Review: MuteMath - Armistice

MuteMath - Armistice
Record Label: Teleprompt Records/Warner Bros. Records
Release Date: August 18, 2009

When a band clashes with their record company and struggles to maintain their identity, it’s rather obvious that they feel strongly about who they are.  MuteMath is a band that embodies these attributes. In 2006, the band self-released their debut in response to their label, Warner Music Group, packaging their songs primarily for the Christian market. After much struggle, MuteMath won the right to be marketed into the mainstream, with singer Paul Meany declaring that “we just want to make music with no barriers.”

After the solid success of the their self-titled debut, which received airtime on both MTV and radio, MuteMath are back with their sophomore release, “Armistice.” The record is a collection of eclectic, infectious pop tunes that aren’t the bread-and-butter radio singles many have grown to expect from bands today. The band channels the energy from their intense live shows to record as well as anyone, and “Armistice” comes as close to mimicking that adrenaline-rush as you can get.

The record kicks off with the fist-pumping rocker, “The Nerve,” a scathing commentary about a world that doesn’t seem quite right. Meany growls “Can you believe this world's like a glassy eyed swiggler caught sipping another one / Can you believe this world's like a tyrant taking over anything that it wants?” Before long, the band launches into full fury, Meany howling out “Set it on fire!”, shedding a satirical, ironic light on the idea that the only way to save a messed up world is to destroy it.

The next song, “Backfire” is quite the standout, with its groovy hook and chorus that draws the listener in with its infectious catchiness. Like the first song, its upbeat nature is sure to make “Backfire” a favorite live number for the next few years.

The record takes a quick turn with the lower-tempo “Clipping.” The musical layering of Greg Hill’s guitar work, in tandem with Roy Mitchell-Cardenas’ pumping bass rhythms, Darren King’s drum work, a string section, and harmonized vocals create a mysterious yet delectable atmospheric crunch. It serves as a reminder that this band isn’t just another hip jam band, but rather, a talented and versatile unit that is incredibly tight both in the studio and live.

The band continues to exhibit this talent throughout the rest of the record, dabbling in electronica, handclaps, and other elements, churning up their unique style. To say there is no Radiohead influence at all would be bogus, but nothing MuteMath does here comes across as pretentious or wrought in imitation. From the semi-plodding, semi-jogging “No Response,” to the softer introspection of “Pins and Needles,” there is not a moment the listener will become blasé.

The frenzied “Electrify” channels some figments of the previous MuteMath record, particularly “Chaos,” with its urgent, speeding vocals and swift drum work. It’s unabashedly a love song packaged in a less-than-common format; instead of the typical power ballads and cute mid-tempo pop configuration, it’s a raging, intense tune. It seems rather appropriate, considering that love isn’t always tame and serene – it can turn one’s world upside down and make you feel like running around in a fever. Meany certainly feels as such, declaring over and over that “I feel it, I feel it, I feel it in my bones.”

After this, the record ends on a strong note, with the achingly beautiful “Lost Year” and the sprawling 9 minute-plus “Burden,” which certainly won’t weigh heavily on one’s ears. MuteMath only scratched the surface of their talent with their debut, and now have taken their art to the next level with “Armistice.”  Listeners will immediately notice a musical growth in the band’s music; MuteMath have certainly nailed down their identity as musicians.

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Former LA Symphony Members Spill "Rootbeer"

Pigeon John and Flynn Adam, both formerly from hip-hop group LA Symphony, dropped an E.P. last Tuesday under the name of Rootbeer.  With 5 tracks and not even 20 minutes of music there was many opportunities for me to listen through it again and again since it was released.  With the top tracks Chimpanzee and title track, Pink Limousine, it is clear that Rootbeer has developed their own brand of hip-hop.  It is animalistic, fast pace and fun.  They have struck gold on these two tracks that would be pleasing to any fan of P.J or Flynn or (any Hip-hop head for that matter).  Girlies is a fun track with a distict Rootbeer sound as well but it takes a back seat to the others.  The last two tracks are Under Control which is starting to grow on me with out it having any special qualities, and So Good with is a throw back to Pigeon John's Sings The Blues.

Live Albums, specifically Clarity Live by Jimmy Eat World

There is probably a psychology to surrounding live albums.  I don’t have my degree in it but I suppose if you are a die-hard fan you are going to buy it regardless if they are great or not.  I believe that bands put out live albums for one of two reasons, record contracts need to be filled or money needs to be made without making new material.  In this case Jimmy Eat World is self-releasing their live album on their own website so I believe it’s the latter.  They do have enough fans to make a few bucks with a self-released live album.

How good is it?  Well you have to consider that its live (4/5 to start) and the fact that Jim Adkins is unable to do layer after layer of recorded vocals means that Tom Linton is key to filling in behind him doesn’t help (3/5 now).  But it is Jimmy Eat World and these guys have been killing it for ten years now.  Besides who doesn’t have great memories of blasting the song Bleed American out of their car stereo as all your passenger friends sang along?

I’ve been a fan of Jimmy since 2001 so I missed the first round of Clarity.  This time it’s a choice and I’m going to let this album go to the die-hard collectors.  The fact that the album track listing isn’t posted and you can’t get 30 second sound clips on the site makes you hesitate to pull the 8.99 trigger (Did I mention it is the Clarity Album (but Live) + two encore tracks?).

But know this - the fact that the concert was recorded in their home state promises that the every song will have sing-along gang vocals to accompany you on a lonely drive to work any time you need them.  If anything, this will make you want to go and revisit your old Clarity album again with a much new appreciation.

Find “Table To Glasses” streaming on their Myspace Page. www.myspace.com/jimmyeatworld

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And the Winner is...

Announcing The Winner of Our Indie Artist Month  March Madness Contest:

 

Tquan Moore: Don't Stop Praising

Tquan Wins: 

  • Free NoiseTrade Distribution (worth $199): Upload your music and create a custom NoiseTrade widget. Fans can sample then choose to pay any amount for or tell 5 friends about your music to receive an immediate download. You receive names, email addresses, and postal codes from anyone who downloads your music. You keep 90% of what fans choose to pay. This is an indie artist’s dream. Your music gets put in front of the thousands and thousands of people who visit Noisetrade.com every week. In a viral, web driven marketplace, you can’t beat this kind of exposure.
  • C28 Artist Sponsorship (worth $150+): Ever want a clothing company to sponsor you? C28 has the threads, stickers, buttons, jewelry, etc so you can play in style. You get $150 to spend on their online store plus a widget to embed on your website (if people come to the store through your website, C28 will give you a commission on the profit).
  • 50 Free T- Shirts from Extra Mile Merch (worth $300+) It’s simple. Give Extra Mile your band’s T-shirt design and they’ll give you 100 t-shirts in various sizes for you to sell to your fans. Bands: Call for Free Brand Storm Consultation or Print Quote: 949-429-1000 or scottbrinson@extramilemerch.com
  • A Spot on the Next Undiscovered Music Sampler  -  Our quarterly samplers get placed in college bookstores and C28 retail stores all over the nation.  This is another great opportunity to get your music heard by a larger fan base.
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The Best Bands You've Never Heard Of

Here's a growing list of bands/artist I think deserve a special shout out for the hard work and ingenuity. In additon, they all excell at covering great songs too (each video is a cover of a song they do). Enjoy!

Best Live Band: Dawes

Unfortunately their studio album does them little justice. They're a classic example of a band you listen to live and go "wow," then buy their CD and go "ohh." I'm confident their next project will correct the lack of energy on their first. In the meantime, if you get a chance to check out their live show, you won't be sorry. Explosive americana southern rock is their specialty backed by four part "eagles-like" harmonies that catapult you back to the 70's with the aid of tasteful tele licks and hammond drones. They're playing South by South West March 19th & 20th.



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Q&A with Molly Jenson

Molly Jenson is a singer-songwriter from San Diego who currently bases her operations in Orange County. Her new record, “Maybe Tomorrow,” dropped in stores March 3. Undiscovered was able to sit down with her a week before the album released to talk about her music.

Undiscovered: So your new album’s coming out next week right? I heard it’s actually a re-release of one that you did a few years back.

Molly: Yeah, I put a record out just independently and sold it at shows and to friends a couple years ago in 2005. And then when I signed with Bully!/Pulpit Records/Nettwerk Music Group, they bought the record off me and we changed the artwork and added a duet that Jon Foreman and I wrote.

Undiscovered: So it’s one week before your record releases. Is life any busier than usual for Molly Jenson?

Molly: It’s been crazy. This last month has been the busiest and most stressful month of my life, but it’s fun. I’m growing a lot, I’m learning a lot and I’m getting to do a lot. We shot my music video last week, and I got to go on tour with Fiction Family. We’ve been doing all these promotional things and it’s been really cool. This is the kind of stress I like. It shows me that stuff is getting done and things are moving forward.

Undiscovered: You mentioned touring with Fiction Family. Was that different from anything you’ve done before?


Molly: Absolutely! It was so amazing! It was my first real tour. I’ve played in Europe and I’ve played up the coast of California, but I haven’t left California on tour with my own music, opening for a band who has a good crowd of people. And I did five shows with them and I played solo. I’ve never played solo; I would always have at least one person backing me up because I never felt confident enough to play guitar and so they could cover up my mistakes. But I had the best shows I’ve ever played; we sold out every night.

Undiscovered: Your profile description on Myspace said you never planned on recording an album or ever doing any of this stuff. What happened?

Molly: Well, Greg Laswell and I went to college together at Point Loma in San Diego and we had mutual friends and we were only acquaintances in college. But in 2004 I moved to Orange County and I’d been singing on other people’s projects, but I really was starting to think that I wanted do my own stuff, but was really struggling. So Greg was working on his own stuff and producing other people. He heard that I was starting to write and called and said he’d love to meet with me. So we got together and wrote a song, and we just had this connection that can be really hard to find with other people, and it went on from there.

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Why We Like Lykke Li

“Swedish people are so cool!” shouted 21-year-old fan Sena Serna over the loud music. “She exudes coolness!”

Such was the attitude of the crowd gathered at the Glass House on Feb. 17 to catch Swedish pop star Lykke Li on her U.S. tour for the debut 2008 album “Youth Novels.”

Timotej Zachrisson, known as Lykke Li, has quickly risen to iconic status both in Sweden and the U.S. with the release of her album, her live YouTube performances and her collaborations with renowned artists such as Bon Iver, Shout Out Louds, Santogold, and Kanye West.


Lykke Li seamlessly blends pop, hip-hop, dance, groovy jazz, and soulful R&B, into her own conglomerate style, with her catchy lyrics adding a girlish charm complementary to her vocals.

Undiscovered Presents Indie Artist Month

We're pretty stoked to announce that March = Independent Artist Month @ Undiscovered. Here's what this means for you:

MARCH MADNESS CONTEST:
Upload a song, get enough votes to be number 1 on the charts by March 31st, and win our gear, distribution, threads, and merch package sponsored by NoiseTrade, C28, and Extra Mile Merch – over $1,000 in prizes that help YOU go farther in your artistry.

What’s Included:

  • Free NoiseTrade Distribution (worth $199): Upload your music and create a custom NoiseTrade widget. Fans can sample then choose to pay any amount for or tell 5 friends about your music to receive an immediate download. You receive names, email addresses, and postal codes from anyone who downloads your music. You keep 90% of what fans choose to pay. This is an indie artist’s dream. Your music gets put in front of the thousands and thousands of people who visit Noisetrade.com every week. In a viral, web driven marketplace, you can’t beat this kind of exposure.
  • C28 Artist Sponsorship (worth $150+): Ever want a clothing company to sponsor you? C28 has the threads, stickers, buttons, jewelry, etc so you can play in style. You get $150 to spend on their online store plus a widget to embed on your website (if people come to the store through your website, C28 will give you a commission on the profit).
  • 50 Free T- Shirts from Extra Mile Merch (worth $300+) It’s simple. Give Extra Mile your band’s T-shirt design and they’ll give you 100 t-shirts in various sizes for you to sell to your fans. Bands: Call for Free Brand Storm Consultation or Print Quote: 949-429-1000 or scottbrinson@extramilemerch.com
  • A Spot on the Next Undiscovered Music Sampler  -  Our quarterly samplers get placed in college bookstores and C28 retail stores all over the nation.  This is another great opportunity to get your music heard by a larger fan base.
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Review - M Ward: Hold Time

Hold Time, the seventh solo album from singer/songwriter/producer M. Ward, releases today. The new collection of songs from the Portland resident who creates with the likes of Jim James, Zooey Deschanel, Jenny Lewis, and Cat Power, plays a guessing game with the listener, creating sounds and spaces that span across decades.

Hold Time
is a case study for what I hear from most artists today. At the core of most serious songwriters is the desire to create something timeless, a piece that stands alone and begs the question, “When was this created?” Many of these artists point to the wax libraries they grew up with, vinyl contributions that still communicate powerfully amidst the noise of modern culture.   M. Ward might be considered a leader in “the timeless campaign” with a body of work that most recently includes “the 60’s soul-pop collaboration, “She & Him” featuring the vocals of Zooey Deschanel as well as a knack for blending the new with the old.  The latest installment blends some of the biggest sounds ever heard from M. alongside some of the subtlest as well, oftentimes juxtaposed against each other within the same song. “Never Had Nobody Like You” (featuring Deschanel) debuts with a Ringo-like cadence coupled with McCartney fuzz. The title track employs Ward’s trademark (boomy, quiet room tones on vocals and guitars) set against huge, lush string arrangements creating a pleasant anomaly.

When it comes to words, M. tells the usual stories of love, heartbreak, and self-realization, a few sticking out like “Jailbird” and “Oh Lonesome Me” featuring a felicitous performance by Lucinda Williams. Ward doesn’t shy away from spirituality on Hold Time but joins a list of growing indie personas (My Morning Jacket comes to mind) that seem to enjoy seeping blatant theological themes into their albums while publicly smirking them off  leaving them up to interpretation.  Tracks like “To Save Me” and “Fisher of Men” possess strong attributes of the Christian God while the teachings of both Jesus and St. Paul are referenced in “Epistemology” and “For Beginners.”

A brilliant storyteller, thoughtful producer, and laudable guitarist with a smooth crooner voice made that much more nostalgic by heavy reverb and raw tracking, M. Ward continues to leave his one-of-a-kind footprint on the music industry. Perhaps not as timely as his last album, Post War, Hold Time still manages to show off M’s creativity and ingenuity for throwing random sounds and stories into the atmosphere, somehow stringing them together to deliver something unique and tangible.

- CJ Casciotta

CJ is an artist, writer, and cultural commentator with a passion for raising a new generation of innovative artists and forward thinkers. He blogs for ConversantLife.com and manages their independent artist platform, Undiscovered.

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Fact from Fiction: Fiction Family’s Debut Conveys Truth and Beauty

In a scene dominated by the gentle, hypersensitive sounds of Sufjan, The Welcome Wagon, and Fleet Foxes, Jon Foreman and Sean Watkins finally inject some manliness back into the acoustic guitar. Fiction Family, the culmination of two of our generation’s most prolific and respected songwriters, debuts as a masterful collection of tales about murder, adventure, lost love, and war that highlight each contributor’s strengths and personalities while managing to defy perceived expectations. 

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