Friday, November 6, 2009

Josh Ottum - Like The Season

Like The Season at times evokes the wildly addictive bottom end drive of Cake's best songs. Other times this wonderful collection of pop songs with clever lyrics is a West Coast call to arms that is in line with Alex & Sam. Intelligently placed hints of 70's style production (horns, woodwinds and dreamy guitar hooks) permeate Like The Season.

"It's Alright" starts the album with bouncing guitar that gives way to a bass groove that catapults this song. The simple harmonies here are under the radar and work to augment and enhance rather than take the attention away from the groove.

My favorite track is next ,"Easy Way Out". Horns and piano move this track. 'The problem with faith is like the problem with doubt, once you go in you can never get out... it won't let you down it won't keep you out now what was it you're offering now.' The break in the middle is a welcome surprise that gives way to horns driving the song again.

The bass line is the signature on "Who Left The Lights On". A wash of distorted guitar pops up towards the end of the song with some nice mixing that accentuates the left and right channels alternately.

On "Having You Around" we get a glimpse at what Josh's music might sound like if he completely embraced his more eclectic side. I love the more traditional songs, but there is a special energy on this one. There are multiple tempo shifts, and mood changes give "Having You Around" a jazz feel that is capped off with a reprise at the end. You just don't hear too many reprises these days.

"Heaven Is A Great Cocoon" is the perfect closing track for the album. A metronome percussion on this track acts as the tick tock of a clock that lets you know that at some point in this song there will be an eruption. This explosion comes half way through with a blast of electric guitar and the lyrics 'I want my own set of guarantees, what else is there left to lose. I'm such a fool for your make believe, you've got me trying to make up someone new.'

Josh takes chances on a lot of these tracks, and they pay off. There are horns, brass,woodwinds and percussion that mix with piano and guitar pop rock to make an infectious brand of pop music. These wide ranging sounds give the songs on Like The Season a full sound that doesn't strictly come from big production efforts. Josh is adept at incorporating wide ranging sounds in incredibly creative ways. The dual nature of his lyrics have a way of putting their hand out to you and then, when you're ready to grab them, they retract at the last second. In this way his uses nods to the 70's as well. Everything here is well thought out which makes for a satisfying listen to the album as a collection.

You can get Like The Season at Lala and Amazon.

You can keep an eye on Josh's forthcoming tour at his myspace page.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

An Interview with Tune-Yards at The Chopin Theatre, Chicago (10/15/09)

The Tune Yards album Bird Brains is an interesting collage of digital audio recording and samples that make for a great exploration of what is sonically possible on an album.

Therefore I was very interested to see how this collection of sound snippets and samples would play out when performed live. I was fortunate to film an interview with Merrill before the show.

She said that she didn't want to just have a DAT machine playing, and instead used relay pedals and used grunts, drumsticks hitting mic stands and anything else that was handy to lay a percussive ground-floor. She built the rest of the musical building up with her vocals and also the ukulele, which takes on a more prominent roll live than on the album. Any questions about how this would all shake out were answered immediately as Merrill created a sound that was different from the album, but actually shined the focus on her songwriting and her amazing unique vocal style.

The Chopin Theatre was a great place to see a show. The sound was really good and owner Lela and the people that worked there were very nice and accommodating for my interview of Merrill as well as throughout the show. Check out their upcoming line-up.

Thanks to Catherine at Beggars for all of the help.

Also thanks to my friend Steve Juras shot the interview on his video camera as well as took the pictures that show up on this blog. Check his wide range of artistic endeavors at