27 February 2009

Official CoTMA Motto

Everyone has taste, except for those without tongues

The Valley Tonight

Two all local shows to entertain your bored butt! We've got option one: The Necronauts, Skinwalkers, Hands on Fire, Porches and Bolt! all at The Trunk Space. The flyer for this one has garnered love, hate and a little New Times coverage. Doors are at 7 p.m., and entry will cost you $6. Option one is a little more dirty and rock'n'rolly, while our option two is more... abstract, folky, danceable and other adjectives, too.

Option two consists of Stellaluna, Mancub, Cardiac Party, Hello The Mind Control and Towncraft. It's $5 at the door.

Some will choose based on fliers. Some will choose based on nearby bar preference (Bikini Lounge or Lost Leaf). Some will choose based on the actual music. And some others will be brave and energetic enough to attend both. Are you naked flier man enough?

26 February 2009

Album Review: The Bird and the Bee - Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future

Finally, an album that fills the unprecedented demand for 60's-jazz-style electropop. And I didn't even know it existed. But based on Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future by The Bird and the Bee, I'm convinced that somewhere out there, an excited fan squealed in joy at the news of this record's debut.

Ray Guns is one of those albums that requires you to accept every other aspect of the music before you can approve of the genre. To that end, The Bird and the Bee succeed. Production values are about as polished as a classic Cadillac showroom. There is not a misplaced note on this album. And then the duo ofInara George and Greg Kurstin do just what they set out to do.

"Fanfare" starts off the album with a cascade of drum rolls and synth chords from an era where nuclear-powered cars were a nifty ideas. "My Love" follows, and this is clearly the lead song. Inara's crisp voice plays against a hip-hop beat and starry-night piano jingles. And every so often Greg's instrumental choices, like chimes and acoustic guitar strums, accentInara's graceful passages. Her voice is so airy, you could fill bicycle tires with her pipes. Mr. Kurstin's arrangement skills come through on the album, artfully layering his partner's vocals in choruses and calls-and-responds.

The Bird and the Bee succeeds at actually maneuvering in the microgenre that they so craftily occupy. Electro-cabaret? Check it off ("Diamond Dave," "You're a Cad"). Electro-lounge? Yep ("Ray Gun"). Kitschy dance pop? Uh-huh. Inara even sings in Japanese ("Love Letter to Japan"). Electro-ballads? Try "Meteor," with its lush, almost adorable chorus in a vocal register that will annoy your dog. All the while, I guarantee that you'll tap your foot to the catchy kick-and-clap drum pattern. The duo even manages to fit in some tongue-in-cheek musical jokes with appreciable subtlety. "Polite Dance Song" asks the listener to--in the most pleasant motherlycoos possible--"Give it up for me, please/Put your hands in the air/If you know what's good, you wanna shake it like you just don't care," all over a hip-hop beat so sincerely organic that it's possible to laugh and feel good.

This is a record that's just too good to pass up. Although the album might be considered too conservative for the style--indeed, the two musicians do almost seem afraid to stop throwing back all those references and quotations of an era gone past--the music is just so... catchy, not in an Aqueduct kind of way where a measure or two of music gets under your skin. The Bird and Bee innovates on pop music just enough to keep things interesting and keep you coming back for the musical flourishes that hit the spot every time.

Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future was released on January 27, 2009, by Blue Note Records.

25 February 2009

Modest Mouse/Mimicking Birds/Japanese Motors @ The Marquee 2/25/2009

Although I arrived a little later than intended, I was surprised to see that the opening band, Japanese Motors, had started by the time I arrived. Presumably, they started just a few minutes prior as I saw them for nearly a half an hour. I seemed not to be alone though, as the crowd for this band was probably the smallest crowd I've ever seen at a sold out show at The Marquee. The band themselves were alright. Nothing really to set them apart from the mass of indie rock bands out there, 99% of which are mediocre at best, despite what all the indie kids will tell you. These guys fell into that mediocre category, as they weren't painful to listen to or anything, but nor did I or anyone else I saw really get into them at any point. Still, the music was fine for an opener.

Mimicking Birds were up next, and the mimicry was completely apparent; as with birds, the music was quite pretty, but overall it was quite boring to watch. I will, however, take a moment to note the one really interesting part of the band, the drummer. The drummer probably talked to the crowd (without a microphone) more than either guitarist did, and was highly energetic and charismatic. At the same time, he was the drummer, and you know your band's in trouble when the charisma on stage comes from the drummer. The music was also a bit mellow for the show I felt...I several times wondered why I was listening to "coffee shop music" at a rock music venue. Again, the crowd remained empty, and I began to wonder how on earth this show was sold out.

As the stage was set up for Modest Mouse, I began to grow even more dubious, as a massive assortment of instruments found their way on stage including two drumsets, a stand up bass (I think), guitars galore, keyboards, 4 vocal mics, and so much more. The Modest Mouse I remembered had 3 or 4 members, not 7 or 8. If I were to name my top 5 musical pet peeves, among them there would be indie rock bands pretending to be able to play instruments they can't actually play for show value or to be cool or whatever, and also bands that record music that they can't play live without doubling the size of the band, yet not sounding any better than when they were just the original band. Thus, Modest Mouse seemed destined for complete failure in my eyes.

Modest Mouse wiped away all the doubts that had formed as a result of these early forays into the evening's music. By the time they hit the stage I had hit rather a foul mood myself, and was almost scowling as the band came on. Within minutes, I was dancing and having a great time, and glad I attended. What caused this transformation is not even apparent to me now, but I can only assume some positive energy poured out into the crowd from the music, because everyone was having a great time.

Normally, when a band plays songs you're not familiar with, you feel a little bit awkward and don't tend to enjoy the song so much as the ones you know by heart. But something that absolutely astonished me is that even with the songs I wasn't sure I'd heard, and certainly hadn't heard in a long time if I had, I was dancing and having fun the whole song through. The beat, the style, the music, it all blended together so well as to create a sort of environment of music that just made it impossible not to get swept up in it. The instruments that I had initially viewed as extraneous and cluttering were all so melded and, surprisingly, contributed a lot. The seemingly superfluous band members all played roles in developing this music environment which was unspeakably powerful. Besides the addition of instruments morphing the songs into entirely new pieces, Isaac's characteristic change of melody (or whatever it is he does along those lines) helped recreate just about every song played during the night, so that not once did I feel like I was just listening to the CD on great speakers and really loud. So few bands truly change their music live significantly from the recordings, but Modest Mouse is assuredly one of those bands.

The set list was also nothing to complain about. I had never been a fan of their latest CD, but, to the best of my ability to tell, they played very little from that album. In fact, I may be wrong, but the only song I recognized from it was the single, Dashboard. Aside from that, it was about 25% Good News and 25% Moon and Antarctica, and the rest from even older stuff. It was great. Rarely do such big bands neglect to play the new stuff in the interest of playing old stuff. In addition, whether people were fans of the band for the last decade or so (like me) or just new fans who happened to be familiar with the band's back catalog, I was absolutely shocked to hear the crowd singing along to the old songs even louder than the new ones. In fact, for me at least, the highlight of the show was Cities Made of Ashes. If that song doesn't sound 100 times better live than the already great sound they have on record, I'm a liar.

As I left the show, I felt a sort of euphoria. I can't remember the last show I was actually dancing at and screaming lyrics with the crowd, but it's been a long time. Lately I've gotten too old for that sort of thing, I feel. Whether it was just the nostalgia of when I knew this band's back catalog back and forward, or just the energy in the venue, tonight I felt years younger, and excited and energetic in a way I haven't felt since I was seeing Pop Punk bands with my friends in high school and early in college, while we sang all of the words along with the band. Easily one of the best musical experiences of my life.

18 February 2009

Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion

I have one statement to sum up my feelings about Animal Collective’s newest effort, and frankly I never thought I’d say this about them:

This is the best album I’ve heard in a long time. Quote it. My happiness with Merriweather Post Pavilion is comparable to MGMTs Oracular Spectacular last year, and even Radiohead’s In Rainbows the year before. I’m going try to explain why: Listen closely!

The opening track “In the Flowers” is a very honest, darker version of A.C. Seemingly instrumental, and laced with echoed vocals (not too far from their usual style), the song is a misleading kick-off to the album; no other track is primarily in the minor key. But it builds the foundation for the whirling soundscape that follows for the next 55 minutes.

It’s the second track that brings that HUGE smile to your face. “My Girls” picks up the pace, picks up the attitude, and picks up any future expectations for Animal Collective. The song is also the first trace of the native-African singing and eclectic synth beat that you’ll find throughout the album.

What follows after is not a single wasted second of music, and not a single track that’s less than pleasing. Listen straight through the album, changing paces from the hauntingly upbeat “Also Frightened”, to the suffocatingly hypnotic “Bluish”, and finally ending epically with “Brother Sport”, upbeat, and full of life, lyrics, and happiness (cue the violins!)

Yes, I know it doesn’t seem I have much criticism to say about this album. Well I’m not going to crap on Mozart, either, so there you go. Forget about genres, tastes, labels, or whatever. If you’re a fan of Music, then you owe it to yourself to see what I’m talking about, whether a previous fan of their previous releases, or you’ve never heard of them.

If you’re tired of the same chord progressions, same sounds, same words, and same shit coming from music lately, do yourself a favor and see what happens when a band like Animal Collective actually tries to make an album:

Great Music.

17 February 2009

Album Review: Aria Orion - Let the Sharp Stone Fly

Please, let the sharp stone fly. Maybe it will knock some sense into the head of Jules Gimbrone, who wrote this jumbled mess. Sparse and pretentious, the shortest song on this six-song avant-garde album is 4:17. Two reach the seven minute mark. Having no forehand knowledge of the band or their music, playing the CD for the first time proved a bad decision.

The musical genres represented on the album range from indie folk to atonal and acoustic. For whatever reason, the band chose to place "Dark and Light" at the start of the disc. I cannot imagine why, as it's positively (or should I say negatively?) awful. Wind chimes kick off the song (never a good sign), transitioning into some of the weirdest Bjork-ish warbling I've ever heard. A slow string dirge follows for three minutes, and the song finishes with what might best be described as Schoenberg-style acoustic ska.

The title track comes next, and I can't find anything much better to say than, "This music is completely unplayable on the radio." Um, the musicians are competent? They play well, but the music they play switches focus all the time. Sometimes I feel like I'm listening to a poetry reading--wait, it's klezmer time! Then it's a drum interlude... what the hell is that guitar doing? Wow, this accordion and oboe section is boring, etc. etc. It goes on, and I don't know why this music was put to CD. None of it follows any semblance of structure or convention. "When I Wake" shows initial promise with its mournful vocal sections, but it's all lost in the shifting styles each song encompasses. When I hear something good, it's quickly set aside for a new movement. In the end, even "When I Wake" doesn't deserve radio play.

Someone should tell composer Jules Gimbrone to write fewer of these weird songs. The closest to mainstream is "Augur," which has all the texture of a forest scene conceived by indie hippies for the first half, then morphing into some strange minor section using strings in a way that they not meant to be used for. If my descriptions sound vague, it's because there is little that Aria Orion could be compared to. Listening to Let the Sharp Stone Fly, I get the idea that quality songwriting came second to unconventional songwriting. If any of my colleagues suggested that they would play this album on the air, any acceptable reason for this would only satisfy me if it were written in a lengthy essay.

Any time Let the Sharp Stone Fly gets anywhere near listenable, the band suddenly veers away from such sounds as if to say, "Oops!" Listen if you like tone deaf music, or if you don't like anything anyone else listens to. Even the jazz freak-out Radiohead once used in "The National Anthem" is more listenable than this. I'll let John Hodgman sum up my opinion of this record:

Mutemath Teaser

Well, it's been much more than a successful year for the New Orlean's-based electro-rock band Mutemath. Their single "Typical" was chosen as the HBO promo last Spring, being asked to record the theme for the "Transformers" Movie, and recently featured their new single in the movie "Twilight".

I guess something's catching on...

But if you're a little like me and have been asking "Where the hell is the new Mutemath music that's been buzzing for the last year?", we got a speck of an answer last tuesday.

The "Spotlight" EP has been released (under the radar, to say the least), and I will say a few things. First, for the curious reader, it has 4 tracks: the single "Spotlight", 2 different versions of "Spotlight", and another track entitled "Clockwork".
Second, now that we're up to speed, I can honestly say I was both happy about the new music and a shade frustrated at the same time. At first listen, the songs seem very catchy, (oh, they definetly are!) but lacking anything really different. Both of the new songs will no doubt be crowd pleasers at their upcoming shows (myself included). It's difficult to point out what more was missing; my first conclusion is that I was expecting the tracks to surprise me, compared to their last album......don't ask me why.

But that's what EPs are for. Giving you a few good tracks, and letting you sweat to see if your suspisions become realities when the LPs hit. Mutemath's album is rumored to release in mid-March.

Let's wait and see together.

15 February 2009

Album Review: Abe Vigoda - Reviver

Abe Vigoda is still alive, believe it or not. So is the veritable punk rock band of the same name. Or, perhaps not. Perhaps they are no longer alive as a punk band? Based on their EP Reviver, I think it might be safer to call Abe Vigoda an experimental post-punk outfit. I admit, I was caught completely off-guard the first time this punk-cum-shoegaze record.

If Reviver sounds inaccessible, it's because shoegaze is not often produced today, and not with the passion that Abe Vigoda throws in. Admitedly, some elements echo their 2008 LP Skeleton, particularly the band's penchant for walls of dissonance, but in a comparison Skeleton is gritty asphalt to the treble brightness of Reviver. "Don't Lie" sums up all the different elements of the CD within the first minute. Choral echoes fade in to the stroke of a buzzing guitar and idiosyncratic drum patterns with a sparse rhythm. Michael Vidal's quivering voice stalks through the forest of electric noise with the air ofMorrissey, punctuated with Juan Velazquez's harmonizing falsetto. Abe Vigoda straddles the line between opaque and accessible, with one foot in each camp. On the one hand, that 4/4 bass and whirling thunder are rarely exposed to radio, but then again the vocal harmonies are earnest and beautiful.

The rest of the EP continues in variations of aspects of the first song, "House" making do with syncopated rhythms and plucks razor sharp lead guitarzig-zagging across the soundscape . The harmonies here still resonate, but with a tone more baritone than the tenor of the first track. "Wild Heart" is an off-beat interpretation of StevieNicks's song of the same name, stripped down to the essentials: no percussion, Vidal's miserable drone, guitar pricks (and feedback), a pulsing bass keeping time, and a grating wall of sound that will pull at your heart with all the natural emotion of aXiu Xiu song; "The Reaper" finishes off the record with less variation than I would like (compared to the previous two songs), but it makes use of distinctly AbeVigoda sounds: vocals buried deep in noise. But Reaper sounds the most post-punk of the five-track EP. (Track 3, "Endless Sleeper," is more of an interlude than a serious song.) Between flashes of feedback, the guitars fret away in little snitches of melody that you must observe with care in order to catch.

Abe Vigoda brings their unique, almost asynchronous shoegaze post-punk to fruition, succeeding at drowning the sonic landscape the band caresses. If you lose focus, the album will become noise. But if you focus, you can make out sounds maddening, glamorous, and melancholy.

Abe Vigoda's Reviver will be released on February 17th by PPM.

13 February 2009

Cradle of Filth/Satyricon/Septic Flesh @ The Marquee 2/13/2009

Although there's nothing more ostensibly metal than seeing a metal show on Friday the thirteenth, I feel it also relevant to point out that were I to name this tour, I would name it based on the audience attending it and I would title it "The Androgynous, Obese, and Insecure Tour." Unfortunately, those things don't seem quite as metal to me. Let me also add a note that if you ever want to pick up metal chicks, a show like this one is not the place to do it...you'll probably end up picking up a guy, and he probably won't tell you because he likes it. Just saying.

As to the actual music...

Septic Flesh were the opener, and like most metal tours that come through the Marquee, a ton of people had showed up early and pumped up, and the band was able to get a lot of interaction normally reserved for only the hardest working bands with less effort. Initially, I was entirely underwhelmed by this band's music, but as I continued to listen, I realized that the music was in fact pretty good, except that the good part wasn't what was being played live. The band was playing to a backing track, as so many bands seem to do nowadays, but in this case it was to their great detriment, as the guitar, bass and drums were all fairly standard and, admittedly, rather boring, while the epic compositions on the backing track added depth and breadth to all of the live instruments and really filled out the sound. So what was the problem? Well, I can listen to my CDs nice and loud without paying money to do so (not that I pay to see concerts, but all the same...). If these guys added a live keys player, I think it would be to their benefit. Oh and of course he should also be front and center, because he makes the band in my opinion.

Satyricon are a semi-big name in the field of metal; they've put out a fair number of CDs, and the CDs have been generally more good than bad. I felt the vocalist didn't quite hold up his end (his voice wasn't very engaging and just seemed...dead), but the rest of the band was (thankfully) pretty solid and had interesting things going on. Oh, except for the girl on keys who probably spent more time headbanging than playing her instrument, and she didn't sing. I know I wasn't the only one questioning her purpose in the band given how low the keys were even when she was playing them...and she wasn't even hot.

Cradle of Filth were the headliner and I felt slight regret that I'd never listened to them before as it made the entire show bands I'd never heard...and normally music you've heard before sounds better because it's familiar (this is why all pop sounds the same and people still love it). All the same, I'd heard that Dani Filth is a beast of a vocalist and was anxious to hear what he could do, and to generally hear a band that is as popular as this one. Unfortunately, I was a bit let down by Dani. Not that he was bad, he was by far the best vocalist of the night, but he was over-hyped it seemed to me. The rest of the band, and the general song composition, wavered between good and forgettable. Beginning around Nymphetamine (about 2/3 through their set) they started to play more consistently good songs which was nice. Nymphetamine, as it turned out, was one of the better songs of the night, as well as the one that followed, while the encore was probably a step or two down. Though by the audience reaction my opinion may not have been shared by everyone.

Then again, if audience opinion is what truly matters, this review is null, as the crowd was quite into the music and having a great time, generic music or not. Then again, the audience was pretty drunk.

11 February 2009

Album Review: TV on the Radio - Live at Amoeba Music

Don't believe all the hype: TV on the Radio can play live. Because Saturday Night Live tarnished the band's image, I find it ironic that one of theCDs I chose to review the very day before was TV on the Radio, playing live no less. Live at Amoeba Music was in fact recorded on September 22, 2006, but TVOTR's band members are not so aged that they should lose all their musical prowess two years after the masterpiece that was Return to Cookie Mountain and not even half a year after Dear Science.

For what it's worth, Live at Amoeba Music is a decent live EP and enjoyable to listen to. For a band that has a meticulously created studio sound, TVOTR stands (mostly) on their own two feet. Never is this more apparent than on "Wolf Like Me" and "Province," the two middle songs. Wolf is not performed, but enacted--the ferocity of the band could not be more apparent. Tunde Adabimpe's voice falters and cracks as he croaks out the lyrics with machine gun speed, while David Andrew Sitek's sonic thunder grinds away in the background. If TVOTR were ever a rock band, they were a rock band for this song. "Province" follows up this radio worthy rendition, an equally memorable recording, even if it does lack David Bowie's backing vocals heard in the original version.Kyp Malone's falsetto and Sitek's punchy 6-strings mystifies the atmosphere , manipulating the mood to reflect the emotional intensity the tune embodies. This would be an acceptable performance for a studio record.

The bookends, "Blues from Down Here" and "Wash the Day" suffer from TVOTR's more experimental fetishes. While by no means bad, occasionally the band suffers from tempo problems and a couple of misplaced notes, in addition to unnecessarily dragging out the songs. The horns on the first track, while gritty enough, fail to express their intended function, instead playing flatly and exclaiming that they are present. "Wash the Day" goes on for almost eight minutes, and by the end I feel like the wrong selection was played. I never was a big fan of this song to begin with, but I have trouble continuing to keep an active interest in alternativelyAdebimpe belting out words one syllable at a time and Malone softly shrieking against a backdrop of guitar distortion that feels like the distortion itself is on acid. It goes on for over five minutes, and it drives me nuts.

If you're a serious TVOTR fan, you need this CD, as it is cheap on eBay and contains some significant recitals of Cookie Mountain-era "hits." "Wolf Like Me" and "Province" alone are worth the cover charge, and you can prove all those SNL watching haters wrong about TVOTR with this fine compact disc.

09 February 2009

Album Review: Sweet Water - Clear the Tarmac

Sweet Water used to be a post-grunge band in the 90s, combining grunge with pop elements. They were from Seattle and everything. The key phrase is "used to be." (Well, they're still from Seattle, but some things can't be helped.) Their latest album, Clear the Tarmac, is as much grunge as Buddy Holly was emo, and Sweet Water is proud to admit it. I really can't imagine what the transition from half-grunge to pop rock must have been like. Is there an organization called Grungers Anonymous? Are there 12 steps involved?

Whatever the case may be, Sweet Water makes every effort to convince the listener that they are relevant after their self-imposed hiatus, and I have to say I'm impressed. It's sugar sweet, energetic and peppy, a real guilty pleasure. I listen to the lyrics and I think, Well, those aren't very good lyrics, but I don't care. It doesn't matter that "Grass Is Green," the album opener, begins Hey/Oh/I found shelter/Under your hair's soft canopy/Time passes slowly/When I'm with you/I can't believe the grass is green. What makes the song special is the tremendous emotion that's put into the song and the catchy rhythm. Adam Czeisler has a great voice for the music his band makes. It's like Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkmen (the guy with his voice stuck in his sinuses) listened to Mick Jagger and decided to reconsider his style. And then the band decided to back up Adam with some Weezer-style background falsettos. And then they do it for an entire album.

Should they tone it down? Telling Sweet Water to tone it down would be like telling James Brown to stop being so funky. That would be going against their respective modi operandi. Also, James Brown is dead so you can't tell him what to do. But the point stands. Czeisler's tenor voice deserves adequate backing, and the other three band members oblige, with some faux power pop. You can hear the best parts of U2--the uncompromising guitar, the drawn-out cries in the upper register--and some spiritual channeling of Boston's bright eyed vocal choruses. The acoustic guitar strums that reinforce the rhythm heighten the action, never letting a song sit and stutter. Props also go to Paul Uhlier, whose agile drumwork propels the album into the stratosphere.

I hope it never comes down.

Clear the Tarmac was released by Golden City on February 7.

RIP Blossom Dearie

05 February 2009

Album Review: Monumental Sonic Architecutre - Monumental Sonic Architecture / Music to Rob Banks To

So apparently there's this band called Monumental Sonic Architecture. Or at least, I think they're (they?) a band, because the back of their self-titled EP credits lyrics to The Evil Genius and music to Topper 3000 respectively. No other aliases are given. Bets are on as to who these people are. Madmen? Criminals? Amateurs? Professionals? In addition to this album, MSA also sent The Blaze a separate EP called Music to Rob Banks To--no credits at all were listed in the liner notes. Possibly even more mysterious is the object being smoked by the unspecified man on the cover of Banks. Is it a joint? A cigarette?

My bet is that it's a cigarette, because MSA doesn't strike me as stoner electronica. They start Music to Rob Banks To with the title track, a short, punchy, grit-sprinkled number that without the lyrics (which are outlaw themed, I should add) might just be suitable for a CSI soundtrack. At least one member of MSA knows how to play the guitar, as this is demonstrated throughout the four-song EP, providing the otherwise cosmic background with some seriously crunchy rhythms alongside some smooth synths. It's almost like electrorock, but MSA plays 70% electronic and only 30% rock. The guitar-playing, though not virtuosic, carries the EP with just the right texture, the jagged edge of a peanut butter face.

If I have a problem with MSA, it's that the vocals don't do anything for the band. I don't want to say that the singer sounds nerdy--because that's not exactly right. I get it--you and a friend wanted to make some ass-kickin' electrorock. You probably took a poll and asked, "Which of us has sweeter pipes?" but it turns out neither of you can sing. Sure, the vocals are passable, but I don't exactly hear you channeling Freddie Mercury, and I wouldn't expect to get famous with a style like that. Singer dude, you kinda remind me of Colin Newman from the band Wire, but not really in a good way. You're like the bastard child of him and Michael Stipe, but you have no range. You really don't. Please understand that before you embarrass yourself in a larger venue.

Moving on to the other release, I understand why MSA chose to roll their songs into two different EPs, rather than one very short album: the Monumental Sonic Architecture EP does not have the same sound as Music to Rob Banks To. To begin with, the mixing and mastering are audibly better on the former release. Everything sounds clearer and crisper (although Banks did not feature lo-fi or amateurish audio quality). Even The Evil Genius sounds better--but only slightly. Another major difference is that the self-titled EP sounds considerably more electronically orientated. Instead of grinding fuzzy rock against offbeat vocals like Banks does, MSA surrounds The Evil Genius with reverb-laden drums, glockenspiels, saw synths, orchestras ans choirs, and beepy-boopy arpeggios. Oh, the guitar riffs still take their place among the madness, but the arrangements are lusher and more spacious.

I have several problems with the saelf-titled EP; among them is short track lengths. There are four songs on the disc, but their total run time is 14.4 minutes. As soon as I being the settle into one song,another takes its place. Also annoying are the vocals--again. They feel restrained, and when I hear a good performance, it always happens on tracks that can't be played on the radio for explicit content. I'm looking at you, "The Diffuser" and "The Bishop." I actually counted the number of euphemisms for excrement uttered in the latter--the count reached 10 in the space of three minutes and twenty-four seconds. That may sound like a paltry figure, but when you're an unknown band with zero radio play, you have no reason to remove yourself from the playing field unless you have a good reason.

Unfortunately, in the case of Monumental Sonic Architecture, I couldn't find one. There's really nothing incredibly special here. Monumental Sonic Architecture is the poor man's alt rock equivalent of The Postal Service, knocked down several notches. Some unknown bands stay unknown for a reason.

Monumental Sonic Architecture and Music to Rob Banks To were releasedi n December of 2008 and can be bought through Amazon and Amie Street.

PB&J tease hungry listeners

Check out a clip from their new music video here. Sounds like fans who dug the last record won't have anything to worry about!

Tempe Music Fest actually a National Guard ad

I wish this were a joke post. Alas, it's not.

One of the Valley's handful of music fests, Tempe Music Fest will blast the birds out of Tempe Beach Park on April 3rd and 4th. And headlining two of the days that could be awesome we have THE Kid Rock, Cowboy Mouth, Roger Clyne, Three Doors Down (srsly? why?) and All-American Rejects.

Who knew the peeps who did those awful movie theater music vids would get so creative with their recruiting tactics? You can torment yourself with them here and here.

Here are some Blazers' top picks for Tempe Music Fest '09 headliners:

The Foo Fighters
The Strokes
Jimmy Eat World

Imagine for just a sec how awesome even just one of those would be. You imagining it? Kay. Now dash those absurd dreams from your stupid, wishful-thinking, idealistic head.

04 February 2009

Whole lotta Lefsetz Insightz

Bob Lefsetz, writer of the famed, sometimes infamous, Lefsetz Letter, recently sent out an update to subscribers with his thoughts on Live Nation's potential merger with Ticketmaster. Here's what from now on I'll call our Lefsetz Insightz of the day:

And the fan is screwed. Consolidation has not helped the fan one bit. Label consolidation reduced the variety of music. Promoter consolidation drove the price of concert tickets sky high. Music itself may be free, but going to the show is a once a year event. And after you've seen the dinosaurs, do you really need to go every year?

02 February 2009

Album Review: Owl - Owl

Leave it to the new guy to review the band nobody's ever heard of. While the COTMA regulars get to chew on AC Newman and Los Campesinos, I must, whimpering and shivering for want of food and clothes, accept the self-titled release of Los Angeles band Owl. Then I cry myself to sleep, dreaming of revenge.

I kid, I kid.

Some of the most unexpected joys can be found in listening to a band that neither your nor anyone else on Earth has heard of but still kicks ass. I should know. During my junior and senior years at high school, I reviewed 100 CDs for community radio station KXCI down in Tucson, and some of my favorite artists I discovered in that time. So I'm used to it. That is, I'm used to the beatings and whippings.

Again, I kid.

The first time I listened through Owl, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. It was only after subsequent listens that I decided this one thing: Owl refuses to cement its music in one category. While this trio uses hard rock as their base of operations, ignoring the other components of their artistry would do them a disservice, as the band does their best to show off their versatility. From the opening bars of "Charmed," I can hear Owl's roots in Black Sabbath, but the verses give way to a chorus that would sound more at home in a Staind song than a tune by Alice in Chains. Owl muddles in new wave vocals and trials the kind of bratty guitar tones that fill pop-punk refrains in songs like "Alive" and "More on Drugs." The rhythm guitar line that rounds the verses "No Light" recalls Horrorpops on top of the lite metal filler. I'm honestly a bit puzzled by Owl's intentions. Are they trying to push the bar, or merely trying to introduce themselves to the rock world?

What's clear is that Owl tries hard to rock, although I never felt the urge to throw up the horns at any time. (Note: I usually never do.)The press release that came in the mail with the CD did its best to embellish Owl's musical style, because I can tell you that Owl is very certainly not "progressive alternative rockers" as the mailer claims. If Owl is prog rock (pardon me, "alt prog") then Korn is also prog rock and Enon are shoegaze. Nearly every song on the record follows a verse-chorus structure ad infinitum with solos and bridges and whatnot smashed between. Owl just doesn't do any of the theatrics or unusual instrumentation that Yes or Jethro Tull toyed with. Maybe I just don't get this "progressive alternative" rock, but the only thing that seems prog about it are the static swirls and feedback sprinkled sparingly around only a few of the tracks. Owl could be described as Goo Goo Dolls gone Ozzy Osbourne after taking a songwriting class taught by Kaiser Chiefs.

Chris Wyse is the man behind this band. He's a bassist who's established himself by working with The Cult, playing alongside Ozzy Osbourne, and auditioning for Metallica. He wrote almost all of the songs. Sometimes, this album works. Other times, it just annoys me with its self-indulgent "alternative" style. The strings heard on "Alive" just don't fit in with the rest of the CD, and the nonsensical lyrics that run through "More on Drugs" just don't help a song that only rocks half the time and the other half merely acts tough. Honestly, the distorted guitars are the most metal thing about Owl. Wyse's voice, which could be described as Robby Takac's sans nasal passages, or Liam Gallagher with a cigarette habit.

If you love grunge, then Owl will alienate you for half the record. Alt rock fans will feel vaguely uncomfortable for the other half. Indie kids will run away. If you like solid, hard rock then I can recommend this record with extreme caution. It's a good effort by musicians with talent, skill, and experience in the music industry. Unfortunately, Owl makes too many concessions to sound accessible to a greater audience, so they never really flesh out their style. The closest Owl ever gets to hardcore is on the last song, "Waves," when flashes of miscreant tension flirt with primal screams and an alternating pattern of whiny guitar blares and deep guitar grinds. But Owl just can't stay with it, ultimately watering down their debut, making it unpalatable to fans of all the genres they try to bring together. It's unfortunate--this CD could have been a real pleasure if the songwriting had just gone all the way in one direction.

Owl will be released on February 10 by Overit Records.