I usually take off the Christmas season because I do not want to bother everyone with depression and philosophical arguments for why life is both tragic and amazing, but I feel like writing something. In spirit of not doing what I normally do, I want to highlight probably the most technical, and brutal, album in my collection. No, it’s not death metal, and I am sure that someone would argue that I have heavier and more technical, but I still feel like this album needs more attention.
After the Burial have done a lot more than I have. I think they are kind of amazing, and I do not see enough love for this group. It is probably because they are in the “scene” part of music, somehow. i will never understand how that could be.
The first track is the most brilliant introduction for this band. Berzerker opens with a blistering dueling guitar riff that would make Van Halen’s jaw drop. From that point, it’s nothing but the most orchestrated chaos for the next 5:30.
I am proud to say that I figured out the drums in this song at the pique of my abilities, but that was after many hours of failing. I probably never figured them out perfectly, but even the version I had crafted was close enough to be nearly as impressive.
The song has an amazing ‘bop’ to it. Starting around the 2:50 mark, the swing being demonstrated will get even the most ardent haters of this band to tap a toe. That goes on for about 30 seconds, before the heaviest bits.
After a beautifully crafted flourish on guitar, a devastating breakdown that does not follow any conventional musical crafting. Then. a reprise of the first bit of the song before quite literal chaos reigns over the last minute.
Fuck, that’s only song one and I have already written that much. I will not be writing about the rest of the album, but that first track is a great example for the ear-bleedingly good time you are in for.
No, this album is not for everyone. It is a perfect example of what conventional metal can do. It is heavy. It is technical. It is brutal and loud. I never have to put my headphones too loud to enjoy the sounds. I mean, I DO crank the volume, but I don’t have to.
I don’t give enough attention to the bass, but this video gives an idea of the musicianship portrayed in this song. Please, watch and enjoy. (There are no vocals, so go this route if you do not wish someone screaming at you)
Before I started writing this, I had assumed that this band was a five-piece. The “dueling guitar” that I mentioned, is done by one guy. Fuck me, this band somehow got MORE amazing.
I was initially going to write about “Songs for the Deaf” (SftD) when I realized that “Era Vulgaris” gets scrutinized for not being SftD. I will not argue with the fact that SftD one of my favourite albums of all time, but I really feel like Era Vulgaris is still fantastic.
Let’s start with a dissection of why SftD is so amazing.
No, that’s not fair. To hold an album as the pinnacle of a band’s career based on the efforts by one member inclusion is shallow. Though, it is true that Mr. Grohl does some amazing work on this album. I mean, just listen to the opening track and you can see what you’re in for. Once you get passed the mock-radio intro you are hit by a wave of pure Metal-Awesome. Track two was a fantastic single when it was released, and was my introduction to this band.
Track three, First It Giveth, is by far my favourite on the album. The punishing and driving beat over the corus mixed with the polyrhythmic verse drumline make it one of the more interesting endeavours I have ever witnessed in music. Then, track four, probably the coolest excuse for an extended drum solo ever.
My analysis of the first three songs on this album are what lead me to believe that it should not be held as high as it is in the QotSA catalogue. I mean, every instrument does amazing things all through this album. It feels like the “Dave Grohl” album we needed, instead of the Foo Fighters. Due to this fact, I refuse to give it the “QotSA best album” lable.
Then, the forgotten (and hated*) sequel, Era Vulgaris.
*it might not be as hated as I read into the discussion, but it was not received as well.
I feel bad for this album. It had to follow up one of the most interesting releases in “metal” that we have heard since “Destroy, Erase, Improve“. It got so many things right, it just could never live up to SftD produced.
It had a much more polished sound, and played it safer by being both accessible and radio-friendly. It focuses more on Josh Homme’s guitar playing. The lyrics are more whimsicle, the bass much chunkier, and the drums are more conventional. Still bloody intricate, but less head-‘splody ridiculous.
The first single, “Sick, Sick, Sick“, focuses on more of a traditional song structure that QotSA have moved on from. More of journey as opposed to a song, the orchestration of layers and subtle changes leave the listener waiting to see what comes next. SftD was this strange combination of floaty-and-whimsical and brain-punch.
I know that I am making up words and phrases, but listening to these albums you quickly notice that my adjectives are apt.
This is just conjecture. I need to make that clear before people rip me apart for voicing my opinion on the song asking for studies or facts around what I say.
People always seem to point out that this song is promoting rape and rape culture. Then, out come the ravenous defenders of “classic” holiday songs to proclaim how the song was never intended to reflect that sentiment.
Am I here to say that either side is right or wrong? Well, I am neither educated enough or vested in the battle to say either way. I do have a point that I am going to dive into, but I am not going to say either side is correct or wrong.
The song was intended as an innocent exclamation of feelings. It is meant to be “cute”, and is not intended to support an abhorrent behavior type.
To state that someone should not feel that way about the lyrical content about that song is a bit deaf to their opinion.
Let me explain in harsh terms. Trigger warning, by the way. I am going to talk about sexual exploitation and taking advantage of gender-roles.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The song talks about a woman being trapped in a house by the weather, and a man trying to convince her that it is way too hazardous to venture into the cold. If taken on face value, it can already be disseminated into two camps: either the man is actually caring and stating that IN HER BEST INTEREST, she should stick around until it is safe for her to go into the night. OR: the man is trying to coax the woman into staying because she wants to sleep with him (in his mind).
The issue, as I see it, is that it sounds patriarchal. It sounds almost creepy and forceful. He speaks, at length, how it’s dangerous. Being the listener, the only side you hear is his. One would be forgiven in thinking that he is exaggerating the state of the weather for nefarious means.
The other way to see it is that he actually has the woman’s interest at heart. He does not want anything bad to happen to her and, therefore, very much intends to keep her safe.
To shoot down either interpretation someone displays assumes history. Maybe, the person crying rape is someone who has actually been through something similar. Maybe, they are just projecting. Projecting does not make their feelings surrounding the song less important to consider. All because someone does not agree with your perspective does not make them wrong.
If a song or situation makes someone uncomfortable, do whatever is in your power (or whatever is needed of you) to fix it. If you do not have any control, listen with a compassionate ear.
On the other side of things, if you think the song is about unsavoury things, do not be a dick about it. If you’re in a store and it comes on the speaker, the employee helping you probably has no way of changing the music. Your friends have no way of doing anything about it. Hell, in big-box store like Walmart, even the managers have no way of changing it.
What you can do is voice your opinion calmly. Yes, the song has become more and more problematic. Ideally, it would just be stricken from playlists and be left to vanish in the annals of history. Yes, you are aloud to be upset about it. However, if you are sitting on your social media of choice and someone mentions to someone who isn’t you how they like that song, let them be. They are allowed to their opinion as much as you are yours. People like things other people don’t all of the time, it’s not going to make rape or sexual exploitation okay all because that song exists.
If you are assuming that this is justification for your actions, you’re a parasite on this realm.
Unfortunately, we cannot punish the past for their exploitative actions. We live in a world where the horrible things of the past are almost celebrated in today’s day-to-day. All we can do is try to survive, and try to make everything as palatable for those around us.
Words to live by — Don’t be a dick. Love other people.
I usually start taking time off after my birthday until the new year. It gives me time to write the novel I’m working on, and catch up on general medical shit. However, I found myself thinking about how NO ONE knows this album and that is a fucking shame. Especially when everything feels so bleek right now.
Things We Lost In The Fire is melancholy: the album. Not in that “15 and deep” kind of way, more in that “I don’t have the energy to do anything today”, and that is a perfect way to define right now. Hell, the lyrics are not even to dower, and the music is the furthest thing from crushing. It’s just so slow, so delicate, and perfectly mixed.
I came across this album by complete mistake forever ago. I thought that it had a beautiful, yet very minimalist, design. I was a fan of the record label (Kranky) and I was familiar with other acts produced by Steve Albini. It was the perfect storm, and I will not say the rest of the discography from this band is disappointing, but they have never lived up to this release.
Defined as “slow core”, this album boasts a very minimalist soundscape. The instrumentation uses very few instruments all being sustained with to the limits of how there sound will resonate. Parts (track 3, Dinosaur Act, song below) remind me a little bit of Matthew Good Band Beautiful Midnight era, mixed with Wintersleep’s Untitled. The lyrics feel like just an added flourish instead of a focus.
That is not to say the lyrics are throw-away. Kind of the opposite: the poetry being displayed is as powerful as the interact play of noises being performed by the instruments. My point is more that they are never overpowering the other sounds, more complementing them.
Seriously, if you are reading while drinking a warm beverage of choice, watching the weather outside, or dwelling how that person you fancy doesn’t fancy you back: this album is perfect. It also works while reflecting on how invisible you are.
I started writing a piece about optimism and pessimism the other day, and it got me asking whether or not I even have happy music in my 36-day-long collection of songs.
Knowing that I could never go through all 36 days worth of music, I pulled a few that may or may not be happy.
Dresden Dolls — Good Day
I know it seems like I picked this song based on name alone. It took me a couple of listens to figure out whether or not it is actually happy, however. I kind of feel that it is more cynical than not happy? If that makes sense? It is basically an anthem about how strong someone is in the face of a brutal breakup that would potentially render someone uncontrollably depressed. So, a final verdict? If we are going on the A) B) options I have given myself, I would have to say happy.
Deftones — Teenager
Very symbolic, and alludes to tragedy instead of happiness. It is a song that seems to be about moving past pain and abandonment. To say that it’s pessimistic is undermining potential readings of what the poetry of this piece could be.
Deer & the Headlights — Sweet Talk
I fucking love this song. Not happy at all, and does not even pretend to be. Musically, it could be argued that it sounds “boppy” and aloof. The heartwrenching lyrics are about seeing an ex with a new lover for the first time since you separated. Juvenile? Very much, but a very relatable situation for most of us. What holds this song apart from most in the pessimism group is that it doesn’t really give the listener any sort of reprise, or even an alternate way of looking at the situation. Can I call it happy? Hell no.
Cursive — From The Hips
The most cynical song I think I have come across in my life. It is trying to make an argument that the pinnacle of human interaction is sex. The singer alludes to the idea that sex is the only time we are all truly honest and without alternative motives.
Braid — Do You Like Coffee?
I may be biased by my love for the black substance that is the subject of this song, but I would confidently put this in “optimism” pool. The song tells a tale about seeing someone for the first time in a long time. It could been seen as bitter-sweet, but still optimistic.
Livestalk & the Bodies — Pourvous
I actually forgot about this one until I asked a friend of mine about what they would recommend. I’ll probably get to their suggestion, but I want to point out the irony that one of, if not my absolute favourite song that I played on is incredibly happy-bordering-on-cute. (Don’t tell Kevo I called it cute). A song of love, confessing all manners of appreciation for all parts of the narrator’s partener. Plus, this song has the most amazing piano line written and did I mention that I love it and I played on it and I didn’t write the drum line but I wish I did am I rambling without punctuation I am so sorry.
Broken Bells — The High Road
As a fan of the bands The Shins, of course I came across this gem. The best parts of Danger Mouse cira 2010, and released just before Modern Guilt by Beck, this album combines and jangly guitar that The Shins were known for, and the trip-hop grooves that Danger Mouse produces so well. The name, and parts of the lyrics, lead one to believe that it is going to be a happy song. When you really listen to it, however, you notice that it is about someone burning out after living a great life. So, as most of the other songs on this list: cynical, at best.
The Fratellis — Flathead
EVERYBODY DANCE! FEEL HOW GREAT THE GROOVE IS! BEAT THE PISS OUT OF EVERYONE!
*ahem* This song is great. I will never get a bigger smile on my face than when I’m analyzing this one, but it hides a dark secret behind the bombastic chorus’ and bigger-than-life transitions. It’s alluding to the idea that people are two-faced at best, and horribly spoken about at worst.
The Junction — Untitled (Revised)
This song is not a great example of the album, but it remains one of my favourite pop songs of all time. I have a very hard time deciphering lyrics at the best of times, and this song is a whearwind of metaphors and complicated prose. I THINK that it’s happier than most, even though if fits very nicely in a dark sounding chasm.
The Tokyo Police Club — Bambi
This song is a coating of blunt opinions and a harsh tone over joyous celebration of youth. Maybe I am biased because of the fantastic keyboards coupled with how happy the keyboard player looked while they performed this one day, but I will forever see this as an optimistic song.
WHAT IS MY CONCLUSION? Happy lyrics are possible. Non-cynical lyrics are possible. Music is an expression of the musician’s soul, and it is easier to dwell on the horrible rather than the best of times. Hell, that Livestalk & the Bodies song is the only one out of the full album of fifteen that might be mostly unhappy.
Now, all of this conjecture is just that. I admit that I am horrible with figuring out lyrics meaning on the best of days. There are probably of happy songs. Hell, I didn’t touch ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, Of Montreal’s entire catalogue, or C + C by Tom Vek.
This is an example of one of those albums that I honestly can’t help myself but to recommend. I never feel like I sell it very well, and I feel incredibly upset that it has seems to have been forgotten.
Then again, it is a Canadian hip-hop/alternative album. Yes, there are examples of things thriving in that catagory, but for every success there are hundreds of flash-in-the-pan albums. Unfortunatly, this is a latter. It’s unfortunate, simply for the fact that there are so few albums that explore the corners of musical expression that this album ventures into.
As previously mentioned, this album could be placed comfortably into the hip-hop genre. That does not define it, however. Yes, they use samples and turntables for a large percent of the music, but where they explore other instruments is where they differ themselves. The single (placed below because it’s amazing) toys with an expression of someone who is strung out. The entire album feels like it was made by that group of stoners that you saw in high school. Harmless, brazen, and always saying or doing something interesting.
This is one example of why I have a hard time vocalizing why you need to listen to this album. On paper, it sounds like like drivel. Or, at least, mildly annoying. The fact is that this album has so many ideas. Everything from electonica to folk, dance to metal, and it works as a gateway into a world of unliited possibilities. This album is a gateway into everything this band has in the long term, and things only get better and weirder.
That’s right, I’m recommending an album to recommend another album!
Discossis is the next album they put out. It’s somehow more chaotic yet more intentional. I digress: listen to Glee. If you like it, pick up Discosis. Thank me later.
This is a video from 14 years ago! LOOK AT HOW SKINNY I AM!!!!
I miss playing in this band. It was incredibly fun and formative. Not just as a musician, but as a person.
Being in a band teaches you how to interact with people. You have to get along with bandmates, you have to get along with promoters, and you have to get along with fans.
This show, in particular, predated our last album.
Little text explaining why I am doing so many reviews right now. The world, or at least North America, is fucked. Everything is breaking (because it needed to) and there is little happy that I can find to be exposed to. So, I focus on coffee and music. Since it would be boring to just keep reading about how great my black coffee is, I hope that you aren’t too sick of the music!
Interesting bit of information: I have almost exactly 38 days worth of music on my computer. I deleted about 3 days worth of stuff I either will never or have never listened to: so, biased as the claim may be, I only have the best the world has to offer!
I had my full collection on random yesterday, and was reminded of this album. It could be argued that this album isn’t old enough to be placed in the ‘classic’ category yet, but 2009 is a while ago. In my broken mind, I can justify it being two decades old. I can do simple math, I know it’s not. Shut up.
ANYWAY: This album borrows greatly from the ’60s psychedelic sound that the Flaming Lips have always used. I actually watched a video compilation using a song from this album over footage from the original Woodstock, and it fit rather nicely. I cannot decide if the Flaming Lips are in the wrong decade, or if they are just really good at appropriating sounds of the past. They fuse old sounds and ways of composing with new technologies and methods. It creates this almost timeless kakophonie. The sounds leave the listener in the middle of a miasma of ideas.
Of course, I am a huge fan of the drums on the album. They are really kinetic and almost lure the listener into a kind of trance. Most songs sport a simple 4/4 pattern, but there are deviations. The song ‘Your Bats‘ comes to mind, where it adopts a 6/8 in a way that isn’t noticeable at the start. Or, at the very least, I didn’t notice it. Maybe my mind is simple, I’ll let you be the judge.
The vocalist takes some getting used to. If you can accept his very high voice, it becomes impossible to consider any other style over the band. If someone cannot get over how shrill his voice is, however: it can render the album almost unlistenable. I could never fault anyone for being unable to get over it. I would pity them, however. It is far from a slight to point out how every instrument being played is being done so by a deft hand.
I mean, if I wanted to do a full career retrospective, I would be writing forever. This band has been producing albums in some capacity since 1983. The band has been through 16 members, with only the bass player staying absolutely consistent in his role. Even the individual who is now the lead singer didn’t start off that way. I really recommend reading the Wikipedia page about them, it’s fascinating!
I have no idea what inspired me to tackle this album. This is one of my favourite albums of all time, and it will be very hard for me not to say “just listen to it because”, but I will write something more substantial because you should listen to it.
You Forgot It In People came out of nowhere on the Canadian music scene. The early 2000’s were an amazing time in Canadian Indi and pop rock, and this album helped cement that statement as true in multiple ways.
First off, and most importantly, is the pedigree of musicians on this album is amazing. Though this band does not hold the record for the most performers, it still holds 18 credited actors. I say credited only because I would not be surprised if someone did clapping on the song “Stars & Sons” and they just forgot to give them a shout-out.
The part of this album I love the most is the flow. The album starts with an ethereal string portion, track two begins with roughly ten seconds of simple guitar mixed with violin then launches with a kinetic energy from the percussion that I have never found prior or since. Track three is very subdued compared to track two, and this album continues this tug-and-pull between being calm and chaotic.
The lyrics are this strange combination of being incredibly important and highschool poetry by that guy who thinks he’s deep. It works beautifully. The reflective nature brings to mind someone who has finally identified the last parts of their sexuallity.
Standout track has to be “Looks Just Like the Sun” simply because it’s the sore-thumb track: it doesn’t quite belong in the mix, but dares you to not pay attention. It relies on almost jazz chord progressions and a very laid-back drum track. Again, not a great example for the album as a whole, but easily my favourite track in the mix.
I usually drop hints on my person FaceBook as to what album I am going to write about next, so I posted KC Accidental on my wall. My friend pointed out how “Cause = Time” is his favourite, so as I write this, I am listening to that song over and over again. The song is kind of great at accentuating the overall message of Kevin Drew’s collection of lyrics which are sexual exploration and a dower look at law enforcement. Far from police bashing (unfortunate choice of words, but I’m going to leave it there), but does belittle the institution while expressing the potential for an abuse of power.
In summary: just listen to it because.