Adrenaline – Adrenaline EP

Mosh heavy Ep for fans of Knocked Loose

June 14th, 2019
Lex Voight
Category: Review

We are undoubtedly living in the midst of the 10’s hardcore explosion. Particularly in the last five years it seems as if every time you turn around there is another stellar hardcore band making waves. Adrenaline shares three members with one of this explosions most recent breakout stars, Queensway. Adrenaline seems to offer a slightly different approach to the genre, however, citing Vision Of Disorder, Bad Brains, Crown Of Thornz, and Burn as influences over some of the more obvious ones influencing the scene at the moment.

What follows is an ep of perfect for Knocked Loose fans–a mosh-heavy 2-step beast of an EP that seems to pull back in genre touchstones that have been out of the limelight of late. Throughout the brief EP you can hear not only the aforementioned Burn influences but also bands like Bane or maybe even Body Count in the instrumentation. “In Dreams” pulls in a soul segue that could have easily been on a Trapped Under Ice track. It is with “In Reality” that Adrenaline really have a standout track however, with a groove-heavy banger that doesn;t outstay its welcome while “The Real You” finally shows some of those VOD influences that are sorely missing from the current scene.

Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips

Drone not meant for the masses

Lex Voight
Category: Review

“Full upon her burning lips” seems a line pulled from the pages of a taudry romance novel–full of verve and passion and sweeping lust. Turbulent and denoting almost a kind of violence. Its ironic, then, that the storied drone metal band Earth has chosen it as the title for their 9th full length. Not that the band doesn’t contain within them multitudes–on the contrary, nothing but passion and love for music and the genre could have propelled them to this, their 9th release over what is quickly approaching 30 years as a band. It’s just that dynamism and turbulence is at odds with the drone band’s oeuvre, for better or worse.
Continue reading…

On Amanda Palmer and the Meaning of Music Heroes

Amanda Palmer fights for us all.

Lex Voight

There is a war going on right now. For the world, for the environment, for our rights.

And we are losing.

We are losing ground every day. The rash of anti-choice legislation being rammed through state courts and the appointment of anti-choice judges by (republican controlled) senatorial appointment are just the latest and among the most egregious examples of our loss. But there are heroes in the battle for the heart of American culture fighting for us.
Continue reading…

Inter Arma — Sulphur English

A slow start can’t stop crushing greatness.

May 16th, 2019
Lex Voight
Category: Review

Inter Arma aare one of those groups that excel at challenging listens. Each one of their records has been better than the last and have been consummate examples of the slow burn, each listen revealing more nuance and intricacy in the bludgeoning walls of sound. Sulphur English, at first, is no different in that respect. But displays the band with synthesizing and perhaps even perfecting the perfect alchemical mix of doom, black, and death metal into a cohesive bit of vibrant gold.
Continue reading…

Back to the Beach II in Review

The second iteration of Huntington Beach’s Back to the Beach Fest is officially in the rearview. The seeming last bastion of ska descended upon the OC beach city over the weekend, rounded out by a healthy dose of pop-punk mastery by headliners Blink 182 and The Used (as well as The Story So Far, The Wonder Years, and Story of the Year). The sold-out fest attracted massive crowds and managed to remind everyone why this genre is just so damn good.
Continue reading…

Nana — Save Yourself EP

Vulnerable and poignant, Nana’s new EP is great

April 22nd, 2019
Lex Voight
Category: Review

Nipsey Hussle’s untimely passing was deeply felt in the LA music worlds. His brand of DIY mixed with commercial appeal was a vital voice in popular music and his altruistic extracurriculars was unparalleled. But then LA hip hop has always had an amazing tradition of being grounded deeply in the real world. Where so much of the popular rap scene can fall prey to needless posturing, wealth flaunting, or empty commercialism, LA rappers have seemingly always bent their rhymes for the greater good, mostly through telling personal stories from their experiences. NWA, Snoop, Kendrick, Nipsey–all standard bearers of the west coast sound as it evolved.

That tradition is alive and well, and no better case for that is there than Crenshaw’s Nana. The rappe’s second EP follows closely on the heels of his debut, boasting just as much vulnerable truth telling as the Nana EP.

“heaven and Hennessy” starts it off, cutting the deepest. He seemingly takes benevolent aim at lyricists who boast so much about new wealth. “The only thing i’ve been stacking lately is stress/put that on top of bills,” he states, before launching into ways he could and hasnt chosen to make those means.

“Kings Blvd II” contains some of the heaviest beats he has yet released, while maintaining that theme of “Family over everything,” a theme he will return to on “On My Momma,” where he gives credit to his mother for his drive and success. The next three songs take a bit of a downturn as the subject turns toward relationships with “Her Song” and “You and I.”

The EP’s closer, “Save Yourself,” goes back to the storytelling aspect–detailing the story of the fallout of an assault. Its brutal track, but one where the storytelling is truly on point, and a fitting closer for the record.

Nana’s Save Yourself EP is streaming everywhere now. Be sure to check it out ASAP.

Show Review: Iron & Wine & Orchestra @ Disney Hall

Step in to a painting with Sam Beam

March 28th, 2019
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Review

The songs of Iron & Wine evoke a place where there is no calendar hanging on the wall to mark time, no jet planes flying overhead, and certainly no telecommunications. Our modern world has yet to arrive.

Listening to Sam Beam at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday night was to step into an oil painting on the wall of an old museum, the scene lush with references to the natural world. It was, without question, a landscape.

Sunsets and wind, the sea and summer, bougainvillea and blooms, rain, and ravens in the corn. A mountain stream, a pasture, a mare, ashes, cinder and smoke, weeds, and a bucket of snow. Juniper, rosebushes and leaves. Thunder clouds, a creek, cedars and roaming dogs. Thorns, roses, and blue-eyed birds.

Upon a closer listen, you find errant fragments scattered in the songs like a detonated time capsule working in reverse; a pistol, a pizza parlor, an automobile, a photograph, or a train. But Iron & Wine stays true to its moniker. It is poetry frozen in a world that never progressed past the 1950’s, and one that trades in the currencies of the things that don’t change from one century to the next; love, death, childhood, heartache.

The night broke orchestral with a short tranquil piece (“Follow My Heart”) written by Pauline Frechette, who was in attendance. Conductor David Campbell (Beck’s dad!) then brought Iron & Wine to the stage, joking that on this occasion, the collective would be known as “The Sam Beam Orchestra”. And what a collective it was.

The performance served as a fifteen-year anniversary celebration of the release of Our Endless Numbered Days, Iron & Wine’s widely-admired 2004 LP, and included ten of the album’s twelve tracks. Early selection “Free Until They Cut Me Down” was laced with some attitude, and moved along at the snappy pace of a movie score played under a chase scene.

The molasses drip of Beam’s vocals guided twenty-two songs split over two sets; the first with the orchestra, the second without. Buoyed by the pristine acoustics of the Hall, the interplay of lead guitar, orchestral elements, and a trio of backup singers echoed languidly around the room.

“Sodom, South Georgia,” another cut off of Our Endless Numbered Days, got real with Beam quivering about how “all dead white boys say, ‘God is good.’” Backup vocals added by Kelly Hogan, Eliza Hardy Jones, and Nora O’Connor were pretty, but mostly unneeded on the orchestra-backed “Sodom.”

A better fit for the trio’s harmonies came on the one-two punch of “Weary Memory” (the only track played off of Iron & Wine’s glorious debut, 2002’s The Creek Drank The Cradle), and “Flightless Bird, American Mouth.”

Sam Beam, so pensive and restrained on his records, was at ease and in constant motion on stage. If not turning to lock eyes with a member of this enormous backing band, he could be found swaying his hips and striking his guitar strings with percussive flair (especially on “Jezebel”).

Whereas some such orchestral collaborations are thrown together to sell tickets, or because it might sex up a concert hall’s annual calendar, following through with thoughtful arrangements of eleven songs is no small feat. David Campbell’s arrangements were impeccable – “Milkweed” was a particular standout.

Sam Beam, meanwhile, delivered on his own part of the bargain with orchestral precision. Altogether, there was nary a sour note, each rendition played as cleanly as the next. “Last Night” flirted with an acoustic funk rare to these parts of the Disney Hall; forceful plucks on Beam’s guitar found an unlikely call and response answer from the woodwinds.

“Passing Afternoon” unearthed the titular lyric, “There are things that drift away, like our endless numbered days.” This simple endless/numbered oxymoron slipped us a gentle reminder on mortality, a theme Beam would return to at the end of the orchestral set with “The Trapeze Swinger.”

In what was perhaps the centerpiece of the performance, and his oeuvre at-large, Sam Beam stares death in the face. Eight verses each include a plea to be remembered for a unique quotidian memory, before finally landing on the existential conclusion that “the trapeze act was wonderful, but never meant to last.” To say their good bye, the orchestra ended the tune with a hushed pastoral wave.

With little to no variation in their overall sound, Iron & Wine somehow keeps things fresh with just a few shades of their smoky autumnal color palette. For some artists, this would create redundancies and boredom for fans. For Beam, it illuminates a sense of security, comfort, and coziness. The Danish feeling of hygge. Sitting by a fire with your parents, or under a tree with a lover.

By the night’s end, the audience possessed a collection of images like snapshots in a dusty box; broken rosary beads, a child’s feet lost in his father’s shoes, a burning farmhouse, and a body buried in Christmas bows.

Iron & Wine at Walt Disney Concert Hall Setlist

Set I with Orchestra

Sunset Soon Forgotten
Free Until They Cut Me Down
Passing Afternoon
Fever Dream
On Your Wings
Last Night
Naked As We Came
Sodom, South Georgia
Milkweed
Cinder and Smoke
The Trapeze Swinger

Set II solo/with backup singers

Right for Sky
Waves of Galveston
Joy
Each Coming Night
Jezebel
Weary Memory
Flightless Bird, American Mouth
Tree By The River
Boy With a Coin
Love and Some Verses

E: Waitin’ for a Superman (Flaming Lips cover)

Show Review: Metric @ The Palladium

Canadian indie rockers deliver guitars and grooves

March 14th, 2019
Lesley Park
Category: Lead Story, Review

Canadian indie rockers Metric are no stranger to LA or The Palladium for that matter, having played the venue previously in support of 2015’s Pagans in Vegas several years ago. Unmistakable feeling of déjà vu aside, when a band’s seventh album is as danceable and slickly produced as 2018’s Art of Doubt, it’s difficult not to want to see how it’ll fare live, particularly given Metric’s stellar live track record.

As I watched the quartet confidently taking the stage at The Palladium to the tune of “Love You Back” off the aforementioned latest release, I suddenly remembered that this is a band who has been at it for over 20 years. You’d be forgiven for not coming to that realization immediately, though; the carefree energy they exuded was raw, youthful, and infectious.

Art of Doubt fans were well-satisfied here with close to half of the set being comprised of new material the highlights of which include a blazing rendition of “Dark Saturday” which I correctly suspected would translate insanely well live and “Now or Never Now.”

Their sprawling, seven-album catalog is rife with fan favorites such as “Gold Guns Girls” (dat guitar intro though) and “Synthetica,” both of which the audience ate up with relish. The flip side though is that it has now gotten to the point where there are, by necessity, notable omissions from a packed, 18-song setlist. Pour one out for “Youth After Youth” and “Too Bad, So Sad.

Still, for longtime fans there was plenty to love. In a memorable moment, the audience was asked to vote between “Dead Disco” and “Gimme Sympathy.” After delivering a seriously stunning rendition of the latter per the crowd’s choice, frontwoman Emily Haines briefly paused before announcing “Fuck it, we’re playing ‘Dead Disco’ too,” transporting all in attendance to 2003.

“Cascades,” a track I recall falling in love with the when Metric was touring 2015’s Pagans in Vegas has settled nicely into the band’s older material with its dreamy hook and groovy vibes. And I’d be remiss not to give props to “Black Sheep,” which was featured as the memorable introduction to the secondary antagonist of cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Envy Adams (played by current Captain Marvel, Brie Larson).

But of course, the big crowd pleaser remains “Help I’m Alive” which the band played to close out the encore. If there’s a song that better shows of Haines’ vocals or spirit, I’m hard-pressed to think of it.

Although I’m no stranger to the live Metric experience, they continue to impress every time they play. Their track record for being a reliably fun time is well-tested and spotless. If you, like me, consider a night of dancing to no frills, fun indie rock to be a night well spent, then you best catch them the next time they roll through.

For more info:

Metric

Planes Mistaken for Stars at the Wiltern

Outsiders even among outsiders

February 26th, 2019
Lex Voight
Category: Lead Story, Review

It says something about a band that, even while opening for one of the more deliberately avant-garde acts within the scene like The Sounds of Animals Fighting, Planes Mistaken for Stars manages to stand alone. There isn’t really another band that shares the same sonic arena as the punk/post hardcore veterans. In fury and vulnerability, Planes Mistaken For Stars music is an open wound and a rabid howl cut with a deep and moving softness and on Friday night at the Wiltern, they showed nearly 1800 scene kids just what it means to truly push the bounds of music.
Continue reading…

Henry Rollins: Keep Talking, Pal

Hope from the hot animal machine

February 19th, 2019
Lex Voight

Growing up in DC as a quiet, angry, alienated teen with an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and an obsessive interest in music, my discovery of the oeuvre of Henry Rollins, renaissance man, was something of a revelation. My first encounter of him was actually through the cinematic medium–popping up in bit parts like Bad Boys 2 or Johnny Mnemonic or a handful of other roles, knowledge of him happened almost through osmosis before a school administrator I was friendly with placed “Smile, You’re Traveling” in my hands.
Continue reading…