Thursday, June 30, 2011

Com Truise - Galactic Melt

Let me say first that I hate the term "chillwave". For about a year or so now everyone in the music blog community has been arguing over whether or not this is a genre. Some say it is, but it's just a trend that will/is fading fast. Others think it is and absolutely love it, calling themselves "chillwavers". Then there are people more like me who don't see the point in arguing over genre tags instead of just listening to the music and deciding whether or not you like it based on, yaknow, what it sounds like. The only reason I go into genres on here is for other people's benefit and because to properly review it I need to give an idea of what something sounds like. For those that don't know chillwave, if it is a genre, is basically electronic music with heavy heavy use of effects, synthesizers, looping, etc. People draw similarities to synth pop and new wave from the 80's, just more modern sounding.
Anyways, now to talk about the actual album. Com Truise, despite having a name that I assume is specifically designed to annoy those with OCD and dyslexia, is a new persona of a man named Seth Haley, who apparently has many personas. I've never heard his music before and this is my first go, so I'm not going to try and go into much detail. The music here is something that makes me think of the 80's version of Tron. That's basically the mood here. I wouldn't really call it upbeat but it's not negative either. I think it's safe to say that this guy really really likes his synthesizers. This album is from what I can tell, 100% electronic. Anything that isn't electronic is probably sampled and then put through so many effects that it no longer sounds organic in the least. Which isn't always a problem, a lot of electronic subgenres that I like do things like that. However here everything just feels kind of... smudged. The album cover is kind of appropriate in showing how it feels. It seems like what this guy might do is make basic outlines of his song, then just wipe his hand through it and smudge it. Which sounds like it could be really appealing, but to me it isn't. There are a lot of moments I like here but then things will just go all out and blur together so much that it just kind of gives me a headache. There are times where there's just too much synth going on all at once and it just buries any sort of appeal in it for me. I love electronic music, and I love synth, but I've found that it's rare for that "wall of sound" effect to work well with it. The production here most the time turns pretty much all of the many layers all the way up, and you can feel the beat shaking but other than that all you can think is "OH MY GOD SYYYYYYYNTH". You get drowned in it, instead of being able to swim in it. It's kind of how I feel about some heavier noise rock bands, but in an electronic context. Which I realize some people really like that feeling. If you do, then disregard what I've said. But it's just not for me.
I'm a big lover of a lot of things that influence this album. I love my 80's synthpop, IDM, etc. But I think what this album is missing is a genuine feeling. It feels too random to me. Like he had the base figures of really good electronic songs, but then just added so much to it it lost all it's feeling. Kind of like when you over edit a piece of writing or a speech or something. But this might appeal to you if you really like loud, in your face, wall of sound type music and also like yourself some synth. However I haven't seen that line blur too much. There are appealing electronics here, and some moments where I feel like what I'm asking for is being achieved, but they are brief and not too dominant here. If you like electronic a lot and my complaints don't seem like they would bother you all that much, go ahead and give the link I provided at the bottom a try. If it appeals to you, then you'll like this album.


Favorites: Air Cal, Broken Date
Listen (samples of all songs):

Battles - Gloss Drop

I hate playing the bad guy. I really do. And it's such a rare thing. I'm not that hard to please, I'm really not. I'm easier on my criticism than a lot of critics and reviewers out there, but for some reason I'm just not liking this album as much as I'd hoped to. I don't dislike it, not at all, but it's just not as great as what I was expecting. Which may very well be my problem.
Battles is a small experimental rock/math rock band based in New York. They're kind of what you'd call a super group, even though none of them have been in anything all that well known. If you're curious, go look them up on Wiki. Anyways, so this group had one album previous to this, Mirrored, which came out in 2007 and was their first album. Back then they had one more member than they do now. That was Tyondai Braxton, who was a vocalist (wouldn't say "singer") and multi instrumentalist. He was a very major part of the band and gave it a big part of it's mood, which was hyperactive, fun, yet experimental and technical. His voice was far from accessible but most people grew to love it within minutes, me being no acception. So if you can't tell by how I've talked about it, I really enjoyed their first album. A lot of people did. So when word got around that Tyondai left, and they were making a new album, there started to be a lot of wondering. Wondering how it would sound without that very distinct addition to the music. And they have changed, kind of.
Since their vocalist left, I assumed they would become just an instrumental outfit, like a lot of math rock bands are. But then they dropped their first single from the album titled "Ice Cream", which had a guest vocalist. One who was also very experimental with his vocals (sorry, I know nothing about this guy so I can't comment much more than that) but I wasn't a huge fan of. The song was very fun and eccentric like their old album, but for me it just didn't feel the same. It felt... I guess "forced" is the word I'm looking for. Like it was trying to hard to keep that same feeling as the old album but to me it just felt like it was a mask they were trying very hard to make look real. And on the full album there are four songs with guest vocalists, and all those tracks kind of stand out to the rest. Because while the songs here have a lot going on, lots of instruments and great production, they just don't feel as stand out. While they are experimental and have a lot of change ups, most of the time the main riff or beat is in the foreground for the entire song, and most of these songs are quite long. The song will start with the main instruments, after a bit they add a layer, then they add another, and continue for usually about a minute, then drop the layers and have a short transition, then start with what sounds just like the beginning of the song again with maybe one or two minor changes. Then they start adding layers again. And it repeats like that for most the songs. This isn't the case for every song, but that's what it felt like. The songs without guest vocalists all seem somewhat similar too, at least to me. And usually by about halfway into each song I'm getting the urge to skip the song, which I don't do often. Hell, I listen to prog rock and ambient music. But there are just points where the instrumentation just kind of loses my interest, even though it's on the experimental side. The album feels too long for it's mood. Really fun and eccentric music is often better fit to shorter albums, and shorter songs. Otherwise it slowly feels like you're having less and less fun.
And while this album is most definitely fun and eccentric, like I just said, it seems like a toned down version of their previous full length to me. It's lost some of it's charm but it's trying to keep it. If Battles where a person and each album was a phase of it's life, Mirrored was it being a hyperactive ADHD kid that was really good about keeping it's family and friends entertained and has a reputation for being the funny one, while Gloss Drop is the same kid in his early teen years who has somewhat matured but is trying to keep that same charm he used to have, succeeding sometimes but for the most part it's just not the same. If you hear this without hearing the first album you probably won't see what I mean. So I guess for me it feels like this suffers from "Sophomore Album Syndrome". Where you love a band's debut album so much, then move on to the second with very high expectations, so high that it's almost bound to disappoint you, even if it IS very good in itself. I know there are a ton of people who are praising this album like no other, even ones who loved their first effort. So I'm somewhat alone on this one. But I really can't help how I feel about it.
In the end I still give this album a recommendation. If you like experimental music, math rock in particular with a heavy focus on eccentricity and fun instrumentation (not to mention great production), than I highly recommend you give this album a listen. Since so many others are liking this better than me, you probably will too. So don't take my pessimism too seriously. I just have to be honest about my opinion. I can say, whether good or bad, this is probably the most fun and optimistic album of 2011 so far. Give it a try and see what YOU think of it.


Favorites: My Machines, Rolls Bayce, White Electric

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Touché Amoré - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me

Good instrumentation, very one note lyrics, sounds ridiculous on a track like "Condolences"
Very short tracks but they all flow together with almost no stops whatsoever so it flows together
then just stops abruptly at the end of the album

Touché Amoré is a post-hardcore band from LA that have been making quite a buzz with their newest album, pleasing a lot of post-hardcore fans who've been disappointed by the more recent efforts to come from the genre. And while I wouldn't call myself the biggest post-hardcore fan by any means, I like quite a few bands that have been at the very least strongly influenced by 90's post-hardcore bands like At the Drive-In and Fugazi. So I came into this expecting to find something I'd like. However what I've found is a very bittersweet experience.
This album is fairly predictable if you know post-hardcore. It's very aggressive, slightly melodic guitar riffs, equally aggressive drums, and yelling/screaming vocals. There's only one single track on this album that goes over two minutes long. However this isn't that much of a problem because one thing this album does well is flow one track to the next. If you don't watch as the tracks change you likely won't know when one stops and the next begins. Usually a riff will end quiet down very briefly and then it immediately goes to the next in-your-face song. We do have a couple quieter moments here though, where the music is less aggressive and sounds more along the lines of "emo" music. I don't really consider emo to be a genre, but these guys seem to be influenced by the kind of music that's usually tagged as emo. It's especially apparent in the lyrics, which might remind one of Brand New. But back to the instrumentation, there's a lot to like here. While it's aggressive it is so in a very likeable way and has some really catchy parts. The guitar work is really what's worthy of praise. The drumming never particularly stood out to me as anything fantastic but I do think it compliments the guitars well enough. However there are few moments where there's any sign of a bass, and when there is it's pretty unremarkable, which is a really huge pet peeve for me (as a bassist myself). But there's even a short piano part in this album that comes across quite emotive and touching, for a moment at least. And that brings me to my biggest problem with this album...
As I said before, here we have aggressive, yelling, screaming vocals. And he's doing this for like 85% of the album. Rarely is he not screaming something in your face. While I rarely have a high opinion of them, I can deal with aggressive vocals, especially in post-hardcore bands. BUT, what I really like in any sort of genre, is variation. Especially in vocals, especially when they're present for this much of the album. Because otherwise I will get incredibly tired of what I'm hearing very soon. And that's what's going on here. This guy is one note. He has one gear in a broken stick shift. I had the same problem with Fucked Up's latest album too. I always enjoy the first couple tracks of this album while I'm hearing them, but by the time I get to about the halfway mark it feels like there is a cheese grater taped to my brain and it just irritates the hell out of me and anything I found appealing in the music is quickly forgotten. Especially since with the production here, the vocals are mixed at the same level, if not a bit higher, than the guitars. There are some moments on this album where I think the vocals just sound absolutely ridiculous in juxtaposition to the music. While the first six tracks or so are pretty much non-stop aggressiveness, later tracks make a few efforts to have more quiet, emotional, and sentimental moments. Especially at the beginning of "Condolences" when there's a nice sad (if simple) piano melody going on. But right as you're starting to get used to the abrupt change and enjoy it, the vocals come in again, just screaming at you. And while the lyrics may well fit the mood change, the vocals laughably don't. I literally laughed out loud the first time I heard it. Especially since they do something different with the production and it sounds like he's yelling it from across a large empty room. So basically I picture someone playing a nice piano on one side of the room while the vocalist is drunkenly yelling at his girlfriend on the other side of the room. That's what it sounds like. And it's ridiculous in my opinion.
However I have to acknowledge that the aggressive vocals may very well just not be my thing, and I know a lot of post-hardcore purists will have absolutely no problem with them. That's why even though I just bitched about this album for a good bit, I'm still recommending it to anyone that likes aggressive music, specifically post-hardcore. So long as you don't mind the slight "emo" influences, that is. And if you don't care about one-note vocalists. It's just a very big pet-peeve of mine that can very quickly ruin something I would have loved otherwise, and this is a prime example. So in summary, I really liked the guitar work in this album and would have liked it much more had there been variation in the vocals, particularly when the instrumentation tries to change up. I can see myself coming back and listening to bits and pieces of this album at a time, but that's about it. Most others are enjoying this a lot more than me, so check it out and see what you think.


Favorites: Pathfinder, The Great Repition

EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints

By looking at this album cover, what kind of music would you guess it garners? Well, maybe you have a better guess than I did, but in seeing this cover I imagined something along the lines of dance pop, party sort of music. I think it's the necklace that does it. However this album is certainly far removed from dance music of any sort.
Erika M. Anderson (aka EMA) is a singer/songwriter from the midwest that used to be in a band called Gowns, which I haven't listened to but I've heard described as "freak folk" or "noise folk". I suppose you could put this album in the same category. What you have here are acoustics, EMA's raw, emotional, sometimes shaky vocals, and a lot of filters put through. There are times in this album where the instruments are swelled to a wall of sound, not unlike noise rock, and there are times where it sounds much more singer/songwriter-ish. And the album flip flops between them in a way that actually makes it pretty appealing. EMA always has very abrasive lyrics here, but very honest, not unlike most singer/songwriter's. And she doesn't try to sound pretty when she sings, not at all. Her voice can almost be brooding at times with her half-singing half-talking, and it can get pretty powerful when things start getting noisy
The mood of this album is definitely not on the positive side. It isn't the most depressing or angry album I've ever heard, but it's what could be described as a "bedroom album". Something you listen to on a Friday night when you're home alone and sick of the world. The lyrics sound like the kind of things you'd write in your journal as a stream of conscious, you're not paying attention to any sort of rhyme scheme or the words flowing through together, but when they're sung here EMA's approach to vocals only compliments it and makes them feel like they could be something from your own personal journal. In some songs she sounds very angry and negative (California), going on about the things she can't stand, and in others she's more vulnerable (Marked), and she switches between the two like most people with emotional problems do. I think everyone can relate to that feeling of not being able to control your emotional swings like that. And reading the lyrics along with listening can add another layer to the experience. So this album is cathartic, to say the least.
Yet despite all these compliments, I'm still not totally loving this album. I definitely like, but it's not completely blowing me away like it is some people. I really really like the honesty I get from this album, which is what attracts me to most singer/songwriter music. However the main problem this album suffers from is having it's best song being the first on the album. Now this isn't always a problem, I know a ton of albums that have their best song as the first, being the thing that draws you in and sets the mood and tone for the rest of the experience. Here it seems like it would be a much more appropriate closing track. I know it sound like I'm nit picking, and I suppose I am, but after the opening song it seems like nothing else quite adds up to it. Not to mention that the first track is the most "accessible" song, so it's very possible that it could leave the wrong impression. On this album there are a few songs that I really really enjoy, only one being in the second half and even then just barely. There are only nine songs on this album, and the last three or so in my opinion fall really flat and just don't close the album like it should. Others might feel different but since I got this album it's been the kind where I go in, listen to my favorite songs off of it, then usually turn it off at that point. So while there are a lot of things I like here, and there are songs I could say I love, as a whole it just doesn't quite hold up like I think it should. 
I will say that I'm excited to see what's next for EMA and where she'll go next, and hope that her next album fixes the issues I had with this one. I'd suggest this album for those that like their singer/songwriters to be female, and more on the experimental side. And also for those that are looking for some more sad and emotional 2011 albums. But if you don't like singer/songwriter or "sadcore" music, then you won't like this. Check it out and see what you think of what a lot of people are calling one of their favorites of the year.


Favorites: The Grey Ship, Anteroom, Marked.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wild Beasts - Smother

This is one of those occasions where I feel like I'm really late on the bandwagon. Wild Beasts are a four-piece "indie" group from England that have been causing a bit of a buzz lately. I didn't hear of them until this album, but apparently they've been around since about 2002. However this is only their third full length LP, following two very well received predecessors from 2008 and 2009. And although this is my first time hearing one of their albums in their entirety, I've heard some of their earlier works for the sake of this review and their sound has definitely been evolving.
Smother isn't too much of a departure from their sound, but I'd say it's definitely a departure in mood. Their first two albums seemed much more playful, where as this one seems almost sinister, but in a very sexual way. Just about every song and all the lyrics on this album are about sexual desire. And normally for me that would get boring after a bit. Don't get me wrong, I like my sexy songs, but unless you change it up and manage to keep it genuine or put an interesting twist on it I will get sick of it. But thankfully this album steers from that, in my opinion. The music itself and the way it's presented is itself seductive, but strange. When the first song "Lion's Share" comes on (if you're not familiar with Wild Beasts) it will no doubt seem strange to you, the vocals and lyrics in particularly and probably even put you off. However as things go on it quickly is very appealing and very addicting, and the second you let your guard down it just grabs you. For me it was a very fitting experience with the context of the album. Because that's just how seduction works. It takes you by surprise and, if it's tricks work, you're sucked in and you're stuck. Within the first couple songs it's performing it's mating dance for you, and then you either stay excited and wanting more, or leaving annoyed and put off. And if you stay wanting more, I can tell you you'll be quite satisfied with what you get.
I had a bit of trouble on how to tag the genres of this album. It has elements of indie, I suppose, and it's influenced by quite a bit of electronics, but I really don't like putting it under either of those blanket terms. A lot of people are calling it "dream pop", which I've had little experience in, so I'm not too sure if that's what you'd call it or not. But it is very dream like, and it does have pop moments, so why not. However I think production wise this probably doesn't fit in with any of those. The production is very clean, little to no reverb whatsoever, which in my opinion is refreshing because sooooo many lately have just been drowning themselves in reverb, no matter what genre they are. I like reverb sometimes but lately I've been getting so sick of it that this is incredibly refreshing. However this album, the vocals in particular, can be kind of hard to swallow. There are two vocalists, Hayden Thorpe, and Tom Fleming. The former singing in a falsetto that seems almost alien like vocals, that can be really off putting at first but you either grow used to it and start to love it very quickly or you'll go in the entirely opposite direction just as fast. The latter however, while being by no means a baritone, has a deeper voice and sings in his own strange way that sounds almost... throatless? I have no idea how else to describe it. Kind of how you sound after you've finally gotten over a terrible cold you had for like a week and your nasal passages are clean for the first time in so long. Something like that. Anyways, in my opinion Tom's vocals don't bring as much to the plate as Hayden's do, and the tracks where he's leading are probably my least favorites, but at the same time I think that without that dynamic there this album wouldn't be quite as appealing. As for the instrumentation, it's incredibly cerebral. There's a lot of percussion going on, and very beat orientated tracks with the vocals leading the way most of the time. And while there are lots of guitar and bass things going on their less in the foreground than you'd maybe expect. Then with the production there are a lot of subtleties going on that compliment the instrumentation and give it more of that other worldly feeling. None of these songs are particularly upbeat either, but not sad either. They fit the content of the song meanings very well though, and on songs like "Plaything" and "Lion's Share" they are appropriately inviting, but in almost a suspicious way. And songs like "Bed of Nails" and "Albatross" give almost a feeling of yearning, just like the songs. Like a desire you can't have, or desiring something that you used to have.
I don't have any particularly big gripes with this album, honestly. However I can say there are some short, rare moments where I might lose interest in the song, although it's usually very brief. It's just there are a few songs in here that at times feel they start to kind of lose themselves and you want it to have some sort of major shift to grab you back. For me these moments mainly occur on the tracks that Tom is taking the lead vocals, which might be my main problem. Others might find his additions more interesting than I do, but this gripe is really the only one that I have and other than that I can say this album has got me completely addicted to it's ethereal take on desire. This album has quite a few tracks that I absolutely love and the rest fall just under that.
I would suggest this to anyone that likes some odd music, or seductive music. However if you're really picky on your vocals, or really cynical about them, you probably will be put off. But I highly recommend you listen to a song or two, because that should immediately tell you whether or not this is your thing. What do you have to lose besides a few minutes? I can see some people really not liking this sort of thing, but those that do will likely fall in love with it. Give it a shot.


Favorites: Bed of Nails, Albatross, Plaything

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beardfish - Mammoth

Beardfish is a very talented 4-piece band formed in Sweden in 2001, and this is their fourth album to come out on InsideOut Music. Though you wouldn't guess they're Swedish. These guys are about as oldschool prog rock as you can get nowadays. Besides a difference in production quality, if you listened to this knowing nothing about the band, you'd probably guess this album came out in the 70's. There are many parallels that can be drawn to bands like Yes, early Genesis, and even some Pink Floyd-esque moments. This album has all the distinctive qualities associated with 70's progressive rock: it's got a 15 minute epic, insane breaks and unexpected shifts in tempo at the drop of a hat, instruments like organs and saxophones thrown into the mix, and very often epic story telling lyrics. Not to mention minutes of what you could call "instrumental wankery" that prog fans love and non-fans often roll their eyes at.
However these guys aren't just carbon copies of their influences, that's for sure. While they do sound very 70's prog, they do put a modern spin on things. As I briefly stated before, the production here sounds much more modern than the style of music their playing. You can hear all of the instruments clear and crisp, and the vocals are layered nicely on top. The music feels very big and epic, like a lot of prog does, and most of the time there's plenty of things to hold your attention without getting too complex or piled on top of itself. These vocals aren't the most amazing or innovative, but they're far from badly sung and they go with the music very appropriately. You'd never guess they're Swedish, either. It's all sung in English and there's no sign of a noticeable accent. Beardfish in the past (specifically on their last album Destined Solitaire) have been a bit strange when it comes to the mood of the lyrics. They would go from usual prog like, and even Iron Maiden like, lyrics with descriptive story telling to very tongue-in-cheek silly lyrics such as "Trying to find my reptile brain/ But then I'm gonna nuke it/ Then I'm gonna send the motherfucker flying.../ byebye brain...". There's even been some laugh out loud moments on that previous record. However there's less of that here, which some will like and some won't. Beardfish have done very well in avoiding the problem that turns a lot of people off of prog rock, and that's being pretentious. There's still plenty of insane instrumentals and weird song structures, but there's a sense of near-parody about it. It seems like these guys just really love playing, and they want to have as much fun with it as they can. This isn't one of those prog albums where people can sit and argue over how and why it's "deep". Which will be fantastic news for some and bummer news for others. Overall I'd say this album strikes a good balance between taking itself too seriously and not taking itself seriously enough. It is what it is and they don't seem to put too much thought into what they're doing, and they just do it. And the end product is a lovely thing. However I will say that the lyrics can seem a bit cheesy at times, but you can have fun with it if you let yourself. While not being the most innovative or fresh thing out there, they're definitely good at what they're doing and do it to a near perfection. And they just keep getting better and better.
As a huge fan of prog past and present myself, including the often called "pretentious" stuff, I absolutely adore this album and think anyone else with a love for the progressive or 70's rock in general will love this. Especially if you're sick of "new prog" and are nostalgic for the old days. Just don't go into it trying to take it or yourself more seriously than you need to. Give it a listen and have fun with it and I'm sure you'll enjoy the hell out of it. However if you're cynical of those that wear their influences on their sleeves, you might want to steer clear of here.


Favorites: The Platform, And the Stone Said: If I Could Speak, Green Waves

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 24th: weekly round up

Hey everyone, my apologies that until earlier today there hasn't been anything new up. I won't bother making any excuses. However there are a lot of reviews I plan on getting done over the next week or so, quite a few of which will be a bit late on the bandwagon, but are things that I feel should be given light for those that may not have caught them when they came around. I know I have trouble keeping up when so many albums come out in a single week. Since this blog is still just getting off the ground any and all input is appreciated, and if there's an album that you think should be touched upon (recent, preferably released in the last 3 months or so) then go ahead and mention it and I will check it out.
Now, with that out of the way: I'm hoping this will be the first of a weekly post with updates on this blog, what I've been listening to lately, and most importantly, general news in the music industry.

Recent album releases have consisted of a new Al Yankovic album, doing his Al Yankovic thing. Two (yes, two) new releases from Devin Towsend, the last two albums of the Devin Townsend Project (keep your eyes open for a review). A highly anticipated and highly hyped Bon Iver sophomore effort, which I doubt I will try to talk about to any extent on this blog since I never hopped on the Bon Iver bandwagon and I would likely just sound ignorant if unbiased. There's also been a new album by Jill Scott, a famous soul and R&B singer that most of you probably know as the guest vocalist on Lupe Fiasco's single "Daydreaming". And album releases you'll probably care far less about, there's new Crossfade, Simple Plan, and Pitbull album. Yes, I forgot they all existed too. Pitbull in particular. Cynics rev your engines! They're all just appetizers for Limp Bizkit's new album set to come out on the 28th. But a cousin of mine says the new Crossfade is actually very good, but nostalgia is likely a large factor in that. Check those out if you're curious enough though. Oh, an Beyoncé is having an album out in just a few days, which I'm actually kind of looking forward to since she actually has a damn good voice (at least compared to those she's up against in the female pop singer arena). So if you're not too cynical on mainstream stuff and like female vocals, keep your eyes open for that.
As far as July is going there's quite a few things I'm personally excited for. Apparently Yes is releasing their first studio album since 2001, holy shit. As a big prog rock fan this gets me excited. It's already been released in Japan and is set for a US release date on the 12th. A newer electronic artist who was tagged in the huge wave of "chillwave" a year or so ago, Washed Out, has his first full length LP coming out in July as well. Now I absolutely hate music genre trends, and I can't stand being that picky over genre quarrels, but after hearing one song off of the album and this guy's previous EPs, I'm looking forward to some good summery electronic music. Screw trends. What I'm most excited for though is the new Fair to Midland album. I'm a big fan of them and this is their first release since 2007. New album and more matured sound is what I'm expecting. I can't stop listening to the single (I almost always avoid singles before the full album is available) and I have my fingers crossed that the rest of the album is just as good.
Obviously this isn't everything that's new, but it's all I cared to touch on. I hope to use this week to catch up on stuff I've missed and get back on track. So what have you been listening to? What releases are you looking forward to?

By the way, I have a twitter if you're interested. 

The Dear Hunter - The Color Spectrum

Let me make it clear from the start: there are two versions of this album. One, is a series of nine EPs, each with four songs representing a specific color, and all 9 are brought together as one 36 track album. Two, is a shortened version with just one song from each EP (two from Green and White). I'm going to be discussing the former. But to touch briefly on the shortened version, I think it totally undermines the concept of the album and doesn't showcase the best of the music. Now on to the real stuff.
The Dear Hunter is the baby of Casey Crescenzo, who some of you might know as the frontman of post-hardcore band The Receiving End of Sirens when they were still around. Casey abandoned TREoS to focus entirely on The Dear Hunter, which, while it has a changing line up of instrumentalists, is all Casey's vision. The band's three previous albums have all been focused on one concept, which has yet to end. This album has nothing to do with that concept. So some fans (including myself) were a bit apprehensive at first, wondering if the change in concept would also have a drastic, unwanted change in sound. Well while there's definitely been a change I'm glad to say they haven't disappointed.
As I said earlier, this LP revolves around nine EPs based on colors. So essentially the album is in nine sections. It's a 36 track, two and a half hour beast. But you can take a section out of the album, listen to it by itself, and still get quite a bit out of it. Each section is labeled with it's color at the end of the song. The album starts with the appropriately brooding and dark Black songs, and by the end comes to the clean and pristine White songs. Each section has it's own distinct style, mood, and sometimes even genre. For example while the first few colors have a very distinct rock spine to hold it together, it slowly moves into a light hearted and acoustic driven tracks, and then even into songs driven more by the electronics than the instruments, and by the end it comes full circle. One might fear that the album as a whole is schizophrenic and thinly spread, but in my opinion it flows together almost seamlessly and takes you on a full journey through "the color spectrum". It takes you through so many moods while never quite wearing you down. And outside of just the concept, despite how long this album is there are few songs I'd consider "throw away tracks" let alone any sort of filler. It's a good thing that an LP this long changes tone and style so frequently otherwise you'd get incredibly bored incredibly fast. For the most part each section fits it's color damn well, however there are some that at least in my idea of colors turned to music doesn't fit much at all. Mostly Red and Blue. I expected Red to be a lot more emotion driven, as it is the color of passion, but it seems to fall short a bit. And since it is the second section of the LP one might feel discouraged by then, but I encourage you to stick through it. Blue doesn't seem sad or "rainy day"ish enough for me personally. But colors are such interpretable things that you may feel totally different than me! That's what I find so great about this concept.
The album does have some minor problems though. As with anything that has this many styles, moods, and genres thrown in the mix, you're bound to like some parts more than others, and maybe not like some at all. I discussed the album with a friend that also likes this band and we had some pretty far differing opinions on some of the colors and which were best musically. But such things are bound to happen. And while I said earlier that there weren't anything I considered to be throw away tracks, it does feel sometimes like the album falls into less than exciting moments and one with a short attention span might get quickly distracted and want to move away. Speaking of short attention spans, you might have been turned off the second I said "two and a half hours long". If it really is that much of a problem I suggest you check out the 12 track, much shorter version. Although I really think that is selling the album short. I also have to bring up Casey's vocals, which are definitely the "love or hate it" sort. Some find them to be too whiny, which they can be at some times for sure, especially on previous albums, but I think that's toned down here. If that kind of thing really really bothers you though, well, you probably already know what you think of his voice so I'll say no more. However the "emo" quotient that is sometimes tagged onto The Dear Hunter is absent for the most part here from what I can see, so even if you haven't liked their music previously you might want to at least sample something from here and see if your feelings have changed at all. I used to kind of consider The Dear Hunter as my Coheed and Cambria lite, but this album has damn well changed my mind.
So all in all I highly recommend this album to anyone that likes bands that play with concepts, as well as get their fingers in multiple genre pies. If the concept interests you, definitely give this album a try. And if you're apprehensive about it, maybe try listening to the shorter version and if you enjoy it AT ALL, definitely dive into the complete collection. This is a hell of an ambitious record and if you like ambition, you should love this.


Favorites: Never Forgive Never Forget (Black), A Sea of Solid Earth (Orange), The Dead Don't Starve (Yellow), Progress (Indigo), Lillian (Violet)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Seapony - Go With Me

Seapony is a up and coming band from the Seattle area, and this is their debut album released the end of this May. I grabbed it knowing little about what it would sound like besides that it would be indie-ish. I'm not going to say I had high hopes for this album, in fact I had no expectations at all having heard so little about them, but even at that I was very disappointed and let down.
The band is made up of four people. The guitarist (who is the primary song writer), a female vocalist, a bassist, and Señor Drum Machine. The guitarist Danny Rowland and vocalist Jen Weidl are a couple. And boy do they make that painfully obvious with the music. Every single song on here reminds me of the situation of when your friend gets into a relationship that they're completely obsessed with and they will absolutely not shut up about. Call me a cynic, but it gets on my nerves after 12 songs with lyrics like "I miss you every day, I wish you'd stay" repeated over and over again to the point where I want to rip my hair out. Don't get me wrong, I'm usually fine with songs about love and the blissful feelings a new relationship can bring, but the Jen sings them like she just woke up and has all the emotion of a water bottle.. She mumbles and puts absolutely no emotion behind her voice, and then on top of that it's slathered in reverb which just makes it feel even less passionate than it already is. The allmusic blog recently interviewed them and when the vocalist Jen was asked about her influence for vocals she said "I think vocals sound best when you’re not trying to hard. I try to sound like I’m bored or hate singing whatever song I’m singing. That’s when it turns out best!" Well, at least she KNOWS she sounds bored. And maybe this is just a personal taste thing but to me if the vocalist sounds bored, unless it's done in a very specific way, I get bored.
Musically, the songs aren't TOO terrible. Some of the guitar riffs by themselves get me feeling a little bouncy and are catchy enough, but it's not nearly enough to redeem everything else about this album. Bass might as well not be there with how low of a volume it has and how little it's involved and then there's just a drum machine beating out the most simple things possible that a 10 year old drummer could do. And then they make it louder than the bass, an actual live instrument in the album. The feel and mood of the album makes me feel like I'm on a California beach and watching people surfing without it being actual surf rock. It seems that what they're trying to get at is dream pop, kind of like older Blonde Redhead albums, but the only thing that really makes it feel like that are the reverbed vocals and how bored she sounds. Cheesy lyrics sung in an incredibly dull manner and less than innovative song writing causes for a pretty "meh" experience. I certainly won't be returning to this album after I post this review.
Overall this album was just painful to me. I gave it many listens and kept trying to like it, but despite the occasional catchy guitar riff I got nothing good from this. However maybe those less cynical would enjoy this more than me, and I know there have been some out there that have been enjoying it. So I'm not telling you to completely stay away from this. But I can only really recommend it to those that are really, REALLY, into indie pop and simple lovey lyrics. It's chill and I guess would make a good summer album if you're into this sort of thing. Even then it's an incredibly light recommendation. But this whole review is just my opinion, and it won't be everyone's. If you're curious listen and see what you think.


Favorite songs: Into The Sea

Friday, June 3, 2011

Elysian Fields ○ Last Night On Earth

Hello, everyone. This is gonna be a good one.

Man, where can I start? Elysian Fields is a band based in Brooklyn, NY, founded by Oren Bloedow and Jennifer Charles. They've pretty much become my local music heroes, even though I've been a fan of theirs for less than a year. In 1996, they released their debut album entitled "Bleed Your Cedar", arguably the only one that could truly lean towards being labeled "rock". Since the days of yore, the band has made great strides of progress, both in the style of their sound and in notoriety. Never falling into the quandary of deciding what route to take in regards to their music, Oren and Jennifer have consistently made sure that each album had it's own distinct, fresh feel. This sentiment holds especially true for their newest album, "Last Night On Earth".

This record in nothing short of wonderful, and it deserves every ounce of glowing appraisal that I'm about to give it. "Church Of The Holy Family" was the first song I listened to, and it remains one of my favorite songs by the band, period. It gave my incredibly high hopes, and I'm so, so glad that I was not let down. "Red Riding Hood" feels like a complete nod towards their Bleed Your Cedar-era style of music, and one that is warmly welcomed. Some songs, specifically "Villain On The Run" and "Old Old Wood", took a while to grow on me, and I can't even tell you why, because I'm not sure. However, after playing this album for nearly the hundredth time, I feel like kicking myself in the ass for not being able to appreciate these songs early on. It's hard for me to do this, but I'm gonna go ahead and say that the best songs on the album are "Can't Tell My Friends" and "Chance". If I could, I would've listed just about all of them, but I wanted to talk about these two in particular: "Can't Tell My Friends" is the only Elysian Fields song that features an electronic backing, and it works better than I would've ever imagined. "Chance" is just a fucking fantastic song. It flows notably well, and I've never heard anything like it come from them before. I feel obligated to add that "Last Night On Earth" is an incredibly strong closing track, and undoubtedly one of the greatest songs on the album.

However, like every other album, it's not flawless. First off, "Sleepover" is a song that comes across much, much better live than it does on the album. When I heard it played live, the lack of drumming and the subtly of the background vocals actually strengthened the song. I was slightly disappointed when I first heard the version provided on the album; it's execution does not do the story justice, and it doesn't do well as an opener. Aside from all of that, I'd have to say that the weakest song would have to be "Johnny". In comparison to the other slower songs on the album, it simply does nothing for me. There are no small nuances that grab my attention, no subtle gradation to be found. It's very cut & dry, and while there's nothing wrong with that, it's something not typically witnessed in an Elysian Fields song. Despite my somewhat harsh critique, I still find myself listening to these songs often enough to recommend that everyone give them a fair chance.

All in all, I feel that one of the biggest drawing points for newer listeners is that Jennifer's voice oozes sexuality. It's sensual, it's seductive, and there is clearly something wrong with you if you don't get aroused feel the same way. Her feminine crooning meshes perfectly with the lyrical content of 99% of their songs; these two factors, along with the superb instrumental capabilities of Oren, form an illusory musical experience. As for what other specific qualities the band has to offer, that's for the listener to decide.

To wrap it all up, I'm giving this album a completely well-earned and solid...


Download it here.
Oh, and you should actually, y'know, buy it if you enjoy it. It's only fair.
U.S. ┤ & ├ Europe

Death Cab For Cutie - Codes and Keys

You could call me a casual Death Cab For Cutie fan. A few years ago I grabbed a few albums, namely Transatlanticism, Something About Airplanes, and We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes. I really enjoy those albums, as a lot of people do.  But as I said, I'm a pretty casual Death Cab fan. When I looked into their songs from other albums - mostly the two most recent other than this album I'll be reviewing - I was pretty disappointed. So I never bothered to go further than that.
If you somehow don't know, Death Cab For Cutie is a band formed in the late 90's that exploded on the indie scene with their first four albums. After this they signed to a major label and that's when a lot of people fell out with them. I'm not the type to scream "sell out" when a previously independent band goes mainstream, but I do wonder how much their signing to Atlantic had to do with the fall out with some of their fans. Regardless, they certainly still have fans. But Death Cab has always been one of those love them or hate them bands on principal, and a lot of people will continue to just love or hate them on principal with this album.
I listened to this album mostly out of curiosity. As I said, I have a few of their albums but the most recent album I really bothered to give a full listen with them came out in 2003. I wanted to see how their sound had evolved - or not evolved - in those years. Honestly I expected to be pretty underwhelmed by this album. And that's true, partially. On my first listen I remember getting very easily distracted and I stopped it about half way through and barely remembered what I'd heard. However the next day I gave it a more earnest shot, focused more on the music and turned it up a bit and was more pleasantly surprised. And with each listen I found myself getting more and more into it, if only by a bit. But there's nothing ground breaking going on here though, that's for sure. While the Death Cab albums I'm used to were quite depressing and good to listen to on a rainy day with the feeling of heartache, this album has a complete mood change from that. Here I get a big feeling of optimism. Not sure if I'd use the word "upbeat", but definitely optimistic. While older albums were mostly about heartbreak, lost loves, loves that never were and the like, this one is more about the start of a relationship and romantic optimism. This could obviously be linked with the head of the band getting married recently, but I digress. However this still definitely sounds like a Death Cab album, and I'm certainly not going to crucify them for changing their mood, but for casual fans like me and fans of their earlier albums are going to be caught off guard at first. But I say good for them not trying to stick to a niche that's proved to help them get popular. There is a track in here that really reminds me of Transatlanticism though, and that's Unobstructed View, which is definitely my favorite track on the album. Probably just for that reason, it sounds like the Death Cab I love. It's the only track that really takes me back, and while they haven't changed their sound a lot it just seems almost like it's trying too hard to be what it is. It really wants you to like it and is waiting for you to give it compliments. That's how I felt, anyways. It might be because there's quite a bit more production going on here than in previous albums, which a lot of times can give off that "phoney" feeling. There are a lot more subtle electronic manipulations going on here that aren't totally in your face but still seem pretty obvious.
Overall the album is pretty decent. I was expecting to not really like it, but I actually found myself enjoying many moments much more than I thought I would. With that said, I gotta say it still did underwhelm me a bit. While it's pretty enjoyable while you listen, it barely leaves an impression. There are catchy hooks and melodies but once they're gone, they're gone. They won't get stuck in your head and when the album is over you'll likely move on to something else and soon forget about it, but what it does it does pretty well and it's a nice optimistic album I can see being played in cars on people's way to work. And who knows, maybe it will stick with you more than me.

If you like Death Cab, this album at least deserves you give it a shot. I can see a lot of people hating this album though, but I can also see some being pleasantly surprised as I was. If you like or love these guys, while it has it's differences it is still definitely a Death Cab album. And if you hate Death Cab For Cutie on principle, this isn't going to change your opinion. The few that have never heard one of their albums I'd encourage to give the album a listen. Just take it for what it is, forget about how they "sold out". You might end up digging it. Also it's probably worth repeating that I didn't start to enjoy the album at all until my second listen, so it might be the same for you.


Favorite tracks: Codes and Keys, Doors Unlocked and Open, Unobstructed Views

CunninLynguists - Oneirology

I find it odd my first two reviews both have rather immature names. First Starfucker, now CunninLynguists. But who cares about the name if the music is good, right? And Oneirology is certainly that.
CunninLynguists is a southern alternative hip hop group that have been around since about 2000, but I am late on the bandwagon and this is the first album by them I have heard. So unfortunately I have to review this pretty much in the dark about the past of the band. This is their 5th studio album to date and it was released back in March. The title of the album, Oneirology, is the scientific study of dreams, and just from that you got the concept of the album. From start to finish CunninLynguists take you from one dreamy and thoughtful track to the next. It's not limited to just talking about dreams in the context of what you experience while you sleep, it also touches on primal human desires and urges. They talk about things like violent urges, drugs, raw sexual desires, love, all of it. And it talks about all these subjects in a truly honest way. A lot of lyrics about things like this can come off like they're trying too hard, or their glorifying all of it. What CunninLynguists brings is total honesty about the dark side of life, and the human desires and instincts. The result is quite a poignant hip hop experience, which is amazingly complimented by the superb beats provided by member Kno. Every beat here has me craving and clawing for more. He doesn't just throw on a beat and loop it the entire track, he changes it up as the song goes on and adds layers to keep you interested, so it feels more like you're being taken by the hand and lead through a song and have new things to admire the further you go. Also the use of sampling and the guest appearances are all great. Overall I think I can say that not a single track disappoints me.
That isn't to say the album is perfect though. While the lyrics are great and the rappers are great, I feel like they could maybe put a bit more behind it so it hit me a little harder. They have good flow, but I wouldn't call it fantastic. It doesn't leave me reeling like some of my favorite rappers do. However this might be more fault of the production, because while I absolutely adore the beats on this album, they might just be a tad too loud. It raises the problem of getting so into the beat that the verses kind of fall behind a veil and you have to pay extra attention to catch everything that's going on. I love the beats, but if I wanted to focus on just them I'd find an instrumental version. But honestly this is the only gripe I can think of for this album, and it's still a pretty minor one. I am completely loving this thing.

I'd recommend this to any hip hop fans, and for those that call hip hop an immature genre of music that talks about nothing but bitches and hoes. This album should most definitely change their mind. And anyone who's been wanting to get into hip hop but doesn't like the typical mainstream radio rapper. This is great stuff. Like I said, this is my first experience with CunninLynguists, and after this I'm definitely going to be digging into their earlier work and also keeping my eye out for what they have next.


Favorite tracks: Hard as They Come (Act I), Murder (Act II), Enemies With Benefits, Looking Back

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Starfucker - Reptilian

Starfucker is a Portland based electronic band that formed in 2007, and since then have made lots of waves in the local area. I myself living in Oregon have experienced a lot of that hype, and since their first album with Polyvinyl records came out in March they've been grabbing quite a bit of attention not just in the local community. Don't let their immature name get to you.
Simply put, this is a very summery feel good album. These songs are upbeat and danceable, pop even, but I also think that fans of pure electronic could find themselves getting into this. The production is great, far better than I expected since I'm so used to seeing them as a low budget local band. However all the sounds here are very clean, and you can hear all of what's going on without it feeling like the instruments are fighting over who's going to get the spotlight. The vocals aren't really stand out here, not like usual bands at least. They're hidden under a bit of reverb, which can bug me personally sometimes but here it goes with the music pretty well and makes the vocal more of another layer of instrumentation to enjoy than something to latch onto like a vocal. You hardly notice the lyrics, but I don't think that's a problem. There isn't really lyrical genius going on here, that isn't the point of the music. It's simple and fun. Some of the songs on here I can easily get up and dance to, like Julius and Bury Us Alive. Others I can see myself playing retro games to, like The White of Noon and Mystery Cloud. So you get enough variety when it comes to atmosphere, while not getting much with mood. Usually I like albums that take you on a journey, so to speak. Here you're not really getting that, however what it does very well in my opinion is capture a single moment in time, a mood and a feeling, one of ethereal happiness and exploration of your imagination.
Now I do have a few minor issues with this album. First of all there are some tracks with intros and outros with some sample of a guy talking, and it just kind of takes me out of the experience and I find myself wanting to fast forward through it. I'm not sure where this sample comes from or what he's saying, I honestly don't pay attention, but it kind of gives me the same vibe as Carl Sagan's videos, which in contrast with the mood this album puts you in is just a weird combination. Now this might just be a personal gripe, I've always been annoyed with just dead pan talking thrown into tracks where the rest is singing. It's not a huge deal though. When it does happen it's not for long, and it's only a few times through the album, so I can look past that. However there are some songs on this album, particularly in the middle, that I find myself getting distracted on. They don't hold my attention and excitement as well as the others. They aren't bad, but I find myself waiting for the next stand-out track. These are small issues and as a whole I really enjoyed this album.

So in conclusion, this album is great for electronic and dance pop fans alike, and would be excellent to put on your stereo for summer of 2011. It's simple, it's upbeat, it's fun, I think with this album they're really starting to claw their way to the big leagues, and I can't wait to see what comes next from them.

Favorite tracks: Julius, Bury Us Alive, The White of Noon

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Introduction, and What This is About

Dalliance of Vivace is a joint project of myself - Kynzee - and my good friend Sarah. We're both long time lovers of music of all kinds, and between the two of us we have tastes that covers an incredibly broad spectrum. On this blog we intend on providing and reviewing all we can. We will try to keep up with new releases, both mainstream and obscure or independent, both bad and good. We'll also talk about non-recent things, basically anything that catches our ears, we will let you know what it is we think. Weekly we'll tell you what specific tracks we're loving recently and give you an update on what's to come in the music industry. Keep in mind that everything we say is simply our opinion. We're not trying to tell you what to think. We just love sharing and discussing music. If your opinion differs from ours, we'd love to hear what it is! If you want us to talk about something, feel free to shoot one of us an email and ask us.
The music world is constantly evolving and changing, and we're here along for the ride. Come along with us.