Sunday, June 26, 2011

Really, All You Need Is Björk

It starts with a link.

And ends with you listening to it.

Really, I have nothing more to say other than forget Volta, forget that weird thing she did with Thom Yorke, forget that weirder thing she did with Dirty Projectors (though that wasn't as bad). This is the Björk we know and love.

Just listen, fuckers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Time Travel (Not The Fun Kind)

Last night I had the realization that I own a lot of CDs. They're currently overflowing from my meager CD rack. From the beginning of middle school till around the first or second semester of college, I bought CDs on a fairly consistent basis, around 1 every two weeks if I could afford it. Looking back, I have no idea how I DID afford it, but I somehow ended up with a huge collection of them.

Upon closer inspection, there were quite a few that I hadn't listened to since middle school. Not remembering what they sounded like, I spent last night and the most of today reliving middle school. Musically, at least. I don't think anyone in their right mind has fond memories of middle school; I certainly didn't. The only kids who were less popular than me were the ones that had mental breakdowns during class, or... well, that was about it.

But music. I liked a LOT of shitty music during high school. Lots of rap-rock/metal, nü-metal and alt-rock. Here's a short sampling of what I've been revisiting:

Crazy Town - Darkhorse
I think there were two categories of angsty white preteens in my high school: those who listened to rap, and those who listened to nü-metal. Me being in the latter category, I was of course in love with Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory. Apparently a lot of bands were as well, because the amount of CDs trying to be Hybrid Theory I found was astonishing. This was one of them. Crazy Town were most famous for that awful piece of trash "Butterfly". You know. "Come my lady, come come my lady" blah de fucking BLAH. There's really no redeeming qualities in this CD too; it's bland, boring rap/rock with awful lyrics, awful vocal performances and uninspired songwriting. It was mildly aggressive and had curses on it though, which 12 year old Mike latched onto immediately (the edited version, at least; Mommy didn't want me listening to so called "explicit" music). NEXT.

Greenwheel - Soma Holiday
My father bought this for me on one of his trips to Japan, I think. Nobody I've talked to has heard a single thing about this band; Wikipedia says this was their only album and they toured with bands like Injected and Hoobastank and all those other bad post-grunge alt rocky bands that tried to be Bush but had no charisma or songwriting skill. In all fairness to Greenwheel, this album isn't BAD. It's just incredibly generic. It legitimately sounds like a bunch of Bush B-sides. Given as how I hadn't heard of Bush when I was this age, though, this was the next best thing.

Aerosmith - Just Push Play
I fully expected this to be one of the worst of the lot I listened to, but honestly, there's some absolutely INCREDIBLE material on here. Mainly, I still can't get over how awesome the opener "Beyond Beautiful" is. Yeah, it's got sitar in there trying to make it all "exotic" and shit, but it's incredibly out there for a classic rock band, not least the one that wrote "Dream On". Productionwise, this album slays too. Thick and beefy yet still pristinely clear guitars abound everywhere. There's a whole lot of filler, but the first three tracks are all sweet, most importantly "Beyond Beautiful". Damn.

System Of A Down
I still listen to SOAD, but these two albums fell by the wayside once I hit high school. The self-titled suffers from rather muddy production and Steal This Album! suffers from filler syndrome again, but they're both great and ended up back in listening rotation. The self titled in particular has some great, great songwriting. It's angsty and heavy enough for preteens, but the writing is so spastically great that any shortcomings get overlooked.

3rd Strike - Lost Angel
The minute I popped this one in, overwhelming waves of nostalgia rolled over me. It was like I was back in middle school, but with the added wisdom that I have now. I'm listening to it now actually, as I type this, and the jury's out. Vocals suck. Plain and simple. Songwriting's nothing special, but there's some awesome guitar licks and plenty of crunch. Actually, a LOT of crunch. Maybe that's why I liked it so much and never really realized it.

And then there's the honorable mentions, which I've either not listened to yet, still listen to or don't give two shits about in any conceivable manner. Maybe I'll do another one of these posts in the coming future.

Default - The Fallout
The Buzzhorn - Disconnected
Course Of Nature - Superkala
Mad At Gravity - Resonance
The Used - The Used
And plenty of things from Disturbed, Creed, Korn, Slipknot, Seether... holy shit the list goes on. I'm definitely doing another of these posts.

As for now, I'm gonna go back under into nostalgia and laugh at my preteen self. Also, Deconstruction and Ghost by The Devin Townsend Project come out today (being Tuesday, at this point). Pick them up. I've yet to hear Ghost, but Deconstruction  quite possibly eclipses Scurrilous as most over the top absurdly awesome metal album to come out this year.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two Opposite Extremes

I've slumped. It happens to the best of us.

Summer's been an interesting period for me musically so far; I haven't really had the motivation to do much of anything, to be perfectly honest. The feeling of un-inspiration, if you will, hits every musician from time to time, and I've found myself... well, not being able to write. Which is hard, considering there's still deadlines for this musical. Luckily, a few things I've been listening to recently may have sparked my creative juices again.

The first being something I don't usually enjoy: SHOW TUNES!

Longtime buddy ol' friend and collaborator Andrew Fox has been working a show recently titled The Best Is Yet To Come: The Music of Cy Coleman. I called him up to shoot the shit, and he mentioned the show and offered me a comp ticket. Not being one to turn down free things that are offered to me (hey, I'm a fuckin' composer; my entire life is based on handouts) and not having anything else to do, I agreed.

Let me tell you: I'm not a big fan of Broadway songs, but I'll be damned if the band wasn't the tightest I've heard in a long time. Through 85 minutes of nonstop music they didn't drop a note, the sound was incredible and filled the entire tiny theater, and they served to liven up all the music to a degree where it was almost like being back in Coleman's times, albeit with many more microphones. The singers all performed admirably too, with my favorite being Lillias White (she was the crowd favorite too, singing about being a prostitute and ripping off her wig halfway through the show), but hats off to the band and Billy Stritch's arrangements. Wonderful.

The other is something completely different. One of my favorite bands, Unexpect, released their latest album at the end of May and it's currently been in heavy rotation in my car. Fables of the Sleepless Empire is equal parts heavy, technical, bizarre, unexpected (forgive the pun) and really hammers home the fact that the band is made up of French Canadians.

Whereas previous album In a Flesh Aquarium was as about as oddball as an album could get, Fables seems to be the natural progression of the band's sound. Off kilter rhythms and melodies still abound, as well as hairpin changes, but it's a much more focused effort. As opposed to being weird for weird's sake, the album's bizarre nature serves a purpose to the songwriting, and even if the album drags in its last moments, the beginning is more than worth the price of admission. The first two tracks in particular are some of the best in the band's catalog, with opener "Unsolved Ideas of a Distorted Guest" being my far and away favorite. It opens with bowed cymbals and those giant metal MREEEEOOOWWWWSSSS that horror composers love so much before launching into an absolutely incredible 9 string bass slap part.  And then proceeds to go all over the place. But it never loses focus even for a second, which in and of itself is astounding considering how many fucking ideas are being thrown around.

Honestly, just go buy the album. Considering you can get it digital for 9 dollars Canadian, it's a steal. Me, I prefer albums I really like in CD form (I'm an old fogey like that), but to each his own.

Coming soon: more musical work (hopefully) and a 3 song pop/punk EP being written with Mark Wudtke of The Bearing. That one might be entertaining.