Ever wish you could just freeze time? Alter the course of your life? If so, you’ll love this video from Inspired and the Sleep. It’s an extremely clever and well-executed collaboration between this 4-piece indie pop band, director/editor Maximilien Franco and producer Leslie Dupuis Mendel for Bandits Productions. The mini-story examines the concept of time and human correlations. In the space of two minutes of frozen time, our protagonist becomes the master of his fate.
Inspired and the Sleep was originally the solo project of songwriter Max Greenhalgh (vocals, bass, percussion, keys, flute), but is now a foursome with guitar, keyboards, drums and tenor sax. They get their summer-flavored inspiration from their San Diego beach-based lifestyle. If you’re on the East Coast or in the Midwest and you’ve had a hard snowy winter, consider this lo-fi psychedelic and very dreamy pop your springtime wake-up call.
With languid blues, alt-country, folksy indie rock and Americana, plus a tagline of “We play sad songs to make you feel better,” you could know for certain I was going to be all over this one. Talking Under Water, only in existence since last summer, released a powerhouse of a debut EP back in December titled Tossing & Turning. It’s a beautiful collection of four songs that celebrate pain, anguish, yearning and disillusionment, but in an uplifting way with robust musicianship, vocals that ache with vulnerability and soaring harmonies. It was recorded by their drummer Stephen Roessner (who also happens to be a Grammy Award winning engineer).
Hailing from Rochester, New York, the quartet began with lead singer and pianist Dave Chisholm writing pop songs at home. He then gathered together guitarist Alex Patrick, cellist Elise Hughey and drummer Roessner, who complement his heartfelt laments with exquisite grace. The EP begins with a full-on blues lament that begins slow and sexy and, with the help of pounding piano, searing guitar, driving percussion and soaring harmonies, builds to a fury and then drops down again, with that somber cello sealing the deal. This rhythm repeats a few times, creating a real bipolar stunner.
As the band explains it, “This is a song about wanting, being stuck in a place where you want to be with someone, but for whatever reason — fear, self-doubt, prior commitments — you can’t connect with them.” The video, directed by Will Graver, depicts an unrequieted love triangle, inner dialogue and imagined conversations.
From there, the band explores other musical styles that give the EP a well-rounded and expansive feel for a mere four songs. The music weaves itself beautifully around the sad subject matter, drawing the listener in to the storyteller’s experience and emotions.
The sun still sets at the end of a perfect day
And there’s always a frown after a perfect smile.
Even the best bottles, they still dry out
And heaven gets old after awhile.
– The Sun Sets
“I’ve never been much of a storyteller.
What’s the point? They always end the same.
However hard they try, the characters all die.
All they do is rearrange their names.
We’re all players in this fairy tale penned by that sadistic man above.
Well, he ran me into you,
There was nothin’ you or I could do.
Now we’ve been cursed with this love.”
– Never Been
Thanks, man. And actually, I was just about to say that “Never Been” is the rollicking upbeat honky-tonk track. But there’s still that cello. Damn that beautiful, mournful cello.
The second EP from Talking Under Water is due out in the spring. If you live in or around Rochester, New York, and you’d like to experience Talking Under Water in person, you’re in luck. They’re performing at a place called Press Coffee Co. on Monday, March 9.
The Calder Quartet, as distinguished and classy string quartets go, keep some mighty strange company sometimes. Readers of this particular publication might know them for their musical adventures with The Airborne Toxic Event and the inimitable Andrew W.K.. However, on Friday night they’ll be performing more traditional string quartet fare, as part the Celebrity Series of Boston in beautiful Jordan Hall. You can buy tickets here. The performance will include music by Andrew Norman and Thomas Adès, in addition to Ravel’s “String Quartet in F Major” and Beethoven’s “String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Opus 95, ‘Serioso.'” That’s certainly a far cry from “I Get Wet.”
If you happen to live on the other coast, The Calder Quartet will be performing two shows at the world class Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles on May 28th and May 30th. They’re also doing a Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York on Sunday, February 22 and other shows in Colorado, Oregon and elsewhere. See their schedule for more information.
Here’s another duo, but this time from Lucerne, Switzerland. Huck Finn, which was indeed named for the famous Mark Twain novel, began their boyhood adventure in 2007. The We Ain’t Worried EP, released last year, had a bouncy electro-pop feel. However, this one song “Before You Begin” is quite different, and simply stunning. It swirls around in piano-driven somber mystery and orchestral indie rock loveliness. See the video below, directed by photographer Cyrill Matter. The scene is set in the Engadine, which offers a portrait of their homeland that Switzerland’s tourism board could probably make a nice advertisement out of. It also works as inpiration for those in the Northeast who might have some trepidation about venturing out into the great outdoors this week. Though I’m willing to bet that Finn and Berry’s vista is a good deal more breathtaking than your driveway right now.
Goth children of the ’80s and today’s electro clubbers will find common ground in the music of Ultra Violent Rays. Corny name aside, this sleek L.A.-based darkwave duo brings to mind a danceable, outer space, female-fronted Bauhaus. Vocalist and bassist Cooper Gillespie and drummer/sequencer Greg Gordon create some sexy dark magic for what I consider some rather fine guilty pleasure music. I’m not sure if this would work quite as well in the hazy days of summer, but in the dead of winter it does quite nicely, thank you. With their debut single “The Voyeur,” they take inspiration from bands such as Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Portishead.
They’ll be embarking on a Pacific Northwest tour beginning on February 19 in Oakland, California and finishing up in Sacramento on March 1. See their official site for details. Their live performances are said to be psychedelic, with colors and lights to compliment their trippy sounds, so check them out if you can.
Hm, it must be midwinter with 3 feet of snow on the ground and subzero wind chills. Today’s selection, just like last time, is ethereal and moody. Unlike last time, however, we’re on the other side of the pond and in deep electronic waters. Dead Ceremony is an electronic quartet from Kent, UK, and while they call themselves “pop-electronic,” don’t let that put you off for a moment. The just released “Frames,” from their forthcoming Looking Glass EP (due out in April) is a beautifully atmospheric and deliciously dreamy, nicely produced affair. Also just released is a lovely new website with stress-reducing waterfall visuals to put you back in a proper mindset after a long work day.
Dead Ceremony began in 2007 with Christopher Stewart’s solo compositions on piano. After writing early songs like “Trophy” and “Heartbeat,” he brought in his friend Timothy Worthington (Maths Time Joy). The band now includes David Trevillion (drums), Neil Allen (guitar) and Harry Pearce (bass). Influences include James Blake, Portishead and Australian musician Chet Faker. They’ll be playing their debut London show on March 2, at the equally moody and atmospheric St. Pancras Old Church.