Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

Well, San Fran was definitely not what I was expecting, and in hind sight I don’t really know what I was honestly expecting. I guess that old image of a sunny place full of electric trolleys, gay rights activists and cultural acceptance, like all the movies promised. However, what I found was exactly what the Arctic Monkeys predicted: some Fake Tales of San Francisco. Many of the people there were great souls and were most likely lured in by the same sense of mystique that ensnared myself to visit the town. However, Sanny Franny was not really much different from any other town. It was pulled apart by urban sprawl, the streets were plain, narrow and straight and the hippies there didn’t want to help you unlock your mind or put flowers in your hair, they just wanted to sell you some “dank nugs.” It makes me wonder if San Fransisco was ever the cultural mecca it was cracked up to be, and according to my mom, Haight-Ashbury was only as awesome as the stories told for as long as Kesey and friends had made it awesome.
On first arrival there, I was still in awesome-Arcata mode, meaning I said hi and waved to everyone I saw. Then, we saw three guys with guns in their pants and daggers in their eyes. Apparently, we were in the better part of town, but just the other week, someone had been stabbed right in the middle of San Fransisco State University. Yes, I know these are tough times and people are forced to make compromising deals in their lives every day, but to hear that this kind of thing was happening at the very place where peace-loving radicals were supposedly forged, made me sad. I know the world is capable of producing so many finer people then this, and I want to help the world and the people inside it to remember this. Humans can be whatever they want. That’s what makes us so special. Specialization is for insects, and we are not insects. We can change paths whenever we want to and can go in any direction that life pulls us, if we allow it. Yes, we are not the only living, thinking beings on this Earth, and must be humble in our human abilities, but that does not mean allowing yourself to be pulled into doing the wrong things, or even nothing at all. We all have moral compasses unique to ourselves that help guide us smoothly along life’s floating journey down the stream of time, but many times people refuse to listen them. No one lacks these compasses. Sure, some people’s pointers may be a bit skewed, but they are still pointing somewhere and the direction they point is very very important to one’s own life.
Remember, improving your own quality of life is very important, but valuing the people around you- the other living, thinking people around yourself- is even more important. Do what you know is right and life won’t throw so many speed bumps in your path. Help and love, without greed or envy, those around you, and they will return the favor, without a doubt, in time and probably even in double. Hate only creates more hate, just as love creates more love. Now you tell me, which world would you rather live in? One of hate or one of love? Yes, we are entrapped in this crazy world with so many laws and red-tape holding us tightly into the grid, but we also live in an age where we are told we live in a nation of the people. People do not fit molds,  amd should not have to compromise. Let’s change things a bit, earthlings. You know we could.

And on that note, some album reviews I think ya’ll would enjoy. Some of these albums are a bit old in internet time, but they’re nonetheless listen-worthy.

Noah and the WhaleThe First Days of Spring

Ah, now here is a quality album. It is an album full of heartbreak, hope, and musical talent. Noah and the Whale is a nice little band that popped up strong in the musical world back in 2008 with their first album, and now they are back just a year later with an album reminiscent of that feeling you get looking at a sunset alone for the first time in months. The first half of the album is slow and haunting, but never leaves you looking for melodies or harmonies, as they appear just as easily, but maybe classier, if I can say so. The First Days of Spring explores the deep, foggy feelings that have before been left to fester inside your heart, and shows you just how delicate and pure their music can be while still giving you such powerful messages. It is mushy at times, but everything about this album is wonderfully put together and so neatly placed in perfect time, that I don’t really find myself minding. Not that there’s anything wrong with mushy… So, go get this album, put it on, take the doggy for a walk and let the music and the world work together to refresh your soul.
RATING: 9/10

Key Tracks:

The First Days Of Spring
Blue Skies

Iron & WineAround The Well

For anyone who enjoys Iron & Wine, this is just another reason to fall in love again with their magic, rhythmical singing and guitar plucking. For anyone who has yet to experience Iron & Wine, this is also great kicking off point, as it gives a good overview of the two unique sides that have defined Iron & Wine’s music.  Around The Well is a compilation album of B-sides, Rareties, live sets, and discarded ideas, which can (for many artists) be a recipe for a very messy album. However, this double-disc collection is very, very stable and full of as catchy songs as any of I&W’s main discography. The first half showcases early I&W, meaning it’s full of whispered lyrics, fast, plucky guitar layers and plenty of very catchy hooks and melodies. The second half is more loosely put together, and more dense and layered, but still none-the-less I&W.
Fans looking for a direct follow-up to the intense sound created on The Shepard’s Dog might be slightly dissapointed, but this collection is definitely a showcase of what Iron & Wine are capable of. Personally, I’m always a fan of B-sides, because they show us the side of an artist we never really get to see, or that side which the producers deem not to be suitable for the mainstreams ears. It’s fun, it’s joyous, and it’s usually pretty unfiltered content from the artist (less producing). This particular  wcollection is brimming with talent and well built  ideas and is definitley worth adding to your collection.
RATING: 8/10

Key Tracks:
Communication Cups and Someone’s Coat
Such Great Heights

DeerhunterRainwater Cassette Exchange

I’ve posted one song from this EP before, but I believe this whole album deserves recognition. It’s such a step forward for Deerhunter as a band, after 2008’s Microcastle and Weird Era Continued, which dealt with all of the odd weird emotions that come from losing a band member to cruel early death. Most of their music was very drug-adled and were quite long, drawling songs that came off as pretty hypnotic. This 5-song ep marks the band’s step up from the ambient confusion of death and it’s themes to a more prog-rock sound that instead inspires some hope. Deerhunter’s classic dreamy vocals remain and the repetitive guitar and light, yet powerful drum touches remain, but, like I said, the sound has evolved. Deerhunter is trying hard now to break into the neo-psych scene, and quite honestly, if this EP is any indication on their direction, they have quite a fighting chance. Some songs reminisce of early Pink Floyd, such as “Game of Diamonds” Egyptian-style drum pattern.  A nice morsel for fans who hunger for the band’s next full-length, this EP is a nice step in the right direction and a healthy breath of fresh air into Deerhunter’s corpse-y history.
RATING: 8.69/10

Key Tracks:
Game of Diamonds
Rainwater Cassette Exchange

The XXxx

Here’s something new. The XX, who are from London, England, have been called a 2 piece and a 4 piece, but latest news calls them a 4 piece. Bursting almost out of nowhere, though they have been around since around 2005, The XX have taken the music scene by storm. Sporting one of the simplest sounding sounds in recent music history, their style is a very refreshing breath of fresh air. The two lead singers, a male and a lady, have very depressing-sounding voices (but somehow in a fantastic way)that are balanced complimented by the racing guitars and chugging bass line tall tied together with very simple drum loops, which come off more as fleeting heartbeats then what actually drives the music. The XX state with sad faces that they have shunned what the music industry wants them to be, and their simplistic form showcases the bands taste for catchy hooks and warm melodies that somehow also chill to the bone. This album, full of plenty of musical genius but very little actual density, is a great reminder to everyone else in the world that for music to be good, it doesn’t have to have more layers then a high school freshman indie kid on sweater-vest day. You’ll look good if you look good, regardless of what you cover yourself in.
RATING: 9.4/10

Key Tracks:
Basic Space

Other Albums From Various Times That You Should Have If You Don’t Yet, Like Honestly, Go Buy Them Right Now:

Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion
Delta SpiritOde To Sunshine
Grizzly BearVeckatimest
MGMT- Metanoia EP
High Places- High Places
Arctic Monkeys- Humbug
MenomenaFriend and Foe
Blitzen Trapper- Wild Mountain Nation
Dr. DogWe All Belong
Panda Bear- Person Pitch

Enjoy yo Friday!
I’ll be back sooner then last time, I super-promise!


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animal crack boxAnimal Crack Box has had an interesting history, like much that has to do with Animal Collective. The three-disc vinyl-only collection had been discussed for years following the release of Hollinndagain, their first live album, but was always put off, as studio albums always seemed more appealing to the band. At first, there was only one actual copy of the album, made available on eBay to support Doctors Without Borders (a charity best known for helping third-world countries), but the vinyl collection was soon released commercially, with 1000 more copies put up for sale via Fusetronsound. Even with the lack of actual copies produced, thanks to the internet, the album is still widely available.

To the many fans Animal Collective picked up with Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Crack Box might be a very confusing step “forward,” because the live album’s sound more closely resembles their earlier work, rather then then the very focused pop-sprinkled sounds of Merriweather. However, the timing of this album really couldn’t be better. By releasing and re-instating this more-experimental side of their ever-changing sound, Animal Collective have let their fans know that they are still doing what ever they want, and that though Merriweather Post Pavilion may have skyrocketed them more into the limelight, that they will never become just the one thing.

For Animal Collective, the music has always been about the building energies between the band mates and the feeling of the musical piece as a whole. Crack Box showcases Animal Collective at their trippy best, with the only continuing beat throughout the experience being the syncing of Panda Bear’s soulful yelping to your very own climbing and dipping heartbeats. The varying members of Animal Collective have always listened to the voices that come from deep inside them and transcribed those fleeting feelings into songs about pure emotions, (Feels, if you will) leaving the listener either pulled deeper and deeper into the odd soundscape being made for them, or into a colorful state of confusion. True, they are not for everyone’s tastes, but I do feel that if given a fair chance, anyone could potentially get into at least a couple of their infectious songs.

Some songs do seem to drawl on and on, such as the opener, “Jimmy Raven”, but I suggest never giving in to the temptation to skip a song. Like I said, Animal Collective has always been about building energies and combating emotions, which means the songs are all about the whole experience. This is especially true when listening to Animal Collective as a live album, any themes that they might seem to randomly touch on early on are usually built upon later in some way. Animal Collective try to break the modern musical addiction that is short bursts of song-i-tude, to remind us of the roots of what music actually is. Music is about the unique experience of hearing someone’s individual thoughts and feelings, from their perspective, to expand your own. Some may think that by getting rid of obvious hooks and choruses that Animal Collective is barely even making music, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In all honesty, they might be one of the only bands to actually make music anymore. They are able to weave a song from apparently thin air, and their seemingly random vocal cries are placed so particularly that they seem to come bubbling from the mouths of the members, but from the brains of some other-worldly force. I actually find many parallels between the song structures of Animal Collective and the works of early classical composers whose epic suites were a living-breathing piece as much as Animal Collectives are. They evolved, rose and fall mimicking the rising and falling of human emotions, and they took time to build up those feelings.

Animal Crack Box is one of those true experiences. It can get one thinking of many things, reminding us of stories from days of old or of the challenges we will have to face in the future. It’s full of hidden sounds, subliminal messages, random samples, bizarre yelps and strange chord progressions. It’s an overwhelming experience, but in a beautiful way. It shows us what music can be at it’s most basic state of being, and at the same time, it’s most complex. It’s not what one would expect after the releases of Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion, but it is a fantastic showcasing for fans, both new and old, what lies at the true core of the band that’s been everywhere.

Rating: 8.8/10

FIND AND BUY ON EBAY: http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=animal+crack+box

Key Songs:
Iko Ovo

Jungle Heart

Pumpkin Gets a Snakebite
Pumpkin’s Hallucination
Pumpkin’s Funeral

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