AS HEARD ON TV: “It’s Alright Baby” by Komeda on Gilmore Girls

I would be remiss not to include Gilmore Girls in this column, as it is my absolute favorite show ever. The dialogue was fast and witty, the acting was always on point, and the character relationships were identifiable to adolescent girls as well as moms of the early 2000’s. Amy Sherman-Palladino wrote a script that contained more literature, TV, film, and music references than any other show I’ve watched. As a middle school Gilmore Girls junkie, many of the allusions went over my head, for instance comments about RuPaul or obscure Henry Miller novels did not spark any sort of “Aha!” moments. However now as a more culturally seasoned person in my twenties, any time I re-watch an episode, I say things like, “Oh my god, they referenced Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I just wrote a 3,000 word paper about that for my English seminar!” Additionally, the myriad of music references and music playing in each episode prompted one of my college roommates and I to spend several hours making the ultimate Gilmore Girls playlist that contained everyone from The Bangles to Carole King to Rancid to The Shins to Beck to PJ Harvey. The playlist was titled “Oy With The Poodles Already” and if you don’t get that then I’m sorry, you may need to redo your childhood.

Possibly my best musical discovery from Gilmore Girls, although it’s hard to choose, was Komeda’s “It’s Alright Baby.” I don’t know much about Komeda aside from I love this song a lot, they’re from Sweden, and the band’s music was in an Old Navy commercial. “It’s Alright Baby” was featured in the episode when the guidance counselor condemns Rory for being antisocial, which then leads to her briefly joining a scary almost cult society, but thankfully at the end she resumes spending lunch alone with her Walkman (remember those?), listening to this great Komeda song. The video is strange, the lyrics don’t totally make sense, however the chorus is a solid reminder, “Woo hoo, it’s alright baby/ It’s a crazy world, it’s a bit absurd.” So yeah, chill, things are nuts and you’ll be fine… maybe.

-Emily Hirsch

ALBUM REVIEW: The Antlers, Familiars
How can you tell that a band is growing up? I promise this isn’t a dumb joke where the punch line is “they start getting AARP letters.” To me, it’s the use of negative space – embracing the idea that silence can be just as much of an instrument as anything turned up to 11. Why do you think Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” is widely considered one of his greatest songs? It’s all about restraint as a show of force.
So by that metric, The Antlers must be mature as all get out. Their June release Familiars is less guitar-driven than their past work; there’s room to breathe. Even the song titles (single words, as with their 2009 offering Hospice) tell just enough of the story to make you press repeat. But don’t mistake their breathy sonic cosmos for a lack of complexity – drummer Michael Lerner adds texture by giving his many rhythmic tools all a shot, similarly to the infamous Kings of Leon tune “I Want You.” Darby Cicci works overtime playing not just Beirut-tinted trumpet, but bass, keyboards, and synths, which range from swirling spaceship to Sunday church. And Vocalist Peter Silberman is no stranger to diverse instrumentation, pairing his powerfully conservative vocals with heavily reverbed, slightly jazzy guitar work.
This record is full of regret and hard-earned advice given to a blurry audience, culled from lonely years on the road. Take “Hotel”: “When I check out / It won’t matter how my name’s spelled / Cause when you pass through / You only keep what you can’t sell” croon-wails Silberman, whose sexy, mournful falsetto gives the songs just the right touch of wintry soul. The stilted piano “Doppelgänger” has a fun house effect, only strengthened with the mirroring of Z-era My Morning Jacket “ooh”-ing. “Surrender” sounds like a super mega chill Vampire Weekend. “Refuge” sounds like a slightly less sad Shy Girls. Pretty much all of the songs borrow from the xx. You get the idea – these Brooklyn boys have perfectly captured a lazy, weary Manhattan afternoon. The genius of these hooks is not in their Top 40 brashness, but in their subtlety; instead of boring the listener after spin #4, they get settled in and truly stick.
-Kelsey Butterworth
The Antlers will perform at 9:30 Club on July 25.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Antlers, Familiars

How can you tell that a band is growing up? I promise this isn’t a dumb joke where the punch line is “they start getting AARP letters.” To me, it’s the use of negative space – embracing the idea that silence can be just as much of an instrument as anything turned up to 11. Why do you think Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” is widely considered one of his greatest songs? It’s all about restraint as a show of force.

So by that metric, The Antlers must be mature as all get out. Their June release Familiars is less guitar-driven than their past work; there’s room to breathe. Even the song titles (single words, as with their 2009 offering Hospice) tell just enough of the story to make you press repeat. But don’t mistake their breathy sonic cosmos for a lack of complexity – drummer Michael Lerner adds texture by giving his many rhythmic tools all a shot, similarly to the infamous Kings of Leon tune “I Want You.” Darby Cicci works overtime playing not just Beirut-tinted trumpet, but bass, keyboards, and synths, which range from swirling spaceship to Sunday church. And Vocalist Peter Silberman is no stranger to diverse instrumentation, pairing his powerfully conservative vocals with heavily reverbed, slightly jazzy guitar work.

This record is full of regret and hard-earned advice given to a blurry audience, culled from lonely years on the road. Take “Hotel”: “When I check out / It won’t matter how my name’s spelled / Cause when you pass through / You only keep what you can’t sell” croon-wails Silberman, whose sexy, mournful falsetto gives the songs just the right touch of wintry soul. The stilted piano “Doppelgänger” has a fun house effect, only strengthened with the mirroring of Z-era My Morning Jacket “ooh”-ing. “Surrender” sounds like a super mega chill Vampire Weekend. “Refuge” sounds like a slightly less sad Shy Girls. Pretty much all of the songs borrow from the xx. You get the idea – these Brooklyn boys have perfectly captured a lazy, weary Manhattan afternoon. The genius of these hooks is not in their Top 40 brashness, but in their subtlety; instead of boring the listener after spin #4, they get settled in and truly stick.

-Kelsey Butterworth

The Antlers will perform at 9:30 Club on July 25.

NEW TRACKS: Saint Pepsi, “Fiona Coyne”

In a post-Random Access Memories scene, electronic music has leaned towards a groovier, old-school dance feel, almost returning to the simple, danceable purity of before the dubstep invasion. To many of his rapidly growing fanbase, Saint Pepsi makes music that does what Daft Punk’s latest could have achieved: return to an old-school feel without losing the cutting edge of modern electronic music technology. The rising Boston DJ and songwriter incorporates elements of funk and disco into his sleek, deeply catchy electro-pop while maintaining a fresh feel on “Fiona Coyne,” his self-described “single of the summer” and new fan favorite. Unlike many modern DJs, Saint Pepsi sings the words to his own song, keeping the vocal delivery melodic without overuse of reverb. He leaves the effects to the music, adding up to an irresistible beat that will get you moving without feeling like you should be twenty years older.

-Asher Meerovich

MUSIC MONDAY PLAYLIST: Emily’s Picks

Here are some recent-ish things I’ve been listening to lately and wanted to share. I start it off with soon to be everyone’s favorite indie electro pop group, Sylvan Esso, and finish with a group that I discovered because the band name is just so rad, Chamomile and Whiskey. There is no theme per say, aside from these are ten tracks that if played in sequence can make a Monday more than tolerable, maybe even cheery. Enjoy!

-Emily Hirsch

KEEP YER EYES PEELED: Run River North

The first couple things you’ll learn about Run River North from just about every article written about them go as follows:

  1. They used to be called Monsters Coming Home.
  2. They are a “Korean folk-pop/folk-rock” band. Really, this just means that they’re all Korean-American, and they’re in a folk-rock band.
  3. They have the same producer as Fleet Foxes, The Shins, and Band of Horses. His name is Phil.
  4. Honda secretly booked them on Jimmy Kimmel Live when they discovered that River Run North had filmed their first music video entirely in the backseats of their cars. 
  5. You can watch the band find out in an adorably heart-warming video/commercial. I highly recommend it. 

So, now that’s out of the way, let’s get to business: how’s the music? Well, if you’ve been looking for a new folk-pop/rock fix while Of Monsters and Men and Mumford and Sons are off doing whatever it is that they are doing, then look no further. Their debut album Run River North was released in February and, trust me, it will scratch your folk-pop itch. It’s got everything: raging acoustic guitars, beautiful harmonies, and, most importantly, those oh-so singalong-able choruses we’ve all come to know and love.

They’ll be touring the east coast this fall, opening for the also fantastic Boy & Bear, so keep yer eyes peeled. 

-Dylan Singleton 

VOTD: Sharon Van Etten, “Our Love”

Sharon Van Etten gets very intimate in the video for “Our Love,” a track from her newly released standout album, Are We There. Many people would not be able to execute a video that is equal parts sexy and tasteful, but this lady succeeded. Shot almost entirely in black and white, the video is full of rustling sheets, tattoos, and Van Etten singing straight from the soul. The song is called “Our Love,” but despite the quick flashes of tender interaction, the woman in the video is strikingly alone. At the end color is restored as she bursts through a pool of water, signaling a sense of resilience rather than rejection. Sharon Van Etten has established herself as an artist who writes emotional lyrics, however this video is one of the most vulnerable and raw performances I’ve seen from her thus far.

-Emily Hirsch

<5K: Volume 2

There’s an xkcd comic that exposes the secret coalition to make certain YouTube videos go viral: they have to get exactly “300+” likes from the committee, and are then certified to spread like the plague onto innocent newsfeeds worldwide.

In that vein, I present you with <5K: exposition on bands that have less than 5,000 likes online. Perhaps one of them will be the next to pass that mysterious threshold into the world of fame and fortune… after all, once you get 5,000 likes, you sell out every show and your records go gold. That’s how it works, right?

*Submissions* If you’re in a band, your friend is in a band, or you just know a band with less than 5,000 likes, send a link to asher.meerovich@gmail.com. If I like it, I’ll put them in an upcoming edition of <5K!

Julia Brown (4,318 likes) is one of the many projects of Maryland artist Sam Ray, combining rich, hushed pop with ambient noise and electronic sound manipulation. Julia Brown’s first album, to be close to you, garnered high scores on Pitchfork and was both well-received and influential within the expanding lo-fi community; instead of rest on his laurels, however, Ray moved forward with the next step in this difficult-to-describe but immediately-recognizable sound. The next Julia Brown album, An Abundance of Strawberries, has no official release as of yet, but Ray is sending copies to those that ask politely. Its title track is lush and hymnal, and songs like “All Alone in Bed” and “The Way You Want” convey sincere emotion while weaving an innovative fabric of acoustic guitars, simple synths, and gorgeous melodies. It’s mature, fascinating, and worth repeated listens. Hear to be close to you (and the new album soon) at: http://cool.bandcamp.com/

Coin locker kid (329 likes) is an art-rap recluse, sporadically emerging from his minimalist persona with incredibly good and fascinating albums like 2013’s Traumnovelle. Despite getting a shoutout from David Byrne and collaborating with musicians like Portishead and Madlib, North Carolina’s Devyn Smith has retained relative obscurity. His vocabulary is as wide as his beats are bizarre, weaving intricate fables about isolationism and philosophical dreams with cunning wordplay and a blatant apathy towards glossy production. Coin Locker Kid likes doing things his own way, and as long as his delivery is as great as it is, who can blame him? Listen to Traumnovelle at: http://coinlockerkid.bandcamp.com/

The Shifters (1,548 likes) are a 9-piece reggae/rocksteady group that consistently blow crowds away throughout DC. A group that big risks getting too busy, but they know when to be groovy-sparse and when to knock-your-socks-off hot and heavy. When they opened for ska-punk legends The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, they came onstage and announced themselves as the Bosstones, and that their intention was to thoroughly confuse the crowd. Their surprising and light-hearted attitude, combined with their excellent musicianship and strong vocal-backup-vocal delivery, makes them one of the best reggae acts in DC and across the east coast. They gig all the time, and they always bring their A-game – making people dance, babies cry, and the Bosstones proud. Listen to their album In It! at: http://theshiftersdc.bandcamp.com/

Kitsune Rad (534 likes) is a locally beloved three-piece from Baltimore. Their adept technique and sense of spacing gives their instrumental riff-rock a cinematic feel, full of images. It’s fast, strong, and dynamic enough to keep even the most cynical listener on their toes, and it’s damn good to mosh to. Guitarist Scott Kenney makes judicious use of effects, filling the top space with big tones, as the rhythm section builds an ever-changing landscape of head-banging. Though they currently only have a two-song demo online, Kitsune Rad is working with Wolf Stream Media for their sure-to-impress full-length, hopefully out soon. Most importantly, as they say on their bio many times, they love snacks. Listen to the Long Johns demo at: http://kitsunerad.bandcamp.com/

Body Thief (2,615 likes) is a hard beast to define. Their single, “Parasites In The Water,” combines an alternative prog feel a-la-Circa Survive with existential, introspective lyrics reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Vocalist Daniel Hawkins has the perfect range for emotive rock, but Body Thief rises above the crowd, channeling jazz chops through a hard rock ethic into an impressive and full arrangement. Two guitars fill the middle space with stunning riffs, creating a wall of sound that is strong across all levels. Halfway through the song, the beat builds into a fast bridge before dropping into a wide, heavy section built on huge riffs and impressively tight drums. It’s perfectly balanced and entirely promising for this MD/DC band. Listen to “Parasites In The Water” at: http://bodythief.bandcamp.com/

-Asher Meerovich is a writer and musician in College Park. He likes to be near water.


KEEP YER EYES PEELED: Viet Cong

As we cross over the halfway point of this beautiful year, almost every music publication is releasing their “Best Music of 2014 So Far” list, allowing us all to secretly compare them to our own. One release that may not appear on any list, but undoubtedly deserves a good listen is Viet Cong’s Cassette. The EP was originally released on an actual cassette for the duration of their tour in 2013, but was just released this past week on vinyl through the label, Mexican Summer.

Rising from the demise of the underrated shoegaze/noise-pop group, Women, (their album Public Strain was one of the best of 2010) Matt Flegel, the vocalist/bassist, and drummer Mike Wallace have adapted a new lo-fi twist on their post-punk vibes. With the help of guitarists Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen, the foursome have crafted a release that is similar enough to keep the diehard fans of Women happy, but differs enough to create a life of their own.

The band passed through DC on July 9, and the show was short but every minute was wonderful. Giving off a sound most comparable to Interpol, the lone opening act, TV Ghost, illuminated the stage. Halfway through the set, the lights went out in the venue; instead of bringing the show to a halt, it elevated the level energy. Members in the crowd were dimly lighting the stage with their phones. Unfortunately by the time Viet Cong took to the stage, the outage was resolved.

If a band features two or more guitars, it is typically an optimistic sign. Viet Cong’s performance involved screeching solos that were twanging away at any chance they could get. Daniel Christiansen was convulsing on the floor with a sea of reverb surrounding him. The instrument had taken over his body, creating a spiritual moment that was nearly impossible to avoid being absorbed by. There were dramatic pauses where the four voices were in complete unison. “Throw It Away” and “Unconscious Melody” are the first two songs from Cassette and were the highlights of the night, along with a new song that they have yet to create a title for. Hoping for a brighter future than the dramatic ending for Women (still in mourning).

Since their show in DC, Viet Cong made a splash at the 4Knots Music Festival, which took place in New York this past weekend. They were rated as one of the standout performances along with Juan Wauters (his album released this year, North American Poetry, was also super good.) This is precisely the attention both of these artists deserve. In my experience at Viet Cong’s show with TV Ghost, I instantaneously realized the beauty that can be created at a small DC show. While the quantity of members in the audience are not always high, the amount of devotion for music that can be felt as you stand in a crowd that shares the same passion as yourself, is exhilarating. Easily one of the best concerts I have been to this summer thus far.

-Katie Cheyne

NEW TRACKS: The Drums, “Magic Mountain”

Upon the release of their self-titled debut and the subsequent success of lead single “Let’s Go Surfing,” The Drums were pigeon-holed as somewhat of a knock-off Beach Boys. This couldn’t have been less true. Their stellar debut and its predecessor Portamento were far more inspired by the sounds of Orange Juice, Joy Division, New Order, and other 80s New Wave. The band was so inspired by this era of music that it became blatantly obvious, the song ‘Best Friend’ may as well have been ‘The Village’ by New Order. The Drums never denied who their influences were and who they were as a band.

Their newest release and its influences are far more unclear. “Magic Mountain” continues just as Portamento did,with more ominous sounds and raw bass lines you would expect to hear on Unknown Pleasures. But that about the only way their old influences shine through on this debut single. “Magic Mountain” finds lead singer Johnny Pierce yelping and sounding frantic. The sporadic composition of the song reminds me of an early Bloc Party tune, which is a departure from The Drums’ old sound, but a welcome one. It’s going to be exciting to hear what the rest of the album sounds like - I’ll be waiting with bated breath.

-Keegan Hudson

The Drums will perform at 9:30 Club on September 17