Author Archives: A Servant

[Live Review] This Town Needs Guns – Denver

This Town Needs Guns

One of my favorite Denver venues is the Marquis. Granted, one needs some pretty serious ear buds to block distortion if seeing a show there, the vagrants patrolling the outside can be annoying, and there isn’t a ton of room to sit down, but the pizza is always a welcome treat in between bands and a music buff can’t ask for a more intimate setting to enjoy a band. So it was with much enthusiasm that I embarked on a Wednesday night to see TTNG (short hand for “This Town Needs Guns”) last Wednesday.

TTNG was the third of four bands and had a set that didn’t disappoint. Featuring many tracks from and Animals, hard core fans found their favorite tunes (“Catfantastic,” “26 is Dancier than 4” and so forth. I would have loved to hear “Wanna Come Back to My Room and Listen to Some Belle and Sebestian,” but we don’t always get what we want, do we?). But for someone with only a cursory knowledge of TTNG’s music, I found myself as impressed as the hardcore TTNG fan I saw the show with.

For starters, a math rock show can be difficult for a casual listener to follow: by it’s very nature, math rock is somewhat inaccessible. Many times, math rock bands have to thread the needle of staying true their complex natures but at the same time creating music that is catchy. TTNG are master knitters, in this sense. Rather than using chorus as the hook for many of their songs, TTNG relies on looping guitar riffs that weave their way in and out of songs to create a sort of hook. And between songs, lead singer  Henry Tremain provides witty banter and crowd interaction to keep the crowd engaged and enthusiastic.

In short, TTNG is a group of astounding musicians that can make difficult, demanding music accessible and enjoyable for the layperson. Catch their show next time they are in town.



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[Indie-Pop] Brick + Mortar – Bangs EP

Brick + Mortar are back with an EP for us! With simple beats, powerful vocals and lyrics and a heavy electro backdrop, this EP has plenty of umph to get you up in the morning, on the dance floor, or into work on time. It’s almost impossible not to move to this music!

“Locked in a Cage” begins with vocals that sound vaguely reggae, if not for the fierce lyrics. The song employs a simple electric guitar well, creating a gritty feel that lasts beyond the song.

“Old Boy” keeps up the energy with a banging drums, a driving bass line and contagious lyrical repetition. The short ditty relies on crunchy synth notes to drive the melody.

This EP is solid, high energy fun!

’Brick + Mortar – Locked In A Cage’
’Brick + Mortar – Old Boy’


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[Indie Rock] The 1975 – The 1975

Manchester sensation The 1975 (as seen here) has graced us with their brand new debut LP. With a hazy, dreamy feel and catchy melodies, the listener would be forgiven for missing the subtle layering and rich texture beneath each song. The overall effect is powerful, fun and moving in places.

“M.O.N.E.Y.” begins with a layered effect that creates the dream-like haze that accompanies so many songs on this album. The lyrics float over the tune, standing out when they need to, blending into the melody when needed and generally feed into the narcotic undertones of the song.

At first blush “Chocolate” seems like a pop ode to smoking marijuana (and eluding authorities), but the consumer can discover more after repeated listening. Besides the catchy guitar riff, the song captures the spirit of youth that translates across the pond: “despite warnings, we’re going to have fun and take risks because there’s nothing else to do!” The lyrics don’t offend and don’t glamorize the habit, but capture the thinking process there–sort of a lazy carpe diem, if you like.

“Settle Down,” contains catchy guitar riffs over synth, and creates a melody that sticks. The poppy tune reminds the listener of the 80’s but without sounding trite or stale.

Finally, “Robbers,” taps back into the dreamy tone of the album. The ballad feel of the song is well done, creating some power at the end that moves.

Overall, the album embodies all of the great things coming out of the UK at the moment, indie-music wise. The 1975 captures the fun of genre but doesn’t sacrifice anything artistically: well made, creative, fresh and serious music that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Good stuff! Take a listen here.

’The 1975 – The 1975’
’The 1975 – The City’
’The 1975 – M.O.N.E.Y’
’The 1975 – Chocolate’
’The 1975 – Sex’
’The 1975 – Talk!’
’The 1975 – An Encounter’
’The 1975 – Heart Out’
’The 1975 – Settle Down’
’The 1975 – Robbers’
’The 1975 – Girls’
’The 1975 – 12’
’The 1975 – She Way Out’
’The 1975 – Menswear’
’The 1975 – Pressure’
’The 1975 – Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You’
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[Indie Pop] Wild Combination – Pulses

Boy, I can’t seem to get away from the United Kingdom right now–musically, at least! This new EP from Wild Combination found its way into my in-box, and I continue to be impressed with the collective efforts of musicians in the UK. “Pulses” offers the listener some well done indie pop that won’t leave the music snob (yours truly) wanting for more complexity. With intricate guitar picking, solid top shelf drumming and smoothly delivered, thoughtful lyrics, “Pulses” is an EP you can pop in your ear buds while you’re walking around the city, even if you’re not on the East side of the Atlantic.

“Whole Lotta Truth,” emerges with high energy–a perfect pop tune. The guitar work in the piece is exceptional, but not so much as to be overwhelming: the song retains it’s catchy nature and is something you can sing along to. The down tempo “Kaleidoscope,” is also notable with it’s dreamy electro synth touches. The base and guitar interplay nicely, forming a little tapestry that the listener can enjoy. “Waves,” was another one to catch my attention with it’s sliding bass lines and trickling guitar notes that compliment the title of the song well.

This is a solid little EP for fans of the indie pop and very much worth the purchase. Enjoy the tracks mentioned here and find their entire EP on Soundcloud.

’Wild Combination – Whole Lotta Truth’
’Wild Combination – Waves’
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[TMN EXCLUSIVE] Benin City Interview

Benin City
So You Say

A few weeks ago, we had the good fortune to come across Benin City’s Fire in the Park  and we immediately had to write a review. With a blend of hip-hop, jazz, electro, spoken word poetry and a tapestry of themes emerging from the band’s home city, London, our listeners were given a real musical treat.

After the post, The Music Ninja was able to sit down with Josh Idehen (vocals) and Tom Leaper (Tenor Sax) in order to get an inside look at who the band is and how they make their music.

TMN: First off, thanks so much for the album and for sitting down with the Music Ninja, even virtually. Our readers will be excited to get an intimate look at the band and your comments about how you and Fires in the Park came to fruition.

TMN: I guess I’ll start with a question I like asking bands–what’s the significance of the name “Benin City”?

Tom: I think it’s best if Josh takes this one!

Josh: its mine and my parents’ hometown; its history is intertwined with Britain’s colonial misadventures, which a lot of Britons I’ve encountered don’t know much about, which is unfortunate. Also, the name sounded cool, I have a thing for places and there was no better alternative.

TMN: The first time through Fires in the Park, I was struck by just how much variety was in the album. There was obviously the hip hop influence, the drum and bass, the electro, the jazz touches, and more–all fitting together seamlessly. I found myself wondering who your sources of inspiration were as a group?

Tom: We draw inspiration from all over. Personally I’m big in to electronic music, jazz, soul, GOOD pop, classical, film scores. All sorts really. When it came to making the album it was off the back of releasing “Baby” so we had a good idea of how we wanted it to sound. Then we sat down and talked through everything that we love listening to whether it be about the songs themselves, the harmony, the melody, the lyrics, the production, the arrangements… Then we narrowed it down to a core list of influences. Although the album is still pretty eclectic, this list stopped us going too far in any one direction and helped the album hang together as a whole.

Josh: Quite diverse- I’m the official movie soundtrack loving, left-field hip hop jamming, eclectic dude. Theo and Tom both love and play Jazz, but while Theo is into his dubstep and DNB, Tom loves his electro funk and acid/broken beat Jazz. It took a while but we managed to work them all into the album into something we thought was cohesive.

 TMN: This one is for Josh: Lyrically, there are a couple of themes I noted in Fires in the Park: the sort of Carpe Diem feel to “People Will Say,” the love songs, the social commentary about living in poverty, friendship, an ode to London. Did you set out looking to explore those themes lyrically, or did you discover those themes as you went?

Continue reading

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[Rock] Tango Alpha Tango – Black Cloud

I’ll quote Homer Simpson here, as I describe the effect that Black Cloud had on me:

“Now, when I listen to a really good song, I start nodding my head like I’m saying yes to every beat. ‘Yes! Yes! Yes, this rocks, this rocks!’ And then sometimes I switch up with ‘No! No! No, don’t stop a’ rockin!’”

Tango Alpha Tango is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. The four piece band from Portland is now giving hipsters permission to ditch the 80’s (those horrific, horizontally striped tank tops can officially die. Thank God) and go back in time to the early 70’s. Black Cloud is a loving homage to Led Zeppelin, Cream, Lynyrd Skynrd and pretty much everything that made music from the 70’s awesome. Expect aggressive blues and folk touches. Expect gritty vocals, swing beats flattened out into rock songs, guitar solos, keyboard additions. Expect…excuse me, I’m drooling on my keyboard.

“Black Cloud,” starts out with a twangy, bluesy guitar riff that instantly transports you to the deep south. The lyrics are a kick and the song bursts into a full blown rock song quickly. If you like New Orleans’ Clutch, you’ll love this track.  “The Simplest Song,” showcases the band’s versatility: simple acoustic guitar work gives way to a male/female duet. The feeling is folky but not overly so.

Finally, I have to mention Tango Alpha Tango’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.” Now, this listener is a huge Led Zeppelin fan and may or may not have a vinyl second pressing of IV hanging on his wall: I was really looking to zing this band for daring to cover the gods. But they did it so well I can’t fault them. Dammit. It’s freaking awesome. The mood of the song is somehow darker than the original and the structure is a little different. It’s almost like they took the mood of “No Quarter,” and transplanted into “In My Time of Dying.” It’s a creative, exceptional take on the original and I love it.

The band notes that the album is a concept one and should be listened from start to finish, but in all honesty I jumped around the first time and feel the album can be listened to either way (usually a sign of a good concept album). Obviously, this album worked very well for me, but anyone that likes well constructed music should dig this. 

I’m dying to see them live!

’Black Cloud’
’Simplest Song’

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[Folk] Bruno Merz – Departing From Crowds

There’s some stuff I’ll admit to and some stuff I won’t: I’ll admit that I cry at movies. I’ll admit that I will often think for more than a second about shoe selection while picking out an outfit (most dudes don’t). But until today, I would not have admitted that I got choked up listening to music. Well, Bruno Merz’ Departing From Crowds is a great way for me to come clean with myself. This album had me fighting back the vapors, lemme tell ya…

Shut up. I lift weights and watch football, too! Well, except for the last part.

Anyway, Merz clearly studied up on his Nick Drake while crafting his songs, but Departing From Crowds seems somehow more approachable than Drake and artists like him. The content of the lyrics is simple, reassuring, grateful and soothing. Instrumentally you can expect the inclusion of guitars, banjos and some piano, simply and skillfully employed.

The first track “When You Found Me,” is a tear-jerker but not in a sappy, sentimental, Nicholas Sparks kind of way. The utterance of “when you found me/I never knew that I deserved you” is one of the simplest but most profound and moving lines I’ve heard in music. Anyone who has found the love of his/her life knows exactly what the singer means. The instrumentals are simple and thoughtful with some eloquent piano additions. This will be played at many a wedding.

“The Nine Sixteen,” is folkier than the others on the album. There’s a distinct bluegrass feel with the addition of of the banjo plucking over the chords of the guitar. The lyrics questioning “where is home?” is essential folk, but it’s inserted so smoothly into the song that one doesn’t feel beat over the head with the genre.

This is a good one–not just for making a playlist for that gal you’re crushing on (quite good for that though, fellas)–but as an example of well done music. Take a listen to these couple tracks and add Merz to your “must haves” in folk.

’When You Found Me’
’For You Now’
’Home Soon’
’Nine Sixteen’
’Crossing Borders’
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