Geeeeez! We haven't had an edition this gigantic in a long time. With three great reviews from vApathyv, some really good choices from all our other editors, and even one guest review from JTHomeslice this is definitely one of our recent best.
What all are we about to get into? The latest from Emmure, PJ Harvery, Iron & Wine, and Thomas Giles, some selections from the catalogs of Tonetta and Between the Buried and Me, and finally the soundtracks of Machinarium and the everybody's latest addiction (Yup, mine too) Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds!
Album: Speaker of the Dead
Label: Victory Records
Released: February 15, 2011
Sounds like: Breakdown City, USA.
I don’t understand the popularity of Emmure. They make some of the most generic, uninteresting music in a scene full of generic, uninteresting bands. And yet somehow they have a very vocal and dedicated fanbase, as evidenced by their large crowd at last year’s Warped Tour and various Youtube commenters ready to defend the mighty Emmure. And that brings us to their newest album Speaker of the Dead. After their last album Felony received a tepid response from fans (I have no idea why, it sounded the same as their previous work to me.), will this album bring them back? And will a “hater” like myself find this album to be any good?
Production wise, this album sounds great. They enlisted acclaimed metalcore producer Joey Sturgis (The Devil Wears Prada, Asking Alexandria) to produce the album. Sturgis gets a lot shit on the net because of his production style and the bands he works with, but his style works really well for this type of music. Every instrument can be heard loud and clear and nothing dominates over one another.
Good production can’t change shit music though. To describe Emmure’s music, I need to make sure everyone knows about the breakdown. In hardcore and metalcore, the breakdown is used to “break down” the rest of the song and get all the instruments together playing the same riff, with the guitars chugging along with the double bass. It’s also meant to get all the kids in the pit moshing and kicking each other in the face and things like that. Now, I love a good breakdown, especially when it’s used well (Take this song and this song for examples). Emmure’s music is just breakdowns. That’s it. Just lame chugging on open strings and double bass. If their songs are just breakdowns, what exactly are they breaking down?
That’s the main problem with Emmure. All their songs sound the same. It’s the same old chug-chug-chug in every song. I literally can’t tell most of these songs apart, aside from little bits of samples and electronic effects they added on this album. I read an interview with someone in the band and he said they were adding some electronic stuff on this album to give the songs some color. They succeeded at this. They didn’t go overboard with the effects and used them in fairly interesting ways. It’s nowhere near the level of Underoath or The Devil Wears Prada, but it’s not as bad Attack Attack!. The samples they chose fit the whole “street tough” image they have with lines of dialogue from old martial arts movies and even Street Fighter. The Street Fighter sample is kind of misused, in my opinion. It’s used at the end of the song “Demons With Ryu”, when it could have been used as a mosh call like the Mortal Kombat sample A Day to Remember used. The only other song that really stuck out to me was “Last Words to Rose”, which opens with some nice clean guitar picking that leads into some chugging underneath. It reminded me of August Burns Red a bit. The song as a whole has a really different feel from the rest and that’s good! But it’s almost ruined by the terrible vocals.
Oh boy, the vocals. The harsh vocals just don’t sound good. I don’t know what it is, but even compared to some of the other shitty vocalists in deathcore this guy is just worse. His highs are so screechy and his lows are just bad. But worse than that are the clean vocals. As I said before, they have a “street tough” image, more akin to hip hop than the typical metalcore look. So, their vocalist tries to sound tough in the clean vocals, but he just comes off sounding like Fred Durst. It doesn’t help that the song “A Voice From Below” actually has rapping in it. Lyrically, I didn’t notice anything as terrible as their previous work (Such as, ”Fuck her like I never could/Fuck her doggy style first” or ”ASK YO GIRL WHAT MY DICK TASTES LIKE”), that is, until “Drug Dealer Friend” opens with this little gem: “I wanna watch you suck his dick/I know you fucking love it/Bitch”. UGH.
So, will Emmure fans be into this? Probably, it sounds like all the rest of their work aside from the electronic bits. Will this change the minds of “haters”? Absolutely not. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised with this. None was their previous work has been very good and they’ve done well off of it, so why should they change? It just really hurts me to see a song like “Last Words to Rose” that shows they have potential, instrumentally at least, to do something better than what they are doing and then they just squander it away with the same old chugging.
Artist: Thomas Giles
Label: Metal Blade
Released: February 1, 2011
Sub-genres Experimental, Electronic, Acoustic, a little metal
Sounds like: A whoooooole lot of things.
So, show of hands people, who here enjoys Between The Buried In Me? Really? Good...umm, you, Timmy, in the back. Do you know the name of the lead singer? No, it's not Bobby. You get detention and you can see me after class. You, Jill, care to correct Timmy? That's right! Tommy Rogers. Now, bonus question, and you get a gold star if you get this Jill- what's his pseudonym? Yes, Thomas Giles! Good job Jill, A+ and you'll be first in the lunch line today.
Anyways, Tommy Rogers is a man known primarily as the singer, screamer, and keyboardist for metal bigshots Between The Buried And Me, but most don't know that he's also a somewhat accomplished solo artist as well, releasing an album under the title “Giles” back in '05, and also releasing this album a couple weeks ago. Of course, like all solo albums, you have to wonder- when an artist attempts to create music outside of the band he's known for, will it still be good, or will it be a painful reminder that some people just shouldn't stray from their comfort zone?
Thankfully, Pulse is a welcome reminder that Mr. Rogers (couldn't resist) is a very talented musician that doesn't need blast beats and mindbending solos to create good music. The one biggest trap you can possibly fall into when going off to make a solo album is that you sound way too similar to the band you're from. In that respect, Pulse is a huge success. Aside from maybe one or two songs, you'll find nothing related to Between The Buried And Me here, it's an album completely capable of standing on it's own merits and it's own sound.
But what exactly is that sound? Well, that's a bit of a case-by-case basis, but the majority of it is beautiful low-key rock arrangements, with a mixture of piano ballads, heavier rock tunes, a very small amount of metal (You can take the man outta the metal but ya can't take the metal outta the man), and even a little hardcore techno action, all of which is produced, composed, arranged, and performed 100% by himself a la Trent Reznor.. And the truly astounding part is, no matter how varied the album gets, there's never really a noticeable dip in quality. Sure, some songs are better than others, but there is not a single 'bad' song on this album. Just goes to show how talented and varied Tommy can really be. It's also worth noting that Tommy's lyrical output is still just as strong as it's ever been.
So, class, today we learned that artists can release a solo album both without sucking and without having to sound too much like the band they hail from. Granted it doesn't happen much (Though it does happen, see Dolores O'Riordan for another great example), but when it does happen, it can be magical. If you only know Tommy from Between The Buried And Me, you owe it to yourself to give this album a chance. You don't know what you're missing.
Oh, and did I mention Tommy Rogers is my long-lost celebrity twin?
Album: Kiss Each Other Clean
Artist: Iron & Wine
Label: Warner Bros.
Released: January 25th, 2011
Sounds like: Sam Beam found his voice and some horns
Whoa! Whats this? An Iron & Wine album where Sam Beam isn't whispering the whole album? Is this an evolution in their sound? Why yes, yes I think it is! To be honest I was absolutely ready to totally dismiss this album and just trash the band throughout this whole review. It's not that I don't like Iron & Wine, it's just that I had grown sick of them and his soft spoken vocals.
You may or may not have heard Iron & Wine before, their most popular song that the vast majority of people have heard was actually a cover of the song “Such Great Heights” by the Ben Gibbard fronted band, Postal Service. If you have yet to hear Iron & Wine they are a soft spoken folk band from South Carolina. The group is fronted by lead singer Sam Beam who also writes all of the song lyrics. Beam is also a painter and is responsible for the album covers on all of the Iron & Wine album covers.
Kiss Each Other Clean is Iron & Wines fourth album and it may very well be my new favorite. This album is the follow up to 2007's Shepherd's Dog which was a good change of pace from the usual sound for Iron & Wine but it was not a large enough leap if you were to ask me. With Kiss Each Other Clean we have a much larger leap. We see a lot more texture with this album and it's just in time.
The album opens up with “Walking Far From Home”, with that song you can tell that this will be a very well layered and textured album. The rest of the songs fair about the same, with some being more high points (“Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me”) and some being a bit lower points (“Big Burned Hand”). As you have probably come to expect from Beam the songs found here are mostly about love, falling in love, falling out of love, all that great stuff.
My favorite evolution in Iron & Wine's sound in this album is the addition of the horn sections. They add a lot to the songs and give them a sound that hasn't been heard in previous albums. This evolution doesn't come without its downfalls though. In some songs it just simply does not work very well. Songs like “Big Burned Hand” the horn sections don't really help the song out, it just ends up sounding messy and distracting.
Overall I really enjoyed this album and I would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys folk and folk rock music.. Sam Beam and company also recently played the entire album live for NPR and can be heard at their website, www.npr.org , as a part of their first listen series. This is Beam's fourth album and with each album he always seems to make small jumps in his style and improve over his last album. I can't wait to see what he has in store for us next.
Album: 777 Vol. 2
Label: Black Tent Press
Sounds like: Young at heart x tremely horny & ready 2 mate
*NSFW warning: You probably shouldn’t be watching these videos at work or at school*
Tonetta is nightmare fuel for a lot people. His overly sexualized, cross-dressing persona is so weird, he’s the giant elephant in the room that you can’t stop looking at. I personally don’t mind all the fluff around the character; it’s eccentric, and completely insane. Tonetta’s YouTube celebrity began a while ago, I was aware of his stuff ever since Dale North began preaching his greatness on Destructoid. But, it wasn’t until his song to Dale (Man in Japan) that I actually went deeper into his discography. Let it be known that, it is MASSIVE, (more than 200 songs, and he updates weekly). Last year, he finally put out his first record entitled 777 vol.1, which was a compilation of his old and new tracks. Now that 777 vol.2 has been released for a few months, I had to immortalize his genius for Stereotoid.
Let me begin by saying that 777 vol.2 is a whole lot more sexually charged than Vol.1. Now, that might seem like a total understatement when speaking about Tonetta, but believe me, it is. His first album was more of a wicked social commentary than a sonic molestation. For the better of course, 777 vol.2 is well structured and less disparate. A pitiful few of his recent songs are on it, leaving out the 80’s low quality ear-rape of the first album. Still, it’s such a sadness that so manyclassicsdidn’tmake it.
His intrusive, gravely, raw voice brings the best out of his simplistic, repetitive beats. He is the king of Lo-Fi, after all. Despite all of that, his guitar is groovy; his choruses are catchy, and most of all, ridiculous. It’s strangely entertaining to hear him talk in such a vulgar manner. Everything must be taken in the first degree with him. Sure, there’s a little bit of poetry here and there, but when he talks about cocks, he’s most likely talking about cocks.
I think the best way to describe Tonetta is to compare him to Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He’s brutally honest in his lyrics, and completely twisted and hilarious at the same time. Tonetta’s saying what most people would never dare to shout. He’s like that Buddhist monk with the bell you see walking in the streets of Tokyo. Only, he speaks for the perverted, maniacal side of society. He might be totally honest about what he’s saying in his songs, but I see it as a way to criticize society, (hidden behind a complex set of metaphors). I’m obviously talking smack, but it’s fun to pretend. It’s just like saying that Bayonetta’s over the top nature was intentional.
For fans of his YouTube work, by all mean get this album. It’s a great compilation, although not entirely complete, it gets the job done. As for the rest of you, if you ever felt like adding a little bit of craziness to your lives, look no further than, Tonetta. Oh yeah, did I mentioned? There’s a giant penis imprint on the cover. Yep.
Album: The Great Misdirect
Artist: Between The Buried And Me
Released: October 27, 2009
Sub-genres Progressive, any other sub-genre of metal you could probably think of.
Sounds like: Their greatest effort yet?
A lot of metal fans are familiar with Between The Buried And Me. Last I checked, a lot of Stereotoid readers are too...I seem to recall a lot of you calling for me to review one of their albums after I had so many positive things to say about Protest The Hero way back when. Well, here I am, reviewing a BTBAM album. Don't say I never loved you guys or listened to what you had to say.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the group, Between The Buried And Me is a heavy metal band known for their progressive song structure and the way they seemingly bounce about between different types of metal throughout most of their songs. They're also kind of a big deal to most people, and might be one of the most talented acts on the scene today. This album today is their most recent effort, and as always, it delivers.
The first things a lot of people would notice here is that the album only has six songs. Yeah, that's not a lot of tracks, but despite that the album still clocks in at just a few seconds under an hour. As you'd expect, practically every song present here is epic in nature and pretty damn long, but this band is always at their best when the songs are lengthy, as it shows just how varied they can be. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the second track Obfuscation. The song that jumps from riff to riff without missing a beat, tied together with some of drummer Blake Richardson's best work yet, before dissipating halfway through into a low and steady bass rhythm while a guitar solo builds in intensity before exploding into a fire of noodling that eventually crescendos right back into the forever stuck in my head “Close one eye, step to the side” chorus of the song, itself a callback to the lyrics of Mirrors (the opening track). And if that wasn't enough, the chorus immediately segues into another solo that gave me chills the first time I heard it, before blending out to the anthemic “We'll always be part of the great misdirect” outro that gives the album it's name. In nine minutes and fifteen seconds Between The Buried And Me has managed to put more variety, talent, and heart into one song than most artists manage to put in an entire album.
Of course, the album is hardly a one trick pony, as every track seamlessly segues into each other, and every track is its own seperate and amazing beast entirely, showing just how talented Tommy, Blake, Paul, Dan and Dustie are. It's an amazing thought to consider that each song on this album is so varied that you could proably take one, flesh out and extend each part, and have an entire album's worth of content per track.
But that's just the kind of thing this band is known for. Few people can adequately compare to the talent present in this group, and I see these guys remaining as a shining example of truly great metal for years to come, even long after they've stopped making music (Which hopefully isn't anytime soon). Everything they release exudes such quality, such effort, and such talent that it's amazing they haven't burned out or started to falter yet. All I can hope is that the next album, whenever it comes out, raises the amazingly high bar they've already set for themselves.
Personal favorite tracks: You're going to ask me to pick my favorite tracks from a six-track album? Every last one of these songs is amazing in and of itself. But if you must, go with Obfuscation or Injury, Disease, Madness.
TL;DR- In my opinion this is BTBAM's greatest album yet.
Album: Machinarium Soundtrack
Artist: Tomáš Dvořák
Genre: Ambient Electronica/Acoustic
Sounds like: The reason Machinarium has no dialogue.
Soundtracks are some of my favorite albums to listen to, because they evoke a feeling of watching or playing or reading the original source, without actually doing it. If the soundtrack is excellent crafted for listening purposes, it can feel like you’re sitting down and playing the game. With how much time I’ve given the game Machinarium(very little), it’s amazing that the soundtrack can give me this hard to achieve sensation, but it does so, and does so flawlessly.
If you haven’t played Machinarium or haven’t played much of it like I have, shame on you (as well as me). The game is charming and smart, and the art direction is some of the best I’ve ever seen. It pains me to say I haven’t played much of this game since I bought it in the Humble Indie Bundle last year, but I’m working on rectifying that. What did catch my ear in my limited playtime was the music in the game, and since the soundtrack came free with my Humble Bundle, I decided to give the full thing a go.
Best. Decision. [b]Ever.[b/]
Let me start by saying that the Soundtrack features music from the game remixed into a more album listenable experience. As such, not all of the music you’ll here in game will be in the soundtrack, as some of the music just wouldn’t fit the way Tomas wanted it too. That’s pretty much the only downside to this soundtrack.
The Machinarium Soundtrack represents an excellent romp through ambience using either electronic sounds or acoustic instruments. The overall feel of the album is calming, yet somewhat eerie, as if someone was to take motor oil and drip it throughout your brain. The album bounces back and forth between its use of electronic and acoustic styles, and then will blend them wonderfully, almost creating a sense of robots communing with nature.
The flow of the album is incredibly natural; you’ll get quiet, guitar laden tracks with few surprises, up to house-like electronic songs with natural grooves, and then will flip over to completely ambient tracks using various sampling and electronic effects to give the vibe of machine nirvana. Even the transitions between tracks and between styles within tracks are expertly done as to not damage the flow of the soundtrack.
Overall, the Machinarium Soundtrack achieves what few soundtracks due today; the soundtrack makes you want to play the game. I can’t tell you how bad feel for not giving Machinarium my time of day, but if I had just bought the album without owning the game before hand, I can guarantee you I would pay hand over fist for the game, just based on this soundtrack alone.
So yeah, this is pretty much one of the greatest video game soundtracks, as well as one of the greatest soundtracks overall, that I’ve ever had the pleasure listening to. I highly recommend it, especially if it’s sitting in your Humble Indie Bundle #2.
So go buy the Machinarium Soundtrack. Now. And then go buy Machinarium. And then go buy a copy of the soundtrack for a friend.
Album: Let England Shake
Artist: PJ Harvey
Released: February 14, 2011
*Sub-genres Moar alternative?
Sounds like: Bizarre soulful melodies with a touch of strange
Let England Shake is an album that when I first started listening to it every fiber of my being told me that it wasn’t going to go over well with me. It was weird, no doubt. And as someone who has only occasionally heard PJ Harvey I wouldn’t say that I was really used to it or ready for it. However with time the strange melodies of Let England Shake really grew on me. The sound just starts to fit over your soul like a snug blanket and never let’s go.
Upon first listen you’re welcomed with the title track, The Last Living Rose, and The Glorious Road. It’s been quite a while since I heard a more appropriate opening to an album. PJ Harvey’s soft dream-like sound perks your preps your ears and immediately grabs your attention. From PJ Harvey’s own unique vocal style to the horn sample looped in The Glorious Land, it’s all laying out the field for what becomes fair game in the album.
What the album offers as far as sound and composition is what really makes the album worth being sucked into. Soft twangy autoharp is complemented by powerful and equally mellow drums. The two create a very suave and almost seductive rhythm. Let England Shake and The Words That Maketh Murder are without a doubt prime examples. Meanwhile Harvey’s vocals, high pitched and sporadic while remaining melodic, set as an interesting backdrop to each track. It’s almost unfair to say they offer a stark contrast to the very ”alternative” sound that the instrumentals provide but her vocal performance does certainly do well to make itself the forefront of each track. Even still, it only adds to the enjoyability of every tracks.
PJ Harvey’s latest definitely comes recommended as an album that simply has a sound, not to mention the lyricism and vocal delivery, that hits you right in that special place in her heart. It’s rare that an album can carry so much soul and emotional weight simply on sound alone but this one easily does. And when coupled with poetic lyricism it certainly is one of 2011s more special albums and not one that should go unnoticed easily. While it may certainly not be for everyone, it’s a sweet and delightful treat to all others.
Album: Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 Soundtrack
Released: February 15, 2011 (Technically)
Genre: Video Game OST
Sub-genres Awesome's a genre right? It is? Good.
Sounds like: MAHVEL BAYBEE
Before I get started, let me get this out of the way right now- HOLY FUCKING CRAP AFTER TEN YEARS OF FEVERISH WAITING MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 3 IS FINALLY IN MY SYSTEM AND IT IS AWESOME. This isn't a video game review but if it was I'd give it an eleventy billion out of ten (Though the netcode issues and lack of spectator mode is odd). Also, Deadpool makes reference to Yipe's infamous “Curleh mustache” quote. Game of the forever.
Aaaaaanyways, so the game is here. It's awesome. How's the music fair though? Well, I'm glad you asked anonymous internet user because I intend to answer that question for you! I'd be willing to call this one of the greatest fighting game soundtracks of all time. Everything about it oozes the quality and care you'd expect from Capcom's sound team, with hardly any missteps along the way. The soundtrack runs the general Capcom-style infusion of rockin' tunes mixed in with dancey techno beats, as well as a few vocal tracks here and there.
Let's go ahead and start with the Capcom side. Now, obviously, Capcom's characters all come from previous Capcom games, meaning they already have a wealth of music to pull from for each of their characters. But rather than simply recycle old tunes, every character has a revamped and remixed version of a classic standout tune tied to them, so while you'll definitely be able to recognize most of the character themes, you've probably never heard them like this. The picks are also all-around amazing selections as well, like Ryu's Japan stage from Street Fighter, or Dante's oh-my-god-this-song-never-gets-old-for-me Devils Never Cry from Devil May Cry 3. Granted, they're not all perfect in my opinion (Viewtiful Joe's theme, while staying incredibly true to character, is just a little too goofy for my tastes), it's definitely more or less a grand slam for them.
And how's Marvel fair? Since they're all comic book characters most of these themes are completely original works. And while some of the characters have featured in Capcom fighting games before and already have themes, maybe half of them do not and, therefore had a completely new one created for them. For the most part they all match the amazing quality already present in the other tracks, though it remains to be seen if they'll be as timeless and long-standing as other themes such as Captain America's “Get ready 'cuz USA's about to kick your ass” theme. And while the new songs are for the most part all awesome, I still have to give the slight nod to some of the revamped versions of classic Marvel themes.
The main goal of a fighting game's soundtrack, in my opinion, is to get somebody hyped up and ready to administer a beatdown. In that respect, this game delivers in spades. Damn near every song is an amazing contribution to an already-great game, and when it comes to bouncing my enemy around through the air like a ragdoll I see no better option.
Oh, and, by the way: Scoops, fuck the Knicks, mango Sentinel, Mag-FUCKIN-neto, I'm gonna take you for a ride. I miss any important ones?