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Location: Richmond, Virginia, United States
Interests: Music news and reviews for the obsessive-compulsive!
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Expertise: A comprehensive index of all the stuff we've reviewed plus artist charts for the staff will go up here soon, once Xanga stops jerking us around.
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|You know, months back I had it in my head that I was going to write something for this blog at least once a week; I even made some comments to the honorable Dwight Farrell (aka Count Bass D) himself in lieu of "I hope you look forward to our review of your latest album!"|
Personally, I'm kind of ashamed about that.
However, don't expect there to be any other posts any time soon; I just don't have it in my heart to contribute to a music blog anymore. Just... not now, anyway. Maybe later. Also, I haven't spoken to any of the other guys who ran Subrosa alongside me in a long, long time... and I'm not happy about that, either.
But besides the doom and gloom, it's a new year, after all. So, Happy New Year to anyone who might be passing through.
And now onto music!
//MUSIC YOU MAY ENJOY\\
"What I've been listening to while not writing in 2008"
Count Bass D - L7
SGX - Hero of the Gray Area
Joe Boyd Vigil - Deeper Space
Esselfortium - A Terrible Flood
she - Coloris, Chiptek, Days... hell, his entire catalog. Most of his music is free!
Genki Rockets - Genki Rockets I -Heavenly Star-
Jillian Goldin - Origins
Grupo Fantasma - Sonidos Gold
Peter Bradley Adams - Leavetaking
Solas - For Love and Laughter
Why? - Alopecia
Mindless Self Indulgence - If
A-bee - Flying Go Round
Myspace links for all! I think that, from there, you should be able to track down all the YouTube or "Buy Now" links you could desire by yourself. And by all means, support the music where support is due. I've talked with a lot of the artists on that list, and I can vouche for just how on the level they are. Okay, well, Jimmy Urine, not so much. But you get the idea!
I'd also like like to make it clear that all the albums I've listed above come equally recommended. That is to say, I love all of them very, very much, and trying to rank or pick apart any of them seems stupid. I have faith that most of you will feel the same way.
Happy listening, folks.
What do you think? Can we make a logo out of this, finally? Maybe I can play with it and create a banner, too, or something. Public Domain and all that, so we're good. I was thinking of turning it upside-down and adding some kind of logo or "S" or something. Or, hey, do you have a better idea? Let me know!
Kings of Leon
Only By The Night
Over the years, I've learned that my first impression of an album is usually not to be trusted. For instance, I thought Black Holes & Revelations was lame at first, but it turned out that once I read the lyrics I thought it was an excellent album. The exact opposite happened with Becoming X and Witching Hour, which I thought were hot shit at first. Time, however, has not been kind to them, though I'd certainly hesitate to say that they're bad. And I'm not always initially wrong, either, as I still love St. Elsewhere just as much as I did when it first came out. I still like to pretend, like Brad, that Coldplay only has two to three albums under their belt. Still, I think there have been a lot of cases where my initial reaction has not always been spot on.
Getting into Only By The Night, then, my initial reaction was, "wow, 'Sex on Fire' sure is awesome!" I've listened to this album a lot since it's been out, and I think in the end it was worth the money. It's not a ten out of ten -- maybe a six or seven -- but I feel that's mostly due to a few bogged-down tracks in there that serve to slow the album down.
See, the thing is, Kings of Leon have cultivated a sort of trademark sound on this album. If I had to try to put it to words, I'd say it's something like "reverb set to high, wall of guitars, crooning." So, basically, garage rock. Bear with me. The stipulation here is that all the songs sound more or less like this. On the better tracks it's not a problem at all, but on the more "filler-ish" tracks it gets to be a X&Y Coldplay kinda situation where nothing in particular really stands out. Now, this album isn't nearly as bad as X&Y, but damn if doesn't have a similar quality about it that kind of sucks you in, phases in and out, and in the end you struggle to pull out the highlights from amongst the confusion.
It's not a wall of sound in the classic sense of the term, though. Kings of Leon like to play around with letting certain instruments drop out and back in again, creating a kind of "empty" or negative space, if you will, that differenciates it from the overproduced, glossy slock that we've all come to collectively dread. They let things slow down and brake down, but there's enough of a U2 influence flowing throughout that keeps things from being too jazzy.
"Sex on Fire," like I pointed out earlier, is the toe-tappingly, steering wheel-slappingly stand out song here. It seems to have found that good kind of quasi-mainstream appeal that so many bands strive for these days. Sure it's a rock song about sex or what have you, but it's all about the hook and it's tastefully done.
A song that also sports a pretty decent hook is "Notion," a little past halfway through. It's just long enough to get you into it, but not too long so that you get bored of it.
Right before it lies "17," where Caleb let his voice rise to a falsetto on the "een" in "she's only seventeen." Really, that's all the man would have to say to make this a good song already, but he has some other choice words to put in, and I can't fault him for it. I really do enjoy it when singers do interesting things with their voices, though, so this was a shoe-in for me.
"Manhattan" rides on the tails of the rather drab "Use Somebody," where the weakness of it's forebear makes its strength apparent. The percussion is well done here and plays well with Caleb's voice, wich tends to rise into a jolly shout every so often. The drums kinda take the forefront at times, forcing the wailing electric guitars to take a back seat and your ears to pay attention.
The opening track, "Closer," is also pretty unique in structure compared to the rest of the album. Since it's the first track, it doesn't have to try too hard to differentiate itself from the rest of the album besides a cool intro... but it's really different, anyway, and that's cool. The lyrics are also a bit more poetic.
I'd say "Revelry" is a pretty decent song, too, so that leaves you with "Crawl," "Use Somebody," "I Want You," "Be Somebody," and the too-late-to-prevent-the-late-album-bogmire "Cold Desert." They're not bad songs per se (okay, I don't like "I Want You" much at all), but they just don't stand out from one another enough. It doesn't help that things kind of slow down and mellow out near the end of the album, a trend I've never been a big fan of.
At the end of the day, though, do you know why I think Kings of Leon are an awesome band, despite probably being "way better live"? It's a band made of THREE BROTHERS (and a cousin [thanks for nothing, wikipedia]), and you wouldn't even know it. Keepin' it in the family, right?
Rock on, Followhills.
|I want to do another Smartarse Mixtape. The ideas to choose from:|
Bring the noise, people.
- Space - For my fellow astronauts
- Leave My Beat Alone - For those who like it raw and funky
- Three Feet High & Sampled - Sample compilation of De La Soul's Three Feet High & Rising
- Psychedelic Horseshit - Bringin' the rawk with extra reverb
- Sex, Revisited - When the wells of creativity run completely dry, kick the hormones back in
ColdplayViva la Vida or Death & All His Friends
Brad's struggle against listening to Coldplay continues...
For Round 1, go here.
Let's just say for the sake of a good argument that Parachutes
never existed. Let's just say they stormed in with A Rush of Blood to the Head
and the press largely dismissed them as U2 copycats and we never heard from them again. Coldplay, if you haven't been keeping up with the press, is a thorn in the side of many reviewers and bloggers alike, and we're all caught up in this big existential crisis over whether or not Coldplay is, in fact, a good band. We saw on Parachutes
that they are a good band (albeit one eager to take over stadiums and commercials), but ever since then they've made a career out of inducing comas and writing ballads, in that order. But now the question is posed: are Coldplay a good band, or are they just great thieves?
The worst part of all is that when you say you like the new Coldplay record you almost have to be apologetic about it. It's not an insult but it's true. You sit down and you say, "Well, I'm gonna be honest here. It's good. Matter of fact, I'm going to throw an adjective in front of that and say it's shockingly
good. But it's definitely isn't great, because to admit that would almost be like sucker-punching my manhood." These are the guys who wrote "The Scientist" and then doubled down and rewrote "Clocks" as "Speed of Sound." Even though I struggle very hard to say that Coldplay are still relevant (when you steal from Kraftwerk and My Bloody Valentine, you're in trouble), I have to admit that when I'm not doing manly things like grunting, having bro-downs, and lifting trucks I've listened to this thing more often than anything else in my collection the past two weeks. That INCLUDES the new Girl Talk, which is godly.
I have to move into the bad bits first and say that Chris Martin still can't write lyrics when he tries to go deep. I admit, when he waxes on about life & death he strikes a chord befitting the music and melodies that surrounds him but when he moves away from generalization he falters tremendously. "Cemeteries of London" is about as ominous as The Care Bears Movie (sorry, all the good graveyard analogies were taken) despite the music backing it up. The first proper song on the record is a miracle of Brian Eno's career-resurrecting production, a vessel of guitars floating on a sea of handclaps and shimmering keyboards. "Lost?" follows and the pattern continues, this time the backdrop being replaced with a ten story tall cathedral organ and, again, handclaps. Actually, forget it...this pattern continues throughout the whole of the record. "Lost?" is stunningly excellent, a phrase I'd never associate with a Coldplay album in 2008.
Now, here's the good bits...
It's been said before but having Brian Eno behind the boards, despite being a "no shit" decision, truly adds a whole lot of merit to the record. He gives the actual band room to breathe, and the result is arguably Coldplay's most rewarding material since Parachutes
. With Eno in tow, their influences have almost tripled. There's Middle Eastern strings on "Yes!", traces of Afrobeat, folk and Eno's own brand of ambient popping in and out of "Strawberry Swing", and uh...My Bloody Valentine on "Chinese Sleep Chant", the hidden track on the back half of the aforementioned (and excellent "Yes!").
There are two tracks on the record with two songs tucked into one. "Lovers in Japan" breezes by pleasantly enough, but "Reign of Love", with it's piano and faint guitars hovering delicately (this should be a yuck moment, but trust me, it's gorgeous) is the real winner there. "Yes!", and subsequently "Chinese Sleep Chant" is the only 100% success story on here. On "Yes!", Martin sings a few octaves lower than he usually does and combined with the music it's one of the best Coldplay songs around. On "Chinese Sleep Chant" his vocals are so buried under the guitars that he becomes another instrument. It's blatantly a nod to MBV, but if you're going to steal, steal from Kevin Shields. Note to Coldplay: do this more often. It's surprising and it works
There is a flipside to the sudden increase of influences. Instead of taking them and and incorporating them into the actual band, they just say "let's do that" and run away with it. Guitarist Johnny Buckland obviously is a fan of Edge from U2 and he takes every available opportunity to invoke The Joshua Tree.
Admittedly, most of the time, it works and you almost dismiss the blatant thievery going on, especially on stuff like "Lost?" and "Violet Hill." So I ask now the question I asked earlier: are Coldplay a good band, or just great thieves?
Well, they're both. They're caught in a Catch 22 and a unique one at that. They long to be splashed across the cover of every rock magazine and fill the biggest stadiums, but they still want that indie record store credibility. In other words, Viva la Vida
is a reaction to being in the worst possible situation. They're striving to be appreciated by both the casual listener and the hardcore, which unless you're some other British bands that start with "beat" and "radio", is impossible. Especially when people know your band either as "that band did "Clocks", right?" or from a fucking IPOD commercial.
To be honest, after the dead on arrival and sucknificent X&Y
(shut up about "Talk" and "Fix You", you apes, there are NO good songs on that record) I thought I had finally run out of reasons to listen to Coldplay. I was content with leaving them as a musical blip on the radar of past bands-who-I-loved-once and moving along. Then here came Brian Eno and the cycle of confusion about this goddamn band renewed itself. I was hoping that the record sucked so I wouldn't have to wax on and on about it, but here we are. It doesn't suck. It's shockingly
good. There, it's a good pop record from a band who needs to harnass their influences and strive for consistency. And I humbly suggest you take a listen to it. I have a feeling that this one just might grow on me. When I don't skip any songs, that's a good sign.
And that causes more head exploding confusion than you can possibly imagine.