Song of the Day: Soft Sounds From Another Planet -Japanese Breakfast

Today’s song of the day is hand-picked from Japanese Breakfast’s sophomore album Soft Sounds From Another Planet, released this past July. Melodic and dreamy, this title track encapsulates the feeling of closing your eyes and laying in the warm sun. Paired with layers of masterfully crafted cosmic arrangements, the depth of the lyrics hit hard as Michelle Zauner paints a tale of an abusive ex-lover. While seemingly melancholic, the theme of this album centers on healing and release, in contrast to her 2016 debut album Psychopomp, which journeyed her mother’s emotional battle with cancer. A lap steel guitar solo and floaty vocals package this track up into a perfect cozy nighttime listen.

You can listen below, along with the rest of the album:

 

Vinyl On The Rise?

Written by: Audra Colliton

As a collector of vinyl for 8 years, I can easily say it’s on the rise. However, I can also attest to the fact that I am biased. I have seen an increase in people my age shopping at my record store, younger people at events like the Record Riot, and the release of cheap turntables everywhere in every color can defend that opinion.

Vinyl is on trend right now, but as a musical format, I find it to be the most tactile. As a music enthusiast, I have collected my fair share of CDs, tapes and digital downloads. CDs are often too small to fully appreciate the small booklets in the covers, tapes are even smaller, and digital is subtracted from the physical environment entirely. Vinyl is different; it’s tactile and large enough to fully appreciate. For that reason, covers are more elaborate, the inner sleeve may contain more things like posters, calendars, and even large booklets or paper stands. Zeppelin had pop up effects on Led Zeppelin III, the Rolling Stones incorporated an actual, zippable zipper on Sticky Fingers, Alice Cooper’s Love it To Death came with a calendar from 1971 with a picture of Alice being hung with a noose. There are so many additional things to vinyl in comparison to CDs it’s impressive.

Vinyl also has a different sound quality and lasts longer when cared for properly. I cannot fully describe the sound it has, but it feels more real. That might just be my bias shining through, but I’ve heard similar statements from other collectors. They also last longer in comparison to tapes, which, after several uses, will expel their tape and get worn out. CDs, after a number of years, literally rot, which is another thing to take into consideration. It’s true that vinyl can be severely damaged and can skip, but proper care is crucial.

Besides that, we have to consider how we take in music day to day in the digital, divided era that we live in. We take everything segmented, taking out the terrible and only focusing on the “good” music, or the singles of an album. CDs and tapes you can easily skip through. Skipping songs on vinyl takes some skill and when I first started I never did it in fear of damaging my albums. So, as time went by, I listened to my albums fully, taking the good with the bad. And I realized that albums are merely storytelling devices, some stories are good, some stories are bad. Sometimes the story is not linked up, sometimes the stories intertwine perfectly.

An example of an album that does this is Arthur by the Kinks. Sure, you probably know “Victoria”, however, the tracks that follow are vital to the story, and the discontent felt in the story doesn’t fully echo through “Victoria”. Discontent is felt through songs like “Some Mother’s Son” and “Shangri La” due to the sad and sarcastic nature the Kinks instill into the lyrics. Albums are a composite piece of work, and to fully grasp the art, it must be taken whole before zeroing into songs. I’ve come to find some of my favorite songs are my least favorite in comparison to the album as a whole.

Some stories are terrible, like Their Satanic Majesties Request, that tried to rival Sargent Pepper’s and horribly failed, however the album is still sought after by collectors that value the art, and can actually be worth money just because of the art.

In general, vinyl is an experience that cannot be replicated on a digital platform.

Looking Back

As the semester draws to a close, we look back at what made this year special.

Starting off the year with a daunting challenge, WCDB took its first-ever stab at helping plan the 35th annual Larkfest celebration, accompanied by Lark Street BID. WCDB’S choice headliner Lower Dens rocked the Madison Avenue stage, while local smaller-name acts dominated our own Trinity Lot stage. The 8 hour festival featured live music, vendors, and art for all. The Times Union estimated that nearly 80,000 guests were in attendance this year, the highest recorded numbers so far.

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Some exciting news from one of our own made us proud this last month. Alumni DJ and Jazz Host Bill McCann celebrated his 32nd year with us this April, fittingly during Jazz Appreciation Month. His story was featured on Time Warner Cable Spectrum News, and can be viewed in the link below. His contributions to the station are innumerable, and we’re flattered to have him with us. You can hear his show Saturday mornings 8am-12pm, featuring a soothing mix of both classic and new mainstream jazz. (Bill McCann)

Earlier in April, we celebrated our 39th anniversary as a station with a commemorative show at The Low Beat (for traditions sake). Openers included Hospital Corners, Another Michael, and The Parlor, followed by headliner Palehound. A great turn out and awesome show has us all itching for next year’s 40th anniversary show, which is bound to pack out the house with fans and alumni DJs alike.

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Headliner Palehound, via @SuperVintageParty

As many of us head home for the summer and others head out to start the next stage of their lives, we look back fondly on the past year. We also look ahead, excited for what’s to come next semester and beyond. Stay tuned for more updates on music news, album reviews, and input from our fellow DJs.

Upcoming shows in the capital district!

Believe it or not, there are some great shows coming up in the capital district. A few high-profile acts felt like they should come to Albany for some reason. Whatever that reason may be, we are reaping the benefits as music lovers.

St. Vincent at Upstate Concert Hall

Saturday March 7

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Annie Clark of St. Vincent recently won the Best Alternative Album Grammy for her excellent 2014 effort, St. Vincent. Tickets are still available for her show at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park.

http://upstateconcerthall.com/calendar/st-vincent/

Taking Back Sunday and The Menzingers at Upstate Concert Hall

Sunday March 15

For fans of pop punk singalongs, both of these bands will not disappoint. Thankfully, the show is on a Sunday, which by now I would assume has been taken back.

http://upstateconcerthall.com/calendar/taking-back-sunday/

Sufjan Stevens at the Palace Theater

Wednesday April 15

With beautiful orchestral pop arrangements, and poignant, expressive songwriting, Sufjan Stevens is finally coming out with his first official non-Christmas album since 2010’s The Age of Adz. You can see him in April at what is arguably the nicest venue in Albany.

http://palacealbany.com/EventsandTickets/EventTickets/event.aspx?eid=e4cf1112-0927-4937-9d18-3cd0c5120691

Essential Albums: The Microphones- The Glow Pt. 2

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In the midst of a harsh, snowy winter, there are few albums that reinforce the feeling of bitter coldness as well as The Glow Pt. 2. The Microphones are the solo work of Phil Elverum whose desperate songwriting goes perfectly with the organic instrument sounds he created in the studio. Ambient noise runs consistently in the background behind spindly acoustic guitars which weave back and forth in the stereo field. There are crashing instrumental sections and periods of stillness, much like the schedule-halting snowstorm and the calm afterward. The album was recorded entirely without the use of digital effects on analog audio tape. There is a distinct warmth of tone present in the frozen soundscapes. An extremely interesting podcast for fans of how tracks are created, called Song Exploder, did a spotlight on the first track of the album, I Want Wind to Blow. It can be listened to here: http://songexploder.net/episode-13-the-microphones/

You Blew It! Interview

I got a chance to interview You Blew It! in Georgia over the summer on their tour with Say Anything, The Front Bottoms, and The So-So Glos. You Blew It! is Tanner (guitar/vox), Andy Anaya (guitar), Andrew Vila (bass) and Matt (drums).

Since then, the band released an EP of Weezer covers entitled You Blue It, and unfortunately had much of their gear stolen out of their van. They are still touring, however, with Citizen and Hostage Calm and have an upstate NY date in Poughkeepsie on October 7.

You can stream You Blue It! right here:

Where did you get your band name from? Does it have anything to do with the scene in Billy Madison when he screams ‘You blew it!!!’?

Tanner: Sort of. We started saying it to each other. It’s from a Tim and Eric skit. We used to have a really bad band name, not that this is a good band name. We were called Run Home Jack. We played one show and we we were like, ‘Oh, you blew it, you blew it, you blew it’ and then finally one day our old drummer was like, ‘Let’s make that the band name!’ I was like ‘You are a moron’ and then Billy Madison was on and that part came up…

How has the tour been so far?

Tanner: Sick as- are we allowed to say certain words? Sick as fuck! Holy shit dog!

Is it weird being the first of four bands on such a big tour?

Matt: No, it’s still a joy. Obviously there aren’t as many people in the beginning.
Andy A: There are still a shit ton of people.
Matt: Yeah, it’s about triple the amount of people we usually play to.

Do you still get nervous at all when you perform?

Matt: Yeah.
Andy V: Yeah.
Andy A: I don’t get nervous. (laughter)
Tanner: I didn’t think I did but the first show of the tour we did was a 1500 cap and they had a screen in front of the stage so you could walk on stage and set up your gear without people seeing you. Finally 8 o clock rolls around and the screen starts rolling up and there is a roar of applause. That first show made me nervous.

Who is the most fun to hang out with on tour?

Matt: We know the Front Bottoms the best.
Andy A: We did a tour with them in January so when we started this tour we were already buddy buddy with them, but everybody’s been super nice. There isn’t one person on this tour that I couldn’t have a conversation with or ask what’s the best burrito joint in town.

You mentioned at the show that you’re a big Say Anything fan. Do you have a favorite song?

Tanner: This is kind of a weird favorite song, but I really like Hate Everyone. It sounds kind of cliche but I can’t get that song out of my head.

How was having Evan Weiss from Into It. Over It. help record your album?

Andy A: He did an exceptional job. I think he helped us realize what we were doing. We owe a lot to him.

I know some dudes who were in a fairly popular band who told me that Evan Weiss is not the nicest guy to his peers. I love Into It. Over It. and was surprised to hear that.

Tanner: He’s one of those guys who takes care of the people that he likes, and treats them well, people that respect him, like give respect get respect. It sounds like stupid ‘cholo.’
Andy A: No that shit’s real dude, I completely agree.
Tanner He’s very… I feel like cliquey is the wrong word.
Andy A: Like once you’re with him, you’re with him.

How is being on Topshelf Records?

Tanner: Those guys were friends even before we signed, so the friendship continues on. But they didn’t follow my girlfriend back on Instagram so this is our resignation from the label.
Andy A: No dude we need to stay on their label!

I saw Modern Baseball in Philly a few weeks ago and Brendan told a funny story. He said the first time he crowdsurfed was at a You Blew It! show. Do you remember that?

Andy A: Shit! That was the summer. We played with Mixtapes and Lightyears and Modern Baseball. Yeah, that was fucking awesome. He looked so frightened but so happy.

Do you have a favorite city you like to play in?

Andy A: I have a two way tie: I love Montreal and I also love Seattle. Atlanta is great too. Matt: California is sick too. I love Cali.
Tanner: I love going to Seattle but I think I love playing in LA or Philly.
Andy V: I like Boston, that feels like a hometown show.
Andy A: Philly can get it too.

Do you have any opinions on Spotify and music streaming? Do you think it helps bands?

Tanner: Absolutely. If you do it correctly. Modern Baseball owns all their songs, them personally and they make a good amount of money off it. Nothing to keep them afloat the rest of their lives, but they did digital distribution correctly, they make their money off Spotify, but we did it wrong. We didn’t do that and Spotify fucks us. We’ve been on Spotify for two and a half years and we still haven’t seen one cent. It’s not really about the money. It’s sick as hell to be streaming to everyone.
Andy A: If someone hears our song and comes out to a show, that’s amazing.

Would you mind me asking how old you guys are?

Tanner: Yes I mind, fuck off. (laughter)
Andy V: You can’t ask my age or weight.
Tanner: I am 23 years old and 176 pounds.
Matt: I am 25 and 172 pounds.
Andy A: I am 24 and rockin’ 212.
Andy V: I’m 23 and sitting happy at 160.

Did school ever in the way of the band?

Andy V: Yeah well luckily I graduated. Me and Tanner got out of that jawn. Andy is in a pickle.
Andy A: Well I took a year and a half off of school to work. And then we did a big spring tour. Tanner was still in school. I took another semester off and I was like, ‘Yo, if this band is still doing shit, let’s go. I wanna go as far as we can.’ I keep putting it off. I went back for a year and I only have a small amount of credit hours to do. To be honest, I don’t really care at this point.
Tanner: I didn’t even take time off. I just told them I won’t be here on this class or this class, I’m gonna be on tour, sorry. C’s get degrees though.
Andy A: Somebody told me that UCF stands for U Can’t Finish and I’m starting to believe it.

Do you have any advice for kids trying to break into the scene with all of these great new punk bands like you and the Front Bottoms?

Tanner: Be genuine, do what you like to do, because it’s gonna show, and obviously fuckin’ push it. Not to the extent like ‘Hey dude here’s my record’ or stand in front of Warped with an iPod, but like play shows, do whatever you can do, don’t piss people off and that’s it.
Andy A: For any scene, not just ours, don’t stop. I’ve been playing shows since I was 15 and things are coming around 10 years into it. Just don’t ever give up. I’ve played every style of music, been in every different kind of band, just don’t ever ever give up because that’s what matters.
Tanner: There’s some really big parallels, if you read stupid Buzzfeed articles, like ways to get past the first 2-3 years in starting your own business, and everything they list is like everything that we went through with this band. You go through lulls, like you lose a lot of money, your car breaks down in Missouri, you have horrible times but it’s all worth it because obviously you enjoy what you do.
Andy A: I’m gonna say the cheesiest quote ever but it really does resonate with me and my brother says it to me all the time. ‘Every flower that ever bloomed had to go through a whole lot of dirt to get there.’
Tanner: And his brother was in Pitch Perfect! (laughter) Just end it there. No explanation.

Album Reviews: Conor Oberst, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Baths

Upside Down Mountain

Conor Oberst- Upside Down Mountain

Release Date: 05/19/2013

Grade: B+

In 1998 Conor Oberst was releasing his second album under the moniker of Bright Eyes entitled Letting Off the Happiness, where the opening track “If Winter Ends” triumphantly sings the lyrics “Because if I can’t learn to make myself feel better/ How can I expect anyone else to give a shit“. Oberst was an 18 year old when he sang those lines, and he became a folk-hero for an audience of validation-starved listeners because of how he seemed to be capable of articulating their problems into his music time and time again. But in the present Bright Eyes is over (at least for the moment) and Oberst is a thirty-four year old man who has become a lot more comfortable with himself in his music. Consider that the single of the album “Hundreds of Ways” carries the chorus of how “There are hundreds of ways/ To get through the day/ Just find one“. It’s similar to Modest Mouse’s “Float on Moment” in how odd it sounds compared to the earlier work which led to this point, but another shared similarity is that this oddity doesn’t necessarily contradict itself. Oberst has grown as an artist since he was a kid and now leans closer to a traditional folk and country cross-over sound, and his career has led him to stay away from the angst which drove him before and instead focus upon finding some sort of comfort in the world while he’s still alive. This makes Upside Down Mountain an oddly hopeful album which is highlighted by the imagery and diction of Oberst’s dropping and honestly imperfect vocals. The primary issue to be held against the album is that the sound doesn’t change much in between the tracks, and the slow progression creates a product which can feel dragged out towards the latter moments. Despite that, here’s still enough fascinating lyricism present to call Upside Down Mountain a solid release even when compared to the catalogue of one of my favorite artists and perhaps the premiere folk artist of the 21st century so far.

Top Tracks: “Time Forgot”, “Hundreds of Ways”

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The Pains of Being Pure at Heart- Days of Abandon

Release Date: 05/11/2014

Grade: B+

Earlier in this year as I created a list about artists who were due for a release in 2014 I talked about The Pains of Being Pure at Heart as an artist who were primed for an album-of-the-year type of release within the year. The reasoning behind this is that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a band entering their prime at the moment and coming off of two excellent releases in The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in 2009 and more recently Belong in 2011. Pains is a band which has been consistently fun and danceable in their past, and that continues on Days of Abandon as the pop qualities of the music are still obvious and melodic, but the disappointment stems from the band not taking that next step which would have catapulted them into indie stardom. Days of Abandon is a missed opportunity in that way as it’s likely the weakest album by the band at this point in their career; it lacks the single qualities which earlier releases carried. Still, this is still an album which does highlight the band’s strengths and shows that they really are one of the premiere pop groups of the moment even in a disappointing release. There’s better representations of the band, but Days of Abandon is still an easily enjoyed listen because of it’s melodies and consistent lightness.

Top Tracks: “Beautiful You”, “Art Smock”

Ocean Death

Baths- Ocean Death EP

Release Date: 05/06/2014

Grade: A-

Will Wiesenfeld, the man behind Baths, stays pretty and thoughtful on this release as the Ocean Death EP sounds similar to what I was expecting to hear from Michael Angelakos on Passion Pit’s ‘dark’ 2012 release Gossamer. The voice similarity between those two is uncanny and makes the comparison between them seemingly inevitable, but a nice thing about Baths’ is that the artist brings a lot to the table by keeping the music further in the background and deeper in tone. It’s still electronic-pop meaning that the primary principle of the music is that it has to be danceable, and thankfully Ocean Death fulfills this while still giving the listener terrifically creative lyricism like “We can talk, We can talk all you want / You don’t speak to me” on personal favorite track “Orator”. The lasting impression from this EP is that it’s a great sampling of sound by an artist which is consistently easy to enjoy, but also a release which is best displayed as an EP because of doubts about how enjoyable the product would be if it was stretched out into a full album. Since it’s kept in a shorter format though there’s no need to worry about this, and you can view Ocean Death as an interestingly fun EP which is well worth the listen.

Top Tracks: “Orator”, “Ocean Death”

Album Reviews: The Hold Steady, Metronomy, Kishi Bashi

Teeth Dreams

The Hold Steady- Teeth Dreams

Release Date: 03/25/2014

Grade: C

One of the most impressive aspects of The Hold Steady’s discography is how their songs have shown a wide variation of sound while the band aged, a sound which has shifted from album to album despite being, for the lack of a better word, formulaic. The appeal of The Hold Steady which has garnered them an impressively dedicated crowd comes from the ‘live’ aspect of their sound which translates into the recorded product, and the energy which accompanies this alongside lead singer Craig Finn’s eloquently vague lyricism. The issue here is that Teeth Dreams is missing the keys that made Boys and Girls in America a joy to laughingly dance to back in 2006 because of the recent departure of Franz Nicolay, and it also doesn’t pack nearly the punch which carried either Separation Sunday or Almost Killed Me did in their most ambitious moments. And so it’s safe to say that this album isn’t the band at it’s best, but an album which continues and perhaps even intensifies the issues of it’s mediocre predecessor Heaven is Whenever in 2010. The music world is in Hold Steady purgatory at the moment where everything that will likely define the band’s career has passed by now, and the rest of what we hear is more similar to an extended farewell tour then a band worthy of releasing new material. All this being said, it would still be a fun farewell show to see.

Top Tracks: “Spinners”, “Almost Everything”

Metronomy Metronomy- Love Letters

Grade: B

Release Date: 03/10/2014

The Primary impression of Love Letters was that it might have been the unexpected gem album of the year, as the beautifully patient pop track “The Upsetter” opens up the album to grand expectation. It doest die down quickly afterwards, but by the time that the end of the album arrives you realize that the sound has only been descending, or perhaps from an optimistic viewpoint ‘plateauing’ for the past twenty minutes. This is disappointing as a listener because the album’s sound could be described as consistently enjoyable, but the full product becomes so easy to tune out that it is most certainly not capable of being viewed as a terrific comprehensive album. Instead it’s a good release by the band which contains a few terrific songs within it, but a release which should become characterized by it’s almost habitual quality of missing the little thing which would have made it great.

Top Tracks: “The Upsetter”, “Monstrous”

Kishi-Bashi-Lighght

Kishi Bashi- Lighght

Release Date: 05/13/2014

Grade: A-

Back in 2012 Kishi Bashi came out with a debut album named 151a which showed that this multi-instrumentalist who was formerly a touring member of the Kevin Barnes-led band Of Montreal had an impressive amount of talent of his own. It was a beautiful creation of orchestral pop which contained music which contained complex, interesting, and melodic music that garnered Bashi some attention due to it’s consistent quality and single appeal in tracks like “Bright Whites” and “It All Began With a Burst”. So does Lighght bring Kishi Bashi back to earth? In some ways, yes. There are more tracks on the album which are stripped down and more direct than anything which was heard on it’s predecessor and thus less ambitious in some aspects, but these tracks actually stand alongside the orchestral pop terrifically well and have become the high-point of the album because of how they display a form of variation which was actually missing before. Kishi Bashi creates some absolutely tremendous music to listen to once again on Lighght, and if you’re a fan of a more complex form of pop similar to what you see in Of Montreal’s chaotically melodic period then I would highly recommend you give Kishi Bashi a listen sooner rather than later.

Top Tracks: “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!”, “In Fantasia”

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