An Experimental Album Collective: Oscar Lang, Big Thief, and More

I decided to do an experimental four album collective review and recommendation this week. These four albums from Oscar Lang, Big Thief, Meth Wax, and Keane are ones I’ve just recently been getting into, and I’ve been loving all of the varying genres and moods that come along with each one.

Oscar Lang’s release gives off a more indie and thrilling vibe, while Big Thief is more eerie, warm, and noisy. Meth wax is explosive, wild and punchy whereas Keane emits a softer, more nostalgic mood. Overall, these four LP’s have something to offer everyone, no matter the music preference or taste. All four are dynamic, emotional, and thrilling experiences. These are definitely some of my go-to’s when picking from my record collection.

1. Oscar Lang – bops etc. 

A friend recently recommended this album and it perfectly fits the mood of waiting for school break and reminiscing on summer. It was released in June of this year and recently on the Dirty Hit record label. Being 6 songs, it is more of an EP, but the mood and feeling is summed up overall in these few tunes. I especially like the light mood around all of the tracks and how airy the record feels and sounds. “French Girl” definitely stood out to me, the melody is strong yet up and down. It also features Johnny Utah, who is a great indie-go to and is known for his song “Honeypie.” The synth is very arpeggiated and I like it in front with the guitar, bass, and drums being more focused towards the back. “Change,” being more guitar focused, is a cute, nostalgic tune with catchy lyrics; the walking bass line gives the slower guitar chords a boppy groove. The last track, “Pull Me Up,” is a ballad type song over hearty synth and slower drum beats. This is a great one for indie and alternative listeners.

2. Big Thief – Masterpiece

Every melody on this line surprises me and leaves me grabbing for more. Adrianne Lenker’s vocals stand out against the music yet complement it so perfectly at the same time. Her voice is elegant and soft yet so strong, being fitting for the genres Big Thief fronts. The guitar riffs beautifully go against the vocals and melodies of each song. The chords are surprising which is very refreshing when listening to Masterpiece as I feel as if I’m experiencing something new every time I listen. Every song on this album gives off ease and confidence, yet angst through the dynamics, shifts, and balance between the full band at times and the guitar and vocals at others.

The whole album feels like a long, heartwarming, reassuring journey through the depth of lyrics and maturity of sound over the 12 tracks. Two songs that particularly stand out are “Little Arrow” and “Velvet Ring.” “Little Arrow” sounds like it is played over an old radio or cassette machine; a more lo-fi track with just guitar and vocals. “Velvet Ring” is one of the only acoustic songs, the guitar picking style and walkdown chord choice vary to the rest of the album but nonetheless, fit it in a perfect way. The melody choice and lyrics are immensely unique here, and go so well with the background noises that it almost sounds eerie. Overall, I would rate this album a 10/10 and definitely recommend it to anyone who likes alternative and experimental music.

3. Meth Wax – Meth Wax

The lower quality of this album gives it a lot of character and makes all the difference in the energy that the album gives off to the listener. This lo-fi garage group gives off a slower, grunge vibe but there are also a few more upbeat, surfy tracks that stand out. Instrumentally, the production is the perfect pop-punk and garage tone and release. The guitar has a deep gutty and punchy feel to it and the drums are washy, muted, and perfectly balanced between surfy breaks and beatdowns and head banging fills. The vocals and lyrics are especially unique, being fronted and catchy. Released in 2016, this independent release is an easy listen and great for driving, hanging out, or just as background music. This release is an engaging and impressive listening experience, it mixes non-serious topics with deeper subjects together. I recommend to any Ty Segall fans or any lofi, garage, or punk lovers. 

4. Keane – Under The Iron Sea

One of my best friends recently showed me this album and I fell in love with it the second I started listening. This is a sentimental and mesmerizing album. Under the Iron Sea is my go-to rainy day album and it is a great walking and driving album as well. This release, being an older album from around 2006, captures the listener and takes them on a journey of finding themselves and being in the world. The lyrical content is hooking and powerfully written, alongside the string instrumentals, almost unnoticeable harmonies, and fronted piano lines and chords. It feels like a winter cold fairy tale, and a sense of warmth coming from it, almost like a fever dream. My favorite track is definitely “A Bad Dream” as it’s almost nostalgic and makes me feel like I’m in a different time period. Dominic Scott’s vocal range is always surprising and leaves the listener not knowing what is coming next. Keane’s music feels somber yet refreshing, and I’m always in the mood for it.

These four albums are there for any mood and time, and have become some of my favorite records over this past fall season. Hopefully, this becomes a new favorite record for someone or a song that makes someones day. Have a great winter break, stay warm, and keep updated for more tunes to come!

Written by: Jesse Miller

The Ultimate Break Playlist

With Thanksgiving done and winter break fast approaching, everyone is getting in the holiday spirit, finishing up finals, and gearing up to go back home for the time off.

I decided to make a playlist this month with some music that represents winter to me in various ways. From psychedelic rock to alternative grunge to indie, the winter to me is a more angsty time for music, a time to explore new eerie tunes that go well with the colder weather. It is simultaneously a time to find cozy holiday music, songs, and albums of nostalgia and warmth.

I decided to combine these two winter moods into a collective playlist that can be listened to at any time, one of all different moods. These 20 songs, go over a musical experience of grunge and hardcore but also slower acoustics as well as alternative upbeat songs.

Your Cat” – Slaughter Beach, Dog

Ollie North” – Donovan Wolfington

So Tired” – Crumb

I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) – The 1975

Home” – Sean Ono Lennon

Revolution” – The Wrecks

Pendulum” – Bay Faction

Rolling Stoned” – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Note To Self” – Mild High Club

666” – Sugar Candy Mountain

Squish” – On Drugs

Colours” – Grouplove

Stay Away” – Nirvana

Uneasy Hearts Weigh The Most” – Dance Gavin Dance

Lighterless” – Microwave

drip bounce_7_24_18” – Toro y Moi

” – Stephen Fretwell

Rango” – Catfish and the Bottlemen

High Pressure” – Turnstile

Casper” – Sports Team

These songs overall represent my winter mood this year going into December. I’ll definitely have them on repeat for the rest of the year. Whether you are listening to this walking around campus, on your way home, or just in the comfort of friends, I hope to pass the vibes on to whoever listens. Enjoy this playlist and have a happy winter break!

Written by: Jesse Miller
Photo by: Jesse Miller

A Four Album Collective

Through the hot San Diego fall, I’ve been searching for new music that fits my “fall mood.” This week, I’ve decided to do a collective of four albums that I’ve had on repeat during these autumn months.

1. Time & Space – Turnstile

Time and Space, released by Turnstile in 2018, is one of my favorite albums of all time. The transitions, powerful color, and aggressive liveliness of this record is something that brings me back for more every time I listen to it. I could best describe this album as Hardcore, but with a mix of garage, post-punk, and sometimes jazz. Brendan Yates has one of the most powerful voices, and this, combined with Turnstile’s catchy chants and riffs, is the powerhouse behind this band. Two of my favorites are “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind” and “Can’t Get Away.” The ballad-like singing in the background mixed together with the gritty, distorted guitar, and the screams of Yates make Turnstile one of the most energetic and bold bands I’ve listened to.

2. Drunk Like Bible Times – Deer and the Headlights

Drunk Like Bible Times is a new discovery to my music collection this fall but one that I haven’t been able to put down. Released in 2008, Deer and the Headlights have been around for quite some time and have established themselves since then greatly. The instrumentals on this record are refreshing and flow well with the vocal performance coming from the very talented, Ian Mertzger. This whole record is a beautifully emotional, pop-rock 12-song listening experience. “I’m Not Crying, You’re Not Crying, Are You?,” “Carl Solomon Blues,” and “Talk About” are three songs that especially stand out to me due to the blend of classic ballads and rock chords mixed with experimental hand claps, piano, and different time changes and tempos. Overall, I would recommend this album to anyone who loves a mix of alternative, rock, and pop.

3.Favorite Worst Nightmare – Arctic Monkeys

The Arctic Monkeys are always a classic go-to for fall music. Favorite Worst Nightmare, released in 2007, is one of my personal favorite albums of theirs and has been for years. It’s a bit more gritty than some of their earlier releases but not as sharp or mood-elusive as the four albums after it. Songs such as “Old Yellow Bricks,” “Only Ones Who Know,” and “505” give the album different contrasts between more upbeat songs and melancholic slower grooves. The lyrics of the songs on this record are real and the catchy tunes keep you listening for more. 

4.Chroma – Mt. Eddy

Chroma, released in 2017, is a ten-song record that is a mix between garage rock and alternative punk. Chroma has energetic guitar riffs and impressive, fast-paced drum beats and fills. The almost surfy-tone and pace of this album is a great indie rock record to listen to any time — whether you’re on the road, at a concert, or just need background music. Mt. Eddy, consisting of four members, including frontman Jakob Armstrong, is now a newly formed band called Ultra Q. They have just recently released an EP, “We’re Starting To Get Along.” A favorite off of Chroma would be “Working Title”

These 4 albums are going to keep me going through midterms and finals this fall semester. I highly recommend them to any experimental alternative rock lovers. Happy November!

Written By: Jesse Miller

Last Dinosaurs: Yumeno Garden Album Review

On October 5, 2018, Last Dinosaurs released their new album, Yumeno Garden, which is a ten-track record with a completely revamped, refreshing sound. Each track is different yet embodies the mix of pop-synth and indie rock that Last Dinosaurs is known for.

The band has only recently started touring around the United States among other countries but has made big hits all over the globe — showcasing their talent at many major cities. They recently played in Chile, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico and are now on a tour around the United States. The band made an appearance in San Diego last month at SOMA, on October 29. This will be their first time in San Diego!

Yumeno Garden was the Brisbane trio’s first release since Wellness, their second album, in 2015. It was anticipated by fans all around the world and definitely has a different but great shift in sound. This new record is a lot more punchy, in the face, and clean but in the best way. The band definitely mixed things up when putting these new songs together. There is an experimental feel to it, yet still maintains the backbone of sound that Last Dinosaurs established in their first two albums.

After their first two, successful albums, In A Million Years and Wellness, the band established themselves in the music community, especially in the indie rock and pop areas. Old tracks such as “Zoom” and “Honolulu” are well known among indie listeners. The last two albums were guitar and synth riff-centered, their new music sounds very full and more lively. The drums, bass, and overall production is boosted and shows a growth within the bands sound and a newly developed sense of maturity. It is a lot less indie rock and a bit more psychedelic and progressive.

Last Dinosaurs via Instagram
Photograph by Nicole J. Stephens

I would best describe the genres of this album as a mix of indie rock, disco and a bit of psychedelic pop. There is definitely more synth and a grittier sound with more distortion on the guitar and vocals than before. Each track has its own unique progression and solo with great lyrical hooks and meanings. Yumeno Garden is a positive and catchy album and is one I never get sick of listening to it.

The album starts out more upbeat, with “Eleven,” “Dominoes,” “Bass God,” and “Sense.” These songs evoke an indie rock tribute, being primarily catchy electric guitar and synth riffs with a faster-paced rhythm section behind them. The second half of the LP sounds more 80s inspired, with slower yet groovy tempos and feelings.

One of my favorite tracks has to be “Shallow Boy.” The song is built up to the choruses, which are distinctive and melancholy with different synth leads overpowering each other and various stops. The verses in this song sound like they are riding a wave accompanied by funky guitar strums and hard hi-hat and snare hits.

The band has recently released a new single, “FMU,” an upbeat funk indie-pop song that has great build-ups made by catchy guitar chord progressions and descending melody line. The bridge slows down and gradually brings the song back into place through great drum fills and bass lines that move so smoothly they’re hardly audible. We can see from this new single that Last Dinosaurs is definitely headed in a new direction, adopting changes around their previously rooted sound. I, for one, am excited to see where they are headed next.

Written by: Jesse Miller