Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review - Foxygen: ...And Star Power

If there is one thing Sam France and Jonathan Rado are familiar with, it's quantity.

Specifically, 82 minutes and 7 seconds of quantity.  Or thereabouts.

Foxygen's third album ...And Star Power is an album filled with cacophony, and it lasts for almost as long as feature length film.  Upon the first listen, ...And Star Power sounds like a classic case of identity crisis, meandering in and out of songs with more fade outs than a middle schooler's poorly constructed Powerpoint project.  But the album never loses its energy, and that's what makes this album such a stunner.

"How can you really love someone who can't love you

How can you love someone you can't leave" 

Sam France moans, channeling his inner Marc Bolan on glam rock throwback, "How Can You Really."  But that's not all the band offers the listener on its rock n' roll smorgasbord.  "Cosmic Vibrations" starts off with an aggressive proto-punk whirl of guitar distortion that sounds at home on an MC5 record, but quickly descends into a psychedelic journey that's more reminiscent of a Jim Morrison monologue.  Songs change tempo, often multiple times at once and without warning, but that's all a part of the grand design.  Foxygen are in the driver's seat on this album, and they're content to take you on this journey at their speed.

A cursory look at the overall length of the album (82:07), and one could assume that Star Power feels more like an attempt at grandiose posturing than anything else, but Sam France and Jonathan Rado aren't strangers to crafting artwork of this size and magnitude.  Their first album, Jurrassic Exxplosion Phillipic, clocks in at a conventional 58:52, but contains a full 36 tracks total - far cry from their middle two albums, both clocking in at 36 minutes each and each containing less than 10 tracks.  The reason why it works so well for them is because they know how to establish the mood in a way that doesn't feel like "been there done that."  They touch upon a plethora of styles including, but not limited to: R&B ("How Can You Really"), folk ("I Don't Have Anything/The Gate" and "The Game"), and proto-punk ("Brooklyn Police Station").  Upon listening for the first time, you feel as though Foxygen has created the ultimate retrospective look into the history of rock music.

For Foxygen, ...And Star Power is the result what happens when a well-established rock band is allowed to creatively expand to new horizons and test out different ideas.  For Foxygen, there is subtlety but also theatrics; and there is a balance between the two, but Foxygen are having too much fun to let that be known.  Go out and listen to this album if you want to buy every rock album from the Beatles to T. Rex but don't have the money to do it.  This album is more than enough of a substitute.

Rating: 4.5/5

What do you think of Foxygen's new album?  Let us know in the comments below.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

First Post - An Introduction to Jay's Jams

A pleasant good morning, good afternoon, or good evening to all of you!  Welcome to Jay's Jams - a music blog dedicated to presenting new and exciting alternative music to the masses, one post at a time!  I should probably kick this blog off by giving you a little information about myself before I get into filling your head with great tunes.

I am a musician.

Specifically, a pianist.

I'm finishing up my undergraduate studies as a piano principle at Berklee College of Music, with a degree in Contemporary Writing and Production.  What exactly does that mean?

No idea.  Although, I could give you my best guess!

It probably means I'll end up running coffee errands in a recording studio for an extended and unknown amount of time, before finally (and hopefully) landing a job as a sound engineer or mixer someday.

Glamorous, isn't it?

Anyway, as for how this blog came to be.

It seemed natural to me with my enormous amount of free time I have (at least until I land that dream job), that I should write about what I love and what excites me as a musician:

Alternative music.

What, specifically, do you ask?

A plethora of different artists.  A cornucopia of acts spanning at least 50 years of music, old and new.  Like any listener, my musical taste and awareness is broadening all the time. 

But it all started with just one artist.  

Like many others before me, I grew up with the Beatles, and proceeded to make it my business to know everything about them: birthdays, favorite food, spouses, musical influences, everything you could possibly imagine.  I read books on the Fab Four (specifically, Jerry Levitan's 'I Met The Walrus' is a captivating read for anyone who admires John and Yoko).  But my musical palette started to branch out in many different directions when I was a sophomore in high school, c. 2009.  A chance visit by my older brother from California to home in Pennsylvania left me with many musical gems: For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes' eponymous debut, High Violet by the National, and many others.

I was a changed young man.

For a few years, I mostly dabbled in contemporary alternative music trending just shy of the Billboard charts but within full reach of Pitchfork reviewers.  

Then, I had another revelation in 2012.  

When I arrived in Boston to attend the very awesome (and sometimes overblown) Berklee College of Music, I stumbled upon some obscure little band from the 90s called 'The Brian Jonestown Massacre' after picking up their album Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request in a Newbury Comics store.

Well, jeez.  How in the world could anyone miss nominating this for a Grammy!?  An Ivor Novello?  SOMETHING?!  How come more people don't know?!

But it was alright.  I had found something truly special here, and I was bound to discover more gems previously unknown to me.

Yes, I had discovered the landmark Loveless, the pillar of shoegaze, and a watershed in the history of alternative rock.  The distortion and reverb was like a mountain of sound, crashing over my ears and leaving me slightly disoriented, but pleasantly complacent. In my eyes, Kevin Shields was a rock n' roll genius.

I've had many moments like these since then.  Not just with older bands, but with newer bands as well.  Over the past year or so, I've discovered amazing acts such as Pavement, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Guided by Voices, Foxygen, Bass Drum of Death, Tame Impala, Slowdive, Nothing, and so many more.

I love listening to music as much as I love making and performing it, and since I waste a LOT of time doing nothing but listening to my record player or whatever's on shuffle on my iPhone, I figured why not put some of my talents to good use and pepper the interwebz with my ART!

Thankfully, I haven't gotten to that point yet where I'm relegated to serving mass amounts of caffeine to a distressed public as my job for life.  But I won't count anything out just yet! Before I make it to that point, I will have constructed a mass of writing dedicated to the alternative music that is ready and waiting to grace us every day!

Album reviews will be the most common weapon of choice, but I will spend some time engaging in casual discussion about new bands or upcoming shows that I think will excite people.  I already have visions of the Boston Calling music festival in May dancing around in my head.  A cursory look at this year's lineup will indicate why. 

Anywho, that's about all I have to say for now.  I'll see you all back here soon!

Oh yes, and just in case you wanted to know what I look like:


Peace and Love!

- Jay