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Album Review: Twin Berlin’s ‘Sleazebrain’

Twin BerlinOurStage winners Twin Berlin‘s latest album may not have been produced by the iconic Travis Barker like their EP There Goes My Virtue was, but that doesn’t keep these New England natives from rocking hard on their brand new debut full-length, Sleazebrain. Starting things off strong with “You’re A Problem,” these self-proclaimed grunge rockers mix the perfect amount of aggression and passion into their music to create that raw and unaffected punk vibe that I love so much, yet find so rarely. And while the band has been teasing fans with clips and teasers of tracks such as the aforementioned opener and “Buzzkill,” I have to admit that my personal favorites lie in the deeper cuts, “Don’t Talk To Me” and “Kill This Low.” Still, the tracks they’ve chosen to lead with are strong, and are a pretty accurate snapshot of the album as a whole.

Grunge as a major influence is not easy to keep fresh two decades after its height, but Twin Berlin pull it off very well. The longer I let the album run the more I appreciated what a grower it is, and the more I wish I was able to immediately head out to one of their live shows. Because if this is the energy I’m getting from a recording, I can’t even imagine what kind of vibe they give off live.

Catch up with Twin Berlin on their Facebook, and be sure to grab a copy of Sleazebrain when it drops Feb. 18. In the meantime, check out a few tracks below to hold you over. Continue reading ‘Album Review: Twin Berlin’s ‘Sleazebrain’’

LATIN ARTISTS: Your Opportunity To Become The Next ‘El Headliner’ Is Running Out!

You know MTV’s Tr3s network. The well-known cable powerhouse is a staple in the Latin American entertainment world, capable of pushing emerging artists into the national spotlight.

If you think that kind of invaluable national exposure might help your career, we have good news for you.

Tr3s and OurStage have teamed up once again in the search for what we call “El Headliner.” It’s simple – we put your tracks to the fans, who tell us what they like the most. Then Tr3s and special guest judge Karlos Rosé will personally sort through each of the top tracks to find the one artist worthy of spotlight artist features on Tr3s’ show Top 20, as well as Tr3s.com’s Music My Güey,Descubre & Download, and Blogamole.

Submit your best track by June 22, 2013 for a chance to win.

Good luck!

Review: Before You Exit – ‘I Like That’ EP

Bands crafting original pop music with actual instrumentation is a rare treat in this ever-crowded digital age. The ease of digital production has completed done away with the need for musical talent in many cases, but still some are fighting to bring back what some have called “real pop.” One of those groups, Florida’s Before You Exit, have just released a new EP that makes a great argument for why authentic pop music still matters in 2013. Continue reading ‘Review: Before You Exit – ‘I Like That’ EP’

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper: Pro Artist Of The Week, New LP Review

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper is this week’s OurStage Pro Artist of the Week. You may remember her (a.k.a. Aly Spaltro) from such exclusive recording sessions as OurStage’s Songs of the Revolution or from such MTV Needle in the Haystack spotlights as this one.

OurStage Songs of the Revolution session:

The music of Lady Lamb the Beekeeper is, in quick summary, impactful, melodic, abstract, often stark, and drenched in alluring imagery. Usually armed only with her instrument (which can vary) and confident voice, Spaltro commands the attention of any audience.

In the three years since her first feature on OurStage, the initially impressive Maine to Brooklyn transplant has grown even further as a songwriter and performer, and has gained a growing swell of well-deserved national attention. This week, she releases her new LP for Ba Da Bing! Records, Ripely Pine.

In contrast with her prior releases, which were often home demos marked by sonic and stylistic experimentation, Ripely Pine is beautifully recorded – perhaps as close to ‘slick’ as she, or we, would want the music to be. The spare nature of Lady Lamb’s music is essential to its force – her voice is the driver and the focus. Yet somehow Spaltro and producer Nadim Issa manage to create a soft atmosphere around her plaintive vocals and un-adorned guitar that make it all feel quite lush. Between the ambient noise, layered vocals, and well-tamed reverb, songs like “Little Brother” are as potent and fulfilling as though they were fully orchestrated. Conversely, “Mezzanine” features significant string and woodwind parts, yet strikes as hard as any punk song.

New to the table are full-band songs like “Bird Balloon,” which swings in an Elliott Smith/Heatmiser kind of way, with a very Smiths-esque melodic turn in one section (since we’re doling out comparisons) and a very pretty break-down bridge. Yes, it veers pretty wildly, and that is one of the hallmarks of the record, and one of Spaltro’s unique talents – she is quite an arranger. While some songs remain simple, they rarely have easily classifiable verse-chorus-bridge parts, and the more complicated songs are built with parts that are more like movements.

Ripely Pine is bizarre and beautiful, the fully realized sound of a musical thinker whose output could be described as joyous, despite its often melancholy imagery and its frankly pained and raw delivery. It is simply a thrill to listen to music so unpredictable and in love with music itself.

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Spotify’s Grammy Awards Playlist

Didn’t listen to the radio over the past year? You’re not alone. Terrestrial radio listenership has been declining steadily. Listeners turn more to Internet radio, which is usually tailored to the listener’s specific tastes. Thus they don’t get the kind of broad-spectrum popular music survey represented at the Grammy Awards.

If you are among those who need (and, importantly, want) a crash course on what’s popular in music right now, Spotify has made a playlist of winners from last night’s ceremony. Check it out here.

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Review: A$AP Rocky’s ‘Long.Live.A$AP’

After about a year of heightened anticipation, Rakim Mayers – better known as A$AP Rocky – has unveiled his debut album, Long.Live.A$AP. Released on January 15 by A$AP Worldwide, Polo Grounds Music, and RCA Records, the album has made a rather big splash in the urban world and has earned the artist a multi-million dollar record deal, the likes of which have not been seen since 50 Cent began his successful career about a decade ago.

Quickly rising through the cracks of the underground rap world, A$AP Rocky’s debut album has earned him a seat the top at the top of the charts. Long.Live.A$AP features two promoted singles – Goldie, which is the lead single off the album, and “Fuckin’ Problems,” which features guest appearances from rappers Drake, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar. The two tracks are quite different from each other in terms of style, energy, flow, and lyrical content, but are both very well produced. In fact, the entire album is well structured with heavy emphasis on production value. A$AP’s beats are unique to that of many other rappers, which is perhaps why many have flocked to his music; it’s a new sound.

Unfortunately, guest artists and featured producers aside, A$AP Rocky’s material is perhaps the weakest aspect of the album. A$AP offers next to no lyrical inventiveness, nor is there any actual substance to his lines. He spends most of his verses re-hashing well-worn hip-hop tropes – bragging about his high-fashion tastes, his glamorous life, and supposed street cred, the latter a frequent source of controversy.

Continue reading ‘Review: A$AP Rocky’s ‘Long.Live.A$AP’’

Review: Local Natives – ‘Hummingbird’

Writing a sophomore album is a tricky prospect, especially when a band has received a massive amount of buzz and critical praise in relation to their relatively short lifespan. Groups crumble all the time under the weight of these expectations – whether from themselves or from the media – and often are unable to recapture the magic of their first major release: the one that they had their entire lives to conjure, instead of just a few months between tours and promotion. The rapid pace of the blogosphere has magnified the effect of this pressure, churning out new acts by the day that are effective sonic replacements for any formerly beloved group that has failed to pass muster on a new release. Add in the democratic and anonymous nature of the Internet, which emboldens the opinionated to release the type of caustic criticism that most would hide in person, and it is understandable why many bands today would have some trepidation regarding the release of new material.

Local Natives seem like they may be aware of, if not certainly reactive to, these perils. In part, because their second release Hummingbird does not stray far stylistically from Gorilla Manor, the debut album that put the Los Angeles group on the map in 2010. The band’s chiming guitar parts and multi-part harmonies remain, as do their intricate percussion lines that often form the focal points of their studio compositions and their energetic live shows. For some bands, the re-creation of a uniform sonic profile reminiscent of a past release could be interpreted as an insurance against loss, a way to satisfy those listeners who are expecting more of the same from a band they already enjoy. For other groups, the preservation of the same style could simply signify their love of that particular sound, and their desire to wring it dry for all of its latent value.

Continue reading ‘Review: Local Natives – ‘Hummingbird’’

Album Review: Ra Ra Riot – ‘Beta Love’

In 2001, the romance of technology was still lighthearted. For Daft Punk, erstwhile pioneers in the world of mainstream electronica, the technologies that propelled their “Digital Love” single to success in the new millennium – the soft synths and sampled wurlitzers – still weren’t at odds with human affection, human love, human communication. They were an addendum, a side note to human intimacy, which still had supremacy even in an age of gradually encroaching machines that would slowly command more time, love, and money than many interpersonal relationships. That time was still to come, though. At the turn of the millennium, America was reeling from other wounds, and the crush of technology was really not a concern. Continue reading ‘Album Review: Ra Ra Riot – ‘Beta Love’’

Exclusive Q and A: Matt Pond Talks Palm Reading, “PA,” Professors

Since 1998, Matt Pond has been releasing perfectly crafted indie rock albums under the moniker Matt Pond PA, but with his most recent release The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand, Pond has dropped the “PA,” indicating a definite shift in tone. We caught up with Pond to chat about the songwriting for the new record, what he loves about being on the road, and the allure of a career in academia – were he not to be in a relentlessly touring rock band.

OS: The loss of the “PA” from your name signals some type of change in mentality or style. How would you compare your upcoming album to [2010's] The Dark Leaves?

Matt Pond: I finish every album with some kind of staggering realization. It’s not the objective, but it always happens. As we worked on the album, each member slipped away. So that by the end, it was just me and Chris Hansen. Incidentally, Chris is my best friend and the best musician I’ve ever played with. And that’s not hyperbole. I guess The Dark Leaves was about acceptance and The Lives is about defiance. Because of this, I couldn’t hold onto the “PA” anymore. I don’t know if I was fired or promoted, but I definitely feel different. Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Matt Pond Talks Palm Reading, “PA,” Professors’

Album Review: We Came As Romans – “Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be”

We Came As Romans’ (WCAR) sophomore album, Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be, has been re-released for 2013 in a deluxe edition with three additional tracks.

Thematically, the album offers a comprehensive meditation on the challenges and struggles we encounter as we grow older, and the maturity that we gain from life’s calamities. Yet, the band retains the positive sense of camaraderie so familiar from their first album, To Plant A Seed. Among all of the bands within the metalcore scene, WCAR has defined themselves by creating a unique sonic niche, utilizing slightly altered metalcore characteristics, synthesizers, and clean, auto-tuned vocals.

Driving, syncopated patterns create a groove familiar to metalcore. However, lead guitarist Joshua Moore provides melodic phrases that flow over the groove and help create a distinct sound. Additionally, clean vocalist Kyle Pavone and screamer David Stephens compliment each other and deliver well-articulated lyrics. The high production value on the album helps to blend all of the elements together, though it also seems to cover up the main criticism the band consistently receives – Pavone’s lack of delivery during live performances. But his vocals work well here; the slight auto-tune and a generous amount of reverb create a nice change from Stephens’ screaming. Combined with arrangement elements such as breakdowns, melodic passages, lulls featuring synthesized groove patterns, and tempo changes, the music and vocals seem to mesh effortlessly.

In a well-executed display by a band that can distinguish itself from the rest of the ever-growing metalcore scene, Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be conquers the sophomore album jinx. While I wouldn’t say that it is better than their debut release, I will say that We Came As Romans have been able to produce a solid album that is not a carbon copy of their first.

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