Friday, February 27, 2009

We Moved!

Or rather I moved. The site is now looking much cleaner and ready for new updates here:

Sleeping With Headphones

Nothing like a brand new canvas to stimulate some creativity. From now on the site will be run in a much more informal (and practical) fashion. As much as I'd love to have things be more serious, tackling as many reviews and interviews as one person whose in school can possibly do, it just makes much more sense to keep things relatively small.

If you'd like, redirect yourself to the above link - I'll be posting much smaller updates about upcoming releases and bands I think merit some attention, as well as the occasional show and CD review. If you stop in by all means leave some comments and some of your personal insights.

Again:

Sleeping With Headphones

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ellington - More Like a Movie, Less Like Real Life EP

In the music industry, relying on the intangibility of an up and coming band's potential can prove an extremely risky endeavor. While there are surely a great deal of bands that arguably reach "their" initial promise, the vast majority of them get lost in a sea of insurmountable expectation. And yet, in preoccupying themselves with what a band could accomplish in the future, those in the industry tend to overlook the quality of a product that already exists. To this end, I could waste ample time telling listeners about the incredible promise Australia's acoustic/indie pop duo Ellington possess for future releases. Be that as it may (and it is most certainly the case) I'd like to focus on what has already been accomplished thus far - More Like a Movie, Less Like Real Life - one of this year's best EPs.

The six song collection corralling the efforts of well respected producer Matt Malpass (Copeland, Lydia) the vocal styling of Matthew Thiessen (Relient K),Jeff Turner (Say Anything) and Leighton Antelman (Lydia) is a heartwarming effort blending catchy acoustic indie - pop and shimmering ambience. While it's amazing to witness what a little help from some friends can provide, it in no way diminishes the fantastic work of the record's primary proprietors - Jake Bosci and Michael Beatson. Not only does the release show significant strides from 2007's The Joy We Keep In, it is a far more intricate and layered sampling than what many fans would expect with the over-simplistic indie-pop characterization.

Though quite similar in overall structure, each track on the release is executed exceptionally well, providing listeners with variations of Jake Bosci's breathy, yet effective vocals accompanied by slight traces of piano, electronic drum samples, and atmospheric guitar play. Sound wise, think Rookie of the Year meets Lydia meets JamisonParker.

"Between Faith and the City Lights," the EPs opener, serves up not only a great synopsis of what to expect from the rest of the release both sonically and thematically, but easily the EPs catchiest sampling. The song carries the pop sensibility of a Rookie of the Year song, while adding much more depth with distant alluring guitars and keys throughout. Here, while never straining far from a whisper, Bosci's delicate delivery shines with an undeniable sense of optimism; something characteristic of much of the EP. Like many of the tracks on More Like a Movie, "Love" starts off relatively slow with midtempo drums and simple acoustic strums, but then builds into a much more fulfilling pallet of sound with prominent electric guitar and driving drums. More so than anywhere else on the disc, the JamisonParker vibe seems evident.

"Radiate" serves as the album's highlight, taking relatively stripped down verses and building into a huge chorus and bridge:

"I know you know you're a gorgeous girl and you don't need me to tell you that but I'll do what I can
until you finally crack a smile/We finally spent the summer waiting for the sunset, watching it together/This is as good as love gets when im by your side!"

While "In a Lonely Place" suffers lyrically, the addition of Matt Thiessen's vocals are a fantastic touch. It's actually quite a shame that the interplay between Thiessen and Bosci didn't continue past his initial entrance. "The World Through Weary Eyes" is an effective closer, featuring a wonderful piano melody, dream-like chorus, and down-right fantastic ambient build in the bridge. Consistent with much of the release, the song soars post bridge, but descends back down to a somber conclusion with the help of Lydia's Leighton Antelman's vocals and soft strums of the acoustic.

If any issue is to be taken with More Like a Movie, its that the constant boy-girl theme throughout may tire on listeners looking for a more diverse offering. To this degree, what truly remains to be seen is if the band can offer up enough diversity both in lyrical content and in sound to sustain listeners with a full length release. Regardless, Ellington is the surprise band I've patiently waited for in 2008 and More Like a Movie, Less Like Real Life is a perfect autumn album brimming with optimism and introspection.

MySpace

- SWH.Steve

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Deas Vail - White Lights EP


One would be hard pressed to say Brave New World didn't make out like bandits in signing RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas's Indie Rock quintet Deas Veil. After releasing what was easily one of last year's best records, the band has returned after months of intensive touring with the release of White Lights - an EP encompassing a subtle, yet fantastic progression from 2007s All The Houses Look The Same. A far more accessible and focused collection of songs, it would seem as though Wes Blaylock and company have truly started to come into their own - expanding on or improving upon nearly every aspect that made the debut shine. Don't misconstrue, everything that made the debut so incredible is here, its just louder, tighter...better. From Wes Blaylock's soothing melodies and unthinkable range to the driving and rhythmic percussion of Kelsey Harelson, if White Lights is the precursor of what is to come with the upcoming LP fans sure have a lot to be excited about come the new year.

In comparison to the All The Houses, White Lights features a much more full sound; both in production and instrumentation. In a sense, it is a more diverse release, as the band clearly makes it appoint to offer a distinct offering with each track. Not only do many of the songs have a little more teeth this time a round, with said improvements, the songs really get a chance to soar as they were always destined to. This notion really proves evident in the EP's more brooding opener "Under Cover." The addition of semi-frantic strings and Andy Moore's solo really give the song character, while the chorus packs more of a punch than anything the band has ever recorded. The EP's title track offers fun gang vocals and a distant alt-country tinged guitar that fits incredibly well with Blaylock's falsetto delivery.

As the listener moves into the heart of the release, It becomes exceedingly difficult to describe songs like "Last Place" and "Balance" because simply put, they are easily two of the best songs the band has ever created. The vocals truly shine in the more stripped down "Last Place" until the song swells into a great orchestral gem with slight electronica nuances. The ever somber "From Priests to Theives" is truly a heart wrenching number when the listener lets it sink in. While the song carries the listener smoothly through the verses with a blend of relaxed mid-tempo drums, keys, and distant guitar, Wes's delivery in the chorus evokes true feelings of defeat and despondence.

To round off the release, in a word, "Balance," the EP's closer is simply astounding. Equally as inspiring as it is downright beautiful, the accompanying strings and lyrics make it my favorite Deas Vail track with lines like: "You are the Balance/and you are the Fold/You are the sails that bring me home." After the emotional toll "From Priests" will surely take on listeners, "Balance" is an exceptionally optimistic and hopeful endeavor. All in all, White Lights is a step up from the debut, encompassing the intricacy and grace of the last LP while truly realizing the band's true sonic potential. Great things are to come early 2009.

MySpace

-SWH.Steve

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm in love again in the worst kind of way





















Never since the release of Acceptance's "Phantoms" have I been so taken aback by a select collection of songs. "Wake," the long awaited debut LP from Portland, Oregon's Brightwood, is an album that overwhelms - both sonically and emotionally. At times downright heartbreaking, at others astoundingly optimistic, it is an effort that displays music's ability to shake the soul and leave the listener entirely vulnerable. A true testament to the spirit DIY, this is the way music should sound. Slightly more layered and experimental than many similar pop-rock collections, the album carries a far greater shelf life than many releases of their contemporaries. To think that a band having only released on prior EP could put together one of this year's best releases is an awe-inspiring feat - even more so when one considers the self reliance that the band epitomizes.

A fan such as me can only hope that a record of this stature will find a way to reach so many unaware listeners.

"Wake" is everything I've waited for and more.


Pull me in. Don't let me drown. This will not be easy, you'll have to hold me down. Tie me up, don't let me run. Because another day without you is another lifeless one.

I'm in love.
And I'm inspired.

Who knows what will become of this.


Wake Acoustic


MySpace

-SWH.Steve

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review: Number One Gun - The North Pole Project


Artist: Number One Gun
Release: The North Pole Project



I’d be lying if I said I knew the particulars involving Jeff Schneeweis’s decision to launch his post – number one gun solo mission, The North Pole Project, under the alias of his once, but seemingly no longer defunct former band. After months upon months of speculation and confusion involving the band’s actual status, I’m just glad that he did. In the midst of all of 2007 (and already 2008)’s heart wrenching breakups, it was rather nice to catch a break and be able to throw a familiar name onto the “can’t wait till this shit drops” list. While I held strong to any and all reservations that Number One Gun would record their long awaited follow up to 2005’s Promises for the Imperfect (a record I still spin with a fair amount of frequency) as a one man enterprise, it took very little time for the appropriately titled “The North Pole Project” to put my apprehension to bed. Fans of old will be pleased to know that the relatively short 10-song collection shows the band back (or man) in true form, providing not only an exceptional follow-up to a past favorite, but easily one of the most rewarding listening experiences of 2008.

Although the record itself is far from overtly innovative, The North Pole’s blend of synth –tinged, acoustic ballads (The Best Of You and Me, I’ll Find You, The Different Ones, The Holiday) and hard hitting, riff driven rockers (The Massacre, Wake Me Up, Find Your Escape) provides for a balanced and relatively diverse dichotomy, especially in comparison to similar releases within the genre. And yet, while the record pleases listeners sonically, the effort’s ability to evoke sincere feelings of optimism and hope in an otherwise stripped down manner prove its finest accomplishment. Here, it would be an understatement to suggest that it is, and has always been Schneeweis’s impressive vocal delivery, and uplifting prose that made Number One Gun a formable asset to Tooth n Nail. While the short disc hurts itself by not allowing much room for filler – and well being too short - thankfully there isn’t much here to complain about.

Still, Schneeweis’s first solo effort hits its finest strides when taken as a compilation of special nuances offered both in the music, and in his vocal delivery. Though far from exhausted, the unrelenting catchiness of the vocal overlay towards the latter half of the breakdown in “Million,” Schneeweis’s slight stutter among the synth ridden verses and choruses in “The Best Of…,” or the offbeat drum offering of “Wake Me Up” all serve as perfect examples. In the end, “The North Pole Project” demonstrates that the name game amounts to very little when the man behind the music has a handle on what he wishes to convey.

Check out an in-studio acoustic version of "Bad Habits":



MySpace




-SWH.Steve

Monday, March 10, 2008

Review: Mayday Parade - A Lesson in Romantics



Artist: Mayday Parade
Release: “A Lesson in Romantics” CD



You’ll miss Jason Lancaster. You’ll miss him especially if you are a fan of Mayday Parade’s on-the-sly hit EP, 2005’s “Tales Told by Dead Friends.” Lancaster’s affected singing and unique voice complements Parade frontman Derek Sander’s voice uncannily well, and that makes it a shame that he left the band, supposedly during the making of “A Lesson in Romantics.” His absence on some of the tracks is obvious; the tracks without him are not bad by any stretch, but those with him are simply superior. The back-and-forth dynamic, simple harmonies, and leads-and-follows that these two pull off vocally are top-notch. That’s not to say that “A Lesson in Romantics” is inconsistent; it is overall an excellent album. It isn’t quite as fast or saccharine-sweet as “So Wrong, It’s Right” by their tour mates All-Time Low, but that is not a weakness. “A Lesson in Romantics” is an entertaining mix of two genre staples: slow emoting: “Walk on Water or Drown,” “Miserable at Best,” and straight-ahead pop-punk sing alongs: “Jersey,” “Black Cat.” The record opens with a pleasant bang on “Jaime All Over.” The first lines “I had a dream last night we’d/drove out to see Las Vegas” are suitably large-sounding and do a good job of setting the tone for what follows. The slow songs don’t feel like filler: “Miserable at Best” is one of the best songs on the album, and the others more than stand on their own merits. That may be the album’s biggest strength, other than Lancaster/Sander’s vocal play. The more up-tempo tracks are entertaining, while the slower songs are thoughtful and easily appreciated. Nothing on this record screams “requisite.” Mayday Parade has here put forth a solid effort with tons of genre staying power, and this is why it is such a shame Lancaster left.

Check out the video for "When I get home, You're so dead"



Myspace

-JayMurda