Saturday, April 30, 2011

Death Grips: Exmilitary

     First off, if you don't like rap music or aggressive lyrics and vocals, turn away now. Death Grips is a Californian rap trio, but apart from that, I could find little information on them, which is strange considering the 'in-your-face' sound they're making on this album. Download it for free here.
     The title and band name automatically bring forth images of aggression, and Death Grips certainly lives up to this idea. 'Exmilitary' is best described as a hard, brutal and progressive, though very much 'avant-garde' project that steers away from mainstream rap music. They are rappers for sure, but their obvious hip hop influences are smothered in noise, weird effects and loudness.
     Aggression is definitely one of the main elements to Death Grip's sound. From the lyrics drowning in swear-words to the hatred-fueled vocals. These factors to the music on their own would have turned me off immediately, but there is a sense of experimentation within the folds of this album. At the very start of the album there is a recorded voice of a gangster, which leads into some pretty hard lyrics, regarding beast worship of sorts. Another track includes another sampled voice, which crackles and transforms into a beat much like a broken record.
     The lyrics in my opinion aren't the best, so I suppose the thing that kept me hooked was the experimentation surrounding this thirteen track record. Sounds are used particularly well, from the fall of the guillotine on the track of the same name, to the reverb covered voice at the end of track eight. The beat is there throughout every song, but this fast and furious sound ends up battering your ears and becoming repetitive and annoying (rather than boring) after the fifty minutes that make up this album.
     Overall, this was a very interesting record for me, and almost made up for the fact that I had a  slight headache afterwards. The hip hop and rap sounds are there, but Death Grips selling point, like I've said before, is their use of sampled sounds and strangely mixed vocals. If you're a fan of rap music and are looking for an aggression that many bands try to achieve but rarely do, then definitely check this out. Be prepared though, for a sound that steers away from the mainstream, with it's off-kilter drums and vocal assault. A free record, I did rather enjoy the different, punk rap sound that this outfit offers.

Lykke Li: Sadness is a Blessing Music Video

      Something new for y'all here. This is Lykke Li's music video for her song 'Sadness is a Blessing', which caught my eye when I first saw it. The song is he seventh track from her latest album 'Wounded Rhymes', and is shot really well. It stars Lykke herself, as well as renowned Swedish actor Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd, who has stared in many films as a hardened character... and as Bill in the film version of 'Mamma Mia'.
     The video is brilliant and focuses on Lykke as a defiant drinker at a restaurant. None of the characters speak, apart from Lykke's singing, which adds to the magic. As Lykke drinks more and more, she eventually gets up, and starts singing and dancing. I won't spoil the ending, but it a remarkable music video. The song isn't bad either, and the video suits the mood of it perfectly. Check it out, though you might want to follow this link to Youtube as the video below is a tad small.


Friday, April 29, 2011

CatNip Tea: Denweigh & Hyvor's System

     CatNip Tea are a band from Bellingham, United States, and 'Denweigh & Hyvor's System' is their first album, released during the April of 2008. This fifteen track effort is very much a concept album, based around the life of one man, and apparently what happens when his dream screams, due to people ignoring it. Yeah, I know. Despite this strange description written by the band themselves, there are progressive and psychedelic rock elements to the album as well, which you can download for free here.
     Just under an hour long, this is a fantastic record if you can get into it. I say that because this album is quite inaccessible for a few reasons. Firstly, the band uses some quite complex and unnecessary words in their lyrics, for example in 'Cutting Tricks': "a sting in the calf of a thesbond elated". I for one can't find a definition for 'thesbond' anywhere, which I think is a bit ridiculous. Secondly, the lyrics in most songs feel disjointed. I think this is because the band tries to rhyme words with others that don't go. This does make the music more original and perhaps interesting to listen to, but I can't help but feel that it makes the album a lot more inaccessible. I get the feeling that CatNip Tea are deliberately trying to be an obscure group in the world of music.
     There are good parts to this collection of songs though. The instrumentation in almost every song is fantastic. From electric bass to bluesy saxophone, the album has a solemn and definite jazz-infused feel. Despite the off lyrics and occasionally flat vocals, there is a good mix of the experimental and laid-back jazz. An interesting element to the music that I think CatNip uses well is the electric bass. The sound from this instrument in particular is used well, with the lower pitch bringing forward the harmonisation in a number of tracks, for example number four, entitled 'Escape'.
     Not the most accessible of albums, 'Denweigh & Hyvor's System' is extremely polished for an unsigned band. There are a variety of sounds screwed into the spine of this album, from the rock and experimental psychedelic to the smoky 70's jazz. The only complaints from me are the strange choice of lyrics and the sometimes flat vocals, but after a while these original failings melt away into the wonderful atmosphere of the music. Well worth the free download for any music fan.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Teleidofusion: Around Past

     As I was picking the next album to review, I decided to change it up and review something a bit different to the punk rock stuff I've been doing lately. Teleidofusion are a Moscow outfit consisting of I think, four guys. The band works by taking chiptune 8-bit sounds and merging them with instruments and synthesisers to create quite an unusual sound, or at least one I haven't heard before. This is available to download for free from their page at FMA.
     There is hardly any singing in this album, so if you don't like pure sound, then step away now. This is progressive chiptune music at it's very best. Supporting the 8-bit blips, bleeps and synthesisers, there are a couple of instruments  used that I can distinguish. There are prominent guitar, piano and drum sections to the songs, and great saxophone and bass contributions as well. These all merge into a calming and easy listening festival of vintage sound that I love.
      Each song has a distinctive beat, though the album as a whole feels together. The chiptune beeps keep this rhythm during the ten tracks, from soothing diminuendos to individual, striking notes. Some tracks are filled with quiet jazz piano sounds, others with classic blues guitars. These sounds on their own would have been good, but the added chiptune beeps give that album something more. Sometimes these blips are kept at a minimum, as a retro undertone, but sometimes they are at the forefront of the music, creating something truly beautiful and refreshing.
     The variety in this album is also excellent, and a joy to listen through. From the afore-mentioned blues and jazz tones to the solemn synthesiser-filled soundscapes and rock-like guitar, this has something for everyone. The only thing that bothered me was that the vocal, which really wasn't bad at all, was only in the album for half a song during track seven. Though I do like the atmospheric feel to the rest of the album, I would have preferred either more vocals or none at all. After hearing the voice for the first time, I kept waiting for more, which never came along. With this came an air of slight dissatisfaction, which I can't help but feel could have been stemmed.
     Overall this is a wonderful album. If you enjoy music in general, I'm sure that you'll enjoy this. A refreshing blend of old and new that merges perfectly to create something satisfyingly soothing. And, after all this praise, the album is free! There really is no excuse for trying out Teleidofusion's brilliant record! Oh, and I hope you're enjoying the new look of the Blog!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Mind: Path Masher

     My Mind is a very interesting band in the way they work. I could find literally nothing on the Internet about these guys though, so sorry for the lack of background info. The record is available from their Free Music Archive page, and is a flurry of playful guitar riffs and enjoyable melodies.
     The sound this group makes is not dissimilar to that of another band, 'The Wombats'. The humorous and honest lyrics closely resemble that of the Liverpudlian band, as does the sound of the guitar and drums, be it smothered slightly in lo-fi reverb. This record has a very punk feel in the way the lyrics are sang as well. The voice isn't screamy, but still manages to retain an aggression of sorts. As I said, very interesting. Very interesting indeed.
     There is a let-down to this album though, make no mistake. Weighing in at only ten minutes long, this is hardly an album. Yet there are eleven tracks. This is both good and bad in that the album is constantly changing, but there is very little variety to the songs. This creates an annoying factor that turned me off, despite the good instrumentation. Imagine having just got settled in a comfy chair, and then having to go prepare the dinner. The sudden change in melody after a mere minute of playing made me feel as though My Mind got bored while writing. I am sure that the same amount of variety could have been squeezed into four three minute songs, yet the band decided to stretch them out into eleven short tracks. This was quite a major problem with the record for me, but that's my opinion, and I'm sure others might enjoy the fast and changing pace of this 'album'.
     The music itself is good though. The lo-fi reverb on the vocals, matched with the quirky lyrics on songs such as 'Street Fighter 5' makes for an interesting listen. Being over so quick though makes the listener feel cheated out of a more lengthier experience, even if it is only an EP. This flaw for me was annoying, but because of the writing and sound these guys made, I will definitely look out for the stuff they hopefully make in the future. There's not much else to say, really. A short but sweet record, the phrase 'less is more' should probably be shouted at this band from afar. It is free though, so try it out anyway, despite my criticism!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shearer: Monument

     Straight off the bat, this is quite possibly the greatest free album ever created. Forged in Berlin by the krautrock quartet Shearer, this thirteen track monster can be downloaded from their Jamendo page.
Self-proclaimed non-copyright artists, these guys epitomise punk rock, with their wish to make music available to as many people as possible.
     At first glance, I thought I would be in for another bout with screaming vocals, but the frontman of Shearer actually has a voice, which matches the rock beat, guitar and drum melodies perfectly. This album has a raw, down-to-earth passion which I feel is lost to most of today's rock artists. Having said that, I feel that this band wears it's influences on it's sleeve. From the very start of the album, I got the feeling that Shearer listens to a lot of Foo Fighters, from the vocals to the way the drums back them. But then, they do it well, and I eventually came back to the question, can you ever get too much of a good thing? In this case, no, I don't think you can...
     This album isn't a blind rage of drums and vocals though, however good they are. Shearer have a great variety to their sound that I love. The third track introduces reverb covered vocals, and the penultimate song has a brilliant sampled news-reader at the beginning and end, which ties the track together nicely. The stand-out track 'Come On', a rock-ballad of sorts, really brings out the singer's voice, as well as the band's musical diversity. The rest of the album is equally good, apart from the fourth track, which I didn't notice at all during my listen-through, and after realising and playing back, found boring and monotonous.
     Overall though, this is a gem of an album. The guitar playing and drums are brilliant, and the lyrics feel well-written. The band doesn't feel stuck up or arrogant in the way they play either. Like I said before, there is a definite down-to-earth feel to these guys, which I feel I can relate to. This makes the music even better in my opinion. The vocals are great, and were not in any way what I expected. There is a softness to his voice which adds variety to the rock roaring that is prominent throughout, though equally impressive.
     If you want an indie rock record with that little bit more, then definitely try this out, and it's free, so what have you got to lose? If you like the Foo Fighter, then you'll almost immediately hear the similarity between their sound and this, and hopefully enjoy it. A near perfect album for me, I promise you this will be on repeat quite a lot this year!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Means: The Divine Right of Means

     Unfortunately, I can find little information on this Ohio born four-piece rock band. They were formed when Jason Fredrick joined up with Brad Swiniarski, Emily and Dave Allen in 2002. This is their third lp, after 2002's debut 'Vil/Viol' and 2003's 'Community Horse', both of which I hope to review at some point. The band is now disbanded, but boy did they give it a go during the band's two-year life-span.
     'The Divine Right of Means' is a punk, garage rock fourteen track, consisting mainly of roaring vocals and electric guitar. At first glance, I thought an album like this would be pretty repetitive and boring, and I was pleasantly surprised in that respect.
     The main bulk of the songs on this album are of a hard-rock aggression, intensified by the lo-fi, screamy vocals that reach out the headphones and batter your head into submission. This stream is broken in parts though, by pop tunes that hold a Beatles-like charm, and a haunting piano ballad. While the initial assault may seem like mindless ear-popping noise, look closer and you'll see that this band play some more unusual sounds. The vocals, though screamy, manage to retain a tune throughout the album, and there are snippets of TV chatter and studio banter that fills the holes in the album and make it feel whole. There is a sense that, through their hard exterior, Means have a constant and delicate melody trying to push it's way through the noise.
     So, although this is most definitely a rock record, and a good one at that, there is more to Means than meets the eye. A band obviously aiming for obscurity, I urge you to try them out. Although there is variety in the form of the ballad, and experimental sampling, I only wish that the vocalist would have screamed a little less. I am sure that they could have retained that punk aggression without as much vocal-cord destroying. This album is available from their Free Music Archive page, as well as the other two albums, though for some reason, it is only a twelve track album. Still, I hope you give them a try.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Timber Timbre: Creep on Creepin' On

     Timber Timbre is the pseudonym for a Canadian folk project involving Mika Posen, Simon Trottier and Taylor Kirk. This is their fourth full length album, though the first two were independently released. 'Creep on Creepin' On' is very much a follow-up to their 2009 self-titled release, which I thoroughly enjoyed, even though it was slightly drone-y. The sound hasn't changed much, though I would say they have refined their style to create, I must say, a wonderful record.
     Much like Big Blood's 'Dark Country Magic', this album stays in the realms of dark folk and psychedelic rock, with Taylor Kirk's deep, and eerily strange vocals matched with haunting piano plinks and solemn woodwind. Although the vocals are deep, the instruments do remain at a higher pitch a lot of the time. This creates a innocence that shrouds the true meaning of the songs. Lyrically, this is a very dark album, talking of his post-relationship trauma, with songs talking about his depression, drug-taking and bad, bad rituals.
     The lyrics are not the only thing going for this record though. The feel and atmosphere surrounding this album is fantastic. The contrasting pitch between vocals and instruments gives a very dark, uncertain quality to the sound of this album, and even the album art suggests a cult-like emptiness. I was never really bored while listening to this ten track album either. There are songs that have no singing, and there are songs that do. Every song also has that magical quality by which they feel together as an album but different individually, which makes for not only an interesting record, but a brilliant one too.
     Some songs are still a little off, such as 'Woman' but with the magnificance of the rest of the album, this can be easily overlooked. The song mentioned is a little confusing and just a little boring, and another track: 'Swamp Magic' tries to be atmospheric but instead comes across as though Timber Timbre lost interest. Little quibbles though, I must stress.
     The instrumentation from all artists involved is astounding, and the vocals are different in a good way, from anything I've heard before. A somber and haunting record about loss and trauma, this is near perfect, from Taylor's voice, dusted in reverb, to the tiny details in the eerie piano and violin contributions. If you are currently bored with whatever you're listening to, give this an earful and I promise, you won't be disappointed! Currently one of my favourite records of 2011, I can't stress enough my love for this album.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Catholic Spray: Fruits of the Moon

     I'm not going to lie, the thing that clinched my download of this album was the cover art. The colours and editing are great, but what's that matter if the music isn't great? Catholic Spray are a Parisian garage punk, noise rock outfit with only one album available, which can be downloaded for free from their  page over at the Free Music Archive
     The album in question is a lo-fi, noise rock effort, backed up by snarling punk vocals. They have listed themselves as 'psychedelic', but in all honesty I don't feel that in the only recording I could find from them. Like most indie bands, this is also quite a short record, weighing in at only twenty-five minutes.
     On first listen, this is quite a hard album to get into, as the recording quality hits you as 'muddy' and unlistenable. The vocals are hard to understand and the main bulk of the songs are noisy, thought this is understandable considering the 'noise-rock' label this album carries. As I persisted though, I came to feel that this didn't matter, as the punk feel and aggression came though and I began to not notice the elements that previously bothered me. If you don't particularly like this at first, I urge you, try again!
     The guitars on this album are pretty good for an unsigned band, as are the drums and vocals, even though they are very lo-fi. I didn't feel much contrast from this album, and where I did, it felt thrown in and unnecessary.  For example, at the end of 'OuiJa Drunk Party', chiptune beepings come in for literally six seconds. This meant that all the songs, be it with different starts, sounded very much the same. This lead to the record being pretty bland and boring, if I wasn't letting the music simply wash over me.
     Perhaps I am being overly harsh though. The album is a great noise-rock effort, as I said before, and the band are most definitely punk in the way they play their instruments and sing the lyrics. If you just want to listen to some straight forward punk, then I would definitely recommend this album. If you prefer the more experimental, or better produced rock, then this probably isn't for you. I did enjoy the album though, despite my harsh evaluation. I just felt that more variety would have made this particular record much better!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Big Blood: Dark Country Magic

     I thought I'd kick off this blog with an album close to my heart. Big Blood. A Maine duo consisting of Colleen Kinsella and Caleb Mulkerin, created this gem of an album in the May of 2010. 'Dark Country Magic' is, from what I can gather, their fourteenth collection of songs, written and recorded at their home, and dedicated to the wonderful author, Ursula Le Guin. 
     This is a wonderful mish mash of many different genres, the most prolific being that of folk and psychedelic rock. If you're not really into that, but c'mon, who wouldn't be?, then don't despair. This album is rich in experimentation and has very dark undertones in parts. There is a very lo-fi feel to the vocals from this outfit, and at times, the words are hard to make out. In my mind though, this doesn't detract from the haunting magic of the album, as the title suggests.
     On first, highly anticipated listen to this album, it was definitely hard to get into. But then, after continued repeats, something clicked. Much like a maths sum you can't get your head around; annoying at first, but a great feeling when you finally figure it out. Listening to it, I also felt a strange sense of conclusion when the album ended, but in a good way. The beginning of this recording is dark, and somber, when compared to the end. The vocals are less distorted. The guitar sounds friendlier. I felt as though after the drug trip that was the beginning of album, the end was a much needed 'calm after the storm', and this gave a 'happy ending' feel to the twelve tracks as a whole.
     The album is started with a very minimalistic track, with a lonely vocal lathered in reverb. This marks the start of my favourite song on the album 'Creepin' Crazy Time'. Again, the vocals are distorted, but the contrast in the singing, and the great sounding chorus makes for very interesting listening. Another track I enjoyed was 'She-Wander(er)', a brilliant song. Just fantastic sounds are made here, and generally, in the whole album!
     If your a fan of folk, psychedelic or experimentation, then try this album out. Oh, and by the way, did I forget to mention that this album is free? Really?, I hear you ask. Yep. Available from their Free Music Archive page, along with the rest of their discography, there really isn't a reason you shouldn't try this out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Introduction.

     I love music. Though that should probably be expected of somebody who is planning to review it! I listen to music almost everywhere; while working, playing, sleeping, and just thoroughly enjoy it. I have around two hundred albums at the moment, and as that collection grows I feel I should begin to keep a more thorough record of what I like and dislike. I am a great fan of experimental and indie music, and I wouldn't say I detest, but rather, don't enjoy mainstream pop or rapping. I suppose originality is an important factor for me, but obviously everything has it's influences, so that element in music is pretty difficult to come by if you only look at the chart topping tunes!
     Another thing I'd like to mention is my love for the 'album'. And as such, track or single reviews probably won't crop up much, or at all for that matter. I just feel that, if you want to listen to an artist, the only way to truly do that, and appreciate them, is to listen to their album in it's entirety! I mean, when albums where solely recorded to vinyl, there was no way to skip tracks. Albums were, and should still be, listened to as a whole.
     Rant aside, I do hope that this blog is fun to read, gives an insight into what music I listen to, and  can hopefully get you to listen to it as well!