It’s May already! Here in Florida, the temperatures are reaching 90 on any given day, and everyone is beginning to break out those bikinis and pale, winter skin. In the next few months, I will be hitting the pavement with my surfboard, a cooler, and some good friends. From beach days to trips around the country, here is the road trip playlist that will guide them all.
Nick Valensi Interview
San Francisco’s B-Sides On Air was recently afforded the opportunity to sit down with the accomplished, charismatic, and high-energy guitarist for The Strokes, and front man of his new project CRX, Nick Valensi.
Vinyl Kicks EP Review
The Vinyl Kicks came out with their first EP less than a year ago and fans will be happy to hear that a new release is on the horizon. Their first EP, Almost Young, established The Vinyl Kicks as a band and is still experiencing growing success. However, where Almost Young was good, the band’s upcoming EP, Ambitions Don’t Age Well is great. Listeners will be pleased to hear growth in the band lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally.
The quintet is comprised of Adam Cohen on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Justin Andrews on bass and backup vocals, Hope Finlayson on keys, Sean Acosta on lead guitar, and Jason Davis on drums and backup vocals. A band with so many elements is not easy to manage but the Florida natives, all under the age of twenty three, have great synchronicity, especially on the upcoming EP.
Instrumentally, the EP sounds somewhat reminiscent of Pink Floyd, or rather what I imagine Pink Floyd would sound like if they were born forty years later. Similar to Pink Floyd, The Vinyl Kicks are experimental, they’re groovy, but most of all they’re not afraid to be themselves. Where a lot of current bands are afraid of extended instrumental intros, The Vinyl Kicks tip their hat to Pink Floyd and let their intros take their time, building up sweet anticipation and letting each song unfold as it was meant to.
However, it’s not fair to only compare The Vinyl Kicks to Pink Floyd instrumentally, because they also sound like a lot of other things. At times the EP sounds a lot more like The Strokes than Pink Floyd, yet at other times it can best be compared to The Killers. The band has fused new and old really well on the upcoming EP. They remind me of bands from forty years ago, while simultaneously sounding like current bands. The band seems to have used forty years’ worth of albums as their textbooks and it’s clear they’ve been studying because Ambitions Don’t Age Well sounds like a collection of the best parts of indie rock over the last half decade.
The vocals on the EP are just as good as the instrumentals and I love them for the same reason that I love the instrumentals. They are what they are, and while they may take notes from some of the big names that came before them, at the end of it all they put their own spin on everything they do. At times, the vocals remind me a little of Pink Floyd, The Black Keys and Kings of Leon. Yet, to be honest the vocals on the EP don’t sound enough like the vocals from any of the aforementioned artists to be directly compared to alone. After I listened to the EP for days trying to figure out just who the vocals remind me of, I finally came to the conclusion that while The Vinyl Kicks sound a little like a lot of things, they really only sound like the Vinyl Kicks and their upcoming album is proof of this.
If you didn’t know that Adam Cohen, the lead vocalist had a hand in writing the lyrics, you’d figure it out just by listening to him sing. He has one of those voices that is emotionally in sync with each song and its lyrics. While Cohen has a cool, silky voice through most of the songs, there are parts of the album, like the chorus on “Broaden the Odds,” where he showcases a more raspy tone as he breaks into a yell. This works great for the EP, it’s just one of the subtleties that sets The Vinyl Kicks apart from other bands with a similar sound.
Lyrically, the EP is very poetic. It’s full of songs that show instead of telling. By that I mean that instead of coming right out and saying what they mean, The Vinyl Kicks paint the listener a picture and let the listener feel how they feel. One of my favorite lines is found at the beginning of “Broaden the Odds,” “slow she goes, slow she goes, tie me up some tangled souls.” Lines like this abound throughout the EP and paint abstract art in the listener’s mind. Ambitions Don’t Age Well features powerful enough lyrics that each song could be read in a monotone voice at a poetry event and it would still go over well.
All in all, The Vinyl Kicks have created something truly great on Ambitions Don’t Age Well. Everything about the EP just works – it’s everything their last EP was but better. Whether you’re a fan of the indie rock classics or the genre’s modern day hits, you’ll love Ambitions Don’t Age Well. Do yourself a favor and pick it up when it’s released on iTunes, May 15th of this year; you won’t be disappointed.
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When I started this, I suspected that when we look back on 2011, we wouldn’t consider this an amazing year for music. Unlike the amazing contributions we heard both twenty and forty years ago, this year’s contributions seemed a bit more mediocre. Nonetheless, after digging through the candidates, it became clear there were a few future classics out there.
So, grab your favorite beverage, crank up the music and check out the RARA’s Farm Farmer’s Dozen, the Top 12 albums of 2011. Take a look and a listen, and let us know what you think:
Bonus Selection: The Last Royals EP (read the RARAs Farm review)
This eponymous debut from a talented band out of New York City was one of the best discoveries of 2011. Everyone knows their wildly popular “Crystal Vases,” but the rest of the EP is just as good, and quite diverse, especially for a four song sampler. These guys have a ton of potential; look for their first full length album, Twistification hitting the streets soon.
12. Angles, The Strokes
Returning after a five year respite, the lads from New York are back, and in great form. All of the classic garage sound we’ve come to love from the band, as well as some more modern stuff, and an occasional retro rock flashback – the result is a long overdue strong return. The first cut “Machu Pichu” is a great example of their newer sound.
11. White Rabbit, Egypt Central (read the RARAs Farm review)
The second album from this Memphis based quartet was one of the best hard rock offerings of the year. Kick Ass features a wide variety of polished powerful rock and has prompted well deserved airplay on stations like SiriusXM’s Octane. The title track is an excellent hard rock tune, while “Goodnight” spotlights more of the ballad side of their repertoire.
10. Move Like This, The Cars
These guys are back for the first time since the eighties. The only original member missing is the late Benjamin Orr who passed away ten years ago. The rest of the band sounds eerily similar to their trademark sound that made them New Wave royalty. It’s odd that so many other bands are tapping into that 80’s vein nowadays, but these true masters couldn’t get a sniff of airplay. Nonetheless, it’s a nice overlooked return effort.
9. Codes and Keys, Death Cab for Cutie
Benjamin Gibbard and Chris Walla took a new approach for Death Cab on this album, eschewing their previous guitar laden sound for more of a keyboard driven groove. It’s a refreshing change and makes the album more enjoyable than their previous six. “You Are a Tourist” and “Stay Young and Go Dancing” are prime examples of the excellent new sound.
8. Torches, Foster the People
A nice debut from the L.A. trio includes their huge breakout hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” Their sound is modern through and through and Mark Foster’s vocals truly unique. Admittedly there are a few weak tracks on the album, but the good far outweighs the bad. Make sure you check out “Helena Beat” and “Don’t Stop.”
7. Covering Ground, Chuck Ragan
The long-time punk rocker turned folk troubadour gifted us with this excellent collection of introspective songs early this year. His gravely voice is paired perfectly with the stripped down instruments: an acoustic guitar, a fiddle and a stand up bass. The songs reflect on a tough life on the road and the loved ones in his life. Grab a whiskey and give it a listen.
6. Suck It and See, The Arctic Monkeys
Album number four is the band’s best yet. It’s a different sound for the foursome, and a welcome change. “She’s Thunderstorms” is a great opening cut on an album packed with excellent tunes all the way through to the closer “That’s Where You Belong.” “Piledriver Waltz and “Black Treacle” are two of the stronger offerings. Listening to the band I’m reminded of a comfortable old favorite: Echo and the Bunnymen – good stuff!
5. Eureka, Mother Mother (read the RARAs Farm review)
In our album review, we described their unique sound as a diverse collection of alt-country-dance-funkadelic-harmonic rock. It’s impossible to classify their sound as anything but original; they sound like Mother Mother, period. Their sound is all their own, and it’s great stuff. The group revolves around the infectious harmonies of brother/sister combination Ryan and molly Guldemold. The Canadians really shine on “Baby Don’t Dance,” “The Stand” and “Chasing It Down.”
4. El Camino, The Black Keys
The Akron based duo broke through last year with the hugely popular album Brothers. This one might be even better. There’s a bit more commercial appeal to this one, and the songs will translate well into live versions on their forthcoming tour. It’s straight forward, stripped down raw rock and roll; sounds a bit like a modernized version of Bad Company, if you can imagine that. “Lonely Boy” is one of the best songs of the year, and has plenty of competition on the rest of the album. “Money Maker” and “Hell of a Season” are two other powerful tracks.
3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Noel Gallagher and friends prove that there is life after Oasis for both brothers. Liam’s Beady Eye project was decent, but Noel’s new offering is great stuff. The talented guitarist penned all of these tunes and nails the vocals throughout. Some of the tunes will remind you of What’s The Story Morning Glory era Oasis (“Dream On” and “AKA What A Life”), which is a good thing, and all of them are well produced and written. Favorite track: “The Death of You and Me.”
2. Never Trust a Happy Song, Grouplove (read the RARAs Farm review)
A great collection of songs from this quintet who met by chance at an artists’ retreat in Crete a few summers ago. The band has put together a fantastic assortment of Alt Rock anthems. The feel of each song is distinctive yet they weave together nicely thanks to the consistent strong vocals from Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi. “Chloe” is the best cut on the album, but has plenty of company including “Colours,” “Lovely Cup,” and iPod favorite “Tongue Tied.”
1. Thank You Happy Birthday, Cage the Elephant
Fantastic album that also has a cool back story: The band basically had an album in the can ready to release when they realized no one was really passionate about what they recorded. They started over leveraging songs that the band members were planning to use for their own side projects. The result is a tremendous passion-filled trip from the opening notes of “Always Something” through all dozen tunes. “Around My Head,” “Aberdeen” and “Shake Me Down are already classics for the quintet from Kentucky. It’s only their second album, but these guys are key linchpins for the future of American Rock and Roll.
There you go, twelve great albums that will define 2011 music for years to come. Let us know what you think; what did we leave out? what doesn’t belong? And, if you want to take a trip down memory lane, check out how these discs compare with some classics: The Best of 1971 and The Best of 1991.
Rock On – Cretin