Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: The Year of Surprises

The lights at the 40 Watt blur to look like musical notes

Wow, can it be over already? But 2009 just started, didn't it? This year has been so incredibly spectacular! I really just can't believe how much has happened. I've gotten to rock out to 83 bands and acts I'd never seen before this year, and that's not to mention the countless other groups that filled my ears with an insatiable desire to hear them again and again. And wait, just think of it... Echoreyn of Athens only just started in April of 2009! That doesn't seem so long ago, but the unbelievable events of the past year say otherwise. This blog has grown so much since then! In fact, I'd say it's time for a little timeline. So here it is!

The Year in Echoreyn of Athens

April 2009: Echoreyn of Athens begins as a humble little blog about my adventures in the Athens music scene.

April 2009: EoA introduces Kristen's Monthly Concert Picks.

June 2009: EoA gets a YouTube channel filled to the brim with show footage.

June 2009: EoA joins Twitter and shares some instant tidbits about the scene. Thanks for following us!

June 2009: Athfest! I cover Athfest like it's my job with a 20 blog blitz of the massive festival.

July 2009: EoA reviews the music venues around town.

September 2009: The Constellations make my night when they rock Tasty World Uptown.

October 2009: Dead Confederate and Meat Puppets join together to blow me away in what may be the greatest show I've ever seen!

October 2009: EoA gets a facebook fan page. Feel free to be a fan!

November 2009: I celebrate my birthday with some of my Echoreyn of Athens pals at an absolutely incredible show with Crumbling Arches and the Ha's Neptica Atlas.

December 2009: Ho Ho Ho... What a Squidmas!

December 2009: New CDs are being released all over the place! It's time for the Echoreview.

Now that is quite something. I'm seriously excited to see what 2010 brings to this little blog!

On a darker note, not all was well in Athens in 2010. I must mention the terribly large number of amazing talents our town has lost this year. Because I am still pretty new to the Athens music scene, I never had the chance to hear or get to know any of these people, but Athens is such a tight knit community that you can't help but feel the profound impact of their loss. They will most definitely be missed. Randy Bewley, Jon Guthrie, Jerry Fuchs, Vic Chesnutt, and so many more... Rest in peace.

But remember, tonight is New Years Eve, and there's no better time to celebrate love, life, and music than the night of fresh starts and new beginnings. And, lucky for us, there are TONS of choices for those of us who want to ring in the new year with style.

Still in Athens? The Constellations will make your night shine at Tasty Wold Uptown with the Incredible Sandwich on the bill as well. In the mood to dance your winter hats off? Krush Girls and DJ Immuzikation will throwdown in Athens' Chase Park Warehouse tonight too. And Deaf Judges will rap it all up at the Caledonia Lounge.

Down in the ATL? Athens' darlings The Modern Skirts and Five Eight will be rockin' Smith's Olde Bar all night. For some hardcore insanity, don't miss the Black Lips' takeover of the EARL (if you can still manage to grab yourself some tickets, that is). Me? I'll be dancing wildly in Underground Atlanta to the tunes of the unspeakably awesome pop rock band Stellate. I can't wait!

Happy New Year, my friends! Check back often in 2010 for journals of rockin' new shows, reviews of brand new CDs, interviews with the most spectacular of bands, awesome concert videos, blogs coming at you multiple times a week, and so much more! See you in 2010.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa (and Athens),
I know I'm supposed to write and send you a list of things I hope to find under the tree this year, but honestly Athens gave me everything I wanted already! How can I ever thank you enough for 2009, Athens? Thank you for the fans. They've been totally awesome! Thank you for the amazing bands. I never imagined I'd get a shoutout from the stage or links to my blog from some of Athens' finest or the most rockin' birthday party ever. Wow! Oh, and thank you for the music scene in general. It's ever so dynamic. Sometimes it thrives, sometimes it just barely manages to dance its way into our ears, but no matter what, it's a treasure trove of talent and unbelievable experiences!

Santa, all I hope is that you grant the Christmas/Hanukkah/Squidmas/Kwanzaa/Giftmas wishes of all of the citizens of Athens... and the world too, of course!

Much love,
Kristen a.k.a. Echoreyn of Athens

Monday, December 21, 2009

Echoreview: Bambara's Dog Ear Days EP

Cover art for Dog Ear Days by Bambara

You've heard the buzz. As a live band, Bambara's nothing short of breathtaking. You haven't lived until you've seen this band conquer the stage. Now, a year after the release of their self-titled full length debut album, Bambara's ready to share a few more eardrum-pounding tunes with their EP, Dog Ear Days. So, how does it stack up?

The first track, Repeat After Me, starts things off with a bang, or rather, an explosion. It makes great use of the noise technique to create a unique, screeching rhythm that completely surrounds you and makes you feel as if the band is playing it live right of front of you. Then Drag Hesitation blasts onto the scene with an Indiana Jones-style intro and some soft, beautiful singing. The building feedback noise that finishes the tune manages to somehow resemble the machinery wail of the monster on LOST which creates an incredible anticipation of doom. All in all, it's quite a dark song; put very simply, though, I love it!

Stay Gray arrives next, bringing with it a return to the louder tracks. It's certainly got great rhythm. Following this noise intensive ride, Feed the Pigs marches in with a beat almost like that of an approaching train. Ghostlike singing floats through the air ever softly. How very eerie! To be honest, this song actually managed to frighten me a quite a bit. Its creeping, gloomy sound would be completely at home in a horror film, and its layered vocals are stunningly dark. In keeping with the rest of this journey into the unknown, the second half of the song seems to segue into another different but related tune: a rather ominous piano solo enhanced by ethereal, otherworldly noises. Essentially, Feed the Pigs is quite possibly the most deliciously terrifying song I've ever heard.

Swim with the Trees and Chiromancy hold the conclusion of the story within their tunes. Swim with Trees, to me, felt like drowning. This sensation was heightened by the incomprehensible lyrics that peppered the song, sounding almost as if they were being whispered through a deep blanket of water. Chiromancy rounds out the EP with another eerie, suspense-filled tune. Where will it lead? The tension in this song is tangible as it builds towards a veritable explosion in the very middle of the song. It's a massive chase scene that splashes unclear visions of dark stairwalls and shadow-covered figures across the mind. And then... it ends. Completely and suddenly, the music ceases to be.

All of these songs create such incredibly vivid imagery in my mind that I feel like I've actually just finished watching a horror film. In fact, this entire album would be the perfect soundtrack for such a film. Although it admittedly lacks the sheer sexiness of sound that their last album displayed, it's certainly quite the track lineup! To hear Dog Ear Days for yourself, be sure to check out the download of the EP right here, and don't miss the official release of the record in January!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Merry Little Squidmas!

SQUIDMAS! More specifically, the second annual Squidmas party hosted by Doctor Squid with musical guests Leaving Araby and Romanenko... Wow, what a night!

See, just about a year ago, I heard whispers of a festive costume bash complete with bands and holiday cheer. I was intrigued, but, swamped with finals, I had to pass up the chance to attend. However, during the weeks that followed, I found pictures and video that put the taste of Squidmas on my tongue. I craved more, and I knew there was absolutely no way I was going to miss the next celebration of this musically merry holiday!

This year, on Squidmas morning, I awoke filled with such unbelievable levels of anticipation and glee that nothing could dampen my spirits. The moment my pals and I could meet, we headed off to the 40 Watt for the holiday party of a lifetime. Leaving Araby kicked off the show with a set of soft, pop-infused tunes that filled everyone with Squidmas cheer. A tinsel-adorned bass guitar and mics covered in lights made for quite the festive atmosphere.

Then it was time, time for the moment I'd been dreaming of for a good twelve months. Doctor Squid, festooned in an array of red and green attire, stepped onstage to rock our Santa hats off with one of the absolute GREATEST sets I've ever seen. As anyone who's seen them can tell you, Doctor Squid always manages to bring the house down with their tunes. However, I can honestly say I've never seen them like this. They took their already wildly popular original songs and blended them with all of our favorite Christmas tunes to create what can only be described as pure music magic. Their hit song On My Way, usually remembered for its upbeat series of "whoa's", got a Santa-inspired makeover that transformed those "whoa's" into "ho ho ho's." True happiness! Another one of their tunes got a hint of Grinch when it served as an intro to one of the most rockin' holiday medleys I've ever heard. A feeling of utter joy permeated the air as everyone in the audience danced and sang their hearts out along with the band. What an absolutely amazing experience!

Then it was Romanenko's turn to finish out the night. The calm after the storm of merry insanity, Romanenko is one that's been at the top of my list of bands to see live for quite a while. Their dark, indie sound provided the perfect ending to a Squidmas full of rock. And, with more girls than guys in the band, they brought a bit of serious girl power to the largely male Athens rock scene. It's great to see some women who truly know how drum and play! Boy, am I glad I've finally gotten to see them.

Seriously, nothing can beat a triple lineup of amazing bands full of festive cheer. Without a doubt, Squidmas is one of my new favorite holidays, and you can be sure that, come December 2010, I'll be rocking out to some Squidtastic holiday tunes once more!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Debuts, Jams, and the Spirit of Giving

Refugees all over the world need our support, and the International Events Association hopes to provide! This group brought us a fund-raising night of tunes last Tuesday night to help satisfy this need.

Matt Daniel of the awesome band Leading Edge took the stage first to present his solo act. He's quite the talented fellow, I must say! He served up some nice, original songs on the keyboard and guitar and even gave us a musical homage to John Lennon.

Moments later, it was time for the official downtown debut of the band once called Neptica. Although (as I explained in my birthday party entry) they are now introducing themselves as Atlas, everyone I've talked to agrees that the Ha's Neptica Atlas sounds like a rockin' name. Hint, hint. :) Regardless, their songs were wonderful as usual. Jeff was particularly amazing on the flute and sitar. Wow, that guy can play! And Sarah's cello playing really completes their songs. She brings a finished quality to their sound which makes their tunes quite amazing to listen to. Singer Adriana was feeling a bit sick, but man, she's great. Even with her voice not up to her usual standards, she managed to sound absolutely beautiful, only a bit quieter than usual. Lovely music, indeed.

Another name-changing band, Bigfoot, stepped onstage next. Last spring, I raved about a new band called Cyrnaca that rocked the Myers Quad. Well, it seems that this band has gained a new member or so as well as a brand new name. Their sound, too, has changed to become a bit more danceable though they still maintain their ground-vibrating rock style. Best of all, the girl in the band played her violin as if it were a guitar. In all of my adventures through the Athens music scene, I've never seen anything like it! Weirdly enough, though, they were the third band I've seen in a month that played a cover of the Ghostbusters theme. Is this a new band favorite or something? I've truly enjoyed all of the awesome differences in each incarnation of this tune that I've heard so far this year, but honestly, if one more band plays it any time soon, I may have to ever-so-painfully remove my ears. One can indeed have too much of a good thing.

Then the final band emerged from amidst the crowd dancing wildly to Bigfoot's set and took their enthusiastic energy to the stage. Calling themselves CocoRico, they brought a refreshing taste of pop to the mix. Their sound was very finished, very impressive, and the singer's and keyboardist's unexpected series of hilarious risque dance moves was just plain unforgettable. They finished out their set with about 15 minutes of straight jamming with guest guitarist Parks Miller. Well, that was kind of unexpected. They're definitely a rockin' band though.

Good show. What a cool way to help those in need.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Echoreview: Efren's Thunder and Moan

Album cover for Thunder and Moan

Efren has come to town, and he's not letting his arrival go unnoticed! This mysterious musician (and occasionally group of musicians) will be letting the world get their hands on his debut album Thunder and Moan on December 4th at the Flicker Theatre. So what's it like?

Efren's style has a heavy, folksy quality to it that pervades each tune on the album. Roots with occasional layered vocals, his sound is that of one who's lived through much and dug into the depths of his heart to share it with us. It's a clear home recording which certainly gives his songs a very indie feel. Here's the breakdown.

Father's Proof starts off the record with a quiet, spiritual journey through Efren's relationship with Jesus. Quite an interesting way to begin, I must say. The next tune Montana Scare, however, sounds much more like the other songs in the album. It ushers in the darker tunes on the record and, with a focus on alcohol and women, it's quite the trip into sinner's land after the first song. Bruised Tomatoes follows this with a unique rhythm that brings the listener on an incredibly vivid adventure. Without even closing my eyes, this song conjured up visions of rolling meadows and soft breezes. The twitter-ready tune entitled Pound Yr Chest brings a much more upbeat sound to the album followed by the quieter, very rhythmic See You Laugh At the Lights. Both are simple yet enjoyable listens.

For me, Advantages proved to be the low point of the album. Although I enjoy the dark quality and general tune of this song, its hard-to-understand lyrics prevented me from truly becoming engaged by it. One of the shorter songs on the CD, its heavy strumming seems a bit out of place in this part of the album. The following tune Cut My Hair, however, is probably my favorite on the record. Beginning with a gorgeous acoustic guitar intro that flows easily into the lyrical section of the song, it's the perfect piece to listen to on a dreary day as rain beats heavily upon your window. The chorus combines a very simple yet heart-wrenching set of lyrics with a peaceful tune and the occasional inclusion of an intriguing, unclassifiable sound that resembles anything from a sharp wind blowing to a woman screaming in the distance. Fascinating song.

The album's namesake, Thunder and Moan, emerges following Cut My Hair with a rather upbeat, danceable tune. Distinctly different from most of the previous songs on the album, it provides a technical turning point on the record. Nearly all of the remaining tunes retain a similar, positive vibe. After a short instrumental track, Hickory Bell picks up with a twangy, upbeat tune. This particular song about a less-than-talented musician introduces a bit of humor into the mix with lines like "he sounded like a dead goose." The slow and soothing Up in the Drifts song finishes out the album with layered vocals and a sense of completeness. This tune has a curious pop music feel to it that makes it stand out against all of the other songs on the record. Its sound is one of uplifting hope, the perfect ending to the album's tumultuous journey.

Essentially, Thunder and Moan truly describes the sound of the entire record. Don't miss your chance to experience this aptly-titled album live from start to finish this Friday at Flicker. Rumor has it you may even get a chance to get your hands on a free download of these songs if you attend!