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Friday, November 30, 2012

Embodyment -- Hold Your Breath


The transformation continues. In the 90's, Embodyment was on the heaviest spectrum of death metal. 2000's The Narrow Scope of Things saw the band venture into more alternative waters with remarkable results. 2001's Hold Your Breath sees Embodyment drop the death metal screaming altogether, though some heavier musical elements still remain. Because of this, Hold Your Breath is an odd duck. On one hand, you've got excellent rock music with some sweet guitar riffs, and excellent, near-crooning vocals. On the other hand, you've got raw production which pushes the low end of the drums to the forefront of the mix, like a metal record. You've also got down-tuned guitars and bass, sometimes following some pretty heavy chord progressions, and a few creepy sounding songs. This again puts Embodyment in the lonely "sounds like Embodyment" spectrum. Nobody else did.
Bands that sound like they're wearing skeleton face-paint and burning down buildings don't usually transition into bands that can get played on mainstream radio, though. So while The Narrow Scope of Things sounded like a transition record, albeit a masterpiece of one, it turns out to have only been a new starting point. Hold Your Breath is the transition album, and has all the pros and cons inherent.
Thankfully, the pros heavily outweigh the cons in this case. The songs are all good, and the album flows together well throughout its thirty-six minutes. As expected from Embodyment, the vocals and instrumentation are all top notch. The minor cons are the moments the raw production needs to be smoother to enhance the more radio friendly quality of certain songs, and the moments the band gets heavy, but doesn't put a hole through the roof the way it seems they should. The result is an album that undeniably rocks hard, is fun to listen to, but inconspicuously stands out in the middle among the final trilogy of albums Embodyment released. That doesn't mean it can't be a classic.

2001 Solid State Records
1. Yours Truly 3:31
2. Belly Up 3:32
3. Decade 4:24
4. K-9 3:11
5. Set the Stage 4:32
6. Heaven in a Letter Bomb 2:38
7. A Season's End 3:38
8. Binge and Purge 2:52
9. Moving On 4:05
10. Cruise Control 3:50

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Embodyment -- The Narrow Scope of Things


At the turn-of-the-century, our collective fears were different. Instead of concrete terms like "terrorist" or "recession," we had more metaphysical demons. Mechanization was certainly one of them. 1995's Ghost in the Shell fully explored this man vs machine topic, and bands like Fear Factory put out sprawling (and sometimes excellent) albums on the subject. Fear Factory was one of the first bands to explore the contrasting dynamics of singing and screaming, and in 2000, both Embodyment and the legendary Deftones released groundbreaking, classic albums that took this musical concept even further. While Deftones' aspirations were slightly more romantic (I mean in a classical sense, and yes, I understand that this review is now so pretentious, there is no going back), Embodyment re-visited some of Fear Factory's themes. But while Fear Factory often contrasts mechanization against a very humanistic, non-theistic philosophy, Embodyment's The Narrow Scope of Things sets the figurative robotization of human existence against the innate spirituality of a deity-created being. And if you don't care about any of that...
This album jams. There are some songs with no screaming, but the down-tuned guitars and bass, along with heavy drums and generally creepy atmosphere, help keep a consistent feeling throughout. The trick is that The Narrow Scope of Things is tonally homogeneous, and yet does so much. After the scary drone of opener "Winter Kiss" and the shifting sing/scream dynamics of "Pendulum," track three,  "One Less Addiction," is an absolute beauty of a song for the ages.

"One Less Addiction" is so good, Embodyment give it an acoustic, penultimate reprise that brilliantly sets up album finale, "The Aftermath of Closure." On top of that, "One Less Addiction" is contrasted by its following track, "Greedy Hands," which acts as a dark, terrifying rebuttal. In addition to covering a full scope of emotions, this album is perfectly sequenced in a way few are today.
As set apart as the music is, Sean Corbray's unique vocals put the album and band on a transcendent plain of existence. Sean Corbray, when he is singing, essentially sounds like Darius Rucker with balls. Nothing against you, Darius Rucker, but you make country music now, and I've never heard you scream.
On top of everything, The Narrow Scope of Things is actually fun to listen to. "Assembly Line Humans" displays most of the album's attributes, but you can still turn your brain off while listening if you want, drive your car really fast, punch a hole in your steering wheel.

So let's see: Thematically deep. Innovative, well-written, expertly performed. Perfectly sequenced into a complete, rewarding experience. Timeless, fun to listen to.
Looks like we have a perfect album.

2000 Solid State Records
1. Winter Kiss 3:31
2. Pendulum 3:39
3. One Less Addiction 5:53
4. Greedy Hands 5:27
5. Confessions 4:28
6. Assembly Line Humans 3:50
7. Prelude 3:40
8. Killing the Me in Me 3:57
9. Critical Error 3:51
10. Ballad 3:25
11. One Less Addiction 4:06
12. The Aftermath of Closure 6:17

Coming Up

The last two bands to be reviewed in the "E"'s are two of my favorites, so be prepared  for a bunch of high scores.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Elvis -- 30 #1 Hits


Nothing much here, just a bunch of timeless songs that will reverberate across history until humans evolve beyond hearing or die off in apocalyptic ice or fire. Even then, ancient radio waves will be reaching new beings that can hear, and they are sure to remember what passes across their hearing vestibules. Even if you can't stand Elvis' voice, or you just hate old music in general, half of these songs are in your head the second you look at the track titles, even if you have never even willingly listened to them. While every song is not a hit for the ages ("Teddy Bear" immediately comes to mind), there is enough here for an hour long nostalgia party. The King is dead. Long live the King. Or whatever.

2002 RCA/BMG
1. Heartbreak Hotel 2:09
2. Don't Be Cruel 2:04
3. Hound Dog 2:15
4. Love Me Tender 2:44
5. Too Much 2:36
6. All Shook Up 2:00
7. (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear 1:49
8. Jailhouse Rock 2:37
9. Don't 2:51
10. Hard Headed Woman 1:56
11. One Night 2:34
12. (Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I 2:41
13. A Big Hunk O' Love 2:16
14. Stuck on You 2:20
15. It's Now or Never 3:17
16. Are You Lonesome Tonight? 3:08
17. Wooden Heart 2:04
18. Surrender 1:55
19. (Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame 2:08
20. Can't Help Falling in Love 3:00
21. Good Luck Charm 2:27
22. She's Not You 2:11
23. Return to Sender 2:11
24. (You're The) Devil in Disguise 2:22
25. Crying in the Chapel 2:26
26. In the Ghetto 3:05
27. Suspicious Minds 4:34
28. The Wonder of You 2:28
29. Burning Love 2:59
30. Way Down 2:39
31. A Little Less Conversation 3:33

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Elliott -- Photorecording


After listening to Photorecording for the first time, there was one thing I wanted to ask Elliott:
"Really, you're breaking up now?!"
Elliott selected a stack of older songs for Photorecording and re-recorded them into something entirely new. The production values are higher. The instrumentation is more varied and clever. The already great song-writing is enhanced. The already powerful emotions are more powerful. The already beautiful is more beautiful. Usually, I complain that Elliott's albums are a little too much to take in one sitting, but Photorecording somehow amps it up so high that things come back around to the point that listening to the album from start to finish is essential. Elliott will be, and are missed.

NOTE: This album also comes with a DVD of Elliott's final show, hence the title Photorecording.

2005 Revelation Records
1 Away We Drift 5:13
2 Drive Onto Me 4:24
3 Dionysus Burning 5:05
4 Blessed by Your Own Ghost 7:11
5 Calm Americans 4:53
6 Shallow Like Your Breath 6:09
7 Drag Like Pull 4:32
8 Bleed in Breathe Out 4:32
9 Drive 5:46
10 Believe 4:35
11 Carry On 4:15
12 This Program Is Not Responding 7:36
13 Leona 2:48
14 Intro to False Cathedrals 3:43

On the Ndamukong Suh Issue

Just fine the kid a million dollars and let him play. That way, he'll be less inclined to kick people in the nuts, but we can still watch him play, and his future isn't over. On top of that, give the million dollars to a testicular cancer fund to show that the NFL has a heart and a sense of humor. THE END.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Elliott -- Song in the Air


Elliott's followup to False Cathedrals trades in a little bit of that album's power for beauty. Song in the Air still has aggressive, assured moments, though, and in a way, its beauty transmutes into a power all its own. What the heck am I talking about? Elliott is a rock band from Louisville, who burst onto the emo-dominant music scene in the early 00's with thought-provoking, emotional rock music for adults. Their previous album relied on bass-heavy, charging rhythms, but Song in the Air lives up to its title, often floating around in string and guitar-effects-laden skies (the strings are provided by Rachel's, a decent band in their own right). Vocalist, Chris Higdon, wisely takes a slight step back from the microphone, giving the instruments more room to breathe. Song in the Air shares the same small flaw as its predecessor, though. It's a little too much for one listen. Track three, the overwhelming "Believe," would close out a lot of albums, not precede seven more tracks.

Still, if an album has to have a flaw, I'd rather feel it's too much to take in one listen, as opposed to feeling ripped off. Song in the Air is good, solid, timeless rock music, just like everything else Elliott did at the start of the 21st Century.

2003 Revelation Records
1. Land and Water 5:37
2. Carry On 3:53
3. Believe 3:41
4. Beijing (Too Many People) 7:24
5. Drag Like Pull 6:00
6. Bleed in Breathe Out 4:46
7. Song in the Air 3:05
8. Away We Drift 6:06
9. Blue Storm 5:51
10. Genea 2:52

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkey Day

*In honor of Thanksgiving, I've decided to tell my favorite turkey story*

I love to hunt. Geese, squirrel, but especially ducks. I've eaten duck almost every day this week, and I'm trying to get as many in my freezer as I can, to last through the long, duck-seasonless eleven months to come. If this offends you, I've heard that alfalfa plants can feel pain, and that when farmers pick them from the ground, their tiny death screams can barely be heard over the buckets of blood spraying out of their alfalfa corpses to the dirt. The alfalfa farmers don't even wear shirts, and often harvest their plants in the nude because their clothing would just get ruined.
As much as I love hunting, I've never taken out a turkey. When I was about seventeen, and my brother around twelve, he suddenly picked up an obsession with turkey calling. All of a sudden, these boxes were coming in the mail, and I was sitting in my room, plugging my ears, and screaming for him to cut out all the racket. All that clacking and whistling can make a guy go crazier than the fact that no kid will ever be able to make the, "Wanna take a bite of my ding-dong?" joke to his lunchroom school friends again. That always got a laugh, and then you got to eat your snack cake as a reward for being funny. The world just isn't fair.
Anyway, my brother was convinced that some woods a couple miles from our house contained turkeys, and of all people, his twelve year-old self was going to be the one to take these turkeys down. The only person to take him seriously was our cousin, younger brother of The Rabbit. These two little farts were going to go into the woods with no turkey hunting experience, and come back with a gobbler. Not bloody likely.
So the both of them practiced with their turkey calls non-stop, and I went hoarse screaming for them to please, please shut up, threatening all manner of big-brother beatings. There was always the slightest hope that they wouldn't quit, because nothing is more fun than beating up your little brother.
Finally, the day came. The night before, the Rabbit and I made glorious fun of our goofy, 160-pounds combined younger brothers, while devastating their very souls at Goldeneye 007 for the N64. It was an incredible night of destruction, and after the two younger brothers went to bed early, their chosen Goldeneye characters dead 1000 times over,The Rabbit and I played so much Nintendo 64, Mario actually came out of my TV like in The Ring and begged me to stop. "Sorry Mario," I said, "but you just get right back in there and break some bricks with your head for me. How else am I supposed to get coins?" This was before the Plumber's Union made such things illegal.
Anyway, the Rabbit and I awoke the next morning with the sun in our eyes, and the N64 controllers still in our hands. This caused some difficult to explain cramps. Anyway, some ruckus was going on outside, and after boldly cursing the morning, I pushed my way out of the house to see what was afoot.
The dogs were barking, my parents were outside taking pictures, and The Rabbit was probably eating something.
Well, what do I see but those two fotknockers, wearing their goofy, oversized camo, holding up a turkey twice as big as they were, folding out its plumage like a royal flush at the high stakes table at the Palms. I punched myself in the face, but the turkey didn't disappear. It was still there until we cooked it and ate it the next day. Or maybe it was that day, I don't remember. I just said "the next day" for sentence flow.
So let this lesson be remembered:
Kids, work hard. Dreams do come true. And then your older brother will beg you to take him turkey hunting with you. You can use this as leverage for pretty much anything you want. He'll even let you win at Call of Halo, or whatever it is you kids play now. Get off my lawn.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Elliott -- False Cathedrals


I remember Napster as a grandfatherly, convenient, seemingly trustworthy way to check out new bands. Napster's unruly child, KaZaA, was not like his father, with a dirty interface that just seemed wrong. Like many things that feel wrong in other places, KaZaA felt just right in my college apartment, and after a long slog through a bunch of mopey, emo crap, I quite gleefully stumbled onto Elliott's False Cathedrals. In a scene of whiny dudes crying about girls at a rainy window, Elliott offered up something else entirely.
After a minute of choral noise, False Cathedrals launches into a beautiful burst of energy that doesn't subside until the final track ends.
The main difference between this and the emo music of the time is that this is actually sexy. Yeah, I'm sorry, there isn't a better word for it. With the bass and drums turned up loud and rocking in the mix, Elliott was a big grown man among bands that sounded like they wished they could be children again. Plenty of piano and atmospheric noise and effects abide to set the band apart as well. On top of that, vocalist, Chris Higdon, sings about mysterious, darker things, not being unfortunately broken up with. The album's main weapon is power of emotion, not "EMOtion." If False Cathedrals has a flaw, it's that its constant power, coupled with Higdon's slightly droning voice, can be a bit much to take for 50 minutes. Saying something is a bit much to take is like saying something has too much chocolate, though. Twelve years later, False Cathedrals, Elliott's career-defining album, holds up. Anyone still listening to those big emo bands?

NOTE: David Loti, you saw this band at the Spanish Moon, and I didn't even realize they were playing. I am still jealous.

2000 Revelation Records
1. Voices 1:06
2. Calm Americans 4:25
3. Blessed by Your Own Ghost 5:00
4. Drive on Me 4:50
5. Calvary Song 3:27
6. Lipstick Stigmata 5:14
7. Dying Midwestern 5:28
8. Shallow Like Your Breath 4:30
9. Superstitions in Travel 3:51
10. Carving Oswego 4:12
11. Lie Close 4:31
12. Speed of Film 4:35

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ellie Goulding -- Halcyon


I've got a confession to make. For all my talk of weirdness in the last post, and how it relates to female vocalists, there's really one thing I want: another Björk. From the first time I heard that crazy Icelandic lady, I knew I was in love, and now that she has passed onto a stage in her career where she is no longer the same artist, I need someone to take her place. This is pretty much impossible. Obviously, there will never be another Björk. But if one female artist could just meet these three criteria, I would be so overjoyed:
1. Genuinely weird. 2. Genuinely weird, but excellent voice. 3. Genuinely weird, but excellent music.
After two albums, Ellie Goulding has not met that criteria. She has a genuinely weird, but excellent voice that sounds like the human embodiment of air. Her music is weird sometimes, but sometimes it is just your basic, four on the floor dance music. As for Goulding herself, she is weird in that she dresses incredibly normal, never promiscuously, yet sometimes styles herself like she does on this album cover. But she is not weird in that her lyrical topics seem to center on your basic, "A mean boy was mean to me." Halcyon is a break up album, but not anything close to a bitter one, which I guess goes against the flow. She seems to admit that her problem is an inability to quit when the other person has obviously moved on. I guess that kind of confession is pretty mature for this kind of record, but it's not weird. Then again, all her talk about body fluids, and being a being a waterborne corpse is kind of weird, but if you're not paying attention, you don't really notice. So even though Goulding isn't being who I want her to be (unless we have a Vertigo moment, musically(Vertigo is the greatest movie of all time)), Halcyon is a very solid, cohesive album. The producers wisely use Goulding's inimitable voice as Halcyon's chief instrument, and every time the album aims for power through it, it succeeds. Also, there are a couple of dubstep moments that show Goulding is aware of current trends, but not enough to where she is pandering to them. Most importantly, Goulding perfects the art of actually building up to some sort of catharsis, as penultimate track, "Atlantis," is such an exuberant burst of noise, any lack of joy is crushed under its mellifluous weight.
So in conclusion, Goulding's voice is more powerful, beautiful, and unique than ever, the arrangements are more unorthodox than her debut's, chiefly utilizing her voice as the driving force, but some tracks unfortunately aim low with simple, dance-driven beats that Björk always left to the re-mixers. In other words, this is a really good pop album by a female artist who could soon be making classics if she completely let go of the rails of popular tastes and dove deep into the seas of her eccentricities. Also, someone made a video of my regular acid trip.

Also, Vertigo really is the most hauntingly brilliant, terrifyingly beautiful, adverbingly adverb movie ever made, and if you have even a little bit of obsession in your bones and haven't yet seen it (they made it 54 years ago, you're a little behind), you are doing yourself a great disservice. And Portishead is a great band.
Also, kids, don't do drugs, I meant a figurative acid trip...

2012 Polydor
1. Don't Say a Word 4:07
2. My Blood 3:54
3. Anything Could Happen 4:47
4. Only You 3:51
5. Halcyon 3:25
6. Figure 8 4:08
7. JOY 3:14
8. Hanging On 3:22
9. Explosions 4:03
10. I Know You Care 3:26
11. Atlantis 3:53
12. Dead in the Water 4:44

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ellie Goulding -- Lights


I'm a sucker for weird girls. Always have been as long as I can remember, starting with that brunette girl in kindergarten who told me she wanted to scoop out my eyeballs with a spoon and eat them(my reaction: To scream "No!" while running away just slowly enough). It probably goes back even further than that. The same thing extends for me musically. I'm more interested in postage stamps than whatever pop starlet is hot right now, but some weird girl singing weirdly over weird music? I'll go for that every time, so long as she's good. My first experience with Brit, Ellie Goulding, was her earlier acoustic demos, and with her otherworldly, warbling voice, she was just weird enough. On top of that, she can ACTUALLY PLAY MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.

I have to say, though, I wish her U.S. debut was weirder. A few tracks from Ellie's British debut were shaved to make room for U.S. dance hit, "Lights," and a very orthodox cover of Elton John's "Your Song." This is unfortunate, but enough of Goulding's weirdness still shines through, and what's left is so infectious, it doesn't really matter anyway. Goulding's original acoustic songs are transformed into fairly innovative electronic pop songs, and less innovative electronic pop songs, but sometimes her original framework remains and meshes with the new for even better results.

And it's weird. Plus, everything worked out for me. I get to live with a woman who tells me she is going to eat my eyeballs almost every day, though the phrase is usually preceded by, "If you make that stupid face at me again..."

2011 Cherrytree Records/Interscope
1. Lights (Single Version) 3:32
2. Guns and Horses3:35
3. Starry Eyed 2:56
4. This Love (Will Be Your Downfall) 3:53
5. Under the Sheets 3:44
6. The Writer 4:11
7. Animal 3:40
8. Every Time You Go 3:25
9. Your Biggest Mistake 3:25
10. Salt Skin 4:17
11. Your Song 3:10



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Element 101 -- More Than Motion


The fall of 2002 was a confusing time for me. So-called friends were putting in extra effort to make me as miserable as possible, I had to somehow get used to living with my parents again after moving out of my campus apartment, I had a stalker who slept in her car in front of my house every night, and I suddenly realized that, thanks to the most pointless course I ever took at Louisiana State University, I did not enjoy the works of William Shakespeare. Yes, it was a confusing time. Even more confusing:
At Cornerstone that summer, the Rabbit and I got into an epic argument over who Crissie Verhagen kept making eyes and winking at from the stage during Element 101's performance. The Rabbit claimed there was no possibility she was looking at anyone other than the Rabbit. I said that the Rabbit was most assuredly mistaken, and that indeed, Crissie Verhagen was looking at none other than the humble author of the Nicsperiment. The truth is, we were both on crack. She was looking at her fiancé, Jason Gleason, the front-man for Further Seems Forever, who was standing right behind us. It would not be the first time either of us misjudged a woman, but anyway...
You can definitely detect the swooning uncertainty of impending marriage on More Than Motion, but you can also sense a band experimenting in maybe too many directions. Starting out as a pop-punk band, developing into a rock band, and then diving into experimental rock waters might be just a little too much evolution for three years' time. Certain elements work, especially the barrage of guitar effects. Element 101 have always opted for odd chord changes, and they mostly click here, as well. The biggest risks are taken vocally by Verhagen, herself. Known for having a small, but commanding voice, Verhagen uses More Than Motion to experiment with aggression on a large number of tracks. She doesn't scream or anything, but there is definitely an effort to inject some grit and power into her vocals. It works probably 70% of the time (she tries this on about seven the math, I guess), particularly on the album's opening duo, but she overexerts herself on "This Time Around" and "Something Like a Dream." Also, her whisper experiment for the verse vocals of "Something Like a Dream" should have been turned up, as they are almost completely inaudible, and compose more than half of the song. More often than not, though, Verhagen and her band are successful, particularly on the not only album standout, but career standout, "The Fragile." Unlike the NIN album of the same name, "The Fragile" is about as simultaneously comforting and powerful as possible. Actually, there are parts of that NIN album I feel the same about, but not as intensely as I do this song, and I'm not even halfway to "N" yet, so anyway...

So More Than Motion just added to my confusion at the time. Did I love it, did I hate it? What was it? With a decade's hindsight, I can say this: It is unfortunate that Element 101 broke up shortly after More Than Motion was released. They never got the time to perfect the sound they were attempting to forge on this brave, but vastly flawed effort. So anyway...

2002 Tooth & Nail Records
1. Fade Away 4:09
2. Stop Breathing 3:04
3. The Fragile 4:16
4. Love Has No Sound 4:16
5. This Time Around 3:58
6. Something Like a Dream 3:22
7. Angel Blue Eyes 4:32
8. A Song 2:58
9. Under the Ocean 3:37
10. My Darkest Night 11:23

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Element 101 -- Stereo Girl


Element 101 amplify everything that was good about their debut on their sophomore album, Stereo Girl. What results is a delightful album not that far off from what would happen if a female fronted Further Seems Forever (hey, more on that in the next post!). Punk is an influence here, but not an attempted genre. This is rock music, plain and simple, full of energy and swagger, intelligently written, with some nice twists and turns along the way. Speaking of intelligence, it only takes a glance at the song titles to see that Crissie Verhagen has a brain in her noggin, and her introspective, personal lyrics are a great finishing touch on these eleven enjoyable tracks. Added bonus: there are actually twelve tracks, but it would have ruined my alliteration!

Random Comments about Element 101:
1. Element 101 are from New Jersey. That state could have done a lot better for itself if it had put marketing behind this fresh faced group of youngsters:
Instead of these "people"
That's life, I guess.
2. One of my radio co-hosts and I always said that if Element 101 were still around when we eventually married our respective wives, we would get them to play our weddings...too bad we're both slowpokes. Element 101 broke up nine years ago.
3. Speaking of DJ'ing, a pal of mine won Stereo Girl from the show I would eventually co-host. He didn't like it and passed it on to me. His loss.
4. I saw this band when they were touring this record. Before the show, I went over to the merch booth to buy a t-shirt and saw Element 101's bass player hanging out. We had a nice conversation for about fifteen minutes, while another buddy of mine stood next to me, silent. Afterward, my friend said, "Wow, I've never heard two people refer to each other as "man" in my entire life more than that single conversation just now." Being a quarter Sicilian in a land of few Italians, I guess talking with another Dago brought that side out of me, and I've noticed it has every time I converse with a New Jersyan, I.E., "Yeah, man, I don't know, man, I guess there are a lot of gardens in our state, man." Speaking of genetic makeup, the French comes out when I am looking thin and angular, and the Irish comes out when I am overweight and magically transform into "Fat Irish Mike." I am not saying that Irish people as a whole are overweight. Obviously, that is not true. I am just saying that if you have ever seen me with a few extra pounds on my face, you know exactly what I am talking about.
5. This has got to be my most offensive post in a while. Leave it to the cast of Jersey Shore to suck the class out of a place...

2001 Tooth & Nail Records
1. To Whom It May Concern 3:01
2. Dead Romance Language Club 2:46
3. A Faithful Fascination 4:10
4. Standing on the Edge of Night 3:56
5. Today and Always 2:45
6. Just to Like You 3:07
7. 20 Years in the Making 3:32
8. A Wish for You 3:04
9. Private Conversations 3:33
10. A Desperate Plea for the Retallation of the Mundane 3:42
11. Introspective 2:41
12. Skyline Silhouettes 4:38

Monday, November 12, 2012

Element 101 -- Future Plans Undecided


From one female-fronted rock band to another. Element 101 were one of those cool turn-of-the-century bands to name themselves after a noun and a number. This is pop-punk music, I guess, because Crissie Verhagen just sings about her life, as opposed to protesting the goat farmers of America, or complaining that women are supposed to shave their armpits, or something. Debuts can be a shaky thing, but Element 101 seem pretty sure of what they want to do, mixing sharp but not too distorted guitar lines and power chords over flowing, elastic basslines, and rapid fire drums. Crissie has a small voice, but she makes it heard. Overall, Future Plans Undecided sounds a little bit like a senior year Friday afternoon. Fun and breezy, but with the expectation that something bigger is about to blow around the bend.

Also of note: This band is from Jersey. If MTV made a reality show about them instead of carrot-toned morons, people would have a higher opinion of the state.
Also, also of note: This album was produced by MxPx frontman, Mike Herrera, who does a nice job approximating the feelings of the sounds at the time. Shortly after this, he'd also start producing his own band.

2000 Tooth & Nail Records
1. Between Now & Then 3:11
2. Leaving Me Before The Spring Semester 2:30
3. In My Heart On My Mind 2:31
4. Galaxy Apart, A 2:53
5. So Unpredictable 2:13
6. Keeping Secrets 2:38
7. Some Chances Are Worth Taking 2:43
8. Jersey Never Seemed So Long 2:20
9. Preconceived Notions 2:10
10. Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid 1:03
11. Only In Pictures 2:58
12. You Never Cease To Amaze Me 3:15

Friday, November 09, 2012

Eisley -- Deep Space E.P.


Eisley's Deep Space E.P. shows the band continue to grow and mature as they tinker with their sound between albums. "Lights Out" is a little more atmospheric and darker than Eisley usually shoot for, but it's quite good. "Laugh It Off" is even darker and moodier, sounding like a gentle rain in space. Speaking of space, "Deep Space" launches the band through the exosphere. I could have been trendy and writery, and said "stratosphere," but I'm a nerd. The Exosphere is the point where the Earth's atmosphere merges with outer space. There's the science lesson for the day. "Deep Space" aims for a kind of power and lift Eisley have never ventured near, but my does it work. Kudos to Sherri DuPree-Bemis for pushing her songwriting to another level as she crafts a sci-fi lovestory set to the most soaring, distorted chorus the band have recorded to date.

Also, kudos to Sherri's sister, Stacy King, for becoming an absolute force of nature in the middle of this track. While Stacy only lends one song to the five on this E.P., she plays keyboards and sings trade off and background vocals throughout. There is a moment 2:15 into "Deep Space" where Stacy sings the line "breathe, breathe, breathe love" and literally (Yes, I just used "literally." This is happening)sounds like she is the sun beckoning a mortal being to breathe--on the last album she took Regina Spektor's crown; at this moment, on this particular song, it's like she has consumed Stevie Nick's soul. The power her voice displays now is incredible, and a recent side-project proves that this is no fluke. It's astonishing considering a decade ago she was just a meek girl hiding behind a microphone. Kudos should also go to the band's unsung hero-sister, Chauntelle DuPree D'Augustino, who unleashes a brief but excellent guitar solo after the bridge. With this song, and throughout the E.P., the band's brother-cousin rhythm section also shows continued growth and skill.
Unfortunately, the next track is a schmaltzy, old-timey acoustic ballad I could have really done without. "192 Days" first two lines rhyme "baby" with "crazy," and that's all I'm going to say about it. It precedes "One Last Song," which follows in the more melancholy, atmospheric vein of the first two tracks and leaves the listener maybe a little confused about what just happened, but looking forward more than ever to whatever Eisley do next.

2012 Equal Vision Records
1. Lights Out 3:31
2. Laugh It Off 4:39
3. Deep Space 3:40
4. 192 Days 3:44
5. One Last Song 3:52

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Eisley -- The Valley


Eisley make the record of their career with The Valley, and I hope they never have to do it again. Nothing makes for material like misery, and it's a credit to Eisley's talent that The Valley isn't a miserable record. Eisley's years of label distress would wear out any band, but the experience of a member's divorce and another's broken engagement drive The Valley's songwriting. There are plenty of teary-eyed moments to be had, but the record is never mopey, and there are pissed off rockers to keep the balance. "Smarter" is the most aggressive and real song Eisley have recorded, and it might also be the best.

Or maybe that honor should go to "I Wish," wistful and too beautiful for words. Whichever way you slice it, The Valley's songs are not only the best on the whole that Eisley have written--they also come together to form their best album to date. (Sisters) Sherri and Stacy's voices are more distinctive than ever, but blend even better. I will also go so far to say, as Stacy plays more piano than usual on this album, it sounds like she has stolen Regina Spektor's mojo. Even the drumming is a step up from the band's previous work. The sky's the limit from here for Eisley, and despite the woes that went into making it, that's the lovely feeling one gets after listening to The Valley.

2011 Equal Vision Records
1. The Valley 3:16
2. Smarter 3:17
3. Watch It Die 3:10
4. Sad 3:19
5. Oxygen Mask 3:22
6. Better Love 3:19
7. I Wish 3:54
8. Kind 3:04
9. Mr. Moon 3:54
10. Please 3:30
11. Ambulance 4:00

Psalm 75:6-7

6 No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. 7 It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Eisley - Combinations


From the first few seconds of Combinations' opener, "Many Funerals," it is clear Eisley have grown up. Every following track confirms their songwriting has ascended to a new level. True to the album title, these ten songs display everything Eisley can do. Straight up rockers combine with wistful, more stripped down tracks, and whimsical, full-blown beauties. Combinations contains a laid-back energy and elegance lending a classic feeling to every song. On top of that, the DuPree sisters' vocals sound stronger than ever, the band tighter, and the production the best it's ever been. Combinations' only real flaw is also in the title. These songs don't really flow together too well. The parts are greater than the sum. The tracks could be re-arranged a dozen ways to the same effect. Perhaps the band realized this and labelled the album accordingly. Regardless, Eisley's growth and talent is easily apparent.

2007 Warner Bros.
1. Many Funerals 2:51
2. Invasion 3:36
3. Taking Control 3:03
4. Go Away 3:04
5. I Could Be There for You 3:35
6. Come Clean 3:33
7. Ten Cent Blues 3:59
8. A Sight to Behold 3:15
9. Combinations 3:34
10. If You're Wondering 3:55


I don't know about you, but I need this music right now more than ever. No good thing ever dies.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Eisley -- Room Noises


Mostly lovely, mostly harmless full-length debut for this Texas rock band. The songs are on the whole, whimsical, and not entirely memorable, except for the beautiful harmonies that the fronting Dupree sisters weave together. There's nothing wrong with this album a little maturity won't fix, though, and there's a charm to this kind of music that doesn't really need fixing anyway.

2005 Reprise
1. Memories 3:27
2. Telescope Eyes 3:03
3. I Wasn't Prepared 3:29
4. Golly Sandra 4:13
5. Marvelous Things 3:31
6. Brightly Wound 3:38
7. Lost at Sea 3:38
8. My Lovely 3:26
9. Just Like We Do 3:09
10. Plenty of Paper 3:21
11. One Day I Slowly Floated Away 3:35
12. Trolley Wood 3:22

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Eisley -- Laughing City


My KLSU co-host was 17, and I was 22. I wasn't about to ask her out until she was legal. I don't know why she had to skip a grade and come to college early. I guess she is just impatient. Unfortunately, she didn't realize she wasn't supposed to go get another boyfriend while I was waiting, so when the day of legality came, I was stuck in a dark, late-night DJ booth with a really hot, really taken 18-year old. One day, I made an on-air comment that the ladies in the band Eisley were attractive. One was older than me, one about the same age, and one the same age as my co-host. On-air, my co-host jokingly called me a "pedophile." This sent me into an off-air rage. If I was really a pedophile, I would have tried to pick up my underage co-host, not wait until she was the state-mandated age to date me! How dare she call me that when she was making me miserable by being not single in my presence! That was the first fight of many, and nine years and one kid later, we can still argue about just about anything. One thing we can always agree on, though: Eisley is a really great band.
Just not on this debut E.P., Laughing City, where they simply sound like a slightly mopey, girl-fronted rock band with a few decent songs. Like my co-host's and my relationship at that time (she didn't talk to me off-air for about a month after that scrap), Eisley was still pretty young and immature in 2003, but you can already sense the burgeoning maturity and greatness to come in the complexity and loveliness of some of their melodies. Even when they were being big stupidheads.

2003 Record Collection Music
1. I Wasn't Prepared 3:33
2. Telescope Eyes 3:36
3. Tree Tops 4:20
4. Over the Mountains 3:53
5. Laughing City 3:32