Contemporary artists embrace earlier sounds

Things are starting to get hectic here on campus as the semester begins to wind down. Last-minute assignments and studying for finals are taking up everybody’s time, and it feels like someone is shafting us by stealing hours out of the day when no one’s looking.

In this semester’s coda, most of us are just wishing to go back to a moment when we could lie around and not worry about APA citations. Hopefully this week’s New Noise will be able to help out with that.

We’ve seen before how some artists can take influences from past styles and sounds and incorporate them into their own music. This week’s artists, however, immerse themselves so deep into that influence that they embody that sound completely — these artists sound like the contemporaries of the past.

Black Clouds: “No Reason”

New Jersey rockers Black Clouds have been making a big splash in the DIY world, and rightfully so. The band owns its own studio, books and funds its own tours and has been rocking audiences’ worlds since 2004.

Its latest release, Better Days, was co-produced alongside notable producer John Agnello, best known for working with the likes of Dinosaur Jr., Andrew W.K., The Hold Steady and Sonic Youth.

Black Clouds is unique in its grunge-rock style, standing out from other bands that attempt to encapsulate the Northwestern sound of the ’90s. This band truly sounds like Nirvana’s cool cousins from the next suburb over — from the scratchy guitars to the anxious vocals, every song on Better Days is a slice of grunge heaven. Black Clouds is the harder face of grunge, sounding more similar to Bleach-era Nirvana than its later material. From the first growl of the rumbling bass in “No Reason,” it becomes clear that you’re in for a ride back to some seriously better days.

Grant Lyle: “Walk On”

Classic rock always seems to have a timeless quality to it — after all, it’s called “classic” rock for a reason. Toronto’s Grant Lyle has tunes that are built with the same type of archetypal bricks that make up some of the most popular songs in the classic rock realm. His sound is rooted in the canons of blues rock, and he crafts his songs in the vein of Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and Joe Cocker.

His newest release, So There, is a refreshing taste of nostalgia in a contemporary setting, with his blues and classic rock blueprint clearly audible in all of his songs. “Walk On” is a bona fide trip back into the days when solid rock tunes ruled the airwaves and blues guitar vibratos resonated in everyone’s mind.

The track has a distinctive old-school vibe that melded with no-nonsense rock and roll, and the result is a time warp into an era when the longing sounds of blues defined lives for people everywhere.

Generationals: “Put A Light On”

How about some ’80s sounds? New Orleans’ Generationals is an indie-rock band that defines what it is to be a connector of cool. Its music has a diverse set of sounds, and its latest release, Heza, finds the band going in a different direction from its previous release, Astor-Caster (2011).

While that album was full of perfectly crafted pop songs that punched you in the face with optimism, Heza takes a more contemplative tone, instead choosing to take on a more enthralling and almost hypnotizing sound. “Put A Light On” sounds like a proper ’80s avant-garde/prog-rock tune, dripping with overindulgence and excess with every synth note and drum beat.

The song changes gears in the middle and goes on a synth-filled jamming spree, and the carefree vocals and harmonies hark back to days of yore, when things were much easier in spandex and neon.

Mudhoney: “I Like It Small”

Veteran alt-rockers Mudhoney definitely have one of the penthouse suites in the Hotel of Legendary when it comes to grunge. Although the band originally had roots in garage punk, it was the influence of its distorted-guitar madness that helped conceive the beginnings of grunge.

The band has been through a lot in its 25-year career, and its ninth studio album, Vanishing Point, was released earlier this month to positive reviews. The second track on the album, “I Like It Small,” is a raucous in-your-face rock testament that sounds like the B-side to a lost Sex Pistols demo.

The song is absolutely delightful in how authentically punk it sounds, giving ’70s Brit rockers a definite run for their money. Give “I Like It Small” a click, dust off your combats and get ready for some serious stomping.


Rishbha Bhagi is a graduate student pursuing a degree in communication management. Her column “New Noise” runs Wednesdays.

1 reply
  1. Dan Matthews
    Dan Matthews says:

    Hi Rishbha,

    This is Dan from the Black Clouds. Thanks for writing such a great review about our new record!

    I was hoping that you could correct two things for us. We are actually from New Jersey (The Black Clouds from Washington DC are a different band all together and formed last year). Also, the link on our band name goes to their site as well. Our url is Hopefully they can be fixed.

    My brother, Mike Matthews, graduated from USC last year and passed away shortly after so it really means a lot that you chose to write about us. Thanks again.


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