Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Evolution ... Br. Explores his Musical Relationship with The Arctic Monkeys

Album #1, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" (2006)
  • this album is bonkers! 10/10
  • the lasting imprints of the album are of energy, invention, youth, wit, and attitude ... there are so many incredible songs and moments on this album but the standouts song has always been 'Fake Tales of San Francisco' and though it's a titanic ask, I think the standout moment is at 3:30 of 'Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But...'
  • the album was a colossal hit in the UK and the hype engine could barely even contain itself ... just about every superlative was exhausted in describing the album and so I need not go into much depth; odds are if you are reading this blog then you know how amazing this album is

Album #2, "Favourite Worst Nightmare" (2007)
  • no, this album is bonkers! 10/10
  • where the debut was frenetic and filled with attitude, the follow-up was much more measured and polished ... it also feels slightly less punk-inspired and more of a solid and straight-ahead and undeniably British rock album ... 'Teddy Picker' will always be the standout song for me, and the moment where the guitars shoot straight to 11 in 'Do Me a Favour' (around 2:30) is pretty hard to top ... this album also stands out to me for the unbelievable drumming of Matt Helders (it starts with 'Brianstorm' and is just as present and powerful for the entire album)
  • also a colossal hit, this album confirmed the band's place in the pantheon of great British rock bands but it also is here that, to me, frontman Alex Turner feel into the trap of fame and celebrity and all its narcissism

Album #3, "Humbug" (2009)
  • this album is ... huh, not what I was expecting but still good.  8/10
  • the band's transformation began here and this is not unnatural if you give it some thought - they were massively popular and successful and Alex (and maybe the rest of the band, though he is the most obviously pompous) had fallen into the fame pit ... the songs were longer and more varied, there were new effects used, the album felt darker somehow and more heavily produced, and above all, the songs seemed to revolve more around Alex's vocals than feeling balanced amongst all four elements of the band's sound ... the standout track is likely 'Cornerstone', though to me the album's quality lies in its sound as a whole as compared to individual songs ... the best song connected to this album is their oustanding cover of Nick Cave's 'Red Right Hand' ... that moment at about 3:00 in 'Dance Little Liar' and the following musical onslaught is pretty wicked too
  • as I already stated, this is where I started to question where this band was heading, with my nervousness helped not at all by Alex's work as one half of 2008's debut album by The Last Shadow Puppets and their connection with Josh Homme (aka the kiss of death)

Album #4, "Suck It and See" (2011)
  • this album is ... wait, what the hell is going on here? 6/10
  • it is truly unfortunate that the best thing about this album was the single for 'Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair' in that it gave me such hope for the album before it was released in full - the single was full of attitude and rock-nous (though the lyrics were seriously questionable for the first time) and the two b-sides released along with it were both outstanding, particularly 'The Blond-o-Sonic Shimmer Trap' ... inevitably though, the album was released and it all just felt so tame and weak ... gone was the urgency and the invention and the snarling guitars and in its place were songs that wandered around in a general song-shape, but not in anyway that I recognized for this band ... I am never one to deny a band their right to evolve, but everything they were so good at was muted, or unrecognizable, or oddly structured, or missing altogether...
  • NME loved this album of course, but I have no idea if anyone else did ... I was honestly worried at this point and even remember saying to my friend in England, "I saw this album, and I think it sucked" (as an attempted witty play on the album title)

Album #5, "AM" (2013)
  • this album is ... is ... it's shit! 2/10
  • again, the band tricked me, lulling me into a false sense of security with both 'R U Mine' (though the use of letters instead of words should have, in hindsight, rung all the alarm bells) and 'Do I Wanna Know', which were great rock songs that seemed very much in keeping with the band's incredible ability ... and then the rest of the album came out, and to this day, all I can think of in trying to review it is that it sounds less like a rock album, and more like the entirely forgettable backing tracks to a bad 1970s porn movie
  • long the band's champion, NME gave this album a perfect score, which I have literally no ability to comprehend ... the moment where I knew it had all gone wrong was when I heard my 13-year old students talking about the band in the same breath as Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars...

So where does that leave me?  Unfortunately, I've lost interest in this band as a whole and in the megalomaniac-that-Alex-has-become specifically.  I have no idea what they're working on now, and can only keep my fingers crossed upon mention of a new album that they will have moved on from their 'we wish we were American ... just look at my hair!' phase.  Maybe their debut album title was more prophetic than we first realized...

Peace,
    Br.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Interesting...

A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences states that the most important member of a rock band is the bassist.  I play bass in a band.  Just sayin'.  There's something in there about drummers too, but isn't it obvious that the rhythm section would always be the most important?!  Here is the full article, courtesy of NME:

http://www.nme.com/news/new-scientific-study-reveals-important-member-every-band-1994791

Peace,
    Br.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Interesting...

Thank you 'Consequence of Sound' for offering up this video of Andy Samberg impersonating early-1990s Eddie Vedder, singing 'Alive'.  The impersonation was nowhere near but the humour was pretty great.  Peace,
    Br.

http://consequenceofsound.net/2017/02/andy-samberg-as-eddie-vedder-performs-in-memoriam-tribute-to-the-actors-who-didnt-die/

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Interesting ...

An incredibly interesting (and encouraging) article about the band 'Modern Baseball' who have chosen to put their own mental health before commercial interests; not only that, but in cancelling their tour in order to "put our health and friendships first", they also took the opportunity to point their listeners in the direction of mental health resources.  

This article appears courtesy of Pitchfork...

http://pitchfork.com/news/71793-modern-baseball-taking-a-break-cancel-tour/?mbid=homepage-more-latest-and-video

Peace,
    Br.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Br's Review ... Middle Kids, "The Middle Kids EP"

I know that Joel took this one on a bit of a whim and unfortunately it shows.  This album does nothing for me.  I don't really care for lead singer Hannah Joy's vocals, though I can appreciate the ridiculous variety in her vocal effects, ranging from Lera Lynn to Angel Olsen to Stevie Nicks.  Then there's the music, which chugs along without doing much of note aside from some real quality moments of bass propelling the song forward (particularly in 'Old River', in which the bass line, particularly at the end of the song, gives it some much-needed dynamism).  The lead track 'Your Love' feels like country and power-pop thrown in a blender (though there's some solid bass work again), it regresses to 80s-inspired country-pop in the next track 'Edge of Town', and though there are some improvements as the album progresses, it rarely moves far from that sound or does anything truly dynamic.

Maybe the best thing about listening to this album is that it reminded me of another Aussie band that I loved in sometime around 2000 called Powderfinger, who released an excellent album called "Odyssey #5".  So there's that I guess.  Maybe Aussie music is just a bit more country than I realized.  Maybe the album isn't great.  Or maybe I don't care enough to come up with other reasons to excuse the fact that I don't like it...

Overall Rating: ⭑⭑
Best Song: 'Old River'
Release Date: 17 February, 2017
Label: Domino

Peace,
    Br.

ps. here is a link to that Powderfinger album on Youtube, via user AMBER (thanks!)

Joel's Review ... Middle Kids, "Middle Kids EP"


I went out on a limb this month and chose a release by a band I've never heard of, and I'm glad I did.   From the opener "Your Love", it's clear that Hannah Joy's vocals are the selling point, but when the pedal steel joins "Edge of Town" it signals that the boys in the band can hold their own as well.  "Never Start" almost seems to be trying too hard to be that radio single that you can tap your foot along to while singing the hook but in the end it managed to get requests for multiple listens in a row from my son, and won me over as well. 

The high point of the EP is "Old River", probably the most polished song, allowing the band to showcase itself with Joy's voice and the twangy steel guitar giving way to pounding drums, a driving bass, and an electric solo.  Unfortunately the closer, "Doing It Right", feels out of place on this EP.  It's a piano ballad that loses all of the energy that came before, and seems to exist only to show off more range for the band's lead singer.

Middle Kids seem like they're on the verge of breaking it big in Australia and are currently touring North America, trying to find some traction here.  Their debut EP may not be breaking any new ground but it's a promising debut that has me looking forward to what this band can bring in the coming years.



Standout Tracks: Edge of Town, Old River

My Rating: 3/5

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Evolution ... Br. Explores his Musical Relationship with Laura Marling

Laura Marling will be releasing her sixth album, 'Semper Femina' on 10 March, 2017.  She is a wonderfully talented musician with impressive song-writing ability and a great voice.  Unfortunately, I've fallen out of love with Miss Marling and this blog will explore why...

Laura Marling's 2008 debut album 'Alas I Cannot Swim' was quite simply brilliant, especially when you consider that she was a mere 18 years of age at time of release.  I don't know or care for genres much, but this album was folk / singer-songwriter perfection, with so many memorable songs and spell-binding moments that it's hard to adequately describe.  Listen to the album - she has a wonderful voice and a very naturally creative approach to song construction considering all of her songs are built around the fact that she plays acoustic guitar (which can be sonically limiting).  Here is the video for 'Night Terror', one of the real standouts from that album...


Marling's second album, 'I Speak Because I Can' was more influenced by the Americana-folk and country sound popular in the early-2000s (remember when Mumford & Sons were still making good music?) but was still very good, with some simply excellent songs and a lot of real vocal growth.  Laura was able to do angry as well as tender and with such a powerful, pure delivery.  Simply put, she could sing and was not afraid to show that.  Consider the album's standout track 'Rambling Man'...


And then there was her third album, 2011's 'A Creature I Don't Know', and that to me is where our relationship started to fall off the rails.  To this point, all of her songs were built around the blend of acoustic guitar warmth with the purity of her voice.  She was a good singer.  And for some reason, starting most noticeably on this album, she stopped singing.  Instead, she developed this choppy, broken, spoken-word-like delivery and the result, for me at least, was the total loss of feeling and warmth and ability to connect with her or her song.  There are some good songs, but you can hear all over the album the times in which her delivery changes.  Consider one of the best songs from the album, 'Salinas', which has a lot of great vocals in it but also some obvious examples of her new delivery (like the line "am I heaven-bound")...


Most interesting about this evolution is the fact that Laura Marling received the most critical acclaim for her fourth album 'Once I Was an Eagle', which to me is almost unlistenable because she has totally abandoned anything recognizable as conventional singing by this point.  Why Laura, why?  You have a beautiful voice, so why hide it?  Why roll out this false-sounding, overly dramatic, story-telling voice instead of just singing?!  2015's 'Short Movie' followed, and though I liked the instrumentation and overall sound, there was still this obsession with bizarre styles of delivery.  And that takes us to present-day, and the upcoming 'Semper Femina', due out in less than a month.  First impressions?  Nope.


I am 100% aware that it is my inability to accept her change in style that has pushed me away from Laura Marling, but it is simply a change that I do not understand.  There is just so little urgency or power or connection for me anymore and that makes me feel like we are all missing out on something important.  She's moved on, she's embraced new styles and is clearly comfortable with her story-telling, maybe jazz-inspired delivery, but I can't get there, which is too bad because with this album in particular, I think she has built some very powerful narratives and is exploring some really important topics ... but I just can't do it.  Sorry Laura, we've grown apart.  I will always think of you fondly but...

Peace,
     Br.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Upcoming Blog Posts - "Late Review"

Hey music readers (or maybe it's just reader, singular).  We've got some things in the works right now and thought we'd share them with you.  Starting in March, we're going to begin a series of blogs entitled "Late Review" in which we discuss what we think is an important topic from our formative musical era, the 1990s.  Some of the topics we will be exploring include:

  • the single best year for music in the 1990s
  • the enigma that was Oasis
  • the best Pearl Jam album released during the decade (five to choose from)
  • the enigma that was the Smashing Pumpkins
  • whether it's worth trying to decide what the best album of the whole decade was
  • the most important electronic albums of the decade...

...and a good deal more.  We'll also continue with our music reviews for each month (though March is throwing up some serious obstacles) and the odd bit of music news.  Cool?  Cool.

Thanks for reading.  Peace,
     Br.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

NPR Tiny Desk - Run the Jewels

Yes there is a lot of language, but it's all worth it for the fact that they have so much to say, particularly the last track, "A Report to the Shareholders" that sums up their whole ethos.  Peace,
     Br.


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Guest Review: Curt Reviews his 2016 Album of the Year

Curt will be the first to tell you that not only is Metallica his favourite band (a band that personally makes my skin crawl) but that his musical tastes are not just rooted in the 1990s but stuck there, a point made abundantly clear by the first sentence of his review.  So, here we are, in part at least, living up to the name of our blog.  Without further ado, Curt reviews his album of the year for 2016, 'Collection of Thoughts' by Silence Factory...
"It's very rare for me to find any good music in the 21st century. However, I was at Canal Days in Port Colborne during the Summer of 2016 to See Jeff Martin and Finger Eleven. The opening act at the show that day was a band I had never heard of: Nathan McNevin and the Silence Factory. 
You could tell by their age that they were a new band, cutting their teeth at a free show. While their youth was obvious, their sound was surprising! I expected to hear some lame, U2 sounding stuff, but instead, I heard some powerful rock and I was right into things only a few seconds into their set. 
They opened with a song called, 'Unhappy'. The lead singer was all over the stage, doing improvised acts, unscripted lyrics and the although they were shooting from the hip, the sound never broke stride. I was immediately hooked on both their music and their personalities. 
I purchased their album right after the show and met the band. 'Collection of Thoughts' is solid, front to back. The band can rock, but also slow it down, too. Since their debut album, they have released a couple singles, 'High' and a cover of Harvey Danger's 'Flagpole Sitta'. I am eager for more."
Curt is also the creator of the hockey-themed Youtube channel 'Top Corner Hockey' (link in the header bar of this website).  Peace,
     Br.

(The only acceptable cover of Flagpole Sitta can be found here - Joel)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Interesting...

Marilyn Manson and Eminem are better to listen to than easy-listening or Mozart?  Huh?  Check out this study on the BBC that seems to state that people are more likely to participate in immoral or unethical behaviour when listening to "happy" music while those who listen to "angry" or "dark" music are more likely to feel relief.  Read on.  


Peace,
    Br.

New Kasabian album in 2017

Kasabian have confirmed that they are done their 2017 album, with a possible summer release (and a single in April).  Speaking to NME, Serge said:
  • “Well, I fell in love with the guitar again. I was listening to ESG and Talking Heads and in that kind of world, then it just took on a life of its own. I just wanted to make a guitar record that was relevant and important. It’s been a while since that happened. We always react against our previous work. I did massively experimental synth work on the last record so I just looked at my Rickenbacker in the corner of the studio and thought ‘that’s what I’m gonna do’. I just started smashing tunes out on that.”
If that's not reason to be excited, I don't know what is.  The link to the full article is below.  Peace,
     Br.



Monday, 13 February 2017

Joel's Review ... Elbow, "Little Fictions"

elbow has always been a band that hasn't quite clicked with me and "Little Fictions" is no different.  That doesn't mean that the album is bad by any means.  In fact, it's quite beautiful at times.  It's just that "Little Fictions" is often like great foreplay with no climax.  Some songs (Montparnasse, Gentle Storm, Trust the Sun) feel like they're building to something but then settle into a pattern and just ride it out.  Others don't feel up to the challenge of standing on their own without Guy Garvey's voice to carry them.  If more songs built to a close like the last couple minutes of the title track, I'd probably love this album unabashedly. 

The standouts for me are "Magnificent", "K2", "Little Fictions", and "Kindling".

My Score - 3/5

Friday, 10 February 2017

Interesting...

Here is an interesting (though maybe obvious) article that appeared on NME recently about the similarity in brain response between sex, drugs, and listening to music.  I do not own this article, and NME is awesome, so please go there to check it out:
Peace,
    Br.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Br's Review ... Elbow, "Little Fictions"

Elbow have long been one of my favourite bands, since stumbling upon them at a Virgin Megastore in Birmingham back in 2003, shortly after the release of "Cast of Thousands".  As such, I have been witness to their musical evolution over the past 14 years, an evolution that has included a Mercury Prize, the arrival of the limelight after 4 albums, and more than anything else, an ever-evolving and expansive catalogue of lyrical content, all of it as much at home as poetry as song lyrics.  Guy Garvey, is not just the band's immensely talented singer (richest voice in England) but is also its profoundly thoughtful wordsmith, capable of crafting emotionally-rich lyrics that lift, question, proclaim, doubt, and at times, provide commentary on all that it means to be human in the 21st Century.

With that as a preamble of my appreciation of the band, it should come as no surprise that I love "Little Fictions", though it did take a few moments of real doubt before I was sold, particularly in the form of the first two songs on the album that felt almost too soft to recognize.  This is an album unlike any of the band's recent offerings though in that it is distinctly upbeat and full of not just possibility but real joy, with Garvey's recent marriage likely having a huge impact in that direction.  No strangers to creating songs of startling beauty, on "Little Fictions", the beauty comes from those moments of optimism and of opening; that is maybe most clear on songs like 'Head for Supplies' in which Garvey softly sings that "way down inside me was a pilot light" that was now larger and greater for having met (presumably) his new wife.  Truly, much could be written about the wonderful lyricism of the band, but it is the music and instrumentation that perhaps stands out most to me on this album (which may also be due to the fact that Garvey is always so good that you can almost take him for granted...).

Losing your drummer before recording a new album would be no small challenge for most bands, and yet the percussion on this album is as strong and present as ever, if perhaps even more so than past albums.  I haven't done my research to answer my own question, but due to the absence of guitar and the differing style of percussion (jazz-influenced?), has one of the band members simply changed instruments?  No matter the cause, it is a hugely positive change and seems to have slowed the band not at all, indeed even opening new doors, most obvious on songs like 'Trust the Sun' and 'Firebrand and Angel'.


Standout moments are always aplenty on an Elbow album, but to me the two songs that leap out of the headphones are songs that have very different directions - 'K2' delves deeply into 21st Century, doubt-filled, post-Brexit England, while 'Kindling' nestles itself right up against the left side of your chest, almost leaving us as if we've shared in the moment where Garvey realized how much this new love filled him.  Overall, this is yet another beautiful album by an incredibly talented band, and it makes me happy to have this album's feeling of possibility to keep me company in what appears will be an uncertain year.

Overall Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑
Best Song: 'Kindling'
Release Date: 3 February, 2017
Label: Polydor

Peace,
    Br.