Wednesday, August 4, 2010

N.A.S.A. - The Spirit Of Apollo

Released: Early 2009
Availability: stores, online, easily found.
Label: Spectrophonic Sound/Anti- (independent labels)

N.A.S.A. - North America South America - is two DJs (Squeak E. Clean ad DJ Zegon) and an idea. The idea was to collect as many different people as possible, and start recording music. Certainly not a new idea, I have a number of collaboration albums in my collection. This one is only slightly different - the collaboration in question wasn't primarily the DJs and Another Artist. It was Two Different Artists, that the DJs mixed together. The genre is primarily Hip Hop - as are the majority of the artists (Kanye West, KRS-One, Kool Keith, RZA, and others) but a few aren't (Tom Waits, George Clinton, Lykke Li). The albums swerves through Hip Hop, Funk, Samba, and Drum & Bass like a slalom course. For the most part it stays pretty on target with Hip Hop as the MC is the primary song style here - almost no traditional vocal singing is done, mostly rap.

But the genius is sometimes in the pairings, the way various parts of put together. And that a few new artists popped up onto my radar as they didn't stick exclusively with the Popular/Known Ones.

They didn't stop at the artists, they even commissioned five different artists for five (six if you count the booklet with lyrics) album covers. And thankfully did not commit the grievous sin of five different releases - all five pieces of art work are included on cards so you could switch the one you like best to the top of the jewel case (I scanned my favorite into iTunes and left them in order when putting it on the CDs shelves to look pretty). Each card - on the back - covers the artists who contributed to each song - which is the kind of thing I really look for in a booklet and why I avoid digital downloads if possible that don't include one.

Intro - This is not a song, it's not even really an introduction. It's a mission statement. I can imagine that they asked each artist to read the statement, and then hacked it apart and put it back together so it sounds like everyone said a word or two in sequence. Onto the music.

The People Tree - David Byrne (Talking Heads), Chali 2na (Jurassic Five, Ozomatli), Gift Of Gab (Blackalicious), DJ Z-Trip (Turntablist). The track is a mix between a smooth beat and a Top-40/Pop-Rock track. Chali and Gift Of Gab trade verses while David provides the chorus.

Money - David Byrne, Chuck D (Public Enemy), Ras Congo (I don't know - I need info!), Seu Jorge (Brazilian Samba artist), DJ Z-Trip. Combining David Byrne and Chuck D is an interesting mix here, especially when you pull in the Reggae (Ras Congo) and Samba (Seu Jorge) elements. It mixes well, the Reggae elements take over musically even as David brings a lighter elements and Chuck D a heavier one. The song it self is about the evils of money. . . I just like the beat.

N.A.S.A Music - Method Man (Wu-Tang Clan, among other acts), E-40 (rapper), DJ Swamp (turntablist). Pretty much straight up Hip Hop as Method Man and E-40 trade off while DJ Swamp provides a very danceable beat.

Way Down - RZA (Wu-Tang Clan, plus others), Barbie Hatch (unsigned singer), John Fruciante (Red Hot Chile Peppers). Now the collaborations are starting to flex some muscle. The ethereal lyrics of Barbie and RZA's rapping mix together with John's guitar bringing an extra layer to the backing electronica. The song is about a girl who falls in love with the devil. Musically it starts to show what the project is about - meshing wildly diverse elements.

Hip Hop - KRS-One (hip hop artist), Fatlip and Slim Kid Tre (The Pharcyde). Another purely hip-hop track, as the name says. KRS-One brings a lyrical smoothness rarely seen, but the song itself isn't very diverse. Almost a step backwards from the previous tracks raising of the bar.

Four Rooms, Earth View - Squeak E Clean & DJ Zegon, a short piece playing a recording from somewhere... nothing really interesting and I think maybe it could have been left out.

Strange Enough - Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Ol' Dirty Bastard (Wu-Tang Clan; posthumously), Fatlip. Ol' Dirty Bastard makes an appearance from old recordings opposite Fatlip as they switch back, Karen O provides a switch as she changes the tempo with the chorus considerably, and the whole attitude of the track. Another flexing of mixing muscles here.

Spacious Thoughts - Kool Keith (rapper), Tom Waits (singer). If there is a musical equivalent of a nuclear weapon this is it right here. None of the lyrics make much sense as Keith and Tom move back and forth, but there's an inevitable landscape created, something dark, urban, bright, and loud. Keith's very smooth style with Tom's very rough singing does exactly everything this album set out to do in my opinion - bring widely opposite styles into synch. These two need to be unleashed to record an entire album together, the song is gorgeous. I had the chorus stuck in my head for days.

Gifted - Kanye West (rapper), Santogold (rapper), Lykke Li (singer). While Kanye and Santogold are both rappers, their styles are both opposing and complimentary. His lyrics are nearly as smooth compared to her almost sung verse. Lykke provides one hell of a chorus and its too bad she didn't contribute a third verse to pull this song further apart and knit it closer together. The song is beautifully listenable, warm and upbeat.

A Volta - Sizzla (reggae artist), Amanda Blank (singer/rapper), Lovefoxxx (singer of Brazlian group Cansei de Ser Sexy). Again, the album finds the right groove of mixing styles, a smooth Reggae beat swings along while the versus move at a much faster pace than the beat would lead on. Again, I think they missed just off the mark by not giving Lovefoxxx a third verse, only a chorus appearance. Still, this track belongs on a dance floor.

There's A Party - George Clinton (funk), Chali 2na. George Clinton (everyone in his band really) leads a classic funk track here, Chali brings in a hip hop element that crosses and bridges the genres cleanly. It's a slower track, just the slow side of a dance floor track. A light hearted element on the album, complete with group clap along section.

Wachadoin? - Spank Rock (rapper), M.I.A. (rapper), Santogold, Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs). This is a bit of foot-stomper track, M.I.A. leads with her typical staccato beat, while Spank Rock provides a more classic rap. Nick's minimal guitar in the background prevents the track from falling into only drums and beats.

O Pato - Kool Kojak (DJ, producer), DJ Babao (turntablist). A swinging little samba number, with a lot of samples. The whole thing sounds a bit silly, but it's a really smooth dance track behind it all. Even with the weird pornographic Donald Duck imitation on it. . .

Samba Soul - Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (MC), DJ QBert (turntablist). Two powerhouses in the hip hop world put together a pretty standard track here, not quite as samba as the previous track (despite the name), though Del by far has the most verbose style of rap on the record. Always a good listen, while not really opposing musical styles, it's good to put these two together and see what happens.

The Mayor - The Cool Kids (hip hop duo), Ghostface Killa (Wu-Tang Clan, among others), Scarface (rapper), DJ AM (DJ). The last mix on the album here is another pretty straight forward hip hop track, nothing spectacular here in all honestly. There's talent here for sure, it just isn't a mix of opposing styles like some of the songs preceding it.

N.A.S.A. Anthem - The album closes out with the same kind of mash up as the intro provided. Though instead of cutting up everyone's contributions the artists here (and it's not quite everyone) harmonize a single long verse on repeat. It's a very happy together type verse.

then there's a lot of minutes of silence where I curse the entire concept of hidden tracks where there's no real information provided and be thankful I live in the Internet Age where I can find this information out so I don't have to spend days wondering. . . .

Electric Flowers (hidden track!) - Nina Persson (The Cardigans), RZA. The only saving grace to this as a hidden track is that is saves the album from ending on the pap of the "NASA Anthem" thing (which, while nice, is a crap 'song'). It allows the album to go out with a mellow, upbeat, track that juxtaposes RZA's rapping against Nina's smoothly sung chorus.

All in all - the experiment of bringing together these artists (from mega-stars to nearly unheard-ofs) is a success. It doesn't come off as Artist + Guest like so many of these do, but a series of collaborations. Some of which would never have happened were it not for NASA. Overall - the album is more than worth adding to a collection.

Friday, July 23, 2010

KMFDM - Day Of Light

Released: Spring 2010
Availability: online download from band
Label: KMFDM Enterprises (independant label)

Just a moment to pause and say a few words on releases, tracks, and limited edition.

Day Of Light is a two-track single from KMFDM originally released only on 7" vinyl, limited pressing (250 I believe). Which when I first found out infuriated me. There's just something utterly anti-music about Limited Edition tracks.

I don't mind a LE package with shirts and posters and sweatbands and the like. But LE Music tracks truly annoy me. I thought artists made music to be heard by as many people as possible, at least I like to think that. I like to think that all music should be perpetually and easily available.

After all in the modern day it seems to me for very little overhead a label could keep massive catalogues of music perpetually available for digital sales and downloads. Small, steady, streams of income can't be a bad thing. It just can't.

It was several months before KMFDM relreased the tracks digitally for download. The collectors (and while I'm a very hardcore fan, I'm not a hardcore collector of KMFDM) get their LE vinyl, I get my music.

Don't even get me started on Bonus Tracks only for specific stores - that's an even bigger scam.

Day Of Light - A pretty solid industrial-rock track, positive and upbeat. Good on the dance floor.

Beach - three and a half minutes of waves crashing on the beach. The B-side on the vinyl, it's not music, but it is relaxing. If I need to take a quick break at work due to stress I put this track on and take a quick walk outside.

It's the principal of the idea - music for an audience, why limit the audience artificially.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kerli - Love Is Dead

Released: Summer 2008
Availabilty: easily found in actual music stores
Label: Island Records (major label)

Kerli Koiv is from Estonia, moved to the US in 2005 and managed to get a contract to cut a few records. Her debut album is a mix of goth, darkwave and europop swirled into a mix of danceable tunes and off-beat ballads.

Love Is Dead - The album starts with some hard snare hits and a pretty cool guitar riff. I'm pretty sure this is a love song, even if it's not it's a cool track to listen to.

Walking On Air - This is a really cool goth-rock track. A bit creepy, a lot about living ones dreams. I love the lyrics whole bunches.

The Creationist - A very pretty little piano track, another song about the power of self belief. There's a spiritual message in here, how you take it is based on how you look at life. I'll leave it in your hands, no matter the song is pretty.

I Want Nothing - Picking up the pace with a guitar riff, it comes off as very old-school goth-rock to me, and fast like punk rock.. I like. Also, I think this song is about a girl telling a guy off.

Up Up Up - I love this song, it's happy and upbeat, and manages to keep a medium tempo. It reminds me of laying about on a sunny afternoon.

Bulletproof - A slow ballad type song with fuzzy guitars all over the place. Not much of a fan of this song actually. It's the guitars, too much fuzzy here.

Beautiful Day - Another slower song, but more percussion and less fuzzy guitars. And also, happier in tone. I like songs that are uplifting and positive.

Creepshow - This one belongs in a club scene, at high volume. One of those high energy dance-tempo songs. The lyrics are also a bit non-sensical, but fun. Kerli also sings in her native tongue for parts of the song, the only track on the album she does so. The song almost feels like an album opener instead of stuck on the back end like it is, but it's also a good break from the more subdued tracks around it.

Hurt Me - Not quite fast, not quite slow. The song seems self-destructive in nature. Not really a fan of this one either to be honest. It seems to be missing some much needed Punch to the tone.

Butterfly Cry - Not a light song, but soft and airy. Ultimately, it's a sweet ballad that belongs on a playlist for rainy days.

Strange Boy - Another track that would be at home in a club, a hard pulsing beat with a neat little riff. The chorus is also fun, almost something to chant along to. Very danceable song, just turn it up and let it carry.

Fragile - And we end the album with a slow track, about that we're all vulnerable despite ourselves, and that we can carry on regardless. There are strings that appear here, and I think the song could have been stronger if they backed the entire song instead of being mixed in as they are. Also, I would have removed the guitar in favor of violins.

The album as a whole has its ups and downs, it doesn't really keep a pace going across the whole length. Lots of good pieces to add to playlists of various moods though. And Kerli has a voice that's pleasant to listen to.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Melissa Auf Der Maur - Out of Our Minds

Released: Spring 2010
Availabilty: still new - still available
Label: Phi Group Inc (independant label) and Road Runner Records (major label, outside North America distro only)

Melissa Aud Der Maur started her solo career in the early 2000s, formerly the bassist for Hole (and the farewell tour for the Smashing Pumpkins). Her first album in 2004 was a straight forward rock album, her second album Out Of Our Minds is both just as much a rock album as it is an experimental album. It comes accompanied with a short movie, a comic book, and other media aspects.

I own just the CD, measuring it on the merits of music alone, and it took me a while to sit down and just listen to the album. The album finds a great balance between hard rock and light meldies.

The Hunt - more an instrumental solo than a song, the introduction to the album comes in like a hearbeat, though it's almost too long. Maybe a full minute could have been cut off this track is it sounds more like an intro-track than it does a song.

Out Of Our Minds - The title track here sets up the album as one filled with lush sounds, enchanting vocals, and a solid sense of rock basics.

Isis Speaks - We continue with a song that feels mystic in nature, the bass literally hums through this song, it feels like electricity set to rhythm. The chorus is extra catchy in this one.

Lead Horse - A slow instrumental, not much more than a rather extended guitar solo. Mellow, though like the intro a little too long.

Follow The Map - Images of ships, piracy, lost treasure, and broken hearts. Or something like that. A nice melody and a good beat.

22 Below - My favorite track, I love the cadence of the lyrics. A single guitar carries most of the song, only erupting into a full ensemble as the song repeats the bridge phrase and finally ends.

Meet Me On The Dark Side - Nothing particularly special about this song, it doesn't feel like filler exactly, but it isn't remarkable either.

This Would Be Paradise - More a lullaby than a song, the only lyric is a repeated quote about man's achievements and shortcoming.

Father's Grave - A duet with Glen Danzig, his baritone is a perfect offset to Melissa's own voice. This may be a conversation with the grim reaper, or a more literal killer. Either way, the two create haunting imagery as they switch off lines. The imagery reminds me greatly of Nick Cave.

The Key - A very different take on finding one's true love. Catchy tune, ends before it carries on too long.

The One - Struggling to connect with those around us, both alone and with someone. Soft, slow song. This borders on a love song, but doesn't quite make it there. "Someone's gotta love him / Someone's gotta love him" sounds more like bleak acceptance than anything noble.

1000 Years - Another song where the cadence of Melissa's music carries the song, creating the rhythm as much as anything. The song feels constantly like it wants to pick up the pace, suddenly take off an gallop instead of the steady trot it goes at.

There's dead air and silence after the last track ends for about a minute before the album provides a piano outro.

A good album to put on and let play in the background, especially with a whole group of other mellow rock albums on a shuffle.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Broken Bells - Broken Bells

Released: Spring 2010
Availabilty: still new - still available
Label: Colombia Records (major label)

Broken Bells is a collaboration of producer/musician Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and Indie Rock musician James Mercer (of The Shins). The result on the debut album is a nicely mellow rock album with a very rich undertone and a subtlety that is nothing but elegance.

The High Road - The opening song comes in with a slow beat that almost leads you to believe it will break into something more of a dance beat. When Mercer's vocals come in it turns to a simple melody. An excellent song to lead the album with, setting the mood nicely.

Vaporize - A slow acoustic song with continuing a set low key mood, the album is shaping into something to listen to as the day winds down.

Your Head Is On Fire - Mercer's guitar takes a bit of a background to more complex instrumentation here, the pace picks up a little bit in this quick song.

The Ghost Inside - By this albums standards this is a bit of a hopping dance track, though not up to club-pulse speeds it's a catchy tune, one you can't help but tap your foot along to.

Sailing To Nowhere - Any other band would probably overlay far too many guitars here, as it has a kind of bluesy-rock feel to it that wouldn't be out of place on a Led Zeppelin album. It's not nearly so overproduced, using just enough to draw you into the soundscape.

Traps Doors - A complex rich song, still slow and understaded. Another track that speaks more with the strength of what it doesn't have (more instrumentation) than what it does.

Citizen - For some reason this song just reminds me of walking aimlessly down city streets and alleys looking for nothing in particular. Slow afternoons and cool air.

October - The opening piano is very cheery, an upbeat melody that sits in the background of the tune. A line in the song "don't run, don't rush" neatly expresses the way the song (and album) gently rolls along.

Mongreal Heart - A little bit of a brisk pace in this song, but not too fast for the album. Almost at the end it does slow down and a rich string section comes in to carry the tune out.

The Mall & Misery - A quiet slow start to the final song builds up slowly with mostly strings, when the beat comes in it feels like a continuation of the previous track a little bit. A nice guitar riff dances in and out.

The album ends as quietly as it started, fading out in a soft lull.

The whole album is like a slow afternoon, unhurried and patient; still full and rich with sounds. Danger Mouse shows that creating a soundspace is more than just creating sound, it's an atmosphere that carries through the entire album.

It finds itself along side the likes of Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) and even subtle hints of Gorillaz - though less bounce and more melody.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

KMFDM - Angst

Released: Fall 1993 (rereleased Fall 2006)
Availability: usually in record shops, easily online, through KMFDM.COM
Label: KMFDM Enterprises (originally Wax Trax!/TVT Records)

KMFDM (Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid - you get to translate the bad German grammar) started as an Art-Music installation group in 1984. It didn't take long to become a full-on musical group. Easily one of the founding groups of Industrial Rock.

Light - the opening begs you to find the loudest stereo you can, crank it all the way up and sit tight. Building up to a crescendo it hits you with a solid guitar riff and pounding beat.

A Drug Against War - Easily one of the hardest, and best, songs ever recorded.

Blood (Evil Mix) - The beat slows down, but the social commentary becomes more scathing with each verse.

Lust - Love through physical need, the song is in German so unless you translate or speak it there isn't much here. Even so, it's a soothing song that's low and quiet.

Glory - Speaking out against Corporate Capitalism and similar social commentary. The song starts out in a slow pulsing rhythm and quickly moves into a catchy dancable beat. Comes with a call to arms to unite against oppression. A KMFDM stock in trade.

Move On - Slow, pulsing, this one gets under my skin, into my blood. Inward reflection on past mistakes and moving beyond into the future.

No Peace - Another call to arms against oppression and bigotry, almost an anthem track but doesn't quite have the energy.

A Hole In The Wall - The most off-beat love song I've ever heard, instead of how they want to live with a lover, how they want to die, and oddly affectionate.

Sucks - The other KMFDM staple is self deprication, and this is the ultimate expression, KMFDM Sucks. The lyrics are definitely amusing.

The Problem - The album ends with a slow down tempo beat, and a fairly serious note on how many 'problems' are dealt with in society, removing the focal point instead of finding the cause.

Angst is easily my favorite KMFDM ablum, it keeps momentum throughout the entire thing, not a bad track in the bunch when taken as a whole. Consistently heavy, if not overly fast or dance laden.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Skindred - Shark Bites And Dog Fights

Released: Fall 2009
Availability: readily both digitally and physically
Label: Bieler Bros. (independant label)

Skindred formed in the late 1990s out of a barely known band called Dub War. Originally signed with a major label, they thankfully wound up on Bieler Bros. A combo of rock, dub, reggae, metal and punk; they call it Ragga Metal, I'll go with that.

Over the course of the three albums they've released as Skindred they've refined the sound down to a well oiled machine, singer Benji Webbe brings a thankfully fresh new voice to the standard growling shout common in metal.

Stand For Something - A solid opening, Skindred's strong ties to Reggae places a lot of emphasis on social issues, and how we affect the world around us.

You Can't Stop It - Continuing on with the theme, more of a revolutionary rock anthem.

Electric Avenue - This is, beyond any doubt, the best cover of this track I have ever heard. The hard guitar edge adds a whole new dimension to this track, making it the punk song it always wanted to be.

Calling All Stations - Benji's voice goes from low rumble to melodic here. A sound that first attracted me to this group back when they were Dub War. The kind of track you want to hear let loose on the dance floor.

Corrupted - More reggae influenced than other tracks, still maintaining a dance floor stomping beat.

Who Are You? - Slowing down a bit, this track asks the ever important question; who are you to tell me I can't succeed? Interestingly the song fades out near the end and then comes right back in answering the question.

Days Like These - Picking back up again, this song occilates between slow and fast, without sounding forced.

Invicible - A solid ending to the album, another positive message song that also does well on the dance floor.

The album is short and sweet, coming in at just over 30 minutes with 8 tracks. Personally I find this a nice change compared to todays standards of packing sixteen plus mediocre tracks into an hour or dealing with solos dragging out the middle of a song.

It's good to see a group just get down the basics of delivering a solid album of hits.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music

Released: Summer, 1975
Availability: available, usually easily found - almost always a special order (listed as a Limited Edition)
Label: Buddha Records (Sony Music imprint;) [originally on RCA Records; major label]

Lou Reed is without a doubt one of modern rocks influences. A member of the Velvet Underground, has worked with countless musicians throughout the ages. One of rocks giants.

Metal Machine Music is not music. Says so on the album cover. It comes complete with an utterly made up list of equipment.

Metal Machine Music is two guitars in feedback loops - if you put on a pair of headphones the stereo recording will put a different experience into each ear.

Part One - guitars in a feedback loop. No melody, no beat, no rhythm.

From where I listen, music is a completely visceral emotional response. You can sit people down and discuss for days composition, and execution, and quality, and everything else. But when the lights go out, all your left with is "Do I like it or not?"

From there the real discussion starts, what does it make you feel? The same song can evoke different emotions depending on the mood you started listening to it in, and sometimes the same song will always lock step you back to one single emotion. When we encounter new music is as important as what new music we encounter.

Part Two - guitars in a feedback loop, for another 16 minutes.

I could present thousands of words on the history, value, revelations, commentary and influence this album had on the music industry. The number of people who went "wow!" and the number of people are just utterly pissed off this even exists.

Here's some of the things I've done listening to this album:
Fall asleep listening to it; Clean my house; meditate; given me a migraine; soothed and relaxed my nerves; driven people out of the room leaving me in peace.

I usually put it on a very low volume and let it become background noise, overwhelming all other forms of background noise a city has to offer.

Part Thee - see part two.

Zeitkratzer managed to make a live version of this album. Translated to notes and played by orchestra. It is currently more easily found than the standard release album.

You could consider this album as a Koan. Or you could consider it as a bunch of noise. Maybe both.

There is no middle ground here, you can either listen to an hour of two guitars feeding back into amplifiers, or you have to immediately turn it off. Sometimes I can only listen to one part. Sometimes I sit on the edge throughout the entire toneless rhythmless mess of noise - captivated and fascinated by it all.

Part Four - the last several seconds actually picks up a repeating rhythm. On the original record release some of the LPs had a locked groove so this suddenly rhythmic portion would repeat until you physically stopped the record player. On the CD is lasts barely over two minutes before ending. (secretly I wish they took it all the way to the edge of the CDs recording limits.)

If you can find it (I don't believe it's that hard, but it's not that easy either) I suggested finding the "Inanition" by Controlled Bleeding, the song 'Hymn From The Shadows' is another piece that goes especially well with headphones and the quiet subtlety of that track provides an excellent counter point. If you can't find it, any quiet long piece of ambient music works as well, some suggestions:
Future Sound Of London - Lifeforms Paths 1-7 (single, possibly out of print as well)
Any recordings of Buddhst Monks (I have several, new age shops love to stock these)
Any of Chopin's Nocturnes

So what is this? Besides over an hour of two guitars stuck in a feedback loop?

Depends on when you ask me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Good Son

Released: Spring, 1990
Availability: recently Remastered and Rereleased, with bonus DVD.
Label: Mute Records (former independent, currently under Major Label EMI)

Nick Cave is one of those artists that everyone should have heard of, and even if you haven't I can almost guarantee you've heard a song by him in some incarnation or another. He started with a group called The Birthday Party, his next group was The Bad Seeds. The Bad Seeds contain Blixa Bargeld - a legend in the Industrial scene, so you know the group was good. Take my word for it.

Most often placed in the Gothic Rock scene, Nick Cave has a firm grasp of good old Rock, Blues, and Jazz. Certainly not to be missed.

Foi Na Cruz - This song is entirely in Portuguese (I believe), the title means "It Happened Upon The Cross". Nick Cave always has a religious theme somewhere on his albums, sometimes cynically, and sometimes not. I haven't translated the lyrics.

The Good Son - The title track is light, with a dark undertone. The song builds to an intense crescendo through the verse and immediately relents on the chorus. It fades out with a slightly too long repetition.

Sorrow's Child - A somber piano carries this tune of loneliness and sadness. We can never completely escape sadness in life, at this reminder of that has a really nice tune.

The Weeping Song - I absolutely love this song; confession: I have put this on repeat for over an hour just listening to everything in it. I couldn't possibly describe the effects this song are on me, but it is profound.

The Ship Song - Another slow dirge-like track. This album is not a dance album, it's not a crank-it-eleven rock out album. It is slow, melodic, and even when it's essentially a love song it sounds low. Generally, a good moody album to have for rainy summer nights.

The Hammer Song - You can almost always hear a story in Nick Cave's songs, but rarely as straight forward as in this one. The Hammer Song feels like an old western to me, from the image of the hammer on a six-shooter to the slight twang in the guitars in the background in parts.

Lament - This song may actually be a dirge, and one of the most cheerful sounding songs on the album.

The Witness Song - This song picks up the pace significantly from the previous songs. A relatively quick paced song that just begs to be hummed along with, and definitely requires a foot tapping.

Lucy - This one is definitely a dirge, a slow piano and string song that ends out the album on a long, slow, but ultimately quiet note of devotion and love. The song fades out with a harmonica and the sound of rain falling. . . just to make the point.

If you're wondering why half the songs are The X Song, it's because they never changed them from the working titles as things were being written. Personally, I think that was a good choice. The whole album is a little sad, but not morose. As I said at the start Nick Cave is often placed with the Gothic Rock scene, and not without good reason.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lady Gaga - The Fame

Released: August, 2008
Available: anywhere you look! seriously.
Label: Interscope (UMG Label, major label)

If you think I'm going to stick to one genre with this blog -- I'm not.

I don't listen to the radio except rarely in the car, so 'pop' music has to get my attention the same way every other genre in existence does: by me going out and just finding stuff. Or word of mouth. I also don't own a television so the Lady Gaga PR Machine never even crossed my radar. I came to this party late, after the wife said "I want some Lady Gaga albums" when I asked for ideas for Christmas gifts.

Fair enough. I went out and picked up the album, having a pretty solid idea of the artist as the current Pop Star, and having heard some of it, I deemed it passable but not particularly spectacular. Upon getting the album I gave it a solid listen. I didn't expect to enjoy it like I do. (as a note: this is actually the 'revised' release put out after the initial release, it contains two more tracks than before.)

Just Dance - This album is not some genre-breaking testament to music, it's not some intense social statement. It's a pop record. And the opening track comes in with a catchy beat and a statement one should take to heart: Just Dance. This album is supposed to be fun and this is one of the more fun tracks. I think this is my favorite track because it reminds us that sometimes, the music is just a vessel to get us dancing.

Get out on the floor and enjoy the ride.

Love Game - "Disco Stick" has got to be one of the best phallic allusions in a song I've heard in a long time. Not since Motorhead belted out "Bacon Torpedo" have I loved a double entendre so much. Another catchy fun track to dance to, allusions aside it's a good song overall.

Paparazzi - Either this is a statement of undying love, or a song about a stalker. The beat here slows down a bit, it's not as dancable as the previous tracks. I still haven't decided if I like this one or not, I skip over it half the time.

Poker Face - Another solid club track, mostly harmless fun, slathering on sexual tension without being nearly as crude as other artists can be.

Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say) - Slowing down again, this one is a definite pop-ballad song. Though instead of a song about true love, it's about breaking up. As far as sappy pop songs go, I like this one, it manages to be upbeat about the whole thing.

Beautiful, Dirty, Rich - I love this song, it makes me immediately think of AC/DC and the like. This song would be just as good with a killer guitar riff as it is here with a pop-techno beat.

The Fame - Another hard rock inspired track, definitely a good track to just get out on the floor and dance to. Doin' It For The Fame, what else is there for pop musicians. Cant' knock honesty set to a catchy beat.

Money Honey - Another song I like a lot, and yet another song I can picture as a hard rock song instead of technopop. What can I say, I love me some rock and roll, and while this is definitely a pop-tune it's mostly Rock.

Starstruck - The added song for the 'revised' release of the album. Pure club track dance music here. Slow beat, good steady rhythm, a guest artists breaks into a drawn out rap-verse in the middle, but the beat doesn't really change up behind it so you can look past the flaw.

Boys Boys Boys - More Rock fun here. Remember Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls"? Becuase this is the woman artists answer to it. I like that Lady Gaga is able to sexually charge her music without coming across as the submissive side of the relationship.

Paper Gangsta - A piano opening marks this one as something different. Another slower track, it's passable as far as songs go. A song about not wanting superficial boys to date, I'm pretty sure. A mellow song to put on at the end of the evening when things have slowed down.

Brown Eyes - Another mellow slow track. It sounds like it should be played with the lights low, in a noir-feeling lounge or night club. After the upbeat pop of the first part of the album this one almost seems out of place, this would have been a better outro to the whole album instead of just near the end.

I Like It Rough - Picking the beat back up again, but not as fast as the bouncier tracks from the first half. It's not a bad song, but it's not particularly good either. This is another track that was added to the revised release (it started life as an iTunes bonus track).

Summerboy - This one actually contains a guitar riff sound on it, but doesn't quite pick up the pace that would elevate it above top-40 radio fair. A little more oomph could have put this one on the dance floor too.

The album starts out as really good pop-dance fair, but lost some steam at the end, though it never actually goes bad. Sure, it's mostly vapid simple pop culture dance music - but it's good. Lady Gaga can actually write a tune, unlike most pop-musicians out there trying to get you to buy an album.

I wouldn't place this among my collection of Must Have Calssic Albums by any means, but it's listenable and fun.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Motorhead -- Inferno

Released: June, 2004
Availble: All Major Music Sources
Label: SPV (Independant Label)

Motorhead stands as an icon of Rock 'N' Roll, and it's my belief everyone should have at least one album in their collection. With over thirty years of history (2010 marks the 35th Anniversary) there are nearly twenty studio albums out there.

Let's look at Inferno. The album is one of my favorites, and the album cover is cool. If you don't know who Motorhead are, at the release of this album Motorhead is a trio of Lemmy, Mikkey Dee, and Phil Campbell.

Terminal Show - There is no fade in, intro, or even a count it. The album opens up with full guitar/bass/drums at volume and speed. A fast paced romp through the age old question of why we're here. Steve Vai provides a kickin' guitar solo in the middle.

Killers - Without slowing down track thunders on, Killers is a motorhead staple of songs about battle and war. Turn the volume up and play it loud, there's no deep philosophy to dwell on.

In The Name Of Tragedy - One of my favorite tracks on the album. A song about life's troubles and trials. The chorus is what caught me on this one. While he verses go on about losses and all the stupid things we do that mess up our lives the chorus tells us to stop whining and get it sorted out.

Suicide - Slowing things down just a little, without lowering the volume. Suicide is commentary on modern society, and the slow suicide of the human race through war, wasted resources, and greed.

Life's A Bitch - Speeding right back up the fifth track provides an important message. It's a fast and hard track, but the outro kinds of kills it, it's one of those extended drum roll things where the drummer feels the needs to hit every piece of the kit with the guitars wail on for half a dozen notes too many.

Down On Me - Still not slowing down, the album so far is a testament to the fact that you don't need to pause in the action. Another guitar solo from Steve Vai here, giving the song a bit of a kick.

In The Black - This one has a slower, crunchy guitar riff to it that's catchy. The guitar solo is punctuated by a change up in the drumming as well, extra tasty. I think you could remove the lyrics, toss in some more guitar solos and this would make a great instrumental.

Fight - "Put The Bass Up Will Ya." And the song takes off at a gallop. As close to a stadium anthem as this album will give you, the lyrics of the song are simple and shouted, mostly repeated words.

In The Year Of The Wolf - A steady, slower, track. Though by no means slow. A look back to the more primal thoughts, less domestic days. You can almost picture Viking long ships making their way to some hapless village. . .

Keys To The Kingdom - Still bringing it down in tempo just a little, without turning down the volume. The song could be about Lucifer after he was thrown out of Heaven and left to wander. Or a loss in faith. Either way it's a great track.

Smiling Like A Killer - Speeding right back up, this song always strikes me as a bit funny. Every horror movie trope creeps through the verses as the song speeds along. There's more humor than fright in this one.

Whorehouse Blues - The album ends with a down tempo track, drummer Mikkey Dee leaves the drum kit for a moment to give the track a double guitar sound. The song is a straight blues riff, something motorhead has used throughout their carreer in their songs. This time it's all acoustic calssic blues. Halfway through Lemmy plays the harmonica. The song is about Motorhead's career.

Motorhead has delivered solid fast paced album, good old Rock N Roll. Some of the songs have lyrics deeper than your average rock or metal album, some of them not very deep at all.

Everyone should own a Motorhead album, just so they know what good rock/metal really sounds like. It's Lemmy after all.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mandatory Intro Track

Who Am I: Just some guy who listens to a lot of music. Most people say they listen to everything, what they really mean is they listen to whatever the radio is playing, usually after flipping through stations to get past the commercials, or whatever random station they land on. I'd like to think I really do listen to a sampling of every major, and most minor, genres of music out there.

And there's a lot of music out there. So much so I'm constantly foiled in my attempts to get a smattering of everything.

Why This? Because every music blog I read devolves into one of a few things - 1) the blogger goes off on a series of non-music related tangets. 2) the blogger feels the need to form street cred by going over music you'll never get a hold of because it's some tiny local band who can barely produce 100 CD-Rs on their home computer. 3) the blogger goes off on what music means to them and just how clever they are by drawing parallels to... something.

Or some combination of all that.

What is This then? A review of an album at a time, fully and completely from start to finish. No clever anecdotes about how the lead singer was thinking of his dog when he thought of the verse. Or whatever. I take an album and listen to it track by track and put down my thoughts. The only criteria is that the album has to be easily available, either as a download, through a website, a major label, a minor label, a reliable distributor, or however more than just the 50 people who attened the last show in a coffee shop can get ahold of it.

There's a lot of cool blogs out there dedicated to small bands who aren't signed, and have no hope of being signed. And don't even need to be signed in today's world of internet distribution. I'm sure occasionally I'll even get a few of those here. there's a lot of blogs dedicated to mainstream reviews usually taking a couple paragraphs to describe the album from .... some angle.

Why read this? Existentialism.

I promise you this blog will only ever review albums, one album per post, with suggestions based on "if you liked this and this you might like this album too" type of thing. Track by Track.

In the end - it's just another opinion taking up bandwidth. But I will never tell you how awesome it was to see some underground band at somethingorother-fest to show my street cred.

You want to know my street cred? here's the only street cred I have: I've shared a smoke with Sascha K. of KMFDM while waiting for Lucia to get some paper for the credit card machine while at a concert. Sascha has talked to thousands of fans, because he's cool like that, which makes that encounter unspectacular. I'm sure somewhere that makes me officially cool. But I doubt it.

And since this intro is officially too long now... I'm out. First review in a day or two (I have to find a good album to lead this thing with). And in general - recommend music to me, I need to expand my horizons.