Monday, May 07, 2007

Desert Island- Five Albums.

Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica (2000 Epic)

The 2nd life changing album of my life behind Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. The scope of this album is massive. Isaac Brock has always had a love affair with nature and chemicals. Brock’s chemicals and nature themes are nothing new. Lonesome Crowded West set the stage of a masterful album but more focus on a central theme tied The Moon and Antarctica together. Higher production values on the album let the unique arrangement of instruments. The album’s has a theme of everything being there for a reason, almost as if Brock has finally stopped yelling at the world as accepted things for what they really are. It’s almost religious how he ties it together along with the frustrations of people, life and environment that can really affect people. The variety of songs from pop gems like Gravity Rides Everything to the epic The Stars are Projectors this album’s flow is perfect. Side D of the record has two songs that really pin down what life is about and then ends with blasting What People Are Made of, a stark social commentary. While my first listen of this album was the CD format, after hearing the re-mastered and original print vinyl I expect this Island has a sweet turntable cause I’m bringing my first pressing LP.

The Album Leaf – In A Safe Place (2004 Subpop)

Jimmy LaValle’s personal project the Album Leaf has always been a favorite of mine over the more pslychedelic nature of Tristeza. This album features help from Iceland’s Sigur Ros and the help shows. The album’s mostly instrumenta nature is swooping and peaceful. The arrangements never become too overwhelming and hold a sense of calm and peace from track to track. To say that an album can put you to sleep often times is a curse but in this case it’s perfect. It’s the kind of album that generates a overwhelming calm and relaxation. The title really puts it perfectly it’s an album that will take you to a safe place where nothing can touch you. A perfect escape.

Wilco – Kicking Television Live in Chicago (Nonesuch 2005)

Wilco is one of the best bands ever. Choosing one album is near impossible for me. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot might be the pinnacle of their career, but Summer Teeth was amazing as well. Not to forget A Ghost is Born that changed the direction while keeping the folk mentality and pushing forward in pushing more noise and chaos in the songs. Kicking Television takes some of the best Wilco songs ever and records them with the vigor and intensity that the band rarely shows on studio albums.
The tracks and the live addition is what really makes this album shine. The two tracks off Summer Teeth (A Shot in the Arm and Via Chicago) add some amazing drum and guitar noise that really make the tracks into something new. Listening to them off the album often times now I am about to rock out hard when the songs don’t. (not to say the studio versions are bad, but the album had much better tracks)
What else is there to say about Wilco? They might be one of the greatest bands of all time. This recording is pristine and the instrumentation is perfect. Even the flaws just make it better. It’s like a best of without the familiarity fully there. I only wish some of the newer tracks were replaced with classics but never the less it’s brilliant. Besides it’s nice to know that others are enjoying their life while I’m stuck on this damn island.

Sunny Day Real Estate – How It Feels to Be Something On (Sub Pop 1998)
Coming in about the third tier of the “emo” chronology SDRE was one of the best things that could have come out of a post grunge/hardcore early emo state. Maybe that’s just putting names on things but SDRE came out as a strong force in early 1990s with their release of Diary. After mental breakdowns and finding his religion Jeremy Enigk was able to get things back on track and release what became one of the most swirling emotional albums ever. While maintaining a dark and hard edge on the songs they rocked a little less then before but made up for it in the artistic construction and genius guitar work.

This album came to me right when I stumbled into the world of college and will always be a perfect fit to my emotions going into something new and trying to find my own place. It’s an album that shows confusion, frustration and deep longing for things that seem to be so out of reach for whatever reasons it is from personal emotional troubles or the fickle nature of humans. The band has seen it’s share of interesting problems and success stories but this album is untouched in the lure of it all. Very personal and well constructed this is a stable that hold a dear part to me and my career in college.

The Velvet Underground ­– Loaded (Cotillon 1970)

The last album always brings about the hardest question. Classic or something that I’ve experienced in my time? Obviously I went with a classic. VU has put out so many great albums choosing one became really hard. It came down to Loaded and The Velvet Underground & Nico, but Loaded came in as the winner because it really was the first that I ever heard of Lou Reed and his band. Songs like Sweet Jane and Oh! Sweet Nothin’, were mainstays on my favorite songs early in my high school career.
It also put me in a hard place picking VU over Sonic Youth, but I find myself going back to VU more then SY on a daily basic. This album is chill, edgy and full of a sound that helped change the world and inspire so many of the bands that I love today. Having I found A Reason on it also helps knock it up to a mainstay. If the Underground was ever going to draw a tear to my eye, Loaded, is the album that would do so.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

The sophomore album is a true test of a bands merit. This is especially true of bands that have a first album that is both critically acclaimed and well received by the public. All the hype about the first album was boiled down to this band squeezed on the stage of Arlene’s Grocery in New York City. The bombardment of drums, guitars, violins, organs, and god knows what else propelled the spirit of rock, art and passion inside the hearts of the listeners, not the mention their first album, funeral, was near perfect.

That was in 2004, and not a peep came out except for cryptic banners on such websites like about something called Neon Bible. There was even a phone number to call. The band was slowly preparing the world for second masterpiece.

Neon Bible opens up much differently then funeral’s captivating build up. Black Mirror starts with some sonic pulse and then slams you with dark militant drums and seductivly angry vocals. As the song climaxes Win Butler and Regine Chassagne raise their voice as they count up French. Welcome to Neon Bible.

As the album progresses it builds in and out of darker and softer tempos. Using crescendos to swell the music in a witches melting pot, they brew worldly troubles, personal gripes and a search for something else. Black Wave / Bad Vibrations serves as an simple example of this point when they break off a with a light percussion build and Win slams in with his distressed vocals that shortly after get accented by Regine’s haunting vocals. The album continues into Ocean of Noise that could be the Rebellion (Lies) of this album.

(Antichrist Television Blues) and Windowstill take the most dramatic and forward target at the media and the general culture of America and the world. Parts from (Antichrist Television Blues) tackle the culture we’re surrounded in.

Cause the planes keep crashing always two by two
I don't wanna work in a building downtown
No I don't wanna see when the planes hit the ground

Their ability to tackle sensitive subject matter in a pure human fear musically and lyrically is unparalleled. The song continues telling the story of a God fearing man who’s little girl is going to be a star of television. Win cleverly uses a familiar child’s song to calm the listener with something both familiar and sends the message home in a more disturbing aspect.

So you better just stay close and hold onto me
If my little mocking bird don't sing
Then daddy won't buy her no diamond ring

The song ends with Win yelling “Oh, tell me Lord, Am I the Anti-christ!?” There are some fairly strong messages interweaved into Neon Bible and most of them aren’t pretty.

At the end of the journey they treat you to My Body is a Cage that captivates everything in the desperation of Win’s vocals and the drawn out organ chords. It’s the ultimate expression of beauty and oppressing fear that the entire album represents.

Comparing the album to Funeral doesn’t give it enough justice, this album can stand on it’s own. Mediocrity is unacceptable for bands who are capable of greatness. The Arcade Fire is not a trend, it’s not something that will be going away. These Canadians are original, talented, passionate, smart and are a breath of fresh air in the current music scene.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

get down

!!!Myth Takes

Give the hipsters back their dancing shoes and turn up the bass. !!! is back with a follow up to 2004’s Louden Up Now, and Nic Offer’s creative grooves are stronger then ever.

!!! is a visual image that the band uses as a name. Basically they can be called by repeating any one-syllable sound three times. Chk Chk Chk is most commonly used. Nic Offer was in the Yah Mahs until he wanted to make something more danceable. He created !!! and the recently broken up instrumental group Out Hud. !!! released the single Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yark (A True Story) in 2003 on Touch and Go Records and broke into the indie scene.

The seven dance punkers of !!! continue to do what they do best on Myth Takes. The albums infectious bass lines and break downs will make even the most negative Nancy tap along to the groove. Justin Van Der Volgen is one of the sickest bassists ever and crafts funky bass-lines over the barrage of sound the other members generate. Van Der Volgen and Offer really bring the band to life. Offer’s vocals and pure enjoyment that can be found in his various vocals styles oozes passion and joy. The rest of the bands talent is shown in the breakdowns and transitions the band takes regularly.

The opening title track is an excellent strong one that immediately put me in the mood for the album. You can't ask more for an opening song. Three tracks in comes Must be the Moon that has such a fucking amazing beat it was in my head for a few weeks. The songs humor is awesome too as Offer takes about trying then getting with a girl at a party who was drunk. It's almost sexy and poppy, a nice push. Break in Case of anything has to be the most interesting song on the album because it molds styles and really pushes the band and Offer's vocals in a different direction then normal.

Myth Takes offers some of the best dance punk to come out of the last 10 years. They are not afraid to show their roots in greats like Gang of Four and delve into James Browns legendary funk groove. !!!’s beauty comes from the heart and purity of the music. This isn’t dance music with electronic beats, this is dance music played by musicians.

Recommended if you've enjoyed thier previous works or are looking for something to widen your catologue. My and Guiliani is still thier best work and has yet to be topped on this album, but that's not to say it's not great.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Modest Disapointment

So tonight I stumbled upon the new modest mouse single (mm's myspace page.) I have to say this is a huge disappointment. Well to start off this last year had some of the worst releases from some of my favorite bands... cursive, grandaddy, trail of dead. And disappointing ones from Thunderbirds are NOW!, Belle and Sebastian and the Thermals to name a few.

Then right I was going to give up Joanna Newsom released Ys and I had faith in artists still having it in them... and then "Dashboard" comes my way.

Now MM's last release Good News for People Who Love Bad News was well a disappointment for me yet their biggest commercial success. I still enjoy the album, but it's their weakest. If this single is any indication of the new album We were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank then I'm going to be crying as I force feed it to myself on it's release date.

The songs production values (even on the shitty myspace player) sound very well done. It has a typical beat to it and is basically dancy. The lyrics are uninspired and the break down is so formula it hurts.

Float on 2.0 maybe? sigh... It could have been worse, but it's not custom concern...

A post on the comments said the song sounded like Klum's Untitled. (link) It oddly does have a similar sound. Jesus...

I think my biggest reason for having faith in the new material is that Johnny Marr is now in the band. Johnny... come on.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Top 50 of 2006

So it's that time of year again... top lists.

I have to say not being music director for this semester has cut me off from hearing everything I had hoped to, but I still think this is a decent list. Hopefully I'm going to have some more updated albums that I've been meaning to do a full review including the new Trail of Dead and Joanna Newsom's Ys.

So here ya go, my top 50 as of right now. A few got low beacuse I didn't focus on them enough but I still enjoyed them.

1. Hop Along Queen Ansleis – Freshmen Year
2. Joanna Newsom – Ys
3. Man Man – Six Demon Bag
4. Neko Case – Fox Confessors Brings the Flood
5. El Perro Del Mar – s/t
6. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
7. Loose Fur – Born in the USA 2006
8. Decemberists- The Crane Wife
9. Islands – Return to Sea
10. The Evens – Get Evens
11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show your Bones
12. Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped
13. The Ladies – They Mean Us
14. Owen – At Home With
15. Supersystem – A Million Microphones
16. Thom Yorke – The Eraser
17. The Mountain Goats – Get Lonely
18. Tom Waits – Orphans
19. The Black Keys – Magic Potion
20. Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
21. Yo La Tengo – I am not afaid of you and I will beat your ass
22. Belle and Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
23. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
24. Dirty on Purpose – Hallelujah Sirens
25. The Album leaf – Into the Blue Again
26. The Thermals – The Body the Blood and the Machine
27. William Whitmore and Jenny Hoyston – Hallways of Always
28. Sufjan Stevens – The Avalanche
29. Trtl Soup – E to the Eye Pie Equals One
30. Tv on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain
31. Metal Hearts – Socialize
32. Comets on Fire – Avatar
33. Band of Horses – Everything all the Time
34. Xiu Xiu – The Air Force
35. Cat Power – the Greatest
36. Micah P Henson – Micah P Henson and the Opera Circuit
37. Pretty Girls Make Graves – Elan Vital
38. The Reciever - Decades
39. The Lovely Feathers – Hind Hind Legs
40. The Black Heart Procession – The Spell
41. Trail of Dead – So Divided
42. Cursive – Happy Hollow
43. Jeremy Enigk – World Waits
44. Thunderbirds are NOW! – Make History
45. Gnarls Barkley – st. Elsewhere
46. Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I am Dreaming
47. Rainer Maria – Catastrophe keeps us together.
48. Built to Spill – You in Reverse
49. Oxford Collapse – Remember the Night Parties
50. Morrissey – Ring Leaders of the Torments

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Boys and Girls in America

The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
Start with : 5. First Night, 6. Party Pit, 10. Chillout Tent 2. Chips Ahoy!

The mother fucking Hold Steady. On their third romp Craig Finn’s drunken bar band proves that even on Vagrant Records they still have the honesty and compassion about life in America. On their first two releases on French Kiss Records the Hold Steady wrote about a cast of characters who were well… really fucked up.

Let us start there. Almost Killed Me came out in 2004 and was a stand alone album that well rocked. The album's opener "Positive Jam" rehashed some of America's fucked up history as well as set the stage for the views and cynicism that Finn lives with. Some of the album’s lines were cleverly used in the follow up in 2005 when they released Seperation Sunday. In Certain Songs Finn sings "And the hard drugs are for the bar tenders." Right away when I was listening to Seperation Sunday I noted this line in “Caddle and the Creeping Things”. "hard drugs are for the bartenders / I might have mentioned that before." This throw back is really fun due to the comic and human nature Finn uses in his characters and is willing to show his own human side. So Holly's (short for Hallelujah who was also a Hood-rat) role became a central part and really the main character of the story. The rest of the cast of characters were set up here yet they had little depth. In They drank, did drugs, had sex, one was really religious. Holly ended the album with busting into a church on Easter Sunday.

The priest just kinda laughed.
The deacon caught a draft.
She crashed into the Easter Mass with her hair done up in broken glass.
She was limping left on broken heels.
When she said Father can I tell your congregation how a resurrection really feels?

That album really set the tone for The Hold Steady and let them really work off it. They left French Kiss Records and moved to Vagrant. Those new to the band should basically picture a band you’d see in the bar (pre-dance music in bars) and then make them 1000x better then you’d expect. The theme of the album is still on well… boys and Girls in America. Familiar characters come up and new situations arise. Craig dates a girl who can pick a winning horse at the races and they get high on the weekends in “Chips Ahoy!” Two star-crossed lovers O.D. on hallucinogens and make out in the recover tent in “Chillout Tent”… “You Can Make Him Like You” is a ironic story of how a girlfriend doesn’t have to deal with drug dealers and her boyfriend can do all the work.

This is the kind of album that you’ve heard stories of this stuff, or you know someone who has done it. The Hold Steady takes this American clichés of our generation and writes them into sing along drunken anthems. Well worth your time as well as the back catalogue.

Boys and Girls in America is much more polished then any previous work and makes Almost Killed Me look lo-fi. At first the production may be a turn off but with more listens and attention to the clever lyrics this is still the hold steady doing what the do best.

Verdict : buy it if you enjoyed the first two works. Those new give Seperation Sunday a go, and if you fall in love pick this up too.

On Other Notes :
I'll be posting on at least one a week.

Things I'm listening to:
Owen - At Home With

William Whitmore & Jenny Hoyston - Hallways of Always

The Walkmen - Pussy Cats

The Melvins - A Senile Animal

Sunday, October 01, 2006

And so it begins.

Okay, this begins the start of my music blog. I've been the music director at WSBU(St. Bonaventure university) for two and a half years. As well as an Intern at AAM Promotions, I had a small stay with French Kiss Records interning, and work at Boathouse Records when I can. WSBU was ranked number 2 college station in the nation by the Princeton Review, but really, that's just a resume piece. I'm going to try to keep a fairly updated on releases worth checking out, and some news if I find something to be worthwhile.

This is what I'm currently listening to this week :
My Morning Jacket - Okonokos (two disc live album)
Grizzly Bear - Yellow House (lullabye)
Blag'ard - Black Faced Clocks (Peaches and Cream)
Sparklehorse - Drempt for light years in the belly of a mountain
Amy MIllan - Honey from the Tomb
Ben Kweller - Ben Kweller
Black Heart Procession - The Spell (Just Not Words.mp3)

Reviews soon. As well as the starting of my essential purchases/band to check out.

For now please enjoy this song from Ryan Adams. It's amazing.

dot com motherfuckers.