Friday, August 31, 2012

Class of 2012: Saint Vitus - Lillie: F-65

Lillie: F-65 comes 17 years since the last Saint Vitus record and 9 years after their reunion.  But these American doom legends are back, and they sound great over the course of these 6 tracks. (Technically, there are 7 songs, but I'm not counting final track "Withdrawal" because it's just 3+ minutes of feedback.) 

"Let Them Fall" starts things off, and it doesn't take long to notice how strong Wino's voice is.  And as the song ends, he actually sounds as if he's falling.  Not many bands could pull this off without sounding gimmicky or hokey, but Saint Vitus are one of those few.

"The Bleeding Ground" is one of the album's stronger tracks, and just when you think it's over, you're treated to some instrumental "doom jamming" for about two minutes.  Next comes the instrumental "Vertigo," which wouldn't feel out of place on Depeche Mode's Violator.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Class of 2012: The Tallest Man on Earth - There's No Leaving Now

Musically speaking, The Tallest Man On Earth's Kristian Matsson seems to have hit a growth spurt recently.  There were early indications of this when we first heard a piano on 2010's The Wild Hunt and then later in that same year when we heard an electric guitar on the EP Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird.  Instead of the simple yet effective strumming or picking of an acoustic guitar with vocals, Matsson now opts for multi-tracked/layered instrumentation for a fuller and more polished sound.

 This maturation is clearly evident from the outset with the keys on opener "To Just Grow Away."  The next three songs feature Matsson at his best - "Revelation Blues" with its subtle layers, "Leading Me Now" with its early Tallest Man feel, and "1904" with its acoustic strumming and electric accents. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reading Assignment: Guided By Voices

Written by James Greer, Guided By Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock and Roll tells the story of how Robert Pollard and the various lineups of GBV came to be and subsequently split up.  An elementary Ohio schoolteacher plays music in a basement with local friends while drinking lots of beer.  It's a modern day fairy tale of sorts.

This book takes you from the inception of GBV all the way to their final concert in Chicago on December 31, 2004.  Of course, since the publication of this book in 2005, GBV has recently reunited and already released two albums this year (with a third one on the way).

If you're a fan of Pollard and GBV, you'll enjoy this.  If you're not a fan, then you will be.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Class of 2012: Nate Hall - A Great River

A Great River is the debut solo album from Nate Hall of US Christmas.  According to his label Neurot Recordings, it was recorded in a single evening in March, which is unheard of in this day and age.  It is not a metal album - it's very mellow and is basically acoustic guitar and vocals.  Of its ten songs, two are instrumentals and one is a cover of a Townes Van Zandt tune.

As "The Earth In One Cell" opens the album, the vocals bring to mind Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd, but after a few tracks, that feeling wears off.  Next comes "Dark Star," one of the stronger tracks on the record.  It has a bit of a New- Adventures-In-Hi-Fi feel to it, especially in the way that the electric guitar works around the acoustic.  This is followed by a cover of "Kathleen," which is another highlight.  The haunting instrumental "Night Theme" would work well in a movie like True Grit or Tombstone.  "Chains" seems to be the most straightforward example of singer-songwriter on the album.  (Album closer "A Great River" would come in at a close second.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Class of 2012: Gentleman Jesse - Leaving Atlanta

Anyone already familiar with Gentleman Jesse's previous work knows what to expect from the man (and his men), and Leaving Atlanta does not stray very far from the formula.  However, a few welcome sounds find their way into this release, including a harmonica (very briefly) and an organ (used throughout).

The aforementioned harmonica leads the way on opener "Eat Me Alive," the first of a bunch of very good, catchy songs.  "Take It Easy On Me" begins a little unexpectedly - with an acoustic guitar and an organ.  The organ adds another layer and works especially well on this and on the second half's "Covered Up My Tracks." 

The triplet of "What Did I Do," "You Give Me Shivers," and "Careful What You Wish For" find Gentleman Jesse at their best.  Good luck trying not to sing along or tap your feet.  Moreover, the middle track, with its familiar melody, could be from a bygone era (as could the previously mentioned "Covered Up My Tracks").

Monday, August 20, 2012

Class of 2012: Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine

After experimenting a bit with the Black Meddle series, Nachtmystium has returned to a more black metal sound.  And by simply glancing at the song titles ("The Lepers of Destitution," "Decimation, Annihilation," "Give Me the Grave," etc.), it's easy to see where Blake Judd and company are going with this one.  In an interview with emusic's Jon Wiederhorn, Judd explained, "A lot of it is about overcoming my addiction to drugs, which I finally did before we did the album."

 Album opener "Dawn Over the Ruins of Jerusalem," with its industrial-tinged vocals, sets the tone for what's to come.  Next is the title track, and by the time its chorus comes around, don't be surprised if you're singing along.  The tempo slow a bit on the next two songs, "And I Control You" and "The Lepers of Destitution."  The former features great, pulsing drumming (the drums are great throughout), and the latter has a bit of a Brian Jonestown Massacre "(David Bowie I Love You) Since I Was Six" vibe to it (especially at the beginning).  Furthermore, there's a brief point in "Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams" that brings to mind Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Extra Credit: Cloudkicker

Cloudkicker's been on my radar ever since 2010's Beacons, but I'll admit that I didn't give that release much attention.  And then last year's Let Yourself Be Huge came out and I paid little mind once again.  My mistake.  But after repeated listens of the recently released Fade, I know it's time to revisit Ben Sharp's previous works.  Instrumental rock can be hard to pull off, but, like Explosions in the Sky and Russian Circles, Cloudkicker is on the right track.  You can check out Sharp's discography at his bandcamp page, where all of the digital releases are available at a "name your price" option.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pop Quiz: Spencer Krug

I've been giving some repeated listens to the latest Moonface record With Siinai:Heartbreaking Bravery, and it's grown on me quite a bit since it came out earlier this year.  So today's pop quiz will concern Spencer Krug. 

Which of the following Spencer Krug projects is the best and why?
A.  Wolf Parade
B.  Sunset Rubdown
C.  Swan Lake
D.  Moonface

Answer Key:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Movie Day: I'm Not There

I'm Not There, directed by Todd Haynes, is a 2007 film that employs six different actors, including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, and Richard Gere, to reenact various songs of Bob Dylan intertwined with actual events from Mr. Zimmerman's life.

Be forewarned that this is not your typical biopic that tells the story of Bob Dylan.  Depending on your familiarity with Dylan's life, especially during the 1960s, this movie may or may not make much sense.  In any case, it puts an interesting spin on Dylan's work and rise to fame.  While the events and stories take place, you'll hear a variety of songs from Dylan's ridiculously amazing catalog.

Helpful prerequisites would be the documentaries Don't Look Back (1967) and No Direction Home (2005).

I'm Not There is rated R for language, some sexuality, and nudity.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Class of 2012: Baroness - Yellow & Green

I hesitate to say that Baroness is no longer a metal band, but it's safe to say that Yellow & Green is not a metal release.  While it has some moments that rock, this double album reveals an increased focus on melody, songwriting, and singing.

Overall, Yellow is the definite stronger of the two - it's more straightforward and flows better from start to finish.  After the instrumental "Yellow Theme" intro,  Baroness hit the ground running with "Take My Bones Away" and "March to the Sea" - both have big choruses and sound like what I expected a new Baroness record to sound like.  With "Little Things," however, a new Baroness sound kicks in, continuing throughout much of both albums.  The mostly acoustic "Twinkler" reveals something that I never expected a Baroness record to contain - a little Fleet Foxes quality (and yet it works).  But one song on Yellow doesn't work, and that's "Back Where I Belong."  Although certain elements do work, the song as a whole is Yellow's only misstep.  Baroness get back on track with the final two tracks, especially the closer "Eula," which builds to a very strong finish. 

Green's intro, "Green Theme," picks up right where "Eula" left off.  It's an instrumental with an effective quiet-loud quiet-loud dynamic.  "Board Up the House" and "Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)" follow by keeping the ball rolling.  The former has a big, catchy chorus, and the latter begins with an almost John-Frusciante-Chili-Peppers guitar sound.  But the next two songs, "Foolsong" and "Collapse," never take off or go anywhere.  They're not terrible, but they seem unfinished.  "Psalms Alive" comes alive at about its halfway point and is one of Green's stronger tracks.  The final third of the album finds "The Line Between" and its big, soaring chorus sandwiched between two mellow instrumentals, "Stretchmarker" and "If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry."