Archive for May, 2009

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The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God

Saturday, May 30, 2009
If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)

If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)

This album is so fun.

I actually bought this thinking it was Christian music. You would think the title of track two, “Turkish Song of the Damned” might have given it away, but it wasn’t until track three after at least a dozen spittle-spewing f-bombs on the part of Shawn MacGowan that I came to my senses and found this is an album of great extremes, from slow ballands and haunting medleys, to up-tempo dances of firey passion and sometimes even outright silliness (“Fiesta”), all with an undeniable Celtic flavor. What more could one ask of the Pogues (in case you don’t know the answer, it’s “not a lot”)?

The album begins with the title track, a good song, but to me, little more than an intro to the firey and abrasive “Turkish Song of the Damned.” If this doesn’t get the fire boiling in your veins, then something is wrong with you. Seriously.

I’m pretty sure that track three, “Bottle of Smoke,” would probably  give my grandparents a heart attack. It is a thrill ride like no other.

“Fairytale in New York” is the perfect ballad turned waltzy thing on theis album. It’s my favorite Christmas song of all time, mostly because it doesn’t sound like cheesy Christmas music.

But “Thousands are Sailing” is definitely my favorite on the album. A sad song, with this great line “Thousands are sailing / across the western ocean / to a land of opportunity / that most of them will never see.” I always get chills when that line comes, and in fact, God chills just writing it! That’s how you know it’s good!

The last song I’ll talk about is “Fiesta.” If you want to hear an Irishman sing atrocious Spanish drunkenly with a mariachi band with a Celtic twist, then look no further. Needless to say, this is one amazing song.

“Farewell, Streets of Sorrow…” also a good song. Listen to it, if you haven’t!

Also… the banner of this site is the Pogues playing. Fun fact!

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maudlin of the Well – part the Second

Saturday, May 16, 2009
part the Second (2009)

part the Second (2009)

[This review first appeared on Blogcritics. To see the original, click here.]

Last night, I was up until 2:00 a.m. despite the fact I had to wake up early. I blame maudlin of the Well’s brilliant new album, part the Second.

The story behind the recording of this album is amazing and shouldn’t be glossed over. From 1999-2001, maudlin of the Well released three albums. The latter two, Bath and Leaving Your Body Map are among the most genius pieces of music I’ve ever heard. These albums seamlessly blend metal, jazz, and indie in an amalgamation that is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

However, maudlin of the Well’s avant-garde nature also kept them from being more widely known. They disbanded in 2001, some members of the group going on to form Kayo Dot, an even more avant-garde group, which, ironically, is more well-known than maudlin of the Well.

Yet over the years, through music message boards, forums, and blogs, maudlin of the Well slowly began to pick up a devoted following. They gained what notoriety they had the hard way — through the mouths of people who could not shut up about how great they are.

In a MySpace blog post in 2008, maudlin of the Well front man Toby Driver mentioned he wanted to record some older songs that were never recorded, but was restricted by financial issues. Response and enthusiasm from fans was massive. Several people made large donations so Toby and the band could accomplish this. The donations made it possible to go beyond the one song and record a full-length studio album, not an album of leftovers, but of mostly new material.

[On] May 14, 2009, this dream and hard work manifested when part the Second, was released over the Internet completely for free, In Rainbows style.

I was among the first to download the album, and I was absolutely enthralled with what I heard. maudlin evolved their sound in a way that was unexpected and surprising to me. Most strikingly, though maudlin of the Well is considered a progressive metal band, most of part the Second is comparably soft and soothing, almost post-rockish. In fact, I would hesitate to call any part of this album metal, though glimmers of it are hinted at in various strains. The new incorporation of violin and piano blends in perfectly with the inimitable maudlin of the Well sound, and both instruments fit in as if they they had always belonged.

The compositional layering is practically on a symphonic level – cerebral listeners will enjoy its complexity. The sign of a good band is a natural, evolving progression from album to album, and maudln of the Well has achieved that. Hints of Kayo Dot abound, especially evident in track four, “Clover Garland Island,” though the album itself is undeniably maudlin of the Well.

Part the Second is a softer listen than maudlin’s other albums. Genre-wise, as with all of maudlin’s music, it’s difficult to classify. I would say it’s highly experimental and would call it post-rock, perhaps post-metal. Track one is great, and is very laid back and relaxing. The piano outro at the end is reminiscent of Radiohead’s “All I Need,” to use the In Rainbows comparison again, though maudlin of the Well are nowhere near that band’s genre.

Track two is a little harder – though hard, it is absolutely beautiful. Another highlight is the piano outro on the last track, which is the perfect ending for this album. Though picking highlights might cheapen the rest of the listening experience – know that I think that it is all good.

Fans of post-rock will love this new release. In fact, anyone who loves experimental music that pushes boundaries will love part the Second.

Of course, if you’re already a maudlin of the Well fan or a Kayo Dot fan, or just love interesting music, what are you waiting for? If you have gotten this far, then chances are you’re somewhat interested. Do yourself a favor and download this album – and why wouldn’t you, when it is completely free? It is available in three different formats, including higher than CD quality, which will appease all the audiophiles out there. While we’re on that note, download Bath and Leaving Your Body Map as well – they’re now out of print and the CDs go for $50 plus on the Internet. No one’s going to be losing any money off you, and from what I’ve read, the members of the band themselves are cool with this.

So what are you waiting for? Go listen to part the Second and download it at maudlinofthewell.net. You can also listen to it the site if you wish to hear it before downloading. And also, consider giving the band a donation, as they worked very hard on this release.

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maudlin of the Well – part the Second live streaming and download

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Download it now! It’s free!

Review forthcoming… for now, immerse yourself in it :).

maudlin of the Well - Part the Second - i00 - CoverEdit: it has come to my attention that the FLAC/lossless format may not work properly for some people. Some have had problems, while others haven’t. I’m sure it will be corrected soon.

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The Starlight Mints – Drowaton

Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Drowaton (2006)

Drowaton (2006)

Dreamy sigh…oh, the Starlight Mints. Norman, Oklahoma represent!

The jangly guitar enters from the start of “Pumpkin” and the first words are so memorable: “Tra la la la…” It’s so sick, as in, I’m going to throw up because it’s so sweet sounding. Allan Vest’s falsetto reaches new heights here than on his previous record, the chord changes are wild and crazy and unpredicatble, the lyrics strange and weird yet funny.

“Torts” keeps up the fun mood, but it goes haywire with track three, “Inside of Me.” A piano chromatic crazy run down from the top of the keys to the body starts the song, flowing into a driving riff of minor chords that strangely extremely happy.

“Seventeen Devils” by itself almost makes buying the whole album worth it.

“Rhino Stomp” sounds like a rhino stomping around.  A rhino in a candy store, who is about to get shot with a water gun filled with chocolate. I don’t really know where I’m going with this descrition…next song!

“The Killer.” The one truly downbeat track that is just downright pretty. I tried figuring it out on guitar without too much success (hint: capo on third fret), but other than that I can’t figure it out. Awesome song though.

“Eyes of the Night” is also a fun one. They played it live at the NMF, along with other neatness.

OK, I don’t really want to go throught the rest of the album. But take my word for it, Drowaton is great. As I said in the concert review earlier, the Starlight Mints are like a sugar-coated Pixies with a pyschedelic twist playing in a land of candy, with the threat of a thunderstorm in the distance.

Also: new album coming out in June! It’s called Change Remains.

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Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

Thursday, May 7, 2009
Sky Blue Sky (2007)

Sky Blue Sky (2007)

Like a wide blue sky, Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky is relaxing and spacious. Also like a blue sky, when stared at too long, it gets to be a little boring.

Though long, Sky Blue Sky has some great tracks – especially impressive are the lead guitarirst’s almost progressive solos on the likes of “Impossible Germany” and “Side With the Seeds.”

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Summerteeth, however, are definitely better. A Ghost is Born also seems better, but that doesn’t mean Sky Blue Sky is bad, it’s just not as good as those other two albums. While Summerteeth is an alt-country pop marvel, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a perfect blending of alt-country and sonic experimentation, and A Ghost is Born really ups the ante on experimentation, Sky Blue Sky returns to the pop format which makes Wilco so great in the first place. Though they are good at experimenting, they are even better at not going overboard and keeping the songs catchy.

But Sky Blue Sky has the misfortune of being front-loaded, and being long, it makes the whole album difficult to listen though in one sitting. After “Hate it Here,” it goes slowly downhill. The songs are still good, but it just seems gets old quickly. Maybe if I listened to each song individually, then I wouldn’t be so hard on the second side of the album.

Nevertheless, Wilco have done a good job with his album. I didn’t really get into them until about two years ago, and I guess when compared to other choice albums, I sometimes have to force myself to listen to this, hoping that someday, it will speak to me in the way other albums have. 

I get to see them in concert June 16, which will be fun!