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To many American, liberal, college-attending twenty-somethings, Blind Uncle Harry’s album, entitled “Visualize Industrial Collapse,” adheres to a very popular radical sociopolitical perspective that America is bad, we need to learn to live without it, and the only solution is for everything to fall apart (as is inevitable?). The album title seems to be commanding its listeners to look off into the burning horizon and see America’s future: a crumbling apocalypse of the stock market. And it starts with the “dope smokers.”
In the second song of the album, “Dope Smokers of the World Unite and Take Over,” it is suggested that an industrial collapse is ideal. If everyone were to fulfill the hippy-esque agenda of getting high and just enjoying the small pleasures of life, nobody would pay attention to things like the stock market and extreme conservative political agendas and it would all crumble, leaving us with a paradise of living off the land and getting back to basics. The song is done in a children’s-song sort of way that makes you want to clap along and laugh, but the song does not convey a realistic message. If the intention is to be fun-loving, casual, and somewhat joking, I would say that it could be seen as a success.
The album as a whole has both comedic and serious elements that are conveyed well through an emotionally strong use of instrumentals. Bringing a violin into “I Just Want You to Know” helps to convey the strong message the song presents. The first song utilizes layering of acoustic elements to convey relaxed, beachy themes contrasted with the fact that it is Christmas Day (in Australia)—a fun oxymoron for those of us in the Midwest.
The lyricism was effectively written in order to promote a very specific political agenda. While not relatable to all, the message was strong in many ways and produced alongside the right instrumentals. The harmonies were similarly effective to convey a certain message, but the vocals could have been much more polished. However, in accordance with the “stoner” themes, they work.
It shows that it was a lot of fun for Blind Uncle Harry to produce this album—the band is self-described as “hillbilly hippy haiku folk rock.” Based in Bloomington, IN, they were definitely born in the right place. While I do not feel that the album’s message will ever be a very successful one in regards to, say, actually promoting political change, I do feel that it is important to remember that music is a form of expression. Blind Uncle Harry has utilized it in this way to a full extent, and that is definitely something to be appreciated.
“Impermanence, it’s permanently with me,” sings Sampha to SBTRKT’s deeply artistic use of electronic effects. This line hits home to me, as I had thought of a similar phrase as I stood looking out at the ocean and contemplating life (haha?) this summer. Once again, I felt a deep connection with this music.
Known for his beautiful collaborations, Aaron Jerome of SBTRKT’s sound can be described as “post-dubstep, indie pop, electronic” (Wikipedia). I get it, but there’s more. SBTRKT is beyond a genre. He is so highly experimental, yet still so highly accessible to listeners that it’s difficult to describe to someone. Often I’ve found myself saying to friends who haven’t heard, “just go look it up.” Then I have to explain the spelling. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (otherwise known as “High School”), I myself was very confused by the name. I’d heard it first in my freshman sculpture class, and every time I asked and tried to look it up I came up with nothing. Finally, upon taking a peek at my teacher’s computer, I figured it out—that great moment that many of us have when we come to such an obvious yet confusing realization (in this case, that “Subtract” is in fact “SBTRKT”).
My first thought was, Weird. My subsequent thought was, Awesome.
SBTRKT does a good job at being anonymous. Often hiding behind Sampha’s angelic voice or some other lovely artist collaborator, Jerome plays music that ranges from tribal to electronic to mystical to all of the above. His new and second album, Wonder Where We Land, came out on Oct. 7 via the Young Turks label.
Composed of 21 songs, Wonder Where We Land feels like an even more varied collection than his self-titled album. The transition between songs feels somewhat choppier, but in a thematic way that works. The album is playful and pushes more for a hip-hop feel; “NEW DORP. NEW YORK.” with Ezra Koenig is by far the most “fun,” and I couldn’t help but bob my head while listening to it’s exceedingly funky and strange beats. “Higher” with Raury and “Look Away” with Caroline Polachek are more haunting, the latter giving me an electronic-ized version of the feeling I get when I listen to Cat Power or Fiona Apple. Raury’s soft lyricism to SBTRKT’s ethereal sound portrays aggressive thoughts against a velvety background, the contrast of which adds to the effectiveness of the song. “Voices In My Head” with A$AP Ferg and Warpaint was similarly dark and intriguing, and it definitely put more of an emphasis on the voices than SBTRKT’s trademark electronic effects for the majority of the song. I almost felt like I lost Jerome’s sound with a few of the songs like this; perhaps this is his push for anonymity at its finest?
Adding to the variety of the mix, “Spaced Out” with Boogie was a sexy addition to the album, and the sounds reminded me of a Tyler the Creator song minus all of the violence. And anger. Plus sexier (sorry, Tyler… love you). “Temporary View” sounds like more of a traditional piece by SBTRKT, but every artist has a favorite comfort food. This sound is like Jerome’s rainy day grilled cheese. When I heard “Osea,” I couldn’t help but feel like MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular had somehow been inspired by SBTRKT’s SBTRKT. However, that’s chronologically impossible… perhaps MGMT has a time machine we don’t know about?
“If It Happens” with Sampha had some lyrics that really hit home for me (per usual). “Would I lie to myself just to be close to somebody else? Should we fake this? I don’t know. Ah-“ and then the singer is cut off mid-word at the end of the song as if somebody or something else made the decision for him. The punishment for indecisiveness, perhaps—a battle I think many of us are constantly fighting, romantically or otherwise. If you let a problem fester and become entrenched with conflict and resentment, the problem will find a solution on its own and have the likely potential to hurt you more.
I could not help but see this album as having a strongly distinctive aesthetic. I viewed it as an art piece of sorts, a gallery compilation of dynamic work inclusive of many unique elements (some old, some new, some tried-and-true). The song-to-song flow is somewhat abrupt and choppy at times, but it seems to work. The themes flow like a multimedia collage, and it’s extremely interesting to listen to. If you must listen to only one song first, I suggest “Higher” featuring the voice of Raury—I find myself going back to this one the most.
Forecastle was my first complete music festival experience. As it was an “urban festival,” I was able to enjoy the comforts of a hotel room and the late night food of my choice. When I arrived with my fellow festival goers, I was first struck by the fact that a portion of the event was located beneath an underpass; the main stage was framed by the Ohio River. Beyond the festival was the bridge we drove across to get into Louisville. The setting was serene and sprawling, and although crowds got dense at points (especially at the various stages, of course), the festival was not overwhelming to walk into.
As the day wore on, the crowds began to get more dense, and fortunately, Friday was a relatively cool day. I spent a lot of time exploring the grounds, drifting from stage to stage. There were many booths that sold merchandise, all types of food and drink, and art booths (one of which belonged to the official Forecastle artist himself, Status Serigraph). Many oddities wandered the grounds, including an odd papier-mâché man supported by three or four people (he was probably a pop-culture reference, but I don’t know it), a couple of monster-looking creatures, and various Chinese dragons. A ship was beached in the middle of it all; it was often inhabited by women dressed as mermaids, and a beautifully tattooed man painted the boat with intricate designs that evolved and grew throughout the weekend.
There were four stages, and each stage seemed to draw a different crowd; the Ocean stage generally housed more EDM and experimental groups such as Mimosa and Tune-Yards (these crowds were generally populated by much younger people), and the Port stage was generally visited by a more relaxed, generally older crowd that came to see groups like Sun Kil Moon and Joy Vance.
The Mast and Boom stages were home to the bigger acts. On Friday, these included JJ Grey & Mofro on the Mast Stage (this was the largest one and the first you saw walking in) and The Black Lips on the Boom stage. The unfortunate thing about Friday’s lineup was that I wanted very much to see Spoon and The Districts (Spoon being one of my main musical high school obsessions and The Districts being a group I’d had the privilege of seeing in Bloomington a year prior). Instead, I ended up being dragged into the Twenty One Pilots crowd in order to get up close for Outkast.
Initially, I was skeptical. I got some great photographs of Twenty One Pilots; don’t get me wrong, they are talented musicians much like the many other amazing artists who played on the stages of Forecastle this July. However, I’d seen them last summer at Piqnic and been relatively unimpressed (I have not heard much of their music, which probably contributed largely to this disinterest).
But being in an excited crowd is infectious. At one point, lead singer Tyler Joseph urged everyone to get up on each others’ shoulders and get closer to the music. Josh Dun—the currently pink-haired drummer—also crowd surfed, playing his drums on a board being held up by what I hoped was able-bodied helpers and not unsuspecting crowd members. I have to give it to them: Twenty One Pilots does know how to put on a good show. They are always full of energy and never fail to get the crowd to go insane (which is generally full of devoted fans, but still).
Once Twenty One Pilots ended, I found myself five rows from the front. After an hour of waiting in a dense, sweaty crowd (an act I reviled at the time but quickly grew to appreciate throughout the weekend), the lights went dark and a black and white American Flag appeared projected onto a giant red screen, against which was silhouetted Big Boi and Andre 3000.
They emerged, Andre 3000 sporting a white wig and a jumpsuit with a price tag. They immediately got the show going, belting out hit after hit. The crowd went ballistic; it was amazing. Earlier that day, I had spoken to somebody on his way to the festival. He had told me that Outkast was the only reason he’d come. Now I fully realized why this might be the case. Of course Outkast is a duo we know and love for fondly sung-to hits like “Ms. Jackson” and “So Fresh, So Clean,” but everyone on stage (backup singers, DJ, and instrumentals alike) truly had a wonderful time. Being exposed to such positive, talented, and, might I say, raunchy artists in such an in-your-face way was the perfect way to start off the weekend right.
On Saturday, I arrived to see Boy & Bear just beginning their set. The folky indie-rock band—composed of David Hosking, Killian Gavin, Tim and Jonathan Hart, and David Symes—came all the way from Sydney, Australia. Towards the end they played the popular single “Southern Sun,” which preceded their second album, Harlequin Dream. Hearing it live was a beautiful experience; the 70’s-inspired relaxed simplicity of the song really shone through from the stage. You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3q_SchLR0I
Then I ran into some friends holding front-row spots for the next band, Lord Huron, who I’d never really heard before. The five-man Los Angeles indie-folk band came out on stage with a lot of positive energy. Lead singer and founder Ben Schneider couldn’t keep a grin off his face, and by the time I left their show I was smiling and dancing with the crowd, as per his example.
Then began the best three-show succession I will probably ever experience in my life. A friend and I had resolved to be in front for Jack White—he’s almost as much of a die-hard fan as I am—and fortunately two of my other favorites were playing consecutively before him at the same stage. We squeezed close to the front for Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, but couldn’t get all the way to the front because die-harder Jack White fans solidly populated the first three rows, and had been doing so since the gates opened at noon (Jack White wasn’t scheduled to go on until 9:30). Apparently arriving five hours early simply wasn’t enough for Jack White, but third row was all right too.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings played an amazing set. They were more contagiously upbeat than anyone I’d seen before. I own the album Give The People What They Want, almost every song of which they played. Sharon Jones did not once stop dancing… in fact, she even tried teaching us some new-old dance moves between songs! Recently cancer-free, Jones obviously had a newfound zest for life that she wanted to share with everybody whose life she touched. As a part of her crowd at Forecastle, I was able to receive some of this extreme happiness. The perspective she created with her remarkable new outlook on life was extremely touching. Speaking on her plans after performing for us that Saturday evening, Jones memorably said, “I’m gonna fish my way back to happiness!” (Literally- she had plans to go to a lake and fish.) She and her Dap-Kings (and let’s not forget the Dap-Ettes) played music that was all at once uplifting, sassy, strong-willed, and full of hope for the future.
After Sharon Jones, Band of Horses came on. A huge name for many music lovers, Band of Horses played against what looked to be North woods imagery. Presenting a much different sound from Sharon Jones, they mellowed out the crowd with deeply emotional songs like “No One’s Gonna Love You,” “Older,” and “Infinite Arms.” Ben Bridwell sang true to everything I’d heard recorded of them, and even though Band of Horses does not have a necessarily fast or upbeat tone, one could not help but feel warm inside watching them smiling and playing and deeply feeling what they were giving to us. On stage, Bridwell was accompanied by Tyler Ramsey on guitar, who played a long solo at one point that completely blew me away. They were accompanied also by Ryan Monroe on keyboard and guitar, Bill Reynolds on bass, and Creighton Barrett on drums. You can listen to my favorite Band of Horses song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4H1h32vqDxE
Once Band of Horses blew us away with their most popular song “Funeral,” we were left to wait for the long-awaited Saturday headliner. Along with just a couple other things, seeing Jack White had been at the top of my bucket list for years. I’d never gotten the chance to do it until now, and to be honest it didn’t feel like it was actually going to happen. The surrounding crowd also seemed to be in extreme anticipation as well, and we had all gotten to know each other somewhat after standing in the same place in close quarters for the past several hours as White’s top hat- and suspender-wearing cronies set up the stage. Just as I opened my mouth to say something to the person behind me, everything went dark and her eyes went wide. I spun around and—lo and behold—it was Jack White in the flesh.
Now, folks, I promise you I’m not too crazy. But at that moment my eyes welled up with tears and I just couldn’t contain my happiness. I had never felt so star-struck until this moment. The entire crowd roared, and Jack White and his band members assumed position on stage. The stage was lit completely blue, and every person on stage glowed eerily under the blue light. Lilly Mae Rische stood to his left in a flowing white retro frock that made her look like some sort of beautiful, fiddle-playing ghost. Fats Kaplin sat behind White playing an instrument I later found out was a theremin. Other supporting members were Daru Jones on drums, Dominic Davis on bass, and Ikey Owens on keyboard.
Every song Jack White and his supporting band played was absolutely phenomenal and full of aggressive energy. White ran around the stage, interacting with every member of the group and characteristically hiding his face behind a messy mop of black hair. Often he did not face the crowd; the emotional intensity and obvious eccentricities of White as a performer was intoxicating to watch in and of itself. “Love Interruption” was overwhelmingly great (you can see the music video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iErNRBTPbEc). And of course, when they played the White Stripes’ song “We’re Going to Be Friends,” the entire crowd sang along to the simple ballad in a lovely, harmonious rendition. White played a lot from his past works, which was pleasantly surprising. But of course, they also played a lot from Lazaretto and Blunderbuss; these tended to be the more intense numbers in his act.
At one point, White and his crew left the stage early with no warning. The assumption was that someone in the crowd had angered him, but nobody really knew what had happened. So we did the only logical thing: chanted “Seven Nation Army” as if we were at a basketball game. After doing this for a long time, they returned—this time, White was wearing a black shirt as opposed to his previous blue one—and ended up playing until far past their intended end time. (Which reminds me: Forecastle did an amazing job at keeping everything going smoothly and on time. Not a single show started late.) At the end of it all, he smashed his guitar as seemed only fitting and threw his tie out into the audience.
So after I had the most intense and wonderful experience of my life, it only seemed fitting that a nutritious meal of pizza and soda be consumed before falling into the deepest sleep of my life. Both nights I ate dinner in Louisville, we got a deliciously large and floppy slice of pizza at Spinelli’s on East Jefferson (I highly recommend, although I don’t have much to compare it to). It was very satisfying that night.
The next day, I awoke with a new vigor for life despite my extreme soreness from standing in one place for so long. At this point, I understood how people could get addicted to festivals. Fortunately, I made it back to the grounds in time to see The Weeks perform. I saw them a few months ago in Bloomington, and they’re a pretty fun group to hear live. Of course they played “Buttons” at the end of their set, ever reminiscent of Kings of Leon (meets Bruce Springsteen meets Matt Kearney meets Bloomington basement band).
After this I wandered over to the Ocean stage to see some of Chrome Sparks at the behest of a friend (we’d seen some of Blue Sky Black Death on my way to see The Weeks). They were nice to listen to, but nothing could keep me from heading over to the main stage to see Brett Dennen perform. This was probably my favorite crowd, as everyone around me was light-hearted and happy to be there. Sunday was a warm, sunny day, so the whole scene seemed rather whimsical. Everybody sang along when Dennen played his more popular and upbeat songs, “Out Of My Head,” “Sydney,” and “Wild Child.” This was another artist I had looked forward to above many others at Forecastle, and seeing him in the flesh also felt very special.
For the rest of the afternoon, I spent time watching Nickel Creek and then Ray LaMontagne. As much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t know as much of either artist at the time as I would have liked. As a result, I was blown away by the amazing charisma presented by Nickel Creek; this highly lauded musical group played with more instrumental skill and enthusiasm than I’d ever seen. The simplicity of their sound was made complex by the intricacies brought upon by the expert way each band member handled their instruments, which is not surprising considering their successful past.
Ray LaMontagne followed Nickel Creek on the Boom stage. Fortunately we got close to the front. I honestly did not know what to expect from LaMontagne live, but I knew from various people that he wasn’t somebody you should miss. When he came out on stage, the cheers were deafening. Again, I was in the presence of an amazingly skilled musical artist. The pained look on his face as he sang of emotionally themes in songs like was extremely touching; many times he sang songs of love unrequited and love attained. When they played “Meg White,” the band first played a short instrumental rendition of the “Seven Nation Army” chant. Considering the night before, this was rather funny indeed. “All The Wild Horses” brought some audience members to tears. I felt privileged to see the connection LaMontagne could create with an audience. Of course, his more popular and upbeat songs such as “Supernova” and “Lavender” were well received also, but in a happier sort of way.
After this beautiful experience ended, I headed over to catch some of Beck before driving home to Indianapolis to be back for work the next morning. Although I didn’t get very close at all, I got to see Beck—an exciting feat all on its own. I caught some fun songs like “Loser” and “Black Tambourine,” among other greats. As I left the lightly mist-shrouded festival grounds, “Blue Moon” (listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIWbgR4vYiw) from his newest album sent me off into the cool evening on a note that couldn’t have been more perfect.
“Hypocritical Kiss” by Jack White
Why is he going to be amazing at Forecastle this year? It’s Jack White… you already know. My current favorite of his remains “Hypocritical Kiss.” In typical Jack White style, he’s aggressively questioning something. The song is almost a rant; listening gives way to a certain rebellious emotion that is almost always so satisfyingly conveyed when listening to his work.
“Now I See” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Sharon Jones is a perfectly beautiful example of a strong, soulful woman. She and the Dap-Kings do indeed “give the people what they want,” conveying meaningful messages to listeners across the board. You can’t help but get your groove on listening to Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings; they promise to give us a great performance at Forecastle. “Now I See” conveys that “I should have known” feeling that we have all experienced at some point (or many points!) in life. The song, like many of her songs, has attitude—but in the classiest way.
“Wild Child” by Brett Dennen
I started listening to Brett Dennen when his album “Loverboy” was up for listening at a music store near my house growing up in Indianapolis. Dennen’s light-sounding but deep and genuine lyrics drew me in, often conveying our everyday relationship struggles—love, loss, friendship—with an upbeat, innocent tone. “Wild Child” is a nostalgic song of living the free lifestyle, with a feel-good beat but a recurring reflection back to “momma,” perhaps in reference to the fact that despite his desire for freedom and spontaneity, he would always appreciate home.
I’m not going to pretend I know much about the “punk-emo-hardcore” genre, but I’ve seen House Olympics a few times now and their EP deserves some recognition. Adam (bass/vocals), Adam (drums/vocals), and TJ (guitar/main vocals) have obviously worked hard to get their work up and running in no time flat. Composed of indubitably skilled instrumental components and painfully relatable lyrics, …And My Mind is Restless is worth at least one listen.
My first impression of the four-song collection’s initial song, “Get #rekt Steve Jobs” was This is a raw-er Death Cab intro. Whether there’s any real influence there, I don’t know, but this song was, in my opinion, the most successful on the EP. It never developed into one with lyrics, and the emotional intensity it brought with it through simply instrumentals was beautiful. I used to listen to Explosions In the Sky for the same feeling brought about by the beautiful instrumental swelling… I was pleasantly surprised to find it here.
Throughout each song, the concept of the physical effects of deep emotional turmoil seemed prevalent. And yet, the music did not feel self-harming… it was more self-harmed. Emotionally reactionary, as opposed to the opposite. The physical references such as, “I’m shedding my skin like you shed your hair/And I’m wishing that you didn’t compare/Me to myself” (“Tossing, Turning, Treading”) and “Every time I see a van by the side of the road/A three-year disappointment falls on my head./It breaks my neck. It cracks my skull./And all that comes out are the thoughts you won’t hear” (“Everest”) confront issues we often deal with in relationships. These are day-to-day emotional reactions to interactions many of us have, and often we have trouble admitting to these reactions. The violent imagery is emphasized by the intensity of the instrumental accompaniment and, of course, the screaming vocals.
Otherwise, the style is typical of its genre, songs beginning with smooth instrumental intros that build into loud, somewhat overwhelming vocals accompanied by bashing drums and loud everything-else. This intensity is sometimes welcome, sometimes overwhelming, but always intentional. Young bands tend to have an inexperienced rawness to them that can get a little out of hand; House Olympics has already managed to begin taming themselves, and I only expect an upwards trajectory for the group.
The Grunwald Gallery has some new work up this week, which will be on display from April 15 to 19. This week’s artists include Hilary Givens (graphic design), Zach Felts (photography), Hannah Spiegel (painting) and Evelyn Walker (sculpture). The show’s opening will be this Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.
I had the opportunity to speak with Zach Felts and Hannah Spiegel before this week’s show.
Hannah Spiegel is a painter about to graduate from the BFA program. She’s been making art as long as she can remember. “my mom used to put me and my brother outside with a huge piece of paper and some paints, strip us naked and let us go! I drew a lot in adolescence, almost exclusively people and portraits. I made a more serious transition into painting when I learned how it could turn my drawings into something I thought was better, which happened around freshman year of high school I believe. In college I learned how to mix colors and use oil paints correctly, and I've been in love with them ever since.”
Spiegel’s art is inspired by the people in her life as well as “the idea of art making as a conversation.” Her friends are her models, and they play a great deal in her artistic process. This year, her work “deals with the concept of the individual, the human condition, love, depression, and the psychology of the human mind.” These topics are most definitely artistically strong ones; Spiegel’s work displays these themes throughout many mediums and in many effective ways.
What she has displayed in the Gallery is thoughtful. The work includes all of her semester’s thesis work, including a self-portrait she created last semester. It was included with the collection to complete the dialogue of her works, which is also inclusive of paintings, drawings, and writings derived from one-on-one “sessions” and then arranged into clusters to represent each individual or group of individuals.
After Hannah graduates, she plans on acquiring a higher paying job and continuing to paint alongside it. She also has the desire to more extensively explore mediums other than painting and drawing.
Zach Felts came on WIUX 99.1 FM to speak with me bright and early on Sunday morning. First we talked about his origins as a photographer. Like many of us creatives, Zach began the art making process as soon as he was able to. And like many of us, the camera became a favorite childhood pastime. However, Zach’s interest in capturing a moment eventually surpassed that of the average child; once in high school, he was able to hone his skills and truly realize his passions.
Zach: “I began photographing at a young age whenever my family would go to zoos. Also, around this time, say 8 years of age, I began making little stop motion films with my parents first digital camera and would then slideshow them for the family with my narrations. These two experiences were probably my earliest interests in photography. In high school I became very interested in the darkroom process and with the aid of my high school teacher, local BHSS teacher Staci Jennings, I became more and more interested.”
As a photographer, Zach told me that his favorite process was large format film. The slow process cultivates focus for him; however, most of his work is digital, as this format is the most flexible and inexpensive.
Then I asked Zach about what his favorite subject matter was:
Zach: “My favorite subject matter is hard to pin point. I enjoy looking at a variety of subjects, from analytical work void of emotion to work that has a very personal presence. However, I feel more motivated when making more personal work.”
His current work is being shown at the Grunwald thesis exhibition. It is entitled Impermanent Bond, and exhibits the highly personal and intimate theme of “a visualization of instability within familial relationships, specifically mother and child, during times of transition and crisis.”
Themes of motherhood are prevalent in the pieces Felts has in the Grunwald this week. He said, “There is a significant degree of sympathizing with my mother through this type of art making that allows for a glimpse into her first person perspective on motherhood even though I myself can only experience it from a third person perspective. I think any mother in a position of physical or emotional weakness due to life changes out of their control feels a certain amount of discomfort around their children.”
After graduation, Felts plans to intern in New York at the International Center of Photography.
The first time I saw Saintseneca, I was a freshman at Indiana University. They were playing towards the end of a festival held in the front lawn of the dorm I lived in at the time; my first thought that evening was, Wow, they came a long way just to play here…
My second thought was, That is the best not-drum I’ve ever seen. (I believe it was an upside-down plastic trash can; it really added to the stomp-effect.)
My last thought was, This band is amazing.
At the time, I didn’t realize how common it was for bands to travel seemingly obscene distances just to play one show, many times at a relatively small venue such as the tiny festival being held in front of my dorm building. Saintseneca had come from their nesting place of Columbus, OH, to play at our tiny outdoors music festival.
Many groups have traveled to grace the stages, basements, and lawns of Bloomington, IN (either on their way elsewhere or coming here specifically). However, Saintseneca has become one of the most exciting for me… and fortunately, Saintseneca doesn’t seem opposed to visiting us on a rather frequent basis.
Their new album, Dark Arc, is being produced under the ANTI- label, which has also signed on artists such as Dr. Dog, Wilco, Neko Case, Elliott Smith, and Devotchka. The band is composed of Zac Little, Maryn Jones, Steve Ciolek, and Jon Maedor. Saintseneca’s sound is created by a culmination of many different acoustic instruments, along with more modern components of synthesizers and electric guitars. All of the band members have a variety of musical abilities; you’ll often see Little and Jones switching up instruments multiple times in any given show. Little, who comes from small-town Appalachia, leads the band with a strong stomp, a big voice, and an even bigger mustache.
The group’s sound is one with strong folk roots and a sound that is loud yet soothing. Dark Arc has variety, and yet it has Saintseneca’s unmistakably unique sound. Little’s voice is very similar to that of Isaac Brock, lead singer of Modest Mouse, while Jones’ in “Fed Up With Hunger” sounds remarkably like that of Meg White of The White Stripes in “In The Cold, Cold Night.” The instrumentals bring the listener back to small town America, and harkens the listener back to a simpler age.
The content of Saintseneca’s work is wrought with emotion, and it’s sometimes shocking. Lyrics like, “If only the good ones die young/I’d pray your corruption would/Swift like a thief in the night,“ from “Only The Young Die Good” grab your attention, and much of the topics seem to have a not-preachy religious undertone. The words can carry and envelop your mind, saturated with feeling and unafraid to be vulnerable in songs like “Falling Off” and “So Longer,” the latter of which is short but sweet and makes use of homonyms “reek” and “wreak” in reference to the scent of a home and the havoc of a dream. This short but sweet song resonates of simple longing.
Songs like “Happy Alone,” “Uppercutter,” and “Visions" tend to be more upbeat, promising to be their most popular; popular opinion tends to favor the more positive and dance-able. However, if you give “Dark Arc” a running chance (the one they used for the album title, so it must be good, right?), you’ll find that it gets strong and exciting, reeling you in and lifting you up.
After listening to this album, I felt a sense of wholeness. Although I'd heard many of the songs already at various shows of theirs, I am pleased to conclude that this group is still amazing (if not more so!).
The band will be playing at the Bishop on Mon., April 13th, beginning at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.). Hope to see you there!
Come to the Grunwald Gallery April 8 through April 19 to see some amazing work done by MFA students Rachel Baxter (printmaker), Donny Gettinger (sculptor), Kristy Hughes (printmaker), Hyejin Kang (digital artist), Mike Reeves (painter), and Nakima Ollin (painter). The opening reception will be on Friday, April 12, 6 p.m – 8 p.m. As a bonus, the artists will be giving a gallery talk about their work both Fridays their work is up. The talks will be held at noon in the gallery.
I met with Rachel Baxter, an accomplished artist already. She has her BFA in printmaking from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, and is working on her MFA in printmaking here at Indiana University. I asked her why she decided to come here for her MFA; she replied that she felt that IU’s program was one with a wonderful reputation for printmaking yet would allow for the freedom she wanted within (and without) the print medium. Baxter explained, “I feel like artists can sometimes put themselves in a box. I never felt the pressure to conform to ‘printmaker.’”
I asked Baxter when she started thinking, I want to be an artist. She replied, “I remember there being two shifts, kind of a realization and then an action. It was always something I did without thinking about it in high school. One of my older brother’s friends applied to art school and got in… then it kind of dawned on me that you could make a life out of art. Seeing someone take that path made me realize that the path was even there.” Once in the midst of college (originally to play volleyball and become an art educator), Baxter realized that she could not bring herself to slow down her studio practice in order to finish the more “academic” part of her art education degree. As a result, she switched to a BFA in printmaking and realized it was the perfect thing for her. “It was really just following my intuition and gut,” she reflected.
So of course I had to ask what drew her to printmaking in the first place. It seems that I asked at the perfect time. Baxter told me that she had recently made the full realization of why she was so drawn to printmaking. “I didn’t even know what it was until my sophomore year of college,” she said. “Something about having multiple materials… being able to put them together and pull them apart, and having them turn into new things… It’s almost like alchemy. I was almost addicted to watching those transformations happen. As of right now I attribute it to where I grew up, my experiences as a child; all of my memories are sensory ones. I grew up right on the shore (in New York). I grew up responding to my environment and watching things change.” As a result, she conjectured, her work has been predominately inspired by change.
We went on to discuss further the focus of her work, which has continued to be directly related to what drew her to the medium in the first place. Baxter’s pieces are all mixed media, and make use of either printmaking processes or processes that are inspired by the print processes. She has made use of materials “with the potential to transform.” This transformation can happen through letting the elements take over in many ways, such as letting woodcuts oxidize outdoors.
“Layering these different materials and processes that come together to make this image that speaks to the transformations that just happened to make these visual outcomes arise.” Baxter also explained that her “motivations behind it are really this idea of handling these forces that are greater than myself. They dictate outcomes past what I could have done myself. What are the possibilities when I let go of that control? I let myself be surprised by the work. I respond to each piece intuitively; some have more print media, others have none at all.”
Taking a look at Baxter’s work, you can see that it has undergone a lot of transformation throughout the process of its inception. Somehow nature—through Baxter’s expert artistic assistance—has managed to create many amazing alchemic works that prove that change can indeed be beautiful.
Come see some fresh new work at the Grunwald Art Gallery, done by Rebecca Schedl (painting), Mary Prusha (graphic design), Aaron Bennett (sculpture), and Anna Schink (photography). The show went up on April 1 and will be open for viewing until April 5. The opening will be this Friday from 6 to 8 p.m, and promises to be a wonderful event like always!
This week I got to hear from Rebecca Schedl, a painter in Indiana University’s BFA program. Schedl said that she got into painting because of her grandmother and role model, Naomi Schedl, who was a painter at the University of Iowa. She has many memories of her grandparents’ house, which was full of paints, art books, and a rich art collection.
Schedl described the themes (plural) of her work as full of biological allusions, such as those of onion skins and cell division. Although she doesn’t consider herself the next Marie Curie, she explained, “I take a lot of joy in the process of discovery that the natural world inspires. I hope to bring that love of discovery to other people in some small way.”
Currently, her favorite artist is Tara Donovan, who creates stunning works using avant-garde materials such as Styrofoam cups and paper plates. To Schedl, Donovan’s work “is very much about re-evaluating everyday objects—things that we so often we sort of forget they exist—and making them into something new and engaging. In a larger way, I think it’s about not taking things of even people for granted because they each have their own inherent beauty. It’s artwork that really fits with my worldview.”
Schedl plans to leave Indiana University after completing the BFA program. As the job market “isn’t exactly stellar right now for artists,” she plans on waiting for the perfect MFA program to come along.
Stop by the Grunwald Art Gallery between 6 and 8 p.m. this Friday, March 29, for the opening reception of the first BFA senior thesis show of the season! This multi-media show will be open for viewing from March 25 to the 29.
I spoke with Zach Koch, whose selection of 16 oil paintings (which he made within the past year) is a large part of the show. I asked him if he could tell me a little about what he has displayed, and why he chose the subject matter he did. Here’s his answer:
“As far as conceptual subject matter goes, I think it mostly centers around feelings of inadequacy, anxiousness, and frustration. So most of the images that I appropriate into my paintings are linked to those kinds of feelings, whether it's a film still of a joyful looking anime girl or an old-master style portrait of a wealthy woman - the important thing for me is that they're representations of a strong female presence without being specific about a particular person. I've stated before that all of my paintings allude to some autobiographical narrative in one way or another - these include but aren't limited to my first boy/girl pool party, love triangles, and bar fights. I wouldn't want to paint literal scenes from stories; that would feel too exposing. If nothing else, I just hope they're at least somewhat interesting to look at.”
His work is, indeed, interesting to look at, and in the best way possible. The chosen subject matter and emotional symbolism is a relatable topic to many of us, and Koch does it in a particularly beautiful way. Not all of us, of course, know much at all about “the anime girl” or various other comic-book-type imagery present within the works, but we all know that they represent a certain part of us; perhaps this is the childlike vulnerability we all still have somewhat?
Painted in a basically flawless manner, Koch’s technique is impressive. He said that he’s been making art his entire life, but began to focus fully on painting around 10 years ago.
Zach on what drew him to painting:
“The main appeal I have for painting is the immortality that can be achieved through making art. It's something tangible that lives on after an artists' death. It's a completely silly comparison, but I think of each of my paintings like Lord Voldemort's horcruxes in the Harry Potter universe. They're special items that contain a piece of myself in each of them.”
Not a silly comparison at all—for many artists, this is the case. Fortunately, however, I doubt this artist is quite as devious as Voldemort. I think Koch’s “horcruxes” are most likely ones that will be shared and appreciated by art appreciators for a very long time.
Here’s his website: http://www.zach-koch.com/
The other artists being shown are Devin Balara (sculpture), You Zhang (graphic design), Kyleigh Garman (metalsmithing and jewelry design), Natasha Holmes (photography), and Nathan Foxton (painting).
Stop by the Root Cellar tonight at 10pm and experience some hardcore musical vibes with So Stoked, House Olympics, and The Big Foist!
So Stoked, a pop punk band from Bloomington, is comprised of band members Alex Alsman, Nick Pinder, Andrew Wagner, JD Hall, and Brice Lanham. Their interests are “skating, pizza, and genuinely f**king sh*t up.” You will be sure to hear pizza-themed songs, as can be sampled at http://sostoked.bandcamp.com.
House Olympics is an emo-style band comprised of band members TJ Jaeger on guitar, Adam Breneman on bass, and drummer Adam Friedman. The group is sure to rock your socks off with their experimental hardcore style. The up-and-coming group, recently formed, is based in Bloomington and has played some great shows in basements around Bloomington. The group has never failed to create a wild crowd dynamic so far in their career; you’ll be sure to enjoy them if you like this style of music. You can listen to them at http://houseolympics.bandcamp.com.
Finally, The Big Foist, also a Bloomington band, will be ending the night with their hardcore punk sound and sampling from their album A Werk of Art.
The show guarantees to be fun and wild.
Reminder: venue is 21+
On Feb. 18, Phantogram delivered a new addition to the indie-pop genre. Voices is a prime example of the electric-style composition that I so love to listen to on the way to class. The ebbing and flowing of bright intensity to heavy simplicity that is characteristic of every song on the album is exciting and catchy. The content is true to the album title, relating hard and fast to the inner emotional strife some of us experience so often.
Voices was produced and released under John Hill’s label Republic, also responsible for recent work released by Santigold and M.I.A.
Sarah Barthel’s vocals are uplifting despite singing heavy subject matter. Simply put, she puts herself out there; she takes risks. She is outgoing with every sound, and to be on the receiving end of this feels privileged, even slightly intimidating. Her voice fills you. “Bad Dreams” is a prime example of Barthel’s impressive vocal exertion. She’s got a sound a lot like Lorde but with a different kind of depth. Accompanied by sounds created and compiled by Josh Carter (I believe his golden moment occurs in "Fall In Love"), she sounds bold and basically amazing. The elements employed by Carter convey emotion even further, making several songs on the album hit you deep in the chest.
“Black Out Days,” perhaps one of the biggest gems of this album, reminds me of “Mouthful of Diamonds” from their 2010 album Eyelid Movies. However, the in-your-head content makes it seem less hip-hop-pop and more of an intense-emotional-experience.
The song “Bill Murray” has sounds in it that are remarkably similar to those used often by the Xx and even Beach House, but with a very Phantogram-esque over-tone. The song evokes loneliness and hopelessness, and it doesn't sound quite like the rest of the album. But somehow it’s so easy--even compelling--to listen to.
“Howling at the Moon” employs danceable beats (they remind me of Discovery) and evokes many rich visuals. This is characteristic of many of Phantogram’s songs, perhaps one of their best qualities. Their lyricism, although often simple, is almost always wrought with imagery.
Voices is an impressive compilation of how artists make inner pain beautiful and redeemable. Unfortunately, not every song is completely catchy, and to be honest some of them are relatively repetitive as in most of their music. Perhaps this tool is meant to get a point across? Often it can feel like there is a bit too much “noise” and not quite enough “sound.” This quality sometimes makes Phantogram even a little too overwhelming at times and hard to remember; it doesn’t always stick. However, songs like “Nothing But Trouble,” “Black Out Days,” "Fall In Love," and “Celebrate Nothing” really do hit home and beg to be listened to over and over again.
Looking for something to do tonight?
Tonight, Feb. 13, the Art Museum Student Organization at Indiana University is hosting its third annual Art After Dark, a classy and fun arts-oriented event that has not yet failed to please. The museum, designed by legendary architect I.M. Pei, was erected in 1982. If you haven't been yet, you should definitely take this opportunity to experience the strikingly angular space.
This year's theme is very Great Gatsby-esque, boasting a jazz performance by Nothing in Common, swing dance lessons, food, and art (of course). The jazz duet will feature Tim Fogarty and Bobby Scharmann, and lasts from 7-8 p.m. Swing dance performance and subsequent lessons will be lead by IU's Swing Dance Club from 8-9 p.m.
The Faculty Artists special exhibition will be open all night to be viewed by attendees; the show opened Jan. 25 and will continue until March 9. It features 38 artists, both current and past faculty members of IU's Hope School of Fine Arts. Having seen the show once already, I look forward to seeing it again.
The event is also meant to be a Valentine's Day pre-party. On the second level of the museum (in the atrium area), you will be able to make DIY Valentine's day cards.
Food will be provided by Angles Cafe (the delicious coffee shop located on the second floor of the museum), Rainbow Bakery, and Blu Boy.
The Peacock Effect spontaneously saved the show last night at the Bluebird by opening for the evening; the original band's tour bus had broken down in Ohio. The indie rock band formed about a month ago, and has yet to release their EP but should have a demo ready for us in about a month.
The group is a four-piece band that switched off on vocals throughout the show. Nick Huster, Afshin Peymani, and Jimmy Goddard all had great vocals, with Goddard "emulating an astonishing sultry falsetto that was hard to believe could have come from his voice box," said Kaylie Starkey, coordinator of Communion's shows at the Bird.
Huster and Peymani switched off between guitar and drums, and Tom Weikert played bass.
Stylish husband-and-wife duo Johnnyswim then stole our hearts with Amanda Sudano's angelic voice, Abner Ramirez's amazing acoustic, and a host of lovely two-part harmonies. Their music felt like an exceptionally deep and heartfelt commentary on the commonly sung-about themes of life, love, and loss.
Originally from Nashville, Ramirez told us that "try as we might we could not write a country song." They then moved to Los Angeles, and apparently found the country inspiration there--their token "Nashville-style" number was indeed wonderful. And I don't even like country.
In between songs, they had fun with the crowd and talked about their work, snapping from a bring-you-to-tears love song number to joking around like the friendly couple of people they obviously are. Sudano reminded us before a song about living your life to the fullest: "Don't waste your time on dumb stuff... (we're singing about) that kind of YOLO."
Backed up by drums and bass, every song had great rhythm and jive. When Amanda sang, "I feel it in my heart beat/every time my heart beats," the drummer made you really feel the heartbeat she sang of.
As it was a relatively small Tuesday night crowd, the two decided to get up close and personal with us, inviting everybody to come in close to the stage. The stood at the edge of the stage and sang without mikes or amps, and it felt as if they were speaking right to us. At the end of the set, they did a cover of "Till the World Ends" by Britney Spears--and their version was much better.
Next, The Young Minds played for us, a local group originally from Indianapolis. Initially, they seem like your classic Bloomington band, but the trumpet addition really made them stand out.
The Young Minds had an ethereal sound to many of their songs, and their sound resonated of the Xx combined (somehow) with Modest Mouse. The group was like a wonderfully ragtag group of lumberjacks with great emotional depth.
By the end of their set, I was completely won over. I am excited to see where they go with their work; I can see it going to great places. It's always fun to see a unique group of musicians.
The last group of the night, Fluffer, also comes to us from our lovely town of Bloomington, however they have recently relocated to Cincinnati. This quirky and extremely upbeat group was not self-conscious in the least, implementing cool experimental effects that you wouldn't expect like auto tuned voice and electric snapping.
Fluffer was definitely the loudest group of the evening, which felt jarring at first but turned a crowd that had dwindled to a mere nine people into a groovy little dance party.
The group was like an intense, hard-rockin' Vampire Weekend, with Patryck Apfylbeck going hard and fast on the drums. Owle Sigman and D Topp manned the vocals, with Sigman on guitar and Topp on bass. Their "progressive rock song, 'Bit Coin,' (was) about the guy who got arrested for selling drugs on the 'net--it (was an) homage to those troubadours like Snowden," explained Sigman.
Towards the end, the group played a punk rock song that they apparently used to play at basement shows around town; the song was most definitely mosh-worthy.
The show, despite its initial hiccups most likely due to this great midwestern weather (and I say great with complete and utter sarcasm), was a success. There may not have been a huge crowd last night, but there was definitely huge sound that infected all of us with the feelings brought on by great music and great people.
The first time I listened to Matangi, I was a bit ambivalent. M.I.A.’s last album, Maya, did not stand out to me much. In my opinion, it pales in comparison to Kala (and no, it is not amazing because of hit song “Paper Planes.” I highly recommend listening to “Right Round” featuring Timbaland, another of my favored rap artists and one of M.I.A.’s main musical influences). The first song on Matangi, “Karmageddon,” was slower-paced than a lot of M.I.A.’s music and felt more intimate than usual. It had a somewhat foreboding feel as if it were leading up to something intense and exciting, but that moment never came. The song felt rather flat and was not necessarily an encouragement for the rest of the album. However, the slight deviance from her normal style was appreciated.
Matangi was more the style I expected from M.I.A.—upbeat, with traditional Indian-sounding sounds. She took it a step further by traditionalizing her voice to match these beats. It was somewhat like an updated version of “World Town” from Kala with more traditional musical elements and less electric sounds. The ending of the song was an interesting contrast from the rest of it, tying up the sounds with a musical ribbon.
Many of the songs throughout the first part of the album seemed rather repetitive, but songs like “Only 1 U” and “Attention” had electronically warped refrains that managed to be very catchy. The extensive distortion of her voice became rather distracting from the song itself, but this is fairly true to M.I.A.’s usual style. “Come Walk With Me” provided a throwback to Kala when she sang/rapped/shouted, “M.I.A. is comin' back with powa powa” at the end of the song.
Then came what I see as the turning point of the album, “Exodus.” The beats reminded me of those used in much of the music produced by current pop artist Lorde in her album Pure Heroine. Of course, M.I.A.’s version is full of a wide range of sounds and distortions that create an exciting and dynamic mess. The refrain “Baby you can have it all/Tell me what for,” followed by lyric “Truly what I see is all I keep/My sights are set in higher times” seem to challenge the rap ideal of fame and fortune by asking the listener what he/she really wants “it all” for? Why do you need it all, she seems to ask. The definition of exodus is “N. A mass departure of people, especially emigrants.” Could this be identification with the artist’s foreign heritage in regards to her home in England? A relatively successful artist, M.I.A. is constantly moving forward, having signed on recently with Jay-Z’s Roc-Nation management (to provide context, this is also who manages Rihanna).
What has been and most likely will continue to be the most popular song on the album, “Bad Girls,” does not have very original lyrics but is very catchy and dynamic. “Live fast/die young/bad girls do it” is not exactly a refrain we haven’t heard before in similar forms, but the song itself is well done and fun to listen to. “Double Bubble Trouble” is a reggae-style song with an exciting downbeat, and adds a cool twist to what had already turned into a dynamic and variety-filled album.
By the end of Matangi, I found myself wanting to hear more. Although I was not initially very impressed, the dynamics of the album grew throughout it and made me love M.I.A. again. Through her music she is the epitome of a strong female lead, and it’s infectious. Should you buy this album? I would personally choose to buy select songs, if I really wanted to spend the money on it. Should you listen to the album? Yes, definitely. All the way through and in order the first time, because the progression was obviously though out and is worth appreciating at least once.
Dr. Dog has done it again. Their seventh album, B-Room, reminds one of their previous work: upbeat, a twangy twist on rock n’ roll, as heartfelt as ever. However, they are ever-expanding upon their pleasantly scrappy style: this time around, they moved their studio space to an abandoned silversmith factory in their Philadelphia hometown. They named their studio space B-Room, hence the album title. The sound presented to us by B-Room is straightforward and beautiful to me every time I listen to it.
This album is much simpler and more raw than the rest. The song “Phenomenon” uses yet another of their beautifully crafted love-provoking metaphors, bringing us to an out-west setting; “The fire’s like the gasoline/ And you are like the smoke/ You’re always leaving/ But you’re never gone/ You’re everywhere at once/ Like a true phenomenon.” “Too Weak To Ramble” is a very simple song compared to much of their recent work. It is a folkish ballad that is so simple and truthful you can’t not appreciate its uncomplicated message. It exemplifies their recent trend, which has been to tone down extraneous sounds and plainly present what their music really is: deep, heartfelt, yet upbeat and retro. If Spoon and The Shins had a baby, Dr. Dog would be their golden child.
Other songs on the album like “Can’t Remember” and “Love” help to finish up the album in an incredibly upbeat way, again presenting us with soulful content in a way that you can’t help but tap your feet to. “Nellie” was recorded using Dr. Dog’s signature harmonies and instrumentals, in a way that you just want to sit in the sun, close your eyes, listen, and smile. My personal favorite of the album, “Mind The Usher,” has a sexy yet rock-n’-roll feel to it that I haven’t really heard from this band before—it almost reminds me of the Black Keys, plus the quirky sounds you can count on hearing in a Dr. Dog album.
I look forward to purchasing this new addition to Dr. Dog’s discography for my personal collection; it has been long awaited and well received. But don’t take my word for it; go listen. Right now.