Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Album Review: Such Gold - Misadventures

Album Rating: B-
Set Your Goals' Mutiny! is a hallmark pop-punk album. It's an album at a crossroads with its influences, caught somewhere between the aggression of melodic hardcore and traditional bouncy songwriting of more sugar-coated pop-punk. It's a record as unyielding in emotion as it is easily accessible. It's as raw in production as it is crafted for crowd surfers and sing-alongs at barlight-soaked dive bars.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Artist of the Day: Little Gang

In this modern age of hyper-communication, is it fair to claim that individual countries retain a kind of unique, musical feeling? It's something that certainly comes to the forefront with Little Gang: blending the melancholic tendencies of the Scandinavian band with the emotional naivety of US-born frontman Jacob Snavely. In their recently released debut, Half of Everything, this international mix is highlighted by the constant struggle and sway of the album's mood. From happy to sad, laid back to energetic: it never quite manages to find its feet yet it's this inner turbulence that makes it one of the most interesting Alt-Rock albums of the year so far.

"Evert's Song" demonstrates this most evidently, as it's impossible to say whether this almost lyric-less track is uplifting or not. It bops along in a carefree manner, sure, but it never solidifies it's position to one mood: leading to some very confused listeners. Although this is confused in the welcome, enticing manner as opposed to the post-trauma kind, thankfully. Alongside this tonal ambiguousness, Little Gang set sail with a style that bleeds Scandinavian-Folk but shifts to a childhood-Christmas blend of warmth and magic. The kind of cuddly goodness that, along with Snavely's deep, soporific vocals, help carry you into sleep. It's a style so powerful and inviting that you're forced to put down the debut's various shortcomings. The album itself is definitely worth checking out, but it's the future of the band that's worth getting excited about as they hammer out the last few dents in their sound.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Artist of the Day: Toh Kay

Streetlight Manifesto embodies everything that's right about ska-punk. Their brass section is bold and brash, drummer Chris Thatcher is relentless behind the skins and although they will never one up modern ska classic Keasbey Nights, the band has motored its way to an impressive discography.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate)

In the forefront of the rising emo revival movement is Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate). This husband and wife duo from Fenton, Michigan appeals right to the listener's heartstrings, combining twinkly riffs right out of American Football's self titled album with Keith Latinen's passionate voice. Latinen is strongest when he's pushing his voice to the limit, as on "The Only One That Could Ever Reach You," the opener off On Time Spent Waiting..., the band's best release to date. But the band's upcoming full length, due out in the fall, could easily surpass it based on the new track off Count Your Lucky Stars' (the band's own label) latest four way split. "Everything Small is Just A Small Version of Something Big" adds in a little groove to the band's sound, showing off another aspect of the band's immense ability to switch things up within their own sound. You can purchase the four way split right here, and check the band out on Facebook here. We are also interviewing the band within the coming weeks, so let us know your questions in the comments.

Various Artists: Humble Music Bundle

Somewhat strange for the company that normally releases games, but the kindly folks at Humble Bundle threw together a pack of video game-related / nerdy music for a great value. Who are the folks at Humble Bundle? Why are things usually related to video games? What are you talking about, Mat?

Let me explain Humble Bundle. They're a group of generous people that receive permissions from independent artists and studios to release games in a limited-time-only, name-your-price sale. The profits from the sales go to three groups: the developers, a select charity or charities, and the folks at Humble Bundle, in order to help promote future bundles. However, not only does the sale allow you to name your own price, but it also allows you to choose where your own proceeds go. Pretty nifty, huh?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Artist of The Day: Dirty Gold

Dirty Gold's Roar is the perfect soundtrack to the rest of your hot summer: they combine the carefree, relaxing, fingerpicking acoustic sounds of Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews with the relaxed and nostalgic atmospheres of Youth Lagoon and Magic Wands, they have lyrics that hit on just about every youthful and summery topic possible (relationships, "coming home," building a new life, and second chances,) and they produce five songs that could all end up being your favorite song of the summer.  

Album Retrospective: Dimlite - My Human Wears Acedia Shreds

Album Rating: B
Dimlite tends to create a bit of a divide in the instrumental hip-hop genre, and it's because his music has always represented what the genre’s capable of with no restraint. His most well-known release Prismic Tops is a complete clusterfuck of ideas, for instance; its inherent lack of memorable melodies has always dissuaded potential fans. As soon as an alluring musical phrase is about to be fully established, Dimlite shifts the ground underneath it completely, turning the equation upside-down to avoid a sense of staleness. While bold, this approach can’t establish a connection with the listener; there exists a more ideal balance, one which the Swiss producer has yet to meet.

Live Review: Death Cab For Cutie, Meadowbrook Music Theater (7/4/12)

Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard
(Photo courtesty of Tumblr)
July 4 is generally a day for barbecues, fireworks and reunions with old acquaintances to celebrate the greatest country on Earth- America. I chose to forgo most of the celebration, however, and have a decidedly less explosion-filled evening by attending the Death Cab for Cutie concert at the local college pavillion. Personally, I hate pavillion venues, especially when I get stuck with lawn seats as I did for this concert; luckily, the lawn made a minimal difference in the overall quality of my evening.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Artist of the Day: The Album Leaf

A favorite ambient / post-rock band of mine, The Album Leaf has calmed down since their string of releases in the early half of the 2000's. However, there's a lot to love about the band, even with only a single full-length released in the past six years. Similar to sitting in the park to watch the sunrise and waiting for the rest of the world to awaken around you, the formerly-solo project of Jimmy LaValle features music that lays in the background, at times, but can be instantly recognizable if you simply listen, for a moment.

Album Retrospective: House of Heroes - The End Is Not The End

Album Rating: B+
I feel like a disgruntled suburban parent when I talk about Christian music, its not that I'm mad at the genre, it is just that I am very disappointed.  I have always felt that if your music centers around something as powerful as the existence of an all loving, all knowing and all controlling God, then your music should have some sort of emotion behind it. If you sincerely believe with all of your heart that that you were predestined to make music for this LORD, that the LORD loves every person with all his heart, and that you want to "bring as many" people to this LORD as possible then you should have some sort of emotion and divinely inspired creativity in your music.  Even though Christian artists claim that they believe in all of the things I listed above, their music usually never gets past their niche audience because of cliched songwriting, lack of emotion, lack of creativity, lack of talent, and lack of consistency. In fact, the only consistency about Christian rock is that it will sound like it was made out of some weird obligation instead out of some divinely inspired period of creativity.

Interview With Yellowcard

Yellowcard has been one of the biggest and most respected bands in the scene for more than 10 years now. "Ocean Avenue" is one of our generation's anthems, and will always be a defining song in pop punk. The band is now about to release their sixth album with vocalist Ryan Key, and the album is definitely one of their best. The band took some questions from us at MuzikDizcovery that mostly focused on the new album, including possible bonus tracks, the reasoning for the releasing "Always Summer" first, the creation of "Here I Am Alive," the choice of guest vocalists on "Telescope," the final answer regarding if there will be an acoustic version of Southern Air, and much more that you can read below.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Album Retrospective: Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst

Album Rating: A-
Conor Oberst had always written music for himself and not for a particular audience.   His songs had always been his deepest, darkest, and even most romantic personal stories: he told us the story of how lost a important person in his life in the beautiful country epic "Poison Oak," he told us the story of how he almost lost himself in "Let's Not Shit Ourselves," he told us the story of how he fell in love in the acoustic masterpiece "First Day of My Life," he told us stories of struggle and war in the digital driven "Easy/Lucky/Free," and he told us the story of heartbreak in the rock song "The Calendar Hung Itself."  Oberst's heartbreaking honesty, wit and "suffering" had given him a passionate almost cult like following, the admiration of critics who could not stop their cute Bob Dylan comparisons, and the envy of just about every other songwriter.  With Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst single handedly turned songwriting selfishness not only into a virtue, but into a powerful and influential career.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Album Review: House of Heroes - Cold Hard Want

Album Rating: B-
House of Heroes is not a band that's short of ambition. Their 2008 record Suburba fell somewhere between the spectrum of Relient K's pop-rock tendencies and Queen's delusions of grandeur. The group even tackled the Beatles, the kings of bombastic power chords, on an EP. So why is Cold Hard Want an album that's lacking in heart?

Artist Of The Day: Sebadoh

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been caught completely unawares by Sebadoh's sudden return. Sure they've been touring for the past five years in support of reissues and other nostalgic means, but as a creative engine they've long seemed dead in the water. With that in mind, the release of a brand new EP, entitled Secret and announcement of a full length due in 2013 have come virtually out of the blue. What's even more surprising, though, is the quality of the material in question. Given that it represents their first output in 13 years, you'd expect Lou Barlow and co. to sound disjointed, or at least a tad ring-rusty. Instead, they've picked up seamlessly from where they left off, resuming the sloppy joys of their classic sound and reinstating it over the course of five excellent tracks. It may be described as "a taste of the upcoming album," but none of these songs are set to be reused, suggesting that even greater pleasures may lie in wait.

You can stream and purchase Secret from Sebadoh's Bandcamp page. A limited number of CD copies will be available at the group's coming live shows.

Album Review: The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten

Album Rating: A-
It's hardly a surprise that Handwritten is a great record. In fact, coming from such a dependable outfit, its success was virtually inevitable, with the only unexpected twist being the manner in which it excels. Ok, that's not strictly true - especially for listeners with a hint of common sense - but for the naïve among us, Brian Fallon's comments in the run-up to the its release seemed to herald something of a U-turn. "Fast," "aggressive" and personal" are just some of the adjectives that the frontman has flung around these past few months; could he and his band be about to return to their raw and loose punk roots? Of course not.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Artist of the Day: Port St. Willow

Port St. Willow, the brainchild of Brooklyn resident Nick Principe, is a breath of fresh air. The indie project has a knack for constructing ambient textures that stand out from the usual - it's one thing to create a stirring ambient track, and another beast entirely to construct one that endures in the listener's memory. I accidentally discovered Holiday (Port St. Willow's debut album) this morning, and I was pleasantly surprised by how rejuvenating it is.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Album Review: The Antlers - Undersea

Album Rating: A-
The Antlers had already created two near masterpieces with the conceptual and morbid Hospice and the atmospheric, free flowing, and nostalgic Burst Apart.  Hospice and Burst Apart were almost total opposites: the character on Hospice is willing to "put bullets inside of himself" for love while the character on Burst Apart screams about how he "doesn't want love," Hospice was a lo-fi, distorted, and depressing love story, while Burst Apart was an electric, electronic, and aggressive collection of "stoner songs," and while Hospice was a brief conceptually chapter book like summarization of everything that we define as "heartbreaking," Burst Apart seemed to be a beautiful, brilliant, and alms classic summarization of what we expect "joyful indifference to sound like." Even though both albums were complete opposites in sound, story, flow and feel, they were still both near masterpieces and superb albums in general.  Because of this it became clear to me that The Antlers could take just about any theme, sound, or feel they wanted and turn it into a superb album. But even I didn't expect the greatness that is Undersea....

Live Review: Cult Festival - Hoults Yard, Newcastle - 07/07/2011

The idea behind Cult Festival was simple; take a selection of North East England's finest up-and-coming bands, and place them on a bill alongside some of the best that the nation's independent scene has to offer. It was a simple, yet genius concept, and one which found a perfect setting in the damp, dingy warehouses of Newcastle's Hoults Yard. By far the strongest supplement of the event, Saturday's main draw was a headline set from Mancunian legends The Fall, but as it happened that was only one of the highlights on a fine exertion for the region's most dedicated music lovers.

Interview With The Front Bottoms

If you follow bands like Say Anything, Motion City Soundtrack and Brand New, you've likely heard about The Front Bottoms. Over the last year, the band has burst onto the scene, opening for those three bands above and winning huge amount of fans over every show. On the last date of their tour with Motion City Soundtrack, The Front Bottoms took a few questions from us at MuzikDizcovery, about topics such as the size of their live band, opening up for Tenacious D, reflections on their self-titled album, lyrical styles, a possible vinyl issue of their older material, their plan to finish writing, and much more, which you can read below.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Live Review: Jukebox The Ghost, 9:30 Club (6/29/12)

Fans don't just go to live shows to listen to music, as they could just as easily do so on record. Live shows carry a multitude of other characteristics that separate them from just a simple recording, such as stage presence and crowd interaction. It's a rare quality these days to be as charismatic and warm as Jukebox The Ghost is in their live set. They noticeably try their best to put on a fantastic show and engulf fans in their set by making them feel like part of the show. It becomes more than just a show, it's a gathering of friends, all there to experience Jukebox The Ghost's quirky piano rock in all its glory.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Artist of the Day: ASC

The date today is 20 July 2012; just over halfway through the year. Since January, ASC have released one double single, three EPs and one LP. That's a lot of music. What makes this all the more impressive is that, without fault, it's all rather good as well. With his own take on Techno, Ambient, Hardcore and even (we're told) Motown influences, ASC began his healthy binge of creating electronic music through an equally as large addiction to listening to it. While still in school he had already begun DJ'ing on pirate radio stations - a somewhat outdated pastime now that the internet exists - and this broad range of tastes and influences from such an early age is easily identifiable in his music.

Album Review: The Contortionist - Intrinsic

Album Rating: B-
It’s exhausting being an avid progressive junkie like me, because of how often you get disappointed. In a genre that prides itself on experimentation, it’s necessary for musicians to remain moving forward, testing new waters and paving new paths to success. While it’s great that such evolution is encouraged, it can also be detrimental for groups to fear staying in one place for too long.  

Although The Contortionist’s debut album Exoplanet was a progressive deathcore success that nobody anticipated, the gears have shifted vastly since 2010 to prompt the creation of Intrinsic. The album features a more prominently progressive landscape, nudging the earth-shattering deathcore moments to the side to fit between pockets of tranquil ambiance. While the group’s new formula certainly isn’t flawless, it at least leads to a few of The Contortionist’s greatest moments yet. “Holomovement” channels the likes of Cynic in its dreamy atmosphere, in a way unforeseen by the group this far. Elsewhere, “Geocentric Confusion” ends on the sweetest note before giving way to the ambiance that defines Intrinsic’s transitions.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Artist of the Day: Polar Bear Club

Some bands were made to excel in the studio. The Story So Far put together a high octane whirlwind of a pop-punk record with Under Soil and Dirt, but their live show isn't as clean cut. They put on an energetic display at best. At worst, it's all over the place, frenetic and put to shame by their pristinely produced album.

Polar Bear Club is one of those lucky bands whose concerts transcend the solitary pleasure of listening an album. Like their namesake, the Rochester punk rockers plunge headlong into their performances with reckless abandon. Deep cuts like the anthematic call-to-stagedive "Living Saints" and "Burned Out in a Jar" pepper their sets with hardcore edge, but Jimmy Stadt and company have never sounded better than when they're blistering through tracks from last year's Clash Battle Guilt Pride.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Born Gold

I may have seen nearly 20 bands (including highlights Sleigh Bells, araabMUZIK, Japandroids, Clams Casino, Kendrick Lamar, and Cloud Nothings) last weekend at Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, but the best band I saw the entire weekend came as an opener in a small club late on the Friday night of the festival. Born Gold opened up for Purity Ring (who also put on an incredible set as well), and may have well put on the best performance I have ever experienced. Vocalist Cecil Frena was a human machine, covered with lights and buttons from head to toe, lighting up as he moved every such way. His vocals were processed with glitchy effects, and the electronics and synths boomed and echoed through the tiny room, giving everyone in the crowd a show of a lifetime. Born Gold are true showmen aimed at blowing away a crowd, and their performance wouldn't be out of place on the biggest stages of Las Vegas.

You can download their album Bodysongs for free on their Bandcamp page.

Album Review: Aesop Rock - Skelethon

Album Rating: A-
Aesop Rock hasn’t ever truly met his potential, and this can be attributed to disharmony in his discography. The New York-born rapper loves strong beats as much as cerebral storytelling and stream-of-consciousness lyrical play, but his problem’s always been balancing the two. Labor Days bolstered abstract lyrics that had a spring in their step, but that were done a disservice with the album’s dry production that offered nothing new. None Shall Pass featured great production, but tracks that failed to come together as a coherent whole. Despite the flaws, though, each new Aesop release has always involved a high degree of hype, partially because we’ve all been waiting for the album that we know Ian Bavitz can make. His skills with production, his playful flow and vibrant lyricism all point towards a bombshell record encapsulating all of the man’s attributes. Aesop fans have been crossing their fingers behind their backs since the release of “Zero Dark Thirty,” silently hoping that Skelethon is the record where all the pieces fit just right.

Album Review: Dikembe - Broad Shoulders

Album Rating: B+
A conversation with a friend about bandwagon genres brought up an interesting point: the Twinkle Daddies movement feels like the next jumping-off point for the same following of fans that latched onto last year's pop-punk trend. For a genre with a name that sounds like an off-brand version of Twinkies, the bands that have taken up the moniker are surprisingly abrasive. This year's Twinkle Daddies are the stepsons of early 2000's emo revivalists. American Football and Cap'n Jazz would listen to their jangly guitars and chaotic vocals with pride.

Album Retrospective: Belle And Sebastian - Tigermilk

Album Rating: A
Plenty of records can cite a classic back story, but only the true greats can back theirs up with grade-A content. Tigermilk's mere existence is a blessing, and the fact it's now in wider circulation is something of a minor miracle. The key to its unlikely tale lay in outrageously talented Glaswegian Stuart Murdoch, a former boxer who, having being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, chose to pursue an alternative path in songwriting. After a short stint performing on the city's open mic circuit, he decided to hook up with bassist Stuart David, eventually assembling a full band under the Belle & Sebastian moniker. Before long, the group's demos fell into the hands of Alan Rankine, the head of a Music Business course at the local Stow College. Impressed by what he heard, Rankine granted them access to a studio, with a view to releasing a single on the college's label, Electric Honey Records. Once there, though, the pool of material was deemed strong enough for a full LP, with Tigermilk - initially limited to 1,000 vinyl copies - the ultimate result.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Artist of The Day: Medal for Merit

I am somewhat saddened to say that because of work, weird family situations, and not having anyone crazy enough to spend more than two hours with me, that I haven't been able to visit any of our gorgeous American beaches this summer.  I feel like I should have missed the young drunk women who fell for me just because I say I am Neil Armstrong's Grandson ("It is your patriotic duty to round the bases with me,) I feel like I should have missed body surfing on waves so big, beautiful, and blue, I feel like I should have missed the random games of Cornhole, Volleyball, and "smear the (now homophobic slur), and I should have missed the unique feeling of relaxation that comes once every six to twelve months in our chaotic and hectic lives.  The main reason I haven't missed the beach this summer is because when I listen to Medal for Merit I feel like I am already there.

Album Review: Borealis - Voidness

Album Rating: B
If I were to jump off this review and leave you lying there, frustrated and unsatisfied, with only a single word of description, I’d describe Voidness as ‘murky.’ Murky in the sense that everything seems submerged beneath this swirling residue of crackles and ambience; nothing clear except the slow thump of bass. Now it would be tempting, based on the short description you’ve just read, to dismiss Borealis’ debut LP under this new alias as borrowing just a little too much content from Burial. Indeed, a lot of what we now attribute to the work of this decade’s Dubstep superhero is in play here: from the minimalistic structure to sporadic use of pitched-up vocal samples. Both in mood and direction, however, Voidness is very much its own beast. It’s an album that, despite introducing itself as quite downbeat - drawing from the ever popular melancholic, urban feeling - emerges as rather hopeful.

Album Retrospective: The Antlers - Burst Apart

Album Rating: A-
The Antlers Hospice was an absolutely gigantic, emotional and morbid conceptual love story: it had a shocking premise (a cancer patient following in love with her doctor,) detailed and disturbing lyrics, quality and occasional epic songs ("Wake, "Two, "Bear, "Epilogue,") a very original sound, and a ending that was beyond sad.  Hospice was a "concept" album that may have been the most original of all time because it told a story that was so heartbreaking, emotional, and unique that it could only be successfully told one time.  The storyline, instrumentation, quality of song and lyrics on Hospice made it a once in a lifetime story of "love at any costs."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Album Review: Childish Gambino - Royalty

Album Rating: B-
It seems unfair to judge an album by its name but for Childish Gambino, nee Community’s Donald Glover, it seems necessary. His introductory EP, I Am Just a Rapper, cemented his style as ironic- Gambino was writing for 30 Rock and doing stand-up at the time, but clearly wanted to be known just for his rapping chops. His second EP that introduced him to the masses, EP, showed us how truly non descript he can be at the time, choosing to blend in rather than to stand out. Now, with Royalty, Gambino tells us what he thinks he has collected: a circle of regal guest stars ranging from Ghostface Killah to other rising star Danny Brown. The question presented to the listener is: does Childish Gambino belong in the high court of hip-hop?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Live Review: Richard Hawley - Whitley Bay Playhouse - 13/07/2012

Whether it's the slicked back hair, the trademark leather jacket or the velvety retro croon, it's fair to say that Richard Hawley has always exhumed a distinct air of class. Perched on a stool before the all-seated Whitley Bay Playhouse, the sleazy Yorkshireman emphatically extended that notion to his live shows, producing a masterclass in musical finesse attainable only from a true sophisticate. This theme was also reflected in his crowd (of which I seemed to be the youngest by a distance) but such was the superlative nature of his performance that by its end even the most seasoned observers were on their feet in a state of bewildered admiration.

Artist Spotlight: Aerials

I know I've covered the band before, but Aerials just keeps popping up with more and more material. Christoffer Franzén is Aerials, a one man post-rock project based in Gothenburg, Sweden, and he tends to be fairly back and forth with his releases, as well as his release dates, doing a lot of promotional free streams for limited periods of time, which really helps him garner a lot of interest in the band. The latest song he's put up is called "Reanimation," a very cinematic, heavenly sounding track that combines the brightest and best tracks of the post-rock world into a song that puts the listener in the clouds, floating alongside their fluffy white majesty, looking down over reflective lakes and lush, green mountains. It's a beautiful place that only Aerials can truly bring you to, and Franzén does it perfectly.

Keep an eye out for new Aerials songs on his SoundCloud, as well as his Facebook for song and album news! You can also find much of Aerials' previous work on the SoundCloud page, so take a look at that too, since it's all free streaming.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Melvins

It must be hard for the Melvins. They've been going for nearly 30 years, established themselves as underground legends and retained a frighteningly prolific work ethic, and yet despite all these achievements the most common port of call for many observers is still that they were "Kurt Cobain's favourite band™." Whether they're used to it or not, it's an ignorant and borderline insulting way of referring to a band who, aside from Black Sabbath, have arguably done more than anyone to shape the hostile, scorched and barren landscape of heavy metal. Amid a backdrop of constant lineup changes and swivelling musical directions, the Seattle natives have played an enormous role in the development of a multitude of genres; be it sludge, doom, stoner, drone, or indeed grunge. Traditionally a trio, the band now perform as a four-piece having merged with members of Big Business, but their power, hunger and individuality remain completely undiminished - even after two decades of questions concerning about their star pupil.

Album Review: Clonki - Seize The Smoke

Album Rating: C+
Obscured in the murky waters of Google’s Russian-English translation, the lack of information about both the artist and Rainy Treehouse, the label, sets us off on uncertain ground. It’s a novelty in the Internet era to be left with no basis on which to view an album, but especially in the case of Seize The Smoke it’s refreshing; possibly because it’s a difficult album to stomach in the first place. Not content with mixing three of the smoothest genres known to man - jazz, hip-hop and downtempo - Clonki polishes any sharp edge from his melodies completely. Notes don’t change: they shift; and as such the tracks develop into this loose, wave-like saunter. Not too unlike an old radio scrambling to tune-in as the notes lazily reach their right tones. Mixed in with the classic sample-based jitteriness, it’s an interesting endeavour - indeed it’s one that almost defies explanation - but to the extent that Clonki chooses to pursue it in Seize The Smoke, it’s a small, highly enjoyable step into the great unknown.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Artist of the Day: The Contortionist

It's no secret that The Contortionist is tearing the very fabric of progressive metal as we speak. In fact, the group's upcoming full-length Intrinsic has been causing quite the stir, for being incredibly opposite of its predecessor.

Intrinsic is coming out July 17th, and yes, the artwork is pretty as hell.

The Contortionist first broke onto the deathcore scene with their versatile debut titled Exoplanet, and it's remarkable to see how much the band has developed since those days. Back then there existed only gentle plodding into progressive terrain, while the band's "core" elements were fleshed out. This caused a bit of a backlash at those wanting something a bit more cerebral, those tired of the same old process of rinse and repeat, breakdown and recycle. There were hints at evolved songwriting between the bombshells - "Axiom" was one such example of mature composition, a lull to soothe those uncomfortable with the deathcore elements common in the other tracks. Overall, though, the group's music has always been tastefully done. While I won't claim that the group's influences in their earlier days were terribly creative ones, The Contortionist at least found a way to pull off prescribed heaviness with a touch of refreshing charisma.

The charisma is even more evident on Intrinsic, one of the more anticipated releases of 2012 for progressive junkies such as myself. I'll keep my lips sealed now in terms of specifics, but it's safe to say that the group has evolved in refreshing ways.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Frank Ocean

It’s difficult for me to imagine Frank Ocean being in any way associated with the Odd Future collective. I mean no offence to fans of said collective, but I haven’t found anything particularly worthy of note from its members. For the most part they sound as you’d expect: young, amateurish hip-hoppers - Tyler, The Creator being the most juvenile and naive of the lot. It’s surprising, then, that the visionary of the group would be working in the realm of R&B, a genre that, aside from Abel Tesfaye, hasn’t seen much innovation for quite some time.

Instead of asserting sexuality and themes of misogyny and ‘club life’ (or what have you) as many of his contemporaries are wont to do, Ocean presents us with themes of unrequited love and class disparity (“Super Rich Kids”). He’s something of a lyrical virtuoso in how he employs literary devices and details his songs through emotional confessionals. He’s also rather culturally and economically conscious; in “Super Rich Kids” he speaks of economic inequality: “The maid comes around too much / Parents ain’t around enough / Too many joy rides in daddy’s jaguar / Too many white lies – and white lines.” His cattiness is amusing and very refreshing. Channel Orange is a definite must for fans of the genre, and possible a stepping-stone for those unsure.

Stream Channel Orange here.


Single Review: The Neat - New Kids

Despite convincing myself that The Neat is the single greatest band the world has ever known, I was a little apprehensive when I discovered that they were to release 'New Kids' as their third single. It's not a bad song by any means (indeed hearing it live had me in fits of giddy excitement), but the initial recording which surfaced late last year seemed to have jettisoned practically everything I'd grown to love about the Hull oddballs. Smooth, cumbersome and infuriatingly restrained, it appeared they'd finally succumbed to their inaugural misstep, a realisation which struck my fanboy heart like a ton of lead bricks.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Artist of the Day: Om

Om is an anomaly in many ways, existing within many realms of the musical world and blending seamlessly with each.  Featuring a sound that mixes parts of metal, doom, psychedelic, ambient and even some post rock, Om has crafted four critically acclaimed records worthy of all the verbose hyperbole they've gotten.  What makes the band even more appealing is the fact that they are so consistent.  Each album grows in some way, making each listen rewarding whether it be more interesting, heavier, or more experimental. 

With their latest, Advaitic Songs, Om has brought together every influence that has ever defined them. The opener, "Addis" proves this with its tribal approach, as eerie and beautiful female vocals float above the violin and guitar.  Whereas some Om material is decidedly heavy, with booming guitars and bass, it is selections like this that display how the band is capable of conceptual heaviness.  Not the booming in your ear type, but rather, the immediately effectual type that creates a pervasive, all-encompassing atmosphere.

Advaitic Songs, and the band as whole, is full of surprises such as this.  However, to give them all away would ruin the wonderment of discovering them for yourself.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Album Review: Caught in the Wake Forever - Against a Simple Wooden Cross

Album Rating: A-
What happened to your biggest demons? How about the moment when you realized your life wasn’t quite what you thought it was, or that night you were tossing and turning, hoping to find your old self? The key moments of your life you’d prefer to keep buried are wedged together effortlessly by Fraser McGowan to make a panorama of tangible loss on Against a Simple Wooden Cross. This album was constructed with glimmers of hope, but its defining factor is its pervading grief, its raincloud of despair. While the positive moments are a certifiable force they can be chalked up to the necessary yang to the yin of nights without sleep, snapshots of a life lost in a single nightmare. Skirmishes with our worst demons. Protests with life, and brushes with death. McGowan is a shining example of a man successfully combating his despair, turning his biggest nightmare into something tangible and admirable.

Artist of the Day: Mojib

Coming to prominence with some (admittedly rather tasty) Radiohead remixes, I think it’s fair to say that no one expected too much from Mojib’s debut album. Not that it would be bad, per se, it’s just hard to shake off the sentiment that artists used to playing with other peoples’ music might struggle to create something more personal. Never has this been more wrong as the album (titled Whimsical Lifestyle) turned out to be a heavily stylised, closely interwoven masterclass in emotional trip-hop. Strong DJ Shadow influences were obvious, but as they battled it out with strings, distortion and piano flutters it became evident that the Swede was mixing his personality with the bleeps and bloops as well. Above all else, however, Whimsical Lifestyle managed to be angry whilst retaining its composure so consistently. “Home Is Where The Heart Is” displays this perfectly: developing from a steady, catchy piano loop into a cacophony of noise and frenzied, political vocals.

The reason Mojib bears mentioning is not solely because he released one of the best albums of the late 00’s, but because he just kind of vanished. Initial attempts at a second - though this time completely remix based - album were met with failure after a label dispute. Likewise, a much more recent attempt seems to have disintegrated completely. My heart lit up on viewing a teaser for this new release, though sunk immediately on realising this was posted almost a year ago. It’s possibly a bit selfish for me to be disappointed despite the fact that Mojib’s already succeeded in entertaining me for hours on end, but one can’t help pining for just a little more.

Album Review: Miniature Tigers - Mia Pharaoh

Album Rating: B+
Up until the release of Mia Pharaoh, Brooklyn band Miniature Tigers career could best be defined as a "beautiful identity crisis."  The Miniature Tigers had crafted two superb albums, but they had also made two albums that were essentially polar opposites.  Tell It To The Volcano was the ultimate workout album: the album was filled with insanely catchy pop-punk songs, was around 30 minutes in length, and had just about every song possible (the love song, the break-up song, the "you're a whore!" song, etc.)  The bands next release Fortress was the ultimate stoner album: it combined the spaced out instrumentation of Deep Purple, The Moody Blues, and Deerhunter, the general weirdness of Iron Butterfly and the Peter Gabriel Genesis, and the quality of material of modern day giants such as Deerhunter and Animal Collective. With Tell It To The Volcano and Fortress the Miniature Tigers released two brilliant albums, but the band still did not know if they were a pop-punk treadmill band or a stoned out psychedelic band.  On Mia Pharaoh the band figures it out and the result is nothing short of spectacular.

Album Retrospective: Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk

Album Rating: B+
Monsters of Folk sounded like a colossal failure on paper.  That was because the band was made up of three different artists, three different audiences, three different sounds, and most importantly three different and large egos.  How could the sentimental and rambling style of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) possibly coexist with the classical and scholarly sound of Matt Ward (M. Ward)?  How could the sexy and experimental style of Jim James possibly match the sounds of Oberst and Ward? How could they possibly blend three different song writing styles together in one album? How could they sacrifice their egos to make one song that wasn't trying to "one up" the other song? And how could they possibly convince us that this was actually anything more than a shameless promotion for their solo and group works?  To make this album a success each artist would have to sacrifice the identities they have worked so hard building, they would have to sacrifice some of their ideas, and they would have to come together to realize that the genre and this group was more important than anything they ever done.  Monsters of Folk being successful would be more than simply a pleasant surprise, it would be a greatest feat of altruism and a great example of sharing and sacrificing ego's for the better of a group or an audience: it would be the musical equivalent of Kobe and Shaq deciding to move in together to do a hilarious reality show, the musical equivalent of the Socialist and Fascist coming together to pass a law that actually helps people, it is the musical equivalent of McCartney and Lennon sharing a drink in the afterlife (Paul died in a car wreck, duh,) and it is the musical equivalent of Spider-Man and the other new Spider-Man deciding to make another movie with another Spider-Man.  Monsters of Folk being successful not only seemed implausible on paper, it seemed to go against everything we believed about human nature and human behavior in general.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Artist of the Day: Ben Nichols

Ben Nichols can usually be found howling with boozy swagger as frontman for the alt country rockers of Lucero. While the group's bluesy and rambling Women & Work stacks up against the year's heavyweight records so far, Nichols' best work lasts for seven songs and 27 minutes, sans the energy of his backing band. No rollicking drum fills. No raucous jukebox brass bands jumping into tracks. No jaunty barroom piano chords. Just an acoustic guitar, the occasional harmonica and a wide-open landscape of heartbreak.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Dikembe

The boys in Dikembe have been friends with MuzikDizcovery for quite some time, allowing us to conduct one of their first ever interviews, as well as donating a track to our fantastic free sampler Dizcovering Muzik: Volume Two. So when their long awaited new album Broad Shoulders was finally put up for preorder, I had to bite immediately. The album is a fantastic continuation of the gruff emo sound that the band began to showcase in Chicago Bowls, and it shows Dikembe varying up their style ever so slightly. This still young band has a very bright future ahead of them, and the release of Broad Shoulders should only expand their very devoted fanbase. You can preorder the album on vinyl on their Tiny Engines page, and every order comes with an immediate download of Broad Shoulders. I also suggest ordering the package deal with Wavelets' most recent record Athaletics. Wavelets features the vocalist and bassist of Dikembe, and was one of the best "twinkly" emo records of 2011. It's a must have if you enjoy Dikembe.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Album Review: Gold Motel - Gold Motel

Album Rating: C+
Pop acts are held to the expectation that an enormous hook makes a song, and to a point, that expectation is very valid. Songs need to "go somewhere." Post-rock has its climaxes, metalcore has its breakdowns, and pop music has its choruses. A song needs to end up somewhere, and that conclusion is usually what satisfies the listener. Gold Motel's self titled album is a showcase of the instrumental talents of the individual members, but the songs never seem to explode into anything that will implant itself in a listener's mind.

Artist Spotlight: We Are Fiction

Post-hardcore group We Are Fiction wear their passion on their sleeves. The group's latest single "Earth Medicine" constructs gorgeous swirls of atmosphere that breeze delicately alongside denser, more coarse elements seamlessly, clinging onto them relentlessly like raindrop to umbrella. Grittiness guides blissful naïveté, an impenetrable paternal relationship that builds itself higher and higher.
"Earth Medicine" is a refreshing track, one that satisfies just enough to leave one very curious what direction the group will take on their debut album. Check out the track and its accompanying music video here.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Album Review: Stevie Jackson - (I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson

Album Rating: B-
Many a guitarist has emerged from their band in pursuit of a solo career, but scarcely has that move seemed so inevitable than with Belle And Sebastian's Stevie Jackson. Indeed ever since his contributions appeared on The Boy With The Arab Strap, the question on most fans' lips has been when - not whether - the Glaswegian would take his creative enthusiasm to its logical conclusion. Now that (I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson does exist, however, a more taxing set of queries has risen to the fore: Are its songs leftovers from his day job? Is he entirely comfortable taking the lead? And most importantly, has he learned from previous misdemeanors, some of which played a significant role in the Scots' late 90's early 00's decline?

Artist Of The Day: The Early November

With the end of an "indefinite hiatus" behind them, a signing with the slightly-too-scene Rise Records, and a new album due towards the beginning of next week, I figured it would be a good time to feature The Early November. I know, if you've followed my posts, you know this is a very strong deviation from the material I normally feature. However, The Early November has some really homespun roots, and I think that attribute plays into their music being simplistic and true, instead of excessive and gaudy like a lot of pop-punk and alt rock is in the present day and age. The sound that the band lends to the music industry is much closer to indie pop, despite the similarities in instrument tone, vocal timbre, or facile song structure.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Rush

Simply put: Clockwork Angels is Rush’s best album in 30 years. Moreover, it’s an album that challenges Rush’s heydey material and sees a return to the concept album. Neil Peart, through a loosely tethered narrative, casts a young man pursuing his dreams in a world of chaos and fantastical steampunk themes. I shan’t delve too much into it, but know that it’s typical Rush (that is to say it’s goofy but awesome). The music at hand far overshadows that of Rush’s 2007 misfire Snakes & Arrows; it’s far more proggy (but doesn’t compromise the hooks), focused, and polished. Through a convoluted plot, Clockwork Angels (unsurprisingly) comes full circle in the end, and, beyond its intrinsical narrative, it’s very musical. Neil Peart is at the top of his game: his acuity of technicality makes his playing sound second-nature to him -- so unmanufactured and instinctive. Likewise, Geddy Lee’s bass playing is masterfully mixed and given more prominence than on previous albums, easily servicing to be a highlight. It may be a little difficult to digest at first, as Rush albums are wont to do, typically being exhaustively long, but it’s a ridiculously strong musical statement, and a fine, fine return to form. In fact, I’d like to amend my original statement to this: Clockwork Angels might just be Rush’s best album, period.