Songs of the Week

Armin Van Buuren – Ping Pong

If you aren’t familiar with this superstar Dutch  DJ then you must’ve broken your headphones years ago. This is his latest release which drops this Friday.

Sam Smith – Stay With Me

His name is common, but his voice is far from it. This English soul singer shows that they days of a voice carrying a song are farm from over in his new understated, yet breathtaking single.

The Orwells – Let It Burn

An indie/garage rock act from Chicago who sound like they’re from England.

The Knocks (feat. X-Ambassadors) – Comfortable

This electronic dance duo from NYC graced the stage at Bunbury last year and had people dancing in the summer heart. Check out their recent release featuring 2014 Bunbury act, the X Ambassadors.

The Unlikely Candidates – Follow My Feet

This single from the little know Texas indie group charted at number 35 on the Billboard Alternative Songs. If you’re attending Bonnaroo this year they were one of the last bands added, and will play the Club Stage.

-Matthew C.


Surprising Love Songs (for Valentine’s Day)

The Season of Love has arrived at last, and with it comes the realization that there are a lot of songs written about love. Given the amount of love songs written, no one would be surprised to hear “Can’t Smile Without You” by Barry Manilow while exchanging their Hallmark cards and boxed chocolates. What would be surprising, is if you walk into Mr. Mc-Fancy-Pants restaurant with your significant other and hear “My Heartstrings Come Undone” by Demon Hunter. So until that glorious day arrives, here’s a list of 7 surprising love songs for your Valentine’s Day.

Demon Hunter- My Heartstrings Come Undone

I really can’t follow up that artist/song name combo with anything more impressive, so I’m not going to. (Wait…I got it…What can I say, this one really tugs at the heartstrings — ducks incoming assault)

Motorhead- Love Me Forever

This song is perhaps the most surprising. Why would Lemmy, a purported demi-god who has taken more women than Zeus himself, care about love? I can only assume this song has some deeper meaning that escapes me.

Queens of the Stone Age- Make It Wit Chu

Love or Lust? For every song about true love there is one, or three, about wanting to sex up the hottie down the hall. This is one of those songs, surprisingly its by Josh Homme and company, not-surprisingly they slay it like they would your girlfriend if she was even hot enough for them.

Nirvana- Heart-Shaped Box

If I told you Kurt Cobain wrote a love song, would you believe me? Probably not, but that’d be before you realized this Nirvana hit includes some of the most depressing love song lyrics ever. Just imagine: //Baby, I love you so much, “I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black.”  -or- Baby, I just can’t resist you, “I’ve been drawn into your magnet tar-pit trap.”

Hawthorne Heights- Ohio Is For Lovers

Written about being away from the girlfriends on tour for the first time, it seems fitting that this emo anthem is a load of whiny bullshit. What says emo if it isn’t slitting your wrists when you aren’t in the ever romantic and enchanting land of Ohio.

The Buzzcocks- Why Can’t I Touch It

What makes this song special, is that it’s about the idea of love. For once its not another Insert Songwriter’s-Ex Girlfriend’s-Name-Here, instead it is about the abstract concept of love. Or maybe its just about drugs…

Red Hot Chili Peppers- Under The Bridge

What are more rock songs written about, love or drugs? Why not both? This Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song is about Heroin, and how they loved doing it, like a lot.

-Matthew C.

Local Spotlight: Bunbury Music Festival – 2014 Rumblings

Last winter, Bunbury followed in the footsteps of Bonnaroo, and released clues about its lineup prior to announcement; this year it seems the revelation of “Monumentour,” a co-headlined summer tour by Fall Out Boy and Paramore, with New Politics in support, has forced their hand. Saturday night’s last two acts appear to set in stone with the aforementioned pop-punk titans coming to town, and a solid afternoon act is to be had in New Politics.

While these bands might be considered a slight deviation from Bunbury’s indie roots, it is certainly exciting news that they were able to snatch such big names, on a tour that would most likely pass by Cincinnati for Columbus if not for the festival. Perhaps the festivals purported 20% budget increase had something to do with it; if so, is it reasonable to expect even more big names in 2014?

New Festival: While Off Airwaves is not a country music blog, its come to our attention that Bunbury founder Bill Donabedian  has been up to more than a 20% budget increase, he has started a whole new festival. Buckle Up Music Festival is a country music festival that will happen the week after Bunbury, July 18-20th, and while you won’t find us in attendance, it is certainly exciting news for Cincinnati’s music scene.

-Matthew C. 

Holiday Special: Stocking Stuffers for Music Lovers

The Holiday shopping season is coming to a close, but there’s still time for that last minute stocking stuffer for your music-loving relative, or a last minute gift suggestion to complete that list. Here are some suggestions to get your started:

The Frankl Project – “Standards”

In the six years since the group’s last release, the veteran punk trio has perfected its dynamic songwriting, with nuanced builds and perfected release. The result is “Standards,” an album which has already been nominated for Cincinnati Entertainment Award’ s album of the year, but deserves to carry this band’s sound so much further.

Sounds Like: A Slow, rock-n-roll fueled, burn

Delta Rae – “Chasing Twisters EP”

Made up of three siblings, and soaring vocal harmonies, this North Carolina folk-group is a must have. “Chasing Twisters’ is highlighted by the single “If I Love You” which features Fleetwood Mac’s own Lindsey Buckingham.

Sounds Like: If soul food could sing to you.

Magic Man – “You Are Here EP”

This electro-pop group from Boston is on the rise and has already toured with Walk the Moon this year. Their most recent release is worth picking up, and features the eponymous single “You Are Here.”

Sounds Like: A busier sounding Passion Pit

Twenty One Pilots – “Vessel”

The energetic Columbus duo’s major label debut features: singing, rapping, ukulele, synth breakdowns, and grown men dressing in skeleton costumes. If you’re interested isn’t piqued now, you’re doing something wrong.

Sounds Like: Electro-nerd hipsters done right.

Affiance – “The Campaign”

While the oldest album on the list, with a late-2012 release, this one is to appease all the metal-heads out there. This sophomore release from the Cleveland group features better songwriting and a more polished sound, check out our review for more.

Sounds Like: A less edgy Memphis May Fire

The Jaywalkers – “The Lights Are On at Home”

After their post-college diaspora, this album was a long time coming, but it’s definitely worth a listen. If you want a fresh, college-fueled, and classic rock inspired indie album, then go ahead and pick it up/

Sounds Like: Classic rock meets Indie with touches of The Hold Steady.

Acker – “EP 1”

If post-rock is your thing, this Champaign-Urbana group is definitely worth checking out. Featuring a former contributor of ours, they have already received rave reviews in the blogosphere and even fielded offers to provide a video game score.

Sounds Like: Brooding study music, with a cello

If you have the time, buy local:

Shake It Records (Northside)
Everybody’s Records (Pleasant Ridge)
Phil’s Records (Latonia, KY)

-Matthew C.

Thanksgiving Day – A Collection To Be Thankful For

One of the things we are most thankful for here at Off Airwaves, aside from health, happiness, and family, is music. After all, without it this blog wouldn’t exist. The question we struggled with for our first Thanksgiving as a blog, was how to appropriately show our thanks amongst our busy holiday schedules. The conclusion we reached was to once again share the resources we have gathered since the blog started, so that you, our readers,may better feed your love for music.

So here it goes, our collected resources:

The Hype Machine: The Hype Machine both collects trending songs from the top music blogs on the interwebs and presents them in a simple and organized way, saving its users from the hassle of surfing the 1500+ blogs it aggregates… More

Coursera: Normally, taking classes at the college requires a rigorous audition and interview process. Recently, however, the power of the internet has made it possible for anyone to learn from some of Berklee’s best, anywhere and any time… More 

The A.V. Club Undercover: The A.V. Club is an entertainment news site, a (slightly more serious) companion to the parodic The Onion. Why should you care? The Club features an extensive and well-written music section, featuring everything from album reviews to one-off explorations into various aspects of musical culture… More

JBTV: In 1984, Jerry Bryant founded Jerry Bryant TV (JBTV), an hour-long TV show based in Chicago dedicated to the alternative music scene. During its nearly three decade history… More

“1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” Library: Regardless of individual disagreements, going through the albums he highlights provides a thorough overview of the path of popular music in the Western world for the last fifty years… More

-Matthew C. 

Concert Review: Ironfest IV – Newport, KY

I never knew “Iron” Mike Davidson, but to all accounts he was a fixture of the Cincinnati rock scene before his passing in 2010. The scene has fittingly honored his memory the past four years with an annual concert, “Ironfest,” whose latest iteration expanded into a two-day, three-stage blowout. Saturday night’s array of bands at the Southgate House Revival demonstrated just how diverse Cincinnati’s musicians really are.

Although mostly a local event, a few touring groups made Ironfest a stop on their journeys, including Michigan’s Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers. The band’s tight harmonies and folk-tinged songwriting were performed with energy that helped them overcome their early performance slot. The rest of the night, however, belonged to Cincy’s finest. Mala In Se rocked the Revival Room with their mathy metal, anchored by Andy Perkins and his double-necked guitar/bass, while   filled the Sanctuary with a presence reminiscent of early Sabbath (or early Wolfmother, for that matter). A number of local cover bands delivered rock-solid performances of danceable classics, such as Boneyard’s uncontrolled version of the Doobie Brothers’s “China Grove” and Sticky Honey’s better-than-the-original take on Blondie’s “One Way or Another.” There was even some pop punk in the mix from Bad Standard, to the bemusement of many of the bikers who’d come to honor Iron Mike.

Yet of all the groups, I want to devote the most space to the weirdest: Vampire Weekend at Bernie’s, the before-and-after alias of Weven Stalls. The songs were little more than nonsensical obscenities shouted over prerecorded dance beats, but Stall’s stage presence was an ironic train wreck, designed precisely to be so bad that you couldn’t look away. Tearing off layers of track pants, throwing paper airplanes, taking calls from the audience during the performance… it was more Dadaist performance art than music, but it was a hell of a good time.

-Daniel W.

Concert Review: Twenty One Pilots- Cincinnati

What a difference a year makes. Last October, when Twenty One Pilots rolled through Bogart’s, their support included local acts Public and Alabama Shakes, and they failed to fill the legendary Clifton club. This year, the band is playing two sold-out shows at the venue, the first of which was Friday night, with Sirah and fellow Bunbury 2013 veteran Robert DeLong in support.

First onstage was Sirah, a relatively unknown artist outside of her collaborations with Skrillex (most notably Bangarang). She seemed out of place almost instantly as she joined her DJ and drummer following a short Bugatti remix, dressed in a plaid skirt and knitted hat that resulted in a Hot Topic–gone–wrong look. Style choices aside, her music was just as confusing. An inconsistent DJ track and vocals that never really projected doomed her set to mediocrity. Without Skrillex, I don’t think anyone would know who Sirah was, and I almost feel bad for her drummer (who seemed to be the only competent member of the bunch).

Robert DeLong then came out swinging with his signature Wiimotes, orange X’s, and electric mixture of dubstep and dance. The L.A. native chose to focus less on his released music and more on live buildups that seemed to lose energy as they dragged on. The highlights of his set came when he drummed along to his pre-programmed dubstep drops and toyed with his better-known songs, such as “Global Concepts”. Given time, I believe he will be able to bring his other material to that same level.

One short year later and Twenty One Pilots have clearly continued moving up in the world. The duo came out with “Ode to Sleep” and “Fake You Out” and backed by a wall of LED lights, a luxury they’ve lacked in their previous trips through Southwest Ohio. This hot opening transitioned well into a set that included all the necessary hits, such as “Holding Onto You,” “Migrane,” and “House of Gold,” along with throwbacks such as “Fall Away,” “The Pantaloon,” and “Addict with a Pen” to win over the local Ohio support. After this solid opening, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun returned to their normal personas: doing backflips off the piano, donning skeleton costumes between songs, and spending (perhaps too much) time thanking others. As has become their custom, the band closed out the set by drumming on audience-supported platforms to “Trees.” The real differences between this set and that of a year past were the LED lights and the anticipation of back-to-back sold out shows; without those differences, it was the same two guys who love music playing their hearts out to a completely engaged crowd. The extraordinary has become normal for Twenty One Pilots.

-Matthew C. 

Artist of the Week- Darkside

The cover of Darkside’s debut album, “Psychic,” portrays something of a psychedelic snowglobe; this is obviously comfortable territory to the group’s electronics wizard, Nicolas Jaar. The Bolivian artist gained notoriety from an impressive five hour set in the geodesic Performance Dome at the Museum of Modern Art earlier this year, and his project’s freshman effort feels like it could easily be expanded into something much longer. In combination with multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington, Jaar creates lush and compact soundscapes that reward repeated listening.

The duo’s first project, the EP “Darkside,” was released in late 2011 and represented a step in a new direction for both of its members. Haarington’s blues riffs and Jaar’s techno background meet in the middle to create something that the two offhandedly call “blue wave.” It’s a meticulous sort of music, which makes the group’s second project, a full remix of Daft Punk’s recent album “Random Access Memories,” seem less pretentious and more a natural outgrowth of their tendencies. “Psychic” follows the same attitude of careful layering of textures and sounds, and the critical world is taking notice: Pitchfork recently awarded the album a 9.0 review.

Although the group is currently touring Europe (part of Jaar’s hiatus from a program in comparative literature at Brown University), Darkside will return to the States in January. Chicago is the closest they’ll come to Cincinnati, but the trip might be worth it for a night of cerebral clubbing on the avant-garde.

-Daniel W. 

Game Review – Audiosurf

Games such as Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution have already familiarized audiences with the concept of pressing brightly colored buttons in time with music. But these games often make players press their buttons to tracks they wouldn’t listen to for any other reason; “Free Bird” is great, but “Eye of the Tiger” and “Freak on a Leash” (both on the Guitar Hero: World Tour soundtrack)? Not so much.

Enter Audiosurf, a self-described “music adapting puzzle racer” that generates levels based on literally any musical track. The game analyzes the volume, beat, and tempo of a given song to create a roller coaster–like course through which the player guides a glowing car, collecting and forming chains of colored blocks that correspond to notes of the music. Different songs generate wildly different experiences: a driving punk track like Bad Religion’s “You” is a constant downward rush through a valley of burning reds and oranges, while the steady beat of Justice’s “Phantom Pt. II” is a groovy ride among a cool sea of greens and blues. Playing the game is like driving through a light show exactly customized to each track, and (especially on a large monitor) it’s an overwhelming sensation.

This ability to create new levels on the fly is combined with a number of gameplay modes to give the game nearly infinite replay value. The “Mono” mode, for example, makes the player collect all colored blocks and avoid all grey ones, while the “Double Vision” mode provides two cars to manage at once. Each track generates its own scoring medals and online leaderboard, allowing players to compare scores on their favorite music.

At $9.99 on Steam, Audiosurf is an inexpensive way to get completely new use out of old music. Audiosurf 2, featuring different gameplay types and a wickedly cool wakeboarding mode, is also available for the slightly higher price of $14.99.

-Daniel W. 

Artist of the Week: The Dear Hunter

Casey Crescenzo, the generously bearded frontman of The Dear Hunter, can’t read sheet music, but he’s not letting that stop him from composing a full symphony, due to premier this November in the Czech Republic. For anyone who’s followed the progress of the band, that Crescenzo is exploring the possibilities of a full-fledged orchestra should be expected. The Rhode Island–based sextet has continually expanded its sonic scope and palette, consequently expanding the boundaries of alternative rock.

The band’s first EP, “Act I: The Lake South, The River North,” was a declaration of its ambitions, the initial volley of a planned six-act rock opera. After releasing two more acts, each drenched in unusual instrumental textures like harp and cello, The Dear Hunter took an intermission from the concept, but not from concepts altogether: 2011’s “The Color Spectrum” collection consists of 36 tracks exploring the emotional implications of the hues of the rainbow (as well as black and white). Their most recent release, “Migrant,” may be their first nonconceptual album, but it provides an excellent overview of the group’s range, from the aggression of “Girl” to the vaguely sinister gloom of “Shame.”

The Dear Hunter just wrapped up a tour of the U.S. in the company of a string quartet; the combined ensemble put on a stellar performance at this year’s Riotfest. While you’ll have to go across the pond to hear the band live in the near future — they kick off a series of European dates in Bristol, United Kingdom, on Feb. 24 — you can hear their complete recordings for free on Spotify.

-Daniel W.