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.