Monday, July 28, 2008
I first got into the Smoking Popes into the 11th grade, and to be honest, I really didn't think much of their post-Get Fired material. It was much more ballad-y, with less of the hyper-charged pop-punk that made Get Fired a really enjoyable record for me. But times change and so do tastes, and eventually, I found myself really attracted to the intimate songwriting and beautiful tastefulness about their whole aesthetic. When I heard that the Popes were going to release a new album, I sort of wrote it off, and completely forgot about it until I read a glowing punknews.org review for the new record, entitled Stay Down. Moving further away from pop-punk than ever, and embracing a change of sound very similar to what Duvall was doing while the Popes were on break, Stay Down is extremely close to being a power-pop masterpiece. "If You Don't Care" and "Into the Summer Sky" are both strong anthems not dissimilar to something you would find on the Blue Album, and those are only two of the strongest cuts from this album full of gems. Occasionally, some songs like "Welcome to Janesville" do run a little tedious for their running time, but all of the songs are, at a minimum, good. Definitely one of the biggest shock releases of the year for me so far.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
While I hate to post too many like-artists up on this blog at one time, given the complete lack of entries (and coincidentally, lack of readers), I felt a little bit of hesitation in posting this next recommendation, for fear that most readers would think I'm some sort of post-rock/math-rock nerd. Regardless of that, Maps & Atlases most recent ep, You and Me and the Mountain, the follow up to their acclaimed 2006 EP Trees, Swallows, Houses, has come out of nowhere to shoot right to the top of my current digs list. The list of improvements in Maps & Atlases sound is long and winding, but all very necessary to become a band that was more than an interesting gimmick for me. The major difference is evident in that this is no longer the loopy, goofy, ridiculously technical M&A of yesteryear. The technicality has been scaled back just enough for solid songwriting to develop, instead of the technicality being used as a crutch for the lacking composition skills from the group. Also, vocalist Dave Davison has finally toned down his completely ridiculous vocals to the point where I can somewhat enjoy what's coming out of his lopsided gob. Regardless, You and Me and the Mountain has become both a pleasant surprise for me, and a complete step in the right direction for the fledgling band. Cheers to graduating to the big leagues.
Friday, July 4, 2008
Of the four members of Deep Puddle Dynamics (in my opinion, one of the most talented hip-hop collectives of all time), Doseone was probably my least favorite. This was, of course, until I heard the new record from his main project, Subtle. ExitingARM is one of the few hip-hop records that I've gotten ahold of this year that renewed my waning interest in the genre. While Doseone is the main emcee in Subtle, the group is actually a sextet, consisting of both electronic and traditional instruments, which is really what makes Subtle stand out head and shoulders above many of the hip-hop albums released this year. Dabbling in experimental, indie, metal, and progressive fueled sections, the instrumental members of Subtle really provides a lot of variety to back Doseone's fast, intelligent, and poly-rhythmic rhymes. Definitely worth a listen, and one album that I can definitely see sitting towards the top of my year end favorites list come December.
Sorry about the lack of posting lately. Between my first year of college wrapping up, and a lot of working during the first half of the summer, music blogging hasn't been at the top of my priorities, but I will be making up for it from here on out.
Post-rock is one of those genres that is just very polarizing. Don't get me wrong, I love some great post-rock, but the amount of mediocre rip-offs of greats like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky far outweigh the promising luminaries such as the organic Do Make Say Think or the polished and beautifully upbeat Yndi Halda. However, out of nowhere, 2008 has already given rise to possibly one of the best post-rock records I've heard in some time. Sweden's Pg.lost have emerged out of practically nowhere to deliver It's Not Me, It's You!, a refreshingly intense and loud take on a style somewhat similar to GY!BE, but with a more chaotic and heavy feel (not unlike epic screamo/post-rock contemporaries Envy) during the loud sections. The opening punch of "The Day Shift" immediately wallops the listener over the head and makes it clear that this is not just another post-rock record. The next two tracks, "Head High" and "Pascal's Law" are fairly standard, but well executed enough to still scrape up passing scores, while the rest of the record wallows in it's shimmering clean parts and raw and dirty chaos, keeping the whole thing grounded enough to not seem completely contrived. All in all, a must hear for 2008.
Monday, March 24, 2008
After a strong start, 2008 is continuing to look up, especially in the arena of emotional hardcore and indie-rock. With the possibility of a follow up LP from Circle Takes the Square, and now the debut album from Philadelphia upstarts Algernon Cadwallader, 2008 may be the year to fully pull the genre out of it's slump of the past few years. Where last year brought listeners the Abyssal EP from Envy and the superb Ampere/Daitro split on top of other lesser-known releases, this year brings the debut album from Philadelphia upstarts Algernon Cadwallader. Blending a style that most resembles Cap'n Jazz but with a more mature edge, this is honestly one of the most refreshing midwestern emo/indie albums I've heard in quite a while. Combining elements of the aforementioned Cap'n Jazz, Mineral, and Karate, Algernon Cadwallader has already crafted an album that, barring an astoundingly good year in music, will probably place within my top 20. Some Kind of Cadwallader succeeds where other emo albums fail-variety. There are moments of straight up math-rock akin to Maps & Atlases ("Yo Soy Milk"), trippy guitar-driven post-hardcore ("Some Kind of Cadwallader"), and even some jazzy post-rock sections that wouldn't sound out of place on Do Make Say Think's most recent LP ("Motivation Song", the 13 minute epic jam "In Response to Irresponsibility"). Definitely a must-hear.
Friday, February 29, 2008
To be honest, I'm not quite sure where I heard of Sol Invictus. However, I thank whoever led me onto this group, because In the Rain is one of the most immediately compelling records that I have in my collection. Tony Wakeford, of seminal British crust band Crisis, is the main figure on this album. Dark, moody, depressive; all of these popular cliches could describe this album perfectly, but it is so much more than that. Although rooted mainly in a Nick Drake-styled folk, Wakeford brought in a mini-orchestra to fill out the sound and push it nearly into avant-garde territory. While the endless minor keys may get vaguely tiring after listening to this album a lot, for the most part, In the Rain has a nearly unparalleled replay value. Every time I listen to this, I find myself shocked by how quickly it flies by. Not to say that each song isn't distinct and haunting in their own unique way; they are all worthy of note, but the songs flow as if they were composed in a perfect order and play like a classic novel. Definitely worth checking out for most serious music listeners, and almost a guaranteed dig for metal, folk, and avant-garde fans alike.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
2008 is already shaping up to be a killer year in music. In the first month or so alone, we've seen stellar releases from The Mars Volta, Paint it Black, Able Baker Fox, and Protest the Hero. Most of these albums I fully expected to rule, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the latest effort from alt-rockers Nada Surf. I never really heard much of them outside of their singles, and was never really inspired to listen to some of their full-lengths. Lucky is quite an enjoyable album from front to back, with no real weak track and a handful of gems such as "Weightless", "See These Bones", "The Fox", "I Like What You Say", and "Ice on the Wing". Unless the rest of the year blows away this first month, I can definitely see this being inside of my personal top 20.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Eluvium is an artist that I approached with extreme hesitation. After seeing Matthew Cooper's latest album from his project better known as Eluvium appearing on mid-year best-of lists and garnering many positive reviews from random music communities I troll, I figured it was time to see what all the hub-ub was about, especially with my new found fascination of post-rock bands, such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, and Yndi Halda. However, I'm very glad I actually gave it a chance. While mostly just Smith and his piano, backed by a synth-orchestra, Copia is a wonderfully engaging and lush listen. While his piano melodies are nice, and the synth tracks are wondrous (in fact, the all-synth "Seeing You Off the Edges" is probably my favorite track on the album-simply magnificently dark and brooding), the most consistently solid tracks are those that incorporate both his piano and the synths like "Indoor Swimming at the Space Station", Anyway, excellent background music, and definitely recommended for anyone who has an appreciation of beautiful music.
For fans of: Explosions in the Sky, Tangerine Dream, Yndi Halda, Clint Mansell
The recently reformed American Steel is a punk band who originated in the East Bay during the mid-90's and released their self-titled LP in 1997. It showcased the sloppy musicianship and harsh vocals which were a staple of the East Bay scene during that time period, while intermingling with distortion jacked, white-boy ska ala Operation Ivy. While certainly rough hewn and fun, it lacked any sort of sophistication that would begin to develop on the bands next three albums. While 1999's Rogue's March showed the tightening up of their formerly sloppy instrumentals, it retained the gravelly vocals which were such a staple of the northern California punk rock scene at the time. Their 2001 release, Jagged Thoughts, however showed a newfound maturity and sensibility that streamlined all of their elements into one tight and more digestible package, mixing the punk and ska, and replacing the hoarse yelling with a smoother "motown meets punk rock" style of delivery. They've recently got back together (and put that really lame Communique band on hold) to do a tour with the Lawrence Arms, and release a new album (2007's Destroy Their Future, which is essentially the missing link between Rogue's March and Jagged Thoughts). Jagged Thoughts, however, shows them at their most intelligent and most ambitious moment to date, and is definitely worth checking out.
And if you ever get the chance to see this band live, by all means do, if only for the glorious singalong romp of "Rainy Day" and "Maria" (and well the rest of their discography too).
For fans of: Against Me!, Fifteen, The Lawrence Arms, Alkaline Trio, Communique
Hot Water Music has a bit of an interesting history with me. When I first heard them, I thought that they were really boring and just quite unimpressive. This was of course during those days when I would jerk off endlessly to NOFX and Pennywise. Now that I look back on it though, I'm really upset I didn't get into them sooner, because they are really something special. Filled to the brim with incredibly thought provoking and emotional songwriting and some really fantastic harmonic interplay. Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard's alcohol and smoke damaged vocals really add to the raw emotion of it all as well. This is, in my opinion, probably one of their best albums, with only Caution and possibly Fuel for the Hate Game overtaking it. If you like rough hewn but melodic and emotional music, this is surely something you shouldn't pass up.
Hot Water Music called it quits back in early 2006, but have recently reunited in support of their upcoming b-sides collection 'Til the Wheels Fall Off due on January 15th, 2008 on No Idea Records. They are also playing one of four reunion shows at the House of Blues Orlando with Samiam on January 19th.
Note: Click on the album artwork to be redirected to the download page.