Tag Archives: Album Review

Australian band chases the nu-disco funk groove

Photo courtesy of www.codebreakermusic.com Nu disco duo Codebreaker released a debut album, “The Space Chase,” on Feb. 15 on Disco Demolition Records.

Photo courtesy of www.codebreakermusic.com Nu disco duo Codebreaker released a debut album, “The Space Chase,” on Feb. 15 on Disco Demolition Records.

Codebreaker, made up of Steven Hawley and Sage Schwarm of Christmas Island, Australia, released its debut album “The Space Chase” Feb. 15.

The album is a vibrant model of the emerging nu- disco genre that is gaining popularity in the U.S. The duo is pioneering the young genre, which fuses elements of modern dance and house music with those of disco and funk from the ’70s and ’80s.

With solid dance beats, funky guitar riffs, futuristic synthesizers and cheesy vocals, “The Space Chase” is a shining example of nu-disco’s potential. On the surface, the album is fun and easy to dance to, but it is also sophisticated in the way it is produced and mixed. The result is a sleek album that will appeal to many modern listeners, even those without an appreciation for the fine art of traditional disco.

The first track, “Silver Lining,” introduces spacey synthesizer effects that permeate the album but quickly establish a solid disco beat accompanied by tambourine and clapping. Short, lyrical phrases, effects and synthesizer solos are interspersed so that even after six minutes, the song never becomes dull.

Similar techniques are used throughout the album to keep the body dancing while simultaneously taking the mind on a trippy, synthy sojourn through space.

All of this is laden with cheesy lyrics about love that supposedly died out after the ’70s and early ’80s. The singing is rarely so pronounced that it becomes too cheesy but is still quite fun and provides a humorous glimpse into how love was once expressed in the music of a past era.

However, the romance really heats up in an entertaining way when they break out the French in the sixth track “Sous l’ Choc,” featuring Marc Gauvin.

Other enjoyable tracks include “Follow Me” and “First True Love Affair.” While each track isn’t amazing, they are all exceedingly entertaining and will put you in the mood to get you groove on to wherever you are.

The synthesizer has seen quite the rebirth in the 21st century, and Codebreaker masterfully employs it and other modern techniques to give disco and funk a fresh, sleek coat of paint, reviving a genre that many thought to be dead.
Tune in to KSLC 90.3 FM to hear tracks from Codebreaker’s “The Space Chase.”

Braden Smith/KSLC 90.3 FM
Braden Smith can be reached at kslcmusic@gmail.com.

Portland-based indie band releases an ‘honest’ album

Photo courtesy of www.tenderlovingempire.com Typhoon’s “A New Kind of House” will be released March 8 on the Portland record label Tender Loving Empire.

Photo courtesy of www.tenderlovingempire.com Typhoon’s “A New Kind of House” will be released March 8 on the Portland record label Tender Loving Empire.

During a time when all indie music sounds like the same heartfelt, self-absorbed ramblings, it’s rare to find a band thatproperly expresses what seems to be the true ethos of the genre: honesty.

“A New Kind Of House,” an EP by the up-and-coming Portland band Typhoon, is set to win over a wealth of listeners faithful to the sound of troubled musicians.

The focus behind “A New Kind Of House,” is not immediately clear, even after a fourth or fifth listen. However, the album serves as a cartharsis: It’s pow-erful, moving and seems inspired by a real human experience. It’s not some pop-influenced expression of pubescent angst; this is the adult version: a mire of emotion that has historically worked extremely well for the Goth movement and the emotionally charged Indie movement of the early aughts. Unlike most of its contemporaries, Typhoon manages to pull off this emotion without sounding contrived or disingenuous. The band’s just being honest.

When it comes to describing the overall sound of this EP there are the standard descriptors that can be broadly applied to all on this collection: lush, captivating, sincere, moving and triumphant. But, as with anything that’s well- made, it’s incredibly difficult to separate one piece from the whole. It’s hard to imagine this EP as a collection of separate songs, and even harder to choose the highlights. That being said, there are a few tracks that stand out above the rest — not necessarily as the greatest but certainly as the most interesting.

My favorite is the second track “Summer Home,” which has a sound that gently guides the listener deeper into the EP’s true meat. The song consists of cheerful percussive elements and the sort of poetic lyricism which lends itself to repeated listenings. “Summer House” is is an excellent showcase of Typhoon’s talents and of its overall range of emotion. Everything about this track seems thoughtfully considered, right down to the title, which is appropriately chosen for the mood the track conveys. The song also provides a gentle segue into the intended magnum opus of “Claws Pt. 1.”

Clocking in at nearly 8 minutes, “Claws Pt. 1” is the longest track on the EP and is given billing as one of the EP’s foremost singles. Perhaps it’s because of the pressure put on it that “Claws” is a bit off, somehow coming across as schizophrenic and constipated at the same time. Frantic, uncomfortable and strange, Claws is a low-point in an otherwise stellar display of talent.

Ultimately, “A New Kind Of House” is nothing if not enjoyable. An EP full of images: washed-out postcard snapshots of steel-toed workboots following the muddy treads of a snowy road or lonely woodcuts of unashamed blue-collar heartache.

Typhoon seems like a band that doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t, and that is what good music is all about. So if you’re in the mood for something a little bit special give “A New Kind of House” a listen.
Typhoon’s “A New Kind of House” will be released March 8 and can be heard on KSLC 90.3FM.

Eric Tompkins/KSLC 90.3 FM

Chamber folk sextet releases intricate album

The Portland-based sextet Loch Lomond has grown in popularity in the Pacific Northwest after a number of releases and touring with the Decemberists.
The band’s second full-length album, “Little Me Will Start A Storm,” was released Feb. 22 and is proof that the emerging chamber-folk subgenre, which incorportates elements and instruments of classical music with modern indie folk/folk rock is quite viable.
Frontman Ritchie Young leads the band with his distinct vocal talent, weaving in and out of falsetto and displaying his wide singing range. Clever orchestration fills in the rest of each song with a variety of instruments, along with singing from other members of the band.
These elements are combined in such a way that each song sounds elaborate but never cluttered.
The album in its entirety is elegant, intriguing and a little dark at times but still catchy with simple, amusing melodies.
The opening track, “Blue Lead Fences,” is upbeat and rhythmically driven, but the album soon descends into slower tempos,
lighter melodies and a more soothing atmosphere. This descent continues throughout the album with a more contemplative mood replacing the lighter, more comforting one.
The second track, “Elephants & Little Girls,” opens with an absolutely beautiful melody on the clarinet that reworks itself throughout the song. This track is undoubtedly the prettiest piece on the album and is a clear illustration of the band’s talent in knowing where to insert
what instrument. A clarinet pops up here and there, a viola entwines itself around the melody at key points and aglockenspiel chiming is present occasionally, among incorporated instruments.
“Elephants & Little Girls” is followed by the darker “I Love Me,” the more traditional folk-sounding “Blood Bank,” with its simple sway in triple meter, and the pretty instrumental piece “Water Bells,” which features the always lovely musical saw.
However, the dénouement of the album is reached on the seventh track, “Water In Astoria.” The song employs all of the best techniques featured on the album to create a natural and harmonious atmosphere.
“Little Me Will Start A Storm” is short, at a total of 34 minutes, but it is exceedingly sweet and never actually feels short. Each song is
given just the right amount of time to shine and merge with the others in an intricate tapestry. The album can sound dark at times, but the lyrics maintain a lighthearted feel, and the music never allows itself to become entrenched in a dark and somber mood like other music can.
Anyone with a slight interest in today’s folk music scene will enjoy “Little Me Will Start a Storm” and it’s subtle, yet effective,
variations on the genre.
Tune in to KSLC 90.3 FM to hear tracks from “Little Me Will Start A Storm.” The track “Elephants & Little Girls” is available for free download at
Loch Lomond will play its record release show on Feb. 26 in Portland at the Alberta Rose Theater.

Braden Smith KSLC 90.3

Deerhoof’s still kickin’ after 16 years


Deerhoof, one of the biggest and quirkiest bands in the indie rock scene, released its 11th album, “Deerhoof vs. Evil,” on Jan. 25.

After 16 years of making music, Deerhoof shows no signs of slowing and its latest album is just as original and fun as past albums have been.

As with most of their albums, Deerhoof brilliantly blends pop and traditional indie rock with light doses of experimentalism and hard rock, true to their own art rock style. Topped with the distinctly cute, childish and sometimes eerie vocals of Japanese-born front woman and bassist) Satomi Matsuzaki, the mix blends into a genuinely unique experience.

The album is a bit jarring at first, opening with Matsuzaki singing in Catalan on the song “Qui Dorm, Només Somia,” which features a cluttered opening followed by a steady beat and melody that grows and twists as the song progresses.

“Qui Dorm, Només Somia” is followed by the constrasting “Behold a Marvel in the Darkness,” which is more poppy and fun with a simple, enticing chord progression on an acoustic guitar at the start. Along with a pretty chorus from Matsuzaki of “what is this thing called love?” answered by a hard rock instrumental response presented in call- and-response fashion, the song comes off as cutesy and fun with a bit of punch.

The album alternates between a experimental song and one that’s sweet and more melodious for almost every track, sometimes in the middle of one. The album never settles down with one feel but instead darts around seemingly at random.

Whether there is an actual method to the madness, the one clear fact is that the band seems to have a lot of fun.
Some standout tracks with a pretty fun feel are “No One Asked to Dance” (recently featured on NPR’s “Song of the Day”) and “I Did Crimes For You.”

Those interested in the more intriguing, experimental songs should check out “The Merry Barracks” (available for free at www.polyvinylrecords.com) and “Must Fight Current.”

“Deerhoof vs. Evil” isn’t an amazing new piece of art, but it’s certainly a fun and welcome addition to Deerhoof’s solid discography. The album indicates that the band will continue to satisfy in the foreseeable future.

Deerhoof is set to play on Feb. 26 in Portland at Holocene at 6 p.m. Visit www.holocene.org/calendar for more information.

Tune in to KSLC 90.3 FM to hear tracks from “Deerhoof vs. Evil.”

Braden Smith/KSLC 90.3 FM
Braden Smith can be reached at kslcmusic@gmail.com.

‘Weird’ EP lacks distinction

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas’ debut EP, “Weird Looking Women in Too Many Clothes,” was self-released on Dec. 10.  Photo courtesy of www.terrorbird.com

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas’ debut EP, “Weird Looking Women in Too Many Clothes,” was self-released on Dec. 10. Photo courtesy of www.terrorbird.com

An EP is a production that is too short to be an album but too varied in content to be a sampler of a band’s singles.

The problem with the EP is this: In striking a balance to providing a good showcase of talent without running too long, the EP should contain the sort of material that makes the listener interested in hearing more of the band’s music. The EP is the music industry’s version of a trailer.

It seems some producers still haven’t completely grasped the concept of an EP, even 50 years after their inception. “Weird Looking Women in Too Many Clothes” by Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas is a prime example of an EP that missed the mark.

While there are some inspired bits of genre-bending shenanigans present in this EP, most of the tracks fall short of being truly distinct from one another. Whether this lack of variety is the fault of the band or the producer isn’t exactly clear, but it seems to be the most significant flaw in an otherwise great sampling.

To get a taste of the range of this album, “Moonstruck” and “Face Off” seem to be good song choices. They stand out because of their ballsy attitude and their creative hijinks. These first two tracks off “Weird” are the uncontested stars of the show.

Additionally, the themes initiated in these first tracks continue throughout the album — much of which seems to sample the feel of these tracks to gently wind down to the end of the album.

The sound combinations of “Moonstruck,” the first track off “Weird,” are decidedly quirky but in a seemingly unintentional sort of way. Mix a bit of Tom Waits’ staggering musical sound with a musical verve that a press release describes as “swampy,” and you’ve got the sort of music that wouldn’t seem out of place as background noise in a dirty strip joint.

If this description seems over the top, then perhaps this music isn’t for you. Although there is an aggrandized play to touch on a mixture of genres for popular appeal, the intent behind the music seems jointly focused on baby making and scaring you shitless — a combination that easily draws in the listener for the entire album.

Moving in a slightly different direction, “Face Off,” the second track on the album, showcases a more developed sound overall. With backing brass, piano and a change in vocals, this is a far happier song than any other off this EP, and it stands out for its clarity of vision as well as full instrumental backing.

Ultimately a well-developed first effort; Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas are going places. If you want to be aware of what’s going to be popular for the unpopular, familiarize yourself with this EP. Sultry and sinister, “Weird” offers a brief glimpse into the funky world of underground music that will leave you wanting more.

Tune in to KSLC 90.3 FM to hear tracks from the debut EP.

Eric Tompkins/KSLC 90.3 FM
Eric Tompkins can be reached at kslcmusic@gmail.com.