Thursday, August 5, 2010

Closing up shop...for now

So, I've been doing this blog for over a year now. Thing is, I've also been doing this thing called parenting for the first time this past year as well (with a very difficult baby), which has taken up a lot of my time, thus making it difficult to dedicate as much time to this as I should have to make it interesting enough for people to come and visit. Nevertheless, this really hasn't picked up any speed at all in the last year and I've come to a point where I've either got to dedicate more time to this, or just give it up. As I'm starting a new job this next Monday, I've decided this isn't on my priority list and so to the maybe one or two readers I have, I'm sorry, but this has to come to an end.

Maybe I'll pick it up again sometime in the future. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks


Of the Dylan albums I own, this is by far the one I connect with most. The rest leave me wondering what was so great about him, but this is the bees knees, the real deal. Now, I'm not saying that I've been on the backend of a bad marriage, so I can't really connect with it, but just the fact that it is extremely personal adds a touch to Dylan's music that is needed for his otherwise bland brand of music (sorry Dylan fanatics).

Right away with "Tangled Up in Blue" Dylan is in top form with confident, free-flowing lyrics and almost jangly guitars, not to mention his classic harmonica. Everything I love about Dylan is wrapped up all in this one song.

At times Dylan displays a mournful feeling that only life experiences can generate. Just listen to the harmonica on "You're a Big Girl Now" - talk about soul being poured into an instrument.

Honestly, if the rest of the album carried through with the same strength as the first three tracks, it'd be a no-brainer 5 star album to me.

Where things fall a little flat is where Dylan gets a little overbearing, such as in "Idiot Wind." These were his emotions at the time, so it's not fair for me to say he shouldn't have put them on display, but it grows tiresome, especially with repeated listens.

And I can only listen to "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts" so many times. This is the type of track that usually turns me away from Dylan - basically poetry or storytelling with a basic, vamping blues melody backing him up.

The last three tracks are good, not great tracks. It's as if the initial momentum and emotional charge from the beginning of the album have subsided, and we're left with a more plaintive Dylan. It leaves the album on a good enough note to wet your appetite for the next time you feel like some Dylan.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Putting the needle on the vinyl

For some time now I've toyed around with the idea in my head of getting a turntable and starting a modest record collection. It wasn't until recently that I decided it was about time to make this a reality. I've asked for a turntable for Father's Day and have already acquired a couple of records, including a spanking new, dual vinyl release of Slowdive's Souvlaki, one of my favorite dream pop/shoegaze records. The anticipation of throwing on a shiny new record onto the player and watching the needle hit the black disc is growing tremendously.

While I certainly don't plan on acquiring a plethora of vinyl as I have compact discs, it will be a luxury to have a small collection of some of my favorite albums available to spin old school when the mood strikes. And nothing will beat the thrill of hunting down gems like Neil Diamond or Carpenters records at thrift stores all around town!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground


I love the John Cale VU. Their first two albums are great and have their place chiseled out in the history of rock music for good reason.

I just happen to love Cale-less VU even more.

I think experimentation and thinking outside the box and all that is great. It should be done much, much more nowadays. However, most don’t do it because, although the potential reward is much greater, the risk is also much greater. And musicians already take a huge risk by trying to make a living in music. VU was no exception as it turned out to be an unsuccessful approach in terms of sales and popularity. But, the payoff was huge for us, as it was a huge success in terms of inspiration and breaking new ground. I shudder to think of what music would be like today if it weren’t for these guys.

All that said, I may be contradicting myself a bit by saying that stripping the mighty Velvet Underground of its eccentric, mad genius was exactly the best thing for VU, as it allowed the beauty of Lou’s songwriting and singing to shine through unimpeded. Although it hurts to say it, this is an excellent example of addition by subtraction. I think we all knew Lou had it in him to pen such simple, gorgeous songs as “Candy Says” and “Pale Blue Eyes,” and now he actually could. And how refreshing it is just to hear them jam out simple, rockin’ songs as they do so well on “What Goes On” and “Beginning to See the Light.”

Then there’s the really underrated song of the album, the mid-tempo, slow-building “I’m Set Free.” I get chills when the song culminates to its chorus and they all harmonize “I’m Set Free!” It’s like the sober little brother of “Heroin.” Just awesome stuff.

Ok, so I can’t escape this review without addressing the most controversial song on the album, “The Murder Mystery.” While it’s really quite a fascinating experiment on wordplay, studio trickery, and sound collages, it just doesn’t belong on this album. It comes out of nowhere and takes nearly 9 minutes away from the tone that was established so perfectly on the previous eight songs. I rate this album as I as I do despite it, not because of it. It’s the one flaw that brings it down from perfection, and it’s a shame that they had to include it. It would have been much better released on another album, or as a b-side.

Fortunately, Mo brings the album back to earth with the quaint, innocent acoustic sing-a-long song, “After Hours,” appropriately closing the door on the best thing The Velvet Underground ever did.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


So we all know the biggest issue of the last decade in music, in terms of how it's released and distributed, has been the issue of downloading. Now, I'm not about to go into a lecture one way or another to say it's right or it isn't, but allow me to just say that becoming open to it has, well, opened up a few doors to music I wouldn't have otherwise heard.

Recently I downloaded two albums that are out of print and are either costly to acquire, or flat out impossible. I've always wanted to hear the most praised My Bloody Valentine EP, You Made Me Realise, as well as Live '77, a live bootleg from a very obscure Japanese noise-rock band (but highly praised in certain circles) Les Rallizes Denudes (who never released any proper albums). So now, after wanting to hear these albums for so long, with minimal effort, here they are sitting in my collection. Should've done this years ago, to be honest. I don't know what was stopping me other than I've always been VERY anal about wanting the physical copy of any music I truly want to hear and own (I know, I know, you can stop rolling your eyes at my absurdity now).

I don't plan on going on a downloading spree and just acquiring everything under the sun, new releases, etc. because I still am very much a "purist," and love expanding my physical collection. But being more open to the idea will allow me to hear a lot of great music I never would've heard otherwise.

I'm late to the party (way beyond fashionably late, too), but at least I came, right?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Massive Attack - Blue Lines


This album and I didn't get off to a great start. My introduction to Massive Attack was the spectacular and timeless Mezzanine. It instantly became one of my favorite albums ever. Then, later I decided to backtrack and check out the equally praised Blue Lines.

What I heard disappointed me. It sounded firmly planted in the 90's with it's production style, vocals, and overall general vibe. It didn't have the lush atmosphere and deep, brooding vibe of the aforementioned Mezzanine. Nothing really seemed to build or expand. It was just a bunch of songs with decent grooves and dated effects. I barely wanted to hear it for a second time.

As I've given this more and more chances, I've come to appreciate the warm soul that this album exudes. It's an album to just chill to, not really put your full attention to necessarily.

If I can find a way to get past the dated sound, there are actually some pretty good grooves and soulful vocals. I do tend to cringe a little when I hear that extremely contrived and repetitive rap phrasing such as in the title track. I find the key to enjoying this album is to not take it too seriously.

But really, it just depends on my mood. If I can stomach this album, I quite enjoy it. Right now, as I review this album, it leaves me a little cold and it just really doesn't do a whole lot for me.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Beck - Sea Change


Beck really goes all over the place musically, doesn't he? I don't know about you, but of all the directions he's taken throughout his career, I was most surprised when he went the direction of downtrodden, lonely singer/songwriter. Perhaps not nearly as surprised, however, as when I discovered this is Beck at his best.
The restraint really suits his voice and persona quite well. I could only halfway buy into him when he was dancing around singing about "Sexxx Laws," but here on Sea Change I can really feel he's in the zone.
I'm really most impressed with the songwriting and overall use of various instruments, including a quite prominent string section. The strings add almost a theatrical-ish element without taking away from the intimate feelings of the songs.
While the album is definitely more on the downside of things, it's not exactly depressing like, say, Elliott Smith is. Instead it's more slanted towards being apathetic, no better exemplified than by the third track, with the very straightforward title "Guess I'm Doing Fine." Because of the somewhat lighter feeling of reluctant acceptance, this album is more relaxing and even calming than other released by other artists along this same vein.
Maybe another reason this album is relaxing is because Beck himself sounds a little worn out. He even states that he's "tired of fighting, tired of fighting for a lost cause." He sounds beaten and defeated. But somehow still, I find comfort in those words instead of worry or pain.
Not only is Beck in top form musically on Sea Change, lyrically he's at his most poetic and profound. He certainly sets the tone on the opener "Golden Age" with "These days I barely get by, I don't even try." And on "End of the Day" he profoundly points out that "You owe nothing to the past but wasted time, to serve a sentence that was only in your mind." I worry sometimes how guilty I am of this, but at least I'm not alone. Many more lyrical gems are scattered throughout in every single track.
Many times Beck evokes Nick Drake on this album. I know it's blasphemous to say this, but I really would put this on the same level as much of his work, save for maybe Pink Moon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Meat Puppets - Up on the Sun

One distinct sign of a good record is that it's ALWAYS better than you remember it being. This is one of those albums for me.
What always sticks out to me is the extremely beautiful guitar interplay between the bass and guitar. No song displays this virtuosity more than "Maiden's Milk," with arpeggios galore and even a whistling line over the top of it all.
Another great thing about Up on the Sun is its consistancy. Every song is fresh and builds momentum throughout the album. Songs seem to increase in energy as the album goes on.
This might be a bit of a stretch, but at times (thinking this as I'm listening to "Buckethead") this album sounds like what Gang of Four's Entertainment! would sound like if you were to take away the political and social angst and replace it with a much more carefree, fun approach.
I guess one knock on this album is that over time I've grown somewhat tired of the flat vocal approach. Meat Puppets II is actually much better in that regard, with memorable vocal lines spewn throughout. But in terms of instrumentation and how the band sounds as a whole, this takes the cake.
Great album for fans of Felt, The Feelies, and other similar bands with jangly guitars and dry vocals.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In short, I've delved head first into my Autechre binge the last couple of weeks, and through the process they've become one of my favorite groups ever. Their combination of beats and atmosphere and rhythms have taken a hold of me. I can't remember the last time I was this obsessed about any group since The Cure starting six years ago.

So far the standout to me is Untilted. It's pummeling beats grabbed me instantly. It's an assault on the brain. LP5 and Confield are runners up, the former being a mature evolution of their early period, and the latter, a clinical, carpenter-like execution of rhythms, beats, and textures. Their widely considered masterpiece, Tri Repetae, is pretty solid, but gaps in quality on that album bring it down slightly. Oversteps, their newly released album from just one month ago, is a stellar album full of atmosphere and texture. I'm still absorbing Draft about an album that's difficult to wrap your head around, but I sense brilliance lies somewhere in there. I've yet to listen to Quaristice, but with the shorter song lengths I'm excited to hear what could be considered Autechre's punk album.

Eventually I will get to hearing their first two albums, which I hear are much more ambient and simple, but gorgeous.

So, if you love Autechre, let me hear about it. If you haven't heard their stuff, give it a try and at least try something new, it's worth it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I've always been much more of a left-brained person. I'm analytical by nature, and my best subject in school was always math. And it kind of makes for an interesting music listener. I mean I love melody and harmony as much as the next guy, don't get me wrong, but I do tend to pay attention to beats more than some, and that's probably why I was a drummer instead of a guitar player.

I bring this up because I've recently discovered an excellent electronic duo (IDM, or, Intelilgent Dance Music, to be specific...what a ridiculous name for a genre, "hey look at me, I dance intelligently!") named Autechre. Why I haven't gotten into this stuff before is beyond me, but it has captivated me and taken a hold of me recently.

It's not for everyone. The music can be thought of as really cold and nonhuman. It is, after all, made strictly by a couple of humans solely on their computers, with no vocals, no nothin'. But the beats and textures and rhythms and subtle melodies are amazing to hear.

Perhaps I'll come back with a review or two of their stuff, but for now I'm just going to enjoy delving deeper into their discography.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

Strictly speaking about the sound/production, this album is refeshing, like drinking clean, clear spring water. Each instrument is heard in its own space and has an intricate and definite purpose. Nothing is rushed, as nearly every song is mid-tempo, but this band wasn't meant to romp and rave. But the textures and layers are really where they excel (when they do excel, that is). And a slight swagger, but nothing too out there, just quiet confidence.
Some albums as downtempo as this would make an anxious listener even more unnerved and frustrated. But this relaxes, calms, and reassures.
The album starts out of the gate with three bonafide great songs, "Mirrorball" being the highlight of the entire album. The problem is that things lull to a near stop towards the middle, starting with "An Audience With the Pope" to the low point of the album and drag of a song, "The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver." "Slow Riot" tries to steal that accolade just two songs later, however. It's unfortunate that an album with so much potential has such a drab middle section. This has become even more apparent as I review the album, whereas in the past I imagine I let it slide and just drifted my attention elsewhere.
"One Day Like This" redeems the album towards the end, and "Friend of Ours" succeeds at being extremely subtle but beautiful at the same time with great touches of piano, providing for a great closer, but ultimately this is a patchy effort where they simply couldn't sustain the near perfection of the first three songs.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Slint - Spiderland

I don't think I can possibly comprehend exactly how groundbreaking this album was. I can understand on an intellectual level, but I've heard too much music that's come out since that's been influenced by it to really grasp it.
That doesn't mean it isn't amazing. It's meticulous, methodical, and creepy. It's the feeling of alienation.
I may be influenced by the name of the album, but I always think of crawling spiders when I hear the almost screeching single note guitar picks, or the smooth winding guitar lines throughout the album. And I can imagine crawling through dark caves, or swimming in the bottom of the ocean in pitch black. It's a very visual album.
The strength of the album lies greatly in its sparseness and guitar/drum interplay. Listen to the first minute of "Nosferatu Man" to hear what I mean. It's like the guitars are traveling through the maze that the drums are creating. Or all of "Don, Aman." It's amazing how such a seemingly simple guitar duo can be so effective. Very cool stuff.
The vocals are just as raw, if not more so, than the other instruments. A large part of them are spoken, or half-sung. A lot of them are buried in the mix. All of them add to the atmosphere so amazingly being created by everything else.
"Washer" just may be my favorite song on the album. I love the drum part and how it flows so well with the guitars. Like I said, there is extremely cool interplay throughout this album. The vocals are most pronounced on this song as well, and very chilling.
"Good Morning, Captain" is one of the most amazing closers in the history of music. Seriously. The stark nature of the song climaxes when you hear screeching shouts of "I MISS YOU!!!" to end out the album. It will leave any breathing human speechless.
I don't listen to this album a whole lot simply because it requires a very specific mood, and a specific time and place. Those circumstances don't come together very often. But I suppose that's just one more reason to cherish it all that much more.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me

Those already familiar with Joanna Newsom know that her vocal style is a love-it or hate-it affair. Her quirky, almost fairy-tale nuances and crickles and crackles go along perfectly with lyrics fantasy worlds, full of imagery and flowery language suited more for a hobbit than a grown woman it seems.
Have One one Me is where Joanna shows her personal side. This is where she essentially strips everything bare and pours out her soul, her hopes, her dreams, and her sorrows. One learns this even before listening to the music, as each disc sleeve shows a picture of Joanna in a very womanly and nearly provocative manner.
Many have compared her vocal approach here to be similar to Joni Mitchell, to which I will wholeheartedly agree. There's a certain maturity to her voice that hasn't been present before. It's a welcome change from a musical style that would've likely turned into self-parody if kept up for too much longer (with that said, I'm a huge fan of her earlier work).
So, the thing about this album, TRIPLE album, is that it's massive. You can get lost in it if you hear it all at once, which could be good or bad depending on your attention span and mood. Songs are many times comprised of Newsom and her harp or a piano, with accompaniments used as embellishments rather than core parts. But one thing I can tell you is multiple listens rewards you greatly, as you become familiar with the melodies and nuances and the music starts to turn into a comforting blanket.
Disc 1
"Easy" shows immediately Joanna's change in artistic vision, with violins and piano guiding her beautiful vocals through a very comforting song to ease you into the album. "Good Intentions Paving Company" is the standout track on this disc, with it's nearly galloping pace and jaunty mood. "Have One on Me" is the epic track running at just over 11 minutes, and one of the best tracks on the entire album. "'81" is a play on the year "A.D. 1" which is spelled out in the lyrics. I believe I also read somewhere '81 is her birth year. "Baby Birch" is another standout, making disc 1 perhaps the strongest of the three.
Disc 2
Although this is my least favorite of the three discs, "In California" and "Go Long" are standouts. Most of this disc is lacking in variety and it lulls at times because of it. Both the first and second tracks are very laid back and it does the entire disc a disservice for not building up any momentum. This disc prevents the album from being an album of the year contender in my eyes, unless this year turns out to be a real dud.
Disc 3
This disc contains my favorite song on the album, "Autumn." The mood on this song is just incredible, with Joanna's delicate vocals and some well crafted accompaniment. She sounds most relaxed and vulnerable, and it builds a very strong feeling of longing.
There's a lot I didn't cover, but I'll leave the rest for you to discover. It takes some patience, but it will be well rewarded.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

(Not so) deep thoughts on the correlation between music and who you view yourself to be

For a long while, the scope of music I was into was pretty narrow (some could easily argue it still is). I was mainly into grunge, hard rock/metal, and alternative rock through early high school years. That evolved into indie rock and some classic rock. First years of college, it was mainly indie music.

The past few years I've grown tired of the same old aesthetic and have decided to let myself go outside of what I'd pigeonholed myself to be. You see, for some, music is very very closely attached to who you view yourself to be. It's the essence of your style, beliefs, and conscious. So when you like something you tend to think shouldn't be "you," it's not even so much a matter of being embarrassed around friends or those close to you that you'd like such music that was so far off from who they picture you to be, it's a matter of letting your own mind and soul be comfortable with it.

It seems silly to worry so much about such trivial things. Most people don't give a crap about what music (or movies, or anything) they like. Most people are less attached than people like me to whom music is such a large part of life. Those who are like me I'm sure can relate.

Maybe I'm just paranoid.

Where am I going with this? Well, for starters, I've grown to like some music with strong country influence. I'd always despised country (and still do for the most part). I've grown to love soul. I bought a Dan Fogelberg album a few months ago. I really enjoy the KT Tunstall album I have in my collection. And well, recently, I've allowed myself to dive into Steely Dan's music for goodness sake. I mean, on the surface that stuff literally sounds like elevater/grocery store music. I was telling my wife a while back that I really shouldn't like the stuff, and even she was baffled. But for reasons I still haven't figured out, heck if I don't think a good Steely Dan album is worthy of my time in the right mood.

I realize people naturally grow in and out of things, whatever it may be. So maybe what I'm talking about really isn't that big of a deal. But for me, at least, maybe it signifies a person who may have been a little too wound up, a little too nervous, and a little too worried, and is finally, albeit slowly, starting to chill out.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Jesus & Mary Chain - Psychocandy

I never could have appreciated this album to its fullest if I hadn't heard it with headphones. The sonic torture this album puts you through is so strangely addicting. It's like putting your ears through a blender, but loving every second of it.
There's so many different divergent aspects of the album that meet so perfectly. One moment I'm concentrating on a poppy and catchy melody, but then my attention will be slammed in reverse to the reverberating slabs of noise. Another moment I'll be smiling at the sweetness of the melodies, but a second later I'll feel like headbanging to the massive beat matched with a wall of guitars. It really shouldn't work, but because it does it's amazing to listen to.
But the noise isn't a cop out, covering up mediocre songs with a wall of noise, like some claim. I genuinely believe that somebody could have just as easily turned these songs into a classic jangle pop album had the distorted guitars been replaced with clean guitars, and the hollow production replaced with clear and bright production. The great melodies and songs are definitely there.
I never thought a pop album could be so devistating and work so well.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

Boredom is the main thing I feel here. Some parts are beautiful, some parts are catchy, but mostly it's incredibly relaxing and melancholy to an extreme fault. I can't possibly see myself wanting to come back to this album more than a couple times.
Thing is, this album is missing counterbalancing elements. There's no tension, no dynamics, very little to no catchy melodies, and not nearly enough emotion. It just sounds like a group of people in a studio trying to make a beautiful record, being so careful not to ruin anything that they completely forgot to make inspired, original music. The vocals reflect this as you can almost hear them straining for perfection and trying to sound perfect as opposed to just singing out of emotion.
The closest the album reaches the point of being successful is in the opener, "Southern Point," where some minor tones and slight tension grab my ears. "Two Weeks" is a poor attempt at doo-wop and extremely bland for what it's trying to accomplish. The rest of the album just drowns in its own pool of careful and meticulous mediocrity.
In a way, it's actually kind of refreshing, because it reassures me that the good music that's out there truly is inspired and maybe it isn't possible to "manufacture" a great album after all. Because that's exactly how this album sounds to me, manufactured perfection. And as such, it's not even close to being perfect.