Aug 26, 2008

the big project: the beginning

So I got this tremendously stupid idea a couple weeks ago to pour through my ever-expanding CD collection and listen to the whole damn thing from A-Z. Not the most original idea on the planet but nonetheless, this is not a light undertaking. I've decided, as part of that project, to occasionally post here an update with a listing of the albums I've listened to and maybe some brief thoughts. Before we get into the albums, a few of the finer points about this project.

- I'm using the database of my collection over at rateyourmusic to determine the alphabetical order, so if things seem weird or like they are coming out of order - blame them. This just makes it easier for me to keep tabs on where I am in the list.

- This isn't meant to be a joyless experience (although I may feel different when I hit that "Matthews, Dave" section), this is supposed to be fun! With that in mind, this isn't a strict back-to-back-to-back listen at the exclusion of all other music. I'll still keep tabs on current releases and delve into interesting things as I see fit, taking breaks from this project as needed. It'll definitely take longer that way, but it won't feel so much like a chore.

- I'm assigning ratings to the albums as I go along, but don't take them too seriously. They are meant to capture my feelings on the album in question at the time (because I'm a numbers geek), but they aren't meant as some grand statement. If one album gets an 8.3 and another an 8.0, that doesn't necessarily mean I think the former is that much better than the latter. Just a number, just for fun.

With those caveats out of the way, here we go...

!!! - Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard (A True Story)
I think we only need 15 minutes to best summarize the early 00's "discopunk" thing - this track and The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers". The lyrics are stupid, but easy to ignore and its even easier to get lost in the rhythm of this thing. By the time you hit those "dooodoodoo do dodo do"s at the end, this track has pwned you. The B-side is notable mostly for the disorienting channel-panning tricks if you turn it up loud enough, but doesn't come close to reaching the heights of the title track.
Rating: 8.7

!!! - Louden Up Now
Considering how hard I fell for "Giuliani", I really really wanted to love this album when it dropped, but no matter how many chances I gave it - I could never fully embrace the album as a whole. Sure, "Pardon My Freedom" and "Dear Can" and "Hello? Is This Thing On?" hit the spot, but I felt like too many of the other tracks flounder around looking for a groove and trying to be all "omfg he's singing about Bush lol wtf shocking". Listening to it now, in full for the first time in years, I feel about the same. Some high points, but too spotty to really make for an enjoyable listen from start to finish.
Rating: 7.0

!!! = Take Ecstasy with Me/Get Up
Another fantastic 12" from !!!, taking on a great Magnetic Fields track and an underrated Nate Dogg jam. The A-side is a funky take on the Merritt joint, but I think the flipside is the better of the two... only just barely though. The first half of "Get Up" is pretty lazy, but once things shift away from the original a little more in the second half it really gets exciting. This release had me believing that !!! should stick to the 12" format, and that's how I felt up until the release of the next full-length, but more on that soon...
Rating: 8.2

!!! - Myth Takes
I think this is when !!! finally pulled their shit together to release a solidly enjoyable album from start to finish. "Must Be the Moon", "Heart of Hearts", and "Yadnus" are the obvious standouts (for good reason) but that's just the tip of the iceberg on this release. "All My Heroes Are Weirdos" is one of my favorite Nic Offer vocal turns ever and the bass work all over this album is wonderful. "Break in Case of Anything" and "Bend Over Beethoven" are also not to be missed. The weakest link is closer "Infinifold", but hell... they needed something to ease us bank to reality gently.
Rating: 8.5

120 Days - 120 Days
Look everybody! It's another mid-oughts 80's post-punk revival act! This time, however, they throw a little krautrock into the mix. I remember really loving this album on first listen but cooling on it really quickly, now I know why. This is pure atmosphere and very little substance. Sure, it sounds cool enough... as long as you don't try to dig too deeply. The lyrics are atrocious. But, you know, I'll give them a little credit for being Norwegian and not having English as a first language and all, but still. I think this record could be approximately 62.4% better if they'd have sung in their native language and I couldn't understand a word of it. I actually think these guys come close to hitting on something good when they stick to the poppier side of things, like they do on "Be Mine" and "Sleepwalking", but when they start to meander... things get boring quick.
Rating: 6.1

The 1900s - Cold & Kind
I'm sure this won't be the first I'll encounter on this endeavor, but this is one of those albums I need to remind myself to pull out more often. I often run hot and cold on this sort of twee-leaning chamber pop, but these Chicago kids tackle the genre really well. This album is chock full of gorgeous harmonies and really well-placed string arrangements. But there are enough inspired guitar solos and post-punk flourishes to keep this from going completely down the too-twee route. Highly recommended for any fan of indie, chamber, or just plain ol' pop.
Rating: 8.3

1990s - Cookies
If this were a just world, these guys would have received all of the buzz and praise that was instead heaped upon less deserving bands like The Fratellis and The Kooks. You may have heard of them thanks to the thin Franz Ferdinand connection (two of these guys were in Yummy Fur with that band's drummer), but not enough of you checked them out. How do I know this? Because "Arcade Precinct" didn't become the worldwide smash hit that it should have been. Fueled with loads of attitude and cheekiness, this is a debut that belongs up there with the first Supergrass full-length in terms of snotty fun. Well worth a listen.
Rating: 8.4

2Pac - All Eyez On Me
I remember thinking when this came out that it was a bloated mess, chock full of ho-hum tracks and obvious filler. In retrospect, when compared with the really bloated hip-hop double albums of recent years (Lil Flip, I'm looking at you), this thing seems like a front-to-back winner. Which it kind of is. And kind of isn't. It's definitely Pac's magnum opus, catching him as it does at the height of his talents and noteriety, but it isn't the consistent stunner that some rap revisionists will have you believe. The second disc is a whole lot less engaging than the first, and "What'z Ya Phone Number" is, hands down, the worst track Pac ever released (while still alive anyway, I ain't gettin' into those posthumous releases). But on pulling this out after a pretty long break, I am liking a lot more of the tracks I used to skip over - "Got My Mind Made Up", "Tradin War Stories", and "When We Ride" to name a few. This will probably always be the go to album for Pac newbies, and I can't say I would disagree with that, but this really isn't a five-mic classic either.
Rating: 8.7

2Pac - Greatest Hits
It's not exactly a novel idea considering this is a greatest hits comp, but if you think you only need one Pac album in your collection - this should be it. In addition to the mandatory hits ("I Get Around", "California Love", "Dear Mama", "I Ain't Mad at Cha", "Changes", "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted", etc, etc) this has two Pac tunes that have grown to be my favorites. "To Live & Die in L.A." is a breezy summer song of the highest order with an undeniable hook, while "God Bless the Dead" is a great tribute to Biggie Smalls. Ironically enough, this comp also includes "Hit Em Up" - a b-side that is one of the most notorious beef tracks ever - aimed squarely at BIG, Puffy, and the Junior MAFIA clique. Nas may have had better flow on "Ether", but this is certainly more noxious. Anyway, great collection by one of the most essential artists of the '90s.
Rating: 9.0

311 - Music
311 isn't totally indefensible. Mostly because I knew a lot of really cute 311 fans back in college. So I thank them for at least existing. But they are also defensible for having a surprisingly talented drummer with good range in Chad Sexton, and a bass played named P-Nut that can be pretty decent when he's not trying to be Flea. Beyond that, though, they are a free and open target. What was it about college and the mid-90s that made me think I needed to hear a mix of vanilla-lite reggae rhythms "spiced" with clumsy, lazy metal riffs and some of the most embarrassing "rapping" this side of Rico Suave with some half-assed jam-band noodling tossed in for good measure? Hell, what made the world think we needed to hear that? Anyway, even for 311 this album is awful. It's like all the bad shit about their music without the half-decent hooks and melodies they'd find on later albums. I'm really, really not looking forward to the next five albums of this stuff. Christ, why did I not get rid of these before now? Why did I buy them in the first place? BUT. I was heartened to see a sticker in the jewel case indicating I only paid $4 for this back in '96. I'm glad for that, I guess.
Rating: 2.1

311 - Grassroots
Well, this is certainly an improvement over the debut. The riffs have improved and they actually catch on to a half-decent groove or rhythm or two throughout the disc. Just don't pay too close attention to the lyrics. In fact, there's a track near the end of the album, "Lose", that grafts a pretty swanky, meandering guitar solo to one of their most effective reggae grooves. Ultimately though, this still lacks the hooks that pushed them into the mainstream with their next album. The production doesn't help either, robbing the rhythm section of its punch. Their sound has progressed into a more distinctive mix, but it still sounds like they are taking the easiest, laziest elements of several different kinds of music to show how "diverse" they are.
Rating: 4.5

311 - 311
This album was my introduction to 311. I picked it up after a late-night viewing of the "Don't Stay Home" video that made me think it was the bee's knees. That song kinda still is the bee's knees, it remains my favorite tune of theirs. This is when the band discovered real hooks! "Down" and "All Mixed Up" will probably be spun eternally on retro alt-rock radio stations. The lyrics, well, they still suck but they things really seemed to fall into place on this album, allowing them to put together their most solid release. Still not even close to essential, download the three singles and skip the rest.
Rating: 6.1

311 - Transistor
Now that the self-titled album turned them into bonafide alt-rock stars, how do they follow it up? With a bloated 21-track, 74-minute opus of course! It's mostly a wreck, but there are a couple gems that emerge unscathed. Particularly "Beautiful Disaster", which is a pretty damn good pop tune in anybody's book. This is a little more jammy, a little more dubby, and a little more groove-oriented; which made for a decent change of pace but not enough of one to make this an easy 74 minutes to sit through. They still fall back on too many vanilla rhythms and too many gradeschool rhymes.
Rating: 5.7

311 - Live
This live document is even more unnecessary than you might think. I ended up seeing 311 in concert twice and they were slightly more fun and a lot more energetic than this album might lead you to believe. This document reveals a limp, lifeless band that churns out an uninspired setlist that lacks any of the punch they were capable of. Only the back-too-back duo of "Hydroponic" and "Who's Got the Herb" find the band sounding like they were actually enjoying the music they were making. They were a lot better live band than this disc will lead you to believe.
Rating: 1.8

311 - Soundsystem
With Transistor out of their system, the band wisely decides to scale things back and focus on what made 311 such a successful release. The production is much more punchy, the meandering reggae jams are trimmed back, and a focus on actual pop hooks help make this one of the band's better releases. The lyrics, especially when they get all new age-y, are still a lot to swallow - but this is definitely a huge improvement over the previous release and takes them closer to the high point of the self-titled disc. But I do think its hilarious that a band that forged a career out of re-writing the same three songs released a single warning other bands to "Come Original".
Rating: 6.0

3 Inches of Blood - Fire Up the Blades
I merely liked this album on first listen, but with repeated listens I've really grown to love the damn thing. This is retro power metal in a 1980s Maiden/Priest vein, but with a touch of thrash, death, and even (subtle) black influences. The lyrics are awesome, with subjects ranging from wicked battles to emperor slaying gladiators to Valhalla and back to more wicked battles. The dual vocalists make for an exciting listen, reaching from a guttural growl to the kind of falsetto that would make Halford proud. A must hear for fans of the classic '80s sound.
Rating: 8.4

50 Cent - Get Rich or Die Tryin
I once said that this was the most exciting and promising hip-hop debut in a long time (okay, this is arguably a real debut - but I think it counts as one). Hyperbolic? Perhaps. Looking back through the mediocre albums, singles, and side projects he's released in the intervening years; it certainly can seem so. But revisiting this album now reminds me just how exciting he used to be. Fiddy has never been the most technically gifted rapper on the mic, but this album proves that hunger and charisma can carry you a long way. Add that to some fantastic beats by Dr. Dre, Denaun Porter, and some of Marshall Mathers' most impressive work behind the boards; you've got a fantastic album that rightfully pushed 50 to the forefront of the mid-00's rap world. It's a shame what happened once he got there.
Rating: 8.7

50 Cent - The Massacre
What a disappointing and frustrating album. Disappointing because it was such a huge letdown and step backwards after an exciting and promising debut. Here 50 is already becoming a caricature of himself, lazily recycling the same themes and ideas from Get Rich. You've got the attempt to recreate "In Da Club", "Disco Inferno", which failed to capture even an eighth of the former's mainstream popularity. You've got "Candy Shop", one of the worst attempts at a sexy song ever. Why was Olivia ever allowed to show up in so many G-Unit songs? But this album is also frustrating because there are a few hints that it could have been a lot better. So many of these beats, I'm thinking immediately of "Inferno" and "Just A Lil Bit", come infuriatingly close to being really great, but seem to fall short. And his attempt at levity, "A Baltimore Love Thing", takes a pretty decent idea and falls a little short in execution. This was never going to top the heights, or the popularity, of his debut - but there was little reason for this to fall as flat as it did.
Rating: 6.3

5ive - Hesperus
No, not the crappy boy-band, the instrumental duo that kicks out guitar heavy instrumental metal jams. This is their first album in some time and the first exposure I've had to 'em. This really isn't anything that hasn't been done before, or even better, but still makes for a pretty intriguing listen. There are scads of effects pedals in use here, making for a thunderous guitar sound backed up by some pretty decent rhythms. This isn't breaking any new ground, but if you like your metal vocal-less and heavy - this may be up your alley.
Rating: 7.7

and that will get us through the albums leading up to the letter 'A', more to come...

Aug 24, 2008

sunday night shuffle

Bob Dylan - "She Belongs To Me" (taken from Bringing It All Back Home)
Not one of the most famous songs on Bob's fifth album, but this has always been among my favorites. I think its a sweet little love song, nothing much more that needs to be said. Unlike some of his other songs, I don't think there is a whole lot to parse in his lyrics.

Chin Up Chin Up - "Stolen Mountains" (taken from This Harness Can't Ride Anything)
A delicate number from this Chicago band's 2006 alb um that references a late night wintry drive through Indiana, heading back to Chicago from Benton Harbor, Michigan. There's a bit of a post-rock vibe here that links the band to other local luminaries such as Tortoise, but these guys have their own literate take on orchestral indie pop. I love the way the layered vibes overpower the swelling strings as the track ends.

Daft Punk - "One More Time" (taken from Discovery)
Such a great track, but I'm sure I don't need to tell you that. This is the opening track to the French duo's second album, bridging the gap from the Chicago house vibe of their first album to the disco-tinged synthpop of this release. I remember being at a club late one winter night shortly after this album came out, leaning against the bar and wishing my friends would be ready to head anywhere other than the over-priced meat market we were standing in. Suddenly this song came on, a random girl pulled me onto the dancefloor and I couldn't think of a more perfect place to be. I've absolutely adored this song since.

Razorlight - "Kirby's House" (taken from Razorlight)
I actually kinda liked this band's first album, Up All Night, but I couldn't stand this self-titled follow up. They were never the most original of bands, but any trace of character or energy found in tracks like "Rip It Up" and "Golden Touch" was completely whitewashed by this album's blandness. A bad song from a bad album by a mediocre band. Way to follow up on Daft Punk, iTunes.

Oneida - "All Arounder" (taken from Anthem of the Moon)
But you've made up for it with this choice. I've been on a mini Oneida tear this week, after finally getting to hear the excellent Preteen Weaponry. This track is a stomper - full of crashing drums, heavy riffs, and a pretty cool, jerky melody that I can't tell if it comes from a modified guitar or a synth. Either way, pretty cool. Fantastic track by this Brooklyn band.

Rocket from the Crypt - "Normal Carpet Ride" (taken from All Systems Go 1)
Another criminally underrated, sadly defunct band. The title of this track shows off the band's off-kilter sense of humor and this swings and grooves with the best of their tracks. I'm normally not the biggest fan of the saxophone in rock music, it can be used so badly sometimes, but these guys incorporate it in perfect ways. If you are unfamiliar with these guys, I suggest you dive right in.

Steely Dan - "Midnight Cruiser" (taken from Can't Buy A Thrill)
A really solid number from the debut album, this song for me is all about the guitar work and that undeniable chorus. I know they've become a bit of a joke in some circles (Judd Apatow, I'm looking at you) but, for my money, there weren't many better songwriters to emerge from the AM radio scene of the 1970s. Give 'em another listen, there is a whole lot more going on than the AOR lite rock you think.

Screeching Weasel - "Gotta Girlfriend" (taken from Weasel Mania)
A blistering blast of punk energy from another Chicago band, the legendary Screeching Weasel. Only 93 seconds long, but that is plenty of time for the infectious chorus to weasel, heh, its way into your head.

R.E.M. - "Man-Sized Wreath" (taken from Accelerate)
The first thing I noticed about this song from their recent "return to form" album is that killer bass line. When you anchor your song with something that strong, everything else is just gravy. The background harmonies recall classic 80s R.E.M. and this ends up as one of the strongest tunes on Accelerate, serving as a pretty decent summation of their best pop moments.

Pelican - "Aurora Borealis" (taken from The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw)
iTunes seems to be all about the local bands tonight, plucking this Chicago post-metal band out of the depths of its' library. This album was my introduction to the band, checking it out in advance of their appearance at the 2005 Intonation Music Festival. "Borealis" is one of the shorter songs on the album, but in my mind it is also one of the most melodic and powerful ones as well. The chiming guitars are absolutely stunning.

Aug 19, 2008

a grab bag sort of day...

I thought August was supposed to be a slow month, but this one has not been shaping up to be that way. Things are busy and a little stressful on nearly every front - but I continue to plug away and get things done. But one of the first things to get sacrificed is this blog, pretty much a low priority for me right now, so you'll just have to bear with the sporadic and erratic posts for now.

I finally got around to hearing the much buzzed about Krallice album this week, and I'll be damned if this thing didn't already shoot to near the top of the shortlist of my favorite metal albums of the year. Comprised of Mick Barr (Orthrelm, Ocrilim, Octis, etc) and Colin Marston (Behold... the Arctopus), Krallice is a highly textured, highly melodic take on standard black metal. The punishing riffs and screechy screams typical to the black metal genre are present, but it's Barr's complex, trance-like guitar playing that makes this stuff stand out. I was impressed with his Ocrilim project from earlier this year as an experimental piece, but this takes his work to an exciting new level and might just be some of the best black metal you're likely to find in 2008. Hell, some of the best metal period you're likely to hear this year. Check out a song for yourself...

Krallice - "Modec Codices"
(taken from Krallice)

Speaking of great new metal, I've been digging into a whole pack of great stuff in the past couple of weeks. The Gates of Slumber's latest release, in addition to having the most metal cover art ever (pretty much NSFW), is a fantastic take on retro-fried doom. Meanwhile, Tokyo thrash/death metal band Coffins have released another album that is steadily growing on me. Providing a nice mix of thrash guitars, growls, screams and pummeling percussion; Buried Death finds the band absolutely tearing through eight slabs of thick, crushing metal - definitely worth seeking out. But don't just take my word for it...

The Gates of Slumber - "Eyes of the Lair"
(taken from Conqueror)
Coffins - "Mortification to Ruin" (taken from Buried Death)

Metal isn't all that's on my plate right now, I've really been getting into the fantastic recent release by the American institution known as Randy Newman, Harps and Angels. It's just as witty, insightful and heartbreaking as you might expect. There are also a couple new releases from this week that I can't wait to dig into - the full length debut from Jaguar Love (comprised of members of two sadly defunct bands I love - The Blood Brothers and Pretty Girls Make Graves), as well as the latest from The Walkmen (a disc that is getting rave reviews in many corners).

Finally, I was saddened to learn tonight of the passing of LeRoi Moore, saxophonist for the Dave Matthews Band. I'm not the biggest DMB fan in the world anymore, but I did spend my share of college years listening to the band and I can regonize the guy's undeniable talent. He will be missed.

Aug 11, 2008

5 songs I've been thinking about lately...

"Kill the Director" - The Wombats (taken from A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation)
This Liverpudlian trio has made minor inroads in their native England, scoring two Top 15 hits with their 2007 single "Let's Dance to Joy Division" and 2008's "Moving To New York", but they seem to have been met with little fanfare on this side of the Atlantic. Which is a shame, because I think there are quite a few that would be taken in by their highly melodic take on the current Britpop sound. Lyrically they remind me of a more cheeky, less insular Arctic Monkeys; but it's the infectious melodies and soaring harmonies that keep me entertained. This single, originally released in 2007, is a perfect example of what this band is all about.

"Circus of Horror" - Quiet Village (taken from Silent Movie)
Quiet Village is the nom de plume of electronic musicians Joel Martin and Matt Edwards (also known as Radio Slave) and Silent Movie is their much blogged about debut full length. It's difficult to describe their sound in one easy sentence, but think of what the film score to a 1970's Italian beach bunny flick might sound like. Got it? You're probably close. Silent Movie blends exotica, field recordings, film scores, jazz, disco, funk, found sounds and pop (among many, many other things) into a blissed-out martini mix. This stuff certainly isn't for everyone, I'm still not sold on every track, but when these guys are... just, damn. They've taken some heat lately for not crediting all of the samples they pulled in for this mix, but then again so have these guys. I'll just enjoy the music. This particular song, one of the funkiest cuts on the album, would probably soundtrack one of the grittier scenes in your imaginary movie.

"Paljon On Koskessa Kivia" - Korpiklaani (taken from Korven Kuningas)
Finnish folk metal. Seriously. In addition to your standard metal attack consisting of bass, drums, and dual guitars - these guys rock the violin and the accordion. Really. And it sounds, well, pretty awesome. I know, I know. I wouldn't believe me either, if I hadn't heard this infectious disc. The stomp and swagger is hard to ignore and you'll find yourself swinging a fist in time before too long, especially once this track hits. The lyrics are mostly in Finnish (and the ones that aren't, well, you'll wish they were), but their sound is unique in a good kind of way. I know the pagan metal fans have been on these guys for sometime, but this is not something most of you would normally come across; so I thought I would share.

"Moab" - Conor Oberst (taken from Conor Oberst)
My admiration for Mr. Conor Oberst (a.k.a. Bright Eyes) is well documented, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I absolutely adore his first nationwide release under his given name. What may surprise some of you, is that I think this may just be his best release yet. Conor Oberst plays up to nearly every single one of his songwriting talents, while thankfully leaving some of his more self-indulgent tendencies at the door. This is eleven (not counting one minor instrumental piece) tracks of Oberst at his best - wrapping his pop, country and folk influences in his signature delivery while telling timeless tales of love and loss. The Dylan comparisons that have dogged him his entire career have never been more apt, especially on "Get-Well-Cards". The track I'm thinking about here, though, is an open road song of the finest sort. This is guaranteed to make many a back-to-school driving mix as we head towards September. As it damn well should.

"Stand" - Candlebox (taken from Into the Sun)
I'm thinking about this song because, well, I don't know. Maybe because I was flabbergasted to find out that Candlebox was still a going concern in 2008, let along releasing new material. Or maybe because I was further amazed to hear the first single from their latest album and realize that it sounds like it came straight out of the alt-rock radio heydey of 1993. Seriously, from the opening riff alone it's clear that this song could (and considering how bad the rest of this album is, probably should have) been on the self-titled debut. If you happen(ed) to be a big Candlebox fan back in the day, consider this a lost gem.

Aug 7, 2008

another shuffle post...

Which means I have absolutely nothing interesting or original to say tonight. Hey, it's been a long week.

Devendra Banhart - "A Ribbon" (taken from Nino Rojo)
A gentle acoustic tune from the first Banhart album I heard. Despite the awkwardness when he gets to the "I'd like to sleep with you" part, there is still something sweet about the bare-faced emotion and delicacy Banhart displays here - which seems to be a side of him he has forgotten of late.

Nikki Sudden - "How Many Lies" (taken from Dead Men Tell No Tales)
The late Mr. Sudden is an unsung hero of the criminally underrated sort. From his pioneering work in the post-punk band he formed with his brother (Epic Soundtracks), Swell Maps, to his neo-hippie take on classic-era Rolling Stones rock and soul; this guy deserves to be heard by a much wider audience. This is a heart-wrenching ballad that begs for a circa 1966 Jagger/Richards reinvention.

Bat For Lashes - "Trophy" (taken from Fur and Gold)
I'm still undecided on Natasha Khan and her debut album as Bat For Lashes. When she's on, she's fantastic. When she's not, well, she brings up memories of mid-90s alt-rock female singer-songwriters gone bad. This song, however, is one of the hits on the disc. On the surface it sounds like a cross between Tori Amos and Bjork, but the rhythmic approach and haunting background vocals make it something special.

The Saints - "I'm Stranded" (taken from (I'm) Stranded)
An all-time punk classic, not much more that needs to be said about this one. If you like The Damned or Ramones and you don't know this song, shame on you. That chorus absolutely slays me every time.

The Redwalls - "Hung Up on the Way I'm Feeling" (taken from De Nova)
This comes from the breakthrough album from Chicago-area classic rock-revivalists, formerly a cover band known as The Pages. There isn't a single original idea on this album, but surprisingly that isn't a bad thing in this case. These kids do an absolutely fantastic job of recreating the vibe of early rock and roll via Beatles, Kinks, Stones, etc. The guitar solo on this mournful ballad is epic.

Saviours - "Circle of Servants Bodies" (taken from Invaders)
A great slab of stoner metal from this California band, complete with baked riffs and those desert-dried vocals that fit perfectly with the stomp and swagger. The compilation this is taken from is a great primer for those looking to catch up on the recent trends in stoner/doom metal, featuring great bands like High On Fire, Pelican, Black Mountain, The Sword, Comets On Fire and many more.

Phish - "Maze" (taken from Live in Brooklyn)
I wondered when one of these shuffle posts was going to reveal my latent jam-band fan years, and here we are. Looking back with clearer eyes, Phish was definitely a hit-or-miss band - but they are far more interesting than a lot of the haters will give them credit for. This particular song isn't one of their best exploratory jam launching points (not is the studio version one of my favorite songs), but they manage to pull something pretty interesting out of it nonetheless. The star of this show is clearly Page McConnell, but each of the guys contributes something worthwhile.

The Mars Volta - "Cicatriz ESP" (taken from De-Loused in the Comatorium)
And we go from one much maligned band considered bloated by many to another much maligned band considered bloated by many. This twelve and a half minute track comes from TMV's first full-length album, also one of the brightest spot in their ever-growing discography. One of the reasons I love this song, and this album so much, is Jon Theodore's excellent work on the drums. He adds all sort of texture and flair to this track, he's all over the place in a good kind of way. It's a shame he is no longer with the band, but right now he can be heard teaming up with former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zach de la Rocha on the surprisingly strong One Day as a Lion EP.

Destroyer - "Foam Hands" (taken from Trouble In Dreams)
One of the brightest spots on a slightly disappointing album from Dan Bejar, this is a slow-burning track that builds upon a nicely layered instrumental bed. The guitar playing, as expected, is pretty great - but I think the string arrangements are what make this track really work. This sort of makes me think of what an Canadian indie rock version of Randy Newman might sound like.

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals - "Pleasure and Pain" (taken from Live From Mars)
I run pretty lukewarm when it comes to Ben Harper, but he has enough decent moments to grab my attention from time to time. This isn't one of those decent moments though, this is the insufferably bland singer-songwriter stuff that detracts from his more inspired moments.

Aug 1, 2008

np: "Bummer Time" - Be Your Own Pet

WTF? This makes me sad. From Be Your Own Pet's official site:

"To all of our fans, We are sad to bring you the news that our upcoming shows in the UK are going to be our last as a band. We thank you for all your love and support these past few years - its been a blast but the time has come for the 4 of us to go our separate ways."

Another thrilling young band meets its demise much, much too soon. We can only hope that the members move on to some exciting new projects.