Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Music Review //
Rusty Reid
"The United States of Selfishness" //

One of the reasons why I don't like discussing politics is because it can be frustrating and upsetting, but also I feel like once I start going on this rant it simply goes on for too long.   Right now, as I type this, while listening to "The United States of Selfishness" all I can think of is how many people are out of work because of COVID-19.   People who lost their jobs not by their choice.   And come the end of the year, twelve million people on unemployment will lose their benefits and have zero income instead of the small amount they might currently be getting.  On top of that, the rent freeze is set to expire potentially making even more people homeless in the coming months.

It's a lot to think about and how it has an effect on the economy (some people just care about it because of the stock market) but also it's human lives that the government is playing with.   And regardless of what side you're on in terms of the "R" or "D", the fact is both politicians are well paid and living better than most of us.  So instead of helping out people that they put into this situation, the politicians go off and sleep comfortable at night.   It's such a classic case of "us vs them" only it shouldn't be blue vs red right now but rather the politicians versus the American People because our country has just become so far from what it should be.

There is an entire lyric dedicated to people being "reduced to servants for the scam".  Isn't it funny how there are people out there making millions (and billions) while those doing the work underneath them are living paycheck to paycheck?  This entire song just really reinforces my ideas (which have been more in my mind lately for obvious reasons) that this entire country needs a power overhaul and more people should be paid what they're worth.   Isn't it funny how fast food stayed open during the pandemic, yet they are still making minimum wage while the CEO's live comfortably?   Seems kind of wrong that the people really putting their lives on the line at the forefront are not being equally compensated.

There is a folk way about this song, a winding country which reminds me of Neil Young.   It just has that "This is my land, this land is your land" anthem way about it where I feel like everyone should be not only listening to and singing along with "The United States of Selfishness" but also just really thinking about the words and what they mean-- the impact that they can have on your life and the lives of others.   If nothing else the lines "Don't hide behind tradition/We're long past due for something new" can leave us with a sense of hope.   Hope in knowing that we are not alone in thinking that this country needs a drastic change from the ground up.

Once again Rusty Reid is putting to song what I wish to say but couldn't do as effectively.   And if you don't understand why "The United States of Selfishness is a nation built of sand" then I suggest once the weather allows it you go to the beach and build a sandcastle and then think about that as being the USA.   How strong is that?  How sturdy and secure?   We need to be built better.  Perhaps everything shutting down during the pandemic is a good opportunity for us to start anew when things begin to open back up.   I'm not sure if anyone will have learned that lesson but hopefully if they hear this song then real change can come.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Music Review //
All-In Moment
"All-In Moment" //

Listening to All-In Moment makes me think back to when Victory Records had bands such as Dead to Fall, Between the Buried and Me, Scars of Tomorrow and even BoySetsFire.   In some ways, All-In Moment reminds me of these bands.   But in other ways, it feels like All-In Moment would have fit in well with that early '00's Victory Records scene because they don't sound quite exactly like any of those bands.    They feel similar enough to be on the label, to play shows with the other bands, but different enough to stand on their own sound.

In the late '00's I stopped listening to a lot of new heavy music because I felt like it all followed the same formula of singing and screaming.   I longed for the days of bands who were just straight up brutal and didn't have to sing through the chorus.  I felt like that melodic hardcore became a staple at Hot Topic and I needed out.   So, perhaps, it is best for All-In Moment to not have been on Victory Records in the early '00's so they wouldn't have had to go through that whole experience.

The key difference between All-In Moment and a band which I don't like is that All-In Moment has these hardcore/metal sounds with melody but the melody is blended right into it all.  It feels like Atreyu in that way.   It doesn't feel like the songs are going from heavy to melody within the verses and chorus as if they were flipping a switch, which some artists do and I don't like that.   All-In Moment makes the melody just flow so naturally and if you're going to have that within your heavy sound I do feel as if this is the best way to do it.

Through big metal riffs, breakdowns and guitar chords that become crunchy, All-In Moment just demonstrates how to rock when you're all about going big or going home.   The urgency on their songs can remind me of System of a Down while a song which feels more like a ballad, "For You", makes me think of Finger Eleven.   I hear elements of POD and there is also some of that hard rock/hair metal type of sound which I always relate with the Chris Jericho band Fozzy for whatever reason.

These songs definitely rock and will even have you singing along, but then the question becomes what will you be singing about?   The first song seems to be about the government and has the line: "If life's a game then we are losing", which I don't disagree with.  Then "From Chaos Comes Clarity" and "Not That Far Away" seem to be more about philosophy in their overall message.   Music can serve as an escape from reality but I do enjoy the idea that these songs have that overall theme of not giving up and making it through the hard times because the better times are just up ahead.

When I listen to heavier music now, I tend to try and find music which just feels like it's ripping your face off (Daughters, for example)  I've never felt like I didn't listen to heavy music with melody because I didn't like it, I always just felt like I wasn't into certain artists which a lot of people seem to be simply because I didn't like how they created the music.  But if you're going to create music in the way which All-In Moment does (and I'm told they're creating new music as I type this) then I'm always down to blast it out of my speakers.  

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Music Review //
"Behind the Wave"

Orava has a style of music which seems to either be full of many influences all at once or without compare, depending upon the song and which part of the song you're in.    When "Behind the Wave" starts I think of it as being layered pop rock.  It has the elements of Panic! At The Disco (but the newer stuff) and The Killers but it's missing one a certain dance aspect of those artists-- it feels like a more stripped down version of them.   The first song has these layered vocals too with synth, which would be at the bridge, and it just sounds great together, in harmony, as we are given the mantra of "Try your best".

Acoustic plucks make me think of folk music as spiritual, uplifting vocals take us into "Until Rain Stops".   The titular track comes up third and has a pop acoustic sound to it, being light and just full of energy makes it fun.  "Don't wanna stay stuck behind the wave" becomes the mantra not just for this song but for the entire album really.   As we get into "Trapped" I begin to think of an artist like Blue October who has a similar sense of combining elements of rock music with other genres and just creating something which has its own sound, much like Orava has done here with "Behind the Wave".

About halfway through this album we hit the song "Now I Know" which is the single for me.   When it comes to album placement for a single I feel like I've heard it all before: sometimes they're the first song, sometimes they're the last and often times they're in between.   For this specific album though "Now I Know" just fits so perfectly exactly where it is.   "Do You Care" hits in an electronic and scrambled at times way while "Don't" opens up more like "Unforgiven" by Metallica and then finds its way into distorted waves before the end.    

That particular pairing of songs also seems to go well together and really those are two of my favorites on this album because I feel I can personally relate with them.  The lyrics have this idea of loss and regret and though the first is titled "Do You Care", the song "Don't" actually seems to ask the question of whether or not the other person even ever cared about you.   It's powerful stuff.    As much as I feel like at times this music feels lighter and fun, the lyrics can still just make it overall feel that much more intense and serious.

"Quest For Hope" has a dance synth way about it to start, which is a slight departure from the two previous songs but still works within the general vision of this album.   It ends with some funky synths too, like a cop movie.   The ninth song is an interlude which has pianos and strings on it, which is just fun to hear no matter what you're doing it has that classical appeal.   This takes us into "Going Backwards" which is perhaps the most important song on this album as it somewhat seems to sum up what's wrong but also keeping in mind the mantra of being "Behind the Wave" is how you go about fixing it.

With sad pianos and desolate guitars, "Going Backwards" is a song about regrets.  You know, when you get older you look back at your life a lot and no matter who you are or what you've done I can bet you feel like you've wasted it to some extent.  When you get into your thirties, you think "I wish I had done this in my twenties instead" and it just builds like that, the older you get.   Through the build of choppy waves there is a lot of melody and truth to wanting to go back in time and try again but as the album ultimately makes the point of: we are who we are because of what we've done and not what we'd like to do.

Music Review //
Rusty Reid
"American Villain"

For a long while, I felt like you could listen to music by an artist regardless of their political beliefs and choose to like them for their sound rather than what they might do off stage.   This was, in fact, the plot of an episode of "Growing Pains" which had Brad Pitt as a special guest rock star.  But there is a difference between being a jerk (like that Brad Pitt character was) and being racist.   So, over time, I got to the point where I realized it is important to be political in some aspect even if you feel like you're just a musician or just someone who happens to write about music.

More so to the point, I feel like people ignoring the beliefs of the music which they listen to is why so many right wing idiots dance around to Rage Against the Machine (they sing the songs but they know not what they mean)   Once you begin listening to "American Villain", you can pretty much assume who it is about.  I don't know when the last time the United States had such a huge villain as this.   Then when you get to the lines: "A cheat, a creep, a crook, a thief/Traitorous commander-in-chief" you can be assured this song is about the one and only Donald Trump and his reign of terror over the United States.

There is a lot which can be said about Donald Trump.   There are likely people writing books about it.  But one line I did think was interesting in here was: "The history books will warn/Of conservative plague" and I hope they do because history books tend to have a way of forgetting a lot of the bad things which happened in history and paint it in a way which seems to benefit someone else.   So, if nothing else, if you have kids or plan on having kids when you're older, when they're old enough, let them listen to this song as a history lesson and way to have an open conversation about the "American Villain".

Through these words Rusty Reid does more justice than I could typing up paragraph after paragraph.  One of the differences between this song and me trying to type up how I feel as well is that Rusty Reid makes it sound good.   This is a dreamy rock n roll, which reminds me of Stone Temple Pilots to some extent but also a theme song from James Bond.   How I wish time aligned so that Scott Weiland could have done one 007 song.    But having the music of Rusty Reid might in fact be better.  He's the voice of a generation which everyone might not agree with but he's right and he's got loads of talent.  

Music Review //
"Depression on Tour"

Seeing the song title "Depression on Tour" made me think right away that this would be a song about mental health- which it is- but I was not prepared when listening to it for it to be delivered as a hip hop anthem and the lyrics are just point blank and honest.   As we're eight months now into the country lockdown in the United States due to COVID-19 and the holidays approach, songs about depression can be a tricky subject.   Whether or not you think the country will be in a better place in a few months or even this time next year depends upon whether or not you're an optimist or pessimist.  

The way LovelyOcean creates hip hop which sounds like Salt-N-Pepa (who really don't get enough credit for their non-radio songs), Linqua Franqa, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul just make me feel good about the song even though the lyrics are about depression.   On one hand, I feel like if you're going to write a song about depression and it sounds like doom and gloom then you're going to make something which people might not want to listen to or perhaps even shouldn't listen to as it might influence them if they have mental illness.

At the same time, I feel like the serious content of these lyrics paired with the rather upbeat and just lighter feeling of the music (that hip hop you found on cassettes with a slight hint of R&B) represents how a lot of depressed people are: smiling on the outside while suffering on the inside.   So, for me, the balance between the music and its lyrics is a line which you have to tread carefully but LovelyOcean does it perfectly.  

For me, part of living with mental illness that has helped me cope has just been knowing that there are others out there who are going through the same thing.   So when you approach a song the proper way, which LovelyOcean has done, it really can bring people together to know that we aren't alone and we can sing this song together.   It also will hopefully bring more light to a subject those without mental illness might not know exactly how to broach.   And as important as I feel that these lyrics are, I'd still listen to a full of cassette of songs by LovelyOcean because the music itself is that damn good.  

Wrestling Review //
MLW Fusion #110
"The Restart"


This has been one of my most anticipated comebacks in professional wrestling.   I have been faithfully watching MLW Fusion on YouTube for some time now because of wrestlers like Brian Pillman Jr., Tom Lawlor and Mance Warner being involved.  It is also a show which you can watch on YouTube for free so that helps.   This episode opened with a video detailing the history of MLW which seemed not only beneficial to those who might be watching MLW for the first time but it was just a friendly reminder of what some of us may have already seen and it isn't bad to see it all again.

The first match on the show was a squash match by Alex Hammerstone, who is really just one of the top wrestlers in all of professional wrestling right now.   The guy is built like a brickhouse but he can move like he's smaller.   When you have that agility and power, you're going to become dangerous.   After the match, Hammerstone says what we're all thinking: he's been dominating MLW so when is his title shot against Jacob Fatu?  For my money, if you're going to book a promotion around someone, Hammerstone has to be one of your top choices.

I see a lot of names in wrestling get thrown around a lot.  I'm not going to name them, but just go on Twitter or find a place where you can post and talk about wrestling and you'll see a lot of the same names as big names now and ones to watch.  I truly believe that Myron Reed doesn't get the credit he deserves though- he's easily one of the top wrestlers in the world right now but for whatever reason his name just doesn't appear as much as I think it should.   He defends his World Middleweight Championship in the second match against Brian Pillman Jr.

Myron Reed and Brian Pillman Jr have history and a video package shows this.  Myron Reed says that he is looking to the future while Brian Pillman Jr is focused on the past.   This was a good basis for this feud, really, and I enjoyed this match as well.   Brian Pillman Jr held his own but at the end of the day, Myron Reed won with the Cap'n Crunch.   Who doesn't love a finisher named after cereal?  You and the Cap'n make it happen.   Post match Myron Reed calls out Lio Rush and that would be such a huge match you have no idea.

We get a promo about the main event and then a promo for the Opera Cup, which has some really interesting names in it such as TJP (isn't he in Impact?) and the alternates.  The main event is for the title and it has a big fight feel to it.   How do you describe Jacob Fatu to someone who has never seen him before?  The guy is big but just flows so smoothly in the ring he makes it all seem so effortless.   I said Hammerstone is someone to build a promotion around but Jacob Fatu has been running this promotion for long enough that if you're going to take his spot, you better be worthy.    Many promotions out there have champions representing them that I wouldn't put at the top but that's just me.

Speaking of wrestlers to build a company around, Calvin Tankman arrives next week.  Richard Holliday is cutting a promo about being Carlito and how he's going to return eventually and spit apples at people.  I don't know.  Maybe not.  I kind of tuned him out.   The Von Erichs are also part of MLW and if you're looking to have a solid tag team division, this is a team to have as part of it.   MLW shows us the former World Heavyweight Champions and that really makes you feel like the title could change hands here.

I love that MLW has this second generation wrestling feel to it.   You have Davey Boy Smith Jr, son of the British Bulldog.   You have Brian Pillman Jr carrying on his father's legacy.   Jacob Fatu is part of the Anoa'i Family.   You have the Von Erichs.   But then also you have guys like Hammerstone, Myron Reed, Lio Rush, ACH, Violence Is Forever and Calvin Tankman, who all just feel so much like the future happening right now.   I really feel like MLW has something for everyone and even though Davey Boy Smith Jr didn't win the title from Jacob Fatu he is still someone you could build a promotion around.  

There are two things which I really love about MLW that I feel are areas where other companies tend to drop the ball.   For one thing, MLW had two men on commentary who talked about not just the wrestlers within the matches that they were calling but also the match itself.   How often does a commentator trail off and start talking about who knows what when someone else has to pull him back into the match?  Having the commentary team focusing on the matches makes the matches feel more important.  I know it might seem simple but I've heard some really bad commentary in my time that made me wonder if those calling the matches didn't care then why should I.

The second aspect of MLW which I feel makes it a must watch show is that they truly utilize every second of their hour long broadcast.  At some point in time, wrestling decided that it was a good idea to have something happen and then within the same broadcast show it ten more times.  "Here's what happened last hour in case you missed it".   This was not a good idea.  This, much like my commentary point, took away the importance of what you were watching.  And let's be fair here- I'll call it like it is.   You could go for an entire year without watching anything related to WWE and then tune into a random PPV and feel like you hadn't missed anything because of how much footage they'll show you before the match.

To me, a lot of what happens in wrestling is overkill.   How many times do I have to see the same clip?  Yes, there are a time and place for replays and I'm not saying it should never be done.   MLW has replays and has shown clips from their past during their show.   But it's about how much you do it that matters because eventually you lose opportunities to create new content when you're just showing replays.   There is a balance.   MLW has found that balance because I don't feel like the replays ever over stay their welcome. They show enough to keep you informed but not so much as to make you roll your eyes.

It seems scary to think about but we're almost a month away from being in 2021.   Professional wrestling took a hit in 2020 with the pandemic, as did everything, but you have to go into 2021 with hope.   MLW bringing back Fusion makes me hopeful.   Not just hopeful for MLW but for all of wrestling.   There is a lot of wrestling out there, that is a fact, and it's not always easy to decide what to watch and what not to watch.   But you should definitely spend an hour every week watching MLW Fusion.   To me, MLW is that promotion to watch in 2021.   And hopefully maybe they can also work out a deal for action figures (please?)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

CD Review //
Cosmic Convoy
"Together Again for the First Time"
(C-Side Records)

Of the three recent releases on C-Side Records, Cosmic Convoy is the most country out of them all.   Now, the word "country" can mean different things to different people.  I've always been into those which are called the outlaw country musicians but then you have the names like Garth Brooks and Randy Travis who I'm just not into (and there are obviously more modern versions of these as well, I just try to remain oblivious to them)  I don't know what it is exactly that I don't like about certain country artists but whatever it is, Cosmic Convoy isn't doing it.

When I first listened to "Together Again for the First Time" I made it to the third song, "Until I See An Empty Cup", which made me think about how it had those guitars like Johnny Cash.   It was that visual of Johnny Cash going with his band into a small recording studio and the people in there just being blown away.  (A studio which, for the record, I have visited before)  But then when I went through and listened to this album another time, right away I heard the Johnny Cash come out in "Rosanna".   

It's funny how music can hide things until you realize they're there and then they all open up for you like magic.    In that way, this album can also be somewhat philosophical, with lyrics about life and death.   Though some of the lyrics are a bit more light-hearted even if you have to pay close attention to hear lines like "And it was my displeasure to have known her for a while" in "Rosanna" (which makes it feel more like an anti-love song and I do enjoy that)  "Up For Grabs" has a slower, alt country way about it and I do enjoy songs of this nature.

From the deep and dark guitar riffs on "Anodyne" to the way "Fall And Fly Away" makes me think about John Denver, there is just a certain mood which these songs create, a certain scene which they set.   I imagine Cosmic Convoy playing in a bar with cowboys in it- you know, everyone in cowboy hats and cowboy boots (which is not how everyone in Texas actually looks)- and everyone is drinking Shiner while singing along with "Bound" and it's just such a good time.   And I suppose that I've always thought of country music as being sad, and even if these songs do feel sad they are just delivered in a way which makes them feel like so much fun.

Music Review //
Format Wars

This song begins quietly, with an ambient drone feel and it just seems like we're floating through space as it is such a calm atmosphere.   Notes begin to slowly come in, as if we are in a lull, but then the percussion joins in and it seems as if we've found ourselves in a jazz number.   There are these keys which come through with emotional synths and it gives me the impression of a genre I'd like to call electronic jazz even though that's probably taken by elevator music and this is far from that.

As the guitar notes come through you can tell this is blissed out.  The rock can feel like a -gaze and it has that dreamy way about it.  If it was a little bit more on the synth it could be synthwave and if it had just a little bit more of some unknown factor it could be jazz.   Somehow though throughout the entire song I'm still reminded of how it started and I still feel like I'm floating in space which gives it that ambient electronic vibe.   Those are three distinct sounds to blend together and Format Wars just make it work.

Whenever I listen to instrumental music I always like to think about what combination of vocals I could add to it which would help me describe the sound.  On some level, I like to think of "Gakuraya" as resembling The Cure, though it is not 100% there.   There are other elements which give it a different sound overall, so it would be more like "The Cure meets..." something which I do not know.   But there is not one specific artist I can compare with Format Wars- instrumental or not- and I do enjoy that about this song.

When I see the name Format Wars I think about how some people think records are the best way to listen to music and I prefer cassettes, that sort of thing.   But when I listen to this song I think of the name being more about the style of music.   You have this distinct style in one way and then it comes together with another and even a third, which just somehow is able to blend together so easily though it might appear without hearing it that the three would work against each other.  

Format Wars on Spotify :::

Format Wars on Bandcamp :::

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Music Review //
Collapse Under The Empire
"Everything We Will Leave Beyond Us"

At first, "Everything We Will Leave Beyond Us" begins in a rather ambient and atmospheric way.  The first song, "Ark Of Horizon", eventually kicks in with drums and keys which make it feel more like post rock.    It is a true testament to the sound of Collapse Under The Empire, that something can be lifted from so minimal to so large and expansive.   And that's just the start of how this album goes because it is only the first song.

"Red Rain", which is the second track, features a more driving force.   These songs are all instrumental but they all have that quality in which when they do kick in it feels as if the music itself is singing.   In ways this reminds me of Phantoms vs. Fire, as the keys on the second track just feel so dramatic.   There are beeps and boops as well, not letting us forget the electronic side of this.   And then, interestingly enough, the guitar just kicks in fast and heavy.    As we get into this heavier guitar drive I begin to think of an artist like Coheed and Cambria and that is never a bad thing.

On "Resistance" there are intense pianos and synth bursts like alarms.   I only ever really think of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for their holiday music but this has that similar sound to it even if it isn't about Christmas.   The way it really just kicks in heavy with the keys as well reminds me of a band such as Brazil or Chiodos.  The song then slows down, gets a bit lighter and becomes rather uplifting.   Before the finale though it does kick back in and I suppose now is the best time to point out that each of these eight songs is like a mini-album, come together to form one super album.  

There are start and stop guitars on "Destruction" which makes me feel like we're in space for some reason but also there is a battle.  It would be like if the movie "The Phantom Planet" was updated but not in a bad way.    As the lasers kick in, the tick-tocks of the keys do as well and this one just has that end of the Earth importance to it.    The titular track hits just as hard with the keys which make it feel like Death Cab For Cutie.   Since the first song, this really kind of evolves out of the post rock which I felt at the start.    Even as we grow to this titular track it feels so much heavier now.

"A New Beginning" does have some post rock vibes to it, but ultimately it just feels like a sci-fi film soundtrack and I'm not sure if music has a sci-fi genre or not (there is a horror genre for both music and movies so why not) but this definitely paints the picture of a sci-fi film I would like to see.    "Another Earth" sounds like "The X-Files" and just ties the whole story this album tells together so well.   Considering the title of "Everything We Will Leave Beyond Us" it makes me feel like our planet is no longer safe and we must find a new place to live.   These themes are within the music created by Collapse Under The Empire but since they are instrumental you really have to listen.  

Music Review //
The Amatory Murder
"Singularity Complex"

When "Singularity Complex" first starts it has an introduction type of track called "Peace Before Disruption" and then it really starts off on the second song which is called "Room 208, Part 1".   If I was going to suggest one song from this album for you to listen to for that complete vibe of The Amatory Murder, it would be "Room 208, Part 1" but that also feels a bit incomplete because you would want to also hear "Room 208, Part 2", as I feel like the songs work best together over the broader spectrum of the album.

The Amatory Murder has a gothic sound.  It's full of guitars and other instruments such as keys and through all of the spooky groove on "My Love" there is also a sax.   But at its heart, it is a rock album, perhaps even a rock opera of sorts.   At first, during "The Illusion Of Time", I heard that great guitar drive like you might hear on that one U2 song which was on a Batman soundtrack.  But as I listened to this more and more, those ideas began to fade and I found the music to be a combination of three artists: Panic! At The Disco (mostly in the way the vocals are delivered and it can feel like a dance at times), My Chemical Romance (because of the dark energy) and Escape the Fate (because the way the vocals sound plus the underlying themes)

Now, I could probably be more specific in the sense that the only Escape the Fate albums I've really listened to are "Dying Is Your Latest Fashion" and the EP which came before it.  And as for Panic! At The Disco I've mostly only heard "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out" so the music of The Amatory Murder might not be as pop as you're thinking.    I've listened to My Chemical Romance since they were first a band but the sounds I most hear from them within these songs would be on "Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge".   It is strange for me to not only be able to place this based on artists I hear within it but also these three specific albums, but there is also more to this sound.

The general mood of the music makes it feel like we're in a haunted house or "Repo: A Genetic Rock Opera".    There are metal undertones and just killer guitar riffs, which are also in the form of the rhythm on a song such as "Master".    "Cruelty And A Second Death" opens with dark keys and then there is this sound of doors opening and closing, laser blasts and la-la-la type of vocals which make it all feel quite disturbing before we go into the second part of "Room 208", which can be described as a heavily distorted guitar anthem.   There is static inside the melody on "Part Of Everything" and I really think that just describes how the entire album feels conflicted within itself- there is beauty within the music and it can feel pure, but there can also be chaos and destruction.

Lyrically, this album reminds me of something out of a Philip K. Dick novel.   It's part of the larger idea of feeling like we're machines and not really human, but also just those small day-to-day routines which can make life feel so mundane.   Many people probably go through life as part of the system and don't even realize it or give it a second thought, but we all have those thoughts at times of how every day can begin to seem like it's the same actions: get up, go to work, come home, sleep, repeat.  I definitely enjoy lyrics which go against social norms and this completely lives up to that.

In many ways I feel like music is rebellion- that's why it exists- because I don't really hear songs which are about being happy being abused by the corporate machine.  Maybe they do exist and I just don't listen to them.  But the general vibe on "Singularity Complex" is of music which is rock laced with metal and Queen.   That just feels like it wouldn't be true to itself if it wasn't rebelling against something.  But the fact that it does- and even the idea of the title "Singularity Complex" feels like a struggle within oneself- makes this an album you really need to listen to not just for the unique music which The Amatory Murder has created here but also because it should leave you doing some searching within yourself.  

Thursday, November 12, 2020

CD Review //
Golden Bear
"Dear Texas"
(C-Side Records)

The name Golden Bear might not give away a lot about how this CD will sound, but the title of "Dear Texas" should.   I've gone back and forth on this a number of times now and I don't mean to be philosophical about it but sometimes that's just how music is.   The sound of Golden Bear, found within these songs, could either be best described as rock n roll with underlying country influences or country with underlying rock n roll influences.  That, to me, really depends upon what day you're listening to it and whether you're one of those glass half empty or glass half full types of people.

Just within the first song, both Bob Seger and Buc-ees get name dropped.  This is important because it sets the tone for this album in the way that it feels like just great driving music.   There are a few songs out there which come from bands like Golden Earring and Steppenwolf which are just great to listen to on long drives and "Turn The Page" by Bob Seger is right up there with them.   Also, if you've ever been to or through Texas for any reason you will know the pure awesomeness that is Buc-ees and that's just another one of those places where you have to stop while driving.   People in PA argue about Sheetz or Wawa but in Texas no one argues about Buc-ees being the best.

As much as this has that classic rock n roll vibe to it I can think of more contemporary bands within here as well, such as The Damn Personals and BRMC.    There is that country/twang influence which makes me think back to the early 2000's when a lot of bands were going country for some reason and you had artists like Limbeck and The Sad Riders and this would fit in well with them even though it definitely feels less like a gimmick than when everyone back then just began to feel like they were doing it to fit in.    As this CD progresses, I also hear (perhaps in the vocals most of all) a bit of Soul Asylum and that's never a bad thing because few artists could paint a better melody.

One of the aspects which I really enjoy about "Dear Texas" as well is that all of the songs tend to have the same pacing even if they don't all seem it.   There isn't that one really slow ballad and there isn't really that one faster song, they all just sort of keep at a steady pace which is most perfect for a long drive.   In this way, it does remind me of The Wallflowers and even certain Tom Petty songs (which are also great for driving) because you can just relax with the cruise control on and watch the countryside go by.

When I lived in Texas I visited San Antonio and saw a mariachi band set up playing a cover of "Hotel California" by The Eagles (who are also name dropped within these songs) and it just felt like such this perfect representation of what was going on around me at the time.  It was one of those times where it took me a minute to place the song and it was just so perfect.  I feel like a lot of people who have never been to Texas think of the music coming from it as sounding like Willie Nelson.   When I think of music from Texas, my mind always tends to go to Recover first (and then I think about hip hop like Fat Tony)

This never really gets as heavy as the band Recover but I don't feel like it hits upon the traditional side of country music you'd hear from someone like Willie Nelson either.  I'm hesitant to call it Americana but it does have that way about it only it seems more specific to Texas, so if there was a way you could think of if Neil Young had spent his time only in Texas and only writing about Texas then this might be the result.   And for as much as I feel like this is a great album to put while driving, as many times as I've typed that here, it's also just as great an album to listen to while sitting still.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Cassette Review //
Tar Of
"Instant Light"

$10 //

Edition of 50 // //

One of the thoughts I had while listening to this cassette that remained from start to finish is something that I am choosing to type up about it first.   If I was listening to this on a streaming service (or through their Bandcamp page) so that it was on my laptop, it would feel at times as if I was listening to one song by Tar Of and then I'd open a new tab and something else would begin playing.   So it feels like that song layered upon song but it isn't because I've listened to this only through earbuds and via cassette.  But it is odd how I can click a link on my laptop and think "Oh, why is that playing?" but it's really not or at least I can't hear it if it is.

The sound of Tar Of begins in what I would describe as upbeat and magical though there are these harsh moments which come crashing through.   The vocals aren't always words and though the songs can range in time from rather short to around the typical length of a song, for the most part you can just think of this as one long experiment in sound, rarely taking a break to breathe in between the chaos and high pitched vocal-blending harmony.   At times, because of the vocals, this can remind me of a band such as Portugal, The Man. (who I hear are big now but I only really know them for that one album ["Waiter: "You Vultures!""] but you could also draw the comparison back to Anatomy Of A Ghost.

Layered vocals can create a sound which is upbeat and bouncy.   Perhaps the best way to describe this as a whole is that these songs can feel like pop songs in the sense that you want to sing along or nod your head along with the beat, but yet, the way in which they are constructed you can tell is so not pop.   When they have this pure singing come through, you can still hear other vocals behind it with what sounds like the turning of a crank.   It feels acoustic, yet in space, as you can pick out the song "Salt In My Shoes" because of how much those words are heard.   Horns come out at the end of that song as well as it feels like a record player breaking.   I enjoy the song titles of "Take It To Sea" and "Take Me To See" as then "Nina" feels like one note glitches which also bring about rapid drumming.

An acoustic plucking now with vocals but then there are vocals behind it as well which sound recorded like a voicemail.   Things slow down with some sonar for "Wontena", which is a word that comes through more like a chant.  There is a knocking behind it and this can get pretty trippy if you let it fully embrace you.   A somewhat more upbeat song now sings about how "I tried" and the song "Blacklung" is what brings Side A to an end.

On the flip side we hear ambient bells which make it feel almost like a lullaby.   We got into drum machine beats and get wild again.   There are some definite Elliott Smith vibes in here and then the bass gets really deep, as if we've dropped to the bottom of the ocean.   Somehow this becomes an upbeat rock song which reminds me of Ben Kweller and then everything just gets louder, chopped up, it's skipping and it's reversed.  It's like they took that traditional pop song and put it into a blender.  

Horns come in like a car alarm and then there is a really loud distortion with it.  It reaches a groove as the vocals appear and it reminds me of The Lot Six.    The titular track, which ends the cassette (before quite a bit of dead air) takes us on quite the ride but so does this whole cassette.  Sometimes this can feel like one note and sometimes it can feel like all of the notes being played at once.   Sometimes it has a traditional pop or rock feeling to it, but even when it does you know it's being produced in a way which is not traditional.   The genius of Tar Of rests in the little details which when combined form the bigger picture and it is a sight to see.  

Monday, November 9, 2020

Baseball Review //
Connecticut Fall League Championship Tournament
[11/7/20 @ Veterans Field, Sharon, CT]

Additional photos can be found here :::

This tournament actually started the night before with the KHA team knocking out the Great Barrington Millers.   The KHA team would come to Sharon to play the Great Falls Gators while one town over the Orioles were playing the Crushers with the winner coming to Sharon to face the winner of the Gators-KHA game.  We figured it would be easiest and the best games to see to stay at Sharon the whole time because the first place Orioles vs. the last place Crushers felt like it wasn't going to be as much of a game as the KHA team might have put up a fight against the Gators since they had the momentum from winning the night before.

At one point this was all going to start at 10:30am and be three games in one day and at that time I was looking for nearby food and such and there isn't much.   The best way to describe where Sharon is would be to think of when we drove to Amenia only we don't go over the New York border.  And that whole drive we didn't pass anything except for gas stations and Dunkins so it was going to be tough finding food and such near this field so we planned ahead and brought a lot of food ourselves.  

What made this first round game exciting was that you thought that the Gators would be able to easily defeat the KHA team but you might also think based on their records that the Millers would have beat them as well.  The Gators and Millers would have been a good game, but somehow KHA pulling out what I would call an upset made this game seem more important.  In fact, in the top of the first the KHA team had bases loaded but the Gators managed to get out of it without any runs scoring.

The first two runs that the Gators scored were in the bottom of the first inning.  After a walk, Willy Yahn hit a double to put runners on second and third.   This would lead to two ground outs to first base which had the runners advance and score.  These were tough plays- and these were what is part of what I like to call smart baseball- because if you hit the ball near second base and the runners on don't have to go, your play is at first.  You get the forced out and that's just fundamental.  No one would have thrown to home and tried to get that out.  So it was a lot like sacrificing an out for a run and was very much a chess move.

For the next three innings, Bobby Chatfield and Chris McGrath pitched what felt like hitless innings.   There might have been runners on, but the innings just went by fast and it felt like neither team was able to do anything.   Then, in the bottom of the fifth, with two outs, Willy Yahn was able to score to put the Gators up 3-0.   In the top of the sixth the KHA team would put runners on and then on an infield grounder have a run score but that would be it.   There was some trouble during the top of the seventh where it looked like the KHA team could have scored but it never happened.  Both pitchers were in for the complete game and both pitched their absolute best.

While the first game ended around 1:45pm, we waited only a short time before the Orioles started showing up because they defeated the Crushers 7-1.   About an hour in between games and then the finals of the championship tournament were under way.   The Gators had Jeff Kersten on the mound while the Orioles starting pitcher was Adam Antonini.    This game was also interesting because the Orioles had Will Ramos on their team and in the two times we had seen the Orioles during the regular season we didn't see him play for them.   It felt like they were calling in the big guns for the playoffs.

The Gators were away for this game and the runs came in right away in the bottom of the second inning for the Orioles.  After two HBPs the Orioles first baseman hit a shot that turned into a double and those two runners were able to score.   With another run on top of that, the Orioles went up 3-0 early on and held that lead until the top of the sixth inning when Willy Yahn hit an absolute bomb out of left field to put the Gators on the board and it became a 3-1 ball game.  

What happened in the bottom of the sixth inning might have been the key moment of the game and of course it involved Will Ramos.   After getting on base, Will Ramos stole second.  He was then hit in by the Orioles number 22, which would put the Orioles up 4-1.   This was such a key play- this one additional run- because had the Orioles not done this in the sixth inning then they would have at least gone to the bottom of the seventh and possibly extra innings.

In the top of the seventh, the Gators tried to come back.  They put up two runs and came within inches of tying the ball game, but the Orioles were able to hold them and win it all.    This game was tense because there was always that chance where you felt like the Gators could have that one burst of offense that would put them right back in it and it didn't come until the very end, but wow if there was ever a way to get that close to winning a game I'm not sure if I've seen it.   The game ended 4-3 and it wasn't a dominant win for the Orioles as the Gators fought right up until the last out.  

This was the end of the baseball season this year for me.  It was funny because it feels like it's also the end of summer, but we're in November so we should be far beyond that, but it was in the 70s and sunny for these two games.   It's crazy to think that the leagues got a late start and I still got to see roughly fifty games within the last six months.   Now I'm not sure how to spend my time but I'll wait and hope for the best in the spring with the possibility of colleges (and Yale *fingers crossed*) starting up and playing baseball again.  

Friday, November 6, 2020

CD Review //
The Channel
"Electronic Luck"
(C-Side Records)

While I'm not certain what the exact term for the genre in which The Channel can be found, I'm glad to know that this overall sound of rock n roll can seemingly take us through time.  It's in the way which one might create a playlist or just listen to certain albums in a row because the trippy sounds of 1960's psych rock can turn into The Beatles just as easily as The Beatles can then turn into acoustic folk.

"Electronic Luck" begins with a song called "Songbird" which is a chorus of vocals.  It feels shorter like an introduction to the album but still stands on its own as a song.   "Let's Fall" is the second song and it has feelings along the lines of "That Thing You Do!" and Superdrag, which if you listen to this album and think that same idea at the beginning by the end you'll seemingly wonder how you were ever here.

"A Welcome Mat Was Placed Just So" is instrumental with clanks and lasers, so I like to think of it as being a space western, which in some ways goes on to define this album as The Channel can switch from the electronic to acoustic or blend the two seamlessly.  "Honeysuckle Rose" is folk with background vocals and it's less than a minute in length.   The fun aspect of these songs which should be stated now is that their length doesn't always seem to fit- longer songs can feel shorter- and I prefer listening to this album from start to finish so it feels more like one long song.

"I Saw The Night" has the line: "I don't believe in the dark" which is an interesting concept because, to be fair, when it gets darker our eyes adjust and if you really think about it there isn't such a thing as the dark as much as we're just at different levels of bright, right?  I mean, being outside in an open field on a sunny day doesn't even have the same level of bright as if it were cloudy or if you were inside.

We take on that Beatles sound in "The Rain Comes", which provides me with my favorite line on this album: "Do you live in the world around you or the world inside your head", which is something I always seem to struggle with (a lot more lately).    On "Mello" you can hear kids say "I hear mom" and it just becomes this groove which I love.  It reminds me of Spoon in ways and then they say "That is what it feels like to be one of us" which feels hypnotic.   The end of the song just sort of vibes out without any words.   This is also a good example of how even the longer songs feel like more than one song at times.

Drum machine beats set the tone on "Frozen Visitations" and then the next song begins with words spoken and distorted, trippy sounds.   "The Entire Room..." is an acoustic masterpiece, one of my favorite songs not just on this album but in general and it feels like it's that type of song that you should listen to at least once to know how it's done.  It might not be the song which best represents the overall mood of this album but it's a song which is among the best I've ever heard in all my years of listening to all of the many songs I've heard.

If this was a record (and it does feel appropriate for vinyl) this would be where the second half of it kicked off- either on the other side or simply as a second record if it became a double LP.  "Let Me Down" starts with static skips and bass, but then kicks in with these blissed out vocals.  The percussion reminds me a bit of Phil Collins only not and I'm also hearing a bit of The Rad Trads now.   As this album has much acoustics to it, "Let Me Down" is the electronic part of this all.  A screeching guitar riff and drum machine mayhem towards end of this song just further support my song within a song notion.

"Circadian Rhymes" is a distorted acoustic jam.   I'm thinking of bands like What Made Milwaukee Famous and wonder if people will get that reference.   "Overslept, Overheard" is in that darker, rusty acoustic spot and then it can also remind me of Local H.   "Silver Snake" has that early 2000's college radio rock vibe to it, which says a lot because there was a lot of great music coming out at that time and I think much of it was even overlooked because of the quantity not quality.  If you had played me this in 2005 I definitely would have said that The Channel would be on SXSW that year (or at least in Houston for the overflow fest at SHFL)

As we near the end, maybe the last fourth of this album or so, we get into some Flaming Lips sounds and then dive down into a desolate country type of feel.   The last song is even that chorus of vocals again, somewhat like how we started it all.   This album is twenty songs and a little over an hour long.   It's not something to put on in your car if you're going to drive across town.  Some albums have those songs where they feel like episodes of a television show- if you want something quick to watch.  But "Electronic Luck" is more like a movie in the sense that it's best experienced when you really sit with it, from start to finish, and you make the time.