Tuesday, August 23, 2011

List for the Insomniac

August 23, 2011 -- 12:10 A.M.

1. Eastbound Train - Ratham Stone
2. Pick Up the Phone - Chasing Morgan
3. Bells Are Ringing - Darling Parade
4.Crowded - 49 Stones
5. The Mayor - Stop The Presses
6. Habitual - FERVoR
7. Dream on Elm Street - The Inheritance
8. Make It Stop - Decedy
9. Infatuation - The Heartshakes
10. Goodnight Madison - How Far to Austin

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hold Tight: It's All in Your Head

There are rare times within the music world when journalists and fans can see a new talent on the fast track to worldwide attention. Yet when those realizations do hit, they come on with the power of a whirlwind hurricane. Those of us who have ours ears to the ground are sometimes lucky enough to see such a musical revolution take place, and with this new talent today, it's one of those very rare revolutions. In the same way that The Strokes broke the mold and took first the nation, and then the world, by storm, The Head too are gearing up for a takeover the likes of which we haven't seen in a good long while. 
The Head (from right): Jacob Morrell, Jack Shaw, Mike Shaw
Atlanta's newest three-piece pride, The Head, a power-trio comprising Jacob Morrell (lead guitar and backing vocals), and twin brothers Jack Shaw (lead vocals and drums) and Mike Shaw (vocals, bass and keys) are bursting onto the indie-rock scene with a flair and polish that gleam in the spotlight while still retaining their hard-rock heritage. With their first album Puckered and their subsequent EP Stockwood opening the doors, The Head's newest album, their sophomore recording Hold On, is turning all sorts of heads in the music industry, and things are just starting to heat up for these Atlanta rockers. Building off of tracks like "Miles Away" and "There Is an Ocean," songs whose rough-cuts graced their first album, The Head come back with ear-prickling tracks like "Separate Bodies, "I'm Fine with It," "Sneeze," and "Top of the World" to fill the digital bites of their second album with power, melody, and toe-tapping, catchy songwriting prowess.
One of the things I like best about the track "Separate Bodies" is the intro: simple, melodic and catchy, everything that should go into a song with crossover appeal. The intro also gives me a clue as to the influences hidden behind the backdrop: Jacob Morrell's guitar playing is immediately reminiscent of R.E.M. and Sonic Youth. Using palm-muted arpeggios to bring the melody to Jack Shaw's first snare beats, Morrell makes sure that "Separate Bodies" starts right, and just below the palm-mutes, Mike Shaw's basslines add a whole new level of depth to an already talent-filled track. As The Head build forth into the first verse and subsequent chorus, one thing is clear as can be: these guys draw from a multitude of influences to create a sound accessible not only to the hardcore alternative fan, but to the fans of power-pop, indie-rock, and prep-rock as well. As the guitar chords and arpeggios progress into full flares of sonic rainbows, The Head's rhythm section of the Shaw brothers mixes in a little of Vampire Weekend's prep-rock with the R.E.M. and Beatles-influenced melodies cranking out of Morrell's guitar. With a bridge and winding-down that hold melody tightly wrapped in rhythmic heartbeats, The Head's sound is truly that of an Americanized Oasis on Strokes steroids with Beatles polish. A clear choice for the lead-off single from Hold On, "Separate Bodies" is an immediate triumph for the Atlanta trio (and the music video's pretty sick too, see for yourself).   
As the indie-rock boys keep on rolling, "I'm Fine with It" bleeds through the speakers like a Posies-influenced aloe for anything wrong with the world. Perhaps a little lighter and brighter than The Posies (after all "Dream All Day" and anything else from Frosting on the Beater had a bit of a dark edge), The Head shine brightly on "I'm Fine with It," reveling in indie-rocking guitar notes running through forests of cymbal-cracks and bass-bumps. Jack Shaw's vocals are mesmerizing and and melodic, and from behind his kit, one would never know that he's not front and center. Proving that drummers as much as anyone can be lead vocalists, he's joined by brother Mike Shaw, whose vocal talents are no less admirable. With the Shaw brothers taking care of the lead vocals and rhythm section, guitarist Jacob Morrell fills the air with sonic butterflies of the brightest tint, as his "Ah, ah, ah's" lift up the Shaw twins' vocals to even higher plains. Most certainly one of the songs I'm sad to hear end (and more than happy to play again on "Repeat"), "I'm Fine with It" is a homerun for The Head, plain and simple.
If "Separate Bodies" and "I'm Fine with It" aren't enough to sate your indie and pop-rock pleasure, then tracks like "Stockwood," "Sneeze," and "Top of the World" will have you happier than a pyromaniac in a fireworks shop. "Sneeze" brings a Strokes-esque rhythm from the Shaw boys, and married with Morrell's Vampire Weekend-influenced guitar parts, there's nothing more I could ask for. "Stockwood" is perhaps one of the more interesting track on the album: showcasing Mike Shaw's keyboard talents, the track has a decidedly '60s sound, courtesy of Morrell's guitar chords and notes. And right on top sits (literally) Jack Shaw, the drummer with the voice of a born lead singer. Boasting lead vocals from both brothers and fretwork from Morrell, "Stockwood" could quite possibly be the undiscovered jewel on the album. Yet with "Top of the World" providing even more incredible rhythm and melody to the album, I find myself beginning to wonder if there's anything The Head can't handle. I'm inclined to answer "no."
The next level in an intensely growing catalog, Hold On takes everything The Head learned on Puckered and Stockwood and amplifies it 10,000 times. If this is any indication of what these guys are capable of, then the news is out and the future is clear: The Head have the ability to go as far as groups like Oasis and The Strokes did before them. The Shaw brothers and friend Morrell exhibit an astonishing amount of talent for a group so young, yet age is never a factor when true artistic creativity is at play. The album title says it all: hold on, and hold tight, because with The Head behind the wheel, things will never be the same.  
Sounds Like: R.E.M., The Beatles, The Posies, Vampire Weekend, Oasis, The Strokes

Key Tracks from Hold On: "Separate Bodies," "I'm Fine with It," "Stockwood," "Sneeze," "Top of the World"

Check out The Head more at: http://theheadmusic.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/theheadrocks  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

List for the Insomniac

August 11, 2011 -- 12:02 A.M.

1. Get Found - Bass Drum of Death
2. Sick - Minds Without Purpose
3. Eastbound Train - Ratham Stone
4. Time - The Lightweights
5. Pipe Dreams - Loudmouth
6. Hyde and Seek - Naree
7. Out in the Open - Public Noise Concern
8. Awake - Urban Rebel
9. River - Courage My Love
10.Connections - colorsystem.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bangin' on the Bass Drum of Death

In an age where the quality of a band is so many times measured by the number of heads rounding out its lineup, there are few groups that find the strength to soldier on in the true rock fashion of the DIY ethic. Gone are the days of the revered power-trios that blasted out tunes that sounded like full-scale warfare only to shock us to our cores when we realized it was only two or three guys. The reign of bands like Rush and Cream ended long ago, and although they sit forever atop the hill of everything that classic rock and heavy metal is based on, there have only been temporary stop-gaps (like those with The White Stripes and The Kills) where the smaller rock unit has taken the power back.
Yet new heroes are rising every day, and among these are the duo-rockers of Bass Drum of Death, an alternative/grunge machine from the Deep South that's dirtying up the clean and polished pop of the current decade. A project that started as a solo outlet for lead vocalist/guitarist John Barrett, Bass Drum soon started gaining steam and it was time to find a more permanent seat on the drums. Enter Colin Sneed, the new gut-buster behind the kit letting loose in blistering roughness as Barrett throws back riff after riff like whiskey shots on his guitar. A two-man team set to take over the alternative underground, Bass Drum of Death are more than what they seem upon first glance; the group moves uncomfortably away from the Black Keys comparison.
And I'm inclined to agree. The two-man comparison aside, Bass Drum's serrated alternative/grunge sound does little to stir a thought of the Black Keys' blues-punk notes. In fact, the more I listen to them, I think more of very early White Stripes and the gritty grunge of Green River and Mudhoney. Finding a small, albeit grungy, abode in late 80s' grunge mixed with early 90s' garage-punk, Bass Drum carve out a niche all their own among the new alternative powers taking flight.     
Songs like "Heart Attack Kid" and "Get Found" from their most recent effort GB City solidify just what these grunge rockers are about. The riff on "Heart Attack Kid" is simple, repetitive, and hypnotic in the best ways. As Barrett's voice bleeds through the speakers backed by Sneed's head pounding drums, Bass Drum prove themselves a force to be reckoned with. Vocally, it sounds to me as if Barrett is using a butterfly-mic (like Jack White has done so many times), but maybe it's just me. Whatever it is, by the time he reaches the splintering solo, it sound like his guitar is screaming for release, and man does he give it. The attitude that Barrett and Sneed let loose on "Heart Attack Kid" make it one of the must-hear tracks from the album.
Yet even among the grunged-out tuneful tracks of "Heart Attack Kid" and the equally riveting "Young Pros" (a song that serves only to further Bass Drum's party atmosphere, though only in the best way) sits "Get Found," a track that sticks out like a black thorn from a blood-red rose. Clearly I'm not the only one with this opinion, though, as Bass Drum opted to make "Get Found" the center track for their first music video, and performed the song live on The Daily Habit. What strikes me watching the live performance are the movements of the two rockers up on stage: Sneed goes at his kit with the look of controlled fury on his face, and Barrett himself seems just to hide everything, literally. Hair hanging down like a new-age Kurt Cobain, all of my attention is drawn to Barrett's right hand, shredding away on his light blue axe. Truly Cobain would have found Bass Drum to his liking, hovering mesmerizingly between garage-rock sneer and pop-song dynamics.
But it's the power that emanates from Barrett and Sneed that truly make up their sound. I've always been of the opinion that I don't give a fuck how many people make up the band so long as the music rocks hard. Here, Bass Drum of Death have succeeded in letting loose a serrated album with teeth enough to rip you apart and still leave you wanting more. Their music may be muddy and dirty, gritty and grunged-out, but Bass Drum know what their doing, and their rewriting all the rules on what alternative-rock and grunge sound like with every performance. Keep your ears peeled for these guys, and if they start to bleed, then you know something awesomely sick is just over the horizon.

Sounds Like: The White Stripes, Middle Class Rut, Green River, Mudhoney

Key Tracks from GB City: "Get Found," "Heart Attack Kid," "Young Pros"

Check out Bass Drum of Death more at: http://www.myspace.com/johnbarrettmusic and http://www.facebook.com/friends.tv?sk=wall#!/pages/BASS-DRUM-OF-DEATH/295269142164

Popular Posts