Thursday, December 3, 2009

Introduction Post, Latest Albums, and a look back at the Metric Concert!

Hello everyone! This is the first edition of what will hopefully be an ongoing project of mine. I'm going to attempt to update this at least once a week! My goal here is mainly to get the word out about a variety of all kinds of music and to offer a new perspective on things. Hopefully I can expose some people to some interesting bands and artists! It is also to incite discussion about genres, albums, occasional concerts, and anything else you can think of encompassing music. So, without further ado, I’ll go ahead and get started with a few reviews…

Today’s Featured Band:
Gospel Gossip

Gospel Gossip – Milkshake EP(2006)
Genre: Shoegaze, Alternative
Grade: B+

Up-tempo three-piece shoegaze act’s first four-track release highlighted with some very laid back, but incredibly catchy guitar and drum work, as noted in the opening track “Shadows Are Bent”(Milkshake Version). You can really hear the passion shine through in the second song entitled “Out West”, the vocalists Ollie Moltaji and Sarah Nienaber and the instrumentals hitting some well timed and well built crescendos in the last minute or so. This release sounds almost like some sort of dream-pop scenarios at times, especially in the beginning of “Stopped I Didn’t Move” but it slowly transgresses and ends with some glitch-esque noise, like something you’d hear off of a 65daysofstatic record. The production value for such a low-budget project from a basement in Carleton College’s Concert Hall is kind of astonishing. You really get the feeling these three bring a lot of energy to the table in the closing song “Maybe Next Fall”, which has everything from a keyboard section, tambourines, smooth baselines, to a full on forty five or so second long breakdown to wrap things up.

Gospel Gossip – Sing Into My Mouth(2007)
Genre: Shoegaze, Alternative
Grade: B

Soon after the 2006 EP Release, Minneapolis label Guilt Ridden Pop signed these guys on a contract, which lead to their December 07 release. The record starts off leading you in with the tradition wall of sound you’d expect out of the shoegaze genre, before some computerized vocals utter the words “Home is Where The Hibah Is”, followed by a loud, amped up, entrancing harmony between all three musicians. You immediately notice the “studio vibe”, however the rawness of the band is still present. What follows is probably the most accessible song on the record, “revolutions in physics”. This feels like something you’d hear from a less-depressing sounding M83 “Saturday = Youth” track. The lyrics on this album paint you a very nostalgic feeling picture, describing a lot of random childlike scenarios in nature and urban playgrounds. The vocals remind me a bit of Alec Ounsworth of folk band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah fame. A few of the interlude tracks feel a little forced and kind of random segway pieces, but overall they don’t detract from the overall album very much. The high point of this album arrives in the form of a song that goes a little over the eight minute mark, entitled “Lucky Lemmings”. Some incredible build-up, reminiscent of quite a few successful shoegaze acts of the past, but with their own definitive spin on it that makes them stand out. These guys are something I’ll likely be tuning into more often!

Blakroc – Blakroc(2009)
Genre: Rap Rock, Blues, Alternative
Grade: A
Take several of the biggest names in Hip-Hop and R&B including Raekwon, Ludacris, Mos Def, Q-Tip and more. Now, combine them with the bluesy rock duo The Black Keys and you’ve got one hell of a collaboration project, which is exactly what Blakroc is. There is something incredibly fresh about this sound, every single track telling a certain story from those particular points of views and styles. In a cross genre that usually comes with plenty of criticisms, the efforts by everyone involved here make for something not only unique and creative, but great to blast on a pair of speakers as well.

Felix Da Housecat - He Was King(2009)
Genre: House, Electronic, Electroclash
Grade: B+
This has been getting heavy rotation on Album 88.5 recently, and for pretty good reason. The Chicago DJ has really outdone himself here, with a great collection of songs full of the usual suspects in electronic music. And by usual suspects I mean satirical lyrics and epic amounts of bass! Not exactly the most complex music in the world, but hot damn is it catchy and probably full of club hits, which is rare because it’s sometimes hard to find good dance/house music these days that isn’t painfully generic. He Was King is here to prove otherwise! Easily one of the strongest electronic releases all year even, I’d say.

Fugazi – Repeater + 3 Songs(1990)
Genre: Post-Hardcore, Punk
Grade: A
If you wanna hear Punk done right, listen to this album. It had been a few years since I picked this up, recalling checking it out during high school at some point, so I stumbled upon it and decided to give it another play through just to see if it was still as good as I remember. I think I enjoyed it even more so this time! This album is pretty much the definition of unrelenting, attacking a wide amount of issues such as capitalism. The guitar work between MacKaye and Piccioto here is full of innovative rhythm throughout the CD. Definitely recommend checking this one out sometime.

Russian Circles – Station(2008)
Genre: Post-Rock, Instrumental Rock
Grade: C
Generally I enjoy most bands that come from this genre, I really do. And half of this album is incredible, very powerful stuff. Mogwai, eaststrikewest, God is an Astronaut, This Will Destroy You, plenty others. I actually really like a couple other Russian Circles albums(particularly their latest one, Geneva). However when you start to feel drained from the music, and begins wondering just where a song is going, it definitely detracts away from its value. There are times where this music screams via drum build-up sequences and cold slick solos, however in the end a lot of it just doesn’t really connect.

The Dutchess & The Duke – Sunset/Sunrise(2009)
Genre: Folk
Grade: B
If your looking for thoughtful lyrics about struggling to find one’s self, along with such instruments as organs, violins, pianos, and minimalist guitar strums(“Scorpio”) to compliments the vocals of Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison, you’ve come to the right band. “Let It Die” is a perfect example of the sort of reluctant acceptance of the life they have chose for themselves, often singing “I don’t wanna be here no more.” The title track and "New Shadow" contain simply haunting endings. The Dutchess and The Duke weave together some impressive material here.

Featured Concert!

Band: Metric(w/ Band of Skulls)
Date: November 28th 2009
Venue: Center Stage, Atlanta GA
Setlist: 1. Twilight Galaxy
2. Help I’m Alive
3. Poster of a Girl
4. Satellite Mind
5. Handshakes
6. Gold Gun Girls
7. Empty
8. Gimme Sympathy
9. Sick Muse
10. Dead Disco
11. Stadium Love
12. Monster Hospital
13. Combat Baby(Acoustic)

This show was one of the more spontaneous concert decisions I’ve made recently. I learned these guys were coming to Atlanta a good month or so before the show, but completely forgot about it until I was browsing local shows literally like a few hours before it started! I’m very glad I stumbled back upon this, as it was pretty fun, energetic gig. When I got inside the venue, I took notice of the crowd. Probably about 75% of them were chicks in plaid flannel, indie-esque attire, a funny shift when compared to the audience from the last show (Skinny Puppy) I went to. The opening band, Band of Skulls, was pretty damn cool. Not exactly what I expected to open for a more electronic act in Metric, these guys were all about a more gritty side of tunes, often going off on 4 or 5 minute guitar solos in at least two or three songs, and pulling it off to come off badass and intimidate sounding instead of just plain old wankery. Needless to say, I approved of these guys and will have to give their debut record a listen in the future.

(Band of Skulls)

About half an hour after the Band of Skulls set finished, Emily Haines and the rest of the group from Toronto hit the stage, to a pretty major reaction from the audience! The place was pretty electric all night. “Did they tell you, you should grow up, when you wanted to dream? Better warn you, you should shape up, if you want to succeed? I don’t know about you, who are they talking to? They’re not talking to me” Haines states pleasantly as their first number, a pretty softer tune “Twilight Galaxy” begins to play. There was a nice live spin on this song however, the ending of it being a breakdown of synthesizers, cymbals, and some satisfying baselines. They followed this up with the main single off Fantasies, “Help I’m Alive” as well as a slew of other songs off their newest record, all of which sounded fantastic live. Metric always reminded me of a sort of mellower, electric-toned version of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs for some reason, and seeing them live kind of reinforced this opinion for me. Especially the Haines/Karen O comparison. Everyone in the band had a great deal of energy though, and Haines definitely knew how to work her crowd.

The songs that got the biggest reactions from the crowd would probably have to be “Gold Guns Girls”, which I believe was actually featured in the Zombieland OST. The crowd really got behind the two encore songs “Monster Hospital”(a personal favorite of mine, love the original and the MSTRKRFT remix.) and most of all, an acoustic version of one of an older Metric hit “Combat Baby”, which resulted in a pretty big sing along out of the audience. The show had a couple of surprises though, one where a song was interludes by Haines going off and starting up the verse “You gotta fight! For your right! To party!” ala Beastie Boys, which was kind of random, but they made it badass. The other little shock was a really cool performance of Neil Young’s “Hey-Hey, My My” right before they transitioned into one of the stronger tracks from Fantasties, “Gimme Sympathy”. After they closed, I rushed over to the merch table and picked up a cool autographed tour poster for 15 bucks, not too shabby. Overall, I’d say I give this show a B! Quite a lot of fun indeed, but somewhat of a short set compared to some of the concerts I’ve seen throughout the year. That’s about the only complaint I really have. And with that, I’m gonna leave all of you guys with a video from the show!