Saturday, November 30, 2013

Vol. 4 Episode 49

The group Withered Hand has a new album coming out on Slumberland Records next year. I will be reviewing a few older items from them in the beginning of the year as well.

I got a few things for Record Store Day Black Friday. I picked up the single for Wipe Out from The Surfaris, Silversun Pickups 10” for Let It Decay/Working Title and Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Pearl Jam. It was another cold day waiting for a record store to open. We were third and fourth in line to get in the store. I was only looking for three things this year for RSDBF. They were easy and quick to find and we spent about five minutes in the store. In and out very quickly (my wife had to work at noon and the store is a half hour away). It was a good time still with people that we see twice a year.

If you ordered the tour only single from Veronica Falls check your email as there is an offer to download the two tracks because the record will not be ready until January 2014.

On with the show...

This is the fourth album from Arcade Fire. I was released at the end of October 2013. It is a double album and co-produced by James Murphy of LDC Soundsystem fame, Markus Dravs (the usual producer for the band) and Arcade Fire. The graphics on the cover and interiors, including the record sleeves, are light reflective. The music on this album was influenced by the Haitian music called rara. The album has Jamaican musical influences as well. There has been a lot of negative reviews. I see this album as something completely new and foreign to many people, including myself, but it is still rock. Although there are styles that are new there are still things that I know and love in this album. I don’t know what rara sounds like but there is plenty of rock and disco on this album that it will keep me happy and interested in the album. On the CD there is a ten minute track in the pre-gap or negative time, as some people call it, of samples and outtakes that did not make it on the album. I bought the LP and, after learning about this, am thinking about getting the CD too. It is a double album and there are two different ideas happening on each disc. I get a feeling that the first record is smoother with disco elements and the second is more rock and edgy.

The first single released from the album was the title track, Reflektor. It is a very long song at just over seven and half minutes. It is well worth it with all the changes that happen through the song though. It is a very smooth song. It is not monotone there is emotion conveyed in the song but the chorus is only slightly more loud and emotional. I really like the use of the guitar on the track. There are only a couple of phrases on the guitar and a harmonic used as a stabbing sound. The band is so big though that the guitar is not needed as a front runner instrument as it is with so many smaller bands. The drums are key on this song though. Not only is there a drum set played but there are also bongos. I think that it is the bongos that really make the song in the quiet parts. The horns are the big attraction with this song. The saxophones are very beautiful sounding to say the least.

The second single to be released from the album is called Here Comes The Night Time. This is one of the funner songs on the album and reminds me of something from their first album mixed with a New Orleans death march. It is not depressing in any way. It is a fun song that has slow parts and fast parts. I like the piano parts. It sounds like the piano is in a cavernous place and sounds far away but close up at the same time. It is a very unique sound. I also like the sound from the bass line when both the bass guitar and piano are playing the same notes. It gives the guitar a super round and bouncy sound. I have always wanted to do something like this. It looks like they have beet me to it.

There is a third single that has been released just recently called Afterlife. It is the first single to be released from the second disc on the album. It is a simpler song but with a bigger sound. It is also a shorter song than the previous songs. It is a song that talks about the after effects of going out with out your girlfriend. The arguments that happen when someone is dating someone who has trust issues. This is obviously not what someone thinks of when the word afterlife is thrown out there. It is an interesting song but the lyrics kind of throw me off track.

I still can’t figure out why so many groups have panned this album. I really like it.

This is the fourth album released from Monster Movie. It was released in April of 2006 on Graveface Records. It was only released on CD and only 2000 copies were made. You can still get a copy at the Graveface Records web store. As I have mentioned in the past about the group, they are a two piece group that creates music in the dream pop or shoegaze genre. This album kind of reminds me of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. They are the same style of music so an overlap would seem fitting.

The single that was put out for the album is called Vanishing Act. It is the second song on the album. The song is a moderate rocker or a slow burn. The vocals seem to melt the listener and prepare them for the slow journey through the album. The guitar solo adds to the slow burn feel of the track with its slides and high pitched soaring sounds. It is a good song to say the least.

The song 3# is an instrumental that is driven by a great drum beat that follows in that slow burn style with layers upon layers of synth sounds. It has that depressing movie music feel but at the same time it seems to uplift spirits. It is a very interesting track.

One of the highlights off the album is called DrivingThrough The Red Lights. It has a slow but actually danceable beat to it. The solo female vocals are an added pick up for the track. It actually makes me feel happy listening to her sing. The synth parts seem to shine more with this track as well. It is like a cloudy day where the sun peeks through to warm you up.

This album is a good one for those who are looking to fill in more of that shoegaze sound in their collection. It is a bit under ground but still fits the bill.

This album was released in early November to celebrate the album Shields one year anniversary. The vinyl has five of the eight tracks that were released with this album. Those tracks are the demo songs and bonus tracks. The others that were released with the download are remixed tracks. The album, Shields, was also rereleased with an additional CD that has all eight tracks. There was also a remix track that was given away free as an MP3 download to celebrate the release of the expanded edition of Shields.

There were two digital singles released from the B-Sides set. The first was Will Calls (Marfa Demo). They are labeled Marfa Demo because they were recorded in Marfa TX. The song is interesting as there are crickets in the background of the recording. It is a very sweet song and soft. It is not a loud song at all. The vocals are soft and the guitar is minimalist and soft. That is until the chorus kicks in. All bets are off for the chorus. The verse stays on the minimalist and soft side though. I think that is my favorite part of the song though. The problem I have with this song is that even in the soft quiet parts it comes off as a bit distorted overall. It is recorded just a bit to hot and is distracting for me. This could have been a great song, it’s just that the levels for each part are so completely different. Am I glad that I have the song and have listened to it? Yes. Will I be listening to it often? Not really.

The second song that was digitally released is called ListenAnd Wait (Bonus Track). It is just that, a bonus track that was not on the album. It is a nice even keeled song that follows what was put out on the Shields album. It doesn’t quite fit what was on the album and was therefore not a part of the album. The song comes off as heavy air. It is breathable but feels more dense than what I am use to. It may be that there is more back ground sound giving the song a heavier feel or maybe it is something else that I can’t put my finger on yet.

Either way it is new music that adds to the dynamic that is Shields. I am happy to have a copy for sure.

This is obviously the ninth installment of the Live Current series. I have all nine releases in both CD and Vinyl and the Founding Members album along with the Five year anniversary CD, the current flash drive release and the two Local Current albums, although the vinyl has only been pressed for the Founding members issue and volumes 5, 8, and 9. The founding members’ volume and volume 5 were on orange clear vinyl. Volumes 8 and 9 are only on black vinyl. Like volume 8, Volume 9 was released as a special box set with the vinyl, CD and Poster of the cover art. The album is filled with the past years in studio recordings from The Current. There are some absolutely beautiful songs that are contained on this album. The first chance I had to listen to the album I cried so many times just because the music is so perfect and pretty. There are eighteen tracks on this album and they all are unique and brilliant, from Alabama Shakes to Metric. It is all here on this 2013 release.

There is always at least one track that I am really excited to listen to from each one of these albums that the station puts out. This year, I was really excited to hear Night & Day from Hot Chip. Although this is not my favorite song, nor does it come from an exceptional album from the group, it is always interesting to hear an electronic group play a live set with actual instruments. This group has always put up a great live set. I have never seen them play live in front of my eyes but have seen recordings of their live sets in the past. They are amazing as a group and make the music sound even better in a live setting. It is not just push a button and sing along with the music. They actually play the keyboards and even better they play analog keyboards. This live version of this song sounds even better than the version from the studio album that I have. I really like this version.

The other song that I found that I like a lot is from the band Devine Fits. It is called Would That Be Nice. This group has members from the band Spoon. I really like that band and consequently like this one too. I have not gotten the album that this song comes from yet though. Hearing this song really makes me want to go out and get it though. The song focuses on the lyrics and is a lot of fun. There is a beautiful keyboard sound that uses a fast chorus sound. The guitar is just dirty enough and used sparingly. The bass carries the song for the most part and the drums are there to support. This song is a lot of fun and

There is an acoustic song called Little Numbers from a band called Boy that is the sweetest song. The chorus makes the song one of my favorites. It is two girls with two acoustic guitars in this live version. They sing about seven little numbers that could be lucky for you. I view it as a phone number that could lead to the best relationship one could hope for. I cry every time I hear the song because it is so sweet but on an adult curve. I guess it reminds me of my own relationship with my wife. It is a very good song. If you get a chance give it a listen.

If you are not a member of The Current become one. You can get a copy of this album with your membership. This is one of the best radio stations in the USA today.

This is a two track 10” record released for Record Store Day Black Friday. The band said that they were going to put this record out because they wanted to support the record stores as they are closing up all over the country. There were 3000 copies pressed of this record and they did not come with a download code. This is kind of a downer for most fans as most fans don’t have a way to record the music on a record to a digital format. I happen to have that ability.

The A side, Let It Decay, of the record is a slower song from the group. I am not all that impressed with this track. I guess I am not surprised by the track but it doesn’t move me. I feel like I have heard them do this type of a track before. It is good but not that interesting for me. I am not sure if this was put out just to put something out for RSDBF or they thought it was ready.

The B side, Working Title, interests me so much more. This track has the distortion that I like from the band. It is the sound that got me interested in them in the first place. The drum beat has the right pace to it as well adding to the greatness of this track for me. It is gritty, it’s smooth and it rocks. It seems like distortion for distortions sake and it sounds so cool.

This single was released back in September of 2013. It blew up around the country, around the world really. I had a friend at work bring it up to me as I hadn't heard the song yet. He sent me a link that I never listened to. He kept asking me, “What does the fox say?” after he put up the link. I didn’t get it but played it off like I knew what he was saying. It wasn’t until a week before Halloween that I heard the song in a video where the lights on a house played along with the music. I thought the song was very cool. Then some time later I saw a dance group from a TV show dance to the song. I thought that the dance was amazing and went so well with the song. I think that this is what made me want to own the song. I will have that memory every time I listen to the song now. I then found out that my wife doesn’t like the song because it has been so popular all over the world (except for the music hole that I live in). She has friends on line that are so into this song that she has been sick of it for months already. I wasn’t going to buy a physical copy of the song but once I heard that I had to have it as a joke. It is a serious one hit wonder. The CD has the song, The Fox, and an instrumental version of the song. If you haven’t heard the song you have been living in a deeper hole than I have. The song is super catchy and super annoying at the same time. Give it a listen tell me what you think in the comments.

This is the first album from indie pop duo Dresses. It was released through Sideonedummy Records in October of 2013. It was pressed on vinyl in two different colors, translucent pink (100 copies) and white (500 copies). I was lucky enough to get the pink color. It is absolutely beautiful and reminds me of the color of a watermelon Jolly Rancher. The album is super sweet pop drenched in love songs. The duo are very close, dating actually, and are able to bring up things that make people uncomfortable out side of a relationship to talk about. The female vocalist of the group, Timothy Heller, sort of reminds me of the singer for Feist and Zooey Dechanel combined. It is very sweet but able to come closer to earth when needed. The male vocalist, Jared Ryan Maldonado, has a very mellow style that helps to ground Timothy’s voice. They work very well together. I had known about the group since this summer but had never heard anything from them. I actually avoided listening to their music because I had a feeling that I would fall for their music. I finally listened to/watched the video for the single from the album. I did at that point fall for their music. The album has a sound over all but the songs talk about different aspects of love.

The first single from the album is called Blew My Mind. It starts off with Timothy’s vocals at a very high pitch and a silenced guitar being plucked. After the first sugar sweet lines sung the drums kick in with the bass. Then the rest of the backing group follows up at the chorus. It is a song about having strange dreams when your loved one leaves in the middle of the night. It is a strange idea but I can see the reality of it as I work in the middle of the night and could imagine my wife waking up and having troubles getting back to sleep simply because I am not there for the early morning. It is a nice thought that a person could mean so much that someone couldn’t fall asleep because they are not around during normal sleep times.

The rest of the album is just as fun with tracks like the danceable Sun Shy and the slow rocker in Friends Are Dead.  There is also the fragile Painting Roses and the very pretty Gottta Love which always gives me warm fuzzy feelings. This album covers a lot of places that love can go that most bands don’t cover.  It is a very good album and I would recommend it to anyone because every one needs love.

This is a Christmas album from Family Force 5. This was released back in early October of 2009. I always wanted to get a copy of the album but never made time or set the money aside to do so. Last year after Christmas a friend a work was able to get me a copy for five bucks on sale. It wasn’t until after Christmas that I got the CD so I never listened to the music until recently. I gotta say that having Christmas music in an EDM format is really awesome and a lot of fun.

There were no official singles that I am aware of but there are some great covers on this album. I like the re-wording that is used on Little Drummer Boy. They sing, “I play my drum machine … , I play my beats for him …”  The Peanuts cover for ChristmasTime Is Here is exceptional. There has always been something special about The Beatles song Wonderful Christmas Time for me and the cover from FF5 maintains that wonderful feeling even with all the electronic sounds that have replaced the analog ones of the original.

I really like this album and am so disappointed that I had not picked it up sooner. I would recommend this to any FF5 fan and anyone that likes Christmas and doesn’t have any dance music in the Christmas genre. It is a great twist on Christmas music.

That is all I have for the Thanks Giving post. I hope all of you who had the day off enjoyed it! That is all until Christmas...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Vol. 4 Episode 48

This is the last post until Thanks Giving (49). I started my holiday position where I work last Monday. I tried to plan this so that I would not need to post much through November and December. I will also have a Christmas (50) post and a best of post for the New Year (50.5) before the year is out. Happy holidays!

Remember, Record Store Day Black Friday is coming up. There is only one or two items that interest me but you can be sure that they well be on the thanks giving episode! It will be up on Saturday or Sunday of that weekend.

Here we go...

This new single for Broken Toy was released this past Tuesday (October 22, 2013). I think that this is the last single that will be taken from the album Waiting For Something To Happen because the next single to be released will be the tour only single for their up coming tour in Japan and Australia. By the way, all of the Japan dates have already sold out. Unless you are a compleatist, like me, this single is not really needed. The A side, broken toy, can obviously be found on the album. Also, the B side, If You Still Want Me (Bedroom Demo), has a studio version on the album too.

The A side, Broken Toy, is a sweet song about people being human and having flaws. The band likens this flaw in humanity to a broken toy. It is very cute and sweet to think that someone would think to say that the person they like is a broken toy but to then turn it around and say that they are also broken but broke in such a way that they were broke only for them.

The B side, If You Still Want Me (Bedroom Demo), some how sounds better than the studio version. The track sounds like they are in my room here with me. Where as the studio version you can tell they are in the studio and it is a recording. It all has to do with the acoustics of the room that you record in I guess. I have to say that I like this recording better than the studio version. I would like it very much if they would record more music like this. It just seems more mellow and rounded on the edges.

This is an EP that was released on white vinyl from Slumberland Records and on clear vinyl through Tough Love Records. The EP was released in October of 2013. Both of these records have three tracks only. The download has seven tracks. The records do not have a download to get any of these tracks. I was a bit disappointed when I learned this but I still got the record and the download. I like that the cover pays homage to the new David Bowie album though. With the record the tracks are Third Uncle (Brian Eno cover) on the A side. On the B side are  The New Life (David Holmes Remix) and Projektions (Gabe Gurnsey Factory Floor Remix). With the download you get an additional new track called Visions and a mess of other remixes.

Slumberland Records has this posted on their web page about the three tracks on the record, “With the artwork making a playful nod to Bowie's latest record, it's not surprising that the EP should see the band experiment with the sonic make up of their last album. On the A side is a cover version of Brian Eno's 'Third Uncle.' Recorded in August of this year, it is the first recorded Girls Names track to feature new drummer Gib Cassidy and offers a telling glimpse at what creative steps the band may next take. On the flip are two incredible remixes of tracks taken from the sister record. The first is by producer/composer/dance don legend David Holmes, who lends a somewhat European elan to the titular track. The second sees Gabe Gurnsey from Factory Floor add his band's characteristic dance floor focus to Girls Names' motorik groove, turning in something that jitters and pulses in a manner befitting of any track attributed the Factory Floor moniker.”

The first track on the download of this EP is called Visions. I think this track is just as good as the Eno cover, Third Uncle. The song reminds me a lot of Joy Division. I feel this way not only because of the vocals but because of the bass lead track. The guitars seem to slide all over the song giving it a sticky oily feel that I have never heard on any song. It is really unique.

The reason for the EP in the first place is for their cover of the song Third Uncle. Girls names to a fantastic cover of this song. This song is somehow richer sounding than the original. I think that the clarity has increased and getting rid of some of the noise that was recorded on the original helped this cover version a lot. This is one of my favorite songs that has been released this year for sure.

This single has been re-released through Sony Music/Sign Of The Times in October of 2013. The single was originally released on 7” in early 2012. I am tired of hearing that she has released the new single Youth when it is over a year and a half old. And again, it is very disappointing if you release a single and only include a bunch of remixes of the same song. At least Girls Names had the decency to have two original songs and include remixes of other songs. Now that the rant of over, I actually like the remixes on this EP a lot. Each one is different and unique from the others even though all five songs are from the same song.

I talked about the song, Youth, in Vol. 3 Episode 33. Here is what I said about the song when it was first released, “[Youth] starts out with her vocals only with the music fading in slowly. There are lots of synth strings and a low under current bass line and light drums. It builds into a bass driven track with glitch drums that sound really good. The song drops this all off with only her vocals about half way through the song. The piano comes in slowly and then everything picks back up. It is a great song with great song craftsmanship in my opinion.”

This digital remix EP comes with three remix versions of the song and a radio edit version of the song. My favorite of the three remixes is the one called the Seamus Haji Remix. Based on other reviews this seems to be the most popular version with other fans too. It has a very big bass line/beat. The song is done in modern dance styles with old skool techno influences. It is a lot of fun to listen to with the distorted but rounded bass line. It would be very cool to hear this song in a dance venue.

The other version that I like is the Danny Howard Remix. It is a bit noisier than the Seamus Haji mix but still holds my interest. I guess it is more dub step with some of the noises that are used. It sounds really cool I think.

This is a live EP from the iTunes Festival in London of this year. It was mastered for iTunes. There are six tracks on the EP all from the new album except for the last two. Track five is Festival from Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust and track six, Varúð, from Valtari. I read the reviews before I bought the EP that are up on iTunes (there are two). One loved the Music and the other disliked the mix of the EP a lot. I thought that was odd since something that was put out by a music company should be good, right? Was I wrong. After listening to the EP I found that the whole recording sounds like it was recorded with a cassette then converted to MP3. This is one of the worst mixes I have ever heard from anything that Sigur Rós has ever put out. On top of that there is a lack of bass in a specific frequency range through all of the songs too. I listen to Brennisteinn not only for the music but to also feel the bass line hit me in the chest. It just doesn’t come close with this mix. I will give them some leeway with the song being a live version but I saw them play this song live when they came to my home town and it sounded nothing like this recorded version. I think iTunes has a long way to go before they get there mixing of music down right. People want full sound for all systems, not just for headphones. I am, on the other hand happy that the band was able to play for this special month long set of concerts and that other people got to hear them in their full sonic glory.

That is all I have til the next holiday...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Vol. 4 Episode 47.5

My Bloody Valentine at The Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St Paul MN on 11-1-2013.

Again, I took my father-in-law to see this concert. I got the tickets on the preorder day thanks to my local radio station, 89.3 TheCurrent, who clued me in to the password to get the tickets early. I thought that it was strange that there was no opening act. This concert was not sold out by any means.

We showed up at the venue a little bit late. We took a peak at the merch booth. They were selling mainly t-shirts along with the album that I already had. After that we were trying to figure out why we couldn’t get up to our seats the first song started. I asked why the balcony seating was closed off. The security guy I asked just said that it was changed to standing room only. I can only assume that meant that they didn’t sell enough tickets for the concert to allow for the balcony to be opened up. So, all seats were converted to standing room only. When we went in I looked up and saw that all of the balcony seating was covered. There were some folding chairs available. I had never been to a concert at a big venue on standing room only. I have always had an upper view so I could see what was happening on the stage. I like the upper deck view and, after this concert, will always try to get seating in the future.

We were late so if there was an opener we missed it completely. The first song from the group started playing as we walked in to the auditorium. The first song from the set was Sometimes from the album Loveless. It is really insane how loud such a quiet soft song could be. I was glad that I got my ear plugs in before I went into the auditorium. It was so loud that my clothing was flapping in the music. There was so much guitar switching happening that there was always dead time between songs. There were five members playing music. Off to the left there was a vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist. Next was the lead female vocalist/guitarist. Then there was the bassist. And, Kevin Shields, the leader of the group, off to the right. In the middle behind everyone was the drummer.

They played a lot of my favorites and a few B-sides. They played New You from their latest album MBV. I love what the bass guitar sounds like in the studio version but here the bass was completely lost in the din of noise. The beauty of the song still remained though so I still enjoyed the song. About half way through the set they played the most recognizable song Only Shallow. The song was so loud and distorted that I didn’t recognized it until the vocals started. I still don’t think that the music was ruined but it certainly gave a new light to the idea of loud. The B-sides were Honey Power (from Tremelo EP), Cigarette In Your Bed (from You Made Me Realise), Thorn (from You Made Me Realise), and You Made Me Realise was the last track played in the set. This last track toward the end of the song was just a solid wall of sound blasting. The song just basically stopped on one note and the band just played as loud as they could for a couple of minutes before going back in to the rest of the song. It was truly amazing.

At one point the drummer came out from behind the drum set and played guitar with the rest of the members. There was a drum track playing that allowed him to do this. at this point there were five guitars being played. It made such a cool buzzing sound during the song Wonder 2.

This was the loudest concert that I have ever been to. The promoters were handing out earplugs to everyone who entered the concert because they knew that it would be so loud that you would damage your hearing if you didn’t wear them. How’s that for being safe and responsible?

Thanks to My Bloody Valentine for making the stop and thanks to The Roy Wilkins for having them.

Track listing:
I Only Said
When You Sleep
New You
You Never Should
Honey Power
Cigarette In Your Bed
Only Tomorrow
Come In Alone
Only Shallow
Nothing Much To Lose
Who Sees You
To Here Knows When
Wonder 2
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise

I think that I got the track listing right. I checked with the local paper web site and found that they were missing Thorn. I recorded the concert but it is so loud that it made it hard to differentiate songs from complete and utter distortion overload on the microphone that I was using. You can check out the Startribune track listing here and what they had to say about the concert here.