Archive for January 19th, 2009

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Streetlight Manifesto – Everything Goes Numb

Monday, January 19, 2009
Everything Goes Numb (2003)

Everything Goes Numb (2003)

I’m a fan of fast-paced, frenetic music.  That’s one reason why I adore ska and punk ska as much as I do and why Streetlight Manifesto happens to be my favorite band.  If there’s one word I would use to describe Everything Goes Numb, it would be “neat.”  But if I could use two words, they would be “neat” and “manic.”

Tomas Kalnoky displays his creativity in songwriting once again on this CD. The former Catch-22 frontman and his entourage have delivered a masterpiece that I believe is the best ska album this century.  The talent assembled in that recording studio is unparalleled amongst ska bands today.

This CD displays a full range of emotions and topics.  The opening track, “Everything Went Numb,” starts out with a bang.  Horn riffs will come flying out of your speakers and hit you in the face.  “Point/Counterpoint” starts out slow, then speeds up to typical Streetlight speed.  It sounds like the same musical sugar high you get with early Catch-22. That song, friends, is a great song to skank to.

The title of best song on this CD, however, goes to “A Better Place, A Better Time.”  If any song can grab the title of Ska Epic, this song can.  At six and a half minutes, it’s definitely the longest ska song I’ve ever heard.  It’s also overflowing in amazingness.

Each song has its own unique identity (even the two that are built off of the same motif).  Throughout the CD, all the songs cruise at a ridiculously fast tempo.  I could go on and on, but I will summarize it all by saying that you are doing a disservice to yourself if you do not seek out and listen to this CD. And if you ever get a chance, you owe it to yourself to see them live.

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My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

Monday, January 19, 2009
Loveless (1991)

Loveless (1991)

I got Loveless on a recommendation and was expecting it to be somewhat different. I popped it into the CD player of my truck last summer and thought it sounded pretty good, if a bit different. 

This is pretentious art music. Why do I say that? Because you cannot understand the lyrics because they are merely background the strange soundscape conjured by muddy guitars that obviously have reverb all the way up and then some.

The chord changes would be best described as unconventional. I’m sure they follow some specified pattern, but it seems almost alien. Loveless feels like that kind of album you have to listen to fifty times in a row before you “get it.” To me, it just doesn’t seem to be worth all that time.

Such is My Bloody Valentine. Apparently they were a key influence on the alternative, grunge, and post-rock that would inevitably follow it a few years down the road. But I find most of the bands that My Bloody Valentine influenced to be much better. Take the Smashing Pumpkins for example, one of the greatest bands of the post-grunge years.

Yes, I would recommend this album. But be warned, it is truly a love/hate album. As for me, I’m still not sure what to think of it. I know it’s probably genius, but not the kind of genius that appeals to my musical tastes. Perhaps in time I might come to like it. 

I could see myself giving Loveless a spin once or twice a year.

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The Listening – The Listening LP

Monday, January 19, 2009
The Listening LP (2005)

The Listening LP (2005)

This is my first taste of Christian progressive. The Listening’s self-titled debut is quite unique for Christian music, both lyrically and musically.

It is easy to cast the whole genre of Christian into a spamming of happy-go-lucky G-major chords, which inevitably make all Christian music sound the same. And it is true – contemporary Christian music has a certain sameness to it. It takes the rare band or song to rise above the clichés.

The Listening is a cliché buster.            

The Listening is far more unique than most of its Christian contemporaries, mostly for its progressive feel and use of electronica. I’m not saying they are unique in the whole musical world – that would be an impressive feat indeed for any band. If I had to describe their sound, I would say a melding of Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, and Coldplay. Fans of these bands looking for their Christian counterpart would do well to start with The Listening.

The Listening is the great Christian band you’ve never heard of. 

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Radiohead – Amnesiac

Monday, January 19, 2009
Amnesiac (2001)

Amnesiac (2001)

This was my final frontier in unlocking Radiohead. At least, out of their studio albums barring In Rainbows.

“Pyramid Song” has over 60 plays on my iTunes, the number two most-played song (after “Perfect Circle” by R.E.M.) Needless to say, I’ve always loved this album of Radiohead, which is all-too-often glossed over in favor of earlier ones.

Yes, OK Computer is amazing, and so is The Bends. But this is a different side of Radiohead. This isn’t even the Kid A Radiohead…Amnesiac is a totally different animal. A bear, in fact, as there’s a bear on the cover (yeah, that’s what that thing is). They’re neat to draw. Every bit of the album is good – there’s not one bad song. 

Do I give Radiohead too much credit? Hecks no. From the opening track, to “You and Whose Army?” (incredible live!), to “I Might Be Wrong,” “Dollars and Cents,” and “Like Spinning Plates…” it’s all there, and it’s all magnificent. It totally transports you to another dimension. I know that sounds all druggy like, but Radiohead’s music is a drug. Beware.

Don’t believe people who say Amnesiac isn’t as good as any of their other stuff. Is not worse – it’s just different. However cliché that sounds, it’s true.

This album is perfect for headphones on a cold, bitter winter day walking outside, with slight sleet shards stinging your face. I hesitate to call it my favorite Radiohead album – that’s whatever Radiohead album is playing at the moment. And let’s just say when it comes to Radiohead there are a lot of moments.

Great replay value – you could listen to Amnesiac seventy times and still catch new things that delight and surprise you.

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maudlin of the Well – Leaving Your Body Map

Monday, January 19, 2009
Leaving Your Body Map (2001)

Leaving Your Body Map (2001)

This has to be the most pretentious piece of music ever composed. Yet I love it.

Why do I love it? I can’t exactly say. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. I don’t just say that. The opening track, “Stones of October’s Sobbing,” has flutes, clarinets, heavy metal guitars, double kick drums, electronica, you name it. This has to be the most diverse lineup of instruments I’ve ever seen in a musical group. It’s ballsy. And the thing is, it works. That is, whatever “works” is for you.

“Works” is for me when it comes to this album. For the longest time it seemed like nothing special. But last week, I could not fall asleep. So, I propped myself up in my bed and listened to this with my headphones. There was nothing but me and the music going into my ears, lighting up the pleasure centers in my brain.

Leaving Your Body Map is jazzier than it’s companion album, Bath, which I reviewed last year (feels weird saying “last year”).

Though Bath and Leaving Your Body Map are companion albums, and by listening to each I can obviously hear they are both of maudlin, they are different shades of maudlin. Bath is more epic –Leaving Your Body Map is more chill. I listen to Bath when I want to feel echoes of the deepest feelings imaginable. I listen to Leaving Your Body Map when I want to think and be challenged, have my brain be turned upside-down and inside-out.

Track three, Bizarre Flowers/A Violent Mist – is truly otherworldly, and you’ll get the vibe of Leaving Your Body Map’s jazzy atmosphere. The song, by the way, is the highlight of the album for me.

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u.n.p.o.c. – Fifth Column

Monday, January 19, 2009
Fifth Column (2003)

Fifth Column (2003)

If the Beach Boys and the Pixies ever married, u.n.p.o.c. would be their baby.

And this baby ain’t ugly.

This album is unbelievably catchy. I must admit that before listening to this I had a severe bias against music that was too catchy. Of course, I’m a huge hypocrite for liking the Beach Boys and the Beatles, but somehow those bands are magically exempt.

Though catchy, this is nowhere near pop because hardly anyone has heard of u.n.p.o.c. – but the same hooks that make any pop song great are present in Fifth Column. Very lo-fi, this is a hidden gem in the world of catchy, acoustic indie music.

I might also mention this is a one-man project. His man’s name is Tom Bauchop and he lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. I think he has something to do with a small-time recording company, according to the sum of all human knowledge.

This record is one that really just makes me want to pick up my own guitar and write something.

The whole album is good, but my two favorites are “Here On My Own” and “Nicaragua.”

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Jackson Browne – The Pretender

Monday, January 19, 2009
The Pretender (1976)

The Pretender (1976)

Any man can live a life. But not every man can live.

Am I really living? Am I following my dreams, am I working towards the goals I’ve set for myself? Will I make it? Can I make it? What if I wake up one day when I’m forty and realize this is not what I wanted, that this wasn’t right, that I squandered the one life I had, the one life that is over before I even blink?

All of these questions come flooding into my mind every time I listen to The Pretender

This is yet another album it took me a while to come around to. I was stuck to listening to track eight, “The Pretender,” over and over, so much so that I didn’t fully listen to the whole album until months after I bought it.  

Wow, what a song! I can’t describe how close “The Pretender” is to me. When I first got this album when I was eighteen, I disdained the pretender, that man who gives up on his dreams to live an ordinary life. 

But now I know that chances are that man will be me. I’m still young, but I have to make the most of every day, everyday, to avoid the fate of 99 percent of the world’s population.

Everyone believes in something when they’re young. Their pockets are full of dreams, dreams that will take them all around the world. But then they grow older – not just in years, but in tears. Someone dies. Someone hurts them. They hurt someone else. Pain happens. They come to realize that dreams are just that – dreams. They begin to realize that what they need is money in their pockets, not dreams.  

Then, people really begin to live life: they fall in love, get married,  earn a living, live in suburbia, buy an S.U.V., have spoiled kids, watch movies where fictional characters accomplish their dreams (almost magically) and live happily ever after.

Sometimes, dreams are just too much trouble. People don’t want pain, don’t want to bleed, don’t want to be laughed at and mocked.

The Pretender gets me asking such questions about life. Jackson Browne puts the feelings and thoughts all of us have into words, and is a masterful poet for that reason. 

Partly through The Pretender, I now know that whatever I think I might have in my life, it’s all worth losing for the sake of living a life that’s worth living.

My favorites are “The Fuse,” “Your Bright Baby Blues,”  “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate,” and of course, “The Pretender.”