Thursday, January 13, 2011

Richard Def and the Mos Pryors- Songz Fo Da Def

It's been a while. I've been doing stuff. Not fun stuff. School has started back up, so I'll be listening to a lot more academic music for the next few months. But before I get too heavy into that I wanted to put up this review.

I've been sitting on this review for a while. Not only due to my strained time schedule, but because I wanted to be able to say something meaningful about Songs Fo Da Def. There is quite a lot to the album, and trying to oversimplify what is going on would discredit the hard work Richard Def and the Mos Pryors put forward. Although, when I think on what this whole blog is about I'm already guilty of that.

I'll skip the whole band history introduction this round. Mostly because I have no a priori knowledge of the band. I assume this is their first release.

The opening track, "First Blood", is an energetic start to the album. One of the qualities I really like about this track is the melodic development over the song. Twisting the main guitar riff into different ways and fitting it in to the song certainly helps to make it catchy. I can also appreciate a section of diminished chord use (think cliffhanger tags a la Rocky and Bullwinkle), as it rarely makes its way into current popular music usage.

Flowing into "Palpagomic Deets", we get a brief cool down in a laid back, yet still energetic song. While I initially thought the use of vocal doubling was just to add beefiness to the first two track, it appears to permeate the album. Further into the album on "Opposable Thumbs", there's a great section of vocal harmony which makes me want to see this performed live. The lack of perceivable auto tune on the album gives me great satisfaction. The vocals aren't 100% dead on in tune, but the human factor that is added through throwing auto tune to the side has a way of restoring your faith in the future of musical integrity. I'll take close over computer any day.

The album is rather short. Most of the songs clock in around 2-3 minutes except for the last track, "See-Saws". As the last track on the album, it certainly has the most melodic material. I suppose that falls in line with what is supposed to happen on an album, unless you did your big song the track before and wrote a codetta sort of thing. While it isn't as melodically connected as the other songs on the album, it works with the lyrics being the glue that holds "See-Saws" together. This observation seems to be grasping at straws, though. Basically, I'm just saying something because if I wrote, "This song is good", I would have had one sentence in the paragraph.

Songs Fo Da Def has the typical home-brew sound to the album; not a lot of highs, not a lot of bass, and not a lot of room presence in the mix. I can't speak to if this is a mastering issue, mixing issue, or just a fact of the inexpensive studio craze that's popping up across the country. The album isn't pretty sounding, but it is pretty damn good. I'll keep my eyes peeled for a sophomore release. For now, you can listen to the entire album and buy it for $6 at the band's Band Camp website. Do yourself a favor and give it a few listens, as this review won't do it half the justice it deserves. Then give them some money so they can make some more music.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Velvet Teen- No Star EP

I have to preface this post by saying The Velvet Teen is a band near and dear to my heart.

I first saw The Velvet Teen in 2002 down in the basement of Jerry's Pizza. At the time, I was rather infantile in my musical taste; I had spent the better part of my adolescence listening to Creed and Metallica. To this date, I'm still trying to pay penance for those early musical sins. A friend of mine from school got ahold of a sampler for Some Records. There were two songs from The Exit's New Beat, and two songs from The Ghost's This Is A Hospital. A few of us decided to head to see both bands play one Saturday night when they were in town.

The Velvet Teen was their opening band. None of us  had heard of them, or knew anything about them. I was impressed with the band, but I was more interested in seeing the other bands on the bill. After the show was done we were dropping all our cash at the merch booth (and by booth, I mean the booth upstairs that the bands threw all their swag they had to sell). Down to about $10, I asked the guy running the merch table what else I should get. I really wanted another shirt, but he told me to buy The Velvet Teen's current album instead. A little voice in my head went off and said, "This is a good idea. You'll thank yourself later." So I popped down that last $10 on Out Of The Fierce Parade. That night, I put it into my CD player and got my mine blown away. Almost 9 years later, the album still holds up.

Now, this is the part of the review where everyone pulls out their "this band reinvents themselves every album" card. Instead of pulling out said card, I'm just gonna say that saying something like that is the biggest bunch of bullshit any critic can say. Bands don't 'reinvent'. They put out new material. The only way you can reinvent a band is by getting a completely new name and putting completely new people in the band. So, seeing The Who close up shop and four other blokes starting a band called "We Are Not The Who" would be a reinvention. Judah Nagler and Josh Staples are probably two of the best songwriters of our generation. To call each album a reinvention of the band is a cop out, and a disservice to the both of them.

Comparing from the earlier albums to now, the music has been pushed quite a bit. Logan Whitehurst's passing brought in Casey Deitz to take over drumming duties. Not to say that Whitehurst was a bad drummer, but Deitz appears to be quite a bit more technical. The addition of Matthew Izen on guitars has bumped up the orchestration capabilities both live and on the record. While Izen was brought in to fill the spot vacated when Staples left the band to focus on The New Trust, it's apparent that keeping Izen in the band was a good decision musically (and hopefully for the overall band's well being).

I've always had questions about an EP. Is an EP supposed to be a stand alone unit of songs? Is it a teaser before a full album? Are these songs that just didn't make the LP? I'll be struggling with these questions for the foreseeable future. Taking No Star by itself, the four songs stand up completely on their own. I'd be happy seeing them as a foundation for a strong 8 to 10 song album, or just by themselves as a preview of a future full length. The biggest stand out is the leading track "No Star". Lyrically, Nagler pumps out some great prose per usual. What draws me to this track is the interplay of the band. The Velvet Teen picks up where they left off with Cum Laude with their use of lo-fi synths and vocal effects, but the musicianship has moved to the next level. Specifically, the outro of "No Star" has a great interplay between the instruments. It's not pretentious experimentation with meter and motif just to be different and get all those shoegazers to the concert. I hear musicians having fun playing, probably the best thing to capture in the studio. Certainly better than anything your Yingwie Van Halen will ever pop out.

Check out The Velvet Teen's website here and preview/purchase No Star here.

Coming soon- That review of Songz Fo Da Def by Richard Def and the Mos Pryors.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


This  is considered to be the high point of our musical generation. Then again, it's one magazine that im sure only a few million people read.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

An attempt at empirical analysis-

For the 5 of you subscribed to this blog, I figured I would take a little time to explain my actual thought process as to how I go about reviewing things.

For the most part, the critic really doesn't discuss methods. We just hear or read what they have to say without any concept of how they got to their conclusions. This would be great if you're working for the NSA, but when your review starts off with something like this -
"Post-hardcore is a slippery genre. If emo is commonly defined as "we know it when we hear it," maybe post-hardcore is "we know it when we can't hear anything after hearing it." But that's too easy; lots of music is loud. Maybe post-hardcore is what happens when people who are into hooks and melodies get into heavier styles like punk, metal, and hardcore. Post-hardcore kids listen to classic Metallica and hear the melody beneath the mayhem, the pop in the apoplexy. They listen to emo and imagine what those wobbly arpeggios would sound like with some real balls in the dynamic shifts, some buffness in the chordage."
I am left scratching my head and wondering why this person even listens to music. Genre is nice for trying to find a CD at Borders, but too much obsession with genre and subculture obscures the music. It also makes you sound like a huge tool.

So, to lift the curtain and give you some incite into my thought process, here's what I aim to do when I sit down and write up a critique.

  1. Each album should be listen through from first song to last song at least twice. Given that typically the artist or band doesn't arbitrarily put tracks on the album, respect should be given in both the order and number of times to which I listen to the album.
  2. Comparisons to other bands should be used sparingly, if at all. We live in a world of "if you like this, listen to that" thanks to Pandora and other music services. It doesn't benefit the reader for me to compare someones hard work to the new Muse album. In fact, it does more detriment to the work and the artist. Everyone has influences, but they're what gets you to where you are today and are completely irrelevant outside of an interview or a historical examination. If I compare anything at all, I try to compare the album to the previous works of the band or artist.
  3. Be honest and brutal, but no rating systems. If things don't work on the album, it needs to be communicated. Putting a points system in place not only makes the critique easier to pass over, but also degrades my own integrity. I'm not handing out ribbons or trophies, so there's no need to make people feel like they're the top dog at the local kennel club show.
  4. At the end of the day, it's just my opinion. A critique is just what I happen to feel sitting down and listening to whatever is in front of me. Unless you have my same musical taste and background, what I say could be completely irrelevant to you, the listener. Critiques are more of a cliff notes guide for someone who has no experience with an album. It isn't the final answer as to the validity of the music. Everything should be taken seriously until otherwise proven.
I've probably broken one or more of these rules with the last two reviews I've done. But I'm getting better. Promise.

At the moment, gonna scrape some buckage together to review a new release by Richard Def and the Mos Pryors. Probably coming later tonight, so await it with bated breath. Also, to keep everything on the level, the excerpt was from Brian Howe's review of Terrorhawk on Pitchfork.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Daughters- S/T

Seeing as it's close to Christmas, I figure it would be good to write about something as un-Christmas related as I possibly can- metal. Well, I guess it's metal. I mean, I've never been a huge metal head. Not as much as my buddy Monsoon Cobra. His blog is also pretty nice. Lots of penis jokes. However, I can appreciate good music. And as far as I can tell, the Daughters self titled album a piece of music. 8 songs to be exact.

I've been a pretty big fan of Daughters since one of my friends introduced me to them. Canada Songs was an album with brick wall power slamming into you in under 10 minutes. Hell Songs expanded upon what the band was about while being something you could play for grandma without making it feel like you just hit her over the head with a baseball bat and asked her what she was making for dinner. Hell Songs did turn people off because it was more concept development and less screamy-screamy. I can understand that; there are a lot of people in the world that enjoy micro movements of super powerful music. Webern (not Berg as I originally wrote) did that whole thing, and it lit up the musical world until he got capped smoking a cigar on his porch. But I digress.

"The Virgin" is a one-two punch lead into the album. The listener only gets about a 12 count before getting assaulted by dissonance. Most certainly, the song and its following songs are more structured than the past two releases. Hell, I could probably make a case for "The Virgin" being a rondo. Then again, I really don't want to notate it all and write an essay. So you'll just have to take me squinting my eye at it and saying it could be a rondo.

"The First Supper" is the first and, to date, only single released from the album. Lyrically, it has a feeling of Heart of Darkness, or something Mastadon would have written for radio play. Musically, its brutal and physically exhausting. Nick Sadler is an amazingly creative guitar player. Sam Walker and Jon Syverson have such a great meshing on bass and drums it makes me sick.

"The Hit" was most certainly titled tongue in cheek. This is the most pop oriented song on the album. Per capita, it has the least amount of tritone use of any of the songs on the album. It flows well with the entire album, and by no means should be dismissed. And its catchy. Really catchy.

"The Theater Goer" comes off as the most "balls to the wall" song on the album. Admittedly, I never understood why one would go balls to the wall or place balls on the wall, but it's the best colloquialism I can come up with. It focuses heavily on meter and riffage, with a surf-gone-wrong flavor. Not very complex lyrically, but it holds itself as a song perched near the center of the album, and a good way to keep the listeners heading through the last four tracks.

"Our Queens (One Is Many, Many Are One)" pulls deep from the roots of earlier Daughters work. It has a bit more angular form, but still has that pop sensibility for grandma. Not that its a bad song, but its the least effective song on the album.

"The Dead Singer" initially sounds like a song that would get written in the studio; someone is screwing around on an instrument during downtime and it gets recorded and put together from there. Quite vocally powerful, and possibly the penultimate in catharsis on the album.

"Sweet Georgia Brown" is a song I heard when Daughters was on tour with Young Widows and Russian Circles a few years ago. It got reworked and put onto the album, and I'm certainly glad that it did. This song encapsulates what should happen when the Southern Metal bands write an album. It pays homage though riffs to the Southern sound without being overly obnoxious and still holds true to the overall feel of the album. It's got a nice beat and you can dance to it, and not feel bad when you start beating someone up for catching you dancing.

"The Unattractive, Portable Head" is a fitting end to both the album and the current incarnation of Daughters. It departs completely from the melt-your-face metal that the album pushed forth through your speakers. I'm reminded of listening to a drum circle done with a four piece band while listening to this track. It's a great close to the album, but at the same time I feel incomplete. The song isn't as finite an end as "The Fuck Whisperer" was to Hell Songs. "The Unattractive, Portable Head" leaves the album in a half cadence. At the same time, this could just be me wanting another album.

Overall, the album is strong. Sound quality is great, and mastering is certainly a bit cleaner than the previous albums. I can certainly see why the band split up. Alexis Marshall (the singer) said in an interview that if you liked it, it was because Nick wrote basically everything. It has a greater pop appeal, but that really isn't a bad thing. It just gives you fodder if you want to be a hipster prick and say, "I liked them more back on Canada Songs". Daughters is worth giving a listening to, but if you have the same exact musical tastes as your grandmother... I hear there's a new Jimmy Buffett album out.

Check out their website here for songs or go here to buy the album.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cold Electrics- Y'know, For Charity

So, I figured it would be good to start out with something that's been playing consistently in my iTunes, car, and head for the past year. No one has heard of this album, so it might be great for the 3 people who read this to know about this album.

Cold Electrics is one guy. Knowing that, the album gets a lot more impressive from the get go. The album is a study in being a musician with access to a professional studio.  It also becomes a study in how much liquor you can imbibe and still make important music (although, it begs the question if there really is a quantifiable amount of booze).

Leading with "Sorry, I Don't Speak Homeless", the album gets off to a odd time start that pops up in other tracks. Although Faraquet may come to mind, it's very approachable for people with a straight ahead on the 4 palate. The instrumentation for the most part is sparse; mostly baritone guitar, bass, and drums. Songs like "Blood-Sucking Eldon Makes You Feel WORSE" and "Tahana Make You Feel DIFF'RENT" throw in some variance to the album, but the album really doesn't have a moment where it lacks. The track that really caught my ear was "I Know You're Not Changing The Notes". It has that nice guttural, disenfranchised sound that just gets my whistle wet (and other body parts).

Sean, the soul and being of Cold Electrics, is mainly a guitarist. Drummers may be slightly bored, but who cares about what they think. I mean, seriously. If you think a guitar is a phallic statement, tell me how you can get away with a 30 piece drum set and it not have anything to do with your junk (I'm looking at you, Bozzio)? However, as Sean has more drum chops than I can ever hope to have, it's completely forgivable. The album is very warm tonally. For ears used to happy face EQs and blindingly skronky guitars, you're in for something different.

All and all, this is certainly worth giving at least 2 listens. Seeing as you can also get the album for free, you have nothing holding you back. Download it at-

And, while you're there, donate $5 or something if you like the album. Money helps make sure that more music gets made.

Super Fun Bonus Post!

For anyone looking for something soul crushing-

I became privy to this on my late night drives home from work on the weekends. While I can enjoy a good mash-up as much as the next guy, this stuff just hurts.