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.


  1. If you liked the She & Him album, you should also check out their AWESOME cover of the Smiths song "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" from the 500 Days of Summer Soundtrack. It's awesome. (And I'm picky about Smiths/Morrissey covers.)

  2. Yeah, I really enjoy that one actually! That whole soundtrack is great. So is that Temper Traps CD you had as your #1!