Friday, August 6, 2010

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Released 3 August 2010
Rating: 4/10

This record can really only be described as one thing... boring, boring boring. Most of the songs are utterly indistinguishable from each other. They all feature a steady 4/4 drive, a repeating phrase-long chord progression, mellow vocals from Win Butler, and the same instruments retain their same role in each song, without becoming more or less prominent in the slightest. Even the mood of every track is identical. Arcade Fire is comprised of world class musicians, yet nothing interesting or beautiful is attempted in The Suburbs' instrumental arrangements.

This disappointment is made all the worse when one considers what made Arcade Fire great on their other two records. Each song with few exceptions on Funeral and Neon Bible was distinct and exciting. At Arcade Fire's best, their songs were downright moving, inspiring. "Wake Up," "Rebellion (Lies)," "Intervention," "No Cars Go" - all gained their fame and acclaim for gripping listeners and opening their hearts, accomplished with unique and inspired melodies and arrangements.

At this point, I just find myself either counting down the next two to three years until Arcade Fire's next release, or even wishing they would just start over and try again right away.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

OK Go Goes Viral Again

Pop-rock group OK Go is often name-checked in discussions of the Internet's revolutionary influence on media, thanks to their 2006 YouTube music video for "Here It Goes Again." The video, which featured the band performing a choreographed dance on eight moving treadmills, received over 49 million views and rocketed the band to stardom.

For their next album, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, the band has sought to one-up itself. The video for single "This Too Shall Pass" features an epic four-minute continuous Rube Goldberg machine synched to the music. The machine was commissioned by Syyn Labs, an LA-based group of engineers known for their masterful fusions of technology and art. Over the course of four months, more than fifty people contributed to the project, more than half of them required just to reset the machine after a run. Resetting, namely setting up dominoes, rigging catapults, emptying and refilling water features, took nearly an hour, even with a team of about 30 toiling at it.

OK Go specified that the machine had to last the full length of the video, use only low-tech elements, and that it must be filmed in one continuous shot. The (fastidious) band itself is a part of the magnificent contraption, both physically and in a cameo (look for the "Here It Goes Again" video towards the end!)

Without further ado, please enjoy this four-minute spectacle that will surely put a smile on the grouchiest of faces (Recommended for viewing full screen on 1080p)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Everything Absent or Distorted Comes to a Close

Sad news I learned today -
Denver act Everything Absent or Distorted is calling it quits after 5 years of some of the most original music on the local scene.

Check the Westword article here:

(Apparently I'm way behind on the news here, since it's dated July.)

Their final show is this Saturday at the Bluebird - say goodbye in style!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday Turntable 10.13.09

Readers, I am sick. Sick sick sick. So are these songs.

Down With The Sickness. I wonder if Disturbed also takes a nap and eats chicken broth when they are down.

Sick of Me - Green Day. My roommates certainly will be, I am so whiny.

The Chills - Peter Bjorn and John. You guessed it, I have them.

You'll Be Illin' - Run DMC. You will be if you hang out with me.

The Sickest - Biz/Silencer. I am the sickest. Especially after listening to this song, since it is terrible.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Paean, Munsterboogie, Emily Frembgen, Mehko and Ocean Birds @ Blast-o-mat, 9/30

It's the first chilly fall night in Denver, and I find myself at 7th and Federal's Blast-o-mat. A (tiny) vinyl store by day, behind the store you find a weathered skate ramp and a sound-insulated garage, the walls covered in political stickers, artful graffiti, blown-up / insanely detailed pencil drawings, drumsticks shoved in the padding on the ceiling. It is in this quirky locale where Paean, Munsterboogie, Emily Frembgen, and Mehko and Ocean Birds, all local acts, will play tonight.

First to mount the stage was Ft. Collins-grown Paean. Playing more accessible indie rock than one typically sees from local start-up acts, the group was still far from predictable. Especially of note was the unique balance struck by "When I Was Five Years Old." In this song, Anna Maddocks' violin was actually mastered somewhat higher than the guitar, about on par with Dave Maddocks' vocals. This gave the violin a particularly human, piercing quality, effectively the driving force of the tempestuous celtic-tinged melody. Keeping both interest and entertainment high seems to be a particular skill of the band. Highlight of the set "Floyd Brown" featured rapid-fire violin chords, single-picked, echoing lead guitar, infectious keyboard drone, and chugging high-hat-centric drums. The final effect of the group on a first-time listener such as myself was that this band wasn't just here to make noise - Paean is really going somewhere. Wax Cylinders wishes them mucho luck on their U.S. tour commencing at the end of the year. Make sure to catch them at the Hi-Dive November 10th to see them off!
Overall Rating: A

Paean Lineup:
Dave Maddocks - lead vocals / guitar
Anna Maddocks - violin
Marty Alberts - guitar / drum
Jonathan Alonzo - keys
Aaron Landgraf - bass
Tim Maddocks - drum

Munsterboogie followed Paean with a wholly different atmosphere. Dressed in hillbilly 19th century period costume and armed with banjos and harmonicas, it was honestly hard to tell if the group was more aspiring musical act or skilled theater group. Either case was achieved at Blast-o-Mat, with silly-yet-crowd-pleasing lyrics ("my long hair just can't cover up my red neck,") but at the same time a great amount of voice stylistically. Most songs you could imagine are snarled by a limping, growing, drunken cowboy (when you add the accordion, he becomes a Ukrainian cowboy.) "Seed in the Soil" was a definite highlight, with haunting lyrics and presence, yet its effect was somewhat diminished by its appearance late in a too-long set. Munsterboogie had the longest set of the evening, and considering its comparative lack of musical diversity, the set did feel over-long.
Overall Rating: B

Emily Frembgen shyly began her set a half-hour later. As she took her seat behind the mic with her guitar on her lap, the audience proceeded to sit on the floor in front of her, cross-legged and storytime-style. Frembgen has a high, girlish voice that lends her most of her stylistic element, which varies between pleasantly in-ornamental or unpretentious and somewhat out-of-tune or boring. While pleasant to listen to with engaging lyrics, Frembgen's guitar is repetitive and simplistic and her vocals much the same. She can next be seen at Leela's European Cafe on October 17th.
Overall Rating: B

Mehko and Ocean Birds rounded out the night, taking the stage in neon face paint and with full energy. The frequency with which the group has been playing shows has added a lot to their performance value. At their early shows this summer, it was clear that Mehko and Ocean Birds was made of a bunch of highly reactive, energetic elements, but now those elements truly combine in a controlled experiment (performed by a mad scientist, of course!) The band's growing fanbase makes it really feel like something that belongs to the Denver music community - when Mehko and Ocean Birds comes on, the crowd tends to double, and everyone is ready for some of the group's now-well-known audience inclusion. Certain elements were left wanting - the loss of the group's brass players, particularly trumpet, has had an impact on songs like "Flesh as Ghosts as Home." However, the group still commanded the energy of the venue. The particularly high-octane "Hear Today" saw Stephen breaking out into rapid uke fretwork, Chris wailing on his drum set, Micah nearly leaping over his keyboard, Allison showing the crowd what-was-what along with her fellow cello Isaac, who showed his most energy yet on this act. As always, Mehko finished with "Queen of the Night," a song driven by the audience's shaker rhythms and end-of-song sing along, performed in a circle around the garage, arm in arm with one's neighbor.
Overall Rating: A-

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Turntable 9.29.09

Lots of new releases today!

AFI released Crash Love today, and its first single is "Medicate." Very much a return to The Art of Drowning- style aesthetic, and by that I really mean a grateful turning-away from Decemberunderground, which seemed to value dramatics over music. Epic guitar solos and truly Davey Havok-unique lyrical themes aplenty.

Ghostface Killah's Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City was definitely much-anticipated in hip-hop circles. I don't usually follow rap too closely, but there are elements in hip-hop that I really enjoy - easy, down-tempo, non-sampled backing tracks, and free-flowing rhymes... and this track has all of that. Unfortunately, the rhymes are far between long stretches of auto-tuned harmonies.

Backspacer is Pearl Jam's first release since Eddie Vedder's solo sojourn for the melancholy soundtrack to Into the Wild, and frankly, I welcomely expected the next Pearl Jam album to have the same sort of mumbley introspection so present in all its other works, or at least some of the anger of the self-titled 2006 album. Instead, we get "The Fixer," which is utterly... peppy. Lots of 'yeah yeah's' and major-keyed power chords. Not Pearl Jam-my.

Monsters of Folk is a supergroup comprised of big-hitters M. Ward, Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Jim James, and "The Sandman, The Breakman, and Me" is everything I hoped this collaboration to produce (and everything I had hoped Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band would have.) M. Ward on vocals, it doesn't seem like anyone really fronts the band, they are all equal in folky-awesomeness.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday Turntable 9.22.09

Today is a quiet day. Everything is kind of muted by the rain, and everyone is too bundled up to talk much. Therefore, today's theme is instrumental groups.

Explosions in the Sky is pretty much the most relaxing group I could ever imagine. This song, "First Breath After Coma," very much lives up to its name. It starts off slow and simple, echoing guitar, single notes. As you slowly awaken from this long sleep, the exhilaration of this first breath comes to an incredible, ecstatic climax that has you riveted the remainder of the song.

The problem I've always had with metal is the screaming. I think metal players have an amazing amount of skill, I respect them a lot. But when the lead singer starts freaking out and screaming at me, I feel like running and hiding! So the real deal for me is Russian Circles. An instrumental metal group, you get the same intensity and speed of the big acts in metal, without the terrifying screaming. "Micah" is your Russian Circles dose for today.

Nujabes is a Japanese instrumental / jazz hip hop act that I'm pretty crazy for. I love listening to this group late at night, when the room is dark, yet illuminated by the moon. I think "Kumomi" is a really perfect example of this type of mood.

Tristeza is sort of the same idea as Explosions in the Sky. "Bromas" is another one with an up-tilting tempo and movement. In essence, it sounds pretty similar to the other acts on this list, but the idea of this turntable is music you can zone to.

And finally, there is Meco. Meco is silly. Meco's song on this turntable is "Star Wars Theme / Cantina Band," disco-ized. The best part of this ridiculous disco anthem? It actually reached -NUMBER ONE- on Billboard's Top 20 in 1979. Legitimately, this was the most popular song in 1979 for a time. Enjoy.

To listen to this Turntable without having to stay on Wax Cylinders, click the Pop-Out Player button below the playlist. If your pop-up blocker is reluctant to allow this, try holding the control key when you hit Pop-Out Player.


Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones