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Archive for the ‘Wolf Alice’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WOLF ALICE-Visions of a Life (2017).

Wolf Alice’s second album explores a great deal of diversity.  Nearly every song is in a different style–and yet none of them sound out of place.  It just sounds like Wolf Alice pushing their sound in many different directions and seeing what sticks (and most of hit sticks quite nicely).

It opens a lot noisier than the first album, but the shoegaze element is still prominent.  “Heavenward” is all distorted guitars and soaring melodies before settling down into a quieter verse and then a really catchy, bouncy chorus.  It’s followed by the loudest craziest song they’ve recorded thus far.  The 2 minute “Yuk Foo” is a solid blast of aggressive punk with a thumping bassline, squealing feedbacking guitars and Ellie Roswell screaming and cursing like a fiend.   Catharsis in 2 minutes.

It’s followed by “Beautifully Unconventional,” yet another terrific and, for them, a rather different style of song.  A staggered guitar phrase and a cool staccato chorus.  It’s wonderfully catchy.

“Don’t Delete The Kisses” is a surprisingly sweet pop song. The hook of the shouted singular words is undeniable.  “What if it’s not meant for me? love” with a happy ending “Me and you were meant to be in love”  “Planet Hunter” slows things down a bit with a quiet guitar and Roswell’s voice out front, but it leads into a full and really catchy chorus and a great ending section with a loud bass that takes the song to the end.

A lot of the band’s songs feature Roswell whispering the lyrics. “Sky Musings” is one of those songs.  It’s propulsive with Roswell’s vocals slightly obscured as she speaks out.  If she were a tad louder in the mix, the song would feel incredibly intimate.

“Formidable Cool” shifts things agin, with an almost Beatlesqsue guitar riff that turns very loud for the chorus.  The lyrics get really angry and the song grows pretty intense.  “Space & Time” is a bouncing song that lets up in the middle until the second half roars to the end.  Live, this song was amazing with guitarist Jeff Oddie just banging the crap out of his old guitar and making all kinds of sounds.

“Sadboy” is a bit of slower song but it’s got some great noises and sounds on it.  The hook is one that will stay with you.  The second half, with the “waiting for love” refrain features a whole chorus of backing singers (or Ellie)–quite a surprise–as well as some deep, processed vocals and what I assume is Roswell screaming in the background.

“St. Purple & Green” opens with a similar chorused vocal effect before roaring out with some loud crashing guitars. The band plays especially wonderfully with loud/quiet dynamic because during the quiet sections, Roswell’s voice is so delicate and soothing.  The contrasts are tremendous.

“After the Zero Hour” is a pretty folk song with acoustic guitars and Roswell’s layered soaring vocals.  It’s quite a lovely piece.

The disc ends with the title track “Visions of a Life,” an 8 minute epic of heaviness with multiple parts and time signatures.  It’s a fanatic conclusion to the disc–even if 8 minutes is nowhere near long enough.

I feel pretty lucky to have seen them in a small venue as I can imagine them really taking off.

[READ: January 29, 2018] “The Recipe for Life”

This is an essay about Chabon’s father and his own childhood.

His father was a doctor–an excellent doctor, by all accounts.  He worked all day as a hospital pediatrician and then at night he did house calls for U.S. Public Health Service for insurance claims.

He often took Michael with him.  And Michael often had his own doctor bag (made of plastic) and his own stethoscope (made of plastic) and a needle (made of plastic).

He recalls one night when the patient asked him if he wanted to be a doctor like his father.  He felt, even then, that he could never live up to his father’s work.  He saw (and still sees) his father as an excellent diagnostician (he gets every diagnosis correct very early on while watching Marcus Welby).  But Michael is more impressed at his father’s ability to reassurance patients.  he is warm and thoughtful and consoling.

Except toward Michael: “Unless I am gravely ill or seriously injured–and I am almost never either of those things–I don’t even rate the bedside manner.  My father’s response when I cut a finger, stub my toe, twist an ankle or fall of my bicycle never varies: ‘We’ll have to amputate.'” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WOLF ALICE-My Love is Cool (2015).

I liked this album when it came out, but it didn’t blow me away.  I enjoyed the band blend of shoegaze and grunge.  But when I listened to it more, I realized there was a lot more going on–some folk roots, some interesting electronic sounds and a surprising pop sensibility.

When I saw them live at a small club in Asbury Park, the band blew me away with their cathartic sound and really tight rhythms.  They were also quite a bit heavier loud–really rocking out some of these songs and speeding up the tempo, too.

As such, the album feels a little slow, but if you get past that (and you should) it works really well to all of the band’s strengths.

“Turn to Dust” opens with gentle guitars and trippy electronic sounds (that one descending note is great).  Ellie Roswell sings softly with a gentle echo (I like that you can hear her accent in some of the words too).  It’s a fantastic opening.  “Bros.” speeds things up a bit but it doesn’t get any heavier, yet.  “You’re Love’s Whore” has a cool bass line and low backing vocals.   Like the other two songs, it’s also very catchy.

“You’re a Germ” adds some loud guitars to the music.  There’s a lot going on in this song and it kind of forces its way into your brain: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 / you ain’t going to heaven / cause I’m dragging you down to hell.”  It’s the first time Roswell screams and she’s got quite the shriek.  “Lisbon” slows things down until the wildly chaotic chorus (featuring some insane drumming).  “Silk” is a slower, moodier song with interesting whispered vocals.  The chorus once again proves to be very catchy the way the music falls out but the vocals get bigger.

“Freazy” has a cool drumbeat and a shuffling rhythm.  “Giant Peach” has an unexpected bass line midway through the song.  But the biggest surprise comes with “Swallowtail.”  It’s a folkie acoustic song and it’s sing by drummer Joel Amey.  It is really quite a surprise to hear a different voice, but it works really well.  It’s got a really interesting chorus with Amey hitting a nice falsetto midway through.  I fond it to be a real earworm.

“Soapy Water” is a more pop-oriented song with heavy synths, but it’s go their unmistakable thump.  “Fluffy” rocks the album to an end.  Its got screaming guitars and a wonderful buildup to the screaming chorus of “Sixteen, so sweet.”  (This song really rocks, live).

The final song is a quiet song with thumping tom toms.  The vocal melody is a gentle rising and falling melody with quiet guitars.   Tacked on the end is a bonus song, called “My Love is Cool.”  It’s a minute and a half of quiet guitar and Roswell’s almost whispered singing.

The band covers a lot of territory on this album, but they own it all pretty well.  It’s worth a listen.

[READ: January 30, 2018] “Bronze”

I’d be very surprised if this was not an excerpt.  It just feels too big for it to be a short story (although it wraps up in a rather tidy manner).

There are two major threads running through it.  There’s one set in 1978 when a college freshman, Eugene, is returning to school on the train.  He was high and he was dressed flamboyantly–a white fur coat, pink sunglasses, a scarf at his neck. He wanted to be beautiful or at least noticeable.  He was seeking a seat, but the train was packed.

Eugene was late to the train because he was hanging out at his friend Stigwood’s house in New York City.  Stigwood had a boyfriend from Venezuela visiting.  Eugene and Raphael were hanging out when Stigwood came home and stuck his hand down Raphael’s pants–which made Raphael shout “I am not your slut!”  Eugene watched, fascinated, before realizing he was late for the train and he ran all the way to the station.

Eugene wanted to be a poet so when he got to the space between trains he recited out loud Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro.”  It calmed him.

In the next car a man offered him a  seat.  Eugene thought, “Not again, everywhere I go.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 5, 2017] Wolf Alice

I really enjoyed Wolf Alice’s new record.  I also re-listened to their first and had forgotten how much I liked it.

They were scheduled to play a show in Philly, but it happened to be the same night as something else I was doing.  And then, as if by magic, about two weeks before this date, they announced this show at Wonder Bar.  (The original dates were announced back in Sept).  So there was little fanfare about this show on a rainy night in sleepy Asbury Park (Tuesday night in December is pretty sleepy).

The show was not very crowded, but those of us who were there were really excited (some guys who got there after me knew all the words to every song–the bassist shouted out to them for that). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 5, 2017] Polyplastic

I was pretty excited to see Wolf Alice and I’d never been to Wonder Bar before.

It was a rainy, miserable night in Asbury Park.  I found out that despite there being no one in the parking areas, they still charged for parking.  So I drove a few blocks up and parked for free.  But by the time I got myself situated, I was about ten minutes late for Polyplastic.

I didn’t know them at all, but I was pretty delighted with what I heard.  They are a relatively new band from California.  They don’t have a record out yet, but they do have stuff on soundcloud.

Wonder Bar proved to be pretty small, but with a good sound system and great sight lines.  I found it vastly superior to The Stone Pony, but with far fewer bands that I’d want to see on the docket. (more…)

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