Friday, October 19, 2012

SIC InC charts more "pop"ular course

Tonight’s SIC InC, Plume Giant and Michael Blume concert will blow away both the audience and some musical mantras.

“SIC’s done classical, now we’re doing pop,” the concert’s facebook event stated.

Well, that’s sad.

This concert is likely to combine amazing, well-founded musical talent with an explosion of expression and some upbeat tempo markings. Do I have any doubt the crowd will love it? No. So allow me to explain this reaction.

SIC InC is the ensemble that showcases original student classical pieces with fun lighting and sound effects, which attempt to make the music accessible to its audience. Plume Giant is the graduated folk trio whose awe-inspiring three-part vocal harmonies and fiddle riffs are helping their careers take off. Michael “popdivaking” Blume is the frontman of A Streetcar Named Funk, and has recently been tearing up New Haven with solo concerts that showcase his smooth vocals and R&B flair. Together they will play numbers by Blume, Plume Giant (thank you!), Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, The Beatles and Nathan “writeSICmusic” Prillaman JE ’13 (who also write music for Streetcar).

In their own right, each of these musicians and composers are worth listening to. Collaboration among them sounds great also; Michael Blume does well with instrumentals backing him up, and Plume Giant is adaptable to a variety of settings. But I’m concerned SIC might deviate too far from its original goals of helping an audience to understand new classical music on an emotional level, in order to put on a good show.

The show is bound to be fun, and SIC InC can add a more classical element by jazzing up some of the Beyoncé tracks with instrumental sections and solos perhaps.

The event kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. in the JE Dining Hall, and tickets are $5 at the door.

I’m excited for a fun time and a good spectacle. But next time let’s keep it classy(cal).


Saturday, September 1, 2012

No, We're Not and Great Caesar tonight!

Hey musenthusiasts!

It's shopping period, so you could...

A) Do homework for classes you don't yet know you're taking with textbooks you haven't yet bought.
B) Waste time pretending to do A but not really doing it.
C) Go to a concert! And learn about music appreciation!
D) None of the above. Watch movies in your room and be sad.

I don't know about you, but since I've spent most of my afternoon on B, I think it's time to try a different answer...C!

Luckily for the validity of this mutliple choice excersise, such a concert exists! No way!

At 9, 109 Howe Street is hosting a No, We're Not and Great Caesar.


Nathan Prillaman JE '13 (guitar, keys), Rich Gilliland PC '13 (guitar, vox), Peter Lewis JE '13 (keyboard, synth, space flute), and Zach Simao JE '13 (drums) of No, We're Not will take the stage first. This Yale rock band was formed last year and had one song on 17O1's album. Check it out on their soundcloud. This concert, the band says, will be inspired by spatial sounds, so it should be a nice mix of chill rock riffs, solid drumming and sound instrumentation. I'm psyched about the space flute.

Alum John Michael Parker JE '10 leads Great Caesar on guitar and vocals. It's an indie rock sextet with saxophone and horns to round out the sound. Rock guitar riffs mix with bluesly windstrumentals for a sophisticated yet catchy sound. The emotional chords and suspensions add a lot to their performance, and the instrumentals enlarge the sound without overwhelming it. They sound great, check out one of their songs here.

Come listen to some tunes and even enjoy a few beers if you are over 21 (CT law).


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Plume Giant's "Callithump" In Review

Plume Giant’s debut LP, released yesterday and available on iTunes and Bandcamp, is an emblem of both musical coalescence and personal growth.

The mellifluous trio, made up of Eliza Bagg SM ’12 (violin, vocals, harmonium), Nolan Green ES ’12 (guitar, vocals, harmonium) and Oliver Hill BC ’12 (viola, guitar, vocals), continues to excel at everything that made their “Plume Giant EP” unique yet recognizably excellent.  However, the new LP, “Callithump” also experiments successfully with different types of songs while still developing and expressing a signature sound.

By Brenda Wirth

Callithump” also makes impressive use of the multiple available articulations on its instruments — violin, viola, guitar, harmonium, tamborine or the occasional horn. In “B-Side Baby” alone, for example, the violin and viola play strong chordal elements, the main melodic lines, secondary melodic fills and echoes, and plucked accents and articulations. The voices themselves are rhythmic instruments, especially effective when they enter at different times and trade back and forth.

Some songs recall tracks for the first EP. The bleusy viola lines of “Kensico Dam” bring to mind “Black Cat,” and “Wait it Out” falls somewhere between “Fool Hall” and “All of it Now.” But these songs, like the rest of the album, add something unique with a few surprises along the way.

An early performance of "Wait it Out." NB how much slower it is.

“Wait it Out,” a single released in July, uses a steady, rhythmic grove with a coherent bassline to build and then maintain the energy throughout the song. Playful fiddled tunes in between vocals revive a celebrated technique of “Fool Hall,” while the lively buildup to a strong chord that signals the chorus adds an even greater drive that carries the listener eagerly through the song. The song’s light nature questions the future without agonizing over it, the lyrics refreshingly real without becoming overdramatic. This sets a tone for the entire album. The lyrics on “Callithump”, which strike a balance of playful and emotional, often give the listener a sense of what the song is about, without making it obvious.

While in some songs traditional verse-chorus-bridge-outro (with appropriate repetitions) patterns can be discerned, the album’s compositional structure does not constrict itself to a template. Each song’s structure is whatever best suits the story it tells or the musical fabric it weaves.

Plume Giant begins to reach into other styles and makes them its own.  Oliver explained that the first half of the LP is made up of more “deftly composed” songs of different American styles, whereas the second half “opens up and mellows out.”

In “We Got it Made,” a happy-go-lucky number that adds some jazzy elements — with horn and harmonium to boot — inserts some of Plume Giant’s signature vocal harmonies to add a unique touch to an otherwise simpler, carefree song. “Birthday” begins with more of  Dido feel that grows from an Eliza solo to a fuller Plume Giant sound. “Before the Sun” sounds more country before the harmonies and fiddle lines (thankfully) kick in.

The group’s ability to harmonize has been a consistent strength, and “Callithump” makes ample use of sustained chords, suspensions and extended ternary harmonies (mmmm add six chords). For dramatic effect, the instruments cut out to highlight the three voices on certain chords.

Consistent with the trio’s down-to-earth demeanour, “Callithump” doesn’t shy away from throwing in some quirky treats. “Old Joe the Crow,” a lighthearted tale of a crow that incorporates a lot of onomatopoetic “caw caws” and “tweedle deets,” exemplifies this theme. Spinning off their fun-seeking souls, Plume Giant has allowed performances of this track to inform the finished product. After introducing Joe’s wife, Janette, the singers randomly pipe up “Janette!” During a particularly dramatic solo of the group’s soprano belting out a low melody line about Joe (a fantastic example of Plume members stretching themselves in new ways), the backup shouts “Sing it, Eliza!.” Before the final chorus of extended crow sounds, Nolan chimes in a  “Whoooooooo!!!” The song culminates in a coda of cawing.

The unexpected keeps the record fresh. A break in an anticipated moment (just before beat two) of “We’ve Got it Made” or a Charlie Parkeresque instrumental flare that is intangible and everywhere for the bridge of “November,” grabs the listener’s attention as if it were in danger of slipping. (It isn’t.)

Plume Giant used a variety of drummers in addition to Yalies Timothy Huntington Ulysses Gladding aka THUG SY ’14 on euphonium, Matt Griffith TC ’14 on clarinet and Jacob Paul SM ’13 on trumpet to round out the instrumental sections. Longer, more involved instrumental bridges could be an interesting direction for future Plume Giant numbers.

The band used kickstarter to raise ten grand in October for the album and for a few music videos, coming soon, and the members worked with a New York freelance production engineer to coproduce the record. Overall, production came out clean and professional with one or two minor snags.

In “Back Porch,” for instance, a short song towards the end of the LP about carefree, sexual exstasy, the an incoherent outro leaves the listener a bit frustrated and confused. The use of harmonium throughout the number is a strength of the song, but when it enters again at the end after an instrumental section has already tapered off and faded, the listener is jolted by a clunky line that starts louder than the previous fade but also dies off. The song would have benefited from a smoother transition and fade out, or a different compositional choice entirely. By contrast, the distorted rock-style intro to the song was very well done, a not-so-obvious decision for a folk song intro that fit well and was carefully executed.

The production expertise that comes with multiple albums will happen for Plume Giant, an ensemble that, during its time at Yale and after graduation, has come into its own, asserted its own musical flavour and continued to stretch its own limits. The trio’s spirit shines through in “November,” the emotional apex of the album that recalls the intensity and concentration of “Tuesday,” from the EP.

And while Plume Giant would be hardpressd to duplicate Tuesday’s soft yet dramatic, harmonic buildup in its wordless chorus, the slower buildup throughout the entire song of “November,” the delicacy of its vocal textures, and the complexity of the emotions they portray are unparalleled.

It’s as if the song is teetering on the edge of a curved blade and too much or too little at the wrong moment would cause the entire thing to fall apart. “November” starts with Eliza’s voice and light instrumental backing, just to emphasize certain certain vocal motions and to keep the song from stagnating. Then, just as timidly, Eliza is joined by the others and the experience begins to slowly build. By “how your breath hung in the air,” most of the listener’s breaths will be hanging as well.

Halfway through the track, as the verse repeats again, it starts to pick up more with “I remember, I remember” compelling the group to accept the memory and tell the story, even if in metaphors. The song ends with the ominous line, “How sad to lose something in the snow,” followed by a chilling augmented chord and a winding down that just barely releases the moment.

Music and lyrics compliment each other harmoniously as they share and shift the spotlight onto each other, just as Eliza, Nolan and Oliver revel in a shared musical energy that passes among them while never truly leaving any individual.

E tribus unum.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

BATB Victors!

The winners are...

9 Tigers (third)
A Streetcar Named Funk (second)
Jamestown, The First Town in America (first)

Stay tuned for some more in depth discussion of the BATTLE and some pics.


Battle of the Bands 2012 Predictions

It's time for BATTLE OF THE BANDS again! That time where a bunch of Yale bands compete for who will get to open at Spring Fling! And what a beautiful day for it! The sun is raining down in sheets and prefrosh are sprouting up everywhere. Enjoy a hot (almost) summer night with some rockin' tunes infused with..well...moRtaL KomBat.

no, i did not take this photograph...arcade something

This year's BATB contestants are Ghost to Go (Jake Backer and non-Yalies Sam Backer, Howe Pearson and Owen Callahan), Jamestown, The First Town in America (Raphael Shapiro, Mark Sonnenblick, Jacob Paul, Will Moritz, Will Hutchison, Andrew Everett, Brendan Ternus, Yael Zinkow), The Keep Calm (Alex Bae, Ishan Sinha, Kenneth Crouch, John Cocco), A Streetcar Named Funk (Michael Blume, Nathaniel Meyer, Alyssa "tenor sax extraordinaire" Hasbrouck, Grant Phelps, Nathan Prillaman, Tim Gladding, Andi Zhou, Zach Simao, Will Moritz), Deeck (Jamar Bromley, John "Greeno" Greenawalt, Katharine Seggerman, Matthew Prewitt) and 9 Tigers (but four members..Adam Klein, Sam Frampton, Matías Anaya, Tayo Ajayi). They go on in that order in 45 minute sets starting at 9 p.m. tonight. So do some math and show up about 15 minutes after your fav band's calculated time to account for error in stage transition time and OMG THIS BLOG IS NOT A LAB REPORT. Physics 206 woes. It's happening, at the Crypt of 438 College Street...hmmm not too far from lab...

The WYBC is playing host to fewer bands than last year's nine this year, although 22 bands auditioned for the honour to compete, including Salivating Eyes, the oft-under-rated-soon-to-be-graduated, wailing rock group that I think most embodies college spirit, Sister Helen, which took third last year, Chilled Water Supply, the kings of jazz, and No We're Not, an up-and-coming band that boasts the musical compositions of former Gets the Girls and current Streetcar man Nathan Prillaman JE '13.


These bands did not make the cut, sadly. I was also looking forward to hearing the Rain Brigade, but because of band members' studying abroad, the band is taking a two-term performance hiatus while members hit the studio instead. Bummer. Fortunately, many musicians in the rejected bands are also in bands that got in, and many of the groups the WYBC chose not to admit to the BATTLE including things such as laptops and synthesizers and DJs and skype?

Anyway, onto what's important in life. Who should and (probably) will actually WIN.

In thirrrrdd placcccce....


Keeping Calm at Fall Fest

This group has come a long way this year and has garnered a solid fan base. The riffs are very catchy, and the new, improved bass lines help carry the tunes along. The band also strikes an interesting, existential balance between rocking and keeping calm, as its name suggests. For these reasons, the band is likely to take place but unlikely to win. Alex Bae is a talented lyricist who doesn't seem to take himself too seriously (great appeal for Yale), though his vocals sometimes lack the smooth, expressive transitions throughout different parts of his range we love hearing from singers with more professional training, and a stronger command of the mixed vocal register (it's haaaardd) would especially help this band's relaxed yet strong style. Still, I'm expecting good things from this group and a good crowd of supporters to voter avec les screams. (Not only is this Franglish appauling, but it's redudant. I can't say this!! Oh wait, too late; I just did.)


Michael Blume knows how to WORK IT with the crowd. The band also has strength in numbers, so lots of its members' friends (disclaimer myself included) should show up. The jazzy style might be a nice wildcard in a three-band set that is likely to feature a lot of typical(ish) rock music. Plus the group features some of the most talented musicians on campus and the composing talents of Prillaman. Blume and the kids are likely to win a lot of hearts tonight. The group does have some weaknesses, but they are more the intangible kind...we'll save these for another time and point out the one tangible flaw of this funkified frenzy. Right now, Streetcar is really more of a covers group. Yes, Nathan has given them a few nice original songs, but most of the high-energy, crowd-pleasing numbers are covers. Hopefully by Spring Fling Nathan will be able to whip out some more originals though. I have faith, and I can't wait to see everyone in this group in crazy outfits making magic, especially if they get improv solos.

Streetcar performing one of its favourite covers..surpise guest visit by Wes Moyer!

The Winner. Will. Be.

Jamestown, The First Town in America

Not much to say about Jamestown, last year's victors that hasn't been said other than that I can't wait for the EP. Jamestown is the most popular campus band competiting, and for good reason, and I know the group has kept in shape with lots of shows this year. They did it once; they'll do it again. I will say no more.

Last year's champs

New band I'm most interested to see: 9 Tigers.

Bare your teeth for the BATTLE. And BE PREPARED.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Music Video Stardom

Hey everyone,

Welcome back. And welcome back to an opportunity to be in a YMS music video! Plume Giant is shooting one today starting at 11 a.m. and going until around 6 p.m. (earlier if you guys are good dancers who get moves quickly?) Meet at Phelps Gate to walk over to the site in Wooster Square.

According to an e-mail from Oliver, this will be a "decked out Busby Berkeley type production with trombones coming out of car doors and sgt pepper costumes."


There will be pizza and champaign. The YPMB will be featured. So much delicious.

Wear clothes along these lines: marching band, americana, sgt pepper, ziggy stardust.

Plume Giant


If you're not getting back in time but are free Monday, Plume Giant is also looking for a group of about ten people for a smaller, rag-tag "featured" band from 10–4 tomorrow. Contact them for details.

Be moviestars,


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hola, Apocalypse!

Don't you love it when an event's title is in Spanish for no reason? I know I do ;)

Tonight's lineup might be almost as good as a trip to Madrid...almost.

yep, took this one in Madrid

In the Morse/Stiles Theater from two Yale and one alum band are taking the stage. At 8:30 it's A Streetcar Named Funk, at 9:30 alum band Brother K (my limited research into this group says nobody knows who they are but they sound "chill."), and Salivating Eyes at 10:30.

Streetcar, or rather bassist Nathan Prillamen '13, has been working on some funky originals, so be sure to look out for those.

Salivating Eyes is kind of goofy, as the following "cover" video shows. These guys know how to have fun. But when it comes to their originals, they really bring it. The guitar solos alone are enough to make my eyes salivate (whatever that means?!?!?)

I really love this song...and that drawing is pretty sexy...

So get ready for FUNKY, CHILL, SHREDDING SALIVATION. In that order. Alright, I support this.

See you front and centre,