Friday, January 18, 2019

Cassette Review //
(Custom Made Music)

$9 // //

The way this cassette is set up is with three songs on each side.   Side A has three songs which are singles/demos from Cupidcome while the three songs on Side B are from the "Sweet Heart" EP which was released as a cassette by itself once before but has since sold out.     What strikes me about this is that the first two songs are both from 2018 while the third goes back to 2016 and the EP which makes up the flip side is from 2016.   Listening to this can feel like going back in time, as Cupidcome's more recent songs seem to be first but time is relative anyway, right?

For the first three songs we really get this sense of dark rock.   It's like BRMC or Trail of Dead where it just has this certain level of -gaze but also just feels so badass, like they'd play inside clubs with sunglasses on.    It's that slick kind of rock style that I really want to hear more of because it falls somewhere between traditional shoegaze and what is thought of as modern rock n roll and it seems like we go to either side of the spectrum these days but never float around in the middle like this.

On the flip side, the name Cupidcome really comes out because with what is the "Sweet Heart" EP you can hear how much shoegaze influence is in here.   Though the name comes from a MBV song, you can pick out your influence of choice here and I prefer to this of this as being that kind of sound like you would hear from an artist such as The Cure.   I use that as a general reference though, to sort of say that if you enjoy the music of The Cure you will also enjoy these songs.

It's weird to think about because the last three songs of Cupidcome really feel like they just fit so well into that shoegaze genre but then the first three feel like they're really sort of drifting away from that sound a little.   It's like listening to the evolution of the band only in reverse somehow.   I do enjoy the three songs on Side B, which are that EP, but I enjoy the first three songs more because I feel like it's less of Cupidcome trying to experiment with a set sound (shoegaze) and more of them discovering their own sound, breaking the walls down and exploring their own genre.

Music Review //
Heather Gruber
"Dance into the Desert" //

Did you ever get that feeling that you're listening to something that you've heard before?   Heather Gruber creates complex pop songs that have elements which make me feel like I've heard this sound before but I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it is, so I can only be left to conclude that the pieces of other artists which can be found in these songs coupled with how accessible it feels makes for something all too familiar but also just that great.

The tone tends to be fun and upbeat, though at times it can get sad, but from the start when hearing these songs I feel like they could be from one of those "Curious George" animated movies even though they don't sound exactly like Jack Johnson.   I hear a little bit of Annie Lennox in here and there are also these piano parts which make this feel a little bit like that coffee shop type of jazz as well.   If I had to use a word to describe this music it would be "Bohemian", though when others use that to describe music I tend not to like how it sounds.

Since this has more of a pop feel to it a lot of the influences I can hear are of artists I only know for one song.   Nelly Furtado's song about being like a bird and flying away comes to mind, though, again, I'm not saying this sounds like Nelly Furtado as I only know that one song.   The same can be said for that song "Torn" (you know the one) and the song "Lost My Halo" has similarities with "Superman" by Five For Fighting (And yeah, I had to google it by the lyrics to pull up the song title and artist)

The more that I listen to this- and hopefully the more that you do as well- it begins to shift away from those influences I picked out early on and just takes on its own sound, its own story really as you can feel sometimes like these songs are light as a feather and other times they just feel like you're caught in a downpour of rain.   Whether you call it pop, bossa nova or something in between it's something which not only feels easily accessible but it is also easily enjoyable.

Music Review //
Go Dark
"Neon Young"
(Bella Union) //

"Neon Young" is an electro-pop ride from Go Dark that will grab onto your heartstrings and never let go.   It is not an easy album for me to describe if only because I've not heard a sound like this before, only ideas which come somewhat close to it.   It wouldn't be completely wrong to say that this sounds like some combination of Metric and Polly Scattergood and that seems to be excellent company to be in.

The electronics are fun and sometimes it just gets intense.   The song "Dark Moon" likes to sing "That's what's up / what's up" and it kind of sets the vibe for the whole album.    It's somehow both light (not to be taken too seriously) and extremely serious (not to be fucked with) both at the same time.   If you need to know how such a sound can exist, simply listen to "Neon Young".

"Big Rot" is a song which starts with these deep "Oh no" parts while "Violetest Red" can feel like blissed out dreampop.   There can be a lot of synth, kind of dance beats and definitely a sense of something which my parents would've listened to while they rollerskate but, you know, in a more modern sense than all that from the past.  It also has these parts where they sing and it feels like they're clapping at the same time and I can only compare it with how kids sing while jumping rope.

Part of the charm, part of the appeal of this album is that it has a pop sound on the surface, but underneath it is so much more and it doesn't feel like anything else I've heard before.   It has bits and pieces of other artists, but ultimately forges its own sound which is refreshing.    "Beautiful Bitch" has this pop song element to it while containing lyrics about body shaming and ultimately this album is a prime example of how appearances can be deceiving.   With this one, you really need to listen.

Music Review //
Tim Feeney / Aaron Michael Butler
"Things I said I'd never be"
(Full Spectrum Records) //

The first thing you need to know about this one is it starts off rather quietly.   You'll hear this drum part that makes you realize you're not just listening to dead air, but you really should have this one on through earbuds and the volume up.     The percussion feels like scratching but also maybe detaching and it comes through in bursts.    One of the things I feel like I'm hearing too are marbles being shifted around, but it's not like they're rolling or being dropped into a metal pan, but they're doing something in there I just can't figure out what.   When these sounds come through in intervals they are not easy to decipher but you will be struck by them.

You can hear this slight amount of static though, just this very minimal pressure of wind, so that if you press pause or turn it off you can tell that there was some sound there in between the percussion it's just about as minimal as it gets.    Closing in on the eleven minute mark things shift into a slightly louder gear and it even feels like there are birds chirping behind it all (Though it might just be the clacking of drumsticks)   The best way to describe how this goes from one level of near silence to another is like when you pop on your ears and everything suddenly gets louder.   Even the percussion sounds louder now.    Drum rolls and those sounds of marbles, but almost like it's raining pebbles, create a certain feeling here.

I feel much more definite about hearing birds as we close in on the fifteen minute mark.   The percussion somehow rolls into the background, like the whole direction of where this music was headed has shifted.   This, again, is something which you might not experience as well through speakers.   Though I have tape decks and a record player (even a stereo with a CD player in it) I don't really have a good way to listen to digital files other than my laptop and phone.  So, for me, since my laptop is what it is, I don't dare trying and let this play out of the speakers.   It would make for an interesting experience (and I might one day) but for now I prefer it as close to my ears as possible.

The sounds can come through like a rain stick as they whoosh in and out, the drums banging away once again.   There is also, near the 21 minute mark or so, this loud wind that blows through and it almost sounds like thunder.    It almost begins to feel like you can hear someone speaking behind this all as well, in a somewhat muted way.    As we hit the twenty four minute mark it feels like a storm and then it all just fades out.    The drums return here and there and the background has a louder hiss, kind of like rain.    The crackling and popping get louder as they begin to expand.    Once again I feel like I can hear those muted words in the background and the static, ever slight, persists. 

Everything comes to a head at once, as the rain stick sounds swirl around like a storm.     It goes back and forth now, the pattern of a siren but without the same sound.      The second track has the same minimal static sound but for some reason when it starts it reminds me of an airport.    The drums roll once again and a much bigger sound comes from it this time.     It quiets now, like a stalled car.    The drum begins a powerful roll now.     There's such a big sound to this, like the percussion in some grand orchestra, and then it just fades out.   Drum rolls return and it feels somewhat like a march now.     This percussion can have a machine gun fire to it but it comes and goes.

It begins to feel like we're in the jungle or somewhere similar as the rain stick enters with the sounds of crickets and other such organic sounds which make me feel like we're out in nature.   There are also these pops which will come into your ear strongly.     There are more sounds of crickets as things begin to feel like they're settling.    Water whooshes through, as when a car drives through a puddle and creates that splash.    You can still feel that minimal static.    A lot of what was heard in terms of sounds on the first track can also be found on the second one they are just executed in different ways. 

Sometimes it can feel like we're just floating in the ocean, the waves tossing and turning the boat back and forth and all we can do is wait to find shore.    Then it has this power to sound like either a rain storm or the crackle of a heavy fire but I'm leaning more towards the rain for some reason.    A drum roll now seems to take us away from the rain and into something else.    This can feel loud and abrasive at times with the percussion but it's mostly softer and minimal.   Many of the sounds are open to interpretation and that is one of the best reasons to listen to it.  

CD Review //
Slum Summer
(Jigsaw Records)

$10 // //

At some point in time, someone created too much rock music.   With the way music can be presented now (see: Bandcamp) I think we can all admit there is way too much music released every year, right?   Can someone run the numbers for me?  I feel like there used to be hundreds of albums released per year but under 500 and now there are thousands but like tens of thousands.    Of all the rock bands out there, you have to imagine how they can influence other bands and so we've finally reached that point where you can put a lot of little pieces into the pot to create one big sound, which in this case is called Slum Summer.

While I feel overwhelmed by music most of the time (Don't ask me what I have on deck to review or I might have a breakdown) I do enjoy Slum Summer and the way that this sound is a combination of sounds I grew up with but haven't really heard together.    On the surface, the rock in this band can be something like TMBG or The Mr T Experience.   It's a little bit punk, a little bit fun, but just along those lines where the guitar makes those kinds of chords.   It's light.   It's got a "That Thing You Do!" quality to it as well.

Now, add in to that how this reminds me of Weezer but also has this strong dreamy quality to it.   I'm not going to go so far as to break apart every piece of this and say it's 15% punk, 35% dreamy, etc. (Don't trust those numbers!) but there is a bit of dreaminess in here and it's strange because it's kind of hidden but not.    You wouldn't listen to Slum Summer and immediately think that it is like something from the Buddy Holly era of rock n roll, but the more I listen to it, the more I can hear that side coming out.

Songs like "Back To Seagrave" and "Bobby" are catchy to the point where they will likely be the first ones you start singing along with after a few listens.    This helps to put this sound somewhere overall between the soundtrack to "Angus" and that of "Empire Records".   There is that element of The Hold Steady or a band like that, but in a lot of other ways this also just reminds me of Smoking Popes.   I'm glad I started reviewing music at a time when I didn't have to be one of the first to describe Smoking Popes (1999, baby!!) but in ways, yeah, I imagine this is what it would've been like.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Cassette Review //
Kill Surf City
"Ever Notice How Everything's Stupid"
(Blacktop Records)

$7.99 //
Edition of 100 // //

Some people might look at this cassette, see the title of it and say "Everything's not stupid-- you're stupid!" and pass on it.    That is the sign of the times.   We live in a society now where everything is deemed offensive.   I could go on Twitter and say it's such a beautiful day outside because the sun is shining bright and the sky is a perfect shade of blue and someone would say "The world isn't beautiful because..." and go off on something that doesn't have to do with what the original thought was about.   Everything really is stupid.   It's nice to see this sentiment- more from my youth than current day society- still around in this hyper-sensitive mess we call a society.

At first this starts with what sounds like some kind of -gaze and yet there are these guitar riffs, almost with a surf sound, mixed in.   It's smooth and the more you listen to it the more you'll hear how it becomes this sound of some forgotten band from the late 1990's.   It's not grunge, but it's the rock the radio shifted to after Kurt Cobain died.   Something from that MPLS scene, Pavement, Weezer and Silversun Pickups come out all the same.     It has that slacker rock vibe which you either know because you were alive back then and old enough to appreciate it or you don't and that's okay.

From Matthew Sweet to something from those glory days of DGC, this could also be found on the "Angus" soundtrack at times.    The song "Fuck The Landlord" has vibes of EFS but also that acoustic, more melodic feel of Local H and I feel like the lyrics (not just on that song, but the cassette overall) compliment Local H more.   The idea of rather killing yourself than having to pay the rent is I'm sure something we've all considered since rent is typically the most expensive bill we face as adults and I don't know why it jumps so high from electricity being $200 or so then bam rent is like four times that amount.  I understand what goes into being a landlord, but 90% of what you pay goes towards where you live.

There is an audio clip on here from "Office Space", which you should recognize as the main character explaining that we, as humans, were meant to do more with our lives than sit in cubicles all day.    As the second side comes to an end, there is another audio clip from "Home Movies", which is rather funny because I recognized H. Jon Benjamin right away and thought "This isn't Bob's Burgers.  This isn't Archer" but then I eventually he was talking to Brendon and it all fell into place.   Even just thinking of the time period from when those two audio clips came can help you see what kind of music this is going to be.

In 1995, maybe 1997 this could've been a huge cassette.   Songs could've been on the radio.   Now, in 2019, I imagine someone posting about this on Twitter, the replies full of clever comebacks of the title being stupid, how could you be so negative, blah blah blah, to the point where the comments are getting more likes and retweets than the original idea of the cassette itself.   This is our society now.   Perhaps we don't deserve Kill Surf City.   In many ways, we have no one to blame for the shit we've created but ourselves.   But I'm going to hold onto that little bit of hope that one day things will get better.  Until that day, let's not let the masses ruin this cassette for us.

Music Review //
Chris Lastovicka
"Fortune Has Turned (Remixed)"
(Ahari Press) //

"Fortune Has Turned" is an album by Chris Lastovicka which you can find on Bandcamp and this is remixed version of it.    There are dark strings (cello?) with lighter strings coupled in, such as a violin, and it just has this classical feeling overall to it.   I'm not sure if it is something which can be considered traditional classical or if it is closer to neo-classical but I tend not to like "classical" music but if it's tagged "neo-classical" I listen to it so perhaps we'll go with the latter.    The first song also features vocals (Though they just go "ahhhh") and as it builds it just begins to feel eerie and haunted.

"Abraxas" opens with dramatic piano keys and it just builds, the intensity of it feels like it's about to boil over.    Strings wind their way back in and the upbeat feeling of this makes me feel like we are running in the woods, but maybe not from something scary, though I cannot think of another reason to run through the woods.    There is a strong feeling of suspense in here as well.   This could easily be the score to a Hitchcock film.    It begins to turn, wind, build and just create such sonic soundscapes through something like an orchestra.   I feel sometimes this could be traditional classical because I think my dad would enjoy it.

"The Tender Ones" begins more with isolated strings, fading in and out, then select piano keys adding to the drama.    The way it begins to flow back and forth can become hypnotizing and then the full on piano just emerges and creates what should be thought of more as a traditional classical sound.    Just over that halfway mark on this third song we begin to feel like we're really flying, just growing it's taking off so high.     When this song started I almost felt like that big sound like blowing a horn would be like something out of "Lord of the Rings" but it's really grown into something else now, something all its own.

We begin with more of a trill on "Shanti".    I'm not sure if this song has the same intensity as the others but there is a definite urgency to it.   It feels like the scene in a movie where someone is trying to either quickly board a plane and get somewhere or perhaps run from a plane if you can tie that back with my earlier Hitchcock reference.   As it grows it can really feel like it's weighing down on you something heavy.   This song carries that weight with it that not a lot of songs can; it's heavy like baggage.   Just a driving force with a specific destination that the listener won't know about until we get there.

As only seems fitting, the last song is called "The End of Tyranny" and it has such a sad feeling to it.   There is a sense that things are over, a finality if you will, but it just feels like such a sad ending if only in that way that most endings are sad.    The piano seemingly races with the strings to find its ultimate goal, to find that finish line which brings this story to an end.   It is that ending, that final resting place which we call home.