Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Record Review //
Emma Dilemma
"So Becoming"

$20 // //

One of the topics I often discuss with my dad is records and it's interesting because when I'm listening to "So Becoming" I can't help but feel like it is something he would enjoy.   It has that classic feel to it, even in that folk sense of Simon & Garfunkel for example, but there is also a modern vibe with it overall as well.   The first you'll notice about it is the powerful, soothing voice of Emma Dilemma.    Sometimes people who really shouldn't sing end up doing so anyway (and that's okay) but these sound like professionally trained vocal chords and it's just the type of singing everyone should take a moment to listen to and truly appreciate.

In a modern sense I hear some of Dead Sara in these songs.   They are heavenly and can feature strings outside of the commanding guitar.    It's a little bit Bob Denver and a little bit Tom Petty.    In some of the earlier songs it can even feel dark, but by the end you're feeling energized and the last song has this punk rock/Bob Dylan protestor aspect going for it (Which is funny because if you look at the title quickly on the back of the record you might think it says "Protestors" when the song is in fact called "Protectors")

"No Hard Days" has the strings and darkness of a band like Murder By Death and yet then we flow seemlessly into "Soul Searcher" which is just such an understated beauty.    By the flip side you'll start to realize that this is folk because you'll pick up elements of that movie "A Mighty Wind" and the song "Eliot and Loren" just has an overall "Homeward Bound" vibe to it (The song, of course, not that movie with that cat and dog)   "Here We Go" has a definite gypsy/Russian aspect to it which you know I fully enjoy and that makes it my favorite song on this album.

Almost as important as the music itself is what these songs say.   "Allegheny" has the lines "For a while, I was right where I needed to be / You were somewhere so far out of reach" while the last song, "Protectors", leaves us with the most poignant thought: "We'll obey the rights of humanity until we're free".    The lyrics, I feel, are accessible in the sense that they're down to earth and if you've ever lived or loved you can likely relate with them.

Perhaps the biggest reason why I think my dad would enjoy this record and why I think of it in a classic sense is that it does something not a lot of contemporary albums do: it has that feel of an album overall, the highs and lows of songs, the pacing, just what makes a great album a great album and not feel like a collection of songs.    Obviously if this was easier to do everyone would be doing it but since it feels like such rare air you should recognize this quality in "So Becoming", though overall I hope that your biggest takeaway from this record is how relatable these songs can be. 

Cassette Review //
"Live At"

$7 //
Edition of 100 // //

An ambient whirr and drumming kick things off on this cassette.   This whirr has a certain drone to it while the drumming is frantic behind it.    Notes come through with the percussion now and you know it's serious when you can hear the drumsticks.   It feels like a guitar is being plucked but it's acoustic and so it might be some other instrument which is like an acoustic guitar but smaller, though I'm not sure whether or not there is such an instrument so let's just say it's a guitar until we learn otherwise.   

Notes come through in a back and forth way now which feel like a distress signal.   Screeches and string scrapes build up louder and cymbal crashes reign down in utter destruction.    I had a dream like this once and it was the end of the world.   Things didn't catch fire or explode they just sort of vanished as if we were all cartoons being erased by some invisible eraser.   It grows louder now, banging heavy.   Softer, slides and more sounds that could be bird calls but I know to be guitars.

As drums crash now it feels as if the guitar strings are going to break.    The guitar notes go back and forth: 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 and it sounds like a church bell ringing.   Some sharpness as well, as this gets minimal, fading and seeming as if it is all over until louder notes of chaos spring into action.   This has elements of Primus but in a very broad sense.   The percussion begins to once again telegraph the movements, as if a silent movie were being broadcast as a radio show.   

I want to call this next part acoustic skramz but I feel like someone who is an actual band that plays skramz has tried to do an acoustic set before and it just doesn't sound the same.   The quiet turns to loud as the breaking, the destruction, it is all coming out now as if a fighter is in the last round with nothing left to lose and is just giving it their all.   The guitar notes then switch to something more transcendent, a little trippy as everything calms down a bit.    It is peaceful now, reflexive.    Drum rolls and cymbals are left to their own devices now and they take us to the end of Side A.  

On the flip side we start with sharp guitar notes which make me think of "In Utero" era Nirvana.   They come rambling through now and the drums accompany them in a manner which just has them feeling that much stronger, that much more powerful.    It really begins driving now.   The notes are somehow looped but it's just this rhythm which becomes hypnotic at its core.    As the strums grow harder so do the cymbal crashing and overall madness of the drumming.    Guitars sound like morse code now and then they become much heavier, eletric and bass-filled.   We're into a sound which could be described as sludge now.  

It all comes down to some lone guitar notes.   Things breaking, yet quietly.   A tapping and cymbal slides.   This could be the sound of traffic now as it all comes out at once, wild.   There is a quiet pacing to it though.   We're slowly moving through this bumpy road, like riding a horse on a trail in the old west.    Bangs and clanks here and there.   Metal on metal.   Guitar string torture to get just the right sound out of it.    Muted drumrolls are the quietest this cassette has been so far.

Some sharpness begins to slowly squeak back into the scene.    It's beginning to feel as if there is yelling behind this- screaming- and the music is chugging along as if it is hardcore or metal.   It might just be an audio illusion but with headphones on you can really hear it coming through back there, some sort of thrash-core.  Back into the breaking down and I feel like I want MANAS to come play in my house and use whatever can be found to create their sound (I have a lot of percussion based instruments for kids)

Back and forth beeping builds now.   The drummer is on a roll.   It feels like an emergency.   The drumming gets more methodic, like voodoo, as the guitar belts out notes and this has all the makings of a song which I feel could detour evil spirits from visiting your doorstep.   It rings, it scrambles.  School is out.  The stock market has closed forever.   This is the doom you were warned about by your grandparents.    This is why old curses should not be lifted. 

Cassette Review //
(Custom Made Music) //

When this cassette first starts the dreamy guitars come through in this big, distorted way which make me think that Reveries is some kind of combination of Local H and Spacehog.    As the songs go on though, it keeps with this dreamy/space feel but the distortion fades a bit and it isn't quite as big and heavy.   It's like The Beautiful Mistake without the parts which made that band on the verge of hardcore.   There are probably different influences people will pull from these songs depending upon your age, what you listen to exactly and how much of it you listen to, but I feel that much like The Sorry Shop or Rev Rev Rev, Reveries has a unique take on what is generalized as shoegaze.

Perhaps the most redeeming quality of these songs is not just the fact that they are exceptional as far as their genre goes, but that in many ways they break genres in the sense that they crossover from one era of music to the next.   You see, on one hand, this has that sound that I really would want to put with the 1980's/early 1990's sound from soundtracks such as "The Breakfast Club" or "Pretty In Pink" (which admittedly is where I go to with a lot of shoegaze artists)  Yet at the same time, this could be something from the mid to late 1990's when Nirvana was over and Beck had "Loser" on the radio-- you know, when bands like Superdrag, Smoking Popes and even a young Weezer were taking shape.

After a shorter instrumental song ("Still") this comes back with a distorted rage that feels like something you'd hear from early Trail of the Dead and I never have an issue with hearing a band who sounds like that because, I mean, Trail of Dead shouldn't just be a band, they should be a genre themselves and anyone who takes hints from them is doing something right in my book.   Just the fact that this can go from slower to faster, softer to harder, instrumental to not shows the range of Reveries, something other bands wouldn't be able to do with only six songs.

"Passing", which is the last song, has these FNL guitars which bring about elements of post rock.   It is also an instrumental song but for the most part this cassette has more emphasis on music even when there are vocals.   The way that the song seems to kind of fade out at the end of is bit less post rock and more post apocalyptic in its thoughts as well.   Is there a genre for "post everything" yet because if not, it is quite possible that Reveries could be paving the way. 

CD Review //
Citrus Clouds
"Ultra Sound"
(Custom Made Music)

$10 // //

"Ultra Sound" starts right away in a dreamy way.   It's got that feeling of sounding like The Cure but maybe not exactly The Cure and someone more modern covering "Just Like Heaven" (Which I believe Anberlin did best)     While Erick Pineda sings lead on the opening song, "Ocean Eyes", Stacie Huttleston takes over the lead vocals on the next song, "You Loved Me First".     This has a definite -gaze feel to it overall and in many ways you could call it dreamgaze but then there is a darkwave sense to it as well, so if you could somehow combine dreamgaze and darkwave... Is darkgaze a thing? It must be by now.

The guitar work will be what you hear most on these songs, but the drumming of Angelica Pedrego keeping everything together is truly spectacular.    The middle of this CD is a song called "Happy" and first off, props to Citrus Clouds for *not* making this a cover of that song from the Minions movie.   I often times will see song titles and think "Oh, is that a cover?" and in this case I was strongly hoping it wouldn't be.    The song itself is Erick Pineda singing "And I swear, I'm so happy" but it's in this way that would make you think of the goth new wave bands like Morrissey and Joy Divsion.

While it is a strong feat within itself to create music which matches your mood (Singing about how angry you are while the music that goes with it rages, for example) I've always thought it was somehow better to create songs which seemed sad, depressive and yet had upbeat lyrics or vice versa (Because listening to bubblegum pop songs with lyrics about how much you hate your life would be equally as rad I imagine)   Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but based upon the content of these songs on "Ultra Sound" I'm going to kind of guess that I'm not.

"Is This Real?" is an example of why having two vocalists can sometimes work and more importantly how to have two vocalists work together to create a near perfect sound.    As Stacie Huttleston and Erick Pineda sings "Is this real?" they also respond with "I don't know" which will really mess with your sense of reality.     And in that altered sense of reality, the upbeat lyrics with downbeat music continues on "Here Is Where We Are" with the lines "I look up at the sun, I had so much fun / I love everyone".

The final song, "A Dream Of You", is really the most musically heavy song on the CD as sometimes vocals come through but it is mostly just distorted guitars and thundering drums with bass.    It makes for a good final song because some might wonder why they didn't bring this loudness sooner (like perhaps a song to open with rather than close on) but it's something that I feel "Ultra Sound" just builds up to and rather than fading out in a boring way it makes you want to start the whole CD over again which, really, should be the goal of anyone making music.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Blu Ray Review: Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] (MVD Visual)

When I was a kid I would watch movies as they came out and I think we all have this special place for movies which were out during our lifetime over movies released before we were born.   Now, I'm not saying every movie released in 1998 is better than "The Birds" because of the time in that sense, but on a personal level I find we hold the movies most dear to us because of how they relate to our lives and that's usually because they come out when we are old enough to watch them. 

Without giving away my age, I will say that "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" did come out before I was born (just barely) but I remember watching the animated series for it, so the movie itself still has this special place for me.   It was something along the lines of me not realizing until years later when I was older that the cartoon I loved had equally amazing movies to go with them.

"Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" is the ultimate movie to watch when you want something that is both comedic and wholesome.   There are these qualities which make it feel like something you'd see on MST3K, yet at the same time, there is just something enduring about the movie itself which makes me feel like sort of poking fun at it in that way isn't appropriate.    So it has that fine line to walk in a way. 

Though I've never been to a film class or anything like that, I feel like this is something they should teach there-- they should show this movie to film students for reference.   It's just one of those movies I'm not going to write a lot about because I feel like everyone should have seen this at least once in their life and I feel like everyone also agrees with me already on how it is simply one of the best movies ever made.

This Blu-Ray/DVD combo set comes as part of the MVD Rewind collection (It is the second after "D.O.A." which was previously reviewed here) and as such it has a ton of bonus features and also the collectible 9.5" x 11" poster.    I will type this now and hope it does not fall on deaf ears but I'm hoping one day the two movies which followed this will get the MVD Rewind treatment as well and all three posters can be framed on my wall. 

While I feel like so many modern movies are trash (I have yet to pinpoint the exact year it all started falling apart) I will say that one thing movies such as this, released in this way, have made me realize is how disposable modern movies are.   I've watched some movies once and felt like that was enough while others I've not even bothered with.   In many ways, the best sign of a most excellent movie is when you're able to watch it a countless number of times and then also to say you'd rather watch it with commentary than watch some other new movie you haven't seen yet.

All of these bonus features should be viewed as many times as you can because who doesn't want to know things about the San Diego Chicken, but one tip I will give you that for some reason worked out better for me was that the first time I watched the original short film which inspired this movie I thought I had selected to watch it without commentary and yet the commentary came on instead.   This was actually better, I think, than watching it without the commentary for the first time, so you might want to do the same with the short film.

"Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" is one of those rare movies where I'll watch just about anything related to it that I can.    It just has a such a unique quality to it that I feel no other movie has really managed to capture since and probably never will again.   Could you imagine someone making this movie in 2018?  But even watching it again, in 2018, I don't think "Oh, those effects are so bad" but rather it takes me back to simpler times, when movies didn't have to cost four hundred million dollars to make because... well, we can say that's something like all flash and no substance and "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" has some flash, but even being all substance is remarkable.

Cassette Review //
Wet Garden
"Deep In Earth"

$7 //
Edition of 50 // //
🎧 //

Right away, I think the first thing you notice with "Deep In Earth" is that even though these other sounds are going on in an electronics way, there are these vocals and it's not in a typical manner.   The vocals come out softer, sultry but they also are kind of hidden behind the other sounds.   They're not so far back there that they become more difficult to hear, but they do seem to be layered underneath things such as the synth beeps which remind me of a dreamy version of "The X-Files".

There aren't a lot of influences to pull out for Wet Garden in terms of comparisons.   There is some Madonna in here, maybe PJ Harvey, but it's so much slowed down compared to them that nothing seems to quite compare with Wet Garden.   And then there's the electronics.   The way the synths just come through is something you might hear on a faster paced instrumental song or maybe even Deerest to some extent, but for the most part, because of this tempo and overall feel to it, Wet Garden is breaking new ground.

See, on one hand, it can have this just chill, minimal vibe to it where you just feel like you're floating along on clouds.   And then a song like "Waking Up" brings in drum machines and the pace seems to pick up a little bit but mostly it just seems to get louder.  I'm not sure why, but I imagine Wet Garden playing shows in a cloud of smoke from a fog machine.   They have that synthwave sort of thing going on.     This can also take us into a Stranger Things vibe as I tend to find these songs to be a bit eerie overall as well. 

It's just that it can be on that verge of sounding like something out of "Alias" or "Hackers" but it just doesn't kind crossover into that faster paced sound directly and I enjoy that about it.    Lasers shoot through space to start "Don't Deny" and this just has a distinct electronic sound to it even if it was instrumental so the fact that it has these vocals and is synth-chill just makes it stand out that much more.     It also becomes this madness, this sort of chaos where nothing seems to make sense and everything just does whatever it wants.

I tend to think music should be listened to at any time.   Now, I don't subscribe to this theory personally, but I've always thought great music should be able to be played at any time.   But it is simply not true.  I have albums I only throw on when I'm angry or sad or need energy.   I think we need to stop cultivating that idea that great music has to apply to any situation.   Perhaps if I've learned anything from music in my years spent living it's that the best music is time specific in the sense that the truer the emotion which comes from it, the harder you feel it and as such the more situational it becomes. 

Loud, distorted drum sounding bursts come through on "Close Up" and though you will be pulled in by the vocals initially, this ultimately becomes something you begin to hear the music more and vocals less the more times you listen to it.    Isn't it funny how music can do that to you- it can feel so far away at first and then the more times you listen to it the closer to you it becomes to the point where you get a better understanding of it and so what you're hearing after five or ten listens isn't the same as when you first pressed play?  Wet Garden takes you on that type of adventure and everyone should be open for adventure.  

Record Review //
"A Rag of Colts: Disgraced Songs 1987-2012"
(Gertrude Tapes)

$17 //
Edition of 300 // //

Sam Raimi has this theory about how he doesn't release deleted scenes as bonus material for his movies because he feels as if they were deleted for a reason, that whole idea of if he wanted people to see them he would have put them in the movie.   What sticks out most about this title is "Disgraced Songs", as I feel like they are songs which maybe were left off of albums in the past and maybe somehow by someone's standards not deemed good enough for whatever reason and those sorts of songs always seem to appeal to me for whatever reason.   Maybe I feel like they're rejected and I can relate more to rejects than that which is accepted, popular.

Simon Joyner has had quite the time making music- since 1990.   To say he's been around seems like an understatement and as such a lot of the artists I can hear within these songs are not influences of Simon Joyner but it's more of the other way around, which just feels crazy to think about.   One influence that I hear in here though that I think actually did influence Simon Joyner would be Bob Dylan.   There is that definite storyteller-folk-rock feeling which draws me back almost instantly to Dylan.

The songs are mostly acoustic but other instruments come in like a harmonica.   It feels like something from the Empire Records soundtrack, Ben Kweller or even The Get Up Kids.   It's lo-fi in the way that there is static coming through with the vocals, a minimal recording effort type of feel, which I also love.   I always feel like (and this is not to disrespect or undersell anyone else) those who record into old, broken-feeling tape recorders are the most passionate about music.   Having a studio that costs $1000/hour to use must be great and I'm not saying good music can't come from it, but you just feel like people using whatever means they can to make sure their music is heard really feel it the most and that's how I feel listening to this.

Before the song "May Day, 1941" there is a message left on an answering machine (I would assume, not a voicemail) where someone from MCA Records is asking to hear one of his tapes-- they're saying they want him to send a tape because they're likely interested in potentially signing him.   Wow does that take me back.   See, before you could say "Here's a link to my SoundCloud", people used to take demo tapes as ways of getting their music out there.   Even when CDs were made, it took a while for them to be recordable and still cassettes remained less expensive, so, yes, this idea of someone soliciting a cassette to potentially sign Simon Joyner just hits fairly close to home for me.

The song itself- "May Day, 1941"- comes through like a car crash and yet as you can feel it breaking down before your very ears, there is still this rhythm to it that you have to only wonder how it can be created in such madness-- how such a seemingly uncontrollable substance can be controlled.     "Begging On My Knees Blues" has a rough sound to it as well, and it comes with an introduction indicating as much, but it still is a lot better than many songs I hear on a day to day basis.   "When People Lose Their Color" closes out Side A and it's a stripped down number with only vocals that you have to experience once in your life because if it doesn't give you chills you might truly be dead inside.

On the flip side we open up with a song that is about as destructive musically as "May Day, 1941" and then go into a softer ballad called "September Said" which is about how all someone brings is pain and I can relate to that.    Many of these songs seem like love letters to someone.    "When criminals go clean they nearly never find their way" - that is so true.  I feel like there are just certain things which become a part of us and we cannot let them go.   It's weird and somewhat sad to say, but it's life.

"Your Record Sounded So Beautiful (When I Was Drunk)" has a softer side to it, like a Two Gallants ballad.    "You Take A Train, I'll Take A Bus" is a faster acoustic song, what some these days might call folk punk.    The rest of these songs are mostly mellow and they feel like you're just going to fade off into the night.   The final sound you hear is a clip of the words "MCA Records" on a short loop and it just takes me back to the earlier clip which I found so noteworthy.    These songs may feel "disgraced" but they are among the best I've ever heard and if you've not heard the music of Simon Joyner yet I would highly recommend starting here.