May 30, 2008

np: "We Carry On" - Portishead

I completely fell in love with the new Portishead album this afternoon. I can't explain why this particular listen (my third full spin) was so special, but it just resonated so strongly with me. I've never been a particularly huge fan of the band, in fact I don't think I've ever heard an entire full album of theirs before picking this one up after reading some glowing reviews. I remember vaguely liking "Sour Times" when it was all over alt-rock radio back in the day, but at the time it wasn't enough to convince me that I'd really be that into the band. I had Tricky for my trip-hop fix, thank you very much. So all the buzz and brouhaha about the long-awaited return kinda flew right by me.

But damn, is this album a stunner. It's very warm and enveloping, sucking you right in with the varying textures and attention to sonic detail. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of In Rainbows and a lot of the more recent Radiohead studio material - very crisp and precise, but not so rigid that it doesn't groove a little now and then. Really, just an astounding example of what three extremely talented musicians can do when they fully embrace the recording technique as another instrument. But check things out for yourself...

Portishead - "We Carry On" (taken from Third)
Portishead - "Nylon Smile" (taken from Third)

PS. - Isn't this story really, really fascinating? I mean, to think that groups like this still exist in 2008 blows my mind. I really hope that this story doesn't send a bunch of curiosity seekers to search them out and ruin the good thing they've got going.

PPS. - This will probably be my last post for a couple of week, as I head out on a deliberate posting hiatus. I'll be getting married in a week, then heading off to Costa Rica for my honeymoon.

May 22, 2008

np: "More Than Meets The Eye" - Testament

Time for some brief thoughts on what I've been spinning the past week or so...

Testament - The Formation of Damnation (Nuclear Blast)
These thrash metal legends absolutely kill on their first album of all new material in nine years. Guitarist Alex Skolnick is back in the fold and the band hasn't sounded this good since the late 80's. If you are at all a fan of 80s thrash by the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus, Anthrax, etc. - you owe it to yourself to check this out. At the very least, this is miles ahead of the most recent Metallica or Megadeth albums.

Islands - Arm's Way (ANTI-)
I'm not too sure what I think of this one just yet, this is a pretty bloated and expansive disc - eight of its twelve tracks run over 5 minutes, with 3 of those over 7 minutes (including the 11 minute closing suite of "Vertigo (It's a Crime"). It isn't as immediate as Return to the Sea, nor is it as poppy, but their are plenty of flashes of what makes these guys great. I'll have to digest a lot more before I can firm up my opinion.

Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs (Atlantic)
Recently announced as this week's number one album in America, this is another in a fine line of DCFC full-lengths. Nowhere near as pretty, nor as accessible, as Plans, this is a surprisingly dark and dour major label release. The creepy stalker twist of the first single was a good indication of this album's direction, and songs like "No Sunlight", "You New Twin Sized Bed", and "Pity and Fear" further bear this out. It's almost like they were trying to get dumped by Atlantic. Old-school DCFC fans should love this, Gibbard is in fine for throughout and Chris Walla, as expected, makes this album sound fantastic.

Scott Kelly - The Wake / Steve Von Till - A Grave is a Grim Horse (Neurot)
This week saw the release of solo projects by two members of progressive metal band Neurosis. Both Kelly and Von Till go the acoustic singer-songwriter route, but steeped in the ambient and dark bent of their main band. They have eerily similar voices, wavering at times somewhere between Nick Cave and Mark Lanegan. I wouldn't call either essential, but they both have some chilling moments. Von Till's is probably the slightly stronger of the two, with his title track and excellent cover of Nick Drake's "Clothes of Sand" both standouts.

May 19, 2008

np: "Erase the Speed of Time" - Pet Genius

I was just going through the backlog of promo discs sitting on my desk and decided to toss on this album that had been staring at me for quite some time, mainly because I keep coming across it while looking for something else. As it turns out, Pet Genius is the name of a side project by one Mr. Stephen Brodsky - the lead singer of alt-rock/metalcore band Cave-In, a band I remember reading quite a bit about a few years back but never really checking out. This album has me wondering what I might have missed, because this is pretty good in a really unexpected way. Catchy as hell crunchy power psych-pop with some huge riffs thrown into the mix. I hear a little Pink Floyd, a little Led Zep, some Sloan, a bit of Queens of the Stone Age; this touches on tons of different stuff. It totally has "side project" written all over it, but this is pretty fun - and if I didn't mention it already, catchy as hell. Makes me anxious to check out another of his solo projects that showed up in today's mail, The Black Ribbon Award, under the name Stove Bredsky.

Pick up both Pet Genius and Stove Bredsky from Hydra Head.

May 18, 2008

np: "One Hundred Years" - The Cure

I was able to cross another band off the "bands I really need to see before I die" list last night, I went with my fiancee to see The Cure at Allstate Arena. It was a fantastic show, even better than I expected it to be. The band played for a full three hours, including three separate encores and a setlist that spanned their entire career. Robert complained several times about his voice and his between song banter seemed to be hampered by a slight cold, but I don't think he sounded all that band when singing. It was a great set that perfectly balanced the poppier side of the band with the more atmospheric, dirge-like numbers. "Pictures of You" was undoubtedly the highlight of the night for me, but the Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me encore that paired "If Only Tonight We Could Sleep" with "The Kiss" ran a very close second. Most encouragingly, however, was how great the quartet of brand new songs sounded, it left me very anxious to hear the album when it finally comes out in September.

The setlist:
Prayers For Rain
A Night Like This
The Walk
The End of the World
Pictures of You
The Perfect Boy
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
Hot Hot Hot
Sleep When I'm Dead
Friday I'm In Love
Inbetween Days
Just Like Heaven
Never Enough
The Only One
Wrong Number
One Hundred Years

encore 1:
If Only Tonight We Could Sleep
The Kiss

encore 2:
Close To Me
Why Can't I Be You?

encore 3:
Boys Don't Cry
Jumping Someone Else's Train
Grinding Halt
10.15 Saturday Night
Killing An Arab

If you get a chance to see them on this tour, don't pass them up! The band is sounding fantastic.

Openers 65daysofstatic were pretty good too, but my anticipation for finally getting to see The Cure kind of overshadowed their enjoyable brand of instrumental post-rock. Didn't help that some terribly unfunny douchebag kept trying to blind the drummer with a laser pointer. That kind of thing wasn't funny 10 years ago and definitely isn't funny now.

Oh, yeah. Those of you looking forward to my best of the first quarter mix may have to content themselves with this muxtape that I put together. It's probably as close to a real mix as you're going to get out of me as we rapidly approach the wedding, with all the final planning that entails.

May 10, 2008

np: "Discipline" - Nine Inch Nails

What a great year for Trent Reznor, and more importantly - fans of Trent Reznor. First he gets tons of great publicity for taking the Radiohead album sales concept one step further, creating a tiered pricing structure for the release of his instrumental project, Ghosts I-IV. Then, he releases a brand new album pretty much out of the blue. The tracks "Discipline" and "Echoplex" started floating around, and then, BAM! there was The Slip all ready for NiN fan listening pleasure. The best part? Trent's giving it away, free, in varying qualities of downloadable digital files.

Sounds pretty damn good, right? Trent's always recognized and appreciated his rabid and loyal fanbase, but giving away an entire album for free is a pretty bold step. Maybe he is still feeling giddy from all that cash he cleared from Ghosts.

But is it any good? Fair question. I mean, free must mean a bunch of outtakes and leftover demo crap, right? Don't be so sure. I'm only on my second listen, but I think this may end up being my favorite NiN full-length since The Fragile. Lots of great beats and textures, with quite a few poppy moments, especially on the aforementioned "Discipline" and "Echoplex". There are some noisier tracks, some ambient experiments, and some early 80s synth-pop flourishes, but it all flows together really well. I like to think it has something to do with the return of Robin Finck, always one of my favorite parts of the NiN live experience back in the mid-90s. Head on over to and download the album for yourself. Reznor is on a roll.

May 7, 2008

np: "Paradox Lost" - Coldworker

Yeah, I'm still slacking on updating this blog as much as I should be, but I have pretty good reasons (at least I think I do). Between getting ready for my main gig to move offices in a couple days, preparing like mad for my wedding (only a month away!), and working on several different writing projects - I barely have time to catch my breath, let alone let loose a string of mental dribblings worthy enough to clutter the pixels on your screen.

In the meantime, lists! Who doesn't love a good list or two?

2008 releases I've recently been loving:
Portishead - Third
Young Knives - Superabundance
Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
Santogold - Santogold
M83 - Saturdays=Youth
Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell
Atmosphere - When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold

2008 releases I can't wait to sink my teeth into:
No Age - Nouns
Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
Torche - Meanderthal
Russian Circles - Station
The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age of the Understatement

some absolutely awesome singles you need to check out now:
"LES Artistes" - Santogold
"I Like It, I Love It" - Lyrics Born
"Lollipop" - Lil Wayne ft. Static Major
"Bleeding Love" - Leona Lewis

Oh. If you want to read about a really bad new album - check out my review of the Newton Faulkner album over at Static.

May 1, 2008

np: "Little Bit of Feel Good" - Jamie Lidell

Oh man, this is a fantastic track. I was a big fan of his 2005 album, Multiply, but even the highest highs reached by that disc's "A Little Bit More" (yes, that one from the Target commercial) and the title track can't touch this song. Probably the closest a skinny British white boy will ever come to recreating the classic Motown vibe. And honestly, the funkiness of this song has nothing to do with his vocals. It's all about that slinky bass line and the sexy as hell horns. This thing is rocketing straight to the upper heights of my favorites singles of the year so far. The album it comes from, Jim, isn't half bad either.

Jamie Lidell - "Little Bit of Feel Good"

I noticed I never got the direct link to my Be Your Own Pet review working on last night's post, so there you go. Another review of mine has since popped up on the site, a self-released EP by the Alabama band Wild Sweet Orange. A few promising tunes hint at good things ahead on their forthcoming full-length, provided they accentuate the things they've really got working for them. A few more thoughts can be found here.

The albums have really been stacking up on me lately, I need to put in some quality listening time this weekend. You'll be sure to read more about the good, and maybe the bad, stuff that greets my ears.