"Follow The Leader"
The four-piece pop rock band was formed in 1994 by high school students as a school project A high point of their career was playing a CMJ new music showcase in 2009 in New York and the group has remained one of the best-kept secrets in the local underground scene.
Ciudad plays a sort of retro-music preferring the pleasure of jangly guitars and '60s beat on overdrive to get attention. Sounding like a blast from the past hasn’t stopped a cult following to line up in front of the stage and sway to Ciudad’s infectious, sing-along worthy ditties in such venues as ‘70s Bistro, Route 196 and Saguijo.
They’re the Eraserheads who live by the DIY code (after a failed debut with a major label) and has earned the respect of adoring fans.
Their fourth and latest album again illustrates Ciudad’s prime assets. The jangling guitars trigger memories of vintage country rock as well as The Church and R . E. M. (“There’s A Lonely Road To Sunday Night,” “When You Get To The Top”). The beat-driven songs (“Things I Don’t Need,” "Leads”) have that Beatlesque quality that should cross-over to pre-punk radio heads. “Due Dates” opens with a few things borrowed from the lilt and rhythm of French chanson.
It’s the sticky melodies and the close harmonies that put Ciudad a league apart from mere revivalists. They may be out of time but nobody, long-time fans and fence-sitting critics alike, certainly don’t mind.
The Piano Guys
Once more with feeling from two guys who have made an imaginative spin on mash-up. This time, the two main players, pianist Jon Schmidt and cellist Steven Sharp Nelson, get support from violinist Lindsey String and duets from Megan Nicole and Alex Groot for an expanded menu when pop mixes it up with classical tendencies.
The new album starts with “Begin Again,” a happy fusion of Taylor Swift and Johann Sebastian Bach. The duo resurrects the spirit of Bach once again in a quiet, almost mournful revamp of the hair metal classic, “More Than Words.” They extend some more the widescreen sweep of “The Lord of The Rings” soundtrack then follow it up with a beautiful clash of techno and classical maneuvers in “Berlin.” Watch out for the prog-pop rewrite of The Turtles’ “Happy Together”!
Schmidt and Nelson offer two new songs on the album, “All of Me” and “Waterfall,” both piano-led tunes. The first one is a series of sonic highs and lows while the other builds to a crescendo like a flowing river finally crashing down a mighty gorge.
Explosions in the Sky
Live at Samsung Hall, SM Aura
October 30, 2013
Post-rock enters the Pinoy rocker’s lexicon when one of its 21st century pioneers bannered the power of instrumental guitar-rock at SM’s latest concert showcase.
The four-piece from Texas makes epic indie rock that for all intents and purpose is the antithesis of punk’s three chords and an attitude ethos. On record, the American quartet relies heavily on reverb, extended guitar solos and standard backbeat to push their propulsive rock to a long and winding road to catharsis.
The pre-Halloween gig at SM Aura was no different.
Picking through the best of their six studio releases since forming in 2000, Explosions in the Sky were all about finesse rather than instant gratification. One thing’s sure—it’s not the RJ type of guitar flair or the flamboyance of fusion jazz rockers.
Still, there was understated flamboyance in the musical odyssey from the opening song, “First Breath After Coma” to the more bludgeoning passages of “Greet Death” and “The Birth and Death of the Day.” The audience responded by either swaying in place, head bowed down, or watching the band in awe bathe in swirling tones and shifting dynamics.
There are other better bands in the same genre but on that fateful evening, Explosions In The Sky ruled this side of heaven.