Tag Archives: indie rock

RCE – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Your Anger

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You can’t go more than a few minutes on any Alternative rock station without hearing the latest folk rock band and their twist on Indie-Americana. So much of today’s music blends together, post-Mumford and Sons malaise, but the latest release from River City Extension, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Your Anger truly stands out.  I’m guessing it never reaches the heights of Sigh No More, but it should, as it’s better and deeper.

The second release from this talented octet out of New Jersey is a musical and lyrical journey well worth a listen or two (or twelve). It’s an album packed with original sounds and with each listen a different track stands out.

Joe Michelini, the band’s singer and guitarist is the primary songwriter and he takes us through a varied collection of memories. He offers: “Half of this record is love songs, and the other half is ‘I’m sorry that I fucked up’ songs,” and he writes about both in a compelling way.

The album kicks off with Glastonbury,” a beautiful song that ebbs and flows magnificently as it builds up from a stripped down start to the full eight piece ensemble, then ultimately winds down with just Michelini on guitar and vocals. It’s a microcosm of the album and a good preview for what’s in store for the next sixty minutes.  Michelini’s vocals are damn near perfect, and showcase his broad range, both on the opener and throughout.  On “If You Need Me Back in Brooklyn” we hear a nice boy/girl duet with Sam Tacon, but for most of the album it’s all Michelini expertly carrying the vocals.

The musicians accompanying Michelini are quite talented, and the diversity of instruments offered is musical bliss. With superb production, we hear all eight musicians blend together perfectly, nicely highlighting each of the various instruments without overloading our senses.  Mike Costaney on drums and percussion offers an amazingly creative approach which is an absolute highlight of the album. Jenn Fantaccione’s cello is a refreshing change.  The cello is an under-utilized instrument in the rock world, but as River City Extension proves, there’s a definite place for it.  It was refreshing to hear, and one of the features that sets this band apart. You’ll also hear mandolin, trumpet, banjo, piano, melaphone and so much more – a feast for the ears.

There are a few cuts on the album that absolutely scream out for airplay.  Hopefully, we’ll be hearing tracks like “Welcome to Pittsburgh,” “Down, Down, Down” and “Point of Surrender” gracing the airwaves at some point in the future.

My two personal favorites highlight the diversity of the band, “Ballad of Oregon” is a fantastic introspective tune that spotlights all of the band members as it travels through Michelini’s troubled search for love; and “Lord I Have Changed” which is a stark introspective peek into Michelini’s past with him accompanied solely by Costantey’s drums, an interesting conclusion to an excellent album.

Don’t let this excellent new album pass you by, pick it up and give it a few spins. You’ll be happy to have found this Alt-Americana gem.

Rock on – Cretin

Related Story: River City Extension Live in Orlando

River City Extension. Photo credit: Danny Clinch
River City Extension. Photo credit: Danny Clinch

Some Nights are More FUN.

Nate Ruess is not Freddie Mercury, but the front man for FUN. is definitely channeling Freddie’s spirit on the band’s latest release, Some Nights. No one will confuse this band with rock icons Queen, but Ruess’s voice will certainly conjure up some nice memories of their Mercurial lead singer.

(Let’s just get this out of the way first; the band refers to themselves with a period after their name and always either all lower case or all CAPS. I’ve chosen the latter throughout this review.  So, please, no comments on my apparent crappy grammar.)

Ruess has been around the Indie music scene for ten years, previously with Format, and now back with FUN.’s second release.  Some Nights is in a word, fun. It’s a great vehicle for the talented vocal stylings of Reuss and packed with memorable addicting ditties.

Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost round out the trio and lend their voices to create impressive harmonies throughout.  While the vocals border on spectacular, the music is fairly uninspiring. Like many of today’s Indie bands, it’s primarily synthesizers and canned drum beats. While not the greatest musicianship, it is still pretty damn fun. The music may be bubble-gum, but it’s certainly not cookie-cutter. FUN. has developed a unique sound and have carved a nice niche in today’s Alt-Rock landscape.

By now, everyone has surely heard the first single, “We Are Young (featuring Janelle Monáe).” It’s been all over TV, and for good reason; it’s a great addictive tune. It’s a good peek into what you can expect from the rest of the album, and chances are if you dig “We Are Young,” you’ll really enjoy the other tracks.

The album kicks off with a powerful Broadway-inspired introduction that beautifully highlights the vocal prowess of Reuss. It’s different, it’s innovative and it’s fun. From there, it’s generally a trip through a series of entertaining enjoyable cuts. The title track, “Carry On,” “All Alone” and “One Foot” are all in the same vein as “We Are Young.” They’ll all have you singing along and tapping your feet throughout.

“It Gets Better” reminded me a bit of Blink 182, and had a welcome edge to it.  My personal favorite is “Why Am I the One.” It’s more tender than the other tunes, and reflects on a challenging relationship and the impact on our protagonist’s life as evidenced by these lyrics: “Cause my life has become as vapid as a night out in Los Angeles.” The song ebbs and flows with hopeful desperation and is a great journey.

The album features fantastic vocals, catchy tunes and plenty of diversity. Check it out on iTunes below and enjoy the FUN.

Rock On! – Cretin

A Little Banjo Love

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Over the last two years, I’ve noticed a new trend in some popular rock music… the banjo. Long relegated to bluegrass and country music, the banjo is appearing in many indie rock band lineups these days. Whether it be a feature in one song or an album with several songs showcasing the banjo, these bands are working to make the instrument cool.

Two of my favorite bands these days, The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons, feature the banjo prominently in several songs. Most notably, Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons which made the radio rounds in 2010. I had the pleasure of seeing the Avett Brothers live back in November at Orlando Calling and was struck by how well they incorporated the unassuming banjo into their music. It fit seamlessly into their sound and totally rounded it out.  The Avett Brothers album I and Love and You showcases the banjo prominently and I highly recommend it.

A little tour around the internet and I found some other great indie bands who have some banjo love going on. Modest Mouse and Sufjan Stevens to just name two more.  What’s the moral of the story… I love it when bands incorporate different instruments into their repertoire!  It keeps things interesting.  What bands that you enjoy feature interesting instruments?