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Listen to Stephen Brodsky’s EP – Hit or Mystery

If one things for sure, it’s that this is definitely not what Cave In sounds like. The Boston post-hardcore band’s front man, Stephan Brodsky has a new EP coming out on April 16th on Little Black Cloud, and it is killer good. Hit or Mystery has this psychedelic-folk atmosphere, but it’s not the kind that comes to mind. This isn’t 60′s hippy music, but a push forward in the folk genre itself. The 8-song EP contains a handful of great tracks, but the real winner is the entire layout of the set list.

The transitions from the middle songs, “Days of Heaven”, to the surprise song, “Real Surreal Beauty”, gave me chills. There’s great lyricism (especially on the opener), great jams (“Your Sweet Love”), and a hint of cozy winter goodness on the track, “Thing In The Spring”. The EP jumps from song to song on fluently, giving me the guess that this isn’t a one time idea, but possibly the next trick up the front man’s sleeve. I can’t wait to see what’s next in Brodsky’s arsenal.

You can stream the entire EP here via Stereogum’s Soundcloud: http://snd.sc/ZhkIvs

James Blake tops his debut with Overgrown

Cover

I have a dark secret. Back in 2011, I skipped out on James Blake’s debut LP, James Blake, because of skepticism. That probably came from the uprising of bro-step, and another dubstep fad wasn’t something I was looking forward too. Months after it’s February of 2011 release, I decided to embark on a listen because of its astonishing reviews. Now I did listen to his early EP’s like: KlavierwerkeCMYK, and The Bells Sketch, but the full length was said to be entirely different than what he was already doing. I felt immediately ashamed and disappointed because the album ended up becoming one of my favourite albums of 2011, and still is a close favourite to me. When I heard the news of a new album for mid-2013, I couldn’t wait. This is up there with the most hyped albums of the year for me because of how great the first album was.

James Blake, the British music producer/electronica/vocalist is known for his soulful vocals over what has been coined as: “Post-Dubstep”. The genre has picked up hype with the help of associated acts like Mount Kimbie and Jamie xx, and hasn’t taken a step back. The innovation in the music for it’s ambient influences and chopped vocal tracks has been something I loved ever since James Blake’s self-titled debut. Overgrown is an album that expands on the first. From the get-go I heard immediate differences. The album contains more bass than it’s predecessor and the layers are clearer. I could have picked out every little sound from my headphones. The cleaner production (backed by electronic legend Brian Eno) on the LP, especially on tracks like “Overgrown” and “Our Love Comes Back”, give the album that slight push. The two songs I mention have a quieter sound compared to the rest of the album’s build-up tracks, and the production helps the song show all the complex layers added to the mix.

All ten of these tracks have their own personality. It was no wonder why Republic Records leaked five of them to public before the initial release. My favourite song right now is the seventh. Titled “Digital Lion”, the song reminds me a lot like “Unluck” (from James Blake) mixed with the break down of “Slippy nuxx” (by Underworld) . The way the vocals are mixed and mashed fits perfectly over top the delicate chords. The track just builds and builds to the ultimate peak where the drum beat starts to separate into different parts and the vocals are pushed through so much editing that I don’t know what the original sounds like. The next track, “Voyeur”, has a “One More Chance” (Bloc Party) feel if the song was more electronic. I could dissect every track on this album to little pieces, but that would be boring. What gives this album so much personality is that every listen is different. The accessibility is there, and I began to hear new sounds after every listen.

The new dimensions on this album also gave me new favourites more different reasons. “Retrograde”, which is the official single, is amazing because of the typical James Blake sound it has. The chords play out so well and it just sticks with the listener. “To The Last” has this Radiohead sounding vocals, and James nails the part perfectly. The undertones pack a major punch that leads perfectly into the striking chords that guide the song to it’s ultimate climax. “Take A Fall For Me” is the most surprising song on the entire album, and Blake’s entire career so far. He has GZA, from the legendary Wu-Tang Clan, guest star on the track. He lays down three and a half minutes of his greatness, and his pretty smooth flow over top of Jame’s vocals fits almost perfectly. The jealousy I have for the talents James has is huge. He’s such a diverse musician who hits home runs with everything he touches.

Now the album is a great listen. It’s replay value is extremely high, and will be one to look out for on the year end list. The only knock on the album is that the iTunes bonus track isn’t apart of the main album. When I first listened to the album, that was my favourite song. To learn that it’s not part of the original is slightly disappointing. After more listens, I understand why it doesn’t fit in with the atmosphere of the album, but to exclude it all together of the full album only degrades it. This won’t impact my ‘score’, but any readers here who wondered if there are any good bonus tracks that exist, there is. Be sure to listen to “Everyday I Ran”. There’s no excuse, as it’ll only enhance your listening experience.

Overgrown out did James Blake. While some songs off James Blake might stand out a little more, the overall experience of Overgrown is better. There’s no other way of saying it. This album is just plain, flat-out, BETTER. The production, chord progression, song structure, atmosphere, mood, and listening experience are an upgrade from the 2011 monster. While it isn’t in my all-time favourites (yet) because of how new it is, be sure to check the year end list to see if I can actually hold a valid opinion for more than 6 months! Overgrown is an album that sticks out in the vast world of electronic music. It’s very accessible, exciting, and emotional. Be sure to check it out at your next chance!

 

Here’s the single, “Retrograde”: 

 

 

Tyler, The Creator doesn’t break any new ground on Wolf

Has the hyped dropped or is it higher than ever? Probably the most talked about album release since the surprise My Bloody Valentine album, mbv, Tyler, The Creator’s Wolf has finally arrived. At this point, the talks of selling out and dying out is at an all time high. Last time I checked, he was the top-selling artist on iTunes, but that doesn’t mean the quality is there. With Bastard back in 2009 and the surprise favourable reviews of the 2011 album, Goblin, the bar was set high for Tyler to make something of himself. His antics are what made a name for himself. From telling Tegan and Sara to “Hit me up if you want a hard dick”, to his prominent use of dark themes in his music, his image has become old fast. He’s needing a make over, and Wolf was his big “Fuck You” to the world.

From the get-go, the first lyric on this album is pretty straightforward. Tyler unleashes a blunt “Fuck” on the album-titled opener. I caught a glimpse of Tyler’s cleaner, stronger production from the second track, “Jamba”. It’s a general throwback to the debut Tyler album, Bastard. The cheesy synths smooth over the mediocre verse Tyler laid down, but the help from Hodgy Beats. Sadly, this theme seems to be a habit throughout the album. Tyler will lay down a 6/10 verse, and the feature artist will save the track. While some verses are stronger (“Bimmer”, “Domo 23″, “Rusty”), Tyler comes across as lazy on others (“Jamba”, “Cowboy”, “Awkward”).

Lyrcially, the album comes a lot of topics. The same themes from a few years ago, and Tyler still enjoys to rape woman on occasion it seems. Surprisingly, he’s matured into a rapper that covers more personal topics. One of the odd ball tracks, “Answer”, has this rock-ballad theme that opens with a verse about Tyler’s father leaving him. While he still throws around more slurs than a DMX album, I like what he does on this track. He really opens up and pushes himself to give the listener diversity. What I cannot get over is how many times Tyler tells off his fans. Although it’s his ‘Shtick’ to hate his fans, it’s becoming annoying and old. On the track “Colossus”, he tells a story about his image isn’t what he wants to be. It’s a general piss off to me, because he tries to pull the classic Eminem “Stan” idea, but comes across as an arrogant idiot.

Mini-rant aside, the production on this album is amazing. It’s the real winner here. The peak of performance comes from the triple-track, “PartyIsntOver/ Campfire/ Bimmer”. You get a mix of the Bastard lo-fi edge with an overall clean sound. The wonky synth chords collide perfectly with the snappy snare beat on the first part of the song. “Campfire” has this transition feel, but the addition of a guitar into the mix gives the album a new sound. When the final part, “Bimmer” hit, I realized the full potential of Tyler’s talent. His flow fits perfectly with the 8-bit keyboard clicks. Frank Ocean’s addition on backing vocals rounds out the track perfectly.

It took me awhile and a lot of listens to find out whether I enjoy this album or not. On my first listen, I was severely disappointed with it. I expected Tyler to be somebody who he isn’t. I hoped for this clean-cut, changed man, but that isn’t what Tyler is about. It isn’t what Odd Future is about. Tyler, The Creator is not for everyone, I understand that. He’s arrogant and childish, but that’s what makes Tyler stand out. He said what others didn’t, and I can see him becoming a leader in the future of hip-hop. Wolf will not be an album that defined his career critically, but it will be an album that is a turning point to the mainstream. There’s a handful of tracks that stand out, but as a whole, it’s a let down for me as I was hoping to see more diversity on the LP.

 

Check out the track, “Bimmer” here: 

Wavves do their take on garage rock with Afraid of Heights

I was never apart of the Blink-182 craze, as the band never appealed to me. Their teenage boy style, and lewd music videos weren’t something I bothered to take part of. It was once I actually listened to the music that I was hooked. The melodies and lyrics were straight to the point and they always seem to hit the nail on the head with their music. Dude Ranch was the defining point of pop-punk for me, and anything after that just isn’t the same. It was a total 90′s thing and should stay that way. Time and time again bands are trying to recreate the same energy and atmosphere of the 90′s pop-punk sound, and are even taking their own twists on the genre.

Wavves is a noticeable force in this topic, because of their lo-fi and garage rock influences. Not to mention Nathan Williams is a huge listener of surf rock, and that seems to blend its way into the music. Their first album since 2010, Afraid of Heights, claims to have a cleaner production and to-the-point rock riffs. That’s partially here as there is noticeably less surf rock from the get-go and more garage rock riffs. The previous Wavves album, King of the Beach, was not my favourite album, but I liked the aggressive drums and blaring guitars over the shitty production. It had all the atmosphere an indie rock album should have. The major point I had was I wanted to see more hard edged rock tunes. That’s what Afraid of Heights didn’t do. Songs like the slow ballad, “Dog”, feels out of place. The opener, “Sail to the Sun”, also foreshadows that Williams is hoping to take Wavves in a different direction.
Wavves-Afraid-of-Heights

What Wavves does well this album is create super catchy hits. Tracks like the title track, “Afraid of Heights” and the second track, “Demon To Lean On”, carries the same energy that you got with King of the Beach. When I first listened to this album, I was hooked on a lot of the songs. Tracks like, “Paranoid”, were great throwbacks to the original Wavves sound, but now I hear that song I cringe. The sound seems forced. It’s the newer, unexpected songs that I’ve grown to like. “Cop” is a perfect example, because this sound wouldn’t be able to be achieved on past Wavves albums. The cheesy guitars picking and surfer rock drum beats get you dancing to the tune. You notice the difference once the quarter note crashes hit and you realize this couldn’t have been done on King of the Beach. The need for a clean production wasn’t there for the band in 2010.

I was hoping to see Zach Hill (Death Grips, Hella) take part in a bit of the recording process, as he is known for playing in the past with Wavves. Nonetheless, the drumming in the album is top notch and is a primarily strong point throughout it. Nathan’s signature strained pop-punk vocals generally shine throughout the LP, but tracks like, “Dog”, could have been left off. Lyrically, the album tends to touch on a lot of topics. Drugs, sex, and alcohol is a major topic throughout the album. Religious metaphors are also thrown around, but none of the lyrics really dig deep, and they feel more like drunken late night car thoughts than anything. They do have their time and place.”Beat Me Up” gives the album a boost of confidence as the final 6 songs are where the album starts to pick up speed and convinces the listener that this is a solid album. I read somewhere that Afraid of Heights could have been amazing if they combined the top tracks from the 2011 EP, Life Sux. Now this might seem like a “No Shit” situation, but it generally makes sense for this album. They are very much the same sounding, but Afraid of Heights at times seems very forceful with trying to fit into a sound.

Instead of sticking to their lo-fi, surf rock summer tunes sound, they tried a different take on their garage rock sound, but didn’t make it their own.  I very much enjoy the second half of the album (“Beat Me Up” onward), with a few songs from the first (“Demon To Lean On”, “Afraid of Heights”), and it makes this LP a solid one for any listener. Fan wills be disappointed if they adored King of the Beach‘s surfer atmosphere, but they’ll have a few tracks to pick and choose from. As a whole, I liked this album, but I can’t see myself coming back to it a lot until summer or the year end list. You never know, I can find something about Afraid of Heights and it’ll be the only thing I’ll listen too. It’s THAT kind of album.

Check out my favourite track here: 

Details of new Daft Punk released, Random Access Memories out May 21st

A Book of Wanders is a fresh face in an ill-fated genre

AnthonyBotting(abfw)

Every time I hear a radio rock song I want to kick myself in the head. It’s not the arrogant personas that the musicians take on, or the tattooed up arms and shaved heads, it’s the music in general that pisses me off. I’m not one to close out any genres because there’s redeemable values in every song, but these type of tracks have less. I dare you to think of a song that you clearly have enjoyed by a band like Finger Eleven or State Of Shock. Don’t even bring up the god’s of shitty songs, Nickelback. The only redeemable value that I can think of at the moment comes from the massive cheque they’ll receive from continuous airplay. The whole sound in general just pisses me off. Is that the point? I’ve never understood how people can love the four-chord bangers that are constantly on repeat.

ABFW cover

Although there’s less money in that genre of music right now, there’s a constant flow of musicians getting their fill on hard rock originals. A musician I was presented with recently was the Niagara, Ontario based, Anthony Botting. He goes under the name of A Book For Wanderers, and has a new spin on the hard rock genre. Although the persona doesn’t fall under the same category  the music does have connections to the ill-fated style. His s/t solo debut packs in 15 songs, and is just under an hour. What I first noticed with this album is the vocals. Anthony has quite a different sound compared to other hard rockers. When I listen to this album, I’m reminded of late 90′s emo bands such as American Football or even Jawbreaker. His sound contains straight connections to radio rock, but also keeps it’s quality by not sticking to the straight 4 chord riffs and rough vocals.

While I wasn’t sold on early tracks like “Wanderer” or the laughable intro too “At Sea”, I did see something to continue the listen. It was Anthony’s vocals and power he puts into the music. As soon as “Waking Bird” hit, I knew he was on to something. The steady kick drum and the quick strumming of the acoustic guitar caught me right away. Right there I was hooked. It wasn’t until “You Killer” that I got the same feeling. The hard edged riff and back & forth drum beat kept the momentum going until the opening of my favourite track, “Lions”. The cleaner

sound of the guitar with Anthony’s droning vocal track keeps the sound fresh. The chorus has that steady 1-2-3-4 crash hit’s that I can’t get enough of.

I’m making that mistake now again. I’m claiming on song is my favourite, but then the next track comes on and I love it just as much. The mid-section to this album is exactly that. When I hear tracks like “Towns Falling Down”, it makes me smile because it shows how great local artists can be. That solo on the song is head banger worthy. It’s not the heaviest, and nowhere near the most complex, but it goes perfectly with the energy of the song. Anthony should have worked with that mentality more and he would have himself a great contender for an amazing album.
This album has some major highs and pretty deep lows. What helps the album is how it’s highs over power the lows for the most part. There’s something I just cannot get over with the tracks “The Answer” and the opening to “At Sea”. It left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. What “Waking Bird” did was wash that disgusting taste out of my mouth and I got a whole new album again. It was one that I could listen to over and over again until “The Answer” came on. Gladly, “Rooms” saves the day once again and makes this album end on a happy note. The middle tracks to this album are amazing. I’ll attempt to make sure you understand that, because there’s a handful of tracks to check out.

I’ll include A Book Of Wanderer’s soundcloud here: 

Give him some love!

Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety Review

anxietyR&B is one of the most popular genres of music so far in the 21st century. Everything released from 2000-2004 that was on top 40 seemed to fall into the “Rhythm & Blues’ category. Like rap music, it’s largely connected with the African-American demographic and reigned up until recently as an ‘anti-hipster’ genre. If you claimed to enjoy more mainstream indie bands, you kept your secret love for the sensual songs private. With the push of Frank Ocean and his independent twist on the money-making music, it became more acceptable to openly talk about finding new R&B artists. Oddly enough, a new face has appeared in the R&B scene, but he falls specially in an indie category.

Autre Ne Veut, much like How To Dress Well, is an avant-garde R&B musician. Arthur Ashin, who is the man behind the french phrase for “I want no other”, provides an 80′s theme to his very well dressed grooves. His sophomore album, Anxiety, has already kick started a small following with some groups of indie rockers. His voice isn’t the strongest, but his manipulation of tracks and usage of different erratic samples sets Ashin in another category with R&B music. It’s spacey, catchy, and shocking at times. The opener, “Play By Play”, gives the listener a strong sample at his ability to create hooks. This could go for my favorite as well, “Ego Free Sex Free”. Both songs have majorly catchy and wonky choruses that are downplayed by the verses. This sort of build up helps leverage Autre Ne Veut and covers up his mediocre vocals perfectly.

While most R&B albums centre around the vocalist, this one centres around the atmosphere and vibe of the entire piece. The second track, “Counting”, has a horn sample that resembles a few free jazz solos, but it does it’s part to remind listener’s that isn’t just an R&B album. Ashin wants to maintain that avant-garde and experimental sound in a genre that has taken a crossover to a more ‘hipster’ crowd. Ashin has quite a few bangers on this album, but still some tracks get lost and are forgettable even after multiple listens. As I’ve mentioned, “Ego Free Sex Free” has the best chorus on this album. With the staccato synth bouncing and the syncopated drum machine blaring, it’s a perfect twist on an 80′s throwback.

The album takes a turn for a more experimental side on the second half. “A Lie”, while not pushing any boundaries, adds in a few unpopular ticks of sounds in the style of music. You catch a glimpse of slide guitar and major vocal manipulation near the later half. The drum machine also has a generally unpredictable rhythm which adds a nice touch. If anyone was up to date with the whole ‘vaporware’ fad that caught attention, this is a perfect rendition of the faze, but without the added gimmicks.

I can see a few readers asking, “How is this different from any R&B that’s played on the radio?”. Well for one, go take a look at his recent album covers. Even the art strays away from general ideas of this genre. His structure of songs push boundaries, and although not all attempts work, Ashin does give a good idea of what he wants to achieve with Autre Ne Veut. Anxiety is a strong album. While forgettable at times, the atmosphere and eerie-ness of tracks are a fresh face to a redundant genre. I didn’t even enjoy How To Dress Well’s 2012 album, but I can listen to Anxiety very easily. That’s partially because of the chances that Ashin takes here. If anything, listen for the nostalgia effect. The three minutes of the final track, “World War”, will put you in a trance that alone, is worth listening too. That’s a promise I can make.

 

Be sure to check my personal favourite song here:

David Bowie breaks the comeback curse with The Next Day

It seems to be the case that when a musician hits a certain age, the relevancy of the artist drops. I’m a prime example of someone who categorizes a musician as ‘not important’ once they seem that they’re out of the loop. Many musicians have the comeback curse that takes control once a musician hits around mid 50′s. Although Springsteen’s 2012 album was highly praised, I felt it was just a terrible ride. The same could be said to any early 2000 Bowie albums. Oddly enough, the 66 year old monster musician is back with another shot.

The Next Day to me seems like a swan song. With his cracky vocals and change of sound compared to his recent albums, Bowie is going for one last grand slam. While this is completely untrue because there’s already works for another album, the songs do convey a ‘grand finale’ feel. The rock opera track listing is even more intense than his masterpiece Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. I would even go out on a limb and say it has more emotion. Bowie has really attempted to create an atmosphere in his music. He wants the themes of the music to stand tall on every note played by these talented musicians.

Tracks like, “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” and “Valentine’s Day” will please any old Bowie fan and even draw in new ones. What this album does so well is blend the 14 tracks together as one, but still lets you hear them individually and enjoy them just as much. While this has nothing to do with the musicianship, it does help with singles and the sales of the album. The Next Day continuously touches on old Bowie themes. Death, Life, Love, Isolation, and childhood are popular ones here. It’s what made Bowie so popular with a certain crowd with teenagers for over 40 years.

His ability to create catchy and groovy tunes without killing his persona is a question among music executives. We have to face it, Bowie is a brand. Much like Unknown Pleasures will be worn on teenage girls shirts and the Warhol banana isn’t solely the cover of The Velvet Underground, Bowie is a money maker. What separates him is that he still kicks ass. I mean major ass. Listen to the track “Boss of Me” and you’ll get the idea. He’s not old, but he’s still older than most ass kickers. The song isn’t about him, but lyrically to still sing about love this way is amazing. The next track, “Dancing Out in Space”, is a throwback to his acclaimed Station To Station. It’s a groovy hit that keeps the classic fans calm.

I can’t believe I’ve gone this far without saying it, but I must mention the cover at one point or another. While everyone has a different take, I think it’s supposed to be about Bowie’s career as a whole. I might be hitting a homer or missing a pop fly, but every time I listen to his albums, I always say, “This is his best!” His career as a whole is magnificent, and this album adds to it. His more recent work has been a failure to touch on that classic magic, but even with the cover it shows that David is not messing around this time. Every track plays like a Bowie album to me. I say, “This one is my favourite!” Every time the next song comes on. That’s how you know it’s great.

 

Check out a great song from the album here:

A Band Called Death changed the course of music in this great documentary

death-punk-bandBefore bands like Bad Brains and The Ramones, there was another band that blew up the punk scene. Death was an African-American punk trio from the 1970′s that never hit the big times, but 30 years later, their work showed up to the public as a hit.

DC387 COVERWhat started out as an R&B band, they quickly switched to a ‘Proto-Punk‘ sound that didn’t click with the public. Although they’re thought of as visionaries for their sound, Death was a struggling group of teenagers. The claim to the sudden switch was after an Alice Cooper show, a member felt the need to pursue rock. They’re unorthodox switch made a major impact on many musicians today.

Jack White said it best with a quote in a New York Times article, “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. When I was told the history of the band and what year they recorded this music, it just didn’t make sense. Ahead of punk, and ahead of their time.”

Ahead of punk, ahead of time. Death was lucky enough to not have to survive on musical earnings, but a documentary about the band has been played around a few festivals. Titled, A Band Called Death, the documentary follows the group as they go through major moments in the band. From how they got their name, to finding a discarded guitar in an alley that allowed the members to play, this is quite an impactful film.

A Band Called Death Facebook

Check out a personal favorite full album here:

Atoms for Peace rock solid with Amok

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