When Beau Bokan took over as lead vocalist of blessthefall in 2008, the band was at a crossroads. The shelf-life in today’s metalcore scene is short, to say the least, and the band had just parted ways with lead man Craig Mabbitt, who left for the supposedly greener grasses of Escape the Fate. It didn’t take long for Bokan to stake his claim though, as the band’s 2009 release Witness stands as a prime example of the genre at its finest.
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Call it uneasy listening.
Colin Stetson has not made the listening experience of his music easy for his audiences. But what Stetson has accomplished is bringing his brand of jazz to a wider mass that may have overlooked the genre, perhaps dismissing it as marginal music. Though he is quick to point out that his music is not exclusively jazz, his work is infused with the wisdom of the jazz greats that came before him: free jazz pioneers like Anthony Braxton, Sam Rivers, and Evan Parker seem to be points of reference. Yet the gripping tonalities in his music, while never even grazing the outer perimeters of pop music still share the immediacy of pop.
There was a time when Katy Perry was considered a commercial disappointment, believe it or not.
Although Katy Perry’s last album, Teenage Dream, came out all the way back in 2010, it sure doesn’t feel that way, what with her media omnipresence being felt on the radio (which still plays her five chart-toppers from that disc) to film to even being a tabloid queen with her courtship and eventual breakup from comedian Russell Brand. Yet even with two #1’s already to her belt prior to the album’s release (those songs of course being “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls”), the fact that Perry’s album debuted with sales of “only” 200,000 made people think that perhaps Perry wasn’t the big-seller everyone thought she could be. Of course, her consistency is what made her last—not everyone can release an onslaught of broadly-appealing pop like that on such a regular basis, ditching the meta-qualities of Lady Gaga in favor of things much more simple and direct—and it’s that very reason why she was even able to make a film, perfume line, have fans who call themselves “KatyCats”, etc.
While promos for her new album Prism show Perry doing things like burning her iconic blue wig to showcase an artistic rebirth (echoes of George Michael, anyone?), the long-anticipated premiere of her new song “Roar” shows that, despite having just come off what may be her single finest songwriting achievement, her new track, while not an outright failure, is a surprisingly flat entry into her discography, doubly so for something that is supposed to usher in her new blockbuster album.
Whether an old soul reveling in the sumptuous folds of a ragtime melody or a smooth, contemplative rocker with pop-perfect pitch, Royal Wood has been working a long, studious groove in Canada’s growing indie rock realm as one of the many bright, talented artists of this generation, helping to rejuvenate the once-anemic scene. Wood’s elegantly-crafted numbers walk a balance between a plush swell of jazz and the instinctive, hedonistic joy of pop with poise and precision.
His first album, 2004’s Tall Tales, was a sophisticated and smart blend of Depression-era jazz and classy indie pop. At the centre of it all was his voice; either a silky, soft croon or a powerhouse of dynamics that tested all the octaves in his range with impressive skill. Most interesting was Wood’s accompanying look; he dressed like a 1930’s lounge singer who had stumbled into a scruffy, Adidas-conscious millennium by way of a time-warp. It wasn’t so much that Wood dressed to differentiate himself from his contemporaries – it was just that he sincerely embodied the music he made and played in an earnest and wholly human way.
Jake Portrait has found himself in the middle of everything.
The Portland native has recently moved to the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, and he finds himself surprised at his new home’s place in the indie music world: the offices of Jagjaguwar Records and Captured Tracks are on his block, and musician Brad Oberhofer (of Oberhofer) is a neighbor. It’s a surprising situation for Portrait to be in, but not an unfortunate one: the musician/producer/engineer is currently having a pretty good year so far as the bassist of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the solo project-turned-band of Portrait’s friend Ruban Neilson whose new set II has become one of the most talked-about indie rock albums this year.