Monday, March 14, 2011

Music I've Been Listening to Recently: A Study in Eclecticism

I'm sorry that it's been over a week since I've posted here. I wanted to have an enormous post with tons and tons of pictures and video and everything from my recital, but none of my visual people have gotten anything to me yet. In time, dear readers, in time. I'm going to hound them all this week. As for everyone who came to watch it... from the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much. It went off incredibly well, you were all dancing like it was keeping you alive, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences thus far that I've done. You guys (and gals) fucking rock.

As for this past week and a half? There's been a few releases kicking around that I've been enjoying, the main one being Protest The Hero's new album, Scurrilous.

Yes, it sounds like the unholy bastard child that would be created if Queen, Yngwie Malmsteen and a prog-metal demon could somehow procreate with each other all at once, but fuck if it doesn't SHRED. The album's entirely over the top in delivery and composition, and there's roughly zero subtlety to be found here. It never seems self-indulgent though. Pretentious, maybe, if you don't get the band's sense of humor. For me, at least, it sounds like a band displaying a big middle finger to everyone who's ever had anything negative to say about their sound, which is essentially what they did on this album; they took all the elements that people said they didn't like and did them tenfold. Nary a second goes by without some lead line noodling around in the left ear, time changes and off-kilter riffs abound, and the vocal delivery is the epitome of balls out, cock flapping in the breeze bombastic-ness; and yet, it all comes together in a cohesive, entirely enjoyable package. Detractors of this band decry this album because there's almost no screaming on it; fuck them. This album doesn't need it. For standout tracks, check out "Hair-Trigger", "Tandem", "Tapestry" and for the hilarity of it all, "Sex Tapes", which includes one of my new favorite lyrical lines: "The Jonas generation's got rings wrapped round their dicks". Nobody said they didn't have a sense of humor.

Exhibit A: Sense of humor.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Avril Lavigne's new album Goodbye Lullaby released on March 2nd and immediately started fights between those who miss her woe-is-me so called "introspective, healing" songwriting and those who, yknow, AREN'T stuck in the early 2000s when it was ok to wear a tie over scene clothing.

Ok, maybe it's the grumpy music major in me, or the brainwashing our program does to make us think that Ke$ha is a legitimate artist, but Avril's lead single "What The Hell" is fucking great. I mean, sure, it's a little bit asinine in terms of lyrical content and it's as subtle as that scene from Inception where a train comes barreling down the road from nowhere (non-subtle seems to be a theme of this post). However, the hooks are catchy as all hell, the backing track is impossible to NOT bop your head along to and it arcs and flows like every other pop song, but still works. It's refreshing to hear a pop tune that's not done entirely out of a synthesizer for once.

Then there's the rest of the album. Our old friend I-V-vi-IV shows up in OVER HALF of the compositions (for those of you who don't speak composer, these lads do a good job of describing it) and there's generally nothing that sticks out as a good song. "Smile" perhaps has a bit of saving grace, but that could be more in part of Max Martin's writing contribution than anything else. Actually, scratch that, "Smile" is awesome. The rest? Nothing sticks out at all. "Push" tries too hard to be Alanis Morissette and once we get past "I Love You" (again saved somewhat by Martin) the album blends together with that damn chord progression and arrangements that don't do enough to distinguish one tune from another. Avril dropped the ball again, it seems. Damn shame. If the rest of the album was like "What The Hell" we could've had a more angsty Kelly Clarkson on our hands, which is never a bad thing.

Finally, Sunday night saw Deerhoof playing at SUNY Purchase, which was actually the first show Purchase put on I was able to attend that I was actually excited about (still pissed I missed Caspian), save for perhaps seeing Des Ark the previous Sunday. Deerhoof was fun, if incredibly inconsistent with songs that they played, but their support band was phenomenal.

They're called Buke And Gass, and they blew me away. With only 2 members and a whole lot of octave pedals, they crafted a wonderful set that, while still steeped in indie traditions, broke the mold a bit and actually had some interesting compositions to be heard. I'm currently making my way through my first listen of their debut album, Riposte, and it's great. Definitely pick it up. I was very happy that they turned out to be a great live time, after Thursday's disappointment with the Dropkick Murphys.

Not that I don't still enjoy them, they put on a great live show... but maybe 3 times in 3 years is enough for a while.

Since I've been silent for too long, I promise to post at least once more this week, probably on Wednesday. Perhaps twice if I have enough to say and get my recital footage and pictures. I'll have more new compositions for you too! Kelly Izzo and I were tasked to do a version of Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" that I'm sure you'll all be interested in hearing. I'll put it this way: we weren't allowed to listen to it, and she sent me just a vocal melody. No chords, no harmonic information, not even to click. It's coming out incredibly weird... imagine Cole Porter reimagined as Shadows Of The Sun era Ulver.

Happy reading.


  1. May I ask, what is it you see in "What the Hell"?

    To me, the chorus sounds like a bunch of unrelated melodic fragments forced together that are not derivative of one another. In short, it doesn't feel organic to me. It doesn't flow like I think a melody should.

    What do you like about it? Besides the obvious, that it makes you want to get out of your seat. I get the feeling this is something you value in pop music.

  2. It's incredibly hooky, for one. That vocal run in the chorus aside, you can't tell me when "If you love me, if you hate me/you can't save me" comes in, it doesn't get stuck in your head. The chorus melody, I personally think, is put together quite well. Starts off shaky, but comes in well.

    Arrangement. The instrumentation works perfectly, as well as the arc of the song. It's basically standard pop form, but entrances and exits of certain instruments are timed perfectly.

    Finally, it doesn't DRAG like the rest of her music. "Complicated" in particular is entirely guilty of that. It's way too slow. I'm all for slow songs, but it's lethargic and plodding, and gets weighed down in its own angst.

    I, for one, wish she would make more music like "What The Hell", because she's got a good voice. Her music just isn't relevant anymore. It's time for her to adapt.