MUSIC REVIEW: The Grand Archives, Rubik, Jupiter One, Tiny Masters of Today, Chamberlain, DePedro
Seattle-based Grand Archives’ second studio album is easy to listen to, but in no way would be classified as the cheesy easy listening that was popular during our Gen-Y youths. Keep In Mind Frankenstein makes me think of waking up. Not in the bad, blaring-monotone-alarm way, but more of a feeling of being sweetly coerced out of a hazy dream into a world where the sun is rising and everything is fresh. This second album seems to be an exploration of the band’s musical identity, with more muted percussion, added slide guitar and slower tempos. “Growing up” borders on boring the listener but it still has its shining moments. Front man Mat Brooke’s vocals only stand out for obvious reasons – he’s singing the lyrics. With no fancy vocal antics, he delivers his words in a soft, soothing manner that blends nicely into the lush instrumental breaks. Calmer and more sedated than their self-titled first album, the tracks on this album are reminiscent of an old-timey quality that makes the word “archives” a little easier to understand.
Dada Bandits is a loud and abrasive album. The album is definitely not recommended for the faint of heart or for fans of quiet, folk songs. It is also not recommended for the boring.
One of the strongest songs, “Goji Berries,” goes back and forth between hollowed and brash drums and a more quiet song that brings memories of the Format to fans. The albums strongest song is “Fire Age.” Track six of the album moves along slowly and steadily. It climbs to strained and quiet vocals. The hushed tones of the singer compliment the horn instrument in the background. A little more than a minute into the song, it transgresses into a ska tune with background music. The song cannot make up it’s mind regarding what type of style it would like to be and that’s okay.
“You Jackal!!!” is the track most likely to get you up and moving. Another show of the bipolar tendency of the album, the track is as close to a dance song as the band gets. With synthesizers blasting, all the track is missing is a clap loop and it could be the alternative single of the year. Dada Bandits is recommended for anyone looking to accost their ears with music that will make them focus on it.
Rarely do I stumble upon a band that crosses barriers of both genre and generation. Jupiter One’s sophomore album not only represents the new-wave pop sound that has been brewing in the horizons for years now, but it also brings to the forefront the long-lost musical component of melody, along with 70s-infused elements of jazz, funk and rock. Produced by the band and engineer Chris Ribando,Sunshowerwill satisfy your hunger for something new and your thirst for something genuine.
Opening songs “Flaming Arrow” and “Made in a Day” will have you bobbing your head, while “Anna” could easily be described as Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” meets Hall & Oates. Tracks six and seven are easily the best on the album. “Simple Stones” has a groovy, Steve Miller Band feel, while the vocals and flute in “High Plains Drifter Finds the Oracle at Delphi” will bring back memories of Seals & Croft and Jethro Tull.
K Ishibashi’s vocals shine in “Find Me a Place,” and it’s here where one might put Jupiter One in the same vein as indie acts like Spoon, Vampire Weekend or The Shins. When I first heard “Strange Teacher,” I immediately fell in love with its relaxed, 70s-jazz appeal (think ELO meets Steely Dan). The concluding, acoustic track, “People In The Mountain, People Of The Ocean,” perfectly summated what the band described the album to be: “bittersweet.”
Overall, I think Jupiter One has accomplished something rare here, which is to sound like a 70s band but still have enough beats and backbone to let listeners groove and rock simultaneously. And don’t let my comparisons fool you. Every track is uniquely worthwhile and original, and will leave you wondering whether these guys were transported to us from forty years ago or if they’re truly ours to keep.
Check out Sunshower and be sure to see the band live this fall, opening for Regina Spektor.
Hailed as the second coming of the stripped down sound of Punk Rock’s forefather’s, The Ramones and The Stooges, this teenage brother/sister (Ivan- 15 & Ada- 13) act gained critical acclaim after posting songs to their Myspace page in 2005.
Since then, they’ve gotten signed to a record label, been praised by Bowie, put out two E.P.s, toured Europe and the UK, had the drummer from The John Spencer Blues Explosion join them during said live shows, and put out two full length albums. Not too shabby for some under 18 kids from Brooklyn.
Skeletons, their sophomore effort (why do I feel ironic writing that?), follows the simple structure of their earlier music; repetitive lyrics, simple chord structures, short songs (the majority clocking in under two minutes), and heavy use of drum machines, loops, and samples. Indeed, the pair uses the program Garageband to record much of their music.
The simplicity of the songs is perhaps their biggest strength, though hearing each of the kid’s voices on such hard rockin’ songs is a delight as well. The guitar licks are poppy with a punk edge, while the electronic aspects of the tracks boarder on experimental. It does seem like they’re having fun making music and the raw talent of the duo shines through.
A fun ride, though it took me a few listens to begin to appreciate the songs. Check out “Drop the Bomb” for some intense rocking, “Monkey in the Middle” for their version of punk rock, “Real Good” for some poppy fun, and “Abercrombie Zombie” for a hard core send up of what the kids must see as a vapid slice of Americana.
Chamberlain’s soundscape could be compared to the artistic result of a white wall covered in a series of paint splatter where vibrant splotches of red, blue and yellow have annihilated canvas. For Chamberlain, previously known as Split Lip, the white canvas resembles a standard rock set-up of guitars, bass and drums. The scattered yet no less wonderment of animated and oozing paint embody Chamberlain’s bursting pieces of jangly gliding guitars, a scream-style punk vocal delivery alongside anxious, attention demanding bass lines. The low end strings thump wildly in a series of audio bounces that rise and fall all over the place while keeping up with the hasty kick of classically unapologetic hard rock drums. Fate’s Got a Driver, is wholly poetic in lyrical structure as well. Curtis Mead, David Moore, Adam Rubenstein, Charles Walker and Clay Snyder helped channel their cherished sound in 1996, however, their emo-thrash delivery will not allow this album to fade into any background, whatsoever. “Street Singer” begins with an elusive bass spring that leads into the expressive vocals of David Moore while the track continues to thrash around in indie rock elation, hence the format of the album. It is easy to hear why Chamberlain’s sound is still touted for its mix of dynamic indie rock instrumentation and soulfully punk vocals.
The gloriousness of DePedro’s latest release is exquisitely full of rhythmic Spanish guitar fused with bluesy folk trysts that create a sentiment both somber and sweet. Besides a beautiful dramatic tonality to his voice, singer and guitarist, Jairo Zavala, has crafted a phenomenal album. It is pulsating, poetic, sensual and romantic. Through a haunting breeziness and subdued charm, this release is dripping with heavy influences of flamenco, Latin, blues, afrobeat and rock. “Comancha” has a wicked groove that is enhanced with darted horns. Free-spirited and dance inducing, Zavala’s lyrics are quickened and soulfully sweet. “DePedro” is Zavala’s first solo project but he has long been a celebrated artist in Spain. Joined with Amparanoia, Los Coronas and as a guitarist for Calexico, founder of Vacazul and 3000 Hombres; he has also made appearances at the WOMAD festival and SXSW. “Qué Puedo Hacer Por Ti” is a sly jam. The minor bounces of strumming and Zavala’s bluesy yet upbeat appeal make the song a mixture of pop with a hint of 70s rock. “Equivocado” begins murky and drowsily, the horn section lays out a scowl that pummels the soul. Intensity gradually builds into mostly horns and guitar and the result is stunning. With such a heady craftsmanship evident on each track, Zavala’s mastery of the acoustic end is the foundation of each song. “Tomorrow” is a mellow affair that explodes into a massive jam worthy track. The instrumentation and the sweet melody of Zavala’s vocals switch between a mature grit and a super sweet delectable harmony. Quite easily one of the most alluring albums out, Zavala’s masterpiece is DePedro.