Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Trophy Scars - Never Born, Never Dead

When first listening to Trophy Scars fresh summer EP, Never Born, Never Dead, I found myself making strange connections between the music and the classic Mafioso film The Godfather. There was a cinematic entrancement about the way the music flowed and how the writing climaxed just at the right moment like a true theatrical masterpiece. Lead man Jerry Jones’ olive oil voice and New Jersey charm conjured images of the wedding scene at the beginning of Coppola’s film when Johnny Fontane sang to a group of swooning Italians, all the while the Don was peering through the window of his empirical perch, making deals to kill men and redeem tragedies. It was the contrast between the sophisticated and traditional Italian life on the outside, and the brutal reality of the business within the house that made the Corleone family truly intimidating – artists of deceit and trickery. That same style of a fresh shine on the exterior, but with a savage interior, was brilliantly utilized on Never Born, Never Dead as it tells stories of love and death; vengeance and cruelty.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: Andrew Jackson Jihad - Knife Man

For all intents and purposes, Andrew Jackson Jihad should not be taken seriously. Their music is sporadic and stripped down, their writing blunt and estranged, and lead man Sean Bonette’s singing is, at best, unbearably whiny. With all of these elements that should make for a disaster, why on Earth is the final product so enamoring? For the average music listener, Andrew Jackson Jihad’s freshest release, Knife Man, might very well be the worst piece of music in existence. But beneath the seemingly dreadful exterior features, there lies a brutal honesty and a mutual understanding between writer and listener that latches onto those who can catch onto it. Songs like track six, “Distance”, which begins with a vulgar display of candid shamelessness, show a side to this punk-folk group that most bands are terrified of revealing – a human side with a beating heart and steaming emotions.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Thrilling Night with Faux Reality

It was another electric night in Old Town on Saturday night when Mead’s Corner hosted a handful of local performers to strut their stuff for the coffee shop community. It is no simple task performing for an apathetic group of hipsters with varying degrees of odd haircuts and thick rimmed glasses that would make Rivers Cuomo embarrassed to see. Perhaps that is a plausible excuse as to why each group, leading up to headliners Faux Reality, had a nervous twitch in their smile as they took the momentary attention of the room atop the brightly lit stage in the musty establishment. There was a rich scent of coffee and egotism as sound checks occurred and equipment was prepared for the night. As the crowd began to shuffle their Vans and Converse into the room and down into their respective seats, the first act took stage for what was inevitably going to be a memorable night, for good or for worse.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review: I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody's Business - Gold Rush

Ace Enders’ moniker for his solo work, I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business, has never been more appropriate than on his newest release, Gold Rush. The record follows the expected and perfected pattern that Enders is known to utilize, with soft acoustic strums and upbeat drumming to lay the ground for his smart and personal lyrics, but now his words take on a slightly more sour and self-conscious tone. It is clear from the first verse of opening track ‘Gold Rush’ that he has come across a new stage in his life. He croons with a misleading sweetness, “after the gold rush, didn’t think I’d be alone/so alone,” and in just a few words, he gives the listener the smallest taste of what’s to come, setting the tone for the remainder of the album. His love for that clashing contrast between light and dark is the key factor in what makes Gold Rush such an affecting and interesting album, making it a fantastic addition to his already immense collection of memorable records.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Review: Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room - Hurricane Season

For the majority of his magnificent and extensive career with Alkaline Trio, Dan Andriano has been providing soundtracks for the lonely and angst filled teens and adults alike across the world. As the bassist and secondary singer/writer of the group, he fueled the fire that Matt Skiba ignited, giving the group a backbone and a necessary variance in its style. While Skiba was a fan of a direct punch to the gut with his writing and musicianship, Andriano chose to be a more brooding and atmospheric performer. His songs were gloomy and honest, but not overwhelmingly so. Beneath the dreary aesthetic that he presented himself with, there was still a light of integrity that kept his writing from becoming monotonous and stereotypical. With this background, it should come with no surprise that when he eventually released his solo work nearly two years in the making, that it should not only match his previous work, but in some instances one-up it. With the fresh and appropriate moniker of Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room, he releases his emotionally demanding LP, Hurricane Season, which pulls no punches and conceals no secrets of what’s been running through Andriano’s ever intriguing mind. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Song of the Day 52: Bowerbirds - House of Diamonds

It's that time of year when I retreat to my room for hours upon hours and rarely see sunlight. As horribly unhealthy as I've become, I'll always find solace in the fact that music never quite pulls the plug on me. Fairly often I find music that clings to me like ants to the soda I never cleaned from my hardwood floor. And more often than not, I find that music to be indie-folk. Indeed I've grown quite a love in my heart for the whimsical and care free music that blooms beneath the bridge of the mainstream. Bowerbirds' little unknown bit of joy, Upper Air, is precisely what I need these days, and 'House of Diamonds' starts it off humbly and effectively. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Song of the Day 51: Tim Neuhaus - As Life Found You

Tim Neuhaus is one of those fantastic little gems that pops up when you aren't looking. The video for his song 'As Life Found You' is both clever and sincere, accentuating the tender nature of the music. It's simplistic, but evolves beyond its structural boundaries when paired with the brilliant composition of the tale in the video. This might be one of the few instances when a music video adds onto the enjoyment of a song for me, and I recommend everyone give it a view. Tim Neuhaus hasn't quite hit the crescendo of his career, but promises to be something worth looking for in the future.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Song of the Day 50: The Doors - The End

It's difficult to believe that music recorded forty-five years ago can still be full to the brim with life and relevance. 'The End', an apocalyptic fever dream of a song by the worshiped psychedelic-rock group The Doors has somehow kept its claws sharp and planted in the psyche of anybody that has heard its haunting rhythms. It crawls at a nightmarish pace, randomly breaking into spouts of explosive rage, then pacifying itself back down to a stalking creep. Every time I hear it, I'm taken to the opening of Apocalypse Now, where Michael Sheen is shouting belligerent and drunk in a bloody mess. He said that while filming that scene there wasn't any sort of script, but rather he was expelling his inner demons. I think Jim Morrison may have had a similar mindset when writing this song.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Song of the Day 49: La Dispute - Sunday Morning, at a Funeral

Since the release of their groundbreaking full length LP in 2008, La Dispute have focused their efforts on smaller, more concise pieces of music. A series of spoken-word EPs and two splits with two different bands over the past three years have kept their name alive and fuming with buzz as well as helped them perfect their sound and slowly progress as a band. 'Sunday Morning, at a Funeral' comes from their most recent split with Koji, and is a perfect snapshot of what their sound has become over the past years. Instead of telling a grand story over 13 tracks on an LP, they've instead started telling quick and substantial tales over single tracks. Like I say with every La Dispute track I hear, they're slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Song of the Day 48: Heavens - Annabelle

If there's anything that can be said about Matt Skiba and Josiah Steinbrick's project, Heavens, it's that it could take the listener to a different place and time. Their debut LP, Patent Pending, sunk the listener into a sort of ethereal darkness where each song swayed and groaned to reach its ultimate destination in that dreary part of your brain. 'Annabelle' captures Skiba at his best, using his ability to craft catchy choruses and imagery akin to that of Edgar Allen Poe to ensnare the listener while still giving them a reason to keep listening. It's not music for a party, but rather a funeral. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Song of the Day 47: Kanye West - Champion

When Kanye West isn't being an egotistic psychopath, he's usually making some damn fine hip-hop. His music has slowly progressed from his humble days of self-conscious tunes about college and the struggles of the real world, to the now triumphant and success fueled tracks about just how gratuitously rich he is. 'Champion' from his third LP, logically titled Graduation, is an inspiring track that brilliantly samples Steely Dan to create one of the catchiest choruses that West has produced. The song reeks of ego but never quite reaches an obnoxious level, instead feeling more inspirational than boastful which makes it one of his best.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Song of the Day 46: Manchester Orchestra - Deer

Let's get back to this, shall we? Manchester Orchestra's fresh release, Simple Math, sways between tragic and fascinatingly melancholy as it explores each up and down that comes with depression. It begins fittingly with 'Deer', a song that sets the tone with reverberating atmosphere and dream-like flow. Lead man Andy Hull alone and deprived of human interaction as he pleads into the mic with a fragile tone that lends itself to the atmosphere perfectly. Simple Math is an album worth a spin that hits magnificent highs, but never quite sustains them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Short Story: Beauty Supreme

So here's a really old story I wrote for a contest. It's fairly depressing, so if you're in a good mood I advise you look elsewhere. Enjoy (or don't).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: La Dispute/Koji - Never Come Undone

As strange as their pairing is, La Dispute and Koji have an incredible chemistry on their recently released split titled Never Come Undone. For every strained and powerful chord struck on the two tracks composed by La Dispute, there is a matching moment to be found on Koji's half of the record. La Dispute start it off with the story told by 'Sunday Morning, at a Funeral' which shows them at a less intense - but equally emotional - composition than what is seen on their previous releases. Lead man Jordan Dreyer holds a fragile tone over the equally breakable instrumentation to create a cold atmosphere layered thick with imagery which is all but second nature for the group. The contrast between this somber track and their immense full-length Somewhere... displays the group's ability to both maintain a certain atmosphere, but not necessarily adhere to a predetermined aesthetic. This remains true on the next track, an acoustic version of one of their earlier hardcore tracks, where they strip away the screams for a slow flowing rhythm to accentuate the emotion contained in the original. While not the most substantial addition to their library, La Dispute's portion of the split is fulfilling at best, if not only for the first track.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: The Unthanks - Last

It would be near impossible for a critic to take one glance at The Unthanks' 2011 release, Last, and not use any form of the word 'misery'. To avoid any further tiptoeing, I'll come right out and say it: Last is a truly miserable album. Sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, who make up the backbone of the group, are self-professed connoisseurs of gloom, and they've rightfully earned that title. The very moment the first note of "Gan to the Kye" strikes your ears, you're immediately immersed in the minds of The Unthanks. They welcome you with a foggy atmosphere constructed of Tim Burton-esque landscapes created by the myriad of instruments and haunting vocalizations that capture a cripplingly somber tone in seconds. Throughout the record there are stories of loss and gain, death and life, and most prominently regret. It may sound all too familiar for anybody with a niche in this brand of music, but it comes with a fresh feeling of inspiration and dedication to story telling.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Max Bemis and the Painful Splits 2 Review

I was always under the impression that Max Bemis was the epicenter of everything that made Say Anything so fantastic. However, since the release of his recent solo albums under the moniker of Max Bemis and the Painful Splits, I've begun to rethink that stance. Instead of these records being a chip off the old block with biting lyricism and energetic cynicism, we're greeted with what appears to be the appearance of Bemis' awkward alter ego. It began with the self-titled LP in 2010 -- an undeniable disappointment, but overall not an entirely terrible effort for Bemis dipping his toes in the water. The music was a lo-fi, acoustic jumble of a record with the overarching theme of 'keep it simple, keep it safe,' with the lyricism never stretching beyond the boundaries of Bemis' latest works. Since then came the sequel with a name as simple as its contents, Max Bemis and the Painful Splits 2.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Song of the Day 44: Touche Amore - Tilde

Ever since their collaboration with La Dispute last summer, I've been super pumped about what's to come next from Touche Amore. They're among the best in the Hardcore genre right now and are worth keeping an eye on for anybody interested in this kind of music. Their music is concise, clever, and addicting and they know how to work an audience like seasoned veterans. Check 'em out.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Song of the Day 43: Tyler, The Creator - Blow

Excuse my laziness but I’m in not feeling too well in the writing mood. Tyler, The Creator is fucking awesome, enjoy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Song of the Day 42: Say Anything - Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat

As much as I've tried, I don't think I'll ever be able to describe what it is that makes me love ...Is A Real Boy so much. It's a strange, disjointed product of insanity and I can't say I'd have it any other way. I've always thought that the best music is made when the writer is fucking crazy - case and point being Max Bemis. During the production of his breakthrough masterpiece, he went through the tried and true method of abusing drugs and alcohol to create some seriously abstract shit. And one of the byproducts of this organized madness is 'Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat', which is essentially a microcosm of Bemis' mind. Drugs are wonderful, aren't they?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Song of the Day 41: The Killers - All These Things That I've Done

Even though my history of seeing bands live isn't long and noteworthy, there will always be one experience that will stay in my heart. Almost two years ago my friend and I went to see The Killers, and quite frankly my expectations weren't too high. They seemed like one of those cocky bands that hit it big that would go out, play their songs, and wave goodbye as they thinned your wallets. Jesus fucking Christ was I wrong. The show they put on was not only flashy and energetic, but it made everybody in the audience feel like a part of the band. Easily the best moment of the night was everybody singing "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier" in unison. I will never forget that.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Song of the Day 40: At the Drive-In - Arcarsenal

Intensity plays a big role in what makes At The Drive-In so goddamn enthralling. It's the way in which they're able to both make you lash out in dance and shout in victorious fury that makes me wish I could have been around to see them live. It's a shame how late it is that I discover the bands that faded away into obscurity. While I immerse myself in a separate writing project, I try to pick music to listen to that best fits the mood. If ever I need to write about somebody being very, very intense, I know where to turn. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Song of the Day 39: The Antlers - Epilogue

I'm not ashamed to say that I've cried to music more than I ever have at any film. There isn't much I can say about The Antlers that hasn't been said time and time again, but I'll do my best to give a quick summation. Peter Siblerman, is in a few words, a fucking genius. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Song of the Day 38: The Beatles - Rocky Raccoon

I, like many people, can remember the first time I really began to immerse myself in The Beatles. It happened during a very strange time in my life, but I can only look back with a smile as I remember my first play through of the White album. I remember tapping my foot along with 'Rocky Raccoon' in the algebra class I never understood, and singing along to 'Julia' every time the world confused me. Everybody has their favorite Beatles song, Beatles album, favorite Beatle even, and I'm no different. 'Rocky Raccoon' will always stick with me because of the classic spaghetti western atmosphere and the immersing qualities of its imagery. I may be 50 years late, but I have the Beatlemania in me. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Song of the Day 37: Weezer - El Scorcho

Back in the day when I had faith that Weezer could produce a solid record without resorting to multi-million dollar rap star cameos, there was always one song that snatched my heart. It began with an abnormal plucking of a guitar and Cuomo crooning about those goddamn half-Japanese girls. In this song I found a garage band welcoming me into one of their jam sessions and was treated to the most simplistic of pleasures. I can't listen to this song without singing that beautiful first line with the biggest grin on my face. Long live Pinkerton.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Song of the Day 36: La Dispute - nine

It's applause worthy, the way that La Dispute can so easily change their style and never once lose their high level of quality. Whether it be on their emotionally charged, screaming masterpiece that was Somewhere At The Bottom... or on their series of spoken word EPs slowly released over the last few years, they never once slip up. On the first track of their third poetic EP, lead man Jordan Dreyer creates a fragile and tangible atmosphere in the simplest of ways, but doesn't forget to imprint his own personal touch to make it his own. It's brilliant the way this band can do so many things and do them all wonderfully. I feel my praise for them will only grow as they release more of their work.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Song of the Day 35: John Lennon - Give Peace A Chance

There are so many images that run through my head when I listen to one of John Lennon's most loved songs, 'Give Peace A Chance'. He was loved for both his musical prowess and his likability as a key character in the peace revolution in the 60's, and for good reason. He bled tie-dye and emanates the warmth of a campfire when he shouts with a crowd of lovers during the chorus with a resounding "Give peace a chance!". This is the type of song that sticks with you as something to hum on a quiet walk around town or while observing the beauty of the stars in the sky on a cool summer night. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Song of the Day 34: The Mars Volta - Drunkship of Lanterns

The Mars Volta has such a unique madness about them. I could sit here and try to describe exactly what is interesting and fantastic about 'Drunkship of Lanterns', but I fear I would only waste my time. It shifts and transforms itself in such a seamless manner that you barely notice when it sends itself off in a spastic tangent. In just over seven minutes it not only captures your attention, but keeps you guessing as to what comes next. Don't dismiss The Mars Volta as the pretentious band everybody makes them out to be, they're truly fantastic beneath all the hype.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Song of the Day 33: The Antlers - Parantheses

On their previous record, The Antlers received massive acclaim for their masterful utilization of both cathartic lyricism and a suffocatingly bleak atmosphere. So, it's only natural for them to take that success and bundle it up into a new record of the same style, yes? Fortunately for us, they show promise of opening up a new chapter in their music with their brand new single, 'Parentheses'. Not only is there a fresh tone and a flawless style to this song, but the simplistic guitar licks paired with Peter Silberman's falsetto makes for a beautiful contrast. I'm shitting myself in excitement for the new record as we speak.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Song of the Day 32: Modest Mouse - Cowboy Dan

I've always loved the stressed and strained tone of Modest Mouse's debut record, Lonesome Crowded West. The bending of the strings and the estranged vocals by Isaac Brock all set a tense and powerful atmosphere on the album's seventh track, 'Cowboy Dan'. Everything about this song encompasses what makes Modest Mouse so fantastic. With the biting social commentary to the atmospheric progression of notes and vocal stresses, 'Cowboy Dan' shapes itself up to be one of the most memorable songs to come from the band as they exploded onto the scene.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Song of the Day 31: The National - Green Gloves

As much as I harp about The National, I don't think I could ever adequately talk about them enough. They captured the hearts of millions with Boxer and Alligator and most recently High Violet because of one overarching feeling to all of their music - yearning. There is always a sense of a faraway desire when Matt Berninger croons on 'Green Gloves' that resonates so wonderfully with everything else the group has done. Berninger finds a way to portray human emotion and struggle so perfectly in his music, and that's what separates The National so far from their genre affiliates. With each creak and crack of his vocals, the song grows in both emotional integrity and social awareness. There's nothing about this song I don't adore.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Song of the Day 30: This Town Needs Guns - Dog

This Town Needs Guns are a band that boast their ability to make their music as technical as possible without seeming overly obnoxious while they do it. Their guitars change pace at a bullet speed and the drums can never seem to come down from their seizure-like state. 'Dog' comes from their appropriately titled record Animals and contains everything that needs to be stated about the band. It's both impressive and fascinating in its structure and embracingly spastic in its music. I was going to make a joke about Michael J. Fox playing the guitar but decided not to. Sorry, McFly.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Song of the Day 29: Manchester Orchestra - April Fool

Manchester Orchestra is a fantastic group hailing from Atlanta, Georgia who I found out about from, funnily enough, one of my teachers last semester. They've gained the praise of both mainstream audiences and music critics alike and have found themselves comfortably sitting on top of the indie rock scene. To fuel the hype machine for their upcoming record they've released two new songs in the past month or so, one of which was released today, and are slowly turning the wheel to make everyone wee in their pantaloons in excitement. I am one of those wet trouser people. The sound they utilize on these two new tracks is similar to what they did on 2009's Mean Everything to Nothing while still feeling completely fresh. Click the link above to check out their brand new single, 'April Fool'.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Song of the Day 28: Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

Sufjan Stevens is undoubtedly one of the most unique artists in the music scene today. On his critically acclaimed record Illinois he blew everybody else out of the water with his insanely intricate and beautiful music composed of booming orchestras and zooming synths. On his 2010 record he explored the more synth-oriented portions of his former records and kicked it up a notch. The title track from The Age of Adz is a perfect example of this progression in its 8 minutes of pure electronic and orchestral bliss. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Song of the Day 27: It ain't hard to tell - Nas & Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Four Tet mix)

Today I decided on a song a little outside the norm. For the most part I loath remixes and mash-ups of any sort, but lately I've come across a rare variety of truly creative songs that I think deserve some credit. A while ago I came across this mix of two songs by two artists that couldn't be any different. Whoever it was that did this mix took the instrumentals from Godspeed You! Black Emperor's song 'Sleep' and added in the vocals from Nas' "It Ain't Hard To Tell" to create a surprisingly perfect product. The melodies and flow from each song go together so well it almost seems intentional. Though many fans from each group may dislike the clashing of the two genres, this mix remains a truly impressive feat of strength by the creator.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Song of the Day 26: Death Cab For Cutie - The New Year

Death Cab For Cutie is a band I've always heard mixed opinions about, but for me they'll always be a go to group when I crave some crisp indie music. Their album Transatlanticism will always be a nostalgic ride for me, and has been since early 2009. Ben Gibbard is easily one of the best lead men in modern music and holds this position with his imaginative and thought-provoking lyricism stemming mostly from his social experiences. Everything about this band has become something I can relate with and I feel like I've grown up with some of these songs as they age without a wrinkle. I'll include a small lyric at the bottom which may be my favorite from the record. It's incredibly simple, but it really hits me.

I wish the world was flat like the old days, and I could travel just by folding the map. No more airplanes or speed trains or freeways, there'd be no distance that could hold us back.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Song of the Day 25: Dangers - Power Chord Blues

Dangers is a particularly angry band. I mean, really fucking angry. On 'Power Chord Blues' for example, they're fairly pissed with the state of the music industry. And what hardcore band isn't really? It seems all too common a theme to be a pissy little badger about how music is nowadays, but Dangers is almost elegant with their fury. There are several things that make this song so incredible, from the intensity and concise nature of it, to the back and forth during the breakdown and the ceaseless energy throughout. It's nice to let out a bit of that angry side in you, isn't it?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Song of the Day 24: Person L - Canyonlands

It's another gloomy Saturday in this unpredictable state of mine and once again I find myself slouched in bed with nothing to do but eat spaghetti and enjoy some lovely music. Person L fulfills my need with their drum powered track from their debut record, "Canyonlands". This is another one of those songs that builds, but never quite crescendos. Instead it cools itself down to a peaceful strut by the end of track which ends with the final plucks of an electric guitar. This style is a norm for the band and has really set them apart from their competitors in their packed genre. Also, Kenny Vasoli could sing a rabid bear into submission.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Song of the Day 23: Nana Grizol - Cynicism

For those familiar with my blog, you know that I sang the praises of Nana Grizol not too long ago. Their fantastic record "Ruth" was both warm and embracing while still having a subtle touch of melancholy underneath. Perhaps my favorite track of 2010, album opener 'Cynicism' contains everything that makes this band fantastic. The poetic lyricism paired with the warmth of lead man Theo Hilton is what makes this song flow like the breeze of a humid summer night. Though many may be unfamiliar with this unbelievably underrated group, 'Cynicism' should be evidence enough that they deserve your time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Song of the Day 22: TV On The Radio - Love Dog

TV On The Radio are a recently rediscovered love of mine that I forgot about some time back in 2007. I had briefly been infatuated with their fantastic song 'Wolf Like Me', but they seemingly dropped off the face of the planet for me sometime afterward. "Love Dog" is a song off of their latest full-length, Dear Science, and it really captured me upon first listen. I can't decide which I like more about this song - either the string instruments playing throughout or the mellow feel of it. Maybe I just really like the way "lonely little love dog" sounds.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Song of the Day 21: Elliot Smith - Needle In The Hay

For all the praise I've heard about Mr. Smith over the years, I never fully indulged myself until just recently. His self-titled LP feels like a hangover set to sound with his soft voice lulling your ears into a somber slumber. The subtle intensity of opener "Needle In The Hay" keeps me waiting for the moment when he unleashes that fiery passion hidden behind the slow plucks of the acoustic as his voice slowly gains momentum, but he never quites let's it loose. That's the beauty of this track - never quite knowing what comes next from Smith. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Song of the Day 20: The Early November - The Truth Is

Ace Enders has never been too shy with how personal his music is. During his days with The Early November he crafted his music with a hyper-intimacy that would make Justin Vernon feel threatened. Perhaps my favorite track off of the 46 song LP, The Mother, The Mechanic, And The Path, "The Truth Is" is a fine example of both Ender's ability to pull the audience in, and his band's ability to craft music tender enough to accompany him. The clever way he incorporates each instrument with his writing is brilliant and is one of the best moments of the whole record. If ever they decide to reunite, I hope they live up to what they left behind.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Song of the Day 19: Cursive - Big Bang

Cursive is own of those lovely little bands I've stumbled upon through the magnificent thing known as the internet. When I discovered they were touring with one of my favorite bands (Alkaline Trio) last year, I immediately dug up every album from them I could. God, what a fantastic discovery. Through most of their work they never really focus on one certain subject matter. They jump from divorce, to the terrors of fame, to Happy Hollow's fairly blatant theme of religious doubt. "Big Bang" is the essential song to represent the album, and perhaps the band as a whole. The enormous presence of horns on this song (and the record it comes from) shows the group's versatility with their instrumentation. This is also shown by the beautiful use of the cello on The Ugly Organ. I highly, highly recommend to this band to anyone who has a thing for energetic and passionate music.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Song of the Day 18: Ticonderoga - Drunkmare

Much like my Saturdays, I'm often as lazy as humanly possible when that last day of the week comes around. Those hidden little indie gems like Ticonderoga often have some of the best songs you've never heard, and are just perfect for a day spent in bed. A recent addiction I've gained from them is the fifth track on their self-titled LP, "Drunkmare". It both slowly gains momentum while still keeping a peaceful calm about it and is so subtly melancholy that it catches you off guard when it grabs at your heart. Listen, learn, love.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Song of the Day 17: The National - Start A War

On gloomy, lukewarm Saturdays like today I enjoy listening to some slow, calming music and The National happily obliges me. Whether the relevance of the title of this song is at all applicable to the current situation in Libya, which floats around in my mind more and more each day, this remains to be one of my favorite songs from this fantastic indie group. For those who haven't yet fully introduced themselves to The National should take time and immerse themselves in Boxer, it's a truly remarkable album. As for me I'll sink into my bed and enjoy Boxer for the rest of the day. Cheers.

Song of the Day 16: Bayside - The Wrong Way

Bayside's new record Killing Time is, in a few words, exactly what we thought it would be. Fans of the band know them as one of the most consistent artists around today, with each of their albums providing quality music injected with fiery hot passion and anger. Since their arrival on the scene they've pumped out album after album of sinisterly embracing music and Killing Time is no different. Track seven of the record, "The Wrong Way", is one of the best songs they've released since their earlier days with an insane solo and lyrics reminiscent of classic Raneri. Bayside is a cult.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An American History Writing Project

Here's a little 10 page writing project I did for my American History class a month or so ago. I got some good feedback and figured it might be worth posting so here it is. It's quite a lengthy read, so thank you to whoever takes the time. Click below for the whole story.

Song of the Day 15: Defeater - Blessed Burden

While the trend of storytelling in hardcore music isn't all too uncommon, one group by the name of Defeater have seemingly taken over the market with their two critically renowned releases in the past three years. The writing on both record's is superb in its ability to tell a story in a concise and understandable fashion, but still giving the listener a reason to continue to listen with the addicting musicianship and intense vocals. They do a fantastic job of stirring up their audience with the insane amount of energy that they have and on their debut full-length Travels they start it with a roaring train of a track. "Blessed Burden" gives you no chance to ease into the group's sound. They shove it down your throat and expect you to keep up - and if you do you're in for quite a ride.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Song of the Day 14: Neutral Milk Hotel - Song Against Sex

As stereotypical as it may be, I am one of the people who think Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over The Sea is a perfect record. Upon first listening of that record I had no idea the band had previously released any other music. I was so focused on IAOS that no other music mattered to me for about a three month period. However once I discovered their debut record On Avery Island, I immersed myself in a new experience from a band I thought i'd known inside and out. As the opening song of the record, "Song Against Sex" is both an energetic beginning and a beautiful introduction to what is to come from the band. With both the strange lyricism and unpredictable musicianship, Neutral Milk Hotel stamp their unique style onto the listener immediately.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Song of the Day 13: Listener - Ozark Empire, or a snake oil salesman comes to your town.

Listener is without a doubt one of the most interesting artists I've come along in the past year. I've rummaged through indie blog after indie blog trying to find new artists, but it was Dan Smith's appearance in The Chariot's music video that caught my eye more than anything. On his newest release Wooden Heart (review for it here) he explores the art of spoken word poetry, but this wasn't always his style. On some of his earlier releases, Return to Struggleville in this case, he explored a sort of hip-hop like approach to his poetry. The song above is a testament to how simplistic, but powerful, his music is. Banging on an old washer with the handle of an axe to make a beat? Dre watch your back.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Anthem Song Review

Let's take a moment to step back and observe Aaron Gillespie's career. During his time with the wildly successful post-hardcore powerhouse, Underoath, he was the glue that held the group together through its years of interchanging members. And with them he provided his clean, powerful vocals to contrast the harsh screams, and in a way he helped to perfect the style. During the later period of his Underoath career, he also built up his side-project, The Almost, who were a softer rocking group with a very similar religious message to them. Now in an attempt to find his comfort zone with a side-project to his side-project, Gillespie has gone solo to explore a more overtly religious backbone for his music. Much like the music that came with The Almost, Gillespie's debut LP Anthem Song is both a soft-rock and an acoustic effort with a touch of folk, however now with a very distinct feeling of gospel. As for the religious background that remained mostly dormant during his time with both Underoath and The Almost, it now rears its head in the most blatant fashion possible as Gillespie sings exclusively of Jesus and God; Heaven and Hell. If ever there were any doubts of Mr. Gillespie's devotion to big J.C., please allow him to dispel them in the blandest of fashions. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Truant Wave Review

Patrick Stump is something of an interesting character, isn't he? During his time with the wildly successful Fall Out Boy, he led his group through a series of pop-punk (border on pop toward the end of their career) releases, which garnered them an explosion of attention from 2003 to 2008. Since the band's indefinite hiatus announcement in 2010, he's been working on his upcoming solo album, Soul Punk. From this release spawned the six track EP, Truant Wave which was released in order to keep the fans satisfied until he could complete his full length - and with this release came quite the surprise. The album sports a boisterous and danceable power-pop sound, saturated with synth and club-pounding beats under Stump's powerfully soulful vocals. With such a remarkable career shift from one of the most well known mainstream pop-punk front men, it will undoubtedly create quite the hype machine from his devoted fans - but does it deserve such a response?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Degeneration Street Review

Degeneration Street, The Dears fifth studio outing, is an album you've heard countless times before. During the congested fifty-nine minutes that compose the record, the group chooses from a grab-bag of genres, varying between bits and pieces of arena-rock, to anthemic indie jams, and even the occasional toe tapping pop tune. While this range of sound would be hard to pull off by even the craftiest of artists, it's the disregard for any sort of flow that presents Degeneration Street as disjointed and unorganized. This lack of focus is fairly strange when one takes a look at the group's 2008 release, Missiles, on which they created a concentrated atmosphere of dismal and somber futures. Fast-forward two years and you find a band that has somehow lost a voice of their own, and have dove head-first into a muddied pool of genre clichés and songwriting barren of any real inspiration. Degeneration Street is what you get when you scrape the floating remains of a dozen other records off the top of that pool. 

Though, credit where credit is due, Degeneration Street begins in a deceivingly great way. "Omega Dog" is, hypothetically speaking, what the entirety of the record could have been had there been any sort of consistency with its sound. Every bit of this song works together in a wonderful assembly of what went right with the band's previous effort. The screaming guitar at the end, the hushed intensity of the violins during the build up to the crescendo and the equally boisterous drumming all lend each other to Murray Lightburn's charming falsetto. Had the record followed this path in even a few more songs, it would have made it immensely more successful - however, just as track two begins, we're introduced to another band. The undeniably Arcade Fire influenced "5 Chords" screams everything about this record that needs to be said. From the out of the blue tonal shift from track one, to the contrived rising and falling from verse to chorus, The Dears kill the success of track one and begin to bury it with each track from there onward. 

From sightings of Radiohead and The Killers, to frequent glimpses of TV On The Radio, it's simple to see what went wrong with Degeneration Street. In a record riddled with repeated chorus after repeated chorus, paired with the unused sheet music of every prominent indie artist in the scene, The Dears anchor themselves to the bottom of the indie scene where they could be swimming victoriously. For every nearly impressive moment that they pull off, there is another uninspired shot at success that drags it down by the ankles. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Cold Still Review

The Boxer Rebellion are the metaphorical pebble trying to make tsunamis in the massive ocean that is the current alt-rock scene. With their third studio release, The Cold Still, they invest all of their creative gusto to import influences across the gamut to ultimately attempt to craft a sound of their own. With each unavoidable comparison to groups such as Radiohead or even U2, they struggle to make their voice loud enough to penetrate the critics who claim they're riding coattails. However, with each haunting crawl and creep coalescing with each booming crescendo throughout the relatively short duration of The Cold Still, they show an undeniable potential that is surely ready to be unleashed. Unfortunately for The Boxer Rebellion, this budding talent has yet to reach its full growth, and thusly we're given an album that is, for all intents and purposes, another stepping stone for a still blooming alt-rock group.

As Nathan Nicholson's vocals anxiously repeat the chorus of opener, "No Harm", he also introduces the overall atmosphere of the record. Within tracks such as "Step Out of the Car" and "Caught by the Light" he creates a variety of different moods that seamlessly tie back to a frigid, foggy backdrop for his lyrics to float upon. Unfortunately all of these must come with the comparisons to several tracks of similar bands, but are undoubtedly performed well in their own element. Luckily for them they prove their creative worth several times throughout the record, even producing some truly engrossing tracks such as "Both Sides Are Even". It utilizes the classic buildup and hits a wonderful crescendo, making for one of the most memorable tracks of the record. Had The Boxer Rebellion hit such highs as found in the gems of the record, they could have made a remarkable record - and although they hit the nail on the head several times, they never quite hit the pinnacle of what they're seemingly capable of.

While their influences crowd the record in a fairly noticeable manner, The Boxer Rebellion show that they're capable of moving into their own voice. They vary their style in an impressive manner throughout the album, with memorable crescendos and a well-maintained atmosphere paired with consistently smooth instrumentation and vocals to match. As they slowly get their bearings with The Cold Still, The Boxer Rebellion mostly do what the album title suggests by maintaining a mostly cold atmosphere and doing little to vary from it. A little simplicity goes a long way, but a change of pace for this band would not do them any harm.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Barton Hollow Review

The Civil War's highly anticipated debut LP, Barton Hollow, arrives just in time to capitalize on the season that fits its moods most accurately - winter. The timid plucks of the acoustic guitar paired with the breathy, soulful voices of the vocal duo Joy Williams and John Paul White encapsulate the season with a stunning precision as they volley between a simplistic folk facet and an underlying soulful country presence. It's this tip-toeing between genres that allows The Civil Wars to experiment in their myriad of techniques in order to convey what they do best - and that is writing music.

Atop their wispy and flowing music in the opening tracks of the record, they croon their poetic romanticisms on superb tracks like "I've Got This Friend" and "To Whom It May Concern" which will either split your heart in two or leave you chagrined that you're listening to such cutesy tunes. The pair work wonderfully together as their contrasting vocals hit perfect harmony occasionally, with White's gruff deliveries mixing with Williams' soft-as-silk vocalization to a surprisingly effortless success. It's in these soft moments that they slowly build up to the climax of the record, "Barton Hollow", which hits with a sharp intensity as they stir in hints of rock with their decidedly simple folk backbone. The pair's singing of "Won't do me no good washing in the river/Can't no preacher man save my soul" is another example of how well they mix together with their contrasting accents and vocal tones, but still finding a way to make it sound completely natural.

After the explosion that was the title track, the album simmers down to a musical interlude as the haunting "The Violet Hour" moves with a soothing eeriness as a cello hums in the foreground. Even with the absence of Williams and White, they contain the chilled atmosphere in the most layered and musically adept song on the album. They show enormous strides throughout this record as it progresses, which hits a small stagnancy as the few tracks before the conclusion mull along, but still they end with a satisfying number. "Birds of a Feather" is the one song that can describe everything that The Civil Wars has to offer to the world of modern folk music. It sways and swells with the group's customary vocals and simplistic chord progression, but still manages to remain absorbing as their lyricism ends the record on a remarkable note. With Barton Hollow, The Civil Wars live up to every bit of hype that arose prior to its release and imprint some incredible tracks onto their resume as their career begins with a bang. Not only are they a group showered in praise, but also they're a group that deserves that praise. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real payoff of Barton Hollow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

There Are Rules Review

It must be a difficult task for a band to ask themselves just how long they can keep up a certain style or demeanor when it comes to how they make music - and for The Get Up Kids, it seems they did this long ago. Upon the release of their 1999 critically acclaimed LP, Something To Write Home About, they were the face of catchy and innocent pop-punk, and for good reason. They displayed the ability to not only craft fun and memorable tunes fueled by a nostalgic energy, but to sustain it for an entire record and not just pump out a few singles and call it a day. However, one must wonder how long they could have kept that up. What's the shelf-life of innocent pop music when bands appear out of the mist to ride off your coattails? And to answer this, they released their 2002 LP, On A Wire, which stripped away elements of pop-punk and replaced it with a new, slightly more grown approach to what they established on their previous outing. They built upon this sound until their eventual break-up in 2004 and since then they've poked their heads out of their holes to release a teaser of an EP just last year, and now their long-awaited return, There Are Rules

With their return, The Get Up Kids make it clear that they're not quite the Kids we once knew, but aren't entirely different either. Throughout the record we're introduced to a new, slightly more powerful version of the melancholic boys who produced their first four records. Beginning with the quick and strong "Tithe", which flows intensely with its distorted guitars and thick bass lines - which remain a prominent feature throughout the record - they teeter on the edge of their previous veneer with a newer, nearly-punk sounding performance. Matt Pryor's often belligerent vocal work is what sets the group apart so clearly from their previous work. He shouts with a powerful intensity, but can still restrain himself for the poppier tracks such as "Shatter Your Lung", which again features the prominent bass beautifully. It comes with no surprise how versatile the group is during several moments on the record, as they've tested the waters of their capabilities over their four previous LP's, however during several moments on the album they seem to rely too much on the gritty sound they utilized superbly on other tracks, bringing their momentum down to a slow drag.

While several moments during the course of the record can take away from the overall enjoyment of The Get Up Kids' return to the studio, they ultimately deliver with a fun, energetic, and fresh album to please long-term fans and usher in a new sound for themselves with only a few glaring flaws along the way. The drab, boring feel of "When It Dies" and "Keith Case" bog down the last tracks of the record, but never entirely let it sink. It would take a lot for The Get Up Kids to make a bad record, and fortunately for them they haven't done it in their fourteen years in the industry.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Outside Review

Outside, Tapes 'n Tapes third studio album, is kind of like that really annoying friend that you only keep around because every now and then they do something interesting that will make for a good story later on. For every fun and catchy moment on the record, there's another typical and outright boring match for it waiting on the next track to make you forget what made you enjoy the last - and it's only in those rare enjoyable moments that Tapes 'n Tapes show their real potential. Hiding behind the bells and whistles that saturate most of the record in a vain attempt to make it slightly more interesting, there is a band that really wants to make music for an audience, but something is holding them back. 

The groups' forty-five minute LP starts with "Badaboom" a quick, enjoyable track not too uncommon on many indie-pop records present in today's congested scene, but soon afterward it begins to decline into an uninspired, dragging record that only slightly keeps its mouth above the water to sustain a little life. For the first five tracks, Tapes 'n Tapes do a fine job of sustaining the energy that many indie-pop bands thrive upon, producing some very fun and memorable songs such as the toe-tapping "SWM" or the delightfully boisterous "One in the World" which introduces horns and subtle chimes to the mostly stagnant musicianship. However, once "Outro" ends and "Freak Out" begins with its deceivingly upbeat guitar licks, the real feel of the record begins to show its face. The lyricism which was nothing to write home about to begin with, paired with Josh Grier's dull tone over the desperately energetic music makes for a falsified sense of liveliness and soon the album lies itself down in its own grave holding a bouquet of clichés. It abuses the inspiration of bands such as Phoenix or maybe even a pinch of The Killers in order to lazily stride past any worthwhile lyricism or memorable moments past the first few tracks. 

To the group's credit, they decently begin and even end the record in a memorable fashion, but what lies in between is forgettable at best and makes no real effort to display any of the band's talents - and they certainly have them. If the record were more devoted to the energy and stylish charisma of the beginning and ending tracks, then it could easily be one of the most enjoyable records to start the year off - unfortunately, that road wasn't taken. It's adequate for the singles that could come from it, but for what's leftover, it's nothing short of an uninspired, boring clutter of a record. There are the catchy drum patterns and the slick guitar riffs, as well as the damn good bass lines in several tracks, but the droning feel of the last half of the record simply can't compensate for what lacks in both lyricism and creative effort. Perhaps it would be best to not cross our fingers for a fresh approach to indie-pop in 2011.