Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vampire Weekend; Modern Vamps

New format kids (calm down, it's not that exciting).  Here is how it works.  I get the Music, listen to it 3 times and tell you if it sucks or not.  My kids and wife (say "Hi" Renee.....kidding, she doesn't read my drivel) are also tested on it and I plan to share a 1 to 2 sentence reaction from them.  With that said, grab a beer, clean your glasses off and give me 3 minutes of your day:

"Modern Vampires of the City" is the third studio album (there could be more, but c'mon, who cares, no one is reading this anyway) does NOT disappoint.  Unlike many artists' 3rd-go-round, Vamp sticks to what is knows and does best and only adds to their formula of success with tweaks like voice modulation (check out "Diane Young", which is likely a play on words (dying young) and also a jab at the late Teddy Kennedy Bridge/Woman/Death thang').  They seem to play more with organs and strings (check out "Step" or "Don't Lie") and certainly a more mature, less "cute" feel (which feel I liked in their first self-titled album and second album "Contra").  The maturity fits and it works.

My favorites are:

Step - This song seems to be about a relationship and progressing to the next step; needing that person.  Hits home and I fucking like it.  Starting with their early college years, travels and distances between them etc.  "The gloves are off, the wisdom teeth out, what you on about, I feel it in my bones, I feel it in my bones, I'm strong enough I'm ready for the house......I cant do it alone...".)

Hannah Hunt - This song - - shocker - - is also about relationships...and travel...and trust.  Spoiler: does not sound like this 'ship worked out for Erza *awe, frowny face*.  Good song, low key, almost tribal beat and that picks up at the end after he describes his cross-country journey with...yeah, Hannah (duh).

Finger Back - One of the many faster tracks with an upbeat tempo and portions that remind of a punk feel. The speed of the music is matched by Ezra's quick choppy cadence of the lyrics.  Not really sure what the song is about (probably some broad) but I like it for the title lyrics: "bend my finger back, snap, wrap it in a paper towel, break a twig in half and set it straight."  Gross, but how he sings it makes it better and certainly less gross....maybe.

Rhys and Carys loved Diane Young for its fast and fun beat.  They also thought it was really funny how he altered his voice and how it goes in and out of a fast paced surfer rock to a very down tempo song. Certainly a kid friendly album (but don't recommend explaining the lyrics to them).

Check it out.  Do it already.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The First of the Last Bison

The Last Bison
Inheritance - 

This album took me in for odd reason.  The Music: Folky; The Vocals: Falsetto; and and overall feeling of rough unrefinement.  Do they have un/intentional voice cracks you ask? Yeah, they have that too.

This is NOT a party album, nor are any of the independent songs on the album.  This is a album of unconnected stories.  It's a sit, drive, train (like "choo-choo" not "pumpin'; iron" listen.  So don't pop this bad boy in and expect your guest to complement you on a good social gathering selection.

The album opens as a folky, banjo strummin', fiddle playing jam, and then rather quickly followed by a voice that can only be described as a cross between the singer from The Used (Bert interesting fella) and ol' so-and-so from Mumford, only not British (yet all the while thinking that if you didn't know he and his band mates were from Virginia, they could possibly be from a far off land).

Bison is a group of very talented and classically presented folk musicians.  There is a sense of theater with their delivery of strings, bells, and light percussion that balance well with a heavy kick drum for balance.

I was introduced to them by their most popular song, "Switzerland," which if you judge them by radio play or charts, however (which should not be the test of any good band); is likely the only song you have ever heard from them.  My daughter really seamed to love this track (so if you can't hack-it, it means your ears are more immature than a 4 year olds.  It's a fun catchy song and great to dance in the kitchen too.

Downsides - They seem to be a bit of a one trick pony.  Most of their songs while great, sound very similar and matched with a similar vocal track, making it hard to tell many of the songs apart unless you have listened to then many many many times.  Don't get me wrong, the songs are not any less great because of their similarities, they are great because of them, but one has to wonder if they have a second album in them.

Two Tracks to Point Out:

1.  "Tired Hands" - This song for some reason reminds me of a song in the where Lincoln was shot".  It may be some of the surprising insertions of musical scales, or lyrics (to which I have no clue what he is talking about) that seem to be more spoken than sung, as if it was musical (many songs actually have this quality like the song that follows of "Take all the Time".  But whatevs', I like-ie.

2.  "Watches and Chains" - This song seems to be very personal to (Ben Hardesty).  From what I get it seems to be a song about a chatty/gossipy town that speaks ill of the boy's hard working (supposedly) father who goes out to sells his wares (of watches and chains) and focusing on this "theology" and while he is away, the neighbors tell the boy and his mother that their father/husband is wasting his and their time and not providing for the family ("where's your meat, where's your fruit, where's you bread, have you eaten today, have you eaten today?).  Then the mom would try to console the worried son (Ben, again, allegedly).  Here is what I know (thanks to Wiki):  Ben Hardesty, lead singer (there is also a sister in the band) grew up the son of a preacher, and likely lived a very religious and modest, if not rough, life and was subject to ridicule from the Town and neighbors who either thought differently than they did (religiously or otherwise).  Here's the crazy part about the song, it ends with his dad coming home, telling him basically "to hell with the neighbors" and don't worry, and of course, read your bible.....then it just fucking ends. Just ends.  Fuck you early ending *i'm ok...zen now*.  Moral being: Fuck the neighbors?...who knows?.


Join me next time...when the Vamp is back......

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Return of a DMB giant: Steve Lillywhite

Aside from the myriad of things that I love about my wife and all that which drew me to her (Renee "the inspirerer" Ramsey), we still, after 12 years together, equally share an unhealthy love for Dave Matthews Band ("Dave" or "DMB" for short, you guys). Sappy, I know...its a character flaw. We shared many concerts between MA and CT venues. Quick side note: you konw when you listen to live shows and you hear people yelling "I love you Dave" and "whoooo whoooo, we love you Dave".......yeah, that's her....likely on some bootleg cd somewhere. But the best part about our fandom, is her reaction when I get to tell her of a new album release The convo goes something like, ME: "hey, guess what....a new Dave Matthew Band album comes out tommorow." HER: REALLY !!! (doing her impression of a kid on Christmas morning). This brief, but joyful, exchange is invariably followed by a discussion of our dream to both go out to the Red Rocks (Colorado) and see Dave for a weekend [sooo, if anyone wants to baby sit some October, email me].

We are lifers. Own all the studio albums, about 30 live albums (some released by DMB and others from the mid-90s that weren't (shhh), and far too many versions of his many songs. Somethings don't change.

Dave certainly has changed (sort of....see below), which you have to image is due to the reunion of DMB and the producer that put DMB on the charts and map (at least in part), Steve Lillywhite. Lillywhite is best known for DMB's first three of fourt chart topping albums, "Under the Table and Dreaming" and "Everyday" (I think he did "Remember Two Things" too, but don't beleive "Crash"....what-evs, I am sure you could look it up if you gave a two craps....I only give one crap, so I'm going from memory). Lillywhite may be also infamously known for one of the darkest albums that lead to his split from working with the bank for over 10 years (btw, the album was finally released as "Busted Stuff" and apply named. Prior to that most die-hard could find a bootleg copy that was known as "The Lillywhite Sessions").

This album, even for a long time fan (maybe especially for a long time least this one) was weird to listen to at first. Could not figure out why. To be perfectly clear, this was litterally on the first listen. It wasn't that the music was bad or too different or that they regressed into something out of my taste; it wasn't any of that. By the 3rd listen (my magic number), I figured it out. Oddly it was that this album reminded me of the old DMB. The syles, the jamminess to many songs (or envisioned potential for jams), the playfulness of some songs, Daves lyrics...

....songs like "Gaucho" (studio and live are awesome). Great lead-ins, almost a sticato of all instruments: percussion, guatars, violin and...yes Trumpet. Trumpet? Yes, Trumpet. This maybe be the first studio album with trimpet(s) featured on almost all of the tracks (there may have been a few on Grux). It reall gives these songs a jazzier and livly feel and it also pairs well with the high pitches of the violin. They been touring with Rashawn Ross (Trumpet) for years, so it was only a matter of time before he landed fully (and rightfully) on an album.....

Guacho goes right into Sweet. A perfect DMB song, in line with past songs like "Oh (Some Devil ,solo album) ", "Baby Blue (GrooGrux), "Christmas Song (Remember Two Things)". A nice, fairly light traditional DMB track. Simple, violin, sax, gental Dave vocals....and a Yuke! Yeah, I think so...either that or its Boyd Tinsley playing his violin as a guitar which he is known to do, but the sounds is usually more single note driven and not chord based...curious though.

Plenty of awesome tracks on this album and certainly no need to review/explain them all. Old fan or new fan, I think this album will please you, if not for its familiar sound to older works, then for the great production value and talented musician that comprise DMB.

Join me next time. No tease this time, just a demand.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rhys' "Good Winter"

My original intention for this blog was to to talk about my love of music, my family, and my family's love of music. My path has veered, so here is my correction. This one was tough one to write. A heavier subject only aided by music and having the happy ending we all wanted.

To be clear from the get-go, this is NOT about how a song "saved" me or my family or anyone in my family. This is about how words and music can help change a perspectve, lift a spirit, give you a needed boost if not for a few days, a few hours.

In February of 2011 my wife and I were lucky enough to be blessed with a baby boy. Despite troubles that started early in the preganncy, he is great, healthy and one of three people that make everything I do worth it, tenfold.

Rewinding some: October 2010 was a rough month. I think I purchased Bon Iver's album "For Emma, Forever Ago" in early 2009, so I had already embraced most of the tracks and developed an unhealthy love for Mr. Vernon's voice. At that time, I just enjoyed the music and wasn't really focused on lyrics and meaning (which I think is really the way music should be consumed). That month we learned far too much about far too many things that no one but a medicial professional should feel compelled to know and researched many topics looking for answers we did not want. Guessing, agonizing, confused, helpless. One of the few moments in my life I have experienced despair and surreality.

It was on one of those research nights that I was playing this album. Many tracks talked to me. I know this is common; music hits different people, at different times, at different stages of life. While many tracks resonated with me, like "Blindsided" (which I was), "For Emma" and "Wisconsin" (probably the best bonus track I have ever heard on any album, ever (I will take that challenge)), none hit me the way "Re: Stacks" did.

Catchy, certainly. Overplayed, possibly. Near perfect, yes.

The music itself was cathartic. Sounds lame, but it was slightly healing.....actually..... looking back, no, it really wasn't, but it made me feel better and matched what I was feeling at that time. Setting aside any other purported song meaning, to me it seemed to be, in part, about putting so much love and energy into something, investmenting emotionally and physcially, and suffering a great crushing blow despite everything. For us, that crushing blow was the very real probability (not possibility) that our baby boy would not make it full term, and if he did, he likely would not survive long thereafter. While this certainly lyrically emotional song gives you (gave me) that calm, sad yet serene feeling, it also gives you (gave me) a point of strenght. While we (my wife and I) were faced with tough questions and put in unthinkable situations, we pushed through (we had to).

The other part of the song seems to be about the other side of the emotional investment (i.e. what the Stacks of chips are being waged on). It was the last verse of the song that stuck with me the most on this point. It didn't give me the answers or even attempt to try, but it gave me a bump; that things are going to happen in life, things that range from fucking awesome to puke-your-brains-out shit bad. It let me take a deep (deep as hell) breath, and say that regardless of what happens, I will protect him, them, my family, and keep them safe from as much as I possibly can.

Here is that final verse. Its bold and hits hard:

"This is not the song of a new man
or a crispy realization.
Its the song of the unlocking and lift away
your love will be safe with me."

Well, I put it out there. Feeling a bit more on track, despite the depth of this post. Promising, for now, that other posts won't be as hard to write or read.........join me next time where I promise to keep my promise from my last "join me next time" statement.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Antlers; not a new release but a great one.

Took a mini blog vacation. But from all the fan mail *wink*, I decided to start writing again.

New experiment: This post is complelely done on the road, via iPad2, without spell check and written sitting next to strangers, gaulkers and not in my ususal fashion (quill and ink with parchment)....TO THE MUSIC:

Picked up The Antlers 2011 release "Burst Apart" (although the earlier album "Hospice" is on my radar too) and enjoy the hell out of it, #youguys. Not a typical summer listen, but so good (as always, it improves with age).

After thinking about who I could draw a comparison of this band to, I realized that I was not sure I could actually do that...accurately at least. Sure, if you take The Antlers apart you could draw comparisons to other artists. Like Silberman's (Peter Silberman pretty much runs this production) almost falsetto voice can be compare with Justin Vernon's (Bon Iver's lead vocalist). And their electronic pace to many of their songs can be similar to Arcade Fire...just "dreamier" (yes, I've heard the term "dream pop", but this isn't pop). To steal a line from @dadboner (a twitter "soap", as I call it... hilarious stupid humor, btw), if you put an unloaded gun to my head (cause as loaded gun would probably be illegal) then I would say that The Antlers have a bit of Radiohead influence, Depeche....maybe...anyway, its probably not that important. What is, is the music.

Mellow. Very mellow in much of what they do (sleepy even (i.e. "Tiptoe"). Silberman's voice blends with the songs, in a high, falsetto voice that is graceful enough to be a womans, but occasionally deep enough (and pitchy at times) to be a man's - - actually in the track "French Exit" it gets kinda tricky because his high voice is matched with a duet/back-up high pitched woman's voice. The two are so evenly matched it's hard to tell it is two people. I think that this album gets most of its praise for the first 3 or 4 songs which are great, but the entire album is excellent and worth a listen (or my obligatory 2 full listens to love standard). "I Don't Want to Love" is the first track. The track carries an organ bed which pairs well with lazy drums and guitar melody - - add in some high pitched man-voice, and bingo: an Antler classic. "French Exit", has more of a beat and a catchy maracca-synth thing going for it that makes it kinda fun....chill-and-converse-to-fun, not dance-to-it-fun (or to any of the tracks). "Parentheses" is rougher, meaner, a more suspicious lyric, guitar, piano and darker feel. Great nonetheless. From that point in the album, the tracks shift to a more, electronic, melodic, dream-like style. But still great...just different.

The last 4 tracks; however, are where this album excels. "Hounds", "Corsicana", "Putting the Dog to Sleep" (not an act I ever look forward to with my buddy, but the song is probably the best on the album....lyrically sad (of course)....Compare to: "Bronte", the last track on Gotye's "Making Mirrors" album....oddly also about a dying dog), and "Tongue Tied" (a bonus track) are incredible. They build a bit on each other (these first 3 at least) and then "Tongue Tied" just hits you with a heavy, gritty synth-drum track with a far more gruff, yet aloof voice compared to the prior 10 tracks.

I give this album an overall "2 Listens to Love" for a music junkie and "3 Listens to Love" for the more causal music lover.

"Join me next time" when we dig into the belly of a......wait for it.....main stream, multiple studio album, multiple live album, and multiple side-project, band (hey you, yeah you, don't roll your eyes or groan....I will make it fun).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A new Shin

Note, i wrote this almost a month ago and intentionally did not post it (kinda like that angry letter you write and come back to later)...I still listen to the album regularly, but my opinions remain unchanged....just an experiment.......
I've been waiting for this. 5 years in fact; 2007 was The Shins last studio album ("Wincing the Night Away")...I know I know....John Mercer has been "busy" [condisendingly] with side projects....and cleaning house with certain Shin band members that weren't pulling their weight. Not bitter. Just feel neglected.
First impressions: it's The Shins in all their quirky atmospheric indie (rock? Naah) style laced with great lyrics and prominent Mercer vocals....but it's not exactly what my 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 or 2012-self was looking for (especially not my 2008-self; he was just pissed). It is a departure from the old...a maturity... its a full sound that does not leave the impression it was performed in isolation from the world like past work.
Second Impression: Despite not getting exactly what I wanted, it is still a good album that I really like. But if your looking for the inward looking meloncholly tracks of "Oh Inverted World" then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.  The tracks on "Port of Morrow" are far more upbeat in the beginning (using a relativity scale from past albums) and trending toward more mellow down tempo tracks at the end.  Broken Bells, a side project of Mercer that I enjoyed, is all over this album. If you compare Mercer's style on Broken Bells project (a Danger Mouse adventure), it is not hard to see the evolution of The Shins to "Port of Morrow."  Track 10, also called Port of Morrow, even sounds dangerously close to Broken Bells song The High Road.  All for the good though. I can't put my finger on it exactly but I think it's the chill tempo and vocal cadence (just deeper in Broken Bells).
Each track is fairly distinct, opening with The Rifle's Spiral that weaves a drum and synth based track complete with The Shins signature "surfer" (or Hawaiianesq....your call) guitar.  This is followed by Simple Song which is radio track and....blah blah've heard it, it's catchy and perfectly engineered and mastered to catch both a pop and indie classification (Elise will not be happy).  I think the album picks up from there and gets better, especially with It's Only Life and its references to Alice in Wonderland.  Bait and Switch has a funness (c'mon, it should be a word) and almost a 60s or 70s pop feel with a surfy guitar...then BAM...September hits and the album gets familiar again to older works.  No Way Down brings this bi-polar album back up....not a favorite of mine, but it has a great lyric that balances my dislike for the track: "make me a drink...strong enough to wash away the dish water world they said was lemonade."
The next 4 tracks are my favorites: For a Fool, Fall of '82, 40 Mark Strasse and Port of Morrow (also a song name).  All are on a down tempo, almost lazy feeling, especially For a Fool.  Fall of '82 has a Beatles feel to it (mainly due to guitar scales) at the the chorus. 40 Mark Strasse is one of my favorites with an repeating haunty intro, a great accoustic melody and an interesting German prostitute story line (yes, like hooker...40 Mark Strausse (Street) was apparently where German soldiers picked up the ol' lady friends....also 40 Mark (40 dollars)....."playing in the streef at night"'s not rocket science, but makes for good music.  Hopefully I have not thoroughly discouraged you from the album.  I like it and it is well worth the money despite not getting exactly what I wanted.
Join me next time for something that's bigger than a bread box and is not a body least i think...

Great new video that recently came out too....check it:

Rifle's Spiral Video

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gotye. Say it with me: "Go-te-yae"

Yes, Gotye; it's not a typo (more on him later). As a back drop to this post, and my slacking in that department, my younger sister, Megan, must be credited in alerting me to Gotye's new release.  She sent me a message telling me to check out his new song "Someone That I Used To Know."  Actually what she said was, 'hey, this guy makes weird music and you like weird music, therefore A + B = You will like this song/artist' (paraphrasing but that was the gist).  She knows me well.  I was not aware of Gotye's new album, but knew of his release from 2006 Like Drawing Blood and its main single "Hearts a Mess" (an incredible song). So thanks Meg for telling me about this new release.

The new album, Making Mirrors, was released in 2011 at various times depending on location (iTunes says December 2011 but I understand it was released in June and July in Europe and Australia/NZ) and it's truly a Great (capital "G") album that is fun to listen to and keeps you guessing.  No, he is not another dup-step DJ (I promised I wouldn't), but this Belgian born Australian does bring to the table a fair share of electronic components to his music...but it's only a small portion of what he does.  Gotye is the stage name of Wouter De Bachner (Walter in Wally really)...plenty more on Google on how he went from Wouter-to-Walter-to-Wally-to-Goyte, but its origin is French-based (so who really cares...back to the music).  If you had to categorized his music, i think indie-alt or progressive rock with electronic aspects (mainly through synthesizers) would cover it generally. But labeling is dangerous and he is the proof.  There are very few tracks that stick to the same format (which is a negative if you only like one of his many formats).  The first 3 tracks tell you right out of the gate that this album is nothing ordinary, from his airy ambient intro track, "Making Mirrors," followed by the almost 70's style (Beck-ish) rock and roll track, "Easy Way Out," to his big single on the album, "Someone That I Used To Know."  This track can best tie his old album to his current work, and is in a similar vein to "Hearts a Mess" from Gotye's first album Like Drawing Blood, in its use of broad varieties of instruments ranging from acoustic guitar, xylophone, cello, brushed snare drums, and electronic/synth effects.  A beautiful (break-up) song only improved by the lovely voice of Kimbra, a New Zealand singer/songwriter. Truly a great track.

Off hand I can't think of a comparable compilation of songs that are each sooo different from each other but fit so well on one album.  He has the obligatory radio ready singles, "Someone That I Used to Know" and "Eyes Wide Open" (not a huge favorite of mine) that are catchy and can stand alone.  Huddled around these tracks; however, are unique and varying, almost dorky but endearing, tracks that honestly took a solid 2 times to listen to to really enjoy and get into.  Maybe that wouldn't make the best marketing pitch, but these "secondary tracks" make the album.  Yes, I would put this album in the category of addictive after a 2 start to finish listens (it's not a long album and trust me, if you found this Blog and you are reading it up to this thinks you have some time on yo' hands, so do it and don't cherry pick off this album for your own musical health) improves with each listen...promise.

There's a Bj√∂rk like quality in "Smoke and Mirrors" that reminds of her track "Human Behavior"...probably from the drums/bongos, use of snares and use of horns (or electronic versions of horns).  Then there's the 60ish-Four Tops styled "I Feel Better".  Wasn't a huge fan of this track at first, but it's catchy.  There is a bit of an 80's revival woven into some of the tracks throughout the album.  The use of synthesizers makes it almost unavoidable (especially the way he does it), but well done.  He's not the only one to have done this recently, Bon Iver did it on its new disc in a track called "Beth/Rest".

A particularly interesting song is the reggae/down tempo ska-ish styled song called "State of the Art".  The voice is on distortion or "auto-tune" to sound almost robotic, but the best part of this song, is how the lyrics play off of the music (or vice-a-versa).  It's almost comical once you figure out what he's talking about.  Here's a quick summary: He purchases a "Lowry Cotillion model D-575" (an 80's organ and synthesizer) and is telling all about its features, from the "genie bass" button to the "banjo repeat" function and how amazing it is....then he invites his neighbors over to dance to the "bossonova beat" and play the "magic swing piano" setting for some truly amazing entertainment (so much so that he throws his TV out).  As he's naming all of the Cotillion's functions, the song then does what he's described musically (i.e. when he says "I put the 'genie bass' on" the song starts to actually play the genie bass from the Cotillion).  I am fairly certain that he actually used a real Lowry Cotillion for all parts of the song (its listed as one of the instruments he played on the CD...actually the only one).  Granted, the whole track is a bit silly, but musically amazing (again, when you consider what he used to play the music...) and a favorite track of mine.  Just for fun, this is a Lowry Catillion model D-575:

I don't dislike a single track, which is something I usually never say.  The album rounds out the end with a more melancholy tone and electronic sounding tracks, some with almost David Gray like rhythms that Gotye has become popular for, like "Don't Worry, We'll Be Watching" and "Bronte" both of which are in my top 5 for this album.

SOOO, if you have a musically adventurous bone in your body, I truly think you will enjoy this album.

Top 5 Songs from Making Mirrors (in no particular order):

  • Someone That I Used to Know
  •  Don't Worry, We'll Be Watching
  •  Bronte
  • Giving Me a Chance
  • State of the Art

"Join me next time when" I plan to talk about an album that I've been waiting to drop for years (I can almost feel your anticipation)....