31 October 2008


Lenka - Let's break it down song by song! Raw reaction:

1. The Show - Adorable, catchy, confusing but I feel like I SHOULD be able to relate, makes me want to go play on a carousel and a swing-set.
2. Bring me Down - Starts off sounding like a 1950s girl band/Imogen Heap - Hide And Seek…then turns into a Disney song. There are parts I like, but the music just doesn't seem to fit what she's saying.
3. Skipalong - This song makes me sleepy. It also reminds me of the Spice Girls whenever she harmonizes.
4. Don't Let Me Fall - I like this, the music is a lot simpler than the last few songs. It also doesn't have the weird juxtaposition of sounding happy and really being sad that she uses a lot.
5. Anything I'm Not - Pretty, melancholy, the words fit the melody well! And then it picks up a little...and we're back to relatively peppy sounds with somewhat existential lyrics.
6. Knock Knock - This song sounds like the opening to a children's show. A children's show about family ties and dealing with being different. A show that only very sensitive children would watch, hosted on PBS.
7. Dangerous And Sweet - I have no reaction to this song, other than the urge to skip it. It's of medium/med-slow tempo. There is maybe one key change. MAYBE. I couldn't concentrate on it. It's very repetitive.
8. Trouble Is A Friend - Have you ever played the Nintendo DS game WarioWare? The song is eerily similar to the theme song of one of the characters, Ashley. It's spooky and dark, but cutesy.
9. Live Like You're Dying - Oooh, melancholy! Depressing lyrics! Existential! Aaaand the melody starts to pick up. And she tells us there's hope. I'm beginning to sense a definite formula here. This song makes me lose interest fast.
10. Like A Song - My goodness. My oh my. Sorry, but this song has the same tempo and is written in the same key as the bewitching song in 1993 children's classic movie Hocus Pocus. Fortunately for Lenka, it's BEAUTIFUL. I adore this song.
11. We Will Not Grow Old - This is not the song I would have ended on. It sounds a lot like the other songs. It's nice that the lyrics seem pretty happy and the music is happy...but track 10 still seems like a better choice to end on. This sounds like the finale in a musical. Not necessarily what I'm looking for in an album.

It's like she only has one emotion, and that emotion is "cute." Now, I'm well aware that cute isn't exactly an emotion…but I don't think Lenka knows that. So I suggest giving tracks 1, 3 [kinda], 4, and 10 a good listen. The rest are only so-so.

26 October 2008

CMJ: Vince's Wrap Up (now featuring photography by me)

Another blitz through everything that happened...

The metal panels were a mix of good and bad. The panelists were knowledgeable and experienced, and had good things to say, but I felt like they didn't really cover much of the topics I really wish they had. I would have loved to hear what the next big band predictions were. I would have loved to hear from metal radio guys who didn't work for stations already established when they came in. I got a lot out of them though.

Then the Heavy Hitter showcase:
Unholy was pretty generic. I stepped out and talked to other metal directors.

Catalepsy was alright as background music, I still stayed at the back of the venue talking.

See You Next Tuesday was actually sounding pretty good, but just as I started really paying a attention, a fight broke out, the band jumped in, and the set was over after about 2 songs. Hardcore kids are awesome.

Arsonists Get All the Girls were actually pretty fun for a Deathcore band.

Next was a cover band composed of folks from Relapse, Heavy Hitter, Metal Blade, and Tucson's station. It was a lot of fun, and way better than anyone expected, including the band themselves...who had never rehearsed together. Below is (left to right) Chris from Tucson (vocals), Vince from Metal Blade (drums), and Dave from Relapse (bass).

Closing was Iwrestledabearonce, and they were a lot of fun. I can appreciate grindy bands with electronica influences.

Saturday I got up and went to Central Park (see first picture), then explored Times Square, Chinatown, and various other places before hitting up the Syndicate showcase.

My Mortality were alright. Generic Hard Rock, but where in metal that sucks, in hard rock it's fun.

Warship were ok. Forgettable.

God Forbid was disappointing. Not to say they were bad, they were just talked up so much the show was a bit disappointing. Pic below.

Darkest Hour were about as good as I expected. Not my favorite band, but they do alright live. The mic was broken for like 3 songs before they decided to replace it though, which was silly (I blame the venue for that though).

Sunday I woke up ungodly early to come back to Arizona.

24 October 2008

CMJ Update 1B... Owen's fevered rant

So I was hesitant to post anything until I have some of these digital photos developed, but seeing as how I can't get the film out and I'm fresh out of fixer, so it's back to plan B: stealing from someone else's flikr feed!

(picture to come)

Or perhaps not.

So this is Friday night, day four of the Marathon, and I'm a bit overstimulated. Vince and I are in a hostel next to Astor Plaza full of Europeans, especially Swedes. Hmmm... Perhaps I should begin at the beginning:

On Wednesday we got our passes and enjoyed an okayish panel on the future of Hi Fi audio. The generational gap was palpable - it palpated all over iPods, MP3s, and all sorts of other handy musical technologisms that define our youth culture. They did an interesting demo of a Rush song in varying degrees of fidelity/speaker quality. Again... palpable. Though it seemed like an ignorance is bliss kind of thing, to be honest. The immersive experience of music listening, or "faithfulness to the source" as the panelists described it seems less than fully relevant in today's musical environment. With sample and computer based music on the rise, it begs the meaning of the "source" being reproduced. As Vince noted, the Sony guy was very passionate, waxing nostalgic about growing up with music as his religion and lamenting that people download music and steal food from the mouths of babies. I apologize if I'm coming off as cynical. It's a moot point anyway, since I don't have enough bread (as one panelist put it) to get even a low-end hifi system.

So that's one panel covered. Stay tuned for more updates from the road!

CMJ Update #1

A quick update on my CMJ experience so far.

Tuesday night Owen and I arrived later than expected due to a late departure, so no CMJ passes. Spent the evening exploring the lower East side though which was fun.

Wednesday we went to the Hi-Fi panel which was actually quite a good panel. The range of opinions on the board was great, with a little bit of surprise on my part about how much the Sony guy cared about sound quality in his music. Very interesting panel. Then we saw Social Networks and music which was an unfortunate amount of shameless self promotion.

After a brief visit to the Cake Shop with Owen to see a band I didn't know, I wandered off to Chinatown to explore and then went on a bar crawl with the various other radio stations, promoters, labels, etc.

Thursday was college day and it was a lot of fun. Some panels were better than other, the quality of the musical acts was generally good, and at the end of the day I ended up going on stage to present on of the college radio awards.

After a quick visit to Other Music, I hit up the first metal show of CMJ.

Ionia was universally disliked by the crowd. I thought a different vocalist could have changed opinions.

The Autumn Black was a bit better, but generic metalcore is generic metalcore...thought there was a big improvement from the first band.

This show being ended, hit up the next show and I was more eager for this showcase, as it was Metal Blade and Relapse.

This or the Apocalypse was ok. More generic metalcore.

Bison B.C. was the surprise of the night for me. I had expected a more generic Metal Blade band, but they ended up being great, and something I will definitely play on my show this week.

Left to Vanish had hardcore dancing.

Tombs was uninteresting. Talented, just not good music.

Psyopus was cool. The music is quite mindblowing to see live, all very talented musicians. The vocalist was very charismatic and, this being a bar venue, often in the audience trying to draw more people in.

Today is the metal panels, yay!

20 October 2008


Minus the Bear revisits six songs released on their previous albums with a more organic approach. The one new track, "Guns & Ammo" starts the album off devoid of the keyboards that have become a part of the Seattle band's distinctive sound. Even so, the album still sounds very much like the band we've grown to love and it's awesome to be able to appreciate them in this new light.

Acoustics is definitely good. The difference between these new acoustic tracks and their older counterparts is surprisingly dramatic. When I first caught wind of what Acoustics was about, it smelled a bit like a cheap ploy to make some extra cash with old material (See Metallica, U2). I am very happy to report that that is not the case.

Acoustics is only available online. If you're dying to get your hands on a physical copy then you've got to check them out on tour. Lucky for you, Minus the Bear will be at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on November 13th.

If you don't live in the Phoenix area check to see when they'll be in your city on their website.

18 October 2008

Anberlin/Scary Kids Scaring Kids/Straylight Run/There for Tomorrow @ The Marquee 10/18/2008

This time I caught the final few songs of the opening band at least. But I mean, who starts a Saturday night show at 6:30, seriously?

Also, one consistent comment I'll refrain from repeating is that whoever was doing sound tonight should be fired. It was worse than any professional show I've been to in my life. The bass drowned and muffled everything and the kick drum sounded like a gunshot. If any drum should sound like a gunshot, it's the snare.

There for Tomorrow was the opener and, from what I saw, may not be much of anything special live, but the music is good. The band themselves seemed like the typical first-time-on-a-big-tour band. A bit rigid on stage and quite as comfortable as the other bands. I do plan on checking out their myspace though and seeing how the recorded music sounds. Hopefully as good as it did live.

Straylight Run was the band I came to this show for, really. I had seen the other 2 major bands several times prior. At first, I was really disappointed, due to my fault alone. I did not realize Michelle had quit the band and I was greatly in the mood for those beautiful female vocals that were no longer with the band. That aside, the band did well lacking her presence. The setlist stuck to primarily older material, where Michelle's role was less prevalent and more easily removed. As it turned out, this was nice because I love the old material. the closing song was Big Shot and wow that song is incredible live. It was so powerful to me on CD at one point in my life that I couldn't see it getting better, but the live version blows the CD version away. I wish I'd had a video recorder.

Scary Kid Scaring Kids are from Arizona, so naturally the home crowd was pumped to see them return. I saw these guys very often about 3 or 4 years ago, and it seems that in the time between then and now they've gone through a lot of changes. I believe the lineup is a bit different. The band looks like they should be playing metal. They still bring the energy though. In fact, I was worried that seeing them at such a large venue after spending so much time with them at venues where I was literally falling onto the stage with them would spoil the live experience of the band for me. As it turns out, I will contine to assert that these guys are one of the best live acts I've seen. They are energetic, entertaining, tight, and happy. I miss being able to see them on a monthly basis.

Anberlin played their best set that I've ever seen by them. They seemed to stick primarily to Cities and Never Take Friendship Personal material, but that's ok as it's their best work, but it was odd that they refrained playing many songs from their recently released album. No complaints here, however. The highlights of the show were The Feel Good Drag, a song I've never seen them play live before, and which I assume the rest of the audience had not either, and they were applauding for several minutes after this track, as the band just stood with jaws dropped at the crowd enthusiasm for the performance. Then, the encore was *fin. As this is my favorite song by them, I am a bit biased, but this was an amazing performance. I swore I would never hear it live, due to its technicality and sweeping arrangements on the record, not to mention its length. They pulled it off great live though, and of course due to the length it ended up being the onyl song in the encore, but this song and Big Shot by Straylight Run were worth the ticket price alone.

17 October 2008

Vivian Girls

The self-titled album of Vivian Girls offers a lot of toe-tapping beats, but falls short on variety. Most songs run for about two minutes or less, which makes it hard to differentiate between tracks. All of the songs would into a mix CD well, but feel a bit flat when next to one another. You could rock out to all of it, but it would be nice to be thrown a curveball every now and then. The standout song for me was "No." The song consists of only one word repeated multiple times, which makes it the easiest song to vocally understand. Plus, it's really fun to shout "NO!" at the top of your lungs.

All in all, this is a great album for background music but needs to be thrown into a mix for full appreciation.

16 October 2008

Unearth/Protest the Hero/The Acacia Strain/Whitechapel @ The Marquee 10/15/2008

I have made a bad habit of missing the opening band at shows. I need to get out of school earlier.

Part of me wants this review to consist solely of "LOL hardcore dancing, LOL tough guy metal." But I need to be fair and balanced, like Fox News.

Whitechapel is generic. Period. The live mix was horrible. There was a wall of sound and it was nearly impossible to pick out any single instrument besides the drums, and even those were sometimes buried. What was entertaining to watch though was the Hardcore dancing. I mean, there is nothing that compares in terms of stupid things you can see happen at a show. There's something perversely satisfying in seeing people make assholes out of themselves.

The Acacia Strain was more Hardcore than Metal, and that was unexpected, I guess I haven't listened to much of their material. In fact I think I listened to half of one of their CDs once, and that's it. But the Hardcore emphasis was actually more enjoyable musically, and more hilarious in terms of general entertainment value. Something that has always tickled me about Punk/Hardcore is the whole "fuck corporations" deal they always get on, as they sing into Shure mics, play Fender guitars through their Marshall amps....it's nice I suppose. Also, the tough guy Hardcore these guys were selling is particularly hilarious. Something about the idea of "everyone here is your enemy, fuck up everyone around you" is just really comedic to me. Plus the irony in the vocalist so much time ranting against social tools was just as good as it gets. Actually, correction, the loud crowd cheers after the rant were the best. The best comedy in the world is things that no one else realizes are funny...though it might have been even funnier if they saw the irony in their cheers. The anthemic sing-along qualities of Hardcore are cool though.

Protest the Hero was the first non-generic band to play for the night. It was very good. The lighting and stage performance was great. The banter was great (a personal favorite was when the singer was talking about some dudes in front who were looking pissed because this band didn't have enough breakdowns and generic moshing sections...possibly funnier to me because I agreed with everything he was mocking). The mix, however, was still poor. Sure, you got those high pitched sweeps alright and all, but in general the sound was very muddy. I want to say the songs are just not meant to be played live, but I feel like the sound quality really inhibited my judgement of it all.

Unearth was good. I was surprised. In fact, I'd almost left before their set because I wasn't overly inspired to see it, but I stuck around...and was glad I did. I do not like this band on CD. Unlike the other bands during this show, however, these guys actually had a good sound mix, and in fact the mix was so good I was able to actually enjoy some of their riffs. The guitar work was more impressive than I remember it being, and though their set was almost 1 contiuous hour-long breakdown, somehow there was enough variety or something like it to keep me entertained for their set. The performance itself was also great...beerbongs on stage, good interaction between members, and near the end, one of the guitarists ran into the crowd, had a beer thrown to him, drank it, and then continued the song. Entertaining, if nothing else.

15 October 2008

New Justice DVD

Just in time for Christmas 08, everyone's favorite French Christian Live PA Electro-metal duo Justice is releasing its first concert movie, A Cross The Universe. Judging from the (NSFW) trailer, Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay have been having quite a wild time on the road. In fact, I'm beginning to think Justice might not actually be practicing christians... come to think of it, maybe Daft Punk aren't actually robots either. Oh you dissembling French DJs, my worldview is crumbling!

It drops on Nov. 24, and you can be sure it will be featured at COTMA Brunch.

New Hot Tracks - The Blaze's MD speaks out

Brand new this week, here's a brief communique on what's going out on the airwaves/internetubes:

Of Montreal's Skeletal Lamping went into heavy rotation yesterday, and it is just as funky and disconcertingly sexual as you might expect, following Hissing Fauna.
Owen's Picks: Opener Nonpareil of Favor - the middle two minutes are straight up atonal guitar pounding, and then it breaks into this electronic doowop thing that is just incredible. Track 5 An Eluardian Instance - opens with a heaping helping of horn section hooks, bounces along on a bundle of trademark Barnes Basslines, and drifts into a surrealistic anecdote about "midnight raids on swedish plumtrees". Spectacular!

The Streets are also in heavy with Everything is Borrowed! Prompting me to wonder whether I'm propagating institutionalized racism by putting a white British MC in Heavy, but relegating the new Killer Mike LP to the neglected New Hiphop slot. Happily, I've rationalized it through a thought experiment: if I had a new Dizzee Rascal and a new (...umm) Slug album, Rascal would definitely get preference. The moral? Gentlemen (read: I) prefer rappers with British accents. Anyway, the Streets album is pretty darn good, with a fresh live musician take on its beat production. Mike Skinner isn't telling stories about eating eggs and fried tomato and calling girls anymore. He's talking about religion and (brace yourself) global warming (cringe?). Nonetheless:
Owen's Picks: On The Edge of a Cliff - the backing track is straight out of a 70s sitcom theme song (in the best possible way). The Lyrics are about how, like, isn't it crazy how you were even born? Like, instead of not-you? Y'know? Mind-blowing.

13 October 2008

Genghis Tron/Yip Yip @ The Phix 10/12/2008

Due to a set of unfortunate circumstances I missed the opening band, which was too bad as I heard good things, but I will review the other two bands.

Yip Yip was interesting. Two pretty young guys, a lot of keyboards and electronic instrumentation, a few cymbals, a saxophone, and interesting headpieces made up this band's on stage entourage. Experimental music is hard to critique, because if it doesn't click with you, you tend to hate it, there's no real middle ground for it. So for instance, the band I saw last night, I thought was an awful band, because their experimentation sounded like untalented, drug-induced noise. On the other hand, Yip Yip was doing some cool things. Not a ton, but enough to keep it interesting. Plus the benefit of experimental electronic music is that it's almost always dancy. Quite complex compositions for a two person band though, reasonably enjoyable.

Genghis Tron was awesome. How do I describe this band? Part electronic, part grindcore. It makes you want to dance, it makes you want to be totally spastic. It's great. The orchestrated light show was better than most bands I've seen in arena shows. The presentability of their live show is obviously very important to them and it added a ton to the experience. Live, some songs come off better than others, and the mixing was a definite problem at this venue, so I will tentatively suggest I prefer the music itself on CD versus live. One thing I was astonished by was how well rehearsed the band was though. As the drums are all programmed, I was astonished the band would play straight through three songs without breaking and remain tight and on tempo the whole time. Especially with the spastic nature of their music, they show an impressive sense of time in their performance. The experience of this band was awesome though, well worth seeing.

10 October 2008

Opeth/High On Fire/Baroness @ The Marquee 10/9/2008

Let me start by saying this was a top notch lineup. Opeth is certainly a big name, but though the others may be a bit less-known, I knew enough about all the bands coming in to expect great things. I was not disappointed.

Baroness was only disappointing in two aspects, neither that I can fault them for. The first was the set length. It was quite short. This is usually to be expected with an opener, but with only 3 bands on the lineup you can always hope even the opener will get a good share of stage time. That was not the case here, however, they made the most of the time they did have without a doubt. The band is interesting because, stylistically, it is sort of a combination of the two other bands on the tour. Very sludgy and even doomy, but at the same time extremely progressive at points and very smart music. Despite performing music I felt would appeal to audiences of either larger band on this tour, the band failed to ever really get the crowd into it, the other disappointment. As they played music primarily if not solely from the Red Album, I was familiar with it all beforehand and it came off great live. Better than on CD. I can't wait to see this band again.

High on Fire was great the last time I saw them, at The Brickhouse. I felt they were not quite as good here, and I think it was really the size difference in venues. Matt Pike is a really charismatic guy I think, but he works best with smaller audiences, and there he has this unique way of connecting with his crowd that adds even more to the already astonishing heaviness of the music. Nonetheless, the band put on a solid show, and played 100% awesome songs, though with a tendency to play primarily off of Death is this Communion. I love this band live though.

Opeth was, sadly, the biggest name on this ticket by far, but also the band whose discography I was least familiar with. To that end, I expected a mediocre show, because much as I hate to say it, shows are more fun when you know the music. But where on CD I've always felt Opeth was a little same-y and uninspired, live I felt myself eating all my preconceptions. They were amazing. The stage banter was funny in the way only nerdy humor can be (but I mean that affectionately, being a nerd myself), even hitting up a little bit of healthy self-parody (no genre is as in need of this as metal), the musicianship was amazing, they're not virtuosos, but they definitely know what they're doing, and the songs blew me away. I am now inspired to look into their catalog again and try to connect with it the way I did live. Mike is really the root of that connection. He's extremely charismatic, and just from his stage demeanor you can tell how friendly he is. You may be in a crowd of hundreds of other people, but when he talks, it feels like he's being especially friendly to you, and it's great. A healthy mix of songs from throughout their discography, closing with perhaps my new favorite Opeth song, Drapery Falls. Now I wonder why I took so long to see these legends.