Indie

All posts tagged Indie

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

12347593_903793436324509_8709944422360536431_n

Artist: K808

Album: Runaways

Release Date: 12/12/15

Rating: 9.5/10

Youth. Reckless abandon. Free spirit. The best days of your life…

This is exactly the summation of Runaways,’ the second release from art-pop singer/songwriter/producer K808. A soundtrack to the days of young adulthood; on the cusp of life but not having everything figured out, and not necessarily being concerned with it either. Runaways is a perfect example of a coming-of-age tale of young millennial love; a fun and upbeat banger with a deep complexity and sharp wit beneath the bubbly surface.

K808, formerly know as the indie-pop songstress Katianne Timko, has undergone quite the transformation over the last two years. After making quite a name for herself on the regional Indie scene, Timko took a huge risk. Rather than continuing on her already successful musical course, she completely reinvented her image and her art, fully becoming and embracing K808, a forward-thinking “pop” artist, with emphasis on the artist.

For her new EP, Runaways, K808 took on the role as songwriter, composer and producer, to impressive results. The production quality is top notch, with beats and hooks for days. Each of the six tracks all loaded with superb club-ready bangers, commanding dance floor dominance. The EP is bright and fun, with a sense of both self-awareness and artistic wit of veteran songwriter, which is exactly who K808 is. Her new sound does not feel like a gimmick or a cash-in, but a very interesting artistic risk, one of which contains a heavy dose of heart and soul.

Runaways kicks off with the slamming “Young + Hungry.” The track’s lines “Play me like vinyl babe, I want you like an autograph, I want to run away and you’re the one who makes me laugh,” and “My heart is beating still, we’re millennials and we’re never satisfied. We’re young and we’re hungry and we’re having the time of our lives,” perfectly sum up what the EP and K808 are representing.

“The Dark Side,” featuring rapper GRIZZLY, was the first single released some months back. The Track boasts yet another banger, with strong songwriting from both K808 and GRIZZLY for an interesting crossover appeal. “Pool House” is a fun track and perhaps the poppiest number, not far from modern Katy Perry or Taylor Swift. From there, the complexity begins to rise with one of the EP’s sharpest tracks, “Sleeping With the Enemy.” K808 sings ” I like my love delusional,” is the post-hook of the song, indicating the true naivety and complications of young love in an ever-evolving society.

Closing tracks, “Valentine (Ready, Set, Go)” and “H20” offer more huge hooks and powerful words from a young woman who is quickly coming into her own, but still has the youthful abandon on her side.

All in all, Runaways marks a very pivotal point for K808, both as a musician and songwriter. She has stepped out from behind the shadow of her acoustic guitar and ventured into an entire new world of musical discovery. Her knack for a song melody, huge hook, and superb production techniques are impossible to ignore. Key tracks include “Young + Hungry” and “Sleeping With the Enemy.”

And Runaways is a rare and beautiful occasion where an artist goes pop without selling out, but marking an even bigger and bolder statement. As a songwriter, K808 is continually expanding her horizons. Whether its love songs, or heartbreak, or a fun-in-the-sun track like “Pool House,” her approach is one of maturity and experience, with a strong artistic sense behind all of it. Runaways is artistic evolution, and it’s exciting to see what direction K808 will take next.

Runaways will be available on iTunes on Dec. 18.

By Rick Polo and Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Editor-in-Chief and Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

untitled

Artist: The Zou

Album: Love Kills Part Two

Release Date: 8/22/15

Rating: 9.7/10

Two long years have passed since The Zou released Kills Part One. The album was a real emotional rollercoaster of well-crafted pop love songs, dragged through barbed wire of sonic experimentation; a notable trademark of the band. The album literally left fans hanging on the edge of their seats, waiting for the follow-up. Now, with the release of Kills Part Two, fans can finally breathe as the Northeast Ohio Indie Rock staples have unleashed the masterpiece that was years in the making.

After a slew of lineup changes and delays, Zou mastermind Khaled Tabbara has teamed up with a plethora of noteworthy musicians to craft what could easily be his finest effort to date. Featuring the talents of Bernadette Lim, Katianne Timko, Billy LaGuardia and Tabbara’s brother Rached to name a few, the eclectic sound each musician brings to the table only adds more color to canvas. Producer Pete Drivere lends his signature polished-yet-somehow-gritty-rock-and-roll sound, for a record that transcends nearly every era of rock, yet still sounds vitally fresh.

Kicking off Kills Part Two is the simply-titled “Love.” A Baroque Pop tune with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Rubber Soul-era Beatles or Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. The opening track is airy and tense, perfecting leading into “Drop A Dime,” a Ben Gibbard-esque sounding number, that could fall somewhere between his work with either Death Cab For Cutie or The Postal Service.

“I Was A Tyrant” follows with a more Americana-meets-Baroque Pop vibe, and painful lyrics hinting at a one-sided relationship. From there, the hard-rocking “Ooglie Booglie” takes flight, giving a post-punk angst, both sonically and lyrically, not unlike that of The Pixies or perhaps some of Black Francis’ solo endeavors. The track features a standout riff that takes the record off into a whole other direction before taking another left turn with the following tracks.

The Katianne Timko-produced “Holy Moses” can best be described as “holy drums!” The electronic drums pound underneath a well-crafted pop song. The modern, but certainly not gimmicky, production feels more like The Zou taking a sonic step forward rather than a trendy cash grab.

Finally, Kills Part Two concludes with the Doo-Wop vocal harmonies of “Mon Dieu” (an early acoustic version performed on The Raw Alternative can be viewed here) and the climatic rocker, “Gun Moll.” With a collage of sound that evokes Animal Collective, “Gun Moll” featuring soaring guitars and some of the album’s most intense lyrics, leaving the listener again, at the edge of their seat craving more.

All in all, Kills Part Two features, some of, if not the finest music The Zou has produced to date! Standout tracks include “Ooglie Booglie,” “Holy Moses,” “I Was A Tyrant” and “Gun Moll.” With various nods to his influences, Tabbara takes his band to new heights, while still retaining enough of the classic sound fans have come to know and love. Lyrically, the album examines all the various angles of love and the multiple feelings it can provoke, much in the way of Paul McCartney, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James or even Martin Gore. Sonically, Love Kills Part Two is widely spread, much in the way of Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper’s or even Dark Side of the Moon. It’s indicative of a band reaching a creative high, but certainly not peaking just yet.

The Zou will be giving a performing at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in downtown Youngstown on Saturday, Aug. 22 as band of the official release of Kills Part Two.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

It has been over two decades since the world last heard from Cleveland alternative rock pioneers, Death of Samanatha. The band became one of the key players of the 80’s college rock movement, craving out a unique niche in the scene. But by the later part of the decade, at what seemed as the height of the group’s success, they disbanded and have remained relatively quiet for more than 20 years. Now they’re poised for a comeback with a long-awaited reunion disc spanning their short-lived but highly influential career.

Formed in 1983 by singer and guitarist John Petkovic, guitarist Doug Gillard, bassist David James and drummer Steven Eierdam, Death of Samantha took the scene by storm, becoming one of the first notable alternative/indie rock frontrunners in Cleveland. The infamous first gig at a Ground Round family restaurant has become that of legend. With bizarre stage antics, puck rock ethos and sound primed and ready for college radio, the band quickly rose to recognition, and caught the eye of Homestead Records in 1986.

At the time, Homestead Records, based out of New York, was home to some the biggest names underground rock had to offer at the time, including Sonic Youth, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Dinosaur Jr. The full length debut for the label, Strungout on Jargon, brought the band on the national underground scene. They continued to tour the latter half of the 80’s alongside big names such as The Replacements, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins.

Death of Samantha supporting Sonic Youth in the mid-80's.

Death of Samantha supporting Sonic Youth in the mid-80’s.

Sadly, as their aforementioned touring partners caught major label deals and broke out onto the early 90’s MTV scene, they never stuck it out long enough to ee their break. Following the release of Where the Women Wear the Glory and the Men Wear the Pants in 1988 and Come All Ye Faithless in 1990, Death of Samantha called it quits. A small reunion was attempted in 92, but never got off the ground. The band, whose influence can still likely be heard on rock radio via post-grunge/post-alternative acts (think Bush, Everclear, and perhaps Green Day).

In recent years, the original lineup of Death of Samantha have remained active musically, playing a handful off one-off reunions such as at the Beachwood Ballroom in Cleveland and 4th and 4th Fest in Columbus, Ohio. As of late last year, the have recorded an 18-track double album titled If Memory Serves to be released on Feb. 11 via the band’s St. Valentine Records. It will be their first release in 24 years.

If Memory Serves is comprised of re-recordings of old material. In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Petkovek said that the two-disc retrospective has gotten the band’s creative juices flowing, as they are planning more endeavors for the coming months.

“…a lead-in to a tour and a record of all-new material in 2015,” said Petkovek.

With a wealth of 80s indie rock acts such as My Bloody Valentine, The Replacements and the Pixies reuniting and releasing new music, there is no doubt that the time is right for Death of Samanatha to return to the scene and pick up where they have left off. Perhaps nostalgia for some, and a new chapter, new era or even a new beginning for many others.

1238984_437351539708497_365101820_n

The Replacements performing at Riot Fest 2013.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

As another year comes to pass, we again reflect on all that was in music. 2013 was a year that saw many music legends return and sadly, a few of them check out. Heavy hitters like Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age dropped exceptional high-energy rockers, while relative new-comers Deafheaven, Savages and Disclosure continued to push the limits of artistic integrity. And not to mention there was a slew of colossal comebacks from some of the biggest and most influential forces in music.

Early in 2013, the iconic David Bowie announced a new album, his first of new original material in over a decade. The result was The Next Day. Released in March, The Next Day is a quiet yet moving record that perfectly showcases how gracefully Bowie has aged and how sharp his musical wit still remains.

February saw the release of the highly anticipated third album from Shoegaze/Dream-Pop pioneers My Bloody Valentine. In late 2012, guitarist and mastermind Kevin Shields teased fans saying that an album was being mixed and will be released timely. This was a huge deal for fans, considering that it hade been 22 years since the release of their seminal classic, Loveless. The band followed through, and m b v was released just a little over a month into the year. Not only was it worth the wait, but it proved My Bloody Valentine was still capable of creating really good music as it held up perfectly next to Loveless, and proved itself to be one of the best records of the year.

One of the biggest comebacks of 2013 was certainly the return of Black Sabbath, and for many reasons. It was to be the first new record with original singer Ozzy Osbourne in 35 years. Shortly after the band officially announced their reunion plans in late 2011, guitarist Tony Iommi was diagnosed with cancer. After a year of undergoing treatments, and surviving the unfortunate resignation of original drummer Bill Ward, Black Sabbath released 13 this summer and made the entire spectrum of Heavy Metal drop to its knees. 13 was a crushing, bluesy, heavy-riffing affair that reminded everyone again just why this band was so important to not only Heavy Metal, but Rock and Roll as a whole.

Alternative Rock saw the return of two of its most influential and important figures: Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails. QOTSA’s …Like Clockwork, their first record in six years, was a swinging, groove-heavy Rock and Roll party with an all-star cast of guest musicians (Dave Grohl, Julian Casablancas, Trent Reznor, Elton John). Cuts like “My God is the Sun” and “I Appear Missing” hadn’t hit as hard since 2002’s Songs For the Deaf. NIN’s electro-funky Hesitation Marks harked back to 1994’s The Downward Spiral, with an older and more bitter Reznor at the helm. Although not quite as abrasive as their earlier records, new cuts like “Copy of A,” “Came Back Haunted” and “In Two,” as well as the highly visual and conceptual Tension 2013 North American Tour, still hold Nine Inch Nails to their standard of crushing electronic heaviness and dark prowess.

Don’t call it a comeback, they’ve been here for years… Industrial-tinged Alt-Metalers Filter delivered The Sun Comes Out Tonight, their most concise and impactful record since their 1999 hit, Title of Record. Led by the singles “What Do You Say” and “Surprise,” the band are seeing a career renaissance, as fans continue to discover and rediscover their severely underrated and under-the-radar releases, 2008’s Anthems For the Damned and 2011’s The Trouble with Angels.

Indie Rock pioneers Neutral Milk Hotel and The Replacements also had quite the eventful summer in 2013, both returning from decade-long hiatuses. Neutral Milk Hotel returned for a handful of festival dates and small venue affairs, hinting at the possibility of new material in 2014. Elliott Smith resurrected the legendary Replacements for a handful of performances as well as a covers EP. New material hasn’t been confirmed, but fans remain hopeful entering the new year that The Replacements haven’t quite said everything that they need to just yet.

Finally, with 2014 looming, Art-Rockers Failure and Hip-Hop titans Outkast have announced reunion performances throughout 2014, leaving fans ecstatic for the possibility of extensive tours and new material.

Unfortunately, 2013 had it’s share of major losses in the world of music. Country music legends George Jones and Ray Price bid farewell, passing away of natural causes after leading long and wonderful careers. Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, who was placed in a semi-conscious coma following a motorcycle crash in 2008, passed away on April 13. Thrash Metal experienced a major loss when one of its key players, Slayer guitarist Jeff Henneman, passed away on May 2 due to complications following a spider bite. The Doors’ iconic composer and keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, succumbed to cancer at age 71 on May 20. In many ways, Manzarek remains the father Psychedelic music, as his signature atmospheric organ tones provided the perfect backdrop to Jim Morrison’s gothic poetry and soulful swagger. And last but certainly not least, Oct. 27 saw the passing of the legendary Lou Reed. Reed was the founder of 60’s Art-Rock trailblazers The Velvet Underground and enjoyed an extremely successful and influential solo career that continued right up until his death.

Although 2013 saw the loss of a major chunk of diverse and influential musicians, there is no doubt their work will love on in the years and generations to come!

By Rick Polo (Editor-In-Chief)

danny-brown-old-artwork

Artist: Danny Brown

Album: Old

Release Date: 10/8/13

Rating: 4/5

Indie-rapper Danny Brown has certainly done his homework. As one of the leaders of the genre’s underground movement, just bubbling beneath the mainstream, Brown has gained some serious momentum over the course of his discography. With Old, his newly released third album, he’s again successfully smashed his own boundaries with one of the year’s most well-rounded and enjoyable rap albums.

Brown first hit the scene in 2010 with his ground-breaking debut, The Hybrid. After releasing the near-perfect XXX in late 2011 and stealing the show on featured tracks of the previous two EL-P records, Brown delivered Old in early October, again taking the rap world by brutal force.

Brown took a unique old school approach to the construction of Old, dividing it into two “sides,” as a traditional vinyl would, with two different vibes. Side A, titled “Old,” lives up to its title somewhat. It has a laid back, old school hip-hop vibe with soulful samples and grooving beats. Following opening tracks “Side A (Old)” and “The Return,” the album begins to show its chops, beginning with the third track, “25 Bucks,” which features Brown’s group, Purity Ring. The track seeps with Brown’s lyrical genius. From there, tracks like “Torture” and “Lonely” paint a more vulnerable portrait of Brown, with very self-actualizing and introspective lyrics. A trait not typical among many mainstream rappers.

Side B, titled “Dope Song,” has a high-energy, almost live feel to it. Also certainly not an approach taken by many modern rap artists, as their live performances are merely lip-synced over a pre-recorded beat. No, as those who’ve attended any of the summer festivals of which Brown performed this summer, he’s abrasive and in-your-face.

The second side of Old reflects that, especially with the lead single, “Dip.” The energetic performance factor reels the listener in from the start with an infectious up-tempo dance beat that will make you almost want to slam dance along with it. Fellow tracks “Smokin’ & Drinkin'” and “Handstand” keep the party going, until another stand-out track, “Kush Koma,” featuring talented newcomer A$AP Rocky, takes hold. As many of the songs on Old, “Kush Koma” presents a lyrical juxtaposition to the vigorous music that accompanies it. Brown’s realization of his own debauchery, and the toll it takes on his soul, make up the lyrics on the almost depressing tune. Finally, Old ends on an even more somber note, with the beautiful “Float On,” featuring Charli XCX.

When it comes to honestly, Danny Brown holds nothing back. Like contemporaries Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator, Brown is not afraid to shed light on his vulnerability, nor is he hesitant to admit to the not-so-flattering aspects of his life. However, he does so in such an earnest and beautiful way, you come to realize that he’s just giving his version of the blues. And with all the raw emotional and powerful songwriting, Old, in a modern sense, is as bluesy as it gets.