MUNA – About U

When people ask me what albums I’ve been listening to recently, MUNA, an all-girl band from California, is definitely at the top of the list. Their style is extremely unique, and with songs that include lyrical depth as well as catchy pop beats, they’re a band you’ll say “I knew them before they were cool” when they climb up the pop and alt charts.

Surprisingly, I first discovered MUNA’s music through my mother. I was lying in bed when she sent me a text saying she bought two tickets to MUNA’s concert at Kilby Court on February 13th. However, being the ornery college student that I am, I brushed them off thinking they just wouldn’t be my style. But after their concert, I realized how wrong my judgements actually were.

MUNA entered the stage with members Katie Gavin (Lead vocals/Production), Josette Maskin (Lead Guitar), and Naomi McPherson (Rhythm Guitar/Synth/Production). Even though the stage was small, they definitely put on quite the show. Their microphone stands were adorned with white flowers and Gavin’s audience rapport made the show feel very intimate and organic; an experience that’s sometimes hard to find in a live performance.

As soon as the concert ended, I went to iTunes and downloaded their CD “About U.” Though their song “I Know A Place” is the main single from the album, my personal favorites are “Promise,” “Crying On The Bathroom Floor,” and “End of Desire.” But no matter the song, there’s always a catchy element to their music that leaves you tapping your foot and humming along. Plus, Katie Gavin’s vocals have a certain unique tinge, similar to Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries, that pulls you in and leaves you wanting more.

One of my favorite things about MUNA, however, is how they combine the sound of an indie-pop band with an aesthetic that’s dark, eerie, and unexpected. Their album cover is mostly black featuring images of roses and chains; a somewhat 90’s goth look for a band that’s so pop. But I think this is why I like MUNA. They juxtapose their pop sound with lyrics that are darker and deeper than what’s typical of the pop genre.

Along with their unique image, MUNA identifies as a “queer girl band.” None of the band members identify as straight, and they all made a conscious effort to exclude any gender specific pronouns in their songs. They also challenge current political issues, such as adding the lyrics “He’s not my leader, even if he is my President,” to their live versions of “I Know A Place.” While some of MUNA’s songs may cover touchy subjects, their overall message is that of acceptance and being confident with yourself even if that means not adhering to social norms.

MUNA is still a relatively new band, but I have a feeling that won’t last for long. Their sound, image, and message combine into something that’s a breath of fresh air for the current pop scene. And with appearances on both Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Shows, I can only imagine we’ll be seeing more of them in the future.

 

The Orwells – Terrible Human Beings

The Orwells are at it again with their third release almost three years after the well-received Disgraceland. However, with this new record comes a new set of challenges for the group: not only are they in competition with their earlier releases, but also, the question of how long rock and roll records are going to keep getting attention. In some views, The Orwells are our today’s Strokes: five dudes making rock and roll; claimed to be saviors of the genre; youthful, spirited, sexy; etc. But it’s the contrast between the two bands and their respective eras that bring up the obstacles of reality this new record faces: the Strokes got to be in a world where MTV still gave a shit about music; the Orwells get to hope that a portion of one of their songs play while VH1 transitions between episodes of “America’s Next Top Model;” the Strokes got to release records when people were still buying them; the Orwells get to have their pennies snubbed by Apple Music and Spotify; the Strokes were able to inspire a generation of kids to pick up a guitar; the Orwells might be some of the last of those kids. However, their situation isn’t all dismal. They are still able to tour as a group and they do have an unprecedented ability to make old rock and roll tropes seem alive and well.

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“They Put a Body In the Bayou” came out late last year and made promise the band was going to make another good delivery. Batting off the record it sets a high standard that are quickly followed up by “Fry” and “Creature,” two tracks that demonstrate the sassy yet relatable demeanor that has become loved of the band. “Buddy,” also an early single, probably comes out of the record as the best looking track. It’s quick, under a minute-thirty and is about one-night-stands, which has always been a favorite of rock and roll. “Hippie Soldier” and “Heavy Head” keep the record moving at solid rates with tormented guitars laments of “the easy way out” until it arrives at “Body Reprise,” a minute-fifteen ambient track full of hollow “ooooohs” with a vacant drum beat that I’m sure Brian Eno could at least nod at.

Wrapping up the record, “Ring Pop” and “Last Call” bring on a noise level that calls across to pond and time to those 1970s pub rock bands like Duck Deluxe and Dr. Feelgood who were as indifferent to the last call as the Orwells are to diminishing record sales. “Double Feature,” clocking at a surprising 7:18 for the band, brings on a perspective of questioning life choices and what chance a man has “from the wrong side of the tracks.” After few verses and choruses, the band dive into an instrumental break with guitar technical that surfaces images of what Television was doing years ago and introduces more howling vocals similar to what was going on in “Body Reprise.”

By the end, though, this record turns out to be a solid release, but, however, nothing more significant than that. It’s an album defined by the rock and roll tropes it lives up to. Nothing is out of place, wrong or a short step from the Orwells, it’s just very familiar. Without a newer cause or figurative idea of what rock and roll could be, it comes out as another record. Thirty years ago if this had been released it would have gotten a fair amount of attention and deserved it. Though, if it were released a hundred years from now no one would probably know it. Terrible Human Beings is a good record, but, however, because of the times and with all of the other noise out there, it’s just not that exciting.

Lotus: A Park City Live Review

When there’s nothing happening in Salt Lake City, it’s often worth checking up on SLC’s smaller neighbor, Park City. While packed during the Sundance Film Festival, Park City has a toned down local feel for the rest of the year. With the size of city being so small, it’s surprising that it still manages to pack a strong punch when it comes to booking top quality bands. Park City Live is a concert venue in the center of historic Main Street. Their Winterfest concert series helps people like me who dread the winter to have something to look forward to during the year’s darkest months. This year the venue booked current big names like Major Lazer and Marshmello, but also has some more eclectic picks ranging from Bluegrass bands to Reggae in the lineup. No matter what your tastes, its likely Park City Live has booked some serious talent within your favorite genres.

Last Saturday the venue hosted Lotus, a band formed in 1999 that has since been heavily touring venues and music festivals across the country. They’re pioneers in a genre best labeled as “jamtronica”. A mixture of classic jazz band jamming and improvised electronic music. The combination of the two leads to a unique sound and a wide range of tempos from get up and dance or sit back and chill.  While the band worked as a well-oiled machine with each musician playing off one another, the guitarist Michael Rempel really stood out. The riffs he provided often brought the funk to their songs, getting the greatest reaction from the audience. Near the end of the set the band played their song Greet the Mind, during which Michael’s playing brought the filled venue to a state of boogie.

The crowd Lotus brought together is a testament to their music. It’s free of any labels of classification and requires only a mind open to good music. Just looking into the crowd you could see a range of people from those dressed in full costume to elderly couples swing dancing. Going solo to a Lotus show like I did only means there’s a greater opportunity to meet friendly and interesting people. Among the crowd I met a group of real estate agents from San Francisco, a raver chick from California, and a nomad who shapes his travel itinerary according to the touring schedule of the band. After questing him more, I realized that he was hardly an anomaly. Lotus has a grouping of roadies that follow them from show to show particularly for the open-hearted scene their music creates. This following is also due to the jam aspect of their set. No two Lotus shows are the same, providing a unique experience only available in the present moment of their concert.

 

The 20th Anniversary show with Reel Big Fish

Since the 1990’s, Reel Big Fish has been showing up and playing some of the best ska shows around. Along with bands like Save Ferris and Mustard Plug, Reel Big Fish has been promoting their name for over 20 years. Recently Reel Big Fish started a new tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their album “Turn the Radio Off”. It has become a tradition for me to see Reel Big Fish whenever I get the chance. I wasn’t about to break that tradition now.

The show was at The Depot, which is one of my favorite venues. Each step I took up the stairs I got more and more anxious to see who was opening. I walked onto the main floor and saw the banner “Ballyhoo!” hanging up. I immediately went into fan-girl mode. Ballyhoo! is a band that I have recently started to follow with the start of my reggae and ska show on the radio. They have a great up-beat tempo and can put a smile on your soul. It was a good surprise for the expecting.

Ballyhoo!

Pew Pew Pew was the first opener, followed by Ballyhoo!. Their performances got me warmed up for the later bands. Then it time came for Anti-Flag, the floor was crowded and the pit crowd seemed ready to go. You could see the patches on the jean vests that were all different punk bands logos. Those fans were ready to let go of their limbs and let them fly and I was at the edge to see it all happen. Their set was incredibly entertaining and they kept the crowd moving. Up next, was Reel Big Fish.

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    Pew Pew Pew Opening

For the anniversary of their album “Turn the Radio Off”, Reel Big Fish played the entire album from beginning to end, starting with “I Want Your Girlfriend”. This album released in

Stage Set List

August of 1996 and was Reel Big Fish’s second full-length album. This album included their hit single “Sell Out” that received success in 1997. Through the years, Reel Big Fish has continued to make their name more known is the world of ska and punk music.

For the first two songs of Reel Big Fish, I was up front against the railing. It was so incredible to be that close to a band that I had always had a dream about meeting. Though after the first couple of songs, I wanted to enjoy the show and not worry about getting trampled so I moved back to the edge of the skank pit. I was waiting for the right time to join in one the pit. When Sell Out came on I jumped in and started kicking my legs and swinging my arms with a grin on my face and music in my ears. I took breaks here an there to catch my breath but I never stopped dancing for Reel Big Fish.

Each song they sang, I sang and every time they said jump, I jumped. From “I want your girlfriend” to “Take on me” they had my attention. This show was one for the books and was unforgettable. There was a smile on my face from Pew Pew Pew to Reel Big Fish. I always look forward to seeing ska shows and live shows in all. There is magic inside of live concerts and shows and it is every persons right to see a live concert at least once in their lifetime. The next time a ska show comes into town you can count on seeing me there.

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Interview with Sunsleeper

Following the release of their new EP, Stay the Same, I had the pleasure of sitting down with local emo/rock band, Sunsleeper, to discuss their music, background, and plans for the future.

I met up with Sunsleeper at Kilby Court for their December 17th show. After the band finished up with their soundcheck, we all headed into the green room where I was introduced to the members of the band: Jeff (Guitar and Vocals), Scott (Drums), Eli (Bass), and Thys (Guitar and Backup Vocals).

We started off the conversation by discussing the history of the band and how Sunsleeper formed into what it is today. Jeff began by explaining that before Sunsleeper, all of the members were in various bands around Salt Lake and met up with one another through mutual friends. Strangely enough, before the band had even formed, Scott and Jeff had ended up standing next to each other at a concert without any knowledge that one day they’d be in a band together.

Before the interview, however, I was able to listen to a little bit of their soundcheck and noticed them playing a song from the band, Brand New, an emo/rock band from New York. I then asked the band what some of their musical influences were.

“100% Brand New… Brand New is my biggest influence, [they’re] the reason I started playing music in the first place…,” Jeff explained.

While Sunsleeper is heavily influenced by Brand New, they create a sound that’s unique to them; something that’s genuine and personal. The song “Maple Drive,” especially, is an emotional amalgamation of soft and clean melodies with a gritty chorus and heartfelt lyricism. While listening to their EP, I might’ve shed a tear or two, but I think an album is truly special when it can elicit that much emotion in its listeners.

Apart from their sound, something that truly stood out to me was their album art. The image is a simple flower on top of a light blue background, but the photo is so striking and elegant, and perfectly encompasses the feel of the band. Because album art is such an iconic part of a band’s image, I asked them about their process in choosing the photo. Jeff talked about how one of his close friends Ryan ended up being the photographer for their main album photo:

“He [Ryan] was my best friend growing up… and I randomly went to his company page… and I looked at his header photo…and was like ‘that’s it’…I remember sending it in a group text [to the other band members] and everyone was just like ‘that’s the record cover’… And it’s especially special to me that it was Ryan who took it because he’s basically my brother.”

Lastly, I asked the band if they had any plans for future releases.

“We’re working on some stuff; tentatively want to record sometime next year [2017]. It’s really up in the air, but yeah we probably have 4 or 5 skeletons of songs,” Jeff mentioned.

Thys added: “We are trying to stay as busy as we can, we’ve gotten a lot of traction lately and want to be really action-oriented, so hopefully we can get some music out sooner than later.”

While new music is still in the works, it’s obvious that Sunsleeper is definitely a band to keep an eye out for in the future. If you haven’t heard any of Sunsleeper’s music, take a listen the song “Maple Drive” below and definitely check them out on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr!

 

 

Editor’s Spotify:My crunch playlist

As an Entertainment Arts and Engineering student I constantly find myself working deep into the night on my games or crunching. This week especially I had to crunch from one PM to one AM multiple nights in a row. You, dear reader, might be wondering how I managed to spend 12 hours fiddling with a computer screen? The answer is four words. Dope. Ass. Crunching. Playlist. Keeping me motivated and energized.

The secret to a Dope Ass Crunching Playlisttm is to strike a balance between songs that motivate and songs that will energizes as they play in the background whilst you work meticulously. Think of it as the Eminem vs. Chance the Rapper conflict. Eminem has been, is, and always will be my artist of choice for motivation. His raps are consistently about him kicking assand getting the respect he deserves. “Till I collapse I’m spilling these raps long as you feel ’em/Till the day that I drop you’ll never say that I’m not killing ’em/‘Cause when I am not, then I’ma stop penning ’em.” He is all about being the underdog, working hard, and winning, making him the perfect artist to start out a work session with. Hit the ground running and lose yourself in the music. But the emotional high of an Eminem song doesn’t go on forever, as the hours tick away something different is required, the motivation is there but no the groove.

Considered Chance the Rapper. I always put him in my Crunching Playlist, he also never raps about being the underdog and is nowhere near as aggressive as Eminem. But he is still great for working, his bars are fire, the beats are mellow but still have the energy to keep your pace, and who doesn’t want to listen to Chance’s voice while they work? He is perfect for mid crunch; his rhythms bring a groove that can be focused into working energy. For example, take the second half of the first verse of All We got “It was a dream, you could not mess with the Beam/This is like this many rings /You know what I mean? /This for the kids of the king of all kings /This is the holiest thing/This is the beat that played under the words /This is the sheep that ain’t like what it heard/This is officially first/This is the third.” Just reading that you can feel the groove bringing forth energy within, perfect for keeping a steady stream of work.

This dichotomy doesn’t exist only in rap either. It’s everywhere, Cold War Kids vs. Saint Motel, Devo Vs. Talking Heads, even Blink-182 Vs. Less than Jake. Whatever the genre I assure you there are certain bands that provide hard heavy hitting motivation, focusing on being the underdog and fighting you way back and bands that can just exude energy to maintain your work groove. Those bands make up any good crunching playlist. Of course, you still need to include Stan Bush’s classics The Touch and Dare from The Transformers: The Movie but I’ll explain that some other time.

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.

Editor’s Spotify: Theo Katzman’s Heartbreak Hits

I was listening to my Discovery Playlist on Spotify earlier the week when I found someone I had to talk about, an LA based rocker named Theo Katzman and his album Heartbreak Hits. Katzman’s Soul, Rock, and Jazz influences combine to create a modern rock album that hits all check marks, even a punky picture of the lead man on the cover, and it’s all I’ve been listening to this week.

There’s not a bad track on this album, from top to bottom and front to back it’s solid as a rock. The opening track I Put In The Hard Work where Katzman laments time and energy put into a past romance, gives us something of a teaser. While subject matter, like most songs on this album, isn’t going to give anyone a revelation about break ups, it’s so well done I couldn’t help to groove to it. The guitar heavy intro brought me in as a well composed swinging beat topped off by Katzman lyrics sung with in classic rock falsetto, there was no escape I needed to listen to the whole thing.

Heartbreak Hits isn’t afraid throw a fast ball and switch to a slow song like Break-up together and my 1-bedroom. Katzman’s grooving energetic tone somehow sticks around during these tracks and I still found myself rocking back and forth as he shows a more sensitive touch. These songs are heavily influenced by Katzman’s Jazz upbringing with a strong focus complex melodies and employing full use of the chorus and piano that otherwise take a back seat to guitars and Katzman’s lead vocals for the rest of the album.

Katzman is at his best when he goes loud. In this humble editor-in-chief’s opinion there is no exciting moment on Heartbeak Hits then when Katzman goes full rocker. The guitars whale, the drums burst into a beat straight out of the garage, and Katzman puts all out there the mic. My Heart is Dead, Lost and Found, and As the Romans Do are the type of polished and heart-felt rock songs that we just do not get a lot of these days, and it’s great to hear a student at the Art go town.

Although with all of that said I would be remorse if I didn’t mention the album’s most powerful track. Paine Jane Heroine. I can’t tell if the song is about a girl, Heroin, or some combination of both. But after learning about the Opioid epidemic that faces our country this week I couldn’t help but be moved. The song is sliced somewhere in the middle when it comes to energy, not soft not loud but perfect for painting the picture of drug addiction and its disastrous effects on lives. The sincerity and simplicity that make this album work is on full display and if you are going to listen to one song off this album this is the one.

Heartbreak Hits isn’t a complex album. There’s minimal amounts of production that creates a clean sound. There is no wonky instrumentation to create some weird hook and Katzman barely isn’t flashy in any sort of way, he is just a dude lookin’ to rock. It’s ten solid Pop Rock songs on level that I haven’t heard in while that together create the solidest album I have so far this year, take or leave it, but that it’s what’s on my Spotify.