Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 25 Albums of 2011

Yeah yeah, okay okay...so we all know the year is winding down and that tomorrow marks the beginning of always mistakingly writing down "2011" instead of "2012".  I swear it takes me at least two months to remember to put the new and correct year down on tests or papers.  Tomorrow also symbolizes a time of change with people devoting themselves to resolutions and new hopes, a time of mystery and wonder of what's to come, a time to start anew!  In a less emotional sense that actually pertains to the blog, there is a new excitement that brews with the onslaught of new releases that is soon to come our way.  Our questions will finally be answered!  Will Passion Pit finally come out with new music?  Will Lou Reed and Metallica hastily ready a follow-up EP to this year's Lulu?  Will Dr. Dre unleash Detox upon us at long last?!  (No).  Will LCD Soundsystem give in to their urges and decide to regroup?  Who knows, but those questions will be answered in due time.  For now, it is a time of reflection of the past year, and what a fantastic year it was.  Since it is the last day of the year, and since everyone else is doing it, I've put together a list of my favorite 25 albums of 2011. Below is a compilation of albums that truly grabbed me, it's straight-forward and honest.  I have ordered them based purely on listening enjoyment, trying not to worry so much about what may have been "cutting-edge" or "ahead of its time".  Is this good or correct?  I dunno.  Either way people will disagree with some selections regardless. Anyway, the list is posted below for those interested.  Enjoy!


25.  On the Water by Future Islands

24.  936 by Peaking Lights

23.  Era Extra├▒a by Neon Indian

22.  We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves by John Maus

21.  Diamond Mine by King Creosote & Jon Hopkins

20.  Civilian by Wye Oak

19.  Parallax by Atlas Sound

18.  Quilt by Quilt

17.  Nostalgia, Ultra. by Frank Ocean

16.  Kaputt by Destroyer

15.  Twerps by Twerps

14.  Yuck by Yuck

13.  Bon Iver by Bon Iver

12.  Underneath the Pine by Toro y Moi

11.  Tomboy by Panda Bear

10.  Hurry Up, We're Dreaming by M83

9.  Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

8.  Burst Apart by The Antlers

7.  Within and Without by Washed Out

6.  Idle Labor by Craft Spells

5.  Dye It Blonde by Smith Westerns

4.  Slave Ambient by The War on Drugs

3.  Days by Real Estate

2.  Zonoscope by Cut Copy

1.  Smoke Ring For My Halo by Kurt Vile

Have a happy new year everyone!  Have fun and be safe!  I'll see ya in 2012 for another great year in music!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Frank Ocean

For months and months I've done something incredibly stupid...I have been completely dismissing Frank Ocean.  You see, I am not a fan of the rap ensemble Odd Future in the least.  More specifically, I cannot stand Tyler, The Creator (the group's founding member).  I congratulate him on his blossoming success, but I just don't get it.  Not a fan at all. So when I first heard Frank Ocean, another Odd Future participant, had released a mixtape, not a fiber in my body had a desire to listen to it.  Fast forward to three weeks ago...I am sitting on my computer browsing through a few "Top 2011" lists and Frank Ocean's Nostalgia, Ultra. is on just about every single one.  Curiosity eventually wins me over, and I give it a shot.  This proved to be a marvelous decision.  I couldn't stop listening to it; with this album, Frank Ocean put something together entirely different than I was expecting.  Nostalgia steers clear of any "horrorcore" label, and actually is way more of an R&B compilation than one consisting of rap.  Ocean does a great job of exhibiting his voice, flexing his vocal muscles over smooth, confident beats and (at times) remixes of several pop hits like MGMT's "Electric Feel" or Coldplay's "Strawberry Swing".  What adds to the brilliance is Ocean's delivery, laid-back and cool, giving him a reputable swag.  Despite this, he is also brutally honest lyrically, never afraid to sing about his own heartbreak or childhood memories, a seeming rarity amongst modern day rappers who are too caught up in drugs or money.  Nostalgia, Ultra. not only brings something new to the table, but offers up a refreshing listen with addicting hooks, catchy choruses, and a heavy dose of creativity.  The best part?  Frank Ocean has offered it up as a free mixtape.  You can pick it up over here, but catch a few tracks below. Enjoy!

Swim Good

Songs For Women

Lovecrimes

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Roku

A few days ago, beat maker Roku sent over his Music for Misfits album for a listen.  It's an ambitious project, a release consisting of 24 tracks which also includes three bonus songs.  Some of these are brief skits and interludes barely eclipsing the minute mark, but many are full-blow jams.  In this time, Roku packs tons of jazz-influenced, hip-hop instrumentals into a singular package that brings to mind J Dilla's Donuts.  In many of Roku's Facebook photos, he's pictured digging through crates and testing records to find the perfect mix for a beat, as well as a picture with his most "prized possession" as a musician...Illmatic on vinyl (seen above).  In this fashion, he's similar to J Dilla and all others of that genre like The Avalanches or DJ Shadow, and in his own fashion he fiddles with a magnificently constructed laid-back prowess, an open ended invitation to sit back and chill.  There a few highlights below, but you can hit up Bandcamp for the entire Music for Misfits as a free download.  Check it!




Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Quilt

In continuation from my previous post, Quilt is another band that has gone largely unnoticed this year. After their forming members Shane Butler and Anna Fox Rochinski met as visual arts students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a bond developed over "weird, experimental jams and pop harmonies". This connection evolved into a debut album aptly named Quilt on the Mexican Summer label, which includes such bands as Best Coast, Real Estate, and Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (not bad company!).  The result is a fantastic record, based heavily in the late-60s psychedelic folk music.  Quilt is full of breezy guitars and lush harmonies, paying homage to the likes of Jefferson Airplane or The Mamas and the Papas.  Accented with a slight cassette hiss, the album sounds raw and vinyl-ready, you would never even guess it was made in the present day.  Due to these qualities, it's easy for Quilt to be labeled as hippie music, to which I reply: "So what?"  Ha!  Like that's a bad thing.  Take a listen below and decide for yourself! Enjoy!

Milo

Utopian Canyon

Monday, December 19, 2011

Twerps

In the spirit of the all the end-of-the-year hubbub going on throughout the internet, I'd like to acquaint you with the young Australian band called Twerps.  Following an EP in 2009, the group released the self-titled LP Twerps earlier in October, an album which has flown completely under the radar. It marks a period of growth for the quartet, who have refined their pop tendencies to an addicting combination of jangle-guitar technique and lo-fi aesthetic.  A certain confidence is also on display; lead vocalist Marty Frawley's nerdy delivery complements the unabashed name "Twerps" without fear, and lyrics containing instances of youthful (at times straining) experiences are compiled with troubles of young love.  While there is a degree of melancholy that speaks from the guitar, there is never a feeling of overwhelming sadness.  Instead, Frawley's off-kilter wails lift us up from depths and show us all there is to enjoy in adolescence and start-up adulthood.  It's almost as if Frawley is saying "yea, life can be tough, but so what?"  All of this is beautifully constructed into a smooth, rewarding listen that goes down easy; nothing on Twerps is overly complicated, for its candor and simplicity make it accessible to just about everyone.  It hasn't gotten the credit it deserves.  I've posted some of my favorites from the album below, if you like what you hear you can always hit up Chapter Music to find out more.

Through the Day

Who Are You

Bring Me Down

Friday, December 16, 2011

Terracotta Blue

Let's switch it up to a little bit of chillwave, shall we?  I figured I might as well try and give something a little more calming to unwind the nerves of those who just their finished finals week. Unless you're me of course and have a huge accounting exam on a Saturday.  Awesome!  Enjoy your Friday night, world! Either way, whether you're free from the shackles of education or not, I present to you Terracotta Blue, an electronic-based solo artist from Maryland.  Three days ago he released a new single over on Bandcamp with the songs "Arcade" and "Healer", both are high quality jams with a stark contrast in their mood.  "Arcade" is the more intense of the two, forceful and commanding with a peaceful subconscious.  "Healer" on the other hand is way more of the chillwave breed with tranquil, Oriental undertones and a well-placed sample of Japanese metal band HeavensDust.  The end product is pretty neat, forming to create a style of chillwave that's a little off the beaten path. I suppose you could throw downtempo and trip-hop into the mix of genres, which allows for a pleasing fusion of ideas.  It's tough to pick which song to put up, but I'll have to go with the easygoing "Healer".  Of course, if you're interested in hearing the other or downloading both, hit up the ol' Bandcamp for your daily dose of free downloads.  Happy Friday everyone!  I'm jealous of you all....


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Russian Apartments

Earlier in January, Mike Caulfield (who goes under the name The Russian Apartments) released his full length album The Last Last You.  The release showcased Caulfield's appreciation for '80s music, never straying away from cascading synths or manufactured string sections.  Not all is bright and cheery, though, many of his songs carry a darker resonance muddled under a thin layer of gloom.  Within his songs there are slight interludes, breathers in a way, that allow him to speak his mind.  These thoughts are enveloped by adorning instrumentation, magnificent electronics lavishly fabricated to move the listener from idea to idea.  This contrast between the murky and enchanted allows for an interesting listen, a kind of intensity that gets better and better with each spin.  Earlier this week, Caulfield sent over his new video for "Gods", the second track off of The Last Last You.  I've posted the video below, as well as his more recent "Summer Rails" single to demonstrate some of his range.  Take a look or listen below, then head over to the ever-reliable Bandcamp for some downloads he has put up for free.  Enjoy!




Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Elephant

On November 14th of this year, the London based co-ed duo Elephant released their Assembly EP.  I am pretty bummed I didn't catch wind of it sooner, it would've made for some great listening over the past month.  But considering it's December 14th now, I guess it's appropriate to give a shout out to Elephant today on the release's one month anniversary and celebrate the fact I can hear Assembly from here on out.  A reason for its draw is Amelia Rivas's inviting ethereal vocals, which for me is a big plus.  I am sucker for beautiful girl voices, and her smooth delivery works perfect with the synth-driven EP.  Behind each song is Elephant's philosophy, which states: "Songwriting and documentation should only be accomplished by the turn of the night, and should never leave the comfort and safety of the bedroom".  Sexual?  I don't know, but either way Elephant accomplish a warm atmosphere in their songs that does indeed sound comforting.  Check out "Assembly" below, and then head over to Bandcamp to grab to EP free o' charge. Peaaccceeee.




Monday, December 12, 2011

Summer Fiction

Many of the songs conceived by Bill Ricchini were done walking on the streets Philadelphia, usually heading home from the Tasker/Morris stop he'd regularly take.  En route, he would hum some melodies in his head and try to hang on to the particular arrangements to record when he returned.  Listening to Ricchini's work as the lead singer/songwriter for Summer Fiction, this method of creating those melodies only seems appropriate.  The self-titled debut album, Summer Fiction, is a light and jangly form of folk, harnessing inspiration from styles of '60s baroque pop.  For example, one of the instruments he uses to great effect is the harpsichord, a tool utilized frequently by such bands as The Zombies, The Beach Boys, and The Kinks to generate the happy, sunshine-injected ditties that made them popular in the first place.  These are the simple and relatable tunes that make it easy to stroll down a street and whistle...or hum.  In essence, Summer Fiction is a welcomed homage to what made music so great back then.  Check out some of the songs below, and then hit up the ol' Bandcamp for some downloads.  His homepage also has a lot of great updates, too.  Hope ya'll dig it!




Friday, December 9, 2011

Turn To Crime

The first 7 seconds of Turn To Crime's "I Can't Love" features a coarse drum section reminiscent of a brash lo-fi recording in someone's garage, a rugged style which may be tough to swallow for some people.  Therein lies the brilliance of the song, though; what initially may come across as harsh is effortlessly smoothed out with a definite bass-line, silky guitar riff, and clear vocals.  The raw drum sound becomes so absorbed with everything else that it fades into the song's subconscious, and you'll never realize that it continued for the entirety of the track.  Yet, the role of the percussion is key here, for it adds the necessary texture to tie the pieces together and give the song its character.  It paves the way for the ensuing instrumentation, ushering in the forthcoming haze.  In a way it reminds me of how the piano functions in LCD's "All My Friends".  What's also cool is how Turn To Crime mixes his songs to VHS, creating a "distinct sonic atmosphere and style" which aids in the fuzziness.  With these arrangements, "I Can't Love" finds itself nearing the label of psychedelic.  The effect has come with success, Turn To Crime has supported such acts like Zola Jesus, John Maus, and the influential '90s alt-rock band Sebadoh. Take a listen below, with a free download here.  Further downloads can be found at Bandcamp, where he's just released an album at the end of November.  Happy weekends everybody!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Work Drugs

Exactly 360 days ago, the glo-fi outfit Work Drugs sent me their debut single "Third Wave" to put on the blog.  Since that time, the band has grown way beyond the boundaries of Audio Splash into a much, much greater realm.  With months of hard work and an assortment of new material, their popularity has grown tremendously.  From a music fan's standpoint, their continuing success has been fantastic to witness.  So in the past year, what have Work Drugs been up to you may ask?  They released the EPs Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer in support of their tour with Two Door Cinema Club, adopted some songs from the EPs to develop their first full length album Summer Blood, and also released their second LP Aurora Lies in the beginning of November. They also had shows at the WXPN World Cafe, the Trocadero, and the Popped Festival Pre-Party while opening for the likes of Memoryhouse and Peter, Bjorn & John. What's more is that they're working on yet another album over the winter and are currently planning an east coast tour for spring.  Well alllll righty then.  They're certainly not a lazy bunch!  And now, as a one year anniversary for when "Third Wave" first dropped, Work Drugs has been kind enough to send me the exclusive for their new track "Dirty Dreams".  The song is a collaboration with another up-and-coming Philadelphia artist Dylan Sieh (aka Tours), whose undeniably catchy and dreamy instrumentation became the basis for "Dirty Dreams".  The pairing is a perfect match, for Sieh's shimmering foundation creates a magnificent platform for which Work Drugs can experiment with new sounds and textures.  The result is simply awesome.  Be sure to take a listen to the brand new song "Dirty Dreams" below (which they also offer as a free download), and afterwards you can get a hold of their other work at their Bandcamp and catch any updates on their homepage. Facebook or Soundcloud work, too.  Hope you all enjoy it, and a special thanks to Work Drugs for sending over the song early!


  Dirty Dreams by Work Drugs

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ratboy

Recently, my good friend from Notre Dame told me about a band he had seen live on campus called Ratboy.  Thinking I'd be into them, he sent me a link where I could download their stuff.  I wasn't sure what to expect with a name like Ratboy, but upon listening I was (very) pleasantly surprised to have my headphones fill up with warm folk-inspired textures blanketed by Julia Steiner's stunning vocals.  Over the course of 5 songs, Ratboy's self-titled EP, Ratboy, delivers some exceptionally soothing acoustic tracks as well as the ukulele-based "Down the River", a lazy Sunday jam that draws parallels to Noah and the Whale.  Never boring or void of personality, the EP is a must listen.  It's very impressive, especially considering the duo of Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan (who met at Notre Dame) whipped everything up together on a whim.  You would never guess it; they're fantastic songwriters, which is exemplified in "The Stanza".  Steiner sings about having a history of loving the wrong guys, concedes to the fact that she's cursed with this problem, and uses people she studied in high school as a metaphor for her woes.  Stalin?  Yeah, love that guy.  Marx?  Yeah, he had pretty eyes.  In between each admittance, we're given a burst of heavy strumming and drum pounding, helping to build the tension until the chorus explodes into a wonderful harmony.  And at the end?  The narrator is now in college, and someone tells her she has pretty eyes.  It's a great anecdote, carried with the help of Steiner's magnificent voice.  You can have a listen to it below, and be sure to visit their Bandcamp for a free download of the Ratboy EP.  They also have a Facebook page.  Check it!




Friday, December 2, 2011

Mission of Burma

Warning to all!  This is a long post.  I know a lot of you don't like the long reads so I apologize in advance. Regardless, I'd like to finish up the week by turning back the clock to 1981, a time when music was experiencing a unique and dramatic cultural shift.  The movement I'm talking about is punk; an incredibly fascinating and important era in music's timeline, and one that is usually associated with mohawks, leather jackets, and violence.  Although this is partially true, it's important to keep in mind that punk was, in every sense of the word, a culture, a driving force that had more substance to it than a bunch of kids doing drugs and causing trouble (a fact largely misunderstood).  So allow me to set the scene before I bore you; by the late 1970s the first wave of punkers like the Ramones and The Clash had established themselves in the mainstream, eventually giving way to art-punk bands like Gang of Four and Joy Division.  This coincided with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, which ushered in a rigid and boring political system much to the disdain of America's teens, who felt stifled by Reagan's bland conservatism. What's a better way to fight back than rebel with loud and obnoxious music to separate the dull, narrow-minded older generation from the energetic youth?  Black Flag pushed the issue when they pioneered the second wave of punk, which started to gain steam around 1981.  They became the first hardcore band to show that you didn't need a major record label to get your sound on vinyl and gain a following.  Instead, they just did everything like marketing and pressing themselves, which in it's own way is a form of lashing back at the society that was pissing them off.  Adolescents who felt the same angst they did bought into the records, and other bands trying to spread their material saw they had a chance at success being self-sufficient while not giving into "the man". People began to coalesce around these ideals, forming a type of cult in which they could all unleash their frustration as a unit.  Black Flag had just paved the way for underground punk.  Culture.

Boston's Mission of Burma was involved in this underground structure early on, forming in 1979.  Since this whole "post-punk" (referring to the second punk wave) thing was new, Burma never got the support system that many other indie bands had access to later in the decade.  The band did have three things going for them though; the hometown Boston locals loved them, all members were great with the press, and they put on insane live shows.  Still, the general populous wasn't quite ready to accept Burma's originality. Experimenting between a mix of artsy-pop and punk, they were being overshadowed by the popularity of hardcore, which garnered most of the attention.  Moreover, without proper distribution it was difficult for the band to expand beyond Boston.  To put it into perspective, when they toured outside of the city as little as 2 or 3 people would show up at times.  In 1981 they recorded their Signals, Calls, and Marches EP debut, a release that attempted to deliver a more universally pleasing sound.  Later in time its mastery would be fully appreciated, but at it's release date it could only be considered a moderate success.  The pattern of taut yet subdued verses leading into an explosive sound for the chorus in the opener "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" would be met with much more recognition for The Pixies, who we all know were the inspiration for Nirvana and one of the most acclaimed songs of all-time, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"....they were just a few years too early.  And when Burma sent Signals, Calls, and Marches to a major label, they responded with a note that promptly rejected them. One of post-punk's landmark EPs had just been passed up.  Luckily in the present day we can celebrate the EP's achievements, a collection of unconventional tracks that exhibited Mission of Burma's smoother personality and helped foster punk's growing fan base. Ok you can breathe now! This post is finally over.  Check out the grand instrumental "All World Cowboy Romance" and "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" below.


All World Cowboy Romance


That's When I Reach For My Revolver

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dress Rehearsal

Each of the members in Dress Rehearsal have experienced some degree of disappointment in recent months.  Other projects they've been involved in have included situations in which people have been "mentally cut off" from one another. Coming together, though, times seemed to have changed.  The four-piece group from Toronto have started to feel the click, and with this new found motivation released The Lazy River Road, which features "River Blue" and "Morning Grey", two songs debuting Dress Rehearsal's alternative folk-rock textures.  The release was marked as an attempt "to bridge the emotional gaps between happy and sad, calm and boisterous, while building genuine cathartic moments", and between the two tracks, the goal was accomplished quite successfully. Included in their repertoire is Covers a Hillside, which has two acoustic covers written by band member Kevin Graham, one of which is a "Scenic World" cover by Beirut, one of my favorite songs.  It's a wonderful take on the original with a way more chill and laid-back approach.  Below I've posted "River Blue" and the cover for your listening pleasure, and if you've never heard the original, check it out here.


Scenic World (Beirut Cover)




Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Collectable Few

The Collectable Few started off by a stroke of chance when Nat Candor and Tom Christensen met Tarek Al-Shammaa in a West London pub. Nat and Tom had recently left their teenage rock band, and by coincidence found out that Tarek was also suspended in musical purgatory.  It turned out Tarek's old band members had joined the likes of The Maccabees and SBTRKT, and to avoid joining the army Tarek was working as a chef (they say his signature dish consists of seared tuna with papaya, a salsa verde and confit duck salad...awesome).  The three of them inevitably hit it off, and soon recruited drummer Alex Hammond to complete the quartet.  Influenced by certain power pop groups of the '80s like Duran Duran, The Collectable Few have released a single including "Model Behavior" and a fantastic remix of CASSETTi's "Glamour".  Energetic and dance-ready, both songs are accented with a touch of synth-beat, new wave, and even punk undertones.  Oh yeah, and it probably helps to have your tracks mixed by Andrew Maury, who has worked with the brilliant Ra Ra Riot on previous occasions.  Check out both songs below, and afterwards visit their SoundCloud for some free downloads.

 The Collectable Few - Glamour (CASSETTi) by Partisan PR

 The Collectable Few - Model Behaviour by Partisan PR

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ryan Malloy

I love music.  For me, nothing is quite as exciting as discovering a new band, tracking an album's release, or living through the evolution of a favorite group I've followed since their first song.  I'm also intrigued at how fast modern music moves; much like a stock trader feels behind in the market after going on vacation, I feel lost if I'm ever too lax in sifting through a week's worth of musical activity.  I love how the industry changes, and I love seeing those trends.  For whatever these passions may signify, though, I am still missing out on one critical aspect of music; I cannot play an instrument.  Not one. Blame it on whatever you want, a lack of patience, time, or skill, but I just can't do it as much as I've tried.  This may very well be the reason why I'm so envious of those who can play, and especially those who have the unwavering determination to improve their craft.  Ryan Malloy is a prime example of someone in which I can direct my jealousies. At the beginning of the year Malloy set a lofty goal for himself, one that most people would deem impossible; play 1000 hours of guitar in one year.  Why?  To get better. Remarkably better.  This way he could also gain the confidence to perform his material live and release an album that displays his technique, Ready Or Not.  Influenced by progressive rock and metal, Malloy shows off similar styles solo, using only an electric guitar and his voice to experiment with the various sounds.  Also a brilliant writer, Malloy tracks his progress on a blog for the world to see.  All of this is very impressive to me, so in order to get inside his head I had the pleasure of sitting down with him to talk about music, life, and what drives him to do the insane things that he does.  Feel free to read the interview below, but you can also listen to some tracks at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy.

Tell me a little bit about your background.  What was the moment that first made you pick up a guitar and start playing?
Ahhhh, that was a good moment.  I was in my brother's room and saw his Ibanez sitting under his bed, and on a whim I just said to myself "You know what?  I'm gonna teach myself how to play guitar".  He looked at me and said "No one can do that, you can't just teach yourself how to play guitar".  I may not have taken it that seriously at the time, but once he said that I was like "Well now I gotta prove you wrong" [laughs].  So I've spent the last 8 years doing just that, proving him wrong.  Showing that you can just pick up an instrument and teach yourself.


So you've never had any formal training or instructor to teach you how to play?
Not on guitar.  I mean before I played guitar I took bass in middle school, so I had to take bass lessons for that. Stand up bass, not electric bass.  Other than that, which doesn't in any way effect my playing now, yeah I've never taken any lessons.


So you started off college as a math major with no real intention of pursuing music as a career.  What was the turning point where you said "Hey, maybe this happen!"?
I was at this place called the Worldwide Center of Mathematics, which produces digital calculus textbooks, and I was writing the solution manual for integral calculus, which is thrilling as you can imagine.  There was this one problem that I kept trying to do, and I would just sit down and be like "All right, you know what?  I'm just gonna get it done". Then I would stare at it for like 20 seconds and be like "Ehhh maybe I'll just work on something else and come back to it", and I did this like 10 times.  Eventually I just buckled down and I thought I'd write down everything I know on the board, write down everything I'm trying to prove, write down the names of theorems that might be relevant, and just don't stop writing stuff until you've figured it out.  So I'm staring at the little white board I was writing on, just kinda staring at it, and was like "Know what?  Fuck this".  So I took my sharpie and without thinking about it started writing on the board: "There is no clearer indication that I should not go to grad school than my complete lack of interest and lack of ability to do this problem, I was put on this planet to make music".  It was all a stream of consciousness, I wasn't even thinking about what I was writing.  I kinda took a step back and stared at it, and thought "This feels right. This is normal!".  It also helped that there was some beautiful Porcupine Tree music playing in the background.  It was very inspiring.  Delicious.  But yeah, once I read that I thought "Cool, let's roll with that!"  I just had, like, this wave of energy man and I just rolled with that wave, surfing that energy wave [laughs].


So I've heard from a lot of people that when someone is good at math, or thinks mathematically, that it also translate into being good at music, that music is very mathematical.  As a musician and someone who is also great at math, do you find this to be true?  If so, does it help you?
No, that's bullshit [laughs].  Anyone who says that, that their mathematical abilities translate to their musical abilities, probably doesn't really understand what math is about.


Really?  That's interesting because I've heard that a few times.
Yeah, well the few people you've talked to are probably stupid [laughs].  Maybe lower level math, like the stuff you do in middle school, there might be some kind of a correlation.  At the college level, though, the kind of math we do is so abstract.  I mean there comes a point where you basically stop using numbers, and there are symbols and strings of characters.  How can that possibly correlate to music!?  Maybe deep down there is some kind of magical spark in the brain that controls both mathematical thinking and musical thinking, but when you look at the kind of stuff you study in college, no.  There is no real relation in my humble opinion.


Earlier you mentioned Porcupine Tree, is that a band that inspires you?  What other artists and bands inspire you when it comes to making music?
Ummmm, Porcupine Tree a little bit.  That's one of those bands where I kind of have to be in the right mood for, but yeah I totally respect their music.  The big influences over time have been The Red Hot Chili Peppers, at first when I started playing guitar that was all I was listening to, that flavored a lot of stuff a lot of stuff I do, there's always a little bit of that funk.  But more recently I've been in to Dream Theater, cause John Petrucci, the guitarist for them, he's just a god at guitar.  It's absurd what he can do.


You like those Youtube videos where he destroys the universe with a guitar?
[Laughs] Yeah where he shreds like 60 million notes and then everyone dies.  But yeah, not only do I love the music he creates, but just his philosophy and what he has to say about it inspires me to be the best possible version of myself that I can be.  And it's a similar sort of relationship with Steve Vai's music.  He has somewhat of a different philosophy towards music, like Petrucci is a technique mastermind, but Steve Vai is more of an expressive genius.  He does a lot of interesting stuff with the whammy bar, and he's known for sounding weird but creating these textures that no one else does. But the thing they have in common is that they're both really excellent musicians and really excellent songwriters, so between the two of those I'm like "Wow.  I need to be like these guys".


It seems to me that the stuff you're in to falls under the "progressive" category, like progressive metal or progressive rock.  You're music also sounds progressive, just without the backing band.  I'll be honest, to me it seems "progressive" has died down a little bit, the only bands I know of in the present are groups like Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Mastodon, and perhaps the Mars Volta.  What's your take on the current progressive metal and progressive rock scene?
I don't know if I'd be the best person to ask the about the "scene", but yeah I love progressive stuff, I love pushing things in new directions and experimenting with different time signatures.  I realize that's never going to be THE most popular type of music, people are still going to like their 4/4 signature and their bass beats and stuff like that.  But I do think there is a fairly sizable minority of people out there who really do appreciate this kind of experimental progressive stuff.  People who can take something they've never heard and instead of saying "Huh, that's different", they actually think about it and it challenges their perception of what music is limited to.  So yeah, I'm never going to be the guy that everyone loves, and that's fine, but I do think there are people out there who can appreciate what I'm trying to do with music.


Talking a little more about the lack of a band, do you find it difficult producing as a solo artist without having members to bounce ideas off of or record with?
No, it's basically all I know at this point.  I've never tried recording with a band so I don't have a point of comparison.  The solitary creative process, the reason why I love it so much, is that when you have a particular idea in your head, like a melody and a harmony that you think would sound really good together, when you've got other people to record with or you're willing to lay down multiple tracks to make a recording happen, then it becomes really easy to make these ideas a reality.  You can have the bass player play this melody and then the guitar playing a harmony on top of it, but when it's just you sitting by yourself and you're having these ideas that are easy for multiple people, the same ideas can be very difficult to execute for one person.  So by forcing yourself, or forcing myself, to play by myself it forces me to become a better player in order to achieve the ideas I want.


A lot of your songs are instrumental, but on the songs that you flex your voice the result is pretty fantastic.  Do you plan on being more lyrical in your future songs?
Hmmmm, it kinda depends.  Right now I'm working on a concept album that has a very clear-cut story that needs to be told.  So with that I don't really have a choice, the songs need to convey the ideas, so I'm making a point of writing lyrics for each and every song.  But other than concept stuff, no.  I don't really feel any pressure to make more songs with lyrics.  I am totally comfortable with writing instrumentals, probably more comfortable than writing songs with lyrics, it comes naturally to me.


Let's talk about the blog for a little bit.  Why did you start one?  What made you want to publicize your quest for 1000 hours in a year?
I don't really know.  The idea of adding a blog to it just popped into my head and seemed like a natural fit.  There are two reasons why I think the 1000-hour quest is valuable for me; one is with that many practice hours I'm going to get better.  Like, that's the point.  If I'm not getting better for practicing 1000 hours then I'm doing something seriously wrong.  But I think the other reason why it's valuable is that any time you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, you learn things about yourself and what you're doing that are worth reflecting on.  And I think anything worth reflecting on is worth sharing, you know?  I try to extract ideas and lessons from what I'm doing that I think are applicable to a lot of different fields and interests.  So why wouldn't I share it? It seems logical.


You mention going outside of the comfort zone, and for a large majority of people 1000 hours of guitar is way out of the comfort zone.  With that said, what kind of reaction do you normally get from people who hear about this goal of yours?
At first I kind of kept it to myself, at least before I started doing the blog.  Then, I dunno, I don't think people were too surprised.  I mean, I do weird shit [laughs].  I try to, well, I dunno, I'm trying to think of a good way to phrase this without sounding like a pretentious cock, but I usually do things differently.  I'm known within my friends as being the guy who is not gonna do things the same way as everyone else.  I mean, the simplest example is the fact that I don't drink.  I'm not even Mormon man, I just don't want to, shit like that.  Everyone else is gonna be talking about sports, I'll be talking about how I'm gonna be changing the world and fucking arrogant shit like that [laughs]. Plus before I started the quest, I already spent a lot of time sitting on my chair playing guitar, so it wasn't really that surprising for people I don't think.


At the time of this interview, you're 114 hours ahead of schedule.  Your required pace puts you at 423 hours, yet you have completed 536.5 hours!  This goal almost seems easy for you.  It's sort of what you were saying, that you play a lot already, is this just natural for you?  Was this a normal pace you were keeping up already?
Well, I started the quest during the summer when I was sort of employed, but not really [laughs].  I had a lot of spare time.  During the summer, I said to myself "You know it's going to get really hectic during the school year, so try and get as far ahead of schedule now as you can".  So by the time school started, I was already 30 or 40 hours ahead of schedule, which was good.  As my interest in schoolwork waned, and my interest in guitar got stronger, I found it really easy to keep up with the pace I did over the summer just by not doing homework [laughs].  I can always make hours up over the weekend, too, like I feel totally comfortable just spending literally an entire Saturday just playing guitar.  There's one day I literally sat and played guitar for 10 hours!  That's not normal behavior!


That's a lot.
Yeah [laughs].  By the end of it my brain and fingers were totally fucking fried, but it felt good!  I do it cause I love it, man.  Once you get moving it's just not a chore anymore. Of course there are some days you just don't wanna fucking do it, you wanna watch Youtube videos and pull your wiener, but there other days you just don't wanna stop.  So why should I?  Am I really going to stop and do homework?


Is that the shift that has happened, where guitar has become more important to you than schoolwork?  Has it become the situation where it's like "Shit, I have homework, so now I can't play guitar"?
Yeah pretty much.  I wish I could say schoolwork interests me as much as it did before, which is not to say I was ever a straight-A student or anything like that, but I was interested in what I was learning.  I didn't want to be one of those college kids that was there because they want a degree; I was genuinely interested in learning more about math, computer science, physics, and all of those shenanigans.  But now, yeah, it's sad to admit it but I am becoming that person who is there because they need a degree.


Well, we all are!
Yeah [laughs].  There are plenty of people in that position, so might as well join the club.


Which modern music website, like Myspace or Bandcamp for example, has helped you the most in getting your name recognized?
Well, I put all of my music on Bandcamp because people can download and listen to it for free.


Yeah, as someone looking from the outside, it seems to be absolutely fantastic. Sometimes I browse that site for hours on end.
Oh yeah, it's a very simple, clean, interface.  Before Bandcamp I tried using ReverbNation and it's so cluttered and noisy, you can't even find on the screen where the play button is!  But with Bandcamp, it's very simple.  There's just one purpose; the song, with a little description, the lyrics and maybe another link.  That's it.  I like that, simple is good.  With that I try and do grassroots promotion, I post on a couple forums and engage with that community.  I try not to shove it people's faces though, I am just like "Hey, here is a piece I am working on.  Feedback?"  Just see what people have to say and start a conversation.


You've found that helpful?
Yeah!  A perfect example is when I was trying to decide what cover art to use for "Ready Or Not", my friend Hannah came up with three different ideas that we could've used for the artwork, and rather than just deciding between me and her, I said "Why not let the internet decide?  Whichever one people are most drawn to we'll just use that one".  So I posted on a couple of different threads and forms saying "Just vote!  Tell me what you think!"  I also posted it with a link to the music so they could have a better idea of what the artwork will be for, and it was a real legitimate way of interacting with the community.  Their feedback was useful, and it wasn't a way of tricking them of thinking about the music or listening to it, I was genuinely curious about what they had to say. So I tallied up the votes, picked the one people like the most, and that's why you got the cover that you got.


Your album title is "Ready Or Not", you're album cover is you standing majestically against a backlight, it seems like you're trying to make a statement.  Is that what this album is to you?  A statement?
I didn't have a particular statement in mind when I was putting it together, it's just like hey I've got music!  Might as well record it!  I guess the overall message is what we were talking about before; the idea of one man, one guitar, and then exploring what is possible with just that configuration.  That explains why a lot of genres are represented on the album.  I am mainly a progressive rock or metal kind of guy, but I try and push myself out of my comfort zone with stuff like "Beantown Jamboree", which is a very jazzy number. Then there's "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond", which is a Scottish folk tune.  So while they may sound very different musically, they still go along with that message of one guy, one guitar, what can we do?  So I think it does form a cohesive message overall.


If you could play any place in the world, where it would be?
I want it be somewhere big [laughs].  I imagine myself just sitting on a stage with bright stage lights of all different colors and thousands of people staring at me.  I know that if that ever does happen it's going to take a while, I'm not delusional or anything. But in terms of city, I'm going to school is Boston, and I know that a lot of the Dream Theater guys studied in Boston.  So yea, maybe Boston.  I mean that's where a lot of my music was written and it's where I spend a lot of time practicing.  So if I could ever play a huge show, I think it would be awesome to be in Boston, maybe at the Orpheum Theater where I recently saw Dream Theater.  Just knowing I had gotten to the point where I was on the same stage they had been on, like oh my god, that would be so great [laughs].


And how was Dream Theater live?
It was tasty.  It was sooooo fucking good!  I can't even describe it.  Before that moment, the band members had been an idea, you couldn't even see them as real people.  But then there they are on stage, 20 feet from me, like oh my god!  These are real dudes making sounds right in front of me!


John Petrucci didn't kill you with his guitar?
No, not THAT many people died that night [laughs].


So to finish things off, what can fans expect from you in the future?  Where does Ryan Malloy go from here?
Ummm, I guess more of the same in sense of one man, one guitar.  But I'm always trying to incorporate more musical ideas and new techniques, I never wanna be someone who makes the same old junk over and over again.  Pretty much every song I write I try to find something that I can't do, something I physically can't play at the time that I'm writing it so that I have to get better in order to play the songs that I'm writing.  In that sense, my music will always be getting better, at least in my eyes.  Whether it's going to be better musically for the audience, well, time will tell [laughs].  I can still hope for the best!  For a non-musician looking at a musician who is obsessed with technique, it may not always be clear how that person is progressing or what they're doing differently.  You may think "Oh, you've already learned everything!  What else is there to do?"  But no, there is always something you can't do.  Anything you CAN do, there is always a way you can add a layer of complexity to it, even something as simple as playing faster.  So yeah, that's the future for me, just working on technique, some new musical ideas, and hopefully putting together another album sometime in the near future.


Below are the songs "Coming Back For You", "I'll Do It By Myself", and "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond"  from Ready Or Not.  Be sure to hit up his Bandcamp for a free download, his Facebook for any further information, and of course his 1000 Hours blog to follow his progress.

Coming Back for You

I'll Do It By Myself

The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Flume

19-year-old Harley Streten, an Australian who goes by the name Flume, has quite a knack for the creation of sampled and remixed beats. Such talent has to start somewhere I suppose, and for Streten it was a music production program he discovered within the depths of a cereal box....at the age of 13.  Why didn't I ever find anything so awesome in Corn Flakes when I was younger? The song that really caught my attention was "Sleepless (ft. Anthony for Cleopatra)", a track off the self-titled single Sleepless, which also includes two other songs "Over You" and "Paper Thin".  All of his stuff is very electronica oriented, and while this can sometimes mean a more upbeat or danceable result, Flume is definitely geared toward a more chill environment.  The holidays are coming quick and it can be a stressful time for many, so take a breather and throw on some of the songs below.  I've posted "Sleepless (ft. Anthony for Cleopatra)" and "Zimbabwe (Flume Remix)".  Jump on over to SoundCloud to look at some of his other stuff as well as some downloads.  Enjoy!

 Sleepless (ft. Anthony For Cleopatra) by Flume

 Zimbabwe (Flume Remix) by Flume

Monday, November 21, 2011

GRMLN

It's hard to imagine anyone not liking some laid-back, breezy, Cali-influenced lo-fi guitar ballads.  It feels like the purest form of post-surf music, much like the addicting melodies of Real Estate are a symbol to lazy summer afternoons.  Although slightly differing in sound, both styles come from the same idea: serenity.  A place of relaxation.  GRMLN, a solo artist from Santa Cruz, is one of the newer performers in the Beach Fossils type of lo-fi beach rock.  Recorded in his house, his three-song EP First Phase is a fantastic collection that debuts his oceanfront vision.  Clocking in at just over 7 minutes, First Phase is a little gem hidden within a sea of bedroom releases.  It accomplishes exactly what it's set out to do, to place the listener on a pier in southern California, the sun just about to dip below the horizon on a warm June evening.  Check out "Depressions" from the EP below, and if you like it, the whole thing is free over at his Bandcamp, so hurry on over to snag it before he changes his mind.  Trust me it's totally worth it.

"Depressions"

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Black Bull

His name is M. Perri, and he calls himself The Black Bull. The name is striking, a bold statement that exudes a confidence which isn't too arrogant.  Put simply, I get the impression that Perri is self-assured.  And why not? As a singer/songwriter, he has been able to put out three fantastic folk-driven tunes, all of which include an array of instruments from drums, guitar, and piano recorded solo (a feat I always find impressive).  It's also apparent that he isn't afraid to take risks, on the "The Great Unknown" Perri doesn't hesitate to reach a falsetto that one could only dream of trying.  As his main single, "The Great Unknown" serves as a theme to his journey into the music word.  "Steppin' into the great unknown..." is sung in repetition, and it might as well act as metaphor for his new album's release.  After all, in the music industry you never know what you're gonna get....but with such talent and a brilliant compilation of songs, whose to say it's not possible?  I've posted two of those songs below, "Faint Young Sun" and "The Great Unknown", so be sure to give those a listen.  If you dig em, head out to the ol' Soundcloud to listen to "Your Lips For Mine"; you can also download all of them for free.  What's not to love?

 Faint Young Sun by The Black Bull

 The Great Unknown by The Black Bull

See you all next week!