Monday, August 9, 2010

Review: Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

It's very rare these days for a band to be able to achieve the kind of success and acclaim that Arcade Fire has, and not fall on their faces. Arcade Fire however, seems to be the exception to the rule as they've released their third great album in a row.

Most bands would have chosen to start their album with a straight-ahead rocker like the second track here, "Ready To Start," instead Arcade Fire chose to start off with the poignant title track. Here lead songwriter/singer Win Butler recounts his childhood in suburban Houston, TX, recalling how he learned to drive and how things just aren't what they once were. 'The Suburbs' carries on that theme throughout the entire record and never loses track of the plot, something that's difficult to do for an entire hour, as they do here.

So yes, the album is long at a little over an hour in length, but it rarely feels that way. This is one of those rare albums where you just can't bring yourself to skip a track. Every song is important to the overall "story" and they all flow into each other. Like a good mixtape 'The Suburbs' never lets you down, with varying song-styles and lyrics that are always on point.
Arcade Fire has been compared in the mainstream press as being a combination of Springsteen-esque lyrics and U2 style music. Although this is true of some of the songs to be found here, it's not always the way things sound. On a song like "Modern Man" you get the sense that Butler was inspired not by the Boss and Bono but by Neil Young, a style that's also used on songs like "Wasted Hours" and "Deep Blue." "Modern Man" is such a high point that the band has started using it as an encore at recent shows. In the song, Butler clearly feels a yearning for times gone by but realizes that it's not to be and "maybe when you're older will understand."

The type of lyrics Butler comes up with on this album really tell you a lot about the man, he's not rallying against suburbia, he's just saying it doesn't have to be the way it is. "Half Light II" with its haunting backing vocals by RĂ©gine Chassagne and propulsive backbeat might just be one of the bands greatest songs. A tale of going back home to where you grew up, only to find it totally changed is heartbreaking and with the coda of "One day they will see it's long gone," it's very easy to relate to.

The lyrics aren't the only reason this album is a success, there's the music that surrounds them as well. If the instrumentation seems a tad pedestrian at first, give it a few listens and you'll be able to discover new parts everytime you listen. Owen Pallett's ear for an amazing string arrangement really shines on this album, from the hyperactivity of "Empty Room" to the rocker "Month of May," this man obviously knows what he's doing. If you haven't heard his work as Final Fantasy or his most recent album 'Heartland' you owe it to yourself to do so if you find yourself as enamored with his string arrangements as I am.
As great as the rest of the album is, it's blown out of the water by the breathtaking "Sprawl II" with Chassagne taking center stage. Her voice is in top form here with lyrics to match. The first time I heard this song I got goosebumps when I heard the chorus and still do. "Living in the sprawl, the dead shopping malls, rise like mountains beyond mountains," is the perfect picture of the suburbs and its sometimes never ending boredom.

Needless to say I was not let down by this album. It might not have the immediacy of "Funeral" but it also doesn't have to over-orchestrated sound of "Neon Bible." It will make a great addition to anyone's music collection and I couldn't recommend it more to anyone who ever grew up in the suburbs, if you did, you'll find more than a few songs that you can readily relate to. Expect this to be at the top of my, and other critics, year end lists this winter.

Best Tracks:
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Modern Man
Half Light II (No Celebration)
Month Of May
Deep Blue

Oh and if you get the chance, PLEASE go and see this band in concert. I got the opportunity to see them last week and their energy and musical ability will blow you away.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: River City Extension - The Unmistakable Man

Every once in a while you'll see a band at a local show and you'll ask yourself repeatedly, "Why aren't they well-known?" This reviewer had that occur this past December at the Holiday Show at Cool Beans. The performance they put on that night dropped my jaw, how could a band this talented not get huge?

Well I'm pleased to inform you that River City Extension's first full-length LP, "The Unmistakable Man" is one of the best things to come out of New Jersey in quite some time. They are a band that is so full of energy and passion that you can't help but invest yourself in the songs on a personal level. Lead Singer/Guitarist Joe Michelini's lyrics remind me of the everyman tales from Springsteen's "Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ," one of the best debuts of all time.

The album starts off rather awkwardly however, with a truly unnecessary intro. In my opinion they would have been better off just starting right off the bat with the solemn vocals/guitar of 'Friends and Family.' One minute into the song and you have a good idea of what you'll be hearing the rest of the way; inspired playing, excellent singing and fantastic lyrical content.
The highlight of this album has got to be 'Our New Intelligence' which mixes excellent singing by both Michelini and Samantha Tacon, who go back and forth with such fervor that you know the song is going to explode at any moment. A very interesting "Pirate" bridge leads to the song transforming into one of the best songs Arcade Fire never wrote.

From that point on the album takes many twists and turns, some for the better, some for the worse. I'm not the biggest fan of religious lyrics and a few of the songs do in fact deal with that subject matter. Not to say that they're bad songs, I'm just not a huge fan of that kind of material.

Another top track is 'Mexico' which features an extremely mariachi-esque horn part that you won't be able to get out of your head. I've loved this song since I first heard it in concert back in December. It's so insanely catchy with top-notch playing from the band. It's songs like this that make "The Unmistakable Man" a truly memorable record.
This is an excellent debut full-length, by an excellent band, but if you truly want to experience the energy of these songs in the proper fashion, I implore you to see their live show. In a live setting, this 8-piece is truly a sight to behold, their shows are less concerts than they are parties, and you're guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face and a song in your head.

I'd highly recommend this LP to anyone who enjoys the heartfelt DIY-ness of bands like Modest Mouse, Spoon and Arcade Fire. If you like even just one of those bands, I promise you'll like what you hear on "The Unmistakable Man." This is truly American WildMan Rock, with a little bit of folk and punk thrown in for good measure.

River City Extension recently signed to XOXO Records and "The Unmistakable Man" is available on, iTunes and at their shows. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up, you won't regret it and you just might find something great to add to your library.

Best Tracks:
Friends And Family
Our New Intelligence
Too Tired To Drink
Waiting in the Airport

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Devo - Something For Everybody

"Something For Everybody" marks the first full album of new Devo material since "Smooth Noodle Maps" a full 20 years ago. It's very rare that a band takes a layoff of that length and is able to return with an LP of material that's this strong.

The band sounds absolutely energized on this album with songs that sound as if they could have easily been released on "Freedom Of Choice" or "New Traditionalists," and yet sound totally modern at the same time. Personally, this has been one of my most anticipated releases ever since I first heard 'Watch Us Work It' years ago, and it's quite reassuring that "Something For Everybody" lives up to the hype.

This album truly does have something for everybody; fast rockers, inspirational ballads, and lyrics that appear to be wake-up calls to the de-evolutionized masses. The album starts off strong with the current single 'Fresh.' This song gives you but a taste of what you're in for with the rest of the album; great lead guitar, solid drumming from Josh Freese, and the typically cryptic/insightful lyrics of Mark Mothersbaugh.

What follows on the album's remaining 11 tracks (15, if you get the deluxe edition) is a Devo for the 21st century at the peak of their abilities.
In the second track 'What We Do', Mothersbaugh seems to go off against the entirety of the human race, stating that no one is truly unique, and that what we all do is basically the same. The bridge of "Eatin' and breedin' and pumping gas, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, do it again," perfectly summarizes a lot of our daily lives, and as usual, Mothersbaugh is pretty much on point with the lyrical content.

Album highlight 'Later Is Now,' is an ode to procrastination with some excellent musical and vocal performances. The hook of "I'll deal with it later...Later is Now!" is another dig at society's "put if off" attitude. 'No Place Like Home' is one of the best ballads Devo has ever produced. It's an absolutely beautiful song that describes the insignificance of all our lives and how sometimes there's "No place like home, to return to."

'Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)' addresses the fear of dying that we all fear everyday, sometimes on our way to work. Mothersbaugh's transformation of the YouTube clip/Internet Meme "Don't Tase Me, Bro" into a hook is absolute genius. His lyrics are one of the high points of this album, he's able to make both the mundane and the political extremely catchy and not sound preachy.
That's not to say that the lyrics are the sole reason you'll want to hear this album if your a Spud (Devo Fan) or a newcomer to their music. The main draw is the return of the classic Devo sound that infected music fans back in 1980 with the release of the classic "Freedom of Choice." The band is super-tight on this record, without a dull note anywhere. It's all solid with some of the weird "Devo-Synth" that fans have come to expect and love.

Sadly, the album does stumble with the too bizarre for it's own good, 'Cameo.' I don't know what they were thinking putting this on the album. It's the only letdown on this album, and would've made more sense as a B-Side or bonus track.

In a world where a new buzz band seems to sprout up every other day on the web, it's comforting to know that Devo, a classic band of the late 70's and 80's have been able to make an album that sounds as vital and important as this one.

If only every comeback album could be as good as "Something For Everybody" the musical landscape would be a much more interesting place.

Best Tracks:
No Place Like Home
What We Do
Please Baby Please
Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)
Human Rocket
Watch Us Work It (iTunes exclusive)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Review: The Young Veins - Take A Vacation!

Every once in a while a band come along that mines The Beatles for inspiration and many of them fall flat. That's not the case with The Young Veins, a band that wears it's influences on it's sleeves, which in this case is a great thing.

Last June, Ryan Ross (Guitar/Vocals) and Jon Walker (Bass/Vocals) quit Panic at the Disco citing "creative differences." When Panic released the song 'New Perspective,' the differences were quite clear, the other members of Panic were happy to retread into their infant stage and keep releasing the same kind of garbage from their debut album. Ross and Walker on the other hand had much better ideas. They went on to form The Young Veins and in the process have created an album that recalls "Help!" with a little bit of early Kinks for good measure.

"Take A Vacation!" starts off strong and stays that way, both musically and lyrically throughout the album. While listening to the opening track, 'Change,' one could be convinced that George Harrison was playing lead guitar. The song's Phil Spector-ish production lures you in and will certainly keep you there.
The title track is a classic story of just wanting to run away with that special someone, something that almost anyone could understand. From there we get to the album's true highlight, 'Cape Town,' which features some truly inspired playing from both Ross and Walker, and one of the best, most heartfelt choruses to come along in a long time.

Another highlight is 'Everyone But You,' which recalls The Beatles 'Yesterday' in it's simplicity. This is another case where the song is carried by a very strong lyric and only enhanced by the playing of the musicians. A tale of heartbreak and remorse, it's one of the most beautiful songs on the record. The lyrics are truly haunting at times with the chorus of "She comes to me, when I dream, I'm tired of counting sheep to see her, I sleep because I need her," it's a relatable song in an album filled with them.
It's great to hear a young band these days that is able to pay tribute to a classic act without having the music sound forced. One can only hope that this band is here to stay and that "Take A Vacation!," is their "Please, Please Me," just the first in a stellar career of music.

So if you're a fan of pre-Rubber Soul Beatles and Beach Boys-esque harmonies then this is going to be the soundtrack to your summer. It's just simple, but great music from a group of young musicians that still has a lot more to offer.

Best Tracks:
Cape Town
Maybe I Will, Maybe I Won't
Everyone But You

Review: Sleigh Bells - Treats

What happens when hype goes terribly wrong? "Treats" is what happens. I like to think that I have a pretty good ear for whats "hip" and "cool," but if this is what can pass for "Best New Music," then I'd rather be deaf. Which is what I'll probably be if I listen to this album anymore.

Now, I get what this duo is trying to do with making dumb songs that you can party to, however, if these were playing at a party I would suggest the host change the music immediately. I just don't get it, are they being LOUD for the sake of being loud? Or is there some deeper meaning to the production? I'm going to guess it's the former.

I'm all for a dumb good time, but the music on this album just seems like Ke$ha on steroids most of the time, and that's certainly not a compliment. Alexis Krauss has the ability to be a fine front woman but her voice on these songs is barely hear-able. The music has the tendency to drown out the vocals to the point of unintelligibly, which is never a good thing.
With more restraint in the loudness department, Sleigh Bells could be a very good band, but like I said, it seems they're being loud for the sake of it. There's no way this shtick is going to be able to sustain an entire career, would you really want to hear an entire career's worth of incessant noise and distorted vocals?

The one track where they turn down the volume, to an extent, is 'Rill Rill.' It's the only track I noticed that isn't entirely overwhelming and actually lets the vocals shine. It's actually a very pretty song with some stellar acoustic playing on the part of Derek Miller with the killer hook of "Have a Heart, Have a Heart," that has some serious summer-mix potential.

To make a long story short, take my advice and don't buy into the hype. Unless of course you like the volume turned up to a crisp 11 at all (most) times.

Best Track:
Rill Rill

Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

Oh James Murphy...where have you been all my life? I just discovered his music this past winter, and to tell the you truth it didn't click with me until about 2 months ago. At first I didn't understand all the praise and hub-bub, but nowadays I can't stop listening to his music. He's just that good. He takes sounds (and sometimes entire songs) you've heard before and molds them into his own personal mix of music that both makes you think and makes you dance.

"This Is Happening" is LCD Soundsystem's third full-length release, coming a little over three years after the fantastic "Sound of Silver." He's finally perfected the hybrid of dance and rock that he's become so famous for. This is not your typical dance/rock LP though, this album contains some of the deepest lyrics I've ever heard in this realm of music.

Every classic album has a truly great opener, from The White Album's 'Back in the USSR' to Pinkerton's 'Tired of Sex,' they perfectly set the mood for the rest of the album, and let you know what's in store. James Murphy has done not only that, but he's also created one of the best songs this reviewer has ever heard in the form of 'Dance Yrself Clean,' a perfect mix of lyrics, sound and dynamic. It starts with an extremely sparse bassline and a few keys, and totally erupts at around the 3 minute mark, if this song doesn't blow you away, nothing ever will.

The album continues with a song that Murphy himself has dubbed as being "dumb," but that doesn't make it a bad song by any means. 'Drunk Girls' is in the same vein as 'Watch The Tapes' and 'Daft Punk is Playing at My House,' they're not the most serious songs he's done, but they are fun and a bit of a breather from the rest of his headier songs.

Murphy may be going through a mid-life crisis of sorts (he just turned 40), but this has made his lyrics mature in a way previously unimaginable. On 'Losing My Edge,' his first single back in 2002, he lamented that he wasn't as hip as the new wave of "cool kids" that were invading his territory. Now he's sing about longing for another person's touch and believing in waking up together. He seems to be far removed from his earlier mind-set but he's also just as aware as he's ever been.

"Now all I want is your pity, all I want are your bitter tears," he sings on 'All I Want,' his take on David Bowie's 'Heroes.' This is the sound of a man taking a song that he's probably heard a thousand times and truly making it his own. It's a highlight of the album, with a constantly circling guitar line and synth that gets completely out of control by the end.

'I Can Change' has an early Gary Numan-esque keyboard part that immediately gets stuck in your head from the opening bars. Later on in the album he claims that he doesn't make hits, but that's exactly what he does here. "I can change...if it helps you fall in love," is one of the best choruses he's ever written and his voice gets right to your heart with it's pure honesty.

The album continues with 'Pow Pow' with it's typical Murphy rants that he's used in earlier songs, but somehow he's able to make it sound new and refreshing again. It segues quite nicely into the mostly piano-driven 'Somebody's Calling Me,' with it's story of missed connections and eventual hook-ups.

The album closer 'Home,' is a very heartfelt song about longing to be there and eventually realizing that no matter what you do, it won't get any better. To Murphy, "Home" is the perfect place where everything is in it's right place and you can just shut out the world and think. It's an easy song to relate to and another classic in the making.

As I've alluded to earlier, Murphy puts forth some of his best vocals/lyrics of his career on "This Is Happening," making this a true thinking man's album. The music has never sounded better either, with instrumentals that constantly surprise and excite the listener.

He's said that this is LCD's final album, and in many ways it's his "Abbey Road," the perfect end to a career. One hopes however that they can continue on in the future. When you hit a creative zenith like LCD has on this album, you only want to hear more.

In the end, I believe it to be far superior to both their self-titled debut and "Sound Of Silver," and I wouldn't be surprised if it tops a lot of lists come this December.

Best Tracks:
Dance Yrself Clean
All I Want
I Can Change
Pow Pow
Somebody's Calling Me

Sunday, May 16, 2010

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio


One of the best singers of his generation has passed away today at the age of 67. Diagnosed with stomach cancer back in November, the Metal God finally succumbed early this morning.

In the world of old-school Metal there were few voices as unique as Dio, this man was always able to blow me away with his voice. I've been a huge fan since hearing 'Holy Diver' as a young man, there was just something about his voice and music that defined what "Badass" really is.

"Heaven And Hell" the first Black Sabbath album to feature the singer has been my favorite album of theirs since I first heard it back in high school. The lyrical imagery he conjured on this album is second to none in the realm of old-school metal.

In addition to his work with the mighty Sabbath, he is also well known for his early work with the band Rainbow, who's album "Rising" is another solid classic. Obviously his solo work was one of his major claims to fame. From the classic "Holy Diver" to the harshly underrated "Killing The Dragon" you could always find something that you'd want to hear.

Very disappointing (other than the obvious) is the fact that Heaven & Hell, the band comprising of the "Mob Rules" era Sabbath had just released their new album "The Devil You Know" a year ago. It was one of the heaviest albums of the year and I was really looking forward to where they would go from there.

So goodnight sweet prince, and flights of gargoyles sing thee to thy rest.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: The National - High Violet

It all comes rushing back. That's how it feels to listen to 'High Violet', The National's 5th studio album. It's one of those albums that has the power to remind you how great music can really be.

This album also proves that this band isn't afraid to take some welcome chances. Starting off an album as anticipated as this one with a 'demo' takes a lot of balls. It also takes a lot of confidence in your material as well. "Terrible Love" starts the album off in a raw manner, leading you to think that perhaps the entire album is going to have the same 'Basement Tapes' sound to it. The rest of the album isn't nearly as dirty, in fact it's quite lush with just the right amount of polish.

Taking it's lead from 'Boxer,' The National's previous album, this is a beautiful sounding record filled with little bits and pieces you won't even notice until the 10th listen. 'High Violet' seems like the end of a trilogy at times, taking what worked for 'Alligator' and 'Boxer' and taking it to it's practical conclusion. Where those previous albums may have stumbled occasionally, their latest is always on point, which is a real treat for listener.

Bryan Devendorf's drumming and Matt Berninger's lyrics/vocals are still at the forefront of most of the songs, and if it ain't broke, please don't fix it. Devendorf plays with perfect precision and restraint on songs like "Little Faith" and "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and Berninger's lyrics are better than they've ever been.

On "Anyone's Ghost," Berninger paints a deeper and more lyrical painting than most listeners are accustomed to, with lines like; "Go out at night, with your headphones on again, and walk through the Manhattan valleys of the dead." With such great imagery, a National trademark at this point, this song is a definite highlight on an album filled that's filled with them.

Another of which is lead single "Bloodbuzz Ohio," which defies the common logic that the first single is usually the worst song on an album. While it's not the best song on the album, that honor goes to "Conversation 16," (more on that gem in a minute). Featuring the surreal lyric of being "carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees." This is not only one of Berninger's best songs lyrically, but vocally as well.
Back in 2001 on their debut there was a track titled "The Perfect Song," well now nine years later they finally have the perfect National song in the form of "Conversation 16." A thing of pure beauty and a little bit of malice, this song captures everything that's great about this band. Berninger sings with such conviction that it seems as if he truly believes what he's saying and when he repeats "I was afraid I'd eat your brains, Cause I'm evil," you believe it too.

For those of us in need of real music from a real band, The National's 'High Violet' will certainly deliver. If you're a fan of bands that clearly know what they're doing and are really good at it too, than I urge you to get this album as soon as possible.

'High Violet' is everything an album should be; great without being pretentious, very interesting/far fetched lyrically, and amazing instrumental prowess all rolled into one great package. At one point on the album Berninger claims he's "a confident liar," and that just may be the key to The National's continued success.

Best Tracks:
Conversation 16
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Anyone's Ghost
Terrible Love
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: MGMT - Congratulations

Gosh golly gee. Forgive my childishness but I love it when a band makes a sharp turn and releases something this surprising and different from their previous output.

So far 2010 has been a pretty great year for music with new albums from Black Francis, Brick+Mortar and Vampire Weekend. Well now you can add MGMT's 'Congratulations' to the list. This is without a doubt one of the better albums I've heard in sometime and to top it off it puts their last album, 'Oracular Spectacular', to shame.

To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of that album, it seemed to be built around a few "single-ready" songs and a lot of lesser songs. 'Congratulations' on the other hand treats you to a sonic journey like few other albums in recent memory. From the fun ode to hallucinogens that is "It's Working" to the beautiful closing title track, this is nothing less than a great album.

Most critics have said that this album has no "obvious singles", I'm looking at you, Pitchfork, but they couldn't be more wrong. Sure there's nothing on here as catchy as 'Kids', but this album doesn't need a retread of that song. It has amazing songs like 'Song For Dan Treacy' with it's refrain of "He made his mind up," which I've had stuck in my head for weeks, and the aforementioned title track, with it's lush keys and acoustic guitar to sooth your soul.

Does the album stumble? Yes, but only for one track. That track however is the 12 minute plus 'Siberian Breaks.' I'm all for the long song in a band's catalog but this song seems to meander a bit after the 9 min mark.

If you absolutely loved 'Oracular Spectacular' and can't get enough of 'Time To Pretend' and 'Kids', guess what? You're going to be sorely disappointed and probably a little lost here. The only song that comes anywhere close to that level of "fun" is 'Flash Delerium', which much like 'Kids' has a pretty trippy video, after that the similarity essentially ends.

Overall, this is a stellar album by one of the more interesting bands to come along in the 2000's. They've moved away from the Electronic/Pop of their first album and dove head on into some intense Psychedelia with 'Congratulations.' Truthfully, they're all the better for it.

'Congratulations' is available for free streaming on MGMT's website here.

Best Tracks:
It's Working
Song For Dan Treacy
Someone's Missing
Brian Eno

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review: Black Francis - NONSTOPEROTIK

A full album of songs about sex sung by Black Francis of Pixies fame might not seem too appetizing when you first hear about it...but trust me, this is one of his strongest outings since 1994's 'Teenager of the Year.' Although it's not as epic and sprawling as that mid-90's masterpiece, it is however a great album and a great reminder that the man still knows how to write some amazing songs.

The opening riff to 'Lake of Sin' lets you know what you're in for, for the remainder of the album. The refrain of "Lake of Sin" shows Mr. Francis in fine voice, and perhaps he's even gotten better with age.

The single 'Six-Legged Man' is a rocker in the purest sense of the word, being dedicated to the "undisputed Queen and Kings of the back beat...Teri and The Possibilities." This song also features some of my favorite Francis lyrics in the form of "Someone take the high note, Someone take the low note, Someone take the middle, Ain't no second fiddle." It's songs like this that make me wonder why this man hasn't made it huge as a solo artist, it's just too good to not be known.
Other critics have said the album stumbles with his cover of 'Wheels' by the Flying Burrito Brothers, I disagree. For this reviewer at least, it's a highlight of the album. From the fuzzy guitar to the backbeat this is just a great song, and Black Francis does it justice.

The dirtiest chorus on the album certainly belongs to 'When I Go Down On You," even though the song is less graphic than it is a beautiful plea for love. Another interesting note is that the title track itself isn't all that erotic but in fact pretty romantic.

With the closer 'Cinema Star' the best was saved for last. In this song he compares himself to a movie star "just not the kind you think." This is one of Francis' most personal songs, it calls back the classic 'Letter To Memphis' from the Pixies "Trompe Le Monde" in it's lyrical content.

So is it as good as Bluefinger? No it is not...but is it great nonetheless? Of course.

Best Tracks:
Cinema Star
Six Legged Man
Lake Of sin

Review: Brick+Mortar - 7 Years in the Mystic Room

Let me just start off by saying this is one of the best albums I've heard all year. That's a pretty bold statement, but in this case it's undeniably true.

Brandon Asraf (Vocals/Bass/Samples) and John Tacon (Drums/Drums/Samples) combine to make music that has a little something for everyone. From insane beats to haunting vocals to introspective lyrics this debut has broad appeal. There's just no way that these guys aren't going to get huge in the next year or so.

The EP starts off with '20LB' and never lets up all the way to closer '185 Drop'. '20LB' has some amazing lyrics and bass playing mixed with some complex drumming that all adds up to a great song. If you haven't seen the music video yet, directed by Dan Feeny, see my previous'll blow your mind.

Second track 'Told You' is an autobiographical tale of Asraf's life. These are some of the best lyrics on the album, recalling an upbeat Dylan at times. I love a good "story song" so this is a definite highlight for me.

Next is the medley of 'Backwards Clock/New Possibles', it starts off in a truly somber mood and evolves into a total rocker by the end. A story of addiction, regrets and eventual realization, these are the two best tracks on the album without a doubt. Backing vocals by both John and Samantha Tacon (River City Extension) really add to this shocking medley. a friend of mine once said, "Clapping makes every song awesome."

The album comes to a close with '185 Drop', another song that proves what a great band this is. It seems like they've decided to end the album with a song that shows what each member can do when they're at the top of their game. Everything about this song; lyrics, basslines, drumbeats and samples is right on target. "Learn to let go so your heart don't gotta," has to be one of the best lines I've heard in quite some time.

Admittedly I was a huge fan of these guys before the album came out, having personally known them for years. Don't take this as a biased review however...I'm pretty picky when it comes to music. I haven't met one person who's heard these guys not become a fan. All in all, this EP will be a highlight of 2010 for anyone who hears it.

The EP is available in both physical and digital format. Download your copy here.

Best Tracks:
The Entire 5 Song EP

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Brick + Mortar Video

brick+mortar-20lb from dan feeny on Vimeo.

This is the new music video from local badasses Brick + Mortar. I have two words for you right now...Holy and Shit. Put them together and you have my reaction to this song/video.

Their new EP entitled '7 Years in the Mystic Room' is available now. Listen to it ASAP.

A full review will be posted in the coming days.

Friday, March 5, 2010

From the Vault...David Bowie - Heathen

From the Vault is a new feature where I review an older album that I'm really enjoying at the moment.
Released in 2002 and Bowie's umpteenth comeback, this amazing album was advertised as "Classic David Bowie Circa 2002." And the hype couldn't have been more on the money.

Heathen reunited Bowie with Tony Visconti, the producer of Bowie's Perfect Berlin Trilogy as well as his Scary Monsters album. This is certainly one of the creepier albums in Bowie's long career with topics like desolation, yearning and the apocalypse running throughout.

The opening track 'Sunday' starts the album off on a somber mood, with visions of a decimated world with him pondering his future. The line "Nothing has changed, everything has changed" has haunted me for years and remains one of my favorite lyrics.

Interestingly enough, Heathen was my first real introduction to this man's work as a whole. I couldn't have asked for a better gateway into his genius. His ear for sounds both appealing and jarring at the same time has always fascinated me.

The album also includes an incredible cover in the form of the Pixies' 'Cactus'. It will change the way you hear the original and to be honest I prefer Bowie's version.

Another highlight is 'Slip Away,' a tribute to television personality Uncle Floyd, where Bowie shows that he might have finally become the American he was once so afraid of.

All in all this is an amazing album of "Classic" sounding David Bowie that I can't recommend enough to anyone who's a fan, or just hearing him for the first time.

Best Tracks:
Slip Away
Slow Burn
5.15 The Angels Have Gone
A Better Future
Heathen (the Rays)

Review: Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back

So Peter Gabriel is back after an 8 year absence of new material...and still doesn't have new material. Oh, and that's not a bad thing in this case, at all. He doesn't even have a band this time around, just piano and orchestra to reinterpret some pretty great songs.

Those hoping for Gabriel to run the indie gamut and cover some of the newest artists today will be disappointed, but he did choose some pretty stately songs on this, his first album since 2002's Up. Earlier last year he released a cover of Vampire Weekend's Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa and even though that song is not included on the album, it's still a top-notch effort on his part.

The album starts with a haunting rendition of David Bowie's 'Heroes' which has certainly changed the way I listen to the original classic. Gabriel goes on to cover Elbow's 'Mirrorball' which is pretty impressive when placed next to the original song. 'Mirrorball' flows nicely into a startling version of Bon Iver's 'Flume' which features some of PG's best vocals of his career.

A definite highlight of the album is his version of Talking Heads' 'Listening Wind' which although it doesn't improve on the fascinating original, it definitely adds a new layer to this tale of terrorism.

The album ends with an exceptional version of Radiohead's 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)' from The Bends. It's a bit of a downer to end the album on but for some reason it works.

This album certainly isn't for might not even be for all of Peter Gabriel's fans, but it is a great album and a great example of what can happen when an artist challenges himself and takes his time making an album.

Now if he could only get around to recording I/O (his supposed album of new material)...


Best Tracks:
Listening Wind

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I sincerely apologize for my lack of posts recently...I've been pretty busy/lazy lately. Don't worry though, the reviews shall soon be flowing in like the wine at a hipster party.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review: Julian Casablancas at the Trocedero in Philly

What a way to start my concert experience for 2010. As readers will know, Phrazes For The Young was my top album from 2009. The songs are pretty stellar and in a live setting they just get better and better.

The opening band was Tanlines, a band I had never heard before, and they were actually quite good. They're a weird mix of electronic beats and guitar, although the guitar was barely audible for some reason. They have a new single that came Tuesday called "Real Life" which they performed and is pretty darn good.

The Trocedero is a small venue, one perfectly suited to the likes of Casablancas' brand of music, which can only be described as "Classical Rock." His backing band The Sick Six are simply top-flight musicians, and they would have to be in order to reproduce this music for an audience. Hearing the Bach-Esque guitar parts from 'Glass' in concert is a brain-melting experience.

Casablancas mixed in a cover with his originals in the form of 'Velvet Snow' by Kings of Leon off of their 'Aha Shake Heartbreak' album. It was a great performance of an already great song from one of my favorite albums.

He then debuted what may be a new Strokes song which sounds really good as well. I wasn't able to catch the name, but it was almost punk-like in it's speed but with a tunefulness not usually present in the genre. With news today that The Strokes are currently getting along great and recording their upcoming 4th album, this song should be able to fit right in.

He went on to play the original demo version of The Strokes' 'You Only Live Once' entitled 'I'll Try Anything Once' accompanied by only keyboard, and it was one the highlight of the evening for me personally. Casablancas simply has one of the best and most pure voices in rock music today, and this performance proved it.

He closed out the show with a soaring rendition of the amazingly titled '4 Chords of the Apocalypse' and I was effectively blown away. To be able to hear a live rendition of my favorite song from his album (and have it be the closer) was a fan's wish come true. He didn't perform an encore, but he didn't need to at all, he had done his job of putting on a fantastic show and the audience was incredibly pleased.

All in all, Julian Casablancas came across as a very humble and genuine person, the rare singer that isn't full of himself and is just an all around great guy. In the end, this was simply a kickass rock show at an awesome venue. If you ever have the chance to see this man live, do it. You won't regret it.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Review: Yeasayer - Odd Blood

(To Be Released 2/9/2010)

So here's my first album review...and it's an early one.

So I ended up getting this album on a whim, I'd only heard of them from various websites and maybe a friend or two. I have yet to hear their debut, "All Hour Cymbols," so I don't know how this stacks up to that.

Anyways, this is a top-notch album by a very interesting little band. Strange electronic beats mix with real instruments and sometimes haunting vocals, Yeasayer seem like the kind of band you'd hear at some hipster party in a New York City loft.

That last comment might make it sound like I didn't enjoy it, but I did, with the exceptions of the unnecessary first and final tracks, which have really obnoxious effects on the singer's voice.

The mixture of both music and and vocals on "Madder Red" is as close to perfect as a song is going to get. I've listened to this album at least 6 times now, and that's the track I keep coming back to..."Madder Red" has definite "mix" potential (for me at least).

'Odd Blood' sounds as though 3 guys from the future decided to come back in time and entertain themselves by making music from the 1980's. (If you can make sense of that statement, Yeasayer is for you...if not, there's other fish in the sea.)

As a fan of 80's keyboards and such I'll definitely keep coming back to this album in the future.


Best Tracks:
Madder Red
Ambling Alp
I Remember