Author: thomasrdunlap

Farewell

cropped-1448004645768.jpegThe most effective tool on the WordPress website is its easy-to-use, user-friendly interface. Its straightforward and simple design allowed for me to easily and effectively make my blog posts without any issue. A negative feature of WordPress was its plethora of options. A user can quickly get lost in the seemingly endless supply of layout options for their blog. Despite my criticism of the amount of layout options, I think there should be more customization within the layouts themselves. Users are not able to change much without switching to a different preset. 

This experience of writing, posting, and promoting blog posts has definitely helped me refine my writing and social media skills, both of which should benefit me in the future. I hope to work as a music journalist professionally, which I currently do in an unpaid, amateur fashion at KTSW. So in the future I am sure I will implement the skills I developed during this project to make myself better at my craft. These writing and social media skills will prove to be useful in my prospective career.

My blog’s most popular week was the week of the 23rd. During this week the blog received a total of 10 views through 3 viewers. The blog’s most popular post was my “Introduction” post. This post received 6 total views. It was quite interesting to view the analytics and see just how many people had viewed my blog and how many times they had viewed it. I imagine this information is very useful for professional blogs and businesses.

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Mac DeMarco performs live in Austin, Texas.

In February of 2018 I saw Mac DeMarco perform live at the Mohawk, in Austin, Texas. I had caught two of his shows the previous fall, in Houston and Austin respectively, so this was my 3rd time seeing him perform. At the show in Houston, although I was excited because it was my first time seeing DeMarco in concert, I was somewhat disappointed by his lackluster set, and at the first show in Austin (located at another venue down the street from the Mohawk) I was frustrated by the unexpectedly rowdy crowd. Since my time at the previous DeMarco shows had not been by favorite concert experiences, I was hoping that this one would be different. Because the tickets for this event sold out so quickly, this would be my first time attending a concert solo. 

The experience became distinguished from the others soon after I entered the venue. I walked up to the second floor of the building, and to my great surprise I saw DeMarco and the rest of his band hanging out by the bar. I approached the group and had a brief conversation with DeMarco before shamefully asking for a picture. After quickly snapping the shot, I thanked him and headed back down to the first floor where the crowd was steadily building in front of the stage. When I joined the crowd I noticed that the stage had been dressed in a thematic manner, with tablecloths and fake vines, replicating his performance on ACL Live. 

Without an opening act, the show began shortly after with a lively performance of the icy track “On The Level,” which has since become the staple DeMarco concert opener. DeMarco and his band continued their high-energy performance, playing all his essential tracks, like “Ode to Viceroy” and “Chamber of Reflection,” and other assorted cuts, such as “My Old Man” and “Dreams from Yesterday,” from of his 2017 release This Old Dog. This tightly performed show went on for about an hour-and-a-half before raucously descending into a wild jam session, consisting of covers of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” and Radiohead’s “Creep,” as well as crowd-surfing from multiple band members. The concert wrapped up with the recurring performance of DeMarco’s intimate love song, “Still Together.” The venue was packed and the crowd was appropriately enthusiastic, causing for a typical but thoroughly enjoyable DeMarco show. 

I caught another DeMarco concert recently, again in Austin, while he was touring for his latest album Here Comes the Cowboy. Despite the excellent set-list and breezy outdoor venue, I still (and perhaps always will) believe his Mohawk show to be his best performance to date.

SALES: A Deep Cut

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Sales performing at The Mohawk in Austin, Texas.

SALES is an American indie-pop duo from Orlando, Florida. Comprised of longtime friends Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih, the band is well known for their distinct lo-fi and minimalistic sound. The majority of their discography consists of down-tempo and introspective tracks, characterized by the duo’s signature simplistic instrumentation and light vocal delivery. After releasing two projects in 2016, titled Sales EP and Sales LP respectively, the band released their sophomore album, Forever and Ever in 2018. These releases combined with a crisp image and aesthetic surrounding their stylized music, have gained them an almost cult-like following.

Forever and Ever exhibited a clearly refined sound and style, building off of the duo’s previous work to create a genre-defining album. The smooth and skillfully constructed tracks served to solidify SALES’ position as the quintessential DIY bedroom-pop band. With a tight track list of 10 songs and a running time of just under 35 minutes, Forever and Ever does not waste a second. This beautifully constructed album is a collection of rock-solid tracks, exemplifying the age-old statement that sometimes less is more. Despite my appreciation for this project, I have decided to highlight an excellent track that I believe is criminally overlooked.

“Be My Baby” is a brief interlude off of their full length debut, Sales LP. This track barely surpasses one minute in length, but still manages exhibit all of SALES’ musical archetypes. Although complete with Morgan’s high-pitched cooing of a vocal delivery and the sparse percussion of an electronic drum machine, this track provides a distorted and deconstructed departure from their popular discography. The vocals are pitched down and frequently cut in and out in a very glitchy fashion. The off-kilter musical distortion reflects the works of another Floridian musician XXYYXX, whose remix of their song “Toto” appeared on the Sales EP. This track exhibits SALES’ trip-hop influences, and is the epitome of something being short but sweet. The song fades out as quickly as it began, forcing the listener to replay the track several times before they are fully satisfied.

Vacations’ “Telephones”

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Vacations performing live in concert.

Vacations is an indie-rock quartet from Newcastle, Australia. The group composes soft and subdued alternative-rock that is both spirited and somber. After two EP releases, Days and Vibes, Vacations released their debut album Changes. Their sound evolved between each installment, starting with garage-rock and shoegaze influenced tracks on Days, to the jangle-pop style of Vibes, and eventually to the clearly refined and slick sound of Changes. Not to say that the musical style of Changes is superior to that of its predecessors, but it does depart from the DIY and lo-fi sound of the previous EPs. The lyrics on each track are repetitive and minimalistic, written intentionally vague in an effort to allow the listener to apply the words to their own emotions and experiences. The instrumentation, while fast-paced, is fun and easy to listen to. Vacations makes excellent use of “musical space” in their songs, often having the notes from the rhythm and lead guitars on opposing sides of the soundscape.

Changes is comprised of ten quiet and calming soft-rock ballads, with singles “Moving Out” and “Steady.” Although these are quality tracks that support and contribute to the album, the true standout track is the introspective and secretly romantic “Telephones.” This beautifully composed track is a love song between the world’s most popular couple – a person and their phone. The chorus, “I wish I could live without you, but you’re a part of me,” reflects the instinctually inseparable relationship that we all share with our closest kept companion. The song’s lyrics touch on the addictive habit of checking your phone as you wake up and scrolling for hours before going to sleep – “Fall into the night, as I gaze into you, shine so bright, it’s all I do.”

“Telephones” is elegantly constructed. The track begins with solo guitar strumming that continues unaccompanied until the faint sound of a dialing telephone introduces the full instrumentation. This smooth transition is savory and satisfying, an excellent way to set off a track. The vocals eloquently echo over the song’s soft instrumentation, creating a calm combination of voice and guitar. The track is minimal in structure, supporting only two short verses, two brief choruses, and a limited outro. “Telephones” is concluded with the cascading repetition of the lyrics “you’ll always be next me,” spiraling into each other as they increase in intensity before finally fading out.

This track serves as a cautionary tale, paralleling the message of MGMT’s 2018 track “Tslamp.” Both of these tracks dictate the story of a hopelessly addicted protagonist, who can’t seem to break free of the infectious habit of wasting time on their phone.

A Deeper Dive

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The home screen of Janes’ blog, A Deeper Dive.

A Deeper Dive is a music blog written and created by artist Caroline Janes. Janes, a senior at Texas State University, began posting on her blog as an assignment for her Fundamentals of Digital and Online Media course she took in the Spring of 2019. Her blog, much like this one, focuses on the indie genre and its multitudes of subgenres. Janes writes retrospective reviews of years in indie music, stretching from 2019 to 2014. She also highlights specific albums and artists by diving deeper into their discussion, such as artists like STRFKR and The Black Keys. Throughout A Deeper Dive, Janes provides a personal and thoughtful commentary on indie projects and musicians that is certain to excite and entertain.

The posts that comprise the bulk of A Deeper Dive are year in review articles. Janes focuses on years that were memorable for the indie community. Within each year in review she puts the spotlight on popular indie releases and discusses their impact as well as how each album works with the artists’ extended discography. These reviews can be a “trip down memory road” for many readers, as they focus on classic and sometimes forgotten albums by major indie artists. Other posts in A Deeper Dive take a closer look at a singular subject. Janes puts two indie bands, The Black Keys and STRFKR, under the microscope and analyzes their recent releases and popular albums, commenting on both their studio work and live performances.

What sets A Deeper Dive apart from other indie music blogs is Janes’ personality that permeates through her writing and art that she includes in several articles. Her personal touch adds an extra layer of flare and intrigue, which makes her articles interesting and captivating to read. Although some posts are somewhat formulaic, her twist of introspective creativity keeps the articles from becoming boring or repetitive. Janes also writes for KTSW 89.9, the student run radio station on Texas State campus, focusing on the same indie genre. She dives further in depth into the world of indie rock in her KTSW articles.

Four Groovy Guitar Solos

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Here I am with the members of Mustard Service before their show in Austin in 2018.

I believe that every good song requires a great guitar solo. A guitar solo adds an additional layer of creativity and funk to a song, often inspiring people to play along with their own air guitar. Guitar solos are emotional and energetic and for their duration the listener is almost physically connected to the song, resulting in an unbreakable and unforgettable musical bond. Because of my love for guitar solos, I have compiled the following list of what I believe to be some of the grooviest guitar solos in indie rock. I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I do. Click on each of the song titles to listen to them. 

“Freaky” – BOYO

BOYO is the musical endeavor of Los Angeles, CA based multi-instrumentalist Robert Tilden. Active in the DIY scene since he was 16, the now 22 year-old Tilden creates diverse psych-pop at an almost breakneck speed. Having released five albums since 2016, Tilden continues to work on music at a nonstop pace – with his most recent single “Cut Me Out” being released on May 26th, 2019.

“Freaky” is penultimate track off of his genre-defining 2018 project Dance Alone. This track features many of the well-known BOYO archetypes such as down-trodden guitar riffs and high-pitched, childlike vocals. Occurring about halfway through the song, this guitar solo is repetitious and hard-hitting, repeating itself in a cyclical manner. The sharp and metallic tone of the guitar almost slaps the listener in the face and grabs them by their shirt collar, keeping a tight hold on their attention and leaving a faint red hand print of remembrance on their face.

“Oh, Honey Baby” – Mustard Service

In an effort to craft their own brand of zestful and vibrant indie-rock, Mustard Service is the culmination of 5 energetic twenty-somethings expressing their creativity and passion for music. Their only full-length release, a ten track album titled Zest Pop, is full of funky and smooth tracks that could be heard anywhere from a house party to a coffee shop. Based out of Miami, Florida, the music of Mustard Service reflects the laid-back and rowdy environment of their beachfront hometown.

“Oh, Honey Baby” appears near the end of Zest Pop and serves as a spirited and satisfying climax to a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. Before concluding with a refrain of the chorus, this track breaks out into a complex and complicated guitar solo. The solo consists of a popping guitar, swinging back and forth with gusto across the musical landscape. With what is perhaps my favorite guitar solo, Mustard Service provides an excellent precedent of what exactly a fun and funky track can be.

If you enjoyed their ebullient and enthusiastic tunes, check out an interview I did with them before their show in Austin in 2018. 

“New Year’s Eve” – Mellow Fellow

Broadcasting from the Philippines, Ralph Lawrence Reyes is an “internet artist” who has created major waves internationally. Under the moniker of Mellow Fellow, Reyes’ releases sad love songs with introspective lyrics and jizz-jazz inspired instrumentals. Capitalizing on the DIY sound and work ethic, the tunes of Mellow Fellow are both new and nostalgic.

Being his most upbeat installment to date, “New Years Eve” is an energetic track revolving around an unfortunate incident on one of the most exciting holidays. With this guitar solo the reverb is turned up to 10 as cascading guitar notes pierce across the soundwaves. This solo is short and sweet, leaving the listener craving for more.

“The Way You’d Love Her” – Mac DeMarco

Mac DeMarco is a DIY singer-songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta. Well-known for his slacker-rock musical style and care-free persona, DeMarco creates off-kilter tunes which he has self-labeled as “jizz-jazz.” Having released 6 full-length projects since 2012, DeMarco’s music has gradually transformed from grounded jangle-pop to simplistic and soft indie jams.

Off of his fourth and most concise album, Another One, “The Way You’d Love Her” is a love-never-found song whose lazy musical tone reflects the beachy scene of the album’s artwork. This track’s guitar solo is as groovy as they come, complete with high-pitched notes and some bottom-of-the-neck shredding. The notes hit so sharply throughout the solo that the listener can almost see DeMarco wincing with musical pleasure as he hits them again and again with groovy bliss.

Mac “DeMarchetypes”

Mac DeMarco performing in Austin.

Commonly known as the “crowned prince of indie-rock,” Mac DeMarco is the poster child of the international DIY music scene. Originating from Edmonton, Alberta, DeMarco is a singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who is somewhat responsible for the increased popularity of the slacker-rock subgenre. Having spawned many clones and imitators, DeMarco has effortlessly placed himself in the music library of anyone who is familiar with his signature jangle-pop style. Self-identified as “jizz-jazz,” DeMarco’s music is a lazy mixture of flat drums, muted bass, pitched vocals, and warbled guitars which serves to create a generally laid-back and stress-free atmosphere.

Releasing his sixth full-length album on May 10th, 2019, DeMarco has exhibited several signature archetypes in his discography. These musical archetypes add to his carefully constructed persona and brand, which is one of goofiness and nonconformity. In the following paragraphs I will detail and explain exactly what these “Mac DeMarchetypes” are…

The first and most noticeable archetype is his use of a photo of himself as an album cover. This pattern began with his first release, Rock and Roll Nightclub, which featured an orange-tinted photo of DeMarco theatrically applying red lipstick. This trend continued with the black-and-white cover of his second release 2. This cover depicts a grinning DeMarco throwing the peace sign and lazily holding a guitar while teal stylized calligraphy reads his name and album title. In an interview video with Amoeba Records in 2014, DeMarco stated that he drew inspiration for the 2 cover from Japanese musician Haroumi Hosono’s Hosono House album cover. The two covers do share a resemblance, both featuring a black-and-white photo of the artist and teal colored text. The cover of DeMarco’s third album, Salad Days, features a shaded DeMarco staring longingly into the camera with scribbly text reading his name and album title. DeMarco’s fourth album, Another One, has a cover which reflects it’s beach-rock sound and vibes, depicting DeMarco crouching on rocky beachfront. DeMarco finishes his use of this archetype with the limited edition release of his fifth album, This Old Dog. The limited edition cover features a short-haired DeMarco standing in front of a white wall as the official album cover (a collage of DeMarco’s doodles) is projected upon him.

Another recurring archetype is an intimate farewell that usually occurs after a brief silent pause at the end of each album. These brief goodbyes are similar to a secret track, offering a special treat to those who stuck around after the album’s conclusion. The first appearance of this archetype is at the end of “Still Together,” the final track on 2. After a short silence DeMarco can be heard setting down his guitar and speaking quietly to his long-time girlfriend Kiera, whom he endearingly refers to as “Kiki.” DeMarco gently wakes her up and comments on her accidentally falling asleep before tenderly telling her “I love you.” The next occurence of this archetype is on the last track of Salad Days, titled “Johnny’s Odyssey,” which follows the precedent set on “Still Together.” After the track ends DeMarco can faintly be heard saying “Hey guys, this is Mac, thanks for listening, buh-bye.”

With Another One, DeMarco continues the trend of speaking to the listener at the end of the record, except with this iteration he reveals some very personal information. Upon the conclusion of “My House On The Water,” DeMarco recits the address of his then-current house in Arverne, New York. He invites the listener over for a cup of coffee and then coyly says “see ya later.” When asked how many people showed up to his house in a Hot Ones interview from 2017, DeMarco’s answer was in the thousands. DeMarco stayed true to this archetype with his newest release Here Comes The Cowboy. At the end of “Baby Bye Bye,” the album’s eclectic and energetic finale, DeMarco shouts “Get along lil doggy!” – keeping in style with the cowboy motif of the record.

Simplistic and acoustic songs about Kiera are another archetype. First occurring on 2 with the love song “Still Together,” this archetype appears on every record since – excluding Another One. “Let My Baby Stay” which appears on Salad Days is a skeletal and bare-bones track concerning Kiera’s unfortunate citizenship status. On This Old Dog, DeMarco changes the audience of his acoustic track titled “Sister,” this time singing to his estranged half-sister. With Here Comes The Cowboy DeMarco switches back to singing to Kiera with the aptly named track “K.”

Even though his most recent record was released just this year, I am excited for his next project and I am interested to see what archetypes he continues to portray in his music.

Buh-Bye.

PS. For those interested check out Mac DeMarco’s Hot Ones interview below. Great video, great artist, great interview. It’s just great.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-BQ_yTNyTs&t=791s