Saturday, December 20, 2014

D'Angelo and the Vanguard - Black Messiah

What's the saying? If at first you ignore your blog, blog blog again? I decided I'd come back and give this another shot, but I wanted to wait until the right album came along. 

Meet Black Messiah.

Before today, my knowledge of D'Angelo was limited solely to a music video in which he sings to the camera, ripped and naked, and subsequently caused every lady in America to lose their pants.

When I heard the hype that he released an album after a long absence, I just figured ladies had finally found their pants and were excited to lose them again. 

Watching SNL, there was an ad about the new album featuring the song "The Charade" and I was immediately intrigued. It sounded like a psychedelic R&B mish-mash of voices, a sound which I was not expecting at all from this record.

I immediately checked it out, and the entire thing is really excellent. It's smooth, funky, trippy, heart-ripping, head-bobbing music. My favorite part is I have no idea what D'Angelo's voice sounds like. Every track sounds like it has multiple singers on it, and none of them are your prototypical "lead vocalist" who sings above the others. 

Also, and I am no sound expert, but it sounds excellent. Everything is well-balanced and where it should be; both muddy and crisp all the same.

This album is well worth the hype. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 20 of 2014: 10-1

Here we go dudes. The meat and potatoes. The grand poobah. The cream of the crop. The pussy on the chainwax.

(aka 10 through 1)

Before this album, I always thought of Winterfylleth as that not-so-great black metal band whose acoustic interludes make for excellent D&D music. But here we are, in a post-Sunbather world where post-black-feels-metal is a thing, and we are the benefactors. The Divination of Antiquity is one of the ore accessible black metal albums I've heard, and is infectious in its powerfully emotional riffs. If you heard Sunbather and wanted more, this is a great next step.

(read in the ESPN 30-for-30 voice): What if I told you a young artist released one of the most exciting EPs I've ever heard, garnered massive hype for her debut album, postponed the album endlessly, picked a bunch of fights with people on twitter, released the awful "ATM Jam", and then finally released the long-forgotten debut album. Would you think that album would be any good? What if I told you it was? Would you listen?

This album hates you soooo much.

7. Mutilation Rites - Harbinger

This album has just about everything: heavy ass riffs, emotional chord progressions, disgusting vocals you are not sure you like or not... Above all, it has what seems like hundreds of unique riffs. I once thought it might be a fun game to count the number of distinct riffs in one of the songs off of Harbinger, but after the 10th riff or so, I got too caught up in air guitaring until my fingers air bled.

Every album from here on out was at my #1 spot at some point throughout the year. It is both a testament to how good this year was, how good these albums are, and the necessity that you hear them all. You have your work cut out for you.

6. Behemoth - The Satanist

Easily the least subtle of album on this list, this one absolutely crushes. The riffs are heavy, the vocals are menacing, and it is catchy as hell. You wouldn't think an album as evil sounding as this could be as fun as it is, but you would be wrong.

5. Ava Luna - Electric Balloon

Right after my obsession with Talking Heads died to a low roar, I stumbled upon this record. It has all the punk energy of Talking Heads with the pop vocal stylings of Dirty Projectors. I don't think we've hit this band's ceiling either. Very excited to hear what's next.

4. Jenny Hval & Susanna - Meshes of Voice

The first time I heard this record I thought it was interesting. Nice folky music with ambient elements for a cold day. But then the last song came on and I was floored. On repeat, the album revealed itself to me in a whole new light. This is folk music for those of you who believe there is something else about a misty fog over a still lake at night. #woah #poetic #2deep4u

3. Alraune - The Process of Self-Immolation

There are only four tracks on this album, but each one is a damn composition. And when (spoiler alert) a young girl sings "O Willow Waly" in between the third and fourth tracks, the tone is set for the most amazing metal song I heard all year. The title track will leave you breathless, but I almost feel bad linking it above. This album, perhaps more than any other metal album I heard all year, demands that you listen from start to finish.

2. Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Ladies and gentlemen, Flying Lotus is back. This album is filled with the same sensory-overload I experienced the first time I heard Cosmogramma, and is just as addictive too. The best summation of this album is the video for "Never Catch Me", linked above. The song is a knock out, but the message in the video, that death just might be a jubilation, is felt on many of the tracks on this album. The album is a statement for life in the face of death, and I love it.

1. Thou - Heathen

I spoke earlier about Alraune's "The Process of Self-Immolation" being the most powerful metal song I'd heard all year. Take the sheer power of that song, add in more gravitas, both sonically and in philosophical lyricism, and extend it over an album length. There you have Heathen. This record will crush you in every sense of the word. It is undeniably powerful, yet astonishingly beautiful. One thing it is not is an easy listen. It took me a few listens to have the patience to pick out each riff in these drawn out songs. But once you hear them, you'll wonder what you were so preoccupied with before that you couldn't devote one well-spent hour focusing on them. I am not known to be someone who cares about lyrics (not that you'd be able to decipher them just by listening), but sitting down to read the lyrics as I listened was an awesome experience and really increased my appreciation for this album. If, while contemplating the state of the world, you ever wished people would remember what was truly important in life, give this album a listen. We could all use a reminder.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top 20 of 2014: 20-11

Hello blogosphere. I'm back, out of nowhere, like the Millennium Falcon at the end of A New Hope, to rescue you from your year of listening to the wrong music.

I realize it seems a bit disingenuous to abandon my blog and still post a top 20 list... but let's be real. I have been making these stupid lists before the blog, and this year was no different. I may as well put it up here for my 2 readers to see and benefit from.

2014 was an excellent year for music as far as I am concerned. Any one of these albums is definitely worth your time.

Here we go.

It looks like I am tagging this one at the end of my list to make it seem like I'm a "man of the people", but half of the songs on here dominated a solid month of my life this year. The reason this is not higher is the other half of the tracks. However, my AriG playlist that includes the good half from here and the better half from Yours Truly is top 5 material.

With the acoustic interludes by Musk Ox, this album is an excellent chill out album with excellent balance. I wouldn't be surprised if this one sticks with me longer than some of the others on this list because of how easy it is to listen to.

I thought this album would be much higher on my list come the end of year, but my judgement had been clouded by the song "Liminality". That song alone is absolutely worth your time.

This is perhaps the surprise of the year, largely due to my own unfair labels I attached to this album without hearing it. Angel is a perfect mix of Chad VanGaalen and Hank Williams that is perfect for a long drive on a country road.

I knew nothing about this movie right up until a second ago when I google searched for the album's cover art. Apparently it's a movie about vampires. It looks awesome. If it's anything as good as this soundtrack, I'll probably love it.

YVETTE takes all the right pieces from Liars' Drum's Not Dead and HEALTH's self-titled to make the most fun noise rock I've ever heard.

This might have some of the best "album flow" I've ever heard from a rap album. I first listened to this album in London, and it made me feel like a real American Gangster

Look who's back! It's Twin Sister! But with a new name! A name I like a lot better! When I was surprised to find out Twin Sister was back, I queued up the album and whispered to myself "pleasedontsuckpleasedontsuck". In Heaven was just too damn good in my opinion, and I always figured there would be no way they could follow that up. I was thankfully proven wrong with this album. Their sound has changed, but their song writing is still top notch. A few slight missteps with The Knife knock offs, but the pros far outweigh the cons. Beyond excited to hear what they have in store.

A truly heartfelt and uplifting record in the Metal subgenre labeled as "Doom". The feels are palpable on this one.

11. Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers

This album is here almost solely on the strength of the song "Violence". The whole album is an excellent mix of ambient and head-bobbing dance music, but when "Violence" comes on...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ode to Death Grips

I was away on vacation when the news broke that Death Grips had broken up. While I am not terribly saddened nor surprised by this move, it has given me a reason to reflect on Death Grips' short history. Come along, won't you?

My first introduction to the band was through the following video:

My thoughts while viewing this video were, in order:

1) This is a joke.
2) Oh my god, someone provided this insane homeless man the means to make music, and this is the result.
3) The world is a scarier place than I thought.
4) What.

Afterward, I kept hearing hype for their forthcoming album, actually being released through a record label. I couldn't believe this band wasn't a joke, and checked out their promotional video for their lead single:

The song, while disarming, was catchy in a strange way. It still wasn't my bag... but I figured I'd check out the album anyways. A man screamed on top of mechanical noise for 40 minutes. I did not get it, but I was hypnotized. I couldn't stop listening. Over repeated listens, the noise revealed complex beats, interesting samples, and MC Ride's screams showed themselves to be the catchiest hooks I'd heard on an album in quite some time.

Since then, I was hopelessly hooked. The band has become more spectacle than band over their short history, but the quality of music was never forsaken. Somehow each album was completely different from the last, and yet distinctly Death Grips.

For a band who specialized in giving the middle finger to everyone and everything, including their fans, they still came off as strangely lovable. Here are some of my favorite moments:

Greatest countdown in music history: "Triple 6, five, forked tongue"

At 0:13 in this song, they sample Serena Williams' barbaric scream as she wails on a tennis ball:

"Bitch please, you must be smokin ROCKS"

While the cover for NO LOVE DEEP WEB was both awesome and uncomfortable, it provided an opportunity for me to replace it with this:

"I got the nasty in my taxi, you need a lift? You can sit between the backseat and my dick"

The video and song title for "you might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it's your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat"

They released niggas on the moon out of nowhere, stating that Bjork was featured on each track. While they heavily sample Bjork's voice on this album, I would be surprised if she knew anything about it before release.

"Have a sad cum bb"

And last, but certainly not least, this picture:


Pre-blog, I was known to say that Flying Lotus' Cosmogramma was "the internet in music form". Having experienced the chaotic and brief run that was Death Grips, I can confidently say no band has ever encapsulated the internet more perfectly. They were a band that represented the times they were a part of more accurately than perhaps any other band before them. That may mean they sound incredibly dated in 10 years, but we can always hope that they will force themselves back into the world's consciousness with a free album released at midnight featuring nothing but zoo animals or some shit.

Stay noided.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kyle's listening to Metal again

Hello everybody.

It's been a while. I hear you're doing well. I'm doing great. I started working out. I got a new pair of shoes.

I miss you.

The reason for my absence is simple: I started listening to Metal again. It's not I'm avoiding the blog because that I have nothing to say on the matter, it's because I'm pulling what I like to call, "a Kyle".

Every once in a while, I start listening to a music genre for a largely unknown reason and I CAN'T STOP for weeks, even months on end. Last fall, it was Jazz. I was churning through Jazz albums at a blistering pace, and I couldn't with confidence tell you the names of all the albums I listened to. Then came Classical. Then Noise Rock...

About a month (or two?) ago, I heard Behemoth's The Satanist, and I heard something I really, really liked. It wasn't perfect, but there was something in that music that really appealed to me. Thus, I began a quest to explore metal and all its sub-genres. What did I like? What did I dislike?

The problem with this approach of trial-and-error is not only the numerous unknown bands within Metal, but also the numerous sub-genres of Metal. I listened to Heavy Metal, Traditional Doom Metal, Doom Metal, Funeral Doom Metal, Death Metal, Death/Doom Metal, Technical Death Metal, Drone Metal, Black Metal, Atmospheric Black Metal, Folk Metal, Thrash Metal, Sludge Metal... each genre might have gotten up to an entire week of churning through albums one after the other.

My brain could barely keep up. And the strangest part was: I didn't even like most of the stuff I was hearing. But on I went, ever searching for that perfect sound I knew had to be out there.

So here we are, months later, and I believe I have found the albums I was looking for.

Alraune's debut is a noisy, chaotic, blistering Black Metal album that is easy to listen to with it's constantly changing, but ever-catchy guitar riffs. The album never falls into the monotony of many other albums in its category, and it is as fun as it is harrowing. There are fist-pumping moments right alongside the meditative, it is simultaneously soft and abrasive. This album has been on repeat ever since I first heard it, which leads me to believe my album-to-album curse has been lifted. Thank you, Alraune.

Kriegsmaschine - Enemy of Man

A day after I first heard The Process of Self-Immolation, I heard Enemy of Man. This album reminds me of Altar of Plague's excellent Teethed Glory & Injury from last year, an album for whom my adoration steadily grows. Kriegsmaschine's brand of Black Metal is relentless and downright scary. The guitar melodies, while easy to pick out among the chaos, are not as hummable as those off of The Process of Self Immolation or The Satanist, providing the listener a very interesting experience. I find in many Metal albums the guitar is buried beneath so much fuzz, and even when you can decipher what's going on, there's nothing interesting there to hold on to. Kriegsmaschine takes care of both problems on Enemy of Man. A really rewarding listen.

I've been meaning to get into Earth for quite some time now. After giving Earth 2 a proper listen (great album, by the way), I decided to check out their highly lauded Bees... This album is not what I was expecting at all from the godfathers of Drone Metal. It is a southwestern take on post-rock that is relaxing and truly engaging. Listening to most post-rock, I slip into boredom pretty easily. Earth, on the other hand, play some of the slowest jams I've heard, but there are so many surprises it is hard to drift off. And those chords! There are some of the most powerful chords I have ever heard on this thing. I would highly recommend everyone check out the albums I've posted on here. But even if you hate Metal, at least check out this one by Earth. It's excellent.

So, only time will tell if I am truly finished with my Metal binge. Perhaps I can get back to listening to albums I like instead? 

Although... there are some Jazz albums I've been meaning to check out...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Swans - To Be Kind

I'm not ready.

I've been listening to this album nearly non-stop since its arrival, and I still don't feel like I know it well enough to do a decent review. I remember pre-To Be Kind Kyle. He thought to himself "I'm such a Swans fan. I've listened to everything they put out numerous times and their new album is going to be so immediate since I'm such an elite fan".


The first listen of To Be Kind was nearly as confusing as my first introduction to Swans with 2012's The Seer. It was overwhelmingly simple and overwhelmingly complex all at the same time, and it is 2 hours long. Absorbing a two-hour album is difficult. I listened while working, while driving, while working out, while cooking. I have only had one opportunity to sit down, do nothing else, and focus on the album... and I only lasted an hour and a half before I got busy with something else.

However, I have slowly absorbed this album over the course of two weeks and I have some first impressions I would like to share.

First, Michael Gira sounds strange on this album. At times, he is wailing "I'm just a little boy", followed by humiliating laughter, at others, he sounds like he is actually in a good mood. Considering he's endured 30 years of no one listening to his music, and then suddenly being the band leader of the country's most popular experimental rock band and finally being able to support himself adequately through his music, I'm sure he is in a better mood than usual. It is still kind of strange hearing the playful lilt of "A Little God in My Hands" and the funk of "Oxygen" when frustration, pain, and power have been the band's M.O. for the past three decades.

Second, this album is all over the place. It features songs like "Kirsten Supine", which may have been taken directly off of Soundtracks for the Blind, "Bring the Sun", which may as well be a continuation of "The Seer" off of the album of the same name, and then there's "Just a Little Boy (For Chester Burnett)". This song is the most off-putting song on the record, sounding unlike any other Swans song in their massive discography. It sounds like a slowly plodding western/blues track featuring a slide guitar from hell that would fit in perfectly in a David Lynch movie. The entire track is really creepy and uncomfortable, and until you've gotten used to the song's strange atmosphere, it's difficult to hear the song for what it really is. And what it really is is an excellent track, by the way.

Third, I've learned that I'm not a big krautrock fan. As in much of krautrock, To Be Kind features many songs where a certain groove is repeated endlessly. If you've got one chord slammed over and over for 30 minutes, or pure noise screaming out of my speakers for 15 minutes, I will call your album a masterpiece. Playing an easily danceable, funky bass riff for 8 minutes however, turns my brain off and I get bored too easily. Many people are shouting this album's praises for taking what The Seer did and improving on it with riffs that hold your attention for the duration of the song, but I much prefer songs like "Bring the Sun", where one chord is played repeatedly until you emerge on the other side into a blissful atmosphere with ambient eastern vibes. Thankfully, this album has plenty of both, and I am slowly getting into the groovier tracks.

Finally, I would just like to talk about "Kirsten Supine". This track is astonishing. It has a dreamy, ethereal feel to it, and Gira's baritone is balanced by a woman's whispery voice and bright xylophone. Hypnotic slide guitar pokes it head out in the background and as the track gains momentum with Gira singing "I will let it go, I won't let it go, I can't let it go", the song is punctuated with a driving heart beat propelling the listener forward, and for 4 minutes, we are left waiting for what is coming next. The track slowly builds and shifts from anticipation to anxiety until it ends abruptly; only echoes remaining of the cacophony the listener was subjected to. This track is a powerful illustration of being faced with death, simultaneously terrified and fearless, looking it dead in the eye, and giving it the finger. It is so good.

Shit, I wrote a lot. If you're still here, you owe it to yourself to check this album out. Even if you are familiar with Swans, it is unlike any other album you've ever heard. I wish I could do the album justice in a review, but it's only been two weeks, and I'm certain I won't fully understand everything going on in this thing for a little while longer. That is the beauty of this record. It is massive, dense, unique, and complex.

It is Swans.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

YVETTE - Process

This album is excellent. However, I'm afraid I won't do this album justice in this post due to the fact that I've been obsessively listening to Ava Luna since I first heard it, but I wanted to be sure I gave YVETTE their own post before my life becomes consumed by the new Swans record next week (NEXT WEEK!).

YVETTE are a noise rock band that sound like if HEALTH teamed up with Liars to re-create Drum's Not Dead. Their songs are heavily drum-focused, overlaid with monotone vocals and psychedelic noise throughout. It's at times grating, others groovy, but always kicks your teeth in with its sheer power.

The first track is an excellent example of this. It starts as a pretty simple, yet ominous, drum beat and vocal line, but at the midpoint a mutated guitar solo begins and continues throughout the rest of the track. It is a great opening statement for an album that is unrelenting and still highly enjoyable throughout.

Pump your fists, bang your head, do both against a wall. Listen to Process by YVETTE.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Ava Luna - Electric Balloon

Three years ago, a band called Twin Sister released In Heaven, an album whose minimalist approach to texture as a primary component won me over in a big way. It was fun, addictive, and perfectly orchestrated. The band emphasized the elements that should have been front-and-center and reduced all of the clutter that is typical of many pop albums.

Last year, I got into Talking Heads like someone hearing guitar-driven music for the first time. Their punk jubilance is unmet by any other band I've heard.

This year has been pretty lame overall. A few good albums here and there, but nothing that stayed on repeat for days on end.

These three elements have created the perfect storm that is my infatuation with Electric Balloon by Ava Luna. This album is whimsical, minimal, textured, and balanced by an awesome "couldn't care less" attitude.

It opens up with a Talking Heads-esque guitar riff, backup vocalists reminiscent of Dirty Projectors, and a saxophone solo straight out of a James Chance and the Contortions song that absolutely slays. And that's all in the first track. Every track is an amalgam of influences, but it never feels cluttered. Ava Luna are masters of balance, and err on the side of minimalism. Their approach is very similar to that of Twin Sister, where the best textures of a song are only played once or twice and then it's on to the next awesome detail. The listener is always left wanting more, but always presented with more things to love about what they're hearing.

In addition to their instrumentation, the male and female singers are also excellent. They are whooping and hollering one moment and beautifully harmonizing the next. The album is rocking along, everyone's having a great time, and then the song "PRPL" begins. The female singer on this track is jaw-dropping. Her voice is silky, the guitars are merely echoes of themselves, and then the backup vocals come in, and suddenly Electric Balloon is your new favorite album.

Definitely check this album out if you like Talking Heads, Dirty Projectors, or great music in general.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March catch-up

Man, my music habits have been all over the place recently. A lot of great music has come out, and it's been hard for me to keep up with everything else that I've been listening to. So, here's my catch-all post about everything I should have dedicated more time to:

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Piñata

Madlib is more often than not the best producer going right now. In between releases, I'll think "Wow, so-and-so is so good right now. He's the best." and then Madlib puts something out that smacks me back into reality. Madlib is awesome. And he's even better when he's paired up with someone like Gibbs, whose gangsta delivery is a lot of fun on top of these trippy, whimsical beats. This contrast worked well on OJ Simpson, and works to even greater effect here. This is an excellent album to usher in spring.

Thou - Heathen

Raise your hand if you think Thou isn't the greatest name you've ever heard for a Doom Metal band. 
To those raising your hand, how does it feel to be so wrong?
Thou's music is so heavy, it actually sounds like it has mass. It is impressively slow and oppressively heavy, and gives no fucks. This album is nihilistic and dark, just the way Doom Metal should be. And it's a beautiful record too. It's really great, check it out.

Solids - Blame Confusion

Solids brings us one of the best spring-is-here rock albums since Japandroids' Post Nothing. It's noisy, anthemic, and begs to be blasted from a car stereo with the windows down. If you wanna relive those feelings of summer break fast-approaching, pop this one in your tape deck on your way to Taco Bell during your lunch period and be thankful band practice after school was cancelled. Or listen online while in your cubicle at work. Yung4eva.

Perfect Pussy - Say Yes to Love

And the award for worst band name goes to... Perfect Pussy. Just awful. The music's not bad, though. Louder and noisier than anything else I've heard this year, Perfect Pussy scream their way through 8 songs over 22 minutes. It is cacophonous, hectic, and surprisingly melodic. Beneath all the fuzz and static, that is. The band's energy is impressive, and the poor sound quality adds to the whole "punk aesthetic", I guess. Check it out if you've ever punched a wall.

Liars - Mess

This is a very good album. It sounds nothing and everything like a Liars album all at once, which is what we've come to expect from Liars.

I wish I could be more ecstatic about this record, but I've got a problem called "still obsessed with Drum's Not Dead" and I just can't get past it. I am totally in favor of artists who change their sound with every album, so in theory Liars should be one of my favorite bands. But I feel like there was a certain energy to They Were Wrong, So We Drowned and Drum's Not Dead that Liars have been unable to recapture. Which sounds ludicrous, because all four albums released since the two aforementioned albums have exhibited speaker-exploding energy. There's just something missing for me, which is a bummer.

To more specifically address their recent Mess, it falls to the same traps I think Merriweather Post Pavilion did: It immediately "clicks" and sounds like the album you've been waiting for. It fits so perfectly in your brain that you can't imagine a world without it. Until you listen to it enough times (three? four?) to realize the feelings you had are not getting stronger, and perhaps you've been listening to an album no more complex than a Katy Perry record. The pop sheen fades, and you are forced to do what you must do with all pop songs/albums... move on and search for the next immediate high.

Having said all of this, Liars kick a ton of ass and I respect them more than any other band whose new material doesn't do it for me. I highly recommend you check out this album; it's my favorite release of theirs since 2006. And after you've heard Mess, definitely be sure to check out everything else they've ever put out.

Liars remain one of the most interesting bands out there, I'm always excited to hear what's next!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wild Beasts - Present Tense

Here's the story.

A couple years ago, I learned how bad it was for you to use Q-tips in your ears. Which was a total bummer, because Q-tippin was basically my favorite past time. I heard that while wax may build up, it will eventually fall out. So, it was a little gross, but I reluctantly resigned to letting gravity to the dirty work.

Fast-forward to last Wednesday... I had a Q-tip relapse. I just had to get in there and relive the glory days. Well, I think I got a little too into it, because my ear became clogged with what I assumed was water and/or earwax. It was a little uncomfortable, and my hearing was a bit muffled, but after 30 minutes or so, my hearing cleared up and I went about my merry way. However, every morning afterward, I would wake up with the clogged ear. It would always clear, but it was kind of concerning. Sunday, however, I decided to go swimming. Game over. After I got out of the pool, I was clogged yet again, but this time it felt different. After a day, it began to hurt a little and I scheduled an appointment with a doctor for Tuesday afternoon.

While this was going on, I knew full well that one of my most anticipated albums of 2014 was to be released on the upcoming Tuesday. It totally sucked that I couldn't hear really well and my ear kinda hurt, but it was devastating to think about listening to Present Tense for the first time in my muffled state. Thankfully I had three new releases to keep me busy while I waited anxiously for my doctor's appointment.

It gets kinda gross from here, chaps. I go to the doctor, and three different nurses would look into my ears and be downright impressed with the amount of wax I had in there. Even the ear I could hear fully well from was apparently loaded. So, they cleared it out, and it was like I had cyborg ears implanted that enabled me to hear a butterfly flap its wings across the park. Apparently it had slowly built up to the point where I never noticed the decrease in hearing.

I go home and approached my headphones with a new reverence. I was going to listen to Present Tense, and it was going to blow... my... mind.

And it did, guys. This album has so many intricacies and details that are simply astounding. Every moment feels crafted, nothing feels accidental. I think every song has a juxtaposition between sustained tones and syncopated rhythms (I am not a music major and I may be using that term incorrectly). "Mecca" sees a unique drum pattern in competition with a piano riff, all sitting on top of floating synths and a choir of voices that sound like they are straight out of a boss level in a video game. "Sweet Spot" has sparkling guitars and ethereal "Oooohs" shifting between each audio channel, only to be interrupted by a stabbing synth riff that is so high in the mix that it actually made me gasp. In fact, this album has so many moments that caused my heart to leap into my throat that I feel bad spoiling this next surprise: the end of "Daughters" sounds exactly like the end of the world. It is harrowing, startling, and moved me in a way no music has in quite some time.

In true Wild Beasts' fashion, the final track is one of their best. But like every other song on here, it is too damn short! This album makes anything you play after it sound underwhelming, so get ready to play this one over and over again on into the spring, when the change of weather will likely bring along with it new emotions when listening.

I can't do an adequate job of explaining why this album is so astounding, I can only ask that you take 40:59 out of your life to sit and listen to this. Do nothing else, crank up the volume, and be thankful you can hear music of this caliber.

One thing is certain, I will never forget the first time I listened to Present Tense.

ScHoolboy Q - Oxymoron

When did ScHoolboy get so damn boring? This album is seriously hard to get through. The beats are mediocre and Q has lost any excitement and charisma he held on Habits & Contradictions. The final two songs are not bad, but it could be that I am just excited that the album is almost over.

Instead of detailing why I find this album is so boring, I am going to switch gears to a lesser-known TDE cohort, Isaiah Rashad.

I found out about Cilvia Demo while reading a negative review of Oxymoron, so I figured I would pass along the goodness to you dudes.

Isaiah is essentially what I wish Kendrick Lamar was, which as my friend Taylor pointed out, means "Kendrick without the skits". While his voice is fairly generic, Isaiah's flow is percussive and emotional, and his excitement shines through in every verse. The beats have a smooth-meets-hard west-coast flavor that will be perfect for cruising with the windows down once it stops raining.

Comparing the two TDE releases is really no contest, and Isaiah has taken from Q the spot of "hip-hop artist I am most excited about". Another key difference between Cilvia Demo and Oxymoron: 2 Chainz isn't on Cilvia Demo. So... there's that.

edit: I just finished writing my review, but "Brad Jordan" just came on and I realized nearly every song on here has "that moment" when the song goes from chill and cool to "OH FUCK LET'S GO". That is my favorite component in hip-hop, and this album is chock-full of moments where I forget I am a nerdy dude with glasses.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beck - Morning Phase

Sea Change, Part 2.

Sea Change holds a pretty special place in my heart. It was one of "those albums" you hear in High School that opens your eyes to a certain aspect of music, and every time you hear it nostalgia takes over.

When I heard Beck was releasing another album in the same vein as Sea Change, I was extremely excited. I heard 30 seconds of one of these songs in anticipation of the album, and that was enough to send me over the top in anticipation.

However, I think my love for Sea Change is working against Morning Phase. I can't help but constantly compare these songs to the strong feelings I have toward the former, and I spend the entire album thinking of listening to the songs I grew up with. It's kind of a bummer, as I can tell the songs on Morning Phase are really great. There are banjos, mandolins, and plenty of reverbed "Oooohs" to make any sentimental music fan get lost in the album's warmth.

But it's not Sea Change.

If you haven't heard Sea Change, I'm sure you could flip a coin and listen to the album that comes up heads. That's the one you will fall in love with. I bet if I had heard Morning Phase years ago, it would have had just as great an impact on me.

But really, why are these albums so damn similar? It's kind of annoying when you think about it. It doesn't really seem like Beck put much thought into this one. He just figured "Sea Change was pretty cool. I'mma do that again". I mean, the album cover for Morning Phase might as well have been one of the alternate album covers for Sea Change. But even more than album art and acoustic guitars, the song "Morning" is the same damn song as "Golden Age". The same song. You can't improve on "Golden Age", Beck. It is the perfect song. Don't add falsetto and try to fool us. It is not working.

See for yourself below. In fact, listen to both and buy the album that holds the song you like more. (It'll be Sea Change, trust me).

St. Vincent - St. Vincent

St. Vincent released an album by St. Vincent. That sounds obvious, but considering the hype (and new hair color), I was hoping for something else. Having now gotten my negative jimmies out of my system, I can say this album is still pretty great.

One thing I am annoyingly famous for saying is "St. Vincent is better live than on record." The reason for this is this woman can fucking shred on the guitar and her soft-at-times, always-desperate voice couples really well with her guitar tone. On record, her guitar typically loses some edge, and her voice is often multi-tracked, giving it an unwelcome sheen and watering down her rawness. On St. Vincent, there are moments where the sheen rubs away and we are left with glimpses of what could be, and still others where the glossy production really works well for the song. On "Digital Witness", there is a studio feel to the song that adds to the chaotic feel and funk of the song. On "Rattlesnake", however, the plastic vocals and the filtered guitars don't enhance the song in the same way.

My favorite song on the album is easily "Price Johnny". Annie's voice sounds live and vibrant, and the guitar has a bluesy groove that I wish she would implement more often. "Digital Witness" is a close second, and features a chorus that will be hard to get out of my head in the coming days.

The video for "Digital Witness" is also excellent. Check it out below.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness

The drought is over! And to think I almost never listened to this album. My buddy Chris suggested I check it out, and I am glad he did. I admit I didn't listen to the album once I saw buzz on the internet for two reasons:

1) It seemed to me to be another cute girl singing not-too-catchy pop songs on acoustic guitar. Which is exactly the kind of music you expect from someone named "Angel Olsen".
2) For a fleeting second I thought she might be a sister of the Olsen twins, and the only reason she had a career in music was that novelty.

I did not do any research to confirm or deny these assumptions, I just decided not to check it out. Big mistake.

Within the first few seconds, my fears for the album seemed to be confirmed... barely strumming the guitar... breathless mumbly singing... but then you hit 0:40 and wham! That voice just floors me. And once the second track starts with a grittier-than-I-expected guitar riff and Angel's filtered vocals with 'tude, I am hooked. By the time she switches back into "cute girl on acoustic guitar" mode I hear it through a different filter--I know she has the charisma to back it up.

Burn Your Fire... reminds me of Chad VanGaalen's Diaper Island with a Western tinge to it. Her voice has a certain Hank Williams vibe to it that I really enjoy. And this is coming from a guy who wears western shirts pretty regularly... so...

Check it out, yall.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2014... it began?

It's Feb. 18th and I am still waiting for an album to be released that I give a damn about. It's really making me annoyed. Can anyone else confirm that this year has had nothing of value released yet? (And don't tell me Benji, that pile of shit.) Or am I becoming one of those old "music was better in my day" grumps? ("Pile of shit" comments aside.)

However, next week just might make up for the drought.

Next week will see releases from St. Vincent, Beck, ScHoolboy Q, and Wild Beasts! All on the same day! I've heard really good things about three of those albums, too.

So fear not, loyal blogotopia. Kyle will be back to sharing his unwanted opinions as early as next week.

Disclaimer: I wrote this before listening to Planningtorock's All Love's Legal. If it rules, I'll be back shorter than expected. (Don't worry, it won't.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

2014... it begins

Damn. That winter music drought felt longer than most years. I've been listening to a shit ton of Sun Ra to pass the time, and I am now 60% sure everyone is an alien.

Can you dig it?

This past Tuesday marked the first "music release day" of the year (that I cared about), so I was pretty excited to hear some new tunes! Let's go down the list.

East India Youth - Total Strife Forever

Alcest - Shelter

Warpaint - Warpaint

This joke

So it was kind of a letdown of a Tuesday, but have no fear! 2014 is quite promising if I do say so myself. We have confirmed releases forthcoming from:

Death From Above 1979
Death Grips
Fire! Orchestra
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Schoolboy Q
St. Vincent

Yes, Death From Above 1979 got back together. Yes, Schoolboy Q's album was supposed to come out last year. Yes, SWANS is releasing an album.

Also, I've added a few more artists to get excited about. I've either heard a rumor on the internet or completely made these up, so don't ask me for sources.

The Avalanches
Azealia Banks
Flying Lotus
Joanna Newsom

It's going to be a good year, dudes.