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Monday, September 26, 2016

Owsey and Resotone -- A Smile From The West (EP)


7/10

Sometimes at work, I'll just click a song on Youtube, minimize the window, and let it go. Youtube has some sort of algorithm that picks more songs like the one you are listening to, and keeps on playing recommendations until you tell it to stop. Once for me, it landed on a "Chill Mix," featuring an Owsey and Resotone song.  I liked it, found Owsey and Resotone's bandcamp, and bought this EP. I put a link to the EP below. It is pretty good stuff, glow-y sounds over chopped up movie and song samples and some pretty nice beats and piano lines. With emotional quotes from films like Atonement and The Noteback spliced in, it can be a little much at times, but I'll let you decide. It's not a bad way to spend 25 minutes.




2014 Self-Released
1. A Smile From The West 6:46
2. Almost Crying With Confetti In Her Hair 6:43
3. Lucky Girl, On Board A Ship 4:23
4. Come To Me, Whispering Sea 5:09
5. Broke My Promise & Stared To The Sea 4:14

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Orcas -- Orcas

 
7/10

My kid used to make me Google sea creatures.  One time, he said, "Type in 'Orcas.'" I did, and up came this album. At that point, Orcas self-titled debut was an upcoming release, but someone had already made a video for the single, "Carrion."
My son and I watched that video. He thought it was scary, and I thought that someone had somehow videotaped the inside of my mind.
Orcas is, to quote Wikipedia because I am not even about to pretend I am cool enough to know who these two guys are, "minimalist composer Rafael Anton Irisarri and multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Benoit Pioulard." I can say that the two combine to create a very dreamy sound, a wash of gentle guitar and piano, floaty, spacey atmosphere, and enveloping harmonies. If you haven't figured out from the hundreds of reviews I've written before this one, I'm big on atmosphere, and this album has a lot of it. There are a few, generally molasses-drenched beats that carry this sound far, but if Orcas has a flaw, it's that the album could use a bit more of them, or something to ground it in its final third, where it just sort of aimlessly floats away. Still, this is a strong debut, and in doing my research for this review, I see Orcas have released a second album with two additional members. It's called Yearling, and seems to directly address the flaw I've just mentioned. I've got to check that out.



2012 Morr Music
1. Pallor Cedes 4:43
2. Arrow Drawn 5:15
3. Standard Error 5:21
4. Carrion 5:09
5. A Subtle Escape 4:09
6. Until Then 4:25
7. Certain Abstractions 3:55
8. I Saw My Echo 4:56
9. High Fences 5:02

Monday, September 19, 2016

Over the Rhine -- Ohio


4/10

At some point, most critics have a moment of self-discovery, where they realize that their point-of-view is different from everyone else's. Without a unique voice or perspective, criticism is useless. My moment of, let's call it self-differentiation, came in my early twenties, and it centered around a simple fact: I hate Over the Rhine.
It all started after I stumbled upon a certain critic who seemed to have tastes similar to mine. This critic recommended the movie Stevie, and I then watched that film and thought it was great. Then this critic recommended the then new album by Over the Rhine, Ohio. I had heard of Over the Rhine, but never actually heard them before. I knew that a well-regarded magazine, Paste, had given Ohio a perfect score. I immediately went to Best Buy (what different times!) and picked up Ohio. I rushed to my car, excitedly pulled off Ohio's shrinkwrap, and placed it into my Alpine car stereo. I miss my Alpine car stereo.
That's when it happened.
They came from out of my speakers.
Sounds.
Sounds I did not like.
Indeed, on the first listen of this double-album, I didn't like Ohio at all. I couldn't even find one song to come back to, to center myself upon. I didn't like any of it.
This experience was extremely confusing. I thought that the above anonymous critic was like me and liked what I like. I thought Paste was a magazine I should respect. Why could I not get into their darling band?
I tried again, intent on finding something in my $15 purchase to enjoy. This had the unintended consequence of taking me from "I don't like this" to "I really hate this." I still have the same opinion of Ohio today.
It starts with the music.
Ohio is minimalist folk-pop and soft rock. Those are not my favorite styles of music. The only way I can stand either genre is if the folk-pop is a bit psychedelic or spacey, or if the soft rock is thick with atmosphere-I need some kind of production touch to engage the dopamine centers of my brain. This music does not do that. It is competently boring (the competence is why I am giving it a 4 and not a 0). However, moving past that, I find that beyond the music, there is something I like even less: Karin Bergquist's vocal performance.
To my knowledge, Over the Rhine are from the state after which this album is titled. For some reason, though, Bergquist frequently sings in an exaggerated Southern accent. This means, for instance, that a line like "He could make a girl grin," from Ohio's second disc, becomes, "Hai cowld mayke a gurl graihn." As if this wasn't maddening enough, when Bergquist gets a phrase like that stuck in her mouth, she likes to repeat it over and over again. So many lyrics from this album, lyrics that I don't even like because they don't feel authentic to me (they are essentially alt-country Paste-bait), are burned into my skull from Bergquist's repetition. Also, at one point, she raps. She should not rap. Paste gave a five-star review to an album where Karin Bergquist raps. Paste, I am not a fan of you.
So anyway, I hate this album. Even on the rare occasion that a song connects with me musically, like disc one's "Suitcase," Bergquist sings a line like "What you doing with a suitcase," as "Whatchu doin wit a sutecayse," forty or fifty times until I want to bludgeon my CD player with my skull. The lyrics...I don't want to get into it more because I already feel like I am being mean, but "Paste-bait," best describes them. I'll just say, I've spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and disc one, track four only conjures a New Orleans of a novelist's construction. I hate that kind of crap, and I majored in Creative Writing.
I am okay with being a little mean here, though, because so many people have been so incredibly nice to this album. This includes the reviewer I mentioned at this start of this review, who helped me realize very firmly that I am not him, or anybody else. After discovering how much I extremely disliked this reviewer's favorite band, I then looked more closely at his reviews and suddenly realized that we were nothing alike. I absolutely hated how he always used the pronoun "we" when talking about his own personal opinions in regard to a film. When he said "we feel" I often angrily thought "I DON'T FEEL THIS WAY! WHO IS WE?" Art is experienced subjectively by the individual! It isn't we! It is I! I! Not we! I! (This gets a bit of a rise out of me, if you can't tell). Also, any film with themes about masculinity or being a man seemed to go completely over his head. The last straw (haven't read a review since) came several years later while reading his No Country for Old Men review, where he completely misread Josh Brolin's any man character as "Maintaining a caveman’s stupefied expression, he makes us wonder if Moss might be related to The Big Lebowski‘s “Dude.” No, he doesn't make "us" wonder anything! I know I just said that art is completely subjective, but that reading is so wrong, it is baffling that someone paid the reviewer to write about it. When the Coen Brother's show Brolin's face, and Brolin isn't talking, it is because his character is in a nearly impossible situation, and is thinking of what he should do next. He isn't stupefied. He isn't related to the dude. Ugh. This derailed. My bad. I don't like Ohio.


2003 Back Porch Records

Disc One
1. B.P.D. 4:31
2. What I'll Remember Most 4:28
3. Show Me 4:20
4. Jesus In New Orleans 5:45
5. Ohio 5:13
6. Suitcase 3:25
7. Anything At All 3:36
8. Professional Daydreamer 4:30
9. Lifelong Fling 5:45
10. Changes Come 5:31

Disc Two
1. Long Lost Brother 4:41
2. She 4:32
3. Nobody Number One 4:15
4. Cruel And Pretty 4:16
5. Remind Us 3:05
6. How Long Have You Been Stoned 3:40
7. When You Say Love 2:45
8. Fool 4:04
9. Hometown Boy 3:56
10. Bothered 5:07
11. Idea #21 (Not Too Late) 3:41

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Operation -- There Is Hope for a Tree Cut Down


4/10

I bought The Operation's There Is Hope for a Tree Cut Down for one reason: mewithoutYou frontman, Aaron Weiss, plays drums on it. Turns out, most of the members of The Operation would later play for mewithoutYou. The Operation released this debut LP a year before mewithoutYou's Tooth & Nail Records debut. Weiss acquits himself well on the drums here, but switching to frontman was a brilliant decision. In fact, switching just about everything was a brilliant decision because There Is Hope for a Tree Cut Down is not very good.
Rather unfortunately, The Operation sounds like all those emo bands from the late 90's and early 00's I hate, except not as good. If you remember emo, the frontmen generally had whiny, nasally voices, and frequently attempted to hit notes they had no business touching with a ten-foot pole in their dreams. If the music was incredible, this could be forgiven--for instance, the singer/guitarist for Elliott didn't have my favorite voice, but their music was so incredible, this made little difference.
The music on There Is Hope for a Tree Cut Down is not incredible, and very rarely satisfies my ears in any way. There is a moment two-minutes into There Is Hope...'s second track, where Aaron's brother Michael, soon to be the guitarist for mewithoutYou, hits one of those dark chords that mewithoutYou would feature so frequently in their year-later debut. Unfortunately, that moment quickly ends, replaced by The Operation's bread-and-butter: shimmery arpeggios that go nowhere, punctuated by major chord strumming that doesn't pay off in any way.
Of course, if the lyrics were good...but they're not. I am probably more tough on the "worship music" genre than most who share my faith, but that is only because the things those songs are supposed to say are intensely important to me. "I need you to show my how to fall in love with you again," and "I'm looking into a window, a window into my own self," don't cut the mustard. Imagine the sappy, stereotypical stuff of emo, but directed toward Jesus. This is especially egregious for the listener approaching this expecting to get something on the level of Weiss' mewithoutYou poetry.
I am only being this mean because once these guys shuffled positions (The Operation's vocalist wisely shifted to bass for mewithoutYou after sitting out mewithoutYou's first couple of albums) and changed their name, they became awesome, and everyone has to have a beginning. I would also rate many portions of my life up to this point poorly. In fact, I would rate myself poorly for major portions of this year, and I would rate this review, full of run-on sentences and confusing punctuation as poor, as well...but hey, you move on, learn from it, and hopefully get better. These guys did. Maybe I will, too. There is hope, right?
Also, look at the album artwork. You just know Weiss took the initiative, before taking over this band, and made that himself. The liner notes tell me so.
And finally, yes, there is a song titled "The Together Tree." It's that kind of album.


2001 Takehold Records
1. A New Math 3:33
2. Fall Like Fire 4:31
3. Catch (Something I Might Be Ashamed Of) 4:25
4. To Prevent Fall-Apart 2:27
5. The Together Tree 4:30
6. Beaten By The Best 5:19
7. Our Steps Will Always Rhyme 5:11
8. 8th & Washington 3:58
9. Wink With The Eye That Hate Me 4:35
10. This May Not Have Happened 5:26

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Oasis -- (What's the Story) Morning Glory?


8/10

In the early-to-mid-90's, my Converservative Evangelical mother used to let me listen to the secular rock station in the minivan. She allowed this so that she could have the opportunity to pass out zingers such as these:

(While listening to Oasis' "Wonderwall," one of my favorite songs, in response to the lyric, "I thought maybe, you were gonna be the one that saves me")

"ONLY JESUS SAVES!!!"

This was a few years before the zinger that led me to believe I would be better off not talking to or interacting with her, in reference to my love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer (after she had subsequently banned it from the house), when the preacher mentioned that Jesus conquered death.

"NOW THERE'S A SLAYER FOR YOU!"

She always did this while making the most intense eye contact, and posturing the most intimidating body language. Strangely, my relationship with Jesus has survived much better than my relationship with her. Also, "Wonderwall" is still one of my favorite songs, and this is a review of Oasis' breakout album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory.

*     *     *

Like most people who came of age in the 90's, I thought that all of the singles from Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning glory were incredible. I remember eating lunch at school, hearing the Juniors working on Prom in the gym next door blasting "Champagne Supernova," thinking about how cool the song sounded. Running down the hallway in Grand Isle that summer "faster than a cannonball." Listening to the huge-sounding title track while reading Paul Zindel's Loch, and thinking that there must be so many awesome things in life, I'll never get bored, and to this day, I haven't. And then, there's the aforementioned "Wonderwall," whose textural combination of strings, keyboard, and piano in the outro might be my favorite ever (it's a texture amalgam repeated several times by other bands throughout the mid-to-late-nineties).

These singles are timeless indie/alternative/rock/what-have-you songs..but what about the rest of the album?
The rest of the album is straightforward rock, with stomping drums, bass, and rhythm guitar, a very electric lead guitar that's a little flashy, but not quite showy, and a dude singing with a British accent. There are some ballads, too. It's all pretty good, though it bogs a little in the third quarter with the schmaltzy "Cast No Shadow" and the silly "She's Electric."
Timeless singles or not, this album could have only been released in the mid-90's, a great time to be alive and be a teenager, and even if my mom tried to ruin all the cool stuff for me, nothing can take away the love I still have for that cool stuff today. Also just like the 90's, 20th Century Fox's copyright office sucks. I wanted to embed Buffy's opening credits to close this review, but they STILL keep that stuff on lockdown! Jerks!

1995 Creation
1. Hello 3:21
2. Roll with It 3:59
3. Wonderwall 4:18
4. Don't Look Back in Anger 4:48
5. Hey Now! 5:41
6. Untitled 0:44
7. Some Might Say 5:29
8. Cast No Shadow 4:51
9. She's Electric 3:40
10. Morning Glory 5:03
11. Untitled 0:40
12. Champagne Supernova 7:27

Monday, September 12, 2016

Come Near Me

Man, this is one of the best music videos I have seen in a while. Great song, great concept to match it, great execution.

Massive Attack, "Come Near Me"

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Paul Oakenfold -- Tranceport


7/10

Yes, I own a Paul Oakenfold record. It was the 90's, Everyone was doing it! Honest!
Actually, Tranceport is considered, by someone who contributes to Wikipedia, as a landmark of the "EDM" genre, and I also think it is pretty good. Oakenfold made techno music, likely peaking in the 90's when, to quote my favorite textbook ever, people went to raves, took Exctasy, and "collapsed into cuddle puddles." I never went to a rave (despite New Roads supposedly frequently having one in some old three story house that had "blue lights on the first floor, green lights on the second floor, and red lights in the attic," according to someone in my high school class that likely went to raves and collapsed into "cuddle puddles") or collapsed into a "cuddle puddle." I more preferred to listen to techno, or trance as the title of this insists, in my car at night, or in my bedroom...at night.
That out of the way, this album has that constant four-on-the-floor beat you would expect, punctuated by sudden breaks in the rhythm where the once pulsing keyboard gets all ethereal and tries to lift you into the sky, which would seemingly be difficult if you were collapsed on the floor in a cuddle puddle. You also get some soaring female vocals singing some really silly stuff. Oakenfold does change the beat at rare moments, like the break-beat to start off track five. These are all remixes of other people's songs, but you wouldn't know it considering they all just sound like one 80-minute long cuddle puddle.
Still, Tranceport is great for what it is, even though by the time some spaced-out woman is rambling on about "goddess energy" near the end, I'm ready to give my ears a cuddle puddle.

1998 Kinetic Records
1. The Dream Traveler – "Time" 7:17
2. Three Drives On A Vinyl – "Greece 2000" 6:44
3. Tilt vs. Paul Van Dyk – "Rendezvous (Quadraphonic Mix)" 4:08
4. Gus Gus – "Purple (Sasha vs. The Light)" 7:16
5. Ascension – "Someone (Slacker's Rolling Mix & Original Vocal Mix)" 8:12
6. Agnelli & Nelson – "El Niño (Matt Darey 12" Mix)" 7:49
7. Energy 52 – "Café Del Mar (Three 'N One Mix)" 7:21
8. Binary Finary – "1998 (Original Mix vs. Paul Van Dyk Mix)" 5:12
9. Paul Van Dyk – "Words (For Love)" 5:08
10. Lost Tribe – "Gamemaster" 7:03
11. Transa – "Enervate" 7:11