Kero Kero Bonito is Wonderfully Weird

Every now and again, I enjoy taking a break from reading literature for class about the tragedy of the human condition to listen to some catchy, fun, sunshiny synth pop.

I’ve been a fan of Anthony Fantano ( a.k.a.The Needle Drop) on YouTube for a while now, and when I saw his review for Kero Kero Bonito’s new record “Bonito Generation,” it called to mind a song of theirs I’d heard a few years ago called “Sick Beat.”

I remember being drawn to the song’s use of synthesized beats, video game noises as instruments and the frontwoman’s Japanese lyrics that she sang and rapped in a delightful British accent. Partially by how catchy it was, and partially by how bizarre it was yet managed to work as a coherent song, I wanted to learn more about this pop group.

Thankfully, “Bonito Generation” is indeed on Spotify and I spent an evening recently listening and was positively charmed by the carefree attitude and upbeat melodies of the just over a half hour record.

This record is, in a word, adorable. Just how simple, yet how creative, the lyricism is instantly makes me smile. Kero Kero Bonito follows in the songwriting vein of taking mundane occurrences in life and making them into something exciting and enjoyable to sing about, like hitting the snooze button in the morning or feeling lost while walking around a huge city.

It also has some more emotional moments, my personal favourite being the song “Hey Parents.” In it, frontwoman Sarah Midori Perry sings about going over to visit her parents after graduation, finding her place in her family’s extensive tree and trying to  make her parents proud by  finding “something to do/Something I want to, so they can relax.”

The song has surprising depth to it, as Sarah ponders what she’ll do in life to make an impact in her family history, but keeps a sense of humour with lines about her parents like “I sure don’t know if making me was part of the plan/But that’s what happened, and I’m cool with that.”

I also admire the group’s ability to incorporate sounds to their music without it sounding immature. The use of yawns and dialogue on “Waking Up,” the first song on the record, instantly give the listener a sense that this band knows how to make authentic, genuine and creative music without taking themselves too seriously.

Even the album artwork fits the record perfectly. Sarah in a colorful rendition of a graduation gown and mortarboard, holding a diploma tied in a lacy pink ribbon, reflects the balance of fun and seriousness incorporated throughout the record. It especially reminds me of one of the record’s more serious (yet still quite amusing, especially to a student like me) tracks, “Graduation.”

In it, Sarah sings about being fed up with the dreariness of grades and taking classes she doesn’t enjoy, yet still being scared to leave school and make a name for herself in the world. On the chorus she sings,”Today’s my graduation, I’ve done my dissertation/Even got a hat I can throw/Today’s my graduation, so long to education/Didn’t learn a thing anyway.” During the first verse, she sarcastically remarks, “These are the best days of our lives/That’s what the grown ups told us, right?”

All in all, this is a wonderful record that combines the production talent of Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled with Sarah’s witty lyricism. I look forward to what this trio tackles next, and hope that one day I’ll be able to see one of their live shows.

What did you think of “Bonito Generation”?

Thanks for reading, and God bless.

-A.L.D.

 

Music Gifts and a Concert Update

Hello, happiest of holidays and a very happy New Year, my friends. I hope everyone has had a blessed season in whatever way it may be you celebrate and you’re adjusting well into the new spin of 2017.

I received a few music-centered Christmas gifts this year that I wanted to feature on this blog. The first (and my personal favourite) is a poster of the map of alternative rock history, arranged in the style of a transistor radio blueprint.

(I wasn’t able to get a good picture of mine because it’s framed and kept reflecting me and my camera, so here’s the online link from Wired).

The print will make a lovely addition to the house where I currently live at school. I love maps for decoration, and a blueprint documenting the influences of bands on another is even better. One of the things I’m most interested about in music history is the progression of different music movements (specifically the 80’s college rock and 90’s Britpop/alternative/indie trends), so I’ve already enjoyed quite a bit of time studying which bands branch from others.

I also received from my lovely aunt and uncle a 2017 Beatles calendar. This is the 7th year they’ve given me one, as the tradition started during my 8th grade obsession with the music of John, Paul, George and Ringo (that, I might add, still continues to this day).

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The lines of the weeks look like sheet music, which I find exceptionally adorable.

Additionally, my mom got me a piece of wall art for my house at school as well. It’s in the shape of a guitar pick, and the design looks like a shelf of vinyl records. I especially enjoy it because around the center is a copy of The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour,” the first record by them that I ever owned.

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Finally, I have a concert update: I’ve gotten tickets to a Lucy Dacus and Hamilton Leithauser show in February. As I’ve previously blogged, Lucy Dacus is Matador Records’ latest resident singer/songwriter and I am totally into her work. Her record “No Burden” definitely made my year-end list of the best releases, and since I missed my chance to see her at Lollapalooza, I eagerly await seeing her open for Hamilton Leithauser.

As far as Leithauser, I quite enjoy the singles he’s dropped with Rostem from Vampire Weekend (“A 1000 Times,” which I’ve mentioned on here before, and “In A Blackout”) which surprises me since I’m not much of a Vampire Weekend fan.

This show shall show if I end up enjoying the rest of their work, and since it’ll be in a more intimate concert venue, I look forward to the chance to fully appreciate both Rostem and Leithauser’s ability.

I also eagerly await blogging about the concert and how it goes. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get as close as possible to the stage.

What were some of your favourite musical Christmas/holiday gifts you received this year?

As always, thanks so much for reading, and I hope you have a very happy and blessed New Year. God bless.

-A.L.D.

A Very Car Seat Headrest Christmas

I’ve been avoiding writing about Car Seat Headrest’s masterpiece “Teens of Denial” because a.) it’s impossible to come up with enough good things to say about a record that, no joke, seems to speak so well to the stage of life I’m in yet is enjoyable for anyone (my dad and his friends have been listening to it for months), and b.) EVERYONE into indie music on the internet is putting it atop their end-of-the-year record roundups. It’s a fantastic record, and all I want to say has been said a thousand times in some iteration (and deservingly so).

But I can try. Or at least praise the new single version of “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” that graced Spotify a few weeks ago.

I’ll admit that the original version of the song is actually pretty low in my song-by-song ranking of “Teens.” Don’t get me wrong, the first time I heard it I was like “Oh my LORD” (my reaction to basically every song on the record, in particular the 11:30 “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia”), but after listening to the record in it’s entirety on repeat, my favourites are instead dominated by the heartbreakingly blunt “Cosmic Hero,” the punky and defiant “Fill in the Blank,” and the desperately raging “Destroyed by Hippie Powers.”

But I must give credit where credit is due, and “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is what turned me on to “Teens,” along with “Teens of Style”‘s big hit “Something Soon,” which got a lot of airplay on my satellite radio after Car Seat Headrest got signed to Matador Records.

This new version of the tune is much more upbeat, with lyrics that simplify the message of picking yourself up out of a hole of irresponsibility and finding new meaning to life (some of which are borrowed from Toledo’s 2013 song, “Plane Crash Blues (I Can’t Play Piano)”). The backing vocals on the second verse bring to mind a bit of Beach Boys, and for me, the riffs remind me of a more indie-centric, youthful U2 sound. It’s also shorter, clocking in around 4:02 instead of 6:32, making it more radio and festival-friendly.

Personally, I quite enjoy the changes and find the song to be delightful-it gets the message   across, yet you can still bounce along to the music and sing along to the signature chorus of “It doesn’t have to be like this/Killer whales/Killer whales.” I’d love to see either version performed live, and I feel both serve their purpose: The original a great addition to the post-collegiate crisis of “Teens of Denial,” and the single version an excellent way to add some thought-provoking lyricism to a late night TV performance (where I originally heard the song on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon).

I’ve heard Car Seat Headrest is back in the studio already, and I wish I could convey with words how excited I am that another record, or even just some new singles, will be coming soon. Hearing what a crew of young 20somethings can create, and seeing the impact it has on college students, 40-year-old radio and TV hosts, 50-year-old businesspeople and everyone in between gives me hope that God’s gift of music will always be around to bring us together.

As for me, I intend to continue along with my trek into Will Toledo and Co.’s back catalogue, and “Nervous Young Man” and “Twin Fantasy” will most likely be blasting all winter long.

Happiest and blessed holidays to all my friends and readers out there, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the jams of Car Seat Headrest.

God bless, safe travels and peace on Earth.

-A.L.D.

Track Review: The Orwells’ “They Put A Body In The Bayou”

Greetings, my friends. It’s been an embarrassingly long time since an update, but I must ask for a pardon since I am a student and finals combined with work, club leadership and house chores are proving to be a trying time.

Thankfully, about a month ago, The Orwells released a new single, “They Put A Body In The Bayou” from their upcoming LP “Terrible Human Beings.” And it does not disappoint.

I’ve been following this band since I heard their song “Mallrats (La la la)” on XMU’s Download 15 in high school. At the time, I remember being amazed at how people who were around my age (the frontman was 18 at the time) managed to create garage rock and get played on a major indie network.

This continues to impress me with The Orwells: their ability as young musicians to craft songs that have a sneering, devil-may-care kind of teenage swagger that mask simply written, rhyming lyrics with heavy subject matter.

Their last record, “Disgraceland,” did just that for me. I remember it starting off with the playful ode to being young “Southern Comfort” and being floored once the back half of the album came around and songs about reckless motorcycle crashes (“Always’N’Forever”) and themes of death (“Blood Bubbles”) took over the track listing. It’s a sad record with just enough punchy punk songs to keep you coming back.

This new single lives up to my expectations, seeing The Orwells continue in this shameless teenager delivery. The opening to the track reminds me of something Oasis would’ve released in their early years, which I really hope is a musical theme they stick with in the upcoming record.

There’s the signature half singing, half snarking tone of frontman Mario Cuomo and darker-than-you’d-expect lyrics dealing with substance abuse, corruption of morals and alcoholism. That’s what sticks out to me the most-how fun this song is, and how serious it’s lyrical matter is once you stop to think about it.

The thing that bothers me is the length and structure-it’s about 3 minutes, and it follows a very basic verse/chorus/verse/chorus form. While that’s part of what makes The Orwells’ music so fun and accessible-it’s short, it makes you think but you can still sing along in the car, it keeps your attention-it can get old after a while. I’m hoping they experiment with different song styles and structures on this new record, but all in all, it’s a solid release following the success that 2014’s singles “Who Needs You” and “The Righteous One” found.

I eagerly await the release of “Terrible Human Beings” in February. Check out the song here.

As always, thanks much for reading, and God bless. I’ll be on break very soon, and blogging will pick up again then. Have a lovely and blessed weekend.

-A.L.D.

Listen to Lucy Dacus

I quite enjoy basically anything in the Matador Records catalog and one of their latest additions, Lucy Dacus, is no exception. Quite simply, this women is brilliant. (And she’s 21, so what am I doing with my life)?

I made the decision to finally download Spotify on my laptop so I can listen to tunes while editing for class and through it I’ve stumbled upon more of Dacus’s music besides her single “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” (which is a fantastic song) I found circulating Consequence of Sound this summer.

Dacus manages to have a beautifully soulful voice without sounding like she’s trying too hard, which is a complaint I occasionally have for indie rock singer-songwriters who seem to think their lyrics are very important. But Dacus subverts this by being upfront with her listeners; she’s got something to say and this is her outlet, but she shan’t come blazing in demanding your attention with vocal trills and vibrato. She sounds sincere and I feel her remorse, anxiety and occasionally her desperation through her voice.

Her lyrics are also excellent: simple, yet expressing emotions everyone has had at some point in their lives, like unrequited love or exasperation at not being taken seriously. I’m especially digging “Green Eyes, Red Face,” and love singing along with Dacus, “I see the seat that’s next to yours is unoccupied/and I was wondering if you’d let me come and sit by your side.” Quality tune for singing loudly when your housemates are all out and you’re home alone.

I remember reading about Dacus on Bandcamp Daily and being charmed at how genuine and modest she was when being interviewed about her talents and about getting signed on Matador. Considering how much press Car Seat Headrest got/is getting since their Matador debut, I can only hope the same for Dacus. She’s definitely got the talent. Give her a listen, she won’t disappoint.

Check out the music video for “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” that originally caught my eye here.

As always, thanks for reading, and God bless.

-A.L.D

The Weather is Starting to Turn…

…and with it comes the start of my favourite time of year.

I really do think that November and December are some of the best times of the year. Perhaps it’s because I love gray skies and wearing sweaters and when it starts to get cold (but not unbearably cold). But I think it’s also because the weather sets the perfect tone for some of my favourite indie rock.

To this day I’m still surprised The National chose to release “Trouble Will Find Me” in the summer because to me, their music is met for the late fall and early winter (it’s still a great record, though). Overcast skies put me in an introspective and introverted mood, and listening to Matt Berninger brood about lost love and falling into adulthood is always a perfect soundtrack for a morning cup of coffee, a rainy drive to work or a walk to class while the dead leaves blow across the brick paths.

Interpol is also a great choice, especially their record “Our Love to Admire.” Granted, I do prefer “Antics” and “Turn On The Bright Lights,” but moments on OLTA like “The Scale,” “Pioneer to the Falls,” “Rest my Chemistry,” and “The Heinrich Maneuver” always feed into that dimly lit nightclub persona Interpol always embodied with their tuxedos and twisted lyrical narratives (and, OLTA was the last record with Carlos D, a true musical mastermind).

I also find myself listening to older Decembrists tunes as well, and usually end up calling to mind a vivid memory of my friend and I driving around the state park near our hometown, a dreary and damp day stretching before us, while “The Crane Wife 3” played in the background, making the scene absolutely beautiful.

Of course there has to be some symphonic soundscape rock with Arcade Fire, usually in the form of Neighborhood 1, 2 and 3 from “Funeral” and “My Body is a Cage”(actually one of my favourite songs of all time) from “Neon Bible.”

Weather sets the scene to the day, and finding a great soundtrack for it is one of my favourite parts about late fall and early winter.

What are your favourite songs for this time of the year? As always, thanks for reading, and God bless.

-A.L.D.

Five Songs and Two Friends

I’m headed back to OWU from break today and thankfully I’ve gotten to spend some time with my friends while back at home. Through break I’ve been exposed/reintroduced to some fantastic songs through my friends because they’re music enthusiasts like myself, and just listening to certain songs frequently, and I wanted to share them on here.

1.) “Best Friend” by Dent May

I always seem to go back and investigate Dent May’s older stuff whenever he releases new music because it reminds me how catchy and vintage his sound is (I believe I described “Face Down in the Gutter of Your Love” to my friend as “If Brian Wilson got his heart broken and wanted to cover ‘Turn to Stone’ by Electric Light Orchestra”), but thankfully I’ve got a friend who listens to him frequently and exposed me to the artistic beauty that is the “Best Friend” music video. Dent May’s music is so genuinely him and his sense of artistic expression is so unapologetically weird that it’s hard not to sing along with what he creates. Watch the video here.

2.) “A Beginning Song” by The Decemberists

The first concert I ever saw (at the tender age of 13), The Decembrists will always hold a special place in my heart. I actually liked the “countryfied” folk sound of “The King is Dead,” but I am thrilled they went back to their nostalgic storytelling format on “What A Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” (albeit not as bombastic as the rock opera of “The Hazards of Love” or the theatrical production of “Picturesque”). Colin Meloy is an amazingly gifted writer and his encapsulations of emotion are perfectly written for his vocal style. This is a beautiful song composed of only 3 chords that I’m glad I rediscovered while driving through the countryside with my friend. Listen here.

3.) “Skiptracing” by Mild High Club

This is a lovely fusion of smooth jazz and yacht rock elements (two genres I don’t spend much time dabbling in, but my friend loves) and it’s something I could get the same chill, relaxed vibe from while in a beachside lounge or studying in the reading room. The phrase I keep thinking of to describe it is the indie rock version of elevator music. And I mean that in the best way possible. It’s three minutes and of a summer day. Watch the video here.

4.) “Ode to Viceroy” by Mac DeMarco

Slacker-rock Mac DeMarco has always been someone I enjoy, but the wonderfully weird and gory music video for “Passing Out Pieces” really won me over this summer. Some browsing around the Canadian indie rock corners of the internet led to my friend and I rediscovering this gem, which strangely reminds me of Oasis with its vocal delivery. The glazed, chiming guitars in the background remind me of a lazy portrait of a Saturday morning. Watch the music video here.

5.) “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” by Lucy Dacus

I’ve been wanting to give this song a shoutout for a while now, partly because I love Matador Records and I’m thrilled Dacus is signed there and because what I’ve heard of her music is stellar. She’s got an earnest voice that’s perfect for her personal lyrics and I like the singer/songwriter indie rock vibe she’s got. Looking forward to seeing what she does next. Listen to her single here.

Thanks for reading. Have a great night. God bless.

-A.L.D.

A Forgotten Song

As I type I’m listening to an LCD Soundsystem song I used to listen to all the time as a freshman in high school, “All I Want.” For some reason (I’ll chalk it up to switching phones a few times and losing a lot of music in my library in the process) it slipped out of my playlist and I haven’t heard it since early spring/late winter of 2012.

I realize this may not seem like a long time, but so much has changed for me since February of 2012. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my life is rapidly changing as I continue my education, and since music has always played a large part in my life, hearing certain songs has a lot to do with it.

I’m no longer a high school student with vague aspirations of what I want to do with my life, I’m a college student studying and working towards a real career one day. I am so thankful for what I’ve been able to do and learn since then. I’ve traveled and studied in different parts of the world, I go to a school I’d never considered when I was 14 (college was just this sort of fantasy for me back then), I study my love (writing) because it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I certainly never would’ve pictured myself seeing LCD Soundsystem as the headliner at Lollapalooza back then (but I have!).

Times have changed since I last sang along to the final refrain of “Take me home” in the song, but the great thing about music is that songs both stay encapsulated in time and grow along with us. I have so many more things that I’ve accomplished and that I have to look forward to than I did those years ago, but hearing “All I Want” took me back to when life was a little simpler for a while. It’s like a time capsule of experiences I’m very thankful for and I’ll continue to learn from, while still being a song I can enjoy and sing along to today.

What are some songs that do this for you? Do you still listen to them frequently today? What are your forgotten nostalgic songs? And be sure to listen to “All I Want” here.

As always, thank you so much for reading. I’m currently back in my hometown on break for a few days from school, so I’ll try to fit in at least one more post before I have to go back Sunday night.

Have a great day, a wonderful weekend and God bless.

-A.L.D.

Weekend Record Store Mini Haul

It’s currently Homecoming and Parents Weekend at the university I attend, so the campus has been full of alumni and family members. Since OWU is a reasonable distance from my hometown (2.5 hours), my dad came to visit yesterday and as usual, we went to the record store in town to pick up some new stuff.

I picked up a CD copy of “Everybody Wants” by The Struts because I’m still impressed by their performance at Lollapalooza this summer (I don’t really think it’s appropriate to say it was a concert; it was more of a small-scale theatrical show). I’d love to see them live again. It’s brash, in-your-face alt rock that reminds me ever so much of a modernized Queen. A friend of mine said The Struts reminds him of Jet, and I agree. It’s unapologetically loud and full of attitude. I recommend if you need some songs to scream along with on your way to work.

Dad got a CD copy of the new Pixies record, “Head Carrier.” He and his buddies are all huge Pixies fans, so he was pretty excited about it. As far as new Pixies work, I remember really enjoying “BAGBOY” when it came out around this time in 2013, and “Indie Cindy” was alright. Personally, I like the older stuff with Kim Deal, but I understand when it’s time for artists to move on and that in-band fighting can be detrimental. Honestly, I’m just amazed when artists like New Order and Pixies can keep cranking out music, especially after coming back from hiatus. I look forward to listening to/hearing his thoughts on the record when I go home for break next week.

Have you listened to either of these albums? What did you think?

As always, thanks for reading, and God bless. Have a great week.

-A.L.D.

Support Your Local Music Scene

The town where I currently reside (Delaware, Ohio) is, from what I can tell, equal parts “college town” and “small family town.” And, coming from a small town originally, I must say they produce some fantastic music.

The beauty of where I live is that Columbus, Ohio (the capital) is only 30 minutes away. Having a city of music and art so close means Delaware is full of students who play music for fun, people with day jobs who like to play gigs on the weekend and music majors from Ohio Wesleyan. The coffee shop where I frequent, Choffey’s, has people who’ll stop by on their lunch breaks and play for whoever is in there (I’m serious, they were doing it the other day while I worked on a paper and drank chai).

And because Open Mic Night is such a quintessential college experience, Delaware has that too. Last week I was able to go to the first Open Mic held at Endangered Species, the only record store in downtown Delaware.

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Above: James Ormerod, a student at Ohio Wesleyan, played a combination of covers and original work.

The beauty of the event is Endangered Species has large windows that face the busy streets, and people passing by from nearby restaurants and shops saw what was happening and came in to hear college musicians share Beatles covers and original work. I saw a couple introduce themselves to a musician and tell him how much they look forward to hearing him perform again.

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Above: Dane Poppe, an OWU student, covers Neil Young.

There was a father son duo as well who covered Led Zeppelin and played an original the father wrote, and that showed me how strong the bond of music can be to bring families together (just like my dad and I going to Lollapalooza).

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(Above: A Delaware high school student covers Yes).

Opportunities where people can join together and share a creative talent they carry inside never fail to amaze me. It’s a great chance for people to bond over a shared interest with something so pure, so emotional, so personal. And as an aspiring music journalist, people who are willing to share their work gives me hope for what I’ll discover in my professional life. I have so much respect for their willingness to be exposed musically.

So my recommendation to you is get out there and support your local music scene. Go to an open mic, a local show, a festival. There is so much talent and potential in the people around you, and we all have a desire to create something and share it with the world. As a student I see you never know what kind of talent you’ll find within your own school, and better yet, within your town.

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Above: My housemates (from left) Dom Mejia, Chase Smith and Emily Phillips performing under the moniker There Will Be Cardigan.

And as a side note, since the Open Mic was held at a record store, I picked up a CD copy of both Angel Olsen’s “MY WOMAN” and Car Seat Headrest’s “Teens of Denial.” So all in all, I’d say it was a successful night.

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Above: Two great records.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

God bless.

-A.L.D.