Category Archives: first impressions

First Impressions: Andrew Jackson Jihad

By Cherie

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For this weeks First Impressions I was given a band I’d heard a lot about, but never had the time to actually listen to; Andrew Jackson Jihad. The band first surfaced on my radar when they were touring with Frank Turner, who has a history of taking his favorite bands on tour with him. Since I usually end up liking those bands, I made a note of the bands name with the intention of looking them up at a later date. When Vas suggested the band for this weeks First Impressions column I was thrilled to finally get an excuse to sit down and listen to them. Andrew Jackson Jihad are often described as a “folk-punk” band from Arizona, and I have to admit that I have never before come across that particular genre of music. So all in all I was excited to dive into the three songs I was given.

 

The first song that I was given to listen to was “People” off of their 2007 album, People Who Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World, and as soon as it started playing I had to wonder if I was given it because of the banjo. The song has a very DIY sound to it; it’s not bad quality but it sounds like it has been recorded in one take and not brushed up or polished in any way. And that’s a sound I quite like overall because to me its more honest. The singer reminded me of John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats a little, based on his delivery and his overall sound. The lyrics made me laugh a little because there’s an obvious dichotomy in what they say. On the one hand people are great and fantastic, but on the other they are horrible and hateful. As someone who works with the general public on a daily basis that love/hate relationship towards my fellow man is something I can relate to wholeheartedly. But overall I loved the message of the song and think that everyone can relate to the lyrics. “I have faith in my fellow man / and I only hope that he has faith in me” the song concludes.

 

The second song, “Hate, Rain on Me” is off their album Knife Man, and it shows a clear progression in sound from the previous song. This song has a full band, whereas the other was more acoustic. It still has a rough around the edges feel to it, but that only adds a sense of character to their sound. If it was too polished it wouldn’t be folk-punk. Again, I loved the lyrics of this song. The lyrics might not be poetic or even particularly deep, but they strike a chord with me because they are so honest and introspective. There’s no glossing over of faults, no sense of “she’s wrong for leaving me or not loving me.” Instead the lyrics reveal the truth, even when it’s less than flattering. “I’ve gotta get out of my skin but I don’t know where I begin / and right now I feel worthless and I feel lazy” they bluntly state. Not everyone has their life completely together and sometimes that process is harder than we imagine but its nice to see a band that doesn’t try to act like they aren’t human and struggling with things just like everyone else. Not all of life problems are about “getting the girl/boy”. Sometimes its as simple as admitting “I want to give a shit again.”

 

Out of the three songs I was given, the only one I wasn’t instantly won over by was the third, “Linda Ronstadt” off of the band’s upcoming album, Christmas Island. After looking up the name I realized that Linda Ronstadt is, apparently, an 11 time Grammy winner who was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame this month. I’d never heard of her before now, but clearly she was a very influential woman. Musically the song is different from the first two, though it has more in common with the second song in that it’s slightly rough around the edges. Lyrically its much the same as the previous two. “I almost made it through a year of choking down my fears,” the song proclaims before going on to add “but they’re gone for now / all thanks to Linda Rondstadt.” The song is about how seeing a piece of modern art affected the lyricist, and I think that that, at its core, is really the point of art after all. Art is, in many ways a reflection of ourselves, and seeing art that is created by someone other than ourselves but still being able to have an emotional connection to it is a beautiful thing. That’s part of the reason why I love music so much. Music expresses the thoughts and feelings I have every waking moment of every day, though I didn’t write the lyrics and songs myself. To quote the great Frank Turner himself: “I still believe that everyone can find a song for every time they’ve lost and every time they’ve won.”

Overall I really enjoyed the songs that I heard. I think I’ll definitely keep listening to the band; they have a decent size back catalog that I look forward to exploring, and their fanbase seems really passionate. I was won over by the bands honest lyrics and folk-punk sense of enthusiasm.

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First Impressions: The Apache Relay

by Vasilis

For this week’s first impressions, I was given the Nashville-based group The Apache Relay. I had never heard of them before, but I was told from the get-go that they have a new album coming out and have toured in the past with Mumford & Sons on the Gentlemen of the Road tour. As a result, I automatically had expectations of acoustic-heavy, country-flavored folk music similar to many of the bands Mumford & Sons take on the road with them.

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The first song I listened to was “Home Is Not Places”, which comes off the band’s debut album 1988.To my surprise, the tune kicked off with heavily distorted guitars, which threw me off as I was expecting an acoustic vibe. I love the title of the track and the idea of home not being a place but something you love; this band clearly loves being on the road, as the singer croons through a distinct southern accent “I need to run, I need to go/I took my time, I got no more/So take me somewhere I don’t know/’cause home is not places, it is love.” The track plays like a love song to the open road, sporting a very American feeling of adventure and discovery. The hand-clapping, boot-stomping bridge was especially raucous, building off this desire to explore with the lines, “Move along, move along, you’re going too slow, you’ll never see it all!/Do your dance, sing a song, I just need us both to carry on!/Oh move along, move along, we won’t stop until we’ve seen it all!/Clap your hands, sing a song, everything that we’ve ever had is gone, its gone”

As a Mumford & Sons fan, I enjoyed the song; however, I wasn’t enamored by it and found it to be fairly cookie-cutter in sound for its genre. I was told they put on a great live performance, so I checked out a couple live versions of the track and, to my delight, did like it a lot more than the recorded song. I especially enjoyed their Live in Knoxville recording, which was all acoustic. I definitely gravitated more to this song in a fully acoustic rendition as opposed to the distorted recording, as I think the song flowed better and allowed the mandolin to really stand out instead of being buried in the background. Their live performances of the song were very consistent and poignant and they definitely showed why they were afforded the opportunity to tour with a band as popular as Mumford & Sons, especially given the nature of this song.

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Next, I listened to “Katie, Queen of Tennessee”, which will open up the band’s upcoming album The Apache Relay (out on April 22). The title pays homage to Bruce Springsteen’s “Mary, Queen of Arkansas” who is a huge influence to the band. This song strays away from folk and into a more atmospheric indie-rock sound similar to bands like Vampire Weekend. The swelling violins and heavenly guitars sound wonderful thanks to the huge production, which is far more polished than the first song. The vocals soar elegantly as the music booms with each crisp note. I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoyed the production, which gave the song a sublime feel. It is more of a traditional love song than the first, as vocals and the music reminds me of the slow, methodical songs like “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala” and “Piledriver Waltz” off the Arctic Monkeys album Suck It And See. The song is sweet and sincere and sees the band building a more refined sound.

Although I was not blown away by The Apache Relay, I think they have a lot of potential and a lot to offer. Their upcoming album stands a good chance of being something very special if the production and vocals continue along the path of “Katie, Queen of Tennessee”. I hope this band expands on the experimentation of that song and the catchy, upbeat vibe. It’s hard to say who would enjoy this band, as the two songs I heard were so drastically different, but if you are a fan of indie-rock or folk-rock, this band is definitely worth listening to.

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First Impressions: The Walkmen

By Cherie

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This weeks First Impression artist was suggested by someone outside of the blog, who suggested two songs by indie rock band The Walkmen. I had no preconceived notions about the band, though for some reason I expected their music to have a slightly older sound to it, perhaps because their name instantly brings to mind the now outdated walkman devices.

 

The first track I listened to, “Heaven” had a very heavy nostalgic theme to it. The song is all about nostalgia, and the corresponding video showing old pictures and videos of the band is an appropriate match. It’s a song about friendship and the people you’ve known for years. “Stick with me / oh you’re my best friend / all of my life / you’ve always been” it states simply. Its a fairly mellow track that’s soothing to the ears but upbeat enough to have you tapping your feet to the beat. Apparently the song was used in the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, but please don’t judge it harshly based on just that fact if you hated the finale.

 

The second track I listened to was “We’ve Been Had”. I liked the addition of the piano to this track, with that instrument taking the forefront instead of guitars for this track. The way the singers voice cracks slightly in the first voice adds a layer of sincerity to the track that instantly drew me. The piano melody is catchy and threatens to get stuck in your head. Again, the lyrics are simple but effective: “I see myself change as the days change over / I hear the songs and the words don’t change.”

One of the things that struck me when I listened to the songs was the very obvious presence of the drums in both songs. I’ve listened to a few other songs in addition to these and I’d have to say that the drumming is very prominent in those songs as well. Drums provide the backbone to their songs but I find it interesting that the sound would be pushed to the forefront to such a degree. Its not a bad thing, but it is very striking that the drums re the loudest instrument when the band consists of five band members, all of whom play various instruments.

Their songs are short and fairly simple in structure and lyrics, but what they lack in originality they make up for in tone. I was drawn to the themes of the songs, and the way they were presented worked well for them. Their music is catchy without being overwhelmingly so; mellow without being too slow. I really enjoyed the songs I listened to, and as I mentioned before, I’ve already started branching out and listening to more. I look forward to listening to more from this band.

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First Impressions: Koji

By Cherie

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For this weeks First Impressions I was given the artist Koji. I’ve heard his name mentioned before, and I knew he did the Acoustic Basement tour but that’s about all I knew about him. Vas told me he chose this artist for me because of his voice, and he warned me that I would probably be surprised by his sound. He was right, as usual.

The first song I listened to was “Giants Sleeping.” The version I listened to first was a live version because, to quote Vasilis, “his voice sounds fucking beautiful in it.” And I have to admit that Vasilis is right. The recorded version is good as well, but there’s something about the live version that is much more compelling. Its stripped down and much more intimate with just Koji and a guitar. My first thought when listening to is it that it would be the the perfect road trip song. The sleeping giants that Koji refers to in the song are the Appalachian mountains, a mountain chain that runs through his home state of Pennsylvania but also passes through the state I live in (New Hampshire). I was struck by how vivid his description of the mountains are, even though he doesn’t use that many words. There’s a stretch of land that runs through the mountains near where I live, called the Kancamagus Highway. Its a winding, twisting mountain road, and though it can be quite terrifying at times with a sheer drop on one side and looming mountains on the other, I’ve always been drawn to it. I’ve traveled it in every single season, and experienced it in just about every kind of weather. Koji describes it exactly when he sings “ghosts haunt, hang and hover like the morning mist / the sun burns it off, the giants rise / then I know that I am alive.” Perhaps its just my familiarity with the mountains, but I felt a sense of connectedness to the song, and those words in particular.

The second song, “Chasing a Ghost” is a lot more upbeat in tempo than the first. Just like the first song though, the thing I was drawn to right from the start were the lyrics. Koji has a way of painting pictures by using just the bare minimum number of words that is fascinating. My favorite line from this song was “summertime sticking to the skin on my ribs.” Its such a short line, and yet it somehow managed to paint a vivid picture in my mind. I’m instantly transported to hot New England summers when the humidity sinks into your very core and feels like its become a part of you.

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I can easily see myself looking up more of Koji’s work in the future. This blog is called Lyrically Addicted for a reason, and there’s something that draws me to Koji’s simple but poignant lyrics. I’d love to see him do an acoustic show, his voice is lovely and draws a listener in all on its own. In fact, after listening to those two songs I looked up future tour dates and was disappointed to see that he’s not coming anywhere me any time soon. But you can bet the next time he swings around I’ll be there.

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First Impressions – Bayside

By Ryan, contributing writer

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I’ve heard the name Bayside kicked around before, and I’ve never looked into them too much. But, with the advent of this new column, I’m finally getting a chance to check them out. The only thing I really know going into this is that they’re a rock band. That’s it. And, that they have cool album covers.

Regardless, I’ve been texted my instructions. I’m going to listen to “Devotion and Desire” off of their self-titled album, “Sick, Sick, Sick” from their album Killing Time, and “Landing Feet First” from The Walking Wounded. The Walking Wounded also happens to be Vas’s favorite album and the track “Landing Feet First” is Cherie’s favorite song by Bayside. You can probably surmise that she was the one who chose the tracks for this segment of First Impressions.

First off, we have “Devotion and Desire”. I like their sound right off the bat. The guitar work is great and the little lead-in reminds me of harmonic metal guitar work but not as complex or screechy. The guitar work afterward is fairly straightforward, but works well. The music is something I would listen to regularly. However, and this is a major point, I’m not a fan of the vocals. I’ve always had a particular aversion to certain vocal qualities that crop up in various genres of music. For instance, I love metal, but I don’t like black metal vocals. The pig squealing and ultra-deep and guttural vocals are just ridiculous. But, anyway, back to Bayside. I’ve always had an aversion to the pop-punk/new-emo vocals. His voice doesn’t always cut into the whiny quality that I’m not a fan of, but when it does, it puts me off. It doesn’t make me hate the track at all, though. It’s just one of my pet peeves. I’m a fan of what I’ve heard so far; so, let’s see what the next track brings.

“Sick, Sick, Sick” (from Killing Time) is another instrumentally sound track that I dig. This track is still energetic, but not as fast-paced as “Devotion and Desire”. As with almost all other music known to man, this track is about being heartbroken and feeling (you guessed it) … sick. Although these kinds of lyrics are common throughout music, I think that it is again the vocals that make me not feel attached to the song. I don’t feel any power or rage behind his voice. It’s all just sort of present. It doesn’t grab me by the heartstrings and drag up memories of exes and mistakes.

Finally, we have “Landing Feet First” from The Walking Wounded. I think I’ve actually heard this song before (most likely on a roadtrip with Cherie). This is what this man’s voice was made for. This is the most appropriate track for his vocal style. It’s almost Weezer-like in a way, a much more gentle presentation with a mellow rock instrumental. I’m a big fan of this track.

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All in all, I liked my introduction to Bayside. I’m going to listen to more of their music for a more rounded opinion, but I’m probably just going to pick and choose the mellower tracks for a specific playlist so I’m not skipping through entire albums to find them. The takeaway from this is that I’m very picky with vocals and that you shouldn’t let that stop you from checking out Bayside yourself.

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First Impressions: King Charles

by Vasilis

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They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but seeing as how this segment is all about first impressions I would safely say that I have the right to do so. For this week’s installment, Cherie suggested a musician by the name of King Charles. A name with such royal connotations immediately led me to believe that his music would be eccentric and unorthodox (Cherie described him as “unique”). After seeing some photos of him, unique appeared to be a massive understatement; both his hair and his attire was unlike any I had seen from a modern musician and seemed more fitting for 19th century England. The only thing he was missing was a white powdered wig, a sword, and a crown to drive the royalty image home. After doing some research and seeing that he had previously toured with Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, and Noah and the Whale, I knew why Cherie was fond of him without hearing a single song.

King Charles released his one and only album LoveBlood on May 7, 2012 (or 7 May, 2012, if you prefer). The first song was called “Ivory Road”, which is the older of the two singles. I was immediately impressed with the rich string section that accompanied the banjo in the intro. His voice is definitely unique but reminded me a lot of a British Bob Dylan (considering that he references Bob Dylan with “positively Fourth Street” and “boots of Spanish leather”, it’s clear he was heavily influenced by Dylan). The song flows freely between tempos, switching up from slow and methodical to fast and ebullient, brilliantly matching the pace of his feelings. His music and voice are very theatrical, which is to be expected when your name is King Charles, and stylistically can loosely be classified as psychedelic folk-rock. I could see him fitting in well with a band like Queen.

After listening closely to the lyrics, what I love about “Ivory Road” is its how relatable it, especially to someone who loves to write. The narrator is trying desperately to describe the way this girl makes him feel but cannot do so as hard as he tries. His comparisons are at times random and irrational, showing no rhyme or reason, but he keeps throwing them out rapidly, desperately trying to find the perfect match when there may be none. I love how passionate he is about the person he’s singing about and I can almost picture him sitting at a desk next to a mountain of crumpled up paper cursing the fact he can’t find the right fit. The song is a wonderful look into the mind of someone who is in love.

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The second song is titled “Lady Percy”, which fits in with the whole royal theme King Charles portrays. This song maintains a cheerful and upbeat pace throughout and is catchier than the previous song. Strange as it sounds, the chorus reminds me a lot of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid; it’s up-tempo, happy, celebratory, and puts a smile on your face almost instantly. While remaining eccentric, this song is less on the theatrical side than its predecessor and more fit for radio and mass audiences. Much like the last song, the narrator speaks about his true love with unbridled enthusiasm and dedication. Instead of trying to describe her perfection, this time he is fantasizing about ways to get her to fall for him while lamenting that “Lady Percy will never come to my show.” Like in “Ivory Road”, he dreams up wild imageries to describe his feelings for her. The narrator in both songs is very charismatic and the lyrics are fantastical, existing in his most vivid and untamed imaginations. This song is so enjoyable and my favorite of the two, although I am quite fond of his over-the-top, dramatic style.

Based off the two songs I listened to, I can tell the rest of the album probably sounds quite romanticized. King Charles expresses longing, desire, and deep love in both these songs. He is an artist I would most likely have never found on my own but after hearing these two songs, I will definitely give LoveBlood a listen. As he only has one album in his collection, it cannot hurt and, judging from these two songs, I can’t see myself finding much fault with it. He is worth your time if you like theatrical and unconventional indie music. At worst you might waste 40 minutes of your time, but at best you might find the next indie-folk artist to fall in love with.

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First Impressions – A Great Big Pile of Leaves

By Cherie

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It’s my second time writing a First Impressions piece, and this time the band recommended for me was A Great Big Pile of Leaves. I’d heard of the band in passing before, but never really sat down to listen them at length, so I was excited to give them a thorough listen. I was even more excited to learn that ex-TBS guitarist and vocalist Matthew Fazzi is now a member of the band (I always thought Fazzi didn’t get enough credit when he was TBS and he’s had a few projects since then). A Great Big Pile of Leaves is a Brooklyn based indie rock band, and they released their second full LP, You’re Always on My Mind, in 2013.

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The first song I was given predated Fazzi’s time in the band, a fact of which I was duly warned about in advance, and it was “A Few Screws Loose” off the bands first album, Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex?. The song has a great guitar melody that stuck with me long after the song was over. The tempo changes along with the song, slowing down for the verses which was appropriate considering the song is very nostalgic in lyrical content and the slower temp serves to highlight this mood quite well. The gong was a little rougher around the edges then most of the music I prefer to listen to, but it had great energy and I can see how it would be a great song to hear live.

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The second song, Snack Attack, is off the bands second album, You’re Always on My Mind. It is much more upbeat, but the lyrics are about a relationship that never quite works the way its supposed to. The cheerful video, with the band members laughing and goofing off while the camera spins around in a continuous circle shot, only serves to enhance this apparent dichotomy. I was drawn to this song a lot more than the first song, probably due to its much more playful and polished sounding than the first track.

 

Overall I liked the band. I didn’t fall in love with them from just these two songs but I saw enough potential in the two songs that I listened to give them a chance. I can definitely see how they’d be a good band to see live, they’ve got a great energy to them that would translate well live. And if a band can win me over live then I’m sold.

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