Ryan Miller is the lead singer of Guster, an acoustic-pop/alternative rock band that formed at Tufts University in 1991 and has built a dedicated fan base over the years. Their seventh album, Evermotion, came out this January and marks a synth-inspired departure from their previous records, while maintaining their strong melodies, catchy hooks, and dense lyricism. Produced by Ryan Swift, who has also worked with the Shins and Foxygen, they are back on the road touring. Guster will perform this Friday at the State Theater, with local group, Darryl Rahn & the Lost Souls of SUNY Purchase opening for them. The Sun had the opportunity to chat with Ryan about the magic of live music and how they stay engaged in after two decades of making records.
Rappers are infamous for leaving home when they make it big: to live somewhere prettier, more glamorous and more insulated. Chance the Rapper does not seem tempted by that prospect; in fact, he is gleeful in his determination to stay home (in his local Chicago) and help his community. At the beginning of his new single “Angels,” he brags, “I got my city doing front-flips, when every father, mayor, rapper jump ship… Clean up the streets so my daughter can have somewhere to play.”
At a time when rap is dominated by different shades of negativity, from Drake’s depressed narcissism to Future’s void-staring nihilism, Chance is refreshingly positive. “Angels” is yet another Chance song that is joyful and optimistic without being sappy or corny, featuring some of Chance’s most exuberant rhyming since 2013’s Acid Rap supported by a slang-laden hook from fellow Chicagoan artist, Saba. “Angels” makes good use of Donnie Trumpet, the trumpet player in Chance’s touring band and collaborator, The Social Experiment.
Kurt Vile is an acoustic guitar-wielding loner on his new album b’lieve i’m goin down; a subdued, confessional and ultimately enjoyable listen. His music cultivates a relaxed and reflective vibe: the stuff of long car trips and late-night conversations; the slow pulse of Vile’s sound evoking the view through a rearview mirror. It sounds like it was recorded in his bedroom
The lyrics read like journal entries. This should be regarded as a strength. b’lieve i’m goin down is about solitude, alienation and introspection: Vile sets the tone on the tightly written opener, “Pretty Pimpin,” when he sings, “I woke up this morning / Didn’t recognize the man in the mirror.” On “I’m An Outlaw,” he aligns himself thematically with country legends like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, singing “I’m an outlaw on the brink of self-implosion” over a banjo groove.
I was not thrilled last semester when I heard that The Pussycat Dolls would be performing on Slope Day. I have no desire, however, to resurrect the long and painful battle that ensued prior to the performance between the Doll lovers and haters. I simply want to use this scuffle as a basis to lay out my intentions. Or, more precisely, to explain what my intentions are not.
An old roommate of mine just visited for the weekend, and for the larger part of the two days we were together our conversations centered solely around music. It’s not that we were lacking for other topics; we would discuss our lives, our friends and the magical transformation that Ithaca undergoes in the sun, but every time we would circle back to bands and LPs. Music, it seems, is one of the foundations of our friendship.
There’s a lot of talk at the end of the year about Oscar-baiting. Epic films with dark themes and scenery-chewing performances abound; it’s a time for “serious” films about fresh concepts like the mentally challenged and the Holocaust, or the odd deifying biopic about a drug-addled, recently deceased musical icon.
Well, now there’s Sundance-baiting. The “quirky” films featuring no-name actors aside Hollywood giants moonlighting in miscast sagas about oddball misfit characters engaging in topsy-turvy meditations on life, relationships and art. Shit happens, indie songwriters jangle in the background, and everything ends on a quizzically upbeat, if not offbeat note. A great example? Little Miss Sunshine.
Atlanta based quintuplet Deerhunter release their third album, Microcastle, into an already overflowing indie / ambient rock scene. Announcing their third album so quickly after their second seemed courageous, but the results are less than thrilling.
The swirling guitar, bass-heavy rhythm and minimalist drumming of the single “Never Stops” characterize the new indie-pop sound the band is going for on their newest release. The record has a respectable 12 songs, but maintains the same slow, stunted pace throughout and never really picks up. Vocalist Bradford Cox, while personally expressive, merely finds a phrase he likes and sticks with it to the bitter end. “Cavalry Scars,” “Agoraphobia,” title track “Microcastle” and most of the album are lyrically uninspired.
While The Virgins self-titled debut LP (released over the summer) offers a few fairly danceable and catchy tracks that provided the entire soundtrack for that one Gossip Girl episode, in substance the album as a whole mirrors our favorite Monday night guilty pleasure — it’s fun on the outside, but when you get down to the meat and bones of it, there isn’t a lot there.
Dear and the Headlights (who doesn’t like a good pun?) delivers their sophomore album Drunk Like Bible Times to the world of indie rock. Blending a variety of genres — rock, folk, some jazz, even a little classical guitar — Dear and the Headlights separate themselves from the rest of the indie rock groups — only not really.
The album starts off with “I’m Not Crying. You’re Not Crying, Are You?” Showing the band’s versatility, the song opens with a folksy guitar line and equally folksy lyrics, but quickly descends into Killers-esque rock. The single “Talk About” highlights the theme of the whole album: a harsh heaviness masked by catchy rhythms. Lyrically poetic and satirical, the song lulls you into its own cynicism.
Three years after the British punk rock band The Subways delivered their debut album, Young for Eternity, the trio returns with their sophomore album, All or Nothing. Less than 40 minutes in length and with songs averaging three minutes, it is short, sweet and largely nondescript. While songs like their single “Shake! Shake!” or the title track are catchy enough for the melodies to stick in your head, the lyrics are largely shallow and fail to express real emotion. One energetic, guitar-driven song blends seamlessly into the next, a flow that is slowed only by the sweet “Move to Newlyn” and the ballad “Strawberry Blonde.” All or Nothing actually falls somewhere in between: it’s good enough to play in the background, but doesn’t hold your attention for long.