I’ve Listened to These Recently…

…underneath the warm sun of a new climate and an icy reception of my newfound hermit ways.

Joakim

Milky Ways

I discovered Joakim a few years ago while bed-ridden with a flu of sorts. My Nyquil-soaked brain was thirsting for both smart and creepy electronic mayhem and in my relaxed (okay, immobile) state, IDM was not gonna cut it. His Monsters and Silly Songs fit the bill perfectly. I have since searched and searched for more releases by this French DJ, mostly coming up empty (I happened upon a remix 12″ he did of…get this…a Lionel Hampton tune [Hampton was a jazz xylophonist dating back to the 30s]).

However slight his popularity may be in the States, across the pond he is a big deal, and rightly so. Milky Ways finds him both more sparse (the opening “Back to the Wilderness” is an eight-plus minute grab bag of mostly percussive boom-booms with some various samples hovering, retaining the creep vibe I loved so much on his Monsters…, finally culminating in a full-on band jam that Oneida would be proud of), disco (both “Ad Me” and “Love & Romance & a Special Person” have the dancability in place along with an almost indecipherable electronic voice contemplating both loneliness and a love for that special someone), and a wide, patient, and expansive hovering in a cold landscape dotted by dead trees and heavily-coated animals (“Glossy Papers”, “King Kong is Dead”). His perfect blend of electronic and acoustic instruments adds a hint of misdirection and improvisation to both his live shows (rare, at least Stateside, but always worth it) and studio records.

After all of this dissecting and rumination about his singularity, he also releases radio-worthy singles that even your parents may love (“Fly Like an Apple”). It is time for this Frenchman to break here. His big break Stateside is long overdue. The combination of so many good ideas, song structures, and spot-on production makes this record something that can be enjoyed by fans of all genres.

Spoon

Transference


One of the most anticipated albums in recent times, and rightly so, Spoon’s exercise in regression, or transference to an earlier time (couldn’t help it), may be frowned upon by many (namely money-grubbing radio programmers <cough>clearchannel</cough>) but, in reality, displays their love and willingness to display their songs how they see fit, whether it be demos (which make up most of the record) or “finished” recordings. After all, over-thinking a track or an idea has the potential to ruin something that was so promising at the start.

Drummer Jim Eno is again behind the board, as with every other Spoon record, and rightly so. His prowess for capturing both the raw, true garage sound of Spoon along with highlighting the bluesy vocal stylings of front man Britt Daniels is unique and needed. Imagine a world where Spoon had not been booted from the major label years ago and, subsequently, got sucked into the world they don’t belong…writing radio gems, of which they are fully capable, over-produced to the point of unfamiliarity for both long-time fans and the band themselves. Thank you, Spoon, for having a steady head and the backbone to follow your instincts and not a dollar sign.

Opener, “Before Destruction,” clues the listener in on what is to come; the aforementioned raw sound coupled with up-front organs pushing Daniels’s voice ever-further into the memorable place it deserves to be. “The Mystery Zone” is simple, classic Spoon; drums and bass leading the majority of the song, letting the vocals and minimal guitar breathe, seemingly replacing the spotlighted rhythm section as the replacement tempo-keeper. The ballads “Goodnight Laura,” and “Nobody Gets Me But You,” relax the near-aggressive tone of the rest of the record (though nowhere near the downright angry, earlier Series of Sneaks) but take away nothing from the overall scratchy mood of Transference.

This collection came out at the perfect time…after Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga found them at their height of popularity, Transference weeds out the hangers-on from the true fans; there is a lesson that Spoon is teaching all involved in music, or, better yet, art of all mediums: stay in it for the love of it and do whatever it is you feel right.

Javelina

Beasts Among Sheep


Philly’s Javelina play an everyman’s version of metal. Think garage metal along the lines of Karp (RIP), Lair of the Minotaur, or a less-polished Unearthly Trance. I was hoping for more of the face-rape sound of Indian, possibly due to the fact that they seem to share Scott Fricke as a cover artist. Javelina keep it simple, but not to say boring. Well, slightly boring at times. “You’re Going to Hate This,” “Stepchild,” and “Black Lizard” are, by far, the standout tracks but nothing to really get too excited about. Equal parts stoner and a death/thrash hybrid, everything on Beasts Among Sheep has been covered before…many, many times. I picked this up after reading a few reviews (both live and album) that touted them as something worth checking out. I have to realize, though, that some critics are fresh to this whole ‘metal’ thing and something like Javelina, I’m sure, are very exciting. That being said, I cannot downplay Javelina’s excitement and love for playing and would check them out live if they came around.

Midlake

The Courage of Others*


To continue on the previous subject of anticipated records, Midlake’s follow-up to 2006’s The Trials of Van Occupanther has kept my mind reeling for a while. As I sat to myself, thinking, “Really, guys? How long does it take?” Keep in mind, I am an outsider and have no knowledge of their songwriting habits or schedules. In addition, their layered, Steely Dan by-way-of gentle folk (think Simon & Garfunkel with dish towels-on-drums) sound must rack up some serious studio time to pull off.

Now, with album in hand  I must say that they have not been twiddling their thumbs and basking in their well-deserved attention from their previous forays. My anticipation and nervousness quickly waned upon hearing the opening track, “Acts of Man.” Again, it is the calming voices in the woods that I so loved previously, along with the melodic coupling of either a flute or piccolo, that flows gently and throughout each number.

While there are no uppers, which were peppered throughout The Trials…, the more somber mood fits the subject matters, man vs. nature vs. man’s trashing of nature vs. nature’s unfortunate quelling of man’s said trashing of what was here long before plastic bottles. No, The Courage… is not an environmentalist diatribe at all but it is impossible to walk away after hearing what seems like love songs to all creatures, mammalian, reptilian, vegetalian (I know, I know), etc. and not want to don pelts and find refuge from the guiding forces of nature in a stump or cave in the deepest recesses of non-civilization.

While there is nothing terribly new or different than their previous work, that is, at the same time, unneeded. The Trials… solidified them as master songwriters/arrangers/producers and they are merely filling out their canon with a brilliance and a timbre of celebration for the simple pleasure of looking outward instead of inward to fully enjoy all that surrounds us, whether hostile or not.

(not an official video but well-done mash-up)

Sigh

Scenes From Hell


Tokyo’s Sigh were the first black metal band from Asia (yes, Russia, or, at the time, USSR, included) dating back to the late 80s. They have honed their craft into something that has the potential, and execution, to be punishing, interesting, and like nothing else one has heard.

While symphonic instruments are nothing at all new to this genre, Sigh’s sporadic inclusion returns its role to a more exciting and purposeful place. The drums/bass/guitar all remain in a semi-lo-fi register, but when everything comes in, an altogether different mood is set. Check out “L’art De Mourir” and its almost celebratory chorus…a victory for black metal’s longevity? Sure, I’ll take that. This is what Michael Bay attempts to convey with his millions and millions of dollars in special effects…both heart attack-inducing build ups and payoffs that are memorable, yes, but in a more honest and down-to-Earth method.

One can easily veer into the, “Well, the Japanese are always doing weird things and into territories un-trodden by the rest of the Western world,” which may be true, but in other aspects (game shows, cartoons, toys, fetishes, etc.). To place that stamp on Sigh would be very short-sighted; they play music that has yet been unreachable from the rest of the metal world (even you, Scandinavia). With absolutely no fear to explore and expound upon what has been long established, a rebellious sound starting long ago and fueled by rabid, DIY-adhering fans the world over, Sigh has continued to take metal where no one else has dared.

Sigh, let others follow in your footsteps so that all of us, metal or not, can benefit from your disinterest in what is popular, kitschy, or attention-grabbing for the sake of simple attention. Amen.

(while not from Scenes From Hell, still a good representation of what Sigh is capable of)

Liars

Sisterworld*

Globe-trotting home-basers Liars never cease to amaze me with each new release. From the ill-fitted, Brooklyn-hype sound of They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top to the self-titled juggernaut from 2007, their sound has morphed with the times, albeit without paying attention to what is going on in current music. Slippery beasts that they are, Sisterworld is no different in that it is even more different than its predecessors. Channeling a Swordfishtrombones-era Tom Waits in the opening stanza of “Scissors,” it, nonetheless, explodes in a sex-on-the-dance-floor stomp, only to revert back into a hole, where discretions from said dance floor may be forgotten. This anarchistic sound, ironically, is their anchor; complete abandonment is an odd place to call home but it fits these gents perfectly. After all, they have called Brooklyn, Berlin, and LA all home, among recording in many places that are not in those places. With all of those frequent flyer miles accrued, why won’t they fly to me and play in my apartment? I’d even feed them.

Listen to the intro of “Proud Evolution” and tell me it doesn’t sound exactly like the Walkmen’s, “What’s in it for Me?” (Liars use guitar instead of the Walkmens’ organ…but you get the gist.) I know that airy guitar is nothing new for either band…but it was eerily alike in both sound and feel. (I am not saying that there was an intentional theft…just pointing out something I thought was awesome as I am a rabid fan of both.) Delve deeper into the song…yes, now the chants have a heartbeat much like the reverbed drums. Liars are not so much a band as a living entity, growing and maturing into nearly a new life form — the future of mankind as we know it? Let’s hope.

Distancing themselves from the much-talked-about conventional song structure of 2007’s Liars, Sisterworld sees them, rather, furthering the idea of listenability by grabbing your attention and then yanking your ears down to where they, themselves, are coming from; while considered ‘outsiders’ by mainstream press, they are trying, really, really trying, to get you to come into their world. If Sisterworld is too scary then you may not be friends, plain and simple. (Not to say that they are changing to try and attain a modicum of mainstream success…it is more of a goal of changing what the mainstream considers listenable.)

The album is not without a mass-population-worthy track despite my ramblings about the outsider initiative/unfortunate placement of Liars. “The Overachievers” is a simple 4/4 exercise in fun, complete with friendly lines such as, “I bought a house with you/We settled down with cats.” They could not be more open-armed in their willingness for others to come and enjoy life as Liars do, and we would all be better off for it.

(Audio only. Don’t ask me about the photo. I don’t know what the hell is going on but enjoy the scenario just as much as you.)

For Whom the Bell Joels

Various MySpace Tracks

http://www.myspace.com/forwhomthebelljoels

I had to throw this in here because, yes, I have been listening to them quite a bit. Why? Well, as you know, I love metal. What you may not know is my life-long love of Billy Joel. It was upon my discovery of my parents’ Greastest Hits Volume I & Volume II that I actually sat down and listened to, and read along with, the Joel. Wow. Needless to say, “Captain Jack” blew my mind. Drugs and masturbation? As my knowledge and love of music grew more expansive with years, I appreciated him and his gigantic catalogue of fantastic songs more and more, even, to this day, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” No apologies.

On my discovery of the all-Billy Joel metal cover band For Whom the Bell Joels, I was both worried and ecstatic. If nothing else, listen to “Pressure,” the replacement of the organ riff with a guitar is dumbfounding in its perfect placement.

(I’m sure there will be numerous metalheads saying that they are ‘dumbing down the genre’ or ‘not taking metal seriously.’ To that I respond with: shouldn’t that be reserved for bands that act like their taking it seriously while dumbing down the genre? I’m talking to you (hed) pe, or PE, or pee pee, ICP…nevermind, it’s not worth going through them all.)

Can’t we all just have silly fun every once in a while?

* – denotes a yet unreleased record at the time of this writing. It was made available to me by the record companies via my publishers for review/preview purposes only. There was no illegal downloading involved whatsoever…and no artists were hurt in the writing of this slight, inconsequential article. Any links to uncopyrighted material are either due to my own laziness (in downloading the cover art to my computer and then uploading it back onto the internet) (if there is issue with album art taken from sources on the net, contact me and they will be taken down and replaced with someone less of a tightass) or should be brought up with the original uploaders and not myself. We live in a world where I have to spell this out.

Advertisements
Comments
9 Responses to “I’ve Listened to These Recently…”
  1. kipwinger says:

    Hey, you know anything about this band “revocation”? I saw a writeup about them in Spin and I was instantly intrigued.

  2. we, the four Joelsmen of the apocalypse (Joel Hotfield, Libertina DeUlrich, Joelson Newstonjillo, Billy Kirk Hammstaine) thank you for the post about our band and the great words.
    “worried and ecstatic” is the perfect description of every new face we encounter at every show!
    could we quote you in our press kit?

    by the way, we do “Captain Jack” (we mash it with “Fade To Black” captain black/fade to jack?) and yes, even “We Didn’t Start The Fire” (which is mashed with “Fuel” we didn’t fuel the fire?) and hope to have videos of them posted asap.

    thanks again, and hope to one day bring MetalliJoel, The Joel That Should Not Be to your neck of the woods!

    -FOR WHOM THE BELL JOELS

  3. Nope, but I tried to watch their video. My internet connection sucks, so much so that I haven’t been able to watch the videos I’ve posted on my own page to see if they work all the way. I’ll check it out, though. From the opening riffs it sounds like good, classic thrash…plus the guitarist’s Slayer shirt is a dead giveaway. Don’t trust Spin, though. While they seem to be on the cutting edge, they, along with most of the major publications, rely on advert bucks…therefore push the bands they are told to push. Thanks for reading, man.

  4. FOR WHOM THE BELL JOELS: Yeah, totally! Wow. Good to hear. Quote away. I meant every word…I discovered you about a month ago and have since spread the word. Love it, man.

    Do any of you have an original band? If so I would love to check it out.

    Buckets

  5. JOELS: And, as a side note, my biggest pet peeve with the “Pressure” song was always that organ line. It was refreshing to hear it in a way that made the rest of it come together as it should.

    Rock.

    Buckets.

  6. JOELS: And I NEED to hear that Captain Jack that you speak of.

    • shall we quote you simply as “Buckets”?
      please, by all means instruct us as to how to label your by-line.

      as of now, none of us have an original project up and running (they are all currently “in the works” or on the proverbial back burner) but the three dudes in JOELS were together in a band called NONE MORE EVIL for a few years.
      http://www.myspace.com/nonemoreevil
      if you like the humor in JOELS, you will certainly enjoy NME’s never-was-but-should’ve-been hit single “Mullet Man”

      “Pressure” was actually the first song that we put together when this idea hit us, so we’re glad that we did it justice for you.
      THANKS!
      your positive feedback is awesome…

      and “Captain Jack” always seems to be the hit of our set (even at nearly 10 minutes long) yet we can’t seem to get a good video of it, but we’re working on it, do not despair…

  7. JOELS: My good friend, and fellow music nerd/Billy Joel enthusiast (he was the first I told about your project), is starting a podcast based around his already-existing radio show, One Step Beyond. He wants a track of yours, mp3 or whatever, to put on it. Interested? (If so, you can email it to me, lucrodgers@gmail.com, or email it directly to him at onestepbeyondradio@gmail.com.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: