Author Archives: ryanHLrobinson

Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else Reivew

Life sucks, I understand. Many of the most important decisions come at an age where the brain hasn’t fully developed to make rational decisions. The irony behind setting out on a plan to make the life defining choices when the maximum potential for making the choice hasn’t been reached yet is unbelievable. At 19, deciding whether to spend the incredible amount of money to attend college or not isn’t a pleasant choice. We’ve all been faced with blindly following our paths because some elective course in high school “..sorta interested me?”. We’re also at the age where our kids, younger brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces are heading full speed into these choices. What captures me is how they cope with it. I naturally turned to music as an escape from my future. Pavement, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, and especially Archers of Loaf were my leaders in deciding the key moments of my young life.

It’s been growing stale, having the same old bands breaking up, and ultimately forced into replaying old albums. Cloud Nothings have been one of the few bands that capture the essence of the 90′s alternative rock scene, and doing so accurately. They’re aggressive, in your face, and lo-fi. With the release of the incredible Attack On Memory 2012, I finally heard something that defines the term nostalgia. It’s now 2014, I’m two years older, and Cloud Nothings have released the follow-up album, Here and Nowhere Else.

How is it? Well, it’s even better. At a speedy 31 minutes, the band packs an insane amount of content in. Their aggressive, distorted sound is very tight. Hearing that Steve Albini didn’t produce this album scared me a little, but it helps to have a change of pace. The production is still top notch (which means it’s even shittier for the sound). The drums strike resonance that blare into the listeners ear like a gun shot. Opening with “Now Here In”, they charge full speed in using every technique they’ve grown in this very song.

Dylan Baldi has surpassed any expectations set out for him when he started this solo project. They noisey, grungy singer has developed a perfect voice that’s comparable to Stephan Malkmus of Pavement. He’s a defining character in indie rock who let’s loose on songs like “Quieter Today”, which showcases the bands tempo-changing noise rock, and “Giving Into Seeing”, the loudest of the eight songs. They play within a certain distinct sound, but keep the overall sound fresh with “Psychic Trauma”, which many first time listeners will love. They noise pop opening of sweet sounding chords jumps right into a screaming match between the guitars, drums, and Baldi’s amazing voice.

Like Attack On Memory, they keep the addition of a longer song alive with “Pattern Walks”. It feels better placed in the track listing now, as the listener is eased into the monster that is this song. Sprawling seven and a half minutes, it doesn’t change much. Whether it’s a change of hook near the end, or an instrumental section, the bass driven track flows smoothly (if ‘smoothly’ correctly describes Cloud Nothings) from section to section. Baldi also mentioned that he was planning to make this album darker, and it’s very noticeable. There’s no light anywhere on these songs. Even the single, “I’m Not Part Of Me”, has sucked out any form of positive energy and transferred into musical rage. It’s beautiful.

I have to admit, Cloud Nothings have challenged themselves to grow as a band and musicians, and they have. Even as song-writers, they’ve improved. Baldi’s lyrics strike a chord for a stronger element on Here and Nowhere Else. On the final track, “I’m Not Part Of Me”, Baldi keeps the simplicity of 90′s alternative lyrics, but strengthens the words by using such incredible energy to leverage his disbelief of a broken relationship by writing, “Leave it all to memory of / What we did when we were young and / Now you could just leave me on my own”. He’ll connect with a lot of fans for what he sings instead of how he sings.

To many people picking up and trying out Here and Nowhere Else, they’ll dedicate many hours, car rides, lonely walks, and tough nights to Cloud Nothings. They’ve released an album that resonates with a younger age group of indie rockers the same way Sonic Youth or Pavement defined an entire decade of music. Dylan Baldi won’t understand the impact of releasing an album like this, as for him, this album is him releasing unset emotions through an art form. For the many who give this a try, it’s a defining album that showcases itself in the listeners darkest times. Hopefully, it brings them the escape that many of us needed in the toughest challenges we’ve faced so far. At the end of the day, though, Cloud Nothings are just a band with an amazing album.

 

 

 

9.5/10

 

no:carrier – Wisdom & Failure Review

Wisdom & Failure CD cover

I recently embarked on a cultural exchange to Japan. After a tedious set of arrangements from a brutal plane ride to an awful hangover from time change, I arrived in Tokyo. If anyone has seen Sofia Coppola’s incredible movie, Lost In Translation, I felt the need to recreate the opening scene. I blasted My Bloody Valentine through my headphones as I whizzed through the Shinjuku district, dazed by the overwhelming feeling of loneliness. It’s quite accurate, but I felt the soundtrack was misplaced. I decided to put on The Cure instead, and immediately felt the British Gothic Rock was better fitting.

I was recently given the new no:carrier album, Wisdom & Failure, as soon as I left, and gave it a whirl when I arrived at my hotel. My room was a 3 bedroom room with 7 strangers squished in. It was placed on the 18th floor of an empty sky scrapper in Tokyo, with a view that almost put me into tears. Where does one begin in a city so big? I indulged into the background notes of no:carrier, and it soon served as my anthem for city trekking in a lost world.

Every song on this album is constructed to be played firmly. The duo feeds off of each other so well, and they never stop with energy until the final note is played. The opener, “Alone Now”, serves as a strong starting point for an album, with a Florence + The Machine sounding croon, along with jingly keys and heavy horns. It feels as if they demand the listener to apply the song to the scenario they’re in, whether its in relaxing after work, or lost in Japan with no agenda. “Confession” follows the same path. Noted as the single of the album, I wish it wasn’t as tailored to a certain audience, and no:carrier holds back on the subtle experimentation they tend to have on tracks. It seemed bland to me.

The third track is promising. “Life” dips in the 80′s space rock, which has been applied to other bands today (Spiritualized, Galaxie 500), although this songs really commits to the original, vintage, true to form sound. I connected with “Sunset Castle” the most while I wandered Tokyo during sunset. The slightly oriental keys felt frosted against the incredible voice of Cynthia Wechselberger, (I may have placebo effect of music).

Two songs that I felt similar were “Losing Sight of the Coast” and “Last Scene”. Although completely different in sound, I noticed some strange meshing in the vibe it gave off. It came off as slightly ironic, although a serious undertone still struck me. The bluesy, aggressiveness of “Last Scene” was a side the duo hasn’t presented, and the same could go to the bubbly “Losing Sight of the Coast”. Maybe the duo are expanding their sound horizon? “Thoughts/Shoot The Sky” presents Chris Wirsig singing under a cloud of pedaled reverb, applying a softer, absent diversion from the isolated and deprived vocals from Wechselberger. Both push the track forward, and are wonderful together as a duo.

As a whole, Wisdom & Failure attempts and succeeds at giving off the effect that it’s bigger than just a duo. They have everything from spacey keys to icy drums, and deprived lonely lyrics that anyone can take from (“Owes You Nothing” is key). It’s hard to believe that when I read this press release they claim to be a duo. They apply heavy burdens of sound as each track progresses, ultimately to it’s climax of melodic noise. “Wisdom & Failure” closes the album with a saddened succession of notes that sound as if it can end a season of Game of Thrones. Wisdom & Failure keeps the goth rock sound alive by sticking to the core roots of the genre. Nothing too boundary pushing, but a solid release.

 

 

 

7.5/10

 

Michael Cullen – Love Transmitter Review

Love Transmitter CD cover (1)

Heartbreaks are easily spotted when sung in a baritone. Matt Berninger and Ian Curtis have proven this theory time and time again. Both Joy Division and The National cover a lot of topics in their musical discographies, but isolation, loneliness, and heartbreak are the reoccurring theme. Michael Cullen is another name to add to the list, with a title that rolls of the tip of the tongue. The Australian singer-songwriter brings aboard his New Order style synthpop and combines it with a bleak outlook on personal topics. It’s a great way to have an insider view on the intimate topics that Cullen is expressing.

Although his album, Love Transmitter, was originally released in 2012, it takes new life with a remastered copy after critical acclaim in his home country. Heralding itself with a terrible album cover (don’t judge it), it opens with the wonderfully titled, “Do You Believe?”, which had me thinking he was covering a Flaming Lips track. This is the complete opposite. His apparent love for the boiling drum beats that grind out the entire song is shown here. It lays the blueprint for the wonderfully crafted tune. The sharp, but sad synth keys trickle like icicles into Cullen’s crooning voice.

The song is followed by a shift in pace with “Tidal Wave”, which caught me off guard with how low Cullen’s voice can reach. He pulls out his darkest ego and punishes the listener with a wispy side until he reaches the chorus. Lyrically, the song is pretty bland, but the striking, Interpol style guitars are incredible. “All Used Up” seems to have soft, blast-beats opening the track, which works it’s way into a steady downward spiral of noise. Cullen finds ways to take miserable noise and transform it into a memorable tune that I find myself falling back too.

It’s no wonder this album has won many accolades with the indie community in Australia. Michael Cullen and fellow musician, Tim Powles, control space like it’s in the palm of their hand. They shift from an in-your-face bruiser of a song into a soft and somber tune like, “Hey Sister”. Every shift in keys present a new emotion that only music presents. Arms spread wide, and eyes closed, this is how the track is supposed to be listened too. “Transmission”, which isn’t a Joy Division cover, seems appropriately titled due to the related sound to the band. I find that when Cullen goes for the high notes, it flows better with the spashing guitar and brittle drums. His music has a very deep sound and the handshakes of approval should go to Tim Powles’ help with instrumentation. The duo just kills it as musicians.

What makes my job incredible is when I’m presented with musicians like this that people need to hear. Love Transmitter is a find that makes me smile, even when the dark theme drains any happiness from my head. It’s knowing that I’m only going to enjoy every sound on this album. Combining the Gothic tones on “Chinese Hammer”, and the spoken word sections on “Spill”, Michael Cullen transitions ahead and keeps this ride entertaining.

Then there’s, “Professional Entertainers”, which is the best song I’ve heard in ages. It’s contrasting joyful tones and brutally depressing lyrics keeps me pressing repeat. Perfectly timed at just under three minutes, this is a song that needs to rock the airwaves. “One Is Still My Number” is the one track that I couldn’t dig on my first listen. It felt too thrown together and tacky. When it drives into the chorus, that’s when I was convinced that I enjoyed it. It’s the best song-writing on the album though. Michael Cullen shines as a song-writer and musician. His ability to stay ahead of the curve and keep the 80′s goth rock stylish really takes talent (Have you seen Robert Smith lately?). Love Transmitter is an album that requires a setting. It requires and mindset that brings out the worst, but it demands the listener to open up their mind. What it provides is a shoulder to lay on, with 10 solemn stories to hear while the tear-ducts are worked to death. It’s the best sadness I’ve ever felt.

 

 

 

8.3/10

 

Take a listen below!

 

 

 

 

Marla Mase – “Halflife EP” Review

Mm_HalfLIfeJacket

At least once a week, Apostrophe by Frank Zappa is played in my perimeter. The weird, comedic vibes Zappa gives off on his most traditional blues rock album puts a smile on my face that I can’t seem to shake. It’s incredible put together, with songs flowing into one another like a Cirque du Soleil show. I wasn’t around when Zappa revolutionized rock and roll, but I have a strong feeling that he allowed the rules to be bent and humor and strangeness to be added to a genre like the blues. The history behind the creation of blues and blues rock is hard to forget, and we shouldn’t, but thanks to Zappa, we’ve been given an alternative style to look at without all the despair.

Now it’s been 40 years since Apostrophe has been released, but when I was given the New York-based Marla Mase to listen to, I had to have both playing at the same time. They both have the slightly ironic, intimate spoken-word sections, jacked up solos, and the band plays extremely tight behind the main leader. In this case, Marla Mase. The EP opens with “Drown in Blue”, a blazing and unforgiving opener that kicked me back in my seat. Don’t make the mistake of having the volume too loud for this one. A nod to Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth and British punk rock, this song is killer. What drags it down is Marla’s softer vocals that collide with the angry, resistant vocals on the chorus.

I was caught off guard when I heard the spoken word sections. They release so much emotion that sometimes are poetically imaginative and emotional, and at other times, ironic and passive aggressive. Nonetheless, they all have a true, deeper meaning behind the veil of words. Musically, this album is outstanding. “Half-Life” is absolutely beautiful, bringing me back to the days of female alternative rockers like Alanis Morissette and PJ Harvey. (On a side note, Alanis didn’t get enough credit for being a badass. She kicked ass in the 90′s.) The song is a highlight to me, and I really want to see Mase progress this side of her music. It’s captivating and magical. The backing instrumentation by the Tomás Doncker Band is sharp. all the subtle melodies stand out and are memorable.

Sadly, it’s followed up by the outrageous “Things That Scare Me”. It’s humorous, but that’s about it. The lyrics are cheap, and it’s trying to many different ideas without sticking to a main idea. The chorus flows out of place after it has it’s forced half-sung verses. “Try and diagnose me!”, that’s all I can really agree on with that song. “The Heart Beats” brings the same anger into light with better results. It’s slow, stranded, almost like words flowing out of Mase’s mouth walking across the Sahara. Loved it.

At just over 30 minutes, this EP flies by. It covers a lot of ground, from comedic, funky songs,  to the serious, intimate side. “Gaping Hole” was one piece off from being an alternative rock standard. It has the homemade vibe that’s a must for any traction in the indie crowd, but it was missing stronger vocals from Mase. She’s showcased her ability on, “Drown in Blue”, and I was itching to hear it come alive again. Even the style on the reprise of “Drown in Blue” would’ve worked. Speaking of the reprise, keep it up. She truly has a talent for an intimate setting.

It’s followed by another funky tune, “Bitch in Heat”, featuring Charlie Funk, so it’s proven to be good. Finally, “Hold Fast Your Dreams” closes off this EP, and it’s also great. Like on the “Drown in Blue (Reprise)”, Marla Mase can control a listener with her soothing voice, spilling out poems that show a piece of true self. It’s no wonder she’s been recently signed to True Groove Records. I do believe Mase will have a promising career, as she’s shown her ability to control a large band and get the sound she wants, but this EP has it’s incredible ups and immense downs. Yes, I understand, it’s an EP showcasing her variety of talents, from poet, to singer, to angry civilian, but I can only say that Mase is a great alternative artist who rocks it on tracks like “Half Life”, or “Drown in Blue”, but when it comes to her trying to copy David Byrne from the Talking Heads, it feels forced. I’m excited to see her progress with a full length that we can expect to hear soon!

6/10

Be sure to give the EP a listen below!

Richard Tyler Epperson – Hourglass Review

Oh Salt Lake City. The bible belt of the United States, the freedom train down south, and the host of the 2002 Olympics. It’s also the home of Richard Tyler Epperson, a fresh faced singer-songwriter who has a knack for incredible hooks. He pulls his sound from Death Cab for Cutie to Kurt Vile. He releases his album, Hourglass, April 8th, and we’ve given it a spin.

Opening with the promising track, “I Know”, Epperson showcases his ability to control the exact sound from every instrument. Whether he had any input or not in the sound, it’s best to believe he wouldn’t allow a song forward unless he’s impressed by it. It takes the drumming of “Grapevine Fires” by Death Cab, and combines it with a unique, soft voice that Epperson’s been gifted with. His contrasting guitar tones kick in the chorus with a simple distorted chord section that plays nicely over top the modern rock tune. It’s a great tune to start the album.

Following that is the folk tune, “Hourglass”. It’s a simple, easy listening track that screams radio-friendly. Not the negative contour of radio-friendly, but a smart way to market music without selling out. This, in other words, will be his hit single. It’s catchy, fun, and cool. Slightly forgettable, but Epperson soft vocals keeps the track interesting. Other tracks have the same melancholy atmosphere that seems to be perfect in any season, like the incredible “Rain”, or the summery “The Life (Fall On Me)”. He knows his sound and he stretches and squeezes every little bit of creative energy out of the indie folk rag, which end up becoming these brilliant tracks.

What Richard Tyler Epperson does so well is controlling an intimate sound. Whether it’s one acoustic guitar and vocals or an entire orchestra lulling with wild notes, he understands how to connect with the listener emotionally. It’s when he experiments with sounds outside his range, like electronics on “Lights”, that feel forced. If he brought the sound down, and took away the angsty vocals would I be able to get on board. I have a Sufjan Stevens’ Age of Adz or Hannah Georgas sound in mind when I think of intimate electronics done right. Epperson is completely capable though.

It’s apparent that this man has a bright future. his songwriting isn’t ground breaking, but it’s consistent. He plays with melodies in such a fun way it’s hard to dislike these songs. Much like how Ty Segall brought back garage rock, Epperson can just as easily make indie folk cool again without it seeming cheesy. That’s what has become so sad about the genre. Everywhere I look there’s another self-proclaimed singer-songwriter wanting to sell me their bandcamp CD, but there’s nothing special about it.

How Epperson changes that is he adds a special ingredient that all special albums have. It’s a mixture of care and desire. If an album is made without the need for it to be made, it will be pushed aside with a majority of records released today. If it doesn’t have care, it’ll be considered a shitty homemade tape. I keep having the thought of Death Cab For Cutie’s Plans whenever I hear Hourglass. That and a little bit of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco. Those two albums have a special sound to them, one that keeps a listener hooked for years. Epperson has a hint of sound about him. “Where Are We” and “Blind My Life” both carry structures to an arguably timeless album.

Where Epperson falters is creating a lasting impression. These 14 songs have so much substance to them that indulging in everyone is a chore. If cut back by two or three tracks, I would gladly dive into everyone (minus “Around We Go”, I felt the chorus was too careless for me). Nevertheless, I’m Richard Tyler Epperson’s newest fan. He’s somebody who has a natural talent for writing magically simple songs without sounding redundant and boring. Among all the throwaway bands of today, (Mumford & Songs, The Lumineers, Of Monsters & Men); they should give Hourglass a listen and use it as a guide to create consistent music. Richard Tyler Epperson shows them all up with his need to create music.

 

 

 

7/10

 

Listen to Hourglass in full below

Sun Kil Moon – Benji Review

I’ve never traveled to the Midwest. I guess it could be said that I would love to take a chance to explore it in the future. I’ve only experienced it through music from 90′s emo bands like American Football or Cap’n Jazz. What has defined the area to me is their constant output of strained albums, trying to put a label on the area as a whole. From my out of body experience through these musicians, I feel like it could be somewhere to raise a small family, get a common job, and blend in with the crowd. Once the likes of Red House Painters showed up, they spun the entire area on it’s head, consistently releasing music that thematically contrasts the angsty vibes of the early emo bands, changing my opinion of the Midwest from, “Meh, it seems same old,” to, “You can’t pay me to visit”. Although lead member, Mark Kozelek, of Red House Painters never directly mentioned in his music how brutally depressing the area is, he used a large portion of symbolism to showcase the strong emotions he felt growing up in Ohio.

Now it could also be mentioned that everyone has a love-hate relationship with their hometown. It became quite apparent when he started his other group, Sun Kil Moon. The project is noticeably bleaker than before in different ways. His song-writing is a completely upfront, gruesome and raw image of what he needs to release from his system. Since the release of his newest album, Benji, I’ve struggled with connecting with his song-writing. It’s extreme, close to heart imagery is hard to put in relations with how I feel about the subject he discusses. Kozelek releases all his creative energy into a dark and depressing outlook on every possible subject he touches on.

Everyone of these 11 tracks are extended and stretched to the emotional barrier for the listener. “Truck Driver” is a track that tells the story of Kozelek’s redneck uncle, who died in a fire, and the funeral he sadly had to witness. It’s described perfectly through his first person view, “It was stormy that day / the sky was deep purple. /And babies were crying / Kentucky Fried Chicken was served. /And that’s how he would have wanted it I’m sure.” The raw portrayal of the life he had seems distant to me. Possible to some it makes sense, but I can’t find words to connect myself with the story. It’s what Kozelek intends for the most part.

The distance between instrumentation and listener is slim. What I mean is that Kozelek does such a great job of keeping the intimate moments intimate and the slightly less moments slightly less intimate. Every word spoken feels from heart, and every bang of the drum or strum of guitar, or even blow of a trumpet note feels placed for a reason. “Pray For Newton” keeps up with the relevance of Kozelek, expressing his utter disgust for the helpless reactions of Americans during the tragic shooting. It’s difficult to turn on the track, as I feel convicted sitting through his lyrics. The friendliest track, “Ben’s My Friend”, derives itself slightly from original Modest Mouse (The band actually was influenced by early Red House Painters), but a “Cowboy Dan” melody works itself in coincidentally. It’s ironic third-person writing throws off the bleak and saddening atmosphere that was found in the album, but as a closer it’s very original. Kozelek isn’t all sad faces, as he shows his genius and open-mindedness, using a horn section to add to the overall volume of the track.

It’s sad, hearing this album on a quiet Tuesday night, trying to find words to convey my opinion of such a subjective album. I wish I could say it’s simply a folk album, but then I would be lying. I’ve been haunted by these songs since I first heard it. I blew it off my first few listens, as I didn’t let the storytelling sink in. Once I sat into a routine with these tracks, I felt my heart shrivel and die. Kozelek knows how to kill and happiness found in the body with a gut-punching choice of words. He’s an incredible songwriter, probably one of the most talented in our generation. Every time I see a photo of him I feel like I need to give him a hug and tell him everything will be okay, but I’m worried he’d find a way to make the hug a sign of depression, forcing more despair into my lungs. Benji is overwhelming, hard to relate too, but it’s a story that should be heard.

 

 

 

8/10

Sunn O))) & Ulver – Terrestials

How does one get into a genre comprised of a single distorted note for a stretch of time? It makes sense to pass up something so silly, so outrageous on paper. but trust me, it is a treat to listen to such a thing. Now it has it’s place. Whether it’s for studying, or for personal drug enhancement, fringe genres, as I like to call them, have their audience. Drone-metal began with Earth, a rather interesting band that has formed into a more melodic, clean, transparent sounding group from album to album. Their Subpop label debut, Earth 2: Special Low Frequency, set the underground music world on fire for it’s strange, alienating technique of holding one distorted note for what felt like decades. Critics ate up this polarizing piece of art, but one band decided to put their entire creative energy into becoming the most successful cover band ever.

Although that statement is absurd and false on many levels, it’s true Sunn O))) was originally an Earth cover band (makes sense right?). Teaming up with Black metal veterans, Ulver, this epic release of two distinguished titans of their respective sounds should raise many eyebrows. Recent releases have shown Ulver to stray from their traditional blast-beat infused black metal, and have given a chance to electronics (think Varg Vikerness). Terrestrials forces the two powerhouses to step out of their comfort zone and open play around with different techniques not heard in their own releases.

For starters, It’s unheard of to hear any percussion, let alone melody in Sunn O)))’s music. At 36 minutes, they waver from making a blip of noise until 8 minute mark of the first track. They blast in after a long winded horn section of notes, which play nicely to the timpani’s contrast of timbre. “Let There Be Light” is perfectly fitting for the title of the opener, describing the ultimate blast of noise as soon as Sunn O))) makes their entrance. Ulver ultimately acts the lead for most of this album. It’s a slow, heated mess of strange environments and imagery. Their treatment of electronics cut through like a cold wind in a black forest, leaving the ultimate frosty feel. It’s a nice throwback to the 90′s frostbitten metal out of the Scandinavian north.

It’s a continuous grind, challenging listen with the rewards that are hidden in the dust. I would say it’s comparable to The Seer, which is the god among challenging listens, but Terrestrials sticks to it’s theme of bringing to life one piece of sound and stretching it 2000 miles. “Western Horn” takes a sonic meaning of the billboards in Fahrenheit 451, stretching the sound and noise to a solid atonal 10 minutes without any significant change. Could anymore be expected with a split including Sunn O)))? Yes, thank Ulver for that.

Finishing off the album is “Eternal Return”. Taking a hint from Earth’s recent work, Ulver adds in a tonal guitar (it can be done!) any flourishes with beautiful harmonies of violin, clean guitar, xylophones, etc. Who brought to life the idea of drone wizards working with sound this idea? It’s the albums best piece, saving the greatest for ears that last the wait. Diving into this record requires determination. Not on a level that sits and waits for it to click, but creating a setting that Terrestrials can build off of. A mind cleanse of the ages, clicking with few who open up their brains to the wonders of two sophisticated artists in their own leagues of sound. Obviously Sunn O))) and Ulver are difficult enough for first timers on their own, but surprisingly together they act as an amazing stepping stone into another their own cloudy discographies.

 

 

 

7/10

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues Review

Let me clear the air before I jump right into the review, I DO NOT CARE about the whole Laura Jane Grace news. I give her my full support to be a voice for a group of people who don’t seem to have one. The transgender community has been given a leader, and being the front(wo)man of a punk rock band takes guts. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is the sixth studio album released by the Florida punk-rock band, and the first since Laura’s public announcement of being a transgender.

How does it play into the music? For starters, it fuels the entire theme, which follows the overarching story of transgender woman. Some of the lyrics on this album are crushingly impacting. They last like a bullet to the brain, etched into the frontal lobe (or whatever part stores information) for future dwelling. The opening title track has a line that really captures the thoughts of somebody struggling with this situation. A way we can learn about Laura’s struggles is by listening to her experiences, and the lines of, “You want them to see you / Like they see any other girl,” blew me away. That would pass up as just another line for other songs, but the theme of ‘transgender struggles’ puts these simple phrases into powerful messages.

I personally didn’t enjoy many of Against Me!’s past albums, but this one holds up. It’s crisp, aggressive, and meaningful. At just under 30 minutes, it flows like a typical Against Me! album, except it’s their best released. “FuckMyLife666″ sounds like an angsty, post-ironic tweet by a teenager, but it compels the message of giving up clearly. Plus it has a killer hook. Laura’s voice is better than ever, and the band has a whole new meaning to play.

These ten tracks flow like blips of transcendental emotions. Since picking up this album, I’ve played it about 12 times already, partially due to it’s length, but mostly due to it’s ineffectiveness to stick with me. That’s a lie. It did stick with me, and in fact I was drawn to play it over and over because it felt needed to be heard. I would describe this album as a soundtrack for many 16 year old finding themselves, but also many adults who grew up on the 90′s Offspring and Blink-182 kick. I only realized how heavy it was once I showed my buddy “True Trans Soul Rebel”. These tracks are heavy, so be prepared.

Against Me! did it. They’ve finally released something that pleased me. I almost passed up this album, because the past five albums didn’t do anything for me. I don’t know why this time it worked. Maybe it’s the emotion and power they put into this. Maybe I hate Jay Weingberg and was glad when he left. Maybe it’s that it’s kick ass and should be given a chance. Either way, Transgender Dysphoria Blues has the real punk rock sound that deserves to be played over and over in the car. And no, I’m not going to Pitchfork this review, it deserves a BNM.

 

 

 

8/10

Gumshen – Progtronica review

Whenever I think about the future, I will think about what will still be thought about 10, 20, 30 years into the future. All our fads, all our styles, all our words, how much will be used? I tend to combine that with the thought that if a famous celebrity would be around today, would they be famous? I’ve heard the question that if The Beatles were brought into today’s society, would they be as famous? Obviously not, because a lot of today’s music is influenced by the Fab Four. Taking them away from the 60′s would forever impact rock music, leaving a whole in everyone who found influence in them. A weird paradox so to speak. It’s logical to think they’d adapt though. They wouldn’t have the simple “la-di-da” melodies and covers of the 50′s, but presumably they would add more effects. That’s what every musician seems to have today, right? Music is all about survival of the fittest. To stand the test of time, you need to create the sound that defines the generation.

Now the question is: what is that sound? We don’t want to sound like others, so how to do we go about being ourselves? For starters, don’t listen to others. Now that’s just brutal advice, so I’m going to stop there and talk about our latest band, Gumshen. The Seattle group combines elements of progressive rock and the popular indie standards that run the radio-waves. To start, they’re extremely catchy and fun. I opened up the link, reading the title Progtronica, and let out an extremely audible grown. How could anyone with common sense want to have this title on their hard-worked album. Well, it makes complete sense. They do mix electronic music very well progressive rock. I’ve only heard King Crimson try this on their album Discipline. No comment on how that turned out…

It seems Gumshen have learned from others mistakes. “Bell Ringer” opens the album with a jumpy synth riff over top a talented vocal section that reminds me Christmas music. It’s melancholic textures and poppy bass soothes me to tune out to the 7 minute track. It also has a killer guitar solo that finds its way fitting perfectly over the same stellar drum beat. The amount of spelling errors I’ve made so far is countless, considering I keep jamming out in my chair typing this. “Stipulation” just screams 90′s summery pop. It’s extremely nostalgic, but I hear the same sounds that were found in Wonderous Bughouse (Youth Lagoon’s 2013 album). The one line is probably the truest lyric I’ve heard in ages (“Turning 20 dollars into 20 dimes”). I feel you Gumshen.

These guys are incredible in sync with one another. They find ways to turn their sugary pop riffs into timeless progressive jams. Not to mention they jump from a summery anthem into a jazz club soundtrack with the switch of a keyboard sound. Tricks like that is what keeps a band going. Now Progtronica is only six songs, but it spans just over 30 minutes, but I’ve never been a good mathematician. Now five of these tracks stand out, with the exception of “Fine One to Talk Too”. It comes across as a Porcupine Tree B-side, which is still impressive, but doesn’t fit the overall theme of the album. I’d love to hear that sort of swaying, arena-rock goodness on an entire release, but when it’s stuck in the middle of keyboard driven release, it throws off the mood.

“Liquid” is sweet. It opens sounding like a soundtrack to my childhood, slowly blending into a determined, caricature of the riff. When I first threw on this album, I wasn’t a fan of Ron Hippe’s sly vocals, but like Travis Morrison of The Dismemberment Plan, he soon became the only voice in my head. He has a signature style that stands out. His little sarcastic quips of vocals, followed by a strong string of Axl Rose impressions fits the band’s style greatly. He puts care into his vocals, which I admire.

This album closes off with the definition of the album title. “Fragile We Are Castles” is like a mixture of Ratatat and Dark Side Of The Moon Pink Floyd (IMAGINE THAT). It’s spacey, gigantic, and plain gorgeous. Over an 8 minute length, they jump to about five styles of progressive music, ranging from jamming to syncopated, tight staccatos of notes. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much on a first listen, but I was drawn to hearing more from Gumshen. Although a little cheesy and weak at times (“Bait & Switch”). These guys know what sound they want, and just go for it. I can respect that, and for their efforts they’ve released an album that exemplifies their determination to stay alive in the dog-eat-dog world on music.

 

 

 

7.3/10

 

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything review

By the title, it can be hard to tell what is the album, and what is the band. To clear up confusion, Silver Mt. Zion is the band, and they’ve been creating music since the critically acclaimed debut album, He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms…. They’re a group that expanded off of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Efrim Menuck and this is practically his own personal project, and I’m even hesitant to call it a side project. Menuck doesn’t like to consider the band “post-rock”, although it follows the characteristics very closely, and he prefers to say it sticks to punk-rock aesthetics which does make some sort of sense.

Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything expands on the recent SMZ releases of anti political regime with incredibly vast assortment of instruments. This is probably the most anticipated post-rock release of the year, and knowing it comes so early is like a late Christmas gift. It opens with the classic field recording of a young girl describing Montreal from her point of view. I’m surprised how quickly the band jumps into a flowing pace. There’s no crescendo build, the band just takes off with a solid jam of blaring guitars and drums. “Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal)” is one of the highest points on the album, and it’s the first track there is. Clearly, the group takes no time to fill you in, they hit you square in the face from the get-go.

Efrim is one of the most underrated musicians in today’s scene. Even though Godspeed is constantly considered the best band of today, Efrim should be one of the best musicians for his hair alone. He’s participated in many projects around Montreal, tours, and still finds time to record great records with his two bands. Now Fuck Off Get Free.. stands tall among the recent slew of post-rock releases, arguably being the best since the 2012 album, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, which was the best album of 2012 might I remind you. It’s far more accessible, and fast pace. Plus the addition of vocals changes up the sometimes daunting elements of the genre.

We witness a lot of different ideas taking place on this album. It has the generic post-rock style that adores crescendos, a chamber pop sound that can be heard on the beginning of “Austerity Blues” and “Little Ones Run” (which is beautifully executed) , and even drone elements heard on “Rains Thru The Roof At The Grande Ballroom (For Capital Steez)”. I’m going to touch on that subject quickly of the Capital Steez shout out. Now the death of the young Pro-Era rapper is extremely heartbreaking, but I pass up Menuck and Moya (who’s from GY!BE) as being isolationists from the rest of the musical world. Seeing he dedicated a piece of music of his to a genre and musician who exemplifies the complete opposite of what he stands for in music is incredible. I have a lot of respect for that. You have to wonder what made him decide to follow through with that decision, but either way surprises should be expected with any members of the Montreal post-rock scene.

Menuck still stands to me as someone who constantly shocks the music industry. This time it sees him sticking to a more conventional, but still incredible route that leads him to the release of a uniquely wonderful album. Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything definitely is one of the best titles I’ve heard in music, only comparable to a release by Fiona Apple, and yet it kicks ass. It’s in your face with extreme amounts of sound packed into one little section of music, and competes against the most touching and soft ballads out today. There’s two sides to this album; it’s considered another provocative release by a band that gets a kick out of sharing their opinion, or a need to be heard in new light, embracing the other experiences of performers through a medium of their own.

 

 

 

8.8/10

Check out the full album below!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,143 other followers