Archive for January, 2008
Wilco are a band from Chicago who shifted from alternative country to alternative folk rock over the course of their career (and, of course, being reputable for the latter). However, you can still hear a hint of their country influences in their music today. Sky Blue Sky is their latest album, released May 2007.
This album got a lot of different reviews; half bad, half good. It’s definitely very different from the likes of A Ghost is Born (2004), Wilco’s last album. Sky Blue Sky (2007) is more instrumentally simplistic (compared to A Ghost Was Born where there was a huge use of pedal effects), which were Tweedy’s intentions, anyway. It’s very mellow and has more of an adult contemporary feel compared to Wilco’s previous albums. Not that it’s a bad thing; certainly there are some notable tracks—“Either Way,” “Sky Blue Sky,” and “On and On and On” to name a couple. This album features more simplistic, melodious guitar parts with fewer backing instruments, and the vocals are sweet, as usual. This album can definitely be liked by the mainstream, as “Impossible Germany” has proven (since I hear it on the radio all the time). I think the only reason why this album wouldn’t be likable is if the listener was a die-hard fan of the previous albums (and maybe the fact that Wilco became sell-outs for Volkswagen…*dun dun dun*). The general style of the two previous albums (which were, in my opinion, Wilco’s defining albums) are different—it’s hard to get used to if you’re a fan pre-Sky Blue Sky. It’s very easy to listen to, however; the guitar playing is sweet and melodious; the lyrics are reminiscent of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)—light-hearted and feel-good.
Personally, I like this album a lot for its simplicity and sweetness. However, I must admit it was hard getting the idea that Wilco’s music could substitute grocery store music. Not too shabby, though! Definitely worthwhile to listen to.
Lightspeed Champion is the stage name of Devonte Haynes formerly of the Test Icicles which were known as an art rock duo. With Lightspeed Champion, Haynes shows his soft side with a folk record.
I found out about Lightspeed Champion when I was going through my Emmy The Great craze (I still love her) and with “Falling Off Lavender Bridge” as my and many other’s introduction to Lightspeed Champion. Haynes has backup vocals from Emmy the Great (huge points for this), and many other collaborations as he recorded this album in good ‘ol Omaha Nebraska (home of Saddle Creek and the Brights Eyes).
Anyway this album, I’m really digging. It doesn’t have overly addicting tracks but it feels rather relaxing to listen to without really any weaknesses. I think the dullest points are in the middle of the album especially after the 10 minute song “Midnight Surprise” to wanes with tracks like “I Could Have Done This Myself” and “Salty Water” but otherwise there’s not much to criticize. Haynes’ vocals are pretty solid, but the best moments are when Emmy and Hayne’s are simultaneously singing complementing each other well. I enjoy the song lyrics and the arrangements are top notch.
There really aren’t many standouts to this album but when looking at it album wise, I have a lot of respect for Lightspeed Champion and this is a great effort. I’d give it a 4.4 out of 5. Great but out of what I would call cream of the crop.
Here are my favorite songs off the album (which have Emmy the Great in them):
The Dillinger Escape Plan is a New Jersey mathcore band. Mathcore is a style of metal with fast tempo and a technical style according to Wikipedia. I have no idea what that means but after being exposed to the mathiness of Battles, I can tell you that “math” rock is too trippy for me.
So I stumbled onto this album while flipping around an issue of Exclaim!. They gave these guys’ latest album, Ire Works, a pretty good review. I also saw this album on a lot of online best of 2007 metal albums, thus I decided to give these guys a listen.
The album opens with the heavy death metal sounds of ‘Fix Your Face’ and ‘Lurch’. There was some crazy shredding in the beginning of ‘Lurch’. Then the mathy part kicked in immediately in ‘Black Bubblegum’. I didn’t like the vocals in this song very much but the song does have a catchy tune. The change in vocals from ‘Lurch’ to ‘Black Bubblegum’ was too much of a jump I think. ‘Sick On Sunday’ and ‘When Acting As A Particle’ are both just as mathy. They’re quite short and ‘When Acting As A Particle’ is instrumental, which flow quite nicely with angry growls of ‘Nong Eye Gong’. One track that stands out as a potential good metal song is ‘Milk Lizard’. It starts out fast, intense and furious but after a minute and half, the song breaks down to some piano and punk ish singing. The song then tries to bring the intensity back but breaks down again at around 2.45 minutes and ends with a punky sound.
Overall Ire Works is a decent album without much filler. I enjoyed what it had to offer.
Last week I had the privilege of attending “The Really Really Ridiculously Good Looking Tour,” and it was absolutely mind blowing. Headed by Cobra Starship, it was supported by two of my current favourites, We The Kings and Metro Station. Unfortunately, the leader singer of The Cab was ill and I didn’t get a chance to see them perform. Nonetheless the three remaining bands did pull through, and as they say “the show must go on”
We The Kings opened the night off playing several songs off their self titled debut album. Their live performance was spot on as compared to their record, and not surprisingly they had a phenomenal sound. I enjoyed their live performance as much as I appreciated their cd, which is a considerable amount, but nevertheless it was not insurmountably better, in fact it was just over par. This could be in part due to the lack of lights and equipment saved up for the headliner; however I did not get the same stage presence that I’m used to receiving from such well-regarded bands. Was it a terrible performance? Not at all. Should they be headlining in the future? Yes and no. Their sound is impeccable, and if a band can play their cd perfectly live, then a case can be made that they belong at the forefront of any concert, but I will say the lack of stage presence tells me a couple of things: maybe they were a little gun shy that night, weren’t particularly fond of Toronto, or just need a bit more experience before heading a concert of their own. We The Kings, put on a good show and I personally would like to seem them headline a concert, whether they are ready or not. Their sound was perfect, and they did nothing wrong, however that little extra flare was missing which would have created a greater wow-factor. As such they remain in my top ten favourite bands this year neither moving up or down in rankings.
Metro Station followed We The Kings, and here I thought that Metro Station would open the night because just maybe they were the lesser known band; how naïve I was. Metro Station boosted their stock ten fold after this concert, and they had a beyond stellar performance from start to finish. This is a little bias considering they play a sort of dance-rock that is practically designed for this particular scenario; hundreds of underage teens in a swanky club looking to have a good time. That said, you have to have a sort of character to perform this genre to its full potential, and Metro Station is definitely full of that. Metro Station played their synths live (at least the keyboardist made it look authentic) and with cheesy dance moves, wild guitar motions, and falling keyboards, the audience was having as much fun, as the band seemed to be having playing the music on stage. Metro Station was also quipped with their set of funny/corny/witty lines, ready to spew at the audience and everyone, including myself, was eating it up. It was a worthwhile performance, bringing people of all ages together for a night of good honest goofy fun, and some great music. They, like We The Kings, sounded identical to their record, granted they use a lot of synths. I will however be excited to see them again, and Metro Station has instantly skyrocketed up in rankings due to this performance alone.
Finally Cobra Starship came out to a deafly roaring crowd. Was I truly excited to see them? Not really, but I’m not a pessimist so I expected good things. No surprises here, I wish I could say that Cobra was as bad as I thought they might be, but in fact they were quite good. The frontman Gabe Saporta, is definitely one of the coolest characters I’ve witnessed, and he not only could sing great, but turned his music from drab to one of the most entertaining acts I’ve seen yet. Combined with the blinding robotic lights, the ever beautiful keyboardist (Victoria Asher), and the witty punch lines in between songs, it was a great time to be had by all. I’m still not completely convinced of the music, I didn’t really like Cobra Starships first album attempt, but their newer stuff is good and of course their performance is gold and very entertaining. Perhaps I’m more partial to the electronica displayed by Metro Station, but in the end Cobra Starship did impress me quite a bit and turned me into a fan. Cobra Starship was a great choice for a headliner, because Gabe is quick on his feet, and can easily transform any room into a raging party.
With that said, the concert was well worth it, with great performances by all, some better than others, but all really great bands. I would say that Metro Station outperformed both We The Kings and Cobra Starship, but Gabe Saporta was definitely the showiest of all the performers on stage. I would easily recommend any of these bands in a heartbeat.
P.S. Pictures and possible video footage will be up in a couple of weeks.
Here’s my favourite songs from each band:
Dragged by Horses was just described to me as “thunderous rock” when I was sent a snippet about them. “Thunderous Rock” leaves a lot left to the imagination and after heading over to their myspace, I must say I was disappointed in the actual effort in saying something about this band’s sound.
Anyway, I digress but this band is pretty awesome. “Thunderous Rock” is a correct term but Dragged by Horses I would personally describe as hard progressive rock, could be metal but they have a real emphasis on the guitar riffs whether it be solos, for their intros. Overall the sound is hard yet clean.
This is one of the type of bands that really steps outside of what I’ve liked musically so I do have a hard time coming up with both names and a real characterization. Their self-characterization of sounding like a “violent orchestra” is perfect and couldn’t be said any better because this music will rock your socks off.
Vocally, I must say his voice doesn’t capture your attention like the clashing drums and awesome guitar riffs but he has a decent voice so there’s really nothing to say bad about this band.
This is definitely the type of band I would like to see live, skilled yet probably can get a crowd going. Watch them play live here:
This band is out of Humboldt County a really small city and it’s clear they need to get out more because they are pretty awesome. This is the type of band I would recommend to Kevin.
As for their album “Deep In The Woods”, I’ve had a chance to listen to it early as the official release in on March 11th and I’ll just tell you it’s amazing. They remain consistent in their hard sound but you always get something different, sometimes purely instrumental moments, different types of intros and overall giving some real satisfaction in straying away from the typical indie pop that I listen to. If I were to give this album a rating it would be somewhere between 4 and 4.5 but alas the score isn’t important and you just have to check them out if you’re into harder stuff.