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Posts Tagged ‘music

Review of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)

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Score = A+


scroll down to listen to this entire album on youtube (embedded in this blog post)!

It’s like the Grateful Dead, but more restrained, but notably of it’s time (2001).  Wilco’s highly acclaimed, and well deserving, album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, mixes psychedelic rock with a hint of country resulting in a sound that is jam band-ish; except without the lengthy jams.

I’ve only listened to the album 3 times now (I am on my 4th listen as I type this), but already I like it a lot. Turn this album on and get ready for 51 minutes of easy listening. Give it all of your attention, or give it none – you’ll appreciate it just the same. YHF could be the centerpiece of a shroom trip or maybe road trip music for a family vacation on the way to visit relatives. There is just such a simple, ageless vibe to the music. In fact the genius is so simple that you might not realize it at first (would that make it, in reality, complex?). The first time I listened to some songs off YHF I thought, ‘Boring!’ I gave it another try a few months later and it hit me like an epiphanizing epiphany: this will go down in history as a classic album.

There’s no adrenaline pumping hype songs, no thought provoking brain boggler songs, no frills at all really. What you get with Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is about an hour of laid back ‘just kickin’ it’ music. Feeling hyped? Listen to old-school Three 6 Mafia. Feeling depressed? Listen to The Bends. Feeling normal and just wanting to relax on a Sunday night? Listen toYankee Hotel Foxtrot. It’s that kind of music. Somehow, YHF manages to evoke in me a strong feeling of nostalgia, even though I’ve only recently started listening to it.

The stand-out songs on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot are:

  • “War on War”
  • “Jesus, Etc.”
  • “Heavy Metal drummer”

Here is the entire album for you to listen to (hosted on youtube!):

I love the outtro ambiance. “Reservations” is spectacular closing.

Written by danielperry99

January 28, 2011 at 11:53 am

Review of Wu-Tang Forever (1997)

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Score – A-

For their second release, the Wu-Tang Clan knew that they had to do something big to live up to 36 Chambers. So for Wu-Tang Forever RZA produced almost 2 hours worth of cerebral head busting bangers in an expansive double disc for his clan to rap over. Unfortunately, the bar had just been set too high. Regardless, Wu-Tang Forever is still one of the hottest rap albums to come out of the 90s, or any time really.

Lyrically, Forever is much less focused than 36 Chambers. Most verses on this album are heavily laden with non-sequitors. It’s like they’re just trying to say a bunch of smart-sounding shit without worrying about whether or not it makes any sense. U-God and Cappadonna are especially guilty of this. Personally, I don’t mind at all – it sounds dope regardless.

RZA amazes the musical world once again with his unforeseen genius. The production here isn’t too much like 36 Chambers or Only Built 4 Cuban Linx; it’s more of a bass heavy classical string influenced style. It sounds great, and RZA keeps it up throughout the whole album.

In summary:

  • Wu-Tang Forever doesn’t have the same cult appeal as 36 Chambers, but it’s a great album in it’s own right.
  • The production is something else. You won’t hear beats like this on any other album.
  • The album is long, and at times the lyrics fall off a tiny bit – nothing too detrimental. The beats are superb throughout, however.

Written by danielperry99

January 20, 2011 at 5:49 am

Review of The Bends (1995)

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In 1995, Radiohead released their second album, The Bends. Their first album had done fairly well, but most critics chalked it up to a fluke thinking that the band would never devise another hit single like “Creep.” I can only assume that any of the dissenting critics felt like morons after hearing The Bends, which contains more hit singles than any other Radiohead album so far. This album marked the group’s initial move away from typical Brit-pop toward something more creative.

The Bends is through and through, a haunting album. From the hopeless announcement, “Everything is broken,” on the album’s opener “Planet Telex,” to the solemn cry of “Fade out again,” on the album’s closer “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” the tone is somber throughout. There is a pretty clear lyrical theme to this album. It’s about losing all hope and just giving up on life altogether. I think that the band probably wanted to get the point across that everybody feels this way sometimes, so you (the listener) should not be ashamed. Or maybe Radiohead hates life and just wants everyone to know that they might as well just not try. Or maybe they want to spread a nihilist ideology. Whatever, I don’t know.

One thing I do know, though, is that The Bends is chock full of radio hits. “High and Dry,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” “Bulletproof… I Wish I Was,” “Sulk,” and “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” all received a decent amount of airwave time. Personally, my favorite songs on the album are “The Bends” and “Black Star,” but all of them are good. There isn’t a single skip on the whole album, which is a mark of greatness.

This is probably the ultimate album to cry along to. The entire band show that they have a deep understanding of human emotion, and Thom Yorke’s lyrics will make you believe that he truly is feeling everything that he sings about.

There’s no way around it – The Bends is an essential 90’s album that everybody should listen to at least once.

In summary form:

  • Radiohead proved critics wrong by releasing The Bends, an album full of sad radio ballads.
  • The album has an overall tone of hopelessness. The emotion is real.
  • Great album. Not as good as Ok Computer, if you ask me, but great nonetheless.

Written by danielperry99

January 18, 2011 at 6:17 am

Review of Ok Computer (1997)

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Best album of the 90s? Best album of all time? Ok Computer by Radiohead is agreed upon by many music fans to be a perfect 10/10. I can’t say that I really disagree. To me, Ok Computer is tied in 1st place with about 20 other albums.

When it first came out, nobody expected Radiohead’s third album to be what it ended up being. Pablo Honey and The Bends both had a terrific, albeit pretty standard Brit-pop vibe. So when Ok Computer came out sounding like the next global music revolution, people took notice. Radiohead didn’t conform to any standard for this album. They created a totally new sound that even seems void of any influence at all. They must have quarantined themselves from the rest of society for some period of time in order to come up with such a new and invigorating style of rock music (in truth, the band did record a good deal of the material out in the middle of rural England). The album is so good, in fact, that even the producer gained quite a bit of recognition. How often does that happen in rock?

Radiohead managed to somehow distort their instruments in a way that makes them sound as if they were played at the bottom of a viscous lake on a far away planet. The music evokes images of the cosmos, the self, and the relationship between. Take “Subterranean Homesick Alien” for example: the guitar medley is so spaced out and unconventional – it just doesn’t sound like something that Earth people would create. There are songs on Ok Computer that sound more like Radiohead’s older stuff though. For example, “Karma Police” is a radio-friendly pop song that almost sounds like it could have been recorded for The Bends. “No Surprises” combines the best of old Radiohead style with the best of the new: a polished spacey tone entrances the listener while an acoustic rhythm reminiscent of past albums chugs along in pop splendor.

The lyrics are just as much an essential piece of the equation as the cosmic atmosphere. Themes of corporate greed, individuality, and reflection on modern day society persist throughout the alien atmosphere of the record. The lyrics combine just the right amount of noncomformity with nonsense, never sounding tired.  “Paranoid Android,” a modern day “Bohemian Rhapsody,” is a combination of three songs, with the lyrics of course not making much sense. Even so, all three parts flow together flawlessly to create an epic masterpiece.

Ok Computer set the standard for rock albums from 1997 onward. Unfortunately, that was a standard that nobody could even hope to touch. Radiohead themselves probably could have if they hadn’t chosen to go in a different, yet equally amazing, direction. Either way, Ok Computer remains today at the top of a miles high pedestal. If I had to come up with a name for the genre – because this album IS it’s own genre – I think I would have to call it intergalactic-cosmic-alien-atmospheric-guided-sound-manipulation. Yeah, maybe that’ll catch on.

So to summarize:

  • Ok Computer is easily one of the best albums of all time.
  • An alien atmosphere persists in the music throughout the course of the album. The guitar is often distorted in a very subtle, yet effective way.
  • Radiohead experimented a lot on this album, but it doesn’t sound like experimentation. It sounds like they’d been doing this exact type of music for 20 years already and had it mastered.
  • Lyrical themes of consumerism, modern society, and where individuals fit into the equation tie the album together as much as the musical atmosphere.
  • Buy this album, or download it illegally. Whatever you have to do – just listen to this album. It will become one of your all time favorites.

Written by danielperry99

January 17, 2011 at 10:47 am

Review of Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too (1998)

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When I first heard the lead single off of this album, “You Get what you Give,” I didn’t quite know what to make of it. The song is extremely catchy, but I was afraid it might not stand the test of time.  My first impression of the band’s lyrical capabilities was also a mixed one: most of the song’s lyrics are decent (nothing spectacular, nothing terrible), but at the end of the song frontman and songwriter/producer of The New Radicals, Gregg Alexander, distastefully sings “Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson/Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson/You’re all fake run to your mansions/Come around we’ll kick your ass in.” Of course, this line may actually be responsible in part for the song’s success. Alexander explains it as that he said it to prove the point that the mainstream will always favor gossip over anything meaningful.  Personally, I think the call out subtracts class from the song. Even so, “You Get what you Give” is still one of the catchiest pop songs of the 90’s, and Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too is a solid light-rock-pop album.

Through listening to this album, you’ll get to know a bit about Gregg Alexander. Alexander is the key component of The New Radicals. Essentially, he IS The New Radicals.  His piano laden soft-rock pop sound, accompanied with lyrics of unrequited love and young heartbreak, tells the sad story of a guy down on his luck, depressed. Out of 12 total songs on the album, at least 8 or 9 of them are about Alexander’s ex-girlfriend. This isn’t a bad thing though. It gives the album a clear lyrical theme, and since the music is so catchy, it works pretty well.

Catchy – that’s the most in-your-face quality of this album. After only one listen, you’ll be finding it difficult to refrain from singing along to any of the songs. Not only is it catchy, but it is very reminiscent of it’s decade. Alexander’s falsetto singing voice is like a perfect mixture of Thom York and Billy Corgan.

The New Radicals didn’t last very long. They broke up soon after releasing this – their first album. Alexander said it was  because he couldn’t stand the media attention. I would’ve thought he liked attention from the way he called out  several celebrities on the lead single, but maybe I’m misjudging. Anyways, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too by The New Radicals is chock full of catchy songs that are fun to sing along too. While the lyrics aren’t too awfully thought provoking, they are presented with heart-felt emotion – and that counts for something.

 

Written by danielperry99

January 17, 2011 at 3:02 am

Review of Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One (1999)

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Also check out my review of Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle!

After listening to Olivia Tremor Control’s first album, Dusk at Cubist Castle, it was hard for me to imagine that anything that this little known Elephant 6 band could put out would live up to that level of genius. I thought, “well I’ve hardly even heard of them. They must be one of those bands that just has a small burst of greatness before fading into the depths of mediocrity.” Boy, was I wrong.

I was apprehensive about even checking this album out, but I’m sure as hell glad I did. Black Foliage not only lives up to its predecessor; it goes 10 rounds with Dusk in a fight that’s ended by a double knockout punch from each contender. On Black Foliage, Olivia Tremor Control once again demonstrate their mastery of pop music, while at the same time actually improving in their soundscape construction.

The tone of the album is set right off the bat with the opening track, aptly titled “Opening,” which is just 27 seconds of weird, non-musical noise that serves as a lead in to the albums first psychedelic pop gem, “Peculiar Noise Called Train Director.” The lyrics to this song, and most of the others, lead the listener to believe that the theme of this album is ‘drop acid and listen.’ Now, I don’t know if that’s true (Olivia Tremor Control member Bill Doss says 50 listens are required before the concept can be understood), but it really really sounds like it. But the part of “Peculiar Noise Called Train Director” that really sets the tone for the album is the lyrics of the chorus “Where we are, in the blink of an eye you get several meanings.” This album is full of sounds. So many sounds in fact, that every time you listen to the album you’ll probably interpret it differently.

This album doesn’t stray too awfully far from its masterful predecessor’s formula; however, it doesn’t sound stale at all. If the formula to Dusk at Cubist Castle was ‘irresistible pop + ambient soundscape’ then the formula for Black Foliage is ‘irresistible pop + ambient soundscape + weird noise onslaught.’ Basically, this album puts a lot more emphasis on the experimental aspects, while Dusk placed more focus on the pop aspect. Also, while the pop songs on Dusk are largely untouched by any noise experimentation, the pop songs on Black Foliage are fully integrated with sideswiping ear-assaulting noises. Don’t worry though. Trust me, Black Foliage is at least as good as Dusk at Cubist Castle.

Overall, the lyrics on Black Foliage seem much deeper and more meaningful than anything Olivia Tremor Control had put out up until this point. Not to say that the lyrics spoon feed an idea to you – no, you’ll have to listen closely, and you’ll have to think. I only have a faint idea of what is meant by the lyrics of “I have been Floated,” and I still don’t know what the hell “Grass Cannons” is about. Nevertheless, the lyrics are not just pointless hints of psychedelia; you can tell that there is some meaning hiding in there somewhere. But I must say, it’s easy to not even want to dig deeper. Even on a surface level, the lyrics are trippy, fun, and nostalgic.

I know I said earlier that the theme may be ‘drop acid and listen,’ but that was just a joke. If I may speculate for real in all seriousness for a moment, I would have to guess that the theme of the album is to pay close attention to your surroundings – there is always more lying below the surface. This could be with people, music, places, government policy, or whatever else. In other words, I think the theme is a slightly stronger version of the old cliche ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’

Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One is a must have album. Like the equally great album before it, Black Foliage will take you on a journey through introspective thought, deep ponderation, and comfortable uneasiness. Olivia Tremor Control proved with this album that they could mature gracefully as a band, and the result is magnificent. Go get this album right now. You will not regret it.

Written by danielperry99

January 16, 2011 at 2:28 am

Review of Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle

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I had never heard of this album, or even the band that recorded it until about a week ago when I was looking online for some unfamiliar music to listen to. I stumbled upon Olivia Tremor Control’s Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle (henceforth referred to as DaCC) while scrolling through Pitchfork.com’s top albums of the 1990’s list. I like Pitchfork’s music lists because they always throw in some indie shit I’ve never heard of before (even though a lot of the time their indie favorites suck). DaCC had a solid ranking in 39th place , so I decided to do a youtube search to hear a couple songs. The first song I clicked on was “Jumping Fences,” and all I can say is…well just listen to this shit.

I loved the song immediately. It contains absolutely no typical 90’s sounds or stereotypes, sounding rather like it must have been recorded in the 60’s. The vocal style, and even the lyrics being sung, are delightfully Beatles-ish in a way that is obviously inspired rather than bitten. Actually, it would probably be more accurate to say that the band’s similarities to the Beatles result simply from Olivia Tremor Control drawing inspiration from the same acts that inspired the Beatles. After listening to “Jumping Fences” 3 or 4 times I decided to check out a few more songs, and every other DaCC song I could find on youtube was just as good as “Jumping Fences.” It was getting near dusk at this point, so I figured it would be a good time for me to  pay a visit to Cubist Castle myself (this is my way of saying I downloaded the album). By now I’ve listened to this album in its entirety 10+ times, and I’m still not done. This is a great GREAT album. But I digress; let me tell you more about it.

This album is made up of two different things pretty much: pop music and electronic soundscapes. First, I’ll talk about the pop songs. All of the pop songs on this album are nearly perfectly constructed. Most of them go like this: starts with a verse-> goes into a great hook-> transitions into another great hook-> then to yet ANOTHER mind infesting hook. I don’t know if ‘hook’ is really the right word, but when I say ‘hook’ I’m talking about any super galactic awesome catchy part of a song. So basically, the main thing I want ya’ll to understand about the pop songs on DaCC: they are catchy as fuck. No that’s not strong enough. These songs are as catchy as songs can be. They are catchy like a net. Catchy like hands with extra fingers.  Catchy like a well set trap. I know I’m not the best simile builder, but I think you get what I’m trying to say: the pop songs on DaCC are the catchiest pop songs in the world. Seriously, I’m not even trying to be dramatic here, but only the Beatles could compare to this level of pop-rock expertise. But ok, that’s enough of that. Let me tell you about the soundscapes.

If the pop songs are the meat of the album, the ambient soundscapes are the forks. Sure, the album could still be great with just the pop songs, but it would be messy as hell. For their electronic soundscape portions of the album, Olivia Tremor Control found a perfect balance somewhere between “Revolution 9” and <insert Pink Floyd ambient track here>. I can’t find any examples to embed, because apparently people don’t upload the ambient electronic tracks from DaCC to youtube. So the best I can describe these tracks is to say that they consist of atmospheric sounds like birds chirping, dogs barking, or people talking; kind of like in “Revolution 9” but not scary. Then on top of the atmosphere there will be some electronic buzzing or blooping or scazzinging persisting unabashedly. Yeah, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself to know what I mean, but they do a good job of making you feel like you really are at Cubist Castle.

So here’s a recap of what we’ve learned:

  • Olivia Tremor Control’s Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle is a terrific album, way behind it’s time. It sounds like it was made in the 60’s but was really recorded in 1993-1996.
  • Out of a total 1 hour and 15 minutes (exactly), there’s about 50 minutes of dreamy catchy pop music and about  25 minutes of electronic ambient soundscapes. These are just my rough guesstimates btw.
  • The pop on the album is some of the best pop music I’ve ever heard.
  • The ambient/electronic tracks are interspersed perfectly with the pop songs.
  • I recommend you get this album as soon as you’re done reading this. It is truly super galactic awesome quality.

So take a hit of lsd, eat some shrooms, or just stay sober, and don’t hesitate to cross the treacherous drawbridge into Cubist Castle.