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“Higher and Higher”, a bonus track on Jeen’s (Jeen O’Brien, also of Cookie Duster) forthcoming Tourist Deluxe Edition LP, starts out unassumingly. Its hushed opening immediately brings the word “lo-fi” to mind, but not long after this the chorus kicks in, with a drumbeat and a catchy vocal that makes this sound like the kind of tune ripe for singing and clapping along to in a live setting. Like the rest of Tourist, “Higher and Higher was recorded in a lo-fi setup in Jeen’s Toronto attic, but “lo-fi” here does not denote a lack of life or vivacity; far from it, in fact.

“Spooky Action at a Distance”, a psychedelia-washed song by Brighton, UK’s Flash Bang Band, brings, well, a lot of things to mind. Although running at a brisk five minutes, there’s a great deal going on in this rose-saturated video hodgepodge, whose absurdity evokes the famed British comedy show The Mighty Boosh. (For those unfamiliar with the program, you might well know it as the home of the mysterious Old Gregg.) Suffice it to say, no matter how you take “Spooky Action at a Distance”, it’s an odd egg—but a good one, at that, and a fun little way to take a trip without ingesting any questionable substances.

The sound of the Oakland, California rock outfit Trails and Ways is described as “a fascinating mix of the melancholy of bossa nova, the fearlessness of basement indie rock, driving grooves from the end of disco, and the slick shine of radio pop.” Such eclecticism is on full display with “Say You Will”, a cut from the group’s new album Pathology. While indie rock in the present day is known for its disaffected, somewhat ironic and detached tone, “Say You Will” is a refreshingly funky jam that melds danceable grooves to ethereal vocal harmonies. The accents of Nile Rodgers-esque guitar tone are just the icing on top of the cake.

by Timothy Ferris

27 Apr 2015


Excerpted from “Hubble’s Greatest Hits”, by Timothy Ferris. Full article in National Geographic, April 2015, on newsstands now. Copyright © 2015. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Photos courtesy of Zoltan Levay, the imaging team leader at Space Telescope Science Institute and National Geographic. See more photos for this article here on National Geographic.

It didn’t amount to much at first.

Credit: National Geographic

Credit: National Geographic

Launched into orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, amid flurries of hope and hype, the Hubble Space Telescope promptly faltered. Rather than remaining locked on its celestial targets, it trembled and shook, quaking like a photophobic vampire whenever sunlight struck its solar panels. Opening its protective front door to let starlight in perturbed the telescope so badly that it fell into an electronic coma. Worst of all, Hubble turned out to be myopic. Its primary light-gathering mirror, eight feet in diameter and said to be the smoothest large object ever fashioned by humans, had been figured perfectly wrong.

It’s All Just Pretend finds the Seattle outfit Ivan & Alyosha expanding from a quartet to a quintet, with drummer Cole Mauro joining Pete Wilson (bass), Tim Kim (guitar) and founding members Tim Wilson (lead vox, guitar) and Ryan Carbary (guitar, piano). While the allusion to The Brothers Karamazov in the band’s name might suggest a certain highfalutin literary pretension about their music (a la the Decemberists), but such is not the case. Nor, however, is their music All Just Pretend. As the album cut “Modern Man” (stream it below) evinces, these five musicians are in the business of writing straightforward and honest music. It helps that it rocks, too, as the ‘70s classic rock tone on “Modern Man”‘s guitars evince.

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