On February 22, Mel Hsu ’13 and Josh Smith ’11 came together with a cohort of their friends—students and recent alumni—to play an intimate living room show on campus. Although the concert was ostensibly a Mel and Josh reunion, it also marked the official release of Hsu’s second album, Call Home the Crow, comprised of music written for her senior recital. Hsu and I agreed that instead of having an interview, we wanted to just talk as friends and have a conversation in the spirit of Hsu’s music: honest, slow, and maybe even vulnerable.
Mel Hsu: There’s just a lot in my head right now. At this point, I have no idea what to do next with this thing. But in a lot of ways, Wesleying seems more intimate than Facebook because it’s a community that I know, as opposed to this giant abyss.
Gabe: Which is why I thought we could just have this as a conversation. I have a few questions, and we can just abandon them as we go.
MS: I’m excited for the slow-going-ness of this. Right now I’m feeling really anxious, so I’m excited to have a slow-going conversation.
G: Let me pull this up in iTunes, because I put the new CD on my computer as soon as I got home from the living room concert, actually. The album is called Call Home the Crow, and it was your senior recital concert. Did you write each song individually, or did you the write the concert as one long piece?
MS: Let me think about this for a quick second. I feel as though it became more cohesive as the songs were written. When I began, I had no idea what was going to happen, and so it wasn’t a full work until probably the Monday before my recital.
Update 4/8/2013: This campaign has been canceled, but if you’re interested in supporting Mel’s music or learning more, you should contact her at melanielhsu(at)gmail(dot)com.
Wes legend Mel Hsu ’13 needs some monetary assistance putting out two new albums before her graduation. To hear some of the beauty she’s unleashed previously, check out her solo album This Living Room and her album with Josh Smith ’11, Analogue. She was also a member of Honey and the Sting, the music thesis band of Sam Long ’12. These amazing albums just brush the surface of Mel’s many accomplishments throughout her time here. It’s upon us to support Mel in her last large musical endeavors at Wesleyan.
Dearest Wes,I have been working on a lot of new music that is near and dear to my heart. Jess Best ’14, Jared Paul ’11 and I have been finding the most cost-efficient, high-quality and financially sustainable ways to record all the music (in the form of two albums) before I graduate. Any amount you might feel comfortable donating to our Indiegogo campaign would help us out significantly with recording costs. The support from this campus has meant the world to me over the past four years, so I thank you (with a giant bear-hug) for helping me make the music happen.
With love and gratitude,
Here’s the link to her indiegogo campaign. Go past the jump to watch the video from that campaign.
“Inspired by mutual love of auto castration and top 40 hits.”
I really like this album. Not just sorta like it, but I really like it. The band is House Party, the album is called “No Forever/I’m Ready, Darling,” and it was made by Razor Edwards ’10 (of Precision Libido fame), Jeff Rovinelli ’10 (of The Noms fame), and current Brown University student Tim Rovinelli (Brown ’13). It was recorded over a year, includes samples from Christina Perri, and most of it was recorded with a homemade gaggle of electronics, which, by the sound of most of the album, I’m going to go ahead and assume must’ve looked similar to Satan’s genitalia.
The music itself has, at times, a chilled out almost shoegaze-y feel (see “3pm (puma automatic)”), but this facade slowly gets peeled away during the track “love you (christina perri).” After a somewhat benign intro, the album seems to become a small exercise in audio engineering and distorted pop. This is all well and good, but it is during the third track when it becomes evident here that chaos reins supreme.
All right, Admissions Office, you can stop trying to recruit people. Your job is done. Christopher Owens has us covered.
As you well remember, former-member-of-the-band-Girls-and-current-solo-artist Christopher Owens romanced a full-capacity audience at Memorial Chapel last Thursday, playing the entirety of his solo debut/mini-rock opera Lysandre as well as a handful of cover songs. The concert itself was extremely enjoyable, including the opening set by Mara Connor (Wes/Vassar ’13), though nobody could be quite certain what Owens himself thought about the concert, or the audience or atmosphere or mood or time of day— his sub-hour-long performance was incredibly short on stage banter, by which I mean he said “thank you” and nothing else.
Which was fine. His Cali-beach-rock sound and golden-haired-god image work well with a strong-but-silent attitude. The music spoke enough for the both of them.
If doubts existed about the ability of a rock opera to translate from the recording studio to the resonating acoustics of Wesleyan’s own Memorial Chapel, let them be dispelled. Christopher Owens, formerly of the indie-beach-punk duo Girls, brought along a posse of eight other musicians to perform the entirety of his recent solo album, Lysandre, to a full and surprisingly attentive crowd.
Mara Connor (Wes/Vassar ’13) opened the show with an enjoyable acoustic set, bringing Henry Hall ’14 to add electric guitar and some rock flair for a few songs. After Connor ended with a cover of one of Owens’ own tunes, the golden-haired Adonis himself came onstage to sing about, well, girls.
Lysandre, of course, is really only a rock opera in form, not length. Owens and company plowed through the album in little over a half hour. Although the 11 album tracks differentiate themselves well enough along the California pop-rock spectrum, the simple but versatile “Lysandre’s Theme” reprises throughout in the keyboard, sax, flute, and guitar parts. Album highlights “New York City” and “Here We Go Again” were the most energetic and successful performances, while the awkward am-I-a-bad-songwriter tune “Love Is In The Ear of the Listener” was the only down moment in the set.
BJ Lillis ’12 says this is his break-up album. The break-up is between him and Wesleyan.
Fans of the Argus’ tragically defunct comics section (guys, remember “Feet People”?) and surreal Brian Wilson-obsessed psych-pop alike should be thrilled to learn that Orkinpods, the formerly anonymous bedroom pop project of comics editor emeritus B. J. Lillis ’12, has a new album online for the new year. It’s called The Loudest Sound, and it’s also Orkinpod’s finest, most confident work yet, which is definitely saying something, considering I loved 2011’s Boardwalking, Katy Perry cover and all. While Lillis’s previous work channeled the damaged surrealism of Smiley Smile-era Beach Boys, this one reminds me more of Sunflower or Surf’s Up. Gone are the synths and drum samples from the last record; in their place, Lillis employs rich arrangements involving upright piano, violins, ukelele, “harmonicas; audion electric chord organ; pots, pans, glasses; packing-tape drums; jar-of-pennies; laundry basket; maracas and shakers; backgammon pieces; pencils; [and] effects.” The songs are also longer and more fully fledged.
From the first notes of “The Scientists Say,” The Loudest Sound is lush, richly arranged pop music, with some of Lillis’s most gorgeous harmonies and intimate lyrics yet. Listen to it alone and try not to cry. Seriously, listen to the opening track:
My other favorite is probably “What We Bury At Night,” which finds Lillis crooning in a lower register over an almost a cappella backdrop of swirling harmonies, maracas, steel guitar whines, and god knows what else.
“Basically this album is about being in love, old American music, and Jesus.”
Continuing his ongoing quest to occupy something like 15% of my Top 20 Albums of 2012 list, Ben Seretan ’10 (I was going to write “of Duchampion fame,” but at this point I think “of Ben Seretan fame” is more appropriate) has got a new record on BandCamp. It’s called New Song, capping off a loose trilogy that includes last year’s New Music and 2012’s New Space, and it’s unsurprisingly fantastic, cycling through Americana-tinged originals, blues standards, and 48-minute boombox drones (okay, there is only one of those) with fluent ease. Between recording New Space, making a music video, dropping a collaborative LP with Portland band The Early, and materializing at Wesleyan to open for Oneohtrix Point Never in October, Seretan has stayed pretty busy in 2012. Somehow he has still made the time to take the audio of Grand Central with me next week. (Leave a comment if you want to join us.) (Serious inquiries only, please.)
Seretan recorded the album this summer, in a single afternoon (no overdubs), while in residency at the Wassaic Project. He wrote and rehearsed it in an old cattle auction barn. You’ll recognize a few of the originals from his performance on campus in October. According to Seretan, the setting strongly influenced the album’s thematic qualities:
“We all grew up listening to everything from Harry Partch to Radiohead to avant garde jazz to medieval music and I studied composition, played in weird rock bands, and also played with Anthony Braxton.”
Wes alum Asa Horvitz ’10, notably of Duchampion fame, is delivering musical tastiness in the form of recent project Point Reyes, a Brooklyn-based outfit that you may remember from a spring semester Eclectic set opening for Nat Baldwin. Earlier this semester Point Reyes just released Golden—a fun and quirky album that feels like it’s reminiscent of Duchampion but is much much more—on Big School Records.
This band is hard for me to describe. Not in the “we don’t really like to classify ourselves in a genre” kind, but in the way where I have to put in actual work to think of the words to describe it. They’re a complex indie rock band that isn’t afraid to dive into more complicated musical forms, and they experiment with things like vocal timbres. Plus, the interesting instrumentation of vocals, guitar, cello, percussion, drums, and vibraphone makes for beautiful and unexpected sound combinations. As TVD Cleveland wrote, “This band is an entity unto itself, enveloping its listeners in orchestrations comprising expansive vibraphone, thick bass, luscious cello, guitar, and eerie vocals that weave stories filled with whimsy.“
Check out more, including my favorite track “Redesert,” after the break.
“Drink your school. Stay in drugs. Don’t do milk.”
Featherwood Bee is a group of lads that make rock music. They played at Yale last week, opened for R. Stevie Moore last month, and are opening an Aural Wes-curated show at Eclectic tonight, along with Yeoman’s Omen. Featherwood Bee’s rock/folk sound is infectious, so much so that it’s been hailed as “Partywave,” “MellowWave,” and “Bath Salts Rock” (by drummer Adam Johnson ’14). Also of note, all band members claim to have watched PBS as kids, so you know they’re nice and wholesome. Check out their eponymous two-song EP after the jump, along with a nifty poem and an interview with drummer and hype man Adam.
Wes Alum Myles Potters ’12 just released a fresh-to-death EP using works from his senior thesis called Apertures. Potters writes:
This release is many months in the making, and is the recorded, modified version of my Senior Thesis Recital at Wesleyan University. The Thesis revolved around the question: What can we consider to be ‘live’ music in the 21st Century? The music in this album, though recorded, continues to ask similar questions by highlighting contrasts between instrumental improvisation, sampled beats, and notated music.
I could spend a solid amount of time writing about what I like about it, not to mention the dank group of musicians that he had on the album: Wes Alum Owen Callahan ’12 on sax, Nate Campagne ’15 on drums, Sam Friedman ’13 ticklin’ the ivories, and Dylan Bostick ’13 (see: DreamHost) working the electronics. Instead, I asked Mr. Potters a couple questions, and I feel like that does a lot more justice explaining the album than what I could do by myself. That’s all past the jump.