Entertainment » Music

Dig These Discs :: The Julie Ruin, Travis, Typhoon, Ben Rector, Matt Hires

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Sunday Sep 1, 2013

Kathleen Hanna of Le Tigre fame is back with her longtime dream project, The Julie Ruin. Vocalist Matt Hires unveils his winsomely catchy jangle-pop on his sophomore release and folksy crooner Ben Rector drops a new album. Multi-million selling Scottish quartet Travis builds on their success and Typhoon tries its luck with a "White Lighter."

"Run Fast" (The Julie Ruin)

Back in the days of Riot Grrrls, those lezzies "in the know" knew to keep their eyes peeled for anything by "The Julie Ruin," aka Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre fame. Now, with Le Tigre on hiatus, Hanna is making today’s brash band of headbangers rejoice with the release of her new album, "Run Fast." And as she launches into her first track, "Oh Come On," it’s as though no time has passed at all. Hanna reaches into her handy bag of trademark tricks, shouting her initially unintelligible lyrics in a feather soft sing-song while her band mates periodically punctuate the punky song with masculine shouts. Her second track, "Ha Ha Ha" was recently revealed in Entertainment Weekly, and features a very modern electro-arranged intro backed with swinging drums and flying guitar courtesy of former Bikini Kill bandmate Kathi Wilcox. Guitarist Sara Landeau, drummer Carmine Covelli and pianist Kenny Mellman of Kiki and Herb fame help round out the band. The resulting 13 cuts are invigorating, primal and at the same time, comfort food for the soul. "Just My Kind" is a steady-handed love song about meeting a perfect match, with catchy bongo drums. Hanna uses her classic spoken word intro on "Party City" and goes kooky in "Cookie Road." Landeau’s swinging surfer guitar style comes through at points, adding a new dimension to the punk sound, as in the track "Kids in NY," which serves as a giant shout-out to the city’s best hoods. "There’s a storm out," Hanna croons in monotone, in "Lookout," repeating this word as the chorus, to hypnotic effect. Covelli’s drums rock "Right Home" and Hanna sounds like an angry baby as she spits out, "my tiny fucking feet are always facing the door." The band croons in "Goodnight, Goodbye" and get fucked up on drugs, hang out in a tree house and get a taco and ice cream at "South Coast Plaza." Hanna goes back to the Le Tigre vibe in "Girls Like Us" and goes rapid-fire in "Stop Stop." They wrap it up with the uncharacteristically poppy title track "Run Fast," which is built on nostalgia and piano. The Julie Ruin has already set off on tour to promote their new album, and are heading from East Coast destinations from New York, Philly and D.C. to West Coast venues in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.
(TJR Records)

"This World Won’t Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend" (Matt Hires)

Singer Matt Hires kicked off his sophomore album release with a summer tour show at New York City’s Irving Plaza, and this talented young man hasn’t stopped yet. He is now touring with the five-piece band Parachute, heading across country to end at Dallas’ House of Blues on Sept. 22. Produced by Eric Rosse, the album blends intricate harmonies and melodies to create a stunning showcase for Hires’ masterful vocal work. The Tampa-based Hires worked with songwriters like Alex Dezen and Busbee to create lyrics that skirt the line of sharp-eyed social commentary and intimate storytelling, saying, "My favorite artists are the ones who keep making records that give you something different from what came before, but still hold onto their own unique sound overall. With this album, I pushed into the direction of making music that’s more fun and pop-oriented, but also retains that sense of honesty that I’ve always valued as a songwriter." Although this is only his second full-length LP, he launched the four-song "Forever" EP earlier this year, with the hit single "Restless Heart," which Billboard compared to Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers, calling it "winsomely catchy... a rattling, strings-laden track" that displays Hires’ "predilection towards finger-snapping, toe-tapping jangle-pop." He starts his new album off with "Forever," singing, "Wish we could just lay right here and never think about our fears, forever." He sings about the music in the mystery and sirens turning into symphonies in the bouncy, "The Sound of Falling in Love." Folk and pop blend in "Restless Heart," and "Taking Me Higher." Hires style moves between folk and pop; his "Wishing on Dead Stars" is a Taylor Swift-esque pop tune, while "Over You" skews more toward The Dropkick Murphys. "Signal in the Sky" and "Miles Past Midnight" are more introspective tunes. "I am somebody’s brother, somebody’s son, I am somebody’s only one/ I am somebody’s sucker, and somebody’s fear, I am somebody’s Shakespeare," he sings in "I Am Not Here." His first album, "Take Us to the Start" hit the top 10 on iTunes overall "Top Albums" chart, and its songs were featured in episodes of "Grey’s Anatomy" and "Private Practice." With this new release, fans can get more of this charming and charismatic performer with the clever lyrics, catchy melodies and enveloping, gravely tenor.

"The Walking In Between" (Ben Rector)

Nashville-based musician Ben Rector is flying high, thanks to having one of his new singles from "The Walking In Between" selected as the iTunes Song of the Week. Hit singles on this release include "Beautiful," a soaring pop ballad about young love and regret, "living lives that we don’t care about/ too busy fixing things on computer screens while the grass grows green." In "Ordinary Love," he eschews fame and "the star on the boulevard," for an ordinary love. This talented crooner exposes his emotions in the love song, "When I’m With You," saying "When I’m with you, I know who I am and who I want to be." "Making Money" uses the piano riff from the Beatles "Let It Be" and has the melancholy riff of Simon and Garfunkel’s "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." He pairs mellifluous guitar licks and his smooth vocals in "Sailboat," comparing himself to a ship adrift on the ocean, singing, "please let this wind blow me home." "Set your burdens down," Rector croons in "Forever Like That," also presented in acoustic version. This is Rector’s third successful indie release; it was partially self-produced, with help from Jamie Kenney and Charlie Peacock. Although the album is unabashedly comprised of acoustic-based love songs, Rector is clearly talented, possessing strong vocal chops and a talent for songwriting. Rector sings "I’ll be your shade tree in summer, as you’ll be my fire when it’s cold," without abashment, like a much less douchey John Mayer. "I hope you can close your eyes and see a timeless first dance under strings of big globe lights listening to both versions of ’Forever Like That,’ and I hope you don’t hate me too much for being a little honest and a lot sarcastic in "Making Money,’ (which was actually one live take)," wrote Rector on his website. "I hope that you’ve loved someone long enough for ’I Like You’ to make sense and make you smile, and if you haven’t, I hope you just think it’s catchy." On Sep. 18, Rector will tour the U.S. to promote his new album, covering 32 cities from Seattle to New York to L.A.
(Aptly Named Records)

"Where You Stand" (Travis)

The multi-million selling Scottish quartet Travis cements their early success with their new release, "Where You Stand," a stunning new album full of cinematic pop and those anthemic tunes that first caught critics’ eyes in their breakthrough album, "The Man Who." The band has had an amazing sixteen-year run featuring two hit albums, three Brit awards, five Top 10 singles, 12 Top 20 singles, and countless sold-out shows around the world. After all that, it was time for the band to take a well-deserved break. "It’s a lovely life," reflects bassist Dougie Payne, "but when you do it relentlessly, there’s a point when it snaps you. We decided to take a break to spend time with our families. You stay away as long as it takes so you feel that hunger and desire to get back to it same as you did at the start." The break did them well, as the new album has the rejuvenated sound of their early years. The opening track "Mother" features a bracing rush of harmonic pop with chiming piano, with lyrics bemoaning, "Oh, why did we wait so long?" Their new-wave cut "Moving" harkens back to the harmonies of the ’80s, with bouncy guitar rhythms powering everything forward. The whistle intro of "Reminder" is reminiscent of recent tracks by groups like The Black Keys, and the soulful "Warning Sign" has the group-chant aspects of a Lumineers tune. "Where You Stand" is a tune about loyalty, and a great showcase for lead singer Fran Healy’s vocal range. And the catchy "Another Guy" delves into heartbreak, with the lyrics, "You can say what you want, but it won’t change a thing... I saw you with another guy, holding hands, kissing eye to eye." A gypsy bordello sound comes through "New Shoes," and a pop sound arises in "On My Wall." "Boxes" looks at the progression from happy childhood to trapped adulthood, singing, "the biggest trick they played on you, to make you think the show won’t go on without you." The album closes out with the cinematic piano ballad "The Big Screen," that allows Healy to hit some high notes in dramatic fashion. The album, written and recorded across London, Norway, New York and Berlin, was produced by Michael Ibert on the same sound desk as "The Man Who" and Radiohead’s "Ok Computer." The band will kick off a U.S. headlining tour on Sep. 19 in Philadelphia and moving across the country and into Mexico. "When you’re in a band, you’re in a band forever -- it’s a life thing," said Healy. "For me it’s family."
(Red Telephone Box)

"White Lighter" (Typhoon)

Typhoon is making its mark with their full-length album "White Lighter," a follow-up to their EP "A New Kind of House," that first caught critics’ attention. Their first single, "Young Fathers," premiered earlier this summer, with applause for its blend of literate lyrics and wide-ranging pop sound. The song is a mélange of styles and sounds punctuated with female vocals at points. Critics have compared this track and "The Lake" to the sound of Neutral Milk Hotel and Band of Horses. "Dreams of Cannibalism" has also gotten traction, with brass section flourishes and lyrics like, "Unhand me, I am not a criminal, but I’ve played a guilty part in that modern sense that one pretends their love is original." "Artificial Light" opens with a complex percussion riff, and Morton’s malleable and powerful voice punctuated by syncopatic strings. This orchestral addition adds a lot to "Morton’s Fork," and the use of a mandolin adds an almost Asian feel to "Possible Deaths." An uncle’s lake at the Fourth of July is the story behind the country-influenced song "The Lake." Kyle Morton, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, credits a close brush with death (involving a bug bite, failed organs and a kidney transplant) with giving him a new lease on life. He has channeled his emotions into these songs to create an album that bursts with raw emotion and energy. "When we started working on ’White Lighter,’ I had reason to believe that it would be the last thing I ever did," said Morton. "It is now six months since we finished. I’m still here, and there’s still work to be done." His "quasi-apocalyptic ramblings," as he calls them, translate into sincerely heartbreaking tracks. Along with about a dozen musicians, Morton lets the tracks tensely build up, and then whispers his melody through it. They end with "Post Script," which is fueled by a strong bass drum line. "100 Years" is an instrumentally complex and bleak tune about being out of place, and "Hunger and Thirst" combines ascending strings and sliding brass. "Prosthetic Love" veers dangerously close to Bruce Springsteen’s gritty confessional rock, and "Hunger and Thirst" employs precise electric guitar breaks. According to superstition, a white lighter is considered bad luck to all who touch it -- a superstition fueled by the rumor that Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Kobain, all left-handed, died at 27-years-old with a white BIC lighter in their pocket. Hopefully, Typhoon will dodge that bullet as they kick off their North American tour on Sep. 5 in their hometown of Portland, OR, heading to the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Pop Montreal and Music Fest NW, along with stops in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
(Tender Loving Empire)

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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