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Music Feature- Manchester Orchestra

I interviewed Chris Freeman of Manchester Orchestra for The Inlander to preview the band’s upcoming show in Spokane. You can also read this feature here.

Transition Period

How alt-rock quintet Manchester Orchestra finally found its loud voice

By Azaria Podplesky

Sometimes in order to move forward, you need to revisit the past.

For alt-rock quintet Manchester Orchestra, that meant buying a house tucked between homes with big families and minivans in the suburbs of Alpharetta, Ga. — the same place a majority of the band had lived in early in its career.

After soundproofing the home studio and moving in gear accumulated over the years, the band was almost ready to record its fourth album independently.

The only thing missing was a strong sense of where to go musically. For a band with both straightforward indie-rock albums (2006’s I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child and 2009’s Mean Everything to Nothing) and a string-heavy concept album (2011’s Simple Math) under its belt, the sky really was the limit.

As keyboardist/backing vocalist Chris Freeman tells it, the band bounced from one genre to the next in the early stages of the recording process.

"There was a pretty general consensus between all of us that the rock genre is lacking right now, with electronic music becoming more popular and hip-hop and the folky-acoustic thing that’s happening in alternative music," Freeman says. "We decided that we could do something different."

The band decided to create the record it felt was missing from rock ‘n’ roll — one that was brutal, in-your-face and, perhaps most important, loud.

That album, Cope, released April 1, is unrelentingly heavy from beginning to end. There are ever-so-slightly-softer moments bookended by lead single “Top Notch” and the album-closing title track, which features the thematic lyric, “And I hope if there is one thing I let go/It is the way that we cope,” but for the most part, the five-piece doesn’t stop to let listeners catch their breath.

For Freeman, Cope reflects the mid-to-late-20s period of adulthood when things like marriage and having a family seem more real. Now that he’s on the other side of the recording process, he feels more prepared to take on this new chapter in life.

"We’ve definitely grown through that record, and that definitely begins to reflect in your personal life," he says. "I feel a little bit older, a little more grown-up because of that record."

Likewise, Cope represents Manchester Orchestra at a new stage in its career. Having begun this journey independently, the band has since signed with Loma Vista Recordings. This is also its first record with bassist Andy Prince.

After a period full of transitions, Manchester Orchestra is ready for whatever comes next. And it’s going to be as loud as it wants. ♦

Manchester Orchestra with Balance and Composure, Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band • Mon, April 28, at 7:30 pm • $16.50 • All-ages • Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague • sp.knittingfactory.com • (866) 468-7623

Filed under Manchester Orchestra Chris Freeman Cope The Inlander music writing freelance writing music journalism

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Short Preview- Sleeper Agent

I wrote this brief for Seattle Weekly to preview Sleeper Agent’s show in Seattle. You can also read this brief here.

21-year-old spitfire Alex Kandel brings a lot of attitude to Sleeper Agent, the Kentucky pop-rock six-piece she fronts with singer/guitarist Tony Smith. On March’s About Last Night, her voice ranges from raspy to folky to as in-your-face as her multicolored hair. Throw in a musical sugar rush, and Last Night is an instant favorite for pop-rockers young and old. With HOLYCHILD, Pagiins. The Showbox. 7:45 p.m. $12 adv./$14 DOS. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

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Short Preview- Cataldo

I wrote this brief for Seattle Weekly to preview Cataldo’s show in Seattle. You can also read this brief here.

After growing restless musically, Cataldo’s Eric Anderson decided to pair his brainy lyrics—for example gems like “Noli me tangere, motherfucker”—with newfound pop sensibilities. The resulting album, Gilded Oldies, serves as a new beginning for Anderson and crew. Its solid danceability comes from stark drum beats, bright acoustic riffs, and warm vocal melodies. With Arkomo, Jason Dodson. Columbia City Theater, 4918 Rainier Ave. S., 723-0088, columbiacitytheater.com. 9 p.m. $8 adv./$10 DOS. 21 and over. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

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Short Preview- Chromeo

I wrote this brief for Seattle Weekly to preview Chromeo’s show in Seattle. You can also read this brief here.

It’s been a decade since Montreal duo Chromeo debuted with She’s in Control, and (soon to be) four albums later, the pair is still dazzling listeners with its seductive brand of electro-funk. On the forthcoming White Women, which features Toro y Moi, Solange, and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel take their trademark party-starting synth grooves up a notch. With TOKiMONSTA. The Showbox, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, showboxonline.com. 9 p.m. SOLD OUT. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Chromeo White Women concert preview music writing music journalism freelance writing Seattle Weekly

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Short Preview- Fatoumata Diawara

I wrote this brief for Seattle Weekly to preview Fatoumata Diawara’s show in Seattle. You can also read this brief here.

Fatoumata Diawara’s biography reads like something from a movie: After refusing to attend school, the 12-year-old Malian was sent to live with her aunt, and eventually landed her first acting role. But when her parents forced her to abandon a blossoming career, she fled to Paris and began singing. Diawara’s debut album, Fatou, showcases the soulful voice of a woman who’s always followed her heart. Repeats Wed. Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., 441-9729, jazzalley.com. 7:30 p.m. $24.50. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

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Short Preview- Volbeat

I wrote this brief for Seattle Weekly to preview Volbeat’s show in Seattle. You can also read this brief here.

There’s a nice variety to Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, the fifth album from Danish metal quartet Volbeat. “Pearl Hart” and “Our Loved Ones” are straight rock songs with radio-ready melodies, while “Room 24” and “Black Bart” feature pedal-to-the-metal guitar riffs and pounding percussion. There’s also an unexpected, though well-executed, cover of Young the Giant’s “My Body” to round it out. The Paramount, 911 Pine St., 682-1414, stgpresents.org/paramount. 7 p.m. $35. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

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Short Previews- The Colourist, Jenny Hval

I wrote these briefs for Seattle Weekly to preview upcoming shows by the Colourist and Jenny Hval. You can also read these briefs here.

The Colourist Next time you’re at a party that’s less than spectacular, put on The Colourist, the self-titled debut of the indie-pop quartet behind “Little Games” and “We Won’t Go Home.” With dancey guitar riffs, pulsing percussion, bright keys, and both guitarist Adam Castilla and drummer Maya Tuttle on vocal duty, you can practically hear confetti fall from the ceiling. With Night Terrors of 1927, The Wind and the Wave. Tractor Tavern. 9 p.m. $11. 21 and over. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

At any point on 2013’s Innocence Is Kinky, Norwegian experimental-pop musician Jenny Hval can be heard doing one of three things: singing sweetly; reciting spoken word; or belting a lyric, often a comment about mythology or gender, with the passion of 10 people. No matter what style she chooses, Hval’s voice is hard to ignore. With Mark McGuire. Barboza, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9951, thebarboza.com. 8 p.m. $10. 21 and over. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under The Colourist Little Games We Won't Go Home Jenny Hval Innocence Is Kinky concert previews Seattle Weekly music writing music journalism freelance writing

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Album Review- The Horde and the Harem

I reviewed the Horde and the Harem’s Fairweather Friends for Seattle Weekly. You can also read this review here.

The Horde and the Harem, Fairweather Friends EP (4/12, self-released, thehordeandtheharemband.com) Though it began as a way for singer/guitarist Ryan Barber to record songs that didn’t work for previous projects, The Horde and the Harem has grown into its own entity, a collective of musicians with strong indie-rock and folk sensibilities. The follow-up to its debut full-length A Long Midwinter, Fairweather Friends was tracked live in the band’s basement studio in December and feels like a well-orchestrated jam session, with a large ensemble, including two percussionists, coming together to create a cohesive six-song package. The decision to track live works in the band’s favor as it authentically transfers the warm and vibrant energy of the group’s live show. The EP begins with the joyous “Robbery,” and the vocal back-and-forth between Barber and singer/pianist Hanna Stevens really shines in the folk-rock “Shiver. When the pair adopts a style of talk-singing, they make the song sound like a story. Then when they add more melody to their words, their sweet harmonies makes the daily grind of paying bills and putting in a hard day’s work seem almost appealing. Elsewhere, “Magician’s Hat” heads down a psychedelic route; the breezy “Salutations” features nothing but Barber, ukulele, and Stevens’ subtle background vocals; and the title track begins with a tropical flair before ending on a wonderfully raucous note. (Be sure to stick around after the bluesy “A Girl He Once Knew” for a little something extra.) Though four of the Horde’s members contribute vocals and the band explores several genres throughout the album, Fairweather Friends doesn’t seem bogged-down or unfocused. In fact, there’s nothing fairweather about the band at all. There’s a real sense of closeness here, one that incorporates the strengths of all involved without making each song seem like a battle for the spotlight—something all groups should strive for. Its running theme of friendship, seems a natural, effortless choice. (Sat., April 12, Tractor Tavern)

Filed under The Horde and the Harem Fairweather Friends album review Seattle Weekly music writing freelance writing music journalism

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Short Previews- Dan Croll, Bastille, Susy Sun, Temples

This is a late post, but I wrote these briefs for Seattle Weekly to preview shows in Seattle by Dan Croll, Bastille, Susy Sun and Temples. You can also read these briefs here and here.

On his debut album, Sweet Disarray, bespectacled British musician Dan Croll bounces from folk to indie pop to electronica and back, often within the same song. Rather than muddle the music, the 23-year-old Croll’s genre-juggling adds a bit of funk to more heartfelt lyrics. And touches of Afrobeat influence and steel drums make an already lively album even more vibrant. With Panama Wedding. Neumos. 8 p.m. $15. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

More than a year after it was released, “Pompeii,” the fourth single from indie-rock quartet Bastille’s debut album, Bad Blood, is still a radio staple, both in the U.S. and the band’s native England. The group’s lyrics about the city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius make for a percussion-heavy song that’s cinematically vivid and engaging. With To Kill a King. Showbox SoDo. 9 p.m. SOLD OUT. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

For singer/songwriter/globetrotter Susy Sun, naming her sophomore album Wanderlust was a no-brainer. Sun, who has spent time in London, Greece, and Spain, sings about love lost and gained in her textbook indie-pop voice while backed by the Passenger String Quartet. As a special treat, Wanderlust includes “Piano Impromptu,” which lets Sun’s background as a classically trained pianist take center stage. With Naomi Wachira, Whitney Lyman. Triple Door. 7:30 p.m. $15 adv./$18 DOS. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

There’s something incredibly authentic about Temples’ brand of ’60s psychedelia, as heard on its debut album, Sun Structures. Yes, the Kettering, England–based quartet of 20-somethings is decades removed from the period it replicates, but it has nailed the era’s jangly-pop guitar riffs, summertime melodies, and sweet, shimmering vocal harmonies. Comparisons to the Fab Four are not without merit. With Drowners. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442, neumos.com. 8 p.m. $15. 21 and over. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Dan Croll Sweet Disarray Bastille Bad Blood Susy Sun Wanderlust Temples Sun Structures Seattle Weekly concert previews music writing music journalism freelance writing