Friday, December 15, 2017

Music Review: Ariel Levine "Let The Machine Get It" (Bleeding Gold Records)

In the time that I've reviewed music, I've compared something like 1/3 of the music I've heard with Nine Inch Nails.   It's not a bad thing-- it's just that if you have this certain industrial/synth sound it's where I'm going to go where as others more into that genre of rock (I had a friend in high school who really loved Front 242).    Right away, Ariel Levine reminds me of Trent Reznor, but not in a Nine Inch Nails way.   That industrial synth sound isn't there, it's more of a rock n roll sound, but his voice brings out Reznor.    At first, it's almost as if Reznor were to front a band like STP or Soundgarden.

That all changes by the third song.   "Until The Morning Light" brings about this rock sound in a way that I want to relate with someone like Muse.   I feel like there is a band that sounds like this and I listened to them once in a movie or on the radio by accident but I don't remember because I have enough of my "weirdo/outsider music" to keep track of these days.    Even into the next song, "We Fall In Line", there is this straight forward rock n roll sound like The Damn Personals, yet at the same time, I can hear the vocals also sounding a bit like in the first two songs. 

Other sounds which come out could include Blue October but ultimately these songs are comprised of various forms of rock n roll which have been blended into something which will become unique and true only to Ariel Levine when the history books are all written (And I intend to be one of those who writes them)   It's refreshing to hear something which seems to have taken the ideas of music past and turned them into a sound all their own rather than how most bands these days are just a combination of Band A + Band B. 

When I woke up this morning it was 9 degrees outside.   I have only recently moved into my new place and was hoping that once the stress and pressure of trying to find somewhere new to live was over, once the burden of having to move all of my belongings had passed, that life would get better.    Instead, I struggle just to find the nerve to get out of bed and when I am awake it is a constant fight to stay that way.

Last night I thought the bathtub wasn't going to drain because when I had pushed the lever down it seemed to do nothing.   I sat there, for hours, frustrated with it, trying everything I could to get it to work and thinking about all of the guilt I've taken upon myself this past year.    After a while of not messing with it, I realized that the bathtub was in fact draining, it was just doing it really, really slowly and had I just left it and walked away it would have eventually worked itself out.   Is that true of life as well?  I don't know. 

What I do know is that the only thing that gets me through these times is music.   Sometimes I feel like I consume music the way an alcoholic consumes the drink of their choice: I simply cannot get enough of it, good or bad, because when that good stuff hits, oh boy does it hit.   People say music is their life but they've likely never had to choose between dying or a song.    Music like this being delivered to me via email is what makes life worth living.   It's why I get out of bed in the morning despite everything else.    If you've ever listened to what was once on the radio called "alternative rock" (So, the radio in the 1990's), then you will find something to treasure in these songs even if not as much as I do. 

$9.99 to Download //

$18 for LP //

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Music Review: NYDTyson "If You're So Smart, Why Are You So Sad?"

Neil Young deGrasse Tyson (aka NYDTyson) is a two piece rock band and when trying to come up with comparisons for them, all I can think of are other two piece rock bands.   Local H comes to mind for some reason right away, but then so does the thump of The White Stripes.   Then I am reminded of The Honorary Title on some level and I begin questioning whether or not they were a duo.   But hey, when I was in my youth, listening to Local H, there weren't a lot of other duos to compare them with.   Now it is slightly more socially acceptable on some level I suppose.

The music has psych qualities to it as much as it is dreamy and at other times just flat out rocks.   I suppose it is vague to speak in generalizations (but really what are genres?) but if you're a fan of rock music on the whole, you will find something within these songs to enjoy because of the style of it.    For five songs, it starts off strong and has this pacing that most artists just don't know (or care) about.

I was immediately drawn to this EP though not because of the band name but because of the title- "If You're So Smart, Why Are You So Sad?".   I feel this to be less of an actual question and more of something whoever came up with it was told once.    People often tend to think of depression as just being sadness (which isn't true) and I tend to find that the people who suffer from depression tend to be smarter because they have that way about them where they think about everything too much.   What is the saying: ignorance is bliss? 

If Weezer met the Flaming Lips and sang about eggs, this could be the result.    Though the line "feeling like a satire of myself" is something I can genuinely relate to.     And I have nothing but respect for any band who decides to slowly transition into a ballad throughout their EP, but then the ballad just becomes so apathetic.    Yes, "Who Cares" is an apathetic ballad and I love every second of it.    Especially because you expect the ballad to be a love song and even though he's not singing about love in a pouring-your-heart-out way, in a sense it is still a form of a love song.

I suppose one could take that idea away from these five songs: things aren't always as they appear.    Even on the first song- "Egg"- I feel like you need to listen to it several times (and within the context of the full EP) before you can fully grasp all that is happening.    In some ways when I listen to this I think back to when emo was becoming more rock influenced and the people I knew back then who liked Hot Rod Circuit and Schatzi might be into this, but at the same time, it doesn't just have that surface appeal which will draw you in; there is also a solid amount of weird underneath to ultimately have you stay. 

$5 //

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cassette Review: John Davis and the Cicadas "El Pulpo" (Shrimper Records)

What is a song?  My music theory teacher would have a more exact answer for this, but for me, a song is something which can instantly transport you to a certain point in time the second you hear it.   It's kind of funny I only recently watched "The People vs OJ Simpson" and when I heard the song "Natural One" in there I was immediately taken back to the movie "Kids" and just where I was at in my life at that time.  (I also posted a photo of the cassingle I have, which I'm always reminded of that image when I hear that song as well)   The music created by John Davis has never been verse/chorus/verse as much as it has been magic.

On "El Pulpo" there is a a bit of psych rock.   It resembles They Might Be Giants and not just because a chorus of kids sing along on the first track- "Sugar Daddy Candy Corn", which is a lot of fun.    Overall though this music is fairly mellow.  It has a Lou Reed and even at times Bruce Springsteen style to it.    There can be funky percussion and even it can get tribal to some extent, but even a song like "Vanilla Shake" has a fun piano jangle.

I feel like if you're reading this though and if you are already a fan of John Davis, and thus John Davis and the Cicadas (Jon Secada, please don't sue!) you already have an idea of what the music is going to be like.   I don't want to name other names for various reasons, but there are people out there who have posters on their walls of "rock stars" who helped shape their youth and all of that, and for me, that can be said of John Davis.

What this cassettes come down to for me is two things: what the songs are about (because you know musically they're going to be right on) and the overall tone of it.    There is a song dedicated to Coca Cola, which is actually pretty cool, and in the opener on Side B- "Who Milks The Cow"- he lists off a who's who of pizza chains, among other topics.    Granted, this cassette isn't just about food but in some ways that is what I took out of it the most.  Am I always hungry?  Is that why?  Should we always stay hungry?

My take on all of this- and it might not be 100% accurate and you can absolutely find your own meaning in these songs- is that this starts off kind of as a fun, not really folk but sort of that kind of traditional rock singer music.   I think of it as even being something where he's sitting in front of kids playing some of these songs.   And slowly, as the songs progress, as he sits with these kids, they get a little restless and he slowly begins to lose his patience.

There is this unwinding on this cassette.  It starts off mellow enough and even I'd dare say wholesome, but by the end it feels maniacal.     It's like how Willy Wonka sang so innocently about "Pure Imagination" but then ended up going through a frightening tunnel.   But if I had to compare this with a character I do choose the Mad Hatter as there are the tick-tock banjo type of notes in a drawn out way which could certainly drive you to madness.

Music shouldn't just be about killer guitar riffs and lyrics you can tattoo on your shoulder.    Music should be about feelings.   It should spark something inside of you.   As with songs by John Davis in the past, I have no doubt that whenever I listen to this cassette it will transport me back to where I was when I first heard it.   And you can certainly argue that maybe my take on it is based more on where I'm at in my life but music, ultimately, yes, should have that personal touch.

$7 //
Edition of 150 //

Music Review: YOOP "Take Shelter"

To me, the true measure of music is how it stands up in various situations.  I listened to this album- "Take Shelter"- all the way through the first time I opened the link for it because I liked it that much from the first song.    I've also listened to it (among other times) while cleaning and while in the shower.   So, to me, if I can listen to it when I'm in all these different situations, it must be good.  (Far too often I worry that my mood sometimes can affect my opinion of a song.  Such as if a single was submitted to me on a day when I was more relaxed I might enjoy it and sometimes I worry I'm writing off certain songs not because I don't like them but because of other outside issues)

The songs of YOOP range from dreamy, blissed out rock ala Mazzy Star to something from the 1980's in the ways of synthwave.    It can just as much resemble the Cranberries at one point as it can make me want to get up and dance during the next song.    It's versatile in that respect, but the songs also flow without the listener ever wondering how they came together in the first place.   Perhaps it has more of a retro feel to it than modern but I suppose that it also something for the listener to decide.

As much as I can hear Cyndi Lauper in these songs, I can also hear Polly Scattergood.   The pianos can be somewhat sad, dark but yet the overall mood is still upbeat.   If I was going to pick a favorite song or one I think you should listen to that could get you into the whole album I'd choose "Loose Cannon".    Though the final track, which is also the title track, has the line "Wake up just in time" and I always think it's saying "Wake up, Justin", which might just be me but who knows.   If you're not listening to this one, you should be. 

Music Review: FXRRVST "MAY XXVI"

$10 CAD // //

To me, great music is timeless.   I've never been one to follow any sort of website in terms of when music is being released because I try to put up reviews as they come out but I'm not into the whole "end of year list" or anything like that.   The album "MAY XXVI" by FXRRVST is one of these instances where I missed this when it came out earlier this year but am thankful that it was still sent to me more recently because it is one of the better albums not just of this year but in general.

You never really understand how much music is dominated by men until you hear that one really great band fronted by a woman and can't find comparisons.   The music of FXRRVST is along the lines of pop punk and even "emo", which when I first heard it back in the day was along those lines of New Found Glory, Saves the Day, Get Up Kids, etc.   And I think of FXRRVST in this way but there isn't really a female counterpart to those bands (No, not even Paramore)

On some levels I can only really compare this with The Rocking Horse Winner and That Dog in the way that it's pure.     The songs are upbeat with plesant melodies, though the lyrics can be about heartbreak.    I only really think of it in a pop punk (or maybe pop rock?) sense because after you hear this a few times you will find yourself singing right along with the first song: "Time is filling me with doubt / it's overtaking me" and even further on into "Drown me in the holiest of waters".

Back in the early '00's I would've loved for there to be an album like this.   Maybe there was and I just didn't know about it because the Internet and social media weren't what they are today.  I mean, back then I was still getting CDs sent to me.   Regardless, I'm more than happy to hear it right now and just as a quick shout out I feel like this band really needs to tour with The March Divide.   This is one of those albums you'll hear and wonder "Where has this been all my life?"   You need these sweet, infectious sounds in your life whether or not you realize it or not.

Music Review: Matthew William Charles "Heads Up"

Name Your Price Download // //

It'd be rather easy to write off Matthew William Charles as a member of the folk punk community.   On a press release, I imagine the bottom line would say something like "RIYL: Sledding With Tigers / Slade and the Big Nothing / AJJ" and while that might be enough to sum it up for some people, it's not enough for me.   People can enjoy music simply based upon the genre and the idea of "This sounds like something else I like so naturally I like it".   But the other thing is that the music of Matthew Williams Charles is so much more than just folk punk, even though that is how it could be on the surface and first listen.

Through the rattles of acoustic guitars, blares of the harmonica and vocals that are just as fast paced come electric guitars and other instruments in the background which take this music one step beyond folk punk.   If you've ever heard a punk band who has had a number of albums before, you will often find that said punk band will have that token "acoustic song", which I could name names but what's the point?  MWC sounds less like those token acoustic songs and more like what would happen if a band from Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords decided to use more acoustic guitars than electric.

Furthermore, I really enjoy the lyrics of Matthew William Charles.   The first song is called "Age" and really touches on a subject I've always wondered about.  When you work in animal rescue (or if you've ever adopted a cat or dog), sometimes the exact birth date of a cat or dog might not be known and someone (usually a veternarian) just estimates it.   I've also heard this saying "You're only as old as you feel" which is intended to mean that if you're 45 you could feel 25 and that's good thing but I always think of it as being more of me feeling a lot older than I am.

I'm not sure how much of the music on "Heads Up" is inspired by the Bouncing Souls or how much I even hear of that band in this music, but the funny thing is I have a line from one of their songs stuck in my head after listening to this album so many times: "I learned some things about the places I saw / I learned some things about myself".     Any time music can teach you something- especially something about yourself- well, that my friends is a debt which cannot be repaid but I will forever try.

Music Review: 0° "RIT▽ELS" (La Souterraine)

From the second I pressed play on this album I was in love with it.   Zero Degre (which is easier than the copy/paste thing) has spoken words over singing to create this sense of poetry but the music which accompanies it is sometimes not what you would expect.    I've wondered where The Beats went and this might be an answer.

While there are these hints of jazz layered over pop, you would expect that in an overpriced coffee shop with some guy on stage wearing a turtleneck, but the thing is, as this album progresses you will hear more than just that.   There is this sort of 1980's space sound coming through and it even can turn into something like "Stranger Things" on the fourth track.

There is very much an idea of jazz improvisation in here, but I still imagine this artist as performing not in clothing often affiliated with poetry and perhaps touching notes on a keyboard while reading words out of a notebook while others play music along as well.    There are these electronic tones some artists make as music on their own but here, Zero Degre adds in drums, especially the high hats, and it's sooooo good.    Distorted walls covered in poetry is an excellent way to sum this one up and I cannot recommend it enough.