Monday, March 31, 2008

april 1st 2008

mark kozelek
two excellent records are being released tomorrow. both are follow ups to some special records in my life. first off, we have Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon fame releasing his third LP under the Sun Kil Moon moniker. the record, entitled 'April' might just be my favorite record of '08 so far. Gregor Samsa is a post rock mainly known for having Kayo Dot and City of Caterpillar members appear in their line up. their latest 'Rest' is released digitally today, although it has been streaming on their myspace for the past couple of weeks.

gregor samsa
'55:12' was a very conflicting record for me. Essentially, Gregor Samsa is a heavily post-rock leaning Low tribute band and '55:12' perfectly encapsulated that. Although that record is certainly a great listen, the movement and song structure is painfully obvious. The pick-ups in tempo, the crescendos, every moment of '55:12' has an overwhelming simplicity to it. I'm not saying that is necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly does effect the replay value of that record. With 'Rest,' it seems as if the group is taking strides towards being an artistically legitimate entity. Early Gregor Samsa evoked a Sigur Ros sense of stagnancy that has almost been completely thrown away with the developments made on 'Rest'. Kayo Dot alumni and Ghastly City Sleep members make guest appearances, but little of this is obvious. 'Rest' is still the Gregor Samsa of '55:12', but they've grown up. 'Rendered Yards' pulls off a gorgeously effective inclusion of vocals in a seemingly operatic style. Even in the slow beginning of 'The Adolescent,' it is pretty obvious that this record isn't going to contain the same noise heavy moments of 'Makeshift Shelters,' and while that is a slight disappointment, Gregor Samsa's incorporation of a chamber music styled line-up is equally as exciting. 'Ain Leuh' demonstrates why that is about a minute in when it bursts into a dazzling mini-crescendo, which is really unexpected for a band that previously prided themselves on their unabashed slow dredges to glorious conclusions. Lead vocalist Champ Bennett evokes a Ben Gibbard with a soul (Although, Gibbard's inclusion on 'Lost Verses,' Mark Kozelek's opening track to 'April,' has me thinking maybe Ben can still accomplish something a little credible) and Mia Matsumiya proves once again that her flawless technique can easily make a good album great. In other words, the ambient soundscapes, the excellently contrasting vocals, and the pop sensibility from ’55:12’ is all here, the group has just really embellished on their old methods.

gregor samsa's 'rest'
'April' is a pretty easy record to sum up; eleven tracks of the most pure sincerity that deal with a variety of rekindled feelings. 'Tonight the Sky' perfectly encapsulates Neil Young in his Harvest era. 'Tonight in Bilbao' provides a touching update on the song structure of Sun Kil Moon's track 'Duk Koo Kim' but without all the extremities about South Korean boxers. The filler like 'The Light' and 'Heron Blue' which both seem like extremely safe Kozelek tracks are still excellently arranged and rival any of the highlights off of 'Tiny Cities'. Essentially, 'April' is an improvement and definition of what the Sun Kil Moon sound is really able to pull off. Lengthy, but for a reason. Intimate, but with enough courtesy to be vague enough to allow the listener to place themselves in the songs. Mark Kozelek defines the term “artist” and 'April' is yet another notch on his belt, an enveloping experience that calmly and quietly wins its way into your heart.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Hated - Every Song

hated / moss icon show flyer. (amazing line-up for a show.)
in terms of 'emo' history, The Hated essentially bridge the gap between the Rites of Spring sound and the Jawbreaker / Sunny Day Real Estate sound. in my mind, that would technically make them not 'emo' as they represent the beginning of the scene that is often mislabeled in popular culture as 'emo'. The Hated are kind of a combination of Husker Du's more serious arty side and the brand of indie rock that was coming out of Minneapolis at the time (R.E.M., The Replacements, etc.). with a variety of acoustic instruments as well as some of the most raw sounding vocals put to tape The Hated brought a more pristine compressed version of post-hardcore. while Fugazi was tampering in very raw noise around the time The Hated was around, the Annapolis group was paving out the start of a extremely melodic and musically eclectic genre that would rule the charts in a few years time. the intro to this record is so powerful and youthful. 'promises' is a surprisingly poppy vocal piece. all of the tracks on here are just great, sincere lyrics, tearful yearning from teenagers and lastly The Hated really succeed at pulling off a very original sound that incorporates all of the great trends of the late '80s college rock scene.

the hated's 'every song'
'Every Song's'' reputation kind of precedes itself. Lets just say distribution wise The Hated really didn't have their ducks in a row. While the sound was certainly progressive it obviously would not catch on for a few more years, kind of like a Green River of the more emo shaded side of indie rock. Arguments of whether the material should be rereleased and other such issues have been seemingly going on for years, The Hated certainly have a fan base.. the main problem is that a percentage of those fans are just hopeful ones that haven't even heard or seen the record. hopefully this post helps a few people get into one of the most inventive, melodic, groups of the '80s as well as one of the most unknown.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Top Ten of 2007: Kidcrash - Jokes

I don’t really know what there is to say about Kidcrash’s “Jokes” besides the fact that it is one of the finest emo albums of the past year. I guess I could start the review out with some kind of abstract relation like they’re a combination of Off Minor’s spazzed out math sound and the early Slint swiping groups like Maximillian Colby. But, Kidcrash really lacks the dynamic persuasion of those bands. It is obvious that the band was formally a big fan of the Kinsella projects and in more appropriate terms the entire mid-west emo sound, but they also seem to riff into heavy chord sections that are reminiscent of the current European emo sound that bands like Daitro and Sed Non Satiata are pushing. I suppose I’ll resort to describing Kidcrash as a band that seems to mesh all of the current trends in emo into one insanely well-made package.
The album opens up with the lengthy intro of “Turtlelephant” which almost makes the band seem like they’re going to be exchanging Don Caballero style swells but then the vocally dense screams push their way into the song and the mood is changed into some sort of late ‘90s hardcore song. It is a brilliant strategy that Kidcrash essentially works the entire album. Where a band like Off Minor uses its math rock or jazz influence to create huge increases of sound and large decreases into silent beauty, Kidcrash does not possess this dynamic persuasion in their music. Instead most of the time Kidcrash relies on exploiting the crazy technical side of their music which means they’re basically never playing the same note through out the entire album. The band certainly isn’t “Hot Crossing” all over the album but they are making extreme benefit of the idea that every note should trigger a specific harmony and in most cases it works fantastically. Highlights on the album include the completely instrumental “Kissed By A Roach From The Grave” and the supposed epic “Aconduit Rather Than A Vault”.

kidcrash's 'jokes'
After a very long time understanding and listening to this record it is obviously that it is a classic emo record. Unlike, 'As the Roots Undo' which I don't even listen to anymore 'Jokes' has a marvelous replay value and in general is just a fantastic record. Nearly seven months after I first heard it and 'Jokes' is still the amazing record I originally interpreted it to be. The best record of 2007.

Kidcrash - Jokes (2007)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Top Ten of 2007: Pharoahe Monch - Desire

Music theory has provided a blanket code for mass orchestrations for hundreds of years. From Brahms to something as primitive as The Who theoretical composition is essentially a guide line to modern music. Except perhaps in one specific area, hip-hop. Dialect and lyrical intellect are the most basic backing of rap music and thus this difference creates a vast counterpoint between rap and other modern musics. To support this otherwise unbacked claim, one only need look toward acclaimed lyricist and rapper Pharoahe Monch. Through his own miraculously well respected and financially profitable career he has been involved in a plethora of various projects. From the vastly unknown Organized Konfusion to his own solo endeavors which include tracks with a variety of movies and two very well received albums. His second release 'Desire' takes cues from all of his previous releases making perhaps his greatest achievement yet.

pharoahe monch

Critics of hip-hop often draw on the genres stagnance as their main point of criticism. Typical verse/chorus structure that draws on numerous clich├ęs of blunts, booze, and bitches. 'Desire' is covering more ground than any other 2007 release besides Time of Orchid's beautiful 'Namesake Caution'. Public Enemy covers, densely soulful vocal pieces featuring Monch himself singing and theatrical epics on par with R. Kelly's 'Trapped in the Closet'. All of these pieces come together to create one fluid movement of music that represents what a great rap album is suppose to do: reflect an individual's personal interests in a consciously aware manner. Highlights are essentially every track; "What It Is?" is a visceral 'fuck you' to Monch's critics and an amazing display of his bizarre vocal technique. "Hold On" is an excellent R&B inflected track featuring one of 2008's rising stars, Erykah Badu. All of the bases are covered on this record in regards to structure and sound. 'Desire' is all anyone could ask from a modern rap album.

pharoahe monch's 'desire'

Although, 'Desire' is an amazing record the story of Monch and his recording career is admirable in its own right. Organized Konfusion was a monster of a group that probably is in the top three rap groups of the early '90s. 'Internal Affairs' and the Godzilla sampling controversy were an interesting time and with 'Desire' it seems Monch has finally found a level of popularity that is large, but not consistent with people out of the know. Artistically, it seems as if he has finally reached a place where he belongs. An impressive feat for a rap artist that is basically known around the world for telling girls to 'rub on them titties'.

Pharoahe Monch - 'Desire' (2007)