A Band of Aliens Takes Over Foxygen's New Album

Categories: Indie Rock

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Foxygen

Last time around, Foxygen proclaimed themselves "the 21st-century ambassadors of peace and magic."

The mischievous, fun-loving, experimental psych-rock band -- formed and fronted by songwriting partners Jonathan Rado (guitar and keyboards) and Sam France (vocals) -- sound well beyond the 22nd century on its new release ...And Star Power.

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Tim Showalter of Strand of Oaks Discovered Rock, and It Healed Him

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Dusdin Condren
Tim Showalter of Strand of Oaks

Tim Showalter made his name as Strand of Oaks over three albums of dark folk music, a mysteriously enticing mix of dreamscape sci-fi lyrics and a simmering, powerful delivery.
Unsatisfied, however, because of a key missing piece, Showalter turned everything upside down for Strand of Oaks' fourth album, HEAL.

"What changed the most on this record is I finally was myself. I finally was able to do what, either secretly or not secretly, I always wanted to do -- make a record like this. And I didn't possess the confidence to do it, the confidence in my songwriting or my guitar playing," says Showalter during a phone interview from a tour stop in Pittsburgh just two days after making his national television debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers.


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Brit Band Thumpers Sounds Like Summer

Categories: Indie Rock

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Thumpers

There's something about catching a band at a festival, especially when you don't know them prior to seeing them," says Marcus Pepperell, one half of London's alt-pop duo Thumpers.

He should know, given how many festival gigs his band has graced: MIDI Festival, Camden Crawl, Blissfields, South by Southwest, and more. When we called Pepperell, Thumpers had just returned from playing Secret Garden Party, which the band described as a "sort of free love, hippie-style kind of festival, which is unusual for us. We were playing a stage standing on broken branches. It was a highlight because it's the first festival this season that we've actually been able to stay over at and experience a lot of good bands."

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Diarrhea Planet: Joke Name, Serious Rock Band

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Pooneh Ghana
Diarrhea Planet

Everyone likes a good poop joke now and then -- but Nashville's Diarrhea Planet are quick to point out they are "not a joke band with a joke name. We are a very serious band with a joke name."

The weird moniker was chosen as a "fuck you" to the commercial music types at Belmont University, where the six-piece band formed. Plus, as guitarist (one of four) Jason Smith explained when we called him up, it's better than choosing a serious-sounding name, like Vampire Weekend, then waking up one day and realize it's stupid and means nothing.

"With a silly band name where it's out of the way and you don't have to think about it," Smith says.

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How Sudden Stardom Affected the Head and the Heart

Categories: Indie Rock

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Head and the Heart

As Josiah Johnson of Seattle's folk-rock sextet the Head and the Heart describes it, the band has evolved from bright and sunny to darker and deeper.

"The first record was very optimistic, 'Follow your heart,' and the second was 'Even if you follow your heart, there are going to be some rough spots," says Johnson, a Californian who formed the band out of a songwriting partnership with Virginia native Jonathan Russell.

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How Cosmos, Carl Sagan, and Space Influenced Yellow Ostrich

Categories: Indie Rock

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Courtesy of Yellow Ostrich
Yellow Ostrich

In the video for Yellow Ostrich's "Mary," a young girl dashes through woods, then trips and falls in slow motion. The cover for Ostrich's fifth album, Cosmos, features a still from videographer Bas Jan Ader tilting sideways, ready to fall. Likewise, the album features a track called "Things Are Fallin'." It turns out that dropping, tumbling, keeling over, and other cruel gravitational tricks are popular themes for frontman/guitarist Alex Schaaf to explore.

"It's the line between stuff like Jackass -- oh, people falling down, something funny to laugh at," Schaaf says via phone. "Gravity is such a simple thing. We take it for granted. It's acting on everyone here at the same time. We're powerless against it, something that's such a huge thing that we don't think about . . . It's like an alternative to religion, kind of -- the huge forces that control our lives that we kind of take for granted."

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How John Muir and Nature Inspired Bon Iver Drummer S. Carey

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Cameron Wittig
S. Carey

Sean Carey's Range of Light begins like the still quiet of a forest morning.

"Glass/Film," the opening song of Carey's second full-length album, comes with the distinct sense of an awakening, starting with a heart-beat drum and slowly building, a soft guitar, a flash of horn.

Carey says the album is named for what naturalist John Muir called the Sierra Nevada range, and that grand, panoramic beauty of the mountains is something that inspired his songwriting.

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Through Success, Pains of Being Pure At Heart Still Yearns To Grow

Categories: Indie Rock

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Shervin Lainez
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

At first glance, the image appeared to be just another photo, the kind of day-to-day self-documenting that floods online interactions these days: A young man sitting on a chair holding a guitar against bare white walls. Around him are keyboards, amps, and other equipment. It could have been anyone: someone showing off their New York apartment; a music major posing in his first dorm room; a musician simply looking pensive in the studio. Looking a little closer, the caption explained it all. It was singer/guitarist Kip Berman from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in a studio in London, and he was working on his band's next LP.

In this age of smartphones and social media, bands have to find innovative and clever ways to generate buzz. The New York-based band, who takes their name from a short story written by Berman's friend, embraced this and announced their newest album via Instagram.

"I wasn't intending on announcing it that way," remarks Berman.


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MS MR Take It to the Stage (Not Without Difficulties)

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Courtesy of the artist
MS MR are scheduled to perform Wednesday, April 23 at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
It's a beautiful thing when the pieces fall into place. For Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow, the creative forces behind MS MR, the New York-based synth-pop duo currently supporting Grouplove on a nationwide tour, serendipity was strong at work during the band's inception. While studying at Vassar College, Plapinger having majored in media studies and Hershenow in urban studies, both members juggled extracurricular artistic endeavors that contributed to MS MR's direction. It was their academic pursuits, however, that were more key to the band's foundation than anything else.

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How Big Boi Inspired Phantogram's Latest Album

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Courtesy of Republic Records
Phantogram is scheduled to play the Marquee Theatre on Friday, April 18.
It is every artist's goal to be the next new thing -- clich├ęd as it is, any creative will eventually admit this desire. Few can make one radical thing while even fewer continue to deliver intriguing material. Phantogram, the electronic psych-pop duo from upstate New York, fall into the latter category, catching the ear of coffee-sipping Pitchfork critics and Southern rap legends alike. For vocalist/keyboardist Sarah Barthel and programmer/multi-instrumentalist Josh Carter, it's been a long and calculated venture, but a fruitful one at that.

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