Do You Remember by Jarryd James

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Jarryd comes to us from Australia, where he began playing in a band called Holland in 2012. The band recorded a debut album, but it was never released and this led Jarryd to fall into depression and quit making music. In late 2014, he was asked to accompany some friends on a tour as their lead guitar player. Thanks to the tour, Jarryd began to record music again and soon released a solo single in February 2015. This single, “Do You Remember”, started to climb the charts in Australia and lead to Jarryd headlining a solo tour in numerous small venues. Thanks to the success of the solo tour, in September 2015 Jarryd released his debut album Thirty One in Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately the album was not released in the states, but an EP was released instead. The EP, Jarryd James, was released in September 2015 and it contains 5 tracks that are originally on his debut album. The EP is enjoyable and utilizes a lot of synths, strings and various harmonies. “Do You Remember” is the lead single for both the EP and the debut album. This song is asking an ex if they remember what the relationship was like before the break up occurred. I love the blend of R&B and electric/indie pop that Jarryd is bringing to us on this track and the whole album. The chorus is by far my favorite portion of the song. I love the slight pick-up of the drum beat and the harmonizing of Jarryd’s voice.

My love is cool (Favorites) by Wolf Alice

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I’m tapping into another London-based band this week, not all-female but led by a female vocalist.  Wolf Alice formed back in 2010 as a duo and released an EP, but grew to their current quartet in 2012.  The band released a number of singles before releasing an EP in 2013 which got a lot of positive press.  Comparisons to Garbage, Elastica and the Pixies were inevitable once you hear their sound.  Another EP in 2014 led to their first proper album which came out last June.  “My Love Is Cool” actually earned a Mercury Prize nomination (best of British and Irish artists – 12 nominations each year).  The band’s singer, Ellie Rowsell, is a strong vocalist and a focal point of the band.  Their music has a lot of styles, in addition to the artists already mentioned, I also hear some PJ Harvey, some earlier Smashing Pumpkins – a whole host of the original “alternative” bands.  The band does have their own unique sound though, use just pick up elements that reflect some of their influences.  A lot of energy, but there are also some softer moments on the album.  I was surprised how much I liked it, but not really since I’m a fan of much of the music reflected in their sound.  I’m surprised Wolf Alice isn’t more popular.  They are touring with Chvrches, who will be playing 2 nights at the Fox Theater in Oakland.  That should be a pretty good show.  Here’s a sampling of 3 tracks from “My Love Is Cool”.
“Your Loves Whore” – Maybe my favorite song on the album, I like how the song slowly builds up at the beginning.  Drums come in first, then some guitar followed by a nice bass line.  The intensity continues to build as some more guitar comes into the mix before the instruments all dial it up at once and kick into a nice groove while Rowsell comes in with some background vocals.  The sound is simplified again as they go into the first verse, with some nice starts/stops for an added effect.  The bass plays a prominent role during the verses.  This makes the music that much more effective when everyone kicks in at full-throttle.  Rowsell’s vocals also match the intensity of the music, with understated singing during the simpler parts and multi-layered scream it from the rooftops during the louder parts.

“Turn To Dust” – This song kicks off the album and is an example of the quieter side of the band.  Ethereal vocals are nicely surrounded by spare music with many interesting effects coming in and out throughout the song.    There’s some very nice guitar layered in the mix as well.

“You’re A Germ” – Here we see some of the PJ Harvey and Pixies influences.  Quieter verses and bombastic guitar squealing kicking in for dramatic measure.  Plus I like the putdown “you’re a germ”.

Adore Life (Favorites) by Savages

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London quartet Savages played their first show 4 years ago.  Since then the all-female post-punk band released some singles then a much acclaimed 2013 album titled “Silence Yourself”.  The band immediately garnered a lot of buzz through their singles and their raucous live performances at high visibility shows including CMJ Music Marathon in NY and Later…With Jools Holland in the U.K.  Savages’ sound has comparisons to Siouxsie and the Banshees, PJ Harvey, Public Image Ltd., and Swans.  They wear their U.K. influences heavily on their sleeves, you can hear that they’re definitely not from the U.S.  I enjoy their modern take on the U.K. punk sound, and while you hear influences from other bands, Savages take these elements to help create their own sound.  They have a dark and brooding intensity that is always lying there under the surface, bringing some mystery and uncertainness into their music.  At times it sounds like they’re barely keeping it from derailing, which is a good thing.  Their sound is not safe and overly crafted; they are an antithesis to bands like Coldplay (not dissing Coldplay, they’re just a convenient example that most can relate to).
I wasn’t overly impressed with their debut album a few years ago, but I only listened to it once or twice.  I will have to revisit it now, because their sophomore album “Adore Life” which came out last week is really good.  It caught me by surprise since I was blasé regarding their first album.  What they offer is the ability to deftly move in and out of slower and faster pieces.  They can also turn the intensity up or down at the drop of a dime, pulling you in or pushing you away as they see fit.  I remember another all-female band that released a similar great album last January – Sleater-Kinney.  If Savages “Adore Life” can end up standing right next to “No Cities To Love” that would bode very well for this London band.  Here’s three songs to check out from “Adore Life”.
“T.I.W.Y.G.” – This song is one of the more intense and faster paced tracks on the album, showing off their punk influences.  The song starts off with some distortion before being engulfed by a throbbing bass line.  The band kicks in with a howling intensity and vocalist Jehnny Beth stays right with the band with her rapid-fire vocals.  As the song continues to wail away, suddenly the band slows it way down for a bit only to bring it back on even harder before the song ends.  This track is a good example of their intensity and how they can turn it on and off with relative ease.

“Slowing Down The World” – This track is an example of their slower, more brooding style.  Again, there’s a nice bass line that drives the song, complemented by a wailing guitar.  The entire band is very tight, with the whole exceeding the sum of the parts.  Jehnny Beth pulls a good amount of angst with her vocals, especially on the wail she lets out almost 3 minutes into the song.

“Sad Person” – This song shows another different part of the band, there’s more of the PiL influence with this track.  Lyrics like “Love is a disease, the strongest addiction I know”,“what happens in your brain, is the same as a rush of cocaine”and “the more you have, the more you crave” gives you an idea about what this song touches upon.  This track is another example of the craft and musicianship that can be found throughout their new album.

School of Seven Bells

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The backstory on this album is a doozy…

School of Seven Bells formed back in 2007 when twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza from On!Air!Library! shared an opening bill for Interpol with Secret Machines and met Benjamin Curtis from Secret Machines. The trio eventually left their respective bands to form School of Seven Bells. They released some singles and their debut album “Alpinisms” came out in 2008. They had some success with their debut and by the time they released their second album two years later, it debuted in the Billboard Top 10 Electronic Albums chart. During that tour in 2010, Claudia left the band and her sister Alejandra and Curtis who had been a couple, broke up. That would be enough to end most bands, but no, the duo kept moving along. They released a third album in 2012 which also cracked the Top 10 Electronic Albums chart. Then early in 2013 Curtis announced he had lymphoma. By the end of the year, Curtis had passed away at the age of 35. A few months after that, Deheza released a School of Seven Bells cover of Joey Ramone’s “I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)” that was recorded while Curtis was in the hospital. The two had remained very close friends after they stopped dating.

It turns out their 4th album was nearly finished around the time Curtis got sick. Deheza initially had no desire to finish the work to complete the album, she wasn’t in a good place and still grieving Curtis’ death. However, last year she moved out from NY to LA and started work on completing the album with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (who’s worked with Beck and M83). Even though “SVIIB” finally came out recently more than two years after Curtis’ death, he still played a prominent role since most of the work had been completed prior to his demise. In fact, only one track “Confusion” was written after his diagnosis, and it was the last song they worked on together. The album is all about Deheza and Curtis’s relationship. She had the intention from the beginning that she wanted to chronicle their time together. She never actually told Curtis this, but the songs trace the whole arc of their relationship. Deheza stated that during the time they had been working on the album it was one of the happiest times in their lives. That explains why there is so much joy and positivism in most of the tracks. The album stands well on its own given any context, but when you listen to it given what actually transpired it elevates everything up to a whole different level. This album serves as a celebration and remembrance of not only Curtis as a person, but of the decade both of them spent together and the influence they had on each other’s lives.

The three cuts below represent 33% of the album. I won’t tell you where they’re placed on the album, you can listen to the lyrics and see if you can guess for yourself (or just look up the track listing online if you need to know).

“On My Heart” – Classic electronic sound as this track starts up. Deheza’s vocals provide a great accompaniment to the music as waves of synthesizers pulse in the background of the verses. Her singing of “with me your love stays” is the main hook on this track, as it repeats over and over in the latter part of the song.

“Open Your Eyes” – I hear some elements of The Knife in the music part of this track. Knowing how this album transpired, the chorus tugs at the heart. Plus, it’s extremely catchy and it will get stuck in your head. This track is one of the few melancholic ones on the album.

“Signals” – This is hardest hitting cut on the album, showing more of a dance groove. Alejandra’s vocals take on a singing/rap cadence during the verses, hitting right on the beat. This song also features some majestic sounding synthesizers and some nice vocal processing during the choruses. You can also hear some elements of M83 in this song (no doubt from the producer).

Milani’s Best Albums of 2015

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While I still have a TON of music to catch-up with that was released this year, I thought I’d share as of today what my favorite albums were from 2015 (in no particular order):

Sleater-Kinney “No Cities To Love” – First album after a 10 year break may be their best – awesome return by an underrated band

Alabama Shakes “Sound & Color” – Second half fades a little but first five songs are so awesome it doesn’t matter – big unexpected step up from their debut release

Blur “The Magic Whip” – Great “reunion” album after a 12 year break, a Britpop album with a lot of variety throughout the 12 tracks

High on Fire “Luminiferous” – Matt Pike plays with a mission and vengeance throughout this album which is one of their best from what was an already impressive catalog

Kadavar “Berlin” –This German trio made some tweaks to their sound and have written some of the best hard rock songs I’ve heard this year and for the past several years

Black Breath “Slaves Beyond Death” –This band continues to grow and evolve with each release and their 3rd album is a monster – who knows where their potential may take them?

Deafheaven “New Bermuda” – The third album is a charm once again as this “new” black metal/shoegaze band have crafted maybe my favorite record of the year – absolutely beautiful and devastating songs

Grimes “Art Angels” – I cannot begin to express how impressed I am by Claire Boucher’s latest album – tremendously talented woman doing everything on her own, writing, playing and producing every sound

Baroness “Purple” – Just released today and I haven’t listened to the whole album yet, but I can’t imagine it not being one of my favorites this year

Black Fast “Terms of Surrender” – I had never heard of this St. Louis thrash band before this album (their second), but I keep coming back to it so they’re doing something right with this release

Honorable Mention (either I haven’t heard these enough yet or they just didn’t crack the top 10):

Trials “This Ruined World”


Horrendous “Anareta”


Kylesa “Exhausting Fire”


Clutch “Psychic Warfare”


Dead Sara “Pleasure to Meet You”


Houndmouth “Little Neon Limelight”


Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp A Butterfly”


Happy holidays to everyone and looking forward to a great year of music in 2016!