Album Review: Shrines

Purity Ring’s debut album would go on to be on the top section of many indie “best albums of 2012” lists; including #9 on pretty much amazing

For my first album review, I have decided to give a track by track analysis over what I feel is my top album of 2012. That would be Canadian duo Megan James and Corin Roddicks’s first effort in Shrines. Collectively they are know as Purity Ring and although that would not be a top pick by for a group name, the music they have been able to produce has left me awestruck after only one listen. If you have never heard them before, check out the album here, give it a listen and try to compare it to something you have heard before. I honestly cannot think of a single group they remind me of and that is usually a good thing more times that not. You will get a combination of soothing melodies, creative lyrics (I read that many of James’s lyrics are used from poetry she has done), and some hard hitting beats that make for an outstanding effort that is impossible not to at least respect, given the musical complexity and how Roddick ties everything together so well. I’ve posted two songs from the album to give you a sample along with my reviews of all other songs on the track. If you like the posted ones as much as I did the first time I hear them, then there will be no other option than to buy the album in the most timely manner possible.

Another thing I find fascinating about the group is the fact they are producing extraordinary music at such a young age….Roddick’s only 21 for crying out loud! Makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished squat in my slightly longer time on this earth.

And off we go…

1. Crawlersnout (8.5/10) Crawlersnout gets the record off on the right foot. It gives you a taste of what to expect the rest of the album. I have looked over the lyrics a few times and cannot for the life of me really gather what James is singing about, some type of pleasant sounding animal I suppose. Doesn’t really matter because this song is as good as an example as any for how well James’s vocals and Roddick’s instrumentals blend together. One of my favorite instrumental effects by Roddick is used heavily in this song…the heavily distorted singing voice that I assume is his own or maybe it’s artificially generated. The most chilling example of this is at the 2:41 mark of the song. But the whole thing is so freakin’ epic, it’s not even funny

2. Fineshrine (10/10) Along with its name containing half of the album title, Fineshrine will also provide you with pure musical enlightenment. If you allow it to, that is. I honestly didn’t know what to think the first time I heard it. Seemed like a crazy conglomeration of instrumentals combined with some confusing lyrics (In reality I’m just not sharp enough to decipher James’s messages in her songs). After a only a few listens, I suddenly became obsessed with this track and it became my favorite one on the entire album. Making that declaration was about as easy as picking out my favorite character on Trailer Park Boys (for those unacquainted with the series, you need to get with it real quick). The best parts of the song for me occur at 0:48, which contains a solo for the instrumentals sans the percussion, and then at 2:33 where you get a double dosage of the talents of Megan James. The first is in her lyrics where she proclaims: “But i might see with my chest and sink, Into the edges round you, Into the lakes and quarries that brink, On all the edges round you, round you” which I like better than the more well known lyrics that are “Cut open my sternum and pull, My little ribs around you” The other part is the echoing of James voice in the background. which thankfully continues throughout the rest of the song. Hope you’re still here after all that. Stop reading and slip on the headphones and get taken for a ride by Fineshrine

3. Ungirthed (8/10) Much like Fineshrine, Ungirthed didn’t really do it for me initially. However, it took longer for me to finally appreciate what a great song it is compared to Fineshrine. I think this is because Ungirthed is more zany and all over the place. The first 20 seconds you’re not really sure if what you’re listening to would be considered music. Not music made by humans anyway. But James is the star on the track. Her smooth yet unpredictable pattern of singing is what makes this track a treat. Her voice and Roddick’s beats hit at all the right times (catch the synths at 1:14). This is the first Purity Ring track that was created…I cannot imagine a world without them therefore I cannot imagine this album without Ungirthed

4. Amenamy (6/10) Amenamy  is a song that I have progressively liked less and less the more I hear it. It’s a fly track at first (bass/beat at 0:13 is noteworthy) but then it loses momentum after that. James’s vocals are not quite on the same level as the rest of the album (except for one noteworthy snippet at 2:14). Nothing wrong with lyrics either but nothing that caught my interest. This track is a solid effort by the duo but compared to the three songs that came before it, it falls way short of matching up.

5. Grandloves (4.5/10) It is at this point that the album goes on a two song skid. This track features Young Magic which is another foreign electronic group. I assume the guest vocalist is from that group and it is he that drags it down. He appears to be rapping most of his lyrics and his ability in that area is rather low. James shows some vocal range on this track but it cannot save what is easily the my least favorite track on the album. The only part of the song that grabs my attention is the outro which features some pleasant electronics/keyboard.

6. Cartographist (5/10) Oh boy, this song is so hard to get into. It fact, it still hasn’t happened for me and I don’t think it ever will. Mainly due to a lack of uninspiring lyrics (the message I get from it appears to be about living a simplistic lifestyle?) and a beat that doesn’t appeal to me. My hope is that perhaps Roddick was going for a more obscure sound in this one and wanted to keep the album from sounding too similar.

7. Belispeak (8.5/10) YES! Not that I was even remotely questioning the greatness of this album, I must admit, after the last two tracks,I was wanting more. Belispeak begins what is a solid back end of the album. It is short and to the point. But it packs a lot into its three minutes of running time. Funky beats, plenty of well blended electronics, and excellent vocals during the chorus (with the help of some effects, but they clearly enhance the song a ton, @0:55). Belispeak doesn’t have the heavy beats that some of the other good tracks on the album, but it is more surreal and cool. For more beats, check out the remix of the song done with the aid of Danny Brown. Fun take on an already great song. See it here Belispeak II

8. Saltkin (7/10) Saltkin was just okay the first few listens. Roddick’s work is what shines in this one if you pay extra attention to it. He combines some hard hitting beats with multiple different effects that are probably the quirkiest of the all the different ones featured in the album. They fit well in this song and help to build up for a thrilling conclusion (starts @ 2:44) Not a standout track amongst their other work but I’d still take this in a heartbeat over a lot of the garbage that’s on the radio these days.

9. Obedear (9.5/10) Obedear and it’s predecessor Lofticries combine for two of the best electronic songs I have ever had the pleasure of listening to in my time here on this earth. The intro of Obedear is pure gold…James vocals and Roddick’s usage of computer in song sets things up nicely  and then the bass comes in (@0:38) and just KILLS. This leads to a very danceable beat before shortly pausing to showcase some fine lyrics and then hitting again…(@1:02) The message I get from the lyrics is some type of suffering or hardship they must endure (Tear our skin up out from the bottom, leaves our ankles bare…leaves us plastered to a bed of hairs, We’ll be all coiled up near the bottom, with my chest, unbare it) Don’t even think about leaving my blog and engaging in some other activity without jamming to Obedear First!

10. Lofticries (10/10)-Not even going to try to describe how magnificent this song is through my words because I do not come close to having the writing ability to do it justice. The haunting beat and keyboards along with James singing talents are what make this song perfect. It reminds me of the more special moments in my life. Listening to it for the first time with my headphones was a special moment in itself. I cranked the volume up and zoned out…probably wouldn’t have ever came back if I didn’t have to. The single best part of the album occurs at 2:17 and extends through the end of the chorus. James and Roddick’s vocals unite along with the keyboards create something unearthly (the chilling outro deserves some mention as well @3:09). The song has an element of disturbia to it. It’s open to interpretation, but if you read the lyrics you will gather that the song is clearly about some type of suffering. I consider myself an optimist but I know that not everything (especially music) can have a positive spin to it. That is part of what makes it so special. It is a beautiful song yet it’s message is of something bad, possibly way more horrible than I’d even like to think. But fortunately it comes no where close to ruining it. I’d love to hear your comments after listening to Lofticries

10. Shuck-(3/10) A rather disappointing final track to an otherwise outstanding album. Little imagination and just drags on until in mercifully ends just past the 2 minute mark. I realize that I said Grandloves was the worst song on the album despite being rated a point and a half higher. That is because I don’t really consider Shuck to be a song, period. Just a weird contraption of sounds that sorta sounds like “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin for the last minute or so. Fortunately, this does not come close to tainting the image of what will be one of my favorite bands for many years to come based solely on the strength of this album.

Overall Grade-A. I’m note sure I’ll ever encounter another album I so eagerly anticipated. An album like this has needed to exist for so long

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Quick Hitters: oldies in present day

You can never have enough keytars…

Hi. If you’re like me, you wonder what things were like back in the 80’s. If that resemblance to me is aged-based then the reason for your inquisitive nature on this decade is attributed to only being around for the tail end of it. Needless to say, I like myself a hefty dose of new wave now and then. There’s the artists that I’m proud to name off as my favorites: Joy Division, The Smiths, Simple Minds. And there’s the others that…uh, despite their image I still liked…A Flock of Seagulls, Mr. Mister, and Wang Chung (Yes, Wang Chung Dammit). Regardless of how cheesy some of them went about their business back then (Flock of Seagulls case in point…Good Gawd,that lead singers hair!), they created catchy, unique songs and paved the way for modern alternative as we know it.

What’s reassuring is that there’s artists out there that are trying to recreate that 80’s sound. These three songs showcase today’s artists ability to bring back those days and with the aid of modern day musical technology, heighten the experience for a truly exceptional new wave experience. The first song I’ve posted is by a pioneer in the revival of 80’s music. He continues to put out good albums and inspire many along the way. His most recent, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, is a masterpiece. Anthony Gonzalez, or M83, successfully made several tracks that have an overall ambient pop sound with plenty of synths and even some saxophone . It all combines to give one awesome trip back to the 80’s. Pay special attention to Gonzalez’s surprisingly excellent vocals and Morgan Kibby’s memorable monologue during the uplifting “Reunion.”

That was fun, now onto our next winner. Jack Tatum’s project Wild Nothing is drawing a lot of attention on the indie scene. I, for one, cannot get into a lot of his work. He does produce that pseudo new wave sound that I’ve made clear I’m practically obsessed with but I find myself disinterested when listening to a lot of his songs.  To me, it’s a lot of loopy singing combined with awkward instrumentals that almost annoy me. Then I heard “Paradise” and it completely changed the way I saw Wild Nothing. It’s quite brilliant for those that won’t let go to their new wave listening roots. The ambiance he creates along with the monotone singing allows for the ultimate trip back in time. My only beef with the song is the minute and a half gap where practically nothing happens besides this weird whaling sound that I guess it supposed to be the feature of that particular segment. But after that’s over, it returns to greatness.

I’ll finish with what I believe is the strongest of all 3 songs showcased here and one of my picks for top artist of 2012. Twin Shadow is put on by George Lewis Jr. He sounds a lot like Eddie Money and right from the beginning of his songs, you’re hooked. Whether it’s his talent in the voice department or the unique, retro sound he has, it makes for something that has been gone from my CD player (vinyl, I wish) for too long! Check out “Run My Heart.” The lyrics are simple and to the point, not overly thoughtful but not really needing to be. Especially when you have the vocal talent that George does. My favorite part is the chorus where he confesses to his and supposed former love interest’s respective genders and the non-relevance of it all in regards to the plight they find themselves in. I hope you enjoyed all these tracks and if you didn’t, I’m very interested to hear your opinion through means of comment postage. Later

Artist Profile: Tame Impala

Welcome back, you may be asking yourself (although you’re more than likely not), what is the objective of a artist profile? There’s several…I’ll write these in hopes that you discover a new artist that you come to deeply admire and follow closely after hearing some select songs. –OR–…you may have already heard of them. In fact, you knew about them before they were semi-famous! Congratulations, if that is the case, my aim is to provide you with my take on them, introduce you to songs by them you may not be familiar with, and of course open the floor to discussion on the band being reviewed.

I’ll do my best not to make all of these artists profiles posts love-fests where I gush on and on about how all these bands and songs have changed me forever. No, I will try to add in some more critical reviews of artists that I believe are getting too much hype.  But I’m not going to throw too many stones as I have little musical experience myself. I have no idea the amount of work that goes into just learning to play an instrument well much less write an entire song. We’ll go ahead and assume it is a lot, not an insurmountable amount, but still probably a lot.

Onto Tame Impala. Some bands have a break-in period with me where I need multiple listens of a few different songs before I become invested in them. Not Tame, was all about them as soon as I heard “Elephant.” This psychedelic group from Australia sounds very Zeppelin-like (not a huge Zeppelin fan, myself, interestingly enough) but they also pour on the synths to produce a classic rock yet, trance like sound. I wouldn’t think those two would go together very well but in this case, I am dead wrong. We’ll start ‘er off with “Elephant,” the track on Lonerism that has received the most airplay. It starts of like a something you’d hear off of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album from 1970. After only a few verses, the meat and potatoes of the songs kicks in and you experience the trance and hypno qualities of the song. Eventually, the more electronic instruments come in and merges the more classic sound with something almost MGMT-like for a spectacular finale (starts at 2:18). Enjoy!

It only gets better, my friends. I love bands that don’t follow the basic hit song composition of 2 sets of verse-bridge-chorus followed by a middle 8 and then one final rendition of a chorus and an outro. Tame Impala does that approximately 0% of the time and it’s so refreshing. “Endors Toi” is up next. A song that is almost entirely an intro, and a great one at that. When the lyrics finally arrive, they’re gone again before you know it. And I, for one, have already been blown away by everything else that has happened up until that point. This really makes me relish what little singing occurs in this song. Give her a whirl and please leave me your opinion on this quirky little number.

The final song I will post of Tame Impala is a goodie off of their last album, InnerSpeaker. “Solitude is Bliss” Can’t say I agree with them but the terrific lyrics and beats make a pretty good case. I interpret the meaning of this song as…”we’re tame impala, you’ll never be as cool/hipster as us, we’re fine with just chilling by lonesome, deal with it.” I mean, just look at the way one of the members wears his jacket in the picture at the top of the page. Nobody who gave even the tiniest fuck about what others thought about him would wear his jacket like that. Personally, I think it’s a rather moronic way to wear a jacket but does he care, not one iota. Ok, I need to stop talking. Enjoy “Solitude is Bliss”

Greetings and Salutations

Welcome! I’m glad to have you! The fact that you’re on my blog either means that we may share similar opinions on music or you may know me personally. Whatever the case may be, I hope you enjoy these posts/songs and come back often. I heavily encourage you to leave comments and feel free to recommend me any songs or groups that you are partial to. Now onto the music!

I cannot begin to describe how music has been and continues to be an integral part of my life. It has always been there to help me relax, get me pumped up, or help accentuate the good times I have with friends/family. I feel very fortunate to live in this day and age where we access to music so easily. It’s hard for me to think back to the days where you didn’t have the ability to instantly play a song that you felt like hearing right at that moment. I mean hard in that, it was such a drag when I didn’t own the record and had to stumble upon the song on the radio or by some other means. It was equally saddening when you heard a catchy tune but had no idea what the name of it was or who wrote it. Fortunately, those days are long gone and finding good music is so much easier than it used to be.

I will start off where it all began for me. This blog will mainly be dedicated to showcasing alternative/indie artists and songs, mostly under the radar with some more well known groups mixed in. I’m gonna start things off mainstream but I promise we’ll dive into some more material outside of the spotlight shortly. The first song I posted is “Shine” by Collective Soul. It’s the most well known track from their first album “Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid.” But when I listened to it back in the day, cassette was the format of choice for this kid.

I mainly have my brothers to thank for pointing my musical tastes in the right direction. I would often go through their tapes and CD’s they left behind when they left for college. They must have taken the majority of their good albums with them because there were certainly some questionable purchases that I’m not sure they can defend other than blaming it on their youth. There was some good things left over, though, and the first two songs on my blog were examples.

Ed Roland’s “Shine” was a masterpiece to me back then. I must have rocked out to that tape 200+ times when I was in my early adolescent stages. Roland’s voice along with the melody shifts throughout the song. Despite the generally positive flow that exists throughout the majority of the song, there’s enough guitar (mainly in the bridge) to keep it from sounding like a ballad. The highlight for me is definitely the guitar solo at 2:45. I would probably consider it slightly cheesy nowadays (Reminds me of the hair metal days). But at the stage I was in at the time, I loved it! It was so powerful along with the final minute of the song. It has a trademark Collective Soul sounding finish and ends with the guitar hitting hard. Could never get enough of that awesome track and it will always be one of my favorite songs because of how important it was to me back then.

The second song I posted is from the well known rock group Smashing Pumpkins. There isn’t much that hasn’t already been said in terms of how influential and brilliant this band has been over the years so I won’t even try. However, one song that I never remember getting much love, (considering I first heard just back in 2007, a mere 12 years after the album that featured it was released) was “Jellybelly.” It’s the third song on disc 1, and man, do I wish Billy led off with this track. My favorite opinion on this song is from one of the comments of a user on the youtube video featuring it. “Melts your fucking face off,” I think that’s putting it rather nicely, actually!

I believe that poster is referring to the ample dose of guitars in the song. The song is for sure one of Pumpkins’ heavier efforts. Although I stated earlier that I wish this was the opening track of the album, I also think it’s in a good place right after the much softer single “Tonight, Tonight.” The song hits hard right from the beginning and never, and I mean NEVER, lets up. The lyrics are not very inspiring and that is the only knock I would make on the song. Billy saying he feels “so sick I wish I’d die” and there being nothing that can make yourself feel better sends a pretty negative message. But I don’t have a problem with it and we have all at some time (for some of us, multiple times) felt low on ourselves. I wish I could have used some of those negatives vibes to create something so great like Pumpkins did. Enjoy and please leave comments!