as the song opens to the lyrics, “We are the sacred cow/Stand up, take a bow, you’re wonderful/You should be comfortable, don’t think at all”. Steady choir chants and handclaps kept my foot tapping throughout the entirety of the song.

The album’s title track “Gameshow” is one that is bound to be a crowd pleaser during concerts. It’s one of the most spirited songs on the album that gave me some LCD Soundsystem vibes. Trimble sings with a furiosity that I have not heard from him before. In it, Trimble is taking back control from the record companies and finally standing up for himself.

Many people have criticized Gameshow as falling short of expectations, but I say differently. The album is not revolutionary nor is it a giant leap forward for the band, but it is a fun and funky collection of songs that is bound to get a crowd thrilled. Trimble’s vocal ability impressed me because I did not know his voice was capable of such range. Guitarist Sam Halliday also deserves recognition with his outstanding guitar solos that are more prominently featured in this album. While not all of the tracks on Gameshow are my favorite, that doesn’t detract from the fact that I think this is a wonderful album filled with creativity and ambition. After 4 years, it was definitely worth the wait.