The Sounds of 2016

To those that know me they know that my relationship with music goes simply beyond listening. It is a hobby that has taken over my life in the best ways possible. Beyond the listening I enjoy discussing music and diving into the stories behind the artists, albums, and songs. There isn’t a situation that exists in the world that can’t be sound tracked with the proper song. Whether in solidarity or amidst a crowd of thousands, a few simple chords or thoughtful lyrics can define a mood and help us through.  

I am not entirely sure when this hobby started or how exactly it blossomed, all I know is that it has become a force in my every day. Ever since I have been allowed to go in I have been to dozens of concerts all throughout the world. Live music takes the songs and experiences to an entirely different level of enjoyment. Going to shows and discussing music with people you know and even those you don’t connects us on a level that knows no controversy or opposition. It is a beautiful bastion of art that needs to continue for all time.

In 2015 I decided to try and encapsulate my thoughts and feelings on my favorite albums of the current year by doing a little bit of writing on each. I had never really attempted something like this and certainly didn’t have much experience writing outside of engineering reports and “creative” writing in school that was nothing but as you sweated out the opinion of a TA being forced to put a letter on a paper. Since then I have fully enjoyed writing about each and every album and am ecstatic to have a vault of memories and experiences to carry with me for the rest of my life.

Last year I scratched another itch and took up the challenge of learning to code a website from scratch on my own and thus was born tkmaxwell.com. I combined these two interests to design a creative space for me to share my thoughts with the world (OK not the world, probably ten of you guys). And if you are checking the site out for the first time you will have 75 albums worth of material to dive into so get to work!

For 2016 specifically the world of music was a shape-shifting, dynamic atmosphere marked with tremendous loss, but also tremendous creativity and ambition. Never in my memory have I seen a period of music so closely reflect the world surrounding it. Music was a means to face the issues head on, escape them, or flip them on their side with journeys of celebration and diversity and I think this list of albums perfectly reflects that.

Personally 2016 was a year of great reflection and experience as I saw over 40 concerts and hopped on 22 planes navigating the world. Never could I have imagined the year playing out the way it did and I got to experience and learn things not only with those that I love, but with new friends and perfect strangers. Being that it was a year of stories and conversations I chose a different approach with the reviews this time around. Instead of focusing on details of specific songs I chose to muse on what the albums and artists mean to me or the themes/journeys I thought the artists were aiming for. With that background in mind I hope you enjoy and can’t wait to discuss:

Tkmaxwell.com

Keep on keeping on and may all our favorite bands stay together.

T Max

Local Natives' Sunlit Youth Bursts Forward with Confidence

Local Natives (the musical act formerly, and forever in our hearts, named Cavil at Rest) has a storied and close personal connection to the whole AU crew. Growing up and attending high school in the same area with the band members means there were many interweaving friends and experiences. For over a decade our special group of friends have been able to see them perform in places ranging from the now extinct Sing Sing at the Irvine Spectrum to Outside Lands 2014 in Golden Gate Park. Let’s not also forget the time we stuffed into a downtown LA hotel for a shenanigans filled night that featured one of their great performances in the Gorilla Manor days as well as Cosmonaut Paul Giuliano callouts, Mickey Rooney discussions, and a patented 3am business discussion with Peter as I lay in bed half awake.

Local Natives  Sunlit Youth  Album Art 

Local Natives Sunlit Youth Album Art 

With the release of their new album Sunlit Youth on September 9th and having just caught them on their current tour in San Diego it seemed a perfect opportunity to share my thoughts and encourage everyone to check them out.

To those unfamiliar with the band their defining characteristic is their fierce collaboration. The shared experiences and selfless behavior in the songwriting process shines through in all aspects of the band. After figuring it all out in the early days and going through re-branding the group released Gorilla Manor to highlight their teamwork. Named after the house they all lived together in in Orange County, the soaring harmonies, personal lyrics, and cinematic melodies put the group on the indie radar with high comparison to Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes. With Hummingbird the group slowed it down a bit on a more meditative effort. The album dealt largely with the death of Kelcey Ayer’s mother and though it lacked the rush and freshness of Gorilla Manor it hardly mattered as it gave rise to a more mature and impactful record.

Zip ahead three years to today and we find the group in a much happier place and the result is the shiny and polished Sunlit Youth. Much in line with the music trend of the last handful of years Local Natives have added electronica elements to help move their sound forward.

The Taylor Rice lead album opener ‘Vllainy’ directly addresses the new approach when he sings “I want to start again” over the groups trademarked harmonies. Only this time we get electronic overlays and simple synth chords. The anthemic quality of the band is maintained through songs like ‘Fountain of Youth’ and ‘Mother Emanuel’ with lyrics that perfectly reflect the album’s title.

Amidst the rebuilding of their sound we come across songs like ‘Coins’ and ‘Dark Days’ that harken back to the youthful experimentation and myriad of styles that made Manor so memorable. While these two different approaches might lead some to believe the band is stuck between their roots and evolving into a new defining sound, I see it as a perfect mix of everything the band does well. For someone that has been along for the journey as long as I have this is all that you can ask for.

As a live act the anthems and group harmonies fuel a performance tailor made for festivals at dusks and singalongs in venues across the nation. It is still a strange experience to see massive rooms full of strangers singing word-for-word to their songs when our impressions of them will always be that band from high school. The show I saw in September has the band as crisp as ever with a setlist filled with new and old. The new songs sound fantastic and added equipment brings a new quality to old songs as well. There is never a more fun moment at a concert to participate in the craziness and party that is ‘Sun Hands.’ The band has perfected the song and makes for the highlight of their set.

Needless to say everyone should go check them out and here is a look at their latest single:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqO6zpUPZOs

Keep on keeping on, 

Tmax