Monday, December 27, 2010

Song of the Day 12: Radiohead - I Might Be Wrong

Radiohead had a lot to live up to after the release of their masterpiece in 2000, Kid A. Fortunately for them, they're a band who delivers. Amnesiac was recorded at the same time as the aforementioned record and it shows. There is the definite electronic influence, but with a bit more rock added into the mix. Track five of the record, "I Might Be Wrong" is one of the signature smooth, but still powerful songs that Radiohead has always been wonderful at crafting. Like many of the songs on Amnesiac, it starts simplistic but slowly progresses into a layered and expertly produced look into Radiohead's psyche. They've always been a tad bit strange, but "I Might Be Wrong" shows them at their strangest - and that's a beautiful thing.

While We're Young Review

It's odd how appropriate the album art for Pegasus Bridge's debut LP, While We're Young is. The young boy wearing the get-up of a full grown business man is almost a self-aware message of what's to come from the record - a mostly young band trying to show themselves off as seasoned veterans in order to get their name into the industry. They wear a indie-pop veneer akin to that of a watered down version of The Killers but with a lot less gaudy theatrics to make themselves an easier pill to swallow for newer audiences. As unappealing as that may sound they manage to not break the barrier between catchy pop music and unbearably polished radio-electronics. For the first track, "Like Dogs", we receive the utilization of the classic clap-along beat to hook us and an explosive chorus to reel us in. The tried and true methods of former British indie-pop groups both help the group establish their voice, while ultimately bogging them down with their lack of variation and unwillingness to try anything fresh or unique. For a debut LP, While We're Young is everything that Pegasus Bridge desires it to be, but never quite reaches the heights that the band seems capable of.

But in a scene so easy to please, what sense does it make to try to break the mold? They provide the energy and the catchy tunes to make radio stations jump all over them, as well as a young luster to make them a band young listeners pine for. With the electronic fueled energy of "Ribena" (paired with an acoustic version for the sake of filler) sure to be a hit, along with the sing-along appeal of "Yoko" (also paired with an alternate version), there is a definite appeal to the group in terms of just pure fun, but the lyricism leaves much to be desired. The snappy drum beats and swift guitar licks try their best to make up for lines like "She gets jealous when I'm away/I've got nothing else left to say/Yoko Ono" but unfortunately fall very short. As much as the catchiness of While We're Young begs to be embraced, it barely holds its own in the overwhelming number of bands trying to do the same. However, there still remains potential for the young band, so here's hoping Pegasus Bridge takes up the challenge. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Song of the Day 11: The Nightmare Before Christmas - What's This?

Merry Christmas, now I go back to eating ham.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Song of the Day 10: Brand New - Luca

Brand New has never been a band known to compose the most cheerful songs in the world, however on their now adored third LP The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, the emotion they convey is nearly pure dread. It's sorrowful, dark, and brooding, but still it finds a way to be completely capturing. Track nine of the record, "Luca" is easily one of the best that Brand New has done to date, as it builds slowly and explodes with raw energy toward the end, much like many of the tracks throughout the rest of the record. Jesse Lacey's wonderful vocal control building up to the blowup, as well as the smooth guitar at the begging all make this track memorable as well as moving. Without a doubt one of the top tracks of the record.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Song of the Day 9: Glassjaw - Ape Dos Mil

"Ape Dos Mil" is one of those strange songs that lasts more than five minutes, but doesn't feel like more than three. Perhaps it's the change in flow and tempo throughout the song that keeps it interesting or perhaps the creeping instrumentals that carry the listener with ease. No matter the case, it's a fantastic song that encompasses practically everything that Glassjaw's critically acclaimed Worship and Tribute has to offer. Some really fantastic instrumentation paired with solid lyricism and the strange vocal work by Daryl Palumbo makes "Ape Dos Mil" an enjoyable listen and a nice sample of what Glassjaw has to offer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Song of the Day 8: Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union

Titus Andronicus is inspiring in the strangest of ways. In every single aspect of their personality, they should be shunned. They're angry, depressed, and plagued with what appears to alcoholism - but yet they perform music in such a riveting and grandiose fashion that one can't help but be attached immediately. The speech from Abraham Lincoln at the beginning of track one of The Monitor is a wonderful entrance to what comes for the rest of the record. "A More Perfect Union" is Titus Andronicus in a not-so-miniscule nutshell. Patrick Stickles throws himself onto the audience with pure force and exhilaration to declare one thing - Titus Andronicus is a name you better know. By the end of the record, you'll know damn well.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Song of the Day 7: Thrice - Between The End And Where We Lie

I'm a sucker for catchy drum beats. There's something in the rhythmic pounding of a snare drum that hooks into my brain so easily, and because of this Thrice's "Between the End and Where We Lie" couldn't escape my mind after a single listen. This paired with the ever-smooth vocals of Dustin Kensrue setting the subtly intense atmosphere of the beginning of the song up until it explodes with the chorus and sustains that energy until the creeping conclusion makes it a very fulfilling listen. Everything about this song works so well and is a real gem in Thrice's Vheissu, an album certainly worth your time.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Song of the Day 6: Person L - Untitled

Kenny Vasoli's shout to begin the inspiring "Untitled" is so goddamn energizing that sometimes I can't help myself from starting the song over just to feel that rush again. His newest band, Person L, stemmed from the pop-punk stars The Starting Line, but they couldn't be any more different. This group has a much more focused indie sound which works well with Vasoli's vocal style as he is able to flow easily with the melodies that the group backing him stirs up. However the pinnacle of their abilities is shown superbly on the aforementioned title-less song, as it explodes with such pure force and energy that it's almost a testament to Vasoli's shift from his former work. From one of the best records of 2009, "Untitled" is by-far one of the best songs that Person L has created.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Song of the Day 5: Alkaline Trio - San Fransisco

In Alkaline Trio's earlier days, Matt Skiba could have easily been labeled as one of the greatest lyricists in punk rock. On his group's debut LP, Goddamnit, he sings about hate, love, drugs, and drunken mistakes - everything that would become the band's forte. Arguably the best track on the record, "San Fransisco" contains everything that makes Alkaline Trio so alluring. Skiba's heartfelt and passionate shouts for his hometown break the rough exterior that he creates with the angrier tracks on the record, showing a different side to him. It's his ability to express himself so easily, but with such lyrical finesse that makes him one of the best in the industry. Now if he could only bring back the writer we knew from his early years.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Song of the Day 4: The National - Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

It would be a fair argument to say that The National are the reason why modern indie isn't completely dead. For the years proceeding the release of their 2005 LP, Alligator, they've been releasing wonderful albums one after another with no signs of slowing down. On their 2010 release, High Violet, they again cement their place among the best of indie rockers in the scene today with its pristine production value and beautifully bleak instrumentation and lyricism throughout it. The final track on the aforementioned record, "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks", is a beautiful portrayal of The National's talents. The slow, melodious melody paired with Matt Berninger mellow vocals swell as the song progresses with strings and crashes of the cymbals bringing it to a wonderful conclusion. It is a superb end to the record and one of my favorite tracks of the year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Song of the Day 3: Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man

The moment that Mumford & Sons' lead single, "Little Lion Man", hit the radio, there has been an almost constant buzz surrounding them. Garnering the attention of record labels around the globe and hitting the number one spot on several stations, they have literally blown up in the music world with their attempted resurrection of classic folk techniques. "Little Lion Man" is the most prominent and well known track on their debut LP, Sigh No More, and for good reason. It is ridiculously catchy. Lead man Marcus Mumford (for which the band is named) has a wonderful voice for the folk style he's attempting to pull off - and mixed with the banjo and madolin, they succeed with a surprising authenticity. Sure, it didn't need any more hype, but I sort of have a soft spot for catchy music.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Song of the Day 2: Bon Iver - Flume

Justin Vernon, lead man of Bon Iver, is a unique gift to the modern indie scene. On his group's debut LP (which was mostly composed by Vernon himself), he utilizes his soulful and dreary voice to craft a cold and desolate atmosphere which is most excellently displayed on track one, "Flume". The soft strumming of the acoustic guitar with a quiet humming in the background is all that's needed to encapsulate what the record is composed of. Vernon's vocal delivery sustains the perfect amount of exasperation and anxiety to capture the derelict and distraught feeling that went into his recordings from a lonely cabin in Wisconsin. If anything, it's a relaxing tune for a cold winter day huddled inside watching the snow drift past the windows.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sandpaintings Review

As futile as the question may be, I always find it interesting to ask somebody why they listen to the music they do. Whether it is just for fun, relaxation, motivation, or even therapy, everybody has their own reasons for what they enjoy. The reasons for me are as diverse as anybody's - it's all entirely dependent on the mood I'm in and the music that comes along with it. Angry? A little Alkaline Trio goes a long way. Happy? Why not some Bomb The Music Industry! to accentuate it? As of recently I've come to discover that at night, when the sounds of the world flush themselves out and all that can be heard is the call of a train in the distance or crickets on the windowsill, the soft, flowing sounds of Stag Hare's Sandpaintings are exactly what I crave. The atmosphere that Garrick Biggs' creates with his plethora of sounds and instruments contains the slow, tender feel of a warm summer night, watching as the stars shine impeded only by lonely clouds passing by. His simplistic methods of crafting music through synth, subtle chimes and drum pats is impressive in the ways that it captures the ear so easily, while still being relatively stripped down in its presentation. It's this straightforward, yet still technically impressive methodology that helps Biggs' sophomore effort excel at not only providing a superbly relaxing experience, but also proving that it doesn't take a mass of substance to help an album devoid of lyrics be capturing in its own right.

The slow, creeping start to the first of two tracks on Sandpaintings, "Holy Person", contains the general feel of what's to come for the rest of the album. When described in simple terms, the entirety of the two tracks sounds nothing short of boring; but under certain circumstances it can really grasp you. Soft picks of a guitar and the gentle patting of bongos over the rising and falling hum in the background is all that is needed to keep the song flowing like a calm stream moving almost silently behind whistling grass. The same goes for track two, "Holy Wind", which utilizes the same tiny variations to attempt to capture the same peacefulness that Biggs is so talented at creating. For what it's trying to be, Sandpaintings excels in nearly every aspect. Biggs isn't trying to become the next superstar flooding the radios; he simply wants to create the music he is passionate about. Isn't that what we all want from an artist, anyway? We all have our own reasons for listening to what fits us, and when we hear somebody who is passionate about it, we cling to it like fresh dew on the morning grass. Lay back and allow Sandpaintings to flow over you, and perhaps you'll feel what Biggs did while creating it.

Song Of The Day 1: The Chariot - David De La Hoz

Before the release of their 2010 LP, Long Live, The Chariot were never the band to break any barriers or shatter any formulas. They were your typical metalcore band, and a reasonably good one at that, but they never moved past what lead singer Josh Scogin established with his previous band Norma Jean. However, on their aforementioned 2010 release, he finally took his group in a new direction, while still staying somewhat the same. Along with the tried and true methods of their previous record, Wars and Rumors of Wars, they incorporate interesting additions to their music and this is perfectly summarized on their first single, "David De La Hoz". Accompanied by the pounding drums and suffocating guitars, there's the appearance of Dan Smith (of Listener) who jumps in mid-song for a spoken-word surprise. His poetry adds wonderfully to the song, creating a contrast not often seen in recent metalcore tunes. Along with this, there's the soft, atmospheric harp and harmony at the end to flow smoothly into the next track of the album. These unique features help separate The Chariot from the rest of the modern metalcore scene, which is certainly in need of a little variety.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wooden Heart Review

It's an interesting sensation when after listening to album time after time, something finally clicks. It's as if something was hiding beneath the notes and words that your ears couldn't register until another twenty plays on a song, or perhaps just another play through the record. While the occurrence is fairly commonplace in music, it still remains perplexing the way music can grow on you, and this exact sensation came with Listener's 2010 LP, Wooden Heart. Led by Dan Smith, Listener is one of the more unique bands hiding in the poetic indie underground. They utilize a style, which Smith named "Talk Music", which is more a poetic reciting than a standard musical structure.  This may be rather off-putting upon first listen, but it soon begins to grow a rather intimate feel to it, feeling as if you've known Dan Smith for years after hearing the record. He shouts passionately in his disjointed manor, his voice twitching and jumping sporadically with the lyrics, but it adds a certain intensity which slowly grows and builds as the album swells until its passionate conclusion. The substance is there and the poetry is remarkable in the way it flows effortlessly, but for the listener it may take several efforts to fully digest what Wooden Heart offers -- and therein lies its beauty.

The record begins with a timid plucking of the banjo, supplying all that is needed for Dan Smith to enter with his shouts in a charming southern twang. His manner of singing, or rather speaking, is what makes this record so appealing. It strays away from natural and flowing vocal work for a more personal and passionate touch much like that of mewithoutYou's Aaron Weiss. However strange it may appear on the surface, it's his vocal work that holds the record together. The poetry he shouts could be told in a variety of ways, but this raw, unrestrained style helps slam the message and emotion across. This holds most true on "Seatbelt Hands", where the story of a waitress in the south never seemed more gorgeous. Smith's descriptions like "She's the kind of lady that calls everybody baby/Honey, sugar, sweetie, she's always making friends and she keeps us all locked outside her thick leather skin" are the most impressive moments of the album. He represents these characters in quick, concise descriptions but makes it seems as if he wrote a novel over them. Paired with the music, which composes mostly of electric guitar and pounding drums, along with a few scattered instruments here and there, Wooden Heart has the makings of a poetic magnum opus for the band -- and it's just waiting to explode.

And the group couldn't deserve the attention any more. Often performing in the basements of anybody who will take them, Listener are one of those groups who appear like a star in the space of the modern underground music scene. Like a diamond in the dirt, stumbling upon them is a true delight, and their fourth LP contains some of the best music of 2010. It rises and falls with its intense, compassionate songs like "Save Up Your Hopes Friends" and the slower, more flowing songs such as "You Were A House On Fire" which holds the diversity to make it worth the several listens it requires to fully digest it. Fans of poetic and passionate lyricism will be immediately attracted to Dan Smith's presentation and lyrical brilliance, and in no time will be hooked. Listener's Wooden Heart, could easily grow to be one of the several excellent records of the year, and for good reason. It holds everything that makes music what it should be.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Crimson Review

Progression is never a bad thing. Adhering too strongly to an old formula or style can be deadly for a band, which is why you always hear the hype for an artist's new record that they claim will be a step in the next great direction for them. People adore change if it is done right, but the fangs come out when it doesn't please them. In the case of Alkaline Trio's 2005 record, Crimson, the band faced a little bit of both. Fans of their earlier, gruffer work were appalled by their newer, more appealing style while newer fans were immediately hooked by their catchy choruses and cunning lyricism. Since their 2003 release, Good Mourning, the group had dropped their reds and blacks in favor of a duller gray, perhaps to portray the softer, more somber approach they chose to take for this album. No longer are they screaming with anger or holding you by the throat with their music, instead they intertwine their dark lyricism with a more depressive atmosphere to accentuate their trimmed energy. The music is softer, the lyrics are less furious, and it doesn't hit nearly as hard it used to, but fortunately for them they still know how to make a catchy tune.

Alkaline Trio has always somewhat relied on the hooking aspect of their music, but never has it been more apparent than on Crimson. The three singles, and arguably best tracks on the album, hold most of the addictive appeal throughout the record. The drums on "Mercy Me" and the pulsing chorus of "Time To Waste" are wonderful summaries of everything that the Trio has done wonderfully in the past, and the lyricism of "Prevent This Tragedy", teamed with the ever-dreary atmosphere really shine through as the outstanding successes of the album, but there is still a glaring absence of energy from the record during the small moments in between. "Your Neck" tries desperately to be what "Time To Waste" had already accomplished with its formula chorus-verse-chorus structure and Skiba's surprisingly boring vocal work followed immediately by "Smoke", which holds just the same hollow feeling. It's a harshly vivid display of what Alkaline Trio is without the pounding energy of their former releases; as well as a perfect transition into what their future work would become.

Upon first listen, Crimson holds everything that you could want from a pop-punk band. You have your catchy hooks and repetitive chord progression paired with decently clever lyricism sung by two fairly distraught men -- but how long can that last you? Alkaline Trio has been clinging tightly to this facet since their debut record, and since then have slowly shed everything that made their music so powerful. This record shows them choosing a slightly new path for their music to pursue, but never quite achieve the separation that's necessary to make it its own entity. Crimson's basic fundamentals make it an outstanding pop-punk record, but without that spark of life that has propelled other bands into success; it's just another unfortunately lacking outing from one of punk's former masters.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Would It Kill You? Review

The first years of Hellogoodbye's career showed the makings of a group on the verge of explosion. Their electronically saturated music fueled with middle-school romanticism seemingly grasped the hearts of teenagers everywhere like a cheesy plague spreading throughout the music industry. Just when it seemed that Hellogoodbye were about to break out into stardom, they disappeared. Very little was heard from the band since the release of their 2006 LP, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! and their name and music faded into obscurity partly due to their lawsuit with Drive-Thru Records which restrained them from releasing new material. However, now they have returned after a four year absence from the studio with their newest poppy achievement, "Would It Kill You?". Their return comes with a great breath of fresh air from the band as they incorporate a new luster onto their previously formulaic and progressively boring approach to music. They almost completely rid themselves of their electronic and synth fascination and move onto more traditional pop-rock instrumentation as well as shedding a layer off of their adolescent shell. With this album comes a major growth for the band, while somehow still remaining mostly the same.

The almost immediately present progression comes as a rather large surprise for those who were fans of them during their first few (and only) releases. They showed nearly no signs of change as they performed their synth-laden music with skill and fines. It would seem for certain that they wouldn't bother changing what was already perfected, but luckily they did. In the opening moments of "Finding Something To Do" they start quick and with a pop-punk like energy similar to that of Relient K or New Found Glory. The drums are swiftly pounded and the guitars sway and flow along with them. This, along with the appearance of a horns section on "Betrayed By Bones" presents a whole new side to the group that was never before seen prior to this. However, below this fresh facet their lyricism remains mostly the same, while showing some signs of moving past high-school romances onto the fear of growing older. They perform this nicely with a cheerful outer appearance with a slightly more melancholy subject matter on the appropriately titled "Getting Old".

While "Would It Kill You?" begins to lose its momentum toward the last half of the album, it serves as a great display of what a little change can do for a band. Hellogoodbye went from an almost overly poppy and synth-drenched quintet into a fun, fresh and catchy pop-rock group. Their flow is superb and they hold a decent ability of switching up sounds to keep the album interesting and ear-catching. They use the talent they have at their disposal to great effect in creating the best album of their career and a wonderful start to what hopefully comes next for the band. Whether it is an expansion on the sound they developed on this record or another direction entirely, it's for certain that they'll still be the cheesiest band in music at the moment. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Ruth" Review

Nana Grizol hold one of those names that are special in the way that you can infer what they will sound like just by saying it aloud. You were thinking an indie-pop group mixed with some folk influence, right? On their sophomore album, "Ruth", they associate these rather diverse genres to create one of the more pleasant albums of the folk and indie scene as of late. They bounce charmingly from smooth acoustic numbers to more intense, hard-hitting songs with ease within the brief thirty-one minutes that make up the album. As with most bands in the genre, they mash miscellaneous instruments and rhythms throughout the record to hover over the stagnancy border that plagues the genre. With the horn section from the prestigious Neutral Milk Hotel and the introspective and intimate lyrics from lead man Theo Hilton it's honestly shocking that the group itself isn't more well known -- though it could be argued that it comes with the genre. Regardless of media prominence, they still play their music and play it with stunning grace.

The thin line between melancholy and hopefulness is carefully trotted upon on the opening track, "Cynicism" on which the overall tone of the album is skillfully abbreviated. The vocalism of Hilton on these short but powerful tracks hold an anxiously timid tone that creates some of the best contrast when compared to when he breaks into all-out shouts on "Arthur Hall". His tonal shifts capture a very obvious influence of that of Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) or even Jeff Buckley. This likeness is shown even stronger on the gorgeous instrumental track "Alice and Gertrude", where the horns swell and flow with a grand piano to create a very classic indie atmosphere. However, it may be all of these familiar indie facets that keep "Ruth" from reaching the grandiose status of those who created said formulas.

It's without a doubt that Nana Grizol's greatest strength is their ability to follow these past influences with such grace, but without enough deviation from the past, it takes a great deal of creativity to make a masterpiece -- but maybe that isn't what Theo Hilton wanted. The lyricism on "Ruth" is like a diary put to music, except with a fair bit of figurative language. The intensely personal feel of "Cynicism" and "Sands" really allows entrance to the thoughts and feelings of one man's travel through what he perceives as life. There are the songs about girls and sunsets, and they all feel entirely genuine when paired with the beautiful musicianship of everyone that backs Hilton. It's an almost overly familiar formula, but is done with such allure that it deserves admiration and a night of your life to lie in bed and enjoy the somber tones of "Ruth".

50 All-Time Best Last Lines in Literature

I was sent this website by a viewer of the site and I thought it would be an interesting read for anyone interested in such a thing. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Faux Reality Review

When it comes to local bands in Kansas, it can be a risky business. The music scene in the Wichita area, as it stands, is something of a grab bag of heroes and zeroes. In the case of El Dorado's up-and-coming indie rockers, Faux Reality, you get a taste of the more talented side of the state.

 Since their humble beginning in early 2007, they've built upon their foundations as a pop-punk garage band up to seasoned Saturday night show heroes. They have certainly earned their spot on top of this small-town music scene with their long track record of performances all around the city, and it comes without surprise that they would hit the studio in late 2010 to record their debut EP, Faux Reality. With this release they display not only their growth as artists, but as individuals as well. They've transgressed the adolescence of their infamous Bonita demo and have found their footing as performers as shown by their superb instrumental work throughout the EP. It's been in the works for years, but now Faux Reality finally shows that they are a legitimate group worthy of a serious glance.

The most apparent and surprising change from Faux Reality's past work on their new EP is the gorgeous production value. The instruments all sound crisp and clean as they flow smoothly during the opening moments of "Nothing To Prove" up until they crash together for the first verse. With this they show their mixed influences from alternative and pop-punk bands of the last decade, the chorus of the aforementioned song displaying a blink-182-esque energy while the crescendo of "To The Sky" utilizes a classic indie formula. These varied styles allow Faux Reality to shine in what they do best -- performing with youthful vigor. It's clear upon first listening how far this band has come in terms of instrumentation as they create smooth and appropriate soundscapes for the lyrical content of each song.

And in terms of said lyricism, they provide what is expected. They float comfortably over their former adolescent rhymes in a fresher zone of above-par writing and give the listener a very enjoyable experience when paired with the other superb aspects of the EP. The catchiness of "The Vessel" is perfect for singing in the car and the wide variety of instruments and melodies on "To The Sky" work wonderfully as the soundtrack to a night walk. Fans of pop-punk, alternative, and even a little indie will find something to enjoy on this release and that's all that could be asked of for this slowly evolving group. If they hadn't yet caught your attention, perhaps Faux Reality can obtain your interest with their most recent (and easily most impressive) release, Faux Reality

Friday, October 1, 2010

Good Mourning Review

Matt Skiba sees the beauty in bloodshed and Dan Andriano sees the compassion in a glass of scotch. It takes little to understand why these two are the perfect duo to write some of the cleverest and gruesome lyrics in punk. After all, what else would you expect from the guys who joined the Church of Satan for kicks? Since 1998 they, and the abundance of drummers they've gone through, have released album after album of only the finest quality of hatred and alcoholic discontentment - and it's no different on 2003's Good Mourning. In terms of comparison to their previous outing (From Here To Infirmary), Alkaline Trio take another step forward from what they established and add more tweaks and bits of polish in order to properly display their talent. FHTI saw them dipping into their pop-punk side while Good Mourning finds the band returning to the gritty, unadulterated anger that fueled their previous albums, and would unfortunately fade upon their next.

 To say that Alkaline Trio aren't formulaic is perhaps giving them too much credit. It's always been the drug metaphors thrown in with a few songs about death and hate - but my God have they done it well. Skiba and Andriano couldn't make better writing partners, always supplying a wealth of profoundly personal songs and still finding a way to make them catchier than most pop tracks. The production value is once again another appreciated step up from their previous efforts as well as the consistency in the energy (which has never been insufficient to begin with). There's a certain intensity that has been added to the group's personality for this record that shines superbly when the bass lines twang and flow ("This Could Be Love", "Blue Carolina") and when Skiba thrashes the strings ("Donner Party", "Continental") and of course when Derek Grant provides a pounding onslaught on the drums.

This raw emotion isn't only present in the music - though it borrows greatly from its energy to really get the point across - it also emanates immensely from the songwriting. Both Andriano and Skiba's lyricism reaches top form on the bitter numbers like "100 Stories" and the Trio classic "Blue In The Face". The contrast they create with their very similar, but still blatantly separate lyrical styles is such a unique treat. Andriano relies heavily on his self-conscious and brooding tone while still containing that raw, bitter aftertaste to portray the punch to the gut sadness that he so effortlessly creates. While Skiba, on the other hand, embraces that bitter resentment with lines like, "Fighting back the tears and every urge to Van Gogh both our ears", utilizing his talent for clever writing to mask his agony.

While their proceeding albums would begin to disappoint certain die-hard Trio fans, it is a common consensus that Good Mourning was the album that really showed them at their prime. Everything was put into place perfectly -the energy, the emotion, and the slight necessary polish. The formulas may begin to expire for some newcomers, but it still holds that passion and aggressiveness that Alkaline Trio's career-defining debut brought. With a promise for destruction and a lust for hate, Good Mourning dots the i's and crosses the t's to seal Alkaline Trio's place as one of the best punk acts of the past decade.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Monitor Review

Titus Andronicus is a tidal wave. Each twang of the guitar and shout from Patrick Stickle's throat is another element that composes the enormous swell of emotion that is their sophomore album, The Monitor. If ever there were an album to encompass every bit of rage and confusion that comes with life, it would be what this band has created. They challenge the boundaries of lyrical sanity and musical limits with each twist and turn throughout the hour-length record, paying no mind to the standards set upon recent punk. And for them they have a repertoire of instrumentation from bagpipes to trombones to cellos; all utilized to spark that nostalgic war-time anarchism that you read about in high school. The good ol' boys that spent their days shouting about liberty while spewing their guts into the nearest gutter. Except they've honed that nausea into words, and they're spewing that passionate and unstoppable presence of anger and fear unto us. We are the audience, and Titus Andronicus is the marching band of hope.

It is apparent from the moment Stickle bursts onto the record on "A More Perfect Union" that he is both unhappy and undoubtedly inebriated. The pure energy that he supplies to his music is completely unchallenged in today's punk scene. With his throat spouting lyrical steam and the band boiling the pot, it creates that lump in your throat that inspires you to shout along with them. From the invigorating screams of "You'll always be a loser!" on "No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future" to the several derailed shrieks throughout the remainder of the record, you are hooked to this band and what they have to say. You feel Stickle's rising and falling from inebriated cries of freedom and justice to his hung-over fear of what comes for him in the future. It's this combination of energy and emotion that makes them one of the most unique and inspiring groups prominent in today's music scene. By the conclusion of the record, you've been on a journey with Stickle that remains embedded in your mind until you hear the words of Abraham Lincoln on "A More Perfect Union" reanimated once again.

However, the entirety of The Monitor, relies on each miniscule element that composes it - the powerful support of the group, the intensely personal and introversive lyricism, and of course Patrick Stickle's infectious vocal work. They all rise to ultimate fruition on "The Battle of Hampton Roads" which encapsulates everything that is incredible about Titus Andronicus. Containing perhaps the most exciting and tense crescendo of the record (where there are several), the song takes everything that drove the record and hammers it into a final grandiose fourteen-minute closure. Stickle's growl of "And so now when I drink, I'm going to drink to excess." and the proceeding lines grips you by the neck and captivates that rebellious spark in your brain that you never quite knew you had. This album can make you the most confident man on the planet, and it can make you terrified of waking up in the morning in fear of finding more people like Patrick Stickle. It took the guts of a madman to make something so raw and risky in today's music, but Titus Andronicus did it, and did it exceptionally.

Is there a boy in this town that's not exploding with hate?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Here, Hear. II Review

 It's the respect and maturity in the way that La Dispute crafted their Here, Hear., series that makes it so powerful. It's unfortunately rare in recent music to find a band that not only makes their music professionally, but does it with such craftsmanship. As shown with their previous entry in the series, La Dispute takes bits and pieces from the workings of authors and poets and supply all the other necessary elements to make the four tracks on part II. And it's with this approach that the group shines exceptionally as musicians, each member adding their own music for each of their literary selections and lead man Jordan Dreyer submitting his vocals. As displayed on their previous releases, La Dispute holds the pristine ability to create atmosphere and it is no different here, beginning with the light chirping of crickets on five.

Dreyer's confident and concise pronunciation is key to the way each song flows. His smooth, gliding, sing-song technique with the finger-snapping tempo on five and the playful, even childish tone during seven shows him experimenting with a number of ways to convey the message of each track. Everything is executed in a very precise manner, bringing out the hidden talents not shown on La Dispute's previous outings (save for the previous Here, Hear.) as well as showing just how respectful they are to their source material. This is no simple spoken-word tribute to the authors and poets; it's a downright gift to them. As shown on eight, the extremely tense and explosive feel of Dreyer's words holds the perfect intensity and passion not normally seen by the pseudo-poets loitering the corner coffee shop.

As previously mentioned, the music here is put in place only to accentuate the mood of the literature, and it does its job wonderfully. With the diverse instruments rising and falling with the mood of the speaker, it shows a lot about the group's ability to appreciate and control their tempo. For each song that La Dispute craft, a little more potential is revealed and their gradual growth is one of the most exciting developments in music today. From their usual post-hardcore fashion to this rare spoken-word treat, they slowly evolve into professional and ever-expanding musicians, and never cease to surprise the music world. And with Here, Hear II, they add another stepping stone to their next project, which promises only greatness.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Bench(Short Story)

2000, Missouri

My mother and I had taken one of our weekly trips to the local market on a sunny day in August. It was harshly humid out and a thick, dark cloud passed over the sun as we entered the store, casting a shadow over the building. I was no firm believer in destiny at the time, but what I saw that day begs me to believe otherwise. The tinted-glass doors slid open and a cool breeze swayed past my mother and I as we saw a man pointing a gun at another man behind the counter. They both looked at us, the store uncomfortably silent. It was a quick event, and I can only remember bits and pieces, but I remember the fear. I remember the look in my mother's eyes and I can still feel the memories of the glass in my head.

There were sirens in the distance and the robber panicked. He didn't get the money he desired from the clerk so he came after us. A black barrel of a small handgun was soon pressed against my mother's head. He picked the weakest in the room. I remember snapping at him in a gut reaction, grabbing his wrist and pulling the gun away from my mother. A shot went off, shattering the door behind her. I had saved her. His other hand soon reacted, smashing me in the side of the head, sending me into the glass counter behind me where the clerk still stood dumbstruck. The sirens sounded closer.

A sudden rush of sensations hit my brain. The glass embedded in my skull and the blood soon flowing out of it. My vision became blurred but I saw him strike my mother, take her purse, and jet out the door. The memory cuts short there. I know everything that my mother told me after I woke up. However, unfortunately for me, it was over a year after the incident that I did wake up. The blow to my head mixed with the garden of glass in my skull had sent me into coma. She was fine, however, and that put a sense of peace in my head. The man got away with fifty dollars.

It took months of therapy and seven weeks with a psychologist to put me back into the correct state of mind. Well, the term "correct" has several connotations for several different people. I'm thankful that I'm alive and thankful that my mother is alive -- however this event shook me further in my bones than I initially thought. I spent weeks in my room staring at the ceiling and reading children's books; wrapping myself in an innocent cocoon. My perception of the outside universe was much like that of a child's perception of what is under a bed -- Paranoid and fearful. It was this child-like curiosity and fear that once again got me outside.

It began with slowly removing the dark black blankets I placed over my windows. They were a barrier of sorts. Avoiding the existence of an outside existence was easier than staring it in the face. Soon I began to walk around outside my house, taking in the old scents of life. Things rushed back and my steps began to become easier and more comfortable. However I still refused to speak to anyone besides my mother. She took care of me out of the kindness of her heart. My paranoid brain says it's only because I saved her. I still wonder about this sometimes.

I did not go out much, but it was enough to keep the doctors away. They were interesting. The way they paid close attention to me, like I was a lab rat. Maybe I was a curious case, or perhaps they were just doing their jobs, but I took something out of this. Their sense of observation struck me. They detailed my every step and eye movement in their notebooks. Perhaps I'm just a book waiting to be written. Maybe my case will make it into a textbook. I began to adapt this skill for myself. I would watch the way my neighbors would speak with my mom. The way their lips moved, the way their eyes shifted. I could tell when they were talking about me.

I would walk up and down my rural street, listening to the sounds of televisions through open windows. There only seems to be bad news, or at least there's only bad news worth reporting. Man stabbed at baseball game. Boy taken from parents. Girl found dead in park. The chorus of news anchors all singing the saddest songs in the world. Their words struck me and sometimes I would stand in the middle of the sidewalk just to hear if the people inside their homes would gasp or react to these words. Eventually my mother would yell at me to come back inside. I never heard a word from the windows.

She was aghast when I said I was going to the market. Questions of whether I was comfortable with going back or not and whether I wanted her to go were soon shot out of her mouth. Fear was scribbled all across her face, but I was fine. I was quite alright with going back. I wanted to see more people, wanted to read more stories on their faces. Perhaps I could write something about them; perhaps I should take a notebook. I could have been like one of those doctors.

When she asked why I was going, I said I was thirsty. In reality, I was looking for words. The words of strangers. My brain hungered to know what exactly drives people day in and day out. Every other minute a child is reported dead or kidnapped, and I want to know why they aren't smiling. Why they aren't grateful for being able to go to that market; for being able to take advantage of life's privileges. It made me angry. It made me very angry. Perhaps the only emotion I'd felt since I woke up.

The walk wasn't far - only a few blocks down from where I lived. I walked with a patient step, in no real hurry. I could still hear the news stations from the road. My mother's eyes followed me until I was out of view. Eventually I was mere steps from the building and I expected tension to bloom in my chest like a fungus -- however my lungs remained stable. There was no real feeling as I walked up to the front door and grasped the handle. I looked back up to observe the clouds in the sky. I wasn't sure why, but it seemed like I should note that. They were dark.

The cool breeze from the air conditioner swam past my head as I walked calmly inside. They replaced the old counter, it was wooden now. There was now a woman behind the counter assisting an elderly man with his groceries. The man from before must have been let go. It took a moment for me to adjust and soak in the environment before I remembered what I had come for. Benches beside the entrance looked like a nice place to start, so I sat. And in that spot I watched the world pass by.

For hours on end I sat and watched person by person walk in. A few of them looked at me and I looked back. Their gazes were short lived as their eyes moved back in front of them. Curiosities breezed in and out of my mind; questions of whether these people knew what happened here a mere year ago. Was the most critical moment in my life worth a moment's thought for these people? I wondered where the sudden coldness of the world came from, and wondered if sitting in this seat was worth my time.

Every so often a family would come in smiling together. In one particular family there was a young boy. He looked at me, connected vision with me, and stopped walking. His parents were alarmed by this. He began to walk toward me, with the most burning curiosity in his eyes. I simply looked back. Soon another family came in, nearly colliding with the boy, and cut off our vision. Something about this child caught me off guard. His innocent eyes shouldn't have to see the numbed pupils of mine. I was glad when his parents grabbed him away from the crowd. He scared me.

I sat for a few more minutes after that, considering what just happened, but paid no more thought to it until my walk home. My cranium was bouncing with thoughts and observations. Few people seemed concerned with anything but getting their groceries. Was that all that mattered to them in that moment? Am I not giving these people enough credit? Perhaps setting your mind to one task and blocking out everything else is the safest method of living. Step-by-step. Thought-by-thought.

When I entered my front door my mom gave me the strangest look. She asked if I was okay. I was fine. She asked if I got lost. I did not. She asked what I did. I looked for things, didn't find anything, though. She was relieved and gave me dinner. I wasn't hungry that night and I soon went to bed. The next day I repeated the process, and I would for the next few months until I eventually stopped on my way to the store to watch a news story from the sidewalk. This time there were audible gasps from what they heard. It intrigued me so I listened closer. It was hard to hear - the anchor was panicked. Finally the family began calling friends and moved away from the television. I heard the anchor clearly from the road. Two planes had collided with two buildings in New York City. Nobody visited the store that day.

The pure panic shown on their faces was invigorating to my interest. I soon walked home after seeing the store was bare. My mom was fixed to the television and was soon shouting about what had happened when I arrived in the door. My confusion and curiosity fused together over the course of the next few days. People joined together in prayer and grief for those who had been lost, though their panic was still as clear as day.

After not visiting for almost a week, I returned to the store. There was still talk and chatter among the employees about what had happened and finally I saw the real hearts of the machines that had once roamed these floors. Every day there were murders and suicides, but it took the death of thousands to finally graze their heads. The sudden buzz of talk and prayer and comfort brought forth a new look on their faces. I had seen every expression and twitch in the cheeks and eyes of the citizens here and never once had I seen the fear and care that had been present those weeks.

It was from that moment that I realized that humanity relies on emotional extremes to show the true faces of people. When misery and death becomes commonplace, it takes absolute decimation to birth the compassion in the hearts of millions. I still visit that store and I still watch their faces and they now greet me when they walk in like I've grown into the chair that has been the catalyst in my observations. From this bench I've watched the evolution of humans and the evolution of myself. I tell my mother everything that I see. She says I should look into studying psychology. I thought about it, but found myself against it. The surprises are what keep me in this seat, and textbooks cannot capture these people.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hurley Review

If there were any adjective to describe the last five years of Weezer's career, "serious" most certainly would not be it. Since the release of their 2005 LP, Make Believe, lead man Rivers Cuomo's writing went off on a strikingly strange and completely out of left-field tangent. The spectrum of his music went from witty, easy-going rock to a progressively immature and campy (or "self-parody" as some wish to see it) mess. After releasing two lackluster-at-best records, all within or just over a year of each other, the fan base had stopped scratching their head, and began turning their backs. And following the nearly unbearable midlife crisis that was 2009's Raditude, it was hard to imagine that there was any life left in them. However, they return once again, unsurprisingly within just a year of their previous record, sporting only a slightly more bearable approach to how they make music.

To showcase the positive aspects of Hurley would be to highlight everything that Weezer has done well before. There are the catchy melodies on tracks like Memories and Brave New World, and the somber moods of numbers like Unspoken. However, it's those familiar styles that also severely hinder this record. Saying that they are simply going back to their roots here is an understatement; a majority of this record begins to feel utterly recycled from the moment it begins -- and therein lies its killer. The guitar pattern on Ruling Me could easily be swapped for every generic lick on radio rock hits, with lyrics that only accentuate that statement. The bland and sometimes embarrassingly bad lyrics on Smart Girls and Trainwrecks continue to portray everything that has gone downhill with them since 2005. If a line such as, "I wanna be a bad boy right now" being sung by a forty year old man isn't enough to warrant a laugh, then I don't know what is.

While Hurley doesn't quite reach the lows that Weezer's previous outing achieved, it's still a prime example of what not to do when you're attempting a comeback. However for the fans who thought that the spark in Rivers Cuomo died with 2005's Make Believe, there may be a slight glimmer yet. There are definite signs of potential within the small successful moments of this record; however they are unfortunately overshadowed by the utterly dry musicianship and lyricism in all that remains. If there were any final words to say about Hurley, it's that the cover almost makes up for every misdeed throughout it. Almost.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sirens and Condolences Review

If ever you've come across bands like Alkaline Trio, Brand New, or maybe even Death Cab For Cutie, then essentially you've heard Bayside's debut record, Sirens and Condolences. These New York hailing punk-rockers take everything you've heard from pop-punk and emo and throw them in a simmering pot of hate and distortion. However bland that may sound, the execution is actually quite endearing. From the opener, Masterpiece, it's clear what kind of record this is going to be, and that's what is really enjoyable about this record. You can shamelessly enjoy each pounding, harsh song with just as much enjoyment as the band had in creating it. The repetition of chords and choruses is all but expected from the genre, and Bayside does it well while still being able to have enough lyrical substance to keep them above stagnancy.

The group's lead man and driving force, Anthony Raneri, is really who carries this record. With his passionate shouts and intensely personal lyrics, it's evident that he really takes pride in this. And while the record is certainly serious, it still keeps that sort of fun that comes with the gritty-punk style that they're going for. Much like their genre-sharing predecessors Alkaline Trio, they utilize their ability to craft catchy music, while still remaining lyrically solid and genuine. While some of the lyrics can be relatively cheesy, there are a handful of memorable moments tossed throughout the record. On the album's closer, Guardrail, Raneri's shouts of, "Break your neck like you broke my will!" holds a really legitimate intensity that would soon become the band's niche.

When it comes to instrumentation, it's the same blasting distortion with the electric guitar and pounding drums that make up a majority of the album. However, as previously mentioned this is all a suit of the genre and it fits Raneri's vocals quite nicely. It would be hypocritical not to mention that this is really nothing new, and is easily one of the shortcomings of the record. Whether it clearly aspires to just be another fun and emotionally packed punk record or not, it still stands that had there been more depth in the instrumentation, it could have been a really fantastic outing by one of the now more prominent names in pop-punk.

Sirens and Condolences, has its hits and misses, but it has a lot of heart, and for a debut record it does its job. Despite being stale in a few spots, Bayside present themselves concisely and in a fashion that would soon become their own style. Their emotional-punk trend continues onto their second release and to great effect once again. Bayside exhibit that there are still bands willing to have fun while playing and hold that raw punch in their lyrics to keep them interesting, and that is all too refreshing.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hopkins' Witch Pt. 2 (Short Story Series 1, Pt. 4)

The worst mistake I've ever made.

This forest is slowly eating me alive. All the myths were true; all the fables lived up to their names. This place has a heartbeat and I hear it every night as my torn head rests on cold, unforgiving dirt. I'm well aware of what may happen to me, but at night I hear him shouting. Hear my father shouting my name, shouting for his life, but he gets no reply. It keeps me going; keeps me aware. My paranoia has hit an all time high, never walking two steps without checking behind my shoulder, and it all began with those first few moments on Hopkins' Witch.

My confidence was at an all time high, thinking that I would certainly find him in no time; that no man can just disappear into the trees. Little did I know that the path soon drifted into the pure dark that overcomes the forest at night. The moment the sun sets, you belong to the trees. Distance shrieks of animals foreign to my village in the distance and the chilling sound of twigs snapping all around. These things soon became the soundtrack to my nightmares and all I want is to hear his voice, to see that now unfamiliar face. I know one day I will find him, or rather his corpse. I'll trip into a dried creek and find him there, eyes wide and blank, just like in my dreams.

The witch-like abilities I thought I once harbored have long since abandoned me. I must be tethered to the village, or maybe the sun. I have no certain way to determine it. The first night I tried to conjure fire, mere sparks left my fingers, enough to create a small puff of smoke on a stack of leaves. My defeated tears soon extinguished the small hope of warmth that night, and from then on I have been nothing short of frozen. Sometimes I feel the vines on the ground wrap around my legs, or maybe I imagine them. I can never quite tell what's real any more.

I have been here for what feels like months, but I have no definite way of telling. The number of sunsets doesn't seem to match the number of sunrises. I wake up from slumber to a completely dark forest, sometimes thinking I'm back in my room, and for a moment I find comfort in it. For once in my life I actually want to see my old cot, or maybe just smell my home. The small berries growing around here have kept me living, but with a skeleton figure. Each day I stumble around, looking for food, looking for shelter, and looking for him no matter how harshly my legs protest.

I catch small glimpses of him. He looks around the trees and drinks from the mud. He never acknowledges me, though. He looks back and forth then disintegrates like dust in the wind. I believe he's a ghost, or maybe the forest is playing tricks on me. All of these delusions and insanities always leading to the ultimate disappoint of sunset, when the forest blinds all those that walk the ground. It is now the end of my day and I stare at the canopy of the forest, mulling over all of these thoughts in my head and preparing for darkness. It falls on me like a thick blanket and soon I see nothing, but hear everything. I take a few more steps, considering adventuring in the dark, but soon realize it's impossible as I trip over a vine and make my way to the ground. My cold head resting silently on the dirt, I accept this spot as my bed and await slumber.

I spring awake in what feels like mere seconds. A sharp pain on my ankle makes me flail wildly at my leg, trying to stop whatever may have latched onto me. My hand connects with a slick, scaly creature which I mistake for a vine initially, but soon realize I have no such luck. The snake squirms in my grip, but I have just enough strength to keep it under control. I rip it off my flesh and throw it across the forest floor, but the damage is done. Blood drips from the tiny wound and my heart beats out of my fragile chest. I must be poisoned, my leg begins to feel numb and my hands shake harder than my heart beats. My fist grips dirt and I try to scream, but only small cries escape my ragged throat. Any sliver of hope I had before is extinguished. A suffocating weight on my chest. I'm done for. In this place, an injury means your life. Without my leg I can't search for food and can't search for my father. I've let him down. My head begins to feel light and I'm sure I will be dead before I awaken, but all I can focus on is the stabbing pain in my leg. Maybe this is for the best.

The worst mistake I've ever made.

I awake colder than I've ever been; fully convinced that this is the afterlife. My eyes barely open to the slightly lit forest, and I once again know that I'm still in hell. The skin over my skeleton is a ghostly pale and my voice is a raspy mess. The poison still circulates through my blood and I peer down to my ankle as I lay in the fetal position. A puffed up, purple lump on my leg tells me that travel won't be simple, if at all possible. I look around the forest and realize that maybe not all is lost. It takes all of my strength to press my fist into the pool of vomit by my face and try to bring myself up. My fragile spine manages to keep me upright and my eyes finally focus. I collapsed mere feet from a path barely visible through the trees.

Salvation was implausible twenty-four hours ago, but now I feel like I've found hope. If I can just move my legs enough to get me on the path, maybe I can crawl my way to wherever it leads. If it leads to the exit of the forest, then I can come in contact with the sun for the first time in ages. It's been so long since I've felt the warmth of true sunlight, and not that which I receive from the canopy's filter. Hope slowly wells in my chest and tears appear in my eyes. They stream down my face, both from pain and happiness. I put weight on my injured leg and bite down hard on my tongue, feeling as incompetent as a new-born, but more hopeful than ever.

My brittle bones wobble pathetically over to the trees and my hands barely support me as I slump onto them. Sharp bark from the trunks scrape over my skin as I squeeze myself through the small opening and fall onto the path. Swiftly surveying the area, I take in every bit of scenery I can see. It feels like I'm being deceived, that there was no way I couldn't have noticed this before -- But here I am, as sickly and dumbfounded as I have been since I entered. Everything is suddenly so familiar. A dark dirt path, a torn up girl, and a forest looming overhead. I stare off to the right, where the path seems to lead forever into the forest, but never turn over to see to my left. Dirt fills my fingernails as I push myself up once again. I turn myself over and stare in the opposite direction, dumbstruck by what is there.

In the distance stood an eerily spotless white church, looking as if it was just built. The trees cast an ominous shadow around it as if a colossal man stood observing the small building. My mind immediately went to my father. Maybe this is where he's been. Maybe he's been hiding here and has become a refuge in the church. Maybe I can be saved. Maybe I can hear his voice one more time.

My feeble body limps back over to the trees and I use them as a crutch as I make my way down the path. The bruise on my leg pulsates but I give no thought to it, my mind set on touching the door of the church. I feel as if I may collapse at any second but I don't let that hold me back. My mind conjures blurry images of my father and I grin for the first time in months, feeling my motivation slowly seep back into me. I start to think about what brought me here in the first place; start to think about my village and all the wrong they've done. Maybe I can go back someday...

Mere feet from the church and I hop silently along, smiling like a maniac. A sharp pain in my foot catches me off guard and I nearly fall to the ground. I look down and find a splintered road sign. I'm almost surprised by what it reads, but I knew since the second I fell onto the path where I was. I was meant to find this place, meant to avenge my father. The witch of Hopkins' Salvation has a calling, and it lies in this church. I don't allow my mind to dwell for too long, and I keep going. My feet reach the steps and I nearly slip and fall, but catch myself and eagerly make my way up to the door, feeling a tension grow in my chest. I stare at it for a bit, hoping that among everything that I've seen, that this is real. My pale fist grips the doorknob and I turn it swiftly and slam the door open.

A run-down, dilapidated church greets me with a wicked, deceiving smile. I let my excitement get to me, and it led to me a dead end. There was no way anything would live in here; the ceiling was falling through, though I couldn't see it from the outside. The floor is coated with a thick layer of dust and dirt, small bugs sped away from the door, and the windows were broken out. This entire cursed forest is a trick and I fell for all of it. I break down on my knees and sob uncontrollably, all hope flooding right back out. Is this a cruel joke? I'm just a girl. I just want my father. This must have been designed by the village. Nothing so cruel and mocking could be done by anyone but those monsters. All the rage living inside me shows itself again. Every bit of hate and sadness swells together until I'm punching the floorboards with my weak fists. The boards creak and slightly split. I'm surprised by my strength, but I don't stop.

I pound the floorboards with a burning intensity and soon the board is coated with my blood, but continues to split. I hear an odd, unfamiliar noise as I break it further. Soon it becomes a dull hum, growing louder and louder. Finally I realize I know this sound. I had just merely forgotten. The sound of running water has been so long lost from my ears. One last punch, I think each time, never pondering whether or not this is another trick. It takes one last, hard pound for the board to finally snap. My fist plunges down and is immediately soaked in cold water.

The blood from my broken fist colors the water a dark crimson, but it soon clears. Water rushes fast under the floorboards, and my mind is boggled at the thought. It runs in from the right side of the church, and takes a sharp turn straight ahead of me, toward the back of the church. I scoop up as much as I can and fill my mouth, my thirst unbelievable. The flow of water down my cracked throat clears my head of any thoughts and removes all pain from my body. A full release from everything that's plagued me the past weeks.

My mind free to finally think, I scan the area and try to assess the situation; still guzzling down as much water as I can. Immediately it hits me and I press my ear to the dusty wood that covers the stream. I hear the stream moving and I follow it, slowly making my way toward the front of the church. My body scraping against the floor makes a trail in the dust, my fingernails leaving small impressions as they move along the floor. Small splinters sink into my face and body but I pay no mind, my focus entirely on hearing the stream. I nearly reach the podium at the front of the room before I heard the noise break off.

I look down in disbelief. Is that all? It just stops? No, the flow was far too strong for it to just cease. It must have changed direction or gone down. My mind races and I search around for a sign of anything I could use to break through the wood, my fists unable to do the job again. I knock over the worn down podium at the front of the room and notice the most critical part of the church. Where the wall meets the floor, there is a gaping hole with jagged pieces of wood sticking out. The opening is covered in dust coated vines, but I can barely see the reflection of water inside. I move closer and press my face into the vines, ripping them out of my way as I claw desperately to try to reach the water.

The vines give way to my weight and I fall face first into the hole, my skeleton-like figure somehow fitting. My skin crawls the second I hit the water and I realize where the creek led. It fell off into a much larger pool at the bottom, which flowed just as fast. I immediately panic and try to claw at the walls but my hand connects with nothing. The flow takes me through a pitch black tunnel with only the sound of rushing water to fill the air. Another drop takes me down to the bottom and my skull hits hard against the rocks. A brief second of pain and then nothing. My weary brain is done for. Please let this be death.

Two hands hold my head up and a pair of lips greets my forehead. Everything on me hurts, my lungs are torn to shreds, my head is screaming, my leg is corroded, and my fists are skinned -- But none of it matters. I open my eyes to see who holds me, and know everything is okay. There is a blinding sun in the sky, but it is shaded by a tall man. Tears drop onto my face as I see my father standing above me, smiling like I'd never seen him smile before. His eyes were pouring and he pulled me to his chest, holding me tight. We both sobbed and shook, knowing no words to say. I hear other footsteps around me, but take no notice. I reach my feeble arms up and squeeze him back, his old hunting vest just how I'd remembered it. Everything was worth it. Everything is okay. Everything is beautiful. My father is alive and so am I, but only just. I hope their words were worth this. I hope they know what comes when we return. When father and daughter travel back on Hopkins' Witch.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Searching For A Pulse/The Worth Of The World Review

When it comes to spastic, raw, and emotionally drenched hardcore music, you'd be hard pressed to find two bands that do it better than La Dispute and Touche Amore. With their new split, they show just how well they can hone their skills and craft themselves another bleak and suffocatingly intense musical experience. Throughout the four short songs, the vocalists lend themselves to each other in small snippets to form an impressive and enjoyable contrast between the two. However it is unfortunate that the EP is rather lacking in its length, with TA only holding three minutes of it. This is of course nothing new for the band since they are known for having extremely short songs, though it works to great effect with their expertise in brevity. La Dispute, on the other hand, holds the majority of the time on the record, contributing two very solid songs. The release in whole is a fantastic addition to both of the group's slowly expanding discographies and is a nice listen to hold us over until we get some new material from each of them.

Touche Amore starts off unsurprisingly energetic with I'll Get My Just Deserve. As per usual with the group, each line is delivered with a swift punch and the music pulses angrily in the foreground. Jeremy Bolm's shouts bounce between barely decipherable and pleasantly furious throughout his two main tracks. His flawless desperation continually builds the angrily pounding atmosphere that remains strong throughout the EP. Helping with this is Jordan Dreyer who appears in small doses on both songs. They bounce seamlessly together on TA's second track, I'll Deserve Just That, which moves smoothly up and down from softly pounded drums, up to explosive guitar. The production value is spot on with what is needed for this type of release and helps accentuate each aspect of the bands, both their shrieking vocals and extremely strong musicianship.

Following that trend is La Dispute, bringing the fury immediately on How I Feel. Jordan drops the whiny vocalism he has become known for here and sticks to his fantastic shouting that gives the song the perfect injection of emotion that he has done so well in the past. Along with that he brings his poetic songwriting to Why It Scares Me, perhaps one of the group's best. The shout of "Sometimes I think they're all acting/Times I'm scared that I'm acting too" is a perfect example of everything this band has offer. It's the raw, intense, and emotional fury that has embraced their fans since the beginning. He is of course joined by Jeremy on both tracks, adding exactly what Jordan did to TA's songs. The way these bands flow so easily together is impressive to hear and makes the EP perfectly balanced for each of them.

Perhaps the only gripe to find here is how short it is, but for the eight minutes it runs, it captures your attention and doesn't let go until Jordan sends you off with his final shout. It leaves you wanting more, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Both La Dispute and Touche Amore are at top form here and it's clear that they have no intention of stopping. For fans of both bands, Searching For A Pulse/The World Of The World, is an extremely satisfying release and leaves you hopeful for what they have cooking for us next, knowing full well that they have the potential to do something brilliant.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Serotonin Review

Cheesy love pop: Mystery Jet's latest release, Serotonin, has more than enough to power a Grease soundtrack. Throughout the record you're given a healthy dose of that 80's power-pop, synth driven, "Never Gonna Give You Up," type of feel. With their extremely campy approach to this record, it becomes increasingly difficult to take them seriously with each plead for their forlorn love aspirations. And if upon first listen of Serotonin, you think it may grow, unfortunately it really loses any luster after the initial play through. After several listens, it seems to melt together into one overly-long mash up of over the top songwriting and forgettable rhythms. That is where the album stops being toe-tapping pop, and becomes the formulaic, monotonous mess that unfortunately plagues many pop records.

The group utilizes that spacey, distant singing effect that has been done several times, and to a better effect by several other groups in the genre (Arcade Fire for example). Among that there's the less than extraordinary rhythms that fill the atmosphere (Or lack thereof) on tracks like The Girl Is Gone and the title track which all follow the familiar pattern of catchy drum beat, synth pattern, guitar, repeat. There's obvious influences floating through each song, but they never pin one down and do something unique with it, they simply mash them all together for an incoherent, repetitive experience. And the repetition doesn't stop there. The choruses throughout the record rarely vary in their respective songs, and do little to make the track more interesting. The formula of verse-chorus-verse that is abused so often is apparent in several songs and only accentuates the many flaws of the record.

Though it may seem that there is nothing to redeem Serotonin, I'll admit that there are a few catchy rhythms sprinkled throughout. The feel of Flash a Hungry Smile, is a very nostalgic sort of Beatles number. However cliché it may be, some may enjoy this campy approach, though in most of other cases, it will just be put away as unoriginal and overdone, which is no doubt true as well.

The album bounces between sounds more than it should and simply can't decide what it's trying to be which leaves a giant void where substance should exist. It plays off of old formulas and tired rhythms as it stretches each song out as long as it can. Though it has its rare fun moments, for the most part it can't keep up with other power-pop groups who are simply doing it better. The Mystery Jets do, however, have quite a bit of talent as illustrated by their last record, but it simply doesn't work here. It seems that they've become too pop for their own good and wind up being the tired band trying to resurrect old formulas to manipulate the audience. Some will undoubtedly enjoy this for its little camp value, but it simply doesn't stand the test of several listens.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

We Have Cause To Be Uneasy Review

The subtle art of creating atmosphere has become an all too rare tool in music lately. An album can be as catchy as possible, but when it lacks a certain atmosphere -- a definite feeling -- it tends to feel fruitless and bare. However for the Alabama quartet Wild Sweet Orange and their first full length LP, We Have Cause To Be Uneasy, there's that definite feel of emotional integrity and a genuine, fully charged atmosphere. It flows from dark and haunting, to bright and uplifting like a creek flowing through a bleak forest with cracks of sunlight breaking through the canopy. Each vivid imagery of death and utter despair are nothing above the norm for groups of the genre, but it all depends on how well it is executed, and for Wild Sweet Orange, they near the pinnacle of emotional depth.

The group is lead by Preston Lovinggood whose daunting vocals begin the album with a chilling performance. He carries this breathy, distance singing throughout the album, until of course he breaks out into total shouting, keeping you engaged throughout the slippery slope that the emotions take. He hits some impressive, inspiring highs on the few crescendos sprinkled throughout the record. The swift uppercut of a shout on Tilt, hits you with a sudden rush of emotional strength and really takes you into what he's saying. He ebbs and flows like this throughout the album, never overusing a tone past its welcome, and it's certainly appreciated.

While there isn't an apparent variation among the sounds of the album, what is lacking in variance is made up for in excellent lyricism and engaging emotional charge. The music does its duty to set up the moody backdrop for the sometimes fantastic lyricism. The smooth acoustic licks and simple drum patterns among the slick bass lines and electric guitar never really differ, only merely adjust to fit the next songs lyrics. However there are some really excellent, however rare moments where the music really shines. When the guitars cut out and you're only left with the soft keyboard and Lovinggood backed by Kate Taylor on House Of Regret, it really hits you and remains one of the most memorable parts of the album. The song soon builds back up to hit you hard once again with another of Lovinggood's shouting matches. It's these raw moments that stick out as easily some of the best on the album, and really brings out the beauty in some of the lyrics. Another excellent moment occurs on the chorus of Aretha's Gold, where it's shown that Lovinggood is best with his acoustic guitar.

Because you
You're as tameless as an ocean
I want to love you but commotion
Oh, it ravages me whole
Oh, and me
I'm as dramatic as the thunder
My lightning scares her, she rolls over
Oh yeah, she needs to get some sleep

And as previously mentioned, Lovinggood does a stellar job of portraying each and every dark undertone, but he's not alone. There's quite a few guest singers to help provoke that feeling that Lovinggood is striving for, and they work to great effect. From the simple Ooh's from Rebekah Fox on Atlas To Follow, to a vocal underlay from Katie Crutchfield on Seeing And Believing, it's the small additions that accentuate Lovinggood's atmospheric, moody tones. While the other members pitch in their vocals here and there, it's really Lovinggood that steals the show in every regard. His vocals and his acoustic guitar could easily be used as a one man act, and that slightly takes away from the band's overall merit.

I could be cynical and say it's all been done before, that album's with gloomy atmospheres and images of death has been done better, but I won't. We Have Cause To Be Uneasy, is a refreshing taste of the smooth emotion that is unfortunately absent in most music I've heard lately. It's a lengthy release, and probably not for most casual radio listeners, but for those that can indulge in the sounds and feelings of Wild Sweet Orange, it's a fun, memorable ride. While the band is currently on hiatus, one can only hope that they hone in on their skills and make another excellent LP in the future. For now, I'll just keep Ten Dead Dogs on repeat.