blog

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (12/23-12/28): Wye Oak, Ollie

Wye Oak – “Fortune” [single] – indie rock

Indie rock duo Wye Oak are here to shake up the indie rock genre with their latest single “Fortune”. Jenn Wasner’s captivating vocals and catchy bass lines matched with Andy Stack’s unfaltering drum grooves give the track a mysterious feel. The lyrics further establish the mystery of “Fortune”, as they take a dark and enigmatic tone. Wye Oak did an outstanding job of creating a sound that transcends the typical indie rock borders; “Fortune” is alluring in every aspect, and listeners are bound to sing along. Simply put, it’s a great song from a great band. Check out Wye Oak‘s “Fortune” below!

Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (12/23-12/28): Wye Oak, Ollie”

BIRN Album Review: yikes! by Silver Sphere

Bedroom pop artist Sophie Cates (known as Silver Sphere) has released her first eight-track full length album yikes!, a unique culmination of heartbreak songs. With a stage persona that’s described as not from this earth, Silver Sphere is a being of magic that has yet to come to the forefront of pop.

With songs like “drinking games” and “boys r dumb! duh!”, Silver Sphere paints a picture that makes your heart ache for her, utilizing parties as a theme to show the listener how different the guys in her life act around others versus how they act around just her. Further describing the meaning behind the song, Cates has stated:“‘Drinking Games’ to me is a song about knowing you’re wasting your time with someone but continuing to see them because the person is so captivating that you don’t even care if you’re feeling used. It’s about realizing that it’s more important to value yourself than playing a silly game with someone that doesn’t have the best intentions.”

As the album progresses, Silver starts to become more wary of the boys that keep breaking her heart, and rightfully so. This new found self discipline is shown on the song “boys in bands” which is about falling victim to the same type of boy (musicians in her case) so often that she realizes she needs to stop letting herself go down that path. Her newfound confidence and fed up attitude is shown in the lines, “The second you walk in with tattoos and problems / I can’t help but think I’m the one who could solve ‘em / I can’t do that again.” The catchy chorus and dance-able unique techno sounds make “boys in bands” a song that’s scream-able by anyone, especially Berklee students who can relate.

When it seems like she has taken a stand against the boys that waste her time, Silver backtracks to the same mentality she had previously in “drinking games” and “boys r dumb! duh!” with the song “waste my time”, the epitome of her internal struggle. Although the title maintains the heartbroken tone of the album, the sonic vibe of “waste my time” isn’t as sad as the listener would expect. This song is a romanticization of boys that are bad for you and will never commit which Silver is clear about in the beginning, saying: “You are never gonna be the type to commit / one day you’re in love then you’re over it / But I can never get tired of chasing you / Even when I know what you’re gonna do.” If you have ever read Silver’s “about” page on Spotify and not understood what “I love pop music and breaking my own heart” meant, this song makes the statement clear.

The last song “sucks 4 u” is about finally overcoming a breakup and realizing that you’re going to be okay, giving the listener closure and resolution. When describing this song, Silver explained, “Writing this song helped me look past those negative things looming from my last relationship and focus on the positives in my life at the time, and I hope it does the same for everyone listening.”

As a whole, yikes! allowed the listener to learn and grow with Silver, feeling the heartbreak, independence, and love she experienced throughout her journey.

BIRN Album Review: Grains by Little Monarch

Little Monarch‘s EP Grains is lighthearted and lovable. With strong indie and pop influences, Grains takes a relaxed tone that’s easy to enjoy. The album starts off with the song “Got Me Good”, a carefree and content love song. The track is full of smooth melodies, claps, and snaps that give the song a laid-back West Coast vibe. Being the first track on Grains, “Got Me Good” sets the tone for the EP, and tracks like “See You” and “Bloom” solidify the sound that Little Monarch so carefully creates. One of the features that stands out on “See You” is the vocal harmonies. They are extremely well-written, as they bring listeners ears to new heights and fill out the sound of the chorus. While “Got Me Good” and “See You” are slightly more upbeat, Little Monarch creates a contrast with their slower-paced conclusion to the album, “Bloom”. Catchy electric guitar loops are the name of the game in “Bloom”, as they form a steady baseline for the lead vocalist’s voice to shine. The combination of electric beats, guitars, and synths give the track an ethereal sound that contrast with the more focused sound of the vocals.

Little Monarch made a great contribution to the indie genre with Grains. The EP is full of upbeat lyrics and catchy melodies that create a fresh and optimistic sound. In short, Grains is a great listen for fans of any genre. Kick back, relax, and enjoy Little Monarch’s Grains below!

Lola Kirke plays BIRN Alive

Check out our video of Lola Kirke performing “Shoulda Cheated” and “Seeds and Stems” on BIRN Alive!

Lola Kirke is a singer, songwriter, and actress writing country-rock inspired music. Kirke stopped by the BIRN studios in September while touring in support of her EP, Friends And Foes And Friends Again.

BIRN Album Review: MAGDALENE by FKA twigs

Avant-pop artist Tahliah Debrett Barnett (better known as FKA twigs) has made a memorable comeback with sophomore album MAGDALENE–one of the BIRN’s favorite albums of 2019. After the release of her debut album LP1 in 2014 and touring the world, she went on a lengthy hiatus, followed by surgery removing six fibroid tumors from her uterus, among other sudden life changes. During Barnett’s time in recovery, she began making many self-healing realizations about her own womanhood, and rebuilding confidence in her femininity–resulting in MAGDALENE, a thoughtfully produced experimental-pop masterpiece that speaks volumes to women today.

Barnett had hit a rough patch while working on the album–but the heightened emotions she was experiencing only strengthened her artistic vision and enhanced her writing. She took inspiration from Mary Magdalene’s story, resonating with her inner turmoil as a woman who struggled to be accepted in society. Barnett decided to embody the character of Mary Magdalene as a symbol of empowerment, encouraging other women to take control of their own narrative. Although MAGDALENE isn’t quite a concept album, its powerful themes, biblical references and religious imagery might easily fool you–thanks to Barnett’s skillful attention to detail and intentional placement of each track, lyric, beat, and rhythm. MAGDALENE’s sound delves deep into experimental territory, a bit more so than Barnett’s prior more “accessible” works–with subtle additions of church choir-like background vocals and cinematic swells of a string orchestra. Many aspects of the production draw comparisons with other experimental art-pop artists like Bjork, Grimes, and SOPHIE. 

Kicking off with the haunting “thousand eyes” and closing with “cellophane”, a fragile and emotion-filled ballad, the album progresses from eerie, dark and complex to soft and vulnerable slow-tempo tunes with truthful words like “A woman’s work, a woman’s prerogative, a woman’s time to embrace she must put herself first”. This contrast seems to represent that there are many more layers to a woman than what may be seen or expressed on the surface–just cause one may appear to be gentle doesn’t mean she can’t also be assertive and aggressive, and vice versa. MAGDALENE does a clever job at expressing how society has misrepresented women to be only one thing or another for ages, and FKA twigs’ courageous self-expression is incredibly admirable.

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (12/16-12/21): Ian George, Palace

Ian GeorgeKingdom of My Youth – folk

Ian George‘s Kingdom of My Youth is the pure, down-to-earth folk album the world needs this Winter. George stands out among other artists in that his music is extremely true and authentic to his artistic voice, which is clear throughout Kingdom of My Youth. Mellow fingerpicking, lovable vocals, and atmospheric harmonies give the album a peaceful, optimistic, and upbeat character and highlight George’s artistry. One of my personal favorite tracks off the album, “The Wild & The Untamed”, is full of long phrases that flow over complimentary guitar lines and drum grooves. The lyrics of the song are personal and touching as they tell a story of love and identity. Overall, “The Wild & The Untamed” feels incredibly honest, and it’s hard to not get lost in George‘s story. There’s so much more to be said about Ian George, but the best way to experience his album is to listen to it for yourself! Check out Kingdom of My Youth below!

 

Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (12/16-12/21): Ian George, Palace”

Ryan’s Prime Slices of the Week (12/9 – 12/14) Aunty Social, Basement Revolver

Aunty Social – “Crack A Deal” [Single] – indie pop

New comer, Aunty Social is surprising the world with her newest single “Crack a Deal”, with a pop centric and unique sound, Aunty social is sure to be the artist everyone is talking about in years to come. Starting this track off with an A cappella vocal and layering in spacey synth, this song builds slowly but has such a deep, rich and satisfying sound to it, you’re only waiting to see where it could go next.  Her emotive modern vocal styling, lyrics and delivering are entrancing and bring you right into to the story that Aunty Social is weaving before your eyes. The accompanying music video is also a colorful, slightly dystopian piece of art and if you haven’t seen it, check it out now below!

 

 

Basement Revolver – “What Are You Waiting For” – indie rock

 

Also new to the scene, Basement Revolver with their own unique and intense style. Their music is reminiscent of soft rock from the early 90s and with the smooth vocal styles of Big thief. This track just is mellow,  full of emotion and is just a great tune to sit back and unwind with. Basement Revolver is an underrated indie gem that has an entire library of great songs, and that really shows in “What Are You Waiting For” These guys are fantastic and they just released a new EP  Wax and Digital, check it out below and see for yourself!

 

 

 

Coming up on BIRN Alive: Nathalie Hernandez, Paper Citizen and more

(Pictured: Jessie J Ensemble)

BIRN Alive is wrapping 2019 up with more exciting live performances and interviews from artists of varying styles and diverse musical backgrounds. Don’t miss out! 

Saturday 12/7 – 4 PM: Nathalie Hernandez 

A powerhouse vocalist and young former contestant of The Voice, Nathalie Hernandez is dedicated to being an honest voice as a 21st century female. She plans to release her debut single in the near future. 

Sunday 12/8 – 7 PM: Paper Citizen 

Paper Citizen is an indie rock project led by Singaporean singer-songwriter Claire Gohst. Although the project is Boston-based, Gohst began making a name for herself by performing locally in Singapore at 18. Combining her artistic roots and new musical discoveries, Paper Citizen was formed during her first few years in Boston. 

Saturday 12/14 – 4 PM: The Dana Roth Group

Currently attending Berklee College of Music, Dana Roth is an active bassist, composer, and music producer. She has recorded music with Ester Rada, Yael Deckelbum, and Tamir Grinerg among others, and has toured the world at venues such as Blue Note Tokyo, Ronny Scott London, and New Morning Paris. 

Sunday 12/15 – 8 PM: Los Walters (pre-recorded on Sunday, November 10)

Made up of Ángel Figueroa and Luis López, Los Wálters is a Puerto Rican electronic pop duo with beginnings in 2011. Written and recorded in different locations across Latin America and the United States, the duo’s music is often inspired by their diverse surroundings, while keeping their signature Caribbean and electronic sound. 

Tune into BIRN1 for exclusive live performances and interviews every week while college is in session. The BIRN wishes you a great holiday season and a happy new year!

If you are an artist or are in a band that would like to play BIRN Alive in the spring semester, send your band/artist links to birnalive@thebirn.com.

Here’s a recent BIRN Alive performance by the Jessie J Ensemble: 

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (12/9-12/14): Colony House, Will Samson

Colony House – “Original Material” [single] – indie rock

Colony House‘s latest single “Original Material” is a song to sing along with. The track is wonderfully reminiscent of the early days of the indie rock scene, while still bringing a fresh sound to the Nashville music scene. Colony House has definitely created an indie rock anthem with “Original Material” that anyone can enjoy – complete with clean guitars, simple vocal effects, and harmonies. The verses are full of colorful and creative lyrics, and the chorus is incredibly catchy; the fun never ends in “Original Material”! Give it a listen below!

Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (12/9-12/14): Colony House, Will Samson”

Weakened Friends – The BIRN Interview

Coming from Portland, Maine, Weakened Friends is a rock band using music as a low pressure outlet for expressing volatile emotions. Their latest release and full-length debut Common Blah delves into the chaos and confusion that often comes with the arrival of adulthood.

Today, we’re chatting with Weakened Friends members Sonia Sturino, Annie Hoffman, and Adam Hand, to learn more about their songwriting process, the story behind Weakened Friends’ formation, and their album Common Blah. 

Where did you get the inspiration for your band name and what does it mean to you? 

It’s just a weird play-on-words name. It really doesn’t have a big meaning or anything. No one knows how to spell it right, so we find ourselves constantly explaining it to people! Like “we’re Weakened Friends … you know weak like someone hurt you.”

 What is your songwriting process? Do you write together most of the time or does one person write the songs? 

A lot of times I’ll (Sonia) write the basis for the song on my own and have most of the melody, lyrics and structure together before bringing it to a band setting. Eventually, Annie and Adam who are big musical brains will help really shape it and make it “smarter” and will flush out the final arrangement. Although the initial writing happens on my own we do really work together to get the song in it’s final form. I never went to a music school or got formal training/education in music, so I mostly just do what I do by ear or feel. Annie and Adam both went to Berklee and are like super smart with how music works, so it’s always interesting to hear how the ideas I come up with actually make sense. Not to mention Annie and Adam are both engineers and kick ass in a studio setting both with engineering and production. It’s a real treat to get to work with great musicians who just get what you’re trying to accomplish with a song and work with you to help take it there and honestly beyond.

How would you describe your sound? Did you go through different phases before you found your sound or was it naturally there? 

I don’t really love the “tell us about your sound question” if I’m being honest, it makes me feel like I’m talking to my hair dresser or a distant relative. Music is audible and art is subjective. Everyone will have their own take on it and I think that’s all I have to say here is, if you’re reading this just go check it out and listen to it and describe the sound for yourself.

Who are your inspirations and how do they influence your music?

It’s always changing and it can be anything at any time. Most times, I’m really inspired by our peers and bands we actually are friends with who are out there working hard and making great music. They are struggling just like us to get by and get their art out, knowing that there are people out here doing what were doing in this crazy messed up industry makes me feel less alone and also is super inspiring.

(Let’s talk about your 2018 album Common Blah) What inspired you to choose to name your album Common Blah and what was the general message/vibe of the album? 

I thought it was a funny pun at the time. I kinda hate it now. I’m just excited to make a new record at this point. The songs have a lot to do with feeling stuck in a bad spot in life and working hard to get past that place.

What was your process when selecting the songs on the album? 

They were the only ones we had done! We’ve had a line up change since that record came out, so on this next one, I think we’ll actually have a bulk of work to choose from and less of just a taking what we can get.

Where did the idea for the “Blue Again” music video come from? Was it as fun to make as it was to watch? 

We didn’t have much of a budget so we just wanted to make something that looked weird and cool. Our friend Randy actually lives in the space it was filmed in which is this old church he’s converted into a music space/home. Smashing things with a bat was pretty therapeutic!

How has signing to Don Giovanni records impacted your band’s outlook? What kind of things are you able to do now that you couldn’t do yourself?

Joe, who runs the label, is really cool. They are a smaller indie label but they are well connected and have a good relationship with a lot of folks in the industry. Honestly, the age old ” MY BAND GOT SIGNED LOOK AT ME, MOM, WE MADE IT” is total bullshit… we still very much grind for any sort of opportunity. A good DIY or indie label are just partners in that grind. I like that they believe in us and our music and are willing to take the platform they’ve built for themselves and share it with our band.

Recently you worked with Jay Mascis from dinosour jr. What led to that collaboration and how much of an influence were they on your sound? 

At the time, we were on the same management as J, so that kinda got pushed together by our then-manager.  I love Dinosaur Jr. so it was really neat to say, “hey J played on our song.”

What have been your favorite gigs to play and why? Do you prefer more intimate or larger crowds? 

I prefer larger crowds and anyone that tells you otherwise I truly believe is bullshit. I think the goal is to reach as many people as you can, this is coming from someone who still had to stomach playing to empty rooms. Fest in Gainesville, FL this year was so awesome to play, we also got to open for the band PUP at Halifax Pop Explosion this year which was out of this world… the crowd was massive and so into our set. We played a festival in May in Europe called London Calling in Amsterdam and it was one of my favorites of the year as well.  Back in June, though, we had a super special moment: we were supposed to support this band Slothrust at Port City Music Hall up in Portland… but the singer got sick and canceled day-of. So, we told people we were playing a secret set and told them to ask us for the address (we had to stop giving it out because the number of guests started getting scary) and we had a small show in the basement of our home!! We crammed like 60 people into the space and it was magic!

What was the hardest song for you to write on the album? What was the most satisfying song to complete? Can you (each) tell me what your favorite song on the album and why?

I (Sonia) really like the songs Not Doing Good and Early. They’re the most emotional to me. Blue Again I think is a overall favorite. Ever since Adam joined the band back in May I think all the songs really pop and come to life in a really great way, his playing kinda adds the final touches to the tunes, even though he didn’t play on the record.

Annie – When I hear that record, I always play Not Doing Good twice. I think Sonia really captured a very specific and visceral moment that hits people in the after-shock of a significant relationship’s ending. That song really hits me in the guts. Plus, it’s so much fun to play live.

Can you tell us the story of when you all met and formed the band? Name one special thing that each band member brings to the table that you couldn’t live without.

The band started in the summer of 2015. With myself, Annie and our original drummer, Cam. I had been friends with Cam for a while and we played in other bands together, and Annie was in a band that our old band played shows with from time to time. And yeah, I asked Annie and Cam to play on my new project and it was really fun!! Like I mentioned, Adam joined the band recently in May, but it was a really quick fit since Annie and Adam played in bands for years before that and we all like the same kind of music. I actually, outside of playing in the band, manage the band and essentially keep everything organized. Annie engineers and produces all of our recorded music. Adam has now joined in on the engineering AND he knows how to essentially fix or build anything musical equipment related.

(Let’s talk about your new single “What You Like.”) Can you talk about how this song was conceived and what it means to you?

“What You Like” is a song about embracing the feeling of inadequacy or feeling as though you’re constantly the underdog no matter how hard you work or how far you’ve come. When I wrote this song, we had just released a record and there’s a great deal of pressure and anxiety that comes along with that. I remember thinking, “Wow. What if it sucks? What if everyone hates it?” I took that feeling and ran with it. I told myself, “You know what? Screw it. Sure, you’re not always going to please everyone. You may feel like inadequate, but rather than cower, go scream it from the roof tops. ‘I’M NOT PERFECT AND I DON’T CARE!’” I wanted to craft an anthem for all of my fellow self-deprecating and anxiety-ridden folks. We need one.

What are your current goals for the upcoming new year? Any new year’s resolutions? 

The same thing we say every year: Make a new record and take over the world.

What advice would you give Berklee students about pursuing a music career?

There’s no rules, there’s no playbook or textbook (lol I realize you’re literally in school for this stuff, but seriously, its the wild fucking west out there). Just do you, keep inspired and creative, and keep going. There is going to be times you’re broke as hell, you’re hungry, you feel like you can’t keep doing it. Get used to hearing no and always saying yes. Also don’t try to make everything so technical… we get it, you’re good at music … but songs that speak to people can be simple. That’s all.

Thank you, Weakened Friends!

Be sure to check out the Weakened Friends performance on birnCORE live, coming up at 8PM on December 5! The show will also feature Mom Rock and Lady Pills. Tickets are on sale now: https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/8508282