To date there are countless indie acoustic bands singing about love, loss, cigarettes and late night fast food. However, Brandon Wiard’s Painting a Burning Building begs not to be tossed into the old vintage storage trunk just yet. He’s a just a boy trying to get through this world in a slightly starry-eyed daze of contentment and peaceful musing. And if there is a lady companion, then everybody raise a glass and throw some money into his open guitar case because his candid, yearning, stream-of-consciousness serenades must be working.
Clearly Brandon Wiard is indie rock/pop. I’d almost like to say Midwestern, but somehow I get a coastal feel from it. What sets him apart from the rest of the acoustic junkies is that for one thing, his last name is pronounced ‘wired.’ Yeah, I thought that it was ‘weird’ too. Actually I kind of liked it that way…
Anyway, some will say he sounds like Ben Kweller, Wilco, Teenage Fanclub or Elvis Costello. I say … I’ve never really listened to any of them too much so I couldn’t really tell you. But if you’re like me and uneducated in the ways of the above mentioned bands, let me further confuse you. While listening to Painting a Burning Building, I couldn’t help being reminded of Rilo Kiley in their Takeoffs & Landings days but if Jenny Lewis was John Mayer. And rocked harder.
Another thing I find interesting about Wiard is that he’s a leader of the underdogs. Musically speaking. I’m surprised I haven’t heard this on the radio before. It’s perfect to blast driving now the highway to Nowheresville or pop into the walkman for those thoughtful walks on the beach. But only if you’re thinking of the one you fancy.
Personal faves include “Miss Michigan,” “Permanent Smile,” “Caroline,” and “Old Heartless Sun.” I might have to send a plea to The WB to use “Miss Michigan” in one of their angst teen dramas. And whoever Caroline is, she’s a lucky girl. Wiard’s a skilled songwriter- he’s got all the instrumental elements down to pluck that certain heartstring (my personal favorite being the moog. And no, not just because it’s fun to say … ok maybe a little). The piano solos are sure to get stuck in your head, and I’m a sucker for any crazy medleys hidden in the back tracks. They’re odd, completely differently styled, but amusing. Of course the lyrics are of the most important elements, and boy are they something. There’s not really one theme you can use to characterize Wiard, but you’re sure to hear many a tune about girls, moving on, growing up and disillusioned society. It’s all neatly packaged with drums, guitars, violins, and pianos and of course that crazy moog. And throw in a choir, why not.
Painting a Burning Building is definitely worth a listen. If anything, it’ll inspire you to start your own band. Or at least start writing poetry. I can’t say much for the title of Wiard’s sophomore album, but I suggest he keep doing what he’s doing. And if painting burning buildings inspires him, let’s just hope he doesn’t get burned in the process.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.