Sunday, December 30, 2007

Record Review: Merry Pierce - The Warm Aquarium

If you're from America you've probably never heard of Merry Pierce. They are Dutch and last time I checked bands from The Netherlands aren't regularly featured on MTV or US radio. It's really too bad. The Dutch music scene is one of the most dynamic in the world with sounds for every musical taste.

For those of you who liked Grandaddy and wouldn't mind mixing a little Dinosaur Jr. (circa Green Mind) with a few more contemporary pop influences you will be very happy to give Merry Pierce a go.

In 2000 Merry Pierce had a hit debut - Beach Blanket Bingo - full of deep and penetrating pop. Seven years is a long time to wait for an album. The Warm Aquarium has some clever wordplay - especially in "Right 2B Wrong" (If you trick me once I'll trick you twice as good") - but just isn't as good as I know they can consistently be. My favorite three tracks are "Untitled," "Audrey's Dance," and "The Town Where We Used to Live."

"Untitled" begins with some faint film dialogue and a melodic guitar until the magic words "I guess you'll have to stay the night" are spoken. Then the song moves into its own and Merry Pierce fills the sonic landscape with some truly warm and unique sounds. Untitled is the purest "listening" song on the album.

"Audrey's Dance" has guest vocals by Anneke van Giersbergen (formerly of the Gathering, lately of Agua de Annique). This James Bond-y lounge act song drips seduction. If Quentin Tarantino was going to direct a music video this song would be perfect for his special talents. It absolutely reeks of cigarettes and dim lighting. Anneke's voice sounds pure and even after almost eight minutes (by far the longest song on the album) I found myself on more than one occasion hitting repeat. It's a beautiful track and the album is worth buying if only to be able to listen to it.

"The Town Where We Used to Live" starts with a Sophtware Slump homage keyboard loop that leads into a perfect guitar followup. Its the pop-iest song on the record and therefore the catchiest and most drivable. This (and the album on a whole) is a great sunny day driving song, hopefully with the top down.

However, there are ten tracks on the album (really eleven but I don't count the one minute "Interlude Overture") and other then the three mentioned above, none really stand out to my ear. Well, that's not true. I really like listening to "7 Weeks" (with its cool sounding Voltron vocals) and I like the first track, "The Media." Actually I like the premier track a lot, but its not a stand out radio worthy song, its an album song. To me, its job is to set the tone for the rest of the album. It does this job excellently, announcing "Here we are, rising stars. Welcome to the show. Hold on here we go." It's not a single though and I suppose a song that can stand on its own receives my highest rating.

All in all I think this album should be purchased in its entirety. It has what I consider some stand out tracks, but for those of us out there who like the particular sound they fit with, they won't be disappointed by the album, though the seven year wait was a little much.

Bottom Line: Another good Dutch artist that won't be popular in the States. Not necessarily a bad thing, but still.

The Warm Aquarium receives: 3.15


Note: The Libertine and I employ different rating schemata. I rate individual songs on an album on a scale of 0-5 and then take the average. Here is how I arrived at my rating:

1. The Media: 3
2. The Town Where We Used To Live: 4
3. Kenny Roger's Son: 2.5
4. Right 2B Wrong: 3
5. Easy Come, Easy Go: 2
6. Mount Saint Elsewhere: 3
7. Untitled: 4
8. 7 Weeks: 3
9. Californian Girls: 2
10. Interlude Overture*
11. Audrey's Dance: 5

Total: 31.5/10 = 3.15
(*did not count this track due to its short length)

I believe in the artist's right to album integrity (exemplified by Radiohead’s refusal to release their catalogue for purchase on a track by track basis).

However, not every band is created equal. Same goes for songs. As we all know, some albums have only 1 or 2 good songs. I want to be able to show my readers which tracks are the “stand outs” in case they don’t want to, or can’t afford to, purchase an entire album.

Every rating system is inherently subjective and a number, no matter how it is derived, can't definitively capture whether an album is good, bad, or in the middle. If you don’t agree with my review, I welcome your comments and am open to reconsider my initial views.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Such a phenomenal band

I don't think this band gets nearly as much credit as it should. They're probably the greatest american band ever (if you really think about it, its a short list). While the Beatles were writing shitty pop songs, the Velvet Underground were living in New York's East Village writing gritty tracks about drug addiction, poverty, and issues females have with their bodies. I've been listening to the Velvet Underground alot while running lately. Here are some of my favorite songs including the track Heroin which is probably the first punk song ever written.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Record Review--Soft "Gone Faded"


If South are the second coming of both New Order and Stone Roses, then Soft completes the revival by embodying the sound of the Madchester scene's Ride circa Nowhere era. Gone Faded is a twelve track collection featuring shoegazer guitars and a polite madchester rhythm section. The results are a dreamy pop adventure remniscent of some of the best Ride albums. The lead single features, Droppin, features a slow guitar buildup to a mean bassline culminating in a simple drumbeat while the lead singer's lyrics lament an ex-girlfriend that drops in and out of his life. Its a great track. The rest of the album contains heavenly guitars over danceable basslines and drumbeats. Its an album you'll constantly be tapping your foot to and is one of the year's best albums. Other standout tracks include Great Spirit, Gone Faded, Ten Times Strong, and You Make Me Wanna Die.

Lambasted by the indie rock community as being pretentious because the band formed early in 2004 in Brooklyn and holed themselves in storage unit honing their songs before they played any real gigs, I personally think the approach is both reasonable and sensible. Look past the backlash and find one of the albums of the year.



Its not music but it is interesting.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Record Review -- Dragons "Here Are The Roses"

Anthony Tombling Jnr.
David Francolini
- with -
Calvin Talbot - guitar
Will Crewdson - guitar
James Fage - bass
Adam Coombs - synthesizers

"Here Are The Roses" excited me from the first measured bass strums and synth hooks. I wanted to hear more of this album and looked forward to what would come next.

Dragons debut album is inspired - maybe by other post-rock electro-gothic synth sounds like Joy Division/NewOrder, Depeche Mode, and a bit of The Cure - but great artists have a tendency to inspire other artists - i.e., The Editors and Interpol. The fact that Dragons sonic lineage is readily apparent is not a black mark in my book. Pigmaei gigantum humeris impositi plusquam ipsi gigantes vident. We wouldn’t be where we are today without those that came before to guide the way. I like Dragons and their ilk – though Interpol’s latest is a mixed bag – and these boys from Bristol are a nice new edition.

Here Are The Roses is by far my favorite song on the album. Tombling begins the song, and the album, with deep and deliberate vocals, in perfect tonal mesh with the underlying bass. But it’s the John Lydon like assault he unleashes a minute into the song that really grabbed my attention. "We've got a contender," I thought.

Authoritatively, he declares:

Here we stand the dislocated
Flung so far from what we'd dream
Hammered down then resurrected
We bear the scars of what we've been.
Now the time of new beginning
Though the past will never end
But you will never catch me thinking
It can ever be the same.

I think that should silence the critics, though I don’t think the lyric was consciously leveled at them. In a switch from genre, the song is actually an affirmation, an uplifting one at that. The past is the past, we can’t change it, we won’t know what could have been but “we can try now” and make the future ours. It’s a shame the video is so piss poor since it could have been fucking brilliant if they had a budget to work with (which I suspect they didn’t) to visually explore the thematic depth of the song.

Unfortunately Dragons never recaptures the excitement and passion so fully expressed in the title song. The follow up track, Condition promises to be hard rocking but lacks the follow through to capitalize on the solid drum foundation. Treasure, (which does sound like a Depeche Mode retread) has some nice moody guitar interspersed throughout but the song lyrically lacks substance. Obedience, my least favorite track, hammers down repetitively the command, “you cannot resist, the future demands your obedience, your obedience” sounding more like a Dalek singing into a microphone than whatever social statement Tombling is trying to get across.

The good news is that Obediance is the low point of the album. The fitth track Trust is a catchy New Order infused track that stands well on its own and is my second favorite on the album. Like a New Order tune, this would make a really nice dance remix, which is a strength of the song, not a flaw. Listen to Ozzy would be dj’s, “If you're going to do a cover of a song that has a great melody, don’t change the melody, for crissakes.”

Epiphany (a solid musical exercise routine) leads up to what will undoubtedly be their breakthrough single. Lonely Tonight will make most think of Interpol. It is the most fungible track on the album and it’s so radio-worthy that other bands should kick themselves for not writing it first.

Rememberance is a tonally dark following track with some really nice guitars and silky vocal work. Where Is The Love tries to take us to the darkest part of Dragons medley of offerings and has my favorite single lyric of the album, “Crushed by your spite, I lived on my knees, I bit off my tongue, but I wanted to.” Though the constant, “Where is the love,” gets a bit tedious.

Forever is the non sequitur of the album. It sounds like they completely channeled The Cure circa “Wish.” When’s the last time you heard wind chimes and guitars together in one place? The strange thing is that the song is somehow visually stimulating – it conjures up a nice dreamy beach scene serenade. It would make a great ironic video – soft lighting, lots of blues and tans, and some tight leather pants a la hair metal. Maybe I just need to talk to my therapist . . .

Overall it’s hard to think of this as a debut album. I want to agree that its really a collection of EP’s and singles, though the tracks do work together as a whole. There are some exceptions – Obedience, Epiphany, and the out of left field Forever.

Dragons have crafted a solid debut album with some top notch songs – lead by the title track. According to their recent interview on the Janice Long show on BBC Radio 2 they are looking to have a second album ready for the presses by February. They have the talent to produce an amazing follow-up, especially if they can capture and harness their unique musical voice readily apparent in Here Are The Roses and Remembrance.

Overall: 3.4 out of 5.

Listen on:


Buy The Album:

Amazon & Amazon mp3

Note: The Libertine and I employ different rating schemata. I rate individual songs on an album on a scale of 0-5 and then take the average. Here is how I arrived at my rating:

1. Here Are The Roses: 5
2. Condition: 3
3. Treasure: 2
4. Obedience: 1
5. Trust: 5
6. Epiphany: 3
7. Lonely Tonight: 4
8. Remembrance: 4
9. Where Is The Love: 3
10. Forever: 4

Total: 34/10 = 3.4

I believe in the artist's right to album integrity (exemplified by Radiohead’s refusal to release their catalogue for purchase on a track by track basis).

However, not every band is created equal. Same goes for songs. As we all know, some albums have only 1 or 2 good songs. I want to be able to show my readers which tracks are the “stand outs” in case they don’t want to, or can’t afford to, purchase an entire album.

Every rating system is inherently subjective and a number, no matter how it is derived, can't definitively capture whether an album is good, bad, or in the middle. If you don’t agree with my review, I welcome your comments and am open to reconsider my initial views.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Two Old Songs

These are two old songs that I've been listening to alot. Client are a really decent band.

Record Review-- Mando Diao "Ode to Ochrasy"


Mando Diao's 2004 release, Hurricane Bar was a triumph of garage rock. Combining the jagged guitars and ramshackle drumming of the lyrics with emotional and raw lyrics about love and desire, Hurricane Bar was an emo album for the garage set. It contained one of my favorite songs of, You Can't Steal My Love, which is a love song about the lead singer meeting his wife for the first time at a library and features the following wonderful lyric being screamed at the end of the song, "Honey, I love you/ Like the summer falls/ And the winter crawls/ You're above and beyond me." Its a fucking great track! I was really looking forward to this year's follow-up, Ode to Ochrasy.

My hopes were not well placed. This is the most disappointing album of the year. Released in Europe in 2006, the album hit stateside in early 2007. I was expecting something like Hurricane Bar, but what I got was a bluesy stones ripoff with little melody or harmonies. Gone are the sweeping chrouses, the jagged guitars, and the poly-rhythmic drumming. Their sound has been stripped. Instead of sounding like a band that should be sharpening their skills, they sound like an untalented bar band.

The only songs worth listening to again are Morning Paper Dirt and Song for Aberdeen. Other than that, people should stay away from this album. The lads need to get back in the studio and work on their craft.


Day of the Ninja

It's December 5th and as you should know, its the Day of the Ninja. In the eternal battle between pirates and ninjas, everyone knows that ninjas would inevitably win. If you don't believe me, "You're going home in a fucking ambulance."

Those of course are the words of the expletive laden Beastie-esque sonic explosions from Ninja High School. You like Tokyo Police Club? You like The Beastie Boys? You like Professor Murder? You like ninjas and swearing and clever wordplay? You're gonna really like NHS, in fact NHS is gonna rock you.

Their website is here.

Check out their myspace here. All three songs are really good and catchy.

Listen to:
By Purpose Not By Plan (Sex Nerds Mix) (mp3) here.
Shake It Off (mp3) here.

Also for some other ninja action from the past, here is an oldie but goodie from Vanilla Ice.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Patrick Watson - Luscious Life

Many people compare Patrick Watson to the late Jeff Buckley. I'm not going to make that comparison. While they do share certain tendencies (listen to 1:20 for some eerily similar operatic flourishes) Patrick Watson has his own voice that is new and unique. He has a nice velvety style and lyricism that is very different from Buckley. Its a disservice to make the weighty comparison to Buckley. The only reason anyone brings up Buckley is because they want him to rise from the grave anyway.

Jeff Buckley is dead. He's never coming back no matter how many posthumous albums or lost concert recordings get released. Yes, it was a sad day when he drowned but no amount of Leonard Cohen covers is going to bring him back. Seriously, I'm pretty sick of every artist under the sun testing their chops on Hallelujah - a completely shop worn song.

Anyway, I am looking forward to hearing more from Patrick Watson. Hopefully he'll play a show or two outside of Canada.

Until then do youself a favor and watch the video above. I think you'll like it.

Check out Watson's myspace and if you dig his music, buy some here.

You can also test drive a couple of his songs on your ipod before you buy:

Luscious Life (mp3)
Giver (mp3)

My most favorite electronica song ever....

Amon Tobin is a freaking genius. Enough said. Check him out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Record Review--Sunset Rubdown, "Random Spirit Lover"

Sprawling, ambitious and at times engrossing, the one thing that you cannot say about Random Spirit Lover is that it is boring. Each song sounds nothing like the other. Some have an almost showtunes like quality to them (although, it must be said they do not take advantage of this genre skipping as well as P:ano) while others sound like outtakes from the latest Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album. The bands sounds like a strange cross between the Shins, Clap Your Hands, P:ano, and Destroyer. If you can imagine what that band would sound like, well, then you should be writing children's books because you have one hell of an imagination.

When this album really works are on the more traditional song formats like the track "Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days" where the lead singer wins you over with the earnestness of his lyrics like, "You're the one throwing dead birds in the air" which is an insult to an ex-lover that she's the one to blame for the end of their relationship.

If there are a couple of complaints for this album on is the length of the songs. I don't think any song is less than 5:00 minutes long and some of the kitschy ideas the band has actually starts to annoy as the songs go on. Another problem with the album is that its simply too all over the place. Sunset Rubdown clearly have a lot of great ideas, the problem is they try and combne them in one one song too often. This album would have been better served if they kept one or two solid melodies and harmonies per song rather than throwing everything in at once.

With that being said, this band is really hard to describe, consequently everyone should form their own opinions on this band. Give them a listen because you may like them more than I do.

FINAL SCORE--6.6 ( I think they're next album will be much better).

Record Review-- Telefon Tel Aviv "Remixes Compiled"


I'm not really a huge fan of electronica music. I think its a genre that's bereft of emotion, feeling, and depth. Its too much saccharine. Let's be honest, have you been to a DJ show lately? How can peoples lives revolve around a 4x4 beat that crescendos with some cheesy synth over and over again? The venues are always pretty much full of losers too--people who couldn't hold a conversation about world politics, that don't know who the LTTE are, couldn't name the Senate majority leader, and people who get most of their information from sites like wikipedia. If you're out of college and you're routinely going to see DJs at clubs, chances are you're either a loser or you have a serious drug problem. While I don't listen much to electronica, there are exceptions to every rule, however. I will follow a select few electronica artists, namely, Telefon Tel Aviv, Amon Tobin, Burial, Four Tet, and DJ Shadow.

Telefon Tel Aviv's new album is an exclusive compilation of remixes ranging from Nine Inch Nails to jazz legend phil ranelin to international artists like Bebel Gilberto. The album is a nice hybrid between their first album Fareneheith Fair Enough (which remains one of my most favorite electronica albums ever, EVERYONE should listen to this album) and their second album Map of What is Effortless which strove for a more organic sound while still retaining much of the insanity and off-kilter loops of Farenheit Fair Enough.

What really sets this album apart from most remix albums is that Telefon Tel Aviv stray so far from the source material that they create whole new environments that the songs can inhabit. So many remixes sound crappy because the artist sticks so close to the original sounds and melodies of the original song. Telefon Tel Aviv's willingness to explore new territory is never more evident than in the standout track on the album which is Time is Running Out. Time is Running Out is a 1972 jazz song by Phil Ranelin. The original song version sounds like a b-side to Miles Davis Bitches Brew (a fantastic jazz album). Telefon Tel Aviv loop a small strand over the original song and layer it on to a whole new skittering polyrhythmics beats over a smooth jzazz bass line. There's no possibly way anyone could actually know this was a remix unless someone told them. Its a FUCKING intense song and is one of the most original things I've heard all year, its definitely in my top 5 songs of this year (which is growing to be a seriously crowded list with all the great music released this year!!!).

Other standouts on the album include Even Deeper, Knock me Down, and the hypnotic orchestral arrangements on a Genuine Display. Remixes Compiled is an ambitious album that continually challenges the listener with its hypnotic beats, loops, and samples. These guys are probably the most original act in the music landscape right now, and they put all those shitty DJs to shame like Oakenfold, Tiesto, and Paul Van Dyk. This is an album for anyone that likes original, challenging, and intense music. If you don't like this music, then, chances are you probably aren't really a fan of alternative music.

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