Blog Archives

Darkside – Psychic review

When a musician decides to form a group or duo after an exciting career, or even start a side project, it’s practically impossible to not compare it to the works they’ve done. We all thought of it when you read this. Whether it’s Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters, or Thom Yorke in Atoms for Peace, the original work lingers with the artist. Nicolas Jaar was somebody I didn’t believe would survive in the destructive business of music. After a solid 2011 release with Space Is Only Noise, I did not believe it could be replicated, nor should be as it would feel too forced. Oddly enough, during this time frame Jaar was working on another project with fellow touring guitarist, Dave Herrington, and they formed the duo Darkside. Combining the electronic tension of Jaar’s studio work with the organic sounds found in the live performances, they eased their way through recording the finally released Psychic album.

I usually stay away from reading reviews until I have my own opinion, but I stumbled across a mixture of positive and negative. I feel as though this album has been misjudged by both sides. One critic said it resembled the unasked question of, “What does Nicolas Jaar and Eric Clapton sound like together?” To me, that’s a dumb comment. I can see the resemblance, but I would honestly be intrigued into what the combo would sound like. Psychic does branch off from the usual spectrum Jaar likes to take, but the eerie and tense atmosphere sticks with the listener. The monster opener, “Golden Arrow”, clocks in at just under 12 minutes. There’s more excitement in these 12 minutes than the 46 in Space Is Only Noise. While comparable, Psychic could appeal to a different audience that wasn’t content with the prior release by Jaar.

These eight tracks have their distinct moments that clearly separate one from another. The minute and a half lingerer “Sitra” is completely different from the following track, “Heart”. They fit together like a puzzle piece, but the following song reminds me of an abstract brit-pop tune. The addition to Herrington’s guitar allows for these odd, but compelling moments to flow smoothly. At the core, these are electronic dance tracks, but from the listeners perspective, they come across as very experimental at times. The structure to them, although quite simple, is hidden by Jaar’s need to keep the beat slower. Some songs, like the closer “Metatron”, fall into ambient territory. That’s the beauty of Jaar’s experimental side. He’s able to flip the listeners perspective of genres and how they fit together.

Going back to the Clapton comment, I hear it the more I listen, but still I wouldn’t consider it bad. Psychic does embrace Herrington’s bluesy guitar licks, but they don’t create a blues feel. I have more of a Jon Hopkin’s Immunity sound in mind. That’s probably due to the fact that both albums are released in 2013 and they have eight tracks. Besides that, there’s really nothing in common. What Psychic does carry that surprised me is Tom Wait vocals that aren’t sung by the man himself. At first, it was hard to swallow these raspy vocals, but the more I listen, the more I understand how it pieces together with the ‘blues’ combination.

What captures my attention with each listen is the other strange additions that Jaar included. I feel like there are many different versions of songs that were made over the two years it took to record. Should there be more guitar? Is the beat hidden enough? Do these vocals sound like noise enough? I bet none of these questions were asked, but I began to think about how these two completely different musicians came to a solid conclusion about their contributions to Psychic. Up front, it sounds like a Nicolas Jaar album. Behind the scenes it feels like Dave Herrington may have had more of an influence. There’s multiple ways to look at this album, whether you hear the blues or the electronics, they oddly fit together nicely to create an album that will be more enjoyable as time went on. Even I was hesitant with my first listen.

8.3/10

Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

There’s a psychological effect associated with heavier genres of music. Hearing aggressive, violent, and even disturbing noises isn’t as appealing as associating other senses with the same handful of adjectives. While listening to Touché Amoré’s new album, Is Survived By, my computer crashed on three separate occasions as soon as I began the album. Now many would tell me just to buy a new computer, and I do agree, mine is shit, but a lot of listeners do this with hardcore or post-hardcore music. We don’t give it a chance, resulting in missing out in many great albums.

Touché Amoré is an LA post-hardcore band that is part of the self-proclaimed “The Wave”, which is a grouping  of 21st century bands in the genre. Along with La Dispute and Defeater, to name the popular few, they’ve been noted as a band that has brought back screamo and hardcore to large audience. Is Survived By is their third album, and it’s also their longest, which is something to note because their past releases don’t even hit 20 minutes. Is Surived By reaches an astonishing 29 minutes *GASP*, and the ride of melodic, post-hardcore doesn’t stop through the entire listen.

What caught my attention with the band early on is how on every release, they seem to experiment with many ideas throughout an album. Short blips of songs will smash through seconds of sound, and then that’s that. On this release, the band has taken a different approach. Although songs never exactly reach La Dispute lengths, they make an effort to add traditional song structure to a few tracks. “Social Caterpillar”, “Non Fiction”, and “Is Survived By” are the only three tracks to reach three minutes (how fitting). These serve as climaxes to the albums closer, but many of these blasts of tracks are actually many ideas separated into different tracks for the sake of packaging.

What makes Is Survived By so different compared to past releases is how the band jolts from song to song, but the flow of the album never strays. These tracks will pass, but only until the album hits stop do I realize that it’s finished. Jeremy Bolm’s screams are stronger than ever. The tension between every chord progression and drum hit is thick and heavy. The band creates such a claustrophobic atmosphere that it’s difficult to not try and break your way out. These songs aren’t just melodic, they stick with you. I found myself hitting repeat almost immediately as the album ended. After my many listens in one sitting, I would sit and digest what I just experienced. It’s the sound of a band at the top of their game.

Few bands can create exciting albums that slip under the radar to the public. Touché Amoré release solid albums time and time again, but they’ve yet to reach the pinnacle of potential. Is Survived By is another prime example of an amazing hardcore release that should be honored by every music buff on their blogs and websites. That’s exactly why I love writing these reviews.

 

8.8/10

Underground Mondays: James Parenti

There’s always a subtle bit of emotion that goes along with simplicity. It’s a mixture of being able to get lost in the music, or the concentration is transferred over to the body of music and it’s purpose. We subconsciously dissect music to fit our state of mind, making connections to either help us or hurt us. The best music can control emotions or create a lasting impression on us. There’s bands and musicians that have created that lasting impression by using complexity to their advantage, but it’s more common to find that ‘it’ sound through experience. Lately, I’ve connected with the indie-folk artist, James Parenti.

He describes his music as, “Rain outside your window”, and although it’s quite accurate, it’s more than that. The phrase to me sounds like it’s in the background, adding to the effect of what’s going on around us. Instead, Parenti’s music is a beating heart in your mind. His debut and most recent album, Maybe That’s Why We Lost, was released in December of 2011 by himself. It’s a mixture of simple, driving guitar playing with intertwining lyrics that act as the lead selling point to his music. Parenti’s voice is very suitable for this style, because it’s so mellow although he is a very talented singer. The trick is that as a listener I think, “I can do that!”, but once I try I only realize how understated his voice is. I can compare it to a folk version of Perfume Genius’, Mike Hadreas, who as well has amazing vocals.

The singing really stands out on tracks like, “Catching Snakes”, and “Don’t Feed The Animals”, where he sings his falsetto and his chest voice, showcasing his talent. Even the guitar and percussion stand out, because to be honest, there isn’t a whole lot going on in these tracks. That’s the beauty of James Parenti, because he uses the atmosphere as an instrument, gripping the listener throughout the entire album. The feature of female singers, Trish and Krystle Phelps, create amazing melodies on these songs. Although very subtle, it’s all that’s needed to progress the tracks.

It’s difficult to describe what songs stand out, because they’re all quite similar. I never found myself bored with these tracks, because a lot like Phil Elvrum’s past band, The Microphones, the album feels like a body of work. I can compare it to the extremely great The Glow Pt. 2, which was released way back in 2001. It’s also difficult to imagine this album being made in the great New York City, because it’s intimate sound reflects that of the North West. I could imagine the sound reflecting the beauty of the city, as if becoming lost in the bustle is a wonderful sight. I make the connections to a suburban North West city, like Seattle or Bellingham, much like Death Cab For Cutie’s early work conveyed. Nonetheless, Maybe That’s Why We Lost is an album anyone can connect with. It’s immediately capturing, only letting go once the entire body of work strikes it’s final note. I know I’ll listen to it more as the future goes on.

 

Be sure to check out and listen to his album at his website: http://jamesparenti.bandcamp.com/

You can stream the entire album here: 

 

 

Underground Mondays: Urr – The Endless Riddles of Sky and Earth

When Dylan Carlson wrote the first notes to his defining album, Earth 2, for his band Earth, I wonder some days what was going through his mind. For anyone unaware, Earth 2 is arguably the heaviest, deepest, darkest guitar album ever written. It’s minimal and droning structure scares off listeners within seconds, and lucky for me I have the entire album on vinyl for the pure cult status of the music. Although I can’t honestly say if the album actually gained popularity at the time of it’s release, besides the fact that it’s an icon in music today, but I do know that it proved that Sub Pop can release all sorts of music. The label itself was the only one that gave this monster a chance, and thank you Sub Pop. Without Earth 2, there would be no Sunn O)), Melvins, or the Underground Mondays featured artist, urr from Denmark. 

You read that correctly. Much like Sunn O)))’s unnecceasary brackets, urr does in fact have all lower case letters. They’re name could resemble the buzz of the extremely downtuned guitars or a message that the band created. What I love about this album, titled The Endless Riddles of Sky and Earth released by Golemtapes, is how bleak, defining, and unique it is. It has more tone than a Sunn O))) album, but just as much punch as early Earth. They put their twist on drone metal and create a unique unmatched sound by today’s standards.

Take the first song for example; titled “Bleak and Golden”. It’s the same riff over and over again, and is quite quick by for a drone metal song. It’s like a crashing wave in the dark off a coast of Scandinavia that still cools the rocks it pummels. Even at almost 8 minutes, it’s only the beginning of a monstrous listen. The second song, “Sun – Moon – Earth”, is a more traditional drone metal track. While most drone metal tracks don’t have any sort of drum track on them, the duo of urr add in the cymbals and drums to keep things heavy and intense. The second track is far longer, at 23 minutes, and I cannot describe the feelings I have while listening. I head banged (at super slow tempos), I air guitared, I zoned out, I was in a trance. That’s the best way to put it. The band puts the listener in a state of semi-consciousness, only letting them go after the breaking of sound stops.

The third and final epic track is titled, “The Branches That Bend the Most Bear More Fruit”. Now it’s structurally the same as the first track with the looping guitar riff that changes throughout the song, but it also contains the dynamics of the second track. It’s the grand finale of the album, building to the crushing final moments of the album, but never feeling like it’s missing a beat. The song, along with the rest of the album, contains a slight buzz that’s so omniscient in the background. It adds to the droning effect of the album, capturing anyone who focuses on the waves of sound. It’s a beautiful effect that urr have created.

Giving drone metal a chance can be hard. I compare it to scene in “Lawrence of Arabia” when they travel through the desert, or the entire movie of “2001: Space Odyssey”. My guess is if you enjoyed either/or, you’ll have a real connection with drone metal. Urr is a band that takes the elements of drone, and even stoner metal, adding to the ever growing popularity of heaviness in music. The Endless Riddles of Sky and Earth is an album that needs more attention. It craves the necessity to be recognized as a new face to the drone metal scene. There aren’t enough house-hold names in the genre, and the ones that are known need a young gun to help progress them. Urr is just the band they need.

 

Click here to check out the band’s website

Also be sure to listen to their soundcloud below: 

Underground Mondays: Place to Stand – Matt Tomlinson

It’s cold and rainy here in Vancouver, BC and there’s no surprises there. As a passionate member of my city, I’ve grown accustom to the frequency of rain and clouds, as the last time I saw a heavy snow storm was probably back in 2008. The weather is mild, and the seasons tend to blend as one. There’s a defined heat in the summer that contrasts the somewhat cold winters. Nonetheless, it can be difficult to differentiate the four season here on the west coast. When I first heard Place to Stand by the Montreal indie folk artist, Matt Tomlinson, it was most likely sunny. I assume dusk was around the corner, and everything he said was tailored to Vancouver. Ironically, it’s recorded in Eastern Canada. The entire geography of the country spans multiple themes, and changes once a time zoned is crossed. The beauty of Place to Stand is that the intimacy of the album clicks with every listener, no matter where they’re from.

Matt Tomlinson makes music to inspire. His Andrew Bird-esque sound is very prominent, and much like AB’s music, it’s an emotional roller coaster. The way he works the instruments to his liking is amazing. On the opener, and in the French version, “Philosopher”, showcases how much talent Tomlinson has. Every pluck of the guitar and note held by the violin is gripping. He croons his way through the track that only leads the way for his other passionate tunes. “Mile End Girl” is a folk tune with a beautiful harmony and a catchy hook. It doesn’t feel cheesy, but simple. The simplicity and delivery is natural, much like a personal favourite, “Evening Train”. I can make that statement of a song being my favourite with a handful of tracks on Place to Be. Tomlinson has found a shtick and has ran with it.

“Evening Train” has perfect mood to it. Somewhat cheerful, but more reflective; like driving home in the suburbs and along the border of a city. Although you never enter the core, you still grasp the atmosphere of what’s around you. It’s a great tune. I can’t get enough of the Steve Reich inspired opening on “Take My Hand”. The vibes strike a chord with me, and gives off a Sufjan Stevens sound. The sailing acoustic guitar meshes with the claps that resemble the drums so well. The songs presented here are so singable, especially the “La la’s” on the final few notes of  ”Take My Hand”. I can see the live performance of this song mesmerizing audience members with the droning of the few sounds.

A track that doesn’t exactly fit is “Fooling Around”. In my brief conversation with Tomlinson, he mentioned he worked on film soundtracks. I have the sense that this song should have been placed in a closing scene of a feel-good movie instead of Tomlinson’s close to heart pieces. The piano riff at the end is pretty astonishing, but I question some of the composition as the song came across as forced. That’s where “Northern Song” gives a perfect lead into the grand finale of “Wondering Why”. It’s subtle sheen is a great way to wipe away the minor mishaps and prepare the listener for a final ‘Hurrah’. “Wondering Why” gave me chills every time I heard the song. I’m getting chills right now thinking of it. It’s a track that sums up the entire album, the entire, and the entire musicianship of Tomlinson as it grows and grows until the final note has rung out. He’s saved his best energy for last, as the closer brings Place to Be to a fulfilling end.

Matt Tomlinson brings his A game for this album. He finds his calling for music, and runs with a theme until the end. It’s a relate-able one, as we’ve all had questions about it. He takes the idea of connecting with people and what the future holds for us, and forms a beautiful relaxing shed about our heads until the 39 minutes of songs are finished. Place to Be deserves more attention, as it is strictly underrated. Be sure to give it a listen, and share your thoughts on this LP with us!

Stream the full album here: 

Also, be sure to check out his website here at: http://www.matttomlinson.com/

Dallas Sutherland makes a comeback for folk

dallassutherland

With folk music making a big comeback, it’s only fitting to include somebody who sets the genre apart. As a Canadian (Sorry to break the news), I take pride in my musicians. While I should have a bias for any act who’s from the great north, I find the best music is coming from the U.S. right now. That might be from having an enormous difference in population, but the quality is just there for any act emerging from the south. I want to change that stereotype, and present one of the most naturally talented guitarists, Dallas Sutherland from Toronto, Ontario.

He takes modern playing techniques and merges them with his outstanding originals to create a signature sound. I recently picked up his new EP, Silver Birch Sessions, and was blown away. From the beginning, there’s a steady beat of harmonics that follow by a subtle strum pattern. It sets the tone for the 17 and a half minute adventure. Tightrope is a blend of great finger picking and country twang chord swishes. It’s like listening to a old time spaghetti-western fight scene. Very entertaining instrumentals.

The song that caught me from this EP was the track, “Pointing Flashlights At The Sky”. The melody is sweet, but the adds this nostalgic atmosphere when the bass notes strike together. The chorus is gripping, and I couldn’t finish this sentence right now when it began. “Pandora’s Lullaby” has a Nick Drake sound, and nails it down to the high pitched melody throughout the track.  ”My Beautiful Miss” opens with 8th notes of harmonics, then slides into a cozy little pattern of finger-picked strings. The closest comparison would be the ending of Sufjan Steven’s epic, “Impossible Soul”, with more drive. The final song, “Swan Song”, is exactly that. The influence of “Dear Prudence” by The Beatles is huge. I’ve always thought that was The Beatles best song off of their self-titled album, and this track could be very easily yours.

The knock I have is I want to hear more originality. I love being able to grab what influences are internalized in the artist, but on the final track, it can feel like a cover song. That being said, this is a five track EP that showcases Sutherland’s talent and natural song writing abilities. If there’s anything I wish to note, it’s that this guy is worth checking out. I think my dream collaboration right now would be Dallas Sutherland and Keaton Henson. The two would have a great contrast in sound, but together they could form amazing ideas.

Be sure to check out the EP released by Dallas Sutherland here:  http://dallassutherland.bandcamp.com/

dallas_sutherland_front

Don’t forget to check his website at: http://dallassutherland.com/#

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,003 other followers