Music Review :: Karloff

I am writing this with to illuminate one of my favourite releases this year. This album defines chaos to me, and I say that from the best place.

Ten tracks of just madness and noise. I fucking love it so much, and I am actually having a hard time finding the words why without devolving into comparisons that do NOT express this band. They are unique, brutal, lovely, and strange. Did I mention that I love it?

Okay, let’s just get the bad comparisons out of the way. I hear Buried Inside, Tugnut and At the Drive In. That last one is harder to explain, but the vocalist just gives me vibes in that direction. The music is far too heavy to make a comparison that way. Also, some of the juxtaposition of notes used, especially in the song Oceans or Other.

Does not help that I do have personal connection to this band, them being from my hometown and sharing connection with a few of my friends. That does not paint my opinion, however. It just ensured that this beast got on my radar.

Anyway, this post has been a ramble. I mostly just needed to put this on the general scope of everyone. Below is a video for the first single from the album. Personal favourite is Oceans or Other, and it might have become one of my favo

My succinct note is go buy the album from their bandcamp. They are doing vinyl and tapes later, but they don’t have those yet. This is a great holdover until those come out!

Classic Album Review :: The Presidents of the United States of America

When people talk about pop music from the 90’s, often they bring up bands like Nirvana, or Alanis Morissette. My mind goes directly towards TPofUSA. They are the only band that I don’t find annoying that finds the absurdity of that decade.

The album opens with a song about wanting to pet a cat. You know an album is going to be something special when a band can earnestly write a song in that vane and keep is respectable.

Really, the song Lump is the one I wish to highlight. It combines the feel of classic punk, and the lyrics are very cynical. It’s not too often you can find a song about falling in love with a person you know is bad news, as the narrator. The bit that makes it truly special, in my eyes anyway, is how the subject remains lovable regardless of what is said.

There is a chance that I am just reading far too into this song.

I am going to post a live version of this song. Mostly because seeing them play this song is far more impressive than the song sounds initially. The drummer is very good, and the recording does not do justice. Also, saying that there is no bass player is different from seeing that it’s true.

Classic Album Review :: Portishead

I don’t know how, but I kind of forgot about this album. It will always be one of my favourite albums from the decade of the ’90s, but somehow I have never written about it. I think I have this sick sense of personal ownership over it, like I am the only person who remembers this album even though Portishead were huge and sold incredibly well.

I think part of my hesitation is how there is no real instruments on the album. Portishead are one of the few acts that I jump to describe as Trip-Hop. That sleepy, almost dreamscape portrayal of soundscapes which only film better catches the emotions created by the sound.

Trip-Hop is one of the few genres that actually benefits from music videos, in my opinion. Still remaining completely unnecessary, The videos illustrate the worlds generated by the music. Few successfully capitalized on this as well as Portishead, even though they only released four videos over a career spanning from 1994 to around 2008 (as far as my research shows).

It is important to point out how 2008 is a softcap, as they went “silent” from 1997 to 2008 with little noise coming from their corner of the world. According to what I could find, they have done one-off teases to their fans and those still paying attention.

So, what about this album, I hear noone ask? As I mentioned before, it is quite important in my collection. It reminds me of a detective movie from the 1940’s. Heavy bass shots, mixed in with simple (but tasteful) drum loops. There are few albums that I can describe as “cool” with little else needing to explain what I mean, but this is very much a perfect example of exactly that.

Oh, her voice is a bit… different…? I am not saying that it is bad, by any stretch of the idea. Her ability is amazing and her range is unmatched. I completely understand if anyone is turned off by her tone, yet I implore you to listen again.

This song remains one of my favourite songs of all time. There is something perfect, and the video illustrates perfectly just how haunting the song is.

Classic Album Review :: Cardigans — Gran Turismo

Every once-in-a-while, I listen through my music library and wonder how people don’t pay attention to albums.

This is one of those albums.

It straddles the line between being pop gold and being depressing as hell. Something about it is unsettling. The use of synthesizers to fill in the low end leaves the album strongly in this minor chord valley where everything is awkward yet somehow beautiful.

This is far from the biggest album this band released. First Band on the Moon had the single “Love Fool” which got them a ridiculous amount of attention. This band experimented a lot with a take on the almost lounge jazz sound from the ’60s. On this album, they seemed to stray far from that dystopian and haunting sound, instead opting for a journey into almost electronica. They keep the bubble gum pop sound they cultivated, just added this layer of darkness that the ’90s did so very well.

Of course, the song best known off this album is also their second most known song ever. “My Favourite Game” follows the tried-n-true 4-chord structure, but with a twist. The chorus launches the listener into a dark hole, and this song actually works brilliantly as an example of the entire album. Complete with awkwardly placed lyrics, melodic shots, and a tradition but distorted structure.

I recommend this album highly, but everything they did is gold. Earlier albums are very lounge jazz, as I mentioned above, but later albums journey further into a darker void and explore what is possible with traditional pop. Also, this band has this awkward obsession with doing Black Sabbath covers in non-traditional ways. It’s always fantastic, and worth the adventure to find all two or three that were recorded.

In Summation: this album is well worth remembering. I recommend it highly, and very much recommend looking at the whole catalogue.

You used to define me…

I was listening to Circa Survive, and worried that I moved on.

I was listening to “On Letting Go”, which is one of my favourite albums. The drums are the most deceiving orchestration, the vocals sore, and the brilliant guitar leads always lead to my surprise. Yes, over 13 years later and I am still surprised every time I play it through. You would think that, by now, I have learned every part.

That album is not my favourite of all time, but it has been high on my list since its release. I would probably put in on my top ten of all time; or, at least, I would have. I was listening to it today, and found myself let down by parts. I was almost bored by it, and found myself tuning out for the first time since I got my hands on the beautiful collection all those years ago.

I got worried that I was just bored of Circa Survive in general, so I immediately put on ‘Juturna’ to find out. By the song ‘Wish Resign‘, I was comfortably back in a state of bliss.

I have no idea why my attention has been taken away from that album. The track ‘The Difference Between Medicine And Poison Is In The Dose‘ was my favourite song for a very long time, and I feel like I have just divorced a part of my life. Maybe I am just being melodramatic, I am finding putting my dismay into text properly very difficult.

Anyway, I had to share that ‘On Letting Go’ has soft-lost a place in my heart. I still really enjoy the album, and ‘Living Together‘ is still a banger. I am almost positive that majority of my reader base doesn’t care, but it really upset me. Knowing that this was more than a FaceBook status prompted me to write this blog, which turned out to be a lot longer than I meant.

Old music V. New music

I am past the point of using music as a metric of age. What do I mean by that? Some of my favourite albums are over 20 years old, and “kids” no longer are interested in the bands I’m into. Therefore, music is not a metric that I can use to measure age.

It got me thinking: am I stuck in my comfort zone?

Is it bad that I listen to albums from the ’90s still, and appreciate them as if they came out yesterday?

A friend of mine showed me a new release today, and immediately I pointed out how the sound was early 2000’s emo. I loved every note played and was mostly correct on how the chord progression was going to go.

It got me questioning where I keep my mind, as far as the arts go. I started to worry if I was becoming one of those people who refused to keep up with modern trends in audio because I was convinced that it was done better in the past.

I did not stay on that thought long. I remembered that I appreciate new music, and my plethora of older influences shaped, not hindered, my appreciation for new things I found. I didn’t hold onto old sounds because I think they are better, I held onto them because I love them still.

Yes, some of the bands I enjoy are probably outdated. There probably someone else who has done, for example, Godspeed You! Black Emperor better since their magnum opus F# A# Infinity. Once I find it, I’m sure that I will binge it as much, if not more, than I do that album.

Anyway, my point is that holding onto old albums can be a good thing, as long as you aren’t closing your mind to experiencing new sounds. As I write this, I am listening to “…and You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead”‘s album Lost Songs, which was released in 2005. Part of me enjoys it as if it’s new. Part of me remembers that it is 15 years old, ignoring the fact that it is demos and unreleased songs that could be older.

Seriously, though: can we talk about how great F# A# Infinity is?

Classic Album Review :: After the Burial — Rareform

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.

Music Analysis :: Queens of the Stone Age

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.
Dave Grohl.
DISSECTION OVER.

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.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside : OPINION

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.

HOWEVER:

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.