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the smashing pumpkins

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Listen: Sincerely, Grizzly – “Us; or Optimism”

Sincerely, Grizzly - Press Shot #1

Three piece literature rock outfit, Sincerely, Grizzly from Adelaide, Australia have just released the first single titled Us; or Optimism off of their debut record “Halves”. Literature rock is a hybrid of both art and math rock, combining time signature changes and intricate guitar and percussion work. The forthcoming album “Halves” is the bands’ attempt to understand and reconcile musical, personal and philosophical dichotomies. Us; or Optimism was recorded in Melbourne with Jez Giddings at Hot House, mixed by Brad Wood (Sunny Day Real Estate, Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo) and mastered by Emily Lazar (Brand New, Death Cab For Cutie, Wu Tang).

Sincerely, Grizzly this year alone have supported the band responsible for their musical existence, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead as well as embarking on two national tours of their own and sharing the stage with artists such as JAPANDROIDS and The Presidents of The United States of America. You can stream their new single below and follow the band on Facebook for more information. They embark on a national tour of Australia tomorrow so if you’re from there check out the dates here.

Review: The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

Released: March 15, 2011
Label: Canvasback/ATL
Purchase: iTunes | Insound | Amazon

Do you remember that feeling you had the first time you heard the explosive chorus of “Adam’s Song”? So much passion and energy was wrought by just a few simple power chords. Although that was years ago and the magic has waned, The Joy Formidable, a three-piece band from Wales seeks to recreate that epic feeling on their debut The Big Roar and succeeds wondrously.

Although Roar is technically their debut, TJF are no strangers on the indie scene. Formed in 2007, they have gained popularity through the release of numerous singles and the mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning, not to mention a moderate amount of notoriety for having a video banned from YouTube. In fact, half of Balloon’s songs have been re-vamped for Roar, and what were good songs before have been turned into near-masterpieces, fitting in with the rest of Roar.

The band jumps right out of the gate with “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie,” evoking the fuzzy sounds of Silversun Pickups and The Smashing Pumpkins. Upon hitting the chorus, however, The Joy Formidable distinguish themselves from these influences. Where Smashing Pumpkins are brooding and Silversun Pickups are atmospheric, TJF have a constant intensity. The song ends with an instrumental buildup that transcends the sound of headphones or speakers, a sound that demands to be heard live.

This transcendent feeling emerges time and time again on Roar. “Cradle” is pop perfection- clapping along feels mandatory. The chorus of “Chapter 2” is such a simplistic progression, but it feels fresh and huge. “Whirring” also employs a lengthy instrumental breakdown that builds up the sound to epic proportions.

Relying on a huge sound in song after song would make them a one trick pony, but TJF is incredibly creative in their musicianship as well. They don’t write songs based on a variety of riffs, and one would think that their fuzzy sound would grow monotonous quickly, but it doesn’t. They manage to make great songs through the creative use of their simple tools.

For example, “Whirring” uses only three notes in its main line, but different accents on repetitions and the changing backing guitar chords create interesting layers. “Austere” is driven by the drum beat and bass line and has no real chorus. “Llaw=Wall” is a dualistic song, as indicated by the title. The first half is soft and atmospheric, but explodes in a wall of sound halfway through. In the midst of this, there is a beautiful, brief pause to deliver the line, “You’re the ugly truth.” A couple of verses, choruses, and a bridge rarely appease The Joy Formidable.

Another strength of the band is a charismatic, talented frontwoman. The adorable Ritzy Bryan blazes on the guitar, and her vocals are among the best in indie rock. She has a great amount of versatility in terms of both range and in the emotion of her singing.

This isn’t to denigrate the accomplishments of the other band members, though. Bassist Rhydian Dafydd takes center stage and carries songs such as “Austere” and “A Heavy Abacus.” Drummer Matt Thomas provides the consistently impressive backbone to each song and shines through especially in the furious “I Don’t Want to See You Like This” and the double-bass section in “Whirring.”

The lyrics don’t always reach the high bar set by the music and vocals. They often have a certain poetic imagery about them, but while some lines are straightforward, others are moderately baffling (“Abacus, haunting me/Abacus, watching me”).

The only other mild complaint is that a couple of songs don’t have as much strength or lasting power as others. “A Heavy Abacus” is a mid-tempo number that relies on a lot of power chords and lacks the punch of other songs. “Buoy” may have better served as a softer number to come down from the powerhouse “Whirring” right before it, but instead just feels overshadowed as it is.

These are only minor faults with an album great on so many levels. The vocals, musicianship, and big sound make The Big Roar an excellent debut and The Joy Formidable a band to watch in the coming years.


Standout Tracks: “I Don’t Want to See You Like This,” “Whirring,” “Cradle”

Single: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Belong”

Track: “Belong”
Artist: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Release Date: March 15, 2011
Label: Slumberland Records

“Belong”, the title track and second single from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart‘s, opens with a rather relaxed, sweet sound, before catching the listener off-guard and launching into a heavily distorted and hard-hitting guitar riff at around the fifteen second mark. This certainly isn’t the same Pains that we saw on their self-titled debut; the guitars are heavier, the drums rattle louder, and the band sounds bolder. The change in sound can be attributed to the new production team of Flood and Alan Moulder, the same team that crafted The Smashing Pumpkins‘ classics, explaining the huge distortion that appears on the track. While “Belong” may not have the same catchiness as past Pains tracks, it carries a more defined and confident sound, a markedly positive step forward for the band.

“Belong” is from Belong, out March 29, 2011 via Slumberland Records.

Rating: 8/10

Track: XV – “SmallVille (Prod. J. Cole)”

Track: “SmallVille (Prod. J. Cole)”
Artist: XV
Release Date: January 28, 2011
Label: Warner Bros. Records and Roc Nation

Recent Warner Bros. signee XV dropped his latest track “SmallVille” a few days ago, collaborating with fellow rapper J. Cole. While Cole doesn’t grace us with a new verse, he crafts a superb track as producer, sampling The Smashing Pumpkins‘ “To Forgive”. Needless to say, XV goes in on the track, dropping clever line after clever line – “They’ll never steal my dreams like Leo DiCaprio.” – all while chronicling his relatively meteoric rise to fame. I haven’t watched the TV show Smallville, so I’m not entirely sure how the track relates, but Vizzy’s superhero references are smooth over J. Cole’s mellow, bass-heavy beat, taking the artistic liberty to add superhero inspired rhymes to the sampled chorus. Stream and download the song below.

“Smallville (Prod. J. Cole)” was released via Twitter; happy birthday to J. Cole! XV is expected to release his highly-anticipated album The Kid With The Green Backpack later this year.

Rating: 8.5/10