Archive for the 'Emo' Category

01
Dec
11

Last.fm

In the digital age we live in music has excelled, not beyond anything we thought it might become, but in how it’s delivered to us. The past 20 years saw the decline of the cassette tape, compact disc, and physical formatting is now all but dead.

So as physical media phases out we turn to more convenient ways of obtaining music (not always done legally now is it?) from services such as Morpheus, Kazaa, Limewire, and most famously: Napster.

So we learned that the RIAA severely dislikes not making money on album sales… so we downloaded even more, torrenting sites becoming more and more popular, The Pirate Bay, for example.

Now I don’t know about you, but in my education I’ve found out that artists usually sign a contract and make most of their money up front. A label will give you, say, $2 million, to buy equipment, record, produce, create music videos, and finish an album. How much of that gets spent on production is usually at the band and manager’s discretion. They are then, most of the time, offered some ridiculously low royalty percentage that means even less after you divide it up between band members and management.

So artists generally don’t make that much off of album sales, but usually off of touring. Ever notice that’s why Bruce Springsteen doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about putting out new albums but will sell out stadiums on a yearly basis? Or that U2’s music has been in steep decline since the late 80s but still manage to have gigantic concerts where they rake in obscene amounts of fans a.k.a. money? (And they don’t even pay taxes to the Irish government!)

Before my tenure at Hi-Fi started I was dealt several cease and desist letters for uploading music just to my former blog’s domain just for personal use. Talk about touchy by the record companies!

So where’m I going with all of this? Well, today’s digital music playground is found through music streaming services such as Spotify, Grooveshark, iTunes, SHOUTcast, Pandora and the least famous… Napster.

I’ve tried using all of those, and iTunes, while on my home computer is fine, because I have my library there too, is not viable on the road. With the rest of these you can build and tag artists/genres you like, but c’mon, that’s a huge hassle for us to list all the bands we like and may have an itch to hear.

Last.fm takes care of that. They have a nifty piece of scrobbling software that will record what songs/artists you play the most, it even makes charts! But by far the best thing is, is that you can take your library with you wherever you go. For free. They offer your library streamed to you, they also offer your library with suggestions for similar artists. Which keeps the likes of Maroon 5 the hell out of my easy listening playlist and doesn’t turn me into a fit of rage.

So, if you’re going places, constantly on the move and let’s say maybe you’re trying to preserve some hard drive space, Last.fm is the way to go, take your own music with you and still gives you a taste of similar artists or you can just play a channel as you would on those other streaming sites.

It gives you everything… and what’s yours.

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11
Oct
11

Motion City Soundtrack Live

Motion City Soundtrack played at Northern Lights on 10.9.2011 and this is what I thought of the show:

The opening bands were hit or miss, the highlight of those being the band Aficianado.

They may not be the best band out there, most of their songs usually follow the same formula *cough* Staind, Linkin Park, Pearl Jam *cough* and I know, they’re not musically inclined other than for that pop/rock radio-play sound. All I say is, so what? They put on a fun show. They are fun guys and they just want people to come and have a good time…

But what really grinds my gears here is the crowd that an otherwise rhythmically pleasing band like Motion City draws…

you know the type

The hipster kids who wear scarves in the summer, the types of kids who have to get thick framed glasses and bring along a measuring tape to find out whose frames are thickest! The types of kids who all have their iPhones out the entire show, trying to record every minute of music so they can run home and upload it to youtube and facebook as to seemingly prove the world wrong: LOOK EVERYONE!!!!!! I went out and have a life! The types of kids who have nose rings. The types of kids that dye their hair pink. The types of kids that shout “Rage!” during a band who has never inspired a headbang to any crowd anywhere, ever. The types of kids where 2 people decide to try and make a mosh pit and crowd surf (in a crowd of maybe 250 people, [it was extremely satisfying to drop him on his head.])

So in short, it just goes to show how followers can ruin a great thing. Religion, I’m looking right at you. Except Bad Religion, they put on an awesome show worth headbanging, moshing and crowd surfing to!

3/5

03
Oct
11

Blink 182 “Neighborhoods”

Blink 182 released their first album since the self titled disc dropped in September 2003. A long hiatus from playing and touring together as each band member went off to do their own thing. Mark Hoppus (bass, vocals) created a couple of TV shows and started producing, Travis Barker (drummer) created collaborations with just about everyone who’d get into the studio with him: Tom Morello, Slash, The Game, Flo Rida, Drake, Eminem, Lil Wayne, and even did a “Stairway to Heaven” cover on American Idol with the likes of Mary J Blige, Steve Vai and Randy Jackson. Tom DeLonge (guitar, vocals) went off and met some commercial success with the band Angels & Airwaves (whose album Love II will drop on 11.11.11)

The first single off Neighborhoods is “Up All Night” and compositionally speaking, it sounds raw and real, much like their albums Dude Ranch and Cheshire Cat, but lyrically picks up where they left off with Take Off Your Pants and Jacket and Blink 182

I’m not going to go through this song by song as a normal review, but I’m going to summarize the feel I get from the band:

Maybe it’s just that I grew up with Enema of the State and heard nothing but songs of teenage rambunctiousness lasting well into their twenties, or the social drama that we perceived to make us “cool” or not… they were fun and they were funny. That’s what we loved about the band’s videos and their sound. But this isn’t the same band anymore. You could see the change coming in Pants and Jacket and it really hit home on Blink 182. These guys have grown up. What they’re singing about is some heavier motifs in life. From divorce, depression, abuse (both physical and mental) and they now have a message other than party and have fun.

Is the new Blink worse than the old? Yes and no. They still have the sound that is unmistakably theirs and they can still put on a great show (just saw ’em at SPAC a few weeks ago) with laughter and their immense stage prescence… and Travis’ drum solos (my head would explode if he and Neil Peart did a drum off.) They had glimpses of this on earlier albums, from “Adam’s Song” to “Stay Together for the Kids” to “Easy Target” and “All of This” but never had these songs of seriousness engulfed an entire album.

Blink 182 was a band that got us through, or helped us hold onto, our adolescence and our youth. Now, maybe because most of them now are parents, and are seeing things from the other side of the fence, have a message to the kids who’ve been used and abused by parents and peers.

It’s not a bad thing, it’s just not what we’re used to. You’re going to have to listen and decide for yourself:

3.5/5

07
Nov
09

Lycia – Estrella (1998)

Lycia-EstrellaNow THIS is more like it! Where Cold was, umm, cold, Estrella is, well, it’s cold as well, but in a much more interesting way, more along the lines of The Burning Circle and Then Dust, and the two Tara tracks off Cold. It’s probably no coincidence then that Tara takes on most of the vocal duties here. Most of the songs attain a majestic, if a little disturbing and creepy, glory, marked by the usual Lycia imprints of haunting swirls and scorching guitar.

A satisfying fullness of sound and melody permeates every stark corner and half-forgotten wasteland, delivering the music of the stars. As if tapping into some ancient memory of archaic tribal rituals, “El Diablo” and the wordless “Tongues” raise the hairs on the back of your neck, in true Lisa Gerrard fashion as they weave exotic mosaics of utterly mesmerizing sound. You often have the sense of overload, as if staring into a bright light, but once overcoming the relative austerity of the surroundings you can clear away the fog and impending doom to marvel at the remarkable sights. “The Canal” creates another wordless, repetitive groove, a dramatic incantation summoning unknown powers from across the universe.

I once witnessed Trance To The Sun perform something like this, and it was both unsettling and rapturous. This album, and Lycia in general, demands volume to do them justice. And if the surroundings become a little too ominous, “Estrella” and “Silver Sliver” lighten the load by sounding uncharacteristically upbeat and beautiful in a much brighter and less demanding sense. Lycia made a smart move on this album. Tara’s voice is perfectly suited to the music, and the regained melodic content and more exotic flair now and then etch themselves firmly in your subconscious without becoming irritating. Estrella is a remarkable feat of balance.

Lycia’s Estrella gets 4 out of 5 stars.

07
Nov
09

Lycia – Cold (1997)

lycia-coldMaking a Lycia album was always a formulaic undertaking for Mark Vanportfleet and Tara Vanflower: slow down your drum machine to a crawl, wash dramatically dark layers of synth over everything, emblazon tortured guitar licks and low humming bass across the night, whisper phrases sepulchrally as if you’re trying to frighten the children and just make everything sound like Armageddon is just around the corner.

Something happened with their previous one The Burning Circle and then Dust (review coming soon). Whether it was a favorable alignment of the planets or a temporary exorcism of dark spirits we’ll probably never know. Lycia created an amazingly rich and darkly gorgeous double album full of vibrant, brilliant sounds using virtually the same formula outlined above. It was more than enough to earn them my highest rating. Here and now, however, the stars don’t shine as brightly, and the dark muddiness has crept back in. Rather than uplifting paeans that ache to be played as loud as you can stand, all but two of the nine tracks become mired down with atonality and lack of direction. The two that rise above all else are the ones sung by Tara: “Snowdrop” and “Polaris.” The latter shows they can still deliver chills of pure delight. It’s repetitive, trance-inducing nature pervades all, and when Tara begins singing actual words besides “laa” most of the way through it will feel like you’ve been transported elsewhere.

Their next album, Estrella (also reviewed here), moves into this area a little more firmly, I am happy to say. Always slightly disturbing, but also fascinating now and then, Lycia sound utterly unique. Use sparingly for greater reward.

Lycia’s Cold gets 3.5 out of 5 stars.

03
Oct
09

Iron and Wine – Free Music

Iron and Wine's Sam Beam

Iron and Wine's Sam Beam

If you work an office job like me and need some mellow background music check out the Iron and Wine website for some free music.  Click on the Discography link and a few full length albums are available to listen to in their entirery, nice eh? Free albums include The Creek Drank The Cradle (2002), Our Endless Numbered Days (2004), and The Shepard’s Dog (2007).  The Creek Drank The Cradle was reviewed earlier on this blog. 

If you click the News link on the website and scroll down to the 3/24/09 date you will find 8 alternate versions from The Shepards Dog free to download.

Anyway, thought it was cool that Iron and Wine would make this music free, enjoy.

20
May
09

Iron and Wine – The Creek Drank the Cradle (2002)

ironwineIron and Wine’s Creek Drank The Cradle (2002) is one of those albums that you go back to time and time again on a rainy day. Iron and Wine is basically comprised of one person, Sam Beam.  Beam’s songs are personal and sincere with lyrics well thought out and developed.  Much like Elliot Smith’s solo acoustic work, Beam’s songs are lonely, gentle, and times very meloncholy.  Beam does an excellent job of creating a unique sound that brings a nice fresh feel to the alternative-folk genre and his popularity has grown as a result.  This particular album is nothing short of genius and there are no songs that are weaker than others.  Highlights that I suggest on this album are “Bird Stealing Bread”, “Upward Over the Mountain”, and “Weary Memory”.  I’m sure a few listens and you will discover your favorites in no time.  Iron and Wine has released several albums after The Creek Drank the Cradle and you will hear some new directions that Beam pursued, however, I feel that you will drawn back to this album time after time.  If you like this album you should check out Our Endless Numbered Days and Woman King since both albums compliment each other in numerous ways. 

The Creek Drank the Cradle gets a 5 out of 5.