Friday, February 19, 2010

Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair Review

It's a rare occurrence when I listen to an album obsessively for months and it still holds that initial magic for months afterward. It is also interesting that this should happen with an album spawning from a genre I've never been entirely fond of. They call it "Hardcore", and I've had a small relationship with it. I've always seen it as just noise, admiring very few bands that represent it. The screaming over the sometimes suffocating guitar riffs and pounding drums always gave me a headache, but somehow this little-known band from Michigan flipped that formula on it's head for me.

La Dispute's first full length album Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair, had a shaky first impression with me. Lead vocalist Jordan Dreyer's whiny singing was a turn off for my ear drums and I felt like it took away from the very solid lyrics. My dislike for his style soon faded after only a few listens of the opening track Such Small Hands, which is where the storyline for this record begins, and it is a great story indeed.

Throughout the album we're taken through a rollercoaster of emotions such as anger, depression, desperation and eventually emotional triumph which all loop around a story of a swiftly failing marriage -- Each of these emotions being perfectly portrayed by Dreyer's shrieking vocals. The third track of the album, New Storms For Older Lovers, displays such vivid anger that you can truly feel the narrator's troubles seeping through your speakers. This was one of the initial appeals of the record; how emotionally driven every song is.

"I have half a mind to make you hurt/To make you bleed, to make you suffer/I swear if you touched her/Oh, heaven forgive what I would do to you"

The true beauty of the album is how the narrator's struggles are shown through sometimes brilliant metaphors and clever lyrics. It's obvious that an immense amount of thought went into each track, which I believe separates it from its genre predecessors. This gives the album a wide appeal -- Even if you're not interested in the style of music, you can still appreciate the great lyrics. Bury Your Flame, brings both catchy guitar rhythms and impressive metaphors, being a prime example of the album's intelligence.

"We held a match to keep our sight on the path/But the flame gave up and we lost it/And I've knelt for the last three years/Trying to find it back with the blackened matchstick"

Another impressive feature of the band is how it can seamlessly switch between flowing guitar into intense riffs and vice versa. This being perfectly displayed in The Castle Builders and Damaged Goods. It's simple things like that which sets this album apart from others in the genre, they refuse to stick to formulaic Hardcore themes. When things begin to feel stale it's switched up in the next song, making no two songs sound alike; which is something to admire.

Perhaps the most intense song on the record, The Last Lost Continent, plays for just over twelve minutes and is the essential song to tie everything together. It encompasses every bit of anger shown elsewhere on the record perfectly. Dreyer's vocals really shine here; every line dripping with emotion. And of course it doesn't abandon the sharp lyrics that have been consistent throughout the record -- I'd even go as far as to say that it has some of the best on the album, bringing an inspirational touch as we see the narrator's acceptance and eventual overcoming of the situation.

"Oh, how selfish of myself/To always say that it was more than I could take/Like it was pain I couldn't shake/Like it could break me with its fingers"

La Dispute brings an interesting offer to the Hardcore genre. Not only do they have consistently great lyrics, impressive musicians and a great, emotional vocalist, but they don't get old. Between Vega and Altair has been ear candy for me for months and I don't see it getting old any time soon. Something appeals to me in the band's skill and I honestly hope they make a name for themselves. They definitely have the talent.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Ugly Organ Review

There's something about an angry singer singing angry lyrics angrily that appeals to me. Tim Kasher of Cursive seems to be a perfect example of this in the band's fourth studio release, The Ugly Organ. Throughout the album we're shown themes of anger, spite and emotional drainage, all perfectly wailed by Kasher's appropriate vocals. Much like my previous Radiohead experience, this is the first time I've listened to the band. They without a doubt delivered a solid first impression.

The first track that really captured my attention was The Recluse, a flowing song about sex and desperation, and a perfect example of the band's sound on this record. Kasher's desperate words falling off the tip of his tongue over the cello of Gretta Cohn simply oozes emotion, making it one of the best and most memorable on the album.

"And I can hardly get myself out of this bed/For fear of never lying in this bed again/Oh Christ, I'm not that desperate/Oh no, oh God, I am"

What I find to be unique about the album are the interesting things added in, like the Pinocchio narration voice at the end of Butcher The Song and the beginning of Driftwood: A Fairy Tale. It adds a creepy and theatrical feel to the two tracks. Along with that, I'm new to the thought of a cello and an organ mixed with guitar and percussion, but it works seamlessly and adds a necessary element to the album.

An ever-present theme of the album is Kasher's anger towards the record industry and the pressure put on him to deliver greatness with every album. The theme is perfectly portrayed on the second track, Some Red Handed Sleight Of Hand, where he pinpoints that he can hide nothing from the audience, as it always appears in his lyrics. The precise display of his overwhelmed head makes this another great track on the record. Along with that, you get to hear some serious shredding on the cello.

"So why do I think I'm any different?/I've been making money off of my indifference"

At the end of the anger and desperation filled tracks of the record, we're served a bit of optimism. Staying Alive, playing for a little over 10 minutes, shows us the narrator's push through everything that's held him down. This is a spirit lifting song, and I think the perfect end to an album such as this; however excessive the length may be. Once the chorus of singers begins their doo-do-doo's, it feels like a choir of hope, and it sounds great.

In a conclusive statement, I'll say this is a very good album. It has its weak spots, but they are few and don't bring down what the other tracks have to offer. A beautiful cacophony of Kasher's voice, a cello, and some wonderful guitar and drum are what you'll get from The Ugly Organ, and I enjoyed nearly every track. This should definitely be on your list of albums to pick up. It's an interesting and enjoyable experience.