The Best of Bonnaroo 2015: #4 – Royal Blood

By The Insomniac

#4 on our Best of Bonnaroo write-up goes to Royal Blood, a new hard rock duo out of Brighton, UK consisting of Mike Kerr on the bass and vocals, and Ben Thatcher on the drums. No guitar, which I think is the most interesting piece of trivia about this band. You’d think forgoing such a essential instrument would affect the fullness of the sound, but Kerr makes up for it. He plays the bass like a standard electric and brings with him a vast assortment of pedals that allow him to make his guitar scream and wail exactly how he wants.

These guys are loud – they achieve a stadium shaking sound despite there only being two guys, and Kerr walks around stage like he knows it. Kerr has an aura of confidence about him I don’t usually see from most frontmen. Many of the more indie acts of the day consisted of bands closer to Shoegaze with singers that would stand practically still and DJ’s that wouldn’t do much more than start at their computer and bop their heads. Compared to them, Kerr seemed like Elvis, owning the archetypal “rock star” quality as they played songs from their self titled debut album, out in 2014.

The album caught my eye from the moment lead single “Figure It Out” played on the radio. Their music consists of aggressive drumming, whining high pitched vocals, and a angry bass guitar that seems to be trying to tear itself apart with its screeching cries and sprinted melodies. Think Jack White and Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s baby fronted Queens of the Stone Age and stripped away all the fat and most of the originality. Royal Blood spent a good amount of time putting the finishing touches on this LP as well. Their Wiki says they are part “Garage Rock”, but don’t be mistaken, this is a highly produced, calculated grittiness. There’s a gross precision with their flow, that is an odd juxtaposition with a sound they so obviously try to make seem natural, angsty, rough around the edges.

Each song consists of dependable, simplistic riffs, but you can;t deny they stick in your head. I’ve seen criticism of the band for this, but I don’t think it’s a something to put them down for, but rather something to look forward to as they expand the breadth of their complexity. The bass is the most addicting as it cries and glows through every chorus, it sounds like it could slice through steel. Kerr seems to be crying as he sings too, as if the words are painful leaving his mouth. Every line ends with a high pinched wince after moments of intermittent screaming, but the band shines when they don’t rely on his voice too heavily and slow the tempo down to let everyone catch up with the groove. Songs like “Loose Change” that seem oddly slow compared to the rest of their tracks have a much a more hypnotic effect. At the same time, the guitar governs the song while Kerr’s voice and Thatcher’s drumming take a backseat role. The result is a much sexier tune and more of this in the future will do them well.

Seeing them live at Bonnaroo was a treat because you got to see how much Kerr bonded with the guitar on stage. It seemed like a dance and he made it seem so effortless. These guys have a long way to go, but you can see a raw passion for the music early on. I predict they will impress next go around when they slow down and try to define themselves past catchy choruses and power chords. But at the point when they played, everyone in the pit was so hot, drunk, and delirious, that something simple to sing along to and hard enough to bang our heads was all that was really needed. Positivity radiated and shredding commenced.

The Best of Bonnaroo 2015: #5 – Jamie xx

By The Insomniac

Savages – the Ape has been on a short hiatus gallivanting about the globe, tasting the food of the world, mating with the locals, and catching a few shows along the way. The times were fast and blurry but we are happy to be back once again to lick our wounds and reflect on the amazing and offensive sites witnessed these past few weeks.

Part of our travels took us to Bonnaroo Music Festival, the madness of which finished up a couple weekends ago with Billy Joel, the festival’s headliner, jamming and playing all the crowd favorites to send off the hippies, Electric Daisy princesses, and confused wanderers that made the attendee community such a memorable circus freakshow of a group.

Anyway, we’re going to review our top 5 favorite performances from the farm – to start it off at #5 is Jamie xx, better known as the Jamie Smith from The xx, who recently released his second solo album In Colour.

The album has received universal critical acclaim, and the Ape is jumping on that bandwagon. This LP is a gorgeous display of electronica that successfully avoids the comfortable and reliable crowd-pleasing mainstream EDM sound that relies on tried and true drops, melodies, and featured vocal artists that don’t get the credit they deserve. Sing to me about titanium, girl. This is not a club album for the gym to pump you up, this album is for melting into the sand in a hazy stupor from being drunk off sun rays and ocean spray – a setting so peaceful yet desolate and primordial at the edge of the world that it clears your mind enough to let the muffled, pondering trance from Jamie xx hypnotize you enough to deliver you to purgatory and back.

My favorite track off the album is “Sleep Sound”, a track screaming signatures from co-producer Four Tet. The song sounds like the overall feeling from Caribou’s newest LP Our Love, if it were darker, more confused, and submerged underwater. There’s a constantly evolving drum kit beat piano duo that dances while distant echoed voices sing inaudible moans. The song finally breaks down and fizzes out it seems, but then transforms yet again into another organism, from sleepy to something alive, heated, and turned on. Spacey sentient synths and female “oh’s” invade the ear space as the volume turns up and dares you to try and stay still. If you don’t go into a more “primal” state of mind from hearing this song, I’d recommend some cardio and more nuts in your diet.

Other key tracks from In Colours include “Girl”, “Obvs”, a laid back tune consisting of persistent bass and dreamy steel drums, and “Loud Places”, a hypnotic track featuring vocals from Romy Madley Croft and an incredible sample from jazz-fusion prophet Idris Muhammad’s track “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This”.

Jamie xx’s performance at Bonnaroo was the first one that really caught my eye. As a relatively new solo artist, I feared he would just play his songs as they appear on the album and leave the stage, but I was pleasantly surprised. You can tell Jamie Smith has a history doing underground shows and solo DJ sets even before his involvement with The xx, and he played what seemed like live remixes that had everyone moving against their will. The epitome of which was during the end of his set when he played a drawn out, teasing, rendition of “Loud Places”, a version of the song with what seemed to be an eternal build up eventually getting to the euphoric release from the Idris sample. I went nuts. Surprising, electric, and fresh, Jamie’s connection with the crowd and his remixed singles set the tone for the rest of the festival.

I feel music in your eyes,
Rainbows in your kiss…

Check out a glimpse of his performance of “Loud Places” at Bonnaroo filmed by yours truly, below:

Top 10 Albums of the Week

by, Art Carny

Instead of clogging up our site with ten individual reviews from albums I’ve enjoyed thus far, I thought it’d be a good idea to err on the side of economical consolidation.  So, in the spirit of giving you the facts fast as we are so inclined to do in this rapid-paced modern society of ours, here’s some stuff to check out:

10. Telepathic Love, Heaven (Goodnight, 2013)

“A romantic clash between your Dad’s long lost favorite psych record and the soundtrack to a John Hughes film.” – Heaven’s Bandcamp

9. Wiccans & Beatlemancers, RADSTEWART (Alcopop!, 2014)

“Wiccans & Beatlemancers is the tale of four young men fighting their way through academia, fancy dress parties and unsympathetic Cardiff city councillors, or: how I learned to stop worrying and love them postgraduate blues.” – RADSTEWART’s Bandcamp

8. Dawn of Eternal Summers, Eternal Summers (Kanine, 2012)

“…seamlessly weaved strummy and honey-sweet dream-pop alongside pedal-to-the-floor pop-punk.” – IsraBox

7. Universal Coolers, Radical Dads (Old Flame, 2015)

“The band, comprised of ex-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah drummer Robbie Guertin, Chris Diken and guitarist/vocalist Lindsay Baker, draw inspiration from the guitar rock of heavyweights such as Pavement and Yo La Tengo, creating a hook-laden, melodic brand of twin guitar (zero bass) indie rock.” – Wake The Deaf

6. Pill Ep, Pill (Dull Tools, 2015)

“PILL’s first recordings combine fast forward-thinking lyrics, piss jitters, social unrest, and swallowing the fear of not knowing love.” – Dull Tools

5. New Alhambra, Elvis Depressedly (Run for Cover, 2015)

“In many ways, New Alhambra is an album about growing up, about recognizing that this existence is uncertain, that some mistakes cannot be unmade, and giving all of the vulnerabilities that come with being human space to breathe.” – Stereogum

4. Speak Electricity, Jewel Thief (Self-released, 2015)

“Stumbled upon a Jewel Thief live set much like anyone else should – a few beers deep, with a heavy heart, an open mind, and an ear like an electrical conductor.  Speak Electricity is an album by a band that is on to something.  Equal parts dreamy/slacker/intellectual/hazed all swirled together to form a promising cocktail I’d like to have daily.” – Me (although someone with more readership should find these guys and start covering)!

3. Relax, Holy Wave (Cacophony, 2014)

“…awash in bouncy, hazy songs played at various paces with foggy vocals bleeding in, out and over cheeky melodies.” – Paste Magazine

2. A Distant Fist Unclenching, Krill (Exploding in Sound, 2015)

“There aren’t many bands that can make a refrain out of “What is the proper orientation of my self to my non-self / What is the proper orientation of my non-self to me / What is the proper orientation of the world to my non-self / What is the proper orientation of the world to me.” – Sound of Boston

1. Foil Deer, Speedy Ortiz (Carpark, 2015)

“She’s drawn to the dense complexity of Pynchon, the dreamlike geometry of Bolaño, the confounded yearning of Plath—all attributes you could easily apply to the band’s 2013 debut Major Arcana, which fans and press alike have invested with a sense of purpose and merit uncommon in contemporary guitar rock.” – Carpark Records