Killola - Louder, Louder!

For my money, music tastes fall into three broad genres. You either like a band for their musicality, lyrics, or energy. Killola are the definition of a high-energy band. They’re a group that seizes your attention: you’ll know straight away if you love them or hate them. There’s absolutely no middle ground, it’s one way or another.

Listening to a band for the first time is similar to going on a first date. You want to like Killola, but you’re apprehensive. You don’t want to become attached to something only to realize that it’s not quite what you thought it was, so you’re guarded. But with both music and dating, this problematical “first stage” lasts ten (maybe twelve) seconds. A formative snap judgment goes a long way, and this LA four-piece realize that you only get one chance to make a memorable first impression. So to bring this analogy full circle, imagine yourself waiting quietly, patiently at the bar for your date, Killola, to arrive. Out of nowhere, you hear a slamming door and stampeding footsteps coming your way. Before you even have a chance to turn around, you’re locked in a lip lock for ten (maybe twelve) seconds, with no exit.

This combination of spontaneity, excitement, and aggressive sexuality is evident throughout the span of the album. Opening track, “Barrel of Donkeys,” bursts out of the blocks and sets the pace for ensuing tracks. Combining singer Lisa Reiffel’s distinctive yelps with well-disciplined drums and guitars, it’s the perfect introduction to this group, and serves as an ideal point of reference for budding suitors. Though they mellow out later on in the album (on “I Don’t Know Who” and “It’s All Right”), Killola’s soul is firmly entrenched in stomping guitar pop. And if you don’t get eaten up by their energy, your soul must be trapped in a heart of glass.

OK, that last one was a bad pun too far. You might have noticed that the last phrase in each paragraph has been an explicit Blondie reference. Rock bands with a female lead are perhaps the most afflicted of the many fields stung by what I refer to as the “Curse of the First.” Popular media is famous for pigeon-holing and making generic those things that should be considered unique in society. Every civil rights activist is labeled “the next Martin Luther King,” while basketball prodigies are all “this decade’s Michael Jordan.” This is a lazy journalistic trait that you won’t find in any of my articles (how else could I lay claim to being the modern day Lester Bangs?!?). For whatever reason, all male four-pieces are not necessarily The Beatles, but slap a dress on the singer and BAM… that group is inevitably the “new Blondie.”

I truly hope that Killola can do what No Doubt and Garbage couldn’t and finally break this curse. For one thing, the male majority of the band shouldn’t be cast off to one side just because they are lead by a singer with two X chromosomes. Just as importantly, the bothersome analogy doesn’t do justice to Reiffel’s distinctive vocals, which switch from Betty Boop cuteness to snarling rock chick in an instant. Louder, Louder! is an ode to self indulgence that pins its mast firmly to what the band stands for: high-energy rock music turned up to eleven.

If you give this band a chance, they’ll prove that they’re not the “next Blondie,” but rather, the first Killola. You might even fall in love with them…. which of course means that the only “next” thing you’ll be interested in, is a next date.

--Matty Reville

Louder, Louder! is out now – buy it online here

Killola’s Website

Jed and Lucia - Candles in Daylight

Candles in Daylight causes daydreams. Sometimes they’re different, but mostly it’s one reoccurring scenario:

Jed and Lucia are standing on their balcony looking out at hills on fire. Actually, the whole world is burning. Astonishingly, they don’t seem to mind, and they put on old hip-hop vinyl that mysteriously plays at about 1/4 speed, and at times sounds devilish and broken.

As the flames surround the house and lightly warm their faces, they decide to make something. With the vinyl already playing, the choice to create music is an easy one. They take words from their thoughts in semi-random order and sling them over beats similar to painters slinging paint at a canvas. The meanings are abstract; you feel the meaning more than you actually understand it.

They don’t burn, but the fire doesn’t stop. It’s a daydream, so laws of nature flux and shift; the flames become a harmless picture housed in a distant frame. All that’s left then are these mixed, complex ideas splattered on your mind’s empty canvas, positioned over perfectly tuned drum and bass, and accompanied by finger-picked classical guitars.

Jed and Lucia self-released their stunning debut in February 2006. Recorded and produced by the two in their home-studio in Chatsworth Lake, CA - a quaint civil war stagecoach stop hidden in the Northwestern mountains just outside Los Angeles - the record’s birthplace is fitting. Candles in Daylight sounds like it’s from - if not another world - some small mountain town that you’ve never heard of. It’s full of beautiful hip-hop and jazz beats, classical guitar, upright bass, strange psychedelic-atmospheric soundscapes, and low, hushed vocals delivering potent abstract imagery on topics like:

* Watching the world end in flames with a loved one

* The value of slowing a busy life down and keeping a positive outlook

* Lovers confessing secrets and sleeping alone

* Comparing emotional mood swings to a boat on water

* Hearing rejecting voices from Heaven

* A young girl’s unexpected pregnancy

* Painful break-ups

The themes are emotionally intense, but there is an air of hope and progress that carries you from beginning to end. Much of this veiled optimism (or veiled tragedy?) is the result of their tone and delivery of the lyrics. On the apocalyptic opening track, “World on Fire,” the line, “held each other laughing, watching dark turn to light,” might resonate with you such that you might not notice the dark lyrics that preceded it: “woke to see the earth in flames.”

Lyrical mysteries and pleasures aside, Jed and Lucia’s collective voice is so seamless that it’s hard to imagine one without the other; they swap the lead vocal role back and forth in a egalitarian manner, and the effect is purely enjoyable. Their sound is classic and timeless, comparable to Nick Drake, Kings of Convenience, and even Simon and Garfunkel.

This review wouldn’t be complete without much gushing over the gorgeously produced drum beats. Often resembling slowed-down James Brown rhythms from the 60’s and brushed Miles Davis snares and high hats, their break-beat kick drums are so huge that they’d make John Bonham blush. The holes in these grooves are so big that you could walk through them, bringing me to my next observation: there is definitely underlying intent in the rests of the drumbeats and bass lines on Candles. Each hit of the snare or pluck of the upright bass is so sincere, so emotionally potent, that once played, a moment of pause is necessary to soak in the meaning.

In closing, take a look off of a balcony sometime soon; look at the hills and think of Jed and Lucia’s Candles In Daylight. Be glad that the record’s apocalyptic themes are fiction, and that we have this gem to listen to over and over, searching for hidden meanings in it’s cryptic, inspired wonder.

-- Part Swedish Chris

Jed and Lucia Website

lets go sailing - Icicles EP

With a voice as sweet as snow cones in the summer, Shannon Levy creates lush musical soundscapes that wrap the listener in a gentle blanket of heartfelt melodies and catchy beats. This is not your average girl-pop band. Levy, the former keyboardist for pop rock act, Irving, has turned her attention to keyboarding, lead-vocal duties, AND song-writing for her five-piece, let’s go sailing. Along with bandmates Tanya Haden (cello), Nikki Monninger (bass), Brent Turner (guitar) and former Possum Dixon bandmember, Byron Reynolds (drums), Levy has created a dreamy, melody-driven collection of songs that has already become a favorite in indie rock circles Los Angeles.

let’s go sailing have already been compared to Belle and Sebastian and Elliott Smith, but upon first listen, my thoughts immediately went to effeminately-voiced singer-songwriter, Jeff Hanson. Both acts create a sound that is as much gentle and pleasing as it is unpredictable and curious. let’s go sailing, like Hanson, have discovered the perfect archetype for pop music, but have managed to keep it fresh and engaging with catchy hooks and lyrics that are at times darker than their melodies would belie.

On their three song EP, Icicles, “All I Want from You is Love” is by far the stand-out track. The song begins with a steady piano intro, leading into delicate, wavering , almost- whispered vocals. A cello quietly creeps into the melody, crafting a warm darkness to buffer Levy’s fragile, imploring voice. A jazzy, speakeasy-style piano solo breaks in as the song builds in strength, and as Levy’s voice returns, we understand that she is no longer begging but demanding that she receives the love she deserves. I couldn’t quite get the song out of my head after a first listen, and upon researching the track further, I learned – with some dismay – that it had been featured in an episode of “One Tree Hill” on the WB. I would think that a mugging, pink-shirted Chad Michael Murray would somehow take away from the pure lovliness of the song, but it seems that let’s go sailing has managed to connect with a legion of teeny-boppers that they might not have come into contact with otherwise.

Look for their as yet untitled ten song LP to be released in the coming months.

--Courtney Wachs

let's go sailing website

Teaneck - (Demo)

Charmingly lo-fi, upbeat and poppy, ready to rock at a moment’s notice… not only do Teaneck put on an amazing live show – they are definitely the friendliest band that I have ever encountered. After hearing a few tracks off of their myspace page, and noting that they were scheduled to perform with let's go sailing, I decided to check out Teaneck’s live show at local rock club, Spaceland. I was admittedly lured not only by the promise of a decent set, but by, according to their website, guranteed "free hugs and handshakes" and epic battle stories. Lead singer Loren Isaac supposedly came up with the idea of the band after getting hit by a car speeding along at 35 mph in Los Feliz. "I basically knew it was now or never", he says. "So I made some calls to friends and got the ball rolling. That is, after all my extensive bruising healed."

As I waited, drink in hand, for Teaneck to emerge from behind ragged gold lamé curtains, I wondered if the boys could hold the attention of a notoriously discriminating Spaceland audience. They did not disappoint. The minute Teaneck entered the spotlight, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the infectious melodies and the energetic, playful stage presence of the band. The young audience apparently couldn’t contain themselves either, as I watched two girls in leg warmers bop about the dance floor, grabbing a slender corduroy-draped twenty-something to join their in their rhythmic flailing. Though made up of only three musicians: Craig Wahl on bass and Jeff Burke on drums with front-man Isaac, the energy and the bright, sunny sound reverberating in the tiny club could’ve easily come from a five piece. Teaneck are a band who truly love performing, and who are more than eager to share their joy with their youthful audience.

After feeding on the excitement of their live performance, I stepped up to congratulate the band members, and was indeed immediately greeted with hugs. This was not the wary, reserved hipster hello I was accustomed to. It was great! I was given a rough demo that the band had recorded, with a promise that new songs would soon follow. “You’re So Gone” immediately grabbed my attention with it’s old-timey one-two-one-two western swing, similar in structure to Tex William’s “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette).” Just as soon as you settle into the boppy 1940's beat, the band jerks you back into a rocking, triumphant chorus: “Everyone knows you’re going down!” “I Could Never,” one of Teaneck’s newer songs, has a darker alt-pop verse with a catchy chorus, and a brief yet impressive guitar solo from Isaac. Again, even with the somewhat murky production, it sounds like there are more instruments and musicians in the band than there are in reality. Good stuff.

Though you can certainly hear the influences of Weezer, Foo Fighters, and the Pixies in their music, Teaneck have managed to develop a unique sound all their own, and exude a confidence in their musical direction rarely seen in new bands. They continue to surprise me with their range, which runs the gamut of caffeinated country-western to power pop to early VanHalen era RAWK. I’m looking forward to hearing the final, polished LP.

--Courtney Wachs

Teaneck Website


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