Archive for April, 2011

Wild Oak Presents: Chico Music Festival
April 28, 2011

For six years Chico State’s own premier independent record label Wild Oak has brought a wide range of local (and national) talent together for a home grown music festival.  Each year brings in a bigger crowd than the last, and this one doesn’t look to disappoint.  With artists featured in four different venues around town, each showcasing a different genre, there really is something for everyone.  From progressive rock to singer-songwriter, electronic to reggae, Saturday May 7th’s festivities should not be missed.  See if any of these settings peak your interest:

The first venue to open that night will be Café Flo (at 7 pm).  Make the stop by if you want to hear some of the wilder progressive rock this town has to offer.  Headlining is Chico’s own Hail The Sun.  From living it up in Chico to touring California, Hail The Sun has the chops to be headlining the nights rock ‘n’ roll venue.  Also on stage at Café Flo will be That’s What She Said, The Dynamics, and The Deaf Pilots.  And if that doesn’t float your boat there are three more locations to check out.

Opening their doors a half hour after Café Flo, Café Coda will be featuring some stellar singer/songwriters.  Headlining at Coda will be the local favorite Pat Hull, a poetic and powerful artist who won a Chico Area Music Award for best male vocalist in 2008, so you can always expect great things from him.  Joining him on stage will be Nashville, Tennessee’s The Smoking Flowers and the local acts Fort Jams and Color Me Plaid.

Up next is Chico’s favorite party band headlining reggae night at the Graduate.  Reggae extraordinaires Mystic Roots will be taking a break from their last two and a half years of touring to return to their hometown for an eagerly anticipated show.  Sharing that makeshift stage will be the Melodramatics, Boss 501, and Brass Hysteria.  The Graduate will be opening their doors at 9:30 pm for the show and it will likely fill up fast, so I’d advise getting there on time.

Last, but hardly least, comes Chico Music Festival’s electronic spotlight.  Opening at the same time as Graduate’s reggae night, local DJ collective Team No Sleep will be spinning underground at the downtown Peeking restaurant.  Expect all the electronic favorites, from House to Dubstep and everything in between as you dance the night off to their high energy performance.  Also joining the stage with Team No Sleep will be DJ No Request, DJ Fix-it with DJ Gren and Sunsets at Dawn.

There really is a little bit of everything for everyone at this year’s Chico Music Festival so be sure to attend.  Any given show will cost a measly 5 dollars, and a bracelet for access to all four is priced at only 8 dollars.  So there really is no reason to miss it.  Mark your calendars for this Saturday, May 7th.  With so many great options the hardest part will be catching all your favorites.

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Amnesia: Dark Descent
April 27, 2011

(This piece was published in Synthesis’ Misc Debris section, on the page that follows album reviews).

Amnesia: Dark Descent

Frictional Games

Computer Game

So many games these days are billed as survival-horror but don’t really have much of either.  Rather they set you as a beefed up hero filled to the brim with guns and weapons, making survival hardly a challenge, and rely on a few cheap scares to hit that horror mark.  Amnesia, though, is terrifying.  You play as Daniel, a Englishman alive in the early 1800’s who wakes up in a dark, terrifying castle occupied by ghastly horrors and no memory of how you got there or why (hence the title, Amnesia), just that something is chasing you and that you have to get out.  As you play you uncover a terrible history, through notes and letters scattered through the castle, about yourself and the owner of the place that your character would obviously have rather it stayed forgotten.  The enemies are few and far between and you have no way of defending yourself (the most you are armed with is a lantern, and when lit that will only draw those terrors to your location).  Instead you have to frantically hide whenever one appears, and hope it moves on without taking notice.  And all that time spent in the dark only adds to Daniel’s terror, as his sanity slowly edges away as he sits in darkness.  Modestly priced at ten dollars, your only good excuse not getting it would be avoiding night terrors.  Amnesia is a game where the worst is best left unseen.

Released:  9/8/2010 (online), 2/22/2011 (retail)

Great Heat
April 27, 2011

The Bell

Great Heat

Badman Recording Company

The last four years saw a lot of growth for Swedish indie rock group The Bell.  Starting as a small, unknown from a country that’s not exactly a musical hotspot (though I’m hardly saying good music doesn’t come from Sweden, it’s just never been a big blip on the radar), their latest release Great Heat has received love from critics and fans alike, marking The Bell’s ascension to the forefront.  Several of the songs have even been featured in mainstream commercials and popular TV shows.  And really, I can see why.  They occupy a sweet spot in their genre where the thoughtful and playful collide.  It’s the catchy, pop-sensibility combined with intentionality of the lyrics and song that really do help The Bell stand out from their contemporaries.  Great Heat is full of powerful moments of melody, moments that compare with the best of acts like Animal Collective and Arcade Fire.  Speaking of those two very different bands, that’s kind of what The Bell is like.  Imagine if someone mashed the synth-driven backbone of Animal Collective with Arcade Fire melodies and you get an idea of what the sound Great Heat delivers (though it is a bit more “poppy” than the two combined).  See if you can’t find tracks “Today” and “Whatever Did You Say” on the internet.  Give them a listen, I’m sure you will enjoy.  Then go find yourself a copy of this album, it won’t disappoint.

Released: 4/1/2011

Beautiful Blackout
April 27, 2011

Diet Kong

Beautiful Blackout

Patriarch Recordings

It’s fast paced and infectious.  Short but sweet.  This five-track EP and Diet Kong’s second release, Beautiful Blackout is incredibly fun.  The kind of music that most people have never heard before but when it gets played at a party they all end up dancing.  Diet Kong hails from the mountains of upstate New York where singer/guitarist Keith Gladsyz and singer/visualist Jenn Penn farm on a modest slice of land near a local record shop owner and drummer Jeff Harigfeld.  It was there the three of them formed Diet Kong and began playing and touring together.  Beautiful Blackout, though their third CD, is the chronicle of their compelling transitions from a big city to the small-town country lifestyle (two members originally called Brooklyn their home).  It’s a release ripe full of good times and upbeat dance tracks.

Released: 10/19/2011

Portal 2
April 26, 2011

(This piece was published in Synthesis’ Misc Debris section, on the page that follows album reviews).

Portal 2

Valve

Videogame

Well, here is the game I have been waiting months for.  If you played the first Portal (which I hope you did), then you may know what to expect.  GLaDOS is back and she wants revenge, and joining her are a colorful cast of characters, including a less-than-intelligent AI core and some perfectly hilarious voice over from J.K. Simmons.  If you haven’t played the first Portal, then you are in for a treat.  It is a game designed with your basic first person shooter game play, but with a twist.  Instead of machine guns and death rays, you’ve got yourself armed with a portal gun.  Using that portal gun you create entrance and exit portals to open a portal on one wall, as well as another, and as you walk through you exit the first portal over to wherever the second was placed.  As you traverse you use these techniques to complete a series of more and more difficult test chambers.  It’s really a puzzle game and hardly a shooter.  New to the game are a whole slew of different features that allow for a wider variety of puzzles and more mind-bending fun.  We’ve got propulsion and repulsion gels that allow you to bounce as though you are on a blue trampoline and run at Olympic speed (respectively), excursion funnels and laser beams, all of which add a new degree of complexity to each test chamber’s design.  Did I mention there is co-op?  Cause there is.  Everything about this game is awesome.

Released: 4/19/2011

Free
April 26, 2011

Twin Atlantic

Free

Red Bull Records

A year ago a new band broke out and blew fans and critics away.  That band is Twin Atlantic.  They are the kind of band you would hear at Warped Tour performing alongside acts like My Chemical Romance and The Gaslight Anthem.  As someone who hasn’t heard their first work, it’s hard for me to imagine how these guys got so big so fast.  What I’m listening to is nothing special (though their niche does exist a nice few degrees above some of their more popular contemporaries).  Relationship angst, getting hammered at parties, there’s nothing in those lyrics that really draw me in.  The power-pop smashing chords are nice, especially for the direction they are aiming for.  But overall, Free is not catchy enough, not clever enough nor good enough to show any more promise than becoming a new favorite for “edgy” teens.  I’d avoid it if I were you.

Released: 5/2/2011

Controlling Your Allegiance
April 26, 2011

The Japanese Popstars

Controlling Your Allegiance

EMI Records

I feel like I’m sitting in the back of a rave.  The Japanese Popstars’ throbbing beats and distorted voices sound like they would be perfectly at home in the basement of some New York venue filled with candy kids.  I love my electronic dance, and I love it dark and heavy (both of which Controlling Your Allegiance is), but it really feels like a step backwards from the leaps and bounds that have been made in the genre this past decade.  It’s good, maybe a little bit too “housey” for my tastes but I can’t deny it’s appealing.  I mean, the first thing I did when the intro track “Let Go” started playing was bob my head.  There is certainly a huge audience for this music and I fully expect to hear a track or two over the next few years whenever I dance in some dark warehouse in the middle of nowhere.  Maybe not the album someone would pick up to just listen and enjoy as some background jam (unless you are on something, who knows) but I’m hardly telling you to avoid it.  The sparse vocals are great and the variety of sound between each song is a definite plus.  Think of it as if Daft Punk just started their legendary career now, and the kind of influences that would have on their records (without the same degree of polish, though).  Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

Released: 6/13/2011

Prog Out With Your Hog Out preview
April 26, 2011

(This article was written as a show preview and published in the Synthesis).

Prog Out with Your Hog Out

Mark your colanders everyone.  Come April 29th, you are all going to privileged enough to see some of the strangest, most progressive music from the area (and more).  Put on by the spectacular Clouds on Strings and accompanied by everyone who works outside the box, it’s gearing up to be quite the show.  Also joining the lineup of Chico acts is Bay Area’s Moetar, one of the most impressive bands that has reared its head these last few years.  I sat down with Clouds’ Micheal Boone and Josh Hegg to get the scoop for you guys.

How did you guys come up with the title, Prog Out With Your Hog Out?

Michael Boone: We heard the phrase from this DJ, some guy in Florida that’s totally into prog.  He always says on his show “get ready to prog out with your hog out.”  And it’s funny cause he’s totally this three hundred pound Samoan guy.  It’s a funny phrase and captures vibe we are going for.

Josh Hegg:  Yeah, Chico State didn’t like it.  They thought the phrase was dirty… or something.  And then took down all our posters over there.

What bands can we expect to see?

MB: Headlining is Moetar, they are a newer band that really does the prog thing.  Almost pop-prog.  They are from Oakland, and all kinds of crazy stuff come from Oakland. Their singer has an amazing voice, and the instruments do all kinds of crazy things.  We got Birth of Fire, kind of a post-rock act.  Oh, and the Mahout Chisel, some old dudes who keep sending us crazy emails, not sure what to expect.

JH: Yeah I got an email (from Mahout Chisel) that was just full of entandres.  Every line was a reference to a different Zeppelin song… like “we were gonna do this other show, but there was a Communication Breakdown, you know, it’s always the same.” They were just so strange we just had to include them.

Anything special/exciting planned?

MB:  Well, the Clouds (on Strings) are going to do something special.  We’ve got a little surprise planned.  And it’s at the Blue Room so we’ve got to use some theatrics.

JH:  Yeah, it’s going to be sick.

MB: Mostly we just want people to leave confused.  Not that that’s the best way to get fans to come (laughs).

What’s the goal for the show?

JH:  We really want people to see Moetar.  They will be blown away.

MB:  Yeah, I’m more excited to see them than anything.  They are some of the most capable musicians around.  They can play songs that will surprise anyone.  And from a musician’s stand point, you will really appreciate.  They are a band’s band.

What does the future hold for Clouds on Strings?

JH:  Well this show is kind of our two year anniversary, which is pretty exciting.

MB:  And spring and summer always comes our best writing, we are totally excited to get that underway.

JH:  It will probably be stranger than our last one.  Everything we do we try to step closer to the edge, until we just fall off.

Prog Out With Your Hog Out is happening this Friday the 29th at everyone’s favorite Blue Room Theater.  Tickets are only 5 dollars, and with this kind of line-up it’s not to be missed.  Check Clouds on Strings Facebook page for more info.

Tomboy
April 7, 2011

Panda Bear

Tomboy

Paw Tracks

It was Animal Collective that really first spurned my musical tastes into new territory.  I remember having Sung Tongs on repeat for months, and how excited I was when Feels was first released in 2005.  Then Strawberry Jam came out and those tracks quickly became the most played songs on my iTunes (and stayed there for years until computer issues erased my stats).  And afterwards I began to slowly move away, culminating in my disappointment of Merriweather Post Pavilion.  But founding member Panda Bear has peaked my interest again.  Easily the most influential of Animal Collective’s founding member, his solo releases have garnered as much praise as any of his bands.  The last four years of seeming inactivity of both projects, solo and group, has been partly due to Panda’s newest full-length, the epic Tomboy.  Here he moves in a new, welcome direction.  After “getting tired” of the synthesized direction of his last releases, Panda has included a renewed attention to the guitar and rhythm of his songs.  The stronger backbone of the just as avant-garde tracks makes them seem stronger than his previous Person Pitch.  Again, the experimental effects are just as present and the songs are as unique and new as anything he has released, there’s just a new feeling of real beat to the tracks.  Perfect for anyone, especially those curious to what indie music’s favorite has been up to.  Tomboy is absolutely lovely.

 

Released:  4/12/2011

High Horse
April 7, 2011

High Horse

High Horse

High School Football Records

Fast-paced, upbeat indie rock, with a nice punk finish over it.  Simply comprised of a guitarist, drummer and keyboardist (and all three as vocalists), Arizona’s newest rock and roll act, High Horse, is pleasantly uncomplicated, an elementary, bare bones attempt to prove that the last decade has been one of their genres best.  That is to say, these guys hit all the hotspots these last ten years have proved essential.  Their first release, self titled High Horse, lays out a promising future for these guys.  It’s catchy in a way that’s was so perfectly captured in early punk with an air of pop-sensibility that makes each track insatiably catchy. After just one listen, I’m sure anyone will find themselves singing along to their tastefully angst anthems.  High Horse is how indie rock (or just plain rock and roll) needs to be done.

 

Released:  1/9/2011