We Are the Tide

One of my favorite releases in recent memory is most definitely the latest album to be released by Blind Pilot. You’ve probably noticed me referencing them a lot, as they make my top five most weeks. They’re an indie-folk band based out of Portland. Originally, there were only two members, Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski. They went on a bike tour in 2008 carrying their instruments down the west coast on custom-made bike trailers and made around a dozen stops. A year later, they released their first album, 3 Rounds and a Sound and then added four members to fill out their sound.

Their music is filled with a wide array of instruments, such as acoustic guitar piano, organ, horns, dulcimer vibraphone, and various others.  I got their first album back in summer of 2009 and I loved it.  That following Fall during my first year at UVa, I went to see them when they came through Charlottesville at The Southern downtown. It was an awesome concert and I remember particularly enjoying a song that they played after telling us that it was a new one and wasn’t on their album.  I had not heard it before and I loved it, especially when Israel (the lead singer) turned around and began playing percussion along with the drummer.  Afterward, they said that the name of the song was “We Are the Tide.”  This past September 13th, almost two years after that concert, they released their second studio album named after that song.

Now eight member strong, Blind Pilot’s sound is much more full.  Sure, some of that can be attributed to the heightened production value of We Are the Tide with comparison to 3 Rounds and a Sound, but the quality of the writing as well as the quality of the lead singer’s voice has vastly improved and come to allow a fantastic album.  It immediately jumped up to the top of my list, which is amazing because I hardly ever enjoy something on the first listen like that.  Every song is great.

We Are the Tide

1. Half Moon

2. Always

3. Keep You Right

4. We Are the Tide

5. The Colored Night

6. I Know

7. White Apple

8. Just One

9. Get it Out

10. New York

I can’t even really pick out one or two as my favorites.  I would say, however, that they started off the album perfectly by putting Half Moon first.  It’s a perfect first song.

The studio recording of the song that I so much enjoyed at the concert two years ago also did not fail to impress.  It’s really cool imagining the performance as I listen to it.  I love the way that the percussion drive this one.

The Colored Night might be the biggest accomplishment of the album for Blind Pilot.  It is a perfect blend of so many styles and instruments and is all executed to perfection.  The harmonies are beautiful, and the way that they are interwoven into the remainder of the song is fantastic.  Also, the overall build of White Apple is really well orchestrated.

Alright so I could literally sit here and type praise word after praise word about everything having to do with this album and could post each song and tell you why I love it, but I think I’ll spare you.  My life advice: get this album!  No matter what music I listen to throughout a day, I always comes back to We Are the Tide.  It’s just so good and easy to listen to at literally any point of the day and in any situation.  They are easily my favorite current artist, and this is easily my favorite album.  Here is a gem from their first album.

GO BUY THEM BOTH RIGHT NOW

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Oops. Long Time, no Post.

Things got a little busy for me this past semester and I let this blog fall by the wayside, which is unfortunate because it was really motivating me to keep doing what I love doing on the side of everything.  So four months, an entire semester, a few emotional impasses, and a lot of bus driving later, my goal and new year’s resolution is to get back into the swing of things and start this back up.  This is sort of just a catch up post.  In the interest of getting blogging again, I’m not going to post full reviews of the artists that I was previously looking into, but I will say a bit so I can then start fresh.  Beginning Sunday (Christmas!  WooHOO!), I’ll get back into finding new artists/albums each week, as well as write a few reviews on a few new things I’ve discovered over the past month, most notably Blind Pilot’s new album We are the Tide.  I love it so much.

A Change of Pace

These guys are alright.  Long story short, I probably would have loved them had I listened to them when I was back in high school,  as they are close enough to your traditional pop-punk style band, which was my jam back then.  My favorite song would most likely be “The First Time We Ever Met.”  Their one album, “Just No Better Way,” interestingly enough has five songs followed by acoustic versions of the same five songs.  In a lot of cases, I ended up liking the acoustic versions more, as one would expect with my current tastes in music.  The acoustic version of “I Found Myself Today” is excellent.   For the most part, I don’t see myself listening to A Change of Pace much going forward with the exception of a few songs.

Cold War Kids

This group is great.  They’re an indie band that seems to have influences from various other genres, and the lead singer has a voice very much typically attributed to a traditional punk band, which adds a whole other dimension to their music, as nothing else has the punk feel to it.  I don’t really have a favorite song at this point.  I like most of their stuff, so when I listen, I just go straight through.  Some highlights are “Hang Me Up to Dry” and “I’ve Seen Enough.”

Super Retroactive Top 5:

These are the artists that I’ve seemed to always come back to listen to the most over the past four months.

1. Blind Pilot

2. Muse

3. Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos

4. The Format

5. Of Montreal

A Different Kind of Dub Step

Everyone is into dub step music nowadays.  It’s pretty cool, but I really have to be in the right mood in order to enjoy it.  The same goes for this week’s artist: Pendulum.

Pendulum is an Australian-British band that started around 2002.  They have three studio albums: Hold Your Colour (2005), In Silico (2008), and Immersion (2010).  I listened to all three of these this past week.

Hold Your Colour (2005)

1) Prelude

2) Slam

3) Plastic World

4) Fasten Your Seatbelt

5) Through the Loop

6) Sounds of Life

7) Girl in the Fire

8 ) Tarantula

9) Out Here

10) Hold Your Colour

11) The Terminal

12) Streamline

13) Another Planet

14) Still Grey

In Silico (2008)

1) Showdown

2) Different

3) Propane Nightmares

4) Visions

5) Midnight Runner

6) The Other Side

7) Mutiny

8 ) 9,000 Miles

9) Granite

10) The Tempest

Immersion (2010)

1) Genesis

2) Salt in the Wounds

3) Watercolour

4) Set Me On Fire

5) Crush

6) Under the Waves

7) Immunize

8 ) The Island – Pt I (Dawn)

9) The Island – Pt II (Dusk)

10) Comprachicos

11) The Vulture

12) Witchcraft

13) Self vs Self

14) The Fountain

15) Encoder

 

Pendulum classifies itself as having a drum and bass, electronic rock, electronica, and alternative rock fusion sound.  To me, it really all just seemed like a bunch of dudes playing heavy metal music with electronic instruments.  They use a lot of heavy, sharp synth sounds of all varieties.  They have similarities to dub step music, but they don’t seem to drive it as much with the bass drum and there isn’t usually much sense of a “drop.”  There are little to no vocals on the first two albums, but vocals begin to become more prominent on the third album, Immersion.  Here’s a video of one of their earlier, more dub-steppy songs.  Also, enjoy the awesome dancing fat guy in the video.

 

All in all, as I stated above, I really needed to be in the right mood to enjoy me some Pendulum.  Honestly, that didn’t happen very often throughout the week, so I should say that I’m not the biggest fan.  I’m not saying they’re bad, they’re just not my style.  If I had to pick a favorite album of theirs, it would definitely be Immersion.  The songs with vocals were more interesting to me than the pure instrumentals.  I’m sure this stuff would be awesome for parties and such, but not so much for my general listening purposes.

Summer Sun

This week I looked into singer/songwriter Matt Wertz.  He is originally from LaVale, MD, but he finds his home in Nashville, TN.  He actually studied industrial design at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and developed his affinity for music while living in dorms with other students.  He gained a large part of his initial fan base performing at Young Life camps.  His first three albums, SomedaysTwentythree Places, and Everything in Between, were all self-released, and he has since released a fourth album under Universal Republic Records since his signing  in 2007.  This past January, he released his single Feels So Right for his album Weights and & Wings that was later released on March 15, 2011 (My birthday!).  He also has done a lot of work with his best friend and fellow singer/songwriter Dave Barnes.

Wertz has toured with several other musicians such as Jon McLaughlin, Jason Mraz, and Gavin Degraw.  His music has also been featured on the shows Brothers and Sisters, Wildfire, and One Tree Hill, as well as in the movies Employee of the Month and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

To get my taste of Matt Wertz, I listened to Everything in Between and a few songs on Under Summer Sun.

Everything in Between

1)  The Way I Feel

2) Carolina

3) Heartbreaker

4) Over You

5) 5:19

6) I Will Not Take My Love Away

7) Like the Last Time

8 ) With You, Tonight

9) Naturally

10) Capitol City

And the songs I listened to on Under Summer Sun were:

Everything’s Right

Red Meet’s Blue

Keep Faith

Summer Sun

Back in June

I enjoyed what I listened to for the most part.  He has sound somewhat similar to Jon McLaughlin or Eric Hutchinson, sometimes seeming like a John Mayer meets Jason Mraz kind of artist.  A few of the songs are really catchy.  My favorites were probably Heartbreaker and Over You.  Carolina is also a great one.  Carolina is the song where you can definitely hear the John Mayer/Jason Mraz style, and the other two have a more electric feel, throwing them farther into the realm of pop (even though when I put his album into my iTunes, it classified the genre as folk-rock…).  Listen to Heartbreaker below.

The only song that I really didn’t like was Summer Sun.  I don’t know what it is, it just didn’t do it for me.  Otherwise, I would recommend Matt Wertz.  I won’t say he’s my favorite, but I could definitely listen to him fairly regularly.

Good Things from Odd Future’s

The artist I looked into last week was an R&B singer named Frank Ocean.  Ocean is a member of the Los Angeles based hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) along with eleven other members, including rapper/producer Tyler the Creator, rappers Hodgy Beats, Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis, and Mike G, producers Left Brain, Syd the Kid, Matt Martians and Hal Williams, as well as non-musical members Jasper Dolphin and Taco.  Each member can contribute to any of the other member’s writing or production efforts and the resultant tracks are released and listed under the name of the main artist involved with the project.  Many of the members of Odd Future release their own solo tracks, often featuring others in the group.  There are also a few groups within the collective: MellowHype (Hodgy Beats and Left Brain), The Jet Age of Tomorrow or The Super 3 (Matt Martians and Hal Williams), and EarlWolf (Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler the Creator).  Odd Future evenly promotes all of its members’ efforts on its website here.

Frank Ocean is the only listed as a singer in OFWGKTA.  His style is noticeably different from those of many of the others.  Breaking away from the more traditional underground rap efforts of the others, his music brings a smooth, easy-listening R&B variety to the collective.  He came to Odd Future after he was evacuated to Los Angeles from University of New Orleans just before it was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2006.  In the group, he was featured as a vocalist in a number of songs released by Tyler the Creator and MellowHype.  He has also written songs for Justin Bieber, John Legend, Brandy, and Beyonce.  He has also worked with Nas and Pharrell Williams.

His first release was initially put out as the Nostalgia, Ultra Mixtape, but was later slated by Def Jam Records to be have seven of its tracks released on iTunes as an EP on July 26, 2011 (Tomorrow!) under the name Nostalgia, Lite.  Obviously, since the EP is not available yet, what I listened to this past week was the mixtape.

Nostalgia, Ultra Mixtape

1. Streetfighter

2. Strawberry Swing

3. Novacane

4. We All Try

5. Bitches Talkin’ (Also known as Metal Gear Solid)

6. Songs 4 Women

7. Love Crimes

8. GoldenEye

9. There Will Be Tears

10. Swim Good

11. Dust

12. American Wedding

13. Soul Calibur

14. Nature Feels

As a whole, I was very satisfied with the whole mixtape.  Ocean has a very distinct, smooth R&B voice, and his songs are all very interesting both melodically and based on subject matter.  When listening to the whole thing straight through, one comes across recordings of the sounds of changing a tape deck every couple of tracks, which really gives it the mixtape feel (This happens on Streetfighter, Bitches Talkin’, GoldenEye, and Soul Calibur.)  When asked, Ocean said that he called the tape “Nostalgia” because it is just that: a nostalgic account of past heartbreak and interpersonal relationships.  “I wasn’t trying to make a record that people could relate to. I was just trying to make a record with the shit that I wanted to express. The shit that I wanted to get off my chest.  A lot of this record is influenced by one relationship, but I don’t owe that whole project to one situation. It doesn’t matter what the details of it are.”  Many of the songs deal with heavy subjects, most notably in track 12, American Wedding, which deals with the sometimes flawed image of marriage in the US and the issues involved (Read the lyrics to this song here).

Novacane was released as the EP’s first single on May 31, 2011.  It climbed to number 65 on the US R&B charts its first week, and later rose to number 48.

Four of his tracks on this tape are either covers of songs by other artists, or songs in which he simply penned over the lyrics, rewriting them to suit his own songwriting ideals.  Track 2, Strawberry Swing is a song in which he penned over the song Strawberry Swing, released by Coldplay on their album Viva la Vida.  In American Wedding, he penned over Hotel California, by the Eagles, and in Nature Feels, he penned over Electric Feel from MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular album.  There will be tears is a cover of a Mr. Hudson song.  Being a longtime Coldplay fan, I was instantly interested when I heard the instrumental from Strawberry Swing on this tape, and Ocean definitely did it justice.  I enjoyed it, just as I enjoy the original.  He added these really cool vocal harmonies to several parts that really pop out of the song.  As far as American Wedding goes, I think I might venture to say that I like it more than Hotel California.  I’m not saying that the Eagles are bad (I love the Eagles!), but Hotel California is just so cliché and overplayed on classic rock stations.  It’s also just such a long song, and it gets kind of old.  American Wedding brings out an emotion that allows one to not get tired of the song as it draws on for the full seven minutes.

I would say my favorite song on it would have to be We All Try.  The runs that Ocean employs in this song seem so effortless and his overall pleading tone along the simplicity of the background instrumental do a perfect job expressing the lyrics that he wrote for it.  It’s also very catchy, and just a pretty song altogether.  Read the lyrics here and watch the video below.

All in all, I give the Nostalgia, Ultra Mixtape two thumbs up and will be looking forward to the release of the EP tomorrow!  Also, look for him on the upcoming collaborative studio album between Kanye West and Jay-Z that will feature Frank Ocean on two tracks!  It’s slated to be released on August 8, 2011.