Back in college, I took a class on Bob Marley that was really more of a socioeconomic look into the world of Jamaican culture. As the class went on, a major focus shifted to Bob’s song “Rat Race” and it’s broader meaning on a macro scale. The imagery certainly fits for any culture, as really, what are we each doing every single day besides running around the maze of life ever searching for some cheddar – or in a more literal sense, happiness and bliss. Music, well at least the albums I consider my favorites, have always provided a way to remove my soul from the maze that is life, allowing me to sit above and think about the journey, gain some clarity, and then re-enter to chase endlessly once again. A few albums every year gain a place on the mantle of my sanity, and they tend to remain permanent residents. I listen to a lot of albums once, but I find that I don’t often listen to the same over and over again. But the ones I do…now those are the special ones…the select few that truly matter.
Jack Tatum is Wild Nothing. Wild Nothing is Jack Tatum. Meet and greet because you are likely to stay awhile. Coming about two years after Gemini, the band’s sophomore LP Nocturne represents, according to Jack in a fantastic interview with Stereogum, his first album in which he wrote music for an audience other than just himself. And I must say, personally, that this is one of my favorite collection of songs that I’ve ever put my ears to. And while I loved Gemini, this album represents a whole new appreciation for the man behind the music.
And when I say the man behind the music, I mean that in the most literal sense, because Tatum writes and plays all of the music on the album besides the drums. No song shows this off more than the infectous “Shadow”, a thought provoking track that strikes just the right mix of strings, acoustic guitar, and vocals. While all of Wild Nothing’s songs can take on a “chill vibe”, this one stands out amongst his previous work as being able to pull the listener in rather than allowing you to sink into the surrounding atmosphere. The acoustic guitar drives the moment home, giving this song a true semblance of completeness. The second track, “Midnight Song”, harnesses the spirit of Gemini with some relaxing guitar and an ending jam that shows the effect that performing live has had on Tatum’s music. If this track were on his previous album, it would have stayed as a guitar solo closing rather than bringing multiple parts together for a jam session at the end.
The album’s namesake follows with what is perhaps the best song on this LP. It fits into the overlapping themes of this album, namely the darker side of our interaction with others. With a verse that says, “And I’m twisted / what can I say / your days are empty / and my tongue’s decayed / and we still / just don’t tempt me / one more night of your company” followed by “I know where to find you / I know where you go. / And I just want to let you know / You can have me / You can have me whole” you have a song that sounds borderline stalkerish in all the best ways.
Breaking into the middle of the album are “Through the Grass” and “Only Heather”, which feature the aforementioned atmospheric vibes of the first album. “This Chain Won’t Break” represents another song where Jack has obviously harnessed the live atmosphere as you can almost see this song playing in front of you. That point really can’t be overstated…the difference between writing your first album in your bedroom for yourself and your second for not only you, but others. There’s a certain give and take that must exist, which is what I see being the biggest difference between these two albums. When you are writing music with your fans in mind, you know they are expecting something, and only a performer can truly understand what that is.
Into the last half of the album, “Paradise” and “Counting Days” stand out amongst the crowd. In speaking of the first, it’s an ethereal, dreamlike song of hope. Like the rest of the album and Tatum’s work in general, it shys away from being over the top and instead focuses on a holistic sense of being. On “Counting Days” Tatum’s vocals open up to the forefront of the music, leading the listener on a love affair as he proclaims amongst catchy guitar riffs, “You want to make spin / You want to hold me in”.
In all, Nocturne is what you want a second album to be from an emerging artist. It’s sincere, honest music from his soul that shows growth for the sake of performance and not for the sake of simply change. When I first saw Wild Nothing perform during the tour of the first album, I kept thinking during the show that something was missing. And after listening to this album, I believe I’ve put my finger on it. While Gemini was simply a collection of songs for Jack, Nocturne is one we can share with him. And that makes all the difference between great and memorable. Nocturne is available via your favorite record store or iTunes now via Captured Tracks. Stream the album in its entirety below.
Written by Greg Dahman
Downington, PA’s Dinosaur Death Trap presses all of the right buttons on their debut, self-titled EP. Resplendent guitars, pitch-perfect vocals and a production quality beyond any rational expectation for an unsigned indie rock band, collectively serve as the foundation for a five-track release that feels as if its resided in your back pocket for years. Familiar and accessible, Dinosaur Death Trap’s is a sound that seems destined for an audience beyond the West-Philly suburb that the band calls home.
Opening track “Sticks and Mud” begins with the guttural growl of the bass on full reverb before collapsing into a cascade of perfectly layered “Aahs.” “Cause we don’t dress it up / We know where we’re from” lead singer Dylan Pennell croons with a nonchalant confidence. Keys twinkle beneath a clean, addictive guitar riff. And with that we’re off.
The centerpiece of the release, “Torchbearer” plays like a less-theatrical version of Conveyor’s “Mukraker.” Or maybe it’s just the repetition of each song’s three-syllable title. I don’t know, it’s late at night and my judgment is beginning to grow suspect. What I do know is this: Here, as throughout the release, Dinosaur Death Trap works in perfect balance. Each member of the five-piece weaves impeccably around the other.
With each successive spin, it seems all the more impossible that Dinosaur Death Trap EP is a first effort. It’s not that the music is overtly complex, but this is a sophisticated, thoughtful release from a group of guys who should still be fumbling around in search of their respective roles. Listen to “Sticks and Mud” below and name your price for a digital download of the EP via Bandcamp.
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Written by Rob Peoni
Three days in Union Park, a few dozen warm Heinekens and Newcastles, and great memories made along the way are what you get with the annual Pitchfork Music Festival. Here are my thoughts on the festival itself. Be sure to check out Brett’s thoughts on the aftershows we attended for a complete run down on a weekend full of in indie rock.
The day begins with fighting Chicago traffic, a torrential downpour, and a lengthy cab ride to Union Park. Walking in, the first band of the festival is Lower Dens on the Red Stage. The Baltimore based band have a highly thought of LP in 2012 called Nootropics and they had a decently sized crowd for the 3:30 time slot. Despite being delayed due to the rain, it felt like they were given ample time to impress. Very mellow alt-rock, but not a bad way to ease into the day.
Next up was a few songs from hometown favorite Willis Earl Beal. An interesting performance to say the least. Whiskey induced soul music with minimalistic background behind Beal’s voice, more comical was the observation from Brett that he looks like a cross between mid 90’s Wesley Snipes and Deion Sanders. Up after on the Blue Stage was minimalist Tim Hecker. I’m not quite sure I can completely get into his music and performance style. A little too “filler noise” for my liking.
We have arrived at our first highly anticipated show of the weekend: Japandroids on the Blue Stage following a healthy rain. Wayyy too large of a crowd for the band on the tiny blue stage, but this is probably welcome news to the Vancouver duo. They really don’t mess around on stage. The play loud, fast, and with genuine emotion in their songs. The p4k tweens were certainly awaiting, as this was easily the youngest crowd of any weekend show.
Pretty light crowd on Friday in general. I’d estimate the place was only 70% full.
The best thing about this festival? So. Many. Bands. Immediately after Japandroids I take a quick walk across the field to settle into Dirty Projectors on the Red Stage. Simply put, I left this set absolutely amazed and dumb founded with their talent. With the rain cleared out and evening upon us, a ska-like live vibe from Dave and Amber was met with a marijuana haze of dancing twenty somethings. That and Amber’s voice is absolutely incredible. Featuring a heavy dose of all the hits from Bitte Orca as well as Swing Lo Magellan, this is a talented band that knows their craft.
The final band of the day at the festival was a dance party with Purity Ring on the Blue Stage. Despite the volume feeling low, the group delivered a solid set off their debut LP. Not much in terms of adlibbing or extended far from the each song’s core, it was a fun, lively set to close the day with. “Fineshrine” was certainly the highlight. I managed to catch the end of Feist on my way out. She certainly has become a star judging by the production of her live set. A full band and soulful chicks from Mountain Man singing back-up really bring out how amazing Laura’s voice truly is.
I am hungover. I always get too excited on the first day. It’s my calling card, what can I say? Cloud Nothings began the day on the Red Stage. After seeing Dylan Baldi and Co at the MOTR Pub a few months back, I knew what to expect and they delivered once again. Best memory: the band willing on a downpour with a ten plus minute version of “Wasted Days” that seemed to get louder as the rains fell harder. I’m soaked from head to toe, but it doesn’t matter.
Bradford Cox, donning a white painted face, a guitar, and a harmonica, plays an odd set on the Green Stage after a break from the rain. A little too experimental for my liking here. Just bizarre really. I need another Newcastle.
Props to the metal head and his girlfriend at Liturgy for sharing their trash bag with us during another downpour. Karma repaid.
Cults are awfully impressive. I expected Madeline’s voice to be a little weaker, but she can wail. Thankfully, the sunny Cults vibe brought the sun back to Chicago and returned the fun to the day. “You Know What I Mean” stands out the most along with “Go Outside”. Once again, heavy haze of fun and dancing in the crowd at the Red Stage.
Only was able to catch the last bit of Youth Lagoon. From what I saw, Trevor Powers turned his album into a completely legitimate live performance. While The Year of Hibernation brings a definite bedroom pop feel, in person was full of energy and loud beats. Also caught a bit of Portland girl rockers Wild Flag whom I don’t recall anything memorable from.
Crowd is much more packed today. Tons of people after the rains end.
I don’t get the appeal of Sleigh Bells. Do you really listen to that sitting around by yourself? If you do, please feel free to explain it to me.
Third row for Hot Chip. Life Moment. Ridiculously talented band. Dance party with thousands of my newest friends. Articulating my thoughts of this is difficult. This was a sensual and mental experience for me. I completely left this world of ours for an hour and just lived in the moment with the music.
On to Father John Misty…
I am hungover. Again. Father John, you are one interesting person.
Dirty Beaches plays an experimental set to open the day. I wasn’t really into it. A little too out there and rag tag for me.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra just kick so much ass. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve had the chance to catch these guys in the past year, and every time I enjoy it more. The guitar has a quality live that isn’t heard much in other current acts. Their next album to one to watch.
Too much. I watch bits and pieces of San Francisco psych rock acts Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall but I am struggling in the heat, and its really effing hot, with the weight of the two previous days. But there’s a long afternoon ahead, so some time on the ground in the shade is needed to rejuvenate.
Real Estate. The first time I saw you, I made mistakes. I had too much fun. I’m sorry. Thank you for the second chance. Is there a better, more relaxing music than Real Estate’s Days? There is a just a certain wavelength this band plays to that strikes me at the soul. And by the looks of the crowd, I’m not the only one to think this. Lots of the stoner/working professional late twenties around grooving.
Managed to catch the first few songs of King Krule. Super young. Looked a bit overwhelmed in the moment on the first song but got it together on the second.
Didn’t catch any hip hop sets this weekend but the crowds looked young and wild.
Beach House. Incredible. And another hazy show on the red stage…we seem to have reached a running theme of this stage from the weekend. Lots of people, very chill, and extremely great. Another moment of the experience for me.
Team Vampy Weeks. You are the mainstream face of Indie. You play catchy tunes. I can respect that.
Some people spend their vacations going to the beach. Others go hang out in a park in Chicago for a few days listening to music. Whatever you do to check out for a bit, I hope you get what you need. What did I get this weekend? Cankles, hangovers, dance parties, and great memories. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Written by Greg Dahman