Talk Like Blood
The only description I had heard of 31 Knots prior to hearing Talk Like Blood was an odd one, to say the least. An amalgamation of Fugazi and Yes, the album brings the slashing discordance of Fugazi to Yes’ realm, with its proggy, experimental leanings.
An imaginative, ambitious effort for sure, the band knows just how to fluidly fuse styles and put together one killer track after another. They really don’t have any weak points and, because of this, they can truly use a full musical palette, and hold nothing back. The crooning of Joe Haege drives the songs on whatever twisted path they may follow, and he doesn’t stop there. Also playing guitar, piano, and contributing some string elements to the music, he’s a man capable of many things, and his cohesion with bandmatges Jay Pellicci and Jay Winebrenner is admirable.
The songs are volatile and schizophrenic, but never out of control. Each member of the band is precise and calculated in their playing, and even when things pick up and the guitar starts its pummeling assault, it feels very controlled. “Chain Reaction” perfectly illustrates the bands dichotomy, effortlessly crossing genre and musical lines to incorporate a wealth of styles, rhythms, and tempos into one song.
31 Knots are a talented band, capable of playing off many different
styles and making it all look easy. They may not make it blatantly
obvious the course that they’re on, but with a commander like
that, you don’t have to guess for long.
Sing Out America!
One of the five best albums released in 2005. That's all you need
Perfect Pitch Black
Cave In is the tale of two bands.
The one band, as Cave In originally started out, is an aggressive, but talented metal outfit capable of flattening anyone in their path. The more recent incarnation however has been, a more mood-driven-atmospheric outfit that puts beauty over noise. It's neither here nor there to argue which is the better Cave In, but on "Perfect Pitch Black," both side are equally represented.
Bursting straight out of the gate with the heavy, dissonant "The World Is In Your Way," the band alternates between the heavy, droning metal sounds of old, and the atmosphere of new. The vocals sound as punishing and throaty as ever, and they're integrated well into the atmosphere that was so prevalent on releases like "Jupiter." One listen to "Trepanning" will make fans question just why Cave In ever abandoned their metal sounds in the first place. Harsh, and full of conviction, the song throws in some blistering riffs and heavy, heavy chords. Luckily, that heavy sound flows extremely well with the songs more focused on mood. “Tension In The Ranks” is a beautiful, low key track that balances things out, while keeping forward momentum, and it leads quite well into the album’s closer “Screaming In Your Sleep.”
Fans of either Cave In incarnation should find plenty to be happy with on this release, as something from every album is represented. A must for any Cave In fan.
Revelation Records, 2005
Since By Man
Pictures From The Hotel Apocalypse
Revelation Records, 2005
Revelation Records has definitely changed a good deal from its mid 90's hardcore heyday, whether by evolution or regression. One thing is for certain though, the label has never relented, and never stopped putting out quality releases from quality bands, be it hardcore or otherwise.
The news of Revelation band Elliott's breakup a few years back hit especially hard for me. I had always loved the band, and despite the fact that they only put out three albums, each impacted me in its own special, and powerful way. From their harsher beginnings with U.S. Songs to the delightfully atmospheric Song In The Air, Elliott know how to make solid records.
Photorecording is not a retrospective of the band's career, but more an album that heightens your appreciation for what could have been if the band had kept on going. Borrowing some songs from previous albums, and throwing on a few unreleased tracks, all the epic, beautiful soundscapes appear with the same grandeur that any fan of Elliott has come to expect. Elliot also includes a DVD with a live clip from the last show, and a documentary that includes a ton of performance footage from their last tour - a nice addition to an already extremely solid album. Upset as I may be that Elliott is no more, this collection of songs reminded me why I liked them in the first place. Not to be missed.
While taking a very different path than Elliot, Since By Mans new Revelation releasePictures From The Hotel Apocalypse is the latest in a line of solid releases that expand on the bands previous endeavors while staying true to what they were. In previous Since By Man releases, they’ve played the part of a schizophrenic band who aren’t quite as loud as they are chaotic. This new album is no different. This sort of cacophony is just as brutal and punishing as most like bands in the scene, but they throw their own flare into the mix. If you’ve heard Since By Man, you know what to be expecting, and if not, you’re in for one hell of a rock ‘n’ rollercoaster. Their manic approach is both full of vigor and atmosphere, and by the time it really hits, no one will be the wiser.
Luv-a-lot Records, 2005
Let’s face it...chastity is a refuge of the homely. Those of us born without blessedly smooth skin, a symmetrical face, or one of those bodies that make the rest of the world stare longingly in desire and/or envy know this deep within our bones. This knowledge is especially apparent to the unlucky ones among us who have the added misfortune of being socially awkward. Unconventionally beautiful, awkward, and horny members of society join me in singing the chorus of our new theme song: "I’d be a slut if I was hot." Sweet Chastity, the title song to Dan Fishback’s (Cheese On Bread) debut solo album, has that New Wave theme song/call to arms energy, despite--or perhaps because of--its personal/autobiographical feel. Other theme song potential can be found in "Off-Stage Fright," "Kiss and Tell," and "The News Today" for all of us socially conscious souls with the need for a more coherent translator in the outside world. This is not to say the rest of the album isn’t glorious—in fact, all of the tracks on Sweet Chastity are worth the listen. The entire album exudes intimacy, wit, and an honest approach to living as it explores its theme of sex and/or body as commodity.
Hailed as an "anti-folk genius," Fishback writes outside of and against consumerist mainstream gay culture, blending several musical genres to get the varied sounds within Sweet Chastity. Fishback is much more than a girly-voiced pop singer, more than any corporate eye-candy with a mic, and so much more than another gay hipster with a guitar.
Come on, join me. Decide to do your laundry on purpose late Saturday night without a hint of guilt or regret and submerge yourself in your own Sweet Chastity.
Concentration Face DVD
Kill Rock Stars, 2005
Hella is the answer to the question: "What if jazz was a sport?" The Sacramento, Calif.-based two-piece sounds like what happens when metal heads discover John Coltrane and fall in love (a phenomenon that's growing more common these days).The band is also one side of the spectrum of a minimalist, metal-meets-jazz-meets-noise scene that features bands like Lightening Bolt and Black Dice, which is growing in popularity all across the nation - just go to LA some time.
Hella released this 4-song EP and the DVD just in time for their Fall tour, opening for System of a Down and Mars Volta in arenas across the United States. Homeboy on its own is distinct, but compared to Hella's other releases it gets lost in the fold. To be perfectly honest, Hella falls in the category of "You heard one release, you've heard them all."
However, the DVD Concentration Face is a whole different story. The film documents the band's tour of Japan, a country that's already been producing Hella-like bands for years now. This is the first live footage ever released by the band and it's quite eye-opening, especially for it's concentration on drummer Zach Hill. By the looks of him, Hill doesn't seem like he could hold a corporate job if his life depended on it, but behind the drums he excels way beyond the feats of wild-man drumming predecessors such as Keith Moon. Also, the movie is expertly filmed and full of arty special effects and even some drama ("Uh oh, Hill has sprained his ankle. Will they be able to continue bringing the rock to the Japanese? We'll find out...")
In conclusion, pick up the EP if you've never heard Hella before and are willing to try something new. Pick up the DVD to show your musician-friends at parties.
- Kevin L.Jones
The Holy Ghost Revival
Johnny Cat Records & 17 Television, 2005
The Holy Ghost Revival are a bunch of thieves. To their credit, they’ve stolen from some of history’s finest – Bowie, Johann Pachelbel, Meatloaf, and Mott the Hoople. Bleeding Light is the long overdue, first full length of this five-year-old Seattle ensemble. Recorded at Bear Creek Studios, and produced by Ryan Hadlock (Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Blonde Redhead, Black Heart Procession) Bleeding Light is a lush banquet of sounds containing everything from elegant string arrangements, to harpsichord harmonies, and shrieking cacophonies of chaos. The songs themselves walk a precarious line between triumph and remorse: “I will see you when you’re on my mind, projecting polite bedroom eyes. Let’s drink to the death of good times and good health, we’re declaring war on ourselves.” The lyrics and melodies draw on the same therapeutic inspiration as the blues – instead of hiding from your fears, you celebrate the hell out of them and in doing so, lift yourself out of the sorrow of the song. The music itself is not an extension of the problem, but the solution, the cure. That’s what makes these young lads so good, rather than sing some kind of sad bastard music, they’re traipsing around having fun, dancing on the fingers of the demons that are trying to pull them down.
- Erik Neumann
Wrasse Records, 2004
Most Americans' first introduction to Seu Jorge came in the form of the character in the 2004 hit movie "The Life Aquatic" who played David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust...."album through out the film. On an acoustic guitar. In Portuguese. But Jorge has been recording music since 2001 and has been in movies since at least 1998, including 2003's film Cit y of God about life in a Rio de Jinero favela (slum). This echoes Jorge's life very closely, since he grew up in the favelas of Rio, and lived on the streets as a child. He taught himself how to sing and play guitar with a guitar someone had given him. Seu Jorge's second album, Cru ("Raw") is just that - a primitive and open acoustic album that focuses on Jorge's voice and lyrics. Most of the songs are very simple (just a guitar and percussion altho 'Mania de Peitao' has more of a simplified hip hop sound to it) and are love songs with a classic, timeless sound to them which will include this album in the long line of great Brazilian music. Let's hope that this isn't his last effort.
Vertically Challenged EP
Chocolate Industries, 2005
In a U.K. grime scene full of screw faced MCs bragging about how many people they merked, Lady Sovereign brings some much needed levity. Vertically Challenged, her new one, is an exceptional eight-track collection of original tracks and remixes from the 19-year-old Londoner. After releasing a few singles overseas, it is also her first project to be released in the U.S.
The EPis packed with humor and charm, arguably showcased best on “Cha Ching” with the line, “(That girl thinks she’s so big)/Now hold on, I am only 5-foot 1.” She further pokes fun at her stature on other tracks referring to herself as a white midget among other things.
Although Lady Sovereign is cheeky, this is a grime album, and it still consists of plenty s**t talking, hard-hitting beats, and even an over-the-phone guest verse from the incarcerated Riko on Menta’s remix of “Random.” Undeniably British, for example on “Random” she claims, “I am droppin’ lyrics like a hoe droppin’ knickers,” Sov's fun style may make her the artist to get grime some much-deserved shine in the states. Vertically Challenged will do more than just hold fans off until Sov drops her full-length, major-label debut, Straight Up Cheeky. It will have people fiendin’ for it.
- Bill Zimmerman
Fat Wreck Chords, 2005
It's safe to say that by now, most people have formulated their opinion on Lagwagon one way or the other. They've stood strong for over fifteen years now, and in that time period, neither their band or sound has really changed much at all. Whether that's for better or worse is up to your discretion.
Resolve, the bands newest effort, isn't going to change anyone's perceptions or make any new fans, but what the album does is hold twelve of the strongest tracks the band has written in recent memory. Lagwagon has never been about speed and power, but instead consistency. Their brand of melodic punk tunes were a staple of Fat Wreck Chords in the 90's, and that legacy continues into the middle of this decade as well. Lyrically, this is their deepest subject matter, surely in large part to the unfortunate passing of former drummer Derek Plourde. "The Contortionist" is one of the more somber tunes, and vocalist Joey Cape's voice is filled with regret. The album as a whole just has much less off a silly nature, but that's not to say the band has stepped down in terms of intensity. The amps don't need to be to eleven for the band to get their point across, as even in a more subdued nature they do just fine.
If you've been a fan of Lagwagon in the past, or even if you're a newcomer altogether, Resolve will serve you just fine, as the bands most mature effort to date. All bands eventually grow up, but Lagwagon make the transition just seem that much more graceful.
Veronica Lipgloss and the Evil Eyes
The Witch's Dagger
Gold Standard Laboratories, 2005
Listening to this CD, i can tell that Veronica Lipgloss and the Evil Eyes do a hell of a live show. The music is very 'performance' oriented in that other-wordly erotic rock sort of way. Add to that the screaming pulsations of James Brooks Caperton's saxophone, the dry thumping bass of Krispy and Rhani Lee Remedes haunting vocals and you've got Veronica Lipgloss and the Evil Eyes. A mix of X-Ray Spex, The Vanishing, and a feminine Bauhaus with the spirit of early 80's gothic/ punk performance art. I would also venture to guess (well, i cheated and looked at a recording of a live show of theirs' online......) that this group puts as much work and craftsmanship into creating a visual aspect to their art as much as they do the vocal and instrument part. And this is not a fast-paced, upbeat album either. It's one that takes it's time to tell you a story, one filled with blood, violence, and witchcraft. "where witches have wandered the ground is now gone to freeways underpass. where witches were hunted the ground is now haunted beige and strip mall glass".
We're Animals CD
Kill Rock Stars, 2005
Aparently, i've been locked in a closet called my daily life. Because, if i hadn't have been, i would have heard about Numbers a long time ago. As far as i understand it, We're Animals is this SF Bay Area's third release, and their first one on the Kill Rock Stars label. Reminiscent of late 70's experimental new wave and punk bands (The Slits, NoWave, and Math rock all come to mind, and, Stereolab, in some sick way...), Numbers also uses one of the funnest instruments known to music - the moog, which compliments nicely the metallic (but NOT Metal) guitar crashings and molodic vocals. One of my favorites on here is "The Fuck You Garage", a song about a garage door that someone spraypainted 'Fuck You' on. We've all seen the 'Fuck you' garage someone in our town, and now, thanks to Numbers, we've got an anthem for it! It's nice to know people can still make music like this and it doesn't sound dated or retro. Numbers kicks ass!
The Lo-Fi Chronicles CD
Nature Sounds, 2005
Omega One was a long time producer and collaborator with Aesop Rock, but "Lo-Fi Chronicles" is his first independent release. Except for a few songs ('I Want It All' with Self Devine and 'Coup d'Etat' with LoDeck) all the songs on this release are instrumentals preceded by vocal samples. Very simplistic, easy songs with straight-forward beats that can easily be confused for background music. The beauty of this release is that the uncomplicated-ness of the songs is what gives them their strong points - perfect Sunday morning hangover music. Although Omega One isn't trying to break any new, fundamental ground in the world of sampling and DJing on the indie hiphop label Nature Sounds, he has managed to created an enjoyable collection of beats that with get you through your day.
Not long ago, everyone in my hometown was wearing a Palomar pin on their pants or bags. Now I'm wondering why they stopped. It must be the 1" button fashion trend faded because with songs that pop and catchy there's little chance that the music was anything but still dancing around in everyone's heads. The 3.5 ep has six infectious tracks that made me double check I didn't put in a new Go Sailor!album. After the first thirty seconds of "Washington" I was regretting the chord on my headphones holding me back from hopping around my bedroom and was planning a mix tape just so I could put that song on it. The music is not too technical, just good. And a lot of fun. Interesting vocal melodies delivered by a voice pretty enough where it still sounds real and where you can still hear the passion in it. There's a taste of sarcasm somewhere in the lyrics and the fact that it takes more than one listen to be able to understand them is a nod to their intelligence, or maybe the lack of mine. Either way I'm bouncing around shouting "I don't want to be an anthem to you!" even if I don't know why except that Palomar makes it sound and feel good.
- Dominic Armao
For the Moment
yoyo recordings, 2004
Now that Bob Dylan has solidified his sell-out status, it's good to know that people are still around to pick up an acoustic guitar and write genuine, passionate protest songs. To describe David Rovics as simply a folk singer would be overlooking his powerfully radical songwriting. Lyrically is where the album For the Moment shines. With songs about the draft, Guantanamo Bay, guerilla gardening, and much, much more, Rovics puts that lump in your throat and stomach that gives you (or maintains in you) the urge to go out and instigate change. There is a pretty out-of-place rap interlude on the second track and at times the words are undeniably cheesy, but you've got to give it up for experimentation and remember that sometimes the only way to be really honest is to be really cheesy. Rovics' voice can be classified in the awkwardly endearing category alongside folks like John K. Samson (Weakerthans) and the great Willie Nelson. Nineteen tracks that will keep your foot tapping and your fist raised.
- Dominic Armao
Fat WreckChords, 2005
It's a great feeling when a band comes out of nowhere, with a ripping debut album that'd you'd have never seen coming. Western Addiction is a band who fits that profile to an absolute tee. Their first full length album, Cognicide is a rousing blast of hardcore punk with a bite just as hard as its bark would have you believe.
Angry, urgent, but technically sound, Western Addiction rip and roar with ease through 12 power-packed songs. Its the kind of hardcore that's been severely lacking as of late, true hardcore that's both passionate and socially aware. The bands lyrics show a strong knowledge of social issues, and an intelligent way to put those into words. "The Church Of Black Flag" starts out with some heavy riffing, but then after some quick starts and stops, the song continues to pick up steam the longer it goes on. The vocals are razor sharp and extremely powerful, but the style allows for words to be relatively easily understood. "Incendiary Minds" is an all-out assault on the eardrums of anyone who happens to be listening, with the only reprieve coming from some short bass bridges sporadically strewn about.
At no point in the twenty minute duration to Western Addiction show any sort of weakness whatsoever. Power, style, and substance, the album has everything one could want from a hardcore release.