Friday, February 22, 2019

Music & Book Review //
Idyll Green
"When Love Ends Be The Water" //

Though I'm not sure when the last time someone released music with a book, I'm certain that I've not reviewed such a thing before.   Has this ever been done before?  It has to have been.   But why can't I think of a strong example of it, like some artist who did it so well that everyone knows "Oh yeah, Beck did that with that one album in 2004"?  So, for me, this becomes my starting point.  Anyone who releases a book with their music from here on out will be referred back to Idyll Green.

When I was in my early teens, I went to the store with my mom and had some money to spend from Christmas or a birthday- something like that- and I picked up this book about punk rock that came with a CD and when I told her I wanted it she seemed surprised I was choosing a book.   This was back in the 1990's, so it seemed like if you wanted to have a book with music included the compact disc was your way to go.   Now, we're in 2019 and things have changed for music.

There is this balance I like to think about between music being physical and digital.  I'm not sure how I would feel about this book if it came with a CD, for example, so the way that it accompanies digital music just seems to work so well, so perfectly.  You could stream this EP, hear a song or two from it somewhere, and never even know the book exists.   And though the book tells you about the music, it is still able to stand on its own and you could simply read the book without ever hearing the songs.

Through these five songs you will find music that is smooth and has a soul.   I mentioned Beck earlier, seemingly in jest, but there is some comparison to be made here even though it's one of those "But Beck has so much music" types of things.   The first song- "4 Days In SA"- has spoken words in the verses with singing in the chorus.    Santana-like guitar riffs can be found in the first song as well and on the second track we go into acoustic beats.   A pop quality exists within these songs where they are accessible and I could see people who go to clubs and dance to music in that sense teaming up with people at the rock show.

"Moonlit Magic" has beats, more electronics, remains upbeat and is just a fun song.   I'm reminded of Fastball somehow on "Fake Love" and if you think of the lines "I need you nightly / Hooked on your love" as being about music and not a person than it's definitely something I can jam to.    The last song, "Be The Water", is kind of a titular track and it's mostly instrumental as the only words in the song are the title.   Since it is the second half of the title though, it is that note you want to end on which just makes these songs that much more perfect.

I listened to this EP through once before I read the book.   I'm not sure whether it would be different if you read the book first and then heard the music, but you might want to try it that way since I didn't.   Since listening to the EP more times I've gone back and read parts of the book again.   Through poetry, short stories and sketches the book serves as a visual for this audio.   When thinking of the two together, I feel like it isn't a case where you have to read the book to enjoy the music or vice versa, but just because you don't have to doesn't mean you shouldn't.   

Music Review //
R. Stevie Moore
(Bar None Records) //

R. Stevie Moore has been making music since before I was alive (and probably if you're reading this, you too) and while I feel like every album R. Stevie Moore has that quality of "If you only listen to one of his albums, make it this one!" this is a point you could perhaps stress the most with "Afterlife".    These songs are upbeat, dreamy pop rock that finds the balance between past and present.   Hopefully, if you listen to this and enjoy it as much as I do, you'll also find it to be a portal to the past and begin to listen to more R. Stevie Moore music than you know what to do with.

From that band that had that song in "That Thing You Do!" to "Pop Music" coming out sounding like "All the Young Dudes", there is also this cool spoken word type break down within that second song.   "Come My Way" reminds me of The Beatles or at least something in the classic pop rock way, while "The Winner" is just plain fun.   The drums on "National Debate" are great and the line of "You're a rotten so-and-so" is as well.  Unlike most political songs out recently, this one doesn't really name names so it can apply to most all of those corrupt politicians.  (And I say *most* #TeamAOC)

"What Do I Do With the Rest of My Life?" asks the big questions.   I really stay awake at night thinking about these things and it's not the best way to spend my time, but at least someone else is addressing it in a way that is not just inside my head.   The lyrics "Don't bore us / get to the chorus" are what I should sing when I convince myself to stop thinking about my place in the universe and what it all means when I should be trying to fall asleep.   I end up thinking about less pressing questions but I do still wonder where my place is in this world.

I love the show "Grace & Frankie" and I think it's a great example that you are never too old to fall in love.   "Another Day Slips Away" is fuzzy and relatable when it comes to the ins and outs of every day life.   It's a good reminder that we all have to experience those annoying aspects of life which seem like they're wasting time.   I have to clean my bathtub this weekend, for example, and I don't think it's the best use of my time, but it's one of those things we all have to do unless we have like a maid service or something.   It just makes the more routine things about day to day life feel less stressful because we have to just accept them as ways we all spend our time, ultimately.

"Here Comes Summer Again" reminds me of the Beach Boys but maybe only because of the subject matter.    The sounds on "You Don't Have to Worry About My Love" have more of an orchestral feel to them and then we go into these dark acoustics on "Back In Time" to end out "Afterlife".   I hope that the idea of him singing about wanting to go back in time on the final song makes you also want to go back in time by listening to all of the R. Stevie Moore music which came before this but, yes, "Afterlife" is a true masterpiece.   They don't make music like this anymore so we should all be thankful for R. Stevie Moore.

CD Review //
Buck Gooter
"Finer Thorns"
(Ramp Local) //

"Finer Thorns" should come with one of those warnings that says "Play this one loud, motherfuckers!!"   "Peace Siren" starts the album and it sounds kind of like an alarm back and forth, as there is a lot of distortion and screaming, not just on this first song but on the album as a whole.   "Peace Siren" has this sing along chorus and, well, if you're following along as you should be it's one of the first two tracks released before the album (a "single" if you will) so you should've already heard this song.

There is this raw energy within this album.   It's got that vibe of something that's either indie rock or weird rock but then with punk roots under it.   It's not easy to compare because I'm not sure it's been done like this before, but you have to imagine something almost like math rock- where the band plays with a whole lot of energy and they move around a lot but still it's very clean.   I want to say Piebald but feel like there is another answer out there but if you think of the really early Piebald songs and had them somehow backed by Rancid then you might have an idea of these songs.

Though that can also change from song to song.   "Science Is A Rascal" has this dreamy / garage feeling to it, like Elvis, while "Land Of The Dead" fitting seems like we're in a horror movie.    I think a song like "Skunks Are Cool" pretty much explains itself.   I think that skunks get a bad reputation because people just think they stink, but stinking is literally their defense against predators.   So, in some ways, you have to think that they wouldn't stink if you weren't such a threat to them.    The banging of the drums can feel mystical though.

"The Fisp Wasp" has screaming like in a big empty room.   It's a story with words which are spoken like an audio clip and in its own way it's a learning song.   It perhaps might be most noted by you on the album as having the line:  "Listen to me, it will happen to you"   It feels trippy in the way that it is ominous.    "Alien" is start and stop distorted rock n roll chords and it's about aliens.   It seemingly ends with some error computer sounds like the alien is eating/destroying the human.

The titular track has great big drums while "Used To Rain" has big distorted beats and jungle noises, like monkeys laughing.   "Used To Rain" is one of those songs, like "The Fig Wasp", where you might remember it on future listens for having a distinct line which is not the title of the song.   In this case, on "Used To Rain", I most hear the line: "A cloud shaped like America" which always makes me want to find clouds shaped like America but outside is cold and stupid.    It is a slower, more prodding song as well.

The final song starts with singing only about the wall coming down, then it goes into this deep space march.   It's called "Joshua Rising" and is about the Bible story where Joshua tore down the walls of Jericho, which either makes me think of that band called Joshua FIt For Battle or the professional wrestler Chris Jericho.    But, given my name and an upbringing which included Catholic school, yeah, I kind of know a bit about that.    Though hearing the line "Tear down the wall" can have other meanings in 2019.

Music Review //
Michael Chinworth
"Three Vapors" //

"Three Vapors" opens with a song called "Good As It Gets" which has a piano loop to start.   Michael Chinworth begins to sing and in ways with the piano and singing- and at other times of the singing as well- this can remind me of Ben Folds.    The hook on this song is "Baby loving you was as good as it gets" which has a nice melody as well.  The vocals get layered and begin looping over each other before the aahhhh's blast out loudly over it all.    Everything is working together but it still feels like there are one or three songs being played at the same time and it just works somehow-- Michael Chinworth makes it work somehow.   Higher pitched manipulated vocals come out at the end with these space sounds as well. 

"Fugue" also begin with this sad piano line but it's not in a loop and it just seems to grow, slowly.    As soon as the vocals come in, there are three voices singing at once.  "Why does it have to be a robot?" is a question asked and I think the answers to that can be found in the most excellent film "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (Yeah, I skipped the first one)  The singing has soul.    Of the voices all singing at once, you can likely most clearly hear something about the water.    I often times listen to instrumental music, which of course is that lack of vocals, but compared to even the first song I wonder if this needs a special name because it's not just the opposite of instrumental-- it has more vocals than the songs you're typically used to hearing.

"I look at you / don't look at me" makes me feel like the different voices on "Fugue" are beginning to not get along.    This is my favorite song on "Three Vapors" if only because it feels so conflicted.   There are also lines about fire now, which go nicely with the one about water.    A nice piano tickle comes in and then "The water gets harder to fight / The water gets harder to hold onto" comes in next, which is interesting because I never really thought of water as being something you could hold onto but I suppose fish would disagree.  "This won't be the first time you've waited / This won't be the last time you've waited" can also help you get an idea of what the lyrics are about here as they seem to not only go against the other voices but in ways they have that "Statement 1 / Statement 2" and there are opposites within them.

As we near the end of "Fugue" it gets a bit shaky.   Then it turns into this melodic "When I drove over the bridge..." part which is just so pure.    The vocals can be layered still but in some ways it does feel like this is the expanded version of the other sounds which were played on top of each other.   "You know I'm right / I know I'm right" ends this song with that feeling of either drowning of floating on clouds, but since there is also that line about the bridge I imagine the car driving off of it and this being about drowning.   Maybe you would like to have a more optimistic take on the situation but that's how I see it.

Sharp tones almost like beeping, like an alarm, start the last track.     It beeps back and forth like a car alarm going off before picking up its pace.  It feels as if it's growing now, that one little beeping sound is hatching into longer notes and there are pleasant piano sounds behind this as well, almost like a lullaby.    The notes can begin to feel frantic, there is a sense of urgency within them and though this song is instrumental I feel like the way these notes move, the shapes that they take, speak volumes.    I've always been a fan of music where you take out the earbuds and when you're back to what you normally hear around you your ears have to adjust.   These sharper tones fade by the end and we hit only these more blissful tones, which kind of help to bring us back to reality, but it still kind of messes with my ears and I like that so much.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Music Review //
Xiu Xiu
"Girl with Basket of Fruit"
(Polyvinyl Records) //

Back in the early 2000's, writing about music, you could feel things were changing.   By the time I had reviewed more punk and hardcore albums than I knew what to do with, I somehow stumbled upon this great publicist who was sending out music from all these weird artists I'd never heard before and couldn't quite describe their music.   (Shout out Blue Ghost)  Xiu Xiu was among them and ever since I first heard Xiu Xiu some ten plus years ago I've listened to all the albums to follow and haven't really written about any of them until now. 

One of my problems with music is that I often feel like it's frozen in time for me.   I'm sure I am not the only one, but you hear an artist at a certain time and that becomes their sound to you.   Many bands (not naming names) I have found on their first album and so on the albums to follow I just wasn't as into them.   Some artists, I've even stopped listening to their new music because of that "Nothing's going to top this first album" mentality, which I know I need to abandon but it's just so hard when you listen to their new album and all it makes you want to do it put on the songs you fell in love with by them.

This puts me in a unique place with Xiu Xiu because I've never really had that point where I've felt like "This is the album and everything else just brings me back to it".   I've enjoyed all of the Xiu Xiu albums thus far equally and yet in different ways and for different reasons.  (One of the wonders of music)  However, after listening to "Girl with Basket of Fruit" a number of times I decided to actually take the time to type something out about it because rather than having that "This is the album" feeling back from when I first heard Xiu Xiu, I'm having it right now.   "Girl with Basket of Fruit", quite simply put, is Xiu Xiu's masterpiece. 

The music is so intrusive.   I imagine people being easily offended by this-- it being too abrasive or not following enough traditional standards of music to be to their liking.   It's like how bands do non-traditional tuning or timing and people listen to it and think it's so crazy and weird when in reality it's just so tame compared to Xiu Xiu.    I also feel that, over time, the music of Xiu Xiu has only gotten weirder, it has only pushed the limits more and more each time- and rightfully so because as time has passed people have become more open to weird music than they were ten years ago.   So perhaps on the next album Xiu Xiu takes it to a whole other level and outdoes this album.    I cannot predict the future, but I can say that this is my favorite album by Xiu Xiu and I love all of the Xiu Xiu songs.

Perhaps the thing I best know this album for is that on the first song, the titular track, there is a line about how "it comes out as a joke", which is the title of the second song.    After listening to this album maybe two or three times and picking up on that, I had that thought of "What was that album where the title of the second song was said in the first song?"   But, hopefully, you will come to know this album as being so much more.    Lyrics come through more like screams than singing and the music accompanying them can send you right into space.   Though I've listened to this several times through earbuds, I also like to play it loudly for my neighbors to hear and I like to think they're fairly offended by it because I assume they mostly listen to country radio.

There is a haunted feeling to these songs, not just in the delivery of the vocals but also within the music itself.    It's punk in the sense that it's raw and subscribes to no particular set of rules typically placed upon music.   "Amargi ve Moo" is the third song on here though and it breaks down into minimal strings with vocals, something quieter and darker for sure.    I feel like this has that operatic feeling to it and if anyone was ever going to bring that Jason Segal Dracula-themed puppet show to life it'd have to be Xiu Xiu. 

With "Ice Cream Truck" as an example, a lot of these songs just feel like you're being yelled at, in a one-sided argument you're never going to win and eventually you just have to accept that, make peace with it and hear the other person out.    In relationships, when there are two people, that can often be the best way to keep such people together- if one of them is willing to admit that they are wrong even when they don't think that they are.   You know, you have to put that other person above you.   Smile and then don't.

"Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy" (Shout out Four Paws) could be the best take on a weird song on this album as the percussion leads to words and other sounds which I feel not everyone is going to get- and that's okay.   Xiu Xiu does not make music which is accessible to all and that's part of the reason why I like it.    I can understand why people might not like this, but I at least hope they can understand what I like about it.     "Mary Turner Mary Turner" just feels like a horror movie based on the title alone and I kind of do want to try listening to this one night when it's late and see what kind of dreams it brings about. 

The percussion goes a bit crazy on "Scisssssssors" and there are screams to where this is just intense.    The slow piano sounds and tormented vocals which go with them leave "Girl with Basket of Fruit" to fade out on the final song.   I've been thinking (and probably writing) a lot lately how albums come to an end and in this case it's more like how "The Downward Spiral" ended with "Hurt" than going out with a bang, but this just leaves you feeling when the album comes to an end it's taken a piece of you that you can never get back-- you don't feel whole anymore as the listener and that is okay.  

Monday, February 18, 2019

Cassette Review //
Stefan Christoff
"c'est pas fini à Montréal"
(Jeunesse Cosmique)

$7 //
Edition of 50 //

Guitar chords come clanking through to start this cassette.   Ambient notes shine through like post rock as well.    It's got that Hendrix / BBJr. feeling to it for sure.    At times it can feel trippy while at other times it has that darkness of Nirvana's "Something in the Way", for example.    Notes pierce through and though this is guitar based but it feels like you could be floating around in the clouds.

Inside some of these harmonies are these clicks which make it feel like we're on the verge of going into something in outerspace, like aliens, but that's the end of the first song I believe.    Something more dramatic, a little hypnotizing in some ways, is trying to pull us into the next song with these almost surf-like guitar notes.    For some reason, as the guitar notes twist and turn, wind through the song, I am reminded of Porno for Pyros, Fastball a little and even Duncan Sheik.  

The notes plug through, like grasping for water in the desert.   They seemingly plug in and take a darker turn now.    I'm not sure why the thought enters my mind, but it would be rather fun to hear someone rapping over this or at the very least a remix where someone puts some beats behind it.    It feels so isolated, so desolate, it would be interesting to take that turn where you could dance to it.    The notes cut through sharper now, leaving behind their bass-like shadows.

On the flip side we open up much louder in that FNL / post rock way.   This is the type of music I like to put on when I need to relax.   Listening to it, you just sit back, close your eyes and drift away.   You won't fall asleep (probably) but it will take you to another place.    This takes us into these notes which are darker and kind of drop off into distortion.   This definitely sounds like it could be something off of "The Crow" soundtrack and it has this pacing behind it, this beat, which just makes it feel like it's going to explode.  

There is a way about this song where it feels like a sort of western, just sort of strolling through town, but at the same time the darkness which falls over it makes it much more intense.   That, and the ever-beating heart behind it all can put you slightly on edge if you don't wish to lose yourself in the groove.   Listening to this song also makes me feel like putting a beat behind the other songs isn't so crazy and this could even have some larger beat behind it because what beats here is still somewhat in the background.

The final song has guitar notes which more closely resemble something like the band Bush or maybe when you get that sweet guitar solo to play the National Anthem or the such only not as distorted and trippy as Hendrix.   This whole cassette is about guitar loops and the mood they can make you be in and it's kind revolutionary in a sense because other times you've had to experience other sounds with the guitar for such affects.   On this cassette, you need only a guitar to feel like you are listening to an entire band.  

Music Review //
"Reflect" //

Whenever I hear a rock band with big, crunchy power chords like Chemist my mind immediately goes to Chevelle.   For me, Chevelle is one of those bands that's been on the radio and was on the radio at an unfortunate time (because other bands on the radio at that time were not so good) but I still listen to Chevelle.   They were better than the radio ever gave them credit for being and I also saw them in relation to the band The Beautiful Mistake, who was one of my favorite bands well.

Someone definitely told Chemist that 2019 was going to be The Year of Rock.   This album needs to be played as loudly as you can and it's just so heavy yet full of so much melody.    In some ways, I am reminded of Silverchair and then a song like "Jaded" can feel like a ballad by As Cities Burn or Scary Kids Scaring Kids.    This also reminds me of ourfathers, who are just one of those bands that when you hear them you won't be able to stop listening to them.

The lyrics always get me in the rock like this.   I'm always going back to my teenage self, trying to find the lines I can most relate with both then and now.   "Dissipate" brings out the blunt line "Yeah, this shit's getting old" which is just a mood for me.    "Jaded" ponders "I'm stuck in between / Where I was and where I want to be". which is a place I've been for quite some time and don't know if I'll ever get out of being there (at least not any time soon) "Rabbit Hole" of course makes me think of Alice and I love this part:

"My light begins to fade 
You’re the only thing that’s comforting
I struggle to find my way
Nothing will ever be the same"

If you're looking for an album that is as melodic as it is dark, as complex in the guitar work as it is heavy and just full of lyrics that you can quote (and sing along with) then you're probably ready to listen to Chemist.    I don't feel like I'll ever tire of hearing bands who create music like this-- there's something about these big chords that I love-- but it also has to be made at a certain level of excellence and Chemist has found that.   Now it's up to you to listen.  

Music Review //
"What Chaos Is Imaginary"
(Anti-Records) //

Sometimes, you just have to pick a release at random, press play and see where it takes you.   This was how I found Girlpool.   Checking over releases for the month, I decided to give this a listen because it's on Bandcamp (which makes it so much easier) and from the first song I was hooked.   Though, after hearing the first song I don't feel like I really knew what I was getting into until it was already too late.   Girlpool create songs which could be accessible to everyone in some ways but "What Chaos Is Imaginary" is not for those who live in the world of disposable music.

If you're looking for something fun to listen to a few times and then delete from your iTunes, keep looking.   If you're looking for something fun but are also willing to put in the effort which comes with listening to music then this could be right for you.    Sometimes I listen to an album and it's maybe 40 minutes, 50 minutes, but it goes by like the blink of an eye.   You ever have those?  You press play at 10:00 and when it's over you go "Oh shit it's 11 already"?   "What Chaos Is imaginary" isn't longer than most albums, it just feels like it.   Some might think this is a bad thing, but I think it's because you're just meant to feel every part of it.

These songs are dreamy, full of distortion and fall somewhere between that Buddy Holly era of 1960's rock n roll and Nada Surf.   They can also bring about thoughts of Flaming Lips, but ultimately I feel like this album has at least four different faces and it's up to the listener to recognize where one face ends and the next one begins.    Slow harmonies come through a lot of static as this sounds like The Benjamins.    There are drum machines which make it feel like bedroom pop and then a song like "Hire" is a much cleaner version of rock.    By "Chemical Freeze" you will feel a sense of darkness.

"All Blacked Out" has more of a desert ballad feel to it while "Minute In Your Mind" is just darkwave.   Dark keys open up the titular track at the 10 spot and even though it comes into the album so late I feel like it could be one of the best representations of this album on the whole, as any titular song should be really.    "Hoax and the Shrine" is an acoustic notes ballad and as we get to the end of the album, the last five or so songs, it just takes on this slow fade that you can feel like it is ending and, yes, this is one of the faces. 

With the different sounds you can find within these songs it's not easy to say "If you're a fan of ____ you'll like this one" and that even goes with putting this into a genre.   The way the songs shift back and forth with how they are constructed and delivered along with just feeling like torture- so precise- just make the album something you really must commit yourself to listening to.    I don't mean that this is torture in a bad way either- let me be perfectly clear about that- it's just that some albms seem to go straight for the kill while Girlpool seems to prefer to take their time.    It's methodical and there is, sadly, no better comparison I can make but listening to "What Chaos Is Imaginary" is nothing but pure pleasure. 

Music Review //
Bob Mould
"Sunshine Rock"
(Merge Records) //

Bob Mould doesn't need me to write about him.   My writing these words isn't going to get you to listen to "Sunshine Rock".    You should already be well aware of Bob Mould and his extensive catalogue of music.     Plus we all know that back in 2012, Bob Mould achieved rock perfection with the album "Silver Age" (That's science, look it up) so you really should know who he is and be listening to him by now.   But if you're not, prepare to have your mind blown and welcome to the world of rock music.

What I like most about "Sunshine Rock" is that it doesn't slow down, it never lets up.   This album just finds its pace with the songs and it keeps going.   I'm not sure what people want out of their rock music but, for me, how I want my rock music to generally sound is exactly how Bob Mould creates songs.   At some point in time, Bob Mould became the measuring stick for rock music and rightfully so.  If you can't keep up, don't bother trying.

"Thirty Dozen Roses" feels like such an appropriate song, knowing that most people will be listening to this around Valentine's Day.  Ugh.  Can I express my distaste for Valentine's Day RE: flowers now?  I can? Okay, cool.  So, I used to work in the produce section of a supermarket (but it wasn't that super) and I also had to overlook their floral department at times.   I still feel to this day that flowers are a bad way to show someone you care because you're basically saying, "Here is this flower.  It is bright and colorful now, but soon it will wither and die, regardless of how much care you put into it.   Just like our love!"

Maybe I'm too old and jaded.   Maybe Bob Mould will ask me why I bothered reviewing "Sunshine Rock" if I was just going to type about my hatred of flowers (That'd be cool, actually)   And for the record, I love plants I just don't think they should represent love.   I do firmly believe still that 2019 is The Year of Rock and this Bob Mould album is evidence of that.   Even if everyone else is going to write about it, even if you're going to listen to it without reading these words, it doesn't matter to me.   I want it on record for the rest of time that this album rocks and Bob Mould is how we measure rock music.