27 October 2009

Microfilm Answers 5

A little over two weeks ago, Microfilm (the duo of Matt Mercer and Matt Keppel) reached out to me and shared their latest EP, “Blips Don’t Lie.” Of course I could not pass the opportunity to ask these house geniuses some questions. So, up front, I would like to thank both Mercer and Keppel for taking the time and answering 5.

Microfilm (photograher Tim Gunther)

1. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

Matt Mercer (MM): My personal biggest influences are probably rooted in minimal techno and tech house, as well as industrial music. I also have an interest in avant-garde and experimental music, among other things...I think those things all work their way into our music in various ways; recorded objects and sounds, odd samples, distortion and noise, but within a more functional, pop-tinged framework.

Matt Keppel (MK): A lot! Well, lyrically, I love the smarts of Neil Tennant [of Pet Shop Boys fame] and Morrissey along with the weird imagery of David Bowie and old Robert Smith [of the Cure fame]. Non-musically, we’re both really influenced by movies as an inspiration, both soundtracks and the visual/thematic elements of certain directors/films. Without sounding too pun-like, our band likes making cinematic songs.

2. "Mircofilm" is an ironic name for an electronic band; how did you guys come up with the name?

MK: I think I just thought of it before even making music together as a cool name for a band. I like how it’s vaguely mysterious, kind of dark and loaded with unknown meaning. Plus it’s a nice simple, small, visceral word.

3. I am always curious about equipment - any preference on what you use in the studio and/or live? Digitial versus analogue?

MM: We do most of our music using software. I can appreciate the gearheads out there who buy up a lot of old synths and prefer to work exclusively hands-on...but for me, it started out of sheer necessity when I was crashing on a couch for several months. Having a studio was not an option, so I started using Reason, Recycle and Ableton Live to work on music. I've expanded my toolkit, and I'm sleeping in my own bed these days, but those are still my primary tools of choice.

Microfilm (photographer Tim Gunther)

4. Just as in other genres of music, dance/house is looking back to the 80s for cues; why do you think this is happening?

MK: Well it’s all kind of due to a general revival of 80s culture because the children of that age are now adults and are making art/music/pop culture and are recycling it/their childhood. I also think things are now moving into the 90s too. Early 90s revival is already happening with new shoegazey bands and rave music renaissance. I think we passed over the bad elements of late 80s culture.

MM: I think dance music is constantly looking forward and backward at the same time. It's what makes it exciting to me, that it is able to consistently integrate, retool, iterate and expand upon existing paradigms, sometimes evolving new ones altogether. In our case, we wanted to do something that gave a firm nod to music we've found inspiring but never made an outright tribute to.

5. House music is funny. What is played on the radio and what is played within clubs is usually quite different. Why do you think this disparity exists?

MM: Radio music has to appeal to a very different, much larger spectrum of listeners than club music. Most commercial radio is afraid to take risks because everything hinges either on payola or advertising -- the less you "offend" a listener, the more likely he/she is to stick around for that add for Maalox or whatever. It's the lowest-common-denominator approach to entertainment, which rarely will challenge people's sensibilities. On the other hand, people go to a club to dance, to hear loud, physical music and get lost in it. There's also a distinction you could make between songs and tracks -- songs are more concise, lyrical tunes with a deliberate structure, and tracks are a more vague mix of hook and utility, very broadly speaking. You will probably never hear highly repetitive deep house or minimal techno on a mainstream radio station/channel because it doesn't have the broad appeal that the most basic verse-chorus-verse song has. It all sounds a bit cliché, but the more visceral, physical side of techno and dance music in general can take on a very different appeal when played loud in a setting where the music resonates and people can really move their bodies in time.

MK: I don’t even think US radio would even play house music at all; it’s so conservative and strict on what gets played nowadays. But yeah, super commercial house, like bad gay bar diva house, is just easy to digest, kind of generic “dance music” that a lot of the public think of as far as “house music.” When actually, I think really stripped down late’80s Chicago house would sound really weird to the average listener. I think aficionados and club people are more open to hearing new sounds that take the framework of familiar dance music sounds and tweaking them.

Keep up with Microfilm at their homepage, MySpace, Fairtilizer, and Twitter.

Here is the link for my review of “Blips Don’t Lie” that streams the song “I’ll Sing Like Billy MacKenzie in Heaven.” And if that interests you, head to iTunes and check out their other work.

After Dark” (2007)

Chicago” (Single, 2007)

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My Small Rebellion, Part Two - Videos

As promised, the second part of my rebellion against listening to current music. Enjoy the videos!

Temposhark’s “Blame” from their YouTube Channel: temposhark.

Hooverphonic’s “Club Montepulciano” from their YouTube Channel: HooverphonicCom.

Svoy’s “Drive Away” from the Rendezvousmusic YouTube Channel.

Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Happy House” from their YouTube Channel: bansheesofficial.

Sing Sing’s “Lover” from their YouTube Channel: SingSingUK.

Boy Kill Boy’s “Suzie” from their YouTube Channel: officialboykillboy.

Mudhoney’s “This Gift” from the subpoprecords YouTube Channel.

Wolfmother’s “White Unicorn” from their YouTube Channel: WolfmotherMusic.

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23 October 2009

"You Listen to What?"

I am often bothered by the fact that certain “groups” of people predominately listen to certain “genres” of music. It is as if there is tacit agreement between music marketers and listening audiences that African Americans will listen to hip-hop and R&B, gay men will listen to Madonna and other danceable divas, and, in recent years, Hispanic youth are expected to embrace the rising genres of music, like reggaeton, that combine elements of traditional Latin/Caribbean music with contemporary hip-hop. Women are more likely to listen to ballads, men to music with a driving beat. White college aged students, it is expected, will listen to more indie artists that challenge the normal convention. And the list can go on and on and on, especially with new genres like “adult alternative.” And I do not mean to say that these trends are absolute, but nonetheless they are conspicuously present. This leads to a question that beckons to be answered: are these trends intrinsic, emanating from something that is naturally inside of people, or are they extrinsic, forced onto an audience as part of a social contract? I think that this question is an important one to ask; in my experience, I have seen the expectations of what people listen to and the reaction of others when they do not “fit” the mold they are expected to. It is because of these expectations that people should ask, “Am I listening to this because I really like it, or because I learned to like it?”

Let’s take on the case of hip-hop first. John H. McWhorter, in The City Journal (Summer 2003) (link) points out something that traditionally goes unrecognized: “The venom that suffuses rap had little place in black popular culture – indeed, in black attitudes – before the 1960s. The hip-hop ethos can trace its genealogy to the emergence in that decade of a black ideology that equated black strength and authentic black identity with a militantly adversarial stance toward American society.” And why not? After generations of stereotypes and oppression, it was only normal that a form of conscious rebellion would seep into all art forms, including music. Years of being type-cast in movies, marginalized in the world of music to specific genres, and not even being given credit for the predominate Anglo-American genre of music (rock was created by black southerners, like Little Richard), the backlash to this “blaxploitation” would eventually be inevitable. But, as McWhorter continues to write, “…rap took a dark turn in the early 1980s as this “bubble gum” music gave way to a “gansgsta” style that picked up where blaxploitation left off. Now top rappers began to write edgy lyrics celebrating street warfare or drugs and promiscuity.” In essence, instead of fighting the negative stereotypes, rappers embraced and glorified these stereotypes. This can easily be seen in Grandmaster Flash’s classic, “White Lines” (from the Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five MySpace video page).

White Lines

Grandmaster Flash | MySpace Video

A major hit, appropriate for the 80s, when urban, working class culture (regardless of race) was riddled by drug infested neighborhoods. But in the 1980s, the song could easily be “read” as a mediation of social problems, recognition of the social reality, the first step towards action – the second step to eradicate the problem has never occurred in mainstream hip-hop culture. Time would continue to tick away, and the socio-political field would change and the possibilities for all minorities have increased. And even if you have taken a good look at the Supreme Court and the White House lately, there does still continue to be racial inequality. But why haven’t the attitude of “pop” hip-hop changed as well? Why does there continue to be a glorification of partying culture, of violence, and the misrepresentation of women? And why is this continually marketed to youth? Is representing a dreary “reality” more important than taking up action against it? I dare say that Muse’s “Uprising” speaks more to the living conditions of all working class citizens, including African American youths, than rap does these days: “The paranoia is in bloom, the PR transmissions will resume, they’ll try to push drugs, keep us all dumb down and hope that we will never see the truth around…. Interchanging mind control, come let the revolution take its toll… it’s time that the fat cats had a heart attack…” So instead of marketing music that questions and mobilizes against the plight of the dispossessed, like urban black youths, why does there continue to be a glorification of the stereotypes of partying and violence?

Gay men are no better off. Throughout gay history, gay men’s primary locale for social interaction has been bars/clubs. It is not as if even nowadays gay men can walk anywhere in public, together, smooching, and not garner negative attention, unless they are in a gay ghetto like Chelsea or Castro. And, what is played at most bars/clubs? Music that is danceable. And I would imagine that if you were in the middle of Nashville, you would become acclimated to listening to country music, just as if you spend most of your social time in a club you would to dance music. So, inevitably, when a marketing genius like Madonna, who is an extremely talented artist and performer, would come along, and basically pillages the gay community for dance moves, beats, fashion, and back-up dancers, she would be exhorted to the highest position of pop icon. (The heir-apparent is Lady Gaga, who thanked “the gays” at the MTV Awards – a bit condescending consider that she did say “the gays” not “my gay fans.” Why would she think that all of “the gays” would support her?) But why don’t gay men honor and exhort gay musicians who often rely on Europe for pop/mainstream success, like Erasure’s openly gay Andy Bell or the Scissor Sisters? And how about the countless of gays in music, like rock band the B-52s or blues singer Jason Ricci? Why is it that gay men take comfort in listening to the love plights of straight women?

Similarities can be drawn with all groups. In a nation that urges “multiculturalism,” but still has occurrences of racism (I am not going to argue if they are endemic or systemic, have fun amongst yourselves), Hispanic youths are bombarded with music that incorporates a lot of Latin/Caribbean elements. Though Americans typically are xenophobic and distrust the other, especially if they happen to be “French,” Hispanic youths are expected to take on the mantle of the other. And yet, they are lambasted for not “completely assimilating” into American society. Sadly, Hispanic kids are rarely encouraged to listen to other Hispanics in music that are not part of traditional Hispanic music, like Al Jourgensen (Cuban born) of Ministry or Stefy (whose lead singer, Stephanie Rae Eustace, aka Stefy Rae, is Latina).

Check out Ministry’s “Lies Lies Lies” from their YouTube Channel: MINISTRYMUSIC.

Check out Stefy’s “Chelsea” from the StefyRaeOfficial YouTube Channel.

And is indie music always marketed to college students (heard all over college campus radio stations nationwide) because it is the belief that these guys and gals completing their liberal arts education are willing to listen to music that challenges the notions of genre, traditional record industry models, and are capable of appreciating either lyrics that are blatant or highly poetic? Well, it is all rubbish!

The music industry is just that, an industry, which is predicated on making profits. As I have said before (link), radio is predicated on playing what is safely marketable, and marketers have created marketing niches (and cultural rifts as a byproduct). Marketers continue to sell the ideology of hip-hop to dispossessed urban youths, especially African-American youths, because it is not marketable to attack the status quo and mobilize people into action. Marketers continue to sell danceable, socially acceptable music to gay men, sung by women, because at least they can take comfort in a song about a man, because the status quo is not ready to accept man-on-man music. Marketers continue to sell multiculturalism and the motherland traditions to Hispanic youths (most of which were born in the United States and have no clue what is like to cut sugarcane in Cuba or live in the real militia violence of parts of South America), because it is safer to create affinity to a “mystic” motherland than to rock the status quo and say this is now your land as much as any other person’s. And marketers continue to sell socially challenging music to college students, because it is the belief that older people are not willing to think about social, musical, and political issues outside of the box, and of course the status quo would never accept that. More and more, seen in the fact that we are becoming a nation of corporate franchises, marketers want homogenous markets and not free thinkers. It is what turns a profit.

Rocking the status quo would have a direct effect on profits. Therefore, it is easier to just continue a tradition that has worked before, and might very well work for another thousand years, than for marketers to do the socially responsible thing. Consider trying to revamp the entire infrastructure of media to create new outlets for greater exposure. First off, you would have culture shock and resistance from audiences – all of the sudden they would be bombarded with new sensory experiences and would have to reconfigure their own attitudes towards this. Secondly, returning to the point, some advertisers and other investors might see a loss of cash flow – the great American reality, the dollar. This would never be allowed! (And I am sure that this issue is not indigenous to the United States alone!)

People are not born with a predisposition or prejudice. No one has ever witnessed a baby not wanting to play with another baby because of its skin color. No baby picks out a toy because it is gender or culturally specific. No baby picks the music it dances and bobs around to. Babies are indoctrinated, at first by parents and then by schools and peers, and then finally by marketers. This is the normal way of things… this is how it has always been. People are told what to do and how to act, from the Torah to modern Internet marketers, someone somewhere is always influencing how we should think, what we should like, and how we should conduct ourselves. And as I have said, this is a normal facet of reality, of life. The shame is when the “you,” that intrinsic person, allow extrinsic forces to always act upon your “you.” The shame is when we are not given the opportunity to search for something new or do not allow ourselves to find that something new.

Rap is as dead as punk, and I sometimes wish mainstream house music would join that bandwagon. These great social ideologies have just been diminished to caricatures in our society, but underneath it all there are great artists (in all aforementioned genres) making great music. But not by playing by the same ole rulebook, but by reinventing it or discarding it, like the post-punks. And though everything has to change, as nothing is forever, it is a damn shame how marketers have strived to keep things the same. I am going to be called a communist now, but I think it was Karl Marx that said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce,” and you have to admit the mainstream music scene is pretty funny. Talented musicians are cast aside for cookie-cutter, prepackaged, marketed music, that no one gives a second thought to but are willing to glorify it. As long as someone says it is good, then listeners will not search for something else or something that may even identify their own plights AND mobilization to address them.

As for this blog, if anything, I hope we have sometimes acted as a means to shed light on something different or a new point of view. But as everyone else, we are always checking our own preconceived notions about what we write about, because everyone falls victim to the same pattern. And, no, I do not think anyone should like everything we write about, because the honest fact is that there are six of us sharing opinions here and we do not always agree with one another on what we like. You should see the hissy fits that have come up amongst us! Nevertheless, I do encourage everyone to look beyond his or her horizons in terms of… well… everything. Not just music, but arts in general, politics, and life. Do not allow anyone to sell you on the notion that you must like this or that; continue to search out what you like and what you relate to – and do feel free to share with us here!

There is a beautiful world out there to see, but only if we want to see it and do not allow others to tell us what to see.
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21 October 2009

My Small Rebellion, Part One - Videos

I was sitting in the dark the other night and turned on my iTunes to random play, and David Gray’s “Babylon” came on. I was transported years away, to another life, and memories just came back – my best friend in North Carolina, my Texan friend in Chicago, and countless of other people that inhabit the chaotic world of my mind came bustling. I remembered, again, the power of music; the way we attach memories and feelings to songs. I remembered the fact that our favorite songs are not always the best songs, technically speaking, but rather those songs that bring back memories and feelings. And that is part of the power of music – it is not just a universal language, it is this amazing conductor of empathic energy and one of the few things we can share with one another that may bring us closer.

So I had a small rebellion.

Ever since I started this blog, I have listened to more and more “new” music, and between everything else I have to do, I have not had the time to go back and enjoy some of older songs that really meant something to me at some point in my life. Even though at the beginning, back seven or eight months ago, I included older videos with each video post (something I should go back to), I’ve been more intent on keeping my finger on the pulse of new music than sitting back and enjoying the “classics.” That, I think, is a great mistake and a shame.

So, as I said, I had a small rebellion. I took a few days off from all new music and stirred up some other memories and feelings listening to some of my favorites. And of course I decided to share some of that here. Here are eight videos that I was able to dig up from YouTube and MySpace, but what really got to me was that there were so many older videos that were not there officially or not at all. It seems that the older the band, the harder it is to find official postings of the videos. If they did not outlive the 70s, 80s, or 90s, they are practically wiped out of digital existence. Has the world forgotten bands like Renegade Soundwave and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine? Has the world underestimated the importance of the Cockney Rejects and Alien Sex Fiend? I hope not, and I hope that these musicians and labels start placing their back catalogue of videos online, because some of us want to relive old memories. And I am sure that many younger viewers / listeners will be just as inspired as I was years earlier.

So, ahead of time, I apologize that I was not able to locate official sources of all the videos I wanted to share. Furthermore, I promise we will make the effort to keep our eyes open for anything that emerges on line from yesteryears.

And on that note, enjoy the videos! Part Two to follow soon!

David Gray’s “Babylon” from his YouTube Channel: TheRealDavidGray.

Dresden Dolls' “Coin-Operated Boy” from their YouTube Channel: dresdendolls.

Andy Bell’s “Crazy” from his MySpace videos page.


Andy Bell | MySpace Music Videos

Hello Operator’s “55 Regrets” from their YouTube Channel: hellooperatortv.

Mogwai’s “Hunted by a Freak” from their YouTube Channel: mogwaiTV.

Skunk Anansie’s “Selling Jesus” from their YouTube Channel: SkunkAnansieOfficial.

Erase Errata’s “Tax Dollar” from the BlankTV YouTube Channel.

The Cooper Temple Clause’s “Waiting Game” from the santuaryrecordsuk YouTube Channel.

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20 October 2009

Simon Scott: "Navigare"

I had the opportunity to interview Simon Scott back in May (link). It has been an amazing experience, as a fan, to listen to Simon Scott since his days in the Charlottes and Slowdive, pioneering shoegazing, to his collaboration with other musicians and now his solo album, “Navigare” (12 October 2009). What I respect the most about this album is that this is not Slowdive, this is not his past projects – this is new, this is the artistic development of a conscientious artist once again challenging his listener to think of music in a different way. Ambient / electronic, but miles away from generic, radio friendly techno or electropop, Scott again treads through unmapped terrains of music and continues to be not just a godfather in the music scene, but the pioneer he has always been.

Scott is more than a musician these days; as the owner of Keshhhhh, Scott is able to have his finger on the pulse of new, emerging musical trends, while having the singular ability to re-release near forgotten albums to be rediscovered by new audiences. And all the collaborations have also increased his exposure to music, being able to be a part of writing and recording (and performing) under different formats and scenarios. All of this helps artists grow, and this is something that Scott understands. His experiences are not meant to be self-promotional or egotistic cameos, but the continued study of and engagement with his craft. And this shows on “Navigare.” If you are expecting another Slowdive album, you are going to be taken a bit aback; but, if you are a fan of the artist, who is always unraveling something new, “Navigare” is going to take you by surprise.

The album opens with “Introduction of Cambridge,” which is an ethereal experience that supplants melody and rhythm for mood and emotional subtlety. Following effortlessly into the second track, “Under Crumbling Skies,” the ethereal slowly starts to give way in favor of more definitive sounds by the end of the track. Building on the momentum, “Flood Inn,” the third track, sees a gritty percussion being introduced, but the ethereal is never lost, not completely, anywhere on the album. Actually, the album flows with ease from track to track, as Scott balances the ethereal and gritty, the musical and the emotional. Then there is the one track on the album that is the culmination of Scott’s experiences: “The ACC.” I think it would be a mistake to say that this song harkens back to his shoegazing / dream pop days; instead I see it as his conscious incorporation of older musical ideas with the newer elements of his repertoire. He is not looking back, but rather merging the past and present into one.

There are two tricks when it comes to ambient music, both equally as challenging. The first is incorporating the right sounds. With a wider range of what is possible, the process of selecting the right sounds can be overwhelming to any artist who relies heavily on electronic sources. But Simon Scott hits the nail on the head over and over again. Fluctuating between analogue and digital sounds, the sounds on the album work together, and not in competition for attention. The sounds work for the singular purpose of eliciting visceral responses. But to accomplish this, one must take a hard look at the second trick, mixing it down. Scott has already proven himself a master in this department with his shoegazing experience, and even though he is shifting from rock to ambient music, he proves his mastery is universal and timeless. By allowing the most empathic elements of the music to take precedent, the mixing of the album allows for maximum visceral impact. This is really not just an album; this is a study of just how deep-seated music is to the human experience and emotions. Advice: Stop thinking and start listening to this album.

Track Listing:
1. Introduction of Cambridge
2. Under Crumbling Skies
3. Flood Inn
4. Derelict Days
5. Repulse
6. The ACC
7. The Old Jug and Drum
8. Ashma
9. Spring Stars
10. The Night and the Artificial Light

Keep up with Simon Scott at his MySpace. Keep up with Scott’s label Keshhhhh.

And don’t forget to check out Scott and the other artists at Miasmah.
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14 October 2009

Editors: "In This Light and On This Evening"

I think there is going to be some irony in the air. Editors smashed into the music scene and instantly became leaders in the post-punk revival in 2005 with the release of their debut “Back Room.” A highly anticipate sophomore effort followed in 2007, “An End Has a Start,” that solidified them in the UK, made Europe very conscious of them, and even started to make way in the USA. But they received some criticism because they essentially recreated the same sound, just more radio friendly. Then the announcement of the third album came along, claiming that this would be a new chapter for the Editors, centering on the use of more synthesizers this time around. Usually when a band says they are entering a new phase, it is nothing more than a euphemism for “our records sales are slumping so we need a cheap gimmick to get you to look at us again.” But that was not the case for the Editors, they were stronger than ever, so why the change? Early on, before any release, many of the same people who criticized the similarity in sound between the first two albums criticized the Editors for wanting to change their sound. Irony at it’s best.

“In This Light and On This Evening” (12 October 2009 in the UK, 13 October 2009 in the USA) is a mesmerizing, breath-taking album. Opening with the titular track, the song builds and builds over two minutes and three-quarters before breaking into a beat. The initial dark ostinato, repeating throughout most of the song, is eerily sultry, as Tom Smith sings, “I swear to God I heard the Earth inhale moments before it spat its rain down on me. I swear to God, in this light and on this evening, London’s become the most beautiful think I’ve seen.” A nod to his new residence, Editors hold to their promise from the very first few seconds of the song: a new sound, a new chapter, and it does not disappoint!

From beginning to end, the lyrics are emotional and heartfelt; personally, I am tired with all the comparisons of how Tom Smith sounds like Ian Curtis. This is a matter of genetics, Smith has the same kind of voice and this is not his doing. But to his credit, Smith moves away from melodramatic styling of his vocals and really sells the lyrics on this album. He never slumps into disparity, nor is there a faux urgency in his voice; instead he gives a heartfelt rendition of his lyrics, a conscious acceptance of what he is singing about. Added to the layered keyboards, the distorted guitars, and the spot-on rhythm section, maturity in craftsmanship and approach is more than obvious. Of course, I am sure that many people are going to say there isn’t much in terms of departure in sound, and I would say take a closer listen. Sometimes the most powerful changes are not endemic, but systemic. What has changed is how they approached the writing of this album – perhaps because they worked with Flood? Perhaps because they recorded the album in more than one studio and city? Or perhaps because they are not the kids they were, trying to make a dramatic musical statement, and more concerned with writing music that works in tandem with lyrics. For instance, in the lead single, “Papillon,” the music conspires to be more introspective, claustrophobic rather than a guitar orgy, which suits lines such as “If there really was a God here, He’d have raised a hand by now.” This kind of interplay, this tight knitting between theme and sound, is apparent throughout the entire album. What more, what is most apparent is that there is no attempt to be virtuoso. Each song is handed to the listener, as a small visceral experience that is so well arranged and produced, there is no need for flashy gimmicks or cliché rock antics.

All that said one track does really hearken back to the past. “Like Treasure” could easily be confused for a first wave post-punk song. There is an “aged” quality to the song, even in the vocals, that really reminds me of those formative years when bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, and The Cure were solidifying a new scene in music. However, the other tracks sound fresh and vibrant on their own terms. “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool” is my favorite melody on the album – did they write their first sing-along here? And just as the album began it ends, with an eerie sultriness. The ostinato immediately hooks you (not so much an 80s sound, but rather an early to mid-90s sound), “Walk the Fleet Road” is an apropos ending to the album, but at the end of a long journey, there is hope, sort of: “No push and no shove, spit verbal mace, hate can turn to love not for this human race.” It is sort of like Pandora’s Box – for all the wretchedness that spewed out of it, hidden deep below is the hope for something better, though hidden.

In a year in which I feel that many veterans failed to reach the mark of what was capable of them, in a year where most veterans sat on their laurels and did not do anything new and fresh, the Editors put forth a spectacular third album. If all you want to hear are those guitar riffs on “An End Has a Start” and “Bones” over and over again, by all means – personally, I have put their cover of “Lullaby” on repeat for hours (at the cost of blaspheming in the eyes of many, better than the original). But if you want to see a band grow, progress, and do it with grace and artistic integrity, “In This Light and On This Evening” is an album that is going to seduce you as much as it has seduced me over the past twenty-four hours.

Track Listing:
1. In This Light and On This Evening
2. Bricks and Mortar
3. Papillon
4. You Don’ Know Love
5. The Big Exit
6. The Boxer
7. Like Treasure
8. Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool
9. Walk the Fleet Road

Keep up with Editors at their homepage and MySpace. If in Europe, through December they will be touring. Check out their homepage Live page for dates and ticket information.

Here is their video for “Papillon” from their YouTube Channel: editorsoffical.

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Microfilm: "Blips Don't Lie"

Disclosure: Microfilm reached out to SlowdiveMusic Blog via MySpace, sharing their new EP. Considering that I have been a fan since “The Slingshot Orchestra,” I was more than happy to take a listen.

Hailing from Portland, Oregon USA, Microfilm released their latest EP “Blips Don’t Lie” on 27 September 2009. A triple “A-side,” accompanied by a remix for each song, it is their second EP of the year. So I downloaded the EP and started to read through the tracks’ titles. I was instantly curious; how many people even know whom Billy Mackenzie is? Moreover, how many people would even reference him in a song’s title: “I’ll Sing Like Billy Mackenzie in Heaven”?

Billy Mackenzie was the lead singer to post-punk band The Associates. He committed suicide in 1997, and has been immortalized in the Cure’s song “Cut Here.” A man with an incredible voice, that was dramatic and distinct on par with Annie Lennox or David Bowie, citing a forefather and pioneer in music in a song’s title is brazen. But I have always thought that Microfilm (an ironic name for a digital band) was one of those electronic / house bands that could think outside of the box. And when you create house music that has a cinematic quality to it, a feat not easily accomplished in the genre, you earn the right to reference anyone you want. Both the official studio versions and the remixes are going to get you brushing off your old dance shoes, but what you are going to be most impressed with is how these songs are not cookie-cutter.

Their nouveau-house style does not fall into the trappings of others experimenting with the genre: this is far from rehash. Instead, the duo (Keppel and Mercer) use old school synth hooks in a new melodic way. And the beats are modern, not the standard get-ready-to-whoop beats of the 80s. “Water Drops on Burning Rocks” is the most impressive song in term of beats on the EP; in its official studio version, there is an element of counter beats, almost counter intuitive to what standard dance beats should be. And “His N’ Hers Hibernation” hearkens back to freestyle, but possesses more ambience and depth of sound than any earlier freestyle track that I know of. But the opening track, “I’ll Sing Like Billy Mackenzie in Heaven,” really puts forward what Microfilm is capable of. A driving beat with monotone vocals, highly electronic with Del Marquis adding the analogue guitar sound, highly crafted yet seemingly all over the place – this is not a study in contradictions. This is a study in bringing together many different ideas and masterfully making it work.

I really appreciate the fact that remixes really are remixes; each of the three songs are overhauled with new beats and rearranged. As I have said before, a good remix is a mix of the song that brings to light something new, something hidden and unheard before. A good remix is not a completely new song, but rather a song that has unraveled from the original. These three remixes accomplish just that.

If you were wondering, that is “I’ll Sing Like Billy Mackenzie in Heaven” you have been listening to in the background. Tantalized?

Create a MySpace Music Playlist at MixPod.com

Track Listing:
1. I’ll Sing Like Billy Mackenzie in Heaven – featuring Del Marquis
2. Water Drops on Burning Rocks – featuring Sarah Nixey
3. His N’ Hers Hibernation – featuring Kylie Minimoog
4. I’ll Sing Like Billy Mackenzie in Heaven – Astrolabe Remix
5. His N’ Hers Hibernation – Kid Whatever’s Bear Affair
6. Water Drops on Burning Rocks – Nine Devices Remix

Keep up with Microfilm at their homepage and MySpace.

Support the band and mosey on down to iTunes or Amazon.com and get yourself a copy of “Blips Don’t Lie.”
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Videos on a Chilly Day

Just some fruity videos, literally. Enjoy!

Kid Harpoon’s “Back From Beyond” from the youngturkrecords YouTube Channel.

Yo La Tengo’s “Periodically Double or Triple” from their YouTube Channel: metadorrecs.

Bad Lieutenant’s “Sink or Swim” from their YouTube Channel: badlieutenant.

Röyksopp’s “This Must Be It” from their YouTube Channel: RoyksoppMusic.

Fanfarlo’s “The Walls Are Coming Down” from their YouTube Channel: FanfarloMusic.

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11 October 2009

Steven Severin Live

Did you ever have one of those days when you wake up anxious? That was Saturday morning for me; though I have been to hundreds of concerts/shows in the past, this was one of those shows that I was really looking forwards to. Heading over to Le Poisson Rouge, Steven Severin (punk, post-punk icon, co-founder of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and one of my childhood heroes) was to perform his American live solo debut. For Severin, an artist who has continually challenged the industry and listeners, this was a bold step into the future of possibilities. All that was to be expected was that he would perform along side French surrealist film “The Seashell and the Clergyman” – a lunatic tale of the delusions of a clergyman. Iconoclastic artist, iconoclastic film – the night was set to be unforgettable.

Le Poisson Rouge

The venue is small, intimate – and from any spot in the room the stage, fitted with a movie screen, was within clear view. I sat there with two friends (my favorite Aussie, Belladonna, and a colleague who knows everything film). As we sat at our table, and 8:20pm rolled around, the lights dimmed, and Severin, clad in black, entered the room and climbed the stage. Though Severin never took center stage, nor has he ever, he is one of those individuals that have presence and visual character. He took his seat by his equipment, and the film, “The Seashell and the Clergyman” began to roll as he generated the soundscape.

Directed by Germaine Dulac and written by Antonin Artaud (who is said to have been disgusted by the finish product), “The Seashell and the Clergyman” premiered in Paris on 9 February 1928. Though not considered by most film historians to be the first surrealist film, history is being revisited on that question. This film is bizarre – it may make you laugh, cringe, or feel revolted, or all three at once. But Severin’s music to the film was not mere cut the idea on the screen and paste it to music, but rather an expansion, an elaboration of the moods and emotions on the screen. Instead of the music working to enhance the visual, or the visual as a means of passive experience while listening to music, they both worked hand-in-hand to create an experience that was at both visual and audio, an experience that was both intellectual (as you pondered the elusive narrative on the screen) and visceral (as you tried to understand your own reaction to the sensory overload). This was an amazing experience.

After the thirty-one minute film, there was an intermission. As captured on his current release, “Music for Silents” (iTunes link), the second half of the show would concentrate on short, abstract scenes. From the symmetry of forms as two women playing against mirrors in “In Loop,” to the sexual and violence of “The Bad Dropper” and “Third Bride” – what really caught my eye was “Mercury Gash.” Starting with similar sounds to a flanger effect-pedal, the illustrated imagery was nothing short of Dionysian. A frenzied, orgiastic experience, as images of surreal sexual positions, the music itself never reached the point of losing itself in passion. That would be too easy, and Severin is a genius. Instead, the music is a very self-contained experience, with repetitive elements that mirror the repetitive elements of sex.

I came across the work of Steven Severin years ago, and one of the things that I admired most about his character is that he never uses the coattails of past monuments to fuel new endeavors. Every phase of his career, every album he ever compiled, every song he ever composed, each was done by its own merits and not hoping the past would propel him to another success. This show, and its corresponding release, is no different – “Music for Silents,” both a static album or a living performance, is a new step into a future that has not been charted out. It would not surprise me to see more artists start to perform in this format, as Severin has always had the power to influence his peers. And as history is starting to show, he can even influence future generations into a new mindset about how to approach music.

Mosey on down to his MySpace page and get more information on the following live dates. Make the investment; the show will blow you away.

18 October 2009 – Rome, Italy
11 November 2009 – Los Angeles, CA USA
13 November 2009 – Olympia, WA USA
18 November 2009 – Los Angeles, CA USA

Set List
1. The Seashell and the Clergyman
2. InLoop
3. The Bad Dropper
4. Mercury Gash
5. Figure in Movement
6. Third Bride
7. OutLoop

Keep up with Steven Severin at his homepage and MySpace.
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09 October 2009

A Few Thoughts on Disclosure and Official Providers

I took some time to breeze through some hefty reading about the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) policy on disclosures that is going to affect blogs. For some time now, hard-money compensation (direct payment) has had to be disclosed, but now the FTC has mandated compulsory disclosure of soft-money compensation (any gift, such as free products, that have value). This goes into effect on 21 December 2009, but starting from this date forward, we as a blog will disclose any compensation (that is a hint to send me some free CDs). I know there are many bloggers who are probably quaking in their boots about this, but I actually like this law for many reasons, but I do have some issues. Ultimately, it is about fairness and transparency for blog readers, but I think that hand-in-hand with this we must also consider what is fairness for artists, especially nascent artists who are only starting out.

I think it is important to know what strings come with reviews and endorsement, because ultimately what happens behind close doors, with a handshake and a wink, can affect what is projected forward. For example, I like to know where my politicians are getting contributions from, because it will in many ways determine how they are going to vote in office. This also holds true for reviews and endorsements – I like to know if there is a blatant or tacit compensatory agreement between the words on the page by a writer and another party; is the writer being honest or writing words on a page/screen because s/he is being compensated for it? The only shame is the fact that it only applies to media outlets, as I think these disclosures should be universal. It is not only infomercials, blogs, and magazines that may be guilty of writing “skewed” reviews or giving false endorsements. The reality is that I want to know what angle or obligation reviewers I read have when they give me information.

“Hey, schmuck,” you are thinking, “all of your reviews are always positive, so what is your angle or obligation?” My answer: I only review what I like. I do not have an endless well of capital, resources or time (as I have to work to pay the rent), nor do the people I write with, and as I have no desire to spend my resources on music that frankly will make me hate myself in the morning (that’s why I have radio), I tend to only write about what I like – as does everyone else on this blog, not that we all like the same things. It would be easy to write about all the shite I hate, but what would be the point? Reality, in any artistic genre, some people are going to like it and others are going to hate it. I rather give you the reasons why to like something than bitch and moan about why my stomach is being turned. I started this blog, which has grown with Mirage, Bloodybones, VoodooDolly, Hyaena, and the incredible Juju, as a means of sharing what I thought was good, great, exceptional, and worth giving time to, that may not be getting the credit it deserves. In simple words, “singing the unsung heroes.” So really, there is no angel other than if you walk into any of our homes, before having the cops called on you, you will probably hear the music we write about playing in the background.

But what are my issues with this new policy? Well, it opens up a can of worms that may not be being considered. For instance, bloggers will be fined if they do not disclose, but how about the companies and other agents who are doing the compensation? Are their corporate interests going to be protected, while the people who put the word out on their products are going to be raked over the coals? Then how about those really tacit situations, like when you download a song from a band’s website that they are giving away, like Muse did with “The United States of Eurasia.” Is that compensatory if it is reviewed? The band did “give” it to you, or must there be a verbal/written agreement between parties? How about if a band hits you up on MySpace as a friend, and you like what they have put out there, and you decide to write about it of your own free will, then they send you a thank you gift because they are grateful that you took the time to rave about them? Even if this is what they hoped for, does this need disclosure, as there was no agreement, but as a result of your free will writing, you received a gift of value? And how about websites that are not called “blogs,” like Wikis, are they compelled to disclose? And if there is a public forum, how can that be monitored? Can’t third parties leave endorsements there disguised as comments? The language is not exact enough for my liking, but I have always felt that full disclosure is a good policy.

But this idea of fairness to the reader has to move one step further and really consider fairness to the product, in this case, musical artists. I have a preference to embed videos, as oppose of giving a link to the video. Why? Because obviously that band wants their music video circulated. But many artists and labels disenable this feature, which I completely respect. But then I go and read other blogs or sites, and I still see their videos posted there – why? Any six-year old can rip videos from YouTube, and even if it were done in Flash, this is not an assurance of it being safe from getting ripped and used elsewhere. But if the object, logically, is to have your music commented about, your videos seen, and an artist gaining a fan base, you would want to allow this feature. Nevertheless, I respect any band that does not have the features enabled and will provide a link to the official provider (band, label, etc…) for my readers. (We always give the link to official YouTube, Vimeo, and MySpace pages that videos are embedded from.) Ultimately, I believe it is the decision of an artist how their music is marketed, distributed, and consumed. (Though I do believe that small clips, not whole songs, may be valid if provided for critical review. Then again, cameras are allowed into shows, often time with no restrictions or regulations, how can the music industry be surprised that there are full-length songs and shows streaming over YouTube? If the camera was permitted into the show, is it not fair use?) Though history continues to challenge antediluvian ideas, from the eight-track to the broadband revolution, musicians should be the ones making the decisions. It is their work. That is why I only allow links from official providers and recently deleted a YouTube link from the comments (sorry Kiko) because it was not official. Using official provider links and official video embeds and disclosing information, and not allowing downloading links, is something that I support, but you can see the headaches that the broadband revolution is causing.

We can blame unofficial downloads, we can blame skewed reviews and smear campaigns, we can blame the economic downturn of the global financial system for the lackluster profits and growth in the music industry, but we will only be scapegoating. The fact is that bad music, talentless entertainers, producer invented fads, and poor infrastructures for the exposure of new music are really to blame. It is not that people do not like bands like The Twilight Sad, they just might never have heard of them, because our media outlets play bias games when it comes to music, just like the news (just compare the love fest versus the hate fest on MSNBC and FOX News). If you are on a major label, you will get exposure; if you are not, you need to start hitting up friends on MySpace. And just like the news is skewed by the political and ideological beliefs of the network or individual journalist, radio and traditional music outlets are skewed. You do not get the real news, what happened, with no spin, just as you do not get all the music that is freshly released out there. (One New York radio station that plays the “hits” will not play hip-hop, and another dance station will only play music with vocals for the most part.) So in this flawed infrastructure for exposing audiences to music, who is going to be really effected by this disclosure policy in terms of music? Young artists, who may now find that bloggers are not going to be willing to endorse them even if they like them out of fear or misunderstanding about disclosure. Which brings me to the ironic difference between nascent and established bands. Nascent bands, who need royalty profits in order to pay rent, are willing to give their music away in order to get exposure, while establish bands who make hundreds of thousands on tour do not need the royalties to survive but do not give away music as a general policy. But if the infrastructure existed to get the music out there, would these younger bands have to be depending on small blogs like this one to get some exposure? Ummm…. No. So even in trying to be official and ethical towards nascent artists, disclosure policies are going to make many legitimate bloggers think twice.

Ultimately, in terms of advertising and the music industry, this disclosure policy is something I support, but I have to admit that it is a bit amusing. Why? Think of it in terms of some current trends by both a veteran and nascent band. Nine Inch Nails and the Joy Formidable have it all right and the rest the industry is lagging behind them. Giving away their music is not a free ride, but allows fans to choose how they want to “invest” in them. Whether by turning around and buying a hard copy of the music (how I love to unwrap the plastic of a CD case and popping the CD right into the player in the car while driving back home) or buying concert tickets and merchandise, fans are still making investments in bands. And the intelligence of consumers should never be under estimated. Consumers, especially in this broadband world where a hundred reviews are at your fingertips with just one click, are smarter than given credit. Really, I do not think for an instance that when someone is watching a commercial with a famous actress endorsing an at-home kit to dye your hair really believes that she doesn’t pay major money at a salon for her highlights! Is a disclosure really needed? I think quite often we know when there is paid endorsements or reviews. Times are changing, and though disclosure is something I support, there is a bit of irony to it when thinking about music, because the reality is that it is not the 1980s anymore, and perhaps what the music industry has to do is grow with the times and allow artists to make more decisions about the future of the music industry. The paradigm has shifted – money is made on tour, not record sales. No longer does the tour support the album, the album supports the tour. Worrying about “disclosure” is not going to help the industry recoup lost revenues from record sales or help the government make advertisements and endorsements more honest; actually, it is more likely they will lose revenues as more writers may choose not to review an album and more readers are likely to not take any review that has a disclosure serious, even when done in good faith.

I promise, that as a policy of this blog, if we receive something to review, we will only review it if it is something we like. We will not review anything that we do not like, would not listen to, or revolts us to the point of wanting a lobotomy. I assure you, as a matter of policy, any music or product we receive that we will use for a review will be disclosed before the review, in the opening line, posted in red print, so you know there was an “exchange.” But, we would not be reviewing it unless we liked it to begin with, but if you are not convinced, you may feel free to skip the review. Furthermore, we will continue to use only official links from official providers and enforce a no bullshit zone on these pages.

For everyone who has supported us so far, thank you!

I would also like to thank the contributors/collaborators of SlowdiveMusic Blog for taking the time out of their busy schedules to write along side me and help me behind the scenes when they can. You guys may not keep me sane, but you are surely a lot of fun to spend time with.

And a special thank you to Charlie Vazquez for getting me in touch with Steven Severin, personally a great moment for me to be able to interview one the greatest musical icons of all time whom I have been a fan and admirer of for 24 years.
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Catching up with Starlight Mints and Simian Mobile Disco

SDM and I were hanging out this past weekend, listening to music that, well, sort of got by us during the summer. As we are going back a few months here for these two, we realize that you may have heard the albums already and are not going to belabor the process. But we wanted to say a few words about the albums, because they’re unexpected gems in their own right. From indie produced in the American heartland to London DJs, these two acts are inspiring and a real distinct point of reference of a music scene that is becoming more and more cookie-cutter. Neither band fits a comfortable mold, instead giving a listener a different twist on current trends in music while infusing something unique to their sound. So we divided up the writing duties on this one, SDM taking Starlight Mint and I Simian Mobile Disco.

Starlight Mint: “Change Remains”

Hailing from Norman, Oklahoma, Starlight Mint released their fourth album “Change Remains” (21 June 2009), and I am regretting I let this one almost get by me. Opening with “Coffins ‘R’ Us,” this unusual instrumental just sucked me into the experience, but was my no way the style of what was to follow. And that is something I like about this album – it is not predictable. Highly crafted, meticulously arranged, every detail working together, yet what lies around the corner is always a mystery. The second track, “Natural,” takes a different direction; like many early new wave songs, there is a sense of awkward sensuality that dribbles through the music. After listening to the first two songs, you expect an entire album that is worlds away from their prior material, but that is not the case.

Like the Joy Formidable, there is club ownership here. Andy Nunez (drummer) owns Opolis, hosting local and national acts. Why is this an important fact? Because they see the musical scene unfurl in front of their very eyes. It is one thing to travel from city to city to play your own shows, but to have the capacity to see a plethora of bands and divergent musical ideas in the comfort of your own club, well that just allows for growth as artists. And that is the case here. This is a quirky album that incorporates a lot of different sounds and styles. From funk to electropop, the album is a jamboree of sounds, an orgy of fun, and an eclectic journey though sounds and styles that is unexpected. Though some of the songs may hearken back to their older style, what is different is how tight this album is.

One listen, and you are hooked. My favorite tracks are “Natural,” “Power Bleed” (urgent, poppy, and fun), and “Snorkel with a Turtle” (instrumental that is eerie, verging on dark). There is enough on this album that anyone can pick it up, listen to it, and enjoy. And that is what I recommend; this offbeat, zany album is one of those standouts in a mundane year of repetitious sounds. Don’t let it pass you by.

Track Listing:
1. Coffin ‘R’ Us
2. Natural
3. Paralyzed
4. Zoomba
5. Black Champagne
6. Power Bleed
7. Gazeretti
8. Sesame (Untie the Wrath)
9. Snorkel with a Turtle
10. 40 Fingers

Keep up Starlight Mint at their homepage and MySpace. While at their homepage, check out the Opolis page – good things are happening outside of London, New York, and Stockholm.

Here is the their video for “Power Bleed” from the barsukrecords YouTube Channel.

Simian Mobile Disco: “Temporary Pleasure”

Releasing their latest album, Simian Mobile Disco marks their sophomore studio effort with “Temporary Pleasure” (17 August 2009). I stumbled upon the band earlier this year when I heard “I Believe” from their debut album, “Attack Decay Sustain Release” and I was very much intrigued.

Simian Mobile Disco was formed in London as a traveling DJ duo of James Ford and Jas Shaw. Minimalist in their approach, this is the stuff that great house music is made of – tightly arranged music that flows easily from track to track. Whether instrumental or employing guest vocalists (Beth Ditto, Chris Keating, Jamie Lidell, Gruff Rhys, Alexis Taylor, Telepathe, and Young Fathers), the emphasis always lies in creating ambience. Employing some of the edgiest sounds, I am only wondering how much edgier the remixes are going to sound. Come on, they are DJs, they are not going to give up the best beats right from the beginning!

The lead single, “Audacity of Huge,” is by far my favorite song on the album. It has a killer beat, and is very club friendly; I could see people gathering ‘round and dancing to this song. The lyrics are fun to sing along to and are, at times, hilarious: “I got that crank drippin’ baby shoe, I got that grape Kool-Aid filled swimming pool, I got those Roomba robots that cleans the floor, I got that mother of pearl oyster fork for sure, I got that Tammy Faye milk money butterscotch, I got that Mama Cass, you know I got that Peter Tosh, I got it all. Yes it's true, so why don't I get you?” You may criticize their lack of depth, but the point is not philosophy; the point is to sing along and party – mission accomplished.

Simian Mobile Disco’s “Temporary Pleasure” is a fun album that everyone should check out. And now starts the process of getting those remixes!

Track Listing:
1. Cream Dream – featuring Gruff Rhys
2. Audacity of Huge – featuring Chris Keating
3. 10,000 Horses Can’t Be Wrong
4. Cruel Intentions – featuring Beth Ditto
5. Off the Map – featuring Jamie Lidell
6. Synthesise
7. Bad Blood – featuring Alexis Taylor
8. Turn Up the Dial – featuring Young Fathers
9. Ambulance
10. Pinball – featuring Telepathe
Limited Edition Second Disc
11. Flea in Your Ear
12. Are You in the Picture?
13. Babaghanoush
14. Do Not Exceed Stated Dose

Keep up with Simian Mobile Disco at their homepage and MySpace.

Here is their video for “Audacity of Huge” from their YouTube Channel: SMDTV.

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07 October 2009

Thoughts on Summer and Porn... Videos!

Here are some videos that have caught my eyes. Ace!

Supergrass’s “Alright” from their YouTube Channel: supergrassofficial.

LoveHateHero’s “America Underwater” from their YouTube Channel: lhhmerch.

The Hickey Underworld’s “Blonde Fire” from their YouTube Channel: HickeyUnderworld.

Lostprophets’ “It’s Not The End Of The World” from the VisibleNoiseRecords YouTube Channel.

Rammstein’s “Pussy” from their YouTube Channel: rammsteinband.

Muse’s “Uprising” from their MySpace videos.

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06 October 2009

Alice in Chains: "Black Gives Way to Blue"

I was just as surprised as most of you were when I heard that Alice in Chains was releasing a new album. I was curious, anxious, skeptical, elated, but most importantly glad that one of the last remaining pioneer bands of grunge were still making music. I find it most interesting because earlier in the year I wrote up a retrospective on “Dirt” (link) without knowledge of the impending release. No better time than now to do a quick comparison in the name of fun.

As it has happened in the past, it happens now and will continue to happen in the future: bands will always have new music compared to their previous releases. Does it have the same musicality as this record, is it as well produced as that record, how does this single compare to a classic, etc. Typical of any music fan, I make the same comparisons. How does “Black Gives Way to Blue” measure up: It sounds like this album was released in 1997. It’s perfectly seamless and a natural evolution in terms of the band’s sound. It’s a strange concept, but often times one would ask if a band “sounds like themselves.” In a nutshell, does it sound like an Alice in Chains record? Completely. However one cannot overlook the obvious absence of Layne Staley.

Taking up the mantle as lead vocalist is William DuVall of Comes With the Fall. No stranger to the Alice camp (CWTF was the band handpicked to back up Jerry Cantrell on his solo tour), DuVall seems to fit right in the pocket carved out by Cantrell. As principal songwriter and backup vocalist of Alice in Chains releases, it’s no surprise that Cantrell picks lead vox that blend neatly with his own over the classic thunder he provides with Mike Inez (bass), Sean Kinney (drums), and with DuVall himself (rhythm guitar).

As a purist, I feel betrayed in that the band moved on and found a replacement singer. But there’s a perfect counterpoint to that argument within that statement itself: they’ve moved on. Not to say that Layne was replaced in that classic “you’re fired” sense, but the world lost him tragically, and instead of remaining a trio with guest singers filling in, they carried on when the time was right and started to write new music. A band cannot play their classics and only their classics and expect to stay relevant (unless the band in question happens to be The Cure) in this tumultuous state of the music industry.

Great choice of singles as well. “Check My Brain”, about Cantrell’s adjusting to moving to California, is a great example of the classic Alice in Chains sound. Great video, too. Also “A Looking in View”, intense video for an equally heavy song. Check them out below.

Track Listing:
1. All Secrets Known
2. Check My Brain
3. Last of My Kind
4. Your Decision
5. A Looking in View
6. When the Sun Rose Again
7. Acid Bubble
8. Lesson Learned
9. Take Her Out
10. Private Hell
11. Black Gives Way to Blue
12. Down in a Hole, live – Japanese bonus track
12. Black Gives Way to Blue, piano mix – iTunes bonus track
13. Your Decision, live – iTunes bonus track

Keep up with Alice in Chains at their homepage and MySpace.

Here are their videos from their MySpace videos page.

Check My Brain

Alice in Chains - A Looking In View
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Ian Brown: "My Way"

SDM is swamped with work, but we are going to keep this blog going – enjoy!

Iconic, former front man of The Stone Roses, Ian Brown, continues on to release fresh and relevant music with his sixth solo album, “My Way.” Although fans of the Stone Roses may want more of the old sound, Ian Brown, the solo artist, is now doing things much differently with a little more contemporary twist in sound and noise. The album is said to be inspired by Michael Jackson’s song “Thriller” and it marks one of Brown’s most eclectic and distinguishing albums.

This album was highly anticipated and the pressure was on to produce one of the, if not the “greatest” album to date. I am not sure if this expectation is fair or welcoming to Brown, but “My Way” deserves a great amount of credit. Although it is very different from his past works, the album does not, in any way, disappoint. There is no obvious sound to the album and there is a very unique approach to how mood is achieved on the individual tracks, yet the transitioning works so very well creating fluidity throughout the album and an alluring listen. The tempo is generally upbeat, catchy, and almost mesmerizing.

The album contains one cover, “In The Year 2525,” originally sung by Zager and Evans, which includes a more modern and relevant approach towards the tempo in a song that was originally composed in the late 1960’s. Although he did not change the song up to the point where it is unrecognizable, it shows that he was trying to pay homage to this track. The album starts off with “Stellify,” now released as a single, which provides for a great opening introduction for two reasons: it is extremely catchy (both lyrically and instrumentally) and it amplifies one of the most generic emotions: love. “Stellify” starts off with the lines “When you are stellified, could be the last chance I have to sanctify. So save the last dance for me my love cause I, I see you as an angel freshly fallen from the sky” and instantly you are lost in Brown’s poetic world. Paired up with the heart-thumping rhythm, it makes for an extremely catchy single. Generally, not many individuals pay any mind to lyrics in a single, so the simpler the song is, the greater the chance of the single and album catching on more popularity.

Rhythmically, the album is very diverse, and lyrically each song has a personality of its own and while some tracks are deep and compelling to a specific, others are broad and open-ended yet poetic. While some tracks require bum-shaking, some are better off enjoyed in the comfort of a home or somewhere cozy. For me, one of the most alluring aspects of the album is that it does not blend well into the current indie trends so nicely; included here are elements of trip-hop and synthesized sound and all bag of tricks executed to perfection.

Although Ian Brown may be known as an icon and the father figure of Madchester scene, he is surprisingly still relevant – this is a veteran who knows how to get the job done! The synthetic noises, upbeat tempo, and toe-tapping beats are enough to reel a listener in, but on closer listens, the album has the artistic integrity and depth of an artist of Brown’s fame.

Track Listing:
1. Stellify
2. Crowning Of The Poor
3. Just Like You
4. In The Year 2525
5. Always Remember Me
6. Vanity Kills
7. For The Glory
8. Marathon Man
9. Own Brain
10. Laugh Now
11. By All Means Necessary
12. So High

Keep up with Ian Brown at his homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is his video for “Stellify” from the polydor YouTube Channel.

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