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Glendale, California, United States | INDIE

Glendale, California, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Folk


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In a hyperreal city like L.A., where drivers will race 85 miles down the freeway between hour-long stretches of immobile traffic, and where celebrities are born and killed in the space of a single weekend, there,s something to be said for the art of the slow burn. Pasadena trio Monstr comprised of Alex Johnstone, Miles Jopling and Alison Beck provide enough deliberate, heartfelt songs to last you your morning commute and more, allowing you to bask in the unhurried but intense depth and weight of their music. Johnstone, Jopling and Beck explore the dynamic between purposeful and meandering songwriting, allowing their songs to find direction and reason as they move (without ever becoming boring or indulgent), building quiet passion on simple arrangements and the driving force of the sloppily charming drums and guitar that back up Johnstone's voice.
And what a voice it is. The purity and clarity of Johnstone's singing belie her intensity and range, and provide distinct contrast to the sometimes sparse and raw arrangements behind her. Never sounding out of place, she quietly wields each song to her advantage. She's a decent poet too check out Monster's website, where she's published three of her own poems, and written the band's bio to boot (My name is Alexandra Johnstone, and I've got something to say about Monstr, it begins).
Of course, Monstr is working in the well-worn tradition of folk-influenced rock and roll, and here and there the attentive listener can catch gentle references to a wide range of predecessors and influences, from the more recent (Cat Power) to the older (Bob Dylan) to both (Leadbelly-by-way-of-Nirvana). But Monster's sound is still, in many ways, their own; at once urgent and unhurried, intense but slow, gritty and beautiful and raw, perfect for relaxing in your car while you wait for the gridlock to end.
- LA Alternative

05 Review "Monstr S/T The New Black Music 2005 [12.11.05] Little gems in the proverbial rough. Like Pasadena, for instance, LA's bucolic neighbor to the east. Among other things, it's the home to an upstart label called The New Black Music, a modest outfit quietly putting out some of the most promising music in the Southland.
Which leads us to Monstr, a standout on the TNB roster. My first exposure to the band was watching the video for the song "Sincere Blues" on the band's site ( I dare you to watch this video and not be reminded how much you like good music. Sure, the video's concept and simple visual production is refreshingly powerful, too, but the song's still the star. More precisely, singer Alex Johnstone's voice is the main attraction.
It turns out that Johnstone's talents don't end with effortless and original vocal performances. It seems that Monster is her project, with other people only covering percussion and incidental instruments on the album. And this sense of personal investment and revelation comes through on Monstr. Johnstone coos and rails atop acoustic guitar and banjo, presenting highly crafted, wonderfully arranged tunes that showcase her voice and storytelling abilities. Other times, she's strapping on a Univox in front of a half-stack and supplying some sufficiently rocking leads.
Fans of Cat Power, Devendra, Mojave 3, Galaxie 500 will find a lot to like here. Moreover, this album can make jaded music fans begin to believe again that people are making good music out there. JC "


Appropriately perhaps, Alexandra Johnston of Monstr arrived at our sessions sporting a cast on her arm.  Appropriate because Monstr's songs are such fractured tales.  The songs she creates for Monstr are quivering and ethereal, transmissions from a stormy, broken land.  On its web site, the band states that it is trying to break your heart.  Indeed, fans of M. Ward or Lisa Germano may see similarities in the delivery of such powerfully sad, low-fi songcapes. 

There is something transfixing about Johnstone's voice, as it teeters on the edge, perfectly suiting the lyrical content of the songs (loss, hell, faded memories).  This is the soundtrack to a life slowly imploding.

The band, which released a self-titled album in 2005, is currently recording a new record. -


The Hoss, The Candle - The New Black Records - 2011
S/T - re-pressed in Europe on Le Jardin Collectif - 2008
S/T- The New Black Records - 2005
The Jesse James EP - self released - 2002



Although the band's name might suggest a roaring, heavy thunder, Monstre quietly sneaks up on you and immerses you in layers of cascading guitars over haunting vocals. The four-piece indie folk band based in Los Angeles' artistic Silver Lake community has been collecting many fans over the years by exploring different musical styles while still maintaining an ethereal theme - a meditative intensity that has made the band, according to music website LA Underground, "one of the favorites of the Los Angeles underground scene."

Monstre first took shape in 2001 as a solo project for Alexandra Johnstone, a California native who took an interest in every musical instrument she found as a child. Her aptitude for songwriting and enthusiasm for creating unique songs from various instruments, while influenced by such musical pioneers as the Velvet Underground and the Beach Boys, led to the creation of a full band with members that shared her dream: to have a defining sound as a band, while still pushing in different directions artistically.

In order to make that dream reality, the band recorded their first songs at home, burned them to store-bought CDs and sold them at their shows, which generated enough interest to warrant their first North American tour. After two self-released albums and an EP, Los Angeles label The New Black signed Monstre and released their self-titled full length album in 2005.

The album drew comparisons to Devendra Banhart, Mojave 3 and Galaxie 500. Certain songs, such as "We Shot It" - hauntingly calm and composed of no more than a banjo, bass, and Johnstone's striking vocals - seem inspired by American folk music, while others, such as "Alice Dupont" and "Golden Cloaked," are straight rock. The album has since sold out in the U.S.; however, the music eventually found its way to Europe where it caught the attention of French label Le Jardin Colectif. The label re-pressed the album and Monstre toured France in April 2009 to promote the re-release.

Now comes The Hoss, The Candle, the second full-length album of ten more delicate and otherworldly compositions. This album has a darker, more celestial feel; although the Dylan/folk influence is very much at the heart of Monstre's sound, the new album takes off in unexpected directions, such as the track "Old French Clothes," which culminates in a chorus that evokes a classical music take on the German band Can.

The Hoss, The Candle will be produced by Dave Trumfio (Wilco, Neko Case, Built to Spill, Granddaddy) for release in February 2011.