Classic Album Review :: The Stills — Logic Will Break Your Heart

This is one of those albums that I forget about for a couple of months, then I binge it like I just found it for the first time again. Haunting, beautiful, etherial, other adjectives… I truly love everything about this album. To emphasize: I have been trying to write this for the last hour, and I keep getting distracted by singing and dancing to this amazing bit of auditory bliss.

This album opens with and absolute crushing cacophony of drums, then the bass kicks in giving a sample of what’s to come. On the fifth bar, there is a snare flourish. You are then greeted by a slap of tremolo guitar emphasizing how beautiful the next 49 minutes are going to be.

I’m not going to lie, I have been holding back doing any writing on this album because it holds as one of my favourite albums of all time. Only three albums (Cursive’s Domestica, Sparta’s Wiretap Scars, The Stills’ Oceans Will Rise) have even gotten close to overtaking it in the pantheon of amazing, but they are still miles away. There is something both timeless and time-capturing about this album. It perfectly encapsulates what was going on in music in the early nauts, but can be enjoyed by anyone at the same time.

Lyrically, this album is a powerhouse. The most nihilistic and honest lyrics you will find in the Canadian pop scene. It did come out at a time where there seemed to be a nineties revival where that subject matter is concerned. You had Modest Mouse telling you how beautiful and horrible life is, Bloc Party expressing confusion in the sexual scene, and The Strokes trying their best to describe how life goes when you’re messed up on every drug. The Stills fit nicely by putting way too much description in the mundane: describing things in a situation where you would not be paying attention to them whatsoever.

Musically, this album is strange for me to sing its praises. The bass is cool and driving, keeping the beat and being the main melody next to the voice. Why I say it’s strange for me to love everything about this album musically is because there is nothing incredible or mind-blowing going on. All of the songs are in 4/4. The guitar is primarily being tremolo’d. The bass, though the driving force, is very basic. The singer sounds like he has had five or six beers and a joint while awaiting for his turn to perform on the recording.

There is something absolutely beautiful happening. It’s just perfect in its simplicity. Due to it being easy to follow, it becomes a joy to sing along to.

So, in closing: listen to this album. No, I don’t have a song to recommend. There is a music video I will place at the end of this review, but it is not my favourite. I only have to say that because none of the songs are my favourite. This album is just amazing through and through.

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Classic Album Review :: Circa Survive — Juturna

I find this album very hard to write about simply because I think that it is very close to perfect. It contains the very definition of musical genius while still remaining absolutely beautiful. Somehow, it defies stereotypical constraints of music cliché’s while staying completely attainable and comfortable.

Listening again to write this review, there is no recognizable hook minus flourishes on guitar. The melody is carried by the intense and soulful vocals, and the driving bass carrying any semblance of continuity. Even the drums, while they do carry a constant beat that does tend to repeat from time to time, define syncopation as they flit from time signature to time signature with a deft hand.

Let’s go back to the vocals for a moment. Anthony Green has a range matched by few. His voice is high. I am challenged to find many with his range. Somehow, it strays from being squeaky or overbearing. “The Glorious Nosebleed“, which is also my favourite song on the album, showcases his possible range beautifully. Though he never gets very low, the jumps in what he can hit are incredible. Especially from the 2:00 mark to the end.

Really, this album and the one subsequent (On Letting Go) I declare as my personal picks. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s just the absolute shock that a band like this existed when they did, I will always love them.

Enjoy.

Why Metal?

I was faced by that question lately. I was initially threatened by the concept from a standpoint of being afraid of being limited, but I found the opposite to be true the further I thought about it.

To be completely honest, it’s the genre you can do literally anything with and get away with it. Compare “Blood Brothers” to “Invent, Animate” and you clearly see what I mean. The former is chaotic, hyper, and almost desperate. The latter is methodical, depressed, and revels in being beautiful. I am NOT saying that “Blood Brothers” is not beautiful, but I (being a huge fan) acknowledge that calling them beautiful as a descriptor is a bit misleading.

When I was younger, I was initially upset by the local music hole dropping the metal section and just putting Tool in the same section as Iron & Wine. Now that I have listened to more and developed my pallet a bit farther, I realize the monumental task of having to justify I Wrestled a Bear Once being in the same specific category as In Flames.

Sure, we still have Slipknot, Five Finger Death Punch, and Killswitch Engage. If every band performed music like that, it would be silly easy to label things as ‘Metal’ and call it a day. Now, however, we have bands pushing genre’s and sounds. Dillinger Escape Plan and Cephalic Carnage exist in a world along side Periphery, and other than time changes and a way of doing some vocals there is little to compare them.

When someone speaks of classic metal, I have an issue relating them in my mind. I love Black Sabbath, but to categorize them in the same way as Kittie seems like a misstep. What compounds the confusion are bands like Refused and Alexisonfire. It used to be metal made after the nineties had screaming. Full stop. Then those two bands emerged* and everything changed: now punk and basically anything with thrashing could have screaming.

*Yes, Refused are from the ’90s. There was other punk with screaming before Refused, but that is a decent benchmark.

Even electronica and pop started to take parts from metal. With Throbbing Gristle and Skinny Puppy came the whole industrial movement, where bands would use fake drums and keyboards to create sounds only previously found in horror movies. On the pop side, Sleigh Bells were started by a member of a metal band. He adapted many metal tropes into the music that was written.

I need to stop, but I was thinking about this today. If you want me to deconstruct any other musical genres or whatever, leave me a comment somewhere and I’ll see what I can do.

Also, I feel like I need to add that this is far from definitive, complete, or probably right. There has been many attempts to categorize and catalogue the metal scene, and I feel like they ignore entire parts of metal, much as I have. There are even a couple of points I made that I don’t fully agree with, but would have to type pages to make one point. Metal is a vast term, and it has many different forms. I didn’t even touch on most of the -cores, post-‘s, or any specific genres like death, black, and chamber metal. If there is a call to arms, I will put a better list. Even if I spend days on doing so, I won’t agree with some of my classifications, and I will miss so many labels.

…and people wonder why I listen to metal…

Classic Album Review :: The End — Within Dividia

Well, I am highlighting a metal album! This should have no bearing on metrics, at all!

(He says, facetious.)

In all seriousness, this album is very much not fair. Unlike their cohorts in The Dillinger Escape Plan, this album contains no punk influence. That limits the scope of possible fans, but makes it a better listen when you just need to express unbridaled anger.

I do mean anger. Often, metal and depression go more hand-in-hand in my mind, but this album is just intense all the way through. It is a constant barage of hits and accents punctuated by moments of constant auditory oppression. Now, couple that with instrumentation that is entirley not fair and vocals that could have been written by a very talented pissed off cat, and you get one of the most intense albums you will ever come across.

The transition this band took on the next album caused whiplash. They went from a Dillinger-Calculating Infinity-esqe slaughter to more of a Tool mixed with Dillinger sound. The vocalist got “prettier” and they focused more on waves of rhythm, as opposed to shots of chaos. The next album was a fantastic addition to their repitior, but Within Dividia is still where my heart lies. I honestly feel that this album will stand alone for all time as one of the greatest albums in it’s genre to come out of Canada.

Very much for fans of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Buried Inside.

~Courage My Love — Teenagers {REVIEW}

I admit, I am riding a small hype train here.
The words in this review are genuine, however.

My old guitarist joined Courage My Love roughly five years ago, and I was intrigued at how it would go. Brandon had, to my knowledge, played in only hardcore and metal bands his entire music career. My worry was not whether he could cut it, I was more concerned that he would get bored.

Before I go further, I would like to state that I like Courage My Love. The Twin played with them a few times years ago. Of course, this was before Brandon joined, and their sound was very different from this song. They used to be more punk. Their sound has evolved and, dare I say, matured. I cannot find example of what they used to play, but think mainstream femme punk circa 2007-ish. Very Paramour, without being Paramour. Since I am friends with all the members, past and present, I am probably going to get shit from them for making that comparison.

I MAKE THAT COMPARISON OUT OF LOVE! I MEAN THAT WITH ALL IMPLIED COMPLIMENT!

The new sound is very ’80s pop mixed with a more contemperary sound. Mercedes’ voice is strong. The melodies soar over the cacophony of sound. Phoenix’ drums are simple, but absolutely perfect for what the song needs. I am thoroughly impressed with what they are doing.

A part of me is incredibly jealous. They seem to be flying close to the sun without worry of burning, and it is a placement I have strived for. To think that this was a band that I used to see as that band that would open for me, now I would beg to open for them.

I digress. This article is very hard to write because I know all three of the members personally, and I have to stride a line between honest gushing and the glib, pretentious music-nerd that they know me as.

Regardless, congratulations and praise, Phoenix, Mercedes, and Brandon. Fuckin’ keep killin’ it.

New single, Teenagers.

Classic Album Review :: A Perfect Circle — eMOTIVe

I am breaking two promises I made to myself today! The first is that I would only do these once every calendar year. The second is that I would only review albums around 20 years old. After listening to this album the morning of writing these piece, I felt that it is underrated and ignored.

eMOTIVe by A Perfect Circle is one of, if not THE, most important albums to come out in my life. Between its cover of Imagine bringing the beautiful piece by John Lennon back to the modern times, or its reimagining of other contemporary anthems by bands like Black Flag and Marvin Gaye, it should not be as ignored as it has been since its release.

eMOTIVe is beautiful and haunting. A good potion of the tracks maintain an etherial guitar tone, allowing the vocals to pierce the music and driving their importance to the forefront. Some of the covers are simply reimagining of the original track in a different key, some completely break the mould and do something new. Prime example is “What’s Going On?” and its exploration of different sounds to subvert expectations of what the song could be. Even the most expressed fan of the song would be forced to hear it as a new listener, taking in the lyrics as someone who has never listened to the song before. This gives it new weight in the greater social scene.

There are two songs that really change the cemented pattern on the album. “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie” is a track by Black Flag that sounds absolutely nothing like the original. I actually had a customer come into my record store and complain about the track. In the same breath, he asked about the original recording of very song that was playing, then argued with me for a few moments swearing that it was not the same. He then abdicated and claimed that Back Flag would be appalled with what they did to the song. I had to laugh, simply because APC changed it to something that continued Black Flag’s mission to make the upper class uncomfortable.

The second track that doesn’t quite fit is “Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums” which is an APC original. The original was taken from the song “Pet” from their last album called 13th Step. In that song, it is just a line. The reimagining is five and a half minuets of tortured wales and distorted drums. The chanting of the title lyrics almost tantric in their repetition. Overall, I will say this song is irritating and abrasive.

I love it.

It conjures the feel of an Orwellian dystopia, and the video supports that image. The drums are a strange combination of distorted stomps and slaps. The bass is overdriven and blown out. The vocals are mildly distorted and harsh. You are meant to feel uncomfortable. You are meant to question a greater part of society while you listen to it. From the two-minute point to very near the end there is a sound similar to a fly buzzing that does not let up. It is grating. It sounds violent. It is the very definition of what music can accomplish when used as an artistic vision. I am having a hard time describing what I feel, so I will post the video here.

Before watching, it is important to remember the political landscape of the early 2000’s. It does still echo what’s going on now, but it is very geared towards the Bush administration and the reactions towards media at that time. The parallels are evident for the current administration, but uses imagery of that time.

My point? This album is amazing and it deserves more attention from the mainstream public. I completely understand if you feel this album doesn’t deserve the praise I am giving it. It’s abrasive, shocking, grainy and strange. If you have it in the background, it can sound mildly bi-polar and as if it doesn’t know what it is, or what it is doing. The reason it is amazing is because it knows EXACTLY what it’s doing.

I neglected to mention how it goes from “Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums” to an ambient version of “When the Levy Breaks” by Jimi Hendrix. This whiplash-inducing transition perfectly encapsulates the point and purpose of this album. It demonstrates, in a track, how broken everything can be. Yet, it also shows that there is respite at the end if you choose to find it. There is a calm. There is a point.

~”New” Video

The other day my parents sent me a rather unnerving question. They had found an old video recorder, it was full, but had one video. There was no further information than that.

I was not a bad kid. I would not have recorded anything damning. Not usually, anyway. Still, my blood ran cold at the thought of what I found interesting enough to record.

Turns out, it was me drumming for just over three minuets.

It didn’t suck.

I use the quotations to emphasize the video is new TO THE INTERNET! It was recorded several years ago, and it cuts off randomly. Sound quality is shit, but I was near the top of what I could do musically. Judging by the recording and how it randomly cuts off, I think the really impressive stuff was played just after the end. That does not excuse that the video is still kind of neat, and contains a being not massively explored.

Give it a watch! Let me know what you think.

Just a reminder that Martha comes out on Friday. I am super proud of it, and excited to see what everyone thinks. This also means there will not be a “plain text.” update on Sunday, but I will return the week after with more information and, hopefully, Good News!

Classic Album Review :: Matthew Good Band — Beautiful Midnight

I have not written one of these in a while, but the last one keeps getting new readers! If this is something you want me to do more of, let me know in the comments! I have a few albums I can think of that I feel everyone should remember or experience for the first time.

Oh, Canada! You make such good music!

I know that I keep doing retrospectives in Canadian music of albums from the ’90’s, but that was my bread and butter. I was a huge alternative nerd back then, and some of the best music came from Canada. I am sure, if this article does well, I will hit on Our Lady Peace.

I digress. I lovingly call this album “The Soundtrack for Nihilism” to no one ever.

(I need friends.)

This album has some of the bleakest outlooks on life ever put to lyrics. From the bombastic opening of Giant right through to the somber ending of Running For Home. Every song croons about “everything is fucked is and we’re all going to die so make the best of what you’ve got.”

I love it so much.

Giant is probably one of the best intro songs ever. It opens with a cheerleading group spelling ‘KICKASS’ with no backtrack what-so-ever. Then, with piercing squeals preceding it, the drum line comes crashing over everything. It’s beautiful.

From that point on, the lyrics and music paint a picture of how great it is that everything is the way it is in the most sarcastic, unfeeling way. The music reminds me of the epic crescendo’s of the ’80’s metal scene mixed with the independent movement in the early 2000’s. Leads and little more than jangles placed perfectly over steady rhythms laid out by a steady bass line. This, of course, is punctuated by the slap of crushing swells and pounding drones. The strings sound like they would be simple in execution, but they are covered in flairs you might not notice unless you were looking for them. The drums accentuate the standard pop song structure then vier wildly into the realm of progressive meters and timing without the listener even noticing.

To put it simply, this album should not work in the mainstream archetype, but does so beautifully. The bleak lyrics help along this feeling of ambiguity that the album contrives. Metaphors abound and the similes used illustrate the mind of someone defeated by society, but they do not celebrate it. They are used more to illustrate how messed up everything is, but drive home the hopeless emotion that permeated the ’90’s.

I think my ravings have proved how much I love this album. In fact, I am having a hard time picking a favourite song to share with everyone. When you have massive tracks like the aforementioned Giant and piano ballads like Strange Days with only one song between the two, to find a standout track that dictates the general feeling is really difficult. It would actually be a lot of fun to break the album down, song by song, and write a piece about each one. There is enough content in each song individually that doing so would be interesting. Even taking what they sound like they mean and comparing what they are actually about would be interesting.

I, however, am far from the right person to do such a task.

If I had to make a generalization as to what states-of-mind the album elicits, I would have to say crushing realization combined with an acceptance of just how wrong everything can be.

SO, I TOLD MYSELF I WOULD NOT PICK GIANT.
I found a really good version of Giant live.
The first guitar solo is ignored by the camera operator. Epilepsy warning, though I was okay.

Enjoy.

That time they messed up…

A few years ago, a bunch of friends and I went to see Animals as Leaders and Between the Buried and Me in Toronto. I came with full expectations to have my face melted and my pride to be destroyed, but I left with nothing shy of unbridled hope.

CAFO, and this should shock no one, is one of my favourite songs of all time. It starts with a bang and never really lets up, not to mention that is has one of the strange syncopation bits dead centre of the song. My goal, before I ended up in hospital, was to learn every bit of that song. I knew full well that I would never perform it for anyone but me, but by jove! It would be such an accomplishment.

AaL jumped into their set and I was far from disappointed. Every accent was a perfect match, every solo was nailed, every motion was beautiful.

By the time they got to CAFO, I was expecting them to have already called it a night. I could not believe the stamina, not to mention the level of dexterity, that I was baring witness to. Sure enough, CAFO was going beautifully. I could not believe how fast every member had to be to keep up with the incredible pace already set by the recording, and they had amped up the speed for stage.

For those who know what tempo is, they moved the slider up 40-50 BPM faster than the recording was. To match that speed with the single=stroke rolls present in the beginning of the song is, for lack of a better term, stupid.

Then, they got to the part I could never quite match. They could not do it either, and just made a bunch of noise to mask the drummers flub. Some would say that it was a disappointment to witness a hero fail at a performance.

I was elated. I could not have been my pleased to see a mistake in my life. It was at that moment I realized that the person I put on the highest pedestal was just that, a person. It sounds stupid: foolish even. I argue that we are all guilty of idolizing someone, and we all need to remember that they are just people, even if they are the best at something. They had to become great, and were potentially worse than you when they started.

That is not to say that you should give up and never try, just be easy on yourself. know your limits and do not get too discouraged.

With all of that said: it is not a bad thing to think that you are not good enough! In fact: I would argue that no one ever is good at anything, but can always get better at it! The biggest catch is to not give into feeling inadequate and giving up. That is always difficult, but just realize that there is always better.

Take drums, for instance. You could be the best at what you play, held on high as the epitome of what is possible in the genre. Then, you come across Maps and Atlases, or Chon, and realize you strive to be the best over in that world, as well. So, you start at the bottom of another ladder that is totally unrelated to where you came from.

Now, that may sound daunting and debilitating, but the point is that you should enjoy the journey. There is no end, and you should not try to find one. That would be boring.