Artist Profile: Creed

The other day I was driving home and listening to a “hard rock station.” I tend to be underwhelmed by the quality of discourse exhibited by dj’s on these types of stations. They seem like normal, down to earth people. But most of them are a lot alike and they usually have almost nothing of interest to say. On this day, on this particular show, Creed and their former front man Scott Stapp became the topic of discussion and I was drawn in like any other train wreck that would garner the attention of onlookers. Stapp was in studio and conducted an interview where he was surprisingly amiable and non-conceited. At the conclusion of the interview, they played one of his latest releases as a solo artist.

I mean seriously, just look at this fuckin’ album cover. If there’s some religious meaning to it that I’m missing then I retract the following statement but this has got to be the hokiest fucking thing I’ve ever seen! Let’s have some dude etch the image of our band into this tree, yeah, good call Scott

I listened to it for about one minute and that was all I could take. I really think this guy needs to hang it up; there’s no reason for him to continue making music. This song he did for the Florida Marlins a few years ago is the only argument I need. But if nothing else, it did remind me of a time when Creed was good, for at least album anyway. Creed was one of those slightly uncommon groups in which their first album was their best. It only seemed to get progressively worse until it was confirmed that they entered suckdom with this little number…uh (shudder), still gives me nightmares. That album was My Own Prison.  Upon its release, it was unique, it hit hard, and almost every song on the album was a good effort by this new and relatively unknown group.

1. Torn

The first track off of it, “Torn”, is my personal favorite. The title track, “My Own Prison” or “What’s This Life For” are the songs that probably received the most public acclaim and rightfully so. I seem to enjoy the pessimistic nature of “Torn”, from within the lyrics, the melody, and the whimsical backing vocals by Stapp, it’s clearly present in it and it’s  so much better than the campy, feel-good, born again complete garbage they would later release.  I’m not trying to be a guy that basks in another guy’s pain and agony but it was these types of songs that ACTUALLY HAD SOME MEANING and it was partly because of the suffering the vocalist relays to the listener.

 

2. Bullets

The next song is what I believe to be the lone bright spot on the album Weathered. The first few times I heard it, it didn’t even sound like a Creed song. Other than Scott Stapp’s vocals, which are admittedly raw here, it has a much more fast paced, grittier sound to it. The chorus is what makes this track special, especially the backing vocals declaring the powerful lyric “look at me when shoot a bullet through my head”. Not to get all morbid on you but it definitely makes a statement. Because yet again, the actual music video is a joke (These gentlemen describe the thought processes that go into another genius Creed video), I linked a fan made video which contains scenes from the movie “The Dark Knight”. Not quite sure what the connection is, but it works okay.

 

3. My Sacrifice

Well, it couldn’t all be praise for this group. I hope you haven’t eaten recently because there’s a GREAT chance you’ll lose your lunch after watching this fucking abomination of a video. This video could serve as a perfect example why music videos shouldn’t be made. The song isn’t really all that bad, it does sound similar to “Higher” but by itself it’s semi-listenable. The problem is that when it’s coupled with the music video, you have what is likely to be considered the biggest piece of shit known to mankind.

It starts out with a very cliche old guy feeding birds, reflecting on his life, I suppose. Then they zoom in through his eye to some other world (That’s another thing, what is it with Creed videos and taking shots of going through peoples’ eyes…they do the same exact thing in their “Higher” video). Well, this world is complete with Stapp riding on some boat, acting completely indifferent to everything around him. Even thought there’s things like his band playing their instruments through water, challenging the laws of physics in an effort to look badass; some girl in a  swimsuit smiling at him, a sullen mailman delivering letters to a bunch of hands underwater (oh, nevermind that these people are probably FUCKING DROWNING, they still need to get their mail first, that’s the top priority). The best part is…all this craptacular drama goes down within THE FIRST MINUTE!

No, Stapp merely gives people smug stares and focuses on singing this crappy song. One mysterious hand grabs his attention and for just a moment, Stapp appears like he’s going to do something noble and rescue one of the people who is drowning. But as he pulls the guy out, you see that it’s a fucking Stapp clone and just goes to show that this guy really is in love with himself. They share a very heartfelt moment and continue singing the chorus together as some way of bonding, I guess. Meanwhile I can’t wait for this garbage to be over with…not really sure what is his sacrifice is. You could argue that he’s sacrificing the band’s dignity by unleashing this filth to the general public, but other than that, I’m not really sure. The video ends by him hugging some random child to show his empathy and then, you guessed it, he turns into the old man. Storybook Creed music video ending. All is well in the world and Creed remains one of the most important figures in rock music, nay, all of modern culture in this day and age. See for yourself

 

 

I know I sound like a whiny bitch throughout most of this post but if you actually took the time and watched that last video I posted, I think you’ll see my arguments are justified. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a happy person but the fact that some people out there had the stones to create tripe like this and call it “art” is more than I can stomach at this point. My lesson learned from all of this is focus on the music and don’t let any bands “vision” or self-image sway your opinion on their music. Enjoy it for what it is.

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Artist Profiles: Death Grips

One indie group I think is very underrated is Death Grips. Little is known about this enigmatic group but there’s no better introduction to their work than to listen to The Money Store. Their live show set-up consists of three guys who formed their group in Sacramento. They have been hit or miss on tour, cancelling several shows. I can’t say for sure but just from listening to them,  I’m pretty sure that seeing them live would be nothing short of…uh, that word again…EPIC!

Zach_Hill

While long hair may get in your eyes while drumming, it helps heighten the intensity of this photo significantly

1. I’ve Seen Footage-This is the track that initially got me interested in Death Grips. It almost has a Salt ‘n Peppa’s “Push It” feel to it at first (Which is not a good thing!) but it goes a different direction very quickly. This is one of the more cleaner sounding Death Grips songs but there’s still plenty of distortion and mixing of the vocals. They feature some of the best sounding electronic effects and use them in a way that sounds dark and cool rather than awkward and cheesy like the new wave acts of the 80’s. Give it a try, but don’t give up on it right away if you dislike it. It comes off as abrasive at first, but if you give it a few more listens, that will wear off and you’ll be might able to appreciate it.

2. The Fever (Aye, Aye)

No this isn’t a song about scurvy and pirates. It’s an electronic-infused rap song with some, shall we say, darker lyrics. It appears to be some not so pleasant subject matter and I wish I knew what “the fever” was but apparently my street cred is lacking because I’m still lost on what it’s supposed to mean. Fortunately, there’s no need to understand a song’s message in order to enjoy it. It features a building up intro, a catchy bridge, and a chorus that delivers by hitting  hard with top-notch vocals and effects (@0:51).  The vocal talents of Stefan Burnett, aka “MC ride” are on display fully in this song.

3. Lost Boys. This is probably my favorite song by them so far. The intro has an “off the beaten path in terms of a hip-hop song ” feel to it. The backing female vocalist along with dubbing in MC Ride’s vocals throughout create a district aura on this track. It could accompany a movie scene where some type of heist is going down or any other event that would be tense going into. The lyrics to this track appear to be much easier to interpret. The song just describes some misguided individuals living out their lives in a manner not deemed acceptable by society. Watching an interview of the band. The drummer Zach Hill describes their music as a painful rehashing of all the bad things that have gone on in their lives. Even though the majority of their music does not have positive message, the main purpose of it is to help them connect with all sorts of individuals, especially those who have also spent a portion of their lives suffering through hardship to some degree. It’s hard for me to imagine many other groups that can accomplish this as much as they do.

Artist Profile: Kurt Vile

No…that’s not Weird Al Yankovich. This gentleman has plenty of musical talent and all of his work is original, no food-based parodies to be found. His name is Kurt Vile, a rocker from Philly who used to be a member of the indie group The War on Drugs. I’m not typically a big fan of the more down-tempo solo acts that are out there, but Kurt has this ability to create catchy vocals and use of his rich, signature vocals  has always had me interested in his work.

The first song I’ve posted is one of Kurt’s more recent releases. “Never Run Away” is an easy listen and features some features some intriguing vocals and lyrics. The instrumentals have been revamped from the original release and sound great as well. A notable part for in this song track  is the keyboards @0:49 (definitely a break from the usual for Kurt). A great introduction if you’ve never heard from this artist before.

Up next is “In My Time”. It was actually the first Kurt Vile song that I ever heard. It’s a progressive, straight from the heart kind of song. Extremely well written is how I would describe it.  My only complaint is that the solos are too short. The song starts to fade out at the beginning o f the 2nd guitar solo (which is probably my favorite part).  The first one comes in @ 1:36. Fabulous song overall, see what you think.

“Jesus Fever” is another song I’ve recently gotten into. It’s off the same album as “In My Time”, Smoke Ring For My Halo. The guitar is exceptional in this piece. The song goes in a different direction than most of Vile’s work but has a carefree, hip mood to it. The lyrics appear to describe someone who’s beyond saving. Sad outlook, indeed, but it does make for a good track.

Artist Profile: Charli XCX

 

Charli XCX, or Charlotte Aitchinson, is not an easy artist to classify. She’s unique and very talented, no doubt. I would label her music as future pop. The best features that comprise her music would be plentiful synths, original electronic effects, and her accent that is apparent in her vocals (easily stands out the most). I shouldn’t be surprised, she does hail from England, after all. Still, many foreign artists are not distinguishable from their American counterparts just going off of their vocals. Although she’s very physically attractive as it is, her thick accent adds even more to her appeal (Lily Allen also has this quality). If you’re into this sampling of her music, her latest album, True Romance, is definitely worth a look.

The first song posted is simply titled “You-Ha Ha Ha”. It’s one of her more played tracks and serves as a great intro to her work. You’re immediately introduced to some of the trendy effects that exemplify her music. One staple of her music is her vocal style differing a lot within the same song. In this song, she mainly sticks to singing melodically along with a monologue @ 2:13. My favorite part is the bridge at 0:28 and the subsequent lyrics “Cause I know you struggle, Choke when you see love grow.” The chorus is actually the weak point for me due to the lyrics that lack a message, she does pull off the “Ha, Ha, Ha” in it rather nicely, though.

I can’t get enough of this next song. It’s called “Nuclear Seasons”. She has taken upon herself to compare her troublesome relationship to nuclear warfare…I like it! You may have to listen closely or look up her lyrics to see this as her accent and vocal style lead to her pronouncing some of words/phrases quite hastily. It sounds great, however, and when you pair that with very creative vocal effect that accompanies the chorus (@ 0:56), you have the makings of a dream-pop masterpiece. The music video also deserves some recognition, her jerky and disjointed dance moves combined with all the visual effects are a refreshing change of pace from this garbage like this.

“What I Like” is perhaps the most experimental track of the three I have posted. It features a few different styles of Charli XXC’s vocals. She goes from fast paced with repetitive lyrics that kind of sounds like rapping, to a cool, monotone style which carries the mood of I don’t give a fuck, and also features her singing melodically. After a fast paced intro, the track slows down significantly and has plenty of hooks. It’s more relaxed than some of her other work and does not require much thought in order to enjoy. The lyrics are hokey but don’t get in the way of it being a good song…just enjoy it for what it is.

If I didn’t recognize her, I’d be scared that she was a back-up dancer for Olivia Newton John and a “Physical” video was gonna break out

 

Artist Profile: Cold Cave

Today’s focus is on a electronic pop act know as Cold Cave. What drew me to this band was the eerie similarity in vocals  between front man/songwriter Wesley Eisold and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. In fact, there also appears to be a resemblance between the musical style of both groups. In contrast, Cold Cave has the synth element which did not really exist back in ’76, but other than that, the groups sound very similar to me. And I dig it immensely…

“A Little Death to Laugh” is the first track I’ll delve into for this unique group. It’s a haunting track that has a negative vibe right in the beginning. The expertly mixed keyboard and array of electronic effects are at the core of this song, but I feel it’s Eisold’s chilling vocals and lyrics that stick the most for me in this song. It’s a great studio performance that constantly varies the instrumentals with my favorite sequence coming in @ 1:41. This will likely be hit or miss for a lot of y’all but if this one’s not for you, you may still like some of their other offerings posted below

“Life Magazine” is my favorite song by Cold Cave. Although it’s the least Joy Division-sounding of their work, it’s songs like this (along with Confetti) that give Cold Cave its own identity. It starts outs with a catchy, fuzzy electro beat  that contains a redeeming baseline for the final measure before the vocals kick in. Some echo effects are mixed in along with the lead female vocalist’s singing. I was unable to find out her name (and I looked for like, almost ten minutes) and she does not appear in any of Eisold’s other work that I’ve ever listened to. Regardless, she sounds transcendent in “Life Magazine.” That said, she is a nice change of pace from Eisold’s gloomy singing style. This song is a pure work of art and is the best platform to show off Cold Cave’s range and why they are one of the top indie acts in the biz right now.

That is one scary looking dude…he gives off a look that says “wait, please let me fix my collar….there, now I can carry out my original plan to MURDER YOU!” Don’t worry, sometimes musical greatness just comes in slightly different looking packages.

Yet another high energy, feel good song by Cold Cave comes in the form of “Oceans With No End”. It’s upbeat and rocks harder (@2:53) than a lot of their other work. Despite this, it still has a vintage 80’s new wave feel to due to the optimistic lyrics, “Waiting for the world to take me anywhere,” and  “I love my life,” for example. The best part of the song is done in a sequence starting @2:53 which includes a killer guitar riff and some muffled, hard to comprehend lyrics by Eisold. To top it off, there’s a cool video game sounding outro to wrap things up. I hope that “Oceans With No End” is a metaphor for what we can expect from Cold Cave. There a hip new group yet they’re keeping the momentum started by groups like  Joy Division, New Order, and The Smiths alive and well. Oh, and one last thing, I didn’t know Steve McQueen was in this band…the figure in the still below would sure suggest that.

Artist Profile:Clams Casino

The album cover for Instrumentals, a difficult to obtain mixed tape that came out in 2011.

I am constantly on the lookout for something different. Several years ago, I ditched the belief that music without vocals has no meaning. That statement makes it sound like purely instrumental music is not even all that much worth listening to. I was never big into instrumental music until I discovered electronic rock or “electronica”. It combines all of the rock based instrumentals with some techno influences and usually has few if any lyrics. It is an incredibly unique style and the best part of it is that it has almost unlimited replay value. It takes me much longer to become burned out on this kind of music. Why that is, I’m not really sure. If I had to guess, it might be due to how difficult it is to find quality music in this genre.  Some of the earlier acts I listened to and encourage you to check out would be Moby, Boards of Canada, and The Prodigy.

Today I want to focus on a recently discovered artist. You’ve likely never heard of Mike Volpe or his stage name, Clams Casino, unless you’re big into the electronic music scene. Volpe is from New Jersey and has released one full length EP, Rainforest. Other than that, most of his productions are mixed tapes that you can usually find on the web if you look hard enough. He has worked with a few rap artists (all of whom I’ve never heard of) and has also sampled the works of some female artists as well. The most notable of them would be Imogen Heap. He mixed her vocals from her song “Just for Now” with his beats to create a remarkable track arrogantly titled “I’m God“.

“Treetops” is a aptly named track off his EP, Rainforest. It takes you away from your often hectic urban/suburbanite lifestyle to a place more primitive. The track starts out with some stock jungle sounding creatures but then moves onto something incredibly surreal right off the bat. It is difficulty for me to describe the many instrumentals going on during this song because they blend so well together. Specifically, all of the chaos comes together to make for a great run of instrumental bliss @2:02. I also enjoy the breakdown and buildup that occurs near the beginning of the song (@0:23) See what you think, hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Songs like “Treetops” are ones that stay with you for a long time.

The next song I’ve decided to include is “All I Need”. This is much more slow and non-progressive. The vocals border on repetitive, but that is simply a staple of Clams Casino. He finds the vocals he likes the best, and he samples them throughout his song to give the listener what he feels they want to hear. I would still argue that this is one of his songs that sounds like it’s on a loop. The rhythm changes few times and that is usually only when the percussion is dropped. The vocals being altered are what I think is supposed to be the main point of this song. I’m sure there are some that would label this song as boring because the slow rhythm of it doesn’t really go anywhere, but I still believe it’s a good song. It’s one to just sit back and zone out to.

The face behind some of electronica’s finest pieces of art

Slow tracks like the previous one help to set up some of Volpe’s best. Another track off of the fabled Instrumentals is “Real Shit from a Real Nigga” The song title would have you expect that you’re about to hear a rap song. While artists like Lil’ B have sampled it and rapped along with it, I think it has a more electronica or even future pop sound to it. It has a cool subtle intro and then introduces you to one of the best synth lines I’ve ever heard during my existence @0:32. I’m not really a fan of most of the rap songs that accompany Volpe’s productions. Volpe’s works are great listens when they stand alone. There really is no need to add rapping to a song that wasn’t produced FOR those lyrics. I’m not against the idea of adding to what is already a great song, but I don’t think it works in this case. Fortunately for you, you don’t have to get wrapped up in all of that. Just enjoy these brilliant instrumentals for what they are.

Artist Profile: Deerhunter

The loked-out expression this gentleman is showing gives you an idea of what you’re in store for with gloomy surrealism that Deerhunter creates

One thing I always look for in a great band is variation. The ability to consistently modify their sound while still maintaining their identity. An album gets old quickly when you hear a song that reminds you of another that you heard just a few tracks earlier. It’s even worse when a band comes out with the same album twice. This is where experimental bands come in. Their system of writing songs makes being repetitive utterly impossible. And one of my favorite experimental bands will always be Deerhunter.

Deerhunter originate from Atlanta. They have been around for much longer than I was aware. As soon as I heard “Desire Lines” for the first time, I was hooked. They could be listed as several different genres but it is their indie roots that I most know them for. Their ability to craft such great music with more basic features including acoustic guitars and scratchy vocals always amazes me. Throw in a little shoe-gaze and you got a recipe for success. “Desire Lines” is a great chill-out and reflect on everything kind of song. Very simplistic lyrics, more there as a reason to showcase the fine vocals of Bradford Cox rather than to have much meaning. What I think makes the song great is the backing vocals that compliment Cox’s perfectly. I’m sure you’ll notice them (they start during the verses @ 0:34). Once the lyrics are done, the song goes on for some time with the guitar leading the way. Although the execution of it is exceptional, it goes on for about a minute too long. It is quite enjoyable, though. See what you think…

This next track is a downer. But it has to be included because of what a great song it truly is. If you read the lyrics you can tell that Cox put a lot of pain in them to describe an horrible, inhumane experience. He doesn’t get too graphic, though. It’s mostly open for interpretation. The song doesn’t really build up to anything, its purpose is to send a message. Once again, not a feel-good song but it hooked me the first time I heard it and if you listen to it with an open mind you may be able to appreciate it for the great work of art it is.

And for the last Deerhunter track, I have posted “Nothing Ever Happened.” I felt it was necessary to feature one of their more upbeat offerings. Most of their work is slower but they can put together a quick, catchy tune like Nothing Ever Happened with the best of them. The guitar is the highlight off this song along with some base-lines. The lyrics do not have much meaning in this song either and that could be the singer’s goal. He knows that the music alone on this track is enough and there’s no reason to let attention seeking lyrics or overbearing singing get in the way. This is a smart yet just great song to rock out to…it also features a lengthy guitar solo for the last half of the song or so for those not overly interested in vocals, much like myself. It’s necessary to not read into the lyrics too much with Deerhunter. It could make for a pretty depressing  listening session if you over think their music. Enjoy it for what it is.

Experimenting with all sorts of line-ups/instruments has been their bread and butter.