June 18, 2009

Afterlives -- A Ticking Clock I Couldn't Stop

(Sorry I've been sketchy at updating lately. Busy week.)
Afterlives is the musical project of Will Barrett, and a new force on the Enemies List Home Recordings roster. Barrett compiled this release entirely in a home studio, leading it to be called a pinnacle of "outsider art". Full of emotion, reverb, fuzz, and effects pedals, this release is also a pretty good example of modern shoegaze. Similar to the Philip James release I posted, this album has poppy sounding vocals covered with thick layers of instruments and effects. Songs like 'Ever The Optimist' and 'Sunderban Tigers' are prime examples of this formula.

EDIT: Will just wrote on my last.fm page thanking me for the kind words, and as a result, I feel that I need to include this link to buy the album. I definitely recommend it, Enemies List is one of the best labels out there right now, and there's only 72 copies of the album left in stock. And we all know the only good edition of an album is the first edition.

June 16, 2009

Philip James -- Hazy Helicopter Fuck

This is the very first album I am posting on here that was sent to me directly by an artist who wanted their album on here (expect the second one, an album by Kill & Eat, to be posted within the next two days). I'm really excited to post this, because the album is a diverse mixture of a lot of good stuff. Some tracks, such as 'Hazy, An Icicle Filled for Millions', push the boundaries of my sanity. I was listening to the song with headphones on in my dark bedroom last night, and it scared me. I feel like it's the kind of music that should be played when you visit a really creepy carnival in your nightmares. Other tracks such as 'Aint So Bad' step onto trails blazed by bands such as Afterlives. 'Helicopter Pilot' even invokes faint strains of Strawberry Jam-era Animal Collective. A large wall of noise is permeated by pop-influenced, smooth, repetitive vocals and becomes the standout track on the album. While some noise groups try and mash their vocals into the noise they produce, James sets it apart. These poppier tracks, when combined with the more ambient or noise tracks, create an album that sounds like the lineup of Enemies List Home Recordings thrown into a blender. All in all, this is a solid experimental noise album by a young artist who will (hopefully) continue making strong material.

June 15, 2009

Rilo Kiley -- The Execution of All Things

I mentioned this album in my review of The Appleseed Cast's show about a week ago, and I'm not kidding when I say that it is one of my favorite albums. Call me lame all you want, but this album is definitely the standard that I hold all female vocalists to. Jenny Lewis has a great voice, and I think it really shines on this album, more than her solo work or other Rilo Kiley albums, because she offers such a varied range. She fits the slower acoustic songs while still being able to shout her way above the din in the louder songs. This brings me to another bit I love about this record. The instruments work. The drums work. The guitars work. The bass works. Every instrument knows its place and is perfectly happy to be there and not steal the show. This causes the album to, quite simply, work. Sing-along songs like 'With Arms Outstretched' (this song is one of my favorite songs ever, by the way) contrast well with the moments in songs like 'Spectacular Views' where the band goes into full rock-out mode. All in all, while not a perfect album (the sequences about Jenny's childhood in Alaska at the end of some tracks can be annoying), The Execution of All Things comes pretty close and provides a good standard for female vocalists, instrumental cohesion, and indie-alt-country-rock hyphenated genre albums in general.

June 14, 2009

Record Player Help

So, right now, I just have a Jensen JTA-220 turntable for my vinyls. I was wondering if any of you readers out there could contribute the best possible ideas for transferring my vinyl records to my computer through the turntable. Once I'm able to do that, I'll be able to get you guys a lot of rare releases and splits by artists like Mouth of the Architect, Jonah Matranga, Appleseed Cast, and Tigershark. The turntable has one headphone jack and external speaker terminals. If you have any ideas or help, just leave a comment! It would be really helpful, because I don't want to spend a lot of money on something that gives a poor sound quality.

This post can also be used to request albums and stuff, also in the comments!

Thanks again!

(Music posts will return tomorrow)

June 13, 2009

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone -- Twinkle Echo

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone wins my award for Band Name That Best Captures The Band's Sound. While this may not seems like a very honorable title, rest assured that it still fits perfectly. Owen Ashworth, the main driving force behind CftPA, crafts melancholy lyrics that totally oppose everything set forth in the lo-fi, catchy, driving rhythms that eminate from his Casiotone keyboard and back up his songs. Even though these two forces seem to be going in opposite directions, they actually combine, highlight each other, and make for some really awesome songs. Superficially, these songs really are stories about people that are Painfully Alone ('Roberta C.', 'Calloused Fingers Won't Make You Strong, Edith Wong', 'Half Ghost'), but under the layers of wit and Casiotone beats, Ashworth explores many facets of human nature and the vicious circles we trap ourselves in. In all honesty, however, this is exactly what the short story writer should set out to do, and that's what Owen Ashworth does well. Really, his songs are short stories set against a soundtrack in a book-on-tape fashion. Sure, these stories may rhyme and flow, but that doesn't take anything away from their beauty or their significance. On a related note, Owen Ashworth is tied with John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats for the Biggest Asshole To Their Respective Invented Characters award. Sorry Owen, if you're going to make your characters trudge through the lives they lead without at least letting them get hit by a bus or something, it's bound to happen.

June 12, 2009

Jawbreaker -- Bivouac

Over the years, many scholars (read: Internet dudes) have debated long and hard over what Jawbreaker's best album was. Being a 90s punk band, this question is of the utmost importance. After all the debates have raged for years, after all the evidence has been presented, after all the little intricacies have been listened to, these scholars were ready to present their pick for Best Jawbreaker Album. Right before they were about to announce the decision, I decided that I simply didn't care (this being the internet and all) and picked, for myself, Bivouac. Bivouac is Jawbreaker's second album, and it's the album that took me the longest to get into. This proved to be well worth the effort, however. Starting out listening to the pop-punk-flavored 'Chesterfield King', I eventually moved onto 'Shield Your Eyes'. I was fully content listening to these two songs for a while, but then I heard talk of 'Tour Song'. Eager to check it out for myself, I listened, and fell in love with the song. After 'Tour Song', the band launches into another high-energy song ('You Don't Know...', a Joan Jett cover). 'You Don't Know...' is followed by 'Pack It Up', a song that deals with the band's back catalog, and 'Parabola', which the band called their "angry song". The final song on the album is what I consider to be one of the best songs ever written. 'Bivouac' doesn't start out seeming like much, but over the course of the song, it builds on itself, eventually reaching the climax where singer and guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach screams 'BIVOUAC!' and the band launches into what can almost be described as a dirge. Powerful blasts of noise attack the listener from all sides, and the band pours everything they have into these last few minutes. However, everything I've said is moot if you remember what I said earlier ("this being the internet and all"), and the only way to really experience the glory of this album for yourself is to download it.

June 11, 2009

Sicko -- You Can Feel the Love in This Room

I just stumbled upon this album recently myself, but it's good. Formed in early 90s Seattle, this band really took the West Coast punk sound and ran with it. Think a popper Jawbreaker with irreverent lyrics that involve Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch, Carl Sagan, and "gettin' drunk offa sunshine". This doesn't mean you should like it any less, however. This music is carefree and fun. It's totally danceable and just has a genuine feel to it. Some songs are good music for riding bikes, while some songs are good music for skateboarding. This album kind of epitomises the "nerd rock" side of punk at the time. It's a shame these guys didn't get bigger, because many of their contemporaries did and Sicko opened for some pretty big bands at the time. Basically, I feel like this album is the album my teenage soul would write if my teenage soul lived in Seattle in the early 90s. Plus, the guy in the middle of the picture totally kind of looks like Bradford Cox of Deerhunter.

June 10, 2009

The Comedians -- Moon Colony Bloodbath

If you know me in real life, you're probably aware that I'm a big fan of The Mountain Goats. So, needless to say, when I saw John Darnielle and John Vanderslice play live this spring, I was stoked. While at the venue, I was personally told by John Darnielle himself that he had played this show to break my heart (he didn't play 'Song for an Old Friend'). During his set, however, between various fan favorites and a three-song bit from Full Force Galesburg, John Vanderslice came onto stage to play with Darnielle. After some of Darnielle's always-great banter, they launched into a set of songs described as being about 'that organ harvesting colony on the moon that the crazy guys are always telling you about, only you don't believe them because they're crazy'. Sure enough, when this 7-song EP was made available at shows (I think starting with the show they played the day after I saw them), it was about exactly that. John and John alternate singing between the tracks as they tell the story of a man driven mad by his work harvesting organs. Featuring spot-on performances by both men, this EP, along with Satanic Messiah and Black Pear Tree, more than makes up for Darnielle's slightly weak showing on 2008's Heretic Pride. All in all, a solid EP about a biziarre concept that leaves me hoping that the Johns will team up again in the future to record something similar.

June 09, 2009

The Appleseed Cast show review

So, I'm really posting again. I'm sorry I just stopped, I got so caught up in the end of school that blogging just kind of dropped off my radar (to everyone that e-mailed me: check your inbox). Now that summer is upon me, I'll be posting again, trying to get music out to the people. This first post is a show review + two albums of a great band, The Appleseed Cast.
'Never ever, ever, ever let anyone rob you of your joy' The Appleseed Cast -- June 4

Ah, The Appleseed Cast... I remember getting Low Level Owl Volume 1 and Peregrine as a yung'in, and never really giving them a serious listen until my friend started raving about how good Peregrine was last year. Now, after seeing what may have been the most disappointing show of my life, I am glad that the aforementioned friend was not in attendance. The show started out well enough, with the first band, Jukebox The Ghost, taking the stage a little late but still doing an awesome job of playing an entertaining and fun set with just two band members. Kudos to those guys for being willing to stick it out and giving Columbus their all either way. I picked up a copy of their new album, and even though it is different (people in the band were sick and not in attendance), it's still a solid album, although I have to say I liked the two-piece more.
Tommy from Jukebox the Ghost
Photo Credit: Bryan Duffie | Flickr
The show went downhill when Jenny Owen Youngs took the stage, however. Playing a set that basically sounded like a bad knockoff of Rilo Kiley's The Execution of All Things (which is one of my favorite albums), Youngs seemed to draw in the drunk, hot, twentysomething hipster wannabes. In all seriousness, these people weren't even in American Apparel or anything. It was bizarre. But, still, her set, except for the moments when the band was allowed to really rock the fuck out (this happened exactly once), she just sounded like every other thirtysomething country/folk/rock crooner with the ability to play guitar. Not awful, but nothing I would really spend any further time/money on.
Jenny Owen Youngs
Photo Credit: Bryan Duffie | Flickr
Then, tAC was up next! I was more hyped than ever. It was finally happening! I was about to see one of my favorite bands in the same venue I saw another one of my favorite bands (Circle Takes the Square way back in '05)! Even the constant playlist of Black Moth Super Rainbow's Eating Us, which was an odd choice of music to play before the set, couldn't dampen my mood. I even met a really nice guy with a camera, Bryan, who was taking pictures of the set and was just really genuine and into the band. After taking to him for a while and watching tAC's people set up, the band finally came on.
Christopher Crisci from The Appleseed Cast
Photo Credit: Bryan Duffie | Flickr
After a brief intro jam and some fiddling around, the band launched into their first song. I noticed that there seemed to be a large amount of noise coming from behind me, but being right up on the stage and wrapped up in the experience, I didn't give it much thought. A few songs in, however, I began to hear screams of 'FIGHT SONG!' from the dreaded Drunk Fan. I focused back on the stage and hoped it would go away, but soon, drunken WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOs and YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHs started bubbling forth from the back, even in the middle of songs. The band ignored it, however, and played on. Soon though, Bryan and I got the first taste of our enemy for the night. A group of four people, one girl and three guys, all plastered out of their minds, started dancing. And not swaying dancing either. Full-on club dancing. With grinding. During an Appleseed Cast show. Eventually, their drunken carousing led the girl to jostle Bryan a few times, for which they stammered out an apology and then went back to dancing. Eventually, these jostles and screams turned into the most annoying and shrill things I've ever experienced at a show. Eventually, Bryan left his front-and-center spot for his favorite band ever and moved more towards the back. This meant the Drunk Fans got to move up right to the front, right next to me. After keeping their antics up, I eventually took a few steps back and ended up next to another fan who was into the show, and I was happy. Soon after that though, Drunk Girl started flailing her arms about and hit the new guy in the face. Drunk Guy #1 came back, apologized, and then kissed the new guy where Drunk Girl had hit him. He shrugged it off, and went back to enjoying the show. Later in the night, Drunk Guy #2 came up to me and motioned like he wanted to dance. I was extremely angry with their antics by this point, so I firmly placed my hand under his ribcage, looked him in the eye, and said "Get the fuck away from me". Now, if he was sober, this guy probably could have knocked me out with one punch, but instead he just kind of stood there looking glazed-over and confused. Immediately, the new guy walked up, separated us, and I spent the rest of the show (which wasn't much by that point) in relative peace.
Aaron Coker from The Appleseed Cast
Photo Credit: Bryan Duffie | Flickr
After the band's set ended, I shook the hands of drummer Aaron Coker and bass player Marc Young, thanked them, and went back into the crowd. I found the peacekeeper guy, shook his hand, and he gently brought me down to his level and said "Never ever, ever, ever let anyone rob you of your joy" in my ear. It struck me profoundly, and I realized that I had basically forgotten that there was a show going on and instead concentrated on a group of four drunks. It really hit me hard, and I was disappointed that I had been so easily distracted from one of my favorite bands. Later, I found Bryan, thanked him, gave him my e-mail so he could send me the pictures he took (they're gracing this entry right now), and chatted for a while about the show. Basically, I left Circus feeling extremely disappointed in myself, but balancing it out with a good deal of hope.
In conclusion, my thanks:

Bryan: Thank you for being an all-around nice guy and being willing to chat with me during the show.
Peacekeeper Guy: Thank you for bringing me back to Earth, helping me realize my flaws, and giving me some good advice for the future.

The two girls from the beginning who left after Jenny's set: I thought I heard "Ask him" coming from one of your mouths multiple times, and then other comments about asking me for something. In the future, don't be afraid to talk to random people, although I'm kind of kicking myself now that I didn't initiate contact.

The Columbus scene: Thank you for, for the most part, being neutral at shows and not being huge embarrassments like those drunk fucks.
Marc Young (bass) and Aaron Pillar (guitar) from The Appleseed Cast
Photo Credit: Bryan Duffie | Flickr
And now, the music!

The Appleseed Cast -- Two Conversations
This album showcases a much more traditional rock sound. Songs like 'Fight Song' and 'Innocent Vigilant Ordinary' have become fan favorites, while still being able to appeal to people just getting into The Appleseed Cast.

The Appleseed Cast -- Sagarmatha
(Note: This is the cover of the CD, because that's what I uploaded. The cover of the vinyl LP is absolutely gorgeous.) This album is one of my favorites of 2009, just because it is beautiful! Sweeping soundscapes and rich textures make this the perfect headphone and speaker album. Listening through headphones allows you to catch all the little intricacies, while listening through speakers (especially if the album is turned up and my eyes are closed in a dark room) makes me feel like I'm soaring on the sonic clouds this album produces. If you don't have it already, get this album!

Also, be sure to explore the rest of the band's catalog. Some bands claim to be ever-evolving, but The Appleseed Cast is probably the only band for which that is 100% true. The switch from Sunny Day Real Estate-style indie on The End of the Ring Wars to the current soaring post-rock group has been beautiful to watch.