Posts Tagged ‘2000s’

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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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Coldplay – Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

Monday, April 20, 2009
Viva la Vida or Death And All His Friends (2008)

Viva la Vida or Death And All His Friends (2008)

To me, this is Coldplay at their best. I’m not even a Coldplay fan, really, and a lot of songs on this album don’t really do it for me. But where they do get it right Coldplay have done some of their very best work here, when they stop trying to be experimental and concentrate on crafting a solid britpop song.

The highlight of the album for me is “Lost!’ though many would make a case for “Violet Hill” or “Viva la Vida.” It’s the case that their singles are their best songs on here, the rest being merely so-so.

I gave this a listen all the way through for the first time last night, having only heard their singles on the radio or friend’s rooms or whatnot. Some of it was pretty hard to sit through, like the big slump from “Lost!” until I was eagerly awaiting the first staccato string strains of “Viva la Vida.” After this it slumped off again, and the version I got had a piano rendition of “Lost,” which was nice to close, though not really necessary.

All in all Viva la Vida is a decent album. There are bands I prefer to Coldplay, definitely, but they are fun while they last, until you just get bored of them.

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Porcupine Tree – Deadwing

Saturday, April 18, 2009
Deadwing (2005)

Deadwing (2005)

From the first time I listened to this album it felt so innately familiar, like I heard all these songs before. This is definitely not a bad thing, in this case.

Every one of these songs are great and add something to the album, which I can’t really say for In Absentia. Certainly some are weaker than others, but every song shines here.

It starts hard with the nealy ten minute “Deadwing.” Next the pop-metallish “Shallow.” Then my favorite song on the album, “Lazarus,” is very pretty and spacey. It has a piano background which really make the song tender and warm while maintining its progressive elements.

Deadwing is my second Porcupine Tree album and it just makes me want to explore the band further. This is the beginning of a great and new obsession, I’m sure.

“Arriving Somewhere but Not Here” is just an epic twelve minute thrill ride. “Mellotron Scratch” is also good. I could just go through the rest of the songs and devote a sentence to each of them, but there really is no point. I’d just be repeating myslf.

I’m not really an expert on Porcupine Tree, but this album makes me want to be one. It’s very surprisng to me that they are not as popular. I know, there are a lot of people who know about Porcupine Tree, but I guess what I’m saying is if you were to walk up to someone at my unversity and ask them if they’ve heard of them, maybe one of fifty would say “yes.” As such, Porcupine Tree seem to be a secretly amazing band that only a lucky few will ever hear about.

Deadwing is fun. While In Absentia has some better songs, Deadwing seems more consistent. I’ll probably review Fear of a Blank Planet soon.

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Sufjan Stevens – Illinois

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Illinois (2005)

Illinois (2005)

I didn’t give Illinois or Sufjan much of a chance. It had been resting in my iTunes over a year before I got down to listening to it. It took overhearing my friend play it to recognize how amazing it was. This is how I always tend to me with music that’s new to me, for some reason.

Sufjan Stevens is one of the most talented songwriters in music history, ever. His songs are incredibly intricate and complex, yet not overbearingly so – never does he sacrifice a memorable yet unconventional melody for the sake of experimentation. He is a jewel of American music, almost the quintessential American songwriter of our generation. He has done something completely original, something no one else would have thought of. Since then, the master has spawned plenty of imitators.

Sufjan uses unconventional time signatures, chord changes, and melodies, yet as mentioned before, it hardly loses any accessibility. It’s hard to imagine anyone not finding something to like about Sufjan.

Drawing on folk, indie, and perhaps even post-rock and other genres, Sufjan Stevens and Illinoise is some of the most interesting music of the 2000s you’ll hear. I’m tempted to say Sufjan Stevens is un-classifiable. It’s hard to believe that one person could have this much creativity.

Highlights for me are “Jacksonville,” “Chicago,” “Casimir Pulaski Day,” “John Wayne Gacy, Jr,” and “The Predatory Wasp.” I’m leaving out a lot of good songs just so you know.

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Muse – Origin of Symmetry

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Origin of Symmetry (2001)

Origin of Symmetry (2001)

Just to start, “Origin of Symmetry” is a really cool name for an album.

This is Muse at their most racauous and space rocky prime. Way back in the day I was really obsessed with Muse I listened to this album all the time, and listening to it today I still catch the feeling of older times, where everything seemed a lot more simple… sigh.

Anyway, since I can’t go back, I can still always pick a song off this album and go back in my mind. Not saying I do that often, just when the mood strikes.

Muse are one of the best bands out there that can rock really hard but be very catchy. Origin of Symmetry is Muse at their best. The sound here is a little rougher than anything else they’ve done, but that’s what makes Origin of Symmetry so great to me. The first seven tracks up to “Micro Cuts” is an absoulte rollercoaster. “New Born,” “Bliss,” “Space Dementia,” “Hyper Music,” Plug-In Baby,” “Citizen Erased,” (woot!), and finally “Micro Cuts.”

From there, admittedly, the album goes a bit downhill, but the songs are still good, “Megalomania” probably topping the second half as the best.

This album plays to Muse’s greatest strengths: Matthew Bellamy’s jaw-dropping falsetto on “Micro Cuts,” the sheer epicness of “Citizen Erased,” the pop masterpiece that is “Plug in Baby,” the higly experiemental, Rachominoff-inspred “Space Dementia,” this album is just “wow” all the way through.

I’m sort of sad about Muse in a way. I listened to them way too much (overdosed, if you will), and now they are not as interesting and fun as they used to be to me. Same goes for Radiohead and Explosions in the Sky, along with some other bands I’m sure.

Origin of Symmetry is an important album to me. Lots of good memories are tied into its notes.