Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Album Review: Kurt Travis - Wha Happen?

Rating: A-
Kurt Travis has been on a bumpy ride the past few years. Getting scooped up as the replacement for Jonny Craig in Dance Gavin Dance for two albums, Travis was dropped as suddenly as he was hired. The pathetic drama that Travis was not even allowed to participate in aside, Travis found himself without a job, eventually to become the vocalist for another Sacramento band, A Lot Like Birds. However, in the void of time between acts, Travis recorded various solo tracks, many of which made their way onto his now defunct bandcamp. After the release of his debut with A Lot Like Birds, Travis took it upon himself to put together some of these songs as well as a few unreleased tracks for an EP titled Wha Happen? The EP is released through Doghouse Records on January 24th and is quite an experience.

Album Review: Rabbit Troupe - Treasures Are Miniscule

Album Rating: A-
Lately I have come to a conclusion that there is no better genre of music than dirty, loud, and catchy punk. It can easily channel any emotion just as good as any other genre of music, so why not do it via lo-fi recording techniques and blunt yet honest and effective lyrics? There's nothing that makes recordings more human and relatable than a couple of raw, untampered with tracks recorded in somebody's basement. Everything good about punk and music in general, from songs about heartbreak to songs soundtracking a drunken escapade, is presented in the latest output from New Jersey's Rabbit Troupe, in the form of a dirty fifteen minute EP, Treasures Are Miniscule.

Album Review: John K. Samson - Provincial

Album Rating: B
John K. Samson is no stranger to the music world, after all for years he's been a part of a little band called The Weakerthans...maybe you've heard of them?  Oh, and not to mention playing for Propagandhi during the 1990's.  Yes Samson certainly has had his fair share of time in the music business, but rarely has he displayed his prowess as a solo artist.  Sure he's been threatening it with a few releases here and there, but it hasn't been until now that we've been treated to a true full length album.

Enter Provincial, John K. Samson's take on the earthy folk displayed with his main band, taken to the extreme.  More important than how it sounds, however, is how it feels.  It's not often that we as listeners can observe the subtle emotions of the artist, but Provincial does a great job at creating an emotive piece of music whose atmosphere is unique to Samson.  This is where the album excels; a beautiful and touching work that reaches the listener via multiple layers.  Instant gratification is here, don't worry, but how much you put into the album is equal to what you'll get back.  On its surface is a nice folk record, but underneath is something much more absorbing and evocative.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Daily Blair: New Muzik Monday!

Today I will recommend you some music that you might not have heard before. We will call it New Muzik Monday! Enjoy!

1. Diagrams - Black Light
Early Rating: B
Check It Out

Black Light is the most fascinating album I have listened to this year. The album is fascinating because it tries to do just about everything: it tries to be an album you can dance to and an album you can cry to, it tries to be an album that is mainstream while be an album that is groundbreaking, it tries to be MGMT while still being U2, it tries to be aggressive while still being graceful, and it tries to be everything without really ever tying itself down to one particular idea, structure, or genre. Black Light essentially tries to be everything while being nothing at the same time. Even though this idea may sound impossible and illogical, Diagrams are able to pull off on songs like "Black Light," "Peninsula," and "Night All Night." On these songs the band is able to combine many influences (they are able to combine the aggressiveness of MGMT with the awareness of U2,) they are able to have a mainstream sound that could still pass as indie (think Foster The People,) the songs are free (do not really have a particular structure, do not stick to one idea, and could not be classified under one genre,) and the songs are really catchy and have great instrumentation. On other tracks though the Diagrams music sounds like a total mess and it sounds like the band is trying to accomplish a little too much. Still something you should definitely check out.

Album Review: And The Giraffe - Something For Someone (EP)

EP Rating: B
Considering that he's released a pair of undisputed masterpieces and established himself as something of an alternative icon over the past four years, the lack of young bands willing to follow Justin Vernon's lead seems somewhat curious. Yes, the luscious and dreamlike folk that the Bon Iver mainman purveys is of the very highest order in both it's taste and it's sophistication, but that doesn't usually stop hordes of newer acts taking cue from the latest musical phenomena. No matter the reasoning, the relative lack of similar artists has meant that those that do exist haven't found their way blocked by saturation, and it's because of that that bands such as And The Giraffe sound genuinely refreshing rather than like tiresome also-rans.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Vocal Few

Sometimes it seems that people are brought together simply so they can make beautiful music together. Matt MacDonald is known for making rock music with The Classic Crime, but working with his wife Kristie on The Vocal Few may have given us some of his best music. A dramatic departure from The Classic Crime, Vocal Few is simply guitars, keys, and absolutely stunning harmonies between the two lovers. Kristie's angelic voice fits perfectly with Matt's unique timbre, and She'll Be Right is probably the pinnacle of his singing career. While this EP was mostly created in order to assist in raising their brand new child and Matt still has The Classic Crime to focus on, hopefully there will be more Vocal Few releases in the future. It'd be best for the couple to do so, as Vocal Few easily has the potential to gain a following greater than that of The Classic Crime. The pairing between lovers is just too perfect.
She'll Be Right is currently available for streaming and purchase on the band's Bandcamp page, which you can find here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Album Review: A Loss for Words/Such Gold - Split

Rating: B-
A Loss for Words and Such Gold come together for a 7" split through No Sleep and Mightier Than Sword Records. Though short, the release is great fun with a polished sound but a local band feel that fans of pop punk will definitely enjoy jamming out to.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Album Review: Red Orchid - Blood Vessels & Marshmallows

Album Rating: C+
Sanmeet Sidhu is the driving force behind Red Orchid - an experimental band, if anything. Red Orchid works on ever expanding their genre base, drawing influences from everything to progressive rock to post-rock, and stopping at quite a few good (and a few not so good) places along the way. The full-length debut fully shows each genre Sidhu borrows ideas from. However, the way he goes about it is both the best and worst part of the album. Although a creative idea to mash each of one's favorite genres into a unique musical sound, there's too much blending of ideas into Blood Vessels & Marshmallows, to the point of muddling the core of the album into too many different strains to follow.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Album Review: Jenny Hval - Viscera

Album Rating: A-
File under "Albums I wish I would have paid more attention to last year."  There's really no denying that Jenny Hval's Viscera should have not only made my end of the year list, but others' lists as well.  And sure, maybe too much stock is put into "The List," especially from self-proclaimed music critics such as myself, but recognition of an artist's work goes a long way in regards to promotion.  And believe me, this girl needs--and deserves--all the promotion she can get because Viscera is one of the freshest and most intriguing albums I have heard in a long, long time.

The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet

Although news articles and artist spotlights are supposed to be impartial, I cannot help but express my unfathomable excitment after hearing about the latest from my personal favorite band, The Mars Volta.  The last we heard from them was in mid 2009 when they dropped their fifth album, Octahedron, which was seen as their "acoustic album," although there was little acoustics used.  Since then the band has been mum on a release, aside from their typical "we've had our new album written for years!" schtick that continues to be more difficult to believe.  Yet here we are, three years later, and The Mars Volta have finally revieled details concerning their sixth album, Noctourniquet.

Not a whole lot is known about Noctourniquet, save for the track list, release date, and album cover.  And while that information would be enough coming from any other band, one cannot predict what The Mars Volta will do next.  They could reinvent pop, delve further into electronics, or even do death metal--there really is simply no way of knowing.  One could speculate, but chances are it would miss the mark.  After all, the jazz infused prog rock of Frances the Mute and De-loused in the Comatorium are a far cry from the alt-rock stylings of Octahedron.
My anticipation, interpreted by Cedric Bixler-Zavala himself
Yet it's the glorious uncertainty that always makes each release special; a fresh and exciting revelation that the listener is truly being treated to something new.  Noctourniquet drops on March 27th, and is definitely something to keep on radar.

1. The Whip Hand
2. Aegis
3. Dyslexicon
4. Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound
5. The Malkin Jewel
6. Lapochka
7. In Absentia
8. Imago
9. Molochwalker
10. Trinkets Pale Of Moon
11. Vedamalady
12. Noctourniquet
13. Zed And Two Naughts

Album Review: Matt Elliott - The Broken Man

Album Rating: B+
2012 has, by this writer's estimation at least, been a bit slow out of the blocks, but one thing that can't be argued with is that folk music has gotten off to a flyer. This week has seen the release of Swedish sisters First Aid Kit's stunning sophomore The Lion's Roar to virtually universal acclaim, and although it's passed somewhat under-the-radar by comparison, the same could be said of the new album from Bristol singer-songwriter Matt Elliott. I'll be honest, I don't profess to have much (if any) in depth knowledge regarding Elliott's expansive discography, nor that of The Third Eye Foundation, the electronic project that he was formerly involved in. I could fake omniscience, but I'd be made to look like a fool by someone who actually does know their stuff, so this review is very much from an outsider's point of view. What I can make clear, however, is that on The Broken Man his brand of "dark folk" works a treat, and makes for a record that's constantly rewarding and occasionally spellbinding.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Album Review: Spanish Prisoners- Gold Fools

Album Rating: B+
You always know what you want to be but you never are actually willing to become that person. The person who wants to have Spartan Abs for the New Year only goes to the gym for one day, the person who wants to recommit themselves to a religion gives up after one bad day, the Dad who is trying to become a better father gives up after he realizes that alcohol still exists, and the kid that says he is going to get better grades gives up after he realizes how hard it is to be a good student. You want to Brad Pitt until you realize being Brad Pitt requires taking the stairs, you might want to be Billy Graham until you realize that being Billy Graham requires trading your scarlet letters in for red letters, you might want to be a boy genius until you realize that you have to open a textbook, and you might want to be Bill Cosby until you realize that you have an absolutely awful Bill Cosby impression. We will always strive to be someone new but it is rare that we actually change into a new person because changing oneself requires work. Change is always on paper or up to perception instead of being seen in the eyes of other people.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Album Review: Big Deal - Lights Out

Album Rating: B+
It's been nearly thirty-five years since Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta graced listeners and viewers alike with their silver-screen performance of 'You're the One That I Want' on the 1978 film version of Grease; and while the overabundance of black spandex and flagrant expressions of desire seem more than a little cheesy in a modern viewing of the scene, the cutesy duet is wholly iconic in its own right.  This isn't to say that these tinsel-town lovebirds were the first to cash in on on the poppy pastiche afforded by the boy/girl combo; the jig is as old as pop music itself, they just so happened to make a statement of it.  Hence, it's pretty easy to see why so many couples have tried to follow in their wake since, ranging from Ross and Richie's 'Endless Love' to Jay-Z and Beyonce's relationship in general; and, on a lesser-known scale, manifest in such modern groups as Lemuria or appropriately-named She & Him.  Point is, if you're going to play the indie girl / melancholic boy card in 2012, you damn well better do it right.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Album Playlist: 1/23/12

There For Tomorrow - A Little Faster
(2009) (B+)
There For Tomorrow just feels criminally underrated to me. They're much better than the scene that they are associated with, and the bands that they tour with do nothing to remove those associations. A Little Faster shows that There For Tomorrow can create an extremely strong record, with not one weak song out of the eleven on the album. Maika Maile's vocals are powerful, and each of the band members' have tightened up their instrumental skills from the self-titled EP. With three ballads, a couple mid tempo anthems, and a bunch of uptempo rockers, A Little Faster is fantastic.
Key Tracks: "Stories", "Wish You Away", "The Remedy"
Recommended If You Like: Anberlin, Ivoryline

Album Review: Gonjasufi - MU.ZZ.LE

Album Rating: B
Gonjasufi (aka Sumach Ecks) has risen to the top in a considerably short time. Presenting us with his left-field entry album A Sufi and a Killer, Gonjasufi immediately found a sound that was all at once challenging and accessible. Splicing wispy, ethereal elements with his grimy vocals, Gonjasufi nestled into a cultural medium and exercised the dichotomy between restraint and release. Speaking of the title of his debut, Gonjasufi said, “The Sufi side of life has helped me with my killer side so I try not to attach myself to any label. There's a Sufi and a killer in everybody, man.” And that sentiment is apparent all throughout said album, specifically in the contrast between the more jaded, emotionally driven tracks (“She Gone”) and the happier moods set (“Klowds”). Choosing to produce his new album on his own (without the talents of LA producer Gaslamp Killer), MU.ZZ.LE takes a considerably different direction and focuses more on mood (on the surface, at least).

Album Review: Matt Pryor - May Day

Album Rating: B+
Matt Pryor, a name known to many a troubled 90's youth, has been fairly active as of late. Not only will The Get-Up Kids have up and coming tour dates, but The New Amsterdams will see a compilation, and a not-yet-announced project with friends of Pryor will see the light of day as well. However, the forward motion of this rolling stone begins with May Day, the second solo release in Pryor's solo, acoustic folk effort. Each of the songs has a heartfelt quality about them, and that's not just because half of the songs sound like lo-fi recordings from a dinghy room lit by a single, bare bulb, but more the bright, uplifting yet quiet, melancholy aspects that the songs seem to portray. Pryor's creativity comes bursting out of May Day with great gusto, impressive not only from an album written, recorded, and mixed in a month, but for any indie effort period.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

MuzikDizcovery Recreations: Mansions - Blackest Sky

We're starting a new series here on MuzikDizcovery called MuzikDizcovery Recreations. Bands will be recreating their own tracks by changing the arrangements, tempo, or other things, or by covering a song in their own style. If you want to be part of this series, please email me at, and we will work this out.

Before Mansions' show at Jammin Java on January 20th, Chris sat down with us to be part of the first edition of MuzikDizcovery Recreations. He decided to recreate the crunchy distorted guitars of "Blackest Sky" with a little keyboard, which you can watch below. You can also watch a video (taken from Youtube) of him performing "Blackest Sky" in the original way. Let us know what you think of the recreated version in the comments. Check out Mansions on Facebook here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Daily Blair: Spotlighting Vess

By now you guys know how much I love the last few minutes of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android," how much I love the songwriting on Bright Eyes I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, how I tend not to have any clothes on anytime I hear anything off of Abbey Road, how much I want to cry anything I hear a song of the Antlers' Hospice, how Frank Turner single handedly made me question everything I thought I knew, how awkward it is when I dance to "Otis," and how much Ryan Adams reminds me of the new Facebook timeline.

Even though I love all of this music, it isn't really the reason I listen to music. We all know how good Radiohead is because we have been listening to them for years, we all know that Conor Oberst will make bulimic teenage girls go crazy for years to come, we all know how good of musicians three of the Beatles were, we all know that the Antlers will continue to make some beautiful and depressing songs, we all know that Frank Turner will continue to be the man,we all know that Jay-Z and Kanye will continue to inspire my rapping career (B-Hizzle,) and we all now that Ryan Adams musical career will be about as consistent as Mandy Moore's acting career.

Album Review: First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar

Album Rating: A
When First Aid Kit emerged from the shadows with their Drunken Trees EP almost four years ago, you always got the impression that their name was set to stick around for the considerable future. Ok, that debut release and subsequent album The Big Black And The Blue did pass by largely without fuss, but such was the obvious talent at work it didn't take much working out that Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg were destined for bigger things. As such, it comes as little surprise that they've pulled the stops with this sophomore effort, building expertly upon their strengths all while snuffing out what few weaknesses they had, with the end product being something of a modern folk classic.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Album Playlist: 1/18/12

Mae - The Everglow
(2005) (A)
The Everglow is a top five favorite album of all time to me. The entire record is perfectly flowing from one song to the next, and every single song is extremely memorable. "We're So Far Away" is one of the best piano ballads ever. Honestly, this record has zero weaknesses, though it doesn't hit me as hard as Everything In Transit and Leaving Through The Window do.
Key Tracks: This is not an album to listen to individual tracks to, but if you really want some, "The Everglow", "We're So Far Away", "Someone Else's Arms"

Recommended If You Like: Piano supported, guitar based pop rock. Really though, everyone should be able to love this album.

Check below the jump for one of my favorite records of 2011 by Those Dancing Days and Mayday Parade's comeback record.

The Daily Blair: The "Get Laid" Playlist Theory

I know you. All you want out of your day is to get your school work done, you want to watch your favorite sports team or TV show, you want to have a brew with a few of your bros, you want to read Eli Kleman's thoughts on some awesome new album, and you want the company of a handsome lady. You feel like you should be able to accomplish all of this in one day but you always seem to strike out when it comes to scoring that mermaid. Let me help you.

The problem you are having is that you like music by artist that are not Gaga, artist who are neither slim nor shady, artist who refuse to kiss you through the phone, and artist who actually have some sort of musical talent. Once the female hears that you like music that is not on "Shit Songs 107.1" she immediately considers you to be a weird person who she could not carry on a romantic relationship with. She needs a man who makes 250K a year not a man who has 250,000 different versions of "Reckoner." Once you admit that you are not a radio robot, all hope seems to be lost.

Artist Spotlight: Sleepy Hahas

Influences.  Revival.  The two terms get thrown haphazardly around the realms of creating and critiquing music to the point that their significance and implications are rarely even considered.  Yet, I find it impossible not to assert that influence and revival are EVERYTHING.  Any modern music is derivative of past and current efforts, that much is obvious, hence the importance in whose wake a band will tread, hence the unquestionable gravity in which sounds they choose to revive and incorporate into their own product.  And if Buffalo, NY's Sleepy Hahas have done one thing right thus far, it's that they've chosen wisely.  Not their bandmates, not their name, not the design of their first tee shirt, but their influences.

Citing such influences ranging from Queens of the Stone Age to staple indie rock duo The Black Keys to the (sadly) now-defunct White Stripes, Sleepy Hahas have obviously aimed to emulate mastery with their music.  But they don't just leave it at admiration and name-dropping, they deliver big with debut EP Cranberry Juice and Battery Acid, demonstrating their own proficiency in the craft of hard-hitting, bluesy rock and roll.  From the ambient riffs of opener 'Blackest Sunshine' to the grungy undertones atop which 'Little Girl' triumphs and finally to an epic 8-minute finisher in 'Hazeltine Hymn', Cranberry Juice and Battery Acid stands resolute as a product of four kids with a knack for well-founded jams.

Hear Cranberry Juice and Battery Acid in its entirety on their Bandcamp, or check them out over on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Album Playlist: 1/17/12

With the announcement of SPIN Reviews, a twitter account run by SPIN reviewers to push out 140 character max reviews, the art of the review has become much less sophisticated than it has been in the past. But while the descriptions are much less in depth, it allows the writers to talk about a larger amount of albums in a shorter time. I'm now going to introduce the Album Playlist feature to the site, where I will grade and put a short description of the albums I listen to on a specific day. All grades are subject to change, as they will be based off all the listens of the album up to the specific date of the article. Grades will be based on the letter scale as used on the site, but borderline grades (B+/B, B-/C+) will be included. Read below for impressions of Houston Calls' best album, as well as two The Rocket Summer classics.

Houston Calls - A Collection Of
Short Stories
(2005) (B)
Houston Calls is (probably) reuniting. So I had to take a listen to A Collection Of Short Stories for the first time in a while. It's definitely a fun listen, perfect for working out or driving. The catchy hooks are only amplified by the synth lines. But while the tracks do blend together, there isn't a poor moment in the album.
Key Tracks: "Exit, Emergency", "Bob and Bonnie"
Recommended If You Like: Pop punk that leans to the poppy side that is full of synths and keys, a la Motion City Soundtrack or Farewell.

Album Review: Pulled Apart By Horses - Tough Love

Album Rating: B
Pulled Apart By Horses are one of those bands that are neither here nor there. Too hard to be rock, yet not hard enough to be hardcore, they manage to teeter on the edges of established genre boundaries without possessing a sound that's especially unconventional or out-the-box my any means. No matter, the music that they make is rarely less than enthralling, as evidenced on their fun-as-hell self-titled debut LP released in 2010. Admittedly, live is where they earn the majority of their beans (and money), but that record was nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable listen from a band who seem to be in it for the right reasons, that is, to have fun, and to deliver as much for those paying attention. In every sense, follow-up Tough Love delivers on exactly the same fronts, and as such can be viewed as a similar success.

Album Review: The Saddest Landscape - After the Lights

Album Rating: B
Although Boston emo act, The Saddest Landscape, has been creating music for the better part of a decade, it hasn’t been until recently that the band has “broken out,” earning praise and prominence befitting their impressive track record.  2010’s You Will Not Survive was essentially the full realization of the band’s mixing of old and new: the aggressive emo stylings of Orchid and Saetia, with the more modern post-hardcore Pianos Become the Teeth.  Messy, yet impassioned, the album was a step in the right direction in regards to songwriting, adding even more layers of melody and dissonance to an already meaty sound.  Thankfully, The Saddest Landscape has stayed the course, offering up yet another fantastically solid record with their latest release, After the Lights.

Artist Spotlight: The Audacity of Youth

The Audacity of Youth is the moniker of nineteen year old Indiana musician Joey Wanczyk, who will release "And I Loved You", the first single off of his upcoming album, Departed, on January 26th. Wanczyk, who cites artists such as Bjork, Kate Bush, and Current 93 as his influences, creates a unique atmosphere with his calming ambient arrangements and soft vocals. "And I Loved You" is an especially interesting track, featuring nothing but a calming drone that sounds like William Basinski meets School of Seven Bells with Wanczyk lightly chanting the songs interesting lyrics. The single comes with a similar B-side, "God, Save The Queen", which features a simple and subtle organ melody, which again is accompanied by Wanczyk alone. The Audacity of Youth also has an ep released earlier last year, entitled Fallout, which hinted at the sound that Wanczyk had been moving towards. His latest single shows much promise for Departed, which according to Wanczyk will be released towards the end of 2012. Listen to "God, Save The Queen" below.


Monday, January 16, 2012

The Daily Blair: Martin Luther King Jr Day and Freedom

Today we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr's birthday with parades, music, dancing, conversation, and lots of basketball games. I still always have felt like we owe this important of a man and this important of a movement more than just a single day though. We owe freedom more than a parade, we owe equality more than a song, we owe opportunity more than a dance, we owe dreams more than one conversation, and we owe Civil Rights more than one dribble of a basketball. So I have tried to do my part by putting together a list of songs over the past 42 years that have demonstrated Martin Luther King Jr's message of freedom, opportunity, equality, and Civil Rights.*

*Songs that do not have descriptions are just awesome songs*

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Album Review: Anthony Green - Beautiful Things

Album Rating: B+
It isn't too terribly difficult to notice that Anthony Green's career thus far has essentially been the antithesis to that of former label-mate Jonny Craig.  Though both are (generally) heralded as unique, show-stealing vocalists in their respective genres, Green has certainly handled his talents more appropriately. Where Craig fell ungracefully out of favor with bandmates in potential-laden Dance Gavin Dance, only then to flop desperately around the scene - first in trying to fan the flame of some far less impressive groups (including his own solo work) then in fronting a pathetically executed internet scam - Green made some much less juvenile moves.  After leaving a promising young Saosin, the talented young Pennsylvanian founded Circa Survive back in 2004 and damn well ran with it, pumping out a triad of very well-received LP's over the next seven years, and doing so alongside side projects and solo work.  Beautiful Things is but the next well-placed manifestation of said solo efforts, effectively sating the palates of eager fans anticipating news of an additional Circa Survive release.

Album Review: Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory

Album Rating: A
Maturity is a very loosely interpreted term used in reference to music. What exactly makes a band mature? When reading criticism it is notable that maturity tends to be directly proportional to the somberness of the music. When The National released High Violet back in 2010 to shining reviews, writers threw the term 'maturity' a lot, solely because the music was significantly less upbeat than their previous efforts, almost as if the members themselves had grown up (despite most of them being in ther 40's). But when I think of a bands maturation, I think of them as finally finding their sound and defining who they are as musicians, which I think is how the term should be interpreted. In this sense, 20 year old Dylan Baldi's pop-punk outfit Cloud Nothings, hailing from nothing but a knack for catchy pop hooks and some lo-fi recording equipment and evolving into a dark, jam-prone emo powerhouse on their sophomore effort, Attack On Memory, has definitely matured in every sense of the term.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Album Review: The Maccabees - Given To The Wild

Album Rating: B-
It's difficult to explain to outsiders, but here in the UK we have fierce pride in our country's musical heritage which has led to an unyielding affinity to our own bands, especially those of a guitar wielding variety. From this derives our neigh on obsessive urge to uncover the next great British guitar band, and it's for that reason that when one does step to the fore we dose ourselves in satisfaction more than perhaps any other nation. Given To The Wild is scripted as the record which will elevate it's creators, Brighton five piece The Maccabees to such lofty heights. According to some, it will gain them acclaim worldwide from fans and critics alike, reinstating our nation's place at the top of the musical tree and will see them ride on a wave of commercial success currently unprecedented for a band of their ilk.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Daily Blair: Fitter. Happier. Ok. Computer.

It takes something really special to leave me speechless. A reverse dunk might leave me speechless, a beautiful woman that actually talks to me might leave me speechless, an eye opening "bring me to my knees" religious experience might leave me speechless, or a surprisingly tragic event in my life might leave me in a sad speechless state. It seems like I am always writing or talking about something that is of minor importance to everyone but me and that is just the way it has always been and especially when it comes to music.

But I have to confess that OK Computer has always left me speechless and with an awkward case of writer's block. I feel like whatever I write about OK Computer will not even come close to doing it justice. I felt scared that I would never be able to describe the breathtaking beauty of just about every song on this album, I felt like whatever I wrote would be an insult to something so magnificent, like my every word would be the neutering of the musical version of Michelangelo's David, I felt like every organized paragraph would be an slap in the face to the most beautiful faceless thing I have ever seen or heard, and I felt like anything I described would just be scrutinized to the point of no return. Ok Computer has always been the "jump over the car" dunk that makes you question the very existence of gravity, it has always been the girl so symmetrically perfect that her muttering "hi" is like rounding third base with a angel, and it has always been the car crash that left you bleeding on the concrete yet took you to pearly gates afterwards. Ok Computer has always been too magnificent for speech or even a whisper. Maybe it is because its sheer existence is the only review or words it has ever needed.

Album Review: Howler - America Give Up

Album Rating: B+
A warning in advance: if you're not a fan of reviews which repeatedly reference and make comparisons to other bands, then you're probably best off stopping here. Such an approach can admittedly often seem lazy and somewhat dismissive, but the fact of the matter is that it's simply not possible to give an accurate account of these Minneapolis newcomer's music without making parallels with acts already established. Let's get this out the way; Howler couldn't sound more like The Strokes if they tried. Hey, maybe they do try; that would certainly go some way towards explaining why they've chosen lo-fi garage rock with vocals which sound like they've been recorded from within a tin as a career path, but in all fairness, they execute their aping of the New York legends with considerable style.

Album Review: Black Taxi - We Don't Know Any Better

Album Rating: A-
Every so often, a little known band comes out with an album which begs one to question how they remain in such obscurity. Black Taxi's second, We Don't Know Any Better is one of those records. Having already made a name for themselves on New York's underground circuit, the Brooklyn quartet excelled on debut set Things Of That Nature, playing a brand of indie pop which was vibrant, exciting and at times sensational. Even more impressive, though is the extent to which this sophomore betters it's predecessor, showcasing the rapid progression of this excellent group of musicians and displaying just why they're one of the most exciting bands currently doing the rounds.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Artist Spotlight: The Saddest Landscape

The Saddest Landscape has been making a name for itself since its 2010 album, You Will Not Survive.  And although I personally really dug the dark, melancholy feel, I'll admit it didn't tear down conventions.  What it did do, however, was display the potential of a wonderfully creative group of young men.

You Will Not Survive was pretty much the definition of a solid album, coasting along and never resting on its laurels.  It was enough to garner the attention of a lot of followers of the genre, with the "blogoshere" chatting about them for the last several months.  All of this talk is mainly about the band's upcoming record, After the Lights.  With the short time I've spent with the album, I can safely say this is something one may want to keep on radar.  It retains the fierce, murky undertones of their previous record, while adding some beautiful sections as well.  It's powerful stuff for sure, but for those who've been following the band, that shouldn't come as a surprise.

After the Lights will be dropping on February 14th, so be sure to check it out then!


And check out a bit of You Will Not Survive here, if you have not already.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Interview With Aficionado

Amongst the sadness that is Thursday's last tour as a band, the tour also features a couple of rising gems. Aficionado is one of those bands, as they recently released their first record on No Sleep Records, which got a pretty solid review from MuzikDizcovery, as well as landing on Kyle Spalding's favorite albums of the year list. The band agreed to sit down with us and answer some questions, involving the No Sleep Records subscription, having a flautist in the band, having seven members in the band, the band's upcoming writing process in February, and much much more, which you can read below.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Daily Blair: America!

For today's edition of the Daily Blair I tried to give you a song that I think perfectly describes or defines every state. I even included some descriptions!

Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Sweet Home Alabama"

Nothing symbolizes southern pride more effectively than Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." In one of the greatest non rap "beefs" ever, Skynyrd completely roasted Neil Young and his hippie ballad "Southern Man" on "Sweet Home Alabama." SHA is everything we love and hate about the south and Alabama in one song: it is southern hospitality yet southern racism, it is beautiful southern weather yet the vicious cloud of southern racism, and it is big hooks yet every weaker lyrics in the verse. SHA like the south has strengths in its weaknesses and weaknesses in its strengths.

Sun Kil Moon - "Trucker's Atlas"

Sun Kil Moon's cover of "Trucker Atlas" just gives you a very "Alaska feel." It is about traveling, fishing, finding "sex on the rocks," and making sure that all of this simpleness somehow makes you feel never ending happiness. Alaska is a state that advertises itself based off its coolness and simplicity. Nothing represents this coolness and this simplicity better than "Trucker's Atlas".

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Fievel

The name Fievel has been floating around ReverbNation and Facebook for a little bit, and I just caught onto it today. After I did a bit of research, I found that this little gem of a band was established online very recently, and that the project hailing from Norfolk, VA only has one song to support their name. Fortunately for them, that one song, "The Beginning of Wisdom", has enough promise to push Fievel to at least a debut EP or album, where they can further establish their name.

Fievel characterizes their sound as indie / instrumental, and I feel that's pretty spot on. There isn't synth use at all in the song, but rather a heavy utilization of piano and guitar, alternately. The song has post-rock qualities, such as the slow vamping and the beautiful repetition of the main theme, but ultimately, it doesn't really feel like post-rock is what Fievel is aiming for. With "The Beginning of Wisdom", they set a niche for a specific sound, with ethereal effects made by reverbing and distorting guitar, and I think it works wonderfully for them. I'm very anxious to see what else stems from such a strong beginning, but for now, we'll have to wait and see.

You can check out Fievel on their main site, at ReverbNation, or on FaceBook.

Album Review: The Story So Far - Under Soil and Dirt

Album Rating: B-
Newcomers in the scene The Story So Far plant their flag with their debut Under Soil and Dirt. Recently scooped up by Pure Noise Records, the album was released June 21st. An energetic and relentless effort, it is difficult not to enjoy what The Story So Far has to offer.

Under Soil and Dirt is largely power chord driven pop punk. Though it is pretty generic, some of the lead lines and song structures are interesting enough to keep your attention. Every song hits with high gain guitars and pummeling drumming, but The Story So Far had the maturity to provide the listener with numerous laid back breaks, giving the hooks a bit of room to breathe. Though by the end of the record Under Soil and Dirt feels a bit monotonous, it’s hard to deny that the hooks aren’t enjoyable. I consistently find myself tapping my foot to "Daughters".

Sean's Top 10 Albums of 2011

10 | Giraffes? Giraffes! - Pink Magick
The demented and chaotic nature of Giraffes? Giraffes! third full length, Ping Magick, is accurately described in just about everything concerning the album except for the music. everything from the absurd track titles to the pretty pink and green explosion of an album cover captures everything that Pink Magick is all about. The band consists of nothing but a guitarist and a drummer, but the monstrosity of tracks such as "DRGNFKR" sounds like something that could not have been done by two musicians alone. Pick Magick is an extraordinary accomplishment for math rock and is easily one of the finest works to come out of this year.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Daily Blair: An NFL Playoff Musical

Hey the NFL Playoffs are coming up! So I am going to compare every NFL playoff team to a 2012 album.

1. SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: New Orleans Saints

2012 album that reminds me of the New Orleans Saints: Fun.- Some Nights

On Aim and Ignite, Fun. was the Pittsburgh Steelers: they combined old school influences (Beach Boys and Queen) with new school ideas and execution. The Pittsburgh Steelers love to run the ball and deal out helmet to helmet hits like it is 1965 (Beach Boys and Queen) but they also have one of the best passing games in the league led by nightclub enthusiast Ben Roethlisberger (new school ideas and execution.) A&I had something for everyone to love just like the Pittsburgh Steelers have something for everyone to hate.

This year Fun. seem to be focused on perfecting a modern sound: "We Are Young" is a beat driven anthem that kind of sounds like a tamer version of "Baby Girl, I'm A Blur," "WTF" is a five minute uncensored version of "At Least I'm Not As Sad As I Used To Be," "Carry On"sounds like a 2011 remixed song off of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and "It Gets Better" has the chance to have the generational impact that "Imagine" had over thirty years ago. So while Fun. has not totally forgotten their old school influences they seem to be using less and less of these influences to make their next modern masterpiece. The new fun. album is the Saints modern offense that passes over fifty times a game then sneaks in a draw to Darren Sproles to keep the defense on their toes. Some Nights will make Fun. the biggest band in the world just like the Saints passing offense made them the best team in the National Football League.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Album Review: Daylight - The Difference In Good And Bad Dreams (EP)

EP Rating: B
The problem with an overcrowded genre isn't the sheer number of identical sounding bands within, rather the difficulties facing newer acts looking to make an impression within it's field. What approach do you take when there are literally thousands of others out there seeking an answer to the same troublesome conundrum? The obvious response is to try something different, but given that so much ground has already been mapped it's hardly easy for fresh faces to embark on territory which hasn't already been exhausted. The risks associated with pushing the boundaries are also considerable, and as such many simply choose to stick with what they, and so many others, know and remain within the genre's established walls. One could argue that this does nothing but worsen the issue of saturation to which they were trying to find a solution to in the first place, but while these acts are by no means helping the style progress, their stance can be more than justified if they simply deliver their plan with greater conviction and, of course, quality than anyone else.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Album Review: Loma Prieta - I.V.

Album Rating: A
Lately, I’ve been finding it somewhat difficult to properly pen my thoughts on music, instead opting to either go through the motions, or simply lose what few words I had to begin with.  Whether it be from the complete ineffectuality of an album, or simply my utter disinterest, music has become increasingly difficult for me to discuss.  It happens from time to time, but every so often an album comes along that makes the words flow; a work that gets so much right that I’m absolutely compelled to spew my collective thoughts and opinions.  Loma Prieta’s I.V is one such album, and the refreshing vindication of a band that’s been almost there for far too long.

Album Review: Whores. - Ruiner

Album Rating: B+
On any given night, Christian Lembach suffers anywhere between two and seven brain aneurysms; there's about a 35% chance that Travis Owen's drumsticks formerly played the roles of his tibiae; Jake Shultz's bass amp has caused clinical deafness in at least two dozen people.  While none of the preceding statements are based whatsoever in fact, a listen or two through Ruiner just might get you wondering.  The five-track debut EP from Gainesville's Whores. displays the trio's uncanny ability to put their angst, anguish, and general discontent into an audial form best described as a septum-bashing, and to do so without any gimmicks, frills, or blood-stained death-masks.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: A Look Ahead

Great Expectations... will 2012
be the year that The Gaslight
Anthem become huge?
Ah, finally it's 2012, and thank Christ - no more end of year lists!

Yes, the obligatory avalanche of retrospective madness has finally ran it's course, and at long last we can begin looking ahead at what the new year has to offer. And wouldn't you know it, even a cursory glance over the coming months reveals plenty that's worth getting excited about.

As well as the obvious big names and returning old favourites, there are also legions of newer acts hoping to make an impression with debut releases, while others who have already completed that opening hurdle will be looking to kick on and really establish themselves within the industry. So, with a run through the early year release schedule, as well as a few well educated pieces of guesswork, let's cast our minds ahead and behold what could well be another year of stellar musical achievement...

Album Review: Moons - Moons Discography

Album Rating: B
Moons Discography, from Ghost and Demons Records is one of the most enigmatic records I've heard in a long time.  Most notably is its completely bewildering tags, that in all honesty, do not fit the music at all.  On the band's bandcamp, Nathan's music is described as being in the vein of emo and post hardcore, whilst sharing little if anything with either genre.  Confusing genre tags aside, Moons has created an all around intriguing album, blending sounds from across the musical spectrum into one very well produced package.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Album Retrospective: Sun Kil Moon - Tiny Cities

Album Rating: A
I usually hate everything about covers. I hate the idea of "stealing" someones work for your own personal gain, I hate the idea of claiming that you changed that work enough to make it your own, and I hate the idea of every artist in the free world botching "Let It Be." Covers to me have always been an admission of an artists lack of creativity or even worse a shameless admission that the artist you are covering is more talented than you are. Covers for me were always an excuse instead of being actual art.