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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Arcade Fire -- Funeral

I can't remember any album getting more immediate praise in the last couple of decades than The Arcade Fire's Funeral. Take a glance at Metacritic's compilation of its reviews--there are eight 10's. Listening to their music, I couldn't help feeling like I was at a high school pep rally, slightly excited, but experiencing something I wasn't really a part of. Then I saw this performance on Conan:

After witnessing that insanity, I felt indebted to at least purchase Arcade Fire's album, even with my meager, post-collegiate funds. What did my money buy?
Funeral is full of energy, that's for sure. Even during its few slowed-down, more morose numbers, there is still an unbridled optimism lurking just beneath the surface. It features a lot of the benchmarks of indie-rock: weird instruments and noises tossed in to cover a lack of technicality, under-production to highlight either non-pop cred or a slight lack of interest in sounding polished, and vocalists who can't quite sing well. What makes this different from anything else? Or in other words, what got critics all jazzed on Funeral to the point that they gushed over it like 80's schoolgirls over a Johnny Deep cover-issue of Tiger Beat?
I think earnestness is the deciding factor. Irony is also a defining mark in indie-rock, and it is definitely something that Arcade Fire lacks. All those pictures of them wearing wacky clothes and waving flags don't seem calculated--the kids honestly seem to like waving flags and wearing wacky clothes.
Subject matter is another strong point. When Win Butler sings about the lack of connection and feeling in his community, he seems genuinely saddened and upset by it, especially when he feels he is the culprit. The coupling of genuinity and topic work. Take "Wake Up" for example, easily Funeral's most well-known track:

Listen to Arcade Fire's "Wake Up"

"Something filled up/my heart with nothing/someone told me not to cry/But now that I'm older/my heart's colder/and I can see that it's a lie/Children wake up/hold your mistake up/before they turn the summer into dust" Butler sings. This could easily come off as overly-sentimental, or a false stab at emotion, but under the earnestness of his delivery, it sounds as authentic as it possibly can. The entire album fares the same in this regard.
So why isn't this a classic for me?
Well, just because something is genuine, doesn't make it good. This is good, though. Just not perfect. It's got some decidedly weak aspects:
The plodding tempo that hogs the middle of the album brings it down a bit. I'm surprised no one ever mentions this. Tracks three, five, six, and seven are all low-key, and almost follow the same framework of keeping the same mid-tempo rhythm throughout until a fast-paced outro. Some of these songs are the best on the album, but stacked all together, they start sounding stale.
"Haiti" doesn't fit at all with the rest of Funeral. It's pretty and all, but should it be here in this snowy, bright-lit neighborhood?
And finally, as genuine as Butler's lyrics are, they are not always good. The lyrics for "Rebellion (Lies)" remind me of poetry I typed at 3 am during my sophmore year of college--not a compliment. Otherwise, Funeral is good stuff. Not great stuff--and I honestly wonder how often those ten-givers actually listen to this now (though, I am sure some of them do)--but good. I'm glad that Arcade Fire made it at least another album without believing their own hype.

2004 Merge Records
1. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) 4:48
2. Neighborhood #2 (Laïka) 3:32
3. Une Année Sans Lumière 3:40
4. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) 5:12
5. Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles) 4:49
6. Crown of Love 4:42
7. Wake Up 5:35
8. Haïti 4:07
9. Rebellion (Lies) 5:10
10. In the Backseat 6:20

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Appleseed Cast -- Middle States

Predicting which direction The Appleseed Cast will go at any given moment is pretty much impossible. I guess this year they realized they hadn't released an EP before, so now was the time. EP's are usually pretty hit and miss, as the shortage of material often makes the purchase seem wasteful. Of course, if you are The Appleseed Cast, your EP is longer than a Weezer LP, so...
The Appleseed Cast titled their EP Middle States for a reason. "End Frigate Constellation" goes through various permutations of rock and static, hints of clarity, and chaos. It's at once atypical for the band, and just the kind of song you would expect from them. It sounds like driving through the night, and leads directly into the radio-static-filled, beautiful "Interlude," sort of the middle state between the chaos of "End Frigate Constellation," and the clear, beautiful clarity of "Middle States." The intro to "Middle States," a delicately plucked acoustic interplaying with an electric lead, gives the feeling of the safety of home. Home for the Appleseed Cast is Kansas, which is about as middle a state as you can get.

Listen to The Appleseed Cast's "Middle States"

So, you just recorded a nice musical statement, already reaching a catharsis in fourteen minutes. Most bands can't even accomplish that over the length of a full album, let alone three songs. Time to call it a night? Nah, how about one more song that doubles the entire EP's length? "Three Rivers" is another first for the band--it is an entirely improvised track, recorded live. It contains a significant feeling of mystery, and almost feels like an instrumental re-interpretation of the previous fourteen minutes. Though it goes without saying at this point, like pretty much everything The Appleseed Cast have recorded, "Three Rivers" is beautiful.
This EP is debuting just as The Appleseed Cast are in the middle of preparation for their next LP. Who knows where these new rivers will flow? I can't wait to find out.

2011 Graveface Records
1. End Frigate Constellation 5:49
2. Interlude 2:55
3. Middle States 5:12
4. Three Rivers 14:03

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Appleseed Cast -- Sagarmatha


It takes guts to try something new with every album, and more importantly, quite a bit of skill to make innovation work every time. There is one band that does not find this difficult. The Appleseed Cast use few words on Sagarmatha, and I'll try to do the same in this review.
Instrumentals have long been staples in The Appleseed Cast's ouvre, popping up here and there on every album but one. Sagarmatha gives the instrumentals deference: only four of its nine tracks even feature vocals, only two prominently. Its tracks sometimes use the slow-build-to-raucous-ending approach so many of The Appleseed Cast's peers attempt to apply. This is especially true on album opener, "As the Little Things Go,"

which features vocals at the end only because there are no other expressions of emotion left to utilize. The guitars, bass, and drums have left little unsaid. Sagarmatha does not stick to any overall formula, though, sometimes starting tracks with the crescendo, sometimes delaying one that never comes, and on "The Summer Before," surprisingly letting the vocals shine through sweetly.

While Sagarmatha is just as unpredictable as The Appleseed Cast's previous album, Peregrine, it contains a warmth that Peregrine lacked. Sagarmatha is the Nepalese word for Mount Everest, and it is truly difficult to comprehend how The Appleseed Cast can take their sound higher than this.

2009 Militia Muzik
1. As the Little Things Go 8:14
2. A Bright Light 7:04
3. The Road West 8:08
4. The Summer Before 3:08
5. One Reminder, An Empty Room 1:49
6. Raise the Sails 6:26
7. Like a Locus (Shake Hands with the Dead) 4:01
8. South Col 6:26
9. An Army of Fireflies 4:27

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Appleseed Cast -- Peregrine


After the more conservative musical stylings of Two Conversations, The Appleseed Cast's fans begged for a return to the experimentation of the bands previous works. They definitely got that with Peregrine, one of the hardest to define works in The Appleseed Cast's catalog.
Peregrine starts off with a promisingly huge instrumental, a good sign for Low Level Owl fans. Things take an immediate left turn into the punk-infused "Woodland Hunter," half of the song only muted, rapidly strummed guitar and hushed vocals. "Here We Are (Family in the Hallways)" starts with a warmly acoustic feel, but closes with the most fuzzed-out sound The Appleseed Cast have ever attempted. "Silas' Knife" begins like an Appalachian folk song, but it too rocks out, then surprisingly goes into a quiet, accordian-led bridge before a more intense second half and ending. It's apparent from the first four tracks that attempting to predict what will happen next is absolutely useless--the next song, "Mountain Halo," is completely electronic, a new musical frontier for the band. All of this adds up to what is easily The Appleseed Cast's most diverse album to date.
New drummer, Nathan Richardson, does well at points to duplicate the classic Appleseed Cast drum sound while still maintaining his own personal style. It works for the most part, but isn't as distinctive as the licks previously laid-out by the departed (from the band, not life) Josh Baruth. The album is supposed to be a ghost story, and while this isn't easily apparent from the lyrics, the music is invaded by enough spooky sounds and foreign textures to make this clear. A great example is central track, and album standout, "February," which displays most of Peregrine's best musical elements.

This track is wisely followed by an instrumental, and an instrumental closes out Peregrine's second half as well, giving the album a subtly theatrical feel of opening titles, intermission and closing credits. While this gives the album a much appreciated cohesion, it also serves to make it a little cold and distant compared to the rest of The Appleseed Cast's rogues gallery. The heavy and easily identified emotion is farther back this time and slightly obscured by the experimentation instead of amplified by it--in simpler terms, Peregrine feels at times a little too calculated, and needs a bit more passion. That's a small mark against a very good album, though. Calculation does not equal predictability, and Peregrine is never predictable. This helps makes it a fine addition to The Appleseed Cast's expanding resume, though not the brightest mark on the page.

2006 Militia Muzik
1. Ceremony 4:17
2. Woodland Hunter, Pt. 1 3:16
3. Here We Are (Family in the Hallways) 3:40
4. Silas' Knife 4:08
5. Mountain Halo 4:09
6. Sunlit and Ascending 4:01
7. February 3:51
8. An Orange and a Blue 4:11
9. Song 3 5:00
10. Woodland Hunter, Pt. 2 4:30
11. Peregrine 4:06
12. A Fate Delivered 3:53
13. The Clock and the Storm 5:53

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Appleseed Cast -- Two Conversations


I'm not sure if I've ever been as disappointed on a first listen as I was during my introduction to The Appleseed Cast's Two Conversations. How could a band that had just explored the vastness and depth of the ocean, then bottled the very essence of autumn and pressed it to plastic, content themselves with writing and recording an album based on a simple love story? I kept diving into Two Conversations again and again, trying to find what I had missed, but everytime I came up with a handful of sand. It wasn't until I matured and managed my expectations that I brought a sand dollar to the surface**

**Editor's note: Could you make this more about you?

Two Conversations begins as if it's coming out of the dream of Low Level Owl, The Appleseed Cast's previous project. The organ featured in the intro sounds lifted straight from those albums, before it fades away to something completely different--alternative rock?

Yes, it still sounds like The Appleseed Cast, and it still has some pretty moments, but what the heck? The album continues in this musical vein, lyrically painting a picture of a romantic relationship, but by the time we get to track five we've got...what?! A BREAKUP SONG?!?!?!

What band is this? Even if the drums are subversive, and the guitars different from any band trying something similar, I didn't get into The Appleseed Cast to listen to breakup songs! I got into them because they put emotions and feelings that can't be expressed in conversation into music. Now I'm getting...a conversation? Two conversations? Jeez! The next song, "Sinking," finds Crisci's narrator falling into a drunken stupor over the breakup before finally finding a way to more healthily contain his thoughts on paper in "The Page," which leads to a sort of peace in the upbeat, "Innocent Vigilant Ordinary." The last two songs are low key, half lament, half wishful thinking positivity for the future. Then it's over. On top of that, the first couple of songs have a sort of political undertone perhaps dealing with the, at-the-time, new war in Iraq, but this is completely abandoned in later tracks. After trying fruitlessly for months to figure out this album, I let it go.
Five or six years later, I picked it up again under the impression that this was a weak album, and was quite impressed. Why? HERE'S A LIST!
1. Cohesion. This isn't just some alternative-emo'ish collection of songs about a relationship. This is kind of like the Blue Valentine of albums (with a slightly happier ending). The couple starts in rosy times, cracks appear, they breakup, the guy fall into a heavy depression, deals, gets out of it, finds some sort of peace. The concept works.
2. The Music. Sure, this is far less complex than most of The Appleseed Cast's material. It's still more original than pretty much everything out there. Though even the drums are sadly dumbed down a little (there's only so much drummer, Josh Baruth, could do with these kinds of songs), the music still leaves its mark. At the time of its release, Two Conversations rode the current emo-goes mainstream wave quite well. The majority of people who only own one Appleseed Cast album have this one, and most of those people were impressed with the musicianship.
3. Hidden Depth. This is found in the title. The Two Conversations could reflect on the love story and the political undertones. The reason the more overt political stuff could have been dropped after the second track is that the relationship could reflect one someone has with their country. Happy, then disillusioned, then at peace. Or Two Conversations could simply refer to the two halves of the album--the first a conversation with someone in a relationship, the second with the same person after the relationship has ended. Anyway, this is far more complicated than Justin Bieber's "Baby."
Overall, my opinion mirrors what happens to the guy in this album: Happy to have The Appleseed Cast back with a new LP, then angry and disillusioned, then at peace, except thankfully, we never, ever broke up. Awesome.

1. Hello Dearest Love 4:48
2. Hanging Marionette 4:05
3. Ice Heavy Branches 3:20
4. Losting Touching Searching 3:55
5. Fight Song 4:13
6. Sinking 4:51
7. The Page 2:37
8. Innocent Vigilant Ordinary 3:18
9. How Life Can Turn 3:32
10. A Dream for Us 6:51

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Appleseed Cast -- Lost Songs


So you've just done something musically no one else ever has, surely reached an artistic pinnacle, and have no idea where to go next. What do you do? The Appleseed Cast decided to revisit a similar point in their career, and resurrect songs they'd previously left to die.
All nine tracks on Lost Songs were originally written and recorded during the period of time between The Appleseed Cast's debut, The End of the Ring Wars, and their sophmore breakthrough, Mare Vitalis. Not content to simply leave the songs as they were, The Appleseed Cast added vocals and ambient touches they had recently learned on the Low Level Owl project to give the songs a fuller sound, and to make sure they fit together in a unified listening experience.
The major difference between Lost Songs and every other point in The Appleseed Cast's career is the drumming. The drumming has always been the standout on their LP's, but at this point they were between drummers and had to find a few fill-ins. This means that the songs can't lean on this trusty foundation and have to lean on their own legs. This actually works. Most of the tracks focus on dynamics more than verses and choruses. After a quiet intro,"E to W" starts Lost Songs with a bang, blasts of bass, cymbals, guitar, and the old Ring Wars' saxophone suddenly giving way to a quiet vocal moment before exploding into a finish and then quiet outro identical to the start.

The following tracks take similar twists and turns, loud and quiet bouncing off each other like rubber balls, vocals sometimes only popping up for outros in a joyously unpredictable manner. This changes drastically during the terrifying death drone of instrumental seventh track "House on a Hill," which leads into the haunting, driving acoustic number, "Beach Gray." After so much unpredictability, one need only look at the title of the final track to know what's coming next. "Novice Ambient Cannibalization" is exactly that, a heavenly ambient remix of Lost Songs' third track, "Novice." "Cannibalization" ends things grandly in a curiously circular way, building a peacefull anticipation for whatever will come next.

2002 Deep Elm Records
1. E to W 3:42
2. Peril, Pts. 1-3 6:56
3. Novice 4:24
4. Facing North 3:41
5. Take 2:13
6. State N w/K 2:38
7. House on a Hill 5:51
8. Beach Gray 3:06
9. Novice Ambient Cannibalization 7:26

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Appleseed Cast -- Low Level Owl: Volume 2


So you walk deeper into the woods, comforted by the calming newness of your experience. For a while you are at peace, but the emotions of the experience overcome you, and every regret or joy you've ever felt swells outward and threatens to engulf. The wind picks up and you don't understand how the ever-raining leaves don't leave the trees bald, but the more they fall, the more you find the shade inescapable.

Finally you reach a clearing. The day is ending and the sun casts deep shadows into the wide bobbing sea of burning copper trees below.

You realize you are still lost, but you have been lost for so long, lost is more home than anywhere. You wonder how you can feel so at peace one moment, threatened another, alive for a minute, numb the next.

You realize this is your life, and this is probably everyone's life, but there is no one near to ask. You feel you have reached an epiphany, but then it is over, and you find its ephemerality more significant than its actual content. You somehow find yourself where you began, but your old town looks completely different in darkness. This is no longer your home, but when you turn to enter the forest again, you find it has already been burnt down.

At least, that's what happened when I listened to it.

2001 Deep Elm Records
1. View of a Burning City (Reprise) 1:26
2. Strings Appleseed Cast 5:09
3. A Place in Line 4:01
4. Shaking Hands Appleseed Cast 1:58
5. Rooms and Gardens 7:34
6. Ring Out the Warning Bell 6:00
7. Sunset Drama King 6:07
8. The Last in a Line 4:13
9. Decline 1:03
10. The Argument 5:51
11. Reaction 2:26
12. Confession 9:21

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Appleseed Cast -- Low Level Owl: Volume 1


So you walk into the woods to clear your head. It is autumn and everything is beautiful. You immediately forget your worries and begin to relax, but after a while you realize you don't recognize any familiar landmarks outside the rhythm of your own footsteps. You are lost, and this reminds you of everything that sent you into the woods in the first place.

Lost in life and lost amidst the ever-raining leaves, you lay to rest against an old, gnarled oak, and try to figure out what is happening. Maybe it doesn't matter. How can it matter when everything is so beautiful? You get up and walk deeper into the forest.

2001 Deep Elm Records
1. The Waking of Pertelotte 2:02
2. On Reflection 6:26
3. Blind Man's Arrow 3:38
4. Flowers Falling from Dying Hands 3:29
5. Messenger 0:46
6. Doors Lead to Questions 2:53
7. Steps and Numbers 5:54
8. Sentence 2:57
9. Bird of Paradise 2:24
10. Mile Marker 4:02
11. Convict 6:02
12. A Tree for Trials 1:28
13. Signal 3:11
14. View of a Burning City 7:52

Quick Update

Just listened to the new The Weeknd mixtape, Thursday, on my headphones at work.
Now my desk is pregnant.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Appleseed Cast -- Mare Vitalis


Emotion can be a difficult thing to convey. It should be timeless and universal, but it so often comes across as cheesy, or worse, fake. Creating rock music that sounds original and inventive can be difficult, as well. Beside the simple fact that almost everything has already been done, just arbitrarily doing something to sound different doesn't necessarily make something good--in fact, sometimes sounding "different" is just a euphemism for sounding bad. Mare Vitalis does something impossible: It is true, honest emotion, it sounds unlike anything that came before, and it is really, really good. The cover image of a heart beating in the ocean could not be more apt. Eleven years later, it has lost none of it's impact.
Every element that made Mare Vitalis so original then, sounds original now. The signature drum sound that just came out of nowhere has never been duplicated by anyone else. Those cymbals still sound like tapped seashells and crashing waves. The snare drum still sounds like a living thing skipping across the surface. The guitar interplay still sounds as complex and moving, the bass still as fluid. The vocals are just as passionate, and the incredible sense of longing in all the music packs just as heavy a wallop.

Of course, if you are writing an album about something as heavy as the ocean, you should probably end things cathartically. "Storms" is still one of, if not the most powerful album closers in recent history. It is the kind of song that is such a force of nature, no lyrics have ever been printed for it--I still don't even know exactly what Christopher Crisci is saying. Though the vocals on the first nine tracks are sung, Crisci does something else on "Storms"--erupts. It's as if Crisci is raging at the elements around him, and in the end, when the wind has died down and the waves calmed, finds himself clean.

To give this song even more attitude, a quiet sample of a radio call-in program plays underneath. A guest caller, some type of scientist, guesses that the world will never make it past 1999, when this album was recorded.
The date The Appleseed Cast released Mare Vitalis? March 14, 2000. After more than a decade of post-Y2K survival, the Earth still revolves around the sun, and the Applessed Cast are still filling it with beautiful, beautiful music.
If the word "still" in conjunction with this album has no resonance with you, you owe it to yourself to listen. It is not difficult to find, and it is easily worth it.

2000 Deep Elm Records
1. The Immortal Soul of Mundo Cani 2:09
2. Fishing the Sky 3:58
3. Forever Longing the Golden Sunsets 4:41
4. Mare Mortis 3:28
5. Santa Maria 3:35
6. Secret 4:44
7. ...And Nothing Less 4:50
8. Poseidon 4:09
9. Kilgore Trout 2:52
10. Storms 7:36
11. [Untitled Hidden Track] 12:15

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Appleseed Cast -- The End of the Ring Wars


A couple years ago, I had the great pleasure of seeing The Appleseed Cast in concert. After the excellent show, my cousin, The Rabbit, and I had a conversation with Appleseed Cast frontman, Christopher Crisci. My cousin asked Crisci if the band ever played any songs from The End of the Ring Wars, AP's debut album, live. "No, man," Crisci said, "I don't know if kids today would get that style of music. Plus, it was kind of Sunny Day Real Estate worship, anyway." While
Crisci may have been right, and this album might not sound anything like every album The Appleseed Cast have released since, it has way too much real feeling to be dismissed.
This is illustrated beautifully in the first track, a standout of the band's career in my opinion. "Marigold & Patchwork"'s instrumental intro could easily be the soundtrack for a high school graduation. Actually, most of The End of the Ring Wars has that kind of vibe. Then, a minute and ten in, the guitars get crunchy, and Crisci's voice blasts victoriously from nowhere. The singing is very raw throughout this album, something Crisci hadn't mastered yet, but it works wonderfully on this track.

The tempo stays fast on the second track, the drums particularly fiesty, but things slow down on the third track, "On Sidewalks." The dynamic and mood changes often through the rest of The End of the Ring Wars--I guess this is why it was called "emo" back then. This makes for a lively, unpredictable listen, even when things bog down a bit in the third quarter. I should not fail to mention a saxaphone makes a few awesome appearances, most prominently on beautiful slow burn, "Stars," and the album closing, "Untitled 1," which somehow miraculously makes the answer to, "Can a saxaphone outside of a Bruce Springsteen song rock without being cheesy?" "Yes, definitely." Hiring a space alien with six arms to play drums on this track probably helped, as well. Also, could my sentences get any longer?
Overall, The End of the Ring Wars doesn't touch the greatness of The Appleseed Cast's subsequent releases, but's it's still quite a good listen.

1998 Deep Elm Records
1. Marigold & Patchwork 5:49
2. Anthero 3:55
3. On Sidewalks 3:40
4. Moment #72 3:06
5. Stars 3:57
6. December 27, 1990 2:20
7. The Last Ring 4:31
8. 16 Days 5:41
9. Dreamland 5:44
10. Portrait 4:44
11. Untitled 1 4:23
12. [Silence] 0:06
13. [Silence] 0:05
14. [Silence] 0:04
15. [Silence] 0:06
16. [Silence] 0:06
17. [Silence] 0:06
18. [Silence] 0:06
19. [Silence] 0:06
20. [Silence] 0:06
21. [Silence] 0:06
22. [Silence] 0:05
23. [Silence] 0:05
24. [Silence] 0:07
25. [Silence] 0:06
26. [Silence] 0:08
27. Untitled 2 2:45
Alright, so maybe I was wrong about the sax thing:


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Animal Collective -- Merriweather Post Pavilion


Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion is auditory hell. I hesitate to even call it music. What if your head was forced under water while monkeys stood on your shoulders and screamed? This is what it would sound like. What if you took a Beach Boys record, scratched it beyond playability, then dropped the needle on it? This is what it would sound like. Animal Collective's "music" consists of four men constantly shout-singing over each other. They can't really sing, but that doesn't stop them from NEVER SHUTTING UP.
Over the course of Merriweather Post Pavilion's fifty-five minute runtime, you will be hard pressed to find ten straight seconds where Animal Collective aren't barking out noise, "singing" the same exact phrases over and over again. None of them can actually play an instrument, so it sounds like they play a couple of notes on a guitar and filter/sample/treat them and put them into a loop that lasts the entirety of their songs. They find a couple of bass notes and hit those again and again, not in any particular rhythm or pattern, just AGAIN AND AGAIN. As far as percussion or beats, sometimes that happens, I think. Lots of hell noises pop up at random points for no discernible reason.
Lets back up. At the start of 2009, literally weeks in, a huge chunk of music critics(Pitchfork included) called Merriweather Post Pavilion the best album of the year. There were two problems with this statement:
A. It was still January and there were eleven months of releases left.
B. Merriweather Post Pavilion hadn't even come out yet.
This didn't stop music critics from fawning over this album so hard they tripped all over each other and apparently didn't listen to it. Hipsters, who only look at a score from an album review and maybe skim the first paragraph, immediately purchased or illegally downloaded it, listened to the first ten seconds of every track, labeled it a masterpiece, and never listened to it again, immediately moving on to the next thing.
Make no mistake about it. This album isn't good. It isn't even listenable. Getting through the track, "Daily Routine," wasn't a routine for me. It wasn't even a chore. It was torture. So now you listen to it:

Can you explain to me how this is music? Can you even explain to me why someone would voluntarily listen to this? After hearing all the clattering clamor in regard to this album, I noticed it at Best Buy for six bucks, shrugged, and bought it. I've given it almost three years to sink in and I still feel the same way about it: Merriweather Post Pavilion is terrible. Is this it for me? Have I reached that point where I am old and no longer in connection with the cool new things in music? Is my brain too elderly to understand?
No way! I am still months to thirty. That's impossible. The only conclusion is that Animal Collective sucks. Animal Collective sucks. Animal Collective sucks.
I have no possible method to make listening to this album not feel like I am being repeatedly stabbed in the eyes with concentrated supernova beams. That's right: Merriweather Post Pavilion is so bad, it is a detriment to all the senses, not just hearing. I won't even try to describe what I am smelling right now.
Why not just give this album a zero? Well, my Christian bearing forces me to find something to redeem in everything. The intro to "In the Flowers" is interesting. The outro to "My Girls" is kind of fun--this is one of the few songs I can almost say I enjoyed. I actually liked the last twenty seconds of vocals on "Also Frightened," mostly because whatever effect they used almost makes them sound pleasant. If a real band excavated the song underneath "Summertime Clothes," they might be able to make something of it. "Bluish" starts off like it might actually be enjoyable. When I tried to kill myself during "Taste" somebody came into the room and stopped me. When I made a second attempt to kill myself during "Lion in a Coma" my wife unexpectedly called me and told me she loved me, reminding me of all the reasons I have to live. "No More Runnin" actually sounds like Animal Collective doesn't intend to harm the listener's sanity. After 5:59 of "Brother Sport," which is like having the iron maiden shut one last time, Merriweather Post Pavilion ends. After forcing myself to listen to this album ten times, the final straining strains of "Brother Sport" have almost created a Stockholm syndrome situation in my ears--I love it because I know that when I hear it, this horrible, horrible album is almost over.

2009 Domino
1. In the Flowers 5:22
2. My Girls 5:40
3. Also Frightened 5:14
4. Summertime Clothes 4:30
5. Daily Routine 5:46
6. Bluish 5:13
7. Guys Eyes 4:30
8. Taste 3:53
9. Lion in a Coma 4:12
10. No More Runnin 4:23
11. Brother Sport 5:59

Monday, August 15, 2011

This is Strangely Awesome

Data Romance -- "The Deep"
I have no idea how they did this. I'm pretty sure, excluding a brief shot of the band members, this dude is dancing with himself. It's really striking. I have no idea how music videos still exist, but I am glad they do.

Make me home
We are these walls
(Looks will never make a man)
This would be a pure disaster
Life spent on the surface for you
I need the waves
The deep escape
I need the waves
The deep, deep, deep, deep

Angelo Badalamenti -- Arlington Road: Soundtrack from the Motion Picture


Arlington Road is a grossly underrated thriller, but this is a review of the soundtrack, not the film. With that said, one of Arlington Road's best attributes is a soundtrack which also works quite wonderfully on its own. Composer, Angelo Badalamenti, has been David Lynch's righthand man for the past twenty-five years, so he has experience with creating creepy soundscapes. Arlington Road, while firmly rooted in the environment of the late 90's, also takes cues from 1970's paranoia thrillers, and 40's and 50's noir films, and the soundtack follows suit with a huge electronic twist. While horns from the former decades are used, and erratic strings and piano from the latter make an appearance, creepy electronica is the most dominant element. When I say creepy, I really mean creepy. The Arlington Road score could make a great soundtrack for your next Halloween party. It's that unsettling. Turn out the lights and check out the opening track, "Bloody Boy/Neon Reprise."

Now go lock your door because, yes, they are coming to get you.
Really great stuff throughout, with some good contributions by electronic duo, Tomandandy, as well as film director, Mark Pellington.

Remember when movie summers where so chock-full of goodness that a great little gem like Arlington Road could fall through the cracks? 1999, the year Arlington Road was released, was in particular a banner summer: The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, American Beauty, Fight Club, so many great, original films(throughout that whole year, really), and so few sequels. The only three that come to mind are Star Wars: Episode One, Toy Story 2 (arguably better than the first), and Austin Powers 2. And on top of that, no 3-D! Now we've got almost nothing but stinker sequels, and brainless, badly edited 3-D blockbusters. Much was said about Inception last year, and how it was, finally, an intelligent, original, big-budget film, but imagine an entire summer (or year!) full of them. We used to have that. Maybe I am being unfair in highlighting 1999--after all, Entertainment Weekly only called it "The Year that Changed Cinema," but still...

1999 Will Records
1. Bloody Boy/Neon Reprise 5:50
2. Old Newspapers 1:44
3. Lament for Leah 3:50
4. It's Something Personal 2:06
5. The Party 4:45
6. He Repeats, He Repeats 1:57
7. Discover Troops 2:40
8. Into the Cage 2:04
9. The Yearbook 1:43
10. Copper Creek 3:31
11. Values 2:29
12. Cheryl 1:08
13. The Truth Is Out There 3:10
14. The Study 2:04
15. What Message 2:26
16. Last Day 7:56
17. Stoplight Flight 1:25
18. Escape 4:50
19. The Bomb 2:02
20. Aftermath 5:30
21. Leah's Theme 3:50

Back from Vacation

I'm back from a wonderful week in Perdido Key, Florida, which has to be one of the coolest places I have ever spent a week. Now it's back to the grind, both professionally, and bloggally. I did get to pump out one review while I was on break, and I mis-stated that the next review would also take Pitchfork to task. Actually, I almost missed a much more quiet release that falls right before that one, so that will be next.
Also, if you are in Perdido eat at The Rib Shak , Cactus Flower Cafe, Bella Luna Pizzeria, and Crazy Horse Cafe because they are all awesome. And I would know.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead -- Source Tags & Codes

I once wrote a post titled Pitchfork Sucks to highlight the ridiculousness of that website's reviews, especially their use of hyperbole. I particularly picked on reviewer Chris Dahlen's ridiculous zero out of ten review for Travis Morrison's Travistan album. If that was a zero, what is a ten, according to Pitchfork?

"Source Tags & Codes will take you in, rip you to shreds, piece you together, lick your wounds clean, and send you back into the world with a concurrent sense of loss and hope. And you will never, ever be the same." -- Pitchfork Reviewer, Matt LeMay, in his ten out of ten review for ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead's Source Tags & Codes
Screw you, Pitchfork! You suck! This album is about as middle of the road as you can get. The vocals are completely unremarkable, and trust me, that is a NICE interpretation of their quality. The instruments sound a little sloppy. The parts aren't particularly difficult for a novice. I can't really understand a lot of the lyrics on listening, but when I read them in the booklet they just seem like your average undergrad poetry class output, though the booklet does have pretty cool artwork, I guess.
In the end, I'm just left with muddy blah. I certainly wouldn't describe this album as bad, it just isn't anything special. Here is the most lauded song from the album, "Another Morning Stoner" which is okay, I guess.

If you get a ten on Pitchfork, surely every other mainline reviewer will go along with it. The thing is, who is talking about Source Tags & Codes today? Does anyone actually care about this album? Is anyone actually passionate about it today? I'm not trying to insult ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead here. The review wasn't their fault. I'm just saying, isn't it a little suspect that on Pitchfork's 200 best albums of the decade, this shows up all the way back at 100? Were there 99 tens in front of it? No, of course not. The ridiculous hype had just died down.
Sorry, to turn this review into an unrelated bashfest. I think only two other reviews will even mention that website. Unfortunately one of those will be the next one a do. I just get really angry when websites get really pompous.
The Nicsperiment, the best blog on the system, and the saviour and redeemer of the entire Internet.
Oh, and this rock album is okay, but every single time I try to get into it, I just find myself getting bored. The only way I was definitively not the same was that I was 45-minutes older. Oh well...

2002 Interscope
1. It Was There That I Saw You 4:02
2. Another Morning Stoner 4:33
3. Baudelaire 4:16
4. Homage 3:29
5. How Near How Far 4:00
6. Heart in the Hand of the Matter 4:48
7. Monsoon 5:53
8. Days of Being Wild 3:27
9. Relative Ways 4:03
10. After the Laughter 1:15
11. Source Tags and Codes 6:08

Friday, August 05, 2011

Anberlin -- Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place

"I feel like we're on the brink of something... either world domination or destruction, but either way we're on the brink" -- Stephen Christian before the release of Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place

The worst thing about this quote is that after Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place, Anberlin are still on the brink. A few of the songs hit at possibilities loftier than the band ever seemed capable. Others are the absolute worst Anberlin have ever recorded.
Things start off promisingly. "We Owe This To Ourselves," starts with the driving rock sound Anberlin have perfected, but shifts into a moody, atmospheric passage in the middle that breaks new ground for the band. "Impossible" is a bread-and-butter Anberlin song that leads to the first cheesy ballad of the album, "Take Me (As You Found Me)," which is completely skippable. However, it leads directly into "Closer," one of the darkest sounding songs the band has released. The lyrics yearn for some type of connection, and the whole song gives the impression of crawling through the dirt to get it. The bridge is also one of the nicest the band has ever done. With an album title like Dark is the Way, you would expect songs like this.
Sadly, this is Anberlin, and what we get next with "You Belong Here" is the polar opposite, complete Mrs. Buttersworth with loads of artificial sweetener. I mean, the song was used for an American Idol commercial. How much worse can you get? The answer: worse. But how about another fake out?
The sixth track, "Pray Tell," is an awesome song. One of the best Anberlin have ever recorded, it fits with the tone the best tracks on this album possess, and the album title. The sound is adventurous, atypical of everyting Anberlin have ever done.

Again, the yearning desperation for connection resurfaces, and fits what it seems like the band wanted to originally attempt, but how is it supposed to be taken seriously when the previous song is one of utmost, saccharine devotion? There is not only no cohesion of themes, tone, or mood on Dark is the Way..., there isn't even a cohesion of quality. The next song, "Art of War," goes for the darker sentiments again, but how the HELL is the listener supposed to take the lyric, "You're the reason I'll never write another love song," seriously when half the time all Stephen Christian writes is (actually almost any expletive will do here, or any derogatory term that connotes my anger) love songs? How sloppy can your lyrical construction of themes get? That's like me making an album called I Love Cheeseburgers, then including a song with the lyric, "Meat is murder, and I never, ever eat it/meat is murder, Halo 3, how do I defeat it?" It's just stupid, and it makes me so mad that I almost don't notice, but STILL DO, that the next song, "To the Wolves," is the worst song Anberlin have ever recorded and contains the chorus, "Who needs enemies/when we've got friends like you?" Seriously, was that the best thing that he could come up with? Is he in a fifth grade poetry class? WHAT? Not "what the anything." Just "what."
"Down" comes out of nowhere, I don't know what the point of it is, and I wish I could break the stupid acoustic guitars Anberlin likes to pull out when it reaches this point in an album.
"Depraved" would work if it was actually earned, or if it came at the end of a four song E.P. that only included tracks 1,4,6, and 10. Instead it's like the explosion to a rocket never launched. It just blows up on the launchpad and does no damage, a perfect representation of this album that neither achieves world domination nor destroys Anberlin. It just makes you wonder why they put out music like this when they've proven that they can do better--even within this stinker of an album. The best I can say is, it got an emotional reaction out of me, though it is the last emotion I want to feel after I've invested 41-minutes of my life into something (multiplied by the ten times I listened for this review). Angry that I wasted my time, and even angrier that I know I will STILL buy their next album.

2010 Universal Republic
1. We Owe This to Ourselves 3:12
2. Impossible 4:03
3. Take Me (As You Found Me) 4:12
4. Closer 3:46
5. You Belong Here 4:22
6. Pray Tell 3:47
7. The Art of War 4:43
8. To the Wolves 3:31
9. Down 4:05
10. Depraved 5:24

Anberlin -- New Surrender

What do you do when you've finally reached your potential and released the most rocking, best possible record you can create? Sign to a major label of course. That's exactly what Anberlin did, and for a band that always tooed the line between being great and being a block of munster, this was terrifying. Would the major labels demands for hits bring out Anberlin's worst qualities? How did all this pan out? Pretty good, actually.
Instead of ditching the more rocking sound they discovered on Cities, Anberlin run with that sound, and decide that since they are now a big-time band, they should probably save the world. This leads to some of the most ambitious songs and lyrics Anberlin have ever attempted, and it often pays off.
After opening the album with the rollicking "The Resistance," it seems like the band had a very interesting discussion. The topic of that discussion: let's make a modern update of The Outfield's "Your Love." I don't know if this actually happened, but "Breaking" is about as good an homage to that song as you're going to get. No ballads happen until track four, "Retrace," and it seems the old Anberlin cheesemonster is about to roar onto the scene, but the song takes off at the chorus as something much bigger and...epic? The lyrics are still way too sentimental, but something about the song is bigger and better than when they've tried to do such a song previously. After this song the band rock all the way to track seven, "Breathe." It is at this point that Anberlin attempt to save the world--to create a set-closing song to get people to hold lighters up to the sky and feel things (yeah, I said "to" five times in that sentence). It should be terrible, but what the works. I can finally breathe/suddenly alive/I can finally move/the world feels revived. He doesn't say the word "girl" once in the song. Nice. The next song is all inspiring, too, which is pretty obvious from the title, "Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights)." Live/I wanna live inspired/Die/I wanna die for something higher than myself/Live and die for anyone else/The more I live, the more I see, this life's not about me. Such selflessness is antithetical to...well, pretty much all other popular music. The band is on a high at this point.

This being Anberlin, though, there is no escape from Schmaltz, and as soon as this song ends, Schmaltz attacks fiercely, resulting in two syrupy sentimental ballads about being young that should have been left in the studio. After all the loftier ambitions expressed previously, singing "Woah, oh, oh" on top of lyrics about wanting to be a teenager again just kind of suck.
The final two songs are back on point, though, the penultimate about drug addiction, and the finale a strangely comforting account of the apocalypse (the atmostpheric keys and steady drum beat work particularly well).
I have to say, I wish all major label debuts were like this one. Any problems found within are ones Anberlin have always had, not new ones brought on by studio demands. Anberlin still keep up a steady rock quotient (though not quite as high as their benchmark, Cities). And finally, the band take the new platform they are afforded to try to say bigger things than when they were only being seen by a few hundred people in dingy clubs. If anything, their often deeply buried faith is actually more out in the open on this album. They've been on the radio ever since, and if anyone should be blasting on the airwaves, it is probably Anberlin.

2008 Universal Republic Records
1. The Resistance" 3:17
2. Breaking 3:26
3. Blame Me! Blame Me! 3:09
4. Retrace 3:51
5. Feel Good Drag 3:08
6. Disappear 3:37
7. Breathe 3:35
8. Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights) 3:34
9. Younglife 3:40
10. Haight Street 2:59
11. Soft Skeletons 4:09
12. Miserabile Visu (Ex Malo Bonum) 6:37

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Star Wars: Dark Times -- Out of the Wilderness #1

One of my favorite comic series returns with an all new storyline and all new numbering. Awesomely average Jedi, Dass Jennir, is still on the run from the newly formed Empire, and his friends, multiple enemies, and multiple mysteries are chasing him. The storyline switches perspectives nicely, and it doesn't hurt that one of those perspectives is Darth Vader himself. I'm not sure if anyone is drawing better comic art than Douglas Wheatley. The cinematic flair his panels hold, as well as the sense of grace in the portrayal of movement is stunning. On top of Wheatley's artwork, Dan Jackson's colors just pop. "Mick Harrison", aka, writer and editor Randy Stradley need no longer fear bias because of his dual role. He has already proven himself with this series's previous arcs as the author of the best thing holding the Star Wars name in the last decade. In the first issue of this new arc, he has laid the foundation for a story that might even topple those excellent works.

But it for $2.69!
Dark Horse Comics
Publication Date: August 03, 2011
Format:fC, 40 pages
UPC:7 61568 18817 2 00111

Anberlin -- Cities

Things start off a little differently on Anberlin's third studio album, Cities. Instead of just diving headfirst into things, they actually take an entire track just to build up to the first track, "Godspell." At this point they come out full cannons blazing, and for once in their entire catalog, they actually don't let up. That's not to say there isn't room to breathe, but it's as if they put a guard at the door to keep the cheese out this time. Poor Mr. Cheese is forced to stand outside the window and watch as Anberlin just rocks out for 46 minutes. For anyone who has experienced this band live, then put on one of their albums and wondered what happened in translaton, Anberlin is finally speaking your language. Then the fifth track starts. As soon as I heard the acoustic guitar come in, I thought, "Oh crap, here we go!" But instead of a cheesy ballad that completely kills the momentum, we get an honest to God decent acoustic song, made by men. Also, the harmonies are really, really sweet, and the song isn't aimless--it builds to quite a nice coda. The next track immediately goes back to rocking out, and even a synth-intro can't ruin the pace. Aaron Sprinkle completely redeems himself for the over-producing he did on Blueprints for the Black Market. He lets everything sound nice, big, and real, mostly just adding a subtle touch of piano or a thick keyboard groove here or there and staying out of the way. This is the dude that produced Summer of Darkness. He keeps the band on target all the way to track ten, "Inevitable," when the cheese's face presses so hard against the glass that it breaks through and dances with the band as they finally break down and do a lame ballad. Hey, at least it's just one track, and the arrangement is so nice, it almost redeems the song. Sprinkle can produce some strings, and the drums come in all big and satisfying in the last minute. In fact, I'd go as far to say that drummer, Nathan Young, owns this album. He does a memorable job on just about every song.
Oh, and the next song made me cry. Anberlin punches the cheese in the face, throws it out, and get back to rocking, and FINALLY, FINALLY fulfill their potential. We know they can rock, and we know they can write a great hook, but up to this point it's always felt like they were holding something back. Then "Dismantle. Repair." literally tears down whatever wall was holding Anberlin down. I cried like I'm sure I will when my kid learns to ride a bike (do kids still ride bikes?) upon hearing it. They finally grew up.

This must have made them feel a little too big for their britches, though, because they bite off a little more than they can chew on the nine minute album closer, "(*Fin)." It features a children's choir and the lyric, "Billy, don't you understand?/Timothy stood as long as he could and now/you made his faith disappear."
Anyway, about half of the song works. They shot for the moon, and just kind of grazed the outer atmosphere, but that's okay. After spending a full album finally living up to their potential they've earned just a little pretentiousness.

2007 Tooth & Nail
1. (Début) 1:27
2. Godspeed 3:02
3. Adelaide 3:14
4. A Whisper & A Clamor 3:25
5. The Unwinding Cable Car 4:17
6. There Is No Mathematics To Love And Loss 3:11
7. Hello Alone 4:00
8. Alexithymia 3:23
9. Reclusion 3:31
10. Inevitable 3:47
11. Dismantle.Repair. 4:18
12. (*Fin) 8:53

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Anberlin -- Never Take Friendship Personal


Man, things take right off on Anberlin's sophmore release, Never Take Friendship Personal. The opening track is full of power, and the production sheen that coated their debut straight into light-induced migraine territory is almost absent. Guitars are heavy, drums sound real and angry, and best of all, Stephen Christian's vocals are actually a little gritty at times to contrast the smoothness. Instead of taking the perilous quality dip their debut dove from track one to track two, "Paperthin Hymn" is even better than the opener, taking all it's best qualities and pushing them even further, with one of the strongest, heaviest vocal hooks Anberlin has ever featured:

And then, aw crud. The cheesiness starts. Track three is one big cheeseball. First off, the title of the song is "Stationary Stationery." Second, the first lyric is, "Do they not have pen or paper where you are?" Nooooo!!! The fourth track, "(the symphony of) blasé" looks like it's headed in the same direction, but it's thankfully a beautiful song, something Anberlin haven't done up to this point...but then, aw crud, here comes some cheese with "A Day Late." Still, at least it hits harder than the cheesy tracks on Blueprints for the Black Market. Plus, the next track is a nice, barely cheesy rocker, but then, aw crud, here is another cheesy one, but the track after rocks so hard they re-recorded on their 2008 major-label debut, and it reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart. The Never Friendship Personal version of "Feel Good Drag" rocks harder, though, and the song afterward rocks, too, even though the chorus smells a little like feet. The last track is great, with lots of twists and turns, and it's actually over four minutes long, a miracle for this band at this point. In fact, it rectifies my main complaint with Blueprints. The instruments actually get some room! Why they don't do this more often, I don't know. I do know that this album as a whole is a slight step up from the debut. The production is far closer to the band's live sound, and they actually do give the instruments some space at points. The problem is that the cheese isn't dialed back at all. There are way too many "doo-doo's" and "da-da's." If only they could follow this album with one without them...

2005 Tooth & Nail
1. Never Take Friendship Personal 3:31
2. Paperthin Hymn 3:15
3. Stationary Stationery 2:58
4. (the symphony of) blasé 4:21
5. A Day Late 3:25
6. The Runaways 3:20
7. Time & Confusion 3:23
8. The Feel Good Drag 3:25
9. Audrey, Start the Revolution! 3:22
10. A Heavy Hearted Work of Staggering Genius 1:12
11. dance, dance Christa Päffgen 7:06

Anberlin -- Blueprints for the Black Market


During the summer of 2002, two of my best friends (who are still my best friends) got in a van with me at 3 am (this isn't going where you think it is) and drove all the way from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Bushnell, Illinois--827 glorious non-stop miles. Our destination: The Legendary Cornerstone Music Festival. Almost ten years later, it's clear that we were fortunate enough to attend one of the best weeks ever put on by Cornerstone. Eight Days, actually! Day one was titled Tooth & Nail day, a showcase for the record label of the same name. The majority of Tooth & Nail's bands played in two tents with staggered start times (brilliantly, in alphabetical order). The first band to perform was a new signee, Anberlin. The three of us had never heard of them. Their appearance as they took the stage wasn't promising. The drummer looked to be 12 at the most. We made fun of him. The other dudes looked...kind of cheesy. The band seemed to sense that the only reason the tent was full was that, for that one moment of the gargantuan festival, they were the only band playing. Then they ripped into their first song, "Ready Fuels." The drummer tore his kit to shreds. In the first 30-seconds he did a roll that forced us to immediately apologize for our disparaging remarks. The singer ripped up his vocal chords.
After the first song ended, all three of us were wondering when this band's first CD was coming out. Actually we said that out loud at the same time, I think. The crowd ate up the rest of Anberlin's edgy, high-energy set. Anberlin's vocalist, Stephen Christian, sensing the momentum the band had picked up, said discouragingly, "Glad you like us. Please be patient. We're working on our first album, but it could be a while." A few days later, we ran into him, and he and I had a very amiable conversation. He actually initiated it, and turned out to be a friendly, pleasant dude. He told the truth about their album, though.
Blueprints for the Black Market came out nearly a full year later. I think all three of us bought it the day it came out, but I vividly remember buying it alone, and listening to the entire album on my commute home.
The first guitar riff got me excited. It was the song they opened up with at Cornerstone, "Ready Fuels!" A few minutes later, my excitement dimmed. The song was still great, but the drum sound was completely anti-septic. The edge in Stephen's voice was completely rounded. Only one drum roll?

At first I wanted to blame the production, and it's true--Aaron Sprinkle has produced some pretty great albums (one of em's even tattoed on my arm), but all it seems like he did here is take that initial beautiful Anberlin performance and polish it until the only thing left was a glare. Don't get me wrong, though, on Blueprints the band also shows their weaknesses, ones that have dogged them ever since. The first weakness is the reined in performances that should be running free. The second is this:
Cheese tastes delicious, but when you stick it in your ears, it just makes you feel cheap and dirty. The best of the five albums Anberlin have released (and yes, due to the contractual obligations of "Every Album I Own Reviews," I will review every one) have been the lowest on cheese.
Cheese makes it's first true appearance on Blueprint's second track, "Foreign Language." As in "Girl's speak in...doo, doo, doo, dooh." There are some more lyrics to the song, but I shan't repeat them. Eight years later, the pain is still too near. Anberlin don't hit the Swiss Bank too often on this album, which is quite fortunate, but the heavier songs are certainly dulled by the shiny production to the point that the album sounds far more monotonous than it really is.
Even so, this debut shows some of the promise that Anberlin displayed the first time I saw them. Will they fulfill it?

2003 Tooth & Nail Records
1. Readyfuels 3:37
2. Foreign Language 2:49
3. Change the World (Lost Ones) 3:59
4. Cold War Transmissions 3:12
5. Glass to the Arson 3:29
6. The Undeveloped Story 3:27
7. Autobahn 3:25
8. We Dreamt in Heist 3:17
9. Love Song 3:05
10. Cadence 3:17
11. Naïve Orleans 4:08

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

America -- History: America's Greatest Hits


I have no idea why certain people's voices sound so great together, but the three original guys from 70's folk band, America, sounded really great together. They didn't really push the envelope or anything, and their lyrics didn't extend too far past simple love songs and hippie claptrap, like "Horse With No Name." Also, "Horse With No Name" is a really awesome song.

Despite not making any sense, the imagery of deserts and oceans and cities is vividly great, and the melodies and harmonies are timeless. It's a wonderful song, and as this is a compendium of America's best early work, History is full of wonderful songs. However, Greatest Hits albums as a whole are often hit and miss. This one, despite a few cheeseball ballads, is pretty much all hit. This is mainly due to the production work of George Martin. Yes, THAT George Martin. While Martin originally only produced the last five tracks (and their respective albums), he went back and did new production work on the first seven. This results in a remarkably cohesive feeling most greatest hits collections are missing. An awesome, feelgood song like "Ventura Highway"

sounds perfectly at home between its neighbors--all the tracks do. This makes for quite an enjoyable listening experience, and this is coming from a drum-smashing, distortion-craving metal-head who says the word "awesome" a whole lot.

1975 Warner Bros.
1. A Horse With No Name 4:07
2. I Need You 3:05
3. Sandman 4:08
4. Ventura Highway 3:22
5. Don't Cross the River 2:31
6. Only in Your Heart 3:12
7. Muskrat Love 3:05
8. Tin Man 3:28
9. Lonely People 2:28
10. Sister Golden Hair 3:20
11. Daisy Jane 3:08
12. Woman Tonight 2:22

Monday, August 01, 2011

Ambulance LTD -- LP

There is something to be said for sounding pleasant. The drums on Ambulance LTD's LP sound pleasant. The guitars, bass, and vocals sound pleasant. Unfortunately, 52-minutes of pleasant is just enough to make me go nuts. It works well for quite a while, though. I don't think there is one bad track on this album. Any one could be used in a commercial or film--indeed a decent amount of these tracks have been. I originally bought this album because I saw Ambulance LTD on a late night talk-show performing "Heavy Lifting" and was suitably impressed. Here it is with some girl paining or something.

I was pretty pumped after hearing the first couple of tracks, but the rhythms of the album started slowly chipping away at my nerves until I had to turn it off. I don't know what it is about it exactly, and I hate being so imprecise. I think the production, pacing, and sequencing just make the whole thing too tedious. It's like eating a nice bite of lavender-honey ice cream, then having to eat 12 pints immediately after.

2004 TVT Records
1. Yoga Means Union 4:54
2. Primitive (The Way I Treat You) 3:58
3. Anecdote 3:16
4. Heavy Lifting 3:32
5. Ophelia 3:38
6. Stay Where You Are 5:54
7. Sugar Pill 4:39
8. Michigan 4:30
9. Stay Tuned 3:16
10. Swim 4:22
11. Young Urban 4:21
12. The Ocean 5:24