Exploring Other Genres: YAH! – Rock und Roll

by Dustin

YAH!

8/10

We have to kick off this review by wishing a happy three year anniversary to the record label FilthyBroke Recordings. Extraordinary Nobodies has had the pleasure of becoming fairly close with Michael and some of his friends over the last couple of months, and we’d like to congratulate them on reaching such a milestone. From trusting us with early press, to genuinely taking interest in the other material we’ve written about, our relationship with FilthyBroke has open up a ton of opportunities. For that reason, we would also like to extend our thanks and wish Michael many more years putting out great music.

Which takes us to the meat of the article… A discussion on the record being released to help celebrate the third year of FilthyBroke Recordings. We’ve had to put this in the Exploring Other Genres category, for it’s not hip-hop; this record truly cannot be shoehorned into any category (but we’ll be discussing that a little later). You may now be asking, what is this record? Who is this record by? Where can I listen to such a record? Will this record cure my irritable bowl syndrome? Probably.

But it’s time to stop asking questions and start receiving answers.

The record is Rock und Roll, a release by the one and only Dean Cavanagh under the name YAH! If the name Dean Cavanagh sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because he’s an amazingly talented and well traveled individual. From the electronic music outfit Glamorous Hooligan, to running the magazine Herb Garden, to being a critically acclaimed screenwriter, Dean has seemingly been everywhere and done everything. When a figured such as him comes out of the woodwork to drop an album, ears perk up. Even if the release doesn’t set the world on fire, it’s almost a certainty that it will be stuffed to the brim with creative and unconventional ideas.

Rock und Roll is no exception.

Much like Walter Gross’ Vestige from earlier this year, Rock und Roll is an album that is incredibly difficult to define using conventional genre outlines. Each individual song has so much going on instrumentally that it’s like being smacked with wave after wave of musical eras and influences. One minute Dean has you convinced that you’re about to bite into an electronic dance epic; two minutes later the rug has been pulled out from under your feat and you’re bobbing your head to retro surf rock. That’s not exaggerated either, throw on “Big Knee” and then wait a few tracks until you hit “Rumble in Berlin.” There’s even some distinctly punk-flavors to the album, such as the drum pattern on the otherwise synthetic “Dungeness Bank Holiday.”

In spite of all of this, Dean managed to structure the album in such a way that all the sounds fit together. Tracks felt as if they belonged, and served a purpose. With all the styles happening at once, this is really a commendable accomplishment. With Rock und Roll being only eight tracks long, there was a big risk of something feeling out of place. He avoided this entirely, leaving the end product to be a very satisfying listen; moreover, he kept the album consistently engaging even though there were no vocals. That can be a hard task for instrumental works, but not so for the YAH! mastermind.

If there’s one thing that can be said about this album, it’s that Dean Cavanagh is not afraid to “try trying” in any sense. Some of it kind of works better than others, but as a whole, the project is a blast to listen to. The fun thing about Rock und Roll is that it works marvelously both as an active listening record, and as a background soundtrack to whatever you’ve got going on currently. The playfulness the album exudes is also fitting as we move out of the dreary days of winter into the crisp warmth of early summer.

Rock und Roll feels like an album that ten different people could like ten different things about, so definitely consider giving it a look if you’re craving something a little different. A little change can be major musical palate cleanser, and this album is certainly a dose of different.

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Exploring Other Genres: Sunbather – Braneworld

by Dustin

braneworld

8.25/10

A while back we started a segment called “Exploring Other Genres” to offer fellow hip-hop fans an accessible outlet to a variety of interesting music. More relevant to the here-and-now, our first piece in this segment was on Poor English’s self-titled debut EP. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, and multiple people asked if we could recommend something similar. By coincidence a few weeks later, Poor English’s drummer Tyler reached out to us about another group that his band-mate Joe is involved in: Sunbather. Sunbather just so happened to have a thirty-something minute album out called Braneworld. Featuring sound distinctly different yet similar to the wondrous pop-punk tunes of Poor English, we were certainly interested in giving it a spin.

We fell in love with the album. In fact, it has been on regular rotation ever since.

As mentioned, there are similarities between the Poor English project and Sunbather’s sound on Braneworld; however, to not approach this album as a brilliant standalone work would be doing it a disservice. Sunbather’s sound is a little more punchy, marginally heavier, and a touch more dense. The way instrumentation is layered on this album is really gorgeous. The guitar work weaves in and out of riffs and licks, dipping between the hyperactive and laid-back in one swift motion. The rhythms are delicious, and provide a powerful driving force behind the leads. Sunbather create a “wall of sound” within their music at times. It feel bigger than it probably should, but it is excellent.

Every moment on Braneworld flows into the next seamlessly. The change-ups within songs are frequent enough to keep one guessing, but smooth enough that they’re nearly easy to miss. At the macro level, each track moves into the next without hiccup. At no time did it feel like the song progression was off. Given that album arrangement is one of the things it seems many artists fail at, it was refreshing to listen to one so skillfully laid out.

To put it more simply the transitions are super slick, period. End of discussion.

Though the album is distinctly rock, its quite interesting to see the band show their influences in other genres at time. For example, the song “Daily Dreams” has a distinct folk spin to it, and “Knucklehead” featured some synthetic sounds similar to that of the underground electronic punk movement. These forays into other musical realms broke up the album nicely, yet somehow sound cohesive in the overall scope of Braneworld. Perhaps more importantly, these moments are used quite sparingly. The band doesn’t become predictably experimental throughout the course of the album. It feels more like an adventurous treat at times, rather than part of the albums overall atmosphere.

It should be mentioned that the album atmosphere is, in fact, really well established. There’s something particular about it that just makes everything work together in harmony. To take a bit of a writers cop-out in lieu of better descriptive words: you will instantaneously understand upon listening.

If you’re still not convinced, look at it this way: Braneworld is rock-n-roll for the working class. In times of relative despair internationally, their music feels soothing. Sunbather brings a sense of wonderment to a rock scene that can, at times, feel way too cookie-cutter. Sunbather’s music also radiates a powerful sense of emotional awareness. The happy songs will lift you, and the more sad songs will offer musical solidarity. The vocals and instrumentation play together in a way that makes it nearly impossible to avoid being smitten with their tunes. It’s honest music, and every song feels heartfelt. There’s no attempt to achieve a level of robotic perfection, and the music is better for it.

Exploring Other Genres: Poor English – Poor English EP

by Dustin

Authors note: I thought it’d be appropriate to do one of these before this article, because it’s venturing away a bit from the main focus of our blog. First and foremost, we’re a hip-hop based site. I have no intention of changing that fact; however, I also have many friends who ask me to recommend music outside of the hip-hop genre. Plus, I find it refreshing to step out of my comfort zone and review sounds that I may not be as familiar with.

Maybe you’ll find a new artist you’ll love in these “Exploring Other Genres” articles. Maybe not. Either way, I appreciate you taking the time to read about projects by artists I really love, even if they are unfamiliar to you.

For those who check the site and have little interest in reading about other genres, that’s fair. However, I’m also going to do whatever I want! (I still appreciate your ongoing support, however).

Now, onto the music itself.


poorenglish

8.25/10

Portland, Oregon has been a powerhouse in the indie rock scene for an astonishing number of years. When you see a new act building steam out of that region, it seems only natural to get excited and throw on their tunes for a listen. Enter Poor English, a group hailing from Portland that have chosen to do things a little bit differently. Along with the ever wonderful Darling Recordings (yeah, we like this label a lot, and I think it shows) they have dropped a debut extended play; moreover, Poor English seem to have set out to establish their identity with this release.

If that was indeed the goal, they’ve done a marvelous job.

Poor English takes the stripped-down Portland indie sound and twists it into their own special breed of rock. That delicate balance of fresh-yet-familiar creates an addictive sound that never fails to impress. Right from the onset, the listener is bombarded with powerful guitar hits, transitioning into smooth dreamy singing. The five tracks on the Poor English EP are musical powerhouses, yet they maintain a sense of gorgeous delicacy. The vocals are lovely, and the bands use of layering is phenomenally tasteful. The instrumentation and singing meld together perfectly, creating a wondrously vibrant listening experience.

This extended play feels as if it creates its own environment through flawless cohesion. From the onset of track one to the closing of track five, everything fits together. Not a single moment feels out of place, and it is fantastic.

Another part of what makes Poor English interesting is their refusal to settle into a particular sound or genre. Poor English seems to weave in and out of various sound spaces, sometimes even on a single song. They could perhaps be best described as pop-punk, but it feels impossible to pin to a single genre. This melding of various influences gives the group a very unique identity. The EP feels like a breath of fresh air in a musical space that can, at times, feel stagnant.

That being said, Poor English is also nostalgic in a way. For those in their twenties and thirties this album is a collection of melodies to comfort the inner middle-school identity. It’s the music you loved back then, but if it had been allowed to grown up with you. In a time of relative global distress, Poor English offers serenity. For as new as this project feels, it’s also as if an old friend has come to visit after years apart. And that in itself is beautiful, and really makes Poor English feel like something to cherish.

The only real problem with Poor English’s EP is that it’s very short. Fortunately, they’ve taken to twitter and mentioned that new music is in the works. When approached like a sampler, or a display of potential, this is a breath taking mini-project. One listen is enough to leave one actively anticipating further releases from Poor English.