Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Beck-Modern Guilt

Been a while, eh? I have recently purchased a bunch of music, so expect a lot more posts. Also, I think I'm reviewing or talking about the following album before anyone else I know on the internet. Take THAT, Jeph Jacques! (Great artist/music blogger whose comic "Questionable Content" I turn to whenever I'm depressed or need inspiration)
Beck Hansen has always been one of those artists that I never got at first. I was young (12) and stupid and had the whole "ALL SONGS MUST MAKE SENSE AT FIRST LISTENBLARRRRRGGFGDJKH" shoved down my throat. Then I discovered bands that no one else I knew liked or ever heard of. Which led me to bands like Oingo Boingo, Animal Collective, Ween, They Might Be Giants, Grizzly Bear, and lastly, Beck. And like most of the bands I listen to or try to get into, I bought the most recent album first. In fact, the first album I bought with my own money was "Guero", actually. I remember hearing/seeing the video for "E-Pro" on VH1 and being bought by Hansen's charms, both musically and visually. Each of his albums had some visual attachment to coincide with the music, which brought the listener a bit closer to Beck and what's going on in his mind. So, without knowing any of the other songs in advance, I shelled out the $13.99 for "Guero" and popped it into my CD player right in the store. From the opening of "Girl", I was hooked. 

Cut to just today (July 8th). I own most of Beck's albums (Sadly, only half of "Odelay") and the single from "Modern Guilt"; "Chemtrails". It sounded somewhat different than his previous albums. Learning that Danger Mouse was behind the wheel of the new album made me smile, knowing that the same creativity and skills he brought to his other projects (Gorillaz- "Demon Days", Gnarls Barkley, "The Grey Album") would shine down on this. It seems like a match made in heaven. Well, heaven takes repeated listens to truly understand it's majesty. 

The whole of "Modern Guilt" sounds like the background music for a go-go bar in the year 3000, with each song harkening back to the 60's and 70's. It seems that Beck is keeping the album and his new sound very stripped down, with what sounds like the least amount of spacey instrumentation and wonky keyboard bleeps in any of his albums since "Mellow Gold". It starts off with "Orphans", which, at the beginning, sounds like every other Beck song: electronic beats, drumloops, etc. Then the vocals burst in with a very Dylan-esque guitar melody and lyrical structure. The song then goes on through usual Beck lyrics (Just look in the Becktionary!) and a very Flaming Lips-like aura of sounds and background music. By the time the second track "Gamma Ray" rolls around, with it's go-go club beat and ghostly groaning, the 60's references and callbacks are out in the open and they don't disappear anytime soon. 

The single "Chemtrails" starts off slowly, like a gospel one would hear in church. The sound is definitely spectral and sweeping, which contribute to the song's lyrics about planes flying over our heads dispensing drugs in the form of gasses to either brainwash us or kill us. You would actually be surprised how much of this theory there is on this internet of ours. Then again, any crackpot with an email address can make a name for himself on here. The title track sounds like Paul McCartney if shoved into a recording studio blindfolded, with piano and drums straight out of the Beatles' early years. Beck even throws in a few "La-da-da-da"'s for good measure. "Youthless" and "Walls" are bound to be played in a few underground clubs, with enough disco throwbacks to choke a small camel. Both tracks feature heavenly distorted drums courtesy of D.M. 

Speaking of distorto-drumsland, "Replica" is done in a fashion that requires repeated listening (or once if you have a keen ear for off-beat music in 4/4 time) to get used to. "Soul of A Man" is my favorite off the disc. With reverse cymbals, hand claps, and more fretless bass than you can shake a...fretless bass at, the song is reminiscent of Frank Zappa's early days with the Mothers. "Profanity Prayers", while being the funniest song title I've heard in a long while, sounds very much like a surfing anthem with some slide guitar thrown into the mix. The closer "Volcano" is a stomping guitar dirge that winds everything down to a calming but satisfying halt. 

At only 10 tracks and clocking in at only 33 minutes, "Modern Guilt" feels too over too soon. Then again, the album feels like more of a side project than an actual album. And remember the visual addition I was blathering on about? Not much going on here. White border and three black and white photos balance out the black and white lyrics printed on the inside. Well, he WAS going for a stripped down sound... All nitpicking aside, "Modern Guilt" is a great album for what it is, but requires multiple listens to hear everything that Beck and Danger Mouse shoved into a half an hour of music. 

Coming up next: Sleep...maybe. 

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pretty. Odd.- Panic At The Disco

Maybe I'm sick, maybe it's the amount of easter candy I have devoured in the past few days, but I took it upon myself to buy the new Panic At The Disco album, Pretty. Odd. 

But Al, you might be wondering, I thought you hated bands like that because they were whiny and un-imaginative. And it's that kind of mentality that I had about most bands with an "emo" music label. But when you think about it, most bands with that label are given said label by the music magazines and critics who take it upon themselves to put bands into a single, specific genre of music. 

This is a bad idea. 

It's the same bad idea that turned me off of Panic's first album. I appreciated and respected their lavish set designs, and the Beatles cover songs on their set lists. It's just the music wasn't for me. And it seems that their love for The Beatles have completely changed their entire outlook on their music. So much that they have completely done away with the "emo" label that they didn't even have to begin with (according to their singer). 

The songs are humorous and light-hearted and sound more deeply-written than the other album. Dropping the "!" from their name, Panic have written beautiful, catchy tunes that inspire and make people smile. Almost Flaming Lips-like. 

Not only that, but the band has actually done something few bands can ever hope to accomplish: a single that sounds as good as the rest of the album. "Nine In The Afternoon" is a bouncy, piano-driven song with some stream-of-consciousness lyrics that make me smile every time I hear it. 

The opening track is a great example of what an intro SHOULD be for an album. "We're so sorry we've been gone/we've been busy writing songs for...YOU". It's hilarious and the way that the acoustic guitars mix with the electric, which itself mixes with the amount of orchestration (which is all over the album) is a beautiful, beautiful thing. 

Long gone are the dark undertones and loud guitars. (Though the loud guitars are still here.) And long gone are the depressing, incredibly long song titles. "Folkin' Around" is an acoustic number which sounds like a Bob Dylan outtake. My favorite song off the album "The Piano Knows Something I Don't Know" is laced with saxophones, pianos, and jangly guitars which add more to the band's maturity. 

So, yes, the scene kids hate it. Good example: buying this at Best Buy with a They Might Be Giants shirt on got me angry, evil, I-shall-set-fire-to-your-testicles looks from the emo crowd. Then again, they hate the album and some hate the band for "selling out" or "losing what made them good". I disagree. It's the way Panic At The Disco matured and opened their hearts and minds to bigger and better things that make this album a winner. Though they might lose half of the demographic, this album is a more accessible and emotional which will even bring in some of my indie-hipster friends (God willing). 

So go piss off a whiny emo kid today and buy this great album! And no, I was not paid to plug this album in any way....*shifty eyes*


Friday, February 8, 2008

Albums You Never Knew Existed But You Must Listen To If You Want To Broaden Your Musical Universe In A Great Way

Long ass title, huh?

As it says, here are some albums that you might not know exist, but are worth a few listens anyway. 
The Flaming Lips- "In A Priest Driven Ambulance"
If, like me, you have been listening to The Flaming Lips for a while, then you probably have heard of this rare gem, but never got the chance to listen to it. Thank God for eBay and Limewire, though. "Ambulance" is the most distorted, ear-shattering album The Lips have ever put out. It is also as deep and thought provoking as "The Soft Bulletin" or "Clouds Taste Metallic".

Upon the first listen, the songs are a little hodge-podged, in the sense that some of them go together, but others don't. But to the trained ear, the songs are a collection of organized chaos that is, surprisingly, pleasing to the ear. It starts with a stomping anthemic intro "Shine On Sweet Jesus- Jesus Song No. 5", laced with Wayne Coyne's trademark(?) warbly vocals and acoustic and noise guitar. It then does a seamless transition into "Unconsciously Screamin'", which destroys your eardrums before the album even really begins. 

Along with the Lips' rockers, there are some beautiful acoustic numbers such as "Five Stop Mother Superior Rain" ("My hands are in the air/and that's where they always are/You're fucked if you do/And you're fucked if you don't") which contemplates the moral dilemma one goes through being part of a religion, and the Dylan-esque "Stand In Line". And with songs like "Take Meta Mars" and "God Walks Among Us Now", The Lips somewhat paved the way for Nirvana with its grungy undertones.
This album isn't perfect, though. Throwaway tracks such as "Rainin' Babies" and "There You Are" are somewhat lackluster and not really as catchy as the song titles lead you to be. Other than that, it's a good album that shows you The Flaming Lips before their songs about jelly, giraffes, pink robots, and spiderbites. 
The Les Claypool Frog Brigade- Live Frogs: Sets 1 and 2

Anyone familiar only with Les Claypool's work on Primus is in for a surprise. Les recorded an entire 2 hour set of his performance with the side-project The Les Claypool Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, both released on two inconveniently separate discs. But it's worth the money. Things have changed in ClaypoolLand; his sound more jam band oriented with saxophones, keyboards, and distorted slide guitars. And of course, Les' almost cartoonish bass playing. 

Disc one is comprised of Claypool originals, including covers of "Thela Hun Ginjeet" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". With the somewhat boring opener, Les kicks right into the Sausage track (another one of Les' side projects) "Riddles Are Abound Tonight", which sounds like "what if Danny Elfman picked up a bass?", with blaring sax by Skerrik, who later shows his playing skills in the extended jam version of "Running The Gauntlet", which sounds like a "introduce the band" section of the show. "Hendershot" is a surf rock tribute with Californian sounding guitar work by Todd Huth.  "Girls For Single Men" is a Claypool track all the way, which shows his fingers just fing-fing-fingering away on that bass. The first disc ends with a cover of Pink Floyd's "Shine On.." and that ends with Claypool offering us a warning: "We'll be back in 20 minutes with more Pink Floyd than human being should ever withstand".

Pop in disc two, and thus begins "Live Frogs: Animals", which is a complete cover of the Pink Floyd "Animals" album. Being a Floyd fan myself, I was a bit skeptical on another one of my favorite musicians playing a Floyd album in its entirety (This is either going to make me think more of Claypool, or fuck my opinion of him completely). But once I got it, all skepticism was gone. I admit, it was kid of weird having Claypool's nasally vocals replaced with Roger Waters', but once they kicked into "Dogs", it adjusted. If you have ever heard "Animals" before, then you probably know what to expect lyrically. But Claypool takes these songs and kind of makes them his own with his unique ingenuity and style. I mean, look at Phish covering "The White Album", for God's sake. It was good, but this is just brilliant. Anyone can take an album and play it note for note. It takes a musical genius like Les Claypool to screw it over into a brand new listening experience. 
Oppenheimer- Oppenheimer 
I saw these guys open for They Might Be Giants last October, and me seeing the duo onstage instantly reminded me of the Giants original style (two guys doing all the music). But when they started playing, it sounded amazing. During the break, I ran out into the lobby and shelled out the $15 and bought it. Along with a Giants foam finger. I talked with these guys (Shaun Robinson and Rocky O'Reily) after the show, and they're really nice and polite. 

Anyway, enough with the gay banter. The album is an indie-pop paradise, with poppy keyboards, electric and regular drums, and surprisingly clean sounding guitars. The sound for the whole album is amazing; clean as a whistle. It opens with "This Is Not A Test", which is a hand-clapping stroll through the park on a set of drums. Which blends into "This IS A Test", which contrasts the previous track by rocking your mind out. The keyboards by Rocky are computerish and poppy, laced with air horns and sirens. The vocals and drums by Shaun are perfectly fitting the lyrics. 

Another key track is "Ok, Let's Take This Outside", which is a perfect example of their musical and lyrical style (Watching this structure breakdown/Collapsing towards the ground/Gravity wins but it don’t make a sound). "My Son, The Astronaut" is an almost tear-jerking song with some David Bowie undertones. I shouldn't go on and ruin more of this album. Plus, I feel that I'm plugging these guys beyond belief. So, I'll just leave it at: You have to buy this album or at least listen to it. 
And that's about it. Some great albums that are dreadfully under-appreciated. Get 'em off iTunes or eBay, but these bands are proof that the good music is stuff you don't hear on the radio. You hear the good stuff on satellite radio. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Power of Subliminal Messaging

My name is AL. I'm 16 years old and I'm here to talk to you about the wonder of all wonders: MUSIC. This wont just be another whiny blog about someone yammering on and on and on about their favorite type of music.
This blog is dedicated to promoting different kinds of bands, old and new. Indie, underground, electronica; anything. I'll try to plug and/or promote a new band with each post, along with other bands you might like. Visit this if you dare, for this whole blog is about music and nothing but. I'll be doing countdowns, giving you news, and even put up links to songs I wrote myself. So, enjoy this crap, people.