Archive for May, 2011
WKNC 88.1 FM, the student-run radio station at North Carolina State University, offers volunteer on- and off-air positions to full-time N.C. State students with a 2.0 minimum grade point average. To qualify for an on-air position, you must first complete a five week DJ training program and pass a written operator’s exam and demonstrative audio board test.
Anyone interested in becoming a WKNC DJ must attend one of our two interest meetings. They will be
Wednesday, June 29 and Thursday, June 30 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. The locations are To Be Announced. During the interest meeting, we will provide an overview of WKNC and its role on campus and in the community. You will also receive an application, which must be completed and returned to the WKNC studios at 343 Witherspoon Student Center by 5 p.m. on Friday, July 1. Individuals interested in electronic, hip-hop, heavy metal and public affairs are particularly encouraged to attend the interest meeting and apply for a spot in the WKNC training program.
After reviewing all applications, our general manager will contact you via email to notify you if you have been accepted into the WKNC training program. Decisions will be made by the general manager and program director, in consultation with the student board of directors.
The DJ training class will be held Tuesdays from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on July 5, July 12, July 19, July 26 and August 2, 2011. The location will be Cox 200. If you cannot attend four of the five sessions or need to come late/leave early, please do not apply for the training program.
Incoming NCSU students may apply for summer training, but must be registered for fall classes by the end of the training program.
Interest meetings for the fall training program will be Wednesday, August 17 and Thursday, August 18 from 5:30-6:30 p.m., with training classes to be held Tuesdays from 5:30-6:30 p.m. beginning August 23.
by shkillia on May.25, 2011, under Promotions
Yo, Yo Yiggity Yo.
If you like/love/can-admit-an-appreciation-for, The Decemberists, Best Coast, The Morning After, Corrosion of Conformity, Beggars, Dance Music for Nerds, Caltrop, Americans in France, Jews & Catholics, Red Collar, Dangerous Ponies or Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, then you should LISTEN UP to WKNC 88.1 this week, because we’ve got giveaways right now for every single one of these shows. You should be listening right now.
Below is the list of shows. Read up and get down as you listen to The Revolution, waiting to see if you can win tickets to your show!
6/11 Live Nation presents The Decemberists w/ Best Coast @ The Raleigh Amphitheater
5/25 The Morning After @ Pinhook (Durham)
5/26 Corrosion of Conformity @ Cat’s Cradle (Carrboro)
5/26 Beggars (w/ Colossus and White Tiger and the Bed of Roses) @ Casbah (Durham)
5/27 Dance Music for Nerds @ Pinhook
5/27 Caltrop @ Kings Barcade (Raleigh)
5/28 Americans in France album release party @ Kings Barcade
5/28 Jews & Catholics @ Pinhook
5/28 Red Collar @ Casbah
5/29 Dangerous Ponies @ Pinhook
5/29 Grace Potter & The Nocturnals @ Lincoln Theatre (Raleigh)
This Thursday, May 26, Local Beer Local Band features “a sound forged in the streets of the Capital City.” The funk/R&B/neo-soul group Outside Soul will take the stage after 10 p.m., but you’ll want to get to Tir Na nOg early for the Kinder Soles Birthday Party, celebrating its first year providing environmentally-conscious footwear.
As always, Local Beer Local Band is a free show for those 21+.
Each week, WKNC’s music directors tally up spins for new releases and submit their top lists to College Music Journal. Here are the top 30 indie rock albums on WKNC reported to CMJ’s Top 200 chart by Music Director Michael Jones.
|#1||Thao And Mirah||Thao And Mirah||Kill Rock Stars|
|#3||Girls Names||Dead To Me||Slumberland|
|#4||Austra||Feel It Break||Domino|
|#5||Wild Palms||Until Spring||One Little Indian|
|#6||Those Darlins||Screws Get Loose||Oh Wow Dang|
|#7||Shannon and the Clams||Sleep Talk||1-2-3-4 Go!|
|#8||Anna Calvi||Anna Calvi||Domino|
|#9||Kids on a Crime Spree||We Love You So Bad||Slumberland|
|#10||Love Inks||E.S.P.||City Slang|
|#11||Generationals||Actor-Caster||Park The Van|
|#12||Blue Sky Black Death||Noir||Fake Four|
|#13||Hooray for Earth||True Loves||Dovecote|
|#14||Explosions in the Sky||Take Care, Take Care, Take Care||Temporary Residence|
|#15||Times New Viking||Dancer Equired||Merge|
|#16||Yelle||Safari Disco Club||Co-Op|
|#17||Mikey Jukebox||Mikey Jukebox||Young Lion Of The West|
|#18||Raveonettes||Raven In The Grave||Vice|
|#20||Fleet Foxes||Helplessness Blues||Sub Pop|
|#22||Panda Bear||Tomboy||Paw Tracks|
|#23||Crystal Stilts||In Love With Oblivion||Slumberland|
|#24||Timber Timbre||Creep On Creepin’ On||Arts And Crafts|
|#25||Cave Singers||No Witch||Jagjaguwar|
|#26||Bill Callahan||Apocalypse||Drag City|
|#27||Feelies||Here Before||Bar None|
|#28||J Mascis||Several Shades Of Why||Sub Pop|
|#29||Art Brut||Brilliant! Tragic!||The End/Cooking Vinyl|
|#30||Tiger Darrow||You Know Who You Are||Self-Released|
If you learned in elementary school English that two negatives make a positive, then you already know to expect a good show from Raleigh’s Double Negative when they perform Thursday, May 19 as part of WKNC and Tir Na nOg’s Local Beer Local Band series.
“It’s the hardest-core hardcore band currently whipping punk kids half as old as the band’s members into foot- and fist-flailing mosh froths,” writes Bryan Reed from Independent Weekly.
The music starts after 10 p.m. FREE, 21+.
Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion was the apogee of 2009 music. The first time I heard the album, I was filled with absolute intrigue — complex and subtle melodies evolved from thin, scaly, harsh textures in unexpectedly delightful ways. I was carried to heights I didn’t before know existed.
The music was horrifying, yet it was wondrous, much like the first time I witnessed an eclipse or experienced a roller coaster. Its mystique drew me in and captured my attention in an unusual way. I didn’t know how to approach the organized sea of harmonies, but I sat with my earbuds tightly in and listened. For the first time in years, modern music had me captivated. Today, I attribute Animal Collective with having turned my musical perception inside-out.
Noah Lennox sings vocals for Animal Collective and plays drums and guitar for the band as well. Yesterday marked the release of his fourth solo album Tomboy, much anticipated since its titular single dropped in the middle of 2010.
Previous releases by the artist who goes by the moniker of Panda Bear spanned into the deeply abstract as scarcely-changing tones droned on for minutes. However, Tomboy is an interesting change in pace as what is easily his most accessible album release yet.
Stylistically, it mirrors Animal Collective’s 2009 release in its patterned intricacies. Sound fills every track’s crevices, expanding to include percussive beats and crunches. The experience is practically religious, though in his April 4 interview with music journalism website Pitchfork, he hesitates to let it be labeled as such.
“It’s not serious in a heavy-handed way — and I really hesitate to say it has any sort of religious or sacred feeling — but it’s in that direction to me,” Lennox told the website. He continued to describe the conditions of the recording studio — dimly lit, uncomfortable, isolated and in a basement in Lisbon.
Despite its studio recording setting, this album is anything but claustrophobic.
In “Slow Motion,” depth is portrayed with every reverberating beat. This piece is the impressionism of modern music; every meticulously placed, painstakingly perfected stroke of tone is visible under the microscope and up for interpretation. The listener is likely to get lost while attempting to sift through the multitude of layers.
“Alsatian Darn” plays with vocal inflections. Lennox himself fades into his music, becoming another instrument in the mixture. “Say, can I make a bad mistake? Say what it is I want to say to you, say what…” These lyrics loop into a cyclone of emotional confusion and somehow, the line between the listener’s psych and that of the creator fades into obscurity.
Tomboy is Panda Bear’s most recent release and one of the most emotive albums that this reviewer has ever heard. It’s mastery of riveting textures is matched by the unique mood it creates. It is the perfect example of this generation’s innovations in genres, and every listen-through is guaranteed to uncover previously over-looked details.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 4/6
Time has seen this band shift from a pure metalcore band into prog-metal masters. Every album of theirs has shown a shift and change in not only the band’s talent, but also in their songwriting skills. This EP, while it only contains three songs, holds a wealth of material contained in them.
From beginning to end, he Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues will take more twists and turns that 24 does in an entire season. What truly sets this album apart from the band’s previous endeavors, however, is the seamless blending of past and present elements.
We get a sense of what is to come from the start of the record as Thomas Giles ominously plays his keyboards, as if he were summoning the ferocious beast Godzilla from the depths of the ocean for “Specular Reflection.” Just as the piano crescendos into a climax, the guitars and drums kick in, pummeling you with frantic riffs and erratic blast beats.
All throughout this barrage, Giles’s vocals berate us with a harshness seen in many death metal bands. As he screams his heart out, the guitars take a gradual change from intense pummeling to a firm massaging, blending intricately with the harshness of the vocals, before breaking down completely into a serene progressive interlude.
Giles’s vocals adapt to this change as his vocals take on an ethereal aspect, seeming to float over the air, as guitars hold a sustain over a constant drum beat, that slowly builds up into a melody that would make Muse jealous.
Seamlessly transitioning from the first song, “Augment of Rebirth” sweep picks its way into BTBAM history as being quite possibly the heaviest song the band has ever written. Constant stop-go guitar riffs litter the song from beginning to end, as keyboards seem to sneak in ever so slightly, intertwining themselves with the riffs and gutteral vocals.
Seeming to draw inspiration from The Dillinger Escape Plan with regards to insanity, the band constantly switches between intense fast playing and heavy breakdowns that seem to beat into your very soul.
But true to BTBAM style, they refuse to stay constant as they inject a polka interlude reminiscent of the bards of old as they entertained kings, before merging into a polka metal fusion blasting its way through your speakers.
In what could be my favorite song written by the band, “Lunar Wilderness” encapsulates everything that makes BTBAM, well, BTBAM.
It starts off beautiful and chill before suddenly kicking in with harsh vocals and catchy guitar riff that sticks with you for the rest of the day. The vocals take on a dual aspect as they shift between gorgeous clean vocals and harsh yelling.
Known mostly for their intricacies in guitar work, the band spares no expense as they unleash solo after solo, sometimes undercutting the vocals and creating a vacuum of intensity. Suddenly, as if the heavens decided to part and spare us from this destruction, the song drops into a peaceful ending interlude, letting the listener down from the chaos.
Combining all these songs together into one long, conceptual piece, these North Carolinians show they can fuse the beauty with the brutal and the calm with the chaotic, forming a tornado that will sweep you off your feet before putting you back down.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/30
The San Francisco indie-rock band The Dodos released its fourth album, No Color, March 15. The duo Meric Long and Logan Kroeber teamed up with ex-member Keaton Snyder and tour mate Neko Case to create what is arguably the best album released this year.
Fast-paced minimalist percussion and rhythmic vocals drive the nine-song album. Neko Case of The New Pornographers contributes backing vocals for five songs. Despite being the vocal powerhouse she is, Case adds just the right addition of harmonies as to not overpower The Dodos, but simply make a great supplement to the album.
The album’s opener, “Black Night,” begins with attention-grabbing drums and melodic guitar. A distinctive trait of The Dodos is its lack of bass drum. Instead, Kroeber swapped it out for a tambourine. This is an unconventional route to take, but it generates a unique formation of songs.
Songs like “Going Under” and “Good,” which both feature Case, are very catchy. Influences of The New Pornographers are evident, but not subduing The Dodo’s style. The drums pound in an exciting cadence, balanced by the guitar work of Long.
Four songs in, “Sleep” continues the up-beat folk-rock, utilizing repetition and harmonies. Case echoes in the background, adding depth to the song.
“Don’t Try and Hide It” is a little different, starting out with acoustic guitar and vocals only. The drums sneak up after the first minute. The rise and fall of the vocals works well in this song, especially with the notes Case can hit. She harmonizes with Long, singing “You are nowhere/you are nothing vacant.”
“When Will You Go” offers a mix of fast and slow beats, along with sections of both jam sessions and single-instrument solos.
“Hunting Season” is similar to The Dodos’ earlier work, like their big hit “Fools,” off of Visiter. The Dodos found something that worked and stuck with it in this song. The lyrics are a little wittier, such as “this is what I’ve been waiting for, and the red light/you go be a girl I’ll be leaving tonight.”
“Companion” begins by dancing around classical guitar-picking and ethereal vocals. The album’s closer, “Don’t Stop,” reverts back to the quick and choppy drum beats and steady vocals. The song finishes with a concluding crack of the drums, leaving the listener with a racing heartbeat and wanting more.
The raw and rackety drumming is the pulse of this album. The simple strumming and fastidious finger picking add spirit and bring the album to life. The chemistry between Long and Kroeber emulates that between members of a jazz band, in which each person plays off what the other is doing.
The Dodos are not afraid of experimentation, which is easy to see as the music floats between pure indie rock and folk rock with elements of psychedelic.
This album is a good follow-up to their 2009 release, Time to Die. The Dodos were on point, setting the bar high for the many new releases to come this year.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/23
By John O’Neal, WKNC DJ Buck Nasty
There’s a lot of hip-hop knocking on people’s doors nowadays, from little-known artists like Yelawolf to full blown show-stoppers like Nas. But nothing draws attention like having a lyricist who can wow you with his smooth flow while also injecting heartfelt emotions that leave you wanting more.
That person is Shawn Chrystopher, who hails from Inglewood, California. His latest album, You and Only You, is available free for download on www.youandonlyyou.com and features more hits than any album you would buy.
Shawn Chrystopher starts by using his real name as his rap label, which is surprising. He also sports no label, so he has the creative authority over all his own sounds.
It’s OK if you haven’t heard of him after three mixtapes, three albums and two singles. I first heard of him after watching The Reason’s music video on YouTube, which is a dry showcase of what hip-hop should be.
What you don’t expect is for his main song to be so raw. “You and Only You,” the first song on the album, is spoken word. It reminds you that rap is only poetry over a beat, which a lot of artists forget. He talks about the material wants his girlfriend wants, and how he wants to make it big in the business for his mother.
I give a quick listen to songs on little-known rapper’s albums, not because I don’t think they don’t have anything to say, but because the first 20 seconds make or break a song to me.
“Emergency Broadcast” will have you still listening for all one minute and two seconds of it, with your head bobbing. With the ripe trumpets and the melodic voice he presents, you wonder why rappers don’t stay this fresh.
Another song that had me pressing repeat was “The Hangover.” Many movies and songs have tried to embody this feeling, but Chrystopher captures it with ease. You can visualize the scene he is painting, and the beat’s feel complements the message very well.
The image that a rapper is living well is a message that’s put out too much. I thought Shawn Chyrstopher’s “Sold Out Shows” featuring Cameron Wallace was another song like this. But his verses embody what he actually feels and how he puts so much effort behind making it.
You may not love hip-hop for whatever reason, but Shawn Chyrstopher’s self-made sound is refreshing and worth the download, especially because it’s free. He’s at the South by Southwest festival right now without any label backing promoting his music, and I wish him the best for it.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/16
By Alexandra Adams, WKNC DJ Alex
In 2009, she released Basement Covers, an album featuring covers of Mumford & Sons, The Rolling Stones and three others. It was literally recorded in her basement with Winston playing every instrument, and caused record labels to start paying attention. Her latest, Sister Wife, at just over 21 minutes long, is a perfect primer in Winston’s unique style that has her poised to become an indie darling.
The 23-year-old Detroit native and classically trained opera singer wrote all of the album’s songs, in addition to playing all of the instruments on the recordings.
Most of Winston’s songs stay in her signature high-pitched, almost girlish tone. Her Joanna Newsome-esque sound may seem like it could be unappealing to some, but she does it all so well that it’s incredibly charming and highly addictive.
“Locomotive” starts off the album with a driving beat and Winston’s characteristic undeniable hook that gets in your head and stays there. It features a slight twinge of electro-pop while still avoiding an over-produced sound.
Next, the title track, “Sister Wife,” is an irresistibly catchy song and a twist from the usual “love gone wrong” theme of many songs. Her play on the term “sister wife” is easily understood by the listener and is like a cultural time capsule of America’s current fascination with the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who have a bunch of wives.
She hilariously declares with gumption, “Hey there, Sister Wife / Get the Hell out, it’s my night / You don’t know the way to his heart like I do.” The song shines as one of Winston’s best.
“Sweet James” is reminiscent of She & Him’s 60s girl group-influenced love songs. It’s a bouncy tune similar to Zooey Deschanel’s cheery, clever songwriting.
“Sweet James” is a modern cousin to the Motown-style tunes about innocent affection between girl and boy, complete with Winston’s endearing “ooh oohs” and loving declarations that this James fellow is “nice as nice can be” and “true blue.”
The one blunder of the album is “Don’t Care About Anything.” It seems to be meant as an emotional, stripped-down change of pace from the rest of the album. However, the track mostly comes off as strangely saccharine wailing until the relief of a somewhat redeeming chorus and violin solo.
“Choice Notes” is the album’s second single and is upbeat with great production that isn’t too over-the-top. Its fresh sound and happy beat has helped the track get grabbed up for some commercials in the UK, where Winston already has a dedicated following.
Sister Wife is a strong release full of charm, originality and authentic talent. From the strong songwriting and the fact that she plays every instrument on the album herself, Winston has quickly proven that she is a talent to look out for.
It is obvious that as she heads this week to perform at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival in the music mecca of Austin, Sister Wife is only the beginning for Alex Winston.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/2
By WKNC DJ Margot
Musically, my parents and I do not agree on much. They raised me on ABBA, Moody Blues and everything 70s. By high school, I had dropped everything oldies for the indie music that is so prevalent in our generation.
But, after giving them a good listen of the Smith Westerns new album, Dye It Blonde, I had the whole family agree on a band that didn’t hit their peak in 1978. And if you haven’t been listening to indie music, the Smith Westerns provide a great starting point.
The band doesn’t throw you through the hoops of obscurity that many people feel indie music is, but reminds fans of the early rock they grew up listening to as kids.
Dye It Blonde is the second album that the band has produced and was just released in mid-January. Their 60s-inspired Beatlesque sound is both familiar and new, compelling listeners to keep listening through the end of the album.
Their lyrics are honest and simple, and complement their traditional yet somehow experimental instrumentation well. Expect strong electric guitar, pop keys and soft vocals that are oddly mesmerizing. Also expect a lot — and I mean a lot — of electric guitar solos.
The band hails from the Windy City and consists of vocalist Cullen Omori, guitarist Max Kakacek and bassist Cameron Omori. Before this album release, they toured with some of the big names in the business — MGMT, Florence and the Machine, Belle and Sebastian and Passion Pit. The band was named band of the week by Rolling Stone Magazine after their release of Dye it Blonde on Jan. 18.
For a first listen, check out the tracks “Fallen In Love” and “Only One.” These two songs are both different, but are connected by minor chords and melancholy rock that makes you want to take a road trip — just in time for Spring Break. So, grab a copy of Dye It Blonde, get in the car with some friends and book it.
If you are already a fan of the Smith Westerns or didn’t like them the first time you heard them, expect cleaner, softer sounds and clearer vocals — an overall improvement from their self-titled first album in 2009.
Dye It Blonde is the band’s graduation album, from teenage garage sound to a more polished, grown-up sound. The band leaves behind the harsh, quick vocals for slow melodic echoes.
Check out the song “Smile” for something clearer and dreamier than their original sound. The song features a chorus that is unexpected compared to the rest of the album, making the song stand out compared to the rest of the tracks.
Dye It Blonde provides a great transition, both for the band and for the 60s sound that seems to be coming back in great demand. I would recommend the album to anyone who’s been looking for a Beatles rebirth or is a fan of the Dum Dum Girls. Imagine a masculine, louder Dum Dum Girls and you have the Smith Westerns.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 2/23
By Seth White, WKNC DJ Goof
Radiohead doesn’t release singles, and rarely mention that they have anything near completion. Then one day they say they have a new album coming out, and four days later you have it in your lap.
The King of Limbs is Radiohead’s eighth full-length album, and finds them once again polishing off the direction they have been heading in since the release of 2000′s Kid A.
In Kid A, they wiped away the guitar-driven rock band persona they developed in their first two albums for something much more abstract. They experimented with scattered percussion segments, looped vocals and ambient noises that can easily leave the listener lost at first, but rewarded in the long run.
Limbs starts out much the same way with “Bloom.” The song skips and buckles with spattered drum beats and an off-kilter bass line that slowly grows. Finally, Thom’s reverberating vocals reel you into the bigger picture.
Although “Bloom” is entertaining, it is nothing the band has not tried before on Kid A or Amnesiac, and is probably the lowlight of the album. “Morning Mr. Magpie” is the same. It’s better than the first track, but lacks the excitement expected when one hears Radiohead.
Limbs really starts to pick up speed in the third track. “Little by Little” is an energetic number that recovers from the dullness of its predecessors.
“Feral” is the most outlandish track on the album. It is an instrumental piece comprised of fast-paced, high-pitched drums, consumed by overwhelming bass and synth notes. Much like the rest of the album, it has a constrained, claustrophobic sense of urgency.
“Lotus Flower” is the album’s dominant force. It is catchy, beautiful and reminiscent of the 90s band Massive Attack. “Codex,” the following song on the album, is an elegant slow-burner that quickly diminishes this excitement. The band seems to take a page out of Bon Iver’s playbook for “Give Up The Ghost”. Thom’s vocals are at their prime here. They are haunting and calm, soothing and fearful — a brilliant dichotomy that truly makes Radiohead the world-renowned band they are.
The album ends on a high note with “Separator.” This song is much less controlled than the rest of the tracks and is riddled with perfectly-placed overlapping vocals. Unlike the restless feeling given off by most of the previous tracks, “Separator” comes across as much more optimistic.
Although Limbs starts off slow, it gains speed and makes a promising finish. As with most Radiohead albums, it needs countless listens to be fully understood. It takes time to appreciate it for what it is.
The world of distorted rock is one that many bands dare to succeed at doing well, but ultimately fail at when it comes to executing at an album level.
It is a highly fickle sound that some attempt to manage, but fail to pick up an audience that becomes significant at a larger level. Even with all the disadvantages of taking a path that does not frequently lead to success, Yuck has embarked on this task.
As their debut album proves, they have all the potential of being a band that proves to be at the front of rock fans. Receiving accolades from the likes of the BBC Sound of 2011, Yuck had a lot to live up to, and their debut holds up astoundingly.
Yuck wastes no time when giving the audience a direct message about what they have come to accomplish. The first track, “Get Away,” kicks into gear with little hesitation. The punch from the guitars has a raw and rhythmic tone with a subtle screech that makes the track accessible and instantly likeable.
Starting off on a good foot, Yuck follows one of the best tracks on the album with another that tops the list. Changing up the overall feel of their lo-fi sound, Yuck shows a lot of heart and determination. Their guitar riffs are soaring and contribute to the momentum of the tracks rather than serving primarily as a placeholder.
The brilliant thing about the young group’s album is not that they deliver one hard-nosed track after another, but that they have a precise understanding of pacing and are willing to venture outside of their comfort zone.
Instead of over-saturating the listener with several songs in succession with the same tone and grittiness, Yuck strategically places tracks that are much slower, easier on the listener and expose an additional depth to the band not previously seen.
Pacing and changing up the tone of songs come to a pinnacle when placed perfectly into the middle of the album with the track “Georgia.” Nostalgic, poppy and high-energy, “Georgia” becomes a standout that demonstrates the raw talent of such a young group. Adding their female member’s vocal talent to the track demonstrate how they are able to diversify their overall sound.
For the lovers of 90s rock of a similar likeness, it is hard not to pin down the influences of 90s lo-fi acts within many of the songs. “Operation” quickly becomes one of those tracks that highlight the magnificence of artists before them, while demonstrating the band’s enormous amount of heart.
Yuck provides for a sound that is easy to compare to other lo-fi artists, yet unique overall. It’s simple, direct, distorted rock at its finest.
Ending off a fantastic album the right way, Yuck delivers the spectacular seven-minute journey “Rubber.” Full of anxiety and the scruff that overwhelmingly defines their sound, “Rubber” becomes an excellent finale to what is a magnificent debut. If anything, Yuck is supremely appetizing to anybody that wants to listen to rock as loudly as possible.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 1/26
By Sarah Hager, WKNC DJ
The Portland, Ore. natives are known for their mix of indie, folk and rock music all packaged under the chilling yet soothing voice of Colin Meloy. The new album offers another genre blend that wasn’t prominent on former albums. The influences of Americana and blues are unmistakable during each new track.
The six-piece band plays an array of over 14 instruments, including Hammond organ, piano, violin and harmonica. In addition to the band members, guests Peter Buck of R.E.M. and indie folk star Gillian Welch also appear on the new album. Despite the mass amount of instruments and bodies, each song has deep layers of music without any part of it sounding odd or random.
“Don’t Carry It All” starts off the album with a blast from Meloy’s harmonica to immediately set the mood of The King is Dead. All the instruments complement one another. Sara Watkins harmonizes with Meloy on the choruses, which turn out to be a common tool throughout the album.
The second track picks up the tempo and adds interesting lyrics, which are an aspect of The Decemberists that any fan immediately recognizes. Their lyrics consist of clever rhymes and vocabulary-building words virtually every time.
“Down By The Water” and “Rox in Box” are truer to older Decemberists music. The first features harder cymbals, harmonies in all the right places and musical build-ups to engage the listener. This is the one you’ll sing along to first. The latter is also catchy, but has an older feel to it, laced with sharp guitar licks and accordion.
“January Hymn” reminds me of Dave Matthews Band. It’s slower with heavy reliance on acoustic guitar and voice. Lyrics like “April, all an ocean away, is this the better way to spend the day/Keeping the winter at bay” paint a scene of someone deep in thought, retracing their choices. With a shaker acting as the only percussion, the listener focuses on the lyrics and gets lost in thought.
“This Is Why We Fight” is a track that has more rock than country. The lyrics are choppier and repetitive, making a point and getting straight to it. “Come the war/come hell” paired with a chorus containing “and when we die/we will die/with our arms unbound” has a political air to it. The last 45 seconds of the song feel like listening to someone playing guitar from another room.
Overall, this album was not what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it. They embrace their Americana roots and run with it. This is right up the alley of fans of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. The vocals, wide range of instrumentation, lyrics and genre variation will reach a wide listener range. Although it strays from the rockier center of traditional Decemberists music, The King is Dead is definitely worth a listen.
Friday, May 13th the crowd at Cat’s Cradle was anything but unlucky. The set was extended, putting in a second opener to Lost in the Trees. Due to the growling in my tummy I missed the first opener, The Towers. Instead, I ran over to Carrburrito for a bangin’ fish taco (and not the Urban Dictionary definition, so please don’t go there!) . Mmmmm. Oh, right, the show.
Upon my return, completely stuffed, the second opening band, The Toddlers, came on. This unsigned Chapel Hill band played loud rock music that was carried by the lead singer’s deep voice. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the depth of his voice; somewhere in-between Matt Berninger, of the National and Charlotte-based artist Benji Hughes.
By the time The Toddlers were halfway through their set, Cat’s Cradle was packed. Questions of “is this Lost in the Trees?,” were being answered with shouts and whispers from “This is the second band… I don’t think so” and “How could you think that?”, to “Hell yeah!”. Needless to say, there were some very new fans in the audience, and they were about to be blown away.
After two 45-minute opening sets, the long awaited Lost in the Trees made it to the stage. Ari Picker floated across the stage as he plucked at his guitar, while Emma Nadeu did her usual amazing thing playing about eleventy-billion instruments. Having seen Lost in the Trees about 5 times now, I can say that this show had a different feeling than others. It was more focused and less ethereal. The back-up instrumentals became harder, while Ari himself became more billowy. It was a difficult scenario to describe, but I have a feeling that their new record will have many of these elements. They played a few songs that will be on that new record; they display the same musical genius as in the other albums but the energy seems stronger. They played some Lost in the Trees staples like “Song for the Painter” and “Walk Around the Lake”, to which everyone sung along, even the people who in the beginning weren’t sure if they were The Toddlers.
Lost in the Trees is up to great things, and always worth seeing!