Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top 20 Albums of 2015

As I walk to work, coffee in hand, I am not thinking of what I need to get accomplished that day. I am not thinking about my plans for after work. Nor am I thinking about what I will have for lunch (that one's easy. Peanut butter and honey... errday).

I am thinking, "Which Beach House album was better this year? Is False's maelstrom of Black Metal better than the jazz bass stylings of Thundercat? Did Death Grips release an album this year?"

The answer to all of these questions are answered below.

Honorable Mention:

I considered expanding my top 20 to a top 25 to include these albums, but you gotta have rules, man! Otherwise what separates us from the animals?! Stop thinking crazy, Kyle!

Regardless, these albums are great and deserve some recognition.

Viet Cong - Viet Cong: Almost convinces me that Women are still a band.

Björk - Vulnicura: I wouldn't be surprised if this album grows on me more over the years. An album about divorce by Björk is perhaps too much for me to take. One thing is for certain, "Stonemilker" might be the greatest song Björk has ever written.

Disasterpeace - It Follows: This soundtrack is one of the greatest soundtracks I've ever heard. It stands really well on its own without the movie, too. I listened to this thing for months before (finally) seeing the (excellent) movie.

Horrendous - Anareta: Another album that I think will grow on me in time, this is death metal with a ton of catchy riffs and fun moments.

D'Angelo and the Vanguard - Black Messiah: I considered putting this album at #9 on my year end list, but it technically came out in 2014, so I couldn't bring myself to do it. This album sounds like it's from another decade, but feels so now. It's one of the freshest albums I heard all year.

Here we gooooo

20. Melechesh - Enki

Not only do Melechesh bring an awesome Middle Eastern sound to their brand of black metal, but their songs are incredibly catchy, fist-pumping anthems. There is no doubt in my mind that this album would be higher in my list if the album art weren't off-center. IT DRIVES ME CRAZY.

19. Krallice - Ygg Huur

You want impenetrable black metal that will make even die hard black metal fans scratch their heads? I present to you Krallice's most recent offering. As chaotic and random this album seems, I found myself anticipating certain passages as if they were the next logical progression of sounds from what came before. This band is operating on another level, producing music equally challenging and headbanging. 

If you had told me that Mgła was going to release an album this year, and that it would only reach my #18 spot, I wouldn't have believed you. Perhaps it speaks to the strength of the rest of the albums on this list that the almighty Mgła has fallen so low? Or maybe the the superb I, II, V, and VI couldn't make up for the weakness of tracks III and IV? Regardless, Mgła's worst album is better than most music, so don't let my lackluster review hold you back.

17. Death Grips - Jenny Death

Yes, I am counting this as a separate album from niggas on the moon. You can call The Powers That B a double album all you want, but I think releasing the two discs 6 months apart with completely different sounds warrants its own spot on my list. This album is almost a return to their rock-sampling roots on Ex-Military. It's got one of their best songs in "On GP", but my favorite is hand down "Pss Pss". This song is absolutely bonkers. "Pss Pss Pss" is probably their most genius hook since "it goes it goes it goes it goes YUH".

16. Beach House - Depression Cherry

If you're into buying vinyl, BUY THIS RECORD. The record sleeve is covered in velvet. VELVET dammit. I am baffled that this is the first time Beach House has encased their musical magic in such a seductive fabric. Just holding this record is the perfect accompaniment for the lush sounds held within. The lead-off single for the album, "Sparks", is simultaneously the most exciting and most disappointing thing Beach House have ever released. Its noisy guitars and repetitive, almost tinny vocal samples create an atmosphere that is so unique and so "Beach House" at the same time. But it's the only song on this album, and their entire discography, that sounds even remotely like this. The song pokes fun at us, as if to say, "We could go full on Cocteau Twins if we wanted to. But we don't want to. #sorrynotsorry." Please Beach House. Please release a Cocteau Twins album. 

Pale Chalice really have a way of writing simple black metal songs with such emotional gravitas. This album is one song after another of songs with an extra "something" that I find difficult to place my finger on. The vocalist is pretty great too. However, perhaps the best part about this album is this picture inside the record sleeve:
So metal.

 14. Tame Impala - Currents

I just started listening to this album in earnest this week. I knew I needed to give it a fair listen and I knew it was going to be great, but other things always got in the way. Well, there is a definite benefit for an album to be heard the week I am finalizing my list. This thing is rocking my world right now. It climbs higher in my list nearly every time I hear it. As good as this album is, nothing comes close to the pop masterpiece of "The Less I Know the Better". This song is unfuckwithable. The bass line is incredible, the synths are so perfectly textured, and the part where he breaks it down and sings "Oh my love..." is just so heart-wrenchingly incredible. The music video also takes the spot of my favorite of the year (linked above). It took 3 albums, but Tame Impala finally won me over.

It's hard for me to begin talking about this album. Do I focus on the technical abilities of Stephen Bruner? Because he absolutely crushes it on this album. Or maybe I can point out that the songwriting on this album is miles above any of Thundercat's previous output. It might be best to focus on the emotional impact his music had on me when I saw him live. Every song he played was at least twice the length on record due to lengthy solos. But his solos were so full of emotion and character that it colored his music with a new life that I hadn't originally noticed on this album. I don't have any special connection or association with Austin Peralta, but Stephen's tribute to him during that show was incredibly moving. Instead of gushing, I think I'll just say "This album is too short" and leave it at that. 

12. Beach House - Thank Your Lucky Stars

I fulfilled a life goal and saw Beach House live this year. It was awesome; they are somehow able to perfectly translate their sound to a live setting. It was perhaps the warmest sounding concert I've ever been to. One thing that did not happen was they did not play any songs from their then-as-yet-to-be-released Thank Your Lucky Stars. I can only imagine how hard their heads would have banged when playing "One Thing" or "Elegy to the Void". This album cements Beach House as a band completely on top of their game. I mean, for christ's sake, they essentially titled this album "You're Welcome". They are too fucking cool.

11. False - Untitled

While we're speaking about incredible live performances, False made me experience something I have never felt before at a concert. There I was, listening to one of my favorite bands-of-the-moment, sweating my ass off in the putrid, stagnant air in Black Barbie. It was July in Houston, and the venue has no A/C or ventilation of any kind. As the first song barrels through its nearly 15 minute duration I begin to enter an almost trance-like state. There are only 15 people in the crowd, but it feels like it is just me standing in the middle of the room, mere feet way from the snarling lead singer. She looks directly at me, and it felt like she was looking into me. I don't know how long this lasts, but I swear to you I did not feel like I was me. I felt like I was the concert. Before I knew it, the concert was over. I don't know how many songs they played, or for how long. My best guess is two 15-minute songs, but I can't be certain. It sounds pretty stupid, I realize, and I've never really done any drugs, but if I had to guess, I would say that I was experiencing ego-loss. I bring this up mostly because False's lyrics at times focus on the destruction of self; not in a suicidal way, but in a humbling, "you are a human, and no more special than those you share this world with" sort of way. The concert was a truly eye-opening experience that made me feel less like myself and more like a part of the music I was listening to. It's something I will never forget.

It also could have been heat stroke.

10. FKA Twigs - M3LL155X

Twigs garners more and more respect every time she releases music. With EP2, I proclaimed that Twigs' vocals fit nicely within Arca's music, but that Arca completely stole the show. Since then, Twigs keeps getting better and better and Arca worse and worse. Twigs shall not be fucked with, son. As if there was any doubt, she released a 16-minute music video featuring insane visuals and hands down the greatest dance routine I've seen since JT's "My Love". This short album frames the excellent centerpiece "In Time" perfectly, and gets me so excited for what's next in her already impressive career.

9. Elder - Lore

I want you to take a moment and ask yourself the following question: "Do I like metal?" If the answer is yes, listen to this album immediately. If the answer is no, I want you to ask yourself a follow-up question: "Why not?" If you are of the opinion that metal is an unartistic onslaught of harsh noise, or immature in its lyrics about gore, death, and satan, or maybe you just can't get past screaming vocals, please take a moment and listen to Elder so each of your opinions about metal can be invalidated. This album is psychedelic, heavy, fun, and beautiful. Lore is the new gateway drug into a genre so full of satisfying diversity that its a shame more people don't venture into its murky waters. Give in to the metal. It is calling to you.

8. Deafheaven - New Bermuda

Speaking of gateway drugs into metal, Deafheaven proved that they are (or should be) the biggest metal band going right now. Memes aside, Sunbather was a statement album, bringing Deafheaven to the forefront of hipsters' minds and bringing new fans into a genre that intimidated many. With that level of exposure comes pressure to reproduce the same magic on the follow up, and I believe Deafheaven have shattered my admittedly low expectations. New Bermuda exhibits a nice progression from Sunbather, with faster riffs and throaty vocals that set a different tone for this record. I had the pleasure of seeing this band perform every song on this album live, and while the only person on stage who was killing it was Clarke, the audience was enraptured. Deafheaven may not make the most technically proficient metal, but the effect they have on their listeners is undeniable. Emotions ran all over the place, spilling from one person to the next. That same exuberant energy can also be felt when you listen to the song above alone in your room. It's a truly special quality that not many bands are able to possess.

7. Sulphur Aeon - Gateway to the Antisphere

Motherfuckin C'thulu. A giant squid-dragon-god that sleeps deep below the ocean floor waiting for the right time to rise up to destroy the world and send its inhabitants into madness. Arguably the most heavy metal thing aside from this dog:
C'thulu is the primary focus of Sulphur Aeon's music. There is a heavy foreboding atmosphere from the very outset of this album, as a voice whispers incantations from another dimension, calling for The Great Old One to rise. Gimmicks aside (and what metal band doesn't have gimmicks?) the song writing and riffage on this album is insane. It is an onslaught of heavy. The guitar tones are so perfect for the subject matter: epic, dark, and massive. I like to imagine this band standing on a grey cliff, blasting their hymnals toward a crashing black ocean. If you listen to the song above and your head stands still, then what the hell is wrong with your neck?

6. Ava Luna - Infinite House

When I reviewed Ava Luna's Electric Balloon, I compared them to Talking Heads' sardonic punk energy. The band sounds like they don't give a fuck, but their song writing truly suggests otherwise. Seeing Ava Luna perform live just solidified everything I thought about this band. They showed such an electric irreverence that I found incredibly endearing. They play all of the wrong notes at the right time, and all the right ones to get you moving. Just listen to the contrast between the funky bass line and the stuttering plucked guitars in the song above. And those backing vocals at 0:56 ooze an infectious confidence. One moment I loved during their concert was when Carlos said "this is the first tour where each of us think that we might be a good band." I hope that added confidence carries over into their next release. This band continues to excite.

5. Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat

As this album opens with a deep breath followed by a deep, inhuman sounding voice, you know you are in for quite a show. After the foreboding intro, the album explodes into the blistering pace that Napalm Death fans expect. And it is unrelenting. As brutal as this album is, the songs are catchy, and the tracklisting is punctuated with excellent changes of pace where Napalm Death include clearer vocals in perfect spots to prevent listener fatigue. Easily my favorite Napalm Death album, I really hope this signifies the direction the band will be taking in the future. That last statement is not typically one associated with a band 30 years into their career, which is definitely part of the charm to this album. That a band can still be crushing it this late into their career is beyond respectable. 

4. Oneohtrix Point Never - Garden of Delete

Daniel Lopatin never, ever, ceases to surprise. Last year I said that R Plus Seven sounded like an art gallery, walking through examining each work, trying to figure each one out. This album is more immediate, sounding like pop tunes from another dimension. The sounds on here are instantly familiar, but warped in such a way that is at times jarring, and others comfortable. The vocals are an excellent touch that I really enjoyed. Just as with other 0pn releases, this album leaves me thinking about it when I am not listening to it. There is no hope of singing along with these tracks, but the vocal melodies get stuck in my head regardless. I can't comprehend how a musician is able to so consistently produce excellent, exciting, and thought provoking work. Lopatin is truly the greatest musician going right now.

3. Carly Rae Jepsen - Emotion

Not just good, damn good. Carly Rae Jepsen has emerged as the best pop act of the moment, and if my projected trajectory for her is correct, we are witnessing the rise of the next Robyn. Jepsen rose to insane levels of fame with her song "Call Me Maybe", but Emotion exhibits a focus that is not typically seen on mainstream pop albums. It (criminally) did not do well on the charts, but much like Robyn, Jepsen has found a niche audience that will hopefully inspire her to continue to make music she wants to make, all with the pop sensibilities that made her a smash hit in 2012. The dancier songs on here put Daft Punk to shame, and the ballads are heartfelt and portray Carly as the girl-next-door who just wants a nice boyfriend. The feelings she conveys in each of these songs are universal, and the music behind her lyrics match the subject matter perfectly. It's not overly sweet, but it definitely has the cute charm that you expect from a pop singer who sings the word "really" 6 times in the album's leadoff single "I Really Like You". In fact, I'd say that that song perfectly encapsulates Carly's aesthetic. If the hook "I really really really really really really like you" does not resonate with you on some level, have you totally forgotten what teenage love is like? Do you not want to feel that way again? 30 year old Carly takes us all back to that innocent crystallization of what love can be. Give in and listen to the most underrated album of the year.

2. Joanna Newsom - Divers

Divers is Joanna's crowning achievement. It takes the orchestration from Ys combined with the concentrated song structures from Have One on Me to produce one of the most ambitious albums of the past 5 years. The instrumentation is so dense, but not overdone. Playful at times, orchestral the next. "Waltz of the 101st Lightborne" is perhaps the best example of this. Piano gives way to violin, which fades seamlessly into piccolo, transforming perfectly into country western guitar. A choir of Joannas sing over piano in the distance, and an accordion/violin duet responds in kind. This is all over the course of the final minute in the song. It's a compositional masterpiece. The sounds on this album are also so varied. The honky-tonk swing on "Goose Eggs" adds an incredible dimension to this album. "Things I Say" transforms from a simple piano folk ballad into a psychedelic atmosphere with backward vocals. This song leads into the greatest song Joanna has ever penned in "Divers". This song's lyrics not only resonate with me on a personal level, the chord changes are incredibly powerful. There is a longing to this song indicative of the song's themes, and a palpable sadness mixed with a twinge of hope. It is impossible explain how incredible these chords work together, you really must listen above. Joanna closes the album with "A Pin-Light Bent" and "Time, As a Symptom", two songs that so poetically put on record Joanna's philosophy of death, and therefore life. They are, in my opinion, words to live by. Stand brave, life liver. 

1. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

I think I should get this out of the way early: To Pimp a Butterfly is the greatest album of the year. I am not stating my opinion. I am openly declaring that anyone who says otherwise is attempting to go against the grain and be different.  But deep in their hearts, they know it to be true. To Pimp a Butterfly is the greatest album of the year by a long shot. I will personally go so far as to say Kendrick has produced the greatest hip hop album of all time. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I always maintained that Kendrick was the most talented rapper going since 2011, but Section.80 and good kid M.A.A.D. city were just "okay." With the opening notes of To Pimp a Butterfly, everything I knew about Lamar went out the window. This album commands attention. It begins with a song that is funky, soulful, and exudes the feeling that you are about to hear an album by a guy who knows he is making the greatest album of the year. There is no question in Kendrick's mind or mine. This album is different.

After the tone is set, it goes into "For Free?" an interlude that is so much more than an "interlude." It exhibits exuberant jazz saxophone and off-kilter beat that is perfectly rapped on top of by Kendrick. How this man can rap so elegantly and with such fervor over such a crazy beat is astounding. After hearing this song for the first time, I was sold. This album is so unique, so soulful, so fucking perfect.

"King Kunta" continues the funk and takes it to a new level. It even proclaims "By the sound of the next pop, the funk shall be within you." And if it's not within you when the beat comes back, you are simply not listening. 

I don't know if I should go track by track and break down just why this album is so great. But every time I listen to the album, I think "no, this is my favorite song," for every damn song on here. 

There are many snippets of mini-songs or interludes that are as good or better than the songs they precede. Take for example the first minute of "Institutionalized". I challenge you to find a moment on any other album released this year that is more satisfying than singing "If I was the president, I'd pay my momma's rent" and launching into the excellent beat that persists throughout the remainder of the song. Similarly, the first 30 seconds of "Hood Politics" are incredible enough to form the basis of its own song, but work so well as an interlude before the heavier beat on the rest of the song. And as long as we're talking about beats, the beat on "Momma" is so warm, and the vocal samples complement the song incredibly well. 

To single out one song off this album is impossible, but thankfully Kendrick did that for me when he released "Alright" as a single. This song is an anthem for right now. It shows unwavering optimism in the face of a world that tries to break you down, repeating "We gon be alright" throughout. Speaking of optimism, being in a crowd of fans singing the lyrics to the song "i" in unison was such an uplifting experience. Thousands of people singing "I love myself" was such a cool moment. 

I can obviously gush about this album at length, so I guess I'll just stop and tell you to listen to this album. Even if you have heard this album, take a moment and listen again. 

This blog is obviously full of opinions. For christs sake, I have both Napalm Death and Carly Rae Jepsen on my top albums for the year. I think we all realize that these are just my opinions about what I was listening to this year. 

But Kendrick Lamar produced the album of the year. And that is a fact.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Beach House Smackdown

Beach House are dominating right now. And I don't just mean in the way that every time they release an album, it captivates me unlike any other band. And I'm not just referring to the fact that they released Depression Cherry with a velvet-covered sleeve (which honestly begs the question what took them so long).

And I am not just referring to the fact that they released Thank Your Lucky Stars a mere month after they released Depression Cherry.

I'm talking about "One Thing". This song shreds. Some of you may reading this thinking "Kyle is being funny. Beach House are a nice band who would never even consider shredding." Well, you are mistaken, my friend.

We shred.

Just listen for yourself. Once the guitar solo comes in at 4:40, check your head. Is it banging? I bet it's banging:

You bet your ass that was an F-bomb sprinkled in there. \m/

Now that I have opened your eyes to how much shredding is going on in that song, take a look back at their discography. They've been shredding right under your nose and you completely missed it!

Exhibit A. Guitars at 1:30:

Exhibit B. Guitars at 2:20:

I saw Beach House perform that one live earlier this month and everyone on stage was headbanging harder than a Doom Metal band.


While we are at it, check out the Hip-Hop vibes on "Gila":


Now that we are all on the same page of how badass this band is, let's focus on how they named their latest album Thank Your Lucky Stars. There's something very hardcore about a band giving us a surprise album and essentially titling it You're Welcome.

Alright, I am going to get back to listening to the screeching guitar solos in "Elegy to the Void". Rock on.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

FKA Twigs - M3LL155X

I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

M3LL155X, the new EP from FKA Twigs, has been out a full month, and I am just now deciding to give it a listen.

This is really interesting stuff from Twigs. She solicits help from producer Boots of Beyoncé fame, but this has Twigs' mark on every track. She has really picked up where Arca left off, becoming one of the most exciting producers going right now.

The production on this EP is so crazy, it's easy to get distracted from Twigs' vocals, but be sure you pay attention. Her performance is simultaneously powerful and delicate, and simply incredible.

The music is good, but the 16 minute video showcasing 4 of the songs is out of this world. I've always loved Twigs' music videos, but this is on another level. The portion for "In Time" starting at 6:28 includes some of the most badass dance scenes I've seen since Justin's "My Love" video. Don't be surprised if a video surfaces of me on YouTube re-enacting this video flawlessly.

That said, I need two backup dancers. Who's in?

Friday, August 28, 2015

All Aboard the Hype Train

The last part of 2015 is going to be simply nuts.

Last week, we got the incredible--I say again--incredible new album from Carly Rae Jepsen. If you haven't given this album a listen yet, do it. Especially if the only reason you haven't heard it yet is because it comes from the same pop darling who gave us "Call Me Maybe". Shed the chains that bind thee, brethren! There is a whole world waiting for you in the shiny landscapes of bubblegum pop! Listen to the song below and tell me that if it weren't for the subject matter, you would swear that Daft Punk was back to making ass shaking music again.

About a month ago, Krallice surprised everyone with a new album loaded onto bandcamp. Having heard Krallice briefly a couple years ago when they put out Years Past Matter, I figured I'd give it a listen. I hated Years Past Matter when I first heard it, and Ygg Hur was no different. However, like the first time I heard Oneohtrix Point Never, something kept drawing me back to this release. Having listened to the album a dozen times, I can confirm it is one of the weirdest albums I have ever heard, but I am completely hooked. Perhaps my love affair with Deathspell Omega earlier this year helped prepare me for this album. At least Deathspell gives you a tasty riff in between passages of utter chaos. Not Krallice. This thing is dense, spastic, and throat ripping for the entire duration. Here's the best introductory song I could come up with.

Speaking of Oneohtrix Point Never... HE'S RELEASING AN ALBUM IN NOVEMBER! I almost thought we were going to go an entire year without an OPN album. Thankfully sound master Daniel Lopatin will grace us with another sure-to-be-headfuck of an album before the year is out. Just listen to the clip below. If it's any indication of the album's sound, I don't think we are ready.

Also, my girl Joanna Newsom put out a music video teasing her album which is due in October. It sounds like she's continuing in the vein that she took on Have One On Me, which is a very good thing indeed. I absolutely love everything this woman puts on record, and owe her an incredible amount of gratitude for getting me through a particularly shitty time in my life. Love you JoNew.

Today while I was at work, I was thinking to myself "Gee, that Mgła sure is a swell band. I have all their music in my mp3 library, but heck, I might as well see if they're on bandcamp." And lo and behold... Not only do they have a new song up advertising their new album, but that album drops NEXT WEEK.

Now we will see how many times I can listen to "Exercises in Futility II" before the album's release on Friday. You can catch up by spamming the video below. In my excitement for this album to drop, I rushed home and purchased every LP, EP, and compilation in their discography. I've never bit the bullet before because you can only find their stuff in Europe so the shipping is astronomical. Leave it to the hype train to convince me that I could save on shipping if I just got it over with and purchased their entire discography. Makes sense to me shut up.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My New Most-anticipated Release of 2015

2015 has been a solid year, in many parts thanks to the always excellent record label Gilead Media. They put out two of the best Black Metal albums I've heard in False's Untitled and Pale Chalice's Negate the Infinite and Miraculous. And don't forget the sort-of Gilead released The Departure of Consciousness from Fórn.

Outside Gilead, we got a return from one of the most extreme bands in my library, Napalm Death, and possibly (definitely) the best hip hop album I've ever heard in Kendricks' To Pimp a Butterfly.

Well done, 2015.

But we still have a quarter of the year to go, and I am super stoked about a number of albums. Recently, one album has my interest so pitted piqued I can't wait.

No, not Beach House.

Not even Joanna Newsom (although when this drops I will likely have a conniption)

Mutha. Fuckin. CARLY RAE JEPSEN.

I was not too familiar with Carly before yesterday. I mean, she had "Call Me Maybe", which has an excellent bridge that redeems the start-stop nature of the rest of the song, but that's really all I knew. There was definitely no reason for me to think that she'd ever see the light of day again. But her lead-off single "I Really Like You" caught my attention as it fell into that hyper-sweet synth-saturated pop that I am always drawn to, and yesterday I checked out the rest of her promotional singles from her upcoming album Emotion, and they are so good!

She's got this neo-retro 80's sound to these tracks that sound like she (or her producers) still have Random Access Memories on repeat in their hatchbacks. If Emotion is the result of such a shitty album, I think I can forgive Daft Punk.

Thank you Daft Punk.

Get some bubblegum and listen to the songs below. Emotion drops August 21.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chelsea Wolfe - Carrion Flowers

On a scale from 1 to 10, how sad are you?

If your answer was "Eeyore", well than I have some good news for you!

Chelsea Wolfe just released a new music video in promotion of her new album last night, and it has me very excited! From the sound of this one song, it may just be shaping up to be the goth follow up to The Downward Spiral we always wanted.

Hell yeah, Chelsea! Turning that sadness into bone-crushing noise. Here's hoping there will be more black and white videos to come. I am a real sucker for that shit.

For those of you unfamiliar with her work, check out two of my faves of hers below. Be careful with that second one.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Björk - Vulnicura

As seems to be the case with most of Björk's recent albums, Vulnicura has some good songs, some a bit too pretentious, and a couple that just absolutely crush. "Stonemilker" instantly jumped into my hypothetical top 10 Björk songs list the instant I heard it. All hail Björk. Love you B.

Fórn - The Departure of Consciousness

Leave it to Doom bands to come up with more and more creative ways to say "death". The Departure of Consciousness is so hard to stop listening to. The composition on this album is damn near flawless. When you feel like you are caving under the weight of these songs, you are relieved with an instantly catchy riff or a softer instrumental interlude. The album swells and recedes with a natural grace of a black ocean. The final track is titled "Cerebral Intermission", which is too damn fitting. This track serves as a moment for the listener to reflect before track one comes crawling back, inviting the listener back into it's murky depths.

Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat

Napalm Death is fucking intense. I realize I use the word "intense" a lot. But just listen to the clip below and try to pick a different word to describe them. 

Apex Predator - Easy Meat is an extremely unique record. The riffs are incredibly fast and at times incomprehensible, but the shining star for me are the vocals. They are absolutely terrifying. Not in an evil or creepy way like most metal, but more like an "I do believe that man might severely injure me" sort of way. When the vocalist isn't threatening to smash my face against the pavement, he is singing in a baritone-but-still-sort-of-yelling way that brings an excellent flavor to the album. 

Also, I just purchased tickets to see Napalm Death live this Saturday. Uh oh.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ludwig van Beethoven is the man.

Ludwig van Beethoven.

I have been meaning to write a blog post about my obsession with him and his music over the past year or so, but I always type a few sentences, realize it is too daunting of a task, and delete the entry.

That and the fact that everything I know about Beethoven is essentially pulled directly from various wikipedia pages. So, really, you could read that and be done with it.

But for those who don't read extensive wikipedia pages, I suppose I will do you a favor and tell you why Beethoven is one of the coolest motherfuckers in history.

First of all, he began playing piano at a very young age, and due to the recent hype surrounding Mozart, Ludwig's father decided to cash in on his son, advertising him as "the next Mozart". So, LVB was essentially the Beyonce of his time.

Ludwig traveled to Vienna(?) to seek out Mozart and learn from him. While there, he met Mozart and Mozart was impressed, but for one reason or another, Ludwig studied under Haydn instead.

Reading about how all these composers knew of each other in a time where recorded music didn't even exist is completely baffling to me. It also really made me think about how much I look forward to new music being released each Tuesday, and how there must have been some pianists who would anxiously await the new Beethoven Sonata to be published so they could take it home and hear it for the first time while they were playing it themselves.

Anyways, Beethoven has got to be one of the first real "punk rockers". He started out making the highly structured music in the Classical school and then one day was like "you know what, fuck it. I'm putting the Scherzo SECOND". This creativity, and belief that music was more than a display of technical prowess led to the creation of the Romantic school. Beethoven had something he wanted to say in his music, and it would be done his way, or he would yell at you for not understanding.

In fact, during the first movement of his 3rd symphony, there is a moment right before the Recapitulation where a lone french horn resumes the theme before the rest of the symphony joins in. It's a technique that we have heard in countless other pieces, but it was so new at the time that his assistant made a comment like "that idiot french horn came in too early". Beethoven, sure that someone would say something eventually, exploded. Calling the assistant "Swine! Cattle!"

Beethoven knew he was a fucking genius, and he knew that no one else could keep up. His famous 5th symphony has been described as "Fate knocking at the door", which is cool as shit. But those close to him report that he was actually walking through a park and heard a bird tweet a similar pattern. He heard this sweet bird and transformed the song into one of the most harrowing 8 notes in music history.

As he grew older, his hearing began to fade, his health began to decline, and his attitude toward others was erratic. Neighbors would report that he would sit at the piano for hours banging the same note over and over again with his head inside the piano, trying desperately to cling to his music and his livelihood.

By the time he composed the 9th symphony, he was nearly totally deaf. Stubborn as he was, he demanded that he conduct the opening performance of this symphony. The producer hired a second conductor to conduct alongside Beethoven to ensure the orchestra stay in time. At the end of the fourth movement, Beethoven was still waving furiously on the stand when the second conductor grabbed Ludwig and turned him to face the crowd in a standing ovation.

I've written a lot and I could go on about why I love this guy so much, but this is the moment that paints the ultimate picture of Beethoven in my mind. Passionate, furious, genius, and adored by those who hear his music.

When he died, a procession led his coffin down the streets of Bonn, Germany, the streets lined with the weeping populace. At his funeral, an orchestra played the second movement from his 3rd symphony. The most baller thing I've ever heard is composing your own funeral march.

Ludwig van Beethoven is the man.

Other fun facts:

He dedicated his 3rd symphony to Napoleon, a man who he idolized. When he heard that Napoleon had declared himself Emperor, Beethoven went into a rage, stating "So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of Man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!". He then stormed over to the title page of his symphony and ripped it in half. It was then retitled: "Heroic Symphony, Composed to celebrate the memory of a great man".

His name, van Beethoven, is preceded by the fairly common "van" in Dutch, where his parents were from. However, in Germany, "vonn" was a prefix used to indicate nobility. He was able to take advantage of others assuming he was of higher blood than he really was and open doors that would not have been available to him as a non-noble.

It is said that upon the invention of the CD, it was designed to hold 74 minutes of music so that it could contain the entirety of Beethoven's 9th on one CD without breaks.