Hey all! Another Sunday night, another Stereotoid. I personally had some great reviews planned but I think I might've caught the flu (in the dead Texas humidity nonetheless) so I think I'm just gonna let some of the others take this one up. There's some good stuff in here, for sure. JTHomeslice solidifies himself as a regular with two reviews on The Upsides by The Wonders Years and Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows by D.R.U.G.S., Kraid's expertise on jazz and synth come together for a review of Laughing Stock by Talk Talk, and resident blogger LawofThermalDynamics drops by to review Radiohead's latest album King of Limbs.
Album: The Upsides
Artist: The Wonder Years
Label: No Sleep Records/Hopeless Records
Released: September 21, 2010 (rerelease)
Genre: Pop punk
Sounds like: Super personal and relatable pop punk
Pop punk has had a renaissance over the last few years. With hardcore inspired bands like Four Year Strong and Set Your Goals and veterans like New Found Glory and Blink-182, the pop punk scene has never been stronger. One band that has set themselves apart from the pack, in my mind at least, is The Wonder Years. Their intensely personal lyrics struck a chord with many fans, including myself. That combined with a great classic pop punk sound makes one of the finest pop punk albums of last year.
The Upsides was originally going to be about giving up. All the guys in the band were in a bad place before writing the album. It wasn’t until singer Dan “Soupy” Campbell saw the fountain at Logan’s Circle in their hometown of Philadelphia was turned on, that Soupy realized they couldn’t be this down at this time in their lives. The album then gained an overall theme of not giving up despite what life may throw at you. The thing I like most about Soupy’s lyrics is that they sound like a real person wrote them. They’re very frank and realistic. Songs deal with things like social awkwardness, putting up with the shitty people you live around, and the loneliness of touring life. They’re delivered with a dose humor, there are references to sexting and Jersey Shore so it’s instantly dated, and cursing that add make it sound more like a real person talking. I bring up the use of cursing because it’s actually used well. Other bands just go “FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK TITS FUCK” to the point where it’s just ridiculous, but Soupy’s swearing sounds more like someone around my age talking. It’s refreshing to hear someone sing like a person.
To reflect the overall tone of the lyrics, the music is super upbeat, as pop punk should be. Soupy’s voice is a somewhat high pitched, but not to the point of irritation. He creates great poppy hooks that accent the energetic music. The guitars are loud and crunchy, the drums are pounding, and there’s even a subtle keyboard part here and there. It has so much energy and it’s flat out fun. The album occasionally veers away from that with “Hey Thanks” and the rerelease track “Logan’s Circle: A New Hope”. “Hey Thanks” is a ukulele driven song (!) with Soupy thanking his girlfriend for putting up with him. The song is absolutely wonderful with the combination of uke, Soupy’s vocals, and guest vocals from Rachel Minton of Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer that eventually brings the rest of the band back in for a huge finish. One of my favorite songs on the album. “Logan’s Circle: A New Hope” is a reworked version of “Logan’s Circle” from the earlier in the album. It’s a slower, piano driven piece with reworked lyrics to reflect the time around the original release of The Upsides. That and the acoustic “We Won’t Bury You” provides a nice ending to the album.
Maybe it’s just that this album hit me at the right time. Being 19, in college, and still not sure about my future, an upbeat album all about staying happy despite what life throws at you is just what I needed. It also helps that it’s great musically too. It’s absolutely the best pop punk album of 2010. These dudes have a great future ahead of them.
Album: Laughing Stock
Artist: Talk Talk
Label: Verve Records/ Polydor Records
Released: 16 September 1991
*Sub-genres experimental, art rock
Sounds like: Take an 80’s British synthpop band, and dip them into borderline ambient jazz & experimental rock.
Ever felt a bit melancholic? Nothing too severe, just enough to make you wonder about the facts of life, and how you fit in them. Yeah, that’s how my week mostly went. I can’t be all jolly and happy all the time, you know? Music is one way to get out of it, that’s for sure. I mostly listen to uplifting music regardless of my mood, anyway. Sometimes though, I like having my fix of abstract and moody melodies. Laughing Stock --for a lack of a more optimistic title-- by Talk Talk fits exactly the prescription. And darned it, it’s actually pretty damn good.
Now, I’m no expert on Talk Talk, I’ve never even heard of their early pop debuts, (well barely). I’ve actually just started listening to their post-rock phase. But, I still felt like it was necessary to share this beautiful album to the community. Laughing Stock is strangely personal. I’ve tried to wrap my head around it, but somehow, I can’t quite figure it out. Maybe it’s just too abstract to really find an answer, yet it still speaks to me in such a transcending way. Weird isn’t it? It’s like I’ve heard this band before, even though it’s my first time hearing them. The album is highly similar to Portishead and Gary Numan in terms of emotion. Dark, moody, completely dredged in sweet melancholy. Laughing Stock sounds incredible as well. Right there, between the improvisational time signatures of Miles Davis and Free Jazz, and the smooth, beautiful harmonies of alternative rock.
I’m hearing a lot of Kaki King in the guitars, too. Maybe it’s that much of an influential album after all. Laughing Stock was one of the first in the batch that lay the grounds of what would become post-rock; highly regarded as one of the best in the genre, even. I guess you can understand my enthusiasm. Mark Hollis’ voice is absolutely wonderful on these tracks. Expressive and gloomy, it adds so much to the already gorgeous accompaniment. The drums are heavy, so is the bass. It creates the perfect mood for a dejected evening. But, like I said, it’s the right kind of melancholy. Not the one that would make you blow your brains out, on the contrary, (That sounded a little off, right?).
Laughing Stock is so perplexing. Yet, I’ve highly enjoyed it. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but I have a strong sentiment of déjà vu. Maybe it’s my unconscious playing tricks on my mind. Maybe it’s because I fell in love with a wonderful album, too. I sense sometimes like there’s this profound anguish inside of me that needs to get out. I normally take it off through video games, but music also does it for me. Talk Talk’s last LP is atmospheric, though, above all, very emotional. I hear love and sorrow (regret), from it. I could see myself falling in love with someone, or even crying out of a broken heart to this album. It has done so many things to my brain this past week. Laughing Stock is incredible. And goddamn, I needed that.
Album: Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows
Released: February 22, 2011
*Sub-genres Alternative rock, pop punk
Sounds like: A bunch of dudes from post-hardcore bands get together and make a post-hardcore album.
What a terrible name for a band. D.R.U.G.S.? Really? Aside from having a dumb name, D.R.U.G.S. also has some of the biggest talent from modern post-hardcore scene. The band features Craig Owens (formerly of Chiodos), on vocals, Matt Good (from From First to Last) and Nick Martin (from Underminded) on guitar and backing vocals, Adam Russell (from Story of the Year) on bass, and Aaron Stern (from Matchbook Romance) on drums. To be honest, the only band out of those I’m familiar with is Chiodos, but I’ve at least heard of the rest. There was a good amount of hype surrounding the band after they announced the members, but we all know that hype doesn’t mean anything. It’s all about the music.
The album starts off with a bang in “If You Think This Song Is About You, It Probably Is”. This song is fucking fantastic. It opens with Stern tapping on the rims of his drums before the rest of the band comes in with a blast of sound. It goes back to the tapping in the verses and everyone comes in for the chorus. This one really showcases Owens vocals, going from hushed tones to soaring melodies and high pitched screams. It’s an absolute highlight of the album.
The central theme of the album is about relationships and cheating significant others. That would be fine if the lyrics weren’t sub depressed high school kid level. For example, there’s this from “The Only Thing You Think About”: “I knew as soon as I left you’d go and fuck someone else you whore”, then there’s this from “Mr. Owl Ate My Metal Worm”: “I’d like to keep cutting/I’d like to keep cutting/ But I can’t stand to watch myself bleed”, and then there’s the chorus from “Sex Life”: “If you had a sex life, a sex life/ would you even worry about mine/when your bed is empty”. All these lyrics were written by a 26 year old man.
The album suffers from overproduction. The electronic and orchestral elements are used way too much. It’s almost like the band or producer John Feldmann (The Used, Atreyu) thought that there couldn’t be a moment on the album where there was just a single instrument by itself. When used sparingly like in “If You Think This Song Is About You…” it works well, complimenting the rest of the song. But when it’s overdone like on “I’m the Rehab, You’re the Drugs”, it’s overbearing and hurts the song. Another problem is that the effects sound far too much like other bands. “Graveyard Dancing” straight up sounds like The Used. Seriously, listen to ”The Bird and the Worm” and then listen to ”Graveyard Dancing”. They are crazy alike. I guess that’s just Feldmann’s production style.
The instrumentation is good, if a bit standard. It’s got all the hallmarks of post-hardcore, chugging guitars and double bass, clean and harsh vocals, and some good guitar leads as well. A particular highlight is Nick Martin’s harsh vocals. He absolutely kills it on “Stop Reading, Start Doing Pushups” and “My Swagger has A First Name”. His deep growls and yells are a great contrast to Owens higher screams. I just wish he was used more. One song that took me by surprise was “I’m Here to Take the Sky”. This is a pop punk song. It sounds like Paramore if fronted by Craig Owens. And it’s good! It’s an interesting change of pace after 30 or so minutes of post-hardcore pummeling.
Overall, I enjoyed this album. I didn’t really have all that much expectations for it except for “oh hey, it’s Craig Owens new band”. I could imagine a superfan of all these bands being underwhelmed by this project, but coming at it from my perspective I liked it. They just need to take more of the good (Martin’s vocals, pop punk sound) and lose the bad (shitty lyrics, unnecessary electronics) and they’ll make an excellent next album. I know these guys have it in them.
Album: The King of Limbs
Label: Self Released
Released: February 18, 2010
Genre: Alternative Rock
*Sub-genres Electro-Ballad, Prog-Rock
Sounds like: Everything else Radiohead has done since Kid A, just a little different.
When Radiohead first released In Rainbows back in 2007, I was hopeful in thinking that Radiohead had turned over a new chapter in their musical styling towards a more organic kind of music moving past their digital fascination for something, not necessarily classic rock like their first three albums, but for something else entirely and if there's something Radiohead does better than any band in the world it's being different. 2011's The King of Limbs proves that Radiohead is pursuing the intimacy found in their last album as this may just be Radiohead's most romantic album ever.
The album starts out with Bloom, an electronic opener with spastic drum loops, but unlike past efforts similar in both style and tone as this song, Bloom feels more primal and has an almost tribal execution. The album, as it turns out, began to unravel right before my eyes into one of the best examples of deconstruction I have ever listened to.
At eight tracks long and clocking in at around thirty four minutes this is the band's shortest album to date, but the album moves along at such a pace and transitions to the next song with such ease that the whole thing could be treated as a single entity. The songs begin in usual Radiohead fashion (at least since Kid A), sputtering noises, abstract lyrics, and the atmosphere of a freezer, but as the album progresses the lyrics become softer, the beats smoother, and I found myself easing into a comfortable position and allowing Thom Yorke's voice to sing sweet nothings into my ear. Moving across the album, songs like Lotus Flower transitions into Codex which just as smoothly melts into the folk inspired Give Up The Ghost which passed right along, and before I knew it I reached the end. The album finishes with Separator. A bubbly song that encapsulates the entire album as a more loving, almost happy Radiohead.
The really funny thing is that Radiohead already did a piano driven ballad, several of them. They've already started albums with electric drum loops, already sang songs about love, but what makes this album amazing is that it won't feel any different from anything else they've done until you finish listening to it. The true strength of the album lies in its short length. Every song, every minute of the album feels perfectly in synch with one another and builds up to a natural conclusion. There is not a single wasted minute in here. This is an album in which nothing is out of place, and everything feels perfectly natural.
In terms of how it compares to other Radiohead albums, the only thing I can say is that eight albums in and Radiohead maintains their perfect game. Now, if you were a fan alienated by their turns towards electronic chirps in Kid A, I can tell you that Radiohead has not returned to its classical roots. If you are a fan of anything Radiohead, embrace another winner.
Of course this being Radiohead no clear interpretation is ever the truth and though I personally found this album the happiest I've heard coming from the band, others deem this album another depressing downer. I can't say you'll have the exact same reaction towards this album as I had, but whether you enjoy the gloom and doom Radiohead or eager to see Radiohead's next move, The King of Limbs is a good indicator of the future of the band, and the future looks to change once again.
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?
Howdy doody folks! vApathyv has jacked Stereotoid temporarily to bring you guys a nice selection of Valentine's Day-themed music. Whether you're lovestruck and happy as can be, heartbroken and lonely, pissed off at any ex that may have wronged you, or just plain indifferent to the day, you're sure to find something for ya here. And before anyone asks about obvious omissions, I tried (keyword: tried) to stay as far away from obvious, played-to-death-on-adult-contemporary-radio-station choices as much as possible. Because we've all heard Total Eclipse Of The Heart way too many times already, dammit.
(Special thanks to Xzyliac and Raien Swiftwood for some of the song choices. Always remember, a bromance is always there, even if it isn't February 14th.)
LOVE LOVE LOVEY LOVE LOVE!!!
Andrew W.K.- She Is Beautiful
Sometimes, love songs are really, really corny. Hell, actually, most of the times that's the case. But Andrew W.K. has turned corny music into an art form, to the point where it's actually kind of awesome, and this song is no exception. When it comes to rockin' party songs about love, look no further.
The Cranberries- Pretty Eyes
And then you got songs that are just so powerful, they give you chills. When Xzyliac suggested this one to me, he told me to think about my significant other while listening to it and see how moved I am...dammit, the boy was right.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts- Crimson And Clover
Yeah, I know I said I'd try to stay away from obvious picks, but I have a total weakness for Joan Jett.
Queen- Good Ole Fashioned Lover Boy
I had quite a few people tell me Queen should be up here somewhere, and for good reason. Few people are as well-versed in charming love songs as Freddy and the gang. You could pick from any number of Queen tracks to woo your man/lady, but this is my personal favorite.
Even though the song has no lyrics, it's rather amazing that it's able to incite warm feelings of good 'ole fashioned romance in the air. Then again, maybe I'm just weird. Whatever, the song's called Valentine for god's sake.
Florence + The Machine- You've Got The Love
And of course, sometimes you just have to have a ballad-y song that lays it all on the line, and the always-beautiful songs of Florence + The Machine are sure to deliver. This could easily become a love anthem rivaling even the best 80's ballads.
But My Heart Is Broken...
La Roux- Cover My Eyes
It hurts a lot to see a former love being happy when you're not. Especially if you still harbor feelings for him/her. If you've ever had to endure that pain, this song should strike a chord with you.
David Bowie- Be My Wife
Sometimes, ya get so lonely. The song really speaks for itself.
Tegan and Sara- The Con Ever had a song that commands dominance over your tear ducts in times of sorrow? This is that song for me. During a particularly troubling part of my relationship, I heard this song for the first time ever and it had me bawling...what? Got a problem with that!? MANLY MEN HAVE FEELINGS TOO.
David Guetta ft. Chris Willis vs. Sam Sparrow- Love Is Gone vs. Black & Gold
Nobody said sadness couldn't be groovy right? Sometimes you can wrap up all your bad feelings in a surprisingly danceable package and at least have a little fun in your heartache. Unfortunately, due to DJ Hero's untimely death, the love really is gone with this one.
Hurt- House Carpenter
This song. Oh God, this song. There's something so intense, so moving about this song, that it rattles you to the core. The kind of thing that makes your hair stand on end, that demands your attention, and could leave you wrecked afterwards. Special note, do NOT listen to this song if you're coping with the death of a loved one...it will not end well.
The Who- Love, Reign O'er Me
I know, another obvious pick. And yeah, the song is actually more positive than anything, but consider the situation that Jimmy finds himself in when this song is performed during Quadrophenia. His parents, his girlfriend, even the Mod lifestyle he enjoyed so much, had all failed him. At this point, all he can do is realize that love is the answer to all his problems, and cry out the iconic chorus present in the song.
...You know what? Fuck this love bullshit.
Cee Lo Green- Fuck You
Yes, yes, ANOTHER obvious pick. But you know what? How could I possibly not include what has undoubtedly become this generations defining anthem of “Love sucks”?
She Wants Revenge- True Romance
A bit of a somber pick, but the way the singer manages to cut the target of this song down to size in such a droll, unenthused manner is possibly one of the biggest acts of comeuppance I could think of. “Yeah, you broke my heart...but whatever.” Take THAT, ex-girlfriend of mine that cheated on me for free pot!
Weezer- Why Bother?
What's the best way to stick a defiant middle finger in the face of affection? Come to the conclusion that love's not worth it because you'll just get hurt in the end, and instead decide that no-strings-attached sexual flings are the way to go. Bit of a surprise, coming from Rivers Cuomo.
Alkaline Trio- My Friend Peter
And this one is just PERFECT for anyone that found themselves in the situation present in the La Roux song above. Tell that ex that you don't give a damn anymore and you'd rather be with your friends anyways. Take THAT, ex-girlfriend of mine that led me on after we broke up and kept me on the side as a back-up plan, playing with my fragile emotions just to appease your own sick desires!
Atreyu- Bleeding Mascara
And then, sometimes, you just get pissed. REALLY pissed. And then a song like this happens, where you pretty much systematically assault the person that wronged you in every way imaginable, making it quite know to her just how horrible a person she is. Take THAT, ex-girlfriend of mine that only dated me to win a bet despite knowing that sort of shit can wreck a man for life!
Reel Big Fish- Hate You
So the first verse doesn't really lend itself to love or anything, but everything after it sure as hell does. Seriously, if you're ever feeling down about how someone hurt you, sing the chorus to this song. Over, and over, and over again. You'll feel better in no time.
Not gonna write you A lol-ve song!
Freezepop- Lose That Boy
Freezepop is always a good choice for a witty and humorous take on relationships, and this is no exception. Ever found a person in a terrible relationship? Let 'em hear this.
Toki Wartooth- Toki's Love Song (From Metalocalypse)
Poor, poor Toki. The guy never gets a break. Him and Murderface are treated as non-entities in the band, he can never find love, and when he finally DOES meet someone, it turns out to be a hideous old hag who might be a transvestite as well (verdict's still out). Oh well. At the least, I managed to prove that Dethklok is ALWAYS a relevant choice in anything I intend to write.
Flight Of The Conchords- The Most Beautiful Girl [In The Room]
Man, this is a great song to attempt to woo that special someone and sweep them off their feet with. Singing this is GUARANTEED to get you on her good side. Seriously, try it. (Disclaimer- Do not fucking try this. You will probably get kicked in your jewels.)
Speck- Conventional Lover
It's a rather cute song even on it's own, but the constant nerd references (They're polyhedral) definitely set this into certified “lol” territory. If you don't crack a smile when he screams out “Uh-oh...saving throw!”, then you have no soul.
Jonathan Coulton- Skullcrusher Mountain
Another song that initially sounds rather heartwarming, and in fact actually is in it's own weird way, but when you get around to listening to the lyrics, it gets a little...odd. But hey, if there's any evil scientist bachelors out there looking for some pointers, look no further.
This song is so incredibly juvenile that I couldn't help but include it. I really, honestly have no other reason for doing so.
And that's it folks! Hopefully this was somewhat of a treat for you guys. But hey, got any suggestions? Stories? Death threats? Leave 'em in the comments below! And as always, see ya this weekend for the real Stereotoid deal!
And while you're at it guys, take a look at our fellow Stereotoid brother Crackity Jone's own Valentine's Day blog! http://bit.ly/euJeRx
Usually, Xzyliac would be the one talking to you in this paragraph, but due to some technical difficulties, Daxelman is here to save the day and provide you with sweet beats. We've got some White Stripes, some Blakroc, some Disasterpeace, and some Captain Beefheart, so lets get to the nitty gritty.
Released: November 27, 2009
*Sub-genres Alternative hip-hop, blues-hop
Sounds like: Well…exactly what you’d think. Get some of the Wu-Tang guys, that dude from A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Ludacris, some other guys, some R&B chick, and then put it all to the classic Black Keys sound.
Blakroc is an album that I tried not to get my hopes to high on. Much as I love the Black Keys, and a lot of the rappers on this album, the pairing sounded far too good to actually be true. I’ve heard the Black Keys remixed with rappers before and it’s been very successful, but to actually have the Keys embrace that concept sounded almost too off-the-wall. Especially with rappers like Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ludacris, and Raekwon.
Fortunately, all my past reservations were nullified. Blakroc speaks for itself with a style and sound that can be best described as a familiar newness. The muddy sound of the Keys is present, as is the varying vocal styles of rappers like Mos Def and RZA, but the marrying of these styles brings about a flavor that is truly unique. In a way it’s a natural evolution of similar “blues-hop” albums like Cherrywine’s Bright Black, and it undoubtedly trumps its predecessors in quality and tightness of concept.
The sounds and composition is completely familiar territory. If you’ve heard any recent Black Keys’ albums like Attack & Release or last year’s Brothers than you’ll feel right at home. Muddy guitars with blues-y solos, catchy organ riffs, suave bass, and rhythmic drums are all present and in effect. What obviously is different however is the vocal delivery. Dan Auerbach’s signature blues vocals are reduced to a few hooks throughout the album, and even then they are often accompanied by singer Nicole Wray, who really just steals the show from Auerbach with great performances on tracks like What You Do To Me and Why Can’t I Forget Him. The rapping, the star of the vocal limelight, is surprisingly diverse in terms of sound and delivery. You have the aggressive and abrasive Ludacris and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the smooth Mos Def and Q-Tip, and finally the rhythmic and soulful rappers like RZA.
Lyrically the album also varies with each rapper obviously getting his own shot to rap his style. Songs like Coochie and Stay Off the Fuckin’ Flowers are explicit but have moments of imagery that are just downright poetic (Flowers especially). Other tracks seem to follow the classic Black Keys lyricism of love and lose and really feel add to the blues-hop flavor. Tellin’ Me Things and What You Do To Me perfectly exemplify the confidence and competiveness of hip-hop and the soulful self-reflection of blues. It’s an interesting balance. One track in particular, Why Can’t I Forget Him, is completely singing from the voice of Nicole Wray and harkens back to the older style of R&B while giving it a wonderful modern twist.
All in all Blackroc is probably the most successful blues-hop album to date. With it comes a variety of sounds all married by a superb execution. If you’re like me, and the idea of blues infused with hip-hop kinda makes you squeal a lot, Blakroc is definitely an album that exhibits that idea with flair and finesse.
Album: Trout Mask Replica
Artist: Captain Beefheart
Label: Straight, Reprise
Released: June 16, 1969
*Sub-genres blues-rock, avant-garde
Sounds like: blues, rock, free-jazz, and experimental music all put into a blender.
Listening to a classic album years after it has been released will always be problematic. You’ll never be able to truly understand the impact it had on the music industry at that time. Whether it is because you weren’t alive when it came out, or you happened to discover it ions after the fact. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to be able enjoy it, but you might have difficulty understanding its true genius. This is exactly what happened to me when I listened to Trout Mask Replica. At first, I was completely disoriented, yet I was kind of expecting something unusual out of it.
It’s not the weirdest album I’ve ever heard, (the worst/best one being Sun Ra’s Space is the Place), but it is a serious contender. Upon first listening to it, Trout Mask Replica seems like a recipe for disaster. Once you’ve looked in-depths however, the album isn’t that horrible. Basically, take John Coltrane’s and Ornette Coleman’s free-jazz time signatures, the simplest blues vocals, add a sip of experimental music, surrealism, and absurdity; and you have Trout Mask Replica. Fact of the matter is; it’s not an easy album to listen to. You’ll definitely need an ear for hardcore, gritty blues to enjoy it.
Captain Beefheart was one of rock’s greatest surrealists. In fact, some of his songs were completely hectic and nonsensical. He refused to follow the standard rules of the genre, and dissected Rock and Roll into its purest form. Now, whether or not his genius transcends into the album is a matter of taste, but you can’t deny Trout Mask Replica’s shier insanity. This is one of the best examples of complete artistic freedom and blatant absurdity.
Listening to Captain Beefheart is like plugging your brain into a continuous stream of Everything is Terrible clips while watching reruns of Ren and Stimpy; it is completely mental. I honestly recommend the album, but I’m not sure everybody will enjoy it. If you dig raw blues, wacky interludes, and can handle a little bit of Dadaism, you’ll do just fine. I’ve heard weirder albums than Trout Mask Replica. Fortunately, weird isn’t bad, (it’s actually pretty entertaining).
Album: White Stripes
Artist: White Stripes
Label: Sympathy for the Record Industry
Released: June 15th, 1999
Genre: Alternative Rock
*Sub-genres Garage/Blues Rock
Sounds like: a guitar orgasm in the keys of blues and rock
As most of you probably already know we recently saw the end of a legendary band. Bands like The White Stripes don't just come along every day. The White Stripes were headed up by former couple, Jack White and Meg White. For years they put out some of the best music in America and just last week they officially broke up and called it quits. This retro review is in honor of them both.
White Stripes is the debut album from legendary rockers Jack and Meg white and easily some of their best. I have a hard time saying for sure which album of theirs I like the best but it's for sure one of the first three. In the last two albums (Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump) their sound sort of changed, not in a bad way mind you, just not my favorite.
This album just has so much soul! It also has a couple blues covers that are absolutely fantastic (Stop Breaking Down and St. James Infirmary Blues). Jack also belts out a delicious cover of Bob Dylan's One More Cup of Coffee, but the rest of the album is all Jack White originals.
For the first three White Stripes albums they had a very definite sound, a sound that could easily be described as raw, dirty, blister inducing guitar with some very simplistic drumming. AND THATS IT. Nothing else, just guitar and drums. It's kind of primitive in that way but thats what makes them so great. Theres just so much pure energy and emotion, and thats what rock should sound like if you ask me.
So as you can tell, I really really like this album. I couldn't possibly recommend this album enough! I think you would be pretty hard pressed to find someone who doesn't like at least one White Stripes song. Some people may have never even heard this album, I understand that many White Stripes fans didn't jump on with them until Elephant when Seven Nation Army was released. One quick side note, if you enjoyed this album you should check out the new Wanda Jackson album with Jack White, called The Party Ain't Over. The White Stripes are a band that we may never see again in our lives, but at least we have their music to keep us company.
Album: Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar
Released: January 1, 2011
*Sub-genres Concept, Space
Sounds like: A journey through space and time inside of an 8 bit console
Concept Albums are a funny thing. They are made or broken by the fluidity of the album, meaning how well the tracks flow together, much more than other albums. This is one of the only chiptune albums I’ve heard that feels like a concept album. Disasterpeace makes you feel as if you’re being transported through space and time in a 1960’s B movie. Each track feel big and epic and sprawling, just like how I imagine most people (including myself) feel space to be like. It could also be seen as the perfect accompaniment to a funky fresh space adventure.
That’s not to say it’s lacking the danceclub vibe that pervades chiptunes/electronic music either, but they contribute to the overall along with standing out on their own as fun songs The album is a rush to experience and while it’s not all epic dancing beats, that’s to it’s credit and helps it stand out in a growing sea of chiptune artists
I would go as far as to call it a crowning achievement of what is possible with chiptunes. It’s artists like Disasterpeace that break molds and help genres of music find solid footing.
Personal favorite tracks: Prolouge, Jump Error, Club Wolf, and Counter of the Cumulus
Late Stereotoid! Did everyone enjoy their weekend? You better have! Here's some new tunes for your weekday from Busta Rhymes, Zoe Keating, Shad, and Sleigh Bells.
Artist: Busta Rhymes
Label: Elektra Records
Genre: Rap/Hip Hop
Sounds like: A True Salute To the Gods
Busta Rhymes was someone I used to look up to when I was a kid, despite my parent’s best efforts to introduce me to more family friendly tunes. It’s wasn’t the vulgarity or the vivid imagery presented in Busta’s rhymes (pun!), but ultimately his presentation that hooked me. Back when I was a kid, Busta Rhymes looked to me like someone who enjoyed the hell out of what he was doing.
10 years since I’ve given the album Anarchy a proper listen, and I still maintain the belief that Busta Rhymes enjoys the hell out of what he does.
Anarchy can be summed up in five words; shit you fucking jam too[/i.]. That’s what I loved about Busta back when I was a kid. He ultimately made music that no matter who you were, you’d find yourself bobbing your head. This is a quality that’s present in most, if not all East Coast rap, but by the time Busta Rhymes comes to [i]Anarchy, he’s successfully mastered the craft of music that makes people black.
Yes, it should be a scientific fact by now; listening to Anarchy has an 80% chance of making you East Cost Gangster. You may or may not like that fact, but it’s a reason why Anarchy is so good. It presents an excellent picture of the East Cost lifestyle though driving beats and incredibly impressive imagery.
Lyrically, this album is genius. I could go quote for quote of snippets of Anarchy that surprise me, excite me, make me laugh, and ultimately keep me hooked on Busta’s every word. While his lyrical explosiveness is obvious, the reason he’s able to convey his message so effectively is how he presents his rhymes. Busta Rhymes displays an uncanny grasp of rhythm and flow, able to take a simple beat, and rap lyrics around the beat in such a convoluted yet simplistic way, that it gives that full result of “damn, this guy knows what the fuck he’s talking about.”
Beat wise, this album is genius. You’ll get a nice mix of the general rap tropes that happened back in the day; you’ve got your jazzy tracks and your subtle bass and sample tracks, but you’ve also got some tracks that benefit from a slight infusion of Jamaican Rastafarianism. And Busta’s presentation changes accordingly with the current feel of the beat. You’re given a collection of tunes that’s ultimately some of the best music to listen to while driving through Brooklyn with your window down and head rocking like you’re from the hood.
There’s so much good in this album, and it’s all because it feels as if Busta Rhymes had too much damn fun composing it. Complete stories (and I mean compete stories, drama, twists and all) are told in their entirety in some tracks, while others play off the Y2K theme of world destruction and reformation. Busta displays the ability to spit lyrics continuously with no sign of flow interruption or even a hint that he had to think before he spoke, something that is somewhat missing in hip hop now-a-days. But ultimately, Busta makes music that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until he done with you, and at that point you don’t want him to stop.
So yeah, you should totally go find a copy of this Anarchy. It’s visceral, it’s brutal, it’s complex, it’s incredibly gangster, and overall, it’s one of the best things to come out of the last decade. In the immortal words of Busta Bus, buy this album, pop it in/rip it to your MP3 player, and “sit down and bounce to this shit.”
Album: Into the Trees
Artist: Zoë Keating
Genre: modern classical
*Sub-genres cello, avant-garde, ambient
Sounds like: Classical music mixed with innovative electronic layering.
I should really stop taking my music tastes for granted. I must cease my belligerent cynical non-sense, and accept this fact: music will never become dull. It might be all too obvious to said that – and believe me this is the last time you’ll hear me saying this-- but I cannot emphasize enough, on how certain records go to my head like a thunderous roar of brilliance.
Pardon my overly romantic induction, but I get very passionate about what I listen to. And Zoë Keating’s music is no exception. Once again, the wonders of the Internet have brought me to this talented cello player. Into the Trees is an absolutely delightful mix between classical and experimental music. Everything is put together like puzzle pieces. Each sound, electronic sample, percussion, and cord tapping are marvelously assembled into a symphony. She is in fact, capable of layering everything in a cohesive and minimalist way that would make every “one-man” band burst into envious rage.
Her cello is bold and strong; incredibly uplifting, and precise. Keating is an amazing composer, able to truly capture the essence of her field. She plays her cello with vigor, and as mentioned before; is able to blend everything back into a melodic and sophisticated manner.
The feel of Into the Trees transcends over its classical roots. Some songs sound almost like alternative rock, while others flirt with ambient in the more symphonic pieces. She is also an information architect, which makes her approach music like a true engineer. Just by listening to her songs, you can clearly hear the complexity of her compositions.
I may not have heard a lot of classical music in my days. But, I can safely say that the innovation and shier originality that Zoë Keating brings to the table is enough to make me fall in love with her music. She is talented -- dare I say a perfectionist – and it totally shines through in Into the Trees.
Album: When this is over
*Sub-genres Sounds like: If Boards of Canada and Talib Kweli had sex.
It’s very refreshing to hear an album like When this is over, and an artist like Shad, for that matter. We’ve all got over our k-os fix a long time ago, and forgot about the Great White North’s potential. So, I’ve decided to pick his first album over the newer ones, (his latest dating back to last year) because like many artists – especially in Hip-Hop— earlier albums are the most consistent and inspired. Believe me, his discography is good, but I personally think When this is over is his best one.
The album is the product of a literate old-school Hip-Hop fan. The zeitgeist of the Golden Age transcended in both his lyrics and his beats. Speaking of which, his lyrics are top notch, conscious and intelligent. The Street Life vibe that we usually get from contemporary Hip-Hop albums is absent from this record. Some rappers just “get it”, he’s one of ‘em; a slick-rhyming cat settled in London, Ontario.
The Underground is an absolute jewel for hard-knocking rap music. When this is over debunks tenfold my pessimism towards modern Hip-Hop. Once in a while – which is becoming more and more frequent these days -- there’s going to be an album that completely wrecks everything in its path, and provide the perfect package. It’s almost too funny to think that Madvillainy came one year prior to it, too. There is mad quality in Hip-Hop nowadays; you just have to look for it.
Shad’s flow is excellent, but the real hook of the album is definitely the beats. Highly comparable to Madlib’s or even The Pharcyde, the crate digging duty was freaking boss, dare I say, (almost De La Soul-ian). It’s not a terribly funky album, but it takes so much from acoustic and borderline ambient rhythms, that it’s actually much more laid back.
When this is over is full of flavor and master lyricism. His most recent album flirts with pop, especially in the beats --possibly because of the higher production quality-- but his lyrics are always on point. If you’re into k-os, Rascalz or Cadence Weapon; I think you’ll find something to like in Shad. Canadian rappers always surprises me, and Shad only reaffirms that quality rap can come out of the indie scene without sounding like a club-record, (I’m looking at you Cadence Weapon).
Artist: Sleigh Bells
Label: Mom + Pop Recordings / N.E.E.T.
Released: May 11th, 2010
Genre: Noise Pop
*Sub-genres Bad Ass
Sounds like: The most bad ass noises you have ever heard.
I want you to think of the most bad ass music you can think of. Need some more time? Thats fine. ......... Ok, you got it? So what is it? Slayer? Metallica? Black Flag? Well here is your new go to for bad ass music and it is not metal at all. As it turns out the most bad ass album to come out in years is Treats by Sleigh Bells. Yeah you heard right ... this totally bad ass band is called Sleigh Bells.
Sleigh Bells are what is commonly conisdered as "noise pop" which in my brain typically translates as they make a bunch of noise for the sake of making a bunch of noise. This is not the case with this band. While they do create quite a bit of noise, what they're doing dosen't sound messy or unplanned. They are very bass driven with lots of raw guitar licks thrown in. This is just a super fun band guys, I'm super cereal!
One thing that makes these guys so fun is that their songs seemingly aren't really about much at all. For instance one of my favorite songs on the album, Kids, is just about a group of friends spending the day at the beach. Now I usually am one of the first to critisize a song for being shallow and not really about anything of worth. Even though that is my usual stance I do believe that on occasion you just gotta have a meaningless, fun album to just throw on and feel good about. Something you don't really have to think about or pay that much attention to. This is that kind of album.
This is Sleigh Bells first album and I really can't reccomend it enough! I absolutley adored this album and cannot wait to see what this group does next. I see great things in their future. So please, please, please do your ears a favor today and listen to these guys!
Personal favorite tracks: [Editor’s Note: Crackity left this blank so let’s say his favorites were track..1, 7 and…I dunno…4.]
TL;DR: Sleigh Bells are bad ass, if you want to be a bad ass listen to Sleigh Bells
Label: Merge Records
Genre: Indie/Electronica/Pop/Utter Madness
Sounds like: Animal Collective/Battles in the 70s, Hot Chip
Sometimes, all it takes to find new music is to randomly look at album art you think looks cool. In my case, the album art for Swim looked colorful enough for me to want to check out a few of the samples on Amazon’s MP3 storefront. Man, discovering new music is awesome.
Swim is something that’s hard to describe, but you know what it sounds like. It’s an enigma in itself; the songs share a central theme, but you can’t really group them all into one deeply specific category. Songs on Swim will change tactics ever so slightly, keeping the album fresh enough to warrant multiple nonstop listens. Every time you pop the album in, something new manages to reveal itself, anything from new loops to new instrumental parts; even the little things can give the album a fresh face every time you come back.
Those little parts are brought out by how Caribou puts his music together. If I had to slam a concrete specific genra on this album, it’s definitely electronica. Caribou uses usual yet catchy loops that, at first can be jarring to the ear, but then settle into an acceptable and incredibly enjoyable groove. I found my first listen of this album a little noisy on the ears, but as the tracks fell into place, Caribou began to make wonderful, wonderful music.
Then we get to his highly experimental samples. I can’t really describe what is happening in the upper registers of the song “Kalli”, but whatever is happing manages to sink into that same groove I was describing beforehand. The style of the samples carries over into the style of the vocals, being incredibly unusual, but after awhile inherently familiar.
On a first listen, this album can seem as foreign as earlier Animal Collective work or the more mathematical Battles, but after awhile, as with those bands, you start to fall into that groove of what they do with instruments, vocals, and sampling. It’s just that Caribou uses familiar disco-like tactics to help facilitate you in getting used to all the weird things happening in the composition at an alarming pace. Almost every song on Swim feels as if, at its core that it is a dance track, and that really helps in naturally getting the user to say “wow, this isn’t hurting my brain,” and the quicker you can get a listener to do that with your music, the better.
Caribou is clearly very talented at introducing and hooking one in with his style of music. It’s something you seldom hear out there in the world, but then it becomes something so familiar you almost feel as if you’re an expert on the music yourself. I will admit I wasn’t jiving with the album at first, but the turn around to me becoming completely enamored with the music was so surprising and quick that I forgot I ever had doubts with Swim to begin with. It’s definitely something you want to check out if you’re looking for something a little off kilter but easily enjoyable.
Plus, Caribou’s a mathematician. How awesome is that?
Album: Gimme Some
Artist: Peter Bjorn and John
Label: Almost Gold Recordings
Released: March 29th, 2011
Genre: Indie Pop/Rock
Sounds like: Old Peter Bjorn and John plus the 60's
You ever hear that song that had those bongos in the background and the chorus went like, "and we don't care about the young folks, talkin' 'bout the young style"? Yeah it was kind of good at first and then got way over played to the point that you hate that song. Well that song is by Peter Bjorn and John and they're actually a really great band, no really!
Gimme Some is the followup to PB&J's 2009 album Living Thing, which was a fantastic album by the way, while Living Thing had a more electronic style Gimme Some is more traditional rock/pop it's also seems to be rather 60's pop influenced. I enjoy the sound of this album but honestly, I feel like the style they went with is begenning to get a little over used in the music industry.
I think PB&J's greatest strength is that they have a gift for wrting extremley catch songs. They have proven it once again with this album, with songs like Tomorrow Has To Wait and Dig A Little Deeper. There are other great catchy songs on the album but I think those two are the catchiest. Overall its a really good album, but it could have been better if you ask me. Living Thing was just so good! I wanted something that would be a great succesor to it, this album however, does not quite make the grade.
Sorry for the lack of links, the album isn't out for a while so I couldn't find any links.
Personal favorite tracks: Dig A Little Deeper, Down Like Me, Eyes, Tomorrow Has To Wait
TL;DR: Good but not great, Living Thing was a better album.
Album: ...And Out Come The Wolves
Label: August 22, 1995
Released: Epitaph Records
Sounds like: It sounds like an influential punk album. Don't act like you've never heard it.
Okay, so...there was this band. They were a punk band. They came out with a couple albums, started getting super popular, people started to notice 'em. Then they come out with this one, super huge, critically acclaimed, oh-my-god-you-better-go-listen-to-it album, and suddenly punk rock matters to the mainstream again. Of course I'm talking about Rancid.
So, for starters, you've probably heard this album already, listened to it a million times, love it to death. This is without a doubt, probably the biggest punk album to come out in the 90's. This, Green Day's Dookie album, The Offspring's Smash album, and Bad Religion's Stranger Than Fiction album pretty much brought punk back from the grave. So naturally an album that influential shouldn't be new to any of you. Why am I reviewing it then?
BECAUSE I FUCKING LOVE THIS ALBUM. Every aspect of this album is simply perfect. Tim Armstrong's vocals are at their best. Him and Lars Frederiksen has never sounded better on guitar than on this album. Brett Reed has never been a more badass drummer. And Matt Freeman's bass? Go listen to Maxwell Murder and let your mind be blown all over the walls at that amazing bass solo. Some may disagree, but I think this is definitely Rancid at their absolute best.
It's also worth noting that, while being a punk album, it's far more approachable than most punk albums out there. Rancid's signature ska-ish punk sound (A nice callback to Tim and Matt's time in Operation Ivy) is not only a blast to listen to, but insanely memorable. I'm sure anybody reading this review could sing the chorus to Time Bomb at the drop of a hat...you might be doing it now even. That's probably one of the best things about this album- every song is so instantly memorable, from Ruby Soho's anthemic “Destination unknown” chorus, to the MTV staple Roots Radical, even to not-as-popular tracks like As Wicked and Listed M.I.A. If you've listened to, grown up to, or had any enjoyment out of this album ever, you probably know every track. It sticks with you.
And it's probably a good thing to, because this album always, ALWAYS, puts a smile on my face. You try screaming “DIAL 999 IF YOU REALLY WANT THE TRUTH” without grinning. This album might as well be prescribed as an anti-depressant, it's just so awesomely uplifting. Makes sense considering the band eventually went on to write a song that pretty much got me through high school (Fall Back Down, if you were wondering).
Long story short, you already love this album most likely. If you haven't listened to it yet, FUCKING DO IT.
Album: Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair
Artist: La Dispute
Label: No Sleep Records
Released: November 11, 2008
Sub-genres A little experimental rock, a little indie rock.
Sounds like: Poetic energy.
Every now and then, I'm introduced to a band that puts out something that's more than just music. A band that could actually be considered art at times. From the well-honed composition of their music, to the lyrics, a band can actually go beyond simple “Good to listen to” and actually strike a nerve, leave a lasting impression on you and actually make you remember what it's like to perceive music as an art form.
This is one of those albums.
Now before I go too far, I should say that, if you aren't a fan of the post-hardcore sound, or have a bit of a disdain for “screaming” vocals, this won't be for you. Granted, I hesitate to use the word “screaming” in reference to this man's vocals. They're very harsh, yes, but they're easily interpreted, easy to make out exactly what he's saying, and uses them in all the right places and nothing more. But again, if you don't like those two elements, you probably won't like this album, but I still urge you at least give it a shot.
See, La Dispute is a band that strives to make their music artistically, technically, and emotionally engaging. They want you to hear their music and walk away feeling something. In that aspect, they pass with flying colors. Everything about this album is so technically sound it could put some prog bands to shame. And the emotion? You need look no further than the lyrics of each song. Sometimes sang, sometimes screamed at you, it's almost impossible to not draw some kind of feeling from any of these songs. There's just a certain passion and poetry involved with these lyrics that sticks with you. Maybe I'm just a sap, but a lot of these songs, once I sat down and listened to them, managed to shake me to my core.
And while the lyrical output is probably the star of the show, the music itself is incredible. Going far beyond the standard post-hardcore sound, you'll find no shortage of impressive instrumentation here. Time changes, guitar wizardry, some incredible drum work, it's all here. It's not all over the place and highly showy like most prog or metal stuff, but then again it doesn't have to be. It's pretty much the perfect sound for the story the lyrics are attempting to portray.
And the story. It's never been explicitly stated anywhere as far as I know, but the album seems to tell the tale of two lovers, falling in love, falling out of love, being lonely, and missing each other. Starting out innocuously enough with the opening track “Such Small Hands”, it's a frantic rollercoaster of emotion from there all the way to the end track, “Nobody, Not Even The Rain”, a song that lyrically and musically is near-identical to the opening track...almost finishing the album where it started.
Simply put, this album deserves a listen from anyone even remotely interested in music as artistic expression. If you've ever enjoyed poetry, enjoyed love, hell...enjoyed post-hardcore music, pick this up.
Album: Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers
Artist: Wu-Tang Clan/The Beatles
Label: Tea Sea Records
Sounds like: An unholy marriage of sheer brilliance
When I first heard that there was a Wu-Tang Clan vs. Beatles mixtape floating around on the internet I really didn’t know what to think. While the two do share a few similar characteristics, and while it is simple enough to just sample the Beatles onto Wu-Tang tracks, I don’t think I was really prepared for what I was about to experience. Once you get into the business of remixes and mash-ups you enter very murky territory where a lot of the boundaries and expectations have never really been set.
An album like Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers is, in my opinion, what a mash-up mixtape should aspire to be right from the concept alone. The marrying of Wu-Tang Clan and the Beatles is unexpected and requires creativity but doesn’t go out of its way to be ridiculous like the horrid tragedy that is All Day by Girl Talk.
The execution is even better. The album opens up with a few samples from interviews and live performances from each group almost in a call and response fashion and then kicks right into a stellar reimagining of the hip-hop classic C.R.E.A.M. From there on the album does incredibly well to pay respect to the genius behind both artist. Specifically retakes on Criminology, Smith Bros, City High, and Got Your Money sound less like mixes of two songs and instead feel like their own unique songs that stand alone as nods to each group.
It’s an unashamedly hip-hop heavy album with actually very little vocal service from any of the Beatles. In fact much of the Beatles side of the tracks aren’t the original Beatles tracks at all but rather jazz, piano, or orchestral covers of Beatles songs. It’s actually rather brilliant in that you can instantly recognize Happiness Is A Warm Gun or Can’t Buy Me Love without the tracks having to sound like it was completely lifted from their original albums. And when the album does lift a track straight from the original song, like the guitar solo from While My Guitar Gently Weeps for example, it’s made all the more exciting.
On the Wu-Tang side there are obviously the vocals, which remain almost completely untouched with the exception of a few tempo shifts or studio effects like echo. Even the drums, while being for the most part from the Wu-Tang side, can differ. When they are from the Wu-Tang side they’re heavy and rough as is expected from the group. One particular nod to the Wu-Tang style of Enter the 36 Chambers, is that when the original drums are not rough or soft enough the mash-up artist will lift drums from the older tracks and fit them with the acapella (vocals) of the track being played.
As all of this is taking place the audience is treated to an absolutely stellar array of interviews from not only the groups in question but the individuals who got to experience the sweeping cultural phenomena that was the Beatles as well as the television shows and movies that inspired the Wu-Tang. So as the listener is being treated with the album there is also the fascinating story of how Beatlemania began to shape a generation with small bits of audio Wu-Tang paraphernalia. It’s amazing to watch as such a heavy album delivers the story of the craze that was Beatlemania in such an aggressive manner; almost painting the Beatles as some sort of invaders with a plan to control everything.
Oh, and finally, every track is good. Every single God damn one. As long as the album is (82 minutes) is thoroughly lovable from front to back several times over.
All in all Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers is perfect. It’s not only one of the best mixtapes I’ve ever heard (and I grew up with mash-up mixtapes) but it’s probably up there with any of the best work to ever be branded with the Wu-Tang name. As for the Beatles, it’s an incredibly fresh take on what has become a somewhat stale and tired brand and one I wish the remaining members would openly support (or rather one I wish they could if Beatles fans weren’t so fucking crazy. If you’re at all interested in good hip-hop or some absolutely spectacular mashing up do yourself a favor and find this mixtape. Words can not express it’s greatness.