Classic Album Reviews :: Squarepusher — Big Loada

I was initially going to wait a little before I wrote this up, but I could not stop myself. I fucking LOVE this album, and it is a perfect representation of what you can do with digital music.

Few albums have the balls to start on such a frenetic pulse as this one. Come On My Selector is not only a fantastic single, but is such a kick to the face. I cannot even figure out a place to start talking and dissecting in regards to the composition of this song. I will remind you that Tom Jenkinson plays the bass lines himself.

Now, why talk about an album that I have a hard time dissecting when Hello Everything, or even Ufabalum, are much easier to compare to other more commercially accepted things? Because this album defies being appreciated and spoken about. This is my challenge, and I am so very happy and excited to try. I say that, but I am probably just going to talk and talk about how broken everything is then tell you to listen to it.

Like I mentioned, track one is a slap in the face with chaos. Track two reminds me of old racing games on the Super Nintendo mixed with the sounds your car would actually exhibit if you tried to go those speeds. Track three seems like it may be more conventional, then it descends into the depths of madness.

And, might I just remind you that almost all of the bass lines are performed on an actual bass? The time signatures on some tracks change with the bars. Less than Hello Everything, this album is the jazz of electronica. To realize that it is all being composed by one human is mind blowing. To accept that he performs the bass lines himself on a bass is even less fair.

I am going to place the music video below for Come On My Selector. If you think that song is at all interesting, I implore you to at least listen to other songs from both Big Loada and Hello Everything. In particular Bubble Life is a not-fair example of what he can do on bass. ALSDKFNQWOEIFS I love these albums.

Classic Album Review :: Aphex Twin – Richard D. James Album

Something I don’t normally express is my strange obsession with off-beat electronica. I put a vote up on FaceBook between Aphex Twin and Sparepusher, and only got one reply. I would be more upset by that, but Squarepusher seems to be a bit more obscure in the circles I run in. To bad, too: there is something to be said about a man who plays all the bass lines live. Maybe I will do Big Loada as my next music article.

Anyway! This album truly changed what I saw the landscape of music to be. It somehow contains both the most peaceful and serine, and well as the more wrong and distorted, collection of sounds you will find in music. The album starts with a track that displays more of the former. It’s pretty, relaxed (kind of), and normal. However, starting with the next track, things change. It gets darker. More willing to be strange.

Strange really is the best way of describing the tone of majority of the songs. It’s far from bad, but not normal. Songs like Milkman straddle the line of being acceptable and inappropriate, and even the most normal songs are just kind of off. It is very hard to describe. Maybe like that dream that you cannot call bad, but never want to have again. Nothing inherently wrong, but nothing you would ever describe to your parents.

What I find interesting are songs like To Cure a Weakling Child where they start pretty, cute almost, then have this bridge where things just go horribly wrong and distorted. The next track (Goon Grumpas) goes in a different direction again. It sounds like something you would expect to hear as a town in shown to be perfect in a movie or video game. It never breaks the feeling of bliss, but that comfort is dropped by the first note of the next track (Yellow Calix). I am not saying that it’s a complete departure that goes off the rails in ever possible direction, but it changes mood completely, and Aphex Twin plays with the percussion line heavily.

This is my favourite album by him. The only one that compares and Drukqs released 4 years later. I feel comfortable comparing him to The Dillinger Escape Plan, especially after they covered one of his songs years ago. I cannot recommend this album to someone who doesn’t already know of this movement in music, but I feel comfortable saying that anyone who looks for something more in their music would enjoy this heavily.

As always, I do apologize for the abundance of ads that have come up in the examples. I try, really hard, to give you ad free enjoyment. It rarely works out. HERE’S A VIDEO OF THE ALBUM!

I guess I should do some shameless self-promotion for my book here.

Classic Album Review :: & You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead — Source Tags & Codes

I fought with myself for a time about which one of the 10+ albums to write about. Minus one album, I fucking love everything this band has released, and the one album is not bad. It just doesn’t hold a candle to everything else this band has done. So, I thought I’d write about the first album that I picked up from this band. Unrelated, but this also stands as my favourite from this band.

On top of having the longest name of any band I revisit on a regular basis, & You Will Know Us By the Trail Of Dead (from here on referred to as Trail of Dead) is one of the most reliable bands that I have ever come across. They brilliantly fuse punk and folk, without sounding too pirate based. Somehow, their recording tone is always huge — larger than life, really.

For just being three main musicians on the recording, it’s a bit amazing. Yes, this album boasts having over 13 musicians in the studio, but the band was only a 3-piece at the time. And, regardless of how many people were in the studio: the drums are what make everything so bombastic. The kick drum in particular permeates every noise layered over it- almost like it is defying anything to try to drown it out.

Guitars are a beautiful drone. Yes, there are probably many layers of distortion and lead riffs, but they are used to create a beautiful miasma that guide the orchestrations from part to part. “How Near How Far” is a brilliant demonstration of this. Though the bass slides up and down the scales, and the guitars jingle through several notes, it creates this level of noise. Yes, there is definition. You need to find it, however. Rarely does an album challenge the listener this much to realize just how beautiful it is.

Now, when I saw challenge the listener, I am not saying that it is off-putting or not pleasant. I am simply pointing out how from afar it seems like a simple pop-rock album with strained vocals. It’s when you sit down and listen deeper that you notice the nuance and complexity that comes with this recording.

Second favourite opening for an album ever, by the way. The only album that takes it over is the album So Divided that Trail of Dead released 4 years later. The intro track is only 1:29, but it complexly disarms the listener before the chaos starts. If you wanted to discredit that track as the intro, the first song (It Was There That I Saw You) kicks the listener in the face right away. It is nothing short of an assault on the senses. As hard as it kicks in, the song moves into a lull by the 1:00 mark. It is an amazing piece, the the song as a whole has an almost classical orchestration.

I could gush over every song individually, but I should really think about wrapping this piece up. My end thoughts on this recommendation are as follows: if you know the band, this album is nowhere near surprising. If you don’t already have it, I question your taste in music. If you DO NOT know this band, do yourself the greatest favour ever and listen through this masterpiece.

Also, you’re welcome.

HEY! Did you know that I have released a book?

It’s a reedit of You’re Not Dead with a bunch of other short stories all wrapped up. The length has ballooned out to a nice 205 pages. It’s really inexpensive, and available most places that you would order a book from! Links here, but let me know if you find more and I will update accordingly!

Classic Album Review :: Thursday — War All the Time

Happy new decade! Yes, I am aware that there was no year zero, thus next year is the new decade. I like 0’s, though: so you have to put up with my excitement for a bit.

This is the best “emo” album ever created, and I have no regrets saying that.

It’s a bit unfortunate that everyone just associates this album with the political climate of the early 2000’s: specifically in response to the “war on terror” and the invasion of the middle east. This album puts a spotlight on the financial situation that we are still plagued by. Everything from a priority put on finances to the abandonment of happiness in a pursuit for the advancement of financial gain.

I digress, let’s start with the music.

I don’t think I have ever found a better intro for an album. “For the Workforce, Drowning” starts this album off with seven of the most abrasive hits that have ever been composed. The entire song highlights the musical prowess of this band. Beautifully harmonized guitars, tasteful drum lines, and an almost off-key singer. I am ready to be proven wrong; but, at least from my personal plunge into music, this marks the first time a bass was used as more that just rhythm. From the 1:52 point until 2:32, the guitar takes a back seat to beautifully composed bass-lead that eases the listener from the barrage that just occurred. It only last for about 30 seconds before the slap-in-the-face that is the ending. It almost creates a false sense of calm before the climax of the chaos.

I use the first song as a kind of beautiful depiction of the album as a whole. “Sleep Ascending” starts a reprise before the brutal sincerity that is “M. Shepard” to the end of the album. This is one of the few albums in my collection where the vocals match the desperation of the music.

I feel out of my depth. I find it very hard to talk about this album without gushing about the vocals which, I have made clear, I am terrible at talking about. I’m a drummer, not a vocalist. I know enough to know that the singer is NOT a good singer. Much like The Cure, I could not fathom this band existing with a different singer.

Long story short, I love this album. Definately for fans of punk and emo from the turn of the millenium. I cannot even say that this album is musically fantastic, but I find it one of the most important releases of my life.

On a personal note, I have been let down three times by this band. Since the first Taste of Chaos Tour in 2005, they have canceled every show that I have tried to see them in. Yes, they always had valid reasons, but teenaged-Jay was disappointed anyway. If you have seen them, let me know how fantastic they were.

This review was written after a discussion with my old bass player, Caitlinn. She brought up the fact that she just found a burned copy of this album, and I reminded her that I made that for her forever ago.

Classic Album Review :: The Beastie Boys — Ill Communication

I love this album, but it is so hard to write about.

As a punk album, it is a fantastic mix of everything possible in the genre. Especially the old hardcore scene from Chicago and New York that was breaking up around the time of the albums release back in ’94. The do not do the scream/squeal that so many bands from that scene did. Instead, the vocalist on those tracks tends to just yell into the mic as hard as he can. The lyrics are non-sense, the tracks are hard hitting, and strangely well composed.

THEN GET IT TOGETHER COMES UP.

It is, by far, my favourite song on the album. Smooth, brilliantly orchestrated, calmly delivered, and contains the most interesting loops found in hip-hop at the time. Featuring Q-Tip throughout the entire track. Feels very different from modern mainstream hip-hop where the guest has a verse. It was clear he was in the studio when this track was cut.

And then, you have the almost-funk interludes. The three members of the band were actually brilliant musicians who just happened to find an audience in hip-hop.

Everyone rants and raves about Paul’s Boutique or Hot Sauce Committee as being their most brilliant album, but I will contend that this is gravely underrated. It holds my credit as being one of the greatest albums of the ’90s, and arguably one of the greatest the Beasties ever released.

As previously mentioned, Get It Together is my favourite song on the album. To ignore the rest, however, is a mild travesty. Get your hands on this gem and love every track.

Classic Album Review :: 65daysofstatic — The Fall Of Math

I would like to start this post with an apology:
I know that I have been doing a fair number of album reviews, but they are fun and easy to put together! That, and I hope that someone somewhere is taking the time to actually look into some of the albums I highlight. Art is important, and music is my heroin. Some people find peace in things, quiet, reading, playing music, video games, building computers…

…I find my peace in listening to music. I get too involved in the industry side when I am in a band, and I forget sometimes to just enjoy the realm that I am in. So, that is why I write these. Not only do I get to listen to some of my favourite albums, but recommend them to someone, ANYONE, who has never listened to them before.

NOW THAT I HAVE SAID I’M SORRY, this album is the start of something amazing. 65daysofstatic was my introduction to the world of instrumental music beyond the occasional track. They are not the only ones I listen to now, but they are still in a minority for me. Even bands like ‘Do, Make, Say, Think’ delve into vocals now and then. If you ignore the bands that are rock based, there are very few who have no vocals what-so-ever.

Why do I recommend them over the other bands doing the same thing? They keep things interesting with surprising dynamics, frantic drum machines, and some of the best musicianship I have ever heard.

Mogwai is in the category: bands with no vocals. Mogwai never appealed to me because I felt either over or underwhelmed at all times. Maybe it was just the album I listened to, but every song had one volume for the entire piece. 65daysofstatic, meanwhile, keep things engaging. For a fantastic (yet extreme) example, look at the title song “The Fall Of Math.” This song goes from literal classical to ear piercing intensity in moments. The best part is how it NEVER stays in one decibel for too long.

I am not a fan of drum machines, usually. I find they are used as a crutch at times, or far too often at others. 65daysofstatic use them as another instrument. I can almost hear the eye rolls, but hear me out! By using them as an instrument, I am implying that often drum machines are used to fill out or are used instead of percussion. 65daysofstatic use drum machines to create a kind of soundscape that their music is based around. This, in conjunction with acoustic drums, creates an industrial sound reminiscent of ’80s bands like Throbbing Gristle or early Nine Inch Nails, where the percussion is used to create atmosphere and emotion. The song “Retreat! Retreat!” comes to mind because it is by far the most organic drum-wise on the whole album. There is still the use of a drum machine, but it is used almost exclusively to create a mood. They explore this palette more on later albums, but this album demonstrates exactly what they are going to be growing into in the coming years.

I will admit: this is not my favourite album by this band. It is VERY good, and the aforementioned “Retreat! Retreat!” stands as one of my favourite songs of all time. They still use swells and white-noise on this album to great effect. The intro is a prime example of what I am getting at. In fact, the first three songs are the best introduction to a band I have found. The album opens with sound clips and static chopped into a grinding beat, the second song had beautiful piano and guitar swells, then a driving bass comes in like an omen of what is coming. Then, it doesn’t. For the first 4 minutes of the album, there is no hint of the absolute beast that is about to be unleashed onto the world.

It is very tempting to do a play-by-play of the album. The emotional peaks and valleys hit in each passing bar is noteworthy and poignant. I could actually see someone forgetting there are no vocals, if only because there are so many other things to listen to.

I went on enough about it already, so I might as well post the video.

Oh, if you’re looking for something to hurt every part of the musician in you, try to count “I Swallowed Hard, Like I Understood” without listening to much more than the first minute.

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.

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.

Classic Album Review :: Placebo — Without You I’m Nothing

You know that song you heard somewhere and you really liked it but have no clue who it’s by and the internet is such that you cannot look it up and everything is horrible because you need to find that song? Yeah — that was me about 15 years ago.

The song that I could never find was Pure Morning. It is the first track on this not-punk album. Finding that out and purchasing the album brought me down a rabbit hole where I could never find the surface, but I also never wanted to find a surface. With deceptivly simple everything, this album is amazing.

Pure Morning has lyrics similar to a child’s rhyme. Of course, if you heard your child singing these words, you would be far from ecstatic at their choice of vernacular. The entire song appears to be about discovering ones sexuality while also discovering drugs. The title “Pure Morning” reflects the relief of discovering everything the night before. The act of reflecting on your actions and adoring every decision you made.

What did I mean by disceptivly simple? Look no further than track two. The guitar tuning is warped, the bass is full of exact slides that feel improvised but are very concise, and the drums are fast and loose. The vocalist confused me when I was younger. I couldn’t figure out their gender, neither by listening or by looking. That started my journey into the world of learning what exactly what gender is. Immediately, I learned that gender is a created term, and learned a lot of things about the existence of the LGBTQ+ world. Not that the band had lyrics that made me question everything, but the very existing of such people bending social norms in the ’90s intrigued me.deceptivelyWhat did I mean by disceptivly simple? Look no further than track two. The guitar tuning is warped, the bass is full of exact slides that feel improvised but are very concise, and the drums are fast and loose. The vocalist confused me when I was younger. I couldn’t figure out their gender, neither by listening or by looking. That started my journey into the world of learning what exactly what gender is. Immediately, I learned that gender is a created term, and learned a lot of things about the existence of the LGBTQ+ world. Not that the band had lyrics that made me question everything, but the very existing of such people bending social norms in the ’90s intrigued me.

Anyway, off the political stuff. That continues to be a sore topic for a large number of people, and delving down that rabbit hole will take me horribly off-topic from this fantastic album.

How would I describe the sound? Think Pixies meets Pink Floyd with a dance of The Clash. How? Pixies because they buck pop norms while also being pop. Pink Floyd because of the use of effects to not only add to a sound, but actually create a sound. The Clash because… well… there really is no reason. It was a proclamation that I made without putting too much thought into it. At the same time, it kind of fits because someone would have a difficult time making me ignore the obvious punk influence in the music. Yes, they are also a pop band. Maybe saying The Clash is too much of a departure, but leaving the punk aspect to just The Pixies feels like it ignores a whole facet of influence.

ANYWAY. I could go on circles all day speaking of influence, but there is no denying that the title track (Without You, I’m Nothing, track five) is a very Pink Floyd reminiscent track. On the next release (Black Market Music), David Bowie does a duet with the singer. As much as this is, by far, my favourite track on this album, that version of the song is perfect. In acknowledging that, it DOES NOT take from this version at all. It still contains one of the best soul crushing buildups in music that I have ever found. They literally go from minimal instrumentation to ALL the instrumentation in a matter of a few bars. To add to the finesse, it beautifully flows into the next track.

Fuck me, I could go on and on about this album, but most of it would just be repeating what I already talked about, OR it would just devolve into incohearent rambles that drone on and on for much longer than I would like them to. I mean, I have speant this long and I only bought up two songs, one of which I did no description for except saying that it is amazing. So, I will sign off on this review with a song that I didn’t talk about, but is equally amazing.

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.