Foxygen - Angel Ceballos

Jagjaguwar’s release of Foxygen’s Take the Kids Off Broadway last year introduced audiences to a duo of psych-pop revivalists that made it their mission to cram as many influences as they could into one album. Although fuzzy and unkempt, it was a laudable endeavor. On We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, Foxygen continue their shtick, but this time around it is much more polished. Crammed-full of familiar melodies and elements of superstars from the ’60s and ’70s – with famed multil-instrumentalist Richard Swift producing – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic is a full-bodied album that is far away from the lo-fi world of their debut.  From Sgt. Peppered album opener “In the Darkness” and “Oh No 2,” to the Dylanisms scattered across “No Destruction” to  Bowie, Lou Reed (in the Velvet Underground days), and all eras of Mick Jagger – especially on the title track – Foxygen are appreciative of the sound that defines them, and they do their upmost not to mimic, but to pay tribute.

There have been plenty of bands that would fall into the realm of reconstruction, but Foxygen spans two decades of past musical high notes, quite the accomplishment for a band that have been recording under their current name since the age of fifteen. Countless bands before Foxygen have dabbled with quick change and cosmic patchworks of older influences, but few have succeeded in crafting songs as moving and catchy as these. The thick accents and psychedelic swirl of “San Francisco” walk the line of being patronizingly nostalgic until the hook-heavy chorus comes in.  Singer Sam France is a nostalgic virtuoso, who can not only throw his voice into any era, but can do so while always maintaining the flow of the song. Foxygen are in complete songwriting control.

We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is a beautiful, non-stop convergence of ideas, some borrowed, some original, some revised, and some outright plagiarized. In the end, however, the album’s coherence comes in its incredible architecture of all these ideas, and the way the band sells them with a carefree, fun-loving attitude.  France and bandmate Jonathan Rado give it everything they’ve got, taking a project that could have very well ended in disaster and allowed their nostalgic hearts to fully grasp the predecessors that shaped them, creating a delightfully frantic, yet playful ode to the yesteryears.

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— , February 21, 2013    Comments Off on Foxygen: We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Interview    RAC

André Allen Anjos, aka RAC, has made a name for himself by creating some of the most evocative and creative remixes in the music world. Each remix he puts out masterfully grasps the most important aspects of the original song, all the while giving it an entirely fresh and fluid sound. It makes sense, then, that Anjos is finally venturing into the realm of original content, the first taste of which is his debut single ‘Hollywood’. The song, which features vocals from Penguin Prison’s Chris Glover, was a seamless evolution from the remixes RAC has been making for the past several years, taking those experiences and applying it to a made-from-scratch song. The result is an incredibly catchy and wholly indelible piece of music, one that, from start to finish, is tirelessly enjoyable and simply fun to listen to.

During his recent tour, RAC made a stop in Vancouver, performing at the city’s famous Waldorf Hotel. Before the show, Adrian McCavour of Some Kind of Awesome and I had the opportunity to chat with Anjos about all things RAC: his approach to remixes, how he has applied that to original content, his singing abilities, and future releases.

Adrian McCavour: Each remix you put out, carries the intent of the original song, but takes it to a whole new level with a more fluid sound. What approach do you take when creating a remix?

André Allen Anjos: With the remix, it’s kind of like writing a new song. I know that people don’t perceive it that way, or people don’t think anything is original, but it’s kind of like taking out what makes it that song – whether its structure, or a hook, or one of the main things – and then building around that. It’s really about what’s important in that song, and changing the rest, because the rest is irrelevant and interchangeable. That’s kinda what it is, on a practical level it is a lot of time just listening to the song and figuring out what’s important.

Alec Ross: When making a song on your own, is the approach more difficult? Is there anything different in the process?

André: The only real difference is how much pressure I put on myself, because with remixes, normally you’re working with ridiculous deadlines and a lot of the times you just wing it. Sometimes it’s kind of crazy to have a remix I listen to and think “Oh man I wish I had more time for that”, but it doesn’t work out that way. With this it was different because I had all the time in the world and I didn’t have deadlines and I could do whatever I wanted. It was really fun, it was just more pressure on myself. Working with Chris [Glover] was great, that was the easiest part of it.

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— , July 27, 2012    Comments Off on RAC

After over a decade as a group, The Walkmen release their seventh studio album, Heaven, which further departs from their initial adolescent garage rock and cements their place as distinguished artists still singing of heartaches and hangovers, but also of friendship and introspection, all with a matured sence humility and hindsight. Heaven still holds true to The Walkmen’s iconic sound – filled with shimmering vintage guitars, reverbed drums, and upright pianos – but what sets it apart is its continuation of the adult themes introduced by You & Me and furthered by Lisbon.

The Walkmen’s history began even before they were prep school boys who moved to be a part of the “New York scene”. Their friendship evolved into a brotherhood that has professionally lasted over 12 years, with no signs of halting. Once youngsters who owed a substantial amount of recognition to an episode of The O.C. – during the show’s downward spiral which featured some of the best music ever – they no longer seem overtly concerned with drinking to a stupor and drunk-dialing ex-girlfriends. Although they may still dabble in delinquencies, they are no longer boys.

Hamilton Leithauser and his band mates — multi-instrumentalist Pete Bauer, guitarist Paul Maroon, drummer Matt Barrick and bassist Walter Martin – no longer all live in New York. They still record and tour as one, but these days the band is split up between Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. The Walkmen are men now, and they have new situations to deal with. There’s a substantial amount of inspiration that must come from weddings and births of children. On title track ‘Heaven’, vocalist Leithauser reflects on his band while he wishes his friends will never leave his side so that their “children will always hear, romantic tales of distant years”. Hard to believe that the boys who began their career with an album titled Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone would be so concerned about their children’s’ happiness, but I guess this is what happens when one grows up. I’ll have to take their word for it.

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— , June 13, 2012    Comments Off on The Walkmen: Heaven

Photograph by Erin Algiere

When first we heard from Tennis they had an incredible amount of positive buzz attached to their name. With only one single and a story that chronicled a long term romance filled with university life, sailing trips, and marriage, Tennis reached for the top of the blogosphere and generated the kind of hype that a major label’s marketing team can only dream of. But having a hit debut album can be both a blessing and a curse. Although Tennis received a considerable amount of praise for Cape Dory, they needed another well-received record to keep the momentum going.

With Young & Old, Tennis take a step in the right direction for their career. Young & Old is an album sitting on the fence between comfort and foreign territory. The best maturation processes take time and Tennis seem to understand this. Although we still hear their classic sound (‘Robin’ is a great example), compared to its predecessor, Young & Old has a sound that is more developed, and more meticulous in its production.

I chatted with guitarist Patrick Riley in September of last year about the future of Tennis, and it was then that he first commented about a new record in the works. Then December came along, and Tennis performed at the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver; this marked the first time Tennis had performed their new material in Vancouver. The addition of an extra touring musician, and a more confident front woman, signified that something was happening to the band as a whole. It was not so much a period of radical change, but rather a period of growth and development; they really couldn’t have named this album any better. Young & Old, nostalgic and new, the album will win the hearts of fans already attached to the surf-rock sounds, and it will also grab the attention of a considerable amount of first-time listeners. Vocalist Alaina Moore exemplifies a front woman who has discovered a new sense of confidence in her voice, ‘Petition’ and ‘Origins’ are the clearest examples of this.

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— , March 19, 2012    Comments Off on Tennis: Young & Old

September 3-5, 2011, Seattle, Washington — To say that I enjoyed myself at Bumbershoot 2011 would be an understatement. In their four years co-producing the event, One Reel & AEG Live have truly achieved something special incorporating numerous venues inside the seventy-four-acre Seattle Centre over labour day weekend. Bumbershoot’s greatest assets are its use of space, the variety of musical acts, presentations of other mediums of art, Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project, and beer gardens with great stage views.

On the first day, Seattle sextet Pickwick played two dazzling shows filled with their mixture sultry garage hodgepodge, while Swedish act Little Dragon had the crowd dancing on the Fisher Green stage. Adorned in gold clothing and electric blue shoes, vocalist Yukimi Nagano pranced around the stage, perfectly in sync with the synthpop being generated from her bandmates. Ray LaMontagne and his backing band the Pariah Dogs closed the evening with their soulful folk, playing hits such as ‘Jolene’, ‘Beg, Steal or Borrow’, and ‘Trouble’.

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— , September 19, 2011    2 Comments