Category: Music & Concerts
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Nestled in Portland, Oregon’s predominately white and hipster culture is all-Asian American dance rock band, The Slants. Rather than adopting the usual departure points of Portland’s music scene – alt-folk rock, shoegazer music, indie pop – The Slants took their influence from grabbing onto the corners of foundational 80s synth-pop music and blending it with modern dance rock sensibilities. They call this amalgamation of contagious, energetic, and danceable music “Chinatown Dance Rock.”
For their third full-length release, The Yellow Album, the band continued in the vein of creating an album charged with energy and shaped by an intensity gained only from frequent touring. It is the sound of a band who understands its roots but isn’t afraid to branch out musically. The result is a rounded album that explores the dichotomy between darker undertones and the thrills of new love.
The Yellow Album could be a natural progression from either 2010’s Pageantry or their 2007 debut Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts. Musically, it draws from the wider synthesizer driven palette of the first album while retaining the harder hitting rock sounds of the second. The lyrics explore the personal lives and experiences of the members of the band.
Frontman Aron Moxley’s life began with abandonment. He explains, “I was one of the babies born in Saigon during the Vietnam War. I’ll never know my real birthday, let alone find out who my mother is or know if she’s still alive.” The song “Adopted” illustrates Moxley confronting these feelings, which have plagued him for so long. “This album is more transparent, more sincere. It came from a faulty, but true short love story that ended in numbness fueled by booze and tears. But, ultimately back to a rescue of my own heart.”
The idea of redemption from all-consuming pain is also reflected in other songs, including “Misery” and “Been Through Hell.” Moxley states, “I like to write songs that are deeply personal, that mean something to me. I think they’re more real and they’re things that other people can relate to as well. Things got as bad as I thought they could ever get, I hit rock bottom. But I kept moving on.”
During the past two years, The Slants had to balance a rigorous international touring schedule, a lineup change, writing songs for the album, keeping personal relationships from falling apart, fundraising for the tsunami relief effort in Japan, and a fight with the United States Patent and Trademark Office that made headlines across both legal blogs and Asian culture outlets.
“We were pulled into an unexpected struggle,” explains founder and bassist Simon Young. “A touring band has enough to worry about, let alone an international disaster involving friends and family or dealing with a legal battle against the United States government.”
The trademark battle was sparked by a government attorney’s claim that the band’s name was disparaging to Asians. “It was like banging our head against the wall, trying to convince someone that we were not offensive to ourselves, that the community was in overwhelming support of our band.”
Despite the frustration, Young used the opportunity to bring an entire community together in order to defeat the poorly written, antiquated laws that were affecting numerous minority groups. The title track “Yellow” reflects the constriction experienced by the band.
The album title itself was birthed in a more playful approach to the idea of ethnic pride. “We’ve actually been sitting on the idea for a few years,” says Moxley. “The Beatles had The White Album, Metallica and Jay Z had The Black Album, so we wanted to have The Yellow Album.” The juxtaposition of a tongue-in-cheek album title and some deeply serious songs reflect a band who can still embrace tragedy with a punk rock swagger.
With The Yellow Album The Slants continue to combine their 80s music heritage, floor-filling dance beats, and cultural experiences that provide the backbone for every note. The result is a collection of undeniably catchy songs that will make you want to dance. However, this album will also resonate with you, providing so much more than an enticing chorus. The Slants manage to combine heart and musicality, a combination that is becoming increasingly rare. The Slants have arrived and are ready to induct you into the Slants Army. It’s time for you to listen.