Deç. 22, 2023
An instant favorite. AOUI is a four-piece instrumental math/post-rock band from Manila, Philippines, whose sound quickly grabbed me and reminded me of a fusion between Totorro and Chinese Football (without the vocals). The guitars are zippy, almost poppy at times before melting back down into reverby noodles. AOUI is fun to listen to, even when evoking wistful feelings from the listener. There is even a gangvocal “woo!” in one song which feels almost like a nod to Totorro's “Chevalier Bulltoe”.
AOUI lures the listener in with a two-minute intro track - “Bludream”. The dream ends soon with a raucous opener from track two, “For Now”, making sure the listener knows what they're in for with this album. Hell, there's even a bit of a bass solo in “For Now”, along with the aforementioned “woo!” The fun continues with “Recess”, which feels funkier than expected and has some more vocalizations (but not lyrics) from the band. “Recess” demonstrates AOUI's ability to transition from massive to minimal sound stages in a single breath..
A quick review this time as I am only recently acquainted with this album - but it has already earned many repeat listens. If you enjoy digestible mathrock, give AOUI a try.
Nov. 24, 2023
I referenced Sport in my last entry, so it's only fitting that they get the next spot. Sport was a France-based midwest emo band whose combination of accents and gang vocals make it hard for me to understand more than half the lyrics. Despite this, Sport is one of my favorite sing-along-in-the-car bands. The words I do manage to grasp are frought with misery and hope depending on the track, while the guitars noodle alongside the various vocalists. My favorite album from Sport is "Slow" (2016), which we'll dive into together.
"Lead singer" Nak Gz is often joined by his bandmates in yelling into the nearest microphone, though he takes the podium on songs like "Nod" to drive his lyrics home. This track also features a captivating bridge riff from Flo Pons, backed up by Nico Mollin and Gz on second guitar and bass, respectively. The production on this album isn't perfect, but that's what makes it a perfect album. While Avec Plaisir has tried to mature their sound in a recent release, Sport stayed true to themselves until their amicle breakup in 2018 - that sonic consistency partially attributable to all three of the band's LPs being mastered by engineer Nico Eschallier. His production on Sport's albums improved from their debut release "Colors", through "Bon Voyage" and "Slow", but the almost youthful feeling still present in "Slow" is comforting for long-time listeners.
The album eases you in with "Deadbeat", reassuring the listener with a few soft noodles before the drums and riffs kick in and pull you back to a college house party where your bestfriend's band just started their set. Rather than a smooth 1-2 song transition like many of my favorite albums, "Slow" features a hard stop between "Deadbeat" and "Rebuffat". Still, this album is well-crafted and makes it easy to listen from start to finish - the band is effective at slowing the listener down without losing momentum, and bringing you right back into the energy with complementary riffs from both guitarists.
One of my favorite parts of this album is the ending. "Word95" into ".." leaves the listener satisfied like a perfect sunset view at the end of an easy autumn hike. I hope you enjoy what this album has to offer, and I hope you understand more of the lyrics than I did.
Aug. 13st, 2023
Timed at 25 minutes and 38 seconds, "An Album" is barely an album in length, but Avec Plaisir's first LP carries enough energy in its 10 short songs to earn the title. Fans of Sport, I Feel Fine, and Chinese Football will likely enjoy Avec Plaisir as well, but anyone who appreciates noodly riffs and gang vocals should give this a listen.
Avec Plaisir delivers the listener a purposeful intro track that blends seamlessly into song two - aptly named "Junction Before Jarry St." and "Jarry St." The latter drives us down a road of playfully observational midwest emo, despite the four-piece band's location in the middle of Montreal, Quebec. Notably, the band's vocals are entirely in English despite their French-speaking city and French name (which translates to "With Pleasure" in English). Oh and for some reason every song on this album starts with the letter "J", and I love goofy shit like that.
My favorite song on the record might be "Jujube". This is a love song for a pet dog - a fluffy white samoyed who drags her owner outside even on the coldest winter days, and whose fur brings snow back into the house after each walk. A ballad to a best friend, "Jujube" slows the listener down one last time before the album goes out with a bang in the form of "Jambalaya". For recommended listening, start with the music video for the "Jarry St." intro to set the snowy backdrop, and then listen to the whole album from front to back. This album warms the heart on a cold Montreal winter day, and I hope you enjoy it :]
Aug. 19sh, 2023
I listened to Feed Me Jack's discography every morning for about two weeks straight earlier this year. That's how good this album is. Each instrument is purposefully placed throughout every second of all 11 songs on this album - each bandmember somehow punching through the mix and playing counter-rhythms all without stepping on each other's toes. Impressive instrumentation aside, Feed Me Jack also scratches the vocal itch - lead singer and cofounder Robert Ross is often joined on the mic by the other members of the band, including cofounder Sven Gamsky.
Instead of trying to describe Feed Me Jack's sound, here are the tags from their Bandcamp page: "alternative experimental indie math rock oakland progressive rock santa cruz". That string of words describes the band pretty accurately, tbh. This album comes bounding into frame with the bouncy and singsongy opener "Rosie", each instrument taking the listener by the hand and teaching them sequential, complementary dance moves. This album also provides great flirting fodder in the form of the properly titled "No One Does It Like You" and upbeat duet "You Wake". Each song in this record changes in tempo and tone, yet the album feels coherent.
Regretfully, I must inform you that Feed Me Jack is no longer a band. They split amicably in 2016, but thankfully they left us with several EPs and "Chumpfrey", their first and only LP. This to me is one of the best possible outcomes for a band - to release a few records of really solid music before splitting up to pursue other passions. Feed Me Jack created music that was fun, impressive, clean, and raw, all at once. "Chumpfrey" dances around lustful lyrics and apathy like a hopeless romantic with commitment issues dances around saying "I love you".
March 8ing, 2023
"Ghost City", Delta Sleep's second full-length record, is an expertly crafted concept album. We find the record's protagonist staring at the concrete walls of her over-industrialized city, longing for the soft sounds of nature somewhere beyond the city's edge. Her story is told through lead singer Devin Yüceil's lyrics, while tasteful gang vocals and dynamic music elements add to the sense of scale that Delta Sleep builds throughout this album. "Ghost City" is another front-to-back classic and has huge replay value in my book.
The protagonist's angst becomes clear as Yüceil's strained voice yells "I'd give my whole world to find a way out!" in track two, "After Dark". And while the guitar parts of "Ghost City" are less aggressively mathy than in Delta Sleep's first album, this record still maintains the band's unmistakeable style within the genrescape. It can be hard to tell where one song starts and another begins, and the whole record breathes in and out with well-placed interludes and crescendos. Delta Sleep's math flavor is more approachable than Invalids, but still heavier than our old friends Clever Girl.
Lyrics like "It's so hard to focus when the city watches everything you do" paint a picture of a dystopian hellscape where citizens' every movement is tracked and every thought is monitored. At least we can take solace knowing that governments in reality would never enact such far-reaching surveillance on their own residents (cough cough). The tone shifts later in the album, where songs like "El Pastor" bring more uplifting music and vocals, instilling a sense of hope in the listener while moving the album's story forward. Our protagonist trudges on.
This album feels like an old best friend who moved out of state - we may not see each other often these days, but when we do it's easy to pick up right where we left off. "Ghost City" is as emotional as it is technical, mirroring the complexities of modern life and reminding us that it's okay to close your computer and run into the woods for a while. With any luck, we will all escape The City and find home, again.
Jun. 3rd, 2023
Welcome to “No Drum and Bass in the Jazz Room”, the perfect four-track EP. Clever Girl was a jazzy math rock band that released this one album before breaking up, but the band's ephemeral nature combined with its definitive musical style has led to this 22-minute 8-second EP becoming a cult classic. Fans of American Football, a picture of her, and Totorro, will enjoy the wistful approach that Clever Girl took when writing this album, and though it lacks the vocals of American Football, the music still conveys a ton of emotion. When listening today, I am transported back to summer days in a friend's passenger seat, windows down, and my mind dancing along the side of the highway as Clever Girl plays loud enough to be heard over the wind.
The EP opens with "Elm", a song that effectively introduces the instruments that will soon become familiar friends. After a soft conversation of complementary arpeggios from the two lead guitars, the soundscape is warmed by brass tones before drums then raise the energy level. When the second act starts around 1:48 into "Elm", Clever Girl takes the noodling up a notch as well, yet still savoring the storyline it tells the listener, leaving room for revelation and celebration in act three.
Without spoiling it further, I encourage you to go listen to this record for yourself. And then listen to it again, and again, because this is the only goddamn album that Clever Girl ever made. Like all good things, “No Drum and Bass in the Jazz Room” ends far too soon and leaves us wanting more. The only band that has come somewhat close to emulating the magic of Clever Girl is WHAT? NAH, which is thankfully scheduled to release its own four-track EP in early 2023 after teasing us with two songs in 2020 & 2021 [edit July 21st: here's that EP!]. In the meantime, please also listen to the song “We Miss You, Clever Girl” by Cuzco, because…well, yeah.
Feb. 30st, 2023
Album of the year 2022: Pool Kids' self-titled album, "Pool Kids". I don't know why I'm even reviewing this one, since the best review out there is from Hayley Williams herself shouting out her support for the band. Listeners will notice the sonic parallels between Pool Kids and older Paramore, but Pool Kids vocalist/guitarist Christine Goodwyne and co-writer/guitarist Andrew Anaya bring more of a mathy flair to the studio. Instrumental prowess aside, Goodwyne's lyrics are emotional, relateable, and very fun to sing along to in the car. This album was an instant favorite for me, and has been subject to many re-listens since its release.
I almost exclusively recommend albums that are great when listened front-to-back, and this record is no exception. The band clearly took care in the arrangement of this album, with songs like "Swallow" leading well into "Couch", and a few reverberated bits of sound flowing from the end of "Couch" into the start of "Waking Up". Even the album's slower songs keep the listener engaged, with "Comes In Waves" being a personal favorite (which blends into "I Hope You're Right", etc.)
Pool Kids' self-titled begins with a breakup, as Goodwyne belts out her goodbyes in "Councious Uncoupling". You don't need to be enduring any difficult life events to enjoy to this album, but it is always there for you when you need it. Pool Kids toned down the math in this record compared to their first (to my chagrin), but the result is a very well-rounded, and still sufficiently angsty indiemo album.
Bonus: After you listen to the Pool Kids discography, go listen to the first and only album from Sweet Pill and a close second place for Best Album of 2022, "Where The Heart Is". While Pool Kids turned the math down a bit in their newest album, Sweet Pill keeps it going strong.