Friday, August 31, 2012

Jukebox: The Dimes - Walden and the Willow Tree

The Dimes are very much indie folk, working with a lot of acoustic instruments in order to find a traditional sound. The Portland-based outfit self-released four EPs before being picked up by Pet Marmoset and recording a debut full length. Each one of their songs on their most recent album, The King Can Drink The Harbor Dry, has a vintage sound that brings an instant charm to their sound, and stand as the indie folk band that's instantly likable.

"Walden and the Willow Tree" is first and foremost an acoustic song. It's laid back, and floats along like a cloud, or like the ship on the album cover across a clear, gently moving ocean. The song style feels akin to early Owen tracks, when Mike Kinsella would have essentially zero effects besides his guitar and his voice. A harmonica lazily drones over the single guitar, and Johnny Clay whispers about romanticism, Oregon, and facial hair in a voice that doesn't seem to care much about any of it, but intently focuses on finding his own quietude: "Far from Salem by the sea, to Walden and the willow tree / stop and ask Elias how / the beads stay on your dressing gown." The song talks about all of these trivial things and finds some relation with the world outside with an easy inner peace that grows within.

It's really not tough to jump onto this record. I'd recommend it, as you can find it on their Bandcamp and stream it for free. Definitely check it out.

Artist of the Day: Jack's Mannequin

Although Andrew McMahon recently, in so many words, cryptically hinted that he would be dropping the moniker "Jack's Mannequin," the music that he made doesn't have to die with him. From 2005's brilliantly upbeat Everything in Transit to last year's more subdued People and Things,  McMahon made some of the most touching, personal music of the new millennium. Touching on everything from his cancer diagnosis, subsequent recovery and his drug addiction, McMahon found a way to connect to listeners in the most direct way with heavily metaphorically lyrics- the level of sophistication of which is untouched in modern pop music.

Live Review: Leeds Festival 2012

It's not exactly been a vintage year for the UK's major festival circuit. Mediocre lineups, Glastonbury's absence and the odd cancellation have, truth be told, made for a rather quiet season, with no real success stories or headline grabbing antics to speak of. Reading and Leeds, the last of the summer giants can usually be relied on to liven things up, but this year even they appeared a tad underwhelming, with a pair of generic headliners topping a bill which looked average at best. This twin event's ace card, however, has always been its depth, so there was a certain inevitability in the way that the schedule became more and more attractive with each new announcement.

Jukebox: Anberlin - Someone Anyone

Anberlin, for as different as their albums sound, never really change. Although the thematic elements may differ, the band never seems to try anything but refine its sound. Aside from differences like the synth line of "Paperthin Hymn" the formula for success seems to be heavy emphasis on powerchords and a catchy chorus with little substance in the verses with a bridge section to break the monotony. But, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. With songs like "Feel Good Drag" making an impact on rock-radio charts, there's no reason to break away from the norm.

Jukebox: Born With Stripes - "Sundream"

Born With Stripes' "You Stole The Laces From My Shoes" was probably the single finest slice of youthful exuberance which didn't soundtrack your summer. Frighteningly advanced for a band of novices, the track struck a truly exceptional balance between the slacker vibes of American indie and the sugary abandon that most pop-punk acts crave for. You really will struggle to find a more addictive song all year, although its list of challengers is one longer now that they've conceived a follow-up. Tapping into the same fiercely upbeat sentiments, "Sundream" is the sound of a group whose confidence is on the up, having this time included a killer chorus to perch atop their mountain of hooks. It may stick with their distinctly lo-fi aesthetic, but this is a song of universal appeal; perfect for lazy afternoons sipping cider in the type of weather its artwork depicts. Summer 2012 came too early for Born With Stripes, but don't be at all surprised if their time comes a few years down the line. Make no mistake, these Nottinghamshire scamps are on to something, and I for one can't wait to hear what they do next.

You can download "Sundream" on a name your price basis from Born With Stripes' Bandcamp page.

Interview with Dark Time Sunshine

Dark Time Sunshine have been tearing up the modern hip-hop scene as we know it, and it's been our pleasure to interview one of the men behind the curtain. After seeing the duo live (a delightful opening act that might have outshined Aesop Rock himself,) I asked lead vocalist Onry Ozzborn several questions, many of which are regarding their latest release ANX. Tune in if you've been following the two as long as I have, or even if you have a particular question on your mind.

Album Retrospective: The Album Leaf - In A Safe Place

Album Rating: A
I featured The Album Leaf as Muzik Dizcovery's artist of the day about a month back. However, when talking about my favorite album from them, which is In A Safe Place if the title didn't already give it away, there was more to say about the entire record than I could have possibly listed out in the short article featuring the band. So, I decided to take a look back at the first couple of times I listened to this record, and really draw from both the album itself, as well as the nostalgia I have for it and what it's taken me through, in order to convey why I think this is a really fantastic album, and why it rests so very dear to my heart. In short, In A Safe Place has actually put me in a safe place, giving me a place to retreat from a messy divorce, extended periods of depression, and generally, anything outside that makes me feel out of control.

Album Review: Deathmole - Advances

Album Rating: B+
I know I've been obsessing over Deathmole a little too much since I've been at MD, but there's been a lot of really great music coming from the one-man effort. The new album, Advances, plays off of what the previous album, Meade's Army brought to the Deathmole sound a month or so earlier. It's darker, more aggressive, and doesn't provide a clean cut, obvious melody for listeners to fall back on to get to the theme of the song. Advances is an intense, powerful work of post-metal that's definitely noteworthy if you want a more-than-decent gap-closer for the next Rosetta or Pelican release.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Album Review: Koi. - Maelstrom

Album Rating: B
A couple of years ago, I was madly addicted to this adorable indie game on Xbox named ‘The Deep Cave.’ It wasn’t anything particularly innovative, actually a pretty blatant ripoff of the old-school RPGs that accompanied our childhood. The main draw of the game was its reverence for retro gaming culture, and the nostalgia I experienced from it because of this. Most of this stemmed from the 8-bit soundtrack, presented in a delightfully modern context. Even though its tracks initially came across as a homage to yesteryear’s gaming soundtracks, the collection of tracks understood what it took to be catchy and memorable, and how to propel an otherwise average videogame to truly great heights. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Artist Of The Day - BATS

Where have BATS been these past few years? Dropping their critically acclaimed Red in Tooth and Claw back in 2009, the band has released little in the way of confirming a new album. While three years doesn't seem like that long of a wait, for those who fell in love with the band's peculiar science filled progressive hardcore, the wait has been agonizing.

Red in Tooth and Claw is a sonic marvel that displays a mindblowing creativity and a unique sound. The thoughtful blending of post-hardcore with experimental rock creates a fantastic backdrop for the band's fascinating lyrical content. Filled to the brim with science references, BATS come off as a very intelligent group of guys, all without seeming too contrived or up their own asses. For those who are tired of your typical fare, Red in Tooth and Claw is a must have.

BATS are a rare breed, combining thoughtful songwriting and lyrics to make incredibly enticing music. Murmurs of a new record have been heard lately, so for our sake, let's hope they are true.

Listen to Red In Tooth and Claw on the band's Bandcamp page.

Interview With The Jezabels

In Australia, The Jezabels have won large awards (such as the Australian Music Prize), but they're only headlining small clubs in the US. However, that shouldn't last too much longer, as this excellent indie rock band is finally gaining recognition in the states and in other places around the world after the release of their album Prisoner. The band took some questions from us at MuzikDizcovery, involving topics such as being an independent band, festival sets, Daytrotter sessions, and much more which you can read below.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Artist of the Day: Funeral for a Friend

Let's face it: there are days when you don't know if you want to smile, cry or break stuff in a fit of rage. That's when you stick in your headphones, scroll all the way down to "F" on your iPod and throw on Welsh rockers Funeral For a Friends' simultaneous smile-maker and heart-breaker, Hours.

Known for usually relentless post-hardcore, Hours is an odd but cohesive jumble of emotions coming from the typically heavy outfit. "Streetcar" lays down adrenaline-spiking guitar riffs and a gutsy vocal performance, but the track's true piece de resistance is a breakdown where two lovers declare, over and over, "I can't feel the same about you anymore." It's the kind of song that will bring a tear to listeners' eyes even while they throw their fists emphatically into the air. That's less apparent on "Drive," the record's one true ballad. It's a soft, mournful tune, but one that still burns with passion, albeit a darker one.

Jukebox: Converge - Aimless Arrow

For many, the word "excitement" is a laughable attempt at putting to words the anticipation that is building for the new Converge record.  Really, it's true.  The Massachusetts hardcore-punk band are considered royalty in their respective scene, with each release offering up more of the solid and abrasive sounds that fans clamor for.  With their upcoming record, All We Love We Leave Behind (which has sadly been delayed), the band has allegedly stripped things down.  One of the few criticisms of their 2009 release, Axe to Fall, was that it felt too bloated for its own good.  With a bevy of guests, the album at times didn't even feel like a Converge record.  It will be interesting to see how this "back to the basics" move works.

Album Review: Mono - For My Parents

Album Rating: B+
In order to start out this review properly, let's make one thing clear:  For My Parents is a Mono album, through and through.  Obviously, right?  Well, said statement is a painfully necessary one, as Mono have been an extremely divisive band these past several years.  Many have embraced their hyper-dramatic and emotive delivery, while a large group of detractors have heavily criticized the band for adhering too strongly to genre conventions.  Both sides are passionate, that much is true.  However, one's opinion hinders on how willing one is to forgive a lack of new ideas from an obstinate band refusing to progress.

Album Retrospective: Built To Spill - There's Nothing Wrong With Love

Album Rating: A
Any music can make someone say "that's exactly how I am feeling". I have heard this description for just about every artist possible from Taylor Swift to Rage Against The Machine. We overemphasize this connection between artist and listener when the bigger accomplishment is when the listener "understands the reasons for the artists feelings". This type of connection is where the listener actually feels like they are walking in the artists shoes instead of the artist walking in the listener shoes. To create this type of connection the artist has to use vivid and descriptive lyrics, has to use instrumental patterns that give the listener a particular feeling, and has to have a unique style.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Algernon Cadwallader

I'm writing up a show review of Algernon Cadwallader's final show with Joyce Manor, but this fantastic band deserves a memorial post of their own. The news of the band's dissolution has been rumored for weeks, but today was when they finally made the official announcement that they were ending Algernon Cadwallader due to drummer Tank's upcoming fatherhood. But that doesn't fill the void left by this awesome band. Latest album Parrot Flies was possibly the band's best release to date, highlighted by fantastic opening track "Springing Leaks." The nearly 6 minute track is twice the band's average song length of under three minutes, and it's highlighted by 3 minute long twinkly jam. The band's musicianship and intensity separated themselves from other "twinkle daddy" bands, and "Springing Leaks" is possibly their greatest accomplishment to date. It's sad to see them go when they were obviously still strengthening their craft, but at least we have a couple great releases by the band. Read the announcement here, and keep and eye on their Facebook page for possible details for the other two members' new project when it comes.

Album Review: Minus the Bear - Infinity Overhead

Album Rating: C+
There exist two extreme brands of musicianship: those that push boundaries left and right, and those that craft a sound formula and perfect it. It’s safe to say that Minus the Bear fall into the latter category, constructing album after album of sophisticated lovesongs.  Let’s avoid the pitfall of branding Infinity Overhead as an derivative rebranding, though, because to decide this would be to misunderstand Minus the Bear’s intentions. There’s no catharsis here, no redefining boundaries, and with this knowledge comes an engaging work at best. At worst, though, we have an album that fails to leave a mark, one so lost in its intent that its existence is pretty unnecessary as a whole. Sure, Infinity Overhead stimulates more than its lethargic predecessor, but without a doubt there’s still a vacancy here that permeates in the album’s clumsy second half, a nagging reminder that Minus the Bear are damn near out of tricks.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Artist of The Day: Bahamas

For a while I really wasn't comfortable admitting my love for all things Jack Johnson: he was liked by far too many boy band loving 12-year-old soon to be Twilight obsessed pre-teen girls, he seemed to be to carefree to ever create an album of lasting importance, he sounded nothing like the other music I was listening to in 2005 and 2006, and if I went around touting his brilliant performance on the Curious George soundtrack my peers probably would not stop questioning my sexuality anytime soon.  But despite all the disadvantages to enjoying Johnson's music it was almost impossible not to enjoy his down to earth, atmospheric, free flowing, catchy, and almost all acoustic songs he did in the early 2000's.  In retrospect, I wish I would have admitted my love for Johnson, ate some banana pancakes, and enjoyed the beach everyone of his early songs took me to.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Artist of the Day: Portishead

As far as downtempo, depressing lo-fi music goes, Portishead is pretty hard to top. They've had a colorful history, popularizing trip hop all around the world, along with fellow English bands Massive Attack and Red Snapper. However, there was something about Portishead that marked something significantly bigger and better about the genre (at least with their debut release of Dummy in 1994) than anything Red Snapper or Massive Attack had done yet: they focused their sound on 60's and 70's soundtrack vinyl LPs, and brought in a vocalist. Beth Gibbons brought a whole new world of possibility to what these electronic artists were doing by adding jazz-ballad style vocals over a slowly crawling electronic loop, and the result was explosive.

However, after the release of their sophomore self-titled, the band somewhat lost direction, going on hiatus for six years in 1999. Or maybe it didn't involve losing direction, so much as finding a new sound, because after coming back from hiatus in 2005, Geoff Barrow revealed that they'd been refining and recording for a new album. Third was finally finished three years after he'd made that statement, but to the acclaim that Dummy had been received so many years earlier. Unfortunately, after Third, and a bunch of touring, the band wants to get back into the studio, but doesn't really have the motivation. So, we'll see what comes out of Portishead in the next couple of years. If a new album hits shelves by 2014 or so, great! If not, don't be surprised if I say I told you so.

You can keep up with them on their site, and they have a couple of their music videos available for viewing.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Artist of the Day: Four Tet

Four Tet sits at a level just below the founders and gods of contemporary electronic music: Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and the like. So when he releases an album it’s usually the case that a fair few prick up their ears and listen. Except... Pink (the new album) isn’t really a new release at all - the tracks have been available on soundcloud and the like for months - but we still get this wave of excitement because yes, Four Tet is that good. A mere collection of recent tracks is more than enough to make us happy.

Inevitably, Pink’s a tad lost in terms of tone and direction, but it still works because it’s Four Tet. Likewise, some of the tracks aren’t as strong as we’d hope, but it still works because it’s Four Tet. Furthermore, it’s not as jazz-y as his mid-2000’s masterpiece Rounds, but (you guessed it) it still works because it’s Four Tet. He knows what he’s doing, even on an album that could well be viewed as among his weakest, and as such it’s still one of the better albums to be born of 2012’s so far rather erratic, experimental womb.


Album Review: Giles Corey - Deconstructionist

Album Rating: N/A
It seems like with every Enemies List related post put here, the more and more I fall in love with the absolutely bizarre sounds that the label is able to create.  A safe haven for the "weirder" side of music, ELHR manages to put out music from a wide range of influences, with black metal, folk, electronica, and drone all rearing their heads.  With Dan Barret at the helm, critically acclaimed acts such as Have A Nice Life and Giles Corey are able to blend these seamlessly.  Last year, Barret released his "end of the world" folk record, Giles Corey, with a surprisingly reserved sound.  That is, reserved for the man responsible for Deathconcsiousness.   But with his newest release, Deconstructionist, Barret has traveled outside the realms of music into something much more experimental, and the experience is one not soon forgotten.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jukebox: Frightened Rabbit - State Hospital

Scott Hutchinson has completely changed his approach to songwriting in just a short four years.  On The Midnight Organ Fight, Hutchinson crafted 14 songs that defined every dimension and facet of human heartbreak: he wrote insanely personal songs about the end of romance, trying to find new romances, the pain of having to see an old love, the pain of nostalgia and growing up, and how all of this resulted in his dramatic suicide attempt.  Every gigantic chorus, witty lyric, acoustic ballad and powerful punk rock guitar riff on The Midnight Organ Fight was for anyone who had experienced any kind of personal heartbreak.

Interview with Josh Scogin (The Chariot)

The Chariot has always been a band that's challenged preconceived notions about genre, but their newest record, One Wing, kicks down more boundaries and relentlessly refuses to conform to the metalcore formula with some of the band's most aggressive material to date. Josh Scogin, lead singer for The Chariot, answered some questions for Muzik Dizcovery about track titles, the upcoming One Wing short film, samples, touring with Every Time I Die and Letlive. and plans for the future.

Artist Of The Day: The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable were one of 2011's biggest success stories. Following years of relentless touring and tantalising singles, the Welsh trio finally unleashed their debut LP, a record whose profile has only grown with each passing month. Earning fandom from Dave Grohl among many others, The Big Roar was a huge, unashamed rock record, melding elements of indie, shoegaze and grunge to create a sound as melodic as it was intense. Having finally afforded themselves a breather, the band are now taking the first steps towards their return, and have already announced initial details regarding a follow-up. Entitled Wolf's Law, the new album is currently slated for a January release, and will supposedly bring acceleration to their already commendable development. As well as the usual guitar, bass and drums, a host of untried tools such as harps and strings are also set to make an appearance, a sure sign that the ambition levels have been stacked even higher. There is, of course, always the danger it'll transpire into an overblown mess, but given their excellent record to date this lot have earned their right to a shot of indulgence.

The band have made the track 'Wolf's Law' available to download on their official website. It doesn't appear on the new album, but it does act as a taster of things to come.


Jukebox: The Early November - Never Coming Back

When I started listening to The Early November, The Mother, The Mechanic, and The Path struck me as an incredible album. It's actually a triple album - a rare event in musical history - and a well written one; in addition to this, the entire album is a concept album dedicated to a beautiful idea. The first two sub-albums are indie rock and acoustic rock, bluntly generalized. However, the third is a spoken word album telling a story, with a couple of musical tracks adding to the tale that sound so rough cut that they're almost demo-esque. There's one that stands out in particular, however. "Never Coming Back" is focused on the character in the story sitting by his grandmother's hospital bedside, taking care of her in her final hours, and the song is incredibly thought provoking. It's beautifully well written, and really summarizes the grief and loss we feel from losing a loved one.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Artist of the Day: Fero Lux & Courtships

Splits are an exciting idea in the hardcore scene. The brief albums that feature two artists exist as the opportunity for like-minded brains to collaborate, to create something concise in its intentions and indicative of the groups' directions. This is the case with the upcoming split from Fero Lux and Courtships, two highly promising hardcore groups that have surfaced in particularly the last year.

Courtships broke onto the scene with their debut full-length, The Feral Sound. its ferocity is accurately captured in its opening track, "Feral Child" :

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Artist of the Day: American Football

Very few people seem to understand, let alone communicate, the feeling of melancholy better than the brothers Kinsella. Over their careers as emo poster-boys in bands like Owen, Cap'n Jazz and Joan of Arc the two have tapped into the insecurity and desperation of the human condition more artfully than any of their contemporaries. Of all the groups that exploit the emotions of their fans, American Football, the Mike Kinsella-led trio, executed it better than any of the others. Although the group follows the Kinsella formula for success- high, wavering vocals; noodling guitar lines; decently involved bass guitar and drums- the music elicits a more visceral response than any of the other bands.

Album Review: Meursault - Something For The Weakened

Album Rating: A-
It's no secret that Scotland's folk scene is going through a glorious purple patch, but what's not so often mentioned is the level depth and diversity it's currently offering. As well as your obvious frontrunners such as Frightened Rabbit and Broken Records, there's a wealth of less renowned acts operating beneath the radar, not only making excellent music but also doing so on their own terms. Among the leaders of this pack are Edinburgh outfit Meursault, who have won praise from virtually every corner with their dynamic, digitally enhanced take on the genre. It's a formula that's already reaped handsome rewards on their pair of LPs to date, with common sense dictating that natural progression should be the order of the day come album number three. As it turns out, though, Meursault either don't have any common sense or they've bypassed it completely, with Something For The Weakened instead winding up doing the complete opposite.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview With Keith Latinen (Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) & Count Your Lucky Stars)

Any fan of the recent surge in twinkly midwest emo bands knows about Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) and Count Your Lucky Stars Records. Keith Latinen started both of those projects, and has remained an extremely influential figure within emo music. Keith answered some questions from us at MuzikDizcovery, concerning things such as Empire! Empire!'s new music (including their upcoming full length), split releases, represses of older material, and much more that you can read below.

Album Review: Passion Pit - Gossamer

Grade: A-
The funny thing about hype is that it's a double-edged sword. Although the hype train will have new fans boarding, the hyped product will rarely live up to the expectations projected onto it by the media. Passion Pit, coming off a decent amount of online media attention- including a feature in Pitchfork about frontman Michael Angelakos as well as plenty of attention from NME magazine- were set to become the posterboys of electro-pop before Gossamer's second single was released.

Album Review: Micol Cazzell - Broken Things

Album Rating: B-
The poetic image of ‘one man and his guitar’ is something that’s been bastardised of late. What in yesteryear implied a man of experience - one who gives his deep, internal thoughts life with the aid of music - has since spawned a generation of boys who can all play three chords of ‘Wonderwall.’ This once noble art now involves a little too much coo’ing than is comfortable; too many cut-and-paste love songs; too many desperate young men who obviously really, really want to get laid.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Artist of the Day: Retral

For the last couple of years, a Southampton-based producer by the name of Retral has been skirting the edges of garage/dubstep stardom like a roulette ball round the numbers: just waiting to fall in. With two pretty hefty EPs and some scattered singles, he's displayed the ability to create music with 'that little bit extra kick' than his legion of contemporaries; however he's yet to release anything without a few duds to lessen the impact. The highs have always outweighed the lows, of course - take 'Paris '96' from 2012's Feeling Alone for instance, it ranks among the best tracks of the year with it's surprisingly relaxed mix of dynamic beats and what could easily be misheard as muffled cries for help - but suffice to say it's still been a little disappointing. We want great, not just good.

Fast-forward to the future: tomorrow, 'Black Hymn Records' will be releasing a collaboration between Retral and Sangam titled Himalayan Smoke. Initial spins have left the impression that it's remarkably mellow and atmospheric compared to his old releases: taking a slightly different, less insistent direction. No particular tracks have stood out so far, so only time will tell if there are any Paris '96's to be found. But it's pretty damn spectacular in its own way, nonetheless, and consistent at that. Well worth checking out for sure.

All of Retral's music is available for free.

Stream from Bandcamp
Download his other EPs
Like on Facebook

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Artist of the Day: LCD Soundsystem

For all of the dry wit and droll lyricism that marked his career as the man behind electro-punk LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy's love affair with music only lasted for three albums. But full of heartbreak, psychological analysis and enthusiasm, what an affair it was. Two of his works, Sound of Silver and This is Happening, are modern day masterpieces. The other, his debut self-titled album, is bitingly sarcastic and lustful for life.

Album Retrospective: Max Richter - The Blue Notebooks

Album rating: A
As a co-founder of the Piano Circus ensemble, Max Richter spent his early musical career commissioning and performing works by such minimalist greats as Arvo Part, Steve Roach and Brian Eno. His most outstanding contribution to any particular release in this pre-debut phase was his continued work with ambient/electronic legends Future Sound of London; or more specifically his key involvement in arguably their most game-changing release, Dead Cities. This commitment to ambient music is something we see him toy with in his 2002 debut Memoryhouse, which leant more towards ‘documentary music’ and as such was prone to experiments in tone and style, but it isn’t really something Richter truly embraced until The Blue Notebooks. His sophomore effort combines a very focussed, direct and (since his debut) refined approach with the ambition still fresh from his no-doubt inspiring early work with some of the late-20th century’s greatest composers. The Blue Notebooks takes the classic structure of ambient segments lying in the wake of contemplative soundbites, yet is somehow more than that. The music itself is comprised almost entirely of piano and strings, though again seems in some way to be just a little bit more than its component parts.

Album Review: The Chariot - One Wing

Album Rating: A-
Metalcore isn't dead, but it's definitely been knocking on the door for a while. It's become a stale, formulaic genre: heavy screams in the verses, shrill clean vocals in the chorus, big, heavy breakdown, rinse and repeat. Besides a handful bands, including Buffalo's southern-influenced metalheads, Every Time I Die, everyone's been doing it wrong and sticking to a failing plan. Metalcore doesn't need a breath of fresh air. It needs a kick in the teeth for a wake up call.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Anberlin

Anberlin's last album Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place was a fairly large disappointment, but I can't give up the band that released one of the best rock albums (Cities) of alternative recent times. The band released their brand new song "Self-Starter" today, which is hopefully the beginning of a big rebound. The song drops the immediate mainstream appeal that the first single from the last two albums has been contained, but that means nothing for the quality of the track. The electronically tinged intro leads to an enormous blast of guitar, bass, and drums, as Anberlin feels its most aggressive since the Cities era. It definitely didn't hurt that Cities producer Aaron Sprinkle returns to the band's side, as his touches are welcomed in our hope that the band returns to their prime form. You can stream "Self-Started" here, and be on the lookout for the band's new album Vital, out October 15.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Artist of The Day: Cat Stevens

I usually despise just about everything about "Greatest Hits" albums: they always seemed to be released in the record companies financial interest instead of being released in the artists creative interest, they always seem to chose the artists most popular songs instead of their best songs, they don't have the cohesive flow that a normal studio album would have, and they just seem to be lacking the normal energy, excitement and cultural importance that a timely studio album would have.  The rushed, sloppy, and selfish nature of "Greatest Hits" albums make for a halfhearted, uninteresting, and uninspiring listening experience.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Single Review: Holy Esque - Tear

They may already be cited as the best new band in Scotland, but the rapid ascent of Holy Esque is showing no sign of stalling. Marked as ones to watch at the beginning of the year, May's debut self-titled EP cranked things up a notch for the Glaswegians, firmly establishing them among indie rock's most exciting prospects. Predictably, levels of hype and expectation have multiplied tenfold, but that hasn't stopped them from conceiving a second release in double quick time. Available as a free digital single, "Tear" represents another commendable progression, maintaining their commitment to diversity and shifting their music into noticeably darker territory. Driven by a wealth of cascading guitars and bleak atmospherics, it's without doubt their most stirring composition yet, with Pat Hynes' divisive husky vocals reaching new levels of emotional resonance. It may not be as immediate as "Ladybird Love" or "Rose," but repeated listening reveals it to be another gem in their small yet concentrated catalogue. Perhaps what's most significant is the fact that it's their biggest moment to date, a move which suggests a willingness to embrace the considerable burdens bestowed upon them. Thoroughly excellent.

"Tear" is available as a free download from Holy Esque's Soundcloud page.


Artist Of The Day: 65daysofstatic

Since their early days, 65daysofstatic have been working on the perfection of their sound. Sampling, recording live sounds, mixing in tracks from movies or vintage instruments or synthesizers, it really never stays the same with the recently explosive English band. If you listen to their music in chronological order, maybe not even the entire albums, but just a few different songs, you should take note of how the band decides to build musical tension in each song, and what instruments and sounds they indicate are important. The wide variety of sounds and different aural textures 65 works with are the most interesting part of their music, because it's always fresh and new and intensely creative.

Album Retrospective: Nick Drake - Bryter Layter

Album Rating: A
The Machine in The Garden, is a famous piece of literary criticism written by Leo Marx and published in 1964 that controversially analyzed the effects of technology on our once pastoral culture.  Marx concluded that the once peaceful and productive lifestyle of finding a transcendental and romantic "oneness" with nature would be replaced with technological machines that programmed us into thinking, our minds would work as computer programs instead of working out of some creative free will and spirit, and our world would turn into a world of algorithms and formulas instead of a world of action and individualism.  Instead of proposing a middle ground between the machine and the garden, Marx proposed that people will either become the machine or become the garden: they will either become the person who lives life by an algorithm and computer generated formula or they will be the person who enjoys the transcendental, peaceful, underwhelming, and pastoral walk through nature.  Marx believed that we could either live our life in deep thought or have machines tell us what to think, we could either live a life of individualistic freedom or we could live a life of trivial technological obligations, and we could either live a life of fulfillment or we could live a life of "progression."  Marx's extended metaphor told us that we had to chose between the freedom and the prosperity of the garden or the obligatory progression of the machines.  For Marx, no middle ground existed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Album Retrospective: M. Ward - Transistor Radio

Album Rating: A-
"The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be,
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page."- 
Wallace Stevens, "The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm"

Album Review: Again For The Win - We've Been Here Forever

Album Rating: B+
Our friends from Again For The Win have done it again. After the release of their fantastic debut album, Bonus Deluxe Version, they were tacked onto the Deep Elm roster in wake of their success. Thanks to their own past efforts, their new signing with the label, and the rest of the world supporting their endeavors, they grace us with another very well written album that tips its hat to 90's emo, but looks forwards to the future of alternative rock and vocal post-rock as well. The result is explosive – it has the atmospheric depth of a Hammock record, with the artistic lyricism of a home-grown emo band like Mineral, but delivers each of these with a deft hand; I would go so far as to say that I believe Ace Enders would give a respectful nod to this record, if he picked it up. We've Been Here Forever takes on a swirl of genres, and paints a picture that honors each of its prime components to the fullest.

Album Review: Rick Ross - God Forgives, I Don't

Album Rating: B
Say what you will about Rick Ross’ past as a correctional officer, his idea of drug slinging and mafioso lifestyle have always been pretty fun to hear about. Although sometimes his boasts were a bit wrong-footed, such as his supposed excursion to Acapulco in “MC Hammer,” or his songs repetitious to a point of near self-satire, like first hit “Hustlin,” but he always had the charisma to make up for his obvious flaws. On Rich Forever, he shocked everybody by displaying a decent amount of talent while maintaining his persona and trademark booming delivery. It seemed like he was going in an exciting direction with his music.

Artist of the Day: Flying Lotus

It's a pretty safe to make the suggestion that some musicians are more popular than others. It's usually quite obvious why (i.e. more advertising or the fact that one is just plain better), but you can't help but think that a slight bit of luck is involved when artists reach such cult acclaim as Flying Lotus. Despite only releasing his first EP on Warp in 2007, many now consider him the undisputed king of beat music and all things holy in heavily-texturised hip-hop. He's done a lot to deserve this claim: founding the hugely successful L.A. based glitch-hop label 'Brainfeeder' along with releasing some incredibly influential LPs in these last few years. We're at a point where it seems that FlyLo can do no wrong.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Artist Of The Day: King Creosote

The Mercury Prize has always had a pretty mixed reputation. The accolade - awarded to the best record for the best record in the UK and Ireland every given year - is often commended as a sales boost, clearly of great aid to artists that operate outside the mainstream and infinitely more helpful than the relatively paltry cash donation. The downside is that its judges are often hounded for their choices, especially those plucked from obscurity for no purpose other than to satisfy their own egos. However, even the most belligerent elitism can have its benefits. Case in point is King Creosote, a quite magnificent singer-songwriter whose work I may never have discovered had Diamond Mine, his collaboration with electronic musician  Jon Hopkins not been a surprise nomination for last year's gong.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Artist of the Day: The Dillinger Escape Plan

Everything about mathcore group Dillinger Escape Plan screams massive. The group's concerts are so huge that they're dangerous to be a part of, the music itself is unbelievably dense and the vocalist... Well.

Greg Puciato's widely known for his infamous defecation onstage, but there are even more fascinating qualities about the man (believe it or not, I swear it.) He's the biggest dude ever - just take a look at him, and reconsider if you would ever mess with him on the street.

The point isn't Puciato's grossly muscular stature, but rather the fact that he goes and does whatever the hell he feels like doing. This is a philosophy that falls hand-in-hand with Dillinger Escape Plan, an ideology that's impacted my life especially. The group's magnum opus, 2010's Option Paralysis served as an amalgamation of everything good about Dillinger thus far - thundering rhythms, chaotic song structures and Greg utilizing his voice in ways yet unseen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Artist of the Day: A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky, the best known member of the A$AP Mob, has certainly had a busy year. Around one year ago today, much hyped single "Peso" from his debut mixtape LiveLoveA$AP led to a buzz so large that Rocky was signed to a $3 million deal by Sony and RCA. After LiveLoveASAP was a hit on the blogosphere and received an XL rating from XXL magazine, Rocky embarked on a country-wide tour with radio favorite Drake. Armed with a new legion of fans, Rocky kept the hype train on the tracks by releasing "Goldie." "Goldie" was a vintage Rocky track, teeming with lyrics of nu-thug living- broads, brews and blunts- showing he has what it takes to keep the fire burning.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Artist of the Day: Circa Survive

By now the history of Circa Survive is written in stone: Anthony Green becomes disillusioned with the success of his old band, Saosin, prompting him to start Circa Survive (which has become even bigger than his previous band, oddly enough). Three critically and commercially successful albums later, Green and co. have become accustomed to setting the alternative music scene on fire.  From the post-hardcore infused Juturna to the more rock oriented Blue Sky Noise, the band has been progressing over the years by tightening their sound.  However, this has been a bit slow with each album seemingly similar to the last.  The band's latest album, Violent Waves looks to change that.

The band decided to record and produce the album completely by themselves, even going as far as to release it using their own funds.  Focusing on the energy found during their live shows, the band hopes to imbue a new vibe to their music.  And so far, the album looks to be shaping up to that vision.    More importantly is the new direction and willingness to experiment.  Violent Waves is easily the most experimental the band has sounded, and perhaps the least "Circa" sounding thing they have done.  Surprisingly this is absolutely perfect, as is sounds stunningly fresh.

Only time will tell if Circa Survive have made the right choice in their new endeavors.  Be sure to check out Violent Waves on August 28th to see how things pan out.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Album Review: Om - Advaitic Songs

Album Rating: A-
For years, Om has been making deeply meditative music that transports the listener to a world of absorbing and bizarre sounds.  Thought of as the “thinking man’s” metal band, Om’s music is deceptively deep, and largely a tough sell to those unfamiliar with more contemplative songwriting.  From the band’s outset, the duo has featured long form compositions that take their time in giving the listener a payoff.  While this has been what has made the band seem “unwelcoming,” for fans this is what makes Om so appealing.  With all the weird eastern influences and droning soundscapes, Om is unique, giving listeners a one of a kind sound.  This is carried over into the band’s latest, Advaitic Songs, their most impressive outing to date.

Album Review: Yeasayer - Fragrant World

Album Rating: C-
I've always liked Yeasyer, but I think it's fair to say that they're on the second tier of America's experimental pop food chain. They hold a wealth of hipster cred and a handful of crossover hits, but truthfully the Brooklyn group have always lagged some way behind the genre's true frontrunners, in terms of both ideas and their execution. What's more, they've often cut the type of band that'll inevitably fall by the wayside, achieving plenty in their time but fading fast with the advent of new innovations and trends. With that in mind, spearheading their third record with a song called "Longevity" is a hugely bold move, especially given that it effectively denounces the notion behind its title. As it happens, that risk has swiftly backfired, as the song in question essentially summarises the limitations of Yeasayer's music, with the subsequent LP inadvertently providing strong evidence to support such a theme.

Artist of the Day: Ghosts

At a time when deep, atmospheric dubstep is on the cusp of becoming cliche, Ghosts have picked a terrible time to release their debut EPs. It's to their credit that these two Irish producers manage to hold their heads a few inches above the rest despite relying quite heavily on what is fast becoming a fairly tired formula, or even formulae in this case. If nothing else, their most recent EP, Judge, is a culmination of a select few electronic trends of late: from this recent dubstep movement to the fondly-named "Witch House" and even the small deep-techno revival which found a home in this decade's sub-bass fetishism. These influences are entwined skillfully, though it's usually obvious where each individual track received its influence.