Friday, July 30, 2010

Album Mini Reviews: The Suburbs, The Orchard, and Serotonin

There has been quite a few exciting new album releases lately, mainly exciting because they come from some of my favorite artists, so I decided to do three mini reviews instead of three long, drawn-out, full reviews.

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Looking back, Arcade Fire has been one of the prime acts as far as revolutionizing the Indie Rock scene, Funeral was a genre defining hit, and as far as I'm concerned, one of the top albums of the decade. With that said, they've never been able to catch up with it, like many before them, such as De La Soul, or The Strokes, their first effort always trumps the others. Neon Bible proved that Arcade Fire are great at creating good, hard-hitting, allbeit somewhat pretentious albums, even if it couldn't stand up to Funeral. The Suburbs is somewhat the same.

There are 16 tracks on the album, and they are all great, fun to listen to, and different from Funeral. These are straight forward songs, with each one feeling less conceptual and less consistent than Funerals amount of focus and concentration. There are gems in here, that I know I will be listening to for months to come, just like I did with Neon Bible, but I fear that Funeral will still always find its way on to my Vinyl player, or booming through my stereo for DECADES to come, and as unfortunate as that is, The Suburbs is still a great album. Album Rating = 9.0/10
Great Track suggestions:
Empty Room
Wasted Hours
We Used to Wait

Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard
Straight-forward indie pop, that's what I used to think of when I thought about Ra Ra Riot, possibly with a slight favoritism on an orchestral backdrop. But Ra Ra Riot has skewed that perception with their new release, The Orchard.

The Orchard is a deeper album, relying heavier on the cello and violin than in their previous work. From the opening of the album, a weightier and more introspective presence is felt, even when the beat picks up into a dancier tone. The indie pop jive is still there, it's still fun and danceable, but there is still the possibility for this album to be more versatile, and even be more of an alone listening experience. Wes's voice on the album is sad, somber, and still shrill, adding shades of grey to the bright and fun visage still felt in some of the songs. A nice album, with lots of potential to propel these guys to bigger heights. Album Rating = 8.7/10
Great Track suggestions:
Too Dramatic

Mystery Jets - Serotonin
The Mystery Jets have had their british-indie-pop hooks in my brain since their release of Twenty One a couple years back, which made me move backward to their older and more mature release, Making Dens. Both are great albums, with Serotonin being a nice blend of the two.

Serotonin seems to basically be a safe release from Mystery Jets, and even if it is, it's still fun, danceable, and hellbent on bringing up thoughts of young love, lost love, and more lovey-dovey bullshit, but you can't help but love the Mystery Jets for it. Serotonin has a light air of forgettability written on most of it, with a couple gems bouncing about the release. The love-cautionary duo on the album "Too Late to Talk" and "The Girl is Gone" couple together nicely, becoming two of my new favorites in my Mystery Jets library. This album isn't something that will become a classic anytime soon, but nonetheless it is a fine addition to the brit-pop-scene. Album Rating = 7.8/10
Great Track Suggestions:
Too Late To Talk
The Girl Is Gone
Lady Grey

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

All Sorts of New EPage!

EPs are kind of hard for a guy like me to keep up with, they're nice, but I prefer Albums, plus they aren't as hard to find out about as EPs.

This past couple months have given me three reasons to retract that statement. Here they are:

Major Lazer - "Lazers Never Die"
This new and highly anticipated EP from Major Lazer features 2 new tracks and 3 remixes. One track features M.I.A. whose presence feels completely natural to be along side Diplo and Switch. One of the remixes on the EP is done by Thom Yorke, which may seem a bit surprising, but those of you who enjoy remixes and b-sides should know that Mr.Yorke has a nice little history with hip-hop, both performing on tracks and remixing songs by MF DOOM and others. This EP is a must have for a Major Lazer fan.

Los Campesinos - "All's Well That Ends"
These indie pop vets show a more acoustic side in "All's Well..." as it features four acoustic versions of songs from their album released earlier this year, "Romance Is Boring". The neat thing about this EP is, they chose great songs from "Romance Is Boring", such as In Media Res and Romance Is Boring. The songs sound great and are perfect for a quiet night alone, or laying with a loved one.

J Dilla - "Donut Shop"
Even though J Dilla is dead and gone, his impact on hip-hop is still there, and stones throw records have decided to release a new EP, and as I feel sleepy and lazy now, I'll just post the press release:
"The J Dilla tracks consist of three previously unreleased instrumentals selected by J.Rocc from the Dilla archives – “Safety Dance”, “Sycamore”, “Bars & Twists” – and three unreleased instrumental versions of Dilla's production for Mos Def, Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes, each remastered by Elysian Masters who mixed and mastered J Dilla's Donuts, The Shining and Ruff Draft albums."

Welp, if I forgot some, lemme know in the comment box, happy listening! - Matt Galey

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cool Tour 2010 Coverage

My journey to The Cool Tour 2010 started with a 2 hour drive to Columbus from Akron, by myself. Yes, I went to the show alone. Why? Because my friends aren't fucking metal. Sometimes being HxC can be a burden. Anyway, here are some short reviews/articles for the bands that played. Enjoy!

First up was War Of Ages. When they started playing I was a little surprised to see people in the crowd that were actually there to see them, since they were the first act. They were the only band I hadn't heard of on the bill, but seemed to have a bigger fan base than the next 2 bands. People started moshing right when they began playing, and these were hardcore moshers. One guy, who I presumed to be "The King of The Pit," even had a mouth guard. It's probably a good thing he put safety first. If he was injured then the pit would be king-less, and a pit without a king is like Rob Schneider without Adam Sandler, doomed (I'm really sorry I just made that joke).

Ok, the pit was funny (and lasted all 7 hours the show was going on, BROOTAL), but let's get to what matters, THE MUSIC. War of Ages sounded like....let's see, how should I put this....KILLSWITCH ENGAGE (and occasionally like Bullet For My Valentine). Their music was very unoriginal, but they did sound good. The crowd got really into it, which kind of sucked for the next 2 bands because they didn't get near the reaction. To sum up War of Ages' set it was good, but forgettable, very forgettable.

No more than 10 minutes after War of Ages finished Cancer Bats started (The setup up time between each band was only about 10 minutes for the first 5 bands, it was pretty nice). I had only heard a couple of Cancer Bats songs before and I kind of liked them, but my opinion on the band was pretty neutral. Right when they started a bunch of people ran from the back to the front so they could mosh. Right at that point I realized that Cancer Bats didn't really fit in. They are definitely heavy enough to mosh to, but their sound had too much punk and not enough metal for the mosh bros. Cancer Bats put on a pretty energetic show, but a lot of their songs sounded the same and, as I said before, the crowd couldn't get into it.

Instead of getting angry about the crowd or pretending like everything was all right, the band addressed the situation in a humorous way. They said something along the lines of "It's hard seeing a band you've never listened to before...I know some of you came to fist pump with your bros to Acacia Strain and you're like who are these Canadian assholes on stage?" It was pretty funny and a lot of the crowd openly agreed with the statement, which made it funnier. The bros next to me, who were already trashed at 5:00 and 2 bands in, kept giving the band the middle finger and yelling "fuck you!" and "get off the stage!" One of the times the bass player gave them the finger back and that only made them more angry. The more confusing thing about these bros is that they would "WOOOOOO" and clap the loudest after every song, and during Cancer Bats' last song, Hail Destroyer, they were even singing along. I am still confused about that.

The next band was Architects. I had heard pretty good things about this band so I was expecting them to be one of the better acts at the show. I will just tell you now, I was pretty disappointed. I did enjoy their set more than the first two bands, but it got boring fast. The band, at times, sounded quite a bit like Underoath, but a little more technical and a lot more boring. I had also heard them labeled as a progressive metalcore band, which is a pretty untrue statement. Aside from the occasional odd rhythm or delayed tapping line, the band was cookie cutter boring metalcore. I'm probably making them sound worse than they really were, but I that's just because I had higher expectations.

The next band was the god-awful The Acacia Strain. I sat down through most of their set and tried to take a small nap because I was completely uninterested with their music. The part of the crowd that could actually sit through their set got pretty into it, but many people used this time to go outside for a smoke, get a drink, or sit down and rest. Not only was their music awful, their vocalist was a huge dick. He constantly reiterated that he is "AN ANGRY PERSON." He even had the mindless audience watching them raise their middle fingers in the air and yell "FUCK THE WORLD!" If that's not metal then I don't know what is. The best part of their set is when the vocalist told everyone that he had just lost a close friend after a long battle with cancer.

Next on the line-up was Blessthefall, which was the only band I had seen live before (at Warped Tour '07 I believe). I don't really like them, but their set was alright. They sounded very solid, but it was hard to tell if the singer was on or not because of bad mixing. The crowd was again split, with some people really into it and others staring angrily. The only thing I really hated about their set was when they had an AWSUM synchronized guitar move flip thing (sorry I don't know my hxc move names) leading into a breakdown with synchronized crabcore-esque headbanging. At this point you have probably noticed that I haven't enjoyed any of the bands and you're probably starting to wonder why I even attended the show. Well I was wondering the same thing until BTBAM took stage.

After Blessthefall I finally moved up close to the stage to wait for Between The Buried And Me to begin. They began by playing an orchestral sounding version of Foamborn A over the speakers and then went straight into Foamborn B when they came onto the stage. I wasn't sure how many other people were there to see BTBAM, but when they began I was VERY pleased to see quite a lot of people into it. I had heard a lot of negativity about BTBAM's live shows and them not moving/being into it. The guitar players did stay still most of the show, but there was enough energy in the other 3 members for the audience to not get bored. Tommy (Vocals/Keys) moved quite a bit and put a lot of emotions into his vocals, Dan (Bass) moved a little bit and was very into his playing, and Blake (Drums) was just a fucking beast and was obviously into it the most.

If you've ever listened to BTBAM you know how ridiculously technical and complex some of the things they play are, and they pull everything off perfectly live. You could watch any one person on stage for the entire show and just be amazed the whole time. Everyone in the band is almost always doing something interesting or ridiculous on their instrument. The highlight of the show by far was their final song "White Walls." The crowd and the band were both going insane for the whole 14 minutes. My only complaint about BTBAM's set was that they didn't play anything off of The Silent Circus (Mordecai, Ad A Dglgmut) or Alaska (Selkies), but they only had time for 4 songs so it wasn't that big of a deal. Here was the setlist:

Foamborn Part A+B
Disease, Injury, Madness
White Walls

Next up was Underoath. I was a little worried that they wouldn't be that great with their recent loss of Aaron Gillespie, but their new drummer was very good and Spencer and Tim did a fantastic job of covering the clean vocals. The crowd was really into it, except for a couple people who Spencer actually singled out towards the end of their set. He said something like this, "I like the guy in the middle that's mad at everyone with the Slipknot shirt on." The guy then yelled something at him, but Spencer laughed it off and told the guy he would buy him a beer if he found him after the show. It was pretty funny. They had a good setlist consisting of songs from Define The Great Line and Lost In The Sound Of Separation, also with one from They're Only Chasing Safety and one new song which I took video of! Check it out below:

Up last were the headliners As I Lay Dying. I've never been really into this band, but I do enjoy some of their songs. First thing I noticed when they started with 94 Hours was that they were REALLY FUCKING LOUD, but they sounded great. They started off with a few older songs, then began playing 3 or 4 from their new album The Powerless Rise. The thing that blew me away about AILD's set was how into it their fans were. I was standing next to a few kids that had to be 13 or 14. One of them was a black kid that was screaming all of the lyrics and just going insane. It was actually quite uplifting to see such young kids getting into such heavy music. I also saw one of the event staff people guarding the door directly right of the stage getting into it. He started headbanging and jumping around and it was quite entertaining. I don't know As I Lay Dying's music well enough to really comment on their setlist, but the crowd seemed to like everything they played and I enjoyed myself more than I expected to.

This show was pretty boring at first, but the last three bands really made up for all the mediocre opening acts. As far as Metal/Hardcore acts go, the lineup was very diverse and there was something there for everyone. I can definitely see there being a Cool Tour next year that's bigger and better.

Click Here to check out the rest of the pics I took!

Btw, sorry if I bashed a band you love. These are just my elitist opinions on all of the sets.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Event Review: Modest Mouse at The Paolo Soleri Ampitheatre

It's been more than a couple weeks since I got to see Modest Mouse live, and I must warn that some set list specifics might be off, or even a memory of the event could be askew, so forgive my frail old-man-mind. Oh and as another side note, I'm not a mega-fan of Modest Mouse, so I won't remember every obscure as fuck song "they played off that one EP from before "Float On" became popular and they sold out".

I'll start by explaining how excited I was for this show, I bought my ticket a few months in advance, and I was more than willing to spend 40 bucks to basically see only them, as the other band interested me none, and I was sure the same held for every other ticket holder. On top of that, I was willing to take the hour long trek from my home of Albuquerque to our capital Santa Fe to see these guys at a place I knew nothing about, the Paolo Soleri, an ampitheater which seemed to hold a special place for most that had been there. To top it all off, I heard that Modest Mouse wasn't the most amazing live act either, which gave me even more anxious wonder as to the outcome of the concert.

We got to the Paolo Soleri, and I gotta say, I was impressed, the ampitheater was really gorgeous, fitting our longstanding southwestern-adobe motif seen almost everywhere in New Mexico. There was also lots of space for listeners, rows of steps leading from the stage flowed upwards at a nice steep angle, with nice sets of improvised bleachers at the top to allow for even more listening room, which was quite welcomed by the end of the night.

The first band was as forgettable as this article, I think I vaugely gathered from other disinterested listeners that the name of the band was ("erm, I think...")Radar Brothers ("or something, sorry man, I dunno.") and boy, I gotta say, out of all my experience with live music, they were probably the most generic band I've heard yet. Middle-aged-family-friendly-indie rock'n'roll is the easiest way I can paint my view of this band, I told others later that they served more as music for everyone to get to their spot for Modest Mouse, more than anything. We all listened (barely) and clapped (barely) and I'm postive that the band heard the most praise when the lead singer asked; "Are you guys ready for Modest Mouse?"

And that we definitely were. This was definitely the biggest mesh of different groups of people I've ever seen before to support a band, Super old, super young, super hipster, and super normal, everyone was there, which was nice in some ways, because normal people know how to enjoy a band way more than indie hipsters that are too cool for cheering and dancing. I really can't remember what songs exactly they played, but I remember that Modest Mouse focused on the whole of their discography, excluding most of their oldest of old stuff. I was actually impressed, I was sure Isaac and company would stick to playing The Moon & Antarctica material mixed with some from the new EP: No One's First, And You're Next, but there was a minor focus on Good News.... and a tinsy bit from We Were Dead...Which was welcome in my book. Some of my favorite highlights from the set were "Fly Trapped in A Jar" which was played with the great introduction found on the album, and the new single "The Whale Song", which was skillfully played in it's full, mostly-vocal-less and jammy good-ness. "The Devils Workday" was another highlight, as it had a great section performed by a trio of horn players, and Isaac on the banjo.

As far as skill goes, Modest Mouse wasn't the most amazing performance I've ever seen/heard, but they were far away from bad. They played their songs skillfully and true to the studio, and that's where my only minor problem was, the live songs were so close to the album that I couldn't help but be unsatisfied with the amount of diss-similarities between live and studio, I wanted a bit of difference, maybe Isaac to change some of his vocals, or possibly be a bit more crazy live, and he simply wasn't, which isn't disappointing, just not amazingly entrancing. But overall they sounded great.

At the end of a good hour and half of a great set, Modest Mouse left for a break, and left us for a good ten minutes of chanting encore before coming out in skin tight suits and a man in a bunny outfit in toe. For their final songs I remember two of the three, one being the newish single "Satellite Skin" and their absolute finale being "Spitting Venom" which felt amazingly welcome, as it was a beast of a song, and had awesome horn parts, all played with fantastic conviction on all fronts. The encore was the best part of the show, as it should always be, and as "Spitting Venom" climaxed, it began to lightly rain, which was fitting, poetic, and lovely for how hot it was smashed shoulder to shoulder with every other fan.

We all stepped out of the venue with the smell of rain in the air, and a slight breeze flowing over the Santa Fe landscape, as I can't speak for everyone, I can definitely say I was filled with mild euphoria, as I know that I enjoyed a great band that should continue to impress with new and exciting music with a diverse fan-base that will always love them. So, if you actually read this half-remembered-hodge-podge of thought, I will thank you, and say that I can now tell you the most important part of this article, a recollection of the set-list (AS I REMEMBER IT):
  • The World At Large
  • Float On
  • Bukowski
  • The Devils Workday
  • The View
  • Satan in A Coffin
  • 3rd Planet
  • Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
  • The Whale Song
  • Doin The Cockroach
  • Missed The Boat
  • Fly Trapped In a Jar
  • Satellite Skin
  • Spitting Venom
Good shit, sorry for any spelling or sentence errors, and lemme know if I fucked up the setlist at all. And now, my only photo I took at the thing, check it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Album Review: Emarosa - Emarosa

When I heard that there was a new Emarosa album, I had to stop and think to myself, "Wait, so she makes music?" and then "Wait, NEW album? That means there were albums before this!" To say I was thoroughly impressed by this is an understatement, the idea that such a mean human being like Emarosa was making post hardcore albums really struck me as amazing. And it seems that her newest album, named after herself OF COURSE, (showing her narcissism) proves just how good she is at creating interesting music. Who knew that a woman with such a heart of ice could create something that has this much of a huge pulse of vibrant emotion inside?

The album begins in a lovely fashion, as Emarosa brings her soul into singing the first track "A Toast to the Future Kids!" You can truly feel that she is putting her all into the album. Her vocals are really the backbone, creating a wave of consistency for the guitar, drums, and bass to flow along with. Her voice is strangely angelic, which is something I wouldn't expect from Emarosa, as her voice always seemed grating and more manly to me. But by whatever means she did it, Emarosa really shows off how clean and lovely her voice can be, even if it can have a cutting edge to it when she is barking orders during a business challenge. Another track that strikes me is "Share The Sunshine Young Blood" with it's sweeping guitar and aggressive drums. For an album named only after Emarosa, the other instruments really deserve some spotlight, as much as Emarosa would like to have the attention only on her. They truly hit hard on the song, giving her voice something to soar on. While the instruments are gorgeous, you can feel the conviction in Emarosa's voice, because I truly feel that "Share the Sunshine Young Blood" is Emarosa trying to come to terms with her age, giving us insight into her need for plastic surgery. It's heartbreaking and wonderful to hear at the same time.

Another striking track, "The Game Played Right" is a defining statement toward "The Game" Emarosa thought she played so well a few years back, and it's a bit of her more mischievous side showing. The song once again has her voice (almost like an apprentice to Anthony Green) accompanied by beautifully tumbling guitar and drivingly decisive drums. The whole album has an emotionally heavy feel, as if this could be an insight into the more emotional side of Emarosa that we never saw while she was playing this "game". We all saw her years ago as an angry black woman, hell-bent on getting her way, but now we get to feel the angst pent up from being the villain for so long.

Emarosa and her band show an even more message intense, emotional side in the song "I Still Feel Her Part 4" It feels as if this was Emarosa's way of talking about still feeling the slavery her great, great grandmother went through four generations back. She's trying to convey that she still feels the whippings her ancestor went through, it's highly emotional, begging for the listener to feel the pain of a race most listeners of Emarosa's new album know nothing about. She ends the album on a more existential note with "We Are Life". Vocal Harmonies with strikingly moody lyrics are accompanied by precise guitar and drums that punctuate beautiful crescendos.

Emarosa made her television debut years ago, and while she rocked the reality television scene with her evil nature, cut throat tendencies and overly dramatic business ethics, she stays relevant in a whole new light with her newest release in the music industry. It's a consistent album, almost too consistent for it's own good, as I feel the album could have done with some more experimentation on her behalf, possibly getting her to speak her native african tongue, play some tribal drums, or at the least have some sort of hip-hop influence, with possible rapping on some songs, considering her ethnicity. This is my only problem with an album that is sweepingly lovely, and the experimentation is not necessary, but it is something to consider for her next album. She's made a statement with this album, proving that she won't be fired from this band, unlike Craig Owens from Chiodos, who proved to be more of an apprentice than a leading man. I can't wait to see more from this pant-suit clad ebony beauty, as she proves she's a worthy project manager for her band, and the genre as a whole.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Album Review: M.I.A. - /\/\ /\ Y /\

M.I.A. has definitely not been one of my favorite artists ever, admitting that is easy for me. To be honest I can only recall liking two songs before this, "Paper Planes" and "Bamboo Banger". I have a feeling that she's bound to grow on me much like Major Lazer did a couple months back, and if there was an album to promote this growth, it's MAYA.

I've actually done some reading up on what the community thinks of M.I.A.'s new work, and it seems that a good amount of people think that there is inconsistency in MAYA. I actually disagree to a large extent on that criticism. From my end, this is a consistent album, full of danceable, beat driven songs, and I definitely feel that the inconsistent remarks come from the fact that not all these songs fall on the same wavelength as far as energy, some are slower and some are fast, but if that's inconsistency, then I've definitely got issues with our definitions.

One thing I can definitely remark on MAYA is that M.I.A. takes somewhat of a passenger seat to the music, hardly ever taking control of the song rather than working with the beat to make a neat, tight package. What M.I.A. is saying is usually some sort of commentary, social or political, but you might be boogying too much to notice.

The album kicks into gear with "The Message", a nice opening track with electro-tribal beating with a british man telling us "Headphones connected to the iPhone, iPhone connected to the Google, Google connected to the Government." Trust me, I hardly like social commentary, especially when it's coming from someone that is most likely hypocritical towards all her own messages, it's just that I can't muster the hate with all the awesome sound coming with it! "Steppin up" continues the interesting sound with a heavy dance beat full of power-tool noise and huge bumps and bangs. Something I've noticed about M.I.A.'s beats, for the most part they are spacious in their heaviness, never feel excessively crowded, which is probably something I can definitely get behind, as there are places where somebody else would want to add ticks and excessive noise to add more club possibilities. "XXXO" is my least favorite track on the album, with probably the most club-friendly beat, and an annoying course that sounds like it's stripped from a Britney Spears song telling us "You want me to be somebody who I'm really not", it sounds conceited and stupid, which is why I really wish I could delete this song from the album all-together.

The album as a whole has a electronic-fed-tribal feel to me, something I definitely have learned to embrace, where as I believe I resisted it on Kala. Bongo, maraca, djembe, among others seem to appear in songs, adding to the aforementioned spacious feel that her songs have. "It Takes a Muscle" is a nice dub-ish jam that is definitely smile worthy with it's hook revolving around a light dick joke. You can definitely feel the production that Rusko brought to the album, adding light dubstep elements to most songs, once again adding to the heaviness I spoke of earlier, and adding to why I dig this album so much. "Born Free" is definitely my favorite track on the album, it's a heavily drum and bass driven track that would feel right at home sitting next to BADASS in the dictionary. As with most of the album her vocals work with the track, fitting next to it, not on top, making her more of an instrument rather than a vocalist.

You can feel influence all over the album, as if M.I.A. grabbed a piece from everyone she's worked with in the past. I get a The Very Best vibe from "Tell Me Why", a lovely track with a chopped african sounding choir in the background with light sitar and snare drum adding excess flavor. "Space" rounds off the final corner of the official album with a not surprisingly airy and spacious beat that somehow feels cultural in indescribable ways. It's a nice way to finish off a sometimes heavy, sometimes abrasive, and sometimes lovely album.

As for the four bonus tracks, they feel right at home and not as if they were after-thoughts. "Internet Connection" is one of my favorite tracks on the album as a whole, feeling light-heartedly stupid and at the same time danceable and cool. "Caps Lock" ends the deluxe edition of the album in the same way that "Space" would have, except in a somewhat more somber tone that does remind me strangely of Kid Cudi's "Pursuit of Happiness", it's light and calming, yet deep and melancholy.

By the time I've finished writing all these paragraphs about the album, I can say that M.I.A. has grown on me in a way, proving her ability to create culturally influenced elctronica-dance music.
I can't say if she's grown since Kala, I wouldn't know, but what I can say is that she has definitely figured her sound out, and is good at flexing it in the right ways. While some songs slip into the lower levels of consciousness and fail to work fully, there is an understanding in MAYA, telling me less about her political views that she tries a whole album to express, and more about her knowledge in music making that I understated from the begging, for that, and not for what she has to actually say, is why I give MAYA the props it deserves.
Album Rating: 8.6 - 10
-Matt Galey

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Album Review: The Books - The Way Out

Let's get something straight away with this review, I'm biased. I've loved The Books for years now, I believe it started in 2007 or so, when I first listened to one of my most beloved albums Lost And Safe, it was a masterpiece, and it still is to me. So before you go any further, know that this is review stems from a mind already in love, and that you might not get the most unbiased review on the planet, but I will try my best to set my adoration aside.

It's been five years since the last Books release, and for those of you who are wondering what The Books sound like, think existential experimental music, composed of minor vocals from the duo, and a series of recordings from film, radio, field recordings, and audio books, all layered on top of cello, guitar plucking, and the occasional drum, with the inclusion of the band's new instrument, the electronic influence. If that doesn't make sense, I wouldn't be surprised, so therefore, I think you should hear it then. Their sound is really something to behold, sometimes eery, sometimes funny, many times sobering, lovely, and gorgeous.

The Way Out is quite a bit different from Lost And Safe, and it's safe to say that I was quite bothered to begin with upon hearing it. The first half of The Way Out is very focused on implementing electronic bass, aggressive and almost angry recordings, and drum beats that are anything but the relaxing Books I know and love. The first track, "Group Autogenics I", is what I understand from The Books, small guitar tapping, light drumming resembling more of a clanging, and chanting from the duo, all underneath what I'm sure are recordings from motivational tapes slowly telling the listener "I am calm, I am relaxed, I am the loop that goes around and round in your head, flowing warmth." It's truly calming, and it made nostalgia crawl up my spine, but then, after that track the album shifts into a funk of electronic driven experimentation I can only describe as aggressive, as far as The Books go. One of these tracks "A Cold Freezin' Night" features fast tribal drumming fed through a series of electronic elements, and children explaining how they would like to kill each other or simply change their sex. It wasn't until I found out that all the recordings of the children were gathered from home recordings via cassettes bought at thrift stores did I truly appreciate the track. It's angry but amazingly well put together, and definitely shows off the composing talent of the Duo, but it simply isn't what I know from the books more relaxing tone, and I felt truly angry for a bit that I wasn't getting the soothing experimental music I enjoyed from them.

Then the other half of the album started, right around track 7 of 14, the songs revert to the old Books in some small way, light, playful music that can be enjoyed by focusing on it, rather than having it in the background as noise. "All You Need Is A Wall" is definitely one of the more interesting tracks in the album, because of it's simplicity and strange effectiveness, Nick Zammuto's vocals are easily the best he's done, really singing with the same guitar clanging, and Paul De Jong plays some cello on the album, which is one of the biggest elements I feel was missing from The Way Out. The cello sounded amazing in every track from Lost and Safe, bringing a sense of purpose and immense beauty, and it seems here it was replaced by dirty, old disco beats that take away from the beauty.

"Collage Music" as Nick Zammuto calls it, isn't something done by many, in full truth I've really only heard this style of music done by these two, which is what makes The Books such an endangered species, making music I couldn't hear anywhere else. It's a style of music I place with orchestral pieces as far as complexity in composition, and for that amazing attention to detail, I love The Books with a sense of awe. I want to protect them, because for this band to stop making music is for this fascinating genre to die. This album feels to me like The Books stepping out from the protection created by Lost and Safe, and into places I might not like as much, such as a parent knowing their child is getting into "goth" music and hoping they don't start asking for tattoos, it's the fear of change and I'm trying to accept it. I started the album disappointed, but probably ended it nodding with understanding, wanting to hear the songs that bothered me most again, in hopes of gaining something new. That's probably the nicest thing I can say about The Way Out, it made me want to understand something new.
Album Rating: 8.9 / 10
- Matt Galey

OH AND A SIDE NOTE: The album cover is god awful ugly, as with most Books releases, it's some sort of reference to a bible or something, either way, It's still ugly, so don't judge the album from that.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Mash-Up Album Guide

Let's just say that Mashup's have been around for a while. I'm not gonna pretend to be smarter than shit, I have "The History of Mashups" wikipedia article open in another tab right now, so you know. I don't know everything, but this article says that "mashing" has been around since recorded music started, makes sense I guess, there's some kind of indescribable rush outta hearing you're favorite m83 song mashed with Ludacris lyrics, so it would make sense some motherfuckers before us wanted to see how his favorite Waltz's would sound if crammed together. I decided to write a little guide if you'd be so kind, of my favorite mash-up albums.

Girl Talk - Feed The Animals
Let's start with the obvious king at the moment of the Mashup scene. Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis) has been releasing a steady stream of Mash-up albums under the Illegal Art Label since 2002, but just recently, Girl Talk has definitely come to the forefront of the genre with his newest release Feed The Animals. From first listening to the album, you'll instantly know that Mr.Gillis knows what he's doing. You get the feeling many pieces have been magnetized together to create the sound, or at least that's how I feel. The best thing I can say about this album is that it's probablythe ideal party album of all time, with everything for everybody.

Jaydiohead - Jay-Z x Radiohead
One of my current favorites is this lovely creature conceived using the sperm of Jay-z a capella tracks and the egg of Radiohead samples and instrumentals. It seems that Jaydiohead creator Max Tannone gets quite a bit of blowblack for his little monster, and it makes sense, Jay-z is one of hip-hop most prized sons, and Radiohead are the kings of alt rock everywhere. I don't mind a bit because I was never the biggest fan of either, but I love Jaydiohead. Some of the tracks are really well done, one of my favorites, "Change Order" using Jay's "Never Change" and Radiohead's "Gagging Order", it's a gorgeous song, one that I've actually used to open people's mind about Hip-hop, now that's something.

Easter Egg- Jackin' For Beats
Easter Egg is very similar in a way to Girl Talk, when it comes down to it, but fortunately, they are different enough to allow love for both. While Easter Egg isn't anywhere as big as Girl Talk is, he definitely holds his own. Jackin' For Beats is a beast of an album, 30 or so tracks of mash-up goodness, and with smart production, it's a great album for the parties, or anyone wanting to hear Ice-Cube, MGMT, and Grandmaster Flash, all on the same jammin' album. It's got the same amount of hard hitting staying power, except in quicker, easier to digest dosages, definitely worth a listen.

Team Teamwork - The Ocarina of Rhyme
Team Teamwork makes something very special, like dung beetles' turd balls. It takes a special person to see the amazing wonder in it. You got a cappellas from respected hip hop artists such as Clipse, Snoop Dogg, Common, and even MF Doom laid lovingly on top of gorgeous beat tracks composed of old school gaming songs and noises. You can hear "I Used to Love H.E.R." mashed with a beat using Zelda's Hyrule Market song. Magnifique! Now, if that doesn't sound so great, you need to hear it, because the 8-Bit goodness laden with bass and sprinkled with classic hip-hop swagga is something to truly behold.

E-603 - Torn Up
E-603 is similar to Easter Egg and Girl Talk in that he (Ethan Ward) mashes hip-hop vocal tracks with various songs from various artists, and boy does he do it just as good as both GT and Easter Egg. It's possibly my favorite Mashup album, partially because I found myself pushing my hand to my mouth hurriedly and murmur through my fingers, "Oh shit, that's fucking Float a mash-up!" or "Fuck, he just used Math The Band...shiiiit!" over the course of it's 15 tracks. Any album that give you "Oh Fuck" moments definitely has some kind of charm to it. It's your favorite dance-mash, but with M83 and Aphex Twin in it, daumn.

Wu -Tang VS. The Beatles - Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers
Ever wondered how Wu Tang and The Beatles would sound together? Or are you just wondering it now? If you answered yes, then this is definitely worth your time. 27 tracks should either tell you lots of time was spent on this, or that this was (no pun intended) mashed together quickly as a gimmick, trust me, it's the former. These beats, in a way similar to The Grey Album aren't easily placeable, they aren't simply Beatles songs with more bass, it's a crafted entity. It's still the badass Wu Tang, but with fascinating beats placed undertow.

The Legion of Doom - Incorporated
Now, this album isn't totally my cup of tea, not on the part of the creators, Legion of Doom, but rather the songs they chose to mash, but this album simply makes it on my favorites out of pure interest in something so out-of-the-ordinary for a mash up album. Tracks by Underoath, Thrice, Norma Jean and others are crammed together, and they sound pretty cool, considering I kinda hate all three of those aforementioned artists. My favorite tracks are easily "Dangerous Business Since 1979" for its use of mewithoutYou and "Devil In A Blue Dress" for its use of Coheed & Cambria, respectively. It's definitely a horse of a different colour, and something a more open minded person in the harder genres (TYNAN) should enjoy. -Matt Galey

Respectably Honorable Mentions:
Danger Mouse - The Grey Album
The Kleptones - Yoshimi Battles The Hip-Hop Robots
The Kleptones - Uptime/Downtime
The Very Best - Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit are the Very Best
Xaphoon Jones - The Xaphoon Jones Mixtape Volume 1.
Squincy Jones - Nintendub

And as a final treat, one of my fellow bloggers here, Tynan has a mash up of his own, check it out:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New La Dispute Song and Split EP

La Dispute have posted a new song on their Myspace from their upcoming split EP with Touch Amore. The song, titled How I Feel, also features guest vocals from Touche Amore's vocalist. The split EP comes out July 27th and can be pre-ordered here.

Album Review: The Roots - How I Got Over

The Roots have been around. Their first studio album dropped in 1993, a year after I was born. Now for me, I've been listening to the roots for only about a year now, mainly to 1999's Things Fall Apart and what amazes me is how little these cats have been noticed. The critic community loves em', but as far as the average music listener is concerned, they're that one band with the drummer who has that afro and stuff, or even worse, the back-up band for fucking Jimmy Fallon. It's unfortunate, as The Roots have always seemed to be active in promoting a beautiful type of hip hop I wish would catch on; the kind that focuses on true lyrical content, sly beats, and a passion for honesty. These are things you don't find in radio hip-hop now-a-days, which focuses on club tracks with "ticks" and "booms" instead of interesting beat backing.

It's been 17 years since the release of their first album, and I'm very surprised to say, The Roots still got it. Their new album, How I Got Over is a definite change-up from their last album, Rising Down, which was claustrophobic, pent-up, and dark. How I Got Over to me feels more like when you stretch your legs on your bed toward the cool areas of the sheets for relief from the heat, it's airy, cool, and soothing in a way. The lyrical content is still there, full of cautionary wisdom of a life you've never lived, but at the same time, the contradictory beats and tone lead your mind toward a softer place, away from the problems mentioned in the album. This is the best thing I can say about How I Got Over, the album is a strange corral, it takes your mind off of The Bad of our world, but whispers it in your ear at the same time.

The album really doesn't kick off, as much as it slowly takes off, like an assistant levitating in a magic show, there's no big bang, just the act. "A Piece of Light", the first track, is just a vocal lead in, harmonies of "Do Do Do" are mixed with light keys to lead the listener into a smooth jive, which will hold for the spine of the rest of the album, as the smoothness hardly ever wavers. That leads into Walk Alone, a piano driven soul-hip-hop song that holds that smoothness. The new single "Dear God 2.0"features The Monsters Of Folk, a move that captures my love for the album. The Roots blew me away with the tenacity to try and mix artists like Monsters of Folk and Joanna Newsom into their message conscious hip-hop. I know that part of me just likes it because they are up my alley in the folk area, but at the same time, it's more entrancing because they work. "Right On" is my favorite track on the album, part of that reason is because it samples "The Book of Right-On" by Joanna, but at the same time, it's my favorite because it's so smooth and perfect to me, in mixing and lyrical work, that I had to add it to my "Top Hip-hop tracks" playlist on my iPod.

Another favorite is "The Day", a beauty of a track featuring the smooth rhymes by Blu and Phonte, but my favorite addition is Patty Crash lightly singing "I should start living today/ because today's gonna be the day". There are two tracks on the album featuring John Legend, and when I first saw that on the track listing, I was worried, but the beauty of it is, he fits in just as nicely as Common did on older albums. His smooth, soothing voice that even my Mother loves is perfect for this album, and the fact that The Roots knew that he would work wonderfully is why they must be one of the smartest hip-hop acts around.

If you've skipped all the bullshit I've written just to see what I gave the album, you'd know I have some problem with it. How I Got Over is a surprisingly great album, definitely one of my new favorites of the year, but my problem comes from how the album decides to end. We spend the whole album jiving to the light, smoothnessity of How I Got Over, and then, on the last two tracks, we get punched in the face with two harshly contrasting songs, "Web 20/20" and "Hustla", which feel simply out of place. It's like we've spent 40 minutes soaring on a nimbus cloud above war-torn Iraq to have an RPG shoot us down right before we decide to land. The beats are strong and the lyrics are harsh not only in content, but in delivery. I suppose this was The Roots' way of ripping us back into the reality of the issues, but, it would have been more polite to do this at the beginning of the album, saving me from having to finish in a mood that asks "Why'd you have to go and do that?" It isn't a big deal, just something that leaves the bad taste in my mouth I thought I wouldn't have to worry about.

Basically, How I Got Over is a gem. It's an album worthy of summer, perfect for a cool backyard party or an afternoon fuck, it's smooth and works perfect as a backdrop for nothing to happen. At the same time, the album works beautifully at the forefront of the mind, something I was skeptical about when I first read about it. In essence, How I Got Over is what you need, without you ever knowing you needed it. Album Rating : 9.0/10
-Matt Galey