Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mineral - "End Serenading"

This album was released long before all-ages venues were drawing 400+ kids...long before "independent" record companies had been purchased by Red/Sony...long before the internet truly had an influence in selling, and marketing records. "End Serenading" came with little fanfare in the summer of 1998 on Crank records. No EPK's (that's electronic press kits for those of you living under a rock) myspace banner ads (myspace is the not-as-cool step brother of facebook for those of you living under a rock)...none of the modern marketing tools that are crucial to an album "launch. Mineral had already released one full length ("The Power of Failing") and had numerous songs on compilations and 7" singles...but this album, for me, was their masterpiece.

Mineral had been given the "emo" tag long before Spin magazine started referring to Weezer as "emo". The tag...a tag which would become somewhat of an albatross a mere 5 years later, was perfect at the time. Mineral had always blended moving music with gut-wrenching lyrics...a full-blown emotional exorcism that was never lacking in sincerity. It was that sincerity, and honesty, that drew me to them in the first place, and it was that same formula, magnified by 1000 on "End Serenading", that made this album one of my top albums of all time. The music was never "heavy" but always had the perfect mixture of intricate guitars woven into a dynamic swell of changing tempos and loud/soft dynamics. It was that dynamic quality that would lend itself to lyrics about restored faith, love, and loss. The lyrics were honest and simple...and the phrasing slid through music sections in a way that I have yet to hear recreated (outside of other Chris Simpson projects like The Gloria Record and Zookeeper). Simpson (vocals/guitar) would sing "Ivadell I held you in my thoughts that day...And wish that they were arms when you were frail...And passing from this place" on "For Ivadell"...a song that began with a memory of a loved one...and ends with anther memory of their passing. Never too wordy...never a case of "shock and awe" juvenellia...just an honest snapshot of how a person feels. True emotion. "End Serenading" mixed the driving songs like "For Ivadell" and "Serenading", with slow-building epics like "Palisades" and "Sounds Like Sunday". A 10 track passion-rollercoaster full of vivid imagery...10 pictures of a blessed life, regardless of circumstance. It was song after song that I could relate after song that reminded me that life is a series of photos or snapshots... snapshots that Simpson, and Mineral, brought to life.

As I listen to this album while I write this I'm transported back to a time when bands actually had something to say...and conveyed that sentiment with true passion. Bands like Mineral are missed (and in my opinion never received the credit they deserved)...and many bands that were peers of theirs at the time (SunnyDayRealEstate, JimmyEatWorld, Boys Life, Christie Front Drive) did their part to make music like this something special. Call it "emo" it "rock" it whatever you want. It was music before girls-jeans and neon tshirts were more important than substance. A time when bands like Mineral would pour out loads of feeling in front of 20 kids at an all-ages show and not care about the product in their hair or how many "friends" they had on facebook. Those times are missed...

Buy this record...thank me later.

When I was a boy I saw things
That no one else could see
So why am I so blind at twenty-two
To the hope that is all around me
Filling up this room

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekend Picks - 01/28/11

Every friday I will be posting a short list of my "picks" for the weekend. These are be bands that have been dominating my car stereo, and monopolizing my Itunes playlists. They should now in turn dominate your cd players and Itunes playlists. (That isn't merely a suggestion by the's an order!).

Weekend Picks - 01/28/11

-Amusement Parks on Fire: "Road Eyes"
-A Day To Remember: "What Separates Me From You"
-Unbroken: "The Death of True Spirit"
-The Temper Trap: "Conditions"
-Eisley: "Combinations"
-Torche: "Songs for Singles"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture posted above is a live shot of one of the greatest hardcore bands of all time...Unbroken. San Diego, represent.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Temper Trap - "Conditions"

I am a self-confessed "anthemic" rock junky. I won't lie. When I hear songs by U2 or Coldplay I can't help myself. Soaring vocals...incredible melodies...huge guitars with delay..and drums that push the songs a long with a religious fervor. I am of the opinion that these songs are meant to be heard in arenas in front of thousands of people, singing in unison. Since I am on the constant prowl for anything that would fit that description...and since I've already begun waxing un-poetic...I bring myself to the best thing that has come out of Australia since Midnight Oil (and maybe Kylie Minogue): The Temper Trap...anthemic rock for 2011.

"Conditions" is easily one of the best rock records to come out as of late. There are three reasons why I make that proclamation...amazing vocals, excellent atmospherics, and great choruses. Singer Dougy Mandagi croons with a passion that harkens me back to the days of Jeff Buckley. Not in a derivative "i'm ripping off Buckley" sort of way (read: his vocals don't sound like the guy from Ours), but his vocals soar over the music, and they convey a passion that is sorely missing from most "modern rock" these days. It's just the right mix of melodrama, theatrics, and "bono", that turns these songs into more than just a boring rehash of the U2 playbook. I see this record as being a classic A-side/B-side. The first half of the album is driving, with huge choruses and loads of energy. I don't know if this was a conscious effort on their part to front-load the album with anthems...because the first 5 songs are epic in stature. They do more with 3 minutes ("Fader") in terms of writing an anthem than most bands could muster in an entire career...but they also know how to write quieter songs that have just as much passion and energy as the loud ones. The second half of "Conditions" is a little more restrained, with some slower songs ("Soldier On", "Fools") that showcase groove and dynamics over bombast. Writing songs this good is hardly an easy task...and getting people to listen to them, with attention spans being what they are today, is even harder. With "Conditions" The Temper Trap has hit their stride as a songwriting unit, and has truly put out a rock record of epic that delivers hook after hook without being contrived. One that takes you on a journey through 10 tracks that are sure to improve your already sorry record collection...

Buy this record...thank me later.

The first step...down a longwinded road...

I'm sure that if you've stumbled onto this little slice of the world-wide interweb you may be asking yourself, "why does the world need another amateur bloviating about music?!" Maybe the world doesn't need another music critic...maybe my time would be better spent investing in "green jobs" or doing segway tours of Escondido? Oh well...

I consider myself quite the music snob...and when it comes to high levels of music snobbery I would rate myself at an "11". My idea for doing this was probably born while I was touring with my old band. Hours upon hours spent with people, living in quarters that the word "close" doesn't begin to describe. You could either driving...sleep...or talk. Much of that idle chatter revolved around music, or more specifically, music questions. "Greatest rock band of all time?" "Best pop album of the 60's?" "Could a Smiths reunion really be legitimate if it was done without Mike Joyce or Andy Rourke?" These are the pressing questions that faced me time and time again, usually during long stints through the wastelands just east of El Paso, or west of Fargo. Lot's of time...and a plethora of music history to wade through. This brings me to this blog, "Manic Compression"...a thinly veiled reference to one of my favorite bands (Quicksand), and my attempt to review the music I love without all the filler.

So welcome...feel free to comment...and remember this: I am reviewing music I think is awesome, and music that I believe is worth your time (and money...because stealing music is in fact, stealing). Occasionally I might review bad music...because we all know it exsists...and because some people might need an education as to what qualifies as "bad music"...but for the most part this will be my attempt at being relevant. There will be new records, old records, new bands, old bands, and most likely a ton of amazing bands that are no longer making great music. Enjoy.