Jeremy Larson - They Reappear


Outlook Music Co.

They Reappear is Jeremy Larson's newest self-made album that sees Larson take his lovingly crafted songs in an all new direction. Turning from the more alternative rock sound of his previous album, Salvation Club, They Reappear ditches the electric guitars and thrusts Larson's soaring string arrangements to the front of the mix. Performing all the instruments aside from some guest drumming in a few tracks by MuteMath drummer Darren King, They Reappear is both an orchestral pop album and a solo album unlike anything you've probably ever heard in either of those genres.

In most albums that are made almost completely by one person, sacrifices in certain elements of the songs are almost always present. But Larson's attention to detail is almost unprecedented here; check out the bass line on "Beside Manner" or the string sections on "Parasomnias" for example. Larson is no amateur arranger or singer-songwriter, successfully crossing those pesky classical/pop lines with no effort at all. His string parts are full of subtlety and grace, using plenty of extended techniques and string slides to keep things interesting. Again, not only does Larson play all the instruments on the record, he also produced and mixed the album himself, giving They Reappear an incredibly cohesive and unified feel. I really appreciate Larson's faithfulness to his limited instrument palette and unique harmonic language here and it really does pay off when you listen to the album straight through.

Larson has a particularly good ear for unique chord progressions and melodies. Harmonically, vocally, and thematically, Larson fits in nicely with the recent trend of alternative pop/rock bands transitioning to softer, indie pop sound such as Copeland's Eat, Sleep, Repeat and Sleeping at Last's newer recordings. Larson's breed of orchestral pop is usually content in sitting on slower tempos, favoring light drums and delicate piano over the quicker-paced and aggressive sound of other artists who have utilized string parts like Owen Pallett or John Vanderslice's newest material. Its an exciting new direction for Larson in particular, as he sits in a unique spot as a partially trained classical musician with a good ear for songs as well. In my recent interview with Larson, he mentioned that the album was at first going to be instrumental and act as a sort of resume for diving into the world of television and film scoring. A lot of the instrumental tracks on the album are incredibly strong and provide some of the most poignant moments on the album such as on "Night Terrors" where Larson's fragile piano chords are contrasted against Darren King's frantic drumming or "Provoke" that shows off Larson's music-school piano skill and darker compositional style.

As an album, the songs drift in and out, often blurring the lines between instrumental interludes and full-fledged songs. The songs run into one other, providing a long and continuous experience that definitely lends itself to the overall affect on the listener. However, this part of the album's strengths is also the album's most noteworthy weakness as well. I found it easy to put the record on and let the songs pass by me without a lot sticking out. For the most part, I am totally okay with that as catchy choruses aren't exactly what this album is all about. However, I felt that in a few of the more poppy songs like "Riochet" and "Empire", the songs could have developed more and created a stronger sense of arrival at those choruses both vocally and instrumentally. These are dainty pop songs that have a lot of color and character, but sometimes lack the dynamics required to create those truly memorable moments that you expect in a song of this style. Vocally, I felt like even something as simple as more harmonies and overdubbing could have really brought out the melodies in these songs.

However, I don't want to downplay the personal accomplishment that is They Reappear. Despite some of the problems I had with it, its an incredibly impressive endeavor and is quite satisfying in its own right. Larson has a lot of original ideas and all the musical talent in the world to deliver a great execution. Whether its in a film score, another solo album, or more collaborations with other artists, I definitely am looking forward to hearing more from him. And if you appreciate the classy, more soft rock side of indie pop, you'll certainly find a lot to like in the They Reappear.

Jeremy Larson - Ricochet


Interview with Jeremy Larson

Jeremy Larson is a solo artist and collaborator with bands like Eisley, Sleeping at Last, and MuteMath. As a multi-instrumentalist and self-producer, Larson is redefining what it means to be a "solo artist". His new album, They Reappear, was just released last week and actually broke into the top 5 sells on bandcamp on the day of its release. Our short interview is below, so take a read and make sure to also check out his new album streaming over at his band camp.


The Feedback Loop: Your recently released album, entitled They Reappear, has a really unique focus on strings and orchestral arrangements compared to the more standard alternative-rock sound on your previous recordings. What was the thought process and concept behind the album?

Jeremy Larson: After the last album, Salvation Club, I was really unsure of what I wanted to do musically. I felt like there was plenty of “indie pop” music out there already. There were bands that do that better than I do, and I was a little burnt out on writing in that style. I was toying with the idea of doing an instrumental album; something that would serve as a sort of resume for getting more into TV and film. But I still wanted to write songs, so I basically married the two on one album. There are 10 traditional “songs”, and 6 additional orchestral instrumentals that play off of themes and concepts of the songs.

TFL: The album's got a very classy, impressionist feel to it. What's your background with classical music and how does that show up in your music?

JL: I was a piano major in college, and became completely obsessed with Ravel. His piano works played a huge part in the type of music I play. Well, him and Jonny Greenwood. I guess my music may show a bit of their influence, but probably only on a very elementary level.

TFL: I hear that you actually performed almost all of the instruments on the record including the string parts. Truly impressive endeavor. How long have you been a multi-instrumentalist and what all instruments do you play?

JL: That’s just the way I’ve always done things. I strongly considered trying to hire a string ensemble to make this record since I didn’t know how to play the violin or the viola. But working with string ensembles is very expensive, even more so when the writing and recording process are usually one and the same for me. On the other hand, I’m not sure I have the energy to do it this way again. It’s extremely tedious recording the same parts over and over and over; especially being so new to these instruments. In order to achieve that orchestral sound, I have to record myself as if I was each individual member of the orchestra. I’m really not sure what I will do for the next album. I’ve made a lot of new friends recently that are string players, and I’m hoping to collaborate with them if they are willing. On this album, I played the piano, bass, some drums and percussion, guitar, keys, violin, viola, cello, acoustic bass, and trumpet.


FBL: So you've just released a new album, DVD, and had what looks like an awesome CD-release show with a 20-piece orchestra and Darren King from MuteMath drumming. What was your experience with that and what's your connection with Darren?

JL: Darren grew up in Marshfield, which is just about twenty minutes away from here (Springfield). We actually met at a coffee shop five or six years ago here in town. We’ve been friends ever since, and collaborate pretty frequently. Whenever he’s in town, we try to squeeze in at least one session together. He does drums for me, and I do some string work for MuteMath. The album release show was a dream. I’ve been working all week on mixing the audio, and the video should be finished within a few weeks. It was by far, the best musical experience of my life.

TFL: I noticed that you also have been working with Sleeping at Last, of whom I am a big fan. Tell us what working with them has been like.

JL: They are really, really, easy to work with. Ryan and Dan are both extremely talented string arrangers, and my involvement is usually just performing what they’ve written. Yes, I’m a pretty big fan myself, which is why I approached them in the first place about working together.

TFL: Do you have any plans to perform the songs on the album outside of your CD-release with your own personal orchestra? I can imagine it might be difficult to put that many people on the road.

JL: No plans right now. And yes, it’s just about impossible for someone at my level to take that large of a group on the road. I’ve become very close with many of the players that helped me out with the show and I’m hoping that we can at least do a few isolated shows in selected cities over the next year or two.


Thanks to Jeremy Larson for taking the time to do the interview and sharing his music with us. He seems like really nice guy and a super talented musician so again, check out his bandcamp, blog, and his new album and tell me what you think. Thanks for reading and look for my review coming within the next few days!


Ivan & Alyosha - Fathers Be Kind EP


Cheap Lullaby Records

Ivan & Alyosha is a four-piece acoustic folk rock band out of Seattle, Washington, having gained some national attention after being featured on NPR Music recently. Their newest EP, Fathers Be Kind, is a five-song album of acoustic pop songs, dressed in the trendy stylings of Fleet Foxes and Local Natives. Full of catchy melodies, prominent 4-part harmonies, and eccentric percussion, these guys don't shy away from their obvious influences and I want to point out that there's a certain amount of bravery in that. So many indie bands so pretentiously pretend to be influenced by obscure 60s pop and Lady Gaga, when the music that their peers are making seems like a much more familiar place start. The more important thing to ask yourself when approaching a band like this is "does the band make the sound their own"? And for the most part, in this very short EP, Ivan & Alyosha have demonstrated the ability to do just that.

Whether its the heartfelt lyrics on "I Was Born To Love Her" or the sweet verse melody and interesting bridge section of "Everything is Burning", the Fathers Be Kind EP does a good job of keeping the production of these songs feeling pretty novel, while still keeping the focus primarily on Tim Wilson's excellent vocal deliveries. Somewhat surprisingly, these guys even make a choppy drum machine beat sound like folk in "Living for Someone". Lyrically, there are some good ideas, but if enough cringe-worthy moments to show that there is plenty of room to grow for these young songwriters. One of the best tracks is the final song, "Glorify", a gospel-folk song that magnifies these guys' unique spirituality and clever wordplay. Its tracks like these that highlight what sets these guys apart that make the biggest impression on me.

Having not released a full-length LP yet, the Fathers Be Kind EP still feels like group of song sketches in many ways. However, there are enough great moments in this short EP to get me excited for their proposed full-length album to start production in April. So if you are looking to satisfy your hunger for some agreeable, acoustic indie-pop until Fleet Foxes' newest album releases in a couple months, look no further than Ivan & Alyosha's Fathers Be Kind EP. I also recommend picking up their first EP, The Verse, The Chorus as well, which features the delectable single, "Easy to Love".

Ivan & Alyosha - I Was Born To Love Her


Starfucker - Reptilians


Polyvinyl Records

Known for their cross-dressing stage antics and ridiculous band name, Starfucker's actual music isn't quite as controversial. For the most part, this Portland synth-pop act sticks to their guns and crafts simple New Wave dance tracks in the vein of Passion Pit minus Michael Angelakos' mighty vocals. Starfucker's brand of electro-pop is heavily focused on the analog synths and keyboard textures and less on the vocals. This, by the way, usually works to their advantage, as Starfucker usually plays with some awesome synth sounds and intricate guitar work that give each of their songs a pretty unique feel. More than many other bands out there, these guys are great with their synthesizers and usually find great atmospheres in which to write their songs.

Even still, you can't help but feel a bit shortchanged when the vocals are pushed this far into the background in what would have been otherwise fully produced dance tracks like "Bury Us Alive" and "Death As a Fetish". The instrumental intros of these songs sound like they really want and deserve a properly confident singer and melody to appear, but unfortunately, remain barren. The songs where the vocals stand out a bit more like "Julius" and "Astoria" really show the songwriting potential of the band. "Julius" might be this album's "Pop Song", a sneakily catchy song who's understated melody will grow on you despite its lack of support. However, the solid melodies appear too far and between to give the album the proper balance it deserves.

The band calls their sound "dance music that you can actually listen to, that's good pop songs, but also you can dance to it." With a band statement like that, you can't expect the most original music in the world. For a band who chose their name based on how far they thought they could go with it, Starfucker doesn't seem too worried about making artistic statements or sonic breakthroughs. Even still, to break into the circle of indie synth-pop powerhouses like Passion Pit, Mat and Kim, and Robyn, these guys are going to have to learn to write a melody. Indie listeners have shown that they will always be down for another synth-pop dance album, but I have a hard time hearing how Reptilians is adding anything new to the mix.

Starfucker - Julius


Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes


LL Recordings

Lykke Li, the Swedish indie vocalist, is as heart-on-the-sleeves and emotive as ever before on her sophomore album, Wounded Rhymes. Although the twentysomething has never been one to shy away from her emotions, Wounded Rhymes finds her releasing herself in often dark and brooding musical gestures. For an album full of song titles like "Sadness is a Blessing" and "Rich Kids Blues", Wounded Rhymes is surprisingly extroverted, full of a number of upbeat tracks and lush production. Tracks like "Youth Knows No Pain" and "Unrequited Love" dress Lykke Li in the stylings of 70's AM-pop band She & Him, singing like Zooey Deschanel's depressed and moody little sister.

The album has a very cohesive sound with like-sounding instruments and production being used in each song. In a musical world where influences and sounds can come and go in even one song, its refreshing to hear Lykke remain faithful to the distorted drums, quirky organ, and slightly lo-fi production. The sounds are a little more dirty and cluttered than they were in her previous album, Youth Novels, but represent a more matured and comprehensive fit for Lykke Li's personality. Ultimately, the sound of Wounded Rhymes is incredibly memorable and is sure to make an impression in your mind. It would have been easy for Lykke's overly melodramatic personality to outrun the actual music, but Lykke's knack for writing infectious melodies keeps the pace and feel of the album just about right.

Although I wouldn't dare call it hopeful, "Love Out of Lust", which might be the strongest track on the album, is one of the rare brighter moments on the album where she sings of the strength of a relationship over the strength of the individual: "We will live longer than I will/We will be better than I was". In an album full of somber relationship problems and identity struggles, it would have been great to get a few more tracks that saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Stepping the edge of self-pity for most of the album, Lykke finally gets so down that she gets to the inevitable track "Sadness is a Blessing" where she sings this unfortunate line: "Sadness is a blessing, sadness is a pearl/Sadness is my boyfriend, sadness I'm your girl". While I'd love to feel sorry for Lykke more, that kind of writing is trying a little too hard. Fortunately, when she isn't wallowing in her own depression, Lykke is a strong and creative songwriter that has made a successful album to represent that. For the most part, Wounded Rhymes is a great mid-winter downer that manages to turn her overwhelming sadness into a blessing for us.

Lykke Li - Love Out of Lust