New EP Release: Chris Tidd

Taking a moment to promote one of our own writers here at The Broken Chord upon the release of his self-titled, debut EP ! The four tracks are raw, intense and driven, with ribbons of electronica, pop & alt rock weaved throughout. The stacked and layered guitars perfectly balance the strong edgy vocals and bright and shimmery synths. We love the hints of Muse, MUTEMATH, Thrice, Biffy Clyro & Jack Garrett-y goodness that are clear influences in Chris’ writing.

The Broken Chord’s top pick for that glorious ‘spring windows down’ listening goes to this stellar EP !

Listen & Buy Here.

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–Kalyn

London Grammar “Rooting For You” (Ministry of Sound/Metal & Dust Recordings, 2017)

Let the goosebumps rise, and give into the unearthly, unwavering feelings of cathedral-like space when hitting play on this stunning track from London Grammar. We’ve been waiting a long time at The Broken Chord for new work from this British trio, and the wait was worth every second of this short 4-minute single “Rooting For You”.

Vocalist Hannah Reid, Guitarist Dan Rothman and Keyboardist/Drummer Dominic “Dot” Major truly deliver something special to the electro/dream pop scene. Their classic sound being low & blanketing strings mixed with stable beats, bright shimmery guitars, reverb-laced vocals and an utterly enveloping synth-pad. Stirring, to say the least.

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Reid, the group’s vocalist, has a distinct and cutting voice…a sweet mélange of Annie Lennox & Florence Welch, of which many of have made similar comparisons.  Her tones, melodies and dancing lines are smooth-as-butter, and aged beyond her years. We have likened this track’s vocals to walking through a misty fog in a cedar forest…magical and strong.

This particular song features an incredible amount of range that lay hidden in her voice until now, with the unmistakable melody line “It is only you, you are the only thing I’ve ever truly known…and my darlin’, I’ll be rooting for you”

London Grammar fans are anxiously and almost painfully awaiting word on the next full-length album…but with this little slice of Heaven told grasp onto in the meantime, we can hold our breath a little longer.

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To purchase “Metal & Dust: EP” or “If You Wait” + Remix Album, find on iTunes.

–Kalyn

The Rise of the EP: XXIX-Wafia/ODE-JOY./Vallis Alps-Vallis Alps

Australia seems to be delivering some of the brightest and newest stars in the sky of electronic music, and the rest of the planet is very, very happy about it. 2015 saw some incredible EPs released onto the scene, of which we at The Broken Chord have discovered some stellar artists such as: Wafia, JOY. and Vallis Alps. There’s nothing quite like spending time browsing the “other artists you might like” section on iTunes…am I right?

Because we love all three EPs equally, we decided to do our first ever triple album review to kick off some of your new summer music listening.

  1. Wafia “XIXX-EP” (Future Classic, 2015)

Shadowed, veiled, mysterious and reserved–just some of the tones that come through on Brisbane-based Wafia Al-Rikabi’s work on XIXX. The album title stands for the Roman numeral ’29’-referring to the atomic number for Copper, a metal always in a state of change.

The EP begins with a beautifully sombre piano-only prelude, only allowing vocals to woefully enter near the end. This sets the ghostly tone for the whole EP, and does it seamlessly. Deep synths and clean cut beats give way on “The Raid”, the popular release “Heartburn” and the brooding track “Untitled”, full of longing. Each track is a multi-layered feast of eccentric sounds and instruments, altogether captivating.  The final track on the EP “Fading Through” features fellow Aussie artist Vancouver Sleep Clinic, who has an uncanny vocal resemblance to the haunting Bon Iver (and we aren’t complaining). “I climb onto rooftops, to catch a glimpse of the moon, a fading trail of you” “Oh we’re fading through…nothing left to do, can’t you see if was all for you?” A poignant and sad track that leaves the listeners wishing the EP was a full-length album. We can’t wait for what’s next.

New works to look for: “Meet in the Middle” a track with with label partner artist Ta-ku on a new EP releasing late-June called: “(m)edian”.

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2. JOY. “ODE-EP” (Sony Music Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd, 2015)

Brisbane-born Olivia McCarthy, now Sydney-based artist JOY, has set the bar high for emerging female artists in the electronic scene (oh yeah, and did we mention she’s only 18 years old?). Her entirely self-produced EP “ODE” is fully mesmerizing, clean and smooth.

The opening track “Falling” invites the listener to wander around the dark and mournful world of the EP with contemplative lyrics and heavy bass synths. “I keep on falling–in and out of love with you. I know you’ll keep on calling, I hate the ghost you’ve turned me into”. She then ushers in the breathy vocals on “About Us” with poignantly placed harmonies that cut through us like a knife. The synth heavy “Crazy for You” is a true delight for the ears, with layers upon layers of well-executed electronic magic. The EP finishes strong with “Heads or Tails”, full of a sombre presence, well-placed guitar swells and a clean/simple beat: “You confused me from the start, then you left me all alone in the dark…when you turn to say goodnight, do you miss me by your side? Do you love me?”

We’re excitedly anticipating the next works from JOY, but have this EP on repeat in the meantime.

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3. Vallis Alps “Vallis Alps-EP” (Vallis Alps, 2015)

Hailing from Canberra and Seattle (cleverly called ‘Ameristralia’ on a triple-j unearthed interview), this duo (David & Parissa) brings a dreamy and  almost child-like innocence to the electro-pop scene. Their self-titled EP has a bright sound, but has a lingering sadness just below the surface, peeking through in the lyrics.

The EP begins with their well-known track “Young”, which has a simple and soft melody with consistent and comforting beats and well-paired guitar licks to give a smooth base for the lyrics to play out upon: “weeks went by but felt like hours”, “in the end, time forever favours the young…”. Continuing on with the track “Thru”, those buttery smooth synths and vocals guide the listener through, with playful instrumental lines taking the stage in the latter half of the song. “Oh!” is one of the more upbeat tracks on the EP, acoustic guitar driven and sunny. The final track, “Reprieve” starts with a very classic feel, sad-soaked melody lines/vocals from Parissa’s haunting voice and lyrics that present a justifiable heartache. The middle of the track sees a small lift with well-constructed synth layers that carry the song through to the end: “Just let these tunnels cave, just let this fire fade–maybe the sky’ll break. We’re just a lie away from proving to ourselves we’re not afraid”, “We’re suddenly fate’s latest casualty”.

Absolutely thrilled to hear more from this duo in the future, and happy to see that they’re out spreading the live music love on tour in Straya this summer.

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All we can say is, come to Canada soon ! Listening to all three of these EPs on repeat all summer long.

Buy Wafia’s EP here, JOY’s here & Vallis Alps’ here.

–Kalyn

 

 

Biffy Clyro “Similarities” (14th Floor Records, 2014)

Scotland has produced many a talented artist, but none compare to the aggressively artistic rock band Biffy Clyro. Together since 1995, this trio has been making seriously good music, both on the stage and in the studio. With 10 studio recordings (6 albums & 4 B-Side compilation albums), several other singles, and 2 live recordings under their belts, this band is no stranger to releasing strong material. With soaring and anthemic vocals/guitar by lead singer Simone Neil, coupled with the steady and strong bass & drums by twin brothers James & Ben Johnston, these three know how to leave fans feeling like they’ve been hit by a tornado, minus the total destruction: emotionally & musically wind-whipped but fully determined and inspired to carry on with more fervour than ever.Biffy-Clyro

“Similarities” was released in July of 2014, a collection of B-sides off the back of their incredibly strong double album “Opposites”, released in 2013. Along with their most recent compilations, they have released “Lonely Revolutions” in 2010 after the solid “Only Revolutions” in November 2009, as well as “Missing Pieces” in April 2009 , after their release into mainstream with “Puzzle” in 2007. The fact that albums as strong as these are b-side tracks that didn’t quite make the cut, only proves the writing ferocity of this band.

With a very ‘live-show’ presence throughout “Similarities”, listeners will feel like they’re at one of their live performances, watching the band run around shirtless, covered in tattoos, pouring their very souls into the music. This is not an easy sound for bands to replicate off the stage, but Biffy Clyro has this down to a science, and it works very, very well. 20937

Stand-out tracks include: “The Rain“, which gently lours the listeners in before dissipating all of their expectations on the next track “Thundermonster“, which shows off their signature well-crafted and executed mix of stacked guitars that Neil & Johnston have perfected. “Milky” & “Finger hut” showcase the band’s ability to weave in complex rhythms within catchy riffs that the average listener will enjoy, but the avid rhythm seeker will adore.  “A Tragic World Record” & “Fingers & Toes” highlight infectious pop melodies, dripping with that unmistakeable guitar overdrive & solid rhythm section, along with Neil’s soaring, piercing vocals. The tone of his voice cuts through the heavy nature of their sound, and compliments the overall sound perfectly. There’s nothing quite like Neil’s thick Scottish accent–and it certainly gives them a uniqueness that sets them apart from other alternative bands on the scene.

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Fans are anticipating a new album release sometime later in 2015, and with writing as strong as their last two albums & paired compilations, they won’t be disappointed. Mon the Biff !

Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2015)

Love, loss, questioning and reconciliation are just some of the feelings exuded on Sufjan Stevens’ 7th studio album: “Carrie & Lowell“, named after his mother & stepfather. On this album, Stevens uses his songwriting as a way to deal with, and further come to peace with, his mother Carrie’s death in December 2012. A very human and vulnerable state is presented in these songs in comparison to his last release “Age of Adz” in 2010.  As opposed to large-scale electronics and powerful mythical ideals as featured in “Age of Adz”, the release of “Carrie & Lowell” is quite stark & simplistic in contrast.

In the February 2015 interview presented by Pitchfork: “True Myth: A Conversation with Sufjan Stevens”, interviewer Ryan Dombal is able to shed some light on the somewhat folklore-esque life of the singer/songwriter, and allows fans to gain a deeper understanding for the power of this album, and the nature in which it was written. His relationship with his mother is a very important part of this work, and is the centre from which everything stems: a sense of abandonment, loss and pursuit of meaning.sufjan1440x8102

Musically speaking, we hear a much more subdued and resonating quality through the instrumentation, but also very calculated and supportive of the lyrics–which is a huge feature throughout the album. The listener is presented with little more than acoustic guitar, banjo, a few synths/wurlitzers and poignant piano, but the lyrics need nothing else. Stirring and arpeggiated guitars provide a comforting and repetitive backdrop to the story telling, like a blanket, to help the listener cope with the pain they feel coming through Stevens’ lyrics.

The album begins with “Death with Dignity“, a haunting and powerful track that sets the ‘storytelling’ tone of the album. Reminiscent of one of his earlier works, “Seven Swans” released in 2004, we hear highlighted piano tracks mixed in with the moving and hopeful acoustic guitar, a classic Sufjan Stevens sound. It is comforting at first listen, and ends with a very David Crosby-like cloud of vocals and slide guitar.

Eugene” paints a simple, memory-filled picture of his life and relationship with his mother. Reflective, nostalgic and sad, he sings: “I just wanted to be near you”. On “Fourth of July“, a stand out track, Stevens’ songwriting ushers listeners to feel captivated by the mystery and openness of death. His child-like abandon and poignancy within the lyrics is a trademark of his sound. “We’re all going to die”, which is a lyric repeated several times in this song, features that trademark: unapologetic and to the point, yet soft and peaceful.

The latter half of the album continues to leave heavy, but seemingly light emotions on the listeners’ hearts, embodied in the tracks “Carrie & Lowell“, “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross” and “Blue Bucket of Gold” which is the last track on the album. The longing and questioning nature of Stevens’ work is captured so beautifully in the lyric: “Raise your right hand, tell me you want me in your life, or raise your red flag–just when I want you in my life”. Listeners are left feeling like part of Stevens’ family, having gone through so many of these vulnerable states with him throughout the album.

Overall, this is some of 39-year-old Stevens’ best and most inviting work. Captivating, bare, weighted and human, listeners can expect to release a heavy sigh after listening to the album front to back, and want to press repeat over and over.

–Kalyn

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Buy this album March 31st, 2015 on iTunes or from Asthmatic Kitty.

Dan Mangan + Blacksmith “Club Meds” (2015 Arts & Crafts Records) 

Dan Mangan ushered in 2015 with the release of his fourth full length album, ‘Club Meds’, alongside a new group of musicians under the name  ‘Dan Mangan+ Blacksmiths’. Mangan states that the new name encompasses the spirit of the project’s longstanding ensemble members joining the band from Vancouver’s experimental music community. After a two year hiatus, Mangan + Blacksmith with West Coast indie producer Colin Stewart, have released an album that fuses Mangan’s familiar acoustic songwriting and beautifully crafted lyrics with a fresh new sound derived from the band members’ eclectic and diverse musical backgrounds. 

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Stand out tracks:

“Offered”, the opening track to the album, starts with a slow and layered analog loop/beat that leads to the band coming in with a progression and sound that sets the familiar melancholic “Mangan-esque” tone for the album. Drums and bass keep the progression steady, while the guitars and synths explore more fluid moving riffs, displaying guitarist Gordon Grdina’sinfluences and prowess, which features throughout the rest of the album. The song breaks down into a beautiful guitar duet of sorts with Grdina and Mangan taking the reigns until the bass and drums come in leading to what feels like an emotionally charged jam session right to the end. Mangan’s vocals are intentionally layered alongside the rest of the band, taking on an instrument-like tone within the song and not necessarily being the feature of the song itself. Nonetheless, Mangan’s unmistakable voice tends to breakthrough the mix in piercing fashion with melodies that soar perfectly on top of the underlying arrangement, and lends itself to poignant and weighty lyrics that ask questions of the heart–and almost seem to question his existential purpose altogether. 

 

“Vessel”– the first single off of ‘Club Meds’ is a catchy track, opening with a playful piano riff, which then paves the way for the band to explore rhythmically driven layers. These all compliment each other beautifully, coming together in an upbeat and sure to please hit. Mangan’s vocals again rise above everything that is going on within the mix, to bring it all together despite what seems like chaos within the instrumentation. As the piano continues the opening riff, the guitars join in through the verse as the bass and drums hold it all together. The chorus picks things up, and the guitar dives into a 16th note hook that grabs, pulls, and drives you forward into a crescendo of organized chaos featuring brass and multiple layers of call and answer vocals. 

Mouthpiece” – a double time, war-cry like anthem screaming for something more, continues to display a side of Mangan’s songwriting that is visceral in nature while again, questioning the existential reasoning for day to day life. All the while, the rhythm section charges through the song from nearly beginning to end with the steady and unstoppable pace of a steam engine. This allows Grdina’s Jazz-inspired riffs and bell-like tones to fill the space left by the haunting and gritty sound of Mangan’s voice, bellowing out the melody. Backed by a choir of his own layered vocals, the lyrics speak with the weight of such hard hitting lines as: “those who pretend to believe might actually begin to / the nature of the bliss the warmth of ignorance gives in to”. 

 In the song XVI” things slow down a bit, while Mangan explores ideas related to the occupy movement, through the eyes of a banker and inspired by Louis and Marie Antoinette. 

War Spoils features a reverb saturated melody and small brass section, backed by long open ended loops and Sigur róslike guitar feedback, seemingly speaking to the futility of it all. This leads directly into Forgetery, which at first listen sounds like a hopeful response to the topics touched on previously, only to reveal itself as a response of ignorant bliss and capitulation. 

 The title track “Club Meds” continues the emerging theme of ignorance is blissand defeatism, by painting a picture of us living in a cycle of denial and in a self-induced comatose state in order to maintain the status quo. The instrumentation and arrangement echoes this theme with an almost lazy sound and carnivalesque feel to it, all reminiscent of a better time long since past. 

The album finishes with New Skies”, a harrowing track despite the now familiar chaos, made up with the arrangement of trumpets and guitars screaming out at times with an unintelligible and nonsensical duality, yet all coming together in perfect harmony with a sense of hope for the future. Mangan pulls it all together through the pained, yet hope-filled lyrics we hear, “Gone is the gray / the end of the thunder / oh the end of the hunger / hands that knew only need burst at the seams / overflowing / a new royal we”.

Club Meds has again proven Mangan as one of Canada’s most brilliantly talented lyricists and song writers. He is willing to take risks and explore new sounds/ideas while staying true to himself and the themes he so beautifully writes about. Mangan’s own words sums up the entire concept of ‘Club Meds’ beautifully: 

Sedation is massive. It surrounds us like a thick wet blanket. To be numb is to allow others to control your reality. It makes some people feel better, to know that you suffer also, that their numbness is shared like a virus. But unity in numbness is a façade, and not nearly as magical as a unity born of awakeness

CLUB MEDS is about sedation. Sedation can be chemical, but not exclusively so. There is a great vacation from actuality going on. Maybe there always has been. It seems like everybody else is already at the party and that life is somehow easier or more fun under the fog. But instead, it only makes people feel more alone, more dangerous, more desperate  – Dan Mangan 

 Be sure to check out what will definitely prove to be one of the best albums of 2015, and don’t miss any opportunity to see Dan Mangan + Blacksmith live this year.

 CRT. 

Ben Howard “I Forget Where We Were” (2014 Island Records)

Ben Howard fans, anticipating a follow-up to his debut full-length album “Every Kingdom” released in 2011, will find themselves completely fulfilled with his stellar 2014 release, “I Forget Where We Were”.  You can really hear his personal growth as a musician deepen and take stronger roots within these tracks. Both dripping with melancholy and yet painfully hopeful, 27 year-old Howard evokes many poignant feelings through his poetic lyricism and overall album-feel. Stand-out tracks: “Small Things“, the first thing listeners hear on the album, is a heartbreakingly strong and harrowing electric guitar-driven track that sets up the album smoothly & cleanly. With a stirring, enveloping and all-encompassing guitar delay, he captures and almost entrances the listener, then keeps thehqdefaultm locked in with his playful and creative rhythmic phrases within the lyrics. Howard is a storyteller, through and through. His lyrics skip and weave in-and-out of the music in a perfect, smooth-as-glass-partnership. “In Dreams“, a gripping acoustic-heavy song, makes for the ideal soundtrack to running away and never looking back. The title track, “I Forget Where We Were“, delivers on title track status with anthemic and ever-present melancholy in perfect fashion. It simultaneously leaves the listener with their hearts bleeding on the floor, yet air-drumming and belting out the lyrics along with him. The latter half of the album stirs the sleepy and heartbroken parts of the soul with “End of the Affair” and “Evergreen“, then ends the album with a beautifully strong and emotionally-charged “All is Now Harmed“. These tracks all make the listener feeling like they’ve been through a tough but character-building breakup, ready to take on the world with an underlying hopeful nudge from the universe. Overall, this album has embodied emotion with an edge, found in Howard’s atypical electric-guitar driven songs, coupled with in-love yet pained lyrics. An absolute privilege to listen to, Howard will be gaining more and more fans with album releases as strong as this.

–Kalyn