Sunday, September 30, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Neurosis

For many, 2012's "Album of the Year" essentially dropped whenever Neurosis announced Honor Found in Decay.

Silly, but it's true.

You see, the metal act has been a legendary force to be reckoned with, influencing an entire subgenre (post-metal) and blazing trails all the while.  And as silly as it all seems, this crazy fandom, it's not difficult to see why so many cling to this band.  To be blunt, Neurosis don't know how to make bad music.  Really.  Since their inception, the band has only released one (or maybe two) recordings that one could argue aren't all that great.  After all, they've been around since 1985, releasing stellar album after stellar album.  Hell, some even argue that they continue to improve with age.  While that may not be the most popular opinion, even a cursory listen to their last two records will yield surprise at the band's ability to remain so relevant so many years later.  From folk to ambient to crushing metal, Neurosis are able to shift into many forms to fit their artistic visions.

Honor Found in Decay will no doubt be another marvelous addition to an already stunning discography.  It drops at the end of October, so keep this on your calendar.

Follow the band on Facebook here.

Jukebox: Modest Mouse - Gravity Rides Everything

It seems like I always get on the bandwagon years later than everyone else.  I had always like Modest Mouse, listening to their most critically acclaimed albums off and on.  But recently, The Moon and Antarctica has been hitting me hard lately.  Frankly, the more I listen the more I see it as one of the last decade's most brilliant albums; a spellbinding blend of indie and alt rock sensibilities that has very clearly influenced many acts since.

Yet there's one song that has me especially entranced: "Gravity Rides Everything." The song is addicting to say the least, but so phenomanally simplistic that one has to wonder what's so great about it to begin with.  With a simple guitar hook, the song features little in the way of incredible musicianship.  Despite this, the song grabs hold and doesn't let go.  The beautiful lyrics combined with the admirable pace makes for a very catchy song, although it doesn't seem entirely so.

"Gravity Rides Everything" is a wonderful song from an incredible, decade defining album.  For the uninitiated, this is absolutely, positively essential.

Stream the song after the jump, and follow Modest Mouse on Facebook here.

Album Review: Divorce - Divorce

Album Rating: B+
Parents want the best for their children. They want them to go to university, get a well paid job or at least eke out a comfortable existence. They don't, as a general rule, approve of bands; preferring resources to be committed to 'worthwhile' causes such as work and education as opposed to fanciful exertions more than likely to end in failure. It's difficult, then, not to feel for the guardians of Glasgow quartet Divorce, who having already seen their offspring devote time and money to the outfit then had to go through the trauma of being introduced to their music.

Oh, the pride they must have felt...

Album Review: Go Radio - Close The Distance

Album Rating: B-
Go Radio had the reputation of being possibly one of the most forward looking bands on the Fearless Records roster. Vocalist and songwriter Jason Lancaster was among the best in the scene, and even while debut album Lucky Street had its ups and downs, it showed the potential of a band who could make pop rock that was catchy, intelligent, and still kept their own sound. On their second album Close The Distance, there was hope that they'd leap to the next level, combining the power and intensity of Lancaster's voice with even better songwriting. Instead they are now settling into a safe, radio friendly pop rock band.

Album Review: Photographers - Nostalgia The Country

Album Rating: A-
Many of the most highly esteemed musicians these days seem to feel the need to set themselves from the crowd through gathering under a paper tent of “uniqueness”, a tent constructed haphazardly  for the purpose of shallowly piquing our interests. In the meantime, a tidal wave of musicians has flooded the scene, not adhering to arbitrary requirements but rather leaving pretenses at the door and assembling something instinctual. When ideas are created with this carefree ease, there’s something refreshing about the nature in which they come about – this explains the influx of artists mirroring Laura Stevenson’s unrelenting fragility, and the ensuing saturation of “the sweet card” being played by multiple artists at once. With one adorable duo after another professing their sappy adorations, when is too much too much? How are we to tell if much of the players in these candid, cutesy acts are, indeed, just acting?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Album Retrospective: Sufjan Stevens- The Age of Adz

Sufjan Stevens was trying to be the artist who defined everyone in America.   In 2003, Stevens announced that he was going to attempt to make an album for each one of the 50 states.  He ended up just creating albums for Illinois and Michigan: albums that were filled with repetitive riffs, lyrics that were fun factual instead of being filled with emotion and vivid imagery, and that were filled with filler instead of new ideas and new concepts.  By adopting such a bold concept, Stevens ended up damaging his musical career: he never showed us his full musical palette (often just relying on his acoustic guitar,) he made all of his writings geographical and wrote nothing personal, and he was the "cute folk singer" instead of being the "voice of his generation." Stevens career up to the The Age of Adz was the equivalent of the fat kid who says he is going to lose 40 pounds and ends up gaining five, the writer who says he is going to rewrite the dictionary without being able to define himself first, and the felon who is going to turn to Jesus but he just has to "steal something first." Even though Stevens 50 states project and career were filled with good and bold intentions, the intentions were so bold and thought consuming that they ended up blocking him from reaching his real potential.

Album Retrospective: Mount Eerie - Lost Wisdom

Album Rating: A
A year or so ago I took a trip down Mount Eerie's Lost Wisdom.  While both a problem and a blessing, I haven't seem to have found my way back.  There's nothing special about this record, really.  It's Phil Elverum, and acoustic guitar, and the beautiful vocals of Julie Doiron. At 24 minutes, it breezes by at a brisk pace. It's lonely and it's cold. More intimate than most of his other work, but still at an arm's distance away. Yet despite all of this, Lost Wisdom has a spellbinding effect on the listener.

Artist Spotlight - Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)

I'm willing to own up to something when I'm wrong.  Sure I may not enjoy it (who does??) but when I mess up big time, I'll admit it.  Well readers, today is the day I officially announce my past indiscretions--I now love  Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate).  There was never a time I didn't, but I had always passed up their emo-lite delivery as a cute, somewhat interesting novelty.  Sure what I heard was great, but I didn't feel the need to dive right in.  In today's Internet music scene this happens all too often.  When discographies are just a click away it's shamefully easy to pass something up after a cursory listen. After an evening with What it Takes to Move Forward I had a different outlook on the band.

After a brief discussion with a friend about what the album meant to him, I decided to give it a shot.  The album is gorgeous, emotional, and unfathomably engaging.  The lyrics, to be quite frank, are brilliant in their poetic prose, matching perfectly with the music.  I loved it, and for the past several weeks have found myself returning to it regularly. In an odd twist of fate, the band had a contest to get as many likes as possible for their facebook page.  After 500, they promised to post their entire discography for free.  At the dawn of my discovering of this band, every thing they've released thus far is at my finger tips.  Absolutely perfect.

So for all the uninitiated (trust me I was once just like you), give this band a shot.  You have absolutely no excuse.  Follow the link and thank me later.


Artist of the Day - The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die

How's that for a band name?  Without looking too deeply into it, one could glean that The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die is either an emo band or a post-rock band simply by the beautiful and lofty name.  Well in this case, both aren't too far off.

The band is very much an emo group, rooted deeply into the mid-'90s scene.  Looping guitars and soft but high pitched vocals are the order of the day.  It feels a bit like American Football, A Bunny's Caravan, and Moving Mountains, which is quite the list of influences.  Yet The World Is A Beautiful Place... make the sound their own, with a big emphasis on atmosphere and instrumentation.  With 2010's EP, Formlessness, the band solidified themselves as an up and coming band well worth keeping an eye on.  It's not difficult to see why either, as the excellent--albeit short--EP was filled with personality and poise far beyond the band's years.  Since then, a number of releases and splits have surfaced each showing a maturation and refinement.  Hopefully this all culminates in one hell of a debut album from a band that has something to prove.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Artist of the Day: deadmau5

There’s a tendency in Electronic Dance Music - more so than really any other genre - to bend to the perceived will of the crowd. A very rapid and recent rise of ultra-cheese has made overnight stars of artists such as Madeon, while the likes of Netsky, BT and (*sniff*) Benga have had their styles shifted by what we can only assume is an intense kind of communal and monetary peer pressure.

Deadmau5 hasn’t been immune from this, with his tight, restrained house slowly becoming more saturated with syrupy-rich dance chords and tracklists steadily containing more of that ever criticised ‘feat,’ and his latest album > Album Title Goes Here < cannot really be described as anything but a continuation on this road.

Unlike a healthy chunk of his contemporaries, however, he has managed to hold on to some kind of signature style. While > Album Title Goes Here < may move as it pleases between brag-rap to a pretty groovy form of lounge jazz, it’s still definitive ‘Deadmau5.’ It’s still dance, it’s still fun, and - despite what you may hear elsewhere - it’s definitely rather good indeed. Just remember to take it as it is.

Follow the artist on facebook

Live Review: Richard Hawley, O2 Academy, Newcastle, 27/09/2012

It's little over two months since Richard Hawley's last visited the North East, but even in that period plenty has changed. Grabbing the headlines for all the right reasons, the classy Yorkshireman's latest album Standing At The Sky's Edge has since been nominated for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize, a prestigious honour which along with a broadcast outing with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra has implanted his name into national conscience like never before. He doesn't need strings to pull off a great live show either. Indeed July's performance at Whitley Bay Playhouse was by far the best I've witnessed by anybody so far this year, so by all accounts his return to the region had a lot to live up to.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Album Review: Olafur Arnalds - Two Songs for Dance

Album Rating: B-
Icelandic contemporary artist, Olafur Arnalds just doesn't know when to slow down.  This is in no way a bad thing, really, as Arnalds has been making some of the most engrossing and lush music of the past five years.  With keys and strings hand in hand with a very minimalist delivery, the young composer has found a sweet spot between ambient and neo-classical that has gained a swath of new fans.  With is latest two song release, Arnalds has tried to do something a bit different.  While not even close to his best material, it is still an interesting look into the mind of such a young, brilliant artist.

Artist of the Day: Mord Fustang

If you pay any attention to electronic dance music (EDM), you've probably heard of Mord Fustang. The young Estonian electro producer has been tearing up the Beatport charts with huge tracks like "Lick The Rainbow" and "We Are Now Connected" - and for good reason. There's just something addictive about his style of long buildups into techy electro sections that make any dance floor go wild, and his top-notch electro house has garnered a lot of deserved attention. Whether he's chopping up the buildup he's spent two minutes phasing in on "Super Fever," transitioning straight from 8-bit into his trademark wobbles on "Super Meat Freeze," or trying his hand at guttural glitch hop on "Champloo," Mord Fustang's songs are always interesting and high-energy. It's no wonder he won Beatport's Breakthrough Artist of the Year award - he'll be a talent to watch as he goes forward and releases more material.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Lucy Rose

Backing vocals on Bombay Bicycle Club's Flaws and A Different Kind Of Fix introduced us to the fantastic British singer-songwriter Lucy Rose, and now her new album Like I Used To is forcing us to love her. Rose's voice has always been her main calling. It's angelic, yet still sweet as sugar, and she is able to remain pitch perfect even in a live setting. She's also an extremely capable guitar player, showing off her finger-picking ability as well as many other technicalities not often shown off in stripped down songs such as these. Rose also shows a knack for excellent melodies, whether conventional (as in "Middle Of The Bed") or more sophisticated. "Red Face" and "Lines" feature tempo and stylistic changes within the song, separating her from the singer-songwriters that simply play it safe. Like I Used To is only Rose's debut album, a startling fact after hearing the maturity and confidence radiating from the release. It's easily one of the best albums of the style this year, and her star is simply starting to glow. She's a musician on the rise, and is no longer someone to ignore.

Listen to the entire album right here, and follow her on Facebook here.

Album Review: Plastician - Start Select Reset

Album Rating: B
At this point in his career, Chris Reed pretty much has the artistic freedom to do whatever he wants. The 29-year-old English producer, known to the electronic world as Plastician, has been creating his special form of dubstep and grime since 2001, soon after the then-new fusion of dub and two-step had started to permeate London's underground music scene. Nowadays, he's one of the most widely known and respected producers in the bass music scene and has gained fame for consistently pushing out high-quality releases that nudge past the walls defining the standards for darker dubstep. Plastician has helped jump-start the careers of genre pioneers such as Skream and Benga during the early days of dubstep, and he's gained incredible fame during his 10-plus years active in the English electronic scene. Recently, Plastician has begun exercising the artistic freedom he's earned over years of top-notch production, and some of his later releases, like those of Skream and Benga themselves, have caused waves of criticism for trying to pull two distinct types of dubstep together. Skrillex's label OWSLA has released a few Plastician songs and remixes, and the mere thought that Plastician might be tainting his grimy sound through OWSLA has sent fans across the dubstep scene into worried frenzies. To their relief, the producer's OWSLA releases have been in similar veins to his earlier songs - bass-heavy and pure, they've shown that the seemingly irreconcilable dichotomy between brostep and darker dubstep might be crossable after all.

Album Review: A$AP Mob - Lord$ Never Worry

Grade: C-
Calling 2011 an exciting year for hip-hop would be a pretty significant understatement. Between the rise to prominence of Danny Brown, Lil B, Kendrick Lamar, Odd Future, The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky as well as a surprisingly well reviewed Drake album, it was quite nearly a hip-hop renaissance. As we stand three-quarters of the way through 2012, very few albums have been album to reach the level that these young guns achieved on their records from the previous year. Enter A$AP Rocky, who is back on the scene with his merry band of followers, the A$AP clique, and makes the situation... worse. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Artist of the Day: Girls

On the day before the Fourth of July (aka July 3rd) music blogs were buzzing with the news that Christopher Owens had decided to quit Girls.  Reactions varied from "Wow, what kind of guys does he like?" to "LOL what bitch screwed him over?" But lost in the clustermess of these "is he gay?" jokes was the fact that our generation was losing one of its few musical five star recruits.  Girls was a band that was just oozing with potential but quit to early to realize it, they were almost the Barry Sanders of our musical generation.

Soundtrack Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Soundtrack Rating: A
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World not only seemed like it had too bold of a premise to have a listenable soundtrack, but also seemed like it had too bold of a premise to be a watchable movie. Seeking a Friend is the apocalyptic movie every viewer has come to expect from 2012, but it has a huge twist.  Instead of having the apocalypse (in this case a seventy-mile wide asteroid) being the end of love, idealism, and conquest, Seeking a Friend makes the comet the reason for two people finding love, idealism, and going on their first real conquest.  Instead of the apocalyptic comet being the reason for the two main characters to give up, it is reason for them to live again.  Because of there approaching cataclysmic death, the two main characters finally find a reason to live.  Through death, they find life.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Album Review: Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

Album Rating: B+
Music and IQ have a somewhat testing relationship. It's a conundrum really. Writers need a certain level of intelligence if their songs are to hold any form of resonance, and yet the sharpest tools are all too often grounded by a will to exercise their own intellect at the expense of listenablity. With this in mind, it's perhaps unsurprising that the public remains a little suspicious of outward brain boxes, so the fact Alt-J have been embraced with open arms speaks volumes of what they've already achieved.

For better or worse, this quartet (from Cambridge, obviously!) epitomise pretty much everything we associate with boffin indie. Their name derives from the keyboard instruction used to usher a triangle on a Mac, they operate under the highly dubious 'folktronica' tag, and their songs are filled with obtuse literary references. All very academic. What's more, their image is that of a bunch of awkward bespectacled geeks, the likes of which you envisage locked away in a laboratory or returning home splattered with paint from an art course.

Artist of the Day: Some By Sea

Some By Sea was a quiet little indie band from Seattle that changed the lives of lots of fans forever with their music. Unlike most bands that had a rough, unrefined sound and vocals that were slightly out of tune in order to keep a naturalistic feel to their music, Some By Sea has a very clean, perfected sound that conveys a sense of comfort, regularity, and nostalgia, even if it's your first time listening to something they've written.

The band began as a small group of five friends that wanted to get together and play music just to have fun. The band released a couple of records on their own to high praise in the Pacific Northwest. However, it was really the release of their most recent full-length effort, On Fire! Igloo that garnered them a lot of national attention. After the release, the band began doing much bigger shows, which is possibly what garnered the stress felt between bandmates. Unfortunately, about a year after the release of On Fire! Igloo, Some By Sea decided that by being a band, their friendships had been compromised, so they decided to go their separate ways. Somehow, though, this makes the music they've made together even more special. Whenever I pick up On Fire! Igloo, it makes me think of everyone I know and love, and that's really all due to the band behind it, and what they were aiming for: songs written by friends in order to show love for each other and the music they were writing.

Check out Some By Sea on Myspace and PureVolume

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Placeholder

There are countless ways an album or EP can make an impact. Vocals, lyrics and musicianship all play a part in how you react the first time you hear something; it just all depends on the band as to which aspect has the biggest effect. Listening to Placeholder's new 7", Thought I Would Have Been Somebody By Now, I was struck by all of these traits, but it's the influences I hear in their music that really hit me. For the past few years, we've heard bands putting out material that draws inspiration from groups like The Impossibles, Saves the Day, Gatsby's American Dream, etc., but I can't think of anyone that seems to have molded their sound in the same vein as 90's grunge/rock band, Far. They're arguably one of the best groups from that era of music, which I'm sure anyone who is a fan would agree on. Now, Placeholder has captured the essence of what made their genre so great, and molded into a sound that is completely their own.

Artist Of The Day: Photocomfort

If you're in the mood for something different and refreshing, I can't think of anyone better to recommend than Photocomfort.  It's a music project featuring singer/songwriter Justine Bowe, who, alongside a handful of friends, have put together one of the best folk/indie ep's I've heard in quite some time.  It's dark, beautiful and all around entrancing from start to finish, with slight leanings into chamber pop.  There's a really haunting element in the music they right, made only more prevalent by Bowe's entrancing vocals and touching lyrics.  Granted, not everyone has a penchant for folk/country/indie music, but those who do should be floored by how heartfelt and tear-jerking Bowe is capable of being.

Photocomfort's self-titled ep can be download for free on their Bandcamp.  Highly recommended for fans of Belle Histoire, Neko Case and Lissie; as well as anyone who is open to hearing something new.



Saturday, September 22, 2012

Album Review: The Faceless - Autotheism

Album Rating: B+
Why stay grounded when you can grow wings and soar? This question seems to be the reason that Autotheism exists, because it depicts a death metal group discontent with just making death metal. There's no reason for longtime fans of The Faceless to worry, because the group's latest offering is as brutal as expected. Heaviness is the most prevalent quality of Autotheism, accompanied with cohesive song structure and a predominantly melodic emphasis. This is the Faceless doing what they do best, latching onto an already ambitious idea and tweaking it into their chief domain.

Artist Of The Day: Divorce

DIVORCE truly are horrendous. They're ghastly, shambolic and at times borderline unlistenable; the type of band relatives may fear you're mentally handicapped for subjecting yourself to. It's a strain of music most would dismiss out of hand as 'just noise.' You'll deny this, of course, but in truth there's not much argument to the contrary. It could even be made by the freakish, deformed creature depicted on their album cover, it's that repulsive.

Formed in Glasgow in 2008, this four-piece's resumé is essentially to push the boundaries of what the human brain can tolerate. You could call it uncompromising, but that would be too weak a term to attach to this hellhole of sonic disregard, instrument abuse and deranged howling; the kind of racket with which noise rock should be defined. Truly appalling - and yet, somehow, utterly brilliant. Put it this way, if you like the sound of hyenas being tortured, you'll more than likely gain some semblance of enjoyment from DIVORCE. If not, you've wasted two minutes of your precious life reading this post.

If you fall into the former category, you can buy DIVORCE's self-titled debut LP on their Bandcamp page.

Official website

Friday, September 21, 2012

Artist of the Day: Between the Buried and Me

Between the Buried and Me have been veering further and further from metalcore into the depths of progressive with each album. This decision has caused much division within their fanbase: many cry foul at the group's newfound melodic emphasis, while others respect the group for the drastic changes they've made in their musical career. Both positions are completely understandable; the two styles the group has been playing with over the last decade don't always go well together, and so many of the metalheads have left the crowd - however, even more admirers have entered the picture, progressive junkies that love to see a talented act with such veritable influences.

Album Review: Ex Friends - No Wonder We Prefer The Dark

Album Rating: B/B+
As of late, music has felt just a little too polished. Radio-friendly pop is built on layers of computerized synths to the point where a lot of the songs are indistinguishable. Rock adds electronic, industrial sounds on top of guitars and vocals that sound a bit too perfect to be believable. Alternative utilizes dreamy strings and piano lines to craft an ethereal yet intangible quality that moves frustratingly away from the crunchy guitars and smashing drums of yesteryear. While the excessive polishing can (and often does) lead to some fantastic music, there's just something endearing about raw, jagged singing and instrumentation that's definitely been lacking recently. The classic, frenetic sounds of "screw it all" punk and hard rock have been abandoned in the recent trend towards a smoother brand of pop-punk and a proven-to-sell method of alternative metal. It's quite disappointing that music that's rougher around the edges is becoming harder and harder to find with the rise of skilled producers and sound engineers.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Artist of the Day: Ghostface Killah

It feels a bit blasphemous to single out one member of Wu-Tang Clan as standing above the rest, but when considering Ghostface Killah he proves a case worthy of respect in his own right. From the very first verse of “Bring Da Ruckus” and on, it has been clear that Ghostface was an incredible talent. His penchant for high-energy rapping and precise enunciation makes his verses one of the most recognizable in hip-hop, and they have been for the past 18 years. You see, Ghostface doesn’t take time off. Unlike his colleagues like GZA/Genius and Inspectah Deck, who are known for long breaks in between albums, the one and only GFK has released nine solo albums while still finding time to collaborate on full Wu-Tang clan albums and smaller collaborations like 2010’s Wu-Massacre (Meth, Ghost and Rae).

Interview with Chipzel

Recently, I've been addicted to the iPod Touch game Super Hexagon. The game itself is deceptively and devilishly difficult: you play as a little arrow rotating around a hexagon (or pentagon, or square) trying to dodge the incoming waves of lines trying to cut you off. It sucks you in for minutes at a time and doesn't let you out because you just want to go a little farther, you're sure you can do it this time (for a video of some iPod game reviewers failing miserably at the game, look here). The game itself isn't all that makes up the experience, though: the game's soundtrack is a fantastic little slab of chiptune that caught my attention immediately thanks to its high energy and the way it fits perfectly with the game.

Chipzel, the producer behind the soundtrack, has created a masterful 3-track accompaniment here. She essentially takes on a lot of the popular elements in today's electro (especially electro house) and reworks them through a chunky 8-bit lens. Chiptune wobbles are expertly meshed with more melodic sounds, and all that laid over a standard 8-bit beat that works wonders for the songs. The amount of complexity in the deceptively simple songs is staggering, especially in "Otis," the soundtrack for the "Hexagoner" and "Hyper Hexagoner" game modes in Super Hexagon. The way sections flow into each other feels entirely natural, and Chipzel avoids the common trap of sounding too repetitive as she develops each part with special care to create a fantastic tune.

I recently caught up with Chipzel in an interview following the release of her Super Hexagon EP (out now on Bandcamp). The interview went as follows:

Album Review: I Am Carpenter - My God Clara

Album Rating: A
If this year has shown us anything, it's that music, in all of its different forms, just keeps getting better and better.  Everywhere you look, bands and labels alike keep putting out phenomenal albums, and thanks to the internet, the bulk of them are receiving a fair amount of recognition.  However, there's still a small amount of bands that come out of nowhere with an incredible album, and aren't being mentioned nearly enough.  Such is the case with I Am Carpenter's debut full length, My God Clara, a genre-bending album that somehow incorporates everything that's great in bands like Balance & Composure, O'Brother, and Manchester Orchestra, while still capturing a sound that is completely their own.

Artist Spotlight - Binary Heart

Album Rating: B+
After many years as the defiantly pragmatic drummer for (now defunct) Bomb the Music Industry! (and formally for Long Island's The Arrogant Sons of Bitches), Mike Costa finally set out to make a (sort of) solo record.  I can't help but recall my last (and, let's be real, my only) conversation with the heroically unsung percussionist following a sweltering living room show that gave Flagstaff in mid-July a run for its money.  That "conversation" involved Costa casually dragging on a cigarette while I rambled incessantly about how Scrambles was the sixth best record of all time, oozing fanboy vibes harder than a late 90's preteen with Ricky Martin backstage passes.  His response - a sidearmed comment about how Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba is so intensely underrated - has been brought to new light in the wake of Quote Unquote Records' and Mike Costa's very own, Binary Heart.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Artist Of The Day - Madeliene

Sometimes you simply need another outlet for creative expression that is drastically different than your original project. Cameron Boucher from screamo band Old Gray has that in his new band Madeliene, a folk project with vocalist Michi Tassey. Tassey's voice has the fragility of Regina Spektor, yet at the same time she shows confidence in letting her little vocal quirks pop out, a trait that even more experienced vocalists may not be comfortable in embracing. Cam's excellent guitar playing from Old Gray is transferred over to the acoustic realm, adding a technicality that separates the music from the majority of female led folk out there. He also shows off his ability on the saxophone and piano, two instruments that he can't really take on in Old Gray. Madeliene is a perfect way for Cam to do these things that Old Gray simply doesn't allow, and based on the four songs on the band's new EP Adieu, let's hope there's much more of that in the future. You can download Adieu on a pay what you want basis on the duo's Bandcamp page.

Album Review: The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter

Album Rating: B+
I love just about everything about living in the South: how the temperature is rarely below 45 degrees, the dresses young and promiscuous ladies wear to sporting events and parties, the way I only get yelled at and belittled if I question the divinity of Sweet Tea and if I forget to eat Jesus's body at Communion, and the way Southerners frequently say words like "daggum," "reckon," and "ain't."  Even though the South will always be the unsophisticated, innocent, and wholesome little brother to the supposedly more intellectual and progressive parts of the U.S., the Lenny to their George, there is one thing Southerners do that goes against their normal simple and pure thinking: their reason for being passionate about a particular genre of music or a particular form of art.

Album Review: Caspian - Waking Season

Album Rating: A+
It's been three years since Tertia, and while it's not an extended period of time, Caspian's back. One might even say, vigorously. While the recordings they did earlier this year, Live at Old South Church were something to hype fans up, it was truly nothing to the point that the new album brings. Waking Season is just...something else entirely. From start to finish, it's a different experience. Caspian did some rethinking with a lot of their instrument tones and everything sounds in place. Everything feels right. Waking Season feels like the ultimate post-rock record; all layers mesh together like a woven quilt, aligning every important aspect of music, beauty, and life.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Artist of the Day: Real Friends

I'm proud to say that pop punk is not dead. It's still alive and kicking thanks to some recent surges of energy reminiscent of the early '90s, when Blink-182 was still immature and The Offspring was still screwing around. The guitars are loud and fast again, the singers are annoyingly endearing again, and the drums are fantastic again. Real Friends are a prime example of this kind of resurgence, and I couldn't be happier that they do what they do. The five-piece from the suburbs of Chicago, IL show off their instrumental chops on their "aggressive pop-punk" which has won them a lot of fans, especially considering they're an unsigned band. They came out with their Everyone That Dragged You Here EP this January, which is a five-song release barely surpassing 15 minutes that's chock-full of high-energy singing, strumming, and smashing the skins. Every song on the EP is incredibly fun to listen to, and it's hard not to smile along with the music. "Floorboards," the single of sorts, is fast-paced, aggressive, noisy, and just plain old enjoyable. It's got all the components of a great pop-punk song and it melts them together almost perfectly, and it's one of my favorite songs of the year so far. The EP is an absolutely worthwhile listen, and anyone who has even a passing interest in pop-punk should definitely check it out. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Artist of the Day: Stumbleine

Bristol based musician Stumbleine turned heads and topped end of year lists in 2011 as one third of Swarms,  who's LP Old Raves End was the shoegaze to dubstep's indie rock. Sun-kissed, syrup-like and melancholic, yet distinctly urban, the group managed to portray a uniquely dreamy vision of modern city life. The exact opposite side of the coin to whatever the hell Skrillex was up to at the time, which as far as the dubstep community was concerned was probably ritualistically murdering kittens.

Album Review: Blaqk Audio - Bright Black Heaven

Album Rating: C
AFI has always been a fun band to listen to. The mix of aggressive guitars, Davey Havok's interesting vocals, and excellent songwriting makes for catchy, energetic music that's a joy to experience. Songs like "Miss Murder" are what make the band so famous and they display the songwriting talent that the band has developed through years of experience. So, when Blaqk Audio, the darker, ambient electronic project of Havok and guitarist Jade Puget, released their first album CexCells a couple years ago, people everywhere were impressed, if a bit underwhelmed, by the smooth transition from guitars to synthesizers. Havok grabbed the listeners by the hand and led them through dark twists and turns, past thumping drums, and towards the end of a dark tunnel, an end which led right back to the beginning and left the listeners in the dark just like they started. It was a solid album, and the announcement of a second full-length caused people to look forward to the release date, when they could experience the darkness once more.

Album Review: Toy - Toy

Album Rating: B+
Remember Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong? For most of you the answer will be a flat, definitive no. If, however, you read the NME around 2007 you'll know exactly where I'm coming from. The product of a particularly overzealous British hype machine, JL&TJJJ were essentially another average, landfill indie collective, the type we regularly dismiss and ridicule now that the genre is in the midst of a mainstream lull. Ironically, their eventual fate wasn't too far removed. With promotion in full swing and reviews piling in, the band canned their debut album upon imminent release, beginning something of a mini soap opera and causing much amusement among those unassociated. Tired of their frontman's antics, The Jing Jang Jong crumbled soon after, but that was only the beginning for Tom Dougall, Dominic O'Dair and Maxim Barron, who now make up three fifths of a markedly different outfit.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Album Review: Night Shift - Trespassers Guide to Nowhere

Album Rating: A+
The first thing to note about Night Shift’s Trespassers Guide to Nowhere is that it isn’t music in any conventional sense. Far beyond any notion of storytelling, it exists in a plane between our contemporary understanding of music and what we generally consider as just ‘noise.’ Utterly incompatible with any of the genres or styles that we like to assign to albums so that they can be easily archived in the correct train of thought. The album displays ambient-like sentiment, with a sly hint to storytelling without ever really seeming to follow through, but often departs for more raucous and experimental ground. It then compiles sounds both old and new: flirting with one, then the other and then both without a care in the world. It’s the auditory equivalent of the Navidson Record; it just doesn’t seem to fit. The second thing to note is that the label has omitted an apostrophe in ‘Trespassers.’ Apparently the album doesn’t fit with conventional grammar either.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Artist of the Day: North

If I was going to introduce someone to post-metal the slow and careful way, to make them appreciate the genre for what it is instead of forcing them to listen to 20 minutes of a screaming man who sounds like he's on fire, I'd probably introduce them to North, an Arizona-centered band that does post-metal extremely well, but throws in touches of Mono or Explosions in the Sky to lighten the intensity a bit. The contrast between melodic portions and the heavy intensity that truly makes the band is what's beautiful about post-metal, and it's not hard to find a track in North's discography that really means something on a full spectrum of emotions, ranging from anger and hatred to a tender reminiscence.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Album Review: Stars - The North

Album Rating: B-
If my high school economics class taught me anything, it’s that it’s essential to specialize, to realize what you’re best at and to do it. Stars are well-acquainted with this concept, and this shows in the specific brand of indie-pop the group concocts. It’s important to note the consistency of Stars’ career, because never have they failed to make something emotionally gratifying. The North is a continuation of this exploration, an experiment with 80’s pulsating synths with an exploratory spirit that could be likened to that of Mew.

Artist of the Day: Stars

If there's one thing to take away from Stars' new album, The North, it's that there is no predicting just what a band is capable of delivering.  The Five Ghosts was a solid enough debut indie album, showing definite potential, but for no discernible reason, it didn't seem to have much repeat value.  But all of that's changed on The North.  With the simple addition of 80's-style synthesizers, Stars has managed to truly solidify their sound, creating an album that is incredibly relaxing, with subtle leanings in a more indie/pop direction.  Even the harmonized vocals hold more weight than before, accentuating the dynamics of each song perfectly.  So if anyone who has yet to listen Stars, or has been hesitant to give them a real chance, now is the time to do so.  If they continue to progress this way with future release, there's no telling what they're capable of delivering. 

Official Website

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Artist Of The Day: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan may be indispensable, but even at the height of his powers you'd struggle to find anyone making a case for him being a good singer. That infamous nasal drag has of course gone down in legend along with the majority of his back catalogue, and it's fair to say that age has hardly helped its cause. In fact, at 71, Dylan's voice now sounds strangely akin to a dog being subjected to waterboarding; not an obvious platform from which to forge a stirring late career revival. If, however, you can get past that considerable barrier, you'll find an artist who still possesses a good chunk of that old magic, and nowhere is that more obvious than on new album Tempest. His 35th effort in all, it quite simply ticks all the boxes you look for in a classic Dylan record, with his masterful songwriting and wry way with words striking as blissful a chord as ever. Modern Times is widely regarded his finest post-millennium work, but this is easily its equal, a prospect which should excite hardcore and casual fans alike.

Tempest is out now.

Official website

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Artist of the Day: P.O.S.

When contemplating where hip-hop's been, where it'll be someday and - most importantly, where it is right now - I can't help but posit that P.O.S. is a driving force for today's innovation. When I think of insightful verses, I think of him - when I think of natural flow, he also comes to mind. There's little that P.O.S. doesn't do right, and this only makes me respect him more.

Album Review: Mala - Mala in Cuba

Album Rating: B+
A lot has happened since Mala - as one half of Digital Mystikz - sparked the popularity of Dubstep in the early 00’s: helping to transform a very localised scene into a global phenomenon with his DMZ record label and associated club night. Burial happened. Skrillex happened. And electronic music has flowed ever forward as it merged genre with genre with...

So Mala, now a verifiable ‘dubstep pioneer’ and global public figure as opposed to just another musician in South London, travelled to Cuba in 2011 with the notion of infusing the nation’s music with a dubstep rhythm and weight. As it’s impossible to hold it from you any longer, he pulls it off brilliantly, but such an experimental and ambitious move from an idol in classic-dubstep culture shows just how many miles the genre has moved in such a short space of time. We are now a very long way off the stripped down and thinly veiled worship of low frequencies that describes the movement’s infancy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Artist of the Day: Maybeshewill

Esteemed German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche wrote of music that it "has no need at all of images and concepts but merely tolerates them as accompaniment." The message distilled: lyrics are fine, but the music is the most potent part of any composition. Maybeshewill, one of the finest post-rock outfits to come out of the United Kingdom, seem to have taken Nietzche's analysis to heart. While most post-rock is characterized by painstakingly arranged harmonies with unique instruments- such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor's experiments with the french horn- Maybeshewill's music is a veritable cacophony of typical rock instruments by comparison.

Album Review: Fang Island - Major

Album Rating: C+
Fang Island have grown up, and I’m not sure what to do. Well, at least they’re suggesting that they’ve grown up, taking the same route that Bomb the Music Industry! did last year by releasing a more “mature" album in Vacation - this time around, though, it’s not half as genuine. While Fang Island’s self-titled debut delighted the kids inside all of us with high-fives, handclaps and energetic guitar riffs that wouldn’t be out of place in the soundtrack of your favorite Sonic game, Major attempts to filter the bliss through an insightful lens and instead dilutes the energy until it’s faintly recognizable.

Live Review: Joyce Manor & Algernon Cadwallader, The Black Cat (8/19/12)

Punk rock is a genre of many feelings. It's one of intensity and forcefulness, of progress and change, and of sadness and despair. The combination of these traits fuels the energy behind the music and the emotions created by it. Joyce Manor's coheadliner with Algernon Cadwallader may very well be proof of this, as every second of the show was powered by all of these feelings, creating an atmosphere that wasn't simply just about the music, but the personal lives of the bands and crowd as well.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Artist of the Day: Talk Talk

The talk of, er, Talk Talk always seems to be split into two conversations: old and new.  The old Talk Talk was a very successful pop band from the 1980's, who through a lack of funds, turned to cheaper synths to create music.  While this venture happened to be lucrative, it wasn't to the band's liking.  Thus, half way through their career, Talk Talk changed a bit into the act music fans now know as legendary.

To be fair, the band didn't do a complete 180.  The band's third album, The Colour of Spring was a transition of sorts, blending the pop eccentricities of the prior two, whilst pointing towards something grander.  Thus the band's penultimate album, The Spirit of Eden, was born.  Featuring bigger compositions with more featured instrumentalists, the album was a much bolder venture than the band's trite beginnings.  Yet despite the excellence of that album, it was their final record, Laughing Stock, that helped change music forever.

Laughing Stock is partially credited with the creation of the genre we now know as post-rock.  Featuring longer songs with a heavy emphasis on instrumentation, it is easy to see why so many people believe this.  It was an amazing display of creativity, with dynamic shifts occurring left and right, and genre conventions being torn to pieces.  20 years later it is still held in high esteem, with a recent vinyl re-release further stoking its brilliant legacy.

Album Review: Digital Summer - Breaking Point

Album Rating: B-
Alternative metal is a hard genre to be a part of. The proverbial "breaking of the mold" is difficult to do when the style of music relies heavily on recycled sounds that appeal to the average person listening to the local rock station on the morning commute. Because of this, most of the bands that have made it big (i.e. Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, Seether) have either tried and failed to make their sound different than the other bands around them or created formulaic music that a machine could have pumped out. Power-chord-driven guitar riffs, almost inaudible bass lines and vocals alternating between an upper-range snarl/whine and a half-hearted scream combine to make entirely uninspired music for the most part. And, since the genre is so jam-packed with bands, whenever a band manages to stick their head above the fray (see Crossfade's We All Bleed), ten more appear to crush them back down into obsolescence. Sure, a lot of alt-metal is really fun to listen to, but from a critical perspective most of it just doesn't have the originality to warrant playing it over and over again. One of the reasons I keep coming back to hear fresh faces in the genre is because I really, really want to hear a new take, one that strays from the path of mediocrity and one that I can truly appreciate as a critic as well as a fan of the genre.

Album Review: Circa Survive - Violent Waves

Album Rating: B+
Violent Waves is standard fare for Anthony Green and company, and this should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying enough attention. Sure, there's been plenty of reason to believe otherwise - Blue Sky Noise was a wise excursion into more conservatively crafted progressive melodies, and this shift would imply natural evolution. However, it's now evident that Circa Survive desire to stick to to what they're most known for: atmosphere over focused songwriting. This fact makes or breaks the group's latest outing, either making Violent Waves the proper return to form we've all been waiting for, or a curious case of backpedaling. Which case is more appealing to you?