What I’m Listening To…

Heems-Home ft. Dev Hynes

1/2 of the former rap group Das Rascist, Heems is now releasing some (mostly) solo work. While a lot of their tracks have a humorous quality (like this), this is a rare serious offering from them.  While the song carries a negative vibe, it has a relaxing quality. And there is a still a comedic presence in it by way of an R. Kelly lyric. “Shawty quit your bitchin’, be my remix to ignition”…Marvelous

 

 

Health-New Coke

A group that I discovered through hearing their score from a a video game is Health (best song here).  They’re an L.A. based group and what makes them stick out is their heavy use of electronics. They definitely don’t do house or dance music, however. Their aggressive and heavy beats give them more of an industrial sound. This is a classic example of a song of building up to a climax. The video they shot for it matches that perfectly. I posted it but I’ll warn you, it does have some shock value as there’s a rather graphic sequence starting at the 1:30 mark. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s NSFW but it can be unsettling to those with a weak stomach. I prefer this version however as it is condensed and features an outro that serves as an alleviating come down from the climax.

 

 

White Reaper-Make Me Wanna Die

A peppy yet dark track is by White Reaper. Think a classic, fast-paced garage rock sound with invigorating vocals and “Make Me Wanna Die” fits the bill perfectly. Overall, it’s a very fun track that makes a statement that punk rock is still alive in this time of mainstream  pop, folk, and electronic music typically topping the charts.

 

 

 

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Quick Hitters: The ABC’s of non-singles R-W

“Grand Funk Railroad paved the way for Jefferson airplane, which cleared the way for Jefferson starship. The stage was now set for the Alan Parsons project, which I believe was some sort of hovercraft”

 

~R~

Real Estate-Easy

The opening track of their album, Days. It’s a vintage Real Easte Song; freely flowing but with a nice little hook. They have a way with coming up with choruses that feature Martin Courtney’s vocals blending in well with the subtle yet effective instrumentals that Real Estate provides.

 

 

~S~

Smashing Pumpkins-Geek USA

A longer, more heavier hitting version of another Siamese Dream track, “Quiet”. They have somewhat similar guitar riffs; the ones that made that whole album remarkable. But I like the way this tracks mixes with the pacing and goes from a fast, percussion driven song to a slower, head-rocking masher all within a matter of seconds. While it may not have the luster as “Today” or “Cherub Rock”, Geek USA was just as important to that album as any other track that was more featured on it.

 

 

~T~

Third Eye Blind-Graduate

I think the main reason this song didn’t receive hardly any radio play was because it was on an album that had countless other singles on it. If it hadn’t been on their breakout self-titled album, it likely would be more recognized. It’s nothing much different than everything else they’ve done, but you have like the angsty yet smooth tune this song carries. Stephan Jenkins delivers his noticeable style and along with some good lyrics, this made for another quality release on an album already chalked full of them.

 

 

~U~

Urge Overkill-Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon

I’ll admit that I know no other songs by this group. And I’m willing to bet this song did receive some airplay back in ’92 when it was released. However, I’m putting it in this posting for two reasons. One, there are few bands that start with “U” and two, even though you might recognize this song from “Pulp Fiction”, it’s unlikely you recognize this group. So perhaps you’re being reintroduced to this classic or you’re hearing it for the first time which works just as well.

 

 

~V~

Veruca Salt-Fosythia

This song starts out really chill but progressively gets heavier and concludes with a sweet guitar solo and chorus. Then it ends just the way it began. It’s the guitar/bass combo that makes this song stick out as vocalist Nina Gordon doesn’t seem to put much feeling into her vocals on this track. But I think that’s what the band was going for with this one and you’re left with a under the radar, cool song that doesn’t sound like it’s trying too hard.

 

 

~W~

Wavves-Nodding Off (featuring Best Coast)

My favorite song by this group was a collaboration effort that ended up appearing on the album Life Sux. “Nodding Off” has an amped up intro and the song never really lets up from there. The chorus is extremely catchy and the guitar solo kicks in just at the right time toward the closing of the song @2:40. My only complaint is that it’s ends abruptly making it too short in my opinion.

 

 

Album Review: Ferment

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Ferment was the debut album of the little known or remembered grunge band Catherine Wheel. I had not heard of them until earlier this year. Even their bigger hits did not render with me the first time I heard them. But soon after I heard “Black Metallic” for the first time, I immediately started to look more into their work. Their sound would probably be best as a mix between grunge and shoegaze. Despite some high quality vocals, their sound was not completely accepted by mainstream audiences, could have something to do with the fact they were foreign. When discussing the great rock bands of the 90’s, hardly anybody mentions Catherine Wheel. This review is a small outcry against that, as this band and especially this album were truly great.

 

1. Texture (9/10)

While very few people would recognize this song if they heard it today, it is one of the best on the album in my opinion. An excellent start to Ferment, the song has many complex and fast-paced guitar riffs. They pair well with the lyrics in the chorus. It’s a song that serves as a great preview of what you’re in for for the rest of the album.

 

2. I Want to Touch You (8.5/10)

This a track that did receive some radio play and did make a mark on some of the charts. While it’s certainly not my personal favorite, it’s still a solid song. Catherine Wheel would go on to make a similar but better sounding medium paced song called “Crank” on their next album. I would suggest listening to them back to back and making the final decision on which is better, although they are both very good.

 

3. Black Metallic (10/10)

If you had heard anything from this band, this would most likely be it. This song did receive a significant amount of radio play back in ’92. It reached as high as #9 on the billboard charts. Right from the beginning, an atmospheric , semi-fuzzy guitar riff kicks in. The vocalist Rob Dickinson unique voice takes over shortly after that. It’s hard for me to accurately describe it to you. It’s certainly deep but has another indescribable quality to it that you just have to listen to for yourself. The chorus is very simple but straight-forward and effective. There’s a lengthy guitar solo and one final chorus that completes the song. It ends up being quite the journey.

4. Indigo is Blue (9.5/10)

This is a song I can almost assure you you haven’t heard yet. You’ll be glad you did after listening to the video posted below. In my opinion, it’s just as big as “Black Metallic”. This one just doesn’t appeal to the masses as much. My guess is because of the almost odd sounding vocals throughout. Dickinson’s accent really sticks out in this one, especially in the chorus. Aside from that small flaw, the song is dope. Very deep, almost ambient at times. Like the track before it, it features an awesome, but much more condensed guitar solo. It builds up the whole time until the concluding chorus which puts the finishing touches on it perfectly.

 

 

5. She’s My Friend (8/10)

 

A nice, medium paced track. It’s an angsty sounding track that is laid back at the same time, kind of a loked out Soundgarden song.

 

6. Shallow (8.5/10)

 

For whatever reason, this song really sticks out to me. Not just because it sounds different than the rest of the songs on the album (even though it still contains that lackadaisical shoegaze sound that I like from Catherine Wheel ), it’s probably because of the lyrics. Upon reading them, I have zero idea what this song is about. See for yourself. But that’s never stopped me from enjoying a song. When it comes to appreciating something, especially art/music, you don’t have to know everything about it and it doesn’t need to have a complete meaning. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something for what you see it as and nothing more.

 

 

 

7. Ferment (6.5/10)

 

Well it’s time for the obligatory slow song to make an appearance on the album. I’m glad that it took all the way until song 7 before it happened. Now I realize that not every rock song needs to be medium or fast paced to be good, but this one is WAY too slow for my liking. Despite it picking up in a hurry and getting intense at the 3:35 mark, it’s not a song I would go out of my way to hear.

 

8.Flower to Hide (7/10)

 

Starts out very progressively. It eventually builds up to a slightly disappointing chorus. There’s a rather quirky guitar solo but other than that, not much else noteworthy.

 

9. Tumble Down (6/10)

 

Again, it appears the album is starting to falter down the stretch. Filler song, tries to recycle a riff from “Texture” but fails to deliver on the near the same level.

 

10. Bill and Ben (6/10)

Sporadic, has some good rock elements to it but they don’t really come together as a whole very well.

 

11. Salt (6.5/10)

Catchy guitar riff at the intro. The song sputters after that. The instrumentals remain good throughout, but like the previous track, they aren’t able to muster up much of a final product.

 

12. Balloon (8/10)

 

This is a worthy closing track. No one part really sticks out other than the Bah, Bah-Bah, Bah’s that occur during some crunchy guitar riffs. It incorporates many good 90’s grunge elements and works as a short yet effective final song on a stellar album by Catherine Wheel.

Gigs: Collective Soul-Surf Ballroom

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On July 6th, I had the distinct privilege of seeing one of my favorite bands from the 90’s. Collective Soul has been around since ’94 and they’re still going to this day; their most recent album release coming out this summer. In that time, they’ve unleashed upon us many great singles and accomplished albums. From reading the band’s story, it seems that front-man Ed Roland never envisioned the band taking off the way it did. 20 years and 9 studio albums later, Ed finds him and his band mates still selling records and playing shows for large audiences.  I can’t recommend seeing them in person highly enough.

 

I had not previously attended the Surf Ballroom prior to this event. It is located in very scenic Clear Lake, IA. There’s plenty of history within this venue, hence the “…and museum” included in its title. It’s most famously known as the last venue that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper performed at before they were tragically killed. I did not have a chance to check out any of the other attractions there besides the main stage. This spacious facility has held up very well and still has a very old-timey feel to it.

 

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We arrived just in time to see Collective open. They played a couple of their newer tracks to start things off. The singer, Roland, then acknowledged that he was appreciative that the audience “put up with the new stuff” and proclaimed that there was going to plenty of the hits that everybody’s heard too many times. While I didn’t mind hearing some of the newer material that they had to offer, I was relieved to hear this. They immediately started up the guitar riff to “Heavy”. The crowd got into it and never looked back. This is arguably my favorite song by them. It ultimately ends up being a tie between that one and “Precious Declaration”. I’ve included both below.

 

 

“Precious Declaration” definitely gets a vote from me as a vintage, obscure music video from the 90’s

 

 

The band provided an eclectic mix of their collection throughout the night. I thought they included the audience very well, especially when getting the crowd to sing along with one of their newer works, not an easy proposition by any means. I was impressed by the classiness showed by the Clear Lake audience. They cheered loudly throughout the show and there were no boorish requesting shouts of the band’s hit singles in between songs. There was a sizable crowd present in this town of only 10.000. I think Ed and the rest of the band responded to this well. They would have delivered a terrific show regardless but they seemed to appreciate the crowd’s energy and took it to the next level during their performance of “Hollywood.” I was never a huge fan of this track until now. They really made a spectacle of it and it made for an unforgettable act. I did find something similar to it on the web but I don’t think most of you are all that excited to watch videos of live shows online. It’s one of those things you have to see for yourself. Needless to say, it fucking rocked.

 

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They unofficially closed with one of their newer tracks and of course the “one more song” chant (which I’m a huge proponent of) was started shortly after. They came out a minute later and put the finishing touches on what was already a remarkable show. They led off the encore with “Shine“, which is a timeless classic. They officially ended the show with their epic ballad “Run”. Many people don’t know that that song was featured on the “Varsity Blues” soundtrack. Once again, they were able to get the crowd into it rather easily. By the end, you had an audience full of fans singing out the chorus with the band to the tune of a slow clap, instead of instruments. They’re  a class act, and I urge you to see them while they’re still performing live.

 

 

Quick Hitters: Buzzworthy Tracks

Although my taste has evolved over the years, I will always have a place in my collection for the artists that made me feel alive. Good music that gets me excited or instantly gets me up and moving is not easy to come by. And while I strongly feel that indie rock is the most intricate, well-written music  available on the market, it is not a genre you go to to get pumped up. A much better style is energy infused rock that, if pulled off correctly, takes you for a trip and makes for memorable moments in life (Just discovering them is an experience all in itself)). However, a lot of bands fail at this and the final product is just some hard rock garbage that has been done a dozen times before. Bands like Nirvana, Silverchair, and Collective Soul would be the ones I consider the best at creating this type of high energy in their rock. Other groups like Linkin Park and Chevelle are near misses. While they do produce songs that are heavy and carry lots of emotion, they generally lack that higher level of complexity and songwriting that the better ones possess.

But the whole point of this blog is to expose you to the songs/artists you may have missed at some point along the way. So I will not be posting any Nirvana today; although if you can’t get psyched up after listening to “Breed” with the volume cranked, I would start worrying because there’s a good chance you don’t have a pulse. This first offering is from a group that most people have likely never heard of. Their name is The Exies and they have produced a few albums in their run over the last decade. I first heard this song on guitar hero, coincidentally. Since guitar hero is not a place I would look to find new music (not to say that no video games contain original quality tunes, because they do), “Hey You” was a rather nice discovery. I had heard their other hit “Ugly” and was never a huge fan of it. Too defensive and ho-hum for me. “Hey You” I liked from the beginning. It’s starts out with a subtle guitar line and escalates into a catchy riff. The song gets very interesting at the bridge (@0:29) and gets chaotic and grungey at 0:38. Then all of sudden the song goes into a different, exciting direction for the chorus. It contains a serviceable guitar solo but I think the strong point of the song is how well it harnesses and releases the high energy that is prevalent throughout the whole song. Frontman Scott Stevens vocals are smooth and while I think he over-sings in some of their other songs, he keeps it in check here which goes along with the flow of it all…that of a just a straight up cool tune.

I simply cannot get enough of Richard Patrick’s ongoing project Filter. Unlike most hard rock groups, I find them to be listenable. Patrick’s anger (which I normally only like in small amounts) is expressed so well and his song writing talent is the main factor in that. He may not be quite as bad-ass as his brother, Robert (see here for example), but his body of work speaks for itself. Filter is a tricky group to classify. They are harder than almost all alternative groups but are so much better than most hard rock line-ups. They have been labeled industrial rock before but Patrick has dissuaded that as many of their songs do not have an industrial sound to them whatsoever. “Heavy alternative” would be the closest tag I could place on them.

Along with liking their music about as much as humanely fucking possible, I’ve always enjoyed the theme’s behind Filter’s album artwork

The song I have posted is “Take Another”. It is one of several raw, gritty tracks available on Short Bus. And in my opinion, it is the best right up there with “Dose”.  It starts out with some sad, almost indecipherable lyrics and quickly picks up shortly after (@0:42). After looking at the lyrics, it appears to me that Patrick is expressing his remorse or regret for some happening yet he is not able to discontinue going back for more. I’ve never really understood the meaning all that well. The strength of this song lies in Patrick’s vocal range and the guitars during the chorus (@2:29). Together they create a angst-driven, heavy aura that I find to be brilliant. Fortunately for me and many others, this was just the beginning of something great.

Probably the most poppy of out of these three by far would be the next track. It is “Hunting for Witches” by Bloc Party. If you’re not familiar with Bloc Party. they’re an English indie group that produced their first album back in 2005. They feature a nice blend of punk, electronic, and indie influences. This track is off their ’07 release A Weekend in the City. The reason I think it connects to the previous tracks is because of the fast paced, energetic flow that the song carries. It’s much softer than the other two but it’s more unique and crafty. It contains a clumsy, yet  intriguing intro and outro with some very scrambled audio . The guitar carries a funky guitar riff that almost seems to whine at you until the chorus where the rhythm guitar joins nicely (@1:14)and climaxes @1:23. This song also holds some fun lyrics. Kele, the leas vocalist, describes his need to prey on this long feared supernatural force. Perhaps the “witches” represent some form of symbolism but some of the lyrics appear to sound more literal which makes me think otherwise. My favorite set of lyrics wold easily be  ” I was sitting, on the roof of my house, with a shotgun…
And a six-pack of beer,” If that’s all witch-hunting entails, sign me up! Nobody’s gonna fuck with a guy in that position, not even the ghastliest of enchantresses…

Ewww…wouldn’t want to get mixed up with them. Except Sarah Jessica Parker, who I think appears more attractive as a witch in this movie than she does in real life.

All joking aside, enjoy “Hunting for Witches”

Artist Profile: CHVRCHES

This edition’s artist you’ll notice elects to spell their name rather unusually. I read they did this in order to not be confused with the very widely used word that stands for a religious body of people. I understand this methodology (although I think they may have created just as much confusion anyway), but why on earth would they use a “V” in place of the omitted vowel? The only conclusion I can come to is that it would look cool. If given the same task of finding an alternate spelling, a more simple-minded person like myself would have added an “n” after the “r” or something…we’d call ourselves Chrurnches…and we’d sell zero records.

Onto the music. I first heard CHVRCHES and they quickly reminded me of Purity Ring, another one of my favorite artists. The similarities lie mostly in the electronic rhythms and the digitally enhanced vocal effects. Purity Ring gives off more of a hip-hop/R & B feel  while CHVRCHES sounds more poppy/techno. Both groups’ songs are very danceable, though. CHVRCHES hails from Scotland (also home of alternative acts  such as Twin Atlantic and Biffy Clyro) The first song I heard from CHVRCHES was “Mother We Share.” The standout feature is probably the vocal echo effect of Lauren Mayberry. They do an excellent job of varying it and mixing it so it never gets repetitive despite there only being a few different forms of “Oh” that are used. From what I can gather, the song about is about a duo that finds themselves with a uphill battle before them (no idea of what, it doesn’t appear the nature of the problem is ever mentioned). All they need to do is remember the mother they share and that it will carry them through the struggles. The best part of the song is the concluding chorus and aforementioned echo effect @2:24. Please leave your comments on this song at the bottom of the page.

Up next is my favorite of the few songs released by CHVRCHES in their young career. “Lies” is a very upbeat, trendy new song that has a future pop sound to it. Mayberry’s vocal and the mixing effort on this sing are top-notch. It’s hard not to get excited when listening to this song. The song has a killer intro and Mayberry’s thick accent is apparent early on. Upon reading the lyrics, the song is mainly about Mayberry’s ability to sway many with her deception. And it’s not just a select group of people either, she can sell her lies to ANYONE! ANYONE! ANYONE! @1:07-It’s my favorite part of the track…right along with the unique sound effects that blend perfectly with all the other instrumentals. This number is probably the catchiest of CHVRCHES’ offerings so far, see what you think.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the previous two songs because I’m afraid I have some bad news. This next one in addition to the previous two are the only tracks CHVRCHES have released so far. The target date for the album is around May sometime, I believe. “Recover” is the last song currently available. It is a fun little number. It does possess some similar qualities to “Mother We  Share” but is unique in its own right. Part of the lyrics sound like she’s offering up a math problem or some type of riddle.She loses me there as math was never my strength. Fortunately, arithmetic skills are not needed to enjoy the soothing synths that “Recover” features.