Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Top 50 Albums of the Year: #50-26

Now that we've got the honorable mentions out of the way, it's time we get right to the meat of this list! I'm gonna start off with the first stretch of albums, and then I will finally reveal the rest New Year's Eve! So without further adieu, here are my choices:

Zola Jesus - Stridulum EP
Genre: Experimental, Electronic, Female Vocalist

CEO - White Magic
Genre: Synth Pop, Electro

Weapon - From The Devils Tomb
Genre: Black Metal

Warpaint - The Fool
Genre: Psychedelic, Shoegaze
Sample Songs: "Shadows", "Undertow", "Baby"

Genre: Noise-rock, dance-punk

The Black Keys - Brothers
Genre: Blues-rock

65daysofstatic - We Were Exploding Anyway
Genre: Electronic, post-rock

BT - These Hopeful Machines
Genre: Electronica, Glitch

Alcest - Écailles de Lune
Genre: Shoegaze, Metal

The Sword - Warp Riders
Genre: Heavy Metal, Doom Metal

!!! - Strange Weather, Isn't It?
Genre: Dance-punk, indie rock

Das Racist - Shut Up, Dude/Sit Down, Man
Genre: Underground hip-hop

She & Him - Volume Two
Genre: Indie Pop, Folk

Massive Attack - Heligoland
Genre: Trip-hop, Down-tempo

Working For A Nuclear Free City - Jojo Burger Tempest
Genre: Indie, Electronic

And So I Watch You From Afar - Letters
Genre: Post-rock, Instrumental Rock

Crocodiles - Sleep Forever
Genre: Noise-pop, Dream-pop

Daft Punk - Tron: Legacy OST
Genre: Electronic, Orchestral, Movie Soundtrack

Deftones - Diamond Eyes
Genre: Alternative Rock

The Chemical Brothers - Further
Genre: Electronica

Sufjan Stevens - The Age Of Adz
Genre: Indie Folk, Art-Rock, Electronic
*Note: Impossible Soul is split into two parts on YouTube

Baths - Cerulean
Genre: Electronic, Glitch-hop, lo-fi, Ambient

Wild Nothing - Gemini
Genre: Dream-pop

Tame Impala - Innerspeaker
Genre: Psychedelic Rock

Janelle Monae - TheArchAndroid(Suites II and III)
Genre: R&B, Soul, Funk, Pop

Hope you guys enjoy my selections thus far! There's only 25 albums left to go. Think you'll be able to predict any of em? Wanna discuss which ones you think are crap and which are awesome? Feel free to leave some comments!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Top 50 Albums of the Year: Honorable Mentions

2010 has been an incredible versatile year for music, and a great way to kick off the second decade of the 21st century. I decided to go big this year and move from doing a top 10 list...all the way to my top 50 favorite albums. But first before we get to that, let's take a look at some of the honorable mentions of the year:

A Sunny Day In Glasgow
Genre: Dream-pop
Sample Songs: "Drink Drank Drunk", "Sigh, inhibitionist (Come all day with me)"

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network OST
Genre: Ambient, Industrial, Movie Soundtrack

Burzum - Belus
Genre: Black Metal
Sample Songs: "Kaimadalthas' nedstigning", "Morgenrøde"

Husky Rescue - Ship of Light
Genre: Ambient, Trip-Hop

The Roots - How I Got Over
Genre: Hip-hop, neo-soul

Matthew Dear - Black City
Genre: Electronic, down-tempo

The Seven Fields of Aphelion - Periphery
Genre: Experimental, Psychedelic, Keyboard

Jonsi - Go
Genre: Baroque pop, Sigur Ros
Sample Songs: "Go Do", "Kolniður"

Anamanaguchi - Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game OST
Genre: 8-bit, Video Game Music

The Ruby Suns - Fight Softly
Genre: Synth-pop
Sample Songs: "Cranberry", "Dusty Fruit"

That about wraps it up for the honorable mentions! Stay tuned till next time! Next couple of days I'll reveal the top 50 albums of the year! I'll probably separate it into a couple posts to drag it out, but they shall be up before the year is over :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

6-24-10 Reviews: Hidden Treasures!

World's End Girlfriend - Dream's End Come True(2002)
Genre: Experimental, Ambient

Another hidden treasure from about eight years ago. World's End Girlfriend is a project brought to us by Katsuhiko Maeda, who brings us some of the most beautiful, inspirational EPs that quite honestly
hasn't received the attention that it deserves. If the stunning opening track "Singing Under The Rainbow" doesn't draw out some sort of positive emotion from you, I would be absolutely shocked. The following song "Caroling Hellwalker" departs
from the violin-laid foundation, and starts to rely more on the different variety of atmospheric beats, before drawing you back in with an incredible session of ambient build-and-release. It is in the middle of the song where the chaos of this music decides to take center stage, and it can definitely be viewed as awe-inspiring. If you can be patient with your music and feel like embracing something gorgeously produced, this is another piece of work to look into.

Satanticpornocultshop - Arkhaiomelisidonophunikheratos(2010)

Genre: Electronic, Avant-Garde, IDM

In a time period where electronic music seems to be on the rise now more than ever, this is one of the most unique albums I have heard all year.
If you can get past the rather strange album name, you'll discover an array of cross-genre songs that really captivates the listener. This record expands on all kinds of horizons. One moment you'll be feeling like your listening to something you'd find off a Venetian Snares IDM soundscape, before immediately escaping into a much more surrealistic, dream-pop frame of mind.
There are several tracks that shine throughout this underground duo' newest full length release, several of which(such as "Paradise, "Nido", and "Comment Te Dire Adieu?") feature entrancing vocals.
The production here results in a fascinating blend of sounds that I Would strongly recommend just about anyone to check out.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

River City Extension Review

River City Extension - The Unmistakable Man (2010)
Genre: Folk, Punk, Indie-Rock
Grade: A
Release Date: May 11th
Standout Tracks: "Friends & Family", "Our New Intelligence", "South For The Winter", “Today, I Feel Like Evolving”

The release of The Unmistakable Man is not just another album that will be floating around in obscurity. This will put this New Jersey eight-piece band on the map, likely skyrocketing them to new heights they've never dreamed of before. For as much heart and soul they convey on this record, they deserve every last bit of it.

We begin with an ambient intro titled after the album's namesake, with string instruments resting on sound clips from old-timey speeches, similar to the atmospheric touch that Titus Andronicus was going for in The Monitor. However, what follows, is one of the strongest opening tracks I've heard all year, truly grabbing your attention with the storytelling lyrics.

"Friends & Family" seems to be almost a soliloquy of thoughts that not only the musicians in RCE might have, but could also be interpreted from a perspective that many people could relate to, for non-fans and long-time followers of Folk music alike. The presentation is incredible, hooking you immediately along, as if someone was extending their arm out and grabbing you aboard a train ride of an experience.
The instruments plateau to a climax towards the end of the song, as Joseph Michellini bellows out in pure emotion "Please forgive me, I wanna go home!" it is one wild, adrenaline-rush of a song.

This musical journey doesn't let up with the next track either, "Something Salty, Something Sweet" channeling the first of many orchestral harmonies and melodies to greet us along the way. It almost reminds me of a more high-tempo, cheerful Arcade Fire in certain sections. The chorus slipping out into the distance, allowing the guitars, horns, and percussion to take center stage, all the while the vocals slowly seeping back in again.

You can't help but feel the urge to sing or whistle along to the tune! "South For The Winter" gives us a look at the softer, more intimate side of the group. "Sun's gone down on every hope and dream, and I've yet to figure out just what's been eating at me / I've been seeing things fine, but it'd be fine if I could see this clear" the voice states in a hopeful, yet also melancholic demeanor. No longer than about a minute and half in the song, the tone is completely raised, capturing the audience with their presence once more. "Sometimes all I want is a job, and a god, and a wife. Lately, I've been thinking some stability would probably be nice! Another moment and I don't know what to say / I'm not in love, and I'm not inspired by today." the singer pontificates. We follow this passionate speech with powerful guitar chords, as if it was ripping into the hearts and minds of thousands of like-minded youth out there.

Clapping sound effects opens up the following track, "Our New Intelligence", which is the first of a few songs to feature a female vocalist on the album. Together, the two harmonize pleasantly. Suddenly, an almost barbershop quartet-esque chorus line is heard in the background, piercing through and captivating your interest once more. This song is the most well-executed on the entire album in the directional sense, as it's ambition allows it to really go all over the place, and boy does it deliver! The album takes a more dramatic turn after this with the woeful anthem "If I Still Own A Bible". The theatrics, the sorrow, and the bitterness that emits from this song is almost overwhelming. You can really tell that these songs must have come from the heart. "Don't put your trust in anyone or anything", states the song, followed by some very eerie feedback.

What could be the presumed single for The Unmistakable Man , "Adrianne" strikes next, which is essentially a hard-hitting tale about a woman named Adrianne who apparently knows nothing about the true nature of herself or the narrator of this song. Regardless, this is definitely a more than appropriate choice for a single. It's in your face, accessible, and for lack of a better word is really badass! An Hispanic twang obviously opens the following track "Mexico", and you can really tell everyone is just having a lot of fun in the studio at this point, a slew of feel-good moments that you could easily find yourself dancing to or bobbing your head along to in this one. The saxophonist instrumentals here are just killer, great guitarmanship as well.

Not letting up, what could easily be heard in just about any Irish pub in the Northeast, "Too Tired To Drink" is something you'd expect they got some influence from straight out of the Flogging Molly catalog. Makes sense that they'll be opening for them in a few weeks. You practically feel like your at the bar throwing down some cold ones and jamming right alongside them!

"Holy Cross" introduces us with a few stationary piano notes, before the vocals and remaining instruments follow suite. The piano guides us, as you can tell the album is slowly drawing us to the curtains closing, the final points being set in motion. "Holy Cross" seems almost haunting at times, denying the point of religion with statements like "Remember when we used to give a ****, well I don't think the lord understands." The overall message sent here seems to often be detachment from the rest of the world.

"Today, I Feel Like Evolving" is a mostly acoustic piece, continuing to reflect upon things like purpose, dreams, and why we do the things we do. "And since then I've been more careful, bout the things I do or say / I will keep my lover close to me, until I see the day / That I must answer for my words and gain perspective on my placement in the world." One of the definitive lyrics of The Unmistakable Man . The emotion soars to the highest point here, the feeling of being united by the fear of the unknown seemingly the message they are trying to get across. “Letter To Lainie” is another song with a piano introduction, the first thing that comes to mind is if Spoon did a country single, this is what it would sound like! Could definitely have some second single potential with this track.

Finally, the sound effects of what appears to be a train leaving for it’s next destination, leads to the closing song entitled “Waiting In The Airport”. It is genuine, heartfelt, and comes off as very sincere. This is the perfect ending to one of the most solid efforts I’ve heard this year thus far. Everything seems to come together in The Unmistakable Man . Pacing? Check. Authenticity? Check. Even the production value seems stellar. If this album is any indicator, expect great things to come from River City Extension for a long, long time to come.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Music Review 3-2-10: Plastic Beach Edition!

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (March 2010)
Genre: Pop, Electronic, Trip-Hop, Alternative
Grade: A
Standout Tracks: "Empire Ants", "Welcome To The World of the Plastic Beach", "Glitter Freeze", "On Melancholy Hill", "Cloud of Unknowing"

One of the most anticipated releases in recent memory finally completely hit the airwaves a few nights ago via a stream on NPR Radio. It is the newest record entitled Plastic Beach from the infamous virtual supergroup Gorillaz,
and it is one HELL of a trip. Various websites, forums, and message boards all across the internet have been clammering, searching for leaks of the album ever since the tracklist hit the press. All of a sudden, people were wondering just what Damon Albarn, alongside the unique stylistic artwork of Jamie Hewlett, and the star-studded cast of collaboration artists had in store for us this go around.
And it does not disappoint one bit. Things get kicked off into gear in traditional Gorillaz style, taking a strategy out of the Demon Days playbook and opening with a beautiful orchestral track, that segways into the perfect introduction to this far off distant land that has been painted for us in "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach", which features the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble laying down some sick
horn instrumentals as only they can do, as west coast hip hop superstar Snoop Dogg kicks things into gear for us, throwing down a few trade mark laidback verses, keeping your head bobbing right along. We follow this up with "White Flag", which is another great pairing of hip-hop musician in Kano, Bashy, over the backdrop of tranquil strings from The Lebanese National Orchestra. This immeditally gives you the kind of tropical atmosphere you'd expect from an album named Plastic Beach.

Damon suddenly takes a darker, more club-music sort of turn with "Rhinestone Eyes", singing in his classic high-pitched tone striking lyrics such as "When the paralytic dreams that we all seem to keep, drive on engines till they weep, with future pixels in factories far away." Keeping the momentum going, we head to two of the songs that were released prior to the full album dropping in "Stylo" and "Superfast Jellyfish". Damon and Mos Def provide some great vocals ontop of a very heavy synthetic bassline, which ultimately leads to the legendary Bobby Womack belting a few powerful, soulful lines that just captivates your ears and leaves you wanting more. De La Soul decides to give us some comic relief in "Superfast Jellyfish", throwing down some of the wildest, goofiest lyrics you could ever imagine. But somehow, it completely works and doesn't make your interest wane, but rather keeps you guessing as to just what your in store for next.

It's that kind of unpredictability that makes albums like Plastic Beach such as a mesmerizing journey. Whereas Demon Days at times had a very cold underlining demeanor behind it, Plastic Beach seems to have more of a charming, exotic kind of mood. This doesn't let up, as you could practically imagine yourself walking along the sand, exploring some foreign, remote location in the first few minutes of "Empire Ants". This turns into a discovery of something astonishing, as the electronic beatdown strikes up with Little Dragon throw out a few R&B-esque vocal lines down in one of the shining points of the album. The surrealistic dance party doesn't stop there, as "Glitter Freeze" hits you full force, as Albarn delivers something out of the Ladytron playbook, blasting you in the face with powerful layers of sound, with Mark E Smith cackling in the background.

Finally, the track and collaboration I was most excited about, the raspy voice of Lou Reed in "Some Kind Of Nature" hits. The duo of Reed and Albarn offer exactly what you'd expect out of the frontmen from such huge acts as The Velvet Underground and Blur, and that is a fantastic quality hook-and-sinker anthem about the nature and soul of the plastic world around us. We transition to the most up-tempo, peaceful, and calming song of the entire album "On Melancholy Hill", which is just something that could easily brighten your day a little after even the most mundane of days. "Broken" keeps the carefree momentum going, the mellow setting becoming more established. The next track is entitled "Sweepstakes" and is essentially Mos Def
having the spotlight shined upon him in the one track that intially doesn't really fit in with the rest of the release, but at the same brings a very colorful ride with Def's creativity with the trumpets of the Brass Ensemble making it all groovy in the background. "Plastic Beach" the song is it's own psychedelic trip in it's own right, putting Damon Albarn back alongside Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash fame, which is almost a tribute to the their side project The Good, The Bad, & The Queen.

We finish things off with the trio of songs in the serenading ballad of "To Binge", the eerie crooning of Womack in "Cloud of Unknowing", and the gripping 70s-esque electronic breakdown "Pirate Jet", which almost feels like the perfect outro and synopsis of the ride your about to leave, as Albarn ends with a very reassuring verse.
"It's all good news now / because we left the taps, running / for a hundred years / so drink into the drink / a plastic cup of drink / drink with a couple of people, the plastic creating people. Still connected to the moment it began."
In the end, Plastic Beach is a record I will personally be listening to for a very long time, as I did with Demon Days in high school, and the self-titled in late middle school. The music of Gorillaz has progressed and evolved quite a lot over the years, and it is a real treat to always see what they're cooking up. Plastic Beach is one hell of a serving alright!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Today's Featured Album:

Burial - Untrue(2007)
Genre: Dubstep, Ambient
Grade: A

First off, I'd just like to state that it is very bizarre that I am just now stumbling upon this album, which I've heard virtually nothing about until today!
Right off the bat, it starts out with some of the most unique, catchy, poppy-yet-enthralling soundscapes you'd ever think of. The London electronic and house music producer known as Burial really
gets things moving with "Archangel", which has one of the strongest useage of sampling, one example being a section from the opening video from Metal Gear Solid 2 and importing it in a well-placed backdrop behind
catchy vocals from contemporary R&B artist Ray J. This is very reminiscient of Emotional Technology era Brian Transeau work in tracks such as the surrealistic "Near Dark", the tranquil "Ghost Hardware", and the haunting "Endorphin". Will Bevan goes even as far as sampling chilling vocals from the deceased Aaliyah over a very low-cold down-tempo beat with "In McDonalds". The music may be somewhat
simplistic, but at the same time it is incredibly crafted and is something that will have you bobbing your head right before drifting off into a strange dream world. At times, it can leave you feeling very relaxed, all the while putting you into a very dancey kind of mood. Burial definitely broadened horizons not only for himself but the dubstep and electronic genres as a whole with this release. Untrue really is just the perfect kind of album to really immerse yourself into!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Music Reviews 1-30-10 Edition + Concert Calender!

The beginning of the year is always a weird period for music for me. It allows me to get around to some stuff I kept hearing great things about though, I will give it that. Now there's also been quite a few new albums released this month, quite a few leaked ahead of time. Some great, others simply decent, and others rather boring. Massive Attack and Titus Andronicus happened to have two of the more impressive efforts I've heard this month!

Lighting Bolt - Wonderful Rainbow(2003)
Genre: Noise Rock, Experimental Rock
Grade: C+

Chaos. Vicious. Out-of-control. Just a few adjectives you could use to describe the sound of this drum
and bass guitar two piece group from Providence, Rhode Island. This record is a perfect and definitive example of just
what kind of music terms "Noise Rock" or "Experimental Rock" really are, because that's exactly what it is. A frantic recorded jam session between Brian Gibson and Brian Chippendale. These two really leave it all on the floor whenever they play, and Wonderful Rainbow shows you exactly just what kind of things they are capable of.
However, you can see that it is a bit more refined than their older material. A good solid release, but only for those with the most open of ears.

Featured Album

Massive Attack - Heligoland(2010)
Genre: Trip-Hop
Grade: A

After about a seven year abscence from seeing a studio album released by the UK trip-hop duo, we've finally got some new earcandy in the form of Heligoland.
Well in the recording process for the last four, this CD does not disappoint in the slightest. It takes everything we've grown to love from Massive Effect ever since the more jazzy days of Blue Lines, to the dark downtempo soundscapes created in Mezzannine, and proceeds to crank things up yet another notch.
The album starts off with a track featuring TV on the Radio vocalist Tunde Adebimpe, which is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the contribution list for Heligoland. It features everything from sensual trip hop british vocalist Martina Topley-Bird heard on "Psyche" and "Babel", to the recently departed LCD Soundsystem drummer Jerry Fuchs, all the way to a few synth basslines from
Damon Albarn in otherworldily songs such as "Flat of the Blade" and "Splitting the Atom". Heligoland gives you that great vibe we've come to expect from Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall, and the rest of the gang over the years and that much more. Right now, it outshines every other album I've heard released this month. Definitely goes on the "you gotta check this out!" list.

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor(2010)
Genre: Punk, Shoegaze, Lo-fi
Grade: A

What do you get when indie Jersey rockers Titus Andronicus make an album with the Civil War as it's subject matter? A lot of static, old dialogue pieces you'd imagine to hear from our forefathers from the 1860s layered over some of the rawest,
most heart-felt songs wwith anthemic choruses on every other tune. This is the kind of CD you can put on and just instantly find yourself jamming and singing along to. From the hook-you-in riffs from "A More Perfect Union" transitioned to "The enemy is everywhere!" pop-esque chorus in an oldschool 80s Punk song structure in "Titus Andronicus Forever", the album immeditally captures your attention and almost never let's go of it.
The only complaint I can offer is that these guys attempt to go in quite a few different directions on this record, and while often it turns out beautifully, there are a few times(a few random moments of acoustic/ambience scattered about) it kind of leaves you feeling like there just trying a little too hard. However you can really tell their is deep rooted passion in all of these musicians, from the killer grungey vocals, to the heavy hitting rhythmic
drums and guitars, all the way to the softer melodies. In the end, Titus Andronicus knows exactly how to leave an impression with the listener!

Siouxsie & The Banshees - Twice Upon a Time: The Singles(1992)
Genre: New Wave, Alternative Rock
Grade: B+

Let me just start of by saying it's usually kind of silly just to judge a band by The Singles material(See: Nine Inch Nails), but sometimes I've found it's a very effective way to get yourself introduced to a band. Siouxsie & The Banshees is a perfect example of this.
This compilaition has some of their strongest material in the whole discography. Ranging from everything from Beatles and Dylan cover songs, to gothic sensations like "Cities in Dust" and "The Killing Jar", to violin and synthesizer centralized tunes like "Slowdive",
Twice Upon A Time gives you all the reason to be interested in this British rock band and then some. Siouxsie and the gang do not hold back one bit,
and their hits are just as strong, if not stronger, than a lot of their catalog. If you have had any interest for this band in the past or are looking for something different to try out, give this CD a shot sometime for sure!

The Good, The Bad, & The Queen - Self/Titled(2007)
Genre: Alternative Rock, Brit Rock
Grade: B+

While listening to the new Gorillaz single from their upcoming album Plastic Beach, Sylo, I happened to stumble upon a project featuring Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz fame alongside bassist Paul Simonon(The Clash),
Simon Tong(The Verve), and Nigerian drummer and composer Tonny Allen. Together they formed a group during 05-07 named The Good, The Bad, & The Queen and produced one hell of a CD. All of these talents mesh well incredibly, the keyboards of Tong complementing the vocals in "80's Life".
Did I mention this was all produced by the same hip-hop artist that produced Demon Days and has released some great things in his own right, Danger Mouse? That explains the catchy up tempo beats in numbers like "Northern Whale" and "Herculean" that will have you bumping and humming along to.
It really has that "Damon Albarn" kind of atmosphere about it when it really boils down to it though. Does it sound differently from some of his older projects? Sure, but not drastically. which is a good thing, because why ruin a good thing honestly? Every one of these musicians fit their roles very well and together they offer a very enjoyable listening experiance. Don't be afraid to pop this one in the car sometime!

And now, I'll leave you with a few concert events in the Atlanta area that I am looking forward to in the next couple months!

February 27th: Muse w/Silversun Pickups @ The Gwinnett Arena
March 5th: They Might Be Giants @ The Variety Playhouse
March 13th: Infected Mushroom @ The Masquerade
April 3rd: A Place To Bury Strangers @ The Masquerade
April 15th: Jedi Mind Tricks @ The Masquerade
April 27th: Porcupine Tree @ The Tabernacle

Let's not forget what else is in April...a little music festival called COACHELLA! Such a killer lineup!

Wish I could find someway to hit that up. Well, that's all for now folks. Peace!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Music Reviews 1-11-10 Edition

Today's Featured Album:

And So I Watch You From Afar - Self Titled(2009)
Genre: Post-Rock, Instrumental
Grade: B+

Of all the albums to miss out on during 2009, this is one I'm kind of disappointed I hadn't heard in full earlier, simply because it's just that great.
I had heard the opening track "Set Guitars To Kill" stumbling upon it in my recommended radio player sometime last October or November I believe, but
for whatever reason, I didn't get around to listening to the full album till a few days ago. ASIWYFA is a group hailing from Belfast, Ireland that have come out swinging, leaving
a powerful impact with their first release. This is one of those records that keeps your attention the entire time. From the tremendous drumming and percussion work in songs with such titles as "Clench Fists, Grit Teeth....Go!"
you can tell that these guys are ready to melt some faces. The intensity felt during guitarist's Rory Friers and Tony Wright's united power chords makes them stand out in the
already outstanding music scene of Belfast. Take a listen to "If It Ain't Broke...Break It" and you'll see what kind of jaw-dropping stuff these guys are performing. "The Voiceless" is like a more aggressive take on something you'd hear off an Explosions in the Sky album.
For a band that's only been together for a few years, these guys have already gotten off to a damn good start.

Johnny Cash - American Recordings(1994)
Genre: Traditional Country, Folk
Grade: A

In an era where country has been seen going along a more pop-oriented route in the last 20 or so years, Cash takes us back with a much more raw, meaningful, and old school approach at things
with his 1994 release American Recordings. From putting his own proverbial flavor on tunes that were written by guys like Glenn Danzig, Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen, all the way
to classic originals like "Delia's Gone" and "Drive On", Johnny Cash earned himself a Grammy for Contemporary Folk Album of the Year for American Recordings. Anytime you put a team like Rick Rubin and Cash together,
you're pretty much guaranteed something golden. This would be a foreshadowing of a series of albums that would see Cash cover quite a few popular songs in the 90's cultural scene, such as "Personal Jesus" and "Hurt".

Skinny Puppy - Brap: Back and Forth Series 3 & 4(1996)
Genre: Industrial
Grade: D

For a two-disc compilation album that is roughly about 104 minutes long, this wasn't exactly a good offering from the influential Canadian industrial band, and doesn't really come off as anything more than a lazy attempt
to cash in on the rapid hardcore fanbase that Skinny Puppy has collected over the years. As a matter of fact, half of the live tracks from the second disc sound as if they were recorded on some pretty low-rate equipment, never really
capturing the live experiance that they were intending to capture. And that's definitely not because of faulty mp3s or anything of that nature, I double checked several times, and every time it sounded the same: static, low volume, faulty, and pretty much
unlistenable. Every now and then you'd encounter a decently produced live recording, but most of the time you couldn't really tell what cEvin Key was trying to accomplish here. The first disc is mainly just early demo instrumentals of the Skinny Puppy catalog, which once again don't
do a good job of showcasing this band's impact on electronic music. Overall, this compilation leaves a lot to be desired.

Magazine - Secondhand Daylight(1979)
Genre: British Post-Punk
Grade: B

For the brief five year period that Magazine was active between 1977 and 1981, this was often cited as one of their biggest recordings in that
time frame, and generally for good reason. It was another one of those building blocks for the type of music that would inevitably become popularized in the 1980's
in both North America and the UK, which would be wide usage of synthesized beats, vocoder darker themed vocals, and eerie lyrics. Imagine a buffer zone between The Clash, The Psychedelic Furs, and Bauhaus,
Magazine is more or less what you would get. Secondhand Daylight strongest moments are featured on songs such as "Cut-Out Shapes", "Feed the Enemy", "The Thin Air", and the nihilistic "Back To Nature".
Definitely worth checking out, as this is an album that would help lay a foundation for the new wave movement of the 80s. Unfortunately, it would be overshadowed by a slew of amazing records that would also be released in 1979, including the Pink Floyd double disc juggernaut The Wall.

She & Him - Volume One(2008)
Genre: Folk, Singer-Songwriter
Grade: B

What would happen if you put together a pairing of the eccentric actress and musician Zooey Deschanel and popular new folk artist M. Ward?
Well, She & Him answers that question very clearly. Together they make for a rather pleasant, catchy, and just plain fun combination.
The soulful vocals of Zooey meet together with Matthew Ward's slide guitar prowess and create quite a few feel good tracks, such as "This Is Not A Test". The lyrical content is often times a sad tale, but also inspirational. Other times,
such as the down-tempo stringy ballad "Change is Hard", there is a more sorrowful, bitter, bluesy mood.
So I'll keep my head down / If you keep it quiet from now on.
/ In the halls I’d rather hear silence than the bell of new love. So don’t brag, keep it to yourself."(Lyrics featured from "Change is Hard").
They even put their own folksy spin on Smokey Robinson's "You Really Gotta Hold On Me". By the end, M. Ward and Deschanel have left us with a minimalistic throwback to a more natural, emotional kind of sound that is hard to find these days.