Archive for category Album

The Votes Are In: Grammy 2011 Results

The 53rd annual Grammy awards are over with some bands more victorious than others. It’s hard to say that one band “beat” another, or a band “lost”, because to make it this far is a giant compliment to these musicians. Words aside, let’s take a look at who was awarded (in the categories we find most relevant):

Album of the Year:

The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
(Triumphing over Eminem, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga)

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New Album: Horn Again by The Pillows

Another Punny Album Cover

Out today is The Pillow’s 17th full album release. The title of the disc is Horn Again. Similar to past CDs, it has 10 tracks, but this time all with English names. The regular CD costs around $33 in Japan and there’s a DVD Limited Edition for about $38. I’m not sure of the best way to pick it up in the US. I’d recommend popping over to eBay or cdJapan. However you get (legality aside) it I’m sure you’ll enjoy the band’s latest musical feat.

Album cover courtesy of pillows.jp

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Mike Mains & The Branches

CD that’s been stuck (by choice) in my car for months: Home, by Mike Mains & The Branches. Here’s why…

In October, Charlie (the creator of this here blog) and I traveled across the state to see Mae’s last show in Michigan. Mae may be awesome, but this article goes out to the band that opened the show that night – Mike Mains & The Branches. Truth be told, Mike Mains showed up the two bands that Mae was touring with when it came to overall feel of their performance. The band’s live show moved through fun and upbeat to deep and intense and they finished it rocking. And, they have one of the funnest drummers you ever did watch.

So I picked up their CD, titled Home, simply because they gave it to me for a sweet deal and I was pretty sure I’d like to hear the rest of their music. The next day, I took the time to really listen through it, following along with the lyrics and all. From the get go, you can tell the lyrics throughout Home are deep, personal, fun, and inspiring. Mike Mains definitely rocks, but Home as an album also has a great upbeat and poppy feel. Throughout the album, you could probably pick out quite a few other bands you hear influence from.

The influence I heard right away was mewithoutYou. But still, Mike Mains does a great job at creating their own sound, and only picking out one influence doesn’t cover it all. Home is a fantastic listen from start to finish – it seems that when I feel like skipping a track, it hooks me and reels me in again. Each track has a ton of potential to get stuck in your head, whether it’s a guitar hook, single lyric, or entire chorus. Heck, I admit to listening to certain tracks just to hear lead singer Mike Mains’ excellently executed vocal screamishes.

Beside their music, Mike Mains & The Branches is involved with an organization called Mocha Club, along with other band names such as Katie Herzig, Sanctus Real, Project 86, and more. Mocha Club exists to encourage, connect, and provide ways for people to get involved and give help to communities in Africa who need clean water, for example. A few dollars given to Mocha Club’s cause can save lives in Africa, and Mike Mains is one of the bands joining the cause to encourage people to help save lives.

When people ask me what kind of music I listen to, I usually tell them that my favorite music is lesser-known indie stuff. Possibly the greatest example is Home by Mike Mains & The Branches.

Visit mikemainsandthebranches.com to watch a music video and find links to their Myspace, Facebook, etc.

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New Album: Discharge/Yamanaka Sawao

The Pillows continue pumping out new music year after year, but until I can listen to this latest album I’m unsure as to the direction the band is heading, and here’s why:

Generally The Pillows produce one album a year with about 10 songs on it. This year is no different, and a music video is already out for one of the songs on the disc. DAWN SPEECH is track #3 according to The Pillows’ Japanese website and the video has been on youtube since the beginning of June, but the clues as to the movement of the band are in the video as well as the album title.

Within the video for DAWN SPEECH the anomalies are readily apparent. First off, where is Manabe, their lead guitarist? Ignore the bassist, because he’s not really a member of the band anyways, but who the heck is that girl on rhythm guitar? In addition, The Pillows’ drummer seems to be missing, too. So that’s 66.6% of the band that is not present, and I don’t know if I can identify the people who are there (other than Sawao who’s on lead vocals and, unusually, playing the solo guitar part). As for the girl playing guitar I have two hypothesis:

  1. She is the vocalist-guitarist from The Noodles, a band that toured with The Pillows on the Delicious Bump Tour in 2008 and recently on the VAMPS’ tour in California during May 2010;
  2. She is Miho, a member of Pop Chocolat (myspace), another band that toured on the VAMPS’ tour along with The Pillows;

As far as the drummer goes I have no idea who he is. Perhaps he drums for the VAMP. His style wants to be a little more aggressive, which is not a traditional Pillows feel, but overall it fit in.

So what’s the deal with the band? Not being entirely positive, my idea is that Sawao is just doing some experimental stuff with other musicians. There is not any news of the band disbanding, and considering that Yamanaka’s name is right there in the title it implies that this might just be a project he worked on with the people he was on tour with. Not much else can be said about this album until I can actually hear the whole thing.

Addressing the song DAWN SPEECH itself the qualities are very familiar. Sawao continues to mix Japanese and English together use English and the tonal structures of his vocal work have a sort of melancholy to them. With the addition of some Na-na-na’ing the chorus flows and sticks in one’s mind fairly easily. The guitar both use a pretty sharp distortion with very little reverb and a lot of sustain on the melody. I’d say the best part of the song is the female’s vocal support that adds an interesting quality the tune. While The Pillows traditionally use only Sawao’s vocals this addition (the woman) really spices up the track and makes it unique.

The video is pretty chill. It focuses primarily on the band with few shots that deviate from them. Every once in a while there is a pan to a screen that is projecting video of the musicians on the side of the stage-area. Also, a few close up shots of the drummer and female allow us to see who they are, though I don’t know exactly who that is.

There ya have it. The Pillows have some new music out and it’s “non-traditional.” It’s exciting to see that they are continuing to grow. Hopefully they’ll be together for another 20 years.

Until next time, Find the Beat or the Beat will find you.

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