Thursday, 28 January 2010

Another Video and Krallice Update

As I was thinking even more about Led Zeppelin, I was reminded of this other scene from Wayne's World:

And, I must say, I would definitely prefer to listen to the Bee Gees (I can't believe there's an official BGs channel on Youtube).

Since writing a while back about not having bought Krallice's Dimensional Bleedthrough, I've finally made the purchase. And I'm not disappointed at all. I expected it to be a tiring listen, being longer than Tago Mago at 77 minutes and being that it a has a tech-metal bent, but upon first listen, I was more mesmerized than tired (though by album closer "Monolith Of Possession", I was a wee bit dizzy). Overall, it was everything I wanted it to be and I look forward to delving deeper into the sounds of Krallice through repeat listens. I'll probably get the first album, eventually. Now, I'm anxious to see this band live. I think it's official that I must see live one band in which Mick Barr plays guitar before I die, preferably Krallice.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Coming Out Of The Closet: Highly influential, extremely popular, and/or overrated bands that I could do without

This is a list I've been thinking about for a long time. Mostly because I don't like the following bands, am absolutely puzzled by their popularity, and have an intense yearning to express my disdain. Undoubtedly, some of the reason behind my disdain is the fact that I simply don't understand their popularity. Maybe that's just the way it goes, taste being subjective and all, that I'm not going to like every massively-important-to-rock-and-roll-history band (read: dinosaurs). And to prove this point, my next post will be another highly subjective list of dinosaurs that I enjoy the music of!

Since the list was getting a bit too long, I'm only going to go in-depth with 5 major ones and then I'll just mention the "dishonorable mentions."

The Beatles

I can't stand the Beatles. I've heard a few albums and countless songs over the years (how could one not hear a million Beatles songs in his/her life, since they have penetrated every layer of the mediaverse in various forms?), but none of them are enjoyable. I will admit to being slightly charmed by their old poppy numbers, like "Twist And Shout" or "Can't Buy Me Love," but I would never put them on my iPod or dance to them at a party. I don't like anything about the Beatles -- the harmonies, the timbres of Lenon and McCartney's voices, the sunny hippie lyrics, their incorporation of "exotic" instrumentation on some songs, etc. The music of the Beatles bores me, it does not provoke emotions (or imagery or anything, really) in me at all. The proliferation of phony Beatlemania through merchandise and commercials makes the phenomenon that much worse. I'm constantly reminded of their presence and thus their music, and I am thus annoyed.

Led Zeppelin

My disdain for Led Zep runs deep. Now, it's particularly odd for me to hate them since their innovations eventually spawned so much great music, many a good genre. But, you know what, if Zep hadn't have done it, someone else would have. And maybe I would like that band. Alas, I'm not compelled by the music of this group. It's not that I don't like the bluesy stuff, stuff that is overly histrionic, or the EPIC guitar playing (the only element of this band that I fancy is the guitarage), or the STOCK rhythm section, it just doesn't seem to gel for me with Zeppelin. It's inexplicable. Though one thing I know for sure à propos de Led Zeppelin, is that "Stairway To Heaven" is one of the most boring and overrated rock jams, ever.


Ozzy Osbourne

Who cares about Ozzy? I'm not really a Sabbath fan either, but the thing that really keeps me away from liking Sabbath is Ozzy's vocals, which is why I decided to list him only, rather than penalize the band as a whole (and then, why penalize Dio, as well?). Ozzy is possibly the most annoying vocalist in the history of rock and roll (Steven Tyler from Aerosmith edges him out a bit), so I find it extremely surprising that he is so legendary. Sure, his antics and non-musical persona are sometimes interesting and the Osbournes didn't get terrible until it penetrated every sphere of the mediaverse, but I couldn't care less, since I'm much more concerned with the music. And Ozzy's music is garbage. I can't name one song that this guy sings that I actually enjoy or care about. Perhaps it's an acquired taste, his (awful) voice? Or is that just what people say when they want to justify liking something terrible?


BUT THEY INVENTED GRUNGE AND ALT ROCK!!! That's absolutely untrue. Nirvana's actually kind of derivative, when you think about it. Take some elements of Pixies and Melvins, and voilà, Nirvana. Nirvana is probably (partially) regarded so highly because their mainstream success ushered in a new era in popular music, where bands that a few years before would have been laughed off in favor of cock rock could now make money. So I dispute their musical importance (importance to popular culture though is indisputable). But then there is the subjective factor. I can honestly say Nirvana's songs don't appeal to me. I'm not familiar with their first studio album, Bleach, but Nevermind and In Utero bore me. It's honest music, undoubtedly, but it doesn't move me, nor am I enticed by their "uniqueness." I think Nevermind is way too polished, and even Kurt Cobain agreed with me (according to a book about Nirvana, as cited on Wikipedia, he said "Looking back on the production of Nevermind, I'm embarrassed by it now. It's closer to a Mötley Crüe record than it is a punk rock record."), so, in a way, it's not surprising that it was a mainstream hit. In Utero is better than Nevermind, it has more texture and rawness (produced by Steve Albini, no wonder!), though the songs still don't jump out at me, with their catchy choruses and all. They stick in my head, but not in a good way. I don't want them there (the STIs of music). I actually prefer to listen to "La Bamba." At least I can dance to it.

Sonic Youth

This may be the biggest "SHOCKER" of the list since, on paper, Sonic Youth should be my favorite band ever. Post-punk New Yorkers? Check. '80s? Check. Noisy? Check. Co-ed vocalizing? Check. Non-pop song structures? Check. And they were and continue to be a hugely influential band. Though, I think by now, their music has gotten less interesting and more same-y. They have an extensive discography, so naturally, I've not heard all their songs, but why would I want to? I've heard so many random songs over the years and the entirety of the Daydream Nation album (has it been remastered? the version I heard sounded like garbage, not in a good way), but they never catch my attention. It just fades into the background for me. No little detail stands out, no song moves me. I keep thinking I need to give SY another chance, but everytime I hear one of their songs, I'm driven away from hearing more. I just don't have the patience for their music (but I will spend hours listening to Sunn O)))!)

Here's some other bands that I think aren't as great as everyone says they are, mostly because I'm simply not enticed by their offerings: Pink Floyd (The Wall is an awesome movie, though), Jimi Hendrix ("Voodoo Chile" blows), Tupac (I prefer B.I.G.), Metallica (yeah, not a big thrash fan, and their 90s output needs no explanation -- truthfully, I debated putting Metallica on this list), U2 (YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH), the Sex Pistols (pre-fab punk solely meant to provoke: boring!)

Friday, 15 January 2010

New Music: Salome

I was reading the new Decibel about the most anticipated releases of 2010 and came across a name I've never heard: Salome. This band has a female vocalist, so naturally, as a lady who likes metal, I'm interested in hearing their musical offerings. And I like what I hear! It's doomy fun for the whole family! Their songs don't seem to be too long, which can sometimes be a problem with this genre, though I have some tendency to enjoy loooooong songs.

What caught my attention first on their Myspace page was the list of influences because it included so many bands that I like (Isis, Khanate, Electric Wizard, Kyuss, etc.). What caught my attention furthermore is the fact that there is a FUGAZI cover. And I looked at the word "Blueprint," debating if I should give it a listen, half in disbelief. So I took the plunge and listened to it. It's about 5 and half minutes long, which adds about a minute and a half to the
Repeater classic. Unfortunately, it kind of ruins what I like about the original: the melodic, yet raw vocal stylings of Guy Picciotto, the simple, but memorable guitar lines, and the driving rhythms. I posted a long time ago about how I usually hate cover songs, but in this instance, I can at least appreciate that a band chooses such a great band (and song) to cover and let their less-than-stellar interpretation slide. That, and their original songs are freakin' sweet. I'll probably be buying their new album, whenever it comes out this year.

Here's a link to their Myspace:

Saturday, 9 January 2010

2009 - The Music I Missed

These are the albums that I didn't get around to, for reasons stated below. Hopefully, I'll find time for them in '10, amongst the usual onslaught of new releases.

Obscura - Cosmogenesis

I'm pretty sure I first heard about this band on the Requiem Metal Podcast (link on the side) and I was instantly impressed by their stylings. It's tech death metal, which I am usually a fan of, but the songwriting on the songs I've heard is particularly good. They really have a lot of soul and are surprisingly accessible and catchy. The main reason for my not getting this record is lack of funds, though I'm a little afraid that I listen to too much tech death. Maybe I just need to embrace the fact that I really dig the genre and stop giving subpar non-tech death metal bands attention that is often unwarranted.

Tombs - Winter Hours

I read about Tombs in Decibel a while back and promptly checked them out on the 'net. On the first listen, I really wasn't feeling it. Then, once again, I was listen to Requiem, and the songs really won me over. This band is difficult to classify, but their melding is an exciting one. I definitely need to keep this album on my list and pick it up in the future.

Lightning Bolt - Earthly Delights

I've kind of fallen out of touch with the Bolt. As can be seen by my best of the decade list, I really loved Wonderful Rainbow (and Ride The Skies, for that matter), but when I heard Hypermagic Mountain, I pretty much just shrugged it off. It was different from the ones I liked and I wasn't sure I liked the direction they were heading in. I really haven't listened to it much, hence why I haven't gotten LB's 2009 effort. I heard a song from this album online, but it didn't get me hyped up to buy the album. I think somewhere down the line I'll end up giving Hypermagic Mountain some more time and then possibly picking up this album, but only time will tell.

Dälek - Gutter Tactics

I really dug the previous Dälek album, Abandoned Language, but this group has so many albums that I don't have that I thought it would be kind of pointless to follow them as the new albums come out. I have to catch up on the catalogue before buying their newer albums. Also, this album got some moderate reviews, so I'm not convinced that it's an urgent buy.

Krallice - Dimensional Bleedthrough

I should own this album. Really ought to. I'm a fan of Mick Barr's Orthrelm and Ocrilim bands and I also enjoy the current wave of American black metal, so why haven't I picked this up (and Krallice's self-titled album from last year)? Pretty much an issue of money. I can only buy so many albums and I've spent all my iTunes gift card money from the holidays. This album is pretty high on my list to buy. Every time I read about this band, or hear one of their songs, I immediately think "I NEED TO BUY THIS NOW," but I'm still hesitant since..... I don't quite know why I hesitate at all. I just need to get this record ASAP.

Millions - Gather Scatter

Another band I heard about in Decibel. I actually listened to this whole album online in the summer (legally!), but I didn't buy the album because I already had so many others that I wanted to buy and thought "oh, I'll get it later or something, I have half a year." And then I lost some enthusiasm for the band. And now I regret not buying it, because it's good, simple, well-made rock music. And I need some more rock music, nothing too extreme or outrageous. Just some good rock.

Moss - Tombs Of The Blind Drugged

I think I may have stumbled across this band from some other band's Myspace page, or from Rise Above records or something like that. So, I like doom metal stuff and this band is pretty cool. The release is only an EP, but it's like 40 minutes long and the last song is a cover that has been stretched out to like 8-10 minutes or something like that. This band has some other albums that I'm also interested in, but I thought an EP might be a good place to start. This band does greatly ressemble Electric Wizard, but I don't care because I dig the Wiz and if I'm going to like another doom band, it's no surprise that something similar also appeals to me.

Jesu - Infinity

I got the Opiate Sun EP and it's really good, but some weird fascination with Justin Broadrick's Jesu project makes me want to buy this other release from this year. It's a 40 minute song, but somehow, I really think I'll like it. It'll probably take me a while to pick this one up, but I'm convinced that it's worth my time.

Mastodon - Crack The Skye

Mastodon is a very good and also very important band in the metal world. They've made a few bona fide classics of the early 2000s and they've made a career for themselves, signing to a major label and all, but without sacrificing their integrity or their artistry. However, I'm just not into their new direction. I would never accuse the band of selling out, and if you hear anything from this era of the band and you're familiar with their history, you'd know this is a logical step for them. I just can't dig it. Mostly because I really hate the vocals. I'm not a fan of clean vocals in the metal realm, though there are some exceptions, but this is too much for me. I even heard a bunch of these songs live and wasn't won over. I just prefer the older stuff. I still greatly respect the band, but I just won't be buying their musics much anymore.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

2009 Part 4

Today's the last part of the "albums I bought" portion of my 2009 stuff. Tomorrow or maybe later in the week, I'll have a post about stuff I didn't get around to.

This is the more general metal section.

Much attention has been payed to Baroness' newest album, Blue Record. The first time I heard this, I kept asking myself ARE YOU READY TO ROCK??!! because I haven't heard a band rock this hard in a long time. Each time a new song came on, I expected it to be the "chill-out" tune, but no, the ROCK doesn't stop, save a couple of short transitional tracks. I was really impressed by how fun and interesting the record was and I regretted that I procrastinated buying it for quite a long time.

If I was doing a traditional list, it would be impossible to leave off Converge's latest masterpiece, Axe To Fall. The band's other releases this decade have all been great, and ATF continues the legacy. I think Converge has officially become the Fugazi of metalcore, always finding a new direction and never putting out a boring album. They're a band that accomplishes the feat of remaining true to, and expanding their sound. This time around, there's possibly their most out-there tracks ever "Cruel Bloom" and "Wretched World." The former is total bluesy-folk that erupts in rock power and the latter is a layered, swirling droner that stretches past seven minutes, and neither prominently feature one of Converge's signature elements, Jacob Bannon's shrieking yowl. The branching out isn't confined to those two tracks, though. There's more double-bass and an increased focus on rock and roll riffery, particularly in the first 4 tracks. And I thought Baroness had a monopoly on the ROCK. Guess not.

Probably my favorite live band this year was Kylesa. I saw them with Mastodon in the summertime, and no disrespect to the 'don, but Kylesa was fun, exciting, and hypnotic. Their difficult-to-peg sound plays quite well live, and I regret that I missed them when they came back to my neighborhood in the fall. I bought Static Tensions at the show, and was initially disappointed. I could tell the band had stepped up their songwriting and were utilizing their two drummers setup better than before, but the album wasn't as good as the live experience. I've written about this before and my opinion hasn't changed. However, as I listened more and got some distance from the live show, Static Tensions has really grown on me. It seems to me that Kylesa is just getting better and better, and I'm hoping the next album will continue the trend. Until then, I'll be listening to "Said And Done" and "Unknown Awareness" a million or so times.

I'm having a hard time figuring out what to say about Burnt By The Sun's alleged final album, Heart Of Darkness. I've always considered the band to be on the second tier of the metalcore genre, and this album doesn't really elevate them. I like this album, but I thought their 2003 album, The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good, was better. It felt more like an album, with transitions and breaks. HOD is a little more consistent, but that makes it a little boring in comparison. What originally interested me about this band was the cool riffs and the dynamic drumming (it's not all blinding speed all the time) and both of those elements are present on this album, though I don't find the songs as memorable. I probably need some more time to listen to this album, but I just wish it had a few more surprises. I enjoy listening to it, but it's missing something.

Monday, 4 January 2010

2009 Part 3

This post is the "miscellaneous" releases of 2009. I didn't exactly know what category some of them belong in or they're part of a category that I only bought 1 or 2 releases from.

Several months ago, I posted about the latest Flaming Lips album, Embryonic. And I don't have much to add to what I've already wrote. Basically, I've listened to the album more and I'm liking it more. It has tons of great songs, it works as an album because of its thematic cohesiveness, and it's just a very interesting direction for the band. I would undoubtedly put it on a "best of" list if I made one.

My most listened to album of this year was Repo by Black Dice. That's partly because it came out in April, whereas most of the other releases came out in the fall. But that's not to say Repo isn't awesome. It's an album that I can listen to over and over again, always finding something new and always being entranced by the complex musical trajectories. The biggest change on this album is the increased use of vocals (in the form of samples, so no straight vocal melodies here, thankfully) and the fact that there are more, shorter tracks. There are still the long stretches ("La Cucaracha" and the fantastically titled "Ultra Vomit Craze"), but there are quite a few less-than-a-minute to three minute tracks that seem transitional, rather than full-fledged songs -- it's kind of like Radiohead's Hail To The Thief, where the short tracks have some interesting ideas, but you want them to be really developed and fleshed-out. Repo is a worthwhile addition to any BD fan's collection, but it's not a great starting point for newbies.

Fuck Buttons' latest outing is quite impressive. I was a pretty big fan of 2008's Street Horrrsing, but the duo has managed to top last year's slab of droning electronoise. The beats are pumped up and the vocals are dropped completely, two adjustments that considerably up the musical ante. Not only are you hypnotized by the drone and freaked out by the noise, but you can also dance to many of these tracks. The songwriting style hasn't changed much (and the tracks flow perfectly into each other just as before -- creating a real album experience), but the band has beefed up their sound. Tarot Sport is denser, more streamlined, and just more memorable. It seems like FB have fully realized the sound that the debut couldn't quite reach.

Talk Normal's debut full-length, Sugarland, is cut from the same cloth as last year's Secret Cog EP, but it's even more noisy and cavernous, with more distinctive songs. It sounds like a lost '80s NYC no-waver, or perhaps something released by the now defunct Gold Standard Laboratories label. It's slow and lurching, with lots of clanging, junky percussion (which reminds me of Neptune). And there's only two members of this band, both of whom do vocals, sometimes at the same time. I'm not quite sure what they're talking (normal) about since the vocals are a bit buried, except "In Every Dream Home A Heartache," which is clearly about materialism and emptiness, but it it doesn't matter that much. This music strikes me as being more about creating unsettling soundscapes than sending a message. Or maybe that is the message?

Though she didn't release a proper album this year, Ellen Allien's single "Lover" (b-side: "You Are") is worth mentioning. It's decidedly more techno than last year's album, Sool, though it sounds like the artist is moving forward, not just retreading old ground. The closest comparison I could make to her older material would be some stuff from Thrills, but that's not entirely accurate. These tracks seem more complex and developed. The fault of Thrills' tracks was that they didn't always feel like fully realized songs, but "Lover" and "You Are" both sound like complete stories. They go from point A to point B. Maybe it's due to length. Both of these songs are 8 minutes, some of Allien's longest. I'm hoping her next album goes in this direction.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

2009 Part 2

This section is "arty metal/metalgaze/Hydrahead/Southern Lord" -- if you've read this blog, you'd probably know exactly which bands.

When I saw Isis in concert this year, I mostly didn't know any of the songs I was hearing, due to the fact that I hadn't bought Wavering Radiant beforehand (I was planning on buying it at the show; it was sold out). I deeply regretted waiting so long, both because the show would have been more enjoyable and because the album is fantastic. Now, my track record with this band shows that I pretty much like anything they do, but WR surprised me in some ways. I think it's one of the band's most cohesive albums, but still every track is interesting and different. The most significant change seems to be that the keyboards are given greater presence, which ends up making the band sound sort of retro and a bit proggy, which I like a lot. Every time I hear the keyboard riff on "Stone To Wake A Serpent," I feel like I've been transported back in time to some hippie jam band's show. It's a fun little fantasy. I'm not so sure what direction Isis will take in the future (if they don't break up), but if WR is any indication, I'm sure I'll be pleased.

I've been following Pelican's music for a long time, and I was obviously excited to hear their contributions to music this year. The Ephemeral EP indicated to me that they were heading into some very interesting territory. They were getting heavier again and writing slower, longer songs. What We All Come To Need followed up on the promise of the EP (though I like the EP version of "Ephemeral" better), though some songs get a bit too fast at times ("Glimmer" in particular). I would call this Pelican's most moody and alt-rockin' record. They definitely veer out of "metal" territory, but they don't completely abandon elements from older records. WWACTN is yet another shade of any already multi-faceted band, but it's a route that you could easily imagine Pelican taking. The band does something new on each album, carrying over certain elements of their previous incarnations while dropping others. They seem to accumulate elements and work through them, mixing and matching, but still finding a specific, fresh direction on each album. A real surprise on WWACTN is The First Pelican Track To Feature Vocals at the end of the album and I was impressed that it turned out so well. Wisely, the vocals are low in the mix and the overall mood is somber and reserved. The vocals are perfectly integrated into the song, not feeling like some last-minute add-on. I wouldn't be bothered if they experiemented more with vocals in the future, though I don't want to hear a whole album with vocals.

You might think, that being a fan of a band that is constantly pushing forward, I would get used to, or even anticipate their latest album sounding completely unlike their previous albums, but I haven't. Sunn O)))'s Monoliths And Dimensions (very appropriately named, by the way) blew me away. The band hasn't done anything like this before. This album moves so far away from their Earthen roots and outside the metal realm. I'm not surprised that it has had a degree of crossover success. Who could have predicted the choirs of "Big Church" or the Godspeedian "Alice"? The band sounds so majestic, all while retaining their signature drone guitars and dark atmosphere. It seems like a logical step for the band, though certainly an unpredictable one. If I were making a traditional list, there's no way I could have left this album off of it.

There's not a lot to say about the latest Jesu EP, Opiate Sun. It's sounds a lot like Conqueror, and I loved that album, so the EP is right up my alley. It seems to be just another release in the already extensive Jesu catalogue, pretty much a "for fans only" thing. Still good songs, though.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Year In Music 2009

Happy New Year.

Instead of the usual "Best Of" list, I've decided to do something different this year. And it's mostly because I didn't buy that many albums this year (a total of 14). Last year, I was DJing for most of the year, so I had a steady stream of new musics, but now that I have to buy everything, I certainly haven't heard as much. And I was out of the country for 1/3 of the year, so I haven't been as in-touch with new music coming out in the US and A, nor have I been listening to radio as much. Only 2 releases that I've bought this year have been by groups that I don't own any other releases by; I've mostly bought new stuff from my favorite artists. So I'm just going to recap the releases I've enjoyed this year. The document turned out to be a lot longer than I expected, so it will be published in four parts, roughly by genre. And then there will be a post about the albums I've missed this year. This first post covers "indie rock:"

I've already written a bit about Bitte Orca by the Dirty Projectors, but my opinion of it has changed a lot since the first few listens. It's a dense, bizarre collection of proggy pop songs, each with an identity different from the others. It reminds me of Talking Heads in a lot of ways -- the integration of various genres into a Western pop sensibility, the idiosyncratic vocals of Dave Longstreth, and the prickly guitar playing, among other things. Despite their weirdness, these are still songs that I can't get out of my head (and that's not actually a problem). It's great when an album makes me really want to delve deeper into a band's back catalogue.

In last year's list I wrote this about Black Mountain's album In The Future: "This was a real surprise. At first, it just seemed to be a derivative, 70s rocknroll/psych retread. And it kind of is. But the songs are interesting and memorable." That's about how I feel about Lightning Dust's album Infinite Light (the band features two members of Black Mountain), though the genre here is more like retro folkpop. The songs are really well executed and the performers just have qualities that I find interesting -- the vocalist has I voice that I love. It's not original or mind-blowing, but Infinite Light is so darn enjoyable and pleasant. It covers various different moods and is suitable for various occasions. The songs are simple and catchy, but also honest and heartfelt. I can't get them out of my head, but I don't really want to.

Mission Of Burma is one of my favorite bands. I can't think of a MOB song that I don't at least like. The new album, The Sound, The Speed, The Light, is no exception. It really doesn't stray from the tried-and-true Burma style. It plays well as an album, but the sequencing doesn't add much to the experience. The songs are just, good songs, that happen to have enough similarity that you might group them together. I think production-wise, it hems closer to OnOffOn and even Vs., being that it has more of a gritty edge and chunky bass sound (The Obliterati sounded much cleaner, thinner, and polished). I can't really fault Burma for writing good songs, but I'm a little disappointed because they haven't branched out much. SSL does have a more classic rock (i.e. - the Who, the Rolling Stones, etc.) type of vibe to it, which is a little different from older albums, but not significantly. In a way, though, this is what I expected from the band. Where else can they go? And should they tamper around with their basically perfect formula? Would that still be Mission Of Burma? Tough questions. I'm interested to see where the band will go from here, if they stay together, or just regroup again in another decade or so.