Saturday, December 31, 2011

Casey's End Of The Year Extravaganza

More than likely this is going to be a clusterfuck of information, so I'll keep this intro short. Below, I've put together a list of my favorite EPs, albums, and songs of 2011. My tastes have widened drastically this year, so much that I currently have over 9000 songs in my library just from 2011. While the top of my lists focus more on my customary pop punk and pop rock realms, the deeper cuts of my lists are full of albums that before this year I never would have expected to like. Fireworks, The Wonder Years, Childish Gambino, M83, Farewell Fighter, Yellowcard, SBTRKT, and many more can be seen below. For a Spotify playlist containing the songs of the year list, click right here.

You know, if the Mayans are right, this is my last year-ending list, ever.

The original draft for this end-of-the-year synopsis saw a somewhat dissatisfied me attempting to relate the lack of late-December snow on the ground here in the Northeast to the seemingly incomplete feel of 2011 and its musical offerings. For this writer, 2011 ushered in quite a few much-anticipated releases that ended up falling far short of their predecessors (Battles, Lemuria, and Manchester Orchestra, to name just a few). It paid witness to the disbandments of Philadelphia's Snowing and Frank Turner's departure from Gallows, two longtime favorite bands of your ever-humble narrator. In writing this, I very nearly fell into an abyss of textual lamentation, centered around the simple fact that my 2011 top-ten list is but a sad skidmark in the wake of its beefy 2010 counterpart. But really, what good is it to whine and moan about what this year and music could have been? 2012 is already shaping up to be more promising, with scheduled releases from Every Time I Die, Joyce Manor, and Andrew Bird all dotting the early year forecast, not to mention my 21st birthday and yet another installment of summer Olympics (read: publicized females gymnastics) both looming on the horizon. And so, temporarily dropping the resentfulness of the year's more underwhelming moments, I present you with a handful of moments during which 2011 showed no signs of suck: Eric's Top Twelve Tracks of Twenty-Eleven.

Eli's First Annual Year End Album Tournament

Welcome, welcome, to Eli’s first annual “Year End Tournament.” Here I indulge in egregious amounts of pretentious tomfoolery, all in attempt to wrap up my final thoughts on music in 2011.

My 2011 Alphabet

2011 was a solid year for music but it was a year without any identity. 2011 had no reoccurring themes (unless you are Ali and are a lot smarter than me,) it had no "defining moment," and it had no clear artist or song of the year. 2011 to me was more of a pillar of consistency across multiple genres. 2011 was a year that was so complicated that it cannot be defined with just a few paragraphs or links to a few songs. It has to be defined almost like an alphabet or a dictionary. So here is my 2011 dictionary*

*Songs without descriptions are simply good songs!*

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mat's Top Releases of 2011

There have been a lot of releases that I didn't expect to end up on here, and a fair share that should have been on here, but didn't make it. I'm as surprised as you, dear reader. But no matter - this is my list. You may not agree, but at least listen to what I have to say before you shout profanities at me. Read below for albums including those by Across Waters, Russian Circles, Moonlit Sailor, Tides From Nebula, and many more.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kyle's Albums of the Year 2011

2011 has been a year of both disappointment and pleasant surprises. My taste in music is in constant motion, but at the end of the day, the following are, in my humble opinion, the most impressive and enjoyable releases of the year. 

Album Review: The Weeknd - Echoes of Silence

As a person who typically dislikes most things R&B it’s fair to say that I approached Abel Tesfaye’s entry mixtape, House of Balloons, with skepticism. And even though House of Balloons is - at its core - hedonistic, it veiled the most obvious stereotypes of its genre with meticulous production and Tesfaye’s angelic croons. Shortly thereafter, Thursday was released and helped expand on this potent blend by somewhat breaking away from the aesthetic of its predecessor to feel a little more emotionally resolute and, at times, kind of... creepy. As noted by many a reviewer, Thursday drew from a much darker atmosphere and thrived on its story-telling tendencies. Still though, both mixtapes come across as filthy, grimy sex music on the surface, but there’s something undeniably emotive about them. Beneath Tesfaye’s walls of drug-addled sexism lies a dangerously self-destructive person (“The Knowing”) - one who - knowingly - uses and abuses drugs and women, and even though Thursday saw Tesfaye’s character find a muse - one whom he created and destroyed a relationship with - his character’s demeanor inevitably led him back on the same path. So, after the fallout of failed relationships, finding Tesfaye placed (once more) exactly where he started, the inevitable question is: where does he go from here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Album Review: Drake - Take Care

Album Rating: A
Toronto’s very own Drake may have rushed his debut Thank Me Later, but sophomore effort Take Care finds Drake hitting his stride. The daring 17-track 80-minute behemoth is as enticing and mysterious as it is lengthy. Rarely do I enjoy every song on an 17-track effort, and even more rarely am I somehow convinced that I share emotional struggles with an international icon worth millions. Drake is at his best on Take Care, his most significant release to date and one of the best releases of the year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Album Review: Little Comets - Worry EP

EP Rating: B-
Many a band will purport to have had a whirlwind year, but Little Comets can lay down a stronger case than most. The Newcastle-based indie-pop troupe have endured many of the highs and lows that life in the music industry can bring, having been dropped by major label Columbia, unveiled a marvellous debut album and lost their drummer all in the space of the past twelve months. It's a culmination of events which would prove the unraveling of many, but this quartet-turned-trio have displayed the inner mettle to overcome the setbacks. With temporary replacements on the stool, they've continued to excel in the live arena - with their summer festival slots in particular going down a storm - but perhaps more importantly they're also continuing to flourish in the recording studio, something that this EP of new material goes some way towards proving.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Album Review: He Is We - Skip To The Good Part

EP Rating: B-
Christmas adds a little bit of warmth into the mostly cold and dark season  known as winter. It's fitting that cutesy pop band He Is We releases another heartwarming EP right as the calendar approaches the end of December, as no other band consistently brings sappy warmth into a musical form.

The three new songs look to be a musical progression from the soft and subtle arrangements of My Forever. The stripped version of "Our July In The Rain" features one of the most intense buildups in a He Is We song, courtesy of powerful drums and strings that come in for the second verse, climaxing during the bridge. Rachel Taylor's considerable chops are on full display, as she powers through the song at her strongest. The acoustic version doesn't carry the intensity that the stripped one does, but the fragile nature of this version hits in a totally different way from the stripped one. While "Tell Me" feels like a rehash of fan favorite "Blame It On The Rain", "Skip To The Good Part" is a unique song for He Is We, as they finally use the strings on a lighter, more upbeat track rather than a song like "Fall".

Friday, December 23, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Sigur Ros

The day many a post-rock fan has been waiting for has arrived--the return of Sigur Ros.  Admittedly, the band has not been gone for long (and it's arguable to say that they even left), as their last album dropped back in 2008, to the typical commercial and critical sucess.  After the release of said album, the band announced a hiatus of sorts, which led to the lead singer, Jonsi, to lead a very successful solo career.   And while the sudden announcement left man with pangs in their hearts, the dry spell has been short, as Sigur Ros has revealed plans for an early 2012 release.

Coming off their first ever live album (if you don't count the documentary, Heima), Inni, Sigur Ros plan to head to the studio to create a follow up to 2008's Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, with a slated release of Spring 2012.  The band has stated that the forthcoming album will be much more atmospheric and ambient than their last few releases, hearking back to the early days of Sigur Ros.  And while this announcement is a tad bit dated, it is pertinent because the band has released their first new material in years for free.  That's right, the absolutely beautiful  "Lúppulagið" featured on Inni has been posted online just in time for the holidays.  The sound the band spoke of is definitely present here, as the atmospheric track is incredibly sparse, but fantastically effective.

With the release of a fantastic live album a month ago, and the promise of a new album on the horizon, it's been a great time to be a Sigur Ros fan.

You can (and should) check out "Lúppulagið" here:

Album Review: Build Us Airplanes - At the End of the Day

Album Rating: B
San Francisco's Bay Area seems like a seriously awesome place to live. Its scenery and general aesthetic as a metropolitan area - from the Golden Gate Bridge to the long-legged girls of UC Berkeley; from Richardson Bay in the north to the fact that there is an actual patch of land known as Treasure Island a little further south - everything about the region comes off as borderline ideal. Some of the country's highest per capita income levels, film-site of The Princess Diaries (arguably a young, awkward Anne Hathaway's finest moment), delicious/nutritious seafood, a well-behaved climate - point is, growing up in or near San Francisco sounds like a pretty unreal deal.

Artist Spotlight: Storm Corrosion

Progressive rock and metal all-stars Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt are teaming up. What does this mean for the layman, you ask? The respective frontmen of Porcupine Tree and Opeth have been collaborating for a while on their records, with Wilson beginning his tenure with Åkerfeldt by helping produce and provide background instrumentation and vocals for Blackwater Park in 2001, and Åkerfeldt in turn helped Porcupine Tree out with vocals and guitar on the 2005 record Deadwing.

The two artists had decided upon this collaboration last year, March 2010. However, they have stated explicitly that they do not want this just to be a prog-metal supergroup, because it "would have been so easy to do - and kind of expected, in a way" (discussed in Gunshy Assassin interview here). No, what this project will ultimately become is a complete and thorough experimentation of what progressive rock is, can be, and may become, told through the minds of two brilliant and innovative men. According to Wilson, it's a congruous feeling between Åkerfeldt and him that this record will take a different direction than would be expected by fans, for the sake of real music-making, but I'm sure anyone who really listens and cares about the releases by either would have a conscious sort of understanding of that feeling. Either way, it'll be exciting to see what happens on the record, and what Åkerfeldt and Wilson will have planned for the future, if anything.

The record comes out April 2012.

Album Review: Luther - Siblings and Sevens

Album Rating: B
Philadelphia’s Luther makes their first mark on the music industry with their debut release Siblings and Sevens. The EP is a seven track journey of sincerity and ambiguity. Luther walks the fine line between not trying hard enough and trying too hard with great dexterity, an impressive feat worthy of great praise for a band of only two years.

Siblings and Sevens is a punk rock effort at its core. Most of the tracks are driving and simplistic, catchy but not overtly so. While there is a great deal of backbone and attitude to the record, there is no effort made to be heavy or particularly aggressive, instead often nodding to folksy roots. Luther also displays a vulnerable side with great consistency, frequently lamenting about personal tribulations. While the lyrics tend to be vague and introspective, the delivery seems genuine, to the great benefit of the record. Luther leans on no gimmicks to draw attention away from a lack of substance, and in this respect, Siblings and Sevens delivers. Luther finds their greatest strength in their relatable character and honest delivery.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Year In Retrospect: The Musical Themes Which Have Shaped 2011

When I first set about writing this article, the vision I had was simple; a concise, coherent and informative summary of the past year in music without disappearing up my own backside or boring any unfortunate readers into submission. Alas, by the time I'd discarded my sixth draft, I began to accept that it wasn't possible, and so this long-winded, cobbled together mess was born - precisely the opposite of what I'd aimed to achieve! No one's reading this for the intro, so, without further ado, I present my 2011 retrospective, based around some of the major themes which have shaped the year in music...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Album Review: Across Waters - More Light Is Never Ending

Album Rating: A
Across Waters is an interesting post-rock band that developed out of the heart of Denton, Texas. Four guys, with a juvenile burning desire to play music for fun, came together and matured into a group that spreads the Christian word of love and creation, and the beauty of the entire world. Their vision is truly reflected in More Light Is Never Ending, the debut album from this funny band in Texas. This album is a wondrous work of aural literature, drawing up passions and tales from far past, and emotions that run deep within the soul, feelings that have existed for thousands of years, since biblical times and beyond; they conjure up affects that make us feel and know that we are human, and that itself is a powerful and moving idea.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Album Review: Modus Aurora - Modus Aurora

The holiday season has suddenly turned into a season of material discontent and greed. We spend hours upon hours fascinated and frustrated about what gifts to give each other and what gifts we should give ourselves. But I always thought the biggest gift of the holiday season was the simple gift of comfort. The comfort that is found in knowing people are "there for you," the comfort found in knowing that people might actually care for you, the comfort found in knowing people want to make memories with you, and the comfort that is found with whatever we assume the true meaning of the Holiday season is. This kind of comfort has always been the most precious part of the season for me.

Live Review: Little Comets, Northumbria University, 10/12/2011

It's a sad fact of life that no matter how great the band on stage is, a bad crowd always has the potential to spoil a show - something Little Comets found out at Northumbria University last Saturday. This should have been a great occasion, the homecoming of an excellent local act after a whirlwind twelve months, but sadly - inexplicably - it was almost completely ruined by a minority of those in attendance who completely killed the celebratory atmosphere before it even had the chance to rear it's head.

Album Review: Jonsi - We Bought A Zoo Soundtrack

Album Rating: B-
Icelandic singer/songwriter, and overall musical icon, Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson, has been a busy man over the course of the last few years.  While touring with his main act, Sigur Ros, Jonsi started a little side project which allowed him to expand his “poppier”, more whimsical sensibilities, yet still retaining a certain ethereal flare.  The man has always attempted to imbue a sense of “magic” into his music that tapped into a child-like wonder that comes off a wholly pure and majestic, but his solo project has seen him go beyond anything he’s ever done with Sigur Ros.  With the soundtrack to We Bought a Zoo, Jonsi has further compounded his jovial new direction, and made a lively, interesting record in the process.

Album Review: Disseriph - Warp Tunnel

Album Rating: A-
Personally, I would not call growing up a fear, but it is definitely something I am wary of. I have accepted that it is going to happen, but while I am not afraid of it, it is something that keeps me wondering. Sometimes I stop and contemplate what I'm going to think of myself ten years from now. Surely I will probably look at myself and reflect on how foolish and naive I was at this age, but will I stay the same at all? While listening to the opener of Disseriph's debut release, Warp Tunnel, it really makes me ponder the exact same things about my future. "Sorta Grown Up" begins with the verse "so far away from my past, I'm looking at it through a telescope/and down this tube of refracted light, see myself waving to a future me", which paints the exact image of me sitting down, thinking about what it will be like when I'm ten years older while sitting down and seeing myself sit down ten years ago and think about what I will be like when I'm ten years older.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

End Of The Year 2011: Surprises Of The Year

While there are always records that I expect to top my end of the year lists, there are always some that come out of the depths to surprise me. I'm not talking about bands that I never listened to before, but bands that released records that I never expected to enjoy as much as I did. For example, I never expected Hellogoodbye to release a record as strong as Would It Kill You? after releasing the autotuned monstrosity that is their older work. In alphabetical order, here are nine records that I would call "surprises".

Bayside - Killing Time
While Bayside had gotten plenty of acclaim over the years, I was never able to get past lead singer Anthony Raneri's unique voice. But with Killing Time, the voice stopped bothering me as much as it used to, and the slickly crafted rock songs helped this album burst into my top ten. "Sick, Sick, Sick" and "Already Gone" are two of my favorite tracks on the year, and Bayside has finally turned me into a fan.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Album Review: 65daysofstatic - Silent Running

Album Rating: A
65daysofstatic has been pretty active as of late, what with the Heavy Sky EP, and We Were Exploding Anyway both being released last year. With this year came a dynamic work for the band that started as a fundraiser through Indie Gogo, and came to fruition through the support of loyal fans everywhere. Silent Running is a testament to the band's new direction, and this change is not something we should reject - rather, we should hold it close, cherish it, and admire this brilliance 65 has graciously handed down to us. The album feels so natural for the band, yet has many different tastes, ones that have evolved and matured since the likes of The Destruction Of Small Ideas. Where there was once angst, static, and anger, there is now creativity, fluidity, and feeling.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Options

Options doesn't sound like the work of a single person. One-man projects can often seem amateurish and cobbled-together, but Seth Engel's creation is anything but. Having recorded under the moniker since 2008, the Chicago songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has established a firm base emo-tinged alt-rock not dissimilar from the likes of Manchester Orchestra and Brand New's earlier work. Engel - also a member of bands Cage Match and Like So - hasn't reached those heights yet, but even at this early stage the indicators are positive. His debut album Some Light was a solid effort which displayed plenty of promise, but it's the two EP's he's released this year which have really impressed, and gone some way towards delivering upon that potential. The most recent of the pair, Little Victories is especially excellent, seeing Engel all but perfect a balance between the delightfully raw scuzz and twinkling melodic passages he specialises in, often within the same song. There's still room for improvement on the songwriting front, and there are times when the lo-fi distortion can become overbearing, but the all of the components for success are already in place, and there are already tantalising glimpses as to how good this project could become in the shape of gems like 'Yours Truly.'

You can stream and download Options' music on their bandcamp page.


Album Review: Nujabes - Spiritual State

Album Rating: A-
When Jun Seba was killed in a car accident last year, his absence left a gaping hole in not only the hip-hop scene, but the world of music as a whole.  Known for his gorgeous, cool-jazz instrumentals, paired with some of the most infectious beats out there, Jun Seba, better known as Nujabes, was a musical force to be reckoned with.  2003’s Metaphorical Music is still hailed as a land mark release, and we really have not been treated to anything quite like it since.  Sure, Modual Soul was yet another astonishing entry, but it didn’t really capture the magic of his debut.  Unfortunately, even well before his passing, the world was pretty much starved for more Nujabes’ music.  There was that brief stint with anime, which yielded an excellent soundtrack, but nothing in the way of a true LP ever surfaced past 2005.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2011: My Favorite Albums (Blair Chopin)

What can I say about 2011 that has not already been said? Nothing. So here's my 42 (I love you Coldplay) best albums of the year:

42. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Lenses Alien

Lenses Alien is just a cluster mess of potential. Once Cymbals Eat Guitars stop trying to make songs that sound like 8 minute Built to Spill and Mars Volta covers and find their own sweet spot they will be one of the best bands around. Right now they are just really inconsistent. The album has a few moments of brilliance though that make it one of the better listens of the year.

41. Bomb The Music Industry! - Vacation

Vacation is the poor man's version of Knife Man. That makes it one of the best records of the year.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Album Review: The Roots - undun

The Roots are the most consistently great hip-hop band of all time. Such a statement is daringly bold, but I can’t at this time think of any other group out there who’ve managed to keep in with the current trends of hip-hop without sounding somewhat disingenuous in doing so. How I Got Over is the most obvious indicator of this: The Roots made their sound considerably more streamlined, but they were still able to one-up the vast majority of their contemporaries in doing so. Now, undun still retains that new-age sound, but it also brings the quirks - coming hot on the heels of their 2010 record, undun sounds surprisingly consistent and ingeniously crafted. It’s the Roots’ first concept record, detailing the life of a fictional protagonist named Redford Stephens. Through cultivated beats and introspective lyrical rumination, several guest vocalists lend their voices to help channel energy to breathe life and give a piece of themselves to the role of this character. The end result is an atypical hip-hop concept album that threatens to not only be a huge success, but one that also challenges some of the Roots’ best material to date.

Album Review: Gallows - Death Is Birth

EP Rating: A-
Who’d have thought it? After losing Frank Carter, their colossal lynchpin and one of hardcore’s finest frontmen, Gallows may – whisper it – have got even better. Former Alexisonfire guitarist Wade MacNeil wasn’t exactly an obvious choice of replacement; For one, he’s never fronted a band of Gallows' ferocious ilk before, but perhaps more importantly the irreversible fact that he’s Canadian renders lyrics like “The union jack has bled away/ Its black and white and its fucking grey” a little obsolete. Surprisingly, though, his addition has done little to curb the momentum which they kicked into gear with previous records Orchestra Of Wolves and Grey Britain, and shows that they remain a cut above the rest in the hardcore game.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Artist Spotlight - Olde Pine

The midwestern emo style as of late is generally pretty hit-or-miss. The band either falls flat on it's face, failing to stand out amongst their peers, or it comes out really, really good. Olde Pine, which consists of "two guys from MA playing rad music", are really, really good. For a band with nothing to their name but a two track ep that spans over the course of seven and a half minutes, Olde Pine does an extraordinarily good job at getting their point across and making an extremely promising statement for any of their work to come. Their two track ep, entitled Reservoir, has the exact same youthful energy present in genre greats such as Cap'n Jazz. One thing that Olde Pine is great with is backing up the imagery of their lyrics in the instrumentation. "For Twinny" contains the line "as the brown blanket sits soaking up our history, I'm lifted up", followed by a drop in tempo, as the listener can almost feel themselves being ascended by the light drums and feedback. Although Reservoir seems like more of a tease than it does an ep, we could only hope that whatever Olde Pine has in store for us is on its way soon.

You can listen to and download Reservoir for free on bandcamp

Friday, December 2, 2011

Interview With Marianas Trench

Sometimes called the "Fall Out Boy of Canada", Marianas Trench has already reached superstardom north of the border. But in the US, they are just another emerging band. The band has just recently released their brand new record Ever After, and their current US tour opening for Simple Plan is their first tour supporting the record. The band agreed to take some questions from me, talking about topics such as the reasons for  Ever After being a long cohesive product, how different it is opening for small shows in the US compared to headlining huge ones in Canada, wanting to sign to an American major label, hopefully playing Ever After from front to back on a future tour, and much more which you can read below.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Album Retrospective: Stiff Little Fingers - Inflammable Material

Album Rating: A-
All early punk rock was fuelled by anger, but in the grand scheme of things, most of the bands in question really didn't have all that much to get worked up about. Political injustice, social meltdown and label disputes are far from ideal, but it's not as if The Sex Pistols The Clash et al were living in a war zone, with troops lining their streets, the sound of bombs ringing in their ears and no clear end to their life-or-death issues. Stiff Little Fingers on the other hand, did experience all of that. Hailing for Belfast, Northern Ireland, SLF was formed by a quartet of school friends at the height of the nation's Troubles. They may on the surface seem like your typical punks with their limited skills as musicians and full-throttle approach to writing, but where most of the genre's early torch bearers carried gimmicks, Stiff Little Fingers had none. They were the real deal; a bunch of ordinary kids from a working class background with something genuinely worth getting pissed about, and as such it comes as no surprise that their debut LP remains one of punk's defining statements.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2011: My Favorite Moments In Music

2011 has been one of the more unique years in music for me as a listener. I listened to albums by hip-hop artists, dubstep artists, indie artist, punk artists, and even female artists. I enjoyed albums from bands I had never heard before, happy songs from one of the most depressing bands on earth, songs about being a "straight white male in America," songs about working in the fields, songs about plowing girls, songs about being a woman, and songs that tried to define America just based solely on its hyperbolic contradictions. 2011 expanded my music taste and produced more moments from more artists than any year in recent memory. Here are my ten favorite moments from 2011.....

Album Review: 10 Paces, Fire - Lakes Refract & Lakes Reflect

Album Rating: A
It's hard to find music that stays true to its roots, appeals to a wide audience, and contains a sort of depth that makes it truly relevant, while still remaining accessible to each and every person that takes an interest. 10 Paces, Fire has come up with some kind of black magic voodoo formula that satiates all of these requirements, and still surpasses expectations with clearly-burning brilliance and passion that makes it serious, light-hearted, and "underground" enough for snobbish hipsters. Lakes Refract & Lakes Reflect is a beautifully complex album in many ways, yet is completely down to earth at the same time. With tastes of everything from Moonlit Sailor to Manchester Orchestra to Minus The Bear, the album is emotional, exciting, deep, exhilarating, calming, creative, and most importantly, fun.

Album Review: Tycho - Dive

Album Rating: B
If there’s one thing that electronica artist Tycho does well, it’s making smooth music. Now this isn’t a velvety, sultry R&B, nor is it some form of ‘cool jazz’, no, this is a lush, gorgeous blend of electronic sights and sounds that goes down easy. Scott Hansen has been making this type of music under the Tycho moniker for nearly a decade but surprisingly Dive is only his sophomore record; a follow up to 2006’s exceptional A Past is Prologue. Hansen hasn’t really learned a whole lot of new tricks since then, but hey, when it’s this good there really isn’t a problem. Heavily borrowing from the legendary Boards of Canada, Tycho manages to create incredible compositions with a life all their own, all whilst making it seem so effortless. It’s a beautiful sound, and one which transports the listener into an absorbing world that only Tycho could create.

Monday, November 28, 2011

MuzikDizcovery Exclusive: 10 Paces, Fire - Lakes Refract & Lakes Reflect Album Stream

Today, we are happy to premier 10 Paces, Fire's brand new EP Lakes Refract & Lakes Reflect. Combining the post-rock like ambiance of Moonlit Sailor of with mathy rhythms a la This Town Needs Guns or Look Mexico and a little bit of 90's emo, 10 Paces, Fire gets the best out of their musical creativity while creating their own multigenred sound. You can stream the EP below, and purchase it on the band's Bandcamp page here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Album Review: Diamond - Don't Lose Your Cool

EP Rating: B+
With the resurgence in popularity of Jimmy Eat World and Weezer, it was inevitable that a new wave of bands would emerge as a result of their second coming. The pair of them have taken festivals by storm over the past couple of years, and provided further fuel to their revivals with much improved new outings, so it was only a matter of time before a band like Diamond came along in their wake. Featuring members of hardcore bands Trapped Under Ice and Down To Nothing, this Baltimore group are currently making a name for themselves playing the same kind of joyous alt-pop that Weezer perfected on The Blue Album, and later Jimmy Ear World with Bleed American. Nostalgic throwbacks they may be, but the recent success of those two bands has proved the endearing appeal of their brand of music, and Diamond's latest EP Don't Lose Your Cool only drives home the point further.

Album Review: Followed By Ghosts - Still, Here

Followed By Ghosts is a band from Iowa. This is literally all of the information you will find about them on Facebook. I suppose, though, if you pay any attention to the saying "actions speak louder than words", you won't be too bothered by them. Still, Here is the third album released by Followed By Ghosts, and they portray that the three year gap in between albums was a solid three years in expanding ideas and learning how better to express themselves. The band draws influences from godspeed you! black emperor and Explosions in the Sky when discussed, but after listening to the album, they really seem to throw all that those artists have laid down out the window and painting expression on a canvas of their own. What they've given us is radically different, wonderfully beautiful and unique

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Album Review: Kate Bush - 50 Words for Snow

Album Rating: B-
While I could probably post some candid definition or reflection on the word “snow,” I think it would be more effective to tell you that Kate Bush’s 10th proper album is in a sense, the audible recording of snow. Majestic, ethereal, algid-such things describe Bush’s 50 Words For Snow, an album that sees the British pop royalty at the top of her game, years and years into her career. What is more impressive, however, is not that Bush has managed to remain relevant in a scene that isn’t exactly conducive to late career releases, but it is that the artist has once again challenged the definition of what a pop album can and should be. 50 Words For Snow is unlike a lot of the drivel the genre pumps out, in that is a beautiful, haunting, and introspective release that shows that although artists may age, their craft can remain just as incredible.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Live Review: The Vaccines, O2 Academy Newcastle, 21/11/2011

Their impact hasn't quite reverberated overseas, but in the UK at least The Vaccines have been the new band of 2011. Fresh from an a prestigious slot opening for the Arctic Monkeys and having comprehensively smashed the summer festivals, this really has been an enormous year for the London quartet, and as such there wasn't a ticket to spare for this -the first date on their biggest headline tour to date. In fact, their popularity is such that this particular run of dates was more akin to a victory lap than a promotional jaunt, something which was reflected by the celebratory atmosphere from the moment they took to the stage. On top of that, the main support of the night came from excellent local indie-pop band Frankie & The Heartstrings, meaning that this particular gig often felt like a co-headliner what with the reception they received from the appreciative home crowd.

Album Review: Gunning Bedford - Don't Wait Around For Me

EP Rating: B
"I'm sick of everyone around here." With that declaration, Rockland County's Gunning Bedford concluded Ice Warriors, their debut 2010 three-track EP. It is exactly the sort of poignant and angsty statement that one might expect four kids who've played alongside the likes of The Wonder Years and slightly less celebrated pop-punk outfit Daylight to end a record on, with its modestly articulated "fuck you, I'm outta' this jerkwater town" conviction. Unsurprisingly enough, Don't Wait Around For Me picks up right where Gunning Bedford left off, wasting no time whatsoever before diving into five original tracks covering everything from feeling hopelessly forgotten to realizing that none of this daily bullshit matters anyway. What's important is that they do exactly what is expected of them: having a good time whilst singing about the bad times and hoping for better times.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Album Review: Newsboys: God's Not Dead

Album Rating: B-
In the late 1990's dc Talk and the Newsboys were two of the biggest Christian bands ever. dc Talk's Supernatural and the Newsboys Love Liberty Disco were poppy enough to make the radio, rocked hard enough to be respected by the metal heads, were "honest" enough to earn both bands some indie cred, and were religious enough to not ostracize the normal religious right wing market. After years of being irrelevant and being scoffed at Love Liberty Disco and Supernatural made Christian music relevant not only to their evangelical audience but relevant to the left wing hipsters who scoff at the mention of any "higher power." dc Talk versus the Newsboys was the Christian music version of Russell versus Wilt, the Christian music version of Brady versus Manning, the Christian music version of Alba versus Simpson, it was NWO red versus NWO black, and most importantly it was one of the hottest music debates of the late 1990's. Christian music had finally gone mainstream, had finally gone indie, had finally gone metal, and most importantly had finally in a weird way gone bipartisan.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Forest Wall At The University Of Maryland

Unofficially the first MuzikDizcovery sponsored event, The Forest Wall recently came to the University Of Maryland to play a small, intimate show in the Nyumburu Cultural Center. One of the audience members, Andi Hubbell, wrote up a little review of the show, which you can read here. A little quote from the article can be read after the jump. You can also watch a few videos from the performance right below. Check out The Forest Wall and Silent Old Mountains.

Album Review: Cloudkicker - Let Yourself Be Huge

Album Rating: B+
The ways an artist can mature and develop usually could result in a drastic change in the fanbase's view of the artist, depending on the scale of the change. Many times an artist will step completely out of the realm of what they are even remotely adequate at creating, which could result in varied reception, either praising the artist for their versatility outside their genre or bashing them, rejecting their new sound and claiming that they should have stuck with what they were best at. On Cloudkicker's latest release, Let Yourself Be Huge, the mathy mastermind Ben Sharp comes completely out of left field, but at the same time sounding just like he did on his previous album Beacons. And although Let Yourself Be Huge shows Sharp dropping almost all of the heaviness he previously displayed in his music, it is still very apparent that this definitely is, in fact, a Cloudkicker album.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Album Retrospective: R.E.M. - Automatic For The People

Album Rating: A+
I'm not usually one to shed a tear over a bands demise, but even I was deeply saddened by the news that R.E.M. were to call it a day back in September. This might seem strange given that the band had been on a steep downward slope for the best part of 20 years, but the utter brilliance of their earlier work - as well as the odd latter day highlight - meant that it was still felt great to have them among us. If measured by overall influence, it's probably their eighties albums while on I.R.S. which stand the tallest, but in terms of sheer scale, magnificence and ambition, no other album in their 31-year career can touch their 1992 masterpiece Automatic For The People.

A Year in Post-Rock: 2011

To be quite honest, 2011 has been a fairly mild year for top tier post-rock releases. No Mono, no Godspeed You! Black Emperor (called it), and no Pg. Lost. Sadly missing, sure, but that isn’t to say that 2011 has been a complete bust for the genre. In fact, this year, more so than ever in recent memory, bands have been breaking the mold, and setting off on paths that progress the genre even further. There have been a lot of breaths of fresh air imbued into the tired formula, creating a wonderful bevy of albums that have made 2011 one hell of an excellent year for post-rock. Here is just a sample:

Mogwai - Earth Division:
Alright, alright, this may not be the Mogwai release that you were expecting. However, their latest album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, left a lot to be desired. This little gem of an EP sounds somewhat different than anything else the band has done before. It’s lush and beautiful; a record that relies less on gimmicks, and more on the sheer excellence of Mogwai. A true stand out.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Album Review: Childish Gambino - Camp

Album Rating: B+
Donald Glover, AKA Troy Barnes, AKA Childish Gambino. This man is the proverbial triple threat in entertainment today. Acting, comedy, and rapping, Glover dominates in everything he attempts to do. While acting first put him in the limelight, his rapping career as Childish Gambino has taken off in 2011. A free EP ignited the buzz that got him signed by Glassnote Records, leading to his first commercially released record. Camp is Glover at his most creative; his punchlines are more aggressive than ever, the production is top notch, and his brutal self reflective honesty is emotionally tiring. All of this establishes Childish Gambino as budding superstar in the rap/hip-hop scene.

Album Review: Sean Milo - Elgin

EP Rating: B+
You complete me. I love you. I'm lost without you. To even mention how incredibly trite and void of consequence these common little snippets have become is practically banal in itself. Wars were not waged over such petty utterances, and kingdoms certainly did not crumble over a sentiment that could be put up into three meager words. Rather, it has been the inability to articulate the simultaneous angst and buoyancy afforded from love and heartbreak that's been able to drive us away from sanity. It is the knowledge that I love you will never cut it that can send a person into a spiraling demise of self hate and pity. Fortunately for himself and for we listeners, however, Sean Milo has studied up on his metaphors. Elgin is profusely littered with them, offering the listener a slew of untried ways to put such amorous sensations into words. And boy is it refreshing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Album Retrospective: Say Anything - In Defense of The Genre

Album Rating: A+
Autobiographical music is usually relatable but never really unique. When an artist says they are releasing an "autobiographical album" we usually assume this means a "themed album" filled with songs about ten themes we are supposed to believe are unique. Instead of making an album that is actually autobiographical, artists often contaminate or brains with mainstreamed views on rather serious topics. We know that "Love Hurts," we all are trying not to be an "American Idiot," and we are probably all doing it for the "Single Ladies." While these albums and songs might be relatable and enjoyable, they are the furthest thing from actually be autobiographical. The relatable autobiography is nothing more than something we are supposed to believe is the artist story so we will buy their record. The unique autobiography actually has to have "No Soul."

Artist Spotlight: Bandoliers

The demise of a band may be hugely frustrating for those involved, but it's something which can stand you in good stead for future ventures. Indeed the failures of previous outfits appear to have being a blessing in disguise for Newcastle-based trio Bandoliers, whose unmistakably British brand of indie rock sounds remarkably accomplished for a band that's only just released it's debut EP. Had they emerged six or seven years ago during the initial wave of post-Strokes guitar bands, they'd have been custom-built to become huge, but as things stand they've still got a pretty large audience to play to. The appeal of their particular style may not reach far beyond the British Isles, but they can rest assured that the NME crowd in particular will latch onto them like a malnourished leach, and with the inevitable ensuing hyperbole who knows where they could end up. What is certain is that with a healthy dose of melodic guitar hooks, urgent rhythms and no little heart, the three members of Bandoliers have all the tools with which they can make up for past setbacks, and then some.

You can stream and download Bandoliers' EP, Time & May on their Bandcamp page.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Album Review: Seahaven - Winter Forever

Album Rating: C
Well, upon first listen, Seahaven had me hooked. The promos I had initially heard pointed to greatness; a familiar, yet comforting sound that was equal parts post-hardcore and pop-punk, sort of in the vein of Title Fight. I had high hopes to say the least, as Seahaven’s endearing sound really struck a chord. And while their debut, Winter Forever has all the makings of a great album, it simply doesn’t get off the ground. Fun and energetic for sure, but the lack of diversity keeps the album from soaring to the heights that it is so capable of.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Album Retrospective: Lou Reed - Transformer

Album Rating: A
I'm probably in the minority in believing that Lulu is not in fact one of the worst albums ever recorded, but the wreckage it's left is pretty catastrophic. That equilibrium of two (formerly) great artists never looked like one which would end well, but even so the amount of bile directed at Lou Reed has come as somewhat of a surprise to me. Metallica's unforgiving fanbase ensured that it was they who bore the brunt of the ensuing hilarity, yet the main question from many detractors seemed to be just why they wanted to hook up with an archaic fool who bears frightening resemblance to grandpa Simpson. What shocked me even more were the numbers of listeners apparently ignorant to Reed's past glories, while there were even some who had evidently never encountered the man behind numerous game-changing musical landmarks. His achievements with The Velvet Underground in the late sixties are all but beyond dispute, and rightly so. This has, however, had the effect of overshadowing his solo work, despite the fact that some of it reaches equally stellar standards. Sure, he also made Metal Machine Music (you think Lulu's bad? you've heard nothing!), but when he hit a spot he did so with his full weight behind it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Album Review: King Krule - King Krule

Album Rating: C-
It's not often nowadays you see seventeen year-old musicians getting critical attention. I feel like the younger generation is usually ignored in the music business, so when I saw the young True Panther signee Archy Marshall, who records under Zoo Kid and King Krule, on the front page of Pitchfork, I got pretty excited. However, after reading an interview with him, I was rather discouraged. He seemed awfully pretentious for somebody his age, almost to the point of sounding immature. Hoping that Archy's wry personality would not be reflected in his music, I gave his debut self titled EP a try.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Junius / Rosetta Split (vinyl)

A long time in coming, a split release on vinyl between Junius and Rosetta is something post-metal fans have been awaiting, and now it's here. Both of the tracks are wonderfully complementary to one another, with Michael Armine's screams in Rosetta being counterbalanced by Joseph E. Martinez's smooth crooning, and the melodies of "A Day Dark With Night" flowing easily into "TMA-3". The release is a great way for both bands to gain a bit of publicity too - Junius, of course, had just released a new album, and their single off of the split complements the new album beautifully, being in the same strain; Rosetta, on the other hand, allows fans to re-focus on their music, their release of A Determinism of Morality having been released halfway through last year. Rosetta has been planning for some new music in 2012 and had performed a couple of days ago in New York's Metal Suckfest, so we should be seeing more of them in the near future. One thing is for sure, though: this split rocks, and shows off the sound that both bands have been working for, and judging by this release, have clearly perfected.

The split comes out on vinyl on November 22nd, and you can pre-order it here!

If you haven't heard either of the tracks yet, you can find the Junius one here and the Rosetta one here.

Album Review: Laura Veirs - Tumble Bee

Album Rating: B
Becoming a parent has a habit of changing one's outlook on life, and on the surface that would certainly seem to be the case with Laura Veirs. The 38 year-old songstress has always shown herself capable of excelling in the art of pastoral folk loveliness, but becoming a mother for the first time has led her to a style that fits her talents perfectly. If you've not already gathered, Tumble Bee is, as it's sleeve states, an album of folk covers for children, and although it sees Veirs embarking on new musical ground the impression you get while listening is that few artists currently in action would make a better fist of such a niche.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Album Review: Johnny Foreigner - Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything

Album Rating: C
As far as confrontational album titles go, Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything ranks pretty highly, and as anyone who has heard the band before would expect, the music within very much follows suite. For the past four of five years, the Birmingham three-piece have steadily built a strong underground following with their sporadic and excitable brand of indie pop. Comparisons to fellow Brits Los Campesionos! have followed them throughout that period, but JF have always delivered a far more spontaneous racket, and have developed a handy habit of encasing brilliantly catchy melodies in amongst their waves of (mostly) controlled chaos.

Album Review: The Wild - A Collection

Album Rating: B+
Oh joy, rapture—The Wild have entered my life just in the nick of time. Whilst 2011 has been winding down, I’ve been getting glum, knowing that this fantastic year is now coming to a close. Alas and alack, however, as A Collection has arrived. A Collection is exactly what its name implies—a collection of lovingly composed tracks from a sadly ignored act, The Wild. Who are The Wild you ask? Well, albeit a bit derivative, they’re simply the epitome of what every indie/folk should be doing, and doing it damn well.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Worry Party

I don't bother with many bands from the current emo scene. To me, at least, too many of them take the whole melodramatic aspect of the genre too far, while the less that's said about most of it's mainstream representation the better. Worry Party, however, offer a welcome and refreshing change. It's not that they're dragging the genre into exciting new pastures, rather that they're resurrecting it's indie-based origins, and providing their own fresh interpretation of it. It's clear that that sound is still going through the stages of development, but it's potential is clear and it shouldn't come as much of a surprise if the band makes waves once firmly established a few years down the line.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Album Retrospective: The Antlers - Hospice

Album Rating: A
There has always been a difference between albums that are about heartbreak and albums that are actually heartbreaking. The albums about heartbreak are filled with songs that are about lost loves, lost causes, lost people, lost wars, lost moments, and even the artist losing themselves. The songs often leave us indifferent because we know even the most original album about heartbreak has been done before. We know that everyone has problems, we know that everyone gets heartbroken, we know that everyone gets depressed, we know everyone has a unique political stance, and we know that everyone longs for a past that they used to think was so terrible. When an artist makes an album that is simply about heartbreak, our reaction is usually just to shrug and move on to the next album about some sort of unique heartbreak. The only thing that is heartbreaking about albums about heartbreak is that they are so unoriginal that they will never even come close to breaking our hearts.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Musical Madness- Round Two

Two weeks ago we had the first week of Musical Madness here on Muzik Dizcovery. Musical Madness is a combination of my love of music with my love of college basketball. For far too long it seems like the people who love music and the people who really love sports have been separated by an invisible iron curtain. I want to end this Cold War of cultural elitism by analyzing music in a way that would appease even the most die hard sports fan. With this dream in mind I created a 64 album March Madness type bracket on this very site two weeks ago. The 64 teams were divided into four distinct and unique regions- mainstream, metal, hip-hop, and indie.

Album Review: Girl In A Coma - Exits And All the Rest

Album Rating: B
If you know anything about 70's rock and roll, or if you happened to catch 2010's biopic The Runaways, you probably understand that Joan Jett is sort of a badass. Feverish, fierce, and oftentimes fucked up, Jett was able to claw and climb her way through the rock ranks of the 70's and 80's, not only with her original band The Runaways, but also as a solo artist and alongside her more renowned troupe, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Jett's focus was not limited to her own music though, and the early 1980's saw the start of her and Kenny Laguna's independent label, Blackheart Records. Not only has Blackheart released many of Jett's own chart-topping singles, they have also helped to propel a handful of more recent bands into the spotlight, one of the most relevant of which is San Antonio's Girl In A Coma. Adding the post-punk sensibilities that one would expect from a band named after a Smiths song to a slightly less filtered pop-punk approach (and one that certainly appeases even Jett herself), Girl In A Coma have made quite a name for themselves in the Southwestern United States. With the release of their fourth LP, Exits And All the Rest, GIAC showcase just how loud and indelible three girls with amps and microphones can be.