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The Start of a Good Year
Break is over, and the new music blog is back in business. We’ve got a variety of music this week, so ch-ch-check it out!
The Decemberists- The King is Dead- The Decemberists bring back the folk rock complete with harmonicas, acoustic guitars, and some good-old-fashioned studio mixing. Their single, “Down by the Water” is a good one to start off with, but make sure to try “Rise to Me” as well.
Phantods- Creature- Interesting female-led rock. It’s got a decent beat and some good riffs. “Creature,” the first track, is one to try out. RIYL Paramore
Ian Axel- This is the New Year- Don’t underestimate the power of a man and his guitar. I would call this sleepy-time rock, full of sugary melodies and vocals. Check out “Waltz”
Modern Skirts- Gramahawk- This album goes from a good avant-garde beginning to indie pop in the blink of a track -switch. Some of the middle tracks get a bit redundant, but try “DUI”, “Glass of Water,” and “Shipshape” for something different and quirky. RIYL Architecture in Helsinki, Matt & Kim
Ninth Moon Black- Kalyug - If you’re into ambient rock, check out this album. The ethereal music mixed with the spoken-word on certain tracks gives it a post-modern vibe that could easily be the soundtrack to an Orwellian scene. Recommended track: “Causatum”
Times of Grace- The Hymn of a Broken Man- Two members of Killswitch Engage get together for a collection of metalcore with a common spiritual theme. Screaming ain’t my thing, but the melodies aren’t too bad, so check it out if you’re into the genre. RIYL Underoath, Killswitch Engage
N.E.R.D. - The Best of N.E.R.D.- Pop rock and hip-hop all in one, created by one of the most famous producers of the current era, Pharrell Williams. The lyrics are just alright, but the beats behind them are well-done. Check FCC, because there are few tracks you can play during non-safe harbor hours.
And now, a word from Mogli
Mogli here again with some reviews long overdue. Ethan beat me to the Cloudkicker review, but here are a few other albums that I’m finally getting around to writing about.
Underoath – Disambiguation
A small disclaimer: this band, as Soda said, is ostensibly Christian metalcore. I, being an atheist metal elitist, would be given to a bias against this band. But for the purposes of being a fair-minded music lover, I decided to give these guys a fair shake. That being said, I also have little to no knowledge of Underoath’s output previous to this record, so please excuse me for not having that context.
To the record at hand, Disambiguation is not terrible and has redeeming qualities. The vocals aren’t as atrocious as other vocalists in the burgeoning scene; the singer is understandable and articulate if one has the ear and the care to listen to the lyrics. He also has true singing capabilities that fall more into an “emo” vein. Furthermore, Underoath may be entering into the period in their career where they try to push themselves creatively. Many of the songs aren’t quite the scream-your-bloody-head-off one would expect but are instead more akin to post-metal, with more expansive and ambient parts than straight ahead thrashing. Electronic bits also show up occasionally in transitions between tracks, and those are a point of contention personally. Furthermore, the hooks, be they melodic guitar, slide guitar, or synthesizer, seem to be more engaging then most of the riffs, the meat of the songs. Also, several times within the record, otherwise good songs seem to be derailed by contrived “radio-friendly” elements.
Overall, I’d say that Disambiguation is an ok-good record, but I could hear the elements of metalcore and post-metal from other bands executed in a more engaging way, and the combination of styles isn’t done well enough to make me give the record a very enthusiastic recommendation. However, I would encourage others to take a listen and make their own judgment.
Recommended tracks: 3, 4, 6. My caveat about “otherwise good songs” applies to some of the tracks on that backside if one would like to try them.
Baptized in Blood – Baptized In Blood
This self titled debut is the best straightforward metal release the station has gotten since I arrived last semester. Baptized In Blood make very good modern metal, combining a heavy reliance on Gothenburg-style melodic guitar work within and outside of solos, hardcore vocals, and metalcore elements (breakdowns), all of which are executed to great effect. The album is loaded with hooks; again, the band has a good ear for melody, but they are also able to bring the thrash and the groove. The record isn’t perfect though. The lyrics toe the line between simple/straightforward/sincere and stupid, and when the singer crosses that line, it’s off-putting. In the liner notes, none of the band members are credited with playing drums, and the drums are pretty fake, though the parts fit the songs well. Finally, some of the songs are filler, though they sound good in context of the whole. Baptized In Blood is good-time accessible metal without being terribly sell-out (no clean vocals!) and not all about partying (Municipal Waste, anyone?). Give it a spin if you like Killswitch Engage, In Flames, or Unearth.
Recommended tracks: 1, 3, 4, 12 if I had to pick.
P.S. to DJs: Some of the tracks I recommended are debatably obscene, and some of the tracks that seem clean according to the liner notes have f-bombs that aren’t notated. Play at your own discretion in any case.
That’s all for now from me! Keep coming back to the blog for more music reviews. I know I check it a few times a week looking for new stuff, and you should too.
Dead Week Music
Daft Punk- Tron: Legacy Original Soundtrack - Whether you like Daft Punk or not, I highly encourage you check out this soundtrack to the new Tron movie. This is not another Daft Punk album, this is a soundtrack produced by two men who know music. It provides a background for a sci-fi setting without overdoing the synthesizers. Remember Brian Eno’s Small Craft on a Milk Sea that came out a little over a month ago? Well, while Eno’s soundtrack-like work set the scene for an epic terrestrial film, Daft Punk expands the boundaries and provides the music for a space-age universal setting. Check out Jeff Bridges’ sweet voice-over on “The Grid” and look out for “Recognizer” and “Adagio for Tron”
Space Capone- Volume 1: Transformation - I was afraid at first of what would be in this album due to the open-shirt bald man wearing sunglasses and suspenders on the cover. But instead of the experimental “you wouldn’t understand” music I was expecting, I got a modern example of pretty damn good funk. Think Electric Six meets the badass funk stars of the 1970s. I was quite fond of “I Just Wanna Dance” and “My Dudes (All Approve)” wasn’t bad either.
Audio-ology- Loud and Clear- Mixing pop with hip-hop, Audio-ology manages to dish out an album that is less in-your-face than the current Top 40 charts, but way more poppy than your Kid Cudi or Chiddy Bang music (both of which they liken themselves to). I tried out “Pretty Girls” and didn’t mind the tune, though the message behind it would bring resentment from your average feminist. The whole album manages to hold its own. If you’re into the genre, give it a spin.
Too Late for Roses- Debut - This group made the mistake of putting their best tracks at the end of the album. Upon first putting in the cd, you are greeted with tracks reminiscent of bro-hood and the most mediocre bands at Pointfest. However, listen to “Soundtrack from Masks” and you’ll see the ultimate potential. It’s haunting, original, and is the music from a short animated film by Patrick Smith (the director of Daria and the animator behind many commercials, including the Zoloft ones with the little furry depressed thing). Skip the first seven tracks, stop by “The Satisfaction” for a sec, then finish the end of the album, where the real music is.
Modern Paranoia- I’m a Bird- Each of these tracks was produced by a different permutation of band members, and I have to say my favorite is “I’m a Bird,” characterized by heartfelt vocals that sound like a less-cocky version of the Kings of Leon guy. The tracks vary in their sound, but all of them produce a sound taking elements from rock artists of the past 20 years.
Doctors & Dealers - Trouble- When I listened to this album, I felt like I was in a French cafe. The vocals are soft and jazzy, but the music behind them has a bourgeois avant-garde element I can’t put my finger on. If you like some trumpet, drums, and piano and drinking espresso, check it out.
Some new stuff for ya'
Mnemonic Sounds- Muscle Memories- Electronic pop slightly reminiscent of Owl City, but don’t let that throw you off. The vocals are not heavily auto-tuned and I doubt a million tweenage girls would be throwing themselves at these two. Mnemonic Sounds is made up of Peter Suk and Megan Ouchida and while the synthesizer is heavy in a few tracks, Ouchida’s vocals are sweet and not laden with autotune like so many of the bubbly electronica artists out there. Listen to “Function Under This” and “Keeping it Quiet” to really get a good feel of the vocals and check out “Stacking Up Bricks” and “Lonely Heart” for the more synthesized pop.
Oh Land- Oh Land EP- Cute electronic-backed pop coming from a cute Danish girl. Imagine Bjork + Nelly Furtado with a classical-inspired electronic beat. It’s obvious that the creators behind the album know a thing or two about music, because the balance of pop, classical, and experimental works well. I really liked “Rainbows” and “Sun of a Gun” is pretty good also.
Maserati- Pyramid of the Sun-This one’s been out a while, but I highly suggest you give it a listen. The ambient psychedelic sounds really give you an idea of what modern rock is capable of producing. It contains the final recordings of Jerry Fuchs (who died last year after falling down an elevator shaft) and his efforts were not in vain. The title track, “Pyramid of the Sun” exhibits more of the psychedelic side while “They’ll No More Suffer From Thirst” exhibits more of a progressive post-rock. Check it out fo’ sho’.
Afrocubism- Afrocubism- Afrocubism takes the sounds of Mali and Cuba (get it? Africa and Cuba…AFRO-CUBISM!) and combines them for a worldly-sound you may hear in a coffee shop or the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disney World. (The first track also kind of reminds me of the music from Amazon Trail. Anyone else ever play that game? Just me? Oh.) If you’re into world music and other cultures, give it a try.
Various Artists- Friends and Friends of Friends Vol. III- A collection of A LOT of indie artists with various sounds. There are 42 artists/songs on the album to be exact. I enjoyed “Strawberry Man” but I’ll leave the rest of the album for you to explore.
Gary Wagner- Age of an Aquarian- It’s a simple concept: songs with an acoustic guitar. But Wagner produces a lullaby-like feel on all of the tracks that will make you want to grab a cup of hot chocolate and cuddle up next to the fireplace (yeah, people still do that, including myself). “Butterfly Song” and “Beatific Morpheme” are my favorites.
Young Man- Boy- Society has come to a scary point where when I see Native American headresses, my first thought is not of the various tribes still sparsely scattered about the United States, but of indie music and LATFH (which really needs to start up again). Young Man embraces my stereotype with their cover art on Boy. The music will live up to any indie-loving individual’s expectations with sounds reminiscent of Arcade Fire, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Decemberists (minus Colin Meloy’s vocals)
MORE MUSIC FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
This weeks adds:
Cee-Lo Green - The Lady Killer- I apologize in advance for my babbling, but this album is fantastic. Cee-Lo certainly lives up to the Soul genre by putting his entire heart and soul into every song. While “Fuck You,” his viral video from the summer, has been tamed to “Forget You,” the song’s beat and the rest of the songs on the album make up for the split-second disappointment. If you enjoy funk, soul, or having a good time, listen to this album. My favorite track, “Wildflowers,” is a slower, soul-filled melody while tracks like “Bright Lights Bigger City” and “It’s OK” pick up the beat. Also make sure to check out his cover of Band of Horses’ “No One’s Gonna Love You.”
Norah Jones- …Featuring- A collection of collaborations, Norah Jones manages to keep her jazzy appeal while singing with artists from a wide variety of genres. Some tracks, like “Love Me” and “Bull Rider” show off the more folk/country side while “Virginia Moon” (featuring the Foo Fighters) and “Ruler of My Heart” keep up the jazz. I was surprised by “Take Off Your Cool,” her track with Outkast, but definitely in a good way. The short sweet track showcases the versatility of Outkast just as much as “Life Is Better” (with Q-tip) shows Jones’. The whole album spans the spectrum of easy listening. Perfect coffee-drinking music.
The Decemberists - Down by the Water (Single)- Just one track, but if you’re indie folk play it fo’ sho’. It’s the same sound The Decemberists have always put out, but the acoustics behind it, including an impressive harmonica, make it worth giving a spin.
Eux Autres - Broken Bow - Reminiscent of Best Coast, Eux Autres produces a surfer-indie rock that is upbeat and, for lack of a better word, cute. Check out “Jamais” and “Rosehill” to get a feel of what these guys are about.
The Greenhornes- ****- Made up of members of The Raconteurs/The Dead Weather, the Greenhornes release their fourth album, the first in eight years. I would call it matured garage rock with a hint of soul. RIYL the Foo Fighters, The Raconteurs, The White Stripes. Track recommendation: “Saying Goodbye”, “Need Your Love”
Rogue Valley- The Bookseller’s House- One of Tinderbox’s rare gems, Rogue Valley is a decent bit of indie folk with the type of singer who actually sings with his heart instead of his inner child. “Racecar Driver” picks up the beat while “Rose Festival” and “Jar Flies” slow things down. I personally like the ethereal “The Summer Moon.”
Picture an Accident- Picture an Accident- This album is different from your current stream of trendy artists. The only sound I could think to compare it to was Russell Brand’s character in “Get Him to the Greek” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” aka psychedelic rock. “Gotta Be Mad” is pretty good if you’re open to it as well as “Closed Eyes”
Josephine Foster and the Victor Herrero Band- Anda Jaleo- Not our usual cup of tea, Anda Jaleo brings in the sound of Spain in 11 tracks. An arrangement of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Las Canciones Pupilares Espanolas (The Popular Songs of Spain), you’ll get a good vibe of Spanish culture.
Highly Suspect- The Gang Lion EP- Three tracks. The first is more of a general rock n’ roll sound while the second and third play off of reggae-inspired rock. RIYL The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Tyler Jakes- Burning Down the Underground- Self-described as “western-gothic cowpunk garage rock exotica,” there’s not much I can say about Tyler Jakes. He wears a bowler hat and I liked “Former Czechoslovakian Back Parlour Blues”
Other Albums That Weren’t My Tops, But You Could Maybe Enjoy:
EZ Riders- Long Way From Home- Country blues rock with a few twists
Underoath- disambiguation- Christian metalcore RIYL Your Christian faith, screaming
Key to the Midway- Key to the Midway- If you have ever gone to Warped Tour, you’ll probably like this band. (No hate, just facts) RIYL The Maine, Metro Station
Tabi Bonney- Fre$h- I’m no expert in hip-hop, but I thought in the world of rap, this guy comes up pretty mediocre. Spin if you’d rather not take my word for it, which is understandable.
Cloudkicker - Beacons
Cloudkicker is the name of the one man project by Ben Sharp. In the past, Sharp always released his music for for free via download, which is impressive considering the professional quality of the recordings (these definitely aren’t your “garage band demo tapes”), but Beacons, his second full length album, is his first album that is available in CD/vinyl format. Though, you can still download it for free.
Now, to the music.
Cloudkicker can be described as meshuggah-esque, instrumental metal because of the heavy use of odd time-signatures and poly-rhythmic drumming. Though I believe Cloudkicker departs from Meshuggah by being more melodic and interesting with the guitar parts. Each song is very layered, creating a “wall of sound” effect that I particularly enjoy and forces the listener to go over the same song and find something new each time.
Or you can just put it in, turn up the volume, and bang your head.
In short, I really do love this album and highly recommend it and all his previous work.
Recommended tracks # 3, 4, 7, 9