Monday, February 28, 2011

Legos + Music = Fun

MORRISSEY: Ringleader Of The Tormentors

PULP: This is hardcore

Q.) What could be better than great album art?

A.) Great album art that's been reinterpreted through a Lego-filter! I've always been a Lego fan, and seeing these albums re-done with Legos is 100% awesome. Instead of playing minesweeper this morning, please head here to see the rest of the Lego-album vignettes. Enjoy...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cush - "Always Disappear"

If you ever happen to read, or your try to stay "up" on new releases, you most likely have come to the sad realization that much of the "new" music being released these days is rubbish. Sure, there have always been bad albums that have been released upon an unsuspecting populace..."real" housewives singles...lindsay lohan...vampire weekend...all charlatans of suck if you ask me. Because of this phenomenon, I like to take it upon myself to "champion" bands I think deserve a little of your time. Bands that deserve to be heard above all the generic drone that's hyped on music sites. Now I don't have some overwhelming sense of self-importance...I realize that there really aren't droves of people clamoring to read about my thoughts on music (regardless of what I tell myself before I go to sleep). So with all of my rambling out of the way, I give you the new single by Cush. It's atmospheric and dreamy...and musically it picks up where they left off in 2000 with their only full length LP. It's awesome...and it's probably going to make your entire week. Enjoy...

Buy their records...thank me later.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weekend Picks - 02/25/11

I have a running list of bands that I think are under-appreciated...shamefully ignored...or not as popular as I thought they should have been. The list grows every year, with many of my favorite bands cursed to swim out their existence in a sea of obscurity. What a shame that so many amazing records have been relegated to the "bargain-bin" of the local record store, sadly sharing rack space with 50 copies of "Monster" by R.E.M, or every record by Sum-41. This week was a trip down memory lane...and my play-list was chock full of bands that, in my opinion, never got their "due." Maybe you, the avid reader of ManicCompression, can listen to these records, fall in love with them, and go buy a copy or two for people who's music tastes need improving.

Weekend Picks - 02/25/11

-The Casket Lottery: "Survival Is For Cowards"
-Handsome: "S/T"
-Catherine Wheel: "Chrome"
-Cush: "S/T"
-The Myriad: "With Arrows, With Poise"
-Year Of The Rabbit: "S/T"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture above is of The Casket amazing band from Lawrence, KS. They had a huge sound, and should have had a huge following...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Taking Back Sunday - "Cute Without The E" (Cut From The Team)

Here is a mid-week palate cleanser from Taking Back Sunday. I loved the movie "Fight Club"...and I enjoyed their adaptation of it in this video. Back in the day (when I was making music videos), music video budgets for "indie" bands were really if you look at the majority of videos from the early 2000's, you get a lot of videos that look the same. They all seemed to follow the same basic which I'll try to break down for you:

Indie-rock music video 101: Band playing in corn field. Cut to cute girl breaking up with guy (lead singer of band playing in said corn field). Cut to lead singer of band who is bummed because the girl dissed him (he deserves better, right?!). Cut to band...instruments aren't plugged in since there is no electricity in the corn field but band continues to play with reckless abandon. Cut back to lead guy writing poetry about girl (ties in with the lyrics of actual song). Cut to lead guy mailing letter to girl. Band still rocking in field. Bridge of the song: Cut to girl reading letter. Cut to "screamer of the band" getting his cameo during their "hardcore" part. Cut to lead singer picking up phone. Cut to girl calling to get back together. Cut back to "screamer" just pushing the jr. high lyrics of lead guy to "11". Cut to lead guy walking with girl (holding hands). Cut to some ironic closing scene with thousands of letters from the lead guy to girl in the trash (or something akin to that) so we can visualize his overwhelming sense of rejection/inferiority/poor writing skills. Fade out from corn field.

Did you get all that? Kudos to Taking Back Sunday for making a video that doesn't suck. Enjoy...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Morrissey - Manic Compression Greatest Songs Album

Not much can be said about Morrissey that hasn't already been put in print. An amazing vocalist, an amazing lyricist, former member of The Smiths, and accomplished solo act. Always mysterious...I've been a fan of his for a good 21 years. Ever since I heard "Panic" for the first time back in the late 80's...that perfect mix of British attitude, mixed with the voice of a "crooner." His phrasing, and impeccable sense of melody, has always intrigued me, whether it was with The Smiths, or as a solo artist...and he always had the musical chops to back his flair for the dramatic. I am of the opinion that he hasn't put out a bad record since leaving The Smiths...and despite his musical boundaries staying safely consistent (read: he hasn't tried to be the "British Yanni" like Sting), he continues to put out quality records decades into his career (His last record "Years Of Refusal" is easily one of his best). How many people quit their seminal bands and have the career longevity that Morrissey has? I challenge you to show me a solo artist who has done it better than "The Moz." Since I am a 34 year old fan-boy (and would probably fail to complete sentences if I were to meet him in person), here are my picks for his greatest songs. A few of these were his singles, but many of them were deep album tracks that I think represent some of his best work. Let the Morrissey-adoration begin...

1. "Jack The Ripper" (Live) - Beethoven Was Deaf
2. "The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores" - You Are The Quarry
3. "Hairdresser On Fire" - Viva Hate
4. "Speedway" - Vauxhall And I
5. "Glamorous Glue" - Your Arsenal
6. "It's Not Your Birthday Anymore" - Years Of Refusal
7. "Suedehead" - Bona Drag
8. "Alma Matters" - Maladjusted
9. "You Have Killed Me" - Ringleader Of The Tormented
10. "Southpaw" - Southpaw Grammar
11. "Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself?" - Vauxhall And I
12. "That's How People Grow Up" - Years Of Refusal
13. "The National Front Disco" - Your Arsenal
14. "November Spawned A Monster" - Bona Drag
15. "Mute Witness" - Kill Uncle

Note: I wanted to include his incredible live version of "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"...but out of respect for Johnny Marr (and The Smiths) I didn't include it on my list.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Radiohead - "The King Of Limbs"

Oh to be Radiohead...the once mighty rock band turned "art project." Every few years we are graced with a new album, one that rabid music-critics claim is a grand "return to form" (whatever that means...). After naming the new Radiohead record the "release of the decade" (prior to it even coming out), or the "most important record of all time" (forget about The Beatles, "Pet Sounds", etc...), we are then inundated with hype...hype...and more hype than one could humanly digest in a lifetime. Countless articles, press-releases, rave reviews, and bed-wetting all come down the industry pipeline, ready to cloud the good sense and/or judgment of the music buying populace. So here we are again, awaiting the new Radiohead album with baited breath...getting to listen to a new song ("lotus flower") that sounds an awful lot like every other song they've put out since releasing "KidA." Is this a joke? Secretly I think Yorke & Co. sit around and have a good laugh with each new release. They could realistically put out a record with crickets chirping to some weak sounding drum loop and still sell thousands of copies. If that happened, Pitchfork (and other music-oriented sites) would first soil themselves...and then probably end up calling it "the future of rock." I'm not just being a drama-queen in regards to the ridiculous critical acclaim that is poured onto them. People really write that kind of nonsense...seriously!

I don't buy it...but then again I am the first to admit that I don't "get" anything they have put out after the perfection of "Ok Computer." I'm one of those Radiohead fans...give me a copy of "The Bends" and "OKC" and I'm as happy as a clam. I've purchased every release of theirs since "KidA"...and with each release I am disappointed. I'll probably be buying this new record as well, secretly hoping that it will be awesome, but I'll more than likely be content to keep Radiohead stuck in the 90's. All we (music fans) can do is wait (for the physical release)...and while we are biting our nails with anticipation we get to read post after post on how awesome "The King Of Limbs" is, and how it is going to "revolutionize rock". Maybe it will do that...maybe music, as we know it, will be turned upside down because of it. Maybe it will be one of those records that defines a generation...the heavens will part and all of us will "get it"...

Until then I won't be holding my breath...and based on the first single maybe you shouldn't either.

Note: A) The piece above is my opinion. B) The band is talented...I don't doubt that...I'm just not fond of how they've used their talents the last 11 years.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekend Picks - 02/18/11

This weekend is going to be all about variety...since my weekly play-list has been "all over the map" musically. My parents always loved music, so at the Hagquist house it was either a ton of classical music, or a ton of "oldies"...with a little "Christian" pop mixed in to negate any chance of Marvin Gaye "contributing to the delinquency of a minor (me)". Then I would retreat to my room and run through long mixes of hardcore, metal, punk, soul, and The Beatles. This variety not only exposed me to great music, but gave me an appreciation for things outside of my "generation" musically. Variety is the spice of life...and this installment of my weekend picks is a variety-pack of awesome.

Weekend Picks - 02/18/11

-Adele: "19"
-The Gutter Twins: "Saturnalia"
-The Beatles: "Rubber Soul"
-Envy: "Recitation"
-Zao: "Liberate Te Ex Inferis"
-Massive Attack: "Blue Lines"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture above is Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers), and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), the duo who make up The Gutter Twins. Awesome band...awesome vocalists.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Top 7 Sub Pop Albums

I have always had favorite record labels...starting back when my allowance stopped buying baseball cards and started going towards vinyl and tapes. I look back fondly at the days when I would send an order form, and well hidden cash, to Dischord Records...only to repeat that same process and send envelopes to Revelation, Victory, Merge, Tooth & Nail, and Sub Pop. I would hear one band on a label, then pine for a little indie-rock sponge. (I am sure if "scene points" would have counted back then I would have amassed a ton of them.) Many of the albums I ordered have become some of my favorite. Albums by Snapcase, Fugazi, Youth Of Today, Superchunk, SunnyDayRealEstate, and Starflyer 59...all got me through my awkward high school days, and not surprisingly still get my through my awkward 30's. One label that I was particularly fond of was SubPop...mostly for the sheer variety of music they put out. Where Dischord was a little too scene specific (not a bad thing), SubPop seemed to have a little bit of everything...from harder stuff like Soundgarden, to the mellower indie stuff like Jale and The Spinanes. It was that randomness that depleted much of my extra cash...and filled my shelves with hours of musical goodness. Despite me getting older I am still impressed with their without any more fan-boy gushing I give you my top 7 SubPop releases.

- Sunny Day Real Estate - "Diary": It was (and still is) like nothing I had heard before. I could write essays on why this album is amazing...the vocals, the music...where to begin? Everyone who bought this album eventually started a band, myself included.

- The Spinanes - "Strand": This was my first introduction to the rock "duo" ("where's the bass player?" my teen-aged brain wondered). Light-years before Matt & Kim, The Spinanes were dropping indie-pop gems with just one guitar, and one drum kit. To this day Rebecca Gates is still one of my favorite vocalists.

- Velocity Girl - "Simpatico": I got way into indie-pop stuff, and Velocity Girl nailed that sub-genre for me. The guitars jangled, and the melodies were syrupy sweet. This record personified "college" rock, and they reminded me of The Posies with a girl singing...and I love me some Posies.

- The Afghan Whigs - "Gentlemen": I fell for the music...a mixture of post-punk edginess and motown soul. Greg Dulli sounded like a man possessed, writhing over a barrage of big guitars, and even bigger drums. This album had rage.

- The Murder City Devils - "Broken Bottles, Empty Hearts": I had soured on most "punk" that had been coming out...until I heard this. It was danceable, it was dark, and it was pissed off. 3 aspects of this record that hooked me. If this had been purchased on cassette I would have easily worn out 4-5 copies of it. Easily...

- Band Of Horses - "Cease To Begin": It was one part Beach Boys, with a little Eagles mixed in (minus the usual "suck" factor that is associated with anything "Eagles".). The songs had an ethereal quality to them...and the arrangements were about as close to perfect as you could get. Hearing this record truly blew my was inspiring and accessible.

- The Jesus And Mary Chain - "Munki": Maybe the Reid brothers were in the twilight of their career, but this record is still one of my favorites by them. It's fuzzed out pop...fueled by beer, cigarettes, sibling rivalry, and shoe-gazing. TJAMC are hard to top...and I was glad to see SubPop release it.

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: Narrowing it down to 7 releases by a seminal label like SubPop is difficult. These are MY favorite albums...and I'm still leaving out records by Jale, Red House Painters, The Gutter Twins, Godheadsilo, Jeremy Enigk, Damien Jurado, and The Album Leaf. There will have to be a "part 2"...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Afghan Whigs - "Somethin' Hot" (Live)

Here is a mid-week palate cleanser from one of my favorite bands of all time...The Afghan Whigs. 1998, promoting their record "1965"...they added background singers and piano...but never lost the swagger, and edge, of their earlier material. If Marvin Gaye had been raised on 80's post-punk...and was Caucasian...he may have fronted a band like The Afghan Whigs. Enjoy...

Note: If you aren't familiar with them I would recommend picking up a copy of "Black Love"'s film-noir set to edgy alt. rock.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gasoline Heart - "Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be"

I like good stories...and there are very few bands that pull off telling stories, and there are even fewer bands that put those stories to good music. I always think of Bruce Springsteen or Johnny Cash...excellent story-tellers who could transport you to Jersey, or Folsom, in just a few stanzas. They were masters at drawing the listener in, making the story tangible (regardless of ones experience), and using imagery that was easy to connect with. It is the art of the story that gets lost in much of what is out these days. We are inundated with media...with access to everyone, anywhere, at any time. downloads minus lyrics/artwork/ much so that a good story is usually lost (or ignored) in a haze of techno-convenience. Luckily for us, the music fan, the newest Gasoline Heart record easily wades through all the noise...with great stories, set to great music.

One part AA meeting, one part emotional exorcism, and one part prayer vigil...this record puts the listener squarely in the lap of lead singer Louis Defabrizo. His lyrics lack the usual high-gloss portrait of excess that easily lend themselves to ridicule. In other words, this isn't the adolescent musings of someone who thinks they know what it's like to feel pain, or be drunk, or have the one you love walk out on you. The lyrics are an honest view into the mind (and heart) of someone who has experienced these things first hand. The lyrical themes play well with a band that sits comfortably in the same musical landscape as The Replacements or The Hold Steady. It's's's full of energy minus stupid "rock" cliches. Uptempo rockers like "Look Up Baby...", and "Can't Keep A Good Kid Down", sit comfortably in the vein of Tom Petty, without sounding derivative. The gritty vocal delivery by Defabrizo compliments the music throughout the album, having a powerful effect on both the fast and slow songs. "Never Been Worse" (book-ended by "Never Been Better") is a great example of how powerful/honest lyrics, fused to a slow tempo, can draw you's heavy, yet subtle. For the entire record there's an overwhelming sense of urgency with the songs (regardless of tempo or dynamic) while they might fit nicely in a bar-room, they still sound energetic and fresh. This record has been in rotation with me since I bought it. Through it all there is love, loss, depression, alcohol, and a thousand other feelings...but regardless of the subject matter there seems to be an underlying current of hope which shows the listener that life isn't solely made up of the garbage we deal with. Gasoline Heart...a rock band that plays, and sings, with real conviction...a rare, and awesome combination.

Buy this record...thank me later.

Valentines Day In Manhattan...

If you happen to be in the NYC area this Valentines yourself a favor and stop in to hear some of the best music ever released. Unpack your faded Braid t-shirt and drown your sorrows in a nice glass of Makers Mark.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

U2 - ManicCompression Greatest Songs Album

As many of you know, U2 is my favorite band. I have argued for hours, and hours, about how I believe they are the greatest "rock" band of all time, and on more than one occasion I have won that argument. (Note: I consider the Beatles to be "pop"). I am of the opinion that no other band in the history of rock has had the sheer number of quality of releases, or has stayed relevant longer than U2. The facts clearly show that U2 has never "jumped the shark." In other words, they have never released a record as horrible as "Undercover" by The Rolling Stones. Many of their peers have failed (R.E.M., Depeche Mode) to keep their music sounding fresh, without sounding contrived...and regardless of the album, U2 have always been consistent at sounding like themselves...from 1979, to 2011. No line-up changes, no drummers wanting to sing on a few tracks, and no stabs at being like John Tesh (Sting). Minor missteps have come along in their 30+ year career but nothing catastrophic, and nothing that comes close to tarnishing their impeccable record of quality releases. So without any hesitation, I give to you the 2011 u2 Manic Compression Greatest Songs album! (The songs aren't in a ranked order...just in the order I'd want to hear them in.)

1. "Where The Streets Have No Name" - The Joshua Tree
2. "Like A Song" - War
3. "Do You Feel Loved?" - Pop
4. "Miracle Drug" - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
5. "Heartland" - Rattle And Hum
6. "Ultraviolet" - Achtung Baby
7. "The Unforgettable Fire" - The Unforgettable Fire
8. "Kite" - All That You Can't Leave Behind
9. "So Cruel" - Achtung Baby
10. "Stay Far Away (So Close)" - Zooropa
11. "Bad" - The Unforgettable Fire
12. "New Years Day" - War
13. "Is That All?" - October
14. "With Or Without You" - Rattle And Hum
15. "Exit" - The Joshua Tree
16. "Twilight" - Boy
17. "In God's Country" - The Joshua Tree
18. "Breathe" - No Line On The Horizon
19. "Please" - Pop

Buy ALL of their records...thank me later.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Weekend Picks - 02/11/11

I seem to go through phases when I'm listening to music. One day I'll be listening to Brit-pop from the 90's, and the next day I'll be blaring European metal bands. I like the variety...I like revisiting records I haven't heard in a while, only to be quickly reminded as to why I enjoyed them so much in the first place. This week included a lot of that "revisiting"...and my music week was an International cocktail of OC Punk, British Space, Americana, and Icelandic "out-of-this-world-ness". Enjoy...

Weekend Picks - 02/11/11

-Jonsi: "Go"
-Social Distortion: "Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell"
-The Verve: "A Storm In Heaven"
-The 77's: "Sticks And Stones"
-Rheanna Downey: "Tour De Felicite EP"
-Kathleen Edwards: "Back To Me"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: If you don't know who the picture above're beyond saving. Mike Ness (Social Distortion) and The Boss (The Boss)...two rock "peas in a pod" at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. They did a great rendition of "Bad Luck" with the E Street Band a few years ago. Ness came out to sing it with Springsteen at his L.A. date...and the crowd went nuts.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sigur Ros - "Hoppipola" - Heima (Live)

Here's a little mid-week palate cleanser from Sigur Ros. Not only does it showcase the grandiose beauty that is Sigur Ros, but it also give us a little taste as to how beautiful Iceland really is. This is one of my favorite songs by them...and it's refreshing to see a band pull of their sound in a live setting...even if it takes half of a marching band to do it. Enjoy...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gates - "The Sun Will Rise And Lead Me Home"

As I have said before, there aren't too many "new" bands that really get me excited. Maybe I'm just a creature with refined tastes...or maybe I have turned into some sort of jaded, 34 year old arm-chair critic/hack who hates everything? What fun! I admit that my tastes might not be everyone's "cup-o-tea"...but they are mine, and I am content enjoying my record collection...even if it is, for the most part, stuck in the 90's. Despite me being out of touch with most new music, I still love that giddy feeling I get when I hear something that rocks. I recently came across Gates (Thanks to a short write-up on the WashedUpEmo blog), and when something pleases my ears as much as their new EP, I can't stop myself from gushing about it. I'll cut through all the nonsense and just come out and say it: This band is amazing...easily my favorite new band of the year and we're barely into February.

"The Sun Will Rise And Lead Me Home," is a six song slice of brilliance. This EP is perfect...and I would be hard pressed to give very many examples of "perfect" records (granted it is only six songs...but I won't disparage it due to brevity). While it loosely reminds me of other bands (The Appleseed Cast, for one), it is NOT a nostalgia trip through the Deep Elm discography. The songs swell, with delayed guitar parts weaving in between each other. The drums breathe...striking a balance between pushing the tempos a long, and pausing just long enough to allow a guitar, or vocal melody, to rise above the mix. The vocals are crisp and powerful, and the sense of good melody really shines above the beauty of the instruments. There have always been bands that were able to build amazing sound-scapes (Explosions In The Sky, Tristeza), but many of those bands lacked the pop sensibilities that people could grasp. Gates does an excellent job melding those two worlds together...beautiful mini-epics married to a strong display of vocal melody. Real "songs" that are an ideal place to get lost in during your 30 minute lunch break.

Buy this record...thank me later.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Top 7 Rock Albums From San Diego

San Diego...the place that I've rested my head for much of my life...has been the home of a myriad of great bands. The music scene here has always been somewhat eclectic, from the low-fi goodness of Truman's Water, to the rock-n-roll spectacle of Rocket From The Crypt. Once labeled "the next Seattle" by some moronic journalist, San Diego has continually been a hotbed of musical talent, some of which have slogged it out locally, and some who have been catapulted into teen-aged stardom. When I was in high school I was able to see bands like Blink 182, and P.O.D., in their infancy...years before Mtv and the rest of the world began to notice. I also had the opportunity to witness, first hand, the musical brilliance of Drive Like Jehu, Three Mile Pilot, and No Knife, destroying stages and leaving audiences (and myself) with the feeling that they had just witnessed something truly special. So here is my nominations for the top 7 rock records to come out of San Diego. Maybe it won't be definitive...and maybe some San Diegan's will find it mediocre at best...but these are my picks and I'm sticking to them. Enjoy...

-Rocket From The Crypt - "Scream, Dracula, Scream!": This is rock-n-roll in it's purest's primal...manic...and it's huge amounts of fun. If The Stooges had been a "Motown" band I think they would have sounded a lot like RFTC. If this album was any more "fun" it would be illegal.

-Pinback - "Blue Screen Life": For me, this record defines what good "indie" rock should sound like. Catchy songs, intricate percussion/beats, and smart lyrics. Very few bands do an adequate job of mastering the art of subtlety, and Pinback trumps them all.

-No Knife - "Riot For Romance": This record is angular, full of big guitars, and never delves to far into the realm of math-rock inaccessibility. Never derivative, No Knife truly hit their stride with this record...a post-punk classic that could easily rival anything on Dischord.

-Drive Like Jehu - "Yank Crime": This is what punk rock should sound like...It's loud, aggressive and dissonant. This record spawned a thousand bands trying their best to recreate this album, and all of them failed miserably.

-P.O.D. - "Satellite": P.O.D. had been doing the rock/rap thing since the early 1990' when they finally broke into the mainstream their sound was no surprise to me (or the legions of SD fans they already had). This album was a mix of everything I liked about them (heavy music/epic choruses/faith) without any of the nu-metal stupidity that went a long with most of the bands they were compared to.

-Three Mile Pilot - "The Chief Assassin To The Sinister": Epic in's an experimental emotional ride that will totally blow your mind and leave your jaw permanently stuck to the floor. It's heavy, it's is "progressive" minus the overwhelming sense of "suck" that is associated with anything "prog".

-Delta Spirit - "History From Below": A great record that teases the listener with country, bluegrass, and rock...propelled by "Bushwick Blues"...a delicious slice of songwriting brilliance from these San Diego natives.

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: This list was difficult because with each album I posted, I thought of another record I wanted to include. "Lists" are here are some San Diego bands that also deserve a mention: Lucy's Fur Coat, Rust, Convoy, Superunloader, Dryve, Loam, Buck-O-Nine, Hot Snakes, Reeve Oliver, Fluf, Tristeza/The Album Leaf, and The Rugburns.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Weekend Picks - 02/04/11

Here is the second installment of my "weekend picks"...the definitive list of music that is sure to make your weekend a glorious one, regardless of how cold it might be outside. I see it as my way to warm the hearts and minds of those readers who don't have the luxury of living in San Diego during the winter. For the record, it's 74 degrees with nary a cloud in the sky...

Weekend Picks - 02/04/11

-Gates: "The Sun Will Rise And Lead Me Home"
-Matt Pond Pa: "Emblems"
-Fugazi: "In On The Kill Taker"
-Jawbox: "Self Titled"
-The Killers: "Live From The Royal Albert Hall"
-This Will Destroy You: "Young Mountain"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture posted above is a live shot of of the greatest bands of all time...and one of the best live bands you'll ever see.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Hope For Home - "The Everlasting Man"

A few years ago I attended a "hardcore" show here in San Diego to catch up with some old friends. Since it was a show full of heavy bands I thought I would do my part and choose an outfit that would help me blend in, or at least help me feel a little younger. No, I didn't wear a Bane t-shirt, camo shorts, and New Balance sneakers (my days of being a "pit-boss" never really came to fruition), but I did opt for an old Snapcase shirt...which surprisingly garnered more attention than I had hoped for. I had 3 people, who were easily under the age of 18, ask me if "Snapcase" was a new clothing company. It was a reminder to me that a) I am an old man, and 2) my frame of reference for hardcore sits comfortably in the decade of the 90's. That's not a bad thing seeing as though some of the greatest records of the genre were released during that time: Records by Snapcase, Earth Crisis, Strife, Shai Hulud, Strongarm, and Refused to name a few. I'm pretty far removed from being "up" on what's happening in the scene, and it's rare that new hardcore bands actually catch my attention. Most of it sounds's style over over passion. Maybe I'm making a gross generalization, but in my opinion I think most of the "hardcore" coming out these days is laughable at best. Very few hardcore bands get me excited (read: I'm underwhelmed), and I end up just comparing the listening experience to the excitement I felt hearing Shai Hulud for the first time (1997). "The Everlasting Man," by A Hope For Home, rekindled that excitement for me.

I think it's quite a task to not only make interesting music, but to also write an entire record based on the work of G.K. Chesteron. What this album has is both lyrical depth, and musical muscle. You won't find tough-guy posturing, and you won't be bored to death by the rehashing of every riff off the "Fire Storm" EP. "The Everlasting Man" reminds me of the intricate song structures of Strongarm, mixed with the atmospherics of Isis, and the passion of Overcome. All great bands...but that is my reference point for their over-all sound. The music switches from massive guitars and gut wrenching screams, to melodic guitar leads and passionate singing. Sure, the scream/sing thing has been beaten to death but AHFH really have a fresh take on the idea. Songs like "Absolution: Of Flight and Failure", and "Masada: The Spiral Staircase" move seamlessly between massive chunks of distortion and melody, with the juxtaposition of singing and screaming actually feeling like it wasn't an afterthought. The songs move through different tempos while still managing to sound like actual "songs" instead of disjointed parts thrown together to increase their "prog-metal" cred. While the music puts a fresh spin on what "hardcore" can be, the lyrics, based on "The Everlasting Man" by Chesterton, showcase the constant struggle of humankind to make sense of the world around them. Countless bands have tried, and failed, to thematically tie in lyrics with a story or novel, but AHFH actually do it, and sound sincere. Channeling the ideas of someone else and making them your own, with real emotions behind them, can be a difficult journey, but it's one that is perfectly navigated on this record. "The Everlasting Man" is a reminder that great "hardcore" not only pummels the listener with huge riffs, but strikes an emotional chord as well. A Hope for Home has achieved both of these things while putting their own signature on a genre sadly in need of resuscitation.

Buy this record...thank me later.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Top 7 Break-Up Albums

I will never forget the line in "High Fidelity" that asked the question, "am I miserable because I listen to pop music, or do I listen to pop music because I am miserable?" Rock history is a virtual pot-luck of songs about break-up's, failed relationships, significant others killed in various automobile accidents, and other morbid love stories. It's either the greatest form of emotional catharsis, or it's a modern form of torturing yourself...pining over that person you spent hours making mix tapes for ( I am dating myself because I said "mix-tape")...and drowning out the sadness with music. From my experience, those feelings have usually been summed up best by someone else; a poet, a band, or morrissey. So here it is...for all you miserable sacks out there who need something awesome to listen to during this winter of your discontent...

I give you my top 7 break-up albums:

1. Cursive - "Domestica": Apparently penned during the lead singers divorce, it's a scathing critique of the "ex"...and if you can't feel the pain through your speakers, you might want to check if you have a pulse.

2. Jawbreaker - "Dear You": Another punk rock gem that will soothe your aching heart. A blistering journey through the depths of human depression...with many-a-jab at the one who wreaked havoc on the heart.

3. Joy Division - "Closer": While not a classic "she broke my heart" record...this album is a blizzard of darkness. If a slab of concrete in a morgue could make would sound like this record.

4. Marvin Gaye - "Here, My Dear": Not only did Mr. Gaye have an albums worth of lyrical dissing to give his ex-wife (Who also happened to be the daughter of Motown Records head Barry Gordy), he also was legally bound to record another record per their divorce. He recorded an entire record of songs describing, in detail, how their relationship crumbled. Here, my dear, enjoy the record I made for you...forever.

5. Morrissey - "Viva Hate": A nice trip down depression ave. with the amazing lyrics of the Moz. With songs like "Suedehead" and "I Don't Mind If You Forget Me" you can easily spend an enjoyable hour drowning your sorrows with one of the best vocalists, ever.

6. Park - "It Won't Snow Where You're Going": This album is not only a gem musically, but the lyrics are sure to remind you that somewhere, someone else has had it much worse than you could ever have it. Someone apparently dated the devil incarnate...

7. Ryan Adams - "Love Is Hell 1 & 2": An amazing snapshot of the life, and death, of a relationship. Drown your tears with this record...from start to finish. It isn't the darkest record...and it isn't the most depressing...but it is a perfect record for a rainy day.

Buy these records...thank me later.