One of the most peculiar things about living in Seattle at the moment is the fact that there are not one, but two ridiculously over-the-top psych rock divas here. I mean, what are the freaking odds? Of course, I've probably written about Midday Veil to the point of complete overkill by now, but you know, they continue to do weird shit that amazes me, so until that stops, I'll keep up with it. What I haven't mentioned is the oneiric excellence of their smoky contemporaries Rose Windows. The reason for that probably has to do with the fact that it took several years to congeal their debut album, The Sun Dogs, into existence. Although the band initially blew me away live due largely to the sheer concussive force of vocalist Rabia Qazi, it wasn't until the disc dropped in June (on Sub Pop Records, no less) that I truly processed the depth of songwriting and lyrical complexity going down in that camp. Highly recommended. As it turns out, this depth comes largely from the blazed mind of guitarist Chris Cheveyo, and as I learned when I caught up with him by e-mail, it's channeled primarily from deep meditative states. How do musicians initially trained in oppressive religious traditions end up twerking on stage with Big Freedia (that happened) and making cameos in upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson movies? Weed, that's how. Read on, true believers.
As far as I'm concerned, pop music is the most exciting frontier for musical innovation. From the mainstream radio-friendly mash-ups of Beyonce, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber down to your favorite neighborhood indie pop band or danceable electronic act, pop music is encompassing of a wide world of sounds, full of ground-breaking firsts. Yet it's safe to say that in the current indie music climate, with its constant breaking and building of narrow-minded subgenres like dream pop, vaporwave, chillwave, and the like, oversaturation often leads to myriad bands which sound more or less identical. Of these, most lack a truly distinguishing spark that makes them stand out. Which is why I get really excited upon the discovery of pop bands who don't easily fit in anywhere, and are able to -- if not reinvent it -- at least give the wheel a furious and energetic spin. My latest and greatest finding lies in Royal Canoe, a group of musicians from the uncommon birthing ground of Winnipeg, Canada. While undoubtedly considered "indie pop" by any wide-casting use of the term, Royal Canoe aren't actually easy to define, especially with non-abstract terminologies. With two drummers, two keyboardists, and four vocalists, the six-member band is kind of all over the place stylistically -- yet somehow, it just works. Royal Canoe Band Interview After talking to Royal Canoe's vocalist and guitarist Matt Peters, I came to realize that what sets Royal Canoe apart from other indie pop bands is not exactly the genre tags they fall under -- of which there are many -- but their fascinating communal character. For a pop band, they are remarkably tenacious. They make a point of having extremely high standards for creation and performance, in service of being the best musicians they can be. Any self-imposed rules they have set for themselves are balanced by a willingness to share artistic duties, as well as an openness to inspiration and experimentation.
"I think everyone definitely has an appreciation for letting their voice be heard but also trying to reach a greater good..." -- Matt Peters

 

Multi-faceted director Ryan Staake of Pomp&Clout has created a music video this year that arguably blows his previous ones out of the water. Using dance as its centerpiece, Staake's video for Diplo's "Set It Off" focuses on the glam element in the art of striptease. Hyperreal, high-resolution camera footage blends with fantastical, over-the-top elements to create a vertically unraveling video that recalls space travel as much as it does a dingy club. In the conversational back-and-forth between Staake and his producers T.S. Pfeffer and Robert McHugh, readers will gain an understanding of the physical, technological, and artistic scale of this project, along with the process behind its shiny, mirrored infinitude. And before you jump in, keep "cocaine-Vegas" and "infinite stripper pole" in mind as buzz words, for they are perhaps the most accurate descriptions possible.
"I've always been into creating videos which appear seamless, with little to no sense of edits... Several months before the request to make a video for “Set It Off” came through, I’d shot some test footage of a friend pole dancing, and loved the look of it... there was definite sexiness to it, but the potential to add a bit of class to the depiction of beautiful, strong women showing off their skills." -- Ryan Staake, Director

 

Like a whale call bubbling forth from oceanic depths, Sister Crayon's 2011 release on Manimal Vinyl, Bellow, is an album dense with emotional weight. "When I think of someone bellowing, I just see a sad, really powerful thing coming out of someone," explains vocalist Terra Lopez. "Years of an... exhausting type of feeling." Bellow is an aural manifestation of such exhaustion -- a collective "bellow" from a group of Nothern California musicians who do not shy away from the fascinations which arise from darkness. Filled with trip-hop beats, soaring operatic vocals, distorted guitars, and delicate synth lines, the sonic universe of Sister Crayon is a varied and complex one. What holds consistent, though, is the band's fortitude, as they explore parallel emotional states through individualized experiences.