29. Jul. 2007, 15:29 von Progfan
27. Jul. 2007, 9:33 von ProgfanFireworks, from Strawberry Jam.
17. Jun. 2007, 20:42 von ProgfanGotye - Boardface
Gotye's sound is a melting pot of samples from sources far and wide, mixed with Wally's home recorded sounds to form original songs that are as much influenced by the '80's British electro of Depeche Mode and mock-lounge pop of Roxy Music, as the scratchy sounds of old noir soundtracks and majestic orchestras of luminaries John Barry and Henry Mancini. The cut'n'paste approach of hip-hop djs figures prominently in the arrangements, inspired especially by the musicality of San Francisco's finest sample-composers, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist. The results are songs that both reference and incorporate styles and sounds of the past, while showcasing Wally's unique songwriting in a broad web of sonic environments.
The Books - Lost and Safe
The big surprise of the initial listen of the Books' third album, Lost and Safe, comes about forty seconds into opener "A Little Longing Goes Away" (yes, the wordplay seen on the former albums continues). With a lazy slur, Zammuto's slightly altered voice slides into the mix, and the first permanent member of the Books to provide in-house vocals muses "Yes and no are just distinguished by distinction, so we choose the in-between." It's a typical lyric for the album, simultaneously disappointing in the way that all things must change and revelatory in that if there were lyrics on the previous albums, those lyrics would have sounded exactly like this. The Zen-like musings are very much the literary equivalent of the sound collages the band employs (is it any surprise the band samples Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" on the album?). But it's the delivery of those lyrics that's most likely going to be a point of contention. Manipulated and nearly monotone, the vocals often take on a robotic quality that initially creates a cold environment. It penetrates nearly every song, causing the album to blend together in a way the duo's music never did before. But closer listens reveal a more subtle yearning in the voice, a desire to belong where it does not. This alienation is present in all of the Books' work, from the found sample that begins Thought for Food's "Motherless Bastard" to The Lemon of Pink's closer, "PS" (what the hell are they laughing at?). Lost and Safe could very well be the experience of some unknown person coming down from the mountains to take in all of modernity in one terrifying breath.
It's this confrontation with technology that makes the group so important (and what makes the best case for the folktronica designation). The ease with which organic collages are placed under electronic manipulation creates a contradiction that is at once fascinating and soothing, strange and beautiful, jarring and contemplative, lost and safe.
Like the best musicians, the Books have progressed with each album while still maintaining their voice. The addition of vocals may initially turn off some, but in time the new style melds with the old, much in the same way that what has come before sits comfortably next to what is yet to come throughout this forty-two minute album. It is this unity in such volatile conditions -- nature's persistence in the midst of chaos -- that has defined the duo's sound over these three equally worthy records. But now, by giving themselves a voice, perhaps they can define it themselves.
Fair to Midland - Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True
With multi-genre crossovers currently all the rage in the rock and alternative scenes, critics are left to fumble desperately about for labels. Fair to Midland make it tougher than most: neo-prog or prog-core anyone? In any event, after two self-released albums, the Texan cult heroes renowned for their explosive live shows signed to the Serjical Strike label, run by System of a Down's Serj Tankian, a band that Fair occasionally tries to emulate, and cemented the deal with 2006's The Drawn and Quartered EP. Demo versions of "Kyla Cries Cologne" and "A Seafarer's Knot" were featured on that disc but appear on the group's stunning full-length Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True in all their glory. Producer David Bottrill gives the band a well-deserved epic sound, reminiscent of the '70s with a big, clean style that highlights the group's virtuosity and their amazing dynamics. Those dynamics come instantly into play on the set's opening number and first single, "Dance of the Manatee," as the group shift from U2-ish swelling, chiming, guitar passages into thundering hard rock. Singer Darroh Suddereth follows suit, careening between alt rock to classic rock vocals, then down into the menacing growl of metalcore. And it's the bandmembers' amazing ability to adroitly shift styles on a dime that impresses, but not as much as their talent to sound phenomenal in them all. Check out the lovely Spanish guitars on "Vice/Versa," the piano arpeggios on "April Fools and Eggmen," the funky rhythm and swooping keyboards on "Walls of Jericho," the haunting atmosphere of "Say When," and the assaultive guitar attacks across the set for proof. That latter number pulls the band at times into C&W, "April Fools" juxtaposes a tinge of U.K. folk with modern metal, while "A Seafarer's Knot" arguably catches them at their proggy best. "The Wife, The Kids, And the White Picket Fence" displays the band at their most epic, as the group slide straight into rousing emo. Once upon a time the quintet may have been no more than fair to middling, but now they're successfully reaching for greatness.
The Format - Dog Problems
The Format have returned with their sophomore full-length in a way that only the literal sound of trumpets can announce. Dog Problems sits as a testament to hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and an unwavering concept that the band carries through to the last note. As of May this reviewer hasn't found another album that hits all of the right emotional chords and strikes so poignantly at the root of all that he feels is right about music in general. The Format have now released two stellar albums. This feat not only secures them a place in your favorite band list - but it goes beyond even that as they take a clear shot of becoming one of the best bands around in any "scene."
Dog Problems comes highly recommended for fans of brilliant pop that enjoy a little musical experimentation, great lyrics, and poetic depth. There is so much more to this album then a cursory listen reveals and so much more to this band then "clapping your hands" or "stomping your feet."
An older favourite:
mewithoutYou - Brother, Sister
A serious difference occurs between Christian bands and bands composed of Christians. Enough lyrical themes inhabit mewithoutYou's Brother, Sister to suggest the act falls into the former of these groups, as does their history and association with the Tooth & Nail label (who themselves have denied strictly Christian ties while signing a number of arguably Christian-oriented acts). In punk rock, this creates a most disconcerting clashing of conflicts -- we saw it this past summer among the divisive Warped Tour lineup, notably between NOFX's Fat Mike and Tooth & Nail's own, Underoath.
But what happens when the band themselves manage to avoid preachy overtones and simultaneously create expansive, entrancing and mesmerizing soundscapes? What happens when the way they discuss their faith merely becomes a vivid series of metaphors and occasional Bible storytelling, personal observances and confessions rather than directive fundamentalism?
What happens is a great album is written. What happens is Brother, Sister.
Quite arguably, mewithoutYou have produced their best effort to date in Brother, Sister. In toning down much of their past aggressive post-hardcore nature in exchange for atmospheric, brooding and yet dynamic indie rock, it's hard to resist labeling the band as having "matured," but that would be underwriting the ambition undertaken on the album.
"Messes of Men" proves frontman Aaron Weiss's voice is surprisingly fragile when expressed in more hushed tones rather than anxious speeches and paranoid shouting -- and this revelation occurs in more than one spot. In "Messes of Men" itself, soft acoustic licks eventually integrate a plethora of more orchestral instruments and at some point brings to mind a more lush, dramatic Decemberists. The introducing style of the song begins a recurring theme, providing a backbone for tracks titled "Yellow Spider," "Orange Spider" and "Brownish Spider" in which Weiss repeats the same basic melody and lyrical base with a few obvious replacements.
The band's vague Dischord influence of yore does come into play quite a few times, but when combined with their softer, wider post-rock referencing moments, makes for quite a dynamic pairing ("A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains") that hardly seems to draw "too" much from either. "Nice and Blue (Pt. 2)" is a more or less rewritten and re-recorded version of its earlier appearance on 2002's [A --> B] Life, and helps play into a revolving number of melodies and lyrics that pop up throughout Brother, Sister. Surely, Weiss lets slip a now rare Fugazi similarity when he shouts seemingly offhand in the chorus of "In a Market Dimly Lit."
`90s emo pioneer and fellow Christian Jeremy Enigk offers guest spots on two songs here, and his performances are, in a word, incredible. In the chorus of "The Dryness and the Rain," his eerie voice brings to mind his inflection on the post-reunion Sunny Day albums. The same could be said for his absolutely haunting yet enchanting line of "in darkness your light shiiines / on / me" in "O, Porcupine" -- until he lets out a breathtaking, eyes-clenched emotional scream, channeling the most wrenching moments off 1994's Diary. The songs are great on their own, but Enigk brings a whole new element to each that make them all the more compelling.
"C-Minor" is another of Brother, Sister's assured standouts. The flawless transition to the chorus, where Weiss is eventually found pleading to his Lord "do whatever makes me love you more" *should* make even the most secular of listeners join in his pleas. Weiss even seems to either poke fun at exaggerated ideology or question his own practices with the offbeat remark of "I'm still technically a virgin after 27 years, which never bothered me before / what's maybe 50 more?"
The fruits of mewithoutYou's labor come to, well, fruition in the epic, beautiful closer of "In a Sweater Poorly Knit." Upon layered, ringing guitars comes tense but paced acoustic strumming to usher in the track. Pretty harp strings -- if I'm not mistaken -- and a chorus of yearning "ahhh"s help provide a lightness to Weiss' nervous singing, but the powerful line "the trap I set for you seems to have caught my leg instead" really helps the song stand out. A chorus eventually leaves Weiss singing "I do not exist / only You exist" alone and the harp plucking away to close the song. A rather breathtaking ending in all.
Even those who don't overanalyze and choose to derive all sort of sordid meanings from the Bible recognize that it contains some rather well-written, creative and impressive types of stories. Is it so much to ask to regard Brother, Sister in much the same way? Develop your own set of morals, but recognize that when another's relies on a completely different base, the mere practice of expressing it can be a whole 'nother fascinating, intriguing set of notes -- as, without a doubt, Brother, Sister is.