There was a point in my life where I (unwisely) turned my back on almost all things "punk." I think it was during 10th or 11th grade. At this point, I'm not entirely sure. Either way, I don't know if it was a completely misguided attempt to look "sophisticated" or some bullshit like that, but it's a time period in my life that I can only shake my head at now. If it had continued, I probably would have missed out on a ton of albums that are just as fun as Project 27's Smarten Up.
On this album, the production is uber-slick, the chord progressions are at times incredibly elementary, and the lyrics are questionable at times. However, all of this is just fine. In my Top 20 of 2008 list, I talked about Teenage Bottlerocket's complete lack of bullshit when it comes to songwriting, how awesome I find their 1-2-3-4, three chords, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, out format. The same formula basically applies here, except Project 27 are a lot more prone to tinkering around in the studio. On top of straightforward pop-punk, vocal harmonies are slathered like a thick layer of butter on toast. It's all instantly sing-a-long-able and pretension free. Drummer Joey Mac penned most of the lyrics here, and although they aren't about any topics not already tread in this genre, they're still personal enough to not be considered anywhere close to generic.
Till Plains played with these guys this past summer, and I have to say, they're a band where you have to take their live experience and combine it with the album to truly appreciate them. All of bassist Richie Roast's parts are clear on the album, and are surprisingly intricate, considering the genre. Live, I never really noticed this.
There is probably only one truly cringe-worthy moment on this album, and that's on the song "My Future," with its totally wanky guitar parts. It's really hard to hold this against them, though.
At the same time, the album doesn't last long enough for you to get tired of it, which is an admirable aspect.
So, here are two things I can say to sum up this album:
1) This is the kind of pop-punk I wish people were making when I was in high school. I will never, ever, understand the appeal of all that nu-emo garbage that magazines like Alternative Press try to shove down the throats of people everywhere. All it is is boy-bands with guitars. But, then again, if you bother to even read this blog, I doubt you're even into that kind of music, so I'm probably preaching to the choir.
2) I'd like to thank Project 27 for making this album, as it brightened up this dismally cold Boston evening considerably.
Side note: I haven't dug that far into Rally Records' catalog, but this is the second Rally album I've bought that features very cursory organ work, along with The Leftovers' On The Move. Is there an in-house organ player that has to make appearances on every Rally release?
In addition to whatever albums I'm listening to, I thought it'd be fun to talk about the shorter, smaller records I've been checking out as well. Here it goes! These will be posted in 3 record chunks.
Fucked Up - Crooked Head
I picked this one up at the Newbury Comics on Newbury St. the other day. For those who don't know, Fucked Up likes to release extremely limited editions of basically everything they put out. Case in point: a single copy of The Chemistry Of Common Life on reel-to-reel tape I saw lead singer Damian Abraham carrying around when I saw them play at Great Scott this past October (I later found out 30 of these were made. HUGE difference, right?). Anyway, when it comes to buying records, I'm not really that concerned about getting limited edition stuff, first pressings, or every color of a single album. I just want the songs!
Anyway, the version of "Crooked Head" that appears on this single is markedly different from the version on Chemistry. The bridge section sounds a lot more like My Bloody Valentine, of all bands. It's billed as a "single mix," which means a lot of the noise in the middle of the LP version has been cut out. Either way, it's still a great song that manages to get itself lodged in my head from time to time.
The cost of the record is really justified by the B-side, "I Hate Summer." Call this blasphemous, but the closest cousin I can find to this song is that song the Hives wrote for Cartoon Network last year, except the Fucked Up song is a lot more pissed off and relateable. It's nice to see Fucked Up stepping away from their metaphor packed, esoteric, but still totally awesome hardcore in order to write a song like "I Hate Summer," and it makes the Crooked Head 7" one of the more interesting releases Fucked Up put out in 2008.
The Serious Geniuses/Jean Claude Jam Band - Split
The last time I wrote about The Serious Geniuses, I talked about how I was starting to get tired of people constantly comparing them to Archers Of Loaf, since I think they're strong enough to stand as their own, unique act. This 7" only furthers my idea. It marks the initial recording of "Marc Attack," one of the standout tracks from their 2008 album You Can Steal The Riffs, But You Can't Steal The Talent, and comes off a whole lot rawer, especially in the vocals. I thought the song ripped before, but it straight up burns this time around. It's a downright power-pop/indie riot. The second SG song, "Hoffstra," doesn't appear on the full length, which kind of makes sense, since it sounds extremely different from everything on that album, but still SG-ish.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Jean Claude Jam Band side of the split, since at first I almost wasn't willing to give them the benefit of the doubt beyond their (admittedly hilarious) name. Barker from Witches With Dicks/Ringers wrote all of the songs here, and what he presents are two punky/poppy gems with extremely well thought out lyrics. Definitely recommended.
Lemuria - Self Titled
I'm extremely vocal about how highly I hold Lemuria, and I don't care who I annoy in the process. I had all of the songs here already on my computer, but when I found this at Shake-It Records in Cincinnati, I couldn't resist picking it up. This release falls squarely into the time period where Lemuria was still writing faster, more upbeat indie-punk songs, and represents some of the best output of that time.
Since I'm still relatively new to vinyl, I never really bought into the whole "vinyl sounds better than everything else" argument that a lot of people like to throw around a lot, but this record stands as a case for that point. For some bizarre reason that I can not pinpoint, the vinyl version of this sounds a lot louder, a lot rawer, and a lot more intimate. At this point in their career, Lemuria were already writing extremely personal songs, but these versions sound intimate to the point that you feel like you shouldn't even be listening to them, like you're invading someone's privacy. Let me clarify that these are all awesome characteristics.
Unrelated, but I'm also amused at how TUFF all three members look on the cover for this, considering they're all some of the nicest, most sincere people I've ever had the pleasure of talking to.
So yeah, as stated in this blog's first entry, I'm really just going to write about new stuff I'm listening to. Plus, thinking of more lists would probably get really old after a while! The first album I'll be talking about is:
It took me almost six years, but as soon as I bought Red Medicine, I completed my collection of Fugazi's full length albums (I'm counting 13 Songs as a full length, rather than a compilation album of sorts). It all started around Christmas time of ninth grade. My friends and I bought each other whatever used CDs we could find at the CD/Game Exchange in Norwood, OH. Along with 13 Songs, my friend Aaron bought me a used copy of The Ataris' Anywhere But Here. Strange bedfellows, indeed.
Needless to say, although I harbor no ill will towards Kris Roe and company, Fugazi was the band that stuck around in my mind and playlists. Joe Lally's reggae/dub inspired bass lines continually blew my mind, and the vocal interplay between Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto was always perfect in my mind. There was MacKaye, the angry one, and Picciotto, the wispy, flamboyant, desperate one. A band breakdown can not be complete without mentioning Brendan Canty, one of the most versatile drummers I've heard.
Red Medicine, Fugazi's fifth album, really represents a huge turning point for the band. Things get a bit looser, and a bit stranger. Check the insane cackling at the beginning of "Birthday Pony," or Ian Mackaye really letting loose vocally on "Bed For The Scraping." Also, while Fugazi always did a great job of writing tense, quieter songs (such as "Suggestion" on 13 Songs, whose ending scared the living shit out of me the first time I heard it), the songs of that variety on this album truly forshadow the peak they would reach writing similar songs on their final album, The Argument.
Now that I think of it, I really think The Argument is the most similar to Red Medicine. The only difference is age. It's very apparent that it's a much younger band that wrote and performed Red Medicine, due to the looseness and eager experimentation.
Coming off of In On The Kill Taker, the album that preceeded this one, saw Fugazi dulling the sharp edges that made that album so caustic. If Kill Taker was a punch directly in the face, Red Medicine is the album that slowly stabs you while you're sleeping. It's raw, refined, dirty, angry, quiet, and manic all at once somehow. After only a few listens, it's already become one of my favorite albums by this sadly "on hiatus" band. I refuse to believe they'll stay quiet forever.
It's a little belated, I know, but here are my top 20 albums of 2008. Things got really busy around Ohio during January, what with me going on tour with the band I'm in (Till Plains), and still maintaining a job. Anyway, without further ado:
20. Bridge And Tunnel - East/West
These Latterman-descended guys and gals put out a firecracker of a debut album with East/West. There really isn't a more accurate way of describing it. These are songs that explode in every way possible. Completely vital.
19. The Serious Geniuses - You Can Steal The Riffs, But You Can't Steal The Talent
Put aside all of the "Archers Of Loaf worship" talk that a lot of people like to throw at this band, and you have an album of delightfully sloppy, ridiculously catchy indie rock from one of Boston's best bands currently making music. Constantly comparing every band you listen to to something else is fucking stupid. End of story.
18. Teenage Bottlerocket - Warning Device
No. Bullshit. What. So. Ever. The Bottlerocket dudes come out with another album of their no-frills, "1-2-3-4!" pop-punk, and they sound better than ever. Kody Templeman (nee Lillington?) continues his streak as one of the best vocalists in pop-punk, while Ray Carlisle steps way into his own, instead of sounding like Joey Ramone's bratty younger brother. This album burns. Several nights were spent on tour shouting along to every song on here.
17. Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams
Dan Bejar reels in a bit of the weirdness that made Rubies such a great album, but still delivers here, on his ninth album. Maybe doing that Hello, Blue Roses album dilluted his quirk a bit, but hey, there's a new Swan Lake album coming out this year to look forward to.
16. Lords - Fuck All Y'all Motherfuckers
The artwork. The tracklisting. The album title. There has already been a ton of coverage on those subjects. What everyone seems to be ignoring is how much more lethal a weapon Chris Owens has turned Lords into. While Swords seemed content to thrash about for it's own sake, it's all laser-focus this time around. Easily the most pissed-off album of the year, from a band who actually isn't afraid to let people know about it.
15. Off With Their Heads - From The Bottom
Songs so catchy, you often forget you're singing along about killing yourself. On days when you feel like complete scum, it's comforting to know Ryan Young is right there with you, saying the things you would only think about. Skeptics may say Young is overly negative/self-obsessed, but I seriously doubt he cares what anyone has to say. Sometimes, things are better that way.
14. Why? - Alopecia
There is no genre name that truly captures this album. Completely all over the place, both emotionally and stylistically. The best rap-indie-folk-noise-midwest-candid-core album of the year. That description might turn you WAY off to it, but trust me here.
13. The Night Marchers - See You In Magic
The Night Marchers (aka Hot Snakes minus Rick Froberg, plus one other guy) give you exactly what you would expect from a band that counts ex-Rocket From The Crypt kingpin John Reis among its members. Another album of scuzzy, sexed-up rock 'n roll from the guy who has been doing it right all along.
12. The Dopamines - S/T
Despite the fact that my band, Till Plains, released a split 7" with this band in November of this year, this album was on my "top of the year" list way before. Like the Off With Their Heads album, the Dopamines album thrives on its unflinching honesty, capturing early 20s life in Cincinnati better than anything else right now (well, then again, how many other people are really trying?). Jon Lewis rolls his anxieties off of his head, song after song: school, jobs, car wrecks. Jon Weiner gets drunk, falls in love, and ends up on a rooftop. Bonus points for the most secretively depressing song ever ("Molly"), which deals with the death of a dog with a heavy mix of grief, denial, and fond memories.
11. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
While not pressing forward or regressing stylistically this time around, The Hold Steady instead crafted what may be the most consistent album of their career. "Constructive Summer" and the title track are anthems, plain and simple.
10. Team Stray - Gender Studies
Ah yes, the "mature" album. There are less songs about making out, drunk driving, and the movie Sixteen Candles, but none of Team Stray's dorky charm is lost. Tom Schmidlin wows with his lyrics, while Mike Saylor thrusts himself into the foreground, writing the most complex and intense bass parts of Team Stray's career. "Small Talk" was easily one of the greatest songs of 2008 of any band, Cincinnati-based or otherwise. It's a shame that they just broke up.
9. Brendan Canning - Something For All Of Us
Truth in advertising right here. The Broken Social Scene co-founder's first solo album runs the gamut of indie rock in the course of 48 minutes, and features some of the best bass lines he's written to this point. There are several moments on this album that make you slap your head and ask yourself "Why didn't I think of this first?" Highlight: the downright ecstatic "Churches Under The Stairs."
8. Boris - Smile
One of the more confusing releases of 2008. Should it be judged by it's more abstract Japanese version, or its more streamlined American release? Either way, the workaholic metal trio can safely place another notch on its belt with Smile, as it finds them making huge strides in melodicism while still retaining the bizarre elements that made people like them in the first place.
7. Paint It Black - New Lexicon
Dan Yemin has often talked about his love of hip-hop lyricists in interviews, but it wasn't until New Lexicon that this influence became very apparent. Yemin provides some of his most tongue twisting lyrics to date, while the rest of the band creates one of the the most brutal hardcore backdrops ever. A note to Refused: The shape of punk to come? It came.
6. The Copyrights - Learn The Hard Way
After four full lengths, I'm beginning to believe that The Copyrights are completely incapable of not writing anthems that need to be shouted at the top of lungs worldwide. They take a few stylistic detours here, and strip away some of the gloss that basically made Make Sound a perfect pop album, but in the end, Learn The Hard Way is a much more rewarding experience.
5. Torche - Meanderthal
Waaaaaaahhhhh, they aren't Floor! Waaaahhhhhh, they aren't brutal anymore! Waaaaahhhhh!!! Any bitching about Torche and their pop-tinged metal is completely invalid to me. Few bands created songs as memorable as "Healer" or took as many risks as this four-piece. Torche proved that you can be crushingly loud while not forgetting to write songs. As a result, they put out one of the most solid song-for-song albums of the year.
4. Dillinger Four - CIVILWAR
Well, it finally came out, and it ruled. Incredibly. A little poppier than past efforts, but still containing everything that made you love D4 in the first place.
3. Fucked Up - The Chemistry Of Common Life
The most entertaining coverage Fucked Up received in 2008 was from The Onion AV Club. I loved the fact that the AV Club was all about them, and was incredibly amused at the amount of hate they received from the comment section. It's impossible to talk about this album in any sort of consice manner, due to the sheer amount of things that are happening at once the entire time. 72 guitar tracks at once! A flute! A french horn! Two instrumental interludes! The Chemistry Of Common Life sees an already uncompromising band shedding its skin once again, honing it's melodic skills, and maintaining the hardcore bite that keeps all of the fickle punk types from hating them. No band gives less of a fuck what people think than Fucked Up. If they keep on churning out albums of this caliber, I'm calling it, they will easily go down as one of the greatest punk acts of our generation.
2. Lemuria - Get Better After a plethora of singles, splits, and EPs, Lemuria finally dropped their first full length in 2008. With it, they dropped a whole lot of their guard. Alex Kerns managed to simplify his lyrics a great deal. Before, it was apparent he was singing/writing about personal issues, but they were at times obscured by dense metaphors or odd references. Here, Kerns and Sheena Ozzella spew all of their baggage across 12 tracks of Superchunk/90's influenced indie rock. There is a whole lot of retsraint at work this time around, so when Ozzella starts shouting "Shut up!" in album closer "Mechanical," it acts as a great release. No album was more emotional or technically surprising in 2008 than Get Better. Already one of my favorite bands, Lemuria really took it to the next level this time around.
1. Young Widows - Old Wounds
But then, there was this album. From the ashes of hardcore powerhouse Breather Resist, Young Widows plowed everyone's eardrums over on 2006's Settle Down City, and on their subsequent split with Coliseum. Comparisons were thrown around. Jesus Lizard this, Jesus Lizard that. Whatever. The most initially astonishing thing about Old Wounds is how much quieter it is than its predecessor, but none of the power is lost. Evan Patterson gets a lot more personal with his lyrics, and the result is astonishing. No loud album has been so intimate. No intimate album has been so noisy. Most importantly, no other album topped this one in 2008.
The title of this entry really says it all, so I'll spare you any sort of introduction! After this, it's just the Top 20 albums of 2008, and then the real purpose of this blog will kick into effect.
Cheeky - Choke On A Cheeseburger
Despite being released digitally in December of 2007, Cheeky's debut EP makes it on to this list due to it being released on vinyl some time during 2008. Technicalities like that rule. Anyway, vocalist/guitarist Kate Eldridge is pissed about a bunch of things on this little release. So, logically, she and the rest of Cheeky construct insanely catchy, slightly quirky punk rock around her lyrics. The lyrics may be a point of contention for some, due to their simplicity and bluntness, but like the band they cite as a major influence, were the lyrics on the first Replacements releases all that great? While I can't really see Cheeky getting to the mature points the Replacements eventually did, I also don't really care. I'll keep on singing along to this just to use the term "namby pamby" a bunch.
Get Bent - Demo
Get Bent isn't really doing anything new, but they're doing what they do incredibly well. Their five-song demo consists entirely of hits, leaving no time for filler. Vocally, they recall later-day Hot Water Music if Chuck Ragan wasn't drowning in a sea of gruffness. It may not be the OMG musical moment of 2008 that some people make it out to be, but it is still one of the better debuts of the year.
Dead To Me - Little Brother
I personally love how no-frills of a band Dead To Me is. Like their full length, Cuban Ballerina, this EP is jam-packed with singable choruses, simple yet effective instrumental parts, and Jack Dalrymple's still amazing vocals. Chicken really steps up his game on this release as well. Despite having much more personal lyrics on Cuban, his vocal delievery always seemed to be overshadowed by Dalrymple. Thus, it's a little surprising that my favorite track on here is the Chicken-led "Arrhythmic Palpatations," which straight up burns with energy. Aside from the bizzare ska interlude in the title track, this is everything an EP should be.
Iron Chic - Demo
Another free offering from the great people over at ifyoumakeit.com, Iron Chic is another group that spawned from the posi-wreckage of Latterman. What makes Iron Chic appealing, however, is how they manage to acknowledge their past while taking elements from it that may have taken a backseat previously, and brought them to the forefront. Check the fuzz bass on "Timecop," or the odd production on opener "In One Year." Both feel like they could have fit in well on Latterman's swan song, ...We Are Still Alive, without feeling like retreads. Here's hoping their pedigree doesn't overwhelm what's going on here. They aren't Latterman, and that's just fine.
The Ergs - Hindsight Is 20/20, My Friend
Let's make one thing very clear. BIAS BIAS BIAS BIAS BIAS. The Ergs are one of my favorite bands of all time, so it's kind of a shoe-in that they're making an appearance on this list. They just broke up this past November, but not before leaving behind this massive retrospective that compiles just about all of their vinyl/compilation/floppy disc appearances on to one CD. I can't say enough about why The Ergs rule. They represent the best combination of musical aptitude, dork humor, sensitivity, and songwriting that has managed to rear its head this decade, bar none. Happy trails, Ergs.
The Mountain Goats - Satanic Messiah EP
On the cheekily named Satanic Messiah EP, John Darnielle basically takes Heretic Pride and strips it of all of its bells and whistles. This is old-school MGs at work here, just Darnielle, a guitar, and a piano. Not surprisingly, it rules. Listen to the title track over and over until you can't stand it any longer.
Near the top, but just out of reach. Nonetheless, all of these albums rule, and are highly recommended.
Harvey Milk - Life...The Best Game In Town
It's been a big year for Harvey Milk, both the tragically slain politician and the crushingly heavy band that shares his name. Life... manages to combine the sheer mass of past albums like Courtesy And Good Will Towards Men with a twisted sense of catchiness that bands like Torche have taken to as of late. When people like to talk about "epic songs," they should be forced to listen to this album's title track, a nearly 8 minute suite of alternating angelic and punishing vocals that eventually decay into sheer madness and guitar squalls. I find myself gritting my teeth a lot while listening to this album- a sign of a visceral and uncompromising album.
Earth - The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull
Is Dylan Carlson writing film scores? If not, he really should be. This album sounds like it could have easily been the alternate soundtrack to Kill Bill Vol. 2 if the movie's first half was about 2 hours longer and focused on every last detail of Beatrix Kiddo's day-to-day activities. In all seriousness, the sheer vastness of this album, coupled with its slow-burning repetitiveness result in one of the more hypnotizing albums of the year.
Kanye West - 808s And Heartbreak
Did the self-described "voice of the generation of the decade" have me sold when I first heard about the concepts behind this album? No. Did I think he was batshit crazy for attempting an entire album's worth of singing in AutoTune? Yes (I don't think we can really count the live freestyle tacked on at the end as being part of the album). But dammit, did Kanye West have the audacity to basically spit in the face of everything that has made him famous to this point and somehow make it work? Yes.
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
The album that has now topped multiple "Best of 2008" lists and caused critics nation-wide to simultaneously shit themselves kind of lost some steam with me during the second half of the year, but it's still a damn solid recording, at times seeming like some lost Alan Lomax field recording remastered for the '00 decade. The only thing that kept this out of the Top 20 is how much their live experience overshadows their recorded output. Find me another band that could cause everyone at the 2008 Pitchfork Music Festival to stop talking and stare at the stage while flawless harmonies came flying out. I dare you.
The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
Maybe it's because I was introduced to The Mountain Goats through The Sunset Tree and Get Lonely, John Darnielle's two albums of extreme personal purging, but for some reason, I thought Heretic Pride was a bit of a retreat into safety. It's almost as if he opened up too much and felt as if he may have said something he regretted. Either way, it doesn't take away from how solid of an album Heretic Pride is. It contains some of Darnielle's biggest sing-a-long moments, and his always amazing lyrics (I mean, honestly, it's kind of a moot point to keep on pointing out how awesome of a lyricist he is at this point). A solid album in a career chock full of them.
M83 - Saturdays = Youth
Anthony Gonzalez has said many times in interviews how this album is his tribute to his teenage years. While I wouldn't say it wallows in nostalgia, there is still a feeling of it permeating this album that distracts it enough to keep it out of the top 20. That being said, there are some downright tremendous songs on this album that keep it in the honorable mentions category. "Teen Angst" may have been a song off of the last M83 album, but this album captures it so much better.
Chad VanGaalen - Soft Airplane Chad VanGaalen took the concept of an album and went completely apeshit with it on this release. I haven't heard an album since The Cure's Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me that tries to cram so much into one CD. It's almost as if CDs are a totally new format again! Look at all this space we have for tunes! Despite its at times unfocused nature, VanGaalen's disturbing voice (which always sounds like it's on the verge of collapsing) and bizzare choices in instrumentation keep this album in high regard around these parts.
Constantines - Kensington Heights
Much like The Mountain Goats album mentioned earlier, Kensington Heights is another entry in an already great catalog by the Constantines. The only drawback is that some of the tightly wound energy and tension from Tournement Of Hearts is lost this time around, replaced by restraint and nuance. Call it their "growing up" album if you must. The more fitting description is "another album of way above average indie rock in a musical landscape increasingly populated by filler and bands that are 'just ok'". Whew.
Hey everyone, I haven't posted in a couple of weeks mainly due to the fact that I flew back to Ohio for the holidays, and I've been tied down with family/friend type stuff. But, here I am, back in the new year.
The albums listed here came from a few sources. Some were new acts, others were vets returning to the scene, and others were things I resisted listening to due to the relentless grinding of the hype machine. Either way, here are:
SIX ALBUMS I REALLY DIDN'T SET OUT TO LISTEN TO BUT ENDED UP LIKING ANYWAY:
Verse en Coma - Rialto
Not quite an EP, but not quite a full length, Verse En Coma's Rialto could probably have succeeded based purely on its pedigree. The band contains almost all of City of Caterpillar's original lineup, in addition to a large chunk of the members who made up Malady, the sadly underrated project that followed CoC. Where this album sets itself apart from its members' past is in how ridiculously melodic it is, while still maintaining a great deal of heft that these musicians have made their trademark over the years. Tracks like "Disappearing Glaciers" almost flaunt how poppy they are, while still refusing to take the easy way out in terms of production or guitar tone. Vocalist Brian Markham resembles a more subdued Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav at times, which contrasts interestingly with Verse En Coma's more post-rock influenced instrumentals. It's refreshing to see a band working like this, with two full time guitarists, neither of whom are clamoring for backup vocals or huge spotlight sections. The hard work put into this project really shows, and it'll be great to see what this band can come up with in 2009.
Tombs - Tombs
Where Verse En Coma's album succeeds in establishing rock-solid melodicism, the debut from Brooklyn, NY's Tombs succeeds in pummeling the living shit out the listener's ears. This is far from being a tedious process, however. The sheer amount of riffs hidden in the band's wall-of-sound style of metal makes for great repeat listening. Easily one of the most immersive listening experiences of 2008. It's staggering that this much sound can be produced by only three people. They have a new album coming out on Relapse in February, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
I seriously put off listening to this album for the longest time. Part of it was my aversion to solo acoustic projects, the other part was the refuckingdiculous amount of hype behind this album. That all melted away once I started listening to the first song because....his goddamn voice. Hearing the backstory behind the making of this album a million times only ended up enhancing it in the end. Then there are the little details, such as the inexplicable, yet tasteful use of AutoTune on “The Wolves (Act I and II)” (seriously, I fast forward to the AutoTune part of this song all the time. The whole song rules, though) or the unavoidable fact that this dude recorded the entire album by himself in a cabin is Wisconsin. The sheer amount of things going on here lends it to being a long, arduous process, and one can only imagine what was going through his mind the entire time. Yikes.
RZA - Digi Snacks
Sometimes I think some critics are just out to hate certain albums, and I feel that this was the case with this album. RZA changed hip-hop entirely when he crafted 36 Chambers and a great deal of those older Wu-Tang solo albums. Cut the dude a break. It’s better than Birth Of A Prince, and it’s great to see that RZA isn’t content to just rest on his laurels and the sound he helped birth. Sure this results in amusing dalliances in pitch-shifting on songs like “Straight Up The Block,” but it’s still more daring than a lot of hip-hop/rap coming out these days.
Portishead - Third
Honestly, anyone who wasn’t surprised by this one is lying to themselves. Over a decade since their last album, the 1990's face of mopey Britain returned and turned their entire sound on their head. “Silence” sounds like Slayer compared to the stuff on Dummy in terms of tempo, and the drum machines in “Machine Gun” are determined to punch your face in. Meanwhile, Beth Gibbons voice has retained all of it’s haunting charm, and drifts around the musical storms that make up this album.
City And Colour - Bring Me Your Love
I really wasn’t expecting too much from this. Whenever anybody drops the whole “acoustic solo project” thing, I usually turn tail and run the other way. Something about most stuff that comes out of the genre just immediately turns me off. Instead, Alexisonfire member (and singer of the downright flawless hook on Fucked Up's "Black Albino Bones") Dallas Green turns in a nice, 12 track collection of unassuming folk type songs. Completely non-offensive, but in the best way possible.