Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Tilly & the Wall – Bottom of Barrels

January 14, 2007

Tilly & the Wall – Bottoms of Barrels {7.3/10}
Team Love Records 2006
by Ian Cruz

Tilly & the Wall could be seen as being Park Ave. if it is looked at as if the name was changed, and if there were a few new members. But let’s not, and just say that Tilly & the Wall is a more mature version two of Park Ave. For one, they’ve grown older, and as you grow older you progress to learn and learn. Not to mention, they’ve also learned their instruments instead of being complete “newbs” like before. Jamie returned from London, and we got back together. Tilly & the Wall released their first full length in 2004, Wild Like Children, which was also the first release on Conor Oberst’s (Bright Eyes) record label Team Love.

Now, back with a more optimistic sound, Tilly & the Wall’s second release, Bottoms of Barrels, has the right direction in organization in the use of instrumentation from the horns and percussions displayed throughout the record. Instead of just being the fun and cheery band that was last heard on Children, Tilly & the Wall has a more genuine feel. Influence from a more traditional Mexican beat, and folk melodies are vivid on this album. Lyrically, things have gotten brighter. The love song on the album, not coincidentally, is titled “Love Song”. Vocalized by Derek Presnel, who also plays guitar in the band, “Love Song” has some of the best lyrics on the record, painting a beautiful picture with lines like “And as we removed each others clothes, I thought I would sing some notes so that maybe you would slow dance with me.”

Commonly, the only bad thing about this album like most albums that have been coming out lately, is the staying power this album has. A few listens at first, and then tucking the record away after that is bound to happen. No offense to the band, but this album won’t be remembered in the next twenty years.

Rightfully, this album deserves a good listen. Containing a few real charmers, Bottoms of Barrels is a good direction for Tilly & the Wall. They were kids once, playing some instruments they didn’t know how to play. They recorded an album by themselves with the help of friends, and now they’ve released a record that was a step-up from its predecessor, Wild Like Children.


Annuals – Be He Me

January 13, 2007

Annuals – Be He Me {7.6/10}
Ace Fu Records 2006
By Ian Cruz

Annuals is a band most people have not heard of. Being from a small town in North Carolina, this band has brought something new to the scene of music dealing with the sort of “indie/pop” sound with their debut album Be He Me. But not to worry about those elitists running around. They have not really found out about Annuals yet. If they did, their views on what good music is, and their “superior” ways would most likely change many minds; making opposing views on this album grow. So if a cowardly feeling overwhelms you right now, don’t worry about it. It will be gone soon enough.

The sounds of crickets among other insects begins Annuals’ Be He Me, with a quiet acoustic guitar that is followed by a string section. Being the albums first track, “Brother” makes for an impressive tune having a strong, and most certainly powerful, overture which the album’s poetic lyrics and melodies. Annuals have a very alluring tone, but their lyrics can be horrific with lines like “Well, it’s just my way of coping with this bleary-eyed baby girl dying on my kitchen floor” (“Bleary Eyed“).

Annuals seems to change styles of music with almost every song. Ranging from contemporary melodic songs to smooth reggae. It can be a little bit off at the reggae part in “The Pull and the Goat”, making their album a little less stand able. There are at times a loud, annoying howl from another vocalist in the band, but it doesn’t ruin the atmosphere of the album. In fact it does go well at times when it is done correctly on Be He Me.

Overall, this album is fantastic in almost everyway. It’s produced nicely and organized in a way that fits well. Every song is placed in the part of the album that enhances its’ being, placing Annuals’ Be He Me above the rest of the albums that have came out this past year in 2006.

The Microphones – 2 New Songs; “Don’t Smoke” / “Get Off the Internet” (2006)

December 26, 2006

The Microphones – 2 New Hit Songs; “Don’t Smoke” / “Get Off the Internet” (2006)
By Ian Cruz

If I have ever heard three song titles that gave me the answer to all of my prayers those would be “Don’t Worry, We Can Still Be Friends”, and the two new Microphones’ songs “Don’t Smoke” and “Get Off the Internet”.

“Don’t Smoke” has Phil Elverum howling on the fact that minors are being foolish for wasting their money on cigarettes, and will end up paying the price with the possibility of dieing. It’s nice that the song is upbeat and has that old Microphones’ sound. Kind of makes up for the lecturing.

For a guy who religiously uses the Internet, I really dig the second song on this 7″, “Get Off the Internet”. It’s a beautiful tune, with a few “Oh”‘s and “Ah”‘s. Elverum’s words “We are the ones who are alive / So let’s start living” are sung in a passionate tone, but yet a smudge muffled. It’s all right though, what can you really expect out of a Microphones’ song?

(Lighten up)

Beck; clarity through the clutter

December 11, 2006

Beck-The Information
Interscope (2006)
by Josh Edds

Re-inventing yourself continually can be a daunting task; especially when you have legions of fans anticipating the next mutation. For musical nomad and cultural reconnoiterer Beck Hansen, the alterations seem to come with ease.
Beck’s collective material progressively finds itself in a musical metamorphoses, with each addition becoming more eclectic and enriched than the last. Over three years in the making, Beck’s newest CD entitled, The Information, was released by Interscope on Oct.3. Nigel Godrich, producer on Beck’s previous albums Mutations and Seachange, is onboard once again to bring clarity to Beck’s sonic clutter, producing the 15 plenary tracks on the record. The album serves as a compelling document to some of Beck’s best groove-based material since the release of Midnite Vultures in 1999, as well as a resurrection of the playful, more idiosyncratic Beck behavior that was characterized and modeled after his popular release of Odelay in 1996. Full of rhythmically-rich tracks that range from sample-heavy hip-hop one moment, to fully-indulged folk-rock synthpop the next, Beck’s latest effort is nothing short of inclusive. His lyrical ingenuity proves to be in high-gear this album and all the more apropos, spouting stories about modern-day affairs involving topics such as biotech, the shrinking middleclass, perpetual war and even Scientology. Beck’s most significant change on the album, however, is his lyric portrayal. Older songs such as “Hotwax” are full of metaphor–“Sawdust songs of the plaid bartenders Western Unions of the country westerns Silver foxes looking for romance
In the chain smoke Kansas flashdance ass pants
And you got the hotwax residues
You never lose in your razor blade shoes,” whereas songs on The Information give the listener a lucent glimpse into his spirituality, among other topic matters. An example of the lyrical changes taken place on the new album is the song “Strange Apparition,” –“ When the Lord rings my front door
And asks me what I got to show
Besides the dust in my pockets
And the things that just eat away my soul.”
For an artist who typically supplies lyrics through hip-check wordplay and metaphor, it may be difficult to adjust to the new format.
Over 18 years, 12 official CDs have been released, numerous tours have been endured and somehow, through the density of it all, Beck Hansen has remained un-affected and innovative. The latest release proves his dedication to eschew critics’ attempts of pigeon-holding his music by re-inventing himself, as he perpetually does on each record. With tracks ranging from urban beats to examples folk-rock glory, the record has mass appeal. Overall, The Information is yet another example of what Beck does best; staying true to the music.

Brand New – The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

December 4, 2006

Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
Brand New – The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
Interscope (2006)
by Ian Cruz

A few years ago, one of the greatest albums to hit the emo rock world of music was released as Deja Entendu thanks to a few guys from Long Island who called themselves Brand New. They had the sound of some regular pop rock kids with their debut album, Your Favorite Weapon, which won the hearts of many teenaged kids who had no place in the hearts of their peers. But, what with their sophomore release, Deja Entendu, Brand New matured a lot and brought a new sound for themselves that fans adored. It was more relaxed, but more rock than its predecessor.
Now, after three years, Brand New is back with the most anticipated album of 2005 and 2006. Hell, we’ve been waiting for this record for a long time – we thought we’d have our angst y hands on it in late ‘04 after a front page story on Alternative Press‘ most anticipated for ‘05 issue.
To say Brand New hasn’t changed since their last album is one of the biggest lies ever told. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is another large step for the band musically. It’s more sinister and full of thought than the last two records, and has more of a rock-driven feel to it. “Sowing Season”, also known as “Untitled 8 (Yeah)” on the New Album Demos, brings us into the album with muted guitar and Jesse Lacey’s soft vocals singing “Was losing all my friends / Was losing them to drinking and to driving / Was losing all my friends / But I got them back.” Almost obvious about this song is that Jesse Lacey (vocals/guitar) has gone through a lot of change and hurt since the last time we heard any music from them.
“Degausser”, also known as “Take Apart Your Head”, is another strong song on the album that puts itself out there in clear view. It’s fast, mellow and has this great vibe to it when you just sit back comfortably and listen – especially when you’re under the influence. Some of the songs on the album are only 4-5 minutes in length, but for a seven minute and forty-two second song, “Limousine” makes it’s deepest mark playing the role of the slow-acoustic based song that let’s the plot of itself thicken with a full band break into chorus only a minute and forty-five seconds in. The Devil and God begins to pick up the tempo and beats with “Not the Sun”, which has an introduction that resembles The Smiths. “Luca” is the albums cherry. It’s sweet, red and delicious. If popped, glorious juice will spill from it’s insides and not to mention a soft chorus that is interrupted by the noisiest chorus on the record. It even caused some people to swerve off the road it scared them so bad. The last song of the album, “Handcuffs”, is not really The Devil and God’s “Play Crack the Sky”/”Soco Amaretto Lime” (which I was hoping it would be). Jesse’s acoustic guitar playing and soft voice, has a polarizing feel to it and takes you away. Before you know it, the song is almost over. With Jesse’s last words “It’s hard to be the better man / When you’re still lying”, the album ends.
Brand New has grown up, and done so nicely. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is definitely worth a listen.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – Don’t You Fake It

October 27, 2006

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – Don’t You Fake It
Virgin Records (2006)
by Josh Edds

How many times can a formula for commercial success be repeated before the public is fed up with the redundancy? It is a question that lingers interminably pending a listening of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ new CD entitled, Don’t You Fake It.

The pop-punk/screamo debut, Don’t You Fake It, was released July 18th by Virgin records. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus plies nothing inchoative with their first release; though graciously offering a polished formula of screamo fused with pop-punk and metal. Following the beaten path of bands such as Atreyu and 18 Visions, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus share with the audience their manifestly cliché emotional lyrics, annoyingly-squawking/shrieking lyrics and even some pseudo-original guitar riffs thrown in for good measure. In essence, the fellows of Red Jumpsuit just want to elucidate to their listeners the pain of abuse, the torture of breaking up and the agony of changing ones’ personality for people. Unfortunately for them, it has all been done before; over and over again.

Despite their prototypical, radio-befitting music, I credit the band with their promotional skills. The boys and their apparatus’ have played on the same bill as heavy-hitters Every Time I Die, Thursday and AFI (to name a few) very early-on in their career. Their songs have also been featured throughout the media industry; “Face Down,” the single off of Don’t You Fake It, will be featured on the soundtrack for Lion Gate Film’s Employee of the Month. “In Fate’s Hands,” another hit off of their CD, will be featured on the soundtrack for Madden NFL 2007, a highly-anticipated release for video game connoisseurs. Yes, it is true that The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus is on the rise; but for how long is the question. For now, the boys of Red Jumpsuit are part of the fight most bands struggle with nowadays, the clone war. If your musical palette desires a taste of prominently-displayed emotional lyrics and pseudo-rock-and-roll attitude, by all means check out “Don’t You Fake It.” However, if your musical appetency desires organic and de facto neoteric material, save yourself the time and money.

Cursive – Happy Hollow

August 10, 2006

Cursive – Happy Hollow
Saddle Creek [2006]

Wow. I guess that’s how I will start out this review. Review of what you may be asking (which I am sure you are not because you obviously clicked on a link that
had read the title and what album I was to be reviewing) “What album are you reviewing?” Well, let me put that question to rest. I am reviewing the latest from our
beloved Omaha-based rock band, Cursive. The disc? Happy Hollow.
Before I get into talking about this goodie, let me first confide in Cursive’s previous engagements.
The last album we got out of this band had been their b-side disc, The Difference Between Houses and Homes. I think it was released to help ease listeners and fans alike over until we would hear anything new from this band. But before we had that gem, we got an album that would really show what Cursive had, and this classic was called The Ugly Organ. It rocked. Seriously. They had a cellist in the band. This had definitely been a one up for them. Hell, before that we got a (what I would like to call their best) album by the title Domestica. I would love to call it Cursive at their prime, but I know many would like to debate with me about the Ugly Organ already taking the title, but to me… Sorry.

Anyways, let me get to this new one. Happy Hollow, a great album. Truly a ruby for these guys since their loss of Gretta Cohn the cellist, but the album had a down flaw in that. It seemed they still took that step backwards. Yep, they still didn’t live up to that sound The Ugly Organ had, or that sound of Domestica. But don’t let that alarm you, these guys changed their rock sound to an even better horn-rock sound. The horns really do brighten the mood on this record, since the CD does have a rather dark mood due to the album’s concept, which is sorta vague to me on one matter: Who are all of these people? I really think I got just the jist of it: There’s 14 songs – 14 Hymns as Tim Kasher calls ’em; There’s a great sense of religion going through the album – there’s even a character that of a priest in the story; And the rest is all stories of different people living amongst each other in the town of Happy Hollow. It’s sort of like a Tarantino thing of Cursive to do.
Some of the tracks sound a little overproduced and are a little too “busy” or unorganized. There seem to be all of these different elemental instrumentation going on in the songs like as if the band was trying to hide up that patch where there could have been some great cello going on.

I may sound like there is no good going on for Cursive in this review, but I’d like to add it’s great qualities. Kasher really brings back the “umph”, the strength that Cursive has been known for through their career. The lyrics are still heavy (as in cool). We don’t have that amazing line of “My egos like my stomach. It keeps shitting what I feed it”, but we do get some scientific lingo with the line “Every molecule, every atom / Every single particle down to the quark / Until they break it apart”. It’s pretty neat.

This is yet another release for Cursive, and they have done no wrong.

Wolf Parade – Live

August 9, 2006

Wolf Parade – Live
August 6, 2006
by Brett Hendges

Wolf Parade.

August 6th is a night filled with the hip shaking beats of this Canadian import from Montreal. My brother, my two friends, and I stood in line outside the Magic Stick, thoughts of unfavorable results start coming to mind. After the wait we venture inside and make our way up the stairs to pay, and get our hands stamped with an in-depth camera stamp. Our timing is exceptional; we get in, just in time to see the first band taking the stage. Holy Fuck, an electronica dance improv band from Toronto had me swaying where I stand. Solid beats from the bass and drums to there unique sounds coming from the barrage of keyboards. Holy Fuck’s performance tells me I’m in for a night of dancin’ beats.

Frog Eyes took the stage next, fronted by Carey Mercer, who sounds like he is spilling out every emotion he has left in him. I start to realize that I am not very found of this band. Wolf Parades Spencer Krug has played on The Bloody Hand, Frog Eyes’ debut.

Wolf Parade ascends the stage at last. It is a tight fit for the band, but they rocked it just as well. Opening with songs from their self-titled album and EP’s, their set was off to an amazing start. The crowd loves the show, with waves of dancing fans and arms in the air with shaking hips; it is a fine night for Wolf Parade. Continuing the set they played Apologies to the Queen Mary in its entirety, Fancy Claps gets the crowd clapping along and Shine a Light one of my favorites. Wolf Parade gives us a revelation when they grace us with a couple new songs, saying “this is the first time we played these on stage”. The new songs are amazing with Krug picking up a guitar and showing us he knows how to use it; the new material leaves me in anticipation. Wolf Parade sends me home swaying in my car seat, with their dance-tastic sound.

By: Brett Hendges

I Would Set Myself On Fire For You- Believes In Patterns

July 26, 2006

I Would Set Myself On Fire For You – Believes In Patterns [2006]
Rating: 7

I Would Set Myself On Fire For You a name that is commonly known in today’s emotive hardcore scene (or screamo whatever you prefer) and with good reason, they are a group of extremely talented musicians combining an array of melodic instruments with technical guitar playing and emotional and raw vocals that blends with the soft feminine voice that chimes out singing clearly in the majority of the songs.

While the musicianship on this album has picked up, they have progressed greatly in that sense but it seems to be lacking a lot of vocally, leaving more to be wanted. The screaming in this album is toned down quite a bit and is often replaced by a whispery voice or mediocre singing that seems too untrue to the band for it to be completely enjoyable to the band’s long time listeners.

As an avid music listener I am not going to sit here and claim that just because one aspect of the band has changed slightly, but still enough for it to be noticed, and to almost annoy that I am going to cast this band out into the wasteland of my music collection. I am aware that change happens in band music evolves every artist understands that, if you are just going to create something that is the same every time, then there is no point in creating. Sometimes change isn’t for the best, and that’s what I feel has happened here, while a slight format change has gone on it wasn’t for the better.

There were a million little things that could have changed in the music but they picked one little thing that I think was perfect the way that it was, on their self-titled full length the screaming and the singing blended together in this sort of experience, taking you to that exact feeling that the vocalists felt when they were shouting them, the self-titled is a ride, you feel so many different things throughout the album and that’s what was amazing about it.

While on “Believes In Patterns” it seems the focus is put on the instrumentalism, it doesn’t convey that same sense of emotion that the first album does, but I’ll give credit where credit is due and salute I Would Set Myself On Fire For You, they’re still making beautiful music, just not the same beautiful music that I fell in love with.

Review By Noah.

Xiu Xiu – The Air Force

July 17, 2006

Xiu Xiu – The Air Force
5RC (2006)
by Ian Cruz

Note: This is a horribly written review, and I am sorry for that.
– Ian; October 27, 2006

Xiu Xiu has to be one of the strangest bands I have ever listened to. The singer/song writer Jamie Stewart must be one of the most creative people to set foot on the earth. Either that or he just has some type of mental illness.

Xiu Xiu’s forthcoming album, The Air Force, opens with the track “Buzz Saw” that leads us into the album with soft piano playing and Jamie Stewart’s voice that singing about himself and him not being like how you may expect him to be. It’s a rather weak opening track but can really set the mood for the rest of The Air Force.

The CD starts moving along with the rock esque song “Boy Soprano” that follows after “Buzz Saw”. It’s one of the crazier songs on the album and I could see why this would be the second track due to it’s power to just pull you even more into this mysterious record.

Throughout The Air Force the cd progresses through different songs telling stories. Stories of hate, love, and heartbreak. But what Xiu Xiu album doesn’t have these bits and peices in them?
For this album one of the songs that would stand out the most to first time listeners is “Bishop, CA”.The song starts out with this dark feel as if it would fit well in a Kubric film or a good listen if you had been reading House of Leaves at the same time. In the middle of the song everything just seems to get heavier and heavier leading to a bridge that seems almost epic.
The album leads its way through to the end with the song “Wig Master” that tells an earie
story that you won’t forget. It’s one story that really brings out everything you would think of for nowon whenever you heard of this band. I don’t want to give it away, but this song deals with thestrangest of feelings because it speaks of fetishes and things your mother doesn’t want you listening to.

The song comes to an ending that’s mood is soft and easy like the album had begun with.
I never really enjoyed this band much in the past, but ever since I stumbled upon their album
Fabulous Muscles I learned that they really were a band I could listen too. With that being said I
can tell you that this CD is going to go right up their with Fabulous Muscles for me.
Now if you enjoyed their earlier stuff prior to this album you will most likely find The Air Force to be a great contribution to your Xiu Xiu collection. But, if you don’t really like any Xiu Xiu at all this cd will either not impress you or make you see the better side of this band.